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Originally published in the print fanzine First Time # 53 (2001).

Relief always gave him an erection. Relief that Spock was back at his side after a harrowing mission. Bones, too, of course; but Bones didn't give him a hard-on.

It wasn't just the relief, though. It was touching Spock. Even here at the portal in Mr. Atoz's library with only minutes until Beta Niobe went nova, standing close and touching Spock sent a warm thrill coursing through his veins. Just like when Spock beamed aboard after that highly emotional display of jettisoning the fuel of the Galileo Seven. When he got Spock back up to the ship and fought off the effects of those spores. When he got Spock back only just in time after his brave first officer had destroyed the amoeba creature.

He hated being apart from Spock, wanting him always at his side. He wanted Spock at his station where he could look at him all the time. Better yet, standing next to him, walking beside him through the ship, walking beside him anywhere. Better yet, touching him. Touching and touched....

All of their three years together—getting closer and closer—flashed before his mind's eye, and it gave him an erection.

He stood at the portal between Spock and McCoy. Communicator in his right hand, he touched it to the doctor's shoulder; the other he rested on Spock's. He pressed the whole of his hand there against the Vulcan's back, feeling the heat through two layers of fabric, imagining the smooth, muscular flesh. Even now in the rush of the moment his body responded to this being who had come into his life and filled it, stirring the self-sufficient captain in ways he could never have imagined.

Under his right hand he felt comfort and security, an easy, reliable friendship with his CMO. But under his left hand he felt so much more—he felt the passionate call of the unknown, urging him to explore his innermost places he wanted so badly to share with Spock. And to explore Spock. The urge as seductive as the call of the stars.

Except something was different. Usually, the calm radiating from his Vulcan was almost palpable, but now he sensed a current of agitation beneath the still, strong facade. He wondered if Spock could read him, being touched, not touching. Could read the fear that swelled for just a moment as the agitation he sensed reminded him of another time—that painful talk in Spock's quarters about the birds and the bees when he'd not said anything close to what he wanted to say and had almost lost Spock to another. The surreal ceremony on Vulcan, the fight to the death, and afterwards, Spock's unabashed joy...and if he and Spock had been alone right then he knew nothing would have stopped them from falling into each other's arms, finally falling into each other's arms.

They had never hugged each other. They had leaned on each other, held each other up, tumbled together in sport and fighting side by side, but never had they wrapped their arms around each other, standing face to face and pressing their bodies together. Not even in friendship, let alone in joy and pleasure and....

But right now he had to get them off this planet. He let go of Bones and flipped open his communicator, his left hand still touching Spock, still feeling almost a trembling through his fingers. But Spock wasn't pulling away from him. Spock never shied away from his touch. From other people's, but not his. Not even now, when something seemed...wrong. He had to get them back to the ship, find out what had happened down there in that icy past.

Spock and Bones. Maybe they'd been all alone down there. Maybe the physical shock had thrown Spock into pon farr again. No.

Maybe Spock was just suffering from being in the cold.

He let his hand drift down Spock's back, but only so far. Not as far as he wanted to. He wanted to feel the curving down to the slim waist and down.... He wanted to wrap his arms around Spock, press their bodies together, make him warm.

He dropped his hand away. "Kirk to Enterprise." There was severe interference in the connection, and he took a few steps away from the portal, turning his gaze back to Spock. But the Vulcan still stared through the portal, stared into some past he was not a part of. He tried to shake off the cramp of jealousy around his heart; he focussed on his communicator, twisting dials to clear the static, at the same time straining to hear what Spock and McCoy were saying, their voices low as if intended only for each other.

"...no need to observe me, Doctor. As you can see, I've returned to the present in every sense."

You have not returned. Kirk knew that, if Bones didn't.

"But it did happen, Spock."

Kirk heard the gentleness beneath McCoy's blunt statement. What happened?

"Yes, it happened," Spock said, "but that was five thousand years ago and..."

Kirk struggled to clear the connection. He could feel a deep rumbling through the floor, a change in the air pressure—cosmic thunder from the approaching nova waves. "Scotty. Scotty!"

"It's now or never, Captain."

"Beam us aboard. Maximum warp immediately." He hurried back to the others, pulled by Spock's gaze—charged as the impending solar tempest.

As if suddenly awakening, the Vulcan's body straightened and he faced front. Kirk took his place beside Spock, felt McCoy eyeing them both. He watched the library dissolve around them and his ship's transporter room coalesce; and as soon as he stepped off the platform, with Spock close behind him, he felt the shift into warp. He loved that feeling, up his legs and deep inside him, and it would have given him an erection if he didn't already have one.

About which he felt a twinge of guilt. Granted, it was a little late in the day to be worrying about it, if he hadn't already learned to control himself better, or really even tried, in all these years.

Scotty had the transporter room view screen on line, and they watched the conflagration as they warped away from it. This awesome sight, too, was arousing. Just about everything was arousing. Especially anything that had to do with Spock, and everything had to do with Spock...standing so close, right behind him watching the view screen, or watching him. Kirk could almost feel the tenseness in the Vulcan body, could hear his breathing.

McCoy had already moved to the door. "Sickbay—now. Both of you." He looked at Kirk. "Regulations, Captain," he said, though Kirk hadn't even hinted at disputing the doctor's orders.

McCoy eased himself in between his two senior officers as they made their way to the lift, and once inside, stood like a bulkhead between them. Kirk kept quiet, waiting for the others to speak. But they didn't, not even once they got to Sickbay, where McCoy immediately busied himself with his scanner and tricorder, hovering around Kirk, barely meeting his eyes.

"You're fine," McCoy said, not acknowledging Kirk's vascular tumescence with his usual exasperated rolling of the eyes. His erection which was rapidly dissipating anyway. The doctor turned the scanner toward himself and studied his tricorder.

"So what kind of adventure did you have down there?" McCoy asked as he clicked off the devices.

"What about Spock?" Kirk asked. The Vulcan was standing off to the side, and Kirk could still see the restlessness in him, in his unsettled gaze.

