Taaz Avine, by Syn Ferguson

McCoy had encountered the drugs and illusions of a hundred worlds, but none could account for this abrupt awakening. Sight, scent and sound crashed upon him like walls falling and when he blinked the confusion away, he knew the place--Sabek Umnor, the forbidden city where Romulan warriors took their pleasure from the spoils of war. He had been there before when they had exchanged prisoners and he would never forget the smell of spice, sex and misery--or the half-human remnants the Federation prisoners had become.

His wrist pained him and he was no longer a floating observer, but centered in his vulnerable human body. A barbed wristlet and leather thong bound him to the belt of a tall warrior clad in the leather-on-leather of a Romulan mercenary. He himself wore the black robe, hood and veil of a slave.

Frantic, he reached for memories that could explain his presence here and found nothing. He had been safe on the Enterprise, worried about Spock's return to the sector of space where Jim had been lost. He had been alone, and then...then.... The memory eluded him. Someone speaking softly, persuasively, a velvet voice leading him-- He couldn't remember. The effort to do so caused him to fall out of step with the man who led him. With the logic of nightmare, of madness, the Romulan turned.

"Spock!" It was a gasp, through the pain.

"Slaves do not speak without permission, Doctor. Given permission, they speak Romulan."

"But I--" Again the wrench on his wrist, worse this time, enough to bring him to his knees. He couldn't believe the pain, the trickle of blood snaking down the back of his hand, couldn't believe Spock was--what? Traitor? Madman? He didn't dare ask. It had to be a dream. He knelt on the warm stones and fought for some anchorhold on sanity.

"Submission--is--a slave's virtue," Spock said, keeping his voice low. "I have--researched the topic--intensively."

Appalled, McCoy heard the faint hesitation in the speech that would have amounted to a stutter in anyone else. Dead giveaway of a personality coming apart at the seams. Spock's eyes were as lightless as a dead man's. McCoy had to look away.

He could feel that he was naked under his robe--no communicator, no weapon--only the barbed horror on one wrist and a translator bracelet on the other. One glance showed him that there would be no help here. Romulans were everywhere. They were in a courtyard opening off a busy street. Spock, like the others, was watching an ornate gate. McCoy couldn't read the script over the door, but the entwined male bodies sculpted on the center panel were explicit enough.

Oh, God. Nothing had gone right for months. He should have downgraded the Vulcan long ago, even without any more to go on than his own gut feeling. He'd known something more was wrong than grief over Jim's death. But that damned Vulcan ability to function was hard to challenge. Now the worst had happened and it was his responsibility to salvage what he could--mute, unarmed, among enemies.

By full dark twenty odd people had gathered in the courtyard, afoot or in covered chairs. When the gate opened, they crowded forward and Spock joined them. Fully aware of their peril now, McCoy made no protest. He took his cue from other slaves present--eyes down, silent, alert to their master's every movement. Spock surrendered his weapons and a golden token to a gatekeeper. As they followed the others, McCoy heard snatches of gossip and realized that Spock, too, had been using the click-sibilants and double consonants of an alien tongue. The Romulans around them spoke of a golden slave, of delights unequaled.

He supposed the place was splendid, in a barbaric way, but the granite bones were too close under the soft carpets, the outside air was filtered through too many bars and grills. They turned and twisted through a maze of parting curtains and sudden stairways until he lost all sense of direction, and Spock's tranced look gave him no assurance that the Vulcan would remember their return path--if he even intended to return. He looked like a man going to his execution. Let it be a dream.

Their journey ended in a soft room with a stage, an intimate auditorium where slim, nude Vulcanoid youths ushered the guests to broad couches, offering food, wine, and small alabaster pots with pierced covers from which a sweet smoke curled. McCoy watched the other slaves and knelt beside Spock's couch, careful not to obstruct his view. All the room was green and black, rich with ornate hangings or spangled with mirrors. McCoy saw himself in the glass, only another black-clad form kneeling in the gloom. Most of the room's light came from a lantern of thin jade plates, centered low over the bed on the stage, an outsize bed with four solid posts and a mirror behind it. A slow, sensuous throb of drums and bells filled the air.

The Vulcan shifted on the couch and McCoy, thinking he was going to speak, glanced up and saw that Spock, too, was nude under his tunic. Shocked, he looked away, as embarrassed as a small boy caught comparing himself to adults. But the image stayed in his mind--the parted thighs, thickly curling hair, balls almost engulfed in the thicket, one-eyed snake staring at him. Not a dream. Nightmare.

