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Iron

Chapter Text

Deep in the ocean, dead and cast away
Where innocence is burned in flames
A million mile from home, I'm walking ahead
I'm frozen to the bones, I am...

Iron- Woodkid


 

It hurts.

It always hurts. But pain is one thing a Vulcan can handle with silent grace, and it has been so long it has become almost easy to sequester this pain into a corner of his mind and leave it locked there. He lies still, his cheek pressed against the sheets, his bony knees spread far apart and sinking into the too-soft mattress, shoulders lurching with each of Khan’s savage thrusts. Spock's mind is locked down, but even through the walls he has so carefully built, Khan's lust bleeds through.

Khan rarely tries to make it good for Spock. More often he actively makes it painful.

It’s better this way, Spock thinks.

It's better-- anything is better-- than when his master takes an interest in his slave's pleasure.

At first, Khan is amused.

"What, you don't like me?" he purrs.

It's been less than a day since Khan purchased the slender Vulcan and now he is lying next to him on his bed, half-spent from making heavy use of his new toy.

Spock is lying silently on his back, nude but for a thin silver collar encircling his throat. His limbs are limp, lifeless and askew. He hasn't moved since his master rolled off of him, hasn't bothered to stop the greenish blood seeping from gashes left by cruel fingernails or to nurse his bruising skin. There will be time for that later, and he wants to see how this new master reacts when Spock bleeds on his sheets. He wants to see if the punishment will be immediate and volatile, or if it will come later, premeditated and cold.

Khan doesn't seem to care about the blood, at least for the moment. His focus is elsewhere. He props himself up on one elbow and reaches to trace a finger across the base of Spock's flaccid cock.

"Not good enough for you, was it?" he asks. It's a tease, not an actual question. Spock keeps his eyes trained blankly on the far wall and doesn't answer.

“Should I try harder next time?” Khan purrs, his hands deceptively gentle as he strokes Spock’s thighs. His mouth twists in a wry smile.

But Khan's amusement does not take long to turn to annoyance, and finally to anger. It doesn't matter how Vulcan physiology works; Khan dreams himself King of the Universe and imagines himself the exception to every rule, and when nothing stirs between his slave's legs, it is a personal insult.

 

Spock pisses blood for weeks.

~

He winces in memory, a reflex he can't control quite in time, and immediately shoves the thought away. On top of him, his master makes a pleased grunt; Spock's quiver did not go unnoticed. Khan reaches for a handful of dark hair and yanks his head up, stretching his Vulcan's neck, then latches onto it, teeth digging into the exposed skin, biting down hard.

Spock closes his eyes and wills his body to relax.

His master has other pets, other toys, but he always drifts back to his Vulcan. He gets a certain sadistic satisfaction, knowing no matter what he does his pet will stand there silently and take it. And though thin and undernourished, Spock is tall, strong, hardier than he appears. Vulcan physiology makes him a better match for his augmented master: a harder toy to break.

And Khan is good at breaking toys.

Chapter Text

He rarely hears Khan approach. The augmented human may move like a war machine, but he is deadly silent, and Spock finds it an unnerving trait in a master. It can be difficult to keep tabs on him, even with Vulcan-sensitive ears, and that often proves to be a painful disadvantage.

This time Spock is woken from sleep hours early with a soundless kick to his ribs. His eyes slide open— his only reaction— and he stares up to Khan’s looming form, shadowy in the darkened room. Something is wrong.

“Breakfast,” Khan growls, then turns and stalks away. He doesn’t bother to order the room lights up. He strides into the adjoining washroom, shoulders stiffly frigid. As the door slides shut behind him the washroom light clicks on, shining a thin sliver of light beneath the door.

The PADD resting on Khan's nightstand displays the time: 4:26am. Spock's lips press together just slightly harder: an all-but-invisible frown. His master is frequently moody, but Khan sleeps on a regimented schedule and very few things interfere with that. Today Khan wasn't due to wake until 7.

Khan may be vain, but he gets ready with practiced military precision and Spock only has between 3.5 and 4 minutes to rush his own morning routine if he wants to keep ahead of his master’s temper.

Spock raises himself to a sitting position. The room is cold in the early hours, even more so against naked Vulcan skin. He wraps his arms around himself, hugging his shoulders— an action he would only do when alone, in the dark, the only place where it is okay to show a bare hint of weakness.

He first takes stock of his body, running a quick mental checklist as he stretches each muscle and searches for new pain. He is always sore in some manner or another and this morning is no exception; but nothing needs urgent care, so Spock soundlessly gets to his feet and bends to roll up his sleeping mat. His back protests the movement, his stretched skin waking up pain from old bruises and healing welts. But it is a tolerable and familiar pain and he has no trouble ignoring it. He has more pressing matters on his mind.

Last night Khan had been in a good mood. He had fucked Spock twice and slapped him around a bit for good measure, but the night had been comparatively tame, all things considered.

Now, Khan’s good mood is firmly gone.

Spock places his mat carefully in the closet, navigating on memory and the faint light from under the bathroom door, then slips out of the bedroom and makes his way to the washroom at the back of the hallway. The washroom's fixtures are expensive, like everything in the massive house-- Khan would never put anything cheap in his home-- but very basic, and the room itself is hardly larger than a closet. Khan demands hygienic slaves, but that doesn’t mean he is going to spend extra money on their comfort.

Spock relieves himself quickly, then steps into the sonic shower, counting down seconds in the back of mind as the grime from the previous night evaporates from his skin. He runs a quick hand over his head, finger-combing his hair back into place, and choses a short robe from the cupboard.

Most of Spock’s previous masters preferred their slaves nude at all times, for easy access. But Khan is fond of the way fabric accentuates his pets, and he is fiercely jealous of anyone else enjoying his things. So his pets are all dressed unless ordered otherwise, though their clothing choices are little more than lingerie.

Spock is silently grateful for the clothing, even as skimpy as it is. Though he has trained himself to hold his shoulders steady instead of allowing his body to shiver, any covering is a welcome respite from the cool air against his bare skin.

If it were up to him, Spock would chose to wear thick robes that draped over as much of himself as possible, something soft and warm. But warmth is a luxury, and luxuries are not for the likes of him.

The idea of covering himself out of shame or embarrassment doesn’t even cross his mind anymore.

He is a slave. He has very little shame left.

Spock's chosen robe is sheer, silver, trimmed with black ribbon and modeled similar to a kimono: loose with flowing sleeves. It is cut sensuously short, draping barely to mid-thigh. He slips into it, ties the dark sash loose around his waist, and leaves the washroom.

1.5 minutes.

His bare feet pad silently across the freezing stone floor and down the back stairwell. It's a quick journey down the stairs to the kitchen, even in the dark. Spock has walked them a thousand times; he knows every millimeter of every step. He could navigate the house blindfolded.

He has navigated the house blindfolded.

“Lights, 60 percent,” Spock murmurs. It's a lavish kitchen: fully-functional and gourmet, though it’s mostly for show. Khan doesn't keep a chef.

His food processor is top notch. Spock crosses to it now, waking the machine with a vague wave of his hand. A few pressed buttons later and Khan's usual breakfast is ready. Spock carries it to Khan's spot at the head of his massive dining table and arranges it perfectly, with only moments to spare.

Khan is as silent as a cat, crossing the room before Spock has a chance to kneel. He places a hand on the top of Spock’s head. It is a firm correction, and as Khan sits he pushes his slave down next to his chair with a quick, harsh movement.

Spock’s knees crack against the floor as he crumbles. He relaxes his body in anticipation of another blow, but moments pass and it doesn’t come. There is only the soft clink of cutlery as Khan starts on his breakfast.

Spock takes a deep breath. Khan is ignoring him.

Khan always eats quickly and efficiently, and this morning is no exception. His left hand drifts down to rest on the top of Spock’s head. This time, his touch is gentle. His fingers gently comb through the straight black hair, teasing it almost lovingly. Spock focuses on breathing and on keeping the barrier in his mind strong against Khan's presence.

When Khan finishes his plate he pushes it away from himself and scoots his chair back a few inches. There is a pause as he looks over his slave, then his hands are on Spock’s shoulders, pushing the robe off and down his arms, revealing Spock’s battered body. Though his eyes are trained on the floor Spock has a good idea of what Khan is seeing; Spock’s arms are mostly untouched, with only a few fading bruises, but his back and hips are a mess of bruises and welts. His chest is striped with cuts only a few days old and only beginning to heal. His thighs look much the same.

Khan’s hands roam over Spock— his collarbone, his back, down his arms— gentle and ghostly soft. He pauses to stroke one pointed ear. Spock sets his jaw and keeps himself motionless under his master’s touch. He holds his hands behind his back, one hand circling his slender wrist, squeezing it hard to keep from trembling. He knows how dangerous Khan’s gentleness can be.

Finally, Khan croons, “Pack shorts and a black lace tunic; they should be sufficient in covering the worst of these. And a one-night bag for me.”

His hands are gone, then, and his chair scratches against the floor as he pushes it back and stands.

“We leave at 5.”

Then he strides out of the room.

Spock stands slowly, gathering his discarded robe and smoothing it in his arms. He is not quite sure whether he should put it back on, but ultimately decides against it, and busies himself with cleaning up after his master’s breakfast.

Uncertainty brings a pang of anxiety into his stomach. He quells it immediately. Khan occasionally goes on business trips. Sometimes he leaves Spock to oversee the household. Sometimes he brings Spock along.

He doesn’t know where they are going.

But he knows better than to ask.

Chapter Text

Khan pilots the liner himself, and for awhile he is too busy plotting course and messing with the controls to pay any attention to his slave.

The ship itself is something like a luxury yacht crossed with a tiny fighter. Its hull is nondescript and its weapons are well-hidden, effectively concealing both its expense and firepower. The interior is made up of three rooms- the cockpit, sleeping cabin, and bathroom- each small, but expensively comfortable.

Spock spends the launch in light meditation. He is kneeling off to the side in Khan's private spaceliner, silent and out of the way until he is needed. From the floor he cannot see up to the control panels, and the viewscreen is mostly blocked by Khan's broad shoulders.  It is a slight disappointment, really; Spock's fascination with computers is so rarely indulged and he would jump at the chance to watch his master control a ship.  But it only takes a second for Spock to calculate that from his position it will be useless to try.  He holds in a silent sigh. 

Instead he fixes his open eyes on the floor just under Khan's chair and begins his retreat into his mind.  His chest rises and falls in a steady pattern and he trains his mind on each breath, on the quiet thrum, thrum, thrum of his heart.  Slowly everything else— the starliner's engines, the current of circulating air, the computer's clicks and beeps and whirs—  slides away as he simply observes himself, distancing his rational mind from his body and emotions.  He drifts calmly on a sea of blood and breath.

Spock sees each pain in his body from a distance.  He watches the gnawing hunger in his empty stomach, and the exhaustion in his temples, and the shiver along his cold skin.

He lets himself feel each sensation for only a moment, acknowledging one pain at a time.  Then he lets each of them go, until they begin to sink away.  They remain part of him, but they are also apart.  He choses to observe rather than to feel, to watch instead of letting his mind experience.

He is breathing, and his heart is beating, and his eyes are staring blankly at the floor, and for this moment this is all he is.

He has control of his sensations.

Then he moves on, retreating even further into his mind.  Rather than using each breath to ground himself, Spock now draws each breath up and pushes it against the corners of his mind.  He packs it against the edges, building up the wall that separates his mind from his master's.  Khan may not be telepathic, but he is strong-willed and powerful, and his mind can be near impossible to resist.  There are times Spock can feel his master's mind even in the absence of physical contact.  And when Khan touches Spock, when he presses their bodies together and runs his hands along Spock's skin, it takes an immense amount of discipline to block Khan's thoughts from seeping in through the cracks in Spock's mind.  And it takes even more to prevent any of Spock's mind from bleeding outward.

And so, with every exhausted moment he is allowed for himself, Spock builds up his wall.

He could always just give up.

He has thought about it.  How much easier it would be.  He could allow the wall in his mind to decay and crumble, until his master could force his way inside.  He could avoid so many of the beatings.

But this is the one thing he cannot give up.  The action is deliberate, calculated. It is Vulcan pride— what little he has left— spurred on by his human half's desperate need to cling to his individuality.  A tiny reminder that he cannot be owned.  Not completely. His body may be owned; it can be taken, sliced open, whipped, bruised, beaten. But his mind is his own.

And Khan knows it.

Khan can feel the touch-telepathy in the times that Spock's shield wavers.  He knows, knows that his pet is hiding a corner of himself from him.  He has tried many times to force a meld.  He has held Spock's fingers up to his own face and has ordered him to join their minds, squeezing Spock's wrist so hard it begins to snap, and still the Vulcan just sat there, eyes downcast, quietly refusing.

Spock is a pliant, obedient slave in every other area.  But in this, he never surrenders.

So Khan fucks him raw and beats him and tortures him until he is on the brink of breaking, trying to force his mind open.  He wants it laid out, vulnerable, just for himself, and it frustrates him to anger that his otherwise perfect slave would deny him complete control.

It angers him, but at the same time, Spock knows that it also thrills him.  In a twisted way, Khan almost enjoys the defiance.  He gets off on the torture.

There are many times Khan hurts his slaves, and Spock, for no reason: just to watch them cower and bleed. But he gets a sick thrill out of punishing his Vulcan for an actual infraction.  He relishes a conquest.

Spock has seen slave after slave break under their masters until there is nothing of themselves left. He has watched trainers hollow out a person, strip them of everything they are, until they are nothing but a pliable shell.

He refuses to let that happen to him.

He is smashed and broken beyond repair. It is a fact he knows without a doubt.

But he will not be emptied.

 

* * *

It isn't until the liner is on course and warping far into open space that Khan finally decides the computer can handle the rest of the flight path. He sets the ship on autopilot and swivels his chair around to face Spock, fixing his dark gaze directly on his pet. He stares at him for a long minute, a moody frown etched into his features. 

At the movement Spock immediately slips out of his meditation.  He doesn't move, doesn't change his breathing, gives no outward sign that he had been far away in his mind.  He merely waits, head down, eyes still trained on the same spot under Khan's chair.  He watches his master without looking directly at him.

Khan is sprawled out in his seat as if he owns the universe. He leans back against the chair but is somehow still tall and commanding. His shoulders are squared, his knees are casually spread far apart.

Moments pass. Then Khan tilts his hips forward in his seat, angling his crotch toward Spock, and smiles a dark smile. It is a clear order.

Spock is moving.  He crawls to his master, gliding over the floor in a practiced movement. Once he is between Khan's knees he sits up and rocks himself back into a kneel, careful not to make eye contact as he glances up toward Khan through thick, downcast eyelashes. He arches his back sensually. It is a practiced movement, putting himself on display as Khan watches with dark eyes full of hunger. Spock's long fingers are already working, sliding up Khan's calves, caressing his thighs. It's always a fine line between putting on a show and stalling.

Khan does not enjoy delay. In the years Spock has served this master he's learned everything Khan likes, and the even longer list of what he dislikes. Khan needs to feel in control. Needs to receive exactly what he asks for in the moment and nothing else.  He needs to make the decisions— or at least feel as if he is making the decisions.

 Spock's fingers graze over Khan's crotch once, twice, gently fondling him through the dark fabric, then move to unfasten his pants.  Khan impatiently bucks his hips up, knocking Spock's hands from their mark.  Khan grins.

Spock's eyebrows furrow only a fraction of an inch.  He redoubles his efforts, taking a firm grip on the fastener and sliding it down, then reaches inside to grasp his master's thick cock.  He pulls it out, coaxing his hands up and down the flaccid length.  Just as he begins to lean forward to press his lips to it, Khan's hands are on the sides of his head, stopping him.

Spock goes still.  Khan chuckles deep in his chest and begins to squeeze his hands together, pressing uncomfortably hard against Spock's temples.

"Try harder," Khan orders.

So this is how they are going to play it.  Spock bites back a frustrated grunt.  He hates being forced to fight for something he doesn't even want in the first place, but the pressure is building on the sides of his head and he would rather show up to Wherever-They-Are-Going without a cracked skull.

He strains against Khan's hands, pushing the weight of his body into trying to propel his head forward.  He is strong— stronger than a human— but Khan is an augment.  Spock may as well be a child against Khan's superior strength.  There is no hope in winning this game and they both know it, but like a cat with a mouse, Khan seems to like watching him try.

Khan's cock is a mere inch away from his lips, but even straining he cannot reach it.  Spock pushes, slides his bare feet against the floor trying to gain more traction, braces himself against Khan's knees, throws his chest into him with as much strength as he can muster.  The pain in his head is reaching a critical point and his vision is starting to blur.  He lets out the smallest gasp of pain— and Khan's hands relax.  Spock is sent flying forward, head landing solidly in Khan's lap.

Khan chuckles.  He gives Spock less than a second to compose himself, and then he is yanking him up from his lap.

Spock breathes in a deep breath.  He leans forward and gently takes Khan's cock in his hands again.

"Well?" Khan prompts, again stopping Spock's head, this time with one hand on his forehead.  "Is there something you want?"

"Please, Sir," Spock mumbles obediently, reciting the words like a flat mantra, "allow me the honor of pleasuring you."

This time he is uninhibited.  He presses his lips to the base of Khan's cock, kissing up the shaft.  Khan is half-hard now and grinning like a cat.  He smoothes his hands over Spock's hair before his hands trail down to his pet's tapered ears.  He runs his fingers over them almost gently: stroking, kneading, pinching lightly.

Spock half-closes his eyes and concentrates.  He shoves away the shiver that threatens to rush down his spine.  His ears are sensitive, intimate, and it is difficult to suppress a reaction.  He knows that is the exact reason Khan loves touching them.

Spock's tongue flicks out of his mouth and tentatively laps up Khan's shaft, and then he is mouthing at him, lips and tongue slicking a trail of moisture in their wake.  He slides his head sensually up then slowly back down, coaxing Khan into a full erection, his tongue laving at him between parted lips.  One hand circles the base of his master's cock, the other braces against Khan's thigh, its thumb rubbing gentle circles into the fabric.

Khan soon bores with Spock's ears.  He gives the left earlobe one last strong flick before his hands begin roaming down his pet's bare shoulders.  He seems to deliberately graze over the worst of Spock's marks.

Haphazardly criss-crossed over countless scars and healing wounds are greenish welts from a thick strap four nights ago.  Some had bled, but the strap had been wide and heavy; mostly the skin had mottled in welts and in copper and yellow-green bruises.  What had bled were the thin whip marks several nights earlier; the whip had cut through the skin almost better than the knife Khan had used on Spock's thighs the day before.

Now the wounds are scabbed over, yet the sharp pain reawakens as Khan's fingers dig into them.  One scab on Spock's shoulder reopens and green blood seeps down his collarbone.

Spock's eyebrows knit tight together.  He focuses on keeping his hands relaxed against Khan's body.  His movements are measured, gentle, evened.  His mouth reaches the head of Khan's cock and he slides it into his mouth, swirls his tongue around and presses it against the slit.  He licks a bead of precum from it, then flattens his tongue and opens his jaw.  He begins bobbing his head slowly, first taking only a few inches into his mouth as he adjusts to the thickness against his throat, then gradually sucking in more.

"Give me your hand," Khan's voice rumbles.  Spock pliantly untangles his fingers from around Khan's shaft and lifts his hand toward his master.  He doesn't even pause his mouth's steady rhythm, though a pit of hopeless discomfort settles into his gut.  He would rather Khan play with his ears, his wounds, his ass— anything but his hands.

It is strange, he thinks distantly, that he is more comfortable being fucked into the ground or beaten into a pulp than he is with Khan simply holding his hand.  Illogical, one half of his brain scolds.  But, logical or not, as Khan takes Spock's thin hand in his, it feels so much more intimate, so much more invasive.  Something like a forced kiss.  The nerve endings tingle all the way  up Spock's arm, and suddenly it is twice as hard to block Khan's thoughts.

Khan simply holds the hand for a moment, stroking along the knuckles.  Spock closes his eyes, focuses on pleasuring his master, tries not to shudder.  Ever so gently, Khan brings his mouth to the fingertips and sucks them in.

Spock would choke if he weren't so self-disciplined.  But he is, so he doesn't; just keeps sucking.  Khan's thick cock slides across Spock's flattened tongue and down into his throat until Spock has impaled himself to the base.  He swallows, a tight motion against hard flesh, then begins to slide off, only to repeat the action again. Down, swallow, up.  Down, swallow, up.

Khan makes a quiet, throaty sound and tilts his hips just a faction of an inch toward Spock. He pulls Spock's fingers from his mouth with a slick pop and begins licking the Vulcan's knuckles, laving his tongue across the sensitive skin between his fingers, nipping at the inside of his wrist.

Spock hums into Khan's cock, his own shoulders finally breaking into a tiny involuntary shudder.  His jaw is beginning to ache.  Khan's cock is stiff and tight, yet still twitches at Spock's shiver.  Khan grunts again and redoubles his efforts on Spock's hands.  He focuses on the fingertips now, drawing each into his mouth for a moment, rolling them along the length of his tongue.

Spock's mind wall is creaking.  Despite his efforts to block Khan's thoughts out there is just too much to block.  He should be used to it by now, he thinks, a twinge of desperation lacing the edges of the thought.  He should be used to it. He should be stronger, should be better.  But he isn't, and he can feel Khan's lust seeping in through the tiny cracks in his focus.  It makes his stomach churn with nausea.

Spock doesn't sense any clear thoughts; he's too good to crumble that far.  But he can feel waves of passion and emotion.  He can feel Khan's desire, and a sadistic glee at Spock's discomfort that twists into raging lust.

Khan really does get off on dominating others, Spock thinks.  In everything, Khan has to prove he is superior.

Spock winces visibly as Khan bites down on his index fingertip.  He can feel his skin tearing under the augment's teeth.  Spock sucks hard at the top of Khan's cock and brings his free hand up to the base of the shaft and begins pumping.  Khan is close.  Spock doesn't need touch-telepathy to tell him that.  It is written all over Khan's body.

Khan tenses, painfully clutches Spock's wrist, bites hard onto Spock's finger.  He explodes into his pet's mouth with nothing more than a grunt, jerking his hips forward.  Spock's mouth follows his master's cock, catching everything that bursts from it.  It's warm and it's creamy and it keeps coming, even as Spock swallows a mouthful.  It tastes the way it always does, unpleasant but not unbearable.  He hardly even notices the taste anymore.

Khan shifts in his chair, his body beginning to relax.  He takes a deep breath and sighs, dropping Spock's hand from his mouth.

Spock's eyelashes flutter against his cheeks.  He laps at Khan's cock, cleaning the dribbling cum that slipped out around his mouth and slid down Khan's shaft.  His finger is aching but he doesn't bother to check it, just balls up his hand and presses his finger against his palm to slow the bleeding.

He nuzzles his face into Khan's crotch and plants a docile kiss on his cock, just the way he was trained to do.  He swallows hard, eyes tightly shut.

"I thank you," he breathes.

He used to hate those words.  They would burn as he said them, twist in his gut and remind him of just how ridiculous this pretense was.  As if he was being granted this grand gift for which he should be thankful.

But now they slip out easily.

He doesn't care.  Perhaps he even means them.

He is not sure anymore.

Chapter Text

Spock dislikes crowds.

He dislikes jostling against other bodies, catching snippets of others' thoughts and emotions as they pass.  It can be overwhelming.

Perhaps he should be grateful Khan doesn't take him outside very often.

Khan strides purposefully through the narrow market streets, Spock trailing a step behind his shoulder.  A thin chain connects the two: one end clips to the ring on Spock's collar. The other end hooks solidly to Khan's belt, long enough to ensure Spock doesn't step on the back of his master's shoes yet short to keep him close.

As if Spock would run away.

Spock's lips twitch wryly at the thought. Running would be ridiculous, useless, entirely illogical.  He wouldn't get three steps before he would be on his knees, shaking from the agonizer in his collar.  And even, in the extremely low chance that he did manage to get away, there would be no point.

Where would he even go, or do?  He's been a slave forever.  He serves, and he warms beds, and little else.  He knows no other life.  It has been beaten into his head that he is useless otherwise; that has no other skills, and would not know how to translate them into the free world even if he did.

When Spock was young, before The Master Who Was His Father sold him, his mother would smile sadly at him, cupping his bruised face in her hand.  She would tell him, softly, that he was too smart for the life she lived, the life to which he was doomed from birth.  She would tell him that he deserved so much more.

And for a brief time, he had believed her.  He had held on to that hope.

But she was wrong, he now knows.  He is not better than this life.  Not after the ways he has been broken, the things he has been forced to do.  The things he has done without being forced.

This life was practically tailor-made for a halfbreed like him.  He is not worth anything else.  Perhaps being a slave is all he can do, but he makes himself good at it.  And Khan, for all his shortcomings, is not the worst master he has ever had.

He can almost hear his mother's mournful voice whispering an old Terran saying: Better the devil you know.

No, Spock will never run.  The chain at his throat is purely for aesthetics: a humiliation to show his rank.  As if the collar wasn't sign enough.  But Khan is arrogant, and if he wants to parade Spock around on the end of a leash, then he will.

And Spock is dressed to be paraded.

He is barefoot.  A thin lace tunic drapes suggestively across his torso: long sleeved, its neck cut in a shallow 'V,' jet black to match his hair and conceal the worst of his injuries.  His lower body is stuffed into too-tight shorts that, with each step, pinch and chafe the knife wounds on the inside of his thighs.

He pushes through the discomfort.  Each step is smooth, hiding his injuries with a seemingly effortless elegance.  It is something he has perfected.

Never let them see your pain.  Never let them know you even feel it.  Control it, control yourself, keep up appearances.

Never look like the broken toy you actually are.

Spock is almost relieved when Khan turns out of the crowd into a near-abandoned street and down a flight of stairs to push open a dingy door.  The Vulcan still doesn't know what they're here for; he is fairly certain Khan isn't selling him, but he refuses to assume anything without facts.

They enter a darkened basement room.  An old alien woman is there and she waves them back into a hallway, casting a glance at Khan that is half fearful and half awed.  Spock has found this to often be peoples' reaction to his master.

The knot of anxiety in Spock's stomach, the one he has been trying to quell for hours, intensifies.  A darkened basement is exactly the place for a depraved sort of sex party, and flashes of memories are gathering, unbidden, at the front of his mind.  None of them from his time with Khan— the augmented human does not like to share— but there is always a first time for everything, Spock knows.  He focuses on breathing and on walking.  He will be good for his master, he won't show his fear.  He won't feel his fear; he is stronger than it.  There is nothing he can do to stop whatever is going to happen, so it is illogical to be afraid.

They reach their destination at the end of the hall and Khan throws the door open, walking in with so much force he practically yanks Spock across the threshold.

This room is lit better than the entire rest of the basement combined.  Seven people sit around a long table, talking amongst themselves.  They all fall deadly silent at Khan's entrance.

One of them, perhaps the leader, rises to her feet in an instant.  She half-bows toward Khan, sweeping her arms out in an alien gesture of greeting.  "Welcome, Sir.  It is always an honour, yet...."  She hesitates, swallows, licks her lips, "I must apologize for our disorganization.  We were not expecting you for several hours."

Khan said nothing as he crosses the room.  He merely walks up to her, invading her space until she is forced to take a step backwards, and then another.  She looks for a moment like she is going to protest, then her shoulders slump and she moves back, yielding her spot.  Khan takes her seat at the head of the table.

Spock dutifully sinks to his knees beside Khan's chair, dipping his head.  He feels a slight loosening in his chest, something like relief; this room is hardly a dungeon.  In fact, it seems more like an illicit business meeting than anything else.  That fits.

Spock's slave status means that he isn't included in his master's dealings.  But he isn't not included, either.  His position, and his proven trustworthiness, mean he is usually all but invisible, and though Khan prefers to keep business out of his home it often seeps in anyway.  Spock tries not to dwell on it— it is none of his business— but nonetheless he has a fairly good idea of what Khan is involved in.  Or rather, what Khan runs.

"Please, sit," Khan is saying to the woman, gesturing to an empty chair further down the table.  "Continue."

Spock cannot see very well from where he kneels on the floor, but he surveys the room from beneath his downcast eyelashes.  He recognizes several of the faces and voices at the table.  From screens, video calls.

 "Of course," the woman says.  She seems to have recovered from her initial shock from Khan's apparently too-early arrival.  She crosses her hands in front of her and starts to speak, but is cut off by a short man several seats down.

"I'm sorry, Sir," he says, directing his words toward Khan.  His words are apologetic, but his tone is clearly not.  "We had intended this to be a private meeting."

Spock can feel Khan stiffen nearly imperceptibly beside him.  Spock only has a few moments to wonder what this man is getting at before the man barrels on.

"Are you intending on keeping that in here the entire time?"  He spits the word out in distaste, nodding his head toward Spock.

Khan's eyebrows raise just a fraction.

