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Originally published in 1987 in the print fanzine "As I Do Thee" # 8.

Kirk turned his tired eyes away from his computer console and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He leaned back in his chair and stretched a moment, then turned his attention back to the screen. Before his eyes had a chance to refocus, he heard a faint rustle of cloth from the bedroom.

He moved quietly toward the darkened room. When he reached the doorway, he dialed up the lights to a soft glow. Then he proceeded to the double bed that dominated the room and carefully sat down on the edge of the mattress.

Spock was lying curled up on his left side, his back to the doorway. The blankets were pulled snugly around the one protruding shoulder, but laid loosely across the front of the body, which was clad in light blue Sickbay pajamas.

The Vulcan stirred, a couple of deep breaths accompanying the restless movement. His right arm flopped haphazardly for a moment, then he rolled partially onto his back.

Kirk laid a hand on the Vulcan's shoulder. "Spock?" he whispered.

The other's eyelids fluttered and slowly opened.

"How's my sick Vulcan?" Kirk asked softly.

There was no reply. He reached out to gently take Spock‘s other shoulder, and he carefully maneuvered the thin frame until his first officer way lying flat on his back.

Kirk patted the nearest arm. Spock's half-closed eyes slowly inspected the room.

The human laid a hand on the chest partially exposed by two open buttons at the top of the pajamas, and leaned his face down close to his friend‘s. "I know you feel weak, Spock," he whispered gently, "but you're going to be all right."

For the first time, Spock acknowledged his captain's presence. He stared at him a moment, then his eyes narrowed to slits of confusion.

Kirk understood. He laid a comforting hand on a pale cheek and whispered, "Don't be alarmed if you can't feel the bond. It's a symptom of the illness you've had. All of your mental capabilities are impaired right now." He quickly added, "But it's only temporary. It'll all come back when your strength returns."

Spock stared at him a while longer, then looked away tiredly. He seemed to have understood Kirk's words, for his body relaxed and his facial features softened.

Kirk reached beneath the covers and found a warm hand. He clasped it and squeezed gently. With his other hand he brushed back mussed bangs from a damp forehead. "How, do you feel?"

The Vulcan's eyes slowly returned to him. They looked so weary that Kirk had to make a conscious effort to keep from frowning.

"Do you feel any pain?" the captain prompted.

It was a long moment before a gravely voice whispered, "No." Then tired eyelids closed.

Kirk picked up a pitcher that he'd kept beside the bed the two days that Spock had been in their quarters and poured its contents into a glass. He put his free hand behind Spock's head and lifted. "Here's some water," he said.

Keeping his eyes closed, Spock sipped from the glass that was pressed to his lips. He swallowed a few times until even that became too much of an effort.

Kirk lowered Spock's head back to the pillow and returned the glass to the night stand. He toyed with the thought of calling McCoy, but the doctor was due to stop by in a little while anyway, so he decided against it.

"Spock," Kirk whispered. He waited until the brown eyes partially opened. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

He watched the Vulcan swallow. This time the deep voice was much clearer when it spoke. "I must urinate."

Kirk patted him. "Just hang on a minute and I'll help you."

He opened the lower cabinet of the night stand. McCoy had left him an armful of modern 'bed pans' specifically for this kind of emergency. In fact, he had insisted that Kirk get samples if Spock needed to relieve himself.

Kirk removed one of the plastic bottles. It had a rubber tube sticking out of the lid. At the other end of the tube was a cylinder shaped piece of plastic open on its other end.

Kirk pulled the covers down to Spock's legs. "Let me turn you on your side," he offered, thankful that Spock didn't seem to be in any immediate distress.

He rolled his bondmate over until the Vulcan faced him. This time he did frown when he felt the thin ribs beneath the pajamas. But he was relieved that Spock seemed to accept his own helplessness.

Using both hands, Kirk unfastened the fly to the pajama bottoms. He reached in and gently took Spock's penis in one hand, drawing it out of the confining garment. With his other hand he brought the cylinder forward. He inserted the Vulcan’s organ into the plastic funnel, then laid a comforting hand on the nearest buttock. "Okay. Go ahead."

Knowing McCoy would want a complete report, he watched Spock's face for any sign of pain or distress. The Vulcan's eyes closed, and his facial muscles gradually relaxed. Kirk could also feel the hip beneath his hand slowly relax. Finally, Spock emitted a gentle sigh.

"All done?" Kirk interpreted the faint upward movement of Spock's head as an affirmative gesture. He pulled the cylinder away, pulled the plastic tube out of the bottle, pressed a cap into its place, and tossed the rubber tube and cylinder into the nearest disposal chute. He put the sealed bottle of urine on top of the night stand.

He gently tucked Spock's phallus away, fastened the fly on the pajamas, and pulled the covers back over him. Pleased with his ability to play nursemaid, he returned his attention to Spock's face, reaching up and caressing a pale cheek. "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"The report...," Spock whispered, struggling to keep his eyes open and his voice clear. "Must complete ...."

Kirk smiled gently. "It's all taken care of. Don't worry about it." When the Vulcan looked confused, the captain added, "Parkers took care of it. He's a good man. You've trained him well." Spock still looked confused, and Kirk decided against further explanation. He patted a limp hand. "Just rest, Spock."

The door buzzed.

Kirk squeezed the Vulcan's hand. "'That's McCoy." Toward the door, he called, "Enter."

McCoy entered the room, followed by Nurse Chapel with a crowded anti-grav cart.

Kirk stood and stepped out of the way. "He's awake," he said as the doctor and nurse moved past him.

McCoy already had his scanner buzzing, and Chapel moved the cart over behind the doctor.

As Kirk watched the two at work, he had to admit his admiration for Christine. She was all the efficient nurse, now. He knew McCoy would never have let her come into their quarters if he feared she would be anything but professional. But she had seemed to have gotten over her infatuation with Spock, and she didn't seem to hold any resentment for the life he and the Vulcan now shared.

"When did he wake up?" McCoy asked without looking up from his patient.

"Just a little while ago," Kirk replied.

Christine was now on the other side of the bed, and McCoy said, "Let’s set him up."

It was like moving a rag doll, but the two were so efficient at lifting Spock into a sitting position that Kirk didn't feel a need to interfere. They made sure there were plenty of pillows for support, and the Vulcan sat back against them, his eyes partly open, but his head hanging weakly.

McCoy picked one of many red bottles from the cart. He also picked up a long, wide straw and stuck it into a hole in the top of the bottle. Christine had set a serving tray on the bed, and McCoy set the bottle on it.

He inserted the free end of the straw between Spock‘s lips. "Drink this," he ordered firmly.

Spock weakly raised a hand to put it around the container in a pathetic attempt to lift it, and began sucking the bottle‘s contents up through the straw.

McCoy lowered the bottle and the Vulcan‘s hand to the tray. Like a parent scolding a child, he said, "You don‘t have to hold onto it, Spock. The straw‘s long enough."

It was difficult to say if Spock understood. But he did allow the bottle to rest on the tray, and he continued with his swallowing.

McCoy gave Christine orders for injections, then he turned his attention to Kirk.

The captain gestured to the night stand. "There's a specimen for you."

McCoy picked up the indicated container and joined Kirk in the doorway between the captain's office and sleeping alcove.

Indicating the specimen, McCoy asked, "Was there any pain?"

"There didn't seem to be."

The doctor sighed with relief. "Looks like we're finally over that part of it."

Kirk watched as Spock's Adam‘s apple continued to bob in response to his swallowing. "He seems to be hungry."

McCoy cast a glance at his patient. "I'm glad to see it. It's a good sign."

"What's in it?"

"It's plomeek soup, with some vitamins mixed in. We made sure all the ingredients were small enough to be sucked up through the straw." He turned his attention back to Kirk. "Has he spoken much?"

Kirk shrugged. "A little. Every word is an effort. He seems…slow, confused. I'm not sure that he even has any idea of how much time has passed."

"I wouldn't be surprised. How did he sleep today?"

Kirk’s tone brightened. "Fine. He didn‘t move a muscle since you left this morning, until just a little while ago."

"Good. Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea bringing him in here." McCoy hesitated. "Jim, don't be too optimistic about his recovery time. From all the information Vulcan has sent me, it takes an average of six weeks before the patient is even able to return to duty and, even then, recovery may not be complete. And in Spock's case, with his hybrid genes, we don‘t know how much shorter or longer the recovery time will be."

Kirk waved a hand. "That doesn't matter. Just as long as he‘s all right." He couldn't help but remember how scared he'd been…

It had been at the end of the watch one dull, routine day when Kirk and Spock had headed for the turbo lift after seeing that their replacements had seated themselves. As Kirk sent the lift on its journey to deck five, he looked over at his bondmate and wondered why the other had appeared so withdrawn the past day or so. The bond between them seemed very weak, though Kirk hadn't been able to detect an intentional barrier. He decided against questioning Spock, as he knew the other would talk to him about whatever was troubling him when he was ready.

Suddenly, Spock collapsed to his knees. He wrapped one arm tightly around his stomach and gasped, "I am ill."

Kirk immediately halted the lift and shouted, "Sickbay!"

The lift changed its direction while Kirk put a steadying hand on his mate's shoulder. "Easy, Spock." He hit the intercom. "Sickbay, this is the captain. Have a medical team standing by at the turbo lift. Mister Spock is seriously ill."

"Acknowledged," came the voice of a technician.

Spock clutched his stomach harder and vomited.

Kirk knelt down beside him, grabbing the Vulcan's shoulders to support him. After the entire contents of Spock’s stomach had been retched forth, the first officer finally found respite and sat back on his heels, gasping for breath, his head drooping weakly.

