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Author’s Note:

 

Wow. Okay. A lot of firsts here. First fanfic in YEARS, first Star Trek fic EVER. First slash, first lemon, first ridiculously long one-shot… Hell, this is the first time I’ve written angst. I don’t normally do angst. Or if I do it’s only because it’s unavoidable and even then I try to keep it as either righteous or sardonic as possible.

 

Should I do trigger warnings? That feels kinda like spoilers. Okay, so, some bad shit goes down in this fic. If you’re triggered by bad shit going down, avoid this fic.

That’s a terrible trigger warning, isn’t it? Sorry.

Okay, here is what I will say…

You know (HA! FUNNY!) Chehkov’s Gun? You might have heard it phrased like this, “if there’s a gun in act one that gun will have been fired by act three.”

Only an idiot plays their entire hand right up front, but there’s definitely a gun in act one. And it will be fired. Just possibly not at or by who you may or may not think.

Now, without further ado…

 

Disclaimer:

 

Kirk and Jim find themselves standing outside a run-down and derelict castle.

The castle is pink.

They are in Wales. You can tell they are in Wales because of the sheep.

(People who’ve been to Wales know what I’m talking about)

The ground around them is torn and rendered, as if by some great force. Broken and rusted weapons litter the ground. Whatever happened here, there was a great battle.

There is a man running towards them. He is wearing the tattered, faded remains of a once-trim black suit. His face is haggard, his eyes desperate. He is screaming and as he draws closer his screams become words.

Mr. X: RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY! FOR THE LOVE OF ARTISTIC LICENSE RUN AWAY!!!

Spock: Captain. There appears to be a young woman in that field over there completely overcome by maniacal laughter.

The author manages to catch enough air in between bouts of evil mirth to look over at Mr. X and cheerfully say, as a triumphant lion roars in the distance…

I don’t own ‘em.

 

Habeas Corpus

 

 

“Jim! Jim! Can you hear me?”

There was a voice.

“Jim! Come on, buddy, you need to focus!”

God it was loud. Whoever it was. Didn’t they realize he just wanted to be left alone? Left behind, to sink into this place of shadows and smog and close his eyes and watch the pictures on his eyelids until all the stars faded and collapsed in on themselves, even now he could see them turning into darkness…

“Jim! Where’s Spock?”

Oh god…

“Spock?” He whispered.

“Yeah, Spock. You remember Spock. Vulcan. First Officer. About this tall. The guy whose blood you’re wearing.”

Jim became dimly aware of his surroundings. He was strapped to a stretcher, being rushed through the halls of the Enterprise. Bones was there, talking to him. Asking him about…

Oh god.

“Spock!” He moaned.

“There we go.” Bones hissed. “Welcome back, kid. Listen. I need you to try and remember what happened. By the time security reached you guys Spock was gone and you were lying unconscious in a pool of his blood. We need you to tell us what happened so we can get him back.”

“Can’t.” Jim wanted to close his eyes again, wanted to sink back into the darkness.

“Can’t what? Remember?”

“Can’t get him back.”

“Hey, come on kid, don’t give up.”

“He’s never coming back.” Oh god oh god ohgodohgodohgodohgod.

“Don’t even say that.” Bones frowned. It wasn’t like Jim to be so defeatist.

“I did it, Bones. I was so angry.” His voice shook. “I wanted to make him scream.”

McCoy felt like someone had packed his gut with ice. “Jim Kirk, listen to me carefully. Right now you are under the influence of an unknown substance and I am taking you to sickbay to get it out of your system. As your doctor, until your head’s clear, I am ordering you to keep your mouth shut.”

“I killed him, Bones.” Jim whispered as the darkness finally returned for him and he gratefully sank back into it. “I killed Spock.”

 

***

 

Apparently other starships thought diplomatic missions were boring, predictable. Apparently Jim was just lucky. Almost every single diplomatic mission he had ever been on had, sooner or later, gone horribly wrong.

And, judging from the way the pretty alien girl was smiling at Spock and touching his arm, and the way Spock was letting her touch his arm, this mission on Mishkar V was shaping up to be no different.

“Are you okay with that?” He asked Uhura as he sidled up to the drinks table where she was ladling punch. He poured himself another glass of the fizzy neon blue liquid favored by the locals.

Uhura glanced over her shoulder. Spock was leaning down so that the pretty alien could whisper something in his ear. She turned back to Jim, looking amused. “We broke up six months ago, Captain. Besides, I know for a fact that he’s not interested.”

“He looks interested.” Jim drowned his glass and poured himself another.

“Uh-huh.” Uhura frowned. “Hey, go easy on that stuff, Captain. It’s safe for human consumption but I’ve heard some nasty rumors about what it does to you if you drink too much.”

“Don’t worry about me, lieutenant. I can handle my booze.” Jim waved her off and went back to glaring at his First Officer from across the dance floor and cursing every single stupid diplomatic mission ever. Just as he was praying for some kind of emergency, like the ship getting attacked or a super nova or a wardrobe malfunction, anything that would give him an excuse to march over there and rip that clingy alien off his Spock, punch her in her ugly face, watch her silver skin tarnish black in shame when she realized that she could never, ever come between him and what was his, just as he was thinking this Spock looked up at him and their eyes met.

It was…electrifying. And not in a good way. When Spock looked at him Jim felt giddy, powerful, almost as if he’d made Spock look at him through sheer force of will. And then when Spock looked away Jim…

Wanted to hurt him?

That couldn’t be right.

But no time for that now, because Spock wasn’t just looking away, he was turning away. Allowing the silver whore to take him and lead him away, away from Jim, out into the gardens, away from prying eyes and bright lights.

The last thing Jim remembered doing before the darkness took him was following them. 

 

***

 

Jim woke up in sickbay about eight hours later. At first he just lay in the bed, staring up at the ceiling. What was he doing here? Why couldn’t he remember what had happened?

Calm down. He ordered himself. Think about it logically. You were at the ambassador’s party, and you probably drank too much. Blacked out, wound up back here. That’s all…

Wait.

No.

No.

NO.

Oh dear god please no…

“BONES!” Jim sat up so fast his vision swam. There was a saline drip in his arm. He ripped it out and used the IV stand to pull himself upright. “BONES!”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Jim, sit the fuck down!” McCoy bellowed as he came skidding into the private room. He turned around and slammed the door shut, locking it. Jim ignored his words and threw himself at his friend, fisting his hands in the front of the doctor’s light blue scrubs.

“Please,” he begged. “Please, Bones, please…” Tell me it’s a lie. Tell me it’s ok. Tell me I’m wrong, that I’m crazy, that I’m completely delusional and can no longer command and I’ve got some kind of terminal neurological disorder and bacon doesn’t exist anymore just tell me anything other than… “Spock?”

McCoy shook his head. “We haven’t found him yet.”

A broken sob ripped it’s way out of Jim’s throat and he sank to the floor, bringing McCoy down with him.

Now that he was awake he was…starting to remember. Not everything, just…details. Flashes.

The shock and dismay in Spock’s eyes.

The fear in Spock’s voice when he shouted his name.

The taste of Spock’s blood in his mouth.

The feel of a warm body growing cold.

And the knowledge, the deep, terrible, sickening knowledge that he had done the one thing that should have been impossible, that should have never, ever happened.

“Oh god, Bones.” Jim gasped. He suddenly realized that he was crying. “I killed Spock.”

“Stop saying that.” Bones growled with such vehemence Jim was momentarily shocked. “First of all I am the CMO on this ship, Captain, and that means that no one is dead until I’ve seen a body.”

Jim was shaking his head. “I know it, Bones. I killed him.”

“You don’t know shit. Remember that blue stuff you were guzzling down like it was lemonade last night? Well it turns out it’s a strong psychotropic drug, especially when consumed by humans. By the time you left the party you were so strung out someone could have chopped your arm off and you wouldn’t have noticed.”

If McCoy meant this information to be comforting he failed. Jim closed his eyes, his head swimming, his stomach roiling, his lungs filling with self-loathing and disgust instead of oxygen. So. He’d been drunk, angry and high as a kite and in a fit of jealous rage he’d…

The fury hit him like a shuttlecraft and it almost knocked him to the ground.

Spock was dead.

He could still feel the body of his friend, his heart and soul, growing cold in his arms as he held it and begged for forgiveness. 

Spock was murdered.

Every atom in Jim’s being was screaming for retribution, demanding to go and find the person who had hurt the man he loved, who had stolen Spock from him, and make that person pay. Slowly. Deeply. Inch for inch, pain for pain. He wanted, he needed revenge. But he couldn’t. He was to blame. He was the bad guy.

Oh god, what had he done?

“Jim! Dammit, Jim! If you don’t calm down right now I am going to have to sedate you and I don’t know what that’ll do to you at the moment!”

Bones was shouting but Jim could scarcely hear him over the beating of his own heart. Worthless organ. Broken hearts shouldn’t beat. Somewhere else Bones was swearing, pulling away, shouting for Chapel to bring his med kit. Somewhere else, somewhere on the planet down below, Spock’s body was starting to rot in whatever shallow ditch or shrubbery Jim had dumped him in last night.

Spock’s body.

Jim got control of his breathing half a second before Bones brought the hypospray to his neck. Jim’s hand shot up and blocked the attack. Bones glared at him.

“Are you back among the living yet, Captain?” McCoy asked suspiciously. Jim took a deep breath and nodded. “Do you understand what I told you before you started having the mother of all anxiety attacks?”

“You were saying that it wasn’t my fault. That I was under the influence of an alien substance.” Jim refused to look him in the eyes.

“No, god dammit, that is not what I was saying. I was saying that I don’t know what happened last night and until we find some evidence one way or the other neither do you, do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Now get back into bed and stay there. You’ve still got enough of that shit running through your blood stream to make me worried.”

Jim obeyed, climbing back into the bed, but as he did so he said quietly, “You don’t want me talking to anyone. You don’t want me to confess.”

McCoy’s hands turned into fists and he just barely managed to refrain from punching his friend and commanding officer in the face.

“You’ve got nothing to confess.”

“I killed him.”

“Impossible.”

“You weren’t there.”

“Prove that you did it.”

“Prove that I didn’t.”

McCoy stared at him but Jim didn’t look back his way. He just rolled onto his side and curled in on himself.

“Fine.” McCoy spat and left the room. He made sure that it was locked behind him and only then did he turn to the security officer standing guard. “The captain is still under the influence of that blue shit.” He snarled at the hapless and startled redshirt. “And he is not in his right mind. So no one, and I mean no one, other than me, goes in or out of that room. Do you understand?” The redshirt gulped and nodded fervently. Bones glared at him once more for good measure and then stalked away, headed for his office. Once he was safely inside he collapsed at his desk and placed his head in his hands.

Somehow, over the past ten hours, everything had gone to shit.

They hadn’t even noticed that Jim and Spock were missing until the party was winding down and Uhura had wondered out loud what had happened with Spock, Ambassador Chru’s niece and The Jealous Starship Captain of Doom (which is what all the senior staff called Jim on those surprisingly frequent occasions when independent, beautiful, intelligent women were inexplicably attracted to his First Officer and he coincidentally became irritable and petty). But no one had seen them for awhile so Uhura and McCoy began to search. After twenty minutes Sulu and Chekov, starting to get worried, joined in. No luck. Finally they called over the security detail who called the ship and Scotty had been able to trace Kirk’s life signs deep into the gardens. He hadn’t found any sign of Spock but that wasn’t unusual considering how frequently the damn sensors malfunctioned.

That was when shit really hit the fan. He’d gone with the security detail to fetch Kirk. He would never forget what he had seen in that garden.

The copper smell of Spock’s blood reached them when they drew close and it only got stronger the closer they got. Once they stepped around the last hedge, into the tightly enclosed grove of alien trees, the smell became overpowering. McCoy didn’t blame Ensign Higgins for throwing up. If he’d eaten anything that night he’d probably have lost it at that point too.

Too much blood.

The native trees tended to bloom in shades of red and yellow. But the foliage in that one little grove was so covered in green blood you’d have thought you were back home on Earth. There had to be gallons, dripping down the trees, pooling on the ground and congealing around…

And then he had seen Kirk. Unconscious, soaking in Spock’s blood, his face swollen and tear-stained, slumped over a corpse. Almost too scared to breathe, McCoy had forced himself forward, made himself kneel beside his friend and push him over to reveal the purple and mottled face of Ambassador Chru’s niece. She’d been strangled.

McCoy wasn’t an idiot. He knew it looked bad. But he hadn’t wanted to think about exactly how bad it looked at the time. He’d declared the girl dead, ordered the security detail to find Spock, and beamed back on board the Enterprise with Jim in his arms within five minutes. He’d spent the next couple hours locked in the private room with Nurse Chapel, trying to stabilize the unconscious Captain as they forced the blue drug out of his system. It was only after they’d done as much as they could for the moment and McCoy had emerged to find an ashen, shaking Uhura waiting for him that he found out how much worse it had gotten.

They still hadn’t found Spock. Ambassador Chru had been briefed on the circumstances surrounding the discovery of his niece’s body and he was demanding that Captain Kirk be returned to the planet immediately for execution. According to the Ambassador it was quite clear what had happened. Commander Spock and the Lady Xrit (the deceased niece) had been enjoying a tryst in the gardens (which was, apparently, what the gardens were there for and why else would two people be alone in them) when they had been discovered by the Captain. The Captain, who had displayed his displeasure with the pairing quite clearly in his attitude and body language earlier that evening, had flown into a jealous rage and attacked the couple, strangling Xrit and beating Spock to death. When Uhura had tried to argue that they didn’t know Spock was dead and besides the Captain would never do such a thing, the Ambassador had dismissed her, saying that the lack of a body did not matter since it was impossible for Spock to survive after losing that much blood and furthermore even children knew better than to drink the blue stuff without restraint and so clearly the Captain was overly emotional and irresponsible and could not be trusted.

And now McCoy had to face the fact that, despite everything he knew and held dear about James Tiberius Kirk, Jim himself was confirming the Ambassador’s versions of events.

“This can’t be happening.” McCoy muttered. Jim killing Spock out of jealousy? Not possible. Not even conceivable. And he had been in no state to lift his own head off the ground when they’d found him, let alone kill a fully-grown Vulcan in peak physical health and then drag the body to god knows where.

There was another thing, something McCoy wasn’t telling anyone, not yet. Not until the results came back. There had been too much blood on the ground. Gallons and gallons. The average human body that weighed as much as Spock did wouldn’t even contain 2 gallons. Maybe Vulcans were different but he was willing to bet they weren’t that different. Whatever had happened in that clearing, McCoy smelled a rat.

“Fuck, Spock, where are you?”

 

***

 

Spock was alive. For the moment. His captors were taking great pleasure in explaining this to him slowly, calmly and repeatedly.

“—too good for a half-breed like you. And you can wipe that smug look off your face.”

“I am Vulcan.” He intoned. “I look the way I am meant to look.”

The large silver-skinned alien snorted derisively. “Yeah? Well you didn’t look quite so Vulcan last night when I was having that nice little chat with your boyfriend.”

Spock did not react. It took a tremendous force of will not to strain against his chains, not to reach for his enemy’s neck, but it hadn’t worked earlier and there was no logical reason to think it would work now.

The alien, who Spock had learned was named Thug (which apparently meant leader in the local dialect and that pretty much summed up all you needed to know about the local culture), grinned. “Lookee here. You can learn and everything, just like a real person.” The grin morphed into a leer. “They’re gonna love a smart boy like you down in the Pits.”

Spock didn’t even have to feign his disinterest. Whatever the Pits were he was going to end up there sooner or later, unless he was rescued first. If he was rescued it wouldn’t matter and if he wasn’t rescued asking about the Pits would only delight his captors. Besides, it did not require great leaps of logic to deduce that the Pits were designed to sate lust, be it carnal or blood, and often both. Spock had seen its ilk before and he didn’t think this planet’s hell hole was going to be any worse than another planet’s.

