Note: I don't know what's wrong with my account, but I can't access the reviews online and can't answer to them. But I do get them over email, so to everyone who encouraged me -- THANK YOU! I'm happy if you liked the story, and I hope the conclusion doesn't disappoint you. Heh.
Kirk creeps into the intensive care unit warily. Bones told him Spock would be out in that Vulcan healing trance of his, but Kirk needs to see him nonetheless. It doesn't matter that Spock can't talk. He's breathing, and that sound will be enough to calm Kirk's burning nerves. He needs a physical, tangible proof of Spock's continuous existence.
Spock's stretched on the biobed, covered from head to toe with a thermal blanket. It's warm in here, and Kirk realizes that Bones must have ordered the temperature up for Spock's comfort.
Spock looks better. Kirk assumes it's better anyway. He's been cleaned up, his face doesn't look as ghostly white anymore and the broken bones are knit. His eyes are still swollen shut, but compared to the last time Kirk saw him, it's almost nothing. Spock's arms lay atop the cover, hands bandaged heavily. He looks thinner somehow. Smaller.
Kirk never thought he'd ever use this word to describe Spock. He also never thought he'd have this violent urge to scoop the redoubtable Vulcan into his arms, hold him steady and never let go. Spock was always his shield, someone who protected him, reliable as a rock. Spock was never weak. Never the one who needed help. Spock shrugged injuries off like dirty clothes. Spock always volunteered for the toughest assignments. He had no regard for his health, or his life it would seem. Kirk finally understands why.
He closes in on the bed slowly, eyes glued to Spock's face. So beautiful. Pale skin, devilishly dark features. A fallen angel. Kicked out from heaven for... what exactly? Kirk shakes his head softly, unable to look away. What did you ever do, Spock, to have them ban you? How could they cast you out? So beautiful. Kirk wishes he could be more of his badass cocky self right now, but he can't. Spock's broken beauty slices right through him, humbling him. Hurting him.
He stares at Spock in silence, and it hurts.
On my watch. He was hurt on my watch. On my orders. Oh, Spock, how can I ever ask you to forgive me?
Kirk places his hands on the edge of the bed carefully, inches from Spock's exposed arm. Spock's chest rises and falls in a steady rhythm, even though it's slow and probably weaker than usual. Kirk blesses Bones silently for the hundredth time. They were both lucky, Bones said. Kirk knows better. Their luck has a name, and it's Leonard H. McCoy, M.D., his best friend.
Thank God for Bones. Thank God.
He stares at Spock thinking about how much of an idiot he's been. Most of the time Spock was so unapproachable, so closed, so... autonomous. There was something in the way he carried himself that intimidated people, and most of them couldn't help thinking that he meant it. Kirk sighs. Spock has simply been defending himself. With his peers and his own people denying him any measure of respect, he could do little but hold on to that impenetrable stoic barrier. Spock is a proud being, deny it as he might, and his pride has been taking so much abuse that it's a miracle he managed to save any of it.
Kirk can't blame him for trying. He only wishes he'd seen it earlier.
He's been circling around Spock for a year, tentatively trying to coax him into friendship, taking offense in Spock's would-be unresponsiveness. Shared meals and games of chess, long discussions on the observation deck, work out sessions in the gym.
They didn't do it too often, any of it. Kirk wanted Spock to open up so much that the Vulcan's continuous resilience frustrated him no end. It took him a while to regain his footing. And while he was licking his own hurt ego, disappointed that Spock didn't fall for him instantly like a ton of bricks, Spock longed for company, for some human interaction. Longed for it so much that even Bones' insults started to seem like a good option, apparently.
There has never been a moment in James Kirk's life when he loathed himself more than he does at this very moment.
He places his fingers gingerly on the pliant skin of Spock's forearm. It's cool. Spock's body temperature is usually several degrees higher than that of a human, but now it's not. Massive blood loss. His body's conserving energy. Hence the thermal blanket, Kirk thinks.
He rubs the soft skin gently. So gently, in fact, he barely touches the surface. No pressure. Unable to restrain himself, he lifts his other hand and reaches to stroke Spock's hair tenderly, careful not to disturb him. He leans over, his lips merely an inch from Spock's uninjured ear.
