Contemplating the luck of the draw was never one of Jim Kirk’s preferred activities. He used to be asking himself why the universe seems to always be saving the most gruesome, dangerous, and sometimes plain disgusting situations to be in just for him and his crew, but it had been a long time since he stopped. What’s the point, really? Even if he did solve this mystery, it wouldn’t change a single thing.
The Observation Deck is dark and quiet around him as he stands gazing at the unfamiliar stars. It has been three months since they got stranded on the wrong side of the galaxy by means of yet another ill-thought experiment. Spock objected and Kirk had taken his objections to heart, but Starfleet told them both to shut up and get on with it. ‘Where’s your sense of adventure, Jim?’ Komack had asked him.
His ‘sense of adventure’ was responsible for many a grievous thing that happened to his ship in the past several years, but this time, it had nothing to do with it and everything to do with Starfleet’s greed for new technology. And now they are thrown as far as a hundred light years away and can’t even take a correct measurement with all the equipment failure.
No sensors, no navigational charts, no chance of resurrecting the computer. Scotty’s holding the ship together with a band aid and a prayer, Chekov is plotting the course with some kind of modern sextant and a lot of squinting and cursing, Sulu’s flying by his instincts more than the useless star charts, and it’s nothing short of a miracle that they manage to limp toward any kind of familiar territory at all only to discover that the space in question belongs to the Romulan Empire.
That happened two weeks ago, and they are still alive and not captured. It has come for a price Kirk doesn’t want to dwell on, but has to – after what happened today, he has to. Starfleet isn’t coming to rescue them, even if they’d manage to get a signal through which they didn’t. They are blind, wounded, and vulnerable, and they’re surrounded by enemies.
They stand no chance.
His decision has never been that hard or less popular. Of course, Scotty would never agree to surrender, even if it means they would be sent home after some gruesome processing, but Scotty is literally as much a part of the ship as her engines, they are too deeply rooted into each other for him to offer any other answer. Sulu is too fierce, Chekov is too young, and Uhura is too close to Kirk, but even her eyes shelter doubt and alarm, and that’s painful in more ways than one.
The rest of the crew is worse. They obey his orders, but they don’t support him. They’re tired, they’re beat, they’ve lost too many of their number during those three months already. They just want to go home, not to die a senseless death just because their captain couldn’t bear a thought of the Enterprise’s hull exhibited as a prize trophy at the Romulan capital.
Bones yelled at him.
Kirk closes his eyes and then snaps them open instantly, trying to escape from the memories of an ugly scene. Today has been the second time they ran across a Romulan patrol ship, and while they managed to defeat it, the casualties are growing faster than any kind of acceptable.
Bones yelled at him, yelled at his captain, well beyond himself, way past caring that there was about half the crew around them. His arms were crimson and wet to his shoulders, his medical tunic no longer cerulean but of a nasty lurid color of grime, and blood, and agony, and his words were stinging, accusatory, as he blamed the lives he couldn’t save solely on the captain’s selfish pride.
Kirk has never been particularly keen on explaining himself or his decisions, but this was Bones, and his words hurt, and so he yelled back, shouting about his obligations to never let this vessel fall into enemy hands, and maybe if McCoy remembered what the word ‘duty’ meant every once in a while, he’d hold his tongue for once and had more faith in Kirk.
‘You’re not a god!’ McCoy snarled, his hands sending bloody droplets everywhere. ‘You’re not a god to believe in you without question!’
It turned really ugly after that. Kirk closes his eyes briefly and shakes his head, thinking that they might all die tomorrow and his friend will never speak to him again. Bones is a healer not a soldier, and it makes sense that he couldn’t understand, but the thought that won’t leave Kirk alone is that maybe Bones does understand, far better than Kirk does, and that maybe Bones was right all along.
Is it pride? Is it vanity? Are those the things he sacrificed his people for?
The doors behind him swish open and closed quietly. Kirk doesn’t turn. There’s only one person equipped with some kind of an internal compass with ‘Kirk’ spelled where the North should be. He doesn’t hear the footsteps, but he senses Spock coming closer, coming to a stop right behind him, close enough for Kirk to feel the warmth of his presence as if someone threw an afghan over his shoulders.
