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trek: team
ninety6tears

Star Trek XI fic: Speech Bubbles (pt. 2/2)

Title: Speech Bubbles
(2/2)
Characters: Kirk, Spock.
Rating: PG-13
Summary: After Enterprise's first officer starts speaking gibberish at a diplomatic event, McCoy diagnoses the otherwise mentally well Spock with chronic anxiety and demands he take some serious R & R.
...Part One...





Jim had actually been eyeing the place since they first checked in, but wouldn’t have dreamed of mentioning his curiosity to Spock before. The Zanza Men’s Dance Palace was across the bustling square just outside the hotel, the logo sign billboard-like and minimally suggestive in colorless letters flourished with the image of an old Terran derby hat. It looked exactly like the kind of Federation-catering establishment Jim would be embarrassed to admit he enjoys.

Spock seemed rather unsurprised when this was where Jim carted him along several hours after the sun went down, the captain having donned a somewhat nicer button-up shirt over his regular uniform pants. Spock naturally had very little in the way of civilian clothing and had considered his uniform perfectly sufficient apparel for the duration of their stay, but for the evening wasn’t bothering with his tunic, and the standard black worn underneath seemed fitting enough.

The floor pulsed with sultry bass-heavy music just through the front doors of the club, and the place immediately appeared a bit busier than Jim had expected. A woman in an extravagant get-up with a notably perfect smile came by with a tray of drinks, greeting them with a wink. Naturally, Jim was grinning stupidly by the time he made his way across the wide expanse rhythmically speckled with bodies to the main bar. The man working behind the counter eagerly introduced himself as the manager and offered his suggestions on what to order.

“Hey, Spock, you want anything?”

The science officer was resting against the bar a couple seats down, and he barely bothered to answer a refusal. Jim gave a good-humored shrug to the man, who appeared to be human, much like a lot of species in this area, and he spoke pretty straightforward Standard.

“You on vacation?” he asked as he started mixing Jim’s cocktail.

“Yeah, well, shore leave. We’re staying at the Aviary. You must get a lot of business from them. Though, to tell you the truth...” Jim paused with a careful grin. “I was worried this place might be something a little different. The name almost suggests...men’s entertainment of another persuasion?”

The owner smirked, his eyes shifting to Spock just a second. He set Jim down his drink saying, “You gotta come on the first of the month.” And winked.

His face falling in confusion, Jim looked over at Spock; and for all the damn Vulcan would often attest to having no understanding of the human flair for subtext, he was most definitely hiding his own version of a mocking smirk and avoiding looking Jim in the eye. Seeing that reaction, Jim couldn’t help breaking into an amused grin over it.

In less than ten minutes he found he and Spock had a good sight of what turned out to be a stage when a small plethora of beautifully—and barely—clad women came out to do a few surprisingly graceful dance numbers to music that felt sort of unfittingly sleazy. Something about them being topless was more classically artistic than erotic; Jim enjoyed it but he wasn’t entirely sure he got the point. When it was over he turned to Spock and asked, “What do you think?”

Spock perhaps had actually enjoyed it in his own way, but when asked like that, he tilted his head in brief thought and evaluated, “A distasteful appropriation of skill.”

“Yeah. I don’t know.” Jim gestured to the stage and remarked, “I hope they get paid more than the waitresses, anyway.”

Spock cocked an eyebrow. “Really, Jim?” He was making a subtle indication to a far corner next to the smaller bar, where one of the women in the server outfits was engaged in giving a man a lap dance.

“Well, how about that,” was all Jim had to say. That was when he noticed the slightly petite young woman laying down drinks at one of the tall tables off to their left: beautiful angular features and skin that seemed to glow golden under the dim lights, but what made him do the double take when she walked back a bit closer to them was the stark arching shape of her brows. He did nothing to cover up that he was staring when she caught him looking and flashed him an endearing brief smile. A couple minutes later she went out of her way to ask if she could get him anything.

“All I know is I want something close to beer...”

“I know what beer is,” she interrupted with a quick nod and went skipping off, an indication that she was accustomed to pretty condescending customers. Jim narrowed his eyebrows, then turned to Spock and said, “I’ll be right back.”

It took him forever to find the bathroom, and then in the corridor leading back to the main area he was held up by a guy who he thought was asking for some directions somewhere but couldn’t understand clearly even the fourth time he repeated himself. This worked out well for him, though, because the server appeared just within the less crowded area, holding his drink for him, looking more amused than annoyed. Even though this was part of a kind of plan, Jim acted a little surprised when after he took his beer with a thanks, she smiled a bit differently and was suddenly kneeing him in the legs to have him sit in one of the lower wooden chairs that was sitting close behind him.

“Oh, okay...” Jim chuckled as she crawled up and settled her thighs around his waist. He set his drink down on the nearest little table and was about to open his mouth before she moved in on him and placed her lips teasingly against it. He gave a happy little hum as he reciprocated, holding her by the waist to steady her in the cramped seat.

When she paused to smile indulgently, he interrupted, “I...I’m allowed to touch you? Cause your employer shouldn’t really—”

She laughed and leaned in and her voice was seductively brushing to his ear, saying, “I got off my shift twenty minutes ago.”

“Hah, I guess you don’t want this, then,” he said, holding up the voucher bill he was holding. She flushed green a little, not sure what to say, and he just slipped it under the edge of her corset-like top. “It’s alright, keep it.”

