Space is cold.
The environmental conditions however warm, is not the same as Iowa sunshine. It’s the smell too. The filtered air just isn’t the same as a sun warmed, clean breeze and doesn’t feel the same in his lungs. It’s almost as if he can’t breathe. He misses the touch upon his face. It’s definitely the smell; a sort of artificial hint that leaves a taste in his mouth and he can detect it in his nose when be breathes in. He just can’t get used to it. It’s… empty.
Then there are the allergies. He seems to be allergic to everything. It was never this bad, was it? His uniform standard underwear gives him a prickly rash around his groin. He has to shave his balls. Bones gives him a spray thingy to anoint the area. He endures for a while but ends up sending a requisition to Earth for cotton shorts; not even the replicated stuff seems to work which is just stupid because it should. He lasts about six weeks before the rash returns and has to resort to silk. Silk! It’s becoming ridiculous.
Then there’s the problem of the uniform. Wool mix socks to stop his feet itching and avoid developing a rather unpleasant soggy look to the skin between his toes. Then a cotton undershirt, pure of course ordered from Earth, to wear under his command gold. Then a silk band sewn into the waistband of his trousers to stop the rubbing against his stomach and prevent the hives that form a ring around his waist. Same with the collar and the cuffs. Nightmare.
Then it’s the bed linen. The fibres of the standard issues make his skin crawl; they’re prickly and sleepless nights for week upon week drive him mad and exhaust him. He ends up trying cotton, replicated - no good. He sends back to Earth for cotton sheets. They work for a while until he has to resort to silk again.
But it’s still cold, or at least it feels cold at night when he sleeps. He just can’t feel warm which is ridiculous because the temperature in his quarters is ambient and he is not shivering as such. He just feels tense as if he is shivering. Cold, on the inside.
He speaks to Bones about it over a glass of bourbon one evening. He sits on the ‘should be comfortable but just aren’t’ cushions on the regulation couch in his standard furnished captain’s quarters and feels fidgety. Bones watches him first with a concerned pinch between brows and then mild sympathy.
Three weeks later he has a delivery from Earth, a thick natural wool blanket twice the size of a double bed that he wraps himself up in at night. He sleeps a little better, like a pupating caterpillar and rises reluctantly every morning for his shift. He shivers even though his quarters are warm.
And the problems don’t stop there. There is of course the need to reign himself in from cruising his crew. He is constantly frustrated and wound up like a tight spring. He speaks to Bones again. Bones recommends bromide tea which is an old Terran army remedy. He tries it. It brings him out in hives and he scratches for a week and the end of his cock burns. Bones gives him a shot of some concocted thing that dulls his senses and makes him feel like he’s dragging his body around. He tries it for five days before deciding he’d prefer to live with frustration. He resigns himself to never having a shag ever again in his life and jacking off between his shifts; three or five times a day. He still shaves his balls, he’s sort of used to it, quite likes it in fact.
Then of course there’s the ultimate problem. The problem. The problem to end all problems. The problem that pushes all other problems aside as insignificant minor irritations. The problem that he wasn’t even aware was a problem until he started thinking about it as a problem, by which time he realised it had already crept upon him from behind and smacked him sideways as he sat quietly in his quarters jacking off as usual and then Bam! the image popped into his head and he came hard. Spock.
He goes to speak to Bones about it right away. Well, not exactly the details, merely was it normal to fantasise about members of the crew, which was lame because Bones was already aware he’d been chasing or eyeing everything within ten yards for the past however long. He sits opposite Bones worrying a glass of bourbon between his hands until the ice has melted. Bones sits quietly with a crease of a frown between his brows until the silence grows so loud and uncomfortable Bones has to insist “Jim?”
He passes the matter off with a vague wave of his hand then. A rueful smile to boot saying “Don’t worry about it. I’m fine.”
“I’m your doctor and I’m your friend, Jim,” insists Bones.
He wants to speak but there is something inside him that doesn’t let him speak. He just can’t bring himself to say the things he needs to say. Was there anything he could say? He isn’t sure how or what the problem really is. His mind’s askew; the truth if there was any is a vague fuzzy mix of events that are all blurry. He isn’t even sure when it had started.
That mind meld with Spock Prime perhaps. That had bowled him over. He’d felt completely helpless with the Vulcan’s hand on him, as if held in the arms of a lover, safe yet at the same time exposed physically and emotionally. The idea gives him twingey insides. He keeps worrying that sensation, trying to pick at it like a scab, going back to the event in his mind and turning it over and over, re-living that sensation of what? What was it? It was out of his reach now but it was there like an echo, a warmth inside that was missing and without it he just felt cold. Maybe it was just his imagination.
