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Sarek is busier than Jim would have imagined.  He knew on a very basic level that there was a lot to be done for the colony - buildings to erect, Vulcans to summon to their new home, political procedures to put into place so that they can rebuild their lives in peace.  The population has been decimated but the workload required to keep them functioning has likely tripled.  Jim has no idea how many politicians, teachers, healers, engineers, or philanthropists were lost in the singularity.  He does know that there seems to be a dark haze lingering in the face of every Vulcan here, and that unified cultural sense of loss casts a shadow even when the desert sun is at its peak.

He is the only human currently allowed on New Vulcan's surface, all other humans being restricted to the supply dock and quickly escorted off of it.  He isn't here to help with the rebuilding process, isn't even here as a representative of Starfleet, but neither of those solid facts does anything to stop the sidelong glances and distrustful eyes pointed in his direction everywhere he goes.  Even Sarek's assistant, a man who looks to be Jim's age but is actually twenty years his senior, has a faint flickering of distaste over his features before he schools them back to stoic perfection.  "The Ambassador is waiting for you," he informs Jim in that clipped, even tone that seems omnipresent here.

He longs to hear warmth infusing all that formal speech.  He wonders if he'll ever hear it again.

He enters Sarek's office, taking a seat in front of his desk.  "Ambassador."

Sarek nods in greeting.  "Captain."

This is the part of his job that he's not as good at: the diplomacy part.  He can't believe he ever even considered joining the Admirals if this is the kind of dance they do all day.  "I came to ask about transportation back to Earth.  It's clear that humans aren't welcome on New Vulcan at this time, and I don't want to be a thorn in anyone's side."

Apparently Sarek is familiar with the idiom, because he doesn't question it the way Spock usually does (though Jim is convinced an awful lot of that is Spock feigning ignorance and fucking with them for his own amusement).  "You are not impeding the progress being made here.  However, I have arranged for the colony's private spacecraft to take you back to Earth in two days' time."

Jim raises an eyebrow at him, a gesture he's unconsciously picked up after five years of familiarity with it.  "Forgive me, but I'm surprised you're allowing me such an extended stay.  I've seen Ambassador Sel- Spock," he corrects himself, having been used to using his alternate name when discussing him with other Vulcans over the past few days since his death.  "I was allowed to attend the funeral - thank you for that, by the way - but that was days ago.  What more would you have me do?"

Sarek spears him with a look reminiscent of McCoy when he's trying to call him on his bullshit.  "You have no further business on New Vulcan?"

Jim wills himself not to squirm.  "Sir, I've sent several waves to the system you indicated was in Spock's quarters.  I haven't heard anything from him and I've been trying ever since Spock - the older one, that is - passed away.  I'm not sure what else I can do past trying to physically track him down, and he's good at making himself scarce when he doesn't want to be disturbed."

One of Sarek's eyebrows slowly creeps skyward as Jim explains himself, turning his attention to a small console built into his desk.  He spends a few minutes inputting commands, speaking to a holographic monitor in Vulcan before it finally spouts something back at him.

"It appears my son has sequestered himself in the sanctuary in the Haadok Mountains."  At Jim's curious look, he explains, "Vulcans require seclusion for intense meditation, especially the level required for the kolinahr ritual."

He latches onto the new term with interest.  "Kolinahr?"

"Yes.  It is a path many Vulcans have chosen to follow in order to control their grief or anger over our current situation."

"So it's a way to deal with what happened on Vulcan?"  It doesn't quite make sense; he knows Vulcans to be renowned for their ability to exert control over their emotions.  Why they would need a ritual to do something they already practice on an everyday basis is a mystery.

It's a mystery Sarek doesn't seem keen to explain, checking his monitor again and inputting more information.  "He arrived at the sanctuary four point six hours ago.  He should still be able to break his meditation to speak with you, even if only temporarily."  And if there's some measure of hope or anxiety in Sarek's voice, it isn't echoed in his expression.  But Jim can't believe that he simply imagined it was there.

"Look, Ambassador...  I appreciate what you're doing.  And I do want to speak with him."  More than you could possibly imagine.  "But I don't want to interrupt him if he's in the middle of something important."

Sarek gives him a look that seems to bore right through him, and he once again resists the urge to squirm when Sarek speaks.  "I am grateful for the respect you have for our traditions and the choices he has made."  Here he stops and seems to take a moment ensuring he's chosen the right words.  "Nevertheless, I would feel more at ease with his decision if he were given one last opportunity to explore his human side."

Jim has been so used to his humanity being a disadvantage, or at the very least a distraction, that he can't help looking a bit gobsmacked.  "He's tried all his life to embrace the Vulcan way," he says, feeling some strange need to defend him even though no attack has been made on his character.  Then again, any expression of humanity or overt emotionalism equates to an attack on Spock's character on this planet.

Not from his father, apparently.  "He has, and I am proud of his efforts.  However, I have reason to believe that the path he has chosen may not be the correct one for him.  I would have you ensure that he is... at peace, perhaps, with his choice."

He doesn't understand exactly what Sarek's getting at, but he can sense the anxiety in his tone of voice, even though his inflection has changed very little.  It's enough for him that Sarek wants him to go check on his son.  "All right.  If it's okay with you, I'd be more than happy to see him."

"I thank thee," Sarek says in that grand, formal syntax.  It echoes in Jim's heart with a different inflection, with an image of silver hair and a peaceful craggy face, and something deep within him aches for the loss.