"We were in the planet's ice age, you know that."

"That's not what I meant, Bones. His exam—"

"It was cold," McCoy said. "Mister Spock will give you his report. After I examine him. Spock—with me." He gave the Vulcan a wide berth as he headed for the private examining room. "You wait here, Captain."

He stood blocking Kirk's path. "The biobed in there is better for alien physiology. And I want to treat him for possible hypothermia. Wait if you want; it won't take long." He stepped aside to let Spock enter first and followed him in, leaving Kirk to stare at the door whooshing shut behind them.

He sat at McCoy's desk and called the bridge. He and Spock wouldn't be on duty until the morning, and gamma shift was holding down the fort just fine. He signed off and leaned back in the chair, not really relaxing but trying to.

So maybe that was all that was wrong with Spock, just the effects of being in the extreme cold. Well, they could have a nice long chess match tonight in the Vulcan's hot quarters; that would do the trick. Maybe have a glass of brandy. Dinner first would be good; he was hungry. He'd get his mission report out of the way real quick and...and he'd find out what the hell happened with Spock and Bones.

He sat forward and logged on to the doctor's computer. He could start on his report now. "Captain's log, stardate—" The doors whooshed open and he looked up.

Spock stepped into the room, standing tall and formal, hands behind his back. "I will apparently be...fine in due course," he said, eyes forward.

"Great." Kirk swivelled in the chair, taking in the view and trying to catch Spock’s eyes. "You're back to duty tomorrow morning, too?"

"Affirmative. Will you join me for dinner?"

"Sure. Officers mess?" Kirk stood up. "End log," he said to the computer. "Is now okay? I'm starving."

"Yes, now."

Where was that sweet, teasing lift of the brow at his hyperbole, Kirk wondered. Spock seemed about to say something further, but didn’t.

"Where's Bones? Does he want to go, too?" Kirk asked, though he didn't really want McCoy to join them.

"The doctor is indisposed. He—"

"That's okay. Let's go." Kirk headed out of McCoy's office, but at the door realized Spock wasn't right behind him. As he always was. Where Kirk always wanted him. He waited a heartbeat or two, and then his Vulcan was where he belonged, walking beside him.

"Spock, I’m not asking as captain, and I know you’ll file your report with your usual efficiency, but are you not telling me what happened?"

"I will tell you," Spock said, "but not now."

A group of crewmen was passing them in the corridor, and Spock moved a little closer. Their hands almost touched as they walked.

"Would you like to play chess after dinner?" Kirk asked, not looking at Spock, just feeling where their hands almost touched. "I thought we could go to your quarters and...you can be warm there."

They were nearing the lift, and Kirk looked up to see that new lieutenant...Moreau, that was it...almost smack in front of him, and he stopped, and she stopped. He moved to the side and she moved to the same side, and she stood looking up at him as if frozen to the spot. He could smell her perfume warmed by her heaving breasts; his eyes fixed on her moist, parted lips...and next to him Spock was so close now, nudging him to the side, taking his place in front of Moreau.

Kirk wasn’t sure it had really happened like that but Spock now stood glaring down at her, and she looked even smaller as she came to attention, moved around him and continued on her way.

They stepped into the lift, and Kirk turned and watched her stiff-backed retreat before the doors closed.

"What was that all about, Spock?"

Now the Vulcan seemed to be putting as much space between them as the small enclosure allowed. He stood ramrod straight, hands clasped behind him. "Captain?" he said, his voice a little too loud.

Kirk stared at his friend. This was not turning out to be the homecoming he’d been so excited about, nor was he accustomed to having to assert his role as captain with his first officer. "I want some answers," he said, quietly but firmly.

"You shall have them."

Silence stretched out between them, a gulf growing wider every second.

"Don’t take advantage of our friendship, Spock. Tell me what’s going on. Don’t make me order you."

Too late to halt the lift, the doors opened. The mess level was busy with people coming and going, and Kirk smoothed his features to a professional friendliness, meeting crewmembers’ eyes, nodding in acknowledgment of greetings. He felt Spock beside him tightly controlled, if he was reading his Vulcan right. Nothing unusual there, to all appearances...but he knew better.

"We will continue this later," he said quietly as they walked into the mess hall; but then Spock’s rigid demeanor gave him pause. "Spock, is this okay? We don’t have to eat here. We can—"

"No, Captain. This is fine."

Spock appeared to relax, as much as he was prone to do on duty and in public, and Kirk relaxed, too. Nothing going on—Spock was too much the professional to deny an incapacity for duty. Except when he’d been in pon farr; except when that Psi 2000 virus had spread through the ship; except.... But Bones had said he was fine. Kirk relaxed again.

They stepped up to the replicators and a smile came to his face. He always loved the little game they played—he with his indulgent caloric choices and Spock with his inborn austerity. He knew his friend wanted him to pick something indulgent. Then Spock would make some pointed comment from his superior heights, and he could give it back with all the hedonistic sensuality he could muster, and Spock would look him up and down...and Kirk knew—he just knew it—that Spock liked what he saw. That Spock loved him just the way he was. He thought Spock loved him anyway. At least in a Vulcan kind of way.

"Roast leg of lamb," he ordered, waiting for the deliciously caustic remark...which didn’t come. Okay, Spock was not required to cater to his captain’s humor all the time. He’d try another tack—and it was the truth anyway. "Sorry, Spock," he said. "I always feel like an animal when I eat with you. Even though it’s not really meat." He picked up his tray, savoring the fake aroma. "Is it all Vulcans, or just you? You don’t even eat this replicated meat, do you?"

Spock was staring at the replicator, and a line was forming behind him.

"Are you going to have something?" Kirk asked quietly. "I thought you wanted dinner."

"Standard Vulcan nutrient cubes," Spock ordered.

He picked up his tray and waited for Kirk to lead the way.

