Chapter 1: It's Not Your Eyes It's Not What You Say It's Not Your Laughter That Gives You Away
Five years and it was over in like five minutes. He was back on Earth. Off his ship. It was over and done. He’d lost and gained the Enterprise so many times. Had it destroyed without being able to do anything about it. Had it rebuilt. A new letter after each one.
He found himself grounded now. Perhaps temporarily. He hoped so. But the admiralty who had made him a hero were strangely reticent to reveal his long term fate. Whatever the case, whether he went out again or not, out again on the Enterprise or another ship, what he did know was that he would never have the same crew again. Never.
Some had died and he mourned those. Some planned to go to new assignments. His own friends…well Jim didn’t know.
Bones had been mumbling about missing all of his daughter’s birthdays and being sick of space and reviving Jim.
And Spock. Jim shook his head. He spoke of going to New Vulcan at last and helping with the recovery of the Vulcan race.
The thought of not having either of them scared Jim in ways he could not even name. And the thought of not having Spock around him…it was something he could not fathom, though he would have to, of course.
Jim stepped out into the sunshine from the Starfleet Headquarters. There were clouds in the distance, but for now the sun shone and it was fairly warm. He’d easily make it to his apartment before any weather changes, even if he walked. Which he wanted to. Maybe it would clear his head.
He turned toward the Vulcan who approached from his left. His favorite Vulcan. His favorite anything. Spock was not dressed for Starfleet, but rather in civilian clothes. It made his heart ache.
“Spock. How are you?” He had not seen Spock in a week or so. Not by his own choice.
“I am well, Captain.”
Jim forced a smile. Damn he had learned how to be quite the actor. “So, you made your decision.”
Spock inclined his head. “Indeed. I have booked transportation to New Vulcan tomorrow.”
Jim nodded. “Good for you, Spock. Any plans for the rest of today?”
“None that cannot be changed.”
“I was headed to my apartment. Probably will stop at a little corner market nearby and make some pasta for dinner. Interested?”
“I would like that, Captain.”
“Jim, Spock. You’re not my first officer anymore.” And hell that had hurt to say that. But it was what it was. And Jim would deal as he always did. “Walk with me?”
As he had done for years, Spock easily fell into step with Jim.
“Your plan is to stay in San Francisco?” Spock asked.
“For the immediate future, yeah. I don’t relish going back to Riverside. Not sure where else I would go.”
“What are the plans of Dr. McCoy?”
“Not sure. I think maybe Georgia to see Joanna. Or wherever the ex has taken her now. I’m not even certain about that. I’m sure Bones has mentioned it and I’ve failed to pay attention.”
“Is it his intention to stay in Starfleet?”
“He doesn’t know. Wants to take some time to decide. We have leave so…I guess by the time it’s over, he’ll know.”
Spock glanced at Jim. “I wish for you to know that my decision to resign my commission is no reflection on your command abilities. You have been an admirable captain.”
Jim smiled. “Quite the compliment coming from you, Spock.”
“I mean every word.”
“I know.” He stopped at the market. “Here we are. I just need to get a few things.”
Spock followed him inside and gave his advice for picking lettuce and other vegetables for a salad.
As they waited in line to pay for their purchases, Jim asked, “What about Uhura? What are her plans?”
“Nyota has taken a temporary assignment as communications officer on the Reliant during an exploratory mission of Sector four. It is to last no more than three months, allowing her to still have leave before a decision is made about her more permanent assignment. She did express a desire to stay with the Enterprise should you maintain your captaincy.”
Jim smiled. “It would be great to have her.”
Jim’s apartment was only a further block away from where the market was, and up on the tenth floor, so they rode up the elevator to his apartment and Jim let them in.
He couldn’t help but wonder if this was the last time he would see Spock. Or certainly not for a long time. It made him unbearably sad but he wouldn’t tell Spock that. He could never hold Spock back from doing what he wanted to do.
“Do you need assistance in preparing dinner, Jim?” Spock asked, hovering just outside the kitchen.
In that moment, Spock reminded him of his counterpart, from a time Jim had seen in his meld so long ago, with his own Jim, completely domesticated and together in a kitchen very similar to this one. That was their time, of course, and not his with this Spock, but having lost the elder Spock early in their five year mission, seeing Spock standing on the edge of the kitchen caused such a yearning in Jim that he could barely breathe.
“Jim?” Spock looked so uncertain in that moment, almost vulnerable.
Jim took a step forward, then two, followed by a third, and suddenly he was in Spock’s space, far too close, he was certain, for Spock’s comfort. But Jim couldn’t help it. He just needed to be close.
“Spock, what am I going to do without you?” Jim asked, flinching at the crack of his own voice.
Spock blinked rapidly at him.
“Who-who will I play chess with late at night? Who can I comm to just-to just listen to my ramblings? How will I ever know what it is to-to kiss a Vulcan both the human way and the Vulcan way?”
Jim hadn’t meant to say that last bit. But he had said it. He couldn’t take it back. And he wasn’t even sure he wanted to. If Spock was going to leave him bleeding, at least he should know what it was, who he was, leaving behind.
Without giving himself a chance to hold back, to stop himself, he reached up and spread his fingers over Spock’s jaw.
Spock’s hand came up to cover Jim’s fingers and for a moment Jim was unsure whether Spock intended to remove Jim’s hand from his face. He did not though and Jim could not withhold the sigh of relief.
“What is it you want, Jim?” Spock’s voice was soft, like a whisper on the wind.
This was it. Now or never.
“If you’re going to leave m—here, for however long. If this is goodbye, I want to feel you in me, on me, everywhere, just this once.”
“I am leaving for New Vulcan tomorrow morning.”
Jim nodded. “I know.”
“Spock, do yourself a favor, do what feels right,” Jim whispered.
Spock’s eyes widened. “How did you—”
Jim just shook his head. “Can you say you never thought about us—about me—that way?”
“I cannot,” Spock admitted softly. “However I do not engage in casual sexual gratification.”
Jim smiled wryly. “So I’d be casual? You know what? Don’t answer that. Just…You’re a touch telepath, Spock. You have to know—to have known—exactly how I feel.”
Spock moved his thumb to trace along Jim’s bottom lip. “Your eyes.”
“They haunt me. Sometimes I see them looking vacant in the warp chamber.” Spock swallowed visibly. “What do you propose?”
“To be together, at last, that’s the best way to say goodbye.” Jim searched Spock’s chocolate eyes. “Isn’t it?”
Spock did not respond immediately, or even after several seconds had passed. Part of Jim had hoped Spock had said he didn’t want to say goodbye, but Jim knew realistically that wouldn’t happen. In the end, they all left him. Spock wouldn’t—couldn’t—be any different. And Jim was prepared for that, he really was.
But what he feared most was never knowing what it would be like to be cherished by Spock for one night. And the longer Spock took to respond the more his hopes faded.
“You don’t want to,” Jim whispered.
“I do. However, it will not change my plans. I will be on the shuttle to New Vulcan tomorrow.”
“That’s the part about saying goodbye.” Jim gave him a crooked grin, designed to hide any turmoil behind his usual cockiness.
“I know what I’m doing.”
“I do not want to hurt you.”
“You can’t,” Jim told him. He leaned in and crushed his lips to Spock’s. He moved his hand from Spock’s face to the crown of his head, threading his fingers through the dark silky hair. “Please.”
Spock leaned his forehead against Jim’s. “As you wish.”
Jim felt a little giddy with relief as he took Spock’s hand and led him toward his bedroom. As soon as they reached it, Spock was kissing him with almost dizzying effect. Damn Vulcans could kiss. Or Spock could anyway.
He pushed at Spock to release him and couldn’t help but love the look of uncertain lust in those beloved brown eyes. He pulled off his uniform shirt and tossed it across the room, returning to Spock to peel the sweater from him.
Jim found himself being backed up to the bed, the backs of his knees stopping him from further movement. Spock had returned to kissing him with such ferocity Jim could barely catch his breath.
Spock quickly removed Jim’s shoes, pants, and boxer briefs.
He was on the bed in an instant, on Jim, and somehow he’d removed his own clothes too, and he could feel all of Spock, every bare inch, including how hard the Vulcan was. And how slick.
“Spock,” Jim gasped out as he was turned to his stomach. His cheeks were parted with care and then very slowly a lubricated double ridged cock stuffed him full.
One hand clutching the sheets of the bed, Jim grasped his erection, stroking it to the rhythm of Spock’s thrusts.
This-this is what he’d wanted. For so long. And now he had it…if only for one night.
As Spock hit his prostate, Jim lost it, screaming his release.
When Jim opened his eyes hours later, he saw that the time on his clock read five am. The lights were off and he was under the covers.
He got out of bed and pulled on some clothes, padding barefoot out to the rest of his apartment. There was no note from Spock, of course. Not that he had expected it or anything.
Jim went to the kitchen. He never had made dinner. They’d spent their whole time in bed together, not that he was complaining. But there was now no sign that Spock had ever been there. Just the way Jim’s skin fairly buzzed. He suspected he might have a few bruises and hickeys too.
He fixed himself coffee and then looked up the shuttles leaving for New Vulcan. There was one leaving in under ten minutes. The one Spock was likely on.
“Well, Jim, you got exactly what you wanted,” Jim whispered out loud. “And what you expected.”
But Jim Kirk wasn’t going to cry over it. He’d cried his last damn tear over someone leaving.
He finished his coffee and with a determined grimace he went to take a shower.
Chapter 2: All Your Actin' Your Thin Disguise All Your Perfectly Delivered Lies They Don't Fool Me
Leonard waited outside Jim’s apartment door for him to answer. He’d messaged Jim a short time ago with no answer, so Leonard had decided to just go to the apartment. Jim had indicated the day before he would be home.
Being almost nine, Jim should be up.
The door finally opened and a bleary-eyed Jim stared out at him.
Leonard frowned. “You sleeping?”
“Not anymore.” Jim held the door wide for Leonard and he stepped in.
“I thought you’d be up hours ago.”
“Yeah, I was. Went back to bed. With my hair wet. Which is why I have the weird hair thing going on now.” Jim ran his fingers through his hair. “Sorry just got your message. You still want to do breakfast?”
“Yeah. I’m leaving today.”
Jim gave him a crooked smile. “I remember. Give me a minute and I’ll get myself together.”
He disappeared down the hall as Leonard tried to guess what was going on with his best friend. There was something a little off with Jim. Well, more than usual.
Jim reemerged carrying a leather jacket and with his hair combed. “Let’s go, Bones.”
“Little café on the corner all right?”
A short time later they were seated at a table for two outside on the patio.
“Ready for your trip?” Jim asked too brightly.
“Actually I wanted to talk to you about that.”
Jim’s eyebrows shot up. “About what?”
“I want you to come with me.”
“To where? Georgia?”
“No. The ex has moved to Colorado,” Leonard told him.
“Well, that’s closer anyway. Bones—”
“Jim, you’re on leave. You may as well come with me.”
“Bones, I appreciate it, really. But, the family stuff? It’s not for me.”
“Bones, I’ll be fine. I don’t need a babysitter. Go visit your daughter, have a hell of a great time, and come back with a clear head ready to go into space again.” Jim gave him his famous cocky grin.
“Space.” Leonard shook his head.
“When do you leave?”
“An hour or so.”
Jim nodded and picked up his tomato juice. “I’m gonna miss you.”
“You don’t have to miss me.”
“Bones, let it go.”
Leonard sighed. “You are the most stubborn man I have ever known.”
“Takes one to know one.”
“And Spock? Have you seen him?”
Jim’s gaze lowered as he raised the tomato juice to his lips. “He left this morning.”
“For New Vulcan.
“Son of a bitch,” Leonard muttered with a shake of his head. “So he’s really going to do it.”
“Maybe. He didn’t specifically say. He resigned from Starfleet and went to help recreate the Vulcan people.” Jim shook his head. ”Anyway, he’s gone.”
“And how do you feel about that, Jim?”
“Feel?” Jim laughed. “I feel fine about it, Bones. Spock made his own decision and I support that.”
“Do you?” Leonard searched Jim’s gaze. He knew very well how Jim felt about his former first officer. And that Jim had tried hard to get over him.
Leonard finished his coffee. “Maybe I should stay.”
“Look, I don’t have to go see Jo.”
“Yes, you do.” Jim slammed his hand down on the table. “Bones, I’m not a goddamn invalid and I can take care of myself. Stop coddling me for God’s sake.”
“Okay, okay, calm down. You done here?”
“Come with me to the shuttle.”
Jim smiled. “All right.”
Leonard found himself regretting making his arrangements to leave so soon after they had returned to Earth. The funny thing was, they’d been back for a couple of weeks, so it wasn’t like he’d rushed away, and yet he felt like he was.
“Is there something you aren’t telling me?” Leonard asked Jim as they waited at the shuttle bay for his shuttle.
“Of course not, Bones,” Jim assured him, patting his arm with a smile. “You worry too much.”
“It’s my job to worry about you.”
“Because you’re a doctor?”
“Because you’re my best friend, dummy.” Leonard sighed. “Has it ever occurred to you I like coddling you?”
“Bones, I love you. I don’t even know what I would do without you.” Jim smiled. “Go see your kid. Spend a long time with her. As long as you can. Take it from me, she’ll want to know her father.”
There was an announcement for Leonard’s shuttle.
Leonard hugged Jim tight, then turned to leave. He looked back at Jim, who had this look on his face, a sort of resignation, like everyone always left him, and he expected and accepted it. Leonard hated that look, hated that Jim thought and felt that. The hobgoblin may have left Jim, but Leonard…he wouldn’t.
He went back to Jim and hugged him again. “You’re my brother.”
“And I’m coming back. I’m not ever leaving you. If you gotta go into space again, I’ll be there. I’ll hate it. But I’ll be there.”
Jim tightened his hold on Leonard. “Keep in touch while you’re there, yeah?”
Leonard released him and gave Jim one of his rare smiles. “Always. See you soon, Jim.” He didn’t want to use the word ‘goodbye’. Not for Jim.
“See you, Bones.”
Leonard turned away, finally, and made his way up the ramp, not looking behind, because he knew if he saw Jim standing there looking sad, he wouldn’t go.
Chapter 3: You Bear the Scars, You've Done Your Time
Jim had been at the bar for hours. He’d lost count. Once a number of years ago someone told him it was a mistake to drink alone. But Jim…ultimately…always ended up alone. This was no different. And here he was.
He’d stuck to beer instead of going for the hard stuff. He had to manage to make it to his apartment eventually and it would be easier with beer. He’d chosen the bar not for its atmosphere—because it certainly had none unless seedy dive counted—but because it wasn’t that far from his apartment and he could walk there and back.
Jim gestured to the bartender, an Andorian male, who nodded his direction and continued to assist another customer down the bar. Jim wasn’t even sure what time it was. He’d left his apartment about five, was it? It was dark out. And much more crowded then when he’d first arrived that was for sure.
The bartender arrived. “Check?”
Jim shook his head. “Another.”
“Are you sure?”
“What time is it?” Jim asked.
“Eleven. You’ve been at it six hours, buddy. I don’t want to have to officially cut you off, but—”
“But I’m cut off.”
Jim pushed some credit chips at the Andorian. “Does this cover it?”
“Sure does. Look, you need anything…else?” The bartender licked his lips.
Jim blinked. “Like?”
He shrugged. “I have a break coming. There’s a room back there.” He gestured with a little flick of his shoulder. He lowered his voice. “Some say I’m an expert at blowjobs.”
And just like that, Jim was interested. Or his dick was anyway. He was suddenly painfully hard. Which was crazy or something because he didn’t do that sort of thing anymore. Or did he? It wasn’t like he had anyone who cared what he did with his dick.
Jim swallowed heavily. “Well, far be it from me to not request a demonstration of your skills.”
The Andorian smiled. “Follow me.”
Jim slid off the stool and did exactly that, walking parallel down the bar to the Andorian. The bartender slipped through the opening and walked toward a long hallway, Jim close behind.
The Andorian opened a door and gestured for Jim to enter. As he did so someone came at him from the side and knocked him to the floor, his head smacking hard against the cold surface. Then he was picked up by the collar of his shirt and a fist slammed into his face. He tasted blood as the face of a Tellarite appeared across his blurred vision. He was tossed to the floor again and multiple hands tore at his clothes. He raised his arms, trying to protect himself but they were suddenly pulled back hard and he was pinned down, unable to move.
Jim woke to the sound of what he was sure was a heart monitor. Which couldn’t be right. He should be in his bed in his apartment.
“Oh, you’re awake.”
He blinked rapidly. His lungs hurt. His face hurt. He wasn’t sure he could feel his legs. Had he died again? Was this radiation?’
“Can you hear me, Captain?”
An unfamiliar man, a rather handsome black man, appeared over him and for a moment Jim fought panic which made the pain wracking his body become agony.
“Easy, easy, Captain. I’m Dr. Geoffrey M’Benga. And you’re in the hospital.”
“Yes, Captain. Starfleet Medical.”
Jim frowned. “What-what happened?”
“What was the last thing you remember?” M’Benga asked.
“Seeing Bones off on his shuttle.”
M’Benga nodded. “I know Leonard. Your injuries are severe, but you will recover. I’m going to give you some pain medication and then sedate you. Do you understand?”
“Yeah.” He didn’t care. He just wanted the pain to go away.
M’Benga leaned over him and Jim’s world went dark again.
Jim was sitting up when M’Benga came to see him again. Earlier he was awake enough and not feeling as much pain that a nurse, he forgot her name, had agreed to raise his bed. He’s been staring out the nearby window for what seemed like hours but he knew could only be minutes as the nurse had said she was going to get the doctor.
“Captain Kirk, do you remember me?”
Jim nodded. “You’re Dr. M’Benga. And call me Jim. Please.”
“Very well, Jim. Do you have any further recollection of what happened to you?”
“No. Is that bad?”
“You did suffer head trauma. It might be that such trauma will prevent you from ever regaining the memories. Or you could be suppressing them.” M’Benga scanned him. “How is the pain?”
“Better than before but I still feel a lot of pain,” Jim admitted. “What happened, exactly, doctor?”
“Call me Geoff. We may as well be on a first name basis.” Geoff sat on the edge of Jim’s bed. “You went to a bar called ‘The Element’. Remember it?”
“I’ve heard of it. Not far from my apartment. Don’t think I’ve ever been there.” He paused. “But I guess I have?”
“Yes,” Geoff said. “Around five in the evening on the night of your attack.”
Jim took that in. “My attack.”
“Yes. You were there for several hours, drinking. They think it’s possible you might have even been drugged. The bartender, an Andorian, took you to a back room where you were assaulted by him and several of his comrades.”
Jim nodded, licked his dry lips. “What’s my damage?”
“Jim, when I say assaulted—”
“I know,” Jim said softly. “I understood.”
Geoff gave him a sympathetic look. “We repaired the damage done to your anus. There was mostly tearing. Fortunately nothing permanent there.”
“And the rest?” He didn’t want to dwell on that. Not now. Maybe another time. Maybe. Another. Time.
“Broken ribs, head trauma, cranial fissure, concussion, broken left arm, stab wounds, phaser burns—”
“Got it,” Jim interrupted.
“Some bruising and lacerations to your liver and kidneys too.” Geoff paused. “To be honest if someone hadn’t come along and interrupted the whole thing, you wouldn’t be here. That super blood helped too.”
Jim looked at him in surprise.
“I’ve read your medical records, Jim.”
“Most of that’s classified.”
“Not to those who need to know. I’m your treating doctor. Komack gave me permission.” Geoff patted Jim’s blanket covered leg. “I know about Tarsus too.”
“You needn’t worry I’ll do anything with that information except use it in the way I treat you. And you have my sincere sympathies.”
“Thanks.” Jim looked away, out the window.
“And you look like a man who hates sympathy.”
Jim smiled wryly. “Somewhat, yeah.”
“Who should I contact for you?”
Jim looked back at Geoff. “No one.”
“Jim, as a doctor I can assure you that a patient’s recovery relies heavily on the comfort of family and friends.”
“I don’t want anyone to be bothered on my behalf.”
“What about Leonard McCoy?”
Jim’s lips thinned. “Especially Bones. He’s visiting his daughter.”
“There has to be someone. Your family?”
“I have no family, Geoff.”
Geoff sighed. “For now, I want you to rest. Shortly a nurse will be in to give you some semi-soft food. If you tolerate that, we'll see where it goes.”
“Okay, doc. Thanks for everything.”
Geoff smiled gently and stood.
“Do you think-do you think I’ll remember? Eventually?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s better that you don’t.”
Jim nodded, closed his eyes. “Yeah. Probably.”
Chapter 4: Let Me in the Wall You've Built Around
Jim woke on a gasp, his chest burning, his throat feeling like he could never swallow again. Pain tore through his body like his very limbs were being ripped from his torso.
“Oh, my God.”
A feminine voice. Familiar. Yet…out of reach. Suddenly there were hands on his chest, pushing him down with a sort of urgent gentleness.
“It’s okay. Shh.”
Her face appeared above his head, concern etched over her pretty features. “Do I need to get the doctor?”
“No. No. I…no.” His heart still raced, hammered like it might split right out of his body. He clenched the sheets, tried to force himself to relax. It was difficult with the pain.
“Do you need pain medication?”
She gripped his hand and brought it to a nearby button that lay on the bed. She used his thumb to press it.
For several moments he just tried to breathe while she watched him. It seemed an agonizing time before the pain began to lessen, but it did until it was a tolerable thrum once more.
Uhura now sat on the edge of his bed, still holding the hand she had grasped earlier. “What was that?”
“A nightmare?” It was already fading away, leaving him grasping for what he had dreamed.
“So, you weren’t remembering your attack?”
“I don’t think so.”
Her fingers were soothing circles on his hand. “I think you're allowed water. Do you want some?”
“Not right now. What are you doing here?”
“I would have thought that was obvious,” she replied, with a shake of her head. “You’re in the hospital.”
“Spock said you were taking an assignment on the Reliant.”
She nodded. “It doesn’t leave for another week.”
“Oh.” Jim frowned. “How did you find out I was here? I told M’Benga not to contact anyone.”
“I’m good friends with one of your nurses,” Uhura explained. “She thought I’d want to know. And of course I did.”
“Isn’t that a violation of my privacy or something?”
“Jim.” She squeezed his hand. “You shouldn’t be alone.”
“I’m always alone.”
“Well, you shouldn’t be. Not after this.” She leaned forward and tucked hair behind his ear. “They said you don’t remember much.”
He licked his dry lips. “I don’t remember any of it.”
“I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.” Uhura sighed. “Where’s Leonard?”
“What’s in Colorado?”
“Forget it.” He shook his head. “And you aren’t saying anything to him either. Got it?”
Uhura’s lips thinned. “He’ll be devastated he didn’t know.”
“Sure. Maybe. But he’ll be devastated and have gotten to see his kid. What happened to me isn’t going away, Nyota. When Bones is back, then he’ll know.”
“I guess, yeah.” His throat did feel a bit dry and scratchy.
Uhura released his hand and poured a cup of water from a pitcher by his bed. She handed it to him. She was carefully watching him, like maybe he was on the verge of breaking. Maybe he even felt like he was himself.
“What?” he asked, softly, after taking a sip of water.
“You saw Spock?”
“I did, yes.”
Jim couldn’t quite think of what day it even was. “Um, a few days ago.”
“Where is he then?”
Jim sighed. He really didn’t want to get into this with yet another friend and former member of his crew. “He went to New Vulcan.”
Uhura sucked in a breath and looked away, but not before he saw the flash of anger in her eyes. “I can’t believe he did that.”
“Hey.” Jim touched her arm. “If you still have feelings for him, maybe you should tell—”
She interrupted him with a harsh laugh. “I don’t. Not at all. I mean, not like you mean. I care about him. He’ll always be important in my life, but not in that way. And not in that way for a long time.”
“I don’t understand then.”
“Don’t you?” Uhura sighed. “He should be here with you, by your side. And in fact…”
Jim frowned. “What?”
She stood up and began to pace, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “I shouldn’t even go there.”
“It’s unfair of me to say this. But if he had been here in San Francisco with you then maybe it wouldn’t have even happened.”
Jim sucked in a breath, turned to glance out the window. “You’re right. It is unfair of you to say that.”
“Spock is not responsible for what does or does not happen to me or whatever my choices are. Whether he’s here or somewhere else. And playing a game of what ifs is never a good idea.”
She bit her lip, stopped pacing. But her arms were still crossed in front of her chest. “It’s just that I thought…never mind.”
Jim grimaced and finished the water, setting it down on the tray in front of him. “You thought Spock and I were going to get together,” he said dully.
Uhura swallowed, nodded.
“We had sex,” he admitted, not even knowing why he would tell her that of all people.
“You-You did? When?”
“Before he left.” He laughed without mirth. “He left anyway, so that should tell you how it went.”
“It wasn’t good?” Then she shook her said. “Sorry, that was indelicate.”