He forced himself to look at the others, taking the chance that someone would comment on his blue eyes, or worse, that he would see someone who could recognize Spock. These were clearly no country bumpkins, but Romulan elite. A bonded pair of young warriors lounged together on one couch, a grizzled elder was being deftly served by his own young attendants, and a cloaked figure waited with feline impatience that suggested the feminine to McCoy. They were like hunting cats in uneasy alliance around a kill. There was none of the bonhomie of a human joyhouse. They kept to themselves, fondling their favorites, but there was a shared excitement in the air as real as the muted throb of the drums.

He knew what they were going to see. The iron rings set in the posts of the bed brought on a faint, familiar sensation--half nausea, half excitement. It was the dark side of his surgeon's skill that he had faced long ago--the fascination of the helpless body, the mastery of wielding the knife, the power over life and death. We all have a wolf. That was his. But he chose to heal.

Think like a doctor, then. Even the mad have motives. Why were they here? It would be something connected with Jim's loss. That friendship had been too tight, too exclusive for some time. He had suspected a dozen times that there was more to it than friendship--and let it ride. Spock's strength and the inferno of that repressed fire could be terrifying--or terrifyingly attractive to a confirmed risk taker--and only Spock's Vulcan half was locked into that seven year cycle. If he had been released from it, McCoy had no doubt who was responsible. Given the depth of their attraction and the determination of one starship captain, Spock wouldn't have had a chance. Sex. Death. Spock might be compelled to seek release at risk of his life.

But why here? Why bring McCoy?

The drums pulsed louder and the slaves of the house dimmed all the lights but that dragon's-blood jewel over the stage. McCoy's eyes were not as quick as the Vulcan's to adjust to the gloom. Two indistinct figures on the stage simply materialized out the dark. The drums died down. The bells chimed in whispers.

"Lords, Ladies, Conquerors All, welcome to the House of Barak and the hospitality of the House. Tarsa the Guardian welcomes you and begs to serve your pleasure."

"Your days of serving it are past, eunuch. Show us the golden Slave." It was the elder who spoke from the audience, stroking the cheek of one of his pets.

"Indulge me, lord. Not all our guests may know the pleasure in store for them--or be as eager as you to partake. I see new faces here, war weary victors newly returned from the reaches of space, surely deserving of the keenest joy that flesh can feel.

"Masters, when does the fire burn fiercest for quenching? Which of all the joys of the bond is best? And which--once in a lucky man's lifetime--may be enjoyed outside the bond?" The guardian's voice fell to a dramatic whisper as he asked, "Of what does every conqueror dream?"

McCoy felt a riptide of tension and surmise circle the room, felt Spock's stillness. He became aware that it was the second figure of the two on the stage that spoke, that both were hooded and cloaked in slave's black, and that a light was growing on the figure in front as it stood motionless, head bowed.

"I bring you a young male of the warrior class, physically perfect, certified sound and whole in every respect--and burning, burning in the flames of Taaz Avine."

"Taaz Avine," they gave it back to him, a sigh, a dream, the way men said "paradise" who believed in it, or "home" as they lay dying.

Wanting to believe, they challenged him.

"Whoremaster, you know what would become of one who promised such delights falsely?" There was menace in that and a hot second in the next voice.

"Or to one who imprisoned a warrior of the Empire to use his bondmate thus?"

"Lords, Lords--" Tarsa soothed them. "Would a sane man even contemplate such risk? Arain has proved his condition in a hundred encounters and his mate cannot seek him here. The slave was taken in war and he is human."

Human, thought McCoy, trying to guess the height of that silent figure.

"A human in Taaz Avine?"

"Let him prove it, my lords. So sure am I that only his own lord's touch can sate him that he, himself, is prize for the one who brings him to climax."

"No more bickering," came a woman's decisive voice. "Put it to the test."

"I but awaited your command, Lady." The taller of the two figures reached forward and put his hands on the full hood of the other's cloak. "Youth," Tarsa whispered, and the hood fell back, showing a tousled golden crown. "Beauty," and the slave slowly lifted his head.

The watchers leaned forward, and McCoy with them, suspended between hope and despair. Beauty indeed. An unruly mane streaked tawny at the tips, which rested on the black clad shoulders. Wide brow, slumbering fire in the large eyes, stubborn line of the jaw above the strong column of the throat: James Kirk's features. But as Tarsa's hands stroked the shoulders, parted the edges of the cloak to show a V of white flesh below the hollow of the throat, McCoy shook his head in silent negation. That tranced submission could not belong to the Captain of the Enterprise.

The V at the neck elongated as the cloak was inexorably parted. The drums, the heat of the room had somehow gotten into McCoy's bloodstream. He could feel a pulse at the back of his knees, hear his own heartbeat. The perfect sculpture of the torso showed now, raised lines of the collarbones, hard planes and edges of the pectorals, strong cage of the ribs standing out over a hound-lean waist--and the hands, centered below the navel, holding gold chains that linked wrist to wrist.