The captain’s table was unoccupied, and Kirk sat where he usually liked to sit, with his back to the wall, facing the door. Spock took the seat beside him, which wouldn’t have been odd if someone else had been sitting across from them, but...well, he wasn’t going to read too much into it, since it was where he liked Spock to be anyway.

He dug into his food, out of the corner of his eye seeing Spock slowly put one green cube into his mouth, and slowly chew it, staring straight ahead.

Kirk sat back and wiped his mouth of the ersatz grease, and Spock’s gaze came to rest on his plate of ersatz meat...and then the Vulcan reached over and picked up a chunk, eyeing it, taking a deep whiff of it.

Kirk’s laugh sputtered to a halt when Spock put the meat into his mouth and licked off his fingers, and the look on the Vulcan’s face as he chewed and swallowed wasn’t that of a scientist conducting an experiment, nor that of a guy amusing his friend. Kirk wasn’t sure what it was.

"This is a poor imitation of ovine flesh," Spock said, his voice again uncharacteristically loud.

Prickles heated the back of Kirk’s neck, and he glanced around. Maybe it was his imagination, but it seemed a sudden hush had fallen nearby them. He smiled at Spock, as if this were a perfectly normal dinner together. "Yeah?" Not much else was making it between his brain and his mouth. His instinct was telling him to whisk Spock away from this public place. Something wrong. Don’t let the Vulcan’s vulnerability be exposed in front of the crew. Nor the captain’s.

His nerves were on yellow alert, but he turned calmly and casually to face Spock...whose gaze had fallen on the plate of meat again. Who picked up another piece and ate it.

"Spock." He couldn’t catch his friend’s eyes, darting around the room now. He stared at the glistening Vulcan lips. "Spock, let’s go." He pushed himself back from the table and got to his feet, and found himself nearly toe-to-toe with Lt. Ravin, approaching him without his being aware of it. Maybe it was himself, not Spock, he needed to get out of harm’s way.

Another new crewmember, another looker—as handsome as Moreau was beautiful. Another new, young crewmember in whom to install his don’t-even-think-about-the-captain policy. They seemed to be making them younger, more attractive, and more casually familiar. Ravin stood a little too close.

"Captain," the lieutenant said. He used his pretty smile a little too overtly, too. "Will you be working out in the gym tonight? I thought—"

Ravin’s smile fled; his blue eyes widened. He stepped back as a chair crashed to the floor. Kirk could feel his first officer standing now, close behind him. Nearly knocking him against the table coming around him. Grabbing his arm to steady him.

He felt Spock’s rapid, uneven breathing...could almost feel a wild, dark look in the Vulcan’s eyes.

The noise had brought all eyes in the room to their corner. Some watched on the alert, others averted their gazes. He turned his back to them all, slipping out of Spock’s hold and grasping his friend’s hand so that no one else could see, forcing the dark eyes to meet his. After just a moment Spock straightened his spine and lifted his chin, and he looked over Kirk’s shoulder. The taut, coiled energy shone in his eyes. Without turning around, Kirk knew that Ravin was retreating.

He let go of Spock’s hand and caught his gaze again. "We’re walking out of here, Spock. Do it for me if you can’t do it for yourself. Just walk with me straight to the turbolift. Now."

He turned around, put a commanding smile on his face for the crew—including Ravin—and began walking, knowing Spock was right behind him. And then Spock was beside him, and then they were alone in the lift, and he breathed freely again.

"Deck five," he said, studying his first officer—a mass of tension focussed in the white-knuckled hand gripping the control lever.

Kirk remembered the time when it had been the captain who was losing control in front of the crew, and Spock had been the center of the universe to him, a solid refuge when he’d been drowning in his terrors. Spock had pulled him off the bridge into the lift, and he’d thrown himself against his friend and held on so tight. Spock’s one word, "Jim," had brought him back to reality. The reality where he was not alone.

But Spock won’t throw himself into my arms, he thought. And I can’t read him. Damnit, I don’t know what he needs, what he would want me to do.

The seconds ticked by as he hoped to gentle the beast with just his silence and nearness. Spock...whatever you need, whatever you want....

The lift doors opened and Spock rushed ahead. Kirk practically had to run, but he cut Spock off at the door to his own quarters. The element of surprise working in his favor, he managed to get Spock inside as soon as the doors opened, and blocked the Vulcan’s retreat.

"We are going to talk," he said, before relinquishing his post at the door.

Spock nodded, and Kirk could see a shiver pass through the lean body.

"Computer, temp to Vulcan norm," he said.

Spock didn’t even protest his accommodation, as he usually did. The Vulcan was always fine—unnecessary to go to any trouble for him—he had no needs, no desire for indulgent comforts as humans did. Bullshit.

Kirk stepped away from the door, went to his liquor cabinet and poured two glasses of brandy. He could feel the heat of the room begin to blanket him, but Spock still looked tense, braced against something more than the chill.

"Sit down, Spock," he said. Not an order, but an invitation.

Spock didn’t look at him as he took the nearest seat, the couch; nor did he when he took the drink handed to him.

"Drink up," Kirk said, smiling. "Doctor Kirk’s orders. It’ll warm your bones, cure what ails you."

What an idiot—why couldn’t he just be natural? Sometimes Spock made him so nervous. All he wanted was to be perfect—that Spock should think he was perfect—but what he did was babble like an Acturian doopa.

If he cared to admit it, it was probably fear. He’d gotten too many glimpses of a dangerous, dark passion in the Vulcan to really, truly believe that Spock wasn’t capable of turning on him.

He liked fear. If he cared to admit it. It gave him an erection.

He paced, until he realized he was pacing and stopped beside the couch. Not too close. At least Spock looked a little less tense. He was staring into his drink. Kirk took a sip of his own, his insides heating to match his outside. He slowly sat down on the couch. Not too close.

"Are you warm enough now?" he asked.

Spock turned to him, and holding his gaze, drank down all his brandy at once.

Enough. Kirk slugged down his own brandy. "Okay, Spock, out with it." He set his empty glass on the side table, not taking his eyes off the Vulcan.