But there was that other time too when he’d had felt it, standing eye to eye with Spock on the bridge, challenging him, pushing hard trying to find that vulnerability in him and exploit it. That moment, that warmth he had experienced, the proximity to that Vulcan body; those eyes that met his full of defiance and strength. God, those eyes. That expression. Just the two of them so close as if the whole universe reduced to a single shared breath and heartbeat before he had pushed and found that place inside the Vulcan and took him to the edge; his edge, that place where he existed and everything felt instinctively right. Even now it thrilled him, gnawed inside him; an insatiable hunger. He wanted to touch that again, touch it again, experience the cascade of violence - no passion - that washed over him pure and clean. To breathe.
And then of course there was that touch. Not the pressure of the hand around his throat per se, that had hurt, but the hand on him; the press of the body against him, the weight comforting and warm, heavy, god so heavy, and hard. Firm, muscles taught and locked pressing down on him. Those eyes meeting his, rich, full, open, wild and free; the emotion flowing through every fibre of that being, untamed, raw, alive. He saw it. He had never seen anything like it. He wanted it. He only realised he did until much later.
How long had it taken for him to notice? Had he always been aware of it but just denied it? Why would he deny it? Perhaps it was his command, the achievement of gaining his captaincy, saving everyone, flying by the seat of his pants not really conscious of what he was doing until afterward. The instinct that gave him that edge he never questioned, he trusted it. He always had. Perhaps that was it? Perhaps he hadn’t noticed the problem until now because it had just been instinctive to act in the way he had? He hadn’t questioned it. It had felt right. It had felt right to…. God what was that?
It had felt completely normal to stand right next to that body and touch it occasionally, put his hand on that firm arm and squeeze. Or to brush against that shoulder when examining some readout on the console. It was just natural to be where he was, to always be together. To beam down to a planet’s surface and stand with their heads close together in quiet discussion over tricorder readings? It was right to feel that protective about the person who had saved his life and whose life he had saved, was it not? It was normal to want to be with the person he felt he had the most in common with, who shared the understanding of burdens of rank and responsibility. Was it guilt perhaps that he had taken that from him, the captaincy? Was he over compensating and not aware of it?
The more he thinks about it the more fuzzy his thinking becomes. He can’t put his thinking straight and he can’t put his finger on the point of the problem. All he knows is that he’s become aware of how much he stares at him and how blatantly obvious it must be to the crew. Sometimes he’s staring and doesn’t realise until those dark eyes turn upon him and that brow lifts quizzically as if to say “Captain?”
It seems that question is asked a lot lately. He doesn’t have an answer for it. He drags his eyes away.
“Nothing, Mr Spock. Carry on.”
He looks forward to away missions. The more dangerous the better. It takes his mind off the conscious moment and lets him forget about whether he should be standing so close. He’s reminded always of course that the Capitan should stay aboard the ship, that it is against regulations for both senior officers to be together but he doesn’t care. He needs it. He needs the action, the freedom. It completes him.
“Jim. You‘re pushing,” says Bones and he know it, but he continues, taking it and his crew to the limit. He gets away with it every time.
But the cold is always there. So cold. Perhaps that’s why he stands so close to him. He’s like a flame, warm, drawing him in. In the turbolift he feels it most. Alone together for those brief minutes, closed off from the rest of the ship and the crew he feels that twinge inside him, that hunger, that insatiable thing that needs so much to be fed that gnaws persistently at him. And then there’s the smell of him. Oh god the smell of him. He hadn’t even noticed until now, acknowledged perhaps would be more accurate, but that smell makes him want to press against that warm body and just breathe in and keep breathing in. It’s like the air he’s been missing, clean oxygen that he needs in his lungs; a taste of Iowa, that rush he remembers, upon his face. It makes him giddy for a moment, glazing his eyes.
“Captain? Are you unwell?”
“No. I’m fine Spock.”
God he wants to touch him, he wants to be closer, it’s burning white hot in his chest and his gut. The turbolift opens and the moment passes like it always does and he walks away like he always does. He feels cold again then. Terribly cold. Empty. Alone. It hurts; a pain like no other, a yawning gap inside him, deep cold like the vacuum of space. And the nights grow longer now and darker; which is stupid because aboard the Enterprise there is no day or night he tells himself, it just feels that way.
