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Spock watched Kirk lazily through half-open eye-lids as the human bounced from wave to wave in the green ocean which crashed repeatedly against the golden beach where he lay. The blue sun flowed high in the sky bathing his already coppery skin in blissful warmth. The day stretched quietly before him, The sands, deserted save for himself and Kirk, welcomed his weight as he stretched, flinging his arm over his face to shadow his eyes.

He must have fallen asleep for he awoke to a cool rain of salty liquid on his legs and lower torso. He opened his eyes to see Kirk, standing by the spread towels, shaking wet hair from his face.

"I trust you enjoyed your swim, Captain?" Spock said unmoving, eyes drifting shut again under the shadow of his crooked arm.

"It was great!" Kirk's enthusiasm tingled contagiously through Spock. A most illogical conclusion, Spock thought, that emotion in any form should become contagious. And yet, to a telepath whose normal barriers had slid somewhat during this particular day at the beach, it was not an unknown nor uncommon occurrence.

Kirk shook his head again, flinging his damp hair in the soft breeze. Dots of cool, sea spray showered Spock a second time. •Again, he opened his eyes, peering at his Captain from under his arms. "You are dousing me with oceanic liquid every time you, shake your head, Captain," Spock announced quietly.

Kirk glanced down. "Ooops. Sorry." He took a step away from Spock, the sand rising like gold powder where he stepped. "You really should go in and test the water." Kirk said. "You'd love it. It's cool but not too cold, and so relaxing." Carefully, so as not to disturb more loose sand, he dropped to the towel spread beside Spock.

"I am quite content to remain where I am," Spock insisted, still watching as Kirk made himself comfortable beside him, resting on his side. His eyes closed until the long lashes darkly met the lower ones, making his face appear as though were almost painted on chiseled, gold stone. Damp curls of light brown hair stuck to his high forehead and Kirk looked even more youthful than he had just coming up from the sea.

Spock's gaze moved down to the smooth, almost hairless chest, shiny and taut from the recent swim, and an even darker brown than Kirk's face. The red, snug­fitting trunks Kirk wore highlighted his sun-soaked coloring, but Spock could see, where the hip bent and one thigh drew forward of the other causing the material to ride up, where the tan line ended and Kirk's true, pale coloring began. It was a most interesting juxtaposition, he thought, tan against a white stripe of usually unexposed flesh against bright red of the swimsuit. And from somewhere, as he gazed at the vulnerable position Kirk now lay in before him, a familiar but embarrassing wash of heat tremored through him. He quickly glanced away.

Kirk's voice, quiet now with lethargy, asked: "Why were you looking at me that way, Spock?"

For a moment, Spock ceased to breathe. He saw me staring.... 1 am humiliated beyond endurance. How could 1 have done such a…? As quickly as panic came, it fled. This was Jim Kirk, his best and closest friend. He had nothing to fear, nothing to feel guilty about. His usual Vulcan control easily reasserted itself and he moved his arm and turned to his side to face his captain.

"Was I staring?" He asked innocently. "I apologize if that is what you thought."

Kirk blinked tiredly. "That is what l thought but you don't have to apologize. I just wondered what was going through your mind. You had the strangest look...."

Spock, grateful that his coppery tan would successfully hide the warmth rushing to his face, blushed. "I was half asleep. I do not remember specific thoughts of that particular moment."

"Oh." Eyes closed now, Kirk smiled. "Daydreaming is what it's called."

"Vulcans do not daydream." Spock felt his own particular brand of humor surface. He saw Kirk try to hide a smirk and knew his friend did not believe him.

"They just wonder about questions of scientific and logical curiosity, right?"

"Quite correct." He knows just how to play....

"I wonder at the number of strange, outrageous questions that could fit into the mode of 'scientific and logical curiosity.'"

"Quite a number I would think," Spock said quickly, wondering if Kirk were leading somewhere he might not wish to follow.

"Hmm," was all Kirk said and was silent.

Spock, grateful for the reprieve, closed his eyes, concentrating on the sun beating against his thighs and now exposed back. Only their twin breaths could be heard as, inches from each other, they relaxed face to face on the low, golden dunes.

After a few more minutes of quiet peace, Spock turned again onto his back and sighed very softly. Kirk did not move.

Spock stretched his legs and lifted his head slightly to look down at himself. He was not burned yet but after another hour. he would have to apply more sun-lotion if he wanted his skin to remain uninjured. His skin glistened with a thin sheet of perspiration. His chest, beneath the soft mat of dark hair, glittered.

"Need lotion?" came Kirk's voice, still sleepy and soft.

