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Note: This story was originally published in 1989 in the print fanzine Matter/Antimatter #7.

Kirk couldn’t resist taking another deep breath. He held it for several seconds, then released it slowly while patting the chest of his cream-colored shirt.

He cast an eye at his companion as they strolled along the wide path that stretched through the forest. "I can’t believe how much of a difference it makes," he mused. "We’ve been on shore leave less than two hours, and I feel reborn."

"Indeed," Spock replied. "I, too, find the beauty and tranquility of the forest refreshing."

Trazar, the planet where they were taking their leave, was in the beginning of its summer in this hemisphere. Temperatures reaching well into the nineties on the Fahrenheit scale were the norm for this time of year. In the forest, however, the thick vegetation and tall overhanging trees blocked out part of the sun’s relentless rays, and the public path that went through the forest, before starting up a moderately-sloped mountain side, was popular with natives and tourists alike. Kirk and Spock hadn’t met anyone in the twenty minutes they’d been walking, though, and they’d passed it off to the good fortune of having taken leave in the middle of Trazar’s work week, and a lull in the tourist season.

"How much longer before we reach the base of the mountain?" Kirk asked.

"At our current pace, I believe we will reach it in approximately eleven-point-two-five minutes. If my memory of the map at the hotel is correct, we will encounter a stretch of grassland before coming to the mountain."

Kirk whistled a few notes, then glanced guiltily at Spock’s preoccupied expression. "Are you sorry I made you leave the tricorder behind?" He’d wanted Spock to relax and had practically ordered him not to bring the device.

Spock shook his head. "No. I am grateful for the opportunity to appreciate Trazar’s aesthetically pleasing qualities. However, since this is the first time the Enterprise has taken leave on this planet, it would have been useful to catalog the appropriate data for the Science Department."

Kirk shrugged, placing his hands casually behind his back as he walked. "We’ll be here for five days. You can always come back later with a tricorder, if you want."

Spock nodded as his gaze traveled up a particularly tall tree. "I may do so."

They continued to stroll for a while, each taking in the sights and sounds of the forest. Finally Spock broke the silence. "It is my understanding that Trazar’s cities are much more modern and technological than its rural areas. I assume you will want to visit some of them later?"

Kirk laughed. "Well, I think a lot of those ‘technological’ areas have to do with various sorts of entertainments and amusements." He saw from Spock’s expression that his meaning was understood. "That’s why Bones wanted to stay in Trozee rather than join us here." Kirk shook his head in mock exasperation. "The man has no appreciation for the finer things in life."

When no comment was forthcoming, Kirk said, "Why, Spock, I do believe you’ve passed up a perfect opportunity to insult Dr. McCoy."

Without looking at Kirk, Spock bluntly reminded him, "You have not answered my question."

"Oh, sorry." Kirk thought a minute. "What question?"

"Whether you will be going into the cities during our leave."

Kirk shrugged and studied the ground. "I don’t know. I’m enjoying it so much here, maybe I won’t want to. I don’t have any particular…"

He was silenced by Spock’s hand on his arm. Kirk glanced up and saw that they’d come to the edge of the forest. Ahead of them were two wide green pastures, one of each side of the path, the trail continuing to the base of the mountain.

Spock squeezed Kirk’s arm. "Look there," he whispered, pointing to their right.

Kirk followed the direction of Spock’s finger and caught sight of a herd of horses. That was when he became aware of the thundering sound of their hooves. A quick estimate told him that there were at least fifty horses of various shades and colorings galloping across the green stretch of land.

Spock was staring at them. "They are magnificent," he whispered in awe.

Kirk looked at Spock, then back at the herd. It was on this second inspection that he noticed the horses were different from any breed he’d seen on Earth. They were about the same size, but there was a greater variety of colors, and their legs moved with a distinct grace that would’ve left an accomplished ballerina envious.

Kirk’s silent analysis was interrupted by Spock’s voice. "Can you see the symmetry and elegance in their movements? Even from this distance, the muscling of the shoulders and rump is distinct."

The herd slowed as it came to a lake approximately four hundred meters from the path.

"Spock."

Spock turned to Kirk, excitement showing in his eyes. "I have never seen equines in the open such as this," he said. "I have only viewed them in captivity, when they are not able to use their full physical abilities. It is startling to see their beauty when unconfined."

Kirk made a gesture toward the white fence that surrounded the extensive pasture. "They aren’t completely unconfined. Surely they have to be domesticated."

"I stand corrected," Spock said, gazing at the fence. He watched a moment longer as the animals drew to a halt at the lake and lowered their heads to drink, finally turning back to Kirk. "Because of the excessive amount of paperwork concerning our last mission, I did not have the opportunity to study Trazar’s culture. I must do so when we return to our hotel."

They continued along the path. Kirk commented, "I didn’t get to study the brochure tapes that much, either." He gave the horses another sidelong glance. "Whatever they are, I’m sure there’s nothing like them on Earth."

Spock looked at him with interest. "You are knowledgeable regarding the equine species?"

Kirk smiled. "No, not really. I had a cousin who raised horses, and I used to go over and ride sometimes. It’s been so long, I don’t remember what breed they were; just that they were supposed to be a special type of horse. They were beautiful, but nothing like these."

They started walking again, and a few minutes later they reached the base of the mountain. Kirk was fast becoming aware of the increasing heat since leaving the protective cover of the forest. He sighed heavily. "Well, Spock, I guess it’s uphill from here."

They began to climb. The trail curved around the mountain in a continuous uphill slope. Eventually some spots along the path were strewn with rocks, causing the climbers to proceed more carefully. Before long, Spock was leading and Kirk was breathing heavily.

"Wait!" Kirk called to his companion. He sank gratefully to his knees while Spock paused, then came back to stand over him. "I’ve got to rest."

Spock wasn’t totally successful at keeping the amusement out of his voice. "Very well."

Kirk stretched his legs out in front of him and leaned back on his hands. His system had calmed after a few deep breaths. "Seems like the air got really thin all of a sudden," he said with puzzlement.

Spock was standing calmly with his hands behind his back. "I believe it was the steepness of the hill, rather than the lack of air, that affected you."

Kirk looked down the mountain. "It doesn’t seem as though we’ve come that far." He shrugged. "But I guess to out-of-condition muscles… The heat’s no help either." He glanced up at Spock with irritation. "Will you sit down, please? You don’t have to rub it in how grateful you are that you don’t have a mere Human body like mine."

Spock sat down, resting his back against a boulder. "If I had your body, I would have much to be proud of."

Kirk stared at Spock with a confused grin as he considered the statement. Finally he said, "Well, if that was a compliment, I appreciate it. Thank you."

"You are welcome."

They were facing away from the direction in which they’d come. Almost directly below them more pasture land was visible, bordered in the distance by additional forest.

Kirk chuckled as he played with a few pebbles next to his leg. "Forty minutes ago, I felt reborn. Now, I feel like I can’t take another step!"

Spock shifted to a more comfortable position. "It has been my frequent observation that Humans often allow their enthusiasm for certain projects to… ‘get them in over their heads,’ I believe is the proper phrase."

Kirk couldn’t let that go without a challenge. "Are you trying to tell me you were sure from the beginning that we’d never make it to the top of the mountain?"

"It would be illogical to speculate. I was merely stating an observation based on my prior experiences with Humans.

Kirk was too tired to argue semantics. "Okay, Spock, whatever you say." A breeze blew by them, and Kirk closed his eyes thankfully. When he opened them again, he looked at Spock and changed the subject.

"I didn’t have to do the usual pleading to get you to come down on shore leave this time. You must’ve felt like getting away from the ship for a while."

Spock shook his head. "I sensed that you needed the company, since the others had made plans to spend their leaves in the cities and you seemed to want to visit the rural areas. Too, I am always interested in places I have not been to before."

Kirk smiled. "I do appreciate your company, Spock. Very much so. I want you to know that."

Absently picking up a nearby stick and digging a furrow into the hard ground, Kirk allowed his mind to wander.

Spock kept his eyes on Kirk, and when the movements with the stick became aggressive, he spoke. "You seem preoccupied. Is something bothering you?"

Kirk looked up and let the stick fall from his fingers. He smiled to dispel Spock’s concern. "Not really. I was just daydreaming."

"Perhaps I could be of assistance?" Spock prompted.

Kirk shook his head, somewhat embarrassed. "I was thinking about our next mission." He meant to leave it at that, to let the rest of his doubts remain unvoiced, but after watching Spock watch him, he shrugged and decided it wouldn’t hurt to confide in his best friend.

"You know we’ve got to pick up that ambassador from Paloran," he began. "She sent me a tape telling me about her culture and customs – the usual." Spock nodded. "Well, also on that tape, she had this personal message for me." Kirk felt himself blush. "She made it quite obvious she expects a little action between the sheets while she’s on board the Enterprise." He picked up a pebble and threw it off the mountain side.

When no other words were forthcoming, Spock said, "I was not aware that such a situation could be distressful for you. In fact, I thought you welcomed it. Ambassador Tunara is very beautiful, is she not?"

"Oh, yes, very beautiful." Kirk glanced away. "And, yes, I did once welcome it." He snorted bitterly. "I mean, how else is a starship captain supposed to get laid? He can’t have a meaningful relationship, not when his ship is the most important thing in his life." He sent another pebble down the mountain. "I’m tired of it, Spock. Of playing all those games, of being Stud Kirk." He sighed heavily.

Spock shifted his position. "Jim…"

"Don’t feel like you have to say anything," Kirk put in quickly, his voice and expression softening. "I know there’s no answer or a solution. I chose to be what I am. I’m just blowing off steam because my life isn’t one hundred percent perfect."

"Jim, there is no regulation that requires starship captains to fulfill every desire of the female passengers on board his ship," Spock said with perfect gravity.

Kirk grinned at Spock’s solemnity. "Yeah. It’s my own fault. I’m the one who’s responsible for my reputation. Ambassador Tunara expects me to want to have sex with her, because she’s heard that’s the kind of man I am."

There was puzzlement in Spock’s voice. "Why do you feel you must ‘live up’ to your reputation?"

"She’s an ambassador. It wouldn’t sit well with Starfleet for me to offend her."

This time Spock’s eyes shone with amusement. "I find it extremely doubtful that the ambassador would report your reluctance to perform sexually with her to Federation officials."

Kirk laughed. "I didn’t look at it that way. Still, it’ll be a four-day trip getting her from Paloran to the Gilpin system. I’d hate to have friction between us those four days."

"As uncomfortable as that friction may be, you will no doubt survive," Spock said dryly.

Kirk considered Spock’s comment, then sighed and stood, brushing the dirt from his jeans. "I’m ready to head back. How about you?"

Spock nodded, and they began their way back down the mountain path. The rest had done Kirk good, and he led the way eagerly. Putting his body to work took his mind off his concerns, and he was much more cheerful than he’s been on the way up.

When they reached the base of the mountain, Kirk pointed and said, "Look, the horses are up by the fence."

Spock paused to appreciate the nearness and beauty of the creatures. Almost the entire herd was grazing along the fence that ran parallel to the hiking path.

Kirk’s hand tugged lightly on Spock’s arm. "Come on, don’t you want to get closer to them?"

"I do not wish to frighten them."

"I don’t think they’re wild," Kirk reasoned. "If they were, they wouldn’t be brave enough to come near the fence. Let’s go."

They proceeded slowly, stopping a few meters from the horse closest to them. Several of the horses glanced up from their grazing to note their presence. Ears were pricked, then the heads returned to the lush grass beneath them. "See, they aren’t afraid," Kirk said.

The two men continued to approach. When the horses still showed no signs of fear, they relaxed.

The horse nearest them was tan-colored along his upper body, eventually becoming a light pink along his hind quarters and back legs. His mane and tail were a tannish-pink and long and thick, and his dark eyes were bright with intelligence. He looked at the two strangers when they stopped next to him.

"Easy, fella," Kirk whispered, holding out his hand.

The horse shied momentarily. Only after tossing his head warily did he allow Kirk to touch him. Kirk stroked the neck lightly. "He’s very soft," he informed his companion. "Here, see for yourself."

Watching the horse carefully for reaction, Spock stretched his arm over the fence as Kirk stepped out of the way. His strokes were cautious at first, but when the horse gave no indication of fright or resistance, the petting became more sure, the strokes longer.

"His coat is like velvet," Spock marveled.

Kirk was glad Spock was pleased. The horse was apparently enjoying the attention, because he’d forgotten about eating and now stood as close to the fence as possible. Eventually his eyes closed.

"I think you’ve made a friend," Kirk mused. He edged closer, reaching out to the horse’s face and fondling the muzzle.

"He’s even softer here," he told Spock. "Right between his nostrils."

Intrigued, Spock shifted his hand from the neck to inspect the nose. He caressed it gently and presented Kirk with an expression of surprised acknowledgment.

His gaze traveled over the rest of the body. "They are so strongly built," he observed, "and yet we saw them move with such refinement."

Like you, Kirk found himself thinking. Strong but refined. He hesitated before asking, "Are you ready to go on?"

Spock nodded and dropped his hand reluctantly from the soft nose.

Kirk gave the animal’s neck a final pat. "Hey, wake up! Go on back to your eating." The dark eyes opened. "That’s all the affection you’re going to get for today."

As they moved off, Kirk watched the horse toss its head, then put it back down to the grass beside the fence.

The coolness of the forest was welcome. Within half an hour, the two men were back at the starting point of the hiking trail. They took their aircar to the hotel, which was rather luxurious despite being located in a primarily rural area.

There, they washed up and changed clothes. A debate ensued as to the best place for dinner, and they decided to have it in one of the more extravagant restaurants in the hotel.

*****

The restaurant was crowded, though not particularly noisy. Kirk and Spock were seated at a roomy booth and were regarding their menus when their drinks arrived. Kirk had ordered Saurian brandy, and Spock had chosen a fruit drink with a minute amount of alcohol.

After much discussion with the waitress, they decided on a dinner native to Trazar, but one which had proved conducive to both Human and Vulcan tastes. After their menus had been removed, Kirk held out his glass, lifting it in a toast.

"To you, my friend." He looked at Spock warmly.

Spock sat motionless, regarding Kirk with raised eyebrows. Waiting until Kirk had taken a sip of his drink, he said, "Thank you, Jim."

"You’re very welcome," Kirk smiled.

Spock shifted with discomfort. "I am at something of a loss as to what I have done to deserve the toast."

Kirk met his friend’s puzzled eyes. "I appreciate you, Spock. There are times when I think I take you too much for granted and don’t tell you enough how much I care for you, how much you mean to me just by being you." He put his glad to his lips for another sip, pausing to observe Spock over the rim. "I didn’t mean to embarrass you."

Spock took a sip of his own drink and relaxed visibly. "No offense was taken. It is important to me that you appreciate me for other than professional reasons. May I say that I, too, value your friendship highly?" He was thoughtful for a moment. "I would not have learned to value my Human side without your influence. If I had never known you, I believe I would have achieved very little of my potential as an individual being."

"Now look who’s getting embarrassed," Kirk laughed softly as he blushed. Green-gold eyes locked with Spock’s brown ones, and he let the warmth of the moment fill him. Then he nodded his head. "Thank you. It’s nice of you to say that."

The conversation changed to less personal topics, and dinner was served shortly thereafter. They ate in quiet contentment.

Later, after entering their hotel suite, Kirk stretched, grimacing when sore, tired muscles complained. "I think a nice, hot shower is going to be mandatory before bed," he said.

"I, too, am feeling some slight discomfort," Spock admitted. He sat down on the sofa and began fingering some brochure tapes that were on the coffee table.

"I’m still thirsty," Kirk said, walking into the kitchen area. "Do you want anything?"

"No, thank you," Spock replied quietly. He steepled his fingers before him.

Kirk returned to the living area with a glass of juice and noted Spock’s reflective posture. "Is something wrong?"

Spock glanced at him. "Jim, I hope you will give additional thought to the situation concerning Ambassador Tunara."

"You’re still worried about that?" Kirk asked in amazement. He sat on the opposite end of the sofa from Spock, one leg curled under him. "I was just blowing off steam earlier today." He smiled. "Exercise tends to have that effect on Humans."

Spock’s expression was still thoughtful and he met Kirk’s eyes squarely. "I do not understand why you would continue to promote a situation that you find personally unpleasant." His tone hinted at being scolding.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Kirk felt that he should be angry with Spock for intruding into his private life. Instead, he found himself considering the statement at face value, his forehead creasing in a frown as he replied.

"I get lonely, Spock. During watch, I’m constantly busy and always in touch with my crew. After hours, I do paperwork or hang out with you or Bones." His expression took on a distant quality, as did his voice. "But at night, when I go to bed, I’m alone." He swallowed a quick sip of his juice, then continued. "I don’t like it, and what’s worse is that I know as long as I’m a starship captain – which I intend to be for as long as I’m able – it isn’t going to change." He forced a lightness into his tone, and a frivolous smile came to his lips. "So I bring numerous beautiful ladies to my bed, and I don’t have to sleep alone."

He’d meant to leave it at that, but a sudden bitterness appeared on its own. "In the morning," he scowled, "I wake up, and I’m lucky if I can even remember the name of the person I’m with. Then I wish I was alone, because I realize that I’ve shared something intimate with someone I don’t know at all and often don’t care anything about." He took a deep breath and stared squarely at Spock. "Does that answer your question?"