He spends his entire time filled with restlessness or it’s the cold inside him that makes him restless. It’s a pressure inside him now, pushing up through his gut into his chest . Need. Awful need. Ravenous and relentless. It makes him feel like he’s going mad, which is stupid because he knows he’s not, but it does. He spends all his time thinking about Spock and goes in search of him all the time. He’s always wandering down to the science labs, nosing about, just to catch a glimpse of him. The sight of him is enough to relieve that inner tension, relief instantaneously felt yet only brief. It’s a drug. The more he gets the more he wants.
So he asks.
“Spock. I need to talk to you.”
“It’s a private matter.” He swallows and watches the fine brow raise. “We need to talk in private, Spock.” The head tilts fractionally. “When you finish your shift would you come to my quarters? Please.”
Please? What? Is he begging? It felt like it. Those dark eyes are totally trusting though, a glimpse of concern perhaps. The wordless nod after a brief consideration gives him that warm feeling, just a little and he’s terrified. What if he says things that he shouldn’t? What if he.. oh god what if? He will come to him though, dutiful, trusting. As his friend. He knows he will and that small knowledge inside him is all that he has. He clings to it. But he want more. He wants… something; it’s a terrible admission even to himself. Can he speak of it? Does he really know what it is?
He turns the temperature up in his quarters in preparation. He doesn’t even think to worry about the airless feeling inside him right now as he paces about waiting. God the waiting, please, please, please. He’s all but strangled by desperation. That gnawing hunger inside him is pushing against his nerves until he feels physically raw. He is hot; his hands sweating. Please please please. He feels like he can will the announce tone at the door to his quarters to ping he’s so wound up inside. That sound will bring the relief he needs. He needs to feel that more than anything else. He watches the time ticking past.
God. Time. He hates it. It is his personal torturer. Never enough when he needs it, too much that stretches like an eternity of long, empty, cold silence when he doesn’t. He knows he will come though. He knows it and yet the waiting is awful. Please please please.
He stands in his quarters with his eyes closed. He can nearly hear his heart beating. It’s fast. He imagines those dark eyes, the fluid movements, the long back and longer legs that stride in measured steps from the bridge into a turbolift. He knows the hush of the doors as they close and the hum in the background with the silence of that body standing patiently. What does he think he wonders? He imagines him standing alone in the turbolift and he, like a ghost, is next to him. He touches him, reaches out and runs his fingers through that hair, that dark silky mass of perfection that never seems to change. He wonders what it really feels like. He imagines the doors of the turbolift opening, the movement of those long legs walking down the deck and the shift of material. God that ass.
His eyes snap open. Why he does it he’s not sure, that pressure inside him is controlling him now but he opens the door of his quarters. He is stunned, his eyes wide and his mouth open, all conscious thought vanishing at the sight of that body in that uniform taking a final step, an arm already outstretched with a finger hovering against the announce tab. Is that surprise too he sees in those dark eyes?
There is a breath of a moment and he feels it; the universe around him receding until all that is left is just the two of them, a single shared heartbeat until the moment loses synchronicity and reality slaps him hard in the face.
“You requested my attendance, Captain.”
He’s nodding. Dumbly. The ability to speak has left him, all the words are stuck in the middle of his head and he can’t make the mental bridge to his vocal chords. He’s not quite sure what comes out, it’s strangled, jumbled and incoherent.
“Yes, come in, I’m wanting - waiting - for you, I was just about to come looking for you and remind you - I don’t need to remind you! What am I saying?” He laughs, embarrassed, his face flushing hot as his body reactively screws itself inwards and his shoulders rise. “Sorry, come in, come in.”
He ends up clearing his throat and hating himself as that warm body steps past him with a quizzical brow lifted, hands folded neatly behind as they always seem to be. The hush of the closing doors moves the air and he can smell him. He can breathe again, just for a moment.
“Sit down, Mr Spock, please.”
Does he notice he is nervous? He hovers about in the room watching fluid movement carry long limbs to seat uncanny warmth upon the couch. Dark trusting eyes regard him then, they catch the light from a nearby reading lamp. If silence bothers him he doesn’t seem to show it. He just sits there, waiting.
“I need to talk to you - ask you - something, Mr Spock.” He’s rubbing his hands, his mouth open and that pressure inside him is unbearable. “I need you to ..” Say it, say it, say it. It’s the only way, he won’t mind. He can only say no and then … “..meld with me.” It comes out strangled, a whine, pleading and needy, desperate. He didn’t want it to sound like that. The silence draws long then. God why doesn’t he say something? Why is he just sitting there looking at me? What’s he thinking?
