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“Check mate, Mr. Spock.  That makes…three games in a row.”  Kirk sat back, arms folded over his chest with a satisfied expression on his face.

Spock studied the board and considered the unpredictability of Kirk’s moves.  Looking up into smiling hazel eyes, he raised an eyebrow as would be expected and watched as the smile spread to his captain’s mouth.

“Most illogical, Captain.”

“But effective, wouldn’t you say?”  Kirk leaned forward and clasping the glass of whiskey, swirled it around a few times before taking a sip.

Jim was entitled to his smugness, Spock thought.  Few Humans had bested him in chess, and none as consistently as Kirk had since taking over command of the Enterprise.  “Indeed.  I have yet to discern your strategy.”

Kirk replaced the glass on the table and picked up a bishop he’d captured from Spock earlier.  “You already know – my strategy is that I have no strategy.”

Spock leaned back and, resting his elbows on the arms of his chair, clasped his hands together, steepling his index fingers as he considered his captain’s words.  It was, perhaps, one of the biggest differences between them, that Kirk was largely a man of action, mostly stimulated by the outer world of people and things, relying on his intellect and intuition to read and respond to situations in the moment.  By contrast, Spock was someone who was more comfortable with contemplation, preferring where possible to gather information and analyze it carefully, thinking through all the myriad possibilities and their outcomes before acting.  He found himself frequently energized by his inner life of thoughts and reflections; it was also within that his constant struggle between his Vulcan and Human selves took place, for the most part unseen and unknown by the outside world.

It would be doing Kirk a disservice to take him at his word.  He was a brilliant strategist unmatched, Spock believed, by anyone else of his rank in StarFleet.  When playing chess, Kirk was able to read the board, in the same way he could read situations, taking it all in, in one fell swoop.  The so-called ‘non’ strategy he employed, Spock suspected, was to have a number of them running simultaneously, switching between them impulsively, to appear random and capricious, to fly in the face of logic.

Spock allowed his eyes to soften, and Kirk smiled in response, as Spock knew he would.  “I believe, Jim, that you derive pleasure from being deliberately unpredictable.”  That was true not just with him, but with anyone his captain came across in a challenging situation.  He seemed to thrive on doing the action least anticipated, and this tactic had saved the Enterprise many times over the course of the first three years of their mission so far.

The use of his captain’s given name widened the smile; in some ways, Kirk could be utterly predictable.  “Does it irritate you, Spock?”

“Irritate, Sir? You ascribe an emotion where there is none.”

Kirk held up the bishop he grasped.  “You know, back in medieval times, the clergy were seen as being next to God – beyond reproach and above the kind of needs and desires of the common man.  What they portrayed as a symbolic figurehead to the masses, and how they really were in private, was frequently at odds.”

Kirk’s sudden change of subject was something he was used to in their discussions.  Indeed, attempting to keep up with his captain’s mercurial thoughts was something he regarded as intellectually stimulating.  He carefully considered Kirk’s statement.  Having made a study of the main monotheist religions of his mother’s people, Spock was well aware of the double lives those clergy led.  More than one pope had sired children, while others had committed acts of torture or even murder to further their own power and wealth. 

“I am uncertain what you are implying.  That I am above the needs of men, that I hold myself to different standards than others, or perhaps that I lead a double life?”

Kirk studied him in silence before answering.  “Any of those – but maybe the last more than the others.  There’s the Spock you allow us to see, and then there’s the real you.”

Kirk was uncomfortably close to the truth.  But one of this man’s strengths, that Spock appreciated, was his perceptiveness.

“Is that not the same for everyone?  We show a façade to the world, but choose to keep a part of ourselves private.  I am certain there is much about you about which I have no inkling.”

Kirk ran his fingers along the edge of the table as he appeared to consider his response.  “Yes it’s true that we all hold something of ourselves back, some more than others.  But I’m not talking about that in the general sense.  There’s something more about you…”

As Kirk’s voice trailed off, Spock considered his options.  He knew he could pretend not to understand what Kirk was alluding to, but he also knew his captain would see the tactic for what it was – what he’d likely call a ‘smoke-screen’.  Denial was always his preferred course of action when Kirk began to get close to the truth of knowing him better.  It was a game they had begun to play early on in their budding friendship, but recently, he found Kirk was pushing more persistently.

This segue in the conversation had begun when Kirk had asked if his captain’s unpredictability irritated him.  He would return to that, as it appeared ‘safer’  “Vulcans do not express emotions such as irritation or joy.  With the disciplines ingrained in us from the time we are born, we are simply incapable of acting on them.”

Kirk put down the bishop and picked up the glass.  “What about half-Vulcans?  I’ve never bought that about you.”

Spock watched as he took a sip of his drink.  He must have held the liquor in his mouth to savor it, as the expected swallow did not take place immediately.  It was the kind of thing Spock had noticed previously – and when it came to James Kirk, he noticed a lot of things.  He found the man…fascinating.  What had started out as an objective evaluation of his new commander had long since become more than a personal interest.  He had frequently sought an indication that that degree interest was reciprocated, but had found none beyond a wish to deepen their friendship.

After several seconds, he saw Kirk’s Adam’s apple bob and contemplated the path the liquor was taking, feeling unaccountably and illogically envious of the liquid’s intimacy, for being taken inside this man.

“As you well know, there has been no alteration to the uniqueness of my hybrid status – I remain the only half-Vulcan in existence.  Even were that not the case, I would not attempt to speculate on the inner workings of another.  Without evidence, any comments I may make would be baseless and therefore entirely redundant.”

As he attempted to deflect Kirk from his path, he knew the futility of it.  Had he not known this man so well, the smile that played about his lips would have given him pause.  Spock sat up straighter in his chair and, realizing Kirk had noticed his discomfort, crossed his arms in an attempt to appear nonchalant.  Too late, he recalled that while the action was often associated with being comfortable, it was also seen as a defensive gesture.

After three years of working in close quarters and facing all manner of situations, the look on Kirk’s face was one he now easily recognized.  Whether it was a beautiful woman at a diplomatic function or a hostile alien, the predator was easily discernible to him.  He did the only thing he could do to head his captain off.

"If you will excuse me, Captain," he said standing up, "I have a number of experiments I must—"

“Don’t go, Spock,” Kirk said, sitting up.  Spock paused, unsure if it was an order or simply a request.  “You’re not running out on me.  If you’re not comfortable with this conversation which, I might add,” he paused and smiled, “is an answer in itself, then we’ll talk about something neutral.”

Spock gazed down at the guileless expression on his captain’s handsome face and cursed his own weakness where this man was concerned.  With an inward sigh, he subsided back into his seat, noting that having capitulated to Kirk’s request for him to remain, his captain avoided showing even a small sign of victory on his face.

“So tell me, how are Uhura’s plans for the Christmas party coming along?”

"It is not a—”

Kirk waved his hand to stall him.  “—Christmas party; I know, I know.  It’s just how I think about it, given my upbringing.  Calling it a ‘Winter party’ just doesn’t sound the same.  Besides, whoever came up with that politically correct name clearly never lived in Earth's southern hemisphere.”

Spock, as the coordinator of resources, relayed what had been done thus far in the preparations and, from there, the conversation naturally drifted into other aspects of shipboard life.  Spock was more than relieved that further personal discussion was avoided.

-=-=-

Spock lay in bed contemplating the conversation he’d had earlier with his captain, and considered to what degree Kirk’s perceptiveness where he was concerned, was his own doing.  For some time, when alone with his captain, he had deliberately loosened his controls, allowing small smiles, volunteering information of a more personal nature and encouraging Kirk to do the same.  It was only natural that having invited him in, Kirk’s own innate curiosity and desire to learn would push him to seek more, to explore further, just as it was natural for Spock to deflect and put up barriers when the probing became too invasive.

He was, he concluded, likely confusing Kirk, giving off mixed signals – come in, don’t come in.  It was testament to the depth of their friendship that Kirk never appeared frustrated by this, but patiently backed off as he had done this evening.

Something close to a sigh escaped his controls.  He had come to a crossroads and, he believed, he could no longer procrastinate on a decision that he needed to make.

While he had long felt an attraction to Kirk, he had been content to enjoy and admire him in a purely platonic manner, believing his captain to be entirely heterosexual.  That is, until a chance overheard conversation with McCoy, six months earlier, proved that belief to be erroneous.

This information had come to him while on a scheduled three-day visit to Starbase 16 for routine requisitions and maintenance.  Kirk had visited Paul D’Aboux, someone whom he’d described as an ‘old friend’ who was stationed there.

On his captain’s return, Spock had tracked him down to sickbay, requiring a sign-off for some non-standard equipment he unexpectedly managed to procure for his bio-chemical lab.  His sensitive hearing picked up that Kirk was in the midst of a conversation with McCoy and he paused to discern if what they were discussing concerned ship’s business, which could be interrupted, or if it was of a personal nature, in which case he would try later.

“So, you’re feeling a tad less tense, then,” McCoy said, and Spock could hear the smile in his voice.

“God yes.  It was just what the doctor ordered,” Kirk chuckled, and McCoy joined in.

“Well now,” the doctor responded, the drawl of the vowels denoting a slide into his southern accent, “I don’t think it’s in the CMO’s remit to prescribe that particular type of stress relief.”

“After all these years, I’d forgotten how well Paul and I had gotten on when we were at the Academy.  It was like we’d never been apart, and the sex was fantastic.”

“Jim, please spare me the details if—”

Spock had heard no more of the discussion, fleeing to his quarters to sit on his bunk, his mind processing what he had just learned.  It had not brought about a new-found understanding of his own sexuality, as Spock had been aware of his attraction to Kirk since shortly after his aborted marriage on Vulcan eighteen months earlier.  It did, however, have the potential to alter the dynamics of the friendship they shared, to make it something more, if Kirk was interested in taking it there.

Kirk, Spock had realized early on in their mission, was a highly sexual individual and, for the most part, channeled that energy into the running of his ship.  To Spock’s knowledge, he never fraternized with any of his crew, although he flirted at times with some of the more senior female staff.  As far as Spock could tell, Kirk saved the satisfaction of his sexual needs for times when there was a suitable visitor on board or on Starbase and planetary stop-overs.  He had assumed, since he had witnessed no evidence to the contrary, that all Kirk’s partners were female.

Spock unexpectedly found himself presented with an opportunity, and it had taken him months to analyze the situation, to unravel what it was he desired.  He had considered all the potential scenarios that a relationship with James Kirk might encompass, and what he would be prepared to accept.

He was under no illusion about his captain’s playboy nature, having never witnessed any indication that Kirk was seeking domesticity.  Indeed, in the aftermath of their nearly disastrous visit to Amerind, Kirk had made it clear that the only reason he had fallen in love with Miramanee, and enjoyed his time with her, was because he had forgotten who he was.  When his memory had been restored, his captain had taken precious moments out of an emergency situation to stroke Miramanee’s face in farewell and he knew Kirk had privately grieved for his dead wife and unborn child.  But his desire to return to his ship and the stars, to be back where he belonged had been expressed in something close to relief.

From all that he had seen and knew of Kirk, he believed him incapable of entering into a long-term, monogamous relationship.  What he had spent so long contemplating since that overheard conversation, was not if he should explore the new-found sexuality with this desirable man, that had bloomed within him following his first pon farr.  That was a given.  It was whether he should follow an all-too-Human desire to conduct that exploration outside a formal relationship, or to follow his Vulcan need for Kirk’s sexual exclusivity.

This question went to the heart of the struggle that warred within him between his Vulcan and Human selves.  The self-same facet of his nature, and its consequences, that he believed Kirk had been alluding to earlier.

He had rejected a scientific career founded on an education at the illustrious VSA, causing his father’s subsequent disownership of him, which in turn had resulted in his not having visited his home planet for eighteen years.  Nevertheless, he had still chosen to follow the Vulcan Way as much as was possible when living and working with 430 Humans.

Despite his chosen way of life, he had eventually come to the conclusion that he was prepared to forego exclusivity, willing to allow Kirk his dalliances with others, if his captain would agree that he would always return to Spock.  It would be a win-win solution that he was prepared to indulge in, until his next pon farr forced him to take a bondmate.  More than likely it would be a Vulcan, and one who was willing to allow him to continue his career, though Vulcan propriety would dictate the bond would have to be exclusive.  Until then, Kirk would have an outlet for his sexual energy and he would gain intimate knowledge of this man who fascinated him so.

The confounding variable in all his musings was, of course, Kirk himself.  He had no idea whether his captain found him sexually appealing and even if he did, whether he would consider a relationship, of sorts, with his first officer.  All his ruminations over the past six months may well have been moot.

Having made his decision, Spock began to consider how he might broach the subject.  His reaction to Kirk’s probing that evening was a clear demonstration that his innate need for privacy, even with his closest friend, was so ingrained, that it would make a direct approach unlikely.  It was not a risk he could take since he had sought, but found, no firm evidence, that his regard was reciprocated in the same manner.

While he and Kirk didn’t share the easy-going friendship his captain clearly had with McCoy, he did relax his guard around Spock and shared personal information and private thoughts with him on occasion.  But there was also a distance between them – Kirk’s easy-going self when relaxed, his natural tactile nature, was rarely in evidence when they were alone together and, judging by what he’d accidentally overheard, there were clearly certain personal subjects that were off-limits.  He found himself uncertain if it stemmed from Kirk’s respect for him as a Vulcan, or whether his captain simply didn’t view their friendship being as close to the one he shared with the doctor.

It was in case it was the former, that Spock had begun to relax his control when alone with Kirk, and while not openly flirting, his small smiles, which clearly never failed to delight Kirk, and his willingness to be more open were, he believed, steps in the right direction.  He even occasionally touched Kirk, usually to gain his attention, and he was certain that his captain noticed such occurrences.

However, despite these small overtures, that distance stubbornly remained.  Thinking that he was perhaps being too subtle, he had tried – and failed – to imagine a scenario where he would simply tell Kirk of his desire; the failure was not because he was ashamed of his attraction, but because he was unwilling to open himself up to that degree only to have Kirk turn his offer down.

He had reason to believe the offer also presented another, more tangible danger, if his suit was rejected and it made their working relationship untenable.  Kirk had been known to transfer members of his crew off his ship on occasion when he judged their ‘crush’ had become unhealthy and interfered with their ability to do their job effectively.  Unresolved tension between captain and first officer would certainly fall into that category, and Spock had no intention of becoming another in an unsurprisingly long line.

Spock had come to the conclusion that he’d have to bide his time and wait for an opportunity to arise when he could make his interest known more overtly.  It would have to be carried out in a manner that ensured, if not a positive outcome, then at least one in which, if Kirk were to show no interest, his position as first officer on the Enterprise and his continued friendship with Kirk were both assured.  To achieve this, he had decided the method would require a degree of subterfuge.  It would, in all likelihood, also necessitate him having to step well outside his comfort zone in order to seize the opportunity and act quickly, since it was unlikely such a situation could be foreseen in advance and planned for.  He would have to, as the saying went, take a leaf out of Kirk’s book and act in the moment.

