Notes: Final chapter, guys. Thank you all for the great feedback, and I'll see you next time!

Nightmares were...not uncommon, in the service, and almost everyone had that minor note of having been given sleeping aids at one time or another, including Jim. It was just about the only medical note that nobody looked twice at - stranger were the people who had never needed them.

Jim knew the nightmares would come, and so he hadn't taken any.

He was not surprised, then, to jerk violently awake at 0306, his hand midway through the slap that should have woken Spock up only this time, this time when Jim had crawled back into the hole, he was gone - not just dead, but rotting, like a month-old corpse, squirming with an infestation of maggots...

Jim curled into the thin sheets of his bunk, fighting to get his stomach under control. Nightmares were one thing, but chucking it was just downright embarrassing.

After some five minutes, the rolling stopped and he uncurled himself. The ship was quiet, the yellow alert long-since deactivated and the ship humming contentedly under the quiet watch of the gamma rotation. It seemed obscene, for everything to move on in tight circles while his men were dead and his First Officer lay unconscious and still too close to death for anyone's comfort in the ship's hospital bay.

It seemed obscene, and yet Jim was grateful for it.

Knowing he wouldn't get back to sleep after those images, he rolled out of bed and stumbled his sleepy way through a swift shower, checking his messages for flags as he dressed, and eventually slipping from his cabin entirely.

The corridors were abandoned - the rest of the alpha shift were still down, and the beta shift probably also catching rest. It was instinct, when a crisis hit: catch sleep whenever and wherever you can, because it might be the last time for a long time.

It was the deserted silence of the corridors that allowed Jim's boots to make the decisions for him, and his restless pace of the corridors mutated into a slow, long-winded route to Sickbay, slipping through the narrower back-corridors used only by the maintenance and engineering crews, and coming across no-one.

The Sickbay, during gamma shift, was deserted - between 2000 and 0400, it was usually staffed with only Dr. Warr and a couple of nurses on rotational duty. And Dr. Warr liked to sit in the (McCoy's) office and pretend that he actually ran a busy Sickbay.

So slipping into the ICU without being seen was child's play.

McCoy had taken to putting Spock in a separate room to turn the heating up whenever he was going to be Sickbay for more than a routine procedure or a physical, so really the fact that he was in the ICU meant nothing at all. Jim was used to that.

Then he actually saw him, and the ICU...made sense.

It was odd what the biobeds did to people. You could throw the beefiest jarhead in Security into one of the biobeds and he'd end up looking like a fragile china doll. To add Spock's lean physique and the usual paper-white of his skin to that...

Hell, his skin was entirely bloodless.

Jim had never seen him truly, truly ill before. There had been the phaser wound on Malthus II, and day four of the horrific, gut-spewing Reluvian virus that swept the crew (and was also responsible for the one and only time Jim had seen Uhura looking anything less than ridiculously perfect) but...that was it, really.


He looked smaller, in that weird hospital-bed way, and whatever Bones had spent hours doing last night hadn't given him all that blood back. There were fluid tubes (hell, Jim didn't know what they were for) running into the port on his left forearm, and an oxygen mask over his nose and mouth, and a monitoring bracelet that flashed dimly in time with the pulse that hummed quietly on the readout. The blanket bulged over a box-shape at his side, over the wound, and Jim supposed they were the localised fields and drainer that McCoy had mentioned. Jim had no idea what the drugs list meant, bar a heavy-duty sedative that he vaguely recognised as being used typically to drop angry Klingons in a hurry, and he didn't dare try to guess at whether the unusually low respiration meter was good or bad or neither at all.

But for all the shrunken, vulnerable look to him...

He was breathing, and that was more than Jim had hoped for twelve hours ago.

He stepped slowly around the bed to put it between himself and the door, and kept half an eye on those closed metal sheets as he inched a hand over the covers to clasp the cool (cold) fingers of Spock's hand gingerly. When nothing changed, he settled his hand into those long, still fingers more comfortably and started to rub gently - though whether he was trying to warm them or simply communicate his presence, he didn't know.