Spock lay back end turned toward him. Kirk, eyes still closed, fished blindly in the sand by their heads until he found the smooth brown bottle of sun-screen. He half-opened his eyes and held the gold-flecked flask out to Spock.

Spock took the bottle politely. "In a little while I will need it," he answered.

"Don't take any unnecessary chances."

"Unlike you, I never do," Spock said. Kirk's low chuckle answered him, danced through his body and circled his heart. He had never been so content.

"Is that why you came with me today?" Kirk asked. "Because coming with me wasn't an unnecessary chance, since you know you're safe with me?"

"Not at all," Spock replied. "I actually do enjoy your company. Conversation with you, or chess, or any number of the things we participate in together, is logically stimulating at times and most enjoyable."

"You've never said that to me before," Kirk said, voice laced with surprise.

"But you knew."

Kirk shook his head. "Not necessarily. Maybe I thought you were just putting up with me because I'm the Captain."

Spock propped himself up on his elbow. "Jim, you and I are friends, are we not?"

"Of course. We just never really talk about it. I guess we take certain things about each other, certain thoughts, for granted."

"Perhaps. But friendship is friendship nevertheless. It is no different from your human friendships just because I am not wholly human."

"I didn't mean to imply that."

"l did not think so, On Vulcan, friendships which are very close are rare but exist."

"So you came with me out of pure friendship today," Kirk concluded, sounding quite content.

"Affirmative."

"That's good." Kirk sighed happily.

Spock felt a warm smile start within him.

"I'm glad you can talk to me like this," Kirk added.

"Normally, I would not."

"I know." Kirk chuckled again, shaking his head against the towel. "Silly Vulcan," he muttered.

Spock raised a dignified eyebrow and before he could stop his own illogical response, muttered: "Silly human.''

Both Kirk's eyebrows raised and he began to laugh. "I love it when you do that," he said between breaths. He grinned.

"You mean when I speak before I think?"

"Something like that." Kirk chuckled again. "And when you let me peek at that special side of yourself that you never let out. Makes me feel special...."

"You are...."

Kirk turned over onto his stomach and propped the upper half of his body up on his elbows. "You did it again," he said, smiling.

Kirk's squirmings had twisted his swimsuit until Spock could see, just below the waist at the hip where the tan ended, the stripe of white skin revealed again. The stripe went from the side all the way around Kirk's back.

"You're looking at me that way again, Spock," Kirk accused.

Immediately, Spock dropped his gaze. Heat rushed to his face again and he kept his head bowed. He heard Kirk take a deep breath, then speak words that he wasn't quite sure were real.

"It's all right. I think you look good, too," Kirk said.

Was that a compliment Kirk had just paid him?

"It's normal to look, Spock. Even compare with yourself. Guys do it all the time. Girls do too, probably.”

"I was not comparing you to anyone."

"What I mean is," Kirk said, "It's not wrong to look. I was just 'logically and scientifically curious' as to what you were thinking."

"I do not know."

"I like it much better when you answer without thinking about it."

"I...," Spock struggled to come up with words that would please Kirk but could think of nothing.

Kirk smiled. "Quit struggling. You're on shore leave. You're with a friend. You should be relaxed and not have a care in the world. We came down here to get away. Now, you don't have to be guarded with me. And if I intrude where you don't want me, tell me to shut up."

"Jim, it is most difficult for me...." Spock wanted him to know that he did not intrude. He also did not want Kirk to 'shut up'.

"I know. How well I know. It's very hard to let loose after being shut up for so long, after strictly maintaining certain barriers, certain images...." Kirk looked at Spock intently. "And I'm pushing you. I'm sorry."

"You are not pushing."

"No? The last thing I went, Spock, is for you to clam up with me. I value the freedom we have together. I don't want to ruin that."

"I, too, value freedom with you." Spock frowned, wondering if he ever really could let loose with Kirk, let him see everything without fear as he would for no other person. He trusted Kirk, but how far did that trust go? Friendship, Spock had discovered over the years, had certain barriers of its own which, when tested, often left a bad taste in the tester's mouth. He• did not know of any barriers in his relationship with Kirk and was afraid to test for them should they, indeed, exist.

"You're frowning," Kirk said, then shrugged and lay his head down on folded arms.

"I was simply contemplating the fact that freedom is a most obscure word."

"How?"

"Usually with any freedom there are still structures and barriers which should not be breached." Spock watched Kirk's eyes open thoughtfully as he lay, stomach down, head on arms.

"True," Kirk finally agreed. "But what barriers are there for us?"

Spock took a deep breath. Kirk had read his thoughts impeccably. "I do not know. We have never tested them." What am l saying?

"Well, as far as I'm concerned, there aren't any. No barriers between us. I like it that way. Makes me feel, well, you know, more confident or something. You're always there, backing me up. In work, in play. Nope, no barriers. That's the way."