Kirk put his arm around the heaving chest and dragged his mate back into the far corner of the lift, trying to keep them both clear of the mess. His mind distantly registered the Vulcan's distress... and lethargy.

"Hang on, Spock," Kirk whispered. He himself felt as though he was in a state of shock. He'd never seen Spock this sick. He hugged his friend tighter, encouraging the other to wipe his mouth against his gold tunic. Spock's eyes were barely open, and his forehead was covered with beads of sweat.

The turbo lift came to a stop. The doors opened to reveal an anti-grav stretcher coming toward them, Doctor McCoy leading the way. The faces of the doctor and his two technicians registered shock at finding the lift and its two occupants in such a deplorable condition.

Kirk dragged Spock to the entrance of the lift, so that the stretcher wouldn't have to be brought inside.

"He just up and said he was sick, Bones," Kirk explained rapidly while he helped the technicians lift Spock onto the stretcher. "Then he threw up." His voice was worried for, even as he spoke, he felt the bond slipping away.

McCoy was leaning over the stretcher as it was moved down the corridor, his scanner buzzing over Spock's form, which had curled up into a fetal ball. The Vulcan was groaning heavily.

Kirk grabbed the doctor's arm, forcing the other to look at him.

"Bones," he whispered intensely, his voice and eyes full of fear as he pointed to his forehead. "I'm losing him."

McCoy didn't reply, just speeded up the movement of the stretcher. When they arrived in Sickbay, the doctor began shouting orders and the Vulcan was soon surrounded by a group of medical technicians and nurses. Kirk knew to stay clear, despite his strong urge to comfort Spock. His mate was at least semiconscious, as he was continuing to groan painfully but seemed oblivious to the activity around him.

Kirk tried to reach him through the bond - to reassure him - but the link was so weak he knew he wasn't getting through.

Spock was undressed and tubes and various machines were plugged into him. X-rays were taken. The board above the bed registered a chaotic mess, and the pain level was extraordinarily high.

"He’s dying."

Kirk tried to swallow down the think lump in his throat. If the bond is somehow severed, I won’t be able to follow him. Oh, Spock…"

Hours later, Kirk was sitting in McCoy's office, his head in his hands, exhausted from trying to reach Spock through the bond. All he'd received for his efforts was an intense headache. Through it all, he'd heard Spock groaning repeatedly in the other room. He had been on the verge of tears for hours, but felt too numb to cry.

Suddenly, the groaning noises became subdued, then almost disappeared altogether. He heard McCoy say, "That'll hold him for awhile."

Footsteps approached the office, and he didn't bother to glance up when they entered the room.

"You better be glad," McCoy's weary voice announced, "that you can't feel what he's feeling. You'd be as incapacitated as he is right now."

Kirk looked up then, thinking that McCoy's eyes looked as tired as he felt. "Is he going to die, Bones?" he whispered.

"I don‘t know, Jim," the doctor replied sternly as he plopped down into his chair. "I‘ve got three people searching the library banks, but so far they haven't come up with anything that shows the same symptoms." He sighed tiredly and rubbed his hand through his hair. "I just don't know ...."

Kirk looked up at the doctor pleadingly. "What's wrong with him?"

"Just about every one of his physiological systems is shot to hell. His temperature is way up, his muscles are spasming, he's got severe diarrhea, he's showing signs of pneumonia, his white cell count is up, his blood pressure is way down ...."

"Why did it take you so long to put him out?" Kirk's voice wasn't accusing, just desperately seeking information.

"Because we don't know what we‘re fighting, Jim. Sedatives are dangerous when you don't know the cause of the ailment. But I had to give him something to give him some relief. He was exhausting himself fighting the pain." The doctor shrugged off-handedly. "I think he was downright delirious toward the end. I don't think he even knew where he was."

Kirk looked up sharply. "Was he calling for me?"

McCoy shook his head emphatically. "He hasn‘t said a single coherent word. The only noises he's been making are those awful groans." He shook his head sadly. "That boy is really sick."

Kirk swallowed heavily. "If the bond is as weak to him as it is to me, he's probably confused... and scared. We've been married for three years now, Bones, and it's driving me crazy not being able to feel him." He tapped his head. "Imagine, in his state, what that's doing to him."

"Maybe," McCoy relented tiredly. "Then again, I think he's so out of it he wouldn't be able to feel the bond even if it was there."

"Help him, Bones."

McCoy sighed dramatically. "The only suggestion I have at this point is to get in contact with Vulcan directly and see if their doctors know of anything like this. As is, the only thing I can do is treat the symptoms he's experiencing. Unless this thing - whatever it is - passes quickly, he's going to get weaker and weaker. There's only so much we can do to slow down the deterioration of his bodily systems."

Kirk nodded and the command tone was back in his voice. "Prepare a message to Vulcan. At this distance it'll probably take a couple of days for it to get there. I'm going to contact Starfleet Command and see if they'll give us permission to head in that direction."

McCoy nodded. "Good idea."' He turned to his computer console to begin his report.

Kirk did get the permission he needed, as the Enterprise was only on routine patrol, and McCoy‘s testimony convinced 'Fleet Command that Spock's situation was critical. The doctor sent out a message to the medical section of the Vulcan Science Academy, complete with a report on all of Spock's symptoms. The ship also headed in that direction, her crew hoping that it would be able to intercept the reply sooner than it otherwise would.

Spock's condition gradually worsened in the two days that followed. On the third day it stabilized. McCoy couldn't take the credit, because he still didn't know what he was fighting. He was pumping everything that he thought could possibly help into the Vulcan, and some of it seemed to be paying off. Still, his patient hovered at critical levels in nearly all systems and Kirk haunted Sickbay regularly, the fear never leaving his eyes.

Spock himself remained in a semi-conscious state much of the time. Sedatives had only a short-term effect, and he usually lay curled on his side, moaning his agony. He was so wrapped up in his own misery that he never acknowledged anyone else's presence, including Kirk's.

After one restless night - despite McCoy's tranquilizers – Kirk entered Sickbay to check on Spock before reporting to the bridge. It was the fifth morning after the first officer had first become ill. Kirk walked up to the bed in the intensive care unit and rested his hand on the railing that had been attached to the bunk to prevent Spock from falling out of bed during his most intensive fits of pain.

The usual lump formed in his throat at the sight of his mate, who was hooked up to a respirator, and he reached out and tenderly stroked Spock's exposed cheek. The Vulcan was resting on his side, his knees slightly drawn up, his slitted eyes indicating his state of consciousness.

"Spock?" he whispered. He had spoken the much-loved name every morning as, as with this morning, the first officer just continued to lie there, showing no sign of having heard his name.

Swallowing heavily, Kirk moved his hand down the Vulcan's naked body, which was wrapped in a Sickbay sheet. Spock's skin was cool and clammy, as it had been for days, and the complexion of his face was so pale it was almost nonexistent.

Kirk closed his eyes when his hands came to the protruding ribs, not wanting to guess how much weight Spock had already lost during this ordeal. He swallowed again.

He didn't look up when he heard familiar footsteps enter the room. He moved his hand back up to Spock’s face, then brushed back lengthening bangs from the damp forehead.

Hoarsely, he asked, "Did he sleep at all?"

"The night crew said he drifted off for a few hours last night, woke up for awhile, then drifted off again. He's been awake for a half hour or so this morning." McCoy moved closer to the bed. "I don't want to get your hopes up, Jim, but he is better this morning."

Kirk looked up sharply, hope lighting his eyes despite McCoy's warning, and the doctor explained, "It looks like we've gotten most of the diarrhea cleared up. That'll help a lot in his starting to get his strength back. And," he tilted his head toward the monitor above the bed, "the pain level is down some. Whatever bug it was that was wreaking havoc with his stomach and intestines seems to be leaving him alone -- at least for now."

Kirk gently ran a finger along pale, cracked lips that lay dormant beneath his touch. He shook his head. "I still can‘t feel the bond," he whispered.

McCoy nodded sympathetically. "If Vulcan doesn't have the answer ...." He shrugged. "I don't know, Jim. He's a long way from being out of the woods."

With an effort, Kirk turned away from the bed. "I'll be on the bridge."

* * * * *

The reply from Vulcan arrived later that morning. Uhura piped the lengthy message down to McCoy's office, and the doctor promised Kirk he'd let him know as soon as he was able to read it thoroughly.

Kirk sat fidgeting in his chair for nearly an hour. Finally, his intercom beeped. "Kirk here."

"You better get down here, Jim." There was hesitation on the other end, as though the doctor was considering the cruelty of extending the drama. Finally, he cheerfully announced, "He's going to be all right."

Kirk reached the lift in two giant strides, muttering, "Uhura, you have the conn," over his shoulder. He left the bridge and a room full of relieved smiles.

"In my office," McCoy directed as soon as Kirk entered Sickbay.

The captain obeyed while trying to steady the butterflies of relief that were playing a rapid tattoo inside his stomach.

"First of all," McCoy began as they both seated themselves, "the absence of the bond is a normal symptom for this ailment, the name of which is fifteen syllables long and that I can't pronounce. But, in laymen's terms, I guess you could call it 'The Vulcan Flu'." At Kirk's look of surprise, he asked, "Remember the last planet we were on? Pryntar?"

Kirk nodded, waiting.

"Well, as you know, there were some Vulcans on that planet and one of them must have been carrying the bug that infected Spock. From all that I've read here," he indicated the lengthy printout on his desk top, "that's the only way he could have gotten it. The germ lies dormant for a couple of weeks and then it attacks, with a vengeance." He watched Kirk nod. "This flu isn't exactly common on Vulcan, which is why it wasn't in our medical library, but it isn't rare either. There isn't a cure for it, so all you can really do is just treat the symptoms and let the thing pass. Actually, there's been very few deaths from it, and most of those were in babies or people who lived way out in the desert and couldn't get treatment soon enough. But the intense pain is very common for this infection." The doctor actually developed an amused glint in his eye. "In fact, they claim there have been some reports of patients pleading for death because they couldn't handle it."

