The warm body pressed its front side more tightly against his back. Legs shifted slightly. He felt the drag of his briefs and t-shirt as the other's similar clothing pulled against them. A hushed, baritone voice penetrated the darkness. "Jim?"
He considered not responding, but honesty won out. "Wide awake," he answered wryly.
"You cannot sleep?"
A pause. Then, "Can I be of assistance in some way?"
He didn't know the answer to that, so he sighed. Then he confessed, "I can't stop thinking about it."
"About what... precisely?"
"That she had the power to make me feel that helpless," he replied in a troubled whisper. "If you hadn't believed me... if you hadn't melded with me...."
The other's voice was soft and tender. "There was no reason for me to not consider what you claimed. There was no reason for me not to meld with you to find the truth. You would never have been trapped permanently."
He shook his head, disbelieving. "You were angry with me. A part of me was afraid that you'd let your anger rule over logic."
The voice was still tender, but now there was a hint of amusement in it. "Jim, when have I ever let anger – or any emotion – take precedent over logic where the safety of the ship is concerned?"
The Tholians, the human thought. But he continued to pursue the original topic. "Then... you were angry?"
There was a pause, then a barely audible swallow. "Does it surprise you?"
"No. I knew that you were. I just didn't know if you were aware that you were."
"In any case, I would never have used my anger as a means of punishing you. And certainly, regardless of my feelings, I would never have allowed you to remain trapped in a body that was not yours."
"I know," the other replied meekly. "But when you face the reality of a situation like that, you start imagining all sorts of horrors. What if I would have been kept so drugged up that I wouldn't have been able to speak or think clearly?"
"That did not happen."
"I know. But it could have. I could have been locked away in some institution for the rest of my life."
The voice was calm, logical. "I doubt that very much. Janice Lester's insanity would have eventually given her away."
"How long?" Kirk wondered out loud. "She even had you fooled for awhile."
There was a long pause, and he sensed the embarrassment of the other.
"I have a confession to make," the baritone admitted quietly.
Surprised, Kirk rolled over onto his back. The motion planted him more firmly against the Vulcan's body. Spock was propped up on an elbow. Kirk looked up into the eyes he could barely see in the darkness. "What confession?"
Spock inhaled deeply, then expelled it. "When Janice Lester first came onto the bridge while in your body, she did exhibit some rather unusual behavior... particularly in her attitude toward 'Janice Lester'."
Puzzled, and somewhat accusatory, Kirk asked, "Then how come you didn't do anything about it then, if you suspected something was wrong?"
"I thought that perhaps the reason 'you' were acting so strangely was because our separation had...'finally gotten through to you'." He hesitated, his head and voice lowered. "I must confess that I was pleased at the idea that my absence from your private life had affected you – in a negative manner." The silence that followed was deafening.
"You still believe you didn't do anything wrong," Kirk finally said in a tone that tried to remain level.
"Jim, there is a human saying: 'It takes two'. It is illogical to think that only one of us was responsible for the demise of our relationship."
"But you think it was more my fault than your fault," Kirk persisted.
"That is not true," the Vulcan responded quietly. "I accept equal responsibility." Then he, too, rolled over to lie on his back.
Kirk sighed. "I'm not even sure why you're here."
"You needed someone."
"And you don't ever need anybody," Kirk shot back bitterly.
A few moments later, Spock swallowed heavily. "Jim, I have been alone all of my life," he explained quietly. "It is difficult for me to recognize the need of others to 'help' me in situations where I do not find such assistance to be necessary."
"I just wanted to love you," Kirk told him while staring at the ceiling. "You wouldn't let me."
"We made love many times," Spock reminded.
"Physically," Kirk whispered.
There was a long silence. It was broken by Spock's hesitant speech. "Jim, I am uncertain of what it is you want from me. I have always been uncertain. Perhaps that is the problem."
The human sighed, then shook his head. "We've been through this before. No matter what I say, you never seem to understand, and the situation never improves."
Another silence followed. Then there was another audible swallow.
"I am inadequate," Spock's deep baritone whispered in sudden realization.
"Shit," Kirk muttered angrily. He sat up and waved up the light just enough so they could see each other. His features softened when he saw the slightly trembling Vulcan hands that rested on the black-clad chest.
"Spock," he said in surprise, "you're shaking."
The Vulcan looked away. "Forgive me," he whispered. "I am at a loss as to what action to take at this moment."
Kirk's brows furrowed in an attempt to understand. "You don't have to take any action."
