Sorry, but before we begin I'd just like to say that... I just... *deep breath* You guys...



Sorry you can read the chapter now.


Chapter Twenty-Four: Veritas Omnia Vincet

They were both breathing harshly, and Spock seemed apparently as of yet incapable of letting go of Jim's torn bloodied shirt, but at least their mouths were apart when the Docking Bay doors opened.

A security team immediately entered, all red-clad efficiency, and spread out to search the hangar, some of the officers without even a glance at the pair of them.

"Captain Kirk! Commander!"

Lieutnenat D'Ko-Han reached them first, ran her eyes over them to confirm they were alive, and then ordered the man closest to secure Stavok's unconscious form prone a mere few feet away.

"Are you all right?" she asked them, gaze jumping from Jim's shattered knee to Spock's flayed hand to the reopened wound in Jim's chest.

"We're alive," Jim said, voice wrecked. "Listen, I'm assuming you got the guy in the control booth...?"
She nodded. "That was us."

"But the—he'd hacked a program into the turbolift control network, it might be seconds away from—"

"We got it. It's okay, everything's okay, the base is safe. Your command team is quite something, sir." She gave him a tight smile and stood to leave, probably to go coordinate her men, when a blast of static sounded from the communicator at her hip. D-Ko flipped it open immediately.

"This is D-Ko—"

"Can we confirm that the area is secure, Lieutenant?" Emerett's voice cut in immediately.

"Yes, sir, I believe s—"

The Docking Bay doors opened when she was mid-sentence and Jim tried to hold himself up and sit with a little more dignity, but it was an attempt doomed to fail.

There was a slight pause when everybody caught sight of them; bruised and bloodied and dirty and ruined, wound together at the center of the Bay.

And then their friend's voices all mixed together into a collectively relieved outcry as a very, very large crowd entered the hangar. Commodore Emerett was surprisingly near the front, as were McCoy, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty and Jim's Chief of Security Lieutenant Giotto, and behind them were Mara and Lucas Dalle, Mr Moss, what looked like many (most!) of the Enterprise crew, a medical team that included doctor M'Benga from the starbase, at least half of the engineering department.

It was a cacophony of shouts and Jim's head was about ready to split in half with the pain; the fact that he couldn't breathe evenly only making things much worse. But he wouldn't have changed this, he thought grimly; wouldn't have wished them all away, although half of his friends were staring at him and Spock like they'd just come back from the dead.

"Everyone back away, I need space," McCoy announced loudly, and only M'Benga's medical team was allowed to surround them. Uhura, Sulu and Chekov were the first to react to the order, quickly catching on and telling others to pull back, give the medical staff room, but Jim caught their looks when they surreptitiously checked over their shoulders every few seconds, as though to confirm no one had died in the interim.


Jim met his best friend's gaze and managed a wink.


McCoy scowled, but his eyes were anything but reproachful when he said; "You scared the hell out of me."

"Yes, okay, but it looks like I'll..." a terrible cough made him splutter and spit out red. "Uh, might live, so maybe you'll find... find it in your heart to...?"

"Jim, do not speak—" Spock's hand was still touching him, the tips of two fingers hooked around his torn shirt so they were directly on his skin. Jim noted it vaguely, an important detail to recall later because it wasn't like Spock, no, not even after a crisis as near as this one.

"I..." his vision was blurring. "I think I'll just pass out now, okay?"

"Sure, Jim. You do that," McCoy said, for once his voice kind, and Jim gladly sank into unconsciousness.

He woke up in Sickbay an indeterminate number of hours later, having briefly regained consciousness to the sound of McCoy's and M'Benga's voices in deep discussion.

Spock was no longer touching him.

For some reason that made Jim sit up, startled, and look around. It hit him like a jolt, and a bad one. Not just because Spock touching him was always a good thing, but because there had been something seriously wrong with his Vulcan back there.

Jim resolved to find Spock as soon as he could, and assessed his surroundings; he was in a private room again, alone, and his vitals were on display on a screen above the bed. He checked them first before doing anything else, and was relieved (if not altogether surprised) to discover the damage wasn't as terrible as all that. His knee felt sore as hell, but reconstructive surgery so soon after the fact would have helped the healing process and he hoped it would be back to fully functional eventually. There was the matter of his lung and the newly-healed skin there to consider but, again, reconstructive grafts might have been in time to avoid any permanent damage.

Jim took stock of the only tube going into his arm and was glad that he didn't need assisted respiration, although the taste at the back of his throat and weird feeling in his nose told him it was 'anymore.'

He pressed the call-nurse button and prayed McCoy was the one who'd answer, for once glad of his best friend's workaholic tendencies.

Thankfully, he was right to suspect the doctor wouldn't have left the Hospital Bay.



"How are you feeling?"

Jim tried for a smile. "Pretty great, considering."

McCoy immediately took out his tricorder and scanned him, squinting at the results.

"Not bad. You wanna avoid running in the near future, though, both for the knee and for that lung."
"Yes sir."

The doctor rolled his eyes. "Hey, I'll have you know you spent two hours in surgery for the lung and another three for that damned knee—"

"Bones, I'm sorry but there's a ton of shit that went down while I was out, and I need to speak to Emerett as soon as possible," Jim interrupted. "I have no idea what's going on right now, whether we're still at risk or not—"

"No, no, I've been assured all threats have passed," McCoy assured him quickly. Then his expression became… hesitant. "I'll page Emerett for you if you want, but... if you, uh..."

They exchanged a long look and Jim realized McCoy had known what he'd ask for first.

He said it anyway. "Spock?" An uneasy feeling had settled in his gut, since he'd woken up, actually, and seen Spock wasn't there. Spock had—Stavok had done something to him. Spock hadn't been himself at the end there. "How... where is he?"

"Spock is... not doing so great, Jim," the doctor admitted reluctantly. Jim ignored the spike of panic that went through him and breathed deep instead.

"I think I know what might be wrong with him."

"Really?" McCoy frowned. "There's no physical trauma to account for his condition. On a human I'd be suggesting Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but the symptoms don't quite fit anyway, and it's Spock. I've seen Spock brush off flesh wounds before, remember that time he broke his wrist and it took us, like, the whole morning to notice?"
"No, that's not it. I need to see him."


"Yeah. Just me."

"Jim, you realize... uh, we've got a whole team of trained medical—"

"This isn't something that they'll know much about." Jim's certainty only grew with every word he spoke. "Maybe M'Benga, I don't… but probably not even him. You know how secretive Vulcans are about their... everything. Especially the way their minds work, all logic aside." When McCoy still seemed unconvinced, Jim let out a breath. "Look, I don't even know for sure, okay, but I think Stavok hurt him, telepathically hurt him, and I think I'm the only one who can help."

McCoy looked shocked. "Telepathically… like a mental attack?"
"Something like that."

"Oh." He rubbed his mouth, clearly deep in thought. "And you can help? How? Why you?"

Jim grimaced. "There's… quite a bit I need to catch you up on, to be honest."

His friend raised a rather amused eyebrow. "Really? You mean since you implied something had happened and then left me in the dark the rest of the time?"

"Hey, that was to protect you and ourselves from—" it hit him. "Shit, the trial, what the hell is happening with that-"
"One problem at a time, Kirk," McCoy interrupted, raising a hand. "Let's focus on one problem at a time. Spock is in a private room adjacent to this one, so if you want to see him that can be arranged. I'm not gonna insult you by suggesting this could be interpreted pretty badly by the authorities if it gets out-"

"Actually it would be interpreted exactly as it should be." Jim shrugged, then smirked a little. "But I appreciate the sentiment, Bones."

"Good. Well, if you honestly believe you're the only one who can help him…" McCoy paused pointedly and Jim nodded. "All right then. We'll call Emerett after you see Spock and the whole mess with the trial can be dealt with after that. Now hang on a second and let me get you some clothes..."

