Title: House of Wolves
Author: Keira Marcos
Fandom: Star Trek (AOS)
Relationship: James Kirk/Spock
Genre: Science Fiction, Fusion, Romance
Warnings: Explicit language, explicit sex
Word Count: 18,381 (complete)
Summary: James Kirk online as an Alpha Sentinel as he fights to save Vulcan from a rogue Romulan and finally meets Spock, the former first officer of the starship Enterprise.
Jim curled his hand around the warm cup as he stepped out onto the deck. Tea wasn’t his usual early morning drink, but coming online as a Sentinel had changed his daily choices in a way he considered borderline appalling. He’d always known he was latent but had never expected to come online. Growing up on Betazed, he’d never really been exposed to the whole pride system that existed on Earth and the few other planets throughout the Federation that had Sentinels and Guides as part of their culture.
He took a deep breath, taking in the scents of the river not far from his grandfather’s cabin. His grandmother had deeded him the property when he’d moved to Earth to attend Starfleet Academy. She’d assured him that he’d need a private refuge away from humans and from the other cadets he’d be living in course quarters with. She’d been right, and he’d retreated to the property repeatedly on the small breaks he’d been given while at the academy.
Being the son of George Kirk had come with a unique set of pressures at the academy that he’d never had to endure on Betazed. Throughout the Federation, his father was acknowledged for his heroic sacrifice for his crew, but at the academy there had been a pressure to perform and excel in a way he’d never experienced before. He had more than met all of those expectations, much to the chagrin of quite a few who had anticipated and even, in some cases, looked forward to his failure. Jim often wondered how his own father had dealt with being half-alien on Earth and at the academy where nearly the entire student population was human and all of the instructors were.
Jim didn’t think he’d suffered half as much as others had—those who couldn’t pass for human certainly dealt with a lot more shit as far as that went. His one and only physical brawl had started with a slur falling out of the mouth of a drunk fellow cadet toward an Orion woman in their year. They’d all ended up in Federation Security custody, and Jim had spared no one when he was interviewed. He caught flak for that—and still did—as the cadet who’d used the slur had been summarily expelled from the academy.
Jim tilted his head as the aircar came to a stop in front of his house. He’d been monitoring Commodore Pike’s travel for several minutes. His former communication officer had given him a head’s up regarding Pike’s trip to Iowa. Jim figured he should probably tell Starfleet that his crew was clearly not on board with his removal from the Enterprise, and they’d probably all need some kind of formal intervention. His PADD was bursting with reports from the ship that was in orbit, undergoing repairs from the incident that had resulted in him coming online as an Alpha Sentinel.
He turned his head and watched Pike walk around the side of the house. The older man closed his communicator as he walked. Jim took a sip of his tea and grimaced at the taste. He was really going to have to invest himself in finding a tea that he liked. He set it aside and made a mental note to research some tea sequences for his replicator.
“Good morning, sir.”
Jim took a deep breath. “How about you just call me Jim?”
“Like that, is it?” Pike questioned with some amusement.
“Komack made it clear I wasn’t fit to sit in the chair anymore,” Jim said roughly. “And I’m not going to allow myself to be disappeared into whatever project he and Admiral Marcus are working on. I tendered my resignation yesterday, sir, effectively immediately.”
“Saw it,” Pike said and walked to stand beside him. He leaned on the railing. “Gorgeous property.”
“It belonged to my grandfather, Tiberius Kirk,” Jim said. “My grandmother sold the farm to Starfleet decades ago, but we kept this land and had a new house built a year before I came to Earth to attend the academy.”
“We knew it existed, of course,” Pike said. “You used to come out here to escape the academy on the regular.”
“Only on scheduled breaks,” Jim said and frowned. “I needed the room. For a psi-null species, humans are honestly very noisy psionically. I know many think Betazoids are largely undisciplined mentally, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.”
“Yeah,” Pike said. “Your dad had a hard time at the academy. That’s why I made sure you were put in housing with built-in psionic shielding. Some didn’t think it would be necessary since you’re just a third.”
“I was questioned regarding the necessity,” Jim admitted. “But it was a relief, so thanks. Did Komack send you?”
“I don’t answer to that asshole, Jim. I haven’t been in his chain of command since I was promoted,” Pike said roughly. “Archer sent me. He’d have come himself, but this kind of travel is hard on him. Though he did let me know if he has to have himself beamed over here—he certainly will, and you know he hates to be beamed.”
“I honestly don’t like it much myself,” Jim admitted. “I like it less now—it makes me itch like crazy. The Burton Foundation tells me that it’ll stop itching after a while, and being bonded will help as well.” He cleared his throat. “Except bonding probably isn’t going to be easy for me due to my Betazoid genetics. They aren’t hopeful. I didn’t have a single psionic match in the on-planet system, so they’ve opened it up and have asked for profiles from the Federation system.”
“Archer wants you to know that he’s put a stop to Komack’s maneuvering, and you most certainly aren’t going to be asked to be a part of Marcus’ current project. His project is under an intense review as of six hours ago because of your attempt at resigning.”
“I didn’t attempt it,” Jim said roughly. “I did it.”
“I’ve rarely in my life seen a comm to HQ be removed from the system so quickly. To be frank, Jim, Archer is furious on your behalf, and I don’t think Komack’s career is going to survive the fallout. I don’t know if Marcus will get out of this unscathed either since there’s evidence he tried to tamper with his daughter’s records at the Burton Foundation to make her a more favorable match for you.”
“Carol?” Jim questioned and frowned. “She’s…not a match for me. I mean, I haven’t been around her since I came online, but I’ve found her off-putting in every single encounter I’ve ever had with her. She plays by the rules, currently, but if the regs got in the way of her ambition, she’d toss it all out the window to get what she wants. I don’t think her father is any different. I want no part of that family personally or professionally. Besides, she’s not online, and close proximity to me won’t change that. Her psionic profile is chaotic, and she lacks…” He trailed off with a frown.
“Go ahead,” Pike urged.
“Moral fortitude,” Jim admitted. “The uniform is a steppingstone for her, and she takes no honor in wearing it. But then neither does her father. He’s in Starfleet for power. He’s a warmonger, honestly, and he was furious that I destroyed the Narada. He said he’d have rather lost Vulcan than lost the evidence we needed to make the Romulans pay for their crimes against the Federation.”
Pike blew out a surprised breath. “I knew he was…a problem. I just didn’t think he was that big of a problem.”
“I’m in the middle of writing a report on that situation,” Jim said. “His rage was practically radiating around him during my debrief with him, so I…dug a little deeper than I ever have with a superior officer. I have no excuse on that front and would certainly accept any censure handed down if I were still in Starfleet.” He waved a hand. “Still, I’m writing a report for Archer that’s going to make him lose his mind. My parting gift.”
“As far as Admiral Archer is concerned, Jim—you’re still very much in Starfleet,” Pike said. “He’s not going to accept a resignation from you unless you haul your ass to his house in San Francisco and say it to his face.”
Jim sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Damn.” He really didn’t know how he was going to accomplish that. “Saying no to his face is kind of difficult.”
“No kidding,” Pike muttered. “That’s how I ended up promoted off the Enterprise before I was even remotely ready for it.” He grinned. “But speaking of our lovely lady—your crew is so bent out of shape regarding the rumors of your transfer off the ship. Scotty threw the whole damn ship into maintenance mode eighteen hours ago, and Bones informed Starfleet Medical that the entire ship is under quarantine due to Romulan influenza exposure.”
“Me and Sulu were the only ones that beamed onto the Narada,” Jim said in amusement. “How’d he explain not recalling me?”
“Oh, he has recalled you,” Pike assured. “But the Burton Foundation told ‘fleet that you were free of any contagions and that we weren’t allowed to recall you for any sort of duty against your will.”
“I don’t think Romulan flu is a thing,” Jim admitted. “Also, I’m pretty sure the Narada hadn’t been near Romulus in decades. A lot of the tech on that ship was cobbled together from various sources—Klingon and Federation. I think they probably cannibalized what they could of the Kelvin when they were rebuilding it.” He took a deep breath. “I’m not fit to sit in the chair, sir.”
“When you came on board the Enterprise as my First Officer, you replaced one of the best officers I’ve ever served with.”
“S’chn T’gai Spock.” Jim cleared his throat. “Heard a lot about him but never got to meet him. I can’t say I ever measured up.”
“If you hadn’t, I wouldn’t have left my ship and crew in your very capable hands when I was promoted,” Pike said roughly. “He’s been on Vulcan for five years—facing a near-permanent sabbatical from ‘fleet because he came online as a Guide. An hour after you left Vulcan’s orbit, the Vulcan High Council contacted Starfleet demanding a list of unbonded Sentinels that were on the ships that were in orbit around their planet during the Narada’s siege.”
“Did Archer give it to them?”
“No.” Pike cleared his throat. “It’s caused quite a shitstorm, to be honest. As it turns out, Jim, within minutes of our ships leaving Vulcan space—Spock had what could only be considered a feral episode. They had to forcibly sedate him.” He took a deep breath. “When they allowed him to wake—he asked for you by name.”
“How did they get the crew lists?”
“They didn’t,” Pike insisted. “Spock has had little to no contact with ‘fleet since he retreated into his ancestral house on Vulcan, but he did know you were going to be on the Enterprise as his replacement. I sent him a comm when I was promoted as a courtesy, and he responded by sending me a nice bottle of Andorian brandy, which is why he remains my favorite first officer ever.”
“The House of Surak,” Jim murmured and decided to ignore the fact that he wasn’t Pike’s favorite. He let his gaze drift to the woods behind his house. His spirit animal, a dark grey wolf, had been playing in the trees all morning. “The House of Wolves.”
“Have you ever seen a Vulcan wolf?”
“Only on vids, they’re about twice the size of any wolf on Earth,” Jim admitted. “300 pounds of nightmare fuel. My spirit animal is a wolf—Canadian Timber.”
“Big boy,” Pike said. “When Vulcan first made contact with Earth, one of the things we had in common were Sentinels and Guides. It made all the difference for us as a world. That common ground allowed us to form the Federation.”
“Archer has strong ties with Vulcan,” Jim murmured. “Why didn’t he give them the lists?”
“His first duty in this situation is to you, and while we had to fight for it—we ensured a long time ago that no Federation law could force Earth to give up the names of Sentinels and Guides.”
“I’m not a citizen of Earth,” Jim murmured and turned to look at Pike. “I’m Betazoid, sir, by birth and citizenship. They don’t have a single law on the books protecting my privacy because they don’t have Sentinels or Guides. I’m the only damn one they’ve got.”
“They stopped asking for the list after Spock gave them a name, so that’s something,” Pike said. “Archer made it clear that we were not going to hand you over to them.”
Jim laughed. “Being offered a Guide from the House of Wolves is hardly a threat, sir.”
“No, but it feels like they’re not giving you any sort of choice in this, and that’s bullshit,” Pike said roughly. “They don’t even know if you’re compatible.”