Kirk wasn't amused, but he felt himself relaxing with the information. They were no longer dealing with an unknown.

"In addition to all the obvious physical symptoms," McCoy went on, "there are some neurological ones as well. Not only can neither you nor Spock feel the bond, but all his mental and telepathic capabilities are dormant right now. That's the reason he wasn't able to control the pain. It may also explain his lethargy. He has no 'psychic sense', so to speak. He can feel us touch him, hear us talk about him but, according to Vulcan‘s report, it's all just a blur to him. His mind is so screwed up right now that he can't sort out the incoming messages."

When McCoy didn‘t continue, Kirk took a deep breath and released it slowly. "How long before this thing runs its course?"

"I think he's already turned the corner. He's even gotten a bit better this morning after you were in. But we've still got him on the respirator, his lungs are so weak. His white cell count is finally starting to drop, and, like I said, he's over the diarrhea." The doctor shook his head. "But we're still talking days, Jim, before he'll be able to talk or even sit up. He's incredibly weak. And the Vulcan Science Academy claims it takes an average of six weeks before the patient is completely recovered."

"Six weeks?" Kirk whispered in disbelief.

"That's right. This bug really does them in. You'd better make sure you've got some good people to handle his department for awhile."

Kirk nodded slowly. Sulu had temporarily taken over the first officer position, and Lieutenant Parkers had been running the Science department. They'd both done fine so far.

"Another thing," McCoy went on. "Vulcan has developed a drug that has helped fight the combination of symptoms and allows the patient to get more rest than he otherwise would. They‘re shipping some to us via express courier." He handed Kirk a writing slate. "Here's the coordinates where we can rendezvous with the courier." The doctor shook his head while Kirk accepted the information. "I sure wish we'd known about the drug earlier. It sounds like it would have saved Spock a lot of misery."

Kirk nodded absently, not wanting to thing about what Spock had been going through the past week. He turned the doctor's communications console toward himself. "Kirk to Chekov."

"Chekov here, sir."

"Mister Chekov, lock in a course for the following coordinates...."

* * * * *

Some ten hours later, the drug had been transported aboard the Enterprise. McCoy followed Vulcan's instructions and administered the recommended dose to Spock, understanding that the first officers' hybrid physiology could respond better or worse than anticipated. Twenty minutes after being administered the drug, Spock dropped off into a deep, deep sleep.

"Thank God," McCoy muttered, studying the overhead monitors. "If we can keep him out like this for most of the next few days, he can start gaining some strength."

The railings had been removed from the bed, and Spock was now dressed in blue Sickbay pajamas. Kirk reached down to stroke the first officer's hair. Please, finally…

Two days later, Kirk was again next to the bed, watching the steady rise and fall of his mate's chest.

"I still can't feel anything, Bones," he said without looking up.

"According to the report, the neurological areas are the last ones to recover. I wouldn't worry about it, Jim." Kirk nodded, and McCoy sighed and said, "But we've got another complication."

The captain looked at him sharply. "What?" he demanded.

"He‘s developed kidney stones. At first, I thought it was some sort of side affect from the drug, but the report didn't mention it." He shrugged. "It could be from a number of things. Some people are just more prone to those than others, and Spock's had them a couple of times before."

Kirk nodded. "But you were able to give him something that got rid of them quickly."

McCoy also nodded. "Yes, and I've given him some more of the same drug I used before, but in a small quantity. I don‘t know how it’ll interact with the Vulcan drug we're using on him, so I‘m being cautious until I‘m sure they’ll mesh okay."

McCoy shook his head grimly. "The night crew called me in at three o'clock this morning because he was trying to pass those stones." He sighed wearily. "It started those awful moans all over again. Thank God we've got him resting now."

Kirk stopped himself from asking, "Why didn’t you call me?" But he knew there wouldn’t have been anything he could have done. Seeing his friend in further pain would have only increased his own misery. Quietly, he asked, "He hasn't spoken at all, has he?"

"No. When he's conscious he's still 'out of it'. I think that's a result of the drug as much as his weakness."

Kirk was silent for awhile as he studied his sleeping mate. When he spoke, his voice was firm. "As soon as he's strong enough, I want him in our cabin, Bones."

McCoy looked at him sharply. "Your cabin?"

The captain nodded. "Yes. I‘m way behind on my paperwork. I'd have plenty of excuse to stay holed up in our quarters." He turned to the doctor and his voice was pleading. "It's got to help him, Bones, being back in a familiar place. He's been in this blasted Sickbay for over a week now. I want him in our bed. I think he'll rest better there, especially after he's coherent."

McCoy studied the other for a moment, then nodded. "I'll consider it, Jim."

Now, in his cabin, Kirk watched with affection as slurping noises indicated that Spock had reached the bottom of the bottle of soup. Both he and the doctor went to the Vulcan as Christine removed the empty container from the tray.

Kirk leaned over his mate, touching a pale cheek in the process. "Spock," he whispered, "would you like some more?"

For a moment there was no response. Then Spock shook his drooping head once.

Kirk took the frail shoulders in his hands and gently maneuvered Spock back against the pillows so the first officer's head could drop back against them.

McCoy ran his scanner over the Vulcan’s midsection. "Good," he approved a moment later. "His stomach is behaving." he looked at Kirk. "If he throws up or shows any signs of discomfort, call me immediately."

"Of course."

"Looks like he's going to fall right back to sleep," McCoy observed as he put his scanner away. "'That’s good, too. He needs all the food he can handle, and all the rest he can possibly get." The doctor looked at Kirk. "I'll be back in a few hours, Jim. But, like I said, if he wakes up before then, go ahead and encourage him to drink some more soup. It‘s the only way he's going to gain back his strength."

"Right, Bones. I'll put the bottles in the heating cabinet."

McCoy nodded and motioned to Christine. "All right, we'll leave you two alone for now." He turned back to his patient. "But, here, let's get him back down under the covers."

Kirk and McCoy maneuvered Spock from a sitting position down into a prone position beneath the blankets. The Vulcan's eyes were closed, but shallow breathing indicated he wasn‘t quite asleep yet.

"See you later, Jim."

McCoy and Christine left the cabin and Kirk turned to the heating cabinet in his office and put the soup bottles in it. Then he moved back to the sleeping area and sat on the edge of the bed, watching Spock. The Vulcan was turned slightly on his side, facing toward Kirk, looking a little more peaceful, but still pale.

The human bent down and gently brushed his lips against a cooling forehead. "I love you," he whispered.

Eyelids fluttered but refused to open.

Kirk slipped his boots off, lay down on the bed, and quietly scooted forward until he was laying along side his mate and pressed against him. He brought Spock's head against his chest, holding it carefully and stroked the silky strands of hair.

After a moment, he kissed the top and whispered again, "I love you."

* * * * *

The man standing before his desk was dark-haired, dark-eyed, about six feet tall, and had a muscular build. Kirk barely knew him, as he'd had little reason to speak to him during the eight months the lieutenant had been on board, but he knew that Spock liked him. And that was good enough for him.

"You wanted to see me, sir?"

"Yes, Lieutenant Parkers. Please have a seat."

Parkers sat down, perhaps a little more stiffly than Kirk would have liked, but he could understand any crewman's nervousness at being summoned before the captain.

Kirk began his explanation. "As you know, Mister Spock is ill. While Doctor McCoy has assured me that he will recover completely, he estimates that it'll be six weeks before he is able to return to full duty." He watched Parkers eyes widen. "Therefore, I need someone I can count on to run the Science department until Mister Spock returns to duty, particularly since we have this quasar phenomenon to study when we reach our assigned quadrant. Mister Spock has spoken highly of you, and since I have no complaints about how you've run the department in his absence thus far, I will expect you to continue to keep up the good work. Let me know if there is anything you need to assist you."

Parkers nodded. "I appreciate your confidence in me, sir. I have done as much background study as possible to prepare for our rendezvous with the quasar. I believe my people are prepared to record everything concerning it."

"Good. I‘m pleased to hear that."

Parkers took on a hesitant expression. He glanced toward the cabin‘s sleeping area, which was blocked from view by the door Kirk and Spock had had installed after their bonding. A moment later he returned his attention to his captain. "Sir," he spoke, his voice hesitant, "Mister Spock is the finest officer I've ever had the privilege of working under. I hope you'll pass along my best wishes for his recovery."

Kirk smiled. He liked the man. "I'll do that as soon as he's coherent enough. He's still a bit fuzzy right now, but I'm sure he'll appreciate your concern."

"Thank you, sir."

"That's all, Parkers. Dismissed."

"Jim?"

Kirk felt his heart flutter. It felt incredibly good to hear that word spoken from those lips. He entered the sleeping area with a soup bottle in his hand.

Spock was sitting up, his eyes almost completely open, and showing a spark of life. He'd just finished off a bottle of soup and now, for the first time since becoming ill, seemed to be in the mood for some conversation.

"What?" Kirk asked softly as he seated himself beside his mate.

Spock looked suspiciously at the bottle in Kirk‘s hand. "What is that?"

"More soup."

"I just consumed some."

"I know," Kirk smiled warmly. "But it would make me and Doctor McCoy much happier if you'd have another one. You were able to handle seconds this morning."

Spock made no reply, so Kirk removed the cap from the bottle and stuck a straw into it. "Here," he held it out, "see if you can drink some more. It's good for you."

The dark eyes studied the container. "Jim, why am I drinking soup from a bottle?"