"Please, come back to me," he whispers. "I'll right every wrong. I promise, Spock. Give me one more chance. You won't ever have to be alone. Please come back. I need you."
Kirk straightens up, still gazing at Spock's face dreamily. It hurts to look at him, for so many reasons, and yet he can't tear his eyes away. He knows he's no longer alone in the room and glances over his shoulder.
McCoy is standing in the doorway, with an uncharacteristic lack of expression on his face. He, too, is gazing at Spock. His lips are a straight stubborn line, his jaw is tightened painfully.
"Bones?" Kirk asks, uncertain.
McCoy swallows hard and clears his throat.
"Let's go, Jim. He'll be out for the next twenty hours at least. I'll call you if anything happens, but for now, let's give him some room."
Kirk doesn't protest. He glances once more at Spock's prone form and his heart clenches unpleasantly. He looks away with an effort and follows Bones out.
They walk in silence along the empty corridors. It's late in the Gamma shift, and only those on duty are awake at their various stations. Kirk debates silently checking in with the bridge, but McCoy will likely have his balls if he does.
"You love him," McCoy says suddenly.
Kirk starts, almost jumping. He spares a wary glance at his friend, but Bones is looking straight ahead, his expression as determined as Kirk has ever seen on him. The question, which isn't really a question, catches him off guard. He's not called the boldest captain in Starfleet for no reason though. He knows that the best defense is offense.
"So do you," he replies.
To his surprise, McCoy doesn't even flinch.
"I do, but it's different," he says calmly. "I love him in the same way I love you, Jim. Like a stupid little brother I never had."
Kirk looks at him, not knowing how to react. Bones is usually grumpy and sassy, and he doesn't talk about his feelings unless they are something along the lines of annoyance, irritation or exasperation. Kirk never heard Bones talk so seriously or say such words to him. Kirk can count the people who ever told him they loved him with the fingers on one hand. He'd actually have fingers to spare. He's not used to this. He doesn't know how to react, so he goes for lightening the mood.
"Why, Bones, that's so sweet of you, I didn't know you cared."
The next thing he knows, he's slammed into the nearest bulkhead so forcefully that his head howls and Bones' elbow is pressed against his throat. Kirk's shocked into immobility.
"I've had it with you," McCoy hisses in his face and his eyes are scary. "I don't care if you think I'm sweet, old, sentimental, or whatever. I've just spent eight longest hours of my life trying to save someone who was dying because I never told him how I feel. D'you know what I've learned from the experience? Huh? Life's too fucking short to act coy, Jim. Life's too fucking short to play macho or to fondle your goddamned pride. Life only gives you one chance to tell someone you love them, and if you don't use it, the next moment they may be gone, and you and your male ego can live happily ever after. So yeah," he presses Kirk's throat harder, "you can call me sweet or fuzzy or whatever idiotic name you come up with next, you imbecile! But if you die tomorrow, I'd at least know that you knew what you were to me, that I told you. And I don't fucking care if it makes me sound like a goddamned Hallmark card!"
With that, he releases a very shaken Kirk from his grip and stalks away.
"Wait," Kirk calls after him, panting. "Wait, Bones, please!"
McCoy stops and turns to look at him, with an air of impatient exasperation.
Kirk comes closer, watching his face warily.
"I just wanted... I love you, too, Bones."
McCoy stares at him for a moment longer and then suddenly snorts.
"Well, that's a start. It didn't hurt too much, Jim, did it?"
Kirk can't help but grin. He's blushing, he's confused and embarrassed, but he also feels better than he had in a long time. He reaches for the other man, and McCoy pulls him firmly into a bear hug.
"How can you save planets, Jim, and still be such a baby?" Bones mutters, holding him.
Kirk smirks, clapping his back. "Just lucky I guess."
McCoy lets go of him with another snort, and they resume their walk.
"What did you mean before," Kirk starts tentatively, "when you said I... that what I felt for Spock was different?"
McCoy gives him a cursory glance and shakes his head.
"You really need me to spell it out for you?" He sighs. "Jim, I love Spock as in, Let's go have a beer, ogle the chicks and watch baseball. That is, if Vulcans did any of those things, but you get the picture. You love Spock as in, Make love to me by the fireplace and never mind if the fire goes out, I'll keep you warm through the night. You really needed to hear that from me?"
Very red in the face, Kirk shoves an elbow into McCoy's ribs.
