Chapter 1: Mission Briefing
The senior bridge crew tumbled in drowsily to the conference room, taking their seats with no small amount of yawning and glares at Jim, who was—of course—a godforsaken morning person and already on his third cup of coffee for the day.
“Sorry to call you all out of bed so early, but I wanted to get this meeting done before Gamma ended so that we could all work Alpha without interruption,” he said.
“Screw you, Jim,” someone muttered. It was either Sulu or Uhura, Jim couldn’t tell.
“And why in god’s name couldn’t we have this meeting after Alpha?” Bones griped.
“Because! I have exciting news! We have a new mission,” he said. “There’s a new species—“
“The Vestals are not a new species, Captain. They have been around for longer than humans have,” Spock corrected.
“Already, well there’s a newly contacted species, and they want admission to the Federation, so it’s our job to make sure they get it and everything goes smoothly,” Jim said. “But first, we have to pick up Spock’s dad because they want a Vulcan there for the negotiations and every other ambassador bowed out.”
“Why?” Bones asked suspiciously.
“The Vestals are a highly emotional people. Far more so than even the typical standards of emotive Federation species. As the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, and a man with a mixed-species family, my father was deemed the best suited to the task,” Spock said.
“They all but twisted his arm and threatened to fire him,” Jim translated.
“If these Vestals are so emotional, then why is the Federation insisting on sending a Vulcan diplomat for the negotiations? Wouldn’t it be better to send, I don’t know, a Betazoid or something?” Uhura asked.
“Ooh! This is the cool part. Tell ‘em, Spock,” Jim said.
“The Vestal people are a Vulcanoid race,” he said. “They share the same common ancestor as Vulcans and Romulans.”
“You mean to tell me that the same species that spawned Vulcans also created a species more emotional than any other one in the Federation?” McCoy asked.
“Indeed. Emotions run deep within the Vulcan race. They are repressed for reasons of propriety and maintaining decorum. The Romulans and Vestals rejected the teachings of Surak during the Reform all those centuries ago, and each left for their own planets. The Vestals believed in the full embrace of emotions to guide their telepathy, whereas the telepathic arts became taboo on Romulus and eventually died out.
“Vesta is a volcanic, mountainous world with a lot a of romanticism surrounding fire. Their embrace of emotions has admittedly strengthened their telepathy beyond that of Vulcans. They do not shield, believing in the free sharing of thoughts. There are no such thing as secrets on Vesta, and the people primarily communicate telepathically rather than vocally.”
“So they’ll be readin’ our thoughts the entire time we’re there?” Scotty asked.
“The average citizens will be, should you encounter them. However, we have explained to the delegation the psi-null concept of privacy, and they shall shield to respect our customs.”
“I don’t like this,” Bones said.
“Oh, shut up, it’s gonna be cool. Emotional Vulcans, guys. Emotional Vulcans,” Jim said.
“They are not Vulcans. They are Vestals,” Spock said.
“Why are they called Vestals and not Vestans? Isn’t that the standard for how… What are they called?” Sulu asked.
“Demonyms,” Uhura supplied.
“Yeah, demonyms. Isn’t that how standard demonyms work?”
“’Vestal’ is the closest Standard approximation to their endonymic demonym. The concept is similar to how Rihansu and Vuhlkansu are rendered Romulan and Vulcan, respectively,” Spock said.
“So what is their endonym? What do they call themselves?” Uhura asked.
“Vesthai’alsu,” Spock said.
“Their species is very friendly and puts a high value on emotions and bonds. They view bonds between people as sacred, so family is very important to them. They’re extremely peaceful and pacifistic, but I don’t want us to go in there thinking this mission will be a milk run. The political situation is tricky,” Jim said.
“Tricky how?” Sulu asked.
“The Vestals were never contacted previously due to their planet lying within the bounds of the Romulan Star Empire. For centuries, they have been oppressed and enslaved. Six months ago, they were able to overthrow Romulan rule. One of the first things they did was reach out to the Federation for protection,” Spock said.
“Now obviously, the Empire isn’t happy about this. They want their colony back. And more importantly, they don’t want the Federation to take the planet,” Jim said.
“No offense, Captain, but it sounds like you’re leading us straight into a trap. No good can come from this,” Bones said.
“We can’t just leave the Vestals hanging. They need our help. They deserve our help,” Jim said.
“You said they’re pretty powerful telepaths. What do we know about their abilities?” Uhura asked.
“As stated, they primarily communicate through thought. Obviously, this means they do not require touch to sense a being’s thoughts and emotions as Vulcans do. They are empathic as well as telepathic, and have the ability to conjure visions. This trait has been seen to a moderate extent in extremely powerful Vulcan telepaths. It is believed that all Vestals possess it, however, and to a much greater degree.”
“Standard Vulcanoid physiology I assume?” McCoy asked.
“Great. So they’re three times our strength, politically volatile, and have no control over their apparently intense emotions. What could possibly go wrong?”
“Guys, it won’t be that bad. We just pick up Spock’s dad and get wined and dined by people who are eager to impress us, and then we leave. This is gonna be an easy mission, trust me,” Jim said.
Spock lowered himself onto his meditation mat and closed his eyes. They would arrive at the New Vulcan colony to pick up Sarek by tomorrow. From there, it was a five-day journey to Vesta, at the edge of the newly defined Neutral Zone. They would technically be crossing where the line used to be and where the Empire still insisted it lay, but with Vesta’s newfound independence, the Federation no longer recognized the full length of the line.
There was a possibility that the Romulan Empire would perceive this as an incursion into their territory and declare war. Spock calculated the probability of that to be 37.899%. Alarmingly high odds for a such a potentially disastrous result.
War was to be avoided at all costs. And yet, they could not abandon their duty to aid the Vestal people. Vulcans shared a kinship with them, and even if they did not, it was illogical to refuse to help one who was in need when one had the ability to do so.
He analyzed his emotions regarding the matter. He felt apprehension. This was logical, given the complex political situation of Vesta. However, it was also unnecessary and an impediment. Wariness and alertness were admirable qualities in a Starfleet officer, but worry served only as a distraction. It accomplished nothing, and was therefore illogical.
The emotion thus dissected, Spock boxed it away and moved on.
He also felt hope, for the Vestal people. Hope for their future of freedom and equal rights.
This was a logical emotion to feel, but, like worry, entirely unnecessary and could lead to expectations that might not be fulfilled. That could result in additional distracting and unpleasant emotions, so Spock packed away his hope and discarded it.
He would go into this mission with no expectations and would thus experience neither elation nor disappointment upon its conclusion. It was illogical to expect things which could not be positively predicted. What is, is. Kaiidth.
Conjecture was pointless, contrary to what his human shipmates seemed to believe. Jim, in particular, was prone to ‘guessing’ and speculation. He was likely in the midst of this activity right now, spinning countless possible scenarios for their upcoming mission through his mind. This was illogical and counterproductive, and yet Spock could not begrudge the human his excitement, distasteful as it should be to his Vulcan sensibilities.
That was another matter which he must meditate on: his inappropriate regard for Jim. For his Captain. It could hardly be classified as platonic any longer, and was entirely unprofessional. Furthermore, his affections were unreturned, and bound to make the captain uncomfortable if he knew about them. It would destroy their precious friendship and possibly their perfectly amiable working relationship as well.
Spock could not do that. Such a situation would be intolerable. And furthermore, he had no right to Jim even if by some miracle his affections were returned. Upon their first meeting, he had attempted to kill the man. To touch one’s mate with harmful intent was punishable by death by being repeatedly stabbed with a red-hot fire poker 1001 times on Vulcan. The perpetrator was often long dead well before the executioner reached even 500, though they did try to draw it out.
When he had reached out to destroy Jim that day, he had forfeited all rights to ever claiming him as a mate. To pursue him now was far more than he ever deserved. Even their friendship was more than he deserved.
Killing him would have been so, so easy.
Why were humans so fragile and how had they survived this long?
Spock was despicable. Abominable. His regard for his Captain a gross overstepping of his bounds and must be purged from him posthaste.
But try as he might, day after day, week after week, month after month, he could not stop loving the Captain. If anything, the condition worsened.
And Jim was naively trusting of him. He would not be if he knew the truth, of that Spock was certain. He would be horrified. Disgusted, perhaps, as T’Pring had been the day of their failed betrothal. Her repulsion had been so vehement that she refused to go through with the ceremony, and Spock had sealed off his own bonding cortex in shame, shielding from that horrible, unnatural emptiness.
Vulcans were not meant to be alone in their own heads. And yet, that was Spock’s fate. He was certain that it was never his destiny to take a bondmate. He would never know someone that intimately, as much as he craved it. And he would certainly never have Jim. That was as much a fantasy as anything.
Conjecture was illogical.
Spock pushed the thoughts of Jim out of his head and resolved to dwell less on his desire for his Captain. He had thus far been failing to do so. The obvious conclusion was that drastic measures must be taken.
He resolved to limit all unnecessary contact with Jim.
Chapter 2: Pick-Up
Jim tugged on the collar of his dress uniform nervously. “How do I look?”
“Adequate, Captain,” Spock said.
“You didn’t even look.”
Spock turned to him, his gaze cold and professionally distant as it trailed up the length of Jim’s form. He felt like an experiment under a microscope, and resisted the urge to squirm.
“You are adequate,” Spock repeated. He went back to standing at parade rest and facing the door.
It wasn’t that Jim was nervous. But the last time he had seen Sarek he had been accusing his son of never loving his own mother in order to underhandedly steal the captaincy from him right after the poor guy had lost his entire planet. He knew how humiliating that lack of control must have been for Spock, how degrading it must have felt to have everyone witness what he saw as shameful emotionalism.
Jim had apologized a thousand times, despite Spock’s insistence that it was unnecessary. The only reason he had eventually let it go was because Uhura pulled him aside one day and told him to stop drudging it up so often.
He was still immeasurably guilty, but now he was guilty in silence, and for multiple reasons.
And it had been a hell of a first impression to leave Spock’s dad with. Yeah, Jim was a job-stealing, over-ambitious asshole who would do anything to get to the top and didn’t care who got in his way. Hell, he had even sounded sort of xenophobic that day, implying that Vulcan non-emotionalism precluded the ability to love.
He wasn’t nervous or anything but he fully expected the worst and wouldn’t be surprised if Sarek got him demoted or dishonorably discharged by the end of this mission. Maybe even court-martialed.
“How does that Vulcan salute go again?” McCoy asked. Spock raised his hand in a perfect ta’al, and McCoy clumsily tried to manipulate his fingers into the same arrangement.
The hangar doors opened and a full security detail for ambassadorial honors lined the path from the shuttle to the doors, standing at full attention. Sarek disembarked and walked forward, a little Vulcan girl with curly hair at his side.
Jim, Bones, and Spock all presented the ta’al in perfect unison as the two Vulcans stepped out of the hangar.
“It is an honor to see you again, Ambassador Sarek. Live long and prosper,” Jim said.
“Peace and long life,” Sarek replied automatically.
The little girl—who couldn’t be more than eleven—raised her hand in the ta’al. “Spock-an. I request permission to hug you.”
“Permission granted, Saavik-kam,” he said. And then he was attacked by a fast-moving blur that hugged him with full Vulcan strength, making Spock let out an oof. Jim grinned in delight.
“And who is this little darlin’?” McCoy asked.
“This is S’chn T’gai Saavik, my ward,” Sarek said.
Jim’s eyes widened. “Spock, you never said you had a little sister.”
“Saavik-kam is not technically my sister, as we are not biologically related and Sarek has not formally adopted her,” he said.
“Foster sister, then,” Jim said.
“Spock, if you have to say that someone’s not ‘technically’ your family, then they’re your family, all right,” Bones said.
Saavik tugged on Spock’s sleeve. “I request a tour of the ship now. I want to see the labs, and the bridge, and your quarters, and the observation deck—“
“Saavik, Spock is a Starfleet officer with many responsibilities. Your tour will have to wait,” Sarek said.
“Nonsense,” Jim said. “This is officially top priority, and I’m going to have my First Officer handle it personally. If we can’t treat an ambassador’s daughter right on a diplomatic mission, then what are we doing? Spock, you’re going to spend time with your family, and that’s an order. This is official ship’s business, understand?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Yes, Captain.”
“This is the bridge,” Spock said later, ushering Saavik in towards the end of Alpha shift. She looked around in wonder.
Jim spun around in his chair, grinning wide. “So. Is our ship cool enough for you?”
“I do find the temperature to be below that which is preferred by Vulcans,” she said seriously.
“No, no, I mean, is the place adequate? Up to your standards and everything? Because that is the one thing this ship doesn’t have yet, is the preteen stamp of approval.”
“The ship appears to be above the standard that Starfleet typically sets,” she said, which Jim interpreted as Vulcan for excited gushing. “Can I sit in the chair?”
“Sure, go right ahead,” he said, rising. Saavik took his place and gazed out over the bridge imperiously. The rest of the crew did a bad job at hiding their smiles.
“This will be my ship someday,” she said. “I am going to be the next captain after you.”
She said it so certainly that Jim actually believed her.
“Spock!” Jim called out, approaching him in the mess hall later. “Wanna come have dinner with Bones and me?”
“Negative. I will be dining and spending the evening with my family tonight,” he said.
“Oh. Well, are we still on for chess tomorrow?”
“If it is agreeable to you, I would prefer to cancel. I would like to spend as much time in my family’s company as possible while they are on board.”
“Oh, yeah, of course, family’s super important. Wouldn’t want to keep you from them. Next week then?”
“Once next week begins, we will be in the middle of treaty negotiations with Vesta. There will be little time.”
“What about after the mission?” His disposition was glooming with every repeated rejection.
“Captain, after the mission, we will be busy with post-mission paperwork as well as returning my father and Saavik to the New Vulcan colony.”
“You know what, just forget it, Spock. I’m sorry I asked,” he said. He grabbed his tray and marched over to his usual table with Bones, slamming it down and digging in petulantly.
“What’s the matter with you?” Bones asked.
“Spock’s avoiding me,” he said.
“You sure? Last I checked, he was attached to you at the hip.”
“No, for real. He doesn’t want to play chess with me. Anytime in the next two weeks.”
“Well, we do have a new mission coming up.”
“We’ve had missions before, and we’ve always made time for each other. This isn’t even gonna be that difficult of a mission.”
“Huh,” Bones said. “Guess that is sorta weird.”
Jim sighed and picked at his dinner.
“Kid, don’t go getting all torn up about. He’s probably just acting extra-Vulcan ‘cause his father’s around. The man is practically the dictionary definition of intimidating. I’d be on my best behavior too, if I were him.”
“And that includes avoiding gross emotional humans?”
Leonard rolled his eyes. “That’s not what I meant. Spock loves you, you know that.”
He scoffed. “Spock doesn’t love me. We’re barely friends. He tolerates my presence because I’m his captain and he feels like he’s supposed to make an effort.”
“Oh, that’s bullshit and you know it. I’ve never seen anyone bring out as much emotion in a damn Vulcan as you do, kid.”
“Yeah, emotions such as murderous rage.”
“You didn’t see him after Khan—“
“Again, murderous rage.”
“Okay, yeah, but it was murderous rage for your sake. And that means something.”
