I have a shitload of stuff to do, but I have to write this before the inspiration leaves me, ie. my dad makes me throw out the garbage. I own nothing, and yeah, I admit to it; this is a product of my inability to stay off K/S fluff, even though it doesn't contain obvious fluff. Consider it pre-K/S, around four, or five years into their first five-year mission. Yeah. And I'm really sorry for the bucketloads of angst. *raises glass* In the tradition of, 'AND THEN JIM WAS HURT!'. Several times in succession—I'm just that good!

Jim had received a message from Star Fleet, and had stalked off the bridge, most uncharacteristically silent. The bridge crew knew each other so well, that they didn't bother keeping up a pretense, for whatever reason. Concern showed clearly on Uhura and Chekov's face, and Sulu and Spock exchanged glances, which seemed like nothing, but were heavily significant. Spock stalked after his Captain and close friend, to make sure he was okay.

It was surprising, Spock thought as he went through Jim's 'hideouts' systematically, how compatible they really were. It was truly surprising. They were more than compatible, they were suited, the difference being that the former referred to co-incidental similarities, the latter referred to a deliberate design, like puzzle pieces. Spock shook aside unacceptably poetic thoughts, and focused on finding Jim.

Jim was found, as expected, on the Observation Deck, which had no doubt been evacuated shortly after his entry. Many of the new ensigns were still terrified of him, and no doubt he had been in no mood to correct their misconceptions about him.

He was staring out at the endless stars outside, right hand pressed flat on the chilly glass, as if trying to reach out and grab a fiery ball of beauty for himself; as if to pull himself to their height, and unattainable distance.

"Who are you loyal to?" Jim asked, abruptly. Yet again he had startled Spock, but Spock was giving up on trying to surprise Jim; he was too perceptive, to sensitive to the changes around him. But more than Jim's knowledge of his presence, the question startled him. Spock would admit, this question had not posed itself to him before.

Spock didn't bother asking why; he knew that Jim had a unique way of approaching something, and he would no doubt share his insight. "I am loyal to you, Jim. You and the Enterprise. Then I am loyal to me. Then to Vulcan, then to Star Fleet, then to my father, and then a whole list of other people." He did not pose the question which he was dying to ask; what about you?

Jim nodded, and continued gazing outside. He suddenly turned and faced Spock, startling him (again) with tears in his shocking blue eyes. "George is dead, Spock. My brother." His eyes were bright, but not one tear was shed. Spock couldn't relate; he'd lost his mother, but the bond between him and a sibling would have been infinitely different from the bond between him and a parent.

Spock wasn't sure how to comfort Jim, but recalled the last time Jim had comforted him, and followed. He reached out and placed a hand on Jim's shoulder, trying to communicate that he would be there, no matter what. And that he was sorry for his loss, because he couldn't possibly say that out loud. It would be harder to communicate this to Jim, as he was a psi-null being, but he could only hope that Jim could read his expressions, a task he was now skilled at.

Jim seemed to nod, and clasped Spock's hand with his own, and despite being of a much lower temperature than his own, seared Spock's skin through and through; the emotions running straight to Spock's brain; despair.

"Today, my last link to Earth died." Spock did not understand, and Jim knew it. "He was the only reason I went back to Earth on shore-leave." And even though it seemed insignificant, Spock understood, because spare time was a luxury, and by choosing to spend it with his brother, Jim showed the value of his time with George.

"But your mother?" Spock asked, rather than stated, because the relationship between Jim and his mother still baffled him.

Jim snorted derisively. "She stopped being my mother the day she left me with Frank." Frank, Spock knew of; Jim's verging-on-abusive stepfather, with whom he had been left for unspecified periods of time. Spock still didn't know the details, but there were some very telling scars on Jim's back. "She knew he hated me. She knew he wouldn't take care of me. She knew it, I know she did. And she told me she suspected it, but she didn't care. She thought that it was more important to take that risk and go out there and take care of other kids, than to stay home and take care of me." Jim's voice was vengeful, every word spat like poison.

Spock knew he should say something in defense of Jim's mother, but he was too busy trying to control his rage, his fingernails pressing into his palm, forming little crescents, causing unimaginable pain. It was this flame of pain, starbursts behind his eyelids that brought him back to the present.

He wanted to ask, but knew he shouldn't, wanted to know so desperately, but wouldn't ask. He wouldn't ask. He would not

"He used to beat me," Jim whispered, suddenly breaking the tense silence, which wasn't uncomfortable to either of them, because they were tense for the same cause. "He used to take me out to the yard, and beat me with a stick if I questioned him. And I didn't mean anything by it; I was a curious kid. He thought I was cheeking him, and he used to look at me, you know?" Spock didn't know. The thought of beating a child was so repulsive to him, as a Vulcan, because children were precious and rare; the gestation period was stunningly long, the pregnancy incredibly dangerous.