Five minutes later Jim was devoid of needles and tubes and wearing clean blue medical scrubs. He stood steadily on his own two feet, feeling remarkably healthy, and was about to exit the room when McCoy touched his arm lightly.

"Hang on, I'll make sure there's no one outside to see you." The doctor moved to do just that but Jim stopped him.

"I... really have no idea what I'd do without you, old man."

McCoy snorted. "Call me old man again and you'll damn well find out."

Jim smiled. "I mean it, Bones. You've been so great throughout this whole thing. And I'm sorry that lately things got so crazy I didn't have a chance to keep you up to date… but the truth is that I barely even know what's going on myself. Spock is—we've barely had a chance to talk either and I suspect there might be some, uh, pretty heavy news soon. But I'll tell you as soon as I know for sure. You're... kind of my best friend, and I just want to say thank you."

To his surprise, although McCoy had looked rather solemn at first, the last part of Jim's little speech made the doctor laugh.

"... What?"

"It's funny because I gotta admit to a few moments of doubt about that."
"What? About being my best friend?" McCoy nodded, still smiling. Jim felt very confused. "Why? No, how could you-"

"Spock, Jim," McCoy replied simply. Jim felt the urge to blush, but manly resisted, and rolled his eyes instead. "You two'd get so wrapped up in each other, especially a few months into the mission after the initial tension got cleared, and it took me a while to figure out that friendship wasn't the only thing going on, if you get what I mean."

Jim snorted. "So basically everyone suspected this before we did, including Starfleet Command, and now you."

McCoy's mouth tugged up in a crooked grin.

"That's just great. No, really, how convenient that it appears we don't even have to tell anyone." What he was saying actually registered a second later. "Shit, hang on, did Uhura…?" But this wasn't the moment to worry about that. Before the doctor could answer Jim waved a hand impatiently and shook his head. "Forget it, not the time. So now that everyone's clear on who's who in my life, I'm gonna go wake up my other half, and don't you dare comment on that—" he anticipated. "—just. Be quiet."

McCoy made a zipping motion at his lips and led Jim out into the empty corridor (empty although Jim could hear the soft sounds to the main room just around the corner) then quickly shuffled him into the room right next to his, door swishing open and closed again immediately.

It was a replica of Jim's, a replica of all white Hospital Bay rooms because they all looked mostly the same, but the first thing Jim saw once he'd entered it was that Spock was awake.


Jim strode over to his bedside quickly, McCoy lingering close to the door. Spock's eyes were open and they latched onto Jim hungrily the moment he was in sight, but it was immediately clear from the way Spock was laying there that he couldn't move. His arms seemed to hang limply by his sides, one hand and forearm bandaged up to the elbow. His breaths were shallow, ragged, but unlike the last time Jim had been forced to experience seeing Spock in a hospital bed like this, there was an edge to the Vulcan's gaze. No exhaustion or pain, like when he was poisoned. Spock was perfectly alert, if obviously weakened.

"Wow. You look terrible," Jim whispered, voice light.

It was one hundred percent true. He may not appear sleepy or drugged but Spock's face looked feverish and covered in a light sheen of sweat, his cheeks and the pointy tips of his ears flushed green, but for all that he looked gaunt somehow, hollowed-out. Jim ached to touch him, but knew they needed to talk first.

"I'll leave you two, then," McCoy said loudly.

"Thanks, Bones. I mean it."

"Yeah yeah, you said that already."

And the door closed once more.

"Hey. How are you doing?"

Spock looked up at him and something was... off. The flush in his skin was extending from his cheekbones over his face and nose, and the focused intensity of his eyes was almost jarring.


Spock's lips parted but no sound came out, just harsh breathing, and it seemed to Jim as though Spock's chest was heaving more erratically by the second.

"Hey." Jim leaned down, frowning worriedly. "Hey, what's wrong?"

"T-tu …" Spock said, and it was barely an exhalation, a breath of a sound. "Tu, Jim, t-t'hy'la, ashaya, slor-veh, ashalik, t'hy'la, t'hy'la…" he sounded like he was pleading, begging, but for what Jim didn't know.

"Hey, hey," Jim whispered, trying to soothe, and debated calling McCoy back in here if he was making Spock worse. The only word he understood aside from his name was 'tu', which meant 'you' in Vulcan but he had no idea what else Spock was trying to tell him, what Spock was asking. "Spock, what—do you want me to go…?"

Spock's reaction was immediate; he lashed out, violently fast, and gripped Jim's neck, thumb pressing into the delicate spot above Jim's Adam's apple.

"No. Please."

He released the hold a second later and Jim coughed and spluttered, shocked.

"W-What…? What did Stavok do to you?"

Jim had expected—plenty of things; had come up with an impressive number of answers and scenarios for this question in the short time since he'd woken up. None of them included what actually happened.

Which was Spock leaping off the bed so fast it was a blur, white gown tossed to the floor so that he was naked, and then Jim's pale blue shirt was torn impatiently until his skin and Spock's were touching as much as possible.


The backs of his thighs smashed against the edge of the bed and he stumbled, then ended up half-sitting on half-falling off of it as Spock nosed at his neck and pressed his hands everywhere they could reach, roaming from Jim's hips to his back to his face, and oh, when they cupped his cheek he felt it like a pulse, something hot and electric and half-dying that pressed and then pushed inside, one long thrust of mental power inside of him—

"Fuck, fuck, Spock it's okay, I'm here—"

He didn't understand what was happening, didn't know what Spock was doing, why he needed this, but the taste and feel of Spock's thoughts was more than desperate, past famished, Spock was freaking out of it, his injured hand digging the unbandaged tips of his fingers so strongly into Jim's flesh that he could feel the nails sinking in.

"Y-You can take, it's okay, all right? You can take what you need, I've got you, we're okay—"

Jim knew Spock, could already anticipated the consequences this mind-meld was going to have, but they'd face those too, later, right now Spock was licking and biting open-mouthed at the spot under Jim's jaw apparently for purchase, because his good hand had clamped onto Jim's face and then the world blacked out.

Jim's mind is his body now and he is untethered, he is only consciousness, only vast space and racing thoughts

There is something dark and bruised and hurt simultaneously attempting to bury itself in Jim's mind and trying to taste it all, a sensation that is closest described by the word "licking," a sort of laving warmth around every golden strand of thought this presence that is Spock can find

Jim feels it like heat lapping up his self, and wouldn't really know how else to describe it

T'hy'la, ashaya, slor-veh, ashalik—

I... I don't understand, Spock

You, Jim, I need—you

What can I do? Spock, what can I do to help?

There is a pause (for the life of him Jim could not say how long it lasts, even time seems to pass differently here, or maybe it's just that his senses are totally off) and Spock's thoughts start to coalesce into something that resembles the intricate structure they'd had before

He attempted to cut—he hacked and—he wished to destroy me and therefore... he locked me out, cut me off, mentally, from... everything. He closed me in, so I was more alone than I have ever—but that does not matter now. He sought out the bond that would hurt me the most to lose and then he attempted to destroy it, too

One day, perhaps, in the distant future, revelations like these, words like these will not make Jim feel the incredulous joy he feels now, but it seems unlikely that he will ever get used to this, adapt to it and take it for granted, it seems impossible

So... so we are bonded

It has begun. I could not... there was never the time to explain, and there was no way of stopping

Not... I would never want to stop that. Idiot

The darkness shudders, Jim doesn't know how else to think of it. They are so completely intertwined, almost like they are heading towards that state reached only for a few eternal seconds when Jim didn't know who he was and who Spock was because they were one in body and most importantly they were, literally, one in mind

He tried to break the bond... but he couldn't?


You saved it?