"Not in so many words."
They stop at the door to Kirk's quarters.
"I'm serious, Jim," McCoy says quietly. "Tell him. That was a close call, but the next time it might be worse."
"I know, Bones," Kirk nods grimly. "I just hope he doesn't hate me."
McCoy smirks tiredly.
"Something tells me you might be in for a surprise, Jim. Get some rest."
"Bones, if there's any news—"
"I'll let you know immediately. Now shoo."
Kirk grins at him wearily and walks through the doors.
His sleep is fitful, and he wakes up with a feeling he's been dragged over the coals literally. He checks with sickbay before he gets out of bed, but the report isn't inspiring. It's not bad, though, either. Just no change. Kirk thinks it's probably good, all things considered.
He heads for the bridge and is greeted by some rather gloomy nods upon arrival. He goes straight to Uhura's station.
"Morning, lieutenant," he says neutrally. "Any word from Starfleet?"
"Yes," she gives him a look which he can't immediately read. "They said the resolution of the situation is at captain's discretion. They did remind us though that Starfleet needs a Starbase here quite badly."
Kirk notes this 'us' with a good measure of relief. She's probably still blaming him, and it's only fair as he blames himself, too, but at least she doesn't tell him he's on his own.
"Lieutenant, I need you to sit down with our cultural experts and reexamine everything we have on these people," he says. "Rituals are rituals, but I don't believe they inflict so much violence upon each other on a regular basis, or they'd all died out by now. If they do, by the way, we need to know it, too."
She nods thoughtfully. "What should I look for?"
"See if you can find anything that would allow us to bring them up on charges of excessive use of force or an unprovoked assault of a Starfleet officer."
She stares at him incredulously. "You want to press charges against them?"
Kirk frowns, staring right back.
"No, lieutenant," he snaps sharply. "What I really want is to take down a security detail and explain to those bastards physically that they don't get to lay a finger on a member of this crew without having their balls handed to them on a platter. I want to find those two bastards who did this to Spock and fucking murder them with my own hands, and before that, I want to make them suffer." He paused, collecting himself. "But Starfleet was kind enough to remind us that we need a Starbase and therefore a stable treaty. So if at all possible, yes, I want to at least bring them up on charges."
Uhura's mouth is wide open as she gapes at him. Kirk looks up to realize that so does every other person on the bridge. Kirk sighs, realizing that his voice must have been carrying.
"Back to work, people," he tells them with feigned strictness. "The show's over."
A chorus of 'Aye, sir' courses through the bridge, as his officers turn back to their stations. Sulu doesn't though.
"Just one thing, captain," he says boldly, looking around at his colleagues. "If you do go down to the planet, I'm authorized on behalf of the bridge crew to say that you won't need a security detail. You've got enough volunteers right here."
"Ve'll make mincemeat of zem, sir," Chekov interjects, looking belligerent. "For vhat zey did to Meester Spock."
Kirk blinks. The whole bridge is staring at him again and for once, nobody's making fun of Chekov's English.
"I see," Kirk says slowly. "I appreciate the sentiment, as I'm sure does Mr. Spock." I wish he could see it, though. "But for now, let's concentrate on the legal means, okay? Contrary to everyone's belief, Starfleet's not the Mob."
"Yes, sir," Sulu grins slightly. "But the offer stands."
"I'll bear that in mind," Kirk tells him. "Carry on. Well, lieutenant," he looks at Uhura again. "If you don't hurry, I'm gonna have a mutiny on my hands."
"Indeed, captain," she says and suddenly winks at him. "I'll see what I can do."
His shift unfolds slowly from then on. Kirk's busy checking the data Starfleet sent them and finally reading the briefing memos without skipping all the 'boring cultural shit.' He remembers asking Spock once what sense it could possibly make to study in-depth the culture of some planet they were only going to visit once and never come back. He remembers Spock's words verbatim.
"Of all the millions of habitable planets in the galaxy, only two percent are cradles to sentient life. It does not matter if this life is drastically different from what is familiar to us, if the civilizations we encounter will never evolve as ours have or never reach for the stars. They deserve our respect simply because they exist."
Back then Kirk thought that this was probably the most romantic thing Spock had ever said — so much internal fire he could sense behind the words. Being himself, of course, he couldn't help poking the anthill.