“Nothing good, Bones, nothing good.”
“Oh, for the love of—Just ask the man out already!”
Jim paled. “What?”
“You think I’m stupid? You think I don’t know what you’re like when you’re lovestruck, kid? And Spock is just as bad, if not worse. So just grow up and get on with it already.”
He shook his head. “Spock doesn’t like me.”
“Oh? And what makes you think that? The fact that he’d kill for you? The eight different times he’s saved your life so far? That time he jumped in front of a poisonous flower dart that was heading straight for you? Th—“
“That’s just standard Vulcan loyalty stuff, you know how they are. I’m his captain. He was doing his duty. The bottom line is, he doesn’t want me around him, and he especially doesn’t want me around his family.”
“Is that what this is? You think you aren’t meet-the-parents material or something?”
“I know I’m not, Bones.”
“What makes you think that, huh?”
“Not one single person I’ve dated has ever taken me home to meet their parents. And I’ve dated a lot of people, Bones. The statistics are on my side,” he said. “Plus, I haven’t even dated Spock, and his dad already hates me.”
“Goddammit, kid. Why do you think that?”
Bones rolled his eyes. “When are you gonna let go of that, huh? It’s been years. Spock’s forgiven you. You were acting on his own orders, for god’s sake.”
He shook his head. “I wasn’t supposed to take it that far.”
“You had to. You didn’t know he’d react that way.”
“I should’ve found a different way to do it without bringing his dead mom into it. God.”
“The whole point was to emotionally compromise him.”
“Yeah, well it certainly worked, didn’t it? The man who was supposed to be my best friend, my everything, won’t even give me the time of day in this universe.”
“Save it,” he said, getting up. “I’m done.”
Chapter 3: Welcome to Vesta
“Saavik,” Jim asked warily. “What are you doing?”
She scrambled back away from the door she had just had her ear pressed to hurriedly, a guilty green flush to her cheeks. “Spock and Sa-mekh asked me to exit the room so that they may discuss the upcoming mission and other ‘adult matters.’”
She actually used air quotes.
“Oh yeah?” Jim asked, smiling even though he knew he probably shouldn’t. “And what are they talking about?”
Jim’s smile dropped. “You know what, you really shouldn’t eavesdrop on people, it’s very rude. Come on, you can come into my quarters and we can play cards or something.”
“Spock has stated that you have a particular fondness for chess,” she said hesitantly, almost a question.
“Yeah. Do you play?”
“Affirmative. Spock taught me.”
He grinned. “Great, then let’s play a few games.”
“Why do you not court Spock?” Saavik asked suddenly, moving a pawn. Jim choked on his water.
“Uhh, why do y—Why do you ask that?”
“Spock requires a bondmate. You are adequate. Why do you not court him?” she asked. “Do you already have a mate?”
“No. No, it’s not that,” he laughed, a bit nervously. “Spock doesn’t like me, sweetie.”
“That is false.”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Your fear is illogical and does not factor into the accuracy of your statement.”
He tried to smile, but it came out as more of a grimace. “Sorry, Saavik. I’m not gonna be marrying your brother.”
“Why, if you do not already have a mate?”
“Because Spock doesn’t want me.”
Saavik frowned, noticeably, and Jim was floored by the open expression of emotion. “But you desire him?” she asked.
“Oh, eurgh, uh, no.”
“That is a lie.”
“No it’s not.”
“Yes it is.”
He sighed. “Listen, Saavik. You can’t tell anyone about this, especially not Spock.”
“Why?” she demanded.
“Because—“ he nearly groaned in frustration. “Because it’d ruin things.”
“That is false. The probability that Spock reciprocates your desire in kind is 57.89%, based on my observations of his interactions with you since I have come aboard.”
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot more to it than just him ‘reciprocating my desire.’ I want a bit more than that. And Spock doesn’t. And he doesn’t ‘reciprocate my desire’ in the first place; where’d you even learn words like that?”
She gave him a look. “They are not particularly difficult words, Captain Kirk.”
“That’s not what I meant,” he said. “Look—just drop it, okay? Spock doesn’t like me. It’s never going to happen.”
“You do not know that.”
“Oh yeah? What’s the probability?”
She blushed green. “I do not know. I am not yet that skilled in calculations.”
“Really? Because you were spouting off the probability of Spock liking me back about five seconds ago.”
“21.86 seconds ago,” she corrected. “And I had calculated that statistic well beforehand. I am not Spock. I do not know everything.”
“Spock doesn’t know everything either.”
“He seems to.”
“Can I tell you a secret?” he leaned in conspiratorially. Saavik’s eyes widened with interest, and she nodded. “Spock told me at our last game that I beat him in chess 52.13% of the time.”
Saavik’s eyes widened impossibly further, and she looked at Jim in awe. “How do you do that? I have never beaten Spock in chess.”
He smiled. “Here, I’ll teach you some tricks.”
The week-long journey seemed to pass in a blink of an eye. Jim only saw Spock on the bridge and for official duties, but Saavik made a point to seek him out frequently. By the end of the week, she had declared him to be her favorite human. Jim was honored.
“There is very little we know about Vestal culture,” Sarek said. “Their society is matriarchal and theocratic, run by a clergy class trained in their mystical and telepathic arts. The head of government is the Abru’Reldahi, or High Priestess. The planetary government is, as I said, a clergy class made of ten members. They are known as the Vestal Virgins and are the keepers of the Eternal Flame.”
“Why are they called the Vestal Virgins? Don’t tell me the government’s run by a bunch of teenagers, is it?” Scotty asked.
“The Vestal Virgins ascend to their position at age fifteen and swear a vow of chastity for their entire career, which spans thirty years,” Sarek said. He turned to look directly at Jim. “Under no circumstances should make sexual overtures towards any of them. This is an offense punishable by death on Vesta and would completely ruin diplomatic relations with them.”
Jim frowned, but said nothing. Did Sarek seriously think that little of him? That he couldn’t keep it in his pants for one night when a whole planet’s fate hung in the balance? That he would hit on people who had taken a friggin’ thirty-year chastity vow?
“You said their society is matriarchal. So these… Vestal Virgins. They’re all female, I presume?” Uhura asked.
“Negative. 130 years ago, there was a social reform movement to allow men a say in the planetary government. Currently, four out of the ten Virgins are male, though there has yet to be a man to serve as Abru’Reldahi.”
Jim inspected his crew, all decked out in their dress uniforms, not a hair out of place. He nodded. They were ready.
“Sulu, you have the conn. Beam us down, Mr. Scott,” he said.
They disappeared in a shimmer of light and the first thing Jim noticed was the heat. It was oppressive, thick and muggy, like a blanket weighing down the air.
God, he hated the dress uniforms. The fabric didn’t even breathe. He was going to be dying by the time the night ended. He could already feel himself starting to sweat.
“Visitors!” a Vestal shrieked in glee, and that was all the warning Jim got before he was tackled in vise-tight hug and had kissed rained down on his cheeks. “We are grateful for your arrival!”
He could physically feel Sarek glaring holes into the back of his head.
He snapped into charming-Captain mode and returned the embrace and matching kisses to the Vestal’s cheeks, which was apparently their form of greeting. He hoped. He really hoped. It could just as easily be an on-the-spot marriage proposal and he would be none the wiser.
“We’re glad to be here,” he said. “Consider us at your service.”
The Vestal grabbed both of his hands, beaming, and Saavik gasped. She smoothed her formal robes down, affronted—the human equivalent of clutching her pearls.
Jim had a second there when he honest-to-god thought Spock was going to cover her eyes with his hands.
“Come, let us go to the Grand Hall. There is to be a festival in your honor!” the Vestal said excitedly, practically running towards a grand building. Jim chuckled, and took off after them, his crew following a few seconds later.
The Grand Hall turned out to be a palace of sorts, or maybe some government building. Inside, it was packed with Vestals. All of them were decked out in intricately beaded jewelry. They seemed to wear the same clothes whether male or female—hair long and flowing loose, no shirt, and a long skirt made of animal hide with a slit up the side and swirling green designs painted all over it.
Though maybe that wasn’t paint, now that Jim thought about it.
The Vestals shrieked when they entered and half the room clamored over to greet them, practically drowning the landing party in enthusiasm and affection.
The Vulcans were appalled.
A Vestal wearing a tall headdress came over, and the crowd parted to make way. She was beaming, as was the standard, Jim noticed, and she immediately approached him, giving him a warm hug and three kisses on each cheek.
She pulled back, tucking a lock of red hair behind her pointed ear. Red. Jim had never seen a Vulcanoid with red hair before. And he had thought Saavik’s curls were unusual.
“Greetings, friend visitors,” the woman said. “I am Abru’Reldahi Meb-al. Welcome to Vesta.”
“It’s a pleasure to be here,” Jim said, smiling. It seemed to be the right thing to do, because the crowd was practically buzzing with happy excitement now.
Meb-al turned to face the crowd. “Let us feast!”
Vestals ate everything with their hands. Eating utensils simply weren’t a thing here. Sarek seemed particularly displeased. Saavik and Spock were adapting a bit better.
“I like the smiley Vulcans,” Bones said emphatically, digging into the drumstick of some native creature.
The meat was apparently a delicacy and the Vulcans’ refusal of it had been very tricky to navigate, but luckily, Vestals forgive slights quickly.
They hadn’t been able to get out of having its green blood smeared on the pants of their dress uniforms, however.
“Their culture is very similar to that Vulcan before the Reform,” Sarek said.
Spock raised an eyebrow. “There are marked differences.”
Bones snorted. “Yeah, no one’s been killed tonight yet.”
The room erupted in bright streaks of phaser fire. People screamed and ran everywhere. Jim grabbed onto Sarek and Meb-al and started rushing them to safety. Spock physically lifted up Saavik and started carrying her faster than her shorter legs could keep up with. The away team scattered, producing phasers out of nowhere and firing back.
A firm hand closed around Spock’s arm and yanked him backwards. A Vestal spun him around with a predatory gleam in his eyes and his teeth bared.
The last thing Spock remembered was a hypospray coming at him and Saavik screaming.
Chapter 4: Day One— Kirk
The firefight ended with the Grand Hall smoking and in ruins.
Jim snapped open his comm. “Everybody, report in!”
One by one, his away team all responded. No casualties to report of.
“Spock?” he asked. “Commander Spock, report.”
He waited. One, two, three seconds.
“Commander Spock, report in now. That’s an order.” His voice was tight and grim.
“Jim—“ Bones started gently.
“No!” he snapped.
“I think—“ Uhura bit her lip. “I think I saw a Vestal drag him and Saavik away.”
“And you didn’t do anything to stop it?!”
“I was being fired at, Captain, and I didn’t have time to process what I was seeing at the moment,” she said.
He glared at her. “At least we know Spock is alive,” he flipped open his comm again. “Kirk to Enterprise. Have you received any ransom demands?”
“Um, no, sir?”
“Comm me immediately if you do. I want a full security detail beamed down to the planet ASAP.” He snapped his comm shut and shoved it into his pocket.
“High Visitor, I am so sorry. We had no idea the rebels would attack at our gala of peace,” Meb-al said. Tears were brimming in her eyes. She looked the very picture of mournful regret.
“We had no idea there were rebels,” he bit out.
She frowned in obvious confusion, upswept eyebrows drawing together. “There was a revolution six months ago. Of course there are rebels.”
“Yeah? Coulda warned us,” Bones muttered.
“We thought it was unnecessary,” she said, and now tears were spilling freely down her cheeks and that’s just great; they made the leader of a newly freed world cry.
“It’s okay,” Jim forced himself to say. “I’m sure we’ll find him. My security team will be beaming down any second and I’ll have them sweep the entire area. Do you have any of your own people who might be of help?”
It was like a switch flipped. She was instantly smiling brightly again, radiating joy. “Yes! We shall help you find your t’ial’u.”
She ran off to go organize her people and coordinate with Jim’s, who had just beamed down.
“T’ial’u?” he asked.
“I think it might be untranslatable,” Uhura said. “Vestals have more words for the different types of relationships between people than any other culture I’ve seen. Apparently it’s not just formal bonds they view as sacred. All relationships are very important to them.”
“So it just means… what? Subordinate?”
“It’s probably more nuanced than that. These people are mind-readers, Kirk. It means whatever they perceive Spock as being to you.”
To his utter horror, Jim felt himself blush. Uhura raised an eyebrow, a slight smirk on her face.
“Don’t do that. It makes you look too much like Spock,” he said gruffly, walking away to the sound of her laughter.
They found nothing.
They searched the area for seven hours, until the sun set and it was too dark to do anything anymore and whoever Spock’s captors were, they were long gone.
“What are the rebels even rebelling against?” Sulu asked. “What, did they like being oppressed?”
“Some did not view it as oppression,” Meb-al said. “Some took the Romulans at their word and saw it as protection. Others—better the enemy that we know than the enemy that we don’t know, correct?”
Another one of the Virgins chimed in. “Your Federation is an unknown. The Romulans allowed us to rule the planet however we liked as long as we paid our tributes. The Federation, however, comes with rules. Stipulations. We must negotiate with outsiders about how our planet is to be run.”
“And there are those who became rich in the Empire and would not be without it,” another added, followed by a chorus of nods and agreement.
“You guys did lead the revolution, right? Or did I misunderstand something at some point?” Kirk asked.
“Affirmative,” Meb-al said. “However, it is good to know the thoughts of one’s enemy.”
“So what other intel can you give me on these rebels then?”
“Their leader is a man named Laan-e. His family were the imperial overseers—essentially the monarchs. They were very minimally involved, but held great power should they choose to use it, and great wealth as well,” Meb-al said.
“The Empire’s watchdogs,” one of the Virgins said bitterly.
“Laan-e’s whole family was killed in the revolution. He would be successor to the throne. He does not recognize our government as rightful, and is attempting to overthrow it.”
“He is a traitor to the Vestal race, is what he is,” another said.
“Is there any chance of him contacting the Empire?” Kirk asked.
“Negative. We are blocking all transmissions coming to or from the planet.”
“That’ll be why we haven’t received a ransom note yet,” Uhura said.
“Is the Empire apprised of the situation on the planet?” Jim continued.
“Affirmative. They are well aware of the revolution. But I believe they underestimate its prevalence. They have not yet sent any ships out. They are leaving the responsibility for quelling it up to Laan-e,” Meb-al said.
“For now,” Jim said.
She nodded. “For now.”
They were back on the ship.
“Scan the entire planet for Vulcan lifesigns,” Jim said to the Gamma shift lieutenant currently sitting at Spock’s science station.
“Sir, our scanners can’t differentiate at all between Vulcan and Vestal lifesigns,” she said.
He paced the length of the bridge, chewing on his thumbnail. A bad habit. He’d tried to break it, but it always came back during times of stress.
He whirled. “Search for half-human lifesigns.”
“Yes, sir!” The lieutenant returned to her task enthusiastically.
It was eight hours later and their scans still hadn’t found anything and Jim had been on active duty for the past 22 hours straight when Bones walked onto the bridge.
He gave a half-hearted wave to his best friend and took another sip of coffee.
“Ow!” He rubbed at his neck where the hypo had stabbed him.