I did not. It survived on its own. It did not need saving, it was too strong. Breaking a bond requires a healer's level of telepathic control which Stavok did not possess

Then the attack itself injured you? I didn't feel anything

And because they are in this place and Spock's consciousness is spilling everywhere—bleeding and battered and so weak and so hungry—Jim senses it, catches it, just for a moment but it's enough for him to realize

You took the whole pain upon yourself

His anger flares bright in a tongue of indignant fire and even though it's directed at Spock for being so stupid and perfect and irresponsible and reckless, even though the anger is at Spock and not for him, Spock's mind craves it as well, bathes in it, basks in it

So how do we heal you? What do we do?

You need only to allow this intrusion-

You? An intrusion?

-for me to improve. I can think now. I could not think earlier, when you fainted and I finally succumbed to my wounds

So... you'll be okay?


Anything I can do to help speed the process along?

He remembers that moment again, right at the height of pleasure, when everything was an indistinguishable blur, and Spock is very pointedly not answering

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

A ripple of laughter

It is the most powerful connection

I... can't feel my body though. That might make things awkward

More amusement

Jim's little wave of glee at causing this reaction in Spock is instantly licked up as well

It is possible for a mental equivalent to be achieved here... but that exploration is for the future

Okay. Although I've gotta say that that sounds like an awesome way of exercising your brain. Better than math, even

More laughter, or at least the taste equivalent to it...

And it was with that echoing sensation that Jim gently came back to himself, to feeling his limbs and seeing with his eyes, to hearing and smelling and touching things.

Things like Spock.

Who was naked.

"You better?" he panted into Spock's pointed ear, noting that yeah, his body was damn ready to do that joining thing again.

"Better," Spock replied, smoky and low. Then he drew back to meet Jim's eyes, but his gaze slid lower seemingly without his conscious control, until he was staring openly at Jim's mouth. "Not altogether recovered."

Jim huffed a little laugh and trailed his fingers over Spock's erection, making Spock's hips jerk forward. "I can help with that," he said smugly.


And okay, that vulnerable syllable was the hottest thing Jim had ever heard.

"Neither of us is fit for anything very athletic—" he started to say, and took note of the way Spock was holding himself up, by clutching Jim's arm with his good hand and resting his injured one on the bed behind Jim. "Especially you."

Spock grunted, shook his head. "Please. I do not care how, just please."

Jim groaned. "Okay, shit, okay get on the bed and just—don't—try not to kill me before this is over."

Spock did as he was told immediately, and Jim bit the inside of his cheek. Spock was white planes of skin gleaming with that sheen of sweat and a more healthy-looking green flush over cheeks and nose oh and he was also everything Jim had ever wanted.

"Goddamn, one day I'm gonna delight in using hours to take you apart," he declared throatily.

Spock curled his fingers around the sheet and arched his back a little, as though the words themselves acted as an elicit touch. "Please," he breathed again.

Jim didn't waste any more time talking.


"I ain't gonna ask," was the first thing McCoy announced once Jim called him back inside, a considerable amount of time later. "So feel free to take that as my way of saying there's absolutely no need for you to volunteer any information."

It was a totally unjustified statement because Spock was on the bed wearing his white gown, and Jim was just standing beside him, perfectly innocently (if one maybe didn't count the cat-that-ate-the-canary-and-also-possibly-every-other-bird-within-a-hundred-metre-radius expression).

"I can assure you that will never happen, doctor."

"I... can't."

Spock cut Jim a disapproving glance and Jim shrugged. "I like torturing Bones. It makes me happy. Don't tell me you don't know the feeling."

That seemed to make Spock relent. "I am not personally acquainted with it, however I suppose the doctor's highly susceptible irritability is in its own way an amusing source of—"


"Yeah right, 'cause it's not like you don't tease him all the time—"

"If my observations on his emotional conduct are in any way construed as—"

"Okay, okay, so Spock's back to normal, wonderful," McCoy said loudly, belying his words by scowling. "Do we know he's out of danger?"

"Yeah." Jim smiled. "He'll still need to recover for a bit, but he's out of danger. He'll be fine."

"Jim has agreed to assist me in the recovery process," Spock said, perfectly straight-faced. Jim snorted and McCoy looked a bit lost.

"O...kay. Well, that's great, if you're sure, I'll need to scan him myself of course and I'd still like to keep him for observation—"

"That will not be necessary—"

"—but I figure you're both gonna be idiots about it and not bother with that."

"Spot on, Bones," Jim commended his friend.

It was then that McCoy realized something rather notable. "Wait, why is your shirt torn...? No." He shook his head firmly, and muttered to himself: "No. I don't wanna know."

Jim folded his arms over his chest and kept smiling, feeling like he was never going to stop. He took a breath and tried to sound casual. "So I need clothes—"

"Yes, yes, I got a Yeoman to get them for you, both of you."

"Wow. You really put your trust in my healing abilities there, Bones."

"It was a just-in-case sort of thing. Sue me."

"Busy with my own court-case, sorry."

They exchanged a grin and then Spock asked McCoy to bring them their uniforms.

"Can we use the sonic shower?" Jim asked. A look of pure terror passed over the doctor's features before Jim couldn't hold back a burst of laughter. "Separately, Bones, Jesus!"


"There is not enough space in the Sickbay stalls for any of the activities you are in all likelihood imagining," Spock pointed out.


McCoy performed the scan with epic speed, declared Spock's condition miraculously improved, and fled minutes later.

"That was kind of mean," Jim said fondly.

Spock looked at him with perfect innocence. "Your meaning escapes me, Captain."

"Sure it does, Commander."

The Vulcan rolled his eyes.

Jim gasped and pointed. "Gotcha!"

"Got me?"

"Ha! I've been waiting for you to do that for ever."

An eyebrow was quirked curiously, and Spock looked like he was re-evaluating Jim's sanity. "Do what?"

"That... the thing you just did. Rolling your eyes." Jim grinned. "Finally. It was awesome, don't worry."

Spock stared at him blankly. "... Very well. I shall await your return from the sonic here, and depart once you are done."


Jim winked and left the room, knowing that if he looked back he'd probably just tackle Spock onto the bed again and then nothing would actually get done.


No pun intended.


The trek to Emerett's office started to feel like an impossible feat around the fifth time they were stopped on their way by someone who recognized them.

Thankfully, the sixth was none other than Jim's Chief Communications Officer herself.

"Kirk! Spock!" Uhura smiled happily and embraced Jim, grinning even wider when Spock inclined his head at her. "I got a message from Leonard saying you'd escaped his clutches again."

"Leonard?" Jim said with a raised eyebrow.

Uhura arched an eyebrow at him. "You're the only one who calls him Bones." Her expression brightened again immediately though. "I'd heard you weren't doing so well," she said to Spock. "Glad to see those rumours were false, at least."

"Thank you, Nyota."

"How's your arm?"

"There has been some nerve damage, and an extremely minor loss in sensation that will in no way impede my future work. Suffice to say it is healing successfully."

Jim stared at Spock, shocked because he hadn't known.

"You lost some feeling in your fingers?"

"It is extremely minor," Spock repeated, his eyes warm at Jim's concern.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Uhura said gently, and tentatively reached out to rest her palm on the sleeve of Spock's blue science shirt. Spock turned the same warm eyes on her and didn't comment the contact.

Jim was feeling magnanimous enough with Spock's affection right then that he didn't even mind the loss of Spock's focus on him. Much.

"And you, Kirk," her tone was back to light and cheerful but something about Uhura's eyes made Jim flinch a little. "You're better, too?"

"Uh... yes?"

"Skin healed, lung fixed, knee put back together?"

"... Yes."

"No pain?"


"Good." And then she slapped him.

It was an open smack decided to sound loud and not to hurt, but Jim yelped all the same.


"Do you have any idea what we went through when comms were shut down?"

"What the hell, Uhura...?"

