Kirk finished his log entry, checked for messages and just managed to say, "Screen off!" as the door buzzed. He sighed, made sure the computer had heard him, and said, "Come!" He realized he'd murmured it more than actually said it when the door didn't open. "Not Spock, then," he muttered. "He'd hear me breathing."
The buzz came again as Kirk rose from his desk. "Coming!"
The door opened to reveal Spock, standing just outside with his hands clasped firmly behind his back.
"Spock! Didn't you hear me before?"
"Apologies, Captain; I was ... distracted by a commotion in the corridor."
Kirk peered at Spock. "A commotion in the corridor?"
Kirk resisted the urge to sigh. Holiday celebrations were always a challenge aboard a Starship, but the traditional winter assortment always seemed to discombobulate Spock. "Care to come in and explain, or does it need my immediate attention?"
"It does not." Spock remained framed in Kirk's doorway.
Kirk had to hold his breath to keep from sighing. He gestured Spock inside and let go of more tension than he'd known he'd been holding when the door closed behind them both. "What can I do for you?" He glanced at the report he had forgotten to sign, and managed not to curse.
"Doctor McCoy informs me that the crew would appreciate Christmas cards from me."
Kirk's head whipped up of its own accord. "Christmas cards?" he mouthed, with a bit more than a whisper to back it up.
"You don't celebrate Christmas."
Kirk smiled, slightly. "I think McCoy's having you on."
Kirk frowned. "Okay, so what's the problem?" He sat at his desk and waved Spock to the chair opposite.
Spock sat. "I believe that I have failed to perceive the value in such gestures."
"You're not the only one," muttered Kirk under his breath.
Kirk looked up, startled at his own lapse and amused at Spock's raised eyebrow. He stopped a joke from escaping his lips because he'd been caught dead to rights. "Don't get me wrong, Spock. People value the hand-written touch. Specially if you've got good handwriting."
"I believe that my handwriting is adequate."
Spock's eyebrow climbed into his bangs.
"Far better than mine," said Kirk through a smile, perhaps a little too quickly. "More than adequate to the task at hand."
"So it is the nature of one's penmanship that determines the value of a Christmas card?"
Kirk wished he weren't quite so tired. "Well, I don't—" He frowned and rubbed his jaw, thinking of his earliest days in school when the Rigellian Calligrapher had paid a special visit and taught them three of the ceremonial hands of Argus. They'd spent weeks afterwards trying to outdo each other in properly calligraphed notes and cards, culminating in sheaves of greetings that so distracted them from the school day that the Territorial Director had prohibited them until further notice.
Kirk looked up to see Spock peering at him. "Oh! Sorry, Spock, I was just ... checking my memory banks for a proper answer." He had to work a bit harder than he wanted to for his smile. "I suppose that one's writing does make a big impact in a Holiday card—"
"Red Alert! Red Alert! General quarters! Captain to the Bridge!"
Kirk slammed his hand on the comm button. "On my way, Mr. Sulu!" He locked eyes with Spock for that necessary nanosecond, and they were off, running side by side to the Bridge.
Kirk wished he didn't have to wake up, but the pain and noise in his head wouldn't let him stay asleep. He knew he was in Sickbay. He remembered being zapped by the conn panel in arm of the Captain's Chair when the alien ship opened fire. He still didn't know what to call them. He had a sick memory of Spock ordering Chekov to fire at will. He noted before opening his eyes that things seemed quiet, but for the ringing in his ears. "Is the ship out of danger?" he asked. But the only word that came out clearly was, 'ship'.
"The ship's fine, Jim. How's your head?" The heat of McCoy's hand was almost as loud as the whine of the medical scanner.
Kirk tried to wince, but it hurt too much. "Bad," he managed.
There was a click of a hypospray being set, and then the familiar pins-and-needles feeling against his arm. "Hold still," said McCoy, as the room whirled and yawed. "Couple seconds more...."
"Oh—oh, that's ... worse than the headache...."
"You should be fine now. Want some eggnog?"
"Not—" Kirk swallowed very hard. "Not unless you want me to throw up on you."
"You won't throw up." McCoy sounded so confident that Kirk started to feel better.
"Cuts and bruises, mostly. One concussion in engineering, and Spock broke his arm—"
"How?" Kirk's mind supplied him with vivid, probably inaccurate memories of Spock lunging towards him when the electrical jolt first hit him.