While Spock had been capable of sexual relations prior to his first pon farr, it was as if that event had triggered some switch in him, causing him to require occasional physical release, a need that had not been present before.  He was certain that it was not his ability to control such a need that had diminished, but rather that his sexual drive had become stronger.  The need for release was at its strongest following his spending off-duty personal time with his captain.  It had begun with night-time emissions during sleep, which were most inconvenient due to the mess that ensued; he had discovered the issue was easily remedied by masturbatory means.

Having spent the evening with the man he desired, and then contemplating what it might be like to share an intimate relationship with him, he found himself aroused.  Now, as he lay naked in his bed, his cock half erect, there was a low general ache in the region of his groin that he recognized would require alleviation through manual stimulation.

He reached out to his nightstand and, opening the drawer, took out a small bottle of oil.  Pushing the bedding away, he poured a little onto his hand and then reached down to take hold of his cock, feeling it immediately respond, hardening beneath his grasp as though it were an entity and his touch could endow it with life.

He had learned, early on, that instead of focusing on the physiological changes wrought by his stimulation, imagining scenarios that were of a sexually explicit nature – what he knew Humans called fantasies – hastened his ejaculation.  He had also discovered that certain scenarios more than others – the ones that had the greatest potential to really occur – caused the physical sensations that accompanied his release to be stronger and more pleasurable.  While he might not label those his favorites, he did display a certain bias towards them.

Tonight he chose the cave scenario.  Stranded on a planet, out of contact with the ship due to a severe ion storm that had continued for several days, he and Jim were alone in a cave, a raging blizzard outside.  Although the cave was small, no larger than his and his captain’s quarters combined, the temperature was kept tolerable as a result of geothermal resources, most notably steam from several vents and a small hot spring.  However, there was still enough of an icy blast from the mouth of the cave to require the sharing of body warmth while sleeping.

As the familiar images came to Spock’s mind, the thought of his captain lying sleeping at his back, his warm, humid breaths gusting across his neck, he gripped his cock tighter.  In its erect state, the green of the head was darker, and a drop of pre-ejaculate formed at the slit, which he wiped away with a swirl of his thumb, the touch to his already sensitized glans causing him to inhale sharply.

He imagined waking up, feeling Kirk’s morning erection pressed against him, feeling his own penis harden in answer, Kirk waking, rolling away and sitting up, embarrassed.

He’d learned, when masturbating, that his personal preference was to start out slowly, to build the tension, with strokes that were long and unhurried, only just brushing against the swollen head as his free hand reached lower, caressing and rolling his testicles.

His fantasy self is bold.  Sitting up, he suggests that if his captain needs release, logically Kirk should remedy the situation.  His captain protests; he wouldn’t do something that intimate in front of his first officer, even if he were to undertake it the corner.  Just knowing Spock is aware of what he’s doing would deny him the ability to achieve release.  Perhaps, Spock then suggests, if they were in a similarly intimate position, his captain might feel less self-conscious.  Spock then shows Kirk that he is suffering the same physiological issue.

 

Kirk looks unsure, but Spock can see he is wavering.  To encourage him, he lies back down and begins to undo his zipper, aware that Kirk is watching intently.  He removes his penis and begins to stroke firmly, hearing his captain gasp.  A moment later, a rustle of clothing, and he knows Kirk has given in.  Through slitted eyes, he watches as Kirk takes hold of himself and begins to pump, and it takes a second or two (because he is somewhat distracted) to notice that Kirk is matching his rhythm.  Kirk is watching him.

 

In a voice that he struggles to control, and with more than a hint of audaciousness, he suggests to Kirk that since the touch of another provides greater stimulation and will achieve a more gratifying result, that they should manipulate each other to climax.  Kirk agrees that that would be a logical course of action and rolls close enough to Spock that they are almost touching.  Lying on their sides, facing each other, Spock reaches out a tentative hand to grip Kirk.  It feels much like his own (here, his imagination fails him, having no direct experience to pull on), as his hand slides up and down the rigid shaft.  A moment later, he feels himself taken into a cool fist and it is all he can do not to thrust his hips.

 

As he focused on the fantasy, of bringing Kirk pleasure and having it reciprocated, Spock began to speed up his movements.  Bending his knees and parting his thighs, the hand that had held his balls now inched lower, massaging along the perineum until he reached the tight knot of his sphincter.  He rubbed it gently, feeling the sensations permeate throughout his groin, as his sensitivity heightened.  He imagined what it would feel like to have Kirk do that to him as a precursor to entering him.

His whole body gripped by desire, his breath beginning to come in sharp gasps that echoed in the silence of his quarters, he pushed a finger gently inside, as his other hand moved faster.  He could feel his testicles begin to contract, feel some nameless energy curl around his lower stomach and back, a building pressure deep in the base of his cock.  Quivering on the brink of orgasm, he pressed against his prostate, imagining Kirk’s erection brushing it as he thrust with sure strokes, plunging deeply into him.

Caught up in the moment, his control evaporated, and his hips began to jerk upwards until suddenly the dam burst as orgasm crashed over him in wave after wave of sensation, the contractions gripping his sensitive finger as his stomach and chest were bathed in strings of viscous liquid.

Spock barely had time to recover and regain a more normal breathing pattern, when his comm. unit sounded.  Being deep into gamma shift, the only reason anyone would contact him would be for an emergency.  Leaping out of bed and ignoring the wetness cooling on him, he carefully hit the audio-only control.

“Spock here.”  His voice sounded remarkably composed given what he had been doing moments earlier.

“Spock.”  The sound of his captain’s voice made his still half-hard cock twitch.  “We’ve been ordered to Ardana at maximum warp.  Can you come to my quarters and I’ll give you a full briefing.”

“I will be there in four minutes, Captain.”  The timing he gave was based on past such occasions.  Normally it took him three minutes to dress and be presentable enough, but he added a minute in order to clean himself up.  There would not be time for a sonic shower and he found himself thankful that the Human olfactory modality was far less sensitive than that of Vulcans; it was highly unlikely Kirk would be able to surmise what he had just been doing.

“Right, I’ll get dressed now.”  Spock didn’t need an image of an unclothed Kirk to add to his already sexually heightened state.

“Very well, Spock out.”

Three point seven minutes later, Spock stood in the corridor and pressed at the door control.  He knew he could have simply entered Kirk’s quarters via their shared bathroom, as he sometimes did, but knowing his captain had been in a state of undress, his sense of propriety and privacy prevented him from doing so.

“Come,” Kirk called as the door slid open.  Kirk was turned away from him, pulling on a boot and inadvertently providing his first officer with an unhampered view of his posterior.  Spock might have been able to enjoy the view dispassionately were it not for a secondary factor that immediately came to his attention, causing him to clamp firmly down on his physiological controls.  As he stood at ease in the center of his captain’s cabin, his olfactory senses caught a strong scent that suggested he had not been the only one to have been partaking in some solitary physical relief.

Fully clothed and booted, Kirk turned around and leaned against his desk.  “Well the situation, as I understand it, is Merak II is experiencing a pandemic botanical plague – and I don’t need to tell you if all their plants are killed off, they’ll lose the means to produce oxygen.  Shit,” he added, shaking his head, “it doesn’t bear thinking about.”

“Zenite is considered to be the most effective means for halting such disasters,” Spock offered.

“Right, so our orders are to head to Ardana and pick up two hundred and fifty kilos of the stuff and get back to Merak II before the situation becomes critical.  I don’t know the extent of the crisis – to be honest, it’s a bit of a mess at the moment with conflicting messages flying between the Federation official channels, Starfleet, and the two planets involved.”

Spock had been party to hundreds of briefings, but perhaps because this was in Kirk’s quarters, where he was more relaxed and freely included personal comments on the situation, that Spock found himself unable to bury his awareness of the proximity of Kirk’s body.  It was difficult to ignore the knowledge of what he had been doing only minutes earlier, smelling the evidence of sex in the very air he breathed.  He wondered how Kirk might react if the tables had been turned, if he had known what his now calm and controlled first officer had been doing, who said first officer had been thinking about as he’d touched himself intimately.

He was equally fascinated by the fact that Kirk showed no outward sign of his earlier intimate activity – no evidence of post-sexual languor, of a generally relaxed physical state.  In fact, were it not for the odor of sex that, even as he stood there, was diminishing as the ship’s air-conditioning system did its job, he would never have known.  Clearly Kirk’s ability to control certain outward manifestations was stronger than he would have given him credit for.

Ruthlessly pushing such thoughts to the back of his mind, he returned his attention to the briefing.  “Have we been given the critical time frame in which the mission must be accomplished?”

Still perched on the desk, Kirk arched his back into a stretch and Spock noticed that his face was a little more pale than normal – clearly he had not had a chance to sleep.  “Not exactly, but I don’t think we’re even talking days here from what I understand.  We should get an update on the situation once the details become clearer.”

Spock was aware that the Beta Cygnii system, of which Ardana was one of several planetary bodies, was located in the same quadrant the Enterprise was currently traversing.  At Warp 7, they would be there in a matter of hours.  “Do we have an ETA, Captain?”

Kirk twisted to glance at the chrono on his desk console behind him.  “Just under an hour – I’ve got Scotty pushing her to Warp 8 as it’s only for a short time.  The Federation’s already made a request to the Council.  Uhura’s hailing them to let them know we’re on our way and to arrange collection of the consignment.”  Kirk pushed himself off his desk, pulled his shirt down and ran his fingers through his hair again.  “Do I look presentable?”

There were a number of answers Spock could provide, but none that would be professional.  “Adequate,” Spock answered.  Knowing the reaction his answer would elicit, he allowed a slight smile.

Kirk grinned in response.  “Adequate, Spock?  Remind me never to fish for compliments from you.”  As if he had pressed an internal button, he switched into his command persona.  “Right, let’s get up to the bridge – we’ve got a planet to save.”

Spock immediately noticed Kirk shift gears from casual to professional and contemplated it as he followed his captain towards the turbolift.  While Kirk was relaxed in private with him, it wasn’t often he witnessed such a radical and immediate shift in persona, as situations such as this rarely occurred with little or no notice while they were off-shift.  It gave him pause to consider, for the first time, that perhaps the depth of friendship they shared wasn’t so different after all, compared to that between Kirk and McCoy.

Over the course of the next hour, Spock watched as Kirk’s frustration mounted.  Starfleet’s orders had been to transport direct to the mines, collect the consignment of zenite and proceed to Merak II ‘with all due haste’.  However, the High Advisor of Ardana was requesting to meet with them on the cloud city of Stratos.  This was one of a number of the confused messages Kirk had alluded to earlier.

“Tell the High Advisor,” Kirk said to Uhura with barely concealed impatience, “that we request to dispense with the welcoming ceremonies due to the emergency, and that we're beaming directly down to the mine entrance in order to ensure the fastest possible delivery of the zenite. The need is urgent.”

“Aye, sir.”  Spock watched Uhura’s fingers fly over the communication board as Kirk turned to him.

“Mister Spock, come with me.”  The captain, realizing his message to Ardana was perhaps not the most courteous, added, “Oh, and tell them that we appreciate the honor and that we look forward to some visit in the future.”

Standing in the lift to the transporter room, Kirk’s face looked grim.  “The last thing we need is to have a diplomatic incident over this.  They’ve already agreed to the consignment, so why can’t they just let us do our job – get it and go?”

Spock knew it for the rhetorical question it was, his captain needing to vent  his frustration, and remained silent.  In the transporter room, Scott was waiting for them, looking a little less than his immaculate self, testament to the probability that he’d likely been asleep when the orders came through and had had to rush to engineering to prepare the engines for maximum warp speed.

Although it was only 03:07 ship’s time – the middle of gamma shift – at the mines on Ardana, the sun was just reaching its zenith.  They were still acclimatizing to real air and real gravity when they were attacked by a group of men and women who were attempting to take them hostage.  Almost overwhelmed by numbers, it was only when Plasus, Ardana’s High Advisor, together with two sentinels, beamed down and assured their safety, and the Disruptors, as Plasus referred to them, fled.  Evidently the insurgents had also stolen the consignment, which Plasus reassured them would be quickly returned.  It seemed nonsensical to Spock, that they could be on an errand of mercy to what was regarded as a peaceful member of the Federation, only to find their mission in jeopardy and the circumstances out of their control.

Spoke noted, with a small sense of irony, that despite the message Kirk had had Uhura relay to Ardana’s Council, they were left with no alternative but to beam up to Stratos and await recovery of the stolen consignment.

Once there, Plasus, the High Advisor, appeared more interested in describing to them what a sophisticated society they were and how they valued intellectual pursuits such as the appreciation of art, than he was in the crisis on Merak II that, it seemed, only he could now help them avert.

Spock could sense his captain’s impatience, although Kirk diplomatically held his tongue as Plasus prattled on.  It was in the midst of this crisis, when they were approached by a young semi-clad woman who, to Spock’s mind, appeared painfully thin, almost malnourished by Human standards, that he realized his moment to safely woo his captain had arrived.

“The sentinel told me of our honored guests, my father. I came to extend greetings.”  The young woman’s voice sounded, to Spock’s ears, somewhat stilted.

“A most gracious act,” Plasus said indulgently to his daughter.  Turning back, he addressed Kirk, saying “One of our planet's most incomparable works of art. My daughter, Droxine. Captain James Kirk.”

“Pleasure, madam,” Kirk responded formally.  Just from his tone, Spock could tell his captain wasn’t interested in her, and felt a sense of relief.  He had always been uncomfortable when his captain had displayed an obvious attraction to a woman, but the feeling had grown more acute since he had begun seriously contemplating a relationship with Kirk.

“Indeed, yes, Captain,” she replied with a nod of her head.

“And First Officer Spock,” Plasus added.

“I have never before met a Vulcan, Sir.”

Even without her words, Spock could clearly sense Droxine’s attraction to him.  For his plan to have any chance of working, he would have to make a supreme effort to appear to return her regard.  While on the one hand he recognized his manipulation of this situation as mercenary, he hoped that Droxine would find his attentions flattering.  It went against his nature, his natural reticence, to show an obvious interest in her but, to use an ancient Vulcan phrase, ‘the cause was sufficient’.

“Nor I a work of art, madam,” he said, his voice deeper than usual.  As soon as Spock uttered the words he could see, in his peripheral vision, Kirk check an automatic movement, as though he’d been turning to stare at him incredulously.  This was the first time his captain had ever seen him flirt.

Since it was clear that it was going to be some time before the zenite was likely to be located, Plasus offered his two StarFleet guests a place to rest.  Before Kirk had a chance to respond, Spock gratefully accepted, so that he could institute the next part of his plan.

If overcoming his usual reticence had been difficult for him, Spock wryly thought as they were shown into a private chamber, the next part was likely to be tortuous.  But it would, he hoped, yield the answer he sought.

“Damnit,” Kirk said as soon as the sentinel left and the door slid shut.  They stood in a large room which housed more works of art than furniture, of which there was only a large single bed and a bright orange chair.

