Fandom: Star Trek XI (you know, the new one)
Rating/Warnings: R for language and dark themes, slash
Word Count: ~4,334
Prompt: This prompt from st_xi_kink.
Summary: Jim Kirk's heart has always led him well, a steady beat of his own internal drummer. He's forced to break it, however, and the consequences are more devastating than he expected. Kirk/Spock
The shifting of his bed companion half-woke Jim Kirk from a deep sleep. His blue eyes slitted open and he mumbled something that, with some translation and a tilt of the head, might have been: “What’s going on?”
The calm, even voice of his second-in-command murmured something that Jim was able to translate from Spock-ese to mean: Nothing, go back to sleep. The dim glow of a PADD shone from Spock’s hand and Jim figured he was doing some work or one of his little projects. He settled back down, head pillowed on the Vulcan’s side, and letting his eyes slip closed again.
The fast patter, almost a thrum, of the faster-than-human Vulcan heart sounded under his ear. The slower thump-thump of his own heart beat a pleasant counterpoint. It was reassuring to hear and Jim started to drift off, urged onward by a warm, gentle hand absently stroking his hair, down his neck to his shoulder. A gesture of affection his half-Vulcan lover might not even realize he was making.
Between the heartbeats and the caress, Jim dozed back toward full sleep. In his ear, just before he dropped off completely, his heart seemed to pulse to the two simple words that filled him in that moment: love-you, love-you, love-you.
It wasn’t completely unusual for a ranking officer to beam aboard the Enterprise or any other ship in order to transmit high-security orders, especially if they were in the immediate area. As they were currently docked for repairs, it was probably inevitable. This did not mean, however, that the crew of the Enterprise or its captain was particularly happy about having to receive Admiral Rutyer.
The admiral was a severe looking man with cheekbones that could cut a person if they weren’t careful and an attitude to match. Jim had a bad feeling from the moment the man arrived on the transporter pad, a foreboding that immediately put him on his guard.
The feeling bloomed into full fruition when hours later, after all the other briefings, Jim sat across from the admiral in a private briefing room. The top secret orders, on top of the basic diplomacy/negotiation ones they had already received, were laid out in unforgiving, bare bones: There was a spy in Starfleet, in one of the starbases along the Romulan Neutral Zone. Several people had died mysteriously after certain information had been leaked and at least one bit of technology had gotten out to the Romulans, who were not terribly happy with the Federation at present. There was one suspect, a woman, but no one could prove anything or even level charges against her.
And James T. Kirk was to do anything in his power to get the proof they needed. Up to and including using his not inconsiderable charm and ladies’ man reputation.
“You have got to be joking!” he exclaimed, hands slapping onto the table. “I will not… seduce this woman in order to find out if she’s the traitor!”
The answering smile sharpened, reminding Jim of a wolf on the prowl. “You can and you will, Captain Kirk.”
Emotions bubbled in Jim’s chest, and he ruthlessly tried to control them, drawing on his experience with Spock to help. Hitting an admiral would not help him in any way. “Starfleet cannot order me to sleep with anyone. I believe that falls outside of their purview.” His voice was dry, blank. Spock would be proud.
The fact that the admiral looked smug was not reassuring at all. “Outside of it, perhaps,” he said noncommittally. “But I can guarantee you will not like the consequences to you if you do not do this and report the results directly to me.” So he could get the credit for it, Jim thought cynically.
“Oh?” Jim prodded, though he had a feeling he didn’t want to know. That had never stopped him in the past, however. “I know you can’t get me removed as captain of the Enterprise.” Though powerful, the man didn’t have the leverage it would take to remove the young hero-captain from the bridge of this ship.
“No, perhaps not. But I do have the power to, hmm, reassign your best and brightest to one of the new ships just out of the yards. Away from you. Captain. The Enterprise has some of the more experienced and best-trained personnel, after all.”
With those few words, the all-too-real threat dropped across Jim’s shoulders like a suffocating shroud. The newest ship of the fleet was about to undergo staffing, and there would be officers pulled from other ships to do so. What made the Enterprise the Enterprise could be taken from him by this shark of a man.
For a long moment the silence was pristine, broken only by the whooshing of blood in his ears.
Please-no, please-no, please-no.
The admiral wallowed in the moment, smug while Jim started to crumble on the inside. Abandonment issues starting to claw at him, Bones would say.