"It's just a slave," someone else cuts in, clearly trying to diffuse the situation before it gets out of hand.

"I'm only saying-"

"Yes, of course," Khan says smoothly, "You merely wish to be cautious, is that correct?" The room falls silent at their leader's voice.  Khan steeples his fingers and leans minusculely forward in his chair, fixing his powerfully dark gaze on the man who had spoken.  Khan's smile is amicable but there is a danger behind his piercing eyes.

The man opens his mouth to answer but Khan cuts him off before he has the chance.  "Of course you wouldn't purposefully mean to question my judgement, or my ability to train a slave."

From the corner of his eye Spock sees the short man swallow hard, whatever answer the man had dying in his throat.  Khan's dangerous smile broadens.  He leans back, casually, and pulls out a tiny controller connected to a retractable ring at his belt. "I do not wish to make you uncomfortable, my friend," he says.  

Warning alarms are pounding through Spock's head; he can hear the hidden anger behind his master's voice clearer than anything.  Spock focuses on his breathing, in, out, in, out, and relaxes his body, preparing himself in case Khan decides to make use of that controller.  Spock's agonizer itself is located in his collar, and though Khan rarely uses it, preferring to see his slave bruise and bleed the old-fashioned way, Spock is no stranger its pain.

Khan unclips the controller and holds it out to the man.  "Here, why don't you take the remote for my pet's agonizer, since it would seem that you want to be the one in charge here."

The man shifts uncomfortably in his seat and shakes his head.

Khan continues pressing.  "Take it," he says, half-rising from his chair and holding it closer to the man's face.

There is a long, awkward silence as no one in the room moves.  Khan finally retracts his arm and sits firmly back into his seat.  "No?  So you will be able to trust my judgement after all?"

"My mistake, Sir," the man mumbles, avoiding Khan's eyes.  "The slave stays."

The deceptively amicable smile drifts away from Khan's face.  He clips the controller back onto his belt, steeples his hands again, and looks around the room to study each face.

"Then let us begin."

 

 * * *

 

The meeting is off-kilter from the beginning, owing to the fact that, Spock decides, Khan arrived hours early.  Whatever the others were planning on discussing before Khan's arrival now hangs heavy and unspoken in the air.  Spock knows that it was a calculated move on his master's part and he cannot help but have a grudging respect for Khan's foresight.  Khan knows how to command a room.

Khan's underworld ring spans several planets in this region of space; Spock quickly learns which of the members at the table control which area.  They are a motley group yet they all defer to Khan: some more begrudgingly than others, but each with a large dose of respect that very obviously stems from fear.

This is the most mental stimulation Spock has had in months.  He sits quietly, head downcast, but he does not prevent himself from listening.  They discuss a rebellion, a group's refusal to pay protection costs, punishment tactics, combat strategy.  Spock absorbs the grisly details with a detached interest, and it isn't until he hears the words "must be made an example of" that his chest sinks.

She is dragged in.

An Andorian woman, slightly younger than middle aged.  Her wrists are bound behind her, chaffing harshly under the thin cord.  Her hair is dirty and limp with drying sweat; blood crusts most of her exposed skin and seeps lazily through her torn tunic from wounds too deep to seal on their own.

She clearly does not have the strength to struggle, but when they dump her on the floor she only lies there for a few moments, panting heavily, before drawing herself up.  She tries to stand for a moment, but her right leg wobbles and she sinks back down to her knees.  Her ankle juts out at an angle; most definitely broken.

She is a member of the resistance struggling against Khan's underworld ring.  That much would have been clear even if the group hadn't just discussed it.  Even beaten and bloody she emanates a righteous anger.

One of the group members is talking.  Spock only half listens; he watches the Andorian from beneath half-closed eyelashes.

She was captured during the resistance's last attack.  She was tortured.  She did not give up any secrets. It would be helpful to have a way to read her thoughts— a Vulcan, perhaps-?

The Andorian's eyes are partially unfocused, but they sweep over Spock appraisingly.  It only takes a moment for the realization to cover her face— that Spock is a slave, not a prisoner— and then for the hatred to settle back in.  She obviously has no love for anyone who would chose to submit rather than to die.  Spock gazes cooly at her, refusing to let himself feel the guilt that threatens to rise and tear at his heart.

At the table, Khan smoothly ignores the pointed question.

Instead, he stands.

He makes his way over to the woman, his steps slow and deliberate, as if stalking her.  Looking down, he takes her head between his hands and gently lifts her face toward his.

Spock tries to avert his eyes— he knows how this will end— but he cannot make his body respond.

The woman knows, too.  Her dirty face is streaked with dried tears but she is no longer crying.  She is trembling, though, and as Khan touches her face she lets out a tiny involuntary noise of terror.

"Shhh," Khan soothes.

The woman meets his gaze head on.  Her eyes are wide, full of fear, but there is also fury and a steel resolve.  She takes a breath, glaring harshly, then spits into Khan's face.  "I hope you burn, " she hisses, loud enough for the room to hear.

Khan's hands move too fast to follow.  There is a sickening crack and in an instant the woman is dead, her body slumping lifeless to the floor, head hanging from her shoulders at a broken angle.  Her eyes remain wide and open, now staring into nothing.

For half a moment Spock feels a distant sickness.  But he shows no outward hint of his disgust, and his mind is already working to compartmentalize the scene and rationalize it all away.

The woman was foolish, and she was rash.  She followed her passions and because of that she walked into her own death.  She was never going to succeed; she knew it, and to attempt to do so despite that knowledge was illogical.  She decided that she would rather die than break.

Foolish.  Emotional.  Illogical.

It is better, Spock counsels himself, to know your place.  It is better to lie down and take it, and refrain from upsetting the status quo.  To fight is to die, he silently repeats. The mantra has been beaten into his head until he can't be sure whether it is his own thought or theirs.  But it doesn't matter because he believes it nonetheless.  Fighting gains nothing.  Fighting is undesirable, irrational.

There is less logic in dying than in being broken.  

Besides, it is too late.  He has already allowed himself to be smashed into thousands of pieces.  There is very little of Spock left to save.  He made his decision long ago, and he tells himself there is no shame in doing what he must to survive.  There is no shame in being broken if that is what he was always meant to be.

He knows that.

Then why does he hate himself so much? 

He tries to believe that he has fully chosen the logical path and has embraced his position in life the way he should, but he hasn't.  Not entirely.  He can't quite let go of his mind.

Contempt churns in his gut at the thought. 

He is a stubborn coward, unable even to choose to fight or give in.  Instead he wavers in the middle.  If he was a truly good slave, a truly logical Vulcan, then he would not continue to struggle against the minds of his masters.

Yet he does.

He can't even be a good slave.

An intense revulsion knots in his throat.  He curses himself, tries to muscle it away, but the feeling doesn't disappear, and he is far too emotionally compromised to focus.  The self-loathing only intensifies as he fails to quell the thoughts.

You are useless, his thoughts spit back at him.

Foolish.

Emotional.

Illogical.

Chapter Text

Khan invites everyone out afterwards to celebrate.

In a far corner of Spock's mind, the same corner that felt ill when the woman's neck snapped, Spock knows how twisted this is.  But he is so desensitized that it hardly registers.  It is not often that he is taken out in a public setting, but the discomfort he gets from the rowdy nightclub is far better than being left alone with the intense self-loathing that has unexpectedly taken residence in his chest and refuses to leave.

Meditation would be a better option, but at the moment it is impossible.  For now, distraction will have to suffice, and he gladly takes it.

Most of the meeting's members have chosen to accompany Khan for a drink.  There are a few who seem genuinely friendly toward their leader, but most of the others merely seem eager to do a little bootlicking.  The nightclub is loud, dark, filled with raucous music and intoxicated aliens.  Spock keeps his back straight and his arms tucked in behind him as he trails a step behind his master; the crowd and the noise are already working to overwhelm Spock's senses.  It is uncomfortable, yet a welcome, punishing relief.

Khan navigates up onto a balcony to find a table that is away from the nightclub's chaos yet allows him a high vantage point to observe the entire room.  Always on guard, always thinking two steps ahead.

He lounges in a chair while his entourage gets settled around him.

Khan unclips Spock's chain, then, and waves him off with orders to bring back drinks.

It is a terrifying command, and a clearly unfair one.  Spock can manage a household and direct other slaves with ease but when it comes to interacting with free people he is, for all practical purposes, lost.  He is clearly marked as a slave and with that comes permission for everyone to ignore him, as well as the expectation that he will act submissive in all things.  Even when buying drinks at a crowded bar.  He suspects Khan is getting a sadistic amusement, knowing full well how impossible his order may be to carry out, and Spock grits his teeth together in determination.  He will do his best to deny his master the satisfaction of watching him struggle.

Spock approaches the bar with more confidence than he actually has.  He has to harshly school himself to keep from flinching at every body that brushes against him in the crowded room, but he manages, and focuses instead on his assigned task, which is seeming more and more impossible the closer he comes to the bar.  By the time he arrives he is almost entirely overwhelmed.

This is uncharted territory.

The counter is packed with various aliens elbowing in and shouting over each other to get the bartenders' attentions.  Every time Spock sees an opening it is taken before he can move.  He ends up just standing stupidly a few feet from the bar's crowd.  With each breath the air seems to grow thicker in his lungs: suffocating, stifling.  

The collar encircling Spock's throat vibrates in warning: a tiny shock of pain that lasts only a second. Spock sucks in a breath; Khan is growing impatient.

He makes two unsuccessful attempts to place himself at the counter and both times he is shoved out of the way by someone more aggressive than himself.

A heavy hopelessness presses against his heart.  This is impossible.  He is going to fail, or at the very least he will take far too long to complete this task.  He will be punished, harshly.  Perhaps this is Khan's plan.

The self-loathing in Spock's chest only gets worse.  He can't even do a task as simple as ordering a drink.  Failure.

But giving up is not an option.

He glances around at the aliens crowded around the bar, desperately looking for someone for him to mimic, and his gaze settles on a young human man who is approaching the counter.

Spock's eyes are drawn to the human, and for a moment he nearly forgets his own overwhelmed confusion.  The man is so at ease in this social setting, his presence so commanding.  He is not pushing against the bar the way most of the other aliens are yet he appears to be in full control.  Spock watches as the man slides a hand onto the counter in between two arguing Klingons and simply waits for them to jostle each other out of the way, then steps into the open space.  He squares up his body and sets both hands on the edge of the counter, staking his territory with an easy smile.

Brilliant, Spock thinks.  It seems so effortless. 

Spock is watching him openly when the man glances across the bar and locks eyes with his.

Spock's eyes widen in horror— a free man just caught him staring— but before he can drop his gaze the other man is smiling a wide, friendly smile.  The man lifts one hand and gestures, C'mere.

It is an order, and even though it is not from his own master Spock is drawn to obey.  His legs woodenly carry him around the crowd to stand behind the human, and he wonders if he will be hit.  He should never have made eye contact.  He is trained better than that, and this man has every right to punch him in the gut for his insolence.

But the man makes no move to hurt him; instead, his face lights up as Spock approaches.  He half turns from the counter and grabs Spock's sleeve, drawing the downcast slave into his space.

"Having trouble?" the man asks, and his voice is like sunshine and air in the suffocating bar.  Spock pauses, eyeing the floor at his feet; he is at something of a loss.  But the human has asked him a direction question and is probably expecting a response, so he opens his mouth obediently to answer. The man barrels on, cutting him off before he can speak.  "What are you ordering?  I'll get it."

Spock closes his mouth, fully confused, and risks a glance up at the man.  Does this human not understand that he is a slave?  But he must know, Spock is clearly collared and even though his tunic hides most of his wounds he still looks too beaten and too emaciated to be a free man.  Even his posture and body language should clue anyone in to his status.

"I-" Spock starts, then cuts himself off, unsure of what this man considers to be the correct response.  His eyes drop back down to the floor as he debates his options.

"Hey, it's no trouble," the man says.  His tone is bewilderingly friendly.  "I'm here anyway, I can squeeze in a few more orders.  What do you need?"

Spock swallows and forces himself to speak.  "Two rounds of Andorian ale, for six.  And I need to open a tab.  Sir."

"Alright then," the man answers easily, and he turns his body back to the the counter.  Spock watches from the corner of his eye as the man stares at the closest bartender until the bartender glances to him.  The man's face tilts up and slides into a wide grin as the tender makes eye contact, and a moment later he has the alien's full attention and he's ordering.

"I'll take your strongest Scotch and two Brandies, all on the rocks."  He slides a handful of bills across the counter.  "And start a tab for my friend here," he gestures toward Spock, "for twelve Andorian ales, to be sent to his table— where are you sitting?— on the balcony."

"I need to take two of them up myself," Spock interjects, his voice now steady as he slips back into his familiar role as Khan's slave.  Khan is ever paranoid about being poisoned or drugged, though his tolerance for such things is incredibly high, and Spock would be remiss to allow anyone else to deliver his master's drinks.  "Sir," he tacks on at the end.

"You heard the man," the human says to the bartender.

And then the two drinks are pressed into Spock's bewildered hands and the human is taking his three, and nudging Spock toward the balcony stairs.  Spock glances at him for a moment, long enough to memorize the man's smile and the twinkle in his eye, his soft features, the curl of hair at his forehead. Then Spock's  eyes are looking away, once again demure and unsure.  Does this man intend to follow him?  Does he expect something from Spock in return for the man's help?  That would be logical; no one interacts with a slave without wanting something.

"Thank you, sir," he says, wary but so relieved and grateful that he almost means those words for the first time in ages.  He is not sure he will even resist if the man tries to use him, even if Khan beat the shit out of Spock for it afterwards.

But instead of pulling Spock into some darkened corner of the club and forcing repayment, the man only laughs kindly.

"Not a problem.  See you around."

And then he is gone, slipping through the crowd and back to his own table.

Spock takes a deep breath, suddenly a bit lightheaded, and makes his way back to his master.

"Took you long enough," Khan growls when he arrives, mostly for the benefit of his companions.  He knows Spock is aware of the infraction, and if the two had been alone, punishment would be delivered swiftly and silently.  But they are not alone, so Khan puts on a show.

Spock sets the drinks on the table in front of Khan, saying nothing.  Khan reaches for his pet's collar and clips the chain leash back into it.  Then he yanks it, hard, pulling Spock in close.  He hisses, "You were so slow we were beginning to wonder if you are incompetent."

There is mocking laughter from the table, so different from his human savior's friendly laughter they might as well be two different sounds.  Spock keeps his head down and relaxes for the strike he knows is coming.

Khan slaps him hard against his cheek, one hand still holding him close on the end of the chain so he cannot reel backwards from the force of the blow.  The recoil has hardly left his system before Khan is striking him again.

Spock breathes.  "My apologies, Sir.  I will be faster next time."

"Good," Khan says, dropping the chain and allowing Spock to straighten up.  "I assume the rest of the drinks are on their way?"

Chapter Text

They settle into drinking and Spock is, for awhile, ignored.

He slides gratefully to the floor next to Khan, a smoothly practiced movement. His back arches in a sensual curve, his eyelashes fluttering against his stinging cheeks as he stares at the floor, the portrait of a perfectly trained slave.  He barely needs to think anymore; he's done this so many times that his body can move on muscle memory alone.  The familiar position is comforting; when he is on his knees nothing is uncertain.  He is in his place.  He can be sure of his expectations and his status.

When he is on his knees he is not facing the world.

He takes advantage of the reprieve to steady his heart rate and breathing.  He counts silently, the numbers climbing higher in leaps and bounds, multiplying.  What he calculates is arbitrary, meaningless.  It is the act of computing that focuses his mind.

Seven stains on the floor under his knees.  Four Orion women passing the table.  Twenty-eight.  Eight darkened pixels on the screen above the bar.  Two-hundred and twenty-four.  A massive clock flashing the time, sixty-four seconds slow.  Fourteen thousand three hundred and thirty-six.  Three humans laughing at a table....

His mind stalls there.  From where Spock is kneeling he has a clear line of sight through the balcony railing, across the bar, to the table where his human acquaintance sits, sprawled out, an arm draped casually across the shoulders of the man sitting next to him.  Spock wonders why he did not notice the group earlier, and grits his teeth, silently chastising himself for his lack of situational awareness.  He allowed himself to get caught up in the moment: in his punishment, in his relief.

The human throws back his head to laugh at something one of his companions has said.  The man is too far away and the nightclub is too loud for Spock to hear it, but he can imagine the sound.  Golden, smooth, warm.

No.  

Spock catches himself before he lulls into emotionalism again.  That line of thought is ridiculous.  A person's voice is not golden, and it is not any warmer than the breath used to carry its sound.  It is merely air pushing through vibrating vocal chords, a muscle in the mouth modifying the sounds to make them carry meaning.  It is natural; there is nothing emotional about the process.

He draws himself back into rational analyzing.

The human's two companions stand out from the crowd.  They are not out of place, exactly; they would have hardly merited a second glance had they been in the bar by themselves.  They only stick out now because of how well their companion seems to blend in.

One of them is dressed in simple, comfortable clothes.  He is thin, his face wrinkled in dozens of frown-lines that are visible even at this distance.  But he isn't frowning now, merely chuckling into his glass of brandy.  The other is wearing red— some sort of uniform, though Spock cannot see any identifying insignia— and holding his Scotch with an odd mix of reverence and nonchalance, his ruddy face turned up into a sarcastic grin. 

Spock would not be surprised if those two do not often frequent nightclubs.  They seem at-ease well enough, but from their posture in their seats, their excitement, the way they appreciatively watch the women as they walk past their table, they are likely from off-planet.  Perhaps crewmen from a ship.

And then there is their friend.

He is dressed in gold and green, casual but rich, a deep V-neck revealing just slightly too much of his smooth chest. And his posture... Spock is struck once again by the idea that this human looks as if he lives here.  Though if that is because he frequents bars or because he simply possesses the ability to blend into his surroundings, Spock does not know.

Spock suddenly realizes that, standing awkwardly near the bar, he must have been easier to read than this human's two companions; his own discomfort was glaringly obvious.  No wonder this human had felt the need to step in.  Spock was practically screaming 'help me.'  Humans are emotional creatures, easily prone to anger, to happiness.  To guilt.  

Spock's lips press together in a Vulcan frown.  He'd manipulated that human without even meaning to do it.  His face dips down in a rush of chagrin, his eyes finding a stain on the carpet and resting there for a moment.

Khan's left hand slides down from where it sat on the table to rest on the top of Spock's head.  Perhaps sensing his slave's discomfort, perhaps in an unspoken forgiveness for Spock's earlier transgression.  Perhaps merely because Khan is getting drunk and wants to touch his slave.

Whatever the reason, Khan's touch holds no malice, and Spock hardly notices himself leaning slightly into the touch.  Khan makes a pleased humming sound and begins to card his fingers slowly through the slave's hair.  Spock's thoughts melts away under the touch, his mind going lax, pliant.

Khan's hand pets through Spock's hair for several minutes, then finally drifts down to his jawline.  His thumb rubs little circles behind Spock's ear, where the slave's jaw meets his neck.  Spock's brain is getting hazy, his eyes heavily lidded as he stares at the floor, and it isn't until Khan's fingers brush the side of his ear that everything snaps back into focus.

Spock doesn't swear, but his mind attacks himself with such vehemence that it nearly— nearly— surprises him.  His heart freezes and his body stiffens so minutely that even Khan with his heightened senses misses the change.

Spock was wrong.

He was so, so wrong.

It is not something that happens often, and Spock is unaccustomed to the sensation.

He is often punished for mistakes, of course— but that is different.  Spock is so rarely wrong in his logic, so rarely misses something so huge and gaping and important as this, and for a moment it floors him.

They really are in his brain.

That realization comes with a horrible sinking in his gut.

He is sitting here like an ignorant animal, pressing himself into his master's hand.  Finding comfort in his master's touch.  And it felt... natural.  His brain lulling unconsciously into a sense of security and calm at the hands of his tormenter.

They are in his brain.

No meld required.  Somehow, despite everything, despite all of Spock's fighting and blocking and meditating, they have bent his thoughts to their will anyway.  Somehow, Spock allowed this to happen.  Allowed them to break him down so far that it reached his mind, until he was sitting here, grateful— grateful— for Khan's touch.  Grateful for the forgiveness from a mistake that Khan had forced him to make in the first place.

And he didn't even notice.  

Spock's mind is reeling and attacking itself, so much so that he nearly misses the gentle tug on his collar.  Nearly.

He gets his feet underneath him just in time for Khan to pull him up.  Spock's knees creak as they unbend, and then he is standing woodenly next to his master's chair.

Khan half-turns his head to face his Vulcan.  Spock can smell the drunkenness on his breath, sour and sickly.  Khan's face is lax but his eyes are still sharp.  Not fully intoxicated, then.

Khan's gaze is hot and lustful, and he runs a hand across Spock's chest.  Then he grabs at the thin chain hanging from Spock's throat and draws him in close to plant an open-mouthed kiss on his lips.

Spock's mind spins and grasps at threads of logic, running nearly too fast to keep up, even as his body pliantly moves to serve his master.  He can feel the lecherous eyes of everyone at the table on his skin.  Khan's hand slides down his body, slowly, coming to a stop at the short hem of his tunic.  His kisses are drunken, wet, less controlled than usual.  His lips migrate along Spock's jawline to his neck, his fingers begin traveling up, grasping at the fastener on Spock's shorts.  Undoing it so Khan's hand can slide inside and possessively fondle his slave.

Spock is motionless.  This is happening, right here.  It is nothing that hasn't happened hundreds of times before.  This really cannot be his fault; he can't be responsible for something he is being forced to do.  And yet....

He knows he has choices.  Meager choices, and all of them bad, but nonetheless they are there.

Spock's body leans into the touch and his brain begins to fog again.  He can sense himself slipping away.

And so, in an instant, he decides.

When Khan moves to bite his ear Spock dodges, turns his face away.  Khan's lips miss their mark and brush his cheek for half a second before Spock is moving, gracefully propelling his body one step back and just out of reach.

"No," Spock says, voice cracking from disuse but loud enough to be heard above the surrounding din.

It is worth it, for that one shining moment, to see the shock on his master's face. Spock's chain slips through Khan's fingers like water, dropping to clink gently down the center of his chest. Khan blinks once, mouth gapeing like a beached fish. Then his surprise flips to rage.

Spock lifts his head to meet Khan's gaze, staring him down with open defiance. It takes every ounce of resolve he possesses not to drop his eyes and cower like the good slave he has been formed into.  Spock can see the fury burning behind Khan's gaze, can feel it radiating from him in waves of blank heat too powerful to block completely from Spock's mind, even as he stands an arm's reach away. As the seconds slink past with an agonizing sluggishness Spock fights to keep his gaze steady, unemotional.

It is a willful act of defiance, and both of them know it. Spock is perfectly trained, beaten into the semblance of a flawless slave; he makes no mistakes out of personal discomfort or ignorance or forgetfulness. His life is serving his master, and nothing else.

That stubborn, last-ditch act of defiance is all he has left of himself, as faint as it is, but he clings to it.

And so Spock watches to see what Khan will do.

He doesn't have long to wait.  It is only a moment before Khan's fury bursts over him like a boiling flood.  Khan practically tears the agonizer controller from his belt and slams his hand onto it, forgoing the safety mechanism and turning it to the highest setting.

The pain is white-hot and momentarily blinding.

Spock's legs give out and he slides down to his knees and still the pain does not stop. Every nerve in his body is burning, burning, burning, and it's all he can do to keep from crying aloud. His face, he knows, is wrenching in pain: a necessary concession.

Khan must be delighted, even through his fury: Spock rarely reacts.  Though Spock never completely blocks his ability to feel he is normally able to control the intensity and his reaction to it.  Pain is a useful, necessary tool to keep his body functioning safely.  He dulls the pain, decreases his mind's connection between sensation and experience, but never fully severs the connection.

Yet now, even through the dulled connection, Spock can hardly keep himself from screaming in agony.

He wonders, distantly, if this time he is going to die. The thought is almost comforting. He has long since made peace with the idea that his only escape will be in death.

The pain grows stronger, the agonizer in his collar now humming dangerously loud and heating rapidly to the touch. He's never heard of an agonizer physically hurting its victim, but he's not sure if the tiny model in his collar was ever meant to amp up this high. It is possible that it has malfunctioned.

He can barely feel the pain at his neck above the screeching pain coursing through the rest of him, but he can smell the acrid scent of burning flesh-- his burning flesh--, and it makes his stomach turn. He chokes back a mouthful of bile and little else, glad for half a moment that he hasn't eaten in well over a day, and then he decides he doesn't care, because if he is going to die it doesn't matter if he makes a mess.

The sounds of the nightclub fade away until the agonizer is all he can hear, buzzing relentlessly, echoing through every nerve. He is choking despite himself, bent forward on his hands and knees, clutching desperately at his throat in a vain attempt to pull off the collar. His fingertips are burning, his eyes are watering behind tight lids, and he knows without a doubt that this time he has gone too far. This time he is dead.

He catches himself, forces his damaged hands away from his throat and bites his lip to keep from screaming. He is a Vulcan.  He can bear this.  He will go out with as much dignity as he can muster. Khan will not have the satisfaction of watching him break. One last act of defiance. He can manage one last act of defiance.

There is a sharp kick to his ribs and all the air leaves his lungs in a whoosh. The second kick comes with a sickening crunch and it sends him tumbling across the floor.

He is yanked up by a fist in his hair, dragged, violently thrown over the balcony railing.  For one terrifying second his body is airborn and then he crashes onto a table, sending glass shattering in every direction.  Something snaps.

Khan leaps from the balcony to land solidly on the table next to Spock.  Spock's eyes are shut tight but he can feel his master's raging mind.  Khan lifts a foot and presses it to Spock's chest and grinds the slave's shoulderblades into the shards of broken glass.  Spock gasps for air, barely able to suck in a shallow breath before Khan kicks his body onto the floor.

There is laughter, cheering, a raucous clamoring commotion as some of the nightclub patrons join in on the action.  More blows rain down on the huddled Vulcan, more than could come from Khan alone. Spock grunts, coughs, bites harder on his lip.  He can taste copper blood.  It's pouring from his mouth, choking his lungs, seeping from Surak-only-knows where else.

Everything inside is screaming, screaming, screaming.

He can't take it anymore.  He is teetering on the wrong edge of breaking.  Spock reaches out into his mind and in one desperate action completely severs the connection between sensation and awareness.

It's a drastic move, but he is dying, and it doesn't matter anymore.  Pain no longer serves a purpose.  He watches with a horrible numbness as his body breaks.  He can't feel it, now can't feel anything: not the floor against his back, not the lace against his skin, not the beating of his pulse.  His brain seems to float, disconnected, no longer tethered.  But it is a false peace; his body is giving out whether he registers it or not, and the world slowly begins to swim.

Then voices are shouting; a phaser fires, and then fires again.  As Spock slips gratefully from consciousness he can hear one voice yelling above everything, "Stop, what are you doing, Stop—"

A body throws itself across him, absorbing the next kick.

And then there is nothing in Spock's world but numbing blackness.

Chapter Text

His senses return so gradually that he cannot pinpoint the exact time they begin to work again.

The beeps and mechanical whirs— background noises— slide into focus first.  After awhile there are voices, too, though for a time he cannot understand the words.  The sounds are there and they are familiar, but they are not connecting with his consciousness.  

He feels no alarm at this, no confusion or puzzlement or frustration.  Just a blank acceptance that could only stem from unconsciousness, too wholly apathetic to even be Vulcan.  He knows either he will comprehend or he will not comprehend and there is nothing to do to change this.

He drifts.

Time is of no value; it could be minutes, it could be hours before eventually the words begin to register meaning.

"I don't know Jim, he's a Vulcan. I don't know." The voices are hazy, distant. A pair of cold hands ghost over his chest, pressing gently here and there, uncomfortable but not painful.

He tries to open his eyes but his body doesn't respond, and it takes him a foggy moment to realize he is not actually conscious. He can hear his heartbeat, sluggish in his veins, and his breathing is so slow, so shallow it might not even be there at all. There is pain, but it is far away, disconnected, like it belongs to another's body and not his own. At this distance he can experience it slowly, with control, categorize it and heal.

Memory does not yet return.  He is devoid of a past, of experiences and thoughts; he is merely a mind adrift in sensation and sound and nothing else.  He knows he is injured but he does not know why or how.  Nor does he wonder; the reason simply does not matter.  

It takes his sluggish brain awhile to realize what his body is doing.  It has been a long while since he last instigated a healing trance, and he has never before slipped into one involuntarily. He must be in bad shape this time.

This time

His brain accepts the statement without wondering about the ramifications of that statement.

"—back to the ship's computers, he might have a chance," the voice is saying. It is gruff and scratchy, distinct even through the fog and distance in his mind.

Another voice rumbles something in response, but he is sliding back into the haze and cannot parse the sounds into words.

