A/N: While wandering around on tumblr, checking out the tags for Star Trek, I stumbled over a request for recommendations for a fic where Kirk and Spock were sleeping together, but they were unaware of their feelings for each other while they were – that the sleeping together was just something that they did – and that eventually one or the other or both would come to realize it and happiness would ensue. I dunno if she ever got the rec's she wanted, but it inspired this little piece. (Of course, it wasn't until later that I realized that 'sleeping' was a euphemism, but whatever.)

Enjoy the fluffy Space Husbands fluff!

Betas: SkyTurtle.

Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek, nor the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Closed Spaces

Raven Ehtar

It was difficult to imagine a time when their days were not arranged as they were now. At the very beginning of their acquaintance it would have bordered on the unthinkable, even well into their friendship it would still have seemed strange. But it had all begun so gradually, so naturally that now it would have been quite jarring to have things fixed in any other way. What the rest of the crew may have thought, if they spared a thought for it at all, Spock did not speculate, but it was not easy to recall when he had spent each night alone. The notion felt curiously foreign to sleep without the warmth of another body stretched beside his, of not waking to the sleepy face of his Captain each morning before the duties of the day began.

It had begun sporadically, almost accidentally, but repeatedly so that they wound up spending the night in each other's rooms, then in each other's' beds. Eventually it just became routine.

Difficult as it was to conceive of a time when once they had slept apart, it had been so. More challenging, then, would be to recall how, exactly the situation had changed. No one would consider the occasions when they had both been trapped or captured on planet and unable to return to the ship as 'counting.' No, one must only consider the times when they could have slept separately, but chose instead to be together. But when had been the first time?

Had it been one of those instances when, after a long shift and late night of chess in Spock's quarters, the Captain had drifted to sleep while still seated in his chair, and rather than wake him or troubling to carry him all the way to his room, Spock had simply transferred him to his own bed? Kirk had awoken that morning with some confusion and a chuckle, but little else. Had that been the first time the two of them had shared a bed aboard the Enterprise?

Perhaps it had been one of the many times one of them had been injured, and had passed through the night under the watchful protection of the other.

One particular occasion, which might well have been the first, came from one of those times when Spock arrived back aboard more injured than the Captain. He held that it resulted from a failing on his own part in carrying out his duties, Kirk that it was an unnecessary wound received while being an heroic fool, and Doctor McCoy that it had happened at all because they were both dull-witted idiots and to please keep his sickbay quiet.

Despite the attentions of the able ship's surgeon and Spock's own considerable metabolism, the wound took more time than expected to heal, confining him a few days to the bed in sickbay, much to Spock's annoyance and McCoy's barely suppressed amusement. During those days Kirk would visit him at the end of every shift, bringing reports, paperwork and the ever faithful chess set to occupy his mind a time and make him feel a little less trapped. McCoy might champ that bringing work to him defeated the purpose of bed rest, but the Vulcan appreciated it. Every evening, it seemed, in attempt to make up for lost time on the Bridge, the Captain would overstay, and fall asleep in the sickbay, sitting at Spock's bedside. Even recovering from an injury, a Vulcan required less sleep than a human, so Kirk had no outside clue as to when he should leave, and Spock watched as he slowly ran down. Save one time when the man drifted off with his head actually on Spock's pillow, the science officer would rouse him to return to his own quarters. The one time his did not, he reasoned that Kirk was probably comfortable enough where he was.

When the time came that McCoy felt sure enough of his condition to release him, Kirk surprised the Vulcan with an odd request. "I assure you, Captain, that I am quite well and require no one to 'watch over me' during the night. Should something unexpected occur, a medical team is only the press of a button away."

"I worry, Spock," he'd said, and his face had seemed dark, troubled. "Please, allow me to stay one night, just as a reassurance."

"Then your presence would be more to satisfy yourself, to give you a sense of comfort rather than for my personal safety?"

Kirk had colored slightly at that, his face grown still, though at the time Spock could not quite understand why. Human emotions were convoluted at best, their physical manifestations often obtuse. But whatever internal struggle may have been taking place, and Captain's voice was steady when he replied with a simple, "Yes."

