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Spock spun the apple in a small hand. He watched with wide brown eyes, a touch too big for his young face, the pads of his fingertips spinning around the green skin of the fruit, making quiet squeaks as they rubbed against the wax coating.

“Fascinating,” he muttered to himself, then tipped his head up to his mom, “Mother, may we get one of these?”

Amanda, who was inspecting a package of cilantro, dropped the leaves in the wire basket of their shopping cart and regarded her son’s discovery with a smile folded warmly into her cheeks. She bent down to him, sliding her palms over the hem of her reindeer sweater to rest on her denim covered knees.

“Ah, so you wish to try the forbidden fruit, my dear?”

Spock’s lips twitched into a grin he hadn’t quite learned how to conceal yet.

“If you are referencing the Terran bible mother, then you should know that studies of the geography described in the passage of Adam and Eve suggest that the forbidden fruit was likely a pomegranate, not an apple.”

Amanda chuckled, a happy sound that popped and bubbled like wind chimes over the earth holiday music and the stream of chatter from the other shoppers. Spock decided it was a far superior to the background noise.

“You never fail to amuse me, darling.” she said as she smoothed a hand through the neat black tufts of his hair, “And of course you can try one. In fact, why don’t you get a couple. I’m going to go wait in line and see if we can get grandma a nice fat turkey. You stay right here, ok kan-bu?”

“Yes, ko-mekh,” Spock said, wrinkling his nose at the mention of poultry and again when his mother’s damp lips pressed briefly against his forehead. Feigning distaste at her affectionate human manner was almost a reflex now, as that was one of his peer’s favorite targets of scrutiny. Secretly, and never to be admitted to his father, he loved those touches, loved them in a way he was coming to realize was wholly un-Vulcan.

He watched her file into a line on the other side of the store. At the front of it there was a man with ruddy skin and chins that wobbled in time to the loose skin under his arm as it swung when he handed customers neatly folded paper packages. There were red blots, no doubt shreds of animal organs and blood, crusted on the crease of the packages and the man’s gloves.

He sighed in the long suffering way only a six year old Vulcan can, and turned back to the apples, tugging a plastic bag loose from a container that was perched precariously on the side of the display table.

It was not so much that he disliked Terra, he reasoned as he scanned the neat rows of a green fruit pyramid for ones within his height range that were without the brown dents and scrapes that signified bruises. After all, it was unreasonable to dislike such a large place after only seeing the small portion of Burlington Iowa his human Grandmother lived in. The Ambassador’s son traveled quite a bit and Earth was hardly the worst planet he’s been to. It was certainly better than Tellarite, and there was something comforting about a planet of people who carried a similar warmth that Amanda Grayson stamped in even the single sound of her laughter.

But it was messy; everything seemed at the wrong angle, from his Grandmother’s furniture to tin cans crunched at random on the sidewalks. The world jittered in and out in series of screams and screeches that, to his sensitive hearing, sounded like an orchestra with twisted strings and bows that had snapped hairs, cracked by stale rosin.

Perhaps above all was the fact that Spock always had the illogical certainty he was missing something. Being among the chaos made the feeling throb; an eager reaching hand out from the root of his katra, heavy with the emptiness it carried.

He placed a seventh and exceptionally shiny apple in the bag and waited for his mother as he calculated the terrifically low odds of there actually being an obese Caucasian man who flew to Terran children’s houses to give them presents. He had surmised it was a 0.0002% chance and was about to determine the average age a human child would have to reach before coming to a similar conclusion this when a stranger entered his peripheral vision and flung him wildly out of focus.

The stranger was a human boy about Spock’s age, perhaps a year or two younger. He was short, with spider-thin limbs that seemed too thin for the full curve of round face and the clothes that appeared to be slipping off of him. Of course, his exact age itself was hard to determine, as most of his face was shadowed under yellow bangs that flopped and jumped eagerly with the movement of his head. All that could be seen beneath them was the upwards tweak of a small nose splashed with freckles and faints puffs of pink that smoothed in rose colored rain from his cheeks to the soft curve of his jaw.

That, and barely visible blue eyes. The brightest blue Spock had ever seen.

The boy approached the pyramid of apples slowly but purposefully, clumsy little feet rocking with determination as he stepped then stopped suddenly in front of the apple table. He tilted up his blonde capped skull upwards and traced the stacks of fruit with his gaze until his head could tip back no more and he was entirely focused on the lone apple at the very tip of the pyramid.

He engaged in a staring contest with the apple for a long moment. Just when Spock had formed the irrational opinion that the inanimate object would surely start quiver under the intensity of slitted blue eyes, the boy’s face cracked up in a grin. His lips slid back to reveal blunt white teeth, absent two in the front, that snatched curves of red and green light from the bulbs strung around the ceiling. The light’s brightness paled into comparison to the life jolted into those wide blue eyes as the boy stretched up an arm and rolled onto the tips of his toes.

There was no way he was going to reach that apple. Spock reasoned there was about a 0.0001% chance it was possible for a person of his height. This was an even smaller percentage than the possible existence of Santa Claus.

For some reason, the young Vulcan found this immensely irritating. He huffed and wiggled his arms into a cross, securing the bag of apples under his arm as he did so.

“That is illogical,” he said.

The boy froze and whipped around to Spock, bright hair turning so fast it looked like streaks of hovercar highway lights. His irises flicked up and down Spock, sizing him up and glaring.

“So?”

Spock glared right back.

“There is only a 0.0001% chance you will reach that apple, and you cannot do so without incident.”

It was the boy’s turn to huff and he did so dramatically, puffing his cheeks so they stretched in circles and blowing out hard enough to make the drips of hair on his forehead float up. Spock noticed his eyes were even more fascinating when you could see all of it. This information caused him acute annoyance.

“Don’t care. It’s the highest one and I’m gonna get it.”

“But given my-”

Spock was interrupted, by of all things, the earth boy’s display of his tongue, the wet tip poking out of the half-moon lines of his lip and directly at Spock.

That irrational behavior stunned Spock to silence- for the moment.

He was curious about this insolent alien.

The boy’s arm crawled upward, passing one row then another, a dark shadow snaking in loops over the fruit and growing the further he stretched. Up, up, he went much beyond the point when it seemed he couldn't possibly get any higher. His little pink fingers forked out and twitched when they got only inches from the apple.

“That is not going to work,” Spock stated simply.

“And I told you-I. Don’t. Care. Mind your own business Mister,” his pinkie skimmed the round bottom of the apple, “Besides, I’ve almost….got it!”

His fist closed around the apple’s girth, grip only large enough to cloak the very edge. For slightly less than a second Spock experienced a feeling he very rarely even glimpsed.

Shock. This tiny, stubborn human had defeated his exact probability calculations as if they had no hold on him. He had done the impossible.

Before he could recover his wits, an apple from a row below rustled against its neighbors, spilling down the pyramid in a slow tumble like a rock scraping against a mountain side. Both Spock and the boy followed it with their eyes as it stopped at the wooden edge of the table, wobbling. It give one finally rock then bent over the side, bouncing once on the tile floor of the grocery store with a dull thud and rolling in an arch to rest at Spock’s feet. The human’s stare met his own.

Then the pyramid collapsed.

The boy flailed his arms desperately, but he toppled back with the stream of apples that were rushing from the cart, clunking on the ground.

He fell. Directly on top of Spock.

The warm body was light to his Vulcan muscles, but as the back slapped into his chest Spock fell too. They landed together in the mess with apples pressing into Spock’s shin and bruising his legs. There was apple after apple raining on them, apples jammed in the nobs of their necks, apples coating their stomachs.

In the pandemonium, the moment the stranger’s skin touched his, that emptiness in his katra flamed to life and moved his limbs by its own violation. He tucked the human’s head beneath his chin and whipped the fragile frame beneath his own, shielding him from the waterfall of fruit.

He did not know why he did it. Could not understand what made him try to protect the boy. But he had to.

When the last apple had plunked atop Spock’s knee, they were completely buried and he could hear his mother’s frantic exclamations and yelling that likely came from the store’s supervisor. Her soft hands found his torso and she yanked out with surprising strength disentangling him from the earth child who sat up, blinking with his blonde hair shocked up in every direction.

“Sweetheart, are you alright?”

He nodded, but she patted him down anyways, turning his head in her hand and ghosting over every patch of skin for injuries. All Spock could feel was a tingling sensation that buzzed in his veins from his mind to his stomach to the circles of flesh above his fingernails.

Just then, a man with grayish skin splashed an unpleasant shade of red with anger thundered over, tugging the boy from the pile of apples by the shell of his ear. The boy yelped as he was pinched and scrambled to his feet. The man dragged him away, far enough that only Spock’s superior hearing allowed him to understand what they were saying.

“Why you little bastard, you can’t go one lousy day without making trouble, wait till your mother comes home, of course by the time I’m done with you there won’t be much punishing left to do.”

Spock wanted very much to hurt this man.

The boy pushed tiny elbows the man’s grip on his wriggling free as he choked out, “It was an accident, I swear! I didn’t mean to-’”

The man smacked the boy’s cheek with a sharp sound the seemed to pulse off the walls.

“Don’t talk back to me boy! We’re leaving before someone sends security on you and I have to pay for all this shit.”

From where was sitting in his mother's arms, Spock could see a glob of sweat sludge down the man’s temple as he yelled. The child flinched and struggled against the massive arm that slung around his shoulders and steered him outside. He shrieked “You’re not my father!” And Spock could feel his pain as if it is his own.

The doors slid open and the boy’s image grew smaller as he vanished into orange street lights and folds of falling snow. The doors closed again, and all Spock could make out from where he was is the sheen of the plexi-glass window.

Amanda gathered him up, talking to the managers and collecting apples in the plush wool of her sweater. Spock only registered dim notes of the conversation, too consumed with the overwhelming completeness that fluttered in his stomach.

In the end, they leave with three shopping carts of apples. His mother just giggles and says it’s a good thing Sarek likes applesauce, because they are going to have a years’ worth.

He’s more quiet than usual at Christmas that year, but by the end of their stay, that nameless human boy who had to have that apple on the very top is only a memory and a distant hum somewhere is his blood.

Chapter Text

 

“He is to be bonded to T’pring, he was sent here to be bonded. Surely it is logical for you to dissolve the other-”

Spock is seven years old. His knees pop up like two brown hills beneath his robe as he hugs them to his chest and listens to his father argue with the healer.

"I have told you Sarek, there is nothing to be done. An unintentional bond such as the one your son has formed has not been seen since the time of Surak, and is very strong, stronger than a mature marital bond even in its earliest forms. It is a T’hy’la bond. To break it would cause untold mental damage to both your son and his bondmate.”

From where he sits, Spock can almost hear his father stare stone hard into the air and mesh his fingers over the bridge of his nose as he often does when he is assessing a particularly difficult problem. Or he frustrated with Spock. In this instence, it is probabbly both.

“Do you know who his bondmate is?” Sarek says, poorly disguised resignation slipping into his voice.

“I do not. I only know that the individual is not a Vulcan. The presence I detected in his mind was erratic and disorganized, and if it is not obtrusive of me to recommend…”

“No, please speak your mind. Professional assistance is welcome.”

“I would suggest that I help your son enforce mental barriers between himself and his bondmate. An illogical mind such as the one he is connected to could be destructive to his pursuit of Vulcan discipline. It would be a thin shield, enough to prevent their thought patterns from affecting one another, but sufficiently weak to ensure there is no brain damage. Also it is possible - improbable, but possible, they could grow apart, dissolving the bond over time, allowing Spock to bond with another Vulcan.”

There is amber light splitting through the glass triangles below the stone arch of the temple window. The pattern is designed to calm those who rest on the bench Spock is huddled, a preemptive measure for deeper meditation. But, as the healer talks of dissolving the bond Spock only just discovered, his katra seems to growl and he doesn’t feel calm in the slightest.

“I am amiable to it, though I am not sure Amanda will approve.”

“She who is your wife is an intelligent woman, but she his human and this is a matter of Vulcan telepathy.”

“Very well. When will…”

The conversation fades to background noise as T’pring approaches Spock’s bench, walking with straight steps. Her small feet are capped in jeweled slippers and chop evenly in front of one another in a practiced, graceful movement. Her sharp black hair is cut up into a twist of braids.

Spock supposes she is considered aesthetically pleasing, but he struggles to find her as such.

“You disgrace me and our people with your mental deficiency, S'chn T'gai Spock,” she says, standing marble stiff in front of him, her pointed lips curled in what very much resembles a sneer.

 

“The bond is no fault of mine, in was constructed without my conscious knowledge.”

She should coincide to his logic, but Vulcan children often seem to favor prejudice.

“Even so, this is one among many of your failings. I can see your faults in your too human eyes. Stonn and the others are right to speak negatively of you, I am glad to be free of marriage to a half-breed.”

And she whips away with a slash of her pony tail over her shoulder before Spock can reply. The plumbed purple silk of her sleeves puffs and crunches like an artificial pulse as she walks. She disappears down the corridor and Spock curls his arms tighter around his legs, the fabric of his robe sliding in curved lines against his arms.

He wills his emotions into submission. He will not be affected by her words.

His eyelids slip shut over faintly green sweeps of skin beneath them. He reaches for the fullness in his Katra, the warmth that lives in his mind, makes him complete. He doesn’t understand it, but he wants it, and as he brushes it with imagined hands he feels it wants him too.

It loves him, it needs him.

Stability attained, Spock orders his thoughts.

A 13 year old Spock stands in the center of the testing pit. Streaks of color, images and numbers flash around him in a holographic circle.

“What is the warp factor necessary to achieve time travel around a sun?”

“It depends on the circumference of the particular star, but the minimum is 15.3 warp.”

“What is the biological and cultural significance of the Lytemera tree?”

“The tree is composed of two very different species, the Krun’hk and the Slit’ve. They were indigenous to separate regions of the desert, but when Surak united the tribes that lived in those regions, they began to populate the same geography. The trees then evolved to cohabitate to extreme degree, twining around each other in order to grow higher and increase the surface area of their bark that takes in water. Throughout thousands of generations, the genetics of their seeds became mixed and they can no longer survive without one another. This is a prime example of-”

Spock breaks off with a gasp, and sound caught somewhere between a scream and a whimper, as he is flooded with fear that is not his own.

The shield that caps the bond in his mind has the occasional crack, causing Spock to sometimes feel distant surges of strong emotions, mostly loneliness. They trickle through holes in his mental barriers, and sometimes he lets them, enjoying the distance hum of his bondmate's thoughts.

A silhouette of a sandy haired boy with a rucksack poking over his shoulder disappearing into cornfields. The splatter of spit from a familiar middle age man as he shouts “Well it doesn’t matter what you want. You’re no one.” Puffs of dust spiral up from skidding tires. Small pink fingers with stark white knuckles bent over the metal curve of a steering wheel. A red hood of an antique car, its engine hissing and coughing as is barrels straight for a cliff.

