Note: This piece was written for the first round of trek_exchange on LiveJournal. My partner expressed fondness for stories involving amnesia and Spock Prime, so I incorporated both.
Rating: M for sexual content.
Disclaimer: Star Trek is owned by people and studios far wealthier than I. No profit is derived from this work and it is not meant to displace or diminish any licensed Star Trek products.
Paths to the Singularity
"I would not have interrupted your work if you weren't the only one who could help."
The heat was stifling; Kirk tugged on the collar of his shirt, trying to ignore the rivulets of sweat beginning to creep down the back of his neck.
Spock shook his head in a strangely human gesture. "You are always welcome here, old friend."
Kirk blinked back at the old Vulcan, who raised himself out of his chair and motioned for the captain to follow. The air on the veranda was warm but pleasant, loosening some of the uncomfortable tightness in his lungs.
"More to your liking, I assume? I remember how Jim suffered in silence through hot Vulcan evenings."
Kirk half-smiled, keenly aware of his awkwardness. It was a disconcerting feeling to hear yourself—or a self that might have been you, or was still you?—spoken of in such assured past tense. The fact that he did not understand his exact relation to any other Jim Kirk did little to ameliorate his confusion, especially when the man standing before him, a man he had met only once and only briefly, had been so intimately acquainted with some other form of himself.
"He went to Vulcan with you?" He tried at conversation, still tentative but genuinely curious.
"Oh, yes. Many times." Spock's eyes fixated on the sinking sun on the horizon. The landscape bore passing resemblance to old Vulcan, but the climate was just a little too brisk, the sun just a little too orange, the land just a little too green.
The Vulcan did not seem inclined to elaborate, but after a moment he turned his attention back to Kirk, appraising him with his eyes.
"You are very much like him, you know."
Kirk was uncertain about whether to thank him, or to say anything at all, but from the tone of his voice and the depth of his gaze Kirk thought he meant it as a great compliment indeed. It was a strange comfort and stirred in him a strange pride.
Spock paused a moment and folded his hands inside the sleeves of his robe.
"So tell me now, Captain, what has happened to Spock?" He knew James Kirk—any James Kirk—well enough to know this could be the only reason for an unannounced solo visit.
Kirk's face fell. He paused, but still nearly choked on the words.
"There's been an accident."
The corner of Spock's mouth twitched, but he betrayed no further sentiment. When he asked again for more detail, his tone was flat and level, as if he were discussing the weather.
"He has head trauma. He fell. He—"
Kirk stopped again and bit his lip. He had thought the words would spill out of him after being bottled up and submerged under nearly two weeks of official duty, but now afforded the chance to unleash them they refused. It was not stoicism. It was more like a childish belief that it would not be true if he simply did not say it, as if his words themselves held sway over reality.
Spock inhaled deeply. He took his time with everything, Kirk had noticed, as if time itself had washed away the youthful impetuousness Kirk sometimes saw in his own Spock and left its mark on his wizened face. So much life separated this Spock from his own that it was sometimes hard to believe that they were both the Vulcan known as Spock.
"Perhaps you would allow me to see for myself?" Spock raised a hand in a gesture Kirk recognized as a mime of Vulcan mind meld. "In my old age now it is sometimes easier to see than to listen."
Kirk recognized this as a flimsy excuse to spare him the pain of recounting even the most bare and sanitized facts of the incident, but he was grateful for it. He nodded and took a step forward, bringing his face within arm's length of the Vulcan. As warm fingers pressed against his face he closed his eyes, this time prepared for the strange sensation. It was like thin fingers of smoke snaking through his brain, clinging briefly to idle thoughts before leaving to pursue the memories they sought. It reminded Kirk of touching an anemone, a painless sticky feeling on the back of his hand, little tentacles probing blindly but with purpose. He brought the pertinent memory forth in his mind and the tendrils seemed to seize upon it, the sudden immediate force of it knocking Kirk's head back and making him gasp as it was ripped directly from his consciousness.
x x x
"—Chekov! Ensign Chekov!" Uhura's voice was tight as she adjusted the levels on the feed, trying to extract intelligible words.
"I think I see—here—going to—," Chekov's voice sounded small and distant against the violent roar of wind and ice.
Uhura clutched the arm of her chair, the tension in her muscles mounting as every agonizing second beat on. A quick glance at her captain confirmed that he seemed to fear the worst, as well; Kirk hung just over her shoulder, worrying his bottom lip between his teeth, the lines around his eyes standing in contrast against his youthful face.
