Notes: The sequel to Keeping Love is here! I received such enthusiastic responses that I wanted to bash out a sequel for you guys. Because you're lovely and d'aww. Although it could've just been that you guys are filthy and like porn. I'm not picky ;)
Further Notes: This is set about two weeks after Keeping Love. So they're still pretty new.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009 and I make no profit from this work.
"Guess whose department is on shore leave rotation?" a familiar voice sing-songed through astrometric lab four, and Ensign Mwase tried and failed to hide a smirk.
"I am not in the habit of 'guessing,'" Spock said, looking up from his terminal in time to receive the customary kiss on the cheek. The tiny burst of warmth and crystalline light through the contact erased the irritation at the public display of affection. "However, based on your opening statement, I would have to logically surmise that the communications department have been granted leave."
"Bingo," Kirk grinned, settling himself on the edge of Spock's desk. "Minute we hit orbit, communications is on rotation."
It made sense. They were to spend six weeks performing scientific research on Marcus Beta - a small planet in a recently mapped system with a ridiculous amount of plant life, and no animal life whatsoever. In communications terms: completely worthless. There would be nothing for the communications department - a department usually constantly at work with signals, sub- and standard-space communications, and any and all visiting parties, hostile and benign - to actually do.
Spock was wholly unsurprised at Captain Pike's decision.
"So guess who has four weeks to do whatever he likes?" Kirk smirked, eyes tracking up and down Spock's body suggestively.
"May I remind you that while communications has been granted leave, all of the sciences will be working overtime?"
"Sure," Kirk shrugged, "on a beautiful, safe planet that doesn't drop below twenty-five celsius in the winter. You really think I'm going to stay up here?"
Mwase had to remove himself from the vicinity; he was dangerously close to laughing out loud. Kirk's blatant flaunting of their relationship was something that Spock's staff found endlessly amusing - mostly because he didn't.
"I'm going to follow you around, watching you do your thing, and then pounce on you every time you take a break," Kirk said lowly. "And if you don't take enough breaks, I'll dig out the regulations on working hours and recite them until you do."
Spock raised an eyebrow.
"Don't challenge me," Kirk warned, then glanced at the chronometer on the desk terminal. "You nearly done?"
"I am intending to work through Beta..."
"Nope," Kirk said breezily. "Regulations. Excepting cases of emergency or severe staffing issues, you're not to work two shifts in a row more than twice a week. And you did it yesterday, and the day before."
"I am conducting fascinating research in..."
"Lieutenant Ryan!" Kirk raised his voice. The lieutenant materialised in a moment, wearing a smirk similar to Kirk's. A warning sign.
"When did you come on duty?"
"Ten minutes ago, sir."
"And are you capable of completing Commander Spock's research?"
"And it won't place undue stress on your own workload?"
"No, sir," she said cheerfully.
"There you go," Kirk said, shifting his attention back to Spock. "Lieutenant Ryan can carry on that research for you. Any more objections?"
Spock would have sighed, if not for Vulcan etiquette. Forget Kirk - he knew Lieutenant Ryan well enough to know when he was about to be ejected from his own lab. She had little to no problem speaking freely with her superiors. And the unholy combination of Ryan and Kirk...
"No," he said.
"Good," Kirk brightened. "Come on, then. Mess hall - I'm starving."
"You have...charmed my staff," Spock accused as they stepped out into the corridor, and Kirk laughed.
"I charm everyone," he said dismissively. "And yeah, I did. Deliberately. Can't get you out of the labs on my own sometimes."
"I aware that I work...long hours..."
"That's not what I'm concerned about," Kirk shook his head. "I get that. Minute we make a new contact, you can't prise me off my transmitters either. I get that."
Kirk sighed as they entered the turbolift. "Look, I'm just...I'm concerned you're overworking for no real reason. Because it's habit, not because you genuinely have something amazing or important to do. If you'd been really fascinated with that experiment, you would barely have noticed my presence - and you certainly wouldn't have talked to me."
He shifted, running a hand through his hair, before fixing those blue, blue eyes on Spock and biting his lip.
"I just...want you to remember that you don't have to work to forget to be lonely any more," he murmured.
Spock stared, the words ringing in his head in a vaguely disconcerting manner.
"Oh, fuck it," Kirk breathed, hitting the emergency stop and lurching forward, wrapping his arms around Spock's upper body and squeezing tightly. "You've been lonely for so long - and I get working long hours when you're lonely and have nobody else to be with but yourself. But that's not the case any more. I'm here now. I'll always be here."
The warmth of his thoughts pushed against Spock's skin, and he ducked his head to rest on Kirk's shoulder. When one broad, calloused hand rose to stroke over the hair at the nape of his neck, he felt once again the sharp crystal clarity of love, burning through those fingers, and tightened his grip on Kirk's waist.
"You want to work long hours because the work's actually important, you go right ahead - and I might bring you snacks in the night," Kirk murmured in his ear. "But if I think you're working out of some old, lonely habit - then I'll stop you."
The wall comm crackled.
"Is there a problem in there?" came a nervous ensign's voice.
"Command crew meeting," Kirk replied flatly, stepping back and entwining his fingers with Spock's. "One moment, please."
"Umm...we need to, uh..."
"I said one moment, Ensign."
The ensign went quiet, obviously debating what to do. Which probably meant he was brand new to the service. Engineering staff were famous for being willing and able to tell any other staff member, up to and including the captain, to fuck off. And largely get away with it.
"We really cannot utilise the turbolifts for unnecessary periods," Spock said.
Kirk keyed in the deck they wanted, and rolled his eyes.
Dr. McCoy and Lieutenant Uhura were already in the mess, engaging in some lively debate over whether or not plants could talk, and so Kirk dragged Spock over to join them, regardless of the fact that Spock barely knew Dr. McCoy on a personal level, and didn't know Lieutenant Uhura at all.
Spock often used these moments - when Kirk's attention turned to other people - to observe him and his mannerisms. He was a communications officer, knowing all the nuances of not only language, but body language and non-verbal cues, and so he moved a lot as he spoke, punctuating every statement with motion from his hands, his face, his shoulders, the curve of his back and the angle of his ribs.
