Looking to the Stars (Like They've Got All the Answers)

Jim knocked back another shot, wincing as the liquid burned on its way down. If only the burn could wipe the screams of his dying crew and the colony members as sickness ravaged their bodies from his memory

"I think that's enough, Jim. Trust me, it won't take away any of your pain, and you can't just sneak into my room like you did in the academy so I can give you a hypo."

Jim slammed the glass back to the counter, the glass threatening to crack. He ignored the dirty look the bartender shot his way. He cleared his throat and glared at McCoy who had slid onto the stool beside him.

"Maybe so but in the meantime this will help me forget," Jim retorted, staring unseeingly ahead of him.

"And we both know all the memories will rush back and feel twice as bad as before," McCoy stated matter-of-factly. He squeezed Jim's shoulder firmly and shook him back and forth lightly.

"You did all you could; we all did. The entire ship would have been lost if we hadn't pulled back, along with many more colonists."

When Jim whipped around to look at he hoped McCoy couldn't see the tears in his eyes or would erase them off as a trick of the light. "D'you think I don't know that!?" he snapped. "No matter how you try to rationalize it, the people I lost who were under my command and depending on me won't be coming back." All of the anger rushed out of him as Jim looked back down to the faux wood bar. "Nothing will keep the screams and desperate faces out of my mind."

McCoy didn't reply, letting his hand drop from Jim's shoulder. They sat together in a tense silence, the band playing behind them and chatter from other bar patrons not permeating the bubble around them.

Jim glanced to his other side when a slender woman stepped up to the bar, holding a tall fruit drink in her hand. On any other night her teasing smile, shining silver hair and exotic orange hued-skin would pique his interest, but Jim barely gave her a passing glance. Her wide gray eyes darted between McCoy and Jim's somber faces until McCoy shook his head.

"Sorry darlin', but we're not in the most sociable mood tonight," he said and she offered an apologetic smile before focusing on Jim again.

"I was just thinking of how I recognized you from the news earlier today," she said in a low and accented alto. "Captain Kirk of the Enterprise, correct?" she seemed to ignored the tight look that crossed Jim's face as she took a sip of her drink; waiting for a reply.

"Yes, and as I've said multiple times before I have nothing else to say about the matter," he said firmly, turning to face her fully and wondering what the nagging feeling was in the back of his mind as his eyes swept over her again.

"Oh, don't worry, I'm no reporter." She brushed her hair over her ear and a slow smile pulled at her lips. "I wanted to offer my condolences. I can see that the pressure of command takes its toll."

"I think you said your piece, lady," McCoy said quickly as Jim's eyes narrowed in anger. She shrugged, placing her now empty glass on the bar, eyes still focused intently on Jim. He stared back until she turned, moving away to join a group of people who had been watching the exchange with interest.

McCoy took a swig of his beer and shook his head. "Why don't we get out of here? We'll keep getting hounded otherwise," he said louder and the group turned and moved away.

Jim shook his head, frowning at the pile of empty shot glasses with distain. He lifted his hand to get the bartender's attention but a cool hand landed on his shoulder.

"Continued consumption will cause increased impairment and discomfort, Captain," Spock spoke at his shoulder. Jim jumped and nearly fell out of his seat.

"Dammit, Spock, how many times do I have to tell you not to sneak up on people like that!?" Jim slurred, kicking McCoy when he snorted in amusement.

"Vulcans do not 'sneak'; the alcohol is lowering your ability to perceive outside stimulus."

Jim groaned and rolled his eyes, noting that Spock was still wearing his science blues. He whipped around to turn an accusing eye onto McCoy.

"Please tell me you didn't drag Spock off of the ship just to get me out of here," he grumbled.

Spock clasped his hands behind his back, raising an eyebrow. "Negative, I had left the ship and was planet-side for one point two hours before McCoy requested I come here."

"There you have it," McCoy chuckled before grabbing Jim's arm and pulling to get him off his stool. "Seriously, get out of here; clear your head. Get some rest. The memorial service is at 900 tomorrow and having a hangover isn't going to make it any easier."

The Enterprise had transported the remaining survivors to the Starbase for now until more arrangements could be made. There were also letters to be written to the families and other paperwork that Jim wasn't looking forward to.

Jim looked between both of his friends before dropping his head into his hands and groaning.

"Don't need a fucking babysitter," he complained, giving Spock a sideways glance before being pulled to his feet. Spock picked up his leather jacket before it slid to the floor with an amused tilt of his head.

"In no way do you resemble an infant, and sitting on you would not be beneficial."

Despite himself, Jim cracked a smile, nodding his thanks to Spock before taking his jacket and shrugging into it.

"I'll see you back at the hotel, Bones," Jim called over his shoulder and McCoy lifted his bottle in reply before giving Spock a meaningful look.

"I'm holding you to that. Keep an eye on him, Spock!"

As they left the bar, Jim nearly bumped into the woman who had approached them earlier. Spock looked over curiously as Jim's face clouded over.

"Sorry," he said, still wondering what it was that set him on edge.

"Not a problem, Captain," she drawled; her gaze on Spock before smirking at Jim.

Spock watched her until the doors slid shut behind him, obscuring their view.

"I know you understand more idioms than you let on," Jim nudged Spock's arm, putting aside his unease for now. As they stepped out onto the nearly deserted street he took in a deep breath of the cool morning air.

"I will not deny that I do not derive – amusement—at seeing people try to explain themselves," Spock admitted, and Jim chuckled softly. He stumbled over a raised bump on the sidewalk, swearing more in annoyance at his own clumsiness than pain. He jerked in surprise when Spock touched him again; grabbing his arm to steady him and they stopped.

"Perhaps we should hail an aircar, Jim," he suggested but Jim shook his head.

"I'll be fine, just let me clear my head. The hotel is only a short walk away, and as long as we're here, I'm going to get all of the fresh air I can."

Jim started walking again, and Spock caught up after a beat. The low call of a ship's horn rang through the air as they crossed the street, and Jim made a beeline for the bridge, leaning against it and gazing out over the pier.

"Everyone keeps saying that I did my best, that more people were saved than lost. I can't see it that way, Spock, and I don't if I ever will. I know that not every mission will go the way I want it to and that no matter how hard I try and how hard we work, people can die. It doesn't mean that I can accept it."

Spock stood closer to Jim and leaned against the railing. "Do not try to bear the burden alone. It is illogical to expect yourself to perform miracles at the sacrifice of yourself, Jim. Though lives were lost the majority of the colony was saved. Also, this is the first mission where we have experienced so many casualties." He paused. "…outside of Vulcan."

Even after nearly two years, Spock had difficulty hiding the pain he felt from the loss of his planet, at least from those who knew him well enough to see it. "I'm glad that I can count on you, Spock and I apologize." At Spock's questioning look, Jim smiled softly. "For being so focused about how I felt and the guilt and not asking how you're dealing with it."

"As a Vulcan I regret the loss of any life, and I have found myself thinking of other actions I could have taken as well."

Jim turned and searched Spock's face. "I know it doesn't make much sense to ask but how do you handle that and keep the thoughts from consuming you?"

"I remember kadiith; what is, is," Spock said, his eyes distant. "I also mediated to reinforce my controls. It is possible for me to feel the strong emotions broadcast by others, so it was necessary."

Jim nodded and looked out at the bay once more before pushing himself away from the railing. "You should teach me to meditate sometime," he said, shoving his hands in his pockets and silence fell between them again.

"Come on, you don't think I could do it?" he teased, bumping his arm against Spock's with a crooked grin.

"Your ability to remain in one position long enough to even begin to focus inward has yet to be seen," Spock quipped, making Jim laugh.

Jim turned to face Spock, resting his back casually against the pier and crossing one foot over the other with a teasing tilt of his head. "Oh really? Well, Mr. Spock, with the proper motivation anything is possible."

Jim closed his eyes with a smile and tilted his head back against the breeze. He let his mind wander for a time before looking at Spock again. Spock's face remained carefully blank, but his eyes were broadcasting something Jim couldn't read but made his heart pick up. The breeze ruffed Spock's otherwise pristine hair, and Jim squashed the desire to reach out and further ruffle the silky strands.

"No matter how much I learned on the command track, no amount of simulators, discussions or essays prepare you for something like this. When shit really goes down, people are dying around you, and you find yourself having to wrack your brain for something to write to the families who've lost their love ones, it's just too much."

"If you require assistance with the correspondences—"

"Thanks, but I've got it." Jim stuffed his hands into his pockets and looked back over the water again. The ship was nearly out of sight, obscured by the set of buildings a block away from the hotel where the crew and colonists were staying until the repairs to the Enterprise were done. Just the thought of the hotel made him aware of his fatigue and remember the memorial in a few hours.

Spock seemed to pick up on his train of thought as he followed his gaze. "Perhaps it would be best to return."

Jim marveled at how just Spock's presence could calm him. He was close enough that their arms brushed on occasion and knew there was probably some significance in being allowed in Spock's personal space the way he was. It had happened gradually; between missions, chess games, they'd both found a friend and something beyond that. Whatever was between them, Jim found himself uncharacteristically afraid to push the last bit and find out what is was. It was enough fighting against the alcohol, and the look Spock had given him earlier paired with his touches didn't help.

The heat of phaser fire flew by Jim, jarring him out of his thoughts and barely missing him as he stumbled into Spock who caught him and pushed him behind his body.

"Where the hell did that come from?" Jim snapped, instantly on alert despite the fuzziness clouding his brain from the alcohol. He cursed for not arming himself before leaving the hotel no matter how safe this base seemed. "Dammit, Spock, stop trying to block me!"

"As neither of us has a weapon currently, I am trying to protect you. The phaser fire came from an undisclosed location."

Footsteps sounded behind them and another shot went off. Jim pulled Spock down with him behind a wall, wincing when the shot ricocheted off the worn brick.

Jim's arm was wrenched behind him, and he yelled in pain. The butt of a phaser was pressed to his neck and the last thing he saw was Spock being wrestled to the ground by two of their assailants before the weapon fired, his vision going black.

"Jim. Jim!"

Slowly, Jim's eyes opened, the throbbing in his head and queasiness in his stomach threatening to make him vomit. He coughed loudly, blinking against the harsh overhead lights. His heart began to pound when he recognized the familiar thrum of a ship's engine close by. He was lying on hard, flat surface with a makeshift pillow shoved under his head.

"Spock?" Jim called, voice hoarse as he slowly rolled to his side. Spock knelt close by with a grim expression on his face.

"We have been traveling for two hours, six minutes from the Starbase," he said softly as he reached out to help Jim sit up. Jim glanced down at the folded blanket that he'd been resting on before taking in the small room they were confined in. The walls were plain slate gray with no windows and one thick, steel door. Shelves holding various supplies sat opposite, including blankets that Spock must have grabbed for him.

He fumbled at his belt for his communicator. "Shit!"

"They confiscated mine as well," Spock said.

Jim stumbled to his feet, hand immediately going to where the weapon had pressed harshly against the nape of his neck. "What did they do to us?"

"The weapon merely knocked us unconscious. I did not wake until forty-seven minutes and thirteen seconds ago. Other than being slightly disoriented and unsteady on my feet as you just were, I sustained no lasting damage."

When Jim leaned against the wall and kept rubbing the back of his head, Spock stood to offer a steadying hand. "Are you all right, Jim?"

Jim shrugged, offering a half-smile that didn't reach his eyes. "I think whatever I'm feeling is leftover from the alcohol and being put in an unnatural sleep. Have our captors checked in on us?"

Spock shook his head. "There is one guard outside our door. I believe I heard both a female and male voice just outside but the translator did not pick up on their language."

"Then we have no idea who we're dealing with," Jim grumbled before turning to pound on the door.

"I demand to speak with whoever is in charge!" He kept up until his fist was red and sore from striking the thick metal.

"My attempts to gain their attention went unanswered as well." Spock came to stand at Jim's shoulder, raising an eyebrow when Jim kicked the door out of spite when he was ignored.

"Ok, ok, Kirk; calm down," Jim said, turning on his heel away from the door. Spock didn't reply and they stood in silence until a series of clicking noises sounded just outside the door. It slid open, revealing the woman Jim had run into at the bar.

Jim straightened and frowned at her. "I knew there was something about you that put me on edge," Jim said as he glanced over her shoulder at two guards flanking her.

She hummed and leaned casually against the door, undoubtedly aware the phasers locked on both of them would keep them in place for now.

"My first plan was to lure you back to my rooms, you know," she said in bored tone of voice. She gave Jim an obvious once-over, full lips spreading into a smirk. "Captain Kirk, the famed galactic stud who will bed any being that crosses his path…"

Jim bristled but pushed his annoyance aside, turning his own charming smile on her. "I'm afraid that description of me isn't quite true any more other than me being a stud, of course."

"You were wallowing too deep in self-pity to notice me, and your friend got in the way. Luckily for me and my crew, you were inebriated enough for an easy capture, even with your Vulcan bodyguard."

The guards stepped into the room, dragging both Jim and Spock from the room into the narrow hallway.

"May I remind you that he is member of the Vulcan race and is still considered an endangered species? You'll be adding that to your list of crimes when you're caught." Jim adopted his best command voice and glared at his captors.

"What's the death of one more of them?" she shrugged, lip curling at Spock with distaste. "He's only a half-breed after all and not just any half-breed. His father mated with a human, which are one of the least intelligent life forms."

Spock shifted minutely next to him but Jim reached out with his free hand to still him. Spock was fairly vibrating under his hand, and that made Jim even more uneasy.

'Such a simple insult shouldn't get to him this much,' Jim thought.

"Can I at least have the name of my captor and the reason we're here?" Jim snapped with a glare as his arm was twisted and held behind his back.

"I am Gyda and these are what's left of my crew that you and your Federation let die," she gestured to the guards still holding phasers.

"We were the only ship in your sector; we responded the best we could!" Jim said firmly. "The rest of the colonists are safe at the starbase until they can be provided for."

"You didn't try hard enough. You possess the best ship with some of the best scientists and you couldn't find the cure for one virus," Gyda snarled.

With Gyda's nod, the guard holding Jim grabbed his hair and yanked his head back painfully, causing a choked rasp to leave his throat. Jim stomped on their foot in a last attempt to distract him.

"Pathetic," was hissed in his ear before Jim was whipped around and slammed into the wall. His teeth clicked together painfully as the side of his face met the solid surface, and he struggled to breathe as he was pressed against it further.

A snarl stopped everyone in their tracks as Spock lunged forward and grabbed the guard holding Jim, making them loosen their grip to focus on Spock instead. They grappled for a moment until Spock's hand closed around his neck, cutting off his air supply before slamming him into the wall. Their head met the wall with a dull thud and they slid down to the floor in a heap.

"My, you have a determined protector," Gyda marveled at Spock's strength, even as he was subdued quickly by her men. Jim stared at Spock in disbelief, still unable to comprehend the ferocious sound that had come from him and his violent actions.

"Stop! If any of this to be blamed on anyone it is me, the captain of the Enterprise. Let Spock go; I'll do anything," Jim pleaded, eyes wide as Spock continued to be beaten into the ground. Four against one was hardly fair and their captors seemed to possess above average strength in their own right.

Gyda watched dispassionately as Spock grit his teeth in pain as he struggled to break away. "Of course you'll do anything for him; it's not just stories of your impressive teamwork that grab gossipers' attention."

A loud thump drew their attention back to the fight, one of the aliens on the floor from a nerve pinch. In retaliation one struck the side of Spock's head with the butt of his phaser with a sickening crack causing Spock to reel backwards and grip his head in pain. Jim looked on in horror as dark green blood dripped down his face to pool at his collar and Spock nearly fell to the ground.

"Dammit, let me go," Jim snapped, trying but failing to push against his assailant. Despite his injuries Spock formed his hand into the meld position on another's face, their eyes widening in shock before they too slumped to the ground in a heap.

The last guard whipped out his phaser and aimed at Spock who was struggling to his feet. Spock grit his teeth in pain and clutched his head, and Jim cried out as the guard pulled the trigger.

Suddenly, shuttle lurched violently and the phaser missed its mark, burning a hole into the wall too close to Jim's head for comfort. Deafening sirens began to blare overhead as the ship began to shake.

Gyda whipped out her communicator. "What is happening?" she cried out, jerking her head at Jim's captor, and Jim was pushed roughly away before sliding down the wall to the floor.

Loud static broke through the sirens as the pilot's harried voice came through. "Ship has been hit, shields are down. Every who is able report to the bridge!"

Gyda's eyes darted between Spock and Jim and her two remaining guards before speaking quickly in their own language.

"It looks like my job will be done for me. I won't even have to get my hands dirty. We're abandoning this ship you'll have the honor of remaining here."

Jim's eyes widened and his face twisted in disgust. "How can you live with yourself if you're going to leave your crew to die?"

His question was ignored as Gyda and her guards rushed down the hall, and disappeared from sight.

"Come," Spock grabbed Jim's uninjured arm and coaxed it over his shoulders, wrapping his own arm around Jim's waist. They were alone in the hallway now as the rest had rushed to the bridge to man stations.

"This vessel is too small to contain multiple escape pods," Spock said as they stumbled down the hall.

"Do you think the Enterprise found us?" Jim asked hopefully though he knew the odds were low. They made their way to the bridge which was already filled with smoke. Jim broke away from Spock, sitting in the navigator's chair before turning to the pilot.

Her eyes were wide in a too-young face. "Where's the captain?" she cried out before turning back to the controls.

"If you're talking about Gyda, she abandoned the ship," Jim bit out, quickly engaging the extra safety restraints. "What can we do?"

The pilot swallowed hard before flipping two switches and grabbing a headset. "Attention all remaining crew members, we are being pulled into the planet's gravity. At the very least it has breathable atmosphere, but at our current speed this will be a very rough landing. Emergency supplies will be available in the first room off the deck and please strap yourselves in!"

"Are you detecting any type of signal?" Jim glanced at Spock briefly before pulling back on the throttle.

"The equipment is damaged but this planet hasn't been colonized yet. No sentient life forms inhabit it to the best of my knowledge," came his reply.

"Our shields are at 60% but holding steady," Spock called out and from his station but Jim ignored him as he watched the pilot.

"What's your name?" Jim said and the tears shimmered in the pilot's eyes.

