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DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios and Viacom. The story is my creation and property, and is copyright 2009. I will not benefit financially in any way from the publication of this story.

 

Straight on ‘til morning



“You want me to help you find him?! You want…--are you mad!? You walked out on him when he needed you most and you want me to help you get him back?! Get out! Get the HELL out! Go back to whatever desert rat hole you crawled out of and stay there, you miserable son of a bit—.”



I blocked the blow and rendered the furious, inebriated human unconscious with a simple nerve compression. He was an all-too fragile burden in my arms and I deposited him gently on the settee. The doctor had aged, not gently, in the last year. None of us had aged gently.



I considered a mind meld, a forced invasion--the equivalent of mental rape--but instead tiredly rose and found a blanket with which to cover this man who had been often my nemesis, but also my friend during the worst of times.



Another broken bond to add to the many.



I covered the sleeping man carefully, my touch lingering for just a moment on the familiar, stubborn chin. “I am sorry, doctor.”



Wrapping the heavy Vulcan robes around myself, I went back out into the night.



I spoke with them all over the subsequent weeks. Endured their anger, their longing, their need—like mine—to simply come home again.



To the stars.



*****



For six cycles I searched, scanned databases legally and illegally, lied, bribed, and yes, used less than subtle persuasion at times to extract information from some very unsavory beings. I was becoming desperate and cared little about the means. The end was all that mattered. Jim was alive, of that--and only that—I was certain. Even as hard as I tried to break it during my cloister on Gol, our bond remained intact, though ever so tenuous. I sensed Jim’s faint life force, yet it was very little to inform my course. Enough, however, to sustain me in the relentless quest.



There were signs. Two outposts in the outer Tara III sector claimed to have been host to James Kirk in the previous year, but Kirk-sightings were many and never substantiated. The man knew how to cover his tracks. Starfleet had given up their search over a year ago, merely hoping their famous son would reappear, all having been forgiven for their attempt at exploiting him. It had been 1.5 years since the Enterprise’s mission had ended, and after one cycle at Fleet High Command as the Old Man’s poster boy superhero, Jim had resigned with the stroke of a key and vanished into the galaxy the same day. Starfleet had underestimated him yet again—the backlash from within and without Fleet had been…substantial, and the mystique surrounding the Enterprise and her nearly legendary young captain only grew after her decommissioning.



But he hadn’t disappeared immediately. He’d come to Vulcan once and I refused his entrance to the Citadel. From the high cliff, I watched him far below, walk away. Disbelieving. Destroyed. Lost as only I should have understood.



I am sorry Jim, my only love. Please, help me find you. Please…



The pain was corrosive in my gut, a constant companion that I nurtured and counted on to keep me moving. From one planetary system to the next, and the next, and the next.



Answer me, T’hy’la. I need thee, I need thee…



*****



Ahhhhh! I exploded upright from the control console over which I had fallen into a doze. Gasping with the pain, I ripped the cloth from my left shoulder but found no wound, though burning agony seared up and down my arm.



“Spock! Spock, help—!!!!“ It was a scream in my mind.



“Jim! WHERE ARE YOU, WHERE ARE YOU, JIM, TELL ME—“



But the image, the pain, vanished as if they had never existed, and I lay on the deck of the small, empty ship and surrendered to the burning tears that rent my very soul.



Close, close, he has to be. You did not imagine it, do not think it!



Water…I saw that moment through his eyes. Waves tossing him…a sea.




I staggered to the computer console and began searching this system for habitable planets with seas and gravitational effectors.



You will LIVE, do you hear me, T’hy’la? LIVE, I am coming for you. LIVE! It was a mantra I repeated endlessly as I charted a course at top speed toward the seventh planet in the L’Aurens system, a water world.





*****



ChrysalisVII is a very large planet (14.3 Earth mass equivalents), covered pole-to-pole in water--and about as far from anywhere as a being could get. The journey through the Mira solar system proved far harder than I would have imagined. The asteroid field would have tested my navigation skills to their limit had I been functioning at my optimum, but I was nowhere near that ideal. It took nearly eighteen hours to negotiate, allowing only the slightest safety margin, before I glimpsed the beautiful blue world.



I had not felt the pain again, nor was I dead. If Jim were dead, I was certain I would have followed him. I had to believe it would be so.



Some 36 kilometers below its watery surface, ChrysalisVII hides massive quantities of tritiated Galanium used to gild planetary solar shields throughout the galaxy. The material flows from undersea magma vents, but even with 23rd century technology, an extractive job at that depth and pressure is not for any but the hardiest and most determined of creatures. This was a frontier outpost, full of rough and distrusting beings, and discretion was currency. There was no question Jim was here, but finding him would prove to be an entirely new problem.



*****



This bar was as seedy as any of the previous establishments I had investigated in the port of Bali Bashira. It was dark and full of odors of the exotic and unwashed--a typical, and most distasteful, outpost intoxicant venue. I had visited hundreds in the last six cycles looking for information; all exhibited a decidedly volatile mix of inebriation and elemental animal aggression, unfettered and dangerous. If I did not watch myself, I would rapidly become the target of the evening’s sport. I felt eyes, and various alien sensory organs, follow me as I proffered the picture of Jim and asked for any information as to his whereabouts. I did not, of course, expect to garner this information—I was merely looking for any sign of recognition in their countenance.



Nothing.



Three weeks and no clue as to Jim’s location. So close and still so far away. Certainly Jim had to have known of my inquiries by now. He meant to turn me away as I did him. I could not blame him. If he wished it, he could have eluded me for years on this planet.



Five hours and nothing of any interest. The chair was hard and cold and I was in need of nourishment if I was to continue. Jim, where are you? I am so tired. Tomorrow I would move on to the next supply port. I left credits on the filthy, pitted table and moved to the door.



“What do you want from him, Vulcan?”



I stiffened and turned back to the bartender now standing only a meter away. It was a Corellian of imposing stature, but it had not harassed me the many hours I had spent here as many previous proprietors had.



The truth would have to suffice; I was too tired for artifice. “He is my friend.”



The eerily phosphorescent eyes bore into mine for a long moment and then suddenly shifted to look over my left shoulder. There was a movement.



“You could’ve fooled me.”



That voice resonated with every atom in my body. A magnetic field danced through me, around me, taunted and teased and energized my weary body. Gravity dipped and righted. Only one being could alter the physical Laws by his mere presence. Only one.



*******



Jim.



I turned slowly. Not only could this human warp gravity, he apparently also had the power to freeze sound and light waves. My vision tunneled and everything peripheral to this mesmerizing creature ceased to be. The only sound I registered was the blood that roared in my ears and threatened my equilibrium.



Jim.



He stood several meters away, his hands rested on his hips in an unabashedly masculine, nearly carnal, proclamation of his arrogance and power.



He was simply,…magnificent. Every reincarnation seemed to hone and refine him, rendering him elemental and that much closer to the wild. He was not a large terran, yet he had always owned any room into which he trod. This had not changed—but that his sculpted physique was even more intimidating now. I would not have thought it possible. There was not a centimeter of his tawny sun-bronzed body that was wasted or soft, except for the hair. I knew it would be silken and cool to the touch. Longer than he’d ever allowed it while on duty, it curled back from his temples, adding to the rakish animal magnetism he exuded. As did the scars. Several were visible on his upper body, including one very angry one—of recent origin--that ran from his left shoulder to below his elbow. ChrysalisVII was an outworld—not many cosmetic lasers, much less advanced medical care available.



“What are you doing here?” he asked icily, with the deceptive indifference of a predator assessing its prey.



His most striking physical features were still those bewitching eyes. Indeed, the windows to his soul. To no one does that aphorism apply more aptly than to James T. Kirk. They were glacially cold and hard. But they were also…tormented. He was not as indifferent as he would have had me believe. Perversely, his pain gave me hope. He had not purged me completely from his life. Had he greeted me with casual abandon, all would have been lost.



“I had hoped to speak to you, Jim, perhaps we could go somewhere—“



“No.”



“I have been searching for you for a very long time.”



Without the slightest inflection, he replied, “Sorry to inconvenience you, but I’m not interested in being found, nor am I interested in anything you would have to say. Go back to the old crones on Gol, Spock. I’m sure they would disapprove your consorting with a mere human.”



And without so much as a backward glance, he—the very reason for my existence--turned out the door and was gone. The shock of the energy vacuum left in his wake left me momentarily paralyzed. Finally I had found him!



I hastened after him, but was detained by several beings, who—it seemed—were members of Jim’s crew. “Leave the Cap’n alone, Vulcan, or we feed you to the marosaur,” this from a particularly large and fanged Knorosovian with a decidedly bad attitude. And odor.



‘The Cap’n’? Of course it would be so! For the first time in nearly two years, I allowed myself a small indulgence, the faintest tilt of my lips. Could it be that Jim was a modern-day pirate? That he had searched out or created the adventures he loved so very much in the antique books he’d read in his cabin. Books that I had read to him when he was recuperating from another injury—pirates and sea captains from a time long past? It would not surprise me. Nothing about the man surprised me, as he never ceased to surprise. It was not logical, but I have cared little for logic of late.



By the time I’d extricated myself from that motley cohort, Jim was long gone, vanished into the evening mists of ChrysalisVII. But I knew where to find him now.



Jim’s ship would be his signature.



******



When the mists burned off the following morning, it took me all of 48 minums to find what I was seeking in a northeast port berth. A shimmering pearl-colored vessel, tall and sleek, as beautiful as she was no doubt functional. She was masted, with billowing solar sails that would retract for subsurface voyages.



Her name, not coincidentally I am sure, was Phoenix, and Jim was her captain. There was no question of it.



*****



In my cramped space, I rested, conserving energy. I calculated with some certainty that the ship had progressed far beyond the point at which Jim would be willing to return to port to discard me. I was less certain of his stance on sending me overboard, however. I would take that chance. Soon. I was hungry, for food yes, but more, to see him again.



The prickly Rigellian pressed the disruptor again into my back and prodded me forward into the control room.



“Cap’n, we have a skimmer.”



A C’scidian morphant—and Jim—turned from a control panel in unison. The C’scidian’s reaction to me, I did not know. My eyes were only for the man dressed in black, with eyes the color and intensity of a Jeshwir jungle cat. A very dangerous one. His lips formed a hard, taut line and I did not miss the clenched fists quickly hidden as he crossed his arms. How I had missed every nuance of his body language. I fought to keep my face neutral for fear the slightest indulgence would indeed land me in the sea.