“Spock is reported to be a very talented telepath,” Jim murmured. “I think…” He took a deep breath. “There was a moment on the Narada, when I first came online, where everything was overwhelming. Honestly, it was one of the most agonizing moments of my entire life, and I include that time I got gored by that Antellian rhino-thing.”
Pike made a face. “I was pretty sure you were dead that day. Bones cursed me out for an entire hour after he got you patched up.” He huffed. “You’re definitely his favorite captain.”
“I’m prettier,” Jim said and grinned when Pike shot him a look.
“Well, you’re not wrong,” the older man said with a small grin. “PR loves to put that face of yours on recruiting materials for more than one reason.”
“I deeply regret agreeing to that. I still think Admiral Archer got me drunk that night.”
“The man doesn’t have a single bottle of liquor in his whole house,” Pike said. “Trust me. I’ve looked. More than once. He keeps having parties there that are really just meetings with catered food that I can’t escape. Last time I had to wear my dress uniform.”
“That mean old tyrant,” Jim said gravely and laughed when Pike sent him a dirty look. “So, back to my agony…”
“Yes, your agony,” Pike said and waved a hand. “Carry on.”
“I couldn’t focus, and for the first time since I was a child—I lost control over my mental abilities. I bled all over Sulu empathically and telepathically. He’s lucky to have survived it with his sanity intact, and I…I don’t think I can ever apologize enough for it. We were both going to die on that ship because of my loss of control, sir, and suddenly this amazing sensation drifted over my mind. It was like I’d been wrapped in a soft, warm blanket. I’ve never felt safer in my whole life.”
“This isn’t in your report.”
“It felt too personal to include in a report that’ll be in the public domain within the next decade,” Jim said roughly. “If it’s even that long considering the situation and the results.”
“You think it was Spock.”
“I didn’t know what it was at the time,” Jim admitted. “I was having a psionic meltdown in orbit around a planet full of telepaths. It made sense that one or more of them would reach out to me to put a stop to it. But maybe it was just Spock, and if it was, then I…” He took a deep breath and flushed. “For fuck’s sake, Chris, I want some more of that.”
* * * *
Spock tilted his head and stared at the contents of his closet. It was summer in San Francisco, but he wasn’t sure where James Kirk was on the planet. Deciding it was better to be prepared, he retrieved his winter jacket and plucked a storage box from the shelf that contained his thick sweaters. When he returned to his bedroom, his mother was perched on the chair next to his fireplace.
She inclined her head and glanced only briefly at this bed, where he had his traveling trunk. The same trunk he’d taken to Earth when he’d gone to Starfleet academy. “Going somewhere?”
“Do you think they’ll let you see him?”
“I don’t intend to give anyone a choice.” He paused. “Except for James, of course, but if he’s going to deny me, then I must hear it from him personally.”
“How are you going to get to Earth?” Amanda asked.
“I’ve already contacted the USS Charles Tucker,” Spock explained. “It is returning from a diplomatic mission. The current captain, Niall Lewis, was at the academy with me. I called in a favor. The ship will be here in 10.3 hours.”
Amanda nodded. “Not a Vulcan sort of thing to do.”
“Neither was the manner in which I earned this favor,” Spock admitted. “But I’m not entirely Vulcan, and it has been more than a decade since I put any effort into pretending otherwise.” He paused as he removed his coat from the hanger and focused on her. “You don’t approve.”
“I would be very worried if this trip was actually going to happen,” Amanda said simply. “Starfleet has suffered some immense losses in the last week, and emotions will be high on all of their ships. I don’t suppose the Charles Tucker will be an exception to that despite the fact that it was not part of the battle that took place above our world.”
“It is going to happen,” Spock insisted. “I’ll spend the trip to Earth sedated if necessary. I realize my loss of control made you afraid…” he trailed off when she frowned at him. It wasn’t often that he met with such outright disapproval from his own mother.
“I’ve never feared you,” Amanda said. “And I never will. You are my son and would never, ever hurt me. In the midst of…your episode…you never came close to doing me any sort of harm. The trip is unnecessary because James Kirk is on his way here. He’s currently relieved from duty due to his unbonded state. Commodore Pike has assumed command of the Enterprise. They’ll be here in 15 hours.” She checked her watch. “14.7 hours. Your father is with T’Pau and the rest of the High Council in discussions with Betazed and the matriarch of the Fifth House of which James Kirk is a member.”
“He’s the grandson of Kastann Biro, the current matriarch of the Fifth House,” Spock said. “I reviewed his personnel file when Commodore Pike told me he was to be my replacement on the Enterprise. I wanted to make sure my ship and my captain were going to be left in good hands.”
“Were they?” Amanda asked.
“Certainly, James Kirk graduated first in his class at the academy and has served Starfleet with distinction since that time. He was promoted as fast as regulations would allow and became the youngest captain in Starfleet history because of his intelligence, talent, and bravery. I asked Commodore Pike what he was like—shortly after Kirk became captain of the Enterprise.”
“What did he say?” Amanda asked curiously.
Spock sat down on the edge of his bed, close to his mother, a sweater clutched in both hands. “He said that James Kirk was the stuff starship captains were made of. He said that…” He cleared his throat and lowered his head. “He said that James Kirk had an immense destiny stretched out before him and that future generations would look upon him and see a legend.”
Amanda sighed. “What a terrible burden for such a young man.”
“He’s already a legend,” Spock said quietly and stared pointedly at the tightly knitted grey fibers of his sweater. His mother had made it, and it was his favorite of all of the ones he owned. “He saved our world from certain destruction. Do you know if he met any Guides on Earth?”
“Not a single one.”
Spock looked up, and his father standing in the doorway. He stood. “He had no matches among humans?”
“No, the Burton Foundation opened up the search to off-world matches 24.1 hours ago. We’ve not submitted any records.” He raised an eyebrow when Spock started to speak. “Our discussions with Admiral Archer regarding your response to the departure of the Starfleet ships was kept in confidence. We’ve never submitted psionic profiles to the Burton Foundation during an off-world search. It was decided that it would look distinctly improper if we did so in this instance. I would not have it be said that my only living child was presented to a Starfleet captain as payment for services rendered.”
Spock considered that. He’d certainly not appreciate such a circumstance either. “It will be said regardless if…we bond. Many do not understand and do not care to learn the intricacies of psionic bonding—no matter the species or circumstance. I once had an Andorian at the academy ask me if I’d been enslaved in a mental bond as a child as he’d heard that was a Vulcan practice. Even after I explained how such bonds work and how they are created for our own protection, he remained appalled by the idea that any parent would bond their child before the age of reason as it did not allow for genuine consent. He asked me if I had such a bond and offered to help me break it if I did.”
His father paused as if he was considering how such a thing would be possible. He tilted his head. “And what did he propose would be the best way to break this bond if you had it?”
“It would be untoward to discuss such a thing in front of Mother,” Spock said.
Amanda burst out laughing. “Spock.” She relaxed in her chair and sighed. “One day, I’m going to insist you tell me all the ways various people have tried to talk you into mating with them.”
“You don’t need to hear such tawdry things,” Spock declared and took a deep breath when she laughed again. “Have they released his psionic profile to the High Council for review?”
“Kirk declined a formal Guide search,” Sarek explained. “He made it clear he was coming here to meet you and no one else. You can imagine the insult that delivered. Many would sacrifice a great deal to have an Alpha Sentinel of Kirk’s power in their house, no matter his genetics. Every single Sentinel and Guide on the planet felt him come online. Several complaints have already been filed with the En’ahr’at Shikh-orna over our decision not to send psionic profiles to the Burton Foundation on Earth for Kirk’s Guide search. The politics are going to be difficult to navigate. I would ask you one final question, Spock.”
“Of course, Father.” Spock set aside the sweater and focused on his father.
“During the Narada’s attack, when Kirk came online, did you connect with him psionically in any single way?”
Spock felt his cheeks flush, and he averted his gaze. He could not lie to his father. “His pain and distress was overwhelming. I only wished to soothe him. I hope, in time, he can forgive me for such a breach of his privacy. I hope I have not shamed you greatly with my…weakness in this matter.”
Sarek made a strangled noise, and Spock focused on him again. His father’s normally stoic expression had been replaced with one of shock. “Spock, I would never look upon you and see someone to be ashamed of. You realize what you have described is beyond the scope of any other Vulcan alive, correct? While many hundreds of Guides on the surface felt him come online, not a single one of them reported ascertaining his emotional condition due to the distance. James Kirk was 10.6 light-years away from the planet when he boarded the Romulan ship and came online as a Sentinel.”
Spock looked down at his hands and wished he still had the sweater to hold onto. “It was as if he was in this room with me. If I had closed my eyes, I would’ve believed it possible to reach out and touch him. The connection was so profound that when I took a deep breath, I could…”
“You could what?” Amanda asked quietly.
“I could smell citrus and sandalwood—it’s one of the scented soap options on the Enterprise. I felt his grief and anger at coming face to face with the Romulan who was responsible for his father’s death. His victory burned in him like a fire, and my stomach grew warm with it. The feeling was intoxicating. When he was safe on the Enterprise, I let go. I had intruded more than enough. I didn’t expect the ship to leave so abruptly. I also did not expect that I would have such a violent and unacceptable response to his departure.”
“Kirk surrendered himself to medical due to his online status, and his first officer, a man named Gary Mitchell, was killed during the battle. The third officer, the chief engineer for the ship, made the command decision to return his captain to Earth,” Sarek explained. “The other ships followed as an escort.”
“He deserved all the consideration they could offer,” Spock murmured. “Why has Starfleet given the High Council so much information after days of refusals?”
“Starfleet told us nothing,” Sarek said evenly. “They’ve retreated wholesale behind the clauses protecting Sentinels and Guides in the Federation charter. James Kirk sent the High Council an explicit personal account of his fight against the Narada with the understanding that it would not be shared with the public. T’Pau has thus declared it a matter of grave importance to the security of our planet.”
“Which makes it illegal for anyone in the Federation to ask for a copy of it,” Spock surmised. “Savvy.”
“She’ll be gratified to hear of your approval,” Sarek said.
Spock doubted that. He was entirely certain T’Pau hadn’t given a single fuck about anyone’s opinion of her or her actions in a hundred years.
He might have been the only one of his kind on Betazed when it came to being a latent Sentinel, but his familial house had spared no expense when it had come to training him—in every single way he’d need. Jim appreciated that more than he could even articulate as he allowed himself to be beamed down to the surface of Vulcan. Psionically, he was just as talented and gifted as any Betazoid alive thanks to his father’s telepathic legacy, and having trained those gifts made managing his senses without a Guide less challenging.
The room was clean, sparsely furnished, and the seven Vulcan’s in the room had clearly taken great care to offer no physical offense to his senses. It was certainly expected of a species that had been shaped by Surak’s legacy as the first Guide to immerge on the planet. Jim often wondered what it would’ve been like for a Guide to come online in such circumstances. It caused fury to stir in his gut, and he had no problems determining how Surak’s Sentinel had felt as the war had raged around them.