"Arain," Tarsa whispered as the velvet slipped down the rounded bulk of shoulders and biceps, "the flames of Taaz Avine in chains of gold."

He pulled the cloak free, and for a frozen moment the slave stood still, then the clasped hands fell to his parted thighs, and the gold arc of the chain glinted in the air, underlining the heavy weight of his sex.

"Desire," said Tarsa, "that has never been sated." With two fingers, a mere whisper of a touch, he stroked the slave's neck and looked down at the heavy cock rising before the motionless body. "First Bidding."

The bids tumbled one after the other, like waves beating against the still figure. Sweat stung McCoy's eyes; he dared not wipe it away, afraid that one movement would turn the frozen Vulcan at his side into a berserker. But Spock did not move or speak.

As the high bidder stood up, the elder in his flock of pets, and the time candle was lit, McCoy fixed his eyes on the lantern above the stage. He had seen sex shows before. He had no desire to see this one. The force with which Spock jerked his head down almost broke his neck, and the glare of madness in his eyes sent McCoy's glance skittering to the bodies on the stage. Only Arain lived, he told himself. An unfortunate poor bastard of a slave. Drugged, tortured, mind-washed, James Kirk was dead, the self that made the man, and only this poor shell remained.

To the interested encouragement of the crowd, the elder had bound the slave facing them, his hands linked behind him, his knees spread wide as the Romulan probed his ass with two fingers of one hand and milked his cock with the other. Caught between two torments, or two ecstasies, the slave was thrusting raggedly back and forth. McCoy felt a flush of fever in his own groin that the Romulan must have shared. With an oath he stopped the stimulation and grabbed his own cock.

"Don't stop now, old man. Win him for us and we'll share your victory with you."

With a frustrated growl, the Romulan turned his victim away from the audience and forced his head down, straddling him, pulling his cheeks apart to show the watchers the dark rose of the orifice. Then he bent his head and began to lick down the cleft toward the balls dangling below.

The slave's white body was writhing and jerking in an extremity of arousal, and other bodies in the dark echoed his movement, but it was the Romulan who cursed and jerked upright and climaxed, his ejaculate falling over the upthrust buttocks and quivering thighs before he could do more.

Bawdy laughter mocked him as he got to his feet and shoved the slave off balance with his foot. Arain rolled to his side and stared up from his bonds, his cock still rampant between his thighs.

It can't be Jim, McCoy told himself, he would never submit to that--but the momentary blaze of triumph from the passionate face shook him. If he chose to wear chains--that was how James Kirk would wear them.

The attendants came forward again, offering wine, warm towels or their own warm mouths. McCoy's stomach clenched as he saw what was happening and he threw an alarmed glance at Spock, but the Vulcan waved the boy-slaves away and made no claim on McCoy.

Attendants had also bathed Arain and brought him wine. The even features were composed again, the flush of arousal fading, and he lay at ease, facing the audience, as if they, not he, were the spectacle--or as if he had sensed something there more interesting that the bidding or the comments on his body. Spock's neighbors were congratulating themselves on discovering him.

"He cannot help but respond," said one "And there is no release for him by his own hand or any other's until his mate wills it. How he must burn, and still too proud to beg--" Arain's eyes paused on them and passed over Spock without recognition. McCoy fought a sense of unreality that he recognized as shock. But he had accepted his presence here, Spock's instability. He knew that he might, probably would, die when the Vulcan's control snapped. What could be worse than that?

Simple. Arain of the hundred encounters. If James Kirk did not know when to die, how should Leonard McCoy? He had been lonely through every relationship of life until two men of absolute integrity had admitted him to their friendship, and he had often felt that he could face any death in their company. Now all his surety was gone.

"Second Bidding" called Tarsa.

Although the heat from Spock's body was radiating at fever pitch and his fist was clenched at his side until the tendons stood out in stark relief, he did not bid. McCoy didn't know whether this was cause for relief, that the Vulcan was still struggling for sanity, or if it was simply a prelude to a suicidal confrontation. There was nothing they could do that had a hope of success. Jim's life, obviously, depended upon his identity as Arain. There was a death sentence on the head of any Enterprise officer taken in the Romulan Empire. The perfect conditioning of the slave trade had taken twenty pounds off Kirk, erased a few scars McCoy hadn't bothered with, let his hair grow. And something, whatever they had used to break him, had wiped ten years of responsibility from his face. But he was recognizable, and eventually some of the Romulans he had confronted, either in treaty or deep space negotiations, would turn up here to claim their reward in the pleasure city. And as many or more knew Spock. By sheer chance none was in the audience tonight. But together? Human and Vulcan? They were legend and his own presence would only confirm their identity. If Spock stepped on that stage they were all dead men.