Considering the request again in that peculiar light, as one of genuine concern and simultaneous solicitation for reassurance, Spock had felt a certain amount of amusement, and allowed it to show – just a little – on his face as he stepped aside and allowed Kirk to enter.

Perhaps that had been the first time when they had slept together not out of circumstances or accident, but conscious choice.

No less significant, however, was the first time Spock had awoken during the night, alone and in his own room, with the deep, undeniable sense that something was very wrong. For a full minute Spock had remained, lying still in his bed, trying to pinpoint what it was that had awoken him. No alert was sounding; after a moment or two of quiet listening in the dark, his every sense straining to the corners of his quarters it became clear that there was no direct threat, no intruder that he'd become aware of in his sleep. There was no sight, sound or smell to give any clue what had disturbed him, just that vague sense of wrong. As soon as he examined the sensation itself, however, he was a little shocked at what he found. The sense of wrongness was coming from within, not without. More specifically, it came from a bond he'd only been remotely aware of before. Like a fine, silvery thread coiled and glowing in the corner of his mind, it wound away into the shadows, beyond the bounds of his own mind to connect with another. Who that other could be wasn't even a question that entered Spock's mind. It didn't occur to him to question when the answer was so plain: it was Jim Kirk on the other end of that silvery thread.

As soon as the realization came to him, Spock was on his feet and striding purposefully – still in his sleeping robe and barefooted – to the Captain's quarters. The sense of unease that had disturbed his sleep was emanating from that thread, that bond. It was coming from the Captain.

Something was wrong with Jim.

On arriving outside Jim's quarters he'd gathered enough through the faint bond to know that whatever was wrong didn't include any immediate physical danger, and confined himself to a relatively polite mechanical ring on the panel outside the door, as opposed to immediately punching in the security override and striding in unannounced, which had been his first intention. When Jim answered he was also in his night clothes, hair rumpled from lying against his pillow, but his eyes too clear to have just been woken by Spock's ring. He opened his mouth, expression quite plainly confused, no doubt to ask what his first officer wanted so late, but Spock interrupted him, the hour and vestiges of the distress he had so clearly felt over the bond making him bold.

"What is wrong, Jim?"

Kirk's face went blank, his mouth snapped shut. He stared at Spock, his silent blankness conveying more confusion than his previous frown had managed to do. Aware now of the thread-like connection that snaked between them and how it could act as a kind of dowsing rod into Kirk's mind, Spock touched it lightly with his consciousness, but it lay silent and still, completely quiescent now. It was probably just as well, Spock realized with a guilty jolt, as Kirk was certainly unaware of it and as a human would be completely ignorant as to how to keep his thoughts private. Anything Spock could read from him wouldn't just be those things Jim felt comfortable sharing – an assumption he could make of any but the youngest and least trained of Vulcans – he would see anything and everything that was strong enough to make it across the bond, even what Jim might wish to keep to himself. By assuming the same level of control from Jim as a Vulcan of comparable age, Spock was actually invading his Captain's privacy abominably.

Abruptly embarrassed, for himself and Jim as well, Spock clasped his hands behind his back in a familiar pose. Undoubtedly it looked absurd now, unshod and robed as he was.

"What do you mean, Spock?"

There was a note in the question, something like defensiveness, but more tremulous. Spock's attention instantly sharpened. How he had come to be here so late – feeling Jim's distress via a bond he'd not know existed – would be difficult to explain, but if he could determine the reason for the distress, he might not need to. He hadn't been sleeping, there was a kind of nervousness in his manner as he stood, and he was standing slightly awkwardly, favoring one side…

All at once, Spock remembered a week prior Jim had suffered an extensive injury. Extensive, but not particularly severe. He had healed quickly and gained a release from the overly protective McCoy after only two days. Remembering the particular tinge of uneasiness he had felt over the bond, of trepidation and slight pain…

"Forgive me, Captain," he said, a shade of his Commander's voice returning to him. "I meant to ask if you were well, if your injury was not troubling you too severely."

Kirk made to answer. Some kind of reassuring denial, Spock felt sure, and interjected before he could get a word out, earning another surprised look.