Spock seemed to be staring through him, not really seeing him, his hands tightly gripping the snifter resting on his lap.

"You gotta help me here, Spock. We’re a team, you know. I, I can’t...I need to—"

Spock slammed his glass down. It rolled off the couch, thudded to the floor as the Vulcan rose to his feet and stood towering over Kirk.

He had followed Spock up with his eyes but couldn’t move a muscle other than that. Couldn’t move, though adrenalin rushed jagged through his veins. The suffocating heat bore down on him; the smouldering eyes bore down on him. He couldn’t hear his own thoughts—or make sense of them—but he heard the brandy snifter teetering and rolling on the floor, and he could hear Spock breathing, like some feral beast.

"You need. It is always about you," the Vulcan said, each word an accusing jab.

Kirk’s gaze fell away from the face he suddenly didn’t know, froze on a hand clenched beside the slim hips. A hand that could kill him in an instant.

The sight of Spock’s hands looming in his vision. The sound of Spock laughing. The wild thumping of his heart as he was roughly pulled to his feet.

The muscles of his arms burned with pain and the heat was melting his wits but the front of his body pressed against Spock’s and it gave him an erection. Goddamnit—no—not now.

"Spock!" he yelled, his voice his only defense, caught in the superhuman grip.

But Spock didn’t even flinch. "I don’t think you ever cared about me. I think Captain Kirk is a manipulative pretty boy and—"

"Spock!" Kirk tried to hold the wild, dark gaze, tried to connect with the man he knew, his gentle best friend. He softened his voice. "Spock...." The grip on his arms loosened for a second, and his sudden move to break free made Spock grab him even tighter. He felt the hardness of their bodies pressed together. Yes, he had dreamed of this...but not like this. Not like this.

But he could make it right. He could try. He managed to lift his forearms; he touched his hands to the sides of Spock’s waist—a caressing touch. Like this...like this.

Spock’s body trembled, and his mouth, and the hands on Kirk’s arms. But his eyes were hard. And his cock was hard.

"What’s wrong, Spock? What happened to you?"

"Something that should have happened a long time ago."

Spock’s deep and gravelly voice wavered on the last words, and his gaze softened...almost...for a moment....

"Spock, let me—"

His words were smothered by the Vulcan’s kiss. A stranger’s kiss—hard, masculine and demanding.

The first time he’d been kissed by a man. And the man was Spock.

Resistance kicked in automatically—his body tensed against the powerful alien man.

But this was Spock.

His body gave in, muscles slackened, and he felt Spock relax...almost...for a moment.... He felt it in the lips on his, and it was a dream, the one he’d never really let himself dream. Everything but Spock’s kiss faded away—his captain’s stripes and the long days and nights of control and responsibility, and the holding back, always holding back from loving Spock.

Not a dream, though, a nightmare—the Vulcan was pulling at Kirk’s clothes, the mouth on his hard again, tongue forcing itself in, teeth drawing blood.

Kirk pushed as hard as he could, tried to unbalance Spock. But even the years of wrestling with the Vulcan hadn’t prepared him for this kind of animal strength. This madness.

Spock wrenched him around, held him from behind, immobilizing both arms with just one of his own.

Even immobilized, he could still do some damage—a boot-heel to an instep...but this was Spock. He could still try reason.

His words never got out—his shirt was ripped away from collar to hem, the fly of his trousers yanked open, the fabric torn halfway down his leg.

Guttural Vulcan words assaulted his ears. Primitive sounds, threatening...and arousing. Even when he was pushed to the floor, he gave in to it; even when Spock in his madness loomed above him. The wild, passionate face he’d seen only in those dreams.

He gave in because he was no match for untempered Vulcan strength. He gave in so he could watch for a weak spot and use it to his advantage. He gave in because he wanted to.

His body went limp. But not his cock.

"Listen to me, Spock. You don’t have to—"

His pants were ripped all the way open; a knee pushed his legs apart.

"You don’t have to do this! I’ll give you what you want!" Kirk wrenched a hand free and touched Spock’s face, but he couldn’t make a connection with his friend. Spock’s eyes wouldn’t even meet his—he struggled frantically with his trousers while trying to hold Kirk down. Hot, hard flesh rammed against Kirk’s naked erection and both men moaned, a sound that stopped time for a moment, an impossible moment of a long yearned-for dream....

But Kirk was thrown onto his stomach, his face pushed against the floor. The ripped trousers yanked aside, his ass exposed.

"Slow down, Spock. Slow down," Kirk said, a bitter sting in his eyes. "Listen to me. I want you, too. It doesn’t have to be like this!"

His words ended with a gasp as the broad, slick head of Spock’s penis rammed against his anus. His own cock chafed against the rough floor, his own need ignored. His physical need, that didn’t matter. But oh god—how he wanted...what did he want? Love. Sexual love. Not this grotesque travesty of sexual intimacy. Not this brutal savage grunting over him, about to take his virgin ass. Love. Not this. What the fuck was going on?!

He felt the Vulcan’s cock breach his sphincter muscle. "Goddamnit, Spock!" he yelled, and pushed his hips to the side as hard as he could, kicking out a foot and catching it against Spock’s boot, trying to twist free beneath Spock’s unbalanced body.

A blow caught the side of his head, knocking him flat on the floor again, his vision blurred, his ears ringing. His heart broken.

And his ass about to be fucked by his insane first officer.

"Just get it over with, you Vulcan...freak." He spat the words out along with the blood in his mouth.

Spock grabbed his hips, yanked them up, shoved that...thing against him again. A feral howl filled his ears, and suddenly the Vulcan’s body slumped down onto him, a dead weight.

He pulled himself out from under, and looked up to see McCoy, wielding a hypo. He sat up, but couldn’t stop shaking...and then a blanket was wrapped around his shoulders. The only sound was the whirring of the medical diagnoster around him; the only sound except Spock’s sexual noises still echoing in his mind. He stared at Spock’s still form, stared at the naked flank....