Spock dismissed the trace of sarcasm. He stood and placed his hands behind his back. His eyes bored into Kirk’s, his voice soft and sincere. "Jim, you are the finest being I have ever known. It disturbs me that you repeatedly put yourself into situations that prove painful to you. I wish there were some way in which I could assist you with you problem."

Kirk felt a warmth spread through him, and he returned Spock’s gaze for a long time. Finally he, too, stood.

"Spock," he said in a tone of tender amusement, "if you weren’t a Vulcan, I’d give you a big hug."

"I am half-Human," Spock reminded him.

Kirk’s expression was one of shock. It was the first time Spock had ever given any indication of wanting physical contact.

As Spock watched patiently, Kirk walked up and placed his hands on his upper arms. Looking for any indication that he’d misread Spock, he let his hands glide down to Spock’s elbows, then back up to his shoulders.

"You want this…contact?" Kirk whispered in disbelief.

Spock nodded.

Experimentally, Kirk ran his hands up and down Spock’s arms, a first tentatively, then gradually with more confidence. The flesh beneath the casual yellow tunic felt relaxed. Finally Kirk took Spock’s hands in his. "You like me to touch you?" he asked incredulously.

"Yes," came the soft reply.

As their fingers entwined Kirk stuttered, "I… I thought Vulcans didn’t like to be touched – because of the telepathy thing."

Spock stood completely at ease, letting Kirk’s hands do as they wished. "Jim, it is true that Vulcans normally find it distasteful as it exposes them to the disarray of others’ emotions. However, I have always been ‘in tune’ with you, because of the closeness that we share. Even without touching you, I am able to sense your moods and emotions. Therefore, your touch is not disturbing to me. It only reinforces what I am already ‘receiving’ from you."

Kirk’s face still showed his amazement at this newly-discovered fact about Spock. He released Spock’s hands and placed his own on Spock’s shoulders, gazing up into the gentle brown eyes.

"How long have you been wanting this?"

Spock took a deep breath and swallowed, showing nervousness for the first time since they’d returned to their suite. "It is difficult to say. The desire for a physical expression of your affection for me, and mine for you, has grown slowly over a period of time. Once I recognized the feeling, I tried to deny it, as there was no place for it in my Vulcan philosophies. Eventually, however, I concluded that it was illogical to deny what exists."

Spock was anxious to divert the conversation away from himself. "Jim, it is important to me that you do not touch me because you feel you ‘owe’ it to me in some way. I will not ask you to expend yourself in such a manner only to please you."

"Oh, Spock. Do you have any idea how much it means to me to have you need me?" Kirk said intensely. "I need to be needed – on a personal level." He slid his hands along Spock’s shoulders and asked, cautiously, "Do you want more?"

At that moment, Spock was more interested in having his own question answered. "Jim, do you find this activity enjoyable?"

"Yes, very much," Kirk whispered, a little surprised at how readily the reply was made and just how honest it truly was. "I enjoy the fact that you need me, Spock. This is something I can give you very easily." He smiled and ran his hands down Spock’s arms to emphasize his sincerity.

Spock straightened with tension. "Jim, there is a possible solution to your dilemma of not wanting to sleep alone nor wanting to awaken with a stranger."

Kirk was ready to shout his exasperation at Spock’s fixation on the topic, but his curiosity got the better of him. "All right," he said levelly. "What solution do you have in mind?"

Spock cleared his throat. "I, too, am subject to a great deal of loneliness. Neither do I enjoy it. We know that we are content in each other’s company. Perhaps such sharing between us does not have to end at… ‘bedtime.’"

The last part had been spoken very softly and Kirk turned away. He was touched by what he thought Spock was offering, but he also found himself totally unprepared for it. He swallowed heavily. It didn’t remove the lump in his throat or calm the butterflies in his stomach.

Attempting to stall, he said, "I’m not exactly sure what you’re suggesting."

Spock’s hands had been resting at his sides. Now, he put them behind his back, feeling his muscles stiffen. "I did not intend any offense. I have given the subject a great deal of thought, and it seems logical that you and I should share a complete relationship."

Kirk found the courage to turn back around. Forcing his tone to be neutral, he said, "You’re talking about sex, aren’t you?"

"That would be a part of it," came the calm reply.

They stood looking at each other for a while. Then Kirk realized the ball was in his court and he allowed an apologetic smile to come to his lips.

"I don’t mean to sound like I’m rejecting you. It’s just that… I’m so unprepared for this." He laughed nervously. "You’ve really caught me off guard." Suddenly fatigued, he plopped down on the sofa.

Spock took a step in Kirk’s direction, his hands still clasped behind his back. "I do not wish you to think I am attempting to force the issue. I have no desire to lose the friendship we share. I would not have presented this possibility to you if I did not believe it to have merit. However, it is also necessary that you believe it to be for the best. Such an important decision cannot be hurried. I suggest you give it all the consideration it is due."

Kirk sat quietly, his mind racing down various avenues of thought. Finally he looked up at Spock and asked, "What happens now?"

Spock’s eyebrows shot upward into his bangs, and he blushed slightly. "I had imagined this scenario only to this point."

Kirk chuckled lightly and the tension between them was eased. He leaned back on an arm of the couch and held out a hand, his expression suddenly serious.

"I seem to remember that we were discussing your desire to be touched." Gently he said, "Come here, I want to hold you."

Spock sighed with hesitation. "It is my understanding that touching among Humans often results in a sexual situation. I wish to stress again that you must give the possibility a great deal of thought before we proceed further."

"I will," Kirk promised fervently. "But, for now, I just want to hold you as a friend – give you what you want… need. It won’t be sexual. Trust me."

That last plea was all Spock needed. He sank down on the couch next to Kirk, watching him intently.

Kirk realized quickly that the sofa wasn’t a good idea, as it wasn’t very spacious. He placed a hand on Spock’s shoulder.

"Let’s move to a bed," he said, hoping Spock wouldn’t think the suggestion was a ‘line’.

Spock allowed himself to be led into Kirk’s bedroom. He was not sure what to expect, though he did trust Kirk implicitly. Too, he was looking forward to the contact that promised to follow.

They stood beside the bed and Kirk began unbuttoning his shirt. "We might as well get ready for bed," he told his companion.

For a moment, he was afraid Spock was going to balk, yet all he said was, "My sleeping attire is in the other bedroom."

"Okay," Kirk answered. "Maybe you can get the lights, too."

Spock disappeared, and Kirk finished undressing. He was thankful he’d brought his pajamas, as he usually did when he planned to spend a few days planet-side, in case the hotel temperature wasn’t to his liking. Normally he preferred sleeping in the nude, but since he didn’t want to inhibit Spock, he put on the pajama bottoms. He considered the top for a long time. Despite the fact he didn’t want to wear it, he thought he should for Spock’s sake. Finally he tossed it back into his suitcase.

Heading into the bathroom to brush his teeth, Kirk remembered the shower he’d looked forward to indulging in. That seemed less than important now, though he decided it would be preferable, considering Spock’s acute sense of smell, if he did clean up before getting into bed. After cleansing his teeth, he removed the pajama pants and got into the shower.

When he emerged from the bathroom, clad once again in the lower half of his pajamas, Kirk caught sight of the lights going off in the living area. Spock walked into the bedroom, dressed in lavender silk pajamas – top and bottoms.

"It’s all yours," Kirk said, making a motion toward the bathroom. Spock vanished inside.

Climbing into bed, Kirk relaxed against a pillow and, for the first time, considered the reality of the conversation that had just transpired. He already knew what his answer was to Spock’s "proposal." He loved Spock, and he was attracted to his innocence. Still, the idea was scary, and he had to admit he was afraid of not knowing just how he and Spock were actually going to begin the steps toward a sexual relationship. It also bothered him that he wasn’t sure of Spock’s level of experience. Normally, he would’ve thought Spock extremely inexperienced, and yet his confidence in presenting a solution to their problem made Kirk wonder if Spock was as naive as he’d supposed.

Most of all, Kirk had to acknowledge how very moved he was by the depth of Spock’s affection for him, and even more so by Spock’s expression of desire for his touch. One thing Kirk was certain of was that he’d been sincere when he’d told Spock he wanted to hold him as a friend. He was more than willing to wrap his arms around the one being who meant more to him than any other he’d ever known. In addition, there was the fact that Spock wanted to let him see that vulnerability. Kirk’s heart began to beat a little faster.

Spock emerged from the bathroom. He had turned out the light there and his hand was now hovering next to the plate for the bedroom. "Do you wish the light out at this time?"

Kirk forced himself to ignore the shot of adrenaline that had surged through him at the sound of Spock’s voice. "Yes. I think it’ll help both of us to relax more."

Spock waved his palm over the mechanism and the room became black, save for the dim city lights coming through the transparent curtains over the window.

Kirk held the covers open and Spock slid in beneath them. Kirk was about to make a statement as to how they should begin where they’d left off in the living room when, to his surprise, Spock stretched out on top of him, resting his head in the middle of Kirk’s chest.

Suppressing a chuckle, Kirk put his arms around Spock. "You certainly know what you want."

"Am I being too intrusive?"

"No," Kirk replied quickly. He started stroking Spock’s back, enjoying the feel of the silk. "Are you comfortable?"

Spock had his left leg anchored between Kirk’s legs. His left arm was resting against Jim’s chest, his right arm stretched out to the side. He began rubbing his cheek against the smooth, bare, delightfully cool skin beneath it. "I am extremely comfortable. And you?"

"I’m fine," Kirk whispered, tracing large circles over Spock’s shoulders. "I wish you’d told me sooner that you wanted this."

"I was only recently able to accept it myself," Spock mumbled into Kirk’s chest.

Kirk traced a semi-direct path down Spock’s spine, from his neck to his waistline. "If you want me to touch you anywhere in particular, you should tell me."

The dark head nodded.

"These are some pretty nice pajamas you’re wearing," Kirk murmured.

"They are a gift from my mother."

After a minute of silence, Kirk asked, "Did your mother ever hold you like this?"

"When I was very young," came the immediate reply. Spock turned his head to the side, allowing him to speak more clearly. "When I was four, my father decided I was too old to be receiving such outward displays of affection – if I were to be raised properly as a Vulcan."

Spock shifted so he was lying partially on his right side, and Kirk extended his massage to include the newly-exposed left arm. "I believe my mother was hurt by my father’s decision, although she knew it was correct – and necessary."

"Obviously it wasn’t correct," Kirk countered. "Not if you desire touch now."

Spock sighed heavily. "As illogical as it may be, I have at times felt my parents considered me to be a full-blooded Vulcan. I cannot recall them ever taking my hybrid nature into account in their decisions regarding my rearing. As a result, I learned to be as repulsed by my own self as they and my peers were repulsed by me. If I had not left Vulcan to join Starfleet, I believe my sanity would have been in jeopardy."

Kirk winced at the painful recollection, stopping his stroking to hug his friend tightly. "I’m so sorry about all of that, Spock. If there were some way to turn back the clock and erase all the hurt you’ve experienced, I would. I had a very happy childhood, myself. I wish I could’ve shared it with you." He paused before adding, "You do know that your parents were doing what they thought was best for you? I’m sure they never meant to cause you pain."

"Of course not," came the blunt reply. "Regardless, I have always been alone." Spock’s hand came up to rest against the bare chest. "Jim, you are the only one who understands me. You have never attempted to tear down the barriers I have erected. Instead, you always offered your friendship when I was willing to come out from behind them." His voice lowered to a whisper. "You are sacred to me." He hesitated before admitting, "I do not want my dependency upon you to become a burden."

"I love you," Kirk told him, despite the lump in his throat, "and you shouldn’t ever be afraid of becoming a ‘burden’ to me. You’re no more dependent on me than I am on you. That’s what friends are for: to lean on each other, help each other."

They were silent for a while before Spock turned his attention to the bare skin of Kirk’s chest. "You are like the horses we saw today: smooth and graceful, yet your body is very muscular and powerful."

Kirk felt himself blush. "I can’t believe you said that. That’s exactly what I was thinking about you when we were talking about the horses. You, my friend, are also very sleek and graceful." He reached up to stroke the dark hair. "I’ve seen a lot of examples of the strength this body of yours possesses."

Spock rubbed his cheek against Kirk’s chest. "If it were physically possible, I would bury myself in you," he said huskily.

Kirk swallowed as he considered the sexual connotations of that statement, relaxing when he realized Spock hadn’t meant it that way. He resumed his petting. "You’re so warm," he marvelled. "I would’ve thought you’d find my cooler body temperature distasteful."

"My mother has your cooler body temperature," Spock reminded him, pressing, molding himself more firmly against the pliant flesh beneath him. "Your touch is perfection."

"Spock, you’re flattering me," Kirk chuckled. Nevertheless, he was moved by the statement, as he’d been moved by everything Spock had said this night.

Kirk was still tracing circles along the silk pajama top. He considered asking permission to slip his hands underneath the clothing, then decided Spock wouldn’t object. In one casual motion, he slid them under the fabric and began rubbing in large, vigorous circles.

Spock let out a moan of contentment.

"You like that, huh?" Kirk asked rhetorically. Keeping their circular motion, his hands moved further and further down until they reached the small of Spock’s back. There, Kirk rubbed even more briskly.

"Mmm," Spock encouraged.

"You were supposed to tell me if you wanted to be touched anywhere in particular," Kirk scolded teasingly.

"Because of my limited experience in the matter…" Spock paused to take a deep breath. "… I do not know which areas would give the most pleasant sensations."

"I guess that means we’ll have to do a little exploring," Kirk promised. He was pleased that he now had some indication of Spock’s level of experience.

"I do not wish to tire you."

Kirk’s hands paused. "Do you want me to stop?"

"I will never want you to stop," Spock confessed. "Therefore, it is logical that you discontinue whenever you become weary of it."

Kirk smiled at the "invitation" to give his tiring muscles a rest. Removing his hands from under the pajama top, he set them on the dark head, kneading along the top.

"That is most pleasing," Spock said after a moment.

Kirk scratched enthusiastically for a while before letting his hands rest at the nape of Spock’s neck. "Can you tell me that, if I hadn’t mentioned Ambassador Tunara today, we wouldn’t be lying here now?"

"It is a useless exercise to speculate. I was, however, waiting for the correct moment to tell you of my feelings. That is another reason I wanted to take shore leave with you: I was hopeful the opportunity would present itself. After what was said today, and tonight after dinner, I concluded that the proper time had arrived."

Kirk hugged Spock close, reveling in the warmth. "You’re very courageous. If I’d been in your shoes, I don’t know if I would’ve had the nerve to say anything."

"It did take a while for me to get up my courage," Spock admitted. "Otherwise, I would have spoken to you of my solution at dinner."

They were silent for a minute. Finally Spock said, "I am curious as to whether you have ever considered me as a sexual partner."

Kirk was surprised at Spock’s frankness. He was determined to be just as frank with his answer. "Not really," he replied. "I mean, it’d crossed my mind a few times, but I’d always dismissed it because I was sure your Vulcan philosophies made it impossible. Now, of course…" He hugged his friend. "…I find the idea…exciting. Even this…" He squeezed tighter. "…is a great joy to me. I wish I could tell you how much it means to me, that I can share this closeness with you without having to perform to get it."

Spock raised up, balancing himself on his elbows, so he could study Kirk’s face. "I had thought sex extremely important to Humans," he stated with concern. "Perhaps I have been in error. Everything you have said today regarding the subject has been in a negative context."

Kirk’s eyes had adjusted enough to the darkness, allowing him to read Spock’s inquisitive ones. "I didn’t mean to be negative about it." Reaching up, he ran a finger along Spock’s cheek. "Sex can be beautiful – the most beautiful experience that our physical bodies can offer. What’s important, though, is doing it with a partner that you care about, and there’s no one in this universe that I care about more than you."

Spock stared at him. "Then you desire to have sex with me?"

Kirk nodded and let his hand drop to the thin shoulder. "Not right now, of course. I want to take it slow, Spock. There’s no reason to hurry. We’ll be here another four nights." He hesitated, biting his lower lip. "There’s a really personal question I want to ask you."

"What is it?" Spock asked gently.

Kirk laced his fingers through the sleek hair. "I don’t have any idea of how much experience you’ve had. It would make things a lot easier if I knew."

Spock stretched out against Kirk’s chest, resting his cheek on the smooth skin, his arms spread out away from his sides. He sighed softly. "I have no experience with males, and…"

"Neither have I," Kirk broke in. He shrugged. "Well, nothing worth mentioning." When Spock was silent, he explained, "There were a couple of times when I was a lot younger, when I was at parties and got really drunk and involved in…oh, I guess you’d call them orgies. I don’t remember much, thank God. It was just sex for the sake of sex – take what’s offered, and some of the men were offering." He patted Spock’s back. "Sorry I interrupted."

"It is of no consequence," Spock replied amiably. "As I was saying, I have no experience with males. My experience with females is extremely limited, also the memories are not clear. I do know that I performed coitus with Leila on Omicron Ceti Three. Later, when I regained control, I was so ashamed of my actions I erased the details from my mind."

Kirk’s arms came up and tightened around Spock, remembering how brutally he’d helped Spock "regain control."