It was exotic. Vulcans did not use such language, verbal or otherwise. If something needed to be said, then the Vulcan language would be used to convey it, and nothing else was necessary. To use body language was alien to them - something that primarily Humans, Romulans and Andorians did.
It was emotional.
Spock knew, academically, that Humans found a lack of body language to be...unsettling. They seemed to read another's actions and intentions through it, and to have nothing to use seemed to unnerve them. Despite Spock's own qualifications, his primary human contacts amongst the Fleet had always been communications officers - and even then, rarely.
Whereas other Humans found Spock - and Vulcans in general - to be eerie, and subsequently avoided them, those in communications actively sought out aliens to communicate with - and yet Spock disliked it. Too often this carried the sensation of being thought of as a tool - something to be used and disposed of, with no real consideration of the being underneath.
How ironic that Humans called Vulcans unemotional, when they too had the capability for such icy disregard.
And yet Kirk...
Without breaking off his animated discussion with the lieutenant, Kirk reached out over the table and settled his hand beside Spock's, brushing his thumb gently over the knuckles in a rhythmic motion. Immediately, an imprint of his emotions began to sink into the skin, leaving behind the deep, warm burn of concern, and once again, that crystal edge of love - so fragile and yet so beautiful...
Uhura exploded into a protest at something Dr. McCoy had said, and they flung animated arguments and accusations back and forth. In the tumult, unnoticed, Kirk turned his gaze back to Spock and cocked his head.
"Are you alright?" he asked, in Vulcan. Perhaps to disguise the question from the others. Uhura's eyes flicked sideways, automatically registering the presence of non-Standard, but she seemed uninterested in the content of said speech, and continued to argue with the doctor. "Are you alright?" Kirk repeated, his hand pressing a little harder - the first creeping tendrils of worry began to curl over Spock's thumbs.
"I am well," Spock replied.
Kirk eyed him for a moment longer, then glanced at his tray. "Eat."
"I didn't know you spoke Vulcan," Uhura said suddenly.
Kirk returned his attention to her, though his hand remained with Spock's, and he chuckled. "Of course I do."
"So how does it compare to the Romulan tertiary dialect?" she asked. "A paper's just gone out - written by that idiot Commander Simmons on the Archimedes - saying that the grammatical structures are the same!"
Kirk snorted. "Please. Simmons is an idiot."
"Is that your professional opinion?" Uhura demanded. "Because I'm drafting a rebuttal, but I'm not fluent in Vulcan, so I could have an academic flaw there."
"I'll back it up," Kirk shrugged. "Write me in as co-author and we'll tell him where to stick it. Vocabulary - yeah, the shit's near as damn it the same, except for that extra pronoun in the masculine form - but grammar? Shut up."
"Hey!" McCoy snapped his fingers. "No talking shop at mealtimes. Bad for the health."
"Really?" Uhura asked, looking wholly sceptical.
"Yes - I'm developing the urge to shoot the pair of you," McCoy said. "And Jim, for God's sake, stop molesting the Vulcan in my line of sight."
"Nah," Kirk replied easily.
The crystals were back. Spock could not bring himself to draw his hand away.
Spock straightened from his position and crouching over a small bush of odd purple flowers, and glanced around at his staff.
"One hour break for lunch," he called, and turned to walk down the soft slope to the stream.
Kirk lay stretched out in the sun, dressed in worn jeans. He had removed his shirt and was using it as a blanket, the sun already beginning to add a dark gold sheen to his skin. He had spent the morning there, helping some of the junior crewmen take water samples and chatting to them about their brand new careers and ambitions in the service. His ability to connect with the crew regardless of rank or department made him a well-respected officer, and Spock had little doubt that when Commander Chen pushed for a captaincy of his own, Kirk would replace him as the First Officer.
The crewmen were gone now, though, and it left them alone by the stream. The water was clear, though undrinkable, and Kirk's feet shimmered, misshapen in the warped light, beneath the flow. The water splashed at the soles of Spock's boots as he crossed, and Kirk squinted up at him briefly before sitting up with a broad smile.
"Lunch already?" he asked, pulling Spock to sit with him. His bare skin was beautifully hot, the blood underneath boiling in the heat, and he smelt of the sunlight. When they kissed, his heat was enticing, and Spock found himself reluctant to let go, following him for a brief moment when Kirk drew back. The crystals shimmered on his skin, gleaming in the heat. "Hey," Kirk breathed, low and reverent.
"Hello," Spock murmured, and Kirk laughed.
"When you get off-duty," he murmured, stroking hot fingers over Spock's jaw, "I'm really tempted to squirrel you away somewhere, strip you down, and completely ravish you. Right out here, under the stars."
Part of Spock recoiled at the idea of such rampant exhibitionism; the rest of him was too relaxed by the heat and the crystals to give much thought to the matter. An idle exhaustion was curling in his veins, and it was simply too much effort to protest Kirk's thoughts.
"Hey," Kirk murmured again, shifting to draw Spock into to relax against him. "I brought some strawberries down. Want some?"
"I am...not hungry at this time," Spock breathed.
"Are you tired?" Kirk asked, squinting at him.
Kirk shrugged. "Well, okay then. I don't mind if you sleep on me, you know."
"I will not sleep," Spock replied flatly.
"Mhmm," Kirk hummed, rubbing a hand up and down Spock's arm. "Just saying. It's okay if you do."
His hand was hot - too hot, in fact, burning through Spock's sleeve in a way that should not be possible.
"Are you well?"
"What?" Kirk blinked, shifting. "Uh, yeah. I feel fine."
Kirk's eyes narrowed, and he brought up his other hand to touch Spock's face. A moment later, he shifted away, kneeling opposite him and clasping both hands to his face. "I think it's you, actually."
"...Me?" Spock said slowly.
"Spock," Kirk said, his tone flicking into crisis mode. "How do you feel? None of this Vulcan stuff. What do you feel, right now?"
"You are...too hot. The sun...burns," Spock's eyes closed, and Kirk gave him a little shake. "I am...tired, Jim. And..." he began to frown. "I am dizzy."
"Okay," Kirk said gently, guiding him to lie down, head cushioned from the yellow grass by Kirk's still-discarded t-shirt. "Alright, hold on. I'm going to call McCoy."
