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"Bones, we've got to get Spock out of here before this thing blows!" James Kirk attempted to lift part of the shuttlecraft control panel off the unconscious man.

McCoy grasped the Vulcan around the shoulders. "Maybe if I pulled him this direction... Okay, Jim. Try lifting it again."

Kirk cast a wary glance at the ominous red light, which still blinked rapidly in spite of the damage caused to it. Realizing he was running out of time, he again tried hefting the panel, this time moving it a few inches upward.

With one quick jerk, McCoy pulled the Vulcan sideways and they both toppled to the floor of the craft. The doctor took several deep breaths, wiping the perspiration off his forehead.

Kirk released the panel and it dropped onto the empty co-pilot's seat, fragments of it breaking and scattering.

"You okay, Bones?"

McCoy touched his own body, almost surprised to find that he was still in one piece. He took a deep breath, then nodded.

"Then let's get him out of here--fast!" the captain ordered.

Kirk lifted the Vulcan's shoulders and McCoy grabbed his feet. They moved swiftly out of the craft and into the hot sunlight, laying Spock on the ground, which was hard and rocky. Scattered clumps of grass surrounded them and there was not even a breeze to disturb the torrid stillness.

Kirk inclined his head toward a nearby grove of trees, which offered their only chance for safety. "We're too close. Let's take him over there. He again lifted the Vulcan, paling with the effort.

"You're in no shape to be carrying him!" the doctor protested. "You got knocked around worse than I did when we crashed! Let me..."

"No time to argue. We've got to put some distance between us and the shuttle." Kirk moved as quickly as he was able, hampered by Spock's weight. McCoy rushed ahead, trying to find the best shelter for them.

Suddenly there was an enormous explosion, then another. The ground rocked violently and the sky took on an eerie red glow. The men ducked as masses of the wreckage flew around them. Kirk dropped the Vulcan and threw himself across the unconscious man, trying to protect him.

After what seemed an eternity, the explosions ended. The doctor cast a glance toward the shuttlecraft, surprised by its thorough destruction. Nothing remained around the scorched ground but several huge pieces of jagged metal, which reflected the reddish hue of the sky.

"Jim?" he asked, shaking him gently.

Kirk slowly crawled off Spock, blood streaming down the side of his face. McCoy looked at him in alarm, then pulled out his medical scanner.

The captain wiped away some of the blood and sat up, fighting his dizziness. "It's nothing serious. Let's get Spock into the shade."

The doctor snapped off his scanner. "It's serious enough. I'll carry him." Drops of sweat beaded on his forehead and trailed down his face as he tried to lift the Vulcan.

"We'll both carry him," Kirk said determinedly.

They picked up Spock as they had before and slowly made their way to the grove of trees, carefully laying the Vulcan beneath one. McCoy ran his scanner over the Vulcan, then opened his medi-kit.

"Well, Bones?"

"The main problem is that he has a concussion--a severe one. There's pressure building on the brain and I've got to release some of it." The doctor pressed an instrument against Spock's head and began monitoring it, a concerned look on his face. Finally he sat back. "That's the best I can do under the circumstances. He's out of danger for the moment."

"He'll live?" Kirk reached out and touched the Vulcan's chest, thankful that he seemed to be breathing normally.

"Yes, but we have to keep him still and warm." McCoy gazed at the vast, dusty plain. "Wonder how cold it gets here at night?"

"Guess we'll find out soon enough--the sun is already beginning to set. I'll gather some wood for a fire." He stood up, then swayed, touching his hand to his head.

"I'll gather the wood. You have a concussion yourself, Jim--but at least it's a mild one. I want you to lie down for a while."

"Sound medical advice." Kirk did not protest, but grimaced as he stretched out beside Spock on the rocky ground.

The doctor looked puzzled for a moment. "How're we gonna start a fire without our phasers?"

"With friction. Remember your Boy Scout training? You rub two sticks together..."

"I was never a Boy Scout."

"Neither was I," Kirk shrugged, "but I rubbed a lot of sticks together when I was younger. My mother wasn't too impressed..." His words trailed off as he closed his eyes.

"Head hurt, Jim?"

"A little. You gather the firewood and I'll start the fire."

"Fine with me!" McCoy agreed, quickly rising to his feet--too quickly, as his bruised muscles rebelled.

He rubbed his aching arm, recalling how they had been thrown roughly around the craft when the ion storm hit, damaging the control system. They had managed a shaky orbit around this planet... an orbit which swiftly deteriorated. He shuddered, remembering the sight of the land rushing toward them as they plunged downward, trying for a soft landing--a nearly impossible goal with computer control gone and manual barely operational.

McCoy sighed, gazing worriedly at his two friends. It was a miracle they had survived the crash at all. What had started off to be a peaceful shore leave on Deneb 7 ended up here on some uncharted planet that seemed every bit as hot as Vulcan. He wondered how Scotty and the Enterprise would ever find them. He was no navigator, but knew they had been thrown far off course by the storm. The doctor flexed his unwilling muscles, then walked away, looking for fallen branches and dried leaves... anything burnable.

