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"But Spock," the Captain said, hurrying to keep up with Spock's longer strides, "Spock! Stop a moment. Please?"

With something close to exasperation, Spock stopped and turned to his mate.

"I just don't see why this is necessary! I mean, I understand you need to go. But they can't mean that I join you!"

"Ashaya, as my bondmate you are also a member of the House of Surak and therefore of my Clan. If you wish the benefits of being a member of the Clan, then from time to time there are obligations you must fulfil. This is one of them." He turned and continued, albeit at a slightly slower pace, along the corridor towards the transporter room.

"But Spock!" Jim knew he sounded like a whiny kid who needed an attitude adjustment, but he didn't care. "I don't want to go. Do you know how I felt the last time we were at New Vulcan? The last time I was in the company of Vulcans I felt like a bogey accidentally snorted out of one of their up-turned noses and stuck to a lapel. They don't like humans and they don't like me."

"That would be illogical. You were instrumental in saving the elders, and with them, the greater portion of Vulcan knowledge, tradition, and history. I assure you that T'Pau and the Council hold you in the highest regard."

"Bullshit! I don't believe that for a minute."

"In any case," Spock continued, "regardless of the esteem or lack of it in which you may be held by Vulcans generally, you have been accepted as part of my Clan. They do not look down on you."

"Oh yeah? You wanna bet? Spock, will you stop!"

They both halted. Jim panted a little. "Thank you," he said. "Now, can we talk about this like civilised adults?"

"I was under the impression we were doing so."

"Oh, no. You were stubbornly sticking to your 'Vulcans are perfect' line, and... brushing my thoughts and feelings aside." Jim made a sweeping gesture with his hands. "I'm trying to tell you that I feel deeply, deeply uncomfortable with going down there and facing the vultures. Especially your father. You told me that your Clan don't look down on me. Well, at our bonding ceremony – our bonding, Spock – one of them, I think it was Silar? Big beefy guy with a mean glint in his eyes – oh, so you do know him? Anyway, Silar came up to me and told me I had no business polluting the virgin soil of their new world – or ploughing my furrows in the virgin soil of the House of Surak."

Spock coloured slightly. "Silar has always been a bully. He treated you no differently to the way in which he has treated others, including myself."

"But he wasn't the only one, Spock. There was T'Pleia: she suggested that a human bastard was a fitting spouse for a half-breed anomaly, and expressed her relief that if we plant our useless seed in each other, at least we won't be reproducing our abomination.

"And every time your father looks at me, I swear he's assessing amoebic scum under a microscope and finding it wanting..."

Spock took his mate by the shoulders. "Jim. Jim! All shall be well. None of those individuals' comments or opinions matter – not to me, nor to our future together. We shall transport down to the planet; we shall attend this function in order to satisfy the honour of House and Clan; and then we shall return to the ship. By then Mr Scott will most likely have completed the transfer of supplies, and we shall be on our way to the next mission Starfleet has ordered for the Enterprise. Do not fear my family, or Clan."

The Clan dress robes of pink – salmon, Jim reminded himself – and green were hot, stiff, and unwieldy. Thanks to his exertions sweat was prickling beneath them and trickling down the small of his back. He felt uncomfortable and grotty and already longed for a shower. He sighed, resigning himself to his fate.

"Alright. Alright, Spock. As long as you'll stay with me..."

"Always, Jim. In any event, we are not the focus for this occasion." Spock dropped his hands, sliding them down to take Jim's briefly in his own, squeezing gently before letting go. He turned and began to move. This time, Jim walked beside him, neither hurrying.

"Did your father tell you anything about it? What's the celebration about?" Jim asked.

"Negative. And that is unusual. In fact, the... summons to attend came from T'Pau," Spock explained, thoughtful.

"That means whatever it is, is an internal Clan matter, doesn't it"

"Indeed. Although most likely an occasion of great significance."

They entered the transporter room and took their positions on the pad.

