Surrender

by Killa

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is a little bit rougher than my usual, so be warned. It is written out of my own convictions and my own feelings about trust, about submission and control. This is not a story about force. But if you have difficulty with the concept of dominance and submission as a plausible dynamic in a loving, trusting relationship, this story is not for you. Some alterations have been made to this story since its original posting, but not enough to call it "revised," I think.

"You look like a man with a problem, Mr. Spock."

The first officer of the Enterprise started. Leonard McCoy stood next to his table, dinner tray propped against one hip. Spock was somewhat chagrined to realize that he had just been caught staring at nothing, empty fork in hand, in the middle of the mess hall. How long had been sitting like that? He hadn't even seen the doctor come in.

"Doctor," he said by way of greeting, ignoring the question that hadn't been a question.

"Mind if I join you?" McCoy's tray was already on its way toward the table.

Spock inclined his head. Pointless to argue. The doctor had his diagnostic expression on, the one Jim said reminded him of a bloodhound on the scent.

McCoy sat in the chair opposite, began removing his repast from the tray. "So you just woolgathering, or is it something more serious?"

Spock gave the doctor his most innocent look. "'Wool gathering,' Doctor? Shall I assume that this is yet another of your colorful expressions that I am not meant to take literally?"

But McCoy did not rise to the bait--and Spock knew that he was in trouble. The doctor was most dangerous when he was at his most patient. "You know perfectly well what I mean." McCoy lifted his fork and began poking at his spinach salad. "Since when do you let me sneak up on you like that? You were a million miles away."

While the doctor considered his dinner, Spock considered the doctor. He was reluctant to get into this with McCoy, now, when they still had unfinished business between them. But realistically, he could not simply get up and walk out of the mess. It would be too much of a concession--and walking out on two conversations in as many days would set off McCoy's professional red alert for sure. Perhaps the better part of valor should dictate his actions this evening. He'd already proven that when it came to personal matters, simply ordering McCoy to back off did no good. Perhaps it would be safer to maintain calm and humor him.

Indeed, the man might actually be of some assistance. After all, McCoy was Kirk's friend, too.

Spock glanced at the nearby tables, making certain there were no crew members within earshot. There were none; it was late for alpha shift's supper hour, and most of gamma shift was still sleeping. The room was deserted. At last he sighed quietly and put down his fork. "I am forced to admit, I may be out of my depth."

The doctor looked up, surprised. "You, Spock? I wouldn't have thought it possible."

Spock tilted his head slightly, his equivalent of a shrug. "One cannot excel in everything one attempts."

McCoy snorted. "Since when? I always thought perfection was your goal in life."

"Naturally. Is it not yours?"

"Not hardly. My goal in life is to drive you crazy, didn't you know that?"

"Ah. Well, in that case, you are to be commended."

McCoy grunted, obviously amused and trying not to give Spock the satisfaction of knowing it. "Now I can die a happy man."

The Vulcan watched him take a bite of the salad, watched him chew it thoughtfully. Spock's own appetite had been small tonight to begin with, and now it was nonexistent. That was nothing new, though... he'd been finding food unappealing for some weeks now. He'd only come to the mess hall tonight because he had hoped to find Jim here.

As if reading the thought, the blue eyes came to rest on him once more. "Where's Jim tonight, anyway?"

Spock blinked, suspected that he'd given himself away when the other's gaze sharpened. He kept his answer neutral. "He was here earlier, but said that he and Mr. Scott had some things to go over before shift change."

The doctor scowled. "He's already been on duty for twelve hours today. What's so important that he couldn't even take time off for supper?"

Spock could not answer that. The truth was that he suspected very strongly that Kirk had been lying to him about his reason for leaving the mess hall when he had. It was that suspicion which had distracted the Vulcan to the point of forgetting his surroundings a few minutes before. To the best of his knowledge, in three years of friendship Kirk had never lied to him outright.

McCoy leaned forward slightly. "What is it? There's something you're not telling me."

Spock suppressed the urge to sigh again. "I am... concerned about him, Doctor. His detachment seems to be growing more pronounced, rather than lessening with time."

"What makes you say that? Not that I'm disagreeing with you--I'm not. I'm just surprised that he's let you see it."

"He believes I am unaware of the problem."

McCoy nodded, took a sip of coffee. "Yeah, he thinks he's got everybody hornswoggled. Damn fool. What happened tonight, specifically?"

"Nothing, specifically. Simply that he was... uncomfortable with me." As if he feared that I might ask him questions he did not want to answer, Spock thought, did not say. He was remembering the way Jim had fidgeted when Spock had made his clumsy offer of a chess game. They had not played in more than a month. Spock had hoped that if he could get Kirk alone, perhaps his captain would talk to him about what was so obviously eating at him. But when he pressed the issue, Kirk had bolted, with only a clumsy attempt at an excuse.

"Well, that's certainly not the norm," McCoy agreed, his eyes on his plate. "You two are usually thick as thieves."

There was a knowing undercurrent to the words, and Spock felt his face start to heat. He willed the reaction down. He wanted to talk about Jim, and what was troubling his captain--most emphatically did not want a return to the aborted conversation he and McCoy had begun on the observation deck the night before.

"Doctor..." he began warningly.

"Relax, Spock. I'm not gonna push you." Yet, seemed to hang in the air after his statement.

Spock had to take a deep breath to maintain his air of calm. "What is your analysis of the captain's mental state, Doctor?"

McCoy frowned at him. "You know I haven't done a psych exam on him."

"Very well. What is your opinion of the captain's mental state, then?"

"My opinion...? You asking me as his friend, or as his doctor?"

"Either." Spock met his eyes. "Both."

"Not good," McCoy said without hesitation.

"Specify."

"I can't, without an exam. But," he forestalled Spock's protest, "I can tell you that I've got him under observation. First indication I get that this... funk he's in is affecting his command performance, I'll have him down for an exam before you can say Jack Sprat."

Spock quelled a surge of very unVulcan annoyance. "You do not feel the problem is severe enough to warrant your involvement?"

"Spock, you're not hearing me. I feel the problem is deeper, and more serious, than he's willing to acknowledge. But until I have some outward indication that something is wrong, something besides a friend's intuition--I can't evaluate just how serious it is. I can't order him to come to me for help. Not if he's still functioning at peak efficiency." His gaze was piercing. "Is he?"

Spock hesitated, but there could be only one answer to that. "More than ever."

"Well then."

"Can you not speak with him, Doctor? As his friend?"

McCoy set his coffee mug down with a thump. "Where've you been for the past three weeks, Spock? Don't you think I've been trying? He won't sit still long enough for me to say hello."

"There must be some action that we can take."

The blue eyes stabbed him. "You're his best friend. Can't you talk to him?"

Spock wanted to look away, didn't dare. The man saw too much. "I have tried, also."

McCoy blinked. Then he relaxed, and started picking at his dinner again. "Gotten anywhere?"

"Nowhere of consequence. He avoids me." He wouldn't speak the other truth--that he himself had done his own share of avoiding, of late. That his own pain sometimes made being in James Kirk's presence... difficult. "When he cannot avoid me, he simply pretends that I am imagining a problem where there is none."

McCoy looked up sharply at that. "What do you mean?"

Spock steepled his hands, summoning Vulcan calm against the memory of the thoroughness with which Kirk had shut him out. "When I tried to speak with him about what happened on Theta Aurigae, he told me I was 'dwelling' and walked out of the room." He met the doctor's worried gaze. "Once, I attempted to talk to him about Miss Keeler."

McCoy's voice was hardly more than a whisper. "What did he say?"

"He said, 'It's best forgotten, Spock.' And then he began questioning me about the latest efficiency ratings."

"Hmm. And then he turns around and works one twelve hour shift after another, with a sixteen-hour stretch thrown in here and there for variety."

"Yes. And his own efficiency rating this quarter was the highest it has ever been."

"Well, no wonder."

They were both silent for a long moment.

"Doctor," Spock began, finally voicing his reluctant suspicion. "Do you believe there is more to what happened on Theta Aurigae than we have been told?" He spoke carefully. He was, in effect, accusing his captain of possibly lying in a mission report. But it was a dread he'd lived with too long.

The doctor's autopsies had showed that many of the dead hostages had been raped, or worse. Was it possible...? He choked that back as he had a hundred times in the past weeks, refused to let the thought complete itself.

McCoy looked thoughtful, then finally shook his head. "Spock, I don't know. That could be it. But also, it might just have been the straw that broke the camel's back. Look at what he's been through in the past two months. Edith, his brother..." He broke off, but Spock heard the words he didn't say. Saw the memory of the koon-ut-kalifee like an afterimage, red and smothering. "And then losing those hostages... Any one of those things might be enough to knock down an ordinary man. We've got no way of knowing what's really eating at him unless he tells us."

"But he refuses." It came out a whisper, and Spock immediately cursed his failure to control.

For now McCoy was looking at him, reading him like a book. "What about you? Do you want to talk about what we talked about the other evening...?"

Spock had to act swiftly to keep the surge of anger from showing in his face.

"You know I do not."

"I know no such thing."

"You presume too much, McCoy." He started to rise.

"Now, Spock, you don't have to run out on me. I'm your friend, too, dammit. I'm just trying to help."

Spock only looked at him, thinking, you cannot help me. No one can help me.

"It might help you to talk about it," McCoy said softly, nothing but compassion in his gaze.

"There is nothing to talk about."

McCoy leaned back in his chair, one eyebrow arching. "Then why couldn't you answer me last night?"

Spock felt the blood staining his cheeks despite his best efforts to stop it. He could not have said why he did not simply terminate this invasive conversation. Could it be that McCoy was right--that he needed a confessor after all? "A Vulcan does not speak of such things," he said, the old defense.

"Bullshit."

"Doctor--"

"Mr. Spock," McCoy said evenly, voice pitched low, "you may not realize it, but you are doing a lousy job of pretending that everything is business as usual. If Jim wasn't working so hard at shutting us both out, he'd already be on to you."

Shocked, Spock had no answer for that.

"It's written all over you, Spock," the doctor finished gently.

His compassion felt like the tiny jabs of needles in soft, vulnerable tissue.

The Vulcan wanted to argue, wanted to deny the truth of it. Wanted most of all to escape the man's brutal understanding. But he was an insect, pinned.

"I shall have to transfer," he whispered at last, in despair.

Anger flashed in the blue eyes. "You want to kick him while he's down?"

"Better that than the alternative."

"Better for you, you mean."

"For him."

But McCoy was shaking his head. "Wrong on both counts. Spock, the absolute worst thing you could do right now is run out on him with no explanation. He needs you. You're his friend."

The despair welled up, a pressure on his throat. "In my current state, I cannot be. You have just said so yourself."

McCoy opened his mouth, and Spock thought that the CMO would yell at him, openly, right here in the mess hall. But the doctor apparently thought better of whatever he would have said, for he closed his mouth, and leaned forward. "Your 'current state,' Spock? You make it sound like a disease."

"Is it not?"

To Spock's surprise, that evoked a lopsided, sympathetic smile. "Maybe." McCoy sobered. "Spock, we're talkin' about your life here." Spock gave the man a look which he hoped drew blood. But the doctor was unrepentant. "And sooner or later, he's gonna figure it out, just like I did. It's not that difficult to see."

The Vulcan wished, fleetingly and fervently, that the deck would open up and swallow one of them--he wasn't particular about which. What had he done, to be cursed with this perceptive, affable, dangerous nemesis?

"Doctor... it is his life, too."

"Exactly my point. He deserves to know."

"Either way," the Vulcan whispered, looking at his hands, "he shall lose his best friend."

McCoy's voice was gentle. "It doesn't have to be that way. He's not going to hate you, you know."

"Are you certain? I am not." Spock heard the quiet agony he could not hide, and closed his eyes.

"Spock."

At last, reluctantly, the Vulcan looked up.

"What I'm certain of is this: he needs help. You might be the only one who can give it. We've seen already that it's going to take drastic measures to get through to him. Maybe..."

Spock was staring at him in disbelief.

"...well, you have to admit, it might shake him out of his funk."

"It might also cause him to throw me bodily out of his quarters." Somewhere, a warning bell went off. His quarters? When had he begun visualizing a setting for this impossible scenario?

"Look. Do you want to help him or not?" McCoy didn't wait for an answer. "How can you expect him to be honest with you if you can't be honest with him?"

