The sequel to Turning
story is SLASH
and rated NC-17.
It portrays explicit sex between two men. If such things offend
you or you're under 18, READ NO FURTHER!
Thank yous and hugs to Deb, Indrani, Colleen, TJonesy and Beth, as always, for encouragement and much-needed prodding. Thanks also to Greywolf for inspiration and for his tremendous patience, while I finished this thing and put other juicy projects on hold. Huge truckloads of gratitude go to Nick, my most wonderful editor, without whom this story would never have seen the light of day. It's surely his story as much as mine, and if there's anything good in here, it's because of him. Thanks babe, for putting up with me, and saving me from myself more times than I could count! (adding this on after one last late-night editing session--Nick, you have the patience of a Vulcan!)
Stars were falling deep in the darkness
as prayers rose softly, petals at dawn
And as I listened, your voice seemed so clear
so calmly you were calling, calling him
Somewhere the sun rose over dunes in the desert
such was the stillness I never felt before
Was this the question pulling, pulling you
in your heart, in your soul, did you find rest there?
Elsewhere a snowfall, the first in the winter
covered the ground as the bells filled the air
You in your robes sang, calling, calling him
in your heart, in your soul, did you find peace there?
Winter solstice, on a world that has never
Spock had intended to make his way straight to Seleya, but his
father was waiting for his transport at Space Central. Facing
him on the terminal platform, Spock experienced a sinking in
his stomach not so far different from that he had felt often
as a child, when called to task for some indiscretion.
"Ambassador," he said, unable to bring himself to call
the man by any other name. The sharp eyes appraised him, perhaps
seeing too much. Spock would not make excuses. Coming this far
had been difficult enough; he did not have the fortitude to argue
with his father.
"Spock." Sarek's face betrayed nothing, and yet his
very presence communicated his displeasure. "Was it your
intention to travel directly to the sanctuary?"
"That was my intention." It was all he could manage.
There was only one person who could have told Sarek what he planned,
and he could not face the thought of speaking that name aloud.
"Your mother will not understand."
Spock did not let his eyes falter; would not. "I do not
ask her to understand. I do what I must." He heard the weariness
in his own voice. He had spoken to no one in three days; even
this limited attempt at conversation was exhausting him. He wanted
only to reach the mountain sanctuary, and let the Masters take
him in and burn this pain out of him, cauterize it, with the
flame of logic. He wanted to be empty. He did not think he could
bear to feel any more--even if it was only guilt for avoiding
his mother's unwelcome sympathy.
"Spock... I have spoken to your Captain."
The effort it took not to flinch felt like it tore something
inside of him. "I will not discuss this with you, Ambassador."
"This decision is quite unexpected. I fear that it is made
in haste, and ill-advised."
"I do not require your approval."
"My son, the discipline of kolinahr is considered by some
an extremist, reactionary tradition whose time has past."
Spock looked at his father sharply. "By some?"
Sarek's eyes lowered, an acknowledgment. "I have reason
to lend some credence to this point of view, yes."
Spock understood that there could be only one motivation for
Sarek to speak thus. But his father's concern was more than he
could bear, now. He hurt too much. The raw edges of his control
could not withstand this gentle, invasive questioning, this atypical
solicitousness. He wanted only to get away.
"You yourself have repeatedly impressed upon me the need
for mastery, Ambassador. Shall you now judge me for having recognized
the wisdom of your teachings?"
"My son, I wish only to know that you have considered the
ramifications of such a choice."
Spock could not suppress the twisting thing in his heart, and
he knew by the widening of Sarek's eyes that it showed on his
face. "You do not understand. There is no choice."
For a moment, Sarek could not find words, and that was so unprecedented
that Spock could almost find humor in it. But then he saw his
father's dawning realization, and the pity, and could not hold
that hawkish gaze any longer.
Spock looked away. "Your son is a fool, Ambassador."
"Does he know?" Sarek said with difficulty, after a
moment. "Is he aware that you and he are--"
It was said with restraint, without condemnation or judgment,
but still Spock found that he could not endure it.
"I will not speak of it."
"Spock." Sarek's voice was pitched low, intent, almost
inaudible even at this distance. "If you have not told him
of the link, perhaps--"
"He knows!" Said too sharply. Spock knew then that
he had reached the limits of his control; he had to get away,
now, before he disgraced himself utterly in the public terminal.
He summoned the last shreds of restraint he possessed and turned
pleading eyes on his father, lowered his voice. "He knows.
You must see the inevitability. I beg you, allow me to go and
do not speak further of things that do not concern you."
Sarek looked pained. "Your welfare... concerns me. I ask
only that you consider alternatives."
"There are none."
"There are always--"
"You know nothing of it!"
"Does he?" Under the harsh whisper Spock heard the
tone of the galactic ambassador, naked steel restrained. "He
knows, but does he understand? Have you given him all the facts?
He is human, Spock, and cannot be expected to understand the
implications of a spontaneous joining." Sarek's voice dropped,
the closest thing to a plea Spock had ever heard from him. "He
wishes only to speak with you."
Spock turned away from his father, one terrifying breath from
striking him. Couldn't Sarek see how close he was to the edge?
He felt the world starting to shatter around him, splintering
treacherously as he tried to hold it together. The place of light
within him called irresistibly. "I must go," he said,
all he could manage. He started to walk away.
Sarek's words followed him, pitched to just reach him. "I
cannot believe he would betray you so, if he knew the facts.
He has been willing to die for you, my son. Have you forgotten?"
Back turned to his father, Spock closed his eyes for a moment,
the memory of koon-ut-kalifee a burnt afterimage on his heart.
Of course he had not forgotten. But Sarek could not understand,
could not know what had passed between himself and his captain,
could not see that there was, in fact, nowhere else for him to
go except Seleya.
"No," Spock whispered. "I have not forgotten."
But he was already moving, putting distance between himself and
the Ambassador before he lost control in earnest--running in
slow motion, as he had been since Jim's lips had branded his
on the steps of the transporter platform.
