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Originally published in 1987 in the print fanzine "A Gathering of Blacque".

Spock: You're rapidly losing the power of decision.

McCoy: You have a point, Spock?

Spock: Yes, always, Doctor. We have here an unusual opportunity to appraise the human mind. Or to examine, in Earth terms, the roles of good and evil in a man. His negative side, which you call hostility, lust, violence. And his positive side, which Earth people express as compassion, love, tenderness.

McCoy: It's the captain's guts you're analyzing, are you aware of that, Spock?

Spock: Yes. And what is it that makes one man an exceptional leader? We see here indications that it is his negative side which makes him strong. That his evil side, if you will, properly controlled and disciplined, is vital to his strength. Your negative side, removed from you, the power of command begins to elude you.

Kirk: What is your point, Mr. Spock?

Spock: If your power of command continues to weaken, you'll soon be unable to function as captain. You must be prepared for that.

McCoy: You have your intellect, Jim. You can fight with that.

Kirk: But how long?

Spock: If I seem insensitive to what you're going through, captain, understand; it's the way I am.

James Kirk turned from the massive view of stars and space to face the man who sat quietly in the depths of shadow.

He's all shadow, Kirk thought to himself. All shadow and mystery and things I've never understood. He moved slowly, still feeling his life a dream, one that had had a distinctly nightmarish quality the past two days. His wanderings took him past the observation port where he'd been standing, past the silent man waiting for him to speak, past the cluster of loungers, back to the port again. It was his sixth circuit of the room and still he felt at a loss.

Memory followed him around the ship that seemed nearly alien in its alteration. Though he'd studied the plans for the re-vamped starship, though he'd been aware of every step taken to implement those alterations, he was still a stranger on the decks now under his command once more. He'd found himself daydreaming constantly, memories of that first five-year mission haunting every step. Strangely, it was the more difficult times, the close calls and near disasters, that sprang most readily to his mind. Like that incident with the transporter when he'd been sliced in two like so much pack ore. That Kirk, the gentle one, the one with most of the memories of the events that took place at that time, was so different from the man who now stood staring out the viewport again. That ship had been different. That Starfleet had even been different. But the most pronounced difference was the silent figure who still awaited his word.

Kirk looked over his shoulder, finally gave up and reseated himself beside the Vulcan. He clasped his hands in his lap and stared down at them. He didn't know what to say. Everything that came to mind he instantly vetoed as being too personal, too probing, too official or too trite. He sighed, frustration close to the surface.

He glanced at Spock. The strong jaw and regal nose cast an incredibly striking profile in the diffuse lighting. Kirk couldn't help but think the man beautiful. But that thought was far from new. It had just been much too long since he thought it without feeling the intolerable pain that went along with any thought of his friend.

Spock still looked straight ahead, his gaze seemingly fixed on the passing stars. Kirk couldn't read the expression -- or lack of it -- on the stern aged face. He couldn't tell what was going on behind those midnight black eyes that only hours before had actually shed tears. He felt his stomach flip again at the memory of the look on Spock's face, the sound of his voice, when he turned to Kirk and explained his weeping. It had torn at Kirk's insides then -- and did so more now.

McCoy had called himself a "sentimental old fool" when Kirk asked him how he felt about returning to the ship. "Like a sentimental old fool," he replied with a hint of the old McCoy grin.

Kirk smiled to himself as the image of Bones' face flashed before him. He had to agree with his friend. He, too, felt like a sentimental old fool at the moment. Like an officer returned to the Academy to relive his cadet days. He didn't belong on the Enterprise… not anymore. Nothing was right anymore, nothing was the same, or even close.

Kirk looked up, realizing Spock had said something to him. "I'm sorry, Spock. What did you say?"

The Vulcan didn't even lift an eyebrow. "Are you well, sir?" he repeated calmly.

Kirk frowned at him. "Well? Of course, I'm well. Why did you ask that?"

Spock steepled his hands, intertwining the long fingers. His head tilted slightly. "You seemed… disturbed."

Kirk shook his head, his heart doing an interesting rendition of Syrit tribal drums at the mobility of Spock's face. "Nothing's wrong. I've just been remembering, that's all."

"Remembering?" Spock asked quietly.

"Yeah." Kirk shrugged. "Thinking about the ship, about the crew… and about myself when we first came aboard her, about you and Bones. How different we all were, how different everything was and is."

"It has been nearly three years," Spock reminded.

Not two point four six years, Spock? Kirk thought, oddly disappointed. He smiled sadly and nodded.

"Everything changes, Jim, especially people."

Kirk's head snapped up. It was the first time Spock had called him "Jim" since… since sick bay. He looked away quickly, unable to hold the Vulcan's gaze. "I know. That's what I mean." He paused. "It's not that I expect everything and everyone to be the same as they were when I left the ship. It's just… human nostalgia, I suppose."

"Humans are not the only ones aboard who are susceptible to nostalgia, Admiral."

Kirk looked back at him. "Really? You've been remembering, too?"

"Indeed."

"What? What have you been remembering, Spock?"

The Vulcan looked up at him with a very hesitant smile hiding in the corner of his eyes. He shook his head as if to say "I can't tell you."

"It's okay, I'll go first." At Spock's nod, Kirk continued, "I've been thinking of that day when the transporter malfunctioned and split me in two. But, strangely, the part that keeps playing over and over in my mind is when we were all in sick bay, when that… other me was tied down and you were trying to explain the difference between the two of us… in him and me." He looked at Spock to find those dark eyes on his own. "I keep hearing what you said, what Bones said about me having the goodness, the compassion and love, tenderness. And Bones said that I have the intellect, the logic, that he had the lust and the violence and hostility. I don't know why I keep thinking about that, but I do."

"A traumatic event," Spock said. "It is sure to retain significance in your mind."

"But there were many traumatic events in those five years, Spock." He shook his head. "Anyway, it doesn't matter. Now it's your turn. What have you been thinking about?"

Spock looked up through lowered lashes. "Oddly enough, a similar event. The transference between you and Dr. Lester. The moment I realized it was you in that body… it is a moment I keep recalling. The memory is not unlike the revelation I experienced through V’ger. A sudden, seemingly impossible understanding of a basic fallacy in my thinking. With V’ger, it was the unveiling of the truth of exactly what pure logic can lead one to. With the event with you transferred to Dr. Lester's body, it was the understanding that I was fully capable of putting my loyalty to one man above my loyalty to Starfleet or my oath to duty. Both events precipitated great alterations in my way of thinking."

"Were those alterations for the better, do you think?" Kirk asked hesitantly, still unsure how personal he could get.

"The first, the understanding of the priorities I held concerning my loyalties, was at first a puzzling change. Then it was an acceptable change. Ultimately, it was an alteration I could not accept, one I had to... deal with in a somewhat extreme manner." He fixed his eyes on the viewport. "The second, or rather, the latest alteration has yet to have sufficient time to be tested. However, my preliminary observations show this change to be the most positive development in my personality in years… perhaps in my entire life."