"You were stuck to the conn panel. He had to pry you off before your brain fried. Got quite a jolt himself before he succeeded. Only problem is the same strength it took to free you took him halfway across the Bridge. He hit the rail just right and fractured his right ulna – or whatever he calls it in his language."
Kirk, who had been slowly gathering his muscles enough to get up, started to turn over, hoping he wasn't closer to the edge of the bed than he thought. "Where is he?"
"In his quarters," said McCoy, laying a hand on Kirk's arm. "And he's doing fine. Just invalided off duty until the new knit is solid. Should be about twelve hours. And you're not going anywhere until you can get out of bed in less than five minutes."
"Bones, I'm fine," lied Kirk. "I should get to the Bridge—"
"No, you shouldn't! They're fixing your chair, and Scotty's commanding from Auxiliary while he oversees the system repairs. They know where to reach you, if they need you."
Kirk gave up when the glare he tried to execute turned into an involuntary sleep episode.
Kirk awoke in his quarters to his alarm, phantom memories of Spock carrying him to Sickbay fading quickly with the dream. What faded more slowly – and troubled him more – was the feeling that he thoroughly enjoyed that. It wasn't that he didn't like the idea of Spock touching him, caring for him. He liked that very much, though he wasn't about to tell anyone. But he didn't like the idea of being helpless, and he really didn't relish liking being carried around the Enterprise by his First Officer while everyone stared and pointed.
But in his dream, nobody had been looking.
Kirk shook his head to ward off the warmth that started to flood back into his psyche, and was delighted to find all trace of his headache gone. He was due on the Bridge at 08:00, which meant that he had time to catch up on necessary reports after he washed and dressed.
He followed McCoy's medical order to take a water shower and made it a quick one. After toweling off, he sat naked at his desk to air-dry while checking messages. Almost immediately, the comm hailed, which meant it was the yeoman of the day. He didn't enable the visual. "Kirk here."
"Yeoman Parker, Sir. I have your morning coffee and hardcopy, if you're ready for it."
Kirk wrapped the towel around his waist and fastened it in place, grateful that Parker was indifferent enough to clothing that he didn't have to put on his trousers while still damp. "Any time, Yeoman."
"Fifteen seconds, Captain."
"Perfect. Kirk out." Ever since Rand had transferred, Kirk had made it his policy not to have a yeoman permanently assigned to him in order to avoid the complications that had arisen from her feelings toward him. He rather regretted that decision whenever Parker was assigned because she was so efficient and uninterested in him. He smiled wistfully, comforting himself with the fact that this was a good way both to train and get to know the yeomen assigned to the Enterprise, and repeating to himself that none of them had formed feelings for him that compromised ship's functions or crew morale.
The door buzzed. "Come!"
Parker entered, coffee balanced on the padd in one hand and a sheaf of greeting cards in the other. "Good morning, Sir. May I approach?"
"By all means, Yeoman. It looks like some of those might slip out of your hand."
"Yes, Sir. Doctor McCoy instructs me to inform you that there is a vitamin supplement in your coffee, and that you are to consume the entire cup before you leave your quarters. He also says that you must eat a healthy breakfast." She deposited the cards and the coffee on Kirk's desk, exactly where he wanted them, and of course none of them had been in any danger of slipping out of her eight-fingered grip.
Kirk grinned as she handed him the padd. "Always good to see you, Mr. Parker. How long are you assigned to me this time?"
"Three Alpha shifts, Captain. I hope that will not be troublesome."
Kirk looked over the duty roster and morning reports. "No, that will be fine. Will you be all right celebrating the Fest so soon after your last rotation?"
"The timing will be close but compatible with suitable observation."
Kirk signed the duty roster. "All right. Know that I take seriously my obligation as Commanding Officer to grant any reasonable accommodation regarding cultural adherence and tradition." He glanced quickly over the padd to find a calm face meeting his gaze.
"Thank you for your flexibility. I shall let you know if such accommodation is required. Is there anything further I can do for you before your Bridge shift, Sir?"
Kirk signed the morning reports and handed Parker the padd. "Yes, actually. Please keep all but senior officers away from my door for thirty minutes, and inform the Bridge that I will not be answering hails for that length of time unless there's an alert."
Kirk sighed. "And bring me that 'healthy breakfast' McCoy ordered."
Kirk nodded at her.
She nodded back, turned away and was out of his quarters in less than two seconds.