"It's been my understanding in study of human physiology that with injuries such as yours, even after the danger has passed, pain can still be present. This is especially true during the hours of rest, when the mind is not otherwise occupied and the pain can seem many times worse. I had noticed that during our shift you do not appear fully rested-" which was true, though he'd not thought this to be the cause before now "-and was concerned you still might be suffering from the trauma."

Kirk raised his brows incredulously, staring at his first officer as though he'd grown a second head. Spock remained still under the scrutiny, waiting, until finally Kirk broke the tension with a slight twitch of his lips, the usual precursor to a smile. "You were 'concerned' about me, Mr. Spock?"

"Yes, sir."

"Despite McCoy already having given me the all clear?"

"Yes."

"Enough to check on me in the middle of the night, in your sleeping robe?"

"As you see me, Captain."

Then the Captain did smile in earnest. "Were it anyone human, Mr. Spock, I would be tempted to describe this kind of gesture as 'sweet'."

Spock shifted slightly. "I appreciate your restraint in not so terming me. I remembered that you once showed such concern on my behalf, and thought to return the favor."

"Did you, indeed?" The confusion was erased from Jim's face, replaced instead with amusement – slightly bewildered, perhaps, but his expression was lighter, his eyes shining. "So you mean to watch over me during the night, as I did for you?"

"With your permission, of course."

Jim tilted his head. "Because you would feel comforted in the sure knowledge that I was alright?"

Spock considered this for a moment, and then nodded, once. "Yes, Jim, I would." It wasn't a falsehood, not at all. It was Jim's distress that had wakened him out of sound slumber, and he felt instinctively that to share the man's room would provide the kind of security he required to pass a peaceful evening. In doing that, then Spock too would be comforted.

He'd stepped aside for Spock, much the same way Spock had stood aside for him some time before, and the two men passed the night together, comfortable in the nearness of each other, in the shared warmth and companionship. The discomfort Spock had felt emanating from Jim before evaporated away like dew, and his Captain slept a restful night, waking the next morning with none of those signs of tiredness he had before.

These and more incidents over time only served to convince the two men that it would be much simpler to make sharing a bed their normal routine. They kept their separate rooms for reasons of storage and for privacy when they desired it, of course, but when the time came for sleep they made their way to the same room without question. Most often it was Kirk's quarters; he had the larger of the two and it seemed more acceptable to share a human's personal space than a Vulcan's. Small things migrated into each other's rooms, clothes – day and night, sets of toiletries for the adjoining washrooms, PADDs and books, real paper and bound, which seemed to travel with particular energy and frequency. It was an easier arrangement, and Spock had even deemed it logical, as nights spent in company resulted in mutual positivity, an improvement in their professional performances, and the hassle that sometimes arose when getting to each other's rooms – the timing, the permissions – when it wasn't a permanent situation was a waste of energy.

And besides which, Spock found that quite independent of logic or practical considerations, he enjoyed spending his sleeping hours in company. He wouldn't have thought it probable before it became a daily occurrence, he would have judged himself to be of a temperament that needed solitude and privacy in those very unguarded moments. His own history and what he knew of himself on deep reflection all supported that conjecture, and when he considered the subject now he still rather thought that with the whole Enterprise crew to choose from, he would be too uncomfortable to sleep with any of them, sharing the same sheets. None but Captain Kirk.

While the fact that Spock could find himself comfortable enough to sleep in the company of another was unexpected in itself, it wasn't so surprising that that person was Jim Kirk. For Spock the man had gone from a heard-of-but-never-seen fellow officer of the Fleet to the newly appointed Captain of the Enterprise, where Spock already served, to trusted companion, to outright friend all in astonishingly short order. Spock had known him by reputation long before having met him, and later Kirk told him that the reverse was also true, and had respected him by what he had heard and by how well he had taken over command of the Enterprise from Captain Pike, and had expected someone much like Pike to take the center chair. Pike was a good Captain, cared for his crew, was intelligent, shrewd and by the book, which was how a Captain or anyone in a Fleet uniform should be, in Spock's estimation. He was professional, respected the privacy of his colleagues, careful never to say anything to Spock in particular that might insult him, though on occasion had the propensity to brood.