"I believe you need me here," Spock explained, "but I also believe you wish me to leave." He looked up timidly at the human who was now on his knees and leaning partially over him. "I do not know if I should leave or stay."
The words had been spoken with such sincerity that Kirk felt his resolve soften even more.
He sat back on his heels. "Spock, I do want you to stay. I need your warmth, your support, your lack of judgement." He gulped at the vivid memories. "I hate what Janice did to me. I need you right now."
Spock nodded lightly, and his shaking hands steadied. "Then I will stay."
After a moment, he added, "I am agreeable to increasing our physical contact... if that would be beneficial to you."
Kirk took a moment to consider. Then he waved off the light and got back under the covers.
"Yes, hold me," he whispered, cuddling up against Spock's warmth. "Hold me. Hold me. Hold me."
Warm, undemanding arms came around him and smothered him with a feeling of security.
He soon fell asleep.
* * * * *
McCoy smiled when Kirk strolled into his office the following morning. "I guess you two made it through the night okay," he said as a question.
Kirk frowned at him. "If you had any doubts, then why did you suggest he spend the night with me?"
McCoy shrugged. "You needed somebody to stay with you. And despite the problems you two have had, I thought that when push comes to shove, Spock still understands and supports you in a way that's more beneficial than what anyone else can do for you."
Kirk nodded with a grunt. "You're right. I just wish we would have been able to patch up our differences while we were at it."
This time McCoy frowned. "No luck, huh?"
The other shook his head. "No. We talked some, but...," he shrugged.
The doctor decided not to pry any further for now, and his voice became professional. "How are you feeling, Jim?"
Kirk took a deep breath. "Vulnerable," he admitted. "Already this morning, I could sense the crew watching me with questions in their eyes. Am I really James Kirk, the same man that I was? And, 'Is it really true that a woman took over his body?'"
"It is rather hard to believe," McCoy told him quietly. "But this crew has seen some pretty strange things in the three or four years that we've been out here. I think you just need to give it some time, Jim. Get back in your captain's chair, start acting like a commander, and I think the crew will lose their suspicions very rapidly."
Kirk smiled. "Thanks, Bones. I'm heading for the bridge now."
"But just remember that I'm always here if it goes deeper than that."
Kirk turned and left the office.
* * * * *
After putting in a full day's shift he had to admit that he did feel a lot better. The shift was boring enough that he had time to brood, but those contemplative thoughts helped to clarify things in his mind, rather than simply re-running the nightmare.
Spock had been on the bridge the entire shift, also, and he and the Vulcan had hardly said a word to each other. He doubted the crew suspected anything was amiss, as he felt both he and his first officer were professional enough to not let personal feelings interfere with their duties. He wasn't sure how to work out their problems, but they had been together for some ten months prior to the break-up, and he had to believe that they would get things worked out. When Spock had left his cabin four weeks ago, he'd never expected their falling out to last this long....
* * * * *
Kirk was lying down, basking in the afterglow of their recently concluded lovemaking. Spock was lying beside him, breathing a little heavily also and, like Kirk, was staring at the ceiling.
The human looked at the Vulcan and smiled tenderly. "You do that nice, First Officer."
Spock closed his eyes drowsily. "I am gratified that you think so. It was pleasing to me, also."
Kirk blinked and his smile faded. "Just 'pleasing'?"
Spock turned to meet the human's gaze. "I experienced pleasure," he replied patiently. "Is there a better word that describes pleasure, other than 'pleasing'?"
Kirk fidgeted. "Well, I'd use words like 'Earth shattering', 'awesome', 'incredible'. You know, words that are a little more descriptive and... exciting." He turned on his side to face the Vulcan. "You were excited, weren't you?"
"My body was highly stimulated leading up to the orgasm, yes."
"Just your body?"
The question had a hint of accusation in it, and Spock furrowed his brows in puzzlement. He, too, was now turned on his side, facing the other man, his head resting in a propped-up hand.
"Jim, I have irritated you in some way," he said, his voice both patient and puzzled. "Will you please explain what I have done to prompt this emotion from you?"
Kirk shook his head and sighed with frustration. "You haven't done anything wrong, Spock," he said tersely. "It just drives me crazy sometimes the way you refuse to admit you feel strongly or were moved by something. You don't share your feelings with me."
"Jim, I am uncertain of that it is at this precise moment that I am supposed to share with you. Please enlighten me."