“You have fifteen minutes to get to bed before that sedative kicks in,” Bones said.
“No! What?! I have to keep looking for Spock!”
“No, no you don’t, kid. You’re no good to anybody like this, much less Spock. You can keep searching for him in the morning, if we haven’t found him by then.”
“No! I’m the captain, and if I say I’m on duty, then I’m on duty.”
Chapter 5: Day One— Spock
Ka-hansu is my made up word for all Vulcanoid races
Spock woke in a damp, cold cell, with three-foot long duranium chains tethering him to the wall and preventing him from lying down. He quickly took stock of his prison.
The door appeared to be simple wood with a basic lock. The main problem would be getting to it. Even Vulcan strength could not break through duranium, and the alternative was detaching the chains from the wall altogether. It would be fairly easy if it was a simple stone wall, but the cell was made of hewn rock, as if it had been carved out rather than built up.
Hewn rock. They were likely within a mountain somewhere, given the terrain of Vesta. The capitol city they had visited had sat atop a mountain. Assuming their captors had kept them on Vesta, then logically, they likely kept them on the same mountain as well. The landing party would not be far.
Rescue would be imminent.
The next thing that Spock noticed was that Saavik was similarly chained to the wall next to him, her arms bent uncomfortably upwards due to her shorter stature.
There was a bucket in a nearby corner, but other than that, the cell was empty.
“Saavik,” he whispered. “Saavik, awaken.”
She blinked up at him blearily, slowly coming to. Then she noticed their surroundings with a jolt.
“We have been captured,” he said. He peered around the room in search of recording devices, but there didn’t seem to be any. Nevertheless, as humans say, better safe than sorry.
He tugged on their familial bond to get her attention. Should anyone ask, you are a full-blooded Vulcan. Do not mention your ties to Romulus whatsoever.
Affirmative, she replied.
For a while, they waited in silence.
The door creaked open, and a Vestal entered with an exasperated huff. I suppose you aren’t going to talk anymore, are you?
Cold fear ran down Spock’s chest like water, and he quickly repressed it. The Vestal smiled maliciously.
Fascinating. You assumed we would not read your thoughts, came his voice in their heads.
I assumed you would abide by basic telepathic standards of decency, Spock snapped back.
The concept of mental privacy does not exist on Vesta. And even if it did, you are our prisoners. You have no right to such courtesies.
Spock did not reply and began strengthening his mental shields, burying all classified information down below their deepest level.
Ah, of course. See, this would be so much easier if you were psi-null. I could simply ask you questions and read the answers from your mind. But no, you have telepathic training as much as I do, though of a very different sort. I suppose I will have to resort to more barbaric methods.
Why have you captured us? Spock demanded.
To dissuade the Federation from interfering on our grand planet and to learn of its weaknesses. Vesta is a free world, a ka-hansu world. Its true daughters are loyal to the Empire. I will not have the false government trade us away like petty coins.
The Virgins have served as the rightful leaders for many years.
They are showpieces! I am the true leader! As sa-taycruu of Vesta—
Sa-te’kru? Vesta has no sa-te’kru.
I am sa-tekru! He raged, stomping his foot like a child. Spock raised an eyebrow, bewildered.
The Vestal bared his teeth and struck him. Saavik cried out, surging forward against her chains.
Spock gritted his teeth and met the Vestal’s glare. He would have to be careful. If not for his own sake, then for Saavik’s. These Vestals were easily provoked.
That could be just as useful as it was dangerous.
Tell me all that you know of Starfleet.
Fine, then. A hand was shoved onto his meld points and he felt a rough intrusion force his mind open.
Distantly, he registered screaming.
He clamped down on his innermost shields but it came at the expense of his surface shield, revealing all his surface thoughts and emotions to the Vestal, who seemed inordinately pleased.
It hurt it hurt it hurt it hurt.
Saavik was thrashing in her chains, screaming curses and obscenities in Romulan.
His second layer of shields was being bombarded and he bit down on his lip until he tasted copper blood. He pushed down his knowledge into his third, impregnable layer, past the shield that would have to kill him to be forced open.
The Vestal broke through his second shield with such ease that Spock was shocked.
And then his soul was laid bare.
His mother cleaning cuts on his face with a wet cloth and holding back tears as she got out the dermal regenerator.
The look of sheer joy and ecstasy on Saavik’s face when he told her she would be coming to live with his family.
The first time he heard Jim’s laugh.
The crisp heat of sash-savas tea on a winter day, sitting by his mother, confiding in her.
Turning down admission to the VSA.
The swirl of confusion-anger-sadness-hurt the first time someone called him a half-breed.
The day he got the news that Michael’s ship was lost.
His first kiss with Nyota.
His failed bonding to T’Pring.
The Vestal lingered on that, and Spock felt laughter in his mind.
The meld snapped off abruptly and Spock sagged against his restraints. Saavik was still spitting Romulan curses at the Vestal, vile enough to make a sailor blush.
Now, the Vestal said. Are you going to tell me what I want to know or shall I begin the torture?
S’chn T’gai Spock, Lieutenant Commander. 90182367.
Very well then.
In the next moment, Spock was no longer in the cell.
He was standing on the edge of a mountain, the red stone of Mount Seleya, the elders from the katric ark around him. Transporter light swirled around and encircled.
It was taking too long. The planet was crumbling around them. Why was it taking so long?
He looked to his mother and something seemed to give, it was the moment, it was the ground, and she was falling and—
He was on board the Enterprise, in the transporter room, hand outstretched. Surrounded by the pitying, horrified looks of his colleagues.
He was chained up in cell on Vesta and he was shaking.
It will only get worse from there, the Vestal warned. Are you prepared to tell me what I need to know?
S’chn T’gai Spock, Lieutenant Commander. 90182367.
He was on the bridge of the Enterprise, watching as his planet caved in on itself. He could hear them dying, his people. He could feel them. Billions of minds reaching out. The entire k’war’ma’khon—the psychic web of bonds that interlinked the entire Vulcan people—shattered. Miliions on millions of bonds broke all at once, and every Vulcan alive felt the devastation as if they themselves were dying, six billion times over.
He was back in the cell and the Vestal questioned him again and he gave his name, rank, and serial number again, calling on all his ‘Fleet training, the perfect prisoner of war.
Saavik did not belong here.
The second he had the thought, he felt the Vestal read it.
He grinned. How about this? You tell me just one piece of information about Starfleet, and I’ll have her returned safely to your ship.
S’chn T’gai Spock, Lieutenant Commander. 90182367.
The Vestal looked at him for a while, then paced the room, thinking. His eyes suddenly lit up with an idea, and he left the room.
He was back three minutes later with another Vestal who carried a medkit. She set it down on the floor and opened it, removing tools.
Spock got a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
He braced himself for the pain. Pain was of the body and therefore inconsequential. It was a physical reaction to stimulus. It could be cut off before it started in the mind.
Starfleet trained its officers to be prepared for this. Spock would endure it without giving up any vital information.
The Vestal took out a scalpel and moved towards Saavik.
We will ask you again after each cut, their initial torturer said.
The ‘doctor’ cut a small line on Saavik’s arm, drawing forth a hiss and a trickle of green blood.
He would not put the Federation in danger. He was not a traitor. He was not a traitor.
Saavik was doing her best to keep from making sounds but she couldn’t stop the tears that were rolling down her cheeks.
The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. The four billion inhabitants of Vesta were not of equal worth to two Vulcan souls. It was simple logic. He must allow them to perish before he gives up any information. A whole planet hung in the balance.
Saavik whimpered. She looked over to Spock, but he could not meet her eyes.
Vestals had children too. He tried to think of Vestal children.
Saavik let out a choked sob.
This was intolerable.
He made himself numb. He tuned her out. He ignored her pleading eyes and the Vestals’ stream of questions. He recited the teachings of Surak and entered a meditative trance.
He was numb.
He was numb.
It was nothing.
Vestals have children too, and the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
He thought of Vestal children. He ignored the little Romulan beside him.
She was Vulcan. She would understand.
She was Romulan. She’d be out for blood.
Two hours passed. 400 cuts were made.
The first Vestal sighed. Fine, then. Take her away.
The doctor unlocked Saavik’s cuffs and led her away by her bleeding arm. She didn’t flinch at all.
The door closed behind them and Spock was alone.
He thought of Vestal children.
Chapter 6: Control
Okay so I just wanna give a fair warning that this fic is rated explicit for a reason and Spock has some very un-good thoughts in the next few chapters and it’s pretty much just a lot of mental torture for a while so I’m going to give a blanket warning for that. If you think you might have trouble reading this fic, then don’t.
Spock was given a bowl of gruel and a pitcher of water. He ate half of it, resolving to save the rest for later, at least until he knew how often he was to be fed.
The Vestal from before did not come back until midmorning the next day.
My name is Laan-e, by the way. You can stop thinking of me as ‘the Vestal.’ That’s so impersonal. By the end of this, I intend to know you very well. Better than yourself, even. In fact, I think I already do.
Spock kept his mind blank and focused on repairing his tattered shields.
You’re in love with your captain.
A flash of panic spiked through him, and Laan-e grinned, reading the emotion as easily as one would hear a word.
There’s no need to be ashamed. You’ve only come close to killing him a handful of times. I’m sure he’s not secretly terrified of you at all.
Laan-e stalked the length of the cell.
Or maybe he isn’t. Maybe he’s… used to that sort of treatment. Your captain has a troubled past, does he not? You’re just one more person who’s traumatized him. It probably seems everyday to him at this point. You’re nothing exceptional.
Spock went through the rudimentary breathing exercises he had been taught as a child when he was first learning to meditate.
It’s okay, Spock. You would never hurt him on purpose. You just can’t help yourself. Nobody can around Jim. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Breathe in for eight seconds. Hold for four. Out for eight.
He was in Jim’s quarters aboard the Enterprise, talking quietly and playing chess. Jim had mentioned Frank a few times before, in the past. He had always changed the subject quickly, and Spock had never pried.
Now, though, he spoke about him.
“He was my uncle,” he said. “He used to take care of me and Sam when Mom was off-planet. He… He wasn’t the greatest. He’d smack us around a little bit. I got good at using a dermal regenerator,” he chuckled weakly, trying to lighten the conversation.
Spock looked at him seriously. “I grieve with thee.”
His lips quirked, and he seemed uncertain, uncomfortable. “Thanks.”
“You should not have had to endure that as a child.” He moved a pawn, and Jim relaxed a bit, moving his rook in turn. “Does this Frank still live?”
He laughed, and Spock’s heart ached. It was such a beautiful sound. Jim did not laugh nearly enough. A highly illogical conclusion, given the objective data, but Spock could accept no other.
“Why? You planning on killing him?” he joked.
“On Vulcan, the punishment for child abuse is ten lashes with a whip for every occurrence. Repeat offenders are occasionally killed by the process. Kaiidth.”
Jim blinked. “Sounds intense.”
“Most things on Vulcan are.”
Jim leered and seemed about to make a lewd joke, then appeared to think better of it. He gave a half-chuckle instead. “Well, here I am, telling you all this personal stuff. Quid pro quo, Spock. Tell me something about yourself.”
He kept his eyes fixed on the board. “You were not the only one who became skilled with a dermal regenerator as a child.”
His face darkened. “Did your parents—“
“No,” he said quickly. “My peers.”
Jim nodded, curtly. “Well, they were assholes and they didn’t deserve you.”
They were on the bridge and Mr. Scott was soaking wet.
“Under penalty of court martial, I order you to explain to me how you were able to beam aboard this ship while moving at warp.”
“Don’t answer him,” Kirk cut in.
“You will answer me,” Spock commanded.
“I’d rather not take sides,” he said.
“What is it with you, Spock? Hm? Your planet was just destroyed, your mother murdered.” He stared at him like he could see straight through him, standing entirely too close. He shook his head. “You’re not even upset.”
“If you are presuming these experiences in any way impede my ability to command this ship, you are mistaken.”
“And yet you were the one who said fear was necessary for command. Did you not see his ship? Did you see what he did?”
“Yes of course I did.” They were in each other’s space now, breathing the same air, and yet Spock refused to back away and give even an inch to this presumptuous cadet.
“So are you afraid or aren’t you?”
“I will not allow you to lecture me about the merits of emotion.”
“Then why don’t you stop me?”
“Step away from me, Mr. Kirk.”
“What is it like not to feel anger? Or heartbreak? Or the need to stop at nothing to avenge the death of the woman who gave birth to you?”
“Back away from me,” he said lowly.
“You feel nothing! It must not even compute for you!” he yelled. “You never loved her.”
He struck him across the jaw and sent the cadet tumbling back. Kirk tried to fight back, tried to fend him off, but it was futile. Spock brought down blow after blow until he was broken and bloody on a console. He slammed a hand around the man’s throat and started to squeeze.
Kirk choked, gasping and shuddering beneath him.
Spock brought another hand up to join the first and began crushing the man’s windpipe in earnest. Kirk’s hands came up to claw and scrabble at the ones around his throat. His movements became less frantic, slower, stopped altogether. His eyes rolled back in his head, lids fluttering closed.
He was in a cell with a strangely-dressed Vulcan and very confused as to how he got there.
“Where am I and who are you?”
Give it a few minutes. It’ll come back, Laan-e promised. Are you prepared to talk now?
“I ask that you cease this intrusion into my mind at once,” he said. His outer shields were nonexistent, ripped to shreds somehow. Why couldn’t he remember anything? How had he come to be here?
Laan-e sighed. That’s the problem with illusions. Sometimes they’re a little too real. People tend to get stuck in them. What’s worse is that the effect lasts longer each time. Incredibly tiresome to deal with.
It all came flooding back to him. Spock grit his teeth and forced all thoughts out of his head.
That’s your problem, Spock. Lack of control. You always did struggle with it. You just can’t control yourself. And now you can never be with the man you love because of it. Unless, of course, you decide it doesn’t matter and you take him anyway. You wouldn’t even be the first, I don’t think. Not that he trusts you enough to tell you that, but then, he’s right not to, isn’t he?
I would never intentionally hurt the Captain.
So what happened on the bridge that first day was what, an accident? Come on, Spock. Admit it. You’d love to hurt him, wouldn’t you? You’ve come so close so many times. Just stop resisting. How long do you think your tenuous control will really hold?
He was on Vulcan, and his blood was burning. He was deep within the plak tow, unthinking, knowing only the heat of the fire within his veins. He was using every last scrap of his control to keep from lunging at Jim right then and there.
He was trembling.
People were saying things.
“Spock, does thee accept challenge, according to our laws and customs?” T’Pau asked.
He could not speak, but he gave a short nod, a human gesture he had picked up that most Vulcans were familiar enough with to interpret correctly.
Jim and McCoy whispered to each other and it was irrelevant, entirely irrelevant, they were looking at Stonn, the bully from Spock’s youth, and he knew he was going to kill him this time.
“T’Pring, thee will choose thy champion,” T’Pau said, and her word was law, quite literally.
She looked at Stonn and began stepping forward with perfect grace and poise, like a dancer, like a princess. “As it was in the dawn of our days, as it is today, as it will be for all tomorrows, I make my choice.”
She stood directly before Stonn and locked eyes with him. Then she took another two steps forward and pointed to Kirk. “This one.”
