The first time goes something like this.
They’re planetside, in a club pulsating with lights and music and bodies, pushing against them from all sides.
Jim’s shoulders hit the wall hard, and he looks up at Spock searchingly. They’re almost too close for his gaze to focus, but Spock’s eyes are calculating, steady. He’s limned by the flashing lights behind him, and try as he might, Jim can’t find a single crack in his composure. Even his breathing is calm. Jim can feel his own pulse thundering, licks his lips unconsciously. There’s not enough air in this room, and a single drop of sweat is trickling down his back. Spock blinks in response, or maybe not in response. Maybe he just had to blink. His eyes remain fixed on Jim’s.
It’s infuriating, in the way that everything about Spock is infuriating.
“You are certain that this is what you want?” Spock asks. They’re close enough that he doesn’t have to raise his voice to be heard over the music.
“Are you?” Jim makes sure he puts every possible ounce of challenge into his tone. Spock’s eyes do move then, a quick flicker down and then up again. Jim knows what he’s seeing, makes no attempt to hide his reaction to their proximity. Spock’s eyes darken minutely, and something bright and hot flares in Jim’s chest. It feels like a victory.
“Your operational efficiency increases by 32.7% immediately following periods of sexual activity,” Spock responds, and then they’re touching, and Spock’s mouth is warm and unforgiving against his own.
Three minutes later their positions are reversed, Jim pressing insistently against Spock, Spock allowing himself to be pressed back into the brick wall of the alley Jim towed him into. Spock’s mouth is open and lush, a sear of heat in the cold night as he presses his teeth into Jim’s neck. Jim’s hands tighten reflexively on Spock’s hips, and he can feel the warmth of Spock’s skin through his shirt.
It’s good, which is an imprecise term but the best Jim can muster given the situation. It’s really, really good, and Jim has collected enough data over the years to know what he’s talking about. He slips his hands under Spock’s shirt, skating his palms up as far as the material lets him. He scrapes his teeth over Spock’s collarbone, flicks a finger over his nipple, takes the time to watch, eyes sharp, as Spock’s head connects with the wall behind him.
Jim pulls back from him, and has to tense his muscles in an attempt to keep his body from swaying forward into the heat again. Spock’s hands still rest on his abdomen, thumbs framing his hipbones. Their exhalations cloud between them, puffs of steam comingling.
The music is still thudding bass-heavy from the club behind them, where Uhura and Chekov and half the crew, probably, are still drinking and dancing, maybe finding someone ready and willing to do what Jim and Spock are doing out here. The Enterprise is crewed by the best of the survivors from Nero’s ambush. Even in her second year of deployment, the crew is the youngest Starfleet’s ever seen. On the ship it’s not always obvious. During shore leave it’s impossible to miss.
Jim fumbles at his belt for his communicator, flicking a glance at Spock. The Vulcan’s eyes are dark. His lips are slightly parted but he licks them quickly, once, nods and then lifts his hands from Jim’s hips to straighten his shirt.
The Engineering ensigns have a rotation for staffing the transporter room during shore leave. When Spock and Jim rematerialize aboard the ship, a respectable four feet between them, Ensign Hayles smiles at them both. Jim gives her a friendly nod. They make it down the empty hallway and take the turbolift up to command quarters without touching or speaking, but Jim can feel Spock’s eyes on him the whole time. After the dark alley, the clean brightness of the Enterprise is almost blinding.
He hesitates when he reaches their doors, long enough for Spock to move past him and key in the code to his own room. The head tilt he gives Jim is something Jim’s seen hundreds of times, a nonverbal well-are-you-coming, and he follows it instinctively into the dimness of Spock’s quarters. The air inside is sweltering, calibrated for Vulcan bodies; Jim starts sweating immediately, strips out of his shirt unselfconsciously. Spock is on him before the fabric hits the floor.
Spock’s mouth tastes like the Cardassian Sunrises Uhura orders for them when she’s drinking to drink. His hands skate up Jim’s torso, skimming teasingly along his sides. Jim trips backwards, banging into the divider and maneuvering blindly, unwilling to put any space between them, until he feels the back of his knees hit the bed. Spock’s hands are everywhere, on his hips again, in his hair, moving efficiently to his belt. Jim leans back helpfully, lifting his hips off the bed, and watches Spock’s long, elegant fingers stutter over the buckle for a moment.