At first, Kirk wanted to pounce on the statement concerning the unacceptability of the first change, then he felt a surge of satisfaction at the later statements and smiled. "I'm glad for you, Spock. I'm glad you found what you were searching for. I've been, well, I've been very concerned about you."

"I did not intend to cause you concern, Admiral."

"I know. But you left without explanation to anyone and when I finally tracked you down I couldn't talk to you, was told you were at some retreat and that communication was forbidden. I, well, we all were very worried."

"It could not be avoided, the circumstances, that is. What I did, I had to do at the time."

Kirk shrugged. "You're a big boy, Mr. Spock. You certainly don't have to justify your every decision to me or anyone else," Kirk's tone was understanding, non-censuring. "But, we are your friends and, as humans mostly, we're not used to people just walking out of our lives with no explanation whatsoever." He held up a hand quickly. "I'm not asking you to explain now, Spock. If you want to talk about it, I'm still here for you. But I'm just glad you're back and that you're okay."

"I, too, am quite pleased that you're well, that you are once again in command of this ship. I'm also pleased to be serving once more in your command. It has always been a satisfactory position for me."

Kirk chuckled softly at Spock's gentle humor. He sighed and leaned back, relaxing finally. "Well, for as long as it lasts, I'm pleased to have you here, too."

"You expect to lose command?"

"Officially, I don't even have command of the Enterprise. Officially, it's temporary. Officially, I'm Chief of Operations. Officially, Nogura’s leaving me alone for a few weeks, told me to take the ship and 'work the bugs out', then to get my ass back to Earth." He shrugged at Spock's concerned look. "We'll see what happens when we get back there. In the meantime, we have three solar months for this cruise and I intend to make the most of it."

Spock nodded. "Will you…" He paused.

"What?"

"Do you want to retain command?"

Kirk smiled to himself. Leave it to Spock. No matter that I just told him I didn't really have command, he thinks I do. "I don't know what I want anymore, Spock. I don't know if I should or can command a starship again. I've been too busy to really think about it, with the emergency and everything. I think that's one thing Nogura wants me to do during the shakedown cruise; decide what I want to do."

"I see."

"What about you? You said your task on Vulcan was done. Now what? You have reinstated rank. I know for a fact that you can have any position you ask for… including command of your own vessel."

Spock shook his head. "You know I don't want that. I'm not suited for command."

"You're wrong about that, Spock. But I do know how you feel about it so I won't argue the point."

"Be that as it may, I would be quite content to remain first officer and/or science officer of this vessel."

Kirk tilted his head at what had been unspoken. "But?"

"But... only under your command." He looked at Kirk, then quickly away. "Admiral, if you would not find it an inconvenience, and if you think my services would be of value to you, would you consider requesting my assignment to your staff… wherever you decide to go?"

Kirk sat speechless. Here he was with the most brilliant, kindest, most gentle being in the entire galaxy and he was being asked if he could use that being's skills. "Spock… of course. I would be… grateful to have you with me wherever I end up." He swallowed the lump in his throat. "Of course, that's unless I end up piloting an ore freighter." His attempt at humor fell flat.

Spock looked at him and held his gaze. "I would be content to serve aboard any ship you command."

Kirk acknowledged the words with a nod.

"I mentioned that the incident with Dr. Lester revealed to me just how loyal I was to you. At first, I found the knowledge comforting. The fact that I could give any part of myself to another so fully… was amazing to me. I rather liked the fact. But, that loyalty began to get in the way of my duty -- too much so. It became a type of possessiveness. It began to be... painful to me." He shook his head in frustration. "Words do not explain what I experienced." He paused. "You have always been so… human."

"That was a surprise to you?"

"No. It was an understanding. A sudden, full comprehension that you and I are of different worlds. The difference between human friendship and the Vulcan equivalent was, at that time, so vast in my mind that I couldn't reconcile the two. I began to feel torn in two yet again. I had always had to deal with the two warring halves of myself. Yet, this new understanding was something I hadn't faced before; the ability to accept another who is so drastically apart from everything I knew and understood. I had that ability. I accepted you, gloried in our differences just as IDIC has taught us. Yet, I found that understanding extremely difficult to apply in day-to-day existence.

"It became so… hard to see you be human." Again, he shook his head. "I'm not explaining this well."

"It's okay. I'm not going anywhere. Take your time."

Spock nodded gratefully. He took a deep breath. "A circumstance would arise. In my mind, I would automatically analyze it, come up with the logical solution, the logical steps to take. Then you would come along and react so completely differently than I had expected that I could not assimilate the discrepancy. I thought I knew you well. I did not. The more I knew you, the less I understood you."

"Spock, you're failing to take into consideration the fact that I was… well, not quite the same after what Janice did to me. I wasn't the same man I was before that."

Spock frowned at him. "I don't understand."

Kirk smiled. "I never stopped to think that you didn't see it. You should talk to Bones to get the psychological explanation, but I can tell you that having to live as a woman… changed me. I don't mean I became effeminate or anything like that, but my female traits did come to surface more than they had before. I found I reacted differently to certain situations, like danger."

Spock nodded. "You did not rush into hazardous situations as you had before."

"Exactly. I stopped and thought a bit more… and in a different way. I was having a great deal of trouble with the military side of my command. Those last two years of the mission were very, very trying for me."

"You did not discuss this with me," Spock said matter-of-factly.

"How could I?" Kirk whispered. "You're Vulcan. You are -- or at least were -- a Vulcan's Vulcan. Part of me was completely aware of the change and why it happened. That part of me was embarrassed, thought of this… alteration as a weakness. You were the last person I would have revealed a weakness to, Spock. I wanted -- I needed, more than ever, to be perfect in your eyes."

"But…"

"It wasn't any need you projected onto me, Spock," Kirk interrupted. "It was a need inside of me. I had to be perfect in your eyes because a large part of my self-image, of how I saw myself, was knotted up in how you saw me. As long as I was still The Captain to you, I was still the captain to myself."

"I should have known."

"Come on, Spock! Don't start that. It wasn't anyone's fault. Bones didn't even see it until near the end of the mission. I managed to hide my problems pretty well. You know how sharp his eyes are."

"Indeed."

"Anyway, I found I was pretty grateful that the five years were drawing to a close. The mission on Gradon really did it, really made me realize I needed a rest at least."

"I saw the strain it put you under. I tried to… help."

"Yes, you did. And I wouldn't let you, would I?" Kirk felt himself pushed against a wall. There was so much, too much, to tell Spock and he couldn't reveal any of it. "I guess I still need you to see me in a certain light. I'm still… hesitant to show you certain things about myself."

"I regret that. I would… like there to be nothing taboo between us. It has been too long a struggle for both of us to return to this place. It would be a great shame to lose it or to find we hadn't each learned a few lessons from our experiences."

"It's not that bad," Kirk assured with a slight smile. "It's obvious that you've learned and I know I have. There are just some areas that are still -- delicate. We haven't had that much time together, yet. It'll all be okay. I know it will."

Spock was unsure whom Kirk was trying to convince, Spock or himself. "I believe everything will be 'okay', too."

"I'm sorry. I interrupted you. Your explaining why you left for Gol."

