Originally published in 1995 in the print fanzine “T’hy’la” # 16.
At five a.m. local time the spaceport attached to Starbase Nine was all but deserted when the arrival of a long-range shuttle from Berengaria awoke the sleeping station. As a dozen passengers spilled from the entry port, the reception area brightened to daylight and echoed with footsteps and tired voices. The commotion was short-lived, the travelers being anxious to clear customs, secure transport, and be gone. So it was that barely ten minutes after arrival, having passed through the identity scan and coded his baggage for transfer to visiting officers' quarters at the starbase, Commander Spock of the U.S.S. Enterprise stood alone and considered what he should do next.
He could go directly to quarters; but feeling no need for sleep and too unsettled to meditate, he decided that exercise appealed more. Enterprise had put in to Starbase Nine several times, and Spock remembered a park not far from the base - a wildlife sanctuary spread across the low hills beyond the town. He would go there, he decided, and see the planet's sunrise. The walk would stretch muscles stiff from long hours in the shuttle, the quiet setting would perhaps likewise quiet his mind, and he could return to base with time to shower and change before his first meeting at nine hundred hours.
Outside the spaceport, he walked past rows of auto-taxis in the brightly lighted loading area and into the relative darkness of the street beyond. The night air was soft, not quite too cool for Vulcan comfort, and heavy with the scents of waning summer. A change of season, Spock thought as he stopped, letting his eyes adjust to the dimness. He would see the foliage of the ygeng trees still lush, but tired and dusty, faded from their brilliant blue of midsummer and not yet warmed to the gold of fall. All things change, came unbidden to his mind, and Spock tried not to think of the uncertainty that loomed in his own life. Years of living in Starfleet had taught him the inevitability of change, and he had observed the painful nature of many transitions. Most of his shipmates thought him as impervious to pain as to emotion, but he suspected that those few who knew him well recognized Vulcan discipline as the control mechanism it was. No intelligent beings that Spock knew of existed in an emotional vacuum, least of all Vulcans, whose rigid controls were the legacy of a past nearly self-destructive in its passions.
He took a deep breath of the fragrant air, pleasant after months of breathing recycled ship's atmosphere, and strode off toward the park, letting memory guide him. He thought of nothing as he went, and a half hour's brisk walk brought him to the park entrance refreshed and more relaxed than he had felt in days. Choosing a steep trail leading to one of the highest hilltops, he set off across a small meadow and into the woods blanketing the slopes. It seemed very dark at first, but the sky grew lighter as he climbed and small birdlike creatures were stirring by the time he reached a clearing at the brow of the hill. There he found a bench facing the glowing dawn and he sat gratefully, for he had set a rapid pace and was pleasantly fatigued.
Spock sat quietly for a long time, drinking in the sunrise. Delicate rainbow-winged insects buzzed into the warming air, and once a snake curved through dew-laden grass almost at his feet. But it was a small mammal that ended the pleasant interlude. Covered with thick gray fur, it caught sight of the Vulcan and stopped in its tracks. When it curled into a defensive ball, it looked so like a tribble quivering in the grass that Spock thought at once of James Kirk, and all the misery of the previous week welled helplessly in him again.
That he loved the human Spock had known for some time. Friendship and mutual respect had grown almost from the moment Kirk took command of the Enterprise. But not until his disastrous wedding day on Vulcan, when T'Pring divorced him through the kalifee, did Spock realize the depth of his own feeling. Deep in meditation that night, thinking to heal the wound of his sundered connection with T'Pring, he was stunned to discover instead another bond, spontaneously formed, fragile and beautiful, linking his mind to that of James Kirk.
Spock realized the bond had formed that very day, while he was in the powerful grip of the plak-tow. He had felt T'Pring's contempt for him dissolve their betrothal link, and when the combat was finished his mind had surged not toward madness but to the mind of the captain who lay apparently dead at his feet. It was unthinkable to forge a mental union without mutual consent, but it was surely the reason he had walked alive and sane from the place of koon-ut-kalifee, and it seemed at the time a miraculous gift.