"Ready, Mr Kyle?" Kirk said to the transporter chief.

"Aye, sir."

"Energize."

Fuck me sideways with a two-by-four, the Captain thought the moment they rematerialized at New Vulcan's transporter terminal. They were inside, in a climate-controlled space, and it still felt as though the moisture and air had been sucked out of him instantly in a big whumf.

Spock looked at him, quirking an eyebrow. Surely there are other methods of coitus that are less... painful? he asked playfully through their bond, and sending a cascade of erotic poses involving the two of them.

"Spock!" Jim hissed, and dug him in the ribs with an elbow. "I'll get you for that," he whispered through gritted teeth as he attempted to smile and offer the ta'al to their greeter.

"We come to serve," Spock said formally.

"Your service honours us," a tall Vulcan arrayed in the Clan colours bowed slightly.

"Osu Spock. T'Pau has asked me to chauffeur you and your bondmate to the Hall."

"Thank you... Storil, is it not?"

"Indeed, sir. If you would follow me."

Storil conveyed them to the Hall. Jim was glad of the transport; while it was late afternoon, just before sunset, the planet's sun beat down unrelentingly, and the world seemed tired and worn thin by the heat. Looking out the window, Jim wondered again at the vegetation that clung defiantly to life – a parable perhaps of the Vulcans who just as doggedly were eking out new lives on the same sands.

Great doors opened on a simple but impressive structure, the largest so far to have been completed on the colony. Other buildings would no doubt ascend to dizzying heights of glass and polished tritanium – but not for many years yet.

"Spock, son of Sarek, son of Solkar, son of Skon, of the House of Surak, and James, son of George, son of Samuel, telsu to Spock: welcome."

They made their way through the crowd, which as they passed they could see were gathered in a circle surrounding a central dais. T'Pau's voice had spoken from this central location.

Jim's trepidation was momentarily relieved when he caught sight of the Elder Spock standing behind T'Pau on the dais. The aged eyes looked at him with warmth, and he grinned in response, looking forward to catching up with the Elder later.

"The Clan Xtmprsqzntwlfb is gathered. Let us proceed."

A gong was struck, its dull sound reverberating off walls of stone and echoing through Jim's body. It reminded him of the day of his bonding to Spock, and inadvertently tears sprouted in his eyes with the poignancy of memory.

"We gather today to acknowledge the Heir to the House of Surak, and the Heir apparent to the Clan."

Jim had always known the importance of Spock's House and Clan as that which had led Vulcan for a thousand years, and which now substantially governed the affairs of New Vulcan. He'd also been aware of Spock's status as Heir to both the House of Surak and the Clan mantle. So what the fuck was this about? He couldn't work it out.

"Spock," he whispered, "Isn't your dad...?"

"Yes!"

"And doesn't that make you...?"

"Yes!"

"Then what's going on?"

"I do not know." Jim could sense his mate's perplexity through the bond.

Spock's father Sarek and a Vulcan woman Jim recognised as Sarek's relatively new bondmate emerged from the crowd on the other side of the dais. The woman – T'Lohim? T'Lopa? T'Pohu? Jim couldn't remember her name – was carrying a well-swaddled bundle of newborn infant. It was clear that the child was Vulcan: her tiny pointed ears and upswept brows were obvious.

For a moment, as the family climbed the dais to stand beside the Matriarch, Jim was lost in the adorable newborn baby. He wondered whether Spock had looked anything like that...

Spock. Fuck. That tiny baby was now being lauded as Heir in Spock's place.

"Behold, T'Prella, daughter of Sarek and T'Poha: Heir to the House of Surak and Clan. I do name thee, child..." The crone's voice droned on about the honours to be accorded to the child. Jim was too stunned to take anything in until, "And we do hereby rescind and revoke any honours heretofore accorded to those previously who may have laid claim to the titles, roles and emoluments of these high and dignified offices; and we do categorically state, name, and articulate that any such titles, roles and emoluments be now be assigned and accorded to T'Prella, daughter of Sarek and T'Poha. To this, we swear the Clan oath. Come, let us so swear."