He fumbled with Spock's tricorder as well, as he flipped open his communicator and set up a direct line to sickbay.
"Bones, I think I have a sick Vulcan on my hands," Kirk said, fiddling with the tricorder. "He says he feels dizzy and tired. He's acting lethargic and his body temperature's out of whack."
"Too high or too low?"
The tricorder beeped.
"Ninety degrees fahrenheit," Kirk reported.
"Too low," McCoy said. "Get him up here. I've had three of the science staff through already with similar symptoms. Do a site-to-site transport to minimise the number of people exposed."
Kirk nodded grimly. "Will do - Kirk out."
Spock flinched away from the hand that tried to touch his cheek - too hot, the crystals too sharp, the vine-tendrils of fear choking and suffocating...!
"Alright," Kirk breathed. "It's alright. Kirk to transporter room."
"Lieutenant Ottinger here, Commander."
"I need a transport directly to sickbay. Commander Spock is ill."
"One moment please."
"Spock," Kirk murmured during the pause. "Stay awake for me, alright? Stay awake."
Spock blinked heavy eyes, and turned his blown gaze to the sky. The blue was too close to white - too pale, and a disappointment.
"Ottinger here, sir. Two to beam up - please confirm."
"Confirmed," Kirk said.
The swirls of the transporter were cool - pleasantly cool - but they were also not blue, and Spock missed the colour, in the brief moments before he gave in to the lethargy, and slept.
The crystals broke through the darkness, sparkling like stars at warp, and Spock sighed at the soothing warm that washed through with them.
The hand that brushed through his hair was warm, trailing those anxious tendrils, and he disliked them. Forcing his eyes open, he rolled his neck to find the source - Kirk's pinched blue eyes - not a foot from his own.
"Hey," Kirk murmured. "How are you feeling?"
Spock took the time for a swift systems check. His mouth was unusually dry, his neck ached from the familiar application of medical hyposprays, and the faint overtones of lethargy still lingered. But the dizziness, and the burning heat, were gone.
"Better," he murmured eventually, and Kirk smiled. "What happened?"
"Botany thinks one of the plants you took samples of was secreting some kind of poison," Kirk said. "When you touched it, it got through your skin. Six of the science staff have come down with the same reaction."
Spock frowned minutely.
"Everyone's fine," Kirk soothed. "Botany had seen things like it before so Lieutenant Marks and Bones got together and smashed out an antidote. Nobody was too sick."
"That is fortunate," Spock murmured.
"Yeah," Kirk said, still stroking a hand through Spock's hair. The ministration was soothing, and Spock's eyes drifted closed again. "McCoy said you can go back on duty tomorrow if you feel up to it, but everyone's got to have routine medical scans until we leave."
"For causing you anxiety."
There was a pause, before Kirk's lips were planted firmly on Spock's forehead. "Forgiven," he murmured, "if you eat the strawberries next time."
Three days later, Kirk appeared in his quarters at the end of Spock's meditation session, scowling.
"You've moved to the poles of the planet?" he demanded.
"Affirmative," Spock said, unsure why Kirk was asking.
"The subzero temperatures area?"
Kirk made a noise like an affronted cat.
"You were unaware?"
"I haven't been on duty, have I? And apparently my boyfriend didn't think I'd like to know that!" Kirk threw up his hands.
Spock was clueless as to the source of Kirk's ire. What was the significance of working at the poles?
"No, I had to find out from Bones after he complained about having to synthesise so many stimulants for the away teams!" Kirk fumed, pacing the cabin irritably. "Jesus Christ, Spock! You didn't tell me!"
"I am difficulty understanding why you would care to know," Spock admitted hesitantly.
Kirk stopped and scowled at him, folding his arms over his chest belligerently. "You really don't get it?" he challenged.
"...No," Spock said carefully, deciding that to examine Kirk's word choice would not go down well.
Kirk snorted, every part of him radiating anger. "No. No, I don't suppose you would."
"Jim, if I have upset you..."
"Oh, no, course not - whatever gave you that idea?" Kirk snapped, pressing the heel of his hand to his temple. "You know what - I can't deal with this right now."
And with that, he swept from Spock's cabin.
The air felt illogically colder without him, and a further two point four hours of meditation did little to ease the discomfort.
Spock's communicator crackled to life, barely audible over the howling wind, and he had to shout to respond.
"Commander, the Captain has ordered the entire away team to be beamed up, or the storm interference is going to get too strong!" came the tinny voice of the transporter room operative. "Please confirm!"
"Confirmed; six to beam up."
The disappearance of the fiercely cold wind was a relief, but the warmer air of the transporter room was unable to get past the thermal uniform and the layer of ice and snow that had formed on it. The crackle of breaking ice sounded as the science staff shifted uncomfortably and began to strip off their layers.
"We will debrief one hour prior to the next landing," Spock informed them, to sighs of relief, and turned - only to stop short at the sight of Kirk waiting by the transporter console.
"Hey," Kirk gave him a sheepish smile, moving forward to help him out of his heavy jacket. "Come with me."
"For what purpose?"
"So I can jettison you out of an airlock?" Kirk quipped lightly. His demeanour was odd - stiff and stilted and unnaturally tense. He seemed to be unable to look Spock in the eye. "Just...come on."
He led Spock, gradually helping him out of his cold, damp layers on the way, to Kirk's quarters. He dropped the clothing unceremoniously on the floor and bumped the thermostat higher before turning back to Spock and running both hands through his hair.
"I threw a tantrum yesterday," he said flatly. "I admit it, and I'm sorry for taking it out on you, but...hear me out?"
Spock folded his hands behind his back and nodded.
"You're Vulcan, and you're working in subzero temperatures, for eight hours at a time," Kirk said flatly. "Even I know that's not the best idea in the universe, and working at the poles...you know the transporters aren't exactly reliable when it comes to magnetic interference."
Spock opened his mouth, and Kirk held up a hand.
"Wait. I'm worried. I mean, shit, a fucking plant got you sick last week, and now you're wandering around in a walk-in freezer without a completely reliable exit. It's scary to me. And...you know I don't react all that well to being scared. And surprised. You should have told me!"
