Jim’s communicator had stopped becoming evadable minutes ago. It was insane that he’d been able to avoid it thus far, despite its constant ringing. It was a skill he’d recently acquired, called ‘being a terrible captain and an even worse friend’. It involved lots of hiding, ignoring people and generally being the biggest bastard in all of Starfleet. Of course, Jim had cheated by getting a great deal of his opposition injured or killed, so it probably wasn’t even much of an achievement. Thats what the Admiralty thought, he knew. They didn't want him up and about. He was a liability, a risk they could barely afford to take. He'd prove them wrong, because he had to, but that didn't mean he couldn't have bad days. They were rare, rarer now than ever, but they still happened. When they did, he switched off. He couldn't even talk to Bones anymore, not since... Nor Spock or Uhura. Instead, he took himself off to some distant corner of the ship and escaped. For as long as he could. Generally, he calmed and soothed himself, and picked himself back up before his shift started. Today had become an exception of shitty behaviour and a toxic mixture of self-hate and self-pity, washed down with some Bourbon for breakfast.
His hands were remarkably steady when he flipped his communicator and finally responded to Uhura’s increasingly shrill messages. Beneath the haze of drink, he recognised that he’d panicked her. Jim Kirk had managed to fluster the unflappable, composed and eloquent Communications Officer. Once, that would have made him fucking ecstatic. Now, it reminded him that she cared, and she had no right to, and it terrified him.
“Captain, where are you?”
Hell, he’d probably sent the ship into a major panic in his absence, but he’d had to get away. He truly didn’t think he’d be needed; they were between missions, and admiralty communications would have gone directly to his PADD. He just wanted to escape for a little bit. Bones told him not to blame himself, that it wasn’t his fault, but it was hard to take that to heart when he was the Captain and things kept going wrong. If Pike were there, he’d have fixed it all. Made everything better or easier, somehow. Christ, he had to stop thinking like that. That was the sort of thinking that got people killed. At some point in his life, he'd stopped being his own boss- let other people's ideas about him influence his actions. Frank had taught him not to do that when he was a kid, and it had been just about the only thing that had kept him alive. Until Pike and Bones. Until Spock.
“What do you need, Lieutenant?” He didn't apologise for his absence. He should, he knew, but he couldn't.
There was a beat of silence, in which he imagined Uhura probably silently cursing him, flipping off the communicator and taking a very deep breath.
"Why aren’t you showing up on the system, Captain?”
“Haven’t you heard? I’m dead.”
It was cruel and selfish, and probably the bourbon talking- he'd stolen the bottle from Bones’ office in the early hours of the morning, and he must have left it somewhere because he didn’t have it now and he sure as hell hadn’t drank it all. He’d probably get his ass handed to him on a plate for taking it, anyway, as soon as Bones saw him. Not that it mattered. Bones never stayed mad at him for too long, no matter how much he screwed up. The same went for Uhura, really, despite the fact she’d done absolutely nothing to warrant his cruelty. She’d helped save his life and since then she’d only cared, only tried to help and understand why Jim was so -dare he think it- broken. He wasn’t, really. He was fine, most of the time. Coping. Functioning. Showering, eating and working. Truthfully, he was sort of trapped between performing with all the efficiency of a robot, and being so fundamentally angry and scared down to his core, that he couldn’t function at all. Hence his current position, hidden away in a corner of the ship, off-system like a damn stowaway.
“Were dead. You’ll get your tenses right one day, Kirk." She paused, and in the background there were murmuring voices. "You’ve been summoned to medbay. I’d advise you not to keep Doctor McCoy waiting.” Uhura replied, sickly sweet, like she enjoyed the idea of Bones tearing him a new one for disappearing on them all day. Jim considered throwing his communicator at the wall just to spite her, but stopped his hand reaching for it before he got himself in even more trouble. For fucks sake, his hand was shaking now. He gritted his teeth.
“Understood, Lieutenant. Kirk Out.” He exhaled sharply and stood, awkwardly putting one foot in front of the other like he’d forgotten how to walk at all. Bones was going to give him absolute hell. Jim wasn’t even sure why he was going. It wasn’t like Bones could do anything but give him something to sleep at night. He couldn’t change the past. Couldn’t change the fact that Jim had died and gotten so many fucking people killed too. He couldn’t change the fact that Jim wished he’d let him stay dead. Jim couldn’t even tell his best friend that, because if he did he thought it might break his heart. He couldn’t do that to Bones again.
“I’m sorry, Bones.” That seemed to be his standard statement most days now. He wasn’t really sorry. Or he was, but only in the rare moments that his anger wasn’t swallowing him whole. That seemed to be less and less recently. At first, off ship, the almost year he’d spent recovering along with the Enterprise, he’d smiled and laughed and drank. Then he’d gotten into bed at night and felt empty. He wished he could go back to that, sort of, because it beat being angry. At Bones, at Spock, at Uhura. They weren’t even supposed to care about him, let alone him be mad at them for it.
Bones fixed him with a weary look – barely contained anger, more so. He was probably pissed Jim had extended his shift by not bothering to turn up on time. As it happened, he’d already rescheduled – but Bones still wouldn’t let him walk away. Bones steered him into a chair and handed him a glass of water. The Doctor was on duty, after all.
“I’m not asking you to be sorry, Jim. I’m asking you to take care of yourself. I want to. Spock wants to.” Jim tensed. No, that wasn’t true. Spock wanted to do his duty as First Officer, that wasn’t the same thing as caring. “But you’ve gotta want to help yourself, Kid.”
Jim winced at the hypo at his neck, probably to speed up the process of sobering up- though it had been hours already. He didn't know how to respond to Bones. It had never been about helping himself, and it had always been about helping himself. There was no way to make Leonard even understand. He barely could himself, so how was he supposed to communicate to Bones everything he felt and thought. He felt so weighed down, what did it matter if he let the rest of the world tug him down too. It was his responsibility when he lost crew. It was his burden to bear when he thought of their potential, young and bright minds, while he’d cheated death. Him. Jimmy Kirk. He wasn’t worth it and it wasn’t fair. Then he got in touch with families, acted as if he could come up with a good reason why their child was dead and he, oh great Captain of the Enterprise, survived. Sometimes they even thanked him.