*******




Jim arrives at the Haadok Sanctuary some thirty minutes later, marveling at the level of technology the Vulcans have already managed to put into place at such an early stage in their reconstruction.  Sarek informs him that the sanctuary is a vital structure, just as vital as their medical facility or their supply dock, so it only makes sense that it's one of the first places to benefit from a technological standpoint.  Still, it's jarring to see the equivalent of a Vulcan secretary typing away at a console while the rest of the planet is mostly either deserted or in shambles.

He's guided to a series of caverns that appear to occur naturally in the rock, although each of them has had a sliding door installed to ensure the privacy of the occupant.  They seem to be soundproofed as well, which makes little sense if it's a meditative sanctuary, but Jim has learned not to question Vulcan ritual too closely.  He gets enough glares as it is just by virtue of being here.

The woman presiding over the sanctuary hesitates at the door, her gaze darting to a series of shelves bolted into the wall next to each cavern opening.  Each shelf has a series of ornate, engraved wooden boxes stacked on them, and the only text Jim can translate says something to the effect of, 'Ceremonial rations.'  He wonders if meditating Vulcans forget to eat.  He knows he's shoved Spock toward the Mess Hall on a number of occasions when he gets too busy to remember his meals.

She seems to come to a decision, giving Jim a respectful bow and murmuring, "Nam-tor u'sha'yut."

He shakes his head.  "I'm sorry.  Your language is difficult for me."

For the first time since he's been here, he senses something approaching friendliness in a severe, stoic face.  "My apologies; I had assumed you were fluent."  It's not an insult the way it has been coming from other Vulcans, and he feels a little more at ease.  "I simply meant to inform you that the path he has chosen is a tradition.  It is our way.  A human may find it difficult to understand."

Jim can't help the smirk that takes over his face.  "It wouldn't be the first thing about him that's been difficult to understand."

She endears herself to him again by taking no offense at the statement, merely bowing again and entering a code into a keypad that allows the door to open.  He returns the gesture, stepping inside and hearing the familiar hiss of a pneumatic door sliding shut behind him.

Even having prepared himself for this moment, even after almost two years of nothing but his memories of their years of service together and a solitary encounter in the transporter room, he still doesn't expect the immense wave of feeling washing over him when he spies the straight-backed figure seated on the floor.  Spock has his face turned toward the sunlight filtering in from the window, his back to the door, apparently oblivious to the fact that there's an intruder in the room.  Jim spends a few minutes collecting himself, taking in the glossy black hair and the stiff set of his shoulders.

It is both reminiscent of - and yet nothing like - the man who passed away several days ago.

"Spock?"  There's no response, and Jim decides he must be in fairly heavy meditation for him not to react.  He circles around him, settles himself on the floor in front of him, his head and upper body blocking the sunlight from the serene face.  He's never seen Spock quite that peaceful.  It looks good on him.  "Spock?" he tries again.

Nothing.  Which is unusual, but not unheard of.  He had to shake Spock out of a trance or two during their time on the Enterprise, and he's not adverse to doing it again.  He tries a third time, reaching out and squeezing his shoulder affectionately, but firmly.  "Hey, Spock."

Dark eyes open and take him in.  There's a flash of ferocious intensity there, a feral wildness that takes Jim's breath away and makes his heart pound.

And then it's gone as quickly as it came, a mask slamming into place.  In place of the sudden tempest is an utter implacability of Spock's features, a blankness in the eyes and a reservation to his expression that makes him appear as if he's been carved in stone.

It is deeply unsettling in a way Jim can't explain.  "Spock?"

"Captain."  No inflection in the voice, no familiarity whatsoever.  The only thing moving on that stony face is the mouth, and it is bereft of the small hints of emotion that Jim became so good at reading.

"Jim," he corrects him automatically, like he hasn't had to do in years.  "You okay, Spock?"

The eyebrow doesn't so much as twitch, and it is this more than anything causing the twisting of his guts.  "I am in adequate health and of sound mind."

Sound mind, my ass.  He's reminded of all the times McCoy jokingly called him a robot.  There's nothing funny about it now.  "What'd they do to you?"

"I do not understand your meaning."

The hell of it is, he does.  Jim spent five years on the Enterprise learning to translate Spockese through his body language.  Those wide human eyes of his give him away.  He may be hiding his emotions, but he can't hide his intelligence.  "You know exactly what I mean."

"There has been no damage inflicted upon my person by another individual, therefore-"

"I didn't come here to play the semantics game, Spock.  I came to figure out what the hell you've been up to for the past two years that prevented you from getting in touch with us."

There's the slightest, almost invisible tilt to Spock's head at that, and if the gesture were a little more showy Jim would be sure he was irritating him.  As it is, the movement comes off as calculated, controlled, revealing nothing.  "I have been helping with the reconstruction of various computer systems on New Vulcan, including the one regulating the privacy locks on the doors at the Sanctuary."

No inflection to the voice again.  Jim can't tell if Spock is annoyed by the intrusion or grateful for the company, and it's infuriating that he can't tell the difference anymore.  He tries a different tactic.  "We've missed you, Spock.  Even Bones asked me why we hadn't heard from you.  You know you've sucked at communicating when even Bones starts complaining about it."

There's a brief flicker of something in his eyes before it vanishes again, so quickly that Jim could have wished it there rather than truly seen it.  "I was unaware that my lack of communication would affect you."