He returned a short time later, only to find the captain asleep, his arm thrown across Spock's chest. He ran his scanner over the both of them, grateful that Spock's condition appeared stable.

McCoy sighed, glancing at the pile of firewood, not having the heart to wake Kirk. Feeling like a fool, he picked up two sticks and began rubbing them together.

*****


The doctor opened his eyes, sensing the presence of the men who stood near him. The firelight revealed that the five men were dark complected, their long hair pulled back behind their ears… pointed ears, he noted with a start. And the eyebrows were slightly upswept, though not as severely as Spock's. One of the men pulled out a primitive firearm, aiming it at him.

McCoy raised his hands. "I'm unarmed," he said, glad that they'd had the foresight to insert language transponders in their wrists. He reached over and shook Kirk, keeping his eyes trained on the men.

The captain awoke groggily.

"Jim, we have company," McCoy whispered.

Kirk sat up quickly, then gasped, holding his head. The doctor touched his shoulder, asking softly, "Are you okay?"

Kirk did not reply. He raised his head and looked at the men. "Who are you?"

One of the men stepped forward. "I am Jarann. Who are you?"

"James Kirk."

"We saw the sky light with fire and the ground near you has been burned. How did you cause the great explosion?"

"We didn't. We were traveling and the explosion caught and injured us," McCoy answered, remembering the prime directive. He inclined his head toward Spock. "Our friend has been hurt and needs medical help."

"We have no use for an injured man," Jarann said flatly. He knelt down in front of Kirk. "I have never seen one who is so fair." He touched the light hair and rounded ears, then stroked his fingers across the wound. "You have also been hurt, but I am certain I can find a use for you," he said suggestively and the other men laughed.

Kirk pushed the hand away, his eyes flashing with anger. "Who the hell do you think you are? I won't...”

"You will," Jarann interrupted. He stood, signaling his men, who quickly drew and aimed their weapons. "We came to see what caused the sky to redden--and found you... a most interesting discovery! If you are travelers, you have trespassed on my brother's land."

"We didn't intend to trespass," McCoy said. "We mean no harm."

Jarann looked at him curiously. "You also are different... but not beautiful like this one. Maybe Divass will buy you."

"Buy?" Kirk flared, rising unsteadily to his feet. "Are you slave dealers?"

"Slave owners, not dealers—but I make money wherever I can. Rytarr, examine the other one."

Rytarr handed his weapon to Jarann, then bent over Spock, pulling back the eyelids. He lay his head against the Vulcan's chest, listening for a heartbeat, then began checking him for broken bones.

"This one is not so strange-looking," Rytarr stated. "I fear he is badly injured and may not have long to live." He was surprised when Spock slowly opened his eyes and looked at him with an unfocused stare.

"He awakens! Yet, I do not think he really sees me."

Jarann was thoughtful for a moment. "I will make a present of him to Getham. This man is, after all, on my brother's property." He looked at Kirk and McCoy. "You will come with us," he ordered, waving his hand toward the horses that stood tethered nearby.

"We're not going anywhere!" Kirk stood his ground, ignoring the weapons pointed at him. "If you intend to shoot us, you may as well do it now and get it over with!"

"Why would I kill you? That would be a waste," Jarann said quietly, touching Kirk's face. "I admire beauty and I know how best to enjoy it." His hand snaked down the captain's chest, coming to rest on the groin.

Kirk swung his fist, surprising Jarann and sending him sprawling. Two men immediately advanced and attacked Kirk, landing repeated brutal blows until the human fell to the ground, unconscious.

McCoy watched helplessly, a weapon pushed against his side.

"I see you are more cooperative," Jarann smiled as he stood.

"I don't seem to have much choice," the doctor said coldly, then looked toward Spock. "You can't just leave him here."

"I can and will. A message will be sent to my brother. Getham is a caring man and will, no doubt, take care of your friend," Jarann said, sarcasm in his tone. "Now, go to the horses!"

"Wait! Please." McCoy stepped over to Spock and sat down beside him. The Vulcan's eyes were open, staring blankly at the doctor. "We're going to have to go away for a while, Spock," McCoy said softly. "I want you to lie perfectly still until somebody comes for you."

Spock opened his mouth as though to speak, but no words came. His eyes drifted shut; he was too exhausted to keep them open.

McCoy rose and started to walk over to Kirk, but Jarann grabbed his arm. The doctor pushed the hand away and looked at his captor without fear. "Let me go to my friend. You've hurt him, damn it!"

"You will go to the horses. I will take care of that one." He walked over to Kirk and knelt down, running his hand the length of the human's body. "Yes, I will be happy to take care of him. Such beauty and fire--but the fire can be controlled."

Jaxann picked up the unconscious man and carried him into the darkness.

