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Sha Ka Ree

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Gleaming with sweat, Jim leaned shirtless over the roof of the shuttlecraft, ancient goggles strapped to his face as he wielded ancient equipment that, without the power cores of four of their six remaining phasers, would never have worked in the first place.

The recklessness of it caused Spock a difficult-to-suppress level of anxiety. But Spock, with his superior strength, was the logical choice to hold up the very metal panel that Jim was welding, so it wasn’t as though he could trade places. He stood now on top of their emergency kit to get a good height, while Jim carefully (by Spock’s order) and painstakingly ran the Vulcan welding equipment across a seam of metal. Already today they had sanded down the jagged edges, pounded out dents in panels they planned to affix, and now they worked with strained muscles under the still-boiling sunlight of near-evening.

Even still, one solid day of work, and it was starting to look like these repairs were possible. Theoretically, of course, they always had been, but even Spock had admitted to moments of doubt. He’d often wondered if the two of them could really do this on their own.

It began to look as though they could. And if they kept up this pace, his earlier estimation of 11.8 months might turn out to be false.

Spock had never been quite as pleased at the prospect of being proven wrong.

The grinding hum of the welding equipment ceased and Spock peeked over the edge of the panel to meet Jim’s eyes. Jim sat up, shoved his goggles into his hair and wiped the sweat from his eyebrows. He had two strips of fabric they’d torn from their emergency blanket wrapped around his hands like bandages (or mittens) in the absence of welding gloves, and Spock came close to finding the sight of him comical.

“That’s, what, three panels down?” Jim said, his voice sounding strangely quiet after the seemingly interminable sound of his welding. He leaned back on his heels, “Forty-eight to go?”

Spock nodded, releasing his hold, but keeping his hands close in case the panel decided to snap off. It looked to be steady, though. Jim had done a fine job.

“Indeed, however we are making excellent progress.”

Jim smiled at him brightly, the shine of his teeth catching the dying sunlight. He looked red, and Spock worried that, in spite of the aloe they’d used earlier, Jim might have succumbed to a burn. But it didn’t seem to bother Jim, who seemed relaxed in spite of his labor.

“It’s a relief to hear that from the task master,” Jim said with a chuckle. “Think we’re making enough progress to call it a day? I wouldn’t mind relaxing for a few minutes before I pass out for the night.”

Spock looked at the sun’s position in the sky, then back toward Jim. In an hour or so, Jim would have to lay down for his evening rest, and If Spock were being honest, his own body weighed heavy with fatigue. For the first time in a long time, he considered joining him.

“That would be sufficient,” he said. “If you would like, we may set up the blankets at the mouth of the cave.”

Jim’s responding, widening grin was answer enough. Feeling his cheeks heat at the sight of him, as they often did, Spock dropped down from his perch on top of the kit and watched Jim crawl to the edge of the shuttle’s hole. Reaching down as Spock reached up, Jim grabbed Spock’s forearms with his clumsy welding mittens, hopping from the height gracelessly, but with some help.

His boots hit the ground with a floof of sand and he smiled up at Spock. “Thanks,” he said sweetly, releasing his hold on Spock’s arms and holding out his hands.

Understanding the gesture, Spock began to unwind the strips of fabric, a small smile on his lips. “It will do us both good to rest,” Spock said as he pulled, unraveled and folded, eyes on his task rather than the face of his companion. “I thought perhaps I might lie down with you for a time.”

Over their connection, Spock felt a thrum of happiness that made his fingers fumble on the fabric for a moment.

“I’d love that,” Jim said sincerely. “You’ve been at this longer than I have.”

Spock removed the strip from one of Jim’s hands and laid it over his own bare shoulder, moving onto the next. “Only a few hours,” he responded. In truth, he’d spent most of his time while Jim slept earlier meditating by the graves of their comrades, but he had spent a little time on the shuttle as well. Perhaps the meditation had exhausted him more than the labor. His thoughts were often tumultuous anymore.

But even still, he preferred this to the way things had once been. At least he knew that when mediation failed, Jim would be there.

As he pulled off the last of Jim’s mittens, Jim flexed his fingers. He’d been welding for hours-- Spock could only imagine they ached.

“Come, let’s return. We should attend to your sunburn, too.”

Jim glanced down at his own shoulders and winced. Though he’d developed quite the tan over the months, long exposure like this still wasn’t good for him.

“As long as I get to sleep afterwards, I’ll do whatever you want,” Jim responded. He stepped a bit closer and took the strips of emergency blanket from Spock’s shoulder, then ran his other hand along Spock’s bare arm. The touch was tender, not meant to be incendiary, but there was a definite ember-glow in Jim’s eyes. Spock leaned forward, sensing the desire, and met Jim’s lips.

Each time, it felt like the first. His eyes would flutter, Jim’s lips would press hesitantly against his own, and then the rush of affection would flood him. Jim had told him to let down his mental barriers if he wanted to, and he found he often wanted to. There was something about feeling Jim’s fondness in each kiss that felt validating. It helped him to realize, each time, that this was real.

So much had changed in recent days, but as long as he concentrated on Jim, on the glowing world around them, on the warmth of a campfire or the warmth of Jim’s touch, he found he didn’t fear change as much as he once did. Living as long as they had alone on an alien planet had taught him that there were worse things to fear than the possibility of happiness, even if he sometimes had to remind himself of that fact.

The kiss did not linger long, nor did it need to. When they pulled away, Jim gifted him a soft smile, ran his hand down the rest of Spock’s arm and brushed their fingers together. He nodded toward the cave. “I like the idea of setting up the blankets at the entrance,” he said conversationally, turning to make his way home. Thankfully, there was very little limp in his step. “This is my favorite time of day.”

Spock took up the emergency kit in both his hands and followed Jim dutifully, casting one glance back at the shuttle, two-toned in the steel of Starfleet and the deep green-grey of the metal they’d scavenged from the Vulcan ship. It would look messy when it was finished, but it was beginning to look like a ship, at least.

“Why is that?” he asked, almost having missed the statement as he lost himself in his thoughts. He drew up beside Jim, sticking close if only to feel the warmth that radiated from him.

Jim shrugged, flopping his hands to his sides and letting loose some of the fabric. It began to trail behind him, but he didn’t notice. “Oh, the leaves start collapsing and the insects stop screaming and it cools off and the whole world just turns... golden . It’s beautiful.”

Spock glanced around. It was true, the closer they got to sunset (though full night was still many hours away), the more the world took on a yellow-orange hue. Once, he recalled thinking it looked eerie laying over the scene of the quiet shuttle, but now he could see why Jim liked it. Jim did have an affinity for the color gold. And, yes, the leaves had just begun their accordion-fold, the light filtering through them beginning to resemble waves along the sand.