The bidding went higher this time, and it was the woman who finally flung a heavy purse to the guardian. Her slaves took her cloak and she stepped forward confidently, masked and girdled in iridescent feathers. They ringed her eyes, following the contour of arched brow and high cheekbones into her upswept hair, which was bound in feathers and jewels before it cascaded down her back. Bright eyefeathers with serpentine tendrils of down made a pectoral above her smooth breasts and a V of exotic color between her thighs. From fingertip to shoulder, she wore a magnificent fan of wing. The room hushed as she stepped up to the stage.

A silent slave took Arain's cup, and he stared up, assessing her beauty as surely as she measured his.

"I do not own you, pet, but it would please me to do so. I can give great pleasure to those who serve me well." She raised her arms, extending the wings, lifting her breasts and turning slightly before him, flexing her waist, showing the long line of hip and thigh. "There is much pleasure we could share."

As casually as if there was no threat of punishment, Arain reached out and pulled her foot from under her. She landed safe enough, flat on her ass on the bed, and a delighted roar went up around the room. Arain's expression had not changed. Hampered by her wings, the woman was awkward as she rose, but anger became her better than honeyed words.

"You are in a poor position to express an opinion, slave. You will regret that!"

She called for more chains, and the attendants brought them, heavy, gleaming gold, a hundredweight of massy links to bind him. Thorough, calculating, she looped them over chest, waist, belly, across his throat, around his thighs. The weight of the chains was accompanied by the soft caress of the feathers, bringing him fully hard and erect once more. She knelt over him, straddling his groin but not touching. She shifted her weight from knee to knee, parted and open above his questing cock, but tantalizingly out of reach. She brushed his face with feathers, stroking his eyes, around his ears, along the line of lips and jaw until his breath was a ragged gasp of unwanted pleasure. She pressed forward then, taking his mouth in a bruising kiss, pulling back when he returned it.

"You see. I can give pleasure--or pain." And her fingers fastened on his nipples, pinching the erect nubs, twisting the tender flesh until he twisted in his chains.

"So sensitive, poor Arain--and no master to comfort you."

Her kisses followed the chains now, across the broad chest, down the ticklish ribs to the softness at the side of his waist. As she slid back McCoy could see Arain's rigid cock bent down by her body, following the cleft in her ass, could see her stiffen as it probed her slit, see her bite her lip as she let it slide forward and free.

Arain was fighting himself and her now, his eyes closed, perspiration highlighting the play of muscles under the skin as he tried not to respond, but his lips were swollen from her kiss and the flush of desire burned bright in his throat and face.

She slid back, brushed the glowing head of his cock with her lips and sighed in pleasure.

"I can taste myself on you, alien. What is your taste?"

McCoy heard a gasp almost in his ear, felt the heat of Spock's body against his own. The Vulcan sat up, panting and started to rise, all his attention fixed on the stage.

McCoy didn't want to die. Spock was off balance, his reflexes slowed, and McCoy's hand knew just where to apply the oldest restraint. No one, human or Vulcan, was going to risk having his testicles torn off. Halfway into a deathblow, Spock realized what McCoy's final spasm could do to him and reached for the neckpinch instead.

As the steely fingers settled on his shoulder McCoy sent up a mental shout, hoping the dual contact could somehow initiate the mind link.

Not yet, Spock!

It was like plunging into a furnace, extinction almost before the shock of agony, but although he must have blacked out, something got through, because he came to with Spock's hands on his shoulders, supporting him, and Spock's voice, striving for sanity, sounding in his mind.

You are correct, Doctor. You can remove your hand.

McCoy relaxed his grip and his indrawn breath, feeling for the first time the double round warm weight against his palm, the crisp, dry fleece crushed against Spock's thigh, the velvet kiss of Spock's cock just brushing his wrist as he withdrew.

What are you going to do? thought McCoy, and the unvoiced, get us all killed? was as clear as the rest of the question.

I am not yet certain. I do not wish to die, but I have burned--burned-- The fever in Spock's body flamed through McCoy, settled in his groin, bringing him erect.

Don't, he protested, knowing in the same second that it was beyond Spock's control. Don't watch them, he amended, tell me what happened to Jim.

Spock forced his eyes away from the thrashing bodies on the stage. Jim knew my desire for Taaz Avine--demanded to give it. I thought--hoped--it would cool my flame that would not cease burning, his mind, his body so cool to mine--the soldiers came-- The link snapped as the image of the she-hawk driving herself down on Arain filled his mind.

