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It was always more difficult, lying to a friend.

"Yes," Kirk said with a smile that didn't reach his eyes, " well, Doctor McCoy still hasn't forgiven me for missing that last shore leave. I tried to tell him, it's a little hard to relax when you're conducting a murder investigation." Kirk sighed, leaning back in the chair. Bones knew about that particular lie already, though Kirk imagined he'd still get hell for it later.

If things went well.

On the screen, Scott looked rueful.

" Aye, pity to miss Odyssey Station. Three day then?" He asked. Kirk looked at him with a much-put-upon expression.

"Afraid so, Scotty." He was thoughtful for a moment. "See if you can coordinate with Sulu on your off-shift." He heard a noise, turned the chair to cover it. "I'd like to see him get more time in the center seat."

"Aye Captain, I'll speak to him. Try to relax, you'll be up and about in no time." Scotty said pleasantly.

"Thank you, Scotty." Another noise. "Kirk out." He waited until the screen was completely blank before turning sharply, rushing into the bedroom. The blankets were rumpled, bed empty. Kirk started toward the head with an unpleasant twisting sensation in his stomach. He put a hand on the panel and the door to the cubicle opened, unlocked.

Spock was watching himself in the mirror.

He looked so far beyond exhausted he'd nearly come around to alert again. There were dark smudges under his eyes that almost looked like bruises, and rough abrasions on his back that were rapidly becoming bruises.

Even after everything, he was still hard. Thick and slightly moist in the bright lighting.

He didn't look up when Kirk entered; for a cold moment he wondered if Spock even realized he was there. His eyes never strayed from his own reflection. His eyes...he looked...empty. His bangs were stuck to his sweat-soaked forehead, but he seemed chilled.

Lost...Kirk wasn't sure where the thought came from, but it scared him. He leaned back out into the sleeping alcove, grabbed a blanket off the bed. He stepped back inside and dropped it on his friend's

shoulders with a tender twinge. He'd never seen Spock look that whipped.

"Spock?" Kirk asked gently, looking past his own reflection in the mirror to the vulcan's. Spock shut his eyes a moment, the expression on his face perfectly clear, for once. Dining on ashes.

"I-" he managed, his eyebrows going up in distress. "What I have done..." He shook his head, looked up bleakly into his own reflected eyes. Kirk rubbed his shoulders through the blanket. Spock shivered under his hands.

"Jim." Spock said faintly, as if he'd just realized he was actually there. A tendril of alarm started to creep in around the outskirts of Kirk's thoughts, like fog on a late October evening. Kirk used the edges of the blanket as leverage, turned Spock away from self-reflection.

"Spock," Jim said gently. "How long has it been since you've slept?"

Spock slumped a little as he thought about that.

"I...am not...certain." His eyes searched as he tried to remember.


"Come here." He coaxed, tugging on the blanket ends. Spock stumbled after him, sat back on the bed without resistance. Once there, though, he shook his head.

"It matters little, Jim. I can not sleep. I will not be released from this."

"Humor me." Jim said with a smile, pushing gently. Spock obliged him, reclining. Exhaustion dragged at his face and he shut his eyes with a sigh, sinking into the mattress.

His erection still jutted up obliviously. Carefully, glancing up at Spock, Kirk touched it. Spock shifted on the bed with a moan. Kirk put a hand out on the groove of his hip, pushed down.

"Shh. Relax." He stroked Spock's overheated skin." Relax, as much as you can. I'll take care of this." Then he lowered his head and started licking.

"Oh..." Spock sighed.

Kirk stroked Spock's stomach with his free hand and slurped the shaft into his mouth. He felt an odd wave of uneasiness but pushed it aside, concentrating on the matter at hand. Spock wasn't moving very much. (But that would follow, he'd told him to relax...)

He glanced up, sucking. Spock was breathing rapidly, his head turned to the side, mouth open slightly. As sensual and inviting as he'd been six or seven hours ago, at the start. Except that every time, he seemed to get a little weaker...

Uneasiness rippled, rolled into a rising alarm. He drew back, and Spock's eyes fluttered open. Kirk rose up on his knees on the bed.

"What are you doing?" He asked, appalled. Spock was burning up under his hands.