"But what if this life is so different from ours that it's actually antagonistic?"
Spock fixed him with a leveled gaze, which was full of emotion, but Kirk couldn't identify it.
"All life is precious, Jim. You should learn not to limit your compassion with what looks like you or appeals to you."
Kirk knew somehow he wasn't being lectured. Maybe because Spock used his first name without being prompted. Though in retrospect, he thinks it was more subtle even than that. There was a soft admonish in Spock's voice, and it sounded strangely personal, almost regretful. Wistful. Hurt?
He doesn't know. He only wishes Spock wouldn't forget that all life is precious when it comes down to his own.
Bones loses his cool, which quite frankly isn't such a rare occurrence, when Kirk calls sickbay for the third time in two hours.
"A trance is a trance, Jim. I'll let you know when he's out of it!"
Right. Keep your shirt on, JT. There'll be no easy way out of this, not this time.
He's a little surprised with Uhura. She obviously still cares for Spock very much. Kirk wasn't ready for the easy way in which she seems to have forgiven him. He wishes he could forgive himself so easily. He steals glances at her whenever she's around, checking with her station while her team has a break. He can't help wondering. She's almost friendly to him. Where's the catch?
She approaches him at the end of his shift, looking thoughtful and concerned.
"There's no solid legal basis in the cultural database for our charges so far, captain. But," she raises a hand, forestalling his protest, "we think there's a loophole in the treaty."
"You're kidding me," Kirk stares at her incredulously. "In that stupid treaty we just signed?"
"And they signed, too, captain," she nods and actually grins at him. "That's the important thing. We're looking into it right now."
Kirk beams at her. "Good work, Uhura! Let me know as soon as you have something."
"Aye, sir," she replies, with a good-natured flippancy and retreats to her station.
Kirk's just about to make some kind of witty after-comment, when the intercom whistles. It's Bones, and Kirk already knows what he'll tell him.
Spock's coming around.
Spock was moved from intensive care into a private room at some point during the night. He's now resting, McCoy explains to a rather haggard looking Kirk.
"He doesn't talk much and I don't like how he sounds when he does," McCoy says grimly. "Try not to overload him. I know you're itching to do a mea culpa and you should, just remember. Spock's health is our top priority now, not your guilty conscience."
"I understand," Kirk nods. "Please, Bones, can I see him now?"
Instead of answering, McCoy releases the lock on his office door and points Kirk in the direction of the recovery ward. Kirk's knees go steadily weaker as he approaches it, and he takes a moment to pull himself together before entering. His hand is trembling slightly as he reaches for the lock, and he curses himself under his breath.
Really. He wasn't so lightheaded with dread when he faced that bastard Nero. Or when he was falsely accused of murdering one of his crewmembers and had to go through a court-martial. Or when he fought off the Klingons. He was never so jittery when dealing with any of his 'romantic interests,' not even when he was five.
But this isn't just anyone. This is Spock, and Kirk's afraid to fuck it up so much, he can barely see straight. Then Bones' words come back to him as an echo, and he finally manages to tame his butterflies and snakes. Spock's health should come first. His own mixed up feelings can wait.
Decidedly, he activates the sensor and strides in.
Spock's lying on the bed, his head an upper body elevated slightly. He's still covered with a thermal blanket, but he looks much better. The bandages are gone. Some color has returned to his face. His eyes are no longer swollen, but look rather normal again. Someone's obviously cleaned him up while he was in the trance for his hair is shiny, even if slightly tousled, and no longer clotted with his own blood. He looks up at the sound of the opening door, and locks gazes with Kirk.
Kirk smiles rather tentatively, moving slowly toward the bed.
The Vulcan inclines his head.
Immediately Kirk knows what McCoy meant. Spock sounds hollow. Indifferent. He's always reserved, but usually his voice reverberates with hidden power. He holds it in check, but it's there, coloring his words even when his tone would not admit any inflections. Now it's gone. Spock sounds as broken as he looked on that ritual table.
"How are you feeling?" Kirk asks, stopping at the side of the bed.
Spock frowns slightly.
"I am functional. I do not understand why Doctor McCoy insists on keeping me here. I'm ready to resume my duties."
"Whoa," Kirk holds up a hand. "Who said anything about duties?"
Spock looks at him as if he's being deliberately slow.