“NO!” Spock screams, both out loud and through the link, he can’t feel his surroundings now, can’t see the other students beginning to cluster at the edge of his simulator, “No, you mustn't, you cannot die.”

“T’hy’la!” the ancient word should feel rough on his tongue since he isn’t sure how it got there in the first place, but it slips out as if he had said it many times before.

“JUMP!”

And he is tumbling through the air; arms flung wide and dust blowing over his cheeks in great gusts.

He feels his shoulder collide with the ground - no not his shoulder, his bondmate’s - body spinning and scratching on the rock. The car plunges into the canyon. Its hull sheds when it bounces on the cliffs and crumples when it lands.

The suicidal thoughts and fear dim, ebbing into curiosity, sadness and a roaring heartbeat. The shield seals, images of a robotic cop becoming pixels fuzzing the rim of Spock’s vision. But it is weaker than it was before. They are more attached now.

In the next moment, a teacher’s hard hands clasps around his shaking shoulder and he is being escorted out of the simulator and to a healer. He catches flickers of his classmate’s eyes, their high cheekbones and pointed down mouths making him think of knives sharpening in distaste.

He does not care. The thing that makes him complete- no, the person, his T’hy’la, whomever they are, is safe.

Spock is 16 standard years of age when it happens again.

It’s so much worse this time.

He is meditating, legs tucked under each other beneath his robe and wrists balanced lightly on his knees.

His room is peaceful setting, with a matt stitched from the Lytemera tree laid in front of a stone spiral where oasis water flows. The water is rich with mineral dust, and when it touches the center of the piece it bounces of a magnet and rushes the other way.

It is not a traditional meditation statue, but Spock is soothed by its inevitability, by the way the water connects the two ends of the spiral indefinitely.

His mind is in a deep meditative state when he feels a tug on his conscience. At first he ignores it, focusing on the swing of his breath to ease back into the trance.

 But then he is yanked, slammed, pushed and shoved into someone else’s world that is the very opposite of peaceful.

 

 

 

The first thing he’s aware of is hunger, hunger so strong it twists and bucks in his stomach. Everything aches and he’s terribly cold inside and out. He’s terrified, but he won’t show it. He can’t.

Spock sees through eyes not his own, rocks scattered on the outskirts of a cave in a broken picture frame to a field beyond.

At least, what was a field.

Where golden wheat once grew there is only black, crusted with rot. There are miles of it, curls of fungus bathed in smoke.

Not far from the cave there’s a body of a young girl, her white limbs glowing against the dead ground. She’s been torn open across her stomach so her intestines bubblle from the gash like the stuffing of a teddy bear. Only where there would be cloth on a toy there’s prickles of broken ribs and a silent heart.

The smell of death and feces festers in the air. Three boys - skeletons really, flesh only paper wrapped around bones - are huddled in a corner by a fire.

There’s a brochure in the flames, with bright yellow cursive that reads “Welcome to Tarsus IV!” for a moment before the letters are eaten into ash.

“We have to put the fire out,” one of the boys, who can’t be more than 8 says, “Kodos’ men will find us.”

A familiar pink hand, too thin and smeared with dirt this time, clutches a damp rag, swiping it across the pale forehead of another boy, a toddler, who shivers on the ground next to the fire.

“No Thomas, Riley’s sick, we need to keep him warm. It’s a chance we’ll have to take.”

Spock can’t see this one’s face because it is his eyes that he’s looking through, but something in the chapped voice, how small and weak it sounds makes his blood surge with the need to protect, to avenge. The hand stops moving and the rag is placed on the floor as the other half of his soul stands.

“You two stay here and take care of him, I’ll keep watch and distract the guards if they come. Remember, if I jay whistle, move the rock in front of the opening.”

With that, the too skinny teenager scuttles down the boulders and walks past the dead girl into the fields, shoots of decomposing grain pinching the bare soles of his feet. Finding the top of a hill, he sits and crumbles dry soil in between his knuckles. He lets it fall over crossed knobby knees as he stares into the red sun almost sunken over a ruined city in the distance. Soon the sad world crashes to night.

... 

He wretches, his last meal surges up his throat and into the porcelain, blistering his tongue. It doesn’t stop until his gasping on air.

He rinses his mouth and knocks on the door to his father’s office.

Three days later, Star Fleet ships arrive at Tarsus VI to discover the biggest massacre in the last 300 years. At the head of the fleet a Vulcan Ambasador stands stark striaght on the bridge.

The amount of sleep Vulcans require is significantly less than humans. But for years to follow Spock gets significantly less sleep than that.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

     The tractor bed is old, and the damp wood splinters against his knees.

     Jim is fifteen and his tongue is looping down Emily Smith’s throat. Their lips jolt together in an awkward, sticky mesh, but he doesn't let it bother him as he hooks his index finger under the lace fringe of her panties and tugs down.

      A strange word, “T’hy’la”, floats from the back of his head but he doesn’t know why, so he ignores it in favor of rolling on a condom.

     Emily moans in a high pitch drawl as he pokes around her vagina a few times, looking for the hole. She seems to think he’s just doing it for the effect, and he doesn’t correct that assumption as he slides inside of her, thumbs fumbling with her breasts.

     He goes in at the wrong angle, so he pulls back out and re-enters. James T. Kirk totally knows what he’s doing.

     When the base of his dick is squeezed into her passage he feels a jolt that definitely isn’t arousal. He blinks at Emily’s soft freckled face because for a second he had the overwhelming desire to snap her neck.

     But he pushes the foreign jealousy away and curls his knuckles on the rusty tractor railings, thrusting until he comes.

 

     “Aren’t you forgetting something?” Jim hisses at the image of his mom’s face on the view screen.

     Her false smile cracks and the illusion of her plump cheekbones sinks into the hollows above her jaw.

     “I don’t think so Jimmy, and I don’t particularly like your tone.”

     His glare builds into a grin that twists up cruelly.

     “Well it doesn’t fucking matter if you don’t like my tone Mom, because if you pulled your head out of the ghost of Dad’s ass for one damned second you'd remember that today is my eighteenth birthday.”

     The color rushes from her face.

     “Happy Birthday, and honestly Jim, language-” she starts, but he just glares harder and her words die somewhere in her throat.

     “So… so long, because I’m gonna follow in my dear brother’s footsteps and get the hell out of this house. Have a grand old time gallivanting around the galaxy, though I’d imagine you'd be bored of it by now since, you know, you spent all of my childhood hiding up there.”

     He bends down to the ground and swings a black backpack over his shoulder then leans forward so his hand hovers just above the end call button.

     “Oh, and Mom?”

     She squeaks, then seems to gather herself, ice slicking over her eyes. “Yes?”

     “Fuck you and your abusive pig husband”

     And he presses the ‘end call’ button so the screen flashes from the open “O” of Winona’s lips to black.

     He clomps down the stairs, the beat of his steps fast and clumsy as he runs his thumb on the purple patch curving along his eye socket. Frank gave it to him yesterday. He stops at the bottom, pushing his tongue into the inside of his cheek then marching into the kitchen.

     “Frank,” he says, grinning with all the sweetness of a tiger, “I want to show you something.”

     Frank looks up from the nozzle of his beer, “I don’t have ti-”

     And Jim punches him square in the nose.

     There’s a crisp crunch, then Frank flops to the floor, unconscious. Jim withdraws his hand, glancing at the red streaks on his fist and stomping out the door.

     Things slow down when the rubber grooves on his sneaker grinds into the gravel. The driveway is washed white from the porch lights, but it clusters into darkness the further he walks from the house. He goes to until he’s standing at the end of their cornfield, completely wrapped in the night.

     He turns, blue eyes wet silver under the moon, and looks back at the house as if he sees something important in the sagging shutters. Jim watches the fireflies blip in and out of an old willow’s tree branches, seeing himself and Sam hanging from it on the sunny days before he left.

    Fuck, he thinks scratching madly at the wetness trailing down to his cheeks. He feels small next to the large old barnhouse and even smaller when he looks down road.

     “You were always alone, there’s no difference now,” he tells himself and the crickets.

     They chirp back indifferently.

     He starts to sigh, but it stops when he feels...something. It’s like there’s a strange warmth in his head, smoothing away the sadness and kissing the bruise on his face. There was that word again, from somewhere far away.

     T’hy’la.

     He shakes his head and disappears down the road.

     The jacket is the first thing to go.

     He shrugs it off inside the motel room, the folds of leather stacking on the ground in a heap. Next comes the blood-smeared white t-shirt. He pops off his shoes with his toes and they join the other clothes in the corner.

     It’s more of a broken piece of glass than a mirror really. It has neat edges, but there’s a spiderweb of cracks branching out from the corner where a mattress, which is stained with god knows what, can be seen. It’s a pathetic room, with a pathetic bed, and a pathetic frayed carpet and pathetic yellow splashed wallpaper.

     And a pathetic man, Jim thinks.

     He traces the blood tracking down from his nostrils, lapping the rusty taste of it off his swollen upper lip with his tongue.

     “You know, I couldn't believe it when the bartender told me who you are.”

     His eyes look sickeningly bright, framed with bruises that are already starting to turn a shade near black.

     “Your father's son.”

     The rib below and to the right of his belly button feels broken. He prods it with a wince and the split bones rub together.

     “Something I admired about your dad, he didn't believe in no-win scenarios.”

     His skin is too tight against his hipbones; he hasn’t been eating right in a while. Hell, he hasn’t been eating right since Tarsus.

     “You like being the only genius-level repeat offender in the Midwest? Or do you feel like you were meant for something better?”

     There’s a beer cap tangled in the spikes of his sweaty hair.

     “Your father's son.”

     He smashes a closed fist into the mirror, shattering it inwards so there’s a crater of little glass triangles where his face was.

     He pulls his bloody hand away, but it’s not good enough. So he hits it again.

     He’s so angry.

     So angry at his mom for acting like she didn’t care, so angry at Frank for smacking him around when he was a kid, so angry at his Dad for dying, for giving him his face, so angry at Pike for saying all that shit, so damn angry at the whole world.

     His knuckles thrust into the mirror one last time, and the surface breaks completely. The sharp fragments slide down the frame to the floor like some fucked-up snow flurry.

     So angry at himself.

     Hard pants sting in his lungs. He breathes out once; long and slow, then takes off his jeans, leaving red prints all over the belt loops.

     Something falls from his pocket.

     It clinks on to the pile of glass, small sliver hull sparkling. Jim bends to pick up the salt shaker model of the USS Kelvin between his sliced-up fingers. It’s too tiny engines to stare back at him.

     "I dare you to do better."

     It's time to stop being angry.

     He rinses his hand in the bathroom, flicking out crumbles of glass from the cuts and wrapping a mostly clean t-shirt around it. He scrubs maroon fleck from his face with a wet towel. It’s not perfect; he’ll need to see a doctor in the morning.

     The morning. His stomach swoops at the thought, at the fact that he just made the one decision he promised himself he wouldn’t when he was old enough to understand what happened to his father.

     “You know, that instinct to leap without looking, that was his nature too. And in my opinion, it's something Starfleet's lost.”

     He climbs into bed and switches off the almost dead light.

     He wakes up during the night. Only he’s not awake, he’s in some sort of trance. He knows the sheet is scratching his bare back, can hear the wheeze of the air conditioner, but his eyes stay closed and he doesn’t think he could move his limbs if he tried.

     His whole body tingling, like there are tiny sparks hopping up and down under his skin, with whole clusters of them circling his broken rib and hand. Maybe he should be worried, but... it feels good somehow. He dismisses it as a dream and crawls back into sleep.

     When the sun shines through the bug skeletons scattered on the windowsill, he finds sprinkles of glass on the pillowcase next to his hand. All that’s left of his injuries is a ring of pink around his cheekbone and the side of his mouth.

     Well that’s weird.

     Healed, he steps out of the room and into his life.

 

Chapter Text

“Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a goddamn mule! Get your get off your pretty-boy ass, leave that Orion girl alone and help me get this couch up the stairs.”

Spock sighs internally and re-crosses his legs, adjusting his PADD on his knee and attempting to refocus on grading papers. He folds his pursed lips around the rim of his tea.

The two human males moving into a somewhat shabby apartment building across the street from the cafe he’s having breakfast at are proving to be a distraction. The loud illogical one, who is apparently a doctor, is standing next to a couch with sagging orange splotched cushions. One of his hands is shoved onto his hip and another is wrestling a large cardboard box from a cheap looking hover car while he glares at another man several yards down the sidewalk. The other man is Jim, Spock has concluded from unintentionally hearing their conversations.

This Jim is talking animatedly with an Orion female, fingering her loose red curls and invading her personally space.

It is highly inappropriate behavior.

Deciding he finds this human oddly irritating, Spock places his PADD on the table and watches.

“Old man over there is just grumpy because as he likes to say, he has three headaches, all of which are named James Kirk,” Jim says scribbling something on the girl’s green wrist, “Well there’s that and I’m pretty sure he hasn’t gotten laid in a while.”

“I can here you bratt!” Bones calls as he heaves another box from the hover car.

“So, great to meet you Galia,” Jim winks an alarmingly bright blue eye,”Call me.”

She walks away giggling. The doctor has put the box down, taps his foot and looks supremely annoyed.

There’s a hungriness Jim’s smirk as he follows the bobbing of the Galia’s hips that Spock thinks is particularly primitive. He lets out a low whistle and walks back to his friend.

“Sorry Bones. I couldn’t resist.”

Bones rolls his eyes and bends to take one end of the couch, Jim grabbing the other.

“You know kid, they say Orion females are dangerous for a reason.”

They clamber up the first step on long the flight of stairs to the buildings entrance.

“Aww I knew you cared, you big softie. Don’t worry though, I know what I’m doing.”

They hit the side railing, which earns some more grumbling from the one called Bones.

“Why is it that I’m sure you say that about everything and mean it about absolutely nothing? Oh yeah, it’s because I’ve known you for a year and a half and can’t count on my fingers the number of times your little xenophilic sexcapades end badly and I have to rescue your foolass.”

The couch is dropped on the concrete at the top of his stairs with a thud.

“It really wasn’t that many times. All in the name of adventure right?” Jim frowns rubbing the back of his neck, “I feel kinda tingly. Like I just poked my finger in an outlet or something- hey don’t look at me like that, I was ten last time it happened.”

Bones plucks a medical tricorder from his pocket, running it up and down the air in front of Jim. His forehead creases like the impression of waves in the sand at low tide.

“Nothing unusual that I can tell, other than a spike in brain activity. It’s too small to worry about though, just a slightly increased amounts of oxytocin. It’s probably the Orion pheromones.”