But I can’t, he wanted to say. I finally have something steady. Someone steady. Real. A commitment. I can’t.
I-can’t, I-can’t, I-can’t.
His chest tightened in the ominous knowledge that no matter what he did, he would lose something precious. But the Enterprise, her people, his people… He couldn’t lose them.
I-can’t, I-can’t, I-can’t.
So he would do what he’d been ordered, and the Admiral knew it.
I-will, I-will, I-will.
Jim’s heart broke.
If Jim Kirk was a bit quieter than usual once the Admiral departed—good riddance!—most attributed it to consideration of their new diplomatic orders, a slowly growing maturity. Only Bones and, of course, Spock, gave him a few strange and intense looks and asked a few probing questions.
He knew that Spock was worried. He could sense it. Oh, Spock could and would deny it, but it didn’t change the fact that every night the Vulcan showed up at his quarters, instead of alternating; that he put up with Jim’s needy attentions with even more patience than usual.
Jim worried that Spock would just know by looking at him. By touching him. A touch telepath, after all. So he concentrated on each moment, each touch, the way he felt at that exact moment. He took every moment he could with his lover, never explaining, merely giving as much of himself as he could, taking as much as he could—because soon it would be gone.
He arched into Spock’s touches in bed at night, need pounding through him, gasps echoing the beats.
Need-you, need-you, need-you.
When they finally arrived at the starbase, Jim took one extra day just for himself. Spock raised an eyebrow at him, but that disappeared as Jim pushed him back onto the bed. There were no words spoken between them, no declarations and, as Jim left later, definitely no spoken good-byes.
Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye.
It took a week. During the day, Jim oversaw the diplomatic functions, helped with the discussions with a tact that was often rough around the edges but gaining a subtle polish from the last few years. At night, he trolled the bars, looking for her.
It took three nights to find her. Three nights of hoping he’d never lay eyes on the bitch. That he’d get lucky—somehow twist out of this ‘arrangement’ of the Admiral’s. She sat at the bar like she owned it, like she was a queen, and perhaps in her own little head she was.
She was the type of woman he always hit on in a bar (before-Spock, before-Spock): gorgeous, glorious, and looking for a fuck.
No wonder the Admiral wanted him to do this—it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary in the least for Jim to hit on her. To talk to her. To ramble from topic to topic.
He tried the just-talking thing, the touch-and-talk, the seduction without completely giving himself over. It lasted all of one night. He went back, had to go back, the next night. Fucking her. Getting what was needed. And staying as far away from Spock as he could—keeping him away on the ship, in charge there while he was here. He didn’t even ask Spock to attend those last days of negotiations, knowing that his tiredness would be remarked upon and questions would be asked.
With every thrust and every groan, he felt steeped with his own betrayal.
Cheat-er, cheat-er, cheat-er.
When it was over and for the last time she was gone from the tiny room they’d rented on the station, he typed up his report on his PADD, still naked. Sent it to the fucking Admiral on a secured connection.
So. This was what a whore felt like.
Cheat-er, cheat-er, cheat-er.
Whore, whore, whore.
He barely made it to the bathroom before he threw up.
Jim returned to the ship. His beloved Enterprise. His ship. It was a slightly colder comfort than he’d imagined. He took the long way around to his quarters, avoiding everyone he could. That was to say, getting seen by only a few people.
He wanted a shower. Needed a shower. He felt dirty, filthy, worse than any of his abusive stepfathers had ever made him feel. Done it all to yourself, boy, he told himself, but it didn’t help. But he couldn’t shower, not yet. This had to be done first.
He sat on his bed, elbows on his knees, still reeking of sex and alcohol and last night. He knew Spock would come. Part of him wanted to deny it, but he knew, and he was right.
It took only two steps in the door before his Vulcan froze. Smell, sight, took it all in, the sex-stink of his lover and another woman, the marks on Jim’s neck that he hadn’t bothered to hide. He’d considered hiding it, of course, and he probably could have for awhile. But no. Jim couldn’t give Spock the truth, but at least he could be honest about this.
And so he watched Spock, frozen Spock. Watched as his face banished away that moment of hurt surprise with typical quickness, banished it and all feeling far away. Cold, implacable, uncaring.
Cheat-er, his heart reminded him.
“Spock…” Jim’s voice was exhausted, devoid of its usual character. In response to the plea, Spock turned and stalked toward the door. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
The other man didn’t even look at him, barely hesitated for a second before continuing on. Jim felt his battered heart break again. And again. And again. With every heartbeat it broke once more, leaving him gasping with pain even as the door whooshed closed, leaving him alone.