T’Pol, Vulcan’s Ambassador to Earth, stepped forward. “Welcome to Vulcan, James Kirk.”
Jim stared. “It’s an honor to be invited, Ambassador T’Pol.”
She quirked an eyebrow at him and inclined her head that told him she saw right through him. “I would introduce you to the Vulcan High Council.”
He couldn’t be less interested in meeting the VHC if he actually tried, and it must have shown on his face. His grandmother had always said his expressive face was far more of a problem than anything he might leave on the surface of his active mind for others to pick up.
“I’m here to meet S’chn T’gai Spock,” Jim said. “And I would be willing to meet with the En’ahr’at Shikh-orna first if that is necessary, but I don’t understand why I would be required to endure introductions with a political body in such physically difficult time.”
“Just physical?” T’Pol questioned.
“I was thoroughly trained as a child to handle the psionic abilities I was gifted with at birth,” Jim said evenly. “Once I was in a relatively safe position, I regained the control I lost on the Narada due to the physical overstimulation. That being said, I’m not comfortable in my skin, and the air infiltration system in this building has a structural flaw that is practically screaming in my ear. Tuning it out is very difficult.”
T’Pol glanced at a woman near the door. “Correct the problem, S’Var.” She focused once more on Jim. “The En’ahr’at Shikh-orna has requested a copy of your psionic profile so that it may be reviewed for potential matches.”
“No,” Jim said. “I will not entertain the idea of a Guide search on Vulcan, as I’ve already explained. I’m here to meet S’chn T’gai Spock.”
“He is only half-Vulcan. There could be a better match for you amongst our population,” one of the men behind T’Pol said stiffly. “It would be illogical for an Alpha Sentinel of your abilities to limit your options.”
Jim stared at the elderly Vulcan for several long moments before focusing on T’Pol. “I had an instructor at Starfleet Academy tell me that I would be better served in the science or engineering track. Care to guess why?”
“One would assume the reason to be your well-known disdain for politics,” T’Pol said. “Is it true you told the ruler of Angelsis VII to go copulate with himself?”
Jim’s cheeks flushed as Pike snorted indelicately. “I don’t believe such language was recorded in a single report generated for Starfleet either from the Enterprise or Angelsis VII.”
“News travels and amusing news travels twice as fast,” she said, her dark eyes glinted with good humor that Jim found relieving. “Spock has already secluded himself at the bonding retreat to prepare to meet with you. He has confessed to reaching out to you during the Narada’s siege to help you when your distress became overwhelming. Your condition was keenly felt across the whole of our world, Captain Kirk, but only one of us was able to ascertain the nature of your situation and offer you help.”
“Spock’s help is the only reason I’m standing here today—the only reason this planet still exists. I knew even as I spiraled out of control psionically that I wasn’t going to come back from it on my own,” Jim said. “I would’ve zoned and died on that Romulan ship without his…without the immense comfort he gave me in those unbearably short minutes.”
“The matriarch of the House of Surak would like to speak with you before you are escorted to the bonding retreat to meet with Spock. There are cultural protocols in place that must be adhered to unless you believe your circumstances are dire.”
Jim considered lying for a few bare moments because he was uncomfortable and deeply lonely in a way that was fast becoming unbearable. He didn’t know how unbonded Sentinels went for years without a bondmate. Perhaps his Betazoid genetics were causing him to suffer more emotionally, or maybe it was because he’d already experienced the comfort Spock could provide.
“I suffer no more or less than I have since…” He swallowed hard. “I’m fine and can endure whatever protocols must be met.” He let his hand drop as his spirit animal pressed against his leg. The large wolf tucked his head up against Jim’s palm.
“Spirit animals within ancestral houses of this world are not like your own,” T’Pol said. “Only members of the House of Surak meet with the spirit of the wolf on Vulcan when their guardian gifts wake.”
Jim curled his fingers into his wolf’s fur and took a deep breath. “So, I’ve been told. There has not been a wolf Guide on Earth in many hundreds of years. Only two other Sentinels of human descent have met the wolf spirit in my generation.”
“Do you know the current beliefs on Earth for this situation?” she questioned.
“Some theorists believe that the wolf spirit is reserved for those with the strongest and most primal connections to the psionic plane. Others believe that the near extinction of such animals on Earth caused the spirits themselves to retreat from us in horror. It is the leading theory today, touted mostly by conservationists working to protect various animal populations on the planet. I’d never publicly disagree with either theory as I see honor and truth in both.”
“What are your personal thoughts?”
“I didn’t need to wake up with a wolf sprawled across my chest to know I’ve got a wild and furious heart,” Jim said and smiled.
* * * *
Spock stood from the chair he’d allowed himself to be prodded into and took a deep breath as the screen went dark. He’d only agreed to the retreat to the bonding house because he’d been promised access to the security feeds so that he could see the condition of his Sentinel with his own eyes. His father had asked him not to reach out to James Kirk psionically until they were physically in the same room, and it was fast becoming difficult to adhere to that agreement. He ached with the desire to soothe the other man’s obvious discomfort.
“He shouldn’t have to endure anything so foolish as a courting protocol,” he snapped, and his eyes fluttered shut briefly at the ire he was unable to keep to himself. “He’s obviously suffering.”
“Yes,” Sarek agreed. “And T’Pau will see that as well. She has been an online Guide for longer than I’ve been alive, Spock, and I trust that she will understand that no matter what he might think, he is in no condition to endure hours of courtship negotiation between his ancestral house and ours. Thus, I suspect he will be delivered here within the hour.”
Spock focused on his mother and watched her take a sip of tea. “Yes.” With a wild and furious heart. “On the Narada, once he stabilized, I realized that I had connected with an Alpha Sentinel. I didn’t expect that—they are very rare in modern times on Earth, and I did make the assumption that whoever it was, was human.”
“A certain level of conflict and threat must be evident for an Alpha Sentinel to emerge,” Sarek said, and Spock focused on his father. “He will have a primal imperative that could be off-putting to you.”
There was nothing off-putting about James Tiberius Kirk. Spock was already enthralled and utterly seduced, and they’d never been in the same room together. That was fortunate because looking back on it, he knew that he’d have never been able to take leave from Starfleet and retreat to his ancestral house if he’d met James Kirk before he came online as a Guide. He’d have gladly suffered days upon days of headaches to be near the man. Spock refrained from saying as such since it would only worry his father and upset his mother.
They’d both grown used to the idea that he would be staying on Vulcan indefinitely due to his unbonded state.
“I look forward to returning to duty, and I’m not at all concerned about James’ imperative or whatever primitive emotions those drives might invoke. If anything…I’m fascinated.” A small glance toward his mother found her smiling fondly at him, so he relaxed.
“Captain Kirk tried to resign from Starfleet,” Sarek revealed. “But Admiral Archer refused to accept it. You might find that he no longer wishes to serve.”
That was only mildly concerning as it was likely it had been a political maneuver. “Despite his well-known dislike of politics, it’s clear that he understands how such things work. In resigning, he made it clear to Starfleet and to those interested in such matters within the Federation at large that he is not and will not be open to their manipulations,” Spock said. “I take it that Admiral Archer refused to accept his resignation.”
“Yes,” Sarek agreed. “How did you know?”
“He did the same to me,” Spock said. “That’s why I’ve enjoyed the longest sabbatical in the history of Starfleet. He had hopes that I would bond and return to the service sooner rather than later. Then he told me I would have to come to his home and pet his favorite puppy while I tendered my resignation if I meant it. It proved impossible to accomplish.” He paused. “It was a very nice puppy.” His mother laughed, which wasn’t a surprise as she often found Jonathan Archer’s antics quite entertaining.
He walked to the window and stared down into the valley below the bonding retreat. T’Pau’s home, which contained the clan’s central meeting facility, was just four kilometers from where he stood. The only thing keeping him from reaching out for James Kirk was the request that this father made.
“Elder Tavor clearly wanted Captain Kirk to agree to a full Guide search.” Spock turned and focused on his father.
“Clearly,” Sarek agreed. “But we were told in advance by the Burton Foundation that Kirk has no intention of allowing a Guide search on Vulcan at this time. The only reason he came here to meet you is because of your actions during the siege.”
“Do you know why?”
Sarek stilled, and Spock watched his father hesitate for the first time that he could ever remember. It made a knot of nerves swell inside him that it was ill-prepared to deal with. “He said that his interactions with your mind allowed him to ascertain that you’re emotionally mature enough to interact with him as a Guide and that you connected with him in such a robust fashion before he saved our world. When pressed, he merely said that there was a vast difference between the words willing and grateful.”
Spock considered that. “It’s a valid concern. Many would be prepared to bond with him merely for the fact that he saved our world and every living being on it, and I don’t know that the sentiment would be confined to our own population. Such heroics foster an emotional state in many different species throughout the Federation. His physical attractiveness, I’m sure, would play a part as well.” He allowed himself to think about the sharp, beguiling features of James Kirk’s face, and a wave of amusement drifted over his mind. He stilled.
“I think you’re gorgeous, too, Spock.”
Spock placed one hand on the wall beside the window he still stood at and took a shuddery breath. “James?”
“I’m currently getting a lecture on cultural norms from someone who introduced themselves as your forefather. Elder Stavik, specifically. I think he intends to put me in a comatose state before I ever get near you. I read your personnel file from Starfleet. I mean, I read it before—when I first came on board with Enterprise because everyone kept bringing you up. Most often, when I did something they thought was epically wrong. Chekov was the worst, poor kid. He has a big crush on your brain. Do you think if I start asking them questions about pon farr, they’ll be horrified enough to release me so I can come sit in your lap?”
Spock took a deep breath to keep from laughing, which he’d not come close to doing in his father’s presence since he was a very small child. He glanced toward his father and found the older Vulcan staring at him pointedly. “No one asked him to keep his mind to himself, it seems.”
“Ah,” Sarek said. “Is it a problem?”
“It is a delight,” Spock admitted and flushed when he got a deeply arched eyebrow in response. “He’s not going to tolerate this situation for much longer. Perhaps Elder Stavik and Elder T’Pau could be reminded of the fact that he was raised entirely on Betazed and thus has a different perspective on what it means to be mentally disciplined?”
“I read the paper you wrote with your mother on transwarp theory. It’s not been released by Starfleet, but the two of you will get a report fairly soon letting you know that Lt. Scott worked out the final kink in the math just short of using it to beam Sulu and me directly onto the Narada after it went into warp. We hit her at warp two—barely even felt it.”
Spock cleared his throat—at once elated and horrified that his Sentinel had used an untested theory to get on board the Narada. He turned to his mother. “Montgomery Scott found the solution to the final proof regarding our transwarp theory and accomplished it during the siege. That’s how James Kirk and Hikaru Sulu were able to board the Narada after it attempted to leave Vulcan space.” He paused. “At warp two. James says a report on that will be forwarded to us very soon.”