T'Pau's touched two of her fingers to the centre of the child's forehead, presumably to forge a link. Sarek and T'Prella did likewise, and then those gathered surged forward one at a time to touch the new Heir and to link her as such to the collective consciousness all Vulcans shared.

Spock abruptly turned on his heel and the crowd parted to make way for him.

Jim found himself once more scurrying after his mate. Not this again, he thought with a sigh. And not on this stupid planet wearing these stupid fucking pussy robes. The crowd which had so lately opened to allow Spock pressed around him, impeding his progress. Jim was by no means a short man, but Vulcans as a race tended to the tall side, and so he lost sight of his mate.

When he finally exited the hall, there was no sign of Spock. Huffing with frustration and exertion in the thin atmosphere, the Captain beamed back to the ship – to be greeted by a transporter chief still disentangling himself from a horrible green and pink robe, obviously hurriedly cast aside by a certain Vulcan First Officer.

"Mr Kyle, did you see the direction in which Mr Spock was headed?"

"Afraid not, sir. My head was... uh..."

Kirk nodded, pressing his lips together. Spock knew all the places one could disappear on the Enterprise, and he was a master at fooling the computer systems to mask his life signs. If he wanted to hide, there was little point in attempting to find him.

"He did suggest, sir, that I might like to keep this robe; possibly make a gift of it to my mother." The transporter chief shrugged.

"Hold onto it for now, mister, and don't do anything pre-emptive. He may wish to take it back. If it turns out he truly doesn't want it anymore, you can have mine as well. I think they'd make lovely beach-side covers for a holidaying couple on Risa, don't you think?" Kirk held out the fabric at the front of his robes with both hands as if demonstrating its fine qualities. Kyle grimaced.

"Yes, sir," he said reluctantly, his opinion of the piece obvious.

Kirk laughed and left the room, loosening his own robe as he went. The sooner he could get the blasted thing off, the better.

Getting back to his quarters, he thumbed the comm. panel.

"Computer, location of Mr Spock?"

"Commander Spock is in the Captain's quarters."

No, he damned well wasn't, though his communicator was lying on Kirk's desk.

Torn, Kirk debated what to do as he shrugged off the robe with a sigh of relief. He shivered as the welcome cool of the air struck the wet patches on his back and under his arms – and then worried for Spock, who usually wore thermal undergarments to cope with the cool environment on the ship. He'd be garbed only in the traditional wear under his formal robes: a silk, long-sleeved grey turtleneck with matching pants. Somewhere, Jim's bondmate was holed up, and probably shivering. His heart broke a little at the thought.

He decided that staying put was probably wiser than chasing all over the ship. Spock would have to come home eventually. Jim decided that he deserved time on his own to process and make sense of the rude shock of being replaced as Heir.

Jim's blood boiled as he thought about it. He couldn't make sense of why Sarek had done that, and, moreover, why they had decided against telling Spock he was being shafted in favour of a squalling – ok, that probably wasn't accurate because Vulcan babies didn't squall – brat. The only thing he could come up with was a spiteful desire on someone's part to humiliate Spock. Being bonded to Spock, Jim's heart sank somewhere into the pit of his stomach at the thought of all the detritus and dark scum that this would stir up from the bottom of Spock's psyche, things, memories, hurts, and scars Jim had been working particularly hard to heal and counter since their bonding. Spock was making progress. And now this? There was no telling what effect this would have on Spock. Clearly, not a good effect, if his immediate retreat to a hidey hole was anything to go by.

Sighing, stripped down to his briefs, Kirk slumped into his desk chair and sat listlessly for an hour, drumming his fingers on the desktop. Eventually, the cool of the air drove him into the long awaited shower, and he relished the heat of the water soothing muscles abused by the planet's visit and made stiff by more recent inactivity.

He was towelling off his hair, wrapped only in his robe, when his door chimed.