And then he knows

He is dying.  

The realization comes without fear or emotion. It is another thing that simply is.

He slips out of the healing trance.

He is just so exhausted.  He cannot keep this up.  It is over now.  He cannot remember what is over.  It does not matter what.  He does not care.

He lets the world fall away as he sinks, slowly, into nothingness.

Tired.

The pain is gone.

Sleep.

The sounds fade into silence.

Enough.

.

Then something reaches through the void to touch him.  It is hardly anything at first; a dim sensation that he can only feel because there is absolutely nothing else to feel.  But it is there, leeching into his mind, and it slowly pulls him from the darkness where he was flickering out.  It isn't an emotion, just a sense of resolve that is so strong and so passionate that it fills his empty, hazy mind, and begins to lead him upwards.

There are sounds, again: faint sounds.

He slowly becomes aware of a warm pressure resting gently on his shoulder. For a few moments he can only identify it as the source of the resolve, and he focuses on it, drawing himself back toward cognizance. Then he becomes aware that it is a hand.  A hand on his shoulder, unwittingly connecting him to the mind of another Being.

The pain returns.

Through the connection he catches snippets of thoughts that are not his own— though they are less like thoughts and more like feelings— and he doesn't have the energy to force himself to block them out, so he drifts with them as they flow in and out of his consciousness. There is an underlying tone of comfort, security, warmth, but it is threaded together with worry and laced with righteous anger.  And heavy, almost, with something like guilt but far less intense.  Responsibility, perhaps.

But the strongest sensation by far is an intense confidence and drive.  It is not an emotion or a clear thought, it is just so much a part of who this Being is that it cannot help but bleed over.

Spock has no strength of his own to fight for himself.  But he does not need it.   He draws the will to survive from this other Being, and finds that he can focus on his healing trance.

The world falls out of focus again but this time it is a very different sensation.  Rather than fading out, his body is capturing his attention.  His heartbeat is becoming the only thing he can hear, pumping slowly.  He becomes acutely aware of every vein, every artery, every muscle, every cell in his body.  He can sense every problem, every injury.

He directs his body toward repair.

There is so much.  So much of his body is on the verge of failure.

But he will do this, he knows, though he is unsure if the thought is even his.

He will live.

Chapter Text

By the time the shuttlecraft reaches its destination Spock's condition is tentatively stable.  He has managed to tend to the immediately life-threatening injuries just enough to stay alive but they are far from repaired.  If he were not deep in a healing trance he would still be dying.  But he has mended himself just enough, and in the trance his heart rate and breathing are so sluggish that he has managed to control the bleeding beneath his skin.  He is alive, but barely.

He is still hazy to the outside world when the shuttlecraft doors open.  The comforting hand is pulled away from his shoulder, leaving only a dark, suffocating isolation.  But he cannot react.  He cannot do anything.  He is barely aware of noises and sensations as his body is lifted onto a med trolley and wheeled onto a turbolift.

He is delivered quickly to somewhere, where his body is transferred onto a table.  His tunic is efficiently cut away and removed, his shorts following moments later.  Equipment hums around him and distant voices discuss his fate, saying things he already knows.  

He has suffered severe blunt force trauma resulting in primarily internal injuries.  Two ribs are broken, a lung is punctured, his kidneys are injured and failing.  He has a severely burned throat, a compound fracture of the clavicle, damage to surrounding nerves.  Multiple lacerations, muscle damage.  Much internal bleeding, though by now it has all either slowed or stopped.

The doctor seems puzzled at why he is even alive.

Spock carefully filters out all sounds and sensations until he is focused only on his body.  He cannot afford to be distracted.  Allowing his mind to focus on the medical equipment and his body's naked helplessness means leaving himself open to apprehension, perhaps even fear.  Doctors, in his experience, are dangerous and untrustworthy.

And being exposed and unable to move is a sensation that is uncomfortably familiar.  Anything could happen to him now and he could not prevent it.  So rather than letting himself succumb to the distraction of fear, Spock blocks everything.

There are no guarantees that he will be left alone long enough to recover.

But he tries.

* * *

It is days before he is well enough to slip closer toward consciousness, and several more before he nearly has the ability to exit the trance completely.  He spends the time in between listening to the conversations around him, trying to sort through the sounds and puzzle together where he is.

He finally gathers that he is in a sickbay on some sort of ship.  A military ship, possibly a large one, given the ranks he hears before crewmembers' names and the sheer amount of traffic the sickbay seems to get.

He has two doctors tending to him and a small handful of nurses.  McCoy, he learns, is the one with the rough voice; it takes Spock a few moments to place it, but eventually Spock realizes McCoy had been with him on the shuttlecraft.  Not the one who was touching his shoulder, but the man with the cold hands.

McCoy gives the orders and oversees his general care.  The other doctor, the one who tends to the details, is named M'Benga, and he seems to be more familiar with Vulcan physiology.  M'Benga was the one who recognized the healing trance for what it was and discouraged the idea of invasive operation, suggesting instead they allow the Vulcan to heal internally on his own.

Perhaps the most interesting bit of information Spock gathers is about the ship's Captain.  The man visits briefly a handful of times over the days Spock is unconscious, and Spock is mildly surprised to learn that he recognizes the Captain's voice and presence.  He is undoubtably the man in the nightclub and just as undoubtably the man who had unwittingly donated his energy and saved Spock's life in the shuttlecraft.

Spock does not know what to make of the fact that this man has been his savior twice.  It is a puzzling idea.  Why feel the need to rescue a worn-out, second-hand slave, especially one who was so near to death?  Saving and repairing Spock was illogical.  Spock was more trouble than he was worth, quite literally.  With the amount of medical attention Spock required it would cost these people less to purchase a shiny new slave, or perhaps even two.

They must have no need for his body, then.  It seems obvious once he thinks of it; the doctors and nurses have not touched him more than necessary and all of their touches had been clinical.  At least in the time he had been aware of his surroundings, no one had felt him up or groped him or taken advantage of the fact that he was helpless.  In fact, by that time, he had been dressed in a soft robe and covered with a blanket.

They must want him for some other reason.  The idea is intimidating; he has never been anything more than a body, and the fact that these people might have another use in store for him is not a comforting idea.

Perhaps it is his connection to Khan.

That thought brings about a small measure of peace to his puzzled mind.  Of course it is not about Spock; he was foolish to even think it might be.  He is useless except in his relation to someone else.

Things that hadn't made sense snapped into place.  Of course the Captain would be nice to him in the nightclub; presuming the Captain knew he was Khan's slave, he must have been scoping him out.  Khan is powerful.  He is a man with many enemies.  And even though he is merely a slave, Spock is Khan's slave.  They must think he knows information, and are waiting for him to wake up so they can interrogate him.

He is near to waking.  He is not fully healed, but his injuries are manageable and can be trusted now to finish healing on their own.

He decides he will cooperate with these humans.  He has no particular love for his master—or perhaps he should be thinking of Khan as his previous master, since Khan is nowhere to be found.  

He will do his best to please them when he wakes, and maybe these humans will not find it necessary to punish him.

Chapter Text

Waking up turns out to be a bit of a debacle.

Though Spock has never before brushed so near to death, there have been a handful of times in which his injuries were severe enough for him to risk a healing trance.   Each of them were short, lasting little more than a single night; when morning came he was always beaten out of his trance by an irritated master.  Yet each of them were fully worth it; the beating was always surface pain, far less than the internal injuries he had risked punishment to heal.

He has never seen a healing trance through to its natural end and he intends to keep it that way.  Perhaps it is impatience and fear that motivates him to wake early, but he convinces himself that it is the logical thing to do.  Logically, he is well enough and his body no longer needs focused healing to finish repairing itself.  Logically, the less time he is vulnerable the better.  Logically, he should decide to wake before a human gets annoyed and makes the decision for him.

He begins to rouse himself just before M'Benga's shift is over.  Almost immediately the doctor notices the fluctuation of Spock's bioreadings, and he informs McCoy to keep a steady watch over him.  The two doctors have previously discussed the details of a Vulcan trance and nothing else is said before M'Benga leaves.

It takes nearly one Earth hour for Spock to bring his body back online.  Each system returns slowly.  His heart, his lungs, his kidneys, everything speeding up and reclaiming their proper functions.  

And then he can't pull himself up.

For a moment he is confused.  Everything is working properly, or near to it.  He should be conscious, but he is not.  His mind is merely hovering, as if waiting for something.  He runs a system check and slowly it dawns on him that he might not be able to wake on his own.

Not without violence.

The doctors had been discussing this days ago, the way Vulcans must fight to regain consciousness from a healing trance.  How pain helps them to surface, and how there is limited time for the Vulcan to wake up before they are lost forever.  It is all something Spock knows, theoretically, but has never before had opportunity to experience.

He can feel himself backsliding and the realization is terrifying.  He fights with himself, struggling to reconnect his brain and wake up, but he can't quite get there.  He throws himself into the walls of his mind, an irrational panic taking over.  He can't die.  He can't.  He has come too far to let himself die now.  He can feel his body's pain, far away and fuzzy.  It's not enough.  He needs more but he cannot move his body.

Wake up, wake up, wake up.

"Please."

He does not realize that he has spoken the thought aloud until McCoy responds.  A hand presses to each of Spock's shoulders, firm but gentle, as the doctor leans forward to inspect him.  "You aren't conscious yet," the doctor mumbles.  He seems to be speaking to himself.

Then the doctor's voice grows slightly louder, now addressed to Spock.  "Please what?  What are you asking?"

It is an all-too familiar question.  The rational part of Spock's mind knows what the doctor asks but he is drowning in emotion.  It is too easy for memory to surge forward and take over, and before he can do anything about it his mind has gone completely slack and he is speaking the memorized words in a toneless voice.

"Please, Sir, allow me the honor of pleasuring you."

Khan's hands are a heavy weight on his shoulders that he cannot even begin to struggle against, Khan's tight smile is leering down at him.

Spock's hands lift slowly and reach up, reaching for his master's pants, reaching to undo the fastenings, but they move so slowly.  Khan is impatient; perched atop Spock, he grinds his hips down against his slave's.  Spock desperately tries to make his hands respond faster so it can all just be over but they won't, they can't, and the sandstorm of Khan's lust is choking him and it is too much to bear for even a single second longer and—

"Hey," Khan says, shaking Spock's shoulders.

Spock chokes, tries to make himself obey, but he cannot move, and—

"Hey! HEY!" Khan's voice gets louder, but the voice is not Khan's, it is—

"C'mon, Vulcan, wake up!  Snap out of it!"

McCoy.

Spock is suddenly back in the sickbay, clawing himself out of a coma.  He can feel his chest rising and falling far too quickly, pain in his lungs stabbing at him with each uncontrollable breath.  The pain focuses him, and he struggles upwards, but the surface is too far away.  He was distracted for too long.  He feels like lead and it seems he is sinking; he can't reach his goal; he is going to slip away into unconsciousness forever.

McCoy is getting agitated.  He shakes Spock's shoulders harder.  "I don't want to hurt you, dammit," he growls.  "Wake up."

Spock cannot respond.  The monitors are beeping and wailing, alerting to the danger.

"Dammit ," McCoy says again, and his hands are suddenly gone.  Something small and solid is roughly pressed against Spock's shoulder in their place, and—

Spock's nerves explode with pain.  It lasts less than a second, but it yanks him violently up.  He gasps, fights, doesn't quite make it out.

"C'mon," the doctor urges under his breath, and presses again.  Spock's body jerks, and then he is conscious, his eyes flying open and his hands coming up to grab at the agonizer on his shoulder.

He stops himself the moment he realizes what he is doing.

He makes himself slow down.  He slides his hands back down to lie on the bed, forcibly slows his breathing, forces himself to look up at the doctor.  He hopes his own eyes do not give away his pain and fear.

McCoy is also winded, though he makes no effort to hide his heavy breathing.  He pulls the agonizer away and tosses it with a clatter onto a nearby table, then hovers over the bed, no longer touching Spock but ready to intervene should he need to.  McCoy studies him closely for a few moments.  The doctor's wide blue eyes are uncomfortably piercing.  Spock diverts his own eyes away and McCoy finally draws back with a sigh.

"Nearly lost you there," he says gruffly, reaching for his tricorder.  He is quiet for a minute as he holds the scanner over Spock's body.  Spock keeps himself completely still.

"Well," McCoy finally says, "you ain't healed, but you ain't dead either, so I'd call that a victory."  He pauses for a moment, as if waiting for the Vulcan to respond.  Spock doesn't, and the doctor continues speaking.

"I expect you have some questions noodling around in that head of yours, but you just lie back and rest a moment."

The command seems redundant since the Vulcan is already lying still, but it is not Spock's place to point that out.  Perhaps the doctor is merely making sure Spock knows he has permission to remain on the furniture.  That would be logical.

He watches the doctor walk to a command panel and page the Captain.  "Jim, you can come down here anytime.  He's awake."

"On my way," the Captain's voice says, clipped and precise, and the communication is shut off.

McCoy makes his way back to the bed and absently monitors the readings above it.  "Y'know, you're lucky to be alive.  I suppose it's that amazing Vulcan physiology."  He pauses to study Spock for a moment, then goes back to the monitor.  "You aren't full Vulcan, though, huh?  You're laid out like a Vulcan but your readings are a little off from normal.  Dr. M'Benga guesses half human."

He pauses again as if waiting for an answer, but since there was no direct question Spock obediently says nothing.

The doctor sighs.

"Well, you've had plenty of the right fluids so you shouldn't immediately need anything.  Your ribs and clavicle are broken and still healing, but your lungs are nearly recovered and your kidneys are functioning within what I assume are Vulcan parameters."  He gestures vaguely toward Spock.  "We fixed up all the bruises and lacerations on the surface.  Took about a pound of glass out of your back, and that damned collar was fused to the skin like you wouldn't imagine; it was a hell of a thing to remove.

"You do have quite a few scars— old ones— but we elected to leave those until you could tell us if you wanted them repaired or not."

Spock does not visibly react, but he is fully confused.  They want to repair his scars?  Why?  And why didn't these doctors just do it?  What does it matter if Spock has an opinion on his scars?  His body doesn't belong to him; he doesn't make the decisions.

Once again McCoy pauses and waits, as if for a response.  Spock says nothing and the doctor's frown deepens. He leans forward, trying to make eye contact, but Spock's eyes remain firmly cast downward. McCoy finally lets out a heavy sigh, his frustration buzzing through the room.

"There ain't nothing wrong with your ears, is there? Your voice?  Can you hear me?"

It is a direct question. Spock blinks slowly, stares down at his hands, parts his lips, forces his voice out. "I can hear you, Sir."

"Well then speak up!" the doctor snaps. "No need to sit there in silence. It's unnerving."

Spock's heart sinks.  He has done something wrong already.  His fear and confusion are shamefully uncontrollable, churning his stomach into nauseous knots. It is all he can do to prevent the emotions from showing on his face.  This man wants him to, what? Speak? React? Converse? Is the doctor testing him? Spock hasn't been allowed to speak to free people outside of yes-sir's and I-apologize-sir's and thank-you-sir's for nearly as long as he can remember. But here, his silence seems to upset this doctor. A twinge of frustration courses through him. How can he be expected to serve when he doesn't understand the parameters?

"I apologize for causing discomfort, Sir" he murmurs, his voice barely more than a whisper. He resists the undignified urge to curl into himself, and waits for punishment.

The doctor only sighs again. "Look, boy-"

But whatever he's going to say is cut off by the whoosh of the sickbay doors sliding open. Spock sees the Captain first, and before the doctor can even turn himself around Spock is propelling himself off the medtable and sliding to his knees on the floor.  McCoy stops turning and yelps in surprise, quickly moving to grab Spock's elbow and yank him up.  Spock stiffens against the grasp, ignoring the stabbing pain in his shoulder and chest and pulling himself back down.  It is the Captain.  He needs to kneel.

"Bones," the Captain says quietly.  The doctor immediately stills, then, as if responding to an unspoken order, releases the Vulcan's arm and steps back.

Spock can barely stop the tremble of relief that courses through him as he is allowed to stay down in the familiar position.  The Captain understands.  The Captain will tell him what to do now, and he will do it the best he can, and everything will be better.  He will not have to be confused or afraid because he will have orders to follow.

But instead, the Captain crouches down next to him.

Spock swallows back a mouthful of bile, hoping for all the universe that he is in control enough to prevent himself from vomiting on the Captain's boots. This is wrong.  This is so wrong.

"Hello," the Captain says.  His face is on level with Spock's, his voice is friendly and conversational. "I believe I forgot to introduce myself earlier.  I'm Captain Jim Kirk.  What is your name?"

At least he asked a direct question.

"I am called Spock, Sir," Spock says, his throat crackling.  "But I will answer to whatever you desire."

"Spock."  The Captain mulls the name over on his tongue, seeming pleased.  "Well, Spock, welcome aboard the Enterprise.  I apologize that your arrival was... turbulent, but I'm glad to see you doing better."

Spock nods once in acknowledgement, keeping his eyes trained on the floor, wondering how bad, really, it would have been to die.

McCoy shifts next to them as if to speak, but the Captain holds up a hand to stop him.

"Spock, my Chief Medical Officer seems to be getting nervous with you all the way down here.  Could you get back up on the bed for me?"  Though the Captain phrased it like a question it is undoubtably an order. 

"Yes, sir," Spock says obediently.  But he cannot bring himself to move until the Captain gets to his feet.  Then Spock rises, cautiously keeping his head bowed, and lies back onto the bed.  He is suddenly very glad to be wearing the long blue robe.  It covers most of his body, and though he is naked below it, the robe offers him a feeble layer of protection against whatever is about to happen to him now.

"Good.  Thank you." The Captain's smile is apparent in his voice.  Spock calms internally, just slightly, at the praise.  The Captain's gratitude is strange but he doesn't stop to ponder it; Spock did something right and that is what matters.

"Jim, may I speak with you a moment?"

McCoy draws the captain aside. This, Spock wonders at; the action is bizarre and wholly unnecessary. Spock is more than used to people speaking over him while he is present, ignoring him like the object he is. This semblance of courtesy— if that's what this is— is bewildering. And more than a little alarming.

If something is to be decided he would rather know.  He hates not knowing what is going on; it leaves him in the dark with too few facts to draw accurate conclusions.  But he is well aware that it does not matter what he prefers.  Free people will make decisions and he will be grateful for whatever he is given.

At the moment Spock is grateful these humans seemed to have forgotten about Vulcan hearing.  He knows he should not listen, but he cannot stop himself.  They have moved across the room and are speaking in hushed tones, their faces turned away from him, but he has no trouble hearing the conversation.

"How is he?"

"Not well, but alive.  His broken bones are still a little messed up, but give him some time and they will heal.  He doesn't appear to be in pain, but I'll wager he is and he's just hiding it well."  The doctor shrugs.  "Not much of a talker, that one."

"No, he wouldn't be."

McCoy sighs.  It seems to be a common action for the doctor.  "Guess not.  When he woke he went into some sort of... well, I'd call it a panic attack, but I don't know if Vulcans can have panic attacks.  Heavy breathing, though, and he moved like he was hallucinating.  But maybe that's normal."  He shrugs.  "I'd like to keep an eye on him for a few days, make sure his healing is on the right track, but after that you can have 'im."

So that's it, Spock thinks.  His guess was correct; he now belongs to the Captain.  In a few days the Captain will take him, question him, use him however he sees fit.  He half expects the Captain to protest and take him from sickbay immediately, but he doesn't, he just nods his agreement.

It is strange.  All of it is so strange.  These humans are taking the time to heal him the way no one has done before.  There is a thought, tiny in the back of his mind, that suggests they do not enjoy seeing him in pain.  But he knows that is untrue, and he pushes it away.  There is no use making assumptions like that.  In his experience, healing only happens to conceal injury before an auction.  Or when his masters want his skin pristine so they can take him apart all over again.  Doctors are not a good thing; healing is not a good thing.  It is a warning that worse is to come.

The two humans make their way back to the bed.  Spock lies still, stares at his hands, and pretends as if he hadn't heard anything as they approach.  The doctor busies himself with a monitor while the Captain walks up next to Spock and looks down at him.  "Are you comfortable?" he asks.

No.  Of course not.  Even on a good day Spock is never comfortable, and right now he is afraid and exposed and in pain and everything around him is bewildering.  He does not know how to respond to the question.  It seems loaded; is there a right answer?  With his previous masters there wasn't.

He finally nods once, slightly, giving the answer he hopes the Captain wants to hear.  "Yes, sir."

The Captain does not answer.  Spock wills his body to remain relaxed, and after a moment he risks a glance up through his downcast eyelashes.  The Captain is smiling down at him, but he does quite not look happy.  There is something damp and heavy about his expression that Spock cannot quite place.

"Well," the Captain finally says.  "Get some rest.  Feel free to let Bones know if you need anything.  He's a grouch, but underneath his bedside manner he's a big soft healer at heart."

McCoy grumbles in protest and shoos the Captain out of the medbay with a playful "Stop telling my patient lies," and a "Get outta here."

The Captain chuckles and goes willingly.  He pauses in the doorway.  "Bones?"  His voice is soft; Spock is unsure if the Captain intends for Spock to overhear or not.  McCoy stops and looks at the Captain, leaning forward just slightly to listen.

"Yeah Jim?"

"Try to be gentle."

Chapter Text

The console is mocking him.

It is an utterly human notion.  Spock's lips press subtly together in disapproval.

The console in question is hovering on a long swinging arm half a meter away, nothing but a screen: it is inanimate and therefore cannot mock anyone.  It isn't even turned on.

But that is just it.  It is sitting there beside the bed, offering the allure of mental stimulation, and yet he cannot touch it.  He wants so badly to reach forward and activate the screen. But he has not been given permission and he knows better than to ask.  If they want him to touch it then they will tell him to do so.  Otherwise, he will wait and act as if he does not have a single independent thought.

He is no longer an intensive care patient.  He is stationed on a secluded bed in the back of the sickbay and the doctors check in on him only twice a day: M'Benga at the start of his evening shift and McCoy in the mornings.  They are generally quick about it.  M'Benga is very professional and seems to have experience with Vulcans.  He does not attempt to hold a conversation the way McCoy does, nor does he withhold information.  He merely informs Spock of his bioreadings and gently but pointedly reminds him to let the nurses know if he needs anything.

Spock has yet to do so.  He cannot think of anything he needs.  Rather, he has more than he could have asked for.  He is clothed, nearly enough to be warm.  He is given multiple blankets and allowed to rest on a bed rather than on the floor.  He is left alone; no one groping or forcing their hands on him.  He receives scheduled nourishment several times a day through various hyposprays.

The hyposprays are M'Benga's idea.  Spock's stomach is unused to digesting, and when he vomited the first broth they tried to feed him— and subsequently slid from the bed onto the floor, trembling and apologizing— M'Benga decided to keep him on hyposprays until further notice.  Less traumatic for everyone involved, he had said.

Spock sleeps on and off the first few days.  He had intended to stay awake and alert as much as possible, but his body is too exhausted, and McCoy threatened to sedate him if he did not sleep on his own.  "You're stretched too thin," the doctor had scolded when the nurses notified him of Spock's self-induced insomnia.  "You'll let yourself heal or I'll do it for you."

Still, Spock nearly prefers McCoy's company to that of the nurses.  They look at him with such unbridled pity it makes him want to curl up under the blankets and hide from their stares.  He doesn't, of course.  But he has thought about it enough times to be disgusted with himself for even considering showing weakness.  

He settles for turning his face toward the wall whenever he hears one of them approach.

No one has touched him yet, but he knows it is only a matter of time.  They are probably afraid; their Captain is the one who laid claim to Spock, and though he seems to be kind he is also passionate, and it is obvious he is not a man to be messed with.

In Spock's experience, the passionate humans are often the most terrifying.  They are capable of extreme kindness, yes, but also extreme anger, and their outbursts are illogical, unpredictable.

There was no guessing with Khan.  Everything was measured.  Spock knew exactly when he was going to be punished and what he would be punished for, and that afterward he would be forgiven.  Khan sadistically played with him for no reason at times, but it was all part of their routine.  Spock knew there was no stopping it, and he could stand through anything because he knew that the next day nothing would change.  The same things would be expected of him and he would have a new chance to obey.

But here the rules are different.  He has no security, no routine, no orders.  He keeps waiting for colloquial other shoe to drop, because he knows eventually it will.

He hopes it does not catch him off guard. 

 

* * *

 

Doctor McCoy stops by on the morning of the third day with an unusually chipper grin plastered across his face.  "Good morning!" he crows, not waiting for an answer as he checks the monitors.  It's taken him a few days but he seems to have gotten the picture that Spock does not voluntarily speak.  The realization hasn't stopped the doctor from holding a one-sided conversation as he bustles around, but it has stopped him from waiting for a response that is never coming.

"You're lookin' good," he says, marking something down on his PADD.  He glances up and shoots Spock a cheerful smile.  "Guess what that means.  You'll be movin' to your own room today."

Ice settles around Spock's heart.  For a moment he feels as if he cannot breathe, but he works through it before the monitors can pick up on any irregularity.  McCoy doesn't seemed to notice, thankfully, though Spock is beginning to wonder if McCoy could pick up on any emotion that isn't broadcasted loudly and emphatically across a person's face.  The doctor's own emotions are anything but subtle, and he seems to expect everyone else to act the same.

It is just as well.  It makes it easier for Spock to conceal his emotional slip-ups.

McCoy is talking again and Spock makes himself focuses on the doctor's words.  "I'll send a yeoman to Ship's Stores to get you some appropriate clothes.  I'd ask you if there is anything you want in particular, but I assume I won't get a response?"  He pauses barely a second to confirm his guess before barreling on.  "Just gotta few tests to run and then you can head on up.  The captain's waiting, I'm sure.  He's taken quite the interest in you.  Lord knows why, you certainly aren't much for conversation."

He shrugs, depositing the PADD on a nearby tray and pulling out his tricorder.  "Sit up, will ya?  I wanna take another look at your back."

Spock obediently raises himself to a sitting position and unties his robe.  The doctor has asked this of him several times now and never done anything even close to obscene, but the act of undressing for someone still settles a pit of dread in Spock's stomach.  He forces himself to pull his arms out of the sleeves, letting the robe pool around his waist, and he leans forward to allow McCoy easy access to his back.

The doctor's fingers run over the scars he finds there, gently feeling the raised surfaces.  "You never told me if you want these fixed," he says, his voice suddenly much quieter.  "Some of them are old, but at the very least I could smooth 'em out a little.  Even repair some of the smaller ones.  If you..." he trails off as if trying to find the right words.  "If you... want to try to forget."

Spock blinks, shifts his eyes sideways to glance at the doctor.  Smoothing his scars is not going to make him forget anything.  

McCoy's face is grave, almost sad, as he looks at Spock's damaged back.  Spock wonders again why the doctor is asking.  He is aware of what his body looks like, and as skilled as these doctors seem to be he doubts much repair is even possible.  He was already scarred before Khan, but now there is barely any smooth skin left on his back, his thighs, his chest, his pelvis.  Khan enjoyed marking his slave.  Said it made him beautiful. Said it made him a work of art.

"The scars are gifts from my master, Sir," Spock finally murmurs.  It is the most information he has volunteered to the doctor and he immediately regrets it as McCoy pulls his hand back and looks down at him with poorly-concealed horror.

"Torture ain't a gift!" he says forcefully.  The weight behind the words makes it seem as if McCoy actually believes it.

It is if my master says it is, Spock thinks, but he keeps quiet.  He's caused enough distress; he isn't going to push his luck.  Obviously McCoy wants to see torture as punishment and that is just fine.  Most of his masters saw it that way too.  Most of his masters used it that way.

Khan was the only one who was more... complicated.

McCoy sighs and runs a hand over his face.  "Look, if you want to keep them, that's fine.  But if you change your mind... Well, I'll be here."

He waits, then, for a response, though he is sure to know he isn't going to get one.  He waits for longer than usual, silently watching Spock stare at the floor.

Finally he sighs again and picks up his PADD. He reads a message there before turning back to Spock.

"The Captain will be down soon to show you to your room.  In the meantime... try to get some rest."

Chapter Text

Spock does not get any rest while he waits.  He briefly considers meditating but before he can act on the idea his clothes are delivered.

A blonde nurse brings them over and gingerly sets them on the edge of the bed.  She is smiling at him, a cheerful smile that is so forced that even Spock with his limited social skills can recognize its insincerity.  He avoids her gaze.

She leaves him with instructions to change. 

The clothes are impeccably folded and it takes Spock a minute after he is alone to dare to reach out and run his fingers over the dark fabric.  It is soft, solid.  He cautiously unfolds the shirt first.  It is a simple garment, probably regulation: black with short sleeves, form-fitting but not constricting.  He lays it out on the bed and inspects the trousers.  They are the same as the shirt: solid, soft, black.  And there is a pair of black underwear.  Not just modest, but... plain.