When they reached the cave, Jim insisted he could retrieve the blankets on his own, so Spock remained at the mouth, pulling a couple of pink fruits from the kit and rinsing them with water from the canteen they’d placed in there. The water had heated over the hours they’d spent in the sun, but it was clean, at least.

When Jim returned and set the blankets up in a small cushion, Spock joined him. For a time, they sat and shared their fruit. Jim, though clearly tired, was happy to fill the time talking about their progress. He told Spock he was excited to connect the bussard ramscoop to the engineering alcove they hadn’t yet built, which got him talking about how they would have to recalibrate it to collect ions for the engine, rather than the hydrogen that would normally power a warp nacelle. He went through their plans for the engine, adding notes to the points they’d yet to agree on. Spock listened intently the whole time, though he occasionally found himself hyperfocused on the sticky pink juices running down Jim’s chin and fingers each time his teeth broke the skin of the fruit.

Spock had trouble not staring, even though he knew he was allowed to now. It had only been days since that permission had been granted-- to touch, to taste, to feel-- and yet it still felt each time as though he were crossing boundaries that shouldn’t have been crossed. But then Jim would smile, like he did now around an endearing mouthful, and Spock would forget about boundaries for a moment.

When they’d finished and tossed the fruit pits into the forest, Spock’s overtaking Jim’s by a few feet (“every time,” Jim complained) they rinsed their hands and settled back on the cushion. Almost the whole time they’d been eating, Jim had been shooting Spock happy little glances, anticipatory. So as Spock patted his hands dry on his torn slacks, he finally asked.

“Is there something on your mind, Jim?”

The corner of Jim’s mouth drew up in a lopsided smile. “Isn’t there always?”

“Indeed. Usually you are quite willing, if not over-eager to share.”

Jim laughed, nudging Spock’s shoulder with his fist, “You can’t tell me I talk too much if you insist on staying strong and silent,” Jim said. He paused. “But-- well-- there is something on my mind. I was wondering if you might indulge me.”

Spock raised an eyebrow and Jim’s grin widened. He brought a hand to Spock’s hair and began to stroke down the strands that had risen with the humidity, starting at the crown of his head and ending where he’d tied it at the nape of his neck. “Your hair has gotten so long,” he said, and Spock wondered briefly what that had to do with Jim’s plans. “ Just past your shoulders when you let it down.” He slipped his fingers into the strip of leather that held Spock’s hair back and slid it off. Spock felt his hair tickle his shoulders, but his focus was decidedly elsewhere.

There was something sensual in Jim’s voice, a husky sort of wonder that made Spock swallow. But he allowed Jim to card his fingers through his hair, and soon his eyes fluttered closed at the sensation. “There’s something I want to try,” Jim finally said.

Spock’s eyes shot open and he met Jim’s. “Something?” Spock asked, attempting to keep any fear or judgement from his tone. Jim’s smile turned indulgent as though he knew Spock’s thoughts, and he ran his thumb over the pith of Spock’s cheek.

“I have a feeling I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not that,” Jim laughed.

Granted, Spock had immediately assumed Jim was suggesting intercourse, but now he felt a simmer of confusion. If he hadn’t been hinting at that...

“What is it you would like to try?”

“Stay right there,” Jim said with a wink. It was boyish and charming and playful and Spock found himself averting his eyes in hopes that Jim could not see his reaction to the gesture. But Jim had already gotten to his feet. He walked over to the tree closest to the cave’s entrance where he’d hung a bundle of flowers to dry the day before. In the humidity, they still retained their shape and smell for days, but Jim didn’t seem to care. He returned with the bouquet and set it beside Spock, then moved behind him and settled on his knees.

“Jim?”

“Patience, Spock” Jim said, running a hand along Spock’s arm as though to soothe him, though he was undisturbed.

But then Jim’s fingers were back in his hair, slipping through the strands that Spock had oiled earlier that day, separating locks between his digits. The motion was soft, comforting, and Spock felt his eyes closing once again. Whatever Jim had in mind seemed to be innocent, which was both a relief and a disappointment. Though they had draped their arms over each other at night and now allowed themselves the permission of each other’s lips, and though Jim had become incredibly fond of the concept of Vulcan kissing, Jim had not made a move beyond that to suggest he wished to re-establish-- or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say establish for the first time-- a sexual relationship.

But Spock had decided nearly immediately not to do so himself. He felt as though he had already pushed too much on Jim, and the fear of his own inexperience was an ever-present thought. In this, he shifted responsibility to his companion. Besides, it had only been a few days since they had agreed to do whatever it was that they were doing. Spock was not entirely familiar with human methods of courtship, but a three or four days did sound a little soon.

Then again, his mind was very helpful in reminding him often that this-- again, whatever it was-- had in fact begun many many months ago. So perhaps Spock’s mild impatience was more warranted than he told himself it was.

But even innocent actions like this, the soft caress of Jim’s hands through his hair, Spock melted into. He was so caught up in his thoughts and the gentle feeling of wandering fingers that he hardly noticed when Jim picked up one of the flowers, a trumpet-shaped pink plume with bright violet veins, and set it against Spock’s head. It was then that Spock became aware of Jim’s fingers twisting strands of hair around its stem.

“What are you doing?” Spock asked, and he felt Jim’s smile over their bond, though he couldn’t see it over his shoulder.

“Braiding,” Jim replied. “I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to do this.”

Spock attempted to turn his head, but Jim’s hands held him steady. “Nah-ah, this is delicate work,” he admonished gently. “Eyes forward, Commander.”

It had been many months since that title had slipped out of Jim’s lips, and now it sounded more a term of endearment than anything else. Spock quite liked it.

“May I ask why?” Spock said as Jim grabbed another flower from the bouquet and continued his work.

“Because if you turn your head you’ll mess up the braids,” Jim chuckled.

“I mean to ask,” Spock said gently, a half-smile on his own lips, “why you wish to braid my hair.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Jim admitted, “I thought of it a few months ago, when you first started tying your hair back. I thought how good you’d look with a braid and then the flowers just kind of… came in later.”

Spock felt himself flush at that. The idea of Jim thinking he looked ‘good’ with anything was oddly affirming. He had never considered himself to have any aesthetic appeal, nor had he ever cared whether or not he did, but somehow it had become important to him that Jim at least saw something in him that he liked.

“And I’ve never seen a Vulcan with long hair before,” Jim continued. “It makes you look, oh, wild? Untamed? Sexy?”

Swallowing, Spock felt his spine straighten. Jim adjusted the placement of his hands for the height and let out a small, snorting laugh. He laughed so easily anymore.

“It is not so rare,” Spock said to cover the moment. “True, since the Awakening few Vulcans wear their hair long, but some do. Especially those who connect more fully with our ancestors.”