Spock continued. "The other occasion – on Sarpeidon…" He swallowed heavily. "I had intercourse with Zarabeth as well. I must say I did it only because I had regressed to the mentality of a pre-Reform Vulcan. Again, I recall few details."

When no other words seemed to be forthcoming, Kirk ventured to ask. "Is that it?"

"Yes. You were expecting more?" Spock answered, wry amusement creeping into his voice.

Kirk shrugged. "I guess not. Sometimes, when I think about your age, I forget to consider that you’re actually a very young man as far as Vulcans are concerned."

"Actually, age has very little to do with my lack of sexual experience. Generally speaking, Vulcans do not engage in sexual activity until the formalization of their bond."

"But there are exceptions?"

"Yes. If, for some reason, it is logical to do so, they are quite capable of indulging in a sexual relationship prior to the final initiation of the bond. Once bonded, Vulcans are always exclusive within the bond."

Kirk let that sink in. "What if the bondmate dies?"

Spock took a deep breath "It would depend upon the circumstances involved. Some bondmates follow their spouses into death, because of their grief. Occasionally, the bondmates may decide that it would be proper for the widowed partner to remain living – to raise the children, for example. In still other situations, the bondmates are not compatible and the death of the partner is not a grievous event, therefore the surviving partner has no reason or desire to follow his or her mate into death. In such a case, bonding with another is a logical alternative."

Kirk was scratching along Spock’s spine. "What do you think will happen in your parents’ situation?"

"Barring an accident or illness, I would assume that my mother will die before my father due to the shorter Human life expectancy. My parents have already agreed that my father’s work is of such importance that it would be detrimental for him to allow death to take him as well. He will continue with his work." Spock was thoughtful for a moment. "If, due to some unforeseeable circumstance, my father should die first, I believe my mother would wish to join him. However, since she is Human, I do not know if she has the capability to ‘will’ herself into death."

"That would be a tragic situation, wouldn’t it?" Kirk asked softly. "If your mother wanted to die, but couldn’t?"

"Not necessarily. She may find enough purpose in her life to motivate her to remain living until her life ends naturally. I know that, in such a situation, I would encourage her to do so. Following one’s mate into death is necessary only when the bondmates are the total focus of each other’s lives. That type of relationship is the exception rather than the rule."

"It is a romantic idea," Kirk pointed out.

"Perhaps," Spock conceded. He rubbed gently at Kirk’s chest. "I am pleased that T’Pring chose to divorce me."

Kirk stopped his scratching to hug his friend. "I am too – now," he said in a whisper, making Spock remember the horror of thinking that he had killed Jim, only to find out later, when he had beamed aboard the ship, that Jim was safe and resurrected. Apparently Jim had no memory of the incident or had chosen to forgive him. Spock devoted his attention to the rest of what was being said.

"… at the time, I know it was very traumatic for you. Rejection isn’t easy for anyone to take."

"It was foolish of our parents to believe she would accept me," Spock answered, grateful for Kirk’s blindness or forgetfulness. "I am not a pure Vulcan male. No proper Vulcan female would have me. I am a freak."

The words were spoken levelly, but Kirk’s heart wrenched. Placing his cheek on the dark head, he hugged tighter. "Don’t say that, Spock. It isn’t true."

"It is, by definition."

"What about IDIC?" Kirk inquired softly. "I would’ve thought other Vulcans would relish your differences."

"If I were of another species, then I am certain they would have accepted me However, I have always claimed to be ‘Vulcan’ when, in fact, I am not entirely so. I am not one of them – no matter how hard I have tried to be. I accept that now."

While Kirk searched for a soothing comment, Spock’s voice lowered and he said, "It is fascinating that, lying here with you, my past concerns in regard to my heritage are of no consequence. You have given me a security I have never felt before. It seems that your affection is all that I require."

"I’m glad," Kirk told him, trying not to reveal how disturbed he was by Spock’s self-deprecating train of thought. "I’ve wanted to hold you a lot of times in the past – whenever you were hurt, physically or emotionally, or sometimes when I was touched by something you’d done for me or said to me. Little things that told me you love me."

"I do love you, Jim. It is true, even though I cannot define the term."

Kirk laughed softly. "I don’t think anybody can – not in a way that includes all its meanings."

Silence stretched between them, and Kirk debated between suggesting they call it a night or beginning a lengthy lecture on how totally wrong it was for Spock to feel he was inadequate – as a Vulcan or anything else.

"Are you tired?" he asked.

"I am somewhat fatigued, yes."

So much for honesty and truth. Kirk chuckled, mostly to himself. "Okay, why don’t we go to sleep now?"

"Agreed."

When Spock made no indication of giving up his position on Kirk’s chest, Kirk said, "If we’re going to sleep, you’ll have to move off me, my friend. I’m afraid I won’t be able to handle your weight all night – much as I’d like to."

Spock slid off of Kirk until he was lying stretched out, full-length, against his side.

"That’s better, except you can put your head on my shoulder, if you want," Kirk offered.

Spock complied, nestling his cheek against the soft flesh. A few minutes later, Kirk started laughing.

Spock raised his head. "What is amusing?"

"I was just thinking about all the other times I’ve seen you sleep. You were always flat on your back."

"That is for maximum respiratory efficiency," came the scientific reply. "However, as logical as that position may be, I will not sacrifice your closeness."

Kirk sobered as he gave Spock a final hug. "I’m glad. I’m really glad. Goodnight, Spock."

"Goodnight, Jim."

*****

When Kirk woke the following morning, it was to discover the pale blue walls of the hotel room. It took him a second to remember where he was. Then memory came flooding back and he rolled over, finding that he was alone in the bed. The door to the bedroom was slightly ajar, so he assumed Spock had gotten up at his usual punctual hour. Glancing at the wall chronometer, he cringed inwardly when he saw that it was 0915 hours. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept that late. Finally he decided there was no reason for him to feel guilty. He was, after all, on shore leave and had every right to indulge in an excessive amount of sleep.

Settling back against the pillows, Kirk let out a contented sigh and stared at the ceiling, allowing his thoughts to wander back to the previous night. Had that intimacy with Spock really happened? He found himself a little bit uneasy about it, wondering if Spock had awakened with feelings of horror and disgust at himself for allowing his Human side to come through so strongly.

There had even been the promise of a more intimate relationship to come. Kirk tried to imagine himself and Spock joined together physically, but his mind couldn’t maintain the fantasy. Was his subconscious attempting to tell him that a sexual commitment to his first officer wasn’t what he truly desired, that maybe he was agreeing to it only for Spock’s sake?

His thoughts trailed off to the upcoming assignment with Ambassador Tunara, and how the discussion of her had brought all this on. He was truly tired, Kirk had to admit, of love-‘em-and-leave-‘em relationships, where the sole asset was momentary sexual gratification.

It had been absolutely wonderful going to sleep with Spock in his arms; the one being he valued more than any other, who’d opened his heart to him, allowing himself to be so vulnerable and so very, very trusting.

Kirk felt warmth tug at his heart. He wondered again if Spock was regretting his actions of the previous evening. Determined to find out, he got out of bed and slipped on his robe.

As he opened the bedroom door, he caught the sound of a formal, mechanical voice. Spock was in the living room, sitting at the desk near the window, watching a vid on the computer. He was dressed in light-weight white trousers and a pale orange tunic with a sash tied at the waist.

He looks so elegant, Kirk found himself thinking – not for the first time.

Spock looked up. "Good morning, Captain," he said formally.

"Good morning, Spock," Kirk acknowledged warily. "Sorry I slept so late."

"There is no need to apologize." Spock turned his attention back to the screen. "I have been studying the horses we saw yesterday. There is quite a bit of information on them."

"Great," Kirk said, coming forward a few steps. "Have you… eaten yet?"

"I had some fruit juice earlier. That is all that I require at this time." Spock paused. "However, if you would like me to accompany you to breakfast, I would be pleased to do so."

Kirk nodded slowly. I wish he wasn’t being so formal. His gaze dropped to his feet and he examined the nap of the light gray carpet. "Uh…Spock, about last night…" He forced himself to look up. "Do you have any regrets?"

He was relieved to see Spock regarding him with an open expression. "No, I do not. Do you?"

Kirk relaxed, breaking into a wide, relieved smile. "Not in the least." He shrugged sheepishly. "When I woke up this morning alone, I was afraid that maybe you’d had second thoughts about going through with our new relationship."

Spock steepled his fingers in front of him. "I regret giving you reason to think that. When I awoke I was rested, so it seemed logical for me to get out of bed. If I…"

Kirk held up a hand. "You don’t need to explain. I’m the one who should apologize. I was just a little…nervous. As you know, Humans have a tendency to feel insecure with very little provocation. You didn’t do anything wrong."

Spock rose to his feet, taking Kirk’s arms in his hands as soft brown eyes bored into green-gold ones. "Jim, I will not be having any ‘second thoughts’. As I told you yesterday, I have given this careful consideration. I know what I want." He removed his hands and placed then behind his back. "However, I still believe that you should not feel that your own emotions must corroborate with mine. I will not enter into a complete relationship with you lightly. It is something you must want also." His voice softened. "I have no wish to…‘trap’ you."

Kirk gave Spock’s shoulder a squeeze as he moved past him to sit on the couch. Spock turned so that he faced him.

Looking up at Spock, Kirk said in a casual tone, "I thought we settled that. I told you last night that I want you sexually. Our friendship is already firmly established, so what can it do but get better. Is there anything else you’d like me to consider?"

Spock glanced away and sighed, swallowing with difficulty. Finally he looked back at Kirk. "Exclusivity. My possessiveness. Unacceptance by others. Professional conflicts." His head lowered as he added, ever so gently, "Pon farr."

Kirk let his own sigh escape as he regarded Spock’s bowed head. "All right, let’s talk about those things." He rose with a smile. "First, though, let me take a shower and dial up some breakfast."

Spock nodded his agreement, going back to the computer while Kirk disappeared into his bedroom. Twenty minutes later Kirk emerged, dressed in beige slacks and a brown short-sleeved shirt. He went to the food processor and selected eggs, toast, and coffee. Seating himself on the couch, he set his food on the table in front of him.

After taking the first bite, he looked over at Spock and asked lightly, "What fascinating things have you found out about the horses?"

Spock rotated his chair so that it was facing in Kirk’s direction. "They are unique to this planet. The breed, called Masoola, originated here. They are still attempting to develop bloodlines with the desired traits, and only a minute number of the animals have been exported." Spock crossed his arms. "The ones we saw belong to the farm that founded the breed. There are several other individuals on Trazar who are registered as the owners of some of the horses, although the original farm has the largest herd."

"What traits are they being bred for?" Kirk mumbled, chewing on his toast.

"For their exotic colors, and their agility while still maintaining muscular strength – the precise traits we noticed n them. The founding farm is a privately-owned endeavour, though sanctioned by the government. When the decision was made to create the Masoola breed, a variety of horses were imported from Earth, as were several stocks from other worlds. The original horses were bred in a manner that weeded out the undesirable traits. Now, the Crozzans – the clan which holds title to the farm – feel that they have the animals they require and are concentrating their efforts on increasing the size of their herd without compromising its quality."

Kirk sipped his coffee, washing the toast crumbs out of his mouth. "I wonder why the government is taking such an interest in them."

"They hope to eventually export them in large numbers. The horses are unique enough to be regarded as something of a ‘luxury item’ to those who could afford them. If such proves to be the case, it would bring in a substantial amount of income – to both the planet and the Crozzans, of course."

Swallowing the last of his food, Kirk said, "Maybe we could visit the farm. Do you think they’d give us a tour?"

Spock switched off the computer. "It is possible. Trazar does not appear to consider the Masoola breed a secret, as evidenced by the amount of information available in the hotel’s computer."

As Spock approached the couch, Kirk said, "I’m sure our Federation clout will be equally as persuasive."

"Undoubtedly."

Spock sat down just as Kirk got up to put his dishes in the disposer. When he returned, Kirk sat on the end of the sofa opposite from Spock. They were both at an angle, facing each other.

"I guess we’ve got some other things to talk about," Kirk began.

"Yes. Although we do not have to discuss them at this time, if you do not wish it."

Kirk smiled a little nervously. "No, we may as well clear up any possible misunderstandings now." He furrowed a brow. "Spock, when you mentioned ‘exclusivity,’ were you talking about a Vulcan bonding?"

Spock shook his head. "It would be illogical for us to discuss such a permanent situation at this time. What I was referring to is my own inability to deal with the idea of sharing you with others. I do realize that I harbor an intense possessiveness toward you." He lowered his eyes. "I have been aware of it for some time."

Kirk shrugged. "I’ve always known that you’ve had a certain…protectiveness toward me – as I have toward you."

"Indeed. The two terms can have overlapping meanings."

"So, what you’re trying to tell me," Kirk pursued carefully, "is that you don’t want me to see anyone else."

Spock inhaled deeply. "It is unreasonable of me to ask that of you, yet I cannot help but do so, despite the shame that I feel." He looked piercingly at Kirk. "Jim," he whispered, "I know that, last night, I was very submissive toward you. I was afraid that…if I assumed a dominant position, allowing myself to think of you as ‘mine’ – even for one night – I would not be able to tolerate anyone else touching you. Even now the thought is repulsive." He glanced away. "I apologize for my illogical nature, however, I cannot deny that these feelings exist."

Kirk considered Spock’s words. There was a definite thrill attached to Spock’s attitude of ‘ownership’ toward him. He was also a bit surprised at the intensity of his friend’s emotions.

Swallowing hard, he attempted to keep his tone light. "Spock, I’ve already told you that I’m tired of sleeping around. I don’t see exclusivity as being a problem."

"Perhaps not at this time," Spock acknowledged levelly. "You must consider that someday you may meet someone – a woman – who could be all things to you. Another Edith Keeler, another Miramanee…" He saw Kirk wince and lowered his eyes.

"Forgive me," Spock whispered hoarsely, "I am being insensitive."

"It’s all right," Kirk whispered back. "I understand what you’re trying to say." He cleared his throat and shrugged. "Maybe it’ll be a problem some day, but, Spock, couples face that kind of crisis all the time. I can’t sit here and promise I’ll never look at anyone else. On the other hand, as long as I care about you – and I know I always will – I can’t imagine doing anything that would hurt you." He thought for a moment. "Besides, you can’t tell me that you won’t ever be attracted to anyone else again. It wouldn’t be logical."

Spock’s eyes flared for an instant before he sighed heavily. "I cannot argue with logic. However, caring for someone else more than you is something that is beyond any imagination I possess."

Kirk smiled at the noble declaration. "I can’t see myself caring for anyone more than you, either, and I’ve cared about a lot of people in my life. You, Mister, are the one who means more to me than all the others." He had a strong urge to close the physical gap between then. Patting the space next to him, he said softly, "Come here. I want you closer while we talk about the other things."

If there was any hesitation on Spock’s part, it was brief. When he moved closer, Kirk’s arms came around him. He could not resist the impulse to lay his head on the brown-clad shoulder.

"Okay," Kirk said gently, "We’ve covered exclusivity and your possessiveness. What else did you mention?"

"Others may not accept our relationship," Spock replied.

"It’s nobody else’s business," Kirk said immediately.

"It would be preferable to have the approval of family and friends – Dr. McCoy, for example."

Kirk let his hand trail up and down Spock’s sleeve. "Yes, it would be nice to have him agreeable. I suspect he will be. Besides, it would be to his advantage to do so. I don’t think he’d like to lose our friendship."

"He may not be able to avoid doing so if he disapproved."

"He won’t disapprove, Spock." Kirk imagined Bones’ surprised expression when they told him of their relationship. He was sure congratulations would follow a split-second later.

"As for my family," Kirk went on, "there won’t be a problem. My mother will be very happy that I’ve found somebody to love and who loves me in return. What about your family?" He felt the warm body stiffen.

"I believe my mother will react much the same as yours," Spock stated. "As for my father… It is difficult to speculate."

"Well," Kirk asked, a little exasperated, "how do Vulcans feel about same-sex relationships?"

"It is normally frowned upon since no children can result from such a union. However, it is also illogical to deny the rapport that exists between any two beings. Therefore, Vulcans – philosophically – must be supportive of such a relationship. In my case, I am sterile because I am a hybrid, so the child-bearing factor is of no consequence."

"So Vulcan shouldn’t have a problem with our relationship," Kirk reasoned happily.

"On the surface," Spock cautioned grimly, "they have no choice, although my father and T’Pau, and no doubt many others, will consider it further evidence that I am not a true Vulcan."

Kirk snorted. "Spock, you’re more Vulcan than any Vulcan I’ve ever met. I’m sure if your father and T’Pau and the rest of Vulcan took the time to get to know you, they’d be very proud of you."

When he didn’t get a response, he asked, changing the subject, "What else were we supposed to talk about?"

Spock considered for a moment. "We must realize how important it is to keep our personal relationship separate from our professional one."

Kirk nodded. "I agree that it’s extremely important. We’ve always been able to separate them before. I don’t think it’ll be any different now. We both know duty comes first."

Spock removed his head from Kirk’s shoulder, swallowing hard. "What you must also consider," he said in a low tone, "is the effects of…pon farr."