He shook his head, wishing that all the yeomen were so unruffled. If Parker lasted long enough, he determined to assign her to training the rest of them.
As she exited, he sat down and started opening the cards. As expected, the majority were pretty standard Earth-based Holiday missives. Some had nothing more than a signature on them, others had standard salutations and safely worded greetings. There were praises and thanks, heartfelt and pro forma. There were love letters, some thinly veiled, others blatant, most of them unsigned.
And then, about ten minutes into the stack, there was an envelope written in a chaotic hand that he didn't recognize. He frowned and opened it, hoping that he didn't have a criminal on board.
I wish to take this opportunity to note your performance as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Enclosed please find an evaluation detailing your accomplishments to date.
Kirk blinked. And then he unfolded the piece of paper – real paper, handmade, probably from Vulcan – and skimmed the list, puzzling over the messy scrawl. And then he remembered Spock's injury and strode toward the door. He stopped when the towel swished over his knees, reminding him that he needed to dress. He hit the comm button. "Kirk to McCoy."
"How's Spock's arm?"
"It should be fine by now. Why do you ask?"
Kirk took a drink of his coffee. "Ugh! Bones, couldn't you make that vitamin stuff taste any better?"
"If I did that, people would overdose on it. Just shut your eyes and gulp it down for the Enterprise. Oh, and eat the vegetables first when Parker comes back with your breakfast. It'll make the taste go away."
"Thanks for the tip." Kirk glared at the coffee.
"Why did you ask me about Spock's arm?"
"I got a Christmas card from him—"
"You got a Christmas card from him?" McCoy's voice sounded like he was going to faint.
"Yes, Bones, like you told him to give to people, remember?"
"He gave you a Christmas card...."
"And the handwriting was way off, like he was using his left hand, or something."
"Jim, he probably wrote it last night. What'd it say?"
"It was a performance review."
There was crackling silence on the other end.
"Kirk to Sickbay—"
"Sorry, Jim. I just got one too. And so did Christine. I created a monster."
"Spock doesn't celebrate Christmas, Bones. Did you ever think of that?"
"I know, I know." McCoy gave a sigh.
"I'll talk to him when I get a chance. You get to tell Christine who put Spock up to this, and then you can pay a visit to the Science Lab and confess to his team. I'll take care of the Bridge crew. Kirk out."
Kirk began to pull his clothes on.
The door buzzed.
Kirk fastened his trousers. "Come!"
Parker entered with the breakfast McCoy had ordered. She put it on the desk.
"Thank you, Mr. Parker. Please arrange cultural awareness and sensitivity refresher training for the entire crew, starting with the senior officers. I want Doctor McCoy in the first session – no arguments. You can quote me to him, if necessary."
"Yes, Sir. When do you want them to begin?"
"In two hours. This is your sole priority until it is accomplished."
"Yes, Sir." Parker nodded at him. She left when he nodded back.
Kirk rubbed his face, knocked back the vile coffee and dug into his breakfast, vegetables first. At least McCoy had been right about one thing: the vegetables really did neutralize the taste of the vitaminized coffee.
During the debriefing of the previous night's events, Kirk found out that the aliens called themselves something that the Universal Translator interpolated as Lunarians ("Unimaginative of it," Uhura had quipped), and had turned tail and fled as soon as Chekov loosed a barrage of photon torpedos and knocked out their weapons array.
"Their disruption of our power circuits delayed our pursuit," said Spock. "I contacted the Constitution. They now have the ship and its crew in custody."
"Excellent," said Kirk. "Lieutenant Uhura, please forward all relevant logs and communications records and any insight you may have into their language to Captain Wesley, with my compliments."
"Aye, sir," said Uhura.
"Thank you, everyone; that will be all."
As they all got up to leave, Kirk approached his First Officer. "Spock," he said quietly, "a word..."
Spock turned towards him. "Of course, Captain."
"How.... Thank you for pulling me away from the conn panel last night."
"That was the night before last."
"Oh. Yes, of course. My sense of time is still a bit distorted."
"Understandable, given the circumstances."
"Thank you. How's your arm?"
"It has healed sufficiently to perform my duties."
"Good," said Kirk. "Uh, I ... got your Christmas card."
"Yes. I apologize for the poor penmanship. I believed it necessary to distribute them before tonight's festivities."
"Yes.... That is best. But ... how many of them did you ... distribute?"
