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Materialization was complete, and the eyes of the captain and first officer surveyed what was to be their home for the next five days.

Kirk was the first to move, wandering over to the big picture window and opening the drapes. Sunshine poured into the living room. After squinting, he noted the large, grassy green yard surrounding the cottage, the pool to the left, and the shallow forest beyond.

He nodded with approval, not turning around. "It's very nice, Spock," he said softly.

Kirk wore his black Starfleet pants, but his shirt was a soft white cotton. Spock's trousers were also black, but casual, and his shirt was a v-neck of the same dark color. The opening was just long enough to reveal the top inch of his hairy chest.

Kirk was still looking out the window, and he swallowed heavily. There had simply been no time to talk between his latest personal tragedy and the shore leave they were now beginning. After the Enterprise had left that beautiful planet and its peaceful inhabitants, Kirk had attacked his work – catching up on what had transpired during his absence the previous two months.

Spock, suffering from severe exhaustion, had slept for five and a half days.

Spock had been on duty the past 48 hours, though there had still been no time for them to get together and talk. The Enterprise had arrived at Starbase 16 as ordered; they had gone through a short debriefing, and then the crew had been granted a five day shore leave. Spock had informed Kirk he would take care of the arrangements, and he chose the newly built area of cottages on the outskirts of the Starbase as their place of leave.

Spock's voice broke into Kirk's reverie. "We are the first occupants of this particular cottage," the Vulcan noted. "Construction was completed only a few weeks ago."

"It's very nice," Kirk said again.

There was so much to be said, yet Kirk couldn't bear the thought of tension stretched out between them through the length of their leave. Sighing heavily, he admitted to himself that it was time for some soul-baring, and he turned around to face his friend at last.

But he shrugged as he met the other's eyes. "I feel like I've... betrayed you," he confessed softly. "Betrayed our bond."

A smile quirked at the corners of the Vulcan's mouth. "You have not," he replied simply.

Kirk shook his head in a frustrated attempt to be understood. "I loved her, Spock. I really did." He tried to force down a lump in his throat, but was only partially successful. His voice trembled with guilt. "I didn't even think of you, except for some vague dreams that pulled at me. I was totally unaware of our bond." His jaw firmed; he knew what he felt he must say was certain to hurt his friend. "She even asked me if I had 'another', and I remember telling her: 'There is no other in my mind... or my heart'."

Spock's tiny smile had disappeared at Kirk's distress, but now it returned. He took a couple more steps toward the human. "I saw all of that in your mind, Jim," he reminded gently.

Kirk was incredulous. "Why are you behaving as if it doesn't bother you?" The question was a command tinged with anger.

"Because it does not," the Vulcan replied firmly. He moved the few remaining steps necessary to close the gap between them, then reached out with one finger and stroked Kirk's cheek.

Kirk lowered his eyes and his voice softened with confusion. "The bond... it must have driven you insane, knowing what I was feeling for her."

Spock placed his hands on Kirk's shoulders. "Jim," he began and waited until the other met his eyes, "I did not feel anything through the bond. I knew only that you were still alive, because I never felt it...'go'." He gave his bondmate a chance to digest that. Then, in a scientific tone, he explained, "Apparently, whatever force rendered you unconscious in the temple had some sort of neutralizing effect upon the bond as well. Obviously, there was no permanent damage, for the bond was re-awakened when I melded with you."

Kirk had started to relax beneath Spock's grip, but with the last sentence the self-recrimination returned to his eyes. "When I woke up, all I cared about was Miramanee. I... hardly even noticed you."

"Which is just as well," Spock put in quickly. "I was so intent on diverting the asteroid and so exhausted from attempting to decipher the temple's symbols the previous months, that I was in no condition for any sort of 'reunion'. It was right that you should have been at Miramanee's side when she...."

Kirk turned away and Spock didn't finish the sentence.

"She was pregnant," the human whispered shakily.

"I know." Spock came up behind his captain and again laid his hands on the broad shoulders. "I am very sorry that the child was lost, also."