“Indeed.  The timing is most unfortunate.”

Kirk looked at him ruefully.  “You can say that again.”  He retrieved his communicator.  “Kirk to Scotty.”

“Aye Sir, Scott here.”

“We’ve hit some… problems.  Something’s going on here – looks like we’re caught up in some kind of insurgence and the miners are hiding the zenite.  I don’t have the jurisdiction to force the situation as this is a government issue, so I don’t have any choice but to wait until the High Advisor can negotiate terms on our behalf.”

“Sounds like a right mess, if you don’t mind me sayin’, Cap’n.”

“Mess is about right.  At this rate, we’ll still be here Christmas Day and Merak II will be beyond saving.”

“You’re not serious, are you, Sir?  Christmas isn’t for another three days.”

“No, I’m exaggerating, Scotty… I hope.  Let StarFleet know what’s going on – meanwhile, we’ll have to play a waiting game.”

“Right you are, Sir.”

“Kirk out.”

Spock had stood just inside the door while the discussion had ensued.  He knew the moment Kirk let his professional demeanor go.

“Are you okay, Spock?”

Spock had been waiting for this.  He raised an eyebrow in query.  “Captain?”

“You don’t seem to be acting yourself,” Kirk responded.

“Ah.  You are referring to my finding Droxine attractive?”

Spock had to hold back a smile at the incredulous look on Kirk’s face.  “Well, I meant your unusually open behavior.  But…you’re attracted to Droxine?  Are you serious?”

It was not the most tactful of comments, but Spock ignored it, since Droxine wasn’t actually his goal.  Spock lowered his tone to one almost seductive and allowed a slight smile.  “She is a beautiful young lady – even her father referred to her as a ‘work of art’.”

“But she’s…Kirk’s voice trailed off and he turned away, running a nervous hand through his hair.

Spock was pleased at how disconcerted Kirk appeared.  “She is what, sir?”

Kirk turned back and took a deep breath.  “I’m sorry Spock, but if you’re going to go after a woman, frankly you could do a lot better than her.  In all the time I’ve worked with you, I’ve never known you to show an interest in someone without there being some kind of external interference, like those spores on Omicron Ceti.  You don’t think…?”

“I can assure you I am under no influence, Captain, and am fully aware and in control of my behavior,” Spock reassured  “‘Better’ in what manner?” he added.  “Is she not pleasing to the eye?”

Kirk’s face clearly showed he couldn’t believe they were having this conversation.  “She’s okay, but she’s…well, a bit vacuous, if you want me to be blunt.  Spock – you’re a handsome man.  You could have your pick of women.  Half the female crew have a thing for you and…” he paused and Spock watched with interest as his face colored slightly.  “…according to Bones, some of the males do too.”

Spock feigned curiosity.  “Indeed?”  In truth, he already knew, as some of them had not been subtle in showing their interest.

“Not that I’m suggesting you start fraternizing with the crew,” Kirk added hastily.  “I’m just giving you an example of what’s out there if you wanted it.”

As Kirk walked over to the bed and sat down, Spock followed, halting in the center of the room and standing at ease.

“You know Bones keeps accident statistics,” Kirk asked, looking up at where Spock stood two meters away.  “Apparently, the number of injuries in the gym goes up by over ten percent any time you work out in there.”

Now that was news to Spock and he allowed his surprise to show.  “I was unaware, as the doctor has deemed it unnecessary to provide me with that information, despite the fact that Health & Safety matters fall under the first officer’s remit.  To what does he attribute such a statistical anomaly?”  Spock wasn’t being deliberately obtuse, and while he could guess at the conclusion the doctor had likely drawn, it was just not in his nature to ascribe cause without proper evidence.

“You.  When you’re in there in your workout clothes, some people are paying too much attention to you, and not enough on what they’re supposed to be there for.  Apparently,” Kirk added with a smile, “the rates are higher, the fewer garments you wear.”

This was the most personal discussion Spock had had with his captain since his pon farr.  While a part of him was finding it uncomfortable, the greater part was seeing it as assisting him towards his goal.  Kirk looked a little tense and Spock realized some humor would not go amiss.

“Perhaps I should endeavor to wear extra layers of clothing at all times to avoid distracting the rest of the crew?”

Kirk’s laughter filled the room and Spock felt his heartbeat quicken.  “I wish Bones could see this side of you, Spock,” he said with a grin.  “Whoever said Vulcans don’t have a sense of humor obviously never met you.”

Spock didn’t refute the comment, instead enjoying the intimacy of the moment.  He took a deep breath and plowed on with his plan.  “Jim, I wonder if I might ask a personal query.”

“Sure, shoot,” Kirk responded, his face showing his curiosity.

“My enquiry is about technique, concerning the act of kissing.”

By the look on Kirk’s face, if he hadn’t been sitting down, he would have fallen over.  “Kissing technique?” he repeated, weakly.

Spock swallowed his nervousness and ignored his body’s urge to flee.  “Specifically with regard to what I believe you Humans refer to as ‘French kissing’.  As you are aware, Vulcans express intimacy through the finger touch; I have little experience with the Human oral equivalent.  Should an opportunity arise where I might participate in this activity, I would wish to be able to reciprocate fully.  I am given to understand that my closed mouth technique is not optimal.”

“Closed mouth?” Kirk echoed in clear disbelief.

“Indeed.  Whenever I have observed Humans kissing in public, it has been a press of lips to lips, while the mouth has remained closed.

Kirk smiled.  “That’s more of a greeting kiss between friends or family.  You’ve really never seen people making out?”

“If, by ‘making out’, you mean reaching a degree of passion beyond what is publically acceptable, then no, as I have assiduously avoided observing such displays.”

“Right.  Well,” Kirk scratched his head and then waved at the chair.  “I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with you, of all people.  And sit down before you give me neck ache.”  When Spock was comfortable he continued, “When two people are sexually attracted, kissing is often a precursor to greater physical intimacy.  There are different levels of kissing that are unlike the way you might kiss a friend.  You can start with your mouth closed, and just use your lips.”

“As I have done?”  Spock had to hide his amusement at the famous Captain James T. Kirk looking embarrassed when talking about sex.

“Well…I don’t know.  It depends how you went about it.”

This was it – Carpe Diem – seize the moment.  He felt slightly dizzy, and his gut tighten.  Nerves, he recognized.  “If you are willing, I can demonstrate.”

“Demonstrate…?”  The word was almost a whisper.  Spock noted that Kirk hadn’t said no.

“I am finding the nuances you are describing unhelpful in promoting greater understanding.  In scientific terms, I would like to test my new understanding by putting theory into practice.”

“Right, kinda like an experiment?  Well…uh…how do you want to do this?”

The look on Kirk’s face showed clearly that he couldn’t quite believe what he’d just agreed to.  Spock stood up and, realizing his greater height might make Kirk feel at a disadvantage, walked over and sat next to him on the bed.

“I have to tell you, Spock.  I’m finding this more than a little weird,” Kirk confessed and he could tell there was an uncharacteristic nervousness about him.

“Do you wish to stop?”  Spock reluctantly asked.

“No.  I’m fine.  It’s not what I’m doing, it’s who I’m doing it with that’s boggling my brain, but I’ll get over it.”

“Very well,” Spock responded, trying hard not to sound in any way relieved at Kirk’s acquiescence.  “I will demonstrate how I have previously kissed, and then perhaps you could demonstrate the level of labial activity you were attempting to describe.”

“Okay.”  The two men moved towards each other and bumped noses, then twisted their heads the same way.  “Wait,” Kirk said.  “I’ll hold my head still, and you move.”

Given how new he was to this, Spock was content to follow Kirk’s directions and did as he was told.  A moment later, Kirk’s face filled his vision.  He pressed his lips to Kirk’s and held them there for several seconds before pulling away.

“Well,” Kirk said smiling.  “I would class that firmly as a ‘friendship kiss’.  Have you really not done any more than that?”

“Negative.”  Spock felt awkward and slightly gauche.  “I understand there is more, but I have not had an opportunity to learn.”

“I can show you a simple kiss that’s a little more intimate, if you’re okay with it.”

“Thank you.  That would acceptable.”

Kirk smiled and leaned forward.  The first press of lips was gentle on his own, like butterfly wings fluttering against his mouth.  He felt an exhale of warm breath gusting over his face and then the kiss became a little firmer.  Without conscious volition, his eyes closed, all the better to focus his concentration on the sensations wrought by Kirk’s soft lips.  He felt several kisses pressed against his mouth and then Kirk began to move his lips, using them to gently nip and nuzzle.  With a frisson that leapt from his mouth to groin, Spock reciprocated almost playfully pulling at the Human’s lips with his own.  They continued the gentle presses and teases for a minute before Kirk pulled away.

Spock opened his eyes to see Kirk’s face was a little flushed, his eyes slightly glazed.  “Well that was…” he coughed when his voice sounded gravelly.  “That was kind of the first step of intimate kissing.”

“I see now that on prior occasions, I did not initiate any movement of my lips – that kiss was qualitatively different to my previous experience.  If that is the first step, what is the second?”

Kirk rubbed at the back of his neck and looked down.  “Well there’s open-mouthed kissing, still using lips, but no tongue.”

“I see.  Would there not be a constant danger of teeth clashing when employing that method?”

“It sometimes happens, but surprisingly not often.  I’ve never really given it any thought, but I guess if you keep your lips over your teeth, it shouldn’t be an issue.”

Spock pulled on his quizzical face, his head tilting a little, and an eyebrow lifting slightly.  “Would you…”  He allowed his voice to trail off into an unspoken question.

“You want another demonstration?” Kirk said, shaking his head and smiling.  “Okay, hold still again and let me lead.”

Spock’s eyes closed the moment their mouths touched.  He felt the Human begin with the light touches and nibbles as before, which he reciprocated, then Kirk slowly began to open his mouth, capturing Spock’s bottom lip and sucking it.  The action sent an arrow of pleasure to his groin, as if there was a single nerve directly connecting the two.  Already shielding against the Human’s emotions which battered at him through the touch of their mouths, his ability to control his physiological responses while relaxing into the kisses was severely diminished.  Spock mirrored the technique, capturing Kirk’s lower lip with his own and eliciting a satisfying hum in the process.

When Kirk pulled away, Spock noticed that the second kiss had lasted sixty two percent longer than the first and his captain’s flush had deepened.  Apparently Jim wasn’t unaffected, he thought to himself with a sense of satisfaction.

“I’ll say this for you, Spock, you’re a quick study.”

“You are an excellent teacher, Jim.  I believe I am learning from a master.”

Kirk laughed and shook his head ruefully.  “I don’t know about that, but I guess I’ve had quite a bit of experience over the years.  I can’t quite believe you reached your age and never properly kissed.  It’s almost a travesty.”

“I have never before felt the need.”

“Are you seriously intending to try out your new ability on Droxine?”

Spock could not bring himself to outright lie.  “I am uncertain if there will be time.  However, once I have learned this, I will be able to put it into practice in the future.  Have I now I learned all I need to know?”  He may never have kissed, but he knew more about the technique than he was professing.  However, as a scientist, he would be the first to say that theory without practical application is knowledge only half learned.

“Well, there is another stage, with tongues, but that’s pretty intimate,” Kirk explained.

Spock nodded.  “I understand – it would be too intimate for you to demonstrate that with me.”  If there was one thing Kirk was entirely predicable in, it was in taking up a challenge.  Spock felt a twinge of guilt at the manipulation, but ruthlessly suppressed it.

“Well…I was thinking about you – that you would be uncomfortable with that degree of intimacy.”

“You are providing a practical tutorial to enable me to improve my technique.  The more I learn, the better my skill.  It would be illogical to end before the lesson is complete, if you yourself have no objection.”  The words came out sounding bolder than he actually felt, his ability to be objective, less than optimal.

Spock watched Kirk swallow and glance down nervously.  When he looked up, his resolve was clear.  “All right.  But you should know that when you’re employing that level of intimacy, your hands should be involved too.  Depending on the situation, they can touch face, ears, head, or lower down along the back.  Obviously if it’s a precursor to, or accompanying sexual intercourse, you should touch intimately.

“So when we kiss, are you okay with me touching areas around your head and neck to demonstrate?”

Spock had carefully kept his hands in his lap to cover his erection.  “Since we are friends, your touch will not trouble me unduly.”  Spock would wait to move his hands to reciprocate the touches after Kirk had initiated the kiss, so that he wouldn’t see evidence of his arousal.

As before, Kirk began with the light nuzzling of lips, nibbling and teasing, but rather than moving to the second stage and opening his mouth, Spock felt Kirk’s tongue slide sensually along the length of his lower lip from corner to corner, forcing him to subdue a shudder of arousal.  Opening his mouth in invitation, he felt Kirk slip his tongue inside and tentatively touched it with the tip of his own.  It was as if two wires had come together to complete a circuit, as Spock’s body felt as if it had lit up, every nerve ending suddenly becoming hypersensitive.

It was impossible for Spock not to catalogue what he tasted as their tongues played together.  Barely present was the whiskey he had drunk earlier, and more noticeable was the coffee he had drunk as soon as they had returned to the bridge.  But under all that was Kirk’s unique flavor, the taste which was just him.

As their tongues entwined and slowly danced together, Kirk’s hand moved first to cup his jaw, before moving back to slide over his ear, fingers tracing up to the point, gently rubbing it between forefinger and thumb.  Spock was now achingly hard and the position he was sitting in was uncomfortably restricting.  Doing his best to ignore it, he moved his hand up to the back of Kirk’s head, brushing his fingers through the short, fine hair.

Nothing could have prepared Spock for the raw sensuality of the kiss.  It was almost overwhelming in its intensity and he wondered if he had inadvertently bitten into the apple of knowledge, losing his innocence and feeling unfulfilled, until his desiring to know more was assuaged.

He was aware of the mouth, outside and in, as an erogenous zone, with a greater density of nerve endings in the direct vicinity than the general surrounding area, but it was as much the person with whom he was sharing kisses, as the act itself, which he found arousing.  Nothing in his fantasies came close to matching the actual experience.  He also noticed that the length of this kiss exceeded the previous two combined and was persisting, unabated.  While he had continued to maintain shields against stray thoughts and emotions, he knew that Kirk had lost his objectivity some time ago and was simply enjoying it.

It was after several minutes that Kirk finally pulled away, clasping his hands in his lap.  His face was deeply flushed, his eyes wide and dark where the pupils had swallowed almost all the iris and his lips were puffy and swollen from their shared kisses.

“May I make one more request?” Spock asked, inwardly amazed his voice sounded so even.

Kirk smiled with a look of slight disbelief on his face, perhaps at what he had just been doing with his first officer.  “As far as kissing’s concerned, I think we’ve covered all the bases, but sure, fire away.”

Spock took a moment to extract the meaning, of both metaphors.  He knew there was a very real danger that Kirk would see through this charade, and recognize it for the seduction it was.  His next request could possible tip any suspicion Kirk may already have, yet a part of him couldn’t deny taking this opportunity while it presented itself, and Kirk appeared to be gamely amenable.

