Chapter 2+

FF decided to mess with my html and whatnot. So if some italics are lacking or out of place, that explains it. But I think I fixed everything. Who knows if, even after publishing, FF will still fuck 'em up, though. /fffuuu

Much thanks to my friend, Sum, for the helpful beta read.


Kirk had been guided up a long flight of stairs to the world above. He kept quiet, taking everything in. Light flashed in his eyes, causing him to wince, as he was brought down a short, white hall. Na'hri took lead, unlocking a single door at the very end that blended in with the painting. Opening the door, Kirk immediately caught sight of what appeared to be an erect table lined with metal bindings. It was covered in red stains, and Kirk knew exactly whose blood it was.

Further into the room, he noticed all the weapons and means of torture mounted on the walls and ceiling. It was a torture chamber, stinking of blood and death. As if to serve as a decoration and reminder, a skeleton with pieces of meat still attached to the bones hung upside down from a rather nasty looking pair of metal jaws.

Na'hri said something to the guards, and Kirk was suddenly slammed, face first into the metal table. He struggled briefly before his hands and ankles were pinned to the cold, wet surface. Testing the bonds, they were tight. The priest separated his men; one stood by the table, the other fetching something from a nearby desk.

Na'hri strode to Kirk's side, drumming his fingers together. "Before we begin with our interrogation," he said, "I think we ought to... loosen you up a little."

Kirk could feel cold blood on his cheek. But he grinned. "I'm afraid you're going to be sorely disappointed, Na'hri," he sneered.


III


Spock turned the blade in his hands.

It had been nearly five minutes since Kirk had been taken away by the Suspicians, but it was quiet. Spock did not know if they were civilly interrogating him, or if they were just prepping. Either way, worry trickled through the Vulcan walls in his mind, and it took him a moment of meditation before collecting himself. Spock knew Kirk had lifted and given him the blade to protect himself; neither was sure if his Vulcan strength could match the Suspicians, and if a nerve pinch was impossible...

Spock considered his options for a moment. He could call for attention, feign illness, madness or lie to the best of his Vulcan abilities. It would be difficult, but he'd manage to skirt the borders of truth and dishonesty on a number of occasions. Either way, somehow, if he could attract a guard into his cell, in some method or other, a nerve pinch, or even the use of this primitive weapon... Kirk was in a very delicate situation. The knives were at his throat. If Spock risked being exposed while rescue, it was very easy to thwart all his plans just by reminding the first officer his captain was their prisoner.

Still, Spock had to make a move. It appeared this might be his only solution, even though it endangered more than just himself.

Spock moved to the front of the cell. He considered a reaction most fitting for his guards to attend to immediately. But before he could even fathom a word or cry on his tongue, there came such a violent surge of pain pulsating through him that Spock couldn't help but release a loud gasp, a legitimate cry, and stumbled back. It threw him out of orbit of his self control, and it completely tore down his shields.

Spock managed to regain some control. He found his breathing was labored, and his head was swimming. However, he wouldn't do the next logical course of action; return his shields to normal and carry on with his duty. No, because this pain was unique from all others as it belonged to the man he was bonded with.

It was quiet, completely still and tense, before another wave rushed down his spine. It felt like tiny needle pricks along his backbone, stabbing away at the muscle and sinew. Spock swayed to the side, attempting to keep balance; his back was tingling, growing hot, and he looked over his mental walls to see a very clear image that managed to horrify him.

It was his captain, his bonded. The man had been secured to a bloodied table, shirt removed, back exposed to his torturers. There was fresh blood streaking the tan flesh, wounds both deep and superficial. Close beside him, Spock could see one of the Suspicians, a terrible looking man in black with a frightening whip in his hand, its tail coated and lined with spikes.

Spock!

It seemed after all these months, Kirk had become very acutely aware of Spock's presence within their bond. Captain, Spock replied, voice cool despite everything.

What are you doing? I'm all right, just stay away -

Na'hri shouted something and the whip cracked again. Oh, and both Kirk and Spock could feel the sting of the tails landing, and the needles dragging into torn flesh. Yet Kirk just bit down, refusing to cry, refusing to show any sign of faltering or demonic power Na'hri insisted he reveal to show his true colors. Spock, it was Kirk again, and his voice was losing its steady edge, get out, close the bond. Erect your walls. If you don't - if you don't, you'll feel all this -

The whip came down again. Spock shut his eyes, tightened, until they strained and he saw stars. Kirk had jumped, but did nothing more in retaliation. I am very aware of the consequences, captain, as is only logical, he explained, and if I may speak freely?

If Kirk could laugh, he would. Yes...

I do not wish to leave.

The bond was silent. Na'hri was screeching, but it was a dull blur. Don't be so selfless, Spock. Don't stay on my behalf.