He made his way down the spiraling foot ramp like a man three
times his age, knowing that if he moved too quickly, he would
shatter. No, Sarek could not understand--for he did not know
James Kirk as Spock did. Did not know how Spock had taken what
he needed, not giving Kirk the chance to give it freely. Did
not see how he had condemned himself from that moment forward.
His father was right, of course. Jim would willingly give anything
for Spock's sake--even that which had been taken from him by
a thief in the night who wore his best friend's face. But his
father was also wrong, if he believed that Spock would allow
He would not permit the indulgence of wishing for what might
have been. He would go to Seleya, and Kirk would be free, and
he would not ever have to bear the human's eventual resentment
or condemnation, would not have to watch the gradual unraveling
of that irrepressible, fiercely independent personality. This
obscene agony of wanting would be burned away by the desert sun
until nothing save logic remained-- and if he paid for Jim's
freedom with his heart, so be it.
He reached the surface transport depot, and slid his credit chit
into a groundcar terminal. Outside, he saw a car back out of
its slip on autopilot. It came obediently toward him, and parked
itself at the edge of the walkway, waiting patiently. He had
regained some measure of control now; his hands, at least, had
stopped trembling so visibly. Sarek might never know how close
he had come to pushing his son into an emotional display of unprecedented
There was no question that he was making the correct choice;
that there was, as he had said to his father, no real choice
at all. For him, there would be the sterility of Gol, and in
time the pain would fade as if it had never been. As for Kirk,
he would feel hurt, perhaps betrayed--but that would be nothing
to what would have happened if he had stayed. Jim would adjust.
It had only been loneliness and cumulative stress that had made
him turn to Spock with such open need in the first place--the
worst of all betrayals that Spock had forced it to be more.
Better by far to go now, before that betrayal could destroy everything
good that had ever been between them.
With that certainty in his heart, the son of Sarek went out into
the midday glare and did not look back.
James Kirk became an expert at holding on.
They knighted him Admiral, Chief of Starfleet Operations, and
in the beginning he sheltered behind his lofty titles and tried
to function normally. He might as well have been an amputee,
struggling along, pretending the missing limb didn't change anything,
hoping that pretending would make it true. In the course of a
week, he had lost everything that mattered to him.
The communique from Sarek had made it real. It was a text message,
succinct and to the point, the ambassador said only, "Endeavor
unsuccessful, Admiral. My regrets. May you find success in your
Kirk had gone to Vulcan then. Later, he would see it hadn't been
a rational idea. He'd understand why Sarek had refused to help
him get into the sanctuary, had made him go home. Later, he'd
know what Sarek and Amanda had been trying so kindly to tell
Spock wasn't coming back.
McCoy had tried to help, but in the end Kirk had found himself
unable to bear the man's solicitous concern. The temptation to
confess everything had been overwhelming, but fear of the darkness
such a confession would release in him had been greater. He hadn't
deserved confession, certainly hadn't deserved comfort. In the
end, he'd realized the obvious--that he didn't even deserve the
McCoy himself had provided the ammunition Kirk needed to push
him away. The doctor had gone to Starfleet Medical, appealing
Kirk's promotion on psychological grounds.
When Kirk had learned of it, he'd hit the ceiling. "What
the hell did you think you were doing, going behind my back like
that!" he'd stormed at McCoy, the day he'd found out.
"Look, Admiral, if you can't look out for yourself,
someone's got to look out for you! This promotion is gonna kill
you. Don't you see that?"
"It's not your decision, Doctor. I'm a big boy. I
can make my own decisions. Hell, I get paid to make them!"
"Not any more, you don't," McCoy had reminded him,
and that truth had pushed Kirk over the edge. The argument had
degenerated from there. Knowing what he was doing even as he
did it, Kirk had driven the well-meaning doctor out of his apartment
and out of his life. As the days became weeks, he began to think
the breach might even be permanent.
Troubled by a disturbing recurring dream, Kirk found himself
eating little and sleeping less. He took refuge in his staggering
workload, quickly falling into the habit of shutting himself
in his office, staying late. It did no good. The nightmare of
suffocating pursued him even into exhausted sleep, threatened
to follow him into the light of day.
He could not afterward remember exactly when the dream had started,
only that within a matter of weeks it came to haunt even his
waking hours. There was no form to it, and less detail. Upon
waking from it, he would find himself bathed in sweat and gasping,
sometimes even hyperventilating--and reeking of fear. He would
remember only silence. If he'd been in command, he would have
taken himself off duty and checked himself into Sickbay for a
good dose of Southern psychiatry.
He wasn't in command. He could afford to keep his slow disintegration
to himself, hold it close. He had no one to tell.
The weeks passed. That oppressive silence became a riptide that
would swell over him whenever his guard faltered, each day a
battle he couldn't afford to lose. He wouldn't think of what
he had become.
He wouldn't think of Spock.
In the darkest hours of night, when his usual methods of coping
failed, he would lie to himself, tell himself that it wasn't
Late one evening, the suffocating feeling came when he was awake,
and it disturbed him so badly that he opened all the windows
of his flat, drawing great lungfuls of cool, crisp October air
until the attack subsided. When at last he could breathe, he
went into the kitchen. He got out everything to make herbal tea,
and put it on the counter.
He didn't like tea, had never liked tea... but he'd found that
sometimes it helped him get back to sleep. It was the only concession
he would make to the pain he would not face. Tonight, though,
he opened the packet of tea and the fragrance wafted out, and
for some reason it reminded him of k'rh'tha, the pungent beverage
Spock would drink sometimes when they played chess.
He stood then at the counter, leaning on his arms, feeling the
taut heaviness rise up in his chest. He wanted to let go. Anything
to make that pressure ease. He even tried to let go, tried to
make the tears come. For the first time in weeks he let himself
think of Spock, made himself think of Spock, made himself remember
walking with him along the shaded avenue in New Orleans. Made
himself remember what it had been like to kiss Spock, an immolation,
as if every part of him wanted to burn up with the pleasure of
Still the tears wouldn't come, and so he thought of the Enterprise
and Spock, made himself remember being on the bridge, getting
ready to beam down to a new planet, what it had been like to
sense the Vulcan at his right shoulder. To turn and meet his
eyes and share that moment, this is what we're out here for,
this is what makes it worthwhile.
