This story was written specifically for darke-wulf who generously bid on it for the Australian Relief effort. Her wonderful prompt is at the end.


The cave is cold and barely illuminated by the fire the old Vulcan carefully tends. Jim knows there is no reason to be afraid. That truth does nothing to diminish his need to run, to escape, to get away before those aged fingers so carefully, almost lovingly, make contact with his face. He's lost track of the number of times he has tried to alter the outcome of this encounter, the breaching of barriers that show Jim more than he should see. Jim doesn't blame Spock Prime for initiating the meld that floods him with regret and something that feels like desire for that which will never be.

If he could just wake himself up before Spock reaches him. If he could stop the flood of memories to which he has no claim… if he could just stop Spock before it's too late to turn back.

Waking abruptly, Jim knew his subconscious had once again lost that particular battle. He lay still in his rumpled bed, waiting for his heart rate and breathing to slow to something that resembled normal.

"Computer. Current time?" he asked, scrubbing his face with his palms.

"3:43," the disinterested generic female voice (Human) responded.

"Ugh," Jim grunted, slowly sitting up. "Lights 25%." His quarters were lit just enough for him to make his way safely to his bathroom, to splash cooling water on his skin. He knew better than to look in his mirror, not wanting to see the evidence of yet another nearly sleepless night.

He was pretty sure that it had been the visit to New Vulcan that had made this dream resurface. Prior to that mission, it'd been almost a year since he'd had one. But being on the planet to deliver supplies, meet with the new High Council, ensure that they had everything they needed, had brought him back in contact with the source of the memories to which he had no claim.

Jim knew it was a mistake to accept Ambassador Spock's invitation to stay with him. That didn't mean he had refused. What he felt for the Ambassador could only be described as a jumble of emotions – respect, gratitude, admiration. He was also intimidated and awestruck by the older man. When he described his feelings to Bones, Bones had compared Jim's reaction as similar to how Bones had regarded his father. Since Jim grew up without a real father, Bones reasoned that Spock was the recipient of those previously unexpressed emotions. Which was one of the reasons he could not refuse Spock's invitation to stay with him during their visit.

He hadn't told anyone about the depth of the mindmeld he had experienced on that frozen nightmare of a planet. His Spock knew that he had gotten a lot of information very quickly from his elder counterpart but never questioned the means of the "download." Jim thought Spock suspected it was via mindmeld but had never asked so Jim had never told him.

Jim had admitted to Bones that elder Spock had melded with him. Jim had some minor worries that Bones would find the evidence in some of his scans or meddling or… who knew what. Bones hadn't been particularly concerned but then Jim hadn't been particularly honest. Maybe he should have told Bones the real extent of the meld, the transfer of emotions along with information. But then he would have felt obligated to also tell Spock and that was a conversation he was not ever going to have. For more reasons than he could count or even contemplate without being seized by terror and… something he refused to name.

He left his bathroom, and after pulling on his favorite tattered Academy sweatshirt and sweatpants, escaped from his quarters. This was one of the few times being Captain felt like an inconvenience, one of the rare occasions he would have liked to be dirtside, able to wander the streets of an anonymous city without having concerned, curious eyes follow him.

At this hour engineering was especially quiet, and always a place he could find refuge. Those who worked for Scotty were less intimidated by the presence of their Captain than many of the other crew members. Their duties kept them mostly isolated from the everyday interactions that Kirk had with many of those who kept his starship running. That translated into a more casual attitude rather than a more rigid one that some might expect. Scotty ran his department with a firm and loving hand and it showed in the response of the engineers to their Captain arriving in the middle of the night.

Jim climbed the metal steps that led up to the catwalks above the gigantic cooling tanks, taking the next set of steps that were rarely used and off limits to all but a select number of personnel. Those steps led to an alcove Scotty had shown Jim not long after they had left Earth for their five year mission. It was graced with a window that formed a transparent canopy over what could best be described as a shelf, large enough for two men to sit side-by-side. The curve of the window provided a 180 degree view of the stars through which they traveled. Jim settled his back against the wall next to the opening to the steps, careful to put enough distance between him and stairs so that he could not inadvertently tumble into engineering.

His left hand rested on the window as he stared out at his beloved stars. How could space be so cold when the stars were in fact suns, burning brightly and radiating the life-nurturing heat all beings needed? It was a dichotomy he contemplated when his thoughts were too close, too pressing to be sorted. Like now. If he failed to occupy his mind with topics of insignificance, he would be led to consider the thoughts that First-Spock had inadvertently left with him - the joy he knew from being nearly life-long friends with his version of Jim. The heartache he carried because he only found the courage to confess his deepest, truest feelings once it was almost too late. The pain he felt when he fled to Vulcan to pursue the harsh ritual of Kolinahr. Their physical distance that did nothing to diminish the echoing pain from his soulmate, the one who was always destined to be his bondmate had he simply allowed himself to understand. To believe.

Jim was left with that pain and regret of time wasted. And he knew the disbelieving joy that Spock felt, yes felt, with every fiber of his being when his Jim confessed his love and asked that they be joined in the Human and Vulcan traditions.

After an all too brief marriage, filled with love and friendship, and everything anyone could wish to find, Spock had to say good-bye to his Jim. First-Jim's death nearly killed Spock but he managed to find the inner strength to go on.

And Jim was beyond grateful that First-Spock had found the place he belonged. If had not been for that Spock, none of them would be alive. This Jim would be dead too, not sitting in his secret alcove wondering if it was fear alone that stopped him from trying to follow the same path that First-Spock and First-Jim had finally found. Together.