He was bound to the wall of a tiny underground cell, his arms and legs wrapped many times by thick chains. The ground was filthy, with darker sticky patches staining the granite slabs. The cell reeked of old blood and urine. The odor was so thick in the air he could taste it, so that whether he breathed through his nose or through his mouth there was no relief from the assault on his senses. There were deep cuts on his arms and legs. Thug had made them last night in the garden in order to drain his blood and he had not seen fit to bandage his prisoner since then. Fortunately the bleeding had stopped but Spock was now more worried about infection than blood loss.

The one high light of his current situation was that Thug liked to talk. Mostly about how much Spock was going to suffer, but in between psychotic rants he also revealed the entirety of his employer’s evil scheme.

Spock now knew that the friendly young lady he’d been conversing with the previous evening was, in addition to being the Ambassador’s niece, the heiress to a vast fortune.

He now knew the Ambassador owed quite a lot of money to Klingon arms dealers. From that point on all the details fell neatly into place.

Spock had been set up. The Ambassador had hired Thug to murder his niece and in order to ensure that she was alone with Spock at the time of the murder he had impressed upon the girl what a fortuitous match a Vulcan Starfleet officer would be. Apparently this was a culture that took the concept of arranged marriage very seriously and the girl had leapt at the opportunity, never realizing that her uncle was planning for her to meet an untimely end and for Spock to be blamed. The Ambassador would inherit the girl’s fortune and, at the same time, provoke an armed conflict with Starfleet that would benefit his Klingon acquaintances greatly. He had contacted Thug, who was well known in the area for being the man to make things happen, and Thug had agreed to take on the job provided he could keep Spock afterwards for the Pits (whatever they were).

Neither the Ambassador nor Thug had counted on Jim Kirk following Spock into the gardens.

Thug was ranting again but Spock tuned him out, his mind drifting back to the events of the previous night.

The girl had led him to a small grove, isolated and private, and there she had stopped. She danced away from him and glanced over her shoulder, batting her eyes. Spock found this behavior confusing.

“What was it you wished to speak to me about?” He asked. The girl giggled.

“Do you like it here?” She asked, spreading her arms wide, gesturing at their surroundings. “Isn’t it lovely?”

“It is lovely.” Spock agreed, but he wasn’t thinking about the garden. He hoped this conversation would be over soon. Before he had left he had looked at Jim, had seen something dark moving behind his eyes, and he wanted to return to his friend as soon as possible. If something were wrong Jim would need him. Of course, sometimes Spock thought it would be nice if Jim needed him when everything wasright but…that would be asking too much.

The girl opened her mouth to say something further but instead all that came out was a frightened gasp. She took a further step back into the shadows and Spock spun around, fists already rising, but it was too late and the next thing he knew they were completely surrounded and he was being held motionless by three large silver-skinned aliens. The largest of the newcomers stepped forward and smiled, revealing rotting teeth. “Hello.” He addressed the girl. “My name is Thug, and I’ll be killing you this evening.”

The girl screamed and ran to Spock’s side, which was an incredibly illogical thing to do because Spock was in no position to help her. She wrapped her arms around his waist and his captors laughed, not even bothering to try and grab a hold of her. Why should they? She’d just proven she didn’t have the common sense to try and escape. Spock gritted his teeth and met Thug’s eyes.

“I advise against this course of action.” He said levelly. Thug’s eyes widened marginally.

“Do you now?” He sneered. “Hold him still.” He barked at Spock’s attackers. Their grip on Spock’s body tightened as Thug pulled a long, thin blade out of his belt. Spock braced himself for the pain and was not disappointed. Within seconds his extremities were burning as Thug spun around them, the knife slicing through the air and into Spock’s sensitive flesh. Spock compartmentalized the pain and acted as if he did not feel it, watching Thug’s face closely throughout the ordeal.

Xrit had seen him first. “Captain! Captain Kirk!” She screamed. “Help us!”

The men all turned to look in the same direction and for a brief moment Spock was relieved when the familiar and beloved form of his Captain came into view. But that relief turned into dismay when he saw the shuffling walk, the hunched shoulders, the clenched fists, the dazed expression. His earlier impression had been accurate. Something was very wrong with Jim.

Spock immediately began to fight his captors, straining against their combined muscle to get free, to reach his friend and take him somewhere safe. They didn’t budge. Jim stumbled into the grove, cradling a large glass filled with uman, the local equivalent of alcohol. Spock’s heart sunk. Had Jim been drinking it all night? It was no more damaging to the locals than whiskey, but in humans it was rumored to have some severely negative side effects. Thug began to laugh.

“Don’t hold your breath for a rescue from this asshole, little lady.” He leered at Xrit. “He’s human. Everyone knows humans can’t handle their uman. Makes ‘em see things. Makes ‘em think things.”

“What kind of things?” Spock demanded without taking his eyes of Jim. The Captain still hadn’t looked at them. Spock was beginning to feel frightened and he couldn’t make it stop.

“Bad things.” Thug chuckled. “Why do you ask? Is he a friend of yours?” Thug glanced between Jim and Spock and his grin widened. “Is he your lover?”

Spock was absolutely certain that he did not react to this accusation in any way, shape or form and yet somehow Thug construed his silence as confirmation. “Well, well, well. Isn’t this nice.”

“Should we kill him, boss?” One of the henchmen asked, eyeing Kirk nervously. Thug shook his head.

“No, I’ve got a better idea. A slight deviation from the plan, but at least this way no one’s going to come looking for the half-breed.” Thug stepped behind Kirk.

“Jim.” Spock said loudly. “Can you understand me?”

Jim’s gaze flickered up, but instead of meeting Spock’s eyes he stared at Xrit, at the way she had her arms entwined around Spock’s waist, and he looked stricken.

“That’s right, Jim.” Thug said in a low, soothing voice from behind Kirk. “You know what they were doing before you got here, don’t you?”

Jim shook his head. Spock frowned. “Cease speaking with him at once.” He barked at Thug, but Thug ignored him.

“They were fucking, Jim.”

Jim shook his head again.

“Right here, on the ground, in the dirt. She was riding him like an animal, and he loved it.”

“Jim,” Spock called. “These are obvious falsehoods. The individual standing behind you is an enemy and he is trying to take advantage of your compromised state of mind. Do not let him.” If a tiny bit of desperation seeped into his voice no one seemed to notice.

“He doesn’t love you.” Thug said. “He doesn’t want you. You can see the way he holds her. He never holds you like that. And he’s known her for, what, a couple hours? Whereas you’ve known him, loved him, wanted him for so long. But it’s time to be honest with yourself, Jim. He’s never going to love you back.”

Jim’s eyes finally met Spock’s and they were full of pain.

“Never?” The Captain whispered.

“Jim, please.” Spock begged him to see through the madness, to stop listening to the spiteful lies. “Of course I love you, I always love you, I just could not tell you before but please, please, please trust me now. Trust me and do as I say. You have to leave.”

“You see?” Thug cried triumphantly. “He wants you gone! Out of his sight! He hates you. And you hate him.”

Jim shook his head. “No…” But he didn’t sound so sure of himself.

“Yes you do. And you are angry. Angry enough to kill. Angry enough to kill them.”

“No!” Jim and Spock shouted at the same time.

Thug nodded. “Yes, Jim. In fact, you’ve already done it.” He nodded at the henchmen and the next second Xrit was pulled away from Spock. She screamed and writhed but her captor placed his huge, beefy hands around her slender, silver neck and within the space of a few breaths her face was purple and her eyes dull. Spock was fighting earnestly with the men who held him but Jim just stood there, staring at the girl’s body as it was dropped onto the ground.

“Why did you…” Jim whispered.

“I didn’t do anything, Jim.” Thug said gleefully. “You did it. You killed her. We aren’t really here, we’re just a figment of your imagination.”

The glass of uman slipped out of Jim’s numb fingers and shattered on the ground. He raised his shaking hands and stared at them in the moonlight as if he’d never seen them before.

“Jim!” Spock was screaming now, desperate to break through to his friend. “Jim!”

Jim turned to him. “Spock? I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to…”

“Who are you talking to, Jim?” Thug cut him off. “Not Spock. Spock isn’t here anymore.” He pressed his own knife, slippery with green blood, into Jim’s hand. “You already killed him, remember?”

“…I…I killed Spock?” For the first time there was a hint of disbelief in Jim’s voice. Spock held his breath, hoping against hope that Thug had finally gone too far. After all, the mere thought that Jim would ever betray Spock, even under the influence of uman, was completely ludicrous.

“You did.” Thug pointed to Xrit’s body. “That is his corpse.”

“Jim,” Spock shouted. “That is clearly not my body, and I am right here, I am alive and if you do not snap out of it we will both be in grave danger.”

Thug laughed. “It’s no use, half-breed. Your boyfriend sees and thinks whatever I want him to see and think.” He pushed Jim towards the body and in a heartbeat Jim was at it’s side, cradling the head of the dead girl in his arms and sobbing for the life of a man who was standing right behind him.

Spock despaired. It was cruel, to put a living creature through such grief. It was wrong, that he should learn Kirk’s feelings in such a manner.

“Please.” Jim was crying, whispering, screaming, begging and demanding, somehow all at the same time. “Open your eyes. I take it back, I’m sorry, I love you, just open your eyes.”

Spock glared at Thug. “This will fail. When he awakens and discovers that is not my body he will realize that he has been tricked and he will come looking for you. All of Starfleet will come looking for you.”

“I don’t think so.” Thug grinned. “Maybe they won’t find your body, but they’ll find enough evidence to convince everyone you are dead.” He nodded at one of his henchmen who pulled a large plastic container out of the bag on his back. The henchman opened the lid and began sloshing the green liquid on every available surface. The stench filled Spock’s flared nostrils. Vulcan blood. “They’ll see the blood and assume your boyfriend hid the body before passing out.”

“You will fail.” Spock repeated, with grim satisfaction.

That was the moment Thug decided he was done talking and knocked him unconscious.

Which brought him back to his present reality, where he was tied to a wall, and every word that escaped Thug’s lips brought Spock closer and closer to death. But Spock was not about to give up. He calculated the odds of Dr. McCoy figuring it out within the next half hour at 96%, and so he grit his teeth against the pain and waited, trying not to think of what Jim must be going through at that moment.

 

***

 

For a long time Jim just lay in the bed, trying to stay as still as possible.

This was too much. How could he be expected to survive this, live through this, come out the other end and be okay with this? It was his fault, all his fault, and there was no one and nothing to blame other than himself. Jim’s breathing hitched as the waves of grief swarmed over his entire body. It was physical more than emotional. His chest constricted, his breath caught in his throat, his eyes

 blurred with tears, his extremities ached to the extreme. He had thought he’d known loss before, but he’d never known it like this.

How could he have done it? Jim was no stranger to blind rage. Tarsus had taught him a lot about anger, how to use it as a tool, and how it consumed you if you relied on it too much. He’d spent most of his teenage years going from one state of consumption to another. Recently he’d been trying to be better, trying to be the person his crew saw when they looked at him. And then, he’d thought, he actually wasbetter. He’d thought his friends made him better, because they were all so smart and brave they couldn’t all be wrong about him. Spock, who was always right about everything, couldn’t be so wrong about him.

Except that Spock had been about as wrong as it was possible to be.

At that thought the torment came back. There was no other word for it. He simultaneously wanted to curl up on himself and die and a the same time he wanted to flay the soles of his feet before taking a long no-shoes walk on the beach. But mostly he just wanted to go back, back, back to yesterday morning when Spock had been alive and well…

“It looks stupid.”

“It is a uniform. It looks the way it is meant to look.”

“Fine then. look stupid.”

“That is neither what I said nor what I meant, Captain.”

Jim pulled at the collar of his official dress uniform and smiled at Spock’s reflection in the mirror. They had met in their adjoining bathroom, a rare occurrence, but it was also rare that Jim fussed over his appearance. He’d demanded Spock’s input and so now Spock was leaning against the wall and trying not to look bored while Jim verbally abused his outfit.

“Are you saying that I look good, Mister Spock?” He asked with a cheeky grin before he could think better of it. Unfortunately in the long period of awkward silence that followed he had more than enough time to think better. He was such an idiot, fishing for compliments when he knew exactly what Spock’s response would be, and…yes, there it went. The eyebrow had been raised. So now of course Jim was blushing. The entire conversation had been ruined.

“I am merely stating that just as a Starfleet uniform looks like a Starfleet uniform, you are a Starship captain who looks like a Starship captain. Which is as it should be.” Spock’s gaze slipped away and he stuck out his chin stubbornly. For about two seconds. And then he was back to normal. It was such a small emotional reflex, swiftly stifled, that it was almost impossible to spot, but Kirk saw it. And it made him feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside even though his face was so red it made the pea-soup color of his uniform even worse.

“Go to the party with me?”

…Huh. Someone had said the exact words he’d been thinking. Wow. And they even sounded exactly like him. Oh wait…

Jim was an idiot. And the eyebrow was back up.

“Captain, I assure you that were it not my full intention to accompany you to the party, I would not be wearing my dress uniform either.” And on that note Spock nodded politely and left. Jim gaped after him, even after the door had closed. Had Spock kinda just agreed, probably unknowingly, to be his date?

Jim was a fucking genius.

How could he have hurt Spock? He loved him, with everything he had. When Jim looked at Spock he felt light on his feet and when Spock looked at Jim he felt special, important, wonderful. The thing that existed between them, whatever it was, had been good. Painful, sometimes, when Jim thought about how Spock didn’t love him back the same way. And occasionally when they met someone new and fascinating and Spock couldn’t keep that excited gleam out of his eyes Jim really wanted to grab him and haul him to his quarters and lock the doors, but Jim had always moved past the jealousy. He’d refused to let it control him because even if Spock didn’t want him in return, Spock deserved to be wanted anyway. At least, that was what Jim had always told himself. How could he have been so wrong? How could he have such evil lurking inside his soul this entire time and never realize it? It didn’t seem possible.

It didn’t seem possible…

Jim pushed himself up into a seated position. Wait. It really didn’t seem possible. Me kill Spock? First of all, I would never. Second of all… He stuck out his arms, examined his hands, for any trace of a fight. Spock wouldn’t let me. Spock would have fought. Spock had three times the strength of a human. Sure, Jim had beaten enemies bigger and stronger than him before but not without a fight. A punch went two ways, action and reaction, if he hit someone hard enough to hurt them he’d hurt himself as well. If there had been a struggle the evidence would be on Jim’s body. But he seemed fine. A headache, heartache and stomachache, but no cuts, contusions, scratches, bruises, nothing. Not so much as a stiff shoulder.

“Is anybody out there?” He called at the door, which was locked from the outside.

“Captain?” A muffled voice came from the other side. “Are you all right?”

“I need to speak with Dr. McCoy.” He said firmly, not answering the question because right now he didn’t have an answer. “Immediately.”

“Yes, Captain.” Jim listened to the muffled sounds of the guard pulling out his communicator and paging the doctor. There was a brief exchange that Jim couldn’t make out and then the guard came back to the door. “He said he’ll be here in fifteen minutes, Captain.”

“I need to speak with him now.”

“Yes, sir. That’s what I told him, sir. But he said that whatever it was could wait fifteen minutes until he’s done going over some test results.” The guard waited nervously for a reply. “Sir?”

Jim threw the IV stand at the door. “Get. Him. Here. NOW.”

“Aye, aye, Captain!”

Easier said than done, as it turned out. In the end McCoy showed up a good fifteen minutes later but at least Jim had the satisfaction of listening to an increasingly frantic guard try to follow all his orders at once without offending any of his superiors. When McCoy finally arrived the poor guard practically broke down in relieved sobbing. McCoy gave him a pitying look.

“Why don’t you go grab some lunch?” He told the kid. “You’ve earned a break.”

“My orders-”

“Are to go eat lunch. Sitting down. Have some water. Relax. Now.”