Kirk didn't allow his smile to fade with his thoughts. Spock had consumed a total of seven bottles of soup in the last thirty-six hours, but this was the first time the first officer had noticed the form it came in. Spock had been that way in many things: slow to comprehend, slow to interpret other's words, slow to formulate his own thoughts. McCoy kept assuring Kirk that it was all a result of the intensity of the flu, and that it would pass as the Vulcan gained strength.

"Because you're too weak to handle a bowl and spoon," Kirk replied easily. "Here, just set the bottle in your lap and suck up the soup through the straw."

Spock did as he was told, and drank down this bottle faster than he had any of the others. Sighing heavily after he'd finished, he watched Kirk put the empty bottle on the night stand and said, "I am tired of the taste."

"Okay, I'll see if Bones can put more variety on your diet card. I guess even Vulcans get tired of plomeek soup every once in a while."

"Indeed. And that is not true plomeek soup. It is synthetic. It has vitamins and other additives that affect the taste."

Kirk didn't respond, but sat back on his heels on the bed and noted that Spock's eyes had drooped some. The first officer's awareness wasn't going to last much longer.

"Jim," Spock said with concern, "I have not yet completed my report on Pryntar. I must finish it."

Kirk took Spock's hands in his. "Spock," he said softly, "that's all been taken care of. You've been sick for a long time. Parkers finished your report for you."

"Parkers?"

"Yes, Lieutenant Parkers. Don't you remember?" Kirk prompted gently. "He's one of the top people in your department. He's taking your place until you get back on your feet."

Spock's face became very contemplative, but the first officer didn‘t reply.

Kirk ran his fingers across the bangs that were in a state of disarray. "You've got nothing to worry about, except getting better. And that means eating and sleeping." After a long moment; of silence, he asked, "How do you feel in general?"

Spock looked at him through partially-closed eyes. "As you have noted, extremely weak. But I am not experiencing any pain." His eyes narrowed as he studied his captain. "The bond is not there."

The words had been spoken levelly, but Kirk knew how much they affected Spock. This was the third or fourth time that the Vulcan had made some mention of it. He tried to keep his own voice reassuring. "I know. It's not there for me, either. But all the background data on this flu you had indicates that the fading of the bond is normal for this type of thing. It'll return, Spock. It just takes time."

In a rare moment of vulnerability, Spock whispered, "It is difficult to be at peace without it."

Kirk sighed with frustration. "I know. But other Vulcans have been able to wait it out, and we will, too." The human leaned down and kissed the other‘s forehead. "Just get better, Spock."

Spock made a pathetic attempt at nodding, as he had started to drift off. Kirk lowered him back down to the mattress and carefully covered him up. Then he waved down the light and left the room.

* * * * *

The study of the quasar was going well, if not somewhat slowly for all the non-scientists on board. Kirk had his paperwork all caught up, and he now spent a lot of time in the gym, working off his restlessness and taking advantage of Spock's slowly gaining strength to leave the confining walls of his cabin. The Vulcan was looking better daily, though McCoy still felt it necessary to check in on him every few hours. He was allowing his patient to eat solid foods, but Spock could only leave bed long enough to use the john - and he always needed assistance in that, as he still didn't have the strength to stand on his own.

One evening, after returning from the gym and checking to see that Spock was sleeping peacefully, Kirk sat down at his desk and began reviewing the reports on the quasar. He'd barely settled into his chair when he heard the buzzer at his cabin door.

"Come."

Lieutenant Uhura entered with a wrapped package in her hand. "I hope I'm not intruding, sir," she said pleasantly.

"No, not at all," Kirk smiled back. "Please, have a seat."

She sat down in the offered chair and set the package down on the desk top between them. "I won't be long. I just brought Mister Spock a sort of 'get well' gift." She looked a little embarrassed. "I suppose he'll think gifts are illogical, but ...."

Kirk winked conspiratorially at her. "Just between you and me," he whispered, "Spock is a little boy at heart when it comes to receiving gifts."

Uhura relaxed then and grinned back at him. "His secret is safe with me."

Kirk studied the package. "Do I get to know what it is?"

"No, no," she scolded. "You'll just have to be surprised right along with him." Her tone turned serious. "How is he doing, Captain? I know everyone in Sickbay keeps saying he's getting better, but it's been so long since any of us have actually seen him ...."

Kirk felt a warmth spread over him at her concern. "He's getting stronger, but it is a frustratingly long process. He's talking a lot now, but his thought processes are slow." Kirk brightened. "McCoy said he thought he might let him get out of bed tomorrow and try walking around a little bit."

Uhura regarded him with sympathy. "You must have been very worried."

"Oh, I was," Kirk said emphatically, not feeling any need to hide his feelings from this caring woman. "Those first few days were the worst." His expression became distant. "I hope I don't ever see him go through anything like that again. It was terrible."

His visitor smiled warmly at him. "At the risk of getting too personal, I'd like to say that all of us on the bridge think it's really wonderful that you and Spock had the courage to commit yourselves to each other."

"Thank you, Penda. I've never sensed any disapproval from anyone, and Spock and I both appreciate it."

Uhura looked at the deck a moment, a private smile on her face. Then, as though coming to a decision, she looked back at the captain and said, "You know, some years ago, I used to have quite a crush on you."

Kirk grinned a little sheepishly. "I think it's pretty safe to say that my feelings were the same."

Uhura's smile widened. "Christine and I used to get together over coffee and talk about our fantasies of you and Spock, and we tried to give each other hope and encouragement. I guess I eventually grew out of it, and I was genuinely happy for and Spock when you announced your bonding."

Her smile faded. "I think it was - more difficult for Christine, but she seems to have gotten over it."

Kirk nodded lightly. "I have nothing but the utmost respect for her professionalism. And she‘s been very cordial on a more personal level."

"I guess, between the two of you, you destroyed just about every fantasy on the ship when you announced your bonding," she said, grinning widely.

Kirk glanced away, heat coloring his cheeks. "Flattery will get you nowhere."

She shrugged and giggled slightly. Then she said, "Anyway, I thought that after all this time, I really should make it clear that I think the love you and Spock have for each other is a beautiful thing. And, while I can't speak for the entire crew, I know that every person on the bridge feels the same way."

Kirk was about to make a reply, but his door buzzer interrupted him.

He punched an intercom button. "Who is it?"

"Lieutenant Parkers, sir."

Kirk activated a switch that opened the door.

Uhura rose to her feet. "I'll be going, Captain."

Kirk gave her a warm smile. "Thank you very much for the gift. - I'll give it to Spock the next time he's awake."

Uhura turned and gave Parkers a curt nod as she passed him through the doorway. The man looked at her curiously, then back at Kirk.

"Yes, Lieutenant?"

Parkers held out a handful of colored discs. "We've completed our study of the quasar, sir. Here are copies of our entire report."

Kirk accepted the discs. "Thank you, Lieutenant." He smiled at the man who stood before his desk. "Once we complete our two survey missions in this sector, we'll be heading for Starbase 29 for a week's leave. I'd say your people deserve it."

"Thank you, sir."

"Dismissed."

Parkers turned to leave, but paused when a distinct 'thump' came from behind the bedroom door. He and Kirk glanced at each other, then the captain rushed through the entrance to the sleeping alcove as the door slid back to admit him. He found Spock leaning over one side of the bed - almost to the floor - trying to retrieve a pitcher of water that he had obviously knocked over.

"Here, Spock, I'll get it," Kirk said softly. He grabbed his mate by the shoulders and hoisted the Vulcan back into the bed. When he saw Spock's brows dart up in surprise while looking past him, he turned to find Parkers standing in the doorway, watching them.

"I'll take care of him," Kirk said pointedly.

Parkers hesitated, blushed, then nodded and abruptly left the cabin.

Once he made sure Spock was sitting up and resting comfortably against some pillows, Kirk bent down and began to clean up the mess.

"I seem to be rather uncoordinated," Spock said hoarsely.

"It's all right, Spock," Kirk soothed automatically. He wiped up the floor with a towel, then turned toward the small food processor near the dresser. "I didn‘t realize you'd wake up so soon," he said as he dialed up another pitcher of water. "Otherwise, I would have been here."

"What was Lieutenant Parkers doing here?"

Kirk looked sharply at Spock, as the first officer's tone reflected disapproval. He brought the pitcher over to the night stand. "He was giving me his report on the quasar we've been studying. He was just about to leave when we heard you in here." He poured Spock a glass of water and looked at him curiously. "Does it embarrass you that he saw you?"

Spock brought the glass to his lips with a hand that trembled with weakness. Kirk wrapped his hand around Spock's and helped the Vulcan drink. "Had enough?" he asked when the glass was three-quarters gone.

Spock nodded. "That is sufficient for now. Thank you."

Kirk set the glass back on the night stand. Then he turned his attention back to his mate, pushing the long bangs out of the dark eyes.

"You‘re due for a haircut."

"Yes, I know."

"Spock, I think Parkers was just concerned about you. He was standing there to see if you needed his help."

The Vulcan looked away. "I do not need his kind of help," he said quietly.

"What do you mean'?" Kirk asked with concern as he caressed Spock's brow with a couple of fingers. "I thought you liked him."

"He is a bright, young man," Spock replied. "And extremely capable."

"But?" Kirk prompted.

The first officer sighed. "I wish he was not so... fond of me. He has, as you humans would say, a ‘crush’ on me."

"Are you sure?" Kirk asked in disbelief. "Maybe you‘ve just misinterpreted -"

"I am sure," Spock cut in firmly. "It has been going on for quite some time."

Kirk moved his hand from brow to crown, slowly running it back through Spock's thick hair. "How come you didn't tell me?"

"I saw no reason to; I also thought you would probably wish to speak with him about it, and I did not want you to. He cannot help how he feels."

