Author's Note: Oh man guys, gals, and pals! It's the last chapter! WHut!?

And it only took a year to complete this thing that I thought was gonna just be a couple chapters of sick!fic! *laughs while crying* NyeheheheheheheH!

Happy new year! 2018! Crazy right. It took me for-fucking-ever to get this out because... I don't even remember november... December was crunch-time for presents (I crochet and that takes time) and then life went wrong for about a week and a half right before christmas, and I usually spend my time between christmas and new years floating in sea of dissociated self-hatred, anxiety, and depression. Right now I'm just tired all of the time. But I managed to finally sit my ass down, focus, and edit the shit out of this thing. Hopefully I didn't miss anything.

I listened to a lot of sad X Ambassadors songs while writing this (Shining, Torches, Unconsolable, Unsteady...) if you want a soundtrack. Also Ben Kingsley is my vote for an AOS Kodos.

WARNINGS: allusions to and discussion of graphic violence, allusions to rape, discussion of genocide, mentions of sex with a minor, somnophilia/dub-con, sex, cock-worship, emotional vulnerability

Enjoy 25K+ that is this last chapter of this fic.

Jim was warm. Almost too warm. And thirsty.

He blinked his eyes open.

It took him a full thirty seconds to understand what he was seeing.

He was in bed and next to him, Spock was asleep on his back, one arm thrown out (tucked under Jim's neck like additional support to the pillow under his head) and the other bent so his relaxed hand rested on his chest near his diaphragm. Near Jim's hand.

Jim himself was half-curled on one side, the back of one hand resting on Spock's bare chest - fingers curved toward his palm in comfortable relaxation. His other arm was tucked into the dip of his own waist and one leg was thrown casually over Spock's shin, the arch of his foot gently tucked against the arch of Spock's.

A clean sheet was bunched up and twisted around their hips, haphazardly providing barely any covering from belly-buttons to knees.

Jim wondered if he'd ever woken up so contentedly - so quietly, so slowly - in his life before that moment... If there had ever been easy mornings where he'd blinked awake and greeted the rising day with any kind of true happiness. He had to have. At some point, he had to have opened his eyes without a hangover, a blaring alarm, a red-alert, a general sense of dread or numbness, an ache or pain or pang, the wooziness of whatever he'd taken recreationally before passing out… It had happened. Probably way back when, when the world was still filled with potential and hope. Or maybe after, in between intoxicated hazes.

Jim tentatively uncurled his fingers to brush the backs of them over the backs of Spock's. A familiar-feeling, sleepy-quiet fog drifted through the back of his mind. He yawned at the touch of it, and then he blinked sleepily as a sudden, appealing curl of unconsciousness twirled around his brain, beckoning him back into Morpheus' lulling embrace.

He withdrew gently from Spock and rolled onto his back to reach above his head, tapping his knuckles against the bulkhead in a lengthening stretch. Various joints popped and his leg gave a little shake at the mild strain. With a satisfied grunt, he collapsed back down into the cradle of the mattress.

Except for the being thirsty problem, he found he felt good. Really good. Much better than he had the last couple times he had woken up, which each involved some measured combination of disorientation, extreme grogginess, and vaguely gnawing nausea. He took a deep, considering breath and held it as he contemplated on whether or not it had all been due to exhaustion from his bout of sickness.

He exhaled heavily.

He gave a cursory glance over at Spock's profile - just long enough to find him still deeply asleep - before finding something else to inventory. His gaze fell upon the nightstand where a glass of water waited. Jim raised himself up on an elbow and reached for it, finding it cool in the ambient temperature of his quarters. He sipped it, found it was exactly what he was expecting, and took several long pulls to thoroughly wet his vaguely rubber-flavored mouth, like maybe he'd chewed on an old, rubber elastic in his sleep.

(Once, when he had been about six years old and putzing around in the attic of his parents' farmhouse, he'd found some - thick, cracked with age and twisted around tubes of thick, yellowed paper. He'd grabbed one with his teeth to pull it off. Never again. The taste didn't leave his mouth until he ran downstairs to gulp down a tall glass of apple juice.)

Jim finished off the water and replaced the empty glass on the nightstand before collapsing back down on the bed, freezing for a beat when he forgot about Spock's arm under him. Spock didn't so much as twitch.

Jim melted back into his warm spot.

He took a deep breath, big enough to fill his lungs to bursting and make every bruise on this torso ache with a sharp tightness. He was pretty sure his whole upper body was covered in bruises of some sort. There was a hot ache on the curve of one shoulder that he wasn't going to even try to take a look at until he was in front of a mirror. Each muscle was loose, heavy, well-worn, as though he had spent a few hours in the gym the day before. Slowly, he exhaled.

Then there was his ass to consider. He gave an experimental clench and his breath caught before shuddering out of him. Not only did his hole feel sore and achy, but there was a slight, sharp strain in his gluteal muscles. More bruising, maybe? It was. . .a good feeling, he decided as it made him feel hot from head to toe.

Cautiously, he reached back and slipped his fingers down the cleft, trying to feel for any possible damage. He held his breath, not sure how he would react to the first tentative touch, if it would sting or startle him or burn. The wrinkles of flesh leading to the tight furl of his hole were raw, a little puffy, and when he actually touched his rim, he found it tender - a little swollen, a little soft, a little wet .

A shock of fear startled him and he gently shoved the tip of his finger in, hyperfocused on any slight abnormalities. A bump, a sore, the sharp, unexpected sting of a tear... He found nothing but the burn of a stretching, overworked muscle and some minor swelling of slick flesh. Which still concerned him, because what if the problem (if there was one) was deeper inside him?

Bones would just love that, having to go in and repair him from the other end after getting him all healed up and purged of sickness from the first one.

Well, there was one quick way to check.

He slipped his finger free and brought his hand around to look, expecting possibly blood but finding smears of something thick and opaquely white around the edges of his fingernail.

The hot flush of arousal suffused him from the gut out.


Of course. Spock had been buried pretty deep in him when he came. Down to the root and grinding deeper. Even dripping it from his gaping hole and then receiving a perfunctory cleaning, there was bound to be some cum still in him. (Cum and slick.) Without. . .more thorough cleaning methods being employed. . .

Jim wiped his finger clean on a surreptitious edge of the fitted sheet beneath them.

Spock unexpectedly inhaled a little sharply and sighed, startling Jim's joints into locking up. Adrenaline white-water-rushed through his veins and he barely breathed as he waited to see if Spock was waking. He reached out mentally for what he was starting to recognize as Spock in the back of his mind. There was just the soft cloud of sleep lazily swirling around.

It was time to hit the head, Jim decided.

He easily slipped from his bed, years of practice sneakily doing that exact thing kicking in. He could admit in the quiet privacy of his head that it was stupid and kind of weird doing such a thing when the person he was abandoning - avoiding - was also tapped into the back of mind. But he just needed a moment. Or two.

His stomach gurgled unhappily at him once he was on the other side of the partition and he stopped by his replicator to synthesize a thick, nutritious, and delicious breakfast smoothie. Once he had it in his hand, he made his way to the fresher on the balls of his toes, being as careful as possible to avoid Vulcan hearing.

It was ludicrous. He sipped at his smoothie and left it on the counter next to the sink so he could sit and take a piss. Take a minute to contemplate his life.

How had it gotten to this point?

There he was, buck-ass-naked in his captain's quarters on a Federation Starship, creeping around the morning after, because he was trying to avoid the man who'd fucked him brainless the night before - who was also his fucking soulmate - like it was every other one-night stand, booty call, trick, or FWB of his life before becoming Starfleet's poster-boy. (Thank god for pseuds, speaking of.)

His last fuck had been months (and months ) ago. And it had been in the line of duty, all things considered, so did it really count? (Off the records, of course.) And before that, he hadn't been in a relationship for years. Hadn't even tried since before the Academy . Gaila had been the last person who he had even been remotely "together" with, and that had been a purely physical arrangement between friends...until that afternoon she'd tried to tell him she loved him. (When he'd swiped access codes from her and beat the Maru and then the particularly rank ding-dong-ditch fire-lit sack full of shit that was Nero had hit the proverbial fan.)

They were still friends, him and Gaila, even after a very rocky restart once everything settled back down. She was happily stationed on a Federation planet somewhere, working in an embassy since being in the black was hard for her after Vulcan. They exchanged vid messages every so often.

Anyway, the point was, Jim had no fucking clue what he was doing.

He dropped his head and rested his forehead in the cradle of his palms, elbows resting on his knees.

From what he understood of it, he and Spock were the equivalent of being engaged for Vulcans. And Spock's dad already knew about it. Jim had been able to hold on to exactly one friend for more than a year in his entire life. And that was Bones. Bones didn't even know it but their friendship was Jim's longest relationship in his life. A little over five years.

How the fuck was he supposed to do this?

He paused his ruminations to clean up with a wet wipe and flush. Then he washed his hands, dried them, and started cleaning his teeth with his sonic toothbrush while very carefully avoiding his reflection. Once done with that, he finished off his smoothie to get rid of the tingle on his tongue from the toothbrush and ran the water lukewarm to splash on his face.

In any case, he would have to find some way to get his shit together enough to tell Spock that thing he promised. Why did he say he would do that? And why did he put a time limit on it? Even as vague as it was, "soon" couldn't be more than a couple months. His options regarding that were to do it quick like a pulling a tooth or to draw it out like the slow death one might associate with starvation.

Jim knew himself. The longer he avoided talking about it, the less likely he would be to talk about it, the longer he would avoid talking about it, the less likely— until the mere hint of a suggestive thought about it would make him sick. Then that would go on until he worked himself into a full-blown panic.

Besides, who knew how Spock might take the information.

Jim leaned over and splashed water on his face, scrubbing his palms over his wet skin before splashing it again.

Bones hadn't been able to speak. He'd gotten all choked up and wanted to hug Jim— hug him. And not just a quick, friendly, supportive one.

He had promptly gotten up from where they were seated in their little Academy-housing living room, stalked into the kitchenette area to take down a bottle of bourbon (the rough blend) from a cabinet, poured himself two fingers worth in a glass - which he promptly downed, and poured another full glass. That glass he had brought back to where Jim sat on the couch watching him, feeling guilty because Bones had been sober for several months and Jim telling him this had just broken the streak. Bones had plopped down right next to Jim, gruffly ordered the computer to tune in the radio to an older country station, and gathered Jim close. Jim had let it happen, understanding as soon as he was tucked against his new friend's chest with the fingers of one of Bones' hands combing his hair while the other held the whiskey, that this was Bones seeking comfort for himself.

Jim had only told him because Bones had finally signed off on the datawork to be his primary physician. Which, after an appeal to Starfleet's Enlisted Personnel Department and an interview with a panel of various higher-ups, got back to Jim with a request to unlock his full file. (All of which was needed, considering the extra-sensitive, top-secret material contained within.) Jim, in turn, had signed off on that and it was sent in for processing. And that was when Jim decided it would be better for him to tell his friend and soon-to-be primary care physician in person, instead of letting him plunge - unknowingly - headlong into objective descriptions of everything, wading through the picture evidence and witness accounts unprepared for what he would find.

The point was that Bones hadn't taken it well after only a year being his friend.

Spock...Who knew how Spock might react once he found out. There was a level of investment that no one else had ever really had when they'd learned.

He turned the tap off and let drops of water fall from the tip of his nose, his eyelashes, the ends of his lengthening hair, while he stared down the drain. One hand lifted a folded golden towel from the corner of the counter and he buried his face in it, sighing heavily into it before swiping it down his face and finally meeting his own gaze.

The man staring back at him shocked him.

The reflection showed him with a soft flush across his cheeks, his skin no longer sickly pale or oily. His eyes were bright and aware. His lips were red and—


He frowned and leaned forward, tilting his face into the glow of the vanity lights above the mirror.

Clustered to the side of his bottom lip and sporadically dotted out from there, breaking from the pale pink edges of his lip onto skin, were little spots of dark red color. Hickeys. His lips had hickey marks. Not around the edges like a cosmetic lip-plumper - or something similar - had been applied to them. No. Actual, fucking, hickey bruising. On his actual lips.

Jim felt like he'd just taken a glancing blow to his solar plexus.

That was a first. Sure, he'd split his lips before on a tooth when kissing got a bit too frenzied, or bruised them with a smack against something too-solid with a liberal application of carelessness.

But this… It was claiming.

Jim dropped his hands - and the towel - to the counter in disbelief.

Only to catch sight of his— neckshoulderchestbelly.

His fingers gripped the edge of the sink hard enough that his fingertips stung.

There, under the harsh, almost-white lights in the fresher was the evidence of Spock's... claim. Ardor.

The curve of his shoulder, from the collarbone up, was one splotchy mass of red and purple. When he'd felt teeth, Jim hadn't felt a shock of pain. Spock had pressed his bared teeth up against him, had huffed open-mouthed into that spot, Jim remembered. He had not been even moderately aware of Spock applying enough suction or pressure to create...that.

And that was just the biggest mark.

His ribs had dark, finger-shaped bruises that were pressed into his sides, curving around toward his back. There were a few vaguely crescent-shaped, smallish pinch-marks on his neck and upper chest. Then, lower, leaving a nonsensical trail down, were more tiny hickeys.

Jim swallowed thickly, feeling a tight ball of something heavy settling low in his chest. Paired with the slow, syrupy crawl of arousal warming his belly, he was abruptly overcome with a shaky sort of weakness.

He dropped his forehead down onto the rim of the sink and breathed heavily through his mouth, waiting for the dizziness and the tight, hard-to-breathe squeeze in his lungs to abate. Oh god, he was fucked. He was so, so, so fucking fucked.

His skin itched and buzzed and he suddenly found he needed to see the other marks. There had to be others. There couldn't not be others. Not with the way— Not when Spock had been—

Jim fell back away from the sink, stumbling upright and toward the full-length mirror that the shower stall wall could become on the outside. It engaged with his proximity and Jim froze once he was standing in front of it.

There were more bruises alright.

The towel he still clutched in his hand hit the floor.

Near the top of his thighs, just below the dip where leg met hip, were matching, deeply purple, oval bruises. Thumbprints.

Lower, closer to the knee of just one leg, on the inside of his thigh, was another similarly dark blemish.

Feeling a little too-off-balance, Jim braced himself and turned around, looking over his shoulder to see—


Eight all together.

Clustered close, three to a leg, finger-shaped bruises. The fourth one on each side hovered apart from the rest, more toward the outside of his thighs.

Jim shivered, remembering the clutch of the hands that had made those imprints in his skin. The hot, humid slide of skin against skin, right before his world exploded.

Recalling another burning hand clenching around another part of him, catching sight of a fainter mark on the swell of one buttcheek, Jim tentatively reached back, set his fingers to skin, and spread himself open.

A scorching twist of desire seized his gut. He nearly choked on it.

Even here, on the hidden seam of one buttock, was Spock's stamped claim.

He couldn't look anymore. Jim let go of himself, made fists, squeezed them tight, then released, and shook them. The burn of shame raked down his back.

How could he have—? He was covered in them... He had just let Spock... But it had felt so good, so right in a way nothing had in...

Jim Kirk was not a passive screw. In fact, he often found that partners struggled to keep up with him in bed as he bowled them over with zeal and passion. He was always an active participant in his own sex-life. (Had to be.) Had never thought he would ever passively lie back and allow someone to...

He gulped several times against the shakiness he could feel building in his muscles.

In his gut.

He was fucked. Oh god, was he fucked.

Epically. Cosmically.


He felt slithering shame. He felt the thrill of excitement. He felt fear prickling along the backs of his arms. He felt a molasses-thick burn of desire in his veins. He felt the curl of embarrassment over the back of his neck for how he'd acted. Reacted. Which was followed by confusion for feeling like that in the first place, since sex had stopped embarrassing him shortly after he'd started hustling.

(The first time) (Both times.)

But above it all, he felt a cavernous vacancy wanting to be filled within him. He was unfulfilled. Empty. A black hole.