There are no words. They are admittedly past that stage now. Kirk remembers the times when Spock used to offer him verbal consolations, forcing himself to step over his Vulcan restraint to offer comfort. He didn’t have to, but he wanted to, and that was why despite his embarrassingly awkward phrasing, his words always hit home with Kirk.
It was a long time ago. Not in human years perhaps, but in those intangible, elusive measurements that souls use to mark their time.
Spock is of the same mind as Kirk about his decision. He never said it, but Kirk knows, reads it in the unwavering, even glow of approval smoldering in Spock’s eyes, of support that doesn’t come blindly. Spock is behind him on this, just as sure as he is standing behind him now, and that thought is the only thing that has kept Kirk going, keeping him focused.
Keeping him sane.
He wants faith from his crew, he wants it from Bones, but not from Spock, never from Spock. From Spock, he couldn’t take it. He doesn’t want a follower, he wants a partner, even though he knows he could never have one. He should never have one.
Yet Spock is here now, a silent, solid presence behind his back. It would only take one small step to bring them together. A step Kirk can’t take, no matter how much he craves it. He doesn’t know why, either, just that he can’t move even as his body is humming with need. Is this pride now? Is this responsibility? Is this his inability to reach out when he needs it most?
There’s a quiet, soft exhale, echoing loudly in the surrounding stillness, and then Spock is flush against him, pressed tightly against his back, strong arms wrapping around him. Kirk shakes his head ‘no,’ might even have said something, but Spock only holds him closer, not listening, not taking ‘no’ for an answer.
The monstrous tension of what seemed to be three months of endless trial is bleeding out of him, and he’s shivering, and he didn’t even know he was cold until Spock got there.
Spock is often like that, and Kirk hates him a little for it. He used to be self-sufficient and probably happy in the newly born Adam-like kind of way. Spock took away his innocence, unthinking and careless, replacing it with selfish needs and burning wants, opening Kirk’s eyes and forcing him to see, making him crave things he didn’t know existed. The worst part of it is that Spock accomplished that much with nothing but his presence, completely oblivious to what he’s doing.
Sometimes Kirk curses the day they met.
There’s a brief moment as Spock starts to pull away when Kirk presses his palms against Spock’s retreating hands, and it’s acceptance more than gratitude. Spock nods silently, understanding, and for a fraction of a second, he presses back.
It’s not the fierce, deafening moments of battle that he fears.
It’s the quiet.
The loose scent of adrenaline going stale, waiting to be absorbed by the tired life support system; the low murmur of repair crews washing over his ears like ebb tide; the inconspicuous dimming of light and fading of colors before his eyes, as if he’s really watching the sunset. Sometimes he feels like the Enterprise is an old man-of-war drifting in the roads of some long forsaken port, crumbling and smelling of fish and oblivion.
Kirk goes about his rounds the way he always does because, like a shark, he can’t stop. He drinks strange, oily coffee with the engineers; helps out a phaser crew; stops by Communications; avoids Sickbay. He and Bones run into each other by accident. Bones has got that look on his face when he’s about to apologize, but can’t bring himself to it just yet. Kirk nods and walks away. By the time they both come around, an apology would probably be redundant.
Spock’s working at the lab. Kirk knows it without knowing how he knows it. Spock certainly didn’t say anything to that effect, and as it was, there hasn’t been a need for him to be there in months, ever since Doctor Uniel’s experiment failed.
Kirk knows what it means, too. As astronomically low as their chances of surviving another warp-slide jump are, they have obviously just become higher than those of making it through the Romulan space. Between the two of them, Spock has always been the pragmatist and Kirk the believer. Idly, Kirk wonders if it’s time for them yet to switch roles.
He enters the scarcely lit lab and walks toward its only occupant and the ominous, weird-looking construction belted to the deck. Spock is sitting on his knees beside it, balancing a PADD in one hand, a microspanner in the other, and apparently milking the open control panel for revelations and prophecies. He looks up briefly as Kirk steps in, before shifting his focus back toward the disassembled warp-slide drive. He’s not surprised.
“What’s the prognosis?” Kirk asks, crouching beside him. He prefers to concentrate on Spock rather than the treacherous piece of half-baked technology responsible for stranding them.
Spock looks funny. His hair is still mussed from where he’s been thrown across the bridge in the last attack, and three symmetrical scratches along his cheekbone make him look like an Indian chieftain with his warrior colors on.