Spock still didn't quite grasp why, but this time, he kept the thought to himself.
"It's not easy, you know? Being stuck up here when you're risking your ass down there. I get nervous whenever you leave the ship without me because when you do, there's nothing that I could do to stop a situation. It's stressful, it's irritating and it's..."
Spock was suddenly struck with a strange sense of...fear. Of trepidation, of unpleasant anticipation...an ominous, creeping sensation akin to the one his mother described when he rejected his acceptance to the Vulcan Science Academy.
"I have to be able to let you go, and..."
"Are you terminating our relationship?" the thought - the fear - rushed past his lips before he could exert the control to stop it, and the words were like a death knell in the room.
They destroyed Kirk's as efficiently as phaser fire.
A brief, brief silence, and Spock felt the unpleasant twist in his side, as surely as if Kirk had reached into him and torn his heart out.
"What?" Kirk exploded.
His heart stuttered.
"I - what? What?" Kirk's hands flailed spastically for a moment before his face twisted in outraged shock. "Am I terminating our relationship? You think I'm breaking up with you?"
Spock knew an incredulous denial when he heard it, and the relief made him almost feel nauseous. The relaxation shot down his spine so quickly that he twitched sideways and fumbled for the desk to steady himself.
In a moment, Kirk was there, hands cupping his jaw and every inch of that strong, solid body pressed against his own. The crystals exploded through his hands, flashing like fire in a hurricane of anger, split with the tendrils of worry, and the sick, sick churn of guilt.
"No!" he hissed, eyes wide and desperate. "No, no, no! Of course I'm not fucking breaking up with you! Why would you - Spock! Why would you think that?"
Spock swallowed - hard. "You seemed concerned of your ability to..."
"The real reason," Kirk said sharply.
"Spock," his voice gentled, his hands stroking soothingly. The hurricane was receding, washed away by a dawn tide on a coastline. "Spock, talk to me. Why would you think I'm breaking up with you?"
"Humans...require communication that Vulcans do not partake in," Spock said hastily. "Humans find me unsettling because I am...unreadable. You are the only one to truly wish to get to know me, but I am aware that...that I do not..."
"You don't what?" Kirk breathed.
"I am not...fitting. I am...distant and...and cold, and I...I put my work above you, and..."
"Oh Spock," Kirk murmured, brushing a light kiss across his lips. "Stop, sweetheart. Just stop. Stop thinking that, for a start. I know you. I've been in your head, in your heart, in your bed. I know you. And I don't need you to be all gushy and romantic and crap. I need you to be you."
"Yet by doing so, I have angered you."
"Yeah, you'll do that occasionally," Kirk said. "I piss you off sometimes as well. Hell, I'm worse - I upset you. I forget too, you know? Remember when I first got this posting, and we didn't see other for ages? That was me being an asshole. And I upset you - I know I did, and I felt so bad when I realised."
"So yeah, you ticked me off, not telling me about being at poles. It is dangerous for you down there. But I was pissed off because I was worried, not because I want to break up with you!" Kirk's voice rose alarmingly at the end, and he exhaled heavily through his nose. "I'm never going to want to break up with you. I love you. And I'm so sorry I let you forget that."
Slowly, Spock relaxed until his arms were wound around Kirk's torso, and his head tucked into the juncture of the man's neck and shoulder, breathing in the warm scent of him. Kirk's hands were soothing where they stroked in firm, heavy swipes up and down Spock's back, and the crystals returned when he turned his head to press a kiss onto the tip of Spock's ear.
"Stay here tonight," he breathed.
Spock woke some two and a half hours before his shift was due to start. For a moment, he wondered vaguely what had woken him - then Kirk shifted again, and warm lips pressed to the back of his neck. An arm - still so light, with that Human lack of density - was flung out across Spock's hips, and he felt the brilliant flash of realisation through their contact.
Kirk said nothing, merely pressing another kiss into his neck before shifting and pulling Spock onto his back. In a moment, Spock was being straddled by a sleep-flushed body, and Kirk's teeth sank into his neck, sharp and real and alive.
Spock hissed, his head straining back into the pillow, and Kirk sucked apologetically at the ring before planting another, without teeth, lower down. His hands swept, firm and unyielding, down Spock's chest, pausing briefly to rub once at his nipples, and one more at his hips, before they toyed with the edge of his boxers.
A moment later, Kirk shifted off him just long enough to strip them both of their underwear, and resumed his position before the cool air even had settled to reclaim his place. The next kiss found Spock's mouth, Kirk's tongue pushing past his lips forcefully, the kiss deep and plundering and almost violent in its intensity. His very soul was under attack - and yet, from such an attack, Spock did not think to defend it.
When Kirk ground down on him, he let out a shaky breath, and received another bite to his shoulder before Kirk's attentions shifted south and he pushed Spock's thighs apart, settling between his legs and trailing biting kisses down his abdomen.
"Jim," Spock whispered.
Kirk did not reply, sucking dark bruises into Spock's left hip as he fumbled for the lube on the side table. A moment later, his fingers were pressing into Spock's entrance, and he bit down hard on that jut of hipbone. The spark of pain overrode the initial discomfort, and Kirk's free hand began to knead at Spock's thigh in a strange and soothing counterpoint to the almost violent twists of his fingers, and the sharp bite of his teeth.
When he finally thrust into Spock, he rose back up to drown him in forceful kisses again, once again trying to claim the Vulcan's soul, before rearing back and taking one of Spock's hands, sucking the fingers into his mouth and scraping the over-sensitive pads with his teeth.
Spock was faintly aware of the keening, high noise he made, and the groan that Kirk responded with, before those damp fingers were pressed to Kirk's face.
"Meld us," Kirk ordered roughly, setting up a punishing pace, hips crashing up into Spock's in a rhythm that almost hurt. "Meld us!"