He almost did cry, then. But the feeling of impending tears was
too much like suffocating, and his body rebelled, refused to
let go. Finally there was only the hard knot in his chest, the
tight ache in his throat. He sank down to the cold tile, wrapped
his arms around his knees and sat there until morning.
More weeks passed. The anxiety attacks got no better, nor were
they worse; he buried himself in work and tried to keep up the
facade, though his weight loss and fatigue were starting to get
him strange looks at HQ. He found himself avoiding old friends,
acquaintances--anyone at Starfleet Command who might know him
well enough to ask questions.
Well, that was a short list. He'd found that Chief of Ops was
not a job that invited popularity.
The one-time captain of the Enterprise met Vice Admiral Lori
Ciani for the first time at a formal reception he'd been unable
to avoid, some overblown affair to honor a dignitary whose name
he would not remember afterward. He didn't know what made her
approach him, that first night, certainly didn't know what made
her decide to come home with him. He speculated in the beginning
that she had some agenda...that she, or someone higher up in
the Admiralty suspected that one James T. Kirk was on the verge
of a breakdown.
Later, he would tell himself she wouldn't have stayed just for
that. Maybe one night, or a week, even a month--but not almost
two years. Surely not.
That night, it hardly mattered. A drowning man can't afford to
choose his rescuer.
In a month's time they were spending most of their nights together,
and when the silence came for him he would lie awake and listen
to the soft rhythm of her breathing. And then he would sleep,
a blessedly dreamless sleep. He began to believe the strange,
unprecedented panic attacks had disappeared for good.
Shortly thereafter, that proved to be wishful thinking.
He woke gasping, hyperventilating, a stabbing
pain in his head that felt like a blunt needle sunk through his
left eye and into his brain. Lori was shaking him, saying his
"Lights!" she said, and he made an incoherent sound
of protest. Too late. The light stabbed him, drove the needle
in, and he moaned in pain, turned his face against her to hide
from the brutal brightness.
"No... no lights." He could barely get the words out.
"Jesus, Jim, here--" she waved the lights down to a
bare minimum, but it was still too bright. He still couldn't
get enough air. "Computer, atmosphere controls, raise oxygen
mix two levels." She snapped the order out, put her arm
He shuddered and concentrated on trying to breathe for a while,
holding on to her with the grip of a drowning man. She rubbed
his shoulders, held him as his breathing gradually calmed.
"I'm sorry," he said when he could. "I'm all right."
She sat back, hand on the back of his neck. "You sure?"
He nodded. Clammy perspiration cooled on his forehead; he was
shaking. "Yeah, sorry, it... it happens sometimes."
He felt like a fool, could feel his cheeks burning.
"What happens? What the hell was that, Jim? You scared
me half to death."
He drew a steadying breath, closing his eyes against the low
illumination and the fear in her voice. His head still throbbed,
though the pain had receded a little. "Just a nightmare.
I... get them sometimes. It's nothing to worry about."
"Nothing to worry about? Jim, you stopped breathing!"
That made him open his eyes, made him look at her. "What?"
She gave him a hard look in return. "You stopped breathing.
I don't know for how long. I had to slap you to make you wake
He raised a hand to his cheek, registering the warm stinging
of his skin for the first time. He met her green eyes again,
shook his head faintly, not knowing what to say.
"Has this happened before?" she asked quietly, at last.
"Yes, I think so..." He was at a loss. He suddenly
felt unsteady, as if the foundation of his very self were threatening
to give way. "I don't know."
"Well, it seems to me this is a little more than 'nothing
to worry about.' Have you been checked by Doctor Benali?"
The mere thought made him want to shudder. Let some stranger
poke around in his brain, with psionoscanners and hypnotapes
and god knew what else? Not a chance in hell.
He tried to shrug it off casually. "What, for a few bad
dreams? You've got to be kidding." He pulled away from her
a little, swung his feet over the side of the bed. "I'm
just... settling in, that's all."
"Jim... it's been almost eight months."
Her voice was too close in the half-light, too intimate, and
felt like an invasion. "Lori, don't you think you're being
a little bit of an alarmist?" He was sitting on the edge
of the bed, his back to her.
"Frankly...no, I don't. I almost called a med team."
He kept his voice light, not looking at her, not letting her
see the unsteadiness, the irritation. This wasn't something that
he wanted her to examine. The last thing he needed was for her
to turn the laser-fine beam of her curiosity on his psyche. "Look,
I've had these dreams before, and they don't mean anything. I
hardly ever have them any more. Relax, all right?"
He held his breath; at last she said softly, "All right.
Kirk closed his eyes, breathing relief for a split second. Then
he made himself turn, switched on the charm. "Anyway, if
it does happen again, you know what the proper prescription is,
She eyed him warily, but he could see her responding despite
herself; faint color suffused her fair skin. "No, what?"
He turned the smile up a notch, let it go seductive. "Mouth
to mouth resuscitation, of course."
She rolled her eyes, but her mouth twitched with a suppressed
smile. "You are incorrigible, you know that?"
"That's what they tell me." He leaned in for a kiss,
concentrating his not inconsiderable skill on making her forget
the incident had ever happened.
The effort might have proved successful, if it had been the last
time. It wasn't. Over the next three months there were five incidents
that she knew about, and two that she didn't, and while they
didn't come every night any more, the dreams were if anything
more intense, more terrifying. He would wake, sweating and trembling,
unable to remember anything save the suffocating weight of his
own fear. She would hold him and he would let her, and though
she made noise about getting professional help, he always managed
to deflect her concern until the next time.
Always, until the night he had the other dream, and the seams
of his unevenly stitched marriage began to unravel.
It started with some Fleet function he'd been
invited to but couldn't face. They argued. She said he owed it
to his career to make public appearances whenever possible. He
retorted with a cutting remark, one designed to wound-- something
about refusing to glad hand a bunch of admirals who couldn't
make a real decision if the galaxy depended on it. It was a tender
spot with her, he knew; she who had never commanded a ship, and
never would. She stalked out, her face white, and he went out
onto the balcony and listened to the surf, the image of her hurt,
betrayed look refusing to fade.