Spock glances up at his captain, and Kirk feels the small smile that’s been curling on his lips fade under Spock’s gaze.
“It is theoretically possible,” Spock says. “Now that we are closer to the starting point, our chances have improved.” He pauses. “Marginally.”
So nothing new here. Kirk rubs at his forehead tiredly. “Give me the rundown.”
Spock sets his paraphernalia on the deck carefully, pulls slightly away from the bulky apparatus, and looks at Kirk.
“The possibility of the ship emerging from the slide in Federation space is 54.29 percent. However, the possibility is 87.94 percent that we will lose all propulsion, primary defense grid, partial life support, and most of the secondary systems.”
Kirk nods. The figures are bad, but acceptable. “Casualties?”
Spock holds his gaze steadily. “Up to 20 percent.”
Kirk closes his eyes. “Twenty percent, with everyone we lost already...”
“Jim.” Spock’s hand squeezes his shoulder. “The number can be reduced significantly if the device is operated manually.”
“No!” Kirk’s eyes snap wide open. “Absolutely not, Spock. Did you forget what happened to Uniel?”
It took them two days and endless hours of decon to remove the remains of the unfortunate physicist from the chamber.
Spock looks determined. “An acceptable risk.”
“Acceptable for who?”
“I am the Chief Science Officer; overseeing an experiment is my responsibility.”
“And I’m the captain here, Spock, so you will do as I say whether you like it or not.”
Spock’s eyebrow arches up, both unimpressed and challenging. “And what is it you are saying precisely?”
“Dammit.” Kirk leaps to his feet, fuming. “You’re forgetting your place, Commander. Quit treating me like a five-year-old.”
Spock folds his arms across his chest, otherwise unmoving, his eyes trained on the pacing figure.
“If you dislike my attitude, I respectfully recommend altering yours. Sir.”
Kirk freezes abruptly, staring at him. Spock stares back, managing to look anything but submissive while kneeling.
“This is insubordination,” Kirk blurts out at last.
Spock doesn’t comment.
“I should lock you up in the brig,” Kirk says. “Charge you with mutiny.”
“Mutiny?” Spock’s lips twitch slightly. “Captain, I suspect it has been too long since your last meal. Your blood sugar levels seem to be abysmally low.”
Kirk sighs, dragging a hand across his face. “That bad, huh?”
“Indeed,” Spock says, amused fondness spiking his voice, as he unfolds himself gracefully, rising to his feet.
Kirk peers at him gloomily, not bothering to hide his dissatisfaction.
“I could have been serious, you know,” he grunts darkly. “I mean I could be serious. I mean—”
“Jim.” Spock shakes his head slightly. “You need to get some rest. I will have a report ready for you in six hours. Your decision can wait that long.”
“I can’t sleep,” Kirk says, surprising himself.
Spock frowns. “You seem to be exhausted.”
“I know, right?” Kirk cringes in annoyance. “You’d think I’d be dead to the world the moment my head hits the pillow, but that just doesn’t happen.” He catches Spock’s expression and grins immediately, trying to reassure him. “Maybe you could nerve pinch me, then I’d get some rest.”
Spock’s lips stretch into a thin line. “That would indeed constitute an act of mutiny, Captain,” he says dryly, and Kirk laughs.
“It was worth a try.” He bows his head, rolling it from side to side absently, and notices Spock’s fingers twitch, but the Vulcan doesn’t reach out. Kirk smiles at him. “You’ll come get me?”
“Of course, sir,” Spock replies, a model of decorum, which oddly only makes him look even more like the devil’s favorite apprentice.
Kirk looks into his eyes a moment longer thinking that the easiest way to get rid of temptation is yielding to it.
He’s never been one for easy.
Spock wakes him—a gentle hand on his shoulder—some time before the storm breaks.
Not a real storm, of course, but Kirk can swear he can feel the sharp crispness of the air and ozone tickling his skin, as if he’s back in Iowa, standing in the middle of a cornfield, watching the frowning skies and listening to the dark promises of thunder. He should really ask McCoy to check his head over—this level of mental juxtaposition is simply not normal. Of course, he’d have to start talking to McCoy again first.