He's not being self effacing about it, nor is he being a smart ass.  Jim is completely thrown by this strange facsimile of his friend, and he lapses into a frustrated, calculating silence.  Spock does nothing but stare at him coolly until he speaks again.  "What's kolinahr?" he asks, hoping the complete change of topic will elicit some kind of response.

He gets the barest twitch of an eyebrow.  Considering the lack of response he's gotten so far, it's almost the equivalent of a full-on glare.  "Where did you hear that term?"

It's ridiculous how relieved he is to be on the receiving end of Spock's temper, even if it's only being expressed through the minuscule movements of one eyebrow.  It's more than he's gotten throughout the entire conversation, and he'll take what he can get.  "Your father told me.  He said it was some kind of ritual you were following.  He didn't give me details."

Another long pause, and Jim represses the urge to snarl in frustration at how unreadable Spock's face is.  He doesn't know if he's annoyed, angry, worried.  He doesn't know if he's perhaps crossed some sort of line, doesn't know if he's intruded on all that Vulcan privacy.  It's like searching a statue for emotional cues - harder, in fact, because artists can imbue their work with feeling.  There's none of that coming from Spock.  "Kolinahr," he finally says, "is an ancient Vulcan ritual.  It allows the practitioner control over his or her emotions."

"Vulcans practice control over their emotions all the time," Jim points out.  "I don't see why you'd need some sort of ritual to do what you already do naturally."  More silence, and Jim's patience wears thin.  "Look, Spock, your father sent me to check on you.  He's made sure to give me a couple of days here before they ship me back to Earth.  He wants me to see how you're doing, so why don't you cut the privacy bullshit and just tell me what's going on?"

There's no reaction to that, and Jim never would have imagined longing for another outburst like the one on the bridge during the Narada incident.  Being choked within an inch of his life would be less painful than trying to communicate with this strange new Spock.  "Kolinahr is the practice of purging one's emotions," he finally says.

Jim can't repress his utter shock.  "Purging them?  All of them?  Why would you do that?"

For a moment it seems like Spock will simply refuse to answer him at all, and Jim is this close to leaving the room when he finally speaks.  "Kolinahr means purging all emotions - both the positive and the negative.  To do so ensures complete control over them, so they do not control us."

"But you haven't had problems controlling them in the past."  At that, Spock's eyebrow continues its slow journey to his hairline, and Jim backtracks.  "Past a few minor incidents, that is."

"You consider an attempt to end your life a minor incident?"

"Oh for-  We've been over this, Spock.  I intentionally provoked you.  It wasn't your fault."

"I do not agree."  And there's really nothing that can be said to protest the matter, because not only is Spock a stubborn bastard, he's not letting his temper or his guilt play any part in the conversation.

Jim tries another tactic.  "Did you ... did the other Spock talk to you at all?  Before...?"  There's a pang in his heart that won't let him talk about it in detail just yet.

Something happens in Spock's face, but it's more like he's bracing himself rather than showing any kind of emotion.  "He did."

"Did he tell you anything about his life?"

Absolute steel in those dark eyes.  "His life and his experiences do not mirror my own."

"Not exactly, no.  But a lot of them do.  He was First Officer of the Enterprise.  He was friends with his own Jim Kirk."  Jim hesitates, wondering if he should bring up the emotions he experienced during the meld.  "He was-"

"He was not a member of a dying race.  He did not feel the same responsibilities toward his people that I do.  He was not affected by a sudden diminishment in the population-"  Here Spock seems to realize that he's said too much, silencing himself with a nearly audible click of his jaw.

Jim's anger and impatience bleed out, just a little bit.  "Is that what this is about?  Is that why you got so sick during our first year of the mission?"

"It was part of my reason for choosing this path," he agrees.  "Attaining kolinahr will guarantee my safety the next time the ... illness affects me."

"Isn't there some other way to deal with the illness?  Some way that doesn't mean suppressing everything you've ever felt?"

If there is, Spock doesn't seem keen on enlightening him.  He goes silent again, closing his eyes as if trying to lapse back into his meditative state.

Jim isn't about to be ignored that easily.  "I spoke to him, too," he murmurs quietly.  "I was there when he passed away."  At Spock's lack of response, he continues.  "He told me you were lost.  That I needed to find you."

"My location is easily discernible, as you have obviously discovered."

"That's not what he meant.  And I think you know that and you're just trying to dance around the issue."  He wants to touch him so badly, tries desperately to keep it reigned in.  "He said you were lost in a place where humanity couldn't reach you."

"I have chosen to purge the more human side of me in an effort to control baser Vulcan urges."  And before Jim can comment on that or ask what he means, Spock forges on.  "I would ask that you respect my decision and allow me to continue the ritual without further distraction."

And Jim can't argue with that.  He just can't.  He knows this man, loves this man, and he's moved well past the stage where he would ignore Spock's needs simply because they didn't fit within his own human understanding of the world.  If this is what he wants, well...

Any hope he had of changing the situation deflates from deep in his lungs.  "Whatever you want, Spock," he says quietly.  He sits up on his knees in preparation to depart when a sudden thought occurs to him.  "The Enterprise refit will be done in a couple of weeks.  If you're done with your ritual, I'd be happy to have you back on board as my First Officer."

The dark eyes open again, and there's a look of blatant want there that rips at him.  "You would welcome my return?  Even after I have attained kolinahr?"

Jim shrugs.  "I'll take you any way I can get you.  You're the best damn officer in the fleet and you're also one of my best friends.  If all I can get is the logical Vulcan side of you, then I'll take it."