Kirk looked at the doctor, but McCoy averted his gaze. "He neck-pinched me, Jim. I just came out of it, and ran up here. I’ve got security outside the door." He ran the scanner over Spock and studied the readings. "I know what’s wrong with him, but I want to know if you’re okay. I know you’re okay physically, but...."

"What’s wrong with him?" Kirk asked. It felt like someone else was saying the words. The captain maybe.

"Get dressed first, Jim. Do you need help?"

Kirk shook his head; but McCoy got up, brought him a fresh uniform. He took it. He got to his feet to stave off the lethargy, the sad, gray place where he could feel all his bruises. He moved into the bathroom, the blanket and his tattered uniform dragging behind him. Through the doorway he saw McCoy working Spock’s trousers back into place. He shut the door.

He stripped without looking in the mirror and had a one-minute sonic, his mind schooled to a blank. Bones would say he needed to get it out, at least by talking. But Bones didn’t know the truth.

He came out into the cabin and Dr. M’Benga was with McCoy, lifting Spock onto a stretcher. He almost didn’t care that the Vulcan’s supposed propriety be honored—almost—but he was glad it was M’Benga there. He couldn’t have stood it to have Chapel hovering over Spock, her mind racing through sordid scenarios, probably secretly glad for anything that might drive a wedge between Spock and his captain where she could insinuate herself.

"What is wrong with him? Will you finally goddamn tell me what happened on the planet?"

McCoy stood up. "We’ll go to sickbay. The corridors have been cleared. Security’s gone."

Kirk sat down at his desk.

"C’mon, Jim. I don’t think you want to be staying here by yourself. And I can’t stay with you." The doctor was feeling Spock’s forehead, then smoothed the bangs into place; and Kirk looked away. He thought of when Bones had insisted on staying to take care of that alternate Spock. There was no other option for a man like him, a healer. And then he’d been mind-raped. And now Spock had neck-pinched him. But he was still the doctor, no matter what.

Kirk stood up and followed the doctors and their patient out of the room. Shoulders back, head high. Being the captain was the easy part.

* * * * *

McCoy’s calm, rational, scientific words warred in Kirk’s head with visions of Spock the carnivorous Vulcan cave man, of Spock the rapist, and of Spock his gentle friend lying unconscious and in restraints in the next room.

"The genetic reconfiguration had been escalating," Bones was saying. "It’ll take a couple days, but we’ll get him back to normal. Whatever that is. Maybe I can start to figure that out, thanks to M’Benga."

McCoy leveled his gaze at Kirk. He knew that look—the old-fashioned country doctor could be a sadist when he wanted to screw around with somebody’s defenses. Kirk met the stare with an unwavering one of his own.

"So do you want to know why I think your green-blooded friend...attacked you like he did? Or are you just going to pretend it didn’t happen?"

"I’m listening," Kirk said.

McCoy was rubbing his shoulder. "I can’t believe the bastard neck-pinched me."

"I saw how you were avoiding him when you got back," Kirk said, glad to keep the conversation away from himself as long as possible.

"He’d assured me he was back to the present, but I knew he wasn’t. I was going to start the genetic therapy right then in sickbay, but he obviously had something else in mind."

Kirk ignored McCoy’s pointed stare. "He made a real scene in the mess hall—in public, unfortunately. Eating my meat was the least of it."

McCoy shook his head. "I never thought I’d see it, but it was real meat he ate down there with Zarabeth."

"Zarabeth?" Kirk felt a clenching in his gut. The name rang in his ears and he hardly heard McCoy talking.

"That was her name, the woman in the past. What else did he do?"

"He probably would have thrown Lieutenant Ravin across the room, but somehow I was able to get through to him."

"Then."

Then, not later. Not when he would have given anything to reach Spock, the Spock he knew, and to come together quietly, sensually, equally, fully....

"Jim?"

"Yeah."

"What else? I’ve got to have it for the record."

"Hmpf. It might have helped, Chief Medical Officer, if you’d have let me in on what was happening sooner."

"I know, Jim. I’m sorry. But I was walking on eggshells with him. I needed to get him to sickbay, then talk to you alone. I apologize. But this isn’t an exact science, you know, especially where Spock’s concerned."

"It’s okay, Bones. Sorry." Kirk got up from the chair and paced in front of the doctor’s desk. "I knew something was wrong, too, but I kept wanting to trust him. He wouldn’t tell me anything, either. And then in the hallway he...confronted Lieutenant Moreau, without saying a word. She hadn’t done anything, just got too close to me, I guess. She’s probably wondering what the hell’s going on. He must have seemed pretty threatening to her."

"Threatening as in possessive of you? Sounds like that’s what was going on with Ravin, and he saw me as a threat, too." McCoy settled back in his chair. "Would you please sit down? I’m gonna get tennis neck."

Kirk sat. He could feel the places where McCoy had used the dermal regenerator.

"I don’t think I need to tell you, Jim, that in his right mind Spock would never...take advantage of you, or me, or anyone. But I could see what was going on down there. It was like when we were with him on Vulcan. His needs had to be satisfied, but in this case, I was in his way. I’m surprised he had as much restraint as he did—he only shoved me against the wall and roughed me up with words more than anything else. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he really hated me. It’s not going to be easy for him to live all this down...."

Something that should have happened a long time ago.

"...and he’s going to need our help. Your help most of all..."

You—it is always about you.

"...in spite of what he did to you."

Manipulative pretty boy.

"Anyway, he might have been okay when we got back here, at least be able to control himself and let me treat him, if he’d gotten the...release he needed. I don’t know if it would have been better or worse for Zarabeth, but if they’d....had sex like I know they both wanted to, I think he wouldn’t have been so...frustrated. He would have had his usual control."

"They didn’t have sex?" Kirk asked—too late to stop himself from saying the wishful thought out loud. He resisted the urge to get up again, turn his face from McCoy’s discerning perception.

"No, they didn’t—so you bore the brunt of his frustration," McCoy said. Kirk knew something was coming the way the doctor sat forward in his chair. "I’m not surprised at all that you would be the one. Are you?"