Kirk felt Spock’s nervousness. Gently he asked, "What would’ve happened sexually if you and T’Pring had had a normal wedding?"

Spock drew a deep breath. "As soon as the vows were spoken, we would have gone to the cave of koon-ut-kal-i-fee, where I would have…mated with her. We would have remained there until the pon farr had passed, which would have been from two to five days, as it can vary greatly from individual to individual." He hesitated before going on. "The pon farr is a time of repeated sexual joining. It can be physically exhausting for both bondmates. The male only knows that he must continually seek relief, and the female must submit."

Carefully Kirk asked, "Is it pleasant?"

Again, Spock took a deep breath before speaking. "I believe that the male is in such a state of…insanity…that he is aware only of relief. Pleasure is not involved. There are contradictory reports in regard to what it involves for the female."

Glancing at Kirk, he found a questioning expression and explained, "Some have said that it is extremely difficult, that only her Vulcan disciplines saved her from the devastation of being ‘raped’ by her bondmate. Yet I have also heard that the pon farr can be a time of intense pleasure."

His brows furrowed thoughtfully. "I can remember when my mother would finally emerge from the bed chamber after my father’s Time. She would often appear… ‘radiant’ would perhaps be the correct description."

Kirk smiled and picked up Spock’s hand, squeezing it lightly. "I don’t know what you’re so nervous about. If your mother came away from it looking ‘radiant’, then maybe I will, too. Besides, your next pon farr is a few years away."

For the first time since they’d begun discussing the cycle, Spock met Kirk’s eyes. "Jim, because I am a hybrid, the cycle cannot be predicted accurately." When he saw the other nod, he went on. "If it appears unexpectedly – as surely it will – you must realize that we will both be incapacitated by it. If the ship were in an emergency situation at the time, we would be…"

Kirk considered the possibility, then said, "We’ll work it out, Spock. Some way, we’ll work it out." He smiled. "Besides, it might not be that bad at all. Maybe it’ll happen while we’re on shore leave."

Seeing the skeptical expression, he added, "As well as Bones and I both know you, I’m sure we’ll be able to notice the initial symptoms. We’ll have plenty of warning to make the necessary arrangements."

Spock let out a sigh of relief. "Perhaps it will not be as detrimental a situation as I have feared."

"It won’t be, I promise you," Kirk assured him. "Is there anything else on your mind?"

Spock removed his hand from Kirk’s, his voice warm with affection. "No, Jim. All of my concerns have been dealt with most satisfactorily."

"Good." Kirk got to his feet. "So, would you like to visit the farm with the Masoolas?"

Spock rose, too, heading for the communications terminal. "I will see what can be arranged."

******

From the instructions on the tape brochure, they were able to contact the farm easily, and they found that the head of the establishment – Mr. Crozzan II – was suitably impressed with the idea of two of Starfleet’s finest taking an interest in his stock.

Mr. Crozzan was a native of Trazar and sported the usual brown hair, beady black eyes, and small slit for a mouth. When Kirk and Spock arrived in their aircar, he was there to greet them heartily, nearly grabbing them out of their seats to start them on a tour of the farm.

The premises were immaculate. After being shown various paddocks where some of the horses were turned out, Mr. Crozzan guided them through two large barns, each of which were new and clean. The second barn housed an indoor arena, and the trio spent some time watching a group of young horses being worked under saddle. Mr. Crozzan explained what each rider was trying to accomplish with each horse, and Kirk and Spock both expressed appreciation at the level of communication between horse and rider.

Next, Mr. Crozzan led them to the breeding shed. At the time they entered the structure, a mare was being held by a groom, a stallion standing a few yards behind her, held by another groom.

Obviously very interested in observing the activity, the farm owner leaned against a railing, and Kirk and Spock did as well.

"Of course, we normally use artificial methods of breeding," Mr. Crozzan explained, "but all the stallions have to be bred naturally a few times before they’re able to understand what’s expected of them when they’re confronted with the A.I. equipment." He nodded toward the groom holding the stallion.

As the groom led the stallion toward the mare, Mr. Crozzan said, "This is Tarpir. He’s young and this is his first mating attempt."

Kirk watched with interest – and a little embarrassment – as the young stud sniffed under the mare’s tail, which was raised in anticipation. The mare whinnied excitedly at the attention she was receiving, and Tarpir’s dangling penis hardened. The stallion moved up to sniff at her head, then raised his forelegs and attempted to mount her from the side, his legs across her back, his engorged organ waving beneath her belly.

The groom began speaking soothingly to Tarpir while pulling back on the halter, encouraging him to dismount. Tarpir did so readily, as though realizing that he’d somehow got it all wrong, that the position wasn’t going to bring him any satisfaction.

Mr. Crozzan chuckled easily. "It’s quite common for young stallions to go through a lot of ‘fumbling around’ before they figure out what to do."

Kirk almost chuckled to himself for two reasons: because he was truly amused by Mr. Crozzan’s use of such a Human expression, and because he was anxious to relieve the embarrassment he felt at watching the scenario in Spock’s presence. He stole a glance at his friend, and saw that Spock seemed to be absorbed in what could only be described as unabashed curiosity.

The mare fidgeted impatiently while the groom backed Tarpir into a position a meter or so behind her, then led the stallion up to her again, this time encouraging him to mount her from the rear. Tarpir mounted her correctly, but became discouraged while he poked around trying to find the proper entrance, sliding off the side of her rump before the groom could guide him.

On the third attempt, the groom was able to be more helpful, and Tarpir’s penis was guided into the mare. Penetration was finally achieved, though Tarpir had to struggle to keep his balance while thrusting into the mare. A minute later, he withdrew and dismounted with a contented groan.

Mr. Crozzan smiled approvingly as the groom gave the stallion a congratulatory pat and gestured for his guests to follow him outside. Appropriately, he next showed them a pasture that contained mares and foals. It was the last part of the tour. Kirk and Spock both thanked them, and he in turn thanked them for their interest.

When they were once again in the aircar, Kirk said, "That was an impressive facility. I’m glad we came."

"Indeed," was the only reply.

They were silent on the way back to the hotel. Upon arriving there, they were handed a message asking them to contact McCoy.

"I’d like to invite you two to dinner in Trozee City," McCoy explained to Kirk after they’d gotten back to their suite and the connection was made. "They have a really great restaurant here."

Kirk glanced at Spock, received a nod, and said, "You’ve got a deal. What time?"

"Oh, how about 1800? It’s best to get there before the usual dinner hour. It gets crowded fast."

"Okay, Bones, we’ll be there. What’s it called?"

"The Outer Life." McCoy’s voice lowered, significantly. "Hey, I’ve got me a nice lady-friend who’ll be coming with me. Is there anybody you’re planning on bringing with you?"

"Just Spock," Kirk replied.

"Theresa has some friends," McCoy offered. "I’m sure she can bring one along for you."

"Uh…that won’t be necessary," Kirk replied, aware of Spock’s eyes on him.

McCoy was taken aback. "You sure?"

"Yeah, Bones. Don’t do me any favors, okay?"

McCoy looked puzzled, although his tone was bright. "Okay, see you two later. Tell Spock he’ll love the menu."

"Right. Kirk out."

Kirk stretched, vying for time as he turned around to look at Spock. "Well, I guess that takes care of our plans for dinner. It was nice of him to invite us."

"Yes, I am looking forward to it," Spock replied levelly. He went over to the window and gazed out, his hands behind his back.

Kirk watched him. "We still have about two hours before we need to get ready. Did you want to do something in the meantime?"

Spock shook his head.

Kirk took several steps toward him. "Spock, is something wrong?"

A moment passed before Spock responded. "I believe I have made an error in judgment," he said without turning.

"About what?"

Spock looked at the floor and bit his lower lip. Hoarsely he said, "I want very much to please you, Jim, yet I fear my lack of experience in sexual matters will make that difficult." He took a deep breath, glancing at Kirk. "You deserve more than my… ‘fumbling around’."

Kirk came forward until he was standing just behind Spock. "You were bothered by watching the young stallion trying to mate?"

Spock gazed at him, nodding once. "It has prompted me to reevaluate our situation." He furrowed a brow. "Jim, I am well read on the mechanics of Human sexuality. I know that it requires a degree of practice in order to be satisfying to one’s partner."

Kirk placed a hand on Spock’s arm, his voice very gentle. "Your level of experience doesn’t matter to me. I love you. None of us were born with the knowledge of how to be a perfect lover. There was a time in my life when I was no more adept than that young stallion today."

Squeezing Spock’s arm, he looked into the brown eyes. "Spock, I’m not interested in your lovemaking skills. I’m interested in you. It’ll be all right." With his free hand he took Spock’s other arm. "There are no rules in making love. No specific techniques that have to be applied, no proper way to behave. It’s just me and you. As long as we’re ourselves, with no pretenses, it’ll be fine."

Spock broke eye contact and stared out the window. After a brief interlude, he whispered, "I am aware that some humanoids gain sexual pleasure by causing their partners pain, or receiving pain from them." He glanced back at Kirk. "I do not believe I could be anything but gentle with you."

Kirk swallowed to remove the lump in his throat. Finally he said, "I’ve never gotten enjoyment from seeing anyone in pain." His hand moved up Spock’s arm to his shoulders, his gaze still holding the other’s eyes. "It’s going to work, Spock. As long as we love each other, it’ll work." He tilted his head toward the bedroom with a shy smile. "Come on. Let’s go and pick up where we left off last night."

Releasing Spock, he turned toward the bedroom. As he moved across the carpet, he flexed his shoulders. "I’m still sore from yesterday’s hike. What about you?"

Spock was right behind him. In his usual calm tone, he replied, "I am experiencing some slight discomfort."

Once in the bedroom, Kirk removed his shirt and boots. The curtains were drawn over the window, and with the lights out the room was fairly dark, despite the afternoon sun.

Kirk turned to his friend. "Take off your shirt and I’ll give you a back rub."

As soon as Spock had loosened the sash and opened his tunic, Kirk was there to pull it over his head.

Kirk patted the bed. "Lie down."

Spock removed his boots and complied, stretching out on his stomach. Kirk sat at his left, a leg curled under himself, and began massaging Spock’s shoulders with long, deep strokes. "Are you all right?" he asked after a moment.

"Yes."

"I’m not being pushy, am I?"

Spock’s eyes were closed. "No."

Kirk paused. "Am I going too slow?"

In a slightly amused tone, Spock replied, "I have no complaints whatsoever in your decisions concerning us thus far."

Kirk smiled, though Spock couldn’t see it. "Good."

The massage continued in silence. Spock kept his eyes closed, and Kirk was pleased to see a tiny smile on his lips. After he’d covered the smooth back a couple of times, he said, "Take off your pants, and I’ll do your legs."

Spock opened his eyes, turned over and sat up. As he removed his pants, he inquired, "Would you not also benefit from a massage?"

Kirk grinned. "Sure, I want to finish you first, though."

Once Spock was back on his stomach, Kirk worked on the thighs, eventually moving down to knees and calves.

When he’d finished, Kirk stood up to remove his own pants. There were now both down to their black briefs. Stretching out beside his friend, Kirk placed a hand on the small of Spock’s back. With his head propped up on an elbow, facing Spock, he began to rub in slow circles – a motion that was more affectionate than therapeutic. He watched Spock’s face, pleased with the peaceful expression.

In one smooth movement – designed to keep him from thinking about it and hesitating – Kirk slipped his hand underneath the briefs and began running his fingernails over the thin buttocks.

Spock groaned his pleasure.

Kirk chuckled. "I thought you’d like that. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a good butt scratch.

The action continued for some time. Kirk was concentrating on what he was doing, and he jumped in surprise when a warm hand pressed against his ribs. He looked down to find Spock studying him.

Removing his hand from the briefs, Kirk soon found himself being pulled into an embrace. They were both on their sides, and Kirk snuggled against the furred body, relaxing in the feeling of protectiveness provided by Spock’s closeness.

Seconds later, warm hands were rippling up and down his back in a variety of patterns.

"That feels good," Kirk whispered. Rubbing his cheek against the hirsute chest, he added, "You feel good."

Spock pulled back slightly to whisper, "You are beautiful, Jim – in every way."

Kirk stared back at him, butterflies stirring in his veins. "You can touch me anywhere you want to," he offered softly. "Don’t be afraid of me. If I don’t like something you do, I’ll tell you – and I expect the same honesty from you."

Spock nodded once, his gaze not leaving Kirk’s face. Gently he pushed Kirk back on the bed, getting up on his side so that he was leaning over him. With the utmost gentleness and care, Spock reached out to touch Kirk’s cheek, his fingers caressing lightly, then traveling ever so gradually to the nose, up to the eyebrows, and continuing onto the forehead. Throughout, the two men didn’t break eye contact.

Kirk placed his hand behind the dark head, bringing it down so that their lips could meet.

It was a first kiss, gentle and brief. After Kirk released Spock, he reached up to trace the features on his face – as lightly and carefully as Spock had done it to him. Again, their eyes met and held. "I love you," Kirk whispered.

Spock took a deep breath, lowering his head for a cautious second kiss. This time, Kirk’s lips parted and Spock pressed more firmly.

When they broke away, it was Kirk’s turn to try to catch his breath. He was aware of Spock’s crotch resting against his thigh, and that there was no hardness evident through the thin cloth. For himself, it was a different story. There was a definite stirring in Kirk’s groin. He turned his head to see the wall chronometer.

Resting a hand on Spock’s chest, Kirk said softly, "Maybe we’d better just rest now. I don’t want to get anything started since we have to meet Bones for dinner. Let’s wait until after we get back tonight and we can have all the time we want."

Spock nodded in agreement, his expression thoughtful. Curiously he questioned, "You are aroused?"

Kirk smiled. "A little. That’s why I thought we’d better stop." He considered a moment before saying, "You excite me, Spock."

As he’d hoped, a glint of pride shone in the dark eyes. All Spock said in response, though, was, "In that case, perhaps I should leave the room while you rest."

"No," Kirk said quickly, pushing Spock down onto his back. "That’s not necessary." He stretched out, putting his head on Spock’s shoulder. "I’ll be all right. I thought maybe we could take a nap like this."

"Agreed."

Spock wrapped his arms around Kirk and smiled.

******

Kirk was surprised that he’d actually fallen into a deep sleep when Spock woke him to announce that it was time for them to get ready if they were going to meet McCoy at the specified hour. They were silent as they showered and changed, though both of them were aware of the atmosphere of contentment between them.

Trozee City was crowded, but they managed to arrive at the restaurant a few minutes past 1800 hours. Once they’d given the hostess their names, they were led to a booth where a happy-looking McCoy was waiting, seated next to an attractive, pert-looking brunette.

"Right on time!" the doctor approved.

As they settled in, Kirk said, "This city is really crowded. I hate to think what it’ll be like when the night-life begins."

"It gets to be fun," McCoy informed him, turning to his date, who was outfitted in a black dress with a silver lining along the neck and cuffs. "This is my new friend, Theresa. Theresa, this is Captain Kirk and his first officer, Mr. Spock."

The woman smiled warmly and held out her hand. "I’m very pleased to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about both of you."

Kirk shook her hand. "It’s a pleasure to meet you," he replied sincerely. For once, he had to approve of McCoy’s taste. Theresa had a lot of class and obviously wasn’t a prostitute. She nodded politely at Spock and he returned the gesture.

As a waitress began placing drinks in front of them, McCoy explained, "I’ve already ordered cocktails for us. Yours is the brandy, Jim. Spock, yours is some kind of juice they said was very popular with Vulcans."

Spock took a sip and an eyebrow went up in surprise. "Thank you, Doctor. It has a most interesting flavor."

The waitress passed out menus, and Kirk settled back in the booth. "So, Bones. How did you and Theresa meet?"

The woman laughed. "You were right, Leonard. He does call you ‘Bones.’"

"Told you," McCoy smiled as he blushed.

"I work at the registration desk at the Spaceman’s Inn," Theresa explained. "When Leonard came up to register… well, I guess you could say we hit it off."

"In that case," Kirk said, glancing innocently at his menu, "I guess I won’t tell you all the bad things about him."

"The list would be rather lengthy," Spock chimed in.

Theresa giggled, and McCoy couldn’t resist a retort. "Don’t pay any attention to what they tell you. They’re just jealous because they don’t have a good-looking woman like you to accompany them."

Spock’s eyebrow went up. "Indeed."

Theresa smiled at the exchange and they all got down to the business of what to order. With help from the waitress, they made their selections.

McCoy finished his drink. "So, what have you two been doing for the past couple of days?"

Kirk shrugged. "We went for a hike and toured the Crozzan Ranch where they raise the Masoola horses."

"I’ve never been there," Theresa said, "but I’ve always wanted to visit it. I’ve seen the horses on a lot of vid-programs. The government’s hoping they can be turned into a viable commodity."

Kirk nodded. "I can see why. The farm is an interesting place and we really enjoyed seeing it."

"Okay," McCoy put in. "You’ve been hiking and visiting horse farms. Is that all you two have been up to?"

"Sure," Kirk replied levelly, forcing a smile. "Any objections?"

"No. It just seems like an awful tame shore leave for you, Jim. Of course, you’ve still got a few more days."

"Bones," Kirk began in a tone that indicated he didn’t want the subject pursued, "I’ve been very happy with a tame shore leave." He smiled. "It’s exactly what I’ve needed."