“If you will permit me, I wish to repeat the last level, but with the addition of Vulcan finger touching.”  To illustrate the point, he held up two fingers.

Kirk seemed to hesitate for a moment before extending the two fingers of his right hand, then watched, apparently mesmerized, as Spock began to caress them with his own.  To a Vulcan, this was a greater intimacy than mouth to mouth kissing, because the fingers contained not only far more nerve bundles than a Human possessed, making them exceptionally sensitive, but they were the psionic conduit for telepathic thought.  The intimacy, therefore, was not just of the body, but also of the mind.

It was impossible for Spock not to reflect on what Kirk had been doing immediately prior to the emergency call from StarFleet.  Given he was caressing his captain’s right hand, it was likely he was touching the one that provided him with sexual relief.

Putting that thought away, he closed his eyes to better focus on the sensory input and suddenly found his mouth captured once again, as fingers lightly touched the shell of his ear, exploring.  Since the ears were another erogenous zone in Vulcans, the sensations of the three points of contact together were so overwhelming, Spock knew that without Kirk touching him any more than he was already, he could easily achieve climax.

The kiss deepened and took on a new dimension, as Spock clearly sensed passion both through their touch and by Kirk’s fervor.  For the first time, Spock pushed his tongue into Kirk’s mouth, exploring lips, teeth and anything in the interior he could reach, wanting, needing to know it all.  At the back of his mind, he couldn’t shake the belief that this might be the last time he would undertake such an activity with this man to whom he was so attracted.

Spock was under no illusion.  While Kirk’s responses were enthusiastic, at his heart, his captain was a passionate and highly sexed individual.  There was no evidence to suggest that Kirk was doing anything more than responding, according to his nature, to a set of stimuli, rather than specifically because he was responding to Spock.  Spock could not, and would not, count on his captain’s willingness to participate as a sign that his attraction might be reciprocated.

He allowed his emotions to engage for the first time, to feel his deep sense of friendship and camaraderie with this man, his appreciation for Kirk’s willingness to share what they now were.  He felt contentment and a sense of belonging, a degree of protectiveness for the physically weaker Human; he felt happy.

The kiss lasted seventy nine percent longer than the previous kiss and once again, it was Kirk who pulled away.

“Wow.  That was—” he ground to a halt as if reconsidering his words.  “I’m…I mean—”  Kirk coughed, looking slightly sheepish.  “I think you probably know, I found that quite…arousing.”

He was unable to control his need to see evidence for himself, his gaze dropping down to Kirk’s lap, where carefully positioned hands obscured any physical evidence of the aforementioned arousal.

Discarding his own reticence, continuing to leap before looking as an act of faith in accordance with Kirk’s rule book, he placed both hands on his thighs so that his erection was plainly visible.  “As did I, Jim.”

He watched, nervously, as Kirk looked down and his eyes widened slightly.  “Well, that’s good,” he said a little shakily as he looked back up, the action appearing to be a struggle.  “If I can do that for you, it’ll be even better when you kiss someone you actually desire.”

“Indeed,” Spock responded noncommittally, feeling a twinge at Kirk’s words.

In reality, though he’d never performed such an act before, he wanted nothing more than to get on his knees, pull down Kirk’s pants and take care of him, using his mouth to bring him release.  However, nothing in his captain’s body language suggested that such an action would be welcomed.

Spock sat up straighter, wishing to say something before the silence between them grew awkward.  “Thank you, Jim.  Your lessons have been most…illuminating.”

Kirk grinned.  “I really mean it when I say it was my pleasure.”  He rubbed his eyes.  “God, I feel tired.  What time is it on the Enterprise?”

“It is 05:34.”

Kirk looked longingly at the bed.  “We’ve been up all night.”

Spock allowed his eyes to soften.  “Might I suggest you attempt to sleep, Captain.  If there is any news from Plasus, I will awaken you.”

“Okay,” Kirk nodded and lay flat on his back, his eyes drifting shut as soon as his head touched the pillow.  Within minutes, Spock detected the deeper, even breaths that signified sleep.

Spock contemplated his captain and the events that had just occurred, and considered the slight discomfort he felt at what had taken place, identifying it as a sense of guilt.  He had not been entirely truthful with Jim, he knew, but despite the old adage his mother had taught him as a child, honesty was not always the best policy.

The guilt came from his allowing Kirk to infer that he was interested in Droxine, when he had said no more than that he found her attractive.  It was Kirk who took it to mean he was attracted to her, and he had not disabused him of the notion.  However, his lack of experience with regards Human kissing rituals, at least, was genuine.  The plan had been necessary to ‘test the water’ with Kirk, since he didn’t want to deny either of them the opportunity to share something deeper than their current friendship, simply because neither was willing to own up to their attraction and risk a rejection that could adversely affect both their friendship and their working relationship, quite possibly making the latter untenable.

The irony was, that even after what had just taken place, Spock still had no definite reason to believe his captain might be interested in him as a sexual partner.  It could be that Kirk was just being Kirk, boldly going into a new situation just for the novel experience, rising to Spock’s challenge, and became as aroused as he did simply due to his naturally highly sexual nature, rather than specifically because he shared such intimacy with Spock.

A part of him had hoped that the kissing might push the situation forward for the both of them, leading to further intimacy, and he felt somewhat chagrined that he would need to continue further with this.

It was small consolation that Kirk had responded physically to him, as opposed to not responding, and had chosen to persist with each kiss long beyond his ‘student’s’ ability to learn any new data from the ‘lesson’, beyond that which he had already ascertained within the first ten seconds.

With the knowledge that he was no nearer understanding whether Kirk wanted more, he realized he would need to keep up the façade of interest in Droxine for the remainder of their time there, while very closely monitoring Kirk for any reactions.  He also resolved to seize any further opportunities for greater intimacy with his captain.

Kirk lay on the bed, his face relaxed in repose.  Not for the first time, Spock wondered at how one individual could do so much.  He had saved literally billions of lives – entire planets – averted potentially catastrophic wars, fought and won battles with aliens and entities, all with his tactical skills and his strong and fair leadership.  He was aware that Kirk had tested at genius level while at the Academy, but that alone wasn’t enough.  It was his captain’s ability to take what he intellectually understood and turn it into action, that made the difference; that and that unquantifiable variable, Kirk’s charisma.

Spock was in no doubt that the degree of loyalty the Enterprise crew had for their captain was such, that they would follow him anywhere.  They had absolute trust and faith in his ability to protect them, and see them through whatever challenges they encountered.  And Kirk wielded the ship and his crew like a tool, like an extension of himself.

Spock was aware that even he himself was not immune to Kirk’s charisma and, for some time after he realized his attraction to his captain, he had wondered if it was based on a misguided sense of hero-worship.  It had taken him time to unravel his so-called non-existent feelings towards this incredible man.  Through contemplation and analysis of all that Kirk was, not just his personality, his actions or their friendship, but what he had seen in his mind on the occasions they had shared a mind-meld, he had come to the conclusion that his captain was t’hy’la.  The term accurately described both their closeness and their degree of compatibility, emotionally and mentally.  The one dimension that was missing was the intimacy that the moniker encapsulated.

After kissing Kirk, Spock was aware that his body and mind needed to find a level of equilibrium.  He recognized his current state of sexual frustration, a matter that he would be unable to address for quite some time.  The best he could do at this juncture, was to enter into a meditation that involved a light restorative trance.

-=-=-

He came to, two hours later, feeling better, but somewhat perturbed that they had yet to hear from Plasus.  On the bed, Kirk continued to sleep.

He turned his thoughts to the two tiered society of Ardana – the haves and the have-nots – the haves, the intellectuals living in their cloud city, reaping the rewards of the labor carried out by the have-nots, the Troglytes, who lived on the surface and mined the zenite.  It was, of course, the latter half of Ardana society that had spawned the Disruptors.

Kirk had described Droxine as ‘vacuous’, but in reality, the most she could be accused of was a lack of sophistication, having never left her world, and an ignorance born out of a deficiency in understanding and education.  She was not someone who had the appropriate degree of empathy to know, at the core of her being, that such a society was intrinsically unfair, as those leading the Disruptors did.  She appeared not to feel the need to question, simply accepting things as they were.

It was a generally understood fact that the societies in which inequality ruled, more quickly reached the tipping point of change to a more equitable governance when the discrimination was recognized by those who were in the advantaged group, than by the means of guerilla tactics carried out by the disadvantaged.  Such enlightened and fair-minded people were rare, but not unknown.  Perhaps there were one or two among the inhabitants of Stratos who, until now, had kept their counsel.  Meanwhile, Spock found himself sympathetic to the cause of the Disruptors, though not their violent methods.

His thoughts were interrupted by a noise beyond the chamber and, quietly leaving Kirk sleeping, he left the room to discover Droxine outside.

“Mister Spock, I thought you had accompanied Captain Kirk to the rest chamber.”

“Your movements awakened me.”  That wasn’t entirely true, as he had not slept.

“My apologies. I did not realize they would disturb you.”

“Only Vulcan ears would find the noise discernible.”  Spock had seen Kirk do this a hundred times with women, moving into their space, holding eye contact for longer than was socially necessary, deepening his voice.  Humans called it flirting, which was sometimes – but not always – considered a precursor to a sexual encounter.

“It seems that Vulcans are fascinatingly different in many ways.”

He had noticed, too, how it was normal during such encounters for the people in question to pay compliments to one another.  Droxine was from a very different society than Vulcan or Earth, yet such posturing appeared to be universal.  From a scientific point of view, he acknowledged that most creatures which procreate have some sort of established mating dance which requires an initial display of interest to begin it.

Curious to see how far this would go, he responded, “The same may be said of Stratos’ inhabitants.”

“Vulcan eyes are very discerning too.  I hear that, intellectually, Vulcans are as highly evolved as Stratos city dwellers.”  Apparently by omission, she didn’t hold much faith in the intellect of Humans.

“We do pride ourselves on our logic.”  That was a tactful answer, given that Vulcan intellect was far beyond what Droxine could envisage.

Spock tried to imagine having such a conversation with his captain, complimenting him on the color of his eyes or hair.  If he attempted it, Kirk would likely think he’d been too close to some strange spores again.  Their friendship, he supposed, meant they were beyond the need for such rituals.  However, if he was going to continue to – for want of a better word – court Jim, he would need to find a method that would work without him becoming either suspicious or concerned at his atypical behavior.  Courting was generally done with the knowledge of both parties, so Spock felt somewhat unsure how he might go about it.

His attention was caught by a noise in the chamber he’d left Kirk in.  Someone had evidently entered it from another door.  If anything were amiss, he knew if Kirk needed his help, he would call.  His captain would not appreciate him rushing in as though Kirk were some kind of damsel in distress.

“What does it take to become the wife of a Vulcan, Mr. Spock?” Droxine asked with a slight breathlessness.  He noticed the physiological changes in her that he’d seen in Kirk earlier, the slight flush, the dilated pupils, but in Droxine, he noted them as a scientist might observe an experiment, dispassionately, with no attachment.  Yet simply recalling how Kirk had looked after each kiss sent a frisson of desire flying through him.  How could it be, that a mere memory could have a stronger effect on him than the reality before him?  The power of the mind should never be underestimated, not that any Vulcan would.

With Spock’s attention now split between his on-going conversation with Droxine, and Kirk’s with a female of undisclosed identity, he considered her question.  Two years ago he had been deeply embarrassed by the onset of his pon farr and having to explain the matter to Kirk.  By leaving Vulcan at eighteen, there was much about his own society and its mores that he missed learning about.  It was only after T’Pring’s rejection of him, that he discovered that while the exact nature of pon farr was not discussed, the cycle was not considered taboo and therefore was more widely known.

“The time for Vulcans to bond permanently with their chosen mate presents itself every seven years.”  While he was finding the flirting, in terms of stimulus and response a fascinating process, he also wished to let Droxine down gently.  The statement was true in terms of bonding; she didn’t need to know that it was becoming increasingly commonplace for Vulcans to live as mates before the bonding took place, although this was still discouraged by the more conservative elements of Vulcan society.

Droxine frowned.  “You only take a mate once every seven years?”

“The seven-year cycle is biologically inherent in all Vulcans.  At that time, the mating drive outweighs all other motivations.”  Even as he said the words, it remained a subject about which he continued to find it difficult to speak.

“And is there nothing that can disturb that cycle, Mister Spock?”

Time to let her down completely, but with another compliment.  “Extreme feminine beauty is always disturbing, madam.”

Before she had time to respond to that, Spock heard Kirk call his name and with Droxine, quickly entered the room to find Kirk on the bed with a woman.  He felt a stab of jealousy, like a knife into his stomach, and took a steady breath to regain control.

“Am I intruding, Captain?” he asked drily.

“Vanna!”  Droxine looked shocked to discover that one of her servants had apparently attacked the captain.  “Why have you come here?”

“To welcome our honored guests as I was taught to do when I served in your father's household,” Vanna sneered.

Droxine ignored the tone.  “Has she injured you, Captain?”

“No, not at all,” Kirk calmly responded. “In fact her visit was quite enlightening.  It seems the Troglytes are under the impression that the Enterprise is here to intimidate them.”

If that were the case, Spock thought, there was only one person who could have created that impression.  Kirk’s feelings about the Enterprise’s presence being used as a tool by one political faction to gain an upper hand over the other, showed clearly on his face.  Whatever else, Spock realized, this didn’t bode well for diplomatic relations between his captain and the High Advisor.  Meanwhile, Droxine turned to an intercom and ordered a sentinel to report to the chamber.

“It is not impression, Captain. It is the truth,” Vanna said defiantly.

“We're here to get that zenite consignment, and that's it,” Kirk replied with a degree of impatience.

“Starships do not transport cargo,” Vanna quickly returned.

“In times of emergency, they do anything.  And believe me, this botanical plague is an emergency.”

“Lies will not keep the Troglytes in the caverns,” she said, her sneering tone returning, “and neither will your starship.”

It was, to Spock, a clear case of someone holding onto a belief and then seeking anything which might support it, rather than objectively reviewing all known facts.  Now the extent of the issues on Ardana were known, he realized their wish to get the zenite consignment quickly was unlikely to happen as long as both sides refused to understand each other.  Meanwhile, Merak II and its inhabitants were caught in the middle.

A sentinel took Vanna away, and Kirk and Spock were once more left alone in the rest chamber.

“How dare Plasus use the Enterprise to intimidate the Troglytes,” Kirk exploded.  “It’s no wonder they’re not letting us have the consignment.”  He turned away from Spock and, staring out the window at the landscape far below, took in a long breath and then exhaled slowly.  “Don’t these people get that an entire planet – millions of people – are going to die if we don’t get there in time?”

Spock gently placed a hand on his shoulder.  “Jim.”  As Kirk turned back, Spock let his hand fall.  “Need I remind you of the illogic of becoming emotional over a situation that is entirely out of your control.”

“Intellectually, I get that, Spock.  But I can’t seem to let my frustration go.” He pinched the bridge of his nose.  “I could do with one of Bones’ sedatives right about now.”