"That's it. I'm going down there," Kirk said, breaking the silence that had seemed like hours but could not have been more than mere minutes.
As he spun around McCoy caught his arm with a firm grip.
"No. This ship cannot afford to lose you both. I'll go." His voice was low, dark. He did not, could not, meet Kirk's eyes.
Kirk drew in a shaky breath. Bones was right; he nodded and watched the doctor go, the fury in his mind cursing ancient gods and vehemently wishing he were not so impotent, wishing the life he risked to save his first could be his own.
Within moments, a visual of the planet flickered onto the main view screen, a blinding expanse of frenetic white and shadow. McCoy was not prepared for the Dantesque flurry. He tugged at the fur collar of his parka and scanned the horizon for Chekov, but poor visibility left him staggering, arms outstretched, blindly hoping to stumble upon the man supposedly fewer than 20 meters away.
When he felt an arm clamp down on his, he turned and found the Russian beside him, red-faced beneath his mask.
"There!" Chekov shouted over the roar, gesticulating toward an ominous looking grey area at the limits of visibility.
McCoy followed the younger man, holding hands to stay connected. The deep cave, almost more of a ravine, came up all of the sudden, the loose snow giving way under his feet and making him flail backward. Chekov held fast and pulled him back up, motioning over the edge.
On the jostled visual, Kirk could see a bright shock of royal blue against the snow and protruding rocks. McCoy must have seen it, too, because the view dropped closer to the ground as if he were leaning and squinting against glare bright enough to penetrate his tinted eyewear. Further down, a spot of black—two—legs and feet discernable, a body face down, rapidly being subsumed by the swirling snow.
"Stay here!" Bones shouted to Chekov, pointing theatrically at the ground.
"I go!" he shouted back. "Am smaller!"
The camera bobbed with a shake of McCoy's head. "You stay here," he repeated in the most firm, fatherly voice he could muster over the wail of the wind.
Chekov relented and held out his hand for McCoy's lead, a bright red rope with nowhere to anchor it. Chekov was too slight to bear the full weight of McCoy if he fell, but he gripped the lead firmly in both his mittened hands, the lifeline between the two men.
He lowered himself gingerly, his crampons biting into the ice wall and offering only the smallest assurance against plummeting to the bottom. The view on the screen followed McCoy's gaze, fixed on the red rope unspooling from his belt, feeling his way down with his feet and testing the strength of each step before easing his weight onto it. As he descended, he glanced up once at Chekov, his body palely outlined against the raging storm of snow. He had had time enough to contemplate his own mortality in long, lonely nights on the Enterprise, speeding through deep space. Now, he felt nothing but each subsequent step, and the way the ice rushed under the collar of his parka and stung like needles.
When he felt the ice below his feet begin to slope he looked down at Spock's body, just a meter or so below. He pushed off the wall and landed on shifting snow and rocky substrate; the overhanging mouth of the cave had prevented it from filling entirely with snow.
McCoy crouched next to Spock's body, pinning a new locator on the back of his jacket. With unsteady hands he radioed to the Enterprise, imploring them to beam up Chekov, then Spock; he would stay behind and try to locate any survivors from the distress call.
He found none.
x x x
The ship's first officer had been stabilized, the wound on his forehead neatly sutured. A body scan had indicated damage to the skull and subdural hematoma from the fall, possible damage to the cerebral cortex due to hypoxia, and minor abrasions. Nurse Chapel fussed with the bandages, trying to occupy herself, while the waiting drug on into the hours.
He looked placid. The life monitors beeped frenetically, indicating the healthy heart rate of a Vulcan. McCoy sat beside him; his own preferred form of meting out the hours consisting of near absolute stillness.
Kirk stood shadowing the doorway to sickbay and looking like a man with so much worry the slightest provocation could make him unravel at the seams. He slumped into the chair opposite McCoy.
"How bad is it." It was a statement, not a question. Word had filtered to the bridge hours ago. Kirk had resolutely stayed on duty, thankful for even the little bit of diversion it gave him.
McCoy cast his eyes to the ceiling, searching for the right words. Something to comfort and give hope, something that was true, something Kirk could cling to in the coming days of cold uncertainty. He could not find those words.
" We have to wait," he said, lowering his eyes to meet the captain's. "We won't know much until he comes back to us."
"And if he doesn't?"