“You’re sweet.”

“And you are very...Terran-American-sounding, unless you're classroom-versed in Standard,” Jim said with realization. One hand skimmed down to hold her thigh while the other lifted playfully between a couple layers of her jet-black bob—a showy thick wig, after all—to find a pointed ear. “So which of your parents is Romulan?”

She shifted enjoyably against his hands, coyly shaking her head. “You’re close on both counts. I was raised in Canada—but my mother was Vulcan, not Romulan.”

“No...Look, I’m sure your boss tells you to tell everybody that so that you seem more exotic or whatever—” Jim paused to give a look of slightly offended exasperation. “But anyway, I’m a Starfleet captain and the only Vulcan-human hybrid known to exist is my first officer...”

Her eyes widened slightly. He wasn’t sure if she was more impressed about Starfleet captain or Spock, but he was slipping another note into her top and asking, “Anything you can tell me about mental illnesses among Romulans? Maybe something that came up in your family, ones that might affect speech?”

The woman rocked back from him a bit, boredly put off. “Are you serious?”

His hands traveled up her ribs, but he cocked his eyebrow.

“No, I don’t really know anything. There’s Tuvan syndrome, but that’s, you know, motor reflexes and all...”

She ducked her head back down to nibble at his lips again; she was a surprisingly irresistible kisser, Jim was finding, but it was all pretty useless to him, and he went to take a huge gulp of his drink so as to cut himself off of her for the moment.

“Hey, honey, slow down...” She was mildly taken aback by his intake, and he wondered why. It was only his second drink, and she couldn’t even know that.

It was only a few minutes later that he started to think that what she’d brought him, while mild-tasting, had to be very very different from beer.

“Dizzy?” she asked, clinging to his side as he clumsily started to make his way back through the crowds, at one point steadying himself against a wall.

“I—I’m a little sloshy, yeah—” Jim’s words trailed off as he scanned the room, noticing Spock inquiring at the main bar, probably starting to look for him.

“I tried to tell you before, honey, the grain ferments differently—It’s rough on your system if you’ve never had it before.”

“...Oh,” Jim groaned. The server kept pawing up under his shirt, laughing flirtatiously.

“Come on, it’ll wear off...You wanna come take it easy at my place for a while?” she suggested, her eyes glinting and gorgeous. Jim couldn’t remember the last time he was propositioned by a girl quite this beautiful, and this one was particularly insistent. He sighed.

“Listen, I can’t, I need to get back to my friend...”

“Oh, the Vulcan...” She tried to wrap his arms closer to her. “That’s okay.”

“‘That’s okay’,” Jim repeated flatly, like he didn’t have a clue what that was supposed to mean. “Listen, I don’t even know your name...”

He looked again to seek out Spock, and caught the quick motion across the room with a woozy widening of his eyes before realizing exactly what it was. “What...” He seethed in confusion at the realization.

Just as he’d looked over, someone had just punched Spock right in the face; and most likely completely out of the blue, if Spock hadn’t managed to block it. He remembered the woman attached to him as he started across the room; he demanded flatly, “Off,” and she let go. As he quickly squirmed through the dispersing crowds he saw hands grab menacingly at Spock’s shirt as the commander looked all too alarmed, brows narrowing severely, but not angrily.

“HEY!” Jim came up unsteadily, but his voice roared at the sight of the man attempting another clumsy hook before Spock managed to grip his wrist defensively. “What’s this, huh?”

The man seemed to be given the chance to cool down in his momentary confusion, but offered no explanation. “Get your friend out of my face!” he spat, apparently done as he tore his arm back and skulked away. Through his hazed countenance, Jim managed to convey a confused look at Spock.

“I...” Spock stepped closer to Jim. He started stuttering, “It does not—I was—scrubbing him to aggrandize...”

“Oh no...” Jim was limply keeling over then, and that uneasy exclamation could’ve been in response to Spock’s nonsensical words or the sudden rumbling sickness in his stomach. Or both. But either way he was now limping as fast as possible to the exit, mumbling, “I gotta...”

A minute later Spock, fully collected, found the captain throwing up outside in a darkened area under the store awning, probably not for the first time; he had a hand poised against the wall to lean down far, and his final sounds were a kind of exhausted groan like he could feel that would be the last of it as he instinctively realized his First was standing behind him. Spock put a hand to his shoulder.

“Are you unwell?”

“It happened again,” Jim slurred, ignoring the question.

“...Yes.”

“I’m sorry,” he mumbled groggily. “I’m sorry I left you, I was with the damn waitress, but it wasn’t like you’d think, I just wanted to—I’m sorry, I was coming right back...”

“Jim,” Spock calmly interrupted. “Are you actually suffering the illogical sentiment that I experienced a relapse because you were occupied fraternizing with a female—”

“I wasn’t frater—dammit, Spock, I’m trying to tell you, what did you think I was doing?...”

“I believe, Jim, that you are very inebriated,” was Spock’s patient reply. “Something McCoy would not be happy to hear about, considering your repeated habit of recklessly ingesting foreign products without being aware of how your body will react. And I believe it is time we return to our lodgings.”

Jim couldn’t argue with that, but even walking across the street was suddenly a tiring prospect. He shifted dizzily just once, and Spock was already moving to take one arm up to his shoulders. He huskily said, “Thanks.”