“Oh.” Amanda stood. “Sarek, I must go up and speak with this Montgomery Scott person immediately.”
Spock watched his father open his mouth briefly to protest her plan, but then he merely nodded. He wasn’t at all surprised. His father didn’t make a habit of ever denying his wife any single thing she wanted. They both left the room without another word in his direction.
“Mother is excited and is going to beam up to the ship.”
“Well, you have been searching for a reason for the last hour to get rid of your parents,” Jim pointed out in amusement. “It’s been your most dominant thought. I haven’t done more than skim over your active mind if you’re concerned. I can’t really help it—maybe I should let Elder Stavik bore me unconscious.”
“Such behavior has been his main hobby for decades,” Spock admitted. “Feel free to tell them all that we’ll be getting married on Betazed in the nude and that they’re all welcome to attend. You’ll be immediately left to your own devices as they retreat to private quarters to deal with the emotional trauma that they refuse to acknowledge even exists.”
“You’re not like any Vulcan I’ve ever encountered.”
“There was a time when I strove to be as Vulcan as possible, but years of service in Starfleet and coming online as a Guide forced me to realize that it was an impossible goal and moreover, not a single Vulcan in my life or family had the perfect control they expected me to exhibit. Even my own father held me to a higher standard than he did himself. When it comes to my clan, they sought to protect me from the judgment of my peers.”
“And the others?” James questioned.
“They wished to forget that I was half-human. My talents, intelligence, and successes were a credit to my ancestral house and to my species, but it was marred by the genetic gifts given to me by mother in their minds.”
“Assholes,” James said. “I just told them that I’d want any public bonding ceremony to follow Betazoid traditions. I hope you have a recording of this—their faces are priceless. Not a single one of them managed to keep their mouths closed entirely. Elder Stavik just retrieved a cup of something he called tea-blend 234, which is actually warm chocolate liqueur. The pure stuff from South America on Earth. He’s going to be wasted in a matter of minutes.”
Spock relaxed at the amusement James was projecting. He knew his clan’s antics could be trying, but he trusted that all those that shared his blood just wanted the very best for him.
* * * *
Jim cleared his throat with his grandmother, who was attending the meeting via screen, started to speak of temporary bonds and psionic testing. He stared at her pointedly, and she frowned at him.
“You’re just like your grandfather.”
“The man you defied thousands of years of family tradition to marry?” Jim questioned and just smiled when she huffed dramatically. “The one you chased half-way across the galaxy and declared before an assembly of five thousand Federation diplomats that you were going to marry him, and he’d better get used to it immediately? That man? I’m honored, Grandmother, truly.”
Kastann sat back in her chair. “I mean no insult to others present, Jim, but the mind of a Vulcan is purposefully cold and calculated. They strive for it, and it will be abhorrent to you. You’ll find no refuge in S’chn T’gai Spock—not for your brilliant mind nor for the ancient Sentinel that has woken within you. The first time your grandfather held you, he said…” She closed her eyes briefly, and Jim couldn’t help but shift forward in his chair as if he could reach out to her. “There he sat as psi-null as any mundane human being to ever exist with you resting on his chest. He told me that Sentinels and Guides ran deep in the blood of his family, and his biggest regret in life was that he hadn’t been so gifted. He told me then and there—what you were. He said you were a Sentinel and that when the Federation needed you most—the legacy of his family would wake in you and that you would be a near-myth reborn. An Alpha Sentinel Prime.”
Jim ignored the shocked noises that several people, including Pike, couldn’t contain. He knew the truth of that already but hadn’t allowed the Burton Foundation to test him at all, so he’d avoided the distinction. Most suspected him to be an Alpha, but a Prime hadn’t awoken on Earth in over 1000 years. Theorists didn’t even think it was possible anymore. He knew the distinction would make people worry for the safety of both Earth and the Federation.
“You knew already,” Elder T’Pau said evenly. “There has never been an Alpha Guide Prime on Vulcan—even in times when our people were at their most violent.”
“There’s been Alpha Guide Prime on Vulcan for five years,” Jim responded gently. “Why else do you think Spock was able to reach out to me over a distance of 10 light-years while I was in warp?” He cleared his throat. “It wasn’t just a mental touch—I felt his physical presence.”
T’Pol leaned forward slightly in her chair. “Forgive me this personal question, Captain Kirk, but what is your soap preference when you use the hydro shower?”
“I always use the hydro,” Jim admitted, not put off by her question. “I use soap sequence 261 for my skin, and I replicate a specific private formula for my hair that I created when I was younger on Betazed.” He paused and inclined his head. “Why?”
T’Pol took a deep breath. “What does it smell like?”
“Sandalwood and a citrus fruit from Betazed that reminds me of my grandmother’s garden.” He looked toward his grandmother and found her staring pointedly at T’Pol. “It’s really messing with you that you can’t read their minds, right?”
“More than I can even say,” Kastann admitted. “I’m at an appalling disadvantage.”
“Which can only be good for you,” T’Pau interjected. “You’re rarely at a disadvantage long enough to learn anything, Kastann. As to T’Pol’s question, Captain Kirk, Spock reported that he smelled your soap during his psionic encounter with you. He felt your physical presence so keenly that he believed it possible to reach out and touch you.”
Jim nodded as he agreed with the assessment. “I realize that our circumstances are scientifically significant, but I’m running short on the physical strength to maintain any sort of civilized demeanor, Elder T’Pau.” He turned to his grandmother. “And you’re wrong about Spock and perhaps even all Vulcans when it comes to their relationships with their bondmates. Their emotional control is actually to their credit considering the primal forces they’re forced to deal with daily due to the way they’re connected to the psionic plane.”
“I don’t understand,” Kastann murmured.
“The psionic plane requires balance, Grandmother, as nearly all other natural forces in the universe do. Where our ancestors found the peace and fortitude to guard that balance through the teachings of Joral Mendissia, the Vulcan’s chose the path of Surak where they found solace in logic and emotional discipline.” He inclined his head when she frowned. “Did you not tell me repeatedly as a child that peace and self-actualization come from an orderly and disciplined mind?”
She squinted at him and focused on T’Pau. “The only thing worse than a child that does not listen is a man who throws your words in your face in times when it does little to serve your point.”
T’Pau inclined her head in agreement, and Jim couldn’t help but laugh.
“I understand you’re all very worried,” Jim said. “But you needn’t be.”
“Spock is the only online Guide in our clan of his generation,” T’Pau said.
Jim leaned forward and let his hands rest on the table between him and T’Pau. He cupped them, and psionic energy started to swirl around his fingers. “There came a moment a week ago when I held the fate of your world in my hands. I could do nothing but hold onto every single one of you. I was immersed in the fear, horror, and rage of six billion Vulcans. I was going to drown in that maelstrom and would’ve if Spock hadn’t touched my mind with his own. This is the strength of S’chn T’gai Spock. This is the strength of the House of Wolves.”
“This energy you hold in your hand is Spock?” T’Pau asked in a subdued voice.
“Just a remnant of what he left behind,” Jim murmured. “I could no more part with it than I could stop my own heart from beating. I’ve held it safe since he let go of me, and I did so before I ever knew his name. I wasn’t even entirely sure he was a Guide or that it was just one person.” He let his hands relax, and the energy slowly faded from view. “Many would seek him for political and financial gain. I suppose that has been a stumbling block since he came online. There are those here on Vulcan willing to overlook his hybrid status because they consider it a flaw if it means closely aligning their clan with yours or perhaps just with you. After all, you are the de facto ruler of this entire planet.”
T’Pau’s cheeks darkened. “The High Council governs Vulcan.”
“We can play a game of semantics, if you’d like,” Jim said and offered her a small, genuine smile.
She stood. “T’Pol, escort Captain Kirk to the bonding retreat so that he may meet with Spock.” She focused on Kastann at that moment. “The Fifth House of Betazoid and the House of Surak shall meet formally once the bonding is complete to see that both of our cultures are honored as much as possible in this unexpected situation.”
Jim stood more relieved than he could say and sent a feeling of success Spock’s away. He was rewarded with relief and a surge of excitement. They were close to being reunited. He paused over that term, rolled it around his head then decided that nothing else fit. It wasn’t their first meeting. It was a reunion that felt like it was hundreds of years in the making.
He couldn’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like if they’d met earlier. Spock knew that there must have been countless times—missed moments where he and James Kirk could’ve crossed paths during the course of their work for Starfleet. His past was full of ifs. He’d left the Enterprise a mere two hours before James had come on board as the new first officer. At the time, it had been a gesture of respect as he hadn’t wanted to get in the way. Also, he’d been suffering agonizing migraines on a daily basis since he’d come online, and he’d thought it would be bad form to come into close contact with someone with empathic and telepathic gifts.
Would he have spent the last five years alone if they’d met that day? Would he have been on the Enterprise at James’ side when the Narada attacked? Would he have been the one to fight at his side instead of Lt. Sulu? What sort of bond could develop between two warriors in such a situation? He knew nothing of his Sentinel’s intimate relationships, and that was bothersome.
“I’m here. Ambassador T’Pol and Commodore Pike are looking at me like they want to come inside and chaperone.”
The very idea of either individual entering his space was an uncomfortable one. Once his parents had left, the bonding retreat had become his domain, and he wasn’t prepared to share it with anyone but James. “Tell them to go away. The door isn’t locked.”
He stayed where he was, anticipation coiling in his body like a snake. His spirit animal leaned heavily against his body at that moment, and he let his fingers curl into the creature’s fur. He hadn’t known what to expect when it came to his spirit animal—he’d worried that it would not be a wolf due to his mixed heritage. He’d never spoke of the worry, but he’d never forget the look of stark relief on his mother’s face when he’d introduced Kau to the clan. There had been speculation amongst many in the clan that he might be gifted with a wolf spirit from Earth, and they had been disappointed that hadn’t been the case. It had been an exciting prospect as, so far, all of the wolves in their history had been of Vulcan origin.
Perhaps those who had been disappointed in the development would take comfort in James’ spirit animal. After all, shortly, his Sentinel would be a part of the House of Surak. The first human male Sentinel to ever bond with a Vulcan Guide. Spock figured the requests for interviews were already piling up on his comm from the VSA. He wasn’t strictly opposed but had already decided to defer to his Sentinel regarding the matter as James Kirk was famous throughout the Federation for more than just being a Sentinel. Being George Kirk’s son came with a unique set of circumstances that Spock truly didn’t understand.
He shifted slightly on his feet and took a deep breath as his Sentinel entered the room behind him. All Vulcans had an advanced sense of smell, so the soft spicy scent of James’ soap-filled him once more. Kau disappeared under his hand, and Spock focused on the valley below.
“This home has been used by every single Sentinel/Guide pair in the House of Surak for the last five hundred years both as a place of bonding and a retreat from life’s demands. The moment I entered it today—I felt sheltered by them. Some have been gone from this world for many hundreds of years, and yet, here, the energy of them lingers.”