"You are here," Spock says. "Obviously, I am needed to perform some task."
"Spock..." Kirk's mouth goes dry. "Spock, how could you even..." He clears his throat. "Spock, I'm here as a friend. Did you really think I would come here to drag you to your post while you're barely breathing?"
Spock surveys him coolly.
"You are in error. I am experiencing no respiratory difficulty."
Kirk's temper flares.
"That's not what I meant! Dammit, Spock. What kind of callous bastard do you think I am?"
"You are a starship captain. It is logical for you to expect your officers to perform their duties."
"Not when they are recovering from a major trauma. Jesus, Spock! We're the Orion Syndicate. We're a fucking democracy — you have rights!"
Spock looks at him calmly and speaks in an even, dead voice.
"My rights are subject to the requirements of the service."
"Not right now," Kirk says with grave conviction. "Not right now."
Spock stares at him for another moment and then looks away.
Kirk has never felt so helpless in his life. This new Spock that he sees, that he now knows has been there all along, is so drastically different from the Spock Kirk's used to seeing, from that confident, even arrogant Vulcan who marooned him on Delta Vega that he's simply at a loss of what to do. He's so different that Kirk doesn't have the first clue of how to reach him. But he's not going to back down, oh no. It's about time Spock learned his true value.
"Spock, listen to me. Spock."
The Vulcan doesn't react, and Kirk reaches unthinkingly to lift his chin up with his fingers. Spock flinches, badly, probably the result of the post-traumatic stress. Kirk's first impulse is to let go, but then he changes his mind. No more running for either of them. Spock will look at him, whether he wants it or not.
"Spock." Kirk's fingers press a little harder, and the Vulcan finally relents, looking up at him. The soft brown of his eyes has receded; it's anguished black now all over. Instinctively, Kirk's fingers slide higher to gently cup Spock's cheek, relieved to find the familiar warmth there. And oh dear God, Spock's leaning into the touch just a little, his eyes closing briefly, a sigh barely above exhale escaping his lips.
Cold sweat breaks out on Kirk's spine, as he realizes that his ever stoic, ever self-sufficient Vulcan is touch-starved and can't help it. Kirk's heart clenches painfully, and it's all he can do not to wrap his arms around Spock on the spot. As if the thought triggers something, Spock's eyes snap open and he jerks back slightly, breaking contact.
"Forgive me, Captain." He's blushing. Kirk's head begins to spin. "My control appears not to have been... fully reestablished."
Maybe it's not a bad thing, Kirk thinks. Maybe he'll listen to me now, while his shields are down. As long as Kirk himself can pull it together, which is like the hardest thing he ever had to do. He's never been a touchy-feely type, but something about Spock nullifies his defenses. Kirk might be a cocky bastard, but he does have a heart. And Spock's breaking it now, as surely as if he'd physically extracted it from Kirk's chest. He's freaking good at it, too.
"Spock, about what happened on the planet."
Spock's jaw line tightens, the look in his eyes becomes more distant.
"Doctor McCoy told me the treaty remains in effect. I trust I did not perform... inadequately."
"Inadequately?" Kirk repeats in horror. "Spock, you—"
"Captain." Spock looks down again, as if ashamed of his own weakness. "The... ritual has proved more demanding than I anticipated. I am not certain I succeeded in..." Spock stares at the single drop of transparent liquid landing on the pale skin of his arm. Slowly, he lifts his eyes. "Jim, you are crying," he whispers, shocked.
"No shit," Kirk breathes out, turning away and wiping his eyes furiously. The look on Spock's face is tearing him to pieces. "I'm so sorry, Spock. I'm so sorry. I didn't know I was sending you to... to this. If I knew I would never have..."
"Why didn't you tell me? You knew what they were gonna do to you — why on earth did you go?"
"Screw orders! Spock, you nearly died!"
"That did not happen."
"And it makes it all right somehow?"
Spock's giving him a leveled look.
"My life would have been a small price to pay for—"
That does it. Kirk's hands are clutching at Spock's shoulders, and he's pulling the Vulcan closer, bringing their faces to point blank range.
"Your life is no price to pay for anything!" Kirk yells at him, beyond himself. "Spock, do you even have the first fucking idea of how precious your life is?!"