“Did ancient Vulcans wear it long, then?”

Spock resisted the urge to nod, not wanting to get reprimanded again. “Indeed. It is somewhat fitting that I now wear it this way, as the planet Vulcan is currently one-hundred years before the Awakening.”

Jim’s fingers stilled for a moment.

“Wait, really? So you’re saying somewhere across the quadrant right now, your ancestors are running around bare-chested and long-haired and living a life of complete and total illogic?”

Spock shrugged slightly. “That is a reductive summary, but generally accurate.”

Jim ran a hand along Spock’s shoulder for a moment, squeezing lightly. “That must feel strange to think about,” he said.

In truth, Spock had hardly considered it. But now the thought entered his mind. ‘Bare-chested, long-haired and living a life of complete and total illogic.’ It described his ancestors, yes, but currently it seemed to describe him, too. He looked down at his chest (as he had shed his own shirt in the day’s heat hours ago), and considered the fact that a human man with whom Spock had established a strong mental link was now braiding flowers into his hair. Illogical, by any measure.

He let out a little puff of breath, feeling the corners of his lips tick upwards. A breeze ruffled by, and he hoped the sound of the wind had covered it.

“What?” Jim asked, a laugh on his own lips. “What’s so funny?”

Spock looked out over the forest, eyes tracing the paths of jewel-bright insects while, in the distance, the chortling of those little fat birds echoed throughout the oasis. Something in him softened-- something that had remained hard and clenched for a great deal of his life and only now seemed to want to let go.

“It had not occurred to me,” Spock responded, “that I am likely more akin to my ancestors at the moment than to most Vulcans with whom I am acquainted. It is a fascinating thought.”

Jim continued his braiding, and Spock realized he’d lost count of the number of flowers in his hair. It didn’t matter, though, the weight of them was pleasant, as were Jim’s ministrations.

“Does that bother you?” Jim asked after a moment, a sliver of insecurity in his tone.

“It simply is,” Spock responded, which was true. He thought then of the Vulcans on his homeworld. They had been such primitive people, so eclipsed by whim and desire and rage, but they had been his people, and somewhere in his blood he still felt them. Though he would never wish to abandon Surakian teachings, he supposed there were lessons to be learned from all of one’s ancestors.

And the pre-Awakening Vulcans did have their own lessons to teach. Even some of their beliefs had continued to affect Vulcan culture into modern day. The Gods, the mythology, the ancient rites…

“There,” Jim said from behind Spock, patting his shoulder and flopping back on the cushion of blankets. He scooted to Spock’s side to get a good look at him and let a wide smile break over his lips.

Spock reached up a hand and gently traced his fingertips along the blooms of the flowers. It felt as though Jim had braided a few separate chunks and then twisted them all together. The arrangement felt heavy on the back of his head and neck, but not unpleasant.

Spock had no idea what he looked like, but Jim seemed ecstatic. “Oh, Spock,” he said, patting Spock’s knee excitedly. “I wish we had some kind of recording device. When we get back to Starfleet-- holo recorders in every emergency kit.”

“I am sure we could think of more useful items to include. There are few emergencies that require a holo-recorder.”

Jim shoved his shoulder lightly, laughing. “This is an emergency,” he said, “I need to remember this forever.” With a gentle hand, Jim reached up and touched the blooms himself, his smile turning softer, giddiness fading into something else Spock couldn’t quite place. There was a pause as something shifted in him, something Spock could feel almost physically. “Now you really look wild,” he said.

Spock looked down to the bouquet beside him, now just a few scattered flowers, and took up a sprig of yellow buttons. Turning back to Jim, he tucked the stem gently behind Jim’s ear and trailed his fingers down Jim’s temple and cheek, ghosting over meld points where he felt flashes of thoughts, though nothing tangible. But he didn’t need to feel anything to see the naked expression in Jim’s eyes at the gesture, the same look of wondering joy he wore when the sun set and the leaves collapsed and the world turned golden.

“I believe, Jim,” Spock said gently, “I have a suggestion. Something to name Alpha Novus V.”

Jim seemed to startle out of a kind of trance, taking a moment to absorb what Spock had said. When he did, though, his eyes widened and he scooted closer. “Finally! I must have suggested a thousand names by now.”

“Thirty-five,” Spock corrected.

Jim smirked. “You know I may have to disagree with it just on principle, since you’ve contradicted all of mine.”

“I am still convinced less than half of them were proposed with any seriousness,” Spock teased back.

“Alright, Spock,” Jim said sweetly, “what’s your pitch?”

Spock glanced back out the cave, then to the man beside him, the yellow flower behind his ear making his eyes shine. Golden.

“Sha Ka Ree,” he said simply.

Jim’s brows tilted downwards. “Sha Ka Ree?” He tried out the unfamiliar syllables on his lips. “Is that Vulcan?” At Spock’s nod, he smiled. “Appropriate, given everything. What does it mean?”

“It is a place in the mythology of my ancestors, much like Earth’s Eden. The origin of life.” He paused, then, “Paradise.”

Jim seemed to pull back for a moment, the smile fading from his face. At first, Spock worried at the expression, but he only felt thoughtfulness, not judgement or distaste, radiating from Jim in that moment.

“Sha Ka Ree,” Jim repeated. He looked out over the forest as Spock had done, and Spock wondered what he was seeing. Maybe he thought of the deaths of their crew. The traumatic crash, the fangs of the bulldog that had nearly killed them. Maybe he thought of the Vulcan graveyard, the hundreds of crashed ships.

But the longer he stared, the more Spock felt Jim’s thoughts turning elsewhere, to the pond where they sometimes speared fish, to the place by the shuttle where they’d practiced shooting the bow and arrow, to the caldera that glowed softly and warmed them when they were cold, to the evidence of generations of colonists, and-- possibly-- to Spock himself.

When he turned his eyes back to Spock, there were oceans in their depths, so much said without words.

“I love it,” Jim said softly, emotion choking his voice. He cleared his throat and his lips quirked, smiling something soft and almost timid, “I’m just… I’m surprised you think of this place as a paradise.”

Spock conceded to that. By all rights, he should not, yet… “Perhaps not fully. This planet has seen more tragedy than I believe either of us will ever know. But I-- I feel at peace here.”

“Me too,” Jim said. “And it is our planet. We can name it whatever we want.”

Spock hesitated to consider Alpha Novus V, or rather, Sha Ka Ree, their planet, but it may as well have been. And they had both lost so much, it seemed only appropriate they should gain this paradise in exchange.

“Sha Ka Ree is acceptable then?” Spock asked, a trill of nerves at the thought of naming this place something so intrinsically personal, though somehow it felt right.

The origin of life.