"Yes." Spock shifted in his chair, hooking his right foot behind his left knee. "When this… miscomprehension between you and me became too difficult, I went to see McCoy. But, for once, he had no advice. He told me I should be patient and wait for everything to 'settle down'. But they didn't 'settle down', only continued to become more confusing. Yet, with each day that I understood you less, my… attachment to you increased. It increased until I was beginning to lose my own personality. I began to think erratically, found myself expressing myself in more emotional terms. I was losing everything Vulcan within me. Then there was a choice to be made. The mission was ending. I was offered command of the Exeter. I could not accept that posting, but would have been content to remain as I was, first officer of the Enterprise. But the Enterprise was being put into dry dock, her entire crew was being reassigned. You were offered a post in the admiralty. McCoy was exercising his retirement. Everything I knew was being… taken away from me."

Kirk swallowed in sympathy at the thickness of Spock's voice, at the barely suppressed stress he heard in the quiet words.

"I could not face returning to Vulcan… and taking a bondmate. I had become too human. My control was all but gone. I had known of Gol, as all Vulcans do, and of the disciplines enforced there. It seemed the best choice at the time."

"I don't know what to say."

Spock shook his head, one eyebrow rising. "There is nothing needed, Jim. That was then. I've come to a new understanding now. I had thought Gol could cleanse me, I suppose. It did for a while. I lost myself there." His eyes closed, his head tilted back slightly. "The perfect, linear philosophy of Gol was an anchor to hold on to, to cling to. Which is not what the discipline exists for. As you know, at the last moment, just before the ceremony which would label me for all time a Master of Gol was to commence, I failed in everything I had attempted. At that last moment, you intruded into my consciousness and I failed. In that one split-second, every emotion I buried over the stretch of time I'd been in the mountains of Vulcan was suddenly, rawly at the surface." He smiled wryly, his head turned away from Kirk. "I was… stupid to ever think I could rid myself of you… or to ever want to."

"You're not stupid, Spock," Kirk muttered. "Far from it."

Spock nodded. "Whatever the case may be, by going to Gol in the first place, I was acting no more rationally than I had been before I left the Enterprise. I do not subscribe to the theories of 'fate', yet it seems that mythical entity served most prominently in my life."

"You were never meant to be stuck on Vulcan," Kirk agreed. "You were born to wander the stars."

Spock turned back toward him and pinned his eyes with his own dark gaze. "As were you. It may not be my place to speak of this, but I did not speak before and it was an error. I will speak now."

Kirk waited.

"Do not give up your command, Jim. Don't do it. You belong here, on this ship, among the stars. It is your birthright as surely as it is mine. This I've learned, if nothing else."

Kirk shook his head. "I don't know any more, Spock. I feel like such a stranger now. I've gotten lost several times on my own ship! My own ship!" He hit his hand against the smooth surface of the chair. "Damn."

"As you said, there has been an emergency. It is now over. We have three months in which to adjust. I know you," his eyes smiled at Kirk's look. "I know I said I was wrong about you at the end of our five-year mission, but I do know you. There were many factors working against mutuality then. Those factors, if not completely gone, are better understood now. I know you, James Kirk. You will adapt in very little time. You will be laughing at your own doubts in a few days."

Kirk smiled at him. "Maybe you do know me, after all… maybe better than I know myself. For now, we're here and I'll accept your judgment for the moment. We'll see what reality brings."

Spock nodded and they lapsed back into silence.

The ship vibrated softly beneath their feet, against the backs of their chairs. The stars passed the viewport, darkness and starlight caressed their faces. It was ship's night, the middle of the night. Both men had been sleepless, had found they needed company. They'd met in the corridor outside their quarters, each going to see the other, and had agreed to go to the observation deck to talk.

At first, Kirk couldn't sit still, pacing back and forth in what seemed like slow motion. His thoughts were too rapid, too disturbed by memories both good and bad, but mostly dark, shadowed, like his Vulcan friend. Events had moved so rapidly. First it was the frantic calls from deep space about the mysterious force headed toward Earth, then there had been the decision to board the Enterprise, to take command from Will. Then events started moving faster. He was finding control hard to grasp. The wormhole, the erroneous phaser command. Not to mention having to tell Will he was taking over command. The bitterness pouring off the younger man hadn't helped any. And then Spock was there; cold and alien… shadowed and mysterious… And events had moved faster still until they culminated in the loss of Will to the probe. And that miraculous moment in sick bay with Spock… That had left its mark as well. One moment he was a desk-bound paper pusher and the next he was out saving the galaxy again. It had to be a dream.

Now, having broken the silence, having at last heard Spock's explanation for why he left and having given some hint as to his own difficulties at the time, Kirk sat once more in silence beside his friend and was filled with a strange mixture of bliss and apprehension. There was more to tell, things he had finally gone into with McCoy during his first-year planetside. The doctor had been a huge help in putting things in perspective, of accepting certain previously unbelievable facts about himself. He'd reached a plateau during his years at the Admiralty, a comfortable spot where he didn't have to put himself mentally or physically on the line. Now that had changed again. He was faced with the same decision he'd been given nearly three years before: fight to keep his command or return to his desk. Somehow, he knew that he wouldn't be content to sit behind a desk now. Not now that Spock was back, not now that he had an opportunity to fix what had gone so very, very wrong during the last year of their mission.

The changes that Janice Lester had unwittingly brought about had taken months to manifest clearly, had taken several years to assimilate into the personality of one starship captain. What he told Spock was true; he wasn't the same man who had commanded Enterprise at the end of the five-year mission. He was better than that. He knew he'd never go back to being that person again… nor would he ever willingly return to a desk on Earth.

"This is very nice," Kirk spoke softly into the stillness. "Just sitting here with you. I've missed our quiet times. It's a rare thing to be able to share with someone."

"I, too, have missed our time together," Spock answered in a tone matching Kirk's. "I had become accustomed to having a… friend."

"Me, too." At Spock's look of doubt, Kirk continued, "I didn't make the time to find friends at the Admiralty. And no one went out of their way to approach me, so I just sort of stayed to myself."

"You were married," Spock reminded him hesitantly.

Kirk laughed bitterly. "Yeah, I was, wasn't I? Well, that was...uh… different." He tore his gaze away from the view and looked at Spock's expectant face. "It was a… matter of convenience, I guess. For both of us. Lori pretty much did whatever Nogura commanded. I have no idea what he has -- had on her, but it must have been something pretty big to force her into a marriage, even if it was just a one-year contract."

"And your reasons?" Spock continued to watch Kirk, noting his sudden discomfiture.

"Me? I was trying to prove something… to myself and to everyone else who cared to look. Lori is… damn!" He shook his head. "I keep forgetting she's dead. Anyway, she was beautiful and intelligent and fun. She fit perfectly into the image I wanted to make myself believe. We got along very well. She was good company, knew just when to leave me alone to my moods. Of course, now I realize she was… programmed to know me better than I could know her, but at the time, she just seemed to be the perfect answer."

"What was the question?"

