Spock flinched, and he saw that Kirk noted his reaction. Kirk drew in a deep breath. "I’ve always been willing to take risks. I’ve always known there are consequences. I know you understand that. You’ve taken the same sort of chances yourself. And you’ve been willing to face the consequences. You were willing to face your own…." Kirk’s voice trailed off.
Spock shuddered, and Kirk’s arms were around him, holding him tight. The touch of Kirk’s hands, Kirk’s breath on his skin was like life, like rain falling on the desert. He wound his arms around Kirk’s waist, he rested his head against Kirk’s shoulder, and then it was so easy, so natural to lift his head up and over to where his lips met Kirk’s mouth.
There were no words.
Kirk brushed his lips against Spock’s but didn’t open his mouth. Spock cradled Kirk’s face in both of his hands, feeling the sparking electricity of the points of contact between them. Life surged through him—skin, muscle, blood, bone—energy filled him. With one smooth motion he stood, lifting Kirk to his feet as well, and pressed his body against Kirk’s in one long sensuous rub.
Kirk’s eyes, so close to him, changed, and he saw and named it all: longing, hesitation, concern, fear. Desire. Love.
"Are you ready for this?" Kirk’s voice was low.
He had no words. His arms encircled Jim’s back and then he reached to unfasten Jim’s jacket. He threw it to one side, tore off his own robe and tossed that away as well. The apartment’s air caressed his skin; the flame of need burned all the brighter in its cool touch. He was hard, fully erect, desperately hungry. Starving.
Jim pulled him close, his touch still gentle, speaking more of love than desire. "It’s all right," Jim whispered. Spock found he was shaking, trembling violently in the strong circle of Jim’s arms. Jim continued to whisper to him, soothing, gentling words as he led him up the stairs to their bedroom.
Once there, Jim stripped the rest of his own clothing off quickly and allowed Spock to pick him up, to place him on the bed. Spock pressed his body against Jim’s and kissed Jim’s face, his lips, his eyes, his ears. Voracious, he mapped out with mouth and hands every inch of the beloved human body, so familiar, so strange. Ignoring his own need, he sucked in Jim’s erect cock, desperately suckling it, thrilled with Jim’s encouraging touch on his head, his shoulders. Jim’s smell and taste were both hunger and satisfaction, as were Jim’s cries of pleasure, his gasped words of encouragement.
Jim arched up off the bed. Liquid burst in his mouth. He swallowed, swallowed again, feeding on Jim as if this act alone could grant him new life.
"Easy…" Jim gently pushed his head back. Spock, uncertain, looked up the length of Jim’s body. What he saw in the other man’s eyes brought him to lie against Jim’s side.
Jim turned and clasped him close. His own stiff erection poked against Jim’s hip. Jim smiled into his eyes, and with sure, knowing fingers clasped Spock’s cock.
He heard himself cry out as everything inside him exploded into white ecstasy. Afterwards, Jim placed gentle kisses along the side of his face, and he turned toward the soft caresses. He was aware of something more—something delicate and ephemeral reweaving between them; something reconnecting them, working its way around the damaged, torn remnants of what had been there before.
Jim gathered him up in his arms. He was trembling again, but Jim’s hands moved in calming circles on his back. "I love you," Jim whispered, and then he said it again, and again, and at each repetition Spock calmed even further until finally he slipped into sleep.
He woke several times during the night, each time emerging from a blur of dreams of broken images of the Enterprise, of David Marcus. The dreams were accompanied by intense feelings of despair, and sorrow, and regret. How odd, not to sleep straight through the night. How odd, to dream, and to attach significance to these dreams.
He awoke once and found Kirk watching him, his gaze intent and complex, his every feature revealed by the dim light coming in through the half-opaqued windows. Kirk’s face softened in a smile. Spock reached out to caress his face, then paused, suddenly fearful that his hand would encounter, not the warmth of Kirk’s skin, but the cold hardness of glass, separating them forever.