It was his duty to ensure his crew were safe and happy. If he had any self-worth at all, it was grounded in that single fact. Right now, his crew were mourning three young officers. He was too. Was her? God, did he even know? What were three more names on the plaque- what was another three to a count already too high? Jim bore their deaths on his shoulders, no matter what. From Tarsus to their most recent mission, and he kept on putting one foot in front of the other. The problem was that, on the Enterprise, there was only so far away he could get.
“Want to help myself? You think I don’t! Hell, Bones, I don’t know what else I can do to convince you I’m okay! I follow your diet. I exercise. I socialise. I do my work.” He pushed his glass away, dissatisfaction bubbling up under his chest. For the life of him, he couldn’t work out whether it was aimed at Bones for forcing him to medbay, or at himself for not being able to communicate to his friend effectively.
He’d never been great at communication anyway, but Bones had always been different. Bones knew Tarsus and Frank, his mom and his brother. All his issues, really. While telling him had never been particularly enjoyable, it had always made him feel better before. Now, he looked at Bones, and he saw a man playing God. Dragging his sorry backside back to life. It was a bad day. Just a really, super bad day.
“My duty is to make sure you’re happy, Jim.”
Jim thought that just maybe, in that moment, he hated his best friend.
“Your duty is to make sure I’m fit to work, Doctor McCoy. If you don’t think I am, then you know what to do. Until then, there are a half-dozen more injured crew in your medbay and you’re just sat here lecturing me on something I already know!”
Bones fixed him with a level stare. Jim felt like a child again, and the feeling sent his hands shaking and his blood boiling. He was the goddamn Captain. He didn’t have to sit and listen to this.
“Fuck you, Leonard.” He pushed his chair back and stood, storming out of the mess. He wanted to leave his body again, to ascertain that numbness to all reality. Instead, all he felt was he pounding heartbeat and the way the floor seemed unsteady beneath his feet. Like stepping up a stair that was just a fraction lower than he’d anticipated upon lowering his foot.
Bones didn’t come after him.
Jim made it back to his quarters and stood in the space there, staring wildly around him. He didn’t know what to do. He felt trapped on his own ship, felt like breaking through his obnoxiously small window and letting the universe claim him. It clearly wanted him; it had been trying since he was a kid, in any case. To give in would be a welcome change, Jim thought. Jesus Christ, the silence was deafening to him now. It made his heart feel even louder and the darkness of his quarters were just taunting him. His mind was so hectic- so-
He stormed into the bathroom, turning the water setting on his shower and stepping beneath the stream instantly. His clothes soaked through and the water poured through his hair, sodden against his head. He wanted to cry, desperately, but he couldn’t. His face screwed up and the sensation was there, as if the dam were about to burst. But it didn’t. Not a tear came, though the feeling remained. His eyes burned, dry despite his best effort. He slid down to the floor, placing his palms against his eyes and dragging his knees to his chest. This wasn’t okay. He didn't know how to stop himself having a bad day. He needed to cry- needed to sleep and eat and apologise to too many people.
Damn Tarsus. Damn Frank. Damn his mother and his brother, and damn Bones for accidentally dredging up ancient history. His mental health could go fuck itself, as far as Jim was concerned. He was alive. That’s the only thing that had ever mattered, surviving.
That’s what he meant be helping himself and never helping himself. He’d survived; helped himself to that by doing terrible things. By enduring terrible things. But he’d never helped himself be happy. Never helped himself to enjoying a life that he didn’t deserve - a life he’d killed for. That’s why he was so angry at Leonard and Spock and Uhura. They’d placed his life above all the shit he’d done. They couldn’t possibly understand what they’d done. Bones should have. Bones had to realise what he’d done on Tarsus.
He removed a hand and smacked the floor beside him, his palm grazing on the corner of the shower pan. He hit it again and again, his hand curling to a fist and punching downwards with a force declining at a pitiful rate.
Still no tears.
He remained sat on the floor of the shower until he realised he was shivering; his hot water allowance had long since depleted and run cold. He dragged himself up, undressing as quickly as he could and dumping the soaking items, including his boots, into his and Spock’s shared laundry. His hand hurt. It wasn’t too wrecked, but bruised enough that Bones would wring his neck if he saw it. If being the imperative word. He’d been a dick to his friend, he knew that. He’d known it at the time too, but there was nothing like a cold shower and some violence against floors to help him come to terms with how big of a dickhead he could be. Bones had only wanted to help.
He’d only opened the door to his quarters when the other bathroom door opened, and Jim silently cursed himself for not fucking locking it. He turned slowly and found Spock looking at him, visibly perturbed. Perhaps it wasn’t such a shock really. He was a sight for sore eyes, Jim bet. Spock looked him up and down slowly, from his mostly naked body - save for sopping wet pants - to his limp, bruised hand, then back to Jim’s eyes.
“Don’t ask.” He advised tiredly and closed the door behind him, retreating back into his lonely quarters. He needed sleep. He always got worse when he hadn’t slept, and it felt like months since he’d had any decent stretch of sleep at all. He needed to sleep and then apologise to Bones, and Uhura. Probably Spock too. He really needed to make a list of all the ways he could do to stop being such a bloody pain to his friends. Aside from just dying, which they clearly weren’t going to let him get away with.
He towel-dried his hair quickly, and changed into fresh, dry pants and sleeping sweats. He felt distantly empty, but predominantly tired. He could sleep now, though, and he climbed into bed feeling his emotional and physical exhaustion tugging at every inch of his skeleton towards his mattress. This wasn’t right. It wasn’t healthy. If he carried on like this, he was going to get more people killed. He’d lose his friends and his ship, and end up right back where he’d started off. He’d prove Pike’s claims he wasn’t ready for command right, in any case. He’d let the old man down. But what did it matter, Pike wasn’t alive to tell him off for it. To be disappointed in him. He could do that enough for himself, anyway.