"Varla," she said, her voice steady even as they watched the clouds come closer and eventually rush by.

Jim reached out and grabbed her hand hard enough to bruise and she returned the rough grip. They stared at each other and then looked to Spock.

"Thank you," Jim choked out, and Varla blinked tears out of her eyes before wrenching her hand away and pulling hard just before impact. The craft shook violently and a series of crashes sounded behind them but slowly they leveled out.

"Varla, you're not strapped in!" Jim cried out in horror just before they slammed into the water. He caught Varla's stricken but determined gaze and heard Spock yell something before he was struck in the head and something crashed into his side, jarring the chair. Everything fizzled out until it was only a buzz in the back of Jim's head and he could feel more than hear himself screaming, throat dry and raw as everything fell apart around him.

When he finally came back to himself the first thing he registered was the console in flames, the smell of burning flesh combining with hot metal. Varla must have the moment her head had smashed forward into the control panel.

Jim's hands were clumsy as he struggled to free his own restraints. "Fuck, fuck," he mumbled over and over, getting increasingly louder as he tried to force his injured arm to cooperate. He couldn't tear his gaze from Varla and her blood dripping down onto the ruined floor.

He startled when cool hands gently pushed his aside and looked up at Spock as he made quick work of the buckles and freed him. His face was too close as Jim stared at him, taking in the small cuts across his face and the large bruise at his temple, the flow of blood stalled and dried blood spread across his cheek.

Finally working the clasp free, Spock hauled Jim to his feet and together they stumbled from the bridge. Jim glanced on last time over his shoulder to the pilot's chair before emerging into the smoke-filled hallway.

"At this rate the shuttle will completely burn in under ten minutes." Spock's voice was strained with a combination of smoke inhalation and effects of his injury.

"Do you know where they hid our belongings," Jim coughed, covering his mouth with the collar of his shirt. He barely missed stumbling over another body as Spock pulled him along into a narrow hallway and shoved the already damaged doors apart.

"I do not know, but Varla indicated there should be emergency supplies in this room." Jim kept coughing and blinking against the smoke that began to filter into the room as he and Spock grabbed two large emergency packs, shoving them over their shoulders.

Jim bit his lip as he forced his aching arm into one of the straps. He watched through teary eyes as Spock continued to search.

"I found them!" Spock called, pushing both communicators inside his bag before turning to push Jim out of the room. They ran as quickly as they could to the back of the shuttle and promptly were submerged in water as they jumped. Jim hissed in pain as water entered his various wounds but fought against the strong current to rise above the surface again. He was alerted to Spock's position when loud coughing sounded behind him. Spock's eyes were shut in pain, a hand cradling his head and Jim swam as fast as he could towards him and forced his injured arm to wrap around his waist.

"Hold onto me," Jim sputtered as the current threatened to drag them under. Spock's arm curled around his waist and slowly they began to make their way to the shore.

The wind shifted, pushing them towards shore as they swam. The heat from the burning shuttle dwindled and Jim spared a glance at Spock who was still in pain but determined to pull his share. They worked as a team, paddling in sync as they struggled to stay afloat despite the heavy packs weighing them down and zapping their strength.

As they finally reached the shore, Jim stumbled on unsteady legs onto the gleaming silver sand before collapsing to his knees. His bag slid from his shoulder, bumping his bleeding arm, and he trembled as the last of his adrenaline began to drain away. Spock knelt close by, grabbing Jim's shoulder before dropping his own bag next to him.

Jim let out a shaky breath and turned to face his First Officer, eyes darting over the flushed and bloodied face.

When Jim saw his own fingers lingering over the angry wound he blinked, staring at his hand as if he'd never seen it before. A subtle tremor was going through Spock's body, but his eyes never wavered from Jim's and Jim reached out the final few centimeters to lightly brush the wound. Spock visibly flinched when Jim touched his temple.

"I'm sorry," Jim choked out, letting his traitorous hand drop to Spock's shoulder and gripping tightly. He clenched his jaw, focusing on Spock's chin so he didn't have to meet his eyes as shame spread through him. "Another thing I've managed to fuck up."

"Unless you rigged the shuttle to malfunction and strand us here, then fault does not lie with you, Jim," Spock stated softly, his breath ghosting over Jim's clammy skin. "Our captor was angry with both of us," he continued when Jim opened his mouth to reply.

He couldn't hold in the emotions clamoring to the surface anymore. Jim wrapped his arms around Spock and let out a shuddering breath.

"When you dropped to the floor and I saw all of the blood…" He couldn't continue. Spock had practically turned to stone in his embrace but slowly lifted his arms and held Jim firmly, resting his head against the other.

"I was similarly affected when you were injured," Spock murmured and Jim's fingers dug into his back as he rested his chin on Spock's shoulder.

"We're alive," Jim breathed, squeezing Spock harder as he clenched his eyes shut. He marveled over how well they fit together like this for a moment longer before pulling out of the unexpected embrace.

Jim scrubbed his hands over his face and cleared his throat before sitting back on his heels. "Er, sorry for throwing myself all over you," he said with a weak smile.

Spock regarded him silently, and Jim noticed two spots of color high on his cheeks that had nothing to do with their earlier excursion. "Perhaps I have become desensitized during the tenure of our mission because I feel no ill effects."

His mouth falling open, Jim stared before laughing. "Is that your not-so-subtle way of saying I invade your personal space too often?"

Spock's lips twitched and for a moment the gravity of their situation was lifted. A grinding sound from the shuttle shattered the moment and they turned in time to see it collapse further into the water with a large splash. More smoke rose from the shuttle, the air around it distorted from the heat of the fire.

"We need to get as far away from here as we can," Jim said, stumbling to his feet and grabbed his bag. He moved as fast as his water-logged boots could carry him, Spock at his side. As they approached the foliage Jim couldn't help but marvel over the exotic trees, their golden fronds, plum trunks and branches strange but striking. As they reached the tree line a series of explosions rocked the beach. Spock stumbled into Jim with the shocks and Jim grabbed a tree to steady himself, a hand snapping out to grip his sleeve tightly. The sounds were deafening and they both clapped their hands over their ears to stifle the noise.

"A tropical paradise and a light show to end an abso-fucking-lutely perfect day," Jim crowed as he slid down to sit on the now rocky sand. The glow of the flames lit the darkening sky in an eerie but beautiful way, a reddish-gold highlight to the now magenta sky as the sunlight narrowed to a sliver on the horizon.

"It is imperative that we find shelter before night falls," Spock said, still watching the shuttle's demise.

"Yeah," Jim said as he got to his feet. He looked up at the cloudless sky and shivered as a breeze picked up again.

Jim clapped his hands together, ignoring the jolt of pain that shot up his arm. "First things first; let's get a look at what's in these bags. Hopefully the contents are good enough to justify how heavy they are."

The bags were surprisingly well stocked, both holding blankets, a filled bottle of water along with a canteen, a bowl and utensils, a phaser, rope, and various foodstuff. Jim's bag held a tricorder while Spock's held a med kit. They opened it quickly and pulled out the medical scanner only to find its readings were off.

"It must have been damaged somehow," Jim said, wanting to throw it out of frustration but rolling his eyes at himself before setting it back in the kit. He was more worried about the blow Spock had taken to the head than his own injuries.

"Everything else seems to be in working order," Spock replied before taking the medical scanner again and inspecting it himself. They both paused when thunder rolled in the distance.

Jim stood to his feet with the rope in his hands. "I guess we should make that shelter now," he murmured as he craned his neck to look up at the sky.

With a bit of work, they constructed an overhang with the ropes and surprisingly firm leaves from one of the larger trees. Spock bent the branches with little difficulty, and Jim gathered wood to start a fire a few meters away.

"You should take care not to further aggravate your arm," Spock said from behind him, making Jim jump. He scowled at how on edge he was before shrugging.

"The temperature is dropping, and it doesn't hurt so much anymore." In truth, the muscles throbbed from the burn and continued use but Spock had enough to think about without Jim's weaknesses. "We need to build a fire." Jim's voice was firm.

"As important as that is our physical state is, first, Jim," Spock said patiently. He pulled out a regenerator from his bag and Jim relaxed. He struggled to shrug out of his worn leather jacket but Spock moved closer and helped him maneuver his stiff arm from the torn sleeve. Dried blood made the fabric of his shirt stick to it as he peeled it off as well, until he stood shivering in a gray undershirt.

The skin surrounding the burn was blistered and rough, throbbing as Jim twisted his arm to get a better look. Spock wiped as gently as he could with the antiseptic before running the regenerator over the wound. The skin slowly returned to normal and most of the pain faded.

"Ok, now it's your turn," Jim said, gesturing at Spock's bruised face.

"You still have injuries that need to be tended to, Captain, and yours should take precedence over my own."

"Are we really going to dick measure over whose injuries are more severe?" Jim snapped.

"The length of our genitals has nothing to do with—"

Spock's eyes widened comically as Jim pushed him backwards and pressed lightly on his shoulder, hoping he'd take a hint and sit down on the log behind him. Jim followed and crouched in front of him, taking the medical kit from his hands and placing in on the ground in between them.

"You're too literal for your own good," Jim sighed before looking back at Spock who, despite his best efforts to appear otherwise, looked nearly as exhausted as Jim felt. The bruising arched over his eye in a colorful mix of mottled blues and greens, and the wound itself was still an angry green despite the water washing most of the dried blood away.

"May I?" Jim held up the antiseptic and cloth before moving closer when Spock nodded his assent. Jim's eyelashes fluttered when Spock's breath hit his face and Jim took care to thoroughly clean the area, noting Spock's subtle tremor with worry. Spock grit his teeth at the liquid's sting and flinched when the dermal regenerator hummed in his ear.

"I wish we had something stronger. This will only take care of the surface damage," Jim muttered as the skin slowly lightened and closed. He chanced a look at Spock, whose eyes had shut when Jim began to speak but blinked open. His pupils seemed normal but he was still shaking slightly.

"Thank you, Jim," was the only reply as Jim absently brushed Spock's matted hair over his ear, squashing the urge to caress the pointed tip.

"And thank you," Jim smiled, shaking his healed arm for emphasis. "Seriously, how are you feeling? Do you need to enter a healing trance?"

Spock watched as Jim tossed the soiled clothes into their small fire he'd started and put the kit back into Spock's bag. "I am reluctant to do so until our situation stabilizes. With rest and limited activity there should be no lasting damage."

The words were meant to be reassuring but Jim caught the strain in Spock's voice before he continued. "Later, I would like to take some time to meditate, and you taking the opportunity to sleep while I am doing so would be logical."

Jim glared half-heartedly at Spock, before turning away to crawl under the shelter. "Then we sleep in shifts," Jim shuffled around until he was wrapped in the thick cloth and settled on his back, looking up at the muted gold leaves of their shelter. He busied himself with counting the thick veins of the leaf as he tried to find a comfortable position on the soft but uneven ground.

"Two hours, or sooner if you need it, all right?" Jim said, looking at Spock who raised an eyebrow at Jim's firm tone.

The last thing Jim saw was Spock staring into the fire and the subtle tremor of his fingers around his canteen before exhaustion took him.

Jim awoke to a bird's shrill cry, jerking into a sitting position before falling to the side, tangled in his blankets. He blinked against the bright sunshine, glancing to Spock's blanket still stored in its wrappings. Peering out of the shelter, he saw Spock breaking through the bushes surrounding their camp, eyes immediately finding his and offering a nod in greeting.

"Good morning, Jim," Spock said as he knelt and Jim shuffled out from under the overhang, watching with interest as Spock unloaded his burden of bright blue fruits.

"I thought we agreed to sleep in shifts," he grumbled, scrubbing a hand over his eyes to clear them. "You need all of the rest you can get, you said so yourself –"

"Jim," Spock murmured and he stopped mid rant. "I attempted to wake you but you, but you refused to budge. Even when your sleep was less than peaceful, I could not wake you."

Jim looked away, remembering the horrible smell of burning skin and the sick crunch of a skull hitting metal that had haunted his dreams. The events of the crash and the destruction of the colony had become intertwined into nightmares nearly all night, and he found himself feeling somehow more exhausted.

Jim pushed the thoughts aside and rolled his eyes and sat down next to Spock with a huff. "I see you didn't even rest?" he gestured towards the unused blanket. "It was cold last night too, and I know you're more sensitive to it than I am."

Spock avoided his eyes. "As you know, Vulcans require significantly less sleep, Captain, and I experienced no discomfort."

"Bullshit," Jim mumbled, remembering how tense Spock's shoulders were and how his normally steady hands trembled. "Superiority aside, Mr. Spock, you have a possible head injury." He emphasized each word with a hard poke to Spock's arm. "If my arm still hurts this morning then I know you can't feel much better, and even Vulcans need their rest."

"'Pain is of the mind. The mind can be controlled,'" Spock quoted and Jim stared at him, incredulous.

"I was able to find edible fruits and nuts before you awoke," he said before Jim could retort, picking up one of the fruits which was about the size of an apple and handed it to Jim. "They taste similar to plums."

Jim looked intently at Spock's hand as it drew away for signs of tremor before inspecting the fruit. He gave it a cautious sniff before biting into it. Flavor burst on his tongue and he cupped his hand under his chin as juice dripped from his lips.

"A bit messy," he mumbled after he finished chewing, eyes darting up to Spock who was watching him intently before turning away.

Confusion grew as Spock got to his feet and changed to worry when he nearly stumbled while turning to rummage through one of the bags again. When a set of wet wipes was placed in the space between them, Jim took them gratefully. He picked up another fruit and made quick work of it.

"Were you at least able to meditate?" Jim asked as he wiped his hands.

"I was unable to focus inwardly," he admitted, something akin to shame coloring his tone. Spock turned away.

Jim shifted until he was next to Spock and lightly rested his hand on his shoulder. "How is your head feeling?"

Spock turned to face Jim, color spreading across his face when Jim brushed his fingers across the faded bruise on his temple. "I'm experiencing mild discomfort," he said between gritted teeth.

Jim pulled away, more from Spock's elevated temperature than his knowledge he was making Spock uncomfortable. "You've got a fever, you're shaky and unsteady on your feet," Jim stated and Spock looked away.

"We're in an extreme situation, stranded on a planet with little to no chance of being rescued," Jim said bluntly. "The medical supplies we do have aren't adequate even with mild injuries, and you pushing yourself will only make it worse."

"My current state has nothing to do with my head, Captain," Spock whispered. "And I am aware of how dire our situation appears. Even with the signals Varla sent just before our crash the likelihood of them being detected is—"

Jim groaned. "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not hear those numbers. What do you mean your current state has nothing to do with your head?"

Spock stood to his head and walked away. "We have other matters to focus on, mainly staying alive and finding out more about our surroundings."

He watched fondly as Spock scanned the plants with the tricorder from his place balancing on the fallen log near the stream. Spock's face was an almost perfect mask of calm and concentration, the interest brightening his eyes ruining the image.

'Even out here stranded on an unknown planet, Spock can manage to keep his love for science intact,' Jim mused as he began to hum. As Spock moved away to explore he began to sing, mood lifting with each note. When Spock paused in his work to stand and look at him, Jim threw him a wink and kept singing.

"It's too quiet, and this has been stuck in my head all day. One of Scotty's favorites; can't you recognize it?"

Spock's eyes darted to the side and back to Jim again, watching as he trotted over protrusions from the trunk with his arms held out horizontally with the ground. He swayed precariously for a second before righting himself with a grin.

"The wildlife surrounding us is producing noise of its own, Captain, that even your ears can detect," Spock replied, lip twitching when Jim sputtered and nearly fell off the log. "Your attempts at singing are very distracting."

"Maybe Scottish tunes aren't up your alley. Your insult of my ears aside, would you like to contribute? Any traditional Vulcan ballads you'd like to share?"

Jim was leveled with such an exasperated look that he had to look away to hide his smile. He placed a hand over his heart. "You insulted my singing, Mr. Spock; I am heartbroken."

"Captain, may we blame your near deliriousness on the insect bites you have obtained?" Spock quipped and Jim's laughter rang through the trees as he scratched at the aforementioned bites on his neck and shoulders.

"You may be on to something, because they won't leave me the fuck alone." Jim hopped off the log before he fell off. "I really, really hope I don't have a reaction to them."

He glared at Spock who seemed to be bug-bite free. "Maybe my blood is tastier," he grumbled, swatting as another large insect that looked too much like a flying spider flew into his face. "I vote we go back to the shuttle and search for bug, spray or I'll just start taking them out with my phaser."

"That would be extremely wasteful," Spock replied but moved to the side as the insect flew his way. "There must be a nest close by because they have increased in number since we entered this clearing."

"Well, I'm going to go explore, and hope these little shits don't follow," Jim grumbled, ignoring Spock's annoyed glance.

"Please do not wander too far," was Spock's only warning.

Jim rolled his eyes but slipped the phaser into his belt along with the knife for good measure, turning to leave the path. He pushed surprisingly heavy fronds aside, rubbing his hands when they left a sticky residue on his palms with distaste. He stayed on alert, constantly looking around him and listening for any possible threat.

Despite his obvious concern over being stranded on a strange planet, Jim had to admit they could have been in a worse place. The exotic plants, odd-colored sky and tropical weather somehow made him feel better as Jim continued his exploration.

Sunlight dappled the uneven ground, and Jim glanced up at the thick foliage blocking the red sun. Wind rustled through the leaves, the only sound other than the occasional bird calls above him and the snap of twigs under his boots. Jim purposely tread heavily to make a path and occasionally scraped bark with the knife in his belt.

"See, Mr. First Officer, I do have some self-preservation skills," Jim mumbled under his breath as he continued. He took a turn, wincing as his bag caught on what appeared to be a thorn-covered bush. Jim twisted around, gritting his teeth as he further pulled the muscles in his side as he tried to shrug the bag from his shoulders. His foot slipped, and Jim tumbled down the rough hill.

Rocks and exposed roots clipped him until Jim came to an abrupt stop, yelling in more frustration than pain when his bag crashed into him seconds later. He slowly pushed himself up on splinter-filled hands, closing his eyes against the oily substance oozing slowly from his hair down the side of his face. He gingerly took the collar of his shirt, lifting it to his face to wipe it clean.