Spock was silent for long moments, struggling with the inherent truth of the doctor's words. The kalifee burned scarlet behind his eyes, a stark memory of fever breaking, Jim's brightness under his hands, fading to darkness, and the realization--

McCoy was correct, of course; his secret was obvious enough. The evidence was his very continued existence, when by all rights he should be dead or married to a woman he hardly knew. Still, he had not expected anyone else to see it.

Live long and prosper, Spock.

I shall do neither...

He found himself meeting McCoy's gaze, seeing reflected there compassion without limit, understanding--and wisdom he could not deny.

The doctor glanced at the wall clock, and back at him, and his expression shifted into something like a smile. A challenge. "Twenty-two thirty, Spock," he said softly. "He'll still be awake."

Spock considered that in silence, wondering if they had both lost their reasoning. Tell him? Now, when the last thing he needed was Spock's burdens added to his own?

Impossible.

The Vulcan swallowed, drew a deep breath, and released it. Looked up. "Doctor, if he cannot... if he will not accept it..."

"He might surprise you."

"...he will need a friend." Spock was finding it difficult to say the words. The reality of what he was considering made it hard to breathe properly. "Will you... be that to him?" He knew what he was really asking, knew that McCoy knew it, too. If he should turn away from me...

"Are you making me a deal, Spock?" McCoy asked, smiling a little, painfully.

Spock realized that his hands had drawn into fists under the table. He made them relax. "Perhaps."

After a moment McCoy nodded, once. His eyes were bright. "Well all right, my friend," he said seriously. "You're on."

The sound of the door buzzer startled James Kirk out of the familiar waking nightmare, and back to reality. Irritated, he glanced at the chrono. Who could it be, at this hour? Then he knew: McCoy. The doctor had been making ominous noises about him coming down to Sickbay to 'chew the fat,' which Kirk had translated as, 'let me dissect your psyche for a little while, Jim, just for grins.' For a moment he considered ignoring the signal--but if he did, the doctor would probably have the entire med staff searching the ship before morning.

Kirk lay on his bunk and stared at the ceiling, counting slowly to ten. No choice but to face the music. Better to do it calmly.

At last he blew out a breath, cursing, and swung his feet to the floor. He ignored his tunic and boots where he'd left them, padding to the door in bare feet. He'd pretend that he'd been sleeping. Maybe the doctor would leave him alone for tonight, at least. As the door slid open, he yawned strategically and tried to look bleary.

Except it wasn't McCoy at the door. It was Spock.

Relieved, he started to smile--and then he remembered the way he'd run out on the Vulcan earlier in the evening, and the smile faltered. For a long moment their eyes met, held. Kirk felt an unsteadiness somewhere, a warm flush like embarrassment. Then the name was past his lips. "Spock?"

The dark gaze lowered for a fraction of an instant, perhaps noting his bare feet, his missing gold shirt. In spite of the fact that he was quite decently clad in uniform trousers and black regulation t-shirt, Kirk suddenly felt... unkempt. Spock, as always, was neatly pressed and impeccable.

"Captain, forgive me. Have I disturbed you?"

Kirk realized, with a little jolt of insight, that McCoy wasn't the only one who was worried about him. The realization made him feel both guilty and oddly pleased. "No, Spock, you didn't wake me. I was just reading. What is it?"

The Vulcan glanced once down the corridor, not immediately answering. Kirk frowned. What exactly was this odd tension he was sensing in his friend? They were both speaking in low tones, for no real reason except perhaps the lateness of the hour. For a moment, he had the strange feeling that he was dreaming.

The dark eyes returned to his, shuttered and unreadable. "Jim, may I come in for a moment?"

Kirk was nonplused. "Well... of course. Please." He moved aside. Spock went past him into the tiny office area of his quarters, stood there for a moment. The door slid shut, and they were alone.

Kirk took a step toward his enigmatic visitor, the dreamlike feeling getting stronger. The Vulcan was looking about the room as if he'd never seen it before--as if he'd forgotten why he'd come. "Did you want to talk to me about something?" Kirk asked finally.

Spock looked at him then, but still didn't say anything. Kirk realized that his heart was beating faster than normal. To steady himself, he went to the food synthesizer and keyed in a request for coffee. What was wrong with him? He could feel the Vulcan's eyes on the back of his neck. "Can I get you something to drink?" he offered, not turning. "Some tea?"

"No, thank you."

The coffee appeared in the receptacle, steaming, and Kirk retrieved it, took a sip. He felt better with something in his hands. Then the absurdity of that thought struck him. This was Spock. What was he afraid of?

He turned, to find Spock's back to him. The Vulcan was seemingly very interested in the row of books against the far wall. Which was rather odd, considering he'd read every book in Kirk's collection... probably knew their titles by rote.

Seeing Spock there, dark head bent, fingers clasped loosely behind his back in a familiar posture, Kirk realized quite suddenly how much he had missed their quiet evenings together.

He cleared his throat softly; Spock turned. Kirk gestured toward the chess board, smiling a little by way of apology for his earlier cowardice. "Would you still like to play? I don't think anyone else will be looking for me this evening."

But Spock shook his head slowly, once. "Not tonight, I think."

Coffee cradled in both hands, Kirk sat on the edge of his desk. "Name your poison then."

"I merely... wished to speak with you."

"Ah." Kirk tried a smile, managed a shadow of one. "Coffee and conversation. Very well, Mr. Spock. What's on your mind?"

"You are." The words were serious, matter-of-fact, and sent a needle of apprehension through Kirk's insides.

"Care to specify?" he asked carefully. He realized he had tensed instinctively, made himself relax.

Spock had faced him, hands still clasped behind his back. At Kirk's question, he paced two steps toward the mesh divider and then back again, slowly. When he was back where he had started, he looked up. "Perhaps I should ask you those questions." The dark eyes seemed to know the answers already. "What is troubling you, Jim? And when did you last sleep for any significant length of time?"

Kirk drew a breath. For a moment, the desire to talk to someone, to this man, was almost overpowering. He couldn't quite answer, for the longing and the need was all tangled up in him, closing his throat. He had to swallow; realized that he was breathing too hard, a sudden heat behind his eyes.

The coffee cup crackled in his hand, started to buckle under the pressure of his grip. Startled, he looked down, saw that he had been crushing the thermoplast between his hands. He made himself stop doing it.

When he looked up, Spock's eyes were on the cup. The Vulcan took a single step closer to him. Met his gaze.

"I can't," Kirk said in despair, before he could stop himself. I'm the captain. I'm responsible. I don't get to put the load down. I have to bear it... "I can't."

"Jim." The velvet baritone enveloped him, embraced him, the voice more gentle than Kirk had ever heard it. "Please."

Kirk put the coffee cup down very deliberately, before he could crack it. As if from a great distance, he saw himself turn, heard himself tell the lies that would push his well- meaning friend away before he could do real damage. "Listen, I appreciate your concern. But I think you're right; what I really need is six hours or so of uninterrupted sleep. So if you don't mind--"

He started to shoulder past the Vulcan, who was standing between him and the sleeping alcove. But at the room divider, Spock's voice stopped him.

"My friend. Do not turn me away."

Kirk closed his eyes.

"Spock..." It came out sounding as shaky as he felt, and behind him he sensed the Vulcan close, too close. Hotter- than-human hands touched his shoulders, and he shuddered.

"You do not have to say anything, Jim. If you cannot tell me what is hurting you, I will accept that." The long fingers pressed gently into muscles which cried out in protest. "You are far too tense for sleep. Perhaps I can--"

Kirk stepped out from under his friend's hands, turned to face him. "You don't have to do that." He knew his face was too warm. "I'm all right."

"Jim." Those dark eyes, reading him from the inside out. "You are a poor liar."

They measured one another for a heartbeat, two. Finally, Kirk smiled wryly. "Only where you're concerned."

"The doctor, also, is not fooled."

Kirk sighed. "Did he send you in here?"

The eyebrow lifted faintly. "In a manner of speaking."

Kirk brought one hand to the back of his neck. He managed an affectionate expression that was nonetheless meant to be a dismissal. "Get out of here. You don't have to do this, Spock. It's not part of the job description." He started to turn away.

"I had not assumed that it was."

Kirk stopped, hearing something he had not expected in the Vulcan's stiff reply. Turned back. "Look, Spock. I didn't mean..."

"You believe I came here tonight out of some sense of duty? You believe I make an offer not of friendship, but rather of professional courtesy?" The Vulcan's mouth had drawn tight.

Kirk swallowed. "No, of course you didn't. I only meant..." He broke off, tasting a flash of anger. Couldn't they just leave him the hell alone? He could handle the Spock he'd seen earlier tonight, at dinner. He didn't think he could deal with this one. A Spock who wouldn't take no for an answer, who could touch him like that, who offered himself without reservation--that was a dangerous man indeed.

He turned accusing eyes on the Vulcan, feeling exposed and vulnerable, needing too much. "Why did you come here tonight, anyway? You trying to tell me you're really comfortable with the idea of giving me a back rub? You wanted to play true confessions?"

"I wanted to help you."

It was said quietly, the hurt unconcealed.

Feeling like the lowest form of life in the known galaxy, James Kirk passed a hand over his eyes. When he had his voice under control, he said softly, "Dammit Spock. I can't let you in this time and this time only, don't you see? Humans don't work that way. You can't change who you are- -and I don't want you to, not for me. I don't want to take responsibility for that!" He met the Vulcan's eyes, pleading with him. "Don't you understand? I don't want you trying to be something you're not. I don't want to make you something you're not."

Spock only looked at him, calm, so calm. His eyes were very bright. "But you are wrong, if you think I do not wish to help you any way I can."

Too much, to feel the Vulcan's compassion like a tangible thing in the room. The longing for release closed Kirk's throat but had nowhere to go. He felt...deeply touched. He wished that he could find an answer in himself, a response deserving of this man's friendship. But he'd already proven in the last five minutes that he didn't deserve Spock's regard.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, all he could find to say. "I just don't know any way."

And then the Vulcan closed the distance between them, standing close, until Kirk could literally feel the heat of his body. Unwillingly, unable to stop himself, he looked up. Dark eyes demanded something... something he couldn't name, wasn't sure he could give. "Do you trust me, Jim?"

Kirk felt a pressure on his heart.

A pause, a breath. Then he answered, honestly, "Without reservation."

"Then--let me help."

And Spock's hands were on him, the contact as shocking as it had been the first time. Vulcans do not touch, Kirk thought vaguely, as the strong grip closed gently around his biceps. Spock does not touch. Spock does not touch me.

But he was, and suddenly Kirk wanted nothing more than to give himself over to that strength.

Spock was steering him toward the bathroom, and he went willingly. "Where are we going?" he heard himself ask in a small voice, and somewhere he was astonished at his willing capitulation.

"You are going into the bathroom, where you are going to take a very hot shower. Then you are going to return to this room, and I am going to massage your neck and shoulders for a time. Then you are going to sleep until alpha watch. After that, we shall see."

The flush of relief, of gratitude, that swept over James Kirk then threatened to undo him. His knees felt none too steady. It had been so long since he had let anyone take care of him like this. So long since he had felt anything but alone.

How did Spock always manage to know what he needed?

"You're too good to me," he murmured as they reached the bathroom, and Spock released him. "You know that?"

"Yes." The Vulcan gave him a stern look in the mirror. "So I expect you to follow my instructions to the letter."

Kirk smiled a little, in spite of himself. "Aye, aye, Captain Spock, sir. I wouldn't presume to debate you."

"That is wise," the deep voice said, near his ear.

When the bathroom door slid shut behind him, he was surprised to find he could still feel the imprint of those too-warm hands, even through the fabric of his shirt.

Spock sat at his captain's desk, listening to the sound of water running. He was having some difficulty breathing properly. He could still feel the smooth, fluid shifting of muscle through warm fabric, the memory tingling against his palms.

As yet, he had done nothing, said nothing irretrievable.

But oh, what he was thinking...

Kirk had let him see for one fraction of an instant how very deep the need went in him, how desperate he was for Spock, for anyone, to show him a way out of whatever personal hell he had been dwelling in these last weeks. Spock's own need to find an answer for that ran as deep as his soul. Impossible to see that darkness in his captain and do nothing. Impossible to hear that plea and not reach out to help, no matter the cost.