"Two hundred and seven. My injury impeded my progress."
Kirk's eyes widened. "Two hundred and seven? How long did it take you to write them?"
"Ten hours, thirty-seven minutes and fifty-two seconds."
Kirk nodded and sat down in the nearest chair. "You handwrote all those performance evaluations, didn't you?"
"Yes." Spock looked puzzled. "Did I err in doing so?"
"Not as such," said Kirk. He rubbed residual tiredness out of his face to eliminate a smile that could be taken the wrong way. "I'm sure the recipients will greatly appreciate the effort you made to connect with them. I know that I do."
"Your tone indicates that I made an error," said Spock, stonily.
Damn. "Spock, I was unclear about what's important in a Christmas card. It requires saying something personal – something that tells you that you value the recipient."
"I thought I did that by detailing their positive accomplishments."
Kirk smiled, assailed by a wave of affection. "You did, and on very beautiful paper, too. It's just that what humans expect is a bit less ... work-related. More emotional than you'd probably feel comfortable being, even if you're just wishing someone a happy New Year."
"I see." Spock stiffened almost imperceptibly, hands locking more tightly behind his back.
"McCoy shouldn't have told you to give Christmas cards," said Kirk, softly. "This is his failure, not yours." He rose from his seat and stood facing Spock, barely half a meter away. "And if the recipients of your cards don't appreciate your appreciation of their efforts, then they probably don't deserve it."
Before Spock could finish opening his mouth, Yeoman Parker cleared her throat and entered. "Apologies, Captain, but I thought you'd want to know that the first of those training sessions you ordered has begun, all assigned members present and accounted for." She handed him the padd.
Kirk looked over the list and saw Stiles, Riley, Hicks, Vingh, Windsor and McCoy listed before handing it back to Parker. "Excellent work, Mr. Parker."
"Thank you, sir. Oh, and thank you for the card, Mr. Spock. It was an unexpected honor."
Spock inclined his head. "You are welcome, Mr. Parker."
Parker nodded at Spock and then at Kirk. She left when both of them nodded back.
Spock turned to Kirk. "Training sessions, Captain?"
"Yes, Mr. Spock. I'm instituting mandatory cultural sensitivity and awareness refreshers on an annual basis for all personnel, starting immediately. You and I are scheduled to attend one at 17:00 today, unless you'd rather choose a different time or group."
"Will it coincide with tonight's party?"
Kirk smirked. "If I didn't know any better, I'd say that you were experiencing hope."
Spock deflated enough to make Kirk reach out and squeeze his right arm. Spock winced.
"I thought you said your arm was okay." Kirk looked him over, noting the slightest lightening of skin tone, indicating pallor.
"I believe I said that it had healed enough to allow me to perform my duties," said Spock, his stiffness indicating weariness more than annoyance.
"You know that you are not strictly required to attend the ship's party...." Kirk glanced carefully up at Spock.
"In theory, that is true."
Kirk sidled a little closer to Spock. "Strictly between us, would you like me to order you to continue your healing after the training session?"
"If it would not be too much trouble," said Spock.
"Consider it done!" Kirk looked up, realizing just then how close he was, and how startled Spock seemed not to mind this.
As one, they broke away from it.
"Thank you, Captain."
"You're welcome." Kirk walked around Spock and the table to leave the room.
Kirk wheeled around.
Kirk smiled. "Thank you, Spock. Happy ... Rest Day."
The tiniest flicker of a smile might have played around Spock's too-beautiful mouth. Or maybe it was just confusion or fatigue. "Thank you."
Kirk's smile widened. He nodded and turned to leave before that strange urge to kiss Spock turned into a violation of the fraternization rules.
It had been a long, arduous year. Kirk had been cloned, kidnapped, stabbed, transported through time, threatened with all manner of death, dismemberment and retribution – all normal stuff, if painful and hard on body and soul. But he'd also been court-martialed, fallen in love with a woman he had to allow to die, lost his brother, and been killed by the best friend for whom he had risked his career.
