"I can't tell you how much it means to me that you came back," he murmured to the man he knew was standing at his side, without even having to look over at him.
"I had to leave," Spock reminded him gently. "The man I was would never have been able to be the friend you deserve." His face displayed a peace that Kirk had never seen before, during their mission together, and Kirk knew it to be true.
"I understand that now. I understand what--you had to go through, what you had to discover--about yourself." Kirk turned to him. "But it still hurt. Neither one of us knew you were coming back."
"I am sorry to have caused you pain," said Spock. "For me, too, it was almost unbearable." He looked out at the cosmos. "The first night after I had vowed never to think of you again, for what I thought was the betterment of my being as a Vulcan, I had to restrain tears. It was so difficult that I suffered physical discomfort for most of the night."
"Oh, Spock..." Kirk turned to him, his heart stinging at the thought of Spock in any kind of torment.
"I was foolish to think I could or should ever forget you. What I am because of you is greater than what I was before. Your existence is a part of mine. This troubled me, and I did not understand it. I could not find the logic of it."
"Do you see any logic in our ever being apart again?" Spock paused and looked down, then back into Kirk's eyes. "I do not. That is what I meant in Sickbay, when you were there with me."
"We made a great team." Kirk smiled at the memory of all the adventures they'd brought to a successful close only by joint effort and ability. "But what about Starfleet? I've asked to be posted to another five years out here, and they'll probably give it to me because of what we just did with V'ger, but that's no guarantee they'll let you stay with me."
"Jim." Spock looked troubled, for a Vulcan. "My duty as a Starfleet officer is unshakable, and we would not regard each other as highly as we do if both of us would not sacrifice personal concerns for the greater good. But I desire no other life than to serve at your side. You are my first real friend, and the one who showed me how to accept other friends. With you, I am as comfortable as if I were alone, but yet--whole, in some other way."
"I think I might have an idea," Kirk said, and then he fell silent. His eyes looked towards a corner as he calculated and pondered in his mind.
Spock waited patiently. "What do you propose?"
"That's it!" Kirk snapped his fingers.
Spock waited expectantly.
Then suddenly, Kirk stated matter-of-factly, "I think we should get married."
Spock's eyebrow dented the ceiling. "An ingenious solution," he exclaimed appreciatively.
"Isn't it?" Kirk blurted cockily. "Starfleet won't be able to do a thing. Since that rash of people going space-happy from missing their families, they've put rules on the books that'll work in our favor. Couples who both have outstanding Starfleet records are to be stationed to the same ship, first priority. If--they--choose to."
"It is healthier for any relationship not to be separated for years at a time," Spock commented.
"So? What do you think?"
"You are very creative, Admiral. I accept." Spock gave a curt little nod.
"Admiral? Is that how you accept a marriage proposal?" But Kirk was beaming. Happiness flooded his body and made him a bit jumpy, which he displayed by whirling in a half-turn and throwing up one arm.
"Jim." Spock corrected himself, amused at the situation.
"Where should we do it? Where's the nearest Starbase?"
"I believe we are only a few days away from Starbase B-R-7. There will most likely be a notary stationed there."
"Jim, what will the ceremony involve?"
Jim moved his hand around in the air. "Well, you know... a few words, a few--agreements... haven't you been to a human wedding before? I know I conducted a few during our mission."
"Yes; I remember them quite clearly." Spock paused. "There is one part that troubles me."
"What's that, Spock?"
"After we are joined, there is, customarily... a kiss?"
Kirk looked at the floor and blushed, then returned his gaze to match Spock's. "Well... you... don't have to, if you don't want to, of course. That's just tradition. You don't have to do anything you don't feel comfortable with."
"I am not entirely certain," explained Spock. "The simple fact is that my kissing experience has been extremely meager. I am still a novice at it, and have not even yet decided if I enjoy the act. I fear I may embarrass us both if we attempt to kiss at the ceremony and I react negatively."