Kirk looked at him in surprise and chuckled at Spock's bluntness. "The question, my friend, was 'Who is James T. Kirk and what does he want out of life?' Nothing major." He laughed again. "It sounds pretty silly when I say it now, but I was having what one could call an identity crisis. For five years I had been 'Captain Kirk' with everything that title implies and the privileges that go with it. I was also 'Spock of Vulcan's friend'. That definition meant more to my self-image than I'd known… until it was gone."

"You never stopped being my friend, Jim."

"I know that now. But then…" He shrugged. "It seemed that you didn't need me anymore, that whatever friendship we'd had was null and void. And, without that definition of myself, I found I was walking around having only a very small inkling of who I was. That in itself was enough to disturb me. I'd always thought of myself as an independent entity with no life-dependent ties to anyone. So, suddenly, you were gone, the ship was gone, Bones left. I guess I started looking for something -- someone to fill the spaces. Lori was there and she was… perfect."

Spock watched Kirk's face go through fondness to bitterness to loss. "I grieve with thee," he said formally in Vulcan.

Kirk nodded in silent acknowledgement of his friend's sympathy. "Thank you. I guess I do feel her loss. But we weren't going to stay together. The contract was up three days ago. Funny, just when my life was about to be empty again, it's suddenly refilled. And with just the right things, too. Maybe I do lead a charmed life after all."

"Many would say so."

"Would you?"

Spock looked at his hands again, seriously considering the question. "If I understand your meaning, I would say, yes. Your life has been charmed in that you have achieved everything you've set out to in a relatively short lifetime."

"Short? Not that short, Spock."

"You are still very young."

Kirk's eyes crinkled with humor. "Maybe for a Vulcan…"

"For a human, you are still young. Chronologically you were not even at middle age. Emotionally…" His voice trailed off as his eyes met Kirk's amused gaze. "Sometimes, you seem a child and then you seem as wise and aged as the mountains of Seleya. Judging by appearances, you look young and vital… as you are."

Kirk continued to smile at his friend. "Your kindness was not exaggerated by memory," he told him.

"I am being completely honest with you."

"You have a slanted vision of me, Spock. Maybe you depend as much on my view of you as I've depended on your view of me. I also think you need to keep the young and… as close to how I was as you possibly can."

"That was true at one time. It no longer is necessary. I've moved beyond that. While it remains true that your opinion is important to me, that your judgment of me and my work is very important, I no longer need that opinion or judgment… or approval for my own contentment. You're no longer on the pedestal I put you upon."

Kirk's smile turned into a genuine laugh at the uncertain look Spock gave him. "You had your own pedestal, my friend. I know I pressured you far too much, expected to much from you."

"No, not too much, only my best. Your demands have made me a stronger person. I thank you for that. And, if I may say so, the same is true for the rest of the crew. The Enterprise was the best ship in the fleet because you demand she be so. None of us would dare disappoint you."

"I know that, believe me. And that's one reason I'm still vacillating about fighting to keep command. As much as you -- all of you -- never wanted to disappoint me, I don't want to disappoint you. I've changed. More than you see, more than you know."

"We have already discussed change, Jim. We have all changed."

"You're more relaxed than I've ever seen you," Kirk agreed. "And Bones is more cranky!" He laughed. "Uhura is more beautiful and more confident, Pavel is grown up, Sulu’s become an excellent officer. Scotty’s the only one who hasn't changed… give or take a few pounds."

"And you? I see what I consider to have changed in you. I would like to know what this major change is that you keep referring to."

Kirk drew a deep breath and laced his fingers together, pressing them on his belly just below the Prescan on his belt. "I'd like to know what you see first."

"The obvious changes are in your appearance. Your hair is darker, the texture has changed slightly. You have stopped depilatating your chest." Spock glanced at the deep slit in Kirk's short-sleeved, white tunic. "You aren't as… cocky as you once were. You're more sedate in your mannerisms. There's a change in your eyes." He tilted his head as if to get a look from a different angle. "There is a sadness there, as though something is gone. Those are the obvious changes I see."

"They are pretty accurate." Kirk paused, saw that Spock was awaiting his reply to the original question. "What changes do I keep talking about? Well, like I said, it happened as a result of my experience with Janice Lester." He sighed, reluctant to go into this. He glanced at the chronometer on his waistband and saw that it was only 0330. No chance of being saved by the beginning of the shift.

"After the shock, physical and mental, wore off, I realized I was looking at things differently. I heard myself saying things in different tones, with different inflections. I found repeated cases of my judgment or opinion being altered from what it might have been before the incident. In essence, what I saw was a man who now had the perceptions of a woman." He shook his head. "I've never realized that the sexes are actually two separate species… if not biologically, then psychologically. Colors looked different. Shapes, basic philosophies I'd lived with for thirty-seven years were all different. My own hand didn't look… right to me." He held up his left hand and looked closely at it. "It wasn't that I expected to see a female hand. I knew I was James Kirk, male. I knew. But I wasn't James Kirk anymore… at least, not the James Kirk who had gone down to Camus II, and I never would be that man again."

Spock continued to watch his friend, waiting patiently for Kirk to go on.

"I looked at… you differently." Kirk glanced up, met Spock's eyes for a moment, then looked back down at his hand. "I looked at everyone differently. Women didn't…uh… have the same appeal they once did." He glanced up again, then away. "Everyone looked different. I don't know how else to explain it. Textures were more pronounced, colors were more distinct, scents more delicate. I'd never noticed these things before. Bones says men have different perceptions from women, that females actually see more detail. It's not that they only pay more attention. It has something to do with the actual makeup of the brain chemistries. Women smell better… I mean they perceive scents better than men. They taste better, hear better, with more distinction. It's like they can separate colors into factors, see the depths of it, while men only see the surface. You can prove it in a simple experiment. Take a group of men and a group of women, take each person into a room and ask them to describe the color of the carpet. Do this with all the people in both groups. Odds are that most of the men will describe the carpet as 'blue' or 'green', whatever the hue is. The women will mostly say 'cobalt' or 'olive'. Their perceptions are more specific." He looked up to see Spock's reaction and found puzzled patience on the stern face. Kirk smiled.

"I know I sound like I'm not making any sense, but I'm getting to a point here." Spock nodded and Kirk continued. "I found myself… looking at men differently." He glanced at Spock again, this time to find a raised eyebrow. He couldn't help but laugh. "I didn't know I was looking at them like I used to look at women… not for a while, anyway. And, when I did figure it out, I… panicked. It was awful, Spock. Bones had a real time with me. I didn't really understand what was going on until I'd been at the Admiralty for a few months and found myself missing you more than I possibly should have." He cleared his throat, leaned forward until his elbows rested on his knees and continued. "That's when I married Lori. It had been almost a year and a half since I'd had… since I'd been intimate with a woman. And that had been a very…uh… unsatisfactory experience. Then I met Lori and she, well, she pushed her way into my bed as well as my life. And it was good. I mean, everything seemed normal. We got married and, like I said, the contract ran out the day I came back aboard and I wouldn't have renewed it, given the chance."

Spock didn't know what to say. He wasn't even sure what Kirk was telling him. He felt somewhat stupid and said so.