“Yeah,” says Jim, swiping the back of his hand across his forehead, “Probably.”

They pick up the couch and disappear into the building. Spock resumes grading papers and tries to ignore his nagging sense of disappointment and the fact that he too feels strangely “tingly”.

Spock and Nyota Uhura are pressed together in a small, sleek hover-cab, on route to their first date at a Deltan opera.

The purple silk of Nyota’s dress slips agiants the side of Spock palm on his leg with every turn. The flashes of streetlights make blocks on their curves of their faces as they pass. Even trapped in orange, the olive tints of his skin and the dark earth of hers look exceptional together.

Nyota is logical.

She is logical for a human. Spock does not feel the need to explain himself when he is around her. Her company is pleasant. She is his friend, makes living amongst mostly humans less alienating. She is exceptionally aesthetically pleasing.

Pursuing a relationship with her is logical.

She smiles at him and one of the crystals hanging from her ears catches a hard white light that bobbs around his vision when he looks away.

He knows he is bonded, has known since he was seven. But he hasn’t felt the mind he is connected to for many years and the statistical probability that he will ever meet his bondmate is astronomically small. Nyota would make a logical mate, whether they be bonded or not.

Yet the thought of their relationship gives him and sense of wrongness. It is illogical to deny that he feels it, but the thought is illogical in the first place so he does anyways.

They step out of the cab onto the sidewalk.The slits of Nyota’s dress fan open on her thighs every time she clicks her heels.

“You look exceptionally aesthetically pleasing tonight,” he comments, mostly out of courtesy, as the file into a line outside the Opera House.

“Thank you Spock,” she says and they fall into mostly companionable silence, shuffling slowly forward.

Spock looks ahead, through the turquoise entini of an Andorian and to two familiar men who are bickering further up the line. He recognizes them as the same two men, Kirk and Bones if he recalls correctly-and he always recalls correctly- whom he saw moving into the apartment across from his favorite cafe 6.3 months ago.

“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” Bones tugs on the collar of his suit, grumbling profusely, “I feel like a goddamn monkey in a straight jacket. Why people wear these things willingly, I never understand.”

“So you’ve said a few hundred times now,” Kirk flicks his companion’s wrist, “And stop that, you’re only making it worse.”

Bones lets go of his shirt, crossing his arms and huffing.

“Tell again me why we’re paying 300 credits a pop to see a bunch of bald humanoids belt loudly at each other in a language we don’t even understand?”

“One, I’m fluent Deltan, two I’m paying for both of our tickets and three you’re here because I didn’t want to go alone and you still owe me for the ‘Ex-wife incident that shall not be named’, so shush.”

Bones looks slightly murderous.

“You may be paying, but I’m going to be chipping in on your rent for the next two months just because you’re curious little bastard.”

“You won’t have to, I’ll just win all the money back.”

“That’s what I’m worried about, if you think I’m bailing your foolass out of jail for gambling then you’re even more fucked in the head than I thought.”

“I won’t get caught and I’m damn good at poker. Plus you so would bail me out of jail.”

“Narcissistic brat.”

“Grumpy old man.”

They share a glare for several moments, but neither appear to be as angry as they claim to be. Spock is not sure he will ever understand human emotions, and these two appear to be even more illogical than most.

“Come on Bones perk up, this may be the only chance we ever get to see a Deltan. I’ve read about their culture, only there aren’t any currently enlisted in Starfleet. Opera isn’t really my thing either, but I want to know they’re like in person, they’re a really fascinating species. It’ll be fun!” he clasps Bones on the back and hands the clerk his ticket.

“You're idea of fun usaully ends with a hangover. And seriously nerd.” Bones complains while they disappear into the theater doors, “I swear, I’m drowning in books because of you. Drowning. If one more of the paperbacks you’ve shoved on every available space of our apartment bruises my noggin then I’ll hypo you with…”

Their voices wash into the crowd and Spock tries to shake an odd prickle at the back of his neck.

He and Nyota enter several minutes later. They climb stairs to the balcony and wait for the lights dim.

When intermission arrives, Spock is pleased to find the first act is good enough to prevent any discomfort that comes from the unfamiliar territory of engaging in a relationship with a human. The only off-putting sensation that remains is that tingling sensation he has yet to be rid of.

“The lead actress's voice is beautiful, it has such a lovely ring to it,” Nyota say as the they walk side by side down the stairs, passing multiple species in colorful formal clothing also heading to the high arched ceilings of the lobby, “And the jester character! He’s not even a Deltan, but his intonation is perfect.”

“I too am impressed by the performance.”

They slide into an empty booth, but Spock makes to stand again.

“I will get us drinks, what would you like?” he asks.

“Oh nonsense Spock, you paid for my ticket it’s only fair that I buy them. What will you like?”

Generosity is an admirable quality. Nyota is logically indeed.

“Very well. I will have a Lytemera herb wine.”

Her black ponytail whips back and forth in time to the swing of her hips when she crosses the room. She approach the bar, folding her elbows over the counter and leaning in.

“Hi,” she says with a smile to the bartender, “I’ll have a Slusho mix and a Lytemera herb wine.”

“Coming right up.”

Spock watches a broad shouldered man in a powder blue tux approach Nyota from behind. His black eyes glitter over her ass for a moment.

“Seems a shame a pretty thing like you should be buying her own drinks,” he comes up beside her and waves a fist full of cash at the occupied bartender.

Spock supposes he should feel an essence of the possessiveness Vulcans are infamous for at another man attempting to court Nyota. Instead, he registers only a faint sense of dislike for the stranger.

“The real shame is that you have nothing better to do than hit on girls at an Opera,” she quips pushing his hand away and sliding 10 credits onto the counter.

“Why so harsh? I think you, I, and that dress of yours could have a grand old time if you’d give me a chance.”

Nyota’s almost dark lips pop open, but she’s cut off before she can reply.

“And I think that you and that pastel monstrosity you seem to think is formalwear should retire to somewhere you’re wanted, which is clearly not here,” a third voice joins them. Spock cranes his neck to find it belongs to Jim Kirk, “Do you sell Jack? Good. A shot of that straight up and a Saurian Brandy please.”

The stranger grumbles and sulks away leaving a very angry looking Nyota with Kirk.

“Ugh, you! What are you even doing here? Let me guess, same boat as the walking easter egg only with the addition of enough tact not to get you punched in the face. Assuming of course you’re more sober than the last time I ran into you like this.”

“Uhura, you wound me!” he he folds his hands dramatically over his heart, “I wanted to learn more about Deltans; you’re gorgeous self being here merely a bonus. And I just got that guy to fuck off, you should be thanking me. How about-”

Spock experiences a rush of jealousy now, but he is unable to deduce what caused the change. Odd.

“I don’t owe you anything Kirk, I had it perfectly under control. And I don’t buy that you wanted to expand your education for a second.”

“What is it with you and premature opinions?”

“I wouldn’t call finding you under my roommate's bed premature.”

A spike of jealousy. Spock is becoming uncharacteristically baffled by his innate emotions.

‘Think what you will, that doesn’t change the fact-” Kirk is once again interrupted, this time by the bartender handing Nyota her drinks.

She clinks the glasses into one hand, “I’ll be seeing you around Kirk. Unfortunately” With that she turns and strides back to Spock.

“Thank you,” Spock says as he accepts his wine, “That Kirk individual, who is he?”

She jingles ice cubes together in the Slusho and sips it, “Oh he’s just a cocky farm hick cadet who keeps cropping up and trying to flirt with me.”

A subtle frown dips into Spock’s brow as glances at Krik leaving the bar. He looks down at the gold and blue spirals of his drink that chase each other around the glass, twisting in a way similar to the tree it’s made from.

“I find I dislike him.”

“Are you Jealous Spock?” Nyota says with a grin.

“Jealousy is illogical.”

She laughs.

“Don’t worry, I’m not the least bit interested in him.”

Her first two fingers tentatively touch the to the back of Spock’s hand. He doesn’t flinch away.

Yes Spock is jealous, but he is not certain whom he is jealous of.

The Kobayashi Maru can not be beaten.

Spock crafted it himself, every line of code sewn together to create a mission that’s insurmountable. Every cadet that has taken Spock’s exam enters with a hope that flickers still and dies by the end. Some of the more persistent students in command track very occasional come back to loose again, but nobody has ever tried three times.

Except of course James T. Kirk

Spock clutches his wrist behind his back and straightens his spine in his grey uniform, watching students shuffle in tiredly. Nyota drops her bag at her communications station with a bored look, but she smiles up at the mirrored glass, knowing Spock can see her.  

All of the participants are slumped over their post by the time Kirk arrives. The door swishes open and he enters through in a way Spock can only describe as “strutting”. His smirk is laced with confidence, the spikes of his hair are curved up in yellow flops all over his head and there is a round lump in his messenger bag.

Spock discovers that all these details and the warm reflections in his over-bright blue eyes are acutely irritating, and the knowledge Kirk will not pass gives him a wholly un-Vulcan satisfaction.

Spock tugs at the hem of his uniform. The test begins.

Every word from that upturned pink mouth is sandpaper on Spock’s Vulcan disciplines for suppressing anger. When Kirk corrects Nyota for not calling him “Captain” Spock’s eyebrows slash down, ever so slightly. Kirk saying “That’s ok,” makes Spock’s molars rub together under the force of his clenched jaw.

But when he dips a hand in his bag and pulls out an apple, Spock feels all but hostile.

Something about Jim Kirk is… is infuriating. How when he bites the upwards tweak of his small nose scrunches so the freckles splashed on the bridge stretch into lines. The way his lips smooth closed over the whole in the meat of the fruit as he pulls away. How the faint pink puffs on his cheeks seem to bobb like low-hanging rain clouds when he chews. That smug smile.

All of him.

When the lights flutter off, Spock’s first thought is that he can no longer see the target of his malice. But when they come back on and he realizes someone has hacked into the system he created, Spock experiences a feeling he rarely even glimpses.

Shock.

This insolent human had defeated the exact calculations of his test as if they had no hold on him. He’d penetrated Spock’s impenetrable programming. He had done the impossible.

But it was cheating. What right had he to assume he was above failure? What made this one man who enraged Spock without ever having spoke to him think he could simply get away with his ruse?

“How the hell did that kid beat your test?” his fellow instructor asked, even more dumbfounded than Spock.

“I do not know.”

The electronic curtains peel open and sunlight bounces off the glass in front of Spock, bends around the apple core in Kirk’s hand, catches in his eyes. The cadet turns, winks up at them then leaves.

But I intend to find out.

The next week is a blur of research. Spock applies his Vulcan mind and all his logic to dissecting the life of James Tiberius Kirk.

In the heat of trying to decode an encrypted file containing events of the 13 and 14th year of Kirk’s life, he’d told Nyota he was involved in important research and could not attend their date that night. It was not in essence a lie.

But hours spent flicking over a keyboard and debating with a computer are useless because Spock can not uncover what happened to Jim in that year and a half that deserved the highest level of security Starfleet could offer. It does not matter though, Spock has all he needs to make conclusions.

Jim, the “Kelvin Baby” as he is sometimes called, was a juvenile delinquent, a repeat offender and an overall rebel. All bet, a one of genius level intelligence, but still an arrogant individual with clear disregard for authority and regulation.

So with the evidence Nyota found on Galia’s pad Spock constructs a case that will prove Kirk violated the ethical code of conduct. This information pleases him more than it should.

Spock sits several rows back on the morning of the hearing, close enough to view the subtlest of twitches in Kirk’s face, but far enough away so as not to draw attention to himself.

Red and grey blurs of Officers and Cadets trickle in to the meeting area. Spock spots Kirk as easily as if he and Spock’s eyes were positive and negative magnets. He’s talking animatedly with ‘Bones’ and has an arm slung over Galia’s shoulders. This sight enforces Spock’s resentment.

Administrator Barnett stands and silence skitters over the room.

“This session has been called to resolve a troubling matter. James T. Kirk, step forward. Cadet Kirk, evidence has been submitted to this council, suggesting that you violated the ethical code of conduct pursuant to Regulation One-Seven point three of the Starfleet Code. Is there anything you care to say before we begin, sir?

Kirk walks to the podium, the swing of his back and legs as he moves not so proud now.

“Yes, I believe I have the right to face my accuser directly.”

Spock had approximated only a 1.5% chance that Kirk had read the rulebook. It seemed oddly appropriate that he defy probability.

He stands, giving a quick pull to the end of his black uniform. He can’t seem to look away from Kirk and he finds it bothers him that the human only glances his way. He schools his face into it’s practice blank mask, but for some reason, he feels Kirk sees through it easily.

Their hands are clasped behind them in an identically when Spock stops at the other podium. It’s an odd sort of symmetry; Kirk with his bright flushes and open features and Spock with his dark angels and stone expression. Something in Spock, something he doesn’t quite realize exists sparks at the idea of creating a mirror image to this man.

Barnett announces him and Kirk turns to Spock again, this time holding his gaze. Spock is irrationally tempted to squirm beneath the intensity.

“Cadet Kirk,” he says, the name he’d picked apart the last seven days sounding strange outloud, “You somehow managed to install and activate a subroutine to the programming code, thereby changing the conditions of the test.

“Your point being?”

The blatant disregard in his tone pokes at Spock’s baser emotions.

“In academic vernacular, you cheated,” Barnett states.

“Let me ask you something, I think we all know the answer to. The test itself is a cheat, isn't it? You programmed it to be unwinnable.”

Kirk switches his eyes between Spock and the council as he speaks, but somehow Spock registers every sentence as pinned directly at him.

“Your argument precludes the possibility of a no-win scenario.”

Kirk’s eyes narrow a fraction, the sweep of skin under the socket scrunching. He flips back to the council with a painted smile.

“I don’t believe in no-win scenarios.”

Illogical.

“Then, not only did you violate the rules, you also failed to understand the principle lesson.”

“Please, enlighten me.”

The voice is venomous and Kirk’s anger toys with a part of Spock’s mind he hasn’t noticed in years. He ignores the sensation and calculates a way to use his research to his advantage.

“You of all people should know, Cadet Kirk. A Captain cannot cheat death”

The fire in Kirk's stare wilts, and there’s something very small in the way he dips his chin to his neck. Spock has never met an individual he instantly disliked more than Krik, but the almost wounded bunch of the man's shoulders gives him guilt he does not understand.

“I of all people.”

It’s almost visible, how Kirk shoves away that brief insecurity and flashes back to anger.  

“Your father, Lieutenant George Kirk, assumed command of his vessel before being killed in action, did he not?”

“I don't think you like the fact that I beat your test.”

Spock ignores that, it is false after all. Obviously.

“Furthermore, you have failed to divine the purpose of the test.”