Jim knew that along with all of the love and comfort and companionship they had shared came the heartbreak, the agony of separation, the knowledge that there was no happily ever after. He was also painfully aware thatno happy ending existed for him and his Spock. The pain of those first lives had already been survived, those mistakes already made. He could not conceive of allowing those same mistakes to occur in their timeline. He didn't think either he or his Spock would survive that much emotional turmoil.

Jim knew from First-Spock's transference that it was entirely likely that his Spock would be entering Pon Farr within the next six months. Jim had to convince Spock to find an appropriate mate before his time arrived. Otherwise, they were destined to repeat history and Spock would believe he killed his Jim.

Jim wasn't sure why Spock and Uhura had broken up. Because they were not meant to be? First-Spock had never been romantically involved with First-Uhura. Neither his Spock nor Uhura spoke about what caused the end of their relationship but they remained cordial, friendly, the consummate professionals.

He didn't know whether or not Spock's version of T'Pring had survived the destruction of their planet. There was no way Jim could ask without revealing the true extent of the information that he had received from First-Spock. And he knew that if his Spock found out how much Jim knew about their first lives, it would be courting disaster. Maybe he could ask First-Spock if T'Pring was still alive. He would surely know. But Jim had the feeling that First-Spock didn't want Spock to find T'Pring or any other bondmate before the onset of Pon Farr. First-Spock wanted to manipulate them into admitting what he considered their true feelings, avoiding the waste of precious time that had been his error.

"Cap't," Scotty's voice said, breaking into Jim's revelry.

"Yeah?" Jim responded, leaning over to look down the opening to see Scotty's face looking back at him. He didn't know how long he had been in his hiding place but the general bustle of engineering indicated that it was later than he thought.

"Spock canna find you, lad. He's issued a shipwide alert."

"Oh crap," Jim said, climbing down the ladder. "The computer can't find me up here."

"No sir. Made sure myself. Computer thinks you're off ship," Scotty confirmed.

"He roust everybody?" Jim asked as they went to the wall intercom.

"Senior officers. Dr. McCoy's fit to be tied. Complaining about green-bloodied hobgoblins," Scotty said.

"I can only imagine," Jim said. "What time is it?"

"0712," Scotty said to Jim's nods.

"Kirk to Spock."

"Captain?" Spock's voice responded almost immediately. "Are you well?"

"I'm fine. Stand down from general alert."

"Yes sir," Spock agreed, making the announcement. "May I inquire as to where you have been?"

"No," Jim sighed, looking over at Scotty who was studying him thoughtfully. "Meet me in Officers' Mess. I'll explain."

"Would it be more convenient for us to meet in your quarters?" Spock asked.

"No," Jim said a little too sharply. "I need some coffee. I'll meet you in the mess."

"As you wish," Spock said, closing the connection.

"I know it's none a' my business, lad," Scotty said quietly so none of the others present would hear. Jim knew Scotty was about to make it his business and he supposed he deserved it. "But?"

"I know," Jim sighed. "It's all very complicated."

"Not iffn you decide it's not," Scotty said.

"It's not that simple, Scotty. I only wish it were."

"I'm thinkin' it's only as complicated as you allow it to be. You and the Commander are two peas in a pod. Well, that's not precisely right but I think you take my meaning."

"I do," Jim said with a nod. "But I don't want to risk it."

"Risk it, sir?" Scotty asked.

Jim shook his head and focused on Scotty, smiling in reassurance. "Thanks for keeping my secret," Jim said, clapping him on the shoulder.

"You need some time to yourself. I understand that," Scotty assured him, walking him to the door of engineering. "I'll be seein' you tomorrow?"

"Isn't it your day off too?" Jim asked with a small laugh.

Scotty shrugged, not otherwise answering. He watched Jim go to the nearest intercom when there was a general page from Dr. McCoy.

"Hey," Jim said.

"You okay?" Bones asked, not sounding at all worried. And surprisingly not annoyed.

"Yeah. Sleepless night," Jim admitted.

"Again?"

"Yeah. I'm sorry Spock woke you."

Bones laughed and Jim could see him shaking his head. "I wasn't asleep. I haven't been to bed."

"What's happened?"

"Nothing so dramatic. Iris Powers' baby decided to make an early and unexpected arrival. She and their beautiful little boy are fine. Bobby passed out during the delivery and I had to fix the cut on his head. They are all asleep now so I'm going follow their example."

"Good idea. I'll stop by later and welcome the baby aboard."

"They'd like that," Bones agreed. "After you go back to bed."

"Can't…you…. breaking up," Jim said, disconnecting with a smile. He knew Bones would track him down once he woke up and Jim better had gotten some sleep before the Doctor was able to find him.

Jim made his way to Officers' Mess, aware of the curious eyes that followed him. He rarely was seen outside his quarters in anything other than his uniform and occasionally jeans for shoreleave. He knew the crew wondered what had happened to cause him to wander the corridors in such …interesting attire.

Spock was at the Captain's table when Jim entered, his entire focus on the door. Jim thought he saw Spock relax a fraction as he crossed over to him.

"Hey," Jim said, looking down at Spock, his hands hidden in the kangaroo pocket of his sweatshirt.

"Jim," Spock responded, gazing up at him, his black eyes more guarded than usual. The other occupants in the large room were careful to keep their distance, sensing that their presence would be entirely unwelcome.

"Do you want a cup of tea?" Jim asked, admittedly stalling.

"Yes," Spock agreed, sitting still except for watching Jim walk over to the dispensary. He was still watching the Captain as he returned with the two cups.

Jim sat across from Spock, eyes trained on his coffee rather than his First Officer who observed him silently.

"Where were you?" Spock finally asked in a quiet voice, shattering the icy silence that had enshrouded them.