Kirk smiled at him encouragingly. He dared to reach past that final distance. He touched Kirk’s face. Kirk covered Spock’s hand with his own.
Spock shut his eyes against the perplexing mix of emotions that roiled his mind and allowed himself to experience the simple sensations of his body as Kirk slowly ran his hands along his skin. Those soft, gentle caresses soothed him back into a restless sleep.
And still he dreamed. I-Chaya rumbled in enjoyment as Spock dug his fingers into the animal’s soft fur. "Your mother worries about you," Aaron Grayson said, and offered a toast with a wine glass. "Please talk to her. Soon." Christopher Pike’s life support chair lay abandoned among the trees. Pike himself was standing nearby, with one arm around Vina’s waist. He gave Spock an easy, joyous smile. "You stayed too long. It wasn’t feasible for part of you to be here, another part there. It’s all right. We’ll talk again. We’ll all talk again." And Pike, though he appeared to be standing in the middle of a forest, nevertheless looked at Kirk’s sleeping body, sprawled against their blue sheets, the two realities melding and blending together. "But not for quite some time, I think. You both like to beat the odds."
He awoke with a sudden gasp. His heart was pounding rapidly in his side. Beside him, Kirk was deeply asleep, and Spock was suddenly assaulted with a feeling of love and tenderness so powerful it brought tears to his eyes.
He blinked away the image before him now, of Pike disappearing into the forest with Vina at his side. Suddenly Kirk’s words were with him, knives slashing his flesh to the bone.
"There was no need to talk to you about Talos IV. No need to tell you how jealous I was of Captain Pike."
Before, he had taken pleasure in the exacting nature of his memory. Now, as images from his past unreeled themselves in pitiless detail, each one freighted with pain, that accuracy revealed itself to be a curse.
He was seated on the plain sleeping bench designed specifically for prisoners. Mendez—the illusion of Mendez—had, after his arrival on the Enterprise, immediately consigned Spock to the brig. And though he had known Mendez was an illusion—knew much of what was to come would be an illusion—only now, trapped behind the force field under the watchful guard of two security officers, had he begun to appreciate how very real it had all become.
He stood at attention at the first sound of familiar footsteps approaching along the corridor.
Kirk stopped squarely in front of the door to the brig, his anger and pain a palpable thing, the force of his emotions leaping through the energy barrier that separated them.
Spock stared straight ahead, his body stiff in the formal military pose, tense against the expected recriminations.
Kirk remained silent for a moment, but his eyes spoke for him, and each change of expression on Kirk’s face lacerated Spock’s soul.
Kirk’s voice had been gentle at first. "Why, Spock? Can you tell me why you did this? I need to understand. I want to help you."
"Sir, I cannot explain."
"I’d like an explanation, Mister."
"Sir, I cannot explain." He concentrated on the feel of his hands behind his back, tightening his fingers until the bones ground together, focusing on that particular pain. But that hurt was nowhere near harsh enough to cancel out the agony in Kirk’s eyes.
Kirk’s voice had changed, becoming demanding, then angry, then cold with the pain of betrayal, but to each of his questions Spock had replied, "Sir, I cannot explain."
Kirk stood there a moment longer, fire and anger blazing in his eyes. It was only then that Spock appreciated the true difficulty of the course upon which he was embarked. It was only then that he truly understood he would need to feel every painful moment of this ordeal.
Spock squeezed his eyes shut, demanding the images vanish, then started at a touch on his shoulder.
Jim was awake, he realized, and watching him.
"Are you all right?" Jim asked.
But he was lost, trapped in the confusion of dream and memory. "I do not know," he whispered.
"Can you tell me what you’re thinking?"
"How could you forgive me? After Talos IV? After what I did?"
Jim’s eyes widened in surprise and shock. "I’m sorry I brought that up—back on Vulcan. I don’t know why I said what I did. That dream I had was so vivid…."