Arain was fighting his bonds now with all his strength and Spock was fighting for control, every muscle in his body rigid as they watched the slave crush his body against the chains, trying to reach the woman. Her hair was loose now, scourging the air, feathered tendrils lashing in rhythm, her heat, her cries flogging Arain into frenzy, desperate for release.

But again it was the aggressor who stiffened, swept her feathered arms high into the air, then collapsed, broken-winged across Arain's racked body. In that moment Spock's hand came down on McCoy's neck and the physician knew his spine would snap if the Vulcan's control did.

Weakly, slowly, the fallen hawk stirred and the wings lifted. She reached for help, and the attendants came, lifting her up, off the still rigid organ that speared up from Arain's groin. Spock's grip relaxed.

As other attendants offered their services in the audience, those on the stage began to unbind Arain. His right wrist was freed first, and he threw his forearm over his eyes as they unwound the heavy links. Cruel prints marked the fair skin in the tenderness of belly and side, showed red as a brand on the inside of his thigh. They washed him impersonally as they could, but every touch sent a new tremor through him.

The interval was longer this time, but not long enough for McCoy, trying to reason a way out of this. If Jim's state had been caused somehow by Spock, then Spock should be able to cure it--but Spock could not be seen with Jim, could not initiate a mind-meld here. The House of Barak would hardly tolerate telepathic tampering with their prize. But it must be now, Vulcan and human alike were straining the absolute limits of endurance. As the slave lay there with his arm over his eyes, he had assumed a pose McCoy had seen Kirk take a hundred times over when the choices and the costs were more than any one man should have to face. And how, even supposing they lived and he could be restored, how could Kirk face this?

It was too late for thought. Spock was rising to bid. He offered an emerald, green as blood. It burned through the air like a falling star into Tarsa's hands and silenced the competition.

"You would pay this, my lord?"

"Wager," said Spock, "not pay." His voice was so hoarse it was almost unrecognizable. "I, too, have a human slave taken in battle."

Oh, no, thought McCoy. This won't work.

But Spock's strained voice, Spock's hand trembling on his shoulder, silenced him.

"Among humans, some few have the tradition of bonding."

Vulcan liar.

"They love each other's honor, and some would share--even torture--to be together."

Or maybe not.

"I believe this slave is such a man."

Oh, Spock. The Vulcan's hands were unfastening the thong from the barbed wristlet and pain brought tears to McCoy's eyes. Spock's hands were on the cloak that covered McCoy's nakedness.

"I would see what human is to human."

"But, my lord," Tarsa protested, "the rules of the house--I cannot permit--"

"I will be governed by my peers," said Spock. "Shall the slaves be matched?" The cloak fell, and he turned McCoy to face them, his hands still resting lightly on McCoy's shoulders.

Even torture. It was not the stares McCoy shrank from, but his own judgement of himself. He could see Arain's perfect body, his youth. He knew, as a physician must, that Spock's stern exterior covered physiologic youth. And his own time had passed. I'm not, I can't--Oh, Spock, I can't help you now. But he did not speak aloud.

"Of course," and Spock's voice was surer, more normal now, a velvet purr at his ear, "he has had the benefit of my instruction--"

"Let him try," came the elder's voice.

"It's a fair wager," one of the bondmates said.

"Yes," came another voice. "You've had your profit of us--and him. Light the candle."

Bowing to the will of his patrons, Tarsa lit the time-candle.

Spock nodded, and in a gesture natural here, ran his fingers through McCoy's hair and kissed him full on the lips. Half frightened, not sure what to do with his body, not sure Spock meant it, McCoy almost didn't respond. But it might be farewell. He closed his mind to other ways and times and melted into the kiss.

With that yielding, Spock's fingers found their precise contact points and opened the link between them.

Leonard?

Yes? Question, affirmation, they were probably going to die anyway. His lips parted under the Vulcan's. I know who taught Spock to kiss.

Yes. This and much more, all his body's workings, all his needs. You know I would die to serve him. Yet we can live if you heal us.

Flame spread through McCoy again, frighteningly intense, deliciously diffused, and with it all the anger, despair, and guilt the Vulcan had been carrying inside. It was too much. McCoy tried to twist away.

I can't.

You can. With me in your mind, you can free him. Go. And Spock squeezed the flame down to an ember, a spark that McCoy could carry with him. He turned and walked to the stage.

"Arain," he said.

The wary eyes watched him without comment, without recognition.

So beautiful. Spock's thought or his own? So guarded. How to wake him?

He knelt beside the slave, not touching him, studying the face that looked ten years younger than it should, framed by fair hair grown out now and tossing on the muscular shoulders. Was that what Jim looked like without the weight of four hundred lives aging him? McCoy didn't know what to say to someone who had spent his whole life as a prisoner in a brothel.

"Your lord wronged you by choosing hope."