“May I ask a personal query?”
“Sure go ahead, ask anything you want, Spock.” Please say yes.
“Do you make this request as a…” The word is chosen carefully, the mouth finding it difficult to form, its meaning powerful and alien to him no doubt. “..friend?”
“I think there’s something wrong with me. I need you to check whether, something is wrong. With me.” He feels like he’s going to cry. He can barely breathe. His chest feels tight, clamped in a vice that’s getting tighter by the second. It’s crushing him. “I think when you - Spock, the other you - melded with me, something was ..” Something was there. “..happened. I need you to check if everything’s ok.”
He watches the signs of consideration, dark eyes dropping from his own and releasing him from scrutiny to scrutinize the floor. He catches his breath in that moment, a bubbling panic, before dark eyes grasp his face again.
He nods and rubs his sweating hands on his trousers. This is it. This is what he wanted isn’t it? Even as he moves and sits upon the couch he feels like he’s going to pass out. He just wants to feel warm, that’s all he wants.
“I want to apologise.” For what is the expression he sees clearly in the Vulcan’s face. “Just in case. Just in case there’s anything you find, offensive” About me. “In there.” His smile is wane and feeble like his laugh as he taps the side of his head with a finger. He swallows.
“Understood. I do not believe I will.”
“I know it’s a great personal thing. For Vulcans. A terrible lowering of.. personal barriers for you. I wouldn’t ask if there was any other way.”
He receives a nod. Nothing more. He can feel warmth and that smell is in his nose and air in his lungs again sitting this close. And then it happens. That warmth reaches out and touches him. So trusting. A delicate fragrance on the palm of the hand, fingers light becoming firmer upon his temple, a thumb pressing upon his nose, turning his head slightly. It’s different. Very different to the other time. It feels ..young. Less familiar. Less practiced. But it’s been done before, he can tell. He wonders with who and how many times before the dark eyes close. He feels hot, a thrill inside him as he listens to the silence in the room. Just them. Here. Alone.
“My thoughts to your thoughts, our thoughts together as one.”
He watches those lips. They close. He’s conscious of everything, his breathing, the couch under him. He shifts a little. Their knees touch and he immediately is concerned. But why should he be, they are already touching? He rests his hand beside him on the couch, his other in his lap and he watches the small movements of concentration upon the face in front of him; a slight quiver of small muscles under the skin near closed eyes, a pinch ghosting between sharp brows, a loose lash resting upon the smooth flawless skin of a cheek, the flare of nostrils as breathing deepens and those lips parting slightly, moisture glimpsed upon the inside edge.
He closes his eyes.
Warmth first and then that terrible, awful feeling inside of him is reaching, reaching up, out. Please. He feels like he’s slipping off the couch or that the couch just isn’t there any more. He can’t tell the difference between the pressure inside him and the pressure of his seated body. It’s like he can’t feel his muscles any more. He doesn’t even know whether he’s breathing any more. He panics but he suddenly knows everything is alright. And then it comes, a terrible wave. It rises through him, twisting up his spine like an uncoiling snake devouring him from the inside out. It burns white cold. It’s eating him alive and he can’t stop it.
He can’t run. He wants to. He’s desperate. He’s so alone. Empty. Cold. It’s a space inside that can’t be filled.
Please help me. I need you. I can’t be like this any more. I can’t..
Such pain, an awful, terrible thing that can’t find peace. There is no peace. There is only the searching. There is only hunger. There is only a desperate need to be touched but fear of touch that takes rather than gives. A need like no other. A need to be whole. A need to be complete.
It is warm before he realises it is. It is like the sun on the inside of him. He cannot remember not ever feeling it. It feels right. It feels more right than anything he has ever known. It feels like he should have always felt this way. It is warm to the touch before he realises he is touching it. It is warm, very warm and soft like silk against the palm of his hand. It is all around him before he realises it is around him, embracing him. And he can taste it. It is clean water bubbling up from a spring in the earth and as warm as the texture of sun hot grass under bare feet. It’s giving and taking. It is relief, exploring, unselfconscious, curious, questioning, realising.
His eyes snap open and so do the dark eyes opposite. Their mouths pause, a moment held without movement before lips part slowly. He feels the air rush into the space between and cool the moisture shared that rests upon his lips. Everything feels right and he seeks warmth again. It is only instinct. But the lips are whispering even as his own meet them again.