"I do not know how you can come to that conclusion," Spock said, not quite sure if Kirk knew himself what he was saying.

Kirk lifted his head and rested his chin on his hands. Spock watched him as he opened his eyes and looked directly at him, eyes so intense it almost hurt Spock to gaze into them. Suddenly, he realized that the eyes were brighter than normal, shiny with something.... They became fuller and very, very green. Green as the sea that washed over the land.

"Jim?"

"I can come to that conclusion," Kirk said a little gruffly, "because I love you."

Spock thought his heart had indeed finally stopped. Kirk had closed his eyes again, as though suddenly afraid. "Love?" Spock managed to choke out.

"Love is a very strange and obscure word," Kirk said quietly. "Almost like 'freedom'. A lot of times it's said too quickly, or too easily and it becomes meaningless. I didn't say it that way. Spock...." Suddenly Kirk shuddered. "I mean it."

"In all definitions?" Spock asked, trying fervently to recall all the definitions.

"Yes." The word was said without hesitation. "And whatever definitions you want to make up as well."

"I... Jim...." Spock was at a loss. He did not know what to do, what to think. Help me! The silent plea remained silent. Kirk did not speak.

Spock sat up then, and drew his knees to his chest. He sat that way for a moment before deciding to stand. Then he pushed with his hands and rose, saying: "I must be alone."

Kirk jumped up at the words but Spock ignored him, taking a few steps into the soft, gold sand which ran between his toes and stuck to his toenails. "Spock. Wait!" he heard the human say. Then, softer, "Shit." He did not turn.

He heard the brush of sand against bare feet, then felt gusts of powder on his legs as Kirk caught up to his long, purposeful strides. He did not stop until Kirk grabbed his arm and halted him, pulling him around so they were face to face.

He watched the play of emotion cross Kirk's face. Kirk's eyes were darker now, drawn, his lips tight with reproach and something not quite resembling shame. "Spock, don't leave," he said tightly. He would not meet Spock's eyes.

Spock looked down at Kirk's hand which strongly gripped his forearm. Beyond the grip, Kirk's swim trunks had slid even further from their accustomed place on his hips and the white stripe of skin was three times as wide as it had been before. Kirk’s stomach quivered with emotion, brown and shiny with perspiration. Spock glanced back up at his face. Though tanned, it paled with worry.

Spock tugged at his captured arm. Kirk would not let go.

"I'm not sorry I love you, Spock," Kirk said, clearing his throat. "But I'm sorry it disturbs you. I'm so sorry ...."

"Cease!" Again, Spock had replied without thinking. What was happening to him? "Do not be sorry!" Spock took a few deep lungfuls of air and realized he too was shivering.

Kirk stood, stunned. Spock realized he had shocked Kirk into speechlessness. Spock had yelled at him with all his voice. Never in his life had he shouted like that. Kirk's eyes began to fill, defying the strong stance Kirk took, the iron grip of his hand, the thrust out chin and drawn lips, all traits of the starship commander, the hero, the fearless leader. All those traits were suddenly so easily defied by the tears that collected in the upturned stare, tears that, uncontrolled as the rest of him, splashed onto tanned cheeks.

Spock closed his eyes and gave a final, weak tug against Kirk's grip. Tears were his weakness. He could not handle seeing another in such a condition. "I never wish to hurt thee," Spock whispered, not trusting his own voice.

Kirk looked dawn then and let go of his arm. "I know." The voice came out strong, not broken as Spock had expected.

Spock opened his eyes. Then, the sight of the bowed head too much for him, he relented. "Ah, Jim...." He took one step toward him and pulled him to his chest in a gentle embrace. He thought Kirk might fight contact but instead Kirk melted against him, arms circling Spock's waist, chin resting on his shoulder.

Spock nuzzled the side of Kirk's head with his lips, the soft, still slightly damp hair tickling him. "M't'hy'la," he murmured.

Kirk pulled his head back a few inches. "What is that word?’

Spock held him closer, then answered. "All forms of love."

"I like that," Kirk said. Spock pressed his lips to the tall forehead, pressing their bodies together with his hands. •

"You wanted this for a long time, didn't you?" Kirk added, lifting his face until their lips were mere centimeters apart.

Spock closed his eyes slowly as he nodded.

Kirk smiled. "Me, too. So now neither of us has to be afraid."

Spock let himself sway forward those scant centimeters until their lips brushed.

A searing love erupted between them as Kirk's lips parted slightly, allowing the kiss to deepen, relaxing against Spock's gentle contact.

They clung as the sea crashed behind them, and the golden sands settled beneath their feet.

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