The knock on his door wasn’t as unexpected as it should have been. It was with a quiet resignation that he allowed Spock access to his quarters, sitting up in bed and turning the lights on a fraction. It was still too bright.
“Forgive me, I had not intended to interrupt your sleep.”
“You didn’t, Spock.” He said quietly. Spock stepped further into his room.
“You are experiencing considerable emotional distress. I wished to make sure you were alright.” Spock spoke slowly, as if testing the words for the first time. Spock wants to. Bones’ words from earlier rang in Jim’s head, and he swallowed his rising self-hate. Spock wasn’t an emotionless robot serving Starfleet. He was Jim’s friend, and it had been cruel and unfair of Jim to even think that Spock didn’t care. He had concrete evidence to the contrary.
“I don’t know, Spock.”
Spock took a tentative step closer to Jim’s bed. “Jim.”
His breath caught in his throat. Spock had called him Jim. He only did that when he was trying painfully hard to be human, to be a friend. Jim tried again, taking another breath. “I’m not really sure what to do.”
“About what?” Spock moved closer still.
“I keep trying to carry on. You know, get through the storm and there’s blue skies eventually. But I don’t know how long I can keep this up for.” He wanted to stop being so angry. “Bones tried to talk to me earlier, and I just blew up at him. I don’t know how to... I... I've had a really, really shit day Spock.”
Spock was beside his bed now, like back at the hospital, and he sat carefully on the edge of the mattress. “I will do everything in my capacity to help you, Jim, as will Doctor McCoy. You need only ask."
“I’m so sorry.” His shortness of breath suddenly hit home once more, when he inhaled a ragged breath and then sobbed. Sobbed, even before the first tear fell. Of course now the waterworks came, now that it just had to be in front of Spock. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I'm so tired- fucking nightmares-” He gasped in another breath, more shock than necessity, when a firm hand wrapped around his wrist and pulled it away from his face. His natural instinct was to pull back, get away, because Spock didn't need to touch Jim to work out his emotions-surely? He was a wreck.
“Jim, it will be okay.” Spock’s touch was hot and comforting, and it occurred to Jim between sobs he tried to choke back unsuccessfully, that just maybe that was his XO's intention. Not an invasion of privacy, but the adopting of a human mannerism. Touch. Spock moved closely and closed the gap between them, holding Jim upright and tightly. As hugs went, Jim knew it was sort of awkward. He felt terrible for crying- hell, he was deeply embarrassed, but Spock didn't say a word. Spock just held him, until he managed to find some composure from somewhere deep, deep inside of his reserves. He pulled away a fraction, but wound his fingers into the fabric of Spock's robe, as if to tell him he didn't want him to leave.
“You must sleep Jim. In the morning, we will talk."
It was nice to hear someone else take control. It was nice to be given an instruction that wasn't the Admiralty or Bones, not that those two were comparable. It just made a change to come from someone who wanted to look after him. Bones had made Jim his duty, never more so than by bringing him back to life. But Spock was a friend, and he cared enough to disregard his Vulcan ideals and stick around to witness Jim's mental breakdown.
"I'm tired, Spock." Tired of closing his eyes and seeing dead children. Khan. Pike. Tired of opening his eyes and seeing the Enterprise and his own stupid face in the mirror. He was so angry and, half the time, when his lungs were tightening and his throat was constructing, he could barely work out precisely why.
“Sleep, Jim." Spock eased his grip, helping Jim slide back down onto the bed. It was more of a tug down the mattress than a gentle guide, but Jim appreciated it once he was horizontal anyway. Exhaustion gripped him once more and, with Spock there, he didn't doubt sleep would claim him instantly. The problem was the nightmares and waking, far too soon.
"I am here, and will remain so until morning."
Jim simply nodded, his fingers still curled up into the meditation robe of the man beside him.
I dunno where this is going, but it is going somewhere.
Chapter 2: Unrelenting Dawn
Jim woke up slowly, the memories of the night before returning to him in unwelcome bursts. He couldn’t feel guilty for fighting to remain unconscious, just this once, because sleep had evaded him so much in the last few nights. All the factors seemed to be against him though, as his throat felt tight and clogged from crying, and it occurred to him that he wasn’t getting enough air. Laying on his chest was constricting his lung capacity severely, and it was only the feeling of the warm plush mattress beneath him that kept him from tricking himself into thinking he was dying. Each breath was painful and laboured, and having realised that he found himself unable to ignore it.
Consciousness grasped him tightly and refused to let him go again. He twisted off his chest and onto his side, eyes finally opening to capture the magnificent sight of a sleeping Vulcan. His First Officer had remained beside him all night. Jim’s breathlessness persisted, but he was no longer sure if it was his position or the defiant beauty he was faced with, and the love he felt for Spock that crushed his chest no matter what.
Spock was beautiful. Unfathomably so. Jim had spent much of his life in the presence of attractive men, women, humanoids and outright aliens, but Spock was something else entirely. He was in a whole other league. His skin was the palest, most delicate shade of green, smooth and mostly unscarred over lean muscle. His face could have been carved from marble, a dusting of darker green freckles across his nose and cheeks, like constellations Jim had never before had the opportunity to explore. Like the very stars that passed by his window, he might never get another chance to study them again. As of that moment, Jim decided that the oh so human freckles on Spock’s face were infinitely more worthy of exploration than the stars outside. Spock wasn’t just his First Officer, not now- if ever. They’d been through too much.
Spock was funny, when he wanted to be, and braver than Jim. He cared so damn much, and without hesitation now that Jim had earned his friendship. If friendship was all he got, then fine. At least Spock cared for him at all. Only Jim couldn’t think about Spock caring for much longer. Thinking about Spock caring meant remembering him crying, and that reminded him of dying and Khan and that wasn’t- he couldn’t- -
His body betrayed him, seizing up suddenly in an attempt to draw air into his lungs. He gasped in a painful breath and he swore he could feel his actual lungs hit his ribs. “Shit.”