"What does it matter?" Jim asked in return, keeping his voice low. The crew did not need proof that they were having a disagreement. He figured their body language spoke volumes about their conversation and any observant person would know they were not pleased to be sitting together at this moment. "I'm not on duty today. I don't even have any meetings on my schedule."

"It matters because I could not find you. I did not know if you were injured or missing."

"You can see I'm fine. How did you know I wasn't in my quarters?" Jim asked, looking up at him.

"I did not hear you. Even on your off-duty days, you rarely sleep past 0600. When I still did not hear you stirring at 0700, I contacted Leonard to inquire as to whether or not he knew where you were."

"What did he say?" Jim asked even though he could not have cared less in all honesty.

"I believe he may have questioned both my parentage and my overall intelligence. I am not entirely certain," Spock admitted, hoping that would at least coax a smile from his Captain.

"No surprise," Jim said, staring back at his cup. This was not a conversation he wanted to be having. It was not a discussion he could comfortably engage in. Not now. Not ever.

"Why were you hiding?" Spock asked in an even tone.

"Hiding is a bit dramatic," Jim said, shaking his head. "I needed some time alone. To clear my head. I didn't mean for you to get the idea I somehow disappeared."

"Perhaps sharing those things which are weighing most heavily on you would be to your benefit," Spock suggested, surprising Jim with his insight. Although he supposed if anyone was going to know Jim had a lot on his mind, it would be Spock.

"There are some things that need to be kept private," Jim finally said, sensing Spock's dissatisfaction with his response. He glanced up at him in time to see his black eyes narrow.

"This has to do with Ambassador Spock," Spock said in a low voice.

"What do you mean by that?" Jim countered.

"You have been exceedingly distant and distracted since you spent time with the Ambassador. I would know what occurred while you were with him," Spock said, for all the world making it sound like a demand.

"Why? It's not really your business, is it?" Jim asked.

"It is," Spock said. "Anything or anyone who affects your well-being is my concern."

"There is nothing wrong with my well-being, Spock. And staying with the Ambassador is not the root cause of my current…state."

"You admit you are in a 'state,'" Spock said, pinning him with his stare.

"No," Jim said a little too loudly. "You can't put words in my mouth. Leave it lie, Spock. I'm fine."

"You are not," Spock said. "You have been too quiet and too isolated since we left Vulcan. I will know what the Ambassador has done to cause this change in your demeanor."

"And I'm telling you not to poke your nose in places it has no business being. I don't need your permission to spend time with anyone, least of all the Ambassador," Jim informed him sternly.

"If the Ambassador made inappropriate advances toward you, it is my concern," Spock said.

"Inappropriate advances?" Jim repeated, incredulous that the words had come out of Spock's mouth. "You think I'm …having sex with him?"

Spock stared back at Jim, not otherwise responding.

"God you have an over active imagination. I barely touch him. We're friends, Spock. That's all. I remind him of his Jim and he likes having me around. That's the extent of any involvement he and I may have. If you think otherwise, you need to get it out of your head right now," Jim said, abruptly standing. "You are going down a road all of your own making. And I am frankly disappointed in you." With that, Jim turned on his heel and left the mess, not bothering to turn around to see the impact his final words were having on Spock.

While he was very surprised by Spock's words, he thought he ought to also be angry. But he wasn't. He was… surprised. And it made him wonder what objections Spock would have had if he had said he and the Ambassador were intimate. Was it jealousy that had prompted Spock's question?

Jim was still trying to sort it all out when he entered his quarters, shedding his sweats as he went. When he stood in his tee shirt and briefs next to his bed, he discovered that it was not empty.

"What are you doing here?" he asked Bones.

"I was sleeping," Bones grumped, squinting up at him from where his head was nestled in Jim's pillows.

"Don't you have your own quarters?" Jim asked with a smile.

"Yeah. But they can find me there. And this way I know you came back to sleep."

"There are other ways to make sure you aren't disturbed," Jim pointed out.

"Whatever," Bones said with a shrug, closing his eyes.

"At least move over so I can sleep too," Jim said, shoving his hip to get him started.

"Fine," Bones grumbled. He moved closer to the far side, turning his back to Jim. "What'd Spock say?" he asked when Jim was in bed too.

"He thinks I'm having sex with the Ambassador," Jim said, feeling Bones' laughter.

"Dear God," Bones said.

"Right?" Jim said, one arm over his eyes. "What would he care if I was?"

"Because he wants you," Bones said.

"Uhnnn," Jim grunted. He felt Bones shift and could feel his eyes on him when Bones lay on his back.

"You've got to come to grips with it, kid. Spock's in love with you."

"No," Jim said in denial, shaking his head.

"Yes," Bones said. "And unless I miss my guess, you feel the same."

"No," Jim said less firmly.

"What is the problem here? You're in love with him. He's in love with you. Done – happily ever after."

Jim shook his head again, taking a deep breath. "Can I tell you something? As my BFF? Not my doctor?"

"Sure. But don't call me that," Bones said.

"You aren't my BFF?" Jim asked, lowering his arm to look over at Bones.

"I'm not four, you dolt. How many times have I told you to stop saying that?"

Jim shrugged and gave him a sheepish grin. "That mindmeld with First-Spock was… inappropriately deep."

"Inappropriately?" Bones asked.

"I got a lot more information than just about Nero. I got Spock's entire history."

"Including his Jim."

"Yeah. There was no happily-ever-after. Not until it was almost too late. I can't put me or Spock through the pain First-Spock and First-Jim endured."

"You aren't his Jim. This isn't First-Spock that's in love with you. The timelines aren't the same. Your futures aren't theirs," Bones pointed out gently.