It felt like it was pretty effortless for Spock to half-pull him limping across the square; they did this in a rich silence up until they got to the opposite curb. Finally, in a thick but weak voice, Jim mumbled, “I’m worried about you.”

They were approaching the elevator and Jim managed to open the door and get in to lean drearily against the banister; he faced inward, worrying he might feel dizzy if he watched the sky crowding in on them outside. Spock stood at the opposite side, his arms crossed, and they were silent until the lift opened onto their floor, when Spock offered his arm under Jim’s again. When they were closer to their room, Spock’s belated comment rode thinly over the silence in the hallway.

“We have seen little that would demonstrate an incapacity to perform my duties as an officer on your ship,” Spock stated. “Unless these occasions become more frequent, we may only need to be cautious with my responsibilities in the diplomatic area—”

“No,” Jim interrupted in a kind of whine, eyes fixed mainly on the carpet, trying to make his limp legs cooperate. “Don’t do that. Don’t. I need to know, if something’s...wrong with you. Like wrong with your brain.”

Jim’s drunken state was making him less tactful, seeping open in his anxiety, and the tone over his final words hadn’t betrayed the profoundly wrong feeling it gave him to imagine the reliably powerful mind of his first officer becoming clouded, damaged. Spock took another, shorter hesitance, in the time it took to get Jim through the door and take a few steps into their suite.

“I have not withheld any knowledge that would be helpful in diagnosing the problem. Degenerative and neurological diseases, if that is the kind of scenario your mind is entertaining, are not much less common among my species. However, my symptoms do not indicate a likelihood of any known conditions; and in any case, considering the common genetic predisposition to such health problems, we seem to have encountered some proof that I have nothing that will impair me in the long term.”

“Uh,” Kirk just grunted, lazily letting Spock continue to limp him toward the area where he slept. “Knowing that you’re fine in an alternate reality isn’t that much of a consolation. All kinds of things can go wrong...”

“Perhaps you should learn to take Doctor McCoy’s flare for drama with...shall I say, ‘a grain of salt’?”

“I’m just saying. I don’t trust you to worry about yourself...” Jim let out another tired grunt as he reached his bed and volunteered to fall sloppily on it with his legs mostly hanging off. “So I’m worrying about you. Deal with it.”

He made a weak jerk of an attempt to lift his own legs up, and Spock seemed annoyed, directing himself into the action of quickly removing Jim’s boots just to redirect the irritation, and through his mind’s slow churning, Jim felt a little bad for being so blunt. He extended his best efforts to pull his legs up at a more comfortable angle, though he could feel sleep gnawing at the back of him already.

“Spock—what are you, tucking me in?—It’s not even cold in here...” Jim wanted to laugh at the idea as Spock began to gather up the blankets at the foot of the bed.

“Very well,” was all Spock said before placing them back into a folded stack. He then moved as if to walk away, and Jim stopped him.

“Wait, I’m not...done talking to you.” Jim shifted over to the side of his bed against the wall.

“You require sleep,” Spock said, clearly as doubtful as Jim was that he’d be awake for longer than five more minutes.

“Well, talk to me until I fall asleep,” Jim mumbled, hardly able to form the words very well.

Spock almost did so out of boredom, it seemed, when he came back, removed his own boots, and took a seat next to Jim on the bed, folding his hands together over his waist.

Off in thought, Kirk started to smile, then was laughing and asking, “What did you say to make that guy so mad, anyway?”

Spock lifted his brows as if he was stating the obvious; he seemed fully aware of the humor of the situation when he replied, “I do not know.”

“That’s...” Jim’s laughing slowly built up. “That’s really funny...”

“When I became aware that I was experiencing the problem again, I was able to listen for my errors, but I did not realize it was happening again until his response seemed inappropriate.” He paused, considering. “I believe that in dialogue we are frequently more aware of what we mean than of what we say. I seem to be experiencing a pathological exaggeration of this. Is that why you find it comical?”

“Spock...I can’t explain to you why everything that’s funny is funny.” Jim sighed. He was in thought for a second over what Spock had said, and came out of a small reverie with, “Hey, you know, we should try something...”

Spock looked down at him expectantly as he rubbed his eyes in thought.

“Maybe whatever’s going on in there...” He gave a vague indication at Spock’s head. “You just need, like, an outside perspective.”

His hesitation to explain further gave Spock a mild idea of where this might be going. When a moment went by without Jim going on, he replied, “Given that we have received a human medical perspective and may also inquire of the Vulcan perspective, I will deduce that that is what you are talking about.”

“No, really, why don’t we do a mind meld?” Jim pushed. “Our brains work a lot differently, maybe...I don’t know, seeing how it interacts during a meld might indicate something you hadn’t considered before.”

“...I do not think so. It is out of the question, Jim.”

“Why?” Jim whined, almost childish in his enthusiasm for the idea; his drowsy zeal only made Spock more wary.

“We have not diagnosed my condition and do not know how it might affect you—”

“Oh, come on, you just said you were fine.”

“You cannot fairly insist that I said that. Jim, you are also under the influence of alcohol and in no condition to offer proper consent to engage in such an invasive —”

“I never consented before,” Jim shot back, and didn’t miss Spock’s flinch of irritation that he could argue pretty well even with his head all sloshed.

