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He grabbed her, kissed her a final time, let her go. She still didn’t taste right.

Taking long strides, he fled the blinding club with too many bodies, his skin smeared with sweat and scents he wanted to scratch off. His nose wrinkled at the uneven ebony road outside and his vision swam – he wanted to go home, home, but where…?

He could recall no homeward path but what was faded and torn, a vaguely recognisable silhouette the only visible landmark in his mind.

Maybe there.

Flipping out his communicator, Kirk found the last channel he had used, falling unsteadily to sit on the curb. He knew whatever he said would be heard. So he took a breath, preparing to say – well – anything.

Eyes blurring, skin burning, he would say everything.

“Hey, Spock –“

-----------------

“Hey, Spock –“

He did not want to hear this. Any of it.

The communicator on the side table was swiftly swept up and crushed, dry static left in the wake of the storm. Spock stared at the pathetic crumbs in his palm and said nothing, thought nothing, but felt its unwelcome weight on his bones. Distantly, he acknowledged the need to acquire a new comm at a later time…

But it hardly mattered now. He let the crushed pieces roll to the floor, vaguely amused by how a tiny, insignificant device had become such a gust to his long unused sails, launching him to action far quicker than anything had in days. It was illogical, irrational, ludicrous.

But what does it matter?

He resumed his staring at the ceiling. Blinking slowly, Spock suddenly felt so old; his skin was cold, his eyes were dry, and he felt old. It was as though he had been fighting to keep the sun just above the horizon, not yet ready to face the dark – all it gave were ocean eyes, sandy lips, and a voice that scorched.

So he blinked, but never closed his eyes to the constancy of the grey above for too long. He wondered if the universe could ever stand as still as the air around him.

Spock narrowed his eyes until the ceiling lights bled into a single bright smear and regulated his breathing.

One – out.

Two –

A shrill beep sounded.

- Out.

The time for flagrant indulgence was over.

Spock got off the bed, made it, and changed into a fresh set of uniform. The Science blues were a monotony he favoured; they held an identity easier to manifest, and he felt safer behind the Starfleet insignia, as if it were a charge on an empowering flag.

But he still did a double take at the reflection caught in the mirror. Thin lips carved a straight line cheek to cheek, and the ivory frown was simply…alien. Not human. Not Vulcan. Not anything.

Throat tightening, Spock made a note to cover the mirror.

Actually, no. That shou- would be unnecessary. He immediately proceeded to exit his quarters. His energy would be more efficiently expended elsewhere.

It was, of course, imperative that he attend punctually to administrative duties for the next 1.5 weeks, such as checking for notifications while most of the crew and…the Captain were on shore leave. The Enterprise and her duties as a Starfleet ship ought not to be neglected in any event, and Spock had plotted a daily routine to prevent it.

To think the universe could stand still for them would be the height of foolishness.

-----------------

Kirk stopped midsentence, finally registering the static that had filled the silence on the other end, cheeks ruddy and heartbeat erratic. He cocked his head to the side.

Maybe Spock had dropped his communicator, had accidentally broken it in scrambling to hear what he had to say. Maybe Spock wanted to hear his voice, just as badly as Kirk wanted to see him.

Kirk smiled, and kept smiling as he stumbled to his feet. The ground below him felt firmer, more solid. He would return to the hotel, tell Bones they should return to the Enterprise now, and everything would go back to the way they were. Everything, with caramel eyes and green-tinged skin. Yes.

No more late nights out, skin against skin, to rub out his tears. No more topaz liquid-fire to drive away the ache. No more cold beds without life. He would once more be James T. Kirk – once more be whole.

Yes!

So Kirk began to run, run faster than ever, sailing forward in a course that seemed right. For once, the lights flashing by were fresher than sickly neon. In the passing streaks Kirk heard quiet precious whispers, the click of a rook on the board, strange syllables of a familiar language.

He was going home, and this was his welcome. His cheeks hurt as he grabbed passers-by and shook them, laughing, not heeding their glares as he released them again – it didn’t matter, he was going home.

Going home!

His legs kept pumping, his feet thumping hard on the concrete. The lights continued to flash, and his cheeks still hurt – then his legs, then his chest. His throat itched. Wait ‘till Bones heard this!

He was going home.

His breaths became louder as the scab on his cheek burned. He scratched at it until his nails came away scarlet.

Going home.

He glanced at his fingers. Then his legs slipped from under him, his face hitting stone with a dull thud.

Home.