It is actually the opposite, captain. By desiring to stay against your wishes, I am acting out on selfishness.

This is mutiny. You're disobeying a direct order from your commander.

A pause. I will not leave you, captain. He then slowly took a sit on the cold, dirtied ground, shaking slightly from the inherited, previous lashing. I will help see you through this. I am afraid if I do not, you may die.

Kirk hadn't replied. Na'hri had grabbed his ear, yanked on it as he screamed into it. "Show your true self, h'nok! And reveal to me the location of the d'sra!"

He's a very hard man to please. If there was still humor, there was still hope. "I... told you," Kirk coughed, wincing, "I am... not... h'nok."

Na'hri wrinkled nose. He slapped the human across the face, and Spock could feel his cheek tingle, before stepping away to hiss orders at his men. The Suspician in black nodded and cracked back the whip for another strike. Get out! Kirk ordered, eyes watching the whip with fearless rage that helped to numb the pain.

No, Spock said and as the whip lowered, Kirk found he was torn between pain and sudden shock. Spock had not only moved further into their bond, but now he was practically in Kirk's head. It was a warm, welcomed presence, one that took adjustment but was quite welcome over time. Kirk could almost feel long, hot fingers caressing him, dipping into that part of his brain called the hippocampus.

Memories.

Relax, captain, Spock said, it is all a process of mind over matter. I will help guide you through this.And the whip was slicing more flesh already dyed red when the Vulcan reached into those databanks of memories...

The pain was distant now. It lingered like a small scratch or a tiny scab. Kirk was seeing something now, like a movie being played behind his eyes. It was a memory he cherished dearly and well: mutual confession of feelings between he and his first officer.

"I'm... shocked," Kirk laughed, blinking. "I mean... I don't know what to say."

Spock looked the complete opposite, blank as usual, hands behind his back. "I calculated there was a 55.6% chance you would reject my courtship," he explained.

"And the remainder?"

"... It is hard to say."

Kirk chortled. "Wishful thinking, then? I know," he rose his hands, "Vulcans don't do that." He shook his head, then looked to Spock with inquisitive eyes. "How long... I mean, how long have you... felt this way?"

Spock cocked a brow. "You wish for the approximate calculation?"

"No, no, Mister Spock, a simple 'some time' or 'recently' will do."

"Then..." Spock looked him squarely in the eyes. "'Some time.'"

Kirk frowned. "Why did you feel the need to wait so long...?"

"I did not want to ruin the relationship we have established now," the Vulcan stated, "as I have come to understand, often romantic or even sexual," and Kirk blushed a little, "desires offered to platonic partners can lead into the destruction of any previous relationships. I... did not want to destroy what we have if that is the case."

"Yes, completely understandable," Kirk agreed, nodding. "I guess I'm no different." He shrugged. "I didn't want that rejection either."

There went Spock's eyebrow again. "Captain," he asked, "are you returning the sentiment?"

"Basically," Kirk chuckled. He looked mildly surprised. "You thought I'd turn you down so quickly?"

"I calculated there would be a 10.2% of you considering the option..."

"Well, let's just say I've also liked you for some time, too," Kirk smirked. He reached out, fingers lightly brushing along Spock's shoulder. The Vulcan remained tense. "For a while, I thought only Bones seemed to notice my affection for you going... beyond regulations."

"I am afraid I had not noticed," Spock said, "for that I apologize. I fully admit emotions are not my strong point, though this statement is obvious."

"No need to," the captain assured, waving a hand. "And for someone who claims not to know emotions," he said and his hands moved now to touch Spock's elbows, "you sure do stir up some rather big ones in everyone you meet."

Na'hri was yelling again, but Kirk felt... far away. The pain in his back had subsided tenfold. His eyes slowly opened, registering his surroundings as nothing. Spock...

Spock had not replied as quick. He had redirected the lashings onto himself, concentrating on willing the pain away. His back was throbbing fiercely. Captain?

You... The pain is... Are you doing this...?

Concentrate, Spock ordered when Na'hri finally commanded his subordinate to shelf the whip. Both men felt the bonds unlock and open, only Kirk flinching when the Suspician in black yanked him to his feet, where he felt the world spin. He was knocked to his hands and knees, staring with blurred vision at the damp floor. He felt weak, hardly able to move, the blood patterned like branches of veins down his limbs.

Spock, Kirk groaned, I know - I know by doing this, you're taking the brunt of my pain.

Yes.

Stop it.

I am afraid I cannot, captain.

Order - that's an order!

You can punish me accordingly later.

Kirk saw the metal rod waved in his face, releasing tuffs of smoke at its burning edge. Out! he snarled. NOW!

"N-Na'hri! I am n-not a h'nok! I-I am here t-to help you!"