These are not the clothes of a pleasure slave.  The increasingly familiar mix of confusion and frustration courses through him again and his lips press together in a frown, his eyebrows furrowing slightly.  This was not what he was expecting when McCoy told him he would be receiving clothing.  He had expected silky robes, lace, lingerie.  Not... not something an off-duty crewman on this ship might wear.

But, he harshly reminds himself, it is not his place to question orders.  So he slowly gets to his feet between the bed and the wall, allowing himself to wince only because he is alone.  He unties his sickbay robe, slips out of it, folds it, sets it on the bed, and dresses himself.

The clothes fit perfectly.  Nothing is too small or too tight.  He brushes his hands down the sides of the trousers, not remembering the last time his legs were covered or the last time he wore shoes.  He is dressed like a person, not like a slave.  But he stops that trail of thought immediately: is too dangerous to start down that path.  He cannot let himself forget his place, even for a second.

With that thought Spock takes a step around the bed and slips down to his knees.  He arranges himself: head bowed, hands folded carefully behind his back, spine arched at just the right angle.  Perfect.

He waits.

* * *

He doesn't have long to wait.  It is only a few minutes— four minutes and forty-three seconds exactly, according to the timer running in Spock's head— before he hears the sickbay doors in the adjacent room sliding open and the muffled voices of the Captain and the doctor greeting each other.  He stamps down the anxiety in his stomach.  Whatever the Captain has in store for him, he will be good.  He will be more than good; he will be perfect.  He focuses his mind on that one thought and shoves everything else aside.

When the two men enter the room Spock does not look up.   He can hear the doctor's footsteps falter in what is probably surprise at seeing Spock kneeling on the ground, but the Captain's pace is steady.

"Hello again, Spock," the Captain says almost at once, as if he is alerting Spock to his presence.  His voice is gentle and just loud enough to carry across the room.  McCoy hangs back by the doorway while the Captain continues in alone.  He stops a few feet away from Spock, close enough that Spock can see the Captain's boots without lifting his eyes, but far enough back that Spock does not feel crowded.  "We're going to the crew quarters a few decks up.  That sound alright to you?"

"Yes, sir," Spock says.  He is distantly proud at the way he keeps his voice neutral.

"Good, good," the Captain says.  "After me, then."  He turns on his heel and walks out without a backward glance, obviously expecting Spock to follow.  Spock does, quickly rising to his feet and matching pace exactly two steps behind the Captain.  McCoy steps out the way to let them pass then leans out the sickbay doors to call after them.

"I'll expect him back here for a checkup tomorrow, Jim."

The Captain just waves his hand dismissively and keeps walking.

They pass only a couple of people on the way to the turbolift; the hallways are otherwise empty and Spock is silently grateful for that.

"Alpha shift just started," the Captain explains as if reading Spock's mind.  He steps into the turbolift and moves smoothly to the side, giving Spock plenty of space in the confined lift.  Spock strategically positions himself just out the Captain's reach and silently debates whether he should kneel, but then the lift doors are sliding shut and he is left trying to remember how to breathe.  

The Captain rambles on.  "Crew's quarters, Deck 5.   The hallways are quiet this time of morning; everyone on duty is at their station and most off-duty personnel are still asleep.  Good time to roam if you want some peace."

Spock nods once in acknowledgement only because he knows he should and not because he understands, and files this information away for future reference.  It must be important or the Captain would not be telling him.

The lift ride is bearably short.  It is only a few quiet moments before the lift doors are sliding open and the Captain is striding out out, down a gently curved corridor to stop at a door near the end of the hall.

"Here we are."

He taps the keypad and the door slides open to reveal a sparsely decorated cabin.  Spock follows him inside, puzzled.  He was expecting the Captain's quarters to be larger, more extravagant, but this cabin is tiny and simple and does not look the least bit lived-in.  Perhaps it is not the Captain's quarters?  But if not his, then whose?

"It's nothing fancy," the Captain says with a shrug as if apologizing, gesturing vaguely around the rooms.  "Just a standard crew's quarters.  But it should be comfortable, at least."  He points.  "Living space, sleeping area behind that partition, washroom through that door."

Spock is trying his best to pay attention but the doors slide shut, trapping the two of them in the tiny space, and he suddenly feels like a caged animal.  He backs up on instinct, miscalculating the distance and bumping his shoulders harshly into the wall next to the door.  The Captain turns toward him, mild confusion scrawled across his face, and Spock goes completely still, a flurry of galactic curse words beating through his mind.

It's happening.  It's happening and Spock cannot avoid it any longer.  He shouldn't resist, it will only make things more painful, he knows that.  He should be stepping forward, he should be doing his job, but his body is not responding and he cannot bring himself to move away from the wall.  He should but he can't, he can't, he can't.

"Spock?" the Captain asks warily.  He is watching him intently now, but makes no move to approach.  Instead he takes half a step back, crosses his arms, waits.  He must notice the tension; Spock is wound tight and doing a very poor job of hiding it.

Spock cannot bring himself to look up but he forces his voice to work.

"Yes, Sir," he responds hoarsely.

"Are you doing ok?"

"Yes, Sir."

It is an obvious lie but he does not know what else to say.  There is a pause as the Captain chooses his words.

"Alright," he says quietly,  "I'm going to leave you be now.  You... why don't you settle in and make yourself at home.  Try to relax.  We can talk later."

Spock nods woodenly.

"Can I walk past you?" the Captain asks.

"Yes, Sir."  Spock makes his legs move, makes himself walk a few steps away from the door so the Captain can get to it without touching him. Apparently the Captain does not want to fuck Spock while he is tense and afraid.  He wants him relaxed, and so Spock should be relaxed.

This breech of control is unacceptable.  He will fix it.  He thinks he can do it, if he just has the time to meditate, maybe.  He can get himself under control.  When the Captain returns he will be ready.

The Captain is at the cabin door, halfway reaching for the panel to open it, when Spock gets his feet back under him.  He steps into the doorway between the sleeping and the living quarters and speaks.

"Sir?"

The Captain stops and turns toward him, waiting.  Spock's voice sounds small in the empty room but he plunges his question forward before he loses the nerve.  He needs to know.  "What are your orders?"

The Captain considers him for a moment, then steps forward, away from the door.  "How do you mean?" he asks gently, tilting his head in a vain attempt to catch Spock's gaze.

Spock swallows and rephrases the question.  "How do you require me to prepare myself for you?"

There is silence for a heartbeat and then the Captain's face crumples into something thunderous and angry.  He takes a step forward, his hand twitching as if it wants to reach toward Spock.

Spock has to bite the inside of his lip to keep from flinching away.  He drops to the floor like a stone and tucks his arms in behind his back, one hand encircling his wrist to hold them in place.  He closes his eyes, tilts his chin toward his shoulder.  His spine arches and his shoulders roll back to present his chest, spread and vulnerable, for punishment.

"Please forgive me, Sir," he murmurs flatly, "I did not mean to—"

"No."  The force of the Captain's command cuts him off mid-sentence.  "No, we aren't doing this."

Spock does not move.  He keeps his eyes shut and body relaxed.  He is off to a bad start with this new master.  Only a couple of minutes in and he's already managed to screw up, and now the Captain is angry, and he is going to be punished.  And rightfully so.  He was too emotional, too complacent.  He should have controlled himself better.  He should never have spoken without permission.

"You—" the Captain starts, a bit too loud, then cuts himself off.  Spock listens to the human's agitated footsteps pace back and forth several times as he gets himself under control. They finally slow down and stop in front of him.  There is a deep sigh, a shifting of clothing, and then the Captain is crouching down on Spock's level just a few feet away.  When he speaks his voice is urgent but soft and Spock can sense no hint of anger beneath it.  He speaks slowly, enunciating each word as if doing so will somehow make Spock understand his meaning.

"Spock, listen to me.  I am not going to hurt you.  I am not going to rape you.  I am not going to force you to do anything."

"There is no need to force me, Sir," Spock whispers.  "I will do whatever you require."

"No, nonono no," the Captain croons.  "No, Spock.  That's not why you're here."

Spock has no response for that.  He stays in position and waits.  He is not sure if he could get up now even if he tried.

After a moment the Captain tries again.  "Spock," he says, and the Vulcan just now notices how often this man says his name, "Spock, you are not my slave.  You're not anyone's slave.  McCoy took that collar off your neck and no one is going to put another on you again."

Spock's eyes slide open.  They remain downcast, but they dart back and forth across the floor as if he is looking for somewhere to run.  His body relaxes, then tenses again as he struggles to get control of himself.  The hand he has around his wrist clenches hard, nearly cutting off his circulation and sending a tremor of pain up his arm.  This makes no sense.  He is a slave.  He has always been a slave.

He is not sure what will remain if that is taken away from him, too.

"Sir?" he questions hesitantly, hoping the desperation in his voice is not as noticeable as it sounds to him.

"As long as you're on this ship, no one will touch you," the Captain says.  He says it with a heavy finality as though it will explain everything, but if anything it makes everything more confusing.

Now that Spock is down on his knees the panic inside of him is winding down, turning into a dull ache in the pit of his stomach.  The fight-or-flight response is seeping away, leaving in its place a flat resignation.

"Forgive me, Sir," Spock says, "but I do not understand what you require of me."

In any other setting it is a question that would've earned him a beating until he figured it the fuck out on his own.  But the Captain does not even touch him.

"I don't require anything," he only says.

Spock's eyes dart up to the Captain's face, just for a second.  It is crumpled into an expression that Spock can't quite interpret.  There is sadness there, and something else.  But it is different, somehow, from the unabashed pity of the nurses.  It hurts less to look at.  It strikes Spock again that the Captain is crouched down on his level.

Something in Spock wants to believe this human's words but most of him knows better.  What the Captain is saying makes no sense.  He must require something.  Otherwise he would not have gone through all of this trouble to rescue a slave.

If he doesn't want anything from him then that means Spock is worthless.  Worthless slaves are ignored, sold, disposed of.

"I will give you whatever information you require from me, Sir," Spock tries.

The Captain shakes his head.  "No, not now.  Some other time, maybe.  Not now."

Spock tries again.

"I am well trained," he says.  And it is true; he can feel everything inside of him sliding back into place with a dull snap.  The adrenaline is gone, the terror is gone.  He is blank again, the way he should be.  The way he was before.

It will make this easier to bear.

"I will be valuable to you," he says, and this time it is not a desperate question but a hollow statement.

"No, Spock," the Captain says.  "You don't have to be."

Spock does not argue.  Not aloud.  He can show the Captain instead, and then there can be no argument.

He blinks his eyelashes against his cheeks demurely and unclasps his hands from behind his back.  There is a thin mark around his wrist from where he was grasping it too tightly and he tries to clear his mind of anything else and focus on that.  He rocks forward until he is leaning on his hands and knees.

"Spock, what—"

"Sir," he murmurs.  It comes out a little flatter than he had intended, but it was close enough to a breathy moan that perhaps it will not matter.  He can already feel his mind getting hazy around the edges and he lets himself drop deeper into that cavern.  The terror seems so far away now.  He can check out.  His body remembers what to do.

He presses himself between the Captain's knees, his cheek brushing against his thigh, and nuzzles into his crotch.  His mouth opens and he breathes heavy against the fabric, wetting it with his breath.

That is the instant that the Captain realizes what is happening.

"No!" the Captain shouts, jerking back from Spock as if he was burned.  He scrambles to his feet.  "Don't!"

Spock does not flinch.  He stays on his hands and knees, staring at the ground, eyes glazed over, barely there.

"Forgive me," his mouth says mechanically.  His voice does not shake.

 "Don't do that again," the Captain orders.

Spock's body does not respond.  He doesn't even nod.  He barely registers the Captain's voice.

"Don't— I just—" the Captain is backpedaling as he calms down.  "Look, look, it's ok.  I'm not angry.

Spock hears him through his glazed fog. He doesn't believe him; he's heard it all before. It's a lie designed to snap him back into his body so his punishment will hurt.

"Hey," the Captain says, as if realizing for the first time that Spock is not present. He turns it into an order. "Hey, can you hear me? ...Spock, can you hear me?" 

Nothing. It's not disobedience as much as it is self protection.

"Shit," the Captain mumbles.  His communicator chirps open a channel and he says into it, "Bones, you there?"

The doctor answers back immediately, his voice lightly concerned but mostly friendly.

 "Yeah, Jim?  You guys ok?"

 

Chapter Text

Spock's body stares vacantly at the floor.  Words flurry around him in a faraway sandstorm, buffeting uselessly against the wall around his mind.  It is as if he is floating far away watching the scene unfold, and yet, simultaneously, locked down tight and curled up somewhere deep inside himself.

"What did you do to him?" Dr.McCoy asks over the com.  The friendly tone has all but dropped out of his voice, leaving it cold, almost icy.

"I didn't touch him," the Captain says a little too defensively.  "He got confused, I think, about being free.... I tried to explain, he tried to blow me.  When I jumped away he just kinda shut off."  He pauses, as if thinking.  Then, with a sudden horrified revelation,  "I yelled.  Shit, Bones, I yelled at him."

"Dammit," the doctor growls under his breath.  Then, louder, "Is he breathing?"

"Yeah, he's breathing slowly."  The Captain's voice is back under control.  "He's on his hands and knees.  He looks fine but he's unresponsive."

"I'm coming up there."

"No.  I can handle it, Bones.  Walk me through this."

The doctor growls out a frustrated sound.  "Maybe you can handle it, but you aren't going to, because I'm coming up there."

"I don't think more people in the room will help," the Captain says.  "He's spooked enough as it is.  I could order you to stay—"

"But you aren't going to," McCoy finishes.  He says it like it is the final decision on the matter and switches the com channel off.

The Captain grumbles under his breath, shuffles his clothes, resumes his pacing back and forth near the doorway.  It's apparent that he is a man of action, and being forced to stand by and do nothing does not settle well with him.  

He practically throws himself at the door when it slides open.

"Move, Jim," McCoy grumps, pushing past him to approach the place Spock crouches on the floor.

"I don't want to touch him if we can help it," the Captain says over McCoy's shoulder.  The doctor half-turns and shoos him back toward the door.

"Figured so.  Step back there.  You were right about crowding him, so get back."  McCoy gets down on his knees and runs his scanner over Spock's body, several inches from touching him.  "His bioreadings are sluggish," he remarks aloud to no one in particular.  "Most likely his mind's dissociated."  There is a rustling of clothes as he settles back on his knees and looks up toward the Captain.  "It's a coping mechanism.  He'll be fine."

"But—"

"He'll be fine, Jim.  Best thing you can do for him right now is to leave."

"But—"

"No."  The doctor's voice is hard again.  "Let me handle this.  I'm a doctor, not his master."  He holds up a hand before the Captain can protest.  "No, Jim, I know you're not either, but it looks like he's got it figured in his brain that you are, so for right now there is nothing you can do."  He pauses, softens, and his voice is quiet when he says, "Jim, you're too close to this."

There is a long silence as the two humans exchange a meaningful stare.  Then, finally, the Captain surrenders and moves to the door.  He pauses just outside of it.  "Bones...."

"I know, Jim.  Get going."

The door slides shut and Spock's body is alone with the doctor.

 

Nothing happens for a long while.

Spock stays unmoving on his hands and knees, McCoy sits and monitors him.  At one point the doctor gets up and taps out something into a panel on the wall, then he returns and sits back down on the floor and waits.

Over the next few minutes the room gradually gets warmer, until the doctor is shifting and unconsciously tugging at the collar of his uniform.  It is the warmth and the silence, more than anything, that calm the sandstorm around Spock's mind and begin to draw him out.

He blinks, shifts his head a fraction of an inch, noting the way his neck's muscles stiffly protest the movement.  He feels heavy as his mind reattaches itself to his body.  His fingers curl inward into loose fists and he sits up slowly, settling himself back on his heels.  He refuses to look at the doctor.

"Nice to see you back with us," the doctor says, about as softly as possible for his gruff voice.  "How are you feeling?"

Spock swallows against a dry throat.  "I am fine, sir."

The doctor hums but does not outright challenge Spock's lie.  Spock is grateful for it.  The doctor's gruff, oblivious manner is frustrating but familiar, and Spock finds himself hanging onto the doctor's presence as if it is the only solid thing in the room.  McCoy has not hurt him yet, and while the doctor seems to hold a strange amount of control over the Captain, Spock is beginning to believe that this one human, at least, has no interest in Spock's body.

He folds his hands in his lap and allows his shoulders to relax.

"I turned up the climate control for this cabin," the doctor is saying.  "It's hot as balls in here for us, but it should be a comfortable temperature for you.  If you want to change it, the panel is right over there."  He chooses his next words carefully, says them as if they physically pain him to speak aloud.  "You are allowed to change the controls.  Consider that an order if you have to: change the temperature to your liking if you feel uncomfortable."

Spock's eyes flick up to glance through his eyelashes at the doctor's expression.

"I do not understand, Sir," he admits quietly.  He isn't talking about the temperature controls.

McCoy shrugs, thankfully understanding the scope of Spock's question.  "You're free.  Guess we should've made that a little more clear to you, huh?  I just assumed— but there, that's my mistake, never assume anything, right?—  But I'll be clear now.  You are not a slave.  No one on this ship is a slave.  There's ranks and we need to keep up appearances sometimes, and you gotta respect that, but no one here is going to violate you, alright?"  His face twists into disgust, as if the very idea of slavery is so repulsive that he cannot speak of it without concealing his distaste.

"Jim— the Captain— won't let anyone touch you.  And he isn't going to touch you either.  He's a good man.  A little intense, maybe, but he... Well, let's just say he understands more than you'd think he does."

Spock silently absorbs the information.  He is still wary, but finally decides to play along with McCoy's game, whatever it is.  If the doctor wants him to speak, he will try speaking and see where that gets him.

"When will I be punished for my infraction, Sir?"

McCoy jerks back, catches himself, and tries hard to smooth the disgust from his face.  "You haven't done anything wrong," he says decisively.  "Y'hear me?  The ship has regulations and you'll learn those, but no one's gonna hurt you for something you don't see coming."  He gets to his feet and stares down at Spock a moment.

"Ok, here's an example.  I tell you to get up right now, and you don't do it.  I feel offended and a little annoyed that you aren't listening to me, and I might gripe and groan, but I'm not going to beat you for it.  Because it's not important.  But if there's a fire in sickbay and I tell you to stand up and help me carry a patient, and you don't, then there will be consequences, because that one is important."

Spock's eyebrows furrow subtly.  That is wrong.  Every order is equally important.  Disobedience in one area is the same as disobedience everywhere.

"You'll figure it out," McCoy says encouragingly.

Spock blinks.  He is utterly overwhelmed.

"Ok, you control the temperature of this room," McCoy restates, gesturing.  "And the rest of the facilities here are for your use, too.  Use the washroom whenever you need.  Sleep whenever you want.  Use the computer console at the desk; you have a Level 1 security clearance that'll get you into all unrestricted memory banks.  There's a lot there."

The console.

In his alarm Spock had not noticed it before and he mentally kicks himself for the oversight.  It is sitting on the desk.  He turns his face toward it too eagerly and McCoy notices.  The doctor grins a lopsided grin and goes over to the console, switches it on, turns the screen toward Spock.

"Here.  Familiarize yourself with Empirical regulations first, but take them with a grain of salt; we do things a little differently around here.  Jim's a powerful captain and that affords him a degree of freedom on his ship."

"Sir?" Spock querries.

The doctor just smiles and shakes his head.  "Read the regulations and we'll go from there."

"Yes, Sir."  He can do that.

"Ok," McCoy says.  He dusts his hands off on his pants.  "Are y'going to be alright for me to leave now?  Y'know what to do?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Good.  You can expect a nurse to be up at 13:00 for a hypo, but until then I'll see to it that you'll be undisturbed."

"Thank you, Sir."

McCoy pauses, scrunches up his face.  "Don't call me Sir.  I ain't your master."

Spock considers for a moment, then dips his head apologetically.  "Forgive me, Doctor."

"Eh.  That's good enough."  McCoy gestures toward the console.  "Enjoy yourself."

And then he is gone, the doors sliding closed behind him.

Spock waits, counting down to two minutes in his head, before slowly unfolding his body and getting to his feet.  His muscles are stiff and his ribs are sore, but he feels nearly healed for the first time in a long time.  And he is alone.

He has no reason to believe the doctor when he promises that he will remain undisturbed, but he allows himself to indulge in that fantasy for as long as it will last.

He quietly explores the rooms, mapping and cataloging them in his mind.  They do indeed appear unlived in.  The sleeping area is small; there are several built-in drawers along the walls that Spock does not dare to open.  The bed itself is long and thin, built for a single humanoid.

The washroom is also small but ergonomically designed: toilet, sink, sonic shower stall, numerous built-in drawers.  Spock catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror above the sink and freezes in place.

His dark eyes are wide, nearly frightened, and his face is drawn tight in worry.  Shamefully readable.  He steps forward and places his hands on either side of the sink, closes his eyes, and takes a moment to simply breathe in the silence.  When he opens his eyes his face is smooth and stoic.

He will meditate later.  For now, he has an assigned task.

He makes his way to the desk in the living space.  He gently slides the chair out of the way and kneels on the ground, tilts the console screen downward so that he can see it comfortably, and begins to read.

Chapter Text

"Hold out your hands."

The trainer's voice is flat, bored. Spock obediently extends his arms and presents his palms. He is just old enough to be sold to train, legally, as a pleasure slave, and in the past few weeks his body has been battered and bruised in places he never thought were possible. But somehow this is among the worst.

The cane swishes down with a harsh crack, leaving a thin green welt across the pale skin of his palms. Spock instinctively jerks back, catches himself halfway, forces his arms back out. The movement is quick but it does not go unnoticed by the trainer.

The man lunges forward and grasps a hand in his bruising grip. The skin-to-skin contact breaks open a dam and the trainer's frustration pours through in an overwhelming flood. Spock cannot help the flinch that strikes through his body.  The trainer leans in close enough that Spock can smell his breath and punctuates each word as if the slender Vulcan is too stupid to understand any other way.

"Keep. This. In. Place. Until. I. Say. Otherwise.  Understand?"

"Yes, Sir," Spock manages to whisper.

The trainer releases him then, steps back, raises the cane. “That earned you five more. Count them."

Spock buries the horror deep in his chest and tries to relax, but it doesn't matter; when the first strike falls it shoots up his arms and pushes all the air from his lungs. He tries to croak out the number anyway, knowing any delay will be seen as impertinence and will only result in more punishment.

“O— One, Sir."

"Vulcans," the trainer sneers. "Your hands are so fucking sensitive. Emotionless, my ass. It's almost too easy to make you fresh meat cry.”

The cane cracks down again and Spock chokes back a strangled whimper. His hands quiver in place.

"Two, Sir."

He can't take five on his palms. He can't.

Crack.

This time he cannot stifle the tiny noise that pushes itself from his throat, and he burns with shame at the outburst. His entire body is trembling.

"Three, Sir."  Please. Please, no more.

He knows better than to beg for mercy. None will come. He earned this and he must see it through to the end.

He cries out at the fourth strike and it takes all of his willpower to hold his hands steady. Thin green stripes mark his palms in parallel lines, non-permanent welts that will last only a few days, but the sensitive nerves in his fingers are screaming all the way up his arms. He can feel each blow in his mind as if the cane is slicing itself directly into his brain.

"Four, Sir."

The trainer is beating the imperfections out of him.

He is grateful.

The last cut of the cane slices forward across the pads of his fingers and it is like it stops his heart. For a moment everything is blindingly white-hot. Something is crying out. It takes a second for his brain to catch up and realize the dry sob tore from his own throat.

"Five!" he cries desperately as soon as he can breathe again, "Five, Sir, Five." He can only hope he said the number quickly enough. Somehow, miraculously, his hands are still in place.

He is a shaking, emotionally compromised mess, but his hands remain outstretched. It is a tiny victory.

Whether it is a victory for him or for them, though, he is not sure. The lines have blurred too far to make a distinction.

The trainer leaves Spock's cell without another word. Spock slides to the ground, clutching his hands to his chest like a young child, and allows himself a moment to curl in on himself and tremble.

Tears do not fall and he is glad for it, but a burning self-hatred glows from every crack in his body nonetheless.

He is not strong enough to do what they say, but they are changing him, one stroke at a time. They are breaking down his worthless self so that they can rebuild him into something of value.

He can get better, stronger. He can learn to control his cries, his movements. His thoughts.

"I can be perfect," he whispers brokenly into the empty cell. "I will be perfect."

-

He wakes to pain, his hands convulsing.

He raises them slowly, squinting through the darkness at his twitching fingers. He half expects to see green lines welted across the pale skin. But there is nothing, only phantom pain so strong it is making his slender fingers curl and uncurl in a subconscious attempt to get away from it.

A body memory. He knows what is happening, theoretically, but it's something he has experienced only a handful of times. He's always had fresh pain to focus on. But now his body is rested, unhurt.  It is no longer focused on merely survival.

Apparently now it has the time to relive its traumas.

Spock has a flash of anger at how unfair this is, but the feeling is gone in a moment and leaves him empty. He sits up, drawing his knees to his chest. He spent the night on the floor, and now he wedges himself upright in the small space between the bed and the far wall.  He hadn't dared to climb onto the bed just in case someone came visiting in the night, and lying on the floor prevented anyone who might enter from immediately seeing him.  He wasn't hiding, he had tried to convince himself; he was merely placing himself in the safest place.  It was purely logical.

"I am in control of my body," he whispers into the darkness, as if saying it aloud will make it true. His fingers twitch.

He clenches his hands into fists, shoves them down in his lap.  He will control himself.  The pain is subsiding slowly but his hands still feel raw, as if he is cycling through the entire healing process in a matter of minutes rather than days.  

"I feel nothing," he whispers.  "I feel nothing."

 

* * *

 

Spock slips into focused meditation and by the time he rouses himself his body has become silent and still.  He feels— or rather, doesn't feel— more like a Vulcan than he has since he was first taken aboard the Enterprise.  He had spent all of the previous day memorizing Empire protocols and found himself consuming them voraciously, the way a starved sehlat might devour a fresh meal.  He does not know where he fits into the protocols— he was informed that he was not a slave but then given no indication of rank— but he is determined to know everything.  In practice he may not know what to do, but perhaps he can skate by on theoretical knowledge.  It is worth a shot.

Today, if undisturbed, he intends to memorize every diagram he can find regarding the Enterprise herself.  But first—

He gets up and makes his way into the adjacent washroom.

It has been days since he last cleaned his body and a sonic shower is in short order.  But he pauses, one hand on the stall door.  Is he allowed to use the unit?  His body is stale, but it is not exactly dirty.  There is no blood or semen; nothing visible or immediately offensive.  Some masters would decide a shower to be unnecessary.  But Spock is alone in the room now and did not receive specific instructions.  There was nothing in the manual about showering protocols.

He should wait until they give him permission.  Or he should clean and prepare himself for their use.  Both are logical.  He does not want to make the wrong decision. 

The lure of hygiene finally tips the scale.

Spock efficiently strips himself bare of the dark clothes, his skin prickling at the drop in temperature. As he neatly folds the clothes to place on the counter he notes, with mild interest, that this is the first time in nearly an entire day he has been even slightly cold.  It is something of a personal record.

Doctor McCoy's order concerning climate control is present in his mind.  It was an order, he tells himself, and obeying it does not mean he is giving in to the emotional lure of comfort.  He is following orders, not indulging.

"Computer," he says quietly, "increase climate temperature 0.5 degrees Celsius."

The computer beeps and complies, and by the time he steps into the sonic stall he is warm again.  He closes his eyes as the shower activates and he allows himself to focus on the sensation of sonic waves lifting the impurities from his skin.  If he does not think of where he is, it is nearly pleasant.

The shower is nothing if not efficient, and it does not last nearly long enough for him to become complacently relaxed.  He steps from the stall and goes to the sink to gather his clothes.  There he pauses.

Yesterday, when he caught a look of himself in the mirror, he had reacted too much like a human.  Today he will not make that mistake.

He evaluates himself quietly, unemotionally.

He is naked, truly naked, for the first time in years.  His collar is missing, leaving in its place a thick burn mark that wraps around the base of his throat.  The injury is tinged with green— an indication that it is still healing— but just barely; it has nearly washed out into pale scar tissue.  But it is wide, with jagged edges that twist off as they blend with his skin.  Spock reaches up to run a finger over the raised scar.

Now that he can fully examine the injury he realizes how fortunate he was to have gotten away without permanent damage to his windpipe or arteries.  The collar's meltdown was intense and the memory of it was not going to disappear; he had nearly lost control of himself in the pain.  But somehow seeing the extent of the damage gave him a sense of justification. 

His intense reaction was inexcusable.  But perhaps, just slightly, it was understandable.

His skin is a wide expanse of pale.  He is marked with criss-crossing scars but they are all healed white.  There is nothing new: no yellow-green bruises or long, dark green scabs.