Her eyes flashed. "I get that you've got the hero complex thing going, Captain, I do. I get that you love Spock and the thought of him in danger turns you into an overprotective idiot, it happens to all of us. But if you ever, and I speak for everyone in your command team when I say this, if you ever do something as moronically, unthinkingly stupid as what you did yesterday I am going to kick your ass so hard you'll feel my boot up your throat, you got that?"

Her voice had risen in volume until it rang in the empty corridor.

"... Sorry." He wasn't sure what else he could say. "I saw a window of opportunity, had to—"

"Leap at it with your eyes closed and hope it wasn't a fifty-story fall?"

"...Something like that." Jim smiled tentatively at her and Uhura lifted her chin at him defiantly.

"I'm not sorry I slapped you," she said. "You deserved it. We sent someone to get you the second the comms died and you were just gone. Everyone was worried sick. You should have seen Dr McCoy's face, we had no idea what had happened."

Jim flinched guiltily and struggled to change the topic of conversation.

"Uh, so how did you figure it out, then? That Stavok had control of the turbos?"

By unspoken agreement, the three of them started walking to the nearest lift, which was just down the corner.

"Well, it was a team effort," Uhura admitted, still looking at him through narrowed eyes. "Chekov and Scotty and their guys got to the office about five minutes before the chaos with the comm system happened and they told us they'd spoken to you."

Jim nodded, remembering that frantic call.

"Everybody was just throwing theories around, you were gone so either they'd taken you too or you'd somehow gotten yourself in trouble by figuring it out before us—" she shot him another accusing look, "—and, I think it was Sulu, someone said about the yellow alert, about how it meant the turbolifts switched to manual so if you'd used one we'd be in the dark to track you."

She pressed the call button for the lift as she spoke.

"And it all sort of came together. Why they'd taken Spock in the first place, why they needed the yellow alert to go unnoticed. There was a very short list of places from where Stavok could have controlled the whole operation, and the Docking Bay was simply the most, um, logical choice."

"They have successfully disabled the explosive charges?" Spock asked.

"Mini-antimatter reactors, actually. And yes."

The turbolift arrived and they stepped inside.

"So... what's been going on?"

"Well, mostly getting everything back to normal, I guess. Scotty is God to the Engineers here at this point; I was hanging out with him last night and..." she smiled, small and to herself, recalling a fond memory perhaps. Jim took note of it and filed the gesture away for potential future nagging. "Yeah, we'll be leaving a few broken hearts behind, let's leave it at that."

"When are we leaving? Do you know?"

"In two days. The verdict was pushed back to tomorrow, so."

Jim froze. "So the trial is definitely still on track?"

Uhura looked up at him sadly. "Yes. We were all hoping for a pardon or something, I... I'm sorry."

Spock met Jim's gaze with a little resigned nod. They'd been so happy since they woke. Everything had seemed to impossibly good.

Well, there it was, then.

"I have to say that girl, Mara Dalle, she's been really good about the science officers who've been sobbing about their greenhouse getting trashed," Uhura volunteered into the silence, a second before the doors opened.

Jim cringed and stepped out into the corridor. "Oops?"

"Yeah, oops is right. You think I'm joking? There was a grown man there this morning, literally with tears down his cheeks."

At that, Jim couldn't help a little grin. "You're not serious."

"Oh but I am." Uhura smiled back, but Spock stiffened.

"They are clearly having powerful emotional reactions to the loss of their research. It would be polite to allow them to grieve."

"Aw, are you upset about the plants, too?" Uhura teased.

"Of course not. Yet it represents a potentially significant setback."

They had reached Emerett's offices.

"Well... thanks for the catch-up, Uhura."

"No problem. I'll get the guys, tell them you two are okay."

"We'd appreciate that."

She left with a little wave.

"Shall we?" Jim asked, about to type in the code for entry. Spock stopped him though, before he could. His expression was utterly indecipherable, and Jim was confused, then worried.

"What is it?"

Then Spock sighed, and he looked... long-suffering?

"On the other side of this door is someone we know."

"Uhm... the Commodore?"

"He has company."

"...Fine, you've peaked my curiosity."

"It is not—you shall see. I only wished to inform you of something else, first."

"O-okay." Jim was very confused at this point. "And what do you want to tell me before we see this mysterious person?"

"It is..." Spock looked up at Jim from under his lashes, and Jim's breath may have caught in his throat. Maybe. "It is the meaning of the word t'hy'la."



"To be precise; the word in itself has three possible meanings, all of which can also be complementary, and I wish to explain them to you because I believe you deserve to know."

Jim nodded. He knew the confusing-language thing happened often in Vulcan, especially words with emotional meaning where things were ambiguous to start with.

"It represents what you... if you do not find it objectionable, it is what I would call you."

Jim felt his face heat and hoped he wasn't blushing. "Uhm. Go on."

"It can mean friend..." Spock tilted his head a little at Jim. "It can mean brother..." Jim raised his eyebrows. "And it can also mean lover."

Spock looked away from him, eyes sliding to a spot over Jim's shoulder.

"I would... I would not find it sufficient to only attach one of the meanings to you, therefore I would—if you do not object, that is—I would use all three."

Jim realized his mouth was open in a gaping 'o' and shut it.

"I... yeah. I mean, I'd like that. That's... it's a great word. Thank you. I mean, I—"
Spock's cheeks looks suspiciously flushed green, too.

"Very well. Then that... that is all."

"Oh. Good. All right then."


They were both quiet for a long moment.

"So we should probably go inside."


Still blushing furiously, Jim typed in the code.

The doors opened, and it seemed the day was far from throwing shocking surprises at Jim.


He gave a delighted cry and raced into the room, ignoring the remaining three occupants in favor of gaping at none other than Ambassador Spock the older.

"I can't believe it!"

"Jim." The Ambassador didn't exactly smile, but the gesture was implied somehow. He seemed much more at ease than the last time they'd spoken, when he'd called Jim on the comm what felt like ages ago. Spock was wearing elegant dark robes in the traditional Vulcan fashion, and holding a datapad in one hand, clearly here in some sort of official capacity, not that Jim could bring himself to care. "It is always wonderful to be in your presence."

Jim ducked his head down, abruptly embarrassed. "I—uh, thanks."

"You are most welcome."

Spock's lined face warmed with affection, and his gaze flickered between Jim and Spock for a moment, eyes keen and sharp, a clear implication in them that he missed nothing. Holy shit, he must have seen... he must have a way of sensing the bond.

And suddenly it hit Jim like the most obvious sledgehammer; how completely blinded he'd been by his own mess of crazy problems never to consider whether this Spock and his Jim had ever formed a bond, or had ever, uh, done other stuff together.

"Ambassador," said a tight, clipped voice from behind Jim.

Jim looked back at Spock, his Spock, who was looking at his older counterpart with a guarded, almost cold expression, and couldn't seem to think anything past: there are two Spocks in one room. Jesus, it was like being awarded command of the Enterprise and his graduation day all at once; his brain might explode from the overdose of awesome.

"Commander," the elder Spock returned, eyes shining with amusement. The difference between the two was striking, and had nothing to do with the lines on the other Spock's face.

"Captain, commodore, lawyer, lawyer," a snarky voice said to the left, and Jim turned to stare at Mr Moss, who he only now realized was there, too, as well as Commodore Emerett and Areel Shaw. "Do you mind catching up later? We were just discussing something very important."

"One second. How did you even get here so quickly?" Jim asked the older Spock, ignoring Moss.

"I do know the designs for a ship that is faster than any other in this universe, Jim," Spock replied. "I arrived approximately an hour ago."

Jim grinned. "Right. Well, you're a day earlier than Starfleet reinforcements, it seems."

"Indeed, it would appear so."

Moss looked so affronted at being ignored that he was rendered speechless.

"Um, very important meeting going on here?" Areel jumped in, somewhat at a loss. "About you?"

"How did you even know to come here now, Captain Kirk?" Emerett asked.