Kirk could vaguely hear the hiss of flesh burning before he was plunged into a white, warm light.

"It's rather interesting, I'll give you that."

Spock sat before his captain, the two enjoying chess in the captain's private quarters. They were adjacent of each other across the small table, their hands raised to the others. "Perhaps it is not as personal to humans," Spock suggested, "but to Vulcans, the act is considered a very sacred and sensitive one."

"Kissing with your fingers," Kirk chuckled. Spock almost looked like he was scowling. "No, I'm not saying that's a silly thing, just... so different," he reassured.

"As you have come to discover, captain," Spock replied, "differences can sometimes outweigh the traditional."

Kirk chuckled. "So," he said, sitting up, "show me how it's done."

"It is rather simple, not entirely unlike human kissing," the Vulcan explained. He extended two fingers; pointer and middle. "Do as so." Kirk nodded and mimicked the gesture. "Expose the backsides," Spock ordered and the captain just had to smirk at that. He turned the pads of his fingers and palm to his second in command. Reaching over then, Spock hesitated, fingers inches from Kirk's.

"First time jitters?" Kirk teased.

Spock cocked his brow. "Hardly," he insisted and pressed his fingers to Kirk's. It was such a simple act, hardly anything to it, but it sent a tingle of warmth that swelled in Kirk's chest, causing him to inhale deeply. He looked from their touching fingers to Spock, and could sense more than what his stoic expression displayed. Spock dragged back his fingers, and for some reason, it caused him to lightly blush, as if he had just gone and slipped a little tongue.

Kirk looked between them. "That's it?"

"In essence, yes," Spock retorted. He furrowed his brows. "Did it displease you?"

"No! No," Kirk disagreed. He reached over and initiated another Vulcan kiss. Spock stiffened for a brief moment of surprise. "It's very romantic," the captain chuckled, and curled his fingers around Spock's.

Spock had to press himself against the dungeon wall. His back was burning, but he could not give in. After all, it was Kirk who was baring those terrible wounds, those harsh burns of bubbling flesh. He was... satisfied to see, however, Kirk did not feel as much of the pain as he was. Captain, are you still with me?

There was no reply. Spock waited a moment. Na'hri was saying something, perhaps distracting him from the Vulcan's voice. But Kirk just shook his head and the prodder was brought down again. However, before Spock went to intervene, there came a sudden mental push. It was weak, but it still packed power. He knew it was Kirk.

Captain, do not try to remove me.

It's my head, it's my mind, and this is my pain! I didn't throw myself to the dogs just so you could take it all for me!

I am not. You are still experiencing pain, I am just channeling it else -

Stop it, Spock!

The prodder came down, and Kirk held back a cry between clenched teeth. For once, Spock could only feel remnants instead of the full blast. "I will strip you of your skin, h'nok, if you do not speak up!" Na'hri screamed over the sizzling burn of flesh.

He is lying. He knows without you, he will never find what he is looking for, even if he cannot understand he is in the wrong.

Then I'll survive. So get out of my head.

Captain, I told you you were to punish me accordingly.

No, Mister Spock, I'm not going to -

After this is all over.

The third time the burning iron came down, Kirk had not felt it so much as he did the second. Just like the first. He had cursed at Spock before diving into another pool of warmth, another sanctuary opened in his mind.

"A bond shared with another species is not unknown."

"Like your parents, right?" Kirk asked.

"Affirmative," Spock agreed. He sat beside Kirk on the edge of his bed. His captain was sweating, bronze skin covered with a thin film of sweat. However, he had insisted they use Spock's room. The Vulcan should be in his element when he preformed the bonding ritual. "However, bonds between... homosexual partners is a more rare occurrence," he noted.

Kirk frowned. "If doing this alienates you from your people-"

"As you well know, captain," the Vulcan interjected, "the High Council and my parents have both given us their 'blessings,' as you would say. It was a difficult decision on their part, but they have come to understand there are certain elements of privacy and desires between partners that they have no law over. It, however, was not a matter of your gender, but your species."

"Years ago, as I have come to understand, centuries before we were even a twinkle in our parents eye," and Kirk smiled at how Spock slightly tilted his head at the idiom, "Earth wasn't too different when it came to suspicion. Homosexuality had been accepted by many, but the idea of marriage was forbidden. Religion, as it were, mostly held back any improvement. But over time, their minds began to expand and realize the harm was never there, and others had no right to meddle in the personal affairs of others."

Kirk moved closer to Spock, sitting right next to him. "In the end, no one else has any say in our relationship but us," he said coolly, "and I want this bond if you want it. Do you?"

Spock felt a small urge to smile, but it passed.

More than anything, he wanted to say, but settled with a simple, "Indeed."

"Spock..."