“Enlighten me again.”

“The purpose is to experience fear. Fear in the face of certain death. To accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one's crew. This is a quality expected in every Starfleet captain.”

Kirk’s eyes slowly tick back downward and he shrinks again. It’s only really noticeable if you’re searching for it and Spock certainly is. He ducks his head down, red tip of his tongue peeking over his bottom lip then dashing back in his mouth. He looks much younger than he did. Spock expected to have a sense of victory, but all he can feel at the action is regret from deep inside himself.

Then a messenger darts in the room.

Barnet opens the envelope, his dark face paling, “We've received a distress call from Vulcan. With our primary fleet engaged in the Laurentian system, I hereby order all cadets to report to Hangar One immediately. Dismissed.”

All thoughts of unexplained emotions and over-over bright blue eyes are swiped from Spock’s mind as quickly as they infested it.

Because of this he doesn’t register those same blue eyes track him out the door and into the crowd.  

Nor is he aware that at the root of his Katra, a dormant bond is waking.

Chapter Text

Jim likes to think he has a good understanding of himself.

Sure their are dark corners of his brain stacked with corpses and sweaty hands that he shadows and locks up until he can pretend they’ve disappeared. He pushes the nastier things away, uses coping mechanisms that would makes any shrink (and Bones) cringe, but at least he knows he’s doing it it.

So Jim knows, has always known that he’s not always alone in his head. Since he was little, though he can’t pinpoint the exact time, he’s felt...complete. The only thing he remembers before it is being empty and alone and scared.

Sometimes, especially after Tarsus he’d wake up screaming into the plush of his pillow. The dreams left him confused, and trapped his breath every time he tried to push it from his lungs. Just when he started panicking, there would be mental hands cradling him from far far away.

Most of the time the phantom feeling is the only thing he has to cling to. Before he met Bones, there were cold nights when he’d lie flush against old springs on motel mattress and be terrified that he imagined the traces of love twining around the back of his mind, that really he was alone.  

It’s hard to convince himself it isn’t real. There were the strange words like “T’hy’la” drifting out of nowhere into his thoughts. He’d get flashes of anger or sadness not his own.

No one knew of course, not even Bones. It sounded insane, even to Jim so he kept his mouth shut and let it happen. It had been years since he’d felt even a faint prickle anyways.

Until the Kobayashi Maru.

It started with vague anger and tiny spikes of curiosity. But it built like a slow headache and by hearing there was a tangled drone of emotions rumbling through his skull. Fascination, fury, regret.

When he met a certain pointy eared bastard it only got stronger, which was rather inconvenient when Jim was trying not to let him kick his proverbial ass.

Something about the black streaks of Spocks hair, the sharp angles of his shoulders, flicker in his brown eyes was both familiar and infuriating, for reason that were beyond Jim.

Suspicion was making itself known by way of a trickle.

When Jim stood in shuttlebay, officers flashing by around him, knowing he couldn’t go on one of those ships, that he was being left behind, he grasped at the thing in his head. He had hoped it would purr at him, soothes stabs of loneliness and self-hatred as it had done in the darkest moments of Jim’s youth. But all he found was  a whirl of fear and and worry.

Jim had recoiled, shocked by the strength of those foreign emotions.

He tried again when he was sick and delirious on the shuttle. The result was the same.

Now in the transporter room, watching the whirl of light that was Amanda crumble into nothing and Spock’s fingers closing slowly around where she was, Jim realizes he hadn’t even begun to understand the emotional capacity of the thing in his head.

Jim has never felt anything that even scratched the surface of how intense this is.

The shock, the all consuming grief. It’s painful, so very, very painful, like having barbed wire strung through in veins.

He gasps and tries to separate himself from the storm not his own. His suspicion grows.

Later, in sickbay, as he gets the burned skin of his palms lasered back together, a window in his mind peels open.

Suddenly, he’s looking at Uhura, her pretty dark eyes blinking up at him in sympathy. Her hands are hooked around his neck, thumbs parallel to the patch of skin where his ear stitches into his skull.

Jim finds it disconcerting. It’s wrong somehow, her touching, not him but...Spock, he realizes. Why can he see into Spock’s thoughts?

“What do you do you need? Tell me,” she pauses and says softer, “Tell me.”

Nyota’s gentle brushes along his arm, the warmth of her pressed against him when they hug is comforting. She is his friend, they have shared flesh. But it is not what he desires.

I need, Spock thinks and trails off, remembering the screams of a billion Vulcans snuffed out of existence all at once, the snap of every one of his family ties expect his father’s and T’pua’s, all the broken bonds in his mind bleeding, I need my bondmate.

But that I can not have.

“I need everyone to continue performing admirably.”

Nyota looks unsure, but she nods and strokes up the back of his neck, “Okay.”

Jim yanks himself out of the moment before he has to watch them kiss.

The grief pulses and His suspicion becomes a waterfall.

“Every second we waste, Nero's getting closer to his next target!”

Kirk moves into Spock's personal space, ignoring the tingling it sends down his spine.

“That is correct and why I am instructing you to accept the fact that I alone-”

Anger, both his and someone else’s.

“I will not allow us to go backwards-”

“Jim!” Bones tries to stop him, but he’s too determined to be swayed.

“-instead of hunting Nero down”

Spock’s eyes are pricked with malice that makes a something deep inside Jim whimper.

“Security. Escort him out.”

He thrashes agiants the security officers. He knows Spock is wrong, that Earth will be the same dust Vulcan is if they don’t fight.

The last thing he remembers before he blacks out is a grip on his shoulder that shutters deep into his blood. That, and the blurred words of the same voice that sang away his nightmares in the tongue of desert rocks, red skies and sand.

...

He staggers awake to a world of white and giant monsters with an apparently insatiable appetite, a bit too pissed at Spock to be concerned with the source of the now faint buzz of emotions in his head.

It’s when he meets older Spock that it becomes very relevant.

“I have been, and always shall be, your friend,” he says and the Vulcan, with his frost grey hair and wrinkles that carve his face like canyon rivers, looks at him in a way no one has before, as if he’s the most precious thing in the universe.

It’s almost reverence he thinks, that light in those brown eyes sunken in heavy curtains of skin. This man is ancient, ancient and weighted with a bone deep sadness, but he looks at Jim as if Jim lit the match that taught the stars how to burn.

He looks at Jim in the way the thing in his head used to make him feel.

Loved.

When the dry pads of crinkled fingers sink into his face and old Spock’s memories are ripped open to him, the patterns of the pain the circuits that tie this man’s mind together are all too familiar.

The taste of his sadness is too much because Jim has already tasted in before. The suspicion rises.

They gallop over ice to the station and meet Montgomery Scott and his little green friend. Spock says he won’t be coming with Jim.

It’s odd, to feel loved be a stranger, but oh how Jim wants to cling to it, to not leave the safeness the presence of this strange old version of Spock gives him. He lets go because there are Romulans to battle and planets to save, and no one is going to do it if Jim doesn’t.

Jim isn’t quite sure why, but when he’s told he needs to prove this universe Spock is compromised, he experiences dread. Dread to hurt a man who hates him, a man who might just be the other half of his soul.

There seems to be a bubble around Spock. For every foot separating them ticked away, the sparking in Kirk’s head gets brighter and by the time the only thing between them is a breath, he has the sense to be worried he’ll catch on fire.

“So, are you afraid or aren't you?”

There so close now Jim can see the blue of his own eyes get hot in Spock’s pupils. He can even see the red scratches ringed around his cheek move with the in and out clenching of his jaw.

“I will not allow you to lecture me about the merits of emotion.”

The hate bubbling in that black stare hurts, makes Jim dizzy. He pushes the sensation back.

“Then why don't you stop me.”

“Step away from me, Mister K-”

It’s not working. The pain beating behind the mask of Spock’s expression is barely leaking through. He needs to try harder.

“What is it like not to feel anger or heartbreak or the need to stop at nothing to avenge the death of the woman who gave birth to you?”

There’s a flash of something deadly in Spock at that. Jim is deliberately using his closeness to Spock to punch his buttons, his reactions make Jim struggle with the urge to hug him, of all things.

“Back away from me-”

This is it, Spock’s mask is cracking, sheets of it tumbling away like the surface his planet. One more blow.

“You feel nothing! It must not even compute for you! You never loved her!”

Spock breaks.

The rest is a rush of jabs and punches. He tries to return and block them, but Spock so much stronger than him and every time Spock makes bruising contact, the hate raced through the touch kills something inside of Jim. Even before the hand closes around his neck, the corners of his vision are fuzzed pixels and there’s ice colder than Delta Vega is seeping into his chest.

But when that hand does choke him, the reality is lost.

Spock’s face twisting and churning with fury, the curve of muscle above Spock’s thumb cutting into the fragile bonds of bones in his throat, Spock’s mind willing the air to claw back into his lungs sends him further than he’s been in a long time.

Suddenly he’s four again in a grocery store on Christmas Eve. He’s on his tiptoes and his small pink fingers are forked outward, just about to close around the apple at the very top of a pyramid. A black haired boy with pointed ears tells him he’s being illogical.

Then he’s falling, flailing his arms desperately as he topples back with a stream of apples and on to the boy below him. Their skin connects and before he knows what happening he’s being whipped under the larger frame of the young alien as the green fruit rains.

Then he’s torn from the protection of the stranger’s warm hold and Frank’s slapping his cheek and he’s wishing, wishing so hard that he could look back, even for a moment.

He flickers back to the present as quickly as he left it.

Spock lets go of his throat. Jim coughs and splutters, not sure he’s ever going to breath right again.

He gets captaincy, they save Earth, and Nero’s spun back into the black hole he scuttled from, blasted to bits. Enterprise is given to Jim and Spock becomes his first officer.

It matters, sure, it really does.

But it doesn’t.

Because now, Jim knows. Spock is the thing in his head, Spock is what makes him complete.

And Spock, Spock will never love him.

Chapter Text

It’s been eleven months since Nero.

Eleven months, two days, five hours and three minutes if Spock is to be exact, and Spock is always exact.

Spock has not attained the deepest level of meditation in eleven months, three days, five hours and ten minutes.

If he enters that far into his mind, the stumps of a thousand broken bonds will be waiting for him, to tear at his sanity and crumble his control. He still feels them in his dreams, hitching on the back of his thoughts.

If he looks he will also be another bond that’s whole and golden and beautiful. His T’hy’la bond. He could go inside himself, fallow that string and use the mind of his bondmate to stitch back together the dark things in his own. But, he will never know his bondmate, will never touch him, will only know him when he is dead to like Spock’s mother and so, so many of his race.

It is not worth the pain. So Spock builds barriers in his mind and deals with his limited telepathic abilities. He throws himself into work on the Enterprise, takes every distraction he can.

He and the Captain no longer hate each other.

They are not exactly friends, though Kirk has tried sixteen times to engage Spock in activities outside of duty. It is not so much that Spock dislikes Kirk, the near hate he first felt for him has significantly lessened, and he’s much too distracted by grief to pay attention to the initial fascination. But Spock sees no logic in pursuing friendship with the irrational human who once played up on his weakness when he was most vulnerable.

It’s 0600 and Spock is currently in the mess hall having breakfast with Nyota, the Captain, Chevok and doctor Mccoy. He is wedged onto the edge of the bench across from Kirk, his thigh flushed against Nyota’s.

“It vas wery brillant of you Keptain,” Chekov says, and Kirk smiles, but his blue eyes are stuck to the brush of Spock and Nyota’s elbows, his fork poking with disinterest at the multi colored sponges and apple slices on his plate, “The vay you used the bluff about of the Corbomite device to scare away the Romulans. They fled faster than Zargoff the veak!’

Kirk seems to find this addition to the young ensign’s constant references to Russian culture amusing if his near snort into his coffee is anything to go by.

“Why thank you Chekov. You know, I developed that tactic from playing poker with my friend Gary at the academy. Bones used to give me shit about it my gambling habits, but as I say, there’s no harm as long as you're winning.”

He winks, and Nyota’s dark irises do a lap around their sockets. Chekov giggles, but Dr. Mccoy’s frown pushes further down into his cheeks.

“I gave you shit about a lot of things. For good reason too,” he eyes the only torn corner of a green sponge on Jim’s plate, “You should eat something Jim.”

Something flickers on Kirk’s face, but he smooths it quickly away with a toothy grin.

“I’m fine Bones, just not that hungry. I’ll eat something during lunch, scout’s honor.”

“Like you were a boy scout. They’d have kicked you out the first time you opened that mouth of yours or lit something on fire. But you’ve got to eat Jim.”

Kirk’s smile looks positively plastered.

“Now’s not the time Bones.”

“Jim-”

“Captain, the while he is often excessively illogical, the doctor does have a point,” Spock eyes Kirk's full plate and the slightly too pointy knobs of his wrist, “The human metabolism requires sustenance at this time of day for optimal physical and mental function. It is not ideal to command a starship when you are not at your peak ability.”

There’s a moment where Kirk looks at Spock and Spock look as Kirk and nobody else says a word. He searches the twitches in Spock's eyebrows and then seems...well defeated would be the most accurate term.

“Good to know you care about your commanding officer’s health Spock,” he says with a twisted expression as he reluctantly bites into an apple slice.

“It is my duty.”

Spock watches push and pull of his lips as he chews. If he weren’t shielding he would notice the prickle of an unidentified emotion at the sight, but all he feels is a very slight tingling at the base of his neck, which he confuses for an itch.

Kirk’s communicator beeps.

“Bridge to Captain Kirk,” comes the pur of Lt. M’Ress’s voice when Kirk flips it open.

“Kirk here.”

“We are receiving new orders from starfleet, I have Admiral Pike on screen in your ready room.”

Bones opens his mouth and points at Jim’s plate, but Jim smirks at him and tosses the remains of his relatively untouched meal in the trash duct.

“I’ll be there in five, Kirk out,” The captain flicks his communicator shut and waves, “See you guys during shift.”

Spock watches the rock of his steps, his hips swinging in tight black pants, feeling slightly disconcerted. He turns back to his oatmeal find Nyota’s stare fixed on him.

Mccoy and Chekov bid them their goodbyes, leaving Spock and Nyota sitting stiff on the hard plastic seats of the mess hall.

“Spock,” she says spreading her fingers softly over his knuckles, “I think we need to talk.”

There are blue shadows where their hands interlock. Spock still fails to understand human speech subtleties at times, but even he is aware the phrase “we need to talk” does not have positive connotations.

“I agree.”

Her eyes crinkle when she smiles but it’s not as warm as it usually is.

“I’ll come to your quarters after alpha shift?”

Spock removes his hand from hers and slides it over the hem of his shirt, straightening it.

“That is acceptable.”

...