There was a tight, achy, low-slung need to have it filled. It clogged up the back of his throat and burned the tips of his ears with teasing kisses.

Jim had never (ever) had even a modicum of interest in cock-warming of any kind (doing or having done) before but with the sudden yawning need clawing at his insides, he found that, all at once, all he could think about was stuffing himself full of Spock's dick to ease it. (And keeping it there until that well of emptiness was overfilled with nothing but Spock.)

Jim coughed into the back of his hand, honestly shocked at the surprising nature of his own thoughts. He stumbled backward into the mirror and all-but collapsed to the floor, landing hard on his ass and wincing.

This couldn't be... What? Real? Happening? His life?

How was it that this was only now a thing?

Jim liked to think he knew himself pretty well. With all his screw-ups, hang-ups, and fuck-ups, he kind of had to. So some things he knew really turned him on. Some things worked in theory only. Some things he fantasized about and got off on, but he could never handle in real life. And that had really fucked him up from the ages of seventeen to twenty, when he was fucking his way through his problems and avoiding actually dealing with them. It had taken him a good long while to realize it was his own way of coping, of taking some things back and owning them, making them his again.

He didn't think that at twenty-eight there would be much more he could learn about himself regarding this aspect of his life.

But apparently - against everything he was - he really, really enjoyed submission. Which was bizarre as fuck, because even just thinking it like that had him wanting to peel his own skin off. It was just so antithetical to what he was. What he wanted to be. Especially with the clusterfuck that was his life.

And then he thought of Spock holding him down, in place, fucking him just as slow or as fast or as deep or as hard as he wanted, while Jim was unable to do anything but lie there and take it and respond, react. All Spock needed him to do was feel and let him feel in turn.

Jim wasn't even sure why this whole Spock-thing was different anyway!

He dug his fists into his eyes, rubbing. Hysterical. Close to panicking. And still so fucking empty. Needy. (Thirsty, desperate, cheap, whiny, GREEDY...)

His sex life had been filled with many situations where he had been way more vulnerable than a bit of strength disparity. (Age gaps, sobriety issues, for pay, poorly-negotiated kink, multiple partners... Poorly conceived combinations thereof...) It frustrated him that he was so torn up over this and he couldn't pinpoint why! Just that thinking about how he'd behaved made him vaguely queasy (in the panicky, anxious, embarrassed sort of way).

Suddenly all he wanted was to tear off his skin and launch himself into space in the direction of the nearest black hole.

Suddenly all he wanted was to go back to his bed where Spock was still sleeping soundly and curl into him, sink into him, blur their edges together and fill himself full of Spock until he was grounded again and the universe made sense and he stopped feeling like he was going to spontaneously combust.

Both of these thoughts scared the shit out of him.

He gulped down several lungfuls of recycled oxygen, feeling a low hum of panic underneath his skin, buffered by a weird, cottony numbness.

He needed to feel in control of himself again.

Feel like himself again.

Without thinking too hard about it, he scrambled up and made his way to the fresher door, shaking his hands out as he went and taking deep breaths.

He didn't let himself stop or hesitate or pause until he was back in his quarters, back on the other side of the partition, and then freezing at the edge of his bed.

Because there was Spock and his heart squeezed and his breath wheezed out of him and Spock was—


Still sleeping, the arm that Jim had woken up using as a pillow thrown up over his head, face turned into it and tucked against a slightly bulging bicep, lips slightly parted and slightly verdigris, hair actually fucking rumpled. . .

Jim couldn't breathe.

Spock was absolutely—


Because he was the only thing Jim wanted and he was right there in Jim's bed.

And all Jim wanted to do was blanket Spock's body with his own, to stretch out all across it and feel his heat seeping into Jim's skin.

What he found himself doing was tentatively crawling back onto the bed, hands on either side of Spock, one knee pressed to the mattress between Spock's where one leg was slightly curled and cocked out to the side.

Spock didn't even twitch as Jim settled in, haltingly reaching his hand up to touch Spock's chest, caught somewhere between terrified hesitation and aching desire.

But then his fingertips hit skin and Jim felt only softness and warmth and...

He trailed his fingers down from the hollow at the base of Spock's throat into the whorls of thick (but amazingly smooth and soft) hair across the top of his chest.

With a minute shift of his weight, he was able to sit back enough to bring his other hand into play, pushing both sets of fingers up against the grain before dragging his fingernails back down through it, holding his breath to hear the quiet scratchy noises they made as he combed it down. He continued downward, fingernails and fingertips so light on Spock's skin they tingled.

At Spock's navel, Jim dipped his index finger in, traced the edge, rubbed the palm of his other hand through the hair gathering up around and underneath it. Then he hit the edge of the sheet and his options were to either move it and continue downward in his explorations or turn around and go back up.

He had a flash-half-second image of stretching out, draping himself over Spock, both their fingers intertwining above Spock's head, lips moving slowly together as Jim slow-kissed him to wakefulness. Jim's breath stuttered and he nearly shivered.

It was a nice (wonderful) thought and he wanted it.

Wanted it.


He looked back down at the sheet bunched across Spock's hips, under Jim's hunched over body.


The fact of the matter was that Jim wouldn't have even considered it, except...

Except every time he touched Spock he felt.


He felt acceptance and contentedness and openness and invitation.

It was another thing he never thought he'd be into, until he was hovering over Spock's sleeping body, contemplating something that would have disgusted him if anyone but Spock were to ever reverse the situation and try to do it to him.

Anyone but Spock.


Heat rushed out from his center making his arms tingle, at the thought of waking to Spock above him, touching him. Like this. Apparently he was very much into somnophilia if it was with Spock.


He was also very much choosing not to think too hard about it at that moment, feeling the bubble of panic for the briefest of moments before he put a lid on it again.

Instead, he delicately plucked up the rumple of sheet laying against Spock's skin and eased it down, gaze intent on every centimeter of skin exposed, on every new hair uncovered.

Until he realized, once he had pulled the sheet far enough down to see the fitted sheet between Spock's legs, that he had missed something.

He felt the draw of the frown bunching up between his eyebrows as he stared at the neatly groomed crinkles of dark hair at the apex of Spock's thighs. Where was Spock hiding the monster cock he'd fucked Jim with the night before?

Jim chuckled to himself internally because, wow, what a stupid thought.

Contemplatively, he rubbed his hands up and down the tops of Spock's thighs, staring at that thatch of hair, sweeping his gaze up the spread out body before him once to drink it all in from that angle. Experimentally, he reached for one of the hairs near Spock's navel and gave it a sharp tug.

Spock let out the tiniest little huff of unguarded irritation and Jim felt, floating through the grey haze at the back of his head, the annoyance Spock felt for the briefest moment before settling. Not giving himself a moment to think about it, Jim leaned forward and kissed the assaulted hair, feeling the intoxicatingly warm press of Spock's skin against his lips.

Jim hovered for a moment, wondering if he was really going to let himself do this, let himself go there, let himself take like this, since he had the confirmation now.

He nuzzled his face down just a little bit toward where Spock's dick should be and felt only a lulling, permissive enjoyment coming from where Spock was connected to his mind.

Yeah, he totally was.

It seemed that was all he needed. Giving himself up to feeling, Jim let his eyes fall closed completely and took to learning this part of Spock's body by texture with his lips and by scent, where, even here, Spock smelled woodsy and hot like desert sands and fire. He nuzzled and kissed at the crease of each thigh, softly brushed his lips up and down the trail of hair under Spock's navel, reached out with his tongue to taste. His palms and sensitized fingertips learned the feel of Spock's thighs, hard with muscle even in the relaxation of sleep, covered with thin, barely-noticeable hairs. He softly tested his grip around the curves of Spock's hips, committed to memory with his thumbs the shape, jut, and dip of the bones there.

He was lost in his exploratory ministrations for several minutes until he caught a familiar scent - slightly tangy, almost like a sour candy.

Jim pulled back just far enough for his eyes to be able to focus properly and he saw—

Spock's pubic hair was wet. Not in the way Jim's saliva was wet but in a thick, glistening way. And only in one location that was basically right smack where a penis would be, were Spock human.

So based on deductive reasoning, Jim reached out with careful, cautious fingers and felt around.

What he found was a hard mound and more wet, and then, a. . .seam. It was the only way he could explain it. It felt like a hardly noticeable line, horizontal, about three inches wide. Jim pressed gently against it.

And it dipped, parted, opened and suddenly the very tip of one of Jim's fingers was inside somewhere very hot and very wet and pulled tight in twin lines across the top and bottom of his fingertip. He pulled his finger free, fascinated by what he was finding as he watched some of what had to be Spock's natural lubricant as it dribbled down over curls of dark hair from that secret place.

There was a heavy shiver of burgeoning arousal that Jim knew was from Spock and Jim felt his body respond to it. His cock began to fill out and he wanted to reach down with a hand coated in Spock's thick slick and help it along.

Lightly musing on that thought, Jim rubbed his fingers together, considering the texture of the fluid coating them. It was slick, very slick. Oily slick. Viscous. Sticky, almost. It definitely was clinging pretty valiantly to his fingers. The odd pondering of his skin absorbing it like massage oil slipped through his mind and he wasn't sure whether or not to be bothered (disgusted?) by that idea.

Jim dropped his gaze back down and felt a tendril of want drawing him up tighter. He wanted nothing more in that moment than to bury his face between Spock's thighs and find out exactly how he ticked down there, what turned him on, what he liked, what made him hard.

Jim didn't even know what that little seam looked like but he couldn't wait to know everything about it.

So he set out about doing just that, finding exactly what he thought it was when he brushed Spock's pubic hair out of the way with his thumbs. It was a little seam of flesh - hardly an overlap of skin over skin. It was tight and wet and a dark emerald green. The wetter it got as Jim pet his thumb back and forth across it, the more it seemed to loosen - open - until a little nub with a familiar looking slit nudged through.

Oh! Jim found himself thinking. That's kinda. . .cute.

And really, really hot. He unthinkingly dipped his finger in next to it and, yep, that was definitely a cockhead. It was too tight to press any further so Jim could just barely hook the very tip of his finger over the ridge of the glans.

He needed to taste it.

Needed to feel it.

Needed it to come out and play.

And before Jim could catch himself, he was dropping chest down between Spock's legs, shouldering them apart to make room, careless of the sheet stretching beneath him and across Spock's thighs.

He kissed that little nub peek-a-booing out at him, and there was a playful, wondering, hovering—

'Please come out and play.'

His lips were wet now.

And he could purse them so they fit perfectly around the slight bump that was the tip of Spock's slowly emerging cockhead. It was oddly addicting to feel it against his mouth like that so he pressed another, more-lingering kiss over it. His brain was buzzing.

A little wiggle and he was laid out on his belly, legs curled so his heels hovered above his butt. His arms were curled underneath his chest to prop him up, balance him. Another wiggle of just his hips - and a dip of a hand beneath him - had his cock lined out on the bed, curled up toward his belly button.

Settled and ready to really set himself to task, Jim licked his lips and startled at the vague sweet he tasted there, mixed with the bright spark of tang on the tip of his tongue.

He dove forward and gave a broad-stroke lap with his tongue across the whole setup, swallowing what he caught and rolling the flavor around in his mouth.

(Above him, Spock's breath hitched so unnoticeably Jim's hindbrain almost missed it.)

Jim nearly laughed out loud, instead huffing his amusement into the crease of Spock's groin.

Spock tasted (albeit, mutedly but) exactly like a sour candy. Not as intense and definitely not overwhelmingly sour, but still. Sour candy. Except there was a weird aftertaste that lingered in the back of Jim's throat, a similar taste to what a lazy, day-old sweat was like. Musky-tang. Bitter. Clean, slightly stale sweat. Almost like what eating ass tasted like sometimes. (Less intense. But still.)

It wasn't a bad taste.

It was more bizarre and delightful and new and wonderfully arousing.

Without a thought more toward categorizing it, Jim sealed his mouth around the nub of flesh presented to him and gave it a gently sucking kiss.

He swirled the tip of his tongue around it, twisted his tongue against the slit, dipped just beneath the edge of the seam of skin that hid it, and gave the whole area all manner of licks and suckles, from edge to edge. It was a level of attention he would devote to teasing a partner's nipple into heightened sensitivity with all the pleasure of reveling in the delight of taste and feel and texture he got when he sucked cock or ate someone out. With Spock's exciting new flavor filling his mouth, he was enraptured.

He didn't even think what might happen when he slipped a finger back into that tight, wet place hiding Spock's cock away from him, too caught up in the buzz of bright arousal coursing through his veins. It was refreshing, invigorating, and addicting.

So it thoroughly surprised him that while he absentmindedly suckled widely around the large slit and wiggled the tip of his finger along the ridge of Spock's glans, he suddenly found the weight of it cradled on his tongue, filling his mouth. There was a hot gush of slick against his chin and Jim groaned around his unexpected prize. He was caught between the desire to keep going or pull back and look, sear into his mind every stage.

With a wet little pop, he reared back (thick strands of saliva and slick, mixed, clung to his lips and connected his mouth to the whole mess, and Jim's brain near shorted out) and hungrily stared down at the flared tip and minuscule bit of shaft that had slipped out of the widening seam of green-flushed flesh. It was all so shiny and slick and the head of Spock's cock was thick around the ridge and tapered at the tip, more pointed— more pronouncedly pointed, than most humans' dicks that Jim had been this close to.

Jim opened wide and sealed his mouth around all of it again, undulating his tongue over the area where humans had frenulums but Spock just had some kind of double ridge that Jim was really getting into learning the feel of as he rubbed it over the wet silk of his tongue. His hips started a tiny little rocking motion against the mattress, a helpless little twitch he didn't care to control as it turned up the heat of the simmer low in his belly. He found his mouth pooling with drool and his finger still wiggling minutely against the bit of shaft he could reach.

He swallowed the excess of fluid gathering in his mouth and was peripherally aware that muscles in Spock's hips were tightening before another centimeter or two slipped from one tight cavern right into another.

Jim moaned happily and cradled what he could on his tongue, shoving the very tip of it into Spock just to get at more. He mashed his nose into Spock's curls and puffed out hot, heavy breaths, overwhelmed by the scent of Spock and the taste of Spock and the feel of Spock in his mouth.

The thrum of arousal grew and he humped the bed twice before catching himself, drool now escaping the seal of his lips around his mouthful. And it was a mouthful now.

His free hand was in a fist beneath him, clutched helplessly around nothing.

Sliding back enough to bump his lips just barely against Spock's skin, Jim took to wiggling his finger more insistently along the side of what he could reach, passingly wondering if the pouch (it had to be a pouch, right?) was getting tighter.

It didn't matter.

He just needed more. And his coaxing seemed to be working. The suckling of his tongue and petting of his finger had given him this much.

He bobbed his head in short bursts, hyperaware of the way his lips stretched just the slightest bit more down Spock's shaft, the way the bottom one caught on something every time he went up, the way Spock's slick clung to his chin. The way he couldn't quit drooling, adding his saliva to the mess he was making.

His hips shifted restlessly and his back arched, dipped his belly lower into the bed, tipped his ass up as though presenting it for fucking. The thought of which had him whimpering.

And then he was nearly choking as his mouth was abruptly stuffed full. He was forced to shove his upper body up and slightly away to keep from gagging, completely unprepared for the length of cock that had emerged.

Jim was stuck with just the head in his mouth again, but at least now he had access to the rest of it.

His finger had been shoved out along with a gush of slick. A lot of it. A lot. It was everywhere when Jim wrapped his hand around the base and dragged it slowly upward to meet his lips. It squelched out between his fingers.

A high whine built up into a shivery whimper as his thumb bumped over (and over and over) and caught the full way up. He popped off again and stared in amazement as he slowly fisted way too many inches of verdigris to emerald cock, pale and slightly thicker up near the glans and almost unnoticeably curved upward. And then the base was a dark, deep emerald, and cradled by glistening folds that curled only around the underside.