It took a moment for Spock to be able to let down those natural barriers and push into Kirk's head, past the barriers of nature and lust and intense, intense arousal, and then
-mine, all mine, ownhimpossesshimkeephim, safesafesafe, protect, keepsafe, unable to keep safe now, mineminemine, can'twon'tcan't-LOSE-can'twon'tcan't, mineminemine -
The world was crystalline - Spock was adrift, a soul windswept and torn apart in a world of brilliant crystals, the rainbow light splitting his mind as the white light tore his soul, splintering him through glass prisms as blue as an Earth summer sky - an-all consuming blue that screamed at him, that
-lovelovelove, mine, can'tlosethis, mine forever do anything anyanyanything, keepkeepkeep, lovelovelovelovelove, destroyed if lost, lost if destroyed, keepkeepkeep -
pulsed back and forth in the waves of a storming sea, a raging sea that threatened to drown - but would drowning here, here in the brilliant crystallised light of dawn and brilliance and darkness, would that be bad or painful? And the sea rose, in a lurch that took his breath/mind/soul/heart away, that ripped him apart - and whowasheafterall - and the world...
And then there was darkness.
It was soothing, and yet frightening. Peaceful and all-encompassing, keeping him wrapped in its warmth and quiet, and a gentle counterpoint to the tumult of before. But here, here...here there were no crystals. It was not perfect here; without the crystals, it wasn't even tolerable.
He slowly became aware of the warm surrounding him, and the tendrils wrapped around his hands from someone else's worry, and - more pressingly- the light tap of heated fingers on his cheek.
"Spock? C'mon, Spock, wake up. Please wake up, you're scaring me. Spock? Spock?"
He shifted, reaching up to pull the heat source closer, and shivered when light kisses were rubbed over his fingers.
"Spock? Oh God, Spock, wake up. Please - I'll call Dr. McCoy, I will!"
He cracked his eyes open, and the crystals returned as his gaze met Kirk's intense blue. The blue was anxious, creased with a nervous smile, and he reached to smooth the worry away. Why would Kirk be so nervous?
"Say something," Kirk begged, catching that hand too, and kissing both of them. "Please. Please say something."
"What do you wish me to say?" Spock asked, his own voice sounding strangely breathless.
"Oh thank Christ," Kirk murmured, eyes still troubled. "I'm so sorry - that was too much, wasn't it. You didn't need that. Did I - did I hurt you?"
"No," Spock said, almost dreamily, using their joined hands to bring Kirk down on his chest. "No, you did not hurt me. It was...intense and...most beautiful."
"Spock, I knocked you out!" Kirk breathed, still shifting nervously and squeezing Spock's fingers in a most distracting manner. "I...I fucking assaulted you, at oh-fuck-hundred in the morning, and then made you meld with me, and..."
"You did no such thing," Spock said sharply, the last vague sleepiness eradicated by such a ridiculous statement. "Nothing occurred to which I did not consent."
Kirk didn't look convinced.
"Jim," Spock said. "The experience was intense - but then, Vulcan emotions are themselves intense. I am by no means 'put-off' by such intensity, nor negatively affected."
"Really?" Jim asked, in a surprisingly small voice.
"Indeed," Spock murmured, stretching his head up to kiss him briefly. "As for assaulting me...if that is the human definition of assault - which I am certain it is not - then I would not object to being 'assaulted' more frequently."
That finally got a smile, and a low, guilty laugh. "Still," Kirk whispered. "I...I did knock you out."
"Such is, I am told, reasonably common when melding during intense physical and emotional activity such as sexual intercourse."
Kirk's eyebrows shot up. "Someone told you that? Vulcans don't tell anyone anything! Who told you that?"
"My mother," Spock said dryly, and sat up. Vulcan strength allowed him to do it without Kirk leaving his position.
"Your mother!" Kirk exclaimed.
"Indeed," Spock said, pressing one last, hungry kiss into the alluring depths of Kirk's mouth. "Now, I must prepare for duty. Would you care to engage in a Human tradition and join me in the shower?"
The red alert sounded just after 1700 hours ship time.
Kirk, in the middle of a sparring session with Lieutenant DeSalle from security, went from joking around to hard-edged professional in under half a second, and was on the bridge one minute and twenty seconds later, still dressed in his black sweatpants and white undershirt. Screwing his earpiece in, he was immediately greeted with the plethora of reports pouring in from all over the ship, and the interference of snarled Klingon.
"Open a channel, Kirk!" Pike demanded testily, eyeing the two - not one, but two - Klingon ships on the viewscreen as if they had insulted his mother.
"No response," Kirk replied.
"Shields up," Commander Chen, at navigational controls, reported.
"Klingon ships are opening fire," came the simultaneous report from Lieutenant Sulu. Like Jim, he had clearly been off-duty - he was wearing pyjamas.
"Shields at ninety-eight percent," Commander Chen said, as the shot caused nothing more than a faint tremor to run through the ship.
"Incoming message, audio only," Kirk said.
"Let's hear it."
"You will leave our territory. This planet is ours, and we have claimed it. You will leave our territory immediately, or be destroyed."
Kirk frowned, hands flying over the console.
"Reject their conditions," Pike said flatly. "This isn't Klingon space. Send a message that we are defending our territory and are prepared to engage in open warfare."
Kirk's hands were a blur; he barely registered the next two hits, nor the warning cry of, "Torpedoes!" from Chen.
"Where the fuck did they get torpedoes?" Pike demanded, uncharacteristically angry.
"Because they're not Klingon!" Kirk responded. "Those are Romulan torpedoes, and I'm getting transmissions in Klingon, Orion, Romulan..."
"Pirates," Pike snarled. "Olson, scan that ship and gather as much information as you can, on anything you can."
Spock's gamma shift replacement, Lieutenant Olson, snapped to nervous attention.
"Kirk, get a message to the transporter room - get any remaining crewmembers on Marcus Beta out of there. We may have to turn tail if their firepower is any good."
"Shields at forty-eight percent," Chen said. "Their phasers are more or less ineffective, but...shields at forty-one percent."
"The transporter room is experiencing difficulty with the magnetic fields on the planet," Kirk reported, his calm voice not betraying the fear that had curled into his gut at the news. "They need us to buy more time."
"The primary ship has its weapons array in the starboard side," Olson reported. "Still gathering data on the secondary ship..."
"Sulu - go nuts," Pike ordered grimly.
Kirk swallowed hard as the transporter room opened a link, "Ottinger here. We're only able to divert enough power to retrieve one member of the team at a time. Engineering's giving us as much as they can afford, but we'll need more time."