"Captain? Jim?" Spock's voice called somewhere above him and Jim ignored him for a moment, wiping his face multiple times but to no avail.

He looked down, realizing in horror that he had landed in some sort of nest. At least one egg had been crushed in his fall and three white and black speckled eggs the length of his forearm remained.

A deep snarl snapped Jim to attention, and he stumbled to his feet, fumbling for his phaser. Loud clicking noises echoed off the sides of the ravine, and he looked up in time to see a large lizard crawl over the edge, its piecing red eyes taking in the crushed egg.

Six slender but powerful legs propelled the creature quickly as it stalked towards the nest, the tar-black scales speckled with olive green similar to the eggs catching the light as it watched Jim closely. His legs were frozen until the lizard's eyes darted to the egg, reaching out with one claw and almost gently touching the crushed remains of the shell.

Jim finally came back to himself and ran to the edge of the nest, trying but failing to get a good grip on the thick vines which were covered in thorns as well. His hiss of pain made the lizard's head snap back to him, and a deafening roar rang from its throat.

"Shit!" Finally, he managed to scramble over the edge and ran sharply to the left where the thickest vines trailed over the side of the ravine. He set the phaser to 'kill' and aimed.

"Spock, don't come down here! Just shoot the thing," Jim shouted when he caught sight of Spock making his way towards him. The lizard moved quickly despite its massive size, and as Jim glanced at his weapon, he saw it was running out of power.

"No, no, no don't you dare die on me!" He shook the phaser and tried to fire again. Spock fired twice and the lizard hissed before arching its long tail and whipping it towards him. Spock dived to the ground and rolled away but wasn't quick enough the second time and Jim watched in horror as the lizard swiped at Spock with one of its long legs, catching Spock in the side. He was flung to the ground, phaser clattering from his hand as the lizard turned towards him. Spock coughed and clutched his side as he struggled to his feet.

Jim's phaser flew through the air and struck the lizard in head. It jerked to the side and growled at Jim who waved his arms before darting off, hoping his antics would draw it away from Spock long enough for him to get away.

"Ok, that worked a bit too well," he gasped, clambering over roots and rocks in his mad dash to escape. Jim met another dead end and whipped around, pulling his knife from his belt and tossing the sheath aside.

He backed away as the lizard moved closer, mouth opening to reveal a large set of sharp teeth that dripped with what Jim assumed was poison. It snarled and jerked when Spock fired at its shoulder, seemingly more in annoyance than pain. Jim took advantage of the distraction to throw himself into its neck; ignoring the splinters digging further into his hand as he plunged his knife with all his strength into its eye.

Jim heard Spock call his name when the lizard jerked its head at Jim in retaliation, dislodging the knife and sending him crashing into the ground. It jerked its head back and forth, thick orange blood splattering everywhere as it cried out. The long limbs flailed before buckling, the impact shaking the ground. Blood ran down the lizard's face as it groaned in agony, gnashing its teeth. Its undamaged eye rolled in its head before fixing on the remaining eggs in the nest. A long whimper gurgled in its throat before the lizard slowly struggled to push itself to its feet.

It never regained its footing before Spock roughly grabbed its head and in one quick motion snapped its neck. The sound of a sickening crunch and a choked scream made Jim shudder as the Spock released the lizard, and it lay still.

They stared at it silently, chests heaving in exertion, then backed away as blood and fluids leaked from the dead body. Jim bent over and gingerly picked up his knife, crudely wiping it in the dirt before picking up the sheathe before slipping the knife back inside and placing it in his belt. He chanced a look at Spock who was staring in disbelief at his blood splattered hands, eyes wild and face flushed.

Jim let out a nervous laugh. "So, er, do you think there's any way to cook this thing?"

Spock's eyes snapped to him and Jim couldn't help but back away, his heart beginning to pound again as more adrenaline poured into his system. Suddenly Spock was moving, stalking around the corpse until Jim was crowded against the nest.

"You ignored my warning to stay close and by doing so there was an unnecessary loss of two lives. In addition, we have lost a tricorder, phaser and the remaining equipment was likely damaged from your fall."

"Oh, I'm sorry that I purposely got my bag tangled in some fucking bush and lost my footing. Totally calculated the precise angle I would need to land on one of the eggs and crush it. I even went out of my way to fill my hands with fucking splinters so I wouldn't be able to handle the phaser correctly and drop it. Dammit, Spock, you found out of my master plan!" Jim threw back, trembling in nerves and anger.

"As usual, you understand nothing!" Spock practically snarled, and Jim barely suppressed a flinch. "As a Vulcan, I cherish all life and I have never had to resort to taking another life. I did this out of mercy." He flung his hand towards the body and turned on his heel away from Jim, his hands clenched into fists at his sides.

Spock was shaking, and Jim was shocked out of his anger into utter confusion. "Spock," he said calmly, "I understand that we're in a serious situation, and I will admit I made a mistake, but your behavior is completely abnormal. Even when we were on the shuttle I saw something was off about you; you just seem so easily angered and almost violent."

Jim paused to pointedly look at the remains of the large lizard that had pursued them, its broken neck held at an odd angle and remaining eye staring. The long fangs glistened, and Jim shuddered at how close Spock had come to getting bitten.

By the time he looked back at Spock he was standing calmly, holding up the remaining tricorder and inspecting it with a frown on his face.

"Had I been less 'violent' with the creature, we would both be dead or dying from poison," Spock pointed out. Jim gaped at him until he finally snapped his mouth shut.

"Either that hit you took to the head did more damage than you're letting on or you're keeping something very important from me." Jim stepped into Spock's space, lifting his chin when Spock's eyes flickered up to meet his. "If you know me half as well and I'd like to think you do, then you know when something is going on, it doesn't take me long to get to the bottom of it. Understood, Commander?"

"Should there be anything that needs to be brought to your attention I will do so, Captain." Spock's gaze was unreadable, and Jim's eyes narrowed before he stepped back.

"We need to leave; the longer we stay here, the more we run the risk of coming in contact with scavengers," Jim said.

Jim only received a curt nod from Spock before they fell in-step together, both unsteady from their injuries. Spock refused to respond when asked about his side, and Jim ignored the inquiry after his hands.

They climbed back the way Jim had fallen silently, Jim rolling his eyes when Spock had to pull him up at a particularly steep part. He noticed the furrow of the Spock's eyebrows when he had to grab Jim's hand (though he did take care not to aggravate his injuries) and despite his frustration, Jim began to worry even more about Spock's erratic behavior.

Once they reached level ground Jim and Spock tended to each other's injuries; Spock had bruising all down his side, and the regenerator could only do so much. The splinters in Jim's hand took much care to remove. There was a tense silence and after they rested for a time, they continued their trek towards the mountains.

For what seemed like ages they walked through the forest, the sun rising. Though they were blocked from the worst of its rays, the temperature continued to climb. Jim stripped down to his undershirt and eventually even Spock shrugged out of his tunic to wear his black undershirt.

Two hours later, they paused to take a break for a late lunch. "We've got to find more water," Jim said around a swig from his rapidly emptying canteen. He wiped his forehead for what seemed the thousandth time, blinking against the sweat that had dripped into his eyes.

In response, Spock held out his water and after a second's hesitation Jim took it, making a show of unscrewing the top.

"As a Vulcan, it is easier for me to retain water, so please take a drink, Jim." Spock explained calmly, seeming completely at ease, his anger from earlier forgotten.

Jim hummed absently as he watched Spock over the rim of the canteen. His folded arms rested on his knees as he ate one of the protein bars from their packs. Spock met Jim's stare and didn't look away until Jim handed his canteen back. He slowly straightened and stood. Jim couldn't help but notice how heavily Spock leaned on the tree for support.

"Spock, we've had a rough day; if you need to rest—"

"We should get to the mountains by nightfall if we keep our current pace," Spock murmured, taking in a deep breath and holding it before breathing out slowly.

"If we keep pushing ourselves like this, we'll run out of energy." He tried for a smile but failed. "You haven't slept for nearly two days, and we're both banged up from fighting that huge lizard. I ache all over and you're barely on your feet."

Jim pushed himself from the ground with a groan before stepping closer to Spock, who watched him with bloodshot eyes. "Let's take a rest, just a couple of hours, all right? The weather seems like it will hold and even if we're not to the mountains, we should be okay sleeping in the open for now."

Spock's fingers dug into the bark briefly before he nodded and slowly settled on the ground again. Jim's concern only grew when no protest came and he watched as Spock carefully lowered himself to the ground, gritting his teeth as he let his head rest against the tree.

"I am admittedly fatigued and would benefit from a brief reprieve." His eyes fluttered open to watch Jim as he knelt close by.

"You're sweating," Jim blurted and Spock swiped at his forehead with his torn sleeve before looking away.

"It's quite humid," Spock's voice was strained and he let his eyes fall shut again. He jerked in surprise when Jim pressed the back of his hand against his forehead.

"You're running a fever." Jim flinched away in shock from the heat pouring from Spock's normally cool skin.

"Spock," Jim breathed, reaching out to clasp his upper arms in a tight hold. "Please. Tell me what's wrong."

Spock took in a deep breath as Jim pushed on. "Did you come in contact with the venom or it your head? Have you been bitten by something? We have no idea what possible diseases this planet could have! If something happens to you…"

Jim's blood ran cold and he shuddered at the mere thought of losing Spock. His own limited medical skills and lack of their lack of supplies aside, if Spock's current condition worsened there was nothing he could do.

'No more.' Jim's throat tightened as he struggled to get himself under control. He pulled away from Spock, shame coloring his face as he remembered Spock's touch telepathy. He didn't need Jim's emotions overwhelming him as well.

"Jim," Spock uttered, voice husky and the hairs on the back of Jim's neck stood up at it floated over him. "While I cannot reveal the true source of my condition at this time, it has nothing to do with our environment."

"Dammit," Jim growled as he held the urge to just shake the information out of him at bay. "Rest," he said firmly. "This time I'll keep watch."

He was met with silence as Spock relaxed in degrees until he was practically slumped against the tree. Remembering the blankets, Jim pulled them out and spread them on the ground before reaching out to shake Spock's shoulder. Spock nodded and stretched out on them.

After he was sure Spock was asleep, Jim began to pace, full of restless energy. Spock's behavior was going beyond being stubborn; he was hiding something serious. Fear bubbled to the surface and he pulled at his hair in frustration.

If Spock died, he would have failed the most important person in his life, and he wanted to kick himself for admitting this now. Spock would have no idea of the depth of Jim's feelings, and Jim would never know how Spock might feel in return…

If Spock died, Jim would be alone on the feral planet.

Jim shoved the morbid thoughts aside. "There's no such thing as no-win scenarios, Kirk. Varla's transmissions will be picked up, and we will be rescued," he whispered around a tight throat at the thought of the young pilot.

He forced himself to sit, fiddling with his communicator to keep his hands busy. His eyes darted between the dwindling battery and Spock's still form, watching the rise and fall of his chest closely.

They would be found. The Enterprise would find them? She had to.

The trees had thinned to thick, chest-high bushes in vibrant greens and yellow that contrasted with the muted colors of the trees and golden leaves. The mountains were slowly but steadily getting closer, and the ground had started a noticeable incline.

Jim stared ahead at Spock as they continued to walk. Three hours of rest seemed to have taken the edge off but Jim wasn't fooled. Spock seemed to adopt Jim's restlessness and had been insistent on making it to the mountain tonight despite losing valuable daylight during their break. He ignored Jim's concern over his fever, insisting he felt better though the bags under his eyes and stiffness said otherwise.

Jim pushed his annoyance aside to focus on the narrowing path. The ground had turned into a combination of stones and mud, and Jim groaned as his boots sank into the damp soil. His legs ached from constantly working them free, and he knew Spock was faring no better.

"The ground has become oddly unstable considering how close we are to the mountains."

"No shit," Jim groused before he could stop himself. He didn't want to take his anger out on frustration out on Spock. "It also attracts insects!" He slapped at his face again.

"Indeed," Spock said drily, pausing to take a breath and Jim barely stopped himself from crashing into him. He kept shifting his feet in vain to keep from sinking too deep.

"What is this, fucking quicksand!?"

"Quicksand is composed of sand, clay and water and typically forms closer to water," Spock replied calmly even as he struggled to free himself. "We need to keep moving."

"Speaking of water…" Jim paused, straining to listen over the increasing wind. "We should have hit some by now."

Their supplies of water were nearly gone, dangerous and frankly stupid, Jim had to admit, but in all of the excitement of the day it had somehow been pushed aside.

"There is a body of water nearby. If we continue through the trees ahead of us…" Spock cleared his throat and Jim automatically moved to his side and cupped his elbow. Spock pulled away and gestured in front of him. "If we continue until we find stable ground we will be able to find another path to reach it."

"Let's keep going. We're nearly out of this, thank G—whoa!" Spock lurched to the side as he tried to wrench himself free of the mud, and Jim lunged forward to catch him. They overbalanced, falling from the path, they crashed through brush and slid down mud until finally landing in a stream.

"Well, we found water," Jim grumbled as he sat up, groaning in pain at the odd angle he'd landed and the heavy backpack digging into his spine.

"Indeed," Spock said drily. "Are you injured?"

After curling forward then arching his back to crack it, Jim shook his head. "No, but I might've heard something break in here." He glanced over his shoulder before watching as Spock stood up slowly and made his way closer.

"I should be asking you that question," he said pointedly as Spock wavered on his feet the slightly before offering his hand to a surprised Jim, who grasped it and let Spock pull him to his feet. He stumbled, nearly falling face first into Spock's chest when hands grasped his arms and held him steady. Jim blinked, looking up at Spock in confusion only to see the dark eyes darting over his face. When they lingered on his lips, Jim licked them absently. A faint blush colored Spock's cheeks, and he abruptly pulled away.

"Spock, what the hell is going on with you?" Jim splashed loudly through the shallow water before dropping unceremoniously onto a fallen log. He stared at the tense back as Spock busied himself in checking over their supplies for damage, getting lost in tracing the torn edges on what remained of his uniform tunic.

"Nothing is amiss, Captain, other than some of our supplies being sodden from our fall. Fortunately, there is no serious damage."

Growling under his breath, Jim hefted himself to his feet and strode over to Spock to stand in front of him. He watched as Spock replaced one of the dried food packs and attempted to wring out one of the blankets. He seemed single-mindedly focused on the task and Jim knelt down, reaching out to grasp his when the thin fabric began to tear.

"Hey!" he called sharply and Spock startled, his gaze snapped up to look at Jim. His face was even more flushed than before and the blanket dropped unnoticed to the forest floor. They stared at each other until Jim looked down to see Spock's hand trembling. On impulse, he adjusted his grip to curl his hand around the shaking limb and braced himself in anticipation of Spock pulling away. When that moment didn't come he wasn't sure what was more alarming, the lack of action or way the movement seemed to spread through the rest of his body.

He squeezed the shaking limb tighter. "Tell me what's wrong with you, for fuck's sake!" Jim snapped and Spock's face immediately closed off.

"This has gone on for long enough. I've been watching you all day and you're obviously getting worse instead of better."

Spock stared at Jim before lowering his gaze, shame coloring his features. "It is a private Vulcan matter that we do not discuss, even among our own."

"If it's affecting you this much, then I need to know what's going on. Spock, whatever it is, no matter how embarrassing or strange it might seem to me being a human, I'm your friend. At the very least you can trust me as your commanding officer to stay professional and keep anything you tell me confidential."

"It is not a question of my trust, of which you are already in possession," Spock whispered. "I am not being difficult out of spite; no Vulcan discusses what I am about to tell you. Very few off worlders know unless they are involved directly, though now things have changed somewhat…"

"Since the destruction of Vulcan," Jim finished and Spock clenched his fists.

"My condition should not have deteriorated so rapidly, but several factors including my injuries and not being able to meditate, have taken their toll. During this time, our controls are stripped from us. Though it only occurs every seven years for the male Vulcan, it brings shame upon us. The Time is a remnant of our violent past and the one thing that our perusal of logic did not manage to change."

Jim watched as Spock took in a deep breath to steady himself before letting his eyes finally meet his own. "It is called Pon Farr, the time of mating. Due to my hybrid physiology I believed I would be spared but that is apparently not the case." Jim straightened; a question on the edge of his tongue but deflated when he remembered his promise to just listen.

"I assume you are wondering why I did not contact my counterpart to inquire after this." At Jim's nod Spock's lips tightened in distaste. "Even if his wish to not reveal details of his timeline so that I may follow my own destiny were not relevant, speaking to him about this subject—"

"—would be pretty damned uncomfortable and embarrassing," Jim finished with a wave of his hand. "Completely understandable even without Pon Farr being secretive." Spock narrowed his eyes and Jim held up his hands in defense. "That came out wrong; trust me, I'm not trying to make light of this."

Jim cleared his throat. "So, if you've been feeling the effects of this for the past couple of days, some of the symptoms include aggressiveness and some loss of awareness?"

Spock nodded before focusing on his clasped hands again. "I could feel that I was out of balance a few hours before our kidnapping, but in light of recent events I pushed it aside to focus on our survival and how to escape. In the day since, I can already feel my control slipping from me and mental shields weakening." He glanced at Jim, who despite his previous questions was listening with an air of professionalism for which Spock appeared grateful.

"Vulcans are linked at the age of seven for this purpose, so their mate can serve them during pon farr. I was bonded before," and Spock paused when Jim's eyes widened. "T'Pring and I came to the mutual agreement to dissolve our link when I chose Starfleet as my career instead of the Vulcan Science Academy."

Jim wanted to interrupt again but bit his lip which earned him a raised eyebrow. "Were the link still intact, I would have requested leave to travel to New Vulcan. There we would have bonded."

Spock took a drink of water and Jim asked, "This is assuming that you were still with her and we weren't stranded on an unknown planet."

More questions flooded Jim's mind but he pushed them to the side for now. "What happens if a Vulcan doesn't find a mate?"

"If a mate is not found, the male descends into the blood fever, Plak Tow, and eventually will perish."

Jim's mouth dropped open and he shot to his feet. "Wait a minute; if you don't mate you'll die? How can you stay so calm? This is your life we're talking about!"