"Spock! Stop calling yourself that. You aren't stupid… and I'll get mad if you keep saying you are. I'm not being very clear, I know that. I can't expect you -- or anyone -- to be able to follow my convoluted explanations."

"I am uncertain as to what you are telling me… exactly."

"Well, exactly, I'm trying to tell you that for the past five years or so, I've been… my sexual orientation has shifted. That's it, exactly."

"I see."

"I'm glad one of us does."

"Jim," Spock snapped, admonishingly.

"Sorry. Don't mean to make jokes, but I'm nervous."

"Why? Do you think my opinion of you has changed with this information?"

"I don't know. Has it?"

"No," Spock said simply. "Yes." He continued to look at Kirk. "I don't know," he finally concluded, seemingly surprised himself.

Kirk was surprised, too. "At least you're honest. I appreciate that."

"No, my opinion of you has not changed," Spock tried to clarify. "Yes, my perceptions of you have altered. I don't know what to say."

"Well, for one thing, this subject is a bit awkward between us. Sex always has been a subject we sort of sidestepped. But, this isn't really about sex, Spock. It's about me, who I am, what I am. What I'm not, is a man who lusts after other men. I just find I want to be around men more… like I used to be attracted to women. I've never… been with a man."

Spock looked startled at the disclosure.

Kirk smiled. "You don't have to look so shocked. I've never met a man I've wanted to…uh… try it with." He paused. "Well, that's not strictly true. I've never met a man who's been accessible who I've wanted to try it with."

"Jim, I know you too well to ever think this is strictly about sexual pleasure. Despite your reputation, I never thought of you as callous or uncaring about the women you were… involved with. You're a kind man. If I am hearing you correctly, you're talking about love, are you not?"

"Yes."

"Then there is a man you love, but you think him inaccessible."

"Yes."

"Why?"

"What?"

"Why do you consider him inaccessible?"

Kirk leaned back in his seat once more and shut his eyes. "I don't believe this," he commented to no one in particular. "I find him inaccessible because he has been. He's been… away. He's also…" Kirk opened his eyes and looked at Spock carefully. "He's also… Vulcan."

Spock stared at him.

"I didn't want to tell you… or maybe I did. I guess I wouldn't have if I didn't want to. And, remember, you did ask."

"Yes." Spock cleared his throat. "Yes, I did ask."

"And?"

"And you… answered quite succinctly."

Kirk frowned at him. "You know what I mean. I know there has to be some… shock. I can see it on your face. I'd like to know what your reaction is."

"My immediate reaction is that I am… deeply honored." Both eyebrows disappeared into the Vulcan's hairline as that realization struck home. "I am honored," he repeated. "I am also confused and uncertain. As you know, intimate relationships have not been a focus of my life."

"I do know that, that's one reason I've kept quiet, not that I've had a chance to talk to you about it until now."

"Are you… What do you…" Spock shut his mouth, looking highly uncomfortable.

Kirk smiled. "My intentions, if that's what you're trying to ask, are of the highest sort. My proposition, if that's the other thing you were trying to ask, is that you think about what I've said. I don't want to pressure you. And if you have no interest in deepening our relationship I'll be grateful and content with your continued friendship, which I hope will survive this no matter what the outcome."

"I see."

"Spock, friends are harder to come by than lovers. And lovers who are friends are the rarest of all. If I've found one, I'll never want for anything as long as I live. If I haven't, I'll still feel lucky and happy to have the best friend a man could ask for."

"Then you do wish us to become… intimate?"

"As a Vulcan, Spock, what do you perceive as the most intimate thing you can share with someone else?"

That one was easy. "The mind touch. A meld."

"Exactly. Now, as I understand it, there are various types of melds, right?"

Spock nodded, not sure where this conversation was leading. "There are familial touches, touches between mated pairs, touches between friends."

"Right. And, by Vulcan definition, what is a 'friend'?"

"T’hy’la comes as close to translating 'friend' as anything in the Vulcan language. It is used in conjunction with another person one has an unusual affinity with. If one is lucky, the t’hy’la is someone whose mind is attuned to yours."

"Would you ever have considered calling me that? I mean before you knew what you know now?"

"I have long called you t’hy’la, Jim."

"Then the melds we've shared have been different from, say, those you've had with McCoy or Scotty, during duty?"

"Very different, from the start."

"Then, by Vulcan standards, have we been 'intimate'?"

Spock's eyebrows disappeared again. "Fascinating."

"Indeed," Kirk agreed with a grin. "Then an intimate relationship on a human level wouldn't be such a big deal… I mean philosophically speaking."

"Philosophically speaking, no, it would not." Spock's eyes tried to smile. "Jim, you have felt this through most logically."

"You shouldn't be surprised at that, Spock. You've known since the transporter malfunction that the part of me that holds all the love also holds the logic. I think it's probably true of everyone, even Vulcans. I've seen it in you for years… love, that is. And gentleness. And kindness. And compassion. All Vulcan traits, all parts of that half of you that is so very, very logical."

Spock just looked more flabbergasted than ever.

"It's very late… or very early, rather. We both could use at least a few hours' sleep before shift starts. Now is no time for decisions. Why don't we sleep on it and we'll talk tonight after duty shift. Okay?"

Spock nodded in agreement. "That would be acceptable."

"There's only one thing more I want to say to you before I let you go."

Spock had risen after Kirk and now stood looking at him. "What is that?"

Kirk looked up, placed one hand on a too-thin shoulder and let all the suppressed emotions for his friend surface in his eyes. "I love you, Spock. Think about that." With those words, Kirk left the observation deck, leaving behind a very stunned Vulcan.

*****

There had never been a busier duty shift. Yet, despite the constant interruptions, the calls for his assistance all over the ship, Kirk's mind refused to concentrate on anything but what he'd said the previous night… and the consequences. His legs took him where he was needed, his hands performed the required functions, his mouth spoke the correct words in response to questions. But his mind, his attention was definitely not on the running of the ship.

Yet, if asked, he wouldn't have been able to tell anyone what he'd been thinking. There were too many things running through his mind to focus on any one. His mind was a mass of swirling colors, abstract theorems and vague memories. Remembrances of the previous day were faded, mere background to his now agitated mind. He kept playing and replaying the conversation with Spock; what he'd said, what Spock had answered. Then there were other thoughts: Did I really say that to him?

Now, as he stood beneath the soothing sonics, he tried to settle his mind, tried to ease away the tension as it gathered at the back of his neck and was spreading its tendrils upward into his head like an electrified octopus. It won't do to have a headache, not tonight! He exited the shower and pulled on a pair of jeans and a thick, white sweater. Comfortable, he sat in one of the two large lounge chairs and began staring at the door.

Ten minutes later, the chime sounded and he rose, moving quickly to the release on the left side of the vidcom. He stood straight, trying to breathe normally as Spock entered.

Dressed in black trousers and a black and red shirt, Spock looked almost satanic. The severe lines of Gol cast deep shadows over his face. Shadows, Kirk thought, inside and out. Mysterious and… beautiful. He swallowed and smiled.

"Hi," he said softly. "Drink?"

Spock nodded, moving to the seat Kirk indicated.