The C’scidian spoke first, apparently disturbed by his captain’s silence. “Who be you and why be you here—“



Jim stopped him with a subtle jerk of his head. And he approached me slowly, stopping a full meter from me.



“You are nothing if not persistent, Mr. Spock. I should have known. For your sake, I do hope you’re not prone to sea sickness. It appears you’ll be stuck here a while.”



“Cap’n, who—“



“—He is not…a threat. To the crew or this voyage. Take him below and feed him before he collapses.”



I was pressed to turn and exit when Jim spoke next, “Listen well, Spock, it’s not…the Enterprise, but it’s a big ship. Don’t cross my path again or you will spend a very long month in the brig. First Mate Aroc will find a job for you, and you will answer to him, clear?”



“Yes sir,” I replied as professionally as possible. No differently than I had a thousand times before, yet given the flaring pain I saw cross his face, I may as well have slapped him.



No, I was not a threat to his crew or his mission, but I was most definitely a threat to him, it seemed, or so he believed.



I was both pleased and heartbroken simultaneously, how was that possible?



He turned from me then and I was jostled out of the cabin. I did not see him again for six days.



******



We spent the first week mapping the vents to be tapped and replenishing fresh sea flora and fauna supplies. The Phoenix remained on the surface. Her food stores were well-stocked, but the delicacies of ChrysalisVII’s seas were preferred, and no food replicators existed aboard, given the vast sea life.



I did not attempt to approach Jim again during this period, thinking it best to allow him space to habituate himself to my presence gradually. I watched him, particularly at night, from the quarterdeck. Most often each evening, he stood alone in the darkness, his feet set wide and sure, never dislodged by the force of the waves. The sea breeze chilled me even through heavy clothing when I left the enclosed confines of the upper deck. He, however, seemed completely oblivious to the cold. He dared the elements as always, and was more alone than I had ever seen him.



*****



“Do you play with him often?”



“No, he be not interested in learning the game.”



This was my first acquaintance with a C’scidian. An obligate aquamorph, he was in the intersticene of his third morphosis. I was impressed by him. He was highly intelligent, held his own counsel, and seemed relatively unperturbable. Most importantly, he cared for Jim, whom he sometimes called ‘JT.’ I was most pleased that Jim had such a friend.



I moved my rook to impede Aroc’s bishop, and caught his annoyed gaze. “He is, in fact, a Grand Master,” I stated neutrally.



Aroc considered the board carefully. He did not respond to my comment. “You play well, Spock of Vulcan.”



“He plays better.”



“You have known him a long time.” It was less a question, than a statement.



“Yes.”



“Before you came, he was beginning to relax and now he paces again, what did you do to him?”



A direct frontal attack. This one could be a formidable enemy, or ally. He flayed me open effortlessly. I could not speak for a long moment, nor could I look away from the large cerulean eyes. Was he a telepath? I could not feel any mental emanations from him, but he was disturbingly perceptive. “I left him when he needed me. When we needed each other,” I amended softly.



He seemed to accept my answer without the censure I deserved, and casually reached to capture my knight with his rook. I should have been mortified by the quality of my game, but all I could think about was Jim, pacing in the darkness.



“Have you spoken yet?”



“No.”



“He be stubborn, that one.”



“Indeed,” I replied dryly, “it is his default state.”



He looked hard at me and I was taken aback by the sudden anger in his countenance. “Mate, it be the only thing that has kept him alive, be glad of it.”



He had misinterpreted my comment as an insult, but of course I had long known the value of Jim’s stubb--Aroc was defensive and protective of Jim. Exceedingly so... At that moment, I realized that Aroc felt more than loyalty to his captain. He felt the deep bond of brotherhood and affection that had presaged my love for Jim. Did Aroc..? I felt suddenly,--thoroughly—, unwell. Jim had always loved so easily, and I had freed him to do so again. And this Aroc was an honorable man.



“Checkmate.”



I blinked and examined the board. I did not recall the last many moves and, indeed, I was bested. I surrendered my King absently, with numb fingers.



“Be not so disconsolate, mate, I will not tell him.” He leveled me with a nearly perfect raised eyebrow that would do a Vulcan proud. Odd, given he did not possess eyebrows.



Aroc looked up. “He paces again.”



I was so suffocating in…fear--yes, it was fear—that I had not heard the foot falls on the deck above.



“You be a fool if you think you have lost him,” he remarked.



I looked up sharply at the deceptively delicate, aquarian face.



“He called out for you in his delirium when he be injured last cycle—“



“--You cared for him? You were there!?”



He nodded. “I have repaired him at least twenty times—a thin-skinned Dryworlder does not belong in the sea. He wagers with his life far too often.”



“Yes, he always has. I am indebted to you for caring for him.” And for not falling in love with him,…I did not add. The thought of Jim belonging to another nearly incapacitated me. If I could not repair the damage I had done to us, I feared for my sanity. Perhaps I was, indeed, a threat to him.



Aroc’s eyes reminded me of my mother’s. Knowing, seeing far too much. “He hurts, mate. Give him time.”



And at that moment, I looked up and saw Jim watching us from the outside forecastle deck through the silishield. I was sure I’d caught the wisp of a smile on his lips before he turned away into the dark.



*****



For three grueling weeks we worked, nearly around the clock, refining Galanium from a vent that opened 27.89 kilometers below the surface of Chrysalis. In its tritiated state, Galanium poses a significant explosive threat and requires absolute focus. From within the Phoenix, I helped the engineers direct the flow and stabilize the compound, while Jim and several dozen divers performed the most dangerous and physically taxing work outside, under 12KHg/meters water pressure. Jim worked tirelessly alongside his crew, never asking more of them than he asked of himself. This eclectic, rough-hewn crew was no less fiercely loyal to him than had been the crew of the Enterprise.



I caught glimpses of his humor and playfulness toward them. Yet, for three weeks, he said not so much as a word to me and rarely did he enter the communal areas of the ship. Finally, one evening, after a particularly difficult dive, he showed up in the galley and sat at one of the three long tables several meters from me. He was exhausted and had dark circles under his eyes--those wary, injured, utterly untrusting eyes. His icy demeanor had thawed, but it was replaced by inconsolable hurt. Would he ever allow me to explain?



But to explain what? I had no excuses. Suggesting the Bonding Ceremony at that time had been, to say the least, insensitive of me. And my reaction when he declined? Incomprehensible. Emotion overwhelmed reason absolutely, placing in peril that for which I had fought so long, my Vulcan heritage, my first self. I retreated to home, but it was not. Logic could not hurt me, but neither did it satisfy me. It could only be the two, emotion tempered by reason, and made vital by the binding force that was James Kirk. There would be no Spock without Jim. Leaving him, attempting to purge him from my mind, had been unforgivable. Yet I would ask his forgiveness, to my dying breath I would ask it. I cannot live without you, Jim.



Much to my dismay, he abruptly rose and left the room. He could not have read my mind without direct touch, and our long-dormant link was utterly suppressed. Yet he’d taken his leave only moments after sitting down, his meal nearly untouched.



I felt Aroc’s gaze upon me from across my table. He, too, rose and left through the same portal as had Jim. I stared at my meal tray for several moments. If I launched it with x velocity, accounting for y air friction, and vectoring in contour resistance…Cease this immediately! Control it! I am a Vulcan, I will not…surrender my fate. I inflicted his pain; I will endure it.



I stood just as Aroc returned and reseated himself across from me.



“Finish your meal.”



My eyes must have revealed me as clearly as Jim’s reveal him. “He be nauseous, mate—it is common that it strikes suddenly after a deep dive.”



It was…not my presence that had made him too ill at ease to eat. It was not me. “He will be alright?”



“After he worships in the ‘fresher Thrown God a few times and gets some sleep, he will,” he replied with droll humor. “Eat. He will be fine in the morning.”



*****



Our three weeks subsurface were finished and we ascended slowly to the surface with several trillion credits in Galanium safely stabilized in the hold. I knew that the accumulation of credits had not been, nor ever would be his motivation, but after nearly two years, I could only surmise that Jim was wealthy enough to afford himself a solar system. Or a starship.



We surfaced at mid-day. The sun was brilliant and well-received by the worn men. Jim ordered the masts erected and the stately lady soared for a time across the waters. It was…invigorating and I began to understand Jim’s enjoyment of this. The azure blue water was crystal clear and full of an unimaginable diversity of colorful sea life.



Later, the Phoenix merely floated majestically on the glassy warm surface, collecting solar radiation via the sails to replenish the ship’s internal heating cells. Several of the men, including Jim, dived overboard for an afternoon swim.



Coming from a desert world, swimming is not an activity I appreciate, though I had a fondness for watching Jim. He swam regularly during the Enterprise’s mission and is sleek and agile under the water. We did not swim together, but we did other things together in the water. So long ago, yet my body remembered it as if it had held him hours before…slid into his body and—Enough!



I needed to meditate. But I could not drag myself from that place without seeing him once, if even from a distance.



From the aft observation deck, I approached the side rail and located him in the water. He was returning to the ship and Aroc had lowered the ladder for him several meters from where I stood, nearly concealed by the mizzenmast.



Still in the water, Jim handed his swim fins up to Aroc who accepted these…unwieldy prostheses…with poorly concealed disdain. He dropped the tasteless appendages unceremoniously onto the deck. Even in his bipedal morph, Aroc’s hands and feet were, of course, webbed by inherent design.



I watched Jim grin up at Aroc as he ascended the ladder. It was unguarded pleasure—the mischievous zeal and vivacious innocence of a child that has always drawn so many to his side. The boy was still alive within the man. Hope. There was hope now. I did not know if he would ever smile at me in that way again, but he still smiled. It was enough that I had not destroyed him completely.



He bounded over the rail and turned, reaching for a towel—



RAGE. ANIMAL RAGE, BLOOD OF THE ANCIENTS, KILL, KILL, KILL!



“WHO DID THIS TO YOU!???? TELL ME, JIM, WHO—DID—THIS—TO--“



I moved with preternatural speed and reached for him, but Aroc and a crewman held me back.



Long white welts crisscrossed Jim’s back, dozens of them. He had been savagely lashed. Whipped.



Jim’s eyes narrowed on me with lethal intensity. “It’s none of your damned business,” he growled and turned away.