Kirk whirled around. "How can you be sorry?" he demanded harshly. "Dammit, don't pretend you're not hurt by this! I can't handle dishonesty... least of all from you!"

"You know I am not being dishonest," Spock said levelly. He realized Kirk knew it. Their bond made lies impossible. His voice softened. "Jim, I loved Miramanee, too." The green-gold eyes sparkled with disbelief, and Spock asked, "How could I not?" He reached out and brushed back the stray lock of hair from Kirk's forehead. "She was gentle, caring, loving, intelligent – all things to you during those two months. I am pleased that you had such peace and happiness during that time." He paused only briefly, searching Kirk's face for any concession. "Do you think I would feel better if you had spent those two months in torment, or among people who didn't accept you, or in some other worse fate?" Spock shook his head. "No, Jim. I wish only happiness for you, and Miramanee provided that in my absence." His voice lowered to a whisper. "I love her for that."

Kirk squeezed his eyes shut and swallowed heavily. He brought his head down against the black-clad chest and warm arms came around him. He returned the embrace and Spock swayed them gently from side to side.

They stayed that way for a long time. Finally, Kirk squeezed Spock hard and whispered, "I'm so unworthy of you."

Spock kissed his friend on the top of the head. He had no answer to that. Kirk had stated it so many times during the eight months of their relationship that Spock had given up trying to discredit it. Instead, he said, "Let me show you how much I love you."

He gently lifted Kirk into his arms and carried him over to the sofa near the large window which Kirk had drawn the drapes away from.

"Something wrong with the bed?" Kirk teased gently as he was deposited on the couch.

Spock began removing his clothes. "I have not inspected it." He shrugged. "It is of no consequence. This will suit our purpose."

Kirk smiled as he watched his first officer strip. He gestured to the window. "I've never known you to be into exhibitionism before."

"Each of the cottages is an acre apart. No one is here to see us." One eyebrow arched teasingly. "Unless the gardener is in he vicinity."

As Kirk watched Spock remove his briefs, it dawned on him that they hadn't made love in nearly three months. And, with that realization, his groin stirred sympathetically. His eyes drank in the nude body standing unabashedly next to the sofa. "You're so beautiful," he whispered. "Ghod, I want you...."

"And you shall have me," Spock promised. He reached down and began to unfasten the clasp to Kirk's shirt. The human understood through the bond that Spock wanted to control this encounter, and he made no attempt to do anything for himself.

The shirt removed, Spock skillfully opened the fly to the black pants. He gripped the clothing and the briefs underneath, and slid them down golden, muscular legs. Boots and socks followed.

Spock was fully erect. He looked down at the masculine beauty which was his bondmate, and thought back on his sexual history with this man. He remembered hearing a crewman once say: 'Being male and human means having a continuous hard-on from the time you're fifteen to the time you're twenty-five'. He hadn't been too naive to realize the anonymous speaker was exaggerating, but it had also made him sympathetic to the strong sex drive which human males were known for. While such drives could be pleasurable as long as there was a suitable outlet for them, he was also certain that they could prove to be a great inconvenience.

And it occurred to him that he had been behaving like a young human male ever since his and Kirk's sexual relationship had begun – which had been, he recalled, a few months after the aborted wedding with T'Pring. Having found the pleasure of an orgasm to be far greater than he'd ever believed possible, Spock had taken every opportunity to engage Jim sexually. There had been times when they couldn't – because circumstances separated them, or Kirk had simply been too tired. But Spock was never too tired, never "not in the mood".

As he straddled Kirk's torso – now that the captain was completely naked – Spock found fascination with his own libido. He was thankful he'd been able to hold off this long. If he hadn't literally collapsed once he, Kirk and the rest of the landing party had beamed aboard the Enterprise following Miramanee's death, he may have insisted on a physical reunion then and there.

Spock bent down and kissed Kirk deeply, causing the other to groan with pleasure. The human's penis was also doing a ninety degree salute, and Spock felt it bob against his buttocks.