Spock’s eyes snapped open and he sat straight up without hesitation or any of the fogginess that Jim had encountered in waking. “Jim.”
“I’m okay- sorry.” He dragged himself up, trying to counteract the memories with reality. He was in his room, lit by the early artificial sunrise, passing through Space at Warp Speed. Spock was beside him, not for the first time in the last year. He was fine. “I’m normally a good breather.” He winced- the words not coming out quite like he’d intended them to. He was trying to be honest. Ever since his step-dad had taught him crying and screaming didn’t get him anywhere, he’d been good at breathing. Ever since Tarsus and bar fights and physicals for Starfleet- he prided himself on the strongest lungs in Starfleet. Of course, that was only between allergic reactions- but even then, he’d quickly learned not to panic before someone could hypo him.
The sensation of suffocation had only recently become one of his biggest fears- one of the little things that could send him spiralling into a bad day. Perhaps it was to be expected considering he’d stopped breathing of his own accord not so long ago. What surprised Jim, though, was that the mention of Jim’s breathing made Spock tense. His friend looked sharply at him, hands extending to hold him upright again. It was too reminiscent of the night before.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean that.” Jim corrected himself quickly. “I was just in a weird position.”
“Do you require Doctor McCoy, Captain?”
Jim fought back a groan. This conversation, they’d had a thousand times. Captain, Jim, Captain, Jim. It was almost insufferable. “Please don’t say we’re back to ‘Captain’, Spock. Please don’t do that to me. You slept in my bed last night.” He appreciated how difficult Spock found navigating the turmoil that was a close personal friendship with his Captain, but his heart couldn’t take being called that right now.
“Forgive me, Jim. I had hoped to give you some control over the situation at hand. I did not intend to retract to the previous standard of our friendship.” Spock sat up swiftly, looking entirely too put together for having only just woken up. Put together and too damn logical. His statement made sense, as ever. Of course it would have occurred to Spock that Jim might feel overwhelmed with the situation and how vulnerable he was. Of course Spock would have offered him a way out. He was, perhaps, the most insanely thoughtful supposedly emotionless half-Vulcan in the galaxy.
“I don’t think you should give me any more control right now, Spock. I’m sorry.”
“There is no need for apology.” Spock’s eyes were the most human thing about him, Jim thought- and though he was getting better at reading Spock’s guarded expressions, nothing betrayed more of his emotions than his eyes. “You look pale, Jim. Is there anything you require?”
“No. Just… Thank you, Spock. For staying, last night. For caring.”
Spock’s eyes flicked a fraction, and then retrained themselves on Jim’s eyes. “It is my wish, Jim, that you allow yourself to be cared for wherever possible.”
His uneven breaths suddenly ceased entirely- or so it seemed. Jim felt as if all the air and his lungs had been swept away instantly, and he stared at Spock with an open mouth. That was more than friendship- god, it definitely was. Jim wasn’t going insane. He was thinking clearly. For the love of god, he’d actually slept! He’d say it was nothing short of a miracle, but that surely undermined the all the hard work that Bones put in to keep him the fuck alive. There was nothing to suggest he was imagining things.
“Spock-“ He flexed his fingers suddenly, and then raised them to his gaze. “You fixed my hand.” He observed softly, awed by the unblemished skin and painless sensations- awed by the fact that Bones hadn’t been called in to rant at him. He looked up again, trying to breathe. “Thank you.”
“It was of little consequence.” Spock observed him through slightly narrowed eyes, and whatever softness he’d displayed just moments before was hidden away again. It was maddening- Jim knew, he was certain, it was barely concealed at all. There had to be something to unlock it again, some way he could convince Spock to stay.
“No, it is. Regulation called for Bones. You disobeyed.” Speaking those words, knowing they were true, sent a sort of idiotic flutter to Jim’s heart and chest. Like butterflies, but more excruciating. Spock wasn’t… for the love of God, Spock didn’t just disregard protocol. He didn’t spend his nights tending to panicking, emotional humans, and he didn’t stick around in the morning to ensure happiness. If Spock was aware of the parameters Jim had subconsciously assigned him as a friend, he showed no sign of it now. He simply nodded in agreement.
At some point, Jim’s gaze had shied away from Spock’s and to his hands, curled into his bedding just as easily as they had been into Spock’s robe the night before. The memory returned to him almost instantly, sending heat shooting up through his neck and his face. Spock cared. Spock let Jim touch him and stayed with him, wanted to help him.
Jim had straddled his lap before he’d even considered what the hell he was doing- too distracted by Spock breaking regulations and fucking caring. He caught sight of Spock’s startled expression for only a moment, before he crushed their lips together and tried to capture the only positive emotion in his head. Spock didn’t allow him a moment of doubt in his decision, though, because strong hands that had been so reluctant to reciprocate touch in the past were now sliding under his pyjama top and gripping at his waist tightly, pulling him ever closer.
The feeling was exquisite. It was a distraction beyond all forms of distraction, and Spock’s tongue was wicked and hot and perfect and fuck Jim was fucked, and he’d fucked everything up, but he didn’t care. He ground down onto the man beneath him, struggling to find access beneath the frankly ridiculously excessive fabric of his robe. Spock helped him, thankfully, withdrawing his own hands for a moment to tug at his collar and pull him Vulcan-wear over his head in one swift movement. Shit. Spock was naked and in his bed, and he was finally open to Jim and giving express permission that Jim was allowed to touch. Jim took advantage- running his palms across taut green skin and marvelling at the hardening of his cock from that alone.
His attempts to touch everything- to kiss and lick at every inch of flesh available to him – were suddenly stopped by Spock’s hands gripping at his wrists with considerable force and holding them away. This was the infamous Vulcan strength he’d only ever seen Spock exert in battle before. But this wasn’t a battle, not for dominance. Spock had it, he had it without reservation or hesitation.