McCoy pressed his lips together. It was not quite a frown.
"We wait longer," he said simply.
x x x
A week later and Spock still seemed unchanged to Kirk, even as McCoy imparted in hushed tones that his injuries were healing well, and right on schedule. The captain visited daily, but quickly established a routine of coming an hour after the end of his shift to allow Uhura the first daily vigil.
He would find her hunched over in the chair beside Spock's bed, murmuring in a voice too low for him to understand. She would touch his hands, his wrist, or brush the hair across his forehead and watch it fall flawlessly back into place as she spoke. Kirk was unsure if she talked for his sake or for her own, but he hoped wherever Spock was that he could hear her.
On the ninth day, Uhura rose to leave when she caught Kirk in the doorway. Instead of brushing by him with a perfunctory nod and downcast eyes, she brushed her hand across his arm and grasped the fabric of shirt. In a low voice she asked if he wouldn't come have a drink with her before he went to visit his first officer. Kirk agreed, and he found himself in a near-deserted canteen with a sweaty beer and not much to say.
Uhura fingered her glass of cognac but did not drink.
"I don't know how to say goodbye to him," she finally said. "I don't know how I could when he's still in there, and it's still, somehow, him."
Kirk sucked down the last of his beer. It was warm, too bitter, unsatisfying; he made a sour face as he placed the empty bottle back on the counter.
"He is still there. Somewhere. He'll wake up." As assured as he tried to sound, it came out sounding as if he needed to be convinced as much as she did.
Uhura heaved a shaky sigh and blinked back at Kirk.
"He's not coming back. Not like he was before."
Then it tumbled out of her, the hurt and the worry and the shadowed brain scan McCoy showed her this afternoon, the heavy clouds of dark grey indicating atrophy. Permanent loss. Worse than McCoy had hoped for, but not, he had admitted, worse than he had feared. She had reached an impasse, unable to go forward hoping but also unable to let go of the wild, irrational, human need for miracles, especially when she heard the metronome of his heart tick reliably on and the gentle rise and fall of his chest made him look as he so often did, lost in simple sleep.
"I know he'd say it was illogical, but I can't help it." Uhura laughed once, mirthlessly, before dropping her head to squeeze her eyes shut against impending tears.
All at once the feigned optimism Kirk had practiced for more than a week fractured and fell away, leaving only a raw nerve of emotion. He fought the urge to rush down the corridor back to sickbay, to grab McCoy by the shoulders and demand he work nonstop until something could be done. His stomach tensed against rising nausea, anger battling with profound sadness at the thought of his first lingering in half-death, with the best he could hope for being… what? Kirk was unsure, but he knew that what Uhura related would render Spock something less than he was now. Something, perhaps, nearly unrecognizable.
He had no platitudes to offer her, but when she raised her head to look again at him, he reached for her shoulder and held fast. She leaned into his hand, a moment of support even as she steeled herself against the grief seeping into all the muscles of her body.
"Thanks for listening."
"Anytime you need it," he replied, and meant it.
x x x
On the fourteenth day, Spock's eyelids fluttered and his fingers twitched and he made a small, groaning noise and Nurse Chapel, who had been idly monitoring his vital signs, dropped her PADD and rushed to fetch the doctor, exuberance barely contained by decorum. Kirk had arrived just minutes before, weary from a long shift, but watched with sudden nervous intensity as the Vulcan slowly came around. Word of his slow awakening flashed across the decks and reached Uhura in mere minutes.
When she saw him rubbing his eyes, blinking against the harsh, medical light of sickbay a visible surge of renewed hope coursed through her. She stood alongside the nurse and fidgeted, looking like she wanted nothing more than to lunge forward and take him in her arms and feel the warm weight of him, alive and sentient.
"Spock?" The doctor said.
McCoy leaned over the side of the bed and waited until Spock's pupils had adjusted.
"Spock?" He repeated.
The Vulcan looked up at Bones lazily, like a cat reacting more to sound than meaning.
"Yes?" He said after a moment.
McCoy glanced at Kirk and hesitated. "Do you remember anything?"
Spock paused a moment, as if just now realizing that his thread of memory was not unbroken.
"From your queries I have deduced that I am one called Spock, but I have no recollection of such a name."
Spock's face was placid, seemingly unconcerned with the blank nature of his mind. Kirk's stomach clenched uncomfortably and he stole a glance at Uhura. Red-rimmed eyes suggested she was on the verge of tears, but she said nothing, did nothing but fix her eyes on McCoy and wait.