"Jim," Spock sighed wearily.

"What are you doing?!" Kirk shouted, slapping his hands down on Spock's shoulders and getting right in his face. Worse, he couldn't have said why he was so upset, he didn't know... he couldn't...

"You're dying." Kirk said in quiet horror and felt a jerk of surprise in his gut from hearing his own words. "Why-why are you dying? I thought-"

Spock wasn't looking at him. Impulsively he grabbed his head, made him look...

Spock made a small sound of protest, and Kirk choked, suddenly pushing through...something...into fire and death. He jerked his hands back from Spock like he'd been scalded, sat back on the bed. Spock curled away from him, holding his head.

Kirk had an ache behind his eyes like a ten pound hammer, just from a moment of it.

"I'm a fool." Kirk said quietly. Was he imagining it, or did Spock seem to...shrink into himself a little?

"It was so very nice, so very logical-" He strung the word out with cold venom. "Salmon, eel birds. But that's not it, is it? No." He grabbed Spock's arm and jerked him around until he could look him in the eye.

"It's mind, isn't it, Spock?"

He saw the reaction to that and had his answer.

"It makes sense," Kirk continued, on a roll, "You could have sex with a hologram, hell, with a god dammed tree trunk if you wanted to-if you just needed release. You need a mind. Open, receptive to

you." Kirk rubbed his own forehead. "I felt it for a moment, back there the first time."

Spock flinched. He pushed himself up with obvious effort.

"I ask forgiveness-"

"Request denied! " Kirk snapped. Spock wilted, a little. His arms were shaking with the stress of supporting his weight. Most of Jim's anger withered away at the sight. When he spoke again, his voice was nearly gentle.

"Spock..." He waited until Spock looked at him. " Let me help."

Spock's lips parted just slightly. Jim reached for his hands and he recoiled a little. He paused, pulled up a smile from somewhere.

"Let me help." He whispered. When was the last time he'd ever pleaded for anything? Hell, he'd pleaded to the admiralty for Spock last week. His mind stilled. For Spock. His fingers found the side of a warm neck, the curve of a burning hot shoulder, and kneaded gently. Spock leaned into the touch.

"Jim." He breathed, sounding hesitant, like he was about to explain something else he hadn't quite lied about that week.

Kirk suddenly felt the warning like he'd absorbed it through his hands. Stay back, stay away...

He didn't care. He didn't care, he hadn't come so far to lose by half a length.

He put his mouth over Spock's, pushing through...pushing through something...through the looking glass to face the monsters on the far side of it...

Someone was screaming. It was around him and in him, one long ragged wail. He needed to be touched. He needed...it felt like dying. A broken, bloody hole in his mind...a thousand empty caves, throbbing with the echos of mad ghosts...Alone. In all his life, he'd never felt so alone. Spock let out a single dry sob against the side of his face.

(The claws that catch...)

Alone. The word shivered in, a dagger to his heart, stealing his breath from him. He reached out wildly, rabid to touch him...just once there, just there...

Dimly, he could feel Spock moaning into his mouth, grinding against him.


"Jim!" Spock gasped and came copiously, desperately all over Kirk's thigh. The flush of release rolled through both of them, boiling internally like a thundercloud.

Kirk inhaled sharply, only realizing he hadn't been able to when the pressure disappeared. Spock was panting against his chest as if he'd been smothering.

"Jim..." Spock said faintly, and his tone drew Jim's attention like a phaser shot. "Must understand..." he insisted, enunciating clearly, fighting hard against unconsciousness."...dangerous..."

Spock's breath went out of him. He sank so deep and went so still Kirk propped himself up in alarm and checked for a heartbeat. Then, with a sudden cold premonition he tried to brace himself...

His mind flickered like a candle as he was suddenly dragged, fingers scraping on wet earth as the weight chained to his leg pulled him back over the lip of the well, down into darkness.


His dreams were dark, and swirled with places he'd never seen before, people he'd never met. The sky bled blue to red and back again. Hidden doorways were lit. Dust was tossed into the air. Heavily bolted cellar doors rattled, the caged demons they bound restless and angry.