“If we continue, Jim, you must recognise the possessive nature of Vulcan. I expect monogamy and, in return…” A hand reached up to his hair, smoothing down what had to be a complete mess. It felt as possessive as Spock suggested, like a caress or stroke to tame him. He sucked in a breath through his teeth, desperate to resume their previous pace and yet unwilling to interrupt Spock. Impatience would get him nowhere- in fact, he was concerned he’d lose ground with Spock if he was impertinent now. “In return, James, I will look after you.”
James. Jim fought back every groan with everything he had, fighting to remain partly coherent. To be looked after. To be looked after by Spock, no less. With sex. With mind melds and sharing beds and- god, a relationship. Hell, he’d not been laid since they started their mission, he was pretty sure he could commit to Spock. At that very moment, he was entirely certain there was nothing he wanted more. It burned him from inside out, his fingers stretched, strained, reached for the skin just a fraction too far away. It had been the utmost cruelty to allow him touch and then take it away.
“Jim, it is imperative that you understand. If you do not consent, I will do anything in my capacity as your friend and First Officer to ensure your comfort.”
“N-no!” Jim’s head dropped forward, his whole body tight and desperate, aching for more. “This- please! Spock, I need you.”
He needed Spock like he’d never needed anything else in his life. God, he’d wanted him for so very long. And maybe, probably, this was an awful idea. He was rushing something he’d longed for most of the time he’d known Spock, and it could only end badly. But his mind was his worst enemy, and to stop it, to distract himself so completely with every perfect inch of Spock’s tempting green skin, that sounded just about the only thing he could do to feel good. Hell, to feel anything remotely pleasant. Spock had to be the cure to any bad day, surely.
“Very well.” How Spock could sound so composed, so controlled, when Jim was already a panting mess, was beyond him. He couldn’t think, didn’t want to. Suddenly, his hands had been released and Spock’s returned to his waist. With the same powerful grip, he was flipped over, driven into the mattress and pinned in place. All he could do was gasp in a breath before Spock’s mouth was on his, hard and everything Jim had imagined it would be. God, God, he was glad he’d had a decent night’s sleep before this because it deserved that much at least. He wanted to remember every single moment, every touch, before it was gone.
“Please- please, Spock.” Kissing was all well and good, but he needed more. Needed it so desperately he thought he might sob with want. His hips thrust up desperately, but Spock’s grip was unrelenting. The only concession he made was to drop his lips down Jim’s neck, the relentless heat of his mouth and the graze of his lips almost intolerable, and equally as addictive.
“Trust me, Jim.”
“Yes!” He trusted Spock with every ounce of his being. He keened at Spock’s touch, until open palms pressed onto his skin firmly, just for a moment, and he took it as an instruction. Stay still. Restrain yourself. He hissed in another breath, mind reeling at even the idea of not reciprocating, at the effort it would take, but he complied nonetheless. He could do little to stop himself from touching Spock, now that he’d been allowed to again, but he pressed his spine and hips down into the mattress as if Spock was still holding him there.
Spock, mercifully, didn’t make him wait long. His efforts were rewarded by Spock finally moving his hands, sliding down his body to Jim’s sweats and tugging at the waistband without restraints. The sudden release into cool air was almost shocking, but Jim was too distracted kicking his pants away and then Spock was touching him, reverently and agonisingly delicate, and it was all he could do to not groan.
“There is no logic in withholding your reactions from me, Jim, not while I am touching you.”
More. Jim thought, as hard as he could think anything, but his demand was met only with a quirked eyebrow. Spock’s hands slipped down his legs and hooked beneath his knees, dragging them up until Jim got the idea and complied, wrapping himself around Spock tightly. He allowed himself to moan then, couldn’t have stopped himself if he’d tried, as a slick finger worked into him. Jim had spent so long admiring Spock’s hands - those slender fingers working at strings or fiddling with dials or god, that one time he’d got his hands on a piano – it seemed unbelievable that those hands were now touching him- in him. Perfect, better than he had even imagined.
His hands clutched at Spock’s back. Another finger was added, and it was all he could do to obey and hold himself still- it was maddening and pleasurable simultaneously, but to move would be to risk those wondrous fingers slipping out of him and that was motivation enough to do as Spock instructed. Fuck- Fuck, why had he let this Vulcan exist in the room next door for so long without doing this?
“Good. Good, Jim.” The praise was inexplicably rewarding, or not so inexplicable. Spock knew. Spock knew what he was thinking, just from a touch, and he knew just how deeply Jim craved that structure. It was daunting, and addictive, and Jim didn’t have the mental capacity to even recognise that he was fucking up anymore- because how could something so intensely good be even remotely bad? Then again, sex didn’t exactly lend itself to forward thinking. All he wanted was Spock- more of Spock.
A hot, messy kiss was pressed against his sweaty skin as fingers pulled out of him. He didn’t recognise the noise that escaped him, but he did manage to focus on Spock shushing him, soothing him, until he thrust suddenly into Jim. He was so very grateful for the position Spock had manhandled him into, because it meant he could see everything his mind had ever longed to appreciate in reality. Jim stared, transfixed by the movement of sinewy muscles and the place their bodies met, connected. He’d travelled space, seen incredible things, but he didn’t think he’d seen something quite so beautiful in all his life.
Spock was just as beautiful thrusting in to him, possessive and unrelenting, as he was sleeping peacefully beside him.
“You are close, James. You need nothing more. Let go.”
Half of him didn’t want to follow that particular instruction. He wanted to hold on to this moment for as long as he could, each mind-blowing sensation and agonisingly delightful thrust. In the end, all it took was Spock hitting his prostrate just so- and he had no choice but to allow himself to topple over the edge. The sensation was never ending, and then his head hit the pillow and he was gasping for breath.
“Good. Good, Jim.” Again, the praise. The unfathomably calming praise, that sent a heat coursing through his veins and made him want to clutch at Spock until the man wrapped his long limbs around him and held him tightly.