Kirk placed an octagonal, smoke-gray glass in Spock's hands before taking the seat opposite him. He lifted his glass, touching it to Spock's. "To friends," he whispered.

Spock met his eyes and returned the toast. "Friends." He sipped the strong liquor, feeling it burn his tongue, throat and stomach as it made its way downward.

A long silence stretched between them. Moments turned into minutes before Spock spoke. "Is that better?"

Kirk looked up in an inquiring way. "Is what better?"

"Are you more relaxed now the you've had some brandy?"

Kirk smiled. "Showed, did it?"

Spock shook his head. "Only because I share your… apprehensions."

Kirk's stomach flipped. His eyes grew wide and he sat forward, leaning on his knees, waiting for Spock to continue.

"I am merely uncertain, Jim. I didn't mean that I was… rejecting you."

Kirk looked down at the deck past the glass in his hands. "Ask me anything you want. That's what you're here for."

"Is it?" Spock's brows rose as Kirk looked up at him.

"Get serious… please."

Spock nodded. "I am still at somewhat of a loss as to what to say to you," he began carefully. "It is obvious that I wish to be with you… for as long as it is possible for us to be together. That's why I returned, a main reason, in any case." He swallowed his brandy. "I am… honored, as I already said, that you hold me in such high esteem that you would… say the things you did to me. No one has ever told me that before, not in the manner you did." He glanced at Kirk, whose gaze was still affixed to the deck.

"I am not completely sure I understand what 'love' is, I'm not sure I know how to feel it. I do know that you are the most important person in my life. I've made mistakes because of my reactions to you, I've made valuable strides in my personal life because of you. Since we first met, I now realize, I have lived… because of you." He drank again. "I've asked myself all day if that is love. I have no answer.

"What you said last night -- about the melds we've shared -- was true; I've never experienced such… intimacy with another as I have found with you, within your mind. It is obvious to me, and would be to anyone trained to look, that you and I are already linked past the point we could easily be separated from each other. If that wasn't true, you would not have touched me so deeply while I was at Gol." He looked again to Kirk to find the human still staring down. "Jim, my mother has only ever spoken those words to me once that I recall. I was four years old."

Kirk looked up and met the dark eyes, feeling himself fall forward into their midnight depths.

Spock looked away. "Please, don't… look at me that way. I cannot think."

"Sorry," Kirk muttered, unsure whether to be amused or sad.

Spock set down his now empty glass and Kirk refilled it from the bottle on the table in front of them, then watched as Spock drained it halfway again.

"Go easy on that stuff. You're not exactly used to it."

Spock didn't comment on the warning. "I've had the most illogical urge to cry all day," he said matter-of-factly.

"Why?" Kirk wondered, distressed at such a revelation.

"I am not sure. Perhaps from tension. So much has happened in such a short time. I'm still assimilating the information I gained from V’ger. Perhaps because I am… feeling something V’ger never knew existed yet yearned for terribly."

"What's that?" Kirk asked softly.

"A fullness where great, gaping emptiness had been."

Kirk swallowed the lump in his throat. He couldn't speak.

Spock's eyes smiled at him. "I do not know what you… what humans call 'love'. I don't know what it is to feel it. But if this… thing inside me is even partly made of love, then I am amazed that the human race has survived such emotion."

"We barely have," Kirk muttered quietly.

Spock watched him for a few moments. "It wouldn't be wrong for me to define the word myself, would it?"

Kirk shook his head. "We all have to do that."

"That I will define it as meaning 'James T. Kirk'."

"Spock..." Kirk bit his lower lip to keep it from trembling. He felt very warm, his stomach felt electrified and his limbs felt heavy as lead. He wasn't sure he could survive loving Spock, but he was going to try.

"I would accept a period of… trial with you, Jim. I don't know what is expected -- or what to expect. You are, ultimately, my friend and you always will be, no matter what we may or may not decide to add to that friendship." He set his still half-full glass down and reached his now-free hand across the space between them.

Kirk felt like his hand had suddenly been welded to the most delicate stone in the universe. Spock's palm was hot and callused, his fingertips were rough from a harsh existence in the mountains of Vulcan. But the blood that flowed through that hand in his surged forward to meet and absorb Kirk and he knew there was no going back. As surely as their hands fitted perfectly together, so would the rest of them; he knew it in the very pit of his soul where he turned to find Spock already waiting for him. He couldn't help but smile nor could he have stopped himself from rising to his feet as Spock did and meeting him in a bone-crushing embrace. He couldn't breathe in the warm grasp and he didn't care. His stomach knotted and unknotted as he tried to control his trembling. He finally gave up and let his limbs shiver, knowing Spock would hold him up.

Firm hands supported his back and a rough cheek brushed his temple. The scent of Spock inundated him and he felt faint for a moment. The scent was heavy, Earth and sky and stars all mixed together with a touch of aofron leaf. It was Spock. Kirk took several deep breaths, holding on tighter each time.

He felt himself beginning to swell and didn't even bother trying to hide it. It would have been useless to try, and self-defeating. Instead, he rubbed against the hard body in his arms, pressing as tight as he could. When he pulled back to look at his friend's face, he smiled, trying not to laugh at the delight he saw in Spock's eyes. It was then that he became aware of a firmness pressing into his hip that matched his own arousal. His eyes flashed once, then shut as he leaned back into the solid embrace.

"Jim?"

Kirk pulled back and looked up again. "Hmmm?"

Spock's eyes held humor and hesitation. "Would you… kiss me?"

"Are you kidding?"

"No…" His reply was cut short as warm lips settled on his, massaging softly until he parted his teeth. Kirk's tongue teased in and around his mouth, eliciting the first groan Spock had ever muttered.

The kiss seared Kirk's soul with a fire that would never die, never could as the fuel consumed was the stuff of stars and memory and dreams. His breath came unevenly as he rested his forehead on Spock's shoulder and tried to regain some form of sanity. For he felt his very mind had been ripped from him and replaced with a new being, a new Jim Kirk, one who had been waiting to be born for far too many years.

Spock held the still-trembling form tightly, unsure of what was passing through his own head, unsure of what he was feeling… if anything. The overall impression was of ultimate numbness, a sort of raw cold where a fire had raged. For a moment, he was actually frightened by the emptiness. Then he looked down at the bowed head resting so trustingly against him and his soul surged to meet the all-pervading warmth projected from this small, powerful human. Spock sighed, finally letting himself be free to feel whatever came his way. He decided rather offhandedly that this -- this holding and touching and being inside someone else's very fiber -- was love.

"Jim…" The word slipped from his lips before he knew he would speak it.

Kirk looked up, eyes half-closed, lips slightly curved, a question in every inch of his expression.

"Make love to me," Spock whispered boldly. "Please."

Kirk opened his mouth but found no words to utter. Instead, he clenched his jittery jaw and took Spock by the hand, leading into the large bed in the alcove beyond his office. He stood, staring at the wide expanse for long moments before turning to Spock and looking at him questioningly.

"I want this, Jim," Spock answered the unspoken question. "I think I always have."

Kirk just nodded and sat on the edge of the bed, kicking off his shoes and pulling the plush sweater over his head.