“No, it was. I just meant…I presented it to him as a way to say goodbye and…he accepted that.”
“If I had him in front of me right now I’d punch him in his stupid face,” Uhura said angrily, which really surprised Jim. In the past, unless arguments with Spock involved her own feelings, she always took Spock’s side over Jim’s.
But Jim shook his head. God he was tired. And achy. Fuck, how come modern medicine couldn’t make the pain go away?
“He only took what I freely offered. I can’t blame him for that, Nyota.”
“Of course you wouldn’t. You never blame him for anything. You always give Spock a free pass.” She watched him for a moment, her mouth grim and her eyes hard, but after a few minutes had passed, her expression softened. “I’m sorry.”
“Making this all worse. You don’t need all this. Not now. You look really tired.”
Jim nodded. “Yeah, I am feeling a little tired. It’s hard to sleep though with all this pain. And the…” He licked his dry lips. “The dreams.”
Uhura came to sit on the bed again. “What do you dream of? If not the-the-the attack.”
He blew out a breath. “You can say it, you know. You can say ‘the gang rape’. Not saying the words doesn’t change a thing.”
Tears welled in her eyes. “I hate everything and everybody right now. Except you.”
Jim nodded, feeling his throat tighten. “My dreams? I don’t always remember them. But they’re never good. Even the ones that start out good end up badly.”
“I had a dream once where I was promoted to admiral and there was this big ceremony and everyone was there to celebrate with me. And then Khan appeared with all his buddies and they fired on us from above, just kept aiming phaser fire at us like we were sitting ducks. Everyone I knew, everyone I cared about was annihilated right before my eyes.”
“Jesus,” Uhura breathed.
“Yeah. Anyway, I don’t remember what I was dreaming earlier when I woke up. And to be honest? I want to keep it that way.”
“I can see why.”
The door to his room opened and Geoffrey M’Benga entered. He glanced at Uhura, who stood up, and smiled. “I see you’re keeping the Captain company.”
She returned his smile. “Yeah. Do I need to leave?”
“Not yet, but shortly. I want him to get more rest.” Geoff came to the other side of Jim’s bed and began to scan him. “You’re experiencing elevated pain. I’ll up your medication.”
“As low though as I can stand it, doc. I don’t want addiction or anything.”
Geoff nodded. “I understand, but this should be fine. And your recovery won’t be helped if you’re in this much pain all the time.” He took out a hypo. “Where do you want this?”
Geoff injected him. It hurt but not insufferably so. “When you wake up next, the nurse will be notified to bring you some food. Maybe pudding or oatmeal at first.”
“I wanted to tell you that they’ve apprehended all of those they believe are responsible for what happened to you,” Geoff said. “They’ll likely come to talk to you about it, though I did ask that they give you a few days. I also explained you don’t really remember what happened.”
“Okay, thanks. That doesn’t mean they’ll get away with it, does it?”
Geoff shook his head. “No, there are witnesses. And some of those in custody are already talking.” He glanced toward Uhura.
“You can speak freely in front of Nyota,” Jim assured him.
“One of them, the Tellarite, mentioned that their ultimate intention was to hand you over to some Klingon slavers. They’d pay a high price for having Captain Kirk in their collection.”
“Good thing someone came along,” Jim said softly.
“That’s the understatement of the year.” Uhura looked furious. “So they knew all along who the captain was.”
“He was targeted as soon as he came into the bar,” Geoff said. “There were strange intoxicants in your bloodstream when you were brought in, too. Likely the bartender spiked your drinks.”
Jim nodded wearily. “Okay, thanks again, doc.”
Geoff squeezed his shoulder, then turned to Uhura. “Five more minutes, and then he needs to rest.”
Uhura returned to Jim’s side after M’Benga left. “I’m not going to go.”
Jim frowned. “What? But Geoff said—”
“No.” She gave him an exasperated smile. “I mean on the Reliant.”
He rolled his eyes at that. The ridiculousness of it. “Yes, you are.”
“Listen to me, Lieutenant,” he spoke in his best captain’s voice, “you are going to go and not miss out on this opportunity to advance your career. I’ll be fine. You don’t need to stay behind to act as some misguided babysitter.”
“That’s an order.”
Her teeth sunk into her bottom lip. “Yes, Captain.”
Jim smiled, though really he didn’t feel like smiling even a little bit. He was getting sleepy as hell, though, and he was pretty sure whatever Geoff had shot into his neck was responsible for it.
She leaned down and kissed his forehead. “I’ll be by to see you tomorrow.”
“Okay. Thank you.”
He waited for her to leave before he let his eyelids fall closed, desperately pushing away the urge to cry and feel sorry for himself. He wouldn’t give in to it. Because for now, anyway, he was all he had. And someone had to be strong.
Chapter 5: And We Can Light a Match and Burn it Down
To say that Jim was surprised to wake up to find Pavel Chekov hovering in the doorway of his hospital room uncertainly was an understatement. In fact it took several moments for Jim to decide it was no illusion.
“Are you going to stand there all day or come in?” Jim finally asked.
Chekov blushed and came forward into the room. He was dressed casually, meaning he was out of uniform and in civilian attire, and he was wringing his hands together in a fare imitation of a babushka.
Jim forced a smile. “Hi. How did you find me?”
“I vas wisiting a friend in the hospital,” Chekov said. “And I overheard them talking about you as a patient.”
“And then, vhile I vas trying to figure out your room number, I ran into Ms. Uhura. She told me your room.”
Jim nodded. He took in Chekov’s very nervous gaze, and the fact he did not seem to want to look at Jim directly. “She told you a few other things, huh?”
“She did not tell me much, but based on vhat I already overheard, it vas enough.” His eyes got watery. “I am sorry, Keptin.”
Jim nodded and turned his gaze to the window. It was a bright sunny day. “Hey, can you take me outside?”
“I’m sick of being cooped up in here. I’ll bet if I went in a wheelchair they’d let you take me out for a bit.”
Chekov brightened at this and nodded very rapidly. “Yes, I will go speak with the nurse. Be right back, Keptin.”
A short time later and Chekov was wheeling Jim out into the sunshine.
“Vhen do you get out?” Chekov asked.
“Not soon enough,” Jim muttered. “It’s up to M’Benga and he’s even more of a fuddy duddy than Bones.”
“How is that possible?” Chekov joked.
“I wouldn’t have thought it was.” Jim sighed. “It feels like I haven’t breathed fresh air in ages. Funny considering how much time I spent on a damn ship. But I was going crazy in there.”
“There’s a bench under that tree. Shall I have us sit over there, Keptin?”
“Yeah, that’ll work.”
Jim moved from the chair onto the bench. He felt a bit like a decrepit old man, though he knew that was hardly the case.
“It’s nice out here, da?”
Jim nodded. “Yeah, it is.”
Chekov was staring at him intently. There was an almost unbearable sadness in his eyes.
“You know I’m okay, right?” Jim asked gently.
“Are you?” Chekov looked away. “I vant to kill these men who did this.”
“No one’s committing murder for my sake.” He’d said it with a lightness he didn’t even feel. Within the last day or so he’d gotten flashes of memories of that night. Most of it was just images that barely connected to each other. But there was one particular one of the grinning face of the Andorian as he held Jim down and—
Jim let out a shaky breath. “I’m all right, Pavel.”
“You vere thinking about it, vere you not?”
“Not everything. But…some.”
“If you vould like to talk about it, I vill listen.”
Even as the words came out of Chekov’s mouth, Jim was aware he would indeed listen, but that it would be a very traumatic experience for him. And Jim couldn’t do that to Chekov.
Jim patted Chekov’s leg. “I wouldn’t like to.”
Chekov bit his lip and looked away. “I’m aware I vould not be your first choice in friend.”
“It’s not that.”
“Perhaps it is a little. I am angry that Mister Spock is not here.”
“He’s on New Vulcan.”
“And that is why I am angry. He should be here vith you.”
“I’m not his responsibility.”
“You are all of our responsibility, Keptin,” Chekov insisted. “It is our job to look after you.”
It was so laughable that Chekov actually believed that, and so all Jim could do was shake his head.
“I’m not even your captain anymore.”
“You vill always be my keptin.”
And that right there had Jim tearing up. For a long time his throat was too clogged with emotion to even speak, so they just remained silent, people watching.
Finally, when Jim could speak again without sounding like some crying fool, he asked, “So, what’s next for you?”
Chekov brightened. “I am assigned to the USS Reliant under Keptin Terrell.”
“Oh, I know Terrell. Good man.”
“When do you go?”
Jim shivered as a cloud suddenly moved over the sun above.
Chekov followed Jim’s gaze. “Ready to go back inside, Keptin?’
“So, when can I go home, anyway?” Jim asked M’Benga as he examined Jim.
“I don’t want to release you prematurely, Jim.”
“It’s not premature. I can move around on my own. I can go to the bathroom on my own. You’ve moved me to solid food. What else is there?”
M’Benga sighed. “I’m concerned about you staying by yourself. Not just because of the physical aspects but the psychological ones too.”
Jim’s jaw clenched. “This isn’t the first trauma I’ve ever had, Geoff.”
“I’m aware of that. But the psychological build up is bound to affect even you, Jim.”
“I’m not suicidal.”
M’Benga sat on the edge of the bed. “You’ve refused all contact with a psychiatrist.”
“I’ve seen them before. They never help.”
“And right there is what I’m concerned about, Jim. You push everything down inside you until you’re so ready to burst, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened already.”
“What if I agree to see your psychiatrist once a week?”
“That would go a long way toward making me feel better about releasing you. But, Jim, I still don’t want you staying alone. Not at first. I’m thinking you should stay here until maybe Leonard returns and then—”
“That could be weeks! I don’t even know when Bones is due back. Geoff, you know I’m physically well enough to be released. The only way you can keep me here is to declare me a danger to myself and put me in the mental unit of the hospital.” Jim stared hard at him. “Is that what you intend to do?”
M’Benga didn’t immediately reply which made Jim’s insides twist.
“I will stay with him.”
Both Jim and M’Benga turned toward the door of his hospital room.
M’Benga frowned. “And you are?”
“I am Spock.”
Chapter 6: Let Me Hold Your Hand
M’Benga got up from Jim’s bed and walked toward Spock.
He certainly looked and sounded like Spock. But Spock wasn’t supposed to be here. He was on New Vulcan. Doing whatever Vulcans did.
This man, this Vulcan, wore black, somber and austere, and really rather intimidating in his Vulcanness. Yet M’Benga approached him as though it was nothing.
It had been a long time since Jim had felt such distance from Spock. He might as well be on New Vulcan still for all the warmth he radiated.
“Commander Spock. I’m Geoffrey M’Benga, Captain Kirk’s doctor.” M’Benga made no attempt to shake Spock’s hand.
“I am aware of you, Dr. M’Benga. You studied for some time on Vulcan.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Spock nodded, his gaze flicked to Jim briefly before returning to M’Benga. “The Captain is fit for release?”
“Physically, yes. I would prefer he not stay alone.”
“As I stated, I will stay with him. I am prepared to escort him home now, if it is permissible.”
“I’ll need to do the paperwork.” M’Benga turned back to Jim as though he’d just remembered Jim was still there. “If it’s agreeable to you, of course, Jim.”
They were both staring at Jim, expecting…words of wisdom or something. His agreement. But he was still trying to process what the hell had happened. Spock wasn’t supposed to be here. Which meant—
"Yeah, okay. Whatever."
"If you don't want me talking to Commander Spock-"
Jim shook his head wearily. "It's all right. You can talk to him. I tell him most things anyway."
Spock said something in a very low voice to M’Benga, so low Jim hadn’t heard it, but he also suspected it was in Vulcan.
M’Benga nodded and said he’d be back.
Jim was now alone with Spock. And he still couldn’t make his words come out no matter how much he tried.
Spock was moving then. Toward him. And then he was standing next to Jim. Starting down at him with those dark fathomless eyes.
Jim swore if Spock called him ‘captain’ he would kill him right then.
“Jim,” Spock said so softly and gently that Jim wasn’t sure it was really Spock who said it.
“What are you doing here?” Jim finally managed to ask.
“I have come to take care of you.”
Jim shook his head.
“As soon as Dr. M’Benga has it cleared, we will leave this place.”
“We will talk later.”
Spock turned toward the door as a nurse came in. She was smiling and carrying a small bag.
“Looks like you’re going home, Captain,” she said brightly. “These are some medications Dr. M’Benga wants you to take. As well as information about your first appointment with Dr. Lewiston.”
“Dr. Lewiston is the psychiatrist Dr. M’Benga is recommending.” She held the bag toward Jim but Spock took it from her hands. “Have you got clothes to go home in?”
Jim frowned. “No. I was told the clothes they found me in were ruined.”
“I will bring a change of clothes for him,” Spock said. He looked at Jim. “I will return shortly.”
Jim licked his lips and nodded, still feeling like he was in a fog. But just as Spock went to move away, Jim grabbed his sleeve. “Wait.” He glanced at the nurse. “Can you give us some time?”
“Of course, Captain.” She left his room and closed the door behind her.
Jim searched Spock’s gaze. “How did you know I was here?”
“Nyota contacted me.”
“Can’t trust anyone.”
“She is concerned about you, Jim.”
“I’m fine,” he insisted, and it sounded false even to him.
“You are not,” Spock said softly. “I would have preferred you contacted me yourself, however, at least I now know.”
“I didn’t want you to know.”
“I am quite aware of that.”
Jim sighed, closed his eyes, and swallowed. “I don’t want anything from you.”
There was a long pause. “I am aware of that also.”
“I can walk on my own,” Jim insisted as Spock held onto his arm as they entered his apartment.
“No doubt. However, I am here to assist you.”
“You’re very stubborn.”
“We are well-matched then,” Spock retorted. He led Jim over to big plush chair. “Sit. I will make you tea.”
Jim sat. Only because the trip from the hospital really did exhaust him. He was achy all over. And cold. He was surprised when Spock dropped to his haunches beside him.
“What is it you need?”
“A throw maybe? I’m kind of cold. Um. There’s one in the closet.”
Spock nodded. “Are you hungry?”
“A little,” Jim said reluctantly. “I can do it.”
“Since I am here, there is no need. Would toast be acceptable?”
Not only had Spock brought Jim clothes but he’d stopped at the grocery store for provisions, which he had informed Jim when he returned for him.
For a moment Spock didn’t move, he just looked at Jim.
“Did you do it?” Jim asked, softly.
Jim licked his lips. “Kolinahr. Bones thought you might.”
Spock reached for Jim’s hand and to Jim’s surprise threaded his fingers with Jim’s. “Does this feel like I am suppressing my emotions?”
He swallowed heavily. Shook his head.
“Then you have your answer.” Spock squeezed Jim’s hand and then released it. He stood up and walked behind Jim to where the closet was. Only a moment later, Jim felt the throw being wrapped around his shoulders and then tucked around him.
His throat suddenly clogged with emotion. “I’m sorry I’m such a mess.”
“It is I who is sorry, Jim. Let me get your tea and toast.”
Chapter 7: Hello Darkness My Old Friend
Jim was an emotional mess. He was tired and wrung out and probably strung out on so many pain meds. He had been totally unprepared for Spock’s arrival, and even more so to have Spock escort him home and vow to stay with him. Jim felt on the verge of tears and it was only practiced sheer will that kept them at bay.
He huddled down into the chair, pulling the throw tighter around him. He was freezing. It wasn’t that cold in the apartment. He knew it mustn’t be. But it felt like it had been turned into an igloo. Or maybe Delta Fucking Vega. And when had he become some fragile old man huddled under a throw anyway?
Spock came out of the kitchen holding a plate and a cup in his hands. Long, elegant hands. That were amazingly strong. He looked just as beautiful as the last time Jim had seen him. Not that he’d expected him to change or anything. But hell Spock hadn’t really looked different from those years ago when he had stood at the podium in front of everyone and told the world “you of all people should know a captain cannot cheat death” like Jim’s dad was fodder for a hearing to execute Jim for cheating.
Spock had been too gorgeous then and he was too gorgeous now and he had Jim at such a disadvantage he shrunk into himself.
When Jim saw that Spock had made him cinnamon sugared toast he almost lost it after all. He had no idea why but it was such a sweet gesture that he was pretty sure he should just curl up and die on the spot. Because he wasn’t going to cry. No. Not in front of Spock.
It took him a moment to get his mouth to work as he accepted the plate of toast and tea.
“Thanks,” he rasped as though his voice was ill-used.
“You are still cold.”
“You are shaking. I will put on the heat.” Spock turned in search of the thermostat. A moment later Jim heard it kick on.
Jim brought the tea to his lips and managed a sip despite the tremor in his hand.
“What else can I get for you?” Spock asked the moment he returned.
“I don’t know. Nothing I guess.”
Spock stood in front of him, staring down at him.
“You really don’t have to stay with me.”
“Dr. M’Benga indicated otherwise.”
“Well, he doesn’t know everything. And I’m fine.”
“Why do you persist in your attempts to dismiss me?”
Jim closed his eyes. “Because-because I hate being vulnerable. Especially in front of you.”
“Why especially in front of me?”
He shook his head. He opened his eyes and took another sip of tea. “I’m not sure you’d even understand, Spock.”
Spock moved to sit in the chair directly beside Jim. “I came back for the express purpose of being here. Nyota informed me that you refused to contact Dr. McCoy.”
“Bones is busy.”
“I believe that he would have dropped everything to return to your side.”
“And that’s why I didn’t want him to know. He needs this, Spock.”
“Perhaps he does. But he needs to be of assistance to you as much as he needs that,” Spock said quietly. “You push even those that care about you most away.”
And there was that threat of tears again. Ready to choke him. He sipped the tea instead. “I haven’t even gone to the shrink yet and here I am in therapy,” he said with a barely withheld sneer.
“Since you will not contact the doctor, you are, as they say, stuck with me.”
“You shouldn’t have to do that,” Jim said softly. “She shouldn’t have bothered you.”
Spock made a noise that sounded rather like a sigh. But Spock didn’t sigh. Did he? “Caring for you is not a bother. If you are nothing else, Jim, you are my friend.”
“Yeah.” Jim nodded.
For a long time, Spock stared at him, those rich dark eyes so unreadable, as always, Jim couldn’t even begin to guess what the Vulcan was thinking.
“I read the report,” Spock said eventually. His tone was soft, gentle, but without much inflection.
Jim looked away and took a bite of the toast. “Oh.”
“Your…injuries were severe.”
He simply nodded and took another bite.
“Dr. M’Benga noted that you had memory loss when you woke in the hospital.”
This time Jim didn’t respond at all.
“You have started to remember details of your attack, though, have you not?”
“They will pay for what they have done, Jim.”
“The courts, yeah.”
Spock said nothing to that. “You never have to speak about it if you do not wish to.”
“But I could meld—”
“No,” Jim said sharply, turning his gaze back to Spock. “That’s not happening.”
“I don’t want to relive all that. And I certainly don’t need you-you seeing it.”
Spock nodded slowly.
“What’s changed?” Jim suddenly had to ask.
“You left here, you left me, without a backwards glance. You were determined to go to New Vulcan. To live, to die, to do whatever, I don’t know. That last night you told me even then that our being together wouldn’t change your plans and that you would still go to New Vulcan. And you did. So why the hell are you here, Spock? It can’t be because I was raped and nearly beaten to death. Because God knows that’s happened before and you weren’t there. No one cared then. Why do you care now? I don’t get you, Spock. You don’t want to be with me, obviously, so what are you doing here?”
“I came to help you,” Spock said simply. “I care very much about you.”
Jim narrowed his gaze. “I don’t need your help. I don’t need anyone’s help.”
“Do you know how many times I’ve been told that someone loved me? More times than I can count. And it was bullshit. Lies. They all left anyway. Just like you left. Everyone leaves. And life goes on. I’ve been beaten, I’ve been raped, tortured, phasered, radiated, I’ve been fucking dead, and I’ve survived it all. You will not be the one thing I cannot survive.”
Jim put down the teacup and the plate and struggled up from the chair, the throw still wrapped protectively around him. He stalked off to his bedroom and slammed the door behind him. He dropped to the floor and rested against the closed door, willing away the tears and the renewed pain from his injuries.
“Fuck,” he groaned. He inhaled, exhaled, inhaled, exhaled. The physical pain finally lessened. But the emotional pain lingered until his eyes pricked and burned with the tears he wouldn’t let himself shed.
Chapter 8: Call My Name and I'll Come Running
Warning: Rape related angst
For longer than he cared to analyze, Spock stood helplessly inside the kitchen of Jim’s apartment.
He had no idea what he was supposed to do in this situation. No idea what to offer Jim that would help in any way.
When Nyota had contacted him she had berated him for leaving Jim behind and going to New Vulcan. Obviously when he had chosen to leave Earth, to devote his energies to rebuilding the Vulcan race now that his obligations to Starfleet had ceased, it had never been his intention to leave a vulnerable Jim. Jim himself had never given Spock any indication he was vulnerable. Perhaps he was not. Spock was uncertain since Jim was sometimes a master at hiding what went on underneath the surface. But surely no one could have anticipated this.
Spock blinked, coming out of his helpless stupor. He went to Jim’s bedroom door and attempted to gain access. The door did not move easily, though it was not locked, and Spock realized that Jim himself was against the door, preventing his entry.
There was no immediate response though Spock could hear Jim’s labored breathing, which greatly alarmed Spock.
“Jim? Move away from the door so that I may enter.”
Spock, in his years of acquaintance with Jim, knew it required a lot of patience to deal with him. Something Spock, fortunately, had in abundance.
“Jim, move away from the door.” He made it an order, his voice authoritative, and he knew instinctively Jim would respond to it.
A moment later, he was able to push the door open with ease and enter the bedroom.
Jim stood far away from the door now, his arms wrapped protectively around himself. His gaze skittered around the room before finally landing on Spock.
“Are you in pain?” Spock asked softly.
“I can handle it.”
“Then you are in pain.”
“Some. But like I said, I can handle it. I come from a family who has trouble with addiction. I’m not going down that route.”
“It is unwise to ignore the signals of your body. Dr. M’Benga would not have prescribed you pain medication if he did not consider it necessary.”
Jim shook his head, stubborn to the last. “I’m going to take a shower.”
“I will assist you.”
“In the removal of your clothes,” Spock said patiently.
“I don’t need assistance and you’re not my nurse.”
“For the time being I actually am.” Spock approached him.
Jim turned away and stepped into the bathroom, his gait slow.
“I do not understand why you will not allow my assistance. You are my friend. I do not wish you to cause yourself harm.”
“It’s not…” Jim licked his lips. “Okay.”
Spock stepped close. “Lift up your arms.” Jim was staring into his eyes, which made Spock’s heart beat faster in his side. Those eyes were so expressive, always, and just then they held years’ worth of torment that Spock couldn’t even imagine.
Spock pulled up the hem of Jim’s shirt and up over his arms and off Jim’s head. “I should have brought you a buttoned shirt instead of one to remove over your head.”
Spock went over to the shower and turned the water on. Then he went to work on Jim’s waistband.
“No.” Jim pushed at him.
“Don’t touch me there. Don’t. Don’t.”
Jim’s eyes were wide and he was backing up toward the sink.
“I only want to help you.”
“I can do it myself,” Jim said, lowering his gaze. “I-I feel their hands-their hands everywhere. Everywhere.” He licked his lips. “It’s-they’re scorched on my brain. Pawing at me.”
Spock’s heart twisted and he felt immense anger at those who hurt Jim. He was at a complete loss, however, what to do or say. How was he, a Vulcan, supposed to help an emotionally traumatized and distressed human?
He was left staring ineptly at Jim, which Spock knew was not helping. Spock was aware that humans often were comforted by embraces, both his mother and Nyota had attempted such with Spock on numerous occasions, and though his experience with Jim was that Jim was very tactile, Spock felt very strongly at that moment that an embrace would not be currently welcomed by Jim.
“And they put things-things inside me and I can't—”
“Jim, please, you do not have to.”
Jim nodded. His back was to Spock, facing the shower door. “I’m sorry.”
“You have nothing to apologize for.” His own voice came out strangled.
“Can you leave me alone? For now. I’ll come out when I’m done.”
“Very well. Call for me if you need anything.”
Spock did not want to leave but Jim had asked that he do so and he could not impose further on Jim’s pain.
Spock left the bathroom, closing the door after himself. He put his hand on the door, wanting to reach out to Jim, knowing it was illogical.
Once back in the living room, Spock took out his PADD to contact his father. It took only a few moments for Sarek to appear.
“How is James?”
Spock shook his head. “He is…not well.”
“Considering what it was he went through, I cannot say I am surprised. Perhaps where he is now is not the place for him to recover.”
“There is room here in my home should you wish to bring him to New Vulcan. None here would dare disturb him.”
“It is a consideration, though, Jim is supposed to be speaking with a psychiatrist. He is reluctant.”
“There are healers here who might assist him if he chooses that route.”