The guard gulped, nodded once and gratefully fled. Being stuck between the doctor and the captain was not a position he ever wanted to find himself in again. McCoy shook his head and unlocked the door. Jim was waiting for him, sitting upright on the bed, his legs crossed. He still looked pale but the terrible emptiness in his eyes was gone, so McCoy considered that an improvement. Sure, he now looked a lot more like a batshit crazy person, with his hair sticking out and his lips pulled down in a silent snarl, but he was probably better than before, right?

“Was I hurt?” Jim snapped before McCoy had managed to close the door behind him. “Injured in any way when you brought me in last night?”

McCoy shook his head. “Just out of your fucking mind, but other than that you were untouched.”

“If…” Jim’s voice broke and he paused for a second to collect himself. “If I…if something…Spock would have fought back, right?”

McCoy thought about this. Would Spock have fought back? If Spock thought that Jim’s life would be saved at the price of his own, would he allow Jim to kill him? Maybe, but not if he realized what it would do to Jim afterwards. “Yes, he would have fought.”

“So…so we’re missing something, right?” Jim was staring at him desperately, like a man dying of thirst confronted with a water cooler. “Something doesn’t add up, right? Because if Spock and I fought you’d be able to tell.”

McCoy threw the folder he was carrying onto the blankets in front of Jim and then sat down on the end of the bed. “Here’s something else you might like to know. That wasn’t Spock’s blood in the grove where we found you. Or maybe some of it is, but most of it isn’t. It was blood and it was Vulcan, but Spock has a very rare blood type. I’m willing to bet that whoever is behind this didn’t know that. I bet they reckoned we’d see the green blood and give up hope.”

Jim’s hands were shaking as he picked up the folder and looked at the test results. The different blood types were too intermingled to make out individual ones so soon but the preliminary results showed the blood of at least three different Vulcans had been sloshed around the grove.

“Bones…” He whispered.

McCoy reached out and grabbed Jim’s shoulders. “Jim, I can’t even begin to understand what you’ve been through over the past couple hours and the last thing I want to do is give you false hope, but…” Jim’s head shot up to meet his eyes. “I think Spock is still alive. I think this was a set up.” McCoy paused, not liking the way all the blood was draining from Jim’s face, or the way his eyes were getting bigger, and he definitely did not like the way Jim had suddenly stopped breathing. “Jim?” Jim’s eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed in McCoy’s arms. McCoy swore. “Damn blue shit.”

 

***

 

Spock could tell that things had gone from bad to worse when he all of a sudden realized that he’d been alone in his cell staring at his own feet for 10.5 minutes trying to remember what they were for. He was developing a fever, probably due to the infection that he was now 100% certain he had contracted in his untreated wounds. He couldn’t think clearly enough to figure out how much longer he had, but it couldn’t be long. Hope was, of course, illogical, but he really hoped Dr. McCoy would hurry up and figure out that the blood in the grove wasn’t Spock’s, and then Jim would…Jim would…

Spock was very worried about Jim. He tried to imagine how he would behave if their roles were reversed, if he suddenly woke up one day convinced that he had murdered his captain and friend. Would he be able to live with himself? He honestly couldn’t say.

Which was weird because he was Vulcan, right? So obviously he would do whatever was logical. But for some reason he couldn’t remember what that was right now. Also, since when did Spock use words like weird?

Spock was just starting to become aware that the fever was affecting his mental faculties when he heard voices approaching the door of his cell.

“—really something special.”

“So you keep saying.”

“You don’t believe me?”

“It’s not that I don’t believe you, Thug. I’m just not sure why your friend is being kept in a cell.”

“What was I supposed to do, let him walk around the house?”

Spock heard an exasperated sigh from the other side of the cell door. “Just unlock it and let me see what I’m dealing with.”

There was a scrape of metal on metal and then the door swung open. Thug walked in and a human woman carrying a large carpetbag came in a step behind him. She looked to be in her mid-sixties with long brown hair tied up in a loose bun at the back of her head. She wore loose fitting street clothes and there was a stethoscope around her neck. Her eyes were hard and her face looked tired.

So. Thug had brought a doctor.

The doctor stared at Spock. “Is that a Vulcan?” She hissed. Then her eyes widened. “Is that a Starfleet uniform? Oh my god…” She turned on Thug. “You idiot! Did you abduct a Vulcan Starfleet officer for a prizefight? Do you realize how stupid that is?”

Thug sneered. “Just fix him up. Won’t be a good fight if he’s too sick to walk.”

“Fix him up? Why should I bother? He’ll just stop his heart the second you put him in the ring, like the last one!” She shouted. “Not to mention they’re an endangered species! Starfleet will run you down for this!”

Thug did not look impressed. “No one’s gonna care about one filthy half-breed.”

The doctor looked as if he’d struck her. “Half… Oh sweet god, please tell me that’s not Commander Spock. Please tell me you are not stupid enough to kidnap the most famous Vulcan in existence.”

“Just fix him.” Thug snarled and left the room, slamming the door shut behind him. The doctor stared after him furiously for a couple moments before turning to face her new patient, who had watched the entire exchange impassively.

“Okay.” She said, in a tone of voice that meant business. “Here’s how this is going to work. I’m going to patch up whatever that bastard did to you and you in return are going to forget you ever saw me. I do not want this to become a problem in the future, do you understand?”

“I understand you, doctor.” Spock said solemnly. “However, as I believe I am currently in a delusional state, I am unable to vouchsafe that understanding.”

The doctor eyed him critically. “Why do you think you are in a delusional state?”

“Because logic tells me there is not a large polka-dotted rabbit standing three feet to your left, and yet I am looking at it right now.”

“Yup, that’s delusional, all right.” She opened up her carpetbag and started rooting around inside. “Hold on, I’ve got something for that.” She pulled out a hypospray and before Spock could ask what was in it she had crossed the floor of his cell and pressed it against his neck. It hissed and Spock blinked and a few seconds later the alarmingly patterned rabbit disappeared.

“The apparition has vanished.” He observed out loud. “Fascinating.”

“Uh-huh, now this one is for the fever and then I’m going to examine those wounds.” The doctor pressed a second hypospray to the opposite side of his neck. “Has Thug told you what’s going to happen next?”

“I believe he has, though I was not inclined to listen.”

The doctor gave him an inscrutable look, but that was nothing new. Spock often found the subtleties of human emotional expression completely beyond his grasp. “Don’t get too excited there, Commander. You’ll pull something.” She sighed. “Look, if you’re not rescued by the time Thug manages to pawn you off to some unsuspecting Pit Master, you’ll officially be my patient. So I’d appreciate it if you tried a little, yeah?” Her voice sounded brittle and she did not look at his face as she began dapping at the cuts on his arm with a disinfecting pad.

“Unsuspecting Pit Master?”

“A Pit Master is the person who runs a Pit team. The Pit teams fight each other. The Pits are where the fighting happens.” She rolled her eyes. “Calm down. It’s just an underground fighting ring. No one’s going to rape you, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I was not worried and have no need of calming down.” Spock informed her sternly. “And are all the members of these teams unwilling participants, as I am to be?”

“Nope. Almost all of them are there because they want to be. You’re an exception.” She put down one arm and moved to the other, cleaning each wound swiftly and efficiently. “You must have really pissed someone off.”

“On the contrary, I believe I was just convenient.”

The doctor stilled for a moment. When she spoke again there was a thickness in her voice that he could not classify. “Looks like those chains are starting to chafe. I’ve got something for that.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a small tub of antiseptic salve. “This stuff’ll heal the damage and prevent chafing for at least the next couple of hours.” She told him before twisting off the cap and applying it liberally to the skin around the chains on his wrists and ankles. She even rubbed some of it into the chains themselves. Spock watched her very closely.

“I’ve been here for thirty five years.” She said suddenly. “Came here for a two month research fellowship, and then I was stupid enough to fall in love. The relationship didn’t last, but by then…” She trailed off but Spock did not speak. She was clearly trying to tell him something and he had learned that humans often rambled out loud when they were trying to state something important, instead of organizing their thoughts internally as a Vulcan would. “I do good work here. And yeah, maybe I don’t work with the nicest people but… Some of them in the Pits are still just kids, you know? Kids who didn’t have anywhere else to go and so much anger. So they sell themselves to the Pit Masters and beat each other bloody for the amusement of the rich and powerful. Some of them do it because the pain makes them feel alive again. Most of them do it for the hot meals and a safe place to sleep at night. And maybe it’s not pretty and maybe it’s not legal and maybe it’s not right, but it is what it is and I just…well, someone’s gotta take care of them, you know?” Having cleaned the wounds on his legs as thoroughly as she had cleaned the wounds on his arms she reached back into her bag and pulled out a dermal regenerator. Spock remained silent and still as she ran it over his sundered flesh, allowing her to keep talking. “So you don’t ask questions, because if you’re not around who’s gonna be there to snap their bones back in place and stitch their ears back on? No one. So you keep your head down and your mouth shut. And sometimes that meant I did things I’m not proud of. Or rather, I’m not proud of the things I didn’t do. And maybe I should have. Maybe I should have said something when the Pits started being a punishment instead of a career. Maybe I should have stopped them.” She moved the regenerator to his arms. “I tried when they brought the Vulcans to the Pits. I tried to warn them. Wouldn’t work, I said. They won’t fight, I said. Pit Masters just laughed and told me it was their job to get the Vulcans to fight and my job to patch them up afterwards so they could do it again.” There was poison in her voice. “My patients. My responsibility. And one by one they just…dropped. Not a scratch on them. Dead before the fight could even begin. One. After. The. Other. Stopped their own hearts rather than play the game.”

“Vulcans adhere to the principles of non-violence.” He said smoothly. “We do not battle for the amusement of others.”

“I understand that.” Her eyes were narrowed to slits and her voice shook. “But their deaths were unnecessary. Now stop talking so I can focus.” Spock did not speak again until she had finished regenerating the skin on both his arms.

“You have my gratitude, doctor.” He said as she packed up her bag and rose to leave.

“Don’t thank me, Commander.” She grumbled, still not looking at him. “I didn’t do anything anyone should be grateful for.” And on that note she departed, closing the cell door behind her.

She did not lock it.

Spock waited exactly twenty seconds before he began to gently twist his arms and legs. The antiseptic gel she’d rubbed on the skin around the chains made the flesh slippery and before long he had managed to slide out of his bindings. Mindful of the delicate new skin on his arms and legs Spock got to his feet and crept to the door. There were no sounds coming from the other side. Tentatively he placed his open palms on the door and, closing his eyes, opened his mind and felt. He remained that way for a further 15.6 seconds before opening his eyes and stepping back slightly.

The hallway outside was empty. He was in the basement of a two-story structure. There was a guard on the first floor stationed by the front door. There were four more individuals on the top floor. One individual, presumably the doctor, was climbing the stairs to meet them.

Spock took a few deep breaths to collect himself. While melding with non-life forms was something he had done a few times before during episodes of captivity it was not something he thought he would ever be fully comfortable with. Buildings did not think, they just existed, and so the aftereffects of the meld were…uniquely challenging. I am Spock of Vulcan. He reminded himself. And I do not have sconces.

Spock pushed the door open slowly so that it didn’t creak and alert the guard one floor above and then he padded down the hall. Thug had taken his boots and communicator earlier (though for some reason he’d left Spock wearing his shredded dress uniform) and his bare feet allowed him to be as silent as an Earth domesticated feline. He paused at the bottom of the stairs and listened closely, his Vulcan hearing trained to catch even the smallest of sounds, an intake of breath or a heartbeat. There was only silence and so he climbed the stairs.

The guard at the front door wasn’t even pretending to be doing his job. He was propped against the doorframe, fast asleep. When Spock saw him there, snoring lightly, he experienced an uncomfortable emotion, a sick twist in his gut, a flush in his neck, a tightening in his chest. He was, he realized, embarrassed at being captured by people who were so clearly incompetent. He reminded himself that they were remarkably strong and that while it had taken three of them to overpower him they had been able to do so. Brute strength did not always require competency to be effective.

Spock nerve pinched the sleeping guard to be safe and slung the unconscious body over his shoulder. He also stole a Klingon disrupter from the guard’s belt. He hoped he would not have to use it. Unlike phasers, disrupters only had the one setting.

He mounted the second flight of stairs and found himself in another deserted hallway. The door at the far end had been left open a crack and there were voices coming from inside the room. He moved stealthily closer.

“—won’t work.”

“Chru knows what he’s doing.”

“I know you fancy yourself a war hero, Thug, but you’ve got to listen to me.” The doctor sounded both furious and desperate. “Even if Chru does manage to execute Captain Kirk, which I doubt, Starfleet won’t go to war over it! What they will do is impose an embargo. Do you know what that means?”

“I am done talking to you.”

It means the relief ships stop coming! It means no more food aid! No more medicine! It means thousands of people die of starvation and disease! There is no glory to be gained from this, Thug!

Spock heard feet stomping closer and then the door was yanked open. Thug was still facing the interior of the room and did not see Spock standing there. “You do not understand the ways of warriors, doctor.” Thug was sneering, not noticing the expressions of surprise and dawning horror on his henchmen’s faces. “Shut your mouth or I’ll shut it for you with my—”

Spock nerve pinched him before he could finish his sentence.

The battle was over almost as soon as it had begun. Once they saw their leader slumped on the floor the remaining three henchmen panicked and even their brute strength was no match for Spock’s discipline and combat experience. In under a minute the floor was littered with bodies and Spock and the doctor were staring at each other warily.

“Oh no.” The doctor said in a voice devoid of inflection or emotion. “He’s escaped. Help. Run.”

Spock did not react. He was uncertain what the doctor was doing now, but he was 98.7% confident that helping him escape had been her intention since she entered his cell. Possibly before that.

“Wow.” The doctor continued when he didn’t move. “It would be really bad if you knocked me out as well and then used the communicator in my front left pocket—this pocket—to call your ship and have us all beamed aboard and arrested. I in particular would not like to be arrested. Only think how that would look to all the violent criminals I work with.”

Ah. “Plausible deniability, doctor?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Commander Spock.”

“Indeed.” He stepped forward and placed his hand on the juncture of her neck and shoulder, catching her when she collapsed so that she did not hit the floor. He lowered her gently to the ground and then pulled the communicator out of the pocket she had indicated. He was Vulcan and so he did not feel excited or relieved when he raised the device to his lips and said, “Commander Spock to Enterprise. Come in Enterprise.”

 

 

***

 

When Jim finally woke up again it was to a clear head and a clean blood stream. The Damn Blue Shit, as McCoy couldn’t be bothered to remember the real name of the intoxicant, was finally out of his system. The flashes of false memory were still there, as well as the bone-deep conviction that Spock was dead and it was his fault, but now Jim could recognize them for the fabrications they were. The notion that he could kill Spock wasn’t just impossible it was…completely and utterly illogical. But Spock was in trouble, wherever he was. Their sensors still couldn’t find him and though security had sent teams out to search the gardens for clues they hadn’t turned up anything yet. Jim wanted nothing more than to be down there with them, combing the grove and intimidating the locals until something or someone told him where to find Spock, but Bones wasn’t having any of it.

“You’re not going anywhere near that planet until we’ve found Spock.”

Jim gaped at him. “But I can’t look for Spock if I’m not down there!” He kind of wanted to throttle Bones for getting in his way, but he resisted the urge. McCoy crossed his arms and glared at the captain, refusing to move from the doorway he was blocking. At least he’d allowed Jim to get dressed. Once he’d put on the clean uniform a yeoman brought him he’d immediately felt like a Captain again, instead of a frightened and grieving…abuser. And that was not a term Jim used lightly.

“Ambassador Chru is gunning for your head, Jim. If you go down there he’ll have you executed before we could reverse the transporter beam.”

“What?” Jim blinked. “Why?”

McCoy sighed. “Because he thinks you killed his niece.”

What?