Kirk sits up on the bed, noticing that Spock has knelt to wake him, and the room immediately seems too small and well overheated. Kirk makes a vague, sleepy gesture with his hand, and Spock seems to translate it correctly, because he sits gingerly on the edge of the bunk without protest. It’s bad, Kirk knows then. Spock’s either very tired or doesn’t believe in propriety anymore, and the only reason for this to happen is... entirely too dire to entertain.
“Hit me,” Kirk says.
Spock looks at him, cool and collected, and yet somehow Kirk knows instantly that it’s just a veneer, that this time, Spock’s in the exactly same boat as the rest of them. And that’s not reassuring.
“We are ready for another warp-slide, Captain,” Spock reports calmly. “Lieutenant Uhura and Doctor McCoy are overseeing the relocation of all personnel to the saucer section as we speak. Mr. Scott is confident he can provide enough shielding to isolate it from the backlash.”
“What’s the risk factor for the rest of the ship?”
Spock doesn’t miss a beat. “Approximately 88.78 percent against survival.”
Kirk blinks. “Those aren’t good odds, Mr. Spock.”
“Engineering would still have to be manned.”
“I am aware,” Spock says, shifting his shoulders unconsciously as if he’s cold. “Mr. Scott has selected a skeleton crew to man the crucial stations. He will be staying, too, of course.”
“Of course,” Kirk repeats numbly. He knows the principles behind Scotty’s ‘selection.’ Those who don’t have families. Those who don’t have children. Those who show the least promise, except for those few without whom Scotty can’t do it.
It’s not fair.
“What about you?” Kirk asks, staring at his hands folded across his stomach. “How many people will you need?”
Spock is silent for a moment. Then he reaches and covers Kirk’s hands with his own.
Kirk draws in a shaky breath. “Can you—can you operate the drive from Engineering?” Minimal shielding there, but still a chance...
“Not if we want this plan to succeed,” Spock says softly.
“Dammit.” Kirk pulls his hands free and rolls off the bed, onto his feet. He could never stay put while emotions ran high, and this is—this is a goddamn maelstrom. “How did it come to this?” he rages, pacing the tiny space like a caged tiger. “How could anyone be so stupid?”
“Shit, Spock, if they’d only listened to us, listened to you, to Scotty—to anyone halfway sane, dammit!—this never would have happened!”
“I wouldn’t be sitting here deciding which of my people should die and which get a chance—what kind of person could do that?”
“A starship captain, one would assume,” Spock says calmly, and it’s like a slap in the face.
Kirk spins on his heel to face Spock, the motion sharp and ill-balanced. Kirk’s breathing heavily, his heart pounding restlessly in his chest. Spock can’t quite meet his eyes.
“Do you know how many times I had to order you to die?” Kirk asks hoarsely. “What kind of monster—”
“Enough, Jim!” Spock finally snaps, getting to his feet, too. “We’re both subjects to the requirements of the service. It is illogical to dwell on what could be. We both have a duty to fulfill.”
“Duty,” Kirk repeats spitefully. “Spock, I’m afraid that that word—”
“Made you the man you are,” Spock finishes confidently. “Made you the man I came to respect above all others. Made you the one I chose to follow.”
“Spock...” Kirk half-pleads, half-sighs.
“Meld with me, Jim. That much time we still have.”
Kirk looks at him, torn between sheer, naked want, and all the desperate warnings his mind is issuing at light speed.
“But that... that would make it real,” he whispers at last.
Spock looks at him almost in sympathy. “It cannot make it any more real than it already is, Jim.”
Kirk nods, shuddering, not meeting Spock’s eyes, not wanting to face the truth of it. This might be their last time.
“Do it,” he says, before he can change his mind.
Spock nods curtly in acknowledgement. And moves in.
It always starts with falling, and Kirk can still remember his panic the first time around, like he was a twelve-year-old kid taking his free fall for the first time, fear mixed with delight, until Spock caught him—an invisible but tangible presence all around him, steady and secure. Kirk has long learned to turn his fall into floating, with Spock’s help at first, then more confidently on his own, because they have done this entirely too many times and he has always been a fast learner.
That first time wasn’t in the line of duty and maybe that was what doomed them.