"It... does not have... any particular significance," Spock stutters, disoriented and confused. "As a hybrid I am... of no use in... repopulating... my species."
"Screw your species!" Kirk's now shaking him slightly. "Goddammit, Spock, do you even know how precious, how unique you are? I've never met anyone so smart, so brave, so fucking beautiful in my entire life! You're the best first officer any captain could want! I think they wouldn't hate me half as much at Starfleet Command if I didn't steal you from them! I would never have pulled through my first month as captain without you, never mind first year!"
"I am... pleased to have been of use to you," Spock says slowly, pulling away hesitantly. "Though I must point out that you are undoubtedly exaggerating."
Kirk groans, letting him go.
"It's not just me, Spock. There's a ship behind these doors full of people willing to beam down and rip throats for what those bastards did to you."
Spock lifts an eyebrow.
"Dammit, Spock, wake up already!" Kirk grips the side of the bed in frustration. "I know you think humans can't hold a candle to Vulcans in anything, but we're not completely stupid. We fucking know a good thing when we see it. This crew adores you! Don't give me that look – that look is exactly the reason why you don't know it and I do. Spock." Kirk takes Spock's hand in both his own gently, lifting it off the bed. "We like you and we love you. We might not always know how to make you see it, 'cause we're a bunch of messed up bastards one way or another. But we don't want to lose you."
Spock looks at him for a moment longer, and then an eyebrow crawls up again.
Kirk grins. It's his most cocky, most seductive grin ever. It fades a little when he brings Spock's hand up and looks at it. The soft, transparent tissue that grows in the place of his torn out nails makes him dizzy with guilt and compassion all over again. So innocent. So fragile.
He brings Spock's hand all the way up to his lips and presses the softest of feather kisses against the knuckles. It's not a sexual gesture, it has nothing to do with it. It's a physical manifestation of that powerful feeling inside him, which he can no longer contain. Bones was right. He should have told Spock long ago.
Spock gasps. "Captain, what are you..."
"I don't want to lose you," Kirk murmurs, planting the next kiss on Spock's fingertips. One finger at a time. "I would be totally lost without you." Another kiss. "I don't know how to make you believe me, Spock." Another kiss. "But I like you." He kisses Spock's thumb and looks up to meet Spock's astonished eyes. "And I love you."
"Jim," Spock manages hoarsely. "Jim, I..."
"Oh, please believe me, Spock," Kirk pleads shamelessly, all pride forgotten, his need to make Spock trust him outweighs everything. "There's nothing more important for me than to have you believe me. I'm in love with you. Madly. I've had a crush on you like forever, but this — this is so very different. I don't want to have sex with you, I want to make love to you. I want to be making love to you my whole life. I want to hold you and never let go till I fucking die. I want us to share a life the way partners do. I want us to – bond, the correct term is I believe?" he teases gently. "And if you don't want any of this, it's all right. As long as you live and breathe, as long as you're happy, that's more than enough for me."
Spock simply stares at him, speechless, and speaking of breathing, Kirk isn't sure he's doing it. He smiles at the Vulcan softly, suppressing his own nervousness brutally.
Spock swallows with difficulty.
"Jim, I... do not know if..."
"You don't believe me."
Spock's features crease for a moment, as if he's in pain.
"I want to believe you," he says quietly. "I am... ashamed of how much I want to believe. But this is... too much... Too..."
"Too good to be true?" Kirk finishes, hope stirring within him recklessly.
Spock nods gratefully. "Yes."
"So." Kirk gives his hand a gentle squeeze. "What do we do about it?"
Spock looks at him and then averts his eyes.
"I could not dare ask."
"Hey." Kirk's hand lifts Spock's chin up again. "You could ask me anything. No, actually, belay that. You could ask me anything, just don't ask me to leave you. Don't ask me to ignore your pain. Don't ask me not to love you. If you ever do, I'll just say, request denied."
Spock's stunned into immobility, and the sight is heart-wrenching and heartwarming. Kirk waits patiently. He's done all he could, now it's Spock's turn to jump off a cliff. The silence is killing him, and he starts to panic, almost seeing Spock pushing him away. Finally, just as he's on the verge of losing it completely, Spock makes a decision.
"Jim. Would you allow me to touch your mind?"