"But if we… if I…." Jim stopped, shaking his head. "I keep dreaming about them. It makes me think it's me and him. I can't…."

"You can if you decide to," McCoy said softly.

Jim shook his head again. "First-Spock loved his Bones too. Not in any physical way. But they were extremely close."

"I can imagine," Bones said. "Now that I'm not mad at him any longer for stranding you on Delta Vega, I can almost tolerate his company."

Jim laughed softly at those words. "You more than tolerate him. You seek him out. Just like he looks for you."

"Yeah," Bones had to agree. "So what are you going to do? You can't hide from Spock for the duration."

"I know," Jim sighed. "I don't know what I'm going to do, honestly. Right now I'm going to get some sleep, I hope. If a certain grumpy doctor doesn't snore too loud."

"I don't snore," Bones claimed.

"Dude. I spent almost three years sleeping 5 feet away from you. You do snore."

"Shut up and go to sleep," Bones said, glad when Jim laughed at the words.

~o0o~

Jim managed to avoid spending any time with Spock outside their official duties for the following two weeks. He could feel his First Officer's eyes on him any time they were in the same area and had any time that was not taken up with their responsibilities. Spock approached him several times in attempt to initiate what passed for causal conversation. Jim managed to deflect his openings and leave before Spock could involve him in anything more than necessary pleasantries.

Bones took some perverse pleasure in reminding Jim that hiding and avoidance were not options when they were all trapped on the same tin-can millions of miles from Earth. Jim pretended not to hear him.

They were in the briefing room, discussing their next mission to Lajkasant who had requested consideration for entry into the Federation. The neighboring star system coveted the rich resources of the Lajkasant's planet and they hoped by being admitted into the Federation, they would receive protection from on-going attacks by the Qnarsturs.

"You'll need to stay aboard," Bones told Spock as they discussed the away-team assignments.

"As I am aware, Doctor. I have read all of the information from Starfleet and am cognizant of the strong psyche abilities of the residences of Lajkasant," Spock informed him stiffly.

"Good," Bones said with a nod, acting as though Spock had thanked him for the caution rather than dismissed him.

"You'll be coming, Bones," Jim said, looking at those around the table. "And Scotty. They want to know if you can assist them in improving their warp mechanics."

"Aye, sir," Scotty agreed.

"I'll be coming, sir?" Uhura asked quietly. She seemed unusually hesitant to voice her opinion and that concerned Jim. But the briefing was not the time for him to question her about it.

"Of course. You'll need to wear pants. They don't believe in dresses," Jim reminded her.

"Certainly," Uhura agreed, making a note on her padd, her beautiful face marred by an unusual frown.

"Pavel, Hikaru. You can toss a coin to see who comes," Jim told them with a smile. They nodded, exchanging a secret glance that had become common between them.

"It's Pavel turn, sir," Sulu said.

"That's fine then," Jim agreed.

"You will be accompanied by Lt. Commander Giotto? Or has he assigned a security detail?" Spock asked, making it sound more like an order rather than a question.

"That won't be necessary," Jim said, looking down at his padd. "They are a peaceful people who abhor all violence."

"It is protocol, sir, to have appropriate security accompany the landing party," Spock said with a hard edge in his voice. The other occupants held their collective breaths to see how Jim would react to that statement. Those four words that said so much more than it would seem.

Jim looked up at Spock, frozen blue eyes meeting brown. It was a contest of wills and everyone knew it.

Spock blinked, glancing down at the table. The others resumed breathing although some felt like they had forgotten how.

"Dismissed," Jim said, standing. Everyone followed suit, filing out silently. "Uhura."

"Yes sir," she said, remaining behind. Jim studied her as she gazed back at him, her nonverbal communication non-existent.

"What's wrong?" Jim asked, deciding to dispense with empty conversation and meaningless platitudes.

Uhura kept her eyes locked on his, not pretending she didn't understand the question. "Why are you so angry?" she finally asked.

He sighed at that, sitting down. He felt her move closer, nearly touching him but not quite.

"Did Spock kick your dog?" Uhura asked, looking down at his bowed head.

"I wish it were that simple," he said, looking up at her. "But I don't have a dog."

She shook her head, her ponytail swishing from the movement as she sat in the chair next to him, a light hand on his arm. "Tell me," she coaxed gently.

"I can't, Nyota. I wish to God I could. But it's something I have to work out for myself."

"You aren't succeeding," she pointed out unnecessarily. "Where is that Jim Kirk who tried to pick me up in the bar? Where is the devil-may-care look in his eyes? His cockiness? His 'there are no no-win scenarios' attitude?"

He shook his head. "Being Captain changes a man."

"It changes his actions. It doesn't change who he is. You'll always be a dumb hick. You're just better dressed. You were my little Jim Kirk for the first 18 months. But not now."

"Your little Jim?" Jim laughed. "The one you despised?"

She shrugged at that. "I'd take him back over this one," she said softly.

Jim saw the sincerity in her eyes and hated that he had hurt her, disappointed her. But he didn't know what to do about it. He had to protect himself and Spock. There were no other options.

"It isn't just me that's noticed, you know," she finally said. "The crew is walking on egg shells and don't know what to do to help."

"They can't help. No one can," Jim told her.

"There is one person who can make it all right. But you won't even talk to him," Nyota said gently.

"Spock and I…have a lot to work out," Jim admitted. "But that's more complicated than I can handle. At least right now."

"Then when, Jim? After it's too late? After you've driven him off your ship?"

"That isn't my intention," Jim told her quickly. Maybe a little too quickly.

"Have you told him that? No I don't suppose you have since you won't speak to him outside of what duty requires."