Alpha shift pases without incident. They are on root to a planet called Melpomene, to meet with a race of unusual telepathic aliens to who are considering joining the federation.

The captains looks at Spock an average of every 10.356 minutes. This is not out of place behavior for Kirk, and Spock has long since grown used to the attention, writing it off as the Captain checking in with to his crew and his first officer.

When the shift is over he tends to data he has gathered for 10.1 minutes then leaves, easing from the bright white lights of the bridge to the yellow glow of the of the turbolift. The doors are about to close when they’re jammed open with the Captain’s arm. They cut into the skin of his wrist before bouncing open again.

“Ow,” Kirk says massaging the bruised area, “I guess I should have just waited for the next one.”

“Indeed. It would have been more logical to wait.”

Spock peels Kirk’s fingers away to examine his wrist. The Captain all but freezes. It seems when Spock touches him his every muscle tenses, even the triangles of flesh between his knuckles. Spock ignores it.

“You will not have to visit doctor Mccoy, though I do recommend you use ice to reduce the inflammation.”

Spock releases him and Kirk unclenches immediately, rounding his nails through his scalp with a strained laugh. He becomes very interested in his black star fleet issue boots.

“Yeah, you’re probably right, thanks.” he drags his eyes back up to Spock, “Hey I was wondering, if you’re not busy later do you want to play chess? With me, I mean, do you want to play chess with me.”

Spock considers this. While he has turned down all of the Captain's previous attempts to form a friendship with him, but there is a 85.7% chance Nyota will terminate their relationship tonight. Though this thought does not devastate him, company would not be unpleasant. Also Kirk has been looking increasingly unwell. Since humans require social interaction for optimal health it is possible spending time with the man could be beneficial to his superior officer and therefore efficiency of the ship.

Furthermore, his counterpart did say that they would share a “life altering” friendship. Spock is not sure he wishes to be altered, but perhaps friendship with someone as different to himself as the captain could be an educational experience.

He meets Kirk’s heavily shielded gaze.

“Affirmative. I will arrive at your quarters in in 2.3 hours.”

Kirk’s surprise is poorly concealed. His mouth flops open in a small “O” before he snaps it closed. He combs through his hair again.

“Great. Sounds perfect.”

The rest of the ride is spent in not entirely comfortable silence.

Kirk’s gold shirt seems to glow under the orange tinted bulbs. He crosses his arms over the silver insignia on his chest and tugs absentmindedly at the hem of his sleeve until the lift pings, signalling they’ve reached the ranking officer’s quarters.

Spock moves to exit the turbolift, but turns back, “Are you not coming captain?”

Kirk smiles at him. Spock finds his neck itches again.

“No, I’ve got to check in in engineering and sickbay, I’ll see you in two hours.”

Spock nods and turns to go meet Nyota, not knowing Jim watches his every step. He looks back to catch a puff of yellow hair through the window as the turbolift drops out of sight.

...

Nyota’s door is red. This is not different from the door of any other officer her rank. It has always been red, yet today Spock finds himself struck by the color’s association with love and death.

He knocks and listens to the shuffling of chairs the familiar ding of open button.

“Come in,” Nyota says, standing and walking towards Spock. He observes the nail of her left thumb is ripped, a jagged white curve over the smooth maroon polish. It is likely she curled it off with her teeth out of nervousness. The odds of her ending their relationship increases to 91.3%.

Nyota looks reluctant to begin so Spock sits on the bed, crosses his legs, folds his arms neatly in his lap and starts the conversation for her.

“What do you wish the speak of?”

She sits beside him, comforter sinking with their combined weight. Spock thinks of all the times the were on this bed for an entirely different purpose and supposes he should feel some sadness.

“Spock, why haven’t you melded with me? Xenolinguistics is my specialty. I know Vulcans require telepathic contact with their partners.”

Her eyelids are swept with a blush colored powder and it sparkles as she blinks and tries to see beyond his mask. Spock does not sigh, but it’s a very near thing. This was, he supposes, inevitable.

“There are two reasons.”

She cups his kneecap in a way that is very much in friendship and very much not sexaul, “Yes?”

“Firstly, I have many broken bonds that are not yet healed from the destruction of my planet. All Vulcans are connected on a basic level, and we are linked mentally to even those of our distant family,” he does not mention Amanda, but Nyota seems to sense it and Spock finds he is grateful for the pressure of her hand, “If you were to enter my mind, I am not sure I could maintain the necessary focus to shield both you and my self from that pain.”

He pauses, knowing what comes next will be decidedly unpleasant. She squeezes his knee again. There is no logic in delay.

“The second reason I am afraid is not so easy to explain,” he straightens the blue end of his uniform and meets her stare, “I am telsu.”

She jerks her hand off his knee, scrubbing it over her face.

“One who is bonded,” is whispered, then her tone grows hot, “Spock, how could you-”

“Before you protest, which you have right to do, know I never intended this to affect you and I am sorry that it has. I have been bonded an unknown number of years. It was discovered when I was seven and when father intended to have me bonded to a female by the name of T’pring. The bond I have is a T’hy’la bond, formed spontaneously between two people who are nearly absolutely compatible in every sense of companionship. I do not know who my bondmate is, only that they are not Vulcan. The odds of us ever meeting are astoundingly low, therefore I thought it logical to pursue a relationship with you.”

She is silent, seeming to study the jump of a green vein that winds down Spock’s neck. There are tears collecting above the the purple rings that line her eyes, but Spock does not think she will let them fall, not at least while he is here. She is far too strong for that.

“Logical,” She repeats, smiling slowly and letting eyelids slip shut,“Do you love me Spock?”

He should have anticipated the question, but he finds he does not have answer.

“I do not know if I am capable of such an emotion. However, you are my closest friend and I admire you gr-”

“Do you love me Spock?”

Spock remember the way he felt when he cradled the shaking mind of his bondmate to his own, remembers the intensity, the protectiveness.

“I do not.”

“Well,” she says whipping a piece hair behind her her ear and straightening her ankles, “I suppose you should go. Kadith right?”

They both stand.

“Indeed. However, Nyota I am sorry.”

Her cool lips are pressed into his cheek and her palms run down his forearms.

“I know you are Spock. I’d like for us to stay friends but...I need some time, Ok?”

He nods and decides in this situation the human thing to do is perhaps the best, so her hugs her and tries to memorize the push of her soft curves along his torso. It will be the last hug he has for sometime and though he complained when his Mom would squeeze him tight into her arms, it is illogical to deny the action is a pleasurable one.

“Goodbye Spock.”

And he leaves.

...

The Captain’s room in less cluttered than he expected it to be.

Sure, there are antique terran paperbacks nestled on every flat surface and Kirk hastily shoves a pair of crumpled jeans into the closest, but the decor is over all sparse. Only scatterings of academic honors awards from Starfleet and one or two gifts from various planets they’d visited speckle the walls.

There’s a single photo atop a stack of books, a still of Dr. Mccoy and Kirk laughing. Kirk’s arm is tucked over Mccoy’s shoulders and they’re both wearing plastic antlers. The doctor is holding a human girl whom Spock estimates is about three against his hip. She appears to be attempting to remove his antlers.

“Sorry about the mess,” Kirk says closing a Dicken’s novel that’s rolled open on it’s spine and poking it into a corner, “I like to to read.”

“I had surmised.”

Spock notes that the thermostat has been raised 3.2 degrees above the comfortable human norm and one of the mugs of tea steeping by the chess board is a Vulcan variety. Since Nero, all things Vulcan are very expensive to obtain.

The back of Spock’s neck itches again.

“So um let’s get started shall we? I made tea, as you can see of course, but you don’t have to drink it. There’s sugar and honey in the cabinets if you’d like.”

It’s said a bit too fast and Spock has to raise an eyebrow. The Captain is usually very eloquent. He can not calculate what the source of his distraction is.

“That is very thoughtful of you, Captain.”

Kirk beams, lips denting dimples into his faintly red cheeks. He sits and gestures to the cushion opposite him.

“I will allow you to be white, as due to the complexity of my mind I will undoubtedly have an advantage.”

Kirk’s eyebrows climb up, crinkling the skin of his forhead up to his hairline.

“I wouldn't be so sure Mr. Spock. I may not be as logical as you, but I’ve beaten my fair share of masters.”

“It is statistically improbable that you will be victor,” Spock says, and tests the tea with the tip of his tongue, finding to his surprise it is made exactly to his liking, “I would calculate the odds to be 456.3 to 0.05.”

Jim twirls a white knight and slides it forward two spaces.

“456.3 to 0.05 hunh? I like those odds.”

They play in silence, save the occasional plunk of a tea bag being bounced in water, for some time. Spock takes several of Kirk’s pawns, Kirk takes a three his in turn. He plays with an erratic style, darting around the levels with no clear purpose.

“So,” Jim says, fulfilling the human need for useless conversation,”How are things with Uhura?”

Spock stiffens, but his black rook is still dropped perfectly on to a dark square.

“She has terminated our relationship, though I do not see how that is relevant or any of your business.”

The captain's eyes blow wide. He splutters into his tea, coughs and swallows, kneading around his adams apple with a wince.

“Sorry I didn’t mean to intrude- it’s just that’s… that’s nuts. She’s insane.”

Spock snatches one of Kirk’s knights and nudges it into the neat line of defeated white pieces with a little more precision than is strictly necessary.

“I assure, Nyota the most sane human I am acquainted with. Her reasons with “breaking up with me”, as the Terran phrase goes, were quite logical. I would prefer not to discuss it further.”

Kirk doesn’t speak, simply looks at Spock, an unreadable emotion branded in those alarmingly blue irises. He shakes his head.

“Right. Sorry, I was just trying to make friendly conversation. Team bonding, you know?”

Spock tilts his head.

“I believe the last time you attempt to organize “team bonding” activities among the crew, a certain drunk scottish officer very nearly blasted a hole in the bulk head.”

Kirk laughs. It’s an oddly pleasant sound.

“That what I get for allowing booze I suppose. Lucky for you there wasn’t any chocolate milk.”

“I would not allow myself to become intoxicated if there were. However, I do recall you had a decidedly unpleasant incident involving trust falls and brandy.”

This is easier than Spock expected it to be, this banter with Kirk. There’s a certain natural quality to the way the compliment each other, Kirk with his colorful speech patterns Spock with it ordered ones. The swing of conversation smooths up and down, and it is...not unpleasant.

“...Well I happen to think casual Fridays are an excellent idea. Oh and Mr.Spock?”

“Yes Captain?”

Kirk’s lips tweak up mischievously.

“Checkmate.”

Spock stares at his tipped black King. It rolls in an arch on the board then bounces against the Captains white pawn.

“Impossible.”

“And yet,” Kirk waggles his index finger at Spock in a way that is entirely condescending, “The evidence is here. Human one, Vulcan zero.”

Kirk is positively beaming. Spock’s eyes narrow a fraction in his equivalent of a glare.

“You cheated. It is the only logical explanation.”

Kirk’s smile flickers.

“Come on Spock, not this again.”

“While I will not deny you are unusually intelligent for your species, it should not have been possible for you to defeat me. You must have cheated.”

Kirk’s chin sinks to his neck. He chuckles humorlessly and scrapes his thumb over the chipped edge of a black rook.

“Why can’t you just accept that I might be good enough to beat you? Do you really think so little of me? I’m not just some repeat offender cadet who got a lucky break.”

“You deliberately played sloppily in an attempt to distract me, most likely from whatever technique you used to cheat.”

“I won Spock, fair and square.”

“You are lying-”

“I’m not lying!”

Kirk shoots up, knocking over the chessboard with his hip. The pieces tumble to the ground. A checkered sea that patters on the binding between levels, snapping one with a clean crack. He sways, grabbing at the corner of the table and clenching his eyes shut so tightly little lines rib the bridge of his nose.

“I think you should leave.”

Spock aim’s his arm to Kirk’s elbow to steady him, but he jumps away.

“Captain, you appear to by dizzy are you sure you are not-”

“I have a call to make, please leave Commander.”

Spock reaches for him again but Kirk flinches further away.

“You may be-”

“GET OUT!”

Baffled by this sudden shift in tone, Spock obeys. He glances back to find the captain very pale and trembling.

“I will alert the Doctor of your condition, sir.”

Jim slides to the ground and locks his arms around his knees.

“He knows already. Just leave. Please.”

Spock goes, Kirks pained whisper pinging like rocks in his stomach. He digs his nails into the back off his aching neck.

The red doors knock closed behind him.

Chapter Text

“Fuck,” Jim spats to himself, pushing his head back against the wall and scraping his palms under his eyes.

He won’t cry. There’s  something bleeding his head, something that looks a lot like the part of him that’s attached to Spock. It hurts and he’s so, so tired only he can’t seem to sleep.

But he’s held it together for almost a year, and he won’t fall apart now, wounded pride is nothing he can’t handle. Jim is stronger than that, he’s been patching himself into something functional since he could speak because nobody else will.

He wasn’t lying when he said he had a call to make. He grinds his fingers through his hair and sighs, forcing his knees to straighten and lift him up. His com system is across his quarters. It’s three yards, tops, but it seems like miles.

Chess pieces strewn about the grey carpet like blood splatters. They blur into white and black streaks as the world sways. Jim closes his eyes and breathes, once, twice, three times. To his relief, when he opens them again everything seems to be staying still.

He crosses the room a little shakily and lowers himself into a chair, pushing the system’s on button. The screen buzzes to life, a Starfleet insignia lazily bouncing around the the monitor.

“Computer,” his voice sounds jagged and tight so he clears his throat, “Place a call to Ambassador Selik, location the Vulcan colony Uzhau T'Khasi.”

“Placing call,” comes the chime of an automated voice.

Jim scrubs a hand over his face, faintly hoping his distress isn’t obvious enough to warrent Selik’s scrutany.

The screen flashes and the insignia is replaced with a warm lined face. Jim’s shoulders unclench a little.

“Jim,” Selik says crinkles fanning his lids tipping up into a slight smile, “What a pleasant surprise. It is a-”

He stops, old dark eyes studying Jim.

“My young friend, you do not apear well at all. What is wrong?”

There’s a dip between his lowered eyebrows and he looks so genuinely worried that Jim very nearly loses it. As it is he has to swallow and force his lips to twitch into a smile. He tries to subtly scratch away a persistent drop from the corner of his eye.

“It’s nothing I can’t handle, though I appreciate your concern,” he plasters on a grin, “How’s the rebuilding going? Last I heard, you and T’Pua were butting head over PTSD programs.”

Selik’s grey eybrows nearly asends into his hairline.

“As the terran phrase goes, ‘you will have to do better than that’. I am well practiced in the understanding of Jim Kirk’s evasion tactics, and that was not your finest,” Selik softens and leans forward, looking very much like he wants to touch Jim across the thousands of light years between them, “I have not seen my own Jim look so drawn or tired since I returned from the dead.”