Arain considered this and shook his head, a lazy lion's gesture. "I chose it," he said.

"In hell?"

"That's where you need it most." He spurned pity, owning himself, even in chains.

"And if he finds you--here?"

"Then he can claim me as I am or pass on. I would not know him."

Amnesia then. Imagine waking, in that state, enslaved, knowing only that you had been free, that your death was your mate's wherever he might be--an hour, a day--or a universe away. What does a man have left after he loses identity? Intelligence--courage--a fighter's stubborn refusal to quit. Little enough to integrate a personality on, and Arain felt solid, a whole person. Well, Jim had had personality to spare.

"Then--he must claim you."

Arain glanced pointedly at McCoy's slack organ. "Yes."

Impasse. The watchers stirred, expecting more of a show. Spock, I knew I'd spoil things. I can't even--

Look at him. He needs release, or he and I will both die. You are a healer. Try.

McCoy's hands were shaking as he reached out to touch that shining hair. He could try. He was no sexual athlete and he wasn't going to become one at death's door, but he could try. He moved closer and laid his lips on Arain's, barely brushing their velvet surface, such a timid, chaste kiss that Arain's warm breath on his own lips surprised him. Think of Jim, he told himself. He'd either respond or flatten you, but he wouldn't let you die on the vine. He tried it again, with his lips parted a little this time, trying to let the sensation guide him, and he flinched back when Arain's teeth closed on his lower lip. The lion-colored eyes were staring into his--half challenge, half puzzlement. The teeth gave him a warning nip and released him.

"This wasn't your idea?"

"My master's," said McCoy truthfully.

Arain touched the raw wound at his wrist. "And you will be punished for failure. Well, I suppose I can't be blamed for that--but it will be worse if you don't give them a show." He reached up and ruffled McCoy's hair in return. "You should let your hair grow a little; the gray looks good in it." It was said in a mere whisper, under cover of the caress, but it swamped McCoy with confusion. "Do what I tell you," Arain said.

McCoy was hardly given a choice. Arain twisted and had him flat on his back and helpless before he knew it had turned into a wrestling match. There were snickers from the dark.

"I do not choose to be mocked with slaves, my lords, cowardly slaves who fear the lash more than me. Lie still!" Muscles in his shoulders rolled as if he were increasing the torque of his grip, but the pressure on McCoy's arm did not increase. "Now I say that I can find the fire in even this alleysweeping. And he shall submit to me!"

There was open laughter now, at McCoy's ineffectual struggles, and he had just enough wits left, under a scalding wave of embarrassment, to play up to it. He tried to squirm out of Arain's hold. He felt Spock's total concentration, fire reined in, and his recognition and love for Kirk's flair for the dramatic, that elemental urge to play-act, improvise, find a way to win in a no-win situation, and it was winning, at least a moment of breathing space. Avid looks followed Arain's aggressive actions. He was playing to them, exaggerating each motion, showing them his body freely, as he had not before.

He released McCoy's arm, but quelled any attempt to escape with a stamp of his foot next to McCoy's face. He stood in profile to the audience, arrogantly stroking his cock, licking his lips over the prone body before him, a perfect mockery of his masters and his own situation, and they roared their approval.

Conflicting emotions clashed through McCoy--gratitude, shame, real fear that Arain would take him, and a reckless willingness to do even that if it would save them. Spock's fire was prickling through his veins again as he watched Arain's chest lift with a deep inhalation as he milked his cock, thought--I've never seen it done without shame, how beautiful. It looked as smooth as satin, and without thought, McCoy pulled himself up, his hands on Arain's thighs, lips parted--

And Arain stepped away, luring him to follow on his knees, then came to meet him, thrust toward his mouth and swerved at the last moment so that his cock grazed McCoy's cheek.

"Clumsy," declared Arain. "What did you teach the slave--to stick it in his ear?" They laughed again. Short of actually torturing a helpless captive, mocking one was right in tune with Romulan humor. Arain pulled him to his feet, led him to the front of the stage. For a moment he met McCoy's eyes, and there was something there--perhaps only a warning to obey. "On your knees, slave, let's start with the basics. First you have to get it up."

Good luck, thought McCoy savagely as he knelt with his knees wide and felt himself shrivel under the direct stare of twenty veteran Romulan warriors. But Arain was kneeling with him, and a warning grip at the base of McCoy's cock cut off any response if he'd been able to summon it. Arain's own cock was poking between his ribs and arm, over his shoulder, past his ear as he controlled McCoy and kept his perfect body in a state of constant motion. He tried blowing on McCoy's cock, bouncing his balls, and pantomimed strenuous prostate massage without penetration until the audience had laughed themselves out.