“The alien girl Spock was talking to, remember? Her name was Xrit and when we found you, well…” McCoy trailed off, looking guilty. He probably should have told Jim about this earlier but earlier he wouldn’t have been able to handle it.

“When you found me what?”

“You were…with her body.” McCoy forced himself to say. “She’d been strangled.”

Jim felt as if he’d been punched in the solar plexus by a by a Gorn. “So I did kill someone last night.”

“I refuse to believe that.” McCoy said fiercely. “And I’m not going to let you go down there only to be executed for a crime you didn’t commit.”

Jim was opening his mouth to point out that McCoy’s faith in him did not count as admissible evidence when his comm unit went off. It was Uhura.

“Captain!” She was practically screaming. “Spock! It’s Spock!”

Jim grabbed the unit. “What happened? Did they find him? Is he okay?”

“He found us Captain!” Now he could hear the joy in her voice. “He’s beaming aboard now!”

McCoy’s self preservation instincts took over just in time to leap out of the way before Jim barreled through him to get out of the private room. He heard a nurse scream and a clatter of falling hyposprays that she’d been carrying when the frantic Captain banged into her. He spun around and ran out as well, though Jim was already gone by then. “Nurse Chapel!” He reached down and helped her to her feet. “Spock is beaming back aboard. I don’t know what kind of condition he’s in, so just get ready!” He ordered before starting to run towards the transporter room.

“Get what ready?” She called after him.

“Everything!” He shouted.

Jim couldn’t run fast enough. On some level he knew he was moving quicker than he had ever moved in his life and yet he still felt like he was standing still. He was dimly aware that he wasn’t the only one heading to the transporter room, he passed security officers and medical staff who must have heard the news and were all running to help, but he overtook them and left them all behind. He felt like he was running for his life and in a way he was. Spock was his entire life, his whole world, Spock was everything that was good about him, everything that made Jim worthwhile, and right now the only god damn thing in the entire universe that mattered at all was getting to him as soon as possible.

But then, oh god, the transporter room was right in front of him and he was almost there but what if it wasn’t true what if he wasn’t there what if—

Spock.

He was there. He was alive. He was stepping off the transporter pad. He was saying something to Scotty, who was standing at the controls and grinning like a maniac. He was turning around. He was looking at Jim. He was stepping closer.

In under a second Jim had closed the space left between them and was pulling Spock into his arms, closer and closer, trying to wrap as much of himself around the taller man as he physically could. There was only one thought running through his mind.

Alivealivealivealive he’s alive Spock is alive…

“Jim.” Spock whispered, his hands shaking. He wanted nothing more than to return the embrace, desired nothing more than to drop all his shields and Vulcan calm and bury himself completely inside the man in his arms, but they were not alone and Scotty was watching them with almost gleeful interest. “There is much I must tell y—” His voice stuttered to a halt when he felt something hot and soft brush against the side of his throat.

Alive alive you’re alive and you’re here and you’re MINE.

Jim’s thoughts hammered against Spock’s mind as he placed small kisses up and down Spock’s neck. It was all Spock could do to keep breathing, so overwhelmed by his own desire and Jim’s desperate need to prove to both of them that yes, indeed, Spock was still alive. And yet…Spock did not think the Captain would appreciate his crew seeing him like this and more people were starting to arrive. For Jim’s sake Spock tried to pull away, just a little bit. Jim growled and bit him.

“Jim!” Spock gasped, and all other thoughts flew out of his head.

“Dammit Jim, get off of him so I can get these readings.” Someone grumbled. Spock did not know who was speaking. He did not care. It did not matter. All that mattered was that Jim was here and Spock was alive and Jim was very determined to prove both these facts and Spock was very happy to let him do so.

But the person currently trying to angle a tricorder in between them was not content. “I said move, Captain. Let me make sure he’s not about to drop down dead before you suck his face off, okay?”

Finally Jim stopped nibbling Spock’s jaw line (Spock was a Vulcan and so definitely did not whimper at the loss of contact) and pulled back just enough to stare into Spock’s eyes. “You’re alive.” He whispered and there was wonder in his voice.

“Obviously.” Spock said, his voice husky.

Scotty, McCoy, and the seven other security and medical officers present all tried very hard not to look at each other because if they did they were either going to burst out laughing or, in McCoy’s case, be violently ill.

“Lilix to Doctor Katz! Doctor Katz!”

Jim looked down, noticing the communicator clutched tightly in Spock’s hand for the first time. “Doctor Katz?”

“I believe that is possibly the designation of the woman who is currently unconscious on the transporter pad.” Spock said slowly, also looking at the communicator as if he were surprised to see it there.

“ESTER KATZ YOU ANSWER ME THIS INSTANT!”

The voice coming from the communicator sounded so desperate, so wrathful that Spock had raised the device to his mouth before he even thought about it.

“I regret to inform you that Doctor Katz is currently unavailable, due to just being arrested.” He said seriously.

“WHAT?! Well, you tell her to get UN-arrested and get her ass over here because it’s coming and I am NOT doing this without my doctor!”

Spock’s eyebrows rose in confusion. “What exactly is arriving?” He asked.

“The baby!”

For a moment Spock just stared at the communicator with wide eyes, and then he turned to McCoy (who was still trying to check him out with the tricorder) and proffered the device. “This is for you.” He said and dropped it in the doctor’s unwary hands.

“What?” McCoy gasped. “Spock! Don’t just—”

“What’s going on over there?”

McCoy’s training took over. “Ma’am, my name is Doctor McCoy. As the Commander just explained, Doctor Katz is currently unavailable. Now I need you to listen to me very carefully. How far apart are the contractions?”

“Contractions? CONTRACTIONS?! YOU MEAN THERE’S MORE THAN ONE?!”

McCoy was silent for a moment. “My mistake, ma’am. Let me start again. What species are you?”

“GET. DR. KATZ.”

Throughout the entire exchange Jim just stared up at Spock and drank him in. Seeing him again, alive and well, was almost a religious experience. He had been saved. He was not a monster. He had not killed the man he loved more than anything. He felt like he was made out of air, like he could take on the entire galaxy and win. Nothing could beat him, not with Spock at his side.

Never again. Never gonna hurt you again. He thought as he reached up and caressed the side of Spock’s face. Spock frowned deeply.

“Captain, you did not hurt me to begin with.” Spock said sternly.

That got through to him. Oh shit. He jerked his hand away and stepped back, leaving a full foot of space between their bodies. It felt like a mile. “Forgive me, Commander.” He said stiffly. “I was…overwhelmed. Temporarily.” Shit. Fuck. Fucking hell. I just sexually assaulted Spock in a crowded room and he’s never gonna talk to me again and wow his shirt is really torn up. Not really leaving much to the imagination, is it. Wow. Um… “We are all very glad to have you back on board.” He finished lamely.

“Captain, if I might direct your attention to the transporter pad…” Spock followed Jim’s lead and switched to professional mode. “You will find the five individuals who abducted myself and murdered the Lady Xrit, including Thug who was responsible for your…confusion. As well as Doctor Katz, who wants it known that she had absolutely nothing to do with my escape.”

Jim glanced at him, confused.

Spock read his question in his face. “Doctor Katz has made it quite clear that the majority of her patients do not operate within the confines of the law and as such would not respond well if they discovered she had aided the arrest of Thug and his men. She insisted on being arrested so that there would be no doubts in the community as to her role in the affair. Which was unhelpful.”

“I see.” Jim thought he could have kissed the older woman, but he’d have to get the full story from Spock later. He turned to face the security personnel who were, he noticed with a sinking heart, blushing furiously and not meeting his eyes. “Bring the prisoners to the brig. I want them in separate cells.” He ordered, emphasizing the word separate. He pretended not to notice the way they muttered “Yes, Captain” and shuffled their feet while they obeyed him. At least they were doing as he commanded, even after his unbelievably unprofessional behavior exhibited only moments before. Already he was starting to freak out about it. “With me, Mister Spock.”

“Sorry to interrupt, Captain.” McCoy said sarcastically, looking up from the communicator (Lilix, whoever or whatever she was, was still on the other end and they could all hear her breathing as the doctor had instructed though possibly he hadn’t told her to hiss Fuck you with every exhalation. Then again, knowing McCoy, maybe he had). “But if he’s going anywhere he’s going to sick bay.”

“I am quite well, Doctor McCoy.” Spock protested.

“Bull shit. You’ve lost a lot of blood. You’re going to sick bay.” McCoy said, nodding at his medical officers. Then he turned his attention back to the communicator. “Okay, Lilix, you’re doing great.”

“WHEN I FIND OUT WHO THE HELL YOU BASTARDS ARE I’M GONNA RIP YOUR ARMS OFF!”

“Well, you’re a Klingon, so that makes sense. Just keep breathing.”

Since all the medical officers were a lot more scared of incurring McCoy’s wrath than the Captain’s authority, Jim and Spock had no choice but to obey his orders and walk to sick bay. They said nothing as they went, both of them all too aware of everything that had happened over the last twenty four hours and that they were currently being watched very closely (though from a safe distance) by the three EMTs who were escorting them.

Jim glanced at Spock every couple of steps, just to reassure himself that he was still there. His emotions were so thick, so confused, he thought he was going to choke on them. First of all there was the all-encompassing relief that Spock was still alive, but it was closely followed by the deep embarrassment at the way he’d mauled his first officer. But he could still taste Spock’s skin on his lips (musky and sweet, instead of salty like a human’s) and so there was desire and lust swirling in his loins as well. He was angry with the people who had caused this and proud of Spock for escaping without needing to be rescued. He was annoyed with McCoy for making them go to sickbay when all he wanted to do was pull Spock into the nearest room, lock them in together and just hold him until someone came and broke down the door. He was also terrified about what Spock was going to do once they were finally alone together because he was pretty damn sure he’d shown his hand and by now Spock knew all about his deep unrequited love and that was not a conversation Jim was looking forward to.

And underneath all of that the terrible conviction was still there. Some part of him, deep down, still believed that he had killed Spock last night and this was all a hallucination created by his sick mind to try and relieve his own guilt.

Spock was just worried about Jim. He could see that the captain was suffering but they did not have time for a proper conversation at the moment. If they wanted to capture all of those responsible for what had happened over the last twenty-four hours they were going to have to move quickly. They had no time for emotions, even if those emotions were (Jim’s lips on his throat, sucking ever so slightly, his tongue darting out to brush the skin in the faintest of touches so sweet such burning) remarkably persistent. And until Doctor McCoy finished talking the Klingon named Lilix through giving birth they were going to have to do everything from the sickbay. Or at least, he would.

“Captain,” Spock finally spoke when they were drawing near to their destination. “It is imperative that I tell you immediately that the person behind this scheme was Ambassador Chru. He hired Thug to murder his niece so that he could inherit her fortune and pay off his debts, and he had originally planned to frame me for the deed in order to trigger an armed conflict with Starfleet that he would capitalize on further. Your arrival in the grove last night was a coincidence that Thug took as an opportunity to frame you instead of me, thus reducing the likelihood that the authorities would come looking for me after he had sold me to this planet’s criminal organization.”

Jim was silent as they walked and he digested what Spock had just told him. “Do you have proof?” He asked.

“I am a witness.” Spock said solemnly. “I only have Thug’s word that Ambassador Chru is behind all this, however, which is why we must move quickly, before he can dispose of any evidence that might connect him to the crime. As I am confined to sickbay I cannot do this, which is why you must.”

“I’m not leaving you.” Jim said in a voice that brooked no argument. Spock opened his mouth to argue anyway, but Jim was already pulling out his comm unit. “Kirk to Sulu. Come in Sulu.”

“Captain! Is Spock okay? Uhura said—”

“Commander Spock is fine, he’s coming with me to sickbay right now. Listen, are you still on the planet?”

“Yes Captain.”

“Find Ambassador Chru and call me when you do. Do not let him leave your sight, do you understand?”

“Aye aye Captain.”

Jim slipped the communicator back into his pocket and completely ignored Spock’s protests as they walked into the sickbay. Nurse Chapel was waiting for them, armed to the teeth with hyposprays and regenerators, but one look at Jim’s face and she stepped aside.

“Your room is still available, Captain.” She told him gently. He nodded at her and led the way, grateful that at least one person in the medical department hadn’t had the fear of McCoy shouted into them. Their escort fell back and Spock followed Jim silently into the private room. This time it was Jim’s turn to lock the door and he did so from the inside.

“Jim,” Spock said softly. He was standing right next to him, right there, not touching but still so close. “You are shaking.”

“I felt you die.” Jim whispered and he was ashamed. That was not what he had meant to say.

“You did not.” Spock told him but Jim just shook his head and pulled away. “Jim,” Spock said, some of the desperation from last night seeping back. “I am right here.”

“I look at you and all I can think is that this isn’t real.” Jim admitted. He couldn’t bring himself to face Spock so he turned around and started making the bed, just so that he’d have something to do with his hands. “This is a dream and I’m going to wake up and you’ll be gone and it’ll be my fault.”

“Jim, that is merely a thought that Thug put into your head.”

Jim really was shaking now, his whole body trembling with the effort it took not to come clean, to admit his sins, but the words could not be stopped. They swarmed up his throat and broke free from his lips. “It wasn’t. It’s not. I’m a monster, Spock, and god if you knew you’d leave me in a second and you’d be right to do so.” Shut up! His brain screamed at him. Stop talking before you ruin everything! But the floodgates were open and the words were pouring out of him. “But when I think about you leaving I just want to stop you and I’d do anything to keep you and it scares me how much I mean that. Because if you wanted to leave I think I would stop you. And there’s this thing inside me and I don’t know if it’s because of Frank or Tarsus or if it’s just me but it’s always there, telling me that if I can’t have you no one can. Cause the things you love always leave unless you trap them and I love you more than anything—” He clapped his hand over his mouth because it was the only way to make the words stop. He couldn’t bring himself to turn around to see the look in Spock’s eyes. Spock was a Vulcan. Surely this part of Jim, this pathetic unstable neediness, was abhorrent to him. Maybe Spock had already left, unlocked the door and slipped away rather than spend another moment in his company.

“I watched you die once.”

The words, barely even whispered, echoed in the empty air between them and Jim forgot to breathe. They never talked about Khan.

“I watched you die in agony while I was trapped on the wrong side of the glass and there was nothing I could do.” It had been over a year and still the memory had the power to rip Spock open. He suspected it always would. “If your desire to contain me makes you a monster, and I do not believe it does, then my actions on that day would make a monster of me as well.”

“Wanting revenge isn’t the same thing as—”

“I did not want revenge. I wanted to take him with me.” Spock took a step closer but still Jim didn’t turn around. “Jim, a life without you is not worth living.”

“Now I know I’m dreaming.” Jim meant it as a joke but it came out as a sob.

And then Spock was there, all around him. Encircling him, encasing him, wrapping arms around him and holding him close. Jim knew he didn’t deserve it but he couldn’t stop himself from turning and burying into that forgiving warmth and comfort, so freely offered, so greedily taken. Spock could feel Jim’s self-loathing through their skin. He didn’t need his telepathy to feel how much Jim hated himself for wanting the absolution Spock was volunteering. For the first time Spock felt real rage towards Thug for putting Jim through this, and then he suddenly realized what must be done.

“Let me help you.” Spock breathed into Jim’s ear.

“How?” Jim said, even as the sensation made him shudder with longing. He ran his hands up and down Spock’s arm, lingering on the tears in the fabric through which he could touch desert hot skin.

“Let me take away what they did to you.” Spock pleaded. “Let me show you that you have nothing to fear.”

To be free. To be rid of the failing, the misery, the anxiety. Even sex had never sounded so sweet.

“Save me.” Jim whispered and First Officer Spock, as always, listened to his Captain.

Spock opened his eyes. He was standing in the center of a large field under a clear blue sky. The ground was studded with broken, dried out stalks and discarded cornhusks slowly disintegrating into the earth. In the distance there was nothing, only unimportant haze, but above was the sky and it was endless.