He nibbled a soft earlobe. "You are most demanding," he whispered with feigned irritation.

Kirk managed a shrug. "It seems to have a mind of its own," he muttered. His breath was heavy, his body quivering; his groin was beginning to ache with unleashed desire.

Spock felt the pressure in his own organ building quickly. He thought it wisest to proceed to other things rather than lingering with additional foreplay. He shifted his position until the crevice of his buttocks hovered just over the arching penis.

Seeing his bondmate's intention, Kirk grasped his thick erection and held it still.

Spock lowered himself to it until he felt it prod against the soft crevice of his body. He slid his hips back until his anus made contact with the smooth, glistening head. Then, after taking a relaxing breath, he lowered himself onto the human's organ.

Kirk watched his partner through slitted eyes and fought the instinct to thrust. He envied the Vulcan's muscle control, for he himself had never gotten up the nerve to "sit down" on Spock. When it came to penetration and its potential for pain, he trusted the Vulcan's concern for his comfort even more than his own. Spock's gentleness had never let him down.

Kirk's hand released his penis, and Spock enclosed the remaining inches with his body. Now fully joined, the two men froze for a moment, concentrating on controlling their arousal. When Spock judged them both to be under reasonable discipline, he wriggled his hips enticingly.

Kirk gasped at the pleasurable sensations which shot through him, then smiled at Spock. "My compliments, first officer. You haven't lost your touch."

"Indeed," was the only reply that accompanied an arched eyebrow.

Kirk was momentarily amused before turning serious. "You feel good, Spock." He studied the soft brown eyes. "I love you, you know."

Carefully, Spock leaned forward until his face was inches from Kirk's. "And I love you," he said softly, gently kissing the human's neck, then each cheek, and finally settling on the lips.

As the hot tongue probed into his mouth, Kirk arched upwards with his hips. Spock obediently rose off his penis a few inches, then sank back down upon it. He rose again – repeating the action over and over.

Kirk closed his eyes as all concentration centered on the pleasure in his groin. "Ghods," he gasped. "It's beautiful, Spock. That feels so good." It had been too long for both of them.

A deep growl was slowly emerging from the Vulcan's chest. Kirk reached and began stroking his partner's green-tinged penis. It jumped at his touch, and he had to grasp it firmly to hold it.

Soon the only sound in the room was the moaning and sighing of two beings enveloped in pleasure. Then there was a pause – when both erupted simultaneously. Gasping and panting followed, then silence.

Spock was the first to stir. He carefully removed himself from the limp penis, which slipped from his body with ease. The sofa was not wide enough to accommodate two bodies lying side by side, so he lowered himself to the floor and stretched out.

Kirk groggily rose up on an elbow, peering over the edge of the couch. "Comfortable?" he asked doubtfully.

Spock's eyes were closed. "Yes," he replied with a small sigh. "The carpet is very soft."

Kirk reached down with his other arm and trailed his fingers through the fur of the Vulcan's chest. "Thank you."

Spock's eyes opened and he smiled. "You are most welcome, Jim." He hesitated, then asked, "Have you recovered at least partially from your depression?"

Kirk smiled wistfully. "I feel better," he admitted, still rubbing a hand through the chest hair. Gently, he said, "I know you love me, Spock. I don't mean to belittle that. It's just that your love for me is so... overwhelming at times, that it's natural to try to deny it – to deny something that strong." He paused, watching the Vulcan's eyes, which had closed again. In a whisper, he pleaded, "You can't blame me for fearing your love for me. Everyone who loves me... dies."

Spock abruptly opened his eyes. He grabbed Kirk, pulling him off the sofa and down on top of himself. He ignored the drying semen which sealed them together on impact. He held Kirk by the shoulders and searched the other's troubled eyes. Then, in a tone more gentle than he'd ever used before, he said, "Then love me all you can, Jim – in the time that I still live."