It’s a blur of sensation after that. Jim’s own heartbeat loud in his ears. The frantic half-hitch of his breathing. Spock’s hand splayed between his shoulder blades holding him down. The heat. Jim’s sweat gathering on his collarbones, in the small of his back. The incense-rich smell that rises from Spock’s sheets when Jim fists them. The way Spock comes, eventually: silent, grinding forward almost helplessly, like he needs to get inside Jim’s skin. The way Jim comes, a fraction of a minute later: a choked-off gasp, mouth open against the sheets, untouched.
The second time happens the following morning, early enough that half of the crew is probably still on the planet below. Spock gives him the most excruciatingly thorough blowjob Jim has ever experienced. Jim jerks him off afterwards, still a little wobbly, while the ambient environmental control simulates a Vulcan sunrise and sets the walls aglow around them. Jim’s brain is stalled out on a single idea, sends it echoing around his body like tremors: this is not going to last. On its heels comes another, quieter, worse. You want it to.
The third time goes like this.
Jim has just beaten Spock at chess. He’s managed it a handful of times since they embarked on the five-year mission, but it never ceases to make him grin, just the way he’s doing now: loose, easy. The light in his quarters is low, a concession to the late hour, and Spock is looking at the board in consternation, a small crease between his brows that indicates pissy disbelief. It’s familiar, an expression that Spock wears so often around him that, laughing, Jim reaches out to smooth it away without thinking. Spock lets him. Then he lets Jim take the clear chess piece out of his hand, lets him move around the table until he’s worked his way into Spock’s personal space, catches Jim’s hand in his and lets Jim kiss him, still laughing, easy, easy, easy.
The seventh time goes like this.
It’s Jim’s birthday, and he’s angry. He’s survived 26 birthdays now, and he knows how to plaster over the emotions that come with them, but something about Uhura’s tense shoulders and the nervous looks Chekov sneaks every few minutes makes him suspect he’s not doing a great job this particular year. He finds he doesn’t much care.
That morning, Spock had attempted to broach the topic of the USS Kelvin.
“Don’t,” Jim had warned.
“I apologize if I have caused offense,” Spock had said, which was absurd, since he wasn’t the one who used a dead parent as leverage in front of the entire crew in an effort to take control of the starship. Jim was suddenly nauseous.
“Save it,” Jim had half-snarled at him, and stalked out of the mess hall without taking his tray.
Jim’s shift lasts an eternity. When Spock enters the bridge, punctual as always, he stands up abruptly.
“Commander Spock to relieve Captain Kirk,” Spock says, tone careful and reserved in a way it hasn’t been in months. His gaze is focused somewhere past Jim’s left ear.
“I am relieved,” he tells the Vulcan, and is watching the turbolift doors swish shut in front of him before anyone else has risen from their stations.
He goes to the gym, because it’s a choice between that or sickbay and the medicinal bourbon Bones keeps there. Jim remembers Sulu’s nearly imperceptible wince when he’d snapped out an order more curtly than usual and decides it’s probably best if he avoids everyone. Bones has lived through four of Jim’s birthdays with him, and Jim doesn’t want to burden him with a fifth.
Instead, he strips out of his command uniform, pulls on a pair of athletic shorts, and keys into one of the fitness units. They’re small cubicles, not much bigger than closets, each equipped with independent climate control and a holo-display that can be programmed to show a variety of immersive extraplanetary locales. Jim doesn’t bother changing the settings except for the oxygen, which he sets to 85% of Earth normal. He leaves the room fluorescent and stark. He runs.
He starts out easily, footfalls even and form controlled. He can feel the jarring of his bones, a heavy shake traveling up from the soles of his feet through every joint. It’s familiar, but the usual comfort it brings is absent. By the eighth mile he’s nearly sprinting, an ungainly scramble to keep up with the treadmill, which is speeding up to match his increased pace. His breathing is loud in the room, each inhale a thin gasp that dries his lungs until he stumbles to a graceless stop, slapping a palm over the command key that powers down the machine.
His vision is swimming, and for a long moment he feels like he might throw up. He thinks about the full breakfast tray he abandoned in the mess hall that morning, Spock’s white-knuckled grip on his own tray. Stupid. So fucking stupid, leaving the food like that—
Jim doubles over and squeezes his eyes shut until the nausea passes.
On shaky legs, he palms open the door to the unit and emerges into the cooler, oxygen-rich air of the gym, pulling his wrinkled shirt back over his head as he goes. It sticks uncomfortably to his sweaty back and chest, but he ignores it. The ship’s hallways are empty this time of night. He feels like he’s still running, slightly off-balance, like electricity is prickling just under his skin. He wants to start a fight, wants someone’s fists and knees and elbows slammed into the tenderest parts of him, wants a reminder of where his body ends.