“Paradise,” Jim responded with a widening grin. He brought a hand to Spock’s cheek and stroked, leaning forward. Spock did not hesitate to do the same. He tilted his head and met Jim’s lips in a gentle kiss, the heat of Jim’s breath ghosting over his mouth. He tasted like the remnants of that sweet, pink fruit, and Spock wanted nothing more than to drink him in. On the blankets between them, their hands found each other, fingers lacing. A hum traveled up Spock’s arm and he quivered, breath faltering.

It still overwhelmed. Moment by moment it overwhelmed. This feeling that surged through him every time they made contact and carried with it a thousand impulses and desires. T’hy’la , he thought to himself, ashayam, beloved, treasured , things he could not yet bring himself to say aloud, but had no choice but to admit in the privacy of his own thoughts.

But he knew Jim could feel them, and in a way that understanding freed him. He could tell Jim without words that when they touched he felt as though an intrinsic piece of himself had finally been reconnected. He could tell Jim without saying it that when Jim licked the seam of his lips he would always open for him. He could convey through the way his fingers clenched between Jim’s knuckles that he didn’t want to let go ever again, which meant forever, which meant a word far too large for either of them to say, but one they could at least touch.

As these emotions poured from him, Jim shifted closer, breaking the contact of their lips to lay kisses along Spock’s jaw, up to the lobe of his ear, cresting its point and then traveling back down until the breath of his nose tickled the hair at the back of Spock’s neck and his lips pressed a careful kiss to the side of Spock’s throat. Spock’s eyes flew open and he brought his free hand to the back of Jim’s head, whether to pull him away or press him closer, he hadn’t decided.

Jim pulled back just enough to meet his eyes. “Is this alright?” he asked.

“I thought you wanted to rest,” Spock said instead of answering, nervousness causing his voice to quaver just slightly. But Jim smiled, the kind of smile that always managed to dispel most of Spock’s boiling emotions.

“Sorry,” Jim replied, and he began to edge away further. “I didn’t mean to get carried away.” Spock kept his hold on the back of Jim’s head steady, stopping him mid-motion. Those eyes searched his own for a second. “Unless, you want me to get carried away?” It was said as a question, a clear request to define the terms of the interaction. It would be logical for Spock to specify his own desires if he could simply pin them down.

He wanted Jim to continue, desperately, but he feared the implications, the possibilities. The idea of hurting him or disappointing him was necessarily unpleasant, but he had promised Jim -- and promised himself-- that he would not let his fear control him anymore.

“I do not want you to stop,” Spock finally said, feeling his cheeks heat in spite of himself. Jim’s eyes seemed alight at the admission.

“I don’t want to stop either,” Jim nearly whispered, bringing his free hand back to Spock’s jaw and coaxing him forward, a kiss that soothed at least a fraction of Spock’s fears.

Jim licked into his mouth and Spock felt himself wilting into the feeling as Jim’s hand moved from his jaw to his neck, then his collar. Spock’s breath hitched when he felt Jim’s fingers curl against his chest, tangling up in the hair and tugging slightly.

There was a trail of fire in the wake of Jim’s touch, but he found himself pushing forward into the burn all the same as Jim smiled against his lips. Jim’s hand came around Spock’s back and the whole of him pressed forward. For a moment, the position was awkward, but then Jim pulled his legs around, settling a knee on either side of Spock’s, and he used the gentle pressure of his own body to lay Spock down on the blankets.

Their hands parted, but Spock only mourned the loss for a moment before Jim steadied himself on Spock’s chest and lifted up, coming to settle on Spock’s lap.

Jim’s lips were shining from their kiss, his cheeks flushed. He raked his hands and his eyes down Spock’s chest to his abdomen, then back up, wearing an expression Spock had only seen once before in the dim light of the cave.

But now, Jim was illuminated-- gilded in the day’s setting sun, and though there was desire in his eyes as plain as if he’d spoken it aloud, he was smiling. He leaned down and captured Spock’s lips again, weight on Spock’s chest. Embarrassment that Jim might feel his already quickened breath dissipated as Jim hummed something content into his mouth, so Spock lifted himself into the kiss, into the body against him, feeling sparks of awed pleasure flowing to him, even though the brush of their hips bore so little friction. He brought a hand to the back of Jim’s neck, moulding their lips, glad for the practice of the last few days because he knew that when Jim paused for breath he could lick at the back of Jim’s teeth to draw a pleasant sound from him, to make the kiss deeper, to make it last longer. Jim’s fingertips curled a little harder against Spock’s skin.

When Jim broke the kiss, he regained his path from Spock’s jaw to his neck, sucking tenderly at patches of skin on his way down. Spock shuddered, his hands coming to Jim’s back as his hips lifted unconsciously.

No, he could admit to himself that he didn’t want Jim to stop, and as the man rolled lazily against him, Spock allowed himself to give in. He tilted his head back to allow for better access, feeling the crush of flower petals against his crown, but his attention was far more focused on the tongue that darted out to trace the line of his neck, to the hands holding steady against him, to the heat spreading through his groin, and to Jim’s own hardening arousal, which brushed him with each roll of his hips.

That hot mouth trailed down his neck, down his collar, and Jim ceased the movement of his body to pull himself lower. Spock missed the friction, but the wet press of lips against his sternum was a fine distraction. Fingertips moved to his nipples and brushed them almost too softly to feel and Spock hiked his breath as his fingers dug into Jim’s shoulders. Jim chuckled, his smile pressed against Spock’s skin like a tattoo.

“Is this still okay?” Jim asked, trailing his hands down Spock’s sides, resting for a moment over his heartbeat, then settling his fingers along the waistband of his slacks.

Spock nodded, not trusting himself to speak. But Jim understood and lowered himself further, nipping gently at Spock’s abdomen with his teeth, humming his appreciation when Spock’s hips jerked slightly.

Eyes glued to the golden crown of Jim’s head, Spock watched Jim slip his fingers along his waistband then come to the fly of his slacks, popping the button as deftly as he had that night when it had been Spock on top of him , desperate hands grasping and breaths coming out in short bursts. This felt so little like that night, so unhurried, natural. And still, surreal.

As Jim lifted himself and hooked his fingers into the fabric of Spock’s slacks and briefs, Spock felt himself swallow. Even the bare brush of hands over his hipbones was overstimulating. But Jim met his eyes again, and Spock allowed himself to send some encouragement over their link, grateful to Jim for taking control, grateful to Jim for asking if he could continue. Spock had wanted this for so long, but he didn’t know how to treat Jim gently, how to be intimate without that cloud of lust and desperation that had gripped him all those months ago. Instinct had allowed him to bring Jim to climax once, but he could not rely on instinct to do it right.

But Jim knew what to do. He coaxed Spock’s hips upward, peeled the slacks off his legs and climbed off him just long enough to undress him fully. He tossed Spock’s clothes to the side and Spock felt exposed, the chill of the breeze obvious now that it wafted over him.