Na'hri lifted his hand, stopping his guard from continuing. He swept close to the human's side, who was barely able to even maintain a position on hands and knees. His head hung low, sweat pouring from his tired, pale face. "What did you say, h'nok?" Na'hri demanded.

Kirk ignored him. Spock. Are you alright?

The Vulcan had crawled to the bars, his own face a pallor white, eyes sinking into black pits. I am fine, he assured. His shaking hands wrapped around two solid bars. I may be able to channel the pain to increase my adrenaline. It may give me the strength I need to bend these bars.

This is you're way of assuring me you doing this isn't in vain?

If you wish to accept it as such, so be it.

Kirk grinned wryly. He turned his head and glared at Na'hri. "You're a fool," he spat before looking away.

Na'hri clenched his fists and stood back with a snarl. He shouted in foreign words to his guard who nodded and walked away. "We must rid you of all that dead, disgusting flesh, h'nok," the priest sneered. Kirk looked back, watching as the Suspician in black returned with a kukri-like blade.

I think they're going to skin me, Spock. This is rather unfortunate.

They will not kill you. As you have said to me, Jim, do not lose hope.

The human smirked. His fingers curled into the gravel, which was turning red from his blood. He took a deep breath, the footfalls of the torturer behind him muddled in his ears. Even if you say this might save us, he said and felt the cold blade above tingling, pained skin, I hate this. I cannot stand it.

I know.

The knife first buried itself above one rather deep wound of rotting flesh, where the skin was still intact and pink. Kirk had been pulled into another fantasy despite the rage, despite the guilt, and Spock immediately went from pained horror to fierce aggression and determination. As the knife cut deeper, lower, the pain pulsed and poured directly into his fists. They tightened around the metal bars, shaking, knuckles white and green and skin taut and tight over bones.

Kirk tried to slip from his sweet memory, just enough to at least help Spock along. But if he broke his concentration, the pain would fall back on him and the extra strength Spock needed would go along with it. He could feel his bondmate squeeze the bars, and his own hands mimicked the act, gripping and tightening themselves.

"I've never been with a man before. Never desired one in the past," Kirk confessed. "I'm afraid I am not entirely knowledgeable on the subject of that form of sex."

"I, too, have never preformed sexual or romantic acts with someone of the same gender or sex," Spock assured.

"Good. We can be awkward together!"

Pale crescent moons marked Kirk's palm, his fingers digging into the flesh as the knife did his back. Spock was battling to submit to the pain, or have it submit under him. The pressure he was applying to the bars, however, seemed to have some effect. They were beginning to bend, to mold like cheese in his tight clutches. Good, this was good.

Spock raised a brow. "However," he added, "I have been doing my research."

Kirk flushed. "You too?" He suddenly felt sheepish and it was rare anything regarding sex made him feel suddenly... modest. "We'll be using basic textbook procedures the first go 'round. It doesn't sound very romantic."

"That may be," Spock agreed, "but skills are better honed when practiced."

The bars were bending, breaking, but Kirk feared, however, soon Spock would as well. Spock, you must pull back, he ordered, let me handle this! At least for a few minutes!

Spock fell against the bars, all he could to stay up, but still his face did not change, still his hands worked away parting and destroying the bars. Captain, I need to -

Then, suddenly, the pain was gone.

It had not completely disappeared, no. But it had come to an abrupt stop, and then, out of nowhere, it just began to fade. Kirk opened his eyes and found a female Suspician was covering his wounds with some sort of ointment. She looked pale, tired, and coughed a little-she was sick, most likely with the flu. It was a miracle she could even stand up. He turned a weary gaze from her to Na'hri beside him. "W-What are you...?" he stammered.

"I cannot have you dying. Not until I have my answers," Na'hri spat.

Two Suspicians lifted Kirk to his feet, where he hung limp in their arms. He gave a brief struggle before he was forced to a sit on a bench in the back of the chamber. The woman returned and continued applying the soothing balm to his back. It was if it was practically healing the wounds instead of just relaxing them. "I... told you... time and time again," Kirk swallowed, "I am... not a h'nok. I am h-human, from the Star...fleet Federation of Planets... We've come to provide... medicine for your sick..." He looked to the shaky maid. "She-she's ill. We... can help her."

"Ill from the d'sra," Na'hri snapped. He nodded to one of his men by the door. "Bring his pet."

Kirk snapped his head up, eyes widening. "What? No!" he hissed, attempting to get up. The guards forced him back down, hands tight on his shoulders. "I t-told you! He knows n-nothing!"

"I find I am able to believe that much of you, h'nok," the priest stated, "but I am not going to question him. Your interrogation is not yet over with." He snapped his fingers and the guards left. "I am simply raising the stakes, you see."

Kirk quickly initiated the bond. Spock!