"There are dozens of people who are attracted to Spock," Kirk said, as if discussing the weather.

"Shit—that’s half the people on this ship. The other half being attracted to you."

"And which are you?" Kirk asked.

"We’re not talking about me here; we’re talking about you."

"I thought we were talking about Spock."

"Right. And we’re not talking about who’s attracted to him, but who he’s attracted to."

Kirk dammed up the torrent of words and thoughts in his head, the mixed-up emotions. How could the Vulcan turn him on still, after that violent display; still make him yearn for the deepest of intimacies? What did that say about him?

He got up to leave. "I’m sorry, Bones. I’m not ready to talk about all this with you yet, my...feelings."

"At least you’re admitting you have them. I’m not worried about you until you give me good reason to be. When you’re ready to talk about it, I’m here."

Kirk made his way to the door.

"Remember, Jim, that wasn’t our Spock. You have to separate what happened tonight from the Spock you know and love, just like when we were on Vulcan with him. You know he’d do the same for you."

"He has done the same for me."

"He has. And besides, you know that this is going to be more difficult for him than for you."

Kirk nodded, feeling adult and sensible again, and walked through the doors.

"I know you love him," McCoy said to his back, "but I don’t think he knows that."

"I’ll see you later," Kirk said, not feeling so adult anymore. In fact, he felt like crying. Lying down and curling up into a ball and crying. He went to the gym instead and punched the punching bag until his hands hurt, and it was sweat rolling down his cheeks instead of tears.

* * * * *

Spock’s eyes met his across the bridge. As unreadable as the past two days in sickbay. He hadn’t pushed then, and he wasn’t going to now. But soon he would, soon. Impossible to pretend nothing had happened between them.

McCoy was wrong—this wasn’t about Spock; it was about him, too. And he wasn’t okay. His very life, and the lives of everyone on board the Enterprise, depended upon his being okay. And his being okay depended upon Spock, had everything in the worlds to do with Spock.

"ETA Camus Two, Mister Spock?" he asked. This was Navigation’s job, but he wanted Spock to answer him, wanted Spock to say anything to him. These past two days of silence, business-only interchanges, had been hell.

"Fifty-seven point eight-six hours," Spock said, and turned back to his station.

Not Fifty-seven point eight-six hours, Captain, let alone Jim. Unbearable.

Kirk steeled himself and walked up to the science station. At least on the bridge there wouldn’t be a dramatic scene. On the bridge, Spock wouldn’t say, Stay away from me—I don’t really want you. And he wouldn’t beg Spock to want him.

A thrill ran through him as he approached Spock from behind, found himself staring at the taut buttocks. Found himself replaying the scene yet again—being thrown to the floor, grappling with an aroused superman—but changing the ending....

At Kirk’s approach, Spock sat down and faced his console, his hands busy at the controls. Kirk stood a respectable distance away, but pitched his voice for Spock’s ears only.

"Can we have dinner tonight?"

"I have five point four days’ work to catch up on in the lab," Spock said, eyes on the screen in front of him.

"Please, Spock," Kirk said, dangerously close to begging. "We’ve got to talk. You know we do."

Spock looked at him then, and in the ebony eyes Kirk saw what he’d been missing—his Spock, his friend. This was definitely his Spock...but more. Someone more. Someone who had almost raped him. He forced himself not to look away, though he wondered what Spock could see in his eyes. Naked fear, perhaps. Naked love.

And there was something else in Spock’s eyes, a pleading look. Maybe it said, Leave me alone. Maybe it said, Help me.

"Do you need more time?" Kirk asked, still caught by the Vulcan’s gaze. He felt all his own concerns—his bruised ego most of all—drain away, leaving his heart full only of a sweet pain for his friend. They were friends; they would get through this.

"I do need more time." Spock lowered his eyes, and they were two separate people again. Two lonely men.

Two Starfleet officers. Kirk squared his shoulders. "You shouldn’t be on duty if you can’t talk to me." If he couldn’t be Jim, he’d be the captain.

"Yes, sir," Spock said, eyes not quite meeting his. "Would oh-seven-hundred tomorrow be sufficient?"

It wouldn’t be, not really, but he’d take what he could get. "My quarters."

"Yes, sir."

Kirk walked away; and without dinner with Spock to look forward to, the short time before change of shift seemed endless. Endless minutes stretching into endless hours to fill with thinking and feeling.

And so he filled them. The gym was too crowded with physicality. The officers mess was too crowded with conviviality. His quarters were too empty; but he sat at his desk, staring at paperwork. Thinking this would never work with Spock, either way, friends or not friends, lovers or not lovers. Too much disruption of the command structure. Feeling it had to work, of course it would work—there couldn’t be anything better than to be in an intimate relationship with his first officer.

He picked up a book and the words just sat there on the page, his mind making no connection with them.

He got up, stood in the middle of the room and closed his eyes, feeling his ship and the hundreds of living beings on board. Trying to feel just one living being. He thought about being linked with Spock, always being able to sense his presence. He thought about being bonded to Spock.

He stared at himself in the mirror, seeing someone he didn’t quite know. Tried to see himself through the Vulcan’s eyes.

God forbid this man with the sad eyes should be called upon right now to be the starship captain.

Being hungry didn’t help. He called up his comfort food at the replicator, macaroni and cheese.

Watch a vid, a mindless space opera, not really watching, not really listening...drifting off...

Spock—sharp angles and soft demeanor, steadfast comrade and mysterious alien...in my arms, lying beneath me, giving himself to me. I lower myself and kiss his lips, press myself against him—and I land on my back, trapped, struggling, his eyes smoldering coals, his hands tearing at my clothes—

Kirk’s body jerked awake but he closed his eyes again, gathering up the painful fragments of memory and rearranging them again....