Jim dove down to dig his tongue in, moaning at the concentrated taste, the silky and slightly bumpy texture of them. A muscle along the inside of Spock's thigh jumped. He wiggled his tongue around more vigorously. Spock's thighs trembled.

The folds were sensitive.

Jim drew back, cupped the thickness of Spock's cock in his palm, marveled at the pinky-width ridges along the underside, bisected almost imperceptibly down the center. Then he laid the flat of his tongue against the bottom-most one and gave them one decisive lick all the way up to the double-ridge of the underside of the crown.

He shivered from head to curled toes. Somehow, though he could drag the pad of his thumb down them and barely feel a change - an almost smooth slide - going up was. . .an experience. They had to be slightly more flared or layered or something along the bottom of each because...

Oh god.

Oh. God.

Jim'd had that in him last night. That had been what had made him shake, made him breathless, had him yowling like a goddamned cat in heat and losing his fucking mind. Oh.


He shot up onto one hand and shoved his hips down into the mattress, using his already messy hand to stuff as much of Spock's dick into his mouth as possible, completely disregarding his gag reflex.

There were obscene slurping noises and muffled uck-uck-ucks as he worked on battering his throat into submission, until he could sink far enough down his jaw ached and the head of Spock's dick slipped past the back of his throat and sank just a bit deeper. Until his bottom lip was raw from the ridges. Until his eyes were watering and his hand was sticky-wet where it was fisted beneath his mouth.

His hips were rubbing his own cock against the bed sheets in sporadic bursts, occasionally in time with his bobbing, and he whimpered pathetically when hit with the scorching desire to come like this. But only after... Only after Spock's cock was shoved as far as it could go down his throat and his belly was filled full of Spock's cum and. . .

Jim was nearly creaming himself at the idea already, still whimpering and moaning around Spock's cock as he slowed the bobbing of his head up and down.

And shit, shit, shit he was doing it again. Losing himself too much. Losing control. Losing his fucking mind.

He had indulged in that particular kink all of four times his entire life. It took him years (fucking years) to be okay with it, and another year after that to even try it. He loved it. Loved doing it. Absolutely hated how he felt afterward, when the guilt and panic started to overtake him, threatened to drag him back...

Jim pulled off Spock's cock with a loud gasp and hid his face against Spock thigh, trying to get some control over himself again, trying to find where he lost his goddamned mind this time and back-track. Trying to calm the fuck down. He was panting heavily and trembling, and his hips were still abortively grinding down into the mattress.

What the fuck was going on with him?

Breathing slower and more deliberately, he lifted back up and carefully wrapped his lips back around the head that was a dark pine-green now, gently suckling with just his undulating tongue and slightly hollowed cheeks.

There was a slow burn of desire growing within-on-the-edge-outside-of him before it spiked searingly, making him freeze and shudder, like the dawning sun on a cold morning.

He jumped at the touch to the back of his head, and his eyes flew open, head tilting enough that he could see Spock's face.

(But of course he didn't take his mouth or hand away from Spock's dick... Couldn't really... Should've really...)

Spock was awake. And staring down at him, one hand gently cupping the back of Jim's head.

His expression was bleary, hair sleep tousled, but his gaze was glittering, impenetrable, and focused, perfectly aware of and very interested in what Jim was doing.

'Hey,' Jim thought he should probably say if he would just remove Spock's dick from his mouth.

'Good morning,' he might follow up with.

Instead he stared at Spock staring at him and the back of his neck burned. All the way down his spine it burned. From the base of his skull to the swell of his tailbone. It was an embarrassed, caught-in-the-act-red-handed, needy burn. Jim knew he was bright red with it.

Unlike Spock, who had just woken to his captain blowing him like a desperate slut and only had a blooming of jade coloring his ears and the apples of his high cheekbones.

He said nothing.

Jim said nothing.

And then Spock very delicately, very deliberately, curled his fingers in the hair on the crown of Jim's head and pressed down.

Jim keened and relaxed his jaw, watching Spock now staring at his cock sinking past Jim's swollen lips. When the head slipped into Jim's throat, Spock's eyes fell closed and he tilted his head back. He sighed. His fingers loosened and the hand above his head twitched, fingers slightly fisting just for a second. It was the only indication that he was hovering precariously in the vicinity of losing his own control.

Jim understood.

Jim understood.

He slowly pulled back until he was chastely kissing the very tip of Spock's cock, resting it against his roughed-up lower lip, compulsively lapping at the wet slit. He shivered, shuddered, took a deep breath, and started again, Spock's hand a comforting weight at the back of his head.

He could make Spock come like this. Jim could totally come like this. Hips slowly grinding into the mattress and Spock's cock weighty on his tongue. Spock's hand encouragingly at the back of his head. Spock laid out lax and passive, when the night before he had been coiled and aggressive.

Jim was nearly ready to come like this. Very ready. So close.

But that cavernous need in his gut decided to rear its roaring head and make itself known again. Jim's plans hung a sharp, desperate left.

With a jerk, Jim heaved his knees up under himself and scooped up as much of Spock's excess slick as he could from around the base - around those soft folds - with his filthy hand before reaching desperately between his legs and shoving two slippery fingers into his hole.

He had forgotten how sore he was until he was grunting around his mouthful at the achy sting and burn as his muscles protested, tensing up. But he didn't care. He didn't care how raw or sore or tender he was. He needed this.

He needed it like breathing.

So two fingers right off the bat, scissoring and tugging at his rim, giving himself a perfunctory stretch. He was still loose from last night. Loose and soft and pliable and wet. It didn't take much and he didn't have patience enough for anything else.

This time he didn't bother doing anything other than opening his mouth to drop Spock's cock from it, thick strands of viscous fluid hanging from tongue to tip.

Then he was scrambling up until he was crouched above Spock's hips, bracing his clean hand on Spock's stomach while he steadied Spock's cock against his hole. He pressed down and back, feeling resistance, ache, an involuntary tightening.

But the ridge of Spock's cockhead popped in and Jim's ass swallowed a couple centimeters of shaft before stopping at the thickest point. It burned exquisitely and Jim was forced to wiggle and twist his hips in small, pitiful circles to work past it, grind it into himself.

Once he was past it, though, he trembled and panted harshly, almost hysterically euphoric.

His belly clenched with strain and his legs nearly gave out, reminding him he was still bodily exhausted from everything.

So with slow, careful shifts, he dropped to one knee, and then the other, sliding just that much farther down and making quiet, mewling, choked noises. Not ready. So ready. Too deep too quick with not enough prep. It didn't matter. Not at all. Because from there, the rest of Spock's cock filled him easily. A smooth drop right down to the base.

And Jim nearly sobbed as he felt it in the back of his throat.

Beneath him, Spock was like a bowstring, pulled taut and held there.

Jim felt it under his palm, he felt it in the slightly curved line of his body. He opened eyes that he had squeezed shut in concentration and saw it in the way his head had stayed tilted back but the tendons in his neck popped and the hand that had been on the back of Jim's head was now curled into the sheets off to the side of Jim's knee. Most tellingly, it was in the way his hand above his head was fisted so tight the tendons on the inside of his wrist stood out. Or it was in the way his face seemed resolutely placid with his eyes closed, lips barely parted, and not a furrow to mar the illusion anywhere. But the hinge of his jaw bulged and everything was tight. Tighttighttight.

He was a bowstring beneath Jim, strung too tight, ready to snap at slightest tug back.

Jim melted down into the points of contact between them, where they were joined, the burning lines of skin touching skin.

His knees slid farther apart around Spock's hips and just the tiniest bit more of Spock's cock sank in.

It was pressure, pressure, pressure inside him, a dull ache soothed by the throb of pleasure from nerves lit up from that little bundle hidden behind his walls.

Jim had to force himself not to squirm, not to tighten right back up again, not to clench. He had to stay warm and loose and welcoming and pliant. Soft.

He wiped his dirty hand mostly clean with a discarded edge of the bedsheet still twisted around Spock's legs and now his feet were partially tangled in it too but it didn't matter because he could place his hands on Spock's sturdy chest, rake his fingers through the fur there, lean forward onto his elbows, bend himself in half like a frog, and press the gentlest kiss to the underside of Spock's chin.

Spock's breath stopped. His heartbeat continued to flutter against the inside of Jim's left thigh near the knee.

Then, all at once, he, too, melted.

Jim felt the wash of a gentle, satisfied haze against the back of his mind.

Spock sighed.

Jim pressed his lips to Spock's skin again, just under the curve of his chin.

He sat up, placing one hand on Spock's steady stomach where the muscles were tight.

His other hand found his cock that was plumped and interested but not raring to go. Half soft. He palmed it gently, just enjoying the sensation, caught between that and the feeling of Spock filling him out. A bizarre contentedness settled over him and he found he had absolutely no desire to do anything but sit there like that, softly petting his own cock just for the pleasure of it while holding Spock's cock nestled inside.

He didn't need to come. Didn't even want to. Kind of... wanted to... maybe stay like that for however long he could get away with it. Open and filled up with Spock.

There was the lightest touch to his leg, just above the knee, and his eyes fluttered open.

Spock was staring up at him with hooded, chocolate eyes, arm loose up above his head, hair sweetly sleep-rumpled across his brow and the pillow. Jim's gaze strayed to a greenish and dark-yellow spot on his shoulder, a recognizable set of teeth imprints. He remembered last night and the sweeping inferno of his orgasm.

His cock twitched in his cupped fist.

Fingers, Spock's fingers, rested heavily against his thigh. A thumb pressed to the inside of it just barely hard enough to be known. And Spock watched him.

Jim licked his lips, briefly sucking on his lower one. He wanted to kiss Spock again. Slowly. Savoring it.

But he was perfectly happy where he was. He squirmed just for the sake of it, reveling in the sensations of everything being soft and warm. He inhaled sharply through his nose at the rub of Spock's hard cock over his raw walls.

He closed his eyes and grabbed Spock's forearm with the hand he had been touching himself with.

And he moved.

Not a lot. Not barely a little. He ground his hips down, around, in tiny circles, deliberately clenched and released around Spock's dick. Needed to feel every bit of it inside him, rigid and fat.

Spock shuddered, a minute tremble Jim felt against the insides of his thighs. He pressed down hard, squeezed, felt the silky folds at the base of Spock's dick against his rim. Felt how wet they were, felt how hot they were.

A tiny moan bubbled up from his chest, rolled over his tongue and around the open space of his closed mouth.

Sparkler showers of pleasure danced down his spine.

He reached behind himself for Spock's thigh, thighs, gripped them tightly above the knee as they rose to meet him, brace him. He knew Spock was watching him, could feel his eyes burning, boring into him.

Jim moved. He tipped his chin up to the ceiling and arched back, tilted his hips to press and work Spock's cock up against his prostate. The slight curve, the thickness of it, made it easier. His body rocked minutely in time with his own sighing breaths that were too loud and too heavy in the confines of his quarters.

Pleasure, like a buzzing current, rolled through him molasses-slow as he forced himself to stay loose, open, softsweetpliant, to not clench unless he meant to. With each held breath and shuddery sigh, with each twist and tilt of his hips, with each shallow rock, Jim worked himself higher, riding the saccharine swells of— of— euphoria sweeping through him.

Never in his life had he felt like this, fucked like this. Slow? Sure. Shallow? Yeah. Riding cowgirl? Of course. Giving his p-spot some undivided attention? Heck yes. But... honeyed and patient and balmy and selfishly giving? Even when he'd been trying to date and get things right and be a good boyfriend, sex had never been like this.

'Making love,' Jim derisively thought, 'had never felt like this.'

He tried to hold them back, the silence around them too sacred to be violated. But the stiffer the pressure that was snug up against his prostate became as he rolled his hips like he was dancing to some unheard rhythm, the harder it was to swallow them down. Too loudly for his liking, Jim was quietly whimpering. High little "mmmhhp"s of pleasure were bridled behind bitten lips as they bubbled up from chest with every needy sigh.

Soft as they were, the sounds were loud in comparison to Spock's deliberately measured breaths. Their only competition was the slick noises from between Jim's legs, but they, too, were quiet and obscene only in the silence of the cabin.

Heat, and therefore color, bloomed across his cheeks and Jim squeezed his eyes shut so tight starbursts of light exploded behind his eyelids.

Suddenly, all he wanted was to come. His muscles were loose and jello-like, his ass wet and open and sucking Spock's cock back deep when Jim pulled off just a little. He was sweltering, choking on the cloying fog of pleasure he was trapped in. Balmy, burning, sweating, Jim felt like he was suffused with a fever.

And very, very abruptly, his felt tight in his own skin. Felt like there was a coil deep in his gut being wound up too much too tight. Even though his muscles still felt relaxed and pliant and soft, something deeper was strung out and ready.

The fever in his body rose...

Searing in intensity, it washed through him. He felt like he should be blistering with it. He gulped down air, nearly started to hyperventilate. His toes were tingling, losing feeling, and it was almost like he was going to come but a thousand times more disorienting, more overwhelming. He felt dazed and wrung out with pleasure, exhausted from heat and exertion.

He recognized it immediately. Knew that soon, he would break. But it had never (once again, never) been like this before. What he was feeling now was all consuming.

It had to be Spock.

spock. spock. spock.

It was too much.

He was almost sick from it, in a dizzying, clutching sort of way. His nerves were static.

It was too much.

Jim trembled. His thighs felt too tight. Too relaxed. Tingly. He was buzzing apart in his own skin. Nerves at the base of his spine fizzed, fizzled down the backs of his legs.

Was it going to be like this every time?

Jim couldn't handle it.

He wouldn't.


Would not.

Too much toomuchtoomuch.

He couldn't breathe. Was breathing too much, too deeply.

Distantly, it was almost like dying but with less pain. One hundred and twenty percent less pain. In fact.

And then he was coming.

His orgasm nearly surprised him as it crested and broke over him, surface tension dissolving, his every nerve awash in champagne-glitter sparks and thick muggy heat and it went on forever, twisted and squeezed out of him.

His body shook. He was chilled to the bone. His blood was burning. Goosebumps rippled across his skin. He faltered, he flailed and pitched forward. One hand clawed down the center of Spock's chest. The other hand curled around Spock's bicep with talon-like fingers.

The world tilted and Jim's eyes flew open.

His breath caught; he was trapped by inky pools like Spock was reaching into him to grip his heart, hold him in place as he held him in place.

Then Spock began to thrust, pulling out and driving his cock deep, careless as he haphazardly brutalized Jim's hypersensitive prostate. Jim choked. A hand found his cock and he nearly shrieked. Wailed. Wet. He was slick and wet and sensitized and not even hard. Jim was suspended in the middle of coming, toes clenched so tight his legs were nearly cramping. He could do nothing but hold on and try not to pass out as he was pulled higher, cranked taut, drawn out too thintighttrembling. He was hyperventilating on hitched breaths, punched out of him.

Spock jacked him short and tight as he found and rode out his own cresting wave, filling Jim full of cum and positively wringing another orgasm out of him right on the tail of his first one. It shattered Jim and his existence whited out as he floated through the shaky-painful good-bad aftershocks. Every breath hiccuped out of him, every muscle twitched, every touch stung - wastoomuchtoogoodtoofreezinghot.

When he drifted back to himself, it was with full, high definition recall of every single second that had passed, breathing so hard it hurt as his heart practically kicked through his sternum. It was vaguely, cerebrally nauseating. Dizzying. Like vertigo. Mixed with heat exhaustion from the sun's burning rays in the peak of summer.

They were on their sides, Jim curled in tight against Spock's chest, stuffed full of cum with Spock's cock plugging him up. His legs were loosely locked around Spock. And Spock was petting him everywhere. He was cradled in tight with one arm, and Spock's free hand was stroking up and down his side, his back, over his flank, down his leg to the knee, and back up.

It was grounding and Jim felt the jagged edges he'd splintered into settle back into something more the shape of himself.

If it was going to be like that every time they had sex, Jim wouldn't survive. He could feel it, in the pit of his stomach. Fear. A tiny knot, barely an inconvenience, but if left alone, it would twist and tangle and grow, until he was truly afraid of... this.

