Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek, nor do I make any profit from this whatsoever.

-o-o-o-

"Coward…" The voice, normally stoic, trembled with an unidentifiable tone.

Jim Kirk halted his steps, growing rigid as his brain confirmed what his ears had heard. He turned slightly, feet still posed as if to say he was still going to walk away. His voice came out gruffer than he had intended, "What did you say?"

He never thought he'd hear that word from him. From Starfleet officers, sure. Enemies, possibly. Even new recruits stood a better chance of accusing Kirk of this. But the Vulcan…?

Spock took advantage of the Captain's hesitance to close the remaining yards between them, halting so close to the human he could feel his body heat bouncing off the other, "I am aware that your senses have not failed you yet… Captain."

"If I didn't know any better, Commander, I could almost swear you are implying that I'm old. And not in the good way." Jim's mouth spat out in default, his mind unable to work correctly in the limited amount of space his First Commander was giving him. There were only a few times the Vulcan ever got this close. The very air between them would sizzle, as though the friction of their personalities were made tangible in a very physical sense. Out of all those times they were this close, there had only been one time that energy had resulted in anything. And that was when Spock had come a hair too close to squeezing the very life out of Kirk.

"I do not appreciate your attempts to dodge the topic at hand." Spock said stiffly, his hands clenched tightly behind his back. When the Captain looked into those brown eyes, he could read very clearly what the Vulcan was saying: 'You *know* what I said… coward.'

James Tiberius Kirk felt a muscle twitch in his face, right under his left eye. He did NOT like that word. He couldn't stand the implications, nor could he stand being associated with it. It's what his stepfather always called his mom. Even his older brother Sam, who had run away when Jim was very young. If anything, Jim stayed with his stepfather as long as he did just so he wouldn't be called that despicable… word.

"Perhaps there were truths behind the rumors circulating back at the Starfleet Academy." Spock said in a matter-of-fact tone, his head tilted slightly to the side.

"…Spock…" Kirk did not like the way this conversation was headed.

"Those rumors… centered around your father…"

"Don't…" Jim growled in warning, fully facing the Vulcan, though he was not aware of when he had done so.

The Vulcan's brow raised inquisitively, though Jim swears he could almost see a smirk as Spock continues on dangerous ground, "Perhaps… Captain… the reason your father never left the ship was because he truly was a cow-"

The human moved so fast, Spock didn't have enough time to block the blow to jaw. Surprised, the Vulcan actually stepped back a couple steps from the force, his head snapping forward to perceive the next, incoming threat to his person. Sure enough, the Captain was barreling towards him, blind in his rage.

This may have caught the Vulcan off guard if he hadn't been expecting this. Hadn't planned for this to happen. He flashed back to when the Captain had made him compromise himself emotionally a few months ago, before they had defeated Nero. Now, from the other perspective, he had to admit the taste was equally as bitter on the giving end as it was on the receiving.

Sadly enough, however, this was a refreshing response compared to what James had been dishing out the past couple weeks.

The stoic looks, the rigid posture, all of it uncharacteristic for Jim's usual, arrogant display of humanistic natures and tendencies. When Spock had gone out of his way to mention it to the Captain, it conveniently turned out Kirk applied for leave the very next day.

Grabbing the front of Jim's standard yellow Starfleet shirt, Spock used the dirty-blonde's momentum against himself, as he pivoted to slam the Captain against the wall, blue angry eyes glaring at him.

Back against the wall, Kirk struggled, though he realized it was a lost cause. He couldn't make the Vulcan release his neck back then, and he couldn't make him let go of his shirt now. Realizing he needed an alternative plan of action, Kirk found himself grabbing Spock's wrist as he demanded, "As Captain of this vessel, I order you to release me."

"As First Commander, I diagnose that you are under stress and are emotionally compromised. As such, I hereby waive your rights to give orders until such a time that you return to the stable levels you were able to achieve prior to these last couple weeks." Spock responded, staring down the Captain's furious eyes with his own steeled brown, showing no signs of strain from his single-handed hold.

That was Spock in a nutshell for you. Always one step ahead. Bitterly, Kirk said aloud, "This is why I hate playing Chess with you, you know that?"

Quirking his eyebrow slightly higher, the Vulcan ignored the statement to say, "You will tell me the reasons behind your actions for the past lunar cycle."

Jim started to break out in a sweat. What was he supposed to tell Spock? That his older self had let slip a few memories Kirk was never supposed to get a hold of? That these past weeks have been torture because he would catch himself looking at Spock, wondering what could be…? Jim Kirk had never been adverse to the opposite sex, but he had always thought of himself as a ladies' man. Not to mention, the object of his newly piqued interest was a man who, more often than not, seemed to want him dead.

"There is nothing I have to say to that." Kirk replied, amazed with how calm his voice was.

Spock's jaw tightened ever so slightly. The change was so small that Jim wasn't sure he would have seen it if they weren't so close. Kirk couldn't help the small gasp that escaped as the Vulcan raised his arm, the grip on the Captain's shirt tightening as Jim found his feet dangling a couple inches from the ground as a result of the movement. Though Spock was now glaring up at him, Jim found it made the gaze no less threatening.