Jim closed his eyes and steeled himself before saying, "Okay, I'll do it."

Spock's lips parted and his eyes widened as he stared at Jim. He swallowed hard and shook his head sharply before stalking away from Jim.

"I will not do it. You have no idea what you are offering."

His voice was flat and booked no argument but Jim wouldn't back down so easily. "I've already lost enough people; I won't lose you too."

Spock rounded on Jim with a glare. "That statement proves you have no understanding of current events. I will not be used to soothe your misplaced guilt; the loss of members of our crew, Varla, even our kidnappers were not in any way your fault. The fact that you would seek to alleviate your guilt by sacrificing yourself is absurd."

"I'm not offering my head on a silver platter!" Jim grit out. "I know this is way out of line, but what other option do we have?" He turned, waving his arms in a wide sweeping gesture. "In case you haven't noticed we're alone on this planet and you just said you're dying. If having sex – mating – is going to save your life—"

"It is not simple copulation, Captain," Spock replied sharply. "If the male is betrothed to another they are drawn to that individual when the Time makes itself known. The link they shared is solidified into a full mental bond and is roughly equivalent to what humans call a marriage. The major difference, however, is that bond is, for all intents and purposes, unbreakable. Jim," Spock said urgently and Jim's breath caught in his throat. "The need to mentally bond with my partner is instinctual and the probability of me possessing the control to restrain from forging a link between us is very low, no matter our own desires."

Jim stared as Spock's words sank in. "But it can be broken?" He turned a hopeful gaze to Spock who shook his head before rising to his feet, clasping his hands firmly behind his back. "Don't other Vulcans divorce or has a bond ever formed that was unwanted?"

"Only when those have taken what they needed and formed a nonconsensual link. Divorce is unheard of among my people; a bond is not entered into lightly."

"Okay, all right, then what about the ones who are unbonded due to the loss of Vulcan?" Jim winced when Spock closed his eyes and lowered his head. "What choices will those Vulcans have?"

"A large part of our work to save our race was to form as many new betrothal links as possible. As I chose to stay with Starfleet and did not pursue another after T'Pring severed our bond, my options are limited."

Spock whirled around. "I am doing this to protect you. I will not use my captain, my friend to suit my own needs. There is a chance that the Enterprise will find us before my state becomes critical and lose I control."

Jim snorted. "If you really believe that, then you're bullshitting yourself, and we both know it. Even if we were found, by then there would be no solution. From our current position it would take days to get to New Vulcan and then however long to find someone for you! Then there's the other side of this: you'd bond with someone who you wouldn't even know or care for."

"'Care' is irrelevant, and in the extreme instance of Vulcan's destruction, not a high priority."

"You'd really want to bond yourself for the rest of your life to someone who doesn't care about you?" Jim whispered, and Spock's expression flickered briefly but he continued on.

"The act will not be a joyous and pleasurable encounter, Jim. The first Time is known to be the most violent and will be exacerbated by both of us being male. It takes longer for the body to recognize that there is no chance for conception." Spock rose abruptly to his feet, dislodging the hand Jim had placed on his shoulder. "I will not destroy the most important relationship in my life just save myself."

Though warmth flared in Jim's chest at Spock declaration he still pushed forward. "And I won't let myself stand by and watch someone I care for die when I know that I can help." He rose to his feet again and took a step closer to Spock, pausing before reaching out and gripping Spock's forearms firmly.

"Let me help you, Spock. If anything, no matter what condition you end up in, too emotional or illogical, I'm the only one who will be around to witness it. I can't let my first officer who is also my friend," he emphasized by lightly shaking Spock, "die just because he's ashamed of something that's outside of his control."

Spock gazed silently at Jim, taking in the determined set of his jaw and bright eyes. "Though it is illogical to have a preference, I would almost prefer someone else to witness this instead of you, if only to leave your impression of me untarnished."

"Spock, we can tell logic to go fuck itself at this point, because this situation is as far from logical as it can possibly get."

Eyes widened then blazing in anger, Spock pushed a surprised Jim away. "The fact that you can find humor in this shows that you have no idea what you are trying to offer."

Jim regained his footing and watched as Spock calmed by degrees, something akin to horror spreading across his face as he realized what he had just done. "Jim…" he whispered but a raised hand stalled his apology.

"It's me who should be sorry; humans have the lovely habit of using humor as a defense mechanism, and mine tends to be more inappropriate than most. There is absolutely nothing funny about this. If anything, I'm pissed off that you and other Vulcans have to go through Pon Farr at all. How much sense does it make for males to become so caught up in a mating drive that if they don't have sex it leads to insanity and death?"

In response Spock shook his head. "There is no excuse." He pulled his phaser from his belt and held it out to Jim, his features tight and drawn.

"I have already hurt you, and what will come will be worse," he stated and Jim bit his lip at the raw pain in Spock's eyes. He looked down at the proffered weapon until what Spock implied finally dawned on him. He backed away, waving his hands out in front of him.

"Spock," Jim spoke slowly and carefully. "First of all, I said something stupid which I know tests you on a good day. Second, am I correct in assuming that knocking you out won't stop the procession of the Plak Tow?" A wry smile crossed Jim's face at Spock's slight nod.

"I'm sure that every Vulcan experiences Pon Farr differently; we can't assume the worst. No matter what, I wouldn't shoot you!" Jim insisted. "Some awkwardness and, er, discomfort might linger; that's unavoidable if what you're saying is true."

Jim took the phaser but set it down. "But our relationship is strong enough that we can get through it."

"It is not only the physical aspect that causes concern but psychological. The male completely dominates their partner, for days on end," he said in a low voice. Jim was grateful Spock was turned away so he missed the shudder that passed through him at those words. "We will both be exhausted but you more so."

"Spock. Honestly? You're not doing so well on making this sound unappealing. Days of endless sex?" Jim shot Spock his best shit-eating grin, and Spock's eyes darted to the side in what Jim knew to be his version of an eyeroll before he fixed Jim with a searching look.

"Jim, have you…" Spock looked away and Jim watched in fascination as he actually blushed and seemed to fidget. "Have you participated in sexual acts with a male?"

Jim shrugged. "I've never bottomed, er, received if that's what you're asking. Not something I like to do, if we're being honest here there's no one I'd trust enough," he admitted as he gave Spock a pointed look.

Spock clenched his jaw but nodded sharply. "In the throes of the fever, I will not be myself. I fear causing you harm, and now, with this information I am even more reluctant to engage in this act with you."

"No, no, no, Mr. Spock. Don't use my lack of experience to get out of this. I said I'll help you. I can handle it." Jim planted his hands firmly on his hips.

"It is not a question of you 'handling it', Jim. We do not have proper supplies for me to treat injuries you will sustain."

At that Jim winced, knowing how much preparation and patience was needed and at the flash of fear that went through him when Spock said 'will' instead of 'may'. "We've got the regenerator and other supplies in the kit. I could prep myself."

Jim found himself wanting to keep a tally of how many times he'd made Spock blush. "How about you; ever been with a guy? Hell, do Vulcans have sex outside of marriage at all?"

Spock gave him a half-hearted glare at the invasive question before he could stop himself. "I have had other partners; T'Pring and I…experimented for lack of a better term, there was a fellow classmate – a –male during my time as a student at the Academy, and you know I once had a relationship with Lieutenant Uhura."

"Would you have gone to her if you couldn't find anyone else on New Vulcan?" Jim had to ask.

"I would not have. Many factors went into the demise of our relationship, and Pon Farr was one of them. Also, we were not mentally compatible. That is a crucial part of a healthy relationship for a Vulcan."

Jim leaned forward in interest. "How are minds compatible? How can you even tell?"

"Jim." Spock held up a shaky hand to stall Jim's questions. "Could we continue this conversation at a later time? Not only are we losing valuable traveling time but, I must to process this."

"Of course," Jim said softly, reaching out to clasp Spock's arms. "Thank you."

Spock gave a quick glance at Jim's hand, cocking his head in confusion. "For what?"

Jim smiled. "For trusting me. None of this is easy for you, with or without being attacked by giant reptiles or rolling around in the mud." He let his hands slide down Spock's arms until the elbows and backed away, clearing his throat.

He chanced a glance back at Spock, whose pupils were dilated as he watched Jim closely. He blinked and his expression cleared, busying himself with walking around Jim to the stream behind him, kneeling down to take readings with the tricorder.

"The water is safe to consume, and these are the same fruits I collected earlier," Spock said while beginning to fill his bottle.

Jim looked down at his mud-splattered clothes in distaste. "I've got mud in places mud should never go," he said and began to peel off his tattered shirt. "While we're here might as well take a quick dip and wash our clothes while we're at it."

"Traveling in damp clothing is not wise," Spock hesitated and desire curled in Jim's belly as dark eyes trailed over his exposed torso longer than necessary.

"I'll risk it for now," Jim said as he rifled through his bag for soap. "I'm covered in sweat, egg, blood – most of which isn't my own by the way – mud and plant goop. Let's not forget bug guts."

The corners of Spock's mouth turned up in a tiny smile, and Jim couldn't help but laugh.

"It's still hot hell out here; the clothes will dry sooner than you think." Jim made a face as he rubbed a hand over his stubble before he turned and looked thoughtfully at Spock who sported a rather attractive five-o-clock shadow.

"You'd look dashing with a beard, Mr. Spock," he said with a waggle of his eyebrows and Spock actually gave the statement thought.

"It is rare for a Vulcan to possess facial hair," Spock replied.

"Please don't say something about it somehow being illogical. Anyway, for some reason I think a goatee would suit you," Jim stated and Spock's eyebrow climbed even higher before he turned back to his own bag. He shrugged out of his torn undershirt, and Jim felt a flicker of guilt as he let his eyes follow the trail of hair that disappeared into his trousers.

'We'll be seeing a lot more of each other soon enough,' he thought while moving to a secluded area as he pulled off the rest of his clothes. He scrubbed the mud away the best he could, trying in vain to keep his arousal in check.

It didn't take long after they continued on their trek before Jim ordered that they had to stop for the day. Spock refused to admit he was tired but knew using energy he didn't really have was illogical.

Jim carried more wood to the fire they had created at the center of their small camp. He placed two logs into the fire and poked them absently with a long branch as he sat down across from Spock. He took in the tense posture and the way he rested his forehead on his clasped hands. Even with both of the spare blankets covering him and huddling as close to the fire as he could, he still shivered. The bowl of nuts and berries they had found earlier in the day stood untouched on the ground beside him.

Popping a few of his own berries into his mouth, Jim sighed. He glanced around the clearing warily, still not used to the odd noises echoing around the forest. Cool air rustled through the leaves and a series of low clicks sounded somewhere off to the northeast. A shrill bird-like call rang from a tree above them and Jim shifted closer to the fire. He brought the branch leaning against his log closer, squeezing it tighter when the flutter of wings sounded above and another call echoed through the trees.

A particularly harsh gale of wind nearly threatened to put out the fire, and Spock clutched the edge of one blanket closer but the wind pulled it from his weak grip. Soon after, drops of rain began to fall. and Jim grumbled as a large one plopped right into his eye.

"It's going to storm," he called out over a rumble of thunder. He stood to his feet and began to shove the few items he'd taken from his pack. Spock stared at him for a moment before pushing himself slowly from the log, knocking over the bowl of food in his wake.

Jim watched him out of the corner of his eye as Spock shrugged the other blanket from his shoulders and rolled them both up. "We should make it to shelter before it starts," Jim said as he scanned the cloud-filled sky.

A loud crack of thunder set the birds above their heads into a frenzy, and Jim clapped his hands to his ears as they shrieked before dipping from the trees and seeking their own shelter.

"Shit!" He ducked as one swept down low enough to catch him with its sharp talons.

Lightning lit the sky and a burst of heat too close for comfort followed. They both stared in horror as a tree at the edge of the clearing caught fire, the lightning splintering the trunk. It creaked ominously and Jim found himself being shoved hard to the side as it fell with a horrible crash. Branches and leaves were crushed under the tree's weight, and then wind blew the flames to the surrounding brush and foliage.

"Run!" Jim yelled, grabbing Spock's hand and, ignoring his pained gasp, hauled him to his feet. They took off at a dead run in the direction of the mountains.

The high winds spread the flame quickly as they dodged falling branches on their rush towards the river. Thunder shook the ground beneath them before a heavy rain began to fall, stifling the worst of the flames.

The hairs on the back of Jim's neck were raised and his stomach clenched. Spock came to a sudden stop behind him. Jim slowly turned, barely making out the sight of Spock's bag slip from his shoulder because of the rain running into his eyes, but he could feel the dark eyes burrowing into him.

The growl of his name could barely be heard over the thunder, and Jim took an involuntary step back, nearly tripping over a fallen tree in his haste. He steadied himself as Spock took two steps forward and closed his eyes, a pained expression passing over his face.

"Jim," he uttered again. "My controls are slipping." He took another step forward, and Jim bit his lip to stop the shallow breaths that seemed so loud in the space between them. "I can hold back no longer." Jim's eyes widened until thunder shook the earth and jolted him back to reality.

"Okay, Spock. Okay." Jim stepped around Spock and hefted his back onto his shoulders. "We only have a bit more to walk until we're to that crack in the mountains over there." Jim gestured to them grabbed Spock's arm as he began to walk towards them. "Not even a kilometer away—"

Jim yelped as Spock jerked his arm and he crashed into the hard body, nearly knocking both of them to the ground. Using the momentum, Spock swung them both around, trapping Jim against a tree and holding him firmly. He moaned as Spock's cock dug into his hip, and he felt stirrings of desire even at the rough contact. He hissed as Spock ground into him, making the jagged bark dig into his back and tear into the already worn fabric of his shirt. Jim scrabbled to get a firm enough grip to push Spock away but Spock grabbed his hand and pinned it above his head.

"I cannot," Spock shook his head back and forth even as he continued to rub himself against Jim. Jim bit his lip as Spock lowered his head to his neck and worried the exposed skin. Despite himself, he lifted his head and blinked against the torrents of rain still falling, wincing as the teeth dug in deep enough to bruise.

Jim brought up his free hand, tangled his fingers in Spock's hair and pulled hard. A loud cry of pain left Spock's throat but it did the trick; he let go of his trapped hand, and his grip weakened just enough for Jim to shove him away. Spock stumbled, and Jim grabbed both of their bags and took off in the direction of the mountains. He ignored the branches that struck his face and tore at his clothing as he fought his way through the thick underbrush. He tripped and nearly fell over yet another fallen branch, crying out as the palms of his hands were skinned against the ground. The sound of Spock crashing through the brush behind him grew closer, and Jim pushed past the burn in his legs to run faster.

"Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!" Jim scrambled to his feet and nearly cheered when he broke from the forest. "Almost there!" he yelled over his shoulder and let himself collapse to his knees, panting as he leaned his head against the cool, smooth stone. A moment later Spock slumped to the ground next to him, nearly as exhausted. Jim shifted and watched him silently, eyes tracing stray drops of rainwater as they made their way down his face. Lighting lit up the sky and brought the still dark bruises on Spock's face into clear relief and the dark eyes were lit almost eerily by the glow.

"I'm sorry that I pulled your hair like that," Jim gasped, still trying to catch his breath. When Spock didn't reply Jim moved to rest his back against the wall of rock, grateful for the overhang that protected them from the worst of the rain.

"It managed to 'pull' my attention to the task at hand, so I accept your apology," Spock said and Jim huffed a laugh that dissolved into slightly manic giggles. Even when he started to hiccup and Spock raised an eyebrow at him as if to enquire after his sanity, Jim felt so relived he could cry. He folded his arms over his raised knees and rested his head atop them, shivering when a gust of wind blew over the two of them.

"It would be wise to actually enter the cave," Spock pointed out wryly and Jim groaned, forcing sore muscles to work and slowly got to his feet. Spock grabbed him when he leaned to the side, and he jumped when the too-hot hands steadied him and steered him firmly into the cave.

'The Fever,' Jim's mind supplied as he reached for their bags. Jim fumbled with the blankets that somehow become twisted and bunched together in their haste to run to safety. He yanked them out, utensils and canteen clattering loudly, making him jump. Jim stood up and shook the blankets out; eyes darting over to Spock who was shrugging out of his soaked clothing. Jim paused, unable to look away as more pale skin was removed; his mouth going dry. Spock was still trembling slightly and flushed from his face down to his chest. His dark eyes darted to meet Jim's and they stared at each other

After laying out the blankets, Jim searched the bag for something – anything –that could serve as lube. The small med kit didn't have anything to use, and Jim groaned at the thought of being fucked without any preparation.

'Spock said he wouldn't be in his right mind and dammit, there's nothing here we can use,'Jim thought angrily, shoving the bag aside and scrubbing his hands over his face. At the sound of more clothing dropping to the floor behind him, he glanced back at Spock again, who was only clothed in his underwear.

"Jim," his voice was barely more than a growl as he took in Jim's still-clothed body. "I can only wait for so long," Spock said apologetically and Jim shivered before standing to his feet and beginning to undress.

He quickly shrugged out of his jacket, taking a moment to bemoan its ragged state before tossing it aside. Jim unbuttoned the remaining buttons on his shirt before letting it slide from his shoulders and then pulling the shirt under it over his head. A low moan sounded behind him as he began to work on his jeans, and Jim nearly stumbled as Spock was suddenly behind him, fever-hot skin pressed against his back and hands grasping his hips.

"S-Spock, you're burning up!" Jim gasped, jerking when those hands began to wander over his stomach, frantic and possessive. They dipped to his waist and finished unzipping the fly before pushing both them and his briefs down.

Despite himself, Jim bit his lip at how bold Spock was being. He admitted to occasionally fantasizing about himself and Spock together. Even with the threat of rough, possibly violent sex he could feel himself harden, cock twitching as it met the cool air.

At the last moment, Jim reached down and grabbed his clothing with one hand and reached behind him to push Spock away with the other. It was like trying to shove at a wall and was just as effective.

"Dammit, let me go," he snapped before taking in a calming breath and closing his eyes. In a gentler tone he tried again, "Just let me go so I can prepare myself. Just wait a moment longer."

In response, Spock slumped into Jim who nearly staggered at the weight, throwing out an arm to brace them on the wall. An arm encircled Jim's waist, and Spock's face buried into the back of his neck.