Jim woke and fell back into sleep at least five times before he was aware enough to fight for consciousness. He opened his eyes, feeling like a bottle that had been thoroughly shaken. Spock was half draped over him, sleeping like a dead man. Kirk listened for a long tense moment before he heard the intake of breath, felt the thump of a heartbeat.

Kirk extended a hand to the table, checked the chronometer. He sighed, tired by the effort it took. He'd promised Bones he would call. The doctor said he would come down and take them both to sickbay if he didn't call. Experimentally, he tightened his neck muscles, lifted his head a little. Looked over at the intercom. It suddenly seemed very far away.

Slowly, he eased himself out from under Spock's body, finding himself sticky with sweat from the heat Spock was radiating. Managed to drag himself to a sitting position. He felt a ripple of uneasiness, the moment before he lifted his hand, separated from the touch of Spock's skin.

Kirk made a sound like a kicked dog as the migraine blossomed whole and fully formed behind his eyes. For a moment, the pain actually blinded him with an explosion that he could see in bright streaks across his field of vision. Pins and needles spiked at the back of his head and shot down the right side of his face, poured down that side of his body. Someone was grabbing at him but he was fumbling, tangled in blankets.

Hands caught, held tightly. The light faded out, wobbled alarmingly. Spock's face melted into place above him. The sound of his voice skipped in and out of his hearing like a bad subspace transmission.

"Jim...-ot...must not...-im, Jim..." He was petting at Jim's face, every touch chasing the pins and needles further away, forming the world out of more solid substances than pain and flashing light.

Jim opened his mouth with careful dignity.

"I'm going...to throw up." He said firmly. Spock hesitated above him.

"I'm going to throw up *right now*." Kirk said even more firmly, an edge of desperation creeping in. Spock's eyes got wide and he scrambled back, helped Jim turn over in time to lose it over the edge of the bed, as opposed to on it.

After a long, wet, stomach clenching few moments, Kirk wiped his mouth with his hand and sagged against the bed. He felt Spock's hand rest against the back of his neck, felt his fingers start to massage away the tension there.

"It's dangerous for us to be separated." Kirk said softly, ironically, knowing Spock would hear even if his voice was muffled. Spock's hands paused on his shoulders. For a moment the fingers tightened painfully, and Kirk winced, turning over. Spock released him immediately, their only contact for the moment the brush of their thighs.

"I am a danger to you." Spock said quietly. That brought Kirk's eyes up fast.

"As I recall," He said seriously "You tried to warn me."

"But I did NOT." Spock said with a flash of temper that reminded Kirk vividly of just how much stress the vulcan was currently under. " I have told you nothing." Spock added, quieter. Jim's first instinct was to simmer a bit at that; Spock had done some things in the past few weeks worth simmering over. But Spock's flare of anger was fresh, so instead Jim took a deep breath and put a patient smile on his face.

"All right," He said, deciding to take Spock's statement as an offer, "Lets start with why you didn't mention anything about the...mental aspects of this situation until it was almost too late."

Spock looked up in surprise.

"I believe I did, Captain." He said.

(One touches the other, feels their thoughts...)

"You hardly went out of your way." Kirk said in disbelief. He was supposed to put it together with just that? Spock looked away from him.

"I had hoped you would not need the specifics." He said, very softly. "Not all...joinings culminate in telepathic communion. If the two parties involved are only interested in physically satisfying the mating urge there is little danger. There are...some...a few....who perform it as a...service." Spock stared resolutely at the pattern on the blanket, his lips pressed tightly together. He hadn't looked this embarrassed when he'd explained his own biology, and that had been the most uncomfortable Kirk had ever seen him. Jim had a sudden, frustrating hunch that he wouldn't be getting even this much information if he hadn't slept with Spock first.

"Why-" He paused, pursed his lips. "Why didn't you-" delicately...

"That is not my choice." Spock said, too loudly. He glanced up at Jim briefly. "Most Vulcans would prefer another route. Any other route."

Jim blew a breath out, raised his eyebrows.

"Fate worse than death, hmm?" He said gently. Spock gave him a sharp look, paused when he saw the sympathy on Jim's face. Spock's shoulders relaxed, a little.

"Yes." He looked away. "Two who are not mentally attuned get through without any telepathic contact. The situation is...serviceable, if not desirable."