Several months into Kirk’s captaincy, his mind emptied almost fully by Doctor Adams’ machine, leaving him with a hollowness that hurt, its feeble teeth tugging helplessly at Kirk’s memories, trying to fill its empty stomach that seemed to have been replaced with a Danaides’ jug, incapable of holding anything put in there. Spock offered to help, and Kirk was so tired of resembling an empty shell that he didn’t care one way or another. Spock wasn’t someone he trusted, just someone who was there, and that had to be enough.
What threw Kirk that first time completely was Spock’s loyalty. It was brilliant, incandescent, a steady, overwhelming glow that came from everywhere at once lighting up everything. It was incredible, the sheer power of it leaving Kirk breathless and more than a little jealous because he suddenly doubted he could ever come close to mustering that much of pure, honest devotion to anyone or anything himself.
He wanted it. Immediately. It was a precious treasure waiting to be claimed, and Kirk wanted it with everything there was in him to want.
What would it take to win you over? He asked before he remembered his thoughts were on display. What would it take to make this mine?
It was like a ripple had run over a smooth surface of undisturbed waters. Spock was confused. He didn’t understand what Kirk was referring to; he didn’t understand what it was Kirk was suddenly so drawn to.
Spock didn’t know.
The thought was making Kirk dizzy and all kinds of smitten and incredulous. It was inconceivable that anyone could host that much brilliance and have no conception of it. Spock acted like he had deceived Kirk by accident, like he couldn’t possibly warrant that much longing and pure joy.
If anything, it was painful seeing how little value Spock placed in himself. He’d never seen himself and no one had ever shown him. Kirk had harbored no particular feelings toward Spock before, but this? Was heartbreaking.
Spock ended the meld, and Kirk wanted to kiss him senseless for being so extraordinary, magnificently stupid. It was the closest proxy he could find to properly expressing himself because he knew he’d never be able to put it into words.
He didn’t though, but he never looked at Spock through the same eyes again.
Next time they melded was in the line of duty, as was the next one, and the next. Already friends, they were too comfortable with each other to really mind, and they kept it strictly professional if there was any such thing within a meld. But even those had left Kirk feeling like he had been bathed in sunlight, regardless of the urgency of any given moment.
It was only logical he thought, squishing the pangs his conscience was giving him, that they would take it further.
What felt like some kind of an experiment at first had turned into something for which they didn’t need a reason. As the time unfolded, the pleasure Kirk drew from these encounters attained a dark, earthy flavor of guilt, threaded into the mesmerizing tapestry, and he could feel an echo of his own apprehension in Spock’s thoughts. It was as if both of them were caught in some kind of an indecent addiction, unable to break it, unwilling to admit that what they were doing was wrong.
It’s not what friends do, and they aren’t friends, Kirk knows. They have crossed that line a long time ago, and Spock could be ashamed all he wants, but it’s no longer in his power to change it. They try not to dwell on it, try not to think of it at all, they’re competing against each other over who can better hide his head in the sand, but this time, Kirk knows it’s all in vain. This time, they’ll have to face the truth, whatever it may bring, and Spock clearly knows it, too, otherwise he wouldn’t ask.
Does this mean Spock is braver than he? Does it?
‘Jim,’ Spock calls, and Kirk lets go of his thoughts.
It’s the most bizarre place he’s ever seen.
Blue rocks, covered in emerald moss, scattered here and there like dragon teeth from an old legend; a particularly bulky one is cracked open, it’s filled with grayish pebbles and for some reason a fisherman’s net. Another is split to the root, but instead of a ruthless warrior, it reveals a woman with no face, dark hair, and a rose on her left shoulder. The rose is made of ice, and it’s melting slowly, drops falling down with a melodic echo, but the rose remains the same, ice-cold and sparkling.
There’s a valley at Kirk’s feet, the remains of a geometrically perfect maze shiver in a strong, soundless wind. The mountains are all brooding volcanoes, and there’s a geyser shooting cobalt blue substance into the air. It smells like rich, sweet wine or possibly mead, and the scent is intoxicating.
Kirk is sitting suddenly, and his body feels weird, but he doesn’t look at it. Spock’s right beside him, a light touch of feathers grazing Kirk’s skin, and he can only see that the feathers are moonless black, favored by midnights and ravens.
‘You never brought me here,’ Kirk says.
‘I have never been here myself.’
His voice sounds strange, and Kirk doesn’t turn to look at him. He gazes at the distant tower instead. It has clocks on it, and all out of sync. There’s a sweet, honey-soft scent of chestnuts in bloom in the air, and a sound of rain hitting an old rooftop.