Kirk stiffens for a moment and then wants to laugh. Trust Spock to come up with a perfect solution that would never have occurred to Kirk. So simple. Uniquely designed for them. He nods happily.
"It's long been yours, Spock."
The meld is nothing like the one he experienced on Delta Vega. That one was a jungle of images and data, information and emotions of a lifetime compressed into a narrow data stream and pushed into his mind in a second. It was overwhelming, confusing, and disorienting. And it completely shielded the mind of the sender from him, allowing only the barest hints of contact.
This one is... He can't find words to describe it. He will never be able to find a definition for the infinite care with which Spock eases their two minds together. Spock's so unbelievably gentle, so slow, so wary of hurting him, so concerned and a little bit freaked out that it makes Kirk want to weep for him, like he hadn't ever done for anyone. Spock's treating him like he's a vessel made of precious crystal, fragile and very dear. This ultimate tenderness is excruciating, and Kirk gives him a little nudge, not really understanding how.
Come on, Spock. I'm not gonna break.
He senses surprise and a tiny bolt of amusement. He suddenly feels himself bathed in sunlight.
I do not believe you are sufficiently prepared for a more forceful penetration.
Is it possible to be stunned within his own mind? Outside the meld, the words might have been conventional Spock-speak, literal and ignorant of being a double entendre. But in the meld, Kirk feels Spock's mood as if it was his own.
Did you just pull a sexual innuendo on me?
Indeed. Your mind is projecting images of this nature very... loudly. I find them most... fascinating.
Okay, now he's blushing in his own mind. What kind of meld is this anyway? Spock's floating around him, a calming, tantalizing presence at the periphery of his perception.
Calm yourself, Jim. Let me in.
Ah, Spock. You ask so nicely.
The joking mood is gone, and he's suddenly filled with Spock's essence, so full he can't tell where he ends and Spock begins. It feels... incredible.
It shouldn't be so pleasurable. Who thought that? Doesn't matter. He's overcome with sensations. Spock, let me hold you. Ah, so good. Joy. So pure. Is it always like this? I have never experienced this, not like this. Can you see how I feel? Can you feel me, like I... May I? Yes, oh... So... Jim, yes. Yes. We need to... We need to... God, this feels incredible! Didn't know it could be like this. Me neither. Laughter. We have to do something? You wanted... Who me? Baby blue eyes is an illogical expression. You do like my eyes. Sky color. Yours. Night. Fire. Burning. Arousing. Does everything have a sexual meaning to you? Only where you are concerned. Jim, I must...
Kirk is suddenly back in the physical world, gasping for air, grabbing at the bed to stay standing. Spock, too, is breathing heavily, his hand falls limply to the bed, he's exhausted. But his eyes are alight and locked on Kirk's, and neither can look away.
"I apologize," Spock utters. "I had to break the meld. It was becoming more intense than... currently advisable."
"I'll say," Kirk snorts, feeling exactly what Spock means, but it's the pain he welcomes.
And then, because he so absolutely can't help himself, he catches Spock's face between his hands and kisses him. Spock gasps, and Kirk seizes the chance to part his lips and plunge into that enticingly hot mouth to lay the sweetest of assaults. He's so invested in his audacious exploration that he almost misses the moment when Spock starts to kiss him back. Kirk groans, feeling his stomach lurch like it was caught in a zero-g bubble. His control snaps. He starts to kiss Spock hard, digging his fingers deeper into the silky black hair, something he always wanted to do, and he can't get enough of this, of any of this, and it's a little frightening to know that he never will.
But even in the haze of his passion, he senses Spock's discomfort. Regretfully, he withdraws slowly, still yielding to the temptation of sucking on Spock's lower lip gently before letting go. His hands remain on Spock's neck, rubbing the pliant skin softly.
Spock's eyes are still closed, and the dreamy expression on his face is a killer. Kirk thinks it should be illegal, punishable by law, whatever. He can't resist and places a light, chaste kiss on those impossibly alluring lips. He pulls away, smiling warmly.
Spock opens his eyes slowly and looks at him. Blinks. His struggle to regain some focus is priceless; it's the most intoxicating sight Kirk has ever seen. He runs a finger along Spock's cheekbone soothingly, holding his breath.
"Do you believe me?"
Silence. But Spock holds his gaze. He doesn't look away and there's hope in that.
Even if it's not yet a reply.