The nerve-pinch was ineffective on Aroc, but I incapacitated the other crewman without thought and yanked free of Aroc. “Jim!—“ I put my hand on his shoulder to stop him and—



--and he whirled and decked me with every bit of strength he possessed. I fell, sprawled on the deck as though I were a fledgling.



“If you ever touch me again, you’ll be swimming back to BaliBash! Leave me the hell alone!” he snarled through clenched teeth. His chest was heaving and his eyes were molten lava. “You fucking bastard, don’t you ever touch me again…”



And he was gone.



*****



Through the blood haze a hand reached down and retrieved me from the deck. Instinctively I reached for and pinned the biped by its neck to the retainer wall. “WHO beat him, who—?“



“Release me if you think to get an answer.” An appendage slammed into my groin, but the pain could not swim upstream against unleashed Vulcan blood rage.



Choking sounds and the shouts of others barely impinged upon my senses. I was pulled off…Aroc…it was Aroc I had pinned.



A hand struck me across my face, several times, hard.



“Do not…stop. Again. Again.”



My knees…no longer…held…my body was folding…downward.



“Let ‘im go boys, go on.”



Aroc was crouched in front of me, rubbing his neck gingerly.



“I am…sorry.” Such an empty word that I called upon often.



Slowly, reluctantly, he began to relate the tale that I did not want to hear, but would endure.



“It was not long after JT arrived. A waterwart by the name Krylon captured him as a gift for his wife, an even lower life form. She liked to collect pretty males of just about any species and play with them. Krylon could keep her only so long as he provided her with…entertainment. However, JT did not perform as desired so Krylon had him flogged to within a breath of his life and tossed him into the sea as marosaur bait. None of us has ever figured out how he survived, but he did. We found him four days later more dead than alive, but he lived.”



“Where is this Krylon,” my throat was constricted, the words barely audible. All I could see were those welts, Jim, Jim…



“Listen, mate, you better calm down before you burst—“



“WHERE is—?“



“--He’s dead. You did not hear the legend all that time you spent in ports looking for our Cap’n? You are standing on Krylon’s most prized ship right now, though it bears virtually no resemblance to what it had before JT claimed it. He sunk every ship in Krylon’s fleet, one by one. Why do you think Chrysalis’ Galanium production climbed so fast over the last year? That black market thief be out of the picture.”



“You are certain he is dead?”



Aroc snorted, “It was the show of a lifetime. Have you ever seen JT wield a laser saber? That rapacious maggot did not stand a chance.”



“The female?”



“She’s a two bit whore in a three bit port, do not waste your time—that she is alive be the best revenge, my friend. Come on down to the sickbay. The Cap’n did a job on your lip, I will seal it.”



“No. Thank you. I will--”



“--You will injure yourself if you do not settle down. Come on, that’s an order. You be dripping green all over his pretty ship. He be a survivor, Mr. Spock.”



Survivor. It was such a lonely word. He had been used and abused too many times. He’d been flogged and sexually abused, while I had meditated at Gol trying to break our bond. How could I ask him to trust me again?



The lacerations on his body had healed, but it would take a great deal to heal the lacerations to his heart.





*****



One step forward and two steps back. He was deep inside himself, distracted and drowning in memories I had forced upon him. Even Aroc was becoming concerned. We began another descent to vent 286, even deeper than the last. I am forever indebted to Aroc. There was to be a small insurrection aboard the Phoenix in a few hours. Neither Aroc, nor I, would allow Jim to join the dive crew this time. He was not functioning at his optimum and nothing less would suffice at 32 kilometers beneath the crushing weight of Chrysalis.



I was in the control room when Aroc ticked off Jim’s own rules to him and saw the eyes frost over.



“Get out of my way.”



“No sir.”



I moved to back-up Aroc. I preferred Jim’s anger directed at me, and my strategy worked quite effectively as that beautiful face turned in my direction and darkened savagely. But Aroc would have none of it.



“Do not think to take your wrath out on him, Cap’n, it be my decision as first mate. I have not saved your dessicated dryworld hide so to let you die because you forgot to check your regulator. You be not competent to dive today, SIR.” Aroc’s gill slits flared, and his normally light blue complexion flushed to a dynamic mottled orange-red in seconds. It was an impressive chromatophoric display of marine animal aggression.



Jim reached into his bag of tricks and tried to cajole his First. “Aroc,” he smiled placidly, “listen, I’m fine, I’ll come in after four ho—“



“Point 6, “One weak member of a dive squad could endanger the entire—“



Jim scowled. “Shit.”



He was cornered and he knew it. Aroc was, indeed, a fine chess player.



How many times had Jim and I had precisely the same argument during the first four years of our mission? Some things never changed. For the next eight hours, Jim crawled the walls as he watched his men risk their lives, unable to be out there with them.



*****



There was a problem with the collector valve and the situation went from bad to worse in a very short time as the air lock seal was damaged when the collector manifold broke loose under the force of a deep wave surge.



“Kaelin—evacuate C core and stabilize the manifold.”



“It’ll require a manual coupling, Cap’n, I’ll have to go—“



“Go!”



“Aroc, can you hear me? I can’t see the D team, where—?“



“We be well enough, Cap’n. That wave took us by surprise. Martin and Quar need attention—they were knocked around a bit.”



Jim leaned forward over the board, “Hang on, there’s some damage here, we’ll get you in soon. Stay together. I can’t see you, can you—?“



“—The tether be wrapped around a the vent trunk, we will get it free as soon as the wave diss--.”



The transmission crackled and died, and I watched as Jim slammed his fist into the side wall.



I moved to the board immediately to attempt to clear the interference.



Jim acknowledged me with an anxious look and quickly moved to the engineering console to assist the tech in repairs to the manifold controls. He moved back and forth between the control center and the engineering core over the next several minums, asking for updates on communications with the away team.



“Cap’n, the C core is evacuated, but the circuit board is damaged, it will take me an hour or more to—“



“Spock, go down to engineering and assist Kaelin.”



“Yes, Captain.”



Thirty minums later, the manifold and airlock were functional again, but communications with the away team were spotty at best.



When I returned to the bridge, Jim turned to me and caught himself almost smiling, “The men are accounted for and they are slowly returning along the tether.”



His relief was palpable. For a brief moment, his eyes were vital and unshuttered. The sadness returned in a short time, but it was a start. He locked his arms around himself and I saw the conscious effort he made to loosen them. “I’m going down to the air lock.” He turned away, but hesitated, “Thanks…for the help.” And was gone below decks.



“You are welcome, my T’hy’la,” I whispered.



The A and B teams were recovered quickly, but the D team was coming in too slowly. Two of the members were experiencing disequilibrium from the wave concussion. I immediately relayed this news to Jim, but was informed that he was no longer aboard ship. Indeed, I could see him swimming on a tether toward the D team line. Taunting death again. There was no chance he had acclimated to his pressurized suit nearly long enough.



*****

 

I watched from the large view port in the antechamber as one crewman after another, and lastly Jim, emerged from the sea into the dank decompression hold and wrapped themselves in eblankets.  They were stumbling with exhaustion and, all but Jim, laid on the warming pads on the floor of the chamber to rest while they slowly re-equilibrated to nominal pressure.  Having questioned each in turn and apparently assured that serious injury had been averted, Jim sat on the floor on the far side of the chamber, his legs splayed in front of him, and dropped his wet head back against the cold metallic wall.  He was shivering and pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders.  His face was ashen.  He was too spent to attenuate our link fully now and I could feel the exhaustion beating on him, yet his eyes remained open, if unfocused.

 

Then, to my surprise, his eyelids lifted just enough to gaze directly at me, unblinking, but his lips remained a thin cold line.  The sepulchral light of the chamber robbed his normally vibrant eyes of their luster and the hopeless desolation I saw there seared my heart.  But I did not look away.  I would never look away from him again.  His pain was mine to absorb.

 

They were all sleeping now except him.  I raised my hand and slowly signed to him through the thick view window:  I am sorry, my Heart.

 

His stolid expression did not deviate in the least, but neither did he look away and I held his eyes a moment longer.  How I wanted to hold all of him and heal the terrible wounds. 

 

He drew his knees up and dropped his head upon them.  Perhaps he slept for the remainder of the depressurization period, but I doubted it.

 


*****

All were safe. Jim stood in sickbay while Aroc and two assistants assessed the divers who had been out too long under those pressures.



“Cap’n, they will be fine, just a ruptured ear drum and some really bad headaches for while. Nothing too serious. How do you be?”



Jim had not allowed himself to be examined, though he was alarmingly pale and clearly exhausted.



“I’m fine.”



“You need rest.”



Jim nodded, but would not leave his men—did not take his eyes off their still forms--until they were conscious and talking.



He was busy torturing himself as he always did when a crew member was hurt, or worse. I had witnessed it a hundred times.



I stood quietly in the corner of the small sickbay and watched him. The fools at Fleet had tried to fit him for a desk job. This was the only place for James Kirk. The only place for me.



“Captain?,” I asked softly.



He turned, and smiled, “Yeah, Spo—“ And then the smile faltered and the haunted look returned to those so expressive eyes and nearly brought me to my knees. He was remembering…for a moment he had been back aboard the Enterprise after a crisis was resolved and the crushing weight of responsibility had been lifted for a time.



“—I request permission to return to engineering to complete repairs on the manifold control.”



Or at least that is what I hoped I had asked. He continued to stare at me, searching for something. For a moment, the pain eased and he nodded slowly. Finally he turned back to his men and I could move again.



*****



His door was ajar and I stepped inside the small, darkened cabin and found him bent over his desk, asleep, his still damp head cushioned on his arms. Yet another image I recalled countless times on the Enterprise. He was only partially wrapped in the light blanket and it had slipped from his shoulders.



He was shivering.



I retrieved a heavy blanket and carefully draped it around him, my blood rising again at the sight of those welts across his shoulders, visible even in the anemic deck runner lights. I wanted nothing more than to hold him, warm him, protect him.



But I dared not even touch him.





*****



The injured men were much recovered in the morning and final repairs were completed to the suction manifold. Aroc and I studied the magma gravi-magnetics and concluded that the probability of experiencing another deep current wave was high in that latitude over the next 22 hours. We ascended to 5 kilometers in transit to a different vent to harvest later in the day.