Kirk glanced down and then back up, looking uncharacteristically hesitant.  “That thing you did with the fingers – that was calming.”

It wasn’t an outright request, perhaps because Kirk was aware of the significance of the gesture; he’d seen Spock’s parents do it on the way to the Babel conference.  He’d also alluded to it earlier as a form of Vulcan intimacy.  He reminded himself that Kirk had been willing to share himself earlier, at Spock’s request and, therefore, he could do this much to reciprocate.

Without allowing himself to read too much into the request, he extended two fingers and watched as Kirk did the same.  It was illogical to wish they were doing this as bondmates.  If it helped to unwind his friend, he was willing to indulge him in it.

Standing half a meter apart, he brushed his fingers up the backs of Kirk’s, then down the other side, then back up and over to the back of the hand, creating a mesmerizing rhythm.  Even as he did it, he could sense Kirk begin to relax.

“You know, I kinda liked what went with it,” Kirk said after a while, and slowly put his arm up to the back of Spock’s neck to pull him down into a slow and undemanding kiss.

Spock felt a thrill run through him that Kirk had initiated this kiss on his own.  Hope and uncertainty warred within him that his captain appeared to be reaching out for him.  Yet even as that hope flared, he couldn’t allow himself to read anything into it, beyond his captain’s stated need to relax.  He was well aware of the propensity among Humans to use sexual acts as a means of relaxation and even recreation.

They went directly, Spock noticed, to phase two, as if there was enough familiarity between them to omit the first stage.  He had never noticed when speaking or eating, how sensitive his mouth was, until Kirk began to nibble and suck on it, and he was reminded of the complete interconnectedness of his central nervous system, as myriad messages passed at the speed of light from his mouth to his genitals.

It was Spock who boldly moved them to the next stage, his tongue requesting and receiving permission to enter Kirk’s mouth, to dance with the Human’s cooler tongue in a slow pas de deux.  Without conscious volition, the gap between them seemed to vanish so that they were pressed together from shoulders to thighs, and Spock’s arms had wound themselves around Kirk’s back.  His captain, it seemed, had some kind of fascination with his ears, as his free hand followed the contours and dips, his thumb brushing lightly over the tip and sending further neurological shockwaves through Spock.

Kirk eventually pulled away with a sigh and rested his forehead against Spock’s shoulder, the hands that had been touching, now clasped together.  After a minute, Spock felt him straighten up and put a gap between them.

“I don’t think lack of sleep is helping my patience any, but I’m feeling a lot better now, thanks.”  Spock noticed how Kirk’s smile touched his eyes, making them softer.  His entire expression, he suddenly realized, was new to him – Jim had never looked at him like that before.  Whatever it was between them at this stage, Spock now had a more intimate knowledge of Kirk than before, and with an inward thrill, realized it had brought them closer.

Spock allowed a small smile.  “I believe the correct response is, ‘you are welcome’.”

Kirk walked over to a work of art on display and ran his fingers over it.  “It’s hard to believe that the same people who can produce this and appreciate its beauty, can treat others of their own species as little better than animals.  They’re a world apart, the City Dwellers and the Troglytes.”

“Troglyte is an abbreviation of an ancient Earth term. Its technical translation is cave dweller.”

“Yes, I should have realized—”

Kirk didn’t finish his sentence as there was a scream outside their chamber, loud enough that even Kirk heard it.  A moment later, they found Plasus torturing Vanna in order to learn the location of the zenite.

Spock wondered at how these people, who valued knowledge, the arts and other intellectual pursuits – all noble in themselves – could also be so bigoted and narrow-minded, and not just maltreating others of their species but, worse, be willing to torture them?

He knew that Kirk, like Spock himself, had a strong sense of right and wrong, a belief in fairness and equality.  It was inevitable then that the High Advisor, who clearly didn’t share such values, would find himself at loggerheads with Kirk.  Their banishment, by Plasus, to the Enterprise was therefore entirely predictable.

Never one for sitting and waiting, and given the severity of the emergency was increasing with each passing hour, Spock knew from experience that having reached a stalemate, it was inevitable Kirk would take matters into his own hands.  His intention to by-pass Plasus and his government, and try to negotiate for the promised zenite directly with the Disruptors left him feeling deeply uneasy especially since, given their violent nature, Kirk insisted on beaming to the mines alone.

That violence, at least, could now be explained by McCoy’s discovery that raw zenite produced an odorless gas that caused Humanoids to be aggressive.  In addition, it temporarily affected their intellectual capacity.  As a result, Spock could only hope that Kirk would diligently wear the filter mask the doctor had given him.

-=-=-

Spock sat in the Captain’s chair and considered time.  It is a known law of the universe that an observer on an object that is moving at less than the speed of light experiences time as passing in a constant and linear fashion.  It was illogical, therefore, that sitting on the bridge, waiting for word from Kirk, would cause Spock to experience time as passing more slowly than it does normally.

He pondered this anomaly.  Since time is constant, then it had to be his perception which had altered, he deduced.  He considered what may have changed within him and concluded there was a ninety eight point six percent probability that the cause was the application of emotions to the equation (the remaining one point four percent being an external factor such as interference from a god-like entity or a chemical alternation caused by substances such as spores).

Pursuing the most likely cause, Spock knew from his years among Humans that they experience the world according to how they are feeling, which would mean that he was feeling something in relation to Kirk.  Further analysis caused him to recognize a degree of concern for his captain’s safety.  The concern would have to be driven by other emotions and identified a wish for his captain’s continued well-being; a desire to keep him safe; a sense of protectiveness; a yearning to see him again soon.  All such feelings, Spock knew, pointed to one overarching emotion.  Spock of Vulcan was in love with James T. Kirk.

There was a degree of incongruity that he should have this epiphany while on duty on the bridge, surrounded by his colleagues, who were blithely unaware of the tectonic shift in his being.

This wasn’t the first time he’d had a strong reaction or concern for Kirk, nor was it the first time he’d acted in such a way that that concern was obvious.  What he had never done before – nor been willing to do – was to analyze what lay behind that concern.  Perhaps at some level he had known what he would learn and had simply not been willing to go there, choosing instead to mask it in terms of comradeship, or even to hide behind his StarFleet duty as first officer to ensure his captain’s continued well-being and to keep him safe.

Spock knew he should not be surprised by the strength or depth of his feelings since Kirk was t’hy’la to him – closer to him than any other.  He had cloaked the love he felt for Kirk from himself by focusing on the physical, desiring a sexual relationship with him and, by agreeing in his mind not to tie him down to monogamy, he had convinced himself he had a greater chance of his captain agreeing.

Yet, now that he knew he loved him, that he wanted no other for a bondmate, could he himself accept the open relationship he believed Kirk would demand (if he agreed to a relationship at all)?  He already knew the answer to that.  How would he be able to share the man he loved with others?  And if Kirk was unable to bring himself to enter a committed relationship, how would Spock be able to give him up when it came to his next Time, and the need to bond, when every fiber of his being would demand he bond with Kirk?  Indeed, there was a very real danger the bonding could occur accidentally if he did not recognize the signs of the onset of Pon Farr soon enough.  So, then, it had become all, or nothing.

Despite Kirk initiating that second kiss, he would not allow himself anything as illogical as hope that Kirk wanted what he now knew he wanted, and needed.  It was better for his sanity (and his emotional well-being, although he was reluctant to admit to such a thing) that he had no expectation at all.

If Spock ever needed a reminder, after the events on Psi 2000, that emotions can potentially impede the ability to perform one’s duty, thereby resulting in a degree of inefficiency that is inversely proportional to the type and strength of emotion experienced, he was provided with a graphic example of it later that shift.  While his captain was alone on the surface, supposedly negotiating with the Disruptors, and clearly being adversely affected by exposure to raw zenite (which meant he had removed the mask), Spock found himself increasingly doubting Kirk’s judgment and therefore his ability to complete the mission successfully.

When Kirk demanded that they beam Plasus to the surface without his prior permission, Spock reluctantly complied, hoping that Kirk’s faculties, at least, remained intact.  Clearly forcing the High Advisor into the mine was the only way of proving to him the existence of the dangerous gaseous vapors given off by raw zenite.

With Kirk’s increasing aggression (as well as his decreasing intellectual ability), Spock found his own emotions concerning Kirk were far closer to the surface than he was comfortable with, and were not only creating imbalance in his normal state of equanimity, but were also hampering him in the performance of his duties to his usual exacting standards.  Try as he might, without the ability to use a meditation ritual, he was unable to prevent a degree of fear for Kirk’s safety.  He was inwardly feeling a deep and personal need to defy orders, beam down, and get Kirk out of there.

As is so often the case, the fears generated by emotion proved to be groundless, with events quickly coming to a conclusion and the matter being resolved.  Kirk convinced Plasus of the veracity of the odorless gas claims, Vanna was finally convinced that the Enterprise’s mission was purely humanitarian and had her fellow Disruptors hand over the consignment.

However, with Kirk and the consignment having successfully beamed up, and only three hours and forty two minutes before the situation on Merak II became critical, while still in the transporter room, Spock ordered Scott to supervise the departure from Ardana, and to proceed, once again, at maximum warp to the beleaguered planet.

Standing beside the transporter console, Spock foresaw the confrontation before it began.

“You’re coming with me to sickbay, Jim.”  McCoy was looking his most belligerent as he stood, hands on hips.

Kirk predictably waved him off.  “I’m fine, Bones.  We’ve got a planet to save.”

“Now you listen to me – you were exposed to that gas for over two hours and it clearly affected you.  We have no idea how long it takes to flush out of your system, so—”

“Spare me the speech, Doctor,” Kirk cut in, his voice raised.  “I’m going to the bridge.”

Spock knew Kirk was always reluctant to go to sickbay unless he was severely injured and didn’t have another choice.  Not only that, but it was natural for the captain to want to be on the bridge while his ship carried out its mercy mission, especially after the trying circumstances on Ardana.  It was, perhaps, inevitable then that his normal irritation at what he had occasionally referred to as the doctor’s ‘mother henning’, together with all the pent-up frustration from the mission and combined with the side effects of zenite, would cause Kirk to erupt into outright anger.

Spock had been determined to stay quiet, but when McCoy glanced at him, his expression a plea, he decided to step in.  Clearly his captain was not fit for duty.  As Kirk began to move to the door, Spock stepped in his way.

“Et tu, Brute?” Kirk said bitterly.

Spock ignored the Shakespearean accusation, but inwardly felt as though he’d let Kirk down by ‘ganging up’ on him.  “Doctor, if I might speak to the captain in private?”

McCoy looked at him speculatively before acquiescing to his request.  “Okay, Spock, I’ll go.  But I’m expecting Jim in sickbay in five minutes or I’ll be back here with restraints.”

Kirk glared at McCoy and then at Spock, standing with his hands on his hips, shoulders hunched, as if spoiling for a fight – it wouldn’t be the first they’d had in the transporter room.  Ignoring the look, as soon as the door slid closed, Spock slowly walked up to his captain.  “Jim,” he said in his lowest register, recalling how it had calmed him down earlier.

Kirk looked at him defiantly but said nothing, his body remaining tense, hands curled into fists at his side.  Even without the side-effects of zenite, Spock was familiar enough with the workings of the Human sympathetic nervous system, and how the effects of the fight/flight response caused a decrease in the brain’s ability to allow rational thought, to know to treat Kirk very carefully indeed.

He closed the gap and gently cupped Kirk’s upper arm.  “We will arrive at Merak II in two point six hours, Captain.  Since this mission is critical, and we have yet to understand in what manner we will be asked to serve, it is imperative you are able to function at peak capacity.  You are aware of the effects of zenite and its symptoms on humanoids; you must know it is influencing you since you are not normally as aggressive as you were when you first transported here.  I ask you to yield to the logic of the situation and allow yourself to be examined by Dr. McCoy.”

“Fuck you and your logic,” Kirk spat.

His next action was entirely unexpected, but that was something Spock was used to.  Suddenly his head was pulled down and their mouths crushed together in a kiss that was almost violent in its intensity.  It would have been a simple matter for Spock to pull away – he easily had the strength to do it.  But he acquiesced to Kirk’s need – almost brutal in its force – whose tongue plundered his mouth, not to arouse, but to conquer, to provide him with a graphic demonstration of exactly who was in command.

As quickly as it began, Kirk ended it, pulling away and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, his eyes glittering in intensity.  “You win,” he said, and stalked out.  Given his physical actions, the words on the surface appeared at odds, but as Spock followed, he saw that the captain did indeed head towards sickbay.

The doctor’s surprise was obvious.  As Kirk marched over to a medi-bed and lay down, the CMO stared at Spock.

“What did you do to him – some of that mind-meld voodoo stuff?” he asked, waggling the fingers of his right hand.

“Negative, Doctor.  My persuasive techniques are merely more effective than yours.”

With that, Spock left, hearing a string of McCoy’s favorite epithets follow him, that were thankfully cut off by the sickbay doors closing.

An hour later, after McCoy had filtered his blood to remove all presence of zenite elements, Kirk appeared on the bridge, looking tired but at least himself.  Relinquishing the Captain’s chair, he went to his station and began to use the long-range scanners to ascertain the degree and monitor the on-going devastation of plant-life on Merak II.

There was some irony, Spock decided, that after everything that had occurred on Ardana, which was supposed to have been a routine stopover, their arrival at Merak II which, by contrast, was undergoing a planetary crisis of potentially cataclysmic proportions, was somewhat anticlimactic.

The sum of their role, it transpired on arrival, was to transport the zenite consignment down to a laboratory for refining.  During their delay on Ardana, StarFleet scientists had provided Merak II’s government with details on a workable action plan to disseminate the chemical aerodynamically to achieve planet-wide coverage.  By the time the Enterprise arrived, the authorities already had everything in place and all they were required to do was to standby, monitor and offer assistance if necessary.  Twenty four hours later the plague had been halted and they awaited new orders.

After Kirk’s decontamination process, once it became clear that he wasn’t needed on the bridge, he had taken a few hours off to rest, with Spock’s assurances that he would awaken him if their status as monitor should change.  Spock, on the other hand, still had not slept since before Ardana, nor had he had an opportunity to meditate.  As a result, fatigue was beginning to creep in.

“Don’t you think it’s time you got some rest yourself, Mr. Spock?”

Phrased as a question, Spock knew it for the order it was.  That knowledge didn’t prevent him from protesting.  He swung his seat around to face Kirk.  “Captain, might I remind you that Vulcans—”

“Since I can’t use your persuasive techniques here and now,” Kirk smirked, “you can take it as an order.  The Christmas party’s tomorrow and I don’t want you falling asleep in the corner.”

Spock was surprised Kirk had alluded to what had taken place between them in the transporter room, as his demeanor since then had been no different to before their Ardana visit – as if what had occurred there had never happened.

Spock stood.  “Very well, Captain.  I will return for alpha shift as scheduled.”