*****


Spock heard a voice softly singing. He opened his eyes slowly and blinked, trying to clear his head. With a great deal of effort, he managed to sit up a little.

He was in a large room, the breeze from the open window playing across his face and fanning the elaborately decorated sheet that covered him. Tapestries hung on the wall, strange symbols woven into them. Across the room, a young girl sat before the fireless hearth, singing as she pulled a needle through a wide piece of cloth.

She looked up, sensing that she was being watched. "You have awakened!" she cried, although Spock could not determine if she was alarmed or simply surprised. "I will get my father." She jumped to her feet and bolted from the room.

A few minutes later, a richly robed man entered the room. He was handsome, the dark silver-streaked hair pulled back behind his delicately pointed ears. The face seemed gentle and, at the same time, authoritative. He walked over to Spock and sat down, raising one upswept eyebrow.

"You have at last recovered and I am pleased." He raised his hand in a gesture strange to Spock. "I am Getham, lord of the hill lands. And you? Are you able to talk?"

"W-why am I here? I do not... remember...”

"My brother sent word that you were injured. My men found you and brought you here. Who are you? The clothing you wore was... unusual."

"I am...” Spock paused, searching his mind, but found only fog and shadows. "I do not... know. I cannot recall...”

Getham touched Spock's forehead. "There was a large wound on your head, which is now almost healed. You must have been injured during the explosion."

"Explosion?"

"I have been told that a loud noise was heard, and the sky turned an odd shade of red. When my men found you, you were near where the ground had been scorched. Strange pieces of metal were found, none like we have ever seen before."

"I was... alone?"

"Yes."

Spock frowned, a memory pushing at the back of his mind. "I believe... there were others with me."

"Jarann did not mention any others."

"Jarann?"

"My brother. He lives as a vagabond--hunting and stealing. When my father died and left me his wealth, I offered to share it, but...” Getham paused, a smile lighting his eyes. "You do not need to hear of my troubles! I will have food brought so that you may recover your strength."

"Thank you, Getham." Spock was thoughtful for a moment, then said in quiet determination, "I was not alone."

Getham reached over and gave his shoulder a gentle pat. "If that is true, I will find out. My brother always comes back to this castle when he tires of living off the land. He stays a few days, then returns to his vagrant ways. Now, I will have food brought." He rose and walked to the door, calling to a servant.

Spock wearily closed his eyes as he lay fighting to remember. There were only fleeting shadows in his memory--nothing tangible on which to focus... only the certainty that there had been others with him. Whether they were friends or enemies, he did not know.

*****


"Tell me another story about the castle, Sashan," Spock requested as he reclined on a bench in the sunny courtyard. A light breeze rustled the leaves of the trees behind him.

Lord Getham's young daughter smiled. "Most of them aren't true, you know. I like making things up!"

"I find your stories to be whimsical and amusing."

"The one about the Kylyn pups was true. Father was so angry when he found them in his bed!" She fanned out her skirt and tucked her legs beneath her, leaning back into the shade of a tree. "It is so pleasant today."

"Yes. It is pleasant and peaceful. Your father has treated me well."

"He treats everyone well... even the slaves. I've heard some masters are unkind," she frowned, twisting a lock of her coal-black hair.

"At your age, you should not worry about such things."

"I'm almost thirteen!" she returned. "I worry about a lot of things. I don't understand why people are cruel to each other." Sashan paused, then confided, "Uncle Jarann hates my father, although he has always been treated with kindness."

Spock sat up a little. "Tell me about your Uncle Jarann."

"Father wouldn't like me to talk about him. Besides, you'll meet him soon enough. He sent word that he'll be here in a few days." Sashan's face brightened as she quickly changed the subject. "Want to play a game?"

"Yesterday we played 'hide in the castle' and I could not find you," Spock pointed out.

"This is a different thing--a word game," she smiled. "You need a name, since you can't remember yours. You've been here for weeks and weeks and I still don't know what to call you!"

"Perhaps at your age, you should address me as 'sir'," Spock teased. "In actuality, I have been here 3.7 weeks."

"And you still don't have a name... sir! I'm tired of calling you 'the visitor'."

"What would you suggest I be called?"

Sashan frowned thoughtfully. "How about 'Visitarr'? It sounds right."

"It sounds like something you would conceive!" Spock mulled the idea over in his mind. "The name is acceptable to me."

"Good! Now we both have names! How about another game of 'hide in the castle'?"

Before Spock could again object, a slave walked toward them. The man bowed low from the waist. "Lord Getham requests you attend him for dinner."

Spock breathed an inward sigh of relief. "Advise Lord Getham that we will be there promptly."

"As you wish." The slave straightened, then walked away.

Spock stood up, offering a helping hand to the girl. "I believe our discussion is over for today, Lady Sashan."

She took his hand and rose gracefully. "As you wish... Visitarr," she mimicked, then laughed. "Dinner is more important than a game, any time!"