"Do you remember anything else? Your position here? The mission?"
Spock paused again and his eyes slid shut. Were he human, Kirk would consider it a hesitation by a man grasping wildly for any vestige of his past, but Spock was still clearly part Vulcan, and his face betrayed no intelligible hint of what might be passing through his mind.
"No," he finally replied. "I remember nothing articulable."
"Perhaps you two had better come back later. Nurse Chapel and I need to run a few more tests now that he's awake." McCoy's voice was weary and rough around the edges.
At this, Uhura turned and slipped away, moving down the corridor as quickly as she could without breaking into a run. Later, Kirk swore, he could hear her muffled sobbing through the thin door of her quarters. He understood better than she knew, but it was not his place, and Lieutenant Uhura did not welcome comfort when she had not sought it out. She and Spock were perhaps well matched in that way.
He returned to his own room alone, and poured a tumbler of whiskey—real, old Earth whiskey given to him by McCoy upon taking command of the Enterprise. He sniffed it gingerly, found he had no appetite for the numb escape it offered, and chose instead to slump in his chair, letting uneasy sleep overtake him.
x x x
Kirk stumbled through his shift, distracted and irritable. The entire bridge crew was on edge, the absence of Spock salient as they went about their duties. He had been an anchoring presence for nearly a year, a useful and necessary foil to the brash and irrational humanity of Kirk. He had held the crew together, his cool-headed logic and intelligence a weight on the flighty captain, instilling confidence and a sense of purposeful order.
Without him, the crew felt a little lost, a little at the mercy of a sometimes-mercurial captain whose heart engaged before his mind. Today they found him resolute but ineffectual, as if all his energy had been poured into concern for his first officer, his friend, and all that remained now was a withered reflection of great man, spent by worry and remorse.
Kirk was cognizant of the way his crew exchanged glances. He understood the meaning behind Sulu's gentle suggestions, their polite subtlety doing little to mask the fact that they were corrections, offered when Kirk's own reasoning came up short. He understood his failings, and since Starfleet had not demanded any specific missions for the immediate future, Kirk elected to travel idly in space for a few days, routing the safest course to the nearest inhabited planet for some much-needed shore leave.
Kirk had been ordered away from sickbay the day before, Bones adamant that Spock needed one more day to rest given the mental and physical shock he had suffered. Kirk knew from the way McCoy met him at the doorway and dropped his voice low that the order was as much for his benefit as Spock's. He could guess that the Vulcan was little improved, and that McCoy might have wanted to give Kirk another day to accept reality for what it was, and come to view Spock not as he was in the past, but rather as he might now be.
Uhura had received a similar suggestion and had not pressed McCoy to allow her in. She was simply numb, and when she caught a glimpse of Spock in the bed behind McCoy, eyes dim and looking at nothing in particular, she was grateful to the doctor for excusing her own weakness.
Both had returned the following day, immediately after shift. (He knew it was selfish, but Kirk was too impatient to allow Uhura the first private visit). When Bones ushered them in with a wave, they parted around the foot of his bed, Uhura to his right and Kirk to his left. He seemed more alert now, and blinked between their faces, taking them in like surreal paintings.
Uhura slid into a chair and placed her arm on his shoulder, squeezing gently.
"Spock, how are you doing?"
"I am well," Spock replied. Then, "Lieutenant Uhura."
Uhura froze. Kirk's heart stuttered and skipped a beat. The extent of damage, the ominous shadows on his scan—how could he have recovered so much in just a day, when the reality Bones had so carefully outlined suggested none of this was possible?
"Do you remember her?" McCoy's question was eager.
"No." A beat. "I do not remember her."
Spock flickered his gaze down to where Uhura's hand still rested on his shoulder.
"Her touch. It is through her physical contact that I know she is Lieutenant Uhura, and that she exhibits human concern indicative of friendly acquaintance."
"Anything else?" She asked, not sure she wanted to know the answer.
Spock answered in the negative.
Bones rubbed his temple with one hand, deep in thought.
"Nurse! The patient's scans!" He shouted, and Nurse Chapel rushed in with the requested record.
"There," he pointed. "This little spot next to the pons. You wouldn't see this in a human brain, and we don't know enough about Vulcan anatomy to say what it does. This partial shadowing indicates damage, but look here—this brighter spot show partial function. I believe this organ may be the seat of—or at least a factor in—Vulcan telepathy. Spock's ability to mind read seems greatly impaired, but not completely gone."