"I had a dream. Just now." Spock swallowed. Why was it difficult to speak? "But dreams have no logic."
"No." Jim attempted a smile. "No. They don’t. What did you dream of?"
"Did he say anything?"
"I seem to recall…." His brows drew together. Captain Pike had smiled at him; yes, that he recalled. It was almost as if he could see him now, standing there, in this room. The look in his blue eyes—and then his former captain had waved and turned away. Had he spoken? "I don’t remember. He smiled. And then…." But Pike’s image vanished, as if it had been transported irrevocably elsewhere.
"Spock, Talos IV doesn’t matter. I forgave you years ago. Remember what I said to you, back on Vulcan? What happened made me understand you more fully than I ever had before. And I wondered then if I’d be worthy of such loyalty."
Jim was caressing him, running his fingertips along Spock’s upper arm, and suddenly Spock realized that Jim hungered as much as he did for any contact between their flesh. "You were always worthy of all my loyalty." He shut his eyes, for what had been easy, in the years after V’ger, was suddenly difficult again. "And my love."
He heard Jim’s quick intake of breath, but he kept his eyes closed. It was suddenly too intense, all this emotion.
"Do you know why you suddenly started remembering—feeling—now?"
"I do not know. It is as if I am waking after a long sleep. I always remembered everything. But there was no meaning in my memories."
"I love you," Jim said, and pulled him close. Eyes closed, he settled into Jim’s embrace. For an instant he was back in his dream, and in that other landscape his eyes were open, and all was clear. He was reaching out for Jim—but his fingers fell short of his goal. Then the barrier between them evaporated—he reached through and Jim extended his hand at the same time. Their fingers met, their hands clasped together.
He awoke again, whispering, "I love you," and then fell silent, content to simply enjoy the caress of Jim’s fingers, content to listen to the rhythm of Jim’s breathing and the sound of Jim’s heartbeat. Content to be silent and absorb the love and concern Jim was transmitting with his every touch. Content to just feel.
III. Enterprise 1701-A
"I have a gift for you."
Kirk heard the open emotion in Spock’s voice, saw a look of pleased anticipation in Spock’s eyes, and smiled in response. There was no trace of hesitation or shame in Spock’s tone or expression.
A yeoman had unpacked for both of them hours ago, and now everything in their joint quarters about the Enterprise 1701-A was stowed and ready for their upcoming voyage. Spock removed a security box from a drawer and pressed his thumb against the lock. Responding to his biometric data, it slid open. He offered the box to Kirk.
Jim carefully removed the framed holographic image. It trembled in his grip; he blinked away the blurred image and blamed it on his vision. The holo had been taken on Reikos 7. There had been two years left in the first five-year mission, two years to live together before they would part in pain and misunderstanding.
It had been a cloudy day, Kirk recalled. Silver rain had fallen in fat, soft droplets just outside the restaurant where they had been seated. They had already finished their meal; they were lingering over tea. A native had clicked this holo of them, a common tourist practice on this world.
That future, those years of separation, had been unknowable when this image had been taken. They had been new together, just weeks into what Kirk was beginning to accept as a relationship he could stay in forever. Shore leave on Reikos had offered respite, several days alone to give them the chance to discover how much they had yet to learn about each other. A honeymoon, in old-fashioned terms. It had been perfect.
Kirk ran his thumb along the mahogany-colored treillan wood box-frame, the surface as smooth as he remembered, and studied the image. Spock’s face…. Spock’s face revealed so much. They were seated together, each leaning slightly toward the other. Spock’s gaze was focused entirely upon Kirk, and the glow in his eyes, the slight curve of his mouth, revealed so very much. Every austere line of that disciplined Vulcan face had softened. The intimacy of that indiscretion was as shocking as public nudity. More so.
He looked up to meet Spock’s gaze. "You always hated this picture."
Spock raised an eyebrow and smiled. "That is quite a strong term."