They walked together toward the castle, Spock deep in thought. He had found out little about Jarann, but there was a tenuous connection in his mind. Jarann was the one who had found him and sent a message to Getham--but there had been others with him. At night, he could almost see one of the faces, but when he awoke, the image dimmed and faded.

He shrugged, knowing there was little he could do until Jarann at last arrived and he had the opportunity to confront him. Only a few more days and the identity of the man in his dreams would possibly be revealed; and, hopefully, his own identity as well.

*****


Spock heard the horsemen approach the castle and he stared out the high window, frustrated to find that the riders were at the far side of the courtyard and he did not have a clear view. He listened intently, but even his keen hearing could pick up only scattered pieces of the conversation.

He stepped away from the window, finding it difficult to contain his exasperation. For weeks he had waited to see the man who had found him, wondering if the fleeting face he saw in his dreams would be among Jarann's party. Yet, Getham had suggested that he remain in his room, far above the courtyard, while he spoke privately to his brother. More waiting...

Spock raised an eyebrow, realizing that Getham had not specifically stated that he should remain in his room. He had merely said it would be best if he did. If he went to the first level, he should have an unobstructed view of the courtyard.

He moved back to the window. The conversation still continued, but he could not see the men. He turned and left, determined to find a place where he could observe what was occurring.

*****


Jarann dismounted, handing the reins to one of his slaves. Unlike Getham in his heavily embroidered robe, he wore rough-hewn pants and tunic. He stood, hands on hips, and stared arrogantly at his brother.

"You have brought a large group this time," Getham said, glancing at the ten freemen and eight slaves. "Are you so certain I will extend my hospitality?"

"I am sure. After all, this is my home also. I was raised here." There was a note of challenge in his voice as he glared at his brother.

If Jarann was attempting to anger him, he did not succeed. Getham was silent for a moment, then said, "I will instruct my slaves to ready your rooms. Do you wish your slaves to sleep in the stables?"

"I do not care about the others, but this one stays with me. Come here, James!"

Kirk was pulled off the horse, which he straddled sideways. He walked forward slowly, his steps made awkward by the chains which bound his ankles.

Jarann reached out and grasped him tightly around the waist. The human wore only a thin shirt, which ended mid-thigh. Kirk was sweating in the relentless heat and the shirt clung damply to his body, molding itself against him.

"Like my newest entertainment?" Jarann smiled.

"I have never been impressed with your tastes before, but I am now," Getham admitted, studying the slave. "Where did you find him?"

"What does it matter?" Jarann shrugged.

"I am curious. I have never seen such... light hair and eyes. The ears are strange, but not unattractive. If there is another like him, I would be interested."

"You're no better than your brother!" Kirk suddenly exclaimed, his face reddening.

Getham took a backward step, puzzled by the fury in the odd-colored eyes.

Jarann's glance traveled from his brother to Kirk. "Do not be alarmed. This one can be controlled," he said mildly.

"By a damned drug!" Kirk pushed Jarann away and faced him defiantly. "You're afraid to unchain me!"

"I am too smart to unchain you," Jarann said flatly. "Calm yourself or face the consequences." Kirk bit at his lip and looked away, well aware of the man's meaning. "You are mine. There will never be freedom for you," Jarann added softly, his hand stroking his slave's face.

Kirk brushed the hand away and looked at Getham. "Jarann was supposed to tell you about an injured man I was with. Did you find him?"

"You were the other one?" Getham asked in surprise. "He said he was not alone."

"You did find him?" Kirk asked, his face brightening. "Where is he, Getham? When...?"

Jarann landed a glancing blow across Kirk's face. "Will you never learn to be quiet? You do not speak to Lord Getham as though he is your equal!"

Kirk flashed a dark look at Jarann, then turned back to Getham. "Will you let me see him? I have to know...”

"Do you understand what silence is?" Jarann interrupted hotly. "I order you to be quiet!"

Getham frowned, realizing there was little he could do about the treatment of the slave--who was, after all, Jarann's property. Or was he? The slave knew Visitarr, perhaps belonged to him; but he would not confront Jarann with that possibility until he spoke first to his house guest.

Kirk tensed, knowing he should obey the order. He glanced around the large courtyard, which seemed peaceful with the scattered shade trees and wooden benches. A castle loomed over them, an imposing building constructed of stone, almost medieval in design. Kirk could almost envision knights marching from the castle, their shining armor glistening in the hot sun.

He stared at the building, realizing he was letting his imagination carry him away. For too long he had lived in a world of dreams and imagination, trying to keep his mind from the hell he had been living in. His escape attempts had failed... and he had paid dearly for them. There had been only one reason that he had continued to survive. He had to find Spock and McCoy... a determination that had kept his spirit alive. And now maybe Spock was here at this very moment, inside the castle. Even though he knew it would anger Jarann, he had to find out.

"Getham, is Spock here? I have to see him," he began, but was halted as Jarann whirled him roughly around.