"Can you fix him?" Uhura's voice was steady but her eyes belied her desperation.
Bones shrugged. "Given a little time I can regrow the tissue using the remaining healthy cells as a culture, of course, but it would be just that—new tissue. We can restore his brain, and maybe whatever Vulcan tendencies lie there, but his mind…"
Uhura nodded, even this slim glimmer of hope comforting. If some of what made Spock uniquely Spock was organic and not only the result of years of careful study of a culture nearly obliterated, then, at least, just a little bit more of him could come home to her. She had precious little now, but the thought of being able to brush the back of his hand and impart all the warmth and friendliness she felt was reason enough to hope again.
Kirk, for his part, could not resist sweeping his own hand across Spock's shoulder, holding an image of Spock in his mind, an image of Spock as he saw him daily on the bridge, deep in thought. If McCoy could cast light on the shadows that now spotted his brain and allow him full use of his Vulcan abilities, he could, at least, know what he had been through the eyes of those who loved him. It would not be perfect, this patchwork of second hand memories, but it would give him a point of reference, a dog star low and bright on the horizon to guide him home. Then—
Spock twitched almost imperceptibly at the sudden noise.
"Spock! Of course!"
Kirk grinned wildly at Uhura, who furrowed her brow in abject confusion. Before she could ask, he was gone, dashing down the halls in a mad fever she could not begin to understand.
x x x
The removal of the Ambassador's fingers from his face seemed to draw this last thought out like vapor directly from his mind. Kirk inhaled deeply, a little dizzy, and blinked his eyes open.
The old Vulcan's eyebrows lowered as he processed what he had just seen. What must have been no more than a few minutes seemed like an eternity to Kirk. The mind meld pushed the memories of the last two weeks to the fore of his mind, replayed in stark and vibrant detail. The fear that had percolated since the accident now steeped with giddy hope.
"If you could come and share your memories with him, he could remember the Vulcan teachings and his life there. He could remember his mother."
"Yes, and my father," Spock replied, his tone inscrutable.
Kirk shifted on his feet, impatient for Spock's consent. He felt as if the man held his first officer's life in his hands, and the restlessness in his heart had little forbearance for the serene, typically Vulcan manner in which he held himself. The same trait had yielded many a level-headed and ship-saving observation from his own Spock, but in his man, at this time, it touched the fringes of agony.
He made a noise almost like a sigh, more seen than heard. " Our lives—your Spock's life and my own—were not identical. We are not the same being. However, our katra are alike."
"We are…" Spock paused to let the words come to him. "We are like spiritual monozygotic twins, to use a Terran simile. In fundamental essence the same, but left to pursue different paths in life."
Kirk nodded; given how little he knew about Vulcan spirituality, let alone his own multiple existences across dimensions, it made as much sense as any other explanation he could be given.
"The death of a Vulcan's katra is permanent death, though his body may be revived. But our katra are identical. If I imprint myself onto him, it should not alter his most fundamental nature."
Kirk nodded again, dumbly. He did not really understand these concerns of Vulcan life and death and memory, but he did understand a logical conclusion when he heard one.
"Can you come in a week? Bones says he should by physically healed by then." He attempted professionalism, but Spock could see how the muscles in his shoulders relaxed at his words, and his eyes brightened as if seeing the sun again after a long, dark winter.
"My duties here would be no constraint on coming to visit the Enterprise in one week's time. I would ask only two favors of you, Captain, in advance of my visit: first, that you take measures to ensure my tenure aboard your ship is discreet, and second, that you allow Spock your own memories of him, as those I cannot provide."
If there seemed to be something calculating in the way the Vulcan raised an eyebrow and regarded his reaction, he must have imagined it. Spock was not, by nature, calculating, and he could not imagine an older, worldlier Spock would have cultivated the habit late in life. So Kirk nodded his assent and promised all he asked.
Then, as he stood to take formal leave of the diplomat, Kirk found warm fingers slid into his. Just two digits brushed lightly like parchment against his own, but the unexpected shock of it sent a tiny jolt of electricity down his spine. It felt wholly different than the mind meld, a little prickly just under the skin, then a warm rush of contentment he felt with his body more than his mind. Spock's eyes were dark and inscrutable when Kirk looked at him with mild surprise, but his face remained inexpressive. A moment later, the Vulcan's hand dropped and he nodded a silent goodbye to the man who looked so much like his own Jim.