"When I was ten," Jim trailed off, his voice shattering, and Spock was reminded of how young his Captain was; how new to the world. "He came into my room one night…" He was breathing hard, and looked as if he was unable to continue, staring at the ground furiously. The only feeling coming through Jim's skin was disgust, mainly at himself. Spock was suddenly furious, again.

"You are not permitted to blame yourself, do you hear me, Jim? You are not to blame… You were ten…" Spock whispered. He had never allowed himself that sort of emotional outburst before. Jim seemed to not notice, but his hand gripped Spock's like a drowning man clutching at straws.

"He came in, and he stood in the doorway…" Jim was still unable to continue, and Spock had to interrupt.

"Jim, you don't have to tell me. I understand…"

Suddenly Jim wheeled on Spock, and snapped his wrist away, "No you don't. You don't understand. No one did! He—he touched me." Jim had clutched his face in his hands, leaning on the glass wall, crouched on the floor. "He—he made me do things I didn't want to…" He was breathing erratically, still flushed warm. "He took my childhood from me," Jim whispered, and Spock suddenly understood. He knew Jim's outburst wasn't directed at him. Jim had all the right in the world to be angry.

"Then George stood up for me. He hit Frank with a frying pan; we were going to run away that night. Run away and never come back. Frank knocked him on his ass, and threw him out. When George told my mom, she told him he was lying, and trying to destroy her happiness. Then she looked at me as if I was the root of all her problems, and she sent me to Tarsus to live with her sister." Jim's voice had stabilized into a monotone, apparently emotionless. It was all Spock could do to not steal a shuttle, fly down to Earth and kill Jim's mother. He hadn't known about Tarsus, hadn't even suspected.

"I was only there for a few months. I reached a few days before my eleventh birthday, and left in four, or five months," he shrugged, as if to say he didn't remember exactly. This was, of course, a complete lie. Jim could remember how many minutes he'd spent there, wishing he could just die. "The number of bodies—of people…" Jim's monotone cracked, and he struggled to regain his control. Spock leaned on the glass wall and stared at the same point that Jim had been staring at, hoping, trying to understand why Jim had been put through all this when he clearly hadn't deserved it.

"A few days before my twelfth birthday, I tried to kill myself." Spock froze. As if all the revelations that evening hadn't been enough, here was the one which could destroy Spock; the thought that he might not have met this wonderful man; his closest and best friend. "I stole Dad's car, and I tried to drive it off a cliff. I jumped out at the last moment, and got myself sent to Juvie. George had run off a few months before, and he came to meet me on the rooftop every now-and-then. He knocked me on my ass when I'd told him what I tried to do; he was the only one who cried for me when I told him I'd been on Tarsus, and what I'd seen. No one else listened to me, gave me the time of day."

Spock sat there beside Jim, knowing that he was probably the first person who had heard this in a very long time. He sat as close as he could, and tried to help shoulder the sorrow and anger weighing very heavily on Jim's mind.

"I have no other family, and I'm sure as hell not loyal to Earth; why should I be? I'm not loyal to Star Fleet, I'm not loyal to any God. I've got nothing. I've got only the Enterprise, and I've got you, Spock," he said, voice suddenly tender, or raw, Spock wasn't sure. "I've got you, and the crew. And I've got me." His laugh was bitter.

"Jim," Jim looked up—it was rare when Spock called him by his first name, "I will never leave you," Spock said, softly. Jim looked disbelieving.

"Everyone who's said that has left me. Everyone who claimed to love me, has left me. Spock, don't make promises you can't keep." Spock was more than a little startled by the deep-rooted bitterness in Jim's tone. Granted that his childhood had been worse than anyone could imagine, he had always been so happy, and optimistic. Hearing Jim like this felt wrong.

"This is not a breakable promise, t'hy'la. You are closer to me than any blood relative—"

"As are you, Spock," Jim said, honestly, as if he regretted the harsh statement.

"You are closer than any blood relative or friend, you are t'hy'la. In my language that means, it represents the very essence of 'closer than friend, closer than brother'." Spock deliberately left out the last part of the definition. "t'hy'la is unbreakable. It is not a word, Jim. It is a vow." Jim looked slightly awed, and awed was better than distraught and miserable, so Spock continued.

"You have faced more horror than you deserved, Jim, and if you should will it, I will share it with you." Spock knew the magnitude of what he was offering, and hoped Jim didn't. Vulcans had been known to lose their minds through incredible emotional transfers. Fat chance. Jim snorted.

"Yeah, like I don't know how it would hurt you. You," he said fervently, "need to stop under-valuing yourself. You don't know what you mean to me. You don't know how much I need you to survive, Spock. Don't you dare get yourself hurt, doing dumbass things like that. I know almost every trick in the book, and have no doubt that in a while I'll know all of 'em. But I need you to stay around, Spock."

Jim's voice was in earnest, every inch of him oozing sincerity. Spock could tell he was telling the truth, and wondered just when they'd gotten so dependant on each other. Jim was probably thinking the same thing, and he grinned, the sudden flash of white teeth taking Spock back to a time when he hadn't known all these things about Jim. Back to a time when they'd just had a successful mission, and Jim would be bestowing everyone on the bridge with his gorgeous smile.

Spock could still sense the emotional turmoil under the calmness of his excellent façade. He realised that this was probably how Jim was all the time, just that no one had noticed. They sat there in silence for a while, and Spock had an idea.

"Would you give me the honour of melding my mind with yours?" Spock asked formally. Jim looked surprised and acquiesced.

He placed his fingers on Jim's psi-points, and spoke the ritual words in Vulcan, whispering them so they wouldn't startle Jim.

He entered a mind that was never still, liquid and pliable like quicksilver. Flickers of light illuminated Jim's mind, everything an organized chaos; labeled scrolls higgledy piggledy all over the place, yet there was a strict pattern of illogic followed. But Spock had other times for that. He would, anyway. Emotions were churning in a hurricane of thought, devastating winds wrecking all conscious thought, a main overlying thought being 'Smile', followed by several interesting expletives.Spock recognized this as Jim's strategy of dealing with the world—Smile and no one will know.

He sighed. This was so utterly typical of Jim Kirk, so Kirkian, that he wondered why he hadn't seen it before.

He began soothing Jim's mind, crooning soft Vulcan melodies that his mother had sang to him, to still his dragonfly-thoughts. He communicated all his love and soothing thoughts to Jim via the meld, hoping to cover the severe deficit of self-value in Jim. It was surprising, for someone with such high confidence, Jim had extremely low value of himself, never hesitating to sacrifice himself for some cause he deemed more worthy.

Jim relaxed into his hold, and momentarily Spock wondered if he should totally remove those memories from Jim, and decided against it, because those memories were what made Jim, Jim. And pain could be shared—would be shared. He was Jim's t'hy'la, whether Jim knew it's true meaning or not, and whether he ever did or not was a different matter. Spock would stand there, and support this man, who had given greater meaning to his life and become his first friend, ever.

Jim seemed to be almost boneless in his arms, but not once did Spock stop to question. He knew it must have been an incredible weight lifted from his shoulders, but to Spock the maelstrom of emotions was almost unbearable.

He felt swamped, drowning, free-falling, swirling in a hurricane, he couldn't think, and he almost withdrew from Jim's mind so he wouldn't scramble it in his confusion. But Jim held him there, and soothed the pain, evened it out into bearable layers and took it back.

It is my pain, Spock. Mine to share and give as I chose, not yours to take upon yourself. I would never want that.

When he drew out of the meld, he wasn't sure, but one minute Jim was thinking to him, and the next he was speaking. Knowing or unknowing of the implications, Jim gripped Spock's hand, and Spock felt pleasure thrill down his spine. But this was neither the time, nor the place.

Spock stood up, and helped Jim up as well. They had neglected their duties long enough. Spock looked at Jim with a new understanding of what made the man tick, and why he acted the way he did sometimes. Spock knew that Jim had chosen to tell him his secrets, and that he would have to share his own (as McCoy put it) skeletons someday. But that (again, McCoy's phrasing) bridge could be burned when he came to it.

He somehow needed to tell Jim that there was no shame in his past, only pain that needed to be shown, but again, that would come later. For now, they would be friends, and maybe more. But mainly friends. Jim needed someone like that, and frankly speaking, so did he.

Suddenly Jim spoke. "I'm going to be loyal to you, Spock. You, then Bones, then Sulu, Chekov, Scotty and Uhura, then me… I was never loyal to any gods—I prayed, but no one answered. I was never loyal to Star Fleet, though they've put me where I am right now, and they've given me my whole life. Some things I simply cannot agree with. But I've always been loyal to you, Spock. Always have, n' always will."

Suddenly he turned and walked out, flashing a blinding grin at Spock, to let him know he'd shut down again. It was only rational, thought, Spock thought. Jim was the Captain he was, because he was loyal to none but himself, and his crew. He didn't follow any political regime, or any such thing, and that's what caused the propagation of the phrase; 'strong as Kirk's word'.

But Spock figured that it was a step to get Jim to share anything. As McCoy put it; One step at a time.

Yeah, yeah. I know. Angst galore, and so much of it you could puke. That's what my sister said. But yeah. I'm emo, I'm sorry. It had to come out. Yeah. REVIEW AND MAKE ME LESS EMO!

And I'm sorry about the rambly last bit. I needed to come out with a point I had to make, but I couldn't come out with it. Yeah.

Love,

Lady Merlin