The Vulcan had managed to break the bars near the lock. However, he had taken a moment to relax as the pain slowly dwindled into numbness. Finally, after settling a moment, he replied. What is happening?

Na'hri's men are returning for you. I don't know what they have planned, but the moment they come for you, disable or kill them! Do not let them take you!

Right on cue, the guards had entered the dungeon. They hadn't seemed to notice the broken bars. I am afraid doing so would be unwise, Spock replied.

Why?

"It would only result to your further harm," Spock answered out loud, the two Suspicians looking amongst one another. Spock stood, repressing his shaking. "I will go peacefully," he said, hands raised. The guards said nothing and fetched the Vulcan from his cell, taking his arms and leading him out of the room.

Kirk felt his heart skip a beat when the men returned with his first officer. Spock looked completely calm and controlled, but Kirk knew by the shade of white on his face and exhaustion in his eyes, he was in as much pain, possibly more, than his captain. Na'hri grinned darkly.

"Well, the master and his pet, reunited," he purred, gesturing between them.

"Let him go, Na'hri," Kirk scowled. "Whatever you have planned won't work."

"This ser't looks like a very sturdy one," the priest mumbled and waltzed around the Vulcan. "But as I said, he won't give me the answers. You will." With a wave of his hand, the guards led the willing Spock towards the chair, where Na'hri spun it around to face Kirk. The human attempted to stand again, but was restrained once more.

"If I may speak before we begin," Spock said and stopped. The Suspicians tried to move him, but he was solid as stone. Na'hri glared suspiciously at him. "If you are willing to release my captain, I am willing to take his place. Contrary to what he has told you, we both share the same amount of information on the d'sra."

"He had admitted you knew nothing, that you were a simple pawn of a ser't - "

"He is lying," Spock said. Na'hri glared at Kirk, who just glared between both the priest and his officer. "There is no use in keeping us both here. If I provide you with the location, allow my captain to take you there."

You'd be lying, you can't lie.

I will give a location, but not to where. Logically, they will assume it is the dsra's location. The information we share is, indeed, the same, as neither of us know anything.

"Or we could keep you and kill him," Na'hri hissed. "Maybe vice versa."

"Don't be a fool!" Kirk spat.

"You are the one who is subjugating yourself to such pointless torture when you can easily reveal the d'sra! I promised I would let you free back to H'erit once you did!"

Spock said, "Then you will keep your word. I will give you the location, you will let him free."

Na'hri glared, looked deep into those Vulcan eyes. He could see nothing, could not read this man at all. "You are a mysterious creature, one I cannot trust no matter what you are," the priest grumbled. "I find I can receive more honesty from the h'nok than you."

Kirk wanted to laugh. "Madness," he snarled and struggled, "all of this!"

The priest laughed when a guard struck him across the face. "As I said, h'nok, this is still your interrogation. So I expect you to speak, not your ser't," he stated. Spock was then shoved onto his back on the chair, wrists strapped into the bindings. Kirk swallowed a lump building in his throat. "Though h'nok are not known to show love or affection for their brethren, you appear to have a soft spot for your slaves." He shook his head. "How very, very unfortunate."

The guards went about stripping Spock of his tunic and undershirt. Kirk looking pleadingly, angrily to Na'hri, right in his black eyes. "Please," he said, teeth grit, "you're making a terrible mistake."

"Not I, h'nok," Na'hri grumbled. Spock's shirts fell to tattered shreds to the ground. Kirk winced. The priest lifted his hand and his men gathered the whip. "Now is time you see the errors of your defiance," he said and the whip was lifted.

Kirk's wounds might have been mostly healed, though pain lingered dully along his spine, but Spock's treatment was only indirect. His Vulcan prowess had allowed him to repress the pain, and though it did not show, he was fighting to keep the remaining pain from resurfacing. There was no fear, however, no fear that this might kill him, but Kirk knew better.

The whip came down, but it did not hurt.

Not Spock at least.

In that second between threat and beating, Spock swore something suddenly shoved at his shields and it was distracting enough, familiar enough for him to lower them just in time to see Kirk mentally pounce him, mentally shield him from the blast. Spock, though hardly showing it, was just as surprised as the others when Kirk was the one who wrenched forward with a low snarl of pain.

Jim, Spock said, it is unwise of you to enter through our bond at this junction in time.

I clearly remember telling you the same thing. Kirk looked up from under his brows, bangs disheveled and hanging over his lashes. Spock and him stared. But you refused to listen anyway. So isn't it fair I do the same?

You are in no condition -

You said I'd punish you when we get back to the Enterprise. Consider this punishment.

Spock had never wanted to hear Kirk consider their bond as anything but pleasurable and mutual. You know very well my shields have always been stronger than your own, Spock reminded and Kirk gave a visible scowl. In the fuzzy, misty world of reality, Na'hri was shouting at Kirk, demanding what he was thinking. You are weak now, captain. You cannot fight my shields.