Spock seems to realize he's projecting too much emotion, and the eyes go carefully blank after some sort of short internal battle.  "I shall consider it."

"Good."  And then he just can't help himself anymore, leaning forward and pressing the swiftest of kisses to Spock's lips.  He isn't surprised when the expression doesn't change, but the eyes shift back to that hungry look, and that's good enough.  "I miss you," he says simply, stopping himself from saying anything more and taking his leave.

*******




Jim spends his last two days on New Vulcan sending waves back and forth with Starfleet.  His crew roster gets more crowded by the hour, and it settles a faintly insecure part of him to know that so many of them wish to return.  He's got Bones and Joanna on the roster now, too.  He can't believe how good it feels to have his secondary family on board, and he's tempted to list Joanna as a Cabin Boy if only to embarrass her and make her go on coffee runs.  But then she'd probably wind up slugging him on the bridge, and he can't afford to get beaten up by an eleven year old girl when he's supposed to be in command of the ship.

He spends the majority of his last day on New Vulcan rejecting applications for the First Officer position.  He has no idea if Spock will actually come back to the ship - and that's unsettling enough on its own, that he can't read Spock well enough anymore to know if he's actually going to think about it or if he was just humoring Jim - but he's going to keep that position open up until they leave spacedock.  If he gets desperate, he'll put Sulu in that slot so he can get more command experience under his belt.  As for Science Officer ... well, he'll burn that bridge when he comes to it.

Two days of dealing with the crew roster and positions and he's completely exhausted by the time Sarek escorts him out to the small private spacecraft.  He does his best to play the Diplomatic Starfleet Captain game, but he's probably too tired to have said his thanks properly. 

The hissing of the door behind him is another ache layering over his heart in a week that's been too full of them.  He's lost the one connection he had to another timeline, another Spock, another life where he was the center of the Vulcan's universe.  He's failed to convince his own Spock to return to Starfleet with him.  He's lost one of the two best friends he'll ever have to some strange Vulcan ritual that will strip Spock of all that closely guarded emotion.  He could kick himself for ever allowing Spock to leave the transporter room alone.  He should have spent the past two years trailing after him like a shadow, and to hell with Starfleet and his career.

Only ... only it doesn't work like that.  He loves his job.  He loves flinging himself to the furthest reaches of the galaxy and then taking a step over that line to see what lies beyond.  It's what he's made for; it's in his blood.  And while there's a piece of his heart being left behind in a cave in the Haadok Mountains, the rest of it is ready to go back out in the black.  It's time.

The journey from New Vulcan to Earth takes several hours, so he straps himself into his chair and promptly passes out.  He dreams of Bones, of Joanna, of his makeshift adopted family on his first, best home.  He dreams of the Enterprise and the people she brought into his life.  He dreams of Pike and Gaila shoving him off into space with a smile and a wave.  He dreams of fantastic new worlds, new species, new problems that demand new solutions.

He dreams of an empty console on the bridge, the chair in front of it holding nothing but a pile of dead green circuits. 

He dreams of a bond he will never share with another, of another half of himself launching into space to meet its equal.  He dreams of a joyous reunion, of an ecstasy and a peace he cannot even begin to comprehend.  He dreams of completion, of unity, of love.

And then, most disturbingly, he dreams of a wild feral hunger that seizes his mind and obliterates it, of an urge so deep and so profound that it drives him to bloodlust, to war, to destruction.

He wakes when the ship makes a sudden lurching motion under his feet.  Disoriented and dazed, he shakes his head and waits for the craft to stabilize before he unstraps himself and makes his way to the cockpit.  "Everything a'right?" he slurs, exhaustion still coloring his voice despite the short rest.

"All technical readouts and major functions of the ship are nominal," comes the cool, clipped voice of the Vulcan pilot.  "We are en route back to New Vulcan."

"Yeah, okay."  Two steps away from the cockpit and he replays that sentence in his mind one more time.  He stumbles back.  "New Vulcan?"

"Affirmative."

Shit, don't tell me I slept through my stop.  "Aren't you supposed to drop me off first?"

"Ambassador Sarek has sent us a wave indicating that your presence is required back on New Vulcan."  And for as much as Vulcans pride themselves on their emotional control, he can tell from the tone of voice that the pilot is more than a little concerned about this particular turn of events.

Jim rubs at his eyes and tries to sound less like a slurring drunk.  "He mention why you needed to bring me back?"  He's had enough heartache for the next year or so - he's not exactly keen on heading back to its source.

"He did."

He can't quite stop himself from rolling his eyes.  He'd forgotten how infuriatingly literal most Vulcans can be.  "And can you tell me his reason?"

"I cannot."

And since it wouldn't do any good to tell the pilot how maddeningly unhelpful he's being, Jim has little choice but to strap himself back into his seat and wonder what kind of disaster has cropped up in the few short hours since he left New Vulcan's atmosphere.

*******




"Ambassador," Jim greets when he stumbles off the ship for the second time this week.

"Captain," Sarek returns.  Jim gets ready to make a comment about deja vu, but Sarek begins moving swiftly toward the mountains where the sanctuary is located, and Jim has to jog a little to keep up.  "I apologize for interrupting your return voyage, but a lack of time prevented any alternative plan."

"It's not a problem.  What can I do to help?"

"My son requests your presence at the Haadok Sanctuary," Sarek explains, and Jim couldn't be any more shocked if Sarek had asked him to declare war on the Romulans on his behalf.