"Could you twist the knife a little harder? I'm pretty sure there are a couple of internal organs you haven't damaged yet," Jim said.

"If Hikaru would loan me his Katana, I would," Nyota said, smiling when that got a small laugh from him. "Talk to him after this away-mission. Please."

"Is that an order?" he joked.

"Would it help if it were?" she responded, standing when he did.

"Thank you," he said sincerely.

"Please find me that dumb hick. I miss him," Nyota said, laughter dancing in her eyes.

"I'll work on it," Jim promised, following her out the door and back onto the Bridge.

Spock was at the science station, staring over at Jim and Nyota when they returned, his dark eyes following Jim until he sat in the Captain's chair, pointedly ignoring Spock's unwelcome attention.

~0~

The away team met with Spock one last time as they achieved orbit over the planet. He had instructed them in how to construct their mental shields so that the Lajkasants would not inadvertently overwhelm the Humans. The members of the team had been practicing, Spock checking their barriers as they waited for permission to transport. When he stood in front of Jim, the Captain took one step back and shook his head. While the other members of the away team had permitted Spock to test their mental shields, Jim was not willing to allow it.

"Jim. He needs to check," Bones said in his stern 'doctor' voice.

"My mental shields are fine, thank you," Jim said, primarily addressing Bones rather than Spock.

"You made it an order for us," Bones pointed out. "You can't refuse to follow your own order."

"I most certainly can," Jim responded. "Thank you, Mr. Spock. That will be all."

Spock's eyes narrowed slightly but with a curt nod, he turned and left, his hands clinched tightly behind his very stiff back.

"That was unnecessarily unkind," Uhura told Jim, her voice reaching only his ears.

"You are out of line," he whispered back. She took a small step back and turned to look only at McCoy.

"The planet is ready for us, sir," Scotty announced. The away team mounted the steps, Chekov standing as far from the Captain as he could and still remain on the transporter pad. Uhura looked from Chekov to Jim, an expression of 'I told you so' clearly written on her face.

When they materialized, they were standing in a beautiful garden, roses of every imaginable color surrounding them. They could hear the faint sounds of a water fountain in the background. Jim's first thought was that Spock would love to see so many bright roses all in one place. He shoved that stray thought aside at the approach of a woman who could only be the Premier of Lajkasant. She stood well over six feet tall, her bright yellow hair adding to her presence and her height. She wore a flowing blue tunic over blue and white pants. As she approached with a smile, her hair shifted from yellow to orange to red and back to yellow. Jim as pretty sure that they hadn't said anything about unusual coiffures in the briefings and he was impressed by the alterations her hair underwent.

A woman who was the Premier's aid followed close behind. Her hair was bright purple and stayed that color as they stopped before the away team, smiling in welcome.

"Captain," Premier Ton-irtai said in delight.

"Premier," Jim responded, his smile matching hers. "Thank you for permitting us the joy of visiting your beautiful planet."

"The pleasure is ours, Captain," she said. "Will you introduce me to your peoples?"

"It would give me happiness to do so," he responded as the briefings had directed him to do. As he introduced the four other members of the away party, he could feel the very tentative touch of the Premier's mind to his, checking to see that his intentions were as open and honest as they had been told. Jim felt her satisfaction at his sincerity and the presence of her mind dissipated.

"Will it be pleasant for you to come with us and share our repast?" Premier Ton-irtai asked politely. The away team enthusiastically agreed, following the Premier and her aide whom she had introduced as Ad-emshy to a huge table under the sprawling canopy of gigantic trees. Jim wondered ideally what sort of trees they were, thinking uselessly that Spock would know, were he here.

The away team took the places they were directed to sit, more Lajkasants joining them at the table to share in the banquet. The Humans talked freely with the natives, enjoying their seemingly universal good humor. Much laughter was heard around the table as the meal continued.

Jim began to relax, enjoying the food, and especially the company of these vivacious, cheerful people. Their demeanor was contagious and he knew that the other Humans were enjoying the banquet as well. Even Bones looked less cantankerous than usual and that was saying something.

Uhura and Scotty were in the middle of telling one of the Lajkasants about life on board the Enterprise as Jim reached over for another qum-quart, the delicious blue fruit the Premier had introduced to them. Jim felt the presence of a new touch to his mind, this one darker and decidedly unfriendly. He closed his eyes and concentrated on reinforcing the shields he had carefully constructed when to his horror they exploded, sending shards of pain tearing through his head. And then there was only dark.

~o0o~

Spock met them in the transporter room as soon as McCoy called for an emergency beam-out. The Premier was devastated that one of her citizens had broken their most scared of all laws and mentally attacked the Captain. She could not reason why anyone would have committed such an atrocity and was there anything she or her healers could do?

McCoy knew that they had to get Jim back on board and away from the mental energy of the Lajkasants, regardless of their benevolent intentions. The mental intrusion would only cause further harm if they remained on the planet. The three other members of the away team returned as quickly as protocol permitted, Scotty assuring the Premier that they would return when they could and certainly this regrettable action by one citizen would not derail the negotiations.

"Doctor?" Spock asked as he watched Jim's still, colorless form materialize, his head cradled in McCoy's lap. He knelt next to the Captain, searching for a pulse, any sign that Jim still lived.

"We've got to get him to sickbay," McCoy said firmly. "Spock, can you carry him?"

"Of course," Spock agreed, looking up at the Doctor. "Will it harm him further?"

"The damage is mental, not physical." McCoy laid a hand on Spock's shoulder. "Come on, Spock. We need to get him to sickbay."

Spock nodded, carefully picking up Jim to cradle him close to his body. In only minutes, they arrived in sickbay where Spock gently deposited Jim onto one of the out-of-the-way biobeds. Bones scanned his still form, frowning at the readings before turning his frown up at the readouts over Jim's head.