Don't be so sure of yourself, Spock. You've told me in the past I've got a sharp mind that can cut through anything if I tried. And if you do resist me, I'll keep trying, even if it only worsens the pain, even if it might destroy my mind with all the strain. You started this, and I'll finish it.

Spock eyed the captain. Na'hri had blocked half of Kirk from his view, yelling at him before one hand slapped him upside the face. The bond did not waver, nor did Kirk's firm gaze into his eyes. The priest then turned to his men and shrieked at them instead. A guard rose the whip again and struck.

Kirk was there, and Spock wasn't sure if it was because he let him, or if the force was strong enough for him to plow on through. The pain from earlier had caused his shields to waver; perhaps logically Kirk would easily find holes while they were undergoing repairs.

The whip was numb, cold on his flesh and behind his eyes, a new world smothered the old.

It was a memory, one from a year ago. It was a long day on the Enterprise, and a battle with Romulan invaders had left everyone exhausted. Kirk was especially overworked, and by the bags beneath his eyes, in desperate need of sleep. Spock had escorted Kirk to his quarters from the bridge once McCoy had chewed him a new one. The captain wanted to extend his shift, but the good doctor threatened to knock him out right in his chair with a hypo if he didn't get the well deserved rest he needed.

It was shortly after they had turned their relationship from platonic to romantic. They were currently in the courting stage. Spock had seen Kirk to his door after their first official night out as a pair, and his captain had once joked it was a lot like some high school date ending where the boyfriend drops his girlfriend at her doorstep, and they awkwardly shoot the shit before kissing for the first time. He then leaned forward, kissed Spock and left, though without as much of the embarrassment.

"The doctor has ordered bed rest of us for the next 9.3 hours," the Vulcan explained, arms behind his back. "I shall see you-"

"You're not coming in?" Kirk interjected, eyes full of shock and disappointment.

Spock cocked a brow. "Usually I am invited to your quarters for activities that do not involve sleep," he noted and Kirk turned a little red around the ears.

"Well, tonight, it is just that," the captain assured. He gave a gentle tug at Spock's hand. "I could use the company."

"You would be sleeping. It would be illogical."

"Humans find company even when unconscious," the captain explained. He opened the door and urged Spock forward. "They miss certain things while they sleep." He smiled gently. "Like the warmth of someone beside you."

Spock said nothing for a moment. "As you wish, captain," he relented and stepped inside.

The green blood running down skin was evidence the blows had come, and had done their damage. But the pain remained subsiding, weak and dull. Spock looked to his captain. Kirk was clutching at his chest, struggling to remain composed.

"Will you not speak now, h'nok?" Na'hri demanded and pointed to the Vulcan.

The whip was on Spock a third time and -

"Bathing with water is illogical."

Kirk snickered as he looked at Spock, sitting at the other edge of the bathtub. It was filled with soapy, bubbly water and petals of red dotting the surface. "The sonic showers work more efficiently," Spock noted, glaring at the mounds of foam.

"We're on shore leave, and this planet has water for bathing," Kirk stated, reclining, "no human having been using sonic showers for too long would turn down such a treat."

"I am aware Terrans are more accustomed to using water when cleansing themselves, and use certain soaps and liquids as aides," Spock noted, picking up a rose petal, "but the purpose of the flowers..."

Kirk's face splotched pink. "They're said to make the mood more romantic," he mumbled. It was really silly, he had no idea why he had let Chapel talk him into using them. "It's ridiculous, I know."

Spock turned the petal in his lithe fingers. "Humans are very fond of details," he mumbled before blowing it back into the water. It upset a hill of bubbles, sending them puffing into the air. Kirk laughed while Spock watched them float.

"It's okay as long as it comforts you," Kirk replied, "does it?"

"The flowers are not what is comforting me at this moment, Jim."

And Kirk beamed, ear to ear. It was nice to know Spock was actually relaxing. And whenever he called him by name, why, Kirk found himself relaxed even more.

I was not aware you felt that pleased with me addressing you by your first name.

Kirk managed a half grin as he looked to Spock. Well, I figured you should know now.

I would have appreciated it more had you chosen to reveal it at a more appropriate time. Spock looked to Na'hri. "What is it you hope to garner from this?" he asked honestly. "There are no lies or facades presented. You are wasting your time."

The maid tending Kirk's back suddenly fell into a coughing fit. "Don't you see?" Kirk spat, looking from her to Na'hri. "She's sick! Possibly dying! Your people have come down with a virus known as the influenza. We've got the medicine that can help her and many-"

Na'hri had yanked a weapon from the wall, a long, curved knife. He took it to Spock's arm and cut through the flesh. Kirk was still connected to the bond, Spock having not used his distraction to terminate it. Kirk felt like the blade had been twisted into his chest and he slumped forward, heaving painfully.