In retrospect, Spock admitted it had been a mixed blessing. In those first days after Vulcan the bond was barely formed and so subtle that he could access it directly only through meditation, and Kirk, a non-telepath, was unaware of its existence. As the weeks went by it stabilized and strengthened, and the already comfortable rapport between them seemed to grow stronger as well. Their reputation as a successful command team was already firmly established, and if the presence of the bond helped escalate that success toward the legendary, Spock had no objection, for Starfleet would surely see the advantage of assigning them together indefinitely.
And Spock did want to be with James Kirk. With the spontaneous creation of a mental link between them, the Vulcan surrendered at last to his attraction to his human captain, and that attraction was soon manifest as physical as well as emotional. For over a year, from behind the facade of Vulcan aloofness, Spock had loved with all the strength of his dual heritage. Hopefully he watched for any sign that Kirk returned his desire, and seeing none, took care that their bonding never intruded upon the human's consciousness. Spock cherished his captain's friendship above all and was unwilling to sacrifice it to the illogic of his own hopeless desire. Though he was certain that Jim loved him in his own way – as a trusted friend, a spiritual brother – Kirk’s attraction to women remained obvious.
Spock loved therefore in silence, guarding the unfinished bond that was all he could ever share with Kirk. Occasionally he permitted himself to withdraw deep inside to touch it, as he could never touch Jim in the flesh, and he took some small comfort in the brief resonance of that contact. Eventually he learned to sense Kirk's state of well-being and more than once was alerted when the human was in distress. For Spock that precious advantage was enough to justify the risk of maintaining the bond.
For accidental though it might be, he knew that Kirk would consider it an obscene invasion of his mind and, even worse, would despise Spock for allowing it to continue. To conceal a joining that, however flawed, must be on Vulcan considered legally a marriage; to conceal profound emotions that would define the existence of any human – those burdens Spock would gladly bear, as he had borne others all his life, but he did not know how he could bear Kirk's antipathy. His heart twisted in fear to think of it, and that fear cast a dark shadow over the Vulcan's secret joy.
If Kirk should learn of the shameful thing between them, how could Spock possibly explain? He scarcely understood it himself, but he did know that he could have – he should have – severed the bond while its hold in Kirk's mind was still so tenuous that the dissolution would have caused only a moment's unexplained discomfort. Now, though Spock thought he could still sever it himself, it would inflict severe pain upon the human, incapacitating him for a time. Better to enlist the aid of a healer, but that would require the participation of both parties in a mind meld. Spock shrank from the thought. He feared alienation from Jim Kirk almost as much as he feared the human's death. Long ago he had decided that the benefits of his increased vigilance over Kirk, coupled with their unconscious harmony of thought and action, outweighed the risk of discovery.
"He must never know," he said aloud, and started to awareness. The sun had cleared the horizon, shining full in his face, drying the dew from the grass. The little tribble-like creature had gone. Spock saw the stretching slopes of ygeng and pine, the curious alien buildings of the town below, and beyond, the gleam of the starbase in the early light; but nothing of their beauty touched him.
For James Kirk did know, and Spock's fear was become reality. Though the Enterprise was far away, the memories of the past week clung to him like sulfur, burning like salt in an unseen wound. Closing his eyes, Spock pressed trembling fingers to his lips and tried to put all thought away. His head ached; his groin ached; he felt like weeping.
When he heard voices approaching from the path below the clearing, he stood to go, composing his features with the ease of years of discipline. He had his duty now: to Starfleet, to the reputation of the Enterprise, to the honor of Vulcan. He did not consider any duty to himself. If the future was uncertain, at least it was his future, with his decisions to make, and he meant to salvage what he could with the best decisions possible. He turned his steps down the hill, and after he passed the couple on the trail, they remarked how the sun shone gleaming in his eyes.