"You seem to have some pretty strong feelings about how he ‘feels’." Kirk pointed out.

Spock took another deep breath, then he looked directly at his captain. "He has been a source of irritation at times. He rather blatantly asked about my bond with you. I believe he was specifically looking for 'clues', so to speak, that I was not happy in our marriage."

"How long has this been going on, Spock?"

The Vulcan grew thoughtful a moment, then shook his head in defeat. "I cannot answer accurately. My time sense is not operating properly. It is difficult to place events in perspective."

Kirk patted him on the head. "S‘okay. That's not really important, anyway. But I assume you've given him some sort of reprimand for his actions."

"Yes, I believe I have made it clear that my personal life is not open for discussion. He has refrained from asking me further questions, but it is obvious that his feelings are still quite strong."

Spock's tone was troubled, and Kirk said, "Well, you can't be responsible for how other people feel about you."

"Yes, I know."

The human shrugged. "I imagine he'll grow out of it at some point. If not, maybe he'll ask for a transfer to another department, if not another ship. Or maybe we‘ll have to arrange it so you two aren’t working together."

"That can sometimes be difficult."

"I know." Kirk smiled with encouragement, still playing with Spock's hair. "Let's see how things go when you get back on duty. If the situation still needs to be dealt with, then we‘ll have to confront him." Then, relieved to change the subject, he said, "Speaking of crushes, Uhura brought by a gift for you."

"A gift?" Spock asked in puzzlement and with obvious interest. "Why would she bring me a gift, and what has that to do with 'crushes'?"

Kirk chuckled and gave his mate a quick peck on the lips, then moved into his office area, pushing a button to keep the bedroom door from sliding shut. "She was telling me how she used to have a crush on me," he called over his shoulder. "But she came by today to tell me how she was truly happy for us both."

"A nice gesture."

"Yes." Kirk picked up the gift and brought it back into the bedroom.

"She left this for you as a 'get well' present." He set the package on Spock's lap.

The Vulcan looked down at it. "It is quite heavy," he remarked with appreciation.

"Uh-hmm. Open it."

The package was simply wrapped, and even in his weakened condition Spock had little trouble opening it. After the paper had been pulled away he found himself looking at a little statue of a brown-skinned native dressed in an elaborate African costume. Beside the native was a little card. It was folded in half, and the front of it said, "To Spock". The

Vulcan opened it, held it before his eyes, squinted, then looked at Kirk.

"Jim, I am having trouble focusing. Please read it."

"Certainly." Kirk took the card. " ‘Spock, here is a token for your health. It‘s been in my family for centuries, and is a statue of the Swahilian god of medicine who is supposed to guard over the well-being of the members of the household. I own a variety of them and felt I could part with one. I hope it protects you and Captain Kirk well. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Uhura.’ ’’ Kirk put the card down and picked up the statue. "That's very nice of her."

"Indeed. She is a thoughtful individual."

"This thing must be worth a fortune," Kirk said as he studied it. He held it out to Spock. "Want to see?"

"I fear I will drop it."

"Okay, I'll put it here on the headboard." Kirk did so, placing the statue on a shelf where Spock was unlikely to knock it off.

Spock suddenly looked down, furrowing his brows in concentration. "Jim," he whispered intensely, "I feel something."

Kirk understood immediately and put a hand to his forehead. "Yes," he agreed enthusiastically. "I feel something, too. But it's real fuzzy...far away."

Spock nodded.

Kirk looked at the Vulcan. "It's coming back, Spock, just like McCoy said it would."

"That is good to know." Spock said the words levelly, but they spoke volumes for them both. Though Kirk had no reason to doubt McCoy or the report from Vulcan, he still had the fear in the back of his mind that their bond would never return.

Kirk smiled warmly at his mate. "You can get out of bed tomorrow. You must be desperate to get out of this room."

"Yes, it has been quite tiring not being able to do more than sit up."

"I‘ll take you for walks around the ship as you get stronger," the human promised. "And we've got leave coming up in a few weeks. Maybe you‘ll be able to go planet side by then."

"That would be most fortunate."

Spock's eyelids were starting to droop, and Kirk ran a finger down from the center of the forehead to the tip of the prominent nose. "I love you." The words didn't seem to be enough, so he acted on his desire to rise to his knees and wrap his arms around his lifemate. He squeezed affectionately and buried his face in the other’s neck. "I was so scared, Spock," he found himself whispering. "I felt the bond slipping away and I thought you were going to die, and that I was going to be left behind. I couldn't stand it if that happened."

Spock was too weak to return the embrace, but his hands rested lightly on either side of Kirk’s waist, "I regret the trauma I have caused you," he whispered back hoarsely. "I believe my illness has been much more difficult for you than for me."

Kirk was about to deny that statement - thinking of all the pain Spook had endured - but decided against starting a meaningless argument. He simply kissed the Vulcan on the cheek and said, "I’ve got to check in on the bridge. Then I’ll be back and I’ll join you in bed."

As he pulled back, he found the Vulcan looking at him hopefully.

"Jim?’’

"What?"

"When you return, can we not remove the pajamas I am wearing? I miss feeling the coolness of your skin against mine.

Kirk smiled warmly. "Sure. I guess McCoy won’t mind."

"Why don’t we just remove them now?" Kirk said as he reached toward the zipper at the collar.

"Indeed. This garment is becoming cumbersome and annoying."

Spock was able to be a little bit helpful, and they had the garment off with little fuss. Kirk then helped the Vulcan scoot back beneath the covers.

"I won’t be long. Try to get some sleep."

"I do not believe that will be difficult," Spook replied as he curled on his side, presenting a slight smile that expressed his new freedom from having the confining clothing removed. Like Kirk, he was accustomed to sleeping in the nude.

Kirk kissed him on the forehead and left for the bridge.

Four days later, Spock was in a robe and slippers with his arm around his captain’s shoulders, the captain’s arm around his waist, walking slowly through the ship’s botanical gardens. It was past 2200 hours and they did not anticipate running into any other crewmembers.

The human tightened his arm around his mate’s waist affectionately. "You may be back at duty sooner than the six weeks McCoy’s been anticipating."

"That may be true," the other agreed. "I have gained much strength in the past few days."

Kirk nodded. The hint of the bond in the back of his mind was slowly growing stronger. He also thought it had done Spock a world of good to finally get out of bed. The Vulcan was still weak he could not take more than a few steps at a time without support, but his mind was much clearer, a spark was in his eye, and McCoy's carefully calculated diets had finally put some flesh back on the prominent bones.

"Let's sit down," he suggested when they came to a small wooden bench.

Spock readily complied. He was the last person who would ever complain about all the careful attention he'd received during his illness. He wanted to get back to full health as quickly as possible, and if that meant following McCoy's orders to the letter and accepting a good deal of pampering from his mate, then he wouldn't object to complying.

Kirk brushed his hand across the forehead that was covered by neglected bangs. "Just as I thought," he noted quietly, "you're sweating a little."

"I do feel I have exerted myself to a minute degree," Spock admitted. "But I am thankful that you have taken the time to bring me here. It has been quite some time since I have visited this particular garden."

Kirk glanced about them and pulled his mate closer so that the Vulcan‘s head was resting on his shoulder. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"Indeed."

They both tensed when they heard the door to the garden slide open. The little path they had walked had various turns, so they were not in a position to see the entrance to the garden. But they both knew someone had entered.

Spock reluctantly removed his head from Kirk’s shoulder.

The human maintained a degree of contact by scratching at the back of the neck where the hairline ended. "There‘s nothing to worry about, Spock," he whispered soothingly, knowing how much it bothered Spock to be seen at less than his best. "No one expects you to look like the efficient first officer after all these weeks that you’ve been sick."

The Vulcan nodded but did not lay his head back on Kirk's shoulder. He didn‘t object, however, when the human's hand moved down to his robed back and rubbed in large, affectionate circles.

There was the sound of heeled boots, and a moment later a female yeoman came around the bend of the path and froze when she saw them. She recovered quickly and smiled pleasantly in greeting. "Captain, Commander Spock."

"Yeoman Krantz," Kirk returned, also smiling charmingly.

She shrugged. "Uh, I didn't think anybody was in here ...."

Kirk nodded. "That‘s quite all right. There‘s plenty of room for everyone to share."

That was true. Couples could retain a degree of privacy while others were in other sections of the garden, but Krantz shook her head. "I was just looking for a little isolation. I think I'll retreat to the observation deck." She looked at the first officer. "I hope you're feeling much better, Mister Spock."

"Indeed, I am, Yeoman. Thank you for inquiring."

She nodded and turned to leave. A few moments later, Kirk and Spock heard the sliding of the garden's doors that signaled her departure.

The two officers were silent for awhile, Kirk continuing to rub his Vulcan's back, and Spock closed his eyes in appreciation.

After a moment, the eyes opened and he straightened. "Jim, I am concerned."

"About what?" the other asked gently.

Spock turned slightly to face him and the hand fell away from his back. "Are you in difficulty... because of our lack of activity?"

Kirk furrowed a brow, then his face brightened in understanding. "You mean because we haven't had sex in so long?"

"Yes," Spock replied, swallowing once but otherwise showing no signs of embarrassment. He'd come a long way in three years. "I know that your sexual drive is quite strong."

The captain smiled affectionately at him. He stroked the long strands of hair that fascinated him so. "I've been all right, Spock," he replied quietly. "I've been so worried about you that I haven't had much time to think about sex. There's really nothing I could do about it anyway." He grinned teasingly. "Unless you want to suggest I find a temporary partner with whom to satisfy myself."

Normally, Spock‘s eyebrows would have darted up in mock horror, but the Vulcan didn't have the energy to make a response that he knew was unnecessary. "I regret if you in any difficulty."