“It’s lovely,” James murmured as he came to stand beside him. “On the trip here, I was basically bombarded with information from the Burton Foundation about the history of Sentinels and Guides on Earth. I haven’t even opened all the comms they sent me. I don’t know how they’re going to react when they find out I’m a Prime.”
“It was to your advantage to keep it to yourself,” Spock said. “They might have tried to confine you to Earth for a more stringent search. Many within Earth’s government will be furious that you’ve bonded with a Vulcan despite your own mixed heritage, which I’m sure they take every opportunity to ignore. Some see membership within the Federation as a necessary…evil.”
“I’ve come across that attitude—even in Starfleet. Admiral Komack has been retired by force due to his unsavory interest in me. At least, that’s how Archer put it in the comm I received. I’m relieved but also worried since I don’t have a lot of details on the subject. Admiral Marcus has been arrested by Federation Security.”
“He was slated to replace Admiral Archer as the head of Starfleet in six months,” Spock murmured.
“Yeah,” James said. “Pike’s gutted. Marcus was his mentor, and it looks like the man’s going to go on trial for sedition.” He took a deep breath. “He had this whole conspiracy in the works and had found some…criminals from the Eugenics War that are in cryogenic sleep. He was going to wake up Khan Singh, for fuck’s sake.”
“The genetically engineered Augment terrorist who saw to the murder of hundreds of Sentinels and Guides in the 20th century,” Spock said. “I’m not sure that being charged with sedition is enough.”
“I’m sure it’s just the start. No one knows how he got ahold of Singh and his people, but the fallout is going to be extreme by anyone’s standards. I thought they were all dead.”
“I read a report once that they’d been expelled from Earth in a ship. There was no mention of cryogenic sleep.” He took a deep breath and glanced at his Sentinel. “Why is this so difficult? It wasn’t even this hard when we were light-years apart.”
“When I was little, I used to get really hyped up and excited when I knew something different was going to happen,” James said. “I would just be bouncing off the walls waiting for whatever it was. Sometimes it was something so simple as getting to go to the spaceport with one of my cousins. Of course, I would end up being disappointed as it turned out to be less exciting than I imagined nearly 100% of the time.”
“That’s how I feel about ice cream,” Spock said. “I’d never had it until I was on Earth. But my mother always spoke of the dessert as if it were the best thing she’d ever eaten, and nothing the replicator could offer could compare to the real thing.”
“And?” James asked.
“Why do humans persist with consuming food products made with the milk of another creature’s mammary glands?” Spock asked. “It was appalling, and the replicated version is only marginally better.”
His Sentinel burst out laughing. “I do enjoy those products a lot, actually. I’m especially fond of cheese.”
“I like pizza,” Spock admitted reluctantly. “The first thing I did when I settled into my apartment here on Vulcan was to add all of my food sequences from the Enterprise. But I don’t drink milk or partake of most dairy products.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t return to your childhood home.”
“I’m an adult and did not wish to live with my parents,” Spock said stiffly. “No matter their preferences on the matter.”
“It’s okay to seek comfort in moments of distress, Spock,” James said gently. “It would be okay, even now, at this moment, if you wanted your parents here. I grew up with an absent mother and an overly involved grandmother. I do understand how your mother could be a comfort to you in this circumstance, especially since you’re in a deeply emotional place that doesn’t feel normal to you.”
Spock took a deep breath and focused on his Sentinel. “I trust you and the bonding process itself. I feel as if I’ve known you all of my life. I don’t understand it, and it’s disconcerting, to say the least. It’s galling, but I think if I’d stayed on the Enterprise to meet you that I’d have spent the last five years following you around like a lovesick sehlat.”
“Being here with you is the most comfort I’ve ever known in my whole life, Spock,” Jim admitted and smiled when Spock’s cheeks darkened with a blush. “I think I’d have come online a great deal sooner if we’d met that day. But if I had, I don’t think either one of us would be anywhere near Vulcan the day the Narada attacked. I have six mission options currently on the table from Archer, and none of them involve patrol or exploration in this sector. I thought we could look at them later together.”
“You no longer qualify for diplomatic endeavors,” Spock said. “I’d prefer exploration over peacekeeping. Some might be inclined to place near you the Neutral Zone as a deterrent.”
“I already told Archer I wasn’t interested in being his or anyone else’s leashed dog,” James said mildly. “I think a mixture of exploration, scientific research, and peacekeeping when required would satisfy the brass at Starfleet and the Federation Council. It’ll also keep the crew occupied and engaged across the board.”
“Yes, agreed,” Spock said. “I’d like to return to duty as Science Officer. Is that a possibility?”
“I have room in my command crew for First Officer,” James said. “I think you’d certainly be welcome in the science department, but I can’t demote Commander Shaw from department head because of your return to the ship.” He paused. “That being said, Commander Shaw has told me that he has no interest in a deep space mission. His husband is expecting their third child, and he’d like to stay close enough to Starbase 157 to be able to take paternity leave. His husband is currently working with Starfleet regarding Xyrillian holodeck technology.” He smiled then. “I think we both would score very high in active avoidance right now.”
“Work is a safe topic,” Spock said, and he offered James his hand. “Come, let’s settle somewhere comfortable so we can work on our mental connection.” He flushed. “Unless sexual bonding is your preference?”
“No.” His Sentinel took a deep breath. “I’m certainly open to a sexual relationship with you, but I’d prefer to bond psionically and empathically without adding a physical component. I need to do a sense imprint at some point before we leave this house, but sexual intimacy is something that can wait until we’re both comfortable with it.” He slid his hand into Spock’s and smiled. “Okay?”
“Yes, I…” Spock flushed. “I’m not opposed to a sexual relationship either, James.”
“My friends and family call me Jim.”
“Jim.” Spock wet his lips and flexed his fingers against his Sentinel’s as he pushed down the desire to reach out to Jim’s mind again. “I was going to come to Earth to find you.”
Jim grinned as he allowed Spock to lead him from the room. “I heard. It relieved a lot of my stress regarding this whole thing.”
The house was sparsely decorated with muted colors that reminded Jim of the desert. Not really a surprise considering it had been designed and built as a retreat for Sentinels and Guides. The air was fresh but not overtly sterile, which Jim appreciated since he really didn’t want to feel like he was in a medical facility. They entered a room with a large meditation platform in the center. A firepot was tucked, unlit, in one corner.
“Did you wish to light the asenoi?” Spock asked.
Jim focused on Spock. “I’ve never used a firepot for meditation, but I’m not opposed to learning techniques at some point in the future. Probably without the scent pods, though.”
“I’ve never enjoyed them,” Spock said. “My father finds several of the scents very relaxing.” He paused. “Aromas, I think he associates with my mother.”
“It makes sense,” Jim said with a smile.
They stopped at the platform, and Jim released Spock’s hand so he could pull off his boots and socks. Spock stepped up onto the platform, curled his toes briefly against the cushioned surface, then walked across the space to sit in the center. Jim tucked his socks away and ran his hands through his hair briefly. He wasn’t nervous at all, which didn’t surprise him. The brief time they’d spent connected psionically had been amazing, so he wasn’t worried that things might fall apart on the bond front.
He settled into the lotus position in front of Spock and took a deep breath. “How would you describe your psionic education?”
“Entirely Vulcan before I came online,” Spock admitted. “But it became clear that my human genetics impacted my psionic profile as a Guide. Elder T’Pau arranged for a Guide from the Burton Foundation to come here and instruct me in all the techniques that are unique to human Guides, which was to my great benefit. My emotional landscape was disquieting to every Vulcan I encountered in the first year I was online. I purposefully withdrew physically as to not upset others as I learned to control myself again.
“In many ways, I felt like a child once more, and in turn, many members of my clan felt the need to shelter me as one. In fact, my mother was the least impacted by the changes when I came online. It didn’t help that I lost my temper several times with my own father.”
“Your Guide gifts opened you up empathically to those around in a way you’d never experienced before. I think even if you were entirely Vulcan that you would’ve still had a very frustrating experience, especially since you didn’t retreat to a Sentinel/Guide facility.” Jim leaned back on his hands. “I know there are such places on Vulcan. Why didn’t you go to one?”
Spock flushed. “I’ve been subject to scientific observation since I was conceived, Jim. I endured much of it because it was to the benefit of other members of my clan who also wanted to have children or were children themselves. I was the first hybrid child born to the House of Surak, but I was not the last. But when I left the planet and joined Starfleet, I was no longer contacted regarding the ongoing scientific study of Vulcan hybrid children. I found I did not miss answering those questions. My every medical need was no longer being scrutinized for historical purposes. I didn’t want to return to those circumstances, so I refused the Burton Foundation’s overtures on Earth. When I returned to Vulcan, I made it clear that I wanted private instruction. I’ve not set foot inside a single Guardian Education Facility here on Vulcan.”
“That bad, huh?” Jim questioned and wondered just how much psychological trauma his Guide had regarding the study of his hybrid physiology.
“Guides on Vulcan are encouraged to repress their own emotions and aura in order to make everyone else around them comfortable. They are taught this is the sacrifice they must make for our world and their Sentinel. Your grandmother was right, Jim; many Vulcans are quite cold mentally. They immerse themselves in the principles of logic in such a fashion that there is room for little else in their active minds.” Spock took a deep breath. “And perhaps that works for them—mundane and Guide alike, but it would not serve me in the least. I’ve learned, through trial and error, that living as if I were entirely Vulcan does not and never could be to my benefit.”
Jim shifted forward a little until their knees could touch. “I was taken to Betazed a few weeks after my birth. I was basically being bombarded with my mother’s grief. No one understood that, despite the fact that I was only a third Betazoid, I was open to everyone’s thoughts and emotions. She said I was inconsolable, and it was killing her—all of it. Her grief, my misery, and she couldn’t see a way out. She brought me to Starfleet Medical because she was her wit’s end. Fortunately, there was a psi-sensitive nurse in the facility who realized what was wrong the moment she picked me up.
“After a battery of tests, my mother was told that I needed more care than I could be provided on Earth. She contacted my grandmother and asked if she would take us in. She agreed, of course, and I was taken to Betazed. My mother spent three months on the planet before she returned to active duty—leaving me and my brother, Sam, behind. I’ve seen my mother about ten times since then. Sam didn’t like living on Betazed and left when he was 17. I haven’t seen either of them in a decade. I get comms regularly, but she’s on a deep space exploration mission in the Gamma quadrant and Sam’s with Federation Security. I’m pretty sure he’s part of Section 31, but I’ve never had a high enough security clearance to find out for certain. I don’t know where he is.”
“He’s a Sentinel, too,” Spock surmised.
“Not as far as the Burton Foundation is concerned,” Jim said. “But, yeah, I think so. It makes sense. I think he came online while he was on Betazed, but he kept it to himself. He’s not psi-null, so he certainly learned to control his mind and his response to psionic energy when he was young, just like I did. I could live without a Guide. I don’t know how it would impact me long-term, but I could do it. I don’t want to, of course, but that’s neither here nor there since…did you know there are Sentinels on Earth who have been online for a decade or more without a Guide? They have a whole conservator system in place to help them manage their senses, but I can’t imagine living with that kind of thing. It would be hard to serve. I know I’m not currently fit to sit in the chair.”
“Emotionally or physically?” Spock questioned.
“The physical impact of coming online kind of pales in comparison to hand-to-hand combat with several Romulans,” Jim admitted wryly. “Thanks, by the way, I’d never even considered learning the nerve pinch since my telepathy isn’t enhanced through touch. I wasn’t even sure it would work for me when you prodded me to do it during the…meld.”
“I’ve not referred to the contact with you as such,” Spock admitted. “Thought it certainly had all the marks of a mind-meld, despite our physical separation. I don’t know if it was a function of my Guide gifts or your Betazoid heritage.”
“Maybe a mixture of both,” Jim suggested. “Our circumstances are unique in the universe as we know it.” He offered his hands and found it gratifying that Spock didn’t hesitate to take them. They laced their fingers together, and Jim relaxed. “When I was five, I began training in the philosophy of Joral Mendissia.”
“There is very little information on the principles in the Federation data archive,” Spock said. “I have read what was available.”
“The first thing I was taught was mental organization. I’m exposed to the emotions of others daily no matter my intentions.” He paused. “Well, actually, I could force others to keep their emotions to themselves, but it would be exhausting, intrusive, and amoral. Fortunately, my ancestors developed techniques that allow me to categorize and essentially dismiss that information. I recall the information when I need it, which is also to my benefit when it comes to interactions with others. In order to create a psi-vault, I needed to master empathic recognition.”
Spock nodded. “Vulcan’s use a similar organization process. Though I admit, once I learned about psi-vault creation, I created my own personal version of it as it was infinitely more comfortable emotionally.” He paused. “Perhaps, a sign that I was coming online as a Guide as early as 20 years old.”
“Maybe,” Jim acknowledged. “Or maybe it’s just the influence of your human genetics. Vulcan mental organization techniques might be too restrictive. Have you ever studied yoga?”
“I took the introductory class at the academy,” Spock admitted. “But the instructor wasn’t…” He blew air out between his lips in such a human fashion that Jim laughed. “Did you take the class?”
“No,” Jim squeezed Spock’s hands gently to ensure his Guide understood he wasn’t laughing at him. “My mentor on Betazed instructed me in the concepts of yoga long before I ever went to Earth. I needed the physical discipline more than the mental, but it is one of the health systems from Earth that Betazoids have adopted wholesale. Even my grandmother is an avid student. I’d be happy to work with you on it later. What about the instructor put you off?”
“He was far more interested in sleeping with as many of his students as he could,” Spock said shortly. “His lack of ethics was deeply offensive. More so, when I learned that he wasn’t in the employ of the academy and therefore wasn’t subject to their rules regarding such behavior. I withdrew from the class after the first semester and lodged an explicit and lengthy complaint about the association Starfleet had with the man and his private business.”
“I’d adore reading it,” Jim said with a laugh. “By the time I went to the academy, yoga and several other health/lifestyle systems were part of the official curriculum. I think I started the year after you graduated.”
Spock nodded. “I finished in three years—yet another missed opportunity. If I’d slowed down, we would’ve met.”
“I finished three months faster than you did,” Jim said and grinned at the look that earned him. “Why did you take off a whole summer semester during your final year?”
“I…” Spock flushed and lowered his gaze. He took a deep breath. “You mentioned pon farr. Do you know what it is?”
“The Vulcan seven-year-itch?” Jim questioned. “Yeah, I know what it is. My mentor on Betazed is married to a Vulcan. Jaret shared his telepathic legacy with me since he has no children of his own and never will. In that legacy, I was given all of his memories—including the ones involving his spouse’s pon farr.”
Spock blinked. “And his bondmate agreed to this?”
“Of course,” Jim said. “Jaret would’ve never done it without permission. Emotional and psionic intimacy is the founding tenant of Betazoid society. It’s the root of their pacificism, to be honest. The amount of empathy we share as a species makes it difficult to inflict any sort of emotional or physical pain on another. Fortunately, I’m human enough to suppress my empathy when needed; otherwise, my job would be very difficult in most circumstances. But even a full Betazoid can be driven to extreme violence in defense of their own lives or others.”
“Did you suffer emotionally for your actions regarding the Narada?”
“Honestly, Spock, I felt so fucking righteous when that ship blew up that I didn’t have room for anything else,” Jim admitted and smiled when Spock nodded. “The other techniques in the principles cover mental projection, lucid dreaming, meditation, and building a foundation for psychokinesis with various psi-force skills.”
“Are you capable of psychokinesis?” Spock asked carefully.
“I used it to destroy the drill Nero was using to reach Vulcan’s core,” Jim explained. “It basically wiped me out psionically, and I think…I think that’s why I finally came online as a Sentinel. I don’t think I would’ve ever come online otherwise due to my Betazoid heritage. I can’t reveal any of this, really, to Starfleet or the Burton Foundation Earth because Betazed has invested a great deal in concealing the true power of a Betazoid for the protection of our entire species. There are many species outside of the Federation that would never tolerate the inherent threat that Betazed represents. There are people in my own ancestral house who could probably take a star supernova if they wanted. The act itself would certainly kill them, but they could do it.”
“Could you do it?” Spock questioned.
“Absolutely,” Jim admitted. “But I would never…I can’t imagine a circumstance where I would do something so terrible. The universe requires balance, and to cause such an unnatural disturbance in the psionic plane would be devastating to billions of people.”
“Vulcan Guides can be taught telekinesis,” Spock said. “Due to our deeper connection to the psionic plane. Before I came online, I would say that I skimmed across the plane—barely touching the energy. I didn’t realize how shallow my relationship was with psionic energy until I came online as a Guide. I told Elder T’Pau once that it was like being fully immersed in the plane after I came online. She was…shocked, and I felt this fear for me swell up inside of her. I wished I’d never told her as she was clearly upset and worried that I might suffer deeply in the future. She said her connection with the psionic plane had deepened after she came online but not like mine. I’ve read over 100 personal accounts of Guides throughout my clan history, and not a single one has ever reported such a relationship.”
“Because none of them were an Alpha Guide Prime,” Jim said. “Now, are you going to continue to avoid discussing your pon farr? I’m willing to wait a while, but it was my understanding that Vulcans largely prefer to experience their pon farr with a bond mate, and you don’t feel like you’ve ever been bonded.”
“I haven’t,” Spock admitted. “I was a latent Guide, and Guides on Vulcan are never bonded as children. I had been evaluated at various stages in my life to determine who would be a good match for my psionically if I experienced pon farr before I bonded of my own accord. When my time came, I had four volunteers.” He flushed. “But only one was sincere in his desire to help me. The others hoped to bond with me and gain social standing through the House of Surak. It was uncomfortable because none of them bothered to hide it. The single female said that bonding with me was a sacrifice she was willing to make to provide a better life for her family.”
“Mercenary,” Jim said.
“I appreciated her honesty,” Spock said. “And dismissed her immediately from consideration because I’d come to realize during my time on Earth that I preferred males exclusively. I chose a Vulcan named Stonn. We weren’t friends as children, but that changed as we matured. Six months after I graduated, I returned to Vulcan for his time.”
“Will he expect you to be available to him for his next pon farr?” Jim questioned. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it, but he didn’t think he was opposed since they had a history of helping each other, and it had kept them both alive.
“Stonn married last year,” Spock said. “And they achieved a very deep and rewarding bond, so I don’t believe my assistance will be necessary. If it was?”
“I’d never want you to turn your back on a friend during such a grave situation,” Jim said.
“He’d find you very attractive,” Spock said, and Jim could tell that his Guide wasn’t thrilled with that prospect. “If he were unbonded, he’d probably invite us both into his bed.”
Jim grinned. “I’ve got a pretty face, so you should just get used to some people finding me attractive. Additionally, the whole Sentinel thing will make me more interesting to some species for various reasons. There are those who really enjoy dangerous creatures, and there’s rarely anything more dangerous than a Sentinel no matter their species.”
“I don’t know how to begin,” Spock confessed. “I know what I’ve been told—Vulcan and human resources both have clearly defined procedures, but none of them seem right for us.”
“I think bonding is ultimately an individual thing, and more importantly, we both come from species that seek to bond whether they are gifted with guardian gifts or not,” Jim murmured. “To be bonded is a natural state for us both. The only reason I wasn’t bonded as an infant on Betazed is that it is a violation of Federation law to force the bond of a Sentinel—latent or not—as we have no natural defenses against such a situation. Well, human Sentinels don’t have a defense against it as they are psi-null until they come online.”
“I find such a circumstance deeply disturbing,” Spock admitted. “If either one of us were to take an injury that would drive us dormant, do you think we’d lose our connection to the psionic plane?”
“I’d hope not,” Jim said roughly, and he pushed down the horror that thought caused before it could bleed onto his Guide. “It would be a nightmare to lose the place in the universe I was given at birth.”
“Agreed,” Spock said quietly. “I don’t know how Betazoids bond as adults. It’s not like genetic bonding, correct?”
“It is empathic,” Jim explained. “One reason why my grandmother is so concerned is that she worries that even being half-Vulcan will cause you to be disgusted by my emotional landscape.”
“I can’t imagine finding a single thing about you repellent,” Spock confessed.
“Had I more time and was not a Sentinel, I would’ve invested months of my time in the creation of our bond,” Jim explained. “I would tailor it to us both so it would rest easy in your mind like a warm, welcome embrace. It would be a source of comfort and joy for you all of your days.”
“It is a sweet notion,” Spock reflected. “My mother told me that once. I did not understand, truly, what she meant until this very moment.”
“Why did she say it to you?” Jim asked curiously.
“When I was young, my older brother, Sybok, teased me relentlessly because he felt I wasn’t Vulcan enough. To prove myself, I attempted the kahs-wan. I was just six and had no business attempting to prove myself an adult with a survival test in the Forge. I-Chaya, a sehlat who had been a part of the House of Surak for over 100 years, followed me. Sybok, who realized he’d made a grave error in judgment, followed as well. I was attacked by a le-matya, but both I-Chaya and Sybok interfered. They were able to defeat the creature, but both were bitten. I-Chaya died quickly, but Sybok lingered for seven days. The healers tried, but they couldn’t…” Spock cleared his throat. “He died. He was 10 years old. I was devastated and blamed myself even though Sybok had confessed to his cruelty and apologized to me. My brother died for me, and he apologized for it.”
“He acknowledged, rightfully, that you’d have never been there at all if he hadn’t been so callous with you,” Jim said. “I’m sure your parents have told you that more than once.”
“Yes,” Spock murmured. “Months later, I told my mother I’d never do anything foolish that would make her cry or worry ever again. She hugged me tightly and said that it was a sweet notion, but that love didn’t work that way.”