When, expecting something similar to that, he had been faced instead with Captain James T. Kirk, Spock had been more than a little startled. He was bright, in intelligence, personality, humor and outlook, so much so he made Pike – and himself, he admitted – seem dull and dim in contrast. He was intelligent and shrewd, like Pike, but he had a twist of creativity, of audacity about him that Pike never did. He cared about his crew, but in a more personable way. He interacted with everyone, it seemed, sharing jokes or even pulling mild pranks, which was far from any sort of Captain-ly behavior Spock had experienced before. Kirk was not unprofessional, he carried out his duties and never crossed any line that would earn him that title, and he loved his ship, his career, far too much to risk that. But he had a sense of play infused in him that showed through in his demeanor, his smile, and made him so readily likable that few resisted the charm of it.

If Spock had thought, in those early days, that Kirk would change his behavior for his First Officer in deference to either his rank or his species, he was to be surprised yet again. And if he thought, once experiencing Kirk first hand, that he would find the human irritating, insulting or difficult to work with, he was disappointed in that expectation as well – happily.

Kirk never allowed Spock's alien-ness to hold him back, to keep him from interacting with him as he did with every other crew member. He played with Spock, even if by human standards Spock never played back, sparring with him, making quips, ribbing him to a degree with that certain quirk about the mouth and light in his eyes that had become so well known. It wasn't that he didn't recognize those social boundaries particular to Vulcans, or disrespected them, he just sidestepped them entirely. He treated Spock the same way he treated the rest of his crew, with good-humored affection, and Spock found that as unorthodox as it was, Kirk's approach felt more genuine and respectful than any other choreographed interaction.

Kirk saw him on a personal level, rather than seeing him filtered through the lens of his race.

Spock found himself growing fond of his new Captain even as he was still attempting to classify him.

There was no one else Spock could say had ever been so close to him as Captain Kirk, save perhaps his parents, and even there had been a certain distance for various reasons, that simply wasn't present in Kirk's case. He was comfortable at his side; he gave Spock a sense of balance that he hadn't known he'd lacked until it had been provided. To extend the association beyond waking hours and to share a bed was almost logical, and Spock found himself better able to not only sleep, but to function the next morning as well.

The reason – the source of the comfort and ease was obvious. During those first sporadic nights spent together, and then the first few weeks of regular bunking, Spock had maintained his mental and emotional shields fairly well. It was something he had learned to do almost without thinking during his long time in Starfleet. Humans, like Vulcans, were a tactile species, but did not have the required awareness to keep their thoughts and feelings private, and had the unfortunate habit of touching on a regular basis, often unconsciously. Once in place, he no longer had to concentrate to keep his shields, so they remained in place even during sleep. Though, to be sure, they did weaken without a conscious mind to maintain them, and on a narrow bed shared with another man it was easy to come into skin to skin contact during the night. Such would have been the case even without Captain Kirk's unfortunate tendency to sprawl.

Sleeping together night after night, coming into contact with each other as Spock's shields became gradually more permeable, it wasn't strange to wake with a kind of aftertaste or impression of what he'd picked up from Kirk during the dark hours. The strongest of Kirk's feelings, at least. Almost without fail what made it across Spock's failing shields was positive and uncomplicated: happiness, trust, contentment and acceptance, even love. The fierce strength of Kirk's emotions didn't startle Spock, nor their undeniable warmth, but more that they all seemed to be intended or directed at him. If he doubted, then occasionally awakening to find his Captain had come close in his sleep, resting his head against his shoulder, or clasping an arm in a loose fingered grip, or an arm or leg flopped over him and resting heavily on the Vulcan or otherwise snuggled up against him in a decidedly un-Officer-like way, as though Spock were a giant teddy bear.

It could have just been Kirk's natural affection that made him so… clingy, and it just happened to show more in his sleep, with Spock the only one present for it to be spent on. But the open, unaffected love that came radiating from Kirk every night gave Spock reason to pause, to consider the affection that was budding up in him for this extraordinary man, for the unusual sorts of behavior he seemed to draw out of him.

He was willing to lay down his life for Kirk. The same had been true of Pike, but in Kirk's case it was an automatic reaction, done without thinking, before he even could think, which was unsettling for someone who preferred to consider every action carefully. Being around Kirk somehow made other humans easier to be around, easier to understand, even made it easier to appreciate human humor as a whole, as though it were an extension of Kirk's. Spock was comfortable around him, could share space, a conversation, a silence, even a bed with him without causing even a flicker of unease.

Captain Kirk was subtly changing him, settling him, all without altering his core personality.

It did not take long, with all of this in mind, for Spock to come to a very rational conclusion for a very irrational response: he loved Captain Kirk.

He'd known for a very long time that he loved him, which in itself did not come as a shock to him. The revelation came not from the knowledge of the feeling, but at the depth of it. He loved Captain Kirk not just as his Captain, nor as his friend, though those shadings were very present and real. He loved him as his mother had once described loving his father, when he had asked her to explain the experience of human emotions. He had not thought he would ever have to experience the phenomena for himself, had rather hoped he would not, that his Vulcan blood would protect him from such base, illogical responses. Yet, here it was: love for another being who he found admirable in every way, who he would not be ashamed to call his partner, or even his mate. It was as well to accede to the reality of the situation, rather than to futilely fight against it. It was logical.

But even as he was drawing those conclusions about himself, he was coming to quite a different one about how Captain Kirk felt about him. He knew his Captain felt affection for him, affection and all those other emotions that got wrapped together into the singular and given the name love. However, he was aware that how humans perceived emotion, and how he, as a half-Vulcan would, would be wildly different. Humans were enmeshed, submerged even, in the disorganized cacophony of their own feelings practically every minute of their lives. What they felt for one thing, be it positive or negative, they felt simultaneously with whatever it was they felt for countless others. Humans felt shades of emotion; they had to in order to differentiate on an emotional level. To only be aware of the 'major' emotional responses when one was an emotional being would be akin to only seeing in primary colors, or only tasting what was sweet, salty, bitter or sour without gradient or nuance.

To put it another way, Captain Kirk did feel love for Spock. He knew that as well as he knew the curve of Kirk's shoulder, or of how the shadow of his lashes fell across his cheek when he slept. However, Kirk was capable of feeling many degrees of love, each with their own distinct meaning. Spock, with his limited experience, was able to identify and interpret the feeling in himself, where it was not so buried in other emotions that its edges became fuzzy. It was singular and contrasted sharply with the relative blankness that surrounded it. When it came to interpreting the fine shadings of Kirk's emotions, he was somewhat at a loss. He could only fall back on his observations, the scraps of what he felt from Kirk when he interacted with others and expound from there.

His conclusions were, unsurprisingly but regrettably, that Kirk loved freely, and while what he felt for Spock was genuine, so too was what he felt for everyone else. The quality of the emotion might differ slightly between how he felt for Spock and, say, an ensign, but the same could also be said for how the quality differed between everyone Kirk loved. It was a byproduct of the person the emotion was attached to, not the emotion itself.

And since it was unlikely that Captain Kirk loved the majority of his crew as one loved a partner, Spock could only conclude that he was held in the same warm regard Kirk had for all. A touch more trusted, perhaps, but nothing more significant than that.

Rather than being disappointed, Spock felt he was fortunate in his circumstances. He found himself feeling an emotion that, while unfamiliar, did not cause him substantial discomfort, but rather filled him with a kind of comfortable ache; and if the literature on the subject were to be believed, it was often a feeling felt for the most unsuitable of individuals. Not so in this case. Jim Kirk was a more than worthy recipient, and if the sentiment were not returned quite as it was given, Spock felt honored it was returned at all, in any form. He was close, closer than he had any reasonable expectation of, to the object of his affections, with the added benefit of spending every night at his side, bathed in his warmth and gentle regard.

It was more than he could have hoped for, and he was grateful.

Captain Kirk, meantime, was coming to some similar conclusions.

He knew himself for the affectionate being he was; perhaps believing himself a little harder edged than was true, but he was fairly well acquainted with the nature of his own personality. He knew that to feel deeply for others was a particular facet of his character, and felt no shame in expressing it openly. What he believed he felt for Spock, that of platonic, brotherly love, ran so deeply it sometimes frightened him, but that was all he believed it to be: a companionable affection of two men of like mind and interlocking personality.

So he believed, and acted on, and anything that might be seen as out of the ordinary could easily be forgiven once that filter was applied.

At least it had been, until the filter had been unexpectedly lifted away, to reveal the shades of color that truly lay behind it.

It had been one of those rare mornings when Kirk had stirred before Spock. Vulcans required less sleep, but Kirk had gotten to bed hours before him, and with no alarm set to wake them at the same time, the Captain rose slowly out of dreams before his First Officer.

They were aboard a ship gliding through interstellar space, and were not subject to such phenomena as dawn, of pale sunlight streaming through windows or the chirping of birds. In space, the very concept of time was even more artificial than it was on planet, recognized only by the measured ticks of chronometers and the brightening or dimming of light panels. Still, in the Captain's quarters, where they had spent the prior 'night', there was a small, unsung luxury of automated panels that slowly brightened as the hours crept from night proper to predawn, to dawn, and finally to day, mimicking a sun that gradually brought the room's occupants into a new day, rather than suddenly clicking on to full life and jolting the body. It was a small feature, but something one came to appreciate while in the deep black. Like the room's temperature, the quality of the light had been adjusted slightly since Spock had begun sharing his bed. Now the brightening light resembled something between the soft yellow of Earth's sun and the harsher white of Vulcan's twin suns.

When Kirk woke the simulated dawn was still young, the room steeped in clinging shadow, with only the first glimmerings of light teasing at the corners. He rose from deep slumber slowly, groggily, and rather reluctantly. He was accustomed to early mornings, but his body's clock had adjusted to know which were his days of rest, and conspired to keep him asleep as long as possible. Still, he struggled up from the clinging dreams valorously, only to discover that during the night he had – once again – drifted toward the nearest heat source: Spock, and was spooned quite snugly against his back, one arm over the Vulcan's waist.

He considered pulling away, but eventually decided against it. He was in no hurry to rise, and if he stirred he might disturb his bedmate. Instead he concentrated on clearing his mind of cobwebs while allowing his body more time to rest.

Lying in the dark but slowly lightening room, Kirk wondered why it was Spock never complained, or even mentioned this little aspect of their sleeping arrangement. Vulcans were not well known for appreciating close physical contact – quite the opposite – and yet this was never brought up, even in passing. This may have been just as well, Kirk reflected, as he wasn't sure he could keep from doing it even if he tried. It was an unconscious action, after all. Perhaps that was why Spock refrained, recognizing the innocence of it, the futility of attempting to correct it, and was choosing to ignore it completely instead. It would be like him.

As the shadows gradually retreated, Kirk could make out more and more of his sleeping companion. He would have thought that in sleep, Spock would have been the sort to lie on his back, limbs held fastidiously at his sides, the covers all arranged neatly around him. Instead he'd found that Spock liked to lay on one side, curled into a gentle fetal position, his voluminous sleeping robe gathering in folds at his chest and around his knees, the covers only loosely arrayed. Even now, the hand of the arm he'd draped over his friend during the night was lost in a kind of nest of fabrics at the hollow created by the Vulcan's concave belly. His hair, or at least the back of it, was tousled, giving lie to the impression that it was a single immovable mass attached to his head. A single ear was visible to Kirk, its curving point distinct even in the gloom, the first obvious sign of Spock's inhuman nature. It was something he had never admitted to his friend, but Kirk had held a kind of fascination for those pointed ears since they had met, and had to fight the impulse to reach out and feel them. Still did from time to time, though it was not likely something he would ever bring up.

His breathing was much easier when he slept, soft and deep, his shoulder and chest rising with each inhale, to sink back down with each exhale. His belly moved, too, with his breathing, brushing against Kirk's hand with every breath. It was odd to think of Spock so mobile with the simple act of breathing, but it was something Kirk had come to realize about Spock. Where with others one could expect stillness in their sleep, Spock conveyed an impression of movement. It was because awake he always held himself to such stillness, like a wire strung and awaiting a musician's pick. Asleep he relaxed, and small unconscious motions were finally allowed their freedom; such as his breathing, or a small motion of his hand, or a shift of his leg. All these were things he suppressed while awake.

It made Kirk wonder how much control Spock thought he needed when it could even be seen in how much he breathed.

Most interesting to Kirk, though, was his face. In sleep, the stern face with its harsh lines and planes, the mouth set in a firm line, the eyes so often staring out coldly, was transformed. It became almost a stranger's face, softening at its edges, seeming to become a little younger. The eyes were closed, of course, hiding the dark brown eyes, but the mouth… Spock's mouth was much fuller than he would have credited when the Vulcan was conscious. When not set in their line, his lips were full and possessed a gentle, almost humorous curve to them.

Without being aware of when he did so, Kirk found himself looking at Spock's face again, having risen up to peer down at him without stirring his companion. Looking at that mouth now, Kirk saw that the lips were slightly parted, revealing just a glimpse of straight white teeth and a glistening of moisture beyond them. Spock's breath sighed in and out, passing over lips and teeth in breathy whispers. Kirk caught himself staring, and swallowed.

As quickly, as suddenly as that, it became clear to Jim just how much he loved Spock, this odd half-Vulcan, half-human hybrid of a First Officer.

It startled him, but didn't shock him. He was open minded about such things, and finding his love attaching itself to a hybrid fellow officer wasn't as unsettling as it could be.

Still, after the first moment of startled revelation, then wondering euphoria came a sinking dismay. Spock was half-Vulcan, and while that had no bearing on Kirk's affection for him, it might have everything to do with any possible return of that affection. Emotion of any kind was considered crass, in bad taste in Vulcan culture. If Kirk approached Spock with this, his friend would likely only be embarrassed, but it was possible he would be disgusted by such a blatant confession of strong emotion held in his regard.

No. He realized if he was to have a deeper relationship with Spock, he would have to hope that he felt the same way and wait for him to broach the subject. Of course, the irony of depending on a Vulcan to breach the subject of a deep emotion wasn't lost on him, nor the possibility of its ultimate futility. But Kirk was patient when he needed to be, and he saw no other way to solve the issue.

Until then, he did his best, as an amateur, to shield his thoughts from Spock, especially at night when they shared a bed.

For a time, this was how they continued, working closely together by day, sleeping together at night, each newly aware of their love for the other, but uncertain if it was or ever would be returned in kind. Each was simply waiting, enjoying the special closeness they shared with the other, and unwilling to risk losing it just yet on foolhardy action. Yet there was a silent distance developing even as they slept pressed against each other.

Spock sensed it first, as a slight shift in Kirk's emotional landscape, the tenor of the feelings that radiated off of him during the night. The feelings did not change, but they became fainter, as though they were being covered with a light blanket, obscuring Spock's perception of them. He didn't understand the change or why it should occur, and so wondered if it was not merely his own perception of it that was altering. Was it not possible that as he became more familiar with the peculiar reverberations of Captain Kirk's range of emotion, that he would become better able to interpret it? Was it not possible, likely even, that what he sensed was not a growing distance, but a heightened awareness of what was already there? That what was there was not so… intense as he had originally surmised?

It seemed reasonable to think so. Almost unconsciously he felt himself assisting in creating a wider distance between them, firming those shields that he'd allowed to grow lax.

Kirk in his turn felt the difference immediately, and berated himself for it. In his mind it was obvious what had happened: Spock had recognized that Kirk's affection for him went deeper than it did for anyone else, and was embarrassed, as Kirk had predicted he would be. Rather than saying anything and escalating the interpersonal faux pas, Spock was simply putting a little distance between himself and what he saw as offensive. The love he saw as offensive.

Kirk could hardly begrudge him the space. Spock had not sought out his regard, and in pulling away without acknowledging it, he was actually sparing Kirk embarrassment as well. How could he begrudge one who was sensible of his comfort even as he attempted to establish proper boundaries?