Sor-ry, sor-ry, sor-ry.
In some ways, it felt like he’s back in Iowa again, his mother gone on Starfleet assignment and the stepdad bastard of the moment trying to sell his dad’s antique car while his brother was trying to run away.
Only now he was on the Enterprise, Spock gone from his private life and his entire crew trying to punish him for his fucking up of that relationship while he was trying to punish himself for it.
In many ways, it was exactly the fucking same. The bleak depression masked by a cocky, devil-may-care attitude. Last time he’d stolen the car and flown as fast as he could away from it all. Now he was just fleeing from himself. Life was flying by him, half-seen.
“You really screwed up this time, Jim.” Bones disapproved, to be certain, but he didn’t respond quite like everyone else, from Chekov to Uhura: he didn’t abandon Jim.
Jim’s automatic response was to chuckle; it came out an almost hysterical laugh edged with more caustic bitterness than he thought the good doctor had ever heard from him. He choked it to a stop before it could hedge into completely insane. “Tell me something I don’t know.”
Bones took a measured sip of bourbon. “What’s going on, Jim?”
Perhaps he sensed something, Jim thought. Perhaps not. Either way, he couldn’t tell. Or it would all go away, this shadow of what used to be. “Just tryin’ to survive, Bones. Just trying to survive.”
Sur-vive, sur-vive, sur-vive.
Jim was listless. He was rarely hungry, and so didn’t eat much. He slept even less, his mind endlessly circling what the Admiral had made him do. How in trying to save one thing he’d lost everything that had been important.
Could he have done something different?
Of course he could have. He could have lost his crew, but still had their regard.
He could have been less of a slut while growing up. Then his reputation couldn’t have hurt him so badly.
Could-have, could-have, could-have.
Jim took to wandering the ship at those odd hours when he couldn’t sleep and needed, just had to, shut his mind up. Inevitably he ended up in front of Spock’s quarters. He didn’t knock, he knew better than that. But his hand rested on the cold metal as if he could reach inside and change everything. He missed Spock, those private moments and the private jokes and the wry, dry repartee.
Miss-you, miss-you, miss-you.
He barely felt the cold slide of metal under his fingers; instead, it was the hot grit of dirt as he slid inexorably toward the cliff of so long ago. The futile grasp, the grains digging under his nails and the shortness of breath and the pounding, pounding in his ears was all he could hear.
Miss-you, miss-you, miss-you.
Then Spock stood halfway down the corridor, looking at him. He couldn’t sleep either, apparently, though Vulcans needed so much less than humans. Jim looked at him, looked long and deep, but Spock’s face was even more devoid of emotion than before. Jim’s heart twisted, still continually shattering, the pain more than he could even process. Only Spock could make it better.
Save-me, save-me, save-me.
He could feel the edge of the cliff under his chest, his legs dangling off the precipice. Spock only stood there, emotionless.
Surely he could hear Jim’s heart pounding out the words, see it written in the pulse at his neck. Read the plea in his naked, open face.
Save-me, save-me, save-me.
Jim finally turned and walked away. He was the hero, but this time he didn’t think he could save himself.
It was no wonder he’d made a mistake. He was James T. Kirk, after all. The sheer number of mistakes he’d made in his life probably equaled the combined errors of most of his crew. But this mistake had nearly gotten them all killed. Klingons were a dangerous race at best, but when you weren’t paying strict attention they could be deadly.
There were excuses, of course. There were always excuses. He was exhausted. He was heartsore. He couldn’t take this anymore. Some days he could barely pull himself out of the bed he’d laid in but hardly slept in.
Ti-red, ti-red, ti-red.
“Captain—” Spock’s voice cut through the dead silence of the bridge.
“I know. I know.” He’d done a good job of pretending in these last months, apparently, because the soft brokenness of his voice earned him several surprised looks. Or maybe they just didn’t want to see what their captain was becoming. “I’m emotionally compromised.” Have been for awhile, his eyes said. Too long. Spock had to know, had to see it. “You have the conn, Mr. Spock. I’ll be…” Somewhere, anywhere. Dangling off a cliff, slowly slipping over. “In my quarters, I suppose.”
There was the faintest of furrows in Spock’s brow. Jim Kirk wasn’t supposed to simply give up, give in, without even a token struggled. Jim couldn’t care anymore, though. It was over. It was all over, he’d lost everything.