“You returned from the-”

“Yes, but that is another story. You are not my T’hy’la, but you are ashayam to me still. I do not like to see you so distressed. Jim, you need to not hide anything from me. I will not judge you.”

It is said so very gently, in that same tone of reverence that first struck him about this strange aged version of his first officer. Jim blinks furiously, but it’s a losing battle. A few tears shoot down his cheeks and the dip between Selik’s eyebrows deepens.

“T’hy’la,” Jim breaths, lips curling to a memory of a far away voice whispering to the mind of a very lonely little boy, “I’ve heard that before.”

Suprise flickers over Selik’s features.

“Your Spock has spoken to you of it? I can not imagine you would be in such a state if he had claimed you. He and I may not have had the same experiences, but we are essentially the same person and the one thing I could never stand was to allow my bondmate to cry.”

“Bondmate-Claimed me? I don’t think- I don’t-” Jim closes his eyes again, “I don’t know what it means or what you’re suggesting with ‘claimed’, but..I think Spock’s in my head. And I think he always has been.”

The rest of the story comes out like a popped bottle of champagne, a twisted toast to the broken things in Jim. Once he starts, he can’t seem to stop. He talks of that grocery store on Christmas eve, of the apples, of nearly driving off the cliff.

His words hitch when he gets to Tarsus, but Selik just nods solemnly.

“I had hoped in this universe you would be spared such a fate. I am well aware of the horrors you endured on that planet, you do not have to relive them for my benefit.”

Jim thanks him quietly, but he keeps going, not sure he could skitter the story to a halt if he tried. He tells how Spock’s presence, though he didn’t know that at that time, kept him sane through the nightmares and the desolation, loved him when he thought no one did. He tells of wanting to snap Emily’s neck, of running away, and waking with a healed hand the night before he joined Starfleet.  The tingling at the base of his skull during the Kobishi Muru hearing.

It gets harder when he catches up to the events around Nero. He tries to describe that force of the sadness the that rushed into his mind when Vulcan was destroyed and Amanda Grayson died. Selik dims at that with an all too familiar grief.

The Vulcan looks…angry as Jim starts to detail how sick he felt when Spock’s hands were clenched around his neck. He continues and it flames into something akin to fury.

He tells Selik of the last eleven months. How each day he wakes up more tired than the next. Since Tarsus Jim ate anything he could find, no matter what it was, but now it’s getting harder just to want to swallow. He can’t seem to fall asleep. The dizzyspells.

“I don’t know why it’s like this. He was always in my head, but now...it’s like there’s silence and it’s so fucking loud. I know, I shouldn’t keep reaching for him, if I had any sense of self preservation I wouldn’t. But I can’t help it Selik. I can’t stay away from Spock, even though the more time I spend around him, the worse I feel,” Jim grinds his nails along the path of his skull, “What’s happening to me?”

Selik just watches him for a moment, those dark so very human eyes bright with sadness and something not unlike pity. Jame hates, has always hated pity, but he can’t make himself be anything but grateful this time.

“I grieve with thee, Jim. I can not fathom the amount of pain you are undoubtedly in and my explanation will most likely not make it easier. However, you deserve to understand. You deserve much more than that, but for the moment it is all I can give.”

He’s wearing a mesh colored robe and he tugs once at it’s hem, yanking the wrinkles straight. Something shivers in Jim’s heart at the action; he’s seen Spock do it a thousand times before.

“You and Spock are telik, a bonded pair. In human terms it equates to marriage, only the couple is telepathically connected.”

Jim’s mouth flops open slightly, but before he regains his bearings, Selik continues.

“It is understandably shocking, I would imagine. But if I am correct, and more often than not I am, you and Spock formed a spontaneous bond when you first met as children. Because it is a T’hy’la bond, the strongest of bonds and the most revered among our people, he was able to use it to communicate with you when you were experiencing particularly strong emotions throughout your adolescence.”

Selik tries for a comforting smile, but it makes only a rather weak stretch up his cheeks.

“I believe Spock is not aware you are his bondmate. He is likely shielding his mind due to his many familial ties that were served during the destruction of Vulcan. There is no way he is not aware of his bonded status and I do not know why he doesn’t seek out of the mind of bondmate to both heal his own and ensure the safety of yours. It is not logical and it is causing you undue distress.”

Jim digs his thumbs into his temple and does everything he can to make this make sense. It should shock him more than it does.

“Jim, you must discuss this with Spock. Your symptoms are only the beginning. A blocked Vulcan bond is not always serious, but in this case the danger to your mind and body is alarming. You and Spock grew around each other, linked at your most impressionable age. It is rather like the trunks of a Lymetara tree. There are two different species of plant that when seeded next to each other will twine together as they sprout. In the early 21st century one of the trunks became a valuable substance. Poachers harvested that half of the tree by cutting it away from its partner. This nearly caused the extinction of the species because tree were sewn so tightly together that they could not survive without each other.”

The color of Jim’s cheeks has trickled into a near white.

“You and my younger counterpart can not survive without your connection. He is capable of shielding his mind so the effect of the blocked bond is unknown to him. But he decides to increase the strength of the shields, you are both in serious danger, especially you Jim. Your humanity will prevent you from being able to filter that pain and I am not sure your body will be able to respond to the shock. The Doctor Mccoy of my universe often referred to my telepathy as “Vulcan mind voodoo”. Naturally, he was quite crass about it, but he was not entirely  incorrect. For all the benefits and logic bonds, there is also much danger. Talk to Spock, my friend. You can not let this fester.”

Jim’s hands have been grinding through his hair most of this time. He lets them slide forward to cup his face and folds it into his knees. A few minutes pass.

“Jim, are you alright? This is great deal to process.”

Jim raises his head.

“Spock hates me Selik. I can’t exactly go up to him and say ‘oh hey, by the way you're married to me and I’m sort of dying a little bit because of you’. Somehow, I don’t see that leading anywhere but getting me nerve pinched.”

“That is not true Jim. Did you not just describe to me the ease in which you two conversed during chess? You are highly compatible, even without the bond. In Fact, the bond can only exists because your minds have a near 100% compatibility rating.”

Jim sighs, tipping his head back agiants the headboard of the chair.

“I’m not so sure about that. It was great, at least until he accused me of cheating. I doubt he would be thrilled if he discovered his bondmate was the human associate of his he respect the least,” he jerks forward again, “There must be a way around me telling him. Is it possible for me to make metal shields like Spock has?”

The corners of Seliks mouth dip down in his equivalent of a frown.

“It is ill advised, but yes. Where is the Enterprise currently stationed?”

“We’ll be in orbit Melpomene tomorrow. Quadrant three.”

Selik plucks his pad from the desk, creased hands scrolling through it.

“As I thought,” he says, placing it back down with the quiet click of metal on wood, “There is a low level diplomatic conference on a near by space station in three days. The Vulcan party leaves tomorrow and I suspect they will be pleased to have an Ambassador in their midst. I will rondevu with the Enterprise in two days. A mind meld will allow me to shield your mind, but know that is only a temporary solution. You cannot avoid confrontation with Spock forever.”

Jim is suddenly very tired. He hasn’t seen Selik in almost six months and the thought of his visit makes his shoulders sag in relief. He smiles.

“Thank you, old friend.”

Selik smiles with the kind of freedom he can’t imagine seeing on his Spock’s face.

“You are welcome, though I must admit my intentions are not entirely selfless” he pauses, noting the dark purple sweeps under Jim’s eyes, “It is illogical to say you look in need of a hug, but it is true none to less. I look forward to our reunion.”

Jim grins, a little easier this time.

“That would be-”

His communicator beeps. He holds up a finger and flips it open.

“Kirk here.”

“Jim, get you-”

The first three words are said in Bones’s southern drawl. The doctor stops at the sound of static and the pinging of medical instruments fuzzing through the device.

“Keenser what are you doing in my sickbay! No, I don’t care if he offended you-you’re not hiding Scotty’s scotch in here. Don’t give me that look, if you’re not hightailing back to engineering within the next 5 seconds I swear to god I’m going to hypo you with Orion chicken pox until your skin crumbles into-yeah that’s what I thought.”

Jim glances at Selik to find the Vulcan looks thoroughly amused.

“Sorry about that Jim. Our resident little green troublemaker was up to his usual antics. Anyways, get your fool ass down here. The hobgoblin’s just been to see me, complaining that you “appear to be experiencing an abnormal physical and emotional state”. I’ve been told to examine you the sake of the ‘optimal function of the ship’. I take it chess didn’t go too well.”

Jim huffs out a sigh that stretches to skin of his cheeks. Of course Spock disobeyed his orders.

“I’ll be Bones, don’t worry about it.”

“It’s too damn late for that, we talked about the fact that you haven’t been looking you prettyboy self lately. The insomnia, the headaches, the dizzy spells, the loss of appetite. I’m gonna figure out what’s wrong with you aside from your personality, I mean.”

His eyes to an impressively exaggerated lap around his sockets.

“Cute. But really, I’m ok, just need a good night’s sleep.”

“Good try. Report to sickbay Captain, doctor’s orders.”

Kirk sighs, glaring at the speaker box on his communicator.

“I’ll be there in five. Kirk out.”

He tucks the communicator back on his belt loops, returning his attention to Selik.

“Sorry it, looks like I’m needed elsewhere.”

There is humor stamped into the folds of skin on the old face.

“Clearly. I find it somewhat reassuring to know that Dr. Mccoy has a universally crude sense of humor. It may benefit you to inform him of your true condition. He will not like it, but he will do everything in his power to help you.”

Jim’s eyes flick to the side then back to the view screen.

“I’ll consider it. Thanks again Selik, for everything...it means a lot. I’ll see you soon.”

Selik holds up a wide palm in the ta’al.

“In approximately 49.7 hours. Live long and prosper.”

Jim tries to smoosh his fingers into the equivalent, but fails abysmally. He shakes his head, chuckling.

“Yeah, you too.”

The screen goes dark.

“Ow!” Jim tries to swat the hand that yanks a hypo none to gently out of his neck, “Bones that’s the fifth hypo, would you quit it already?”

McCoy huffs, whizzing over Jim with his tricorder.

“I’ll stop injecting you when you stop looking like you’re trying to impersonate a vampire.”

He scribbles something on Jim’s chart and turns, fishing through a cabinet.

“Now, that last one was to boost your iron levels. You're only a little deficient, but it may be causing the dizzy spells. These bueats,” he shakes a small bottle of round red pills and hands them to Jim, “Are for the insomnia. They should knock you right out, and the best part is you’re not allergic to them, for once.”

Jim grimaces, twisting the bottle in his palms to find Mccoy’s familiar brand of sloppy print scrawled on the side. He can’t even pronounce the name of the medicine. Great.

“I really don’t like to be incapacitated. If there’s a red alert, I’d be screwed.  Is this really necessary?”

Mccoy pulls his signature frown.

“Yes it is, mister raccoon eyes.  We’re in friendly space and a Captain shouldn’t be functioning on an hour of sleep. Hell no one should be functioning on an hour of sleep. ”

He sighs and flips through his charts again, shaking his head. He tosses them on the counter and shoves his arms into a cross.

“I’m gonna run some more test, but honestly Jim, I’m stumped. The only thing I can find wrong with you is that you have very slightly decreased levels of endorphins and  oxytocin. In theory you should be fit as a fiddle. If you’ve got any ideas as to what’s fucking you up, I’m all ears.”

Jim watches the sickbay lights flicker on his black starfleet issue boots. He stands, twisting on his shirt and molding his face into a smile.

“Nothing that I can think of at the moment, but I’ll keep you posted. I’ve got to be up early tomorrow to meet with the Melepone high council, so I’m going to go, if I have your permission, Doctor.”

Bones squints at him for a moment, then deflates. He squeezes Jim’s shoulder.

“Get some sleep kid, for my sake if not for yours.”

Jim pats the hand on his shoulder and meets his friends concerned eyes.

“I will Bones, thanks. You get some sleep too, I’ll talk to you in the morning.”

He leaves with his jar of red pills. When he gets back to his quarters he squishes it into the corner of his dresser, wedged behind a copy of Macbeth.

He prepares for a cold night of staring at the ceiling into drifting into dreams he’d rather forget.

When Jim gets up the following morning he sort of wishes he could ask Rand if to borrow some of her concealer. The purple smears below his eyes have deepened to an almost black.

Two more days he thinks as he tugs on his boots and makes for the transporter room. Two more days and I won’t have to think about it anymore.

Caught in his see-saw of thoughts, he very nearly runs into the exact person he wishes he could avoid.

“Sorry Commander, I didn’t see you there.”

Jim smooths his ruffled uniform and reluctantly falls into step beside Spock.

“Apologies are an unnecessary human custome, though I accept none the less,” Spock eyes him, “You do not look well rested, but I trust you are sufficiently recovered from your outburst yesterday.”

Jim grinds his molars and counts to three.

“Look, I’m still pissed about you accusing me of cheating. I told you once and I’ll tell you again, I played an honest game. But today we both have to put on our best faces and pretend to get along for the council ok?”

Spock inclines his head, stepping into the turbolift.

“I was not planning on letting our personal disagreements affect our interactions with the Melopenes. It is illogical to assume I would do such a thing.”

Jim’s snap into slits.

“It’s illogical to draw conclusions without any evidence, but that didn’t seem to stop you last night.”

“The evidence I had previously collected on your character supported my point adequately.”

Spock leans back against the turbolift wall, shutting his eyes. Floors flash by on the window behind him.

“You don’t know shit about my character and you never tried to,” Jim notices his unusual stance, “What are you doing?”

“The Melopenes are a race that communicate primarily through telepathy. I am attempting to strengthen my mental shields. My mind has been..unsettled since the my planet’s destruction and I would not frighten our hosts with anything within it. Is that a problem Captain?.”

Jim’s pulse spikes. It drums through his neck like a fast-forward funeral march, tapping the pink away from his cheeks. The doors split open to the transporter room, revealing blue walls and white lights that sway together in Jim’s spinning vision.

“No, not all all commander,” he swallows, thin bones of his adams apple sinking up and down in his throat.

They step on to the pad.

“Energize.”



Chapter Text

Melepone is a dark planet.

It is not sinister or foreboding, simply dark. The planet’s sun is obscured by it’s thick atmosphere, and while heat filters through, light does not not. Navy shadows seem to web over everything, making the curved branches of trees look like hands from human children’s nightmares.

There are lights though. Bright pale blue spheres that hover in lines on either side of the street, glowing. They bob up and down in the air with languid bounce of jellyfish caught in tide, admitting a high, but not unpleasant, hum.