Kirk counted the hours until Spock's arrival. In space, it was more logical than counting days, but the number seemed dauntingly large. He passed the time by taking a peculiar interest in the younger members of the crew, offering aggressive leadership and mentoring to a slightly confused Chekov and other ensigns. He had also chosen to tell Uhura what was about to transpire, figuring she had a right to know. To the others, he was a little vague, claiming it was all some sort of Vulcan voodoo he did not understand and did not care to with a nonchalant wave of his hand, but that it would result in Spock being well enough to resume his regular duties. This seemed to placate the bridge. When Kirk finally took his leave to meet Ambassador Spock a week later Sulu did not cast a worrying glance over his shoulder or turn to lean close to Ensign Chekov, wondering aloud how Kirk was managing.
The meld itself was strangely anticlimactic. It was, Kirk noted, the first time he had observed the process as a non-participant, and the calm expressions of both Vulcans obfuscated the intensity of the invisible connection. Or, perhaps, Vulcans simply experienced such a bond as more benign, with none of the breathlessness or wonder Kirk felt. This seemed unlikely to the captain, however, given the sheer force of Vulcan emotion he had experienced during Spock's first meld with him. Then, finally, Spock's eyelids fluttered and the Ambassador removed his hand, snapping Kirk back into the present.
It was McCoy who first dared to speak.
"Well?" He barked, though the word was soft around the edges.
Spock's eyes passed from one man to the next before stopping on Uhura, then proceeding back to rest on McCoy.
"I am quite well, Doctor. Captain. Nurse Chapel. Lieutenant Uhura."
Spock acknowledged each in turn before thanking the Ambassador for coming and offering his assistance.
"Such a sizeable transfer will be a strain on his mind for a day or two, but his lethargy should pass after sufficient rest."
Kirk nodded at the Ambassador in understanding. Then, "Welcome back, Spock."
"Thank you, Captain," was all he said in response.
Uhura cried. Jim nearly did, too.
Spock was too pragmatic to stay away from the bridge for a moment longer than ordered. A mere three days later he resumed his position, standing with his hands clasped loosely behind his back, just to the right of the captain's chair. To all outward appearances, he was Spock, the same as he always had been. Familiar habits, familiar turns of phrase, familiar quirk of the eyebrow in response to nearly everything his captain said. Crewmembers on the bridge took turns bringing him up to date on their positions, their relationships, their shared missions. When the novelty wore off, it was as if he had merely been away for a few weeks, not all but reincarnated.
But to those closest to him, there was a singular and almost imperceptible shift. Kirk, at first, thought he imagined it, but as the days passed he could not deny the new tranquility he sensed over his shoulder, or the way expressions which he had always taken for Vulcan sarcasm had softened just a little. Spock leaned a little closer than usual, spoke his mind a little more freely, smiled in a way that did not involve his lips but betrayed the emotion nonetheless.
So it was both inevitable and surprising when Kirk answered a late-evening call on his personal intercom from the Vulcan, admitting he was standing just outside the door to his quarters. Kirk did not immediately bid him to enter, but instead leaned against the doorframe, regarding him with a practiced look of complacency.
"I was beginning to think you'd forgotten about our evening chess games."
"I have, Captain."
Kirk smiled before he could decide if it would be an appropriate reaction. "Right. Of course. I hadn't—" Kirk rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. "Sorry, I'm still getting used to these new… circumstances."
"Actually, Captain, those circumstances are precisely why I am here."
"May I come in?"
"Oh, sure. Go ahead." Kirk motioned him in, the door closing and sealing behind him with a satisfying pneumatic sound.
"Why have you not fulfilled your promise to the Ambassador?"
Kirk's eyebrows shot up. Spock, when properly motivated, did not mince words. The choice of evasion or admission flickered before him. He selected his own personal default.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Spock's gaze was steady, as if following along in his own Jim Kirk Playbook. He did not seem the least bit surprised by the response.
"While on New Vulcan, you promised my counterpart that you would share any and all pertinent memories with me."
"That promise. Right." Kirk glanced around the room and took a step back, suddenly wishing he had feigned sleep and had this conversation later. And somewhere more public.
Spock was silent, but matched Kirk's step with his own.
"You know Spock, you and I, we had some rough spots back in the day. It's all water under the bridge now, so to speak, so why go dredging it back up again? Things are going great."