"Captain!" Spock snapped, actually snapped.

"I-It's okay." I'm okay. You?

This is foolish!

I told you that before.

As a human, you cannot handle the same amount of pressure and pain as a Vulcan.

Kirk smiled wryly. You're half of me, too, Spock...

Spock's eyebrow twitched, a Vulcan equivalent to a sneer of disgust. "Na'hri, you are basing your accusations on grounds of belief that harbor no evidence," he reminded, voice curt.

"The old ways never lie!" Na'hri shrieked. He blanched at the green blood. "Ser't, wicked ser't! Your blood is poison!" His eyes widened. "Your blood! Your blood is the d'sra!"

"No!" Kirk screamed, nearly choking on rising bile. He ripped one shoulder free of a guard's hand. He lurched forward, snarled, "He is Vulcan! This d'sra-there's no such thing! It's your fear that is poisoning and killing your people! Don't you see that!" He lunged back, elbowing the Suspician in the stomach as he tried to grab for him. Before he could run to Na'hri, the blade pressed to Spock's throat.

"One more step, h'nok...!" Na'hri threatened.

Kirk bit hard into his bottom lip. It will not end like this, I won't have it. Spock had kept quiet. He noticed, felt that Spock's mind was elsewhere. Spock, stay with me! You won't die!

I've no plans on dying, captain.

That's when Kirk noticed Spock had wrenched one hand free of his left bindings. It was carefully, slowly moving to Na'hri, who was staring down Kirk hard with the others -

Suddenly, the door to the chamber burst open, and Suspicians flooded the room instantly, filling it with screams and furious battle cries. The guards in the room were helpless, tackled even before they could think of picking up their weapons. Na'hri had sunk back, shocked and frightened; Spock quickly snatched his wrist, squeezed until it forced the shrieking priest to let go of his hold on the dagger. One of Kirk's captors was shot dead, and he turned to punch the second in the face, knocking him out cold.

The raiding Suspicians were then replaced with a crew of Enterprise men and women, all with their phasers equipped. Kirk ran to Spock, quickly helping him out of the second binding. He looked up just in time to see Scotty and McCoy cut to the front of the group. McCoy caught sight of Jim and Spock first, grinning with relief.

"You're alive!" the doctor shouted and ran to their sides. His eyes widened at how sickly Kirk was, the scars along his back, the fresh cuts and tears on Spock. "My God, what did they do to you!" He quickly helped Jim with standing Spock up, who resisted slumping into their arms.

A tall male Suspician stepped forward. "It is good your men are safe," he said.

"For now," McCoy scowled. "We need to get them to my sickbay immediately!"

Kirk nodded. "Spock first," he swallowed, and suddenly the world was spinning, "treat... him..." And after everything, after the capture, after the death of Thomas, after the torture between himself and Spock, reality had taken its toll on his exhausted mind and everything finally crashed.


III


Captain.

Kirk smiled. You know, this is the second time you've done that today.

When Kirk opened his eyes again, he was staring at the familiar ceiling of the sickbay on the Enterprise. Tired eyes scanned his body-all his wounds dressed, healed, body suited into a patient's robe. He could hear his vitals in the form of 'beeps' above his head, assuring him everything was putting itself back in order. The pain was long gone, replaced with high dosages of painkillers.

Kirk turned his head, looking Spock in the eyes. The Vulcan was stretched out on the bed beside him, looking completely sturdy as usual. There was no doubt in the captain's mind Spock was only here because McCoy had threatened to rip off his ears if he even thought about sitting up. They stared at one another for a moment before Kirk asked, voice a small croak, "How long have you been awake?"

"31.2 minutes," Spock answered, "the doctor threatened to restrain me to the bed if I returned to duty."

Kirk chortled. "It's for the best then," he said. "But you're all right? You're okay?"

"I am functioning at normal levels, yes," the Vulcan assured. He fixed Kirk with a stern gaze. "And you, captain?"

"Still a little worn for wear, but I'll be on my feet in no time."

"I had meant mentally."

Kirk smiled sheepishly. "Tired," he admitted.

Spock nodded. "Good." He had been wandering in his bondmate's mind while he slept, and though he knew it was a violation, he had to make sure there were no scars or wounds the doctor could not treat. Kirk's mind was sound, and Spock felt much too grateful for his non-emotional Vulcan side to appreciate.

"Any idea what happened back there?"

"Ensign Johnson had visited me fifteen minutes ago and explained the situation," Spock replied. "The Suspicians who attacked Na'hri and his men were part of a large rebel faction fighting the priest, who apparently controls most of the Suspician population."