“No! I am to be the one,” Stonn said, shamefully emotional. “It was agreed.”
“Be silent,” T’Pau said.
“Hear me. I have made the ancient claim. I claim the right. The woman is—“
“Kroykah!” T’Pau shouted. A guard drew a blade and used it to separate Stonn and T’Pring.
“I ask forgiveness,” Stonn said.
“Kirk,” T’Pau said. “T’Pring is within her rights, but our laws and customs are not binding on thee. Thee are free to decline, with no harm on thyself.”
“T’Pau,” Spock rasped.
“Thee speaks?” she asked. It was unprecedented. To be able to maintain such presence of mind while in the plak tow was unheard of. It must not be affecting him as strongly as it would a full-blooded Vulcan.
“My friend does not understand,” he continued.
“The choice has been made, Spock. It is up to him now.”
“He does not know,” he insisted, desperation tinging his voice. “I will do what I must, T’Pau, but not with him. His blood does not burn. He is my friend.”
“It is said thy Vulcan blood is thin. Are thee Vulcan or are thee human?”
“I burn, T’Pau. My eyes are flame. My heart is flame. Thee has the power, T’Pau. In the name of my fathers, forbid. Forbid,” he said. “T’Pau, I plead with thee. I beg.”
“Thee has prided thyself on thy Vulcan heritage,” she said. “It is decided.”
A guard stepped forward and tied a purple sash around his waist. He was not shaking. He would not.
“What happens to Spock if I decline?” Kirk asked.
“Another champion will be selected,” T’Pau said. “Do not interfere, Kirk. Keep thy place.”
McCoy came up to Kirk and took him aside, speaking with him quietly, and Spock’s blood burned all the hotter. His every cell was screaming. He saw green whenever he closed his eyes. He was rage and passion and fury and need and there was no control left.
T’Pring looked so infuriatingly smug.
“It is done,” T’Pau said. “Kirk, decide.”
He ran a hand over his mouth and Spock fixed his eyes firmly on the ground, his blood boiling. Jim was a very expressive human. He had no idea how profoundly inappropriate that particular gesture seemed to a Vulcan.
“I accept the challenge,” he said.
Spock’s heart plummeted.
He had begged. He had begged.
“Here begins the act of combat for possession of the woman T’Pring. As it was at the time of the beginning, so it is now. Bring forth the lirpa,” T’Pau said. Two guards followed her orders without hesitation, placing lirpas wrapped in fine purple cloth at each combatant’s feet. Spock gripped his with white knuckles, and by now, his vision was a green haze.
He had no control left.
“If both survive the lirpa, combat will continue with the ahn woon,” T’Pau said.
“What do you mean, ‘if both survive’?” Jim asked, alarmed.
“This combat is to the death,” T’Pau said calmly, continuing back to her throne.
Spock saw Jim swallow, but he wasn’t Jim anymore, he was just the enemy. Some beautiful, fragile thing that he needed to break. A challenger.
He and McCoy protested and argued with T’Pau. Pointless. Challenge was given, challenge was accepted. The marriage party cleared off to the sidelines and Kirk levelled his lirpa aggressively, amateurely.
The sight of it made the green haze descend over Spock’s eyes again and he charged.
Their lirpas clashed together, and they sprang apart, circling. Spock slashed, and the blade cut straight through Kirk’s shirt, inflaming him further. Kirk took a defensive stance, hunched over, and he lashed out and managed to knock Spock to the ground.
Spock sprung back up instantly and swung at him with the blade once, twice, backing him over the pit of coals and smashing the gong to pieces. Kirk never used the blade on him, only attacking with the blunt end of the lirpa, the piece that was simply meant as a counterweight. He could not win that way. He was less likely to hurt Spock that way, as well.
He knocked the weapon out of Spock’s grasp and shoved him to the ground, bearing down on him, pressing the shaft of the lirpa closer and closer to Spock’s throat while Spock himself tried to get a grip on it, tried to get the right leverage to push it away. He pushed up against Kirk, and with a thrust of his hand, he knocked the lirpa into a pedestal, knocking the blade off its end.
He tossed the broken weapon away and grabbed his own back, swinging and chasing Kirk around. Jim caught onto the weapon as it came near him, and spun it around, flipping Spock onto his back on the ground. For all of two seconds. In the next, it was Jim who was on the ground, and Spock lifted the lirpa up high and plunged its blade downward. Kirk rolled at the last second, and the blade went harmlessly into the sand.
Jim kicked him in the chest form his position on the ground, and Spock sprung away—
“Kroykah!” T’Pau called, standing.
McCoy said words to T’Pau, to Kirk, and Spock was panting, chest heaving, blind with need and rage, concentrating all of his effort on not moving until T’Pau gave the word, knowing the guards would kill him if he did.
He had control enough for that.
If Spock was panting, then Kirk was on the edge of passing out, wavering and fallen to his knees, chest bare and dripping with red blood. Spock itched to touch him. He wasn’t sure what he wanted beyond that, but he knew he wanted to lay hands on Kirk.
He didn’t recognize Jim as a person anymore. He was just a body, the body of someone attacking him. Spock felt twin desires to mate and to kill.
“The ahn woon,” T’Pau said.
A weapon was placed in his hands and the urge to kill won out.
He swung the ahn woon through the air and it wrapped itself around Jim’s legs, knocking him down and dragging him forward. He managed to get away, to get up, and shove Spock into a column. He fumbled for his ahn woon on the ground and Spock lunged, hitting him bodily. Jim rolled them over so he was on top and pulled back to punch him, over and over, using his fists in place of the unfamiliar weapon. Spock wrapped the ahn woon around his neck and used it to drag him backward until he was trembling over the pit of coals, face soaked in sweat and blue eyes holding utter fear in them as they met Spock’s.
One of his legs came up to wrap around Spock’s waist, anything to pull himself away from the coals, and for a second Spock was distracted. Kirk kicked him, and they were on the sands again, Spock holding the human flush on top of him, the ahn woon around his neck keeping him firmly in place, and the tense body against his had Spock’s Vulcan blood singing, and then it went lax. He went lax.
The fever lifted, and Spock found himself crouched over Jim’s dead, limp body, his own hands holding the ahn woon tight around his throat.
Overwhelming horror washed over him. He had killed his captain. Jim. His beloved Jim.
He stood shakily, appalled and disgusted with himself. How could he be this creature? A killer? Was he an animal with no control over himself, driven purely by base, degrading instincts?
“Get your hands off of him, Spock!” McCoy bit, stepping forward.
He was still holding the ahn woon. He dropped it as if it was made of flame, and moved to let the doctor take his place. His movements were gentle, reverent, everything Spock’s should have been.
He felt sick.
“It’s finished,” McCoy said. “He’s dead.”
And why wasn’t Spock in his place? Did he not deserve it? He was an animal, and Jim was glorious. Had been glorious.
He was disgusting, repulsive, the worst and lowest sort of creature the galaxy had to offer. He was exactly the opposite of what he wanted to be. Every taunt of his peers during his childhood had been right. He had no control. He was not Vulcan. He was an animal.
He was a monster.
He remembered the fear in Jim’s beautiful eyes and he knew it would haunt his nightmares. He welcomed it.
Chapter 7: Remember
He had never killed his captain.
It took an embarrassingly long time to accept this conclusion.
That day on the bridge, he had stopped before it went that far. But now he had two equally real memories of how that day went: in one, his father called him off in time, and in another, he killed his captain with his bare hands.
The only reason he was able to tell that the second version was a false memory was because of the abundance of other memories of missions with the captain that could never have happened had he killed him.
The second vision was easier to logically deduce as false. He had never been in the throes of pon farr. Vulcan had been destroyed. His betrothal bond with T’Pring had been severed as soon as it was created, and his bonding cortex shielded and shuttered off ever since. In addition, T’Pring was most likely dead now, after the Va’Pak—not that he had any way of knowing.
Laan-e had taken bits and pieces of information from his mind and used it to concoct a highly illogical, yet devastating, scenario.
He had never killed his captain. He would never. The thought of touching him with harmful intent was abhorrent to him.
He would never.
His control was sufficient.
He would never.
And he would not fall prey to Laan-e’s illusions.
Laan-e did not return for the rest of the day. Spock attempted to meditate and repair his shields at least marginally. His mind was completely flayed open at this point, only his deepest shield still functioning. His thoughts were free for all to see, and the Vestals certainly had no compulsions about looking. His entire life story, on display.
He felt like his katra itself were naked. He had not been without his shields since he was a small child, and then he had been on Vulcan, where mental privacy was respected, treasured, expected. Even children were afforded that dignity.
He could not properly achieve a meditative trance, however, with his arms shackled to the wall as they were. He also could not lay down to sleep, and had to attempt to do so while sitting and with his arms above his head.
Vulcans, of course, did not require comfort. But Spock had found it to be conducive to rest nonetheless, and it would be very much appreciated.
Morning came, and a fresh bowl of gruel and pitcher of water were put in the cell and slid across the rock floor towards him.
And then a guard shoved Saavik in and manhandled her into the shackles she had been chained up with earlier.
Her arms and face and hands were covered with barely-healed cuts that disappeared beneath her clothes, the scabs an angry green-black. Green splotches soaked through her shirt in places where she had apparently moved wrong and caused the wounds to open anew.
The guard slammed the door shut. Saavik stared down at the ground, not looking at him.
“Saavik,” Spock said. “Saavik, I am sorry.”
“Save your emotionalism,” she said. “You are Vulcan. You do not feel regret, and you do not care.”
“That is false. I do care. I deeply regret what was done to you.”
“If that were true, you would not have allowed it.”
“I had no choice.”
“They gave you a choice 400 times.”
“I could not put this planet and the Federation in jeopardy. The Vestal autocrats are in league with the Romulan Empire. I cannot give them our military secrets.”
“Your military secrets. I do not know any.”
“That is something to be grateful for.”
“No, Spock, that makes me expendable.”
“We are both expendable. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Our lives are not of equal worth to those of countless others.”
Saavik turned and glared at him. “My life is of a great deal of worth to me,” she said. “Laan-e told me they will use a dermal regenerator to heal my wounds in return for one piece of information. Just one. I could die of infection otherwise, Spock.”
He stared at her intently. “You wish for me to betray the Federation.”
“I wish to live.”
“It is unlike you to accept defeat in a situation so quickly. Or at all,” he said.
“It is logical to know when one is beaten, Spock. We will not live through this otherwise.”
His eyebrows furrowed slightly. “You have lived through a great deal harder situations than this.”
She said nothing.
“How did we meet, Saavik?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Why do you ask?”
It was on a highly classified mission. It was information that Laan-e would not have been able to pry from either of them. “Answer the question.”
“I will not be treated with distrust by you of all people, Spock. You had me tortured two days ago, and did nothing to stop it! If anything, it should be I who is distrustful of you.”
“How did we meet, Saavik?”
She turned away and glared straight ahead. “I will answer your question if you answer one of Laan-e’s.”
Spock looked at her and kept the sadness out of his eyes, his too-human, expressive eyes. “You are an illusion.”
She disappeared like mist and Laan-e was there suddenly, leaning casually against the door to the cell.
I should have known that wouldn’t work. Of course you two have ways of confirming each other’s identities. Tell you what, though. I’ll let you see her for real if you tell me just one thing.
S’chn T’gai Spock, Lieutenant Commander. 90182367.
Don’t you want to see her, Spock? One last time before she dies? She’s been asking for you. She won’t stop crying.
S’chn T’gai Spock, Lieutenant Commander. 90182367.
It would be the only thought in his head. He would permit no other.
He was thirteen and it had been a bad day, the worst in a series of bad days. He felt too much, that was the problem. He didn’t want to feel. He wanted to be numb.
He would do anything to be numb.
He needed a distraction from the pain, and nothing he tried had been working. Meditating on it had only served to make it worse. His daily meditations had become a source of dread for him. He would spend so much time stuck up in his own head, ruminating on what his peers had said, trying to find logical flaws in their arguments only to determine that they were right, they were always right.
He was less. He was impure. He was a disgraceful, disgusting half-breed and a stain on the House of Surak. He would never take a bondmate. No one would ever want him. His betrothal had never gone through because his mind was so repulsive, so utterly nauseating, that no Vulcan could stand to touch it for even a moment.
This was his reality and he had never known any other. It was likely he never would.
When he came home from school, no one else was home yet. His heart pounded in his side. He had been thinking about doing this for days now. Completely hypothetically, always assuring himself that he never really would, even as the idea consumed more and more of his thoughts every day. But now, now was the time. He could feel it.
Blood drummed loudly in his ears as he went to the kitchen and took out a paring knife. His fingers shook, and he tightened his grip until his knuckles turned white.
He went upstairs to his bedroom and sat down on the floor against his bed, out of sight from the door, should someone come in without knocking. He lifted up his shirt.
His sides, he decided. One of the easiest body parts to keep perpetually hidden.
It took more pressure than he had anticipated. Skin was a tough barrier, intended for protection. It took a long time to make even a single cut break through. But once he did, it was so, so easy.
Beautiful, crystalline-sharp clarity. Numbing focus. There was nothing else. There was only the knife, and his skin, and dripping green blood.
There was nothing. He felt nothing. He was nothing.
It was exquisite.
He was in a cell on Vesta, chained to a wall and facing the mad king.
Laan-e tossed a scalpel to him. It clattered on the floor loudly. Spock arched an eyebrow, not believing it.
It’s real. You can use it. Go right ahead.
He could throw it—
You really think I’m standing where I’m letting you think I’m standing?
Suddenly the cell was filled with over a dozen clones of Laan-e.
I can read your every thought and intention as soon as you have it. So go ahead, Spock. Throw the scalpel at me.
He looked at the one he thought was the real Laan-e and it instantly disappeared. In the next second, they had all disappeared.
Spock was alone with the scalpel.
Fear tightened around his heart.
Control. Control control control control.
He couldn’t kick it away. It was a tool, a useful tool no matter what. It was possible he could figure out a way to escape with it.
He remembered his years of intensive therapy, the way his mother cried and his father’s face turned to stone. He remembered his therapist calling cutting an addiction. Saying that he used it to relieve overwhelming emotions, which released endorphins, which became a conditioned stimulus. He remembered his mother removing every razor from the house and putting a bio signature lock on the silverware drawer.
He remembered going out and buying a switchblade because cutting was an addiction and he was an addict.
He remembered the day he had thrown it away, at seventeen, four years after he started.
He remembered how incredibly hard he had had to work to get to that point.
He looked down at the scalpel and swallowed.
Chapter 8: Rescue
Laan-e did not come visit him the next day at all. He left him entirely alone with just his thoughts and the scalpel.
He understood the silent promise as easily as if it had been spoken.
I am going to break you. It is just a matter of time.
He shook his head and closed his eyes, forcing the scalpel and the situation out of his thoughts. He attempted to meditate.
Are you out of your Vulcan mind? Are you making the logical choice, sending Kirk away? Probably, but the right one? You know, back home we got a saying: If you’re gonna ride in the Kentucky Derby, you don’t leave your prize stallion in the stable.
A curious metaphor, Doctor, as a stallion must first be broken before it can reach its potential.