"Start now, and we'll give you what we can," Kirk said. "How many are still down there?"
"Eight, sir. Prioritise?"
Kirk wanted to say Spock. He wanted to - but couldn't. He knew the rules. "Anyone with experience in engineering, weapons systems and maintenance, and medical."
Pike glanced at him over his shoulder, but said nothing.
"Shields at thirty-eight percent!"
"Send a distress signal to the nearest Federation ship," Pike barked. "Let them know all the information we've got on these guys. Loud and clear, Kirk - I want them to know we've called."
"Primary ship is experiencing weapons failure," Olson said; at that moment, the secondary ship stirred to life and opened fire. "Shit!"
Nobody reprimanded him for language.
"Engineering is diverting power to shields from labs one to eighteen," Kirk reported.
"Do it," Pike agreed. "Shut down sciences and reroute all personnel to Engineering." He paused. "Is Spock aboard yet?"
Kirk glanced at the away team frequencies lighting up his console, and felt sick. "No, sir. Five remaining on the surface."
"Shields at nineteen percent," Chen said, then amended: "Twenty-one. We need more power."
"Sulu, operate a wide burst pattern with the photon torpedoes. Aim to destroy both ships, or as much of them as you can. Kirk, state our new intentions."
"Shields at eighteen percent."
"No response from the enemy. Three personnel still on the surface."
"Shields at ten percent!"
"Brace yourselves!" Pike roared.
The ship rocked alarmingly at the next strike; Sulu and Kirk were the only ones to remain upright during the shaking, and the science sparked warningly.
"Shields at six percent!"
"Secondary ship experiencing difficulties!"
A plume of fire burst from the port aft of the secondary ship, but it made no move to retreat. Sulu, sweat pouring off his face, was glued to his console, hands rapping out commands tirelessly.
"Shields are down! Repeat: shields are down!"
Kirk broadcast the emergency message and took a deep, shaking breath. The next hit exploded off the hull, and the ship creaked and tilted dangerously. "Damage to the starboard thrusters!"
"Take it out, Mr. Sulu!"
The fire rose again - then the secondary ship exploded, rocking both ships with the shockwave.
"Minor damage to the hull," Kirk said, eyes still shooting over to the away team frequencies. Two personnel were still off-ship.
Kirk fell at that strike, his brain rattled in his skull - and his stomach dropped from his torso entirely when he scrambled back into his seat. "We've lost transporter function! The transporters are down!"
"For the love of God, tell me we retrieved everyone in time!" Pike cursed.
"Still missing Commander Spock and Lieutenant-Commander Nielsen," Kirk said, clenching his fists until the trembling eased. "The USS Loki and the USS Artemis have both responded to our distress call - earliest ETA is nine hours."
The primary ship exploded from the last of Sulu's insane tactics, simultaneous with their torpedo striking the hull. The navigational console exploded in a shower of sparks - Commander Chen was thrown to the floor with a strangled cry, and the argon gas canisters above the console hissed in calculated arcs to control and extinguish the flames.
"Olson, get Chen to medical," Pike barked. "Kirk, any other threats in the area?"
"Nothing on the long-range scanner, sir. Doesn't look they had allies - at least close by."
"Engineering hasn't sent much yet, but we've lost transporters, port thrusters, gravitational dampeners on decks twenty-five through thirty-two, shields, and there's preliminary concern about the warp core. Sickbay's reporting eighteen injuries so far, four major, no deaths. Sciences are in full lockdown; unknown damage to the labs," Kirk rattled off, then swung around. "Sir, Spock and Nielsen are still on the surface."
"I know," Pike said grimly. "And without transporters..."
"We need to send a shuttle," Kirk insisted. "The Loki and the Artemis won't be with us for another nine hours at least - and the Artemis is a patrol ship. She won't be here in eleven - at the inside."
Pike rose from his seat, frowning.
"Sulu, how long would a shuttle take to locate and extract them?"
"From the south pole? Forty minutes each way. Up to an hour to locate and extract, depending on the conditions," Sulu shrugged. "The shuttles won't land on ice, and if the transporters were having difficulty with the magnetic fields, then shuttle transporters definitely won't be up to it. You'd have to use cables and baskets."
"Alright," Pike nodded. "Kirk, send communications to Lieutenant Lewisham, Lieutenant l'Artagnan and Ensign Kelly to meet in shuttlebay one to mount a rescue mission."
"Sir, request permission to join the team."
"Sir," Kirk pressed.
"You're a communications officer. We can't spare medics at the method, so security are the next best bit."
"Against a Vulcan who is quite likely delirious?" Kirk demanded, even as his gut clenched at the thought. "Sir, I can speak Vulcan, and I can meld with him. Believe me, if he's incoherent, I'm the only one who's going to be able to make him understand. He might hurt someone otherwise."
"I also did my survival training on the Andorian icefields. I know cold-weather survival technique. I can help. Please, sir."
Pike stared him down for a long, long moment - before finally sighing.
Lieutenant l'Artagnan was an excellent pilot - the only one better on the ship was Sulu - but even so, it took an hour and ten minutes from the shuttle leaving the ship, to locating their missing crewmembers.
Science officers were by definition intelligent, and they found Lieutenant-Commander Nielsen curled in a thick array of thermal blankets, still just about shivering, in the mouth of a nature cave formed by the howling winds. As Sulu had predicted, the shuttle was unable to land, and so Kirk, Lewisham and Kelly abseiled down on steel cables while the shuttle hovered, armed with medical kits, heat wraps and thermal blankets, and praying that they weren't going to find corpses attached to those transponders.
"T-th-th-thank fffffuck," Nielsen stuttered through blue lips. "W-w-what the ffffuck t-t-took you so long?"
"Attack," Lewisham said shortly, already busy with the cables. "Kelly's going to get you into the shuttle and start defrosting. Ten minutes in the microwave do for you?"
Nielsen snorted with shaky laughter, then turned ghostly grey eyes on Kirk and sobered up. "B-b-back there," he said. "Sssss'not g-good, sssir."
Kirk cursed. "Lewisham, when you're done here, follow me."