He looked so adorably confused and scientific that Kirk had to grin. "For most couples, at least nowadays, the wedding kiss isn't their first time."
"In that event, perhaps a trial kiss would be appropriate," Spock suggested. "To prevent a public social blunder."
"Excellent idea, Spock." Kirk craned his neck to the door controls. "Is this a good place? The door is locked."
Spock nodded slowly. He steadied himself on his feet and looked at his Jim, his eyes full of curiosity and trust.
Kirk placed one hand on Spock's back. "Just let me know if I do anything that bothers you, or if you want me to stop," he reminded him genially. "I've got a lot of experience with this."
Spock nodded, briefly sucking his lower lip into his mouth. He let it fall back out again, then licked his lips in preparation.
Kirk put his other hand behind Spock's head, just looking at him for a moment. It felt so nice to be holding Spock and knowing he was his forever. Then he tilted his own face slightly, pulled Spock's closer, and kissed his soft lips.
It started with one kiss and closed mouths. Then Spock reciprocated, and then they opened their mouths slightly, naturally and undiscussed. Jim's tongue brushed Spock's lightly, heating the kiss. He held the Spock tighter and felt the Vulcan's arms close in around his back. The kiss evolved to give their tongues more and more contact.
A few minutes later,they parted, still holding each other. "Admiral," Spock said in a small voice, clearly balancing his mind. "I do not think I will be able to kiss you as part of the wedding ceremony."
Kirk's smile fell away. "Why, Spock? I thought you--it seemed like you were enjoying yourself."
"Precisely," Spock told him. "Something so beautiful should not be shared with others. I cannot bring myself to feel this way in the presence of beings besides you. I would not meld with you in public either."
Kirk's glow returned. He patted Spock's back with one hand. "All right, Spock. I understand. Just--" He shook his head. "That was wonderful. I would hate to lose it. Hate to lose you."
"Kissing is quite useful," Spock remarked. "It is far more efficient than words to express my devotion to you."
"What about the meld?" Kirk brought it up tentatively, and then, only because Spock had mentioned it first. Melding had been the initial cause of Spock's flight to Gol. "Is there still a danger of you getting... lost... in my mind?"
"I have learned how to manage our relationship and not dissolve into it," said Spock. "There is no longer any danger if we meld." Examining his friend's face, he spoke again. "Do you welcome me, now?"
"Join us," Kirk said quickly, happily.
Spock's hand moved to the side of Kirk's face. Kirk gazed up at him with big, liquid eyes.
"Gene, what's wrong?"
"That wasn't too big, was it? Was I acting too big again?" William Shatner wiped the sweat from his face. "It's hot in here."
"Get Bill a towel!"
"Belay that order," Gene Roddenberry said sarcastically to the tech runner. He looked at his two star actors. "We're all going home."
"What??" Shatner's brows furrowed.
"Gene, what happened?" Leonard Nimoy surfaced for the first time from his gargantuan glass of water.
"Some studio exec vetoed this entire story arc, that's what," Gene ranted.
Shatner slumped. A smile twitched at the corners of Nimoy's mouth as he continued gulping.
"What's wrong with it?" Shatner asked, playing with his poofy toupee self-consciously.
"I knew it," Nimoy nodded. "The American public isn't ready for something like this on television."
"But--!" Shatner protested. Gene nodded. Bill continued. "But we didn't even make it look gay! It was a marriage of ~necessity~...."
"Bill." Nimoy gave him a look. "It was a ridiculous idea."
"It's okay, guys. We'll come up with something else." Gene rubbed his face thoughtfully.
Shatner leaned against the wall.
The towel girl appeared at his side and wiped his face off helpfully. He turned to look at her and, in a voice like an automaton, asked her to go out for drinks after they left the studio. She blushed, grinned, and then politely declined. He wilted like last week's roses.
He turned to Nimoy, but the elegant dark-haired actor was walking off arm-in-arm with the towel girl.
"Got any more brilliant ideas, Bill?" Gene pulled up a chair next to Shatner and collapsed into it.