My god, man. You could at least act like it was a hard decision.
No. No. He would never. He was not a cruel man. He would not break Kirk. Jim was precious to him, he would never—
He rationalized that that memory might be a false one, implanted by Laan-e. Yes. That was much better than the alternative.
His mind screamed that that was illogical and he ignored it.
Meditation was elusive.
It was difficult to keep his mind off the matter at hand. It seemed to be all that he could think about.
He longed to see Saavik, to confirm that she was okay, to reassure her that he would find a way out of this. She was what humans referred to as “a fighter.” She would not give up hope. She was likely giving Laan-e more trouble as a prisoner than Spock himself was.
He could only hope they weren’t torturing her. She was a child, she knew nothing of value to them. And furthermore, she was half-Romulan, and their captors supported Romulan rule. With any luck, they would treat her decently because of this.
He hoped she was healing well.
If she were here now, she would tell him that hope was illogical. He found the thought oddly comforting. He now understood the myriad of times his mother had insisted that logic was not everything. Sometimes hope was necessary for survival too. And what was necessary was never illogical.
So Spock would hope.
His thoughts were getting increasingly erratic.
He was fortunate to have the reprieve from Laan-e’s illusions. Every instance increased the risk of insanity setting in exponentially. That was likely a factor in his decision to give Spock a respite. His mind was of no use to him if it was mush.
Spock was entering his fifth hour of failed attempted meditation when he heard shouting and phaser fire outside his cell.
He snapped out of his trance instantly, keen ears trained on the door.
It exploded open, knocking into the cell wall on the rebound. Jim, McCoy, Saavik (carried by a redshirt), and a full security team rushed in.
Jim fell to his knees before him, picking the locks of his shackles with trembling fingers. Spock’s wrists fell free from the chains, and he shook his arms out, circulation returning to them in full with tingling numbness.
Jim cupped his face in his hands and pressed a kiss to his lips, reverent and consuming. Spock froze for a moment, and then melted into it, fingers threading through Jim’s golden hair.
Jim buried his face in the crook of Spock’s neck, holding onto him tightly. “God, Spock, I love you so much. Don’t you ever dare do that to me again.”
“How-how did you find me?” Spock asked, because he had a million questions but that seemed the simplest one to ask.
“We tracked your DNA signature. It wasn’t easy. Ion storms kept interfering with our scanners for a few days, but eventually, we found you. Obviously,” Jim said with a forced sort of laugh. He suddenly seemed uncomfortable with his previous actions and moved away from where he was essentially sitting in Spock’s lap, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Um, sorry if I—made you uncomfortable there, I just—“
“You did not,” Spock said.
Kirk raised his eyes to meet Spock’s gaze, looking almost breathless with hope, and it made Spock’s heart skip a beat. “You sure?”
“Indubitably,” he said.
McCoy rolled his eyes and took out his medical scanner, running it over Spock. “Nothing critical, but I still want to do a full exam once we get back up on the ship. Speaking of which…”
“Oh, right.” Kirk flipped open his communicator. “Beam us up, Scotty.”
“Well, your blood sugar’s abysmal, and you’re way more malnourished than a human would be thanks to your oh-so-efficient Vulcan metabolism. I don’t give a shit about that crap about you guys needing less food than us; y’all starve fast.”
Jim held on to Spock’s hand and brought it to his lips to kiss his fingers.
“How is Saavik?” Spock asked.
“Now, she’s a bit more complicated. She’s lost a lot of blood, and what she does have left is just circulating infection through her body. She… We don’t have enough Vulcan blood on board to… She needs more than we’ve got.”
“You can use mine,” Spock said instantly.
“Actually, no, we can’t,” he said. “You’re a hybrid. Your blood has human elements in it.”
“Saavik’s half-Romulan,” Jim said. “There’s no way in hell we can get Romulan blood to pair with Vulcan for a transfusion.”
“We don’t need to, fortunately. Biologically, there’s no difference between Vulcans and Romulans. I can treat her as if she were a full-blooded Vulcan and she’ll be fine.”
“Then you can use Sarek’s blood,” Spock said.
“If he consents to it.”
“He will,” he said.
“Well, then. I’ll get the paperwork around and get on that right now.”
McCoy left, leaving Spock alone with Jim.
He was still holding his hand.
“So, uh,” Jim chuckled a bit nervously. “We should probably talk, shouldn’t we?”
“Affirmative,” he said.
“I love you,” Jim. “God, I—I love you so much it hurts. When you were gone, I… We shouldn’t waste any more time. We’ve been dancing around this thing between us forever, haven’t we?”
Spock hesitated. “I did not imagine that it was two-sided.”
He laughed. “Seriously? Spock, how could you not… I thought you were trying to let me down easy or something.”
“I do not deserve you.”
A flicker of… something, passed through Jim’s eyes. “Shut up,” he said. And he pulled Spock in for a demanding, claiming kiss.
Sarek had a rare blood type, even for a Vulcan. Saavik didn’t. The transfusion wasn’t viable.
McCoy kept apologizing until Jim told him to just stop, he had done all he could.
The four of them gathered around Saavik’s biobed. All her myriad cuts had been healed by a dermal regenerator, but she was pale, ghostly-white pale. Her breath came in uneven rasps and she was completely limp on the biobed, seeming to barely have the strength to keep her eyes open.
She looked up at Spock with sad blue-gray eyes as she passed and the monitors above the biobed all dipped into the red zone.
Tears came to Spock’s eyes for the first time since Jim had died in the warp core.
Saavik, a child who had endured so much, whose species had an average lifespan of 200 years, died at the age of eleven. Death by 400 cuts.
He was sorry.
He was sorry.
Romulan reinforcements came to Vestal, a large chunk of the Imperial Fleet, and the Enterprise was ordered to retreat. The planet fell back into Romulan hands.
They heard rumors that the Romulans tightened the reins on them. That they had less freedom now than they had before. That all the Federation’s involvement had done was make things worse.
Days passed, weeks passed, months passed. Spock recovered, and things went back to normal. Except now normal included open affection and kisses with Jim, which Spock still couldn’t believe.
He couldn’t believe how lucky he was. He believed in luck now, thanks to Jim. It was amazing just how much of his perception had changed because of Jim.
It was one year later when they bonded.
Vulcans do not initiate sexual relationships casually. To seek pleasure purely for the stimulation of sensation is an emotional, illogical concept. Intercourse is engaged in purely between bonded pairs.
Jim had been patient, willing to wait. Spock had been grateful.
Waiting was no longer necessary, however.
Jim kissed him sweetly, moving slowly, taking his time. His tongue was feather-light and teasing in Spock’s mouth, brushing over his palette and making him moan. Jim’s hands came up to hold him by the shoulders and draw him closer, and Spock allowed it, encouraged it, slipped his own hands down Jim’s back and under his shirt and—
He was in a cell on Vesta, staring at Laan-e.
Oh my god, you really would take him if you had half the chance. What the fuck is wrong with you? Have you no honor as a Vulcan?
Spock was processing. He managed to force words out of his mouth. “What am I doing here? How did you capture me again?”
Again? Spock, you never left. That was all an illusion.
“Do not speak to me within my mind.”
I always speak to you telepathically though. Did you seriously forget that much? It’s only been eight hours.
“It has been a year.”
No, it only felt like a year. I can do that, you know.
No. No. It had been a year. Spock had been rescued, Jim had found him, Jim loved him—
Jim doesn’t love you. He never has and he never will. You’re a monster who forces himself on the unwilling, and that’s the only way you will ever have Jim. You have no honor. All you are is lust and rage and selfishness. And you are never getting out of here.
Chapter 9: Eridani and Sam
Spock dragged the scalpel in neat lines across his forearm, each stroke drawn higher than the last, deeper than the last, inching up towards his wrist. Thick trickles of blood bubbled up and dripped down the side of his arm. His dress uniform sleeve kept slipping down from where it was bunched at the elbow, soaking the bottom of the sleeve in fresh green blood.
He cut another line and gasped at the pain, sharp and blinding. Perfect. Horrible. Just what he needed. What he deserved.
Blood was dripping rhythmically onto the stone floor but it wasn’t falling nearly fast enough.
He drew another line, and another, and now he had gashes all up the length of his arm, bleeding in increasing intensity the closer to his wrist they got, and he dug the scalpel back into the uppermost one, cutting deeply, hissing and biting his lip, using all of his control to stop a hysterical laugh from bubbling past his lips.
He wondered what Jim would think if he could see him now.
The door to the cell creaked open and Laan-e appeared, looking down at him condescendingly. A smirk played across his lips.
I suppose I should thank you. Most prisoners I have to torture myself. You’re the first one who’s ever done the dirty work for me.
Spock felt dizzy, numb. He said nothing, thought nothing.
He wished to continue cutting.
He would not give Laan-e the satisfaction of doing it in front of him. He had control enough for that.
But by Surak, it was tempting.
“Dad! Sa-mekh!” a tiny humanoid came hurling at them on their bed, jolting them both awake on impact. It was quickly followed by a second tiny humanoid.
“Oof! Hey, I’m old, I’ve got creaky bones, you can’t just jump on me like I’m a trampoline,” Jim said, smiling. He looked at their children with such affection and adoration, pulling them into his lap as much as he could. Spock was briefly overcome and discreetly brushed two of his fingers over his bondmate’s.
“Can we beam down now?” Eridani asked, practically buzzing. She was always the more excitable of the two. She took after her human father in many ways: driven, curious, unabashedly emotional. Her hair was fairer than her brother’s too, a dark gold color, like honey in a bottle.
She had her sa-mekh’s eyes, though.
“Yeah, can we?” Sam asked. He was the child who took more after Spock, both in disposition and in appearance. His hair was jet black, messy and ruffled in a halo around his head, in stark contrast to his crystalline blue eyes. He was serious and inquisitive and just a bit shy, but his big sister was there to help with that.
“Children, your mehk-illar are not scheduled to meet us until 0900 hours. It would be useless to beam down at this point. In addition, you must ready yourselves for the day first,” Spock said patiently, repressing the hint of a smile.
“I am ready,” Eridani said.
“Oh really? Did you brush your teeth?” Jim asked.
She glared. “…No.”
He laughed. “That’s what I thought. Come on, up ya go. Let’s get ready to go see your grandparents.”
“And Aunt Saavik,” Sam said.
“And Aunt Saavik,” Jim agreed.
They beamed down to Vulcan at 0900 hours and not a moment later. Amanda, Sarek, and Saavik were waiting down at the beam down point to greet them. Amanda smiled wide and immediately hugged her two grandchildren, who were just about tripping over themselves to get to her.
“Ko-mehk’il!” Eridani said. “Look! I made you a present!”
“Oh, really?” she smiled. The little girl nodded and shyly pulled out a drawing of their entire family.
“Dad got me a brand new box of crayons with like a bajillion colors and this was the first thing I drew.”
“Oh, darling, it’s amazing. Come here, give me another hug,” Amanda said. Her granddaughter happily obliged.
“Saavik-kam,” Spock said fondly. “How is your training progressing?”
She bit her lip, which was red with human lipstick. When had she started wearing that? “I elected to discontinue my training.”
Spock blinked. “Might I inquire as to why?”
“I do not believe that is my best destiny,” she said firmly, straightening.
In that moment, he knew, but he decided to ask anyway. “What is, then?”
She shook her head. “Command.”
Jim beside him was smiling so wide Spock was worried he might break his lips, if such a thing were possible. “That’s amazing, Saavik. I’m sorry—Cadet. You ever need any help or anyone to pull some strings for you, you just give me a call.”
She arched an eyebrow. “Thank you, Jim, but I do intend to succeed based on my own merit.”
“And I have no doubt you will.” He held up his hands. “But the offer still stands. Human colleges aren’t exactly the same as Vulcan academies. You need any help, I’ll be there in a heartbeat.”
“Jim, even with modern beaming technologies being what they are, it is scientifically impossible for you to travel from the Enterprise to San Francisco within the span of one heartbeat, of any species,” she said. He gave her a look. “Nevertheless, I appreciate the sentiment.”
Jim nudged Spock with his shoulder and stage-whispered. “That’s Vulcan for ‘thank you so much, Jim, you’re the best brother-in-law in the whole galaxy and the history of ever’.”
“Hardly,” Saavik said.
Sam came up and tugged on Jim’s sleeve. “Dad,” he said. “Sa-mehk’al wants us to go get tea.”
Eridani nodded, eyes wide. “He says it’s better than the replicated stuff we have on the ship. Ko-mehk’il agrees.”
“Well, Mr. Spock, what do you think? Shall we?” Jim asked.
They walked behind their children into the city, fingers brushing lightly as they went.
The air was damp and dark and Spock’s hands hung above his head, heavy in shackles.
“Where am I? Jim?” he called. His eyes settled on what looked almost like a pre-Reform Vulcan in the cell with him, for it could only be a cell. “Who are you? What have you done with my children?”
The Vulcan smiled gleefully. Ah, you’re still out of it, then. That’s perfect. Oh, you’ll love this.
The planet was crumbling around them, the ground shaking beneath his feet. Spock pushed his family up the cliffside and out of the katric ark. Amanda was clutching Sam to her chest, both she and Spock each had hold of one of Eridani’s hands.
Eridani’s legs were far too short. Spock scooped her up summarily.
Sarek was lagging behind them and Spock cursed his father’s advanced years and his failing heart. He could not ensure the safety of both his children and his parents at once. It was impossible.
He shifted Eridani to be held in just one of his arms, as if she weighed nothing, and grabbed his father by the forearm to pull him along.
They stood on the edge of the cliff. Rocks fell and crumbled everywhere. The planet was shaking, crushing itself under its own weight, its glorious mountains being crushed to dust.
Transporter light swirled around them, and Spock allowed himself a sigh of relief.
Then the ground gave way underneath both his parents’ feet.
Spock cried out, stretching out his arm, dropping Eridani in the process. The last thing he saw was the look of horror and betrayal on her face as she tumbled down the mountain.
And then he alone was transported to safety.
He was gasping and shaking in the cell, his precious Vulcan control a thing of the past. He was flayed open, heart and emotions crushed clearly for all to see. The idea that he had ever once had dignity or pride seemed laughable now.
Spock felt tears running down his face and couldn’t even summon shame over it.
Laan-e snorted and whisked out of the cell, the door banging shut behind him, leaving Spock to his distress.
He couldn’t live like this.
Without knowing what he was doing, he picked up the scalpel. His fingers trembled. It was still so deadly sharp and stained with green.
He stabbed it into his carotid.
A gush of green arced out and splattered all over the cell, all over Spock. It became a smooth, forceful flow, pumping out his life inhumanly fast with every beat of his oh-so-efficient Vulcan heart.
It didn’t take long.
Spock died with a smile on his lips.
Laan-e kicked him in the ribs. Wake up!
Fresh tears sprung to Spock’s eyes unbidden. He almost groaned in agony. This was too much. He couldn’t handle this.
Laan-e picked up the scalpel that lay before him.
Next time, I’m going to make you beg for me to give you this back.
Chapter 10: Broken
Warning for rape threat
Laan-e came back the next morning, twirling the now-cleaned scalpel between his fingers.
Well, Spock, he drawled. Feel like talking?