Bishop to D3.

“He’s not coming back.”

Spock looked down into the clouded blue eyes of a young man. Or an old child. Spock was never any good at estimating the age of human young.

“Who is not coming back?” Spock asked.

“Sam. He walked out. Didn’t even pack. Just got up at dinner and left. That was Monday. An’ then today Mom got a phone call an’ now she’s crying an’ she says Sam’s not coming back.”

Queen to C3.

Spock looked up at the endless sky. “Why are we here, Jim?”

“That’s where he went.” Jim looked up as well, craning his neck. “That’s where you go when you’re not coming back.”

A plump kindly-looking woman in a white dress with red polka-dots took hold of his arm. “Deviled eggs, honey?” She asked, smiling. Spock turned to face her, taking note of the green grass and the picnic tables. He was standing in a church-side garden, he suddenly knew, and this woman was offering him consumables.

“No thank you.” He said and moved past her. He twisted his head, looking this way and that, searching for Jim. He did not see him amongst the throng but then he heard a voice, so much louder than the rest.

“Kirk? Oh yes, I remember Captain Kirk.”

It was an old woman’s voice and Spock turned towards the sound. He could not see who was speaking but he could hear them loud and clear.

“He died to save her, you know. That’s true love, if you ask me.”

“If he had truly loved Winona,” And he, Spock, somehow instinctually knew that was Frank’s voice. The evil stepfather had arrived. “He wouldn’t have died and left her with two kids and a mortgage.”

For a moment all the sounds disappeared—

Queen to A4.

—and then the silence was broken again by Frank’s voice. “If he really loved her, he wouldn’t have gone to space at all.”

And then Spock was driving off a cliff, straight into Tarsus IV.

Darkness. Only the darkness and the smell. Only it wasn’t a smell, it was a nightmare. There had been ten of them, when the doors were locked, and now there was only one. The smell was what was left of the other nine.

Suddenly there was a crack of light and that was when he knew he was dying. He knew because the light hurt more than anything and by now he knew all about pain.

Also, there were voices.

“Captain! Hurry!”

“What did you find?”

“Oh god, oh god, please oh god fuck Buddha no…”

“Ensign!”

“Children, sir, just kids! And it looks like there’s one still alive!”

Someone gasped. Maybe it was Spock. Maybe it was someone else.

“Get him out of there! Now!”

Spock was on flame. His eyes were lava. His body was ash. Then a hand closed over his molten eyes and a voice whispered, “It’s ok, son, I’ve got you. It’s gonna be ok. Your people did a good thing, hiding you from the squads. It kept you safe, ok? They didn’t trap you, they saved you, remember that.”

“King to E1.”

“A most illogical move, Captain.” Spock says.

Jim smiles. “Oh yeah?”

They are sitting in the Captain’s quarters and a chessboard is laid out between them. Spock’s mother, and planet, was lost only a month ago and this is the first time Jim and Spock have ever played chess.

Spock looked at Jim. Their eyes met across the board and Spock opened his mouth. There was something he was supposed to say…

Spock was dead now. Jim was cradling his bleeding body in his arms and the smell of copper-based blood overpowered the perfume of the blooming garden. Spock opened his eyes and stared up at the endless night sky.

“This did not happen.” Spock whispered.

“Yes it did.” Jim’s voice was brittle as he reached out and moved his queen. They were back in his quarters, sitting on either side of the chessboard.

“Why this game, Jim?” Spock asked. “Why do we keep coming back to this game?”

“This is when I killed you.”

“You did not kill me.”

“You are dead.”

“I am not.”

Jim was staring at the board. “I wanted you to be. I watched your hand…” Spock moved one of his ivory pieces to a new square. “…and I knew I wanted you to stay. I wanted to trap you with me forever. Mine, mine, only mine…I thought it, and then you died.”

The night air in the grove was warm against their skin. Spock shifted in Jim’s arms so that he could reach up and brush the tears from his face. They were in the garden again. Spock soothed Jim’s mind with his hands.

“Remember.” Spock crooned. Jim turned around and watched as the scene from last night played out in his mind’s eye, only this time his vision wasn’t clouded by the uman. And though it made him angry, watching Thug hurt Spock, humiliate him and kill the girl, the darkness that had hounded him since last night began to fade. Thug’s words were harmless now, so patently untrue as to be laughable. Spock was still alive, still safe, still here and for Jim that was the difference between the monster and the man.

Jim sighed and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. He had lost the chess game.

“Say it.”

Spock opened his mouth to say what he was supposed to say. Checkmate.

“I love you.”

In the barren wasted cornfield Spock took Jim by the hand.

At the church picnic he lifted Jim onto his shoulders.

On Tarsus IV he carried Jim to safety.

In the grove Spock opened his eyes.

The chessboard lay forgotten as Spock leaned in for a kiss…

And in a private room in sickbay aboard the good ship Enterprise, Captain Kirk was lying on top of First Officer Spock, their scorching mouths locked together, hands scrabbling to discard as many clothes as possible without breaking contact. Jim took Spock’s lower lip between his teeth and bit down. Spock whimpered into his mouth. The sound shot straight through him and pooled between his legs. His hips pressed down, grinding into the writhing Vulcan beneath him.

“Fuck.” Jim whispered. “Fuck…Spock…”

Spock hushed him and pulled him closer. Spock had one arm closed tightly over his back and the other was sliding down between them. Jim was so hard, so ready, he knew that if Spock actually touched him there it would end immediately so he forced himself to catch the wandering hand before it arrived at its destination. Spock pulled his head back just far enough to look up at Jim accusingly. Jim chuckled but he was panting so hard the sound was more air than laugh. “Not yet,” he breathed into Spock’s skin. “Too soon, let me keep you a little longer…”

Spock blinked up at him. It was adorable. “That is illogical, Captain.” Was it just Jim or did Spock’s voice sound deeper than usual? Now that was a fun thought. He ground his hips into the mirror hardness beneath his own to show just how much he liked it, and Spock flushed green before pushing back up into the contact. Jim moaned.

“Why…” He panted. He wanted to ask why they were wasting energy on talking when there were far more important matters at hand but it came out as, “Is that illogical?”

“Because Klingon labors do not last long and as such I estimate Doctor McCoy will be arriving—”

The door handle jangled and then they both could clearly hear Bones swearing on the other side.

“—sooner than I anticipated.” Spock finished. He did not look pleased. Jim groaned again and buried his face in the crook of Spock’s neck.

“Come back later!” He shouted.

“Dammit Jim, open the fucking door!”

“No hablo ingles!”

“Your accent is atrocious and in case you forgot, Captain, I‘ve got a patient to examine and you’ve got some prisoners to question!”

Jim opened his mouth to whine ‘do I have to’ but then he considered what Spock would say to that and thought better of it. He tried to take a few deep, calming breaths but since his face was still angled under Spock’s chin all he got was a heady lungful of hot Vulcan. Which wasn’t helping. Also not helping was the way Spock was fondling Jim’s hands, tracing his fingers and massaging his wrists and examining his palms as if they were precious things. Fascinating. Jim thought, not realizing this was exactly the thought going through Spock’s mind as well.

“Captain Kirk!”

“Mmph.” The amount of willpower it required for Jim to force himself off a horny, happy, living Spock was inhuman. He deserved a monument. Complete with a statue and a plaque that read BOW BEFORE JAMES TIBERIUS KIRK. In really big letters. But before he left the bed and Spock’s embrace he wanted one more kiss, you know, for the road. He caught Spock’s lips in his own again. Damn he’s soft. Jim thought, sliding his tongue between their lips and tracing the contours of Spock’s warm, wet mouth. He wanted to devour Spock. Wanted to bury himself inside and wrap Spock around him so that every single inch of them was touching.

“CAPTAIN KIRK! YOU HAVE THREE SECONDS TO OPEN THIS DOOR BEFORE I USE MY OVERRIDE.”

Since he was clearly physically incapable of actually climbing off Spock, Jim just rolled to the side and fell off the bed. “I’m coming!” But if he looked at Spock he was going to come undone, so he kept his eyes averted as he rushed to the door. “You are interrupting.” He snarled at Bones when he opened it.

Bones did not look amused. “Yeah? Well, you need to learn when to keep it in your pants.”

Jim flushed. “We weren’t—”

“Oh, right. I’m sure that the only reason you stripped my patient was that you were really concerned about his welfare. I am equally convinced that you only took off your shirt for moral support.”

Jim and Spock both looked away. Neither of them could remember exactly how or when the shirts had come off. Apparently, judging from the small pile of blue tatters next to the bed, Jim had ripped off what had been left of Spock’s dress uniform. At least Jim’s command gold was still intact. He slipped it back on.

“Doctor McCoy, I assure you that I am in no immediate danger.” Only Spock could sound so composed under such circumstances. “My wounds have already been treated by Dr. Katz.”

“You’re my patient, not hers.” McCoy said darkly, not taking his eyes off the screen above the bed. “And she may have regenerated the injuries but I don’t like the look of these readings. Your heart rate is elevated and your white blood cell count is too low. So you’re staying in that bed, Mister Spock, and that’s an order.”

“He’s gonna be ok, though, right?” Jim was pretty sure he could guess why Spock’s heart was racing but a low white blood cell count could be dangerous.

“He’ll be anemic for a couple days and I’m keeping him for observation for a while, but he should be just fine.”

“But—”

“Prisoners. Interrogations. Now.” McCoy snapped and kicked Jim out of the room.

Jim knew Bones was right. He had a job to do and unfortunately Spock wasn’t it. But it still took every ounce of his training to actually walk away and head to the brig where the prisoners were surely waiting.

Thug was first. It made sense. He was the ringleader so he probably had the most to lose, and the most to offer. Plus it gave his minions plenty of time to stew in their own fears, and Jim liked that in a suspect. The security officer who had been running the interrogation while Jim was (a-hem) occupied elsewhere stepped out of the room and caught him up to speed.

“He’s willing to talk, sir, but only to you.”

“Has he asked for a lawyer?” Jim asked.

“No, sir. We told him he had a right to one but apparently that’s beneath him. He’s part of the warrior caste on this planet, sir, and they take personal responsibility very seriously.”

“Thank you, lieutenant. You’re dismissed.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Jim entered the interrogation room alone. Thug was chained to a chair but when he looked up and saw the captain an evil smirk slid over his silver features.

“Jim, my old friend,” Thug sneered. “How wonderful to see you again.”

“Why did you attack Commander Spock?”

“If memory serves it was you who attacked the half-breed, Jimmy, not me.”

“Why did you murder the Lady Xrit?”

“Do you still remember the feeling of her neck between your hands, Jimmy? Can you still feel her life slipping away?”

“What is the nature of your relationship with Ambassador Chru?”

“You cried so pretty when I told you the half-breed was dead.” Thug was sickening, revolting, appalling. His eyes gleamed and his smile was obscene. “But you didn’t seem too surprised. When we left you were still kissing the whore’s face, wailing like a bitch and begging him to come back.” Thug made a face. “Oh please, baby, I’m so sorry, I’ll do anything, just please open your eyes, I love you soooo much.” He sang in a falsetto. Thug leaned forward as far as his chains allowed. “Crag wanted to see if we could convince you to fuck the body while the half-breed watched, but I’m afraid we were on a tight schedule. Tell me, did you do it anyway?”

Jim got up and left the room without another word. He turned to the guard stationed at the door. “Take him back.” He ordered, his voice tight. “And bring me the one named Crag.”

If Jim saw Thug again he was going to try to kill him and he knew the guards would stop him if he tried so he went and got some water while his men moved the prisoners, telling himself that he wasn’t hiding. When he returned Thug was gone and a smaller nervous-looking silver alien was chained to the chair in his place. When Jim walked in the door the prisoner flinched. Jim smiled at him and offered the glass of water. “Thirsty?” He asked. Crag just gulped and stared at him with huge, panicked eyes. Jim kept on smiling. “Crag, Crag, Crag.” He shook his head and tsked. “What are we going to do with you?”

That was all it took. Crag broke open like an egg and all sorts of information came pouring out. Some of it was useful, some of it was irrelevant, and some of it was just Crag freaking out.

“I swear I don’t know how it got this far! I was just following orders! You don’t know what Thug is like! He’s got goals, you know, big dreams. And we all thought he was spot on about the Vulcans cause they’re so strong and they always seem so together. I swear I didn’t know they’d kill themselves!”

Crag talked about how, when a Vulcan trading vessel had arrived a month ago, Thug had gotten the bright idea to kidnap some of the crew for the Pits.

“Dr. Katz tried to stop us but we didn’t listen!”

Apparently Dr. Katz had even gone so far as to try and help the Vulcans escape the night before they were meant to fight in the Pits, but Thug had stopped her. Which probably explained why she was so worried about being connected to their arrests. According to Crag, she was currently on something ironically similar to probation in the criminal community.

“Its not like we’re the only ones making deals with Chru! Everyone does it!”

Apparently Ambassador Chru was quite cozy with said criminal community.

He told Jim about a lot of other things, too. Like how he was really, really sorry and how he’d never meant to hurt anybody and he was a good guy, really, he’d just fallen in with the wrong crowd. He told Jim about his favorite color (orange) and where he’d gone to school (nowhere) and how on Saturdays his girlfriend came over and made him dinner because she worried he didn’t eat healthy enough. And did he mention that he was really sorry?

Jim just let Crag keep talking. After an hour or so the alien finally seemed exhausted. Jim offered him the glass of water again and this time it was accepted. Jim raised the glass to Crag’s lips and allowed him to drink.

“Thank you, Crag.” Jim said. “I’ll make sure the judge knows how helpful you’ve been.”

Crag just whimpered.

When Jim left the interrogation room he found to his delight that Spock was waiting for him in the hallway, wearing a brand new uniform, not a hair out of place and if it weren’t for the circles under his eyes and the slightest of swellings in his lips you’d never know anything unusual had happened to him recently. There were also some redshirts with him and though Jim was sure they were all perfectly lovely people they were not quite as delightful as Spock.

“Spock!” Jim beamed. “How did you manage to escape Bones?”

“A situation arose that Dr. McCoy found rather distracting and I accompanied him to the brig.” There wasn’t even the tiniest flicker that suggested Spock remembered what had happened between them earlier, but Jim knew better. “Unfortunately,” Spock continued. “The situation has escalated and it requires your immediate attention.”

“What kind of situation?”

“It’s a doctor fight, sir!” One of the redshirts piped up. Jim stared at him.

“A doctor fight?” He repeated.

The redshirt nodded. “Yes, sir. I used to see them all the time when I did security at the teaching hospital back in Academy, sir. It’s a lot like a cat fight, only meaner.”

“Please don’t make us go in there, Captain.” Another redshirt pleaded.

“Seriously?” Jim asked Spock incredulously.

Spock almost looked uncomfortable. “To be perfectly honest, Captain, I find myself at a complete loss to gauge the severity of the situation.”

Well, now Jim had to go and see this “doctor fight” for himself, though once he arrived at Dr. Katz’s cell he kind of wished he hadn’t. It would have been funny if it weren’t for the fact that McCoy was the person they were all expected to trust to put their guts back in the right way.

“How long has this been going on?” Kirk demanded, gaping past the force field into the cell where Dr. Katz and Dr. McCoy were deeply engrossed in a scuffle over her communicator.

Actually, scuffle wasn’t the right word. Jim didn’t have words. Bones was holding the communicator up in the air out of Dr. Katz’s reach with one hand. Dr. Katz had Bones’ other hand gripped tightly in hers and was using it to slap McCoy in the face while chanting “stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself.” Bones was swearing loudly and whoever was on the other end of the communicator was starting to wheeze.

“It was just shouting until a couple minutes ago, sir.” One of the guards answered meekly.

“Is somebody dying?” Jim asked, pointing to the device. The wheezing was getting louder.