At last he called himself ten kinds of fool, and resolved himself
to a sincere apology when she returned.
That decided, he went back inside, poured himself a snifter of
brandy and drifted into the darkened living room. The solitude
felt surprisingly welcome. He sipped at the brandy, standing
at the balcony doors, watching the stars come out.
His relationship with Lori was nothing if not volatile. Tonight,
she would come home late, he'd apologize, and they'd make love
with that fierceness he'd found he needed in the months since
she'd made herself a part of his life. He wasn't sure if that
was happiness, or even close to it. But the predictability of
it all felt familiar, comforting... and for the first time since
he'd lost the Enterprise he had begun to think that there were
other kinds of living he could bear.
He hardly ever thought about Spock any more. What would have
been the point?
He pulled Paradise Lost from the shelf, tried to read
for a while. But the argument made him restless; the words didn't
pull him in as they usually did. At last he put the book down,
finished off the brandy and stood, heading for the bedroom.
There he stripped off his tunic, and with it the thick, thermal
undershirt he'd taken to wearing to disguise his weight loss,
put them down the chute. Stretching, feeling the buzz of the
brandy a little, he went into the bathroom. His likeness in the
mirror watched him stretch, watched him come to stand before
the glass. They assessed each other, he and his reflection, sardonically
noting one another's vanity.
The last few months had taken their toll, the cool, calculating
gaze in the mirror said, taking inventory. Muscle weight down.
New lines in a face that for years had belied his age. Skin pale,
hair darker than its usual burnished gold; ironically, now that
he was dirtside all the time he didn't feel much like beaches,
or sunshine. He'd gotten more sun on the occasional landing party.
Eyes too large, cast in shadow by prominent cheekbones sharpened
by weight loss. He looked into those eyes, gave a grim smile,
and man and reflection made identical gestures of derision, a
one-handed insult picked up on some long-ago shore leave, on
some planet he hardly remembered.
He was still a good-looking bastard, and he still thought his
looks bought more trouble than they solved. Less fortunate genes
might have gone a long way towards keeping him out of Nogura's
'golden boy' media hot seat.
Turning away from the mirror before he could get really disgusted
with himself, Kirk finished undressing and turned on the shower.
The water grew hot quickly. He tested the temperature with his
fingertips, found it pleasantly just this side of scalding, and
Hot water rained a soothing rhythm on his skin, driving thought
out of him. He washed his hair, rinsed it, closing his eyes as
the fragrant foam sluiced down his neck, down his back. After
a while, he became aware that the sensual pleasure of the heat
and the sound of the water--and perhaps his earlier thought of
Lori coming home, her green eyes flashing with anger--had produced
a predictable reaction in his body.
He sighed, opened his eyes. He'd always been quick to rise to
any occasion; it didn't take much. It was a part of who he was,
and a lifetime of practice at self-control hadn't changed it.
Sometimes, over the years, he had hated that about himself --that
ready, rampant sexuality he could restrain but never entirely
suppress. The life he'd chosen didn't often allow for that sort
of expression, and there had been a few times when he'd regretted,
afterward, hurting someone he had only wanted to please.
Most of the time, though, he had to admit he'd liked it.
He touched himself casually, with the unselfconsciousness of
a man who has found release alone many times out of necessity.
And his sex grew hard against his palm, and the water came down,
and he leaned against the tile and gave into the compulsion.
As he closed his eyes and stroked himself, slowly, he wasn't
thinking of Lori, of that contest of wills... wasn't thinking
at all. The brandy was still buzzing pleasantly in his head.
All he wanted, suddenly, was not to think... to lose himself
in that hum of pleasure, to just feel unadulteratedly good
for five minutes.
Slow, even strokes, until he was breathing hard with the effort
at control, until all he wanted was to come. And that was what
he had wanted most of all--to feel no pain, no thought, no need
except the pure, animal need for release, no ache except the
deep throb of pleasure in his groin. The simplicity of it was
such a relief that he made himself stop, made himself close strong
fingers on the base of his cock, prolonging the feeling. Not
He had been a starship captain, with all the enforced aloneness
that implied; he was, also, a creature of the senses with a powerful
and consuming sexual energy that might have ruled a man of lesser
determination and self-discipline. He had, consequently, raised
erotic fantasy to an art form over the years. But tonight his
surrender was mindless, blunt, his only focus the rising wave
of pleasure building in groin and thighs. His rhythm was without
subtlety, unthinking. He felt the warning thrum against his fingers,
moaned softly, began to thrust slightly into his caressing hand.
He didn't want to think. Didn't dare think--
It came, then, the memory he'd been holding back, betraying him
in a swift, overwhelming rush of pain and arousal.
The water, yes, and the cool tile against his thighs, the smell
of spiced bath oil, strong hands on his waist, holding him, bending
him over the lip of the tub--for an instant his cock swelled
and throbbed in his hand at the memory, and he sobbed, an incoherent
syllable that might have been a name. Orgasm rushed up, and at
the same time that vast, unbearable emptiness, and involuntarily
his hand closed on his penis like a vise. He cried out in simultaneous
pleasure and anguish. Doubled over.
He didn't come, couldn't, the punishing grip of his own hand
on his betraying sex stemming the orgasm before it could find
release. Dull agony throbbed in his scrotum and up through his
You fool. He isn't coming back. Not ever.
He stood like that for almost a minute, holding himself up with
one hand splayed against the shower wall, before he was at last
able to release that death grip on his own genitals. Pain throbbed
again with the increased blood flow. He moaned, pressed the side
of his face to the tile. The pain in his belly and in his balls
was nothing to the pain in his throat.
At last he straightened, stunned, shocked to his core by what
he had done, by the betrayal of his thoughts, most of all by
the realization that he would have given anything, anything at
all, if he could have made that treacherous memory real.