Spock nodded. “I will address it with him and his doctor when given the opportunity.”
“Live long and prosper, Spock.”
Spock returned the greeting and then waited for the image of his father to fade.
He made himself tea and waited, barely tasting it while he watched for Jim to reappear. If Jim did not remerge soon enough to suit Spock, he would check on him. He was mindful of the warnings Dr. M’Benga had given him.
But shortly after the door of Jim’s bedroom opened with a rather loud creak, and Jim stepped out of the room. His hair was wet and uncombed. He wore loose gray sweatpants and a buttoned down flannel shirt and somehow he looked to be about twelve years old.
“Hey,” Jim said softly.
“I’m sorry about that. In there. Falling apart like that.”
“Under the circumstances—”
“Yeah.” Jim’s gaze landed on Spock’s cup. “Tea?”
“Affirmative. Do you want some?”
“Yeah, but I’ll make it.” Jim walked to the kitchen.
“I will do it.” Spock took the kettle out of Jim’s hands.
“I’m not a damn invalid, Spock. I can make tea.”
“No one said you were. I wish to do this.”
“And I-I have to be normal, Spock. As much as I can be. Okay? Please? Don’t take normal away from me.”
Spock found that he was trembling as he allowed Jim to take the kettle back from him. “Very well.” He desperately needed meditation but could not, would not, leave Jim alone. That would be a mistake. Somehow Spock knew.
Jim went to the sink and filled the kettle, glancing at Spock, with a ghost of the smile Spock knew he was capable of. Spock’s heart throbbed, but there was little at present he could do.
He was a failure.
Chapter 9: Words Fall Through Me
Jim floated the tea bag he had in the mug of boiling water he’d just made. He was aware of Spock watching his every move and in his present mood it made his skin sort of crawl. He wasn’t repulsed by Spock. Far from it. And yet he couldn’t help feeling dirty, on edge.
He tried not to tense. “Yeah?”
“What do you think of the option of going to New Vulcan?”
Jim walked over to the trash bin and discarded his tea bag. Then he turned to Spock. “You can return there anytime. I won’t stop you from going wherever you want to go.”
Spock visibly stiffened. “I am aware of that. But I do not speak of only myself, but you as well.”
“Why would I go there?”
“Solitude. It would be a retreat.”
Jim shook his head. “M’Benga wants me to see some shrink.”
“There are Vulcan healers—”
“Oh, no way. No.”
“You think I’m going to let some crazed Vulcan healer in my head, probing around, touching-touching things. God, what the hell are you thinking?” Jim turned away and walked out of the kitchen. He sagged against the wall, the panic welling in him until he could barely breathe.
“Jim, I will not force…I will not make you do anything,” Spock spoke quietly from beside him. “If you do not desire to go to New Vulcan, then you will not.”
“I’m hungry,” Jim said, pushing away from the wall. He needed a change of subject. He knew it was abrupt. He didn't care.
“What do you wish for me to make?”
“I don’t know. Maybe we can go out?” This apartment was closing in on him, making him so antsy. He had an urge to scratch his skin everywhere.
“Where would you like to go?”
Nowhere, really. But he had to pick something. “There’s an Italian restaurant on the corner.” He paused. “Is that okay?”
“I am amenable to wherever you want.”
Jim nodded, licked his lips. “Okay. Let’s do it.”
They left his apartment, Jim forcing himself to go first, though a part of him wanted to walk behind Spock, let him go head, check for danger. But it was stupid, because anyway, someone could come up from behind him, too.
The Italian restaurant was close. And that was probably a good thing because if had been much farther, Jim would have turned around and gone back.
As it was, as he walked in and asked to be seated, he couldn’t help thinking this had been a mistake. His stomach hurt, his pulse raced like he had been running.
“Jim, are you all right?” Spock asked in a quiet voice as they were seated at a table for two.
Jim picked up his menu and focused on it, instead of the chatter around him, which sounded loud and abrasive. “Uh-huh. Let’s just order.”
He tried to hide his dismay when the waitress who walked up to them was a Tellarite. Jim knew there was evil in all species. Probably Humans more than most. “Spaghetti and meatballs,” he whispered.
“Spaghetti and meatballs,” he said even more softly.
“You’re going to have to speak up, honey. It’s loud in here. I can’t hear you.”
“He would like spaghetti and meatballs,” Spock spoke up. “I will have the pasta primavera. And two to-go boxes, please.”
Jim closed his fist around the glass of water he’d been brought as the waitress moved off. “Thank you.”
“Perhaps I should have placed orders and picked them up?”
“I don’t know,” Jim admitted. “I’m-I’m still trying. You know.”
“To be normal?” Spock guessed.
“Yeah.” He huffed out a laugh. “Not sure I’m succeeding.”
“I will not let anything happen to you.”
Jim swallowed, shook his head. “I don’t need a protector.”
Spock seemed to hesitate. “I know you do not. That does not mean I do not wish to act as one.”
“What happened can’t be undone,” Jim said quietly.
“I suppose that is true. But I—”
There was a loud crash from nearby, like breaking dishes. Jim just about jumped out of his skin and half rose from his chair.
Spock very gently pushed him back down. “Someone dropped something.”
“Yeah. God. I’m so jumpy. It’s ridiculous. I’m scared of every noise and shadow around me.”
“Jim, under the circumstances it is understandable.”
The waitress arrived with their food then and after she set it down, Spock handed her the credits to pay for it.
“I could have gotten that,” Jim protested.
“It is a small matter,” Spock assured him. “It is my suggestion we take it to go and return to your apartment where you will be more comfortable.”
Jim’s gaze roamed around the crowded restaurant. Everyone was laughing and talking, having a good time. And he—
His tongue traced his lips. “Yeah, I agree.”
Spock took care of packing both of their dinners, which Jim knew he shouldn’t be sitting there like a bump making Spock do all the work, but he couldn’t even make himself do something. What was wrong with him?
Spock got a bag to carry their dinner in and they headed back to Jim’s apartment.
After they got inside, Spock made himself busy finding plates for their food while Jim watched. He started to tremble and it was noticeable enough that Spock stopped what he was doing and turned to stare.
“Am I a victim?” Jim asked.
“Am I? Do I have it carved on my forehead or something? Spock, do I?”
“I do not understand.”
“Why does this keep happening to me?” Jim demanded. “How come it’s always me? What-what do I do wrong?” His eyes stung with tears now he desperately wanted to stop.
Spock had given up what he was doing and came to him. He reached out to take hold of Jim, but Jim backed up.
“No, I…I can’t.”
“I will not attempt to touch you,” Spock said with aching gentleness. “You are not a victim, Jim. You have been victimized but that is not the same thing. I have no answer for why it happens to you, but I can assure you that you do nothing to cause it nor do you deserve it. Nor have you ever deserved it.”
Jim bit his lip, nodded. “It feels like I do.”
Very slowly, Jim reached out his hand toward Spock. He held his breath and waited but Spock grasped Jim’s hand with his without hesitation.
Jim blew out a breath. This he could handle. This touch was all right. And it was Spock.
“Shall we eat?”
“Okay.” Jim let himself be drawn to the table when Spock did not release his hand and then he sat where Spock had placed his spaghetti and meatballs, with two slices of garlic bread. “This is a lot of food.”
“Thanks. You know. For-for what you said.”
“I do not require thanks.” Spock twisted his fork around the pasta primavera. “I would ask that you consider New Vulcan as an option for the future, at least. It would be…peaceful. And I would not allow the healers near you if you did not agree.”
Jim cut off a slice of meatball, put it in his mouth and chewed. “It’s good,” he said, after he had swallowed it. “I’ll think about it. For the future. No guarantees.”
Spock nodded. “As you wish. The offer is an open one.”
He smiled a little. Or he thought it was a smile. The best he was capable of at the moment. They ate quietly after that, and though Jim’s stomach was still twisted in knots, he managed to eat all of it except one slice of garlic bread.
Chapter 10: And Always Fool Me And I Can't React
“So, um, the couch makes out into a bed,” Jim told Spock, holding sheets and blankets in his arms. “And there’s extra pillows.”
Spock nodded. He was not especially pleased to be banished to the couch bed but neither had he exactly expected to be welcome to sleep next to Jim. The one and only time they had laid side by side in bed together had also been the occasion when they’d had sex before Spock left for New Vulcan. It had been a comforting experience for Spock in ways he had not expected. When he’d left in the morning he had refused to give it a second thought. They’d both been clear that their intentions had been for their night together to be the only time.
If perhaps now Spock questioned the wisdom—no the rightness—of that, it could not be helped. His actions had led to this. While Spock was aware logically both of their actions led them here, he could not prevent himself from assigning a larger part of the blame to himself.
He watched as Jim fussed with making up the couch bed for him, pulling the sheets on over the not so comfortable looking mattress. Spock could have seen to the task himself but he suspected allowing Jim to do so was part of the whole ‘letting Jim be normal’.
Jim placed one blanket, a beige one, over the top sheet and then fluffed out the two pillows he placed at the top of the bed. He laid a folded green blanket on the bed. He straightened and turned to look at Spock with a slight smile, seeking, Spock suspected, his approval.
“It looks fine, Jim,” Spock said. “It will suit my needs.”
Jim’s smile widened until it looked like the first genuine smile he had gotten out of Jim since he’d accompanied Jim from the hospital. “So, are you going right to bed or are you going to meditate or…”
“I had no particular thought to what I would do next. Was there something you wished to do?”
“Chess maybe? I have a set. Just, you know, if you want to.”
“That is agreeable.”
“Yeah? Okay. Let me get the set. You can make tea or whatever if you want.”
“Would you care for some?” Spock asked, entering the kitchen as Jim moved off toward his bedroom.
Spock was unused to a skittish Jim. His experience had been that Jim showed an overall cockiness and sureness. While Spock had been aware of some aspects of Jim’s past and therefore believed much of Jim’s bravado was to mask a deeper pain, he had accepted the behavior without question or trying to pry further into Jim’s life. Perhaps that had been a mistake.
Jim returned with an ordinary chess set. “Nothing fancy. I actually got this years ago at a sort of flea market. It’s pretty old I think.”
“I am certain we can make do.”
Spock allowed Jim to set up the chess set at the dining room table while he prepared their tea. Then he brought the cups over and placed Jim's at the seat he appeared to prefer. Spock had found that Humans thrived on familiarity and habit.
“It’s been a while,” Jim said quietly. “I forgot who should go first.”
“It has indeed been a while,” Spock agreed. “It is your turn.”
Jim nodded and moved his pawn. “Sorry about that, by the way.”
“About it being a while. I know I was the one who stopped our games on the Enterprise.”
Since it was true Spock did not comment. Jim had stopped inviting him to play chess six months before the end of their five year mission. He had never explained why he no longer wanted to play and after a few times Jim had refused his own invitations, Spock had stopped asking as well.
What he had been aware of was that the time he had been spending with Jim then went to Dr. McCoy. Yes, Spock had been very aware of that. And though Spock found jealousy illogical, he could not deny he felt some small amount of resentment at the close friendship McCoy had with Jim.
Spock made his move. “May I make a query?”
Jim’s gaze rose from the chessboard to Spock. “Sure.”
“You expressed disinterest in alerting Dr. McCoy to your recent…injuries.”
Jim’s lips, which Spock had always found fascinating, quirked up at the corners. “Is there a question there, Spock?”
“Is there more to it than simply wishing for the doctor to spend time with his daughter?”
“More to it?”
“I assume you did not have a disagreement with the doctor?”
“No,” Jim replied. “But I guess maybe there’s a little more to it than thinking Bones needs to spend time with Jo.”
“And what is that?”
Jim shrugged. “I really don’t need his fussing right now.”
Spock waited as Jim moved another piece. “You are uncomfortable with that behavior?”
“Not always. But right now? Yeah. I need…peace, sort of. As much as I can get that right now, and Bones would be all up in my face and he means well. I know. I need-I need more subtly right now than I think Bones is capable of.”
Spock would not wish to admit it but he had not wanted to contact the doctor either. He had not pushed Jim to do so out of pure selfishness on his own part. Right now he was allowed to spend time with Jim that McCoy was not and whether logical or not Spock was glad of it.
Dr. McCoy would not be happy with either of them, Spock knew. And had he been in the doctor’s place, Spock would be most displeased as well. But he would not go against Jim’s wishes. Had Jim wanted to contact McCoy, Spock would have done so without question, for Spock would always follow whatever it was Jim wanted. And if he allowed himself just a smidge of gladness that it was him here with Jim, Spock tried to suppress it.
“You think I’m wrong?” Jim asked, his gaze steady on Spock.
“I believe your assessment of Dr. McCoy is accurate,” Spock said carefully. “Therefore, if his presence would currently be troublesome, then I agree with your decision.”
Jim smiled, just the little upturn of the corners of his mouth smile, but Spock enjoyed all of his smiles.
Jim reached for his tea and took a sip. “Thanks. What is this anyway?”
Spock moved another piece, and then Jim, and for several moments they played in companionable silence.
“You know why I stopped playing chess?” Jim asked then, breaking Spock’s current concentration of what his next move would be.
“I do not.”
“I started—” Jim paused, licked his lips. “I was in too deep.”
Spock’s brows furrowed. “In too deep?”
“Spending so much time with you began to get difficult for me.”
His fingers stilled just as he reached for the piece he had chosen to move. “It made you uncomfortable?”
“Pretty much, yeah,” Jim said softly.
“I am unclear as to why. I had thought we were friends.”
Out came the tongue again. “That was the problem, Spock. Friends. We were friends. Are friends. And I-I wanted it to be more.”
Spock set the piece he had picked up down, though he did not notice where he had left it.
Jim’s gaze left Spock and went back to the board. He picked up his chess piece and moved it. “Checkmate.”
He didn’t even look at the game, for it hardly mattered at all. Jim had just-had just—
Jim nodded at him and stood. “Anyway, that’s why. I’m going to bed.”
Spock stared at his back as he walked toward his bedroom and closed the door behind him.
Chapter 11: Stars in My Black and Blue Sky
“I’m wondering what the great Captain Kirk looks like with my cock shoved up his ass.”
"What is that?”
“Just something I got an Orion. A shot of this and I doubt he’ll remember who he is let alone any of us. Hold him down. That’s it. Right there. Now, let’s get started.”
Jim woke gasping for air, his hand on his chest, lungs heaving, making it hurt to catch a breath. He disentangled himself from the sheets of his bed and stood. Sweat poured from him and he was pretty sure he was about to throw up every bit of his spaghetti dinner.
He leaned against the wall by his bathroom, eyes closed.
While in the hospital he’d been able to pretend it was just another injury, like any other he’d gotten numerous times during the Mission. He didn’t even remember what had happened at first. Obviously at least partly owing to whatever they had injected him with. Jim intended to check with M’Benga on that.
But now out of the hospital, faced with returning memories, Jim could no longer pretend he’d just been hit with a phaser from a Gorn or something. He’d been raped and brutally. Drugged, beaten, tortured. All because…what? He was Kirk. And when they finished with him, their intent had been to sell him off to Klingon slavers.
He should take a shower and wash the sweat off. But as he walked into his bathroom and stared at the shower all he could think about was that no amount of soap, water, or anything really would wash the filth off him. He was soiled goods and no one would ever want him again. Especially someone as good as Spock.
Jim should just make him leave, make him return to New Vulcan where he was free and safe from the wreck that was Jim. But as Jim hugged himself, suddenly almost unbearably cold, he could not make himself send Spock away.
He stepped out of the bathroom again, flicking off the light. There was no way he was going to get any more sleep tonight. Maybe not ever. But he was also so fucking cold. Jim never got cold. And yet he was freezing.
Biting his lip he left his bedroom and headed into the living room where the couch bed was. The room was shadowed in darkness but he could make out the outline of Spock’s bowl cut against the pillow. Jim approached and very carefully sat on the edge of the mattress, gazing down at Spock, or what he could see, until his eyes got used to the darkness.
Jim wondered if there was a way to get into the bed and under the covers without disturbing the Vulcan. He did seem to be in deep sleep. But should he? The last thing he’d said to Spock before he’d gone to bed was that he’d had feelings for Spock. Not in those exact words, but Spock understood, Jim knew he did.
The thing was after Spock and Uhura had broken up, Jim had waited for a time, first to let Spock deal with the loss of a relationship without the encumbrance of another, and then also in the hopes Spock would approach Jim about having feelings that amounted to more than just friendship. But that had never happened and Jim got to the point where he decided Spock just didn’t feel that way about him. It wasn’t that surprising. Jim had spoken to Uhura who had explained that Spock couldn’t really seem to be what a human needed emotionally; Spock had come to that conclusion himself with her, which was why it had ended with them. So Jim figured Spock just couldn’t give Jim what he wanted and needed either.
But with the end of his relationship with Uhura, Spock spent more and more time with Jim, and Jim fell so deeply in love with Spock that he could barely function, at least in private, which was why Jim had pulled back on their chess games and other private interaction. He suspected at the time he hurt Spock by pulling away, but Jim had done so for his own sanity.
And it had worked too. By the end of the Mission, they were friendly, but hardly the best of friends anymore. Jim had been stupid enough to suggest the goodbye sex, and Spock had inexplicably agreed to the idiocy. Spock had left like he’d planned, and that was the end of that.
Only it wasn’t. Because here Spock was. Here Jim was, open and bleeding. He hated that Spock felt obligated by friendship, whether their own or the one Spock’s counterpart had alluded to all those years ago, Jim wasn’t sure.
And now with everything that happened to him, all that holding back, trying to give Spock space, it all seemed pointless. Much of the past few years seemed pointless. Jim didn’t expect to feel that way always. He’d survived a lot. But now he couldn’t shake this sense of hopelessness that had descended on him.
Jim slid the edge of the sheets and blankets between his thumb and forefinger, easing them back. Did he dare?
As though he read Jim’s mind, and God it seemed like Spock could sometimes, Spock’s eyes opened. He stared at Jim for several heartbeats before saying in a sleepy voice, “Jim?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you. It’s just-it’s a little cold and I—”
Spock pulled back the covers in invitation.
Jim felt a sort of dizzying relief as he slipped under the covers.
“Come closer,” Spock said softly.
Jim scooted closer and Spock hooked an arm around Jim’s shoulder and drew him up against Spock. He felt the annoying prick of tears. “Thanks.”
“You do feel cold.”
“Yeah. I’m kind of freezing. It’s stupid.”
Spock reached over and tucked the covers in tightly around Jim, before settling down and drawing Jim back close to him. “Is that better?”
“Yeah,” he said, thoroughly embarrassed by the sound of tears in his voice.
“Do not cry,” Spock whispered.
“I’m not,” Jim denied, wiping his eyes.
“Perhaps in the future we should plan to share a bed to conserve body heat.”
Jim nodded against him.
“Did you have a nightmare?”
“Sort of. I think it was a memory.”
“I am sorry, ashaya. I wish that you could be spared the return of your memories.”
“Me too.” Jim rested his hand under the covers on Spock’s stomach. “What is that word? Your counterpart used it once when speaking to me a long time ago.”
“Did he?” Spock’s hand came up to rest of the crown of Jim’s head. “Sleep, Jim. Nothing will disturb you.”
Jim yawned. “I am kind of tired.”
Spock continued to massage Jim’s head as felt wonderfully warm and drifted off to sleep.
Chapter 12: What Have I Become My Sweetest Friend
When Spock woke he was surprised to find the place next to him in bed empty. He was further surprised to smell waffles cooking. He sat up.
Spock glanced toward the kitchen from the couch bed and sure enough Jim was standing in the kitchen in front of what appeared to be a waffle iron.
“Good morning,” Jim said softly. “I have your tea brewing. Should be ready in a sec.”
Jim appeared to have already showered and in his hand he held a mug of coffee.
“How long have you been up?”
Jim shrugged. “An hour, I think.”
Spock got out of the bed and folded it up to return it to its couch form. “I will be back.”
Jim smiled. “Take your time.”
Spock gathered his things and headed for the bathroom. He showered quickly, allowing himself a short time to enjoy a water shower, and then dressed in dark brown slacks and a sweater.
When he returned to the kitchen, Jim was just putting waffles and fruit on plates.
“You did not have to go to all that trouble.”
“Nah, it was nothing. I thought about going out, but, uh, we have all this food.” He didn’t quite meet Spock’s gaze. He turned and scooped up a teapot and a cup and set it on the dining room table next to a plate of waffles and fruit.
“It smells and looks good,” Spock said politely as he sat down. “What is your plan for today?”
Jim cut into his waffle. “I guess I have an appointment with the shrink M’Benga wants me to see. Office is at the hospital. So after breakfast, I guess that’s where I’m going.”
“You sound uncertain.”
Jim’s gaze rose to meet Spock’s. “I’ve talked to psychiatrists on and off most of my life. Frank, Tarsus, psych evals Starfleet made me do. I know the drill and I know what they’re going to say. This isn’t the first time I’ve had trauma.”
“I am aware.”
“Or even the first time I’ve been sexually assaulted.” Jim sighed. “Raped. Somehow that sounds so much more brutal than sexual assault.”
Spock was not sure what to say about that.
“They made me go through tests and doctors after I was revived too. I dunno. I guess they decided dying warranted a psych eval. I can’t say a single one of them made me feel any better.”
Jim shook his head. “Mom had me talk to one after Frank’s abuse. She mostly wanted to give me drugs. Thought they would cure all that ailed me. Mom pulled me out of that pretty fast. Then Tarsus. No amount of some shrink talking to you is going to erase memories of everyone you know around you going hungry. Being killed so someone richer or more worthy could live.”
“Perhaps this one will be different,” Spock suggested quietly.
“Maybe. I don’t have a lot of hope for that though.” Jim took a large swallow of coffee. “I’ve managed to get through all the crap myself. I’m sure this won’t be any different.” He set his coffee mug down, now empty. “Spock, about last night.”
“I did not mind sharing the bed with you. I meant what I said that perhaps we should continue to share. Neither of us will be cold and I believe it might help with your nightmares.”
Jim licked his lips and nodded. “Okay. But I meant what happened earlier. When I told you…listen, can we just forget about it? I was, um, kind of emotional last night, saying stuff I really shouldn’t have. I think it was going out to the restaurant or whatever. Too soon. So. If you could just forget.”
Spock could tell Jim was getting agitated and though he could hardly forget that Jim had confessed deeper feelings for him, for the moment he would agree, for he suspected now was not the time to address their long-term future.
“Very well, Jim.”
Jim smiled. “Yeah? Thanks. I appreciate it.”
“I will accompany you to the hospital when you go for your appointment.”
He watched as Jim exhaled slowly. “Thanks.”
“You are welcome, Jim.”
“I don’t think I should go,” Nyota told Spock as she sat with him in the hospital cafeteria having tea. “The Reliant doesn’t really need me. Jim does.”
“I am uncertain he will accept much help,” Spock admitted. “He is as stubborn as ever. He still refuses to contact Dr. McCoy.”
“Do you think we should reach out to Leonard anyway?”
Spock shook his head. “Negative. He explained his reasons for not wanting to involve the doctor at this point and I respect his decision, while believing McCoy might be better for the captain than he realizes.”
“If you’re sure.”
“I am.” Spock hesitated. “I fear some is my own selfishness.”
Nyota raised a brow. “You? Selfish?”
“I wish to be the one Jim relies on. If the doctor were here, I would be pushed aside.”
“Oh, Spock, I don’t know about that.”
Spock stared into his tea. “It has happened before.”
“Jim’s feelings for you are different than they are for Leonard. He cares about you both, but in different ways.”
“Perhaps, but I fear I come up short. I am aware I am not very good at offering emotional comfort to Humans.” Spock shook his head. “I have watched the reactions I get from Humans when they feel I am being callous. You yourself, Nyota.”
She winced. “Spock—”
“You have accused me of being insensitive.”
“When we were fighting.”
“Humans often say things they actually believe during disagreements.”
“Well, yes, but—”
“I do not want to make anything worse for him,” Spock said quietly.
“Oh, Spock, you won’t. He wants you here.”
“He did not contact me,” Spock reminded her. “You did.”
“As you’ve pointed out, he’s very stubborn. And does not do well when it concerns his own welfare. Over the years we’ve both noticed that.”
Spock felt a sudden prickling of awareness and he lifted his gaze to see that Jim had entered the cafeteria and was headed their way. Nyota turned to see what Spock was staring at and she immediately stood to embrace their captain. He would be their captain, always.
Jim held himself very rigid as Nyota hugged him, like he was made of stone, and though he smiled and patted her back, Spock knew that she had noticed too.
“I was just keeping Spock company during your appointment,” she said.
“It’s good to see you,” Jim replied. “When do you leave on the Reliant?”
“I’m not going.”
“I’m not,” she insisted. “And you can’t make me.”
“I told you before. I don’t want you jeopardizing your career.”
“It’s not, I promise.” She tucked Jim’s lengthening hair behind his ear. “Please? I want to be here for you if you need me. You’ve been there for me so many times.”