“We think it’s an allergic reaction, sir.” A redshirt said nervously. “But, um, there seems to be some disagreement over the treatment options…”

“For gods sake!” Jim hit the button that released the force field and ran into the cell. “Both of you are fully grown adults! What the hell, Bones?!”

“She started it.” Bones growled.

“Let! Me! Talk! To! My! Patient!” Dr. Katz enunciated each word by jumping in the air, flailing for the device.

“Mister Spock, nerve pinch both of them.” Jim crossed his arms.

“Yes, Captain.” Spock stepped into the cell, looming with purpose. Both doctors subsided, but they were glaring at each other balefully.

Jim held out his hand. “Give me the communicator, Bones.”

“But—”

“Now.”

Bones handed it over, looking sullen. Jim lifted the communicator to his mouth. “How are you holding up?” He asked. “Can you still breathe?”

“Just…about…who…?”

“Don’t talk if it’s difficult.” Jim glared at the doctors who at least had the decency to look ashamed of themselves. “Options?” He snapped.

“All that woman needs is an epinephrine spray.” Bones snapped.

“She’s only got the one and I need to talk to her to find out why the hell she went anywhere near a ship that is full of fucking tribbles when she knows she’s allergic to them!” Dr. Katz was practically spitting.

“What’s her name?” Jim asked.

“Trixie.”

“Seriously? Ok, ok, geez.” Jim tried not to take a step back from the look on Dr. Katz’s face. Why were all the doctors he met in space so fucking scary? “Trixie, are you still with me?”

“…yes…”

“Ok, good. You’re doing great. Are you anywhere near tribbles at this moment?”

“Kinda…surrounded…”

Dr. Katz made a furious sound in the back of her throat. Jim ignored it.

“Trixie can you get to an exit?”

“…they…locked…the door…but there’s…a…window.”

Jim didn’t ask who ‘they’ were, there wasn’t time. “How high up is that window?”

“Not…high…”

“Ok, Trixie, it’s going to be ok, but you need to do exactly as I tell you.”

“Ok…”

“Take your epipen and the second, I mean the second, it starts to take effect you jump out that window, understand?”

“Yes…”

“No!” McCoy and Katz shouted in unison.

“Keep your communicator on you. The second you’re free of those tribbles we’ll beam you out of there.” Jim took note of the coordinates displayed on the communicator. He showed them to Spock who was already on the wall intercom unit, informing Scotty of the situation.

“Ok…here…goes…” The communicator went silent.

“Stand by Mr. Scott.” Spock murmured. Then they heard the sound of breaking glass. “Now, Mr. Scott!”

“Aye, aye, Commander!” Scotty’s voice crackled over the intercom. Everyone waited with baited breath. “We’ve got her, sir! But we’re gonna need Dr. McCoy, sir, the lass is in bad shape.”

Ester Katz moved fast for a human woman in her sixties. Even Spock was having trouble keeping up with her as they raced to the transporter room. If it hadn’t been for the fact that she had no idea how to get there without them to guide her Jim was sure she would have left them all behind. He privately resolved to start working on his cardio. It was a dark day when little old ladies could outrun starship captains.

Scotty was waiting anxiously for them at the door to the transporter room. “I got her off the pad, sir.” He said once they were close enough. “But I dinnae want tae move her too much.”

“You’re a good man, Scotty.” Jim smiled reassuringly. Dr. Katz shoved past both of them to get into the room. Bones meant to follow her but Jim stopped him. “No way, Bones. You’re going back to sickbay.”

“You must be joking!”

“Until you and Dr. Katz can behave like normal human beings I don’t want you anywhere near each other. You don’t have to go to sickbay if you don’t want to but you’re not going in there.” Bones gave Jim a look that promised pain and suffering later, but did as he was told and left. Spock, who had been trying to be as inconspicuous as possible lest McCoy notice him and remember that he was supposed to be confined to his bio bed, stifled a sigh of relief just in time. Or maybe not, judging from the way Jim was grinning at him knowingly.

“You’re not allowed to die on me anymore.” Jim said suddenly.

“Understood, Captain.” Spock said, raising an eyebrow. Jim’s grin faded.

“I mean it.”

Spock glanced around. The hallway was deserted. Everyone else was devoted to the injured woman in the transporter room. Spock turned back to face his friend and allowed the faintest shimmer of a smile to lift the corners of his lips. “Understood, Jim.”

All of a sudden Jim’s eyes focused intensely on Spock’s bottom lip. It was still a little swollen from earlier and Jim could see a tiny abrasion that must have happened when he bit it.

“Sorry.” Jim whispered, his finger lifting to caress Spock’s lip. “Does it hurt?” Spock didn’t respond, didn’t move, didn’t even breathe. He just stared at Jim hungrily.

“I can come back later if’n ye two want tae be alone.” Scotty was standing in the doorway. “But I thought ye might be interested in what’s goin’ on in here.”

Jim turned a deep red and Spock’s face instantly shuttered off, his emotions hidden even from Jim. Spock wondered if maybe he was still somewhat feverish. He could not remember ever being caught in unprofessional behavior so many times in one day before. First when he’d beamed back aboard and Jim had welcomed him, the second time had been when Dr. McCoy interrupted them after the meld (and Spock was still planning his revenge for that. Revenge was, of course, completely illogical and un-Vulcan, so whatever he did was going to have to be very sneaky) and now Mr. Scott of all people was witness to a third indiscretion. Mr. Scott was a terrible gossip. Spock expected that speculation about the relationship between their two top commanding officers would be circulating the Enterprise wildly within the hour.Nyota, he thought wryly, is going to be very pleased with herself. She’d been trying to convince him to make Jim aware of his feelings for months. In fact, though they never spoke of it directly, he suspected that his feelings for the Captain were a large part of the reason she had ended their own liaison.

“After you, Captain.” He said aloud, striking out towards professional stability.

“Oh no, Commander, I insist.” Jim’s face still glowed warmly. “After you.”

“Is this some kind of joke?” Scotty asked, looking between the two of them. “Or are ye actually a pair of teenage girls trying tae hang up their comms?”

Muttering darkly under his breath about insubordination, Jim walked in first. When he saw what was waiting for him he almost turned around and walked back out again. Once he suppressed that urge he had to suppress the urge to cover Spock’s eyes as well.

Trixie was an attractive young Orion girl with pink hair. She was also completely naked, unless you counted the glittery star-shaped pasties, which Jim didn’t. Her left arm and shoulder was freckled with broken glass and rivulets of dark green blood were running down her side. The epipen appeared to have done the trick because she was talking to Dr. Katz animatedly while the older woman picked out the pieces of broken glass.

“—And Lilix wants to know when you’re gonna be done being arrested cause she wants you to see the baby and—”

“Captain, perhaps you should wait outside.” Spock whispered in his ear. Jim jumped a little.

“Why?” He whispered back.

“We both know that you are especially susceptible to the charms of Orion females.” Spock said pointedly. Jim knew he was blushing again.

“That was one time.”

“It was not one time.”

“Trix, stop babbling this instant!” Dr. Katz said loudly, drawing Jim and Spock’s attention. “Now, did I or did I not expressly forbid you from walking the cargo bays until after the tribble shipment had been moved?”

“You did but you also told me to keep an eye on those Klingons.” Trixie said sulkily. “How was I supposed to know that Chru was gonna see me and lock me in there with all those awful nasty—what’s everybody staring at? Is there something on my face?”

Katz spun around. “Captain—”

“Way ahead of you, Doctor.” Jim nodded at Spock, who grabbed a phaser from one of the nearby redshirts. “Clear the transporter pad. If you don’t hear from us in ten minutes I want every man, woman and other we can spare down there with guns blazing. Doctor, get that girl to sickbay and for gods sake don’t let any male members of my crew anywhere near her until she’s wearing some clothes. Energize.”

When their atoms had reassembled on the planet down below Spock turned to Jim and said, “Do you realize your mistake, Captain?”

“Mistake?” Jim frowned. Was Spock trying to pick a fight?

“Indeed Captain. You just sent Dr. Katz to sickbay.”

“So? She’s a doctor, she’s got a hurt patient, sickbay seems like the logical place to send her.”

“Yes, Captain. But that is also where you sent Dr. McCoy.”

Jim paled. “Oh. Shit.” He looked up. “Do you think they’ll kill each other before we get back?”

“If their earlier behavior is any indication,” Spock said seriously. “It does seem likely.”

They were standing in one of the large open-air cargo hold areas that every developed planet featured to store all the goods that were beamed down from starships before they could be delivered. Since most of the large metal boxes that surrounded them had doors, windows and very natural smells, they were definitely in the livestock section. Jim could immediately spot the particular box that the Orion slave girl Trixie had been trapped in, not just because of the broken glass, but also because the fluff of tribble bodies was already starting to press against the shattered edges of the window. Jim suppressed a shudder. He didn’t like tribbles and he didn’t understand what everyone found so soothing about them. Even Spock liked them, despite the fact that they were probably the most illogical creatures in existence.

“Captain, I am picking up some unusual signals in that direction.” Spock whispered, not taking his eyes off his tricorder.

“Klingon?”

“Possibly, though with so many different life signs in such close proximity it is impossible to get an accurate reading.”

“Works for me.” Jim pulled out his phaser and began to creep forward, making sure to keep in the shadows.

They were in luck, for once. The Klingons and Chru had obviously not been expecting company and were making no efforts to hide their activities. Spock and Jim managed to get right behind them without being detected. They watched with interest as Chru handed over small leather bag after small leather bag and the Klingons carefully weighed each one.

“…42, 43, 44, 45…There you go, that’s the last of it.” Chru said bitterly.

“Where’s the late fee?” One of the Klingons growled. Chru scowled, his silver face tarnishing with outrage.

“What are you talking about? I just gave you the late fee.”

“What you gave us covers your debt and the interest. It does not cover the late fee.” The Klingon informed him.

Jim saw it coming a second too late to stop it. By the time he’d raised his phaser the Klingon had already pulled a long blade out of his belt and shoved it into Chru’s abdomen. He twisted it and Chru gurgled, black blood bubbling from his mouth.

“Now you have paid the late fee.” The Klingon smuggler said in satisfaction. He stepped back and Chru collapsed.

“Now!” Jim shouted and he and Spock leapt out of the shadows and started firing. They had the element of surprise on their side but the Klingons had them outnumbered 2 to 1 and it was not an easy fight. Jim managed to down the Klingon with the knife but by that point one of the others was already on him and he had no chance to check on Spock. His enemy grabbed him by the neck and started choking him. As the corners of his vision began to blur Jim managed to angle his phaser between his body and the Klingon armor. One blast was enough to propel them away from each other and they both went skidding across the tarmac. The Klingon was stronger and was back on his feet first but Jim had been expecting that and didn’t even bother getting up again, he just rolled onto his back, lifted his phaser and started firing. A couple well-aimed shots and the Klingon was back on the ground, this time for good. Jim caught his breath and looked around for Spock. What he saw very nearly stopped his heart. Spock was fighting the last two Klingons at once and they were overpowering him. Jim scrambled to his feet. Without getting permission from his brain his mouth opened and shouted, “Spock!” It was an almost fatal mistake. Spock, momentarily distracted by the sound of his name, looked up and one of his attackers knocked his phaser out of his hand.

“No!” Jim screamed. He lifted his own weapon but the Klingons were on top of Spock and he couldn’t get a clear shot. Jim swore and raced forward but before he could get there Spock twisted and broke free of his attackers. Spock reached into his back pocket and pulled out a second phaser-no! It was a Klingon disrupter! He fired off two well-aimed shots and the last of the Klingon smugglers dropped to the ground, dead. Jim was at his side in an instant, his heart still hammering from terror. “Spock,” Jim said again, his hands reaching up to grasp the blue-clad shoulders and turn the Vulcan around to face him. “Are you all right?”

“Affirmative, Captain.” Spock sounded out of breath.

Relieved, Jim smiled and allowed his hands to slide down to Spock’s hips so he could pull him closer. “Good.” He said, though his voice was muddled due to being pressed into Spock’s shoulder. “Cause you promised not to die like, half an hour ago and I would be really pissed if you broke that promise so soon.”

Instead of answering Spock picked up one of Jim’s hands and held it tightly.

“What does that mean?” Jim asked.

“It means—Captain, I think we should bring Ambassador Chru to Dr. McCoy immediately. He appears to by dying.” As if to emphasize the point, Chru chose that moment to release a bloody gurgling sound.

Oh yeah. That thing we’re doing. Right. “Correct as usual, Mister Spock.” Jim forced himself to turn away from Spock and the mysterious (and definitely still fascinating) handholding. He pulled out his communicator and had them all beamed back aboard.

 

***

 

Things were not going well in sickbay. McCoy was glaring at Katz, and though the older woman was turned with her back to him and for all intents and purposes appeared totally engrossed in healing Trixie’s wounds, she was somehow managing to return the glare with the back of her head.

“Hand me the regenerator please, Nurse Chapel.” Dr. Katz said, nodding at the one she meant. Chapel reached for it.

“Don’t use that one, Nurse.” McCoy growled. “Use the blue one.”

“The red one will be perfectly sufficient.” Katz snapped.

“The blue one is better.”

“I like the red one.”

Nurse Chapel, who knew perfectly well that all the dermal regenerators were exactly the same in terms of effectivity, handed Katz the yellow one and used her own patented Top Nurse Death Glare to dare either of them to argue. Maybe Dr. Katz could glare out the back of her head, but Nurse Chapel could glare with every inch of her body and in three different dimensions at once.

“Aww.” Trixie whined. “I wanted a pink one.”

“There isn’t a pink one.” Katz informed her. “Now hold still.”

“Why? Ow!”

“That’s why.”

McCoy turned away when he heard the sickbay doors open, though he kept his ears trained for any sounds that might suggest equipment breaking or being pocketed. Chekov walked in, holding an alarmingly pink poncho. It had a cartoon kitten on the front. There were sparkles in its eyes.

“What the hell is that?” McCoy demanded, flinching away in horror. Chekov looked miserable.

“You asked me to get some clothes for ze Orion slave girl, sir.” Chekov reminded him.

“My god, man, that isn’t an article of clothing.” McCoy cried. “That’s some sort of 3 o’clock in the morning nightmare created by childhood trauma and food poisoning!”

“Agreed, sir, but ze computers iz on ze fritz again. When we asked it for clothes zis iz all it would give us.” Chekov sighed. “We will haff to shut zem down to find all ze bugs.”

“You mean the entire system’s been compromised? Again? That’s what, the third time in as many months?” McCoy’s eyes narrowed. “Hold on. Is this why we couldn’t find Commander Spock’s life signs last night? Because the computer system’s got a virus?”

“It iz possible, sir.” Chekov looked up at him soulfully. “Do you zink zere is any way we could not tell ze Keptin?”

McCoy’s outrage turned to pity. He wouldn’t want to be the one to tell Jim that the computers had put Spock at risk (again) either. He clapped Chekov on the shoulder. “Get someone else to do it, kid.” He advised. “And lay low for a couple of days.”

“I cannot.” Chekov was the very picture of misery. “After what happened last time, we drew straws. I must do zis.”

“Wow! What’s that? It’s cute!” Trixie had finally noticed Chekov.

“That is what you are going to wear.” McCoy said.

“Really?” She sounded delighted and then, SMACK. “Ow!”

“He meant the…I’m not sure what that is exactly, the pink thing with the…is that a cat? Whatever. He did not mean the boy.” Dr. Katz told her firmly.

“Awww.” Trixie pouted, but she took the poncho that a blushing Chekov offered her and slipped it on over what she was already wearing. Which was pasties and absolutely nothing else.

A nurse came running up to McCoy and pulled on his elbow, indicating that she wished to whisper in his ear. He leaned down.

“The Captain just called, sir. He said that Ambassador Chru’s been stabbed and he’s being brought here so maybe we should move Trixie somewhere else so they don’t see each other.” The nurse said quickly.