He admits that it is odd to see himself this way.  Spock has become used to one image of himself; when he imagines himself in his mind's eye he sees bruises, a collar.  They are as much a part of who he is as the dark hair chopped sharply across his forehead.  When he looks at himself now, he does not recognize the body as his own.

Even his eyes are different.  His ever-present eyeliner is gone— someone must've cleaned his face at some point during his unconsciousness— and the eyes in the mirror do not seem like his eyes.  They are lidded and dark as always, shuttered closed, with heavy eyelashes half-hiding them from view.  But without the eyeliner they seem too pale, too small.

At least his face remains gaunt: the way his eyes are sunken into his face is just enough to be noticeable but not enough to be disquieting.

Pretty.  Khan kept him on just the right side of starving because it made him pretty.  Spock's features are not quite delicate, even by Vulcan standards, but he is slim and angular: assets his masters seemed to like to enhance.

He wonders if that will be taken from him as well.  He can nearly sense the loss already.

He can adapt, he tells himself.  He can become something perfect for their needs, something they desire.  He is sure of that.  He has done it before.  But not... not without a trainer.

It took him over an Earth solar year to be broken down to nothing, then built back up into the perfect pleasure slave.  A year of hours and hours of daily lessons.  Of beatings and starvation, of being forced onto his knees and raped until he bled, of learning how to make himself desirable to a select clientele.

These people are not that clientele.  He is lost among them; he does not know how to act or what is expected of him.  He does not know where to even start.

A chirping noise jolts Spock from his thoughts.

He glances around, eyebrows knitting together, and steps out into the room.  The Alpha shift nurses are earlier than scheduled this morning.  It is odd.  Schedules on this starship seem to run in a smooth, calculated order.  But there is probably some reason for the early checkup.  He reminds himself harshly that it is not his place to speculate, especially with so few facts.

He crosses to the control panel and touches it, the door sliding open at the command.  

"Good m—," a familiar voice says. 

Spock freezes.  

The Captain is the only one standing in the hallway, a startled expression written across his face.

"Captain," Spock murmurs.  He slides down to his knees and dips his head respectfully.

"Ah— What's going on here?" the Captain hisses out in a half-whisper, stepping into the room and closing the door quickly behind him.  Then his voice gets louder and he paces aggressively past Spock and into the room. "Is there someone else in here?"

"No, Sir," Spock says.  He is puzzled at the question.  "Should there be, Sir?"

"No.  No, there shouldn't."  The Captain is pointedly not looking at him and when Spock glances up he can see that the human's face is flushed.  "No one's been in here, forced you to do anything?" the Captain asks.

"No, Sir," Spock says promptly.  He does not understand the significance of the question but it was a direct question, and he cannot hold back any information that may be relevant. "Aside from yourself and Doctor McCoy yesterday morning, two nurses have entered these rooms: last afternoon and evening.  They entered to administer hyposprays and then promptly left."

"I see."  The Captain deflates as quickly as he flared up.  His face is flushed, though this time with something closer to embarrassment.  "Well, I'll just, uh.  I'll come back later and...," he gestures helplessly, "leave you to get dressed."  He scoots to the door before he seems to realize that Spock is kneeling in front of the door control panel and there is no way to reach it without bending over him or moving him out of the way.

Belatedly, Spock realizes he is not wearing any clothes.   He had hardly noticed; he's spent a great deal of his life naked and did not think it would be an issue.  Apparently, judging by the Captain's discomfort, that was an error on his part.

"Forgive me, Sir," Spock says quickly, "I will clothe myself immediately.  Are the clothes I wore yesterday satisfactory?"  The set of clothes he had been given were a gift for which he was obediently thankful, but he hadn't assumed wearing clothes would be a regular thing.

The Captain goes still.  "What?" He clasps his hands together and Spock can see that he is squeezing them together harshly.  "No, no, you don't have to wear dirty things."  He pauses, still very obviously avoiding looking at Spock.  "You should've been given a week's worth of clothes."

So... Spock received the wrong amount of clothes?  Is the Captain upset about it?  This is hardly Spock's fault but he knows better than to assume his innocence will make a difference.  If the Captain wills it he will be punished anyway.

"I apologize, Sir," Spock tries, dipping his head further toward the floor.  His mother's words are in his mind, unbidden: Better safe than sorry....

"No, no, not your fault," the Captain says.  He turns on his heel and decisively moves into the sleeping area.  Spock's stomach drops.

The Captain begins opening and closing drawers, apparently hunting for something.  Spock breathes and waits.  He does not know what is going to happen now.  If he can trust McCoy, the Doctor promised he would not be punished for insignificant things.  He wonders if this is considered an insignificant thing.

"Here!" the Captain exclaims once he gets to the fourth drawer.  Spock takes that as a command.  He gets to his feet, ignoring how heavy they feel, and slips toward the Captain, stopping just out of arm's length behind him.

The Captain pulls something out of the drawer and turns triumphantly.  "I found the clothe—"

He breaks off with a little startled "Oh," and tries to take a step backward but bumps into the cabinet.  "Spock.  I didn't hear...."  He trails off, shaking his head and glancing away.  His hand juts out, holding a shirt toward Spock.  "These are yours."

There are clothes in the drawer.  Clothes for Spock.

So innocent and yet so threatening.

"Thank you, Sir," Spock says tonelessly because he does not know what else to say.

"Sure thing," the Captain says with a shrug.  "The rest is yours too.  Dress in whatever you want."

Spock obediently takes the shirt and moves to the side to allow the Captain to walk past him.  Spock's eyes are cast down as always, and as the Captain moves, Spock notices the faint beginning of an erection at the human's crotch.  He has been specifically trained to notice, otherwise even he might've missed it.

It sparks another internal battle.  He should take care of it.  Everything inside of him is screaming to reach out and take care of it.  His fingers are twitching and he can feel himself beginning to become pliant.

In this regard he is programmed thoroughly.

But.

The Captain was angry with him for initiating contact last time.  He made it clear that he did not desire that particular style of pleasure.  And Spock is a quick learner.  He will show the Captain how he is a quick learner.  He will show him that he can be good.

But.

His body is trembling slightly, betraying him.  He is falling back onto his training.

The Captain has moved past him into the living area now, and it is too late to act.

But.

"Captain," he dares.  His voice is toneless.

The Captain stops, turns, appraises him kindly.  "Yeah, Spock?"

May I pleasure you, Sir, is on the tip of his tongue.  He should ask.  He should be asking

But he only says, so quietly that it is nearly a whisper, "Thank you."

It is different from his previous 'thank you,' and both of them notice and stop as they hear it.  The words are ones Spock says often, but this time they are not mechanical or recited or forced.  They may be a little shaky and uncertain, but they are sincere.

There is silence for a long moment.  As it drags on Spock begins to regret his indiscretion.  Why did he allow himself to lower his defenses?  Never let them past the mask.  That is the first rule.  The first rule.

But then the Captain is speaking.  His voice is quiet, but also strong, unwavering.

"You're welcome, Spock."

Chapter Text

The Captain does not leave.  He stands near the desk, turned politely away from Spock, and waits. 

Spock gets dressed quickly, half-hiding behind the room divider.  Concealing himself is illogical, unnecessary; he should not feel shame at his nakedness, but somehow the Captain has gotten under his skin and he feels horribly, painfully exposed.

The divider is an extra shield between the two of them and Spock is not about to give that up.

He wastes no time selecting clothes.  All the pants are the same: slim, black regulation trousers.  He pulls on the shirt the Captain handed to him and then, impulsively, he picks a long-sleeved tunic from the drawer and pulls it over the undershirt.  It is soft, a dark blue, with a high collar at the nape that dips to a modest V over his collarbone. 

It is a challenge.  A test.  Spock's eyes shift sideways to where the Captain is waiting.  Wearing two shirts is unnecessary, wasteful, but if the clothes really do belong to him as the Captain said, then it stands to reason that he will not be punished for it.

He does not know how to notify the Captain that he has finished changing.  He takes a few tentative steps forward until he is in the doorway between the two rooms and waits.  Moments pass, until the silence has stretched on uncomfortably and he is sure that the Captain is not going to be the one to break it.

He doesn't know what else to say, so he says the one thing that he's been thinking for days.

"You saved my life, Sir," he murmurs.

The Captain turns toward him at last, a friendly curiosity on his face.  "Yes," he says simply.

Spock stares at the ground, waiting for more of a reaction, an explanation, something.  But nothing comes.  He wonders if the Captain has any idea of just how many times he saved Spock over the past week.  It is unlikely.

After a moment Spock concludes, quietly, "I am in your debt."

The Captain shakes his head and chuckles.  He smooths out his uniform, possibly only to do something with his hands.  "No, Spock.  You're your own person now."

"Yes, Sir," Spock says obediently, dipping his head.  Then, after a moment: "Doctor McCoy informed me of the same."  He says it warily, testing the idea aloud.

"Bones is a good man.  And he's right," the Captain says.

Spock pauses.  He is not allowed to question the actions of his superiors, but the question has been burning in the back of his mind and he needs to know.  Yet he still cannot quite bring himself to outright ask 'why.'  Why was he saved? 

He tries something safer.

"Then, Sir, may I inquire as to my purpose?"  Hide the question in an offer to serve.

The Captain shrugs.  "Ohhh, I don't know.  What's anyone's purpose in life?"

"...Sir?" Spock asks, tilting his head and glancing up to the Captain's face.  The Captain is grinning.  Spock's lips press together in a subtle frown; here he is wondering about his fate and this human is... mocking him?  He does not know what to make of that.

"Sorry, joking."  The Captain waves his hand dismissively.  "You don't have any duties, if that's what you're asking.  Unless you want them, but that you would have to clear with Bones first.  I doubt he's ready to let you up and out quite yet."

Spock nods silently, then dares, "What will happen to me, Sir?"  It is another question he is never allowed to ask.  But these humans seem bizarrely willing to put up with insolence and he decides to risk it.

"You're welcome on board the Enterprise as long as you wish," the Captain answers casually.  "Nothing needed in return.  We have the room and a good crew and we could fit you in any job you desire."  Then his voice lowers into a tone that is unyielding and entirely serious.  "Okay?  I want you to know that I don't expect you to work for me unless you decide to do so, and we will not kick you out for doing nothing.  You don't have to earn your space here.  You have value simply because you're a person."

Wrong.  Not a person.  A thing.  Property.

"Sir," Spock counters, uncertainty making his voice waver, "I am— I was born a slave. I have always been a slave."  He phrases it like an explanation, not able to bring himself to outright defy the Captain.

"And now you're not," the Captain says, as easily as if he is talking about the weather and not about changing the entire course of Spock's life.

Spock swallows, slips his arms behind his back, and studies the floor.

"You'll get the hang of it," the Captain says.  It is the second time in as many days someone has said something like this.  Spock does not believe it any more this time.

"Yes, Sir," Spock says obediently.

"Hm."  The Captain leans casually back against the wall, his arms still crossed over his chest, thinking.  "Well, what do you know how to do?"

Spock stares dully at his toes and recites.  "I am a pleasure slave, fully trained at legal age through the Konicek-Dominance method.  I received additional supplemental training in housework, and I am able to competently perform simple household tasks."  He hesitates, uncertain.  Normally this would be where he would end his recitation, knowing he has performed adequately, but his words seems to hang empty and uncomfortable in the air.  His answer was tailored for a different place.  Here, his answer is wrong.

He swallows hard, feeling hopelessly inadequate, hating himself for the way his voice wavers.  "That... that is all."

"Well then... what do you like to do?" the Captain prods gently.

Spock's eyes flicker up.  The answer he is supposed to give is not going to please the Captain, he knows that.  But he does not know what to say that will please him.  "I derive enjoyment from pleasing my master," he recites dully.

"No," the Captain says, and Spock's throat clenches tightly at the reprimand.  "I don't want to hear what you've been trained to say.  Spock, what do you like?"

"I am a Vulcan.  I do not feel pain or pleasure.  I am an ideal toy—"

"We both know that's not true," the Captain cuts in.

Spock blinks slowly at his feet.  He squeezes his wrist hard, distressed but trying not to show it.  "Enjoyment is illogical.  It is unnecessary for me."

"There's nothing you like?"

Spock presses his lips tightly together and does not respond.  Despite himself he can think of a few things he enjoys, but he is not going to confess them to anyone, least of all the Captain.  It would only give them more power over him.  He needs to keep his desires and the things he enjoys safely hidden or they will be taken away, used against him.

So he cannot make himself say yes.  But saying no to the Captain would be untruthful, and somehow, even though he knows he should, he cannot bring himself to lie outright to this human.  So he says nothing, knowing his silence will be seen as defiance, and braces himself for the fallout.

The silence drags on until the Captain finally seems to realize that he is not going to get an answer.  He sighs and runs his hands down his uniform again, and smiles a heavy smile at Spock.

"Well.  We'll figure it out," he says.

"Yes, Sir," Spock murmurs.

The Captain shrugs and finally, thankfully, gestures to the desk, changing the subject.  "I wanted to go over some things with you, if you're up to it.  Have you eaten breakfast?"

"No, Sir."  Of course he hasn't.  The thought of taking food wouldn't even cross his mind, and he bristles slightly that the Captain thinks he would dare to do such a thing.  He's better than that.

"Neither have I." The Captain says conversationally, oblivious to Spock's stiff reaction. "Has anyone showed you the replicator?"

"No, Sir."

"Well."  The Captain crosses to the replicator panel in the wall and turns expectantly to Spock.  "What do you want?" he prompts, when Spock says nothing.

Spock blinks slowly and focuses on keeping himself calm.  He has not eaten since he threw up in Sickbay and the prospect of food is terrifying.

"I do not...." He trails off, keeping himself as still as possible.  "Nothing, Sir. I do not need anything."

"Nonsense, I can't eat breakfast alone.  What food do you like?"

"I will consume whatever you see fit to give me, Sir."

The Captain frowns but presses forward, undeterred. "Well, okay.  Then... what do Vulcans eat for breakfast?"

He seems determined to get an answer.  Spock squeezes his wrist and makes himself reply. "Vulcans traditionally consume simple foods, Sir," he says obediently.  "Fresh vegetable dishes, light broths, soups."

"Vegetarian, right?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Okay."  The Captain punches information into the replicator and a moment later he is taking a bowl of soup from it and placing it on the desk. He orders himself a tray of Terran breakfast foods, which he pick up and moves it to the desk across from the soup.  He scoots a spoon across the table to rest next to Spock's bowl, then pulls up a chair from the seating area and plops down into it, gesturing for Spock to sit opposite him.

Spock moves quickly to obey. He walks woodenly over to the desk and begins to sink to his knees on the floor, but freezes when the Captain stops him with a wave of his hand.

"No no no, in the chair."

Spock dips his head.  "I apologize, Sir."  He glances warily at the Captain, trying to determine if he is serious.  Jokes tend to go over his head and he does not want to make a wrong move, but the man appears to be sincere.  So Spock pulls the desk chair out and gingerly perches on it, placing his hands delicately in his lap. 

It is strange, sitting in a chair, level with a free man. He has never done this before in his life. He risks another glance at the Captain to confirm that he is in the right place.  The human is smiling gently at him.  Spock's stomach twists.

Everything feels like a cruel joke, like everyone is laughing at him behind his back and finally, when their amusement has run its course, they are going to yank the rug out from under his feet and watch him fall.  Or, more likely, this is all just a charade to lull Spock into a false sense of security, giving him things so he will know what it feels like to lose them.

It is a game where he does not know the rules.  He stares blankly down at the bowl of soup in front of him.  His body is rigid and so entirely still that even his steady breathing barely causes his chest to rise.

The Captain wastes no time digging into his own plate of food, guzzling at his coffee.  He pauses, his mouth half full, and waves a hand.  "Go on, eat."

"Yes, Sir.  Thank you, Sir."  Spock obediently lifts his hand and picks up his spoon, dipping it into the soup in front of him.  He brings a spoonful of broth to his mouth and docilely tips it between his lips, swallows.

It is perfectly bland.  He hopes he will be able to keep it down.  He thinks he can.  He is in far better control of his body than he was that first day in sickbay, and this soup is not the most disgusting thing he has been forced to eat.  He should be grateful, he tells himself.  He is rarely given the luxury of a meal that does not offend his Vulcan palette.

Instead he just feels empty and sick.

He is so focused on himself that it takes him a second to notice when the sounds of the Captain eating come to a halt.  His head is appropriately bowed, and he looks up through his eyelashes to find the human watching him intently.  Spock's face reflexively heats in a green-tinged flush but he forces himself to continue eating as if nothing has changed, determined to ignore the urge to squirm away or wither into the floor.

"What do you know about your previous master?" the Captain asks, finally, breaking the uncomfortable silence.  "Er— he, uh, he was the man in the nightclub, right?"

"That is correct, Sir," Spock says.

"Khan Noonien Singh?"

"Yes, Sir."  Spock is not surprised at this line of questioning; he has already hypothesized they know his master's identity.  His entire theory on why they rescued him hinges upon that guess, and for a fleeting moment he allows himself to indulge in the satisfaction of being right for once.  He places his spoon down and retreats his hand back into his lap, waiting.

"What happened at the club?"

"Sir?"

"Why was Khan trying to kill you?"

Spock swallows.  He was not expecting to be required to give an account of his defiance.  He would rather not; he has barely allowed himself to think about it since it happened.  A part of him is shamefully proud of his actions, but he is also strictly ashamed, and, if he is honest with himself, a little afraid.  If he defied one master, he could do so to another.  Or that's how an auction house would see it.  He has seen slaves euthanized for such infractions.

Nonetheless, he must give an answer, and so he pushes away the emotion and makes himself speak.  "I defied an order, Sir."

"You— that's it?"  The Captain sounds startled.  "You disobeyed?"

Spock studies his hands.  "I defied my Master, yes, and it was witnessed by my Master's subordinates.  It is logical that my Master would not allow a mere slave to undermine his authority in front of them.  I believe his intent was to kill me in order to, borrowing the Terran expression, 'save face.'"

The Captain frowns and there is silence for a brief moment.  "You said 'defied,' not 'disobeyed.'"

"Yes, Sir."

"Why?  What's the difference?"

Spock hesitates, eyes darting sideways.  He was not expecting the human to pick up on the significance of his word choice.  The Captain is smart, if anything.  He is not one who should be underestimated.

"Disobedience may be connotative of failure or neglect.  Defiance, however, is deliberate.  Sir."

"You defied him on purpose."

"That is a correct conclusion, Sir."

"Had you done that before?"

Spock's lips press together.  In the strictest sense of the question, no.  He had never resisted Khan's touch.  But defy his master?  Yes.  Every single day.  But, technically and literally....

"No, Sir."

"Really?"  The Captain takes a moment to study him, and Spock sits still with his hands in his lap, and focuses on breathing.  "With scars like yours?"

Spock barely prevents himself from flinching.  Oh.  Of course.  Of course he appears to be a disobedient slave.  He certainly looks the part.  It is only logical that the Captain thinks he is hiding the truth.

"I am incapable of lying, Sir," he murmurs, anxiety churning in his stomach.  "Once my training was complete and up until this incident, I never once refused a Master's physical advances.  It is not my place to do so; I am simply a toy for them to use as they wish.  I... My actions toward Khan were wrong.  I was mistaken to act the way I did.  It will not happen again."

"No, Spock, you weren't wrong.  I'm glad you did.  Though I'm sorry you had to pay such a heavy price for it."

Spock's eyebrows knit together.  What?  What does that mean?  He glances up at the Captain, trying to read his expression and failing.

The two sit in silence for a moment. 

A flicker of a thought seems to occur to the Captain, and he pauses before leaning subtly forward.  He asks, his voice soft, as if he is unsure he wants to know the answer, "Are you bonded to Khan?  To anyone?"

Spock blinks once, twice, attempting to conceal his surprise with what he hopes is success. He doesn't know what he was expecting but that was not it.  Not so soon, at least.

He should have been expecting it, he scolds himself, but somehow, without meaning to, he has allowed himself to become complacent. 

He breathes in slowly through his nose and gathers himself for a painful conversation.

"No, sir," he murmurs. His eyes shift sideways from his hands to the floor.  If the Captain orders him to form a bond or tries to force a mind meld he is going to lose it.  They can't do this to him, not here, not after he has been given some measure of freedom.  Despite his efforts not to feel, it is going to hurt when they yank it all away.

He is nauseous, and this time it has nothing to do with the food.

The Captain is speaking again.  Spock forces himself to listen.

"Good.  I've seen Vulcans torn apart when they're separated from their bondmate.  I'm glad your master didn't... wasn't...." He trails off, gestures vaguely.  His compassionate tone clashes uncomfortably with the harsh reality of his words.

Spock wants to scream.  He bites down on the inside of his cheek instead.

"If you were bonded to Khan," the Captain says, "it would make this much more difficult."

Spock has half a mind to impertinently ask What.  It will make what more difficult?,  if only to listen to the truth finally coming from the Captain's lying mouth.  But he doesn't.  He is biting his cheek so hard he can taste blood.

He is overwhelmed with a sudden desire to hurl himself as far away from the Captain as he can. He wants to run, run as fast and as far as he can, run to the desert to cry and scream out his fear and his frustrations the way he did as a child.

He thought he had outgrown those urges.

The Captain picks up on the subtle change.  In other circumstances Spock would be impressed by the human's perception, or annoyed at himself for being so transparent, but he cannot feel anything but an imposing wall of fear.

"Spock?" the Captain asks quietly.

"Yes, Sir."  The words are ground out flat.  His lips are numb.

He can control himself better than this.

"Are you alright?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Talk to me; what's going on?"

Spock swallows.  "I will do anything you ask of me, Sir," he murmurs between half-parted lips, carefully keeping the desperation in the words from bleeding over into his voice.  "I will do anything.  I will tell you whatever you need to know.  I will cooperate.  A joining of minds is not necessary."

"Spock—"

He slips from the chair onto his knees, bending down under the desk, and presses his forehead to the ground before the Captain's feet.

"Anything, Sir.  I can do anything you wish.  I can be perfect without a bond.  I will not defy you.  Please."  Please don't try to force me.  Please.

Because something is different here.  This human has already been inside his mind once before, on accident, and Spock is not entirely sure he could resist him now.

"Spock, get up."

But he can't.  He can't, even though that is a direct order, and he had just been saying how perfectly he can behave, but his body isn't responding.  He feels numb and heavy, chained to the floor.

There is silence for a moment, then the Captain pushes his chair back.  Spock tenses, then forces his muscles to relax, and he tries to retreat as far as possible into his shielded mind.  He is going to be punished.

He flinches when the Captain slides out of his own chair to kneel down next to him.  The Captain's hands reach out and touch his shoulders, but they do not hurt.  They are gentle, achingly gentle, as the Captain takes him by the shoulders and pulls him upright.

They face each other like that for several, silent long moments, both kneeling, Spock's head bowed, the Captain's outstretched arms closing the gap between them.  The Captain's hands are warm through the fabric of Spock's tunic.  Spock's body is numb, he is barely present, but he can feel this human's hands loosely tethering him to his body.

"Once," the Captain says softly, breaking the silence, "a few years ago, the Enterprise was commissioned to track an escaped prisoner and we ended up following her into the Badlands.  We lost her shuttle almost immediately, sensors went haywire, we got tossed around in a funnel cloud for upwards of half an hour.  It spat us out near this planet, a gas giant hidden in ion storms.  We couldn't get near it, but there was this moon: tiny little thing, in a loose orbit.  Our scans reported it was M-class.

"It was odd, this tiny little M-class moon orbiting a planet that was essentially one giant death storm.  But there was a chance the prisoner crashed on the moon, and sensors said it was habitable, so a few of us beamed down to check it out."  He pauses to chuckle lightly, and pulls his hands back from Spock's shoulders.  Spock stays kneeling upright, his brain sluggishly trying to process the Captain's words.  The story is irrelevant to their conversation.  Spock can see no logic in jumping topics this way.

"Of course the prisoner wasn't there.  We never did figure out where she ended up.  But that's one of the perks of being captain, I guess.  As long as I can find an excuse to investigate something, I get to explore whatever I want."  He settles into gesturing as he recounts the story: small, nonthreatening movements.  His voice is steady as he speaks, and it begins to draw Spock out of his haze.  Spock remembers, slowly, what it feels like to breathe.

"So this moon is tiny, and mostly barren, and it looks natural on the surface, but something about it just feels off.  The water and atmosphere are all spot on, but perfectly right, like someone designed it based off of a subset of data.  Even the rocks were evenly spaced, not scattered about randomly.  It was like someone mathematically-minded put them down in precise order.  The longer we were there the more artificial it felt.

"So we look around, and we're just about to leave when the security team disappears.  Just, Poof, one second they're there, the next they're gone.  No transport beams, nothing.  And there was no atmospheric displacement, no trace they'd ever been on the planet.

"We yelled around, and then these Beings appeared: giant, shimmery, floating Beings that were humanoid, but again, precisely humanoid, like they were designed with nothing but a description to go off of.  The scale was all off.  They looked like they were made of clouds."

Spock is drifting back, snapping weightlessly into his body.  He blinks slowly, collecting his bearings.  The Captain continues telling his story and despite himself Spock listens, microscopically relaxing into the cadence of his voice.  He realizes, slowly, that the story hardly matters: the aliens, first contact, the meaning of the tiny moon.  None of the captain's words are important, and the realization is not anywhere near as alarming as it should be when Spock realizes it.  The story's entire purpose is to calm him down

And it worked.

"We, uh... We never found the security team," the Captain is saying.  He shifts backwards, tugging uncomfortably at the sleeves of his uniform.  His voice gets softer, as if he has forgotten Spock is even in the room.  "We searched, but when the ion storms engulfed the moon I had to take us out of orbit.  Four crewmen...."

Spock pulls his hands from the floor and into his lap, where he cradles them gently, staring down at his slender fingers.  Even as emotionally shut off as his mind is, he picks up on the human's sudden shift in emotion.  Where before there was a calm, steady surface, now there is an empty cavern hidden just underneath the sand.

Against his better judgement Spock glances up.  He meets the Captain's eyes for less than a second, but what he sees is not what he was expecting.  There is no malice or anger or deceit on the man's face, only a sadness that passes and is gone faster than Spock can look away.

"Sorry," the Captain says, his voice briskly picking up.  "Derailed myself a little there.  How are you doing, Spock?"

Spock nods slowly and stares at his hands.  He is surprisingly calm.

"I'm, uh.  I'm sorry I spooked you there," the Captain says, bringing the conversation back around.  "I'm not going to force a meld.  I don't want... I would never...."  He sighs heavily, scrambling for words.  "I wouldn't even know how.  So I'm not going to, alright?"  He grimaces.  "Besides.  A meld goes both ways, doesn't it?  It's not just your mind, it's mine too, right?  You have enough of your own shit to deal with.  You don't need to get into mine too."

He taps one finger against the side of his head, smiling a smile that is not quite happy.  Spock nods again, slowly.  They sit there for another silent moment, knee-to-knee, nearly touching.

Then the Captain coughs awkwardly and stands up, pacing to the door, smoothing his uniform.  "Got it?  So don't worry about that.  I'm sorry I made it seem that I was asking."

"Yes, Sir," Spock says.  His head should be reeling but for some reason he is calm.

"Good.  Good.  Well.  If you're sure you're alright, I should be getting to the Bridge."  The Captain grabs his empty plate and places it into the replicator disposal.  He gestures to Spock's half-eaten bowl of soup.  "That's yours.  Go ahead and eat the rest if you want, then put it here."

"Yes, Sir."

"I'll see you later, then."

The door swishes closed behind his heels and Spock is alone again.  He waits for two minutes, counting them in his mind, before standing up.  He places the bowl, soup and all, in the replicator disposal the Captain indicated, and then turns to the computer console.

Today he is going to learn the layout of the Enterprise.

Chapter Text

The day feels empty.

There is a scratch in the back of Spock's mind, scraping at his brain as he kneels at the desk memorizing the layout of the ship.  It is a small scratch, and so subtle that it takes some time for him to consciously notice it.  He has stood up and paced back and forth several times, from the desk to the bedroom, the washroom, then back the diagrams on his screen, distantly puzzled at his restless behavior, before he identifies exactly what is wrong.

He finds himself stalling on his task of learning the Enterprise layout, knowing that once he has finished that task he will not know what else he should do.  He wishes, suddenly, that he had not been so quick to memorize the regulations that McCoy had ordered him to learn.  But a pang of fear and guilt in his stomach makes him immediately regret that thought.  He shifts and wraps his arms around himself, crossing them protectively over his chest and clutching at his elbows.  He was good.  He finished his assigned task as quickly as he could.  He was good.  Anything more would be self-indulging.  He is Not self-indulging.  He is good.