"Sir, I'm not sure what your son told you, but a few days ago he made it pretty clear that I wasn't needed out there."

"A few days ago he was not suffering from the effects of..."  Sarek trails off, and he almost looks embarrassed under that stoic expression.  "Suffice to say, circumstances have changed."

"That's not all that helpful," Jim points out.

"I am aware of that.  However, I am unable to provide you with the details.  Should you decide to assist Spock, he will give you all necessary information."

"Is he sick?" he plows on, heedless of Sarek's hedging.

"In a manner of speaking, yes." 

"Then why the hell would I refuse to help him out?"  Jim's patience is all but gone at this point.  He's lost one Spock to sickness and old age and he's losing another to that strange Vulcan ritual.  The lack of explanation is fast becoming the last straw.

Sarek doesn't react to the outburst, speaking to the Vulcan woman in charge of the sanctuary for a moment before returning his attention to Jim.  "It is a disease that goes back to the time of our ancestors, when we were a race of warriors with no thought to control our baser urges.  Has Spock never told you why Vulcans now follow the teachings of Surak?"

Jim bristles at the implication that he knows nothing of his First Officer's origins.  "You follow the teachings of Surak in order to control your emotions, to prevent them from taking you over."

"And we control our emotions because they are the cause of our near-extinction several thousand years ago.  We were a bloodthirsty race once, Captain, and our desire to kill came too close to ending us.  It was only through Surak's teachings that we were able to survive to the present."

"So Spock's gotten sick in a way that messes with his control?" Jim hazards a guess, following Sarek and the Vulcan woman back to Spock's room at the sanctuary.  He raises an eyebrow when the woman takes one of those ceremonial ration crates from the shelves and hands it to him without a word.

"His control is not what it should be at this time," Sarek returns with his usual diplomacy.  "Captain - Jim," and the familiarity is a bit jarring coming from Spock's father, "you are in no way required to help him at this time.  He may be able to come up with an alternative solution.  The fact remains, however, that he requested you specifically, and at a time when there is every possibility that this illness could prove fatal to him.  I would ask that you take that into consideration."

Jim nods, feeling almost dazed as the woman enters the code that opens the door.  He can't help but feel as if he's just gotten the, 'If you hurt him, I will hurt you' speech.  And from Spock's father, of all people.  Trying to shake it off, he enters, the door sliding shut behind him.

From all the anxiety Jim picked up from the other Vulcans, he had expected to be mauled the moment he stepped into Spock's room at the sanctuary.  Instead, it's more like a replay of his visit here a few days ago; Spock is still sitting straight-backed and facing the window, almost as if he hasn't moved at all for the past three days.  He doesn't even acknowledge Jim's presence when he sets down the ration kit and makes his way to Spock's meditative corner, settling himself in front of him again.

"Hey," he says quietly, fully expecting to fight for his life at some point.

And here the differences begin to manifest.  There's still that feral wildness in Spock's eyes when he meets Jim's, but there's no immediate effort to hide it - in fact, he makes no effort at all.  Instead he lets his face go slack with exhaustion and hunger, reaching out a hand between them with the palm facing up.  "Jim," he whispers, his voice hoarse as if it takes a monumental effort to speak at all.

Despite the exhaustion and the meekness, this is the Spock Jim is more familiar with, and he smiles when he sets his hand over the almost too-hot one offered to him.  "You asked for me.  I'm here.  What do you need?"

The blatant relief in Spock's face is staggering after seeing him with an almost robotic demeanor only days earlier.  "Did my father explain why I requested your presence?"

"He said it had to do with Vulcans having warrior ancestors.  He said you could die if I didn't help you out."  He shrugs, taking the opportunity to lace their fingers together while he's still got a more complacent Spock in front of him.  He's seen Spock in his violent moods; he's not sure how badly he's going to be broken by the time this is over.

But Spock doesn't seem to be even the slightest bit aggressive.  Rather, he emits a shaky sigh and squeezes Jim's fingers.  And if that weren't shockingly affectionate enough, he takes Jim's hand and presses it to his own cheek as if basking in his lower body temperature.  He does feel even warmer to the touch than usual, like he's overheating in the sun.  "We call it pon farr.  It is the time of mating among Vulcans, something we do not discuss outside of our betrothed or chosen mates."  And he's nuzzling into Jim's hand, looking more like a contented housecat than a creature in heat.

After a moment of watching Spock's almost feline reactions, the words start to sink in.  This is not at all what Jim was expecting.  "We're not betrothed," he points out, not that it stops him from scooting closer in an effort to soak up more of that body heat.  "And I was led to believe that you were going to start getting violent and beating the shit out of me."

"Pon farr does evoke violent emotions in Vulcans."  Damn, how did he ever miss how throaty and intense Spock's voice got when he was lapsing into his scholarly lecture mode?  Or did it only get that way when he was explaining the mating habits of his species?  "However, the woman to whom I was betrothed did not survive the implosion of Vulcan.  As a result, I have the right to choose my next mate."  He presses a searing kiss in the middle of Jim's palm, and the slow burn of his skin has Jim shivering paradoxically.  "I would choose you, if you would have me."

Jim's mind is reeling, spiraling through the anxious, yet maddeningly vague explanations Sarek gave him.  He had expected a fight, expected to hurt.  Vague as Sarek was, he was painfully clear on their species' history as violent and bloodthirsty.  And yet he can't imagine Spock capable of that kind of destruction, not with that open, imploring look on his face.  "I would have had you two years ago, Spock.  You could have contacted me at anytime and I would have come running.  But you've made every effort not to communicate with me if you could help it.  Hell, two days ago you basically dismissed me from your life.  What changed your mind?"