Ov-er, ov-er, ov-er.
For the first time in so long, there was the traces of concern in Spock’s face. The concern hurt worse than anything, like grinding glass into a wound or resuscitating a man whose heart had failed. It was echoed in the faces of his crew, the crew he’d lost already. Jim didn’t stay around long enough for anyone to say another word, however. He left, dragging his body along as if he didn’t hurt from the inside out.
He wandered, avoiding everyone he could and ignoring those he couldn’t. He remembered he’d once told the panel of admirals that he didn’t believe in no-win situations. How wrong he’d been. It had taken Admiral Rutyer to show him that such a thing could and did exist. Two choices, both ending in losses—neither better than the other.
No-win, no-win, no-win.
Yes, he had lost. He could admit that to himself. Lost it all.
He collapsed, finally, onto the bed in his room. Alone, always alone.
A-lone, no-win, a-lone.
A-lone, a-lone, a-lone.
He’d removed himself completely from the command structure. It should have hurt more than it did, but at this point one more hurt on top of it all could hardly be felt. Another twinge, another ache, another way for his heart to break. Pain had replaced the blood in his veins, though Bones would probably argue the point if only to be contrary.
The crew tried to approach him at first. Jim got rather good at avoiding them, whether by simply knowing the corridors better than them or by zoning out as they talked, trying to communicate with him. The only ones who could track him down were Spock—who lurked but never approached, Jim wasn’t sure how he felt about that other than the fact that it hurt, it-hurt, it-hurt, it-hurt--and Bones, who had taken to jabbing him with hyposprays again, full of vitamins and things to deal with the whole not-eating-much thing and occasionally sedatives for the not-sleeping-thing.
Time just sort of flowed by, unnoticed except for the beating of his heart. It could have been weeks, months, but in reality it was probably only days, or he would have been dragged off by Starfleet psych goons. He wished his heart would just stop, because he could swear it kept squeezing pain throughout every part of him.
It-hurt, it-hurt, it-hurt.
The observation deck on gamma shift was the perfect retreat—abandoned, cold, silent as a tomb, much like himself, the living ghost of James T. Kirk. He stood at the window, hand and forehead pressed to it as he stared out into the star-specked void.
The perfect hiding place, until now. The voice was quiet, but it carried to him nevertheless. “Jim.”
For one perfect moment, his heart stuttered as a jolt of hope surged through him. Traitorous organ. Jim turned around quickly, but part of him already knew it wasn’t his Spock. His eyes confirmed it—the older Spock Prime stood not far behind him, looking at him with a kindness in his eyes that nearly undid Jim right there and then.
His face must have sketched out the rise, fall, and crash-and-burn of hope. That, or maybe this Spock had simply gotten far more from that mind-meld than Jim had ever suspected.
“This isn’t that cliff, Jim.”
How did he know? Jim thought. “Sure it is,” Jim replied. “It wouldn’t be that hard to fall. I dreamed it the other night, just letting go and plummeting over it. Just hack a few of the controls, force the outer lock open once I’m in there, and it would all stop.” No more pain.
No-pain, no-pain, no-pain.
“You know that isn’t the answer, Jim.” He was calm, like all Vulcans, but this Spock had the added dimensions of one who had embraced and managed emotion as well as logic. “Admiral Rutyer is being court marshaled on charges of large scale blackmail, coercion, extortion, as well as a variety of other counts.”
Jim’s shoulders, so tense these days that you could almost count the corded muscles even under his too-loose uniform or civvies, relaxed a fraction of a millimeter. “Good. Bastard deserves it.”
The silence stretched uncomfortably for Jim. It was measured in still-painful heartbeats. Finally, he asked simply, “How? How did they find out what he did?”
“An internal audit has been ongoing for the past two months, based on the number of successes he has had over the last several years with seemingly little work. The investigator caught him exploiting an ensign, and from there the access to his private records was granted and everything was discovered.” Softly delivered, but the word everything resounded through Jim’s head.
“He never should have done that to you,” Spock Prime continued. “Forced you to seduce that spy.”
It had worked. Jim had seen the reports—she’d been caught because of what he’d done. Confessed. No mention of his name, not ever, but by the point he’d found out he didn’t care about that any more. “It worked.”