Hair mussed, feet bare, Kirk looked up as Spock sat beside him, unbuttoning the shirt he wore. Dark eyes were on Kirk's face, examining every molecule, every nuance. He smiled and reached to help Spock discard his shirt.

They faced each other, bare-chested, skin slightly flushed. Kirk reached one hand out and allowed it to rest in the middle of Spock's chest, running his fingers through the dark fur there. Spock mirrored him, seemingly fascinated with the newly discovered hair on Kirk's chest.

Kirk kissed Spock then pulled away, standing to remove his jeans. He was both amused and pleased to see Spock quickly discard his own trousers and sit again on the bed, one hand reaching out in his direction. Kirk took it and reseated himself, intensely aware of all sensations. He felt the rough texture of the bedcover against his bare legs and buttocks, felt the soft deck cover under his feet. And he felt Spock's long-fingered hands resting on him, one on his chest again, the other on his thigh.

Kirk tore his gaze from Spock's rapt face, letting his eyes wander the entire length of the body before him. Too thin, Kirk thought absently. And still all shadow… The angle of the arm, the crook of the neck, a bend in flesh here, a curve of bone there, the partial arousal between long legs… all shadow… He touched Spock's leg, letting his hand roam farther up until he gently touched the length of Spock's penis with the tips of his fingers. He ran his hand back and forth a few times, feeling the flesh grow as he touched it. He smiled and looked up again to Spock's face.

The dark eyes were half-closed, the mouth slightly open as Spock watched Kirk's hand on his body. Kirk felt, distinctly, a wave of pure amazement and pleasure from his friend. Encouraged, Kirk closed his hand around Spock and began to stroke rhythmically.

He wasn't surprised when Spock tensed and suddenly climaxed. He simply gathered the shocked body to his chest and hugged him, rocking back and forth in a gentling motion.

"It's okay, Spock," he whispered into the dark hair. "It's early yet." He laughed softly. "There's much more to come."

He felt Spock nod against his shoulder, felt hot lips kissing there then move to his neck, his chest. Soft lips plucked hardening nipples and Kirk lay back, flat on the bed with his legs still dangling over the edge. Whatever Spock had in mind, he was of no mind to stop him.

When the hot mouth reached his fully engorged organ, he released a soul-deep sigh and let his body go with the sensations, not worrying, for possibly the first time in his life, about anything but the sensation, the love. With all the trust he held, he gave himself up fully into Spock's hands, no reservations, no thought of image or expectation. Complete, utter trust.

He came strongly as Spock nuzzled his testicles while gently playing with his hardened shaft. He moaned as the release left him drained, feeling weak and completely in love. With the last ounce of strength he contained, he urged Spock back into his arms and held him tightly until he could gather the strength to move farther up onto the bed.

Spock moved easily with him, following Kirk’s undemanding lead. He found the feeling of Kirk’s lips and hands on his body overwhelming and hadn’t even thought as he returned the caresses that had shattered his mind and soul when his body exploded. Resting now in cool arms, Spock simply drifted, until he realized he was on the verge of sleep.

"Jim," he muttered.

"Spock."

Neither had asked a question, rather, they'd confirmed a vow of sorts. Both drifted softly into sleep.

*****

"What time is it?" Kirk turned farther into Spock's embrace, hiding his face against Spock's chest.

"We have been asleep for only 2.2 hours," Spock whispered, somehow hesitant to break the quiet. "There's much time before we need return to duty."

Kirk chuckled softly at the excitement in Spock's voice. "You all right?" he asked.

Spock took a deep breath and rested his chin on the top of Kirk's head. "All right? I am… so very, very content."

Kirk squeezed him. "Me too."

"You are comfortable," Spock continued, "to hold, that is. You feel… right in my arms. I would not be disappointed if neither of us ever moved again."

"I would," Kirk said. "I have plans for you, mister. Plans that require movement… from both of us."

"Really? And just what do these plans consist of?"

Kirk chuckled again. "I love your sense of humor, you know. I don't think I've ever told you that before."

"No, you haven't." Spock paused. "I did not realize that I had a sense of humor… in the human sense, that is."

Kirk nodded. "An excellent one."

"Your plans?" Spock urged, running his hands over Kirk's back.

Kirk leaned up on both hands, one on either side of Spock shoulders. "To begin with, I plan to love you all night. Then, after that, I plan for you to love me. Then I'll start all over again. I might not even stop for our shift. I may never let you out of my bed -- or my arms -- again.

Spock reached up to cup the smiling face with both large hands. He caressed the cheeks with his thumbs, tangling his fingers in the light brown curls of Kirk's hair. "Show me," he whispered, eyes beginning to glow.

Kirk bent down to kiss him again. He pulled back and looked away almost shyly. "If I turn around… so that my feet are near your head and your feet are near mine… would you find anything interesting to do with me do you think?"

Spock tried to remain serious, failing slightly. "I believe I would find... something to occupy my attention."

Kirk sighed, relieved he had such an enterprisingly astute Vulcan in his bed. "Good." He shifted, throwing back covers until they lay, head to foot, on crisp sheets. When he was settled, he began kissing Spock, finding his lips landing on furred legs. He quickly moved up the sinewy thighs to the flushed organ awaiting his attention beyond. At the same instant he took the ornate head of Spock's penis between his lips, he felt an impossibly hot mouth cover his entire length. It was all he could do to stop himself from coming right then. He quickly pulled away from Spock, afraid he might bite the inviting flesh he was so overcome. As Spock began a slow sliding up and down his length, Kirk returned to Spock's organ and began his own exploration.

It was like loving himself, the motion of Spock's mouth on him so echoed his own attentions to Spock. It was no surprise that, the instant he felt his own seed leave his body, he tasted Spock's on his tongue. If the universe exploded then and there, he wouldn't have taken notice, or cared if it had.

The first sign of returned awareness was Spock's penis rolling gently against Kirk's cheek as it nestled comfortably, sated for the moment. Kirk smiled tiredly and kissed him, running a finger along the underside, up from the base to touch very gently between the ridges. The grunt from Spock wasn't a surprise, nor was it a sound of discomfort, rather, it was a statement on the utter contentment that rested between them.

Neither moved until hours later when Kirk awoke, feeling cold and clammy.

He levered up on one elbow and looked down at the figure pressed tightly against him. Spock shivered in his sleep. The cabin felt cold and the moisture on their bodies had dried, leaving them chilled.

Kirk turned around in bed, pulling the discarded covers up until he could tuck them beneath Spock's chin. He cuddled into the warm cocoon as Spock moved into his welcoming embrace.

He watched the softened face as the Vulcan continued to sleep, exhaustion evidenced by his lack of reaction to Kirk's movements. Long hours, Kirk remained awake, just watching his friend sleep. The harshness had slipped from the weathered face in the innocence of sleep and Kirk found his heart contracting every few minutes, threatening to break each time.

When Spock finally did rouse, it was 0420 by the chronometer beside the bed. Long legs stretched as Spock turned from his right side onto his back. Kirk moved away, giving him room to move, still watching as Spock's eyes opened and took in his surroundings.