“That was with my future counterpart. Having known you before, I would deduce that he rather recklessly took for granted that you would be comfortable with the meld...”

“Because they were friends,” Jim insisted. Teasingly, aggressively, he tossed in, “I thought we were friends.”

The captain was practically just playing around, using any ammo he could find for his persuasion; Spock however did blink and answer, “Are we?”

Slowly, Jim perched himself up on his elbows, his features pinched in scrutiny at his first officer, just looking at him for a moment. The surprising thing was that Spock’s reply hadn’t been a rebuttal; it was clumsily, genuinely inquisitive. And Jim just couldn’t believe that. They only had a couple years of service together under their belts, but already their working relationship had a seamless, instinctive rhythm to it; they had saved each other’s lives a couple times over, and sometimes without simply coming out and saying “I can’t imagine anyone else in your place,” they both afforded the other a sense of irreplaceability, became amiably accustomed, lacing it with rationale or elusive mirth and the occasional traces of that firey tension they’d had upon meeting.

But they were something. And Spock was still content to pull the logic card and pretend he had no idea what it meant to be somebody’s friend, so Jim defiantly thought that maybe he was losing his damn mind after all, and he resigned, tilting back to rest his head on the pillow. The Vulcan’s face indicated some regretful agitation, an awareness he’d said the wrong thing and probably knew exactly what all Jim was thinking, but not quite relenting.

“Goodnight, Spock,” Jim muttered, and he closed his eyes.

Sleep would’ve seized him under if not for the lingering curiosity over the fact that he didn’t feel Spock moving from the bed, only a couple movements and sounds of clothes shifting against their own grain. His movements were usually stark, decisive; it was hard not to be aware that there was something contemplative in what he could only hear of the officer sitting next to him.

Finally Jim thought he felt a hand resting, in a motion of feathery hesitance, at the back of his neck. Then it happened very fast, as if not wanting to afford a chance for a change of mind: fingers more unmistakably brushed up to his temple and Jim, wide-eyed, let out a gasp.

At least he thought his eyes widened, or that he gasped, but across a certain threshold there was a difficult line between what was happening outside the entwined world and within it. Jim felt his own mind, more flighty and pliable but ever-moving, wading and bobbing in correspondence between the web-strands of another: one that was like metallic threads, a slippy-grippy type of invisible mechanism strung around and within and through Jim which his own thoughts could not help finding inorganic, uncomfortable in its movements and processes like a planet where the air was too thin. It was only a second of this before they sifted together as one, the differences still felt but beginning to be compromised by Spock’s skillful control.

Jim had not suggested they do this because he thought it could possibly be fun. His only previous experience with mind melds had been unquestionably unpleasant, to say the absolute least. It had felt like it took ten times as long as it had; the other Spock’s brain had been more unyielding in the rush to project certain information and also jagged and ugly and searing at the edges with a swelling ache that had made the whole thing rusted over with a sense of startling empathy that kicked in the stomach like nausea. And the worst kind, accompanied with a sort of invasive embarassment; it had been every time he’d forgotten to check the occupation lights on the showers back at the Academy dorms flattened out with all the times he’d caught his mother looking at him way too sadly, except these things merely stamped on something bigger and blunter that had run him over before he'd had a chance to realize what in the hell the Vulcan was doing to him. Feeling the man’s intense remorse just after meeting him had been pretty damn hard to distinguish from being slugged in the face by him with a baseball bat.

He hadn’t expected the second time to be more enjoyable, because it probably was best to expect the worst anyway, but had since felt a kind of urge to do it again just to do it right, now that they really knew each other.

This Spock, his Spock, was neutral and serene, prepared to accept him. The experience of the meld was immediately vastly different and more exciting than before; Jim did not feel like he was being done to any more than doing. As if his hands were skimming through files and files of information, he had some control over what he saw and accessed even if he didn’t exactly understand how to do it.

And Spock was now a gently expectant, vaguely inquisitive force brimming on the edges of everywhere; there were no images yet, but Jim pictured the Vulcan sitting patiently with his hands locked together, as if waiting calmly for a chess opponent’s next move.

There was barely an end to that thought before the exact image presented itself to Jim; Spock sat before him, and Jim realized he’d also projected himself into an imagined embodiment sitting across in another chair, a chess board between them. Jim just thought, the balcony, maybe?—and there they were. And Spock, expectant and maybe even mildly impatient, as if Jim was supposed to say something, had apparently done enough research already to extract the bits of his captain’s regard for him that would be necessary to start off with a kind of greeting joke. In the spirit of self-parody, he raised his eyebrow.

Jim felt himself grinning; I didn’t know you could

Spock was already responding with a new thought, reading the shape of Jim’s statement and deducting the rest.

Yes, projecting as well as accessing, look:

They were on the bridge, just a normal day, quiet, calm; then a roaring pink form blew in, breaking down the sliding doors to the bridge. The monster Jim remembered horribly from Delta Vega came shrieking straight for the captain’s chair, and Jim was wailing and toppling right out of it just as the vision seared away—

A skittering sensation surrounded, musically but soundlessly buzzing through the cords as the balcony returned; Jim realized, even with a typically stoic projection of the Vulcan sitting in front of him, Spock was laughing. It was an odd acknowledgment to pull from what he sensed, very strange to feel what it could be without the muscle stretch of a smile, without any motion in particular; it was the barebones DNA structure of a laugh, but a laugh just the same. Jim completely forgot that he’d just been annoyed, but his mind muttered into inquiry, Why didn’t I know what you were going to do?