"Hey," he murmured, staring down at those slack, drained features almost blankly. Spock's lips were almost grey, devoid of any colour at all. "Sorry I'm late. The store got a bit busy."

The joke felt flat, but Jim found himself drawing a strange, surreal comfort from the hum of the biobed monitoring Spock's pulse. It was white noise - but good white noise all the same.

"At least the nurses cleaned you up some, huh?" he added, bringing up his other hand to brush through Spock's now-clean hair softly. It was still ruffled from where they hadn't combed it properly back into place, and Jim felt a flash of gallows humour. He could get it back into its proper state, no matter how wild the sex had been.

The communications console on the wall crackled briefly, and he glanced up, but the interference passed - presumably into the main bay for something or other.

"I'll have to go again in a minute," he said quietly. "I'll be back later. Be awake to say hi, okay?"

There was, of course, no response, and the slack cheek remained so when he bent to kiss it, lingering to breathe in the faint warmth of his skin and the faint tang of antiseptic.

"I do..." he began, and cut himself off when the lump in his throat began to form. "I just...I do. You know? I do."

The communication console hummed with interference again, and he pressed a kiss into the thin skin at Spock's temple, feeling the hummingbird pulse there, before straightening up and squeezing the limp hand in his.

"Come back soon - okay?"

By the time he went on shift that morning, the emergency Federation council had declared Monaris I a non-member, and thus was withdrawing Federation funding, trade and protection until they could once again prove themselves to be a peaceable and developed world. And one that didn't fabricate the state of their politics to the Federation.

"We're stationing the Glock until we know more about the conflict type, and we've taken into account the medical reports from your CMO on the weaponry used against your crew, but for now, there's little point in the Enterprise remaining where she is," Admiral Pike told Jim seriously. "You'll be receiving new orders by the end of shift."

Jim scowled. The need for impartiality had its drawbacks; it felt distinctly like being scolded for letting the negotiations get out of control, even though he couldn't have done a damn thing anyway, and not being allowed to follow through on a disaster that had killed his personnel.

But then, Pike had a point. They were an exploratory vessel; the Glock was a fully-equipped battleship. It made sense, even if Jim didn't like it.

"Understood, sir."

"How's the Commander doing?"

"Still unconscious, but Dr. McCoy thinks he's responding well to the antibiotics for the infection. I...didn't really understand the rest of what he said," Jim admitted sheepishly. "Lieutenant Uhura and Lieutenant Sulu are splitting the role of Acting First Officer until the Commander's back on duty..."

"Uh-huh," Pike said. "So how are you doing?"


"Don't try that on me, Kirk. You and Spock are just about the most formidable command team in the fleet, and you don't get to be that good without becoming attached to the guy. He's your friend."

"Friend or not, there's nothing I can do now," Jim shrugged, with a peace he didn't feel. "I've just got to put my faith in Bones and wait. We all do."

"Uh-huh," Pike looked sceptical, then shrugged and it fell away. "Well, it's not been signed off on yet, but I can tell you that your next batch of orders won't give anyone a breakdown trying to fill in for Spock. I'm presuming someone's taken over as Science Officer, too?"

"Lieutenant-Commander Jepedenski. She needs the experience, and she's a good officer," Jim shrugged. "I'm having to do my own paperwork too," he added, pulling a face, and Pike chuckled.

"It'll be good for you. Well, Godspeed, Jim, and let me know when Spock's on the mend."

"Will do, sir. Kirk out."

The moment that Pike's face faded from the screen, Jim sat back and frowned, the humour sliding from his face. If anything, the Monaris war had given him something else to think about, but if they were now being pushed sideways onto another exploratory mission, it just meant long hours in the chair with nothing to actually do, and without anything to do...

He groaned, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Why the fuck did all medical treatments involve sedatives?

"I never thought I'd be so happy to play poker," Sulu said.

They had received their orders at the end of shift, and handed over to Beta to take them out of the Monaris system and off to the edges of the Beta Quadrant - an eight-day journey at best, and one that would allow some measure of relaxation. At which point, McCoy had promptly ordered down time for the command crew, and so here they were - and Jim had a crap hand.

"I dunno about happy," he grumbled, wincing at his cards, and Uhura gave him a grin that reminded him of a cat. Right before it took your eyes out. For kicks. "I swear you're counting them."

"Don't have to," she informed him loftily.

Chekov wordlessly handed Jim what looked to be a shot glass of vodka. "It vill not get any better," he said sadly, and Jim swept his eyes around the rest of the table.

"Bones," he decided.

"Oh yeah," the doctor grinned.

The command crew's poker games almost always came down to two players duking it out - usually Uhura and whoever had been lucky enough to get a hand strong enough to challenge hers. So the poker games were really casual socials in which two members of the group attempted to win a two-person card game with dodgy rules.

"Okay, I am officially not the Captain for the next hour," Jim said, digging a bottle out of the cool box. "Drink, anyone?"

"God yes," Sulu moaned. "I fold." He abandoned his cards altogether and leaned over Chekov to take the bottle. Chekov ignored him in favour of trying to see Uhura's lucky hand.


"I'm on call," McCoy said distractedly.

"I'll drink for you," Sulu decided generously.

"Thanks," McCoy drawled, rolling his eyes.

"I wouldn't, it takes a shit-ton to get Bones drunk," Jim advised.

"I'm willing to try."

"Well, don't come cryin' to me in the mornin' for a hangover cure," McCoy drawled, and Sulu grinned.

"I'm Asian - we're tougher than that."

"You are really, really not," Chekov scoffed.

"We are!"

"Sorry, 'Karu, Russians know more about handling alcohol than Asians," Uhura said.

Sulu pulled a face, and downed a shot.

In reality, none of them had ever been drunk on board. Jim - like most captains - turned a (very) blind eye to alcohol and gambling on board, but did enforce a cap. He was pretty sure nobody had ever gotten truly drunk on board - bar the accident with Ensign T'Yelka when the medical staff suddenly found out what happened when a Tulevian was giving laughing gas. For all the swagger, there would be no hangover cure - or hangover - in the morning, and if the alarms went off halfway through the game, they'd still be functional.

But sometimes Jim wished he could get drunk, only to forget the fact that usually Uhura would be trying to coax Spock into counting for her, or (if she was doing battle with McCoy) distract her opponent with that not-a-sense-of-humour-that-totally-was.

Yeah, sometimes Jim missed the booze.

"Russians only know about vodka," Sulu protested. "They don't..."

"Dr. McCoy to the medical bay immediately."

Everyone else around the table froze, but McCoy was moving before the alert clicked off again, throwing down his cards and going from nought to a full-on sprint by the time he hit the doors.

"What do you think...?" Sulu began, but Jim had already crossed to the nearest comms unit.

"Kirk to Sickbay, what's going on down there?"

There was a sharp pause, and then a woman's voice said, "We've requested Dr. McCoy..."

"Yes, I heard that, and he's on his way, but what for?"

She paused again. She was probably new, to be so unsure. All the other nurses made McCoy look positively cuddly. "Commander Spock, sir. I can't really disclose anythi..."

Jim abandoned the console. "I'm going down to Sickbay," he said shortly.

"Me too," Uhura folded, getting up and flying after Jim to the doors.

After a long pause, Sulu leaned over and turned over the abandoned hands.

"She would have lost, too," he grumbled, and Chekov poured another shot.

The Sickbay, by the time Jim and Uhura reached it, was already a flurry of activity, and all of it centred around the ICU doors.

Jim never knew what to listen for in a medical environment. Just about the only things he could recognise were a life-support klaxon and a flatline on the beds. Thankfully, neither seemed to be going off, but something was going mad in there (an ear-splitting intermittent beeping that had Uhura wincing) and medical staff seemed prone to running and shouting and generally looking panicked all of the time.

When Uhura's hand curled into the curve of his elbow, he realised how tense he was.

"Come on," she drew him a bench along the far wall, designed precisely for waiting queues. "There's nothing to be gained by getting in the way."

Jim only hummed, and let her guide him to sit.

"I feel," she said into the chaos, and so quietly that Jim had trouble hearing her, never mind the nurses, "as though I should be delivering some...threat."

He shot her a look, and she smiled.

"You're still a farm boy, Kirk, and he's still...well. He's Spock."

"Yeah," Jim agreed, though to what he wasn't sure.

"But this," she rubbed the steel-cord tension of his bicep gently. "This says I don't need to. You know what's at stake."

Jim had the distinct feeling that he had, once again, walked into some big, serious conversation without being quite sure how he'd gotten there. It was a feeling that he was definitely getting used to over the last week or so.

"Still a farm boy?" he tried weakly for a joke, and she graced him with that exasperated smile that said that for all she respected him as her Captain and a Starfleet officer, she still wished, just sometimes, to smack him stupid.

"If the hayfork fits," she opined loftily, and he cracked a proper smile.

"Look," he said quietly. "We...we have to, you know. You know. We have to keep it quiet."

"Yes," she said.

"Could you...just...I..."

"I'll go and squirm answers in your stead," she said, squeezing his arm, and as though on some strange psychic cue, McCoy emerged from the ICU, passing off a padd to one of the nurses and barking orders. She was on her feet at once, and Jim followed, suddenly feeling like he couldn't be caught out this time. Even when they had been together - years ago, now - Uhura hadn't been the type to fuss unnecessarily over Spock if he was ill or injured, but McCoy was a southerner and a doctor, and used to the thankless task of comforting the wives and girlfriends and mothers and sisters and daughters of the injured officers in Starfleet Medical.

Whether appropriate for Uhura's brand of efficient, steel-fibred soul or not, his face visibly softened when she approached.

"What happened?"

"His blood pressure spiked," McCoy said, stripping off his gloves. "As much as Vulcan blood pressure does spike, at any rate."

"Is he alright?" Uhura pressed.

"He's fine," McCoy soothed. "It's a good sign, actually. His blood production's rising; if he keeps that jump going, I'll be able to operate and fully seal the wound tomorrow afternoon."

"Is he awake?" Jim interrupted.

"No, I kept him under," McCoy said, shaking his head. "I'm keeping him down until the surgery. I don't care what Vulcans trot out about controlling pain, that's going to hurt, and in no part of my contract does it say 'allow pain to go untreated if treatment is possible.'"

"When can he receive visitors?"

"Shoulda known you'd ask," McCoy rolled his eyes at her, but his tone...softened slightly again. For all that he griped and moaned about Spock, he'd carried a soft spot for Uhura from the moment he'd met her. Probably because she was so good at batting Jim down. "Possibly tomorrow evening, depending how it goes."

She nodded, glancing one last time towards the now-closed doors of the now-quiet ICU, and stepped back from both men.

"In which case, I'll get myself back to the game," she said lightly. "And I'll see you tomorrow evening, Leonard."

He tipped his head - and half a second later, shifted his eyes to Jim.

"I wasn't kidding, Jim, he's out for the count."

"Yeah, yeah," Jim shook his head. "You said he wasn't strong enough to operate when we first beamed him up."

"He wasn't," McCoy shook his head. "At it is, I'm not happy about having to operate now but his body's under too much stress. I have to close the wound, and if I wait much longer, I'm concerned that his systems will just try and shut down that lung as a lost cause."

"That could happen?"

"It's possible," McCoy nodded. "I'd prefer to wait until his blood volume was back up to normal and we'd driven the infection out, but I don't think I can. He's already starting to breathe with one lung dominating, and that's not normal."

Jim nodded, worrying at his lower lip.

"Where are we headed now?"

"Exploratory on the edge of the Beta Quadrant," Jim shook his head. "We can manage without him for the moment, but...I'd prefer we didn't have to."

McCoy clapped him on the shoulder. "Don't worry about it, Jim. He's a stubborn son of a bitch, and even taking the infection into account, he's better now than he was when he was brought in. He'll be fine."

"You sure about that, Bones?"

"When am I ever wrong?"

The problem with hiding things was...

Well, you were hiding.

Jim wasn't the melodramatic type, not really, and besides, he trusted McCoy to be honest with him. If Spock were dying, he would have been told, and because he wasn't, Jim was able to just...get on with things, as it were. Spock would be back, and he would come back fine, and regardless, there wasn't anything Jim could do.

The maddening part came later.

It was just into the beta rotation, and as Jim stepped out of the shower, that his inbox chimed and he opened it to find a short script from McCoy telling the entire senior crew that Spock was out of surgery and able to receive visitors 'if you loud-mouthed adrenalin junkies kept it sedate, damn it.'

And he didn't really think about it until he showed up, but...

Well, Jim wasn't the only one to have been seamlessly absorbed into this brilliant team of people. Spock was not nearly as sociable as Jim, but he was liked well enough within it - even if Sulu did still steer clear of him out of sheer intimidation, and even if Chekov would get halfway through a maths spazz with him and then quite suddenly realise who he was arguing with, and promptly lose his voice and disappear.

Spock might not use the terms, but in their eyes, he was a friend as well, and so when Jim stepped into the ICU, he had...quite simply not expected there to be anyone else.

But there they were, and they made a picture. The head of his bed had been raised slightly, the blankets still lumped over the strange box of an isolation field, and Uhura sat at his left shoulder, Sulu and Chekov across from each other at his knees - and Jim laughed aloud to see the playing cards being dealt across the smooth, hospital-issue blankets.

"Even Bones won't let you bring booze to this party," he teased when they looked up, and Sulu scowled.

"Even though we all know he has it," he protested.

"Ah-ah," Jim shook his head. "I don't. Not officially."

"Of course not, Keptin," Chekov smirked. "There is no alcohol to know about."

"Quite right, Pav," Jim turned up his nose, snorted, and grinned. "How are you feeling, Mr. Spock?"

Whatever he felt, he didn't look much better than he had before, if all truth be told. The sheer whiteness of his face and hands was still alarming, and his head actually rested fully on the pillow, as though he simply didn't have the strength to sit up properly. His eyes were half-lidded, but the darkness sharp when they did meet Jim's, albeit the meeting was slow.

"Feeling, sir?"

Well, his brain was present and accounted for. Sarcasm and all.

"Yeah, feeling," Jim pushed, coming around to sit opposite Uhura. "Deal me in? Thanks. So, Spock?"

"Somewhat fatigued," came the predictable response, "but otherwise well."

"Yeah, you keep sayin' that," McCoy drawled as he came into the room with a padd and a scanner. "Maybe in a couple of days I'll believe you."

Jim peered up at the bed readouts with an inexpert eye, and frowned slightly at the temperature reading. He knew where it should be for a healthy Human, and therefore that it should be lower for a Vulcan, but they looked roughly the same.

"Still feverish?" he guessed.

"Yeah, but it's starting to creep down," McCoy drawled. "I got everything sealed up and in its proper place anyhow. Just bed rest, antibiotics and surface skin grafts for the next few days, and we'll go from there. Might need some physiotherapy on the damaged muscle."

Spock was either too exhausted to truly follow their conversation, or was wholly uninterested; he ignored the pair of them in favour of watching Uhura begin to thoroughly trounce Sulu.

"He'll doze off in a while," McCoy added to Jim quietly, even though they both knew that if Spock wanted to listen in, he could. "He's still on a lot of very strong drugs. If you see him struggling, pack it up."

"Will do," Jim agreed, finally reaching for his own hand. "Alriiight."

The game lasted for perhaps forty minutes, before Uhura made a faint noise in the back of her throat and Jim glanced up to see that Spock's eyes had finally closed. He was not asleep - there was too much idle tension in his upper body for that, and the brain monitors still hovered too high, but he was headed that way, and Jim nodded.

"Alright, children, let's pack it in for the night," he said. "Stargazing in the morning."

"Oh yay, more steering through emptiness," Sulu rolled his eyes.

"Don't give me that, you just spend eight hours playing minesweeper," Jim snorted.

The banter was vicious but quiet as they packed up, Chekov even daring to go so far as to gingerly pat Spock's shin underneath the blankets before zipping out the door as though the touch would wake him and send him into a murderous rage, and Sulu followed snickering at the navigator's shyness.

"He'll get over it one day," Uhura said fondly, slipping the cards back into their packet. "See you in the morning, Captain."

She gracefully left Jim to leave last, and Jim distinctly heard her approach McCoy with what sounded like questions, buying him a precious moment, when the doors closed, to lean down and brush a small kiss across dry lips.

Spock stirred, and Jim had never truly seen him look sleepy before, but that was what came to mind when he blinked hazily up at him.

"I have to go," Jim murmured. "You go to sleep, okay?"

"I did not apologise for my error in judgement," Spock murmured, still surprisingly coherent for how drugged he had to be, and Jim shook his head.

"Don't worry about it," he said. "Just don't do it again. Any of it."

McCoy's voice was approaching the door, and Jim straightened up and took a step back.

"You're under orders, you know," he said lightly. "If you're not up and about in the next week, I'll have you put on KP duty."

"Doesn't sound like a half bad idea," McCoy said, entering in time to catch the end of Jim's threat. "Alright, you green-blooded masochist, you're just messing with me now. I said you could have an hour with them, and it's past that, so Jim, git."

And perhaps it was the ignorance with which McCoy had walked right into their conversation, but Jim turned back to Spock and cocked his head, drawn on one of his whims that even he didn't really understand.

"Do you want me to tell him?" he asked.

Spock's gaze sharpened, and those eyebrows twitched in stern...something.

"I'll tell him right now if you want," Jim said. He kept his voice light, and while McCoy glanced uncertainly between the pair of them, Spock's expression was certain.

"...That will not be necessary," Spock said, and Jim grinned, the final crack sealing over.

"You sure?" he injected a note of teasing, and Spock's eyebrow twitched.

"I am."

"Too bad," Jim clapped McCoy on the shoulder as he turned to go. "Your potions are making him feel sick again."

The doors slid shut behind him to the sound of a Georgian doctor cursing an alien man, and Jim had never felt better.

"There's my man," Jim crowed, grinning when he glanced up from his plate and saw McCoy and Spock approaching the table. "Finally allowed to be up and about, huh?"

"Indeed," Spock returned. He was still unusually pale - even for him - but not the same paper-white as before, and his eyes were sharp, his posture and voice perfectly composed and - well. Normal.

"Thank Christ, my paperwork pile is developing a pulse."

"I think he means to say that we're glad you're better," Uhura said, rolling her eyes at Jim.

"That is what I said," Jim retorted defensively.

"He bitched until I agreed to release him early just so I wouldn't have to hear the words 'time and resources' ever again," McCoy grumbled good-naturedly. "He's still on light duties until next week. Jim, do you know how much cholesterol that's going to give you?"

"Yes," Jim said defiantly. "Do light duties include paperwork?"

"You could learn to read, then you could do it yourself," McCoy sniped.

"Awesome captains don't do paperwork."

"You can't do anything approaching awesome without getting paperwork," Sulu said mournfully. "You should see my life insurance forms."

"I don't know why you bother," Uhura shrugged. She proceeded to ignore Sulu's attempts at justification by turning to Spock and rattling off a long, long string of Vulcan.

"My name was said," Jim narrowed his eyes.


"So they're discussing me."

"Not everything's about you," McCoy said.

"Usually is," Jim pointed out.

"We're talking about you, Kirk, not to you," Uhura noted, rolling her eyes before carrying on the Vulcan conversation. Spock, for his part, did not look remotely bothered by it - but then, he never did.

"That's just not fair," Jim pouted.

"You could learn Vulcan," Sulu pointed out.

"Or he could not; his accent is awful," Uhura said.

"Hey, I'm good at languages!" Jim defended himself.

"Languages, yes. Vulcan? No," Uhura shook her head. "Have you ever heard him speak in Vulcan, Spock?"


"Then you're luckier than me," she complained. "A whole semester of that."

"It cannot be vorse than my attempts at Andorian," Chekov pointed out.

As the insults flowed around him, Jim sat back and relaxed.

Everything was back where it should be.

"Enter," Jim called, hitting send on the final memo before twisting to see the doors of his cabin close behind his First Officer. "Hey," he grinned. "I wasn't sure you'd come along tonight."

"I am offering my services in the prevention of your paperwork gaining sentience."

"Technically, I said a pulse, not sentience," Jim teased, flowing up from his chair and sauntering across the desk to the kiss that waited. "And really? Paperwork?"

"Perhaps not."

"Didn't think so," he grinned, nosing at Spock's cheek and running his hands up his sides, feeling the vague catch of newly-healed skin. "How you doing, huh?"

"I am well."


"I am well, Jim," Spock persisted quietly. "I am somewhat fatigued, but quite well."

"Good," Jim said quietly. "I meant it, you know. If you want to tell them - whenever you want to tell them - we can. They're our friends; they wouldn't sell us out to Command."

Spock barely reacted. "It is not necessary, Jim. We would still have to behave secretively."

"Yeah, but you wouldn't think I'm hiding this away or ashamed of it. You wouldn't think you were some dirty little secret."

From the minute duck of Spock's head, Jim got the impression he would have coloured if he'd had the blood for it. "I committed a mistake based on incomplete data, and I..."

"Don't worry about it," Jim slide his arms around Spock's shoulders, beginning to toy with his hair. "It doesn't matter. Just - you know. If you ever want to tell them, it's fine by me."

"If you still wish the doctor to win his bet..."

"I guess so," Jim shrugged. "But that's just a bet. This? This is you and me."

"Nyota knows."

"Ye-eah," Jim grimaced. "She, er...yeah. She does." He peered at Spock suspiciously. " knew she knew?"

"No - but she has strongly suspected, for some time. Not quite since the beginning of our arrangement, but..."

Jim groaned. "Oh great. No wonder she keeps snickering at me. Or looking like she wants to axe me and can't make up her mind."

"She would not..."

"I'm kidding."

"Jim, my point is that if Nyota is aware of our involvement, would she not be able to win this bet herself?"

Jim snickered. "Nope. She's banned from the betting pools, because those channels pick up everything. She knows far too much."

Spock paused, and tilted his head. "That seems to be an accurate assessment."

Jim grinned, and kissed the pondering expression away. "Uh-huh. So Bones'll still win, so I'll get half of his winnings, so I'll be all tipsy and horny on our shore leave, so you get the privilege of landing between the sheets with a tipsy, horny Kirk."

Spock blinked at him. "That is...a privilege?"

Jim pinched his arm. "Smartass."


"Is it?" Jim slid his hands around to cup said ass, grinning and digging in his fingers until Spock's spine straightened almost imperceptibly. "Can I investigate?"

"You have done so before."

"Yeah, but I better make sure," Jim insisted, beginning to push Spock back towards the sleeping space. "Just in case Bones went a bit crazy and decided to fix that up too."

He pushed, and they landed bodily on the bunk, bouncing once from the force of it, and Jim grinned into the subsequent kiss, supremely happy with himself, his position, and his situation.

"Can you hear me? Is my mind loud?" he asked, kissing his way down Spock's neck and fumbling with the hem of the tunic. He was no telepath, but he was pretty sure his emotions - lust and attraction and desire and affection and everything they implied - were being pretty noisy, and when Spock's fingers twitched at his temple and he looked up in time to catch a brief, beautiful, tiny smile, he knew that he was right. "Is it?"

Spock smiled - that tiny, miniscule smile that it had taken Jim months to recognise at all - and something passed through those dark eyes.