Jim nodded but it was with obvious reluctance.
Nyota smiled. “I have to go now. But I’ll contact you in a couple of days, okay? I’d love to have dinner.”
She leaned down to kiss Spock’s cheek and then she hurried off. Jim watched her go.
Spock stood. “You are unwell.”
“I’m fine,” Jim insisted. “But can we get the hell out of here? I can’t breathe.” Jim took a step and stumbled and Spock reached for him, holding his arm. Jim blinked. Breathed out. “Sorry.”
“The talk with the doctor did not go well?”
“It went okay. I guess. I’m going back. Again. So. Can we go?”
Spock agreed but this time he kept his hand on Jim’s arm as they made their way out of the cafeteria and then the hospital. Though he was not directly touching Jim’s skin, he could still sense Jim’s full-blown anxiety.
“We need a few groceries. We should stop,” Jim said, looking unhappy about it.
“I will take you home and then you can give me a list and I will fetch them.”
“Okay. Yeah. Thanks.”
Spock was glad for the smile, but concerned for Jim’s avoidance of public places. He got Jim home to the apartment as quickly as he could and saw that once they were inside, Jim visibly relaxed. He got the list from Jim, settled him in a chair with a PADD to occupy him and then went out for the groceries.
Chapter 13: Welcome to My World of Truth
Jim‘s heart rate suddenly pounded hard in his chest as he saw the incoming transmission from Bones. Spock had still not returned from the store and he wasn’t sure if he could handle Bones screaming at him for not notifying him. He clenched the side of the chair he sat in. Finally he accepted the transmission.
“Bones.” He tried to force a smile, but he didn’t think he could manage it. He was trying to figure out who had spilled the beans. “What’s up?”
“Nothing’s up, Jimbo. You’re my best friend and I haven’t talked to you in a while. Thought I’d check in.”
Jim felt as though he was an air-filled balloon and someone just pricked him and let all the air out. He felt a bit lightheaded. “Oh. Good. I was thinking about contacting you to check on how things were going with your visit with Joanna.”
Bones grinned. It was nice to see. “Great. She’s a peach.”
“A Georgia peach?” Jim teased.
“Of course, of course. I just want to eat her up.”
“I’m really glad you’re having a nice visit.”
“I want to thank you, Jim.”
“For encouraging this. Practically forcing me. I was reluctant to go, honestly,” Bones admitted. “Well, you know that. But now that I’m here. Actually, I think I’m going to stay even longer than I’d originally thought.”
“Sure am. Thought I’d be back to San Francisco in about a week or so from now, but I’m thinking to take another two weeks.”
“So three more weeks total,” Jim said slowly.
Bones’ smile slipped a bit. “Is that okay?”
Jim forced a laugh. “Okay? Bones, you don’t answer to me.”
“Well…I sorta do. But nothing’s going on there?”
“Nothing special, no.”
Bones snorted. “You must be bored out of your mind. You hate it when nothing’s going on.”
“Yeah, pretty much,” Jim replied. He heard footsteps approach his door. The last thing he needed was Bones knowing Spock was there. There’d be way too many questions. He leaped up out of his chair. “Listen. I have a visitor at my door, so I’m going to have to cut this short.”
“A visitor? Who?”
“You know me. Always got someone. I hate to be alone.” Spock’s keycard scanned and the door handle twisted. “Give my love to Joanna, Bones.”
“Why are you yelling?”
“Oh, I’m always loud. Loud and boisterous. See you, Bones.” He ended the transmission. A moment later Spock appeared in the door way his arms full of groceries. Jim rubbed his hand over his hair. “Hi.”
“Let me help you with those.” Jim tossed his PADD onto the chair.
“There is no need.” Spock carried them into the kitchen. “You corresponded with Dr. McCoy?”
“Uh-huh. He didn’t know.”
“And you did not inform him?”
“No. It-it was just a casual conversation. Basically he’s having a great time and is going to stay there for a few more weeks.”
Jim licked his lips as Spock reached into the bags to remove the food. “You think I should have?”
He went to the bag nearest him and pulled out the package of Cheetos. “Oh, you got Cheetos.”
“Fried cheese stick product was on your list.”
“I know. I’m just surprised you actually got them.”
“I bought all that you had on the list. I will confess after surveying the package of those I am uncertain as to what nutritional benefit there is to them.”
“There is none, that’s kind of the point.”
Spock shook his head in the manner he did when he thought humans were illogical. Jim in particular, of course.
A moment later, Jim turned from putting them in the cabinet to find Spock standing very close by, almost in his personal space. He was a little startled but not alarmed, which Jim guessed was a victory.
“You know you can tell me anything,” Spock said, his voice whisper soft. “Share anything with me. Anything you say is safe with me. You are safe with me.”
Jim nodded, swallowing heavily, his tongue coming out to trace over his lips. “I know. I do. That’s why-that’s why I’m glad you’re here, even if I wouldn’t have contacted you.”
“Because of the deeper emotions you feel for me.”
His stomach turned over. “Thought we weren’t going to talk about that.”
Spock’s hand rose slowly so that Jim could map its every movement before it cupped his right cheek. “And if I return those deeper emotions?”
Jim dared not hope. Hope had a way of killing every last thing inside of you. “Do you?”
“I feel your surface emotions,” Spock said instead. “Through the contact of our skin. You are afraid but not of me.”
Jim smiled just a little. “I know.”
Spock’s fingers flattened out on Jim’s cheek and spread out. It wasn’t exactly a meld, not like he’d had before, but—
Suddenly he could feel Spock’s concern, regret, and deep affection.
Eyes wide, Jim stared at him. “How did you—”
“I projected through our skin contact. You feel fear and also…shame.”
He lowered his gaze. “Yes.”
“You have nothing to be ashamed of, ashayam.”
“Don’t I? I’m the one who went there that night. I’m never careful. You’ve said so yourself so many times.”
“You are in no way responsible for their actions against you. Surely the doctor you saw today advised you that.”
Jim shook his head, wincing a little. “We really didn’t get that far.”
The eyebrow went up just a little. “How far did you get?”
Spock’s hand dropped from his face. “Jim?”
“I-I just sat there, saying nothing.”
“I couldn’t, Spock. I just couldn’t. Every time my mouth opened to say something, my brain said shut it. She tried a few times, to get me to talk, but I just…sat there. Until the time was up. I said I’d go back, but I don’t know. Is there a point?” He closed his eyes. “I hate this. Talking about it doesn’t make it go away. It doesn’t.”
He felt Spock’s arms come around him and pull him close and somehow having Spock hold him wasn’t so bad. It was acceptable when he could barely stand anyone’s touch now. He buried his face in Spock’s neck and Spock murmured soft Vulcan words Jim didn’t even understand. He didn’t need to, they somehow soothed him anyway.
Chapter 14: You Say You're Tired and You Just Want to Close Your Eyes
A bit of fluff for these two, I think they deserve it
“How is James?” Father asked as Spock communicated with him from within Jim’s bedroom.
Spock hesitated because he did not wish to admit he was a bit discouraged. “He remains much the same,” he finally said carefully.
“He still does not wish to come to New Vulcan?”
“I have not broached the subject with him since his initial rejection of the idea,” Spock admitted. “His frame of mind is not suitable presently for such a conversation.”
Father nodded. “So you will be remaining in San Francisco.”
“Yes. It is my intention for Jim to become my mate.”
Father’s eyebrow went up. “I see.”
“You are surprised?”
“Negative. It is logical given how things are between you. It was a moment of surprise only. He is agreeable?”
“I have not asked as of yet, but I believe once I have spoken to him, he will be agreeable. He has expressed an interest in me.”
He saw an odd shift in his father’s expression. But it was clear that his father was reluctant to voice whatever bothered him.
“I would ask you to voice any objections to my bonding with Jim. You have said you thought it was logical.”
“And ordinarily I would still say so, but the circumstances are not what they would have been had your captain not been assaulted.”
Spock frowned slightly. “Speak plainly, Sa-mekh.”
“I am endeavoring to do so. It is delicate.” Father steepled the fingers of his hands together. “Jim’s assault was brutal. Both emotionally and physically traumatizing. He may not wish to ever allow physical intimacy between you again and if he does it might be of a limited nature.”
“I can and will accept any limitations he places on me.”
“Quite admirable. And I would agree there are more important matters in a successful marriage and bonding than of a physical nature. But Pon Farr is, of course, a notable exception.”
“Your concern is that Jim, as my mate, will be unable to fulfill his part of Pon Farr when I experience it.”
“Indeed.” Father looked away. “Ordinarily I would not speak of this. But if Jim cannot or will not, you will die.”
“Better that I die then he come to harm,” Spock said softly. “I will not hurt him.”
“Yes. Which is why I express my concern at a bonding between you.”
“There is no other. I will, however, discuss it with him when I bring up bonding between us.”
“Where is James now?”
“In the living room area sitting in a chair, reading material and consuming greasy cheese flavored snacks.”
Father raised his brow. “Update me when you can.”
“Yes, Father. Live long and prosper.” Spock waited for his father’s expected response and disconnected the call.
Spock could appreciate his father’s concerns, but he would never force Jim to be intimate with him, even under the circumstances of Pon Farr. And he would never frighten Jim intentionally. But neither did he want another for a mate. He would experience Pon Farr with or without Jim. Or so he suspected he would. The truth was he had not yet experienced it and Spock wondered if being half-human would actually prevent it from happening altogether. It had already, seemingly, delayed it. Most Vulcans his age had already gone through one cycle.
He took a quick shower, which was why he’d gone into the bedroom in the first place, and then dressed in one of his favored Vulcan robes. When he opened the bedroom door, he saw Jim visibly jump.
“It is only I, ashaya.” Spock came around to stand in front of Jim’s chair.
He smiled. “I know. And there’s that word again. Ever going to tell me what it means?”
Spock pulled a chair from the dining room and brought it over close to Jim’s chair. He noted Jim’s fingers were stained orange, so before he sat down, he wet a cloth and brought it to Jim, who raised both eyebrows at him.
“I share your deeper feelings, Jim. Regrets are pointless and illogical, and yet I regret that neither of us had the courage to admit to our tender feelings. Had I told you, perhaps what happened would not have.”
“Hey.” Jim swallowed, shook his head. “Don’t do that.”
“I can hardly do otherwise.”
Jim wiped his fingers with the cloth, then set the PADD he’d been holding down on the table next to him where the bag of cheese flavored sticks lay. Then to Spock’s surprise, he rose from the chair and indicated Spock should sit there.
“Are you certain?” Spock asked.
Spock sat where Jim had been, and then held out his arms for Jim, who only hesitated a moment before placing himself across Spock’s lap. Spock wrapped his arms around him and held him close.
“Is this all right, Jim?”
“More than all right. So, you really, you love me?”
Jim’s voice had cracked just a little. Spock closed his eyes. “Yes, ashayam.”
“That’s an endearment, right?”
Spock nodded. “Yes. You are my beloved. My love.”
“I wish we’d both said something before.” Jim sighed leaned in closer still to Spock. “Not because-not because of what happened, but because we’ve wasted time we could have been doing this.”
“My emotional response to you filled me with shame,” Spock admitted.
“Because you have tried your whole life to be fully Vulcan.”
“Yes. I never told my mother I loved her. Everyone tells me she knew, but I am well aware humans prefer the words. With Nyota, it was also difficult to express affection to the extent she required. Ultimately it led to the dissolution of our romantic relationship.”
“And you think the same outcome could happen with us if you don’t act human enough to suit me,” Jim whispered. “Is that right, Spock?”
Spock swallowed heavily. “It is a concern.”
Jim covered Spock’s hand with his. “I know you are Vulcan. I don’t want you to ever be uncomfortable with who and what you are. I wouldn’t change you.”
“No. Really, Spock. I fell in love with you. No one else.”
“But do you not want the expression of those feelings to be frequent?’ He was surprised when Jim laughed.
“I don’t know, Spock. You seem to be doing just fine. Are you uncomfortable?”
“No and yes,” Spock admitted. “It is a constant struggle.”
“That I totally get. It’s a struggle for me, too. Now more than ever.”
Spock put his hand on Jim’s face, then moved it up to his temple, massaging very gently. “You have a headache.”
“A little one, yeah.” Jim sighed softly. “What is it you want, Spock? More than anything else?”
“I wish to remain by your side.”
“That’s a pretty simple desire.”
“There is nothing simple about you, my James. But that is what I want more than anything that remains. To never leave your side.”
Jim let out a shuddery breath.
“You have been lonely too long.”
Jim clung to Spock’s hand. “We both have.”
“Yes,” Spock agreed. “But no more.”
Chapter 15: Full of Broken Thoughts I Cannot Repair
“Do you wish for me to go in with you?”
Jim stood outside the door of the psychiatrist’s office. Somewhere he’d been aware he had been staring at the closed door for some time but Spock’s quiet question broke him out of contemplation.
“Are you certain?” Spock’s hand moved to his elbow. “Perhaps my being there will make you more comfortable?”
He shook his head. He knew Spock wouldn’t understand this. “If I—I don’t want you to have to hear. It’s…you shouldn’t have to.”
He met Spock’s gaze. “I appreciate your coming with me.”
Spock nodded slowly. “Very well. I will be right out here should you need me.”
“Okay.” Spock squeezed his elbow and he knew it was a sort of signal that he could or should go in now. But he couldn’t make himself move.
The door opened and the doctor herself appeared.
“Captain Kirk,” Spock corrected rather coolly.
“Of course. My apologies. Captain?” She gestured to her office and with a final glance at Spock, Jim stepped inside.
Dr. Beverly Carstairs was perhaps ten to fifteen years older than Jim himself. She had more gray in her hair than he did and a few more wrinkles but she was an attractive brunette.
“Have a seat, Captain. May I call you Jim?”
“Sure. Whatever.” He sat in a large lounge chair that leaned way back if you wanted it to so that you were lying down. He didn’t want it to.
“Jim. It’s nice to meet you. You can call me Beverly.”
She looked at a chart in her hands. “You didn’t like your last doctor.”
Her gaze rose to him. “May I ask why?”
“I don’t like any doctors.”
“Oh. I see. Well, Jim, your medical history is rather…traumatic.”
He swallowed and nodded.
“You were on Tarsus?”
“It says so, doesn’t it?” It used to be classified. Jim’s family had fought for it to be so and for a while it was. But Kodos came back around and all that changed.
“How do you—”
Jim held up his hand. “Please don’t ask me how I feel about it. I’m sure you can use your imagination. We aren’t talking about that.”
“It would seem based on your history you haven’t done a lot of talking about it. You have a lot of rage.” It was a statement, not a question, so Jim didn’t respond. She looked back down at his chart on her PADD. “You are single.”
Her gaze flew up in surprise. “You aren’t?”
“No. I’m—I currently have a relationship.” He licked his overly dry lips.
She made a notation with her finger. “With whom?”
“Ah.” She nodded. “Did you want him to be in here?”
“Are you currently sexually active with Commander Spock?”
A muscle in his jaw ticked. “No.”
Once more her eyes met his and he caught the sympathy in her green eyes. “Shall we talk about it?”
“What?” he asked stubbornly.
“The rape.” Her blunt words had him digging his fingernails into the palm of his hands.
“Talking about it doesn’t change anything.”
“It might. Jim, why don’t you tell me about before the rape? How you got to the bar in the first place.”
There was a slight upturn of her lips. “Why specifically did you go there?”
He shrugged. “I like bars. Or I did.”
“You don’t now?”
“This isn’t about me.”
Jim snorted. “God, you sound like every other fucking doctor I’ve ever had. Well, you know what, Beverly, you can’t snap your fingers and make everything all right. And talking about it? Making me tell you how they held me down and stuck their filthy appendages in me? It doesn’t help.”
“Why did you go to the bar that night, Jim?”
“Because I was lonely. I wanted to get drunk so I wouldn’t feel empty anymore.”
“How long have you felt empty?” she asked softly.
“All my life.”
“Where were your friends?”
“Gone. Everyone was gone. As usual.”
“Traveled to New Vulcan to get away from me.”
“I doubt that was the reason.”
“Yeah? Well, you don’t know shit, Beverly.”
She nodded. “Perhaps I don’t. Do you want to tell me?”
Beverly did smile then. “Bigger and meaner guys have said that to me before. You won’t intimidate me, Jim. Or push me away like you have your other doctors.”
Jim looked away. “Wanna bet?”
“I think we’ve had enough for today, though.” She made a notation in her PADD. “You’ll come back here Friday at the same time.”
“And if I don’t?”
“You know it’s a condition of you maintaining your rank with Starfleet, Jim. If you don’t meet with a doctor for at least the required six sessions, they’ll demote you.”
“I’ve been demoted before.”
“I saw on your records. Friday, Jim. I know you can do it.”
Spock was waiting just outside the door as though he hadn’t bothered to move when Jim was in there. He dark eyes searched Jim the moment he stepped out.
“I’m okay,” Jim said softly. He put his hands on Spock’s biceps. ”Have to go back on Friday.”
“I will accompany you.”
“Are you ready to return home?”
“Yeah, sure. Unless, you want to stop for lunch?” His stomach flipped at the idea. But Jim knew he had to get used to life again. Living in a crowded world.
“Yes, all right,” Spock replied.
Spock let him choose and he chose a very quiet, not very crowded diner just around the block from their apartment. And yes, Jim had begun to think of it as theirs, though truthfully he didn’t know what to expect from Spock, really. Spock had said he wanted to be by Jim’s side always and Jim was going to have to believe him. Eventually. Maybe.
Spock sat next to him in the booth instead of across and Jim was aware it was Spock’s way of offering him another layer of insolation from others. After they ordered—Jim chili and Spock a vegetable omelet—Jim stared out the dirty window and tried not to give into the tremors that threatened.
“We do not have to stay, ashaya. We can take it to go,” Spock said gently.
“No. I-I have to do this, Spock.”
“Very well.” Spock reached for Jim’s hand and grasped it. “How about we hold hands then?”
Jim arched his eyebrows at Spock. “Isn’t this unseemly on Vulcan?”
“We are on Earth where it is not.”
“Still, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
“Jim, holding your hand does not make me uncomfortable.”
“Okay.” Jim nodded, licked his dry lips. “Thanks.”
Spock scooted closer on the bench. “You may rest your head on my shoulder if you wish.”
For a moment Jim just stared at his Vulcan, but then he leaned closer and rested his head on Spock’s shoulder. Spock’s arms came around him and held him there.
“This is very intimate behavior for a Vulcan,” Jim murmured.
“You are my intended. It is acceptable.”
“I doubt that. Intended?”
Jim swallowed. The tremors were less. “This isn’t so bad.”
The door of the diner slammed open as a group of boisterous women entered. Jim jumped at the sound.
“It is all right, Jim,” Spock said soothingly.
“I’m sick of this. I hate being afraid. I was afraid as a kid of Frank. I was afraid on Tarsus. I’m not supposed to be afraid anymore.”
Spock leaned closer and kissed the top of Jim’s head. “We all have fears, Jim. We have to learn not to let them control us.”
“What do you fear?”
“Losing you,” Spock said quietly. “And being alone as my counterpart was. Living for years without you. And there is nothing I can do.”
Jim closed his eyes. “Spock.”
And he realized the tremors didn’t come just from him anymore.
Chapter 16: I Have Died Every Day Waiting for You
Spock carefully laid out pajamas for Jim to wear to bed. Ever since they’d come back from the diner, Jim had been quiet. He spoke when spoken to and did not cower but he did not introduce any topics of conversation.
He’d spent half an hour standing on the balcony of the apartment looking out over the city and for a time Spock left him to it, figuring he needed some time to himself. But as the time wore on for longer and longer, Spock had finally gone out to bring Jim back inside where it was much warmer.
“Do you wish to take a shower or a bath to warm up?"
Jim shook his head. “I don’t especially like baths. And I’m not in the mood for a shower.” He picked up the pajamas Spock had laid out for him. He started pulling off his shirt, then stopped abruptly. He made no move to continue.
“Jim? Is there anything wrong?”
“No. I just-I think I’ll get ready for bed in the bathroom, if that’s okay.”
Spock nodded. “Whatever you wish.”
Jim sort of smiled, then disappeared into the bathroom with his pajamas. Spock told himself there was nothing wrong with Jim’s modesty. It was true during their years of serving together Jim had never been particularly shy in exposing copious amounts of bare skin. Given recent events, it was natural for Jim to change.
Spock spent the time Jim was in the bathroom, removing his own clothes and putting on his sleeping robe. When Jim had still not come out, Spock put his hand on the outside of the door. Should he inquire if Jim needed help?
But he did not want Jim to think Spock thought him weak or incapable so he turned away and went to the side table where he had left a pot of tea with two cups.
He had just finished pouring the second cup when he heard a soft gasp followed by a sob. A sob that Spock was fairly certain Jim was trying to hold in so that Spock could not hear.
But he had heard it and there was no way Spock could or would ignore distress coming from Jim. It was not possible. He set the teapot down on the table and went to the bathroom door.
“I am coming in,” he announced. Since there was no immediate protest, Spock turned the handle.
Jim was sitting on the floor by the toilet, legs drawn up to his chest. He had dressed himself in the pajamas, pants and a buttoned down shirt with long sleeves, and they made him look achingly young and vulnerable. Crunched down on the cold tile floor as he was, eyes brimming with unshed tears, was completely unacceptable.
“Are you sick?”
Jim shook his head.
Spock blew out a breath. “May I request that if you are going to cry you do so upon me instead of the hard floor?”
Jim peered at him.
“Please?” Spock held out his hand for Jim to take.
For a long time, Jim only stared at Spock’s outstretched hand. Spock would not force him to accept it or anything from Spock. But he desperately wanted Jim to do so.
Jim placed his hand in Spock’s and allowed himself to be pulled up off the floor.
“May I hold you?” Spock asked quietly.
Jim nodded and went into Spock’s arms. He wrapped his arms tightly around Jim, holding him perhaps closer than he should.
“Is this all right?”
“Yes,” Jim whispered.
Spock led him out of the bathroom and then over to the bed where he lay Jim down and then himself next to him. “May I?” he asked again and pulled Jim close when he nodded his permission.
“Did you hurt yourself?”
“Will you tell me what has upset you?”
“I didn’t brush my teeth,” Jim whispered.
“What? That is what—”
Jim shook his head. “No. I just meant, I haven’t done that yet.”
Spock took that in. “Shall I assist you?”
Jim blinked rapidly. “In brushing my teeth?”
Spock nodded. “I would be pleased to do it for you.”
His…boyfriend…mate…t’hy’la…whatever he was to Spock…everything…huffed out a breath. “I haven’t needed that kind of help since I was a little kid.”
“Did your mother help you brush your teeth?”
Jim scrunched up his face. “She must have. I don’t remember that much about when I was super young. How about you, sweetheart? Did your mama help you?”
Spock nodded. “She did. Even Vulcan children need assistance when they are first starting out. As I recall though it was only a few times before I announced I could do it myself.”
Jim smiled just a little. His eyes were still red but the tears, at least, were gone. “You must have been a handful.”
“I can just hear you. ‘Mother, I do not need assistance bathing, I will do it the logical way’”.
“The logical way is the only way,” Spock replied, arching a brow.
“Of course.” Jim’s smile widened. “I wish…” Then his smile faded.
“What do you wish, t’hy’la?”
“I would have loved to have met her. Your mom.”
Spock swallowed the lump that had suddenly appeared in his throat. “She would have liked to have met you too.”
“Yeah? Think she would have maybe liked me?”
“She would have loved you,” Spock assured him. “Just as her son does.”
Jim closed his eyes and leaned into Spock.
“Will you tell me what upset you?” he asked softly, kissing Jim’s forehead.
“Sometimes I can’t stop thinking about it.”
“There are ways to help you to forget, if you so desire.”
Jim leaned back to look at Spock. “What do you mean?”
“Telepathic ways to block your memories.”
“Like with a Vulcan healer, you mean?”
Spock shook his head. “I can assist you in forgetting. If you want. I would never do so without your permission.”
Jim blew out a slow breath. “I don’t know about that. I mean part of me says, yes, take them away, but-but I lived that. It’s-it’s part of my life.”
“I understand, Jim. It is completely your decision.”
“I hate thinking about it. About them. If I hadn’t—”
Spock touched his fingers to Jim’s face, projecting calm and affection. “You are not to blame for anything that happened. You were attacked and raped by monsters of their kind and bear absolutely no blame in any of it.”
Jim nodded, stared at Spock. “Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever be normal again.” Then he shook his head and kissed Spock’s jaw. “If I ever was.”
“What is normal? It is subjective, is it not? Normal for you might be different than normal for someone else. You are you and that is all that matters to me.”
“I’m sorry I can’t keep it inside. I don’t mean to drag you into it with all my emotions,” Jim whispered.
“You do not need to apologize for feeling, t’hy’la. And I would rather you shared your distress with me so that I can attempt to assist you.”