"Oh, I had no idea any of this was going on. I just have naturally awesome timing."

"Well, you and your awesome timing need to get—"

"It is actually very convenient that you are here," Spock the elder said with yet another warm look at Jim. "I have come on behalf of the Vulcan Council in order to obtain a satisfactory explanation from Starfleet Command, represented in this Starbase by Commodore Emerett, regarding the issue that concerns you and Commander Spock. I must say none has been forthcoming as of yet."

"Sir," the Commodore tried. "If you would—"

"I also speak for Ambassador Sarek in enquiring as to why Spock, his son and an exemplary member of the Enterprise crew, is apparently still being accused of emotional compromise even after it was determined that the source of this entire ordeal was a severely damaged Vulcan who arranged the charges and orchestrated this trial for his own purposes. Whether he wishes to become romantically involved with the Captain at some time in the future, I cannot say, but if the relationship is disclosed there is no reason for it not to be permitted to continue, with them keeping their respective posts."

Jim knew his Spock wouldn't take it very well if he marched up to the other man (elder version of himself notwithstanding) and gave him a kiss on the mouth, so he fought the urge.

"And I repeat, Ambassador, that as compelling as that point is, it does not erase the fact that Captain Kirk and Commander Spock's charges are perfectly genuine and would have eventually been discovered anyway—"

"I have also been informed, Jim," Spock continued as though Emerett hadn't even said anything. "That your First Officer was subjected to the Veritas device for the validity of his answers without a proper study being conducted, without informing the Vulcan Council and even without his consent—"

"That was only once—" Areel said weakly. "We tested it later, it worked—"

"They have not produced adequate results of an in-depth neurological study," the elder Spock added, almost like he was giving away a secret. Jim's grin was so bright he feared someone might start getting sunburn soon. "Neither have they produced any evidence whatsoever that a thorough investigation was conducted into examining why the original courtroom device switched itself on the first time, and scanned Mr Spock without his consent."

"There was no time, we were in the middle of a crisis—"

"Incorrect, the crisis began when Mr Spock was abducted during the recitation of the verdict, one day later."

"I agree wholeheartedly with the Ambassador," Moss commented. "In case anyone was wondering."

"We were not," Jim's Spock informed him helpfully.

"Oh, well then."

"It would seem likely that the Vulcan Stavok was behind that act of sabotage as well, so I believe it might be beneficial to simply issue an official apology and retract the entire trial process—"

"Actually, upon more careful consideration, it would not," Spock interrupted his counterpart.

"Huh?" Jim said.

"It would not seem likely Stavok is responsible for the activation of the Veritas device."

"It would not?" The older Spock said. "Fascinating."

Jim looked from one to the other avidly and took a step back. The older Spock still had an air of amusement about him, but Spock Spock, the younger one, was pretty tense; drawn up to his full height, muscles locked and jaw just that bit jutting forward, like he was fighting the impulse to grind his teeth together or something similar. Jim wasn't sure why that was, but he had a strong suspicion that he now understood why Spock had told him that Jim was his t'hy'la mere minutes ago, when he'd sensed the other Spock's presence.

"It's instinctive, draws back to the pre-Surakian societies when bondmates were chosen through bloodshed and sacrifice," Uhura had said.

Oh, well.

"It seems rather out of synchrony with Stavok's plan," Spock was explaining. "Surely, ensuring my humiliation was an added incentive to the entire trial process, but not something worth actively seeking out by having to brave the risk of hacking into a Veritas device as well-protected and often maintained as the one in the Starbase courtroom."

"A valid reasoning," the other Spock conceded.

"But..." Jim frowned. "But if not him, who? I mean, I don't get it."

"There is a pattern I have detected that began before Stavok arrived at the Starbase, Captain."

"Wait, what? What pattern?" Jim asked, feeling cheated. He found patterns. He was smart.

"There have been an increasing number of incidents... rumours, if you will, about us since we arrived."

"Well, yeah, I mean that was to be expected, right?"

"Not at this magnitude. The sightings were all reported by reliable sources, they reached the Commodore, Mr Moss, the press, and through them most of the Federation. It would appear a deliberate, if petty, attempt to further discredit us. Stavok had clear goals that he nearly achieved through cunning and manipulation. This would seem to be more characteristic of someone who wished to inflict personal emotional damage, since they programmed the Veritas device on the off chance that I might be vulnerable to it, having no way of testing it beforehand. I believe Stavok would not have done that. He appeared to regard the side-effects produced by the trial as an unexpected bonus, not more."

Jim tried to remember... and it did seem like the number of times he and Spock had been allegedly spotted doing innappropriate things in turbolifts was unnaturally high. Maybe he hadn't been paying attention to on just how many occasions someone told them about allegedly being seen.

"To me, it would seem to be more concordant that someone who works at the base manipulated the Veritas device, for they would have easier access than a journalist, and would also account for the rumours beginning prior to Stavok's arrival."

"Do you have a suspect in mind, then?" Older Spock asked curiously.

"I do," Spock said.

"You do?" Emerett butted in. "One of my people, is it?"

"Yes, obviously." Spock glanced at Jim briefly and then turned to Emerett with a minute squaring of his shoulders. "Ben Finney."

Jim... wasn't surprised.

"He has motive, this man?" said the older Spock.

Spock looked at Jim. "Yes."

Jim blew out a breath. "He works in the science department. And he really hates my guts."

"Does he?" the older Spock mused. "I met a Ben Finney who had once loved Jim very dearly."

The way he spoke those words made Jim feel a sort of uncomfortable weight in his gut, because right then he and 'Jim' were completely separate concepts, and the Ambassador's words rang heavy.

"Wait one second. Ben Finney? But he—" Emerett seemed about to say something annoyed, and then his face grew pensive. "I... hm. I see. Give me a few hours to make inquiries."

"Did he say anything to you?" Jim asked.

The Commodore sighed, and didn't answer. "Give me a few hours. I will investigate this, I can promise you, but it is an internal business, and no longer your concern, Captain Kirk. If he'd found to be responsible, Mr Finney will face the dire consequences. Now, as to the trial, I'm sorry, but you can't be here during this discussion."

"It's about the law, you wouldn't understand," Moss commented from his seat. Areel stifled a snigger.

Lawyer jokes. Seriously.

Jim rolled his eyes. "Fine, we'll leave." He smiled at the elder Spock one last time. "See you later?"

"To be sure."

"Goodbye," Spock the younger said pointedly. Jim refrained from rolling his eyes again in such a short period of time and steered his First Officer outside.

"You're lucky older you is such a good sport about your attitude," he commented the second he could be sure they were out of Vulcan earshot.

Spock didn't even try to pretend he didn't know what Jim was talking about.

"When he looks at you he wishes to see someone else."

The comment stung, but it wasn't anything Jim didn't already know. And he'd never blamed the Vulcan for it. "Yeah, but... he's all alone, Spock. I think he misses the other guy. The other me. His me, anyway."

"Yes, he has made that very clear to you, and his grief is truly... profound. I do not fault him for it." Spock left unsaid the part where he would one day be forced to experience a similar situation; that their different lifespans, if nothing else, would make sure of it.

"So why does it bother you so much?"

"You have lived your entire life under a similar shadow," Spock said bluntly. "You spoke of this to me in relation to your peers, to Christopher Pike; even, on occasion, your mother. And now he is one more amongst many who... I cannot understand why any person would wish for you to be anything other than what you are."

Jim's steps stuttered, and he stared at the back of Spock's head.


He hadn't expected that.


Spock turned an raised an eyebrow. "... 'Okay'?"

"Okay, I understand better now. I can't say I agree, but I understand."

Spock eyed him carefully. "Thank you."

"Uh. Thank you, I guess."

After a little pause Spock said; "Shall we contact Lieutenant Uhura and meet the rest of the crew?" It was a radical change of topic and completely unsubtle, but then again Jim figured it hadn't meant to be.