The waitress arrived with their food. After a few bites Kirk asked, "What have you been doing?"

"Oh, a little gambling," McCoy replied. He looked smugly at Theresa and added, "And a little…you know."

Theresa colored slightly, still managing to grin back at McCoy. Finally she summed up the courage to say, "Leonard plays his role of doctor quite well."

Kirk laughed loudly, reveling in McCoy’s flushed features. "It’s good that somebody thinks so."

Spock offered a raised eyebrow as his comment.

"That’s enough, both of you," McCoy warned with his best intimidating look.

Theresa excused herself to visit the "ladies’ facilities," having finished her meal. As soon as she was gone, McCoy studied Kirk and Spock, his gaze shifting from one to the other.

"What’s the big secret?" he asked.

Kirk and Spock exchanged puzzled glances.

"What do you mean?" Kirk asked in confusion.

"You both look smug," McCoy replied, as though he shouldn’t have to explain himself. "You look like you know something I don’t. Spill it."

Kirk wiped his mouth with a napkin. "I haven’t the vaguest idea of what you’re talking about." He sent a brief, corner-of-his-eye appeal to Spock, asking for help.

"Doctor," Spock began, "if you truly believe us to be hiding something from you, would it not therefore be logical to assume that we have chosen not to share it with you? Otherwise, there would be no point in hiding it from you in the first place – if indeed there were anything we were attempting to conceal."

Kirk grinned at Spock’s explanation, but McCoy wasn’t having any part of it.

"Don’t give me any of your Vulcan double-talk," he replied amiably. "Of course, I suppose I’ll find out eventually," he said in a tone that let the other two know it was useless to try to keep any secrets from him.

Before they could reply, Theresa returned and Kirk and Spock relaxed.

McCoy finished his meal, being the last to do so. "You two interested in checking out the casinos? Or maybe a vid? There’s supposed to be a good one playing near here."

"No thanks," Kirk replied. "I think we’ll just leave you to practice medicine with your ‘patient.’" He winked at Theresa. "Thanks for dinner."

"My pleasure."

"It was a most enjoyable experience," Spock put in.

"I’m glad you liked it," McCoy responded sincerely.

The waitress brought the ticket, and McCoy tendered his credit disc for payment. The foursome split into pairs and departed. When Kirk and Spock were in their aircar, Kirk grimaced and said, "McCoy’s perception can be incredible at times."

"Also very irritating," Spock replied.

Kirk laughed without humor. "That’s for sure. I wasn’t aware that I was acting ‘smug.’"

"Neither was I."

Kirk settled back into the seat and looked at his companion. "I’ve hardly even kissed you, and we’re already giving off vibes." He smiled. "I guess I’ve got a lot to be smug about, because I’ve got you, Mister."

Spock’s only acknowledgement was a twinkle in his brown eyes as he punched in the aircar’s lift-off sequence.

They were silent for the remainder of the trip back to their hotel. As they rode the turbo-lift to their floor, Kirk became aware of the increasing butterflies stirring in his stomach.

He and Spock were going to make love soon. While he looked forward to it with joyful anticipation, he was also a little nervous that it might not work out as well as they both hoped. He’d become increasingly aware of Spock’s insecurities during the past twenty-four hours, and he wanted everything to go right for him. Certainly no relationship he’d ever participated in before had had so many verbal preliminaries. Normally, he wouldn’t have approved of such a planned-out approach. But in this situation he agreed with Spock: for the sake of their friendship, everything needed to be out in the open between them, so that no hurtful misunderstandings could occur when it was too late.

When they entered their darkened suite, Kirk made no move to turn up the lights. Instead, he took Spock’s arm and led him to the middle of the living room. Once there, he turned and faced his friend. Looking up into the dark eyes, he placed both arms around the thin body and pulled it to him, laying his head against Spock’s chest and squeezing lovingly.

Spock brought his arms around Kirk and returned the squeeze, resting his head on top of Kirk’s.

They stayed that way for a long time, Kirk eventually initiating a motion that swayed them gently against each other, from side to side. Finally he whispered, "I guess this is it. Our big moment."

"Yes," Spock whispered back, unable to keep the nervousness out of his voice.

"I’m scared, too," Kirk told him. "I want everything to be perfect – especially for you."

"As you said earlier," Spock returned softly, "it will work out. I believe you."

To prove it, Spock released himself from Kirk’s grip and took his chin, tilting it upward. Slowly he brought his lips down upon Kirk’s.

Kirk’s heart accelerated with the contact. As he pressed into the kiss, his hands began to roam over Spock’s back. All too soon the motions threatened to become frantic, and he reminded himself to take it slow and easy, opening his mouth to let Spock take the lead, inviting the warm tongue in to explore. Spock complied shyly, his tongue moving across Kirk’s lips before dipping cautiously inside to meet the other. They tasted one another for a moment, then Spock’s went on to investigate teeth and gums.

Kirk didn’t want to break the mood, but his legs were turning to jelly. With great effort, he snapped his head back and gasped, "Let’s move into the bedroom."

This time, it was Spock who led the way. Once beside the bed, they embraced again, Spock releasing Kirk after a few moments to go over to the window and open the curtains. Moonlight streamed in to brighten enough for them to see each other.

Returning to Kirk, Spock began helping him remove his clothes. While Spock tossed the shirt aside, Kirk unfastened the closure to his pants. After opening the fly, Spock’s hands were there to pull the slacks down his hips. Kicking off his boots, Kirk removed his socks and stepped out of the pants.

Now clad only in his briefs, he looked up into Spock’s dark eyes. In the back of his mind, he was vaguely aware that he had somehow ended up in the submissive role. Not that he had any qualms with the way things were going.

Spock’s hands were on his shoulders. They began a light massaging motion, moving quickly down to the chest and onto the ribs.

Kirk was conscious of his erection straining against the thin fabric of his briefs. He trembled as Spock’s hands trailed across his pelvic bones and thighs.

Suddenly Spock pulled Kirk to him. He caressed the smooth back, switching quickly to lower territory. His hands contained no hint of shyness as they dipped beneath the briefs to knead the satin-smooth buttocks.

Though Kirk was very aroused, it was Spock who let out a groan. Managing to calm himself enough to take an inventory of his own senses, Kirk realized that the crotch opposite him was still soft.

Spock removed his hands until only his fingertips rested inside the waistband of the briefs, releasing Kirk from the embrace. Staring deeply into his eyes, his fingers came around ever so slowly to the front of Kirk’s waist, pausing at the edge of the pubic hairline.

Kirk’s breathing became heavier. His eyes were still mesmerized by Spock’s, and he was trembling from the fingers resting below his navel. It seemed as though they stayed there forever.

Just when he thought his knees were truly going to give way, Spock’s hands shifted down a centimetre or so, rubbing against the curly hairs there. Kirk fell against Spock, his entire body quivering from the teasing sensation.

Spock retrieved his hands and returned to massaging Kirk’s back. "I love you," the deep baritone rasped into a rounded ear.

Kirk swallowed hard. He was so aroused he wanted to throw Spock on the bed and take him right then and there, but he couldn’t seem to find the strength to move. "I love you, too," was all he could gasp, knowing it was true.

Fortunately for Kirk, the gentle back rub produced a temporary calming effect, and Spock took advantage of it to continue what he had started. Without any teasing, he slipped the briefs down to Kirk’s ankles, helping him step out of them.

As he straightened, Spock looked down at the organ that was nudging his thigh. Gingerly he lifted the hand that was not holding Kirk, circling it around the protruding phallus.

"Ohhh," Kirk moaned. With great effort, he managed, "Spock, I’m going to come, either on your clothes, or…or…"

Seeming to read Kirk’s mind, Spock went to his knees. Simultaneously he placed his mouth over the straining penis and squeezed gently at the sac beneath.

"God!" Kirk nearly screamed. "Suck me! Oh, please!"

Spock put his tongue to work and semen exploded into his mouth almost immediately. He continued sucking and swallowing, vaguely aware of the cries of pleasure that came from his partner.

After the spasms stopped, Kirk separated himself from Spock and collapsed on the floor.

Spock drew Kirk up until he was resting against his chest. They were both kneeling, and he waited patiently while the other regained his breath.

"Oh, God," Kirk sighed a final time. Sitting back on his heels, he looked at his new lover, reaching out to caress Spock’s cheek. The dark eyes settled on him questioningly.

"That was beautiful, Spock," Kirk told him. "Absolutely the most beautiful blow…um, oral sex experience I’ve ever had." He smiled warmly. "You seduced me completely."

"You are truly pleased?" Spock inquired levelly.

Kirk nodded vigorously. "Definitely. It was…" He sighed contentedly. "…extremely gratifying."

The corners of Spock’s mouth curved upward slightly. "It is a relief to know that you found my performance satisfactory."

Kirk shook his head. "Not satisfactory. Try terrific. I mean it, Spock. You were wonderful."

Curiously Kirk reached out and felt Spock’s crotch. "You aren’t aroused at all," he said with confusion.

"My total concentration was on pleasing you," came the calm reply.

"Which you did quite well. It’s your turn now." Kirk gestured toward the bed, climbing to his feet. "Come on, I think the bed will be more comfortable."

Still weary from his orgasm, Kirk lay flat on his back on the mattress and welcomed his still-clothed lover into his arms. Running a hand through the dark hair, he whispered, "I love you," pulling Spock’s head down so their lips could meet.

When Spock resisted the movement, Kirk released him and asked, "What’s wrong?"

Spock replied hesitantly, "I had thought…since I swallowed your ejaculation…"

It took Kirk a few seconds to understand Spock’s train of thought. When he did, he smiled. "It’s perfectly all right. If it didn’t bother you to swallow it, why should it bother me?" Suddenly he frowned. "Or…did you find it distasteful?"

"No. In fact, the flavor was most…interesting."

Kirk sighed, feeling the words echo down his spine. "Good. I’m looking forward to finding out what you taste like. Kiss me."

This time, Spock brought his head down eagerly, and Kirk’s lips were already parted for him. He explored the interior of Kirk’s mouth with slow thoroughness and precision. When he finished, they were both gasping for air.

Well on his way toward a second orgasm, Kirk rolled them both over so he was on top. For a while he caressed Spock’s face, then bent to kiss him deeply, his tongue stroking along the sealed lips which eventually opened for him and plunging deep inside. Spock’s hands began moving up and down Kirk’s back in a motion that promised to become frantic.

"I think it’s time to get your clothes off," Kirk said, releasing Spock. "Here, I’ll help."

Spock held up his arms, allowing the tunic to be pulled over his head. Kirk unfastened the closure to his pants.

"Raise up," Kirk ordered.

Spock thrust his hips upward, and Kirk pulled the trousers down to his thighs. Getting onto his knees, he removed Spock’s boots and socks, finally discarding the pants. Spock was now naked except for his briefs.

Placing his hand against the warm crotch, Kirk pressed gently. He felt a light hardness beneath his fingers. Encouraged, he settled back on top of Spock and began kissing along his neck.

Spock’s breathing grew heavy, and Kirk moved on down to the chest. As soon as his tongue came in contact with a nipple, Spock gasped loudly. The sound was so intense that Kirk looked up at the angular face. "Did I hurt you?"

"No," Spock replied quickly. Breathing heavily, he stuttered, "I did not know…that …males have feeling…in their nipples."

Kirk smiled, lowering his head again to the sensitive nipple, but this time only kissing it lightly. Since it was already erect, he moved to the other one and nuzzled it lovingly. It also responded.

Sitting up, Kirk studied his partner’s face. Spock’s eyes were closed, his breathing very ragged. He was both pleased and concerned by the intense respiratory response. His gaze traveled down to the underwear. This time, there was a distinct bulge in them.

Scooting down until he was straddling Spock’s thighs, Kirk bent to lick and burrow his tongue in the green-tinged navel. The action evoked another gasping cry from Spock. Fearing that further teasing could cause cardiac arrest, Kirk took hold of the briefs with both hands and slid them down the long legs. After tossing them aside, he brought his full attention to the rising penis. A tingle started down Kirk’s spine.

"You’re very beautiful," he announced with awe.

The organ swelled even more at the words, and Spock grabbed the bedspread, gripping it tightly.

"I believe," Spock gasped in a voice tinged with fear, "that I am aroused."

"You certainly are," Kirk replied with amusement. Still, Spock’s tone concerned him, and he leaned forward, until his face was centimeters away from Spock’s. "It’s nothing to be afraid of," he whispered.

"I fear… I may not be able to control," came the ragged explanation.

Kirk’s voice was gentle and persuasive. "Spock, you’re supposed to lose control. Just let it happen. Don’t try to stop it and don’t try to force it. All you have to do is let it come. Let me take care of it. It’ll really feel good."

Spock’s eyes were tightly shut and his breath still came in uneven gasps. Kirk resisted the urge to fondle him and simply lowered his head and clamped his lips around the fully erect organ. He tongued the head, then slid his mouth down as far as it could go without choking.

He kept his tongue moving in a rhythm he himself enjoyed. Spock’s hips were writhing beneath him, and he prayed silently that Spock would allow himself this release. To prompt him, Kirk reached out with a finger and trailed it along the crack between the buttocks to the seam of the scrotal sac. There, he scratched gently.

That did it. With a cry that threatened to overcome the soundproof walls, Spock ejaculated fiercely.

Kirk almost choked from the heat of the semen, but he managed to halt the reflex and concentrate on swallowing. It seemed to last a long time, and he had plenty of opportunity to examine the taste, which he found bitter…and erotic.

When he was sure the flow had ended, he released the phallus and looked up at his lover’s face.

Spock lay still, his diaphragm expanding and contracting rapidly, though his breathing had a shallowness to it. His eyes were closed and his nostrils flared. Kirk could even detect a trace of sweat on his forehead.

Moving off Spock, Kirk sat cross-legged beside him on the bed and did nothing but watch him, unsure of what to do or say.

A short while later, the breathing slowed and Spock opened his eyes. They narrowed in puzzlement until they found Kirk.

Kirk was smiling. "Did you enjoy that?"

"Yes. Quite."

"You had me worried for a minute."

"I admit the…experience…has left me extremely weak – as it did you also, if my recollection is correct. I am certain I will be recovered within a relatively short time."

Kirk placed an affectionate hand on the damp forehead, brushing it back against the hairline. "Was it what you expected it to be?"

"The sensations were stronger than anything I have ever or could ever hope to experience." His breathing back to normal, Spock let out a sigh and asked, "Am I correct in assuming that the emotion I am now undergoing is known as ‘afterglow’?"

"Yes," Kirk whispered, stroking the sleek black hair.

Spock’s gaze returned to Kirk, drifting down to his groin. "You are aroused?"

Kirk didn’t need to look. It was as obvious to him as it was to Spock. He nodded and shrugged.

They were silent for a while. Kirk noticed that Spock was still staring at his erection. "You can touch it if you want," he offered softly.

Spock reached out and stroked the hardened organ with great care. "It is very smooth." Then he said, "Despite your arousal, you are not as…rigid as you were earlier."

Kirk tilted his head to one side. "Whenever you have sex, the first orgasm is always the most…frantic. After that, it seems like the body is relaxed enough to allow things to go on at a slower pace."

Spock continued to stroke the erection. "I see. Do you wish me to satisfy you once more?"

"No, not orally," Kirk replied. He smiled. "I’ve got something else in mind." Rising to his feet, he told Spock, "Hang on a minute."

Going into the bathroom, he emerged a few seconds later with a towel and a tube of cream.

Spock raised an inquiring eyebrow at the items Kirk placed on the headboard.

"Some lubricant from the dispenser," Kirk answered the unspoken question. "It’s specially heated." He watched Spock to make sure he understood the purpose for it. He did.

With that, Kirk lay face-down on top of his friend and began placing soft kisses all around the angular face. It wasn’t long before Spock was moaning his pleasure. His arms went around Kirk, his hands rubbing in frantic circles to express his desire.

"I need you," Kirk whispered, moving to the nipples and kissing them into hardness. This time, Spock seemed to relish the sensation rather than being amazed or startled by it. Removing his hands from Kirk’s back, Spock braced them against the broad chest, pushing slightly.

Kirk paused, looking at Spock questioningly.

Spock’s fingers found the nipples on the smooth flesh and rubbed them gently. "You are sensitive here also?" he asked.

Kirk grinned as he felt them harden. "Obviously." He brought his lips down for a lengthy kiss. While their mouths were locked, he settled one leg in between Spock’s. He was surprised, and pleased, to feel a firm hardness against his thigh.

Pulling back, Kirk chuckled softly. "I can see you’re ready for round two."

"Apparently so," came the blunt response.

"Roll over," Kirk commanded gently, shifting to one side so Spock could comply. When he touched the lower part of the crevice between Spock’s buttocks, the long legs parted instantly.

Kneeling between them, Kirk began working on the warm cheeks, alternately caressing and scratching. The muscles were tense at first. Ever so gradually they became pliant under the affectionate, constant pressure of Kirk’s hands.

Judging it was time to go to the next step, Kirk delved into the crevice, probing the opening to Spock’s body. He was gratified when Spock ground his groin against the bed. Reaching up, Kirk grabbed the tube of lubricant and bent to kiss the nape of Spock’s neck, causing his shoulders to arch in response.