But, "I can't," Kirk had said, despairing.

I'm sorry. I just don't know any way.

The Vulcan found himself listening again to the steady sound of the shower, knowing it was unwise to do so and unable to stop. His hands curled involuntarily around the memory of how he had felt. How he would feel, if...

This new awareness of the man he had called friend for three years stunned him, utterly.

He had seen it coming, had been unable to escape the logical conclusion. From the first moment of understanding--as soon as he had recognized the truth of what had happened to him on the red sands of his ancestors- -he had known it was inevitable.

What he had not been prepared for was the force of his wanting.

A month ago, he would have come into this room, would have spoken to Kirk out of friendship and never noticed the way the thin fabric of the black t-shirt stretched and clung, never noticed how expressive Kirk's mouth was, how fine his skin, never breathed in the natural scent of human male only to find his own body had betrayed him. A month ago, Spock would not have even thought of touching him like that--

The Vulcan bowed his head, and closed his eyes. It was true, but signified nothing. If he had not done those things before it was only because he had refused to let himself to see the possibility. The awareness of the link between them, faint and new and fragile, had only opened his eyes to what was already there. To pretend otherwise was futile.

He wanted his captain, with a desperation that he feared had already driven him past some point of reason.

On the other side of door, the water had stopped.

He stared at his hands, as if they did not belong to him. The hands that had touched James Kirk, held him, would do so again if given any opportunity. Any way I can, Spock had said. His words. I wish to help you any way I can.

But what he had meant was, any way you will let me.

Do you trust me?

Instinct had asked that question; instinct heard again the naked truth of Kirk's answer. His heart beat unsteadily, too fast, echoing Kirk's certainty.

The bathroom door slid open, and he looked up. Kirk smiled tiredly, came in scrubbing at his wet hair with a towel. "You still here?"

Spock realized that he had risen to his feet and not known it. "Still." It sounded rather breathless, even to his own ears. "You shall not be rid of me so easily."

Kirk stopped near the far wall, drying his hair a moment more before dropping the towel down the laundry chute. The robe he wore was not provocative. It was not made of satin or silk, nor was it particularly revealing, and it was not the first time Spock had seen him in it.

Nevertheless, seeing him in it now, the white cotton steaming faintly with the damp heat of his body, his wet hair curling slightly against the collar--Spock felt his heart threaten to burn itself out.

Towel disposed of, Kirk came toward him, his eyes lowered shyly, faint color suffusing his cheeks. "Shall I take that to mean you haven't changed your mind?"

Spock struggled to keep his breathing from becoming audible. "I have not." Merely gone out of it, he thought. Kirk drew near, that presence pulling him down into a well of irresistible gravity. This night had been set motion weeks ago--perhaps years ago. He could not fight it.

Kirk's eyes were on him, teasing and trusting. "Where do you want me?"

The Vulcan managed to restrain the impulse to look toward the sleeping alcove, the neatly made bed. Instead he lowered his eyes, gestured toward the chair he had just vacated. "If you will be seated."

Kirk obeyed. He turned to sit down, the motion bringing him within a half-meter of the Vulcan, and a wave of his scent rose up, overpowering. Spock inhaled too deeply--had to close his eyes.

Faint evergreen struck him first, the pleasant odor of Kirk's shampoo. But underneath that scent was the headier, more wonderful clean smell of his skin, warm and intoxicating. Light-headed, Spock breathed it in again, unable to stop himself. Made himself open his eyes.

Kirk leaned forward a little, turning his head. "Is this all right?"

"Yes," the Vulcan said hoarsely, looking down.

Guilty reluctance was written in the human's stiff posture, in the lines of tension evident in the muscles of his neck. "Spock, you don't have to do this."

But he did. The need to touch him was overwhelming.

"Do not argue with me, Jim."

Kirk was shaking his head. "It really isn't necessary--"

"Enough."

And Spock touched him again, and again there was that jolt, as of a completed circuit.

For a long moment he only stood like that, his hands resting on Kirk's shoulders, feeling the moisture steaming up through white cloth. He could feel the weeks of tension drawn painfully taut there, the muscles hard and unyielding. Then it came without warning, an image of what it would be like to lean forward, to press his mouth to Kirk's, to cradle the damp hair against his palm and taste the inside of his mouth...

He began to work at the tight muscles, so that Kirk would not feel his hands shaking.

At the first firm, probing touch, Kirk made a sound deep in his throat, half pain, half pleasure. Spock could feel him shudder, as if being forced to let go of that tension was exquisitely painful, not just physically. He kept the pressure even, steady, working at the muscles until they at last began to relax, to give. Kirk groaned again.

"Oh, god, Spock. That feels so good."

Pleasure at the words, the sound of that voice saying them, lit the Vulcan like a candle.

He hit a particularly painful spot, and Kirk gasped, then sighed as Spock's fingers worked their magic. "You are a magician, Mr. Spock." The Vulcan stroked the back of his neck, urging him to tilt his head forward. He complied. "I must have been out of my mind to discourage you."

"Perhaps you will be quicker to obey me in the future," Spock murmured.

Something ran through the human's body at that, a jolt, a tiny shudder, and it set off an answering spark in the Vulcan's insides. Spock himself was held captive by the spell he was weaving, lost in the hypnotic rhythm of his hands. He had long ago ceased to form rational thought. His only focus was the need to bring pleasure to this man--and he pursued it with singular concentration. The muscles were pliant now, responsive, and he began to knead them in earnest, thumbs pressing in circles along the straight spine. Helplessly, Kirk made a sound of pure relief, and relaxed into the touch--and his legs, stretched out in front of him, relaxed too, parting slightly.

For a long moment, Spock forgot to breathe. The white robe had separated slightly along the front seam. The fabric fell back a little, revealing one strong thigh, bronze skin dusted with copper strands, and a tiny, tantalizing gleam of paler skin below, almost hidden from view.

He could not take his eyes from it. And he knew, then, that he must see the rest of him--must have him, or go mad.

"Jim," he said, in a voice that surely betrayed him, "Lean forward."

Kirk did not turn, did not question. He simply obeyed.

Was the human's breathing slightly more shallow than before? Spock did not know, could not think, could not see his face. Mesmerized by his own daring, he slid his fingertips beneath the collar of the white robe and eased it down over the broad shoulders.

Kirk tensed, drew in a sharp breath. "Spock--"

"I cannot properly manipulate the muscle groups without direct tactile contact," Spock said, hardly more than a whisper. Surely now Kirk would turn around, pull away, look at him as if he had lost his faculties.

But he did not. He only nodded, after a moment, and relaxed.

Spock was a touch telepath. If he had sensed any resistance on Kirk's part, he would have stopped and never mind the cost. But there was no resistance, only this vibrant, incandescent, answering need--and every so often, a faint sound of relief Kirk could not quite suppress.

His captain half-naked under his hands, Spock went on touching him as if they were both entirely sane. His own body was taut as a harpstring. He wasn't kneading any more... wasn't really massaging at all. His fingertips were stroking the nape of his captain's neck, slowly, utterly captivated by the texture and the fragrance of the skin there. He knew he must stop this. Knew it. Could not.

And then Kirk groaned softly, an entirely different sound from any he had made before, and his head fell back against Spock's hands. "What are you doing to me?" he whispered. "What are you... ah, God, Spock... stop. I can't." But his breath caught, and his thighs fell open, and suddenly the Vulcan could smell his arousal, could see the heavy weight of it through the white fabric.

"Jim," he choked, and gave in to the need he had been suppressing for what felt like forever.

The shock of Spock's mouth on the back of his neck made Kirk moan aloud, made him shudder away from that jolt of heat. It went straight to his insides anyway. He squirmed in the chair and tried to pull away, but his brain would not communicate well with his limbs. Then he felt the touch of Spock's hot tongue along the hollow of his nape, the faint graze of those white, even teeth, and all thought fled. He cried out.

Spock was kneeling behind the chair now, holding him from behind. One warm hand was beneath the collar of his robe, which had slipped down his upper arms; the other hand had snaked around his waist, was tugging at the hem of the robe, baring his thighs. The things Spock was doing to the back of his neck were making him crazy. He heard himself making sounds he did not recognize--and then Spock brushed fingertips against his nipple and the next sound turned to a sob.

Somewhere, he was afraid. This was impossible; this was insane. Spock could not want him. Not like this. He could not want Spock. A hot palm cupped the same place the fingertips had touched, and his nipples drew so tight they ached. The tongue again, hot and rough against his throat, his ear--a surge of shattering pleasure washed over him, and he nearly came.

"Spock!" he cried brokenly. "For god's sake...!" He was panting now, and desperate, he started to twist out of the Vulcan's arms, tried to struggle to his feet. The fear became terror. No. He couldn't let go. Too close. Too deep --it would shatter him. His cock throbbed and begged. He told it fiercely, no, and began to shut down.

But Spock was in front of him, kneeling before him, strong hands on his thighs, holding him. Kirk looked down at him and saw that his robe had fallen open, that he was exposed before Spock, his desperate arousal more than obvious. He wanted to cry. Wanted to hit Spock for doing this to him, making him feel this. But the Vulcan's hands would not let him up. "Jim," he was saying, his voice as ragged as Kirk felt. "Jim, it's all right. It will be all right. Let me touch you. Let me help."

Kirk closed his eyes and made a sound of pure agony. "I can't. We can't. No." Shut down, now. Too close. Turn off, run, go deep within to the place where feeling can't come. "No," he said again, desperate. Not for me. Never for me. I can't. I don't deserve. Not with him. Most especially not with him...

He was shaking now, but it was working. He was winning.

"Jim, look at me." A whisper.

He obeyed, unable to help himself.

Spock's eyes engulfed him, hot and dark and beautiful. "T'hy'la," the deep voice murmured, taut and anguished. "Why do you believe yourself unworthy?"

Kirk struck at him, unable to stop himself. "Goddamn you! Stop it! Stop reading my mind!" He lashed out again, but he was out of control, the blow unfocused. His intense arousal had abated, driven back by fear of his own need, and dull pain knotted in the pit of his stomach. He surged up with a fierce, determined effort to get free.

Which failed. Suddenly, Spock's hands were locked on his wrists, forged durasteel. "Jim, look at me."

Kirk struggled, but he might as well have been sitting docile. That Vulcan strength, which he never fully reckoned with, was mobilized against him now. He could feel the bones grinding together in his wrists.

He started to lash out with his feet, mad with desperation. But Spock twisted one hand and he cried out, had to stop.

"Look at me."

Kirk glared at him, unleashing rage and betrayal with his eyes. He had the satisfaction of seeing the answering pain in the other's face, but still Spock did not release him. When the Vulcan was satisfied that Kirk was looking at him, he spoke with fierce intensity. "You are more than worthy, my t'hy'la. Do you understand me?"

Kirk made himself as cold as he knew how and said, calmly, "Fuck you."

The pain in Spock's face throbbed in his own heart.

And then Spock moved.

Kirk gasped as the Vulcan twisted his hands around behind his back. Suddenly Spock was on top of him, straddling him, the steel strength of his thighs hard against Kirk's hips. Then Spock shifted, and all at once Kirk could feel the incredible heat between them, the hot hard pressure of Spock's erection angry against his vulnerable belly. Fear of a different kind surged through him, and he started to struggle again, though he knew it was futile.

But "Shh," Spock whispered against his ear. "I am not going to hurt you, Jim. I will not hurt you. You must trust me."

Spock was doing something, something Kirk couldn't see.

"What--?"

The feel of Spock pressed hard against him, on top of him, was almost unbearably overwhelming. Kirk sucked air in through his nostrils and got a lungful of a tantalizing scent like dry leaves, sweet with spice.

"What are you...?"

Spock was holding him now as easily with one hand as he had with two. What was his other hand doing?

"Shh. I am in control now, James. There is nothing you can do. Do not fight me."

The use of his given name sent a thrill of unspeakable heat through Kirk's belly, and he did struggle, but this time it lacked conviction.

He felt something encircle his wrists and draw tight-- and he understood then what Spock was doing, felt something that was not fear surge through him.

"Let me go, Spock," he whispered, and was mortified to hear how unconvincing it sounded.

The Vulcan drew back then, looked hard into his eyes, as if asking a question Kirk did not want to hear. He was afraid to know what answer his own eyes were giving.