"It had to have been a horrifying mental attack. The Premier can't believe one of her people would do this. It's their most taboo crime," McCoy said, looking down at Jim. "He's gone way deep inside, to protect himself from the mental violence."

Spock stared at the Captain, willing him to move, to acknowledge them. As illogical as it was, Spock wanted to hope Jim awake.

"Can you contact him?" McCoy asked, looking at Spock with hollow hazel eyes. "If you can't, if you can't reach him, we're going to lose him."

Spock nodded once. He had already reached the same conclusion. "I concur. However, what if he sees me as the enemy as well?"

"He won't," Bones promised. "He'll respond to you. You are safety to him."

"I would have believed that at one time. Not at this moment," Spock said in a tone that sounded something like regret.

"He still trusts you. I think it's him he doesn't trust," McCoy suggested. He didn't think Spock completely understood but he got enough of the idea that Spock nodded.

"I will go to him," Spock said.

"Can you make sure you don't get lost? That you can find your way back?" McCoy asked.

"You will remain with your hand on mine," Spock said. "That will guide me back should I become disoriented."

"All right," Leonard agreed, taking Spock's hand into his own. He saw Spock flinch at the contact. "I'm sorry. I'll try to control my emotions."

"Your multiple emotions are understandable, Leonard. I too am concerned. And your emotions will shine as a beacon to me should I need it. Most especially your love."

McCoy nodded at that, concentrating on the love he felt for both his friends, doing all he could to block out the fear, the worry, the pain that he couldn't help Jim.

Spock sat on the edge of the biobed, reaching with his free right hand to place his fingers on the meld points. He slowed his breathing and concentrated on gently entering Jim's mind, careful not to frighten him further by arriving too quickly or actively.

Spock stood on the edge of Jim's consciousness, enthralled by what he saw. Everywhere he looked, there were bright bursts of color – silent fireworks in spectacular blues and greens and reds and yellows. There were colors present that Spock had never before seen. Each orb was more beautiful than the last. Some burst into full blossom, some stayed the same size and shape, some shrunk into themselves and disappeared.

One came directly toward him. It was immediately noticeable in its ugly colors and violent actions. Spock watched warily as it grew nearer. The sounds emanating from it were low and as ugly as the colors.

He always colors outside the lines. You're no good – I've always said so. How did you fail math again? You're the one who drove Sam away. I'm not even sure you are George's son. You'll come to no good. It's inevitable.

The words were hurtful and wounding. The burst of horrible light and sound sped by, disappearing into the bright, dancing lights that were far more numerous.

Stretched out in front of Spock was a long platform, supported by invisible pillars. The bridge was comprised of crayons laid side by side by side, traversing the endless space that was the mind of Jim Kirk. Spock contemplated the span before him and how it branched off into multiple directions only a few steps from where he stood. How would he know which to follow to find Jim? What if he chose the wrong path and missed him?

As he considered the choices before him, a cheerfully purple glow floated over, dancing a foot away from him. It seemed to be considering Spock's presence. When Spock turned his thoughts to Jim and what he had come to mean to Spock, the orb brightened, expanded, bounced in happiness.

The violet glow floated away from Spock, over the bridge to where the first intersection waited. Spock watched the light even as the light watched him. When Spock did not follow, the orb returned to him, waiting.

The glow was there to guide him and he knew he could not refuse. Nodding, he followed it down the path of crayons. The light took the right path, slowing to make sure that Spock would also make that choice. Spock followed automatically, a bright gold thread stretching out behind him. He knew that was his lifeline, his connection through Leonard to the outside.

The bright orb continued confidently along the pathways, never having to slow to choose the next direction to take. It did slow when a dark, unhappy glow raced toward Spock.

Then not only did you violate the rules, you also fail to understand the principal lesson... You of all people should know, Cadet Kirk, a captain cannot cheat death… Furthermore, you have failed to divine the purpose of the test… The purpose is to experience fear, fear in the face of certain death, to accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one's crew. This is the quality expected in every Starfleet captain.

Spock could not prevent the feelings of remorse that welled up at hearing those words, said in his voice. Words intended to wound, to take the Cadet down a proverbial peg.

The purple orb moved closer to Spock than it previously been, glowing warmly and bouncing toward him. Spock had the impression that the orb wanted to comfort him, to help sooth the hurt he felt rebounding from the words he had thrown at Kirk.

Spock took a deep breath, nodding to the orb to lead on. He would follow. It took Spock to a representation of the Enterprise's Bridge, the outline of the walls, floors and control panels hazy and shifting. Only the Captain's chair and the chair by the science station where Spock generally sat were firmly imagined. This Bridge was more expansive than the actual one, the science station several feet closer to the Captain's chair than it was in reality. Spock considered the significance of that alteration and could come to only one conclusion. That the Captain depended on his presence and was comforted by it. The violet glow confirmed this, bouncing happily as it became even more luminous.

When the glow decided they had spent long enough on the representation of the Bridge, it continued across and down a new pathway, still made of crayons. To the left side of the path was Sickbay but the glow avoided the row of crayons that would take them there. It stayed as bright but became somewhat smaller as they passed the open door to Dr. McCoy's office, as though the glow was attempting to avoid detection by the Doctor.

Past the entry to Sickbay was a row of dark colored crayons that branched off from the more brightly colored path they had been following. The glow took the right extension, this one darker than those they had previously been on. The path ended at what Spock could only think of as a fort of crayons. They stood on end, the pointed tips stretching up over his head. There was no space in between the crayons and when the glow rose to go over the top, the crayons grew to prevent its entry. The orb floated back down and the crayons shrank to their previous proportions. Spock followed the glow around the four sides of the fort, not finding an opening of any sort.