Reality hit him swiftly, as he opened his eyes and looking at the reality of his Quarters. They were now fully bright with artificial morning, and sort of neat ignoring the area immediate to his bed. His afterglow seemed to step away from him, daring him to chase it. Instead, he let the cool recycled air fill his lungs and a clarity wash over his mind.
“Spock- fuck- I… shit.”
Spock, apparently, didn’t share his concerns. “Lie still, Jim, I will fetch a cloth.”
He couldn’t have moved if he wanted to, but he still strained to lift his head again, watching Spock retreating into the bathroom. Only it wasn’t a retreat at all; not a tactical withdrawal. Spock still commanded the room, returning promptly with a wash cloth. His dark eyes were trained on Jim from the moment he entered the room again, and Jim felt like he was known inside out. More intimately than anyone could possibly know him. The thought terrified him. It was hard to ask for help, hard to finally speak aloud the need that he not be alone. Especially to Spock, who demanded he be every part the responsible Captain. But to maintain that decision… Emotional intimacy was the one thing that Jim had zero experience with, romantically speaking. Every instinct told him to excuse himself- claim this had been a mistaken and run. He was good at running.
“I have no need to read your thoughts to determine what you are thinking, Jim.” Spock said, an air of disapproving about his statement. It was too wonderful to comprehend- Spock, kneeled between his aching thighs and cleaning him so tenderly it put all past lovers to shame. That sight alone made Jim want to ignore all his worries, and the voice in his head that sounded like Bones telling him he’d really fucked up. “Did I not make clear my intention to care for you?”
“Yes- Spock, but it’s more complicated than that.” He struggled to sit up, his pelvis held down by Spock’s strong hands for a moment. The Vulcan relented after a moment, extending his hand for Jim to pull himself up on. “You can’t just read my mind and fix me. It’s not how it works. You saw me yesterday- these bad days, they’re… I don’t want to lose you, Spock.”
Spock dropped the cloth off the bottom of the bed and then sat crossed legged, watching Jim carefully for a moment. Whatever he was searching for, he seemed to find it quickly.
“When Doctor McCoy indicated to me that you were likely to wake soon, after the Khan incident, I booked transport to New Vulcan.” Spock admitted factually, and Jim’s heart sped up against his ribs. The sound reverberated in his head, and he strained through the thrum to try and hear Spock. “Losing you had compromised me to such an extent that the only logical choice seemed to be to remove myself from you.”
“You…” Jim coughed, drawing his bare legs close to him, too aware of his nudity now- and that wasn’t something he ever thought he’d be conscious of. Or maybe it was just the idea of Spock’s absence from the Enterprise- god that left him feeling more vulnerable than half the things he’d faced in his life. Danger and survival, he had down. It was the ordinary day to day that Spock, and Bones and the others, made bearable. Jim’s soul felt bare to the man sat opposite him, even if he couldn’t properly articulate his feelings in words. Truthfully, Jim had never really considered what his death had done to Spock. He’d avoided thinking about it at all costs. Oh, he’d heard the tales of the Vulcan, so very compromised that the pacifist had almost killed a man. But afterwards, in the hospital, Spock had seemed so composed. Close by, always, and probably quite intimidating to any other visitors, but in control nonetheless. It was hard to consider he’d almost not been there at all.
“What changed your mind?”
“My father. I told him of my intentions to return. He expressed how illogical he found it that my mother was no longer beside him. He required meditation, quite severely, but his words remain with me.” Spock locked eyes with Jim, and though every instinct told Jim that he was still fucking up, still taking leaps into new land, leaps he could never take back, he couldn’t stop himself from staring right back. Spock’s eyes were so human; they said so much more than his steady expression.
“There is logic in death, Jim. There is no logic in walking away from you. If you wish to revert back the previous standard of our relationship, I will respect your wishes. However, this is not my wish.”
“I’m not saying I don’t want to be with you, Spock. I do. A lot.” He reached out a tentative hand- not quite a Vulcan kiss, but dangerously close. His fingers trailed from Spock’s wrist to his thumb, watching Spock’s fingers curl up slowly in reaction. It was easier to admit his feelings like that- just let Spock touch him and understand. “I’m just scared, I guess. My head is messed up and I keep lashing out at people. What if I do that to you too?”
“Trust that I will not let you push me away, no more than Doctor McCoy or Nyota would.”
“Okay.” Jim agreed, shrugging. “Okay, let’s try it then.”
Bones’ office was a formidable scene on any day for Jim. With it came the threat of hypos, physical assessments, mental assessments and generally the lashing anger of his best friend. It was no less than he deserved, frankly, after the way he’d acted the day before. He’d welcome it, in fact. He wanted to be made to pay for what he’d done and said. Especially to Bones, who cared so much and did everything in his power to keep Jim living. Only, Leonard never would. There were never angry rants or harsh injections, thrust upon him in surprise, not after bad days like yesterday. Instead, Bones would always sit him down, tell him it was fine, and hand him a stiff drink.
It was a cycle of terrible behaviour and Bones, Bones was as flawed as Jim was in a dozen respects.
Jim knocked tentatively, catching Nurse Chapel’s pointed glare in his direction that did nothing to calm his nerves, before he heard Bones call him inside.
“Captain.” The title was evidence enough that Bones was still pissed at him. The Doctor sat stiffly in his chair, but there was that tell-tale concern in his eyes and the frown in his brows that told Jim this occasion was no different from any other they’d encountered before. Bones was one attempted apology away from forgiving him, again.
“Doctor McCoy.” Jim sat without invitation. God, he hadn’t worked out what he wanted to say. Spock had successfully distracted him all morning, and now time was running out before he had to be on the Bridge. He may have been the Captain, but he’d been late enough times this week already. He stared at his best friend for a long moment, trying to work out what he wanted to say. “I slept with Spock.”