He was aware of Kirk’s eyes following his progress to the lift.  Inside, after the door closed, he allowed himself to sag, most un-Vulcanly, against a wall.  Once inside his quarters he debated the merits of sleep over meditation.  Alpha shift was due to start in nine hours.  He would do both, he decided.

Spock stripped off his uniform, took a sonic shower and then donned a robe.  He first required meditation, to calm his mind, to banish the emotions that had crowded him for the past two days, and to strengthen his Vulcan controls.  Following that, four hours sleep would be sufficient to reenergize him.  However, he was under no illusion that he would be unable to find the peace of meditation until he considered his situation with Kirk.

He loved Jim.  He allowed the thought to float around his mind, no longer distracted by an on-going crisis, examining the notion from different angles.  A theory is contingent on results supporting it.  As long as the results agree, the theory can stand.  The theory may have many different results supporting it, but it takes only a single observation that disagrees with the predictions of the theory, to disprove it.  Spock found that whichever way he viewed it, the conclusion was the same – the theory that he loved Kirk, survived each test he came up with.

Given the matter as fact, the question arose as to what to do about it.  While he was certain what it was he desired for himself, the variable in the equation remained Kirk.  Since it would be illogical to attempt to make a decision when he had no idea of his captain’s desires, he considered maintaining the status quo – to remain a colleague on duty and friend off duty.  Would he be content to have only Jim’s friendship?  Perhaps it would be simpler to consider the question in another light: could he leave Jim, either transfer to another ship or leave StarFleet?  The thought of not having Kirk close by gave Spock his answer.  He did not wish to leave Kirk’s side.  A friendship would suffice if that was all his captain was willing to give.  It was now up to Kirk to decide.  Quite how he would make a decision he didn’t know he was meant to make was an issue Spock would tackle over the next days and weeks, depending on Kirk’s behavior towards him.

Of one thing Spock was certain, things had changed between them.  They had, after all, shared intimately.  Not only that, but Kirk had reached out to him for more of that intimacy when he had needed it.  Whatever change there was, it hadn’t appeared to affect their working dynamic.  In fact, things had been so normal after his release from sickbay, that it was as if nothing had happened, save for one thing: an undercurrent now existed between them.  With no more data than that, Spock would have to continue playing the waiting game.

-=-=-

It was customary for Spock, upon awakening, to check ship’s status, and the news on his screen caused him to raise an eyebrow.  For their part in handling the ‘challenging diplomatic situation’ on Ardana, and for successfully preventing Merak II’s botanical plague, the ship was ordered to Starbase 9 for four days R&R, arrival time in six point four hours.

Spock could only wonder how Kirk had managed it, given his unorthodox approach to Plasus and the threats the High Advisor had made about contacting Starfleet concerning the captain’s conduct.  His lips twitched at the memory of McCoy once saying that Kirk could be dropped into a vat of shit and still come out smelling of roses.  It was a comment made after their visit to Vulcan when Kirk had defied Komack’s orders, resulting in their missing the Altairian President’s inauguration.  It was T’Pau’s late, but timely intervention, which had saved Kirk from certain court-martial.

Spock ate breakfast alone in the mess and arrived on the bridge twenty minutes before his shift was due to begin.

“Ah, Mr. Spock,” greeted Kirk cheerfully.  “Did you see our next destination?”

Spock knew it wasn’t a serious question, since Kirk was well aware he always checked for status updates before coming on duty.  Therefore, he was asking the question for another reason.  Given the surprising reward of R&R after the debacle on Ardana, it was this that Kirk clearly wished to focus on.

“You appear to have used your powers of persuasion to convince someone at the Admiralty that the crew deserve R&R, Captain.”

“Damn straight, Spock!” Kirk said with a grin.  “And I didn’t need to use your unorthodox persuasive techniques,” he added.  “I can sweet-talk when I need to.”

Spock was both surprised and pleased that Kirk was not only choosing not to bury what had taken place between them, but was comfortable enough with it to continue teasing him about it.  He allowed a small smile in response.  “Without doubt, Sir.”

The bridge was quiet without Uhura’s effervescent presence, as she was working in the main mess, preparing it for the party that night.  Arrival at the Starbase occurred halfway through the shift.  Up until then, he and Kirk had been working on their mission reports (minus certain pertinent, but personal details), but after the ship achieved orbit, requisition request forms proliferated from every department, as the ship was resupplied and routine maintenance undertaken.

The rest of the day saw various repairs and maintenance scheduled, supplies and requisitions uploaded, with shoreleave not officially beginning until the following Alpha shift.

-=-=-

Not long after their arrival at the Starbase, Spock received a request from Uhura for assistance.

“We need someone strong to guide this on the antigravs up to the mess hall,” the communications officer explained as she stood beside the cargo transporter.

Spock eyed the five meter tall tree, evaluating its weight and center of gravity.  “It will not be a simple matter as it is too tall to be transported by turbolift.”

“It’s also heavier than it could have been, because the roots are intact inside the container.  I didn’t want to chop down a perfectly good tree just for one party.  But I thought this would be much nicer than the little fake tree we usually use.”

Spock eyed the height again, noting it was approximately three times the size of the tree Uhura was alluding to.  “Very well.  I may have a solution.”  A minute later, he was talking to the Chief Engineer.

“Intra-ship beaming, ye say?  Aye, it’s possible, Mr. Spock,” Scott confirmed, but it’s not easy.”

“I will assist you with the calculations, if necessary.”

Thirty minutes later, a delighted Uhura was standing beside the captain and first officer, gazing at the large tree now settled into a corner of the mess.  In the confines of the room, its fresh scent permeated the air.

Kirk, apparently having heard from Scott about Spock’s solution to get the tree from the cargo bay to the mess, had come to see it for himself.

“The smell’s not that different from the spruce trees we used to get every Christmas,” Kirk remarked.

“Indeed, Captain.  This is a coniferous evergreen of the genus Picea – originating from Earth and falling in the same group as the spruce to which you allude.”

“Well, now we’ve got it here, we need to decorate it,” Uhura declared, hands on her hips.

Spock should have noticed the plural and made his excuses immediately.  Instead, he found himself balanced precariously on an antigrav device in order to reach the top branches (and the irony of his role as chair of the health and safety committee was not lost on him as he broke a number of rules to achieve this).  With his head almost touching the tall ceiling of the mess hall, he began to drape over the foliage the net of lights that Kirk was feeding up to him, while offering what he no doubt considered helpful directions from below.

Uhura got busy decking the room out in faux holly and ivy with the help of two technicians, and when Scotty dropped by to see the tree, Uhura got him to set up the sound system.

When Spock, from his position halfway up the tree, raised an eyebrow at the latest requisition to the team, Kirk grinned.  “We’re in orbit around a Starbase, Sulu can manage fine.”

“One can only hope the lieutenant’s interest in botany does not cause him to pay a visit to view this tree, as Ms. Uhura’s effective press-ganging methods may leave the bridge entirely devoid of crew.”

Kirk laughed.  “It’s good to see the senior team getting this together.  It’s a nice way of saying ‘thank you’ to all the staff in our departments.”

Half an hour later, Scott was done and the team worked to the sound of traditional carols from all around Earth.  Not letting him off so lightly, Uhura next instructed him to hang fairy lights, like streamers, around the walls.

Meanwhile, having gotten two thirds of the way down the tree, Spock was able to reach the branches from the ground and, stepping off the antigrav, he and Kirk worked side by side in companionable silence as they draped the net of lights over the widest part of the spruce.

When they came across some netting that had become tangled, they paused to work out how to unravel it.  Kirk looked up from where he had spread a section on the floor and, kneeling beside it, gazed into the middle distance.  “I remember the first year Sam and I were old enough to go cut down our own tree,” he said quietly.

Spock remained silent.  This was his captain’s second Christmas since his brother and family, bar his nephew Peter, had perished on Deneva.  He knelt down beside Kirk and began to work on a bundle of tangled wiring.

“There was a spruce tree farm up near Iowa City.  Sam drove the pick-up truck and when we got there, it had just begun to snow.  There was already a layer down and it was bitterly cold.  But we didn’t seem to notice as we trudged around the farm looking for the best tree.  I remember we squabbled because he wanted one that was symmetrical and I just wanted the biggest there was.  Sam, being the practical one, pointed out we not only had to get it home, but we needed to fit it into the house.  In the end, we compromised and lugged the thing back to the truck.”  Kirk smiled.  “It was so heavy, it practically killed me, but I was too proud to let on to Sam.”

Spock could easily imagine Kirk as a stubborn teenager.  “Were you able to get it into the house?” he asked, quietly.

“Yeah, Sam had brought a sonar measuring device.  There was just enough headroom to get the star on the top without hitting the ceiling.  Sam, me and my mom decorated it the next day.  A few of the decorations we used have been in the family for generations – a great several times uncle on dad’s side was an artist and hand-carved small figures of snowmen, santas, angels and such and then hand-painted them.  Probably because they’re wooden they’ve lasted.  But mostly the decorations weren’t that old – we always bought a few new ones each year.”

Kirk had long stopped his attempt to unravel the section of the netting he’d been working on.  “The following summer, Sam went off to college at the Paleidian Scientific Research Academy on Alpha Centauri.  Their semesters worked out differently, so he didn’t get Christmas breaks, and right after that he married Aurelan.”  Kirk glanced up at Spock and there were unshed tears in his eyes.  His voice quiet, almost hoarse, he added, “So that turned out to be the last Christmas we were all together.”

Spock heard the audible swallow as he reached out and daringly squeezed Kirk’s hand, something he never would have contemplated doing before Ardana.  “I grieve with thee, Jim,” he said quietly, and then let go.

Kirk looked down at the hand Spock had held, inhaled deeply, and visibly composed himself.  Not for the first time, Spock admired his captain’s ability to control his emotions.  “So, did you celebrate Christmas when you were growing up?” he asked his first officer suddenly.

Spock moved to another knot in the net that needed attention.  “For Vulcans, following such traditions is illogical,” Spock responded, “especially since my mother is not a practicing Christian.”

“But these days Christmas is much more of a secular holiday, regardless of its origins,” Kirk pointed out.  “It’s a time for family and friends to exchange gifts, eat and drink too much and generally have a good time,” he added ruefully.

“Indeed.  I did once experience the beginning of this season when I was fifteen and accompanied my mother on a visit to her sister’s family in Connecticut.  My cousin, Lara, was charged with decorating the tree, and she asked for my help.”

Kirk glanced at him.  “And did you…?  Help, I mean?”

“I believe I must have already learned a lesson in tact, because despite believing the exercise to be illogical, I nevertheless agreed to assist.”

Kirk grinned.  “I can imagine how serious you must have looked as you did something that made no sense to you!”

“Vulcans are always serious, Captain.”  He allowed the corners of his mouth to twitch as he spoke, and Kirk laughed.  At the welcome sound of his captain’s improved humor, Spock reflected on the phrase ‘music to my ears’ and in that moment, felt the aptness of it.

“When the task was completed,” Spock continued, “Lara waved the main lighting down so the illumination from the tree lights was more marked, and I came to understand the appeal of the tree-dressing ritual.  As the lights sparkled in the gloom, we sat upon a hearth rug beside an open fire and admired the fruits of our labor.  That was also the first time I tasted mulled wine.”

“Mulled wine?” Kirk asked in a mock-scandalized voice.  “Surely you weren’t drinking alcohol underage!”

“Given that ethanol is metabolized too rapidly by Vulcan physiology to cause the type of side-effects common in Humans, I deemed it safe.  I found the taste to be most pleasant.”

“Right, with that green blood of yours, there’s no chance of getting you drunk,” Kirk grinned.

Recognizing Kirk’s teasing, Spock paused in his unraveling “Why would anyone wish to get me drunk?”

“Oh I don’t know, maybe to have their wicked way with you?”

Spock didn’t pretend not to understand.  “I would suggest to anyone considering attempting it, that a direct approach would be more efficacious in the long-term.”

Kirk grinned, focusing on unpicking a small knot of wires.  “I’ll be sure to relay that advice to anyone who’s thinking of trying.  So, did you do the whole Christmas Day thing?”

“Unfortunately we were unable to remain for the traditional exchange of gifts as my mother was required to accompany Ambassador Sarek on a diplomatic mission.”

“Too bad.  You missed the best part.”

Spock remained silent at the comment, not wishing to reveal his current state of mind.  In reality the sharing of the tree-decorating task had been the highlight of the trip for him, and he found himself unable to imagine that anything else could have eclipsed that.  That he was again undertaking that task, this time with Jim, was bringing him far greater pleasure than he would willingly admit to out loud.

The netting finally untangled, they completed the job and stood back momentarily to admire their work.  Kirk then walked over to a large container and opened it.  “Right, next it’s the tree decorations.  I’ll do the top this time and you can start from the bottom.”

Being narrower at the top, Kirk got down to the lower branches quite quickly.  “No, not there,” said Kirk, “you’ve got three of those blue Earth baubles close together – stick one over there and put a Green Alpha Centauri one on that branch instead – that’s it, next to the Tellar globe.”  The captain, Spock noted, clearly took the task seriously and like everything else he turned his hand to, he did the best job he could.

Spock moved the baubles as directed, feeling an inner contentment at carrying out such task with his friend and captain.  When it was finally done, they stood towards the back of the hall to admire their handwork.  “Not bad, if I do say so myself,” Kirk commented.

“Indeed, I believe it will, as you Humans say, pass muster.”

Kirk laughed.  “When everyone puts their secret santa gifts underneath it, it’ll be perfect.  Breakfast on Christmas morning in here is going to be awesome.  You know, we really should do this every year for the rest of the mission.”

It was the first year that a secret santa had been organized by department, with the bridge crew doing one together.  Two months earlier, Spock had pulled Chekov’s name from the hat (a wide-brimmed affair that Uhura had found in the bottom of her wardrobe, but had yet to find an occasion to wear).  A visit to an Earth colony had found him in an antique bookshop where he had managed to procure a 22nd century paper copy of Anna Karenina in the original Russian language.  Spock thought with some amusement that upon opening it, the young navigator would no doubt pronounce that books were the invention of a Russian.

“I believe the crew would appreciate it, Captain,” Spock concurred.

Kirk turned to face the kitchen, the door to which stood diagonally opposite to the tree.  “I’m starved – the smell of whatever the chef’s putting together is making my stomach rumble.  Back in a minute.”

Good to his word, Kirk quickly returned, holding two samosas.  “Captain’s privilege,” he said with a grin, handing one to Spock.

“Thank you.”  He found the taste most palatable.

Standing as they were in the corner, the room looked magical.  One of Scott’s team had replicated faux-candles that now flickered on every table, the garlands around the room, the tree, and the music created a festive atmosphere that even Spock wasn’t immune to.

He noted the presence of mistletoe and made a mental note to avoid standing beneath any of it.  While he routinely saw off any unwanted advances with an icy glare, he knew that there were a few who might gain ‘Dutch courage’ with a sufficient quantity of alcohol inside them.

Spock’s time sense told him Alpha shift would soon be ending.  “I believe I will head back to the bridge, Captain.”