Practice.

You’re laughing. You smug bastard, you laugh?

The black letters on white, spanning in front like the spacing motion of an antique typewriter: v. laughed, laugh·ing, laughs, v.intr, to make the explosive sounds of the voice, and the characteristic movements of the features and body, that express mirth, amusement, ridicule, etc.

Meaning, of course not, or so it would mean if Jim couldn’t know so much better right now. Spock’s undercurrent to that was, Perhaps.

Kirk then reached, snagged at the memory of the definition and pulled it up:

2. To show or feel amusement or good humor.

He felt Spock’s approval of Kirk already catching on, being able to manipulate and not just watch. Something else, too, was in Spock’s half of the abstract: a woman’s voice. Kirk felt it seeping in with a forebodingly bright color.

Perhaps if you spend more time with humans, you’ll learn to smile again. You used to, you know. When you were very young.

It started. Kirk floated out of the picture to flow as bystander to the recollection, piercingly vivid and hazy in different ways: a woman, such a pretty woman, her hands in the hair of a slightly younger Spock and observing that he needed it cut, his dismissive reply: ...In any instance, Mother, you know that Starfleet is my last resort.

In another memory, Spock was nineteen, seemingly finishing his own sentence as his mother sat next to him in some kind of garden. I believe T’Pau would have found your expressions an insipid interference with sacred custom. You may overtly display emotions as a means of expressing defiance against our culture; I will not accessorize your pursuit with some absurd pantomime of human —

Spock! She interrupted, just laughing and laughing. You poor dear, even your father has learned to recognize when I am making a joke.

Father does not smile.

No.
She was still grinning, shaking her head. He doesn’t. Spock...Sometimes I think you see criticism and manipulation everywhere. They may always discriminate because you are different and I worry that you expect that from everyone...Even me? Do not forget that I married your father. And even if it means nothing to your Vulcan sensibilities, I am your mother. You are not of a species to me. You are my son.

An illogical statement. One cannot be exempt from being a species. Or being half of one.

Even you know that isn't what I meant. I am saying that I love you as a mother loves a child. You are not half of anything to me; you are more than simply one man. You may ignore the illogical sentiment, but hear that I love you, if nothing else.


The image was outlined in fact, one being that Amanda rarely said those words to her son, because she knew what the outcome would be. This time Spock said nothing, and if there was any inflection of feeling in his eyes, it was exasperation. He stood up, primly pulling at his thin clothing, and walked away.

It all abstracted from there, and Jim felt a gloom tightening and tightening in his chest as if too weak to breathe as the patchwork of fact and memory swirled by: light protecting touches to his skin when he was a child, gifts she gave, the goodbye when he enlisted in Starfleet when she’d worn a Terran summer dress to see him off within view of the Golden Gate bridge where they’d been before, together, but said nothing about now; her kiss to his cheekbone, a whispered I love you she seemingly hadn’t meant to say, and his silence stretching until he could only manage a grumbling response of Mother...

The remorse and melancholy the very word provoked in Spock, who was reacting rather than showing and had been for some moments, rumbled through Jim’s neurons a groaning despair. That nagging notion of regret passed through to other things, more blurred, some in more vague detached voices,

My son...

I know that you will find yourself too busy to write me back...

You may not want me here—I was just worried...

I’m not looking for you to tell me you feel the same. I saw that you needed someone yesterday, it wasn’t about anything I feel.

I thought we were friends. Goodnight, Spock.


Spock was then sobering slightly, if belatedly, realizing the profound affect this was all having on Kirk.

You wish to stop?

Instead of saying no, Jim just frantically grappled, looking for something, anything else, and threw the first thing forward he could think of, not realizing what it was until they both experienced the back of his head being slammed onto a console. There was something cynical in Spock’s recovering senses now, as if asking, You bring up this to console me? But as the strings of that memory dizzied around the unsettling image of Spock forcing his grasp down on Jim’s neck, something in Spock flinched with curiosity and the projection backed up in an impossibly fast rewind, to what Jim had said to provoke him, and the dissonant echoes that didn’t match up.

You were thinking of your father.

He killed my father and he killed your mother. And I was picking a fight about it. I hated that.

And Spock heard, or saw, all of it, so that it wasn’t necessary for Jim to explain: How he’d summoned and pulled up and fought with his own old and overagitated pain to get Spock to do something, his own gut still reeling uncomfortably from the mind meld before, which had only proven to him with a swamping sense of near hopelessness that none of them really had a calm head. The event and the disparate reality of Jim’s thoughts were more pronounced as they both were pinching through the layers for it; Jim was reminded of thought bubbles in those outdated comic formats—

?

Like:

In a fraction of a second, Jim explained with a couple flattened two-dimensional memories: Batman clocking a villain with the scattering of jagged action bubbles with “BLAM” and other onomatopoeia, Asterix and Obelix, Schroeder bellowing rejections at Lucy van Pelt. Spock lended the briefest judgment of smug dissaproval at the ancient genre’s seeming lack of intellectual depth, before projecting and remembering at the same time:

Jim saw various images of McCoy scowling or scolding at both of them, and there was a thought bubble that went up over him filled not with words but a simple and vague pronunciation of protective love. Jim’s thoughts were a swelling of amusement and warm agreement. Spock then concurred knowingly with the suggestion of Scotty’s modesty often being false when Jim fluidly recalled an amusing instant of him clearly exaggerating how difficult a job was going to be for him with a carricatured bubble of sneering boredom punctuating the memory.