Kirk brought his mouth close to a pointed ear. "It’s probably going to hurt at first," he said gently. "I’ll be as careful as I can. It’ll be easier if you try to relax as much as possible."

"Understood."

Settling back between Spock’s legs, Kirk applied some of the cream to the fingers of his right hand. His left hand pried the buttocks apart. With one finger, he stroked the exposed ring and watched it flex in response to the stimulation.

Spock’s hips thrust into the bed.

Kirk spread another dollop of the cream around the outside of the small opening. Then, with care, he inserted a lubricated finger into Spock’s body. The sphincter muscle grasped it instantly. Gradually it began to relax. When it had become pliant, he began sliding his finger in and out and from side to side, urging the muscles to dilate.

A long groan of pleasure escaped, and Kirk smiled as Spock pressed his head into the pillow. Though it was unnecessary, he asked, "Does that feel good?"

A brief, infinitesimal nod was all Spock could manage.

Kirk removed his finger, applied some more lubricant, and inserted two fingers. Moving them around, he reflected back on some of his thoughts earlier that day. At one point, he’d decided he would let Spock penetrate him first, as a way of showing his trust and love. But after further consideration, he’d realized that Spock’s insecurities might turn it into a difficult situation. Finally he’d told himself that his experiences with anal sex – though they dealt mostly with females – made it logical that he should enter Spock first.

Those prior experiences were helping him now. Spock continued to relax, though his thrusting against the bed was becoming more frequent. Thinking he had his friend prepared as much as possible, Kirk withdrew his fingers.

A pat was delivered to the nearest buttock as he turned his attention to his own arousal. He wasted no time in applying the lubricant to his erection, as it was getting painful and he was anxious for release.

Settling himself over Spock’s back, Kirk considered for a moment asking Spock if he would get up on his knees to make entry easier. That was when he realized the position would make him responsible for manipulating Spock into orgasm, and he wanted to be able to concentrate solely on pacing his own movements. Pressed against the bed, Spock would be able to create enough friction to bring himself to a climax. Finally deciding on a viable compromise, Kirk grabbed a pillow.

"Raise up."

When Spock did so, Kirk placed the pillow beneath him.

Taking hold of his very obvious erection, Kirk pressed it against the tight orifice and was rewarded when it opened easily. He continued to push into the hot passage, settling his hands on the bed, one on each side of Spock’s shoulders.

Spock moaned excitedly, beyond words.

Kirk’s body trembled with its own excitement, and he tried to make himself relax as he continued the steady penetration. When he was in as far as he could go, he paused to gather a few deep breaths.

Beginning with a gentle thrusting motion, the hips beneath him writhed against the pillow. Kirk gasped, pumping faster and faster. Almost as incoherent as Spock, his mind spiraled outward in a flood of sensation. Suddenly he felt Spock shudder beneath him. A few seconds later, Spock’s muscles relaxed completely.

Kirk wasted no time in fulfilling his own pleasure. He thrust frantically, unable to stifle an ecstatic cry as he ejaculated into the hot channel.

Panting and sweaty, Kirk collapsed across Spock’s back. It was a while before he gained enough strength to move anything, including his depleted penis. Before doing so, he kissed the smooth skin under his lips.

"I can’t tell you how good that felt," he sighed happily, withdrawing slowly and collapsing on the bed beside Spock.

Spock turned onto his side, so he was facing Kirk. Kirk picked up the towel and wiped himself off, regarding his lover with a questioning expression.

A hand reached out to stroke Kirk’s flushed face. "I did not know it could be so pleasurable," Spock said simply.

Kirk handed the towel to him. "You didn’t have any trouble reaching orgasm this time. I’m glad."

"The knowledge that you possessed me was quite…stimulating."

Kirk leaned over to kiss him, and Spock leaned forward to meet it. Just before their lips met, Spock jerked back, his stomach having come in contact with a puddle of cooling semen.

"The bed," he explained immediately, adding rather graphically, "I seem to have made a mess on it."

Kirk almost laughed at the guilty expression. "It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Spock," he said gently with a smile. "I would’ve been very disappointed if you hadn’t ‘messed on it.’"

"Nevertheless," Spock said indignantly, "it is cold and sticky. Most uncomfortable."

Kirk shrugged. "We can change the sheets, or…" His eyes brightened. "Let’s just move to the other bedroom. I’m ready for some sleep, how about you?"

"Yes," Spock said as he got up. "I am quite fatigued."

This time Kirk allowed himself to chuckle. "We’d better shower. Do you want to go first?"

Spock nodded and moved off toward the bathroom.

Kirk watched him retreat. Then he turned up the lights and surveyed the scene. The scent of semen was thick in the air. A large puddle rested on top of the lavender bedspread. Kirk removed the soiled towel and bed clothes and tossed them down the laundry chute.

After they both had showered, they got into the fresh bed in Spock’s room, and Kirk encouraged him to rest his head on his shoulder. Curled together, content in each other’s embrace, they drifted into sleep.

****

When Kirk woke the following morning, he found Spock’s soft brown eyes staring at him. He smiled. "Good morning."

Spock was propped up on an elbow, his head resting in his hand. "Good morning, Jim."

"How long have you been awake?"

"Approximately sixteen-point-three-two minutes."

Conscious of being under careful scrutiny, Kirk reached out to caress a pointed chin. "Are you okay?"

Spock nodded. "Yes. And you?"

Kirk grinned as he stretched. "I’m fine. I can’t remember the last time I’ve woken up from such a wonderful night." He frowned at Sock. "Are you sure you’re okay? You keep staring at me."

Spock dropped his eyes and took a deep breath. "I…wanted to be certain you were pleased with last night’s events…and to affirm that…it is your wish to continue with that aspect of our relationship."

His expression very tender, Kirk gathered Spock onto his shoulder. "Of course it is," he whispered into the dark hair. "I feel very, very special to have shared that closeness with you." He hugged Spock hard. "You told me yesterday, my friend, that you wouldn’t be having any second thoughts about what you wanted from me. So, now, I’m asking you for the same trust." He pulled back so he could look into the brown eyes. "I want you, too, Spock. Last night was beautiful, and just being able to hold you like this is beautiful, too." He squeezed again. "I have no desire to give this up. Understood?"

The corners of Spock’s mouth twitched upward. "Understood."

With that said, Spock gathered Kirk into his arms, pressing his head against the smooth chest and rubbing his cheek against it. Finally he relaxed his hold and said, "I did not know it could feel like this."

"What did you think it would feel like?" Kirk asked curiously.

"I had expected physical pleasure from the sexual release, and I expected gratification from this…" His arms tightened around Kirk for a moment. "…tactile sensation. What is most interesting is the enveloping warmth or ‘good feeling’…" he trailed off. "It is as if every part of me is content." He looked at Kirk in puzzlement. "That is not a very accurate description of what I am experiencing, and yet I do not know of a more precise way to explain it."

Kirk smiled and patted the bare back affectionately. "It’s love, Spock. You’re in love." He pulled back to look at his friend, adding softly, "And so am I."

Spock furrowed a brow as he considered this. "It is possible, then, that I have been in love with you for some time. I know that, when I first began to meditate on my emotions toward you, I was aware of an aura of comfort that I experienced whenever I was in your presence."

"I think I’ve been in love with you for a long time, too," Kirk said. "Even if I was too blind to see it." He frowned. "I guess I didn’t want to see it. It was too scary." He stroked Spock’s cheek. "I’m thankful for your courage, Spock."

A response wasn’t offered, and Kirk moved his hand from Spock’s back, patting the nearest buttock. "Are you sore?"

Spock shifted away from Kirk to once more rest on his side, his head in his hand. "There is some discomfort, although I am certain it will dissipate. It is of no consequence."

Kirk stretched out flat on his back, one hand reaching over to trail casually through the dark chest hair. "It was so beautiful being joined with you last night," he reflected in wonderment. "It seemed right."

Spock also had a hand resting on the chest opposite him. "I agree. However, I believe even greater pleasure will be experienced when we are able to join in mind as well as body."

Several seconds passed before Kirk understood what Spock was saying. He furrowed his brows. "You mean a mind meld? While we’re having sex?"

"That is the Vulcan way," Spock replied casually.

This time, it was Kirk who propped himself up on elbow. "Why didn’t you tell me, if that’s what you wanted to do?"

Spock shook his head. "I do not trust myself at this time. I fear that, if we were to meld…because of the level of excitement…I would lose control and form a permanent bond."

"A marriage bond?"

Spock nodded. "Yes. Jim, we have both agreed it is too soon to consider such a relationship. In any case, I am hopeful that, once I become accustomed to the…sensations of sex, I will be able to control my actions and we can share a light meld while…engaging in coitus."

"Making love," Kirk corrected automatically. His expression was thoughtful. "I’ve always enjoyed my melds with you whenever they’ve been necessary, but the thought of doing it for personal reasons… I bet it’s a beautiful experience."

"I believe it will be," Spock replied.

They relaxed in a lazy silence. Approximately five minutes had gone by and Kirk was about to suggest getting up for some breakfast when he noticed that his companion seemed to be blushing. "Spock? What’s wrong?" he asked with concern.

Spock peeked under the covers at himself. In a surprised and somewhat embarrassed tone, he said, "I have an erection."

For a brief second, Kirk was stunned. The next second found him breaking into a huge grin and he grabbed Spock, saying, "Come here, my little sex maniac."

Before Spock could launch a protest at the name, Kirk had rolled them both over so he was on top. Still smiling, he brought his mouth down for a firm kiss.

"Mmm," he groaned as he pressed against the soft lips. For a moment it appeared as though Spock was going to resist, then he seemed to change his mind as he responded to the kiss. Pleased, Kirk ground his groin against Spock’s.

Their organs collided and both men trembled visibly. Kirk released Spock’s mouth, leaving them gasping for breath. "As much as I’d like to continue this," Kirk panted, "I’ve got an idea that might be even more pleasing."

Thus, he proceeded to show his friend the legendary "sixty-nine" position and all the benefits thereof.

*****

Eventually they got up and ate breakfast. The rest of the morning was spent at Trazar’s main zoo, and they returned to the hotel for an afternoon nap. Later, they went out to dinner. They also visited several gambling establishments, Kirk participating in the activities while Spock merely looked on with interest.

That night, they satisfied each other with another oral sex session. Afterward, they lay in each other’s arms, talking quietly until they were ready for sleep.

The following night was their last on Trazar. They watched a vid together on the widescreen console and discussed it as they prepared themselves for bed. Once they were under the covers, Kirk pulled Spock close.

"This shore leave has been good for me," he said as he stroked the black hair, "but I think I’m ready to go back."

"It was beneficial to me also."

"When we do get back to the ship, it’s probably going to be hard for us to get together at times."

Spock sighed. "Undoubtedly."

Kirk hugged him closer. "Even if we have to go awhile without seeing each other, I don’t want you to think I’ve lost interest in you."

"I would not, when I am aware of the circumstances."

Kirk shrugged. "I know. It’s just that you have your own set of insecurities – as I have mine – and I don’t want to be responsible for feeding them. I love you, Spock." He kissed the soft hair.

"As I do you."

Kirk pulled back, lowering his head to kiss the thin lips. He made the contact light, giving Spock the opportunity to take the lead. Spock did so, pressing against Kirk’s mouth with increasing urgency.

When they broke apart, Kirk inhaled deeply, trying to catch his breath. Putting his lips next to a pointed ear, he whispered, "Will you make love to me tonight, Spock? I’d like you to. I want to feel you inside me."

Caught between a shudder from the auditory stimulation and the mixed feelings in his mind, Spock grasped Kirk’s shoulders and pushed him gently against the mattress. Anxiously he gazed into the green-gold eyes. "I do not wish to hurt you."

Kirk reached up and caressed a cheek. "You won’t, I promise. I didn’t really hurt you, did I?"

Spock shook his head. "No. However, my penis is somewhat larger than yours." It was stated merely as a fact.

Kirk smiled. "I can handle it. Besides, how can we have an equal relationship if I’m the one who’s always on top?"

Still seeing hesitation on the angular features, he prompted, "I want it, Spock. You do, too. Possess me."

With those last words, Kirk rolled over onto his stomach and reached for the headboard. "Where’s our lubricant?"

"Here," Spock replied as he picked it up from a corner of the shelf. He looked at it, then back at his lover. "Jim…"

"Go ahead," Kirk prompted. "There’s nothing to be afraid of." He glanced back to see Spock swallow hard, twice. Then Spock seemed to pull himself together. In a businesslike manner, he squeezed some of the cream onto his fingers and placed them in the crevice between Kirk’s buttocks, searching for a moment before he found the wrinkled opening.

"Right there," Kirk whispered. "Put them in real slow."

"You must tell me if I hurt you," Spock requested uneasily. Attempting to recall Kirk’s actions of several nights ago, he inserted one finger, ever so slowly. When Kirk raised no objections, he pushed it in as far as it would go.

"That feels good," Kirk encouraged. "Now put another finger in and move them around to stretch it."

Spock did so. There was a moment when Kirk tensed, just as the second finger passed the sphincter muscles, but he relaxed almost immediately and Spock didn’t withdraw.

Kirk was fully aroused by the fingers dilating his anus. Purposely he flexed his muscles, squeezing. When Spock paused, Kirk whispered, "That’s what I plan on doing to you when you’re inside me."

Spock’s organ responded promptly to the promise and he quickly withdrew his fingers.

Kirk chuckled silently to himself. Though he didn’t look behind him, he had a pretty good idea as to why his partner had decided it was time to go on to other things.

"Come over here," Kirk commanded softly. "I’ll put the cream on you."

On his knees, Spock moved up until his penis was in front of Kirk’s face. It was almost fully erect. He handed the tube to Kirk, apparently relieved that an "expert" was doing his part.

Kirk squeezed a good helping of cream into his palm. "I can’t wait," he said in an effort to replace Spock’s doubts with excitement, not to mention being stimulated by his own voice. "I want you to put it in me, to feel you filling me."

Spock clamped his eyes shut and took a deep breath. Kirk’s words were having the desired effect, and the sensations from the handling of his penis were becoming unbearable.

He opened his eyes when Kirk released him.

"Let me get on my knees," Kirk offered as he did so. "It’ll be easier for both of us that way."

Breathing heavily, Spock got behind the raised hips; he was afraid he would not be able to control his excitement. He concentrated on just getting it in. Placing his organ between Kirk’s buttocks, he let it slide down the crevice until it found the entrance.

"Right there," Kirk panted. "Go ahead." He tried to relax as much as possible, but his own arousal was such that he was balancing himself on one hand so he could stroke his erection with the other.

The sight of Kirk touching, manipulating himself increased Spock’s arousal even further. He pushed forward with his hips, the head of his penis surging into the waiting chamber.

Kirk threw back his head as pain shot through him, attempting unsuccessfully to stifle a grunt. He didn’t want to discourage Spock.

"Go ahead," he whispered. "Keep pushing."

Spock’s head was swirling. Jim’s permission was all he needed to continue. He moved in a bit more. As soon as he felt the sphincter muscle close over the sensitive area behind the head of his penis, he let out a gasp. He withdrew, so he could feel the tight muscle gripping that spot once more, and came just as his phallus slipped out, crying aloud in both pleasure and frustration as his semen sprayed onto Kirk’s buttocks and the bed.

Kirk was too busy jerking himself off to think about his disappointment. Feeling the hot liquid squirt against him had excited him further, and moments later he made his own "mess" on the bed.

"I am sorry," Spock said raggedly.

For a minute, Kirk was too tired to reply. He rolled over onto his back, collapsing against the mattress, and gazed up at Spock to find him looking perturbed.

"It’s all right," he soothed, reaching for a towel. "No harm done."

Spock shook his head. "It was not what you wanted."

Kirk shrugged with an easy smile, towelling himself off while glancing at Spock. "Things don’t always go perfectly, Spock." He shrugged again. "Besides, it was my fault, anyway. I was trying to drive you crazy with the things I was saying and I overdid it. Don’t worry, it’s no big deal."

Handing the towel to Spock, Kirk furrowed a brow. "It just seems funny to me that, when you started to come, you backed out instead of shoving it in as deeply as possible. If it’d have been me, instinct would’ve made me want to bury myself even more."

As he cleaned himself, Spock considered this. Placing the towel to one side, he returned, "I received the most stimulation from the tightness of the entrance and I was withdrawing to recapture that sensation. I was successful," he added wryly.

Kirk smiled. "You’ll enjoy it even more when you’re able to control yourself enough to get all the way in."

Trusting Kirk’s experience, Spock merely said, "I am looking forward to verifying your statement."

Kirk grinned. "I guess we need to take a shower and move back to the other bedroom."

They did so. As Kirk pulled back the bedspread a little while later, he commented, "We should tell Bones about us as soon as we have the chance."

Spock slipped beneath the covers. "Agreed."

Kirk also got under them. "We don’t need him prying into our private lives because he suspects something. Besides, his feelings would probably be hurt if he thought we didn’t trust him enough to tell him."

Spock stifled a yawn. "I agree. However, I believe you should tell him by yourself."

Kirk was surprised. "Why? Don’t you think it would reaffirm our feelings for each other if we told him together?"