‘Is this... is this me?’ Kirk asks at last, watching a bubbling stream carrying what seems to be an ancient caravel. ‘You were always so… precise. Orderly. Am I doing this to you? Is this me, Spock?’
He feels a surge of amusement washing over him and tries not to listen to the ominous clutter of wings. He’s never been afraid of Spock. He certainly isn’t starting now.
‘No, Jim. This—is me.’
‘Guess it’s not true that you have no imagination then.’
‘The mistake is understandable.’
‘Jim? That—is you.’
Kirk looks at the horizon and gasps. There’s a storm, an actual storm advancing, and it’s unlike any Kirk has ever seen. The clouds are huge, deep brooding purple, exploding violet, virulent carmine, and smoldering black. Blazing blue lightnings are everywhere in the fast-moving swirls of power, menacing and mesmerizing, and the thunder sounds like deep-throated, earth-shattering, careless laughter.
‘It’s beautiful,’ Kirk breathes.
Spock is amused. ‘I can see your narcissistic tendencies remain intact even here.’
Kirk ignores him, torn between headspinning thrill and sheer fright. He can see the trees bending and rocks flying as the storm reaches them, whipping the wild and stunning reality of Spock’s inner world, wreaking havoc in its neatly groomed gardens, overflooding its delicate fountains, making its meticulously shaped towers dance, overthrowing candles and replacing them with rivers of fire.
‘Why don’t—’ He springs to his feet. ‘God, Spock. Why don’t you stop me?’
Spock’s mirth picks up a notch, though Kirk can feel it turn bittersweet.
It means, it means... Kirk falls down heavily, flattered, pleased, shocked, and frightened, completely overwhelmed all at the same time.
‘You love me,’ he says, and the thunder backs him up triumphantly. Kirk shudders.
‘Yes.’ Spock sighs. ‘I myself see no other explanation.’
‘Spock.’ Kirk turns to look at him—finally really look at him, and the sight sends him reeling. ‘Spock...’
‘There is no more time, Jim,’ Spock says, and it’s clear finally why his voice sounds like this, and Kirk wouldn’t be able to find words to describe him to save his life. ‘Remember this. Remember me.’
Kirk tries to make himself reach out, but Spock has turned away already, and the meld breaks.
It’s a relief beyond imaginable to be staring back into the familiar, soft brown eyes, and Kirk can’t stifle a shiver, even knowing Spock would read him. Spock steps back immediately, putting as much distance as he can between them within the small confines of the room. His head is bowed.
It’s ironic, Kirk thinks, damn ironic that as it turns out, of the two of them Spock is the believer, while Kirk is a pragmatist. It’s like a cosmic joke, all right. He’s just not sure at whose expense.
Kirk clears his throat. Spock glances at him. Kirk smiles, and it only falters a little.
“I will not insult you by saying this was a surprise,” Kirk says.
“No,” Spock agrees blandly. “Just an unpleasant one.”
“Spock,” Kirk reproaches mildly. “You should know me better.”
Spock pauses, apparently considering it, then nods nonchalantly, looking away.
Kirk sighs. “Are you okay?”
“Quite. I have not expected such... calmness.”
“It’s not unusual for you to underestimate yourself,” Kirk tells him, shrugging.
The silence stretches between them, turning edgier by the moment. Spock lets out a soft huff of air finally, and Kirk congratulates himself sourly that it’s possible to exhaust even Vulcan patience.
“My mother had always considered it a gift,” Spock said quietly. “I fear, however, that instead I have given you a burden.” He hesitates, composing his voice, and when he speaks again, Kirk can no longer detect a trace of sadness. “It does not have to be binding on you, Jim. In any way.”
Kirk turns to look at him with a small, tight smile. “It’s binding enough,” he says. “It’s been binding on me for a while, Mr. Spock. In every way. Or haven’t you been paying attention?”
Spock averts his eyes. “I did not wish for it to be thus.”
Kirk chuckles softly. “If we could all have our wishes, I would be—”
“A starship captain,” Spock finishes dryly, with a tinge of fond exasperation.
Kirk grins at him. “We can’t all be lucky bastards, Spock.” His smile fades. “I’ve paid my price for getting my wish. You’ll have to continue to pay yours.”