“What is that?” Jim asked, his blue eyes impossibly dark and intense as they stared at Spock. He could drown in the blue. “You’ve used that word a couple of times now.”
“It is what you are to me.” Spock moved his fingers from Jim’s cheek up his face to his psi-points. “Can I show you?”
“Yes,” Jim breathed out.
He entered Jim’s mind as gently as he could, just a soft pressure.
Are you all right?
He took Jim’s hand and they walked together in the Vulcan desert.
Is this Vulcan?
It’s beautiful. I had no idea.
A moment of sorrow of the loss of his home and its people.
Spock drew Jim along, past pillars and arches to a very small pond of very blue water.
This is on Vulcan?
This is you, my oasis.
A very large butterfly passed by and almost landed on Jim, who merely laughed. It was a sound Spock had not heard for far too long.
They knelt beside the beautiful blue water. Spock put his hand in it and swirled it around. Jim watched Spock carefully and then put his hand down in the water too, reaching for Spock’s fingers, entwining his with Spock’s.
Spock’s hand dropped from Jim’s face and his eyes opened to find Jim staring at him with something like wonder on his face.
Jim smiled. “T’hy’la.” Then he kissed Spock softly and Spock pulled him very close, holding him until Jim fell asleep in his arms.
Chapter 17: I Will Not Let Anything Take Away What's Standing in Front of Me
Warning: There is nothing particularly graphic in this chapter, but it is rather angsty and could possibly trigger some.
The first time Spock became aware he was in love with James T. Kirk was when he stood inside Admiral Pike’s office while he reprimanded them for the Nibiru incident. Perhaps there had been other indications, but Spock knew for sure when he’d been reassigned to another ship that did not include Kirk.
He had been jealous of Carol Marcus the minute she forced her way aboard the Enterprise. She desired sexual congress with Kirk. Spock sensed it. And Spock also sensed that his captain would be quite willing.
After Kirk died, and before the Enterprise returned to space for its five-year-mission, Spock became aware that Kirk and Carol had that affair he had been dreading. She had joined the Enterprise in the beginning while still sleeping with the captain, but after only three months on board, Carol had requested a transfer and Kirk had approved it without comment.
Spock, who saw no real reason to end his own romantic relationship with Nyota, considering he did care for her, and could not have Kirk, had dared to inquire once about the ending of their affair and Dr. Marcus’ subsequent transfer.
“Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, Spock,” Kirk had said vaguely. He would not elaborate.
Later, Nyota had advised him that Dr. Marcus was pregnant and did not wish to raise a child in Starfleet. Kirk would not end his career to be with her, and so they had parted ways. Nyota had learned the information from Christine Chapel who had been friends with Dr. Marcus.
A few years passed where little changed for Spock. He still loved Jim. But he buried those romantic feelings deep within himself, content with the friendship they enjoyed. And as their mission ended, and before that his relationship with Nyota, Spock decided to resign his Starfleet commission and settle on New Vulcan to help with his species.
He had been startled by Jim’s request for sexual congress before they said goodbye but not unwilling. Spock was aware Jim cared for him, desired him, but he was also aware of deeper emotional turmoil within Jim that Spock was not certain he could handle. Spock had selfishly thought he did not want to immerse himself in all that was James Kirk, the uncertainty that would be their future together.
And so, though he agreed to their night of goodbye sex, Spock walked away intentionally.
Spock had been horribly wrong in his actions and it was something he deeply regretted to his very own katra.
Jim opened his eyes. He blinked rapidly, the tears leaking from his eyes as he did so. “I never knew.”
Spock kept his hand on Jim’s face even as they slipped out of the meld. “The fault is mine. I should have told you.”
“No,” Jim whispered. “I loved you too. And I kept it inside. I thought…well I just thought there was no way you would love me.”
“Then it was me who was remiss—”
“Spock, just…it doesn’t matter. We’re here now. Let’s make the best of that.”
Spock nodded. He stroked his thumb over Jim’s cheekbone.
Jim was staring at him now, rather intently. “Can I do something?”
Jim slid his hand down Spock’s body, slipping into Spock’s sleeping robe to close around Spock’s penis.
“Jim, I do not—”
“You said I could.”
“But-but I do not need this,” Spock tried to assure him even as he felt himself harden and grow thicker in Jim’s hand. Even as his hips seemed to move of their own accord.
Jim smiled a little. “I know you don’t need it. I want to. To-to show I can-I can still do things.”
“Jim,” Spock ground out hoarsely. “You do not need to prove anything to me.”
“Maybe not but I want to.” Jim’s fingers stroked him expertly, sliding down Spock’s shaft, his thumb flicking over the tip.
“Ashaya, please, I do not want you to have to do this,” Spock pleaded, even as his body betrayed him.
“No one is forcing me,” Jim replied fiercely.
Spock arched up into Jim’s hand, a groan coming from his lips. He could not resist the tremors wracking his body. Though part of him still tried to fight it, worried for Jim’s mental state, Spock felt his orgasm overcome his will and soon he was spurting all over Jim’s fingers and hand.
Spock silently screamed, his face buried in the mattress.
Then Jim was pulling him close, kissing his forehead, murmuring soft words in both English and his limited Vulcan. Spock’s heart swelled in his side with love for this human, his mate. He clung to Jim, hoping he would not scare Jim with his strength and intensity. But Jim merely sighed and fell asleep beside him.
“Your friend doesn’t need to be here,” Detective Morrison said when Jim let him into the apartment in the afternoon.
They’d had a leisurely breakfast after they’d risen from the bed and then a much lighter lunch. They knew the detective would be arriving and as the time approached, Jim began to become withdrawn.
“Yes he does,” Jim replied coolly.
Morrison shrugged. “All right. Understand, Captain, that I have to ask these questions as they relate to the alleged assault.”
Jim nodded stiffly, barely flinching over the word alleged.
“You’re single, right?”
Morrison looked up from his PADD. “You aren’t?”
“No. Spock is my husband.” Jim’s gaze flicked over to where Spock sat.
“Oh. I didn’t realize that.” Morrison looked to Spock. “What is the date of your marriage?”
“We were bonded in the Vulcan way,” Spock spoke up.
The detective made a face. “I see.”
“Look you xenophobic—”
“The Federation recognizes our bond as equivalent to human marriage,” Spock said quietly. “We are in the process of filing formal papers.”
“So, it’s a recent event then?” Morrison asked, making notes on his PADD.
“Yeah,” Jim said.
“Where were you, Commander Spock, when the alleged incident took place?”
“I was off planet at the time.”
“You weren’t with the captain when it took place then?”
Spock tried not to flinch or show any other emotion related to the detective’s somewhat accusatory tone. “I was not.”
“Stop asking Spock questions,” Jim interrupted. “He has nothing to do with this.”
“Apparently. Can anyone confirm your whereabouts at the time, Commander?”
Spock opened his mouth.
“Don’t answer that, Spock,” Jim said. “Detective Morrison, I already told you Spock has nothing to do with my rape. He wasn’t there. Now get on with it.”
“Very well, Captain. Why did you go to the bar that night?”
“To get drunk, of course.”
“So you admit your intention was to have your mental faculties altered by imbibing alcohol?”
Jim’s jaw muscle ticked. “People go to bars to drink.”
Morrison nodded. “Captain, you were seen flirting with the Andorian bartender that night. Would you say that was an accurate witness report?”
“I sometimes flirt.”
“Did you flirt with the Andorian bartender that night, Captain?”
Spock watched Jim clench his fists.
Morrison made further notes on his PADD. “Did you agree to a sexual assignation with the bartender that night? Did you agree to go down a private corridor that is not accessible to the general public with the Andorian in order to participate in sexual intercourse?”
Jim did not respond. He looked straight ahead, his jaw appearing to be so rigid it could have been made out of stone.
“I think—” Spock began.
“Captain?” Morrison prodded.
“Yes,” Jim said softly.
“Can you repeat your answer, Captain?”
“Yes,” he said louder. “I did.”
Morrison nodded again. “Isn’t it possible you agreed to participate in the alleged activities that night but later had a change of heart when confronted with the realities?”
“Are you sure? You didn’t agree and then found out their intention to abduct you and hand you over to—”
“No,” Jim said through gritted teeth. “No. I can say it a thousand fucking times if that’s what it takes for it to register for you.”
“These are just questions I’m required to ask, Captain. They’re part of the investigation,” Morrison said.
“Anything else?” Jim asked.
Morrison did not look up from his PADD but Spock noticed his cheeks were red. “Captain Kirk, isn’t it true that you are known to be promiscuous—”
“Get out.” Jim stood up, his whole body tight. His fists were at his sides and his skin was flushed red. Spock stood too.
“Get out of my damn apartment. Now.”
Morrison stood, glancing at Spock.
“I believe he has made himself quite clear,” Spock said. “I can show you the door if you are uncertain where it is.” He advanced toward the detective.
Morrison held up his hands. “No. I know. I’m going.” He headed for the door. Stopped as his hand grasped the knob. “I’m sorry.” Then he was gone.
The veins in Jim’s neck were standing out as he literally shook with rage.
“That fucking son of a bitch!”
“They’re-they’re going to get away with this.” Jim growled and punched the wall. “It’s such bullshit!”
“They will not.”
“You heard that asshole. He thinks I asked for this. He thinks—”
Spock went to him, put his hands on Jim’s arms, trying desperately to calm the fires building within. “It does not matter what Detective Morrison thinks. They will not get away with it, Ashaya. They will not.”
“I’m so angry.”
“I know.” Spock felt the rage through their link, felt the overwhelming pull of it. It threatened to drag him down into it, into the abyss of the fiery flames of Jim’s anger and despair.
“Not just at him. At them. At what they did.”
“I want them dead,” Jim said, his face a mask of hate and self-loathing. “I want to tear them apart.”
“I believe your feelings and your anger are normal and warranted,” Spock said, rubbing Jim’s arms even as he saw the tears appear in Jim’s eyes.
Jim swallowed heavily as his expression crumbled and his body began to lose the painful rigidness. “Why me?”
“I wish I had the answer to that, Jim. I do not.” Spock was able not to pull Jim close against him. Jim sagged into his arms, as he leaned into Spock, his face buried in Spock’s neck. He felt Jim’s tears against his neck. Felt his body wrack with tremors as his mate began to sob. And all Spock could do was hold him. It was not enough, but it was what he had.
Chapter 18: You are the Strength, That Keeps Me Walking
Beverly Carstairs seemed to be trying to outwait him this time. He’d been sitting there in silence for a good ten minutes into their session, but she hadn’t, so far anyway, prompted him to speak.
“You mentioned when you first walked in that you had a visitor from the police,” she spoke up at last.
“How’d it go?”
“Typical cop bullshit.”
Jim shrugged. “I must have been at fault for my own rape because I went to a bar to drink and possibly meet someone to have sex with. Because, you know, obviously that’s what I do. And I went with the bartender willingly, so obviously that was my fault too.”
“You sound upset.”
“What I am is angry, Beverly. I’m not so much angry for myself, because I’ve been viewed my whole life as a worthless piece of nothing. Why should that change now? I’m angry for all the others out there who’ve been assaulted and have to face crap like that in the name of so-called justice.”
Beverly nodded. “It is unfair. I agree completely, Jim. But your anger for the other victims of assault shouldn’t ignore your own experiences.” She paused. “You really do feel unworthy of all this fuss, don’t you?”
He looked away, toward the window.
“When?” she asked, her voice very soft.
“Was the first time you were sexually assaulted?”
“I was molested at seven.”
“Do you want to say by whom?”
Jim closed his eyes, blew out a breath. “A family friend at the time. My mother had known him when they were kids together. Around the time I was seven she met him again and they started dating.”
“Did you tell her what he was doing?”
He shook his head.
“Did he threaten you?”
“Yeah.” He opened his eyes and stared at her. “She married him. He ended up being my stepfather, Frank.”
“And he continued to molest you?”
Jim nodded. Didn’t speak. Couldn’t around the giant lump in his throat.
“How long did that go on?”
“Until I was sent off to Tarsus.”
“Do you want to talk about Tarsus?” Beverly asked.
“What about the assault at the bar? Do you want to talk about that, Jim?”
“Like what? Graphic details?”
Beverly’s expression showed nothing but sympathy. “Whatever you’d like to tell me. We could start with why you went there that night. If there was a specific reason.”
He leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling. “I went there to get away from myself.”
“Away from yourself?”
“There was no one around to distract me. When I’m alone like that…it’s not always a good thing.”
“Were you suicidal?”
“Maybe. Yes. No.” He shook his head. “Maybe. I didn’t actually try anything. I didn’t pick up a knife or a phaser or pick up a bottle of pills. It wasn’t a conscious thought. I just needed company.”
“You’d been to that bar before?”
“Before? Yeah. Not really recently. I was on the ship so it’s been a few years. Like everything else, it changes after a while.”
“How did it change, Jim?”
“It was subtle,” he whispered. “Insidious. Couldn’t quite put my finger on it but there was something. I ignored it, thinking it was just…missing Bones. Missing Spock. I should have went with my instincts and left.”
“But you didn’t.”
He shook his head. He straightened and looked at her. “I think I’ve had enough for today.”
He was pleasantly surprised when she nodded her agreement.
“You shared more with me than before and I hope that will be the case for our next session.” She wrote something on a card and handed it to him. “See you then, Jim?”
“Whenever you want Spock to sit in here with you, you’re welcome to do so. It’s entirely up to you. I want you to be comfortable.”
Jim nodded. “I’ll think about it.”
Spock was waiting for him outside her office and he stood the moment he spotted Jim coming out. When Jim reached him, Spock touched his fingers to Jim’s.
“What do you want to do now?” Spock asked as they exited the building.
“What? Anything you want, Jim.”
“I want to go sit by the sea, having a little lunch while the breeze hits my face. Just the two of us.”
Spock nodded. “That will be easy to accomplish. Come.”
Jim waited, trying for it not to be anxiously, for Spock to bring their food out to a table on the restaurant’s patio. It was one of those serve yourself, cafeteria-style places, and Spock had volunteered to fetch their food.
There were several other tables with umbrellas other than the one Jim had chosen, but only two of them were occupied with people.
A mother and her two little girls who appeared to be feeding their fries to the birds rather than themselves. And an older couple made up of a man and a woman. Neither posed much threat, but Jim still found it hard to relax.
“Here you are, Jim.” Spock set a basket of fried fish and chips in front of Jim along with bottles of malt vinegar and ketchup.
He set a salad and what looked like pita and hummus in front of his own seat, then he discarded his tray and took his seat beside Jim.
“I chose a beer for you, if that is acceptable,” Spock said, pushing a frosty bottle toward Jim. Looked like Spock himself had iced tea.
“Thanks, Spock. This is perfect.”
“It is indeed breezy here,” Spock remarked.
Jim smiled and reached for Spock’s hand. It would make it entirely bothersome for each of them to eat, but Jim found it difficult to let go, and Spock didn’t seem to mind.
“This is nice,” Jim murmured.
“You are still anxious.”
“I hate talking about it. I just want to forget it.”
Spock rubbed his thumb along the palm of Jim’s hand. “You are used to burying the trauma deep.”
“A coping mechanism?”
“Yeah. It’s worked up until now. It can work again,” Jim said, his gaze going out to sea.
Spock was quiet for a moment. “We should determine a more permanent location for our residence.”
“You want to move?”
“Eventually, yes,” Spock replied. “I would like a place more suitable to our needs than your apartment. I do not object to living in San Francisco but we can also consider settling on New Vulcan.”
Jim smiled a little. “You’d like that, huh?”
“I would find no objection,” Spock said after some hesitation. “I would be able to assist the colony as well as live closer to my father. However, you might find the heat intolerable. The atmosphere is similar to Earth, though.”
Jim nodded. “I’ll think about it. Right now M’Benga isn’t about to release me to go off planet. Or probably even leave San Francisco.”
“There is also Iowa if you so choose.”
“Riverside?” Jim laughed. “I don’t know about that.” He glanced at Spock’s profile. “They might eventually put us back up there, you know.”
“You seek another command?”
“Yes. How do you feel about that?”
“I will go wherever you are, Jim.”
“Still, even if we do go out again, eventually we’ll need a regular home for when they put us out to pasture.”
Jim sighed and splattered malt vinegar over his fish and fries. “I guess living in the middle of nowhere wouldn’t be the worst thing.”
“To avoid people?” Spock asked quietly.
Jim’s gaze skittered away. “I wish I was normal.”
“You are not abnormal as I have told you before.”
“I know I keep repeating myself. It’s just I’m tired of holding on to this sense of dread.”
“It will get better, Jim.”
“Will it?” Jim blew out a breath. “I hope so.” He picked up the fried fish with his fingers and took a bite. “This is good.”
“I am pleased you think so.” And Spock smiled ever so slightly at him.
Jim pushed Spock onto the bed, reaching for him, kissing him frantically. He needed to show Spock his love, that he could do this, that he was capable, that he wasn’t ruled by what happened to him. He needed to do this. To prove.
As his hand closed over the crotch of Spock’s pants, Spock stiffened and pulled away from Jim’s questing lips.
Jim tried to kiss Spock again, his hand squeezing.
“Jim!” Spock said louder.
Jim sucked in a breath and scrambled back from Spock, his face heated. “I-I’m sorry.”
“You do not need to be sorry, Jim.” Spock reached for him but Jim backed away.
“I was trying to force you. To—”
“No,” Spock said sharply. “You were not forcing me.”
Jim bit his lip, swallowed heavily. “Then why did you stop me?”
“Ashayam. James. You have nothing to prove with me. Nothing.” This time when Spock reached for him, Jim did not move away and allowed Spock to pull him into his arms as they lay side by side on the bed. Spock’s hand smoothed over the top of Jim’s head.
“I like sex,” Jim whispered.
“As do I,” Spock said, his voice reassuring. “We are in this together. We do not need to set some arbitrary pace for our intimacies. Sometimes just being like this is intimate enough.”
“Okay.” He closed his eyes. “I just love you.”
“You are without equal to me.”
“And I want to-to pleasure you.”
“We will pleasure each other. In time.”
Jim sighed and opened his eyes, gazing into Spock’s. “I-I don’t think of them when I’m with you. Just so you know.”
Spock pulled him closer and buried his face in Jim’s hair. “I am gratified to hear that.”
“What they did wasn’t about sex. It was about power and control. They wanted to control me. To show I was nothing.” He knew he’d begun to cry again and he couldn’t seem to stop it.
Spock’s hand went to Jim’s face. “You are everything.”
Chapter 19: I Want to Feel You, I Need to Hear You
Spock was still asleep when Jim woke. Probably emotional exhaustion from having to deal with Jim. Or at least that’s what Jim suspected. On a good day, Vulcans struggled with their emotions.
It had to be really difficult for Spock being constantly bombarded by the grief and rage Jim had to be throwing at him. He leaned down to place a soft kiss on Spock’s slashed eyebrow and was pleased when it did not disturb his rest. Spock deserved to sleep in a bit.
Jim didn’t bother to shower. He just took clothes into the living room with him and dressed there as to not disturb Spock. He went into the kitchen and set up the coffeemaker to begin brewing. A little old-fashioned he guessed but freshly ground coffee beans beat replicated coffee any day.
He took his coffee out to the very small balcony situated outside his apartment living room area. There wasn’t really much room for anything but a small table and a chair but Jim sat down and began to sip his coffee. The fog had rolled in overnight and still blanketed the city.
Sometimes when he was out in space he thought of places like San Francisco. Even Riverside. There was something about real air, real breezes that could never be replicated in any holographic program.
But then when he was on Earth, in a place like this where he felt the fine mist of the damp fog on his skin, all he could think was…he missed space.
Perhaps it was true that Jim could never be truly satisfied anywhere.
Wanderlust they used to call it. And Jim sure had it.
Whatever the result of his forced treatment at the hands of Beverly Carstairs, whether they would ground him permanently or give him back space, Jim would go out again. Of that he was certain. Space. The stars. They were in his blood like a fire that could never be put out.
If they grounded him for Starfleet, Jim would resign and seek space travel through other means. New Vulcan. Other colonies. Not all of them became the disaster Tarsus IV had been. Or Deneva. In fact most did not become that.
If the bastards who had raped him, changed him forever into this—whatever he was now—got away with it, Jim did not think he could linger for long in San Francisco. It was not that the city had been at fault. Jim knew that rationally. ‘Logically’ as Spock would say.
But he was uncertain he could ever be comfortable here again. Ever think of San Francisco as home. There were plenty of places he and Spock could settle. Places that would not have soured forever.
Perhaps even New York. It was still a fascinating city. But then it was bigger and perhaps scarier than where he was now and maybe a big city like New York was not the place for him.
He finished his coffee and went inside for a refill, briefly checking on Spock to see he was still asleep. He watched him for a bit, ensuring himself Spock was still breathing. And relieved beyond belief when it was clear he was.
Once back outside his thoughts returned to intimacy. He liked sex. Maybe even loved it. And with Spock, that one time, Jim knew it was special. He’d spent years imagining sex with Spock and he’d only really had it that one night before Spock left. Sure he’d jerked Spock off a day or so ago. But his dreams, his fantasies had encompassed so much more than that.
He would get past his fear and revulsion of what was done to him. He had no doubt of that. Jim had spent a lifetime overcoming the monstrosities that plagued him.
It occurred to him that this was one of the worst, if not the worst, and that it was perhaps harder to bury than other things. But then he reminded himself if he could survive seeing people murdered for food then surely he could survive this. This had been done to him. Not anyone else. This he could deal with, because he had to.
As long as those he cared about were safe and secure they could do their worst to him.
The door to the balcony opened and Spock stepped out, still wearing a sleeping robe, his bed hair standing on end in more than one place, a slight sheet crease in his left cheek, his skin flushed just the slightest green.
“Morning,” Jim called softly.
Spock blinked blearily. “Your mind is occupied with unpleasantness.”
“Did it wake you?”
“You think loudly.”
“I’m sorry. I guess that’s not a very good thing with the bond, right?”
“My subconscious could not shut out your pain.”
“I’m sorry,” Jim said again because he didn’t know what else to say. He could not stop thinking.
Spock stared down at him. “You have nothing to apologize for, I am merely explaining.”
Jim smiled. Or at least he thought he did. “Can’t you turn it off? My thoughts I mean?”
“I can shield.”
“I do not wish to. I have lived years without a connection with a bondmate and having you…I do not want to shield.”
“But if it bothers you—”
“Your thoughts do not bother me, it is your pain that does,” Spock said softly. He took a tentative step forward. “May I?”
His hand was outstretched and Jim wasn’t quite sure what he intended but he placed his hand in Spock’s anyway. Spock pulled him to his feet and then moved him aside without hardly any effort, then Spock sat in the chair and Jim was on his lap.
“Isn’t this awkward for you?” Jim tried to protest. Because really he was probably far too big to be sitting in Spock’s lap. Grown man and all. But Spock’s arms tightened around him.
“It is not awkward. And I need the contact.”
Jim swallowed and nodded. “Okay.”
Spock moved his hand under Jim’s sure to place it against Jim’s belly. “I would change places with you in an instant.”
“I don’t understand.”
Spock shook his head. “You would rather it was you than others that you care for and I am only conveying my disagreement.”
“Spock, sweetheart, you couldn’t...trust me.” He stared down into Spock’s dark eyes. “I’ve spent years building up to this. You’re so good, so pure…this is not something you could handle. And I don’t mean that lightly. You’re strong, I know that. You’re stronger and braver than anyone I know. But you could not.”
“The subject is closed.” He leaned down to softly kiss Spock’s lips.
“I wish to discuss something with you.”
“There are ways…methods to assist in your recovery.”
Jim frowned at the slight fear in Spock’s eyes. “What sort of methods?”
“Vulcan methods,” Spock whispered. The hand that was not on Jim’s belly moved to Jim’s face. Not quite on the meld points, just out of reach.
“What are you saying, Spock?”
“I could take the horror of these events from your mind.”
“You talked about this before, right? The forgetting?”
“For how long?”
His closed eyes as Spock caressed circles on his stomach. “It’s so tempting.”
“The pain of it, the humiliation, all that you knew of it, would be wiped from your mind, your memories.”
“God, that sounds so…I don’t even know what it sounds like.” He opened his eyes to stare into Spock’s. “Scary in a way.”
“I assure you it would not be.”
“Before I said those were my memories and they are part of what shapes me, but God, to forget this, to go back to how I was before all of this. The normalcy of me.” Jim let out a shuddery breath. “Sometimes I think I would do anything for that. Anything.”
Spock’s thumb moved to Jim’s jaw. “You might have to testify in any kind of trial they are put through and if that is the case we would be unable to do anything until that time has passed.”
Jim nodded. “I know. The thought of having to-to talk about it, in front of strangers.” His eyes welled up against his will. “It torments me.”
“Ashaya,” Spock whispered, brokenly. “It torments me as well.”
“I just want it to be over. I just want it to be done. Is it too much to ask?”