S’chn T’gai Spock, Lieutenant Commander. 90182367.
He mentally sighed. I really would’ve thought I had broken you by now. Are you truly that loyal to Starfleet? To your Federation? After all they have done to you?
He was on Ambassador Selek’s ship from the future, engaging in battle with the Narada.
A comm link opened, and Nero’s unappealing face appeared. “Spock,” he sneered. “I knew I should have killed you when I had the chance.”
“I hereby confiscate this illegally obtained ship and order you to surrender your vessel,” he said.
“No terms. No deals. Take that ship out!” He whirled on his crew, and the link cut out. Spock immediately threw the ship into warp.
Nero, as expected, followed.
Spock dropped out of warp and spun his agile ship around. It moved like a fish in water. The Narada similarly dropped to impulse but by then Spock had his ship facing it head-on.
He set a collision course.
He had lost his planet. He had lost his mother. Six billion Vulcans had died that day, what was one more?
It would be a suitable death. It was honorable to die eliminating such a great threat to the Federation. His single, worthless life would save countless others.
So perhaps that was something worthwhile after all.
The Narada fired every missile within its possession at Spock’s ship.
“Incoming missiles. If the ship is hit, the red matter will be ignited,” the computer informed him.
“Understood,” he said.
He would die the same way his mother had died. Crushed by the overwhelming gravitational force of an artificial black hole. The difference was that Amanda had passed at Nero’s hand but Spock would be killed by his own. And in the process, he would find justice for his mother, exact vengeance and slay the one who had felled her. By the customs of ancient Vulcan, it was his right. It may not be outright endorsed in modern times, but he could hardly be condemned for it.
The final act of his life was to be quintessentially Vulcan.
He closed his eyes and braced for the impact.
He heard some sort of scream as he was torn apart.
He was in a volcano in Nibiru, lava sloshing around him, threatening to incinerate him at any second, cook him from the inside out in his special thermal suit until his skin sizzled and melted and his green blood boiled in his veins.
A gruesome death, to be sure.
“Spock!” Jim’s voice called out to him, and a gush of warmth was felt in his side. There was a definite pleasurable experience connected with the hearing of Jim’s voice. Spock was glad of this one last indulgence, at least.
“I have activated the device, Captain. When the countdown is complete, the reaction should render the volcano inert,” he said, struggling to keep his breaths sounding even.
“Yeah, and that’ll render him inert,” McCoy’s said somewhat distantly, gruff and muffled.
“We have use of the transporters?” Kirk asked.
“Not with these magnetic fields,” Chekov said.
“I need to beam Spock back to the ship, give me one way to do it,” the captain insisted.
“Aegh, maybe if we had a direct line of sight, but I—“
“Hold on, wee man!” Scotty said. “You’re talking about an active volcano! Sir, if that thing erupts, I cannae guarantee we can withstand the heat.”
“I don’t know if we can maintain that kind of altitude,” Sulu said.
“Our shuttle was concealed by the ash cloud, but the Enterprise is too large. If it were used in a rescue effort, it would reveal us to the indigenous species,” Spock said.
“Spock, no one knows the rules better than you but there has got to be an exception,” the captain said.
“Such action violates the Prime Directive.”
“Shut up, Spock, we’re trying to save you, dammit,” McCoy said.
“Doctor, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”
“Spock, we’re talking about your life!” Kirk shouted.
“The rule cannot be broken,” he insisted. “I—“
His communications were fully fried now. He swallowed and discarded the useless device onto the ground, in the small patch of magma-free area he was standing on.
The waves of magma were rocketing up in huge spurts, crashing in almost vertical columns, preparing to erupt. Spock spread out his arms and closed his eyes.
He felt searing, impossible heat, like he had been tossed directly into Vulcan’s sun.
And then there was nothing.
He was in a cell on Vesta, staring at Laan-e.
That did not happen. The captain saved me. He is a good man and places his own morals and respect for life ahead of any rules, no matter what.
So he did, Laan-e thought. It’s curious. Sometimes you can tell it’s an illusion, and sometimes you cannot. I wonder what makes the difference.
Spock cleared his mind. He began mentally reciting the Surakian principals. He would normally attempt to repair his shields, but they were so destroyed and his mind was so weak that such a feat would be impossible, as well as pointless. Laan-e had more than proven he was capable knocking them down again and violating Spock’s mind whenever he so pleased.
It was not giving up. It was simply accepting the futility of trying to fight. The very idea sounded so exhausting, and truthfully all Spock wanted to do was sleep or cry or cut, but he could do none of those things.
He felt like he was on the verge of breaking. It was unacceptable, but he did not have the energy to care.
Tell me about your captain, Laan-e said/thought. He seems to care a great deal for you.
He was so, so tired.
I’m never going to allow you to kill yourself, you know that, right? I’ll either break you or I’ll break Kirk through you. I will show him this pathetic little creature you’ve become and have him watch you beg for death until he’s willing to tell me all his secrets just so I’ll finally grant you your wish. You’ll be a disgrace to all of Starfleet, to the remaining scraps of the Vulcan race. A living humiliation. The whole galaxy will be shocked to see one so haughty be brought so low.
He smiled a bit to himself. I like that idea. Maybe I’ll bring a holocam in here and start broadcasting this whole affair. Have your father and your grandmother watch you scream and cry on the internet. They’ll play it at the Academy as a precautionary tale for cadets, to weed out which ones have too weak a stomach to make it in the service. After all, I haven’t even touched you. This is hardly torture. And yet you’re on the brink of spilling your guts anyway.
Spock tried to repress the shudder in his breath.
You’re beautiful like this, you know? So broken. So emotional. Maybe after you’ve given up all this Federation nonsense and come to your senses, I’ll keep you as my concubine. I’ll rule all of Vesta, as it was always meant to be, and at night I’ll have you to warm my bed.
Panic stabbed him in the heart and Laan-e grinned and grabbed his jaw, tilting his chin up.
That’s it. Let me feel your fear. A Vulcan without any shields, such an exotic thing. Your people think you’re so superior, but I will show you, Vulcan, how low you truly are. You will be my willing slave, never knowing what is truly real, not even trusting your own thoughts.
Spock’s chin trembled in his grasp against his will, and Laan-e practically purred in delight. He drew back, drinking in the sight of him.
Or maybe I won’t. I mean, it’s all up to you, after all. Give me a list of the Enterprise’s security override codes and I might consider letting you go.
He swallowed. S’c—S’chn T’gai Spock, Lieutenant Commander. 90182367.
Laan-e’s face darkened. I didn’t want it to come to this. But this is taking too long. You’re leaving me no choice.
He thrust his hand onto Spock’s meld points and slammed into his mind. Spock screamed out in agony, straining against his chains. Laan-e gave him no reprieve, his intrusion harsh and blinding and Spock felt like his very mind was bleeding.
Something hot and wet was dripping down his face and screaming sobs were torn from his throat.
Laan-e pushed in, regardless, and decimated the shield around his bonding cortex, Spock far too weak to do anything but watch and allow it to happen.
He hadn’t peered into his bonding cortex since childhood, since T’Pring had been so repulsed by his mind that she refused to bond and he had closed off that section of his mind in shame. He could only imagine the wrecked, festering wound that it must be. And now Laan-e tore into it with glee.
But behind the shield wasn’t a devastated mental landscape. Instead, there was a bright, thin golden thread, one that had a steady pulse of JimJimJim.
Spock roared and fought back with a herculean effort, thrashing and hissing and snarling and doing his best to draw his shields back up, to protect that most precious bond.
Laan-e rolled his eyes, slapped him, and severed the bond with ease.
Spock fell slack like a marionette with the strings cut. Everything faded to black.
Chapter 11: Unwanted
Kirk was on the bridge when he suddenly clutched at his head and started screaming.
He fell out of the chair, clutching, scratching at his skull, blood trickling out of his ears. He felt like his head was going to explode. It was agony like he had never known before. This was what torture felt like.
It felt like he was being stabbed straight through the skull. Like his gray matter was attempting to disconnect from itself into a thousand disparate particles, like his brain was being beamed apart but would never be put back together again.
He was screaming himself hoarse, begging for the pain to stop, begging for someone to do something, put him out of his misery, anything. Tears streamed down his face, eyes clenched shut as if that would help.
He was going to die. This pain would kill him.
He heard the hiss of a hypospray decompressing in his neck.
Something was beeping.
He took a risk and opened his eyes just a little.
Ow. Fuck. Big mistake. Not doing that again.
“’ow long was I out?” he slurred.
“’Bout sixteen hours. Little more,” Bones said quietly.
“Wha’s wrong with me?”
He forced his eyes open despite the pain and flashed a cocky grin. “What? No snarky remark? I’m not dying, am I?”
“No. You’ll be fine,” Bones said. “But we have to get you to New Vulcan first.”
“What?!?” he asked. “Hell no! Why the fuck do I need to go to New Vulcan anyway?”
“I didn’t know what was wrong with you, so I asked M’Benga for a second opinion,” he said. “He says you’re suffering all the symptoms of a broken bond.”
“A bond? What bond?”
He sighed. “Apparently you and Spock had a bond and didn’t know it.”
“I don’t know; do I look like a Vulcan monk? As far as I could gather from M’Benga, these things can only form with the help of a mind adept, so god knows how you got one.”
“But,” he swallowed. “So… So me and Spock were married and he never said anything to me?”
“Sorry, kid,” Bones said. “He doesn’t deserve you anyway.”
He smiled weakly. “Thanks, Bones.”
His heart ached nonetheless. God. He had loved Spock for how many years now? And the whole time, they had been married, and Spock hadn’t even bothered to say anything. Hadn’t made a move or said anything at all.
He knew about Vulcan bonds. He knew how important they were to their health. How they gave awareness of someone else’s presence at all times. Surely Spock had been able to feel that, right? So why hadn’t he said anything?
Maybe he was just waiting until they came close to New Vulcan again so they could beam down and have a priestess break the bond.
“Hey,” he said. “If Spock’s down on Vesta, then how did the bond break?”
Bones didn’t say anything.
Cold dread crept up Jim’s chest. “Bones? How did the bond break?”
“M’Benga says… without the help of a trained adept, the only way for a bond to break is through death.”
The air was buzzing.
No. No no no no no no no no.
“Spock isn’t dead,” he said.
“No!” he shouted. “Spock isn’t fucking dead! Don’t you dare say that!”
Bones looked at him. “I can be the one to tell Sarek if—“
“No!” Jim hopped out of the biobed and stormed out of medbay, head pounding.
Three hours later, he asked Sarek to meet him in a private conference room.
Sarek held up the ta’al and quickly took a seat.
“Captain Kirk. Have you located my son?”
He swallowed. “No, sir. And I’m afraid we aren’t going to. Your son, Spock, he’s… he’s dead.”
“No, I’m afraid not.”
“What evidence do you have that he is dead?”
He sighed. “Spock and I… Apparently we shared a bond. I didn’t know about it. But it just broke yesterday. I’m sorry, sir.”
“You speak of an impossibility. A bond cannot be formed spontaneously except between t’hy’lara.”
“Well, maybe we were t’hy’lara then,” he shrugged, not even knowing what that word meant. It didn’t matter. Spock was gone now and everything they had been to each other was gone with him.
Not that it had been much, Jim thought bitterly. They were close friends, sure, but Jim had always wanted more and Spock very clearly hadn’t. Jim was reading that message clear as day now.
God, how stupid had he been to ever hold out hope? Spock was with Uhura. He was probably straight, too.
“Captain, I must inform you that Spock yet lives.”
“No, Sarek, he doesn’t,” he said tiredly.
“Incorrect. My bond with him is alive and healthy.”
That gave him pause. “What?”
Sarek looked at him like he was a particularly stupid human. “Spock is alive because I can still sense his lifeforce at the other end of our perfectly stable bond.”
He couldn’t process his thoughts fast enough. “So-so how did my bond with him break?”
“The Vestals are powerful telepaths, Captain. Stronger even than Vulcans. I have no doubt one trained in their arts would be capable of such a heinous crime.”
Jim felt hope for the first time in days, since Spock had gone missing. “So you’re saying he’s still out there? He’s alive? I can still find him?”
“Yes, Captain. I would appreciate if you did so.”
He smiled. “I’ll get right to it.”
“Wait,” he said. “What do you know of t’hy’lara?”
He shrugged. “Nothing. I don’t even know what the word means.”
“It has no direct translation in Standard. It means brother, friend, lover. It is an ancient warrior bond, the bond between soulmates.”
“What?” he shrieked. “You’re saying Spock’s my soulmate?!”
“I believe I just stated that, Captain.”
“What the—I don’t get it.”
“The t’hy’la bond is revered among our people. It is the most sacred and treasured of all our bonds. It is said to be impossible to break, even following death.”
Now Jim was just confused. “But mine broke.”
“Negative. It is not broken, merely damaged. It can be repaired.”
“I—I don’t think Spock would want it to be repaired.”
Sarek seemed genuinely startled. “Why?”
“He didn’t choose this. He had to have known about it, but he never said anything. At first I thought maybe he was just waiting until we got close to New Vulcan again so we could drop off and have a healer break it, but since you said it can’t be broken, then maybe he was just gonna ignore it forever and hope I never found out about it.”
Sarek was silent for a long, tense moment.
“My son has done you a disservice. I will be speaking to him upon his return,” he said. “I assure you, Captain, such a bond is sacred. For it to be treated thusly is abhorrent to any Vulcan.”
He licked his lips. “I don’t want Spock to be with me just because some ancient Vulcan cur—uh, thing, says he has to be.”
“You misunderstand the nature of our bonds.”
“I mean no disrespect to your culture, Ambassador, believe me. It’s just… Spock didn’t choose me. He’s had plenty of opportunities to, he even had a bond to me, and still, he didn’t choose me. I know when I’m not wanted, and I don’t want Spock to feel forced into a relationship with me because he has to honor this bond thing.”
“I can see that there will be no reasoning with you.”
Jim opened his mouth to protest, but Sarek just kept talking over him. “I will leave that duty to Spock. Until then, Captain, find my son.”
Chapter 12: Rescue, Again
When Spock regained consciousness, the scalpel was lying back on the dirty ground before him. He scrambled to pick it up.
The broken bond was a raw wound in his mind, open and bleeding and gaping. It was agony like Spock had never known. It was unnatural, a perversion. Bonds were not meant to be broken.
A t’hy’la bond. He rolled up his sleeve.
He’d been blessed with a t’hy’la bond and he had not known it. The most rare and treasured of bonds, and he had treated it shamefully. He had shown disrespect to the bond and to his mate. He was unworthy as a Vulcan.
He selected the uppermost cut right on his wrist, now scabbed over and healing. Not fast enough.
He cut it back open, and tearing through the scabs and tender new flesh hurt so much worse than cutting it originally had. Spock’s eyes shuddered closed, his back arching with the pain, as if he could try to move away from it, away from his own body.
Jim was his t’hy’la.
His bondmate. Former bondmate.
He must have felt the same agonizing pain that Spock had when the bond broke. Spock had done that to him. Spock had caused his bondmate pain. His t’hy’la.