"Come," he called, drying the insides of his ears on the corners of the towel. He turned around, expecting to find a yeoman or Bones or one of the crew.

"Spock!" Abandoning the towel, he went to the elderly Vulcan and cast his arms around him. He couldn't help but feel the draw of any Vulcan who was his mate and yet not his mate.

"Old friend." Spock's voice was warm as honey.

Jim stepped back, recollecting that in all likelihood, Elder Spock had been complicit in the underhanded decision to oust his mate from the position of Heir.

"Just what the fuck was that about, huh?" he demanded, hands on hips.

"Please understand, Jim. There was nothing we could do. Not even Sarek was able to change the Council's mind on this."

"Did he even try?" Jim felt anger welling up and breaking over within him. "You know what, never mind that. Why did no one think to contact Spock and tell him what to expect? Have you got any idea what sort of effect this is going to have on Spock? And why? Why depose Spock as Heir in favour of that... that pip-squeak upstart? And publically, at that? Have you got any idea just how humiliated he feels?"

"Jim," Spock sighed. "Yes. He is me, and I know what effect such an action would have had on me, and therefore him. And on you as his bondmate. I am sorry."

"Yeah? Well, sorry doesn't really cut it." He folded his arms for a moment, then unfolded them. "Sorry, I know you're not really responsible," Jim waved his hands in Spock's direction. "I'm guessing you tried to have your say, too."

"You could say that. You might also say T'Pau's word, in my reality and in even more so in this, carries greater weight than the word of any other."

Jim ogled his eyes at the old Vulcan. "What? So, great-grandma's decided Spock's not good enough?" He crossed his arms again, furious.

"Indeed. You are most probably aware of the large faction among the colonists of New Vulcan who, while they do not necessarily begrudge the assistance of outsiders in the building effort, are nevertheless in favour of maintaining racial purity. Under the circumstances, the Council deemed that a half-Vulcan Heir, and, moreover, an Heir who because he has taken a human male as bondmate is incapable of reproducing, was not an appropriate figurehead to succeed T'Pau and Sarek in the leadership of the colony. I suspect," Spock continued, his demeanour taking on a speculative air, "that this was the motivation for Sarek taking a Vulcan mate instead of another human in place of Spock's mother."

"That's complete bullshit!" Jim said loudly, in spite of the fact there was a cold, calculating logic to the argument. "What about the fact that Spock saved the elders when Vulcan was crumbling? Does it mean nothing to the Council that he risked his life to save them and their culture?"

"Apparently not." Spock's quirking of an eyebrow was enough to show his disdain for the Council's narrow-mindedness.

"Vulcans: taking xenophobic racism to the next level since 2063." Jim snorted. "I'll never understand their tendency to look down on humans as inferior, and to judge Spock. I mean, they seem to accept you."

"That is true. However, I am an Elder, and I hold much knowledge that is useful to the fledgling society. I have, in the course of my life, completed many of the Vulcan rites of passage, including all but the final ceremony of the kolinahr. I surmise that Spock represents to them at this time the very circumstances which conspired to bring them to this situation. I regret that in effect my actions in another place and time have conspired to make Spock's life more difficult than my own. Kaiidth. That is a burden I must carry to the grave; it cannot now be altered."

Jim observed the profound weariness in the old Vulcan and his heart melted, the anger and frustration draining away for the moment. He dropped his arms and moved towards him, reaching up to put both hands on the bony shoulders.

"You are not at fault, Spock. Nero destroyed Vulcan. Nero destroyed my dad's ship."

"Maybe so. However..."

Jim ushered him over to the couch which ran through the living quarters he shared with Spock. "Why don't you sit down and I'll get us both a drink? I need something punchy tonight."

"Thank you, old friend." Spock sat with obvious gratitude and a small sigh as he sank into the cushions.

They were deep into their third glass when the door swished open and Spock entered and froze.