“No, it is not.” Spock curled his hand around Jim’s neck and pressed their lips together.
“Can you meld with me? Just for a minute. I want to feel safe.”
Spock’s fingers moved to his psi-points. “Anything, t’hy’la.”
Spock’s presence curled around his and held him close and for a short time, Jim felt peace.
Chapter 20: I Got Angels Crying From Up Above And They Got Rust in Their Eyes
It was hard to feel safe anymore.
Jim remembered times before when he felt that way. As a young boy dealing with his stepfather. On Tarsus IV when he watched everyone he had come to care for die because there just wasn’t enough to eat. Coming back from Tarsus and not knowing if being able to eat his fill would ever be his reality again.
He’d overcome all that and learned to be safe. To feel secure in who and what he was. Until that night.
Today he had taken the step of going out by himself. It was so much harder than he had expected. He’d only left their apartment and walked down the hallway when he wanted to turn back around and beg Spock to come with him. It was only because Spock still stood in the doorway watching him that he had not.
When he exited the building, it had taken him ten minutes to force his legs to move in the direction he needed to go. And then he almost turned and went back inside.
He made it to the medical building without Spock but it was a near thing and he was sweating profusely when he walked in. He’d carried a phaser too. He felt ridiculous doing so, but he carried it anyway.
Jim waited until he could ride the lift by himself before he made his way up to M’Benga’s office. He was breathing heavily when he got to the outer office where M’Benga’s reception was.
She smiled a greeting. “Captain, he’s expecting you. Go right in.”
He found himself wildly grateful he hadn’t had to wait in the reception area. No one else was there but still.
“Hello Captain,” Geoff welcomed him.
“Of course.” M’Benga gestured to the exam table. “Have a seat. You look good.”
Jim sat up on the table. “Thanks.”
“How have you been?” M’Benga began to run medical tricorders over him.
He blew out a breath. Shook his head.
“Not good? What’s wrong? Pain somewhere?”
“No physical pain.”
M’Benga lowered his instruments. “You’ve been seeing Dr. Carstairs?”
“Couple of times. I’m not-I’ve never been one to feel comfortable pouring everything out to strangers.”
“Or anyone else I imagine.”
Jim reluctantly nodded. “It’s easier that way.”
M’Benga’s smile was gentle. “For who, Jim?”
“Me I guess. I’ve never found it helped anyway. But I guess if I want to retain some sort of career in Starfleet I have to complete a certain amount of sessions.”
“There are others you can see.”
“She’s already the second one. She’s all right. As good as any of them.” Jim looked away.
“But you’re biding your time until your sessions are done, and then that’s that,” Geoff guessed. “In the meantime, you arrived here sweating and with your pulse and heart rate elevated. Your injuries have healed, Jim. But you haven’t.”
“I’ve heard it’s normal to be afraid after something like this.”
“It certainly is. But on the other hand, if someone’s not afraid, I don’t want to tell them they are abnormal for feeling different than others. No one is the same, Jim. And there are different levels of anxiety.”
“I’d rather talk to you.”
Geoff nodded. “I have some knowledge of psychiatry. I wasn’t sure if you wanted someone with extensive knowledge of what actually happened to you physically be the one for you to speak with, but a transference of your counseling to me can certainly be accomplished.”
“Beverly Carstairs specifically deals with sexual trauma which is why I recommended her. I don’t have that specialty, but if you’re more comfortable with me, then that’s what’s important, Jim. This is for your benefit more than anyone else’s.”
“Can Spock be here?”
“Whatever you want.” Geoff smiled and patted his shoulder. “You can get down now.”
Jim hopped down,
“Why don’t you think it over and let me know. We can schedule you a preliminary appointment for Wednesday at one. If you want to cancel or change it, you let me know.”
Jim felt a weird sense of relief and he barely held back from hugging M’Benga. He did smile. “Thank you. I really appreciate it.”
“It’s no trouble, Jim. As I said, I want you to feel comfortable. I’ll talk to Beverly.”
It wasn’t really any easier making his way back to his apartment. Everyone around him made him suspicious. Rationally he knew someone wasn’t going to attack him in broad daylight, but he couldn’t tamp down his raging anxiety.
When he had asked Spock to let him go to the appointment alone, he knew the Vulcan had been reluctant in his agreement. But he had also given Jim his full support. Jim had texted him to let him know when he arrived and he texted him when he left to return home. Spock advised that he was making spaghetti and had made meat in Jim’s portion. Jim decided right there and then he fucking loved Spock.
Not that there had been any doubt.
When he reached their apartment door, something made him pause. Voices on the other side. One was Spock, for sure. But the other—
Jim opened the door and sucked in a breath. For a moment he felt dizzy. And then he was rushing into Bones’ arms.
He was crying before he knew it, before he could stop it, as Bones arms tightened around him, pulling him close against him.
“I got you, kid,” Bones murmured, stroking Jim’s hair. “I got you.”
Chapter 21: A Walk Through Hell Ain't Bad Compared to Where We've Been
Jim couldn’t remember a time when Bones held him quite so tightly. Bones wasn’t by nature a hugger. He hugged Jim, sometimes. But usually it was the manly sort of hug. A quick release with a pat on the upper back or shoulder. And once he remembered Bones hugging Chapel when it was learned her fiancé had died all those years ago when he’d gone missing.
This was not like any of those hugs. Bones was holding Jim like he might never let him go. And that was okay with Jim.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered through his tears.
“Crying all over you like a baby.”
“You hear me complaining?” His hand was still petting Jim’s hair. A little awkwardly but with a lot of affection. Bones tucked Jim’s head down onto his shoulder.
“How do you think? Your boyfriend there.”
“I prefer the term bondmate,” Spock said quietly from somewhere to the side of them.
Which reminded Jim that Spock was there, waiting patiently as always, while Jim blubbered all over Bones. He swallowed all the emotion down that threatened to choke him, and very gently pulled himself out of Bones’ arms.
Jim was in Spock’s mind or vice versa anyway, and he knew there were times when Jim’s reliance on Bones for comfort hurt Spock. He didn’t actually feel any of that coming from Spock at the moment, but he figured he had taken advantage of Bones’ arms for long enough.
Jim touched Spock’s arm. “You contacted Bones?”
“Yes,” Spock said, though it looked as though he was reluctant to admit it. He looked entirely too rigid. “I know we talked of your not wanting him to know but—”
“No.” Jim threw himself into Spock’s arms, wrapping his arms around Spock’s neck. “No. Thank you. I’m not-I’m not mad at you or anything. Okay?”
He felt the tension in Spock release as he pulled Jim close. Spock buried his nose against Jim and inhaled him. It was something Spock seemed to be in the habit of, maybe a Vulcan thing, but whatever, Jim didn’t mind.
Jim kissed Spock’s cheek. “Thank you.”
Then he turned in Spock’s arms to face Bones. He did not move away though. “How much do you know?”
Bones exchanged a glance with Spock, then nodded. “Everything I think.”
“I guess you’re upset I didn’t tell you myself?” Jim moved closer to Spock as he asked, almost without thinking.
“What I’m upset about is that it happened at all, Jim. If you think I’m going to yell at you or berate you for any of it, you’re wrong. I do wish you had contacted me right away because I would have come back—” Bones held up his hand when Jim went to interrupt. “I know that’s why you didn’t tell me. But what happened to you took precedence over my vacation, Jim.”
“You were with Jo.”
“Didn’t matter,” Bones insisted. “I always want to know if you’re injured or in trouble or anything else. I’m not just your doctor. I’m your family.”
Jim couldn’t help it, he went and embraced Bones again. “I know.”
This time Bones did the patting Jim on the back thing, but Jim didn’t mind. It was familiar.
“If you and the doctor want some privacy, I will be in the bedroom meditating,” Spock spoke up quietly.
“I don’t need any privacy from you,” Jim assured him. “But go ahead if you want to meditate.”
Spock nodded. “Then I will make dinner.”
Jim smiled. “Okay.” He watched Spock go into their room. “You want coffee or something, Bones?”
Bones produced a bottle of white wine. “Or something. I brought refreshments.”
“There’s a reason I love you like crazy,” Jim said, grabbing some glasses out of the cabinet.
They took their wine out to the balcony and sat in the patio chairs there. Fortunately it was a pretty nice afternoon.
“Want to talk?” Bones asked after about five minutes of silence.
“I just—I’m afraid of everything and everyone and I hate it.”
Bones sipped his wine. “That’s pretty normal under the circumstances.”
“Is it? I don’t feel like anything’s normal. Part of me thinks everyone’s right.”
“That I must have deserved it.”
Bones grimaced and leaned back in his chair. “I know something about you that most others don’t.”
Jim glanced at him. “What’s that?”
“You’re harder on yourself than anyone else is on you. You’ve been fooling people for years with your cockiness and your false bravado. No one bothers to look deeper than that.”
“I like it that way.”
“I know. But you don’t fool me. I know how deep the cuts go, Jim.” Bones sighed. “I used to be the only one. At least you have Spock now.”
“Never thought you’d ever get together with him, though I sure as hell knew you wanted to. Both of you.”
Jim smiled faintly. “Sometimes I wondered that myself.”
“You don’t think you’re worthy of it.”
“Happiness. A good life. Love. Your past has fucked you up but good. Deserved it? Never. But I know why you think that, how they are able to convince you of that. They’ve been convincing you of that bullshit all your life.” Bones took another swallow of wine. “I don’t know…” His voice cracked. He cleared his throat. “I don’t know anyone as good and as deserving of happiness as you, Jim.”
Jim leaned forward in his chair, staring at the ground. “I must have done something right anyway. To get you. And Spock. I couldn’t do it…this…any of it without you. I’ve said that about Spock. What would I do without him? But it’s just as true for you, Bones.”
Bones put his hand on Jim’s knee. “You were attacked by monsters. The worst dregs of society who prey on others. It’s going to take some time, Jim.”
“Spock could make me forget it. If I wanted.”
“The mind thing?”
“What do you think about that?”
Jim straightened and leaned back in his chair far enough to look up at the sky. “Part of me wants that more than I can say. To be rid of this shit? Their faces. Memories of their hands on me. Their dicks in me.” He shuddered.
“I don’t know,” Jim said, honestly. “That’s as far as I get whenever I think about it. I know all that crap about our memories, what happens to us shapes us, we are the sum of our fears. All that stuff. But then I hear their laughter and I feel their bodies and it’s just…why shouldn’t I be able to forget all that?”
“All valid points,” Bones agreed.
“But then other victims? They don’t have a Vulcan husband to take away their pain. Why should I get to do that?”
“I don’t know, Jim. I say you should think about your own needs and not worry about what someone else has to deal with.”
Jim lowered his gaze from the sky to look at Bones. “You think I should do it then?”
“I’m not sure,” Bones replied. “And I don’t think I get to make that decision for you. This is your life and your memories and this was done to you. No one else. Nobody else has a right to tell you how to deal with what you’re dealing with.”
Jim nodded and stared down at his hands, they were clenched together tight, like they could be around someone’s throat. “Sometimes I want to kill them.”
“If it were legal they’d be dead already.”
“Yeah.” Jim tasted his wine. “This is good by the way.”
“Only the best, my friend, only the best.”
“I’m glad you’re here.” Jim looked away. “How’s Jo?”
“Beautiful. Maybe next time you can see her too.”
Jim had a moment where he thought about how he could have gone with Bones in the first place to see her and then none of this would have happened. But then…he wouldn’t have Spock either, probably.
Regrets and hindsight never solved anything.
“I’d like to see her,” Jim said softly. Anything to start living again.
Chapter 22: That's Me for You
Spock opened his eyes to see Jim standing in the doorway.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to disturb you,” Jim said with a little smile.
“You did not.” Spock rose from his position on the meditation mat. “You are finished your talk with the doctor?”
“For now.” Jim walked into the room and closed the door, coming over to stand in front of Spock. He didn’t touch him though. So Spock decided to touch Jim. He grasped Jim’s forearms gently.
“Are you upset with me?”
Jim shook his head. “I told you earlier I wasn’t mad.”
“You may have other feelings regarding my contact of Leonard that do not include anger.”
“No. Actually he’s helped.” Jim took a step closer. “We’re going to go out to eat.”
Spock nodded. “I will stay here.”
Jim licked his lips. “No. I—can you come too?”
“I thought perhaps you wanted time alone with the doctor.”
Jim shook his head, looking anxious.
“I will go.”
“Thanks. I’m sorry.”
Spock placed a kiss on Jim’s forehead. “There is no need.”
“I know I’m still so needy. I just like you with me. I’m working on it.”
“I like to be with you, also, so there is no need to ‘work on it’.” Spock pushed as much reassurance at Jim through their bond as he could. “Have you made any decisions about forgetting the events of your trauma?”
“I think I want to wait for a couple of sessions with M’Benga first. Just to see.”
“That makes sense,” Spock agreed. “Are you ready to leave now?”
Jim nodded. “Bring your coat. It’s getting chilly.”
Spock had noticed that Leonard walked slightly ahead of Jim and so Spock tried to walk a bit behind Jim, to shield him as he walked, but Jim would have none of that and eventually maneuvered both of them until he was square in the middle of them.
He did it without comment and, Spock noticed, without either himself or Leonard even realizing it until they were already aligned with him. It reminded Spock of how effortlessly Jim commanded those around him, they all fell in line to his will, eventually, and he and Leonard probably more than any others.
He was uncertain what restaurant Jim had chosen so he just walked along beside him, waiting for him to signal his intent.
Jim was quiet as he often was these days, which was very unlike what Spock had been used to before. In the beginning of their working relationship there were times when Spock wished Jim would cease his babbling. As he continued their working relationship and their eventual friendship, Spock became used to it.
And now…he missed it. It was a further sign that Jim was changed in ways that Spock would never have wanted and yet now had to accept.
“Here.” Jim stopped suddenly in front of a tiny little restaurant that was part of a row of storefronts. At Spock’s glance, he smiled very slightly. “Don’t worry, they have vegetarian.”
Spock was not worried. No matter where Jim chose, he would make do, and he would allow Jim to choose at all times. He had no particular preferences when it came to food choices and he knew that Jim loved food. He would always defer to Jim in this and many other things. Certainly he was used to doing so when Jim was his commanding officer, but also as his friend, and now his mate.
He permitted both Jim and Leonard to go into the restaurant ahead of him and once he stepped inside and closed the door, he glanced around to assess the potential for security flaws.
The restaurant was not well lit and not very occupied with just a few small tables with diners. Spock understood why Jim would choose such a place. It was not overly crowded and there were plenty of tables in the back where no others would be close to him.
The hostess, an Asian woman, seemed to recognize Jim and she greeted him warmly. As instructed, she brought them to the very back, and then to Spock’s surprise, into a side room that only held one table. This was where they were seated.
“Is this all right?” Jim asked, the question directed at him, rather than Leonard.
“Yes, of course.”
He smiled and sat, patting the chair to the right of him and Spock took that seat and Leonard to the left.
“You have been here before?” Spock asked.
“Yeah, but it’s been a while. Years, actually.”
“Yet the hostess seemed to know you.”
“Her family owns the place. Angela. I used to come here as far back as my academy days.”
“Angela,” Leonard murmured. “I think I remember you mentioning her.”
Jim turned a little pink. “Bones.”
Spock quirked a brow. “A former paramour?”
“Like I said, a long time ago.” He stroked his fingers over Spock’s. “The eggplant is really good.”
“Forget about the veggies,” Leonard said, looking at the menu. “How’s the steak?”
Spock ended up ordering the eggplant while both Jim and Leonard ordered steaks.
“So, I’ve been thinking,” Jim said, as he took a very slow sip of the red wine he’d ordered.
“Yeah?” Leonard asked.
“Maybe after my sessions with M’Benga, well, I don’t know. I might think about Riverside.”
“Riverside, Iowa?” Leonard asked, surprise clearly on his face.
“No, Riverside, California,” Jim said sarcastically. “Yes. Iowa. The old farmhouse. You know that place.”
Spock stiffened and Jim noticed, his gaze flicking to his.
“I am fine, if you are,” Spock said quietly. “My mental health relies on yours. I only wish for you to think carefully about whether going to Riverside would make you worse.”
Jim chewed on his lip. “I don’t know. The place is empty now since Mom died. Has been for a while. I used to think someday I’d go back there.”
What’s your concern?
If your memories of your stepfather will harm you—
I know, Spock. They might. It wouldn’t be until I talked to M’Benga. But it’s been so long since I’ve been back, maybe I’ll feel different.
“Are you two doing your voodoo thing?” Leonard demanded.
“I informed the doctor of our bond,” Spock told Jim.
“Yes, he told me you did.”
“I can’t say it’s not a little freaky watching you two talk to each other in your heads.”
“We don’t really do it,” Jim said. “Actually this is sort of the first time I really tried it.” Jim grinned. “I liked it.”
“Well, you aren’t going there alone, if you do go there. Meaning I’m coming too.”
“Of course,” Jim agreed. “What happened there was a long time ago.”
“You still recall every last detail though, don’t you?” Leonard asked, his voice very gentle and quiet.
Jim dropped his gaze. “I’d like to say it’s faded. Memories fade over years. Especially childhood ones. But that…”
“He took your innocence.”
Jim grabbed Spock’s hand and clutched it very tight. “There was so much grief and unrest in that place. I’m not sure I was ever truly innocent. But, yeah. As much as I hated Tarsus and everything that happened there, it did get me away from Frank.”
Spock was well aware that Jim’s stepfather was deceased. Once long ago on the Enterprise when Jim had drank just a little too much he’d shared some of his history with Frank with Spock. Back then Spock had still been with Nyota. It had been beyond shocking and disturbing to Spock and he had done a great deal of research into the man. It was then that he learned Frank had been killed in New York City during a robbery attempt.
“Anyway,” Jim spoke. “I don’t have to decide now. I just wanted to put it out there that I’m considering it. If I’m not going to keep it for my old age or whatever I should probably sell it and I’d like to see it before I make any final decisions.”
Jim still had a death grip on Spock’s hand. If that was what Jim needed to go out in public to a restaurant, then Spock would live with bruises if he had to. Whatever Jim needed, Spock would agree. Because he still could not help but think if he had not left Jim in San Francisco alone, all that happened would not have.
Jim blinked rapidly and stared at Spock, his mouth slightly open. Spock realized he had picked up on Spock’s guilt, so he tried to push it away.
“So, Bones, tell us about your little girl.”
Spock was relieved for the change of subject but Jim still wouldn’t let go of his hand.
Chapter 23: When Tears are in Your Eyes I Will Dry Them All
“What do you want to talk about today?”
Jim, who had been standing at the window in Geoffrey M’Benga’s office, overlooking a park, turned at the question.
“What do I want to talk about? I thought this was about what you wanted me to talk about.”
“Not at all,” Geoff assured him. “You can talk about anything that’s on your mind.”
Jim’s mouth curved slightly. “Nice view.”
“I’ve spent endless minutes wasted at that window. It’s great for people watching.”
Geoff was sitting in a big comfortable looking leather chair. There was an identical one beside him.
“You want me to sit there?”
“If you’d like. You can continue to stand there if you want. Or sit on the edge of the desk. This is about what makes you comfortable, Jim.”
Jim thought about it. He could see a woman who vaguely reminded him of Carol Marcus in the park with two little blonde girls trailing behind her. Carol. He hadn‘t really thought of her in years.
He turned around and went to sit in the chair. “This will work.”
“Some water would be okay.”
Geoff rose and went to a small replicator on the wall and ordered coffee for himself and a glass of iced water for Jim. He handed it to Jim when he returned to his seat.
“Bones is back.”
“You refer to Leonard McCoy?”
“Yeah. I don’t even really remember when I started calling him that. It was back in our academy days. It’s just…it’s who he is now.”
“And you’re happy he’s back?”
Jim nodded. “He’s great. Only…”
He picked up the water glass and took a sip. “I feel guilty.”
“Needing him when I have Spock. It’s like I was so happy to see him I felt giddy. And I know Spock felt it. We’re bonded. Unofficially, I guess, but still. He feels everything. Or mostly. You know about Vulcans?”
M’Benga nodded. “I spent some of my residency on Vulcan. The original Vulcan. I’m aware of their telepathic bonds.”
“I felt kind of disloyal to Spock.”
“For being pleased to see your friend.”
Jim huffed out a breath.
“You mentioned the last time you were here bringing Spock with you. But you’re here alone.”
“I want him here and I don’t. I don’t want to burden him with this,” Jim said softly.
“I doubt he feels that way. From the interactions I’ve witnessed between you and my own experiences with Mister Spock I don’t imagine he would view you that way, Jim.”
“No, he doesn’t. You’re right, doctor.”
“You’re right he doesn’t feel that way. I do. He does so much for me already.” Jim sighed. “It took so long for us to get together. When the Enterprise’s mission ended, we went our separate ways. We weren’t going to be a couple. Not like this.”
“Did you want to be?”
“Oh yeah. But Spock…he feels so much sense of duty. He always has. It eats at him and I don’t think he even knows how much I know that about him. He had these feelings for me but his duty to the Vulcans…he’d already chosen me and Starfleet over them for too long. Which was why I was going to let him go. After-after my attack, I wasn’t ever going to tell him about it. I didn’t want to be another duty for him.”
“Is that what you think you are even now, Jim?”
“No. Yes. Sometimes. I don’t know. I just know if Uhura hadn’t told him about what was done to me he’d still be on New Vulcan. Would we reconnect some day? Down the road years from now? Maybe. But not now. This-this—” He gestured to himself. “Brought him back. And I know he feels guilty. Yesterday we went out to eat, him and me and Bones, and I could feel how guilty he is over leaving Earth. Not because he wanted to be here. But because of what happened to me. And I tried to talk to him but he…he pretended to be tired.” Jim sighed and took several more swallows of water. “I left the apartment without him this morning. He feels guilty enough.”
Jim looked at M’Benga. “What’s that mean?”
“I just wonder how Spock might feel at being shut out.”
“Aren’t you? Maybe you should ask him if he thinks you are.”
Jim thought about it and grimaced. M’Benga might be right. Damn it.
“What else? Anything?”
“Do you think because I went to a bar in a sort of dangerous area known for casual and unusual sex that I was asking for it?” Jim blurted out.
Geoff looked startled for a moment. Then he said, “It doesn’t matter what I think.”
“Yeah it does. To me.”
“I think you went there seeking something you felt you needed that night. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You did nothing illegal or with intent to harm anyone else. You were, through no fault of your own, victimized by a group of violent and vile predators.” Geoff paused. “I understand that you question yourself and your own culpability because that is hardly uncommon, and while I emphatically disagree with any culpability on your part, I understand where that comes from. But if you think for one moment I find anybody else placing even one fraction of the blame for the contemptible and vicious gang rape and beating perpetuated on you acceptable, I do not. Anyone who does is no friend to you, Jim, or to humanity itself. And can, frankly, be written off as a complete waste of space and can go right to whatever hell they do or do not believe in.” Geoff raised his eyebrows. “Do I make my position clear?”
Jim swallowed the lump in his throat and looked down at his own clenched hands. “Yeah, you do. And-and thank you.”
“You don’t owe me or anybody thanks for stating what is purely and simply right and true.”
Jim’s gaze rose. “Maybe not, but thanks anyway.” Jim glanced at his watch. “My time is up, looks like.”
“I guess it is. Coming back?”
“I’d like to. But before I go can I ask you something else?”
“Of course, Jim.”
“Spock has this ability I guess through his telepathy to block certain memories and he’s offered to do that for me with this trauma. How do you feel about that?”
Geoff seemed to consider it. “I am aware of it. It’s not completely uncommon amongst Vulcans. And there was some of that for treatment of the trauma after the destruction of Vulcan. I’m not, in general, opposed to the idea.”
“I frankly don’t believe it will be necessary for you, Jim. You’ve overcome a lot in your life through an immense amount of personal strength, willpower, and integrity. And I believe that you can get through this. But I acknowledge it’s a personal choice. I’d like you to finish your sessions with me before you decide, though, if that’s all right.”
Jim exhaled slowly, and wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans. “Yeah. Okay. I think I’d like that.” He stood and so did Geoff. “I don’t know why, but you’re easier to talk to. I didn’t expect that.”
Geoff smiled. “A good thing, yes?”
“Yes.” Jim returned the smile. “I think I might be a little in love with you.”
Geoff laughed. “You wouldn’t be the first,” he cracked with wink. “Want me to escort you out?”
“Nah, I’ll find my way. Thanks, doc. See you next week.”
When Jim exited the outer office to M’Benga’s offices he was surprised to see Spock seated in the waiting room. He stood at once when Jim appeared.
“Hey, you didn’t have to come.” Jim went to him and threw his arms around his Vulcan, burying his face in Spock’s neck. No one else was around so Jim figured Spock would let him get away with it. “I’m glad you’re here though.”
“I would have accompanied you if you had informed me you were departing,” Spock said quietly. There was barely any reproach there. Damn Spock was good.