"I apologize," Spock mumbled into Jim's skin, making him tremble as breath ghosted over his skin. This close, Jim could feel Spock pressed firmly against his ass and willed himself not to move closer.

"Possessiveness is one of the symptoms," and something in Jim twisted at the shame bleeding into Spock's voice. He placed a hand over Spock's and squeezed.

"We'll get through this," Jim said with more confidence that he had, hoping that Spock would at least pick up on his support through their contact. "I'm here and willing and things between us won't change after it's all said and done."

Instead of being reassured, Spock pulled away from Jim as if burned, making him turn in surprise and confusion. Spock's back was to him, and his entire posture screamed frustration and restraint. Jim's eyes darted from his clenched hands to his ass and back again.

"Please hurry," Spock whispered and Jim nodded even though Spock couldn't see. Finishing what Spock had started, he pushed his trousers down and stepped out of them. He kicked them aside then looked down at the blankets, wondering what position would be best and most comfortable. Jim knelt on feeling the uneven ground beneath him and shifted so he was on his hands and knees. He let his head drop and steadied himself by holding his breath then letting it out slowly through his nose.

Jim folded the remaining blanket and shoved it under his hips before lying down in a pose of complete submission. When nothing happened he cautiously turned and looked back at Spock.

Spock has turned and was eyeing him with dark eyes filled with hunger, lips parted and chest rising rapidly with each breath. Jim let his eyes travel slowly down his body until he came to his groin and barely stifled a gasp.

'He's fucking huge,' Jim thought, somehow caught between being impressed and horrified. His cock was flushed a deep olive green and glistening in the faint light with fluid which he marveled over, until Spock strode towards him and knelt just shy of touching him.

"Vulcan males produce their own lubrication," Spock explained at Jim's questioning look, his hands shaking as they reached out to grasp Jim's hips.

"Ok, self-lubing dicks, very efficient," Jim blurted, wanting to kick himself, but to his amazement a puff of laughter he knew was a subtle laugh from Spock ghosted against his back.

Slick sounds of Spock stroking himself and Jim's loud breathing were the only sounds between them over the distant rumble of thunder from outside the cave. Jim willed himself to relax but jumped when slick fingers moved to part his cheeks and then probe at his hole. Jim winced at Spock's grip on his hip as he tried to hold himself back. While Jim appreciated Spock's attempts to restrain himself, he wished that they could just get it on with. He gasped when one finger slid inside, moving frantically to open him and a groan stuttered behind him.

'He's getting off on fingering me,' Jim shuddered as he remembered how sensitive Vulcan fingers were as Spock pushed another inside of him. They probed deeper, spreading him wider, and Jim winced at their abrupt movements. Spock's breath was hot against his back, and the heat grew as he shifted closer to Jim.

"Remember," he grated as he shifted into position, cock brushing against Jim's ass as he leaned forward to brace his hands around Jim on the ground. "I will attempt to meld with you, but you must stop me." Jim nodded, and there was no warning before the blunt head pushed inside the tight ring of muscle.

No amount of preparation could have prepared Jim for the sheer size of Spock, and his loud cry of pain nearly drowned out Spock's groan as he continued to push inside. Spock began a desperate rhythm, punctuated by his pained moans and Jim's stifled whimpers. Nerves and pain had completely erased his earlier arousal, and Jim's arms began to shake with the effort of holding himself upright as Spock pounded into him harder. Sweat dripped from his forehead to pool on the blanket below and he clenched his eyes shut.

Finally Spock threw his head back with a cry, flooding Jim's ass with fluid before slumping forward in exhaustion, and they both collapsed to the ground. Jim struggled to breathe and turned his head to the side, still in shock as he drew ragged breaths.

In his pained haze he didn't notice Spock was still hard until his cock twitched inside him, making his eyes widen in pain and surprise. Spock panted against his neck then pulled back, stroking Jim's back in apology '…it could last as long as four days,' repeated in Jim's head like a mantra as Spock gathered him close again.

Only twice did Spock's hands stray to Jim's head and each time Jim grabbed them and redirected them to another part of his body: his waist, his sides. He moaned as Spock came inside of him again, a harsh breath expelling itself against Jim's sweaty back before he pulled away. Jim turned in time to see as Spock dropped to his side and rolled so he was facing the wall. Shuddering, Jim raised himself up onto his elbows and watched as Spock began to tremble and the sound of teeth chattering filled the small space.

"Spock," Jim's voice broke, hoarse from overuse. Spock didn't reply, and Jim slowly and carefully moved to his knees and crawled closer. He placed his hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently and tried to roll Spock onto his back. When Spock continued to be unresponsive he began to worry; there hadn't been such a severe shift in his moods in more than a day, and Jim had never seen him in such a state until now.

"Come on," Jim said softly, rocking Spock back and forth. He squeezed his shoulder again before somehow finding the energy to shuffle over to their bags, pulling out a water bottle and taking a long swig. He moved back to the remains of his clothing and ripped a piece away before pouring some of the water on it. He wrung it out, and then crawled over back to Spock, stretching out on his side behind him. Jim reached around and pulled him against his body, ignoring the way Spock tensed and tried to pull away. Jim slowly ran the cool rag along the side of Spock's face and after a beat Spock rolled over onto his back, eyes shut tightly. He let Jim wipe the sweat away from his flushed skin and down his neck to his chest. Spock took in a ragged breath and let his arm fall over his eyes to shield himself.

Jim finished his task and tossed the cloth away from him, turning to face Spock when he began to shake again. Spock's mouth was twisted with self-loathing, and he jerked away when Jim tried to stop him from turning from him again.

"Why do you show me such kindness when I have hurt you thus?" Spock asked, his words echoing in the cavern. Jim shook out the remaining blanket and wrapped it around Spock carefully before lying down on his side facing him.

"How can I do anything but?" Jim whispered, clearing his throat and reaching for the water again. "I promised to be here for you, and I meant that."

Spock stayed silent but still shivered and Jim shuffled closer if only to share body heat. He didn't encroach on the Spock's space knowing it would be unwelcome. They both drifted into an uneasy sleep.

Jim was eternally grateful they still had most of their medical supplies, especially the dermal regenerator. Jim had woken up to Spock using it on him and had freaked out before a surprisingly calm voice had explained what was happening. Embarrassment flooded him at the thought of the instrument being used on such a private place, and he'd tried to cover it up by pushing Spock away and saying they needed to save the power in case of other injuries down the line. Spock's grip had tightened where his hand rested on one hip, but he had remained focused on his task until it was done.

The regenerator healed abrasions but also tightened up Jim's muscles again. He'd almost broken down and tried to prepare himself, still not used to Spock taking up the task. Spock had been very thorough after that and Jim knew he'd picked up his frustration through touch again.

During the increasing moments of lucidity, Spock had been surprisingly attentive to Jim, making sure he had enough water and taking care to wipe him down afterwards. Jim had thought Spock would shy away from touching him at all outside of what was needed but suspected it was Spock's way of dealing with the guilt he wouldn't admit to feeling.

Jim was mused from his thoughts and barely held back a tired sigh when Spock pulled him close again. As he was rolled over to lie on his stomach, he wished they could try another position. His abdomen and sides were sore from lying on them so many times.

To Jim's surprise, Spock stilled before helping him so he was resting on his knees before crouching close behind him. When Spock pressed his body flush against Jim's he wrapped an arm around his front, fingers trailing over his stomach, making Jim shiver.

"You forget I receive impressions of your thoughts through touch," he said against Jim's ear, chin resting on his shoulder as his hand wandered back up to tease a nipple. Jim leaned back into Spock as fingers and thumb rolled the nub until it hardened.

When the hand wandered down to encircle his hard cock, Jim bit his lip, letting out a whimper when it left soon after to grip his hip. Somewhere in the midst of the fever, Spock had slowly progressed from only taking release in Jim's body to being aware of his pleasure as well.

Part of Jim almost hated it, wishing for the impersonal fucking from before because it was safe. The pain was a distraction from his feelings that Spock somehow hadn't picked up on through their near-constant contact.

Jim lost his train of thought as slick fingers delved between his cheeks again and circled the hole before pushing inside. He whimpered as he was stretched, involuntarily pushing back on them when they curled slightly. Spock's grip tightened before he positioned himself and entered Jim again. He gave Jim time to adjust before he picked up a slow rhythm that increased when Jim moaned in response.

"Yessss," Jim hissed as Spock took him even harder, impending release apparent in the tightening grip of Spock's arm around his torso.

Jim worked himself hard and fast in time with Spock's thrusts and with one last swipe of his thumb over the head, a hoarse cry was wrenched from his throat as his orgasm tore out of him. At the same time, Spock bit down on the space between his neck and shoulder as he came with a hoarse cry.

Exhausted and trying to ignore the thrill that Spock biting him has caused, Jim let his head fall back on Spock's shoulder. He stared unseeingly at the cave's ceiling, chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath. Spock's breath was hot against his neck, and he jerked before pulling out of him. Jim barely held back a whimper as Spock's hands gently bore him down to the rumpled blankets.

"I hurt you," Spock's voice was flat as he surveyed the bruise he'd left on Jim's neck. Jim shook his head, a flash of heat going through him as the movement made his neck ache.

"N-no, don't worry about it," he stuttered, eyelashes fluttering as Spock drew close enough that their breath mingled as his fingers trailed over the marks. Jim's eyes roved over his face, ignoring the tight expression for the color rapidly spreading over Spock's cheeks as he drew his hand away. Jim drew in a deep breath to steady himself before speaking again. "It's fine."

Spock gaze darted back to him, taking in his own flushed face and dilated pupils silently before moving away. "The definition of 'fine' contains too many variables, and the fact still remains that I caused you even more injury."

Jim stilled Spock with a hand when he tried to rifle though his bag for their remaining medical supplies. "You didn't break the skin, and it barely hurts so don't worry about it," he insisted, wanting to kick himself.

'Could I make it any more obvious that Spock marking me is a huge turn on?' Jim raked his fingers through his sweaty hair before settling on his side facing Spock.

"The last time was over, er, quicker," Jim mused then attempted an apologetic smile when Spock frowned. He took in a breath and continued, "and you didn't hurt me. Seriously," he said when Spock drew in a deep breath. "Do you think it's ending?"

"Yes, the desire is still there but, I can feel the fever itself begin to wane." Spock was sitting quietly and almost looked relaxed as he looked out of their makeshift shelter. A breeze filtered in, ruffling the mused hair, and Jim shifted to follow his gaze, noting the position of the sun that would indicate that it was nearly evening on the planet. He still couldn't believe that they had been trapped here for four days, in the cave for nearly three and hadn't been found. Jim looked at his bag where both their communicators were stored and hoped that at one of them still had enough power to receive a signal.

He glanced back over at Spock who had shifted so his weight was resting on his hands that were propped behind him. Jim's eyes darted down to Spock's lap, noting his groin was no longer swollen or flushed the angry green it was at the beginning. When Spock shifted Jim looked up to find that he was watching him, expression unreadable. Jim felt his face heat and he rolled over gingerly onto his back to avoid Spock's gaze, pillowing his head on his folded arms. He bit the inside of his cheek to stifle a groan when his sore ass rested against the floor, wishing for the umpteenth time for even an air mattress between him and the hard, stone ground.

He had almost drifted to sleep when a hand cupped the side of his neck, fingers ghosting over the bite marks there before moving to his shoulder and down his arm. Jim blinked against the bright sunlight that filtered into their cave before his eyes focused enough to see. Spock was leaning over him, expression woeful as he cataloged each bruise, scrape and mark that blemished Jim's skin. Unlike most of Spock's handling over the past few days, this touch was gentle and exploratory. Jim sighed as two fingers swirled around his tender nipples before moving further down.

Spock reached out to Jim and gently gripped his hips, trying to be mindful of the deep bruises that marred the smooth skin. He pulled Jim closer and coaxed him to wrap his legs around his waist. Spock must have sensed his confusion, because he lightly stroke his hands down Jim's thighs, and Jim calmed.

Jim shuddered as Spock tilted his hips up further, the sensations in his ass intensifying as Spock struck his prostate at a new angle. The swelling had gone down so the entry wasn't as painful, and Jim wasn't stretched to the limit as he had been before. The blankets pulled under him as Jim gripped them tightly, and Spock kept up his oddly gentle pace. Jim's head fell back with a soft thud to the floor with a moan.

His hand wrapped around his half-hard cock as he stared transfixed at Spock's face, his hair askew, lower lip caught between his teeth, and eyes clenched shut as he took Jim with long and hard strokes. The entire image was enhanced by the sunlight outlining Spock's body, and a loud moan escaped Jim's throat. Spock's eyes snapped open, and Jim's grip on himself loosened in embarrassment at being caught, but it quickly faded as Spock's hand took up the task instead.

All earlier fatigue was a distant memory as Spock dragged more wrecked sounds from Jim, and he wondered if he'd caught Spock's fever as fire danced under his skin. Everything was narrowed down to the two of them, and Jim caught himself foolishly wishing it would never end.

Spock tilted forward until they were chest to chest; resting his weight on his arm as he continued to thrust into Jim. When his hand threatened to move towards Jim's face again, Jim captured it with his own and tangled their fingers together, gripping them tight. The action pulled a hoarse moan out of him, and Jim cupped the back of Spock's head and brought him down to press their foreheads together, their harsh breaths brushing against each other's lips. They were so close, Jim mused, that if he leaned up a bit more they would be kissing. He quickly shoved that thought aside as he arched further into Spock.

Finally, he erupted over Spock's hand, a broken cry wrenched from his lips. Spock milked him until the pulses stopped, and Jim slumped back fully to the ground below. Completely spent, Jim watched Spock with half-lidded eyes and whimpered as Spock pulled his hand from his to grab his hips again. He thrust three, four more times until he came, groaning loudly as he buried his face in Jim's neck.

They rested there, harsh breaths echoing in the otherwise silent cave. Weakly, Jim lifted his hand, the one Spock had clutched so tightly, and threaded his fingers through Spock's slightly damp hair. His other hand pressed against Spock's side over his heart. Spock trembled and pulled away just enough to pull out of Jim as gently as he could. After a moment, he wrapped his arms around Jim and reached back to cradle the back of his head, pressing their foreheads together again.

"It is over," Spock whispered against Jim's sweaty forehead, brushing the hair from his face before pulling away and slumping onto his back just out arms' reach. Jim fought to catch his breath, heart still pounding in his chest. His eyes popped back open when a cool, wet cloth gently but thoroughly wiped him down. Spock turned away and grabbed the container of water and moved to Jim's side, gently helping him to sit up, securing him with an arm secured around his waist. Jim smiled at Spock's gentleness as he was held against a strong chest, Spock returning the earlier favor and took in deep gulps of water, his hunger and thirst slowly coming back to him.

After having a drink, Jim slumped against Spock, gasping and closing his eyes. They sat there like that, and Jim couldn't help wishing that he could stay there forever. Spock squeezed Jim gently once more before laying him back down on the blanket and grabbing the other to cover him. He wrapped Jim thoroughly and for the first time Jim noticed Spock was shivering from both exhaustion and cold.

As Spock moved to settle on the edge of the blanket, Jim shuffled closer and placed a hand against his shoulder.

"It's freezing in here," Jim murmured and moved to untuck the blanket and roll partially off of the one beneath them. "Stop trying to punish yourself and come closer."

Spock shuffled closer, either seeing the logic of the Jim's suggestion or just too tired to care. Together, they situated the blankets until they were comfortable. Thoughts of what would happen now that Pon Farr was over and where it would leave their relationship tried to clamor to the surface, but Jim was too exhausted to give them much attention. He gazed silently at Spock who was watching him just as intently in the dark until Jim gave him a tired smile and let his eyes drift shut.

Before falling asleep, soft but grateful Vulcan words skated over his skin and two fingers ghosted over his temple, easing Jim into a deep and restful slumber.

The warmth of sunlight on his face slow brought Jim to awareness. Various aches and pains clamored for his attention, but he pushed them away the best he could. He blinked against the sunlight and noticed that Spock wasn't lying next to him anymore. A wave of panic washed over Jim before he noticed shuffling and the sound of a zipper being opened behind him. Both blankets were wrapped securely around him and Jim could just imagine Spock taking care to not wake him while bundling him up.

Letting out a soft chuckle, Jim carefully rolled over onto his side to face Spock and pillowed his head on his outstretched arm that he'd managed to free.

Jim poked his head out of his blanket cocoon just in time to see Spock pull his torn trousers over his hips, blushing as his eyes lingered on the finger-shaped olive bruises only partially concealed by the waistband. He let his eyes steal over Spock, heat flashing through him as he cataloged each mark he'd left on the other's body. He watched as Spock took in gulps of water from both canteens then splashed his face with the remainder before catching his gaze.

"Good morning, Jim," he said softly and Jim smiled gratefully as a canteen was handed to him. He let out a satisfied hum before holding it out for Spock to take again.

"G'morning," he mumbled in reply.

"We are nearly out of water," Spock noted before standing shakily to his feet with both canteens cradled in his arms.

"The river isn't too far," Jim murmured, sighing at how hoarse his voice sounded.

"Affirmative, but I am somewhat reluctant to leave you alone," he admitted, and Jim blinked in surprise before the realization that Spock's feelings of possessiveness still lingered swept over him. He barely suppressed a shudder and caught the intense look Spock sent his way.

"If there were anything in this cave that wanted to take a bite out of us, it would have pulled something by now. Besides, if you're like me, I bet you're starving," and as if to emphasize his point, Jim's stomach growled loudly. He chuckled, a crooked grin spreading across his face. When he looked back at Spock again, he was regarding Jim with a warm expression that made his face heat.

"As my body is returning to normal my, biological needs are reinstating themselves," Spock nodded then looked down at the plastic bags holding their food. "It seems that the berries we collected were crushed in our haste to find shelter," he mused as he lifted them up to inspect them.

Jim's nose crinkled, and he shuffled until he was buried in the blankets again. "Smells like they spoiled too."

Spock watched him for a moment longer before grabbing the water containers and moving to the mouth of the cave. "I estimate that it should take only sixteen point seven minutes to return with food and water for both of us. Also," and he paused, a hint of a smile on his lips, "we have been planet side for five days, nineteen hours, forty-six minutes and it is 1907 ship's time."