So they circled again, the invisible distance between them silently growing, feeling the coolness forming and assuming themselves to be the cause. Just as once it had been difficult to remember the exact sequence of events that had initiated their sharing of quarters, now it was hard to know how something so amorphous and subject to subjective interpretation became something they both knew as undeniably real.

While no awkwardness resulted on the Bridge during their working hours, or even very noticeably during their occasional chess games, it was felt easily in the intimate privacy of quarters, in the velvety silences between dreams, in the heated space between their bodies where once there had been no space.

After several weeks of this growing distance, eventually becoming a growing tension, Kirk awoke in the dim light of 'predawn' and knew in his bones that this would be the last morning he did so beside his Vulcan First Officer. What had once been a comfortable arrangement had become too awkward, too full of strained seconds to continue when viewed logically. Spock would suggest that they return to sleeping separately, Kirk knew it without a doubt, he would do it today, and Kirk would have no good reason to refute the request. This was the last night he would spend feeling Spock's more-than-human warmth, the last night the soft sound of his breathing would underpin his dreams. It made Kirk's chest feel heavy to think of it, but there was little he could do about it. Could a Captain order his First Officer to bunk with him? …Possibly, but he wasn't about to.

Moving softly, slowly, Kirk turned so he could look at Spock. He was, surprisingly, awake before him again, possibly due to the anxiety running through him. Whatever the reason, Kirk intended to use the time to study Spock's sleeping face, to ingrain it into his memory.

Blackest hair, long at the bangs, framed Spock's face, lightly disarrayed in his slumber. The sweeping brows, which always made it appear he was scowling, were not drawn so low, and only made his angular face exotic. His mouth was relaxed, the lips lightly parted, a soft breath fluttered lightly over Kirk's face as he lay close. The deep shadows softened his Vulcan friend, revealed in their very concealment a private face only Kirk had even seen. Like as not that would not be true forever, but for now this particular side of Spock was his, and only his.

The light began to grow around them, and Kirk became aware of the passage of time, of minutes lost, to never be recaptured, and felt oppressed by the need to have, in what little time that remained him, all he wished could be his over a course of years. Years that would pass without a certain light in it he so greatly desired.

Feeling the press of seconds against his skin, Kirk brought up one of his hands as though still in a dream. Slowly he let it drift close to Spock's cheek, where it hovered a moment, hesitating, then settled softly on his faintly green skin.

Spock came awake instantly, deep brown eyes opening and looking around without alarm, only curiosity in why he had woken. When he at last focused on Kirk, on the hand lightly resting on his cheek, Kirk felt oddly calm, and unembarrassed. Still feeling himself to be in a dream, Kirk moved his hand, lightly stroking the Vulcan's warm cheek.

Eyelids drifted at the sensation of fingers caressing his face, then came open again. There was no reproach in his expression, not even a question lurking in the deep brown of his eyes. After a brief pause, Kirk became aware of a movement in his periphery, and then the lightest of touches as Spock's long fingers brushed across his face.

Understanding, clear and stunning in its unexpectedness, sparked between them. It was not mind meld they shared, there was no joining of thought forms, but something simpler. A knowing of self and of companion, a reading of expression and deed that conveyed meaning more efficiently than words could hope to. In that instant of shared breath and feather touches, they knew each other's minds, understood the building tensions… and knew without doubt that the cause for them was no longer an issue.

"Jim…" Sleep made Spock's voice deeper, breathier than it truly was, but Kirk doubted he imagined the note of wonder in it.

He smiled, felt the beat of his heart pick up a pace and thrilled inwardly at it. "It would seem, Spock, that we have both been guilty of gross misinterpretation."

Spock swallowed, a totally unconscious action that only served to remind Kirk of the nearness of him, his presence pressing on his awareness as once the passing of seconds had done, though much more pleasantly. "It would appear to be so."

Kirk brought himself nearer by a fraction. "Let us try never to repeat that mistake," he said softly.

Was it his imagination that said Spock was moving toward him?

"Agreed," rumbled the Vulcan.