"Kind of a lack of attraction," Jim said, interested. Spock tilted his head.

"More a lack of compatibility, but essentially correct."

Jim started smiling, watched it unnerve the vulcan in front of him.

"And you thought you could affect that kind of situation with...us?" He said with gentle, teasing emphasis.

Spock's eyes on him grew soft. There was a long pause that was just Spock looking at him, the curl of his fingers, the shape of his mouth...it was the oddest sensation. Having so much deliberate attention focused on every little...detail of him.

"I calculated that the risk was worth the effort." Spock said. Was his voice a little rough? Kirk felt the blood leaving his face, felt his temper start to unravel with a fraying of strings.

"A night with me is NOT worth dying for." Kirk rumbled, eyes narrow. Spock opened his mouth, saw Kirk's face, and changed his mind about whatever it was he was about to say.

"There was a chance I could control. I was grateful for your offer.I did not realize how difficult it would be to pull back from an open mind in harmony with my own. The effort was...deeply distressing." Spock looked up with bleak honesty in his eyes."I had thought, when you offered, that it was a chance for life. As you said, who else would have me? Had I known, I would never-"

"That's not what I said!" Kirk said, his chest constricting painfully. The flat surprise in Spock's eyes turned Jim's mood black as pitch. He had a biting thought that no matter what he had said, that was what Spock had heard.

"...Nevertheless," Spock continued, the hesitation somehow speaking quite clearly. I don't believe you but I'm going to let it pass..."Had I known the outcome, I would have sent you away. I could not ask-"

"Why? Why couldn't you just ASK ME." Kirk interrupted. Spock's eyes came up again, seemed to measure the level of Kirk's anger.

"Because I believe you would do anything necessary to keep me alive." Spock said simply, not without affection.

Kirk went still, his rising sense of irritation abruptly derailed.

"You have demonstrated many times that you are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to help a...friend." Spock looked at his hands, picked at the blanket a moment. "A choice made under duress is no choice at all. No." He shook his head. "I could not ask that of you. You already offered me more than I could have hoped. It was no fault of yours I could not control. I had thought to send you away before long."

"It would have been interesting to see you try." Kirk replied. Spock looked at him severely.

"This is not a humorous situation, Jim," He insisted. "We may never be free of one another now. Grow angry, or tire of me and still we may never be parted from one another."

Kirk silently sputtered for a moment at that, his brain actually turning back, going over the words again as if expecting them to be different upon repeating. Tire of him?

"We will need to remain in physical contact until the resonance between our minds has stabilized. " Spock continued. Kirk had to force himself to pay attention.

"Why?" He asked.

Spock hesitated.

"In vulcans, there is actual growth of new cells in the brain, a reorganization of neural pathways to encourage the acceptance of new stimulus. In humans, I must assume there is at least some reorganization. The time required for the adjustment to begin varies with the individuals involved and the strength of their atunement. I would estimate at least a further fifteen hours, perhaps more."

"Wait." Kirk said, holding up a hand."Just wait." He took a breath. Then he held out his hand. Spock looked confused.

"If we're going to be here for fifteen hours I need to use the bathroom and call Bones." He smiled faintly. "Coming?" Spock glanced over at the door to the head with a perfect reflection of Kirk's thoughts on his face. He was looking at the distance to it as if it was a lot farther away than he remembered it being.

Spock's hand curled around his like it was coming home.


"Yes, Doctor, I shall." Spock sighed softly, looking very quietly downtrodden. Kirk had to beat back an impulse to pat him on the shoulder.

"Well, all right then. I'll talk to you again in eight hours." Bones still sounded sharp over the line. Jim watched Spock hesitate over the kill switch, saw his logic waiver a moment.

"And, Doctor..." Spock said, the words nearly spilling out in spite of him, " my...thanks. For your discretion."

Kirk covered his mouth. There was a silence on the other end of the line.

"Well now," Bones said finally, much more gently. "Well now. That's just fine, Spock. That's...that's just fine."

Kirk rubbed at his eyes as Spock turned to him. He gave the taller man a weak smile.

"Just tired." Kirk assured him. He shook his head. "I slept more today than I did all last week and I'm still tired."