Kirk looked away with irritation. "Forget it. It's wrong of me to try to make you into something that you aren't."
Spock sat up and studied the man who was still looking away. "I thought you knew the person that I was before we entered into this relationship," he said roughly. "You accepted me then. Why would you not accept me as I am now?" The last question held a tone of hurt.
The human looked back at him, his eyebrows raised triumphantly. "See, now you're showing emotion. I just wish I didn't have to drag it out of you all the time."
Spock swallowed and his expression hardened. "Apparently, I am some sort of pawn in a game of yours, the rules of which I do not understand." He reached over to the floor and picked up his underwear, then got out of bed.
"You have obviously not enjoyed my company tonight," he said as he stepped into them, "and, at the moment, I am not enjoying yours." He picked up his robe from the back of a nearby chair and quickly inserted his arms into the sleeves. "Goodnight, Captain."
Kirk watched as the robed back proceeded into his bathroom. A moment later a mild slam told him that Spock had retreated into his own cabin.
Kirk lay awake a long time, trying to convince himself that there was some small victory in having upset Spock. But, in actuality, his stomach churned with remorse and his chest felt hollow.
* * * * *
He and Spock had not seen one another in private the following weeks. It was only when Spock melded with him while he was in Janet Lester's body that they had their first personal contact since their break-up. Even then, the contact was brief – just enough to show Spock how frightened Kirk was, and to let the captain see his first officer's anger and confusion over their separation.
The buzzer to Kirk's quarters sounded, interrupting his musings. He was surprised when it was Spock who entered the cabin.
The Vulcan's features were stoic, his hands behind his back, his posture stiff.
Kirk furrowed his brows. "Mr. Spock...?" He wasn't sure if Spock were here on business or in a personal capacity. It had been three days since the Janice Lester incident.
"I wish to speak with you," the first officer said, his voice hoarse.
Kirk gestured to a chair. "I've got time." He seated himself behind his desk, watching the other man cautiously.
The Vulcan sat down, took a deep breath, and studied the desktop between them. After a long moment, he glanced up to meet the human's eyes and said, "My mother has often told me that I inherited a great deal of stubbornness from my father. I have frequently denied it, but perhaps she is correct."
Kirk shifted restlessly, as he always felt uncomfortable when Spock degraded himself – even to the smallest degree. "Do on."
Spock rested a hand on one knee and looked down at the floor. "Jim, I have found that I miss your presence when we are off duty. I do not wish for this situation to continue." He glanced up hesitantly and whispered, "If our situation is solvable, I wish us to find the solution now."
Kirk scratched his chin. "I don't know where to begin, Spock," he replied. "I don't know what our solution is. But I'm anxious for us to get back together, too."
Still hesitant, the Vulcan asked, "Do humans not wish to 'talk things out'?"
"Yes. But we've tried that. It didn't help."
Spock swallowed uncomfortably, his gaze back on the floor. "I do need you, Jim," he offered. "Not as a matter of physiological survival, of course, but I have been greatly distracted since our separation. You give me a sense of peace and contentment that I have not found elsewhere. And the... sexual aspects...," he swallowed, "they have been quite pleasing, as well."
Kirk's hands were folded on his desktop and he shook his head. "That's not enough, Spock," he stated quietly. "You may have been distracted, but you still perform your job flawlessly. And you can get peace and contentment from a simple meditation session. As for the sex... well, there are a lot of people on the ship – and elsewhere – who would be willing to give you good sex."
The human felt his insides twist at the subtle cruelty of his words, but he was determined to make their reunion – if indeed there were a reunion – for all the right reasons. Spock had to understand what was at stake.
The Vulcan's mouth dropped open while he continued to stare at the floor. Then he looked up at Kirk with pained eyes. "What would be enough, Jim? What is it you want from me?"
Kirk shook his head hopelessly and got to his feet. He moved away from his desk and studied two paintings on the bulkhead. "My love doesn't mean anything to you," he explained quietly. "You seem to think the love I feel for you fits into the same category as the love I feel for the ship, as the love I feel for my mother, as the love I feel for life. You've reduced all forms of love to a simplified emotional state that you shrug off as 'something that humans experience'. You have no appreciation for the feelings that I have for you."
"That is not true."
Kirk abruptly turned around. "Then prove it, Spock," he challenged. "I need a lover who will acknowledge the fact that I exist, who isn't so wrapped up in his world of logic that he will never tell me how he feels about anything unless I yank it out of him."