"Lord Getham! And you were told to be quiet!" Jarann flared, striking a resounding blow across his slave's face.

Hampered by the chains, Kirk stumbled backward and fell. He lay still, trying to steady his breathing--unaware that his shirt had risen, leaving him exposed.

"As you can see, Getham, I have to put up with a great deal from this one--but I get much in return!" Jarann smiled, his gaze resting on the slave's genitals. He felt a certain satisfaction that his brother's eyes were focused on the same spot. So he, too, found James desirable!

"Too bad, Brother," he said, his smile widening. "He is mine!"

Getham reluctantly turned his gaze back to Jarann. "I must speak with you. The man you found is now a guest in my house. He said there were others with him. This man is one of them."

"That is of no concern to me," Jarann shrugged, still looking at Kirk. "Get up or cover yourself. I do not want to make my dear brother envious!"

Kirk sat up, still half dazed by the blow. He tried to compose himself as he pulled down the shirt. "I was with him, Lord Getham. Please let me speak to him."

"I am tired of your rebelliousness and have reached the end of my patience!" Jarann scowled. "Rytarr, you and Bryak take him inside and drug him! You know where my chambers are."



Spock stood on the first level, looking out a window, his attention riveted on the courtyard--and on the slave who was being led into the castle. He was still not near enough to get a good view of his face, but there was something in the slave's manner which seemed... familiar. When the three men disappeared inside the building, he turned his attention to Getham, who was continuing to speak quietly to his brother. Finally the horses were led away and the men entered the castle.

His thoughts again turned to the slave. A brief glimpse was not enough... he must see him more closely, talk to him. He was startled by a knock on the door.

Sashan stepped inside. "Did you see Uncle Jarann? He's mean, isn't he?"

"I saw him. How did you know where I was?"

"I always know where you are, Visitarr." She looked toward the courtyard. "My uncle was too rough with the slave. Father would not treat one of his slaves so badly."

"Where have your uncle and the others gone?"

"They'll have a big drinking party like they always do. My father lets then eat and drink, then they go to their rooms and sleep the whole next day."

"The... slave that was being mistreated--do you know where he was taken?" When Sashan nodded, Spock asked, "Will you take me to him?"

"It might make Uncle Jarann mad."

"I am not afraid of your uncle."

"You're not afraid of anyone, Visitarr!" Sashan laughed. "Come with me."

Getham opened the door before they reached it and looked at his daughter "So here you are! I thought I heard your laughter." He turned and regarded Spock. "Jarann's slave spoke of you. It is as you have said--you were not alone when Jarann found you."

"I heard him say that the slave's name is 'James' "," Sashan broke in. "It's a pretty name, isn't it? I've never heard it before."

"You have been spying again, Sashan!"

"Not spying, Father. I was just watching."

"Leave us! I will speak to you of this matter later. You must be punished."

Sashan turned to Spock, giving him a confident smile. Getham often threatened her, but never carried out his punishment. She flounced toward the door and left the room.

"James...” Spock murmured.

"Does the name seem familiar to you? He referred to you as 'Spock'."

He mulled the strange names over in his head. "I am not certain. I must see this slave. I asked Sashan to take me to his room."

"And, of course, she agreed! That daughter of mine is always getting into trouble!" Getham exclaimed, then added, "If James was with you, he must be your slave; therefore, he does not belong to Jarann."

"I must see him," Spock repeated. "Will you take me to him?"

"I will, but we must not stay long. Jarann can be difficult when he is drinking. I have enough to contend with!"

"Then it would be best if we hurried," Spock said, stepping into the hallway. "Where is... my slave?"

"In Jarann's chambers. Follow me."

They walked down the long, rambling corridor to Jarann's room. Getham pushed the door open and they entered.

The curtains were drawn and the room was shrouded in a half darkness. Kirk lay on the bed, curled into a tight ball. He appeared to be asleep, the golden hair curling with perspiration.

"Drugged," Getham muttered, picking up a cup which lay beside the bed. He glanced around at an overturned table and several broken objects scattered on the floor. "He must have put up a fight."

Spock walked over to the bed and stared silently at the slave, his mind in a turmoil. The face was the one he saw in his dreams. He was certain of that.

"He is one of those who was with you?" Getham asked.

Spock nodded, then reached out to touch the human's face. Kirk moaned, turning in his sleep.

Getham sat down at the foot of the bed, studying the drugged man. "He is very beautiful but high spirited. I wonder if he behaved so badly when he was your slave?"

"My slave...” Spock echoed.

"You must awaken him and learn of your identity. The slave holds the secrets of your past."

"Sashan said his name is James. I would prefer that you refer to him in that manner," Spock said flatly. For some reason, he felt uncomfortable with the fact that he owned this man. He gently shook Kirk, trying to rouse him. When there was no response, he shook him harder. The human's eyelids fluttered and he moaned again.

Getham ran his hand down Kirk's body. "He is overly warm. It is the drug...”