It went on and on before Jim was quite realizing how strange it was for things to be so easy with him and Spock conversing like this, playfully, like schoolers passing notes and sketches in class but with a perfectly precise and limitless canvas and a lightning-quick pace of return and elaboration. Learning so fast about Spock on a second-by-second basis was strangely intoxicating; as they faded through the lighter subjects, Kirk lunged into and skated along the waves of information with an increasingly giddy enthusiasm. He was like a kid discovering an abandoned warehouse, the hiding place tucked away from the world, whooping through the discovery of a perfect secret, while Spock more leisurely browsed through Jim’s histories with some colorful flares of surprise at things he found.

As much as Jim liked the constant challenge of having to read Spock and the leisurely enigma that came along with their relationship, something about all this released so much tension between them that it was automatically kind of fun. With anybody, not just with Spock, he always thought there were so many steps, the heft of a kind of neurological bureaucracy, in getting a thought to be an action or a word. The intention gets muddled in the process from what one is to what one thinks to what one says and does. With Spock, the hope of any truth in his actions almost seemed futile, but here, there was no line between point A and point B; one of the last more solid thoughts he managed before he was finally conquered by sleep was to back up to only a few minutes before, attempting to express this to Spock, something to do with what we mean and what we say...

|||


Upon waking up, it took just one fidget of consciousness, a movement of his arm, for Jim to feel with puzzlement the other body half under him. He blinked his eyes open, the sunlight and sounds of the city outside swelling to greet him, and slipped his glance forward and up to realize that he was in fact being observed by the Vulcan whose chest he was nearly lying his head on. His ear was propped at the shoulder of his first officer, whose left arm was resting across the back of his pillow. Remembering a foggy shape of his last waking minutes, his short confusion dissipated. He muttered with a groggy smile, “Damn. I’m sorry.”

If he was with someone else, he might remark with slightly awkward humor at the proximity, but he knew logic would grant total indifference to it. Spock was wide awake, with the appearance of having been patiently waiting for the captain to rouse up instead of actually stirring him for quite some time. “I do not see any reason for an apology,” he replied, with earnest confusion.

“Nevermind....” Jim sat up, checking around himself to inch out of whatever position he’d drunkenly flopped into; it was too early in the morning, but he wondered if accidentally using Spock as a pillow might seem funny later, once he'd had a cup of coffee. He rubbed his eyes. “I guess it defeated the purpose when I fell asleep so fast.”

Spock’s eyes flitted in Jim’s direction for a moment, and he sort of self-consciously drew his legs up into more of a sitting position. Jim caught something there, almost a shyness about something. His eyes then flooded with realization. “Oh...”

As soon it dawned on him, it felt like he knew it already. He could almost feel his mind still in the process of disconnecting from the prolonged connection, still blotted with whiteness at the edges, like a hangover that didn’t hurt.

“You did it while I was out?”

“I maintained the mind meld through the duration of the time you were asleep,” Spock confirmed. “...If that was unacceptable, I must grant my deepest apologies and—”

“Shut up,” Jim cut off with fascination, newly curious about that possibility he hadn’t even considered. “Was it any help, though, when everything was all...” He used a series of wavering hand gestures to indicate the unpredictability, the loose-patched firing of thoughts. Spock’s expression briefly indicated annoyance at his attempt at communication before he replied.

“The human brain is less...shall we say, conversational during unconsciousness, and without easily definable thoughts. But I did find the irregularity of it somewhat beneficial in a way close to what you suggested, and not as I would have predicted.”

Jim’s face curled slowly into a smile as he shifted into a sitting position. “Yeah...?”

“While your sleeping mind was at first uncomfortably unwieldy, I think that it was in its more disagreeable state that it managed to perhaps help the purpose of the meld. When I could not compromise your thoughts against my opposing cognition and brain structure, the experience was at first rather cumbersome. But after some time, the pressure that this created between our very different minds was actually...” He took a long time to say it: “Calming.”

“So you’re saying that I, like...” Jim cleared his throat, blinking the last sleep from his eyes. “...I gave you a massage?”

Jim expected Spock to come up with one of his creatively sophisticated ways of informing him that he had said something stupid. Instead, he turned an interested glance on him for a moment of consideration, and only said briskly, “The comparison is agreeable.” He slipped up and off the bed, giving a straightening pull to his lower shirt hem when he was standing.

“Wait, so...” Jim was still elated with curiosity. “You were able to see all my dreams and stuff?”

“You dreamed little. ‘Seeing’ being a slightly unfitting word, but yes, and I reiterate—”

“Okay, okay, did you see that one I was having — oh, I can’t remember—It was a fountain, in the middle of a park, but there wasn’t water in it, it was filled with this fine red cloth. And there were these women—”

“I think you are referring to the K’Tau monument, on Vulcan, which you would think has the appearance of a fountain,” Spock interrupted. In response to Jim’s puzzlement he slowly added, “You were not dreaming about it. I was remembering it.”

“But how was it a fountain in a park? With green grass everywhere?”