“Sorry, I didn’t want to…” He cut himself off and pulled back to look at Spock’s face. “Do you feel like I shut you out?”
It took longer than it should have for Spock’s answer, which in fact, told Jim everything.
“Sometimes. It is understandable though.”
“No, it isn’t.” He touched Spock’s cheek. “I’ll try to be better.”
“No, I will. It’s just, well, I’ve spent years keeping shit to myself. It’s second nature to me. I’ve never had a t’hy’la before.” Jim smiled. “I’ve never really had anyone before.”
Spock closed his eyes and pulled Jim close. He held Jim like that for a while, neither of them saying anything. Finally Jim pulled away, well aware they were doing way too much PDA in a public office.
“He went to have breakfast with Mr. Scott and Dr. Chapel.”
Jim nodded. “Great. Let’s go home.”
Once they made it out to the street below it was chilly and breezy, which meant cuddling close to Spock as they walked to the apartment. If he wasn’t cold himself, Spock might have protested. Instead, he moved closer to Jim.
Maybe M’Benga was right. Maybe he could get through this too.
Chapter 24: Search Your Heart, Search Your soul And When You Fnd Me There You'll Search No More
“Bones?” Jim called out as they entered the apartment. “Are you back?”
When there was no answer, Spock said, “It appears he has not yet returned."
“Good,” Jim said, grabbing Spock’s arm and pulling him toward their bedroom. Spock allowed himself to be led, wondering what Jim had in mind.
Jim closed the bedroom door when they were inside and then turned the lock. “Come here.”
Spock obeyed readily enough, though he did find himself immediately cautious. He wrapped his arms around Jim’s waist even as Jim slung his arms around Spock’s neck.
Jim leaned in to kiss him. “Let’s get naked.”
Jim raised both eyebrows. “Spock.”
“You have nothing to prove to me,” Spock said quietly.
Cool lips found his, soft and pliable. “Not you, no. But myself.”
“Spock, I don’t want to be afraid anymore. The-the longer I put this off, the bigger it gets. I love you. And I know what being with you is like. And I know if I start to freak out, you’ll help me.”
“I will, but—”
Jim put his hands on Spock’s face. “Don’t you see? I need to know you still want me. That you don’t think I’m unworthy or soiled goods or something.”
Spock’s breath hitched and he felt his chest tighten. “Never that.”
“Then…please. Make love to me.”
Spock lifted Jim’s arms in the air and pulled his shit off over his head. He smoothed his hands over Jim’s biceps and bare chest, waiting with breath held to see Jim’s reaction. But Jim was staring at him, blue eyes saturated in their intensity, and as Spock’s hand went over where Jim’s heart lay, he felt the quickened beat.
“I’m not so fragile, Spock.” Jim leaned in and kissed Spock slow and sweet.
Spock led Jim to the bed and had him sit on the edge, then he knelt at Jim’s feet to remove his shoes and socks.
“Now you,” Jim whispered.
Spock stood and removed his own shirt and then toed off his shoes, leaving his socks on.
Jim lay down on his back and opened his arms for Spock to join him. When Spock lay beside Jim, he reached over and undid the zipper of Jim’s pants.
“You are well?” Spock asked, taking in Jim’s still very intense stare.
Jim nodded. “Take ‘em off.”
With a whoosh of breath escaping his lungs, Spock did just that. It was almost like his first time. And Jim’s first time. They seemed like virgins together, though he knew neither of them were. But perhaps it was like that, considering everything.
He was pleased to see that Jim was half erect already and by the time he removed his own pants and rejoined his t’hy’la on the bed, Spock had begun to feel aroused by the sight of Jim.
“Anytime you wish to stop—”
Jim licked his lips. “I don’t. Wish to stop. I want this. Want you.”
Spock closed his fingers around Jim’s cock, pleased by Jim’s hiss of breath. It was not of fear, and Spock was gladdened.
He placed his other hand on Jim’s face, letting him feel Spock’s love.
Jim smiled. “That’s nice. I like that.”
“As do I.”
“Can I touch you?” Jim’s voice was soft, tentative.
Spock moaned when Jim began to stroke him, closing his eyes, as he became fully erect. He began to ooze his natural lubricant.
“God, I love that,” Jim said with a little throaty chuckle. “Vulcans are the best.”
“I am gratified you think so,” Spock ground out as he took Jim’s mouth in a kiss. He needed to go slow, be gentle with Jim. For now. While everything was so uncertain.
Jim suddenly flipped them so that Spock lay on his back and Jim loomed over him, his body across Spock’s, their erections rubbing against each other.
“Shh. It’s okay. I’m okay.”
“You-you need additional lubrication,” Spock said, as Jim kissed him, his tongue slipping into Spock’s mouth. He loved the taste of Jim. Always would. It intoxicated him.
Jim shifted just a little and then a bottle of lubricant was placed in Spock’s hand even as Jim began to kiss him again, fusing their lips together until Spock could barely breathe and he did not care.
He lifted the lid to the lubricant and squirted it out, his fingers pushing into Jim’s hole slowly and with deliberate gentleness.
Jim hissed and Spock stilled his movements, his heart thundering in his side.
“No,” Jim said quickly. “It’s normal. It just stings a little. Keep going.”
Spock projected how much he worshiped Jim as he began to move his fingers within Jim.
Jim’s eyes closed half way, his lips parted. He was the most precious thing and Spock would ensure no one ever hurt him again. Including him.
When Spock made to insert a third finger, Jim shook his head.
“You. I want you. Now.”
Spock bit his lip, but he withdrew his fingers and then grasping Jim’s hips, he lowered Jim slowly down onto his throbbing cock.
“Move, Spock. Please. Just…do it. Fuck me.”
He began to thrust slowly, for he was determined this first joining since Jim’s rape would be easy, slow, and gentle. Jim seemed to agree for he allowed Spock to control the pace, his eyes open once more and staring at Spock, as though he needed to see who was inside him.
“Taluhk nash-veh k’dular, k’diwa.”
“I love you too,” Jim gasped, as he pushed himself further down on Spock’s erection, until Spock’s balls were against his ass. Jim curled his fingers around his own cock and slid them up and down the shaft, his pupils blown wide.
It had been too long, and Spock had held back too much, he could not last like this, Jim’s tight channel squeezing around him. Spock let out a cry as he pumped his seed inside his t’hy’la.
Jim let out a guttural cry of his own as ribbons of cum splattered across Spock’s stomach and chest.
Jim collapsed then, lying across Spock and Spock wrapped his arms tightly around him.
“I…I did not frighten you?” Spock asked, his throat raw from the idea he might have. His heart hurt. If he had been there, if he had—
“No, you didn’t,” Jim whispered, kissing Spock’s chest. “It was good. Wonderful.” He rose up on his elbows to look at Spock. His thumb brushed at the tear that was leaking from Spock’s eyes without Spock’s permission. “You are not to blame.”
“I do not…” But he found himself unable to speak.
“You are not,” Jim said fiercely. “And neither am I.”
Spock tightened his hold. “Never. Never.”
“Let’s just lie here, holding each other for a while, okay?”
Spock nodded. He would hold Jim forever and never let him go if that’s what Jim wanted and needed.
Chapter 25: I've Seen the Dark Side Too
“I’d like to send you home with a little bit of homework today,” M’Benga announced.
Jim took a sip of water from his glass and then set it on the small table next to his seat on the couch. “Homework? Doc, I’m a little old for that, don’t you think?”
“Oh, it’s nothing particularly complicated. But we’ll get to that in a little bit. Right now I’d like to know how you’re doing since our last session.”
“Good.” Jim nodded. “I think.”
“Why the qualifier?”
Jim shrugged. “Well, I should take this one step at a time, shouldn’t I?”
“That’s a good way to look at it for sure.”
Jim grimaced. “I did, um, I managed to, um, well, I’ve become fully intimate with Spock. For the first time since.”
M’Benga nodded. “Is it difficult for you to say that?”
“A little yeah. Funny, before all this, I was pretty open about talking about sex. Now…is that normal?”
“What is normal, Jim? If it’s the way you’re feeling then it’s normal for you, isn’t it? I don’t like to think of how you feel or think in terms of normal or abnormal or usual or unusual. So even though I don’t like to say let’s never use those terms, because nothing should be forbidden, let’s try not to judge things in those terms.”
“It’s good you felt safe and comfortable enough with Spock to become intimate again.”
“And it was entirely my decision.”
M’Benga smiled. “I had absolutely no doubt of that. While I don’t know Commander Spock that well, what I do know of him leads me to believe he has a great deal of integrity.”
“He does, yeah.”
“Was there any time during your intimacy where you felt unsafe or had difficulty?”
Jim shook his head. It was weird to talk about this. And weirder still that it was weird. “No, nothing like that. It was all good.”
“That’s a great step then, Jim.”
“So, yeah. All that’s good.” He picked up his water and turned his head toward the window in M’Benga’s office. “I’m nervous about the trial coming up. Well. Not nervous. Anxious?”
“Maybe a little afraid?”
“I don’t think anyone can fault you for that. Are you required to attend the trial and give testimony?”
“I’m guessing. I mean, they haven’t said. And I know they have physical evidence. It’s just…all that 'you have the right to face your accuser' stuff, so I am guessing I will.” Jim sighed. He put his hand on his fluttery stomach. “Part of me wishes they’d just offer them a deal and be done with it so I never have to see them again. See their faces. Hear their voices.”
“And the other part?” M’Benga’s tone was very soft, gentle.
“The other part thinks a deal would be letting them get off easy and then maybe they’d try it on someone else again. Maybe that person wouldn’t be as lucky as me.” Jim sort of laughed and looked down at his own fisted hand. “It’s funny to think of myself as lucky, you know? I sure as hell don’t feel like I was lucky.”
“From a survival point, certainly,” M’Benga said. “But the physical and mental trauma you suffered makes it a different story. I can see where you’re coming from on both accounts. You’d like it all to be over but on the other hand, you don’t want them doing it to anyone else. There are merits to either scenario.”
Jim closed his eyes and leaned his head back on the couch. “The thing is, Geoff. I’ve been surviving shit all my life. Sometimes it seems like there’s never been a time when something catastrophic hasn’t happened to me. And I know I’m lucky. I do. I made it through all of that and I still have my sanity. Some don’t.”
“You are without a doubt one of the strongest individuals I’ve ever encountered.”
“Sometimes I don’t feel strong at all,” Jim admitted.
“That brings me to what I’d like you to do,” M’Benga said then. “If you are willing.”
“What is it?” Jim lifted his head and peered at the doctor.
M’Benga smiled. “I’d like you to name five things you like about yourself.”
“Oh. Well. I have nice eyes. My smile is okay. Um—”
“Let’s just say right off that you’re an attractive man. I’d like you to go beyond your physical attributes.”
Jim twisted his hands together in his lap. “All right. I’m a survivor.”
“Yes you are and that’s great. That’s good. But I wonder if being a survivor doesn’t have too many negative connotations connected to it. It makes you think about what it is you’ve had to survive. I’d like this to be a positive experience.” M’Benga leaned forward in his chair. “In fact, let’s bring in Mister Spock. I’d like to involve him.”
“Um. Okay,” Jim agreed.
M’Benga rose from his chair and opened the door to the outside waiting room, calling for Spock to join them.
Spock came in at once and he was unable to hide the concern in his expression. “Jim? Are you all right?”
“Oh, yes, he’s fine,” M’Benga assured him. “Nothing wrong at all. We’d merely like your help. Sit there, will you, please, Mister Spock? Right next to Jim.”
Jim smiled a little weakly at Spock as he took the seat next to Jim.
“I’d like to send a task home with the two of you today.” M’Benga smiled. “Actually, I don’t want it to be a task. Which is why I’ve decided to switch it up a bit.”
“Switch it up?’ Jim asked.
“Jim, I’d like you to write down five things you like about Spock. And Spock, I’d like you to write five things you like about Jim. As I already told Jim, let’s avoid the physical attributes. You both are attractive so we’ve acknowledged that. Take this deeper. I don’t want to burden either of you so rather than have you write what you like about yourselves, I want you to write what you like about each other. Then, next session, you’ll be able to view each other from the other’s point of view, how they see you.”
Spock opened his mouth for a moment, made a sort of ‘o” and then shut it. After a moment, he nodded slowly. “Very well.”
“Think you can do that, Jim?” M’Benga asked.
“Find five things about Spock I like? Piece of cake.”
“Excellent. That’s all for today.”
“You are sad today,” Spock commented as they walked along the street toward their apartment.
“You are. I feel it. Did the session not go well?”
“It was fine. I like Geoff. But you know it brings everything into focus and it forces me to think about shit maybe I’d rather not think about.”
Spock fell silent, seeming to reflect on that.
“I believe that human psychology teaches against hiding thoughts and feelings. Burying trauma is considered not ideal. Is that not true?”
Jim shrugged. “I guess. But the execution of all that isn’t so easy. I’ve spent a lifetime burying all that.”
“I have some experience with that myself.”
Jim glanced at Spock. “Yeah?”
“The Vulcan way is to hide one’s feelings. Repress them. They do not do you credit.” Spock hesitated. “Do you think about what happened often?”
“Yes. I mean it’s not as much as when it first happened. Well, the thing was, when I first woke up, my mind was blocking everything.”
“It could not handle it so it shut down.”
“Pretty much that’s what M’Benga said. But as I started to recall it, it got to the point where it was all I could think about.”
“And now?” Spock prodded.
“Now I only think about it sometimes during the day. I mean it’s never really far away from my thoughts, still. I’ll hear a laugh that sounds like one of them or some scent reminds me what one of them wore. Sometimes, I don’t know, just when I let my mind wander, it wanders there. I play it over and over in my head as to what I could possibly have done differently. Gone with Bones. Visited Uhura. Picked another bar. Stayed home. Anything but what really happened.”
Jim had stopped on the street and Spock stopped with him. They were near a little shop Spock went to sometimes for tea and baked goods because they made Vulcan bread and even some Vulcan sweets. Jim had been surprised Vulcans ate sweets. And he didn’t even know why that surprised him.
He was hit by a couple of fat drops of rain. Spock had turned toward him. His hands were on Jim’s forearms, his dark eyes a swirling mass of not entirely discernable emotions. But Jim did make out one. And maybe it wasn’t in his gaze but from their physical contact. He wasn’t entirely sure.
What he did know was that he felt such overwhelming love coming from Spock that his breath caught and stilled in his throat and chest. His heart beat faster.
He put his hand on Spock’s face.
“Ashayam,” Spock whispered softly.
“You want to get some tea and some of those sweets you like so much?”
Spock closed his eyes briefly, leaning in toward Jim, his forehead touching Jim’s. He nodded slowly, then opened his eyes.
Jim kissed him lightly when Spock pulled away. “I’m okay. You know that, right?”
Spock wrapped his hand around Jim’s. It never ceased to amaze Jim how touchy feely Spock really was. And Jim didn’t mind. Not at all.
“I am okay, also.”
Jim smiled and nodded. He linked his arm with Spock’s and turned them toward the shop and out of the rain.
Chapter 26: One Step Forward and Two Steps Back
This chapter is heavily dialogue based.
I wanted to show struggles here with Jim's recovery, so this chapter maybe a bit darker than perhaps you were expecting.
“During our last session, I asked that you write five things you liked about Spock,” M’Benga said when Jim had taken his seat once more in Geoff’s office. “Did you do it?”
M’Benga smiled and nodded. “We’ll bring Spock in later. First, I’d like to spend some time talking with just you. Are you still seeing Leonard?”
“Oh, yeah. Bones had dinner with us last night.”
“And you aren’t pushing him away?”
Jim froze at the question. He stared at M’Benga. “Why would I do that?”
“We’ve talked about how wanting Leonard around makes you feel disloyal to Spock. I wondered if you were still having some of those concerns.”
“Well.” Jim stared down at his nails. “Yeah. I mean, maybe. To be honest, I’m trying not to need either of them too much.”
Geoff leaned back. “And why is that, Jim?”
He shrugged. “It’s wrong to rely on others too much, isn’t it?”
That caused a small smile in the doctor. “Is that what you’re doing?”
“I think so, sometimes, yeah. They’re both like a crutch I need or something. You know when I was younger I didn’t need anyone. I got by on my own.”
“You got by, yes. And that’s admirable. But I don’t think it’s because you didn’t need anyone. Jim, humanoids need the interaction with others like them. Those they care about and care about them in return. There’s nothing wrong with leaning on Spock when you need to. He’s essentially your spouse, isn’t he?”
“And Leonard is a trusted and close friend who is also a doctor who knows your history, both physically and mentally. Relying on him is completely understandable.”
“Where is this coming from, Jim?”
“I don’t know. It’s…everyone leaves, don’t they?”
“Is that what you think?” M’Benga asked gently.
Jim shrugged. “It’s what I know.” He stuck his finger in his mouth and chewed on a nail.
“That’s new, isn’t it?”
“What?” Jim pretended not to know what M’Benga meant, but he kind of did.
“Biting your nails.”
“Oh. Well. When I was a kid, I used to do it all the time.” Jim looked at his bleeding and torn fingernails.
“What made you stop?”
Jim nodded. He didn’t elaborate though. At the moment he couldn’t seem to make himself.
“Where are you, Jim?”
“Yes.” M’Benga’s voice was soft, almost a whisper.
“In my safe place.”
“What’s it like there?”
“No one can touch you. Not really. It’s nice. It’s not like a physical place. There are no meadows or oceans or anything. It’s all in my head.”
“And Frank can’t reach you?”
Jim swallowed. He felt the sudden sting of tears. “Sometimes he got through.”
“How did he make you stop biting your nails?”
“He’d make me lay my hand down flat on the table and then he’d pound his fist down hard on it. Fucking hurt like a bitch. Every single time he saw me doing it.”
“You’re safe from him now, Jim.”
Jim nodded. His gaze rose from his hands back to M’Benga’s face. He switched back to the other subject. “Everybody leaves, don’t they?”
“So you think Leonard will leave?”
“He did. He left as soon as our mission ended.”
“To see his daughter.”
“It’s still leaving.”
“But his intention was to come back, wasn’t it?”
Jim snorted and looked away toward the window. “Spock feels obligated now. He has to stay. We’re bonded or whatever. And now he feels guilty because he wasn’t around when they raped me. It’s a heavy burden.”
“For you or for him?”
Jim shrugged again. “Him, I suppose. But the truth is even if he’d been here he couldn’t have stopped it. Probably.” He sighed. “I don’t know.”
“Jim, do you blame Spock for not being there to stop it?”
“No,” Jim said slowly after a while. “Intellectually I know the only ones responsible are the ones who did it. Emotionally? Mentally? That’s a little harder, isn’t it?”
M’Benga was silent for a moment. “How are you feeling today, Jim?”
For a long time Jim just continued staring out the window. Then he exhaled. “Raw. Exposed. Like I’m bleeding out. Some days it’s okay, you know? I can handle it. I think, sure, I’m getting better. I don’t think about what they did every single minute of every day. It’s them, it’s not me. I can get past this. Today? I feel like I’m drowning. Like I’ll never be happy again. That the only way I won’t feel this way anymore is to not feel at all. And then I wonder, why was I okay the day before and the day before that? And maybe I was okay for weeks, right? But now, all of a sudden, I can’t breathe.”
“And don’t tell me that’s normal, Geoff.”
“Okay.” M’Benga nodded.
Jim swallowed and shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m probably more than you bargained for.”
Geoff smiled a little. “I have no complaints. While I’m not going to use that normal word, I will say I do think that having—I don’t want to use the word setback either—off days can be expected. I don’t believe it means you aren’t in recovery or that you’re regressing. And I want you to understand that.”
“Okay.” Jim moistened his lips. “Want to do the lists now?”
“Let’s leave that for another day, when you feel more like sharing something positive. I am going to give you an assignment for tonight though.”
Jim looked at him warily. “What’s that?”
“Be good to yourself. Be good to Spock. Maybe spend the night just holding on to each other. Doing something you both like to do. Keep the world out of it as much as you can. Spend an hour looking into each other’s eyes, if that’s what you want to do. Do something together.”
M’Benga smiled. “That’s it.”
“He did not call me in for the list of five things I wrote about you,” Spock said as they left M’Benga’s office.
“Yeah. About that…it was kind of a weird session so he thought to put it off to another time.”
“It was distressing?”
Jim didn’t want to lie. “Sort of. Let’s just say I’m not having a very good day.”
“Have I done something?” Spock faltered in his steps.
Jim put his hand on Spock’s arm. “No, sweetheart. It’s not you, it’s me. Sometimes-sometimes I’m going to have relapses.”
Spock did not seem happy at all about that but he nodded slowly. His dark eyes were stormy and uncertain. He looked more wrecked than Jim had seen him for a long time.
“Let’s get some potatoes and some milk, okay? We’ll make potato soup and just sit together all cuddled on the couch drinking tea and eating biscuits.” Jim attempted to smile, but knew it was weak. “Would you like that?”
Almost painfully slow, Spock nodded. “Yes, ashayam.”
“I love you so much,” Jim whispered. His voice cracked and he knew it.
“I worship you,” Spock said in return. He began to walk again, toward the store where they could buy their groceries. Jim followed after him, watching the stiff line of Spock’s shoulders.
Chapter 27: I'll Help You Carry on
“What exactly are we doing?” Bones asked, hands shoved into the pockets of his windbreaker.
“We’re checking out the animals in the exhibits of the zoo.” Jim stopped before a large enclosure that had rocks, caves, and grass. It was the gorilla enclosure.
“I know that. Just wondered why. You’ve never expressed an interest in zoos before.”
“I only like ones like this where they work toward conservation. Did you know there were once these big cats called Tigers? They’re extinct now because of us.”
Bones nodded. “I remember reading about them in school.”
“People before us actually got to see them not just read about them.” He gazed out over the gorillas. “It would be a shame to allow these magnificent creatures to become extinct.”
“I agree.” Bones leaned against the wall and looked at Jim instead of the animals. “You’re deflecting.”
“M’Benga’s my shrink, not you.” Jim softened the words with a smile. “Trial starts in a couple of weeks.”
“Are they requiring you to be there?”
Jim didn’t answer at first. Just leaned his head against the glass. He’d read once that you shouldn’t look directly in the eyes of a male gorilla because they considered it a threat. But the one he was looking at just gazed back serenely at him.
“How is it that something like this can become extinct but men like my attackers just roam around?”
“That’s the point of the trial, isn’t it? To make sure they don’t.”
Jim nodded. “More will just take their place, though, won’t they?”
“I suppose,” Bones replied. “You didn’t answer. Are you required to attend?”
“They said no. They have my recorded testimony and all the evidence they need. Said it was up to me.” Jim sighed. “Unless their lawyers subpoena me to appear. That’s possible.”
“I’ll murder them,” Bones muttered.
“It’s their job to get their clients off or at least the shortest sentence they can manage, Bones. It’s not personal.”
“I’ll still murder them.”
Jim straightened away from the glass and moved down the path toward the next animal. “If that happens, I’m sure they’ll do their best to paint me in the worst light they can. I know how it works.”
“You don’t have to sound so calm about it.”
Jim stopped walking. “I’m not calm. My stomach’s doing flip flops, my heart is racing, and my head is about to explode with the worse panic attack I’ve ever had.”
Jim smiled and shook his head. “I should have been an actor instead of had a career in Starfleet, don’t you think?” He began to walk again.
Bones followed after a while. “How-How’s Spock been treating you?”
“As good as gold. Platinum even. He’s been great. Really.”
“Where is he today?”
“Having lunch with Nyota. I figured he could use the break.” He didn’t add ‘from me’ and they both knew he didn’t need to. “Besides seeing animals in cages and enclosures is really not his thing. I think he’d be here letting them all out.”
He stopped before a water tank full of dolphins leaping and swimming. He had a vague recollection of coming to the ocean once when he was little with his mom. They’d gone to an aquarium. Sam wandered off, on purpose, and ruined the whole thing for everyone. When the police brought Sam back, Mom had vowed never to take them on an outing like that again. She hadn’t.
Jim leaned on the railing.
“Did you write those five things about Spock M’Benga wanted you to do?”
“Of course.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of yellow lined paper and handed it to Bones. “Read it and weep.”
Bones smirked and unfolded the paper. “Puts up with me,” he read aloud. His gaze went to Jim. “That’s your number one thing?”
He shrugged. “That’s a big thing, Bones.”
Bones refolded it with a scowl. “Jim, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. No one has to ‘put up with you’.”
“Relax, Bones. It’s no big deal.”
“I think it is a big deal. For fuck’s sake, Jim, the rest of this is shit like, “Spock’s a saint’. Is that because he puts up with you, too?”
Jim looked away. “Let it go, Bones.”
“No, I won’t.”
Jim heard the tearing of paper and he turned in shock. “Bones—”
Bones tossed the scattered remnants of Jim’s note into a trash bin. “Guess you’re going to have to make a new list.”