Kirk lowered his head and buried his face in Spock's neck, shutting out everything except the living warmth which was his friend. He pressed against the welcoming body, wanting to merge with that flesh for eternity.

Spock put his arms around Kirk and rubbed the smooth back tenderly. Their love-making had been on a purely physical level, as both had seemed to want it that way, but now Spock wondered if it had been a mistake. "Jim," he asked with customary directness, "do you wish to meld?"

Kirk raised his head, not surprised by the sudden question. "Yes," he said simply, then scooted back a ways and picked up his bondmate's hand, putting it to his temple. "Meld with me, Spock. Please."

Troubled by Kirk's sudden desperation, Spock shifted his fingers to the correct position and slowly entered the other's mind.

Spock?

Kirk called. He felt himself surrounded by the peace and warmth which was his bondmate, and sighted with relief.

Ho could I have forgotten this while I was down there?

Spock's "voice" was concerned, but calm. You see that I love you, Jim? That I love Miramanee, and do not begrudge the happiness you and she found with one another?

Kirk had no choice but to acknowledge the truth. Yes, I see it.

And do you see the depth of our bond? That you do not have to fear separation, because the death of one of us will cause the death of the other?

Kirk nodded. Yes, I see it, he replied again, more relieved.

Spock concentrated on a different aspect of the meld. He opened up scenes from his past, showing Kirk the isolation and loneliness he had endured before meeting his eventual mate. And so you see that I need you as much as you need me, and that there is no basis for your feelings of unworthiness?

Kirk swallowed hard. I see it....

Spock ceased the flow of memories and shifted his concentration back to enveloping Kirk in feelings of warmth and love. Carefully, he asked: After seeing all of these things, do you still feel there is reason for you to feel guilt, unhappiness?

Kirk had to smile. No. I'm... happy, Spock. I love you.

Satisfied, Spock concluded the meld. When he was again aware of their surroundings, he reached up and again brushed back Kirk's unruly lock of hair.

The human smiled at him, then kissed him fondly on the cheek. "Thank you," he murmured, "for... for making everything right again."

Spock stroked the other's back affectionately. "I cannot bear to see you unhappy."

"I know," Kirk whispered. "And I don't like to see you unhappy either – especially if it's from worrying about me." He settled his face back down in the hollow of the Vulcan's neck.

Spock continued to stroke Kirk's back with gentle, circular motions, then abruptly remembered something they needed to discuss.

"Jim?"

"Hmmm?"

"I believe it is necessary to inform McCoy of our... relationship."

Kirk grimaced. "I never meant to keep it from him this long. He'll be hurt. I shouldn't have put it off like this." He paused. "Unless he's suspected it all along." He pulled his head back to observe Spock's face. "Do you think he's already guessed?"

Spock shook his head. "I am certain that he has not. He... questioned my actions while you were away. At times, I do not believe he thought I cared for you at all."

Kirk nodded with understanding. "He confessed as much when we had our first brandy together after I got back." He grimaced again. "I guess I should have told him then." He gazed deeply into the sable brown eyes. "I'm sorry, Spock. The last thing you needed these past two months was someone doubting your love for me."

"Let us agree to inform him as soon as we return to the Enterprise."

Kirk reached out to stroke the smooth black hair. "Agreed."

With that settled, Kirk sighed with contentment, then smiled. "I don't know about you, but I'm ready for a swim." He started to get up, but found himself drawn back to the brown eyes which were watching him. He paused to stare at them, then lowered his head for a long, slow, probing kiss.

Spock responded passionately.

"Mmmm," Kirk muttered as he drew back. "As soon as I've had my fill of the pool, I'll be back for more of that..." He rose to his knees, examining his soiled chest. "Guess I need to clean up first, though." He stood, anticipating the cool water and the evening which lay ahead. "You coming?"

Lazily, Spock also got to his feet. "Affirmative." As he followed Kirk toward the shower, he silently bid an affectionate farewell to Miramanee and her unborn child. Kirk had finally found his peace, and Spock wished no less for them.

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