He stalked further back into the cave, his tricorder lighting the way, and broke into a cautious run when the light fell on the still, huddled form about thirty metres in.
"Spock!" he breathed.
Not an inch of the Vulcan was uncovered; the hood of his thermal coat had been raised over his head, and something - possibly his undershirt - used as a face shield to keep the heat in. When Kirk peeled it down and ripped off his gloves to check for vitals, the Vulcan's face was icy cold.
"Come on, Spock, please," he whispered.
The breath that ghosted across his palm was ridiculously faint, and he was tearing into the medical kit the moment he registered it, his own heart beating a frightened tattoo in the side of his chest. He soon produced the small heated oxygen canister and sealed the mask in place over Spock's nose and mouth, adjusting the device to circulate warmth air through Spock's lungs. It would also act as a respirator if he stopped breathing - but not for long.
"Lewisham!" he roared. "We're going to need the basket down here!"
He received a shouted reply and turned his focus back to Spock. He snapped out one of the smaller blankets in the kit, briefly eased Spock's hood down, and wrapped it over his head, before returning the hood to its previous position. His heart sank at the lack of response, and he silently cursed the Vulcan vulnerability to cold.
"Come on, sweetheart, stay with me here," he breathed. He had always been shivering badly when he returned from eight-hour shifts here - this time, he'd been down for ten hours, and was completely unresponsive. Only the medical tricorder was convincing Jim that he wasn't already gone.
"Shit," he heard Lewisham curse as he and Kelly returned with the basket between them.
"He's severely hypothermic," Kirk said. "We need the heating grill activated - low - beside both bunks. How's Nielsen?"
"He'll survive," Kelly said as they lined the basket with a warmed blanket and, between the three of them, hefted the Vulcan's dense weight into it. "Moderate hypothermia. L'Artagnan's got him on warmed fluids, warmed air and about a zillion blankets."
There were no more words, as they connected the basket to the cables and had Spock - still unresponsive - reeled into the shuttle. The moment they had the doors closed, l'Artagnan had the shuttle moving. Kirk oversaw Spock's immobile transference onto the spare bunk, before he eyed Lewisham and Kelly.
"Kelly, strip," he commanded, picking the bulkier man.
To his credit, Kelly didn't question it. Kirk stripped with unusual efficiency and slid under the blankets with Spock, clad only in his boxers. He waited until Kelly, likewise 'dressed' slipped into the bunk on Spock's other side before raising Spock's shirt and bringing the cold - cold! - Vulcan into bodily contact with the two of them.
"Lewisham, can you keep that tricorder going," he said lowly. "His heart might stop, or he might stop breathing."
"Shall we leave the breathing apparatus?"
"Yes," Kirk swallowed, laying a palm flat across the right side of Spock's ribs. He couldn't feel that hummingbird-hum heartbeat. "It'll take over if he stops."
Don't leave me, he begged silently, trying to press the thought through that hand. Please, please don't leave me.
"Sickbay to Bridge, McCoy here."
"Bridge here," Pike said.
"Can I borrow Commander Kirk?"
"For what purpose?"
"I need a Vulcan translator," McCoy grumbled. "Commander Spock is awake, but damned if any of my staff know a thing he's saying. He's pretty agitated, so..."
The turbolift doors closed, and Pike rolled his eyes.
"He's on his way, doctor."
Spock had been completely unconscious for two days, and so Kirk materialised in Sickbay with his face twisted between hope and fear within two minutes of McCoy calling up to the bridge. In a moment, McCoy had caught him under the elbow and swept him into the private, heated room he'd set aside - and hadn't even begun to explain before Kirk rushed to the biobed.
The Vulcan in it was stirring restlessly, speaking in garbled, broken Vulcan and occasionally picking at the bandages over his frostbitten fingers. In one fluid motion, Kirk hiked the thermal blankets higher, gently cupped one damaged hand, and brushed his fingers over Spock's psi points.
"It's alright," he breathed in Vulcan. "It's alright, darling, you're alright. Do you know me?"
The question hurt, but when Spock's erratic motions calmed, the twinge eased.
"You are crystalline," came the somewhat confusing response. "You bring the crystals."
"What's my name?" Kirk pressed.
Spock's eyes slid sideways and he closed them again. "It hurts."
"I know," Kirk soothed. "You're going to be alright. I know it hurts."
"It is cold."
"Bones," Kirk called. "He says he hurts and it's cold."
McCoy nodded. "I'll up his drugs, then. He'll feel chilly for a while, though - nothing I can do about that."
"I don't think he knows who I am," Kirk whispered worriedly.
McCoy frowned. "Right. Does he know where he is?"
"Do you know where you are?"
"I hurt, and you are afraid."
"Yes. But do you know...?"
"Just about," Kirk muttered.
McCoy hummed, checking the biobed readouts. "I'll give him another twenty-four hours before I'll get worried about that. He's bound to be confused. He's only been awake ten minutes or so. At least he's calmed down."
Kirk nodded, biting his lip and stroking the back of one finger hesitantly over Spock's cheek. The Vulcan had settled, and looking to be drifting off to sleep again. "Can...can I stay?"
McCoy sighed, and shrugged. "If it keeps him calm...I suppose so. I'll send a recommendation to the Captain."
"Thanks, Bones," Kirk offered him a small smile, but his eyes never strayed from Spock's pale, pale face.
The darkness was interrupted by the hot hands that came down on his head and face, stroking through his hair and brushing crystal tendrils along his psi points, coating them thickly in love and fear. How could, his mind asked, love and fear go hand in hand? - and he turned his face into the touch in an attempt to encourage the love, and soothe the fear.
It worked - and delivered a soft verbal sound as those beloved, trusted fingers began to stroke over his face in a continual rhythm.
"Lights, twenty percent," a voice whispered, and the shadows deepened. "That's better. Open those eyes for me, sweetheart? Not that I don't love your eyelids and all, but I kind of miss those big dark eyes. Let me see?"
It was unthinkable - treacherous - not to obey that voice, and he was rewarded for letting the light in by the beautiful gold-and-blue that awaited him.
"There you are," Kirk whispered, and smiled. "Ssh. It's 0400. Bones'll kill me if he realises I'm in here. But I can't really sleep without you."