"Your time sense is back," Jim realized and Spock nodded, relief plain on his face.

"It is a welcome occurrence," Spock replied, lingering at the edge of the cave and Jim wondered if he was still reluctant to leave him. His eyes widened when he realized that he was probably stalling for time as well then shook himself to try to clear his head, moaning when the movement brought the various aches and pains in his body to clamor for his attention again.

The canteens clattered as Spock placed them on the ground and stepped closer to Jim, kneeling next to him and placing a wonderfully cool hand on his forehead. "Jim," he said, tone betraying his worry.

"I'm fine, Spock. I just…"

'…feel like utter shit' he finished in his head before clenching his eyes shut and making a face. He noticed that the light touch to his brow seemed to lessen the ache in his head. Spock's eyes shuttered, and Jim knew he probably picked up on that particular thought. "Er, I was just thinking it would be nice to get out of here; you know, a change of scenery. A chance to take a dip in the river and get clean."

Jim knew Spock saw through his excuse but instead gingerly helped him to sit up. A low groan escaped his lips when his weight settled on his ass, the blankets still barely protecting him from the hard stone beneath. Jim ignored the apologetic look Spock shot him as they worked to get him to his feet, and Jim flushed angrily when Spock gripped his waist when he lurched to the side.

They stood still as Jim stretched his sore muscles with a wince, his own arm gripping Spock's back tightly. One blanket dropped from Jim's body, and he snatched a dangling corner of the second just before it could fall as well. He berated himself for being so anxious about Spock seeing him naked; it certainly hadn't been the first time, even before now. Jim awkwardly tried to tuck the fabric around him and smiled slightly when Spock joined the nearly futile task.

"This is ridiculous," Jim chuckled before casting a glance towards his clothes which he noted with amusement Spock had folded into a neat pile. Spock followed his line of sight but when he made to grab the clothing, Jim shook his head.

"Too rough," he offered as an explanation before pulling his blanket closer. Spock nodded before placing them in their bag for now. Jim hissed in frustration as he stumbled and leaned on Spock heavily to stay on his feet.

"Why am I so tired?" he complained. He nodded towards the sunlight. "Obviously I slept for nearly a day judging by the sun's placement."

Jim's eyes widened as Spock moved to lift him, and he let out an undignified squeak. "No, no, nooo Spock, you don't need to carry me!" he protested.

"Jim," Spock said firmly and Jim shivered at the tone. "As I said before, any small way I can express my gratitude for you assisting me through my Time, please accept it. I am the reason that you are in this state."

Jim's eyes darted between Spock's, trying and failing to stare him down. "Don't make me make that an order, Mr. Spock," he adopted his best command voice despite his throat still feeling sore.

The corner of Spock's mouth twitched upwards and Jim relaxed. "May I remind you that it is a First Officer's duty is to see to the needs of his captain and assist him in any way he can?"

After he hefted one of their bags onto his back, Spock turned to Jim expectantly. Jim grumbled under his breath but moved into Spock's arms; reaching over Spock's shoulders and holding on as Spock lifted him.

"For fuck's sake, please don't ever tell Bones about this," Jim grouched as Spock turned and they slowly made their descent to level ground. Over rougher patches of rocks, Spock held Jim closer but otherwise his normal graceful gait had returned. As Jim leaned in closer he took advantage of Spock's cooler body temperature as well.

"Even if I wished to blackmail you, Captain, I would be on the receiving end of his teasing as well," Spock pointed out.

"Are those hot springs?" Jim craned his head over Spock's shoulder and practically bounced in glee. "Please tell me we're going to them."

He turned back just in time to see Spock's lip twitch in amusement. "After refilling our canteens we may return."

The storm had done a lot of damage. The worst of the fires had been doused by the torrents of rain, but many branches and even fallen trees slowed their progress. Jim felt even guiltier at being so weak that Spock had to carry him but resigned himself to the attention for now, if only to appease Spock's own feelings of remorse.

They both took long drinks from the river and took a moment to bask in the coolness of the open air before turning around and making their way to the springs. Spock took care to help Jim into the water and lowered him down to rest in the shallower end. Jim groaned in contentment as the warm water enveloped him.

"This feels amazing and so warm. Why didn't we go swimming earlier?" he asked as he let himself float.

Jim watched as Spock shrugged out of his clothes, laying them out on the bank before walking into the pleasantly hot water. Once again he couldn't stop himself from trailing over the scratches and bruises coloring the smooth skin or pull his gaze away as the sun's reflected light cast odd shapes and shadows across his body. When Spock stopped his movements, Jim's eyes darted up to meet his, stomach tightening oddly when he was leveled with the same unreadable look again.

'What is he thinking?' Jim wondered as he went back to his own task of washing absently rubbing his hands over his arms. After a moment he leaned back on the mossy bank, resting his head against it and closing his eyes. He let himself drift, enjoying the feel of the warm water as it soothed his aching muscles.

Spock finished bathing, and then waded over until he could grab his clothing. He washed them the best he could with only water for a moment. Jim opened a lazy eye, berating himself for nearly falling asleep in deep water and pushed himself away from his sitting place.

"How long do you think it'll take for those to dry?" he mused aloud and Spock paused to look back up towards their shelter.

"There is enough daylight and heat that they should be mostly dry by nightfall, but we must account the humidity," Spock murmured thoughtfully before looking down at Jim who was nearly submerged in the water, pulling at something he'd found below the surface.

Jim kept tugging at the root until it came free, he popped above water for a second before toppling backwards into Spock's arms, making both of them go underwater. As long arms wrapped around him, feelings of concern and bemusement flared in Jim's mind but he pushed them aside as they bobbed back to the surface. Jim laughed and raised his find up for Spock to see.

"This looks like a type of tuber; maybe we can roast it over a fire tonight. I'm sick of berries and nuts."

Spock's eyes narrowed. "It would have been more beneficial had you told me what you had found. You are still weak and could have drowned."

Jim rolled his eyes and swam to the edge of the water to toss the root onto the shore. "I was in your sight the entire time, you worrywart." At Spock's raised eyebrow Jim swam closer and splashed water at him with a smirk before floating on his back.

Silence stretched between then, Jim gazing calmly at the now familiar reddish sky and watching more clouds roll in. He propelled himself lazily through the water and bumped into Spock who was still close by.

"You only tried to meld with me three times," Jim blurted, pushing lightly off Spock to propel himself along. "It didn't take much effort for me to stop you."

After a beat Spock replied. "It was an unexpected occurrence, though the final time was, as you might say, too close for comfort."

Jim righted himself but by then Spock was pointedly looking away. Jim noted that he was reluctant to speak of what had occurred between them now that they were out of the cave. If Spock had his way, the dwelling would hold the secrets of the past few days, but Jim couldn't put it aside.

Again emotions flared that weren't his own, concern and shame in the back of Jim's mind. His eyes widened.

"Are you feeling this?"

Spock turned to look at him sharply, not asking for an explanation, and Jim watched as he a look of concentration stole over him face before it was replaced by shock.

"I did not believe it was possible, but a link has been established between us," Spock said in such an odd voice Jim reached out to steady him. Spock immediately moved out of reach, and Jim could feel his disbelief as it echoed his own.

Jim swallowed around a suddenly dry throat. "I thought as long as we didn't meld we were safe—"

"Unfortunately that was not the case," Spock practically snapped in reply. After taking a breath he finally met Jim's eyes. "I have discovered through previous melds that we have shared that our minds are quite attuned."

As he tried to wrap his head around that information, Jim wondered if his own emotions were spilling across the new link. "So, what does that mean? Did we just spontaneously get bonded to each other just from proximity alone?

"Essentially that is correct. The combination of my mental shields being compromised, our…close…contact and our compatibility created a link between us."

Jim ran a shaky hand through his hair. "Well, isn't this something that we should have discussed before now?" and Spock raised an incredulous eyebrow at him.

"Do you imply that I planned this? The stress of Pon Farr and loss of control was difficult enough to bear, and if you remember, Jim, I made multiple attempts to dissuade you from offering yourself to me."

"Let me get this straight. You would have rather died, died Spock, than have a link between us, which, unless you're keeping even more information from me, is breakable. Thanks a-fucking-lot, Spock, that really makes me feel better about myself. I guess that's how it always is; James T. Kirk is only good enough for a fuck."

At the look of horror that spread across Spock's face Jim, clamped his mouth shut and turned away so fast he nearly lost his balance. He knew Spock didn't really think of him that way, and his face burned with both embarrassment and anger at the thought Spock could read what was really upsetting him.

A wave of exhaustion caused Jim to stumble as he stepped out of the water, but he shrugged off Spock who was immediately at his side in an attempt to assist him. Uncaring of his nudity in his anger he hastily wrapped the blanket around him as he knelt by his pack to put the last of the soap away. A cool breeze made him shiver and as the plant fronds around him rattled loudly, he used the sound to try to dislodge the lump in his throat.

'Do I disgust you that much?' The thought skated across his mind and he gasped as Spock grabbed him and turned him until they were facing each other.

"Do not ever think that," Spock said. "I am not and never could be disgusted by you."

Jim's lips parted and he swallowed hard, not knowing what to say at Spock's statement and the way he was gripping him so tightly.

"C-can you actually read my thoughts?" Jim stumbled over the words, brain short-circuiting at Spock's proximity and the frustration and guilt he felt from Spock.

"Your feelings were very strong, making it easier for me to get an impression of what you were thinking. It's quite fascinating," Spock switched into what Jim dubbed his 'scientist mode'. "In its current state the link is similar to what I would feel were I to simply touch another, the general impression of their thoughts. I can shield our minds so there are no more unwelcome intrusions. The nature of the link gives us basic awareness of the other, and if we are in close contact, thoughts."

Jim perked up. "Really? That's honestly kinda cool," he admitted and Spock blinked slowly and a whisper of annoyance filtered through. "Think about it; if something happens to one of us or we're separated, it could be pretty beneficial."

"While that is true, there is more to that than just being able to sense each other. I would be drawn to you for my next Pon Farr."

Spock's hands fell away from Jim's arms and he stepped away. "While I am grateful you assisted me during my Time, I do not want to place that burden on you. Our five-year mission will conclude in 2.7 years, and we do not know what will happen in that time."

A pang went through Jim at the thought of possibly never seeing Spock again at the conclusion of their mission. Spock continued before he could reply. "While the link could serve as an advantage to us, you should not be tied to me in such a way. If it grows stronger you would be able to feel my pain and even my death, and I yours."

"Even so, saving your life isn't a burden. I'd do it again if I that's what it took to keep you alive. I don't resent you, I'm not harboring anger or fear and other than being sore in places I didn't know I had, I'm physically fine." Jim stared at Spock, hoping he could hear and feel the truth of his words before reaching out to capture Spock's wrists and lift his hands towards his own temples.

"If you don't believe me, it's all in here."

Spock's expression closed off and he fought the urge to simply wrench his wrists from Jim's grasp, knowing that it would hurt him, and Jim quickly let him go.

"I just don't want you to feel guilty, and don't tell me you don't," Jim said as Spock opened his mouth to protest. "We'll sort this out," he insisted. "We'll sort it out when we're back on the ship, off this ridiculous planet."

Jim found himself wishing for the first time that he were alone if only to keep his sanity. When they got back on the ship and put space between them, Jim could practice acting as if everything were perfectly fine.

Spock hovered close behind him. "I did not mean to upset you."

Jim offered him a weak smile that didn't reach his eyes. "I know, I know."

After much convincing, Spock reluctantly agreed that Jim felt well enough to retrace their steps back to the beach where they had crashed. When asked, Jim just said, "I have a good feeling about today," and left it at that.

In all honesty, he was sick of the cave and surrounding area, hot springs (which they'd both indulged in twice more) or no hot springs.

'It's a reminder of what I can't have,' he thought, glancing sharply at Spock who was busy scanning with his tricorder. In their mad dash to find shelter only a few days before they'd missed some interesting plant life, he'd admitted, ignoring Jim's fond eye roll and laughter.


Spock paused in his scanning and looked at Jim. "What?"

"What are we going to name this planet we discovered? To be fair it has to include both of our names." Jim cupped his chin in thought, brow furrowed. "What do you think of 'Spames?"

"We didn't so much as discover this planet as we crashed to it." Spock replied.

Jim waved his hand dismissively. "Take all the fun out things, why don't you? Come on, I'm doing all of the work coming up with suggestions."

"Are those two our only options?" Spock replied, and Jim smiled brightly as he decided to play along

"Combining our names is easiest," he shrugged, absently batting palm fronds as they continued to walk. Spock had read carefully when Jim had been lost in his own thoughts and subdued after their discussion, so he'd made a point to stay upbeat, if not to keep Spock from worrying but to keep his own morale up.

"Even though this has been a crazy adventure, you have to agree this place is gorgeous," Jim sighed as they finally broke through the trees and stepped onto the shining sand. They shielded their eyes against the late afternoon sun, and Jim immediately sat down to remove his boots. After a moment of consideration, and a pointed look from Jim, Spock did the same and they slowly made their way down the beach to the edge of the water.

"The ship has become more submerged," Spock observed quietly as they stopped to look at it.

"I guess there's no chance of grabbing part to make that transmitter now," Jim sighed, turning his attention to the warm water splashing over his feet. It foamed around his ankle as he bent over to roll his jeans up to his knees before moving deeper. Something bumped into the side of his foot, and when Jim knelt down to investigate he discovered it was a large shell. He plucked it from the water, fingers trailing over the colorful swirls and ridges.

He stood there staring across the water until his feet had been covered with sand and the sun had nearly disappeared on the horizon. Water splashing alerted him to Spock's presence behind him and Jim took in a deep breath before turning to face him.

Spock's dark brown eyes were nearly gold in the fading sunlight, and it cast intriguing shadows over the planes of his face. When their eyes met, Spock's lips parted and he took a step closer, and Jim echoed his movements. His position blocked the light and cast Spock's face into shadow, but his eyes were still blaring something Jim couldn't read.

'Spock must be blocking his thoughts somehow,' Jim thought as he wondered what Spock saw when he looked at him, oddly feeling self-conscious at the various insect bites, sunburn, and scratches on his face. 'Such care towards those things would be an illogical waste of energy,' Jim quoted to himself with a wry smile that softened when Spock raised a questioning eyebrow. He met Spock's gaze and took a step closer before holding out the shell for Spock to take.

"Let's camp out here tonight," he whispered as Spock took the shell, his words breaking whatever was building between them. Long fingers brushed over Jim's and he shuddered. Dark eyes lifted from the tightly clenched palm to search Jim's face until Spock blinked and nodded. They looked once more across the water before making their way back to shore.

"T'Pring found my mind…distasteful," Spock said as he and Jim settled after a hearty meal around the fire. "Compared to a 'proper' Vulcan she was not wrong; in my youth I leaned towards emotion more than I do now. The few times we engaged in melds she would often pull back in shock and near disgust. For a time, she ignored it but jumped at the opportunity to break our bond when I chose a career in Starfleet. Her perception of my mind and her chosen, Stonn, were good enough in her mind to bond with another."

"Heartless bitch," Jim snarled and ignored Spock's sharp look and widened eyes. "Come on, don't tell me you didn't think that when she pulled that shit on you?"

"On the contrary. T'Pring's mind was not a good match for me, and her family, despite wanting my clan's influence and protection was never…fond of me, for lack of a better term."

"You're just so calm about it." Jim shook his head in disbelief. "Her horrible behavior aside, there's nothing wrong with your mind! You're brilliant, loyal, always curious about the world around you and constantly thinking of ways to improve it. Anyone who can't see that isn't worthy of you anyway."

Silence hung between them after Jim's declaration, and he couldn't hold back the satisfaction when a blush colored Spock's cheeks and the tips of his ears and Spock's gratitude washed over him.

"Before I went before the Vulcan Science Academy I had considered Kolinahr. It is the purging of all emotion in the pursuit of logic." At Jim's gasp Spock glanced down at the mug in his hands again. "I believed at the time doing so would make me a better Vulcan, or at least make me one in the eyes of my peers who constantly looked down at me due to my mixed heritage. Completing Kolinahr is no simple task and though the numbers are few, there are those who have failed."

Jim fought the urge to move closer to Spock but pushed all of the admiration and relief he could to Spock through their link. A shy smile spread slowly across his face when Spock's eyes widened and he turned to fully face Jim.

"I'm glad that you didn't do it," Jim managed, swallowing around a suddenly tight throat.

"I find myself sharing that same sentiment," Spock admitted after a moment of silence. His lips parted but instead he reciprocated Jim's actions, sending warmth and gratitude back. Jim's eyes fluttered shut briefly and a smile spread across his face. When he opened his eyes again Spock had moved closer with an odd expression on his face.


Whatever Spock would've said was lost when Jim's communicator chirped. They froze in surprise before Jim shot to his feet, digging the device from his pocket and flipped it open.

"This is Captain Kirk," Jim nearly shouted in his excitement. Static crackled but soon it cleared and was replaced with Scotty's pleased voice.

"Scotty here and can I say tis a relief to hear your voice, Captain! Is Mr. Spock with you?"

Laughing blue eyes looked down at Spock whose face showed relief as well. "We're both here and ready to be beamed up!"

More static and then McCoy's haggard voice cut through. "Are you and the hobgoblin in one piece?"

Spock rose and came to Jim's side. "As we are two separate entities, we are in two pieces, Doctor," he replied and Jim sniggered as McCoy huffed an exasperated sigh.

"I suppose you're all right," he said and Jim laughed before sobering in thought.

"How many people are in the transporter room right now?" Jim asked as he and Spock began to clear their camp and pack items away.

"Ach, no one but McCoy and myself at the moment, Captain."

"It would be best that we are beamed directly into Sick Bay as we both sustained some…injuries," Spock spoke into the communicator, taking it when Jim rolled his eyes and pressed it into his grip.

A beat of silence before McCoy cleared his throat. "Jim, now I'm nervous if Spock is voluntarily asking to be taken to Sick Bay but we can do that," he said seriously.

"It's not as bad as it sounds," Jim leveled Spock with a look. "We'd just like privacy, Bones."