Kirk lifted a brow. "We hardly saw a single person..."

"They have mastered a form of cloaking device that bonds with its surroundings to camouflage. This is in order to hide their cities from outsiders. It is very potent and one of kind, which explains why our men were unable to get past it without help after some time of trying," Spock explained. Kirk gave a short nod. "The Suspician who spoke to Doctor McCoy was their leader, So'nl; it was he who sent the distress signal. Apparently, shortly after the Federation left from the planet, a seer declared they would return one day, but bring disease and destruction with them. At the time, the Suspician race was small, evolving, and these words left an imprint on the minds of many of the future who would believe Starfleet Federation would return under pretense of harm."

"So the entire h'nok business?" Kirk asked.

"Johnson explained 'h'nok' is Suspician for 'demon.' We were accused of serving a beast known as H'erit. Roughly translated, 'h'erit' means 'silver moon.'"

Kirk immediately understood. "The Enterprise."

Spock nodded. "The d'sra we have concluded meant the medication," he continued, "however they believed it was the source of their illness, not the cure. According to many, H'erit is what brings sickness onto the people." He looked to the ceiling. "Na'hri was said to be a descendant of the original seer who predicted the Federation's return. He strictly believed in this prophecy and enforced the religion on all his people. So'nl's faction, however, believed this to be too extreme and radical."

"Religion has often been used for answers, excuses, explanations for things alien or what cannot be understood," Kirk explained, frowning. "To Na'hri, none of this was wrong. He was simply following what he believed was the right path. It had blinded him and caused him to spread a pandemic of paranoia and fear."

"The rebel faction makes up nearly 76.3% of the Suspician people," Spock stated, "currently Na'hri and many of his men are under custody and awaiting trial. Many Suspicians had been tortured and accused of treachery or as h'nok themselves by Na'hri in the past."

"Much like Salem with witches and black magic," the captain grumbled. Quickly, "And the medication?"

"Is currently being administrated throughout the colonies," Spock replied. "The doctor has predicated the recovery rate will be slow, but successful."

Kirk inhaled, deep and relieved. "That's good, that's good," he breathed and sunk back into the bed. However. "Thomas..."

"His remains were gathered and funeral preparations are in the works."

A stinging sensation wrapped around Kirk's heart as he remembered Thomas, how he last saw him. A great, young boy stripped away into nothing. But before he could lament what he had no control to save, a pair of warm fingers brushed to his briefly. Kirk shot his gaze back to Spock, who was reaching for him with eyes still on the ceiling.

"Do not grieve."

Kirk blinked, and couldn't help but smile, taking a moment to close his eyes and just breathe. "At least not now, I suppose," he replied with a shaky chuckle. Nonetheless, he reached out, meeting Spock's hand halfway instead. Their fingers brushed, touched, grazed. Kirk could see Spock was turning a very slight shade of green around his collar.

Kirk just turned his head back on his pillow, shut his eyes again. We really should be resting instead of playing hanky panky.

'Hanky panky'?

Nothing, Spock.

Silence.

Thank you.

... The gratitude is appreciated, and returned.

But if you do something like that again -

I cannot make promises.

Kirk sighed.

I guess I can't preach if I won't practice.

Spock nodded lightly. I must learn to rectify such recklessness. Though if it means to save your life, captain, it is not without logic.

I both agree and don't know what to say.

Soft tan fingers bushed against pale knuckles, curling around them. So show me instead.

... As you wish.

They came then: memories of their first game of chess, Kirk appalled with Spock's winning so easily when he had believed he was the best in the 'Fleet, asking him for tips, asking him for a rematch, asking him for another game tomorrow, then another and another, and memories of Spock admittedly admiring Kirk's human determination, how though it had been foolish, it had saved the child's life, and he had such a smile, such a glow when he held that rescued girl in his arms, held her like his own and told both her and Spock it was a strength and a weakness and how both of them were the same, and the way Kirk had sat with Spock after the battle on Vulcan, after pon farr became a bitter memory, had told him he understood, it was okay, there was no bad blood between them and Spock had been quiet but he spoke volumes because Kirk knew it was okay it would be okay and Vulcans don't feel guilt, my ass and the jokes McCoy had shared with them one walk through Netaria, how Spock did not understand, and how Kirk's face lit up and blushed as they attempted to explain the content of the naughty, hilarious joke, the way Kirk gently elbowed his side and told him, "Terran humor tends to get a little dirty," and just how even when Spock couldn't understand anything about his captain, he was willing to follow him even to the mouths of Hell if it meant protecting these mysteries, inferior as most of them were.

Why, I didn't know you felt so deeply for all that nonsense.

I believe it was the appropriate time to tell you.


END

Sorry if it was mostly just sickly sweet, soft moments. I figured they seemed more appropriate. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed!