Notes: The novelist that Spock remembers is Louis de Bernieres - specifically from Captain Corelli's Mandolin. This is also the last of this twoshot, but the series is still ongoing, so watch out for more in 2012! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


The moment he agreed, Kirk beamed.

Kirk's smile almost drowned out the apprehension - every stress line since their transfer eased under the brilliance of that smile, and there was a distinct hum of warm emotion that bubbled under his skin momentarily, before his hands turned to grasp at both of Spock's and pulled him up.

"How do you want to do this?" he murmured, his voice dropping to match the soothing rub of his thumbs. "Do you want to - I don't know. Lie down? Sit down?"

"Sitting down would be best," Spock responded. His heartbeat felt too rapid. "Jim...Jim, if this does not work..."

"Then it's okay," Kirk interrupted. "We can try again. We didn't just jump back into having sex, did we?"

That...did not help. It was quite illogical - mind melds and sexual intercourse were hardly comparable - but quite suddenly, all Spock could recall was the panic at their first failed attempts.

His heart rate was still rising.

"C'mon," Kirk was pushing him to sit on the bed, liberally rearranging the pillows until Spock found himself propped up against the wall, cross-legged and as relaxed as possible under the circumstances. They had never really...posed for it; they had always...fallen into melds, perhaps, and the sudden gravitas of this position jarred Spock's already raw nerves.

"Jim..."

"It's alright," Kirk folded up, cross-legged also, opposite him and raised his hand to kiss the back of the knuckles. "Relax, sweetheart. It's alright. No matter what, it'll be fine."

That was universally not true when it came to telepathy, and Spock took a deep breath through his nose, closing his eyes against Kirk's misplaced - he does not understand - certainty.

But then...

But then they had melded before. They had connected before. His mind was not unfamiliar to Spock; he could remember the light of it, the stream of consciousness that hiccuped and mumbled in the folds of his brain, the warmth and the - confidence with which he loved, that now had been shaken by Spock's refusal to try...

He had never refused to try something before. It was unVulcan; it was inHuman - it was not himself.

"Come on, sweetheart," Kirk murmured encouragingly, pressing his hand clumsily to the side of Kirk's jaw. "Come in."

His fingers found their positions. "My mind to your mind," he murmured, the words rolling off his tongue in Vulcan, not Standard, and he found himself only vaguely aware of it as his barriers shivered under the weight of the ritual. "My thoughts to your thoughts."

The first crack in the wall glimmered, and then Kirk was there, bleeding into him like water through sand, sinking into everything. The crystals were...dulled, smudged over with some kind of ash, smeary and unclear. They were sharp, like they had not been before, and the longer they crowded into his senses, the brighter they became. It was...it was blinding, drowning out his other senses until Kirk surrounded him, smothering him with this overwhelming light -

And then the scream.

The scream - a scream of words, Standard or Vulcan, he couldn't tell - but an outpouring of stops and pauses, of garbled vowels and clattering consonants that hammered at the walls - but there were no walls, and it poured out, water from the broken jug, and his mind was following it, flooding his hands and skin and clothes, bleeding, he was bleeding bleeding bleeding bleed-

Breathe.

He was breathing. His ribs moved; he controlled them, forcing down the drumming of his heart, bringing his body under control, and drawing himself inwards, drawing back, cutting out the world. He forced up the walls again, forcing some separations, gathering the blood back in - it would not come, he would lose it, lose himself into the room...

"No, no, no..."

Someone was speaking.

"No, come on, come on sweetheart, don't shut down on me..."

Someone was - there was warmth, and a voice, and he rose his breathing to match the ribs beneath his jaw - he was here, home - Kirk.

He had slipped sideways, wrapped in Kirk's tight grip, head cushioned by a shoulder and tucked under Kirk's jaw, the urgent calls drifting away somewhere above him. Kirk was rocking him again, arms tight around his shoulders, one hand stroking - rubbing, perhaps - along his spine. Even as Spock collected the last messy outpourings of thought together and sealed up the cracks, Kirk ducked his chin to kiss the crown of Spock's head and whisper into his scalp, voice picking up speed.

"Come on, sweetheart, please, come on..."

"Jim," Spock cracked out - his voice felt too loud for his body, and he crushed the feeling of fleeting disconnection.

"Jesus," Kirk breathed, his rapid pulse beginning to slow. "What...what was...I'm sorry," he blurted out suddenly, squeezing tight again. "I'm sorry. I didn't...I didn't think that...I thought it would be okay."

Spock said nothing - what was there to say? He shifted, unfolding stiff legs and pushing up from Kirk's hold, having to brace his hands briefly against Kirk's waist to peel them apart. Kirk went reluctantly, hands grasping at his head, neck and shoulders, before finally allowing the separation.

"Spock?" Kirk whispered. "Sweetheart?"

"I...I need to..." Spock closed his eyes again, gathering himself. He felt...shaky. His mind was churning. Stomachs churned; minds should not. "I need to meditate."

Kirk swallowed. He looked...Spock did not want to categorise the expression.

"Okay," he whispered, dropping his gaze. "Okay."


Meditation was...difficult.

The failed meld was jarring. He had not failed in an attempted meld since the age of one Vulcan year, and further, he had never entertained the idea of failing with Kirk. Kirk had no barriers through which to push; his mind, like that of any other Human, spilled into his surroundings in a tumble of chaos. The hardest part of melding was not present.

And yet he had failed.

He had failed to create that connection again; worse, he had touched the mind of the man that loved him - more, the man that had literally kept him alive after the tragedy - and been burned. It had been too brilliant; it had hurt, and he had been unable to hear him. He had not been able to understand him.

He could have hurt Kirk. He had panicked - like a silly child - and if he had lashed out, or thrown up a shield in the middle of the meld, he could have broken Kirk's mind, or killed the both of them. He could have been responsible for the destruction - for the insanity or death - of Kirk.

Worse, even than that, was that beyond the haze of confusion and shame, Spock knew what Kirk had perceived. Kirk would take his withdrawal as a rejection - he would be experiencing guilt, and in the meld...

The one thing that he had been able to garner in the meld were those dark smears over the ever-present crystals.

Doubt.

Kirk had begun to doubt his place in Spock's life - and so Spock had failed not once, but twice.

It took some hours to calm the fractured upsets along his thought processes, and rebuild the shielding that had kept him from losing his sanity during his recovery, and then some time longer to at least calm the emotional response - the shame and self-anger and the sharp stench of failure creeping into the edges of his psyche.

Somewhere in the early morning, he abandoned the attempt, having done the best he could in the immediate aftermath, and opened his eyes.

To be met with Kirk, dozing on his bed, turned on his side to face the meditation mat.

He had not returned to his own quarters, as Spock had suspected. In fact, he had stripped down to his underwear and donned the sweatpants that he kept permanently in Spock's rooms, as though he intended to stay the night.

Spock did not move for several moments, merely...observing. Kirk's face was tight with stress and unhappiness, and his eyebrows twitched downwards repeatedly in brief frowns. His breathing was too shallow for true sleep, and Spock knew that a whisper of noise or movement would wake him instantly.

He had stayed.

Spock had not changed from his uniform, and drew off the tunic before rising. The moment that he approached the bed, Kirk shifted and blinked bleary blue eyes up at him, momentarily sleep-dazed out of recognition, before his expression cleared and he half-sat, hands twitching as though he wanted to reach out but was unsure.

The uncertainty hurt.

"How'd it go?" Kirk whispered, edging over hesitantly when Spock sat on the edge of the mattress.

"It..." Spock paused, selecting the words. "I have calmed the...disturbance. Somewhat."

"Somewhat?"

"Not entirely."

"Spock..."

"Jim. It is 0100 hours. We must sleep."

"I...yeah. Yeah, we should," Kirk muttered, still looking tight and tense. When Spock shifted to lie down, he seemed to once again take the initiative and curled himself around him, hesitantly sliding his arms back around Spock's shoulders but lying stiff beside him.

"Jim..."

"I'm so sorry," Kirk whispered earnestly. "I really am. I'm so sorry."

"I know," Spock murmured, closing his eyes. After a moment, he folded one arm up to grasp at Kirk's bicep across his chest. "You are not to blame."

Kirk made a strangled sort of noise, and squirmed closer. "I pushed you into it. You didn't want to do it, and I pushed, and then you..." his voice cracked.

"I panicked," Spock suddenly whispered, face burning with the shame of it. "I have been closed off for so long that the...the experience of another mind in contact with my own...it was...a shock."

Kirk pressed a kiss to the top of his bare shoulder, and Spock turned his head to look at him.

"I should not have panicked," he breathed.

"It was understandable," Kirk corrected. "You were nervous. I could...I could see that. I shouldn't have pushed."

"But you were correct. If I do not try..."

"You can try again when it's not going to do that," Kirk said. "Until then...well, fuck it. I stand corrected. I..."

"You no longer know your importance."

"What?"

"You," Spock swallowed. "You no longer feel certain about my regard for you."

"I..." Kirk paused, then finally eliminated any remaining space, sinking around Spock's side like a warm trap. "I just...it's so stupid, it's just a stupid Human thing - we need to hear things sometimes, and I always...I know how special melding is. I know...I know what that means, that you meld with me, and it just felt like...like you didn't want to anymore, and I...I listened to that and not you saying you weren't ready. And I don't fucking care. I do know you love me, I do."

"And yet you felt uncertain."

"Because I'm fucking stupid," Kirk said bitterly. "I didn't think. I've...I've been stressed and irritable and I let it get in the way of you and me and nothing should get in the way of you and me. I'm just a fucking stupid, ego-centric, selfish son of a..."

"And I love you."

He interrupted without being aware of it; he spoke without meaning to, and yet meant all of the words without exception.

Kirk paused, before pressing in to kiss him briefly - lips clasping dryly, barely touching - and settle there, breathing shallowly against his face.

"I know," he whispered. "I know."


"Spock. Spock. Spock, wake up. Now!"

It was the bark of a command, rather than the persistence of the voice or the hand shaking his shoulder, that roused Spock from sleep. He felt groggy, and his time sense dutifully informed him of it - 0623.

Then his training kicked in - shockingly delayed - and he rocked upright before the next slap could strike home. His cheek throbbed; Kirk's hand was raised, flat and palm exposed, and his face - his expression was caught somewhere unidentifiable between outraged anger and ferocious intensity.

"Get dressed," he barked, his tone unlike anything Spock had ever heard. "Spock. Get fucking dressed - now. We're going to Sickbay."

"Jim?" Spock rose obediently from the bed, but stood dumbly until Kirk made an affronted noise and flung himself towards the closet space. "Jim, what is the emergency?"

"You," Kirk snarled, thrusting an undershirt and a pair of black slacks into his arms. "Put these on. Now."

"I am not unwell."

"To hell you're not," Kirk snapped, putting on his own clothes with unreasonable force. "Shoes, or barefoot. I don't care. Pick one."

His agitation was palpable in the air, and Spock barely had his feet into his boots before Kirk's hand was under his elbow in a fierce grip and he was being swept from his own quarters like a criminal under arrest. And while he was stronger than Kirk, he was perhaps too surprised at being handled in such a manner - in such a professional manner, as Kirk's professionalism generally revolved around keeping his hands away from Spock - to put up a struggle, and allowed himself to be swept along.

"Jim," he unwound the hand when they reached the turbolift, though he was pushed into it regardless. "What is going on?"

"You were shaking," Jim said shortly.

"Shaking?"

"Yes. I woke up and you were fucking shaking in your sleep. Just like..." Kirk swallowed, and Spock noted the tight, anxious tension in the folds of his eyes. "It was like then. When you were...sick."

Sick. An inadequate, and inaccurate way of putting it. One that he had permitted to persist for too long. He was not sick. He was not ill - this was no malady, no disease. No examination would provide some virus to be cured, or some alien bacterium to be studied and obliterated. He was not sick, he was...

"I am grieving, not ill."

Kirk blinked at him. "Does it matter? You were shaking. You haven't shaken in months, and then you kick-start again right after melding. Trying to meld, whatever," he added hastily when Spock opened his mouth. "Just," the turbolift doors opened again, and that hand was back under his elbow, "I'm not a doctor, but I'm not an idiot. That can't be a good sign."

Spock subsided. That...was not a good sign, he was forced to agree, but...

The vague grogginess that still tugged at his thoughts and movements aside, he did not feel...unsettled the way that he used to upon waking. He did not feel unduly distressed, nor the instinct to keep Kirk within arm's reach. Perhaps he did not feel well, but...

The thought was swept away when the doors to the medical bay opened, and a startled Dr. Puri glanced up with dark-ringed eyes from a pile of padds on his desk. Dr. Puri did not keep a separate office as Dr. McCoy had done, but his desk loomed over the east wall of the bay, piled higher than the man himself. He drew himself up, however, with all the authority of a blustering man used to shouting and gesticulating to enforce his will, and Spock wondered as he scurried over to them whether it was something taught in Human medical establishments.

"What happened?" Puri shrilled - a thin, reedy voice that brought a light touch of amusement through the hand at Spock's elbow.

"He was shaking in his sleep," Kirk said, nodding at Spock. "He hasn't done that in months, and we tried to meld last night, so..."

He did not get any further before Puri squeaked, "Biobed!" and reached for a tricorder. "Commander Kirk, step outside."

Kirk bristled. "No."

"Step outside, Commander, or I will make that an order and have the orderlies remove you."

"I'm not going."

"Commander, believe you me," Puri warned, not glancing up once from the whirring machinery, "you do not wish to pick your battles in here. My orderlies are used to dealing with outraged Thenaxians, thank you very much, and puffed-up little jumpstarts of Humans are of no concern. Step. Outside."

"Look," Kirk snapped, "he is my partner, and..."

"And," Puri finally looked up, and seemed to attempt to glare Kirk into submission, "I do not care. You may be his partner, Commander, but you are not his husband, and therefore not only do I not have the obligation to share the facts with you when he is indisposed, but as he is conscious and apparently perfectly capable of understanding and obeying my orders, I have absolutely no motivation to share the facts with you. Step outside, Mr. Kirk, or I will have you removed."

Kirk was as red as his shirt, and a tic had gone off in his jaw - and Spock, seeing the explosion that was imminent, spoke up.

"Jim. It is quite alright."

Kirk stared at him for a long minute, jaw working tightly, before he nodded and stalked back out into the corridor, every inch of him radiating tension.

Dr. McCoy would have undoubtedly made some acerbic comment, but Dr. Puri was a different man, and remained silent throughout the examination. He did not rely on McCoy's old-fashioned medicine, trusting the tricorder to tell him everything that he needed to know, and Spock was struck with the strange illogic of desiring that questioning when it would be utterly pointless. There was nothing that the doctor needed to hear from him; Kirk had said the facts as they knew them, and the rest...

Dr. Puri looked up. "Heightened activity in the telepathic centres, but nothing I would worry about. Come back in forty-eight hours for another scan, and we'll go from there. No need to cause a fuss."

Spock did not much appreciate the implication that he had caused any such fuss, and slid down from the biobed quickly.

"I would suggest that you do attempt to meld, however," Dr. Puri said briskly, and Spock covered his surprise swiftly. "It will probably be uncomfortable for some time, but I would prefer to see an increase in telepathic activity rather than a stagnation. If your brain ceases to use its telepathy properly, then you will lose the ability."

He spoke lightly, as if of a broken arm, and clearly could not fathom how very terrifying - and in a way absurd - the idea of being non-telepathic was to Vulcans. How could one exist without it? How could one live - permanently - in that silent, yawning world with only oneself for company?

The shards had hurt, and suddenly all Spock wanted was to return to them.

"I understand," he said instead, nodding to Dr. Puri and turning away before the man could guess at what his thoughts had been. Dr. McCoy would have called some dry comment at his retreating back, but no such comment came, and he stepped back out into the silent corridor feeling slightly...

Bereft?

"Well?" Kirk was leaning against the opposite wall, arms folded and expression decidedly belligerent.

"There is no need for concern," Spock said evenly, and Kirk's shoulders eased, his hand drifting out to brush a swift kiss to the pads of Spock's fingers.

"You sure?" he pushed, ghosting another lingering kiss around his knuckles before visibly collecting himself and drawing back.

"Dr. Puri has suggested that I attempt to meld with you more often," Spock said evenly, not missing the emotions that began to play across Kirk's features. "He has expressed a preference that I attempt to...exercise my telepathy, as opposed to repressing it."

There was something unreadable in Kirk's face. "So...you want to try again?"

The memory of that panic knocked on Spock's reactions, and he took a breath.

"Perhaps not immediately."

Kirk cracked a smile, and spared enough of a glance to check for anyone else in the hall before leaning forward to grace him with a soft kiss.

"When you're ready," he murmured, and - from this new skill of reading body language, not skin - Spock knew that he meant it.


Unpleasant surprises, it seemed, came in threes. After the disaster of the meld, and then Dr. Puri's dry assessment that such disturbance would be good for him, Spock supposed that, for once, it would have been prudent to give in to Human superstition, and expect the third surprise.

As he was still prohibited by medical proviso to go on away missions, he rarely came into contact with the security staff, and so to look up near the end of that afternoon's shift to see the massive bulk of Security Chief Pendersen in his doorway. Upon being noticed, the officer made no greeting, but merely stepped forward enough to let the doors close behind him, and stopped again.

His...stillness was unsettling.

"Can I help you, Mr. Pendersen?" Spock asked warily. Vulcan instincts were generally even more ruthlessly suppressed than their emotions - notably, Vulcans did not flinch, for example - but there was a distinct rise in the amount of adrenalin in his system.

"You can transfer out."

Spock blinked. This was...not what he had expected. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me," Pendersen grunted, folding his arms and looking generally extremely belligerent. "We don't want your kind here."

"'My kind'?"

"Nobody wants to work with aliens who think they're better than everyone else, then come crying to the Fleet and get our good men killed when they can't handle their own battles," Pendersen sneered. "So ship out, or I'll drive you out."

Spock rose to his own feet as the tension levels began to rise in the room. "Is that a threat, Mr. Pendersen?"

"It's a promise. You get the hell off our ship, and fast. We don't want your kind around here."

Spock cocked his head. "And who is we, Mr. Pendersen?"

For all his brawn, the man had at least enough brains not to name names, and he merely grunted, squaring his shoulders. Spock vaguely wondered if he would be stupid enough to attempt to strike him, and dismissed it. If he was so clearly xenophobic and had not yet been picked up by Internal Affairs or the Interspecies Ethics Committee, then he probably was not stupid enough to try something as obvious as hit him.

"Until you get your transfer papers, don't try any surface missions," Pendersen growled.

"Mr. Pen-"

"Spock, I need the - ah," Kirk broke himself off, one foot inside the office, and Spock noticed the moment that Kirk noticed the tension in the room. He stiffened, eyes darting between the two officers before him in silent judgement, before: "Am I interrupting?"

"No, Commander," Spock said smoothly, maintaining steady eye contact with the bristling lieutenant.

"...Good," Kirk said slowly. "I need the latest personnel numbers - Lieutenant, could you finish this discussion another time?"

"Yes, sir," Pendersen said flatly, glowering at Spock, before adding: "Keep my recommendations in mind, Spock."

Kirk's eyes narrowed.

"I shall," Spock returned smoothly. "Dismissed, Lieutenant."

The doors had barely closed behind Pendersen before Kirk dropped his padd on the desk and folded his own arms, mimicking Pendersen's angry stance. "Alright, spill. What was that about?"

Spock eyed the closed door, and Kirk's expression, and carefully said, "The lieutenant wished to express a personal dislike."

"Of you?"

"Indeed."

Kirk was openly scowling. Spock knew what he was doing, but technically there was no regulation stating that everyone had to pretend to like one another.

"You're not being frank with me."

"Because it is not important, and you will only derive further stress from it," Spock said flatly. It was hardly the first idle threat he'd received based on his species. He was faintly surprised that his hybrid status had not been brought into play, but then it was entirely possible that Lieutenant Pendersen did not know about that.

Kirk's frown deepened.

"Jim. I assure you, it is nothing." After all, for all Kirk's posturing and blustering, Spock was by no means helpless. Human 'jarheads', as McCoy referred to them, were hardly difficult to handle.

"...Alright," Kirk held up his hands in submission, shaking his head. "Can't say I like it, but alright. Just...promise you'll tell me if it does get out of hand?"

"Yes, Jim."

"Okay," he leaned across the desk for a brief kiss before straightening up and retrieving the padd. "Anyway. I need your personnel numbers - we're starting the evaluations and obviously you have the largest department, so I was thinking..."

Spock did not miss the fact, however, that Kirk remained until the end of shift - far longer than was necessary to discuss crew evaluations.


Spock rose out of the layers of meditation, more settled than he had been in weeks, to find Kirk sitting cross-legged on the mat opposite him, hair ruffled from the shower in Spock's bathroom - and Spock was struck, quite by surprise, with a memory of a similar scene on the Enterprise, and Kirk announcing that he would not get a captaincy inside of ten years for their relationship, and that he wouldn't change that for the world.

"Hey," Kirk's smile was warm, and hovering in that odd territory between tense and relaxed, and Spock found himself leaning to kiss it away. "Mm. Feeling better?"

"Indeed."

"Good," Kirk squeezed his fingers and took a breath. "So. That meeting you had to pass up for the atmospheric simulations?"

Spock cocked his head. Kirk was transmitting an unusual amount of anxiety, and its shiver was vaguely unsettling.

"Captain Johnson's announced his retirement," Kirk blurted out. He took another breath, and the rest followed: "I'm going to apply for his post."

"You wish for the captaincy."

"Yeah," Kirk flashed a shaky smile. "It's not the Enterprise - it's not home, but...it's a captaincy."

Language was inadequate at the best of times; now, it failed completely, and Spock rose up on his knees to close the gap and kiss him again, kiss away the anxiety and that self-deprecating, shaky smile, and feel the surge of positivity from his action bouncing back at him from Kirk's mind. He could not yet reach it, but the wash of love was clear all the same.

They came together in a messy tangle of life on the deck in Spock's quarters, and if Kirk noticed how often Spock's fingers would skitter and linger over his psi points, he said nothing.


Spock woke with a start when an Iowan summer breeze rippled through his hair, and took a moment to stare at the darkness of Kirk's cabin before realising that he was tightly entangled with him in the narrow bunk, and it was Kirk's dreams, nothing more, leaking across their skin. The breeze was soaked in warm affection and sleeping light, muted with Kirk's lack of consciousness, but present all the same, and Spock took a moment to really feel it before resettling back to his previous position, tucking his face into the crook of Kirk's neck.

Kirk murmured something unidentifiable in his sleep, and the arm slung possessively over Spock's side tightened briefly.

Without a meld, Spock could not read the dream properly, and nor did he much care to. Vulcans did not dream; Human dreams were, judging by the very few he had witnessed, the height of ridiculous happenstance. People fell from cliffs, flew like birds, chattered to the dead and enjoyed sexual relations with hologrammatic supermodels without it ever apparently occurring to them that this was not possible or likely in any way.

But he could take some of it, much like Kirk's stronger emotions - the breeze stole through his hair even though it was, of course, imaginary or remembered at best, and there was the faint smell of rain in the room - but earthier and heavy, not like the rain in San Francisco at all. He could feel the idle contentment - that lazy beat of life that rolled through Kirk even in his wildest moments, as though underneath the youth and the hurricane lay the man. Underneath, a man waiting to be allowed to breathe - a man happy with his lot, satisfied with his future and his present and his history, and too thankful and too lucky to question the parts that had been patched up and glossed over.

The man that sometimes smiled at Spock in the evenings, alone together, and the man that kissed him when their fingers twisted together and stuck.

Kirk was young, and still loved with reckless passion. He loved with energy - he threw himself into love, and Spock stood permanently at the eye of the storm, admiring the beauty of something essentially destructive and following it inland until the passion itself died, and hoping that the eye would last long enough to allow him to land in the realm of that contented, secure man, who would be waiting - apparently in an Iowan summer breeze.

Spock had had a brief acquaintance with a young woman upon his immigration to Earth all those years ago, who had been employed in one of the campus coffee shops. She had taken him to some exhibition on the Human emotional range, and there he had seen a quote from a novel, daubed on a wall by an artist, and admired by the Humans that failed to understand a speech on their own species. He did not recall - he had not cared, he had to admit - his reaction at the time, or hers, but he remembered the quote, and now, years and an age later, he understood.

'Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.'

The novelist had, if Spock recalled correctly, described being in love as a temporary madness that would subside - 'and when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part' - and perhaps now, lying in a too-narrow bunk with the overheated body of a Human man from whom the idea of being parted was almost physically painful, Spock finally understood.

Kirk shifted again, murmured some nonsense, and emitted a loud snore - and Spock was not in love, but he loved.


The peace that had settled in their disjointed world was disturbed only two days later, when Spock was jolted from over an hour of signing off on paperwork in his quarters by Kirk barrelling in, locking the doors behind him, toeing off his boots and throwing them unnecessarily hard at the bathroom door.

"Jim, what...?"

"Fuck," Kirk snapped eloquently, before turning on his heel and starting to pace. "I've been passed up. They're bringing in Frazier from the Archimedes instead - apparently I'm too much of a fucking wild card - Johnson called me a fucking loose cannon, can you believe that, and then some of the..."

"Jim."

When he did not stop, Spock put down his stylus and rose, stepping into Kirk's path and waiting for him to walk right into his hands. He took him by the shoulders, arresting his restlessness, and squeezed until Kirk let out a heavy sigh and met his eyes.

"What?"

"Explain to me what has happened," Spock said calmly.

Kirk performed an odd, and annoyed, whole-body shrug. "They passed me up. For promotion."

Spock blinked. "The position..."

"...has been handed to Commander Frazier from the Archimedes," Kirk said bitterly. "Apparently I'm too young, too much of a loose cannon, too fucking wild and unpredictable...and it..." he twitched and sighed gustily.

"Jim?"

"It all came back to you," Kirk admitted, finally calming enough to slide his arms around Spock's shoulders and stare blankly at his chin. "Johnson kept banging on about my commitment to the ship and how a captain's duty trumps everything else - and he meant you. I know he did. It was about you and me, and it was just complete bullshit, and..."

"You did foresee such a problem."

"I...what?"

"When we accepted this transfer, you did express...minor concerns about your own career."

Kirk scowled. "You needed to come here. You were so sick - there was no way I was leaving you behind when you were like that."

"And now?" Spock prompted.

Kirk blinked, and the pause dragged for a second too long, before he shook his head again. "No. Not even now. You're not better, and...and anyway," he shrugged, suddenly offering a sheepish, almost shy smile. "I don't think I could leave you behind now anyway. I'd just miss you to death."

"You are stressed and unhappy here; your contract holds no such proviso..."

"No," Kirk took a deep breath. "No. I'm pissed at their reasoning, and yeah, you're right, this isn't exactly my favourite place in the quadrant, and I want to go home - but it wouldn't be home if you weren't with me anyway."

He was calming, the buzzing in his skin beginning to die down again, and the tension in his shoulders eased when Spock slid his arms around the tight waist.

"But the moment that contract's over, we're outta here," Kirk cracked a wan smile. "They can take their bullshit excuses and totally not subtle xenophobia and shove it. And I'll run away and captain some other vessel and get this gorgeous scientist in my bed every night, because captains totally get bigger bunks."

Spock took the change of subject gratefully, skirting around Kirk's stress and puncturing it by sliding his hands lower and watching Kirk's pupils react. "We have been managing sufficiently with the standard bunk."

And then Kirk was kissing him - not with that fiery passion of the young Human man, but built around affection and amusement and love, the hum in his hair and skin closer to the light of love than the buzz of lust, almost singing with its pitch and vibration.

Spock barely noticed, caught up in the heady emotions radiating from Kirk's mind, as he was stripped down and poured onto the bed. He caught on nerves and psychic energy as Kirk's lips caught on skin and muscle, and he pushed his own love past the thin skin of Kirk's temple as the first slick finger pressed inside him. It had been so long that the feeling was like the first time - awkward, strange, an intrusion - and then it disappeared with the familiar murmurs and motions of Kirk's body - even the awkward fumble in the side drawer for the condom, and the familiar "shit!" of trying to open the packet with too-slick fingers. Kirk laughed when Spock wanted to, and then he was back amongst the burn and the stretch and the strange mix of discomfort and pleasure, tearing Spock up and rebuilding him in one motion and -

There was no hurricane, no wildness, no storm. The passion was muted, and the emotion pouring over Spock's skin was love - the brilliant white light of love, and Kirk was almost invisible behind it.

"I love you," Kirk breathed into his mouth, breathing around exertion and sex and heat and temptation - and Spock did not have to hear it to know it.