Jim handed Spock the last pack and stood to his feet. He gave one last fond look around them, to the strange planet that had been their home for nearly a week. As they were beamed up, his eyes rested on the distant mountains and the cave that would hold the memories of what he and Spock had shared.

The sterile scent of Sick Bay assaulted Jim's nose as they materialized just outside McCoy's office and Nurse Chapel met them with a medical scanner in her hand.

"Both of you take a seat," she ushered towards a bed each and they sank down with relief. Jim shifted multiple times until he found a comfortable position before letting himself melt onto the mattress with a groan.

"A bed," Jim sighed, wishing he could just flop onto his back and sleep for at least four days. He took in a deep breath and closed his eyes, only opening them when McCoy's voice sounded in the room.

McCoy immediately crossed the room, relief plain on his face as his eyes darted between Jim and Spock.

"You had no idea how worried everyone was," he said gruffly as a smile spread across Jim's face. He frowned as he saw how tightly Jim held his jacket closed and huddled into it.

"Please tend to Jim first," Spock requested as McCoy turned towards him with the scanner again.

"I'm fine, Bones; Spock's the one who needs to be looked at—"

"Why don't you both shut up and let me do my job?" McCoy shot both of them a glare before frowning at Jim. "It'd be easier to get a look at you if you weren't so bundled up," the words brusque but still colored with concern.

"Jim…" McCoy's voice trailed off as the jacket slipped from Jim's shoulders, the deep bruises visible through his torn shirt prominent against the deepened tan of his skin. Despite the warmth of the room Jim shivered as McCoy's gave swept over him.

"You'd better tell me what the hell happened," he nearly growled.

Spock sat up straighter on the opposite bed. "Doctor, I am the source of the captain's injuries," his voice grave as McCoy's cold eyes locked onto him.


"Wait a minute!" Jim reached out to grab McCoy's arm in a firm grip though he made a move towards Spock.

"I submit myself to disciplinary action," Spock bowed his head even as his hands clenched into fists behind his back.

"Stop," Jim growled and both men froze at the authoritative tone as Jim shoved himself off the bed and stood to his feet.

"Before we do anything we might regret," Jim glanced at McCoy, "let's make sure we have all of our facts straight. To protect the life of my First Officer who was suffering from a purely biological condition, I assisted him and sustained some minor injuries as a result. In all, Mr. Spock endured more than I through the brutality of our captors prior to our shuttle crashing. He was struck in the head with a phaser and is still suffering the effects of a head injury."

"A biological condition?" McCoy echoed, his eyes widening as realization came to him. "Pon Farr?"

Color spread over Spock's cheeks. "You know of it?"

McCoy scoffed. "What sort of doctor would I be if I didn't learn the different conditions that could befall the people on this ship?" When Spock stayed silent McCoy shook his head. "Of course I know what Pon Farr is and I know how you Vulcans keep it all hush-hush, which is ridiculous, not to mention dangerous."

"Bones," Jim growled warningly even as he swayed, the angry burst of energy now faded. Both Spock and McCoy reached out to him, and Jim leaned on the bed before scooting back onto it with McCoy's helping hand.

"I need all of the details," and when both officers blushed he slapped a hand over his face. "Not those details! Spock, Dr. M'Benga will look you over while I check Jim out. This isn't just about Pon Farr; who knows what was on that planet you two were stranded on. You'll both need a full battery of tests and preventative hypos," he said, not bothering to hide a low chuckle when Jim groaned loudly.

Spock stood and paused before following M'Benga, looking at Jim as if he had something to say. He settled for a brief nod before leaving the room, Jim and McCoy staring after him.

"Goddammit, Jim, how do you get yourself into these situations?" McCoy shook his head as Jim settled back so he could perform his exam. "What happened down there?" McCoy asked afterwards as he dragged a chair over to Jim's bed.

After he explained, McCoy's eyes were wide. "You're telling me that you and the hobgoblin had sex, and you've both agreed to act like nothing happened?" A disapproving look spread over his face. "Is that what you really want?"

"It doesn't matter what I want!" Jim snapped, sitting up in bed before being pushed back. "I did it to save the life of a friend and if that's all I can get from Spock then it will have to be enough."

"You didn't see him," Jim pulled absently at the blanket, twisting it in his hands. "He was so ashamed of his loss of control, not to mention he was in pain."

McCoy shook his head, watching as Jim kept worrying the now crumpled fabric. "Sorry, Jim, it's just both of you were kidnapped and in bad shape when we found you. Everyone was already stretched thin before that, and when I found out Spock did this to you –"

Jim straightened, giving his friend a stern look. "Whatever occurred between Spock and I was completely consensual and not only saved the life of a crewmember but a dear friend. There's no lasting damage to either of us, thanks to you. Consider the subject dropped. Please."

Jim was saved from further questions by the door to Sick Bay opening and the relieved faces of his senior officers greeting him just as Spock was ushered to his own bed.

"It's great to see you, Captain. Mr. Spock." Sulu said and Jim grinned.

"It's great to be back in civilization," he countered with a chuckle and Spock nodded in agreement.

"The kidnappers, how did they treat you? What did they even want?" Uhura's voice was filled with concern and Spock glanced at Jim before replying, "They harbored anger towards us and blamed the loss of their loved ones on Starfleet's negligence. Other than a few minor injuries they did not waste much energy mistreating us. "

Jim nearly scoffed at Spock's watered down version of their kidnapper's treatment and knew that Uhura didn't believe him for a second, if the look that passed over her face was anything to go by.

"What was the planet like?" Chekov asked as he settled in the chair closest to Jim's bed, and Jim sent Spock an imploring look. Spock only raised an eyebrow in reply.

"It was a jungle, at least where we were. There was a wide beach where the ship crashed and in a few kilometers the trees thinned out to just bushes and undergrowth before the mountains. Humid as hell and we got into a few scrapes. Anyway, you guys don't hate me for cutting your shore leave short?" Jim smiled sheepishly and was given a brief hug from Uhura.

"We're just glad you're back," she said, pulling back with an answering smile before moving to Spock and hugging him tightly. Jim watched in fascination and no small amount of jealousy as Spock returned her embrace until a slap on his shoulder from Sulu and enthusiastic hug from Chekov grabbed his attention.

Jim smiled and accepted his friends' and crew's wishes of well-being, settling back against his pillows as they filled him and Spock in on what had happened after they'd been kidnapped. When his eyes began to droop, McCoy ushered them out of the room.

"You two have had enough activity for one day," he said while glancing overhead for their vital signs. When Spock shifted, McCoy fixed him with a glare.

"You're staying put too, Spock."

"It would be better to enter the trance while in my quarters—"

"Not with your readings looking like this. Just for precautions, I want to keep you here so I can monitor you."

"Don't be mad Spock, I'll keep you company," Jim mumbled around a yawn. "Not by choice; pretty sure somebody snuck a sedative in that last hypo…"

"Only looking out for your best interests, kid!" McCoy called over his shoulder and Jim aimed a one finger salute at his back. "Get some rest you, two."

The lights dimmed and Jim glanced at Spock who was lying quietly, hands folded over his blanket.

"I'm so glad to be back," Jim whispered, though there was no need. Spock's eyes fluttered shut and he hummed in agreement.

Jim was nearly asleep when Spock called his name. "Yeah?" he murmured, turning his head in Spock's direction with his eyes still closed.

"Thank you."

At that, Jim's eyes flew open and he blinked until he could focus on Spock. Dark eyes regarded him silently and Jim just gave a sleepy smile in return before drifting off to sleep.

"No, Jim."

"God, Bones, I'm fine. Yes, I'm tired," Jim admitted when his friend leveled him with a glare. "Physically anyway. My mind is going a mile a minute, and I've been cooped up in here for almost a day. I know I'm off duty until we talk to the Admiralty, but can I just leave Sick Bay and walk around the ship for a bit? That's not going to hurt me."

"The second I let you out of here you're going to be on the bridge or sneak down to the gym and do your version of 'working out' until you're exhausted."

McCoy turned from his desk and made his way to Jim who was leaning against the doorway, reaching out until he could squeeze his shoulders. "Take advantage of the break you have; when we get back to the base you'll wish you could go back to that planet again."

Jim visibly shuddered at that but didn't shrug out of the firm grip on his shoulders. "What part of crazy huge bugs and poisonous, six-legged lizards did you not understand?"

"The way you gushed about the sand and hot springs, I nearly forgot about them." He took in Jim's exaggerated pout and pushed him away. "You're free to go—" Jim's ecstatic "Whoop!" cut him off and he gripped his arm before he could shoot out the door. "If you don't do anything strenuous, and don't think your crew is above alerting me. I wasn't the only one worried about you two."

Jim grinned, playfully slugging McCoy in the arm. "I knew you missed me, you ol' softie," he teased and McCoy rolled his eyes. "Hey, you didn't hold Spock hostage; don't think I didn't notice that!"

"Even if you could pull that voodoo and go into a healing trance, I would keep you here out of spite," McCoy retorted. "Seriously, after the trance was complete there was no reason to keep him here. Spock insisted he needed privacy to meditate and both I and M'Benga agreed after what happened…"

He trailed off, watching Jim's face carefully for a reaction. The wide grin had faded but otherwise he shrugged his shoulders. "I'm glad he felt well enough to go into the trance; he really needed it."

McCoy leveled Jim with a look. "What happens with you two now?"

"Dunno," Jim turned away, shoving his hands in newly replicated sweats pockets and lightly kicking the door jam with a socked foot. "We both need space. I know you're concerned, but we'll figure it out. Despite popular opinion I'm mature enough to not let this affect our working relationship, and Spock is the embodiment of professional behavior."

"Even a Vulcan can be shaken, both of us know that. After he woke up he kept asking after you, and I nearly had to push him out of here so he could get some rest."

Color bloomed across Jim's face but he smirked in an effort to cover it up. "Spock and I are friends, you know; that's what they do. It's no different from a shitty away mission; remember the last one before all of this? Spock was out of it for almost a week, I kept vigil over his bed and you teased me mercilessly for days because you're an ass? Yeah? Exactly," he stated, folding his arms over his chest.

McCoy rolled his eyes. "Sure, and me catching him touching the side of your face while you slept is totally friendly as well." He smirked when Jim gaped, face turning red before clamping his mouth shut.

"Yeah? Exactly," McCoy said in a mocking tone before shaking his head. "I'm sick of your two dancing around each other."

"As soon as possible we're going to request leave to New Vulcan and have a healer sever the link." Jim raked his fingers through his hair. "I'm sure the first thing Spock did when he got back to his rooms was make the mental barriers to block my mind from his."

"Kid," McCoy said, moving closer to Jim and enveloping him in a hug. "You're blind if you can't see Spock feels something for you. Don't give him too much time to hide behind that Vulcan mask of his."

Jim relaxed into the embrace, and cleared his throat before pulling away. "You actually approve of Spock and I?"

McCoy made a face. "If he makes you happy, then I'm all for it. You drive Spock up a wall better than anyone," he smirked, and Jim laughed. "Just tell that walking-computer that if he hurts you that he'll have to answer to me."

Jim saluted as he left McCoy's office. "I'll be sure to let him know."

With a skeleton crew, the halls of the Enterprise were thankfully empty as Jim made his way to the observation deck. He strode over to the glass, leaning his forehead against it with a sigh. He relished its coolness until his mind drifted to how Spock's skin felt against his own. Jim groaned, slapping his hand against the glass with a dull thud.

"I'm so full of shit," he grumbled. There was no way he could forget about what he and Spock had shared. It had started out as grim determination and the desire to save his friend's life and ended with mucking up his feelings for Spock even more than they'd been.

Jim opened his eyes, watching as his breath fogged up the glass before pulling away and looking at the vastness of space. The stars held no answers no matter how long he looked at them, and he clenched his hands at his side in frustration.


Jim spun around, nearly tripping over his feet and Spock stood just inside the door, half shrouded in darkness. He clasped his hands behind his back before stepping further into the room.

"H-Hey," Jim said, leaning back casually and schooling his face into a neutral expression. "How are you feeling?"

Spock's eyes drifted over Jim before returning to his face. "Rested. Meditation was quite helpful. I am assuming that you are well enough to be released from the doctor's watchful eye?"

Jim scoffed. "More like I talked Bones' head off until he was shoving me out the door. Gets him every time; remember that next time he tries to keep you in Sick Bay."

"As I refrain from idle chatter I will have to find another tactic but I appreciate the suggestion," Spock replied, bowing his head. His gaze shifted beyond Jim to the scene behind him and he stepped closer.

"I wished to come to the deck and clear my head," Spock said softly.

"Great minds think alike I suppose," Jim said with false cheer. He shifted on his feet, wanting to break the awkward silence. "Did you get a chance to clear you head?"

Spock nodded slightly. "Yes and I was able to construct a barrier in my mind." His eyes flickered to Jim again.

Jim shifted awkwardly on his feet, trying to keep his disappoint from showing on his face. "Everything's back to normal from here on out. We just have to come up with a reason to go to Vulcan and we're good."

Spock stiffened and looked away. "Yes, that would be wise," he said before clasping his hands behind his back and standing to his full height. "If you would excuse me," Spock nodded sharply before quickly leaving the deck.

Jim raised a trembling hand to his face with a groan. There was absolutely no way this was going to work.

The punching bag shuddered with each strike. Jim ignored the burn in his arms and back, needing to get the pent up energy out of his system and the pain was a perfect distraction.

When Spock had entered the room he had only spared Jim one glance, sitting down stiffly by him before beginning their brief. He'd given a detached account of their capture, crash, and their findings on the planet. On impulse, Jim had tried projecting him emotions to Spock through their link just as they left the room, but was met with a mental wall. Spock hadn't missed a beat as he strode from the room, and Jim punched the bag harder in his frustration. His knuckles were nearly scraped raw, and he gritted his teeth against the pain.


Jim stopped mid-punch, stumbled when the bag swung back into. Uhura caught the bag and steadied it, shooting a concerned look at his bloodied hands.

"Out with it."

Jim stared blankly at her before chugging water from his bottle and swiping at his sweaty face with a towel.

"Out with what?" he deliberately evaded her question as he made his way to a treadmill, stepping onto it and putting in one of the highest settings. He ignored the machine's warnings that his heart rate exceeded safe limits and Uhura's unrelenting stare.

Jim nearly flew off the treadmill when Uhura reached over and slowed the machine from its break-neck pace, glaring at her as she set her own to a steady jog.

"Are you trying to kill me?" Jim snapped, fiddling with the setting so he matched Uhura's pace, and she smirked.

"No, but I had to get your attention somehow." Her expression softened in concern and curiosity, and Jim let out a long sigh.

"I'm fine; there's nothing to tell."

Uhura shook her head. "Ever since you've been back ,both you and Spock have been so cool towards each other. Everyone on our shift is speculating, and it's starting to affect your work."

Jim took a quick glance around the still empty gym. "Why haven't you probed Spock for answers? He trusts you more than anyone; I'm sure it would be easy to get him to talk you," he said, trying to keep the frustration and bitterness out of his voice.

"As soon as I could corner him, that's the first thing I did. That's one thing both of you have in common; you're impossible to find when there's something you don't want to talk about," Uhura replied.

Jim eyed her uneasily. "Well, what did he say?"

"You tell me first," she said firmly.

Jim groaned. "I asked first," he complained and Uhura gave him an exasperated smile.

"You're so immature, and no, I asked first," she said, and Jim rolled his eyes with a groan.

"You probably know most of it. We were kidnapped and barely survived the shuttle malfunctioning and crashing to an uncharted planet. Spock had a bad injury from being struck in the head with a phaser while my arm was burned, and we set up camp after healing our injuries. Everything after that was trying to stay alive long enough to be found."

Uhura nodded slowly. "Spock told me you blamed yourself for everything that happened to you, the kidnapping, him getting hurt, and even the pilot who sacrificed herself for you. He even told me you nearly got both of you killed because you wandered off and pissed off a huge lizard, but it's not enough to make the two of you avoid each other or give each other these ridiculous glances when the other isn't looking."

"What?" Jim said and Uhura gave him a knowing look as she kept jogging.

"Something big happened, and I'm concerned about both of you. You're both bottling it up inside and need to let it out."

Jim took in a deep breath before blurting out, "Spock went into Pon Farr while we were on the planet."

Uhura's eyes went wide and she slammed her hand over the pause button and came to a stop. "What?" she said in a stunned whisper.

"Yeah," Jim replied just as quietly, the word almost drowned out the constant thump of his feet striking the belt. "You can fill in the blanks from there."

Uhura continued to stand there, staring at him with disbelief. "He's obviously not in Pon Farr anymore, so you…"

Jim paused his machine as well, leaning on his outstretched arms as he stared down at the controls. "He fought me every step of the way but yeah, I had sex with him."

Uhura shook her head. "It's more than sex," and she held up a hand when he scowled at her. "I know you know that, just… Holy shit," she breathed.

"You're telling me," Jim grumbled, slinging his towel around his neck and walking over to a bench before sinking down on it. Uhura followed soon after, standing in front of him in disbelief.

"Vulcans form bonds during Pon Farr," she said, eyes boring into Jim. "Are you bonded to him?"

Jim hung his head. "We took precautions but we have a link. Apparently our minds are super compatible and it spontaneously formed through close contact."

Uhura was silent. When Jim cautioned a look at her, her face was filled with surprise and awe. "Do you know how rare that is?"

Jim shook his head in confusion. "He was more concerned about the link being detrimental to us both and finding a way to break it."

"Did he actually say that to you?" she pushed, and Jim twisted the towel in his hands until it began to fray.

Uhura sat down next to Jim and put a comforting hand on his arm. "Jim, one of the reasons Spock and I broke up was because of Pon Farr. I still feel bad about it, but the idea of him being stripped of all control and how violent it could be honestly scared me. He even offered to find someone else to serve him during his Time to "spare" me but of course I refused. Also, it was difficult for him to meld with me, and when we did it was uncomfortable for both of us."

Jim took a shuddering breath and Uhura squeezed his arm. "I'm telling you this because being able to form a link that way is something special… No Vulcan would truly want to sever a link like that."

"Well, Spock's the exception. He didn't argue when we discussed going to a healer, and he's completely fine with us not being together. We both agreed that we wouldn't let our friendship suffer because I had to help him through his Time, and we'd go about things like they were completely normal," Jim said.