See how it feels to surrender, to trust him. To trust a man, trust Spock. Look up at him, masculine power over me, open myself and let go, let him in. Spock with the beautiful, sensitive hands, touching me all over, playing my skin, firing my nerves. Spock with the beautiful Vulcan penis, the instrument of exotic pleasures—inside me—hard and full, those ridges doing unspeakable things. He will make us one with that penis, fucking me, fucking me, fucking me—trapped, struggling, cruel hands, hands that could kill me, taking what they want—

He jumped up from the couch, upped the lights, tried to get his breathing under control. He headed for the drinks cabinet but stopped himself—brandy would only make him sink even further into his thoughts. Maybe he could find Scotty and a distracting poker game going on down below. They wouldn’t make him talk like Bones would.

He continued over to the cabinet—just a quick brandy and go down to engineering—and saw his message signal. Their private line, just between captain and first officer. He could feel his heart fluttering in double-time to the blinking red light. He sat at his desk and took a deep breath before clicking on the message.

Spock’s face, Spock’s voice. So familiar, so...disturbing. He keyed the message to begin again; he hadn’t even really listened to it. Spock wanted to play chess tonight—he checked the time—in an hour.

The room became brighter, the air fresher. His body lighter as he got up and practically skipped to the replicator and ordered some Vulcan tea.

He breathed in the rich, clean scent of it—it cleared his sinuses, his mind, heightened his senses. Much better than brandy. He felt wide awake, alive all over. Of course, that was because Spock was coming.

He took a sip and let it linger in his mouth, felt it going down, cleansing, washing away the dark, congested places—he felt clear and wide open, like the desert. No wonder the Vulcans’ minds were so logical.

But there were places to hide even in the desert, places to cover up dark, messy illogic. Wild, uncontrolled passion.

He took another drink and sat at his computer, turning his thoughts to paperwork, to the smooth, efficient running of his ship, and made short work of it; and half an hour passed without a thought of Spock. Except that none of this was possible without Spock at his side. Not the successful missions of the Enterprise, not his own happiness and stability and command expertise.

Twenty minutes. He had a quick and chaste shower. Saving himself.

He put on trousers without underwear; he put on his casual tunic, and it gave him an erection. It was his favorite thing to wear ever since Spock had commented on it. Too bad he didn’t have a sleeveless one like he’d worn in that alternate universe—and did he ever have a hard-on there. It was embarrassing.

He couldn’t sit still. He went to the chess table, arranged all the pieces just so. Got up, looked in the mirror. Now a brandy would be great; he poured one for himself and got out another glass for Spock. He sat on the couch and took a slow, savoring drink. Let himself relax.

He thought about making love with Spock. Didn’t stop himself from thinking about it as he usually did. Really thinking about it, visualizing it, in detail.

But he’d never made love with a man, not exactly. What he and Gary had done was really just an experiment, mutual masturbation.

He thought of all the women he’d made love to, knowing he was a superb lover. But what would he do with a man? Hadn’t he always chosen women who unabashedly played the feminine to the hilt? Women who let him take control. Except that one babe—a little too much the amazon for him. Yes, their physical strength was about equal so she could have taken what she wanted; but what they’d done was just a game. He hadn’t cared enough for her to give her power over him, to trust her with his vulnerabilities. But he longed to let go like that. He longed to give his power over to Spock, to surrender to him.

He almost came just thinking about it.

He finished his brandy and checked the time. Just a few minutes, and Spock would appear at his door.

What a fool he was—Spock wasn’t going to come to him for a romantic interlude, finally come to him without his Vulcan constraints, ready to see beyond the logic of it, beyond the platonic love, to the sheer, sensual joy of it.

Spock was going to be wretchedly ashamed of himself, would want to close off even more, slam a titanium lid once and for all on any thought that he could have a healthy intimate relationship with anyone, certainly not with his captain who he had assaulted like some beast in rut.

But he could assure Spock he was okay. Spock wasn’t responsible for what he did under such an influence. So they’d seen each other at their worst—all the better. He would tell Spock that made it even better, that they had nothing to hide from each other.

He didn’t think he would tell Spock, though, that he didn’t really see what had happened as Spock being at his worst. How could he admit that it had turned him on? Not the actual physical mindless overpowering, no; but some part of it had turned him on—that his control could be wrested from him.

He checked the chronometer again—the appointed time had passed. He forced himself to wait. Not so patiently. Not for very long. He got up and went to his desk, sat with his finger poised to call through to Spock’s quarters or the lab.

And waited just a little longer.

Buzzed Spock’s quarters—no reply.

Seconds seemed really long, minutes an eternity.

"Computer—location Spock."

Commander Spock is in his quarters.

Somehow twenty minutes had passed. Long enough. He buzzed Spock’s quarters again—no reply again.

Before he let himself think it out too much he left his quarters and walked next door. Not waiting more than a few seconds for an answer to his buzz, he used his override code...and stepped into Spock’s dark, hot cabin.

"Spock?" he called softly, and by the red glow of the Vulcan firepot made his way to the sleeping alcove. Through the partition he could see a bit of bare flesh—back of the neck, an ear. Spock was curled up on his bed facing the wall, wearing his black trousers and t-shirt. Not moving, not acknowledging Kirk’s presence.

He thought he should leave, not bother his weary first officer, but he sat down gingerly at the foot of the bed. The small, bright flames and faint hissing sounds made the room feel even warmer, and he closed his eyes, tried to hear Spock’s breathing. He tried to gather words together in his mind but it was too warm, and Spock was too close, and all he wanted to do was say I love you and touch Spock’s body.

"Spock..." he said softly, and Spock stretched out his legs; a stockinged foot touched Kirk’s thigh.

"Jim."

Spock’s voice was rough and sleepy...and even sexier than it was anyway. Kirk wondered what would happen if he just crawled up and lay down beside his friend.

"You didn’t come," Kirk said, "and I.... I’m sorry I just came in here. Do you want me to leave?"

"No. Don’t leave," Spock said, even as he moved his foot away.

But Kirk reached down and wrapped his hand around it, stayed its movement. He rubbed his thumb along the arched underside, eliciting a low, soft moan from his Vulcan.