It wasn’t like he hadn’t done worse to Jim. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t tried to kill him the first time he met him. It wasn’t as if Jim hadn’t been cursed with a monster for a bondmate.
Painful as it was, Jim should be glad the bond was broken. He had never consented to a bond. It had been forced on him. Spock had been forced on him.
Spock had forfeited the right to bond with the most perfect being he could hope to meet. He had tried to kill him, tried to eliminate his beautiful katra.
Stonn was right. He had always been right. Spock’s control was vastly, horrendously deficient. He had no right to ever claim any bondmate, much less one as perfect as his t’hy’la.
Blood was dripping, running down his wrist in a deep, dark green as he dug the cut deeper and deeper. His Vulcan heart pumped the blood out so fast, it was already copious along his arm and on the floor.
He lifted the scalpel once again—
He was ten years old, sitting on a biobed while a doctor examined him. They did this a lot. Spock was always coming to the doctor. Apparently his hybrid physiology “presented unique and unforeseen complications.”
He’d already had two surgeries because his human parts and his Vulcan parts just didn’t work together naturally.
Vulcans, for instance, did not have “baby teeth” that they later lost to make room for a larger, stronger adult set. Vulcans simply had teeth. Spock, unfortunately, had started losing some of his. However, at least a few of his teeth seemed to be permanent in nature. His orthodonture was a source of immense frustration for all involved.
In addition, after centuries and centuries of devout vegetarianism, human teeth were significantly sharper than those of Vulcans.
Spock's mouth was a mismatched mess with way too many teeth in it, in other words.
”You have yet to lose all your teeth that belong to your initial human set. This is unacceptable and they will be extracted,” the doctor said. “Human children are capable of losing them without any anesthesia. You will not need any.”
The doctor got out a tool that looked like pliers. And he yanked out all of Spock’s baby teeth.
Spock felt shameful tears running down his cheeks and could do nothing to stop it. He was Vulcan. Pain was a thing of the mind. The mind could be controlled.
Later, he wiped away all evidence of the tears, but the doctor told Sarek anyway, speaking in low tones. Sarek did not look at him the entire way home.
They agreed that Amanda didn’t need to know.
There were always doctors. Spock was the first of his kind to survive past infancy, a creature of great scientific interest. As a hybrid, Spock was a sickly child. Something was almost always going wrong with him. As a half-human, he was small and underdeveloped for a Vulcan. As well as somewhat for a human, as Amanda informed him once— a slip of the tongue.
There were surgeries and procedures and outright experiments, all in the pursuit of knowledge. Spock was informed repeatedly that it was an honor to be able to expand the scientific canon so much through his willing participation. It was highly logical for him to do this.
Spock learned how to bend the truth without technically lying very quickly. Amanda asked inconvenient questions about his myriad doctors appointments.
Sarek didn’t. Sarek was the parent the doctors went to for signed consent. He was always informed as to what each procedure entailed.
He always told Spock it was his choice to discontinue the matter at any time.
As if Spock would shy from his most honorable, logical duty. He did not even consider that an option.
He would endure with grace. It was a small matter, after all, to give one more blood sample, to submit to one more scan, to try out one more drug.
So he was confused as to why Laan-e had him relive it all.
He perhaps should not have voiced this opinion, because suddenly he was wrapped up in Laan-e’s favorite illusion, one he had shown him three times already.
Jim burst into his cell, a phaser in hand, determination in his eye. Dr. McCoy followed with a perfectly healthy and healed Saavik at his side.
Jim blasted through the shackles keeping Spock tied to the wall with startling accuracy. Spock sagged and nearly collapsed, but Jim caught him in his arms.
He whipped out a communicator. “Scotty, four to beam up, now!”
Chapter 13: Medbay
He was promptly taken to medbay, Jim supporting him at his side and McCoy already trying to scan him before they even reached his domain. Spock was practically shoved down onto the nearest biobed while the good doctor fussed about over his "damn hybrid hobgoblin" readings.
"Saavik," Spock mumbled. "Saavik. How is--"
"I'm here," she said. "I'm fine, Spock, they never hurt me."
"You have a bruise." Large and mottled green brown, covering much of the side of her face, just below the eye.
"Well, Laan-e did punch me once, but I reassert my previous statement that I am fine."
He heard the hiss of a hypospray, felt a pinch in his neck, and suddenly everything went very very dark.
When he awoke, he was alone in a private room in medbay, with McCoy looking down at him. The doctor had an expression on his face that Spock had never seen before. It appeared as a more severe version of his usual countenance when informing the captain that a crewmember has died.
Spock was wearing a hospital gown, flimsy and sleeveless, the neat of green black scabs on his left arm perfectly visible.
He allowed himself to close his eyes briefly.
"You want to explain?" the doctor's voice was cracked and weak.
"I believe the situation is quite clear."
"Goddammit man, at least try to lie!"
"Spock, you know what this means, don't you? Severe, debilitating mental illness in a command officer? They'll decommission you!"
"Actually, it is far more likely that they will put me on indefinite medical leave following my failed psychological evaluation. If I do not resign within their expected timeframe, then it is likely that early retirement or a low-level desk job will be offered to me."
McCoy sat down heavily. He ran a hand over his face. "Were you under duress? Did they force you to do this?"
"Fuck," he said. "Spock... Spock, people don't just wake up one day and decide to start cutting themselves. There's build-up. There's warning signs."
"I was being held captive for eight days. It is possible all 'warning signs' occurred within that period and were missed."
"Spock, what happened? Tell me the truth. Why did you start cutting?"
He stared at the human. McCoy met his gaze steadily, unrelenting.
"It was a relapse," he said.
The doctor swore and stood, pacing the small room and running his hands through his hair. "There's nothing on that in your file."
"Due to my father's rather high-profile political position, my treatment was kept discreet."
"Oh, and I'm sure that just did wonders for your mental health, being treated like the dirty little family secret." He sighed. "Look. I'm not gonna make any decisions right now. Currently, your file only says you're in sickbay for treatment post-captivity, which is standard procedure. So what I'm going to do is this: I'm going to bring Jim in here, and you're going to give your report, and then we'll determine where to go from there. That sound alright?"
"Doctor, do you mean to imply that you might lie on official records?"
"Damn right I do," he said, comming the captain.
"That is a court martial offense."
"You bet it is."
"I must advise against this, as I would be obligated to report your crime to the Admiralty in accordance with Regulation 512.31--"
"Shut your traumatized ass up, Spock."
Spock did not glare at him.
Jim burst into the room as if having run all the way there. "Spock!" he said. He visibly restrained himself from attacking the Vulcan with a hug. "Are you okay? It's been fourteen whole hours, and Bones won't tell me anything!"
His eyes swept over Spock almost desperately, cataloging the damage himself. He froze when his eyes lighted on Spock's arm.
"Oh," he said. He seemed to war with himself for a moment. Spock was a perfect mask of Vulcan placidity, not even the slightest trickle of emotion or movement slipping through. Jim straightened in turn. "Report, Commander."
"On Stardate 2749.27, S'chn T'gai Saavik and myself were kidnapped by Vestal rebel forces led by the previous monarch Laan-e in alignment with the Romulan Star Empire. Laan-e sought to coerce strategically valuable information on Starfleet and the Federation from me. Upon the event of my first refusal to divulge such, he began to torture Saavik in front of me with the promise that he would stop should I betray my allegiance."
Kirk and McCoy paled.
"That didn't happen, though," Jim said. "Saavik's fine. Not a scratch on her."
"Indeed. It appears that even Laan-e is above torturing a child. He used his telepathic powers to create the illusion that it was happening in the hopes of 'breaking' me."
McCoy closed his eyes. Shook his head. Jim held his hand.
"Following this display, Saavik was removed from my presence and I did not see her again until the event of our rescue. On the second day of my captivity, I was given a bowl of gruel and a pitcher of water, as became customary for every day following. Laan-e continued to create illusions designed to emotionally compromise me every day, save the fourth, when I was given a reprieve. I believe this was to reduce the chance of insanity setting in, at which point I would be of no use to him."
"That doesn't explain the cuts," Bones rasped.
"On the third day, I was given a scalpel to use as I deemed fit. My first inclination was to strike out against Laan-e with it. He used his considerable powers to demonstrate the impossibility of this. On the sixth day, I was inclined to use it against myself. Laan-e saw this and took it away that night, only to return it the next morning. I created additional cuts along my forearm again on the eighth day."
"You're only telling half the story," Bones said.
"I have disclosed all the relevant details necessary for a Starfleet report."
"Consider the rest of it off the record, then," Jim said. "Everything you say from now on is completely confidential."
"I find the disclosure of additional information to be entirely unnecessary."
"It's necessary to your psychiatric care, you dimwit," Bones said. "As your doctor, I need to know whether you're too emotionally compromised for duty or not. Don't give me that shit about this not being relevant. You're going to have to go through a psych eval either way, Spock. And we need to know how we're going to handle this. If Laan-e's powerful enough to break through Vulcan control, then by god, we need to know what we're up against."
"He did not 'break' me," Spock snapped.
Bones softened. "I didn't mean it like that. I just..."
"What Bones means is, you're the strongest person either of us know. And the best First Officer in the 'Fleet. So nobody here wants to declare you unfit for duty. You're both of our best friends, Spock. You can trust us. I want to be able to say that this was all brought on by extenuating circumstances, that it was a temporary lapse and nothing a little off-the-books therapy won't solve. So please. Will you tell us what happened?"
"You are laboring under a misapprehension, Captain," Spock said. "This was not the first time that I have engaged in such acts."
"That's okay," Jim said softly. "If anything, that makes this more understandable. We aren't going to judge you. I promise."
Spock looked between them, the two humans he trusted above any others in the universe. Circumstance required that he disclose the full story to somebody. As distasteful as the idea was, even his old therapist on Vulcan had stressed the need for emotional supports.
"Very well," he said. "Almost immediately upon regaining consciousness in the cell, Laan-e forced a mind meld upon me and shattered my two outermost shields in the process. From this, he was able to access all my surface thoughts and emotions, as well as my deeper memories. I have not had the opportunity to repair my shields since, and he frequently availed himself to my thoughts. He sensed my affection for Saavik and then created the illusion of torturing her with four hundred cuts upon her person. After each cut, he would ask me for information, and I would subsequently refuse.
"By the next day, Laan-e seemed to have developed a more cohesive strategy for dealing with me. He particularly focused on the subpar quality of my control. Due to my high regard for the captain, he immersed me in two scenarios in which I strangled him to death."
Spock was addressing the wall, but even out of the corner of his eye, he saw Jim's hand flit briefly to his throat.
"On the third day, he created an illusion of Saavik covered in blood and congealed, infected injuries and had her attempt to manipulate me into disclosing classified information. I quickly determined this to be out of character behavior, and thus an illusion. Laan-e then re-immersed me in my first experience of self-harm and gave me a scalpel.
"Nothing of import happened on the fourth day. I believe Laan-e was waiting for me to cut myself before acting again, and was disappointed when I did not.
"The fifth brought..." Spock trailed off.
The fifth day had brought an eight-hour long illusion of Spock being rescued and cherished and loved by Jim and he had lived an entire year that never happened.
This would be the fourth time Laan-e has used a variant of that illusion, his favorite way to mess with Spock's head. Only once before had he been able to see through it.
It was like Laan-e said. Sometimes he could tell it was an illusion, sometimes he couldn't.
"There is no sense continuing this illusion, Laan-e. I am fully aware that I have not been rescued. You have used this ruse too many times for it to be effective any longer."
Chapter 14: Unreality
"What?" Jim asked.
"Spock?" McCoy asked. "You don't think what's happening to you right now is real?"
"Negative," he said. "As you well know, I am capable of recognizing the falseness of your illusions on occasion. This is one of those such times. In addition, this is the fourth time you have made me seem to be rescued when I was, in fact, not."
"Shit," McCoy said. "We aren't Laan-e, Spock. You really have been rescued. You're aboard the Enterprise, and we're in orbit over Vesta."
"You're safe now, Spock. We found you. You're gonna be fine, and we're gonna take care of you," Jim promised.
Spock said nothing. He would not fall for this. He would not allow Laan-e to lull him into believing and keep him for who knows how much longer, then laugh at him later for it.
"Spock, these illusions. Was there ever any way you could for sure that one wasn't real?" McCoy asked.
He paused. "When Saavik appeared. I asked her how we met. She was unable to answer."
"We met at the Kobayashi Maru hearing," Jim said eagerly. Spock fixed him with a dry look.
"That information was only relevant due to its highly classified nature."
"You meeting your own damn sister is classified? What the hell happened?" McCoy asked warily.
"She is... not a blood relative," Spock said. "The point is, it was information that Laan-e would never have been able to force out of her."
"Oh. Okay. So I'll just leave the room then, and you two can talk about stuff that's above my clearance level. I'll be back in ninety seconds," McCoy said cheerily.
The door to the private room swung shut behind him. Jim was quiet for a while, brow furrowed while he tried to think of a good piece of information.
"Ambassador Selek," he said simply.
McCoy insisted on holding him in medbay for at least two additional days, though Spock insisted that he needed to get back to work immediately, trying to do damage control on the situation with Vesta. McCoy just scowled at him, scrubbed his arm clean and healed it with a dermal regenerator.
Practically everyone Spock knew to any degree of depth came to visit him. Saavik actually refused to leave the room except when forced, sitting herself firmly in a chair and becoming a fixture. She met the entire bridge crew again, along with most of the science department, and Spock's yeoman.
The first person to force her out of the room was Sarek.
He looked at Spock with utter impassivity.
"I am relieved that you are well," he said. "I found your absence troubling."
Spock arched an eyebrow at the statement. It bordered very closely on outright emotionalism. Next thing you know, Sarek would proclaim open affection or some such nonsense.
"You would not have made Saavik leave unless you had a delicate matter to discuss.
"This is true," he said. "You have a t'hy'la in James Kirk. He was unaware of this. Why."
"I was unaware of it myself."
"How could that be possible?"
"I was... shielding myself from my bonding cortex. I shuttered the area off entirely after my failed attempted bonding with T'Pring."
"You have been blocking part of your own mind for over twenty years?"
Sarek exhaled with just slightly more force than normal. "It is unfortunate there are no mind healers aboard. Let me examine you. I will repair what damage I can."
He stretched out a hand for a meld, and Spock pulled back. "Do not touch the bond."
"But it is damaged."
"I am aware. The captain has no desire for it, however. Repairing it now will make it harder to break later."
"It is a t'hy'la bond. It cannot be broken."
"There are methods."
Sarek looked at him coldly. "You speak of kolinahr."
"I thought you decided against that."
"I had. Then I was tortured over my emotional failings and returned to find a damaged bond to a t'hy'la who does not want me."
"You assume much."
"I assume little. It is the logical conclusion," he said. "I will face kolinahr and the destruction of the bond. I cannot face the rejection of my t'hy'la at this moment. I-- You were not there, Father. You do not know how weak he showed me to be."
"My son, I have always known you to be strong."
He shook his head. "Then you have been left with a false impression. I stand by my decision, Father. It is for the best. Better this than succumbing to my emotional weaknesses entirely."
"You are referring to your self-harm."
Spock said nothing.
"Have you had a relapse?"
He swallowed. "Affirmative."