"Spock!" Jim leapt up, a little unsteady and his limbs loose, and gently surrounded his mate, holding him close. "I am so sorry for what happened down on the planet, for how they treated you. They had no right to do that," he said into Spock's chest before pulling back and scanning his beloved's eyes.

Spock gazed back inscrutably for a few moments, then looked across to the Elder. "You presume, Elder," he said with ice in his tone cold enough to melt iron. "I should think you have chutzpah, as our mother would have said, to follow my bondmate here under the circumstances."

"Circumstances you do not fully understand, and of which you have not yet been fully apprised." The Elder rose.

"Enlighten me."

"Basically, Spock," Spock's mate jumped in, "they don't think you're good enough, being half-Vulcan, to be the leader of Clan and House on New Vulcan. Sarek and Spock here did try to sway the Council, but failed. I tell you, they're a bunch of xenophobic bastards, and Bones is well within his rights to call them unthinking, unfeeling, green-blooded computers!"

Eyebrows went up in tandem. If he weren't as upset as he was, Jim most likely would have laughed hysterically.

"Essentially correct," the Elder murmured. "The Council has opted in favour of so-called 'racial purity'."

"A short-sighted policy, given the large number of extraterrestrial unions in the light of both the shortage of males and the Federation assistance measures."

"Believe me, Spock, our father and I shall continue attempts to alter Council members' perceptions. However, that neither proposes a solution to your dilemma, nor offers comfort."

"Dilemma?" Jim queried, moving back to his seat and dragging his Spock with him to sit beside him, still hand in hand.

The Elder also sat down again, and didn't reply.

"Spock?" Given that there was no immediate response, Jim galloped on. "Look, Elder Spock's explained about how the Council wants a full Vulcan to lead the colony into the future, and that they thought you wouldn't make a good figurehead because you're bonded to me. Don't let it get to you. They don't know what they're missing out on by scorning you. I love you, and you've got a family here. You don't need them. Their loss." He shrugged dismissively.

Spock turned to his bondmate and raised a hand to brush an errant lock out of the cerulean eyes. Jim read there softness and affection.

"Ashaya, that is only part of the dilemma. And you are right: it is not really significant to me, to us. The Enterprise is my home. Or more specifically, her Captain is."

"Then why did you run off the moment you got back to the ship?"

Spock's hand dropped and his face clouded.

"Ah. That's the other part of the dilemma the Elder mentions. I was... ashamed."

Perplexity flummoxed Jim. "Of what?"

"Jim, you must understand that to lose the position of Heir both to the House and the Clan will have... significant financial ramifications for me. For us."

"It's hardly like we need the cash. Our pay's pretty good, and hell, what do we have to spend it on?"

"You do not understand."

"So make me."

Spock looked down at his hands, now joined on his knees. "I shall be unable to support you."

For a moment Jim sat there, dumbfounded.

"Spock, that's... that's insulting. I don't need anyone to 'support' me. I'm a big boy; I've been looking after myself since I was 11."

"We are in a dangerous occupation," Spock said evenly, still refusing to look at his mate, "and we do not know when a grave injury may force either or both of us back onto our own resources. Starfleet pensions may be sufficient for survival, but they hardly cover... greater need."

"So? Anything medical they're obliged to cover. All returned service personnel are entitled to free medical care for the rest of their lives." Jim stopped. There must be some other obscure reason for Spock's reaction. Frankly, Jim was stunned that it wasn't the racial slur or blatant rudeness of today's fiasco which had upset Spock, but something else.

"What's this all about, really, deep down, Spock? Logically, you know that whatever happens to us we'll find a way through. I mean, hell. I'll become a stripper on Risa, pole dancing in nothing but a blue sequinned jockstrap, and you can pimp me, if that's what it takes."

Elder Spock had just taken a mouthful of whiskey which he sprayed across the room and choking at "blue-sequinned jockstrap".

"Hey there, you ok, Spock?" Jim asked the Elder.

"Fine," he gasped.