“Forgive me. Emotional transference is..”
He reaches for him, presses his body against the warmth that has its hands on his arms and is pushing back. The cold is coming again. Fast. It’s crushing his insides, solidifying him to stone and he can’t breathe again. He’s already gripping the warm arms and trying to pull reluctance against him. The lips no longer give, are no longer curious and the head is turning them away from him.
“Captain, please. Do not.”
His lips touch skin, warm, and he can feel the pulse of life running fast in the veins in the throat that is exposed to him. He watches in horror as long limbs struggle and untangle themselves. He sees himself for the first time and experiences another horror. What is he doing? He becomes stone, gripped from within by disgust and his hands curl into fists that want to punish him for what he has done.
“God I’m sorry. Spock please, I’m sorry.”
He screws his eyes tightly shut. He can hear breaths taken; they are shakey, attempting to calm, attempting to regain composure. He can hear the movement of long limbs straightening uniform, putting back the semblance of perfection that has been sullied by touch, by him. He can hear the awful silence in the room and the deafening silence of the void inside him that opens up, cold.
“If you would excuse me, Captain.”
The voice is raw and it cuts him. He hears doors hush open and the presence abandon him. Then the pain comes, devouring him from within and he cries out. His body curls into a ball as he collapses inwardly, his head touching the floor. He is crawling, trying to escape from shame and loathing that beat upon him. Tears run hot.
“No please, don’t go.”
He dare not open his eyes. The void inside him is screaming and he is shaking.
He is not aware of the hours as they pass. He exhausts himself yet does not sleep. He lays upon the floor near the couch in the half light of his quarters until the alarm for his shift sounds. He does not stop it ringing and it eventually stops of its own accord. Time passes slowly. He does not respond to hails over the comm. from the bridge. He does not attend his shift and Bones is at the door to his quarters overriding the security pass. He realises the warmth is also there even before the doors open.
He stares unseeing as Bones asks him questions and does what doctor’s do. He doesn’t hear the heated debate and then the accusations Bones levels at Spock. It is only when warmth touches him he raises his head and looks into dark eyes.
Tears again. They are hot and flow freely and he is shaking and cold inside.
“What the Sam hell have you done to him, Spock?”
“I am as unfamiliar with the nature of the malaise, Doctor, as you appear to be.”
“He’s suffering can’t you see that? This is your doing with that damn Vulcan mumbo jumbo you’ve practised on him.”
“Vulcans do not practice mumbo jumbo, Doctor.”
“What’s the matter with you Spock? Do something you green blooded, heartless hobgoblin.”
The warmth is around him again, firm, strong, protective. He is lifted easily from the floor, carried even more easily by strength that guides and settles him seated upon his bed. He clings to it sat beside him, the cold inside him making his fingers dig into the arms that are around him. He rests his head against the shoulder and notices Bones’ expression for the first time.
“Jim. What’s wrong?”
He cannot speak. He has no strength.
“Doctor. If you would excuse us.”
“You don’t actually think I’m going to leave him alone with you, do you Spock?”
He feels the world tilt and he is laying down. He curls towards the warmth that lays beside him and hears the hushing sound of the doors to his quarters as they move and he knows they are alone. He reaches out and his hand is taken in firm warmth, fingers threading through his own. The touch is delicate. Dark eyes meet his.
There is no answer required. Lips meet his, warm, so warm, slow and soft. He does not realise the cold inside him is gone until he feels the lips separate from his own. He lays quietly as fingers caress his own. He lays quietly and the hours pass. He realises he is exhausted and sleeps. He wakes and opens his eyes to find warmth beside him still, dark eyes regarding him with solemnity and calm. His hand is still held by gentle fingers. He ventures to move, the need in him pushing, wanting; such a terrible need for reassurance that is answered with unspoken tenderness and assuredly upon his own lips. He is filled with warmth.
“What are we going to do?”
“I do not know.”
“There are always possibilities.”
He nods. He knows. He closes his eyes.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Jim. I am not.”
Warmth. He is warm. He listens to the steady breath near him. It touches his face and he breathe again. His lungs are full and he can smell clean, clear air. It is the open space and the sky, and the ocean, the horizon full of hope and the sun on his skin. He holds it in his hand, warm; a silken texture that soothes his nerves and is a balm for his soul. It is the mountain top, a hand reached to the clouds that fly above. It is the velvet depths of the sea, dark and mysterious. It is the snow, melting upon a fingertip and the dew upon grass with the promise of life.
It is peace.
He is complete.