Kirk looked concerned.  “You’re not staying there all night, are you?”

“Negative, Sir.  I will complete half of beta shift as senior office on the bridge and will be relieved at 21:00 by Mr. Scott.”

“Scotty?  He’s leaving the party early?  You have to be kidding!”  Kirk’s look of disbelief was genuine.

“I understand he personally wishes to monitor the upgrade to the impulse engines.”

Kirk grinned.  “Right, now I understand.  The engines are about the only thing he’d voluntarily leave a party for.  Okay, I’m heading straight to my quarters for a shower.  I’ll catch you later.”

-=-=-

Spock came off shift when Scott arrived, entirely sober, at 20:57, and showered and changed into a fresh uniform.  By the time he arrived at the party, it had been going for over two hours and the large mess was filled with people, mostly in civilian attire, standing in clusters or milling around.  A bar had been set up in one corner, with a long line attached to it, and he noticed that some of the crew were already somewhat inebriated.  Next to it, several tables housed the finger buffet the chef had been working on all afternoon.  In place of the carols earlier, generic ambient music was piped around the large room.

He found a space against a wall, never comfortable in such social gatherings.  Over the many years he had spent on the Enterprise, he had learned to tolerate them, attending them only out of a sense of duty.

“Glad you made it, sugar.”

Spock turned to find the teasing eyes of the communications officer leveled at him.  “Miss Uhura,” Spock said, bowing his head.  “Your organizational skills, in particular your ability to obtain volunteers, are to be commended.  Given the Merak II emergency, you have managed to achieve a great deal in a limited time-period.”

“Yeah well, sleep’s overrated,” she grinned.  “And before you say anything, don’t worry about me, I’m on second rotation for shoreleave.”

“Are you hitting on my first officer, Uhura?”

Spock turned just as Kirk got to them and reaching out with a smile, squeezed his first officer’s upper arm.

“Are you joking, Captain?  I wouldn’t dare!”  As Kirk chuckled in response, her gaze slid from Kirk to Spock and she raised an eyebrow.  He had noticed since the start of the mission that an increasing number of the crew were using an eyebrow lift as a means of expression and while he outwardly ignored it, inwardly he felt a little pleased to know they were imitating him.  Despite the fact they were speaking about him, Spock decided to remain silent.  With a grin and a flounce, Uhura headed towards the bar.

“I wasn’t sure if you’d actually come,” Kirk admitted once they were alone.  “I know you hate these things.”

“‘Hate’ is an emotion with which I am thankfully unfamiliar.  But you are correct, my preference would be to avoid such functions.  That being said, I have attended every Enterprise Winter party for the past thirteen years, although, as you know, I generally remain for no more than an hour.”

“Have you eaten anything since that samosa?”

“Not yet—”  Before Spock could say more, he felt Kirk’s hand in the small of his back, propelling him gently in the direction of the buffet.  As they walked, he puzzled over two things.  Why would he make an exception and not attend this party?  And why was Kirk being uncharacteristically tactile?

There was a sizable selection of vegetarian food, including some Vulcan dishes, and as he gathered items onto a plate, he watched Kirk do likewise and realized that his captain hadn’t yet eaten either.  It may have been simply because he’d been too busy, but a part of Spock wanted to believe it was because Kirk had been waiting for him, and hadn’t wanted him to eat alone.

The two men moved to stand against a nearby bulkhead and ate in silence, Kirk finishing his food first.  Spock had been taught as a child to properly chew and savor his food, where Kirk always gulped his down.  When he’d once commented on it, his captain had explained that having an older brother at the table meant that if he didn’t empty his plate quickly enough, his brother would begin to steal his food.  Spock had been mildly appalled at such bad table manners but Kirk had told the story with a smile and clearly bore no ill-will towards his gluttonous older brother.

“I need another drink, want one?” Kirk asked.

“Thank you.  I will have a Bolian tonic water.”

As Kirk moved towards the bar, Spock realized that Kirk’s breath hadn’t smelled of liquor, which was most unusual at such events, as Kirk generally indulged in one or two alcoholic drinks before he switched to something ‘safe’.  He was unable to give it more thought as a number of staff both from the bridge crew and his science team, approached him to wish him Happy Holidays.

“You are not drinking alcohol, Captain,” he said when Kirk returned with his water and a glass of tarin juice.  As he was handed the glass, their fingers brushed.

Kirk glanced at the pink liquid in his glass.  “No.  I’m on first rotation for R&R tomorrow and don’t want to be too hungover to enjoy it.  I was going to ask you about that – what rotation are you taking?”

“As you know, Captain, I rarely take shoreleave—”

“Well, can you take it this time and go down with me?”

The question surprised Spock as McCoy normally accompanied Kirk.  As if reading his thoughts, Kirk added, “The base’s CMO was one of Bones’ professors at the Academy, so they’re going to do some male bonding.”

Spock was unable to conceal his surprise.  “They are to bond?”

Kirk grinned.  “Not in the Vulcan sense – or the biblical sense for that matter!  It’s just an expression.  Bones came to the party for a couple of hours but left early to maximize his time at the base.  He’s got some new med-bay equipment being installed day after tomorrow, which he’ll need to oversee and calibrate.  I gather they’re going to catch up on old times, probably get drunk together and have a good time.”

Spock should have realized the term ‘male-bonding’ was just another Human colloquialism.  He put all his recent thoughts concerning a potential relationship with Kirk down to the reason he’d failed to properly understand the reference.

Doctor McCoy’s absence from the party was now explained – he had been about to inquire.  “‘Getting drunk’ and ‘having a good time’ are surely mutually exclusive, Captain.  If that is also your intent, then I will decline your invitation.”  Spock had learned early on in his Academy days that spending time with inebriated Humans and their subsequent antics that generally accompanied such a condition, caused him to feel a degree of discomfort he preferred to avoid.

“No, I wasn’t intending on drinking,” Kirk reassured him.  “But I’ll talk to you about that later when I give you your Christmas present,” he added with a smile.”

Kirk had instituted the gift exchange during his first year.  He had no idea if it was something his captain did it with anyone else, although he suspected he most likely did with Bones.  Kirk was the sole recipient of a Christmas gift, as it was not a Vulcan tradition.  Their first Christmas of the mission, Spock had been caught unawares and had had nothing to give his captain.  Instead, he had lent him an antique book of short stories by H.G. Wells that his mother had given him as a teenager during a visit to Earth.  The following year he was better prepared, as indeed he was again this year.

Any further discussion on the matter was halted as Uhura announced the ‘Enterprise Choir’ was about to perform.  The choir was made up of a loose group of people who enjoyed singing and who informally came together whenever there were any festivities.  That evening, they were going to sing traditional winter carols and songs from around the Federation.  Spock had been fascinated to discover some years ago that the onset of winter was a period in the calendar almost universally celebrated by the ancient peoples of many Federation members, including Vulcan, where the time of the rains and growth were commemorated annually in pre-reform times.

The group of ten arranged themselves around the tree and the lights were lowered so that the tree appeared to sparkle in the gloom.  Spock found himself impressed at the recital, the standard being surprisingly good, with the group led by Uhura, who he already knew had an exceptional singing voice.  Throughout the performance, Spock surreptitiously glanced at Kirk who appeared rapt, a small smile on his face throughout. 

When it ended, the applause was resounding and when it died down, Kirk turned to Spock.  “My crew never cease to amaze me.  There’s so much hidden talent.  I remember the first time I heard you play your lyre, I thought your performance was beautiful.”

Spock was unaccustomed to compliments and when he occasionally got them, was generally at a loss as to what to say.  “Thank you,” he said simply and took a sip of his tonic water.  The fact that Kirk had paid him a compliment, one of the early factors in courtship, was not lost on Spock, although once again, he refused to believe there was any significance in it.

“Let’s get out of here,” Kirk suggested.

One of the burdens of command, Spock noted, was that despite Kirk’s enjoyment of parties, the crew felt unable to relax and enjoy themselves as long as senior officers were present.  The captain always departed early, tacitly leaving Uhura in charge.

They walked to their quarters in silence.  “My cabin?” Kirk asked when they arrived at his door.

“Indeed.  I will collect the gift and will be with you momentarily.

“Right.  Use the back door,” Kirk said and disappeared inside.

Spock collected Kirk’s present from where he’d left it on a shelf, and entered his captain’s cabin, as instructed, through their shared bathroom.

Kirk was sitting at his desk trying to look relaxed, but Spock could see some tension in the set of his shoulders.  He sat down opposite and silently they swapped their packages.  Spock had simply accepted this ritual, but he now considered it in the light of all his other ruminations and realized that this was quite a significant action.  The thought warmed him.

“You go first,” Kirk said with a smile.

The box in front of him had a hinged lid with two latches at the front.  Releasing them, he lifted the lid and for a moment just stared at the contents.  Inside was a carved chess-set, the red and cream-colored pieces exquisitely carved from two types of stone native to Vulcan.  To his knowledge, only the artisans of the V’Laki, the desert-dwelling tribe of Sas-a-Shar, fashioned such handiwork.  He lifted out the red queen, feeling the weight of it in his hand, and the smooth coolness of the stone to the touch.  As he studied it, he easily recognized the traditional design-work.

“Do you like it?” Kirk asked into the lengthening silence.

Spock looked up and met Kirk’s eyes.  “To describe this gift as ‘beautiful’ is to do it a disservice.  In Vulcan, one might describe it as e’tum – having qualities that delight the senses, in this case both visual and tactile.”

Kirk smiled.  “E’tum,” he repeated.

“Such artwork is rare, Jim.  Where did you purchase it, if I might ask.”

“You can ask, but I’m not telling,” Kirk said with a teasing voice.

Spock was certain Kirk knew he would be aware that the chess set must have been expensive, and was not surprised at his reticence.  Letting the subject drop, he indicated the box which sat in front of his captain.

Lifting the lid, Kirk took out a plinth with a small plaque on it with the words, “Enterprise NCC-1701.”  He began to look around the edge and noticed a small set of controls.  Pressing one, twenty centimeters above the base a holographic image was projected of his ship, appearing to fly through space, the stars streaming by above, below and to its sides.  His face showed his surprise and delight.  The press of the button again, and the ship was in orbit above a facsimile of Earth, the blue globe slowly revolving on its axis.  Another touch, and the ship was docked at what he recognized as Starbase 14.

“This is amazing, Spock!” he said, grinning.  “How many options for views are there?”

“It includes planets from the founding members of the Federation, several starbases, as well as number of space views.”  Spock leaned forward and pressing a button, the Enterprise was suddenly stationary, facing the Helix nebula – which Spock knew in Earth’s past had been referred to as ‘God’s Eye’ – the hull of the ship colored by its blue glow.  Another press and the Orion Nebula appeared.  “This control will cause it to display each option randomly for a two minute interval, set in a loop.”

Kirk was clearly delighted.  “Thank you, Spock.  I’ll keep it on my desk.”

During the exchange, Kirk had relaxed, but Spock noticed his shoulders tense again, as Kirk tried out different functions on his new toy.  After a minute’s silence he looked up.

“So…are you going to stay in touch with Droxine?”

The question was such a surprising non-sequitur, that Spock was initially at a loss for words as he processed the possible reasons why his captain might ask such a question, and he went through a number of ways to answer it.  In the end, he settled for being direct.

“No, Jim, I will not.”

The admission, he knew, begged the question as to why he had asked Kirk for kissing tutorials.

“You decided she wasn’t your type?” Kirk asked with a smile.

Spock knew a direct answer to that would cause Kirk to probe further and he didn’t want to take the conversation in that direction.  “I am unused to someone showing an interest in me of a more personal nature.”  It wasn’t an answer to the question, but he hoped it would cause Kirk to infer that his first officer’s atypical behavior had stemmed from such attention.

Kirk leaned forward slightly, the movement not going unnoticed by Spock, who recognized it as something his captain did when he was focused on a puzzle and had begun to solve it.  “So would you behave like that again if someone were to show their attraction to you?”

Spock could think of no answer to that but an honest one.  He swallowed hard, realizing from the tightening of his stomach that he was feeling unaccustomedly nervous.  “It would depend on whether the attraction was mutual.”

Kirk’s eyes held his in a steady gaze as he said the next words.  “I think you know I enjoyed kissing you, and… I think you enjoyed it too.”

If Kirk had said this last week, he would have stood up and shown him just how much pleasure he had found in the shared intimacy.  But now he knew the depth of his feeling for this quixotic Human, it had to be all or nothing.  His best approach was to keep the discussion dispassionate.

“You are correct.  I surmise you are offering to take it further.”

Kirk glanced down at his hands clasped on the desk.  “I am, if you’re interested.”

“It is not a matter of interest, Jim.”  The use of his name caused Kirk to look up.  “Vulcan mating habits are different to those of Humans.  I could not tolerate a partner who was not monogamous.”

The words appeared to sting Kirk, but then his face firmed with resolve.  “I guess I deserve that with the reputation I have – although I hope you realize it’s highly exaggerated.”

Spock was unable to keep the skepticism off his face, having seen Kirk courting women on many occasions.

“You should know,” Kirk continued, “that I wouldn’t offer you something I know you’d be unable to accept.”

“What is it, exactly, that you are offering, Jim?”  Spock ruthlessly suppressed the feeling of excitement he felt bubbling up inside him.  He needed absolute clarity from Kirk before he could make an informed decision.

“I’m offering you me, all of me.  Exclusively.  I know that at your next Pon Farr you’ll need to bond, but that’s a long way off.  Until then, just you and me, everything.  We can keep it clandestine, or we can make it official – it’s up to you.”

A warning bell went off in Spock’s head at his words about his next Pon Farr being a long way off.  It sounded almost dismissive as if he were offering something casual up until that time when he would let Spock go to bond with a Vulcan.

Spock realized he’d stopped breathing and exhaled.  “I remain uncertain what you are offering – an interim relationship, or a full one leading to a bond."

“You want the truth, Spock?  I love you and yes, eventually I want to bond with you.  I’ve known it for more than a year, but I didn’t dare let you know because I didn’t think it was reciprocated, and I never wanted you to feel uncomfortable around me, or worse, drive you away.  God knows I’ve had enough junior crew mooning embarrassingly over me – I didn’t want to inflict that on you.  I didn’t dare hope until Ardana, when we kissed, and I could see that it turned you on.  I didn’t say anything, because I wasn’t certain what it was you were feeling – whether you were attracted to me or not.  I could feel your passion and knew it was me who made you respond that way,  but I honestly couldn’t figure out if that whole kissing thing was genuine, or a way you’d devised to get us more intimate – and it was driving me crazy!  You’re pretty hard to read sometimes.”

Spock could barely take in the words of the confession.  Kirk loved him.  It didn’t seem possible; there had been no signs.  The master poker player had completely and successfully hidden his deep feelings for his first officer out of deference for his sensibilities.

In retrospect, it was naïve of him to believe that Kirk, as experienced as he was, would not have noticed the ardor he had poured into each kiss.  He had hoped that Kirk would believe the arousal he had admitted to, was simply the automatic physiological result of a specific stimulus.