“It wasn’t worth what it has done to you.” Melancholy voice, understanding voice—it drew Jim in unwillingly. Someone cared. Someone cared. He knew, and he cared.
Jim tried for flippant, though flippant had abandoned him with the rest of the ship. “What’s a little depression between crewmates.” They both knew it was more than that, that it had progressed much harder and farther than it ever should have. Perhaps because he and Spock and Bones had been quietly working on his past issues when it had happened, that the traumas that had shaped him had been so close to the surface. The Ambassador Spock did not look amused, however. “I did it for the Enterprise,” Jim found himself saying. “I thought… I thought I’d lose it all if I didn’t. And look at me now, I have lost it all. James Tiberius Kirk, loser extraordinaire.”
Those were words that had once come out of other people’s mouths. It had settled close to his heart in his formative years, though he did everything he could to disprove it as publicly as possible.
Los-er, los-er, los-er.
“That has never been true.”
Jim’s breath caught, his heart stopped for a beat, and he felt faint as Spock, his Spock, stepped out from the deepest of shadows near the door. He’d heard everything, he had to.
That first time, that hot hot day in Iowa, he’d nearly driven himself over that cliff along with the car. At the last moment he’d grabbed onto life and pulled himself over the edge, all eleven years of himself away from the abyss.
He’d been of the mind now to simply let go (let-go, let-go, let-go, it was the mantra of his mind and heart for the past how-ever-long it had been), but as his heart restarted from the shock of seeing his Spock, of seeing the shame and forgiveness on his face, the guilt for not asking, for making logical assumptions, Jim decided he didn’t want to die. He didn’t think he could pull himself up alone, though—too long, too hard, too much.
But Spock, his Spock, reached out a hand, and as angry as Jim wanted to be, he found he couldn’t do any less than reach right back and grasp it tightly.
His-Spock, his-Spock, his-Spock.
The hope hurt almost worse than the pain of before, but it was the kind of hard, stretchy pain he was more familiar with, the kind that settled in after the healing had barely started.
Maybe, just maybe, he had one more miracle left in him. Relief settled in then, that he didn’t have to do it alone. His knees went weak but his Vulcan held him up. The other Spock was watching but made to leave. Jim caught his eyes over his Spock’s shoulder, still clinging to him. “Thank you,” he mouthed before burying his face in Spock’s shoulder.
Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.
It took longer than most people knew to fix things—though his bridge crew, his, dammit—had worked hard at making things right. They were sorry that they’d made assumptions and even sorrier that they’d managed to miss Jim’s decline, the decline he’d hidden with only the barest of I’m-fine, I’m-still-a-cocky-bastard acts.
Chekov stammered an apology only once, but he made it his mission in life to make sure his Captain always ate at least one good meal a day when he was working. Uhura, to whom apologies had seemed like unpronounceable inanities, force fed him foreign languages without chiding him for his bitching or his requests for the translations of the dirtiest words he could think of. Sulu sparred with him once he was up to it. Scotty provided him with the best engine-made moonshine it was possible to create. Bones, well, he just kept jabbing him with hyposprays, but that would never change, and the doctor also lied judiciously on the reports covering Jim’s ‘time off,’ blaming it on a foreign contaminant or some such rot. He also, damn him, stole Scotty’s hooch when Jim wasn’t looking.
So on the job, he seemingly recovered swiftly, easing back into command with only a few hiccups. But off the job, he was often a mess. A mess, but Spock, so repentant at times it hurt, helped him through it.
Some thought they wouldn’t make it, but Jim knew they would. They-would, they-would, they-would. All the pain healed over and like a bone that had broken, it knitted together and was the stronger for it in the end.
So when Spock went into Pon Farr the next year, Jim didn’t hesitate to bond with him. It was complete and loving and it settled the last of the doubts on both sides.
Per-fect, per-fect, per-fect.
As Jim lay sprawled against the heat of his lover, he thought that now he had everything—he had the Enterprise, he had his crew, and he had Spock. He had the love that he thought he would never have.
Love-you, love-you, love-you.
This time he wouldn’t screw up.
Spock’s heart thrummed under his ear and his hand stroked his back. It was familiar and welcome. As he listened to the reassuring combination of their heartbeats, he thought he could hear t’hy’la.
T’hy’la, t’hy’la, t’hy’la.
A/N: Many thanks to triskellion for being a patient and enthusiastic beta. This story ate my brain--hopefully now I'll be able to think clearly!
The sequel: Where He Longed to Be