When the pain in his groin dulled he got out of the shower, went
back into the living room without towel or robe, dripping water
on the carpet in great dark spots--and proceeded to drink himself
Lori came home in the early morning hours, found him drunk, naked,
passed out on the living room sofa. She got a detox into him,
got him to bed somehow, though he did not remember it. In the
morning, she brought him a glass of water and a metastabilizer,
and didn't condemn him. For that, he was deeply grateful. He
hated drinking like that, hated being out of control, which was
why he never did it. She seemed to sense his profound mortification,
for she said nothing about the previous night; when he apologized
for the things he'd said, she accepted his apology with equanimity.
She left him alone for most of the afternoon, going out for provisions
while he brooded in silence, staring at the vid without seeing
That evening, he felt a little better. Lori seemed to sense that
he was hurting, but she didn't try to drag the explanation out
of him. They watched the fire burn down in the fireplace. When
they went to bed, for once she just curled around him and went
That was the last night of peace between them, for when Kirk
slept at last, he dreamed--and not of silence.
Cold terracotta tiles against his feet, and
starlight on his skin.
"Come," the deep voice said, caressing him. "Stand
before the window, so that I may look at you."
He obeyed. He was naked, but the voice warmed him, though he
could not see its owner. He crossed the tiled floor to the window.
The moon shone in through the glass, stretching across the floor
in a shaft of silver. He reached the window, where the shimmer
of light poured in nearly as bright as day. He started to turn.
"No," the voice murmured, behind him, closer. "Do
not move. Let me look at you."
Kirk's pulse beat heavily. Electric anticipation coiled in his
belly, raised the hair on the backs of his thighs. The sound
of that voice was a sweet note in his soul, a dark vibration
in the still air of the room. He shivered slightly, aroused and
He could feel the other's gaze on his skin like a brand, though
he had not turned, and suddenly he wanted more. He put his hands
out, on the sill, spreading himself before the window, thighs
apart, arms braced. The exposed feeling made him tremble, made
him want to sink to his knees in abject offering. "Like
this?" he asked, a hoarse, breathless whisper.
"Oh, yes," came the deep-throated growl, closer still.
"Yes, like that... so beautiful. Let me see you."
Kirk spread his legs further, wanting to whimper from the excruciating
need and vulnerability, choking the sound back before it could
escape. He leaned his forehead against the glass; the coolness
Outside the window, there were stars, and he gazed out into the
glitter of night and lost himself. His need and his desire swept
over him in slow waves, and he wanted to cry from the intensity,
wanted to rub himself against the cool, slick smoothness of the
glass. He did not, waiting for the command from that forest-deep
But instead there was movement, a reflection. His breath caught.
He turned his head in time to see the gleam of moonlight on raven-dark
hair, as the reflection bent its head and dry, heated softness
brushed his nape.
It was electric, it was exquisite, it was hot melting running
through his veins and nerves until he was nothing but light.
He moaned aloud, swayed, and strong arms wrapped around him from
behind, supported him when his knees gave out.
Hot mouth at his throat. Searing, branding heat against his back,
his thighs, pressing slickly into his most secret places. Then
the heat opened him up, filled him, driving into him in one,
smooth stroke, and he sobbed brokenly. "Spock. Spock."
"Yes." Flaying him, to the bone. "Jim."
One slow, powerful wave surging up, up, and a second, stronger
still, until Kirk could not bear the beautiful agony of it any
more. "Oh. Oh. God." He shuddered, and shuddered again,
afraid, on the precipice of release and unable to let go. The
pleasure was going to shatter him. "Spock--"
"Jim." Breath hot on his ear, his neck, teeth and tongue
at his nape, the heat sundering him down the center, rending
And then Kirk was over the edge, was shattering, falling, splintering
into a thousand shards of diamond glass and stars, falling at
the other's feet. He cried out, a deep, aching cry, a plea for
mercy. Too much. He couldn't bear it.
Just before he woke, there was a whisper, and he did not know
which one of them said the words: Don't leave me.
The dream slipped from his grasp.
"I'm here. I'm right here."
Lori. Waking him, her hand on his forehead, stroking his hair
back. Her arms around him, holding him too tight. "It's
all right now--"
He sat up, shuddered, trying to shake her off. The smothering
feeling was threatening to close down. He was cold, and damp,
and shaking--and for a second he didn't understand why.
And then he did.
He moaned faintly in mortified distress and pushed her away,
pushed himself to the edge of the bed. The damp sheets clung
to him; the air was cold and made him break out in goose bumps.
He was very aware of the sticky fluid on his belly, his thighs,
his chest--jesus, he had come in his sleep, like a teenager.
What was happening to him?
"Jim--" Lori tried to hold him there, her hand on his
arm, but he shook her off and got up. For a second he stood swaying
in the darkness, trying to clear his head.
He was having trouble breathing. But it was different this time--not
like he couldn't get enough air, but more like his lungs were
being compressed by some terrible external pressure. Lori was
saying something, but he didn't hear her, couldn't respond. He
stumbled in the dark and made for the bathroom.
He thought he was going to be sick, but when he got to the bathroom
and palmed the lights on, stood over the commode, nothing happened.
He stood there for a long time. Finally he drew a breath and
looked down at the evidence of his dream, dried on his pale skin.
Stumbling with weariness, he turned on the shower and got under
it. As he did, he heard Lori's voice from the other side of the
"Jim? You okay?"
He closed his eyes, weary to his soul. "Yes, fine,"
he lied, knowing she would hear the lie and not caring. What
was he supposed to say? Yes, fine, except I can't breathe a lot
of the time and I think I'm going crazy, and I'm having incredibly
erotic dreams about a man I'm never going to see again?
Suddenly the breath went out of him, and the strength, and he
had to put out a hand to keep from falling. And before he understood
what was happening the first sob escaped him.
It sounded ominous, a portent of others to follow, and he knew
dimly that it had been too loud--that she had heard. For a moment,
he thought it would not matter. He would let go, would cry finally
for lost chances and for loneliness, for want of a soul's comfort
he would never know again.
But the pattern of a lifetime went too deep. Impossible to let
go. Impossible, here, now, where she would hear, would know.
He would never be able to face her again. A starship captain
can't afford to cry, and so he didn't; he knew then, at last,
that he never would.