Spock raises the fingers of his free hand, arranges them in a familiar pattern and moves to touch Jim's temple.  He visibly stops himself, wincing as he forces his hand back to his side.  "I would show you, but I do not trust myself at present," he explains, closing his eyes.  "You asked if my elder counterpart shared any of his experiences with me.  He did, perhaps too many of them.  I experienced his loss, his loneliness.  I did not wish to inflict that kind of pain upon myself, and therefore resolved to attain kolinahr."  He runs out of steam then, falling silent and keeping his eyes closed.

Jim presses his other hand to Spock's face, cradling the overheated cheeks and enjoying the closeness before the madness takes over.  "And what changed your mind?" he prompts him.

Spock opens his eyes and Jim is taken in by the wildness there, and before he can process what's going on he's being pulled in by an unnatural strength in those long arms.  "I discovered it was less painful to embrace the bond and suffer its eventual end than it was to prevent myself from feeling anything at all."

Coming from Spock, that's quite a confession.  Jim grins, indulging in a bit of the cocky Captain attitude.  "Decided I was worth it?" he teases.

"Yes."  And there's nothing but heartfelt sincerity in Spock's voice, so much so that Jim can't help moving in for a kiss.  For all Spock's timidity during the conversation, he expects it to be short and sweet, but then there are long fingers curling into his hair, anchoring him in place while Spock explores his mouth with a single-minded intensity that has him gasping for breath by the time he lets him go.

"Jesus, Spock," he mutters, and his voice has gone raspy with want, triggering another hungry expression in the Vulcan that makes his mouth go dry.  "M'I gonna make it out of here in one piece?" he asks, only half joking.  Spock still has his controls in place.  He's going to break apart when he finally lets go.

Spock just raises an eyebrow at him - and oh, Jim's favorite game is back in play again - and slowly unwinds his arms from around Jim's waist, leaving him in an ungraceful sprawl on the floor while he moves to pull the rations kit closer.  "Did T'Pranna supply you with this?"

He blinks at him rather stupidly.  "Uh, if you mean the secretary outside, yeah."

"She is the sanctuary's keeper.  She ensures the security and safety of its visitors."  He opens the small crate and begins lifting out different parcels: several packs of food rations, a thermos of water, something that looks suspiciously like a first aid kit, and...

Jim can't help snickering, explaining himself when Spock gives him one of those inscrutable looks.  "Sorry.  I just didn't expect Vulcans would think lube was a necessary part of an emergency rations kit."

"If a Vulcan is deep in plak tow - the blood fever - during pon farr, he can do immense damage to his mate without ever being aware of it.  These help to prevent such damage, or at least limit the severity of it," he explains in his superior scientist tone, removing one of the vials and setting it aside.  "They are a logical component of the rations kit."

"Very logical," Jim agrees, even though he can't quite wipe the smirk off his face. 

"Reactions such as yours are why Vulcans do not discuss this with outsiders," Spock mutters with a trace of his dry sense of humor.

"I know, I know.  Sorry.  Hey-" he continues, trying to ask a question, but there's a sudden flurry of movement and he finds himself pinned to the floor amongst all of the meditation cushions, Spock stretched over him with a fire gathering in his eyes.

"You talk too much," Spock informs him, stilted and short considering his usual manner of speaking, and then he's pressing their lips together with a force just shy of crushing.  Jim soaks up that still-familiar taste of copper and desert heat and Spock, moaning and scrabbling for some kind of hold on him.

The scrabbling turns into a concerted effort to rid them both of their clothes, Jim fighting Spock's hold on him just enough to pull all those layers of draping Vulcan robes off of him.  He only distantly hears the sound of his own being peeled off, seams whining and ripping a bit at the unnatural strength behind Spock's movements.

With anyone else Jim would be making smart-assed comments about the clothes or the eagerness, but it's entirely different with Spock.  He's used to the calm, composed, logical First Officer.  Barring the one incident in the transporter room, it's all he's ever known of Spock.  This wild, passionate creature is almost as much of a stranger as the emotionless one he saw just days ago.  But it's a stranger he wants to know, someone he can't help but pull closer in an effort to crawl inside him and delve into that layered Vulcan mind.

There are hands all over him, fingers drawing soft lines down his throat, tracing along his collarbone and pressing his shoulders back down to the floor when he can't help arching up towards the contact, palms pressed over his nipples just to feel them growing harder before traveling elsewhere.  It's maddeningly slow, and he opens his mouth to protest when there's a sudden press of lips along the edge of one ear, and then a tongue mapping out the creases and whorls there.  It's like being devoured slowly, devoutly, and he pants and whimpers for a moment before he finally gets out anything resembling speech.  "Not that I'm complaining," he whispers hoarsely, "but I thought I'd be covered in bruises by now."

"Give it time," Spock returns, his voice full of dark promise and nothing like the clipped monotone he was using only days ago.  Jim moans again and tries to seek out Spock's mouth, fingers spearing into his hair and trying to drag him closer for a kiss.  Spock apparently has other ideas, though, shaking him off with next to no effort, reaching as if to press his fingers against Jim's temple before thinking better of it for the second time that night, curling his fingers around Jim's throat instead.  It's not an aggressive gesture, but when Jim tries to arch upward or reach for him they dig a faint warning into his skin.  It's only when he relaxes into it, when he willingly submits himself to whatever it is Spock wants to do, that he's graced with that low purr of a voice again.  "Good," Spock murmurs, and despite its simplicity it goes straight to Jim's cock.  He's used to having his bedroom performance praised, but not by a Vulcan and certainly not by this Vulcan.