"Yes. The drug." Spock tried to control the feeling of anger that suddenly seemed to overwhelm him. Jarann had no right to treat this man so badly. He again shook the slave, calling his name.

Kirk finally managed to open his eyes, but he was disoriented and confused. He tried to focus on the Vulcan's face. "S-Spock? No... dreaming...” His eyes drifted shut.

"James, please awaken," Spock pleaded. "I know it is difficult, but please try. I must speak with you."

For a moment, Spock thought James had fallen asleep, but the slave again struggled to open his eyes. "Spock?" he asked, a disbelieving look on his face. He started to say something else, but the effort was too great. His eyes closed.

Getham left the bed and returned with a damp cloth, handing it to Spock. "Try this to awaken him, Visitarr. The water is very cold."

The Vulcan carefully lifted Kirk, laying him against his chest as he sponged the pale face. "James?"

This time Kirk did not try to open his eyes as he murmured, "McCoy... gone--have to find...” The words trailed off and Spock realized the slave did not have the strength to fight against the strong drug.

"McCoy?" he asked. "James, who is McCoy?" He shook him again, but there was no response.

Suddenly the door was flung open and Jarann strode into the room. His puzzled expression quickly changed to a look of fury.

"Why are you in my room, Getham--and what is he doing to my slave?"

"Calm yourself, my brother," Getham said quietly. "You are drunk."

"Not yet!" he spat, his hands clenching into fists. "How fortunate that I decided to check on James! I thought my men might have been too rough with him."

Spock released Kirk, laying him back down on the bed. He stood, not trying to disguise his anger. "They were rough on him," he said coldly.

For the first time, Jarann noticed the disarray of the room. He tensed, taking a step forward. "Has he been injured?"

"No," Getham replied. "But he is deeply drugged. We could not fully awaken him."

"I know your face!" Jarann said, glaring at Spock.

"He is the one you left to die...” Getham began, but his brother interrupted him, his attention on Spock.

"You do not look very dead to me! I was the one who informed Getham that you were injured--and you repay my kindness by entering my chambers and trying to take my slave?" Before either man could reply, he turned to his brother, the dark eyes flashing with outrage. "That's it, isn't it, Getham? You want my slave! You could never stand it when I had something better than you had!"

"Jarann, listen to me...”

"I will not listen, Getham! You have entered my room without permission, something you have never done before!" The heated words were an accusation.

Getham stood rigidly, wondering how best to handle his brother. When Jarann had been drinking, there was no way to reason with him. He touched his brother's shoulder lightly and said in a soothing voice, "I must apologize for not requesting permission to enter your room. Visitarr realized he knew this man and wanted to see him." He paused, then continued hesitantly, "The slave does not belong to you. Visitarr...”

"He is mine! I will hear no more!" Jarann shouted, pushing his brother roughly aside. He strode to the bed and glanced down at Kirk, who appeared to be sleeping peacefully. Only his irregular breathing attested to the fact that he was heavily drugged.

Finally he turned back to the other men and commanded, "You will leave!"

"Not until I have spoken to you," Spock said, taking a step toward him.

Jarann again balled his fists, but managed to ask calmly enough, "Getham, do you no longer allow me privacy in my own room? Do you take that from me, also?"

Getham was thoughtful for a moment, then said quietly, "I did not intend to violate your privacy, Brother. I will speak with you tomorrow, when you are in a more reasonable frame of mind." He nodded to Spock to follow him, then left the room.

The Vulcan cast a concerned look at Kirk, but realized he had no choice but to obey his host's orders and leave. He quickly caught up with Getham.

"I do not wish for James to remain with Jarann," Spock stated, a troubled expression on his face.

"It would be best to wait until tomorrow to tell him of your claim to James. When he is sober, we can reason with him. " He took Spock by the arm, leading him down the corridor. "Besides, James has been with Jarann many weeks. What will one more night matter? My brother will not harm him.”

"James has already been harmed!" The Vulcan said sharply, then headed toward his room.

Spock slept little that night. He tossed fitfully, sometimes falling into a restless sleep. The dream returned and Spock saw James' face with clarity for the first time.

Several times he walked toward the door, determined to go to Jarann's room and take James from him. Each time he hesitated, knowing it was something he dare not do. Getham had been kind to him and he owed much to his benefactor. He knew that Getham and his brother shared an uneasy peace, one that could be quickly disrupted--and it would be disturbed if he blatantly charged into Jarann's room and took James.

Feeling totally helpless, Spock sank down into a chair. No matter what the cost, he would have James again. Getham must make his brother understand that James was his. And if Jarann refused, then trouble would come to this household. He must have James back.

Spock finally fell asleep, but his eyes shot open as the first rays of dawn broke through the window. He bolted from the chair and headed toward Getham's room, practically dragging the man from his bed.

When they reached Jarann's chambers, they found them empty. Jarann and his men had quietly vanished sometime during the night, taking James with them.