"'Fine' has variable definitions," his First Officer commented drolly. Turning to Jim he said: "That will be quite unnecessary, and you should know by now that Vulcans do not share their mates with others."

"Then we'll both be strippers together."

Elder Spock coughed.

"Jim," Spock remonstrated and paused. "As Heir to House and Clan I was entitled to a substantial stipend. Effectively I shall from now on receive only a minimal honorarium... If I choose to retain my Vulcan citizenship."

"Well I say, piss them off and good riddance," Jim huffed.

"Yes. Perhaps. Although the situation is not as... straightforward as that. You see, I have been donating the majority of those monies to the relief effort on New Vulcan. Specifically, I have endowed an orphanage – as you know, there were thousands of child survivors who lack family or guardians. The institution has other income sources, but my donation was the largest. I know this, as they included me as an honorary member of their governing body. The loss of income means considerable embarrassment to me, given that the orphanage is dependent on my largess."

"Oh. But what's that got to do with Vulcan citizenship?"

"It is a condition of donation that members hold Vulcan citizenship."

"That's got to be the stupidest regulation in the history of board constitutions, Spock! Besides, if they're that dependent on you, what's going to become of them, now that you're a pauper, relatively speaking?"

"I do not know. The wages of the entire bridge crew would be insufficient to contribute one month's worth of income for the orphanage," Spock said. "The requirement of citizenship is related to the legal strictures applicable to directors of institutions."

Jim folded his arms, sat back on the couch and crossed his legs. "Huh. Bet the Council didn't 'think of the children' when they supported T'Pau's decision to depose you as Heir. So much for not contributing to the continuance of the race."

"To be fair, they probably did not know. It is only now, and only because you are my mate that I am telling you about my philanthropic interests."

"Indeed," the Elder interjected, "the Council was not made aware of this." He stood slowly, his bones audibly creaking with age. "On that note, gentlemen, I believe it is time I returned to the planet."

The Captain and First Officer stood in farewell.

"No need to accompany me; I know the way to the transporter room." He turned and offered the ta'al. "Do not worry. I am confident that together you shall find your way."

The doors swished shut behind the Elder. Spock looked at Jim, who was gazing at the door with a thoughtful and sad expression.

"We may not see him again, Spock. He's looking frailer than the last time we visited, and that was only four months ago."

Spock opened his arms in response, sensing through their bond the sharp and wistful foreknowledge of his human mate, and Jim came to him. They stood there for a long time simply holding each other, relishing the other's warm reality: life defying the encroaching darkness.

"Jim," Spock said softly after a time, "Vulcans pride themselves on being able to support a mate. What offended me most about what has happened is that the Council has taken away the dignity that income afforded me. As your bondmate, it is my duty and privilege to see to your care and protection at all times and in all ways. I regret that that symbol's disappearance means that I can no longer claim that right and dignity."

"Oh Spock!" Jim said. "I know that means a lot to you. And you know what? The fact that this bothers you so badly is... sweet. Yeah. But you know you have no need to worry. I love you for who you are and as long as we are together, the rest of the universe can go fuck themselves. Including T'Pau and her minions."

"An interesting, if undesirable mental picture."

Jim chuckled and stilled, enjoying the closeness, enjoying the strength of this man whose being was connected to his own in ways even the two of them couldn't comprehend.

"That job as a blue sequinned jockstrap-wearing stripper on Risa's looking good," he quirked. "It'd go with my eyes and sunny disposition, don't you think?"

"And lose the Enterprise, Captain?" Spock raised an eyebrow.

He laughed. "Alright, Mr Sexy-pants Vulcan. You got me there."

A cool hand moved down between them to cup Jim's tackle. "And here," the deep velvet voice murmured, causing the Captain to shudder under a sudden spiking of lust. He leaned into the caress and moaned. Wrapping his arms around Spock's neck, Jim launched a passionate kiss, as though by his passion alone he could draw Spock inside himself.