It hadn't been much better for Spock, Kirk reflected, gazing at the still face. He'd been mentally kidnapped by an ancient space probe, attacked by the same thing that had killed Sam, badly injured countless times (though Kirk had actually counted fifty-two of them), and forced to deal with his captain's fits of temper. These, too, were routine parts of the job, and hard on body and soul – 'kattra', Spock called it. But he'd also lost two of his six crewmates in a disastrous first command, had nearly had to sacrifice his father for the Enterprise, and had found happiness for the first time only to lose it through the infliction of Kirk's fists and sharp tongue. Worst of all, he had been forced to reveal the Vulcan state of pon farr, something so personal that Kirk had ached and wanted to run away from listening to the explanation. Even after witnessing it, Kirk couldn't imagine being forced to fight for a wife he didn't want, never mind winning her at the cost of killing his best friend.
Kirk stroked the hand he held, still slightly wrinkled from the latest ordeal its owner had endured. "You traitorous, disloyal...you stab me in the back the first chance you get..." He winced at the memory of his own words. "I never want to look at you again." "I'm sorry I said those things, Spock," he murmured. Kirk gazed at the lines that he knew were disappearing slowly, minute by minute, and wondered at how much more fragile Spock seemed in the aftermath than he had during the illness. He thought back to the day almost a year ago when Spock had given out all those Christmas cards, and thought with a pang that he would miss receiving another hand-written performance evaluation in wonky-beautiful script. He kept the first one in his private drawer – still looked at it once in a while when he needed a lift.
Kirk smiled at Spock, refusing to allow the prickle of tears to materialize. "How goes it?" he asked, softly.
"It is ... endurable."
"That bad, huh?"
Kirk pressed Spock's hand gently. "What do you need?"
"You have it."
"Jim.... Do not trouble yourself. I can endure."
Kirk took Spock's hand between both his own. "Of that, I have no doubt."
Spock looked troubled.
"Am I hurting you?"
"Then I have one question: Is my presence here hurting or helping?"
"You need sleep."
"Not for a while, yet. Do you want me here?"
"Yes." The answer came far more quickly than expected.
Kirk swallowed, taking time to gain control over his voice. "Then ... I'm staying until I have to sleep."
Two minutes after Spock fell back into sleep, Kirk kissed his forehead.
The door buzzed.
"Come!" Kirk nearly dropped his towel when he saw who was behind the pile of parcels and cards. "Mr. Parker! Didn't I promote you?"
"Yes, sir. Yeomen Smith, Carr, Jaruzelski, Torres and Shimada are in a cultural sensitivity and awareness seminar, Ms. Saltzman is assisting Chief Engineer Scott and Mr. Guggenheim had an unfortunate encounter with one of Mr. Sulu's new acquisitions in Botany. Doctor McCoy is cleaning him off now." Parker deposited the parcels and cards on the desk and handed Kirk his coffee. "It's good to see you again, sir," she said, with her usual efficiency.
"Good to see you, too, Lieutenant. Reports?"
Parker handed him the padd.
Kirk looked at it and frowned, turning it over and then back again. "There's nothing on this. What happened?"
Kirk looked up at her to see the slightest shift of expression in the purple eyes. "This is a joke, right? This is you making a joke ... which you never do. Right?"
"No, sir. I am merely amused at the situational pun."
"Situational pun ... you mean, nothing happened. On this ship, nothing happened between the last report I signed and now?"
"So I have nothing to sign?"
Kirk peered at her. "What about that incident with Guggenheim and the plant?"
"Doctor McCoy will report that when he has finished assessing the situation."
"Nothing new on Mr. Spock's status, either?"
"Not that I have been made privy to, sir."
"So ... I have nothing to sign?"
"Merry Christmas, sir. Will there be anything else?"
Kirk handed back the padd. "Peaceful Fest, Mr. Parker."
"Thank you, Captain." She nodded at him.
Kirk nodded back, and Parker left.
He sat down at his desk and began opening the cards. He wasn't sure what was nagging at him most: the tedium of dealing with Holiday cards, the fact that there was nothing to report, or the fact that he had noted a certain attraction to Parker when she'd mentioned the 'situational pun'. He didn't think it was the purple eyes, nor did eight fingers per hand set him off. But when he remembered the lift of that dark eyebrow coupled with the near-expressionless face, he recognized the similarity to Spock. After that, it was impossible for him to see any other face.
He sighed as he opened his third love letter out of seven cards. As with the others, it was tastefully done – an ode to his abilities and charisma – but it brought up all the ennui that accompanied thoughts of connection and missed opportunities. "Discarded opportunities, more like," he muttered. He put the card in the pile that would need to be answered by a yeoman. As a matter of protection for sender and recipient, he passed all such personal solicitations on to someone else with instructions as to the response. He hoped he wouldn't have as many this year as he had the year before. He'd have liked not to get any, but would settle for less than thirty. Last year had been a banner crop.