One hand remains on Jim's throat and the other pinning down his hips while Spock continues his leisurely exploration of Jim's body.  He uses his lips, tongue, and occasionally his teeth to judge the sensitivity of various areas, sucking the skin above his navel enough that a faint pink mark starts to blossom there, scraping his teeth along the skin over his ribs and watching him squirm, pressing his nose into an armpit and inhaling.  Jim wants to protest the last, but it's hard to argue with the fiercely possessive look on Spock's face. 

The hands on his throat and his hipbone exert another bout of warning pressure, and Spock leans in so close to his ear that he can feel his lips brushing the skin there.  "Do not move," he murmurs, and there's a hint of something feral under the command. 

"I'll be good," Jim whispers back, then belies his words by turning his head and stealing a long, drowning kiss from him, drinking in the vague coppery sweetness of him.

Spock doesn't fight him, melting against him for a long moment before breaking the kiss, gazing up at Jim with that open look of utter adoration that Jim is fast falling in love with.  "Forgive me if I do not believe you," he says, and Jim grins at that dearly-missed sense of humor.

Spock doesn't break contact entirely - in fact it's almost as if he can't bring himself to do so, stretching a hand far over Jim's head to grab for something before settling back on top of him, pressing kisses from his neck down to his navel as he slithers down his body.  Before Jim can think to ask any questions, his legs are being spread apart and Spock is devoting all that passionate focus of his to licking along the sensitive crease where his thigh connects to his hip.  He hiccups in a breath, shuddering and splaying his legs wider, hips stuttering helplessly upward until Spock pins them down again.  "Spock," he whines, needing to move, needing to touch, needing something.

Spock ignores him in favor of nuzzling at his other thigh, pressing soft kisses there, so maddeningly gentle that Jim lets out another whine and tries to protest again.  The protest dies in the back of his throat when he feels a slick finger pressing between his cheeks and starting to work the tight ring of muscle there.  "Ngh," he attempts a weak protest.

"Shh," comes the soothing muttering somewhere in the vicinity of his left hipbone, punctuating it with a kiss.

"Been awhile," Jim manages to hiss out, not entirely in discomfort.  In fact, that slick finger with its gentle probing is damned distracting.

"Good," Spock returns, and that fierce protectiveness is back in his voice again, making Jim shudder and spread his legs wider.  Any argument he was about to make for not bottoming dies a willing death then and there.  He had been expecting aggression, but not in this slow possessive form.

He concentrates on relaxing enough so that the discomfort starts to melt away, gradually replaced by the slick gentle pressure of Spock's finger working its way into him.  He's distantly aware of movement somewhere around his eyes, Spock's free hand making odd fluttering movements over his face before resting on his throat again.  The strange dance of fingers continues, first one and then gradually two working into him, the pressure of it not entirely unfamiliar but making him edgy nonetheless.  Spock seems to have limitless patience, however, pressing suckling kisses into the skin of his thighs while he slowly scissors his fingers in and out of Jim.  It's half pain and half pleasure, the balance tipping gradually towards pleasure.

Somewhere in the midst of his mewling and his attempts to touch searing green-flushed skin, he senses that strange fluttering motion above his eyes again.  He cracks them open - and when the hell had he closed them, anyway? how did he ever let himself block out the sight of Spock settled between his legs like he belongs there? - to see Spock's hand reaching to touch him, as if wanting to brush through his hair or trace the shape of his ear, before something stops him and has him resting it over the pulse point in his neck or over his throat.  "Spock," he whispers, the end of it stuttering out in a gasp when the gently probing fingers finally hit his prostate.  "Oh, fuck, Spock," he babbles, forgetting for a moment what he had been trying to say.

"Soon," comes the heated whisper, and he can feel his hot breath ghosting over his cock.

"No, yes, wait Spock," he babbles, forcing his eyes all the way open and wrapping his fingers around Spock's wrist.  "What're you doing?"

"I am ensuring that you are sufficiently primed for-"

"Shit, Spock, don't say 'primed' when you're about to fuck me."  Jim can't tell if that's skirting the edge of too clinical or too filthy coming from him, and he can't spare the energy to analyze it just now.  "Meant this," he continues, squeezing the wrist in his grip gently, distantly wondering at the gasp that produces and filing it away for later.

The fingers moving inside him come to a shaky stop, dark eyes locking onto his own.  "I..." he begins to explain, and then he either can't finish or he's simply too far gone to try.

There's a sudden clarity to Jim's thoughts, and he gets it in a wild rush, choking out something between a laugh and a groan when he figures it out.  "Do it."

"I-"

"Do it.  I want you to."  And he takes Spock's fingers in his as proof, trying to arrange them in roughly the same pattern he remembers, pressing them to his temple.  "Please."

"Pon farr can be attended to through sexual activity.  A telepathic bond is not required between us."  And how he can sound so damned scientific about it when he's naked and practically rutting into the floor is beyond Jim.

"Do it," he repeats again, trying to cull enough brain power to make his point.  "Bond us.  We're not half-assing this."