And then Spock leaned forward and kissed him, dragging his full lips slowly across Kirk's open mouth, and the shock of pleasure was so great that for a moment Kirk blacked out.

"Oh no, my beautiful one," Spock murmured against his throat. "No, I think not." The Vulcan looked down at him then, eyes hooded, that look all at once possessive and terrifying and utterly enflaming. "No, James, what I am going to do instead is make you beg. And there is nothing you can do to stop me."

"You're out of your mind."

A whisper, a statement of fact. Kirk's fear gave way to something unnamable.

"You make me so."

The tip of the Vulcan's tongue traced the vein pulsing in Kirk's throat, and the human fought the urge to groan with the pleasure.

"Why are you doing this?" he gasped, pleading.

"You know why."

"No." A sob. A supplication. "Spock, please. Don't do this to me." Kirk heard the tight longing he couldn't hide, and wanted to weep with helplessness. "To us."

And then Spock's hands--those incredible, sensitive, knowing hands--curved against the underside of his pectoral muscles, thumbs caressing his nipples. Kirk grew instantly, achingly hard, his arousal trapped between their bodies.

"You wish me to stop?"

Yes! Yes, stop. Gods have mercy, don't make me do this. Don't make me feel this.

But the words did not make it past his lips, for Spock's hands made speech impossible. To his chagrin, Kirk realized he was struggling vainly to press his cock tighter against his captor's body.

It did not matter then, that Kirk willed himself to resist, for there was no strength in him to combat the licking flames that ran through him, through his groin and thighs and belly and nipples. He made a sound he did not recognize, a raw whimper, and rubbed himself voluptuously, helplessly, against an answering hardness.

Spock's heat made him want to make that sound again, made him ache for the feel of that silken flesh against his instead of the rough friction of clothing. "Please don't," he grated out, even as his head fell back and dampness surged from his own arousal. "Don't." He hardly knew what he was saying any more.

Then the Vulcan drew back, and Kirk had to look up, look at him.

Dark eyes like cinders threatened to set Kirk ablaze. The Vulcan's lips were curving now, the slightest shadow of pleasure, and suddenly Kirk realized what he had said. Spock was waiting. And underneath the smoldering heat, something else shone, deep and sure.

The voice, when it came, was very low and made the hair stand up at Kirk's nape.

"You wish me to continue, then?"

Do you trust me?

Held breath. Then--

"God, yes," Kirk whispered, and closed his eyes.

"Yes," the Vulcan breathed. "Yes." Kirk's arms, bound behind him, throbbed in protest. Spock had entwined one leg with Kirk's, bracing with the other; had pushed him down in the chair until they were stretched almost full length, thigh to thigh, belly to belly. "Yes, James. Feel how hot, how good we are together. You cannot fight me. Let me feel you."

The relief of being able to press against him, to rub his naked sex against that heat, was so great that Kirk moaned, helplessly.

Then, suddenly, the weight and the delicious friction left him.

"Get up."

Kirk fought for breath, fought for sanity.

"Now."

The word touched him in some vulnerable, deep place, the sound of it a purr, a command.

He pushed himself up in the chair, tried to get his feet under him. With his arms pinned, it was difficult. Then suddenly Spock's hand was between his legs, cupping his erection, his testicles, sending him racing up an unknown peak of stunned pleasure. He sucked in oxygen and thought he was going to pass out.

"Get up," Spock whispered. His other hand was at the small of Kirk's back. His hold on Kirk's sex was a pressure that could not be borne, or resisted. The human struggled to his feet, feeling the hand at his back balancing him.

They stood like that for a moment, Kirk swaying unsteadily. He could feel every part of Spock, that close heat, could smell him, but could not make himself raise his eyes. He was suddenly, painfully aware of his own nakedness, his utter vulnerability. Spock was still fully dressed--still in uniform!--and that awareness threatened to drive Kirk over some edge of control. His cock was painfully hard in Spock's hand. He felt his own copious fluid slick and unbearably erotic against the pulse at the Vulcan's wrist, shaming him.

He started to tremble, couldn't stop.

"This is insane," he whispered, eyes squeezing shut.

"Perhaps." Spock's hand moved lower, cradled his scrotum and squeezed slightly, emphasizing his helplessness. Behind him, the Vulcan was holding to the strip of cloth which bound his arms--the belt from his robe, Kirk realized dimly--pinning his wrists against his back. "I find that seeing you like this I do not much care." The words were hoarse with desire.

Kirk's legs did not want to hold him. The need for release felt like a painful tightness in every nerve, a vibration that shuddered over his skin. Did he need to come? To cry? The needs were so many and so tangled up with one another that he could not separate them. He swayed against Spock's body, one breath from going to his knees. The motion rubbed his sex against Spock's wrist, the edge of the blue velour sleeve, and unable to stop himself, Kirk moaned aloud.

"Be still."

An order. To be obeyed. Sudden pressure on his testicles that made him gasp with almost-pain, and need denied. And finally, unable to stop himself, he looked up, met Spock's eyes.

They were glittering. A look he had never seen, never dreamed of seeing. It touched that deep place again, that part of him that wanted nothing except Spock's approval. Ah, god, he's beautiful, Kirk thought, quite apart from the molten chaos that was consuming him from the inside out. And he was. The generous lips were flushed copper, wanting, and Kirk knew that the pressure of that mouth on his could have brought him to orgasm within seconds. He realized he had swayed forward only when Spock's arm tensed, and the bonds holding his wrists tightened.

"Be still," Spock said again, a bare murmur.

Kirk was trembling uncontrollably now. "What do you want from me?"

The dark eyes swallowed him whole. "Submission."

For long moments, the human could not breathe, or speak. Finally he swallowed, and choked, "What are you going to do to me?"

And Spock released him, suddenly, and moved behind him, and apprehension and arousal ran through Kirk in equal measure. Those hands encircled his hips, one in front, one behind. The one in front moved between his thighs, pushing his legs apart, exposing him, and the other hand... the other...

But then he moaned, and nearly collapsed, because those exquisitely sensitive fingertips were touching him in his most secret places. "Oh god," he breathed, knowing his legs were giving out. Spock's hand was still between his thighs, almost holding him up. And still he was touching, caressing... there, and again, and Kirk knew that he was lost... knew that he would beg for anything his captor would give him. "Oh, Spock..."

Spock's voice was a growl against his ear, rushing shivers all down that side of his body. "Yes. You will say my name. You will beg me to release you from this pleasure. I will make you mine."

"Spock..." The name was a wanting entreaty, low in his throat.

The hands left him. "Get on the bed."

Kirk obeyed, never thought of not obeying. He felt Spock's eyes follow him, felt his skin burning. He was starting to go out of his head, and it was a relief. This was not happening. Could not happen.

"There. Face down. On your knees."

Kirk drew a breath in sharply. What was he...?

His trembling reached a crescendo. Waves of tremors were washing through him now. Suddenly he knew he was not going to be able to bear this. He turned his face toward the Vulcan, eyes down, fighting not to let the tears spill. "Please..."

Spock close, not touching. "What is it, James?"

Kirk's breath hitched. His throat was so tight he could not swallow, could not get the words out. "Please, I need... I need you to..."

"Tell me."

That voice, tender and velvet-deep, seemed to touch him in vital places, a wash of shivery pleasure through his belly, his groin. It made fresh fluid gather at the tip of Kirk's penis; he felt a little slip down the tip onto the bed, knew that the other saw it.

He knew, also, that he had never been so aroused in his life--that if Spock had touched him then, anywhere, he would have come.

Kirk's knees were leaning against the edge of the bed, but could not go any further, for if he were to lie down now he would be unable to stop himself from rubbing frantically against the silken coverlet. He tried very hard to make himself look at Spock. Tried to make himself raise his eyes. But the awareness was surging through him, a visceral certainty. Spock. It's Spock doing this to me. If he looked at the Vulcan now, he really would lose it.

"Please," he whispered, fighting to make the words come. "I need you to--touch me." Was he begging? He did not know. He would beg, would do anything if only Spock would help him.

He felt those hands again, cupping the back of his neck, soothing him there. And he caught his breath. Closed his eyes.

"So close," the Vulcan murmured, approving, caressing with his voice. "You are so close, aren't you?"

"Yes," Kirk gasped. Liquid heat surged up his thighs, centered on his cock. The hands on his neck were bringing him higher--could bring him over the edge. The realization itself was almost enough to finish him.

As if regretfully, Spock petted him once more and then released him. "Not yet, my beautiful one. I am not finished with you." And his hands on Kirk's shoulders turned him, pushed him down until he was seated on the edge of the bed. "Look at me."

It was not easy. But at last Kirk was able to raise his eyes. And it was better than he thought it would be... easier. For Spock--in the low light, those dark eyes hot with passion and need, black hair gleaming, full lips flushed dark and swollen slightly--was a sight that made him suck in air, made him forget his own torment for looking.

It suddenly came to him that he did not know if he would ever be able to want anyone else.

His own lips were parted; he heard himself breathing hard. As he watched, the Vulcan moved, one hand going to the collar of his tunic. Spock opened the seam unhurriedly, eyes never leaving Kirk's. "I believe you require distraction, James. For I want to drive you quite mad with pleasure... and that must not be rushed." The blue tunic was discarded, and Spock stood over him all in black, the heat and the smell of him making Kirk's breath come faster. His eyes were dragged, against his will, to the distinct, hard outline of Spock's sex, and a wave of longing of a different kind swept over him.

Spock moved closer, and his scent was a drug.

"You want to please me, don't you?" the Vulcan murmured.

"Yes," Kirk breathed. "Anything."

"You want to taste me."

Kirk's heart raced, out of control. "Yes. Please, anything. Anything."

"Watch me."

And Kirk did.

The color of Spock's skin in that light, flushed with desire, was something he could not have described. He ached to see more of it, all of it, to know the planes and hollows of him. But Spock did not remove the black shirt, did not bend to remove his boots. Instead, his hands went to the waistband of his trousers.

It seemed to Kirk that it began to be real when the Vulcan's cock sprang free, the heat and scent and power of him inches from Kirk's face. That was when he felt something start to give. Because there was no denying his own answering heat, his own need. He shifted against the bed, needing, knowing. Spock was going to fuck him. And he was going to beg for it. Nothing was ever, ever going to be the same.

"Put your mouth on me," Spock whispered hoarsely.

Kirk shivered. And obeyed. He had never put his mouth on another man's penis in his life.

The first brush of his lips on the tender, velvet tip made Spock gasp, made him sway a little. He braced his legs further apart, and put his hands on Kirk's shoulders for support. Then, "Yes," he urged softly.

It was softness and steel and silk, and nothing Kirk had imagined. The taste of Spock was absolutely the most intoxicating thing he had ever consumed. As soon as he touched his tongue to the tender place behind the crown, and heard Spock's low cry of pleasure, he longed to take the lean hips in his hands and pull that incredible heat deep into his throat, suck him until he screamed hoarsely, until they both passed out.

But his wrists were bound securely, and the hands on his shoulders could paralyze him in a second, could hold him easily. Spock was still in control.

And his control was unbelievable.

Kirk closed his eyes, taking as much as the Vulcan would allow him, stroking the underside of that silken shaft with his tongue, learning him. He couldn't think. His own cock throbbed in sympathy with each movement of the Vulcan's hips, each wet, intimate touch of his tongue on Spock's naked sex. He knew that if the Vulcan's hot, pointed tongue had touched him like that even once, he would have exploded. But Spock was holding him, moving with exquisite slowness, allowing only so much and no more.

"Yes. There. Yes." Spock gave a soft gasp that made Kirk's whole lower body ache with wanting. He shifted against the coverlet, his legs spread, the friction of fabric against his scrotum almost unbearable. Wanting more than anything to hear the sounds of Spock's pleasure, he touched his tongue again and again to the place that had made him gasp the first time. And suddenly he felt it--a gathering, warning vibration. Spock made a sound that made him groan in sympathy.

But the Vulcan pulled away, and his control filled Kirk with awe. Anticipation flamed in his belly. Spock was breathing hard, though evenly, and Kirk could taste the sweet saltiness of Vulcan readiness on his tongue. He looked up then, into Spock's face, and saw something he had never seen before. A faint sheen of perspiration, gleaming in the low light.