Spock and the Captain have beamed onto a the edge of a path that winds to a cluster of various sized domes that seem to be some sort of city. Oddly, Kirk’s eyes are squeezed closed when they arrive. He peels them open with what looks like considerable effort.

“Wow,” he says, blinking, “I can’t decide if this is really creepy or really cool. Wonder if we’re in the right place though, there doesn’t seem to be anyone here.”

It is oddly silent. There is a human cliche his mother once told him Spock believes would be appropriate, somthing like, “It’s quiet, too quiet.” There is no wind to move the shadows and the thick air feels uncomfortable in his oversized lungs.

“Illogically phrased, but not inaccurate. Are you ill Captain?”

Kirk dips his chin down, inspecting the soil.

“Just a little insomnia, nothing significant,” he opens his communicator, ”Kirk here. We are on planet, no sign of the Meleopenes as of yet. This is, technically speaking, our first visual contact with them. Given that we only know that they are technologically advanced, supposedly peaceful, and communicate primarily through telepathy, I think it best we check in every half hour.”

“Aye Cap’n,” comes Scotty’s voice.

“Kirk out.”

They stand in the clearing without speaking for a moment, listening to the quiet hum of the lamps. Kirk’s foot scrapes loudly against the gravel and a black insect streaks by. The points of their faces are made sharp by the odd lighting, and the hollows under Kirk’s high cheekbones look deep as cators.

“Are you quite certain you are not ill?”

Kirk’s jaw makes a strained sliding movement.

“Do kindly stop asking me, Commander,” he smiles, too sweetly, “I’ll make it an order if I have-”

As he breaks of, Spock senses a powerful prodding on his mental shields, a prodding that the Captain is likely experiencing as well. It is not strong enough to penetrate the barrier, but he thickens it further in precaution. Next to him, Kirk takes a sharp intake of breath.

His eyes are unfocused, but Spock assumes his alarm is caused by the creatures approaching them.

The Melopenes move in the same fashion as the lights with a hint more grace, gliding slowly a few inches above the ground. Transparent skirts that appear to made of a thin membrane flow around their legs. There are lines of electric blue dots running down them and the they pulse as the creatures go forward.

Their skin is an iridescent white that glitters to cream when their lips loop up in an odd impersonation of a smile.

“Greetings,” says the one one in the center of the group. She, judging by her voice and the softer angles of her face, makes a trilling noise like the coo of a tribble, but lower, “We pleased you here come.”

Kirk bows, lower to the ground then Spock would have expected, his pinkie skimming the round bottom of a fruit that looks very much like an apple.

“Hello,  you must be the High Queen. Pleasure to make your acquaintance. I am captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise, and this is my first officer Spock.”

Spock lifts up the Ta’al.

She swishes her three fingered hand back in forth in what is not dissimilar to the sway of a cat’s tail. The six other Melopenes flanking her imitate the gesture.

Then without warning, all but the queen woosh forward to circle around Spock like a swarm of spinning ghosts.

“No thought, no thought, can’t hear,” they sing around him, lights on their skirts flashing up and down. He exchanges a glance with the Captain, noting that his eyes are bloodshot and glazed, but undoubtedly curios, if not a little worried.

They then float to Kirk, circling him as they did Spock. Suddenly, they speed up and their skins ink to a dangerous shade of black.

“Half thought, pain, pain, bad dying, must help, need mate, bad very,” They say in their rushed sing song sort of way, grey catlike eyes glowing, “Leader, he sick but burn bright great mind much weakened pain very, sad much, help please”

Kirk’s bottom lip tucks under his top teeth and he gives the Melopene queen a grin that peels up in forced politeness.

“Captain, do you know what they are referring to?”

Kirk looks at Spock. His iris twitch down then he shakes his head.

The creatures part to form a half moon behind Kirk. The Queen raises a three fingered white hand that quickly morphs to black as she approaches him. Spock finds their proximity vaguely disconcerting. He scratches the back of his neck.

She drifts to a foot away, hand aiming for the Captain’s forhead. Then, out of seemingly nowhere, Kirk vomits.

He curls fast into a hunched position, one hand shooting to his solar-plexus and the other, strangely, to his head. He claws frantically at his skull as he retches, spilling the contents of his stomach on to the rocky ground.

Spock moves next to him, keeping a reasonable distance. Kirk dry heaves and makes a noise not unlike a whimper. To Spock’s alarm, there are traces of blood in the bile. He flips out his communicator.

“Spock here, beam the Captain up immediately. He is ill and requires medical intention, have Dr. Mccoy report to the transporter room.”

Kirk pants, swiping a hand over the back of his mouth and lifting himself up with trembling legs.

“That’s not really necessary Spock, I’ll be-”

Kirk sways and Spock darts out an arm to steady him, surprised when the man manages to jump away before he can be touched.

“It is a first officers duty to see to the safety of his or her captain. I am afraid I must insist.”

Kirk’s image grows fainter as he vanishes into a swirl of gold and the darkness of Melopene's eternal night. His form blinks again like a closing door, and last Spock sees of him is wet blue eyes, not as bright as they should be.

Spock turns back to the Melopenes, the back of his neck feeling positively inflamed. He is beginning to wonder if he has developed a rash.

“I apologize for his condition, he did not previously inform me he was ill.”

Their skin slowly fizzles back to white, though the queen frowns.

“His illness in head, very dangerous.”

Spock is not sure what she means by this, so he simply nods in the name of diplomacy.

“I assure you, the ship’s  doctor will take exceptional care of him. Now, shall we proceed with negotiations?”

The Queen imitates Spock’s nod, and swooshes a yard down the path. She stops under the line of lights, motioning for him to follow.

Several minutes later there is another prodding on his shields. It’s different than the one he felt before, familiar and very, very weak. He ignores it.

At turns as it turns out, it is a Melopene custom to begin any serious conversation with an hour long meditation. For this reason, the Captain’s absence may be benificail-Spock has never known him to be capable of sitting still for long periods of time.

They lead Spock into a dim room, with low round ceiling. The building is like nothing he’s ever seen before, but the mat they tell him to sit on reminds him very much of the Lymetera weave one he had as a child. Its wood splinters poke into his uniform pants and scratch at his legs, but this does not stop him from reaching the first level of meditation.

He has not felt this much at peace for a very long time. His pain has not been resolved, but the mental shields he adapted to protect the Melopenes are so thick there is barely a trace of it.

Numb would be the most accurate adjective. Spock’s mind is numb as severed limb glazed with noviencane. His thoughts turn efficiently and his muscles are no longer aware the weight of a thousands screams tears at them.

It is not freedom, but in contrast to the last year-it is bliss.

But there are still traces of the pain. If he concentrates he can feel the squish of air under his palm as his fingers clenched around the nothing where his mother used to be. The staggering stab in his chest when he realizes how much he misses her has not faded.

It is a distraction, and Spock is done with distractions. If he increases the strength of his shields just a little more, the barriers in his mind will be tight, so tight he may just be the emotionless Vulcan his father always wanted him to be. Where there is grief, there will be the absence of feeling.

It is the logical thing to do.

But it may harm his bondmate.

The pulse of the mind he’s connected to has been quiet for a long time, quieter still since he erected the shields in the first place. For a moment he remembers the beauty of that mind, it’s complexity, it’s strength, it’s vulnerability.

As a child Spock used to spend hours exploring his bondmate’s mind. It wasn’t easy, craning his telepathic reach over the unknown number of light years between the, but he did it anyway. He’d tangle himself up in those thoughts, try to press their souls together. His t’hy’la was a home. He was Spock’s hiding place when his classmates left him with green bruises smeared on his skin, every time someone told him he was nothing.

Spock would have done anything to protect him and he probably still would. The face and the name have always been a mystery, but there was nothing Spock knew so well as his bondmate. It was love he felt for him, and no logic could deny the intensity of it.

But I will never know you, not really, Spock thinks, closing his eyes tight enough that he’s distantly aware his eyelashes scrape against the hollows beneath them, Nor will you know me. It is...better this way. You will have the chance to live a life unburdened by the force that links you to a stranger.

He breaths in and out, with heavy, too thick breaths. Somehow, despite the size of his lungs and the abundant oxygen of this planet, even to inhale strains the walls of his throat.

His pulse begins to throb, faster than a humming bird falling from the sky. He swallows.

Goodbye my T’hy’la, I am so sorry. This is the last time I will permit myself to think of you again.

And Spock slams downs every shield he knows how to create.

There is a moment, a mere second, of absolute silence is his head. It is not whiteness, not even blankness. Pure nothing.

The last thing Spock sees before he blacks out is the cuff of a golden sleeve and blood dripping onto the palm of an all too familiar pink hand.

Jim's hand.

 

The first thing Jim does when he materializes back onto the Enterprise is scramble to the nearest trashcan. He heaves into it, shoulders jutting forward with painful force. Nothing comes up but the sting of blood that coats his tongue with rust.

Bones’ hands begin to rub along his back. It’s comforting and grounding, but the incoherent part of him screams for Spock to touch him like that.

“SSShhhh, it’s ok Jimmy boy,” Bones pats lightly over his spine and slides an arm around him as he tries to breath normally again. He hoists Jim to his feet, murmuring softly in his low southern drawl, “I gotcha, come on now, we’re gonna get you to sickbay, baby steps, nice and easy.”

Jim sags and nods into Bones’ shoulder. Everything hurts. It’s not just the all-around ache you get from being sick or even the throb of  knife wound or a phaser burn. It’s like someone replaced his blood with acid then hallowed the marrow from his bones, leaving him empty and burning. And yet it’s all in his head.

Somehow that makes it more real.

It’s going to get him nowhere, he knows that, but he reaches for Spock’s mind. Please- he starts to think, only to stop himself because that sentence can only end with “I need you” and he has to stop needing Spock.

Nothing. All there is at the other end of the bond is a thick wall that he’s not sure he could penetrate if he was currently capable of trying.

Jim’s not doing much of the walking on their slow journey to sickbay. The ships lights sway in streaks under his opening and closing eyes. Bones keeps a constant stream of babble, no doubt trying to distract him, but he stays uncharacteristically silent in response.

He lets himself be manouvered on to the biobed, staring at a burnt smudge on the wall without really seeing it. There are tricorders and a few hypos, a spin of a laser around his gums to clean his mouth. He doesn’t pay attention to them, barely even flinches until Bones pushes a chair in front of him, straddling its hard back.

“Talk to me kid,” he folds his head over his forearms and blinks worried green eyes at Jim, “This quite crap is scaring the shit out of me, and your vitals all over the place, though I can’t for the life of me figure out why.”

Jim looks at Bones then back at the smudge on the wall.

“It doesn’t matter.”

Bones jerks up, sending the chair skidding loudly away.

“Christ Jim, of course it matters! I’m watching my best friend waste away here! Do you think I can’t tell when you’re lying? I know you know something about why you're getting sick!”

He sighs and drops his hands from where they were tugging at his hair. Moving into Jim’s space, he squeezes his shoulder gently. There is warmth in the touch that stitches its way through his uniform and into his muscle.

“Whatever it is, you can tell me.”

Jim’s eyes sting, but he ignores them, gifting Bones with the closest thing to a smile he can manage.

“It’s hard to explain,” he sinks back  into the biobed, “But I’ll try.”

Bones tipps the chair up from the floor and sits in it again.

“I’m listening.”

Jim sucks in, but his deep breath gets stuck somewhere in his throat.

“It’s Spock.”

Telling Bones is easier than he thought it would be.

Sure, at one point in the story the Doctor stood in order to pace frantically and plot various ways to ensure Spock’s demise for a solid ten minutes. But he calmed down when he noticed Jim was shivering. Well- by calm Jim really means dimmed the death threats to cursing and throwing blankets at the already buried captain.

But Jim skimmed over the details, not daring to include the bulk of Spock’s effect on his childhood or how sick he really feels. Loneliness isn't supposed to kill you, but his soul is empty and he’s pretty sure it’s trying. The thing in his head- Spock- had always been his hiding place, and he’s beginning to feel as exposed as if someone turned his skin inside out.

“So you see,” he finishes, “It doesn’t matter because tomorrow Selik will be here and he’s going to help me put shields up. That way I won’t have to feel the effects of the blocked bond.”

Bones frown makes an impressive push down into his cheeks.

“I don’t know Jim, that sounds an awful lot like putting a bandaid on a bullet wound to me. This bondy voodoo crap just made you throw up blood. Maybe you should talk to Spock, he might be a cold bastard but I don’t think he’s as heartless as he’d like people to think. Didn’t you say he used to help you when you two were kids?”

Jim’s eyes slit.

“Look Bones, I didn’t tell you so you'd argue with me, I told you because that’s what’s going to happen and  you deserve to know,” he chuckles humorlessly and bends his hands around the edge of the biobed, lifting himself up on to still shaky legs, “You’re right, Spock does have a heart, and a big one at that. I would know, after all I’ve been seeing inside his head most of my life. I’m going to block the bond because if he ever finds out it’s me who he’s connected to he won’t want it anyways. He cares the person in his head, not Jim Kirk. I’m just a “duty” to him, he doesn’t even like me.”

Bones brows furrows and he starts to protest but jim cuts him off.

“Don’t. I know how it sounds, but it’s true and this is my decision. Can I please go to my quarters now? I’d like to lie down.”

They share a glare. The minute hand of an antique clock on the wall circles once around the dashes before Bones cracks, scrubbing his face and digging his fingers into the bridge of his nose.

“Yeah, yeah you can go. For the record, I think this has “going to end badly” written on it six ways to Sunday. Also,” He pauses, rummaging around a cabinet and retrieving a small silver bracelet, “You’re wearing this monitor bracelet because if your vitals start going off the deep end again, I wanna know about it.”

The bracelet is fastened around Jim’s wrist, small red dot in its center blinking faintly. Jim cupps Bone’s hand just when finishes snapping it shut.

“I appreciate you worrying Bones, but really, Im going to be okay. People don’t die of broken hearts.”

He waggles his eyebrows at the last line, trying to make it sound like a joke. But his friend's only reaction is to pull him into firm-bordering-on-asphyxiation hug. His fists clench into Jim’s too prominent shoulder blades and reluctantly Jim’s arms slide up to hug him back. It seems like a lifetime ago, but once upon a time under an old willow tree Sam hugged him like that too. It’s too much, this sentimentality, not when all his dark things are squirming just below the surface.

“You know, there’s this cool thing called cellular respiration, it and requires oxygen to-”

Bones lets go.

“Ok, smartass, get out of my sickbay. You call me if you need anything alright?”

“Alright.”

Jim leaves, walking down the hallway slowly, so as not to upset the delicate equilibrium he has forced his stomach into. The walls still swim a little with every jerk of his foot, and his pulse continues to hammer in his skull.

