Notes: Latest in the Keeping Love series, after 'Silence' and 'Quiet Places.' If you haven't been following the series, then you might want to double back and read the rest of them, or this'll be confusing.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009, and I make no profit from this work.
Docking at Earth after the disaster had been one long line of enquiry board after hearing after committee hearing, and it was almost two weeks later before Kirk was deemed to have given all the evidence that he could, and was permitted to abscond for his rostered leave.
So it was that, for the first time, Spock found himself not under McCoy's watchful eye in Kirk's absence, and not having to handle psychiatric interview after test after counsellor. He had developed a new dislike for Human counsellors, but now they had been left behind in favour of a five-hour flight with his head on Kirk's shoulder, and a hired flitter to a lonely island in the Gulf of New China. It had once been the Gulf of Thailand, and the islanders where they set down still greeted them with a brisk, "Welcome to Thailand," but the sobriety of the Romulan attack had reached even these far-flung islands, and they were lead to the hut that Kirk had hired and left in peace promptly.
Spock, exhausted by almost four weeks of dull pain, no privacy, and fractured meditation, went immediately to the bedroom, and so woke to the low hum of air-conditioning kicking in under an eastern sunrise.
Kirk stirred briefly at the noise, but did not wake. He had been as stressed as Spock, and Spock had no desire to wake him now. His skin was flushed-hot with sleep, heat pulsing in loops almost lazily after his blood, and Spock resettled his head on one strong shoulder to listen to the faint echo of the heartbeat that controlled those loops. Perhaps it would have sounded normal and had no significance if Kirk were Vulcan, but Spock had come to associate the slow, plodding thumps with Kirk, and something about the sound soothed him and allowed his still-aching mind to relax.
He woke again, surprised to find that he had drifted back to sleep, when Kirk shifted with the decisiveness that spoke of being awake, and the faintest of crystals – more blurred light than anything – rubbed over his skin when Kirk's hand stroked up his arm to his shoulder.
"Hey," Kirk murmured through the kiss to his forehead. "You sleep okay?"
"Indeed," Spock trailed a hand idly around the v of Kirk's ribs, touching the sternum lightly at the top before stroking down the other side to where, if he were Vulcan, his heart would be.
"Face is up here," Kirk said, catching the wayward hand and bringing it to his face to kiss the fingers. He had not bothered with a suppressor, and the stubble rasped against the pads. When he let go, Spock busied himself by brushing kisses across that rasp, letting small darts of simple pleasure slide up his arm. After a moment, pushing his chin up into Spock's palm to encourage the action, Kirk slid both hands under Spock's arms and pulled until their faces were level and he could mimic the stroking kisses by pressing butterfly kisses to the hinge of the jaw where it met the neck and, north of there, the ear. "Good morning," he murmured when he reached the ear, then backed up to lick kisses into Spock's mouth, folding them tightly together and wringing an almost gentle pleasure out of him.
"It is," Spock breathed, and felt Kirk half-smile through another kiss.
"Okay. Okay, need to stop," Kirk admitted, breaking off the kiss and sighing into Spock's cheek. "Gonna want to do more if we keep going."
Spock ducked his head against Kirk's shoulder. They had not engaged in intercourse since before Spock had left the Enterprise for the Hellenica; whilst they had been on separate ships it was, of course, impossible, and after...
The first time they had tried, in Kirk's quarters two nights before docking at Earth, the sensations had overwhelmed Spock's fragile psyche and he had literally flung Kirk from him, pushing him off the bunk entirely, and promptly gone into medical (and psychic) shock. They had not attempted it again since, opting to wait until Spock's mind had calmed from the loss.
Regardless, Spock suspected that his libido had been shut off by his brain; he had the vaguest idea that he had been rendered impotent – though he had not – yet – voiced the concern to Kirk.
"Hey," Kirk rolled his shoulder, and squeezed the hand at the nape of Spock's neck. "I can practically hear you getting all ashamed over this."
"It...cannot be easy for you..."
"To lie here with you and not jump you at every given opportunity? Fuck no, it's not easy," Kirk agreed. "But I don't care, Spock. You're here with me; that's all I care about."
His almost casual vehemence – the way he seemed to fight Spock's battles, even against himself, without batting an eyelash – caused some strange flutter around Spock's heart, and he shifted to turn his face into Kirk's neck and press his nose to the pulse point thudding in his jugular. After a moment, Kirk's hand closed over his ear, and...
This was safe, this place. One ear to the pillow, the other covered with Kirk's palm, the world was blocked out but for the gentle, hedonist thump of the human heart, and the warmth and pressure surrounding him like a blanket. Kirk's cheek was pressed to the top of his head, and his neck to Spock's face, and his hand over his ear and jaw – Kirk surrounded him, surrounded him in heat and soft pressure, and held him...safe.
That light drifted amongst the warmth, bright but soft, like a lamp left on in a dark room, and Kirk breathed out.
"I love you," he whispered, the words vibrating through his throat into Spock's face, barely bleeding into the surrounding air at all.
The light swelled and ebbed again, and Spock closed his eyes.
"It's not cold," Kirk said. "See, it's shallow."
"I am not concerned about its temperature," Spock said.
Kirk stood knee-deep in the ocean, hands on his hips and smiling, despite Spock's objections to the suggestion of swimming. Spock could, of course, swim - it was mandatory for employ in Starfleet -but he did not like it. And Kirk knew that.
"I fail to see the purpose of this endeavour."
"To get you in here, with me, and then we can walk back along the beach hip-deep. It'll keep me cool."
"I have no objections to your immersion in the water; I, however..."
"Come on," Kirk actually pouted. Spock had never seen the expression on a fully grown Human male - he only knew it at all from his cousin, a Human woman called Jessica, whom he had met at the age of seven Terran years and had pouted to get her own way. It had been oddly endearing. On Kirk, it just looked...faintly ridiculous. "I'll even hold your hand."
"You have been holding my hand since we arrived."
That was true. Kirk was still extremely tactile; Spock was still in no condition to truly refuse the contact. Already the gap between them, and the sudden absence of the warmth and the light and the love that Kirk carried was...unsettling.
"Just come on," Kirk begged. "Please? We won't go any further than our waists if you don't want, and I won't let you slip or anything. Come on. Wade with me?"
Spock eyed the surf dubiously.
"C'mon," Kirk coaxed, stepping closer until he was within arm's reach. "There's nobody here to see."
That, again, was true: the beach stood empty but for them. It was the quietest island in the gulf, and Spock suspected that this was, even for them, the quiet season. There was nobody around.
The thought was a lightning strike, and he reached for Kirk's hand without thinking about it, stepping forward gingerly into wet, shifting sand and allowing too-cool water to surge over his toes and up to the ankles. It was not cold, but it was uncomfortable, and felt oddly slimy and unpleasant, curling over his skin almost oppressively.
The crystals kissed his fingers where they slid between Kirk's, and he took a breath.
Kirk walked them backwards slowly, one hand at Spock's hip and the other twined with his and held to Kirk's chest, pulling him along without real room for resistance. The water rose, heavy, pressing into his skin from every angle. It felt...strange, like an odd kind of sensory deprivation in which he could feel it, dull and pressing and cool, but it forced out everything else. The smell of the salt and the press of the water were everything, and it was not a pleasant everything.
He stopped dead, the water just brushing his pelvis, and Kirk paused.
"Okay," he said, and smiled. It was a wide, brilliant smile, for once free of the stress that had been pinching at his eyes and mouth and jaw for weeks. It was a smile that reminded Spock, quite suddenly, of the insisted-upon first date, and the Vulcan concert. Were they alive, somewhere? Had they been off-world?
"I...do not like this," Spock murmured.
"Yeah, but you're okay," Kirk soothed, stepping closer and sliding both arms around his waist to pull him into a close hug. His chest was hot, and Spock sank into the heat to escape the cool of the water. "There, see? You're alright."
Spock pressed himself further into the heat and brought his hands up to cup the back of Kirk's shoulders, forcing him to stay close. He could feel him breathing - low and lazy and so typically Kirk, unashamedly alive and putting no effort towards it...
"I...I am aware that I do not vocalise my...thoughts regarding..."
Kirk waited patiently, the backs of the fingers of his left hand idly brushing the dipped run of Spock's spine where it broke free of the ribs.
"...regarding you, but I..."
"Sweetheart," Kirk murmured, very low and...very gentle, in a way that was so at odds with the brash, abrasive, overwhelmingly challenging and almost forcibly large character that had pushed its way into Spock's life, hundreds upon hundreds of days ago now...and yet he had always had that same capacity to be as gentle as he was cocky, and Spock curled further into the heat as though he could trap it within himself. "Sweetheart, I know. I don't need you to tell me. I know."
"I love you," Spock breathed, and Kirk's grip tightened.
"I know," he whispered, his voice sounding oddly thick. "I know, sweetheart."
A kiss, hot and shivering with heavy crystals that sank into his skin at the point of conduct, was pressed into his shoulder, and buried alive when Kirk ducked his head to press his nose to the spot.
"I love you too," he breathed, and the water was not so bad.
"Come on, sweetheart, open your eyes. It's alright, you're okay, just open your eyes now, come on..."
Kirk's voice broke through the uneasy haze of meditation easily, and Spock took a breath to steady his return to full consciousness. Kirk was close enough to be felt, the heat radiating off his body where he crouched not inches from Spock's, and then his hands came up to touch Spock's face - and the tears on them that Spock did not realise had fallen.
He opened his eyes, and Kirk's worried frown met him.
"There you go," he murmured, leaning in to kiss him briefly. "Are you alright?"
"I am well," Spock murmured, but allowed himself to relax forward into the kiss.
"I take it this is a surprise to you as well?" Kirk prompted, stroking the damp streaks away almost gingerly, as if he didn't quite know what to do with this development.
"Yes," Spock admitted. "I was unaware of...my emotional response."
"Okay," Kirk bit his lip. "Look, um...Spock, I'm going to call Bones on this. That's the second time you've cried - out of three in grand total. I just...can I check in with him?"
Spock caught the fingers still absently stroking over his cheek, and turned his head to kiss them lightly. "Can it wait until later?"
"I...I guess so," Kirk said hesitantly, fingers twitching in his grasp. "You sure you're okay?"
"I am not unduly disturbed," Spock said carefully. "Meditation is still...difficult, and I do not relish the task, but it is no longer...painful. My mind is resettling; it is still...healing."
"But you can handle me not clinging onto you every hour of every day," Kirk pointed out, squeezing his fingers lightly. "You'll get there. And when we get back to San Francisco, I'm going to pull every string I can to get us placed together again. And then when I succeed, I'll take you out on another date, just you and me and something tacky and traditionally American."
"Diner food and a crappy movie is usually on the cards," Kirk cracked a smile, and Spock found himself kissing it away before quite realising that he had moved. "Mm. If I knew diner food was your thing, I'd've busted the replicator in here when we arrived."
"I believe you have missed the point."
"I don't think I did," Kirk smirked.
"Whether you did or you did not, does this not count as a 'date'?"
"Longest damn date of my life," Kirk quipped. "Nope, this is a vacation. Totally different from dates. This is so I can whisk you away and shower you with love and attention until you want to smack me and mail me back to HQ just to get rid of me."
"As opposed to a date, wherein the purpose, I believe, was to also express extreme feelings of love via overwhelming attention."
"Sure, but this takes longer," Kirk shrugged, shuffling forward on his knees until he could lean in for another kiss and balance himself by his hands on the floor either side of Spock's hips. "And lots of people date casually, but you don't casually take vacations with people."
"You have been on vacation with multiple friends and acquaintances with whom you did not - I assume - engage in sexual relations."
"True," Kirk allowed, distracted vaguely by pressing light, fleeting kisses up Spock's exposed neck. "But that's to goof off and do stupid shit outside of your familiar territory. This is definitely familiar territory."
It was: Kirk's movements were fleeting, almost playful, and while there was nothing particularly wonderful about receiving human kisses to the skin (Vulcan skin, excepting the hands, was not that sensitive) the faint shimmer of crystals and the heated trails of lust were beginning to skin into his pores, and when Kirk pressed forward, Spock allowed himself to be pushed back until his head met the mat, and Kirk's light, hot weight pressed down on him from hip to shoulder.
"Come here often?" Kirk quipped, nipping at Spock's lower lip and toying with the fastening of the robe. "'Cause I'm sure I've seen your face before."
"I should hope so," Spock murmured through the ensuing kiss, and was bitten again for his efforts, before the clasp came apart under Kirk's fingers and the front of the robe was peeling open. A moment later, hot human hands raked fine nails down his chest in faint lines that left sparks of sheer lust dancing in their wake, and the crystals were crowded out by dizzying desire - from both of them, to Spock's faint surprise, and Kirk, grinning, latched on his neck to suck a bruise into being.
"Now what's a handsome man like you doing all alone in a place like this, huh?" he drawled, deliberately thickening the harsh slurs of his accent as he worked the robe open entirely and pushed it apart to leave Spock exposed to the balmy air.
"I do not believe that I am alone."
"No?" Kirk worked his mouth around one nipple, sucking hard through his teeth for a moment before biting gently around it and beginning a trail of small bites down the flat expanse of Spock's abdomen. The lust was heavy and hot, humming like a freshly-poked wasps' nest, and drilled its way into Spock's spine and brain with admirable diligence. "Well, your boyfriend's not doing a great job then, is he? Somebody might steal you."
"I would not recommend that anyone try." His breathing was beginning to fall out of rhythm.
"Damn straight," Kirk growled, sitting up long enough to strip off his shirt and press back down for a long, plundering kiss that stole Spock's air and left telepathic lightning storms to erupt along their contact. "All spread out and gorgeous - forget anyone else, I'm going to steal you away."
"M-my boyfriend does not like to share," Spock managed as Kirk worked a hand into his boxers and wrapped burning human fingers around him.
"Good man," Kirk said, beginning to pay homage to the other nipple. "Mind you, neither do I. Not sure I like you talking about your boyfriend while I'm the one you're sleeping with. Got that?"
The heat was fever-pitch; the wasps were burrowing into his skull, shaking him apart at the seams. Kirk's hands were not enough, they were not holding him his mind was...
"Jim," he choked out, desperate to communicate something beyond the rising panic. "Stop, please stop, please..."
"Hey hey hey," Kirk was off him in a second, the robe flashing closed over him again in a heartbeat, and when Spock clutched at his arms, they came around him to fold him into a warm - not hot, not burning, but warm - embrace, and gathered his mind back together. "I've got you, sweetheart, I've got you, you're alright..."
Spock vaguely realised that he was shaking; his mind shivered and he forced himself to centre again, around the warm press of Kirk's hold, and the cadence of his voice - sofamiliarlovedoneJimKirk...
"I'm here, baby, it's okay, you're okay, we're both fine..."
"I...I apologise, I..."
"Ssh, it's alright," Kirk murmured, lips brushing his ear as he turned his head slightly to respond. "Can you tell me what that was?"
"The...the telepathic interference..."
"I - yes."
"Alright," Kirk said, settling more comfortably on the floor and keeping his arms locked around Spock's upper body. "It's alright. That's further than we got last time, isn't it? We'll get there, it doesn't matter..."
"I...I should be able to..."
"You should be able," Kirk said quietly, "to understand that I am not - ever - going to carry on with something that's going to damage your wellbeing. Ever."
"It is not fair to you," Spock managed, gradually getting his respiration under control and beginning to relax into Kirk's hold. There was a sharp, dangerous pause, and he stiffened again before Kirk spoke, his voice very even and measured - although the more he talked, the more it broke down.
"Shut up," Kirk said firmly. "It's called jerking it in the bathroom. Which is what I'll do if I really need some relief. But don't you ever, ever even imply again that I should use you when you're not in any state to enjoy it, or carry on when you tell me to stop. Don't you dare. That's rape, a-and if you ever suggest that I would, I will...I'll...I'll shake you until that big, stupid Vulcan brain of yours falls out of your goddamn pointy ears."
"...Jim, please, I..."
"We will get there," Kirk insisted quietly, his hold refusing to let Spock back far enough to look him in the face. "You'll get better, and we'll get back to where we were - or as near as damn it, but Spock, please, please stop thinking that this is going to be the thing that chases me out. I'm not going anywhere. And if I have to be celibate for the rest of my life, then I still wouldn't be going anywhere."
"I'm sorry," Spock breathed. "I am sorry, Jim, but you must understand that this could easily trap you into..."
"It won't trap me into anything," Kirk murmured, his righteous anger beginning to settle. The crystals were brilliant where they touched, crowding into the skin and soothing in their purity, although they were tinged with the edges of sodium. "I love you, and I'm right here. No matter what."
Spock clutched at his back, and Kirk made a low, soothing noise in the back of his throat.
"What if I am never able to...engage in...?"
"I gotta tell you something here," Kirk said quietly. "You know how easy you can turn me on. You just existing turns me on some days. I'd get turned on when you were on the Hellenica just thinking about you, when you weren't even physically there. You know that. But you shaking and sick and begging me to stop? Someone I love, with everything I have, pleading with me to stop? Jesus, Spock. I couldn't get turned off again faster if you cut my balls off. Sex is the last thing on my mind when you get like that."
Something shifted a hair to the right and Spock turned his face into Kirk's shoulder.
"We'll get there, sweetheart," Kirk soothed, gentle affection beginning to drift between them like the fine mist that rose off the ocean in the mornings. "We'll get there."
"...still having the odd outburst. He cried again the other day, but he didn't seem to know he was doing it..."
Spock drifted towards awareness to the sound of Kirk's voice, low and almost whispered, and the rhythmic rub of his hand - no, his arm, draped over Spock's shoulders. He was warm, and Spock contented himself with curling closer into the bright heat and resettling there, momentarily pacified.
There was the faint crackle in the air of electronics, and Spock vaguely heard the filtered tones of McCoy's voice as though from very far away.
"...still sleeping a lot, but he's finally starting to eat prop - hey, look who's up."
Spock pushed into the hand that scrubbed at his hair without a care for the display of emotion, and blinked tiredly up at Kirk. He had obviously not properly risen, still appearing to be mostly naked, but he was sat up against the headboard and had been speaking into his personal communicator. He grinned down at Spock, his eyes bluer than the ocean not twenty feet from the bedroom, and a wash of pure happiness flowed from his skin into Spock's.
"Wanna speak to Bones?" he asked, and snickered at the static-laden snort that the communicator produced. "Okay, okay, sheesh, no need to be melodramatic. I'll call you back, Bones. Bye."
He tossed the communicator carelessly aside - communications officers were, on the whole, very strange to engineers and scientists for their lack of care about their instruments - and bent to press a kiss into Spock's hair.
"How you feeling?" he asked.
"Yeah?" Kirk grinned. "Well, I was thinking we go further inland today and find that waterfall all the travel guides keep banging on about. I won't make you get in, I promise," he added. His good mood was infectious - quite possibly literally, considering the manner in which he was broadcasting his emotional state. "You up for that?"
"I have no objections. Jim, may I ask a question?"
"Why are you in such a positive state?"
Kirk chuckled. "Should've guessed," he muttered, before sliding down in the bed to loosely draped himself over Spock's chest and grin at him from very close quarters. "You know what I woke up to this morning?"
"You," Kirk said, one finger drawing patterns in Spock's chest hair. "I woke up to you, sleeping beside me, all relaxed and gorgeous and quiet. No tears, no tension, no anxiety, nothing. I haven't woken up to that sight in nearly a year."
"I am...somewhat stabilised," Spock admitted. He had slept peacefully, and for a long time, and over the past three days, there had been a distinct fading of the pain in his telepathic centres.
"There you go then," Kirk said cheerfully, reaching up to kiss him before rolling off and out of the bed. (Spock revised his earlier estimate; Kirk was in fact entirely naked.) "Shower, and then food, and then you get to work out why I pack so much mosquito repellent whenever I go anywhere."
Spock lowered his hands and broke from the final layer of meditation, and opened his eyes when a body hit the sand behind him and Kirk's arms slide around his chest.
"Hey," Kirk nosed at the back of his head. "Just got a call from Pike. We're expected back in three weeks."
"So, the choice is this. Go back now, and spent three weeks in various hotels across San Francisco, or go in three weeks, and turn up still sandy, tanned and smelling of salt?"
Kirk did smell of salt. It was buried in the roots of his hair, and flaked off his skin when he went swimming. It was oddly tantalising - Vulcan did not have much in the way of salt, and the smell and taste were odd to Spock. Alien.
"Your choice," Kirk shrugged, craning around to kiss his cheek. "We won't actually ship out for a while after that, we're just needed back for admin and, well..."
"Psychiatric evaluation," Spock said quietly.
More counsellors, in other words.
"You'll do fine," Kirk murmured quietly, kissing the back of his neck. "So which is it? Stay here, or go back?"
The ocean roared as another wave crashed down on the shoreline, and the smell of salt hung in the air, heavy and tangible and mournful. Perhaps it was not, when one was not in mourning, but for the moment, that was how it seemed.
"I would...prefer to stay here, for a little longer," Spock said hesitantly.
"Okay," Kirk agreed, without hesitation, and he shifted around to sit down on the sand beside him, and slid an arm loosely around his waist. "Meditation go okay?"
"What did you think about it?" Kirk asked quietly, and Spock gave into the urge to lean into his touch.
"Salt," he said.
He brought a hand up to touch his face, and it came away dry.