"Turn over," Spock grated. "On your knees."

The obedience was instinctive now. With his arms bound, Kirk had to get up on his knees to turn around--and then before he knew what was happening, Spock's hands were on him, pushing him down, raising his hips.

"Spread your legs for me, James. Yes, like that."

Kirk felt suddenly, incredibly exposed and vulnerable, in a way he hadn't been prepared for. The fear rose up again-- only it wasn't fear of what Spock was going to do to him, not really. What scared him was the sudden knowledge that he could lose himself. He was helpless in the face of his own hunger for this; it could consume him.

He had time for exactly three seconds of that realization. After that, the things that Spock did to him took him to a place where thought was not possible.

He was in some hot dark center of self. His nerves sang, over-stimulated to a point of pleasure that he thought would surely drive him mad. He could not separate the touches of those hands on his ass, his thighs, in his hair. There were fingertips at his nipples and teeth at the back of his neck. He gasped and shuddered. And then there was a hot, firm wetness lapping at the center of him, touching him, stroking the tender place between his buttocks until at last he moaned over and over and again, utterly helpless to stop. His desperation mounted until he would have shoved himself against the bed if he could; he was pinned by the hands at his waist. His wrists were raw.

And then the tongue was gone, and something softer and firmer still pressed against the entrance to his body.

"James."

He was too far gone... far past the point of speech.

"You want me inside of you."

Kirk could only make an incoherent sound. His thighs trembled with strain and effort.

"You are going to have to beg for it."

Kirk groaned. Hot tears of need tried to squeeze between his eyelids. If he could not touch himself soon he would die. If Spock touched him he would die.

"Please," he whispered, finding the word at last. "Please."

"You must say it." Spock's own voice was unrecognizable, splintered with need. But he would wait. He was in control.

And Kirk was dissolving.

"P-please..."

"Say it."

He was liquid heat, magma running downhill, welling up from underground fissures, neverending. "Please, fuck me... fuck me. Fuck--"

And then he was, and Kirk heard a sound come from his own throat he did not recognize. The pressure was a blade, sundering him down the middle, liquid pain and stabbing pleasure. It heaved against him, filled him, hot and slick and shattering.

He was coming almost from the first moment of penetration, coming with great, soul-deep cries, one after the other. He was not himself any more. He was only the pleasure, the blade.

He was the blade, inside, surrounded, mad with release. He was the sheath, filled and giving and slick and tight. He was Kirk. He was Spock. They were one.

Orgasm shuddered through him in a hot rush, took him down without mercy.

When Kirk knew anything again, he was lying on his side, and Spock was rubbing circulation back into his arms.

Slowly he became aware of other things; making himself focus on them was more difficult. He was in his bed, covered to the waist, and Spock had turned him the right way on the mattress. He felt dry and clean, and guessed that was Spock's doing, too.

His throat ached fiercely, as if he had been crying.

The Vulcan must have sensed that he was awake, for the motion of his hands on Kirk's arms slowed, then resumed. Kirk waited for the expected question, Are you all right, Jim? But it didn't come, and he guessed that Spock was waiting for him to speak first.

With effort, he shifted onto his back.

Spock was sitting on the edge of the bed, dressed except for his blue tunic. Kirk thought that maybe it should have bothered him, that he was lying there naked under cover of a thin sheet while Spock was safely clad in black from throat to ankle... but it didn't. He supposed a red alert wouldn't have bothered him too terribly much just then. He came up on one elbow.

Their eyes met.

Something eased in Kirk's throat, and he thought, it's going to be all right. Whatever happens, it's going to be all right.

"How did you know?" he asked finally, his voice a rough whisper.

Spock raised one eyebrow, questioning.

Kirk felt something small and vital break open in his chest. His mouth curved, and he knew his heart was in his eyes. "How do you always know?"

The Vulcan just shook his head. Waiting for him to explain.

Kirk looked down at his hands, at Spock's resting in his lap a few centimeters away. How to explain it? Could there be any logic to what he was feeling right now?

As if reading his wish, when he was silent too long Spock reached out hesitantly and took one of Kirk's hands in both of his. Startled, Kirk looked up to find Spock's eyes on him, warm and unguarded, and he knew he had been right. It would be all right.

Better than all right.

"Do you wish to tell me about it?" Spock said gently, at last. His voice was rough, too. "About what has been troubling you?"

Kirk thought about that one; at last he shook his head apologetically. "I don't know if I can explain."

"Try."

Spock's hands were warm. Searching for words, Kirk turned his hand in that gentle grip, caressed the backs of Spock's fingers absently with his thumb.

"I think I was... scared," he said finally, very softly. "I mean... really scared, in a way I've never been before."

Spock wanted very much to pull Kirk into his arms, protect him from every threat, real or imagined, small or great. He satisfied himself with their joined hands, knowing there would be time for more later. "I have never known you to give in to fear."

Kirk shook his head wryly, giving him a chastising look. "Not quite accurate, my friend."

And that was true, of course... for Spock knew this man very well. Knew that there were two things James Kirk did fear in earnest--and that they were perhaps two sides of the same coin. He feared losing command. And he feared failure. Each life lost under Kirk's command had etched its own scar into his soul; Spock had seen them. Saw them now, dark shadows in the hazel eyes.

Spock thought then that he began to understand what he had only sensed instinctively before. He spoke hesitantly. "The doctor suggested... cumulative stress. It has been... a very difficult time for you."

"For all of us. The whole crew has been through hell the last two months."

"Yes," Spock murmured. "But you have lost a great deal more than any man should."

Kirk's eyes lifted to his, bright with tenderness. "And you've been right there with me every step of the way, haven't you?" He sighed, and dropped his gaze. "You're right, of course. And so's McCoy, in part. But there was more."

Spock waited. It was a long time before Kirk went on, and when he spoke again there was a darkness in his face and his voice was tense, but without the distance that had been between them before.

"That was just it, see. I knew that I should be at the end of my rope. McCoy kept prodding me to come down for a psych exam after... the Guardian. And then again after Deneva. And I kept telling him, 'I'm fine, Bones.' And I was." Kirk seemed to have totally forgotten his nakedness. He sat up, pulling his hand free, gesturing. "It was like, nothing could touch me. I watched these people that I loved, that I cared about, that I was responsible for in danger... dying, right in front of me. And each time it happened, I felt a little less, hurt a little less."

"Jim, it is a natural defense. Humans deal with loss by withdrawing, for a time. You could not--"

But Kirk shook his head. "I know that, Spock. But you don't understand... on Theta Aurigae we watched four hundred people butchered before our eyes. Four hundred people, some of whom I knew by name..." His breath caught for a moment; he had to swallow. "They were my responsibility. And they died, because I couldn't do a damn thing to stop it--and I felt nothing. Not then, and not in the three weeks since."

Spock wanted badly to say or do something that would make it all right for him. But there was nothing that could.

At last Kirk went on. "A captain of a starship can't function like that. I can't. It would have meant disaster eventually--or a ground assignment, if I'd had the courage to recognize that I ought to remove myself from command. I knew it. I just--couldn't face it." His eyes found Spock's. "More people could have died because of me. Would have, if you hadn't come here tonight."

"Jim. You judge yourself far too harshly." He gave Kirk the look he knew the other would recognize as a smile. "You are only human, after all."

Kirk's lips quirked upward a little, and his eyelashes swept his cheeks. "I see no reason for insults, Mr. Spock."

Spock could not come up with an appropriate remark. That look had left him rather breathless.

But Kirk shuddered faintly, and he leaned toward the Vulcan as if unaware that he had done so. "I kept thinking, 'What am I, that I can watch people die and feel so.. uninvolved. What have I become?'"

The Vulcan touched his shoulder, gently. "And now?"

"Now?" Kirk caught his breath. Let it out, slowly, and looked up. "I think it's going to be all right. Not yet, maybe. Not tonight. But soon."

Soon I'll cry for her, the sadness in his eyes said, and Spock heard.

"I will be there, Jim. When that time comes."

Kirk swallowed. "I know."

Something seemed to ease further in him then, for he glanced down and flushed a little, as if only then noticing his state of undress. "So I ask you again, my friend... how did you know?"

Spock thought he understood what Kirk meant. He had, by some instinct or telepathy or perhaps gift of providence, seized upon the one method of reaching Kirk that had stood any chance of success. He had taken control, and thus freed Kirk from that overwhelming weight of responsibility-- even for his own responses.

He had shown Kirk that he could feel again.

"I guessed," he admitted at last, knowing that he himself might never know what process of instinct and need had guided him to cross all their boundaries at once. "Vulcan intuition."

Kirk's eyes widened. "You--" He broke off in astonishment. And then he was smiling, the sunny grin that had never failed to make Spock's heart beat faster. "Well I'll be damned. That was some guess, Mr. Spock."

Their eyes held, and quite suddenly, Spock was certain that James Kirk was going to kiss him, and his heart missed a beat.

But instead, the smile faded. The expressive face grew serious, eyes bright with an honesty that made the Vulcan's throat ache.

Kirk drew a shaky breath. "Spock... I just realized. What happened on Deneva... it could happen again. I might have to make a decision like that again." The tension in his body increased. "In fact, the chances are good that I will. How the hell am I supposed to make decisions about your life-- now?"

"Jim--"

"No! Don't tell me it wasn't my fault."

"It was not."

"I never should have allowed McCoy to go through with it like that. Without more tests. You could have been permanently blinded!"

"It was my own recommendation."

Kirk shook his head sharply. "It was my decision."

"Yes. And you made the correct one." The Vulcan waited until Kirk was looking at him. And then he spoke, allowing his own overwhelming remorse to show for the first time. "You think I do not know that feeling? You think I do not know what it is to see the one you value most pay the price of your mistakes?"

It took Kirk a moment to understand. Then his eyebrows drew together. "Spock, what happened on Vulcan... it wasn't your fault. It was my choice to accept the challenge. I could have said no."

Spock only looked at him.

"All right, so I wouldn't have said no. It still wasn't your fault."

"Yes. It was." The certainty was a stone in his heart. "I kept my condition from you. I did not give you all the facts- -"

"How could you have known that she was going to do something like that?"

Spock seized him by the arms, suddenly needing more than anything in the universe to feel him warm, alive, under his hands. "I should never have allowed you to beam down with me!"

A moment after the words were out, he regretted them. Too soon. Apprehension rose in his throat. But Kirk's hands were on his shoulders then, returning the pressure of his own desperate grip. And before he could think, or speak, Kirk had pulled him forward, into his arms.

The embrace was awkward, unfamiliar--but the Vulcan did not resist. Kirk's hand found the back of his neck. Held him there tightly for a moment. "It's going to be all right."

"You do not understand." He said it against the warm skin at Kirk's throat, his own body going hot and then chilled in quick succession. "Something happened," he whispered, forcing the words out. "In the arena. On Vulcan. When I touched you..." He knew he was not making sense. They were sitting up in the bed, knees pressed together, and suddenly Spock's body remembered what it felt like to be inside him, and a tremor ran through him.

Kirk's hand stroked the nape of his neck, exactly as Spock had done to him.

"It's going to be all right."

And Spock heard it--the understanding. The certainty. He drew a sharp breath, and pulled back. Looked hard into the other's face. When he could speak, he asked, "When did you know?"

Gold lion eyes shot through with green met his, levelly. "That you were linked to me, and not T'Pring?" And the expressive face suddenly flushed hot. "Only tonight. When you... when we... I felt you. In my mind. And before, when you were rubbing my shoulders, you knew what I was thinking. What I wanted." He drew a breath. "But I think I had some idea before." His mouth canted. "I just... hadn't let myself think about it."

Spock could only stare at him.

The human grew serious, and touched him, a faint brush of fingertips at his temple. And suddenly there were tears standing in Kirk's eyes. "It'll be all right. I'll always be there for you. You hear me? No matter what."

Spock couldn't quite breathe properly. He had the feeling of falling. There was still a very great deal that needed to be said. They had made no promises, had only begun to touch on the truths that had brought them to this moment, to what had happened in this room, this night. Spock had not meant to ask for this. Had not meant to need it so. He made himself say the name. "Jim..."

Kirk shook his head, once, denying any protest he would have made. "No matter what," he whispered fiercely.

At last Spock nodded, accepting.

A long space of minutes later. A sleek dark head pillowed on the smooth curve of a human shoulder.