Panic flutters in to settle in his chest and Spock wonders, irrationally, if anyone knows that he just considered wasting time.  But no, no, how could they?  They don't know, and they will never know, as long as he pulls himself together right now and just learns the information.  He takes a slow, deep breath in through his nose and releases it through his mouth.  He is calm.  He is focused.  He is perfect.

Spock finishes memorizing the Enterprise layout in twenty-two minutes and four seconds.

And then there is nothing to do.

He switches off the console so it will not tempt him to indulge himself.  Perhaps They are watching him right now, waiting to see what he does with a tiny length of freedom and strategic encouragement.  Waiting to see if he immediately forgets his training.

Yes; they are testing him.  They must be.

He will show them that he can be perfect.

He simply wishes they had told him outright what they wanted him to do.  He is not good at reading through veiled hints or at recognizing lies.

The moments drag by as Spock tries to figure out what to do.  He feels as if he is hiding.  Waiting.  He is unused to having so little freedom and simultaneously so much of it, and it is feeding his anxiety.  He needs someone to give him orders, direction, an aim.  It is not something he can do for himself.

He ends up memorizing the layout of his quarters, pacing through the rooms again and again until he can navigate them perfectly with his eyes closed.

He kneels by the foot of the bed and meditates.

When it finally grows late he wedges himself on the floor between the bed and the wall and sleeps until his brain jerks him awake. He works himself through the phantom pains.

Then he meditates again.

He is exhausted.

He changes his clothes and fully dresses himself, boots and all— it is one of the only orders he has been given, and he will do it even though it feels so incredibly wrong— and waits for the Captain's arrival.  

He was never directly told, but Spock guesses the Captain will be back this morning.  His guess is not wrong; only a few minutes later the door beeps and Spock crosses to open it.

"Good morning, Spock," the Captain says, and Spock can hear the gentle smile in his voice even though Spock does not look up.  "May we come in?"

"Of course, Sir," Spock murmurs and steps aside.

Doctor McCoy is accompanying the Captain today, and he mutters out a grouchy "Good morning" and then something under his breath about being dragged out of bed far too early and that his shift doesn't start for another hour goddamn it Jim can't you ever just wait for anything like a normal person.  He shuffles to the food replicator and gets himself a black coffee, guzzling half of it in several quick gulps before setting the mug down on the desk and turning to Spock.

"How are you feelin' this morning?" McCoy asks, shuffling his tricorder off of his hip and pulling out the scanner.  He steps forward into Spock's space, and the Vulcan has to physically stop himself from flinching away from the movement.  Spock blinks slowly at the ground and makes himself be relaxed.  He assumes the doctor is asking about his physical condition rather than his emotional one, and that merits a response.

"I am adequate," he tells the floor.  

"Any pain I should know about?"  The doctor runs the scanner over Spock's shoulder and up to his collarbone, frowning down at the tricorder screen.  Spock does not worry about the frown; the doctor is nearly always scowling around him.  

"No, Sir."  It is the truth this time, at least.  His ribs and collarbone are healed.  He has a full range of movement.  Everything else is scar tissue; nothing is raw or broken or bleeding.

"Jim here told me you ate soup yesterday morning.  How'd that go?  Y' didn't vomit it up, did you?"

"No, Sir."

"Good, that's good."  McCoy moves around Spock and runs the scanner down his spine.  "Guess we can start you on light food then, if you want.  Why didn't you tell him I had you on a strict hypospray diet?"

Spock's muscles stiffen imperceptibly.  He does not have an acceptable answer for that question.

"Forgive me, Sir," he murmurs.

"He's not angry," the Captain suddenly chimes in.  Spock flinches at the Captain's voice and McCoy makes a tsking sound from behind him.  Spock breathes out and holds himself still for the scanner.

"It wasn't his fault anyway, Bones," the Captain continues.  "I didn't know that he wasn't supposed to be eating.  No one tells me anything around here."

McCoy steps back around Spock and clips his scanner to the tricorder.  He scowls at the Captain and heads back to his coffee mug.  "Don't be dramatic.  How was I supposed to know you'd break in here and shovel food into him?  You aren't his doctor, Jim; I am.  Leave the doctor-ing to me."  He scowls over at Spock, jabbing in his direction with the mug.  "And you.  Tell him next time."

"Forgive me, Sir," Spock repeats softly.  He doesn't say yes sir like he should, because this is not something he can promise.  He knows that if he were given the chance to go back and correct his mistake he would stay silent every time.

The doctor sighs and the Captain chuckles lightly.  He moves past McCoy, toward the food processor.  "Well, now that we have permission," he says pointedly, "how about some breakfast, Spock?  You too, Bones; you're welcome to join us."  

"Can't," the doctor grouches.  "Since I'm awake I might as well catch up on paperwork.  Y'all have fun without me."

"Suit yourself," the Captain says, and shrugs.  He rolls his eyes toward Spock and stage-whispers.  "He's a goddamn workaholic."  Then loudly after the doctor, "Make sure you eat something!  Coffee doesn't count as breakfast!"

"You don't need to worry about me, Jim," McCoy grumbles, and the doors snap closed, leaving Spock alone with the Captain.

 

Chapter Text

James Tiberius Kirk, youngest captain in the history of the Empire, decorated soldier, accomplished negotiator, and self-proclaimed explorer, is standing awkwardly next to a food processor and trying his best not to fidget.  The small quarters are too hot, so hot that tiny beads of sweat are forming at the back of his neck, but the heat is not the problem here.  He's a gotdamn Space Explorer.  Roasting temperatures he can deal with.

Jim has gone through this process with what, ten, fifteen other former slaves now?  Well, not gone through, exactly, not like this, but he supervised, he was involved in little ways. He checked in.  He was there in the ways that counted, and he's taken in so many strays now that the Empire is continuously spinning in frustrated circles trying to figure out exactly why they can't get any of their operatives wormed into Jim's loyal crew.

So he should be able to deal with this Vulcan without feeling this... this odd combination of nervousness and helplessness.  And yet. There's something about this situation that is different.  His usual optimism is dampened.  He can't quite put his finger on it.

He does not like it.

This is ridiculous, he scolds himself.  Pull yourself together.  

Healing will take time.  Jim knows that.  But everything inside of him wants to lurch forward and gather the Vulcan protectively up in his arms and shield him from the cruelties of universe.  The amount of self-control it is taking to stop himself from doing just that is a feat in itself, and only possible because he knows how much worse those actions would make this entire situation.  He has to step back, give Spock time and space.  But it's eating away at him in a way that hasn't happened with any of the others.

The universe is harsh and cruel and unforgiving and that's just the way it is.  He'd thought that he had made peace with that fact-- a discontent, wary peace, but peace all the same.

Apparently he hasn't.

He feels useless, and he hates that feeling more than any other in the universe.  He wants to do something.

You can't save everyone, Jim, he thinks.  But he knows he's still going to try.  There's hope here.  He just has to find it.

And he just— he doesn't want to make a mistake.  One wrong movement, one wrong sentence or word or tone could send the Vulcan spiraling again.

 

The Vulcan in question is standing in the middle of the room where Bones left him, motionless, his hands clasped behind his back and his eyes cast down, his feet a shoulder's width apart.  The stance is reminiscent of military parade rest but somehow more submissive, more alluring.  Perfect posture, Jim notes.

Jim aims a wide smile in Spock's direction, trying for effortlessness.  He gets close enough.  It's not like Spock is looking at him anyway, but just in case, he needs to make himself look soft.  Unthreatening.  He leans subtly backwards and tried to make his body language as open as possible.

"Well?" he prompts gently.  He gestures toward the food processor, really just to do something with his hands other than trying not to fidget.  When he's alone with the delicate Vulcan he feels too large, too loud, too clumsy.

Spock swallows, a bare movement only visible because Jim is watching closely.  A muscle in the Vulcan's face twitches-- a flicker of emotion?--, then smoothes out as he considers the question.

Then, nothing but silence.

Jim waits.  He waits for as long as he can stand the quiet.  Then, just as he is about to open his mouth and rephrase his question, Spock speaks.

"Whatever you desire, Sir," the Vulcan murmurs.  His voice is deep, somewhere between gravely and melodic, and devoid of any emotion as if he laid it out and ironed it flat.  He does not look up.

"Okay," Jim says, and tries to think optimistically.  These things take time.  It's really only the second day.  But that doesn't mean it isn't going to be a struggle for him.  And when it comes to food....

He cuts that train of thought right off before it can leave the station.  It's not the time for that.  Jeezus, Jim, pull yourself together.

"Bones authorized a few things, so I'll get you one of those.  Soup sound ok again?"

"Yes, Sir."

Jim replicates the soup quickly and slides it across the desk to Spock's seat, then gets himself a heaping plate of eggs and potatoes and hamsteak.  It is arguably more food than he needs, but he's stressed out and no one is here to criticize his choices.  Spock certainly isn't going to say anything.

He feels a sudden pang of guilt when he looks at the Vulcan's pitiful bowl of soup, if it could even be called "soup;" it's mostly pale broth with a few lonely vegetables floating at the surface.  But he shoves down the urge to offer him more— unhelpful, Jim— and gestures to the chair opposite.

"Why don't you sit, Spock."  He tries to phrase it as softly as he can while still making it a clearly-defined suggestion.

Spock says nothing. He hesitates for several long moments, then slips tentatively onto the chair, directing a blank glance up through his eyelashes at Jim for confirmation.  Jim smiles encouragingly and nods, and Spock looks away, settles down into the chair, his posture slightly off.  Jim can't quite put his finger on what is wrong with it.  The wrongness is only noticeable, really, because of how perfectly Spock usually carries his body.  His movements are always so smooth and practiced.  He's a classically trained slave, that much is obvious.  Each position of his body must've been carefully curated and then, likely, beaten into him until it became second nature.  

Sitting on a chair, at a desk, must not be one of those positions.

It is all too easy for Jim's mind to fill in the blanks.  Before he can stop himself, he is imagining Spock's naked body sprawled out over someone's lap, not a single dark hair out of place, his muscles coiled under his ivory skin like a tamed panther.  It's easy to see why he was chosen as a pleasure slave.  Even through his carefully cultivated apathy and his silence and his scars, gods is he pretty.

Guilt washes over Jim nearly as fast as his imagination.  He stumbles his attention out of his own head and back to Spock, who has his hands in his lap, ignoring the food in front of him.  Waiting for direction.  Jim waves to Spock's bowl.

"Please, eat," he says, more cheerfully than he feels.

"Yes, Sir," Spock murmurs tonelessly.  A thin hand slips up and takes the spoon from the table, and the Vulcan dips it into the bowl, bringing a minuscule amount of broth to his lips and tilting it in.  He makes no sound: no clink of spoon against bowl, no slurp as he swallows.  

Jim is reminded again of how loud and clumsy he is in comparison.  He sticks out like a sore thumb; his chewing seems noisy, his utensils scraping at his plate are nearly deafening in the silent room.

He is finished with his plate before Spock has had even a dozen spoonfuls and the amount of broth in the Vulcan's bowl remains nearly unchanged.  That little detail threatens to consume Jim's attention but he harshly shoves that particular buzzing anxiety to the back of his mind and doesn't allow himself to dwell on it.  He swallows hard, his throat scratching from hastily swallowing unchewed, too-large bites.

Good work, Jim.  What the hell.

"Is it alright if I ask you a few questions?" he asks before the breakfast can get any further away from him.  It feels wrong, asking this of Spock, because he knows the slave— the former slave— will do anything Jim asks, regardless of Spock's personal desires.  But there's just no sidestepping this any longer.  You can't just steal from someone as powerful as Khan Noonien Singh without expecting some fallout, even if you are the captain of the Empire's flagship.

"Whatever you wish, Sir," comes the expected answer.  Spock sets down the spoon without making a noise and his hands retreat back to fold carefully in his lap.  His back is straight, his posture morphing from discomfort into something very close to perfection.  Waiting for instruction.

"If you don't want to answer something, let me know," Jim says, even though he knows the sentiment is useless.  But saying it makes him feel better about taking advantage of Spock's lack of free will.

Spock says nothing, only stares down at his hands.

Jim is quiet for a moment, watching the Vulcan.

Spock does not move.  He is still, so incredibly still that Jim might mistake him for an android of some sort if he didn't know better.  It's more than a little unsetting.  His chest hardly moves with each slow, silently measured breath he takes, and he blinks so rarely that Jim can't actually remember if he's ever seen him blink.  Besides, well, the times he's fluttered his eyelashes.  But that does not count as a blink, exactly.

His thin face is also motionless.  It is entirely still, but it is not peaceful.  Jim has met Vulcans before, seen their particular brand of emotionless expression.  This is not that.  This is different.  This is more hollow than anything.  Nothingness.

Jim has seen a ghost of emotion flicker over Spock's face on occasion, nothing more than a twitch of a muscle or a nearly imperceptible tightening of the lips, invisible if Jim was not specifically watching for it.  He wonders if, to Spock, each twitch feels like a flashing neon sign.  

At least there's some emotion.  It's hidden, so deep down, but it's there.  That's a good thing.

"How long did you serve Khan?" Jim asks at last, phrasing the question as delicately as he can manage.

Spock does not react.  He must be expecting this line of questioning and has prepared himself for it.

"Five Terran years," Spock says flatly, "nine months, and twenty-one days."  Exact.  As if he has counted each one.

But of course he has.  He is a Vulcan.  Honestly Jim wouldn't be surprised if Spock knows exactly down to the minute, despite planetary timezone shifts.  And not just in Terran time but also in Vulcan time.  Or even a dozen others.

Jim schools his face into a calm mask, hiding his surprise as well as he can.  Six years is an abnormally long amount of time for a pleasure slave to stay with a single master.  It piques his curiosity.

"Oh.  What about before that?"  How many others, is the unspoken question.  Vulcan age can be difficult to determine but Spock cannot be more than thirty.  Younger, likely.  How many masters in that time?

"Six households," Spock says, catching Jim's meaning in an instant.  He's a smart one, Jim thinks.  Utterly wasted as a pleasure slave.  "Nine, if one is to also consider training facilities and auction houses."  

That is more like the answer Jim was expecting.  He nods.  "And your duties?"  He pauses, considers.  "Aside from...."  He gestures vaguely.  "Not, uh...You know."

He mentally kicks himself for that one.  What the fuck was that?  Jim is never embarrassed to talk about sex.  Is his brain trying to be sensitive?  Because he's pretty sure that skirting around like it's uncomfortable and taboo is not the way to make this situation better.  Straightforward, Jim.  Be straightforward.

But Spock is already answering.

"I first served as a household slave," Spock says blankly.  "Menial tasks, nothing of incredible note or skill.  When I reached a proper age I was sent to train at the Konicek Pleasure Academy on Risa."  At this, Spock sits up almost impossibly straighter, his eyelashes fluttering down against his cheeks in the most unprovoked movement Jim has seen him make since the start of breakfast.  

Jim pauses, his eyes widening in surprise as realization trickles over him, slowly at first and then crashing down all at once in a forceful tidal wave.  Holy shit.  Holy shit.  He knew Spock was classically trained but.  Shit.  Shit.  He'd just assumed the Vulcan was conditioned by an independent trainer like most pleasure slaves, but no.  He actually went to the institute on Risa.  That's... That's the top pleasure slave training academy.  The top of the top.  The slaves that come out of there... 

He blinks, trying to get his expression under control.  Spock is worth a small fortune.  As much as a private luxury liner, possibly even more.

Or, he was worth that much.  Probably still could be, if his scars could be scrubbed and Jim was in the business of trading illegally obtained slaves.  Which, for the record, he is not.  Not even legal slaves.  He shoots that thought out there just in case anyone— alien or deity or the Vulcan across the table— is listening in on his thoughts.  He's fairly certain that Vulcans are touch-telepaths, but one can never be too careful in space.  Nothing underhanded going on here, he thinks.  Nope.

"You trained at the actual academy," Jim says, more a statement than a question.  He can't help the grudging respect in his voice.

"Yes, Sir," Spock says.  He doesn't move but Jim gets the distinct sense that he is proud that Jim understands the importance of that fact.

"No wonder Khan kept you so long."

Spock does not directly respond, but he seems to tense at the statement.  He swallows again, and under his sleeves the tendons in his thin arms tighten.

"My first master's father purchased me directly out of the academy as a gift for his son," Spock continues.  "I was with the son for twenty-six Terran days.  I then changed hands through a... game of chance.  My second master sold me to an auction house after seven days, for a profit."

Spock does not move, does not blink, but he cannot control a faint green blush that seeps down from the tips of his gently-pointed ears to stain his cheeks.

It's humiliation, Jim realizes after a beat.  Shame, maybe.  Spock was— is—a premium slave of the highest caliber.  Worth, quite literally, a small fortune.  Trained to suit the desires of a very specific clientele.

After all of that, to be purchased as a gift for what Jim guesses was a trust fund asswipe who cared so little that he gambled him away after only a few weeks? And then for his next master to sell him as soon as he could...?

Jim carefully doesn't react.  He speaks up before Spock can continue, suddenly realizing that he doesn't want to know Spock's full history.  "Let's just discuss your last master, alright?  What were your duties with Khan?"

"My primary duty was to provide physical and erotic pleasure to my master," Spock says, as tonelessly as if he was discussing the weather.  "Secondarily, it was my responsibility to manage the household and oversee my master's slaves."

Jim nods.  At least Khan had recognized Spock's intelligence in addition to his physical beauty.

"He beat you," Jim says bluntly.

"Yes," Spock confirms, "that was among my duties.  I was specifically trained to withstand various types of sadism and therefore I am fitting match for such a master."

He pauses a moment before adding, the words rushing out slightly too quickly, "But I have the ability to satisfy a wide range of desires.  Sir."

It's a sales pitch, Jim notices.  He doesn't take the bait.

"How were you involved in Khan's multi-world crime ring?" he asks instead.

"I was not," Spock answers.  "However, I was in a position to gather some information.  I will tell you everything I know."

The Vulcan's voice is steady and bland as ever, but his eyes dart sideways, just briefly.

Fear? Jim wonders.  Possibly.

"Anything you can remember will be helpful," Jim reassures. "You won't be punished if you can't remember something."

"Yes, Sir," Spock tells the floor, an automatic response with no real belief behind it.

Jim holds in a sad sigh.  This is going to be a long conversation, and it's going to feel more like an interrogation than he's strictly comfortable with.

He switches on his PADD, fingers hovering over the surface.  He continues, as nonchalantly as he can,

"Then let's get started."

Chapter Text

It doesn't take Jim long to realize this isn't working.

It isn't Spock’s fault; the Vulcan quietly answers every question Jim asks with precise honesty. Spock is not withholding information, but he doesn’t volunteer anything extra outside of the exact question parameters. Is it loyalty to his former master, Jim wonders? Or a personality trait, maybe, or just training.

There is information in Spock, Jim knows that. Probably more than he’d originally expected. The Vulcan seemed to have a trusted place in Khan’s house. But broad questions aren't getting the job done and Jim doesn't know enough about what information is there so he doesn't know what to ask. He can’t ask detailed questions when the knowledge base he’s working from is only a vague picture.

It's frustrating.

They just... they need a different approach.

Jim finally scoots his chair back, resisting the urge to rub at his temples. It's too damn early in the day to already have a headache.

He glances down at the time displayed in the corner of his PADD and frowns. It’s actually not that early. He’s overdue on the bridge.

“Okay, good talk,” he says crisply. “But I’m going to have to cut us off here and get going.”

Spock looks at his hands and says nothing.

“Why don't you write all this down?” Jim suggests. “Can you do that?”

“Yes, Sir,” Spock says immediately. Jim can't be certain but he thinks the Vulcan's shoulders relax just a twinge.

Maybe.

“OK.” Jim stands up.

Spock moves quickly, gracefully, slipping out of his chair to kneel on the ground before Jim has even fully straightened up.

Jim gestures toward the console. “Just write anything you can think of that might be important.”

“Yes, Sir.”

It isn’t until Jim has left the room that he wonders if he should have been more specific in his instructions.

He’s frowning when he makes his way to the bridge.

He’s late. Pretty late, actually. He’d gotten up early and blocked out some time for this meeting, but the entire thing took longer than he’d expected it to take, and he’s just now realizing that he neglected to inform the bridge staff that he had other plans.

They can function just fine without him, of course, but they shouldn’t have to.

Several heads turn to look as he steps out of the turbolift, acknowledge his presence, then turn back to what they were doing.

“Good morning, Captain,” Uhura greets as he strides toward his chair. “Spending the morning with Khan’s fucktoy?” She winks.

It’s supposed to be a joke, he knows, but he’s not in the mood and it’s in poor taste. Jim turns, fixes her with a steely glare. A glare like that from the captain of an empirical starship would have most people quivering in their boots, but Uhura merely shrugs, places a slender finger over her earpiece, and deliberately turns her chair back toward her station.

Jim taps the armrest, considering, before raising his voice so the entire bridge can hear.

“Stations, report.”

“Delta shift intercepted what may be several subspace signals,” Uhura answers without missing a beat. “We are analyzing them now. If one of them is Romulan in origin we should know within...” she fades off for a moment to double check a screen, “five hours.”

“Make it four,” Jim orders.

“Yes, Sir,” she says.

It's a reasonable request. They both know it.

“Mr. Sulu?” Jim clips, shifting his attention to his helmsman.

“Heading and speed are unchanged,” Sulu responds. He doesn’t turn, doesn’t take his eyes away from his dashboard.

Jim nods, lets the bustle of the bridge happen all around him. His PADD rests on one knee and he idly shifts through it, signing away on reports that require his attention, glancing over maps and proposed flight plans and requisition orders. His mind isn’t really focusing on the paperwork.

The Enterprise is out on the edge of Empire space, investigating reports of a cloaked Romulan outpost too close to Empire territory for comfort. Investigation only, those are his direct orders, but Jim doubts they'll leave without a scuffle. Things usually turn out that way.

It’s a good mission. Exploration with the promise of a fight. But most importantly, it’s a mission that has the Enterprise out on the edge of Empire civilization, lightyears away from a certain planetary crime ring in control of a certain warlord.

Jim is good at finding missions that line up not only with the Empire’s goals but also with his own, though they may not be the same. It’s part of the reason he’s still the captain of the Empire’s flagship.

Right now, their distance is buying them some time.

He should’ve killed Khan when he had the chance, he knows. Jim often replays the scenario over in his mind, thinking about what he could’ve done differently had he known.

But they weren’t prepared. Their phasers were set to the lowest stun setting-- Jim’s own regulation-- and even then they had needed to fire more than once before Khan fell.

They had all heard rumours, of course, whispers of stories of a superhuman figure. Official files on Khan stated that it was possible he had altered his biological makeup in some way. Augmented himself.

Seems like the stories are true.

Jim frowns. That would’ve been a good question to ask Spock.

To be honest, they hadn’t even known that Khan was on the planet. They were just stopping by for some shore leave. Running into him was a gigantic universal coincidence. Jim hadn’t known, in the split second when he made the decision to bull-rush forward and throw himself over a beaten slave, exactly who he was saving. Or who he was defying.

He’d reported to the Empire, of course, that they had been on the planet to investigate rumours of crime ring activity. He’d reported that he’d captured an insider and that he was in the process of interrogating him. He’d reported in his usual broad strokes, letting the superiors fill in the blanks with their own imagination.

It had earned him a commendation.

A quiet tone plays from his PADD and he taps the screen, surprised to see that the message is from Spock.

It is nothing but an attachment, presented without comment. Jim slides his finger over it and blinks. He’s pretty sure he hadn't told the Vulcan where to send the report.

It would appear that Spock has written nearly 80 full pages of content in under two hours. It is easily one of the longest reports Jim has received. He taps it open and quickly skims over the first few pages. The information looks like it's impeccably organized into similar categories, with a cross-referencing system at the bottom of each page.

A fucking cross-referencing system. Goddamn Vulcans.

He lets out a quick, humorless laugh.

“What's so funny, Jim?”

He sobers up quick and turns his chair to face Bones, who is stepping out of the turbolift and on the bridge for who-knows-what-reason. Jim has stopped asking with any true seriousness at this point.

“Nothing,” Jim banters back with an easy shrug. “This report, it's just…. Nothing, never mind. What do you need, Bones? I'm a busy man.”

“Busy sitting around? That's what it looks like to me.”

“Busy reading reports, Doctor. Don't you have patients to attend?”

“Ehh.” Bones waves a hand non-committally and steps around Jim’s chair to lean against the armrest.

They both know that paperwork isn’t really Jim’s strong suit. And normally, Jim would be happy for the distraction.

But he’s serious about reading this one. If anything, Spock’s report will be a look into the Vulcan’s mind.

“Shoo,” Jim says, the playfulness in his voice undercut with a note of seriousness. “Or if you have to be here, make yourself useful and sign some of this shit for me.”

Bones is CMO. He has the authority to sign off on nearly everything Jim does. Jim taps Spock’s report closed and swipes a few others off to Bones to approve.

“Sure thing, Jim,” Bones says, catching the seriousness in his captain’s voice. He slides out his own PADD and gets to work.

Jim watches him for a moment, half-wondering why Bones doesn’t go find his own space to sit, half wondering if he should tell him to leave and then deciding against making the effort, before he reopens Spock’s report.

He reads over the subheadings.

Spock is nothing if not detail-oriented. The Information ranges from Khan’s personality itself and his sexual preferences to names, dates, times, places of individuals in his organization.

It is truly a lot of information. Jim pauses, finger hovering over sexual preferences, before he swallows the temptation and taps on Andorian Ring. The Empire has been trying to gather intel on Khan’s influence on Andoria for years.

There’s a lot of information there.

“I thought,” Jim mutters, half to himself, “that Vulcans are supposed to be exceptionally loyal.”

There is a snort off to his left, and he looks up from the PADD to find Bones giving him an odd look. Jim frowns. He’s been doing that a lot lately.

“What?”

But for once the doctor doesn't say anything, just shakes his head and pats him on the shoulder.

Jim doesn’t push it.

Chapter Text

Spock sends off his report in record time, allowing himself to feel small, tight measure of satisfaction. He did well and he knows it.

But the feeling doesn’t last long.

He can see the end of his usefulness looming on the horizon, a blackened storm cloud that is blotting out what little light manages to reach Spock's dim world.

But perhaps there is still hope.


He gave away all of his information, all of what, he thinks, was keeping the Captain interested. Now he is on dangerous ground with nothing of value left to give. Except.

The Captain told him that he can choose a job, specifically "any job you desire," and Spock, well... he has been trained for only one. And while so far the Captain has expressed no interest in those particular services, Spock knows better. The Captain is different from his previous masters— a scarred pleasure slave attracts a certain type of person and the Captain is not that person— but Spock is tentatively sure that he can figure out what the Captain is into.

No, he is not tentatively sure. He is sure. He has to be. Otherwise...

He shakes his head stiffly. No. He will not think of failure. There is only one option: succeed.

Spock mentally compiles all information he has gathered about the Captain. He appears to be a typical human in regards to his emotions: they are quick, ever-changing, volatile. He has an iron will and a strong sense of justice. And, according to McCoy, he has taken an interest in Spock. Even if it is not openly physical, that is good. Interest is good. Spock can work with that.

Unlike his previous masters, the Captain has a negative emotional reaction to Spock's discomfort and fear, that much is certain. So Spock will not be uncomfortable, and he will not be afraid. He will enjoy it, or at least, he will act as if he does. And he will start slowly. Seduce. It has been years since he has drawn on some of the more subtle parts of his training, but they are there all the same.

In his terror he had jumped in too quickly and angered the Captain away. Offended the human's morals, probably, but the Captain's actions have told Spock what he needs to know.

The Captain, it seems, needs to feel like a hero. Perhaps, Spock hypothesizes, he needs to feel like he is saving Spock. Perhaps that will allow him a way inside.

Seduction is not deceitful, he reminds himself; it is not lying. It is not pretending; it is becoming. It is making yourself into an object that is desired, valued. That is how you stay alive.

He can do this.

He frowns subtly at himself. It is well past time for him to take back control of his emotions. Up until now he has been unpredictable, addled, afraid. He has allowed himself to succumb to the allure of physical comforts.

It is enough. It ends, now.

 

Spock gets no sleep tonight.

He lowers the room temperature and then kneels at the foot of the bed, eyes closed in the darkness. His skin prickles against the cold and he suppresses a shiver, but the corners of his tight lips tip upwards in grim satisfaction. This is familiar. This is Right.

It takes him three tries— shameful— to successfully lower himself into a deep meditation, but he gets himself there. He breathes and listens to his heartbeat and repairs his mental walls, forcing every piece of himself back inside the enclosure. He shoves his fear down as far as it will go, locks it up, covers it with barrier upon barrier until it is as if it never existed.


Time passes. Morning approaches.

He slides calmly from his meditation.  There are things he needs to do to prepare.

 

He examines the food processor, and after a little trial-and-error working around items the processor was never intended to produce, Spock gathers his small handful of items and retreats to the washroom. He deposits them on the small counter next to the sink.

He has a tiny capsule of activated carbon, a wooden toothpick, and two vials of a plant-based cooking oil originating from the Relfiffe system. The oil is food-grade and tends to leave a residue behind that can become uncomfortable, but it is odorless, colorless, slick, and safe to use. Not his first choice, but it will suit his purposes.

He gently picks the capsule of activated carbon apart with his fingernails and tips it into the first vial of oil. He stirs it with the toothpick until the mixture is thick, a dark black. Then he leans toward the mirror and, very gently, applies the makeshift eyeliner. Heavy above his hooded eyes and winged outward in a precise, tapered point. When he is done, Spock steps back and studies himself for imperfections. But there are none, even with his limited use of tools; his hands are steady after years of practice, and the style is precisely honed to be the most flattering to his particular set of features.

He caps the vial and sets it aside, and then turns to the second vial of relfiffe oil. He dabs a finger into it and touches a spot of the glistening oil to his cheekbones. He uses the tips of his fingers to smooth it into his skin until his cheekbones faintly shimmer, subtly catching the light when he moves.

It is not much, but it is the best he can do. And when he looks into the mirror, for the first time in awhile, he sees someone who looks like himself staring back. The ritual of painting his face is drawing him deeper into the correct headspace: submissive, alluring, sexual. Where he should be. Where he belongs.

He should never have let himself leave it.

He is nearly ready; there is only one more task to complete. Spock's internal clock is ticking off seconds: if the Captain continues his pattern, he will likely arrive within the next twenty minutes. Spock must do it now.

He questions, for a moment, whether he has been putting it off? But no; that would be illogical. It is merely another task.

He upends the clear vial into his hand and then kneels on the floor, spreading his knees far apart and curving his body so that he can reach under himself. His wrist bumps his soft cock out of the way as he slides two oil-coated fingers down to his entrance. The two fingers shove unceremoniously past the tight ring of muscles and Spock barely twitches. The physical pain is no matter, and since he is not putting on a show for anyone he has no need— or desire— to go slow. This is a task to complete, nothing more.

He mechanically works himself open, harshly scissoring his two fingers before adding a third, coating himself with the oil as far up into himself as his slender fingers can reach. His eyes stare blankly ahead, fixed on nothing but empty air, and he tries his best to block out the sloppy squelching sounds that echo lewdly through the silence.

It takes him longer than it would normally; he has not done this in over a week and his muscles are clenched tighter than he had believed they ever could be. But he forces himself, if not to relax, exactly, then to take his fingers without complaint.

When Spock is satisfied that he is sufficiently opened, he stands and carefully wipes away the excess oil from his fingers and thighs. He dresses himself in a short tunic that would be modest if worn with pants as it is intended, but now falls alluringly to the tops of his thighs, barely covering his ass. He does not bother to pull on a pair of underwear.

He is not disobeying, he tells himself. They told him to wear clothes, and he is. They never specified how many. It will be fine.

He settles down on his knees next to the front door's control panel, bows his head, and breathes.

Fifteen minutes later, when the door beeps the Captain's arrival, Spock is ready.

Chapter Text

The Captain steps in with his arms full of electronic equipment.

“Good morning, Spock,” he crows in his usual friendly way, apparently unsurprised to find Spock kneeling on the floor, but he is focused on his own task and barely gives Spock a glance as he moves to deposit his equipment on the desk. He takes a moment to arrange the items, flipping a PADD over so it isn’t lying face-down, before dusting his hands off at his sides and turning toward Spock.

“Good morning, Captain,” Spock says, quietly returning the Terran greeting.

He watches from the corner of his eye as the Captain’s gaze slide over him, an unreadable expression on the human’s face.

Spock waits.

Finally the Captain frowns, glancing pointedly at Spock’s uncovered legs.

“Are you comfortable?” he asks.

Physical comfort is of little importance to Vulcans, Spock thinks to himself.

“I am,” is what he says aloud. It is the answer he knows the Captain wants to hear.

“I am grateful for the gift of clothing. Though, if you prefer to have me in something else, I will be happy to comply with your wishes.” He glances up through his eyelashes, fluttering them demurely is against his cheeks, and shifts just slightly in place so that the edge of his tunic slips a few centimeters up his leg.

“...You’re free to wear whatever you wish,” the Captain says, his voice tight.

Spock bows his head and waits and listens as the Captain softly taps his fingers against the desk.

“Breakfast?”

“Yes, Sir,” Spock says. He is aware of how passive he is acting but he does not know how to be anything else. He was always just there to be used, as a release for anger or frustration or lust. He never initiated any action.

Perhaps that is why so many masters bored of him so quickly.

Even though it is illogical to think he has any control over his future, he vows that he will not let that happen again.

He has to do something.

“Please allow me to serve you,” he dares, standing up and sliding himself between the Captain and the food processor, quickly, before the Captain can protest. The position puts him very near to the Captain-- an added bonus. He would just need to lift a hand and move only a few inches to close the gap.

He doesn’t, though.

“You don't need to,” the Captain is saying. Spock can feel the breath from the Captain’s words against his throat.

“You have been kind,” Spock says, hyper-aware of his own measured breathing in such close quarters. His hands are clasped behind his back. Their chests are so close. “Please allow me the honour of returning the gesture.”

The Captain sighs, nods. “Sure.” He fiddles with the back of the chair as if debating whether to sit. “Pancakes and sausage for me. They're, uh, 01T-071 and 01T-1023.”

Spock nods and half-turns so he can access the food processor. He punches in the order quickly; he could’ve done it easily even if the Captain didn’t have the order numbers memorized. Spock’s earlier quality time spent with the Enterprise food processor had also included several minutes of memorization. He can now order a variety of common Terran foods from memory.

The Captain seems to finally make up his mind and drags his chair out sideways so it doesn’t bump into Spock before sitting on it. He makes himself busy with rearranging the items he brought, carefully pushing them to one end of the desk so they are out of the way.

“Don’t forget to order something for yourself,” he says over his shoulder.

Spock takes the Captain’s breakfast from the dispenser and reaches around him to set the tray on the desk. He makes himself lean just a little too closely, the inside of his wrist brushing against the Captain’s shoulder as he draws back.

“What would you suggest, Sir?” he murmurs near the Captain’s ear, hovering.

The Captain is very still.

Spock wonders if he should reach forward and touch him, massage his shoulders or finger-comb through his hair. He can’t quite make himself do it.

“16V-24,” the Captain says, turning his head just a twinge to glance over at the food processor. “It’s a Vulcan breakfast fruit plate. You’ll like it.”

Spock obediently orders the food. When he has the tray he stares down at it for a moment, then makes himself move-- the Captain is waiting on him. He picks it up, carries it two steps to the Captain’s side, then sinks to his knees next to the Captain’s chair. He places the tray on the ground.

“Woah, woah, woah, Mister,” the Captain says, scooting his chair back and away. “What do you think you’re doing?”

Spock swallows. He leans forward, pressing his hands to the floor and resting his forehead on his hands. It’s a supplication pose, but it also has the distinct advantage of stretching his tunic over his back and showing off his bare ass.

There is a long moment of silence.

“Spock,” the Captain says. Spock stays still. “It is… customary, to wear underwear.”

Customary, perhaps, for you, Spock thinks dryly.

Instead he says, “I can put on a pair if you wish.” He moves, shifting his knees subtly apart, arching his back. Presenting himself. “But I have found they usually only get in the way.”

“I don’t-- I…” The Captain says. “If. You think they’re uncomfortable we can get you a different set.”

“I do not find them to be uncomfortable, Sir. Simply unnecessary.”

Spock waits, counts to five in the silence. The Captain isn’t beating him for his insolence, but he also isn’t touching him. Spock has to do something.

He cautiously sits back up on his knees and turns to glance up at the Captain. The Captain is watching him, his face slightly flushed but otherwise schooled into a neutral expression. Spock is distantly both impressed and annoyed at his restraint.

He leaves his food on the floor and slides himself closer, leaning in and resting against the Captain’s leg. He is careful to avoid direct skin-to-skin contact; he wants to avoid that for as long as possible.

“You have been kind to me,” Spock breathes. “It is my wish to return the favour.” He gently runs his hand up to the Captain’s knee but no further. Last time he tried something like this he went too quickly and was aggressively rejected.

“This isn’t what you want,” the Captain says firmly. An irrelevant statement.

“I want to please you,” Spock murmurs. He brings his head forward, plants a soft kiss on the outside of the Captain’s knee. It’s not a lie. Not directly.

His fingers stroke at the Captain’s thigh, tentatively climbing several centimeters higher than his knee. He can see a faint stirring of interest beneath the fabric at the Captain’s crotch.

It brings with it a sharp pang of fear that arrows through the barrier around Spock’s mind and catches him momentarily off guard. He freezes, just for a fraction of a second. But he gets himself back under control.

It is utterly ridiculous to be afraid. He has done this thousands of times before. It is no different. It is simply a task to complete, nothing more.

He has been spoiled.

He presses another kiss to the Captain’s leg.

“I have prepared myself,” he murmurs. “Please allow me the pleasure.”

The Captain shakes his head. “I think you’d better get dressed.”

Spock ignores the hint. His fingers are tracing gentle circles into the Captain’s leg.

“I can do all of the work,” he murmurs. “Please, eat, and allow me to pleasure you under the table.” He flutters his eyelashes and looks upwards, knowing his thin face is not as expressive as it should be but hoping that he still radiates an aura of desire.

“No.” The Captain pushes his chair back, scooting away from Spock’s touch.

“Sir.”

“I said no,” he repeats, his voice strong but not unkind. He leans forward, careful to keep his legs out of the way, and grasps Spock’s upper arms. His grip is firm but gentle as he pulls Spock to his feet.

Spock stands without complaint, half expecting himself to be yanked forward and over the Captain’s lap.

“Sit down on the chair, please,” the Captain says instead. He gives Spock a gentle prod in that direction before leaning forward to retrieve Spock’s breakfast tray from the floor. He scoots it across the desk while Spock obeys.

“You saved my life.” Spock’s voice is hardly above a whisper. “And in return I have given you nothing.” He swallows, balancing awkwardly on the chair, torn between sitting up straight with perfect posture and slouching down so that he is shorter than the Captain. “I am aware that I am a damaged specimen but I assure you I am still capable of giving much pleasure.”

There's a flash of shame at that. It takes him a moment to identify it. Interesting. He had thought he could no longer experience that particular emotion. But, as illogical as it seems, it is one thing to know his worthlessness and quite another to be forced to speak it aloud to a man who is fixated on treating him like an equal.

He hates it, he realizes, and he hates himself for the intensity of the emotion, but he can't make it stop. His masters may have been cruel but never did they toy with him like this. Never did they promise freedom or tease him with clothes or food or chairs. He was a slave and they were no more going to treat him like a person than they would an animal, or a piece of furniture. They knew his place and there was no question about it. No uncertainty.

Treating Spock this way would never have even crossed their minds. Or his. He was a thing, so incredibly different than a person. It was a steady, constant certainty that Spock had taken for granted, so much so that he hadn't even known it was something that could be taken away.

But now it has been and he hates it. He wishes, just for one reckless moment, that he could tell the Captain how cruel he's being.

But he knows. Surely he knows. He must be doing this deliberately, taking away the one thing Spock never even realized he had. It's thrown him off more than any other training, any beatings. If he's trying to tear Spock down into a blank slate, this is the way to do it.

It must be deliberate. It's brilliant. It's something no other trainer or master has ever achieved.

He only wishes he knew the Captain's end goal.

But it is not his place to wish. It is only his place to obey. And he’s doing a poor job of that. He is--


“Spock. Listen to me.”

The Captain's voice pulls him out of his spiraling thoughts. He makes himself listen.

“You haven’t given me sex, or…,” He pauses, gestures toward Spock, “Whatever this is supposed to be, because I haven’t asked for it. That’s not what I want from you right now. You have other skills I want to put to use.”

He leans intently forward, his gaze focused onto Spock like a laser. Spock can feel it even without looking up. The Captain’s intensity buzzes against his skin, even through his mind’s barrier. It makes Spock nearly want to believe him.

“You’re intelligent, you’ve proven that. This report is… Detail-oriented, well organized. That’s the part of you I want to tap into.”

He leans back, running a hand over his face, his tone devolving into something less intense, more conversational.

“Look, I’m sure you’d be a great fuck. I don’t doubt it. But-- nothing against you-- that’s not what I need. But that doesn’t mean I can’t put you to good use. Got it?”

Spock hesitates, trying to decide if that was a question that needs an answer. He finally settles on a single, awkward nod.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Good, good.” The Captain seems to relax, sloping back into his chair and picking up a fork, poking absently at a pancake.

“If you’re up to it, we’d like to do some aptitude testing with you today.” He nods toward the pile of equipment on the desk. “It’s basic stuff, just to see what you know and where your skills are.”

“Yes, Sir.”

He’s nearly relieved. He is good at taking tests. He always has been. He doesn’t know what they’re looking for but he is fairly confident that he can succeed.

He looks down at the plate of fruit innocently sitting in front of him at the desk.  The Captain is already taking a bite of his own food.

Spock hasn't been prompted to eat.

His eyes dart to the Captain, then back down to the food.

He hesitates a moment, then picks up his fork, cuts himself a tiny bite, and eats.

Chapter Text

Jim swallows hard the last bite of his breakfast. It's been an… interesting morning. To say the least.

He gets up, on guard in case Spock makes any sudden moves toward him, but the Vulcan simply slips out of his chair and onto his knees as Jim stands. That’s something they will have to work on. But after, Jim thinks, after they work on sitting in chairs in general. Baby steps.

He goes and gets a pair of underwear from the drawer in the adjoining room, using the reprieve to adjust himself inside his pants. He's half hard, like some overeager teenage boy. His cock twitches as he tugs and tucks it. Despite his reputation, it's been awhile. He is acutely aware that he would only need to give the word and the beautiful creature in the next room would drop to his knees, take him in his pretty mouth, look up at him through those long eyelashes….

He frowns at himself but the flood of unwelcome images don't stop. He is a bad man.

He gently pinches his arm, then strides back into the room, unwilling to waste more time composing himself. He hands the pair of underwear down to Spock, carefully keeping himself a safe distance away.

“Put these on,” he instructs.

Spock takes them soundlessly. He doesn’t even try to glance toward Jim, just unfolds his ridiculously long legs and stands, steps into them, pulls them up over his thighs. There is very little finesse in his movements now, very little pointed seduction.

When he finishes he simply stands in place, staring dully at the ground.

Jim feels vaguely guilty.

He pushes that feeling away.

“Alright,” he says, with forced cheerfulness. He rubs his hands together, goes over to the desk, rifles through the electronics. He picks up a PADD.

He's already prepped a short maths evaluation, beginning fairly easy with equations that automatically adjust their difficulty based on the examinee’s responses. He keys it up and passes the PADD to Spock.

“Try this,” he says.

Spock takes the PADD without comment, still standing stiffly in the middle of the room. He looks it over for a moment, then glances at Jim as if searching for permission to begin. Jim nods his encouragement, flashes him a smile.

“Go ahead. You won't be punished for incorrect answers.”

Spock’s head dips quickly down. He just stares at the PADD screen and hesitates.

Jim begins to worry that he'd given him too difficult of a test already. But Spock had seemed so intelligent, and at least basically educated, he’d really thought…

But then Spock begins. His fingers fly across the screen, and Jim can't tell when one problem ends and another begins because Spock simply doesn't pause between them.

It's… attractive, Jim silently admits to himself. He's a little more comfortable letting himself think that. A little. It still feels wrong.

He makes himself stop watching and instead gathers up the breakfast dishes. Spock's plate is half uneaten, Jim notes with a twinge of discomfort, but honestly it's the most he's ever seen the Vulcan eat, so it's progress. He leaves it on the table, just in case.

He wonders, not for the first time, why he's even here.

First he was telling himself that he was involved because he needed that information on Khan. But he has it now, and the story he’s telling himself now seems a little thin. There are others aboard with better skill sets to deal with this.

He likes having a project but, for some reason, it's more. He should just admit to himself that he likes having someone to eat breakfast with.

But if he's truly honest with himself, he can't stand the idea of passing control of Spock's recovery over to anyone else. Just the thought of it causes an ugly jealousy to boil up in his chest and threaten to spew everywhere. He's drawn to this Vulcan. He can't figure out why, but he is.

He needs backup. He picks up his own PADD and sends a quick message to McCoy. The doctor was already planning on stopping by soon to oversee some of the aptitude testing while Jim went to the bridge to do actual work, but he thinks he might need to hand this circus off early.

He looks over at Spock. The Vulcan seems to be engrossed in his test with an intense focus that Jim hasn't seen on him before. It's as if he's forgotten, momentarily, that he isn't alone in the room.

Jim’s gaze sweeps over him, drawn to his legs. They are long, bare. Covered in scars.

Khan must have been one hell of a master. Getting off on a power imbalance, that Jim understands. But not the cruelty.

Dermal regeneration is an easily accessible, inexpensive medical treatment. Small regen packs are sold over-the-counter. If wounds, even deep ones, are treated right away they rarely leave a mark.

Spock’s scars indicate that he was denied even that most basic care. And the sheer amount of them… He must have spent so much time injured and bleeding.

No wonder Bones is so upset about them.

The exam finishes and Spock's eyes slide up, meeting Jim's. For a fraction of a second Jim thinks he sees a spark of fire, but then Spock's face drops and his eyes return to staring neutrally at the floor.

Jim steps forward and holds out a hand for the PADD. He looks it over, at once surprised and not surprised with the results.

He whistles. “Not bad.”

Spock's eyes jump to his and this time Jim is sure that he sees a challenge there. It's gone as soon as it's there.

Jim smiles a tight smile. Spock's work was fast and flawless. Better than “not bad.” They both know it.

He wonders if he just bruised the Vulcan’s pride.

The door chimes, then slides open, and Bones is standing there, flanked by Nurse Chapel. He already has a mug of coffee clutched tight in his hand. He surveys the room, scowls at Jim, and stomps in. Chapel floats in after.

Jim wastes no time in filling the doctor in on Spock's progress and then he bolts.

Even as he’s headed out the door, Jim can all but hear the frown in McCoy’s voice.

“Didn’t I tell you to keep it a comfortable temperature in here?”

Normally Jim would stop, joke with the doctor, help deflect some of McCoy’s gruff bedside manner onto himself. But he needs to get himself out of that damn room before something breaks.

He starts toward his own quarters, thinking that he probably still has enough time to rub one out. In almost the same breath he realizes he won’t be able to get Spock out of his head. He isn’t sure about the ethics of masturbating to the thought of a vulnerable ex-slave living only a few halls away from his own. But it seems wrong.

A cold shower is in order, then. He frowns. That somehow seems less appealing.

He veers off on a whim and heads for the rec center, flipping open his communicator.

“Kirk to bridge.”

“Bridge. Uhura here, Captain.”

“What's our status?”

“Finished the sweep of Four Mark Seven, now heading on Four Mark Eight, sir.”

“Good, good. Alert me of any change. Kirk out.”

---

He doesn't bother changing into his usual red exercise pants. They are thin. Revealing.

He doesn't need to show his boner off to the entire a.m. pilates class.

So he only strips his shirt off and leaves his uniform trousers in place.

He's feeling a little better by the time he punches the third sandbag off its hook and into the ground. His fists are aching and, he imagines, in a few hours will be blooming with enough bruises to earn him a lecture from Bones. But he needed the burn. Jim isn't particularly masochistic but sometimes, when he’s helpless to do anything else, he just needs to punch things. Punch things hard and fast and clear his mind of everything else.

His boner is long gone, at any rate.

He is standing over the sandbag, breathing heavily and wiping an arm over his sweaty face, when the pilates class lets out. Rand passes, smiling in a small group of people, her blonde hair pulled back into a simple ponytail. Knowing her, she’ll have it back up in a complicated braid of some sort before the hour is up. Jim watches her walk by, thinking about how there was a time she never would've allowed herself to look less than perfect.

Rand catches his gaze and hesitates for a moment, her bag slung over one shoulder. She seems to debate, then breaks off from her group with a smile and an apology, and heads his way.

He doesn't have to guess why. News and gossip travel fast on a ship like this, and out of everyone on the ship, Rand is probably the closest to understanding this current situation. She was a gift to him, from the Empire, upon successful completion of his first mission as captain of the Enterprise. A surprise.

They had her waiting, kneeling beside his bridge chair, very nearly nude, blindfolded and all trussed up and tied with ribbon in an actual literal bow. Jim was fresh to the job and only had a handful of the bridge crew that he has now, only just beginning to build his own little safety net. Sulu was stiff, uncomfortable, his eyes focused straight ahead on the viewscreen. Uhura looked angry but was hiding it well. Other crew members were stealing furtive little glances, exchanging quick grins.

She wasn't traumatized the way Spock is, but Jim's not in the habit of taking slaves. 

She is still his slave, on paper at least. He can't just go around getting rid of gifts from the empire. But in practice she's more of a yeoman. She's smart, resourceful, diligent, kind. It's that kindness, Jim knows, rather than any sense of duty, that pulls her over to him now.

Jim must look more troubled than he’d thought, because when she reaches him she asks, “Do you need anything?”

There was a time that those words would have held a different meaning, but now they are simply fueled by friendship and concern.

His frown ebbs a little and he doesn’t answer, just studies her face.

“Are you happy?” he asks after a moment.

She looks at him and her face is sincere. There is an openness that wasn’t always there.

“Yes,” she says simply.

“All those times,” Jim says. “At the beginning. When I turned you away.”

She nods, waits. Jim tries to figure out what exactly he's asking.

“What was it like for you?”

“It hurt,” she says bluntly, meeting his gaze. “And it was terrifying. I didn't know how to please you. I thought there was something wrong with me.”

“But that changed.”

“Yes. That changed.”

“What helped you?”

She shrugs. “Time. The first weeks were the hardest. ...It was easier when I had something useful to do.” Her smile turns into a soft frown. She knows what he’s asking, why he’s asking. Word gets around on a ship like this.

“When you live in the dark,” she says, “being pulled into the light burns your eyes.”

She repositions her bag over her shoulder and her face softens. She reaches up and touches two fingers to her forehead, just between her eyes.

“But burns can heal.”

Chapter Text

Spock does extremely well on the testing, especially on the mathematical portions. He is puzzled at the ease of the questions; he expected simple problems to begin, but they never seem to become terribly difficult, and that sets off a discomfort that buzzes around in the back of his mind. Are they indulging him, giving him simple questions for… some reason he cannot identify? He knows his perspective is skewed but he does not know how much.

It is not until the testing is complete that Spock wonders if the questions had indeed been increasing in difficulty, and that he had simply not been aware.

There are many times that he does not know the exact formula for a problem, and that causes a mild worry that he will be penalized for using a rudimentary way to find the answer.

Each time this happens he experiences a brief flash of frustration at himself; he should be faster, he should be better, but his own mathematical education was limited and it ended a long time ago. His interest and razor-sharp drive has kept the skill alive, but he is nonetheless inelegant and untrained, and he knows that fact will be glaringly obvious to anyone who looks.

A lack of education is no excuse. He should be better.

But he makes it to the answers anyway, even if it is messy and rudimentary and takes far more time than it should.

He is likewise proficient in grammar and language usage. His history and medical knowledge is less solid, though he knows enough to score highly enough on the exams that they do not need to punish him.

In fact, no one even touches him.

He is worried about how long this will go on. He is worried that the longer it does, the harder it will be when-- inevitably-- someone does touch him.

And it is inevitable. Maybe the Captain is lying to Spock about his intentions, maybe he’s lying to himself, but Spock is no fool; he can see the way the Captain looks at him sometimes, when he thinks he isn’t looking. It isn’t always sadness or pity in those hazel eyes. There is an intense heat there, and calculation.

All expressions Spock is familiar with, and yet. Spock does not know how to interpret the Captain’s expressions; this human does not act like the others he has known. There is violence and passion in this human, like the others, but it is not directed at Spock in any way that makes sense. He does not know what the Captain wants, in relation to himself, and therefore he does not know how he is expected to act. He gets it wrong most of the time, he thinks. When he does dare to telepathically reach out and brush his mind against the Captain’s presence he usually comes away with a lingering sense of frustration and disappointment and impatience.

Spock is getting something wrong, but he does not know what.

As the days pass and nothing unpleasant happens to him, rather than feeling more at ease, Spock finds himself becoming more perturbed.

If the Captain does not touch him, then it will be someone else. Someone onboard, someone off board. It will happen sooner or later.

So Spock keeps himself prepared, slicking himself up and working himself open every morning like clockwork. He wants-- he needs to be ready. He needs to remember his place. He cannot get used to being left alone or being given mentally stimulating tasks or being allowed to sit on furniture like a person. If that happens he is unsure if he will be able to cope when it it all yanked away.

His mind and body are already so frayed around the edges that it is a wonder he has not completely unraveled.

There are times he wakes in the middle of the night to rough hands roaming hungrily over his body, and he lies very still like the obedient slave he is until he opens his eyes and realizes there is no one there.

He does not allow himself to sleep very often.

He finds that he can stay awake for longer stretches of time, days on end, now that his body is not constantly working to heal itself. So he pushes it as far as he dares before he thinks McCoy might notice. He can deal with a little exhaustion.

He tells himself that there is a logical motivation behind staying awake but the lie falls flat even to his own ears. He knows he is avoiding something… Sleep? No. It is not the sleep from which he is running. Sleep may be a waste of time but it is a necessity and therefore resisting sleep is illogical.

But. Spock dreams.

It is a weakness that carries over from his human half, he is sure. He does not think that Vulcans dream.

Perhaps broken Vulcans. He does not know.

He only knows that he dreams.

The dreams are unpleasant and disorienting and so entirely illogical that when he wakes he cannot help but burn with shame.

His past, his present… They all blur together in his unconscious mind to create horrors that churn in his stomach and claw at his throat until he wakes to a shaking body.

So Spock keeps himself awake.

Except, the body memories are not limited just to the mornings anymore.

He is halfway through an exam and he feels wetness dribbling between his legs, down his face. When he reaches to wipe it away his fingers can find nothing, but the feeling still crawls across his skin. He ignores it, focuses on the console screen in front of him. When goes to tap the screen he finds that his hands are shaking.

He meditates to get his mind under control but his body will not cooperate.

He is leaning forward to pick up a PADD from the desk when he feels the lash of a whip that nearly knocks the breath out of his lungs. His knuckles clutch at the opposite edge of the desk, stark white. Before his mind catches up Spock has his legs spread to shoulder width and arched his back into the proper position.

No one is whipping him. He does not need to lay himself out.

It still takes him a moment to relax his grip, to straighten up.

This has never happened to him before. He has always had control of his body. He is trained to always have control of his body.

Perhaps this odd training method they use is already getting to him.

That must be it.

His testing is completed within two days, which seems to surprise the Captain and the doctor. Spock knows he is too slow, but they never admonish him for it; rather, they both go out of their way to compliment him. He does not understand their reasoning for complimenting him on a mediocre job but he nods his obedient gratitude anyway, all while a deep-seated confusion churns in his stomach.

They move him on to training next. Supplemental re-education, they call it, and when Doctor McCoy first tells him of it Spock is immediately grateful. Here, he thinks, is finally the training he has been wanting.

But then it is only education in the gaps in his knowledge revealed by the previous testing, not true training as he had expected. He subtly frowns at himself and reminds himself that expectations are illogical and that he should not have them, especially in this case. But he cannot make the dissatisfaction go away.

Not that he does not like the training. If he allowed himself the emotion he would even enjoy it. It is a thing he has always wanted, really; to learn, to indulge that part of him that has always been starving, starving, starving for information. For usefulness.

The Terran computer programs introduce the information too slowly, however. Given the permission, Spock could tweak the program to adjust to his own speed of learning. But he does not dare to do so, and he does not dare to ask.

A blonde nurse, Chapel, as McCoy calls her, is the one to supervise his early lessons, during the day when the Captain and McCoy are both on shift.

“Please, call me Christine,” she says, and Spock nods obediently even though he knows that is never going to happen. She is sickly-sweet, and so sympathetic that it makes his skin crawl with something very similar to shame.

The Captain continues his special interest in Spock, showing up every morning like clockwork to share breakfast and try his best to engage Spock in conversation. It is slow, awkward conversation that generally leans toward Spock’s studies, and Spock does his best to answer the Captain’s questions honestly and succinctly. Rarely does the conversation drift anywhere else; he does not learn anything of the Captain, and he is not asked anything of his past life. The Captain seems unwilling to broach that subject. It creates a thin line of routine between them that Spock, if he admits to himself, does not find altogether unpleasant. He knows what to expect and he appreciates that.


One morning, they have just finished breakfast when the ship lurches.

Caught entirely off guard, Spock loses his balance, falls sideways, but a strong arm around his shoulders stops him.