But Arain knew how to hold them.

"Poor slave," he sighed. "I guess there's only one infallible cure." His hands were gentle as he pushed McCoy down on the very edge of the bed. "I will favor you, slave, with what my masters do not always care to risk." The audience had gone silent as he positioned McCoy with one leg raised, bracing him, one trailing off the edge of the bed. He was stroking the back of McCoy's raised thigh, watching the little tremors of half-fearful response shudder across McCoy's belly. He traced McCoy's eyebrow and then his ear with a questioning finger, trailed his hand down to the coppery nipples in the salt and pepper mat of hair on his chest. He bent his head and trailed his own long hair down McCoy's torso and let it tickle his sex, then turned to kiss the inside of his thigh. An icy electricity prickled through McCoy's veins and settled in his belly. This was the Captain of the Enterprise, he couldn't--and then Arain's lips moved against his balls, and Spock's fire surged through the link to meet those lips. McCoy groaned as his cock lifted toward the sweet promise of Arain's mouth.

Arain swept his hair back and looked once at McCoy's face and once at the audience. Delicately he began, letting them see the flick of his tongue against the head of McCoy's penis, the long slow strokes, the swirl around the crown. Like a cat, he rubbed his face against McCoy's cock, his balls, his thighs, slowly, showing them what they could never command, under any threat, with safety.

McCoy was awash with sensation, in spite of the eyes, in spite of Spock in his mind, or because of them. Wave after electric wave of pleasure washed through his body and returned to center in his cock as Arain began a liquid stroking that tugged at his innermost being. Positioned as he was, McCoy couldn't thrust, and he struggled for freedom that Arain wouldn't grant. He pulled his right hand free and slid it between Arain's thighs until his thumb brushed the underside of Arain's balls, guarded by springy curls, and his fingers rested flat against the cleft in his ass. The satin skin flexed to the clench of muscle there.

"Please," McCoy begged, "Please--" He had to have more, give more, had to be in Arain, have Arain in his mouth, possess that satin and steel. He fought with new strength, rolled them over, struggled to his hands and knees and found the silken, horn-hard, pulsing shaft and went to it like his mother's breast, sucking, sucking, taking more and more until it filled his throat and cut off his breath. He never wanted to stop, but when Arain pulled free, turned and offered his mouth, that was what he wanted, burning, bruising kisses, tongues dueling, thighs entwined, cocks trapped between their bellies, Arain's strong hands pulling him closer. Someone was sobbing it is he, it is he, and an ugly demanding roar from the dark wanted to be heard, was heard in a crack and searing stripe across his inner vision, again, harder, intrusive. It was a lash and they were being whipped apart like dogs.

"Let us see. Chain them. More light."

It was a Romulan clamor and Arain was being dragged from him while they both fought. Chains were being fastened to the golden bands on Arain's wrists, to the iron rings on the bed, so that he had freedom to move, but could not turn away from the audience. McCoy fought the restraining hands of the attendants senselessly, unable to believe his strength wasn't enough. The flames of his desire fought to become real flames. If they had wanted more light, he would give it to them, and the torches flared unnoticed as the audience leaned forward to stare at his mate. Mate. Not his. Spock, don't. But the slaves were releasing him, and he was free to go to his mate where he stood writhing in his bonds, begging for his touch.

"Release me, lord, and I will cleanse your honor with my life."

His power, his right. Taaz Avine, freely given. Let them look, then, fill all their mirrors with this union. That white body was his to possess and he had fire enough to fill the world.

Taaz Avine, by GF

He fell to his knees behind Arain and gripped the quivering buttocks, so cool, cool to quench his fire, melons cooled in the snow. He kissed them again and again, teasing, tasting, parting them, while his mate trembled with desire and still submitted, helpless, will-less, his. He teased the place with his tongue, rimming the tight clenched muscle, breathing the arousal of his mate. His hand sought the straining cock and he could feel his own double stimulation, the liquid licking, the strong, milking stroke of his hand. He felt his mate's need--and his own.

He rose as Arain leaned forward in his bonds and pressed close, sure and snug against the door, but not yet entering. Quivering, sobbing, still his mate awaited his will--whether life, death, pleasure or pain. And he gave joy, pressing through the yielding door, up satin corridors, until he was deep in exquisite, electric clutchings.

His bondmate felt no pain, but he felt the fragility of the delicate, body, felt the silent plea, Don't leave me! and the long hunger of the flesh for his flesh, his hands, his lips. He eased them down, pressing his mate close into his lap where he could caress the smooth chest, the hard sensitive nipples that begged to be bruised and bruised again in passion's service. He could see in the mirrors what the watchers saw--the golden slave in his lap, thighs spread wide over his own, arms outstretched, hands gripping his chains. Let them watch. That rose-red tower climbed from its golden sea for him alone, begging for his touch.