“I worked hard on that.”
“No, you didn’t. That wasn’t positive things about Spock, that was negative things about you.”
“You’re so picky,” Jim said, softly. “Let’s move on.”
Bones stopped near a popcorn vendor. “Want some?”
Bones got a bag and they shared it as they walked. “I’m worried about you, Jim.”
“You always are.” Except when you weren’t around when I was attacked. He regretted the ugly thought instantly. Bones had nothing to do with it. Spock, too. It was-it was him. It was his fault.
Bones stopped him with a hand on his arm. “Jim, what? What did you just say?”
“Fuck. Did I say that out loud?”
“It was not your fault. It was not!”
Crap, he had.
“I know, Bones,” Jim said softly. His head twinged a little. “Great.”
“Spock. He’s feeling my distress and is now distressed himself. He’s freaking out a little.” Jim sighed. “This mind thing…sometimes.” He closed his eyes.
“What are you doing?”
“Trying to reassure him I’m okay.”
“But you aren’t okay!”
“Bones, Spock doesn’t need to solve all my problems. And neither do you.”
Bones gripped Jim’s arms again. “No one’s trying to solve all your problems, Jim. But it’s okay to lean on us sometimes.”
Jim smiled and squeezed Bones’ arm. “I know. You ready to get out of here?”
“Thought you’d never ask.”
The minute Spock made it home, he rushed through the sliding door that led to the balcony and his gaze went to where Jim and Bones were sitting at the little table. His dark eyes flicked to Bones holding a glass of wine.
“Hey there, sweetheart,” Jim welcomed him with a smile. He lifted his teacup. “Just tea. See?”
“I do not object to you having alcohol,” Spock said, primly, as he leaned down to kiss Jim softly on the lips.
“Never the less. I think I’m better off with tea.” Jim rose from his chair and patted it for Spock to sit. Spock hesitated only briefly, and then after he was seated, Jim sat on his lap, looping his arms around Spock’s neck. “See, I had ulterior motives.”
“I think I’m going to get a refill,” Bones announced even though his glass was full. He went back inside.
“How was lunch with Nyota?”
“I missed you,” Spock replied. “How was your visit to the zoo?”
“I missed you.”
“You are melancholy,” Spock said, running his thumb over Jim’s bottom lip. “Will you tell me what it is you need?”
Spock fell silent. And then, “M’Benga contacted me today.”
“He recommends that I get therapy separate from what you are engaged in.”
“Did he say why?”
“Sometimes it helps the loved ones of victim’s.”
Jim nodded. “I see. Sort of like survivor’s guilt or something.”
“So it would seem.”
Jim tilted his head to look at his husband. “Are you thinking about it?”
“It is not something Vulcans allow,” Spock said carefully. “I do have the ability to seek out the assistance of a mind healer. Likely the equivalent.”
“If you think it will help, you should.”
“I am uncertain,” Spock admitted.
He put his hand up to Jim’s face.
Jim nodded his permission as Spock melded them. These melds were different than other melds Jim experienced. This was more Spock’s version of a healing meld. He eased Jim’s distress with calmness and support and an abundance of affection. It was a relief and frankly Jim’s favorite kind of meld. It was like little mini-mutual meditation.
“Thanks,” Jim whispered, leaning against Spock. Maybe Bones was right. It was okay to lean on them.
Chapter 28: You've Fought the Fight
He’s very loyal.
He’s brilliant. The most brilliant anybody I’ve ever known.
He’s logical yet very accepting of those around him who are not.
Okay, maybe that one was borderline about him. But Jim figured he’d get a pass on that, because really everyone around Spock failed in the logic department.
He’s unexpectedly forgiving.
He listens without judgment.
That was more than five things, wasn’t it?
He looks super hot in one of those Vulcan robes.
Jim smiled to himself.
“You’re smiling.” M’Benga entered his office where Jim had been sitting filling out the paper about Spock. “Sorry I was delayed.”
M’Benga took his seat. “You made your list?”
Jim nodded and reached over to hand it to M’Benga.
But the doctor waved it away. “No need to show it to me. The exercise was entirely for you. To get you thinking about Spock and to get him thinking about you. You can choose whether to show it to Spock or not, actually. I know I originally said you’d share it, but I think that needs to be up to you.”
Jim stuck it in the front pocket of his jeans, kind of out of sorts about it.
M’Benga smiled. “You have a question?”
“Well. Why’d I waste my time doing it if you were never going to see it?”
“Do you think coming up with positive things about your husband is a waste of your time?”
Jim grimaced. “Not when you put it like that.”
“Last time you were here you were having some difficulties.”
He shrugged. “I guess I’m okay.” Jim looked down at his bitten nails. “The trial starts next week.”
“Yes, I was notified. I’ve been called as a witness.”
Jim’s gaze flew to the doctor. “About?”
“The injuries you suffered as a result of their attack,” M’Benga said softly.
“Right,” Jim replied, pursing his lips. “I was told everything would be pretty routine.” He tried to keep the bitterness out of his tone when he said that word but knew he failed both by his own hearing and by the way M’Benga’s eyes softened.
“It’s not routine for you.”
“Hell no.” He dug his fingers into the palm of his hand. “I-I was in the neighborhood of that bar a couple of days ago. I felt sick.” Jim shook his head and stared at M’Benga. “And whatever you do, don’t say that’s understandable.”
“All right, I won’t.”
“Sorry. I just…I get kind of tired of hearing how everything that’s happened to me, everything I’ve felt about this, it’s all normal or understandable or the way it is. That’s probably all true, Geoff, but these are my experiences and no one else’s.”
“So instead of talking about how your feeling sick was understandable, why don’t you explain to me why you think you felt that way and anything else about what you felt that day you want to share.”
“I don’t know. It was like the scene of the crime, you know. It brought everything back. It made me feel…” He stopped, shook his head, his stomach feeling queasy.
“Weak. Powerless. Vulnerable.”
“How does vulnerable make you feel?”
“Angry. I hate that feeling. It makes my skin crawl to feel that way. All my life, I’ve-I’ve fought that feeling. Around Frank, in Tarsus, even around Spock when I fucking loved him so hard I could barely breathe and he belonged to someone else. I’ve spent my entire life trying to be strong and then what? A fucking thirty minutes can throw that all away.”
Jim stood up and began to pace.
“Two of them took deals, did you know that?”
M’Benga nodded. “They told me.”
Jim stopped pacing. “I wish they all did.”
“Are you going to the trial?”
Jim slowly shook his head. “No. They have my video testimony. And they didn’t subpoena me to appear. The prosecution talked them out of that.” He sank back down. “Thank you by the way. For everything.”
“You don’t need to thank me, Jim.”
“I do. You saved my life. After the attack, the rape, yeah. But also.” He licked his lips. “These sessions. Other than Spock and Bones you’re the only one I felt even remotely comfortable with.”
“I’m glad, Jim. I really am.”
“This is it, huh? The last required session.”
“It is. I do hope we can continue in some capacity though. I think you would benefit from it.”
“Sure,” Jim said. “If I come back to San Francisco.”
“Where are you off to?”
“First? Riverside. Spock and Bones are coming with me. Maybe I’ll put the place up for sale, maybe I’ll bulldoze it. I’ll decide when I get there.”
“We can meet via video conference from Riverside or wherever you end up, Jim,” M’Benga told him gently.
“I know. You’re right. Can I give it some thought before I decide?”
“I was really thinking about it, you know,” Jim said softly.
“What, Jim? Having Spock help you to forget that night?”
“Suicide,” he whispered. He fought the urge to look away and not meet Geoff’s gaze, but he thought this was too important to shy away from. “When I came back from Tarsus, I tried it. Did you know that?”
“I read it in your file from then,” M’Benga admitted. He’d been given access to Jim’s files, with Jim’s permission.
“I survived it with minimal scarring. I survived that, I survived Frank, hell I survived having my cells eradiated. I survived loving Spock when it was completely hopeless. This-this almost broke me. But I wasn’t going to let it. They don’t get to be what I can’t survive.”
“I’m incredibly glad to hear you say that, Jim. Very glad indeed.”
Spock, predictably, was waiting for him in the waiting room. He stood when Jim came out. Jim touched his fingers to Spock’s with a soft smile.
“You are well?”
“Yeah. I’m fine.” He took out the paper he’d stuffed into his jeans and handed it to Spock. “Here.”
Spock scanned the content of the note and Jim knew just when he came to the part about Spock looking super hot in his robes. His husband’s eyebrow twitched.
“I hope that you did not share that with Dr. M’Benga.”
“Nope. He didn’t want to see it. It was just some psycho mumbo jumbo thing.” Jim tilted his head. “Did you ever write the one about me?”
“Indeed although mine was quite different.”
Spock handed him a neatly folded paper.
As Jim opened it, he couldn’t help admire the neat scrawl of Spock’s writing.
You are the sun, the moon, the stars, life as I know it, my very existence, my cherished one.
Jim’s shining eyes met Spock’s. “That’s six.”
“We are both overachievers.”
“Apparently.” Jim took Spock’s hand. “So? You are okay with Riverside?”
“Anywhere that you are, I will be there.”
“You always have to outdo me, don’t you?” Jim kissed the corner of his husband’s mouth. “Come on. Let’s blow this joint.”
Chapter 29: Now Nothing Can Take You Away From Me
Spock had a moment to contact his father as Jim was still sleeping. For a while when first he’d awakened, Spock had simply watched his mate sleep. Jim was seldom peaceful in sleep, but this morning he was more than Spock had ever seen him. He found hope in that.
Eventually, Spock had to rise to relieve his own bladder, so he’d exited their bedroom and went to make himself tea. Later that day they would be leaving for Riverside, Iowa, as Jim wished. Leonard would be accompanying them.
While his tea was brewing he found he had a message regarding the results of the trial for those who had attacked Jim. Those that had not taken deals had been found guilty and would be sentenced at a future date. He would inform Jim later. It was, of course, Spock’s intention to keep Jim safe regardless of the results, but he was somewhat relieved that they had not escaped justice.
There were still a few loose ends, like the identity of the Klingon slavers who’d put such a price on Jim’s head, but those were issues he would deal with privately and without Jim’s involvement.
He sat down to sip his tea and opened a channel to Sarek.
“Spock, it is pleasing to see you,” his father spoke immediately upon appearing on his screen.
“You are well, Father?”
“Indeed. And you?”
“Improving,” Spock replied.
“Is there a time that you and Jim will be available for a visit on New Vulcan?”
Spock hesitated only a moment before saying softly, “Not at present. He wishes to stay in somewhat familiar territory for the time being, even if it may cause him some pain.”
“We head to Riverside today, to where he grew up.”
Sarek nodded. “I understand he had a difficult childhood.”
“To put it mildly. I believe the visit will be somewhat cathartic. Jim doesn’t wish to go off planet at present and I do not wish to be parted from him.”
“That is understandable. Perhaps it is something to be considered at a later date then.”
“Perhaps.” Spock then changed the subject to speak of Vulcan agents they both knew who could investigate matters rather discreetly. Several minutes later he ended contact with his customary greeting.
When he turned to rise from his seat he spotted Jim standing just outside of the kitchen, still dressed in his pajamas. His tank top had risen up while his hand inched under to scratch his side. His hair was flat on one side and sticking up on the other.
“Good morning, Jim.”
“Morning,” he replied with a yawn. He stepped into the kitchen and then gave Spock a vague smile when he saw that Spock had already made a pot of coffee.
“I knew there was a reason I loved you.”
Spock watched him as he poured a cup. “How long have you been up?”
“Do you mean was I up long enough to hear you plotting with your father to locate the Klingon slavers?” Jim nodded. “Yes.”
Jim turned around to face Spock, clutching his coffee mug in his hands. “Spock, I’m not mad or upset. You have every right to do what helps you in this. And finding those responsible could help prevent them from victimizing someone else.”
“Yes,” Spock agreed quietly. “But I am not searching for them for such an altruistic reason.”
Jim smiled faintly. “I know.”
“If you wish for me to stop—”
“I don’t,” Jim said quickly. “But neither do I think you should do this for me. Or for my safety. I’m safe with you.”
Spock looked away. “There is still a price on your head. And there are times I might not be around.”
Jim was suddenly in Spock’s personal space so that he had no choice but to look at him. “Is that a real possibility?”
Instead of answering Jim’s question, Spock said, “Before when I left you, after our time together, I left because I did not believe I deserved you. All my life I have felt inferior both as a Vulcan and as a Human. Accepted by neither. Not truly. I was not convinced that I could provide you with the emotional comfort in life that you most definitely craved and deserved.”
Jim opened his mouth to speak and Spock stopped his words with fingers on Jim’s lips.
“Not because I did not love you, but rather, I have never found it easy to acknowledge that emotional side of myself. I thought you would be better off finding someone more suited to your needs.” Spock looked down. “And because of that, I failed you when you needed me most.”
“Spock, you didn’t fail me.”
His gaze rose. “If I had been here, you would not have gone to that establishment. Would you?”
“No,” Jim admitted. “But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have found another way. The only ones responsible for what was done are them, Spock. It’s taken me a while to believe and accept that, so believe me, I get it. I get it.” He put his hand on Spock’s jaw. “I don’t want you to be more human. I want you to be you. And whatever has happened in the past between us is the past. Let’s move on from that and look to the future.”
“We can try. It’s what we both want. Part of moving on from the past is going back to Riverside and accepting that it’s just a place. It doesn’t hold power over me. And over us.”
Jim’s smile widened. “I know. I love you. You love me. We’re together. We aren’t ever going to be parted again. Got that?”
Spock nodded. “Yes.”
“Honey, no one can predict the future. But what I can predict is that I’ll always love you, no matter what, in any universe and under and circumstances.”
Spock shifted closer to him and rested his cheek against Jim’s, inhaling softly. “You own me, James T. Kirk.”
“I think, maybe, we own each other.”
“Think it’s changed much?” Leonard asked Jim as they prepared to board the shuttle for Riverside.
“Doubt it,” Jim said. “House is probably more rundown, maybe. Although I guess there were renters in there keeping it up for a while. Might not be so bad.”
Leonard squeezed Jim’s shoulder just before he went up the ramp. “You sure about this, Jim?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. I think after talking to Geoff, I think I need to face some of these demons. And there’s almost no bigger demon to me than Frank.”
Leonard preceded them up the ramp and then Spock fell into step beside Jim as they walked into the shuttle next to each other. Perhaps it would still be a while before Spock could let Jim out of his sight for more than a few hours. Even that was somewhat difficult, but he was working on it.
Earlier he had informed Jim of the guilty verdict when they’d taken a moment to stand on their balcony in their apartment before leaving.
“Guilty on all counts, ashayam.”
For a long time Jim had said nothing, just continued to stare out at San Francisco. But then he let out the barest of breaths and nodded slowly that he’d heard Spock.
Spock moved closer to him, making sure their arms touched.
“I don’t know what I would have done if it had gone any other way,” Jim whispered a short time later.
“Yes,” Spock said simply, and then he’d put his arm around Jim’s shoulders and drew him tight against him.
Now here they were boarding a shuttle for a place that had only given Jim pain. Spock did not want to go. He knew such feelings were likely illogical and perhaps unfair, for the city had nothing to do with Jim’s torturous childhood. And yet he dreaded the visit anyway.
“Hey.” Jim nudged him as they took their seats. “Are you all right?”
He nodded. “Experiencing a little emotional transference.”
“Yeah.” Jim moistened his lips. “Understandable. This isn’t going to be easy.”
“We can still get off,” Leonard said from the other side of Jim.
“Shuttle cleared for takeoff,” said a voice over the speaker.
“Or not,” Leonard grumbled.
“Eh, if it’s that bad,” Jim said, “we’ll just get off and back on as soon as we land.”
Leonard snorted. “Now you’re talking.”
Jim took Spock’s hand and then he took Leonard’s hand. “Thank you. Both. For everything.”
“You’re going to make me cry,” Leonard muttered, extracting his hand. He gestured with his head. “I’m gonna go sit over there. Take a nap.”
Jim laughed as he watched his friend move to the seat across from them and stretched out across it. “He really can’t handle the mushy stuff.”
“Hmm.” Spock just tightened his grip on Jim’s hand as his mate leaned into him. “Regrets are illogical.”
“What?” Jim asked sleepily.
“Nothing, ashal-veh. Rest. I will wake you when we arrive.”
Jim didn’t know when the last time was that he’d been in this house. Years, And when last he’d left it, he had hoped never to return. Yet here he was.
It was vacant now. The last renters having moved out a few months back.
He’d asked Spock and Bones to wait outside for a while and let him enter the house by himself. He needed to ground himself before allowing them to see this place that had paid such a large part of shaping his life. The occupants here anyway.
As he stood on the kitchen images flashed through his mind.
“Clean that up, you little shit.”
“You think that hurts, I’ll show you how something can hurt.”
“Stop whining. If you just relax it won’t hurt as much.”
“Stop that crying, you piece of shit. You think this is easy? Your bitch mother is never around.”
“What you want doesn’t matter. You are no one.”
“So smart guy, you’re going off planet to a place called Tarsus IV. Maybe they can deal with you there.”
“I can’t believe you of all idiots survived that planet. I would have thought you’d be among the first to die.”
He felt a little caress on his mind, sort of like a warning so that he wouldn’t be startled, just before he heard Spock’s softly whispered, “Ashayam.”
Jim forced a smile, though probably more grimace like then he would wish, and faced his Vulcan. “Hi, sweetheart.”
“I apologize for not heeding your wishes to remain outside but your distress was palpable.” He held out two fingers toward Jim who touched them without hesitation. The furrowed line between Spock’s brows disappeared.
“I’m okay. I didn’t mean to worry you.”
“Your thoughts are powerful at present,” Spock said quietly. “If my intrusion—”
“You aren’t intruding.” Jim reached for Spock’s hand. “Can I show you something?”
Jim glanced toward the stairs. “There are a lot of bad memories. But I guess there’s one in particular I want you to know about.”
He pulled Spock with him to the stairs and up them before heading down the hallway toward his old room. He hesitated only a moment before crossing the threshold. Spock was close behind.
“This is where I spend most of my childhood. Just a bed and a dresser with one window.” His gaze strayed to the closet. “And the closet.”
Jim walked over to it and opened the door. There was, of course, nothing there now. Not even the bar across it that was used to hang clothes. He licked his lips.
“I tried…” He closed his eyes briefly. “There was a bar across here once. When I was nine I tried to kill myself by hanging from it.”
Spock went completely still. He showed no outward reaction but Jim could feel his dismay through their link.
“At-at the time I couldn’t see any other way out, you know.” Jim touched his fingers to the wall. “Really, it wasn’t high enough to actually kill me but I thought it would. Sam found me and got me free.”
“I am grateful to your brother.”
Jim’s mouth twisted. “Yeah. But it made marks all over my neck that I couldn’t hide from Frank.” He touched his neck. “Hurt like hell and fucked up my voice for days. But the worst was the beating I got from Frank.”
“He beat you?”
Jim walked out of the closet and closed the door. “Any excuse to, yes. That beating was pretty bad. Ended up in the hospital for a couple of days. Frank would never have taken me there, but a neighbor saw my injuries and called the authorities.”
“And yet they did not take you from him?”
“Not then, no. Mom was still off planet. She always was. They didn’t let you take kids up on starships and no one else wanted us. When I came back from Tarsus IV and Mom finally came home a few weeks later, that’s when she got rid of Frank for good.”
“And your brother?”
Jim shrugged and walked over to where Spock stood. “Long gone. And never came back. I heard once he got married and went to Deneva, but I don’t really know. Bones has always been more of a brother to me then Sam ever was.”
Spock pulled him close then, his hand resting on the small of Jim’s back. “If I could, I would take all the pain away.”
“I know. Just having you here makes it better.” He kissed Spock softly. “Ready to go back downstairs to let Bones in?”
“If you are. Jim, we do not have to stay here.”
“I know, sweetheart. But in reality, it’s not the house’s fault. Or Riverside. I have to keep reminding myself just like with my rape.”
He tugged Spock by the arm and out of the room. He paused by the master bedroom. “This is where we’ll stay while we’re here.”
Spock looked in. “It appears to be suitable.”
“I’ll have Bones stay in Sam’s old room.”
They went downstairs and Jim paused again as his gaze swept over the first floor. “I had a treehouse I sometimes went to in order to avoid Frank. He didn’t like to climb up the tree so when I went I knew he would usually leave me alone until I came down anyway. Couldn’t go there in the winter though.”
“Where did you go to avoid him then?” Spock asked.
“The basement or a friend’s house. Not that I had a ton of friends, but I had a couple.” Jim went over to the door leading outside. “Sorry, Bones. Come on in.”
Bones came inside, carrying the bags, and looked around the house with a baleful gleam in his eyes. “You okay?”
Jim smiled. “I’m fine. What do you say we go to the store and get some steaks to grill?”
“Now you’re talking.”
Jim glanced at Spock, who arched a brow. “And eggplant. Some eggplant.” He laughed and planted a big wet kiss on Spock’s cheek.
“Don’t forget wine,” Bones spoke up. “Have to have something to keep me warm.”
Jim stepped outside on the back enclosed porch to stand next to Bones, who had come out here a short while ago. “What are you doing?”
Bones shrugged a little. “Wondering what it was like to live here mostly. Wishing I could have known you then. Maybe intervened.”
Jim put his arm around Bones’ shoulders. “Regrets are illogical.”
“Yeah and so are you,” Bones retorted. “You sound more and more like Spock every day.”
“I hope you’re prepared to have him constantly by your side for the rest of your life,” Bones said after a moment. “Pretty sure he won’t let you out of his sight for more than a minute or so.”
“There are worse things than clingy Vulcans.”
“How about a clingy human best friend?”
Jim nudged him with a shoulder bump. “Hear any complaints?”
Bones looked away. “Jim, I wish I—”
“Yeah,” Jim interrupted softly and quickly. “I-I appreciate that.”
“I’m torn between wanting them to have prison sentences served on some place like Rura Pantha or just wanting them to die a painful exploding death right now,” Bones said seriously.
“You’re a doctor not a revenge seeker,” Jim replied.
“I can make an exception for them.”
“Well, I acknowledge the sentiment anyway.”
Bones nodded. He held a glass of wine, which he took a sip from. “I’m sure you’re just glad to never have to see them again.”
The smile slipped from his face. “I see them.”
“I’ll probably always seem them. Another nightmare to add to the crowd that’s already in my head.” Jim glanced at him. “And I don’t know if I can ever set foot in a bar again.”
Bones’ eyes had a wet sheen. “I just—”
Jim hugged him. “I know, Bones. I know. I’m here though. I got through it. Not easily, but I got through.”
The door opened behind him and Jim pulled away to greet his Vulcan husband.
“Come here, you.” Jim pulled Spock over to him so that he was now sandwiched between his husband and best friend. Somewhere there was a joke about it, but he couldn’t quite think of it. Whatever.
“It is cold out here,” Spock said, his voice having a definite note of disapproval.
“You’re wearing a coat,” Jim pointed out.
“It is still cold.”
“And we’re in an enclosed porch.”
“It is still cold,” Spock repeated.
Jim smiled. “Anyone ever tell you, you’re like the cutest thing ever?”
Spock arched a brow. “Certainly not.”
“I agree with Spock. Certainly not,” Bones muttered.
“I know, I know. Spock is the best thing ever ever ever. I’m never going to win against him, am I?”
“Doctor, we are not in a competition.”
Jim rolled his eyes. Then let go of them to move to the edge of the enclosure where he could see the sky and the stars. “Hey, you two. Shut up and come here.”
They both stepped over instantly and Jim had to admit being the captain never got old. Hell, he still had his rank after all, and eventually, maybe, he’d be lucky enough to be up there again. In the Enterprise. No other ship would do. And no other first officer and chief medical officer would do either. Jim would definitely insist.
“Want to go back up there?” Jim asked, as all three of them tilted their heads up to look up at the sky. He’d done this as a boy, when it was too cold to stand out in the yard to do so. He’d let himself dream of another life. And he’d gotten that life. It wasn’t perfect but it was his.
Bones mumbled something and Jim ignored him.
Jim leaned against Spock. “I went there that night because I felt so alone. Lonely. I was lonely.”
Spock’s lips ghosted over Jim’s head. “You have been lonely too long. We both have. We need never be again.”
Bones sighed. “I’m still here, you two lovebirds.”
Jim chuckled. “Yeah. You are.”
“Look.” Bones pointed as a shooting star streaked across the sky. “Pretty huh?”
“Yeah,” Jim said softly. “Let’s go back up there.”
And that's a wrap on this one. This fic was originally inspired by the song Dust to Dust by the Civil Wars. Check it out if you're interested. I'm not sure I intended to go this direction when I first started this fic, but it definitely got very emotional and complicated. I'll miss this Jim very much because in my opinion he's among my greatest versions of Jim, but all things must end, and it's time for this story.
I also thought it appropriate to end this with the triumvirate.