Kirk turned the water cold, and colder still, and when the heat
and tightness subsided, he turned it off and got out of the shower.
She had changed the sheets. He saw it at once. She was sitting
on the edge of the bed, her robe pulled tight around her, watching
him with a closed wariness in her face that she tried to hide
behind a smile of reassurance. That look, or perhaps the defensive
posture, perversely filled him with a sudden, irrational anger.
He caught himself on the point of lashing out, stopping in the
doorway and holding himself very still. Get out, he wanted to
cry at her, beg her. Get out, get out, get out.
Not fair, his brutally just conscience told him sternly, not
fair. Not her fault. Not any of it.
The new sheets were neat, smooth and pristine, shaming him.
"You all right?" she asked, too casually.
He couldn't meet her eyes. He nodded, but his jaw clenched. He
knew he ought to shrug it off, ought to make light of the whole
thing. A joke. Turn it into a joke. He could laugh it off and
she would say, hey, it happens to lots of men, and they could
forget about it. But the muscles of his back knotted further
and he couldn't make the words come.
"Jim." Her voice was quiet. Too quiet, as if she were
talking to a crazy person who might snap at any moment. "Come
on, let's talk about it."
Panic welled up in Kirk. No, please, I can't bear this. Please.
He swallowed against it. "I don't think there's anything
to talk about." He turned away, heading for the door, then
hesitated halfway, back still turned. "I'm sorry."
His voice was low, steady, a miracle. He moved again toward the
door, and escape.
"Hey." Her voice rose a little, stopping him. "Where
do you think you're going? I don't want an apology, I want an
Kirk felt the blood drain from his face. He sucked in a breath
and turned on her before he could temper his raw response. "An
She met his eyes with her chin up. "Don't I deserve one?"
"Dammit, Lori--I don't have one!" He heard his own
desperation, willed her to hear it. Please.
But her face set in determined lines. "Look. I'm not upset."
Lie, he could see that even through his own distress. "I'm
not mad. I just want to know the score. I think I deserve to
know what that was all about." She was trying hard for that
just-right tone of tolerant understanding, but not quite making
Kirk squared his shoulders, felt himself shaking. He needed to
get out of here. He spread his hands helplessly. "What the
hell do you want me to say?"
"How about the truth, for starters? Why didn't you tell
me about him?"
Ice laced in ribbons down Kirk's spine. "What did you say?"
"Him. Spock." She stabbed him with the name, an accusation.
Her voice was low, mild and deadly, a tone a starship captain
"What about him?" Kirk managed, voice barely audible.
She was on her feet then, fists clenched. "Don't play games
with me. You said his name, Jim." Her breath caught. "When
you were--you said his name. I heard you. Your first officer,
a Vulcan..." she shook her head, her eyes full. "Why
didn't you tell me?"
"What was I supposed to tell you?" It came out like
a snarl. "It was nothing that concerned you." He turned
away again, unable to bear the hurt betrayal in her face.
"You don't think so?" she said, a whisper.
He closed his eyes, sinking deeper into self-loathing, so deep
he didn't know if he'd ever surface from it. "Lori--it's
nothing to do with you. Leave it alone. Please."
He heard her crossing the room, a soft swish of satin, drawing
near. "That's bullshit," she said gently. "Jim,
come on. Of course it affects me. I love you." He started,
involuntarily turned to look at her. Love me? he thought, before
he could stop himself. Lady, you don't even know me.
She took his hand, and hers was fever-hot. He realized dimly
that he must feel like an icicle to her. All the blood in his
body had raced to his pounding heart. "Don't panic, Admiral,"
she said dryly, "it's not fatal. But when you're having
fantasies like that about your former first officer, I certainly
think it affects me."
He pulled his hand out of her grasp, trying to tell himself it
wasn't panic that made him take a step away from her. That it
wasn't panic suffocating him, making his heart pound against
his ribs. Desperation rose, and he was helpless to stop it. "Don't.
I don't want to talk about it. He's gone. He's out of Starfleet.
I'm never going to see him again." He saw her green eyes
go wide, and realized he'd said too much. His control snapped.
"What the hell does it matter?"
She was pale, looking at him as if he'd suddenly started speaking
another language. "You tell me."
Too much. Too much that she should know, that she should see
him like this. The longing for what he could not have welled
up suddenly, nearly overwhelming him. He'd been able to deal
with it as long as he could deny it, bury it, keep it hidden
away and safe. But now the name was out, in the open, suspended
between them--a truth he didn't know how to face. Spock. The
dream swept over him in all its vivid detail. "It doesn't
matter any more," he whispered, all he could manage. His
loneliness in that moment was all-consuming.
Lori was staring at him now, the woman's eyes narrowing with
the look of the vice admiral. "Wait a minute. Wait just
a minute." She backed up a step, letting his hand go. "Just
what is he to you?"
Despair, undiluted, welled up. "Nothing. He's nothing to
"I don't believe you."
"Believe what you want!"
He backed off fast, trembling, turning once more for the door.
"I told you to leave it alone," he grated out.
The accusation of her disbelief followed him. "A Vulcan,
Jim? Your first officer for God's sake?"
"What does that matter?" Kirk snapped. "There's
no regulation against it." He heard his own voice as if
from a great distance.
Her shocked silence came down like a door slamming, and he couldn't
look at her. He took another blind step toward the door.
"It wasn't just a fantasy, was it?" she asked at last.
He kept moving. Didn't answer her.
He stopped on the threshold, held by the small, vulnerable sound
of her voice. Closed his eyes. He'd never wanted to hurt her.
"Tell me the truth." There was a pause, and he heard
her swallow, close behind him. Could smell the scent of her shampoo.
"Do you love him?"
Kirk moved then, out of the room, out of the flat. Kept moving
down the stairs and out into the night, fleeing the woman and
his own cowardice.
Though it took her more than a year to get around to leaving
him, he would always know that he had given her the first hard
push toward the door the night he woke to find his own spent
fluid drying on his belly, Spock's name on his lips.
Spock turned his eyes to the sky, where T'Kuht
loomed, immense and threatening. On this day, she circled closer
to her sister world than on any other day of the Vulcan year.