"I believe the doctor would be less…intimidated…if I were not present. He would be more comfortable voicing any objections he may have."

Kirk sighed as he settled back against his pillow. "You’re probably right, although any objections he may have aren’t going to stop us from loving one another."

"Nevertheless, it would do no harm to listen what he has to say."

Kirk patted a warm arm. "Okay. You’re right, of course."

They lay in silent contentment for a while. Then Spock reached out to draw Kirk against him.

"I enjoy your closeness," he explained unnecessarily.

Kirk smiled against the furred chest. "I enjoy yours, too. Goodnight, Spock."

*****

All personnel on shore leave beamed up the following day, and the Enterprise began its three-day journey to Paloran to retrieve Ambassador Tunara. From there, she would be delivered to Starbase Eight, where she would meet with the other ambassadors who would advise her on how to resolve Paloran’s socio-economic problems. Paloran’s technology had raced ahead of the education and understanding of the majority of its citizens, and its government was anxious to learn from other worlds, to prevent the imbalance from resulting in political unrest and the related evils that could follow.

Kirk had been busy for a couple of days making sure everything was running smoothly after the brief shore leave. The Enterprise appeared to be in top shape in every department, and it was with satisfaction that he retired to his quarters on the second evening aboard ship.

Sitting behind his desk, he buzzed McCoy’s cabin. When he didn’t receive a response, he tried Sickbay.

"McCoy here," came the answer with a growl.

Kirk stifled a grin. "Bones, what are you doing working so late?"

"Catching up on paperwork that piled up while I was enjoying leave. What do you want?"

Kirk shrugged. "Thought you might want to drop by for a drink." He hesitated. "There’s something I’d like to tell you."

McCoy plunked down his stylus and started to rise. "Best suggestion I’ve heard since we got back. Be right there."

Kirk switched off the viewer and went to his cabinet, removing the brandy bottle and two glasses.

"Come," he said when the buzzer sounded.

McCoy entered. "I can’t tell you how glad I am to get away from that office!"

Kirk sat behind his desk and gestured for McCoy to take a seat. Pouring them each a glass, he handed one to McCoy and held up his own for a toast. "Cheers."

McCoy nodded and took a large swallow. "You said there was something you wanted to tell me?"

Kirk set down his glass after taking a small sip. "Uh huh."

"I suppose it has something to do with that ambassador we’re going to pick up."

Kirk shook his head. "You already have all the information you need on her."

McCoy was thoughtful for a moment. "Well, what is it then?"

McCoy’s voice was a little impatient, and Kirk smiled. "Calm yourself, Bones."

Grunting, McCoy took another swallow. "Well?"

Kirk sobered. "It’s about me and Spock."

"Ah ha!" McCoy poked a finger at him. "I knew you two were up to something when we were on Trazar."

"Doctor," Kirk said with amusement, "your perceptions can be amazingly annoying at times."

"So what’s the big secret? Obviously you’ve decided to let me in on it."

This time, Kirk took a large gulp of his brandy. "Okay, here it goes: Spock and I are lovers."

There was a stunned silence.

McCoy’s face seemed to glare for a moment, then there was an obvious effort to bring his features under control. Finally, in a surprisingly mild voice, he asked, "When did this happen?"

Kirk shrugged. "On Trazar."

Though McCoy appeared to be calm, his eyes were bulging. "Who seduced whom?"

"Bones," Kirk scolded mildly, "there wasn’t any seduction. One thing led to another and, before we knew it, we were discussing the possibility of a sexual relationship between us." He paused. "We discussed it thoroughly before proceeding."

McCoy scoffed.

"What’s the matter, Bones?" Kirk asked in a hurt tone. "Don’t you approve?"

"Just how serious is this?"

"It’s serious." Picking up on McCoy’s train of thought, Kirk added, "This isn’t some kind of shore leave fling."

"How do you know?"

Kirk felt himself grow defensive. "I wouldn’t dare enter into a relationship with Spock if I didn’t expect it to last. I’d never hurt him like that."

"What’s going to happen when you grow tired of him? Then what?"

"Bones!" Having nearly shouted the word, Kirk forced himself to relax and make his tone quieter. "I’ve loved him for a long time; you know that. I’ve never given any serious thought to him as a sexual partner before, since I thought it was impossible with his Vulcan ideologies." He laughed softly. "He’s the one who suggested the idea."

McCoy started to speak, but Kirk continued in a soft, reflective tone. "You don’t know what he’s like in private, Bones. He’s the gentlest person I’ve ever known. He’s so giving and loving, and he accepts everything that I am. He loves me, not my captain’s stripes."

Much to Kirk’s surprise, McCoy presented a warm smile. "Jim, I know you love Spock. It’s even more obvious that he loves you. I hope it works out for the both of you, believe me. It’s just that I know you both so well that I can’t help being a little skeptical."

Clinically Kirk said, "I’d appreciate hearing any objections you have now. Let’s get them out into the open."
"Well, for one thing," McCoy began thoughtfully, "I know how hard Spock’s struggled to be the perfect Vulcan. Surely having such strong feelings and desires for you is going to force him, eventually, into a tremendous inner conflict."

Kirk shook his head. "We’ve already talked about it. He’d already resolved his inner conflicts before he… came to me. He’s accepted the fact that the Human part of him needs to be touched…and loved."

They continued talking about various possible problems, and Kirk’s response to nearly every one was, "We’ve already discussed it."

Finally McCoy stood up, holding out his hand with a smile. "Congratulations, Jim." They shook hands. "I really hope this works out for the best for both of you. If Spock were here, I’d congratulate him, too."

"He thought you’d feel more comfortable if I told you alone," Kirk explained.

McCoy considered this. "Thoughtful devil, isn’t he?"

"Yes," Kirk replied seriously, "he is."

*****

Beaming was complete and Ambassador Tunara stood alone on the transporter platform, her reddish-purple hair piled high on top of her rectangular-shaped head. A pale complexion surrounded bright, intelligent eyes that had a red circle around each iris, and she was attired in a flowing white dress of whisper-soft material with a high, stand-up collar.

Kirk stepped forward with a charming smile. "Ambassador Tunara, welcome to the Enterprise." He took her arm and led her off the platform. "I’m Captain James T. Kirk." He nodded toward his subordinates. "This is my first officer, Commander Spock, our Chief Surgeon, Dr. Leonard McCoy, and our Chief Engineer, Montgomery Scott."

She nodded politely to each of them. "It’s a pleasure to meet you." She eyed the walls surrounding the room. "And such a large ship. I’ve never been on one of this class before."

The next line and its charm were automatic. "I’d be pleased to give you a tour as soon as you’re settled in."

She smiled warmly at him. "I’d like that, Captain."

Kirk smiled back. Then he gestured toward a yeoman who was standing by. She stepped forward when Kirk called her name.

"Ambassador Tunara, this is Yeoman Schultz. She’ll take you to your quarters and will be your personal yeoman while you’re on board. If you need anything, she’ll assist you."

"Thank you, Captain." Her eyes captured and held his. "I’m looking forward to seeing you later."

Kirk nodded politely, and Schultz escorted the ambassador out of the transporter room.

Scott grinned as the door swooshed shut. "Aye, she’s a beauty. ‘Tis a pleasure to have her aboard."

While McCoy grinned in agreement, he couldn’t help but steal a glance at Spock. Spock was his usual unreadable self.

"Well, gentlemen," Kirk said pointedly, "I have work to do." He exited with Spock following behind.

The two men returned to the bridge. Less than two hours later Uhura announced, "Captain, it’s Schultz. Ambassador Tunara is requesting your presence."

Kirk rose from his chair. "Very well. Spock, you have the con." Though he’d been hoping to avoid the ambassador as much as possible, the idea of giving her a tour of his ship wasn’t repugnant. The Enterprise was his lady, and he liked to show her off.

*****

When the door opened to her quarters, Ambassador Tunara greeted Kirk with a warm smile. "I’m all settled in, Captain, and you did promise me a tour of your ship. Yeoman Schultz assured me there wasn’t much activity going on on the bridge. I thought I should catch you while I could." She winked teasingly.

Kirk nodded. "Very well, Ambassador."

"Please, call me Delva. It’s my ‘familiar’ name."

"All right, Delva. Let me show you my ship."

Kirk purposely refrained from offering her the use of his first name. He thought it might help keep some distance between them.

To his surprise, Tunara had an uncommon knowledge of spaceships in general and how they operated. She appeared to be truly interested in the various sections of the ship, and she told him that her planet was constantly trying to upgrade its own space capabilities.

All the explaining of the Enterprise’s functions and departments had left Kirk weary, and he was grateful when the tour was complete and he could return Tunara to her quarters.

"Won’t you come in?" she offered as he said his farewells outside her cabin door.

"I’m afraid not," he replied. "There are other matters awaiting my attention."

She smiled sweetly. "Perhaps another time then."

Kirk hesitated. "Perhaps." He emphasized the word, hoping he could get his unwillingness across to her without losing face. "I have to be going. Goodnight, Ambassador."

"Goodnight, Captain." She was still smiling at him.

Kirk turned away and headed for Spock’s cabin. He knew Spock had been off duty for several hours and was probably waiting for him. They’d managed to sleep together every night since returning to the ship, but had otherwise found few moments to be together. Tonight, though he was tired and ready to drop, he longed for Spock’s affectionate company.

Spock was playing his lyrette when he heard the buzzer to his door. "Come," he invited.

Kirk entered with a sigh. "It’s been a long day."

"Indeed." Spock set aside his lyrette. "You have been with the ambassador all this time?"

Kirk’s answer was a nod as he slumped into a chair. "She’s very knowledgeable about space travel. I imagine she’s good at her job."

Spock sat in the chair opposite Kirk. "She has an impressive aura." He paused. "May I assume she is enjoying your company?" Spock’s tone was merely curious.

"Oh, yes," Kirk replied regretfully, staring across the room. "She’s definitely interested in me. I had to turn her down tonight, and I’m sure I’ll have to again." He shrugged. "I guess I’ll have to tell her there’s someone else." He smiled exhaustedly at his lover.

Spock hoisted an eyebrow. "Indeed."

Kirk chuckled. "Yes, indeed." Then he drew a hand across his eyes. "God, I’m worn out. I’m ready for bed; how about you?"

"Yes."

Kirk dropped his hand and studied his friend. "If you have any notions about making love, I don’t think I have the energy tonight. Sorry."

"There is no need to apologize," Spock said gently.

They went into the sleeping alcove and undressed. After they were both in bed, Kirk ran his fingers through Spock’s hair. "I love you," he said, bending to kiss the banged forehead.

In response, Spock put an arm around Kirk’s waist and turned him onto his side, facing the other direction. Snuggling up behind him spoon fashion, Spock nestled his face into the back of Jim’s neck.

They slept.

*****

Kirk woke to a feeling of intense sexual arousal. When he was alert enough to figure out what was happening, he realized that a firm mouth was clamped onto him and sucking fiercely. As his eyes caught sight of the dark head between his legs, he groaned heavily.

Spock had become less inhibited each time they made love. Now, it appeared that he had awakened with either an erection or an offbeat sense of humor.

Orgasm followed soon after Spock fondled Kirk’s scrotum.

Kirk laid back, momentarily disoriented with pleasure and disbelief. Spock sat beside him on the bed, watching him.

Finally Kirk said, "That’s the best wake-up call I’ve ever had."

Spock’s lips curled upward. "I wished to get your day off to a good start."

Kirk laughed happily and pulled Spock down on top of him. Wrapping his arms around the warm back, he patted it affectionately. "I love you so much," he whispered into a pointed ear.

Spock rolled them over so he was on top. He was smiling as he stroked Kirk’s face. "You have given me so much joy. I wish only to return it."

Kirk reversed their positions, placing himself on top once again, and kissed the green-tinged lips. Pulling back, he said, "You don’t owe me anything, my friend."

They gazed at each other a while longer, then Kirk glanced over at the chronometer. "Shit! I’ve got to get up!"

An eyebrow rose in appreciation as the pale rear disappeared into the bathroom.

*****

The day went smoothly. Near the end of his watch Kirk contacted Schultz and learned that the ambassador had been amusing herself in the recreation room, and had even taken it upon herself to converse with crewmembers on various aspects of the ship. Kirk was pleased that she was keeping herself occupied, and he didn’t bother to see her that day at all.

It was the following evening that he received a direct communication from her. "What can I do for you?" he asked after flipping on the intercom and identifying his caller.

Her attractive face appeared on the viewscreen, "It’s been ‘all work and no play’ for you since I came aboard," she pouted. "I was hoping we could… share a – ‘nightcap,’ I believe is the Terran term – so we can get to know each other a little better."

Kirk smiled at her enticing expression. He would’ve liked to make excuses, but he realized he should confront her directly.

"Very well," he replied. "I’ll be at your cabin shortly."

Spock was working late with some trainees in the computer lab. He thought about calling and telling him he might be delayed, then decided against it. Besides, if everything went smoothly, he’d be back before long.

Tunara already had the wine and two glasses waiting when she welcomed him in.

"Sit down, Captain," she invited as she picked up the bottle and poured it. The substance was sea blue in color. "This wine is native to Paloran. Most humanoids find it to their taste." She seated herself and raised her glass for a toast. "To the man and his ship."

"Thank you," Kirk smiled. He touched his glass to hers and sipped the wine, presenting an expression of approval.

"It’s very good," he remarked sincerely. "Maybe I should order a few bottles the next time my cabinet is empty."

"I have extra with me. Consider them a gift."

"Thank you."

She set her glass down and her dark eyes bored into his. "I’m disappointed that I haven’t seen more of you. Starship captains are busy people, but…" Her voice became silky. "… I was under the impression you always made time for your passengers. Especially the ladies."

Kirk felt himself blush. "Well, as much as I try to be a good host, sometimes duty does interfere." He realized he was stalling, yet he wasn’t sure how else to proceed.

"You are free now?" she asked.

Warily Kirk replied, "Yes."

"Then perhaps we could enjoy the evening together."

Kirk shifted uncomfortably in his chair and decided to be blunt. He rested his elbows on the table between them. "Ambassador…"

"Delva," she corrected, picking up her glass.

"Delva," he smiled charmingly, "the best I can do for both of us is for me to be frank with you. There’s someone else in my life right now, and I don’t think we should ‘spend the evening together.’"

Tunara smiled seductively over the rim of her glass. "Come now, Captain. From what I’ve heard, the fact there may have been others has never stopped you before."

Kirk was chagrined. "Ambassador…"

"Delva."

This time, Kirk ignored the correction. "I’m aware that I have a certain reputation, whether I deserve it or not. You’re a very attractive woman, but that ‘someone else in my life’ is very important to me and I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize the relationship."

Tunara was still smiling. She reached across the table and took his hands in hers. "Perhaps you need more persuasion. You’re a very handsome man, Captain, and let me assure you…" She lowered her lashes enticingly. "… I know how to please Terran males."

Kirk was taken aback by her bluntness. Then, as anger threatened, he pulled his hands out of her grip and stood. "Whatever you may’ve thought about me, the bottom line is that I’m not interested in a roll in the sack."

She frowned. "I thought starship captains were married to their ships."

"There’s some truth to that," he admitted, adding, trying to conclude the issue, "I don’t want to discuss this any further."

As her expression grew disappointed and confused, he softened. "Believe me, Delva, it has nothing to do with you. Let’s just say I’ve changed."

He moved toward the door and she followed.

"Thank you for the drink," he said with a forced smile. "Goodnight."

She also attempted a proper smile, but it was less successful. "Goodnight, Captain."

*****

Kirk was relieved when Spock answered his door buzzer. "I’m glad you’re off duty," he said when he entered.

"I have been so far for the past twenty-two-point-three-five minutes," Spock told him. "I saw you leaving just as I arrived."

Kirk dropped into a chair, his body tense. "I had a little nightcap with Ambassador Tunara. She was very insistent that I stay." He looked up at the eyes that were watching him with concern.

He stood up. "Make love to me, Spock," he whispered. "Please. Now. I need you."

Strong arms went around him, and he leaned against the warm chest, the familiarity of Spock’s scent chipping away at his insecurities.

One arm around Kirk’s waist, Spock guided him into the sleeping alcove and to the side of the bed. "Relax, Jim," he commanded softly. "I shall undress you."

Kirk stood still while Spock removed his clothes. He didn’t quite understand why, but he wanted Spock to be in control tonight.

After he was naked, Spock pushed Kirk gently down onto the bed. Without taking his eyes off the tanned body, he removed his own clothes, gratified that Kirk was observing his every move.

Once the clothing was gone, he stretched out on his side next to Kirk, taking him in his arms to kiss his forehead, eyes, cheeks, jaw and chin. Tonight there would be no "fumbling" on his part. He was determined to give Kirk the best loving he had ever had. In preparation, he had reflected on Kirk’s techniques which had pleasured his own body, and reviewed various literature on how to please one’s male partner.

Kirk lay back and let it happen. Spock’s tongue was exploring his mouth, and the hot hands were fondling his back and buttocks. Eventually Spock shifted to his neck, nibbling at it, then he switched to his chest to tongue the nipples into hardness. Kisses were applied along the ribs and belly, and the navel was sucked, leaving Kirk writhing in response. Throughout the oral activity, Spock’s hands were sliding nonstop over his backside.