During the transit Aroc suggested that I retire to the observation deck to view the sea life that was so plentiful at that light-penetrable depth. The grav shields were open and there would be, I was told, Dolopod in the area, a sight that I should see.



The heavy door opened slowly and I stepped just within the large sea green chamber. Both lateral walls were made of trans-aluminum, affording a high resolution view of the surrounding sea and its assortment of creatures. It was astonishingly beautiful, this inner world. I had never seen such a wide array of brightly colored animals in my life. It did not compare even to the aquarium Jim had taken me to in San Francisco. Some forms were fluorescent. Others exhibited strobed electric bursts. Innumerable sizes and body morphologies were represented, from the radial to bilaterally symmetrical. Others still were nearly transparent and detected only by the ingested food that outlined their digestive track. This was a treasure trove of diversity in infinite combinations. Fascinating… And sound was piped in. I could hear pulsating vibrations and high-frequency clicks.



Softly, another sound drew my attention. It came from within the chamber, high on the second level. A musical instrument. I moved quietly up the tube and stopped in my tracks. At the far end of the chamber, Jim sat playing a stringed instrument, similar to a Vulcan Vir’san, or a Terran cello. I slipped back into the shadows, more than anything, not wishing for him to run. The rich sounds he extracted from the instrument were long and achingly beautiful. Somber, but not darkly so. The wavering light of the sea caressed his face. He was peaceful, at least more so than I had seen him in a very, very long time. For this sight alone it had been worth every minum of my quest. I had never seen him play an instrument in all the time I had known him, which, admittedly, was not that long. I never asked. How many layers to this man would there be?...



Suddenly another sound impinged upon my sensitive ears long before I ascertained the source. Slowly from the depths, three very large blue behemoths emerged and approached the ship. They were over 12 meters in length and the mournful sounds were their calls. They were singing! They were not random vocalizations, but harmonized, hypnotic songs. They approached closely, but their songs ceased, that is, until Jim began playing again. And they sang back to him. They were conversing with Jim and he with them! Back and forth they mimicked each other as best as possible. It was a remarkable exchange I will never forget.



The beasts followed the ship for many kilometers before finally breaking away and pursuing their own course.



So enthralling were they, I had not even noticed that Jim had left his instrument and slowly approached my side.



“They are Dolopods, similar to the whales of Earth,” he said softly. “The last blue whale was exterminated in the 21st century.” His eyes were sad and tired, but they were no longer bleeding, nor shattering with anger.



He said no more and continued past me, exiting the chamber.



******



We safely completed the harvest of vent 273 and ascended to the surface. Another nine days and we would return to Bali Bashira. I had come to…appreciate this time and did not wish to face the realities of what might transpire back at port. I had still not had a conversation with Jim and time was running short. He continued to avoid me when possible.



That evening he played chess—for the first time—with Aroc. I watched them from across the room, fighting a very ugly emotion, jealousy. It should have been my eyes he was trying to delude and intimidate with that playful half-smile. That he was finding pleasure in this activity should have been enough for me. It was not.



The game was brief and Jim chuckled once at some comment made by Aroc and exited the chamber to the starlit deck, without so much as a glance in my direction.



Aroc approached me. “Mate, you did not exaggerate. He be far too young to play that well.”



“Indeed.” After a moment I vanquished the ugliness I had felt. “He is happy here.”



Aroc regarded me enigmatically for a long moment. “No, mate. He be satisfied here. Or was. It be time for him to go home. This be a not the place, or the way, for him to die.”



*****



Jim was silhouetted by a spectacular array of bright stars. He stood motionless on the quarterdeck and applied his antique astrolabe to the heavens. The instrument had adorned the spartan walls of his cabin on the Enterprise, but I had not inquired as to its history. I had no doubt he would be as comfortable on a 17th century terran galleon as he was on the Phoenix—or on a starship. He was navigating by the stars as he has been doing his entire life. ‘All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by….’ He was so beautiful and so full of pain, loss, loneliness. The moment he heard me, I did not miss his body tense. But I could not retreat.



“Where did you acquire the astrolabe, Jim?”



He just looked at me for a long moment and then returned his gaze to the horizon. “There was a John Patrick Kirk, six generations back, who was a navigator on the Irish Pride. It would almost be worth a time warp around the sun to meet him.”



Some things were just history, gone forever, but he clung to them tenaciously, learned from, drew inspiration from, and honored them.



“You are a fine ship’s captain. He would be proud of you,” I said softly.



His head turned sharply to appraise me. The apprehension was there. But so was…longing. “Jim—“



But he turned away abruptly, “Good night…Spock.” Even my name was difficult on his lips. But I had not missed the unspoken need in his eyes. Progress. Another small step.



I watched him walk, limping slightly from yesterday’s long dive, below deck to his cabin. Alone.



******



Gods, not again, it’s been so long since this damned nightmare. The face of that miserable she-bitch, the nausea rising. But that horrible face twisted, transformed into…”Spock! Where am I? I am still bound to…the great wooden wheel of a galleon? Spock—free me! No, my love, you can deny all others, but you cannot deny me. Your body sings only for me.” His legs were spread wide and I cupped the heavy bulge, enjoying his helpless anger, the smell of his arousal. I continued to shape and torment the engorged flesh through the light cotton material, felt it dampening against my palm as I ripped the ragged shirt from his broad chest with my free hand and captured one small, distended nipple, hard, between my teeth. I flicked it with my tongue until he cried out. “You are mine, James Kirk. Mine.” I released his straining sex and pinched the beautiful copper bud hard, piercing it through in one smooth motion with the small golden hoop. As he flailed against me, I stripped him bare and claimed my prize. I pierced his virginity with my sword.



I burst from my cot, horrified and rock hard. It was not my dream, it was Jim’s, but I had been a willing participant--the intensity called to me--the bond was open!--I was in his mind and…--what had I done!?—



I stumbled down the corridor and burst into his cabin, finding him on his knees on the floor of the fresher shower, ice cold water raining down upon his back. He was clutching his heavy shaft and balls, squeezing the life from them; he was in agony. I slammed my fist into the control to stop the water and gathered his writhing, wet body into my arms.



“Stop it, stop it, Jim!” Finally I wrested his inhumanly strong hands from around his flesh and locked both his wrists in my hand, “Be still, ashaya, it is alright, it was just a dream.” An improperly interactive dream... I held him close against my chest, still holding tightly to his wrists as I gently caressed his bruised and throbbing shaft with my free hand. Holding him like this I could feel the terrible pain, the release he denied himself, and I would not allow it to continue.



“I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, Spock,” he sobbed as, finally, pulse after pulse of his creamy gift bathed my hand and wrist as I caressed and soothed his tortured flesh. “Shhhhh, it is alright, T’hy’la.” He came in one more searing wave until he was empty and limp in my arms.



I rocked him on the cold hard floor of the shower and took his tears into me.



“We can’t go back,” he whispered, exhausted. “I won’t let you own me again. NO ONE will ever own me again. Let me go…”



“No, Jim, I cannot. Please, do not asked it of me,” I implored. “I would not own you, no one could ever have such control over you, but we are T’hy’la and we belong together.”



“You…said that once…before, then you left…,” he murmured despairingly.



He was barely conscious and in no condition to listen to my words. Kadiiath! They would have done but little to numb the pain had I uttered them.



I carried him to the small cot and dried him with a blanket. So many scars. I felt the rage rising in me again and bit down hard on my tongue to control it. I tore my eyes from the angry scar on his left arm and focused on a small nipple that peaked from the blanket. I could not help myself and lightly caressed it. It responded instantly, seeking more of my touch. It had been so very long since I had caressed this beautiful body. So very long.



“Do you really desire such an ornament, Jim? They are so sensitive. I would dislike hurting you,” I whispered. In truth, I did not mean to ask it out loud, but it was too late to withdraw.



He fought upward from his exhaustion and pushed my hand away, angrily. “Did you cause that dream, or can you read my mind that easily?”



“Neither. I am…able to be with you…only when your emotions are intense.”



His eyes were shatteringly bright and haunted. And ashamed.



I clasped his chin firmly in my palm, “Do not! I will not allow such recrimination. You are alive and your body desires attention.”



He said nothing, so deep was his confusion and self-doubt. And his fear. How he, of all the beings I have ever known, could fear for his identity, was bewildering to me.



“You will never lose yourself, Jim, you are the last being in the universe in danger of such a fate.”



He dropped his forearm over this eyes, “Well, if that is so, let me know when you find me, I’ve been looking for me for a long while now. Go away. Please.”



And with that he fell back into a sad, exhausted sleep.



I carefully removed the damp blanket from around him—his penis lay bruised and chafed in its golden nest and he would be most uncomfortable in the morning. There were other bruises on his knees where he had fallen to the shower floor. I recovered him with a heavy blanket and gently lowered him to the cot. So difficult it was to let him out of my arms, it had been too long since I had held him last, but I could not afford to press my luck until he came to me willingly. I pulled up his desk chair and stayed with him until first light, when I slipped quietly away to my cabin.



*****



In the morning, Jim’s movements were, out of necessity, parsimonious, and he spent most of the day at his chart desk silently daring anyone, most especially me, to say a word. I thought I had seen an almost rueful glint of the boyish Jim in those eyes when he met my gaze in the mess for a brief moment. But then they were shuttered and distant again. One step at a time. He was watching, wanting, but still a wild thing, still distrustful and staying at a safe distance.





****



I did not approach him for three long days and could not endure another. Importantly, I caught him observing me while I studied maps with Aroc, or updated computer circuits. His eyes were changing. Gone was the anger and overwhelming hurt, but there would be a long journey ahead before they sparkled with laughter and childlike wonderment as they once had. It was time to talk with him, if he would only allow it.



He was leaning against the bow rail, ethereal in the bright moonlight, and clothed inadequately as always. It was a cool evening, even for a human. He was deep in thought and started as I draped the deck coat around him. He relaxed after a moment and leaned back on the mast coupling.



“Jim—“



“—We were all lost, Spock. All of us. Even you,” his voice was wistful and introspective—and very, very far away. “We’d survived the five years physically, but we were exhausted, suddenly adrift, severed from the one thing we called home, like an amputated limb…It was a great adventure, an honor,…I couldn’t sit at a desk after knowing the stars. I was a misery to be around, I know that—“



“—Do not make excuses for me, Jim, it was not your—“



“—I don’t think they knew what to do with us, Spock. I think they expected us to die, but we didn’t.” He smiled that soft-sad smile that always dismantles me.