*****


Getham looked at Spock in bewilderment, his breakfast forgotten. In all the weeks he had known this man, he had never seen him angry--not until this morning, when Visitarr had found that Jarann had left with the slave. Visitarr had been furious as he demanded to know where James had been taken. Realizing there was little he could do about the slave's abduction, he had ordered his house guest to calm himself, then left. Getham was by nature a quiet, studious man who wanted no discord in his life.

He spoke in a well-modulated voice. "Please sit down, Visitarr, and listen to me. I repeat, I do not know where my brother has gone, nor did he tell me that he was leaving. There has been bitterness between us since my father died and left his wealth to me, his first-born son." Getham's dark eyes were clouded with remembrance as he trailed his finger lightly across the edge of the table. "He is not the kind of a man who could accept such a decision; yet, he would never have remained here as lord of these lands. The wanderlust was strong in him, something my father recognized. My brother left and I did not see him for nearly a year."

Spock reluctantly sat down at the dining table, his tension evident in the lines of his body and the impatient look he cast Getham's way. He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted.

"I have tried to make peace with him, offering him a refuge here--which he now accepts as part of his right." Getham's head was averted as he stared blankly at the window, not noticing the outrage building in the other man. "Jarann and his band of men roam the countryside, living off the land. They steal for money and fight for pleasure. It is Jarann's way."

Spock did not try to control his temper as he said icily, "I do not care about your brother's 'ways'. I want to know where he has taken James!"

"I said I do not know!" Getham flared, hitting the table with his fists. He became silent, surprised by his own outburst. He picked up a cup of juice and drank a few sips, watching Visitarr over the rim. His house guest's face was a mask of rage and the dark eyes seemed to smolder.

"I apologize for shouting," Getham said, setting the cup down. "I know it must be difficult for you to find your slave and then lose him again--especially when he holds the key to your past. I will help you all I can, but there is no easy way to locate Jarann. Last night's rain covered any tracks."

It took a moment for Spock to compose himself, realizing he was directing his anger toward the wrong man. It was Jarann he must confront. He took a steadying breath and met the eyes of his host. "Getham, if you would provide me with a horse...”

"What? Do you intend to ride into Jarann's encampment and take James from him?"

"I will take back that which is mine. You said yourself that Jarann can be a reasonable man when he is sober, and when I explain that I am the one who owns James...."

Getham shook his head. "I saw the way Jarann looked at the slave. He will not care if an injustice has been done. He wants that one."

Spock steepled his fingers. "If there is no way to reason with him, I will use force." He instinctively knew that he probably would have little choice. He had also seen the way Jarann looked at James.

"There are usually twenty to thirty freemen in Jarann's camp. How do you--one lone man--intend to 'force' him?" Getham looked away, pursing his lips. "There may be another way. If he was offered money...”

Spock's eyebrows rose. "Do you believe he would sell James to me?"

"I am doubtful, but there is a chance. Jarann only comes to the castle when tines have been bad for him and he is low on provisions... and he left last night without taking any food or clothing. Apparently, he came in need but was too angry to take what was offered."

"You are suggesting that he is destitute?"

"No not destitute; but he has sold his slaves before... and you have a prior claim on James. Perhaps the combination of money and justice will influence him. However, Jarann is in his realm now, not in my castle, and I have no authority over him." Getham paused, then said softly, "He has no right to your slave. I should have been firmer with him last night, but it is... difficult. I will provide you with, hopefully, enough money to purchase James. I am at fault--and there is little else I can do."

Spock's face softened, knowing that there would never be a way to repay this man--and also aware that no repayment would be expected. "The fault is not yours, but I thank you for your generosity. Under the circumstances, I have little choice but to accept. If you will provide me with a horse," he requested, rising from the table.

"Go to the larder and provision yourself with enough food and water for a long journey," Getham said, also standing. "You have not left this castle and have no idea of how vast the plains lands are. There are many groups of men who chose to live in the way Jarann does, and not all of these groups are... friendly. You must arm yourself."

Spock nodded. "I will, Getham."

"Your journey may be lengthy as well as dangerous. Jarann's camp will not be easy to find." Getham's voice was full of concern as he added, "My brother must not be injured."

"I understand," Spock said tersely, unable to promise that Jarann would come to no harm.

*****


Jarann and ten of his men rode into the camp. He dismounted swiftly, flinging a satchel toward Rytarr.

"The hunt was profitable!" he laughed. "Drii's men did not put up much of a fight!" He handed the reins of a slave. When Drii returns to his camp, he will be surprised to find that some of his possessions are now in my hands.

Rytarr opened the satchel and peered inside. "Jewelry?" He took out a ring and bounced it in his hand. "I wonder where he got this?"

"He robs someone and I rob him," Jarann shrugged, then looked toward the tent. "My slave is inside?"

"Yes. I have guarded him well." Rytarr's face broke into a grin. "He tried to bribe me into taking him to Getham's castle!"