"You feeling up to it?" Jim gave a supply closet they'd just walked by a lewd grin. "Or do you need another hit?"

Spock's eyes did a thing where they lit up, but the glow was dark and inviting.

"I am well, for now. Do you intend to make this suggestion often, Captain?"

"Sensing a pattern, are we?"

"It would be... inconvenient. For productivity's sake."

Jim stepped a little closer (not inappropriately close, just maybe a bit closer than was warranted) and took stock of Spock's little inhale of breath.

Then he took pity on the guy. "All right, I promise to behave when we're on duty." He smiled. "Though you should, too."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "It would appear understandably more pressing that you kept your promise than I did mine, as my natural professionalism-"

"Oh don't think I don't know when you're doing your flirting thing. It may look like 'natural professionalism' to other people but I can tell. So no more bending over your console when you could just sit down and look, like a normal person."

"I see. Then I would ask that you..." Spock's voice trailed away for a moment, and they kept walking but the feel of the conversation was rapidly sobering. "This is something we should discuss seriously," he said finally.

Jim bit his lower lip, the lightness of the moment draining out of him. "Yeah." They still didn't know what would happen, but if Ambassador Spock somehow helped them, if Moss managed to save their careers... what then? Sneaking around might last a month, tops, and then these things always got out. That was grounds for a forced relocation, and a Court Martial that would last a day, tops.

Technically, if they explained their situation after their names were cleared, they wouldn't be breaking any rules, but Jim couldn't imagine anyone in the Admiralty was going to be happy about discovering that all this time there had been something going on (the participants' ignorance of this 'something' aside).

"We should talk to Pike about this," he mused. "He might have some useful advice."

"You... wish to tell him about our bond."

"Yes. I think... I mean, he already said he was on our side."

"I agree."

"And older you already knows, obviously."


"We can't beat this one alone. I think we should tell our friends, too. Bones and Uhura know, but Sulu and Chekov and Scotty... well, realistically speaking they probably know, too, but I wanna do it anyway."

Spock looked pensive for a moment, then gave a single nod. "Yes. I agree."

"Good. Then let's get this show on the road."


They reunited with most of the Enterprise crew and the complete command team, as well as most of the Starbase friends they'd made along the way, at the Mess Hall on deck 7, where they'd met Moss for the first time. It was loud and busy, and Jim and Spock were separated instantly, engulfed by the attention and trying to maintain several conversations at once.

McCoy and Sulu had flanked Jim's sides instantly, and Uhura and Chekov were hanging close to Spock. Scotty was surrounded by a group of fans himself, although he'd waded through the crowd to gruffly hug Jim the moment he'd seen him. And it was great. Chaotic and fun and wonderful, and though a part of Jim was thinking of this as the calm before the shitstorm tomorrow, he was ignoring it.

"So they've locked him in the holding cells on Deck 16, this buddy of mine works in Security up there-"

"Man, I knew that Leila chick, she looked so normal-"

"Tell us about how you found Mr Spock!"

"Jim, is it true Stavok shot you with a modified phaser?"

"On the knee?"

"Oh yeah, they're totally bringing in someone from Starfleet to reprogram the locator software and to retouch security measures."

"I heard rumours—my girlfriend works as a Docking Bay tech, she says this ultra weird ship came in a few hours ago, with a Vulcan Ambassador!"

"It's so unfair that the trial's still going on."

This last one, quiet and spoken close to Jim's ear, was Mara Dalle.

She gave him a weak smile and a shrug. "Everyone at the science department was pissed when we heard."

"Well, at least this will all be over tomorrow."

"But you guys don't deserve this."

McCoy, who was standing right behind her, frowned. "We've been saying that from the start, kid, but life ain't fair."

"Oh I know that." Mara's smile became more genuine. "I'm just sorry because it's all really fucking stupid. You two, together, it's just... that's just how things should be."

"Uh..." Jim hadn't missed the way her eyes widened with intent, clearly trying to communicate the obvious subtext in this conversation.

"People shouldn't care about that as long as you two do your jobs like you've been doing so far."

"Thanks, Mara."

"Hey, I'm speaking for all of us, it's not just—"


Jim had just glanced over her shoulder a moment when he caught sight of a blue-clad figure attempting to retreat out of the door.

It was Ben.

"Hey!" With an angry shout Jim pushed through the throng and went after him. "Ben!"

Ben reluctantly stopped at turned right at the doorway to the Hall, his expression defensive and guarded. "What?"

Silence had fallen over the room with alarming speed.

"Heard about your little campaign," Jim said, not even caring that everyone was listening. "You've been a bit of a voyeur these past weeks, huh?"

Something flickered across Finney's face that instantly gave him away, but he crossed his arms over his chest. "The hell are you talking about?"

"It's just that there's been an awful lot of people who seem to be under the impression Spock and I have a pretty serious exhibitionism kink. And, strangely, it all seems to be coming from the same person." What? He was allowed to cheat.


"Don't play dumb."

He'd reached Ben's personal space and invaded it without a qualm. "Did you really think you'd get away with that stint with the Veritas device? Being a whiny little bitch isn't against any regulations, Finney, but turning that thing on in case it worked on Spock? That's a pretty serious offense."

"You think that was me?" He wasn't a bad actor, but he wasn't good enough to pull off the innocent act either. Jim snorted.

"I know it was you, asshole."

"And this is, what? You confronting me now that there are thirty people behind you to back you up?"

"I'm pretty sure he could beat the crap out of you without our help," came Uhura's voice from behind Jim. "But we'd be happy to pitch in, yeah."

"This is between me and Kirk, sweetheart."

"Actually, it really isn't." To Jim's surprise, it was Lucas Dalle who said that. "Did you really sabotage the trial, Ben?"

"Of course not. Captain Pretty-Boy hero here's got you all eating out of the palm of his hand and you believe everything he says. Well, fuck you, Kirk, I don't have to stand here and listen to these accusations—"

"You tried to humiliate my first officer and you may have even seriously jeopardized both of our careers." The steel in Jim's tone belonged almost entirely to his Captain's voice. "If you think I'm letting you get away with that, you're seriously stupider than I thought, and that's saying something."

"What are you gonna do? Get your hybrid boyfriend to kick my ass?"

"I thought we'd already established that I could do that myself."

"Oh please, don't tell me you don't like that he's stronger than you. Do you think I don't remember?" An ugly memory of Ben pinning his wrists above his head made Jim grimace. "I bet that's why you were panting after him so bad. Because he's supposed to be three times stronger than a Human, right? It's about him being freaky enough to hold you down, isn't it?"

Jim clenched his jaw, disgusted. "Good luck finding a job after is, is what I'm saying."

"Oh, so that's your big threat? I'll get fired from Starfleet?"

"Dishonourable discharge isn't quite the same as 'fired,' I don't think."

"No, but be sure to give me a call when you miss that green-blooded dick and I'll probably get to you faster than he will. Hell, you might find you're glad to be rid of him. Don't you remember, Jimmy? Back at the academy, when you couldn't get enough of me? Granted I had to share with half the campus, but I haven't forgotten how prettily you begged."

Jim could practically feel Spock's fury like a burn against the nape of his neck, but he was incredibly grateful that his Vulcan was letting him handle this. Ben was Jim's battle, had been from the start.

"I'd rather fuck a Gorn."

"Right, the green thing again. I remember Gaila." Jim clenched his fists. Gaila was dead, and Ben would soon join her if he didn't stop running his mouth.

"Don't go there, Finney," he warned.

"Aw, such sentiment. Are you gonna cry yourself to sleep when Mr Spock is at the other end of the Quadrant?"

"Do you really have nothing else going for you that you need to spend so much of your free time dedicated to me? I don't even hate you, Ben, I just want you to leave us alone."