"You have no reason to feel ashamed."
If Spock were a more emotional being, he might have laughed. "Is that why you hid me away as a teenager, then? Because you thought I posed no danger to your reputation and had nothing to be ashamed of?"
"I made mistakes," Sarek said. "I can see now that my handling of the situation caused you further distress. That was not my intention, and for that, you have my apologies. You must understand I have little experience with human psychology."
"You married one human and raised another. I was hardly your first child. You were hand-picked as the ambassador to Earth. Out of all Vulcans in existence--"
"You have made your point, my son," he said. "I have my regrets and I have made them clear to you. You have my apologies. That said, you are behaving most foolishly about this kolinahr business and I believe you will live to regret it."
"Impossible. Kolinahrular are incapable of experiencing regret."
"A t'hy'la bond is not meant to be forsaken. You have not even given it a chance."
"I am not forsaking a true bond; I am removing a shredded, bleeding remnant of one. To attempt to hold on to its half-dead scraps would be a disservice to both me and my t'hy'la."
"You are being illogical."
"Did you come here solely to insult me, Father, or do you have another purpose?"
He rose from his seat. "I believe my business here is concluded. I recommend thorough meditation. Heal well, my son."
Chapter 15: Renewal
Jim and Spock are both cowards. Bones is the only level-headed one on the whole ship
"Who is this?" Spock asked.
"This is Dern-al. She's a Vestal mind healer, and a damn good one too. Should've figured the Vestals would have mind healers just like Vulcans do. Their telepathy is even stronger and more important to their health."
"I am a specialist in bonds," Dern-al said. "I have come to repair that which is most sacred to you and to soothe the starved cortex it is placed in. I understand you have been shielding your mind from itself? You blocked of sections of your own brain without the aid of a healer?"
Spock glared. "I do not recall requesting the services of a mind healer, Dr. McCoy."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Silly me, assuming you wouldn't want to live in chronic pain or something stupid like that. I should just start ignoring all my patients' needs and just bring them in here to watch them suffer," he said. "Sarek tells me that bond is hanging on by a thread, Spock. Laan-e fucking butchered it. What you have here is the telepathic equivalent of traumatic dismemberment, except with maybe one vein or something keeping a limb hooked up to your body. And now you want to refuse treatment?"
"I believe that is within my rights."
"I have the medical prerogative to declare you too stupid to make that decision. This is a severe brain injury, Spock. Your symptoms are only gonna get worse from here. You're already burning up and far too weak. Your control is going to start slipping. Your emotions will get more volatile. You may start hallucinating."
"So you intend to rid me of my autonomy?"
"I don't wanna do that, Spock, but I will if I have to. Look. At the very least, let Dern-al patch up your bonding cortex. That whole area of your brain can't be looking too pretty after all these years."
He glared once more. "Fine."
Dern-al beamed and stepped up to the side of the biobed happily. She touched his meld points and was inside his mind instantly, all at once, without even the need for ritual words.
Her presence was... soft. He had not been expecting that.
She flitted over his mind in a gentle examination, and then settled in to work on repairing his bonding cortex. The area was full of dead, neglected tissue; limp and lifeless and unused for decades. There was a thin strand of a bond nestled there, wavering and fading. For the first time, Spock considered the possibility that it might be weak enough to die on its own. Perhaps with enough neglect and disuse, entirely cut off and starved for the contact it so craved--
Dern-al tsked in disapproval, both of his thoughts and the horrendous state of his mind. She poked and prodded around, coaxing neurons to fire, igniting disused pathways and lighting up his brain again, bringing the cortex back to life. She dissembled the remains of the barriers around it and connected it fully to the rest of his mind.
And Spock felt the bond, the beautiful dying thing inside him. He ached and let out a choked mental sob.
Dern-al wrapped her essence around his mind comfortingly, exuding reassurance and warmth. She broke the meld gradually, with natural, professional ease.
She smiled at him, patting his arm. "You should feel much better now, friend guest."
"I fail to see how allowing me to feel a dying, tattered bond is supposed to make me feel better."
"I fluffed up the dead part of your brain. It's not healthy to cut off parts of yourself, you know. I could repair the bond now and make the pain go away."
"I do not wish for you to repair the bond. I intend to have it removed."
She frowned. "But it is a link to your t'ial'u. It should be treasured and cherished."
"My t'hy'la does not desire it and I will not subject him to a forced bond."
"That is impossible. He is your t'ial'u."
"The captain does not desire me in any way, I assure you. The bond must have been formed through some telepathic mistake on my part; an act of misconduct, no doubt."
Dern-al laughed at him. "It is impossible to form a t'ial'u bond through conscious choice. It may only happen naturally through the first touch of destined soulmates."
McCoy choked. "What?!"
"The captain is my soulmate, Doctor. This has already been established.
"The fuck it's been established--"
"I am not a fool. I am aware of the situation. I have determined that the best course of action is to resign my commission, return to New Vulcan, and have the remains of the bond completely severed through the process of kolinahr, the ritual purging of all emotions."
"It was unnecessary to call the captain in here," Spock insisted.
McCoy ignored him and focused his emotions on the captain. "Spock's being a dumbass and you need to talk some sense into him."
Jim frowned in concern. "What's going on?"
"Nothing is the matter, Captain. I have no need of you and suggest you return to duty immediately."
"Spock is your Vulcan soulmate."
"Sarek already told me about that," Jim said. "Look, if it makes you uncomfortable, I'm so sorry, I have no clue how this happened. I don't want you to feel like you're under any obligation to me. I want you to know that I don't expect anything from this, and we can get the bond removed--"
"Oh hell no, that's not how this conversation is gonna go," McCoy said. "Listen. Spock is fucking in love with you."
"I never stated--"
"Didn't have to, Spock. Now Jim, I want you to watch this real careful. Spock, are you in love with Jim?"
He felt his face heat and no doubt there was an emotional expression on his face. He found he could not raise his eyes above the sheet of the biobed. He could not believe the doctor had deigned to humiliate him in this way. He had thought-- He had thought they at least respected one another.
"Bones, don't do this to him. The guy clearly--"
"Nope. We're doing this. Spock, answer the question."
"...Yes," he said quietly. Jim let out a small gasp. Shame course through Spock all over. He just wanted to leave. He wanted to be released, go to his quarters, get out the razor from within the bathroom and--
"Spock only wanted to break the bond because he thought you didn't want him," McCoy said, gentler now. "And he was going to leave the ship and purge all his emotions to do it, the damn fool."
"Spock?" Jim asked. "Is that true?"
"Spock," Jim said, coming closer to him. He sat of the edge of the biobed and his hands hovered for a moment, like he desperately wanted to take Spock's within his own, but he refrained. Spock finally looked up to see that the doctor had finally left the room sometime within those last few moments.
Jim was looking at him like he held the sky. His blue eyes were so hopeful, so fragile and easily crushed. But they held something deeper too, determination and something Spock dared not name.
"I love you," Jim said. "I've loved you for years. If there's any way, any chance, that you feel even a fraction--"
"I do," Spock said. "I love you with my very soul. I would have you for the rest of my days, should you allow it."
"Allow it?" he asked, laughing lightly. "I'm already yours."
"And I, yours," he said softly. "You are my t'hy'la and I can never and will never desire another. You are the one of my katra, my shield-brother, and I shall cherish thee into eternity."
Jim surged forward and kissed the words off his lips. He crawled further onto the biobed, tangling his fingers in Spock's silky hair like he'd wanted to do for ages. He kissed him like his life depended on it, until he couldn't breathe and had to break for air, resting his forehead against Spock's.
"Are you-- Do you still want to leave and break the bond?"
Spock grabbed him and kissed him again, harder and claiming. "Never," he said. "I never wished that in the first place."
Jim laughed. "We're both idiots, aren't we? We could have been doing this for months already."
"Years," Spock said. "I shall have to make up for lost time."
"Yeah, well you've got to get better first."
He gave him a dry look. "I do not speak solely of physical intercourse, Jim. I do hope our relationship will consist of more than that."
Jim grinned and kissed him again. "Yeah, but I need you to be out of this biobed for almost all of the things I wanna do with you."
Spock hesitated. "The bond," he said. "It is damaged."
"Can it be repaired?"
"Indeed, but then we would be bonded."
"Yeah? And what's the problem with that?"
Spock's heart soared. "You would desire it?"
"To literally feel you in my head at all times? To always have you with me in some way? Spock, that's like a dream come true for me."
Spock took Jim's hand and stroked his fingers along the other man's, relishing in the sensation, in the freedom to do so. "Let us call the healer back in now," he said. "We have spent enough time apart from each other. I wish to waste no more of it."
Chapter 16: Bonding
The captain grinned and pressed the comm button, calling Dern-al back in, and as an afterthought, inviting Bones and anyone else in medbay as well, without ever saying what for.
Saavik, of course, was the first to arrive.
She was practically vibrating on the spot. "Your tone and choice of phrasing indicates a change in developments. I would like to be informed of that immediately."
"Of course, Saavik-kam. While on Vesta, the captain and I's t'hy'la bond was illegally damaged, and we are now seeking its telepathic repair."
Her eyes bugged out, and you could tell she was trying desperately to control her other physiological reactions. "You are t'hy'lara?"
She straightened, and turned to address Kirk. "I told you so."
"What? No you didn't."
"I stated that you should pursue Spock romantically after confirming your own interest in doing so and projecting a 57.89% chance of reciprocation. You did not listen to me and stated that I was flatly wrong, implying I was incapable of understanding complex adult human courtship issues. But you were wrong. About my understanding and about Spock," she said. "Acknowledge this."
He laughed. "Alright, alright, ya got me. I was wrong. I'll just assume you're a permanently right genius from now on."
"Good." She nodded.
He turned to Spock, the softest, most loving look in his eyes. "I've gotta say. I've never been this happy to be wrong before."
"God," McCoy groaned. "I suppose you decided to repair the bond?"
He returned the gesture. "Good. Let's get this here wedding moving then, shall we?"
"Technically, the procedure would be more akin to a vow renewal. The bond is already there, it just needs strengthening. You two are already married. Essentially, you have always been married." Dern-al smiled. "Merely awaiting each other."
Bones rolled his eyes skyward. Jim and Spock were sitting up by this point, hands still tangled together on the biobed. Jim stroked a thumb over Spock's hand, unable to contain the giddy smile on his face.
Dern-al touched both of their heads, but did not meld them immediately, instead taking a moment to close her eyes and speak an ancient blessing in Vesthai'alsu, comparing their love to the fire of stars.
Then she melded them.
It was like coming home, without ever realizing you had needed to. Both of them were suddenly in the one place they were always meant to be, destined to be, where they felt most loved and safe and cherished: each other's heads. Dern-al took their very souls in her hands and wove them together, so naturally, like they were doing it themselves and had only needed the very slightest prodding.
And then they were there, they were linked, they were bonded.
Perfect. Glorious perfection.
Jim breathed a sigh of relief he hadn't known he was holding. Spock felt something inside of him break, overwhelmed by the gentleness, by the care that he had never even dreamed to fantasize about. So much when he had never expected anything at all. Like drowning in indulgence.
Bones released Spock from medbay on the grounds that he was technically fine, physically, as long as Jim swore to make sure he ate and slept enough.
Also he'd "had about damn 'nough of you two making moon eyes at each other. And I thought you were horrible before. Go be newlyweds on your own time; get this romantic nonsense outta my face."
And so they did, very happily adjourning to Spock's quarters.
Spock put on his most plush meditation robe, curling up on the couch. Jim fussed about, making tea needlessly, offering to light incense needlessly, asking if he wanted the environmental controls adjusted (he did not).
He finally took a seat opposite Spock, both holding steaming cups of tea in their hands.
For a moment, there was only silence.
"It's weird," Jim said. "I always thought, if ever got the chance, I'd have so much I wanted to say to you. And now it's just..." He shook his head. "I don't know where to start."
Spock set his tea on the coffee table, taking one of Jim's hands in his own. "We have as much time as is necessary," he said. "Even if this lifetime should end, our katralar will be bound for eternity."
"I'm not waiting for that," he said vehemently. "Spock, I love you. I'm in love with you."
Spock's heart lurched in his side, heat flooding through him. "And I you, Jim. Always."
Jim set his tea down and brought Spock's hand to his lips, pressing a gentle kiss on the knuckle. His husband flushed green, and Jim smiled tenderly.
"God," he said. "We've wasted so much time. No more, okay? No more."
Spock nodded, unsure if any word he could say would be adequate. Someone thought it, and then they both shifted to the center of the couch, Jim's arm wrapped around Spock, both of them holding each other close.
"I have alpha shift in half an hour."
"You should rise and ready yourself."
"That is the exact opposite of what you are supposed to say."
"Joking, Spock, joking." He grinned and pressed to kiss to his head. "Bones has you on leave for the next three days, but protocol says the captain can't take personal leave during an active mission. I could fudge the rules a bit, though, if you're not okay to be alone yet."
"I am an adult, Captain. I am perfectly capable of caring for myself without assistance."
"Spock," he said. "I didn't mean it like that. You know that."
"How else am I meant to interpret it? Only children require constant supervision, Captain. I found your suggestion both infantilizing and disrespectful."
"You just went through a traumatic event and a severe relapse in your mental health. I wasn't saying that you need to be watched because-- what, you have no self control or something. I wasn't suggesting I needed to babysit you, I was offering to keep you company," he said. "But hey. Forget I asked."
Spock's brow furrowed slightly. Jim stared at him for a moment, then let out a sigh.
He rolled out of the bed and stretched. "I have to go contact Meb-al anyway. We captured most of the rebels in the compound, but the man we thought to be Laan-e turned out to be a different Vestal he was casting an illusion over. Our current theory is that the illusion only snapped because he eventually got out of range, but that didn't happen for three whole hours."
"Fascinating," Spock said. "That implies that Laan-e stayed with the captured rebels for an extended period of time, or he has a vastly wider range than anticipated, varying-- of course-- with whether he waited out your forces from within the compound or began to run immediately."
"Yes, exactly. We'll be meeting with the Virgins to discuss options, but it doesn't look like they have much empirical data on their abilities. They're not a very science-focused species," Jim said. "Bones has asked to take a random sampling of the population to run some tests and establish a baseline, but I'm not sure it'll be worth it. By the time we have the data, it'll be useless and Laan-e'll be long gone."
"There is no such thing as useless data," Spock said. "While it may be rendered unhelpful for this particular endeavor, this mission seems to be far from over. Additionally, if the Federation is to set up permanent relations with the Vestals, then the data could be of use to future expeditions. Or the Vestals themselves, should they decide to do anything of their own with it, scientifically. All knowledge is useful knowledge."
"Ooh, I definitely don't agree with that," Jim said, half-laughing. "There are some things I really wish I didn't know. Well, I'm gonna hit the shower. You'll remember to eat something for breakfast, right?"
"And you'll actually do it too?"
Spock paused. Jim's eyes twinkled. "Very well," he acceded.
Jim grinned broadly and gave him one last kiss goodbye. "See you at 1500 hours."
He nodded. "I will see you then."
Jim rushed off into their shared bathroom. The door closed behind him.
Spock laid back down on the bed. It was still dark.