This could be good, he realizes. It could be like an adventure. Once the shields are in place he will be alone in a way he hasn’t been for as long as he can remember. That’s new territory and he’s in the business of exploration after all. Maybe-

The thought snaps away as something in his mind slams shut. He shoots an arm out to the wall grabbing at the corner of a power box to steady himself. Something wet is snaking from his nose down chin. He thumbs it away, only to find his knuckles smeared with red.

“What-” he ties to say only to find that after the first syllable he can’t make his voice box move. At the edges of his vision grey fuzz spills closer to his hand, which is frozen below his chin.

One drop of blood lands on his palm, pooling at the dip in the center. A second one, then another.

His hand disappears into black.

Jim collapses.

Chapter Text

Spock is not sure what wakes him.

It could be the tick of the sickbay monitors, it could be distant chatter of Doctor McCoy and Nurse Chapel. But most likely, it’s the too slow thump of a human heart beat in the bed beside him.

He is, for lack of a better word, fuzzy. Even lying still against the mattress, he’s dizzy and the order of his thoughts are tangled, not the logical lines he is accustomed to. His consciousness will most likely fade again soon, and very soon at that.

For all his confusion, he is painfully aware that the shields in his mind have been destroyed. They are only crumbles now, but the shock of all his broken bonds is not the pain he expected it to be. Oddly, it seems the stumps that once linked him to his relatives are nearly healed, and the more significant ones, like his tie to his mother, are encased in a golden light that pulses in time to the heartbeat that woke him.

There is however, pain. It is sharp, starting in his head and pushing down through his skin, as if his blood had been replaced with acid. It seems unlikely he should experience such pain and still still live.

Desperate for relief, he dives into himself in search of the source.  At the root the throbbing, he finds the thick ribbon of his T’hy’la bond.

It is hard to describe the appearance of a Vulcan bond to those who do not have them. All that can really be said, is that they are beautiful, and the bond that twisted Spock and his bondmate’s minds together was a wonder. It was so mesmerizing, with it’s movement and color that Spock dared only look at on occasion, in fear he would never look away.

But now, it is nearly severed, strung together by the finest of threads. The side that leads to his bondmate is grey as the fungus clinging to the wheat on Tarsus IV. It fades into a deep gold, but the healthy color is faint, nearly dissolved in darkness.

The source of the absolute pain is Spock’s bondmate.

And in one terrible moment, he remembers.

James T. Kirk is his bondmate, the other half his soul. That mind he fell in love with belongs to his Captain. The last year flashes in his memory; Jim growing slowly sicker, the sweeps of purple below his blue eyes, the too sharp jut of his cheeks bones. The sadness cracked into his voice when Spock accused him cheating during their chess game.

What have I done?

Spock estimates he will succumb to unconsciousness, and likely a Vulcan healing trance, in 2.1 minutes. He clenches his fingers into his palms, discovering that, to his relief, he can move. His neck rolls to the left on the hard pillow, where he can hear the weak beat of a human heart.

His breath rushes out of his lungs in a gasp.

It is Jim, but barely. Spock remembers seeing glimpses of Jim as a child, limbs always flushed a warm, healthy, pink even during Tarsus. His skin now is the same white as the sheets he’s wrapped in. There are grey tinges where there should be hint of reds, and deep purple circles glazed over his eyelids. He’s carefully arranged so his arms don’t hang off the bed and the wrists limply resting in the comforter do not move, do not even twitch. If Spock couldn’t see his blood jumping too slowly in too blue veins that twine around too fragile bones, he wouldn’t know Jim was alive.

The lining of Spock’s throat grows heavy. The Jim he knows is so strong, never still, always moving, fighting. His mind was an electric rumble, drumming wildly even when he was at his weakest. It was never the faint hum it is now. This is different, this is far too much like death. Spock reaches for the bond, tries to sooth Jim’s mind, smoothing the frayed ends of their connection.

There is a faint spark from Jim in response, the suggestion of a flicker. Then nothing.

He needs contact. Vulcan’s are, after all, touch telepaths, and Spock needs to touch Jim so his presence can bleed into the neglected human, healing him. He has approximately 1.2 minutes until he cannot retain consciousness.

Spock sits up, trembling as he forces his muscles to clench and hoist him upright. He swings his legs over the side of the bed and braces his fists into the mattress. They squeeze so hard to stop his legs from shaking, that when he pushes his weight on to his feet he tears into the mattress.

Jim’s biobed is mere three feet away, but the first step is more difficult than he calculated. He lifts his foot, only to have it crash on to the tile, tangling his legs. He falls, snatching the end of a surgical table for balance. The table tips, sending the tools clattering onto the floor. Distantly, Spock can hear the click of Nurse Chapel and Doctor MCcoy’s footsteps, quickly approaching.

He has to get to Jim.

Two more steps. Two more steps in twenty three remaining seconds, while control over his body is starting to slip into a haze. But his T’hy’la needs him and he will not allow that to matter. He forces himself to jolt forward one clumsy step, then another.

He clambers into Jim’s bed, somehow managing to kick himself beneath the covers. He pulls Jim’s unmoving frame into his own, pressing as much of their skin together as he can. Very gently curving his fingers around the back of Jim’s neck, he tucks the human’s head under his chin.

My brave T’hy’la, I am so sorry.

It is illogical to imagine. One should estimate, calculate, predict based on evidence and patterns. But Spock used to imagine what it would be like to touch his Bondmate. The feel of Jim under his hands, his quiet breath swinging against Spock’s neck, the pressure of his cool heat, is better than anything his mind created.

But Jim’s temperature is too far below human norm, and every arch of his ribs poke out on his sides and his limbs loll limply if Spock does not hold them still.

Sarlah pla'dor ha-kel K'hat'n'dlawa, Spock whispers to Jim’s dormant mind, du dungi nam-tor dotokaya, I will never let you you be alone again.

Spock cradles close Jim’s mind and body, folding love over the shock. Without even realizing what he’s doing, Jim faintly clings to Spock mental presence.

Yes, Ashayam. I am here, feel me, I will not leave you.

Spock tightens his arms around Jim, daring to push his lips into the crown of Jim’s skull.

“What the hell…”

Doctor Mccoy’s voice drifts away and Spock closes his eyes. One of Jim’s fingers moves. Just slightly, sliding a fraction of millimeter over Spock’s stomach. But it moves.

Spock loses consciousness.

...

“Rise and shine hobgoblin,” McCoy’s voice is distant, a muffled southern drawl. A sharp slap stings his right cheek then his left, “You know something Spock, I really like this part.”

There’s another slap, then another, each sharpening Spock’s senses. He snaps his eyes open, snatching Doctor Mccoy’s wrist out of the air with an iron grip. He is dimly aware the action jostles something warm and heavy against his chest.

He tilts his head down to look, but the quiet hiss of a hypo spray prick his neck and the world is dark again.

...

 

The next time he awakens there is someone holding Jim’s hand.

He blinks awake slowly, the image of wrinkled fingers curled around Jim’s solidifying every time his eyes open again. When his vision settles, he finds his counterpart in a chair beside their bed, grasping Jim’s unresponsive hand. He’s fixed on Jim, but he acknowledged spock with a small nod when he sees he’s awake.

But something unpleasant coils hot and green in his stomach at the sight of their joint hands.

“Release my bondmate,” Spock growls in his disused voice, before he realized he’d made to form words.

One of his counterpart's grey eyebrows follows his wrinkled forehead up to his hairline.

“Hello to you too, youngling. I must say, your jealousy is premature, as I am not attempting to steal your mate. Also, I am certain that if Jim were awake, he would be less than pleased at your possessive attitude, given that you have previously shown him no affection.”

Spock grits his teeth through a furl of shame and tightens his arms around Jim. He looks down at the sleeping face of his bondmate, finding, to his relief, that pink is starting to creep onto white cheeks. The bond is glowing more as well, not the pure gold it was, but the grey is fading.

“I apologize for my rudeness, Elder,” he says in Vulcan, suppressing a surge of satisfied possessiveness when his counterpart releases Jim’s hand, “If I had known Jim was my bondmate-”

“If you had known, then what? Would you have been emotionally prepared to accept the responsibility of a relationship with a human, one as complex as Jim Kirk no less? Could you have convinced someone whom you had not previously bothered to be friends with that you, out of seemingly nowhere, that you love them? It is not that simple Spock. You were the one who chose to block that bond simply to avoid feeling.”

“I-” Spock starts again but, Selik silences him with a slow shake of his head

"My Jim," he starts to say, voice scraped with a wear of too many lifetimes. The old Vulcan smiles, the heavy skin hung above his eyelids smoothing back into his skull. The expression lifts the creases as if there are fish hooks tugging up in the scoop below his brow. Wet brown eyes are made more visible with the movement, as is a light where there had been only sadness before, "Was a terrible singer. He possessed innumerable talents, but singing was very much not among them."

Spock is confused by the abrupt change in subject, but does not interrupt. His counterpart is silent for a beat, eyes sinking shut again only to open a moment later, bright with renewed pain. He digs into his robes, tugging out a small pendant that Spock recognizes as a holo-emitter. He holds it with the utmost care, stroking slowly over a round button in its center. With a glance at Spock, he pushes the button.

The face of an a man flickers to life above Spock’s bed. The man is perhaps in his early seventies, his warm plump cheeks dented with dimples from a broad smile and many wrinkles.

The eyes are hazel, not blue, but it is unquestionably James T. Kirk.

“Happy Birthday to you,” he starts to sing. True to Selik’s word, this Jim is not musically adept in the the slightest. Even if he was adequately holding the pitch, the lyrics are lost in poorly suppressed laughter, “Happy Birthday to you….”

He stops, grin widening. As the crows feet around his eyes are stamped deeper, Spock’s counterpart presses the button again and the image fades. He cradles the pendant back into his pocket and clears his throat.

“I would give anything, to hear that voice from the living version of my bondmate, not this sad echo of what he was. If only for a song, if only for a measure, of only for a single note."

Spock opens his mouth, then closes is it.

“I grieve with thee,” he manages after a moment. His counterpart looks unimpressed.

"As you should. Young one, if you lose Jim, you will die. You may exist, but without the other half of your soul it cannot be called living. You have nearly killed the thing most essential to your survival. Jim will live, but you cannot expect what comes next to be easy."

Spock feels faintly nauseous. Under the blanket, he finds Jim’s fingers and laces his own between them tightly.

“I must return to my quarters,” his counterpart stands, eyes heavy with longing as they touch Jim’s sleeping face, “Be careful Spock.”

He leaves without looking back.

……

“You’re lucky I’m letting you near him.”

Spock looks up. Doctor Mccoy  is standing at the door frame,  hypo curled menacingly in one hand, his face pinched. He stalks over to the biobed.

“Given that physical contact to my person has saved his life, it is logical you do not separate us.”

Mccoy glares at him, jamming the hypo in his neck with far more force than necessary. Spock does not give him the satisfaction of wincing, though he can not help but feel a slight sense of irritation when Mccoy gives Jim his much more gently. Spock supposes he deserves it.

“And there we have the only reason I haven’t tried to kill you yet.”

Spock watches Mccoy shove his arms into a cross over his chest, slouching back against the wall and pinning Spock with an angry stare. Spock stares back. He is well aware he deserves the doctor’s rage, but he is defensive none the less. If he dies or is separated from Jim, it will harm Jim irreversibly. After unwittingly subjecting his bondmate to so much pain, Spock cannot allow that.

“Doctor, may I remind you that you are nearing insubordination.”

Mccoy’s nostrils pinch outwards, his jaw grinding to the side.

“You may. But if you think I give a rats ass you’re out of your Vulcan mind. You nearly killed my best friend! If you think you just cuddle him and make everything better then-”

“I assure you I am sincerely sorry for my mistake. Jim is my bondmate and I have every inten-”

“- you can go jump out the airlock or-”

“- toin of making amends for my mistakes-’

“-or I'll push you my-”

SHUT UP, both of you!”

It’s Jim’s voice, uneven, but loud and dangerous all the same. Spock and Mccoy snap silent as the words bounce of the walls like imprint of a gunshot. Jim’s eyes are opened, the red around the rims seeming to crumble away under the intensity within them. Something bristles in the air, something faint and electric. It is as if Jim is more than he was before, as if his life force has redoubled. Spock feels the power of him rumble across their bond, so deliciously alive.

Everything Spock adored about his bondmate when he was a mere distant impression, personality without a face, has resurged tenfold. Jim’s mind is twined around his, part of him. It is chaos, it is life.

Spock falls in love all over again.

He reaches, two fingers slowly sliding up Jim’s neck. He spreads his palm to cover Jim’s cheek, touch light, reverent.

“Ashayam,” he murmurs, do you feel me?

Jim doesn’t answer.

“You need to let go of me, Spock.”



Spock!Prime, drawn by me

 

Chapter Text

Sorry for all of you who opened this expecting another chapter; I'm fast but I'm not that fast. I'll update soon, I promise. And I'll make this a translation chapter, and stick it at the end of story when I'm done.

For Solah lee and anyone else who was curious:

T'hy'la- Well if you don't know what that means, you should just google it and be amazed, but I'm assuming most of you do.

Asayam- Beloved, also pretty common. I may or may not call my dog that.

K'hat'n'dlawa- Other half of my heart and soul

du dungi nam-tor dotokaya- you will be fine (this I strung together with a translator)

T’nash-veh kyi’i sa-kan- my brave boy

Ni maut kyi’i- So very brave

tal-kam veh- dear one

Hagik- easy

Uzhau T'Khasi- Renewed Vulcan..I know people have been calling it something like "Vale-tor" but I couldn't find the excact word so I just went with this superdeduper creative name.

Hope that was helpful! Thanks for reading the other chapters, more is on it's way.

Chapter Text

Dear Readers,

Hi! Sorry to those of you who got the update notification only to find there was in fact no update- that was me taking out the non-con scene. I no longer feel comfortable including it and don't think I should have included it in the first place (I've been meaning to remove it for ages, but a irl friend recently threatened to read all my old fic so I figured I should get on that in case he was serious). I started this story when I was 15: yesterday I graduated from college. I've been a few thousand different people and a few thousand different writers in the intervening years.

I don't think I'll ever finish this. There's a chance but it's unlikely, I'm sorry. What I will do is post a detailed summary of what I'd planned to have happen. I also have 12k of a teen!spirk fic in the 'Sticky Fingers' verse (an au off this one where Sarek and Amanda find out about the bond and adopt Jim) that's been sitting in my drafts for five years which I'll try to finish for you guys. It's been wonderful to have so many people be so passionate about this story the last few years, and I'd like to thank each and everyone of you for the enthusiastic support you've given me. A lot of painful moments of growing up were brightened by your kindness.

 

All my love,

Phi