He wouldn't be able to handle it, losing himself like that every time.

"What is causing you distress, t'hy'la?" Spock murmured so softly it was almost like he hadn't spoken at all, but it still startled Jim.

He swallowed tightly.

How did he admit that intimacy, specifically this intimacy with Spock, terrified him?

How did he explain that away without bringing up everything attached to it?

The short answer was that he didn't. He couldn't. Not unless he wanted to hurt Spock, make him feel rejected and abandoned (for the who-knew-how-many-dth time).

"I, uh- Will— Will it always be that...intense between us?" He asked. His voice was raspy, throat burning from exertion, parched. The question came out more tentative than he'd intended.

"Eventually, the bond will settle. We will settle. Control, careful exploration, and time spent together will make it so."

"We have to learn our boundaries and limits together is what you're saying."

"Yes, and no." Spock shifted, drawing Jim in closer. Jim gasped as Spock's still hard cock moved in his overworked ass.

"You're still completely hard!" He breathed incredulously.

"Vulcans have no refractory period. Through a combination of environment, stimulation, and mental control, an erection can be maintained for extended periods even after orgasm has been achieved."

"What is it now? Have you had a lot of practice controlling your cock, Spock?" Jim teased tiredly, putting emphasis on the rhyme with a small pause between words.

"I do not wish to part with you just yet," Spock admitted, too gently for it to be anything but a shame-faced confession and Jim instantly felt like a heel.

"I—" Fair was fair. Honesty for honesty. He swallowed and his throat clicked. "I don't want you to. Not after that. Couldn't... Couldn't handle it if you'd pulled away."

Jim's confession was equally soft and raw.

He half-wished he could just not be.

Spock placed his hand in the center of Jim's back, palm warm and fingers splayed.

"When—" Jim started and his voice cracked. He paused to clear his throat. "When did you wake up, exactly?"

"Part of my consciousness had been aware as soon as yours was," Spock stated simply. "I felt you leave the bed as I continued to rest. I know you spent some time in the fresher. And when you returned you were determined and amorous."

"Oh," Jim said, quiet and a teeny bit embarrassed.

"Do not worry, my James. Your desire was mine."

"I've never done anything like that before. Honestly, it's always been a hard stop with anyone I've ever been with before. I had a chick try to wake me with a blowjob once and I reflexively punched her in the face when I woke up. I felt horrible because she was just trying to be nice. She thought it was an overreaction. She wasn't really any more understanding when I explained that it grossed me out. I had given her a black eye so I didn't really blame her. The guilt only made my anxiety about the whole thing worse. We didn't see each other again after that."

"Why did you desire it this time then, if it has bothered you in the past? Was it the reversal of roles in the experience?"

Jim bristled defensively at the questions but since it was Spock, and he knew - could feel it - that Spock did not ask from a place of judgement, he forced himself to take a cleansing breath and tell the truth.

"I'm not sure," he whispered, petting over the green welts he'd left on Spock's chest with his fingernails. They were buried beneath the whorls of hair there. "I freaked out a little over last night when I was in the head. It just hit me how out of control my life felt at that moment. A week ago we were just friends, Spock."

"We have never been 'just' anything, Jim," Spock interrupted. "It is impossible."

A small smile stole Jim's lips for a moment.

"I wanted control over myself, I guess. I wanted to know I could touch you and not lose my fucking mind. It clearly backfired."

He huffed a chuckle into Spock's shoulder.

"After that orgasm, I'll be lucky if I have enough mind left over to give anyone a piece of it should the need arise."

Spock hummed in acknowledgment.

"I also wanted to feel you. Last night, you pampered me and I barely got to touch you, to learn what you felt like and what made you feel good. And then it had been... Well, you know."

"And did you learn? Did you enjoy doing so?" Spock asked and there as a certain heat to his tone that had Jim lifting his shoulders up toward his ears.

"Yes," he whispered meekly.

"And if you were to wake in my position? How would you have responded? Would you have liked that? Or would you have had a similar reaction to that previous instance?"

"I—" Jim faltered. "I would have liked it."

He could hardly admit it. Could barely consider that if he opened his eyes to find Spock sucking his cock, that he would reach down to clutch him closer, spread his legs open for more. Not after...

It hit him then, that he was going to have to tell Spock today. He couldn't let it wait.

He tried to shoot up away from Spock, skin crawling and heart beginning to race.

Spock stopped him with a steel banded embrace, but the sudden movement was still jarring and jerked Spock's cock halfway out before Jim remembered. He hissed in a sharp breath and collapsed back against Spock's chest, his well-fucked ass protesting with a lightening-ache zipping up his spine.

"Maybe we should consider disentangling and cleaning up," Spock suggested lowly, reasonably. But more importantly, giving Jim an out. He was being careful with Jim. Which— Was nice. And terrifying. Uncomfortable. (Fuuuuuck.)

"Yeah, yes, absolutely. I'm all tacky with sweat. Why don't you ever get sweaty?"

"Living on a desert planet and wasting fluids in such a way would be pointless, would it not?" Spock raised a brow at Jim. "It is just not how Vulcans evolved."

Shifting Jim gently onto his back, Spock cradled Jim's hips in his palms as he slowly withdrew his cock from Jim's ass in one continuous pull. Jim grimaced at the sensation and, once he was free, he wiggled to the edge of the bed to stand up, planning on heading to the fresher to clean up.

As soon as he was upright though, his hole quivered and clenched and a gush of hot fluid trickled down his leg. He froze and his whole body burned, skin tight and crawly and uncomfortable. His hands balled into fists and he ducked his head, knowing, just already knowing, that Spock was watching him. His gut squirmed and flopped around like a dying fish searching for water.

There was a delicate, steadying touch to the outside of his leg and a cloth was pressed to the inside of his knee, sliding up and catching the mess from his skin. Jim gulped and looked down. Spock was using the already-soiled topsheet to wipe him up.

He didn't want to, but he couldn't not. It would kill him, not knowing.

So Jim turned his upper body just enough to get a good glance at Spock from the corner of his eye.

Spock's gaze was intent on where he was pressing the sheet up between his cheeks, tenderly cleaning his semen from the surface of Jim's body. He noticed Jim watching him, flicked his gaze up at Jim from beneath his dark eyelashes, and leaned forward to press a lingering kiss to the side of Jim's hip. Jim's breath hitched.

"You do not know how much it pleases me to see you so full of my ejaculate it drips from you," Spock whispered, his ears turning a dark jade. "I am currently resisting the urge of every instinct, every thought, that demands I pull you back into my arms, lay you out in our mating bed, and keep you plugged full of my semen."

Jim released his breath like he'd been hit in the gut. He adamantly ignored the way he flushed with heat, every cell in his body suddenly interested in that scenario.

"We should—" He coughed. "We need to clean up."

Spock kissed him once more on the back of his hip before joining him on his feet, dragging the ruined sheet with him and balling it up. Jim went toward the fresher and Spock went toward the laundry chute.

Jim had been planning on a cursory cleaning - a wet cloth to wipe up the worst of the mess, a quick sonic to get rid of the tacky, crusty feeling on his skin from his sweat - but Spock joined him with other plans. He carefully took the warm cloth from Jim and began mopping up and rubbing away the worst of it, which, yes, meant cleaning down the crack of his ass and up between his thighs.

The whole time he stared at Jim with that hooded, glittering gaze that radiated some kind of content smugness and a baffling amount of heat. Jim stared down and to the side, bright red in embarrassment and completely unable to even glance up to meet that look.

Once Jim was clean, and stepping into the shower set on sonics, Spock rinsed the cloth again and wiped Jim's cum and an appalling amount of precum from his stomach. Then he gave only the briefest wipe down to where his cock was back to being safely tucked away. Jim stepped awkwardly out of the shower stall as Spock stepped in, trying not to hunch in on himself beneath Spock's assessing gaze.

He left the fresher, left Spock, and went to his closet where the spare sheet sets were kept on the shelf above his hangers of clothes. Tired again, and thrumming numbly, he only bothered with grabbing another topsheet. The pillowcases were fine, seeing as the only remaining pillow on the bed had been under Spock's head at the time, and the fitted sheet was just sweat-damp. So he returned to his bed, retrieved the pillow on the floor, and tossed the shook out sheet onto the bed in a pile.

Behind him, the door to the fresher slid open, closed, and then there was the hum of the replicator. Spock came around the partition with two glasses of cool, delicious water to find Jim staring dumbly at his own bed. Probably sensing that Jim's mind had drifted off, Spock offered him a water by touching the side of the glass to the back of the hand still holding onto one edge of the sheet. Jim blinked, saw the water, took it with his free hand, and stared at it.

"I suggest we climb back into bed and nap," Spock murmured. "It is early yet, and I find that the prospect of lying back down with you is much more appealing than any possible duties I might complete today."

Jim frowned at him, noticing he had already finished his water.

"Who are you and what have you done with my First Officer?" Jim joked, mustering up part of a smile, unsure how to take this side of Spock but enjoying it nonetheless. Spock met his gaze, open and serious.

"He has been put away so that I may unapologetically spend time with my t'hy'la."

Jim averted his gaze and gulped down his entire glass of water before throwing himself face down onto his bed. Not the best avoidance tactic since Spock just took his glass and set both aside before climbing over Jim onto the other side of the bed, laying down on his back.

And, hell, if Spock was seriously going to take a nap, Jim wouldn't stand for being uncomfortable while doing it. With some determined wiggling, he had them both under the clean sheet he'd tossed on the bed and he had cuddled up into Spock's side, head pillowed on that space between shoulder and chest. He put his hand on Spock's chest and decided he might as well add in a leg too, hooking one over Spock's knee and tucking the arch of his foot against the inside of Spock's calf.

With a heavy sigh, he let himself relax.

They laid there long enough he started dozing off, forcing his mind to float happily away from anything that might be even slightly disconcerting or negative. To just enjoy what he had in front of him while he had it. And he would have fallen asleep perfectly content that way if Spock hadn't gently curled his fingers around his wrist and held on, if idle fingers hadn't started circling the ball of his shoulder.

The epiphany— Could it be called that if he knew that he had left it somewhere deep and ignored and hidden and desperately intentionally forgotten? It was a truth he had made himself refuse to acknowledge. Was it an epiphany?

No, it was definitely more like forced insight.

His eyes snapped open and it tumbled out of his mouth, whisper-quiet in rapture and terror.

"I love you," he breathed, hardly holding himself back from bolting.

Spock's hand picked up from where it rested loosely around his wrist, and two fingers were under his chin, tilting his head, guiding him up as Spock dipped his own chin down to meet him.

"Taluhk nash-veh k'dular, t'hy'la," Spock stated back, and it was like he was saying, "I know."

Jim lifted himself up, feeling like maybe he had been waiting for that. He hovered over Spock for a beat of his heart, loud in his ears. Maybe they both had been waiting for it, from the other.

Their lips brushed and hovered. Jim inhaled, their mouths slotted together, and he sighed.

This syrupy slow meeting and parting of lips was what he had considered for their first kiss in the handful of seconds he had been afforded to even think about it. They took their time, moving languorously and just feeling the warmth between them, the tingling of their skin coming in contact.

When Jim pulled away, he was shaking. One arm trembled from exertion but the rest of him was doing it because of something else entirely.

"My Jim," Spock breathed, cupping his face. "What distresses you?"

Suddenly, it was like all the air was sucked out of the room and Jim found his mind hitting panic-flight mode. He had to go. He had to—

There was a thing. And that thing was a weight in his chest and a clawing gremlin in his mind. It needed to be free. He had to be free. He needed to peel his skin off and let it out. He had to get rid of the thing. Run or get rid of the thing. He couldn't be touching Spock.

Jim flung himself back, pulling his knees up to his chest and curling his arms around them.


Spock lunged for him and Jim had to resist the urge to fling himself across his quarters. He was also trying to resist the urge to claw at his skin or to punch something or to pull his hair out or— fuck he felt like he was spiraling out of control, like his mind was a fucking hurricane.

"Don't touch me," he yelped, and maybe it came out harsher than he had intended but it kept Spock from making contact.

"I'm sorry. Please don't be upset," Jim begged, whimpering, wanting to reach out but completely unable. "I can't stand it when you're upset. It's not you. Trust me on this. It's me! It's just me. I can't right now. I have to tell you something and I can't wait and I'm freaking out just a lot right now because I feel like I'm going to-to- suffocate on everything before I can do anything—"

"My Jim," Spock interrupted softly. "T'hy'la, you are working yourself into a fit. I am not upset. Please, try to take a deep breath and calm yourself. I will refrain from touching you, but I will not leave. Please, do not think to ask me to."

"I wouldn't, Spock. I wouldn't." Jim shook his head emphatically, clenching his eyes shut. He tried to take a deep breath, coughed. Couldn't get the breath out. It was stuck.

"Then, I promise I will remain and listen until you have spoken your piece," Spock murmured reassuringly. "Let me help you, t'hy'la. Tell me what you need, my Jim."

Jim coughed again, wheezing. He pressed the heel of one hand hard into his chest and tried to take a breath so deep it hurt his ribs and he thought he might swallow some of it and puke (augh, puking). He held it, plastered his tongue to the roof of his mouth and focused on the pounding of his heart, the constriction at the base of his throat, the ache all the way down through his lungs into his heart. He held it so long his eyes watered and when he let it out it was with a great series of dry coughs.

But when he finally took a deep, normal breath and let it out on a heavy sigh his chest felt less tight, his brain less tilt-a-whirly, his muscles less spring-loaded, and his joints less hair-trigger twitchy.

"I'm okay," he breathed. He closed his eyes and double-touched his thumbs to the tips of each finger on both hands - pinky to ring to middle to index, once all the way back down.

"I'm okay," he repeated louder, trying to drown out the little voice in his head reminding him that the last time he'd had to do this was 'sooo looooong ago, you were doing so well, what is wrong with you, why are you this way?'

With one last deep breath he squeezed his hands into fists and curled his toes tight, he clenched them as hard as he could and counted backwards from ten. On one, he released the breath and let go of all of the tension and panic and fear.

"Jim?" He heard Spock speak quietly, so near but not touching. Thank you, thank youthankyou. There was a tense question hovering between them, unvoiced.

"I'm not okay, Spock," Jim whispered, finally opening his eyes and meeting Spock's concerned, dark gaze with those coyly-tilted Vulcan brows pulled together. Spock frowned harder and Jim got it.

"I've kind of, in a way, always been really good at that whole faking-it-until-you're-making it thing," Jim explained, his throat tingly hot. A little itchy-dry.

Before he could say anything else, before Spock decided how he would respond to that, the vulcan was on his feet and on the other side of Jim quarters, hidden except as a vague, blurry figure beyond the opaque partition. He returned with more water that he thrust into Jim's hand.

Jim hesitantly took it as he understood that Spock had sensed or heard or saw his discomfort and jumped to remedy it.

"I can't have you touching me when I tell you," he said with a touch of realization. No matter how much Spock might want to try to comfort him. No matter how much Jim might want to lean into him. Jim couldn't have him in his head to see or feel or taste or smell or hear or... To be so exposed as though he were living it... Jim couldn't do that. Not to himself or to Spock.

Maybe one day.

Or maybe never. Maybe Jim would carry it to his grave (and probably bury the archive of it and all related material deep within Starfleet's databases before then).

"Only share with me what you desire to share, ashayam," Spock reassured, carefully taking a seat cross-legged on the corner of the bed. "I admit that I am curious and concerned about what you have to say, but if telling me is damaging in some way, do not feel obligated."

Jim cut a glance at him out of the corner of his eye and shifted around until he could prop himself back against the bulkhead. Spock hovered in his peripherals but Jim was staring through the partition in front of him.

"It's not exactly that easy, Spock. It's something you should know. Because..."

'Because you're one of my closests friends.' 'Because you're family.' 'Because I love you.' 'Because you said we're soulmates and if that's true...'

"Because... moving forward from here, you need to know."

There was a still, statuesque silence between them, almost like a living entity gone cold and hollow in the space from Jim's body to Spock's.