“That was your own...embellishment.”

“No way.” It was coming together for Jim, how the long stream of diminishing images he could recall from what he’d dreamt weren’t just dreams, but an ongoing exchange of natural thoughts between both of them. He couldn’t begin to describe or recall them all except in vague impressions. “How can I tell the difference between what you were thinking and what I thought I was dreaming?”

Of course the allergy to ambiguity and uncertainty had to kick in some time: Spock raised his eyebrow in one of his more condescending dismissals. “Logically,” he answered, and Jim felt like he’d been handed the Vulcan equivalent of "Because I said so."

As if he was still reading his mind, Spock returned from the kitchen area's replicator once Jim was up and dressed with two mugs, the one he handed to Jim smelling of a good rich coffee.

"Thanks," Jim muttered, moving to sit down on the small couch in the most open area of the suite. After a moment of lazily taking up most of the couch and contemplating, he sighed. "I'm not really looking forward to telling Bones you had another...incident."

"It would be pertinent," Spock understated.

"Yeah, but..."

"I am also reluctant," Spock admitted, "considering the likelihood that this would make him prolong our stay here, while I am increasingly certain that recreation is accomplishing little for my recovery."

"You don't need to recover," Jim responded. "You just need to..."

Spock turned to look at him expectantly and was only met with increasingly agitated silence. Jim finally stood up and went over to the bed muttering, "I don't know." He took up his communicator and said, "I'll be right back."

He didn't contact the ship until he was out watching the birds do their strange spiraling flight down the glass tunnel.

"Jim?"

"Bones," Jim greeted neutrally.

"How was your night?" McCoy sounded like he too had just rolled out of bed.

"I got embarrassingly drunk. It was great."

Jim could hear a grunt followed by "Figures you'd turn it into your own damn vacation after a while...Well, any news? Anything happen with Spock?"

Jim narrowed his eyes, watching the vicious-looking tallons as one of the harriers began its less graceful assent upwards, no flying, just clawing and pecking up the branches built into the walls. He watched this for several seconds without replying.

"Jim?...You better tell me what happened."

"No, it's..." He hesitated. "I was talking to somebody. Nothing happened; Spock's just fine."

It felt almost too easy. McCoy seemed to mull it over briefly before he asked, "How badly you want to come back?"

"Let's call it 2300, tonight," Jim said. "Wouldn't mind watching the sun go down again."

|||


He told the truth about the lie, resulting in a stiff dispute about the lie, Spock calling him "Captain" again for the duration of the afternoon, and Jim feeling a headache coming on that sent him to his corner of the suite for a grumpy nap that lasted well through sundown.

After he got up and had a bite to eat downstairs, he somewhat instinctively took the lift up to the top floor and found Spock on the balcony, looking out on the town. He joined him at the rounded edge, leaning into it, silent for the moment.

"Come on..." Jim finally spoke up in a mild tone when the quiet was no longer tranquil. "You've gotta be a little relieved that we're getting out of here."

"My disagreement with McCoy's orders aside, your dishonesty on the matter is unprofessional, and frankly disappointing."

"Why?" Jim demanded. "You're disappointed that I lied so that people will stop worrying about this and you can stop being self-conscious about it?"

"I am not—"

"Yes. You are." Jim very confidently insisted, "You want somebody to put the lid on this so that you can just get back to work and forget about it. You don't want to contact the Vulcan colony and go talk to their healers so that they can pass their judgments about the flaws of your half-human brain...Especially when this isn't even a big deal..."

As Jim's voice trailed off a little bitterly, he turned and paced back closer to the chairs they still had set up around their chess board. His next words seemed defensive, an antagonized response to his own thoughts. "So you mix up your words sometimes. So what?"

"...Jim."

"What?"

Spock turned away from the cityscape to look at him. "I would not have you think me ungrateful."

"You're wasting your time on gratitude now?" Jim teased. Spock seemed resentful that he wasn't accepting it seriously.

"Despite my lack of understanding for the necessity of thanking others," Spock explained with only a slight tone of triviality, "I can recognize when it might be considered toward. Your attempts to remedy my situation have extended far beyond the limits of any responsibilities you have as a captain—" He interrupted Jim's protest, "—or even as my friend."

"Oh..." Jim was almost shy in the way he smiled, laughing a little. "When and where were these limits established? Where's the, you know, the paperwork, I want to see it...Cause I refuse to believe that these even exist."

Spock's expression lightened, but he still seemed troubled with Jim's levity. "I mean what I say."

"So do I. " Jim rolled his eyes, and he came forward, crossing his arms. "Can I ask you something?"

Spock set his attention more directly at Jim instead of answering.

"Why haven't you told Uhura...?—Oh, you probably know what I'm about to ask."

"I do not. Not precisely." Spock's eyes dimmed into a darker thoughtfulness. When Jim volunteered no better inquiry, he finally quietly, candidly explained, "I am inadequate enough in the most basic of relationships that humans allow themselves to value...If the death of my mother has caused me to reevaluate the intrinsic virtue of such feelings, that does not make me understand them any better. My regret is that Lt. Uhura was not made to realize that any sooner."

"So you're not good with women. I guess we have something in common." Jim gave a sympathetic shrug, shaking his head. "If you can't talk to her, at least stop beating yourself up over it. It's not...It's not good for you." He then gave a gesture towards the chess board; it was still in the middle of a game they'd started the night before. "Look, we're taking off in about an hour. We might as well finish this."