The glow moved closer to Spock and waited. Spock was unsure what his next step should be. If the light created by Jim's imagination could not enter the fort, then how could Spock?

In the distance, almost too faint to hear, Dr. McCoy was telling Spock he needed to hurry. Jim's autonomic functions were growing weaker. Not much time left. Heart rate and respiration slowing dangerously. Whether those were Leonard's thoughts, Spock's thoughts, or even Jim's thoughts, Spock could not determine. Nor did it matter. The fact remained that Jim was growing weaker and Spock alone could prevent his condition from worsening.

The glow had heard Dr. McCoy's words and was bouncing in agitation, much like Spock had seen Jim do when he was impatiently waiting to beam down, or trying to remain calm as they waited for an overdue report from an away team.

Spock, McCoy's voice said in urgency. The golden thread was vibrating in concern, urging him forward.

Spock knew he had to reach Jim inside his fort but how? What would Jim do if he were the one on the outside trying to get in? Physical force would not be effective as the crayons were not real. They had no actual substance. They were imagined by Jim's mind. And Jim had imagined himself inside, where he perceived he would be safe.

Imagined himself inside. Those words echoed in Spock's head, giving him the answer he sought. He closed his eyes, concentrating on all that Jim was to him – his Captain, his friend, his… anchor in the chaos of Human emotions. When Spock allowed his eyes to reopen, he was presumably inside the fort, but it was represented as a barn. Bright sunlight flooded through the wide doors, illuminating the haystacks and the various farm equipment. It also shone brightly on Jim where he squatted next to a motorcycle. He was wearing faded jeans and a black leather jacket. His right hand was on the mechanism of the motorcycle, his left clutching an oil splattered rag. There was a smear of grease across Jim's right cheek.

He was watching Spock as Spock gazed back at him. Jim's expression was wary, watchful.

"Jim," Spock said quietly.

"Hey," Jim replied.

"You must return with me," Spock said, approaching a little closer but still maintaining what he hoped Jim considered a safe distance.

Jim looked past Spock and Spock turned to see what was attracting the Human's attention. The wall of the barn behind Spock was not wooden like the others. It was white – a screen on which a movie seemed to be playing.

As Spock watched the actions on the screen, he recognized himself. But he was older. As was Jim. And they were sad. Their voices were inaudible but their expressions were clear. They were saying good-bye.

"This is us?" Spock asked cautiously.

"It will be," Jim said, his voice carrying the weight of the farewell on the screen.

"What is happening?"

"You are leaving, to undergo Kolinahr," Jim said. "Purge all your Human emotions."

Spock shook his head at that. "That is not my future."

"It's already happened," Jim said quietly.

"Jim," Spock said, squatting next to him, nearly touching him. "These are elder Spock's memories, aren't they?"

Jim considered the question before slowly pulling his eyes from the screen to look into the caring black eyes studying him so intently. "Yeah. He didn't mean for it to happen."

"When you were on Delta Vega," Spock said.

Jim nodded, glancing down at the rag in his hand. "He lost his Jim. Too many times."

"You aren't his Jim," Spock reminded him.

"I'm not yours either," Jim said in defeat.

"And you want to be mine," Spock said, his voice warm and low.

Jim shrugged but Spock could see the truth. "I couldn't survive."

"Survive what? What has you so frightened?"

"When you leave. When you decide being Vulcan is more important than being with.…"

"With you?" Spock asked gently.

Jim looked back at Spock, misery in every line of his face and in his eyes. "Do you know you're going to enter Pon Farr in a couple of months?"

"I have suspected. Although I have begun showing the preliminary signs, I am not concerned. You and I will be bonded by then," Spock said firmly, a foregone conclusion to him.

Jim shook his head. "You don't want to bond with me. You're going to leave me. Return to Vulcan and attempt to be the embodiment of logic your father has always wanted you to be."

"His father is not mine. His father did not lose his Amanda far too soon. My father wants nothing of me but my happiness. And he knows, as I do, that you are the only one who can ensure that," Spock told Jim.

"Is your T'Pring still alive?" Jim asked.

"She is. We severed our bond when I chose Starfleet. She did not wish to be left behind, alone. And she never particularly liked me."

"She didn't like you?" Jim asked, some of his usual humor showing through.

"It is hard to keep secrets when you are bonded," Spock reminded him. "First-Spock and Sarek are discussing with the High Council the need to cease bonding children. Father believes they will succeed in ending a practice which has outlived its usefulness. Especially with so few Vulcans remaining."

Jim nodded, looking around the barn. "I never expected to seek refuge in Iowa."

"It is an early memory. One that represents safety to your adult self."

"I suppose so," Jim agreed. "Bones thinks I'm going to die, huh?"

"You will if you do not return with me. You have retreated so far that your heart rate has slowed and your breathing is far too shallow. Your mind is still active but that will also change if you do not emerge soon."

Jim nodded, considering Spock's words. "That's why he has me on oxygen."

"It is. He is concerned it may already be too late."

"How do you know?" Jim asked.

"We are in physical contact. So that we may find our way back out."

"He's your guide," Jim said.

"He is. However, you will be able to lead us out without his help," Spock said.

"If I take us out, do you promise not to leave me?" Jim asked, his eyes wide and showing the fear he was no longer able to contain.

"I have no intention of leaving you. Not now. Not in our future that has not yet been written," Spock promised.

"Our future," Jim said, trying out the words.

Spock nodded, holding out his right hand to Jim. Jim stared at proffered hand, tearing his eyes away to look at Spock. His face was calm, certain, caring. Jim nodded and put his left hand into Spock's right.