He moved back over to Spock and knelt down before him. His voice softened as he studied the features that were trying to remain stoic. "What do you feel now, Spock?" he whispered. "Hurt? Confusion? Frustration?"
A shadow came over the Vulcan's face and he was suddenly on his feet, his back turned.
"Shit, now you're pissed off," Kirk observed amiably.
"Always you do this to me," Spock said hoarsely.
Kirk stood. "Do what?"
"Manipulate me," came the angry reply. "You try to trap me into showing emotion, though you know very well how much I pride myself on my Vulcan heritage. I have become weary of your games."
Kirk was about to make an angry retort, but his quick mind found another solution. Softly, he said, "You can't have your cake and eat it, too, Spock. If you want the pleasures of sex, you have to experience the emotions that go along with it. If you want the security of a steady relationship, then you have to give something to the relationship. Hell," he concluded, "even Vulcans know how important it is to share. With the meld, they can share all thoughts... and feelings."
Spock's back was still turned. "Is that what you want? The meld? I have already explained to you the potential permanent situation that could result from such a sharing between us."
"I know," Kirk relented. "That's really not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about verbal sharing. It just seems to me that when you go through a major personal crisis, you would want to share it with me."
Spock straightened at this, and his tone was one of puzzlement. "Personal crisis?"
Kirk took a few steps toward the stiff back. "Yes. Like what happened on Sarpeidon."
Spock turned around and looked at him sharply. Then he nodded in understanding.
"I see now," he said tightly. "That is what this situation is all about."
"Yes," Kirk hissed. "Is it so surprising?" Bitterly, he said, "I have to find out from McCoy that something happened to you down there." At Spock's alarmed expression he angrily assured, "Oh, don't worry, he didn't tell me anything specific. He just said that you'd have to tell me yourself if you wanted me to know. So I waited and waited, certain that you trusted me enough to share anything with me. And after time dragged on I realized you had no intention of ever telling me about it. And I wondered what kind of relationship we'd gotten ourselves into... one where things couldn't be shared."
"There was nothing you needed to know," Spock said hoarsely.
"Something hurt you down there," Kirk insisted, his eyes boring into Spock's. "That much was clear from what I was able to yank out of McCoy. And you were awful quiet for a few days after we got back. I love you, dammit. How could I not care?"
"You should have told me before," Spock told him firmly, his voice tinged with irritation. "If that was the entire reason for you becoming angry with me, then you should have made that clear. All this time, I have been puzzled by your statements that I do not show enough emotion – when you know how difficult it is for me to express such. Yet, it has not been that at all." He looked at Kirk sternly. "Why did you not tell me?"
"Because I was trying not to manipulate you!" Kirk burst out. "For once, I was hoping you would come to me with what was on your mind. I didn't want to have to pull it out of you." He turned away and took a deep calming breath. "Perhaps I haven't been fair," he relented in a softer voice. "I guess I've let it fester too long. But, just once, I was hoping you would offer something of yourself without me having to ask for it."
"I had good reason for not telling you of the events that took place on Sarpeidon," Spock said quietly. "I had hoped you would respect my desire for silence."
Kirk turned back around and spread his arms in a pleading gesture. "Perhaps that would be the honorable thing to do," he whispered. "But I love you so damn much, Spock, that I can't bear the thought of being excluded from events that happen in your life, especially if they're hurtful. I wanted to help."
Spock sighed softly and closed his eyes. "There is nothing that you can do to help the situation. It is over – and was over the moment Dr. McCoy and I came back through the portal."
"But the pain lingered," Kirk insisted earnestly.
"Perhaps – if one defines it as pain."
"And I was supposed to pretend that everything was all right, when I knew that you'd been hurt?" Kirk came toward Spock, reaching out and taking the Vulcan's arms. He continued in a gentle voice. "Just as you couldn't bear to leave me alone the other night – even with the turmoil in our relationship – because you knew the incident with Janice had been so traumatic for me, how could I possibly ignore a situation where I'd known you'd been hurt, and pretend that nothing had happened?"
Spock gazed at him while he considered the question. then he lowered his eyes and whispered, "I suppose that you could not."
He took a deep breath. "I will tell you what happened, if you still wish to know."
"Of course," Kirk nodded with a reassuring smile, pulling Spock back toward the desk.
After both were seated, Spock gazed at the surface between them and said, "The portal transported the doctor and I into a glacial period five thousand years in the past. As a result, I began to behave in a manner reminiscent of my ancestors before Surak's reformation."