"I'm fine, Spock," the other replied seriously. "Really." He widened his eyes mischievously. "But I am looking forward to our reunion - whenever that may be."

"I am also," Spock admitted. "I would even suggest some activity at this time, but I know my limited strength would not allow me to be very pleasing."

Kirk scooted closer to Spock on the bench and wrapped both arms around the form that yielded easily to him.

"Sex doesn‘t matter right now," he whispered. "All that matters is that you get better. When you're finally okay, then we'll worry about the other things."

"Agreed," Spock replied softly. He managed to return the embrace to some extent, and he rested his face against the other's neck. After a moment, he whispered, "If I had gotten this illness before we were lovers, I do not know how I would have gotten through it. I would have been in Sickbay all this time and would have been quite lonely. And it would have been extremely difficult to know others were seeing me when I was so weak and not in control." He pulled back and looked at Kirk squarely in the eye. "I can be free with you. I do not ever feel the need to hide any part of myself from you." The last two sentences were spoken in a tone of wonder and appreciation. Then he added intensely, "I do love you so, Jim."

"Oh, Spock," the human sighed, feeling his heart flutter. "You’re so good to me. What did I ever do to deserve the best that anyone could ever have?"

The corners of Spock's mouth twitched slightly. "You are trying to flatter me, Jim."

Kirk was about to reply, but he was distracted by the sound of the door to the garden sliding open. He sighed. "I guess tonight isn't such a slow night after all."

"Indeed."

The captain stood and took his mate's hand. "We'd better be heading back, anyway."

Spock allowed Kirk to pull him to his feet. He leaned on the other for a moment, then straightened. The human put a supporting hand on the Vulcan's elbow and the two moved back along the path and toward the entrance. They both looked at each other in surprise when they reached the door without having run into the person they assumed had entered.

Kirk shrugged. "I guess whoever it was heard us when they opened the door and decided not to intrude."

"Perhaps," Spock replied. "Or, possibly someone entered at the same time Yeoman Krantz left, and the noise we heard a moment ago was them leaving."

Kirk shrugged, feeling a little uncomfortable that someone may have been around without them knowing it. He tugged on the other's elbow. "Let's go, Spock."

* * * * *

A few days later, Kirk entered their cabin in the evening and found his first officer sitting in a chair and reading one of Kirk's books. The Vulcan was dressed in black uniform pants and a black regulation undershirt.

Kirk bent down and planted a gentle kiss on an expectant mouth. "Good evening, Commander."

"I hope you enjoyed your dinner," Spock replied with a hint of amusement. "I can smell beef, garlic and pasta on your breath."

"The nose knows," Kirk sighed while moving to his desk, which was only a few feet from Spock's chair. After seating himself, he said, "I ate with Bones. He's working on an exercise schedule for you, so you can start working in the gym."

Spock closed his book. "I am pleased to hear that. It is most disconcerting having a body that is so weak. I am looking forward to being strong again."

Kirk grinned mischievously. "So am I."

The intercom beeped and he pushed a button. "Kirk here."

The face of the communications officer, Lieutenant Hadly, appeared on the screen. "Sir, you wanted to know when we were close enough to the Eridani system to have direct communication with Vulcan. The planet may be contacted now with no communication time lag."

"Thank you, Lieutenant. Mister Spock will be in touch shortly to make a direct call." He flicked off the switch and smiled at his mate. "Would you like to contact your parents and let them know how you're doing?"

Spock set his book aside. "Yes. My father is not on Vulcan at this time, but I believe my mother would appreciate hearing from me."

He knew that they were worried. Kirk had notified them weeks ago that Spock was seriously ill, and later sent a short transmission saying that he would recover. Sarek and Amanda then sent a taped message expressing their concern and Amanda had wished him to 'Get better soon'. This was the first time since the crisis that the Enterprise had been close enough to Vulcan for direct person-to-person communication.

Kirk got out of his chair, prepared to assist his mate. "Why don't you use the terminal in the bedroom? I've got some paperwork to do here."

Spock nodded, rose, and waved Kirk aside with a hand. "Jim, I am now quite capable of moving within our cabin by myself." He moved to the sleeping alcove, turned, and said, "I am certain my mother will want to speak with you before severing the communication."

Kirk smiled. "I'd like to speak with her, too. But I'll let you two talk alone first."

Spock nodded and moved into the sleeping alcove, the door sliding shut behind him.

Kirk sat down at his desk, sighing happily at the fact that Spock was now able to move about on his own a little bit. The Vulcan's mind was completely clear now, and Kirk was a little concerned that Spock was going to start to get bored very quickly. Hopefully, the exercise routines McCoy was putting together would help combat that, as the doctor was still insistent that it was going to be another ten days to two weeks before Spock was fit for even light duty.

Kirk picked up the first tape from his "In" basket and inserted it into his computer. He'd barely glanced at the title before the ringing of the door buzzer interrupted his concentration.

"Come."

Lieutenant Commander Parkers entered with a tape in his hand. He stood before the captain‘s desk with a hard expression and held out the tape. "This is a request for a transfer, sir."

Kirk's eyebrows darted up into surprise. "Transfer?" he whispered as he accepted the tape.

Parkers straightened and put his hands behind his back. "Yes, sir. I have decided to transfer to another ship."

Kirk looked the man up and down a moment, then his expression softened. "You're an excellent officer, Parkers. What's the reason?"

The other man swallowed. "'They're personal reasons, sir."

Kirk gazed at the red tape in his hands. Spock. He’s still in love with Spock and he can’t handle it. I thought I may be glad to see him go after what Spock told me, but, he glanced back up at the man, he really is a good officer, and I do like him. And what made him decide to transfer now?

He cleared his throat. "Mister Parkers, regulations prevent me from inquiring as to the nature of the ‘personal reasons', but it's always been a policy of mine to refuse transfer requests until I've given the individual a week to reconsider. People often make hasty decisions that they later regret. I will keep your request, but I will not process it until a week has passed. If, at the end of that time, you still want a transfer, then I will grant it."

This time it was Parkers who cleared his throat. "Sir, I assure you that I have given this a great deal of thought. I find myself in a situation that is difficult to deal with."

"Are you certain that transferring to another department on this ship might not help?" Kirk asked gently.

"Yes, sir." Parkers looked down at the deck.

"What about an extended leave?" Kirk asked. Maybe if you’re away from Spock long enough, you’ll fall in love with someone else, and we can have you back. "Perhaps some time off would help."

The other man shook his head firmly. "The only thing that could possibly help," he said hoarsely, "is if I leave this ship. And even that may not solve the problem."

Kirk winced. "It sounds serious."

Parkers straightened and looked his captain in the eye. "It is my problem, sir."

Kirk folded his hands on his desk. "Very well. But I'm sticking to my policy of not signing your request until you've had a week to mull it over."

Parkers started to reply, but the door to the sleeping alcove opened and Spock stepped into the room.

"Jim, my mother would…" He stopped abruptly when he saw Parker. After a moment, he brought his surprised features under control and he looked at Kirk and calmly said, "Forgive me, Captain. I wasn't aware that you had a visitor."

"I’ll be there in a minute, Spock."

The Vulcan nodded and stepped back into the bedroom, letting the door slide shut behind him.

"I'll be leaving now, sir," Parkers said, "and I’ll be back in a week to confirm my decision." Kirk nodded slowly at him. The scientist glanced toward the door to the sleeping alcove, then back at his captain. Hesitantly, he said, "Mister Spock looks much better."

"Yes," Kirk agreed, eyeing the other man carefully. "He should be able to return to light duty in a week or so."

"I'm glad to hear that," Parkers replied with difficulty. "Everyone on the ship has been very worried about him."

Kirk smiled softly. "I know. Everyone's concern is appreciated."

Parkers nodded curtly. "Sir." And he turned and exited the cabin.

Kirk sighed heavily. Poor bastard. Then, remembering that Amanda was waiting, he got up and briskly moved into the sleeping alcove.

Spock was sitting up on the edge of the bed, looking into the communications console. "Here is Jim now."

Kirk sat next to his first officer and put his arm around the Vulcan's waist. He knew that Amanda enjoyed seeing the affection between them, and over the years, Spock had mellowed enough so that such displays to close friends and family no longer bothered him.

"Jim," Amanda smiled at him. "I'm glad to see that you're looking well. I was afraid that taking care of Spock for so long would have done you in."

Kirk reached up and mussed the back of his mate's hair. "Oh, he‘s been a pretty good boy, behaving himself and following doctor's orders."

"He needs a haircut."

"Yes." Kirk looked at Spock pointedly. "I'll see that he gets it taken care of tomorrow."

"I don‘t want to tie you up, Jim. Spock said you were busy. But I just wanted to see that you were fine."

"I am. And your son is doing much better than he was a few weeks ago."

"So he told me. I was very frightened there for awhile."

"Yes, I know," Kirk said quietly. "So was I."

"I'd better be going. Thanks so much for contacting me. I love you both."

Spock held up his hand in the Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, Mother."

"Goodbye, Amanda," Kirk said. "We love you, too."

He flipped off the screen. Then he turned to his mate and gently encouraged him to lie back on the bed. His hands began to deftly work with the fastening to the black trousers.

Spock's voice was puzzled. "Jim, what are you doing'?"

"I'm taking off your pants," the other said casually. He had them open and now pulled them down the lean hips.

"Yes, that is obvious," Spock said, still puzzled "But why?"

"Because I want what‘s inside."

The human left the pants halfway down the thighs, then reached up and took the underwear, rolling it down to where the pants were. Then he took both garments and pushed them down to the Vulcan's ankles.

Spock was uneasy, even as he complied with Kirk's prompting to clear his legs of the clothing. "Jim, I am still relatively weak. I do not have the energy...."