His fingers never stopped moving, and Spock tilted his chin to prolong the contact, unashamed in this private place of such affection.
"Do you still hurt?" Kirk whispered.
"No. I am...tired, but...in no pain."
"And you remember me?"
"I remembered you before."
Kirk frowned. "Then what do you mean by crystalline?"
Spock blinked slowly. "When you touch me, and you are feeling love for me, I experience the emotion as...crystals. A sense - or sight - of crystals in sunlight. Pure, coloured light, created by cool beauty."
Kirk sucked in a breath, then closed his eyes and let it out, visibly composing himself.
"I'm alright," he croaked, then leaned and pressed a gentle, slow kiss to Spock's mouth, relearning the contours of his lips as though they had never kissed before. "I nearly lost you," he breathed into the seam of Spock's lips, and closed the gap to prevent a reply. When he drew back again - no further - he added: "I need to...to remember that I didn't."
Spock tried to raise a hand, but they were trapped under the blankets - and Kirk halted his progress.
"No," he said. "You're still not maintaining your own temperature well enough. You'll be here for a bit longer but...but Bones thinks you're going to be alright now."
Spock nodded, nudging his face once more into Kirk's palm. "Stay," he breathed.
"Yeah, okay," Kirk said, leaning forward to kiss his forehead. "At least until 0700."
"That will suffice. For now."
He fell asleep again to Kirk's cheek pressed to his forehead, and warm fingers petting his jaw.
Kirk barrelled into the sickbay just in time to see Spock ease his legs over the side of the biobed.
"Don't you dare step off that thing without help!" he snarled, to McCoy's intense amusement, and Spock obediently stilled.
"Someone's serious about this outpatient care," McCoy quipped.
"Damn right!" Kirk snapped.
"Good," McCoy said. "I've made up a padd with a full list of instructions, but here's the basics - bed-rest for another week. No getting up, except for the bathroom and short showers. Keep him warm - if you're not hot enough to walk about in your boxers, then he isn't warm enough. Body heat is a plus - not that I apparently need to tell you that. Lots of high-energy food and drink for at least three days, then revert to normal diet. No stress, no work, and no sex. I'll come by at the end of the week and check him over, and we'll go from there. Take a reading with this tricorder every three hours, and send the results to me. If his body temperature ever - and I mean ever - drops below ninety degrees, call a medical team."
For once, Kirk listened intently to the entire lecture, and took the bag provided with a heavy expression before turning to Spock. "Are you sure you can walk all the way?" he fussed.
"I am certain, Jim," Spock said flatly, allowing no debate.
Kirk made a sceptical noise, and slid an arm around Spock's waist as he eased down off the biobed stiffly.
"What about exercise?" Kirk asked.
"Extremely gentle. Muscular massage might be a plus, but it might also hurt like hell for a while, so don't push it," McCoy shrugged. "If it still hurts too badly by the end of the week, come and find me. And Spock?"
"Good luck with this neurotic idiot."
Spock was woken by the smell of Vulcan spiced tea and what smelled like a form of Tellarite stew. He was brought to full awareness by the mattress dipping under Kirk's weight, and the blanket being pulled back from over his head. And he was roused by the kiss - prism-crystal, rainbow-sharp-love-slicing-through, brilliance - that landed firmly on his right cheek.
"Evening," Kirk said, smiling down at him. "You sleep the day away like I told you to?"
"I spent a good portion of the day meditating."
"In bed, with blankets?"
"That's alright then," Kirk smiled, kissing the other cheek, then moving to engage Spock in a long, lazy kiss - a kiss designed to reaffirm, to relearn, and to love.
"You are...unsettled," Spock observed when Kirk pulled away and helped him to sit up. His muscles were finally starting to relax after his ordeal, and so it did not hurt as much as it usually did.
"Here," Kirk settled the tray in Spock's lap, and curled up on the bed on the other side of him. "Well. We're limping back to Deep Space Four for repairs and crew reassignments. Four of the engineers are going to require long-term treatment planetside for spinal injuries. And Commander Chen is transferring."
"On what grounds?"
"Quote: 'Too old for this shit.' Wants to get a nice desk job nearer to his kids," Kirk said, and shrugged. "He's applying at Deep Space Three; he'll get it, too."
"That is not what unsettles you."
"No," Kirk bit his lip and shifted.
"I'm being promoted," he blurted out.
"...You are being promoted to First Officer?"
Spock reached for his hand. "Jim, this is wonderful news. You have always wished to have your own captaincy, and this is yet another step. Why are you so unsettled about it?"
Kirk eyed him warily for a moment before taking a deep breath. "Promise you'll tell me the truth?"
"This won't bother you? Me being promoted over you? I mean, you've been a Commander much longer than I have, and I'll effectively be your boss, and..."
Kirk swallowed, and fell silent.
"I have absolutely no desire to hold a command position. It was only after...extensive persuasion that I accepted a promotion to Commander myself. Captain Pike is well aware of my reluctance to command - and, indeed, that I am ill-suited for it. You are a logical and excellent choice for the position, and I feel nothing but...joy on your behalf."
Kirk's gaze was intense. "You're being honest with me?"
"...Okay," he said, then his face split into a grin and he leaned forward to kiss him. A burst of heart-swelling happiness radiated through their contact, warming Spock like a blood-flush. "Eat your stew. We'll reach DS4 at the end of next week, and I fully intend to take you out on a proper date. We never did that."
"I confess that I do not understand human dating or its purpose."
"It's easy," Kirk said dismissively. "When you've been together a while, dating is show the other person you still love them and want them, and you get to spoil them a bit. And as I love you and want you and really want to spoil you for a bit, I'm going to take you out. All you have to do is get well enough to let me."
Kirk looped his arms around Spock's shoulders, leaning his head on the shoulder closest to him, and watched with a sharp eye as Spock proceeded to eat.
Through the contact, where Kirk's head brushed Spock's bared neck, the crystals sang in high harmony, and the light bounced through Spock's mind like tiny, brilliant flares, like stars at warp speed, sinking into his psyche and warming him from the inside out.
The world - his life - Kirk - was crystalline.