As he opened and skimmed seven more cards, he found himself wanting to reread Spock's quirky offering, yet again. But then he came across the envelope from Uhura, perfectly penned, of course, and always comforting. The card inside was beautiful, of course, but Kirk didn't even pause to examine the outside before going straight to the message:
"Oh, this can't be good." Kirk had never had to relegate a Bridge officer's note to the Yeoman pile, and his heart started to sink.
My grandmother always taught me that pain was beautiful, which I thought was crazy. But seeing you and Spock come through this last year makes me think that she was profoundly right.
Merry Christmas. I wish you joy, fulfillment and clear sight. May you never be parted too long.
Kirk blinked. Then he read it again. Yes, she said that. He wavered between putting it in the Yeoman pile and setting it aside for further thought. "I really don't want anyone else seeing that," he muttered. "And she's not making any moves on me...." He set it aside. And then he got up, snatched the card from where he'd put it and shut it in his private drawer.
He sat back down at his desk. I hope there aren't any more like that one.
Four more cards in, there was McCoy's:
It's been a hell of a year! You know I'm not a great one for writing stuff like this, so the office is always open and the bourbon flowing.
Kirk smiled. Maybe a visit to McCoy would be a good idea. Or maybe he should just try talking to his mom.
But then he'd tell her that he'd kissed Spock. And that would never work, because nobody tells his mom that he's just kissed his crush for the first time.
He shook his head. "Come on, Kirk, just work!" He tore open the next fifteen cards, none of which inspired him to deal with his feelings for Spock or needed to go on the Yeoman pile.
And then came the envelope he'd been dreading, hoping for and not expecting. He held it as though it were a rare document – which it was. There was no mistaking the hand, especially now that it had healed. He thumbed over the letters, imagining the imprint that should accompany so sure a script but didn't.
And he stalled.
And opened it.
Kirk shivered at the sonic sense memory of Spock saying his name. "Oh ... god...."
I wish to thank you for your presence last night. It was most efficacious.
I find it difficult to do what is required to make an adequate Christmas card. I offer instead a Vulcan cleansing ritual at 22:00 in hopes of returning the gift of sleep that you bestowed upon me. You need only select the space in which it would be performed.
Kirk could all but hear McCoy's voice twitting him with, "He just said 'your place or mine'!" And then he started to recognize how much trouble he was in.
"Spock, you are a life-saver!"
Kirk eyed him and smiled. "You pulled me out of that party two minutes early for a reason, didn't you?"
"Your wellbeing did not appear best served by Ensign Potter attempting to convince you that she was a wizard."
"No, it wasn't. I wonder if she should have the cleansing ritual instead of me, though."
"I believe that she requires detoxification, which is a very different form of cleansing."
"I had a few drinks. Will that interfere with what you have in mind?" Kirk really hoped that that hadn't sounded as much like a come-on as he'd thought.
"No. You still appear to be in sufficient possession of your faculties not to attempt to fly in the rec room."
They walked quietly together, Kirk thinking that Spock was enjoying the silence as much as he was. He couldn't remember ever having this kind of rapport with another person. He glanced sidelong at Spock's face and wondered how he could ever have treated him so badly, even under the influence of the radiation that had so recently afflicted them. "I am sorry for those things I said, Spock."
Spock glanced at him. "If you are referring to the contretemps in your quarters when I told you that I was not taking command, I believe that you apologized for that last night."
Kirk's blood started to chill, a bit. "I thought you were asleep."
"Vulcans hear and feel many things when we are asleep."
Kirk slowed. Stopped.
"My mother used to kiss me when I slept. It was the only time she felt she could do so without challenge."
"I'm sorry, Spock. I shouldn't have done that. Not without your permission."
"Had you sought it, I would have given it."
The sound of footsteps in the corridor broke their gaze.
"You have not selected the location for the ritual, Captain," said Spock, though he didn't sound as business-like as he may have wanted to.
Kirk nodded at Crewman Zamyatina as she passed them. He turned to Spock when she disappeared around the curve. "Where would it be easiest for you?"
"The gift is to you. Wherever you choose will be satisfactory to me if it satisfies you."
Kirk looked at him. "Mutual satisfaction is always desirable, Mr. Spock."