“Jim, they made a disastrous mistake decommissioning the Enterprise. I promise you they understand this now and would not—“



“I’m not sure I want to go back.”



“Then we will remain here.”



“This is a water world, Spock. You would not like it here for long.” His gaze tended toward the far horizon.



“If you are here, I would like it well enough. What would make you happy, Jim?”



The naked vulnerability in his eyes tore at me. “I don’t know anymore, Spock. I don’t know. What about you?”



I took a deep breath and clasped my hands firmly behind my back, and I tossed in my cards, as it were. “I would like to bind you to me in leg irons and keep you safe. And naked,” I amended.



The look on his face was worth my risk. The shadows had lifted for a moment. He chuckled softly and I gathered the delightful sound into my body as I wished to gather him. It was not the uninhibited laughter I longed to hear again, but it was a definite move in that direction. “That’s very kinky, Spock. What am I going to do with you?” Quiet again, he turned back to his sea and rested his elbows on the railing.



“Come back with me, though I do not deserve it,” I whispered over his shoulder.



“To what future?,” he replied without looking at me.



“To our future.”



He turned back to me now, as needy and as scared as I. More than anything, I wanted to gather him in my arms and make the past two years disappear. But he was not ready. He still shied away from my touch and his mental shields were fiercely guarded once again.



It was a long while before he spoke again and my fear rose with each passing minum. “It nearly killed me when you left. I don’t ever want to feel that way again and I don’t know if I can risk that again, Spock. Can you understand?” He pulled the coat more tightly around himself. It was a shield.



My heart bled for all that we had lost. “Yes. All I ask, Jim, is that you give me a chance to fix us.”



The smile did not reach his eyes. “I have to fix myself first, find some foundation to build my life upon again…”



“Fleet wants you back, Jim. I am certain you can define your course.”



“Do I get my own talk show now, and back-up singers--more whoring for the Corps?”



“No. There is a ship waiting for you, Jim, let me take you home and see if she interests you.” The ace in my pocket was played. I only hoped it would be enough.



*****



“A moment, Mr. Spock?”



Aroc motioned me toward the corner of the galley while Jim was saying his goodbyes to his crew.



“In my final morphosis I would be a formidable adversary, even for a Vulcan. Do not hurt him ever again.” He was a man of few words, but all were carefully chosen and fair. He would make a fine captain.



“I will not, you have my word. And my sincere gratitude for your care of him. Live long and prosper, Aroc.”



He inclined his head solemnly, “And you, mate.”



Jim approached us and Aroc extended a hand. “Farewell Cap’n, it is time for you to go home. As you say, first star on the right and straight on ‘til morning. You will be happy again when that morning dawns, yes?”



Jim pressed his lips together tightly and bit back the emotion that threatened. “Yes. Yes, I will.” He took a deep breath. “The Phoenix is yours, my friend, take care of her—and yourself.” Each pressed the other’s shoulder in salute.



Jim took one last look around the port before boarding my small ship that would take us home. I knew he would miss this place and these beings. And that beautiful lady floating majestically in her berth--his fantasy made reality for a short time.



He turned to me and said simply, softly, “It was fun.” But I saw only sorrow cloud his eyes.



Once again, he was uprooted and adrift. It was time to take charge and write his own destiny between the stars that he loved. He was capable of anything.



“Jim, you dream in the daylight and make those dreams a reality. You will do so again.”



He said nothing and walked slowly toward the Ti’Kal.



I did not know how to help him, other than to be there at his side, where I should have remained all along.



*****



Together we easily navigated the asteroid belt as one fluid entity, as it had always been. Jim’s enjoyment was obvious, but his reticence remained an ever-present shadow—or unbreachable suit of armor. Uncomfortable silences pervaded the space, and we had not touched, much less been intimate, since that night on the shower floor. I feared it might be a very, very long time before I regained Jim’s trust and shared that mind, crystal clear and refreshing as a desert spring, that I missed so very much. But he was back at my side and I contented myself with this much. After seven endless cycles of searching, this was more than I had dared hoped for.



On our third night aboard the Ti’Kal, I awoke in the darkness to find Jim silhouetted in the doorway. Slowly, he came forward, reluctance in every movement. Finally he sat on my bed, his back to me for a long moment before he allowed me to tug him into the bed and wrap the covers around us. Without a word, he spooned against me and surrendered to a light slumber. I held him against me as tightly as I dare, and drew his scent into my lungs. He was no more able to sleep well alone, than I.



His shields were strong and I could not make out his thoughts beyond the sense of bone-deep hurt and uncertainty that were never far from the surface. But deep in the night, as the stars shone about us, he unconsciously turned into me, relaxed and supple, his head lay against my shoulder, seeking my shelter. Another step. Could I have halted time in that moment, I would have. I had waited so long to hold him like this. His body knew; it was his mind that needed coaxing and gentle persuasion.



He had described to me once how he had gentled a wild and fearful horse in his youth. Jim was nothing if not wild (that I would not, and could not, change) but, at this juncture, he was also fearful, justifiably so, thanks to my actions and the uncertainties that lie ahead. Slowly, with a gentle touch, I vowed to regain his trust as he did that horse. We would chart our course together. Together. Not negotiable, my love. I will not lose you again.



Jim awoke only a short while later and tensed instantly. He twisted upward off my chest and sat for a moment on the edge of the bed, rubbing his eyes. “The waves,..” he murmured.



I sat up quickly and wrapped my arm around his waist. He was searching to orient himself, he could not feel the waves beneath him that he had grown accustomed to. He bent his head and ran his fingers through his hair, a sure sign of stress I knew well. I curved my hand over his shoulder lightly, “It is very early, Jim, please stay.” He turned his head to look at me and those weary, shuttered eyes made me ache.



“Do I look like a horse to you?” he whispered with but the slightest wisp of a smile.



“In spirit, yes, you do. A priceless stallion.”



“And you think you can tame me?”



“Never.”



He snorted softly, but slowly lay back, once again spooning against me. I kneaded the tense muscles of his right shoulder, lulling him back to sleep. I did not sleep. My thumb traced one of the white raised welts. I would never know the satisfaction of snapping that monster’s neck.



Stop it. I’ve known worse and I survived.



Do you believe, T’hy’la, that that knowledge comforts me?



Spock, quit thinking at me and go to sleep.




I wrapped my arm back around his waist and resisted the desire to explore the flesh under my hand. I contented myself with propping my head on my other hand and watching him sleep.





*****



His half-conscious thoughts, his frustration, woke me instantly from a light meditation. We had been spooned tightly on our sides, fitting together like two interlocking puzzle pieces, but Jim’s knees were now pulled up unnaturally taut. And he was directing a remarkably colorful stream of expletives at his…penis. I took this to mean that he was probably not experiencing a typical morning erection.



No, never like this, not since…since before. It remembers what I want it to forget. Damn it. Damn it all to hell. Get up, get up and away from what it desires most, get up! He was still half asleep and did not shield his thoughts so tightly from me now.



I confess to having been hard-pressed to deny enjoyment at his predicament, and indeed it is possible I exacerbated the situation by caressing his right nipple. It was hardly my fault that my right arm was trapped under his body and in close proximity to the part in question.



He was fully awake now.



“Stop it.”



“No.”



“I don’t want this.”



“I know you do not, but you need relief. I can give you this much, and, with time, the rest will come.” I plucked at the vulnerable nipple, drawing it out instantly.



“Sp—“



“—Hush. I will restrain you if necessary.”



Just words, words that should have sent him running, yet I felt his heart racing under my hand and his breath coming shorter, faster. Yeeess, he was at the mercy of his sensual nature. It had lain dormant for two years, but was coming alive again by my hand.



I caught his wrists as he tried to push off me and roll off the bed. I contained them in one of my hands, and I drew them high above his head. I pressed him onto his belly, forcing him to draw his right thigh up to protect his engorged shaft from the hard mattress. It was not by design, but it did leave him deliciously vulnerable. And seething mad, still not wanting to admit his body’s need.



“Do not fight so hard, Jim, it is alright.”



Under normal circumstances he had always had a decidedly difficult time giving up control. These were not normal circumstances and I had no restraints with which to bind him effectively and, in so doing, free him.



I could sense his anger making sure headway against the sea of arousal, and moved quickly to tip the balance in my favor. I caressed an outrageously muscular buttock and thigh before sliding my hand between. He turned his face into the mattress and groaned as I measured him. It would not take much, he was so hot and hard, pulsating in my palm.



“Damn you, just get it over with!” he growled angrily, the sound half muffled by the pillow.



“I wish to learn you all over again, Jim. Reclaim you. You will not rush me.”



I slid my arm slowly between Jim’s belly and the bed, pulling him back onto his side and immobilizing him by my lock on his wrists. And then I proceeded to tour his nipples. One at a time. So very sensitive...“No, I do not wish to pierce such perfection.”



But I did pinch the unsuspecting bud, hard, causing Jim to draw in a sharp breath and try to press himself back down into the mattress. He was thinking to end his torment by the friction of the sheets without my permission.



“You will not.”



I insinuated my hand between his clenched thighs to thwart his movements and his swollen scrotum churned and purred in my hand.



Damn you, damn you.



But his imprecations were teetering toward reluctant surrender.



I drew him back onto his side. He could fight me no longer. I smiled at the wetness accumulating at the tip of his cock, the crown was stretching back as if pulled by invisible strings. He would not last much longer.



I reached for the oil I had left near my bedside. It had been over two years since I had used the tangy extract on Jim’s flesh, the memories the scent elicited were powerful indeed. I dribbled it liberally over Jim’s cock and enclosed him, firmly, in my fist.



“Oh dear gods…Spock…Spock…!”



“Yeees…It’s alright, let go, ashaya.” He felt so good. Polished, living, marble.



Jim cried out, flinging himself onto his back, panting, sightless. His hips began to piston instinctively, forcefully, twice, three times, pumping violently into my hot slippery-tight fist. The sight was unspeakably erotic. I did not let go his wrists above his head as his chest arched back in the throws of unendurable passion. And then the orgasm broke, spurt after spurt of creamy fluid bursting from the deep crimson glans. It is what I had thought about every night on Gol. The doctor was right, I had surely been mad to leave.