She blotted out the sun.
This morning, out on the Forge, he had found signs of new growth:
succulent pasha weed and winter sage. Dark green and gray were
the colors of winter on the planet of his birth. Dark green for
the desert plants which grew for only a few weeks of the year;
gray for the sky, cast in perpetual twilight by the shadow of
T'Kuht, and for the sporadic, rare fog which occurred occasionally
during those few weeks. This day marked precisely two Vulcan
years since his arrival at the gates of Gol. He had lived two
cycles of the Eridani calendar at the mountain retreat, learning
just how far from the ideals of his youth he had fallen.
He couldn't quite prevent the thought: on Earth's northern hemisphere,
it would be winter soon, too.
Spock knelt at the altar, testing the memories of his striving,
probing for hidden weakness. The path he had traveled stretched
out behind him, rocky and treacherous, stained with his heart's
blood. He had survived it; he had won. When Eridani touched the
tip of Seleya, T'Sai would come with the other Masters, and they
would make him one of them. The surface of his thoughts, as he
waited there on the ancient stones, shone clear and laser-bright
with the precision of his control.
He did not need to think of what might have been. He certainly
was not thinking of him. No, not now. Not after he had
come so far.
Spock knelt, and waited, and did not think of him. Not his name,
not his face, not the memory of his body or his voice. Most especially
not the memory of the aching oneness that owned him whenever
their minds touched.
As he had a thousand times in the past, he made the denial a
weapon against the longing and need. He turned his face to the
sky, did not look to the west, to where the light of a small
and unremarkable yellow star could sometimes be seen. It was
a test. As he had a thousand times, he conquered the compulsion;
he did not look.
But in that moment of perfect concentration, that wrenching effort
of will, in his desperation to make it true, Spock unknowingly
stripped his naked soul bare to the universe, and touched a vast
and kindred loneliness...
It was the quiet that woke him.
That, and the empty bed.
The bed was an antique, from his mother's farmhouse. For a time
it had reminded him of childhood, of nights when his father was
away and he and his brother had climbed under the covers with
Mom and listened to the rain. Now, waking, he stretched his toes
into the cool spaces of the unmussed side and rolled into the
middle, telling himself that it was nice to have the extra room
in the huge four-poster. But the house was too quiet, and he
had spent too many years confined to a narrow bunk. This bed
didn't fit him any more.
James Kirk opened his eyes to gray morning light and swung his
feet to the floor.
His toes sank into the small rug, and that was good, so he decided
he would get up and make some coffee, maybe go read for a while
in the solarium. Somewhere he was laughing at himself, at the
momentous decisions he was making these days, but the laughter
was painful and he decided not to think about it today. Tomorrow,
He padded down the hallway and into the living room, and when
he got there he looked out the great bay window and realized
what the quiet meant.
It was snowing.
Had been snowing for a while, apparently. A good six inches lay
on the porch railing, and everything outside was cloaked in white.
Across the meadow, twelve thousand feet of mountain had disappeared,
obscured by the thickly falling flakes.
There was still enough of the little boy in him that he felt
a rush of excitement at the sight of all that unmarred whiteness.
He thought about breaking out the skis and seeing how far he
could get before noon. The exercise certainly wouldn't hurt,
and it would give him something to do, something to keep his
mind occupied. He thought about coming home exhausted from a
day of skiing, collapsing into that humongous bed, sleeping like
a baby. The thought was a pleasant one, and he felt better. He
stood watching the snow for a while, until his stomach growled,
and then he went into the kitchen.
The tile chilled the soles of his feet. He gave a passing thought
to his slippers, which he'd left next to the bed, then decided
to endure the hardship and suffer bravely. He crossed the immense
kitchen and got the coffee beans out of the freezer and put them
into the brewer. He took a slice of bread from a paper wrapper
and put it into the warmer. Then he stood at the kitchen window,
gazing into the silent, moving whiteness while the beans became
coffee, while the bread became toast.
Two months now, he thought, surprised to realize it had only
been that long since Lori had left him. It seemed like another
She'd gone without a fuss, an anticlimactic finish to the long
chain of explosive scenes which had unfurled between them these
last months. That had thrown him off, at first. He hadn't really
believed her. Coming home to find her standing calmly in the
front hallway of their San Francisco townhouse--with her things
arrayed neatly around her--he hadn't, at first, understood.
"What's going on?" His first thought had been of Nogura.
Had she been reassigned?
She'd only looked at him. "I think it's time we stopped
punishing each other, don't you?"
She had sighed. "Jim, you act like this is a complete surprise."
"Lori...what are you saying?" But he'd begun to get
Her green eyes had met his levelly, utterly without guile. "I'm
leaving. I've had enough." For a brief instant, some flicker
of sadness, something, had touched her generous mouth. "Haven't
And he guessed that he had, because he had let her go without
more than a token protest. The transporter had taken her and
all her belongings in one neat, surgical extraction. Convenient,
that. No long drawn out scenes, no messy logistics. Just gone,
as if she had never been there, never shared a life with him
for the better part of two years.
He thought now that her chill calm, and his own, was the most
telling thing of all. The anger had killed all other feeling
between them, and then finally burned itself out, until apathy
was all that remained. The anger--his, that she couldn't be what
he needed; hers, that he needed someone she wasn't.
Two months. It might as well have been two years; he already
felt like it had been some other man who'd cared for her, some
other man who'd failed her. He didn't feel too terribly much
about her absence, except that it was harder to keep his thoughts
from drifting now that he was alone. He supposed he missed her.
It was strange being up at the cabin by himself--he hadn't done
that in years.
He thought, idly, that it might be nice to get a dog. A big wolfhound,
maybe, or a Great Dane.
The brewer finished and presented him with a steaming mug of
dark liquid. The coffee smelled good--delicious, actually. He
added a large spoonful of sugar, stirring, and carried toast
and coffee back across the kitchen and the living room to the
Outside, the snow fell thickly, showing no signs of slowing.
White and silent, it crept up the window, up the side of the
house. He watched the deep drift on the sill work its way slowly
up the other side of the glass. The silence suddenly felt oppressive,
as if there were nowhere on Earth that snow did not fall... as
if he were alone in all the world. He shivered.