“For the love of- Dammit Jim! You know you have to check in with me before you sleep with an alien species-”
Jim stared. “Spock, Bones, I slept with Spock.”
“Yes I heard you. What, you want me to act surprised?” Bones snorted. “Or d’you want me to congratulate you? I’m not about to do either, but you can certainly ask, Kid.”
Bones’ expression softened again, and he sighed. “I know.” He reached into his drawer and pulled up a bottle of whiskey. “Go on then, tell me what happened- but for the love of god, if you tell me any more than I need to know I’ll gut you, Kid.” He poured himself a drink, and Jim’s mouth suddenly felt dry again. Bones had called him out on all his shitty decisions since the Academy, and despite fearing to the core of him that he’d just made the biggest mistake of his life, it was hearing it from Bones that would make it a reality.
“Can I?” He gestured to the bottle.
“Get lost. You steal my drinks and play hide and seek all day, you suffer the consequences.”
“Okay, that’s fair.” Jim took a deep breath. “Well, I decided to expel all my anger from my fist towards my shower floor. Spock sort of caught me and I cried all over him and then we slept together. No- I mean, we slept side by side like sleeping sleep.” He was an idiot. “Anyway, then we woke up and… you know, Spock sweet talked me into submission.” He had no intention of telling Bones just quite how literally he meant that, remembering the way he’d been pinned to the bed by strong, unrelenting hands. He fought back a blush and hoped desperately that Bones wouldn’t notice.
“Well, I can’t say I haven’t been expecting it. I’m guessing you actually had a decent conversation about what you’re planning to do now that you’ve both stopped giving into your repressive, self-pitying tendencies.”
“Yeah. Sort of.” At least, they’d both agreed to give it a go. Give what a go, Jim wasn’t entirely sure. It was hard to think straight when sat in bed with a beautiful Vulcan.
“I know it’s hard, Jimmy, but you can’t get caught up in the honeymoon period and forget you’re still recovering. Spock knows what he’s getting into, I know that, but it’s you I’m worried about. Spock isn’t a knight in shining armour, he won’t instantly fix everything.”
“I know.” If there was anything in the world he was sure of, it was that. He’d never bene one to place his hopes on other people. People were unreliable; they ran away or died. “But Spock can help- or he thinks he can, anyway. What else am I supposed to do, Bones? Put my entire life on hold until I’m ‘recovered’? How long’s that going to take? Honestly, I’d love to know, because I can’t wait for the night I don’t have nightmares about Tarsus, or wake up with Sam’s name on my lips. Honestly.”
Bones slid his glass across the desk, and Jim drooped in his seat, his frustration draining quickly. He was too well-rested, too well-fucked, for a breakdown today.
“I know.” He said, simply. “Congratulations, Jim. I think you’re finally mature enough to make this work.”
Jim raised the whiskey in acknowledgement, before draining what remained in the glass.
Chapter 3: Infinite Days
A few days later...
Some Kirk and Uhura friendship.
There was a small smattering of applause from the busy recreation deck; the game had been going on a while, and some had lost interest, returning to their card games and drinks. Still, it was more attention than their games had attracted in some time, most notably because they’d stopped playing publicly weeks before. The privacy of their quarters had always been preferable, even before the progression of their relationship the few days before. Frankly, the only reason they were in recreation now was because staying in their quarters had been far too unproductive. Or, not unproductive, but distracting. Spock had suggested recreation. He’d called it ‘neutral ground’- somewhere they could interact casually, not on active duty, without giving in to the urge to end up immediately in bed.
For the first hour, Jim had disagreed entirely that it was working in any capacity. Spock’s ankles had rested against his under the table, both teasing and warning at the same time. Watching his fingers toy with chess pieces- knowing what those fingers could do. It was frankly maddening, and he’d almost lost the match for it. Jim would give in to Spock’s possessive tendencies to no end in the bedroom, but he had no intention of losing his winning streak for it. He focused on the board with an unparalleled concentration. If Bones had been there, instead of elbow deep in the organs of some poor engineer, he’d have been amazed.
Winning would, he thought, somehow prove he was still James Kirk. Not just bad days or Spock’s mate or Ship’s Captain. Beneath all that, he was still the stubborn, cocky, too smart for his own good young man. He’d felt that for all of a second, grinning wickedly at their audience, until he’d turned back to Spock and felt the full force of his lust. Jim knew that Vulcans could restrain arousal until they wished to give in to the urge, but Spock wasn’t restraining now. His eyes were mostly pupil, and his neutral expression said something along the lines of ‘I’m going to tear those clothes from you the moment I have you alone’, and Jim wondered how many times that face had gazed at him before, and he’d been oblivious to its meaning.
His throat went dry, and he allowed himself to smile daringly at Spock for just a moment. Fuck, Jim couldn’t bring himself to think he’d fucked up, not now. Hell, he even had Bones’ tentative approval. Perhaps that’d be redacted if his friend saw the way Spock was looking at him just then. Obviously, the bridge was a different story. The bridge, missions, being captain, that was easy. They could be Captain Kirk and First Officer Spock just fine, the dynamics between them no more difficult or laced with tension than they ever had been. It was off-duty that he really allowed himself to think about the fact that Spock was his and, perhaps more importantly, he was Spock’s. Sure, he felt it in the odd bruise beneath his uniform and the pointed looks they shared at any given time of day, but his quarters had become a place he couldn’t exist without wondering when Spock would be joining him.
“Yes, yes- thank you. I’m sure it won’t be too long before Mister Spock beats me.”
“That is a logical statement, Captain.” Spock acquiesced, tilting his head slightly. Holy shit, arousal surged through Jim- and for the love of god, Spock looked like he had every intention of actually beating him a little, and Jim was wrecked by it, in a way he couldn’t have anticipated. Maybe it was just because of how much he trusted Spock, or how great sex had been thus far, but the image of him draped over Spock’s lap was… well… Jim shifted minutely in his seat.