Spock inclines his head once, solemn and determined. “Obviously.”
“Hey.” Kirk clasps Spock’s shoulder tightly, holding his eyes. “I will die for you, if that’s any consolation.”
“You will die for anyone.”
“Fair enough,” Kirk says. “But since it’s you and not me who’s gonna walk down to that lab in a few minutes and since I’m a selfish bastard anyway, I have to ask one more thing of you.”
He picks up Spock’s hand, holding it tightly between his own.
“Spock. My friend, will you live for me?”
And Spock has never been runaway anything, nor has he ever been coy, but it’s one hell of a lot to ask, so he pauses, weighing the pressure of the obligation. Kirk waits patiently, knowing this might be the last time he ever sees Spock, knowing he can’t rush this, and counting down seconds with growing desperation. He manages to hold his ground and is rewarded at last with an even and confident:
They don’t have time for champagne.
It’s later, some desperate, urgent minutes later that the Bridge all but explodes in their faces. The second warp-slide jump is even worse than the first, and everyone on the entire ship blacks out, except for Kirk, Sulu, and obviously someone in Engineering for they are still moving.
It’s later, some thirty, probably forty minutes later, filled with painful groans and the annoying whine of the emergency systems, that they recover to find themselves still among the living, and the ship miraculously in one piece.
“Look, it’s Polaris!” Chekov exclaims, pointing, as if his mother never taught him manners, but nobody seems to mind.
“There’s Vega!” Sulu’s eyes are alight. “And Spica!”
“And Sirius!” Uhura adds. “And Canopus!”
They call out the familiar stars that are once again in the familiar places, and tearing them from it to get a status report is hellishly difficult.
It’s several rather tense minutes later that Uhura manages to restore intraship communications, and Scotty reports that the engines are dead, but his crew is alive, all of them, despite several serious injuries. Kirk breathes out in relief, and if his luck took a corporeal form at that moment, he’d treated her not like a lady, but like a queen or possibly a goddess.
It’s much later, endless hours later, after a conference call with Starfleet, after they have set a rendezvous course with Alexandria that Kirk finally leaves the Bridge and heads for Sickbay. Spock is sleeping, but his prognosis is good, and Bones is so happy and relieved that he starts talking to Kirk again, staring at him accusingly.
“It’s a miracle he’s alive, and I can’t explain it,” McCoy grumbles. “I know I always say he’s a heartless son of a bitch, but I never thought that of you, Jim. You didn’t even call. It’s like you don’t even care!”
“That’s bull, Bones, of course I care.” Kirk couldn’t be bothered to look anywhere but at Spock’s pale, peaceful face. “I just knew he was alive, that’s all.”
“How?” McCoy demands. “Are you psychic now?”
“No.” Kirk shrugs, touching Spock’s hand lightly. “It’s just that—he promised.”
He can tell McCoy looks at him as if he’d like nothing better but to check Kirk’s head, but he’s got a Sickbay full of patients and leaves it at that.
It’s two agonizingly slow days later that Spock is released from Sickbay. Ten minutes after that he steps inside captain’s quarters. Two seconds after that, Kirk has him flat against the room divider, doing exactly what he’s been wanting to do for years, namely kissing the daylights out of him. There’s not much finesse to it, and Spock lets out a soft grunt because his ribs are still healing, but neither of them seems willing to let go.
It’s later again, somewhere at the dead of night, when Kirk says sleepily into the darkness, “Thank you.”
The darkness forms a question, and he clarifies, “For keeping your word. Thank you.”
They’ve been keeping their distance, but now Spock scoots closer, his breath warm against Kirk’s temple.
“Will I ever get a similar promise from you, Jim?”
Kirk shifts, propping himself up on his elbow to look down at Spock, perched silhouette against the blackness. He puts his hand gingerly over Spock’s side, sliding it up to rest against his heart.
“Can you tame a storm, Spock?”
Spock somehow goes even quieter.
“I like storms, Jim.”
Kirk laughs at this rather shy declaration.
“I suppose we are doomed then.” He settles back down, leaving his hand where it was. “I couldn’t wish for a better fate.”
Spock melts against him, more asleep than awake, mumbling, “Indeed.”
It’s much later, near the ship’s dawn, and they are both dreaming of thunder.