Spock gazed back. "Then will you choose the destination, Jim?"
Kirk nodded at the doorway, unable to take his eyes off Spock. "Your place is closer."
"Indeed," said Spock, his voice quiet fire.
"I ... don't know that we're going to get a lot of cleansing done," said Kirk.
"I believe that that part of the evening may have to wait," murmured Spock.
"Fine by me," said Kirk, equally quietly. And then he realized that he was in Spock's quarters.
"Spock ... may I kiss you?"
Spock swallowed. "Yes," he rasped.
Kirk leant forward and touched his lips to Spock's cheek. "All right?"
"Yes." Spock's voice was uncharacteristically high.
Kirk rejoiced and ached for him. "How about this?" He kissed the corner of Spock's mouth.
Spock huffed a breath. "Yes...."
"And this?" he said against the fullness of Spock's lips.
Kirk pulled back a little, searching Spock's face. "Are you all right, Spock?"
Spock nodded quickly.
"I need to hear you say it."
"I am all right. I have longed for this...."
"So have I," said Kirk.
And then he was in Spock's arms, kissing Spock's lips, tasting Spock's mouth, relishing Spock's daunting arousal against his own. Without thinking, he put a hand on Spock's face.
There was a split second of silence that stretched into eternity, and then Kirk was lifted in strong arms and carried to the bed, and it was embarrassing and perfect and awkwardly wonderful. Kirk caught Spock looking at him, naked uncertainty spreading over the Vulcan features. "Spock." He settled a hand on a pointy cheek. "I want this, but not if you don't."
Spock gazed at him for a long moment. "I have longed for this since I first touched your hand."
Kirk was surprised, touched – maybe a bit shocked – but he was too aroused to do anything but put that aside. "And I've wanted you since I first laid eyes on you," he said, pulling Spock closer. "So how about we get all these clothes off?"
Never had Kirk been so efficiently unclothed by another. And when it became clear that Spock was no shrinking violet – or virgin – in bed, Kirk found himself in the best mutual oral sexual act he'd ever experienced. When he climaxed, he knew that Spock had been close. But Spock held off, expertly swallowing Kirk's orgasm and giving him just enough time to recover before requiring attention of his own.
When Spock climaxed, he gave a shout that bordered on desperate. Kirk sucked and soothed and licked and tasted – Spock tasted good, but strange – until Spock stopped spasming. But he was still trembling.
"Spock?" With some difficulty, Kirk turned them so that they were face to face. "Are you okay?"
"Yes," said Spock, his voice still higher than normal.
"What do you need?"
Kirk took Spock in his arms and found himself enveloped in a Vulcan blanket. "Oh – whoa – Spock! Gently! I need to breathe...."
"I am sorry." Spock tried to pull away.
"No, no, no! Come here.... Just ... remember that I'm only human."
"Acceptable. But I need—" Spock cut himself off.
"What? It's all right, you can tell me."
"A stronger touch."
Kirk pulled back just enough to tell that Spock had turned green. "Hey, it's all right. Here, see? I can hold you tighter. Just don't break my ribs, okay?"
"Yes. Yes, Jim."
Kirk wrapped his arms and legs more firmly around Spock. "Did I ever tell you how much I love it when you call me that?"
Spock stroked Kirk's hair away from his forehead. "You didn't have to."
Kirk laughed gently against Spock's neck. "No, I don't suppose I did."
"Jim, will this be the last time that we meet thus?"
Kirk tightened his embrace. "God, I hope not! But what do you want from this?"
"You mean love?"
Kirk kissed Spock, long and deeply. "We've had that for a long time."
At last, Spock relaxed. "Yes."
Kirk stroked Spock fondly. "Do you suppose that if we do this enough, you might be able to cuddle less ... forcefully after sex?"
"There are always possibilities." Spock turned his face firmly, not forcefully, into Kirk's neck and kissed him there.
"Ahhh, Spock! Oh! Just—" Kirk licked his lips. "Just give it a few minutes, huh? Need a bit more time...."
"Forgive," said Spock, kissing Kirk's jaw. "I do not require the human refractory period."
"Oh, yeah?" Kirk felt a huge grin spreading over his face. "Then I think the possibilities just got a lot more interesting, which is saying something."
"Indeed," said Spock, sucking gently at a point near Kirk's temple. "Then we must explore them." He mouthed Kirk's ear. "Thoroughly."