"Lay back," Kirk directed, his voice soft but holding a no-nonsense tone. "No, on your side .... There, that's good."

Spock was on his side, his knees slightly bent, and he was watching Kirk with confusion. "Jim, I do not believe I have the energy..." he repeated.

"I'm doing all the work," the other told him. "You just lie there and enjoy it."

Spock yielded to the inevitable and relaxed against the bed.

Kirk gazed at the growing phallus for a moment. He knew it would never achieve the degree of hardness that Spock was capable of while in good health, but, for now, it would do.

He lay alongside Spock, facing the Vulcan, his head level with the first officer's groin. Without any preliminaries, he put his hands around the thin butt, opened his mouth, and pulled on the hips until the rising organ was inside his mouth. He gently clamped down on it and began to suck happily. Like a baby to a bottle, he thought with amusement.

After a long moment, Spock groaned softly. Then they both lay quietly, the silence of the cabin broken only by the contented, unhurried sucking noises coming from Kirk.

He’s mine.

The peak was reached so slowly that the climax consisted of only slightly increased breathing from Spock and the release of a small quantity of semen that slid down Kirk's throat with ease. He gently released the depleted phallus and glanced up at his mate, pleased with the peaceful expression he saw, and patted the nearest buttock.

They lay in contented silence for a long moment.

Then the door buzzer sounded.

"Shit," Kirk muttered under his breath, getting up.

He glanced at Spock, who hadn‘t moved but was looking at him with mild alarm.

"Perhaps they can return later?" the Vulcan suggested hopefully.

"Who is it?" Kirk called to the door, not able to keep the irritation out of his voice.

"McCoy," came the muted response.

Spock jumped up and frantically began to put on his pants.

"Just a minute!" Kirk yelled back. To Spock, he muttered, "Isn't he early?"

"Yes." Spock was standing beside the bed, fastening his pants. "He usually comes two point eight - three hours later than this." Now dressed, he took a deep breath and nodded to Kirk.

The captain moved into the office area and pushed a button at his desk that released the lock.

McCoy bounded into the room with a scanner in his hand. "I‘m spending the evening with Scotty and the boys, and I wanted to get Spock‘s nightly checkup over with." He moved past Kirk and straight into the sleeping alcove. "Let me just run a scanner over him."

Spock had sat back down on the bed. Kirk watched from the doorway while McCoy began running the scanner over the Vulcan‘s body, and he blushed clear down to his toes.

"Mmm," the doctor muttered while studying his instrument. "Hormones are a little funny.... Heartbeat is nice and slow...." He furrowed his brows at the Vulcan. "Have you been meditating, Spock?"

Spock was sitting stiffly and staring at the wall. "No, doctor, I have not."

McCoy took another reading. "Your bodily functions just seem unusually mellow right now. But the hormones are stirred up." The blue eyes suddenly widened in comprehension and he jerked his head up to look at Kirk…and found himself confronting a face red with embarrassment. "You two have already started that again?" he asked in disbelief.

Kirk cleared his throat and forced authority into his tone. "What do you mean 'already'? Christ, Bones, it's been four weeks."

"And Spock hasn't completely recovered yet," McCoy reminded him. "It's not good for him to get excited." His tone was attempting to be scolding, but it was only partially successful.

Kirk shrugged innocently. "I didn't excite him. I just mellowed him out a bit. You said so yourself."

McCoy grunted. "So I did. But this wasn’t the kind of activity I had in mind when I put together his exercise schedule." He set down an orange tape he'd been holding in his palm and pushed it to Spock, who had remained quiet and straight-faced throughout the conversation. "Follow this meticulously and you should be back at your station in less than a week."

"Thank you, Doctor," The Vulcan said as he accepted the tape. "I will do so."

As McCoy headed for the door, he kept his eyes on Kirk. "And keep your hands off of him until I certify him fit."

Kirk nodded with lowered eyes. After the sliding of the doors indicated the doctor's exit, the captain looked up at his mate and a smile gradually spread across his face. He came toward the bed and plopped down on it, scooping Spock up into his arms as he did so.

"Busted by Bones," he sighed with mock despair.

"Indeed." More seriously, Spock said, "Jim, I regret I was not able to return the gratification you gave me. I…"

"That's all right," the captain interrupted softly. "I just wanted to please you. The urge to get my mouth on you came over me all of a sudden. "

"I am pleased that you have such urges," Spock said with slight amusement. "But I confess to being curious as to the catalyst."

Kirk sat back against the headboard of the bed, Spock snuggled close at his left. After a moment of thought, he said, "It was Parkers that brought it on."

Spock narrowed his brows suspiciously. "In what way?"

"He gave me a request for a transfer," Kirk replied softly. "He said it was for personal reasons."

"Oh," Spock said quietly. After a moment, he added, "I regret that his... feelings for me have caused him such distress."

"So am I. But I didn't approve it yet. I gave him the usual week to reconsider, but I don‘t think it will change his mind."

They were silent for a moment, then Spock reminded Kirk that he hadn’t answered his original question. "Jim, how did this conversation between Mister Parkers and yourself affect your libido?"

Kirk gently tilted Spock's head up to him so he could gaze into the soft brown eyes. "After he left, I had an urge to do something to show that you are mine. It's illogical, I guess, but I felt like I needed to do something to reaffirm that we belong to each other."

"I believe I can understand those feelings," Spock said hesitantly, then added, "I know that there have been times, such as when you've met an old girlfriend from the past, that I have felt a need to be possessive of you."

Kirk hugged him, remembering a few such occasions. "Uh-huh. And I recall that most of those occasions made for some very exciting sex."

Spock considered that, then his eyebrows lifted in surprise and sudden realization. "I believe you are correct."

Kirk chuckled and kissed him on the cheek.

* * * * *

The door to the observation deck slid open, and Kirk paused appreciatively to take in the beauty of space against the darkness of the room‘s interior. He entered with is hands behind his back and came toward the main viewing window.

It wasn't until he halted before it that he noticed someone else was in the room. The other man studied the captain long enough to recognize the new visitor, then turned to leave.

In that instant, Kirk recognized the other man as Lieutenant Parkers. On impulse, he called, "Wait," to Parkers' back.

Parkers turned. "Captain," he nodded respectively. "I was just leaving, sir."

Kirk took a deep breath, studying the other man's dark eyes in the starlight from the window. "I'd like to talk to you," he said, though he wasn't sure what it was he wanted to say.

At the lieutenant‘s narrowing eyes, he added, "Not as captain to subordinate."

Parkers put his hands behind his back and rocked impatiently on his feet. "All right," he agreed, though his face was closed.

"Off the record, I know what your reasons are for wanting a transfer."

The other man's jaw firmed. "I see."

"Don't blame Spock," Kirk put in quickly, then wondered if it was really necessary to defend the Vulcan's integrity to someone who was already fond of him. He shrugged with a forced smile. "We always tend to eventually find out what goes on in each other's lives."

Parkers nodded impatiently. "Is there a point to this, sir'?"

Kirk was a little put off by the younger man‘s attitude, but then realized he couldn't blame him. "I'm sorry if I'm getting too personal, but I can‘t help but wonder why someone would torment themselves by becoming attached to a bonded Vulcan. Vulcans mate for life."

Finally, Parkers seemed willing to talk. "Yes, I know that, sir. But I also know that Mister Spock is half human. He is a unique being unto himself."

Kirk couldn't help but smile. "Yes, he is," he said softly.

"I've never held any grudges against you, sir. In fact, this whole thing would be much easier if I could find it within myself to hate you."

His voice softened and he momentarily glanced at the deck. "I was merely trying to give Mister Spock another option to consider if he wasn't completely satisfied with his current situation." He sighed heavily. "But it's rather obvious now that he is completely satisfied with you."

He looked up with wide brown eyes, "And I am so envious."

"There's someone out there for you, Parkers," Kirk told him softly, though he doubted his words would give the other man much comfort. "Even if Spock was to become unhappy with me, we couldn't break the bond without severe risk to both our sanity." He watched the other man nod and realized that Parkers was probably already aware of that. "Despite our combined human blood, our bond is Vulcan. That part of Spock is very dominant."

Parkers turned his attention to the viewing window. "Would it really matter if it wasn't?" he asked rhetorically. "He's in love with you," he whispered. "I may be slow, but I have gathered that much from working with him and seeing the two of you together."

He suddenly looked back at Kirk. "I'm sorry if I made things difficult for him. I didn't mean to." His voice lowered again to a whisper. "I couldn't help myself, I wanted him so badly."

Not knowing what else to say, Kirk said, "I know the feeling."

Parkers presented a bitter-sweet smile. "I'm sure you do."

They both looked up sharply when the door to the observation deck slid back. There, silhouetted against the entrance, stood a tall, lean form of unmistakable identity.

"I'd better be going," Parkers said bluntly. He started for the door as Spock entered the large room.

Kirk watched with a small smile as the two men nodded politely to each other in passing. Then Parkers exited through the door, and Spock approached Kirk with an arched eyebrow.

"Good evening, Commander," Kirk greeted, amazed at what the mere sight of his bondmate did to his insides. "What are you doing here?"

Spock, who was wearing a light grey jumpsuit, stood before him. "I completed my workout in the gym and, after finding you absent from our quarters, decided to look for you since I did not wish to be alone."

Kirk slipped an arm around the slim waist as the two turned to gaze out at the stars. "Is something bothering you?"

"No. It is only that I am tiring of so much isolation from others."

Kirk patted him on the butt. "Bones says it‘ll just be a few more days. How are you feeling?"

"Much stronger. My workouts have been quite refreshing."

Spock glanced back toward the door, then at the human. "Jim...," he began hesitantly, "do you feel the need to...reaffirm that we belong to each other?"