Spock looked uncomfortable. Kirk frowned at him.

"Is this one of the side affects of that...resonance you were talking about?" He asked. Now that he was looking, Spock seemed a bit groggy himself. Still, it was better than the strung out mess he'd been earlier.

"REM sleep has been noted to aid in the forming of new neural pathways in the brain." Spock said somewhat evasively.

"You mean you're not really sure." Kirk prompted.

"We have been unusually physically active." Spock pointed out frankly. Kirk stared at him for a second and started to laugh. He caught Spock looking pleased with himself and took a moment to memorize the way it changed his face. Spock, cheering him up. Wonders never cease.

"What I mean is, you aren't really sure about any of this, are you. Our situation...it's got to be a bit different than your traditional vulcan..." he paused, "Well, you know." He sure wasn't certain what to call it. He shook his head. " Are you certain this...this connection between us is there?" Spock looked away from him, and he caught his arm at the elbow.

"I just...I don't feel anything, Spock. I felt sick before but..." Kirk frowned, searching himself for a moment. "I feel like myself." He said, almost absently. Then, more firmly, "I don't feel any change." He shook his head.

He watched Spock's jaw clench, as if he'd said something very different.

"I realize this was not your choice. If you wish, we may seek out help to attempt to dissolve it." Spock replied, looking carefully at the bedcover.

Kirk stared at him.



He tightened his grip on Spock's arm, pulled him halfway around.

"Open it up." He ordered. Spock blinked at him.

"I beg your pardon?" He replied, startled.

"A resonance, right? A connection, your mind, my mind. Open it up. See if it works." He said swiftly.

"It is undoubtably still forming..." Spock said, drawing his eyebrows together.

"Try." Nearly a growl. Spock tilted his head at him, as if they were both in the briefing room and Kirk had asked him an odd, off-topic question. But they'd been working together for quite some time now, and Spock knew, like everyone else, that those kind of questions were the ones that usually led to the break they were looking for. So, as he had been doing since Kirk's second month on board, after a token protest Spock packed up his reasonable objections in a little box and just did what Kirk was asking him to. The man...the vulcan....was nothing if not adaptable.

Spock shut his eyes and lifted his chin a little, tilting his head back. Making it look like he was doing something else entirely. Kirk swallowed. After the last day or two, Kirk found his reaction to the sight was immediate and devastating. He shifted on the bed and thought for the first time about maybe putting some clothes on.

Then he felt...

Spock took a breath, shivered a little and he felt...almost like a warm draft, a brush of air across the back of his neck. Gooseflesh raced down the backs of his arms and he licked his lips.

"Spock, do you-" He never got to finish.

He'd experienced a lot of weird things in the time he'd been in Starfleet. He'd never been grabbed by a memory before. It was like the pieces of it, the scents and smells and colors welled up, bleeding into the present and dragging him away.

He hadn't been able to really see it. The west Rose window was partially blocked by the pipes of Notre Dame's huge organ. He'd charmed one of the grad students working on restoration, a little blonde with a sweet mouth and big brown eyes to take him up on her antigrav lift. She'd seen the look on his face as they got higher and stopped the lift just out of reach.

"Non," she'd said with a smile in her voice, "You must not touch." He hadn't bothered to deny it. The impulse had caught him unprepared. He'd put his arms around her instead, watched the slices of colored light play across her face.

This time he was alone, and moved the lift closer to the stained glass. He hadn't expected the faces to be so detailed. He hesitated, a hand out. A slice of ruby light pooled in his palm. He paused, let it warm his fingers until he could almost imagine he was holding something alive.

He heard cloth shift and smiled, knowing before he turned.

Spock was looking up at the glass in quiet appreciation. The muticolored light kalidescoped across his shoulders.

"An excelent example of Gothic archetecture." He said, approving. Jim grinned at him. Spock's eyes trailed to his outstretched hand, up to Jim's face. There was a slice of blue rippling down Spock's cheek. The vulcan's expression...softened...and Jim wondered what he was seeing.

"It is a memory, Jim. You may touch, if it pleases you."

Kirk looked at the glass for a moment, then shook his head.