“It would appear that we have both been laboring under a false impression.  I have known of my attraction to you for some time.  However I was unaware of the depth of my feelings for you until three days ago, which apparently mirror your own.”  He watched the other man, mesmerized by the look of joy that spread across his captain’s face. 

Leaning forward, Kirk reached into Spock’s chess set and picked up a bishop.  “Remember what I said last time we played chess?  I just knew there was more to you.  Composed Vulcan on the outside, passionate Vulcan on the inside.  It’s the latter I want to get to know better.”

“There is indeed a great deal more to me than I allow others to see…as you shall find out.”

Kirk grinned.  “Is that a threat or a promise?”

Spock had seen his captain’s flirtatious behavior on numerous occasions.  Having it turned on him was a novelty he found he was enjoying.

“It could be both,” he warned.

Kirk laughed.  “So, is that a ‘yes’, Spock?”

“Yes Jim, and under Vulcan law, we are now betrothed.”

When Spock saw Kirk extend two fingers towards him, finally and unbelievably, it was real, this traditional Vulcan touch, this symbol of bondmates – they now had the right to share it.  He found himself almost overwhelmed by all the emotions being transmitted through the gentle caress.

Kirk stood up – always a man of action – and holding Spock’s hand tightly, tugged on it until he rose from his seat.  Releasing himself from the firm grip, he felt his captain’s arms go around his waist and pull him close.  Hazel eyes held his own as Kirk reached up and cupped his cheek.

“I want to make love to you.”

Spock turned into the touch.  “I am sexually inexperienced, Jim.  You will have to teach me.”

The hand on his face slid around to the back of his neck and pulled him down into a kiss.  Kirk’s fervor was such, Spock noted, that the moment their mouths met, they went straight to phase three, as their tongues danced delightedly together.

The intimate touch of tongues, together with the passion Kirk no longer needed to conceal, set off a physiological chain reaction in his body that included, he noted, an increase in his heart-rate and respiration, a heightened sensitivity to his skin and a pooling of blood to his groin that left him hard within seconds.

Spock moved to kiss Kirk’s throat, the curve of his jaw, the pale, slight roughness of his cheek, and his plump pink lips.  He felt Kirk run his tongue along the edge of his ear, suck at the tip, sending uncontrollable shivers through his body.

Standing so close, it was impossible that Kirk would not notice his aching arousal.  Kirk cupped both hands to his ass and pulled so they were pressed even more closely together and he could feel the Human’s answering hardness.  When Kirk moved his hips and their erections pressed together, Kirk let out a groan into his mouth and Spock felt, illogically, as though his knees had weakened.  A prone position would be more conducive.

As if reading his thoughts, Kirk pulled away from the kiss and looked up at him, smiling ruefully.  “You know,” he said quietly, “I’ve never stood close enough to you before now, to really notice the height difference.  Let’s take this to my bed.  Computer, lights to twenty percent.”

Both men paused to remove boots before Kirk lay down and held out his hand to Spock to join him.  Lying side by side, Kirk pushed himself up onto his elbow and leaned down to continue their kissing, his eyes fluttering closed as their lips and tongues met.  His free hand burrowed beneath Spock’s shirts to press against his skin and almost eliciting a gasp at the cool Human touch.  Feeling less bold, he anchored his own hand to Kirk’s hip.

A detached part of him couldn’t help cataloguing the stimuli as well as responding to it, and he wondered how it was that when he touched himself, the sensory input was only a fraction of what it was when Kirk touched him,.  His nipples had never before indicated any degree of sensitivity, yet as Kirk’s thumb and forefinger gripped and rolled one of them, he was unable to repress a shudder as the input arrowed directly to his groin.

Kirk pulled back, his eyes were darkened, his face flushed.  “A bit sensitive here, are we?” he smiled.

“Apparently.”

“We’ve got too many clothes on,” Kirk said, sitting up, and pulled his shirts over his head.  After a moment’s hesitation, Spock followed suit and was unprepared when Kirk gently pushed him back and fasted his mouth to the nipple he’d been teasing, feeling teeth and tongue pressing the responsive nub.  With a gasp, he clutched Kirk’s head, unsure if it was an anchor or as if to hold it in place.

Kirk’s lips and tongue mapped his chest and neck, and when he felt a hand cup him through his trousers, Spock’s hips bucked up as if to press more firmly into the touch.  Kirk moved to lie directly on top of him, their hips slightly offset so that a well-muscled thigh pressed against his erection, while Kirk’s pressed against his hip.  Beginning a slow undulating movement, Kirk captured his mouth again in a searing kiss.

At first, Spock’s hands ran up and down Kirk’s naked back, enjoying the feeling of the smooth ripple of muscle beneath the cool, bare skin.  But unable to resist, he moved his hands lower, shaping them to fit Kirk’s ass and applied a gentle and encouraging pressure.

“God, your hands feel so hot on me, your whole body’s like a furnace,” Kirk murmured between kisses.

Spock squeezed the well-proportioned ass.  “I have desired to do this for some time – it is an aspect of your anatomy I have long admired,” he confessed.

“I can assure you the feeling’s mutual.  You have no idea how many times my mind’s wandered away from matters of duty when you’ve been working the sensors, and all I can see is your ass.”

Spock feared that the stimulation, as their hips continued to thrust, would finish him off before he was ready.  Taking Kirk’s hips, he pushed them away.  “I do not want this to end too soon.”

With a light kiss, Kirk rolled off him.  “Then let me explore,” he said, reaching out to undo Spock’s trousers.  With a lift of his hips, Kirk had them down and off, taking his socks with them, so that he wore nothing but a pair of black briefs.  “May I?” he asked as he inched fingers under the waist-band.

“Only if you also remove yours.”

Spock had seen Kirk naked on occasion, but never when aroused.  On Ardana he had seen a sizeable bulge in his pants, and had felt Kirk’s erection pressed against his hip.  He was impatient to see what he had, for so long, imagined.

“You take them off,” Kirk responded, rolling onto his back.  “I want to watch you undress me.”

Spock got up onto his knees and looking into Kirk’s eyes, began to undo the clasp on his trousers.  As he pulled the zipper down, he deliberately allowed the heel of his hand to brush against Kirk’s hardness, eliciting a gasp.  A part of him reveled in the responses, and a part was astounded that he could be the one to bring Kirk to this.

The pants came off quickly, leaving Kirk in nothing but a pair of white briefs, his engorged cock clearly outlined beneath the tight fabric.  With slight trepidation, he slowly peeled them off, releasing a heady musk as he did so.  His eyes feasted on the sturdy, dusky pink shaft, lying flat against his abdomen, the crown gleaming, wet with pre-ejaculate, while the base stemmed from a thatch of dark blond, tightly-curled hair.

“Touch me,” Kirk said hoarsely.

Tentatively, Spock reached out and took the cock into his fist, causing Kirk to hiss through clenched teeth.  “Oh god…” he whispered as Spock firmed his grip.  He ran his hand experimentally up and down the length, gaining the measure of it, the strength of his arousal.

A part of him was having difficult processing what was going on between them.  He had imagined these intimate touches for so long, had brought himself such pleasure at the thought of such caresses, even of being allowed them.  The cock in his palm felt different to how he’d long imagined it, the skin softer, the shaft firmer, the head more spongy.  He found it surprising to discover the extent to which he himself was being stimulated by touching another.

“Do you ever do that to yourself?” Kirk asked, his eyes fixed on what his hand was doing, his own grabbing at the bedcovers.

“On occasion,” Spock admitted.

Kirk bit his lower lip.  “And is that how you touch yourself?”

“I begin like this,” Spock said, using a loose, slow movement along the entire length of the shaft.  As I become more aroused, I tighten my grip,” he explained, demonstrating.  “When I am close to ejaculating, I also touch myself here,” he said, taking Kirk’s testicles into his other hand, rolling them gently.

Kirk let out a groan.  “Stop,” he begged, as his hand shot out and gripped the base of his cock firmly.  “Dear God,” he said ruefully, fighting to get his breath under control.  “I haven’t had this little control since I was teenager.”

After a few moments, he sat up.  “I want to see all of you.”

Spock lay down to facilitate the removal of his underwear, watching Kirk’s face closely as he pulled the briefs out over his straining erection and down.  He tried to imagine what it was like for Kirk, seeing him for the first time.  In many respects, their configurations were similar, but for second ridge beneath the glans, the texture, and the color, reflecting his Vulcan heritage.

Almost with a degree of reverence, he watched as Kirk lifted his length, running his hand from bottom to top.  “Beautiful…e’tum,” Kirk whispered.  “Sight, smell, feel and…”  Before Spock had time to react, he saw the Human lean down.  “…taste.”  A moment later, his cock was taken into pure, wet bliss.  Nothing could have prevented the groan of pleasure Spock released as he felt himself engulfed by Kirk’s mouth.

He felt Kirk’s tongue trace the crown, press between the ridges, flick over the frenulum, his teeth lightly grazing the underside, all the while sucking rhythmically, making him harder than he had ever been before.  Spock reached down , threading fingers through Kirk’s hair as he fought not to thrust up, instead writhing with vibrating need.

“Please,” Spock groaned, uncertain what he was asking for and hoping Kirk would understand.

Kirk pulled back and sat back on his heels, continuing to hold the shaft in a firm grip.  “I want to fuck you, Spock.  Will you let me do that?”

Spock nodded.  “Yes.”  The word came out almost as a hiss.  This is what he had dreamed of and finally, unbelievably, it was about to become reality.  Kirk would be inside him.

Kirk reached out to his nightstand and retrieved a small tube.  “I need to prepare you.  Are you okay with me doing that?”

Spock nodded again, and a moment later, Kirk was encouraging him to pull his knees back.  “I want to do it this way so I can see you when you come.”  He felt Kirk’s fingers slide down his perineum and then gently circle his sphincter, sliding over the tight knot of muscle again and again.  The touch was both deeply intimate and arousing and he closed his eyes to better experience the sensations.  As Kirk’s fingers continued to slide around, he felt the muscle relax and then a blunt finger enter him, then a second and a third.

“Are you sure you’ve never done this before?” Kirk asked teasingly.

“Vulcan muscle control,” he gasped out, growing impatient to have Kirk take him, to feel the Human’s length sliding inside him.

Kirk prepared himself until his firm flesh glistened in the low light.  “I’m going to fuck you now, Spock.”  Moving into position, Spock felt the blunt head at his entrance and bore down to relax the muscle for entry.  Kirk slid into him in one, slow movement.

“Ohgodohgodohgod,” Kirk murmured.  “You’re so hot.”  He slowly withdrew and pushed in again, this time to the hilt, Spock feeling his testicles swing against his ass.  “Dear God, I’m not going to be able to last long.  I want to watch you bring yourself off as I fuck you.  Will you do that?”

Spock picked up the discarded tube and squeezing some gel onto his hand, ran it along the length to minimize friction.  He heard Kirk’s breath hitch at the wanton sight and began to plunge in a sensual rhythm.  He took one of Kirk’s hands into his own, feeling the Human’s arousal wash over him, adding to the sensations.  He had fantasized Kirk taking him in this manner on many occasions, but what his imagination had been able to conjure, paled into insignificance, compared to the reality of Jim taking him, filling him.

“Jim, will you share a meld with me?”

“Yes, Spock,” he grunted with another thrust.  “Anything.”

Kirk paused, buried deep inside him as Spock carefully positioned his fingers over the meld-points.  The mind he entered was familiar and comfortable, welcoming him in.

As Kirk began to thrust again, Spock showed him the night they’d been called to Ardana, the image of himself, alone in his room, stroking his length and thinking of Kirk, of the cave scenario, of being taken as he now was.

Instead of his own finger, he felt the large, Human cock grazing that spot buried deep inside him with each thrust as Kirk showed him his own memory of that night.  Shortly after Spock’s departure, lying on his bed, he had touched himself, sliding fingers up and down his body, teasing nipples, stroking thighs, caressing his manhood, imagining them to be Spock’s. 

Spock revealed how he had known, upon entering Kirk’s cabin, what it was he’d been doing, sensed Kirk’s surprise and inner laughter.

Kirk’s mouth was open and pressed to his shoulder, dropping hot kisses along his arm.  Still melded, Spock felt their joining as two separate sensations, his own and an echo of Kirk’s.  Glancing up into Kirk’s face and catching his eyes, he smiled in happiness.

He felt his passion cresting into intense, pulsing waves of pleasure.  “I am close,” he groaned.  Kirk immediately pulled back to watch Spock’s hand move rapidly along his own length, feeling himself filled with his new lover.  Bucking up, he felt his rectal muscles clench around Kirk’s bulk, and a white hot eruption, stronger than anything he had ever felt before, sent strings of come across his belly and chest.

It was as if his own completion caused a chain reaction, as with a cry of deliverance, Kirk abandoned himself to a shattering release, which pulsed through them both.

It was several minutes before Kirk got his breathing under control and, gently withdrawing, lay down beside Spock and kissed him tenderly.

“Wow,” Kirk said, finally as he lay with his head on Spock’s chest, fingers idly combing through the soft hair he found there.  “This – you – are the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten,” Kirk said after a while, an awed tone to his hushed voice.  “You have no idea how much I love you, Spock.  How much I’ve wanted you.”

“I can assure you the sentiment is mutual, Jim,” Spock returned with a small smile.  “I love you in every way, and am proud to call you my betrothed.  I truly did not believe you ready to ‘settle down’.”

“I’m not in the traditional sense, with a house and all.  I’m not ready to leave the Enterprise and turn my back on the stars.  The beauty of it is, I can have all that with you; this is our home.”  He squeezed Spock, as if to emphasize the point.

“Indeed, it is.”  Spock had truly never felt more ‘at home’, nor more filled with joy, than he did in that moment.

Kirk pushed himself shakily onto one elbow.  “Spock, will you spend some shoreleave with me?”

“I would be pleased to do so.  I have heard the Starbase has an excellent museum dedicated to space, with some unique exhibits I would be most interested in seeing.”

Kirk looked at him incredulously.  “I was thinking more along the lines of getting a hotel room and getting to know one another better without interruptions.  But I guess we could fit in a visit too—”

Spock’s lips twitched.

“Damn you, Spock!” Kirk said, falling onto his back and laughing.  “You had me going there!  Hey, what’s the time?”  He pushed himself up back up and glanced at the console on his desk.  “It’s gone midnight.  Happy Christmas, Spock – I love you.”

Spock ran his hands over the beloved face, mapping the contours, gazing into expressive hazel eyes as his fingers slid through fine hair.  “Now that I have you at my side, beloved, it will be a very happy Christmas.”


FIN

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Chapter End Notes:

<a href=http://ksarchive.com/viewuser.php?uid=13014>WeirdLittleStories</a> kindly pointed out in feedback that in north America, the saying is 'Merry Christmas' rather than 'Happy Chrstmas'.  Apologies if it jarred - my reason for having Spock say it, was because I wanted him to allude to happiness now and in their future, rather than merriness.  I hope readers don't mind! :-)

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