"As acting Captain, you *will* answer me." Spock's voice trembled ever-so-slightly, while remaining as steel-edged as ever.

"I…" Kirk faltered, consumed by the intense emotion in those brown pools. But he snapped out of it quickly, grabbing onto his lifeline of wit as he replied, "I respectfully refuse… *acting* Captain." He even threw a smirk in it, for good measure.

The Vulcan grew so rigid, the human was no longer sure if the First Commander was even breathing. Jim thought he had him then. If he refused to tell the Vulcan, then no one need ever know. The Captain would simply take the leave he had requested, take a few weeks to cool off whatever his overheated brain had tried to ponder, and come back right as rain. Except… crap. Spock's eyes hardened, as though he had come to a resolution.

"If you will not tell me, then I will make you *show* me." Spock's voice was like iron in its determination.

"What are you-" Kirk frowned, unsure of what exactly the Vulcan was planning on doing.

But then he saw it. The way Spock extended his free hand, fingers curled minutely, as he reached for the side of Jim's face. Flashing back to the cave incident, Kirk didn't have to know the technicalities of the mind meld to know what would happen. His embarrassing secret… would be exposed. Jim would rather the Vulcan choke him to death rather than face the disgust that would emanate from his features at the realization.

Jim's eyes widened, and he leaned as far from that hand as he could, almost willing himself to sink into the wall behind him.

"…don't…" Kirk barely got through his suddenly dry throat.

"You leave me no choice," Spock said, his frown deepening as he continued, "I will not harm you."

Just before those fingers reached the melding points, Jim's panicked blue eyes flitted up to meet the Vulcan's. He opened his mouth to say no, but what came out instead was a choked, "…Spock."

This would break their small truce. The friendship that was barely beginning would end in a fiery inferno of loathing and self-hatred. The former by Spock and the latter by Kirk.

The Vulcan's head snapped back as though it had been slapped, the moment his fingers brushed Kirk's temple and jaw. The initial meld was so intense, so powerful, that Spock found himself battling against a torrent. Trying to sort out individual memories and emotions was just as difficult.

Spock heard his name, echoing through the essence of Jim's mind. Fighting the overwhelming determination flooding through Kirk's mind, the Vulcan steeled himself and reached out to grab the first handful of memories.

The past weeks. He saw himself though Jim's eyes. On the bridge, in the mess hall, in the Captain's quarters as they played chess. That seemed to be the only time he could get Jim to let his guard down, when they were immersed in the fascinating tactical game. But he pushed this information aside as irrelevant. He was the First Officer and Kirk was the Captain, of course they would be seeing a lot of each other.

Spock pulled back from memories and instead reached out for recent thoughts and feelings. The threads were scattered, fleeing. But the Vulcan managed to grab a hold of one. In an instant, Spock felt a strange jolting sensation traveling from his fingertips to the rest of his body. Warm.

Eyes still closed, Spock frowned and tilted his head to the side. He delved deeper into the thought, curiosity driving him as well as the need to resolve the Captain's dilemma. He saw himself, or his older self, in the cave with the Captain.

Shock ran through the Vulcan as he realized Spock Prime had just finished a mind meld with the Captain. Jim was staggering, unstable. His feelings were a rush of intense flashes. One in particular loomed over the rest, as he looked straight into his older self's eyes.

Strange, the feeling was-

'NO' Kirk's mental voice sounded panicked, but was strong nonetheless.

Spock stumbled back, physically releasing the Captain even as he steadied himself, attempting to recover from Kirk's surprisingly strong and capable mental shields.

When the Vulcan opened his eyes, he saw Kirk supporting himself on the wall, looking shaken.

"Go into my mind again without my permission…" Captain Kirk looked furious, his eyes heated, "Vulcan strength or not… I'm taking you down."

Spock could only watch as the Captain walked away, stunned. It wasn't just his words or his actions, it was what the Vulcan had discovered. The human had looked at Spock Prime and what he felt…

…It had been *love*.

-o-o-o-

As the heat beat down mercilessly on him, Jim wondered for the millionth time why he had requested his leave be on this place. But even as he trudged wearily forward, Kirk knew he was on New Vulcan because he needed some answers. Some sort of closure to these outpouring of emotions he had gotten from Spock Prime.

If he couldn't function normally around Spock, in his own ship, then he was a useless Captain. He couldn't do that. He had to fix this. For the crew. For himself. And for Spock.

He knocked on the residence and waited patiently, hands clasped behind his back. When he thought of his posture, however, he was instantly reminded of Spock. A memory flashed through his mind. Heated hands ran down, from his collarbone to his waist, caressing. Pleasure spiked as they-

The door opened to reveal a surprised Vulcan, who was left to look at an extremely flushed and embarrassed Starfleet Captain.

"Jim…" Spock Prime said in pleasant surprise, the warmth in the tones stilling Jim's rapid heartbeat for a single moment.

"I…" Kirk was lost for words.

Reading the pain in the human's eyes, Spock Prime asked, concerned, "What is troubling you? Come, it is cooler inside."

Wanting to tell the elder that 'no, it wouldn't be', at least, never where there was a version of Spock around. Instead, he closed his gaping mouth and formed a smile, nodding, before he headed past Spock Prime into his dwelling.