“One-- one second,” Jim said, grabbing the waistband of his own slacks and shoving them down his thighs unceremoniously. Spock bit back his reaction to the sight of Jim, all hard, tanned muscle, a tantalizing landscape of skin that looked smooth and sweat-slicked and he wanted to touch him, wanted Jim to return to him, wanted--

Jim practically tore off his boots and slacks, tossed them somewhere near Spock’s, then turned back toward him. He seemed arrested for a moment, the rise and fall of his chest obvious even from Spock’s position. Spock felt a flush of embarrassment, being laid out like this, bare, half-hard already under Jim’s gaze. He began to sit up, but Jim caught the motion and laid a hand on Spock’s leg, stilling him.

“Sorry,” Jim said, crawling up Spock’s lap and hanging over him once more, hands planted on the blankets on either side of Spock’s head. “I just… I can’t look and touch at the same time.” He laughed a little at himself and Spock felt waves of wonder and reverence coming from him. It hardly registered that the sight of Spock could be the cause of such a monumental emotion.

“I far prefer that you touch,” Spock said, though it was difficult to force the words from his constricted throat. Jim’s responding smile was reward enough for the effort, shining on Spock in a way that made him feel somehow important, somehow worthy, though he knew he could never be worthy of this.

Jim leaned down for another kiss and Spock breathed relief into it, his worries fleeing him with the warmth of Jim’s lips, with the breath that bled into his own, the tiny noises Jim made each time their tongues brushed. Being naked was uncomfortable, but kissing he could do. Kissing distracted him from any fear of vulnerability.

Jim’s hand found his and pressed their fingers together, the hum of a Vulcan kiss passing between them even as their lips moved together gently, as Jim sucked at his tongue and pulled Spock’s lower lip between his teeth.

“You’re sure about this, right?” Jim asked a little breathily when they parted, and Spock felt his eyes widen at the question.

“Of course,” he barely managed to say, as though it weren’t obvious how he already strained for Jim’s touch, pushing himself up on every heartbeat to try to press against the body above him.

Jim, smiling his satisfaction with that answer, trailed his fingertips like the brush of feathers down Spock’s stomach, tickling the hair that speckled his groin. Then in an excruciatingly light caress, he traced the line of Spock’s shaft. Biting his lip, Spock tried to force his hips still, though that bare touch alone had already done too much to shatter his control. Perhaps sensing this, Jim’s fingers curled one-by-one, almost teasingly slow, around Spock’s girth, eliciting a shuddering whine-- a sound Spock didn’t even know he was capable of making.

The roughness of Jim’s hand around him made his ridges swell in anticipation, and Jim brought a thumb to trace them, pressing almost too hard, but agonizingly stimulating. They took in twin, broken breaths at the sensation, Spock’s eyes fluttering closed, his head falling back and his fingers digging into the skin of Jim’s shoulder.

Jim brought his other hand to the pith of Spock’s hip. Then, he sank down, lips and teeth tracing a line from Spock’s ribcage to his groin.

Spock gave himself into it, the sensation of the body above him that sent shivers singing from every nerve. A breeze cooled the places where Jim had kissed him and run his tongue along his skin, leaving a trail.

Clear intent suddenly colored the ripples of Jim’s mind, and Spock looked to him, feeling the ghost of hot breath between his legs where Jim hung over him. Jim’s hand moved slowly up and down Spock’s length, gentle, but there was something decidedly less gentle in Jim’s expression. When their eyes met, Jim’s lips curled into a smile, and he flicked out his tongue to taste the tip of Spock’s cock.

Spock’s breath caught in his chest, his hand flying to Jim’s hair and tangling in it, yanking his head up without meaning to as his own fell back against the cushion of blankets once more. He couldn’t possibly bring himself to watch, but he tried to force his tense muscles to relax, tried to force his hips not to buck, tried to loosen his fingers.

“Jim--”

“Is this--”

Yes ,” Spock cut him off, hardly recognizing himself in the single strained syllable of that word.

Jim’s trill of excitement slipped across their bond as his rough fingers settled around the base of Spock’s cock and his tongue drew an almost maddeningly tender line from the seam of his hand to the tip.

The sting of Spock’s arousal made him bring a hand to his mouth to stifle a bare whimper, just as Jim’s lips sank around the head and he sucked , his tongue tracing the path of his thumb from moments before, outlining the ridges softly, sensuously, as though he couldn’t get enough of the taste.

Spock clamped down every amount of control he could on himself, for what good it did. With each brush of Jim’s tongue, he felt himself releasing shallow breaths, light-headed whether from pleasure or lack of oxygen, he didn’t know. His eyes were screwed shut to the world, absorbing himself in the feeling as Jim’s fingers brushed the bulge of his testicles. Spock’s hips jerked forward, forcing himself farther into Jim’s mouth. That intoxicating wet heat encircled his length and his fingers tightened in his lover’s hair. Jim grunted at the sensation, a sound that vibrated around him.

Jim’s hand found his hip again and forced him down, dragging his lips up Spock’s length as he went, cheeks hollowed. Spock couldn’t stop himself from groaning aloud, his body trembling as he held himself back, as Jim swirled his tongue along the head of Spock’s penis where he already felt himself leaking. When Jim sank down again, his hand tightening around the base, Spock felt his spine arching, shoulders pressing into the padding beneath him.

A satisfied hum of pride reached Spock across their connection, and with a final lick along the hard vein that ran along the underside of his length, Jim pulled off. Spock looked to him, distraught by the loss of that feeling. Already he was dripping with need, throbbing like an open wound but Jim--

Jim was smiling, something far too warm and innocent for what his mouth had been doing moments before.

“Not yet,” Jim practically sing-songed as he pulled himself up and laid over Spock, his erection rubbing against Spock’s between their stomachs. Spock whimpered in spite of himself as Jim breathed against his lips. “Still okay?” he asked, still smiling, a little gentler than before, and Spock didn’t know if he had the capacity to answer with words.

So he brought his lips to Jim’s, fisting his hand roughly in Jim’s hair and forcing him down, forcing his lips open with his tongue, forcing him to tilt his head with more strength than he meant to use, but Jim groaned into his open mouth and pressed against him and Spock didn’t even care that it was too much. He wrapped a leg around Jim’s hips and pulled him tighter, closer, rocking into him.

It took some time for Jim to effectively break the kiss, though he kept trying, pulling away to catch a breath before Spock brought him back in. He wanted to consume this man, to feel everything he felt, to pull him inside himself and to push himself inside Jim, to occupy the same space. And if he were in any more control he’d meld them right now, share the same waves of want and need until they drowned in each other.