On Earth, he’d go to a bar. Get fucked up and get fucked, maybe, by someone who doesn’t know his name and doesn’t care. Jim likes to be on equal footing like that. Instead, Spock is standing outside of his quarters. Jim pauses. He wants to punch him, turns it over in his mind briefly before loosening his fist and keying in his access code. Spock follows him inside.
“How long have you been out there?” Jim asks, turning to face him. Spock should still be on the bridge.
“Lieutenant Sulu has the conn,” Spock replies, which is not an answer. He eyes Jim like he’s a wild animal, something that needs to be monitored and contained. Jim has never felt less contained in his life. As he watches Spock watching him, something small inside him shifts.
It’s different this time. Because of the anger. Jim wants to take Spock apart.
The usual low thrum of irritation—the one that often tumbles unexpectedly into fondness, or subsides into a simple awareness of Spock’s presence at his side—tonight it makes Jim want to wrap his hands around Spock’s neck and squeeze. Makes him want to talk shit about Spock’s mom again. Instead he pins Spock’s hips down to the bed and swallows him down all at once, no warning. Surprised, Spock bucks upwards. Jim’s strength is no match for it and he takes it, feels Spock in the back of his throat, lets his eyes slip closed for a moment. He still feels Spock’s assessing gaze on him, and he hates it.
He glances upwards and pulls off a bit, hollowing his cheeks, before sinking back down as far as he can—further—and repeating the move. Spock makes a bitten-off sound, somewhere between a moan and a gasp. It’s progress. He’s always been completely silent before. His fists are clenched at his sides. He’s being careful, now; Jim can feel his thigh muscles tense, notes the way Spock’s lips are slightly parted, white teeth sinking into the lower one. It’s not enough, not what Jim wants, and he makes a noise of frustration. He grabs one of Spock’s hands and moves it to his head before swirling his tongue around the tip of Spock’s dick. The fingers in Jim’s hair tighten reflexively but release almost immediately. Jim pulls all the way off, glaring.
“Come on,” he says, voice rough. His lips are spit-shiny, can feel the flush high on his cheeks, knows it must match the green rising all over Spock’s lean body. He’s still wearing his command gold, barely took the time to strip Spock out of his blues before pushing him towards the bed. “Fucking do it, I can’t—” Spock makes another noise, this one closer to desperate. Jim swallows him down again and this time—this time Spock’s hand is an insistent pressure, fingers tugging at Jim’s hair hard enough to make his eyes water. He’s using Vulcan strength, Jim realizes distantly, and loses himself to it, to the feeling of being filled over and over again until he can barely feel his limbs, forgets his own dick even exists. He doesn’t know if he wants to be in control for once, or wants Spock to understand what it’s like to be out of control, but he’s finally gotten it, whatever it is. He wonders, idly, if he’ll be able to talk tomorrow.
When Spock’s movements get jerkier, Jim drags his gaze up and is met with the sight of Spock’s head thrown back, pale neck arched, his mouth open against Jim’s pillow. His eyes are squeezed shut and the hand not tangled in Jim’s hair is curled, claw-like, into the bedding. It gives Jim an idea. He grabs it, slides it along Spock’s own dick, and then sinks back down, fitting the first two fingers into his mouth as well. Spock’s eyes fly open and his pupils are blown, dark, disbelieving, more human than Jim’s ever seen them before. His hair is tousled and he’s looking at Jim like he’s something amazing, and Jim’s chest hurts, suddenly, tightens like he wants to cry. Instead, he curls his tongue around the two digits and sucks.
Spock comes, gasping Jim’s name, and it sounds like an oath, like a prayer. Jim pretends not to hear.
There’s a weight in his mouth and he can’t tell if it’s his tongue or a stone or both. Maybe his tongue has become a stone. Maybe it’s turned into sand. It would explain the grit he can feel between his teeth and rubbed into his gums. Miniscule grains grate between his molars. No. He ate grass. He pulled it up in tufts, while the others weren’t looking, and there was dirt clinging to the shallow roots. He threw up after, but the dirt stayed behind.
There’s a weight in his mouth and another on his hip, one pulling on his hand, one hanging heavily from his back, small knees digging into his sides, feet pressed to his ribs. He’s pulling down with his free hand on the arms around his neck, struggling for air and terrified of dropping Charlotte, stumbling forward blindly. His mind is a white, screaming void, nothing other than the mechanical functions of his body, a constellation of knees and grasping hands, a monstrous free-body diagram of force and weight and gravity. He doesn’t know how he’s still standing, still moving, only that he has to.