"But a true one." Kirk offered a gentle smile. Despite Spock’s discomfort with this image, Kirk had refused to get rid of it. He’d kept it hidden inside a drawer, safe from any glances from visitors to his quarters.
That image…had vanished to flame, along with his silver lady.
He ran a finger along the sinuous curve of the dark red frame. There. That knot in the wood, that tiny imperfection just to the left of Spock’s face—that had not been there before. "It’s different."
Spock eyes held the same look as his holographic image did.
Everything in Kirk warmed to that sight. His fingers tightened on the frame. "How did you—"
"It is always advisable to back up important data. I included the image data with all our other personal material in one of the regular offship uploads."
"Of course." He grinned. "Efficient as always."
Spock inclined his head at the compliment.
Kirk ran his thumb over the frame again, discovering other tiny imperfections. It was not the same, after all. The original had had flaws in the frame as well, only in different places. It was a copy—a replacement—like the ship they stood on now.
And Spock before him, moving, breathing, smelling the same as always—but also different.
Also new. And changed. In different places.
He stepped toward Spock, who closed the remaining distance between them and pulled him close. Kirk placed one hand protectively against Spock’s back. Rubbing his hand against the nubby texture of the Starfleet uniform, he stilled his hand against the place that had once been marked by the rough remnants of scars. Kirk’s fingers curled. It shocked him, each time he touched Spock now, to feel nothing but the smoothness of unmarred skin. Before, his fingers had been accustomed to that stutter of puckered skin where the trajectory of the flintlock bullet through Spock’s body had left behind a mark even McCoy’s best artistry couldn’t quite erase.
The scars didn’t exist anymore.
That didn’t matter.
And if there were times when he discovered Spock looking off into some further distance to some place where Kirk could not follow, and felt the whisper of different, unspoken gaps in their knowledge of each other….
None of that mattered.
Kirk opened the top drawer and started to put the holo inside, but Spock took his wrist, then gently pulled the holo out of his grasp. Kirk questioned him with his eyes. Spock glanced around, took a moment to rearrange the items on the display shelf, then placed the holo in the most prominent position. It locked into the magnetic track.
He turned and raised an eyebrow at Kirk. Kirk couldn’t stop grinning. "I have a gift for you, too."
He had secured the stasis box in the office closet earlier, when Spock wasn’t around. Now, he removed the bulky casing and keyed the lock open. "This is actually a gift from your mother, as well."
Spock looked at him, then inside the box with dawning wonder. With precise, careful motions he deactivated the stasis field and opened the box fully, revealing a lyre.
He carefully picked it up, then seated himself in the nearest chair, settling the instrument into the correct position. His gaze locked with Kirk’s. His hands found the strings. Tentatively at first and then with assurance, he began to play, and music shimmered across the air, pure, mathematically precise—and aching with intense emotion.
* * * * *
The corridors hummed with furious activity. Crewmembers, antigrav carts, workers of every kind moved in highly choreographed activity. The Enterprise was scheduled to leave spacedock at 0600, barely five hours hence.
They walked, side by side, through the hallways of the Enterprise 1701-A, and everything was new around them. When they walked out onto the bridge, the air was filled with a constant chatter of ship-to-shore communication. Uhura was already there, and Sulu, and several other familiar faces. Quick greetings were exchanged, then everyone re-focused on the work at hand.
Kirk felt, rather than saw, Spock’s gaze upon him, and turned to share a smile. Stepping toward the viewscreen, Kirk rested one hand on the railing. The other hand was loose and free. With just one movement he could touch Spock’s hand.
He didn’t. The electric contact between them shone bright, clear, open. It did not require touch for fulfillment. Kirk’s gaze was focused on the viewscreen and not on the man beside him, who filled so much more than his field of vision.
"She’s a good ship," Kirk said suddenly.
"Indeed," Spock replied.
Earth lay before them on the viewscreen, its great cities appearing as a latticework of lights upon the turning continents. They watched as the western seaboard of Northamerica crossed the line of the terminator and moved into dawn.