"How can you bear to touch me?" the Vulcan said, the moan of pleasure turned into bitter pain in his voice. But he didn’t pull away from Kirk’s touch. "How can you trust me? How can you even bear my presence?"

"Of course I can bear it, Spock. What happened...it makes me love you even more." He kept his fingers moving, massaging Spock’s foot, so maybe Spock wouldn’t hear how wildly his heart was beating. The silence from the other man was immense...and it was too late to take back his words. He felt naked, even more so than when the mad Vulcan had ripped off his clothes. He stopped rubbing Spock’s foot. What a fool he was.

But he could salvage the situation. He could help his first officer deal with his trauma, even if he himself had to give up his pitiful little romantic dream.

"I—" they both said at once.

"Go ahead, please," Kirk said. His throat felt too knotted up to talk anyway. He let his hand slip away from Spock’s foot.

Spock shifted up on the bed, leaned against the headboard, and Kirk could just see his face in the dim red glow of the firepot. His beautiful, sculpted face. Could see bare arms in the short-sleeved shirt, arms he wanted to be held in.

"I would never want to hurt you, Jim, or...force myself on you. Never. Please know that. And I did not mean...those things I said. I was not in control. I was...desperate and...."

"I know, Spock. I know you weren’t yourself." Now Kirk was full of words rushing to spill out. "Do you think for a minute that I blame you for what happened? And you’re too smart to torture yourself for what you did under that kind of influence. You’ve got to move on—we’ve got to move on."

It was so hot—Kirk wiped the sweat from his forehead. "Besides, maybe there’s truth in what you said. If you feel I’m being manipulative with you, please talk to me about it. I...." He laughed. "See? Just like you said—all about me. Will you please tell me how you’re feeling?"

"I do not feel as...smart as you think I am. It seems I cannot easily divorce myself from what happened, what I did to you and...what it did to me. I cannot envision myself merely forgetting it and...moving on."

"I will never forget it," Kirk said, not quite intending to say it out loud; and the air itself seemed to stiffen in concert with Spock’s body.

"My point precisely," the Vulcan said. "Perhaps it would be best if I transfer—"

"No, Spock, please, that’s not what I meant. I meant I don’t want to forget it."

Kirk could almost see Spock’s eyebrow rise.

"Jim, I believe now is the time for plain speaking. I need to understand how you feel."

"You may not be comfortable with what I want to say."

"I am listening."

Kirk touched Spock’s foot again, more a caress than a massage.

"Please be clear, Jim," Spock said, his words barely louder than the hissing of the firepot. "Or I may make incorrect assumptions."

"I feel I’m the one who needs to worry about making assumptions," Kirk said. Incorrect assumptions or no, he moved around to the side of the bed to sit closer, his thigh just touching Spock’s. "Did you hear what I said about...what happened?"

"You have said many things, but what I heard most clearly is...you said...you love me even more. I heard, but am not certain I understand you."

Kirk unclasped the crossover front of his tunic, trying to cool off a little. "I could make it very clear, Spock, but...."

"You know what is occurring here, do you not?"

Kirk could see a smile in Spock’s eyes. "Yeah—we’re both waiting for the other one to take the risk first." Kirk laughed. "We could spend another three years not quite...making our feelings known."

Spock sat forward and touched his fingertips to Kirk’s face...and Kirk was lost. All those worries and insecurities were flying out of his brain like the sparks in the firepot...and Spock’s voice heated up the room even more.

"I will gladly take the risk first, Jim. I can no longer hide how I feel about you. I only pray to all the stars that I may hear you say again that you love me, and that you mean it in the same way that I love you. And that you forgive me, and trust me. My life is yours."

"Oh, Spock...." Kirk covered the Vulcan’s hand with his own, pressed it against his lips...and then he was in Spock’s arms, warm breath caressing his ear.

"I love you, Spock. I love you and I want you and I want to give you everything forever and wake up with you every day forever. I forgive you and I trust you and...." Kirk stopped to catch his breath. He pulled back to look into the eyes he loved so much.

There were a million more words to say but Spock silenced them, slowly brought his lips to Kirk’s, touched them lightly, again and again, wet them with his tongue...and Kirk felt the hot tingling in every cell of his body, and they kissed long and softly and then firmly, fully—wet, slick flesh and nerve endings afire with sensation, full of impossible emotion, full of promise; and he was so hard.

He moved up onto the bed and Spock pulled him down and they lay stretched out against each other, and Spock was so hard, too.

He broke the kiss. He sought Spock’s gaze in the dim red light, sat up and pushed off his tunic, unfastened his trousers. He tugged at Spock’s clothes and said please, please, and soon they both were naked and he thought he might die. Or he was reborn—as if he had never been naked making love with anyone before. Never like this. Never like this.

Their cocks were so hard pressed between them, throbbing; he was almost afraid to even move, and Spock seemed poised on the edge with breath held, too. Maybe afraid, too.

He kissed Spock’s neck, his face, captured his lips, and finally dared to move his hips, reaching his hand down between them to feel Spock’s long, hard penis slick against his own; and Spock’s hand trailed fire down his back to his buttocks. He couldn’t hold back; he thrust against Spock and they found a rhythm, wild and unafraid, their bodies set free, hearts speaking their own new language. Feverish and speeding headlong, Kirk cried out against Spock’s lips, and Spock held him so tight and moaned Vulcan words that sent him over the edge—an impossible... unstoppable... forever... climax even as his lover shuddered in the throes of his own. Their eyes met and Kirk’s soul was turned inside out, and he thought maybe they were bonded. And then the universe calmed down a little and he thought Spock was the sexiest man alive, and he loved him so much he had to look away, find the edges of his own self again....

He moved away but only inches, still felt the pull of Spock’s gaze. "I can’t.... I can’t even say how good that was, Spock."

"I find myself without words, also," Spock whispered, and pulled Kirk back into his arms, kissed his eyes and then his lips.

A million more words, a million more kisses. Today they had moved on from yesterday...and he couldn’t wait for all the rest of their tomorrows.

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