McCoy sighed. Great. A stab wound. And now he had to find something to do with the Orion slave girl who still hadn’t made an official statement or given testimony, so they couldn’t kick her off the ship. “Chekov.” McCoy said loudly. “Why don’t you take Miss Trixie and show her around the ship?”

Chekov gave him a look that was half nervous excitement, half strangled dismay, and all of it blushing cherry red. Trixie bounced up and down on the bio-bed, the poncho doing nothing to disguise the…jiggle. Dr. Katz and Nurse Chapel just looked long-suffering and put-upon. But in the end Chekov did escort the young Trixie from the sickbay.

“I want to see Engineering!” Trixie could be heard as they walked towards the turbolift. “I bet it’s shiny!”

“Nurse Chapel, gather up a team and meet me in decontamination. Ambassador Chru is coming in for surgery.” He glared at Dr. Katz, fully expecting her to argue but he didn’t care what Jim said, that harpy wasn’t going anywhere near his surgery. He was surprised when, instead of challenging his authority, she crossed her arms and leaned back in her chair.

“I’d wish you luck,” she said. “But I’d be lying. That fuck-wad can choke on his own mucus for all I care.”

 

***

 

Jim and Spock retired to the captain’s quarters while they waited for McCoy to finish with Chru’s surgery. Jim couldn’t seem to sit still so Spock sat alone at the table they normally used for chess and watched him pace the room.

Spock didn’t know what to do and since Jim wasn’t close enough to touch he didn’t know what Jim needed from him. This was their first real privacy since the meld and Spock couldn’t help remembering exactly and in fine detail where they had left off. Jim on top, grinding him into the mattress and moaning into his mouth. Spock writhing and stroking Jim’s fingers with his own. Both of them bare-chested and hard.

“How long do you think we’ve got until Chru’s out of surgery and we can question him?” Jim asked in a casual tone of voice.

“At minimum I would estimate an hour and 34.5 minutes.” Spock answered blandly.

Jim came to stand next to him. “Did Thug hurt you? After they took you, I mean.”

Spock had not been expecting the conversation to turn in this direction, or for the conversation to continue at all, but he was Vulcan and therefore was definitely not disappointed. “No. He seemed more invested in psychological torment. He lost interest once he realized it was not a tactic that would work on me.”

Jim ran his fingers through his hair. “He said some things, when I was interrogating him, and they made me think…”

Spock did not bother to repress his frown. After all, it was just the two of them. “I do not think you should talk to him anymore. He is remarkably adept at upsetting you.”

“It’s not that.” Jim tried to reassure him. “He made me think about what happened last night and…I’m not saying this right. Let me start again.” He took a deep breath. “You didn’t know how I felt about you before, did you?”

Spock carefully considered his answer before responding. It was sometimes difficult to translate the Vulcan heart into human terms and he did not want to risk any misunderstandings. In the past this recalcitrance had irritated Jim and he had even abandoned conversations before receiving an answer, much to Spock’s chagrin. This time he waited patiently. Perhaps these were emotions and thoughts that humans also struggled to express.

“I have known for a long time that we are highly compatible creatures.” Spock said slowly. “But I have never understood the human notion of love. It is a word that you use to describe many different types of relationships. It is a word you bestow on inanimate objects with an alarming frequency and yet you would go to great lengths, even risk physical harm, to avoid giving that same word to another person.”

Jim was pretty sure Spock wasn’t actually trying to insult him. “Is this because I said I loved that head scratcher thingy last week? Cause if so, you should really try it before you decide it’s illogical to love it.”

“It is not and I will not.” Spock sighed. “To answer your original question, no, I did not know. I was aware that you had feelings for myself but I did not know the shape they took. Until last night.”

“Oh.” Jim looked away, heat rising in his cheeks. “That’s…not how I would have wanted you to find out.”

“You have nothing to be ashamed of.” Spock said quietly.

“Now I know that’s not true.” Jim laughed self-deprecatingly. “I remember Uhura trying to warn me about that stupid blue stuff. I shouldn’t have drunk it. If I hadn’t none of this would have happened.”

“I believe that I would have still been kidnapped regardless of your state of inebriation.” Spock pointed out reasonably.

“Jesus Spock would you just…” Jim cut himself off and ran a hand through his hair. He turned and looked Spock squarely in the eyes. “I love you.” He said, as if daring Spock to argue. “And it’s got nothing to do with any human notions.”

“And yet you are human.”

“Spock, don’t you believe that there are some things that transcend all else, even biology?”

The look Spock gave Jim could have melted steel, could have out-shone suns, could have started wars and ended them with its intensity.

“Yes.” Spock answered. “I believe in you.”

And finally, finally, finally Jim reached out and took him.

Their mouths fit together like puzzle pieces as Jim settled into Spock’s lap. With Jim’s tongue in his mouth the rest of the universe ceased to matter, all that mattered was the aching want and need between them. Jim tasted sweet which couldn’t possibly be accurate and yet that was what Spock’s brain was telling him. Jim ghosted a finger over the pointed tip of Spock’s ear and the touch sent spasms of electric pleasure coursing through his entire body. He was instantly hard. He whimpered and pressed upwards.

“You’re amazing.” Jim was speaking into his mouth, his words turning into the air in Spock’s lungs. “Incredible. Gorgeous. A fucking miracle.”

“Miracles are illogical.” Spock said. He grabbed Jim’s hand, the one that wasn’t fondling his ear, and popped it into his mouth.

Jim grinned. “You’re illogical.” He said teasingly. Spock sucked harder and Jim groaned. “Take it off.” He whispered, his hand leaving Spock’s ear to tug at his shirt. Spock pulled back, regretfully allowing Jim’s fingers to fall from his lips, and pulled off his shirt. Jim did the same. “You have no idea how long I’ve wanted this.” Jim said, staring at Spock’s lean and muscular chest hungrily. He bent down and latched on to one of Spock’s nipples, sucking brutally. Spock’s head fell back, his eyes blown wide, his mouth gasping for re-circulated oxygen. Jim’s hands were on Spock’s hands, kneading and petting and pulling hard. If Spock were human he’d already be screaming with pleasure. He was Vulcan, but it was a close thing.

Jim was so hard it hurt. “Want…” He gasped as Spock writhed underneath him, the friction painful in all the right ways. “Want to be inside you but I haven’t got…”

“Unnecessary.” Spock interrupted him. Jim glanced up to see Spock looking down at him. His face was flushed green and his eyes were black with lust.

“What?” Jim asked, rocking his hips in concert with Spock’s.

“Vulcans…” Spock whimpered as Jim’s cock pressed into his. “Are different.”

Fuck.

Jim had them both naked and bent over the table before Spock knew what was happening. He was whispering into Spock’s ear but Spock couldn’t understand a single word. His attention was entirely devoted to the sensations caused by one of Jim’s fingers circling his hole. “Jim!” Spock cried, his entire vocabulary reduced to that one word.

“Spock.” Jim hissed and pushed his finger inside. It was tighter than he would have imagined but thanks to the Vulcan’s natural lubrication the digit slid right in. Jim groaned, his cock throbbing with anticipation, but he was determined not to rush this. However, if Spock didn’t stop making those adorable mewling sounds with every thrust Jim wasn’t going to last long enough to get inside and he reallywanted to get inside Spock, to be as close to him as physically possible, to grab hold from within and never, ever let go.

Spock was already lost. His pleasure was overwhelming and he could taste Jim’s lust in his mind. He’d never felt this way before. He wasn’t a virgin, he’d had a few sexual experiences that spanned the gender spectrum, but it had always been about his partner’s pleasure instead of his own. Every time Spock made a sound, a gasp, a cry, a name, he could feel Jim’s joy and lust mount higher and higher and he was taking Spock higher with him. Spock allowed his mental shields to drop entirely and slipped through their skin into Jim’s mind. He found himself in a place so primal it made him wild. Jim’s need to possess him and Jim’s euphoria in having him made Spock wild. He began to thrash on the table, rutting back onto Jim’s hand.

Spock was lost to language but Jim could feel him in his head, feel him begging Jim to stop the rapturous torture and just get on with it already. Jim pulled his hand away and aligned his cock with Spock’s entrance. He paused, wanting to savor the moment, but Spock was done waiting. He launched himself backwards and impaled himself on Jim’s cock. Jim’s eyes rolled back at the heat and the delicious pressure. His head fell back and he roared and then he too was lost, fucking Spock on the table with everything he had as Spock fucked him back.

It was too good to last long. Already Jim could feel the pressure building and Spock’s whole frame was trembling underneath him. Jim reached down and grabbed Spock’s cock, long and green and slippery with precum. A few strokes was all it took to send Spock over the edge.

“Jim!” Spock screamed, his passage spasming around Jim’s cock, milking him for all he was worth. Jim just screamed wordlessly when he came, flooding Spock’s body with his seed, and as the vision returned to his eyes and the feeling came back in his legs he sunk down to the floor and brought Spock with him. They lay there, entwined in each other, catching their breath and staring into the other’s eyes. Jim’s softening cock was still deeply imbedded in Spock and he was only too happy to leave it there for the time being. Jim knew that they’d have to get up soon because they both needed to be showered and dressed by the time someone inevitably came looking for them but he was loathe to move and disrupt this perfect moment. Spock was watching him and his eyes were so warm and gentle and loving it made Jim want to cry.

Spock’s brow furrowed. “Did I do something wrong?” He whispered. Jim was immediately horrified and he wrapped his arms around Spock’s shoulders and waist, pulling him close and tucking the dark-haired head under his chin.

“Of course not.” He said firmly. “Why the hell would you even think that?”

“If I did not commit an error why do you wish to weep?”

Fuck. Telepath. That was going to take some getting used to. “Sometimes humans cry when we’re happy. Illogical, I know, but we can’t help it.”

Spock considered this. “And you are happy?”

Jim kissed the top of his head. “Fucking ecstatic.” He said vehemently. “Ring the bell-towers, alert the news, call every person I’ve ever met and rub it in their faces kind of happy.”

Spock nuzzled his nose into Jim’s throat and said, “I would be very much obliged if you did none of those things.”

Jim laughed and held him tighter. “I love you.”

“And I, you.”

They both wanted to stay there but duty was calling and so after a few more moments of perfect languid cuddling they got up and went to the bathroom to get clean.

Or at least, they were definitely going to do that.

Any minute now.

Promise.

Just a few more seconds…

 

***

 

The silver-skinned aliens of Mishkar V had an enviable recovery speed and Chru was fully awake and alert scarcely ten minutes after coming out of surgery. He was lying on a bio-bed and staying furiously at the ceiling while Hendorff listed off the charges against him. McCoy and Dr. Katz watched, a momentary truce silently agreed upon so that they both could enjoy this victory.

“-conspiracy, assault on a Starfleet officer, the attempted murder of the Orion slave girl known as Trixie, illegal smugg—”

“Now hold on just a damn minute!” Chru surged upwards. “What’s this about Trixie? I never tried to kill her!”

“You deny locking her in the tribble pen?” Katz snapped. “Don’t bother. We all know what happened.” She was glaring daggers but Chru wouldn’t have ever been made Ambassador if he were easily intimidated.

“I’m not just denying it, I didn’t do it.” He snapped back. “I haven’t seen her in weeks. Besides, why would I try to kill Thug’s whore of a girlfriend? I mean, the Vulcans were her idea in the first place.”

Hendorff was already on his comm trying to reach Chekov but there was no answer. He tried to reach the Captain but again he only got radio silence. McCoy ran to the wall unit. “Computer! Locate Captain Kirk!” No response. “Locate Commander Spock!” Still no reponse. He punched the wall. “Damn! The computer system’s been shut off already.”

“I’ve got all of security looking for Chekov and the girl.” Hendorff said, pulling out his phaser. “We must find the Captain!”

“I’ll go to the bridge.” McCoy said. “You try his quarters.”

Hendorff shook his head. “I have to go to the brig and make sure the prisoners aren’t trying to escape.”

I’ll try the Captain’s quarters.” Katz said determinedly.

“Do you even know how to get there?” McCoy snapped.

“No, but if I go into the turbolift and say ‘captain’s quarters’ in a loud voice it’ll take me there.” She snapped back.

“It’ll take you to the floor, not to the room itself, and besides you’re not even supposed to be walking around. You’re supposed to be locked in a cell. And—”

“Doctors!” Nurse Chapel roared, finally losing patience. “Is this or is this not an emergency?”

“It is.” They both grumbled.

“Then MOVE.”

After they ran out the door Chru fell back on his pillows and groaned. “I can’t believe that’s the team that caught me.”

“I’d be quiet if I were you.” Nurse Chapel hissed. “We’re quite fond of Commander Spock around here and there are a lot of sharp pointy objects in this sickbay that I am legally allowed to stab you with.”

 

***

 

Spock was apparently the type to get really sleepy after sex. It was unbearably adorable and Jim couldn’t keep the grin off his face as Spock groggily explained that dropping his mental shields took a lot out of him. Well, actually he said that it “drained” his “energy reserves” but same thing.

“Don’t worry.” Jim told him lovingly as he tucked his Vulcan into his bed. “You rest and I’ll go gloat at the bad guys.”

“Gloating is…illogical and…unbecoming of a captain…” Spock murmured, his eyes fluttering shut.

“Sleep.” Jim allowed himself one more moment to enjoy the sight of Spock drifting off in the captain’s bed before slipping out of his quarters as quietly as he could. Who knew Spock was such a softie when he let his guard down? He chuckled about it as he made his way to the turbolift. The doors opened as he approached and the Orion girl from earlier—Trixie—stepped out. She grinned at him.

“Captain Kirk, right?” She said. “Mr. Chekov sent me to find you. The computer system is off he said, something about a virus, I think? But there’s something he wants you to see in engineering.” She blushed. “Sorry sir. He said a lot of stuff but it was kind of all over my head.”

Jim returned her smile. She really was very pretty, he suddenly realized, and so friendly to be helping Chekov out like this. Jim was glad someone had found her some clothes because otherwise they would all be overcome by her natural pheromones. Well, not him, obviously. He was above that sort of thing. Yup. “Thank you so much, Trixie.” He was abruptly aware that he was being an ungracious host. “Why don’t you wait in my quarters? You’ll be very comfortable there. Just stay out of the bedroom, okay? Commander Spock is very tired.”

“That’s so kind of you, Captain.” She had such a lovely smile and Jim enjoyed how much brighter it got when he told her his override code so that she could get in without having to knock and wake up Spock.

“It’s the fourth door down to your left.” He added as he stepped into the turbolift. She thanked him again as the doors closed and Jim headed down to Engineering without a second thought.

 

***

 

Something was wrong. The knowledge pulled at Spock from the depths of slumber and he was instantly awake, alert, hands already reaching for the pants Jim had left at the bedside, eyes already darting around the room for signs of the subconsciously perceived threat. Jim’s sleeping quarters were empty but he could hear the sounds of someone moving in the larger room beyond. Spock rose from the bed and pulled on the pants. He crept to the door but it opened before he could reach it. He found himself staring into the mouth of a Klingon disrupter.

Trixie smirked. “Don’t try to fight.” Her voice was thick with hate. “I’ve already won.”

Spock remained very still but something of his shock must have shown in his expression because Trixie started laughing.

“Your face!” She giggled. “See? That’s why I do this. You all look so surprised when you realize it’s over.”

You all? “The Vulcans who died in the Pits…” Spock murmured in dawning realization.

“Oh, they were only the beginning.” Trixie assured him. “All I had to do was hint to Thug that Vulcans used to be great warriors and he was practically begging the Pit Masters to let him kidnap them. And it was so easy after that! Vulcans don’t even try to fight. And once everyone sees how weak you all are they’ll turn on you like that.” She snapped her fingers. “Ta da! No more Vulcans!” She paused for a second. “Honestly, I thought it was going to be harder than this. When I heard that you’d escaped and Thug was arrested I knew I’d have to kill you myself, but I figured it’d be difficult to get onto the ship. Nope. Some heavy panting, a quick call to Ester, some broken glass, and Starfleet is treating me like one of their own. It’s almost disappointing.”