They stood together and the barn dissolved around them.

"Crayons?" Jim asked as they took the path Jim instinctively chose.

"It is your imagination that created them. Not mine," Spock said as they continued along the way.

"Hmm…" Jim considered that, looking around them. "This what the inside of my mind looks like?"

"It is. The orbs are ideas, I believe. Some you bring to fruition. Some you abandon. Some you allow to develop or shrink as they will."

"I had no idea I was so colorful," Jim said with a laugh, the sound animating all of the lights around them.

"I knew," Spock said, the words warming Jim to his soul. That made the lights glow brighter, happiness in their illuminations.

"Is this they way you came in?" Jim asked as they took steps up, wide stairs welcoming them. As they climbed the steps, the stairs rose higher, lifting them closer to the surface.

"There were no stairs. I believe this may be a short-cut," Spock said.

"Makes sense. Do you know what the inside of your mind looks like?"

"I do not. You will be able to show me," Spock said.

"This is it," Jim said when they stood on the edge of a deep precipice.

"How do we get across?" Spock asked, tentatively looking down over the side. He regretted that decision when he saw the endless dark depth.

"We don't," Jim said, laughing. "We jump."

"Jump?" Spock repeated, looking at Jim as though he had arrived too late and Jim was lost to them permanently.

"Stop looking at me like that. I know what I'm doing," Jim promised. "We'll jump from here and we'll be back in Sickbay where Bones can yell at me for being so stupid."

"How can you be certain?"

"I just am. And I'm not suicidal. It will be fine," Jim said. "Come on." He inched closer to the edge, puling Spock along with him. "You ready?"

"Would it matter?" Spock asked.

Jim laughed and threw himself off the cliff, pulling Spock with him.

When Spock dared open his eyes, it was to find Jim's laughing blue eyes looking up at him.

"Hey," Jim said with a smile just for Spock.

"Hey," Spock returned, nearly smiling when Jim laughed.

"You are some kind of special," Bones said, his fingers on the strong pulse in Jim's neck.

"Thanks," Jim said, turning his gaze to Bones. "I'm going to be fine."

"You are," Bones said, shaking his head. "You nearly died."

"I'm sorry. But I didn't. Thanks to you and Spock," Jim said, smiling at them both.

"Do you have a headache? Any dizziness or nausea?" Bones asked, certain of the answer.

"Nope. I'm 100%."

"You've never been 100% in your life," Bones contradicted. "Go to your quarters and leave me in peace."

"Can Spock come?" Jim asked as he sat up, testing the new position to make sure the room would remain stable.

"Yes," Bones sighed. "Please be careful."

"What do you mean by that?" Jim asked with wide, overly innocent eyes.

"Shut up. Spock, just watch for any signs of shock. I'm pretty sure he'll be fine but he's never entirely predictable."

"I do know that, Leonard," Spock agreed, waiting as Jim left the biobed.

"We'll see you at breakfast," Jim said, clapping Bones on the shoulder. "And thanks."

"No charge," Bones assured him, watching them walk out of Sickbay, their hands nearly touching but not quite.

~0~

It was a couple of hours later that Jim had breath enough to speak coherently. Not that he minded. But having a Vulcan's mouth sealed over his made talking virtually impossible.

"You're sure, right?" Jim said. His head was propped on his right hand, his left lazily drawing patterns on the flat plains of Spock's stomach.

"I would have thought the last one point nine three six hours would have eliminated any possible doubts," Spock said, a sparkle in his eyes as he gazed up at Jim.

"Maybe I just wanted you for your body," Jim suggested, making Spock shake his head. "No. You're right. We are supposed to be together. Like this."

"We are. It is our destiny," Spock agreed.

"I'm still a little afraid you're going to leave me. Like First-Spock left his Jim."

"You have my vow that you will never be left behind, t'hy'la."

Jim nodded, leaning down to kiss the slightly bruised and swollen lips that were so tempting to him. "When will you bond us?"

"We need to wait at least a day. Your mind must have time to heal. To recover from the attack."

"Do they know who did it?"

"How do you suppose I would know, Captain? I have been in your service since you beamed aboard."

"Oh yeah," Jim laughed. "But crayons? Really?"

Spock pulled him down and silenced him with a kiss. A kiss that held all the promise Jim needed. That Spock would always be his. And he would be Spock's. Of that he was certain.


darke_wulf wrote:

Basically, I'd like to see a "the mind meld gave me feelings" story, but with a twist.

During the meld with Spock Prime, Kirk does see the epic friendship/relationship that existed between Spock!Prime and Kirk!Prime, but he also sees all the angst they went through. The pain suffered when they thought each other dead (or actually were dead), that first Ponn Farr disaster, Spock Prime being ashamed of his feelings and eventually running off to pursue Kolinahr, Spock Prime heartbroken after Kirk finally did die, etc.

From this, Reboot!Kirk decides that it just isn't worth the pain and suffering. Maybe he's trying to protect himself, maybe he's trying to protect Spock, maybe he's looking out for both of them. In the end, he is determined to keep their relationship professional.

The problem of course being that Reboot!Spock is not Spock!Prime. He's lost his planet and his mother. He's realized just how short life is, and is not willing to waste any more time once he eventually realizes that Kirk is his t'hy'la.

Rather than be conflicted over this, Spock embraces it. Kirk is proving difficult, however, with all of the negative emotions/memories from Spock!Prime running around in his head. So it's up to Reboot!Spock to convince a very reluctant/cautious Kirk that he's not going to be running off to the Vulcan Colony to purge his emotions any time soon and that a relationship could/would be worth the risk.