"Is a captain's word not his bond?"
"It is," Kirk hedged, knowing he was unlikely to win this argument but determined to try. "But you don't really want to know all this stuff, anyway. I promise."
It sounded limp even to him.
"On the contrary, Captain, I am most curious."
The name, along with whatever weak protest he had intended to follow it, were captured by Spock's lips. The suddenness of it startled Kirk, but he leaned into the kiss instinctively, as if it were as normal and necessary as breathing. He would have called it chaste, almost, if the way Spock worked his lower lip between Kirk's had not sent a jolt of electricity to his groin, if his mind had been able to spare one moment to think about anything other than this immediate, ineffable sensation.
Kirk did not realize his own hand had pushed against the Vulcan's shoulder and broken the kiss until the feeling left him all at once and he found himself looking back at Spock's honest, open eyes.
"That's not you," he said, his voice more breathless than he had hoped.
Kirk shook his head as if to dislodge the last vestiges of the kiss: the blush that crept up his neck and the way his lips still burned where he had touched them.
"Then show me what is."
His breath still came heavy and matched the frantic gallop of his heart. The only thing more frightening than giving Spock unfettered access to his mind was allowing him that access now. But as it often did, anger masked his fear. He split it, doling out half to his past self, too eager to promise anything for Spock's sake, and half to the Ambassador, to whom he ascribed all manner of deceitful purposes. It was not rational, he knew, but he had never been the rational one in this friendship.
"Jim, please. It is cruel to not do so."
Spock's voice sounded strangely small over the roaring of his own pulse in his ears.
"Cruel?" Kirk parroted lamely.
"The Ambassador's memories are not my own, I know this, but they are as real to me as my memory of standing beside you on the bridge this afternoon, or of assisting Dr. McCoy in the restocking of medical supplies yesterday. I have only his memories of you, and of us, and none of my own. To see you every day, and remember nothing but a lifetime of what was and is not now… Yes, Captain, that is cruel."
Jim Kirk swallowed hard, his throat tight and uncomfortable. Spock's meaning was clear. Here was vivid confirmation of a past the Ambassador had only coyly hinted at to him. And it was cruel, he conceded, to be with a man you remembered as a lover, a partner, and stand unacknowledged, unreciprocated, as if that life's worth of love was nothing but a feverish dream, a pathetic fantasy.
Kirk understood then, and forgave the Ambassador some amount of that misguided anger as he steeled his mind as best as he could. Forced deep slow breaths did little to calm his nerves, but at least gave him the illusion as he finally nodded and assented to the Vulcan's touch.
He gasped even at the familiar, filmy feeling of a new meld, but this one felt a little different, less practiced, or at least less certain. Kirk's mind was hazy but he was struck with the slow deliberateness with which Spock searched his memories. It was delicate, almost tender, and with a single-minded interest that seemed to suggest Spock understood Kirk's boundaries of comfort and privacy. When he had found much of what he sought the flicker of image and feeling became more rapid. The captain's eyelids fluttered as if dreaming; and it was, truly, much like a waking dream, this strange and uncontrollable litany of pieces from his own past. He had no sense of time, only the present, and the present was nothing but the memory of the moment.
Kirk was unsure how much time had passed when his consciousness became his own again. The Spock who regarded him now seemed just a little more guarded than the one who had existed just before, though outwardly nothing had changed. A strange, wild sense of loss lodged in his mind. But this was not loss, he reminded himself. It was crude restoration.
Whatever regret lingered in his mind was swiftly banished by the feeling of four warm fingers tracing his jawline, curving up to skim the very edge of his ear. He breathed hesitation onto the Vulcan's palm, but did not say it aloud.
His kiss was tentative this time, with an almost pleading edge to the way he plied the captain's lips with his tongue, begging entry. Kirk complied as another hand tangled in his hair and pulled him closer, as if he needed encouragement to surrender to lust long-percolating which now roared to a full boil.
It was long moments later when the captain managed to pull himself away from his first, tipping his head back just enough to suck in a sharp, cool lungful of air and squeeze his eyes shut, the sight of Spock with his hair in disarray and a faint green tint touching his cheeks too much to resist.
"This isn't right," he breathed.
"I fail to see what is not right about fulfilling such a natural desire. Your own memories have confirmed that the attraction is mutual."
"You… You don't remember. You were in love Uhura. She would be devastated." Kirk swallowed hard, willed himself to open his eyes and take in the sight he would not likely see again, a sight which he thought with no small amount of pity would get him through many lonely nights to come.