Kirk grinned at Spock and shook his head. "Parkers and I ran into each other via coincidence. We had a little discussion. No, I'm fine, Spock."

Spock turned to his captain and abruptly picked the other up off the floor.

"Spock! What are you doing?" Kirk demanded with a mixture of amusement and alarm. "You don't have the strength...."

"Obviously, I do," the Vulcan replied smugly as he seated himself in a large, cushioned chair with Kirk cradled in his lap. It felt so good to be held in those strong arms that Kirk lost interest in protesting and simply rested his head against Spock's shoulder.

They watched the stars in silence for awhile. Then Kirk sighed dramatically.

Spock looked down at him with raised eyebrows.

"I'm trying to feel guilty for having you all to myself," the human explained. "But I'm having very little success."

Spock lowered his head and kissed Kirk on the mouth. "It would be illogical to feel guilt about possessing one who is rightfully yours."

Kirk was already tired of the discussion. "Mmm. Do that again."

Spock repeated the kiss, this time making it lengthier and wrapping his arms more snugly around Kirk.

When they pulled apart, the human laid his head back on the lean shoulder. "It feels so good to feel your strength again," he whispered. "I'm so glad you‘re feeling so much better."

"Indeed. I have sensed your need for attention."

Kirk looked up at him suddenly. "Sensed? You mean through the bond?"

Spock nodded. "I believe so, though the feeling may also stem from the fact that I know you and your needs so well."

"I don't feel anything," Kirk said with disappointment.

"The feeling is extremely subtle. I believe only my inborn telepathic abilities allow me to detect it."

Kirk relaxed then and snuggled closer against his mate's shoulder. "Let‘s just sit here like this for awhile," he said as he closed his eyes. "It feels so good."

"Agreed. Perhaps I should activate the lock."

Kirk quickly shook his head. "No. Don‘t get up. If someone sees us, they see us."

"Very well," Spock whispered. He squeezed tighter with his arms and rested his lips against the cool human forehead.

They stayed like that for nearly an hour, until inevitable sleep beckoned them to return to their quarters.

* * * * *

"All right, Spock, you can get up."

The first officer removed himself from the table and stood beside Kirk while McCoy made some final notes. After a moment, the doctor looked at them both. "All physiological systems show normal. You're only three pounds underweight and your stress-handling factor is excellent." He smiled at his patient. "You can start doing half shifts tomorrow. If you aren't feeling any fatigue after a few days, you can go ahead and return to full duty."

Kirk breathed a big sigh of relief and smiled proudly at his mate.

"You two still having trouble with the bond?" McCoy asked.

Kirk tapped his head, "We can feel it, but there's still very little telepathic communication."

"But it‘s better than it was?" McCoy verified.

Kirk nodded. "Yes. It's very gradual, but we can tell that it's coming back."

McCoy nodded with satisfaction and Kirk and Spock exited Sickbay. When they passed by one of the recreation rooms, Spock paused and said, "Jim, I know that Lieutenant Uhura is usually in this room at this hour." He indicated the door. "I have not yet had a chance to thank her personally for her thoughtful gift. I wish to do so now."

Kirk nodded. "Okay. I'll be in our cabin."

The two parted and Kirk continued on his way. When he came to his cabin he found Parkers standing outside, leaning against the bulkhead. The man straightened when Kirk approached.

"Sir, I wish to speak with you, if you have a moment."

"Certainly, Mister Parkers," Kirk said as he stepped into his office. "I guess your week is up."

"Yes, sir, it is."

The door slid closed behind them both and Kirk gestured to the chair in front of his desk while taking the one behind it.

Parkers shook his head. "I'll just be a minute, sir."

Kirk gazed at him. "You haven't changed your mind," he realized.

"No, sir, I haven't."

"I‘m sorry to hear that, Mister Parkers. It'll be unfortunate to lose someone with your capabilities."

"Thank you, sir."

"We’ll be stopping off at Starbase 29 for leave in a few days. We can drop you off there provided Starfleet approves - which I'm sure they will - and you can await reassignment." His tone softened. "I'm sorry things didn't work out for you here."

The man smiled, but the gesture held a hint of sadness. "The Enterprise is a fine ship, Captain. I will miss serving aboard her."

Kirk nodded. "I’ll give you a good recommendation, and I'm sure that Mister Spock will, too."

"Thank you, sir."

The conversation seemed to be at an end, but, as was so often the case, Parkers grew hesitant and spoke shyly. "I just want you to know, Captain, that I really admire what you and Mister Spock have together."

"You’re very kind, Mister Parkers. And I‘ve no doubt that there is a special someone out there for you, too." There was an uncomfortable silence, then he said, "I'm sure you’ll be successful in whatever you do."

"Thank you, sir."

"Is there anything else?"

"No, sir."

There was another uncomfortable silence, followed by Kirk's soft, "Dismissed."

Parkers abruptly turned and left the cabin.

* * * * *

Kirk sat on the bridge, bored, and thumping the arms of his chair with his fingers. The ENTERPRISE was still some thirty hours away from Starbase 29 and there was little to do in the meantime. Once there, the crew was granted a week's leave, and he was grateful Spock was healthy enough to go planet side. He hadn't figured out yet what they should do with their week of leisure, though he assumed Spock was more desperate for some sunshine and fresh air than even the most stale crewmember. Though he had followed orders well, Spock hadn't enjoyed the six weeks he'd spent almost entirely in bed.

A yeoman brought a tray of coffee and he accepted the first cup which was offered to him. He drank quietly, his thoughts turning to Parkers. He hoped the best for the man, and was sorry that he hadn't been able to resolve his feelings for Spock. The more he thought about it, the more he was sure it was Parkers who had slipped into the gardens over a week before when he and Spock had been visiting there. He suspected the man had heard some of their conversation when they both got a little emotional, and had somehow slipped out. In any case, his fantasies of ever having a relationship with Spock had been destroyed with the harsh reality that the Vulcan's heart was possessed by Kirk.

The captain couldn't help but smile smugly at that thought.

And yes, Spock, you own my heart, too.

Indeed.

The response was so unexpected - and so vibrant - that Kirk almost gasped out loud. Spock!

The bond blossomed open, filling his mind with the essence he'd missed so much these past weeks.

 Spock! You’re all right! We’re all right!

So it would appear.

I'm coming, he promised. He stood and trotted up to the turbo lift, calling, "Scotty, you have the conn," back over his shoulder. He entered the lift and left a group of puzzled faces behind him.

It is not necessary to leave your post, Jim.

Shut up! I’m coming.

Even Spock couldn't hide his pleasure that his bondmate would soon be joining him.

Kirk walked as quickly as he could down the corridor of deck five. When his cabin door slid back to admit him, Spock was standing there waiting for him.

They simply beamed at each other for a moment, then Kirk took the Vulcan's arm and pulled him into the bedroom. He grappled for a fine-boned hand and shakily put it to his temple - just as they both collapsed onto the bed on their sides.

Spock closed his eyes and concentrated.

The bond flared open with a vengeance. Their love-starved minds absorbed each other in frantic reunion, and they both lay there and let themselves blend into one.

It was only complete exhaustion that let their sated minds drift apart nearly an hour later. After Spock‘s hand dropped away from Kirk's temple, they both opened their eyes and simply looked at each other with tender smiles. Neither moved, and the only sound was their quiet breathing.

Finally, Kirk reached out with a hand and ran a singer down the center of Spock's nose. Then he gently grasped a green-tinged cheek and leaned forward for a kiss.

The kiss was lengthy and deep, and Spock slowly rolled over onto his back so Kirk could maneuver himself on top of him. There was no mistaking the hardness between the legs of the prone form.

Kirk slipped his hand inside the trousers. He had only released Spock's mouth long enough for them both to take a breath, but they were now kissing passionately again. His hand quickly found the hard, heated column, and he grasped it, then pulled on it firmly.

Beneath him, Spock groaned and squirmed. Then, as though realizing Kirk had been the one deprived the longest, the Vulcan found the human‘s stiff phallus and performed a similar action upon it.

Kirk pulled back. "Don't," he gasped. "I've got to have you. I know I won't last long, but I've got to be inside you."

Both weak with passion, Kirk got to his knees and leaned over Spock to get to a bedside drawer. Spock slipped his pants off, and his shirt soon followed.

Kirk found the tube he was looking for, and he set it aside and quickly undressed. Once nude, he made little fuss of applying the lubricant to Spock, and then to himself.

"I'm not going to last long," he warned again as he maneuvered himself into position.

"I believe I will not, either," Spock replied hoarsely.

"Easy does it," the human soothed out of habit. He pushed against Spock and, on the second try, the tight, tender flesh yielded to him. "That's good, that's good," he praised the Vulcan who, as always, resisted the instinct to expel him.

He sighed, feeling his scrotum come to rest against warm buttocks.

Below him, Spock whimpered softly and then released a stream of semen.

Kirk's fevered eyes moved back and forth between his lover‘s face and the proof of his passion.

"Damn you’re beautiful," he whispered.

When the contractions stopped, he carefully lowered himself until he was lying on top of a furred chest. Spock‘s warm arms came around him.

"You feel so good."

Spock's arms tightened.

Kirk moved his arms in under the Vulcan and squeezed the beloved form while he began a gentle pumping motion.

"I love you."

Spock locked his legs around the human's back.

Kirk moved harder and faster, then groaned elaborately when release was upon him. He collapsed on top of Spock, arms and legs spread at their sides.

Spock removed his legs from the slick back and held Kirk tight against him, his mouth toying with the soft hair beneath it.

Finally, Kirk looked up at him with slitted eyes and a sated smile. He gave the warm lips a quick kiss.

"Welcome back, Commander."

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