"When I told Bones, it was because he signed off on becoming my primary physician. We'd been friends for a while at that point and I felt like he needed to know. And I needed, absolutely, to know that I could trust him for sure ."

How to make Spock understand? How did Jim explain that if he didn't say something now, he never would? How could Jim organize the tangle of fear and vulnerability and hurt and frustration into words that made sense? What could he say?

"Lying is basically second nature to me. Lies of omission especially. It's so much easier to just...not say anything than to force myself to say something important. You reach out, you get burned or cut or worse in my experience.

"So I let people come to their own conclusions. It's too difficult to correct them anyway, and once a person has decided, you don't change their mind for them. It's...kind of manipulative and I hate that I'm like that. I hate that I'm so good at it, that I often do it to myself without even realizing. I hate that it's always the first course of action my mind jumps to, to twist a situation through omission and misdirection.

"I don't want to be like that. I don't want to feel like I have to be like that. I've had to recondition myself into not doing it, into being honest. So for me, it's a matter of principle, really. I need to tell you to prove to myself that I can trust you; you need to know because you need to understand the clusterfuck you're getting into with me at this point, and I need to force myself to step up and be honest with you."

Spock nodded once, a minute dip of his head to show he comprehended Jim's line of reasoning. Jim sighed.

"Keeping with that thread though, I have to admit that I have no idea where to start. How to even begin. What is necessary?"

Jim remembered the water in his hand then and took a sip, more for something to do than actually wanting a drink. He rocked from one side to the other in a subtle sidle closer to the wall.

"What is irrelevant?" He asked himself more than anything. Should he just get it out there? Should he lead up to it? Should he build it like a story, try to weave everything together to make sense from the outside?

"Well, you could always start at the beginning, and the rest should come until you reach the end." Spock's voice drifted softly in the near silence of Jim's quarters, like a floating curl of smoke.


Jim closed his mouth. He wanted to laugh. Just a little. And he felt a brief urge to cry. Kind of.

What should he do?

"The long-short of it, I guess, is that…" He faltered. Where was he going? "My mom wasn't around much when I was a kid, you see. Emotionally, for the first few years of my life, she was distant I guess. That's what everyone says. And from what little I remember, that makes sense. I don't remember her leaving the first time. I remember living with my grandparents. My dad's parents. Grandpa Tiberius was... He cried a lot at first. I remember him hugging my brother and me close and crying a lot. Grandma Aylia was just quiet. I remember that, and the first time my mother came home. We all went to the shuttle station to watch her come in from San Francisco so we could pick her up.

"But after that she just wasn't around much. She didn't go very far or for very long, but she came and went a lot. And then she remarried. It... After that it was like she tried to stay gone as long as she could. We were left with her husband who was basically a glorified babysitter, and he wasn't very good at it. Sammy- Sam and I didn't see our grandparents a lot after that."

Jim fingered the topsheet with idle fingers, suddenly feeling too exposed, too naked when before he hadn't even noticed. He dragged part of it over his lap and covered everything from the navel down.

"And this is all relevant. Trust me. It's... You have to understand how I got there, first. I don't really want to get into details but it's important. Okay? I know it doesn't seem like I'm going anywhere with this yet, but I— There's a reason. Alright?"

Jim didn't wait for confirmation from Spock.

"Anyway. Mom wasn't around, my stepdad was an asshole, and Sam... I wasn't affected like Sam because I was still young enough that I thought I could just be really, really good - at everything - and maybe things would just work out. Sam was four years older than me so he and Frank fought a lot more. Sam didn't have that buffer. Like I did. And one day he decided enough was enough.

"He left. Frank had just gotten a message from mom that she was going to be gone longer than expected. Months longer. Frank got pissed. He took it out on us, like usual, and Sam told him to fuck off. Then he just fucking did it, fucked off and left me with Frank."

One of Jim's hands clutched the water glass in his hand, the other twisted in the topsheet.

Sam had just fucking walked away from him, he'd said that Jimmy would be okay because he always was, because he was doing everything right and obeying orders. Keep your head down and shut up as usual. Standing out only for being overwhelmingly a good kid, because he was ahead of every kid his age in podunk Iowa. No one who mattered gave a crap about him, and no one who gave a crap about him mattered. Jimmy had never been okay, he just got really good at faking it. Really early.

"There was this stupid fucking car, an antique, that used to be my dad's. It was mom's after he died. But she never really... When she was around more, we would go for drives in it. She taught us how to drive it, before our feet could even reach the old pedals. Frank did the same in the beginning. Before he resented us. When he still thought my mom might love him, I guess. When he was putting in the effort.

"After mom called and Sam left... Frank wanted me to wash it, and he was going to sell it. That might have even been the reason him and Sam really got into it that day. I don't really remember. It's weird, how some things we remember with crystal clarity and others are just hazy recollections, even if they're minutes apart. ...Humans, anyway. I imagine Vulcans have better recall."

Jim snorted. Huffed, really. Like something that tried to be a laugh but died before it even manifested.

"So I was cleaning and I was just getting more and more pissed off. And I was sitting there in the driver's seat, wiping down something and the keys just fell, right from the flip-visor to my lap. We never had to worry about the car getting stolen, even in town, so the keys were always left in it. Only like, one person out of two hundred had any idea how to even start up an antique car, much less actually drive one.

"So the keys were in my lap and I— It's like something just snapped. I was staring at them when everything hit. Mom wasn't coming back. Sam had left for good. I was stuck with Frank. And he was going to just sell my dad's car like he had some sort of fucking right to it. And I was fucking cleaning it for him. I never put up any kind of fucking fight. I just let everyone walk all over me.

"And I decided then and there I was fucking done. It was like, 'fine, fuck. them. They didn't give a shit so why should I?' I trashed the car. Literally. Like tossing it in a dumpster, I drove it off a cliff into the quarry. I only survived because I bailed out at the last second. Just barely. I almost followed the car. Half of my body was just...dangling over the cliff. And I wasn't afraid. I knew I should have been, but all I could feel was this sick sort of satisfaction."

Jim paused to give a sardonic chuckle. He could still feel how his chest felt pressed against the hard stone beneath him, the way his heart thumped against the arm he used to pull himself back over. How his stomach swooped when he glanced over his shoulder at the remains of the car behind him.

"For the first time in my whole fucking life I wanted to fight. I wanted to go back home and see just how fucking pissed Frank would be when he heard the news. When he realized the car was completely fucking wrecked at the bottom of a fucking quarry. I wanted him to take a swing at me.

"I remember that so clearly. It was probably the adrenaline and then the- the acute anger I felt. Anyway, I pulled myself up and faced the copdrone that had been chasing me and when it asked for my name all I could think was that this was it. I was just so fucking done. I was... There aren't any words. Seething? Pissed? Furious? I was every level of anger and I just wanted everyone else to be as ticked off as I was."

Jim gritted his teeth against the whispers and echoes of it. It was a lick of fire under his heart, a band around his lungs daring him to snap. He was losing the present moment to it. He took a deep breath through his teeth and unclenched his jaw.

It was spite. Pure, unadulterated. He'd always been motivated by it. In little ways. When Winona ignored him, he had taken it as a challenge to be better, to be smarter, to be more like him - then as little like him - as possible, to get her attention. When people told him he couldn't, he proved he could, bigger and badder and better than everyone else. Then when people started to get used to that, he had to prove them wrong again.

"Anyway, I was put in lockup. And then no one came to get me so I had a long couple weeks to stew. See the deal was, my mom owned the car and she wasn't going to press charges, but I'd also broken the law and the government organization that owned the quarry was pretty pissed. Frank was fuming and apparently really drunk. Which made me happy. But he also refused to get me and mom couldn't come back down to do anything about any of it. So I was a temporary ward of the state."

Jim heaved a breath.

"My mom, she was in conference calls, though, trying to figure out what to do about me an my situation. The whole time. She was finding lawyers to talk to and trying to find a way to get me off the hook, which was kind of fucked up, but I mean, there were several charges filed against me and, I guess, talks that I should have been tried as an Intermediary Adolescent instead of as a juvenile. As an example or some shit, a warning. So my mom was trying and apparently, being an officer in Starfleet had a lot of swaying power. Then, since I was a dead hero's son and it was my first offense, the judge had been open to options other than being sent to baby-jail, a juvenile detention center. Which is where I would have ended up, unless I was charged as an IA. Then I would have gone to an Adolescent Secure Confinement Camp, which is like if a prison and a work camp met with a boarding school.

"The way the lawyer that came to talk to me put it was that I'd fucked up but not bad enough that the ramifications had to screw me over, as long as they could provide alternatives for my sentencing. I had grown into a real smartass during the whole thing so I threw out some offhand comment about just dumping me on a planet in the middle of nowhere and just forgetting about me. I was being snide and sarcastic, but the lawyer actually took it seriously or something."

Jim paused. He knew that it was now. Now or never. And things would change. To think that they wouldn't, that was just naive. He was about to shift Spock's view of him, and maybe possibly his worldview.

He steeled himself, forced his heart not to start racing before he could get the words out, and wrangled his voice into a controlled, even level.

"From there, my hearing was set and I went in front of the judge, and that was the first time I ever heard about Tarsus Four."

There it was. He'd said it. Or not quite. He'd said enough for Spock to start building up a rapid understanding.

Spock was unmoving, his mouth a flat line of stoicism and his unreadable dark eyes coolly gazing past Jim - right through him. Jim had to look away, down, at his hands. He didn't know what he was expecting but it wasn't that. Or maybe it was, and that's what hurt the most. He swallowed to dispel the knot at the base of this throat.

"I was on Tarsus Four, Spock." He confirmed in a crackling whisper, the direct admission immediately cracking open an aged well-of-emotion that still hurt, to this day - over a decade later - to access, like bubbling acid inside him.

He nearly laughed just to kill the dead air around him. Laughed, to keep from crying. Spock was only the third person in his life he had willingly told.

"Well, as far as big reveals, that one kind of sucked," he murmured to himself and took a sip of water, trying to clear his throat.

"They really talked it up, ya know," he went on, louder. "Made it seem like I'd go there and learn my lesson and better myself as a person, it was just a slap on the wrist, 'don't worry, you'll only be gone a year at most.' My mom tried to make it seem like some kind of big fucking adventure. I-"

Jim's voice cut out before he could continue, the hard knot returning to the base of his throat, bigger and suddenly choking him. The detachment he had been trying to carefully maintain was abruptly chased away by the stifling rush of pure hurt that was attached to the idea of his mother - the concept, the ideal, the reality. Never more so in moments like this. Like that. He had to rapidly blink to clear his eyes and take a deep breath before continuing.

"I guess that probably showed that she loved me. In her own way. Even though it didn't feel like it most of the time." Jim cleared his throat.

Winona had a complicated sort of relationship with him. Jim could— He understood her. Which meant that despite all of his hurt and anger and resentment and everything, he couldn't fault her. He hated her. He hated that he loved her. He absolutely abhorred the fact that even as an adult he still wished that she could just love him, for him, unconditionally, like she had Sam, like parents were supposed to love their kids. Their relationship would always be "I love you but—"

"Anyway, that's a separate issue all on its own. The point was, I was going to Tarsus Four to a podunk farming colony so I could work the fields, or whatever. I was enrolled in their prestigious school, which was the only reason I was actually allowed to go, and lived in the dorms and every day after classes were out I was escorted to a farm wherever someone needed a hand and I worked until sundown."

Here, Jim had to pause, to actively try to remember what it was like before the genocide and blood and bargaining and hunger. It hadn't been all pain and suffering and sometimes, that's what actually hurt the most about the whole experience.

"The really weird part about the whole situation was that I actually liked it. Everything was basically independent study and lectures. I felt challenged in all my schoolwork. And working in the fields made me strong and I had real experience with things. I was learning how to maintain and fix equipment, how to care for different crops, how to keep the soil right for growth. I even got to help with the animals sometimes, too. And I was able to actually incorporate all that into my schoolwork for classes. There were papers and projects and- I don't know. I was excelling against people on my level for once. I was at the top because I fucking earned it. I was pushing myself farther than I'd ever had to before. And there were people who gave a shit about me for once. Not because they needed me for something or because they had to for some reason, but because of me.

"I had real friends I could have conversations with and my teachers were genuinely interested in me. It even turned out I had family there, actually. An aunt and an uncle, no cousins. They were my mom's family. Didn't seem to like me much. I met them all of twice while I was there. But still. At least they even wanted to see me in the first place, you know. I would never have even known they existed without them asking around. Mom sure as fuck hadn't mentioned them. Maybe she had been planning on using them to keep an eye on me other something. Whatever."

Jim coughed, more out of shame for revealing too much too quick than he needed to. He was coming off way too needy and, yeah, he really needed to get to the actual point. Before he said something really stupid or too close to the heart. He was already unloading a fuckton. It didn't need to be a fuckton and one.

"So, things were good. I'd kind of reinvented myself. I was still me but like, way more mouthy, and I'd decided before even arriving to not take any shit from anyone anymore so I had a reputation to uphold. I was like a badboy-genius. People liked me and I was twelve when I got there, so I was just starting to think maybe I'd like to start figuring out the whole dating thing. There were girls wanting to hold my hand, enbies* that flirted with me, and this boy who kissed me on my thirteenth birthday who- well, anyway. I liked where I was at. I liked who I was."

Jim drank more water, trying really hard not to look at Spock. He couldn't again. Not after last time. Not when thoughts of that boy who had only been a year older than him were at the forefront of his mind. Not when all Jim could see, now when he thought of him, was every good moment overlaid by the images of his thin corpse eaten inside-out by the planet's rat-equivalents.

"...My time came and went for my sentence, and... Well, no one came to get me. I got a notice on my padd through the school. A flimsy was even delivered to my dorm from the City Hall with a stamp from the governor on it. I assumed my mom got one too, but no one came to get me. No one gave me a notice that they would, either. No one asked me if I wanted to go home, even. There was just nothing. Dead air. And this was before communications were knocked out.

"I was. . .disappointed—" It had fucking hurt, actually. "—but I had also decided that if it happened, I would just shut my mouth. So I lied when people wondered what was going to happen to me. I told them my mom decided to let me re-enroll and stay. I continued to live in the dorms as usual, since school was all year long on Tarsus with only short breaks between semesters and for holidays. Then I hacked into the systems to legitimize my lie for at least another year, hacked Starfleet records to copy my mom's holosig to sign off on all of it, and I changed my name in the system to JT Kirk. It was something a teacher had called me when I told her I didn't wan to be called 'James' and it just stuck. So I went with it. Nobody on Tarsus knew me as anything else.

"It was pretty quickly after the first semester of the new school year started that things got weird. It was like we'd just sidestepped into another universe without realizing. That's the easiest way to explain it now. Back then, we just knew something was off. All of us kids, anyway. Adults do this funny thing where they justify everything, so they won't see something is wrong until it's too late because they were too busy justifying all the signs pointing toward the disaster barreling down the road toward them. Kids don't do that. They haven't been taught how to yet. Haven't quite let go of the ability to trust their gut instincts."

For a minute, Jim wished the water in his hand was a beer and that he was at least a little buzzed, that there was a label to peel from glass so he could ignore Spock, unmoving like a gargoyle, ignore what was coming from his own mouth, ignore everything he was trying so hard not to feel.

"What do you— ...Spock?"

Jim hated that he needed to make sure. Needed an acknowledgment.

"Yes, Jim?" Spock answered, very quietly and very. . .blankly.

"You know about Tarsus, right?" Jim asked, voice choked just a little and he hated it.

"Yes, Jim, I am aware."

"Yeah, funny fucking thing about all that bullshit? It's all a fucking lie. A coverup. Sure there was a fungus, and yeah, Kodos killed a bunch of people, but it was so much worse."

Jim laughed. Or maybe he sobbed. Maybe he should have smothered it with his hand so even he wouldn't know which.

"I shouldn't even be telling you this. Any of it. You're not even technically supposed to know I was there without written permission. What I'm doing right now? It's treason. I'm breaking contracts right now. Legally binding contracts to Starfleet, to the Federation. Because this can't get out. None of it. Not yet. There were a lot more survivors than was let on. We all had to sign shit. We couldn't— can't talk about it until the statute of secrecy is up and the NDAs expire. That's why Bones had to get permission. There was a whole fucking review board and background checks on him. People had to interview him without him knowing to provide character references. Just so my primary physician could have full access to medical history!"

Jim forced himself to relax his hold on the glass between his hands, not realizing he was gripping it so hard until he looked down and saw how white his knuckles were, how red his palms were. He probably would have broken it already, if it had been actual glass. As it were, everything for space travel - and especially the Starfleet commissioned 'crafts - was made to withstand basic breakage. One ensign had slammed her face into her console when inertial dampeners had glitched during evasive maneuvers a few months ago and had cracked her eye socket. The console had been a bit blood-smeared but had remained unaffected. The touch sensitivity hadn't even been affected beyond a slight recalibration to reset it.

Good. A good distraction. No one had died during that encounter. The worst injuries had been unfortunate accidents in engineering. Everyone had recovered excellently from that.

He lifted his glass to his lips and chugged the rest of the water, which was most of it.

"People said Tarsus Four was hell. The media, people on the net with Opinions. Tarsus wasn't hell. There are no innocents in hell. Babies don't go to hell, Spock. Children don't die in hell. They weren't there. They have no idea. Besides, none of them had been given the truth. It was all truth-adjacent bullshit. Just enough that Starfleet wasn't brushing it under the rug, but not the actual facts.

"You see, a lot, a fucking lot, of the survivors were kids. After the initial killings, it was like twenty percent Kodos supporters, forty-five percent kids, and thirty-five percent people just keeping their heads down to survive. And the youngest kids were toddlers. Babies, Spock. I made a deal. I made deal after fucking deal, an endless existence of fucking deals, to make sure those kids were safe. I had this information after Starfleet finally came. A fuckton of information about what happened. I knew they wanted it, so I used it as leverage. Constantly. I held it over the head of every single stupid-ass fuck who came to speak to me about duty and nobility and fucking helping them. Like I owed them.

"I was able to convince some high ranking officers to keep everything really important a secret. Nothing public. Not until the youngest kid had aged out. They wanted it to be eighteen, when Starfleet legally recognizes humans on earth to be adults, but I wouldn't let up until it was moved to twenty-five standard years. I was one of the older kids. I'm just barely past that threshold. There are years left until any of has to deal with it. I wanted them, the kids, to be able to get some distance from everything before it was thrown back in their faces, to prepare. This way, they wouldn't have to grow up with something like that attached to their name and everything they did or didn't do."

Jim dropped his glass and pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes, trying to keep the tears he could feel building from leaking out. After everything they had lived through, they deserved that peace, at least.

"They were mine, Spock. For all intents and purposes, those kids belonged to me. They were my kids. My responsibility. I did everything I could to feed them and keep them warm and safe and as happy as they could be, all things considered."

He took several deep, shuddering breaths. He shivered. He tried not to lose it as his seams were splitting. He felt like nothing could hurt him more than his love for his kids.

"How many children, Jim?" Spock's voice interrupted. Jim flinched, mind immediately jumping to every tiny body that quit working and every small light that flickered out in sad, wide eyes. How many had died because he hadn't been able to save them?

"What?" He croaked.

"How many children survived with you? How many escaped the planet because of you?" Spock pressed gently, a note of steel within the finely woven thread of his voice. It was the most emotion he'd displayed the whole time Jim had been speaking.

Jim shook his head.

"It wasn't just me—"

"How many?" Spock's voice was unflinching.

"...Fifty-three. Not including me, fifty-three kids, a handful of adults with us."

"That is fifty-three children who lived, who you saved, who were given a second chance when those whom they depended on failed them. That is an accomplishment at thirteen years of age that most adults could not have handled."

Jim shook his head again, more emphatically.

"I was fourteen. I was fourteen by the time Starfleet came. And there had been eighty-nine. At first. Almost a hundred kids out of the nearly fifteen hundred in the colony, a single hundred out of the seven hundred that were slated, a hundred rescued out of the three hundred left who weren't considered worthy, and I lost a third of them. Thirty-six kids. I wasn't enough for thirty-six kids."

Jim sucked in a shuddering, painful breath and held back the sob that almost burst forth.

"Jim. . ."

"Don't. Just. Just don't. Okay."

Jim couldn't speak. He coughed, tried to clear his throat, took in a sob of a breath.

"Jim. Listen to me," Spock said, and then continued when Jim began to shake his head again. "No, listen to me. None of that was your fault. You did the best you could with the situation you found yourself in. And your best was, and continues to be, better than not only your peers but those older and higher ranking and more experienced than you. You should have never been placed in a situation where it was your job to care for even one child, much less eighty-nine."

Jim squeezed his eyes shut and stifled a sob with one hand. It was true, untrue. It didn't matter. It had happened. He'd failed thirty-six kids and the families that would have claimed them if he had been able to do more to keep them alive. It was his fault they hadn't survived. He should have done more. There had been more he could have done, and he hadn't. Hadn't wanted to, and they hadn't lived.

"T'hy'la, please, may I touch you now?" Spock asked very quietly and so gently, desperately. "I wish to embrace you. May I?"

Jim flinched. He tried not to. Knew Spock had seen it and wished, hoped, pleaded that he didn't count it against himself. It wasn't him. It really, really wasn't. It was all Jim. Jim's fault. Jim's problems and issues.

"No. No, not yet. I'm not done. I haven't told you e-everything yet. I— I— haven't—"

Oh, great. And now he was really crying. At just the thought and accompanying fear of telling Spock the rest.

"Please, Jim, let us take a break and return to this."


"You are becoming a worrying level of distressed. Please, t'hy'la. We can—"

"No! Spock, I—" Jim's breath hitched, choked him. "I have to do it now. Like a loose tooth."

Jim took several gulping breaths.

"I just have to breathe," he whispered, mostly to himself. "Just breathe."

And then he had to organize his thoughts. Recall where he left off. Figure out how to get from point A to point B.


He wiped his eyes with the palms of his hands.

"So," he coughed a bit. "There were these... They were tests. All kinds of tests. They were introduced as new standardized tests specifically for the colony, to measure how well the community was doing compared to the rest of the Federation standards. Which sounded fishy from the get-go. And it was— They were for everything. Endurance testing, strength testing, agility testing both physically and mentally, intensive brain gymnastics... And everyone had to get physicals. Weirdly invasive physicals. They looked over everything inside and out. We were all really uncomfortable with it but since we all had to go through it we just kind of laughed it off, you know. Because if we all had to do it, it wasn't that bad.

"Then came the blight. I started noticing it before anyone else. At first, it was just the flowers in a few people's gardens. Negligible. The fungus. . ."

Jim felt himself detaching again as he focused on something else. His fingers felt numb and he touched them twice down the line with his thumbs. His nose and his lips and his cheeks - his face - lost feeling. No pins. No needles. Just absence. He shuddered. If his eyes had been open he would have stared at his arms until they felt like his again. This was better though. Better than what he'd been slipping into before.

Just focus on the facts, Jim.

"It started at the base of the plant, near the soil. It bubbled up from beneath the ground like little white blisters. Then, as it grew, it fanned out, like upturned, coned petals. Each little blister popped out farther up the plant until the whole thing was covered. The base would be just those cone-shaped curls, and the top would be spotted. All along the stalks. The blisters slowly grew into cones while the cones at the base began to pool and leak. It was a thick, dark brown ooze. It smelled like curdled dairy, sour. By the time the whole plant died, it reeked like rotten meat. Scientists on the colony were working to discover what it was when it was just the decorative flowers and plants that people had.

"Then I saw it on the edge of a field I was working in. The patch was isolated and we burned it down. It didn't help. That whole crop had to be razed and burned, the soil scorched. A few more fields had the same treatment. We thought that would be the end of it. Then Kodos made his first announcement.

"Food was to be gathered up and rationed. All viable crops were to be harvested as early as possible and placed in large silos with all of the extra food in the colony. Households were to tally their food stores and report them to City Hall so all the extra food could be distributed equally. Each week. People reported what they had, and then they were given what they needed. They were sending communications to Starfleet for help.

"That lasted a month."

Jim sniffed. Twisted the sheet between his fingers. Swallowed dryly.

"People began to wonder why no one was showing up after two weeks. They started trying to send out their own communications. Nothing was getting through. We were told it was an ion front passing between us and the nearest Starfleet relay station. And you know what is really just epically fucked up about that? It wasn't a lie. There actually was an ion storm. It was there for three weeks, blocking all communication. And Starfleet knew about it. But by the time it was gone, communication was knocked out all over the colony. Kodos was the only one who had access to working tech that could send out any information.

"So a month after rationing began, and two weeks after the whole communications thing, that was when everything came to a head. There were a few fights before that and everything was tense. Nobody felt like they could trust anybody. School was cancelled. A lot of kids went back home. The kids who were there from off planet like me were put under a curfew by the dorm administrators.

"Then we were rounded up."

A chill passed through Jim as he remembered the wake up call that morning, the sleepy way he and four other hungry boys were told to get dressed and then herded from the dorms, meeting with three girls and one enbie from the next building over, the eight of them being led by two police officers to the activities arena for the town. They had been assembled in the center, on the green, surrounded by the tiered seating. Blocked in.

"And that's when Kodos made his second official announcement."

Jim cleared his throat.

"'As you all know, our small community has faced many tribulations recently, from the blight on our crops to the ion storm blocking out distress signals to Starfleet. We have been tested the many years we have cultivated our little colony. As one, we have thrived and we have struggled. As one, we have proven ourselves strong and resourceful and resilient. For every trial we have weathered, as one, we have come back better.

"'This will be no different. We have faced adversity and we will rise from our own ashes like a phoenix, reborn and made stronger. The revolution will be successful. But survival depends on drastic measures. Your continued existence represents a threat to the well-being of society. Your lives mean a slow death to the more valued members of the colony. Therefore, I have no alternative but to sentence the majority of you to death. Your execution is so ordered, signed Kodos, Governor of Tarsus Four.

"'For those of you who show promise, you are given a chance to rise up and prove yourself worthy of seeing our bright, new world. In one month's time, one hundred of you who have survived and shown the most potential, duteousness, and yoke will be spared the slow death of beyond the haven. You will be considered as valuable as your natural betters. This is a mercy. But it comes tempered with vicissitude. Your execution on sight is so ordered, Kodos, Governor of Tarsus Four. I hope the best of you make it into our basilica of renaissance.' "

There was silence so deafening that Jim swore he could hear the ship breathing, alive around them. It stretched for several long moments. It went on so long, Jim's hands began to shake.

"Spock?" He whispered, determined to go on but unable to make his voice louder, to organize his words into sentences into thoughts into an explanation.

"Jim?" Spock's voice matched his in volume.

"You said in my dream that I was in a cold place. Snowy."

Jim paused for confirmation. Spock made no noise, and if he nodded, Jim didn't see.

"Tarsus was a lot like Earth. The plants were just off enough to be alien to me, the creatures weren't quite right, the sky was the wrong shade no matter what color it was, the air never smelled like I expected, but the axis tilted, so we had the same seasons. It was an Earth summer when I drove the car into the quarry, and an Earth summer when I was sent to Tarsus. I arrived in their Spring. My birthday was during their fall. The days were two hours longer. The yearly cycle a few weeks more than Earth's. They measured their school year with the planting year which means I was there right after it started.

"That first year passed, I turned thirteen, and things were okay. Kodos gave that speech nearing the end of the summer. He killed nine thousand people that day. They were partitioned off from the rest of us by forcefield. I watched as nine thousand people were nerve gassed, dropping into terrified, whimpering piles before being shocked to death. I had friends over there. My aunt and uncle were over there..."

Jim's voice had been steadily getting quieter and softer until the words were barely floating from his tongue. He swallowed but there was no moisture to wet his throat.

"After that, everything was chaos. I don't— I wish I didn't know the numbers. Just over fifteen thousand colonists. Nine thousand dead in minutes. Before that, handfuls of them were disappearing, dying, being taken in. I wish it were easier to track. I wish I could just say 'this is what happened at this time and after that another thing happened' but the reality is... Everything about it was a mess.

"People were being killed, but at the time it was a just a rumor, something said to make us afraid. It wasn't a lie. None of us knew until it was too late. And then nine thousand people were wiped from existence. Everything they might have been, might have touched, might have loved... All of it was gone in an instant with them.

"I was slated because of my allergies. They were too numerous. Kodos wanted me kept because I was smart. And then he wanted me killed later because I was too smart. Delinquent. I was on the side that he called merciful. Out of the twenty-five hundred of us, he had a place only for a single hundred.

"The catch was that we had to kill. How else to ensure your place, but to make sure there wasn't anyone else around to take it? Every single other person instantly became an enemy in that moment as the gas was settling over the bodies of thousands of our friends and neighbors and family. Age didn't matter. Children were as fair a game as the adults.

"Everyone lost their goddamned minds. The guards were mobbed and their weapons were turned on the colonists, people were ganged up on and beat, children were trampled. Some people ran. I ran. People— Kids started following me. I grabbed anyone I could and in the confusion we made it out. We didn't stop until we were on the other side of the colony, hiding in an empty farmhouse."

Jim's whispered recollection faltered. There was too much. The memories threatened to overwhelm him. He swallowed several times in a row. Gulped back tears. Tried to breathe normally instead of falling into gasps and sobs.

"People were dead everywhere, Spock. It was messy, so messy. Trying to— Trying to explain, to tell you, to make it understandable... There was so much violence and— and- suddenly people were relying on me in the middle of it all because I was the smartest person in a two mile radius because everyone else was dead! I had no idea what to do. I wasn't that smart. There were others who were smart too, to survive the initial cull. I don't know why they chose me! I didn't want that. I didn't—"

Jim choked back his approaching hysteria with a strangled noise.

"And there's so much I'm not telling you, leaving out. We'd be here for months if I even tried. My official statement on it all is in video format and it took most of my treatment to finish it. It was just constant interviews and— Everything seems so neat when you learn about history! I remember before Tarsus that history classes always made sense. The timelines, the events, the factors and numbers and statistics and- and propaganda... Conclusions and theories and all of it made sense.

"Even now, looking at it all, reading the investigative reports, the statements and evidence. It's hard to— to... See it clearly. Eventually, scholars and historians will be able to organize it all into neat little boxes and events on a line. They'll debate and argue, and it'll all end up understandable. And it'll be my life. I'll be a figure, a number, a statistic. An icon. An event.

"I don't know how I feel about that."

Jim abruptly shut up. Spock was silent.

Jim's fingers shook. He fisted the sheet in his lap. Pulled it taut between the two points of his fists.

He took a deep breath.

"We weren't safe. We were attacked. We were caught. Ratted out and turned over. For some reason, we were given to Kodos' scientists. The kids, anyways. The adults were killed. They did experiments on us. I didn't know for how long. I don't know what they were trying to learn. It was two weeks. It felt like forever. Then we had a chance to escape.

"We got angry and when the opportunity presented itself, we took it. We were so angry. So scared and hurt, and angry. I felt possessed by it. Like an animal. An unholy demon from the old religious texts.

"There were... There were nine of us that made it out. By then, Kodos' experiment was over. Another two thousand were dead. We ran into the woods and we didn't stop until we found a cave system. It was safe and hidden, so we stayed there. We ate the small animals that lived there, raw, until our stomachs stopped hurting. We puked, and we did it again. And when we felt more human, we started venturing back into the developed lands to forage.

"And then we got angry again."

Jim blinked. The world around him briefly faded out, blurred into that moment when they snapped again.