The groin area was passed over as Spock began bestowing kisses along the tops of the toes of both feet. Though Kirk tried not to wriggle, he couldn’t help but respond to the tickling sensation. Spock’s mouth nipped at his shins and calves, pausing for some intensive nuzzling at the knees. With his tongue he washed each thigh along the top, bestowing light kisses to the soft interiors.

The kisses continued into the groin area. Each testicle was covered by the brief oral caresses. The base of the penis was next, and Spock’s tongue glided around it in an upward spiral. When every part of it had been covered, he returned to the sac underneath. This time, each oval was bathed with long, wet strokes. When they glistened with saliva he went back to the rose-colored shaft, glancing at Kirk as his tongue snaked out to lick the organ.

Kirk observed his lover from beneath slitted eyelids, his excitement increasing from the sight of what was being done to him. Still, he maintained his determination to lie quietly. He was surprised that, after his phallus had been completely washed, Spock clamped down on it with his hand instead of his mouth.

Sitting back on his heels, Spock’s eyes looked directly into Kirk’s as he manipulated the thick penis.

"I want to watch you ejaculate," he explained.

Kirk nodded absently, for his concentration was totally on the pleasure taking place between his legs. When he felt the sensation becoming unbearable, he tilted his head back and closed his eyes. That expression encouraged Spock to firm his grip and pump even faster.

Unable to hold back any longer, Kirk thrust frantically into the hand, releasing his semen all over it and his stomach.

Spock watched with fascination as the four spurts, each of varying duration, spewed from the tiny opening. When they stopped, he released the spent organ and looked up at Jim’s face.

Kirk’s features were flushed. After taking a minute to regain his breath, he looked at his lover through hooded eyes and smiled. "That was…"

"I am not finished yet," Spock interrupted him, stretching out so his head was level with Kirk’s stomach. Sticking out his tongue, he began to lap at the semen pooled there.

"God," Kirk muttered, watching the dark head bent so diligently to its self-appointed task. The licking across the sensitive region was making him shiver, though he tried to enjoy it as long as possible.

As the last of the semen disappeared, Spock sat up and their eyes locked. Kirk’s were bright and full with love, Spock’s deep and piercing with desire.

"Turn over," he commanded.

As Kirk obeyed, he heard Spock explain, "Now that I have finished with the front of your body, I wish to give the back of it equal consideration."

Kirk soon found out that that side of him was going to receive as much tender, loving care as his front had. Kisses were applied to the nape of his neck. More kisses were trailed down his spine. His shoulders and ribs were nuzzled, the buttocks being passed over in favor of his legs. The backs of the knees received special attention.

Warm lips trailed up his thighs to his buttocks. Each one was thoroughly kissed. Then the hemispheres were parted and light kisses were planted around the anal area.

Kirk groaned and the kissing stopped. Just as he was about to glance back, a hot tongue swept across his anus. A quiver crept down his spine as the sweet torment continued. When he heard Spock moan – growl? – with pleasure, he felt himself dissolve into jelly.

The exquisite sensation of a wet tongue against tender skin continued for some time. Kirk had a full erection, but he was too interested in what Spock was going to do next to complain.

Finally the teasing stopped. Spock reached for the shelf over the bed and picked up the tube of lubricant, leaning down to a round ear. Heavy with desire, his voice rasped, "Jim, I am going to enter you now."

Kirk shuddered at the deep baritone. "Yes, Spock. Yes. I want to feel you inside me."

"As you wish."

Spock sat back on his heels and applied the lubricant to the middle and index fingers of his right hand, inserting them into the relaxed anus and moving them around with confident strokes.

Kirk was beyond bliss and writhing against the bed. He pushed back to impale the fingers further within him and moaned, closing his eyes with pleasure when he was successful.

The fingers withdrew, and he identified the sound of cream being applied. An eye opened. When he glanced back to see Spock preparing himself, he thought it might finish him.

Spock took a deep breath. He was pleased with the level of control he had achieved thus far, and he had no intention of relinquishing it now. The concentration on his breathing had helped him to relax, and he parted Kirk’s buttocks with confidence.

The green organ nudged between the pale flesh and pressed into the waiting opening. Despite the initial pain, Kirk arched up anxiously to welcome the intruder. The arching continued until he found himself on his knee.

Now that the first few centimeters were ensheathed, Spock advanced the remainder of the way in with one long, smooth slide, letting out a groan as he rested across the cool back, absorbing the feel of ecstasy.

Once he had regained enough control to continue, he began moving his hips back and forth.

"Yes," came Kirk’s hoarse encouragement. "Yes. Like that. Faster, harder."

Spock thrust with longer and quicker strokes. When he saw Kirk attempting to balance on one arm in an effort to masturbate himself, he quickly grasped Kirk’s penis and began milking it with his own hand. This was Kirk’s night. He was not to make any effort toward his own pleasure.

Kirk’s head was thrown back, his eyes squeezed shut, his senses drowning in the internal and external stroking. He almost screamed as he felt himself coming. He knew Spock was waiting for him and didn’t try to hold back.

For the second time that night semen squirted out of him, into Spock’s hand and onto the bed.

The sensation of Kirk ejaculating in his hand was all Spock needed to bring his own completion. In triumph he lunged forward, pumping twice, making no effort to stifle the cry that was ripped from him when he burst into Kirk’s body.

Kirk felt the hot seed flow into him, his heart soaring. Never before had he known such fulfillment.

Spock withdrew and collapsed on the bed, breathing heavily.

Kirk turned over and dropped onto the pillow next to Spock.

When Spock opened his eyes, it was to find Kirk looking at him with a loving smile. Bringing his hand up to his face, Spock examined the stickiness on his fingers. With one eye on Kirk, he flicked out his tongue, licking the semen from his fingers with slow, deliberate thoroughness.

Kirk’s expression changed from one of peace to one of astonishment. For a moment he was afraid that Spock was going to start all over again, and he just didn’t have the energy. He relaxed when Spock lowered his newly-cleaned hand and stretched out on his side next to him.

Kirk’s smile returned as he gazed into the dark, content eyes. "Thank you, Spock." He leaned over and brushed the flushed lips with his own. "No one’s ever made love to me like that before."

Spock reached out to caress a cheek. His voice heavy with emotion, he whispered, "It pleases me to please you." He took a deep breath. "I received pleasure tonight that I had not thought possible. Thank you, Jim."

*****

The Enterprise reached Starbase Eight forty-two hours later. Ambassador Tunara departed with a warm but professional smile directed at Kirk. Kirk returned a similar expression and thanked her for the Paloran wine she’d left for him.

She disappeared from the Enterprise and Kirk’s mind in the shimmer of the transporter beam.

The Enterprise was kept busy for two months with milk-runs and routine patrol. Then two Federation cargo vessels vanished near the Neutral Zone within a week of each other and the Enterprise was ordered to investigate.

With the Neutral Zone still four days away, Kirk headed for Sickbay and his routine check-up.

McCoy clutched a hand to his heart when Kirk entered. "I don’t believe it! You’re actually a little early for your quarterly physical."

Kirk shrugged. "As long as I was in the neighborhood, I thought I might as well get it over with." He got up on the table McCoy had indicated.

"My feelings exactly," McCoy approved. He flipped on the overhead instrument panel, musing, "I’m still in shock at all the good fortune I’m having this quarter. Even Spock’s is already done. This is the first time I didn’t have to drag him in here kicking and screaming."

Picking up a tablet and stylus as he watched the indicators, he continued, "Physically, Spock checked out as perfect as ever. The only change is something the instruments can’t record."

Kirk’s eyes darted to McCoy. "Oh?"

McCoy smiled and shook his head in disbelief. "The power of love…"

Kirk regarded him with puzzlement.

"Just about everyone’s noticed it," McCoy explained. "All I’ve heard lately are compliments about how ‘relaxed’ Spock looks. ‘Happy’, ‘serene’, ‘at peace with himself’…" His glance shifted from the panel to Kirk. "It’s done you a lot of good, too."

Kirk smiled at him, then furrowed a brow. "Bones, you haven’t told anyone else about us, have you?"

"Of course not," McCoy replied, scribbling the readings on the tablet. "Though I don’t know how long you can expect it to stay a secret. I’m sure there’s plenty of speculation going on about what bug has bitten Spock."

Kirk was lost in thought for a while, and McCoy said, "Don’t tell me, Jim, that you haven’t noticed a change in him."

Kirk shook his head. "No, I’ve noticed."

Again, he was lost in thought. When he heard McCoy call his name sharply, he looked up.

"You were a light year away there for a minute," McCoy told him. "Want to talk about it?"

Kirk shrugged. "Not really. It’s personal. You just helped me come to a decision, that’s all."

"And you aren’t going to let me in on it?"

"You’ll know soon enough."

"If you say so." McCoy sighed and turned away. "I’ll be back in a second with the tape for the psychological tests."

*****

When Kirk entered Spock’s quarters, he found him in the process of switching off his computer terminal. Spock was wearing the black uniform pants and undershirt, and he was standing in front of his desk.

"Spock?"

Spock looked up at him. "I was reviewing the orders for our current mission."

Kirk came further into the room. "Yes, I know," he said softly. "I get concerned, too, whenever we have to patrol near the Neutral Zone." Placing a hand on a black-clad shoulder, he applied pressure until Spock sat down. "There’s something I want to tell you."

Spock presented him with a raised brow.

Kirk took another chair and put it in front of Spock. He sat down, facing him, resting a hand on Spock’s knee. Their eyes met.

"Spock, I want to bond with you."

Spock stared at him for a moment. Then abruptly, he broke the eye contact by looking away. "You do not know what you are saying," he said hoarsely.

"Yes, I do," Kirk replied intensely. "I’ve been reading up on it a lot. I probably know more about Vulcan bonding than you do."

His gaze still diverted, Spock swallowed heavily. No words were forthcoming.

Kirk softened his voice. "Spock, I thought you’d be happy."

"I am," came the barely audible reply.

Spock’s posture was hardly convincing.

"Then, what’s the problem?" When silence followed, Kirk pleaded, "Look at me."

Spock’s head turned so that he was facing his friend, though his eyes locked onto the floor. "It is…difficult…to…explain," he stuttered.

"What? That you’re happy?"

"That I am…" Spock trailed off. "There are many feelings."

Confused, Kirk said, "Is it that you don’t want to bond with me?"

Spock shook his head. "No. I… accept your proposal." He was trembling ever so slightly.

Kirk scooted his chair over until he was sitting beside Spock. Resting a hand on the black-clad back, he began rubbing, his tone gentle. "Spock, you’re going to have to open up to me. You say you’re happy that I want to bond with you, and that you accept. Why do you look so miserable?!"

Spock raised his eyes, concentrating on a wall. Quietly he said, "It is not easy to express the mixture of emotions."

"Try."

Spock sighed heavily. "It is that… in Vulcans, there is a recognition of contentment with one’s life, however, ‘happiness’ is a state that is not recognized because of its emotional connotations." He paused thoughtfully. "When I was a child, I did not know the emotion of contentment. I did not think I ever would, because…because of what I was. I was contaminated by my Human elements and believed I would always be striving to be a pure Vulcan when, inside, I always knew it was not possible."

Kirk’s hand was massaging the tense back. "Go on," he encouraged softly.

"I… When I joined Starfleet, I found that I had a goal on which to focus. By dedicating myself to my studies, I was not conscious of the…loneliness that comes with being an alien among a primarily Terran population. At times, the disapproval of my classmates was a distraction, although the majority of my instructors encouraged me…" He grew thoughtful again. "I am very grateful for that."

Spock bowed his head a moment before continuing. "When I came to the Enterprise and served under Captain Pike, I thought I had found my niche in life. I was well-respected by others, and I received satisfaction from my scientific work. And then you…" His body trembled. "When you took command of the Enterprise… I became very attached to you. Eventually I found myself experiencing a state of well-being when in your company. It went beyond mere contentment."

"And now you know that feeling to be love," Kirk interpreted.

Spock nodded while examining the floor. "Yes," he whispered. "It was quite some time before I was able to label it properly."

When no other words were forthcoming, Kirk said, "I don’t understand what your point is." He felt Spock shudder and dropped his hand from the warm back so it could clasp Spock’s. He found it difficult to be comforting when they were both sitting in chairs, so he tilted his head toward the sleeping alcove. "Come on, let’s finish this in the bedroom."

Spock allowed himself to be led into the next room, sitting down on the edge of the bed to remove his boots. Kirk also removed his boots, as well as the gold tunic, leaving him dressed in the black uniform pants and undershirt. Lying back on the bed, he drew Spock down on top of him, wrapping his arms around the lean form.

"Now tell me," Kirk said to the eyes that refused to meet his. "What’s the point of this? What is it you’re trying to say?"

Spock inspected the wall above the bed, then he lowered his head to bury his face in the hollow of Kirk’s neck. His muffled voice said, "I do not deserve you, or the happiness you give me."

Kirk resisted the urge to tighten his embrace and squeeze all the nonsense his friend was spouting out of him. Gently yet firmly he demanded, "Why, Spock? Why don’t you deserve me?"

The answer, when it came, was blunt. "I am not good enough for you."

Kirk took Spock’s shoulders in his hands, forcing him to raise up on his elbows. Grasping Spock’s chin, he brought the dark eyes up to meet his own. "You didn’t have these feelings before. Why are they surfacing now?"

"Before…" Spock started to explain, but he finally admitted, "I do not know. I knew that I wanted you, and that I was pleased you wanted me also. However, to…make our relationship permanent…"

Kirk could at least perceive that part. He let go of Spock’s chin and said softly, "It’s scary, isn’t it?"

Spock agreed. "It is also… Jim, the bond is for life, and for eternity beyond."

Kirk stroked the sleek hair. "Yes. That’s why I want it. I don’t ever want to be parted from you, Spock."

Spock was still introspective. "If we bond, it is possible that I could be happy for the rest of my life."

Green-gold eyes searched brown ones. "And that bothers you?" Kirk asked in amusement.

"It is not something I am able to comprehend."

Understanding was beginning to settle in on Kirk. "You think you’re unworthy of me because you believe it’s impossible for you to always be happy."

Spock hesitated before admitting, "That may be a correct analysis."

"Your logic is getting very twisted."

"It is not logic," Spock defended quickly. "It is the bombardment of emotions that prevents me from thinking rationally."

Kirk wasn’t sure if anything had been resolved. He probed the dark eyes. "Spock, will you bond with me?"

Spock seemed surprised that Kirk had found it necessary to ask a second time. "Yes," he said.

Relieved, Kirk stroked the angular features. "You’re the most wonderful person I’ve ever known. You’re a fool to doubt it."

Spock appeared not to be listening. He had raised up onto his knees and was studying Kirk intensely.

"Mine," he whispered in awe. "You will be mine."

"Yes," Kirk replied, delighted with Spock’s joy. He smiled and said, semi-jokingly, "And you’ll be mine. I hope that holds some appeal for you, too."

Seriously Spock said, "I have always been yours."

Kirk sighed with contentment. "I know the actual bonding is a simple procedure." He didn’t add that he was excited about the mental aspect the bonding would bring to their relationship. As it was, the lovemaking between them was reaching only half of its potential to give them both pleasure. He went on. "All we have to do to have it registered with Starfleet and Vulcan is fill in the paperwork. The only question I have is whether you want to go through the traditional bonding ceremony on Vulcan. My own feelings on the matter are open; it’s what you want that’s important."

Spock finally relaxed and lay down against Kirk. "Yes, I would prefer to have the ceremony, if only for the sake of ritual. We would, of course, already be bonded. It would simply be a matter of declaring our joining before family and friends." He paused. "Despite the animosity between my parents and myself, I would be proud to have them see you at my side, to hear us declare our love for each other."

"Good. It’ll be something our friends from the ship can attend as well."

Spock nodded with a pleased smile, then rested his head in the hollow of Kirk’s neck. "Jim, there is something I am curious about."

"What?"

"When did you decide you wanted our relationship to become permanent?

Kirk shrugged. "Actually, I made up my mind when I was in Sickbay for my physical."

Spock was reproachful. "You discussed this with McCoy?"

"No." Kirk patted the warm back soothingly. "He was just telling me about the comments he’d heard, about how much…happier you seemed to be lately. I’ve noticed it, too, although I wasn’t sure if I was seeing what I wanted to see." He was thoughtful for a moment. "I’ve known since Trazar that you’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, but I was worried that maybe I wasn’t the best thing for you."

"It is illogical for you to think that," Spock scolded.

Kirk laughed softly. "I have my insecurities, too, my friend. Anyway, I didn’t want to bond with you unless I was absolutely sure it was the best thing for you as well. Bones telling me about the crew’s observations, and his own, convinced me."

Spock stroked Kirk’s face. "The bonding will add much to our lovemaking."

Kirk grinned. "I know. I’m looking forward to it. When are we going to do it?"

"Soon," Spock relied.

"Very soon?" Kirk asked.

Spock’s response was to sit up and lean against the headboard, drawing Kirk into his arms to cradle him against his chest. "Yes. First, however, I wish to hold you for a while."

Kirk smiled up at him and snuggled against the black undershirt. Before Trazar, he hadn’t known such peace and contentment could be found.

Soon, they would be bonded. They would be one.

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