A flash of white. A smothering pressure in his head. The ground felt strong, felt hard, felt unforgiving against his cheekbone. The lightness in his chest bowed to the growing ache in his ribs, seeping out and taking with it strength from his shaking legs. His map, his map, which way-

Where was home?

Kirk tilted his head to look up, his surroundings seeming to ebb and flow like a tide. The lights began to slow, slow, like his heaving chest, and shadows began their conquest over the pure, the bright.

Lies. He had no home, a liar had no home.

The smiles in glaring pink banners were cheap, stubborn – the strange letters on garish boards locked him out of their world – the chess pieces melted into displaced bins lining desolate alleys.

Kirk stopped breathing and squeezed his eyes shut. The dry burn returned, constant in his throat, back, head. The night began to bear down on him again. The sirens of his mistakes tore at him.

Seconds later, he heard someone gargle and felt a splat of wetness. Kirk barely flinched. It stank of tobacco, maybe mint – well. That was a rare bonus.

But he was more distracted by the hurt and brown eyes and regret and strangers in bed that were swimming in his mind, until he could feel his legs again. Then his knees threatened to buckle with every sway forward.

The way back to the hotel was hard to remember.

By the time he had fallen into the hotel room and words had begun spilling from his lips, he knew he would always be adrift. He felt it on his skin, still besmirched by foreign sweat.

He had nothing – had carelessly thrown away everything – was nothing; ‘going home’ became more meaningless with each mangled syllable, and its shores seemed so far away, and even the sight of Bones was becoming more watery and distant.

Kirk was pulled to his feet, but there was nothing below them.

He wanted Spock. Only Spock. So why did he do it? Why?

“Shhh, shhh.” Kirk felt the drag of a warm towel as he was pulled forward, then registered his clothes being exchanged for a clean-smelling robe, and then felt soft sheets being tugged over him. Bones’ face appeared once more over him, his features clearer when Kirk’s cheeks were wet. Kirk just wanted to push him away with his shivering arms.

“You’ll be alright.” Kirk heard Bones whisper as he gently rubbed the towel over Kirk’s face.

The room became dimmer and there was a soft ‘thud’ where someone sat down somewhere. But Kirk’s eyes never shut. All he heard was the demons he courted in the day – regret and fear never really fade.

-----------------

Darkness hissed at the edge of Spock’s control as he went through recent reports on missions and Federation updates. He needed – what he needed was to get through these. This was neither the time nor place to address his mind’s inexpedient predicament.

Systematically and dispassionately, updates were acknowledged with the correct flags, and all that could be gleaned from reports was filed away as appropriate.

He then began to ensure the system folders were listed alphabetically. One should never have to regret one’s lack of care, for that would prove to be most inefficient in the future. He went on to check that system files were placed in the right folders, and organized alphabetically. In Standard where applicable. Accessible to relevant crew members.

What else?

Ah, he ought to run a check and ensure all files were uncorrupted.

64%... 89%...

Was there really nothing else?

Oh, check that the ship’s networks were continuing to function at optimal levels. They could not afford a failure in communication. (His mind recalled the need for a new comm – Spock refused to grimace, making mental note to acquire one from the logistics room after this round.)

All decks operational.

Spock continued to search for areas in which he could and should be more thorough, but his mind came up with no further excus- necessary tasks. Perceiving no other reason to remain on the bridge, he made his way to the laboratory as per usual.

Along the way, the only sound was the soft hum of the Enterprise’s ventilation system. Shore leave was to end in nine days and two hours; he had time to enjoy this peace.

The fingers behind his back pulled at each other restlessly. He took wider steps down the halls.

The quiet was welcome, of course. After all, had he not just recently desired to silence the cacophony of turmoil, of doubt? Was quiet, then, not easier and, logically, more preferable?

Brows furrowing, he found himself turning sharply into the teleporter room, requesting that the ensigns who had stayed behind beam him to the Captain’s most recent location.

The Captain’s- Pardon?

His mind throbbed as conscious thought rushed to catch up with the recent development. Mentally, ridiculously, he imagined a once tightly-controlled wheel’s eight spokes spinning freely, erratically; he was veering dangerously off-course, and it was hardly thrilling.

Spock held back the urge to sniff.

It really was not. Hardly at all.

Why did the ensigns keep peering at him so?

An eager-looking one Spock vaguely remembered as an Ensign Reaver lifted his eyes gingerly to meet Spock’s. “Is everything all right, sir?”

His forgotten breath left him in a rush. He narrowed his eyes at the ensign.

And the countdown began.

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