They had to come up for air. Allowing his mate to breathe (Vulcans have a better lung capacity than humans), Spock nuzzled down Jim's neck, pushing back the bathrobe he was still wearing, tasting the delicious delicacy of the skin and muscle and sinew that joined neck to shoulder.

"I would not... be averse... to you... giving... a private performance," the warm voice purred, turning Jim to a puddle of need. "That is, if you are... amenable... Captain."

"I'm amenable... oh yes, right there!"

*****



Three hours later the chiming of the comm. woke the Captain from a deep sleep. Disentangling himself from Vulcan limbs he stumbled through twisted sheets to answer the hail.

"Kirk here," he said, feeling as though he'd been slogged up the side of the head.

"Ensign Karlton here, sir. I'm on duty in the transporter room this shift. The ship's just about to warp out of orbit, but I have a mail courier saying there's a parcel to be beamed up. It's addressed to you, and it's sign on delivery. I'm sorry for waking you sir; the courier was most insistent that I wasn't able to fill in for you."

"Alright, Ensign. Give me ten minutes. Kirk out."

Jim yawned, stretching before hurriedly throwing on a uniform. It was a bit crumpled from where he'd thrown it on the chair near the bed, but it would have to do. He made his way to the transporter room, arriving just as a small package wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string materialised on the pad, along with a PADD requesting his authorisation. Jim picked up both, signed the PADD, and nodded for the Ensign to transport it back to the surface before returning to his quarters.

Spock stirred as Jim entered the room, sat up, and called for lights. Jim went to him and sat on the edge of the bed.

"What is it, Jim?" he asked, his voice heavy with sleep.

"A package. Addressed to me." He handed it to Spock for his inspection.

"Then perhaps you should open it," Spock suggested, returning the package to its named recipient.

Jim carefully pried off the string and ran a finger beneath a seam – and out fell a datachip and... a blue sequinned jockstrap.

He laughed and laughed. "Your counterpart is a devious bastard."

"What's on the chip?"

Jim took up the datachip and connected it to his nearby PADD.

"I'll be fucked!" He couldn't believe what he was seeing. "Literally, I hope," he said with a wicked, excited grin, looking up at Spock.

"Two first-class tickets on a cruise liner to Risa, then two weeks at the – my God, seriously? – the Kuta Hotel... Isn't that the one only Ambassadors and world rulers stay at because it's like, heaps expensive? Oh! And there's a note.

"Dear Jim," he read aloud, "noting the distress of yourself and my young counterpart over the decision made by the Council, please take an opportunity on your next shore leave to 'be a stripper on Risa' – although I much suspect your bondmate will only permit private and participative performances. To facilitate that undertaking, enclosed one blue sequined jockstrap for your – his? – delectation.

"Please also inform your mate that his financial commitments to the
Rishausu t'kanlar orphanage shall be met. Should he wish to continue his Vulcan citizenship, his position on the board of said institution is confirmed. I find that as an Elder I have considerable resources at my disposal, and I can see no impediment to diverting a fraction of them to... a worthy cause.

"Herewith, details of an account in your names with the Ferengi Exchequer. The current balance stands at 3,735,459.40 credits, or 490249 bars of gold pressed latinum.

"Live long and prosper, old friend.

"Spock."


Neither of them said anything for long minutes.

"Funny," Jim commented. "I wonder if his Jim Kirk had a blue sequined jockstrap?"

For many years afterward, both of them had cause to thank the Elder Spock for the trip to Risa. It would always stay in Jim's mind as testament to the fact that he, the Captain of the Enterprise, indeed had worked and dressed as a stripper on Risa. And if there was only ever a (most appreciative) audience of one, what did it matter?

FIN

Chapter End Notes:

With thanks to CMM for the loan of the blue sequined jockstrap (first found in her stories: Stressed and Stripping https://ksarchive.com/viewstory.php?sid=6129 and Alternative to a Stripper’s life on Risa https://ksarchive.com/viewstory.php?sid=6139 ). I promise the boys had it dry cleaned before returning it!

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