He called the fire then and let it flow from his center as he stroked the trembling thighs, the jewel-heavy weight of the testicles. He let his fingers skim the golden curls and his mate sobbed aloud with pleasure. He took the straining cock in his hand, pulsing velvet, and stroked. Concentric rings of fire stroked him in return as he began a slow, joined rocking that melded bodies close as minds. The scent of his mate's hair, fragrance of his skin, the slip and clench along his cock, the proud tower under his hand, all right, known--his to command now and forever. He could will death now and it would be their shared will--but he chose life and let the liquid fire flow.

His mate screamed, convulsing in his arms as the creamy fountain climbed and spread its transient lace on the air, and he prolonged his own molten surge until the golden head fell back on his shoulder to offer one last, abandoned, fainting kiss. Complete. He released the fire and followed it out into the dark...

McCoy blinked, Arain's weight heavy in his arms. His own body was exhausted and achingly lonely. When he caught his breath, the scent of burning choked him, and the simple effort of breathing sent flashes of agony through him. He felt used, beaten and alone. He was alone in his head and Spock was reaching for the chains, releasing them in the flickering red-gold light, taking Arain from his arms, covering McCoy with a cloak, wrapping Arain in another. The flames were real, running from the hangings up toward the ceiling. Spontaneous fires had broken out in a dozen places in the room and the Romulans on their couches had become far more interested in escape than in the ultimate ownership of a slave. Tarsa lay still on the floor, and McCoy was given no time to ask questions. He stumbled out of the room like a lost child, clutching Spock's cloak.

They emerged into a world of stark contrast to the heat and softness inside. Here there was only hard stone, black and silver shadow from an outsize moon, and the cutting cold and silence of the desert night. He was shaken and drained, almost too weak to follow Spock's long strides down stone stairs and deserted alleys to a house near the wall and ultimately through it, down deep enough to avoid the forcefield.

They emerged in a ravine. Spock had a pack there--uniforms and a medical tricorder. McCoy struggled into his clothes with his back turned and when he faced around, Spock was once again dressed as a Starfleet officer. Arain lay unconscious on the ground, but the tricorder showed no damage, only deep, restoring sleep. He had not been a virgin, and his body was functioning as it should.

"Physically--physically he's perfect," said McCoy, trying to get his voice into a natural register and not quite making it.

"Perfect," said Spock. Unselfconsciously he knelt on one knee and turned back the folds of the cloak. It was the same black velvet Arain had worn when he emerged out of the shadows on the stage. Spock's fingers touched the dark gold of his sweat-damp hair.

"I still don't understand what happened, Spock. If you want to tell me."

Spock sighed.

"In the initial stages of the meld, the partner with the strongest drive dominates. Among Vulcans the other submits utterly, giving mind and body into the stronger's keeping until their drives match. That is Taaz Avine. Ordinarily, it lasts a few moments, an hour, and it is great joy to submit so utterly or accept such submission. You know."

Yes, for a moment, before Spock's fire ruled him utterly, he had known the submission of Arain.

"We were attacked, parted. Perhaps that caused his amnesia. His life as well as mine depended on consummation."

Between them, Arain slept.

"Now what," said McCoy.

For answer, Spock's strong fingers forced the collar's catch, broke the bands from the chaffed wrists.

"He has begun to heal. He is already dreaming of his ship." His ship. The dream Spock had not shared.

"Then--he'll be all right?"

Spock looked down at the youthful, dreaming face. "He will be as he was, with no memory. This is the least part of his personality--a dream summoned for my sake. His reality has been safe in my keeping. Dress him and I will return it."

Numbly McCoy took the little bundle of clothes, saw the gold of the shirt, realized for the first time in the cold light that Spock was clad in science blue instead of the gold he'd been entitled to wear since Jim had been lost. He remembered Arain's uncompromising glance, his fever heat and satin skin, his panted promise to "cleanse your honor with my life." A promise spoken to him, caught between Spock's mind and Arain's own golden flesh. Arain, who would never wake. McCoy hadn't cried in years and as he eased that seeping body into Jim's uniform tears stung like salt in a wound. He wasn't expecting the warmth of Spock's hand on his sagging shoulders, and he almost flinched away.

The deep voice was sane again, controlled, but the sadness in it rang like a bell.

"A dream is a dark mirror, Leonard, dimming bright reality, but it cannot reflect what does not exist. You healed us. We love you."

The golden slave slept at their feet, in the faint light of the stars.

McCoy cursed uniforms with no pocket for a handkerchief and wiped his eyes on his sleeve.

"I know," he said. "Can't we go home?"

The End


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