“My grandmother would say that she’s earned the right to worry about me as much as she wants,” Jim said wryly and grinned when Spock raised an eyebrow at him. “I was not an easy child to raise, to say the least. Then I went and threw myself at Starfleet the very day I turned 17, which is the age of adulthood on Betazed. It doesn’t help at all that media outlets throughout the Federation scour the public records of Starfleet regularly for any news or information they can share about my missions. One asshole on Earth’s global network called me a living monument for the USS Kelvin. Admiral Archer revoked his access to Starfleet reports for six months in retaliation.”
“I saw that report,” Spock said. “It was broadcast as part of the 25th anniversary of the Kelvin’s destruction.”
“Yeah,” Jim said. “I’d just left the academy and was serving on the Hood. It stirred up a lot of emotions in the old guard, including Captain April, who called me into his office to let me know that I could come to him if scrutiny from the crew became too much. It was a nice gesture, but it only intensified the crew’s interest in me. I’d asked to be assigned to the Hood and had come on board as second to the alpha shift combat specialist. I wanted to learn from the best, and Lance Duwong is the best damn strategist in the ‘fleet.”
“Agreed,” Spock said. “He’s teaching at the academy now—a loss for the field service at least in the short-term, but I believe he’ll give Starfleet a lasting legacy in the people he trains. If we can’t have this soft bond you spoke of, what will we have instead?”
“Because of your own gifts—both as a Vulcan and as a Guide—I believe it would be best to build something together.” He released Spock’s hands and cupped his together so he could draw the psionic energy he’d been carrying since the siege forward. “This is what is left of our first meld—it is chaotic, desperate, strong, determined, and passionate. If I’d done as I was taught, I would’ve purged this remnant as soon as I found it. But as I interacted with it on the way here, I realized what it was, and I couldn’t part with it. I’m not sure I could’ve ever parted with it.”
“What is it?”
“Do you believe in the soul?”
“Yes, of course,” Spock said hoarsely, and after a moment, he let trembling fingers trail through the energy. “Is this your soul?”
“I showed this to T’Pau. I told her and all those present it was a part of you left behind in my mind after the siege, and it wasn’t a lie. It just wasn’t the whole truth because the reality of it is meant just for the two of us.” Jim took a deep breath. “It’s us—a mixture of my psionic energy and yours.”
“How could we have possible shared psionic energy at such a distance?” Spock asked, but he shifted closer and cupped Jim’s hands with his own.
“The same way we most certainly accomplished a full-blown mind-meld without ever having met,” Jim said. “I’d like it if we built our bond together—starting with the first time our minds met.”
“Touching, yet not touching; apart, yet never apart,” Spock murmured. “I didn’t mean to leave anything behind. I wouldn’t want you to think I was trying to influence you. I knew who and what you were the moment we connected. I was tempted to tell you, but you were in a desperate situation. I didn’t want to add to it.”
“I don’t feel manipulated or influenced in the least,” Jim assured. “I could’ve discarded this easily, Spock. I kept it because I…” He felt his face heat. “Honestly, it felt like destiny.” Shock flickered briefly over Spock’s face. “Like our hearts met.”
“You are a very charming individual,” Spock observed and merely quirked an eyebrow when Jim burst out laughing.
“We don’t have to use it,” Jim said and focused on the energy. “In the scheme of things, maybe it’s not much of anything at all.”
“It’s everything,” Spock said. “I am honored by your trust and affection. This remnant not only represents our first meld but our victory over an enemy that would’ve seen us all destroyed.” He focused on the energy. “How…are we going to…I’m at a loss, and I think I’m supposed to be in charge of this process as the Guide. That being said, I think you may be more talented than me telepathically.”
“Not at all,” Jim assured. “You’re a powerhouse, Spock. I never expected to meet someone who could stand with me in so many ways. Our gifts are just focused differently, which makes us better for it. Let’s start with the empathic bond as it will probably be the easiest.” He shifted his hands and laced his fingers together with Spock’s once more. “A formal meld would leave us vulnerable in a way I can’t indulge currently. I realize you feel very safe here, but I don’t.”
“I understand,” Spock murmured. “You lead, and I shall follow.”
“I’m going to invite you into my mind,” Jim said. “The contact will be light—like a whisper across your mind. All of my senses are under control, but you’ll probably get impressions. I’m told you smelled my soap during our meld.”
“A sense impression from you,” Spock said. “Yes, that makes sense. I couldn’t figure out why…”
“I used my own body to ground my sense of hearing and smell,” Jim admitted. “The beat of my heart, the way the air filled my lungs, and the aroma of my favorite soap clinging to my skin. It reminded me of home, and it allowed me to anchor myself in the moment after you helped me regain control. Nero’s first target was Vulcan, but it wasn’t his only target. He planned to take Earth next. He wanted to destroy what he considered to be the heart of the Federation.”
“The two founding planets,” Spock murmured. “Had he succeeded, I don’t know if the Federation itself would’ve survived the backlash.”
“The humans left behind after such a tragedy would’ve waged warlike Klingons,” Jim said grimly. “Earth strives for peace, but the past of that planet is no less violent than that of Vulcan. I think a great many people in the universe at large don’t take that into consideration. The Federation itself does a great deal to keep Earth’s warmongering at a minimum.” Jim took a deep breath. “I’m going to reach out now.”
“I’m prepared,” Spock declared.
Jim really wasn’t sure if that was the case. Spock had been in control of their first mental encounter, and it had been fueled by their mutual desperation. He couldn’t say all of those emotions were gone even a week later. His attraction to Spock both as a man and as a Sentinel was burning within him, but he wasn’t entirely sure where his Guide was on either of those topics. Being willing to have a sexual relationship and desiring a sexual relationship wasn’t the same thing at all.
He focused on their hands, and Spock’s fingers flexed against his. “Holding hands is very intimate for you.”
“Yes,” Spock admitted, his voice soft and starting to go hoarse. “It’s hard to maintain any sort of barrier with you due to my own desires. My apologies.”
“You needn’t apologize,” Jim murmured. “It is the nature of my kind to give themselves over entirely to their bonded mate. All of me will be yours, Spock, for as long as I draw breath from this day forward. Empathic and telepathic bonds often intertwine in psi-positive species. So even if we weren’t Sentinel and Guide, a rich and beautiful bond is waiting on us. We just have to let go and let it happen.”
“I’ve never melded with a Betazoid, but I’ve enjoyed mind-melds with humans and one Orion man who thought it would be interesting to…meld during sex.”
Jim grinned. “How was it?”
“It was…” Spock inclined his head. “Extraordinary. I’d planned to go back to Risa to see him again, but I came online and had to cancel those plans.” He flushed. “I suppose you’ll have access to those memories once we bond.”
“We can keep such memories private from each other,” Jim said gently. “I won’t dive into your head and root around, Spock, and I’ll teach you to sequester memories in your psi-vault.”
“I trust you,” Spock said. “I don’t require secrets for my own sake. I never suspected I might need to know how previous partners might feel about such a thing. Vulcans don’t bond in this fashion.”
Jim tried to ignore the way his stomach tightened. He knew he could force himself to be content with the shallow bond that Vulcans used for intimate partners, but he really didn’t want to. “We could try it that way…”
“No,” Spock interjected. “I wish to have everything. I’m long past the point where I’m willing to deny myself anything in order to appear more Vulcan than I physically can.”
Jim let his body relax and loosened the control he maintained on his mind. It was hard-won control, but so were the techniques that allowed him to open a door and allow Spock to enter. The remnant curling around their hands bloomed and spread out all around them, drenching them in psionic energy in such a fashion that it was hard to remember to breathe. His mental landscape was not a place he’d often shared with anyone after he finished training. It was his private domain, and there were parts that not even his teachers were able to touch. Though that was the nature of the Betazoid—the deep recesses of his mind offered the kind of intimacies that made sex pale in comparison.
“It’s lovely,” Spock murmured.
Jim turned and found his Guide lingering near the Jiwa tree. He watched Spock touch the vivid purple blossoms of the tree with delicate, curious fingers. “We eat the blossoms and the fruit—it is considered a staple as the fruit is rich with nutrients that promote psionic health.”
“I will forever associate these blossoms with you,” Spock admitted. “When I first started working on a starship, I went through all the soap combinations in order to determine which one suited me best. In the end, none of them really appealed to me, and I chose to use the sonic shower most often. But sometimes, I would use the hydro facilities and use soaps that I associated with various people.”
“Lovers,” Jim speculated.
Spock inclined his head. “It made self-pleasure more rewarding. Scent association is powerful when combined with memories.” He moved away from the tree. “I feel at home here—safe. It’s strange.”
“Can you define a reason?” Jim asked curiously and offered Spock his hand. “I built this to resemble the garden behind my grandmother’s house where I grew up. Well, it’s one of many properties that belong to the Fifth House, but she’s the matriarch of our house, so everything is legally hers. I’ve been considering buying my own property on Betazed, but maybe you’d prefer something here.”
“Why not both?” Spock questioned as he laced his fingers with Jim’s.
Jim laughed. “Why not?” He tugged his Guide down a path. “I lost my virginity in this garden—back here on a blanket under the stars.”
“You had a whole house and chose to take off all of your clothes outside and have intercourse?” Spock questioned.
Jim laughed. “Yeah, it was amazing. How was your first time?”
“Fascinating,” Spock murmured. “Startling. I experimented with both males and females while at the academy, but my best experiences were with males—species wasn’t an important factor.”
Jim grinned. “It never mattered to me, either. I probably went out of my way to piss off Komack on that front since he’s a xenophobic bastard. I’m glad that Archer is taking a hard look at him.”
“Twice now, Nero became an immense instrument of change within the Federation. I want to believe that whatever the root of his motivations that nothing we do in the future meets with his goals.”
“We won’t,” Jim murmured. “He sought destruction, and his revenge was mindless, but there was confusion within him as well.” He cleared his throat. “He was a powerful telepath in his own right, Spock, but he had no connection with the psionic plane that I could discern. He clearly knew who I was but had no idea what I was, which makes no sense. Romulus is well-versed in Sentinel/Guide lore.”
“What…” Spock trailed off and took a deep breath. “Romulans are biologically no different than Vulcans. The ones alive today descend from Vulcans who left us when Surak emerged as a Guide and led our people on the path to peace. What could he have possibly done to…”
“It wasn’t just him—his whole crew was blank and awful. Destroying that ship was the most relieving experience of my life, and it was only partially because of the threat they posed to everything I hold dear.” He took a deep breath. “The origin of the ship remains a mystery, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I imagine that the Federation Council is already preparing an investigative committee to handle all of that. It can’t be a concern for either of us in the years to come. I don’t think we have room for it.”
“No, agreed.” Spock flexed his fingers. “Your mental touch is quite sophisticated and disciplined. You’re hesitating. Have you changed your mind?”