"Yes, I know," Kirk prompted gently. "McCoy's already told me that."
"I see." Spock bit his lower lip. Then, "Did he also inform you of the woman that was there?"
Kirk shrugged casually, though he already had an idea where this was leading . "He mentioned that there was a woman. That was all."
The Vulcan continued to stare at the desktop. "Even in my savage state," he whispered roughly, "I do not believe there would have been anything intimate between us, except that...." He trailed off and swallowed heavily.
"Except what?" Kirk prompted with concern.
Spock's voice softened even more. "She asked me if I knew what it was like to be... lonely."
Kirk watched his first officer close his eyes. He felt his throat tighten in sympathy, but he remained silent.
Spock opened his eyes. His voice was strained as he continued to stare at the desk. "I could not deny her the companionship she needed." He paused, his eyes distant with recollection. "It happened very quickly. Her need had communicated itself to me, and we were both desperate for completion." His voice became flat. "In less than two hours, the doctor and I were gone. She is dead, and I am back to the time and place where I belong." There was a long pause, then, "I empathized with her loneliness. Yet, in the end, I still left her alone."
"Then it's guilt that you feel," Kirk offered quietly.
Spock shook his head once and finally met his captain's eyes. "No. I merely regret the circumstances."
"Did you love her, Spock?" Kirk asked gently.
"No. What passed between us was only physical."
They both sat in silence many minutes after that. Then Kirk, who was leaning forward with his arms resting on his knees, quietly said, "You didn't want to tell me because you thought I would be jealous."
"It did seem a likely possibility," Spock admitted in the same quite tone. "I also did not see any benefit in reiterating the events. Yet, now, I confess that it seems that... 'a weight has been lifted from my shoulders'?"
Kirk smiled tenderly. "It always helps to tell someone, Spock. No intelligent being was meant to keep its life to itself. We all need contact with others – acknowledgement of our existence."
He gazed into the soft, brown eyes. "I'm not jealous, Spock. In fact, I'm even proud of the was you were able to give so much of yourself to her." He shook his head emphatically. "Her being alone all those years.... I can imagine how desperate she must have been for companionship – for love." He smiled kindly. "And fate delivered a handsome, dashing Vulcan right there on her doorstep."
"It was hardly her doorstep," Spock hedged.
Kirk smiled, but didn't reply. He understood that Spock was feeling vulnerable and was trying to ease the intensity of the mood with his usual dry humor.
Kirk glanced up at him bashfully. "Will you sleep with me tonight?"
"Yes," Spock replied with equal shyness, "I would like that very much."
"Are you ready for bed... now?"
Spock inclined his head.
They moved to the sleeping alcove and undressed. Then they got into bed and scooted next to each other beneath the covers, each sitting up but leaning comfortably against the other.
The buzzer sounded.
"Rats," Kirk muttered.
"It is McCoy," Spock informed him. "I heard him call his name through the door."
"Come in, Bones!" the captain called.
The door slid open and in walked the doctor. He glanced at Kirk's office in puzzlement.
McCoy moved toward the sleeping alcove, and his eyebrows darted up in surprise when he registered the sight of his two superior officers in bed together.
"Hi, Bones," Kirk greeted casually.
The doctor cleared his throat as he leaned against the doorway. Then he grinned. "I just came in to see if you needed to talk, Jim. But it looks like everything is fine with you." He looked pointedly at Spock, who still managed to look dignified, despite his predicament.
"Everything is fine," Kirk smiled.
"Well, I guess I'll just leave then."
"You can stay if you want," Kirk teased.
"No, no, that's all right. Goodnight, you two."
After the door slid shut, Kirk smiled up at Spock, then rested his head against the Vulcan's shoulder.
"I'm sorry," he whispered after a moment.
"For what, precisely?"
"For all the misunderstandings. Sometimes the people we love the most are the people we hurt the most."
"I believe I am beginning to understand that saying. I, also, wish to express my apologies. I did not enjoy our recent difficulties."
"As long as we care enough to work things out, we can get through any problems that confront us. Communication is the important thing."
"Yes, I believe that is true."
Kirk turned on his side and looked up at his friend. "I love you, Spock. That never changed."
The brown eyes softened as they studied the up-turned face. "The depth of my affection for you never changed, either. Now that I have known separation, I do not wish to experience it again."
"Neither do I," Kirk whispered.
The human closed his eyes, and a warm Vulcan mouth bent down to claim him.