But finally Jim managed to pull away with a steady hand on Spock’s chest, holding him in place. His lips were bruised-red, and he looked wrecked already, pupils blown, smile returning with all the force of the midday sun, as though he hadn’t been expecting Spock to take control of their kiss.

A feeling rose up in Spock like steam, something heavy and warm and too big to be called ‘fondness’ or ‘affection.’ He loved this man, and he had loved him all this time and now that the word took root in his mind he wanted to nurture it, to give himself fully to it as Jim had given himself to Spock. And Spock didn’t care that Jim could feel every overwhelming swell of emotion coming from him. He wanted Jim to feel it, to know that this was important, that he was important.

With only a twinge of hesitation, borne of nerves rather than doubt, Spock reached between them and curled his fingers around Jim’s length. Jim bucked into his touch, dropping his head to Spock’s shoulder and releasing a small sound that it seemed he had tried to stifle. “S--sensitive,” he mumbled with a self-deprecating kind of chuckle. Spock smoothed back Jim’s hair and began to pull gently at his erection, hoping Jim didn’t sense the tremble in his touch. Jim’s hand fisted against Spock’s chest and he gasped, the hot breath on Spock’s skin sending shivers down his spine.

He tightened his hold, twisting his hand and rubbing his thumb along Jim’s slit where the slick of precum slid against his skin. Jim shuddered bodily at the sensation and Spock felt his own flash of pride as Jim’s hands came to Spock’s shoulders, clenching into them.

But then Jim pushed himself up and pulled away. Bereft, Spock met his eyes to find an explanation for the movement. It was only then he realized that Jim was trembling too.

“Stay right here,” Jim said, not for the first time that day. He pulled himself out of Spock’s hold and stood. Shakily, Spock noticed.

Then he straightened, completely bare in the half-sunlight of the open air, the half-shadow of the cave. Spock could have stared at him like that forever if he weren’t so desperate for Jim to return to him. He sat up, impatient, and watched with bated breath as Jim moved toward the emergency kit.

Jim knelt, the muscles of his thighs and back clenching as he dug around in the kit for something. When he turned, he held an aloe plant in his hands. Spock questioned it for a moment, but when Jim returned to him, placed the aloe on the blankets, and crawled back into Spock’s lap, he forgot about it entirely.

Gently, Jim slotted their erections together and laid his body flush against Spock’s, wrapping his arms around his back and sinking in for another lingering kiss. He rolled his hips, cock dripping and smearing along Spock’s abdomen with each brush of movement. Spock moaned into his mouth, unable and unwilling to stop himself, shifting to balance on his rear as his hands moved to Jim’s back and pulled him impossibly closer. His hands ran down Jim’s sides and grasped at the hard muscle, the soft skin, the coiled tension in him. Jim was unyielding, esurient, and he was Spock’s .

Jim parted from their kiss with a nip at Spock’s lip, then a hitch of a breath that sounded like Spock’s name. It took him a second to continue, his heart hammering against Spock’s chest. “I’ve been thinking about this for so long,” he whispered. Spock sympathized, but now was not the time to discuss it. The fact that Jim could even form coherent sentences was astounding to him, but Jim kept going, his fingertips drawing soothing patterns along Spock’s spine as he continued to rock against him. “And, Spock, I want to-- to feel you inside me.”

There was a hint of embarrassment in the tone, in the feeling Jim exuded, as though he’d been reticent to say anything at all, but Spock lost breath for a moment, hands ceasing their movement along Jim’s back as his erection throbbed almost painfully at those words. Their meaning sank into him and his fingers dug into Jim’s skin.

“Would that be alright?” Jim asked, almost shyly. Spock would have found the obviousness of the question comical if he’d been capable of feeling any emotion other than overwhelming arousal.

“I--” Spock stuttered, undone, unsure how to convey-- “I do not know how.” The admission caused his cheeks to heat, but Jim just laid a kiss on his forehead, on his nose, on his cheek, on his lips, and brought his hands to thread into Spock’s hair. A flower fell from the careful braids, but Spock hardly noticed it.

“I’ll show you,” Jim said.

Spock’s mouth was dry, his throat raw, his mind moving too slow to keep up, but he felt himself nodding moments before he felt Jim pull away again.

Jim reached for the aloe, and suddenly Spock understood its purpose. He tried to keep his own hammering heartbeat steady as Jim settled back on the knees of Spock’s outstretched legs and broke open the little plant, revealing the slick substance they’d been using for months to soothe their skin. The scent of it had been erotic before, because it recalled him of Jim’s bare shoulders and back, strained and tanned and shining in sunlight, but now it carried a completely different meaning.

Jim dipped his fingers into it, a motion which Spock watched intently, fixated on the way the aloe clung to the space between his fingertips, on the way it shined, the way it dripped down to Jim’s palm.

Then, Jim set the plant aside and raised himself on his knees again, scooted forward so his erection pressed against the hollow under Spock’s chest. He reached his slick hand behind himself. The moment Jim began to spread it along his opening, Spock felt pleasure shoot through him like phaser fire, Jim’s quiet gasp and the eager thrum of his mind at the barest brush of his own fingertips making Spock bite his lip.

Spock laid his forehead against Jim’s ribcage and found his hands climbing Jim’s thighs, grazing along the swell of his ass and pulling the cheeks apart, hyperfocused on the feeling of skin beneath his fingers, the emotions that flowed through him. On impulse, he pressed a kiss to Jim’s stomach, found the line of the scar along his hip and traced it with his tongue, reveling in the taste of salt and the shudder that passed through Jim’s body at the feeling.

“Getting impatient, Mister Spock?” Jim practically purred, the tone shooting straight to Spock’s erection.

“Ardently,” Spock managed to respond. He wasn’t sure he could go beyond single-words, but he tried, “Jim, I…”

“I know, I know,” Jim soothed, “but you have to prep me.” His voice was tight with restraint. “Gently at first. One at a time.”

He coaxed Spock’s head backwards to look him in the eye. “Do you want to try?”

“Yes,” Spock responded immediately, voice a husk of what it usually was, hardly a voice at all. Jim returned his hand to Spock’s shoulder, still wet, slicking the lubrication along his skin.

With a steadying breath, Spock rubbed at Jim’s opening where Jim had spread the aloe, letting it coat his finger and exploring the pucker of Jim’s skin. The body against him shook with delicate tremors and Jim’s cock hardened obviously against Spock’s chest.

“Spock,” Jim whined, tightening his hold on Spock’s shoulder, “I didn’t know you were such a tease .”

While that had not been his intent, he rather liked the surge of anticipation coming from Jim’s mind, the way he shivered each time Spock’s finger brushed against him. But Spock’s own impatience met the encouragement of Jim’s grasp and, slowly, he slipped a digit inside.