“Why?” Spock could see that she was completely insane, and he was no stranger to xenophobia, but he couldn’t see the motive behind her murderous vendetta against his entire species. Also, the longer he kept her talking the longer she wasn’t shooting him.

“Because you’re disgusting.” She spat. “All of you. You think you’re better than everyone else but you’re not. The only reason anyone cares about what happens to you is they feel sorry for you. Oh no, poor Vulcans, they lost their planet, let’s bend over backwards and give them everything they want.”  She wasn’t smiling anymore. Her green skin was dark with hate. “It’s past time you creatures learned that not everyone is just gonna grab their ankles and take it. You don’t deserve pity. You’re just unfeeling animals. You don’t know what real suffering is.”

Spock’s mental shields were still lowered and even though they weren’t touching the force of her wrath was so great he could feel the truth taking form in his own mind. She was just a girl, sold too young, sent too far. Terrified and lonely, the only lifeline she had left was a sister in Starfleet, a sister who was coming for her. But the sister never came. She died in the Battle of Vulcan. All anyone said was how sad it was for the Vulcans, how sorry for them, how pitiful they were, but Vulcans never cried themselves to sleep. Vulcans never had to keep smiling when the slimy hands of their clients made them want to puke. Everyone felt sorry for the Vulcans but no one ever spared a thought for her. Well, Trixie would show them. She’d show them all.

“I am sorry for your pain.” Spock whispered. Apologies were illogical but he was also human and so he understood that not all apologies were borne from guilt.

“Oh, don’t worry about it.” She hissed. “Now, I don’t know if you noticed this, but Thug is kind of an idiot. I’m not. Unlike him I know what insurance is.” She stepped aside and revealed a small silver box sitting on the floor behind her. “See that? I invented it. I’ve always been good with mechanics. It doesn’t really have a name yet, but it’s basically a sensor. It’s connected wirelessly to another device I’ve hidden in Engineering and if this sensor doesn’t sense what it wants to sense, that other device is going to explode.”

“What is it sensing?” Spock asked but he felt like he already knew the answer.

Swoosh.

Swoosh?

Trixie didn’t seem to have noticed anything so Spock did not allow his eyes to flicker up. He kept his gaze locked on his opponent’s face and so he could not see who had just walked in the door.

“You.” The girl was manic. “Your life signs. Well, actually it’s sensing both our life signs. Two life signs, one room. See that timer?” He could. It currently read 7:03. “That’s how long you’ve got. If that reaches zero and your life signs haven’t vanished that bomb in Engineering is going to go off. If you try to touch the box or damage it in any way the—”

“I understand.” Spock didn’t need to hear anymore. “If one of us dies the explosive will remain deactivated.”

“Technically. Though seeing as how I’m the one with a weapon, I don’t think there’s much doubt as to which one of us is going to die.” Trixie smirked. “Oh, and you should probably know that I ran into your Captain on the way here and, helpful person that I am, I passed on the message that Mr. Chekov wanted to see him in Engineering immediately.”

The bottom dropped out of Spock’s world.

“That’s right.” She crooned. “Either you die, here and now, or your ship is crippled and your boyfriend gets blown up.”

The timer read 5:43 now.

“Goodbye, Vulcan.” She said, backing away towards the door, keeping the disrupter trained on him. “I’ll shoot you if I have to, but I’d really prefer it if you just stopped your own heart. I think it’s a more meaningful way to die, don’t you?”

She kept walking backwards, right into Ester Katz’s iron grip and vengeful hypospray. It hissed into Trixie’s green neck. She had just enough time to turn, shocked, and see the face of her attacker before her eyes closed and her consciousness drifted away. Katz shifted Trixie’s full weight so that the body fell on the other side of the doors, outside the room, before the doctor herself stepped fully inside. The doors closed behind her. Spock was impressed. It was possible that should the sensor detect more than two life signs it would trigger the device and so the doctor had remained in the door way and then timed Trixie’s exit and her own entrance perfectly so that at no time would there be more or less than two life signs present in the captain’s quarters.

“Oh, Trix.” The doctor was saying softly. “Why didn’t you just talk to me?”

“Doctor, you must hurry to Engineering, we have to evacuate the ship—”

4:08.

“There’s no time, Commander.” Dr. Katz was smiling kindly. Why? “And you know it. You just want me out of the way so you can do what you need to do.”

3:54.

“Do you have an alternative?”

Instead of answering she pulled another hypospray out of her pocket and pressed it into her own neck.

“No!” Spock cried, striding to her side. He grabbed the hypo and hurled it across the room, but it was too late. He turned on her furiously. “Why?” He demanded.

Whatever she’d taken acted fast. Her vision was clouding, her lined face was starting to sag, her breathing was labored.

“I’m sick of watching my patients die for no fucking reason.” She whispered. “It’s my fucking turn.” She sank to the floor and Spock went with her. She could no longer support her own weight so he held onto her shoulders to keep her upright.

“I’ll call Dr. McCoy and—”

2:09.

“No time…you can…read my mind, right?”

Spock struggled to control his emotions as he raised his fingers to her face. For a second he was seeing someone else’s face, the face of a trusted man, a good captain, but Pike had died more than a year ago and right now it was Ester Katz, a woman he scarcely knew with a past and motivations he could never understand, and right now she was dying in his place.

“Why?” He asked again.

She chuckled, a broken, bitter sound full of memories and never-to-be-spoken truths, and some blood gurgled through her parted lips.

“Too late for that now, kid. Pay attention, cause this is important…”

 

***

 

Jim walked into Engineering all smiles and good will.

“Where’s Scotty and Chekov?” He asked a nearby ensign.

“They’re at the computer banks, sir.”

Jim headed over. It was all he could do not to whistle a jaunty tune as he went, he was that happy. But the second he saw the looks of mixed relief and trepidation on Chekov and Scotty’s faces his good mood evaporated.

“What’s wrong?” He barked, the smile slipping from his face. Both men started talking at once.

“Keptin-”

“We tried tae call ye, sir, but-”

“-whole system is down-”

“-been tricked sir-”

“-nurse was just down here and he says-”

“-all my fault, Keptin-”

“Don’t blame the lad, Captain, he could nae have known!”

One at a time.” Jim snapped. They both fell silent. “Scotty, report!”

“Ye remember that Orion girl we beamed aboard, sir?”

“Trixie? Yeah, I just passed her in the turbolift. What…” He stared at the horror on their faces.

No.

“Keptin, I am so sorry!”

Not now.

“We were all fooled sir!”

Not when I just got him back.

“Spock!”

What a fool he had been. What a blind, pathetic fool, not to have seen this coming.

Somewhere in his head the Captain part of his brain was screaming at him. He knew he was still missing crucial information. Who was Trixie really, what motivations did she have to attack Spock, what was her relationship with Thug and the Ambassador? Was this really just about corruption and sleazy back alley dealings or had they stumbled into something much larger? These were the sorts of things a Starfleet captain should be asking.

But the Captain would just have to wait until James T. Kirk had rescued Spock.

He was running. Somehow people were managing to get out of his way fast enough, because he didn’t crash into anyone, but he didn’t have time for that now.

Someone had triggered a red alert. He didn’t know who, possibly Scotty, possibly McCoy. The sirens were blaring and people were running. But he really didn’t have time for that now.

He was back in the turbolift again. Someone was trying to come in after him, but no time, no time, he shut the doors in their face and the lift was lifting him up. Too slow, too slow.

Spock!

The doors were opening and he was running again, skidding to a halt. There was a body on the floor outside his door, crumpled and still. A body with green skin and pink hair and a terrifying radioactive monster poncho thing.

“Spock!” Jim screamed, barreling over Trixie’s body and through the open doors.

What waited for him inside made him freeze.

Spock was standing at Jim’s desk, bent over a PADD. He was shirtless and he was not looking at Jim, hadn’t even acknowledged his arrival. On the floor next to him were the silver, shattered remains of…something.

Dr. Katz was lying on the couch.

No, she’d been arranged there. Her arms folded over her chest, her eyes closed, the blood wiped from her mouth so that her chin and cheek were stained pink. And she was dead. Jim knew instantly from the odor in the room that she was dead.

Spock still hadn’t looked at him. Slowly Jim went over to him and gently, hesitantly, placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Spock,” Jim whispered. “What the hell happened?”

Spock answered as if they were having a debriefing session with Command. “The Orion Trixie, who was driven insane by grief and her own unfortunate situation, attempted to force me to take my own life by means of that device. She explained that it monitored the life signs within the room and if one of us did not die within the allotted time it would trigger the detonation of a corresponding explosive she had planted within Engineering. Furthermore, if I were to attempt to escape or call for help the second device would be triggered. Dr. Katz arrived in time to hear the explanation and upon evaluating the situation she decided there was not enough time to find an alternative. She disabled my attacker and injected herself with a fast-acting neurotoxin, ending her own life and satisfying the requirements of the device. I have confirmed this.”

Jim glanced at the shattered pieces of the device. “You destroyed it.”

“Yes.”

“What are you doing?”

“I am attempting to record the instructions Dr. Katz conveyed to me as she died.” The screen of the padd cracked under the pressure of Spock’s grip. “But it appears the computer system is currently down and I cannot…”

“Spock…”

“The instructions are as follows…Manah Tfor, aggravated wrist fracture, must continue wearing the cast for at least three more days but he will not. Dalia Fon, three herniated discs in her thoracic spine, slotted for surgery but is allergic to most pain killers and—”

“Spock!”

“I must write the instructions down as soon as possible. The data includes 174 patients with a wide array of medical problems and even I risk forgetting some details if the data is not recorded as soon as possible.”

“Spock.” Jim folded his arms around his beloved’s shoulders and breathed him in.

“I do not understand why a woman I met this morning has sacrificed her own life to save mine.”

“Neither do I.” Jim whispered, closing his eyes at the pain and confusion in Spock’s voice. “But I’m really glad she did.”

McCoy and a security team arrived shortly afterwards. The redshirts took the unconscious Trixie to the brig while McCoy examined Ester Katz’ body.

“We should call someone.” Jim said quietly. “I don’t know who, but…”

In the end they called Lilix, the Klingon woman McCoy had spoken with earlier. She was silent as they explained what had happened and then she gave them a set of coordinates and hung up. They waited in Jim’s quarters for the gurney, and the team of nurses who would help McCoy clean the body, to arrive.

“Why’d she do it, though?” McCoy asked. “Spock, wasn’t there any other way?”

“Don’t—” Jim started to bluster. The last thing Spock needed right now was McCoy getting on his case.

“It is possible.” Spock’s voice was quiet but calm, none of the turbulent emotions from earlier apparent in his tone. “It is possible that a Vulcan trance would have reduced my vital signs enough to fool the device. It is possible that had I stopped my heart Dr. Katz would have been able to revive me in time to prevent lasting damage. It is possible that the device would not have worked at all, as the girl is insane and it is likely she does not possess the presence of mind or the resources to create such a machination. There were many possibilities and we shall never know if she was unaware of these possibilities or if she deemed the risk of failure too great.”

McCoy’s face darkened. He opened his mouth as if to shout but then he sighed instead. “It was all so…needless. So many lives ruined, people dead, and in the end no one is the better or the worse for any of it. No one had to die here…”

Spock looked thoughtful. “Dr. Katz expressed a similar sentiment when she spoke of the suicides of her previous Vulcan patients.”

“Perhaps she thought her sacrifice was justified if it would prevent the same thing from happening again.” Jim offered. No matter what he could never think of an action taken to protect Spock as needless.

It was harder later on when the three of them beamed down to deliver Ester Katz’ body. The coordinates took them to a living room on the planet down below. Nightfall had come but the room was brightly lit and crowded. Not with evil looking men and ferocious alien warriors, as Jim had expected, but with women and children. They said nothing as McCoy pulled the shroud aside and showed them Katz’ face, though a few began to weep silently and the younger children held their mother’s tighter. It was hard for Jim to see their grief, deeper than words and for a woman he would never know, and he suddenly realized he had never done this before.

As a captain it was sometimes his unfortunate duty to call a family and alert them to the death of a loved one but the vast expanses of space shielded him from this, from bringing the body home. He found he didn’t have words. He couldn’t remember the last time he had felt so young. Without thinking he reached out and took Spock’s hand. For a moment he thought Spock would pull away but he was gratified when the long fingers tightened ever so slightly around his own.

“You are the one she died for?” The speaker was a tall Klingon woman with an infant strapped to her back. She could only be Lilix and she was addressing Spock.

“I am Commander Spock.” He could not honestly say what or who Katz had died for but Lilix took his answer as confirmation.

“Ester Katz was an honorable person, for a human and a healer.” Lilix enunciated each word clearly and succinctly, her gaze impenetrable. “Her death is our death. Her death is your death too.”

Jim moved in front of Spock. Was that a threat?

“I am aware of the honor she did me.” Spock said softly. “And I will not forget it.” He held up a data chip. “These are her final instructions. You will find on this chip a list of patients and the medical treatments they require.”

The women in the room just stared at him.

“Didn’t she have an assistant who could take this?” McCoy asked gently.

“No.” Said an Andorian woman with a toddler hiding behind her skirt. “There was only ever Ester.”

Spock said nothing as he laid the chip on an end table.

“Leave now.” Lilix ordered. “We must bury our dead.”

“Wait!” A young silver-skinned girl ran forward and grabbed Jim’s arm. He looked into her face. It was swollen and damp but her lilac eyes were dry and empty. She couldn’t have been more than 10. “She was human, she had customs we do not know. She spoke of something called shee-vuh?”

“Shiva.” McCoy answered for him. “She was Jewish. I’ll send you some literature on the burial traditions but there are some things you might not be able to do.” He looked at Lilix.

“We will do what we can.” She said. “Now go.”

They went.

It got busy after that, and they were all running around with no time to stop and think and process. First they had to search Engineering until they found Trixie’s bomb, which was a silver disc the size of a sand dollar. Preliminary examination showed that, no matter how insane Trixie was, she hadn’t been bluffing about her mechanical prowess. There were reports to file, comms to take, explanations to be given, arrests to be formalized.  Normally Uhura would have mediated much of the diplomatic fallout but she was busy talking to rabbis on far off planets and formulating a written crash course on the ancient and complicated Jewish burial rites and Jim knew that was more important. So he sucked it up and made nice to the brass.

Everyone was ready to get out of there by the end. The good will mission they’d been sent on was more than shot to hell and it was going to take the professional diplomats to clean up the mess. Starfleet HQ was not happy about the situation but they had no choice but to order Jim to drop the prisoners off at the nearest Starbase and send the Enterprise back into the black with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. In total they had only spent three days orbiting Mishkar V. It felt like a lot longer.

Spock came to Jim’s quarters the night they left to deliver the prisoners, and found his captain sitting in front of his computer while the Captain’s Log program recorded his silence.

“I don’t know what to say.” Jim admitted as Spock sank into the seat next to him. “I know I have to say something but the words won’t come. I think about what happened, how close I came to losing you and…but this wasn’t really about us, was it? Chru was driven insane by his greed. Trixie was driven insane by everything she’d lost and gone through. And now because of that two innocent women are dead. We were just side characters.”

Spock reached out and took his hand. “Jim, it is not for us to solve all the evils in the universe. There are often going to be times when we are unable to fix the problems faced by other worlds. This is unavoidable.”

“I know that.” Jim sighed. “But I don’t like it.”

“Then that is what you should say.” Spock advised.

“You never did tell me what this meant.” Jim reminded him, squeezing his fingers.

Spock allowed the barest of smiles to grace his features. “It is a kiss.” He said, and leaned in for another one.

Which is how all stories should end.

 

***

 

Author’s Note:

 

Whew!

Well, I hoped you like it. Any response you have would be most appreciated.

My Review Lion would also like reviews. It has been many years since she last was fed. So yeah, please feed my nice lion and review?

 

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