"Spock?"

The Vulcan made a faint questioning sound, with some effort. It was very late and... very comfortable here.

The question came, low and husky with emotion and the lateness of the hour. "Why did you call me that? Before?"

It took Spock a moment. And then another to find the words. He spoke slowly, not certain his reasons could be explained. "I have always found your given name quite... aesthetically pleasing. It... suits you."

Kirk's breath caught, softly, and under his ear Spock heard the human heart accelerate a little. "Why Mr. Spock, I do believe that is the finest thing anyone has ever said to me."

They were silent, listening to the shape of Kirk's promise, neither of them quite able to speak of it yet.

"There is... another reason," Spock said at last.

"Mm-hmm?" Kirk's lips were resting lightly on his hair.

Absently, the Vulcan's hand moved on Kirk's stomach, caressing him faintly. Spock was still dressed, on top of the bed, and Kirk was still stretched out under the thin sheet. But they were lying full length together now, and Spock was quite, quite aware of his captain's nakedness.

"I do not know if I can explain," he sighed.

"Try." He felt Kirk's mouth curve against his hair.

Spock closed his eyes. "I remember... the first time we played chess. Do you remember it?"

"Yes. Of course. An historic occasion." Spock could hear the smile in his voice.

"You said to me, after the third game I lost to you, 'Mr. Spock, surely you do not mean to permit this to continue?'"

"Arrogant bastard, wasn't I?"

"Indeed."

Kirk chuckled softly. "I remember. And you said, 'Captain, statistically, your chances of winning the next match against me are two thousand, four hundred and some such to one.' And I, of course, couldn't resist the challenge."

"Naturally."

"And that time you beat the pants off me."

"Naturally."

Kirk swatted at his arm. "Arrogant bastard."

"Indeed." Spock's hand made another slow circle tracing the human's navel. "Do you remember what I said to you after the match was over?"

Kirk thought. "Something about my peculiar brand of logic being 'inspirational,' I believe was the word you used."

"Yes. I was... overwhelmed by you. To me, you seemed hardly old enough to have achieved a fraction of what your service record described. And before I lost three matches in a row to you that night, it had been four years and seven months since the last time anyone had defeated me in chess."

"Well, I'd say you've more than evened the score against me since then."

"Negative."

Kirk shifted, looking down at him. "You've been counting...?"

"Affirmative."

Astonished silence. Then, "How far ahead am I?"

"Not very." Said with a certain note of determination.

Kirk laughed then, a light and brilliant sound that Spock thought was perhaps the most wonderful music he had ever heard. "But what does that have to do with...?"

"Do you recall your answer to me?"

This time Kirk was at a loss. "What did I say?"

"I said, 'Thank you for the instruction, Captain. I find your unconventional approach to the game quite eminently logical. Indeed, inspirational.' And you said, 'Well, we'll have to do this again some time, Mr. Spock.' And you started to leave. Then, at the door to the rec room, you turned back, and said--"

"'Oh, and by the way... my friends call me Jim.'"

Spock nodded, remembering.

"I'm still not sure I understand."

"As I said, it is difficult to explain. I merely... that is to say, I have always found a certain... appeal in using the name you gave me that day. It was a difficult adjustment for me, at first, to acknowledge our friendship openly in that manner. But I learned to appreciate that gift."

"Yes..." Kirk murmured, obviously touched and yet still somewhat puzzled.

Spock cleared his throat, wishing he'd simply kept his mouth shut. "The difficulty lies in the memory association..."

Kirk was silent for another long moment. And then he said in a small, incredulous voice, "You mean, when you call me 'Jim' it makes you think of chess...?"

"Yes. Which is, you will agree, a train of thought not precisely conducive to..."

Kirk made a strangled, choked sound, which might have been hilarity... or hysteria. Spock could not be certain. And then the powerful body beneath him moved, twisted, and all at once Kirk's mouth was on his.

"My god," Kirk breathed, chuckling breathlessly between molten caresses. His hands were on Spock too, and he was pressing his warm, maddening, enflaming body against the Vulcan full length. Spock sank fast into a well of helpless response, his own nerves coming awake like a brush fire. The succulent mouth ravished his. The voice shook. "My god, I love you." And Kirk's breath caught hard, and he stopped, and pulled away far enough to look down at him. "I love you," he whispered, and the terror and joy spilled out of him into Spock, and the Vulcan feared dying from it. "I love you. I'm in love with you. Oh god--" And his voice caught harder. "Oh god, Spock."

And they kissed, and kissed, and Spock didn't breathe and didn't care that darkness was going to swallow him. Yes. Let him lose consciousness. He could not bear this intensity, this need, this love. Kirk's mouth on his was heat and flame and salt tears, and it unraveled him.

Then that lush body was beneath him again, hands molding him, squeezing his buttocks, dragging clothing out of the way. His hands were in Kirk's hair. "Jim. James." He buried himself in the heat of Kirk's mouth, between his legs, and shuddered from the surge of pleasure.

Kirk threw his head back, panting. "Yes, Spock. Oh god. Fuck me again, now. Do it now. Right now--"

And it would have to be now. Right now. Spock shoved frantically at the confining clothing, and with Kirk's help the fastening tore and the pants came down. Spock was shaking uncontrollably. "I can't. I can't--not like this."

"Yes. Do it." The sheet was mercifully gone, out of the way, and Kirk's hips surged up, silken heat and steel brushing across Spock's sex. Kirk moaned aloud.

But Spock could not hurt him. Now, like this, after what had gone before and no fluid to ease the way--no. "No," he gasped, struggling for control and knowing it was slipping from his fingers.

"Do it."

Spock kissed him, tasted his tongue, and broke away desperately. "No!" He begged it against Kirk's arched throat. "I will hurt you."

And then Kirk's hand was on his, pressing Spock's fingers against his scalp, his face. He held Spock's gaze, his eyes green with passion, hot and needing and unbearably beautiful. "Then do it like this. Fuck me like this, Spock. I don't care. I just need you inside me."

Spock's heart throbbed and swelled, and he could not bear the pressure. "T'hy'la--"

"Come inside me," Kirk whispered. His other hand pulled the Vulcan's hips down, hard against him.

And there was nothing left of Spock but the burning, flooding, unbearable desperation to be inside of him, and so he was, and his needy sex throbbed and slid and thrust against Kirk's as he closed his eyes, and reached.

I await thee, Kirk said in his mind.

The pleasure shattered him.

James Kirk slept like the dead.

He woke to the voice of the computer, telling him he'd slept through two wake-up signals already. It cautioned him in a friendly tone that if he did not respond within ninety seconds, a medical alert would sound.

"Alarm off," he said softly, and turned over--to find a very warm, half-naked, very deeply asleep Vulcan in his bed.

Kirk lay still for a space of minutes, letting himself feel what he felt about this turn of affairs, watching him sleep.

Dark lashes lay in a straight line against the angular cheekbones. The raven's-wing hair fanned out across his pillow, soft and tempting. His fingers itched to touch it. He wondered how it was that he had never noticed that curve of the lower lip, sensual and full of promise. And suddenly it occurred to him that he had not yet touched either of those incredible ears with his mouth, and the anticipation made his heart beat unevenly.

Dear god in heaven, he thought at last, when the intensity of his own reactions threatened to overwhelm him. How am I supposed to function as the captain of this ship, when I can't even look at him without wanting to crawl off somewhere and bawl my eyes out?

Kirk got up, knowing that if he did not do so soon, neither of them would make it to the Bridge this morning.

His body raised a small inventory of complaints as he made his way stiffly to the bathroom; he savored them, guiltily, hoarding them to get him through the day. Chafed skin at his wrists. Lips faintly swollen. Nipples tender. Faint bruises on his buttocks and thighs, where Vulcan hands had gripped a little too hard, a little too frantically.

And of course, the deep ache he cherished most, the soreness that proved beyond a doubt what he had done last night, what had been done to him.

He was rinsing the shampoo from his hair when he felt Spock's presence on the other side of the shower door. Breath catching, he had to wait a moment for his heart's rhythm to resume.

"If you come in here, neither one of us is going to make it out of this room before beta shift," he said, when he was able.

"Would that be such a disastrous thing?"

Kirk swallowed, his body responding to that deep voice as surely as a tuning fork. "I think you may be the death of me."

A pause. Then, regretfully, "I shall shower in my own quarters, then." Kirk heard him start to go.

"Spock?" He pressed his hands to the steam coating the shower door.

"Yes, Jim?"

The voice close, the shape of him a dim outline through the glass and steam and mist.

"Come back when you're finished. Please? Just for a minute."

"As you wish." Another pause. "Good morning, Jim."

Kirk found that he was grinning, shampoo running down his neck, hands still pressed to the door. "Yes it is, my friend. Yes it is."

Showered and dressed in record time, Spock entered his captain's quarters from the corridor, in full view of several passing crewmen.

Do they know? he caught himself wondering. Can they tell? Do they see that I am an entirely different person than I was yesterday, and all the days that went before? If they see us together, will they know what we are to one another, what we have done?

How can they not?

Kirk emerged from the walk-in closet, in uniform and stockinged feet, hair curling damply. He smiled, and Spock's heart made a clumsy, awkward leap, like a bird caged too long.

"Hi."

Spock took one step toward him, and stopped. Kirk was right. If he gave in to the impulse driving him now, if he kissed him, they would never leave this room.

He said the name, just needing to say it. "James."

Kirk closed his eyes, drawing breath in sharply. "Sweet heaven," he whispered at last, letting the breath out. "I love it when you call me that."

"Then I shall do so as long as you will permit it."

Kirk looked at him. "I don't ever want you to stop."

Spock had no words for that, didn't know if he could have spoken to save his life. And Kirk, seeing that, crossed the three steps between them and pulled the Vulcan into his arms. Stood there holding him close, his face pressed into Spock's neck.

Spock trembled, held him back, his body suddenly, vitally aware of how many times in three years he had wanted to do this. Had he tried to fool himself otherwise? Tried to tell himself that the kalifee had changed everything?

Now, it seemed he could not remember a time when he had not wanted this.

"Tell me what's going to happen," Kirk murmured dreamily against his shoulder, reading his thought. "Tell me what's troubling you. What does it mean, that you're linked to me like this?" His voice caught. "Why does it scare you?"

Spock heard himself answer, as if from a distant place. "It could become permanent. Inescapable. If I were still drawn to you, and the fever came again..." He broke off. If? Who did he think he was deceiving? He swallowed, made himself continue. "You would be aware of me, always, in your thoughts." You would learn to resent me, he completed the thought. He did not think Kirk heard. "You would no longer be entirely free."

Kirk's answer was a whisper against his throat. "Promise?"

Spock groaned, closing his eyes. "You shall indeed be my undoing."

A soft chuckle. "Would that be such a disastrous thing?"

"No," the Vulcan admitted, and released his hold.

Kirk drew back, giving him an arch, incendiary look. Daring him. "Does this mean you actually want to see the outside of this room some time today?"

Spock sighed. "I fear we have no choice."

With mock efficiency, Kirk drew himself up, all business. "Very well, Mr. Spock. As you insist, I shall suffer through the day with discipline." And then his mouth curved, the lopsided grin, and Spock's regret was sincere indeed. "Somehow." Then he thought, head tilted a little on one side. "On one condition."

"Name it."

"Meet me back here at twenty-three hundred?"

Spock pretended to consider it. "I may not be able to comply, Captain. Mr. Scott and I have some things to go over in Engineering..."

He was certain Kirk would have thrown something, had anything appropriate been close to hand. For a second the lion eyes flashed with wounded outrage. Then the grin returned. "All right, I deserved that."

"Yes."

"So you'll meet me here?" It was said softly, the plea unconcealed.

"Yes," Spock whispered hoarsely.

Did you really think otherwise?

For a long moment Kirk looked at him, as if memorizing him. At last he simply nodded and turned to go, as if he did not trust himself to say more. "Until then, my friend."

When he was at the door Spock said the name, a caress. "Jim."

Kirk stopped. Turned. His eyes were very bright, full of light that Spock knew could easily consume him. They asked a question. In answer, Spock arched one eyebrow and looked pointedly at his feet.

The captain of the Enterprise had forgotten to put on his boots.