The sensation of it made Spock clench his teeth, the feeling of friction on his sensitive finger compounded by Jim’s own pleasure, which throbbed through his mind and made him lay his head against Jim’s stomach in surprise. The buzz of contact that normally passed through their hands now passed through Jim, and he could feel Jim’s nerves electrify with the feeling. He pulled in and out gently, as Jim had said, eliciting an encouraging hum from the man above him. Jim rocked back into his hand as he gripped at Spock’s hair, pulling out one of the braids entirely.

There was an undercurrent of discomfort, almost pain, in the thoughts that brushed his own, but it did not seem to be enough to bother Jim. “More,” he said, and Spock didn’t waste a moment complying, adding his middle finger to his first. When he twisted and crooked them, Jim bit back a moan, curling his back and cradling Spock’s head against his chest as his legs trembled. He cursed quietly against the crown of Spock’s head, shoving himself back onto Spock’s fingers even as Spock reached deeper. After rotating his hand slightly, Spock slipped a third finger in alongside the first two.

Jim rolled his hips languidly, as though savoring the feeling, sending sparks of pleasure along Spock’s fingers as he met each gentle thrust. Spock felt a tongue dart out and lick at the point of his ear, the feeling of Jim’s hot breath making him shudder. His already painful erection ached anew at the sensation.

Spock lifted his lips to Jim’s chest, licking along the line of his pecs and brushing his tongue along the pebble of his nipple. Jim hissed through his teeth, a whine suck in his throat, his fingers tightening. “Please,” he whimpered. “Please, I’m ready.”

“I-- I don’t want to hurt you,” Spock managed to say, worried at how tight Jim still felt around him, worried that anything more might cause him pain.

Still wrapped around Spock’s shoulders like a mantle, Jim took in a deep breath. “You won’t,” Jim said with effort, “Spock, please.”

Swallowing, Spock tilted his head back to meet Jim’s gaze, sensing him for surety, unwilling to cut corners simply because Jim begged it of him, but the moment he saw himself reflected in Jim’s dark pupils he realized that he would give Jim anything he asked for, and if he begged ...

Jim let out a broken, soft goan when Spock removed his fingers, as though the pull out had felt just as sweet as the push in. As Spock smeared the rest of the lube down the hard line of Jim’s thigh, Jim took Spock roughly by the shoulders and practically shoved him down on the blankets beneath them. The suddenness of it knocked the breath out of Spock’s lungs, but Jim was breathless too, and breathtaking, an intensity in his eyes that Spock had never seen. But then, this was Jim too. Under the quiet humor and delicate smiles, under the startling intelligence and overwhelming kindness, there was this. Passion. Spock didn’t believe in luck, but he could not help but thank fortune that he was the one who was allowed to see it.

Reaching back for the aloe, Jim coated the whole of his palm, returning his hand to the swell of Spock’s erection. He stroked it a few times, slicking it from base to tip with a grip that had Spock biting back a groan. But the movement ceased so quickly he barely had a chance to buck into it. In moments, Jim had shifted, bracketed his legs on either side of Spock’s hips, and now steadied himself with one hand on Spock’s chest.

Their eyes met and Jim let out a strained breath, his hand spreading against Spock’s skin as if to soothe him. Then, Spock watched transfixed as Jim took his lower lip between his teeth and sank down around the head of Spock’s cock.

The flash of pain that hit Spock over their bond was buried under layers of hunger, need, drawing him deeper as Jim clenched tightly around him. Spock groaned without restriction now, and Jim’s visceral reaction to that sound-- the hitch of his breath, the palpable spike of his desire-- was enough to make Spock forget why he was supposed to hold back in the first place.

Spock’s head fell against the blankets as he sheathed himself fully inside, trying to stop the instinct of his hips that told him to move. Jim pulsed around him, stilled above him, breath heaving as Spock brought his desperate hands to Jim’s thighs. He needed an anchor for this feeling that felt like floating, flying, the pleasure of connection making him dizzy.

And Jim-- Jim’s whole body shook with pent-up energy, restraining himself just as Spock was. “You feel--” Jim whispered, eyelids fluttering. “You feel incredible.” He rocked experimentally back onto Spock’s cock, and Spock bit his tender lip, wondering if ‘incredible’ encapsulated this feeling-- being completely surrounded, straining against the tight heat that restricted him. He felt himself throb, a kind of agony in anticipation, ridges flaring. And he knew by the clench around him and the hitch of Jim’s breath that Jim could feel it-- every shudder, every twitch. The thought of it made his nerves sing, fingertips tingling where they pressed hard into Jim’s skin.

When Jim raised himself up, Spock clutched the firm muscle of Jim’s thighs, the tight pull of Jim’s ring dragging friction between them. Jim was open-mouthed, heavy-lidded, looking into Spock’s eyes like nothing else existed. He sank back down, carefully, making a noise in the back of his throat.

“In…incredible,” he repeated. Spock couldn’t speak, couldn’t concentrate on anything but Jim’s burning stare and his overwhelming heat and the way he moved, hips rolling slowly at first, torturously slowly.

As Jim’s body relaxed around Spock’s cock, he grew bolder, picking up momentum with each roll of his hips and letting out small, sighing sounds that were barely audible over the brief breeze that brushed over them. After a few easy rolls, Jim brought a hand to his own length, stroking it in time, eyes never leaving Spock’s.

Spock tried to keep his hips still, to let Jim set the pace, but the drag and pull and the careful rhythm and the way he could feel himself dripping already inside Jim’s body and the way Jim looked at him like he was starving for him made Spock lose his sense of self.

Without thinking, he thrust into the roll of Jim’s hips, meeting him halfway, harder than he meant to but worth it for the way that heat drew him in. Jim cried out-- an “ah!” that echoed around them as he dropped his head to his chest, seizing around Spock’s cock.

“I--ah-- I’m sorry,” Spock managed to say, though he could barely think for the blood rushing southward. “I could not--”

“No,” Jim whispered, raising his head to meet Spock’s eyes again. There was something dark in them, something animal. “No, p-- please. Do that again. Just like that.”

“You are certain?” Spock had felt Jim’s flash of pain. He didn’t want to hurt him, but Jim-- Jim rolled back, harder this time, groaning against clenched teeth as Spock felt that intoxicating tightening around him.

“God, Spock, yes .”

That ‘yes’ had been more a growl than a word, and it made Spock quiver-- he felt tight, coiled, desperate. On the next roll of Jim’s hips, Spock bucked up again to meet him and Jim’s whole body tensed. He moaned, guttural and thick, and Spock lost his breath at the sound, driving into him again. There was pain, yes, but he absorbed himself instead in the pleasure, the way Jim pumped his hand in time to his rocking hips, the way they moved in perfect rhythm, the way Jim seemed to crumple each time Spock stroked that sensitive bundle of nerves inside him.