He doesn’t want to.
He wants to sink into the ground, to disperse. It’s too much weight. So much depends—he hated that old poem, back in school in Riverside—so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow—glazed with rain water—there’s a weight in his mouth and he can’t get it out, and it might be the stone he’s been sucking for a week now, trying to keep the thirst away, and it might be his tongue, and it might be the hand of a child, looking for food.
It had been like that, for a while. It’s how he found Tommy, two weeks after the—two weeks after. Tommy was crouched at the edge of one of the grave ditches, a stranger holding a body close to his own. At first Jim thought he was mourning. When he moved closer, he saw that Tommy’s thin mouth was locked on the body’s wrist, and he was crying, and his teeth were ripping and tearing, and his chin was red with blood. Jim had lifted Charlotte off his back, set her down carefully, and pressed her scraped palms over her own eyes. He’d tackled Tommy to the ground, pinning his arms against the dirt until his hands went limp and his body stopped bucking beneath Jim’s. Just him and Tommy and the body half-caught between them. It hadn’t taken long. Jim could count his own ribs, but Tommy was almost dead already.
“Please,” Tommy had said, before Jim even knew his name. “Do it, I can’t—”
Jim went to the grave ditches to look for food, slid his hands into pockets and bags, rifled through credit chips and scraps of paper and bobby pins. Every day new bodies appeared. Sometimes he had to roll them over, and it made his vision shake, but if he waited too long he wasn’t strong enough to move them, to bring whatever he found back to Kevin and Y’naal and Charlotte and the others. Once he found an apple, only partially rotten; another time, half a nutrient block with the plastic wrapper tucked safely around it.
Tommy had come to the grave ditch to look for food, too.
In the dream it’s Jim with the sticky-slick lips, Jim choking down blood at the back of his throat, Jim with tendons caught between his teeth. There’s a stone in his stomach, hard and heavy, and he needs to get it out, but he can’t stop biting down long enough to uncurl, and Charlotte’s child-small hand is clutching his shirt.
Jim wakes up hungry. He’s in his quarters and Spock’s warm body is pressing him into the mattress. The blackness around them is complete, the kind of dark you only get in space. Jim stares up into it, feels it pushing against his eyelids like a physical weight. His heart is pounding, but Spock’s pulse is steady and sleep-heavy against his chest, and after a minute Jim knows what he needs to do.
“I’m pretty fucked up,” he says quietly. His throat feels raw.
Spock makes a low noise in his sleep, stirring slightly. It’s nothing he doesn’t already know; he’s the smartest person Jim’s ever met. There’s still time for him to get away clean. Jim eases out from underneath him and stands, feeling around on the floor for pants and a shirt. Then he slides the door open and leaves.
The eighth time happens like this.
Spock brings him an apple. Three days have passed since Jim left his quarters in the middle of the night. He’s felt hollowed-out ever since. It’s a familiar feeling. Outside of necessary communications about the Enterprise, they haven’t spoken. But Spock brings him an apple, and hands it to him on the bridge right there in front of everyone. It’s illogical. Jim’s been feeding himself successfully his entire adult life. Everyone on the ship has equal, unrestricted access to the mess hall. Each room in the crew quarters is equipped with a replicator.
Jim takes the apple. When he bites into it, it’s cold and tart and a little bitter.
Late that night, Spock enters his quarters unannounced. Jim’s been lying sleepless in his bed for hours, first completing mindless paperwork, then staring at the ceiling. He didn’t know Spock had the access passcode. The Vulcan is silhouetted for an instant, a familiar black form against the hallway lights, until the door glides shut and Jim’s room is plunged into darkness again.
He moves to stand, but Spock crosses the room in three efficient strides and pushes him back gently. He sits at the edge of the bed.
“Are you transferring me, Jim?”
This time Jim does manage to sit up in surprise. “What? Spock, no—not unless—do you want that?”
“No,” says Spock. “I do not.” He falls silent for a moment. Jim waits him out, breathing slowly in the dark. “I am not going anywhere,” Spock says finally. The colloquialism sounds strange coming from his mouth. He’s been spending too much time with humans.
“Spock,” Jim starts.
“No. If you wish for our relationship to return to its earlier state, I will accept your decision. But I will not—I will not leave.”
He stays the night. He stays the next night, too, and the night after that. The thought still comes, sometimes: this is not going to last. More often, though, it goes like this: a slow uncurling, a reaching. Easy, easy, easy, even when it isn’t.