Finney took a step closer so he was breathing Jim's air, eyes burning. Jim heard movement and knew Spock must have advanced forward, probably ready to intervene in case things got out of hand, but still without trying to stand in front of Jim. It felt like a vote of confidence and trust that was wonderfully different from the start, when they'd first argued with Ben and Spock just went on protective mode without a thought.

"You listen to me, now," Ben snarled, soft and too low for anyone else to hear. "You stepped over everyone to get where you are, probably whored yourself out for the position, I don't even care anymore. Now you're gonna burn, and I'm gonna enjoy watching your life crumble around you. You think I don't know I'm right? You think everyone can't see what you and that alien are doing? Because I can. We all can, and it's fucking disgusting. Yeah I turned on the lie-detector, big deal. No one knows but us and there's no proof, so you can point at me all you want. It got him to say it, right? He fucking said it, that he loves you, in front of everyone."


"No. You'll end up all alone, like your daddy when he killed himself, your crew will lose trust in you, and when you finally get over yourself you'll beg anyone willing to fuck the prissy heartbreak out of your ass, and maybe I'll do you a favour and help out, huh?" Jim balled his hands into fists, feeling fit to burst, fit to do something he hadn't done in a long time. But he couldn't, dammit, he had to be better than this, he just had to find it in him... "And the emotionless robot you love is broken, by the way." Ben must have sensed insulting Jim wasn't good enough, and changed tactics. "He's not Human, but he even fails at being a proper emotionless robot! What could possibly be sadder than that? You two think you're so great, and you're both pathetic. He should probably just go back to his momma, oh wait—"

Ben was, unfortunately, unable to finish the sentence, due to the bloody teeth and large bruise that exploded on his lip when Jim punched him.

He'd been talking low, but not low enough for Vulcan hearing.

"Ow! Motherfucker!"

Jim flexed his hand, breathing hard. Spock was beside him instantly.

"That was unwise."

"Yeah, I know."

"I was not affected."

"Well, tough. I was."

Finney scrabbled upwards and pinched his dripping nose, which on second glance looked to be broken. "You're a fucking psycho. This is going on your record."

Without giving Jim a chance to think of a comeback, he ran outside, notably without an offer of help from any of the medical staff who were only a few feet away.

The door hissed shut and Jim turned gingerly to the spectators.


They exploded into cheers.

"Well done!"

"Man, I've been waiting for someone to do that for ages!"

"He totally deserved it!"

Jim gaped at them. Uhura was clapping, and Sulu had whooped triumphantly. McCoy was laughing.

Beside him, Spock's lips pursed disapprovingly at the emotional display, but there was no real heat behind his reproach, Jim could tell. The connection between them felt stronger than ever.

"It was unbecoming of a senior officer, and it's going on my record!" he said loudly, kind of bemused. "No one should be applauding this! Stop it!"

The cheers pointedly increased in volume, led by the Engineering Department's victory cries, as though a mighty battle had just been won.

"Guys, it was terrible form! I really shouldn't have done it!"

"Done what?" someone called.

"I did not see properly!" Chekov said. "Did you see properly, Mr Scott?"

"No! Looked to me like that fellow fell down all on his own!"

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure no one punched anyone else, here," Mara jumped in, looking delighted. "I think Finney's lying!"



Jim thought; "'ll end up alone, like your daddy when he killed himself, your crew will lose trust in you...", and smiled. It was in this moment, more than ever, that he knew that was never going to happen.

Spock's injured fingers gently brushed the back of his hand, and Jim turned to look at him. The current that pressed into his skin was dulled somewhat, like a warm caress but without the same electricity it had before. Product of Leila's knife, clearly, but nothing in Spock's steady gaze suggested this pained him. He looked confident and well.


The Vulcan drew back a little, but spoke only to him.

"It does not matter. Whatever happens tomorrow, Jim, it does not matter."

Their friends' expressions ranged from pleased to triumphant to satisfied (with only a couple of unsubtle leers, thanks to Mara and one male Engineer), but there wasn't a single shadow of doubt on anyone's face.

"Yeah. You're right."


"We have convened this court to once and for all settle a matter of great importance, which is of course that of the charges brought against James Tiberius Kirk and Commander Spock."

The jury wasn't sitting on the pew this time. It was only Emerett on his stand, gavel in hand and slight scowl on his face. Jim and Spock stood side by side at the defense's table, like they had every other time.

"Representing the prosecution is Areel Shaw, with second chairs Larissa Sommers and Dale M'meh. Representing the defense is Nathaniel Moss, with second chair Ambassador Spock of Vulcan, also known as Ambassador Selek."

They hadn't just sneaked in Chekov this time; the room was absolutely packed with people, some even standing at the back. No press, but everyone else seemed to have tried to make it, obviously taking advantage of the fact that Emerett hadn't declared this as part of the actual trial and therefore it couldn't be restricted to participants and/or those involved by testimony.

Nurse Chapel, Nurse Noel... actually, it looked like every single Enterprise nurse was there, and a few of the Starbase ones. Doctor M'Benga stood with D'Ko Han, the comely chief of Security, and was possibly the only one not looking forward (not that Jim could blame him, and Miss Han certainly didn't seem to mind). Most of engineering, of course. Lucas and his friends from the piloting team. The science department, headlined by Mara. Jim was sure the courtroom hadn't seemed like it could possibly, physically fit this many people before.

"Upon careful consideration, and much deliberation amongst Starfleet Command, a decision has been reached that concerns both parties of this trial and myself, Commodore Emerett, as representative of Starfleet Command at this Starbase.

"We have taken into account the events of the past few days, as well as Captain Kirk and Commander Spock's actions during this time. We have also taken into account the unfortunate circumstances from which this very trial came to be."

Jim wished the guy would just get to the fucking point.

"Therefore, I henceforth declare Captain James Kirk and Commander cleared of all charges, and let this matter be not—"

His last words were drowned out as the crowd, quite literally, went wild.

Jim was grabbed by the shoulders and pulled out of his chair by McCoy, Scotty, and some other people he couldn't see because he'd been pulled out of his chair, and there was cheering, so much cheering in such a short time, his ears were already ringing and this looked to be a long one, everyone had rushed forward and completely invaded the front rows, the space around their desk; he got kissed on the mouth by Mara Dalle—and then promptly torn out of her arms by his chief communications officer.

"Captain!" Uhura kissed him too, but on the cheek, and there was a tear she would eternally deny on the corner of her long lashes. "You did it! You won!"

Jim lifted her in the air and laughed, then turned to look at his first officer.

No one had grabbed Spock by his shoulders, of course, but he looked like he was a part of the celebration anyway, eyes glittering black, the triumph in them evident for all to see, and he had most of the science department crowding each other to stand just outside of his personal space bubble.

Jim wanted to make his way over there, wanted to throw his arms around Spock, maybe make out with him good and proper in public for once, but... it might, just maybe not be his brightest move right now. That was okay, though. That could come later.

Instead he settled for his brightest grin and raised his hand, as though reaching out to the Vulcan. Spock met his gaze instantly, like he'd sensed Jim looked at him, and raised his hand as well, and two of his fingers were extended, and it felt like a kiss.

T'hy'la, the voice in his head said.

"Congratulations, both of you!" Moss shouted, and this time Jim did have to fight his way back to him, laughing when hands pulled at his dress shirt, tugged him away.

"Get off, Evans—thank you, Mr Moss," he said, with feeling. "Thank you so much for everything, you've really been awesome—"

"We are most grateful," Spock called.

"Well, you two certainly made it about as difficult for me as you could, but... it was a pleasure."


Jim turned, saw Areel waving at him from her table, which had also been surrounded by her friends, probably for moral support. Jim couldn't bring himself to resent her anymore.


"Well played, Kirk!" Her eyes were a little unsure, but she seemed sincere.

"Thanks! You too, I guess."

She nodded, and a dark-haired guy put an arm around her shoulder.