McCoy came upon his captain on the observation deck, well into ship's evening. The man didn't turn when he came in; McCoy suspected he hadn't even heard the door open. The doctor took the opportunity to survey the situation, crossing to where Kirk stood near the portals.

He was relieved--and a little surprised--to note that Kirk displayed no obvious signs of tension.

"Well," he said softly, drawing near, "I see our resident Vulcan isn't the only one hiding out up here these days."

"Bones, didn't anyone ever tell you it's not nice to sneak up on people?"

Kirk had turned the lights down even further than their usually low setting, and the stars outside glittered in a spectacular panorama of brilliance.

"Sure. Come to think of it, I think Spock did, just last night."

"Maybe we should put a bell on you, like the proverbial cat."

"You'd have to catch me first. Besides, how else am I supposed to keep y'all on your toes, Jim?"

At last Kirk turned, fixed him with a pointed gaze. "I suspect you'd do all right, even with the bell."

There was fond tolerance in the look Kirk gave him, and McCoy caught his breath, had to check his reaction to what he saw in his captain's face. The man seemed to have dropped five years in the last twenty-four hours. His eyes were clear and without strain; his face, relaxed, made the doctor remember the day they'd met, thirteen years before. Made him recall the response that had sprung without warning into his thoughts on that historic occasion, my god, he's just a kid. And a face like that on a man ought to be illegal.

He looked suddenly young, inexplicably at peace. It was a look McCoy could not remember seeing on him in a decade-- maybe not even then. James Kirk looked... contented.

Oh my god.

"Do I have something on my face?"

McCoy blinked. "What?"

Kirk smiled at him bemusedly. "You're staring at me like I have chocolate sauce on my face or something."

"No, I just..." McCoy shook that last thought out of his head, and mustered a stern look. "Chocolate sauce?"

Kirk managed to look innocent. "Purely hypothetical example."

"Uh-huh. What did I tell you about that stuff?"

The hazel eyes lowered, a truant caught in the act, seeking leniency. "C'mon, Bones, you've been after me about not eating for weeks. Cut me a little slack."

McCoy made grumbling noises, but decided to let it slide. If Jim was hitting the sweets, he had to be feeling more like himself. "So what's so interesting out there anyway?" he asked casually, nodding out the portal toward the starfield beyond. "Must be something good. Spock seemed to think so, a couple nights ago."

"Were you harassing him, too?"

"Sure, got nothin' else to do with my time."

Kirk snorted faintly, and turned toward the stars again. "Bones, one of these days you're going to go too far with him, and you're going to find out that famed Vulcan control is a myth."

McCoy looked at him thoughtfully. "That so."

At first, in the low light, he missed it. And then Kirk shifted slightly, and McCoy saw it--the faint, almost imperceptible stain of color, high on the fine cheekbones.

And Kirk didn't answer.

Suddenly the thought was back, and this time the doctor couldn't quite manage to bury it before it spoke up, loud and clear. Oh my god, he actually did it. He actually went through with it.

Spock told him about the link.

It took him a minute to digest that one. He was hearing his own words of the previous evening, 'you have to admit, it might shake him out of his funk.' Well, it certainly appeared to have done that...

Then Kirk cleared his throat a little, still not looking at him.

"You knew, didn't you."

Not a question, really. Just simple fact.

"Yeah," McCoy said hoarsely, after a moment. "I... figured it out. He wouldn't have told me otherwise."

Kirk's mouth curved faintly. "Oh, I can believe that."

McCoy's turn to be embarrassed. "It just didn't make sense. The craziness that was goin' on in his body--his systems were a mess. There just had to be a reason he got over it so quickly. So completely. And I kept thinkin' about something he'd said. 'The condition is initiated by the female.'"

Kirk was looking at him intently now, curiosity undisguised.

"Really? I didn't know that." And then, disbelievingly, "He told you that?"

McCoy nodded. "I made him answer some questions for me, once he got it through his thick skull that as his physician, I needed to know."

"What else did he say?"

The doctor supposed that, things being what they were, there was no harm in telling him. "I asked him what would happen if one of a linked pair were to die. Or if the female were injured, and unable to perform. And he said, 'The male may survive, if a link to another can be forged in time.'" McCoy's aversion welled up again, as it had when he'd first realized the implications. "Would you believe that Vulcans willingly link their children like that, knowing what the males will suffer? Near as I can tell, the condition is completely triggered by the female's cycle. That's why a successful mating is the only possible solution. The Vulcan male will stay in heat until the female is impregnated."

"But that's..."

"Horrible? Inhuman? Yeah, you and I would see it that way. But Vulcan suffers a perpetually low birthrate. It seems they've evolved a fool-proof method of ensuring fertilization." Now that they were discussing medical matters, McCoy forgot for a moment just who they were talking about. "Near as I can guess, that's what the challenge is all about. At certain periods in Vulcan's history, there was a serious shortage of fertile females. They had to ensure that the strongest males got chosen for breeding stock. I can only assume that the challenge was invoked when a particular male was judged unfit for reproduction. It must be almost unheard of to call for challenge today. A male in the condition Spock was in would have little or no chance of surviving such a combat--" He broke off, seeing the other man's face.

Kirk had gone pale. "She was a monster."

McCoy put a hand on his arm. "We don't know what--"

"No." Kirk's eyes met the doctor's. "She meant for him to die. At my hands."

And for the first time in two months, McCoy saw the weighty shadow of grief in his friend's face.

McCoy swallowed, squeezed his arm. "I know, Jim."

He waited, and at last Kirk nodded, returned the pressure on McCoy's forearm. Then he pulled back, and the doctor let him go, met his questioning gaze.

"Bones... what you said. Does that mean... will he go through that again?"

"Well... I suppose that depends," McCoy said carefully.

"On what?"

"On whether he decides to get married to a Vulcan female."

Kirk drew a breath, his eyes bright with something the doctor could not read. "So what you're saying is, as long as he doesn't mate with a Vulcan female, he's safe?"

Confused, McCoy spread his hands. "I'm no authority, Jim. You'll have to ask him. But I'd have to guess that, eventually, his own physiology would catch up with him, female or no female." McCoy frowned. What exactly was Jim asking him?

He waited for an explanation, but Kirk only nodded thoughtfully, eyes distant, and murmured something the doctor couldn't quite make out.

At last, McCoy could stand it no longer. "Jim... what the heck is goin' on with you? You're driving me nuts here, you know that? Spock was halfway to certain you were going to throw him out on his ass when he told you--and I wasn't completely sure he was wrong. Are you two dealing with this? Is he all right? Are you?" He cocked his head, trying to see Kirk's face. "You haven't told me anything important."

The man looked at him then. Hazel eyes bore that warm, affectionate look again--and an apology. "No, you're right," Kirk said, smiling enigmatically. "I haven't."

And with that he turned and left the observation deck, the doctor staring after him.

Kirk reached his quarters with fourteen minutes to spare.

The door slid shut behind him exactly as it had a thousand times before, but this time he stopped just inside it, stood very still.

Everything was the same, in its place, strictly regulation down the line. And yet he could not escape the feeling that something important was different. His eyes went to the bookshelf, where Spock had stood, back turned, the night before. The place near the metal screen, where Spock had touched him for the first time. The chair where the Vulcan had first kissed him... the bed...

You've really got it bad, he told himself. You're starting to lose it. Get a hold of yourself.

But there was an ember of joy in his chest that would not be extinguished.

He hurried into the shower, every nerve in his body feeling like it was on overload. He didn't know what was going to happen when the Vulcan walked through the door-- had no idea in fact. That in itself was a rush he couldn't quite encompass. Would they kiss, touch each other gently? Would they devour each other, like they had last night? Would Spock tie him up again? Perhaps they would simply play chess, and he would go quietly insane from wanting.

Perhaps Spock would meld with him.

He was already more than half-aroused when the water hit his skin, and that thought made him flush with eager heat. The truth was he didn't much care. He was going so crazy with the need to see Spock that any or all of those sounded almost unbearably wonderful.

The Vulcan had stayed down in the labs all day, sparing them both the agony of being on the Bridge together, at least for a little while. Eventually they would have to deal with that, too. Kirk didn't know when--if--he was ever really going to be able to deal with it. But they had both known that today it would have been an impossibility. To feel that presence at his back, and know he must not let it show, must not think about what Spock had done to him the night before. To look up and find those dark eyes on him, knowing...

No. Not today.

It had been bad enough with Spock fifteen decks away.

The water sluiced fragrant lather down his back and he thought about how odd it should have been, that he had found it so natural after all these years to love another man, to be in love with him, to make love with him. He would have to take some time to think about that one of these days. Try to understand what it meant.

But in his heart, it felt nothing but unutterably, inevitably right.

Realizing that he had been daydreaming a little too long, Kirk rushed through drying off and wrapped the towel around his waist. In the bedroom, his brain hesitated over clothing. A robe would be too obvious. His usual off-duty attire-- subdued and boring and chosen to maintain command image- -would hardly do. He thought briefly about the tunic he'd bought on Altair, but if a robe was obvious what would his conservative first officer think of that clingy green silk? No.

He'd only managed a pair of black drawstring workout pants when the door signal sounded.

At the sound he turned, his body going hot, something like panic closing his throat. Then it struck him what a ridiculous picture he painted, the intrepid starship captain utterly unable to make a decision about what clothes to put on.

What the hell. He really didn't want to play chess anyway.

"Come."

And the Vulcan was there in the doorway, tall and elegant and overwhelming in a loose shirt and trousers of gathered linen, making Kirk feel, as he often did when Spock was around, like a scruffy peasant in the presence of royalty.

Spock stopped in the open door, hands clasped behind him, making a slow survey of Kirk's attire. He did not hurry. When his gaze returned to Kirk's at last, the human found himself a little breathless.

The dark eyes considered him. "From today forward," the Vulcan said thoughtfully, "you should not be seen thus outside of this room." He took the last step that would bring him into the room, and the door slid shut behind him.

Kirk put his hands on his hips and cocked his head challengingly. "Is that so?"

Spock nodded urbanely. "I could not be held responsible for my actions."

Kirk closed the distance between them. "Would you care to demonstrate?" His blood was singing just from that look. He suddenly knew that not only did he not want to play chess--he also was not going to be able to wait very long. The hours of anticipation had him primed and ready, and just being in the room with Spock was winding him up tighter than a drum.

"You are so impatient," the deep voice chastised him. "We do have all evening."

Kirk colored faintly. "Yes, of course. Please come in. Make yourself comfortable." He checked his own eagerness. This is Spock. Don't rush him. Just because you've worked yourself into a state thinking about him all day...

He made himself ask casually, "What would you like to do this evening?"

"What is your pleasure, Jim?" The question asked just as casually

And suddenly Kirk could feel him smoldering in his cool linen, could feel the tension drawn taut in the other's body. Spock wanted this as much as he did.

Perhaps he just wanted a little convincing.

So be it. If Spock wanted a deliberate seduction then Kirk would give it to him, in spades. He lowered his eyes, concentrating every trick he knew on his cool, untouchable Vulcan.

"My pleasure," he echoed, one hand still at his hip, the other tracing his lower lip thoughtfully with a fingertip. "My pleasure would be... coffee and conversation, Mr. Spock. What do you say?" He looked up at Spock again, daring him.

"As you wish," Spock agreed, playing the game.

Kirk crossed the room, not hurrying, feeling Spock's eyes like a brand on his skin. At the synthesizer he paused, pretending to consider. At last he looked back over his shoulder, smiling a little. "Well, I suppose I'm really not in the mood for coffee, after all. You?"

Spock shook his head. His eyes were hooded. "Perhaps just the conversation then," he said, his voice just slightly roughened around the edges.

Kirk felt a surge of gratification. Oh yes, my friend. You can feel how much I want you, can't you?

As if he had heard the thought, Spock swallowed, his throat moving almost imperceptibly. "What did you wish to discuss?"

Was that a hint of unsteadiness in his voice? Kirk turned and came back across the room, slowly closing the distance between them. "I had a talk with Dr. McCoy this evening."

Spock blinked, obviously not expecting that. "Indeed?"

"Indeed." Kirk moved closer still. "It was... most enlightening."

"May I ask the topic?"

Kirk came to a halt less than half a meter from the Vulcan. It struck him again that he had to look up to meet the other's eyes at this distance--and something in him responded unexpectedly to that realization, drawing the heat tighter in his belly. "You," he said at last, in answer. "You... and me." Spock's eyes widened, and Kirk took pity on him. "Don't worry. I didn't tell him anything important. He did all the talking."