Kirk knew this silence. It knew him. Once, it had almost beaten
Easy enough now to see how close he had been to the edge, those
nights in the beginning when he would wake choking, unable to
breathe, the silence smothering him so vividly that he could
not shake the feeling for hours afterward. Easy enough to see
how badly he had needed someone to hold on to, someone to stop
that downward slide--how Lori had been that someone, and that
had been enough for him at first.
A faint teasing of chicory reached his nostrils as he lifted
the steaming mug to his lips, and Kirk closed his eyes briefly,
inhaling, taking a swallow of the bitter, sweet liquid. The taste
of it on his tongue was another memory, lazy oak trees and Spanish
moss and warm spring rain in a brick courtyard. The image was
bittersweet, too, seductive--and so much sharper than the one
of Lori leaving that he had to open his eyes again.
Kirk gazed out into Colorado winter, reminding himself forcefully
of the vast spaces which stretched between that day and this,
more than distance, more than time. It was an unbridgeable chasm.
He knew it was only ordinary loneliness that made him think of
New Orleans now.
He told himself that his ego had been bruised by Lori's departure
and he wasn't used to the solitude, that was all. He told himself
that it would do him no good to dredge up the old pain now. That
had been another, younger self, staggering under the weight of
all he had lost. Another Jim Kirk who had nearly let despair
drag him under. Nearly three years insulated him from the events
of that day, the day he had turned and left the best friend he'd
ever known standing on a transporter platform under a cloudless
In the end it was the snow, and the insular, suffocating silence
that conquered him. Like an animal worrying a wound, he touched
the memory at his core; he leaned forward, pressed his forehead
to the cold window and closed his eyes. The sharp stab of pain
centered in his heart, a hurt he knew too well. It was not new.
At last, angry with himself for the self-indulgence, he drew
a breath, held it, held the smothering panic at bay. As he had
taught himself over the years he visualized the pain as a rift
slowly closing, a river slowly running dry. Named the silence
and made himself face it. It receded, and he breathed again.
He straightened, taking a sip of his coffee--and made a face.
It was stone cold.
How long had he been standing at the window? The drifts on the
deck outside said it had been far too long. He set the cup down
on the windowsill with a decisive thump.
Come on, Kirk. You're stronger than this.
Successfully banishing the memory, he felt better, new confirmation
of the truth he had always known; he was a survivor, and nothing
could touch him. Those first months at the admiralty had been
bad ones, yes--but he had survived. He had won. This little ritual
of proving his invincibility was the reason he drank chicory
coffee with sugar, the reason he had come up to the cabin alone,
sleeping in that ridiculous bed, trial by fire.
He had been a starship captain. Nothing could touch him.
After a time of gazing out at the soft blanket of white, the
almost impenetrable falling curtain of snow, he caught himself
thinking that one could easily get turned around in that whiteout.
With no other houses around for twenty kilometers, a man alone
could wander in that silent blindness until he stumbled into
a hidden crevice or ravine and froze to death.
Behind him, the clock on the mantel ticked too loudly. He sat
in the bay window, whiteness on three sides of him, breathing
in the aroma of another time and place and listening to the clock
which was too loud, the house which was too quiet, until the
voice of the starship captain told him he'd been listening long
Just lose your bearings for a moment, that voice was saying,
and you could be in real trouble alone in a snowstorm like that.
He set the plate of cold toast on the windowsill, beside the
cup of equally cold coffee.
Went to find his skis.
On the mountain, T'Sai looked into Spock's
mind and laid bare his soul, and all turned to dust in the space
of a heartbeat.
His control had faltered only for a moment. One brief instant
in which he permitted himself the name, one rush of longing for
an unconditional acceptance he would never know again. How could
he know the name was all it would take? That the price he'd paid
in heart's blood could not buy his freedom after all? For with
the name came the need, and so he reached--and touched a vast,
searching consciousness of a being that could only echo his loneliness
a thousand fold.
In that moment, the High Master knew him; she turned away, leaving
the emblem of his inadequacy shattered on the stones behind her.
For a long time, Spock stood in the place of his failure and
despaired. But slowly he became aware that he had seen in the
brief, piercing touch of the being's ordered thoughts the shape
of a purpose, a driving need that had the third planet of a small
yellow star as its goal.
He knew fear, then, and certainty. In the face of such a threat,
there was only one champion Starfleet would choose to send. One
ship, and one captain.
Intersection of needs, singularity of purpose.
He looked, then, toward the place where the faint yellow star
had been, low in the western sky. It was gone; the dawn had come.
Kirk made it as far as the mud room before
he fully registered it: the faint chiming he had mistakenly dismissed
as the belling of the mantel clock. The sound nagged at him,
and he paused in the doorway.
Half turning, he cocked his head to listen. The insistent sound
came again. It was coming from the study, he realized.
The emergency signal.
He felt a thrill of apprehension, a rising of the hair on the
back of his neck, a quickening of his pulse. The sensations were
at once so foreign and so overwhelmingly, wonderfully familiar
that for an instant he only stood frozen in the doorway, transfixed
by it. How long had it been since he had felt like this?
Adrenaline sang in his veins, seducing him with its call to action.
He turned back into the house, his excitement fiercely controlled
to a deliberate stride. It carried him down the front hall, back
through the living room, past the bedroom and into the study.
Ghost shadows of gray light made the usually inviting room strangely
colorless, the tiny red beacon of the alert signal casting its
urgency in regular pulses across the hardwood floor. He crossed
the room toward it. As he did so, his body passed through the
pinpoint beam, activating the desk terminal.
"Prepare to receive incoming transmission, coded per Admiral
Nogura," came from the speaker, the human-yet-not- human
voice of the computer.
"Acknowledged. Authorization Kirk, Admiral James T. Proceed."
"Stand by for retina scan." The terminal scanner traced
his optic lens. After a pause which lasted less than a second,
the screen cleared.
And in his study as the snow fell all around, Kirk learned of
the ominous shadow which had fallen over Earth while he slept.