Jim was swept away soon after Emerett's parting regal nod and Moss' handshake, because Scotty had apparently decided it was time to celebrate even though no one had even had lunch yet.

And that was how they left the courtroom for the last time.


"You appear unable to remain upright, Captain," Spock said innocently.

"That is a lie," Jim lied.

He was actually swaying slightly on his feet because the combination of celebratory drinks from the party at the Starbase club and the licking kisses Spock was pressing to that spot under his ear were making his knees feel like Jell-o. But. He didn't feel quite prepared to admit that.

"We're-uh—gonna have to figure out our strategy. Y'know, for telling people—"

"You wish to discuss this now?"

"Nope." Jim grinned brightly. "Just sayin.' For f'ture reference."

"A most admirable plan."

"It's just... we have to tell your dad, and my mom, and, like, our bosses, although technically I am still your boss, which, hmm, which is fun—"

Spock hummed his agreement.

"And, obvs—obvisously, I will be your boss for like, ever, now, which is double awesome, and even though you are totally forbidden to die again—"

"As are you."

"Right, as I am, as am I, right, but what I'm trying to say is, okay, that I like love you a lot, and if you dare hurt yourself again, or get captured or something, well, I'll probably lose my shit a little, which is no different from before if you really think about it. But also, also we have this bond thing, right? So if the bad guys are about to get you, you should totally use our mind powers to just tell me! And I'll rescue you, and problem solved!"

Delighted by the brilliance of this plan he had just come up with on the spot, Jim kissed Spock deeply, to celebrate his own genius. "I am a genius."

"Yes you are."

Spock's eyes were super shiny.

"So you'll teach me about the telep—telepathy? I feel like practicing the mental orgasm thing will potentially be loads of fun." Suddenly the bed was cushioning his fall. "Whoop!"

"You should sleep, Jim," Spock said.

And proceeded to completely ignore his own suggestion by perfecting his blowjob technique.

Jim didn't complain.


"I knew it," Pike declared triumphantly.

It really hadn't been the reaction Jim was expecting.

"Uh... okay. Well, I'm calling to ask for your help with—"

"Nogura owes me fifty credits. This is fantastic."

"... Admiral, sir, I was wondering—"

"Oy, Number One! Come here!" Pike said to someone off screen.

Jim was starting to feel... irrelevant. "Who is Number...?"

"I was right!" Pike told said person (what kind of a name was 'Number One,' anyway?), completely ignoring Jim now. "Did you hear him? I was right."

Distantly, a pleasant female voice said. "I never, in fact, suggested you were wrong."

"But now there's proof!"


"Just a moment, Kirk." Pike wasn't even looking at him. "It will be tough, but I'll get you boys the support you need, just—" he was craning his neck and waving an arm at the mysterious woman. "Number One! Does this mean I get that kiss now?""

"You made that arrangement without my consent."

"But it still counts, right?"

Jim ended the call before he could become any more embarrassed.


"You'll have a lot of people to answer to if you hurt him."

"I am aware, Nyota."

"Good. Just, so you watch out. I know we were together for some time but that doesn't mean I'm automatically on your team. And don't get me wrong, I'll kick his ass for you if I have to, but that goes both ways."


"Right. Good, so that's settled then."


"James Tiberius Kirk! How dare you not tell me about it!"

Winona looked genuinely upset and Jim decided not to mention he hid things from her on a daily basis because, otherwise, he'd be calling home twice a week to report another near-death experience.

"I saw it on the nets! They tried to kill you two days ago! Again!"

"Tried being the key word here, I feel—"

"Don't you try and smartass your way out of this one." Winona glowered. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, mom."

"What about Spock? Is he all right?"

"He's okay. His hand was injured and he's going to have some permanent damage, but it's mild—"

"Oh, no, that's awful! Will you be okay?"

"He can still work—" And then he realized what was wrong with her question. "Wait, what do you mean will I be okay? He's the one with the injury, why should I be—"

Winona waved a hand impatiently. "You're reading too much into things, Jimmy. I just wanted to know whether you were also hurt. You never tell me these things."

She was lying.

"You knew too?"

There was a long, awkward pause.

"Well, you did talk about him an awful lot, darling!"

Jim's forehead hit the desk with a thump.


"—and uses for a speculum you couldn't even imagine in your worst nightmares—"

"Yes, Dr McCoy, I believe your 'point,' as Humans say, has been adequately established."

"Ha! That's what you think."


"We, the members of the science department of the Starship Enterprise, feel that on behalf of our chief science officer Commander Spock, there are several points that must be made clear to you, Captain James Tiberius Kirk, as they relate to the welfare of the aforementioned Science Officer and much beloved head of our department..."


"We, the members of the navigation and piloting systems of the USS Enterprise, feel that, on behalf of our Captain James Tiberius Kirk, there are a few things that you should be aware of, Mr Spock, should any emotional damage be purposefully or inadvertently inflicted on the aforementioned Captain..."


"We are the Engineering Department, and won't be taking sides, but you are both awesome and, in case you were wondering, the winner of the poll was—"

"Oh my god, don't tell them that, Matthew—"

"Hey, I thought we agreed—"

"This is so unprofessional."

"Shut up, Keenser."

"You shut up—"

"Evans, why is there black goo on my papers?"

"Oh, sorry, that was me—"

"Got carried away with the lubricant, did we Peterson?"



"Yes, I had sensed the bond there, perhaps even before it was created, but I am thankful you chose to tell me anyway."

"Oh, that's... you're welcome?"

"Did you have any questions for me, Jim?"

"Hah, yes, about a billion, actually. But I guess those can come later. I just... I can't help but—I mean, did you and him, other-me, did you...?"


"Wow. I mean, I wondered, but... I'm so sorry. My... uh, Spock doesn't really understand, I think. Maybe not yet. He says it's unfair to me, like maybe you should treat me as a stranger, but I don't want that and I get it, I honestly get it. I just wish there was something I could do."

"Something you could do, Jim?"

"To help you. To... I don't know. Something."

"There is nothing that would help me, Jim."

"... I. I'm sorry."

"Do not feel sorry. Feel happy. Cherish this. It is wondrous."

"...Yeah. That's the plan. But. We'll still see you around, right? I mean, we'll still, we'll visit and—"

"A Vulcan bonding ceremony, should you choose to one day undergo the traditional process, is performed on Vulcan. So yes, you must visit the colony."

"Wow, okay. Yeah, that's... we'll do that. I have a feeling I'll be calling you often, I didn't even know that was a thing. Shit, does this mean I need to, like, talk to Spock's dad? Oh God, don't tell me you still do the thing where I need to ask for his hand or something—"

"Of course not, that is a most illogical tradition."

"Thank God."

"However it would be considered courteous of you to speak to Sarek some time in the near future."

"... Shit. And hey, there's no need to look so goddamn pleased at my misery, thank you very much."

"My apologies, Jim."

"Yeah yeah. It's cool."

"... Very well, I should leave you to depart this base, I take it?"

"Warping out in a couple of hours, yeah."

"Good. Then I shall only say... good luck."

"And to you, Spock."

Spock closed the screen and lowered his hand, which had been raised in the ta'al greeting gesture, as Jim's had been, although the young man's attempt had appeared rather amusingly clumsy.

His first officer would teach him how to do it properly, Spock mused, wearily sitting back in his chair. They had years to be together. Years to lie in bed and play hand-games. Years to learn each other.

Years to live long. And prosper.

Well, this is by no means goodbye, just the end of one long journey. It's been a pleasure, everyone.

Also I never claimed this chapter wouldn't be anything other than 200 percent schmoop.

PS. Yes, I wrote all of this and only realized at the end that I literally gave Spock a telepathic problem that is healed by shared orgasms. Yes, I am aware of the fact that this is my last A/N on this story. No, I do not regret a thing ;)