Spock looked genuinely perplexed. "Regarding...?"

Kirk managed to keep a straight face. "Biology."

The eyebrow rose predictably. "I see. May I presume you refer to... Vulcan biology?"

"You may."

"And what, may I ask, was the conclusion to this discussion?" Spock was obviously uneasy with the thought of Kirk and McCoy discussing such things.

Kirk sighed. "There wasn't one, really." He was standing very close now. Close enough to feel the Vulcan's faint trembling, close enough for Spock to feel his. "He knows about the link, you know."

"I know." Spock's voice was hardly more than a whisper now. "It was he who convinced me that I had no alternative but honesty with you."

"Then I owe him one," Kirk said softly, letting his eyes show how great indeed was the debt.

"The debt is mine. Entirely mine." Spock drew a an audible breath, and suddenly his hands were at Kirk's bare waist, warm and possessive, and the human felt himself sway at the touch. "You are a sorcerer," Spock whispered near his ear. "I cannot keep my hands from you."

"Then don't," Kirk said hoarsely, closing his eyes. "Don't."

Those hands traced upward along his sides, and he thought he would die from the pleasure of it.

"You are so responsive."

Kirk heard his own respiration, uneven and heavy, catching with each brush of the sensitive fingers along his skin, his ribs, his belly. "You're making me crazy."

Spock touched his face. "You are making me want to kiss you."

A sound escaped Kirk's lips, a soft vibration of wanting. He opened his eyes, met Spock's, drowning in his own need and love. "Yes," he whispered.

He tried, very hard, to keep his eyes open. But the full lips brushed his, so gently, and he could not help himself. He moaned faintly and had to put a hand on Spock's waist to steady himself.

The Vulcan drew back, and Kirk opened his eyes again, his own lips parted, begging. Please. Please, I need more. Please kiss me again.

"I very much like hearing you say that," Spock murmured, his lips flushed, hands warm against Kirk's skin. "You are beautiful when you say yes to me."

"Kiss me again," Kirk pleaded, the longing greater than his pride. "Please, Spock."

And Spock's hand was in his hair, cradling the back of his head, holding him, and the feeling of being controlled rushed through him in a surge of memory and need. The Vulcan's mouth came down on his, and then they were kissing for real, a slow, intimate caress of lips and tongue, hot and sweet, incinerating. Kirk groaned, felt something coming apart at the core of him. His hands held on to Spock, pulling him close, closer. They were one, mouths hungry for one another, the naked warmth of Kirk close against the leaner planes of the Vulcan's body, their urgent erections caressing, pressing together through loose fabric.

At last, desperate for air, Kirk broke away. He felt that if Spock let go of him, he would fall. "Please," he gasped, shaking, "I can't wait. I need--"

Those strong hands at his back, the nape of his neck, holding him. "What do you need, t'hy'la? Tell me what you need."

Anything. You can do anything you want with me. But he couldn't make the words come.

Suddenly Spock had him by the wrists, was pushing him backward. He went willingly, stumbling. "This, James?" the Vulcan whispered gently. "Is this what you wish?"

Spock had him pressed up against the mesh divider now, and Kirk felt him shift, saw that the Vulcan had pulled something out of the pocket of his trousers. He tried to see what it was. And then he did see.

A pair of security restraints, glinting in the low light.

A shudder ran through Kirk, and he thought he made a sound, a low moan in the back of his throat, almost inaudible.

And Spock heard, of course. The full lips curved ever so slightly and Spock leaned down to kiss him, a feather touch underneath his jaw. "Give me your hand," he whispered.

The click as the second restraint locked into place made something shift over in Kirk's brain, something vital and a little frightening--and utterly, utterly erotic. He pressed back, feeling the imprint of metal mesh in his buttocks, his shoulders. He was so hard it hurt. Then Spock was leaning toward him, those incredible hands on his hips, pushing his pants down. When he was done, the Vulcan stood back a little.

"Yes, let me look at you. Let me see you."

Kirk had no choice, for he was naked now, stripped and pinned before Spock, cock hard and nipples tight with longing. He wanted to beg Spock to touch him--was afraid to for fear he would only be teased more.

Spock unbuttoned his own pale linen shirt then, until it was open down the front, the tails hanging loose. Beneath the soft, cream-colored fabric he was all dark curls and taut muscle. His body was compact and, to Kirk, incredibly arousing. He ached to feel that smooth, alabaster skin on his.

And then Spock did touch him, and it was spontaneous combustion, out of control.

That touch on his belly, his ribs, stroking him lightly as before, only this time the rush of sensation that followed each touch flooded through him in shivery waves of heat. Without warning, the dark head bent and those full, sensuous lips were caressing his nipple, teasing. Before he could even fully register the first shock of pleasure, he felt the deliberate assault of tongue and teeth.

"Oh god..."

And the attack went on, and on, until he was moaning aloud, wanting to plead for mercy and unable even to form words. His arousal was so great that he could feel dampness on his thighs, his own pre-ejaculate. Involuntarily, his hips moved against Spock's body, needing contact, and his cock brushed rigid heat through the other's clothing. His breath caught, the first delicate frisson of orgasm twining itself in his groin.

Spock pulled away, leaving him bereft. "Be still. You may not find release until I permit it. Do you understand?"

Kirk made a sound which was meant to be assent. But before he could think or catch his breath, that enflaming mouth was on his belly, and moving lower.

"Spock..." it came out a sob, for that mouth was kissing his groin now, his scrotum, the tops of his thighs. And he knew, beyond any doubt, that if Spock put that mouth on him, on his cock, he was going to lose it. "Spock, please..."

And suddenly he could not bear it, that his hands were tied and he could not feel him, could not press his body into all the curves and hollows of him, could not hold him close and kiss him. Suddenly it was not enough. He needed more.

The Vulcan was crouching before him, pupils dilated, lips parted. Looking up at him.

Waiting.

Kirk fought to find the words to express that need. He swallowed, hard. Pleaded, "Let me love you. Let me make love to you."

"You wish me to release you?" The deep voice was ragged, unsteady, and Kirk heard the answering need.

"Yes. Please, I... I need to touch you."

For a moment, Kirk saw a brightness in his lover's eyes like tears, and his own throat closed. Spock leaned forward, very slowly, and rested his face against Kirk's thighs. His eyes closed, then opened again, and he rose to his feet gracefully. He said nothing, only reached up, freeing Kirk's hands with slow deliberation.

Then the hands that had freed him pulled him close, and Spock kissed him deeply, thoroughly, and the pleasure was all-consuming.

"I want you inside of me," Kirk whispered when he could breathe. The bed was under him, and Spock on top of him, and he was not certain how that had happened but he did not really care.

Spock's hands were in his hair. "This way?" he asked, his eyes dark embers, smoldering. Somewhere he had lost some clothing, for his penis was pressed tight against Kirk's hip, hot and slick and as hard as Kirk felt.

"Any way," Kirk breathed, knowing only the need. "Every way." And then, belatedly, remembering--"I have some stuff in the cabinet."

The lean form shuddered under his hands, and Spock looked at him, hard. "Can you?"

"Yes." He knew what Spock was asking; can you wait? He had gone past the point of orgasm now--pleasure was a high, hot flame in every nerve of his body. When release finally came, it would be almost like agony. But for now... "Yes, I can. I want it." He was the wanting, no room for anything else in him but that.

He closed his eyes for a moment, feeling Spock reaching above his head for the tube of lubricant he had put there earlier. He drew deep breaths, letting them out slowly, concentrating on making his body relax. The Vulcan's breathing was audible and erratic, and Kirk knew he was not going to be able to go slow. That was all right. But he did not want Spock to fear hurting him.

A few moments, and he looked up to find Spock kneeling between his thighs, watching him with a still expression, his eyes wide and full of light. Uncomfortable under that naked worship, Kirk dropped his gaze--to a sight that made him draw a rather worshipful breath of his own.

He's going to be inside of me.

Dear god in heaven.

Spock touched him, one hand on the soft skin of his inner thigh. Are you sure? his eyes asked.

"It's all right," Kirk murmured, and drew his knees up, as if to show that it was. As it had been when Spock had done it the night before, that exposed feeling was the scariest part; Kirk felt a little thread of fear, but didn't fight it. It was all right to be afraid. Spock would make it all right.

He could see the Vulcan trembling now with the effort at control, but the slick fingers that touched him were gentle, probing, and it was a different kind of pleasure, no less stimulating.

"Oh, god, so good. So good." And suddenly he couldn't bear the solitariness of his own body, and he reached up, pleading. "Now, Spock."

Then the weight of Spock, so good on top of him, silk, velvet and steel. Kirk drew his knees back further, trying not to brace himself against the pain to come, not really succeeding. It was scarier like this, without the restraints, without Spock commanding him, ordering his submission. Harder to give this freely than to have it taken from him. But he wanted it, would bear the pain to have it. The silky, slippery head of the other man's penis touched him, and he drew a breath that tasted of flying, and fear.

But instead of pushing inside him, Spock stopped, leaning heavily on Kirk's thighs--and reached to touch his face.

A single, hovering moment of air and light. The voice, touching him at his center.

Bright one.

Spock?

This moment. Love. You are.

Kirk felt the dissolution of control, the breakdown of coherent thought, knew that Spock was over the edge now, lost.

Come inside me.

Yes. Inside--

Spock groaned deep in his throat and moved, and Kirk felt himself opened up, filled, and it was all right because of the hand on his face, because of his love, because when Spock entered him all he felt was his own heat, his own silk, his own tightness; and when at last Spock came in great, shuddering waves of release, the pleasure was his, he owned it, and there was no pain.

"Jim?"

A long moment passed, in which Kirk tried and failed to raise his head from the pillow.

"Yeah?" he managed finally, figuring it would have to do.

Silence.

"What is it, Spock?"

"Nothing," a muffled voice said, from somewhere near his left ear. "I was merely checking."

Kirk thought about that for a moment. And then he grinned weakly; laughing would have taken too much energy. "I don't pass out every time, you know."

"Mm."

The human considered. "I bet you passed out too, that first time. You just woke up before me."

"Mm." Beside him, Spock shifted slightly, pressing more tightly to his backside. "You will never know."

Kirk lay in the semi-darkness, listening to the Vulcan breathe, feeling the steady rise and fall of that slow rhythm against his back. It came to him, a blunt shock, that it had been only twenty-four hours since his best friend and first officer had come to his quarters, offered him a back rub, and concluded the evening by tying him up and fucking him into oblivion. He hadn't let himself think about 'no matter what,' yet... hadn't let himself think about McCoy's hypothetical Vulcan females. Happily ever after was something he had never hoped for with any lover. There were a thousand reasons why he shouldn't hope for it now.

Still, he couldn't help feeling the touch of forever at his back, in his heart.

"I've never done that before, you know," he said at last, into the quiet of the room. "Not any of it."

"I know," Spock murmured against his nape. One arm had found its way around his middle, was cradling him loosely.

The tightness in Kirk's throat eased. He fell silent again for a few minutes, testing his own reactions to the thought that had drifted idly into his brain a moment before.

"Do you...?" He drifted off.

"What, Jim?"

"Well... did you... like it?" His voice had dropped to a whisper. "Tying me up, I mean. Telling me what to do."

There was a pause. Then, "Do you really have any doubt?"

"You know what I mean. Do you... like being in control?"

Spock was silent for a long moment, and Kirk felt a kind of sinking in his chest, guilt and shame gathering. But then Spock stroked his hair once, very gently. "I liked... pleasing you," he said softly, and the human's heart expanded in answer to that vulnerable honesty. "It was... most gratifying, to be able to bring you such pleasure. Such release."

"You don't have to do it any more," Kirk said in a small voice. "If you don't want to."

"Jim?"

"Yes?"

"Go to sleep. You talk excessively."

Kirk half-turned in his arms, outraged. "I talk too much?"

"Affirmative."

"Look here, mister. You're the one--"

"Jim?"

"What?"

"Be still. Now."

And that was the voice that demanded obedience, that compelled it, and this time Kirk heard the dark timbre of pleasure, the soul-deep satisfaction.

He knew, then, that he did not need to worry.

 


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