Thankfully Spock doesn't question the euphemism.  "Jim, are you sure-"

"Yes, I'm fucking sure!  I want you, Spock, on my ship and in my head and in me and I swear to God, if you don't stop running your mouth and get on with it-"  And that's as far as he gets when Spock settles his fingers more firmly into his temple, murmuring under his breath and launching them into a kind of telepathic abyss with no sense of direction or control.

He feels suffocated by a torrent of possession, desire, need so strong that it leaves him gasping for breath.  There's a wildness here, yes, but it's driven by a desperate urge to join with another, to merge with another consciousness.  There's an aching emptiness, something that makes him a fraction of what he should be, something crying out for its matching half.

He can't tell which one of them that ache is coming from anymore, can't distinguish which of them is which.  He's distantly aware of a pair of bodies moving together, of fingers lacing together, of bodies preparing to join.  He feels both the relief of penetration and the burn of being split wide apart.  He feels a constricting pressure around his cock and the sudden thrust against his prostate; he is both the impaled and the impaler.  It's a duality of sensations that makes it impossible to distinguish himself from the chaos.

He doesn't want to, he realizes with a gasp, and with his acceptance comes a savage torrent of emotion pouring into him, drowning him, and he's taking it in like he can't get enough.  This, then, is the violent undercurrent of pon farr - not physical, too cherished to destroy, too beloved to cause pain - a brutal barrage of emotion threatening to rip him apart, to consume his very being if it isn't embraced in some way, accepted, desired.  With his acceptance, he has Spock deep within his body, his mind, encroaching on some part of him that goes even deeper than that, like a handprint branding his very existence. 

Elsewhere there is movement, sound, sensation, but here there is nothing but Jim and Spock, threaded round and round one another until there's no distinguishing the two.  There's a jumble of thoughts in Jim's head, some his own, some decidedly not, and some of unknown origin.  He can't concentrate on any of them long enough to truly hear them, his consciousness spinning down, down into an abyss without end.  Small pinpricks of light spiral over him, beyond him, faint snippets of thought and feeling unable to penetrate the euphoric joy of being not two joining as one, but simply one, a single functional unit with no end and no beginning. 

There's a heartbeat of nothingness, a blackness that takes over the stars and the spiraling light and the distant entity of his body, and then it fractures into a thousand shining pieces, breaking Jim apart and reforming him into something else, something new, something far better than he could ever hope to be alone.  He's gasping for air or howling his pleasure to the sky, he has no idea which, only knows that if the pieces don't come back together within the next few seconds that he'll never be the same.

T'hy'la.

Spock?

T'hy'la, open your eyes.  It is done.

Can't.  I'm broken.

No.  You-
we are complete.

Jim does as he's told, cracking his eyes open to take in the fading desert sunlight, the jumbled mess of the cushions on the floor, the sweaty sticky mess cooling on his stomach, and the overwhelming heat of the man still sprawled half-over him.  There's a sweet, affectionate kind of hum in the room, and he can't tell if Spock is making that noise or if it's somehow echoing from his mind.  There's a nuzzling sensation along his jaw, Spock pressing slow kisses there until he reaches Jim's lips, devouring him slowly.

"Mmm," Jim slurs, shaky fingers sliding into thoroughly rumpled black hair.  Didn't peg you for the affectionate type.

I did not have proper motivation for affection before now.

He realizes belatedly that they're not actually speaking, breaking the kiss with a little start of surprise.  "You can read my thoughts?"

"Obviously."  And Jim's never seen a smug Vulcan before, but that is definitely a self-satisfied, shit-eating grin slowly spreading over Spock's face.

"Izzat permanent?"  Damn it, he still sounds punch drunk, and Spock's going to humiliate him by being all articulate and clever.

"We will be able to erect mental shields to prevent it from distracting us at inopportune moments."

So I won't be able to project a mental blowjob at you on the bridge?

"You could perhaps do so after some familiarity with the bond, though I would advise against it."

Jim shakes his head.  "Stop answering questions I haven't asked," he mutters, hoping Spock will extract the sense from his statement.  The only answer he receives is another nuzzling kiss to his temple and the sensation of Spock's jutting erection pressed against his hip.  "Round two already?" he mutters, feeling like he could sleep for a solid twelve hours.

"Pon farr lasts for at least three days," Spock informs him, and yes, he's definitely rubbing up against him now.  "In some Vulcans it has been known to last up to eight."

"M'gonna die," Jim whimpers, but there's an interested twitch in his own cock.

"Several times over," Spock agrees, and before long Jim is lost again.

*******




When at last Jim is allowed to sleep, hours later, so much later that the sunlight has filtered back into the room after hours of darkness, he somehow has the energy to dream.

It's not the kind of dream he's used to, where he's a blurry entity fighting off aliens or drinking in praise from Starfleet or running around in his underwear while Bones chases him with a hypospray.  He sees everything in sharp definition, in brilliant color, with a clarity of sound as if witnessing the scene in real time rather than in sleep.

Two figures, strange and familiar all at once, drifting comfortably on the edges of space.  A sensation of peace and unity that Jim is only just starting to understand himself.  There's no sense of age here, no sense of physicality at all.  There's only Spock - the elder Spock, not his Spock - and another figure, another him.

Spock and James, he understands.  And then a voice, similar to his own and yet nothing like.

You once said being a starship Captain was my first, best destiny.  If that's true, then yours is to be by my side. If there's any true logic to the universe, we'll end up on that bridge again.  Someday.

That someday is now, Jim realizes, and the sharpness of the image fades back to a blurry, fuzzy sense of completion and love.

 

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