The Captain sets him back up on his feet, a sympathetic grin overtaking his face.

“You’ll get your sea-legs,” he says kindly. He doesn't mock. He doesn't punish.

Spock glances sideways. The Captain has a hand out to steady himself against the bulkhead. The other hand is still on Spock’s shoulder. He only removes it when his communicator chirps and a female voice, soft but urgent, calls, “Captain to the Bridge. Captain to the Bridge, please.”

“Kirk here. I'm on my way.”

He heads out the door as red alert alarms begin to wail, Spock forgotten in the call of duty. “What's going on?”

The door slides closed, leaving Spock alone in his room. For a moment the Vulcan simply stands frozen in place, waiting for his skin to crawl as if violently rejecting the sensation.

It does not happen. Interesting.

He reaches up slowly, brushes his own fingers against his shoulder where the Captain’s had touched.

Another lurch of the ship pulls him out of his head, but this time he is prepared and he does not lose his balance.

Outside his cabin, red alert alarms begin to wail. Procedures say that he should stay put. Not that he has anywhere to go, or any ability to travel outside of his own quarters.

He glides over to the desk and sits gingerly in the chair-- a habit he has been forced to adopt whether he likes it or not-- and switches on the console. It powers on as usual, but a message instantly tells him that he only has access to local systems, not the ship-wide databanks. The ship’s power is likely being diverted to other systems.

He wonders if they are under attack, but only entertains the thought very briefly before putting it out of his mind. It does not do to dwell on hypotheticals without any concrete facts, and moreover, there is not a single thing he can do to help in this situation.

He switches the power off as the ship shudders briefly around him.

He walks to the foot of the bed-- the one piece of furniture in the room he has yet to use-- and kneels down to meditate.

The attack is over in minutes-- seven point three minutes, to be exact-- or, it must be, because the alarms stop and the ship stops bucking, but Spock does not move. He presses his worries out of his mind and simply meditates.

Chapter Text

The Captain does not show up as usual the next morning. In fact, no one does. Not McCoy or even Nurse Chapel.

Spock is left waiting alone.

Waiting is nothing new to him, and he tells himself that he is content to do so for as long as necessary.

He can hold his body still and make himself look, physically at least, that he is being patient. But he finds that he cannot stop the growing internal urge to get up and pace around the room. It is puzzling, though no more so than anything else that has been happening to him lately, so it is easy to ignore.

He knows that he should be examining why he has this urge, but instead he elects to stuff it down behind a mental wall and pretend that it is not there. It is not the healthy or the logical way to deal with it, he knows that, but he tells himself that he does not have the energy to deal with the baggage that might come with this urge. Not right now. Besides, he thinks, it is not important.

His studies are important because they are a task that he was assigned, no matter how futile they may seem. Urges that may or may not be tied to feelings are not.

He does not care about this Captain one way or another. The Captain is simply one more person in a string of persons that have control over his life for a period of time. It is not logical to form any sort of emotional connection to any of them, either good or ill.

It is not logical.

Yet the fact remains that Spock’s waiting is restless.

Once it becomes apparent that the Captain is not coming for breakfast, Spock completes the remainder of the coursework that he was assigned. He means to meditate next, but instead he finds himself switching on the console and idly scrolling through the ship’s databanks. It takes him a moment to realize he is subconsciously searching for the ship’s data logs.

He is irritated with himself the moment he realizes what he was doing.

He does not have security access to the ship’s logs. It does not make sense for him to refresh his screen and think -- hope? Illogical. -- that there might be information stored somewhere that he simply has overlooked.

He has spent a good deal of his life kept in the dark about what is going on around him. It should not be so uncomfortable now. If they need him to know something, they will tell him. If not, then he will simply wait. It is not his place to wonder.

It is his place to look pretty and to get fucked and to stay still and quiet while taking a beating.

Now his place is also… taking exams, memorizing equations, wearing clothes, sharing odd and tense breakfasts with the Captain--

Spock’s lips press together into a thin frown and he shuts off the console. Perhaps he will meditate after all.


The night passes as it always does, with Spock lying on the floor between his bed and the wall, avoiding sleep in favor of meditation. It is not a self-reflective meditation, merely a quieting of his mind that could be interpreted as avoidance, and it is more forced than meditation really should be, but it works. He manages.

By morning he is, if not refreshed and ready for the day, then at least not as emotionally compromised as he was previously. He stretches out his stiff muscles as he dresses. Ever since the Captain’s rejection Spock has taken to dressing in a full outfit, from boots to shirt. But he still stretches himself open every morning and applies his makeshift eyeliner.

Without the eyeliner he does not look like himself. He wears it for the Captain, of course, or for anyone else who may care to look, but there is a tiny, perhaps even vain, part of him that finds it aesthetically pleasing. Illogical, maybe, but striving toward being Vulcan does not mean he must also live in a sterile vacuum.

Perhaps he likes the look or perhaps he has simply grown accustomed to seeing it. He decides it does not matter.

When the door chimes he makes himself wait an extra second before moving to open it, proving to himself that he was not eagerly anticipating.

The Captain steps inside, dressed in a crisp uniform but nonetheless looking like he hasn’t slept. He shoots a smile in Spock’s direction and immediately shuffles to the replicator to get himself a cup of coffee.

“Morning,” he says after taking his first sip. He half-raises the cup toward Spock in a gesture that resembles the Terran “cheers.” Spock bows his head and tries to remember the correct response to that, and if there even is one, but the Captain just barrels on.

“Sorry about running out on you the other morning,” he is saying. “Duty called.” He chuckles lightly as if he had just made a joke-- Spock is unsure if he did or not-- and he settles down into his chair, waving Spock over into the opposite one. “Sit, sit,” he says affably.

Spock moves to obey, bowing his head as he does. He does not know how to reply. The concept of someone apologizing to him, even an apology as off-handed and casual as the Captain is doing now, is bizarre. He does not have a protocol in place for this.

“Just a little run-in with a Romulan scout ship,” the Captain says. “We made short work of them, though.”

Spock blinks down at his hands and then he is asking a question, purely out of curiosity, exactly like he had told himself he was not going to do.

“Did the Enterprise sustain damage?” he asks.

The Captain looks at Spock, his head tilting sideways, and for a brief moment there might even be a wondrous smile passing over his features before he grows solemn.

“Some minor damage to A and C decks and we lost warp capability. Engineering is working on repairs; we should be up and running within a few hours.” He shrugs, sips at his coffee. Spock wonders if he is feeling useless. From what he has gathered about the Captain so far, the human does not react well to feeling out of control.

“We’re too close to the neutral zone for comfort,” the Captain mutters into his coffee. Spock is unsure if the words are meant for him, but they do pique his interest anyway. So they are on the border of the neutral zone. Interesting. That places them on the edge of unexplored space and lightyears away from Khan.

He wonders what a Romulan scout ship is doing in the neutral zone. Their very presence could be enough to provoke the Empire into war, he knows that much.

The stress of it is heavy on the Captain; the man looks as if he hasn’t gotten much, if any, sleep since Spock last saw him. His face has a grim set to it, one that he usually is so good at hiding behind his confident personality. He sits and absently twirls the coffee around in his mug, far away in his own thoughts.

Spock waits.

Finally the Captain breaks himself out of whatever that was and looks up. He flashes a smile at Spock, one that seems almost guilty.

“Anyway. Breakfast.”

He swivels in his chair and punches some instructions into the food replicator in the wall, talking over his shoulder as he does.

“I had an idea for breakfast, if you’ll allow me to order.”

Spock does not bother nodding his assent; they both know that the Captain is the one who chooses the meals for both of them.

“It’s another traditional Vulcan breakfast,” the Captain is explaining. “I thought I’d give it a try, too.”

He turns around and scoots a tray across the table toward Spock.

It is a plate of assorted large, round, vaguely flat vegetables; a meal Spock has not seen since he was young and living on Vulcan. It is not an incredibly common breakfast, but it is one he has had before. The vegetables are to be cut up and eaten in bite-sized pieces, but the Captain does not seem to know that; the human has already picked up one from his own plate, with his fingers, and is biting into it. He makes a pleased noise and munches happily away.

Humans sometimes eat with their fingers, Spock reminds himself. It is not always considered rude among humans, but it is a custom that never really fails to unsettle him. Funny how he has such a dislike for something as benign as this.

He looks to his own plate and reaches for his own fork. He freezes, hand halfway outstretched, and his mind grinds to an abrupt halt.

There, next to the fork-- a knife.

Spock cannot--

He can't--

It is late. A quiet evening.

Khan lies sprawled across his couch, the remnants of a meaty dinner on a plate next to him. The viewscreen is on, playing an old documentary about some past war, but it's mostly background noise now. Khan has finished several drinks and he's just on the right side of drunk, his movements dampened but his eyes still bright.

He is idly playing with his steak knife, turning it over and over in his hands.

Spock watches from the edge of the room, standing in shadow. Khan glances toward him, the light from the viewscreen reflecting off his eyes and making them look as if they glow. Just for a moment.

Khan pats his leg like he's calling an animal.

“Come here.”

Spock glides forward at the command. He kneels on the floor between his master’s spread legs, his head down, his hands behind his back.

The corners of Khan’s lips twitch up in a smile. Not a cruel or devious smile. A real smile, about as genuine as someone like Khan can be.

He twirls the knife in his fingers. With his other hand he touches Spock’s collar, cups the side of his face, traces his cheekbone. Soft, light touches.

Spock holds himself very still.

Before long Khan is bringing the tip of his knife up to rest against the side of Spock’s face. For a moment he merely slides the blunt side harmlessly along his jawline.

He nicks Spock's cheek just under his left eye, a quick flick of his wrist. Not hard enough to hurt, not deep enough to scar. Spock holds himself still as a single drop of blood seeps from the cut and begins a lazy trail down his cheek.

“You're beautiful like this,” Khan breathes, almost tenderly. He tucks the blunt edge of the knife under Spock's jaw and nudges the slave’s face to the side so he can watch the blood trickle down. Just before it falls from Spock's chin he catches the drop with the edge of his knife, then smears it gently against Spock's collarbone.

“Beautiful.”

Before long he is pulling Spock up onto his lap. He arranges Spock’s legs so that the slave is on his knees straddling him. His erection is hard against Spock’s thigh. Spock reaches to take care of it but he slaps the slave’s hand away.

Spock retreats his hands behind his back, tentatively resting them on his master's legs for support. Khan does not immediately correct him so he leaves them there.

Khan is too occupied to care. He gently drags the tip of his knife up and down Spock's thighs, barely pressing, leaving tiny white pressure lines behind, not quite breaking the skin.

Sometimes Spock is blindfolded or ordered to shut his eyes. Sometimes he is instructed to watch. He has no orders now, so he idly watches as Khan’s hands play over his body.

He does not hate his life. It is not logical to hate something over which he has no control.

In fact, he is well suited for this, he thinks. To be the canvas for someone else's art, someone else's pleasure. He barely feels the pain.

Times like these he almost doesn't need the mindfulness techniques to get him through. There are no lies here, no pretense, merely a master taking pleasure from a slave.

Khan drags his knife parallel to a scar along Spock's inner thigh, planning, then repeats the motion, this time with pressure behind it.

For a fraction of a moment Spock watches his own skin split apart in a line of white, and then the blood wells up to fill the space. Khan makes a pleased sound deep in his chest, rubs his thumb harshly over the cut, smearing a line of dark green down Spock’s leg.

He moves the knife half an inch higher, repeats the cutting motion. And again.

“I love you,” Khan murmurs. He is just drunk enough to very nearly mean it.

“Spock.”

Warm hands on his shoulder, the back of his neck. A flood of concern.

Spock's eyes focus, first on the now-empty seat across the table where the Captain had been sitting, then reflexively down at his lap. The breakfast knife is clutched tight in his curled fingers.

He smells a heavy stench of copper and he can feel-- warm, wet, green-black covers his hands, the knife, seeps into the fabric of his trousers making the black darker. Slashes in the fabric reveal pale skin, deep wounds.

For a moment he is too disoriented to be horrified. The knife drops from his hand and clatters onto the floor. His thighs are burning.

“Spock,” the Captain says again. His voice registers suddenly as so very close, so very behind.

Spock's body jerks violently forward, away from the Captain's touch and everything snaps everything into focus, too-fast, too-bright, like a bone being reset.

He knocks into the desk and goes still, his rational brain catching up and halting him in his tracks.

“I…,” he says.

He does not even know what to begin to say. He blinks, trying to regain his bearings.

The Captain is peering at him, face blanketed in concern. He doesn't seem outright angry but Spock can't tell. He certainly does not look happy, and “not happy” is the same as “outright angry” in Spock’s book.

But the Captain is speaking. Spock makes himself focus on the words.

“Spock, what's going on? Can you tell me?”

Spock nods obediently, because yes, he can. Technically. He Is back, he is here, and he knows what happened. He had a flashback, some sort of body memory. He hurt himself. Cut himself. He does not remember but he must have done so.

He spares a quick, furtive glance down. His trousers hide most of the damage, but between the gashes in the fabric he can see that he followed, nearly exactly, the lines Khan had cut into him so long ago.

Yes, he knows what he did.

He does not want to tell the Captain, though. He does not want to speak his weakness aloud. The Captain watched it all happen. Surely he knows.

Spock runs through a short list of half-truths in his mind.

He ends up saying nothing. He figures the Captain’s question was a loosely-disguised order for him to explain, but he cannot quite bring himself to volunteer any extra information.

He is unused to talking about what is going on inside his own head; his masters and trainers never cared as long as they got results. His mind, his thoughts were his.

The Captain is staring at him, waiting, probably angry. Spock does not look up to check.

Finally the Captain flips open his communicator.

“Bones. Spock's quarters. On the double.”

He closes the channel before he gets a response.

Spock regulates his breathing. He does not want the doctor to see this. He tries, quietly, his voice --blessedly-- emotionless and flat, “I apologize for my indiscretion, Captain. I do not require medical attention. I will clean this mess immediately.”

He moves to do so but the Captain holds up a hand, a silent stop signal. Spock freezes in place.

“I disagree,” the Captain says sharply.

Spock bows his head. He will be punished now. It is the most logical course of action.

No. He should be punished now. But this human does not act logically. Spock does not know what to expect.

Perhaps the Captain is waiting for McCoy to show up so they can sneer at him. Spock knows he deserves mockery. Or perhaps they will make him stand here at attention for hours on end until he can no longer hold himself up. And then they will punish him. Perhaps they will…

No.

Spock decides sharply that it is illogical to make guesses when he does not have enough data to go on. So he quiets his mind and just waits. What will come will come.

He can feel his own blood, warm and wet, seeping down his leg. His ruined trousers stick to him and they feel like shame. He wants to strip them off but he does not know if he is allowed to undress.

The room is silent, tense. The Captain disappears into the washroom, returns with a hand towel, holds it out to Spock.

“Put pressure on that,” he instructs. He nods toward Spock's legs.

Spock takes the towel and obediently presses it to his thigh. He does not understand why the Captain is concerned. The cuts may look deep but in reality they are relatively superficial; they do not reach deep enough to sever muscle. They will heal just fine without medical attention.

The trousers, however, are likely ruined. He realizes this with a pang of something like guilt.

He was given clothes and he ruined them.

They shouldn't have given him the responsibility. He is unstable. But no, they are not to blame. The fault is his and his alone. It was a simple task, so simple, just wear clothes, and he failed.

Useless.

He fights the urge to curl in on himself, to pick that knife back up and do what the Captain bizarrely won’t do but should. Punish himself properly for the first time in weeks. He needs to be taught so he won't do something like this again. But he can't do that because he doesn't have the right to make decisions like that for himself. That much he knows. That much hasn't changed.

The door slides open.

“What the hell,” McCoy’s voice says from the doorway. He charges in, all but physically pushing the Captain out of the way to get to Spock.

He takes a moment to survey the situation, grumpy and alarmed, but his face softens as he looks at Spock’s bloody hands, the thick cuts on his thighs, the knife on the ground, realization dawning slowly.

“Jim,” he says, suddenly much softer, “I think they may need you on the bridge.”

“Bones--”

“Go, Jim.”

The doctor’s face starts to regain its hard set. He points to the door.

The Captain does not move. “I haven’t finished breakfast,” he says, in a low warning tone that sets alarm bells off in Spock’s mind.

The doctor does not heed the Captain’s tone, just barrels right on.

“Jim, you’re not helping-”

“Doctor.”

They two humans exchange a meaningful look that Spock does not quite understand, though he does get that a power struggle is happening. The Captain seems to win whatever silent conversation they just had, though, because McCoy turns abruptly from him, scowling harshly.

“Fine, stay. But keep out of my way.”

“Of course.”

And then their attention is back on Spock.

But the doctor doesn't ask any invasive questions, he just jumps immediately into treatment. Spock finds himself minorly relieved.

“Can you take those trousers off?” McCoy asks. His usual demeanor is softened somehow; Spock does not know what he was expecting from the doctor but he knows this is not it. He is not sure if this is better or worse.

But he nods anyway and reaches to obey, peeling back the wet fabric. He holds the ruined trousers awkwardly in his fists until the doctor grabs them and tosses them aside.

“Sit down.” McCoy gestures to a chair and Spock obediently sits. He holds his hands across his stomach, resisting the urge to cover his thighs with his hands. He knows he messed up. He does not even remember hurting himself but he knows he must have, all the evidence is there. Not remembering is not an excuse. He is not functioning properly. He is unstable. He should be punished so that he will not repeat this mistake, so that next time he will stay in the present. He--

“D’you know how to use a dermal regenerator?” The doctor’s question pulls him out of his own head.

Spock pauses. He does not think it is a trick question but he has such a difficult time telling.

“The concept is straightforward,” Spock answers after a beat. It is not quite a yes, because that would be a lie, but he is fairly confident that he could figure it out.

The Captain is watching intently from across the room. Spock tries to ignore him, with debatable success.

McCoy nods and Spock slightly relaxes. So that was the correct answer.

The tension is right back in an instant, though, as the doctor crouches down next to him. Spock bites the inside of his lip to keep himself from moving, because sitting in a chair while a free man is on the ground is so incredibly wrong that it nearly makes him dizzy.

“May I?” McCoy asks, the tip of the regenerator hovering a few inches above Spock’s thigh but not quite touching. Spock blinks, trying to center himself, confused at why the doctor is bothering to ask. But he nods his permission anyway.

“Hold it at the injury,” McCoy instructs. “Go slow, make sure it's properly knitting the skin together before you move on.” He reaches with his free hand and pinches the skin together on either side of one of the deeper cuts, holding it firmly together while he runs the regenerator over it.

When he finishes with the first cut he stops, leans back and holds the regenerator out to Spock.

Spock stares.

“Go ahead,” McCoy prompts gently.

Spock casts him an odd look, then tentatively reaches to take the regenerator. It is small and cold in his hand. He turns it over once, getting a feel for it, then he mimics the doctor’s actions, carefully mending his own skin.

It stings, but just barely; the pain hardly registers as pain.

McCoy is quiet, watching him work.

He finishes after a minute and McCoy touches him a few times to inspect his work. His fingers are cold and his touch is firm and clinical. Finally he draws away, looking up into Spock’s face, trying to catch his gaze.

Spock keeps his eyes firmly planted on the ground.

“Do you want to talk about what happened?” McCoy asks.

Spock looks away and does not say anything.

McCoy shrugs loosely. “Didn't expect so.”

He returns the regenerator to the medical kit on the table and bends down to retrieve the knife from the ground.

Spock tenses on instinct, even though he is fairly certain the doctor has no intention of using it on him. He's right; McCoy simply tosses it into the disintegrator.

“Why don't you step into the washroom and get yourself cleaned up,” McCoy suggests gently. “We’ll take care of this mess.”

Spock should argue-- it was his mess and he should be the one to clean it-- but he wants nothing more than to hide. And the doctor has a determined set to his face that says he won't be swayed.

So Spock goes.

He leaves the door open, just in case, but quickly strips out of his remaining clothes and steps into the sonic shower. As the drying blood lifts from his skin he runs his fingertips gently over his thighs.

There are no new scars.

He can hear the Captain and the doctor talking to each other in the other room, their tones low and possibly heated; from his position Spock cannot quite make out the words but the cadence of the voices sounds suspiciously similar to an argument. The are talking about him, he is sure of that, but taking care to not be overheard.

He finishes in the shower quickly enough, but waits respectfully just inside the door until the voices stop. He hears the door open, then close.

When Spock finally emerges from the washroom the doctor is gone and the room is spotless, and the only trace of Spock’s failure is a faint lingering scent of disinfectant.

The Captain is sitting at the desk, the breakfast dishes put away and a bowl of soup sitting in Spock’s place. The Captain gestures to it.

“I got you something else,” he says. He is obviously working hard to sound cheerful and not quite hitting the mark. “Why don’t you get dressed and come sit.”

Spock swallows and goes to obey. His face is burning as he pulls up a new pair of trousers and returns to the Captain.

As he reaches for the chair to pull it out and sit, the world suddenly shifts sideways. For a moment it is as if he is floating as everything warps around him. He looks over to see the Captain standing, the room pulling away from their feet and stretching, stretching, stretching impossibly away.

And then, in an instant, everything goes white.

Chapter Text

The sky is a bright, wide expanse; colorless and empty and clean. There is no smog, no contrails, no clouds, even. No shadows of neighboring moons.

Spock blinks into the light.

The ground is solid beneath his feet. He angles his face down and stares at the broken shale under his boots, then slowly turns his head to take in the rest of the area.

He seems to be standing on a short plateau. All around, taller shale formations jut up and rise into the air in random intervals. The dark rock is streaked with greens and blues and purples and it glints in the sunlight like oil on pavement. There is very little vegetation to be seen and no immediate signs of fauna, but the atmosphere is clearly breathable. To the right, a ravine drops off sharply to an indeterminate depth. He can hear running water. Not a dead world, then. Perhaps merely one evolution has not yet progressed upon.

He hears a communicator chirp, then the Captain’s voice, strong and clear and only a few feet away.

Enterprise, come in Enterprise.”

Spock looks over. The Captain is standing exactly where he would have been in relation to Spock were they back in Spock’s quarters on the Enterprise. He is already on his communicator.

He gets nothing but silence back.

The Captain’s eyebrows furrow together as he tries hailing his ship again, but the second attempt does no more good than the first. The ship must be out of range.

The Captain flips the communicator closed with a frustrated grunt, and turns his attention to Spock, briefly sliding his eyes over the Vulcan before turning to survey the planet.

“What just happened,” the Captain says. “Where are we?”

It does not seem to be a question pointed at Spock. He must know that Spock is no more likely to have an answer than he himself, but it was a question and Spock would be remiss to let it pass unanswered.

“It would seem that we have been in some way transported,” Spock says, “to what appears to be an M-Class planet.”

The Captain’s head snaps back toward Spock, and he stares at the Vulcan for a long moment. A lopsided grin slowly creeps onto his face, and he shakes his head, smiling.

“Yes, I suppose you’re correct,” he says, a hint of laughter in his voice.

Spock bristles a little at this, his spine stiffening. He does not understand what is so amusing. He also does not understand why he cares whether the Captain laughs at him or not. It takes him a moment to force himself into relaxing.

The Captain either does not notice the change in Spock's posture or he does not care enough to comment; instead he goes back to looking around, twisting his head in what seems to Spock to be exaggerated movements. He walks toward the edge of the ravine, boots crunching the rock underfoot, and stares down into it.

“Not a planet I recognize,” he comments. He looks up and stares at Spock as if waiting for an answer, so Spock nods his agreement.

“We were close to a few small planetoids. Perhaps this is one of those,” the Captain muses. He steps back from the ravine edge and starting to walk in the other direction, down a gentle slope of the plateau edge. He does not look back or gesture, but Spock gets the distinct impression that he is expected to follow.

After a moment’s hesitation Spock falls into step behind him.

“None of them have any indigenous sentient life,” the Captain is explaining. “Or valuable mineral deposits.” Spock is unsure if the Captain is talking to himself, but he listens carefully anyway, considering the information.

“And they’re not positioned well enough to be any sort of military base.”

“Then it is unlikely our transportation was engineered by the Romulans,” Spock comments quietly.

The Captain throws a glance over his shoulder as if surprised to hear Spock speak.

“I think you’re right,” he says after a beat. “But then who?”

Spock shakes his head; he does not have an answer to that.

Neither does the Captain, apparently, because they fall into silence as they walk. Spock wonders if the Captain has a plan for where they are going, or if he just aimlessly picked a direction to start walking. He suspects the latter but decides it does not matter either way; he will follow wherever the Captain leads.

Once they begin climbing up a sloping hillside, however, Spock begins to recognize the Captain’s aim.

They climb together to the top of the tallest plateau they can comfortably reach. The Captain marches right up the edge before firmly planting his feet and stopping.

Spock moves to the edge a step behind the Captain and surveys the ground spread out beneath them.

The Captain pulls out his communicator and tries hailing the ship one more time.  He has an edge to his voice that Spock has not heard before. Spock cannot quite place it. It is not fear, but it is something close. Frustration, perhaps. Urgency.

Again, they fail to get back an answer.

The Captain makes a little frustrated grunting sound and fiddles with the communicator, turning the device over and over in his hands. Spock takes in a slow breath of the clear air around them, and focuses on making himself appear small, still. Less of a distraction.

In the distance, tucked in a ravine between several large stones, is a heap of something, tangled and pale. Spock cannot quite make it out, not from this distance, but perhaps it looks like a pile of bones.

Perhaps. He cannot be certain.

The captain kicks at a loose rock and sends it flying, clattering down the canyon in front of them. They both watch it roll to a stop yards below.

“You are frustrated,” Spock states. Often that statement is enough to earn him a swift beating, but his masters are always notably less frustrated at the end of it, and that, he knows, is his job. His purpose. So he offers the bait now.

But the Captain, of course, does not properly react. Instead he lets all of the air out of his lungs in a violent whoosh. He runs a hand through his hair and turns to fix his intense hazel eyes onto Spock’s.

Spock instinctively looks away.

“Is it that obvious?” the Captain asks.

“You are exhibiting many outward signs of frustration,” Spock answers quietly. “Aside from kicking the rock, your left hand is closed in a tight fist, and--”

“Spock. Spock.” The captain puts a weary hand up to his eyes and shakes his head.

Spock stops talking mid-sentence. He probably overstepped.

But a few moments pass and the captain does not begin hitting him.

It takes Spock a few more moments to muster up the courage to speak again.

“Why do you not simply release your frustration?” he asks, again dangling the bait, a little more obvious this time.

The captain turns back to Spock, a wry smile passing across his face. “Just, release my frustration, huh? It's not that easy for humans.”

Spock clasps his hands behind his back and stares down at the rocks under his boots. He is going to have to spell it out for this human. “There are many effective ways for a human to release his frustration. If you wish to strike something, I offer myself as a target.”

A look of sudden understanding flits across the captain's face, followed by a heavy sort of smile.

“No thank you, Spock,” he says softly. “I'm not going to hit someone who can't hit back.” He pauses, then adds, “Not very sporting.”

They are silent for a moment. The captain seems to have softened a little, the bottled frustration ebbing away as they stand together. Interesting.

Spock’s gaze falls onto the communicator in the Captain’s hands. An idea is worming its way into his brain, viable enough that he cannot in good conscience ignore it.

He should say something.

But there is no guarantee that it will work; he is only ninety-six percent sure that he has the necessary skill, and even less sure the Enterprise will be within sufficient range for his plan to work. He does not want to fail.

And yet.

If he does fail, Spock does not expect that he will be punished. Even though he should be. Somewhere between the days, that knowledge has fostered a boldness that he did not know he had.

“Captain,” he says.

The human looks at him and for a moment Spock experiences an uncomfortable flash of vulnerability. He presses it behind his mental walls where he can no longer feel it.

He nods toward the communicator.

“I may be able to boost the signal.”

For a short, startled moment the Captain looks surprised and pleased all at the same time. Spock keeps talking, as quickly as he can, before the Captain can think he is hiding information.

“However, boosting the power will drastically reduce the lifespan of the device. It may only be able to make a single short call, perhaps two. And if I fail, the communicator may be unusable altogether.”

The Captain’s lips tug down into a mild frown. “Do you think you will fail?”

“I believe I have a ninety-six point four percent chance of success.”

“Those are good odds. Assuming the ship is in range,” the Captain muses.

Spock nods, glad the Captain is keeping up. “Correct. I would be extending the distance of the signal, but the Enterprise would still need to be within that range.”

The Captain seems to think this over, turning the communicator over in his hand and glancing up into the sky as if expecting the Enterprise to soar into view on the horizon at any moment.

“Okay, we'll save that plan for later,” he decides. “The Enterprise should be scanning for us on nearby planets once they realize we are missing.”

He glances toward the sun, large and hot in the sky. “We will wait until dark, perhaps the star positions can clue us in to where we are.”