The dark head turned in Kirk's direction, the eyes feasted on his face, then actually smiled.

Shadow eyes... Kirk thought at the look he received. "Hi," he murmured, hearing the echo from the night before when he'd spoken the same greeting.

For answer, Spock leaned toward him and kissed him deeply. He moved back onto his side of the bed and reached a hand to rest on Kirk's chest beneath the heavy blankets.

Kirk caught Spock's hand in his and squeezed.

"I like you… hairy," Spock offered uncertainly.

"I'm glad."

Spock swallowed, obviously struggling with some thought.

"What is it?" Kirk moved closer, snuggling into the warmth again.

Spock looked at him from behind mussed bangs. He looked twenty years younger than he had when he'd returned to the Enterprise. When he returned to me, Kirk thought proudly.

"What?" he repeated, brushing at Spock's belly with his free hand.

"There is something… I wish to say to you," Spock began, continuing at Kirk's nod. "I told you, last night, that I would welcome a trial period with you." He waited for Kirk to indicate he was listening, understanding his words. "That is no longer true. I would welcome," he rushed to add, "you in my life forever. I…" He looked away, felt Kirk kiss his nose, looked up in surprise to find hazel eyes on his, tears gathered in the corners. He was speechless.

"I love you, too," Kirk said.

"I know. But… do you want… that is, I am…… I've never lived with anyone before… aside from my parents and roommates at Academy. I've never… given myself to anyone before. I very much wish to do so now, to you."

"Yes. Yes, Spock. I accept. Anything. Everything. You, forever and ever. And I want to give myself to you, very much. In fact," he sidled up closer until they were pressed together with every inch of flesh available, "I want to give myself to you now. I need you, Spock. Please."

Spock looked uncertainly back at him. He didn't miss Kirk's meaning, nor did he doubt Kirk's sincerity. He was stunned by the offer, all the same.

"Please?" Kirk asked again, voice small. "I've dreamed, Spock. I've dreamed of us melding and melting together. Honestly, until this moment, I didn't fully understand what I wanted. Now I know. I want you inside me… in every way. Now."

Spock didn't answer, only rolled on top of the human and wedged the shorter legs apart. Kirk moved to accommodate him, shifting his hips until he was spread wide, his penis hard and eager as it pressed between their bellies. He felt the alien organ touch him in his most intimate of physical places and he wanted to cry. There was no pain, only a sweetness as yet. An over-powering, all-encompassing sweetness. He wasn't sure he'd would survive the poignancy of the moment, but he was going to try.

Spock nudged at the opening to Kirk's body, felt the tip of his penis brush Kirk's testicles and farther down into the warm fold of the beautiful body. Green swam before his eyes as he paused, straining to keep control, to go slowly. He knew, in theory, what to do and didn't stop long enough to have any doubt about whether he could do it or not. After a few deep breaths, Spock pushed a little, just a little, and met resistance. A thought teased at his fogged brain. He paused again until he could capture it. Glancing into Kirk's slitted eyes, he drew his own hand to his mouth and inserted a finger before reaching down to probe at Kirk's body, easing the muscle until the finger slipped inside. He repeated the caress, until he felt the final resistance leave the area. He then pushed at the opening once more with his penis and felt the first ridge slip easily inside.

Kirk tensed then relaxed, releasing a long breath as he did so. His fingers dug into Spock's shoulders, his feet clamped around Spock's back, trying to pull him forward, inward into him. He was unable to speak, unable to breathe lest the feeling intensify. He bit his lip to keep his arousal from peaking too quickly. It was a difficult battle.

Seeing Kirk's excitement only fueled Spock's own. He pressed gently, feeling the second ridge slip into incredible softness. Again, he paused a moment before pushing farther. When Kirk's eyes clenched shut in a moment of pain, Spock stilled until the eyes opened again and Kirk nodded for Spock to continue.

Finally, Spock rested on Kirk, his balls touching Kirk's buttocks. Spock sighed, brushing Kirk's hair off his forehead before resting his fingers in the meld position on Kirk's face. He pushed gently against Kirk's mind and felt an utter giving. He melted into Kirk like so much sand drifting through his fingers. In less than a moment, they were together. Spock felt Kirk's eagerness for him to move, to increase the physical sensation, to peak as their minds suckled on one another, taking sustenance and encouragement and passion and need and friendship from one another and passing it back, the feeling intensified each time it made the circuit. They held onto each other in body and mind for long, yet impossibly short moments as their souls molded further to meet the other and their bodies moved in a frantic dance that sent them both spilling everything they owned of themselves into the other, exchanging places, becoming each other.

It seemed to never end. Kirk thought his body would die in the throes of such loving. Yet he felt the gentle reassurance of his lover that he would not die, neither would die without the other and, when it did happen, it would be very, very far in their future.

They separated, disengaged their bodies carefully, oversensitive flesh tingling as they brushed against one another then lay side-by-side, replete. Their minds, too, separated, but only so far. When the meld was officially broken, Spock remained inside of Kirk and Kirk inside of Spock. Both felt hot moisture on their cheeks at the realization, neither knew where that moisture originated… nor did it matter, not anymore.

*****

Jim Kirk sat propped with pillows against the wall behind his bunk, a very heavy, very warm, very comfortable weight lying across his chest and belly. His fingers combed through tangled, space-black hair as long fingers traced tangled patterns on his chest.

"I never thought I'd live to see the day when I would thank Janice Lester for anything," Kirk observed quietly. "Yet, I can't hate her anymore. I hated her… gods how much I hated her… for so long. Now all I feel is sympathy for a waste of life and questionable gratitude that that insanity at least produced this." He squeezed Spock shoulder.

"I, too, felt great… distaste for her. And great sympathy. She is at rest now, hopefully beyond her pain."

Kirk continued to play with Spock's hair. "When I heard that she died, I was actually glad for a moment. I was glad that she would never get out on her own, ever be a threat to me or you or anyone else I love again."

"You are human, Jim. The reaction is to be expected." Spock's tone was understanding, non-censuring.

"Do you think we would have come to this place even if she hadn't instigated a… change in me?"

"Yes. It was a logical progression if you think about it."

"Logical? Love? Spock, really! I'm surprised at you," Kirk teased.

"No, you're not. You said it yourself: that part of each of us that holds our love holds our logic as well."

"True, I did say that. I don't know how much I believed it at the time, however. It just sounded like… the logical thing to say."

"It was. And it was correct." Spock looked at his lover. "So there is no difficulty in my admitting that I need you, want you, belong with you. Nor is there a problem with my telling you one more thing."

Kirk's eyes glowed as he tried to look innocent and serious. "And what is that?"

"I love you, James Kirk," Spock whispered, resting his head on Kirk's chest once more, kissing the nipple beneath his cheek.

"I know, Spock," Kirk whispered back, tears brimming once more. "I know. And the strange thing is, this is the logical thing to do."

"Indeed," Spock agreed, feeling empathic tears gather his eyes.

Kirk hugged the hard body to him, feeling complete, feeling comfortable, feeling the shadows recede to leave nothing but peace, love and the soft glow of starlight.

 

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