Maybe that was exactly what Bones had tried to warn him about. Getting too attached, too quickly. Only, he couldn’t imagine a day when he didn’t want to pounce on Spock. Besides, Vulcan’s didn’t do casual relationships. Jim had committed himself. What was the point of not being together, when they had no intentions of being apart. They had four more years of this, together, up in space, and he was completely devoted to making it work. There was no other choice, really. And even if they hadn’t slept together, even if Jim’s resolve had never broken, the threads that held the fabric of his reality together had been woven into Spock long ago.
“Captain?” Spock looked questioning, and Jim wasn’t entirely sure how to respond. He wanted to leave, run away, have Spock distract him from his worry. Or he wanted to stay exactly where he was, and not give in to the urge to hide away from their crew. That was the whole point, surely, of being in recreation instead of his quarters.
“I’m fine Spock, sorry.” He needed to get away, breathe, not let himself get so unfathomably caught up in what was happening. Hell, he didn’t even know what was happening. It was one thing having Bones’ seal of approval, but his friend was right. It was easy to get swept up in sex and mind melding and joy, and forget everything else. “I have something I need to do.” He decided, then. “Do you mind? I’ll come and find you later.”
Spock blinked, adorable – a sharp contrast to his frankly ridiculous level of hotness from just moments before. “If that is what you wish, Captain.”
“Thanks, Spock. I owe you.” He pressed his leg against Spock’s firmly, just for a moment, hoping that the touch would reassure Spock that nothing was actually wrong. He wasn’t going to freak or run or go and have another breakdown. Judging by the neutrality of Spock’s expression, his lover understood. And god that was another perfect thing about Spock. That boundless trust. If it were Bones, he’d be infuriatingly reluctant to leave Jim alone. He would do it, eventually. But only after an immense amount of effort on Jim’s part to prove he was okay. Spock, on the other hand, was quite happy to let him have space. Maybe it was to make up for what Spock had to assume was an unwelcome invasion of his thoughts – that Spock insisted he take time to think, independently. Work through his issues on his own.
One of his issues was long overdue a tackle, and it was with that in mind that he made his way to the gym. He may have been a poor excuse for a Captain and a friend, but he still knew how to do some things. That included tracking down people who’d rather not see him anytime soon. Plus, he’d spent years actually trying to be a good friend to Uhura, so he knew her schedule pretty well.
The gym was mostly deserted aside from a few science officers and – right in the corner, Uhura and Janice Rand were doing weights. Jim approached cautiously, falling to a stop a few steps behind them and then coughing awkwardly.
“Lieutenant Uhura, may I borrow you for a moment?” He asked, sounding about as apologetic as he ever had done.
“Is it official business, Sir?” Uhura replied, steadily, focus still directed to the weight in her hand. Janice looked up at Jim, biting her lip at the tension.
“No. Uhura, please. Just a minute.” He watched, breath caught in his throat, until she finally lowered her weight and set it carefully back to the floor. She swept past him wordlessly, and Jim hurried after her out into the corridor.
“You have one minute, Kirk.”
Jim winced. “Okay. Well, I just wanted to say I’m sorry. I’m really sorry, Uhura. What I did was shitty. The way I acted was shitty. There’s no excuse, and I let you down. I’m so grateful for everything you’ve done for me- I wouldn’t even be alive if you hadn’t stopped Spock.” He let out a shaky breath. “You don’t have to forgive me- I wouldn’t either. But I wanted you to know that I’m trying really hard to get better – so that I never get that bad again. So I won’t lash out at you again.”
Somewhere along his pitiful speech, Uhura’s eyes had softened and she’d stopped pulling that expression that made him feel like an infant being told off. She wiped sweat from her brow with her wristband, biting her lip.
“I’m really sorry.” He said, pre-emptively, words tumbling from his mouth before he could stop himself. “And, while we’re at it, I should also tell you that I’m in love with Spock. And I’m actually with him. I love him and I’m with him, now.”
He was an idiot, rambling and stupid. He braced himself, eyes closed, waiting for the inevitable punch. He deserved it. Not only was he a shitty friend who rejected help, and a shitty Captain who got crew killed, but he was also on track to be a shitty boyfriend to Spock. Bones had supported him, but if there was anyone he could count on to have Spock’s best interests at heart… it was Nyota. If this was bad, if this was wrong, she’d tell him.
“Look at me, idiot.” Uhura instructed, and Jim managed to crack an eye open at her until he realised her expression hadn’t altered. She still looked at him like he needed a hug. Then, he managed to stop wincing. “I want you to be happy, Kirk.” She smiled distantly. “God knows you could use a bit of logic. Spock might finally convince you that you’re loved, Jim.”
Jim’s breath caught, again, and it was a great inner fight to not avert his gaze and shrink under the weight of her comment.
“See, you can’t even accept it now- you’ve gone bright red. We love you, Jim. You’re our friend. I really do think you and Spock will be good for each other.” Nyota paused, taking his hand. “But if you ever try to slip the system again not even Spock will be able to protect you from my wrath. Understood?”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Jim swallowed, feeling dazedly happy despite her threat. They cared, and it both baffled and warmed him.
“Excellent. I’ll see you on the Bridge tomorrow Captain. Sweet dreams.”
Jim thought of his upcoming evening. He’d find Spock, either in his quarters or Jim’s own. Spock would hold him, wait for him to open up about whatever it was he’d disappeared to do, and then Spock would make a decision. He’d either make sure Jim ate and then guide him to bed for sleep, or he’d push Jim to heights of pleasures he’d never imagined. He’d take care of Jim, because that’s what Spock did in the privacy of their quarters.
“Thank you, Lieutenant. I think I will.” He smiled, and strode away.
It was fine. Better than fine, it was good. Jim was no longer just coping – he was living, again. Breathing in sweet air that filled his lungs and heart and soul. It was going to take a lot of effort, but it wasn’t always on him. He had Spock, and Bones and Nyota. His friends. Precisely so that, when things seemed hopeless, they might remind him exactly what he wanted. Life, in spite of everything else. He still wanted life.