“No, you’re perfect,” Jim said as they turned down a path and encountered a wide active stream. “I caught my first fish in this stream. My grandmother tried to pretend she was horrified that my grandfather had taught me something so barbaric. Of course, I put it back in the water since we both knew she wasn’t going to let us eat it.”
“Your grandfather passed before you joined Starfleet,” Spock said.
“Yes, shortly after I turned fifteen. He was a good man—patient, strong, and thoughtful. He was an ambassador for Earth and served on the Federation Council for more than a decade before he retired here. I think…well, I think my father’s death broke his heart, and he never really recovered from that. Love is the most reckless thing we can do with ourselves, you know.”
“My mother says that love is the truest gift that you can give. Her love and acceptance has given me refuge my entire life,” Spock admitted. “Even more so now—coming online as a Guide allowed me to know my mother’s love for me in a way I never thought possible.”
“That’s amazing,” Jim said. “Let’s sit here.”
“Is it a special place?”
“It reminds me of my grandpa who made me feel safe,” Jim admitted. “It will help me create a bond that is warm and comforting.”
Spock nodded, and they sat down together. “I feel very safe in your hands. It is lovely.” He wet his lips. “So are you.”
Jim smiled. “Thank you. Let me know if you get uncomfortable; we can stop and alter the bond at any point during the creation process.”
“I feel at home here with you,” Spock admitted. “I suspect that will always be the case.”
Charmed beyond any sort of reason, Jim relaxed and started to deepen their mental connection. Psionic energy moved between them as he released the remnant left from their first meld, and it bloomed beautifully, providing them both with a path necessary to create a deep and abiding connection. Spock’s trust and desire left Jim breathless and wanting. He’d never felt anything like it. He wanted to bathe himself in the emotions flowing around him.
Another element wound itself through their bond and tethered their minds together, and Jim realized that a telepathic bond had spontaneously manifested. He’d heard that such bonds were possible for Vulcan Sentinels and Guides, but he never expected to experience one. They were rare bonds that spoke to deep innate compatibility. Betazoids didn’t form such bonds due to their telepathic abilities and depended entirely on a form of empathic tether to their mate of choice. Such a thing allowed for telepathic communication, of course, but it was a secondary concern.
“You are everything I’ve always wanted,” Spock confessed. “I am undone.”
The bond settled between one heartbeat and the next. It was perfect.
They fell out of meditation at the same time, and Jim opened his eyes to find Spock staring at him intently. He’d never be able to say which one moved first, but suddenly Spock’s hands were on him, and he was crawling into the Vulcan’s lap without a single bit of restraint. Their mouths met in a soft, sweet kiss, and Jim shuddered at the taste of his Guide.
“Jim.” Spock’s lips trailed along his jaw. “I…I want…”
Jim cupped the back of Spock’s head as his Guide nuzzled his neck and teeth scraped over his skin just briefly. Spock’s hunger was bleeding all over him, and it was wonderful. “It’s okay.”
“We agreed not to bond with sex.”
“We’re bonded,” Jim said with a laugh. “We can fuck all we want. On Vulcan and Betazed, we’re married.”
“Husband,” Spock murmured, and Jim took in a ragged breath.
“Take me to bed then,” Jim said and laughed a little when Spock immediately stood, urging Jim’s legs around his waist as he did so.
The bed was low to the ground, bigger than any he’d ever been in and firm under them as Jim found himself spread out underneath his Guide. Spock’s fingers hooked into his belt and loosened it easily.
“You need to imprint,” Spock murmured. “It’s best if you penetrate me—it’ll be easier for you to control your senses if you’re in charge of the intercourse. We can stop at any point.”
“It’ll be fine,” Jim assured. “I’ve not had any spikes during masturbation, and I paid attention when I was younger to all of my lessons. My grandmother made sure I had the best education possible when it came to my potential to be a Sentinel.”
He lifted his hips, and Spock shifted so he could pull Jim’s trousers off. He discarded the clothing quickly and returned to his gentle exploration. Jim had never been handled so carefully in his life. He relaxed on the mattress as Spock unbuttoned his shirt, one button at a time.
“I’m surprised to see you out of uniform,” Spock murmured.
“I’m being a bit stubborn about that whole thing,” Jim admitted. “Komack really pissed me off and made me feel like property. He isn’t the first in the command structure to do that; I can’t allow them to dismiss that part of it. I don’t care that he’s been retired and Marcus in custody. How many other people have basically been conscripted into dark projects?”
“I will invest myself in finding out if it would soothe you,” Spock murmured.
Jim smiled. “You’ve certainly been told that you shouldn’t indulge all of your Sentinel’s whims.”
“I was told a great many things I should not allow my Sentinel to do,” Spock confirmed. “But I have always been good at deciding which rules are important and which are not.”
Jim sat up as Spock did and slipped his shirt off. Spock pulled the thin sweater he was wearing over his head and tossed it aside. “We’ll need lubrication.”
Spock’s cheeks flushed, but he nodded and slipped from the bed. Jim watched him walk across the room and open a drawer in a glossy wood dresser. He figured it was the real thing and not faux. The wealth of the House of Surak was well-known, but Jim didn’t consider it a bonus. He had his own money and could make it at will due to his ridiculous fame. Money was only important when you didn’t have it, and he’d learned that on Earth when he’d gone to the academy.
He worked his boxers over his erection and tossed them in the direction that Spock had sent the rest of his clothes as the Vulcan returned with a jar of lubrication which he put on the nightstand. Jim watched his Guide hesitate just briefly before he unbuttoned his own pants and shed the rest of his clothes. Spock was lean but fit, and the sight of him made Jim’s mouth water. He held a hand, and Spock took it as he returned to the bed.
They settled together on the bed, skin to skin as if they’d been lovers for years. Physical pleasure was nothing new to Jim, but there was something enthralling about the heat of Spock’s body and the brush of his sensitive fingers as his hands moved over him. A hand wrapped around his cock, and Jim groaned.
“Should I stop?”
“Never,” Jim admitted. “Your touch is perfect. I’ve never…known anything like it. I don’t know if it’s a Vulcan thing, a Guide thing, or a you thing.”
Spock kissed him gently. “The hands of the average Vulcan can bring immense pleasure or pain—I’m not an average Vulcan.”
Jim cupped his face, brushed a thumb over meld point, and watched Spock’s eyes darken. “I see that.”
“I would be pleased if you would begin your imprint now,” Spock murmured.
Jim felt his face heat as Spock pulled him closer. He tucked his face against the Vulcan’s neck and inhaled deeply to take in as much of his scent as he could. When he pushed gently, Spock relaxed on his back and released his cock. Jim missed the grip of his Guide’s hand immediately, but the desire to glut his senses on Spock was fast becoming overwhelming.
He opened his mouth against Spock’s skin and tasted. Spock made a soft, sweet sound and shuddered against him. Jim ran his hands down Spock’s chest as he lifted away, cupped the Vulcan’s hips, and stared as he knelt between the sprawl of the other man’s legs. He trailed one finger down the length of Spock’s dick and watched, curiously, as his Guide didn’t move a single muscle.
“Your self-control is challenging,” Jim admitted, and Spock quirked an eyebrow at him. “I want to make a complete mess of you.”
“I’m willing to endure your attempt,” Spock said primly.
“Oh, Spock,” Jim said fondly and lowered his head.
He nuzzled the soft, thin skin covering Spock’s hip bone, licked to taste, and inhaled deeply as he did so. He was full to the point of oversaturated with the other man’s scent, but he couldn’t help but want more. He glided his tongue along the seam of Spock’s thigh, and the other man’s breath hitched—ragged and shocked. He lay down on his stomach as he encountered Spock’s nut sack. Jim licked and sucked until Spock was moving under his mouth, groaning words he didn’t understand. He took pity and licked up the length of the man’s cock before taking him in.
Jim loved to suck cock—the heavy weight on his tongue, the drag of his lips against another person’s skin, the taste, and the unique power earned when you were responsible for another’s pleasure. It was a heady experience that he enjoyed probably more than he should, but he didn’t care.
“Jim,” Spock gasped, and his fingers clenched briefly in Jim’s hair. “Please, I…I need.”
The jar of lubrication was pressed briefly against his cheek as he sucked, so Jim plucked it from Spock’s trembling fingers as he lifted his head. He sat back on his heels and stared at his Guide as he opened the jar.
“You still with me?”
“I am…” Spock took a deep breath as Jim lubed his own cock then added more to his fingers. “Here.”
“Do you need a break?”
Jim grinned at the firm, quick answer. “I’m so…pleased to be with you. The sex is a thrilling bonus.”
“Agreed,” Spock said and tilted his hips just a little as Jim started to prep his hole. “I have a prostate and the Vulcan equivalent.”
“F’alia, right?” Jim questioned. “I read a brief on Vulcan anatomy on the way here just in case there were some…differences that I needed to be aware of. I’ve never been with a Vulcan of either sex.”
He pressed his fingers in and immediately encountered the short protrusions lining Spock’s anus. They weren’t overly hard, not particularly soft—he realized it quickly that they were going to provide a unique and very pleasurable experience. Spock lifted his hips with a helpless moan.
“Are they more or less sensitive than your prostate?” Jim questioned.
“Less, fortunately, it is a deeper pleasure—steady, relentless but never escalating. I don’t experience overstimulation if that is a concern.”
“It was,” Jim murmured as he pressed his fingers in deeper and started to finger fuck him. “I love sex, but I don’t want to ever make you uncomfortable with it.”
“I fail to see how you could,” Spock admitted and huffed. “I am prepared.”
“Are you?” Jim pulled his fingers free and shifted forward on his knees.
He grasped his cock and pressed the head against Spock’s asshole even as his lover lifted his hips in demand. Jim cupped Spock’s hips and pushed in slowly until their bodies met. Spock held out his hands, and Jim allowed himself to be drawn down into his Guide’s arms. Their mouths met as they started to move together. The pleasure was intense, and quickly Jim found himself lost in it without a single care. He surrendered to Spock’s care just like that, and it was the most relieving experience of his life.
When he came, it was almost an afterthought, a new experience certainly since he’d always considered orgasm the goal when it came to sex.
“Sentinel,” Spock murmured hoarsely as his hands tightened on Jim’s back and spilled messily between them.
Jim started to lift away, but Spock held him fast, so he relaxed on his Guide’s chest and just breathed.
“You have, indeed, made a mess of me.”
Jim laughed a little and lifted his head. “I never want to know another day without you.”
“We have an accord,” Spock murmured and brushed his thumb purposefully across Jim’s cheekbone. “Ashayam.”
Beloved, Jim thought, was such a lovely word no matter the language used to speak it. He carefully pulled free from Spock’s body, and they shifted around until they lay in a sprawl of tangled bodies, breathing against each other’s skin.
“You feel like home,” Jim murmured.
Spock brushed a kiss against his forehead. “We feel like destiny.”
Jim closed his eyes and nodded. “Exactly that.”