"It's not real." He said, pulling his hand back. "It's not real it...wouldn't be the same." Spock looked like he was weighing that. The slice of blue slid a little further down his neck. Kirk reached out with his light-warmed hand and touched the slice of color. Was it getting brighter? Spock's eyes widened a little, and it was getting brighter, the sun was streaming through the window, it was blinding-

For a moment it was almost like he spread out, for an instant he was the lift, the brown-eyed grad student, he was the light streaming through the western rose window on a sunny afternoon in Paris almost twenty years ago...he poured out into himself like water into a cup.

He was kissing Spock on the mouth. Spock was pinned under him on the bed, arms snaked around his waist. Sending little shocks up his back with every movement.

If he thought about it, he was still...feeling...Spock, like light shining through stained glass. It was...warm. It felt good like a morning stretch felt good, a kind of body-pleasure that lifted the spirits. Kirk pinned him to the bed with his hips, feeling Spock's little gasp of pleasure in every organ he had.

"You want to get rid of this?" Kirk asked him. "Are you mad?" Disbelieving. Spock arched into him and he swore even his kidneys basked in the glow. He pushed himself back, away, waiting for an answer and it HURT not touching him...

He watched Spock's eyes darken, something animal and hungry flashing past. With a swift movement, Kirk found himself on his back, panting at his first officer's rarely shown strength.

"No." Spock murmured softly, very close. Kirk could feel the puff of air on his face as he spoke. Intense, and not quite sane. "No."

Kirk reached up and grabbed his forearms, tried to give him a shake. The tendons were like steel cables under his fingers. Spock pressed him down into the bed, eyes glittering. Kirk swallowed a gasp as he felt a warm erection press into his thigh. Spock leaned in to kiss him and he blocked with a forearm, speaking through gritted teeth.

"You, and me." He said fiercely. "Is that what you want? Is it?" He'd used that tone of voice on the bridge once or twice to intimidate minor gods. Like them, Spock listened.

The look his friend gave him in response was wide open and he relaxed a little, to see it.

"Jim..." Soft. Spock pulled back a little.

"I want the truth, Spock. If you'd told me, hadn't lied-"

"I spoke no falsehood." There was a snap in his voice, a hint of indignation. Kirk grinned dispite himself, a bubble of amusement welling up.

"Don't pester me with semantics." He replied, almost lightly. "I might have thrown my career away." His tone sharpened. "It would have been nice to have all the facts. I commited to keeping you alive the moment I cut orders and went off course."

Spock's eyes went bleak.

"You have been poorly repaid." He made a motion to get up, looking sick with himself. Kirk once again failed to cooperate. He grabbed onto him with legs and hands and pulled him down with an expert twist of leverage. Spock didn't want to look at him, so Kirk lifted a hand and got hold of his chin. Spock's eyes flared wide. The imposition was something Kirk had never done, had never even come close to. It did startle Spock into looking at him.

Strange. He almost seemed to...settle...at the touch. Calmer. Kirk took a breath, offered a smile.

"We seem to have come to a mutual agreement about dying for each other, Spock. The least you can do in the future is give me a little information so I'll know ahead of time what I'll be forced to do to keep you alive." Kirk relaxed. That was his best shot. That was as clear as he could make it, and he could tell Spock had heard him. Not just the words. All the things he hadn't said. He lifted his hand from Spock's face and almost fancied he felt resistance, like pulling his hand out of a swift-moving stream.

Doubt and regret swirled through Spock's eyes, like clouds through clear sky. Hope. Wanting to hope. Not daring to hope.

"There are some things," Spock paused, his voice catching, "As a Vulcan I-"

"I know you're a Vulcan, Spock" Kirk said, exasperated. "But you know me." His voice thickened with intensity. "You know me."

Spock went still, looking at him, at his eyes. Somewhere inside Kirk felt something give a little. He didn't know for certain who the feeling belonged to.

"Yes..." Spock said softly, almost absentmindedly. He touched the side of Kirks face and shot tingles all down the back of his neck. They gasped together.

Kirk knew there was something else. Some brilliant turn of logic to twist home. He'd nearly put it together when Spock kissed him. After that it was hard to think.

"yes..." he didn't know who said it. It didn't matter.
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