They finished the game mostly in a relaxed silence, enveloped in the papery expanses of noise from the streets below. Right after making a long-calculated move, Jim thought to finally ask, "So do you think it might have helped?"

Spock was contemplating the game with his fingers threaded together under his chin; his glance slowly slipped forward. "If you are referring to the mind meld, there is no definite answer to that."

"'No definite answer'?" Jim smiled challengingly.

"I suspect you would resent an absolute dismissal of the possibility of its usefulness," Spock added. "I will simply assert that we have no method of determining its effect."

Jim smirked. "Say 'quadrotriticale' three times fast."

Spock said, "Quadrotriticale." He precisely moved his rook forward. "Three times fast. Check."

It took Jim a second to react, and then he just leaned back, silently giggling with a squinting smile. "Man, one of these days, when you least expect it...I'm gonna hug the daylights out of you."

Giving one of his more amiable lifts of an eyebrow and seeming to share the humor more than usual, Spock replied, "I find making such threats to be very unbecoming of a Starfleet captain..."

Jim just laughed more, loudly enough for both of them.


/end/

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This was so beautiful. Definitely the best and most realistic depiction of a meld I have ever read, in fanon or anywhere else. I cannot give you enough love.

*mems*

So much adorable I don't know where to begin. \o/

This was fantastic! I so, so loved how you portrayed both of them, and their banter by the end was golden. Wonderful!

I enjoyed this a lot, especially the way you describe the meld working. Spock's emotional problems felt real to me, especially his difficulties, not just expressing, but understanding them (his own and others). And I do love his sarcastic humour.

Jim's very good, too.

Thanks - I'm very happy the characters worked for you.

I loved that last line and of course, how you wrote the mind-meld! That was, I thought, amazing and fit along well with how I imagined it from the movie.

also, the dynamics of their relationship. beautifully written! GUSH~

thank you, I'm glad to hear what worked for you :)

Beautiful. And the two of them doing vacation stuff - stupid vacation stuff - was LMAO-inducing. XD

Hehe, I'm glad somebody found that amusing...Thanks!

Plot! I'm very curious about Spock's little word aphasia problem, how it comes and goes with stress. And I love how this is a lead-in for Kirk and Spock bonding time, how the meld becomes the best form of communication for them. I feel like this could be taken in so many fantastic directions, exploring their mode of communication, and any continuing problem Spock has with speaking. What a great little story you've got going!

I think there was a House episode about it, too. The man thought he was speaking perfectly normally. It was crazy.

I'm so glad you enjoyed what I did with the plot. I didn't expect to get to the end and feel like this premise begs for a sequel, but maybe something will strike me?

I do vaguely remember that House episode...I'd be curious to see it again.

Even though it can't be like an episode of any Trek series because it's completely character-oriented, the writing in this whole story is so neat, well-conceived, and well-paced, and the fic is just the right length so that it feels like a single episode of a show. I guess a show more like Boston Legal, which makes sense given what it's based on though you might not expect that kind of drama/comedy writing to translate so well into this universe. But it's a totally effective and lovely buddy fic which makes me question why the hell gen like this has to be such a marginal part of all fandoms.

You did a great job of portraying Kirk and Spock during a sort of transitional period between where their relationship was in XI and where it's fated to go, because you get a sense that they've easily become pretty comfortable with each other but still have a lot to learn about each other. Their bonding is so touching and totally adorable without going anywhere that can only be taken as shippy.

I was kind of surprised and really impressed with how Spock being helplessly inarticulate actually ended up tying into the concept of him not understanding and being able to communicate his feelings with the whole "what you say and what you mean" line coming up twice. And the mind meld was probably a more believable way of him working through what's troubling him than actually being convinced to talk about it with Jim, which was what I was expecting.

...Yeah, so if you can't tell I HATE this fic. :P

Perfect! Neither too much nor to little. I find the breastbone of it quite perfidious.

Thank you! Your scapula is quite indissoluble.

This is so lovely! Jim's fondness and concern for Spock are just about palpable. Going straight in my memories.

oh, that was precious. i love their relationship, even platonic as it is. ♥

oh. this is amazing. it kind of blindsided with its amazingness, actually, because the premise is somewhat silly, but you really grounded it and used it to say some wonderful things about the characters. i really, really enjoy your writing style. also this is like, one of the three best mind melds i've read in this fandom. ♥

You're a wonderful writer. You made me feel how deeply Kirk cares for Spock, and how hard it was for Spock to admit somewhat how much Kirk means to him.

Aw, so sweet.
This made me smile. :)

you commented on my fic, you added me, i had to check you out right? so you said you don't get around to posting a whole lot of stuff, based on this, dude you so should!
it's so wonderfully subtle and I love the dynamics, the conversations, just the meanings behind what they say - very real, and genuine, the playfulness, the comfort (the ending just made me smirk hugely) and that is HARD to get right
I added this to my memories

Aw, thanks so much for checking out my stuff! <3 It really is kind of a challenge to write stuff that's just presuming what Kirk and Spock's relationship will be like in the future of the reboot in a way that feels true to both canons, and it's nice to hear that this works.
Seriously, it's cold and rainy and I have a paper to write and I've been in a terrible mood, and this comment cheered me up quite a lot :)

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