As the last tremor purged the final droplet, I loosed my grip and softly caressed the flushed organ, gentling it, easing it, and its exhausted owner, down from the precipice. Jim was unconscious and breathing hard, his lips just parted. I let go his wrists and carefully brought his arms down, massaging his stiffened shoulder muscles.



As I cleaned him with a warm cloth, his golden head, still damp with sweat, lolled on the pillow. Finally, Jim’s eyes slowly opened and struggled to focus in the semi-darkness.



“Rest.”



For once, he obeyed me and his eyelids fell shut again. Hiding. He was allowed. It had been too much to assimilate from the first. And always would be…



*****



Over the next two days Jim spent much of his time catching up with the news of the galaxy and Fleet operations in particular.



What he did not know was that the Enterprise’s self-described refugees had all been marking time in positions that were mind-numbing in comparison to their previous exploits; all waiting for James Kirk to return to the path for which he, and by his leadership, they, were uniquely suited and extraordinarily successful. Fleet had miscalculated, badly. Jim had walked away and very few of his original crew had accepted commissions on other Ships Of The Line since the decommissioning of the Enterprise. The more reactionary among the admiralty, Adm. Komack most notably, had found this trend disturbing and had been more than a little threatened by Fleet’s youngest and most valorous Captain. The loyalty of Jim’s crew bordered on the messianic, and in some eyes, that made him a dangerous man indeed. So they had tried to slow his ascendancy and capitalize on his fame at the same time by parading him in front of a vid. They had failed, rather spectacularly, on both counts in most Federation minds.



But times were changing. Uhura, consummate communications expert that she was, kept very close tabs on the happenings in Central Command and, in turn, kept me and the rest informed. In the last month, Komack had been, as it were, exiled, to a neutral diplomatic post on CetiV, and there had been other shake ups at High Command in the last two years as tensions along the Neutral Zone had increased again. Now, more than ever, they needed their elite crews. They needed James Kirk, and his remarkable people, back where they belonged. Jim was simply the best captain Fleet had ever had…and they needed him back, as desperately as I did.



I knew that Jim was apprehensive about what he would find back on Earth, but I could not draw him into any significant conversation on the subject. He can be most “Vulcan” when he wishes to be.



*****



We were nearing Earth. Home to StarFleet High Command.



Jim retired early after a long set of calisthenics. He was going, I believe the phrase is, stir crazy, in our small craft; I knew the signs. I, too, felt a modicum of trepidation for the days ahead, though I did not have a specific justification for this disquiet. I was, nonspecifically, worried about him. He had withdrawn from me again, if subtly, over the previous two days and I did not know what troubled him most.



I was tired and quite ready for the sensation of solid ground under my feet. I retired to my bed, but knew that sleep would elude me. The dream that so often threatened my sanity at Gol haunted me anew. I could feel it lurking on the periphery of my consciousness, waiting to ambush me. I attempted to meditate it into oblivion—but failed. I could not turn my mind from such beauty as that vision held for me.



No more than a ghostly apparition he is, teasing, taunting my inflamed flesh, but always just out of reach, denying completion. My body screams out its torment--



“Jim!”




My eyes bolted open and I started up, but was held down by strong arms.



“Jim?”



He did not answer. He tore the tangled sheet back and, with cold deliberation, straddled my inflamed body. The eyes that bore down on mine were those of a stranger, feral and as cold as dark matter. His lips were drawn in a tight, merciless line. On his knees, he towered over me and reached back and grasped my slippery throbbing shaft—and lowered himself slowly to its apex.



“I cannot, I cannot,” I gasped. “Will hurt…you.”



“Shut up!” he growled.



I was frozen, mesmerized by the savage intensity on that unutterably erotic, but troubled face. The cool, delicious body pressed down and I could not stop my fingers from tearing holes in the sheets. But then, even in my delirium, I could not ignore the grim determination, the pain, on Jim’s face. He was tight, so unbearably tight, as he’d been that first time…



”Jim,” I whispered hoarsely, “stop, let me help,” and I reached out to pull him forward and touched his temple without thought, seeking a meld.



But he reared back, “No! No meld,” he spat.



“Jim…”



He pressed down, hard again, and my fingernails bit into my palms in a pitiful attempt to regain control as the sensation of breaching that incredibly taut ring wrecked havoc on my mind. NO! NO! His eyes were slitted in pain. I pushed my shoulders off the bed and locked my hands in a vice around his waist, halting any further movement.



“I will not allow this. Stop! Be still, Jim, be still, you are not ready and I will not take you this way.”



He was not ready, not even remotely aroused.



“Then make me ready, damn you. NO more fucking nightmares, we’re going to banish them once and for all,” he growled furiously.



Of course I should have known, he had had them too. Softly now, “Shush, T’hy’la, let me help.” I reached for the oil and gently took Jim’s left hand in mine and wrapped us together around his penis, “Show me, ashaya, show me what you need.”



Jim was not generally comfortable with self manipulation when we were together, but it was different somehow this time. We glided along his swelling flesh as one,…



The muscles of his anus slowly began to relax and he began to move again, though his face showed still no sign of pleasure. This was sterile and mechanical. For him, merely an end to a means. But then it began to evolve as his body overwhelmed his stubborn mind.



He threw his head back and slid his hand from beneath mine, bequeathing his flesh to my knowing ministrations.



He arched back and pressed his hands over my upturned knees and slowly, so slowly, began pushing himself up and down, retreating and advancing, further and further. His head was thrown back and even in the dim light, I could see the sheen of sweat glisten across his broad chest. I did not know…how much longer I…could…



On the final down stroke, he cried out, impaling himself to the hilt.



And the door opened if only a crack. It hurts, oh gods, Spock, it hurts…



I did not wait for his permission this time. I reached for the sensory inputs and filtered out the pain as best I could before he could shut me out again.



Feel only the pleasure, my love, feel us.



At last, I felt it build in him, over-riding the remaining pain I could not reach.



Not enough, not enough, never enough. “Damn you, DAMN YOU, don’t make me love you like that again, don’t!,” he implored, sobbing, “I can’t, why...did you…come back?—I can’t want you like this again...”



But the wave crested, crashing viciously through him, through us, its force shattering.



His lifeless body fell forward into my waiting arms,

Sinking…deeper

Sinking…into the cold unforgiving depths…



No! You. Will. Not! T’hy’la! But, the darkness was closing in and I dove deep to pluck him from that nothingness, into the sanctuary between my arms.



Never attempt such a thing again, T’hy’la! NEVER! I will not let you go from me.



At last he whispered, brokenly, into my neck, “I never…stood a chance of out-running us, …did I? No chance. Parted, but never parted…”



The healing had begun.



Tears, torn from the very depths of his soul, fell one by one onto my chest, each scorching me anew. No matter how fiercely I bound him in the circle of my arms, it knew it would never be close enough.





*****



He was breathtakingly beautiful lying against the white bedding, bronze-blonde locks curled playfully just below his ears and on his forehead. There is not a work of art in the galaxy that I would rather gaze upon than Jim, in slumber.





****



I completed docking registration at Earth Space Port 87. We would soon be back on solid ground.



When I returned to the darkened sleeping quarters, Jim was sitting on the edge of the bed rubbing the sleep, what little he’d had, from his eyes. He was listing, rather substantially, to the starboard. Given his sacrificial offering of last night, I knew the reason and quickly moved to him, turning my arm around the shoulders, “Jim, you are hurting badly?”



Bleary eyes focused. And smiled ruefully. “Good morning. I’ll live.”



“You should have told me you had not—“



“Fornicated recently?,” he supplied, with a tired chuckle. “Would you have believed me?”



I berated him with no more than a look and captured his chin, “You bled last night. Allow me to call McCoy and—“



“Don’t make me kill you,” he replied sweetly, and rose, gingerly, to his feet.



It did not take touch telepathy to ascertain his condition. I tightened my hold around his waist.



“Oh gods. And you called me a stallion? Have you been taking steroids?” he asked with mock horror.



“Jim…if you won’t allow McCoy, please let me stop the pain with a meld—“



The smile faltered instantly. “No, I can’t…I can’t…yet, Spock, I’m sorry.”



My skittish stallion, drawing a little closer; wanting so very badly, yet the fear held fast in the light of day. He had lost far too much for one so very young, and my rejection had been the final cut. I had no right to ask for his trust again. No right. But neither did I have a choice. I would wait a lifetime to regain it.



Pressing my thumb to his lips, I silenced him. “Do not. You have nothing, absolutely nothing, to apologize for.”



“You’re wrong. Gods Spock, I wanted so much to hate you for what happened to us, just as I wanted to punish you last night for that dream, but I was as much to blame. It’s time that you start understanding that and stop blaming yourself. I turned away from the Bonding Ceremony because I thought it was one more step toward losing myself, my independence, while also losing my ship. A perfect storm…I never stopped loving you, Spock, it was never that, I should have told you that much, but I was suffocating in my own selfish misery…”



He dropped his forehead against my chest and I enfolded him in my arms.



“Just give me some time to right the pieces on the board again, okay?”



“Jim, you must believe me. I never thought I would be able to hold you like this again. This is all that matters. All that will ever matter.”



“How did we screw up so badly?” he sighed against my shoulder.



“As you said, it was a perfect storm, and we are not…infallible.”



Jim leaned back off my chest; his look decidedly skeptical. “I say we blame someone.”



“The Director?”



“That works for me,” he grinned.



*****



I had us beamed directly from Space Port 87 to a transporter pad in the town of Tucson, the nearest to my parent’s villa in the Arizona desert. My parents often visit there when the ambassador’s duties call him to Earth, but they were not presently in residence and I did not desire to deliver Jim directly to San Francisco and the circus that would erupt there upon our return. I was not prepared to let him out of my sight just yet, not even for a moment. The villa was quiet and would allow him to acclimate back to his home world gently. Of most value was my mother’s rock basin spa in which Jim bathed that evening to relieve the soreness.



“This is glorious, Spock. I love the Lady Amanda!” he beamed contentedly. “Why don’t you quit staring at me like I’m going to vanish into thin air and come join me?”



“You have been known to do that.”



“Do what?,” he spluttered, distractedly, from under the waterfall. The spa was designed into the side of a rock monument such as to catch the water that cascades from a warm desert oasis spring over a kilometer away. My mother had recreated, in essence, a waterfall here in this small villa. Jim was enamored of it.



“Vanish into thin air. Often.”