"Lieutenant Uhura came to see me shortly after my recovery. It has been several months since our sexual relationship ceased."
"She never told me. …You never told me," Kirk replied, his voice touched with incredulity.
"I cannot say why you were not informed, but the lieutenant, though still very dear to me, ended our relationship when we proved to be… incompatible for a more permanent Vulcan arrangement."
Kirk did not ask for details he did not want, but the feeling that he was still taking advantage of this new, changed man, clung like heavy fog around his thoughts.
"You're seeing this all through my eyes," he said, even as his hand brushed a few errant strands of the Vulcan's hair back into place. "It's true that I—I felt something for you—I feel something for you, I'm not even sure what it is exactly, but you've never felt that way about me. I always knew you didn't so I never pursued you." The honesty stung a little, but not half as much as lying would have.
Spock braced his body against the wall, caging his captain. His face was so close to his own that Kirk could feel hot breath skimming across his cheek, smell the strange, heady sent of the Vulcan, like the desert at dusk, wildflowers in bloom for a spring all too brief.
"You are right about one thing, Captain. I am seeing myself through your eyes. And I know myself." His words were clear and measured, even as he dipped his head just enough to brush his lips against Kirk's exposed neck. "I know what I look like when I feel love, or lust, or jealousy."
Kirk's head tipped back to allow the Vulcan access to his heated skin.
"And I know how I felt when I learned that the Ambassador had kissed you—not his captain, but you."
"K—kissed?" Kirk nearly sputtered, his fluster rewarded with a searing kiss just below his jaw.
"Yes," Spock murmured against his neck as he slid his free hand into Kirk's, fingers brushing together, the strange eroticism of it wringing a moan from the human's throat.
He recognized it then, this foreign kiss, received once before on New Vulcan. Then it had felt warm and pleasantly comfortable. Now it felt demanding, overwhelming, as if a lifetime of Spock's desire had shot straight through him and settled in the pit of his stomach before spreading outward like a tidal wave, enveloping any sense of reason he had left.
But Spock moored him. He could rely now on the Vulcan's sensibilities even when his own failed him. This had always been true, he knew; but here, standing on the edge of this precipice, he was more thankful than he had ever been for his first officer's calm guidance. When Spock raised his face to kiss him again in the human fashion he surrendered to it. Spock, both ancient and new-born, who had seen the past and future through both familiar and unfamiliar eyes, made the lingering fear and doubt evaporate under the soft ministrations of his lips.
And so when he felt practiced hands tugged at his regulation trousers, he did not flinch or move to brush the hands away. And when those same warm hands moved to grasp the heavy, yearning weight of his cock he let himself suck in a deep breath and thrust his hips, shameless in his hunger. And when the pace of Spock's strokes quickened and half-whispered words of relief and love fell heedless from his lips he did not try to stop them, but let them spill forth as he spent himself over Spock's fist, head resting against his shoulder, hand clutching desperately at the Vulcan's back.
He kissed him again, sparring tongues matched by intertwined fingers, pinned against the wall as the Vulcan pressed his body against Kirk's. And for the first time in as long as Kirk could remember, he was not afraid of losing him, any part of him, to anyone or anything. This was right, this was longed-for, this was a dance choreographed long before by two men who set it to the music of their souls. He realized then that it was as inescapable as it was desired, this feeling that he could never quite put into words.
Spock felt it; Kirk could tell from the way he stopped and watched him carefully through heavy-lidded eyes, squeezing his hand and deftly brushing his fingers over the ridges of his knuckles. Kirk took this as his cue to pull him just a few meters to the edge of the bed and press him gently down. He slid in next to the Vulcan, still savoring the newness of intimacy, and Spock reciprocated by pulling him close, a hand around his shoulder guiding him to the comfortable curve of his own neck and shoulder. Kirk settled against him, drained and sated, and mimicked the lazy movement of hand in hand until their fingers stilled, meshed together.
"Now I feel like I'm missing out on a lifetime of apparently wonderful memories from that other Jim," Kirk murmured with a grin.
"Perhaps," Spock replied, "though would it not be more enjoyable to spend the rest of our lives making our own?"
"Yeah," Kirk sighed. "I guess that's logical."
And he smiled, inhaled deeply of the smell of Vulcan and sweat and his own fresh sex and ceded himself, his heart and his reason, to Spock, and slept.