Jim brought his free hand to his mouth, eyes rolling upward, losing himself in the sensations with bare whimpers pressed into his own palm. But Spock wanted to hear him-- it became a single-minded desire, to let the world around them fall away, to absorb himself in Jim’s vocal pleasure for as long as he could draw it out.

And they were alone, fully alone, where it didn’t matter if their voices echoed around them, if they lost themselves in the simple bliss of each other because they only had each other. And this was all Spock needed.

He grasped at Jim’s back and pulled himself up and against him, taking Jim’s hand away from his mouth and tossing it over his own shoulder. Jim gasped at the sudden switch in position, crying out when Spock bucked up into him. Stealing Jim’s lips in a kiss and digging his fingers into the hard muscle of Jim’s back, his hips hitched again, a groan breaking through as Jim’s teeth sank into his lip.

Needing more, Spock shoved Jim onto his back, instinct taking control once again with the hunger for Jim’s body, for completion and connection and this man whose flood of desire blinded him like a rush of white noise in his mind.

He’d slipped out in the movement, but now Spock took the base of his own cock and pushed it back inside the waiting ring of Jim’s opening, moaning his bare pleasure at the drag of skin along skin, the way his ridges swelled against the tightness around him.

Jim raised his legs and wrapped them around Spock’s hips, pulling him in. With a snap, Spock found that spot again and Jim was crying out, gripping at Spock’s hair like a lifeline. The pain was intoxicating, and Spock rolled himself into Jim, once more setting up a pace that left Jim quaking, made him dig his nails into Spock’s scalp, harder on each thrust. Jim wasn’t trying to stifle himself anymore, and neither was Spock, too absorbed to regret the panting breath that fell from his lips as it matched Jim’s in perfect time.

“Spock,” Jim groaned, curling his back and lifting his body against Spock’s, rubbing his erection along Spock’s stomach and smearing him with precum. “Spock, please--”

Spock folded himself over the body beneath him, as close to Jim as he could get, foreheads mere inches from each other as he felt one of Jim’s hands leave him. Jim gripped his own erection, pulling and tightening with each beat as their heartbeats reached a crescendo. Jim whispered Spock’s name, over and over again, interspersed by gasps and grunts and unsteady breath. His eyes were shut, but Spock couldn’t bear to close his own, even when Jim clenched around him and dragged delicious friction along his cock. Instead, he watched Jim, watched his flushed cheeks and the slackened hold of his mouth, the way he could barely form the single syllable of Spock’s name through the pleasure that seared him. It built upon itself in Spock’s mind, Jim’s ecstasy melding with his own and creating a single, burning ache inside him.

With a startled groan and an agonizing hold on Spock’s hair, Jim shuddered and jerked beneath him, painting their chests with white spurts of semen, his hole clenching and pulsing, trapping Spock inside. The thrill of it flared over their bond and Jim tossed his head back, gasping as he grasped at Spock’s shoulder with cum-wet fingers, urging him deeper, begging whether with voice or mind, Spock wasn’t sure, to be filled.

Spock buried himself in Jim, crying out, dropping his head to Jim’s chest and feeling his own release mount with a few more shallow thrusts. Then, a flash of white and the sound of static obscured everything but this feeling, reflected a hundred times through the mind that reached desperately for his own, completion, heat, anguish, bliss, relief, too much, too much, more, please, more . He felt his testicles tighten as he spilled himself into Jim, his own seed coating him and slicking those last frantic movements.

Jim’s back arched, Spock’s hands clenched too tight on Jim’s hips and Spock drew skin between his teeth, knowing Jim could feel the fire of possession in him, and knowing by the impressions that screamed from the skin under his hands that Jim wanted to be possessed.

And finally he collapsed, spent, over Jim’s body, keeping himself buried inside so he could feel the unsteady rhythm of Jim’s pulse around him. He pressed wet kisses to the hollow of Jim’s collar, tasting his sweat, his hands running up and down Jim’s sides with the urge to keep touching him, never stop touching him, to stay in this cloud of bliss for as long as he could. The tight fingers in his hair loosened their hold, brushing the twisted remains of braids and flower stems as they stroked, soothed, just as Jim had caressed his head that night they’d first found release in each other. But this was different, wholly different. Better.

They laid like that for a time, the sound of birds echoing in the distance, the cooling air breathing over their bare skin. It took a long while before Spock could raise his head from where it rested in the crook of Jim’s neck. When he did, he met shining golden eyes, half-lidded.

Jim was smiling.

Yes, this was infinitely better than last time, because the emotions that bled between them weren’t tinged with concern or fear or sadness. Instead, all he felt was love, the aching, thrumming high of release, contentment and exhaustion and fulfilment.

“Doing okay?”Jim practically croaked, voice wrecked, eyes bright because he already knew the answer to that question. After the connection they’d formed over all these months, after melding their bodies so intrinsically, it was impossible that he hadn’t felt at least a fraction of the overwhelming emotion that swallowed Spock now.

“I am,” Spock said softly, though ‘okay’ was a rather drastic understatement. At least he could think clearly again, for the most part. He pushed himself up on shaky arms and pulled his softening member out of Jim’s body. They both hiked their breath, still sensitive, and Jim chuckled, weak and giddy as Spock shifted to the side and collapsed bodily onto the blankets. It took a second for Jim to roll to face him, but he did, completely limp but for the hand that rose to Spock’s chest and began tracing lazy patterns against his skin.

“How… how do you feel?” Spock asked, returning Jim’s sentiment, but remaining intentional in his choice of words. He remembered that, once, many months ago, he’d had no idea how to ask after Jim’s emotions. Now, it seemed effortless.

Jim’s smile widened and he took Spock’s hand. Softly, he placed it against his own face, stroking Spock’s fingers with a gently humming energy that made Spock melt a little further into the blankets beneath him. “Can’t you tell?”

Spock could. He could feel Jim’s wondering affection, his giddy contentment, his ever-present desire, but he wanted to hear it.

“In words.”

Jim laughed like the sunrise, scooted forward and nuzzled his nose into Spock’s neck, draping an arm over Spock’s side and nudging their feet together.

“I’m happy,” Jim breathed against his skin.

Spock’s heart clenched at the words, and he carded his fingers through Jim’s hair, still shaking from exertion and nerves and relief and, now, another emotion that he was having trouble identifying. He had never truly believed he had the capacity to make Jim happy, even when he could feel the emotion coming off him so strong it was palpable, but here they were.

Here, Sha Ka Ree, the origin of life. Perhaps it was appropriate, then, that Spock’s new life had begun. A life he had shared for months with the gentle, warm, intoxicating, fascinating and overwhelming man in his arms and a life that, perhaps, he could share much longer than that.