He scowled wetly at me. And then slid slowly under the water. He had become a free diver while on ChrysalisVII and could no doubt stay submerged for a ridiculously long period. Clearly he was daring me to come in after him. There were, fortunately, easier ways. I depressed the purge control and, in a very short time, Jim sat—glowering—under the waterfall without so much as a centimeter of water retained by the pool beneath him. The bar of soap, and my mother’s yellow rubber fowl bath ornament collection, did very little to hide his nakedness…particularly as they sailed in succession past my retreating head.



*****



Jim was not within the villa when I arose in the morning. I found his note on the countertop, “Gone for a walk. –J”



Jim had never merely ‘gone for a walk’ in his life. The sun was just rising and I did not know for how long he had been up. I envisioned the leg irons again while collecting water and a first aid kit.



He was dangling from a miniscule hand hold approximately two thirds the way up a slickrock tower not far from the villa. He was doing this to torture me, I was certain. It is a remarkably effective method as my heart faltered with his every lurching movement from one hand hold to the next. His muscles were bulging and I could hear every grunt even from several meters below his position.



Finally he deadlifted himself onto the high ledge and fell back to rest. I saw only his bare legs dangling over the ledge.



“Jim?,” I shouted up.



He popped up, waving. A broad grin adorned his tanned face. The unfettered happiness that shown so brightly on his face caused my breath to catch. Bringing him here had been a wise decision.



“Morning, Spock!”



“This is your definition of ‘a walk’?” I asked patiently.



“Best kind,” he shouted back.



It was warming rapidly and I hoped he would descend soon.



This, too, I did not enjoy observing. Humans—most particularly this one—have a propensity for risk that I do not comprehend.



An hour later he was safely back on the ground, wiping sweat from his face and chest with the T-shirt that hung damply around his neck. That was when I saw the bruises on his lower ribcage.



“Will you stop!? It’s a bruise. I’m a little out of practice, but it’s great to be back on solid ground,” he beamed. “Let’s eat, I’m starving.”



I snagged his bicep hard before he managed to escape me. “Are they fractured?”



“Oh, for the love of…I managed to survive two whole years without you or Bones mother-henning me to death, imagine that!? I. Am. Not. Made. Of. Porcelain!” he bit out thunderously.



The Imperious Tiberius was alive and well. I fed him and then hauled him off to Dr. McCoy.





*****





The nurse was bent over the desk, organizing stacks of discs and scan pads, muttering to herself. “If that crotchety old goat yells one more time, I’m going to shove this stylus so far up his…”



“Nurse?”



She did not look up. “Yes, what do you want?”



“I’d like to see Leonard McCoy if he’s avail—“



“You and everyone else. You don’t have an appointment, do you?”



“Nooo, but—“



She looked up. “If I disturb him again he will throw something at m—“



Jim just smiled. That smile. Shameless, he was.



“You’re—,” and she looked in my direction, “and so are you…”



“Oh my. Sirs. Let me show you to a room and I will go get him immediately. Please follow me.”



“Please,” Jim stopped her with a look, “do me a favor and tell Bones I’m a PADD-pushing bureaucrat who sprained his ankle on the astroball court, would you?” he grinned playfully.



She grinned right back at him, naturally, and promised to do his bidding.



I queried him with my brow.



“Should be good theatre,” he said prophetically, with a shrug.



I stood behind the door and prepared myself for impact. Jim turned, facing away.



We heard the good doctor well before he entered the room. “I am so damned fed up with—find some cement! I don’t care if it’s the Old Man himself, he can hobble around in a 5 kilogram cast for—



As expected, the doctor blew in like a Jovian gale. “WHO THE HELL do you think you are pulling me out of—“



Jim turned, grinning broadly. “Why Bones, you haven’t changed a bit.”



“J-JIM!!!!!! JIM!!!”



Jim received a bear hug that belied the doctor’s seemingly thin frame—and probably exacerbated the pain in his ribs, though he did not appear to mind.



“Where the bloody hell have you been, man!??” Then he whipped around to me, “It damned well took you long enough, Spock, when did you arrive?”



Apparently our encounter of ten months ago was forgotten and I was relieved. “Yesterday. And he was, the hell, difficult to find, doctor.”



Jim chuckled at our repartee and clutched his ribs.



“Doctor, Jim has cracked—“



“—bruised—“



“--ribs, would you attend to them please.“



The doctor eased up his hold on Jim and eyed him critically. “What have you done now?”



“He beats me regularly, Bones,” he replied, all-innocent.



“!”



“Well, whatever it takes to make you happy, Jimboy!”



“You both are incorrigible.”



“Lie back, let me see the damage, Jim.”



He pulled up Jim’s shirt and went to work. “Jim, what the hell have you been up to, you’re covered in scars!”



Jim grinned sheepishly, “You remember that fantasy I had about being a captain on the high seas?



The toothy grin threatened to split the doctor’s face, “The one with the three-breasted slave girl and—“



Jim rolled his eyes, “Bones, that was your fantasy, not mine.”



“And a whooper it was! I played it on Krisini’s planet once, but I didn’t come away with any scars.”



“Worth every one, mostly,” Jim said, with only a slight hesitation.



“I can fuse this rib in no time. Let me look at that scar on your shoulder. Take off the shirt.”



“Bones, it’s nothing, you can zap it later.”



Dr. McCoy never missed anything when it came to Jim, particularly his attempts at obfuscation. “Take it off.”



The doctor turned to get an instrument and saw the scars covering Jim’s back. The blood drained from his face instantly and I moved from my position near the wall, just in case. His eyes were huge in his suddenly gaunt face, fury and terrible empathy warped his features. “Jim…,” he whispered, his voice roughened by emotion.



Jim put a hand on his shoulder, “It was well over a year ago, Bones, I’m fine, don’t—“



Bones beat his fist into the wall com, “Nadira, clear out the epilaser room, I’ll need it all afternoon. And get Dr. Trv’lik over here NOW.”



“Bones, there’s no rush, I—“



“--You’re getting a full physical RIGHT NOW, boy, do you hear me?”



Jim sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. Defeated, he glowered up at the irate doctor through long lashes. There would be no arguing. The doctor’s brilliant blue eyes were over-bright and freshly horrified, a reaction I understood all too well.



*****



After a full hour of examinations, the doctor concluded that Jim was actually in superb physical condition despite the scars.



“You can put the shirt back on for now, Hercules,—there have been at least twelve nurses in here I’ve never seen before in my life…all drooling down the front to their uniforms,” he grumbled.



Jim rolled his eyes, but complied. “Come on, I’ll take you two out for an early dinner.”



The doctor studied the last of the read-outs quickly. “You’re not going anywhere, Jim. You’re going under the epilaser in ten minums, Dr. Trv’lik will assist me so it might not take the entire remainder of the day.”



“Bones…”



“Don’t give me any lip. Just lie there and try not to break--or seduce--anything. I’ll be right back. Spock—outside.” The doctor wielded his index finger like a K’luk staff. Indeed, nothing had changed.



*****



A sizable crowd had gathered outside in the hall; all trying very studiously to look as if they belonged in the immediate area. Captain Kirk was back! The shockwave would reverberate around the city, indeed, the planet, in no time at all. I would now have to share him. I disliked the thought.



The doctor scattered our audience with a look, and turned his razor-sharp eyes to me.



“What the hell happened to him?!”



“Doctor, I know little about it beyond the fact that the creature who whipped him is dead. He does not speak of it. I—had hoped that you would be able to talk to him. I will find a reason to decline dinner this evening.”



“He’s strong as a Georgia bull physically, but his eyes are shadowed. Are you two okay—and don’t give me that Vulcan privacy crap, my shoulder still hurts--you owe me!”



I did owe him. “It will take time, doctor. He is understandably…wary.”



“Poppycock! You two are as perfect for each other as two beings will ever be. Fix it, Spock! We were all stupid two years ago. Stupid and lost. Fix it!” His tone changed now, softening, “His innocence is gone, and that’s not a bad thing—he knows the agony of losing true love for the first time in his life, but you can’t let him run from it now that you’re back. That would be compounding one error with another. Give him time, but don’t take no for an answer or I’ll bash both your heads together, understood?”



In truth, I had missed this irascible human. He makes an excellent father figure and confidant for Jim. And, on occasion, for me. “I cannot force him to trust me, doctor, but I will do all that I can to gain his trust again.”



“Hell, losing that ship was the worst thing that’s ever happened to all of us. Scotty, Uhura, even Chekov, have been moping for two years now. Has he been to see the old geezer yet?”



“Tomorrow.”



“Is he going to get a ship?”



“He will most definitely get a ship, doctor. If not from Starfleet, he will get the first starclass science cruiser from Vulcan. T’Pau herself is requesting an audience.”



For some reason unknown to me, the doctor found this information vastly amusing. “I’ll just bet she is. Always thought she had the hots for Jim!”



“Really, doctor!”



The doctor smiled, deviously. “Spock, I’m sure by now there is a whole bank of cameras parked outside my hospital. You might want to mention that Jim is considering…various options.”



“That was my plan, doctor.”



“Make the Old Man sweat a little…just rewards.”



“I will take my leave now, please tell Jim that I have some commitments to attend to. Doctor, please do not lose him this evening, and, if you would, deliver him back to our lodging?”



He was rocking back and forth on the balls of his surgical shoes, looking twenty years younger than he had an hour before. Hatching a plan. “I’ll deliver him safe and sound.” And then he paused, “Spock—make it happen. We all want to come home.”



“I will endeavor to—‘make it happen,’ doctor. Take care of Jim.”



*****



By our second day on Earth, the Director’s patience was wearing exceedingly thin if the curt messages were any indication. My knowledge of human behavior is still incomplete, but I believed that letting him, what is the colloquialism?—“simmer in his juices?”—would be beneficial. Jim agreed to indulge my procrastination for these two days, but no longer. It’s time to face the music, Spock, he’d said last night. I did not understand that metaphor, but I would not allow him to be mistreated, nor to face the Director alone.





*****



Upon entering our suite that evening, I found Jim in a bathrobe, standing against the far window looking out over San Francisco bay. I marveled at how very little he had changed physically, still so very young a man, nowhere near his prime. In truth, I am not sure he will ever reach that pinnacle, rather, he will just keep climbing. Were he to gain another command in Starfleet—and I knew without doubt that he would --he would still be their youngest captain by a considerable number of years. Yet, there was an even heightened strength to his bearing; tempered to perfection by fire. His career, his story, was only beginning where he thought it had ended.