"You need to talk to him. Trust me. He's been miserable, and I know you are too. Spock tried to shut me out but I know him too well. You know him even better," she admitted quietly.

She stood up and gave Jim a sad smile. "Spock trusts you more than anymore, and believe me when I say that he doesn't want to dissolve your link."

Jim stared after Uhura as she walked away, feeling even more conflicted.

"Could you sign this, Captain?"

A look of concern flashed across the Yeoman's face when Jim winced while turning his head to glance at her. "Are you alright, sir?"

Jim took the padd and read over it quickly before signing off on it. "Just a bit sore but I'm fine," he brushed her concern aside, hoping she wouldn't ask anything else. "Thank you for your concern."

With one last look, she turned away, and Jim chanced a glance at Spock who appeared to have not heard his explanation, but he knew that wasn't true. He settled back in his chair, fingers trailing absently over his neck, and he pressed the sore area lightly. The regenerator had healed the worst of the bruise, but the deep pain of it lingered. He closed his eyes, the memory of Spock growling in his ear, biting down as he came inside of him ran through his mind again. He gripped the edge of the chair, remembering Spock's possessive grip around his torso when Jim had come.


He jumped, eyes flying open and darting up to look at Spock who stood at his shoulder, the picture of calm, save his eyes that were focused not on his own but on the fingers still on his neck. Embarrassed at being caught, Jim cleared his throat.

"Yes, Mr. Spock?"

"Alpha shift ended two point six minutes ago," he replied and Jim glanced over his other shoulder to see his replacement watching both of them curiously.

Jim shook himself, slowly uncrossing his legs and willing his erection away before pushing himself from his chair with a nod. Jim brushed past Spock who fell in step behind him, and they both exited the bridge.


"Dammit, Spock, it's Jim. Jim. Keeping things professional between us doesn't mean regressing back to being complete strangers."

Spock slowed slightly before quickening his pace to keep up with Jim. "Were we complete strangers, Jim, the incident would have never occurred between us."

'The incident.' Jim's fists clenched and he punched in the selection for the turbolift, and the doors closed behind them.

"I miss our friendship. I know this is awkward and don't try to tell me otherwise," he said when Spock opened his mouth. "I was the only person available, and I saw you at one of the worst times of your life, but I still respect you! I still care!"

'I want more than I can have,' he continued in his head when Spock's expression softened.

"I have missed your company as well," Spock admitted softly just as the lift's doors opened, and Jim schooled his face to hide his shock as they passed crew members in the hallway. When they reached Spock's door Jim hovered for a moment before walking in behind Spock, a determined look on his face when Spock raised an eyebrow. Jim sat down at Spock's desk and took in a steadying breath.

"We need to get everything out in the open. We've both been cautious around each other which is totally understandable, I get that. But, Spock, I honestly freak out when checking my messages because I half expect there to be a transfer request from you in there!"

"I would not transfer from the Enterprise for something neither of us could have avoided," Spock said firmly, still avoiding Jim's gaze much to Jim's annoyance.

"You could've fooled me," Jim snapped, jumping to his feet and moving towards Spock until he was just shy of touching him. "You've been so cold, if we're in the same room I feel the temperature drop ten degrees and if I even look your way, you tense up and – if you can get away with it – get as far as you can away from me!"

"You are using gross exaggeration," Spock rounded on him with a glare but Jim stared him down.

"It seemed easy enough for you to ignore me," Jim snapped before he could stop himself. 'So fucking pathetic,' he thought but Spock shook his head as he stepped closer. "You look through me like I'm fucking invisible! I gave you space, hell, I needed it myself but this is ridiculous!"

"I am unable to ignore you. You draw attention to yourself even when it is not your intention to do so and even I am not immune. It was easier to focus on other things; to try to put you out of my head, which is even more impossible now."

"I was in your head before the link?" Jim murmured, eyes widening when Spock took a step closer. He reached out and gripped the chair Jim had vacated and pushed it aside until it clattered against the desk, threatening to knock over the stacked PADDS and other papers.

"Before the link I would think of you often, Jim. No matter how often I meditated and told myself I was illogical to do so my thoughts would return to you. When I discovered that Pon Farr was upon me I was horrified," Spock said and the admission made Jim's lips part in astonishment. "My first thoughts were holding myself back from claiming what I wanted. It was difficult enough when circumstances were stacked against me but then you offered yourself…"

Spock's tongue darted out to lick his lips and Jim found himself mirroring the action. He watched as Spock's gripped the chair tight enough to make his knuckles turn white and warp the metal.

"When you offered yourself it was both wonderful and even more horrifying. To have the one person I desired; to possess him but only his body, not his mind or his heart, was maddening. You have no idea the amount of control it has taken to keep myself from just taking what I consider to be mine. So you are wrong, I could never transfer or remove myself from your presence completely. We could sever the link but I would still know you belonged to me and I to you. Your katra calls to mine. Not even the completion of Kolinhar could erase my need of you from me."

Jim could barely hear Spock over his heartbeat pounding in his ears. "I don't want to break the link, I want it; you, everything! All this time I thought you didn't want me, that you wanted the link gone as soon as possible. I tried to reach you but by then you'd meditated and all I met was a wall. I felt so fucking empty."

Spock looked at him and Jim felt like he was melting from the scorching look in his dark eyes. Suddenly he found himself crowded against Spock's desk and a hand fisted in his tunic.

"Let me show you how much I don't want you," Spock said, voice little more than a growl before Jim was yanked forward and kissed within an inch of his life. Spock's mouth completely possessed his and when Jim broke away to breath Spock's hands grabbed his ass and effortlessly picked him up to set him on his desk before kissing him again. At the same time Jim was flooded with Spock's emotions that he'd kept blocked from his mind, all of Spock's desire, frustration, and love crashing into him. Jim shuddered from the raw power of it all.

"My mind would return unbidden to the last time," Spock breathed hotly in Jim's ear when he broke away from sucking Jim's brain out through his mouth to bite and suckle at the earlobe. "You were so responsive, and through touch I could feel your desire reflect my own, though you tried you hide it."

Jim whimpered as Spock moved to his neck and found the same spot he'd bitten before. He threaded his fingers through the short hairs on the back of Spock's head and pressed him closer when the kisses gave way to teasing nips.

"You enjoy that, don't you?" he teased, laughter fading into a moan when Spock sucked a bruise into his skin.

"Your neck is one of the many parts of your body I find distracting," Spock said, trailing kisses along Jim's jaw until he reached his lips. "Here is another," Spock mumbled against his mouth before Jim parted his lips with a moan. Jim whimpered as Spock sucked at his bottom lip before tracing it with his tongue. His hand fisted in Spock's shirt as Spock's tongue delved into his mouth, tracing along the roof of his mouth before tangling with his.

Jim was vaguely aware of Spock's hands roving over his back before they drifted down to his ass, and he broke away from the kiss with an embarrassingly loud moan when Spock squeezed firmly. The movement brought their hips together. Jim rolled his hips against Spock, smirking when Spock pulled him close to kiss him again.

"I couldn't get you out of my head," Jim moaned, fingers digging into Spock's hips when another bruise was sucked into his neck. "We are so fucking stupid; if we'd figured this out earlier we could've done this until we were found by the Enterprise."

Spock gripped him tighter. "We would have run the risk of being discovered, and I do not want anyone else to see you like this," he said darkly. Jim shuddered at the raw possessiveness that he felt from their link before pushing at Spock's chest to get him to let go.

"What?" Spock frowned, and Jim kept pushing until he backed up enough to let Jim jump down from the desk.

"I want you, naked, spread out on your bed and then I want to fuck you," Jim hissed, and he groaned when Spock's desire practically slammed into him, pushing his own that much higher.

They made quick work of their clothes, sharing clumsy, sloppy kisses in their haste to get to Spock's bed. Jim attacked every bit of skin that was revealed, and Spock did the same until they bumped into the bed and moved to settle on it, still kissing each other breathless.

Jim pulled back and drank in the sight of Spock, spread out on the bed, hair mussed and skin flushed. He stared at his own trail of bite marks decorating Spock's skin and suddenly nerves overwhelmed him, making him pause as he crawled onto the bed and hovered just above Spock. Was he really ready for this? Could he really handle being this close to someone, being completely open to another person with nothing that could protect him from being hurt?

"I could never hurt you," Spock murmured, the truth of his words highlighted by the link, and Jim leaned forward to capture his lips again with a smile, already addicted to the feel of Spock's lips against his.

He slowly descended down Spock's body, getting drunk on the way Spock moaned when Jim scraped his teeth against a nipple or writhed when he sucked a bruise into his skin. He teasingly pulled at the trail of hair leading to his destination, muffling a chuckle when Spock moaned his name above him.

"Impatient, are we?" Jim raised an eyebrow in a poor imitation of Spock before kissing the spot where his leg and hip met. He dragged his tongue along the skin there, deliberately avoiding the glistening cock nudging against his cheek.

Jim flashed Spock a wicked grin before sucking him down. He groaned at the taste as he worked his throat around Spock, smirking when the action wrenched more delicious sounds from him.

When Spock's fingers tightened in Jim's hair he retaliated by dragging his tongue along the underside of his cock, smirking when Spock thrust into his mouth. He gently rolled Spock's balls in his hand. When Spock began to tug at his hair, he looked up to the glorious sight of mussed hair and flushed skin.

"Not yet," Spock panted and he blinked rapidly until he could focus on Jim. "I want you inside of me," he nearly growled and Jim had to grip himself to stall his release. "I want you possess me as I possessed you."

"Fuck, Spock," Jim groaned, eyes sliding closed as he took in rapid breaths to steady himself.

"I believe that is what I said," Spock replied, surprising a grin onto Jim's face. His eyes flew open when Spock's fingers slid into the meld position on his face and the sharp edge of his arousal was softened enough so he wouldn't lose control.

"Holy shit, you are amazing," Jim laughed breathlessly, reaching out with a free hand to trace Spock's lips that had curved into a smug smile.

Spock moaned deeply when Jim finally took his mouth in a kiss, tasting himself on Jim's tongue. His hand slipped to cup the back of Jim's head and pull him in closer until they broke apart to breathe.

"You want me to fuck you?" Jim breathed against Spock's mouth when their lips parted.

"Yes," Spock hissed, biting down on Jim's lower lip and sucking at it to emphasize his point.

"'Yes', what?" Jim slowly rolled his hips, moaning when Spock's hands grasped his ass and squeezed. "I want you to say it."

Spock nipped at Jim's neck before leaning in to breathe into his ear, "Is that an order, Captain?" His fingers dipped between Jim's cheeks to trace around his hole ,and Jim shuddered above him with a whine.

"You bet it is, Commander," he nudged Spock's cheek with his own until their mouths met in another kiss.

"Tell me what you want me to do to you. Want to hear you beg," he commanded, hand slipping between their sweaty bodies to take Spock in hand again. Spock arched beneath him and Jim took the opportunity to kiss and suckle at the exposed column of his neck.

"Jim," Spock groaned and Jim's lips chased the vibration down his throat. He gasped when Jim's thumb swiped over the head of his cock again, the touch too light. Jim deliberately slicked his fingers before moving them to part Spock's cheeks, circling his tight hole and smirking when Spock shifted against them.

"Now who doesn't like being teased?" he crooned against Spock's neck before kissing along his jaw and latching onto his ear again. His tongue traced from lobe to tip while his finger slowly pushed just inside the ring of muscle. Jim's cock ached in anticipation when Spock tightened around him.

Spock's breath hitched and his hand fell from where it had been clutching Jim's ass to fist in the rumpled sheets. His legs fell open until Jim lifted one to rest on his hip. He muttered Jim's name like a mantra under his breath as Jim worked him open enough to a second then third finger, keening when he rocked against them to force them deeper.

"You're gorgeous like this," Jim mumbled as he watched Spock through half-lidded eyes. "Been wanting you, needing you…"

"As have I," Spock whispered back, reaching up to stroke the side of Jim's face. He whimpered when Jim's fingers retreated only to be replaced by his cock nudging the stretched entrance.

"I tried to forget, didn't think I'd ever be able to feel this again," Jim rambled, cursing his habit of being too talkative during sex. Both of Spock's hands found his psi points, and Jim was drowning in the depth of Spock's love for him, the hurt completely erased. He blinked tears from his eyes and smiled before sending his own feelings back.

"Never again," Spock declared, eyes intent on Jim's face as it softened and glowed with joy. Jim moaned Spock's name before slowly pushing inside of him.

Jim clenched his jaw, fighting the urge to just thrust and take what he needed. "Are y-you ok?" he gasped and Spock answered by grabbing Jim's hips and pulling him in until he was fully encased inside.

Their cries echoed in the small room as Spock wrapped his legs around Jim's hips and they rocked together, settling into the perfect rhythm. Jim stared at Spock's face as his lips parted with each thrust, and Jim took him harder when fingers dug into his hips hard enough to leave bruises.

"Jim," Spock whimpered, the sound drawn out into a cry when Jim captured a hand, threaded their fingers together and squeezed.

"What do you need?" Jim asked as he released Spock's hand but pressed a kiss against the palm before it settled on his face. Fingers settled over psi points again and Jim's eyes fluttered shut before he nodded; trembling in anticipation.

"Yes, yes. Do it," he begged and Spock was entering his mind. It was so different from the first meld they shared over half a year ago and different still from when Spock had touched his mind just a few moments ago. Jim was barraged from all sides by Spock's emotions, his pleasure; he could feel himself being fucked, each strike against Spock's prostate as if it were his own, and the delicious burn of being stretched.

A breathless sob left Jim's throat as he slumped forward until their foreheads were pressed together. Spock didn't release him as he panted and tried to catch his breath.

'Taluhk nash-veh k'dular' Spock's words echoed in Jim's head and he smiled, needing no translation as the meaning behind the declaration became clear in his mind. He could feel the two of them meshing together and welcomed it, all of his fear and reservations vanishing as the link between then solidified into a full bond.

Pleasure crashed over Jim as Spock arched into him, shouting his name. Spock's orgasm trigged Jim's, and he caught sight of Spock's lips upturned in a true smile before he was crying out Spock's name. He felt like he was flying apar,t but Spock was there to put him back together and in the back of his mind the bond glowed and sang as the world dwindled until it was just the two of them.

It was so perfect, the space they'd created between them, Jim mused much later when he'd come back to himself. Jim kissed Spock deeply once more, drinking in the content expression on his new bondmate's face before letting his eyes drift shut. Bondmate! His mind sang in giddy pleasure, and Spock's amusement colored the bond. Hands smoothed over his back, the sensation of fingers trailing patterns over his sweat-damp skin making Jim shiver. He nuzzled the hollow of Spock's throat before bumping his head against Spock's chin with a chuckle.

"If we fall asleep like this we risk becoming stuck together," Spock mumbled into Jim's hair, and Jim snuffled into his neck against before throwing his arms around Spock when he tried to leave the bed.

"Like that's a bad thing? I honestly don't care. I can't move; you broke me," he slurred, pressing a sloppy kiss against Spock's skin as he shifted closer. He winced when he rolled into the damp spot between them and untangled himself from Spock with a groan. Spock's face was the picture of smug contentment, and Jim swatted his thigh with a chuckle before hauling himself from the bed.

He padded quietly into their shared bathroom, taking his time running a cloth under warm water as he regarded himself in the mirror. He looked tired, well-loved but most of all, happy. He gave himself a wide grin before stepping out of the bathroom and gazing at Spock had quickly replaced the soiled sheets and was stretched out and waiting for him.

Jim smiled and made his way towards the bed until his eyes caught on something familiar. "You kept it."

Spock followed his line of sight until his eyes alighted on the sea shell Jim had found on the beach, placed on the shelf.

"The shell is similar in design to the Terran Busycon contrarium," Spock supplied, trying and failing to suppress a shiver as the warm cloth followed by Jim's lips trailed over his skin.

"A lightning whelk," Jim chuckled, returning to the bed after disposing of the cloth. He adopted his earlier position, head nuzzled under Spock's chin, and hummed when Spock's arm encircled him after pulling the blankets around them. Jim smiled as he took in the gleaming shell, noticeable even in the low lighting of the room before pulling back and stretching upwards to kiss Spock on the nose.

Spock blinked at the light touch, reaching out to trail two fingers along Jim's swollen lips. "You are familiar with the species?"

Jim pressed a kiss to the wandering fingers and watched Spock's eyelids flutter when he sucked the tips into his mouth. "Well," he said around them, "when I had a break from my heavy class load, I ventured to the beach from time to time. One of my favorite places to get away from it all."

Spock narrowed his eyes and pulled his fingers away, brushing them against Jim's smile. "One would think that you've had enough of beaches for now."

"What are you talking about?" Jim propped his cheek on his hand, looking down at Spock with a teasing grin. "Don't act like you don't miss it, gleaming silver sand, red skies… You even kept a souvenir and polished it I see. Maybe we can use it as a honeymoon destination," Jim's voice softened and he let out a started cry when he found himself pressed to the mattress and his mouth taken in a passionate kiss.

When Spock released him, Jim gifted him with a bright smile. "Should I take that as a yes?"

Spock didn't reply but a wave of amusement and adoration flowed over Jim and he closed his eyes in contentment. Jim let Spock arrange them so they were wrapped in each other's arms, legs intertwined.


Spock didn't answer but tightened his arms around Jim to let him know he listening.

"I love you," Jim whispered, knowing he didn't need to say the words, that Spock already knew his true feelings were so much stronger than the words themselves. A smile lifted the corners of Spock's lips and his eyes opened just the tiniest bit.

"As I do you, my Jim."

Jim shifted closer until their foreheads touched, drifting in the comfort of Spock's embrace and the soft sounds of their breathing until a thought popped into his mind.


Spock hummed and opened one eye to look at him.

"We never did come up with a name for the planet."

Jim sputtered as a pillow was dumped on his face and collapsed into laughter when Spock mumbled something about sleep and turned so his back was facing him. Jim molded himself to Spock's back, wrapping his arms around him and pressing a lingering kiss to his shoulder. He smiled as Spock's fingers stroked over the back of Jim's hand that was pressed against his stomach and finally let himself drift.