There had been these siblings. A brother and a sister, close in age, and what looked like another, older brother, dead, blood soaking into the carpet from the way half his skull was caved in. And there had been a group, seven. Older, stronger, adult, mostly male. Reedy, thin, hungry for more than food. Jim's blood boiled. They had been kids, younger than Jim, younger even than Xuli, who had seen them and stood frozen in the corner. Seven, passing tiny, emaciated bodies around for amusement, pleasure, laughing and sneering at their cries, their struggles, their fear.

The nine of them had burst into the room of the house, a three-door living area. They had surrounded the room, Jim and three others at one door, the other five at the other door. Once inside, they froze. Everyone froze. A few of the men leered. Nobody seemed to have been expecting what they were suddenly face-to-face with. Jim's blood flash boiled, iced over, hardened. He blacked out.

He blinked again and his mouth was bloodied, dripping it. His knuckles were the same. He was shaking. Couldn't stop shaking. At his feet, it was the man who— He was gurgling. One side of his face was swollen and bloody. There were scratches on his throat and arms. He was bleeding from his throat. Jim spit. Clenched his aching fists.

Thomas was with the kids, gathered them close and covered them with a blanket. Rulia was at his back, bleeding from her hairline, knuckles matching Jim's. Troan, Krey, and Jiro were around Thomas, a barrier. Xuli was still in that corner, trembling with wide, tearful eyes. Terrified. She understood too much. Jacquean and Garrhett were causing a racket on the other side of the third door before they burst back through, chests heaving and splattered with blood. Jacquean's eyebrow was split in the corner, leaking down her face, jaw, throat, into her dark hair, wild around her face. They were the oldest and when three of the group had run to try an escape through the window in the tiny room through the third door, they had given vicious chase.

Seven adults to nine kids.

"There were others like us," Jim said, surprising himself with how steady his voice was with the way he kept vibrating with pent up... "Escaped, surviving, scared. We took them in, made things a little less scary in numbers. The cave became a hideout. It made it harder to find food sometimes, but it gave us tenuous safety. And the nine of us - my friend Thomas; our classmates Rulia, Jiro, Troan, and Krey; little Xuli who I tried to convince to stay behind; Jacquean and Garrhett, who I knew from the fields— the nine of us who escaped together, we fought back every chance we got in every way we could.

"Kodos wanted us dead, thought we were burdens to society. So we lived. We stole, we hacked, we killed, we survived in spite of him and everyone who supported him, and we collected every bit of evidence we could of the things that happened. I made the other eight write everything from our outings down on salvaged padds. I made them keep backups on thumbnail drives and we hid those in the caves. If anything, there would at least be evidence of what had happened, evidence of us.

"We weren't— Nothing was okay, but at least we were alive and doing something."

This next part...

This is where things became infinitely harder to talk about, to say out loud, to admit to. The first time he'd been so brain fogged, so exhausted and drugged and dissociated from it all, that it had flowed easily once he had started. The second time had been like pulling his finger-and-toe-nails off with pliers - excruciatingly painful, terrifying, frustrating, and drawn-out.

And those were the only times he'd had to. The first time was willing, the second time his trauma specialist had coaxed it out of him bit by bit over the course of months - more than a year. Bones knew from reading about it. He had tried to bring it up all of once. Jim had disappeared for three days. He didn't try again and only relied on the files he'd been given access to.

Jim cleared his throat, took a deep breath like he was about to sink under water, and plowed on.

"When it began to snow, food got scarce. The animals were all hibernating and their dens were hard to find. The ground started to freeze, so we couldn't dig up the roots we'd found that were edible. We had picked over the outskirts of the settlement. The only place we had a chance of finding anything else was in the urban sectors. Kodos was still having them patrolled for escapees. And there were still people hiding there. We knew it from coming in contact with a few who refused to come back with us. Smaller groups. Rivals.

"It was so cold and you get hungrier when you're cold. We had filled the cave with blankets and rugs and pillows. We had created a firepit underneath an open shaft in the ceiling of the main cave. We drank boiled snow and broth from the little vegetation our human stomachs could handle. Our only chance of finding food to survive through winter was if we could get to the sealed food hidden away that hadn't been gathered up, either by Kodos' men or other survivors. It wasn't enough."

Jim paused, forcing himself not to breathe heavier. He had to get to the end. He wouldn't be able to if he fell apart in the middle. His voice was hoarse.

"I went a little farther in than we'd been pushing, looking closer to the inner circle for houses that hadn't been picked clean. Kodos' patrol forces were in the area. I got careless, thought I was hidden. There was this guy, sweeping the house I was in. He found me. I'd tried to hide but he had found me. And he was going to kill me—'

JT froze and carefully crawled out from his hiding spot under the nose of a phaser rifle. Outside, JT could hear the other guards sweeping other houses, knew what would come next if the young man in front of him opened his mouth. But JT couldn't stop him. Not quietly. Not quickly. And JT was alone.

"Please," he whispered, barely loud enough to be heard in the near-deafening silence of the house.

The man's hand shook on the trigger. He opened his mouth. Nothing came out. JT had no advantage. If the man didn't act, if he was found out to have let JT free, he would die instead. His life or JT's and JT knew what he would have done. Maybe. He wished he could say he wouldn't, definitively. But here he was, and if he had been the one with the upper hand he couldn't say he wouldn't have killed the man.

He didn't though. Couldn't rise up and disarm him without possibly alerting the others patrolling. He was alone, weaponless, and on his knees in front of a phaser.

"Please," he begged, breathed, closed his eyes and licked his lips and hoped he wasn't shot.

When he opened them after a beat he met the gaze of the man, who was staring at his mouth. JT knew that look. Maybe he would live.

"I told him that if he let me go, if he didn't tell anyone I was there afterward, that I would suck his dick."

"Jim," Spock croaked, plaintive.

"That was the first time. He told me if I came back in two days, he'd be in that house with food."

A beat.

"I went back. I kept going because he kept bringing food and I needed it. Thomas found out, followed me. After that, he didn't let me go alone. Eventually, we needed medication. Some of the younger kids were getting sick. I offered more.

"I figured— ...It was my choice. There's always a choice. As long as there were alternatives, as long as I always had a choice— It was different. I didn't have to do it. People, my kids, would have died from sickness. But I didn't have to do it. I did because it was an option. There's always another option. It just depends on what you're willing to give up. Keeping them alive was more important. Staying alive was more important. It was an exchange, goods for a service. As long as I was the one making the decision, it wasn't that bad."

Jim's voice broke, cracked on the last word.

"Then he brought someone else along. A buddy or something. Another guard. They had antibiotics and a whole backpack of sealed food. If they both got a turn, it was mine. I think they knew I was protecting others. After Thomas showed up, it was kind of obvious.

"By then, I needed it. The littlest ones, Kevin and Deelia especially, they weren't doing too good. Four babies had died already between the first time I asked for medication up to that point. There was protein powder and formula and fucking real antibiotics. We needed it so bad at that point.

"That's when things went south. Thomas... There were others outside. A patrol out looking for them. They'd been gone too long or something, I'd thought. And Thomas heard them coming closer before me. It all happened in a blur. Thomas killed one, the guy who'd been meeting me. Then he knocked his buddy down. We tried to run. We were spotted. I made Thomas take the pack and run, to go back to the caves. I ran the opposite direction. Towards the inner circle. They followed and caught me. By then, the guy's buddy had joined them."

'You little fucker! I fucking swear you'll fucking pay for that! You killed him! He put his fucking neck out to help you, you little fucking slut, and you let your creepy little friend kill him! Oh, you're so gonna fucking pay for that. We were being nice, you whore. Now I'm gonna show you just how spoilt you were. By the time I'm done with you, you'll wish you were dead with your little pussy friend. And this time, you're not gonna get a fucking thing out of it.'

"They were pretty pissed that we'd killed one of them. They beat me and dragged me in to see Kodos. He had me cleaned up and sat in a comfy little room with a giant-ass desk, like he was trying to tempt me or threaten me or intimidate me or something. Fuck him, you know. He swept into the fucking room, like he thought he was some divine royal, and started telling me how glad he was that they found me, that I'd survived, how he'd kept an eye on my schooling, my test results, how unfortunate it was that he'd had to slate me.

"And then he tried to fucking convince me to trade places with another, a life of luxury for the death of another. It didn't matter how much I hated him, how much I hated every single complicit fuck who didn't fight back. Fuck all of them. But I wasn't going to do that. Because what if it wasn't one of them? What if it was a kid who didn't know any better because their parents were fuckheads? What if it was a parent who had fought for a place just so they could save their kid? Because knowing Kodos, he'd do that. Pick the saddest sob story and shoot them in the back to keep me close."

Jim gave a sardonic chuckle.

"I told him to go fuck himself with a cactus. He locked me up, maybe hoping I'd come around or something. Fat fucking chance. I broke out two days later and snuck into the place where they controlled the subspace transmissions. I sent an emergency vid to the head of Starfleet Command, the Federation President, and to Commander Winona Kirk.

"Kodos caught me when I tried to find more prisoners afterward. I knew there had to be more, more experiments. Kodos was furious. It only got worse when I told him what I'd done. He threw me into a different, impenetrable cell and let his supporters do whatever they wanted. Then I was left, completely alone. Barely fed. By the end of the week, Starfleet arrived in the middle of a riot and I got out.

"And the last I ever saw of Kodos was him lying in a pool of his own blood, missing most of his face. You see, he had this antique revolver in his office. A reminder of the brutality of man before the Third World War and first contact. He kept it loaded. Fully functional. He had even used it once.

"Phasers are... So much less visceral. When it comes to killing, a phaser hit is nothing compared to the crack of a bullet. I unloaded every chamber into his head. The first through his eye. The second and third were dead center. I couldn't stop after that. My ears were ringing and I'd just blanked out.

"That's how Starfleet found me."

Jim squeezed his eyes shut, fighting against the surge of emotion, the riptide of memory that threatened the edge of his consciousness.

"So that's what you saw in that dream. It was Tarsus. I'm terrified of that place. I hate that I am but I can't shake it. I can control it most of the time, but it sneaks up on me. I know I'm not exactly fit. But I've made it this far. And I'll keep going as long as I can, until I die if I have to. I'll never be okay. But I'm fine because I've fought really fucking hard to get there, despite that it all comes back around to fuck me up every once in awhile.

"And at this point, I can pretty much just ride it out, let it run its course. Which is what I've been trying to do. For some reason, this time it's been a lot harder."

Jim paused, hesitated. He was unsure whether it would be beneficial to voice this next part.

"Maybe I'm overwhelmed," he tentatively continued. "Between getting sick and everything that followed, maybe it's just too much for me to process subconsciously, so it's taking longer, being more difficult."

Spock made a soft, pained noise, the kind that felt like a punch to the center of Jim's chest.

"If that is true, I fear it may be my fault," he said and Jim finally turned to look at him.

Legs crossed, hands clamped tightly around the knobs of his knees, tears gathered in his eyes at the edges of green-tinged rims, face a tight moue of sadness and horror... Jim lost his breath like he'd been run through the chest with something chilled and sharp. His heart clenched.

"Spock," he croaked, guilty of once again making his First Officer, his Vulcan - his fucking soulmate - cry.

"No," he affirmed in a whisper. "Nonono…"

He crawled across the bed straight into Spock's lap, dragging the sheet with him and dislodging Spock's hands which hit the bed, hanging dejectedly with the slump of his shoulders and the aversion of his gaze. Jim stopped him, cradling his jaw with both hands and tilting his face back, up, to meet him. Tears trailed down Spock's cheeks from warm, sad eyes gazing apologetically into Jim's own, begging forgiveness and seeking redemption. For what, Jim didn't know.

Tarsus was shoved back into the locked box he kept it in.

"Hey," Jim urged, thumb caressing the aggrieved pout that Spock's lips had twisted into. "None of this is your fault. They're my problems. Their existence and how I deal, or don't, with them has nothing to do with you."

"James—" Spock tried to protest and Jim shushed him.

"Spock, listen," Jim implored. "Baby, this, none of this, is on you. Not a single thing. You didn't force me to tell you. And you couldn't have even if you had tried, yeah? There's nothing you can do about me having nightmares. They come and they go. That's just how it is. As for you loving me, that isn't your fault either. It isn't an inconvenience. If anything, it's a goddamned miracle—"

" James— Please, do not."

"Up against Uhura, I have no idea how we ended up here." Jim's lips curled into an involuntarily sarcastic smirk.

Hot hands angrily gripped his waist and Jim found himself jerked forward, Spock's face mashed to the center of his chest.

"Do not," Spock growled. "You think to compare yourself to her. I love her, will always love her. She will always be important to me, bonded closely to me. You will never be able to touch that part of me."

Jim knew he should have expected this. Did, actually. That didn't make it hurt less.

"I can live without her. I have tasted her laughter and shouldered her sorrow and pain. I've drunk deeply of her beauty. We learned one another in ways only those bonded in marriage do. And if I were to lose her, I would live. I would hurt but I would live. If I were to lose you, t'hy'la, I would die. Even if my body continued to breathe and my heart continued to beat, I would die. I would lose a piece of myself and it would be permanent and hollow."

Jim slid his fingers into Spock's glossy locks and held on under the gravity of this moment.

"You will never touch what I have with Nyota, but you will encompass it. You have already woven yourself into my very being, James. You will surround everything that I am, and I will you. For you to compare yourself to her in such a manner—"

Spock rumbled.

"Especially after revealing such things."

Spock tipped his head up, pressed his forehead to Jim's jaw, and huffed.

"Do not seek to console me for loving you, as though you are beneath it. Taluhk nash-veh k'dular, t'hy'la. I cherish thee, more than life itself."

Spock surged forward, pushing Jim back, down into the twisted sheets and following him.

"I cherish thee," he whispered into Jim's neck, pawing the sheet aside until there was nothing separating them once again. "I treasure you. I will safeguard what you have given me, beyond death."

He blanketed Jim with his inferno of a body, skin lighting up Jim's nerve endings and making Jim arch up into it.

"I have never been more wrong about a person in my life. For every offense I have committed against you, ni'droi'ik nar-tor. Please forgive me. Please."

"Spock," Jim murmured, not sure what he could say to that.

"If ever you decide to show me, I will be honored with your trust in witnessing it. I am sorry. I understand, now, just how out of line I was to say the things I did at your hearing."

"You didn't know."

"That does not excuse my behavior. I was condescending and provoking and it was obvious already from your repeated attempts at the Kobayashi Maru that you had taken it personally. There was a right way to handle the situation and my response was not it."

"I cheated. I broke the rules."

"You continued to fight in the face of certain defeat. You faced death and refused to accept it as the only option. You showed honor. We were in the wrong to continue to let you try to find the other option in a test that had no other. It was only a test. Nothing more and nothing less. You should have been commended for creative thinking when you beat it and your behavior should have been flagged and addressed one on one in a private setting."

Jim's previously warm mood soured and went cold.

"Don't think to give me preferential treatment now. Nothing has changed," he spat.

"Everything has changed," Spock breathed, hovering over Jim in a way that bracketed him in between his arms. He gazed hotly down into Jim's eyes, his thick black hair falling forward just enough to dishevel his bangs even more than they were before. Jim froze, his ire dissipating beneath that look.

"I see you, now. I know you. What I see is devastating. You are a brilliant, brave, beautiful being who deserves to be treated as such."

And Jim was weak.

Anger forgotten, he surged up against Spock. It was impossible not to kiss him after praise such as that. Jim was weak and now Spock knew. (But maybe that was okay.)

Spock deepened the kiss, devouring him in a breathless tangle of tongues. Jim whimpered under the assault, fingers clinging to his shoulders.

"Let me 'return the favor' from this morning," Spock murmured, moving down Jim's neck, lighting his blood on fire.

Jim was weak.

And helpless beneath Spock's ministrations.

But that was okay.

He trusted Spock.

Spock would be strong for him.

He turned his head and gasped into his bicep.


"You've gotta be fucking kiddin' me!"

"Hello to you, too, Bones."

Bones' eyes flashed dangerously and his lips twisted, twitching up slightly on one side in a smothered snarl.