His arms were crossed and his feet were planted firmly on the cold floor. He was a wonder. Before my eyes he was readying himself. Confident and at peace.



I forced my hands behind my back to keep from going to him and taking him in my arms.



He turned and smiled.



“How was your evening with the doctor, Jim?”



“Oh,” his face lit up boyishly, “it was very…instructive.”



“Really, in what way?”



He stepped down slowly from the raised dais at the window and faced me. I have never seen such a color as his eyes. Exotic, and at that moment, decidedly erotic. “In Bones’ considered opinion, there is only one treatment for what ails me.”



“Indeed? Please elaborate.”



“I’m glad you asked.” he began seductively. “I am to, in Bones’ exact words, quote, ‘quit being a horse’s ass and lie very still and let you have your way with me,’ end quote.”



“I see. Did the doctor specify a timeframe for these treatments?”



“Oh, he thinks the sooner the better,” he replied with mock seriousness.



“In that case, I suggest we do not delay.”



He was coming willingly to me this time. He was mine. He will always be mine.





*****





“Jim, I believe the doctor explicitly stated that you were to lie still.”



“SPOOOOCK!”



His nipples were diamond-hard jewels riding heaving pectoral muscles. I continued my leisurely oral exploration to the straining penis—it bobbed with every beat of his heart. So very impatient he was. Unfortunately, he continued to growl strenuously and rap his head against the headboard in blatant disregard of the doctor’s orders.



So many different textures, tastes; so little time…





******





He lay upon my chest, his head propped indolently on his crossed arms. For such arrogant musculature, he has so little weight compared to a Vulcan.



Languid eyes joisted with mine and I could not take my hands from the now smooth back and rock-hard buttocks.



“Jim, did the doctor remark as to the recommended frequency of these treatments?”



His shoulders shook with laughter. “The treatment is quite potent, shouldn’t be required more than, say, three or four times a day.”



His eyes were the deepest hazel I have ever seen, rich and full of laughter.



“I’m afraid the condition is chronic, however; an uncontrollable swelling in certain body parts. I’ll have to have the treatments for the rest of my life. Think you can handle that?”



“It seems I have no choice as you appear to be infectious. I am experiencing the same affliction.”



“Hmmm, I guess we’ll just have to up the dosage.”



The kiss was profoundly tender, yet not the least gentle.



“Yes, I think I can handle it, my beautiful one.”



We had not melded, but it would happen in good time. Even if it did not, this would be enough. So much more than enough. He was soundly asleep, his breath soft against my nape. I cupped his silken head to my shoulder and drew the blanket around us. “Welcome home, T’hy’la.”



****



“Do all humans have such cold feet?”



“Good morning, Spock,” he yawned against my neck.



“I will get you thermal stockings.”



“You will not.”



Sigh.



*****



“Jim, you have 268 q-mail messages here.”



He did not look up from Mr. Scott’s latest publication on warp field disequilibrium, other than to take an occasional sip of coffee. “Uhuh…do I care about any of them?”



“Are you interested in posing nude for Erogal.net?”



That particularly human gesture was, by now, well known to me.



I continued. “Doctor McCoy wishes to know if the treatment was successful and requests a detailed report.”



“Spock…I’m trying to read here.”



“And there are several dozen messages from Fleet dignitaries, invitations to various dinner parties…and the Doyen of Ishakaar wishes you to consider inseminating--“



“—Okay, that’s it. OUT. “ I was summarily evicted. I went in search of stockings.





*****



I arrived back at the inn to gather Jim for our meeting at Starfleet HQ and found him still thoroughly immersed in Mr. Scott’s publication. He looked up at me worriedly, “I haven’t heard from Scotty, Spock, do you think there is any chance of tearing him out of The EAP Institute if we get a ship?”



“I do not know, Jim. I am told he is deeply involved in a top secret project.” It was not a lie, I merely did not disclose all the information to which I was privy. “I purchased stockings for you. They are fuzzy.”



“Yesss, yes they are. And very…bright. The sequins are a nice touch.”



“Yes.”



“Let’s go.” He hustled me out the door.



“They were having a two for one sale, Jim, therefore I also bought you matching briefs.”



*****



The paparazzi were waiting en mass upon our arrival at Fleet headquarters and blocked our path the moment we exited the ‘sport. Jim was remarkably tolerant while graciously evading all but the most considered questions, but it was not long before I saw his lips draw together and his frustration mount as we pressed toward the entrance. One particularly aggressive reporter put his hand on Jim’s shoulder and I disabled him without thought, carefully stepping over him. Jim grinned back at me, “Vulcan diplomacy—whatever works in a pinch?”



(!) He was inordinately pleased with himself.



“Captain Kirk, are you Mr. Spock’s love slave?”



Jim turned his head to me calmly, “Spock, would you enlighten me as to the position of Rigellian genitalia please?”



“Of course. I believe the pertinent parts lie approximately 18 centimeters below and 6 centimeters medial to the right shoulder.”



Jim smiled, “Thank you, Mr. Spock,” and whipped around with lightning speed and slugged the creature with considerable force.



He crumpled, with a pleasing thud.



“Why, I believe you were right, Mr. Spock.”

---------------HQ, Director’s Office---------------



“Good god, couldn’t he at least smile a little?,” the Old Man grumbled.

“The tough-guy look suits him just fine, Marcus, just fine.”

“Criminy, Tira, you’re 93 years older than that boy, do stop drooling!”

“I’d have to be 293 years older not to appreciate something that gorgeous, sir.”

“Would you get them the hell up here before we have lawsuits on our hands!”

“Ouch! Nice left cross, James!,” the Fleet Vice-Director cheered enthusiastically.

One very old index finger emphatically disabled the office vid.



------------------------------------------------------------







Jim was rubbing his knuckles in the turbo lift and I took his hand to examine them. “A pity I cannot teach you the nerve pinch.”



“My way’s more satisfying,” he grinned devilishly.



“You are a masochist.”



“Says the Vulcan with the penchant for binding me with medieval Seihlat-hide restraints,” he purred.



“Really, Jim, those are merely utilitarian expedients—“



“—bondage toys—“



“—to facilitate cultural rituals and physiologic imperatives—“



“—dreamed up by horny Vulcans,” he finished with a flourish and swaggered from the turbo lift into the Directors outer office, thinking he had had the last word.



“I am rethinking the piercing, Jim,” I whispered.



He blushed, exuberantly.



The Director’s assistant studied us inquisitively for an uncomfortably long moment. It was then that I noticed she was a Ceylon. Her hearing sensitivity exceeded my own.



“Gentlemen, the Director will see you now.”



As I passed her at the portal, she whispered to me, “May I watch?”



It was my turn to blush.





*****



The Old Man stood behind the large desk and nodded to both of us, “Welcome home, Captain Kirk, Commander Spock.” He was indeed an old man, but his eyes embraced power and guileless cunning. He was still…most formidable.



“Thank you sir, but I think the titles are a bit…outdated,” Jim said levelly. He stood tall with his hands held loosely behind his back.



“No, in fact, they are not. Your resignations were not accepted. Luckily for you, I am a benevolent despot or I’d have you both tossed into the brig for a good long time. And I still would if I didn’t need you.”



The Vice-Director suggested that we sit.



“No, they won’t be staying that long Tira. Kirk, I’m an old man and I don’t have time for games. I want you and your people back, effective immediately.”



“And our assignment would be..?” Jim asked.



“To take good care of whatever ship I deem worthy of you and try not to piss me off too often. The ship’s in dock 8B, go take a look at her, see if she meets with your approval, and come back tomorrow morning and we’ll discuss your mission. Any questions gentlemen?”



Jim allowed a slight smile now. “No questions, sir.”



“Good. Get out of here.”



We both saluted and turned to go.



“Oh, and Kirk?”



“Yes, sir?”



“Get a hair cut!”



Behind him, the Vice-Director subtly shook her head at Jim. He winked at her (!), but dutifully said, “Yes, sir.”



******



“Well, that wasn’t too bad. You’ve got to give the Old Man credit for directness,” he smiled, amused.



I moved to him and reached to re-button the top two buttons of his shirt. “She’s not the Director, yet, Jim,” I admonished patiently.



His only response was an insufferable grin.



It was necessary to halt the turbolift and remove it from his lips, decisively.





*****[okay, turn on the stereo now!]





Collecting the doctor, Nyota, and Pavel at Port 87, we then met Hikaru in the mini that is to shuttle us to the ship in dock 8b. We are…unable…to locate Mr. Scott.



I must shield myself rather forcefully from the intense human excitement aboard this little inspection craft. The others are trying very hard to contain themselves, but failing in the end. The doctor continues to bounce on the balls of his feet no matter how many times Nyota pinches him. I am sure that Jim does not notice, however. He is…tense and trying not to show it. He is standing very near the large view window, watching intently as we approach the dock.



I note that, seated at the helm, Mr. Sulu cannot contain himself further and is grinning broadly, proudly. Silence befalls our small group. Jim’s face is nearly touching the window now as we make that final turn.



A small smile is in order as I watch Jim’s eye grow larger and larger as our new home is slowly revealed. I am not certain that he is breathing.



The secret project. She is nearly twice the size of the original design, will carry 800 crewmen and women, and she is most pleasing to the eye. Function and form melded to perfection. Indeed, Mr. Scott is to be commended.



One after another, lights are activated from the dock scaffold, revealing the majestic ship in her full glory. They are putting on a show and Mr. Sulu is making the most of every angle, a showman he is as he slowly takes us round the massive ship.



Uhura and Chekov are holding each other up and the doctor is…grinning. Silently. There are a few things that can shock even him into silence.



Jim is away from us, in another place entirely now as his new lady, the Enterprise B, wraps herself around him hypnotically. The smile, soft and sure, is meant only for her. I watch as he closes his eyes for a long moment and takes a deep, halting breath.



We approach the aft observation deck and see the large banner emblazoned across the compartment, “WELCOME HOME!” Mr. Scott and his engineering team are waving most enthusiastically to us from within.



We are back on course at long last, straight on ‘til morning.



Jim is beaming now. He is the sun upon my face and warms me as no other ever will. “Welcome home, Jim.” He slips his hand into mine and is holding on for dear life.



The End.

 

 

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