"Don't you fuckin' start with me, Jim," he snapped before stepping beyond the partition and yelling in the direction of the fresher door. "I suggest you clear out 'til 'm done, Spock! Because I swear on my Pa's grave, that if I see your face right now, I will knock you so far out, your head'll spin and y'ain't gettin' up for a week."

"Striking another officer is grounds for court martialing," Spock calmly called from the fresher where he was presumably. . .freshening up.

"Who said anything about hitting you," Bones mumbled and stepped back around the partition.

"He heard you, you know," Jim said, watching him drop his bag on the bed.

"Does my face look like I give even half of a shit? Because it's lying, if it does."

The fresher door closed and they heard the entrance from it into Spock's room hiss open.

"Jesus wept, Jim, look at you!"

Jim shifted his crossed legs and straightened the sheet across his naked lap out to be less draping and more. . .covering.

"What? Everything important is covered."

"My god, man! Not that! I couldn't care less 'bout your junk! I'm talkin' about the bruising! You look like you've been attacked, Jim!"

"I mean. . ."

"Don't even go there! I don't need to know!"

"I wasn't going to say anything!" Jim defended and put his hands up placatingly.

"'Court martialing!' I should put in for him to be court martialed for this shit! Not even two days since you were released from medbay and I'm being called up here to look you over for what? What, Jim? Did he attack you? You need to tell me if he forced—"

"What the fuck, Bones!"

"He was actin' funny for days before you were released, Jim! Aggressive and possessive. And then I come here to see you covered in bruising like maybe you've been restrained! I'm more'n a little concerned! Fuck! I should've done sumptin' before you were released! Knocked him out or locked 'im up to prevent him from—"

"Shut. your. mouth," Jim enunciated darkly, blue gaze steely in a way that had Bones faltering in his anger. He was silent as he had a slight flashback to when they'd had Khan on board in the brig. "You have no idea what's going on between us and no fucking right to accuse—"

The heat of Bones' anger licked up the inside of his gut, flaring back to roaring life.

"I have no right!? I have more fuckin' right 'n most! Christ, Jim!"

Bones snorted, so furious he wanted to grab his friend by the biceps and shake him. Hard.

"You think I don't know what you've been dreamin' about! How long've I known? We've been friends what? Five? Six? Years? And I've known for a little less 'n that, you'd say? I know what goes on in that thick head of yours! An' I've known for awhile, now, that sumpin's been goin' on between the two of ya. How do I know y're not bein' takin' advantage of here? Y've been exhausted and vulnerable and y'ave feelin's for the damn hobgoblin."

Bones took a step toward Jim and jabbed him in the collar where there were teeth-shaped bruises clustered together.

"What do I have to go off, right now, that makes this —" He jabbed Jim again for emphasis. "—okay?"

Jim was stony and silent under Bone's tirade, dropping his chin when he was poked. He caught sight of the - frankly wicked - hickeys on his skin.

"Do you trust him?" He asked, very evenly and very quietly.


"I asked if you trust him. Spock."

"Well in what context are we referrin' to?"

"Life. My life. Yours. Do you trust him?"

Bones was silent. They both knew the answer to that. The three of them wouldn't have gotten along as well as they had so far out in the black if it wasn't an unequivocal 'yes.'

"And what about me, Bones? Do you trust me?"

"Same context? Because I gotta say, when it comes to hidin' something botherin' you, I don't have a lick of trust in you."

"So you don't trust me to know what's good for me. Is that what you're saying?"

"No. I'm sayin' I don't trust you not to throw yourself under the wheel for the people you care about!"

Jim was unmoving. Silent.

"Jesus, Jim," Bones whispered and nearly collapsed onto the bed in front of his friend. "This isn't— You scare me, Jim. Every goddamned day. You find new and interesting ways to scare the ever-lovin' shit outta me. Your heart's too big, kid. And that scares me the most, because it seems the only one outside of it is your own damn fool self. I've already had to bring you back from the dead once, Jim. There're no guarantees I can do it again. Don'— Don't make me try again."

They were quiet together, waiting. Until Bones saw it. A tiny, dark circle on the sheet across Jim's lap. Then there was the partially suppressed trembling. Bones' heart dropped into his gut.

"Ah, hell, Jim," he muttered and leaned over, throwing an arm around Jim's shoulders to pull him into his chest. Jim sucked in a sharp breath. His only response was to turn his face into Bones' shoulder, back heaving with his silent sobs.

"I wasn't tryin'a hurt ya, kid," he mumbled into disheveled, burnished gold locks. Jim gave a minute shake of his head.

"Weren't," he choked out, muffled into Bones' scrubs.

"Ah," Bones uttered. The other thing then. A different kind of hurt.

They sat in silence for several long minutes after that, Bones offering support and Jim trying to compose himself enough to pull away. Finally, with a small sniffle, Jim sat back and straightened up, eyes damp and red-rimmed. He took a deep breath and rubbed them with the heels of his hands while Bones waited just a bit more.

"We okay?" He asked when Jim exhaled with a loud whoosh.

"Yeah," Jim said, nodding. "We're okay. If you apologize for accusing Spock of raping me."

"Like hell," Bones snapped without any heat. "I have a right as your doctor and your friend—"

"Bones. It was uncalled for." Jim dropped his hands to glare at the doctor.

"Was it? Really?"


"...Fine. I let my fear get the best of me. I'm sorry for accusing Spock of behaving untowardly with you. Happy?"

"No," Jim chuckled without any mirth. "Not even close, right now. Furthest thing from it. But I do feel better. Was there a reason besides that, that you're here for?"

"Yeah, you nitwit. I'm supposed to be checking you over! Which is what started this whole thing."

"Might as well get on with it, then, I s'pose. Since Spock was the one who insisted and everything—"

"I get it, Jim. I was wrong. Christ on a cracker. . ."

Bones reached for his medkit and removed his medical tricorder to run it over Jim who sat patiently so the checkup wouldn't take longer than necessary.

"Well," Bones said after a moment. "As per usual for this type of activity, you've got some exhaustion and negligible dehydration, some muscle strain, and just your average, run-o-the-mill bruising. Onto your stomach."

"Bones," Jim protested. "C'mon. I'm fine. Right?"

Bones shook his head. "As the CMO of this ship, I know a bit about Vulcan biology. Onto your stomach."

"This is ridiculous," Jim groused, pulling a pillow over and arranging it so he could throw himself over the fluffy mass and have it under his hips. Which he then proceeded to do, pillowing his head on his crossed arms, facing away from the doctor. Bones pulled on a pair of gloves and tapped the back of Jim's leg, the leg on the side of his body that matched the direction his head was turned.

"Knee," he ordered and, with an eyeroll and a sigh, Jim curled his leg up.

"Deep breath," Bones muttered distractedly, one hand placed at Jim's lower back and the other between Jim's legs. Jim took it, felt the press of a finger, released it as the finger slid inside, and forced himself to stay relaxed through the uncomfortable sensation of his best friend feeling around in his ass.

When Bones withdrew, he stripped his gloves and tossed them into the trash can still next to Jim's bed as he spoke.

"I'm gonna use the dermal wand," he stated and Jim lifted his head to look over his shoulder with a frown.

"What? Is there something wrong?"

"Not necessarily," Bones said, pulling the dermal regenerator from his bag along with a specific wand extension. And another couple gloves which he pulled on. "Minor tearing, swelling, abrasion... Exactly what I was expecting, but with how weak your immune system's been recently, I'd rather be safe than sorry. If I heal it all up right now, I don't have to worry."

"Ugh," Jim scoffed, dropping back down.

Bones rolled his own eyes and connected the wand before rolling a basic polyisoprene condom over it. Medical grade lubricant followed and he placed the tip to Jim's anus. His clean hand fell to Jim's lower back again and Jim didn't need to be told to take a deep breath before doing it. Bones slid the wand in all the way with one smooth push. Jim grunted in discomfort.

Then it was turned on and his discomfort levels went up about two notches.

"This never quits being awkward," Jim muttered into his elbow.

"Quit having rough sex," Bones said and Jim scoffed. "There're these little things called consequences, Jim. When you make a decision, you reap the consequences - good and bad. This just happens to fall closer to bad on that scale when it comes to your preferred bedroom activities."

"Shut the fuck up, Bones," Jim grumbled, lacking any animosity. The regenerator gave a soft, beeping jingle and flashed a little green light. Bones shut it off and gently worked the wand free of Jim's body. The condom was discarded, the wand placed in a baggie for cleaning later, and, after wiping up the slight mess he'd made on Jim's skin with an antibacterial wetnap, his gloves followed the rest of the mess into the trash.

"All done," he announced with a slap of his hands to his knees.

Jim was quiet for a beat and then he said, "I told him."

Bones frowned, trying to puzzle out what Jim meant.

"Spock? Told him what?" He asked.

Jim shifted up onto one elbow, turning partially onto his side to face Bones. He pulled the sheet back over his hips to hide.

"Tarsus," Jim whispered, dropping his eyes. "I told him about Tarsus."

Bones forgot to breathe. He went still like a small creature caught under the gaze of a larger predator. They never talked about it. Bones knew. Jim knew that Bones knew. But ever since that time, ever since that one time Bones had said the name out loud and Jim fucking dropped off the map for half a week, they didn't talk about it. As far as Bones knew, outside of his medical report and Starfleet statements, Jim had never talked about it.

What the fuck was he supposed to say?

"I have no idea whether that was a smart decision on my part, what with how much shit we could both get into for it. And for myself. I guess I'll find out with, like, time. But he knows. None of the details. I tried to. . .keep it to just facts, mostly. So he knows, but he doesn't like, know... "

Bones carefully breathed out, too tentative about this tiny window into this part of his friend to be loud, even with his breath.

"I don't know if he'll ever know. Do you think Starfleet would think it was weird to put in a request for my First Officer to have access to my unrestricted file? Would that seem suspicious in some way? I mean, I guess I could Maybe. Does it seem impersonal to just give him my file and then avoid him for a month?"

"I wouldn't recommend it," Bones croaked, still trying to recover from his shock. "Do you want that? Do you want him to know about all of it, Jim?"

"I—" Jim glanced up at him and then quickly back down, his hands fiddling with a fold in the sheet beneath him. "Not really, no. But also, yes. Just, kind of. I don't know. I'm. . .afraid, of what the information might do."

"Jim," Bones said, trying to convey reassurance and the deep affection he felt for his friend. He reached out and stilled Jim's restless fingers. "Put it down."

Jim frowned in confusion for half a second before it smoothed away into understanding. He couldn't carry this with him.

"You're okay right now. You let him know the basics. He's aware and right now, if that's what you felt was best, that's all that needs to be done. I'd say you'd already gone the extra mile here. You just got together. Kinda. Shelve it for now. Forget about it. Let yourself come down. Your focus needs to be on the ship and, I hate to say it, Spock. You have a new dynamic with him you're gonna have to learn to navigate around both as a person and the captain of this ship. Give yourself time and space to process, but don't hold onto this."

Bones leaned over and pressed his forehead to Jim's

"Don't do that to yourself again. Not after you've busted ass to get here. Self-sabotage is not a valid career choice."

A short laugh burst from Jim, a desperate edge of self-deprecation threaded through it.

He threw the arm he wasn't leaning on around Bones' neck and squeezed.

"What would I do without you, Bones," he whispered and pressed a dry, chaste kiss to the stubbly hollow of Bones' cheek.

"You'd be just fine, is what," Bones stated, sitting back. But Jim caught his gaze with his impossibly blue, limpid eyes and they shared an understanding, grave look.

"Alright, kid, I better be getting back down to sickbay to finish off my shift."

With that, he stood up and gathered up his closed kit. He'd pack it all back up correctly when he reached his office.

"Love you, Bones," Jim called out as he headed for the door.

"Love ya, too," Bones called back. "Oh! And let Spock know I'll hunt him down if you two can't control yourselves for the last few days I have you both off shift. You're both cleared for light duty. But if I have to do this again in any capacity, I'm blaming him. He's supposed to be the one with more control."

"I'll let him know!"

The door opened and Bones exited. As soon as it closed, the fresher door slid open and Spock entered Jim's quarters.

"Have you been eavesdropping?"

"As there are no eaves on the Enterprise, I can safely say that I have not."

"Besides being a liar, you're using semantics to do it so you're being a cheater too."

Spock came around the partition, looking fresh and warm and completely put back together in his light meditation robes. Which somehow emphasized the definition in his arms and accentuated the soft mat of fur across his upper chest as it peeked out from beneath the vee of the collar. He was irresistible and Jim wasn't in the mood to try anyway.

He raised up onto his knees and shuffled to the edge of the bed, reaching for Spock as he stepped closer. Spock's hands landed on his sides, slid down to his waist. Jim tangled his fingers in Spock's hair and dragged Spock down to meet him, standing on his knees.

Their lips met, slow and sweet, indulgent. For several long moments they exchanged long, plundering kisses, interspersed with shorter, sweet suckles. Jim leaned into Spock and Spock held him close. Jim completely forgot that he was naked. Even with the rawness left over from his conversation with Bones, he didn't feel exposed pressed up against Spock.

"Did you really listen in?" Jim murmured into the corner of Spock's mouth before taking it in a coaxing brush of his lips.

"I did not," Spock murmured back, when Jim released him. They separated just enough to make eye-contact, and then Jim was falling back into it, until there was just the silk of Spock's hair between his fingers, the slick slide of their lips and tongues, and the firm warmth seeping through Spock's robe into Jim's skin.

"I meditated," Spock admitted in the space under Jim's jaw, mouthing at it until Jim was hissing, breath hitching. There was static building under his skin, knotting itself up in the center of his chest.

"I will need to again, to process all that you have given me," Spock said as he moved down the curve of Jim's shoulder to the hollow of his collarbone. "I was listening for the lulls in your conversation and sensed when it would conclude. I stepped up to the fresher door just in time to hear Doctor McCoy's threat to hunt me down."

Spock leaned back and, oh, Jim's stomach fluttered. His whiskey gaze glittered with hidden mischief and Jim swelled with pure adoration. His chest heaved.

The corner of Spock's lips twitched and curled and Jim melted.

He kissed that almost-smile right off Spock's face and took it for his own, lips curling up without his permission.

Spock's arms reeled him in closer and he was warm, safe, full, and suffused with love.

In the dark recesses of his mind, he balled up that feeling and locked it away, glowing brightly in a hidden box.

For later.

Just in case.

Just because.

Just for safe keeping.

Spock drew him back to the present with blunt teeth at his pulse.

Jim sighed contentedly.

AN: * nb - non-binary - covers genderqueer, genderfluid, gender non-conforming, agender, and intersex individuals who identify as neither boy nor girl (an intersex boy is still a boy, a trans girl is still a girl)

Alrighty. Hopefully that was the emotional fuckfest I wanted it to be. I don't even know. My brain is numb at this point.
Leave your comments and any possible questions for the end of this journey down below and I'll jump in for a discussion.
Seriously, if you have any parts that are too ambiguous I'll clear them right up. Also, I'd just like to say I love Bones and his sweet gooey southern heart hidden behind his grumpy callous demeanor. He doesn't get enough credit in a lot of Spirk fanfic and he really deserves all the awards.

I like to thank Bass Boosts and electronic music in general for making it easier for my brain to focus on editing without getting distracted.
I'd like to thank my bestie number two, hiddles, Uli, my dude, your chapter-by-chapter reviews were so supportive and life-giving. If you read through to this, thank you for making this journey.
And to everyone who commented, without your continued support, discussion, and love I would not have made it this far. Pat yourself on the back, hug yourself, or high-five yourself. Dealer's choice. Just, thank you.

*throws confetti* AND TO ME I GIVE MYSELF ALL THE AWARDS FOR ACTUALLY FINISH A MULTI-CHAP FIC! No seriously, I've been writing fic for nearly a decade (with a small break here and there) and I have not finished anything longer than 3 chapters. (Mostly because a lot of it was dumb. Just, so, dumb. Check my profile if you don't believe me.)

Man has this been a journey. Much love. Many thanks. Keep your eye out for more fics by me.