"Bribe you? With what?" When Rytarr reddened, Jarann said sharply, "I see!" He glanced toward the tent, frowning. "I have been gone for four days--and I desire my pleasure. Let no man interrupt us."

Jarann had taken only a couple of steps toward the tent when a slave rushed toward the men, pointing toward the setting sun. A rider was approaching their encampment.

"Could it be Drii?" Rytarr asked in alarm.

Jarann shook his head. "Drii is away in town. It will probably be weeks before he returns and finds out what I have done! Besides, he would not be foolish enough to come here alone."

The other men in the camp had also noted the rider's approach and some had pulled out weapons.

Jarann walked to the center of the group. "I do not think one man is much of a threat. Put your firearms away--but keep them ready." He stood waiting, hands on hips.

Several minutes later, Spock entered the encampment and dismounted, throwing back the hood of his light robe in an almost theatrical gesture. A slave quickly moved toward him and took the reins, leading his horse away.

The Vulcan silently studied the group. There were about twenty-two freemen and thirteen slaves. All of the men had dark coloring and some of their features were almost swarthy. The freemen were a tall, well-muscled group and, as he glanced at Jarann, he understood that this man was far stronger than James and could easily hurt his slave. Anxiety began to tear at him, a fear that grew stronger when he saw that James was not among the others.

"You!" Jarann exclaimed. "You are the one called Visitarr. Why have your left my brother's safe keeping?"

Spock held the man's gaze as he said quietly, "I came to speak with you about James. You left the castle before I had the opportunity to talk with you."

"So my slave still concerns you? I have no desire to speak to you about him." Jarann straightened, a commanding look on his face. "Perhaps it would be best if you returned to Getham. I have no time to waste in idle conversation."

"Getham said you would offer me the hospitality of your camp. Was he wrong?" The words were a challenge.

For the briefest of moments, a spark of anger passed across Jarann's face; yet, when he spoke he seemed calm. "My manners are as good as Getham's--and I know how to treat visitors. We have just returned to camp and are tired and hungry. And you?"

"It has taken me eight days to locate you. I would appreciate it if you allowed me to share your food... and company."

Jarann glanced briefly toward the tent, then back at Spock. "Very well. I had... other plans, but they can wait." He looked toward his men. "We will eat now. Come."

Jarann led Spock to the center of the camp where a huge kettle was simmering over an open fire. He sat down, motioning the others to join him.

Spock seated himself, trying to find a comfortable position on the rocky ground, then looked around, taking the time to study the encampment. The twenty-five tents were arranged in a random pattern and were all constructed of animal hide, the color identical to the clothing the men wore. There were no structures of any permanence, and even the corral for the horses seemed to be have been quickly thrown together.

Spock recognized that at a moment's notice, the camp could be removed and the men would vanish like specters into the night. Suddenly chilled, he pulled his robe tighter--although he realized that it was not just the cold night air that caused this chill. Tomorrow these men night be gone... and James with them.

He watched as three slaves distributed the food, giving each man a large cup of the thick, rich stew. Spock took several sips, then realized he was not as hungry as he had thought. He set the cup down and looked at Jarann asking bluntly, "Where is James?"

Jarann made no reply as he finished his cup of stew. He got to his feet, brushing off the back of his worn pants. "He is not your concern," he said stiffly, then turned to one of the slaves. "Bring us ale, fool! Have you forgotten your training?"

The slave bowed and moved quickly over to a barrel, filling several flagons with a dark liquor. He offered the first one to the new arrival, but the Vulcan shook his head.

"James is my concern," Spock began, determined to make Jarann see reason. "When I was injured, I lost my memory. Only when I saw James did I recognize him as the man I was with. He is my property... my slave."

"You are wrong. I remember well the night we found the three of you--the night of the great fire. James was worried about you, but not as a slave worries about his master."

"That tells me little. Has he spoken of me?"

"No... never," Jarann lied. "If he had another master, why would he not tell me?" He walked away from Spock and sat down nearer to the fire. The night air was becoming increasingly colder.

"He belongs to me and I wish him returned. I am willing to pay for him." Spock took a pouch from inside his cloak. "Thirty drammits--the price of a valuable slave."

Even in the rapidly approaching darkness, he could see the fury on Jarann's face.

"You offer me drammits for James? And where did you get them--from my brother?" he snarled, then took a deep breath, trying to control his temper. "James belongs to me--and he is not for sale. We will speak no further of the matter. I offer you shelter for tonight. Tomorrow you must leave."

"I will not leave until I have seen James." There was something in the way Spock sat that made him seem as immovable as a mountain and, at that moment, he was.

Jarann glowered at the visitor's rudeness, then a calculating look appeared on his face. "You wish to see him? Very well, I will let you. Rytarr, bring him to me."

Rytarr got up and strode toward the largest tent, then entered. There was scattered conversation around the fire as Spock waited, but he knew the men were surreptitiously watching him, wondering what he would do. He had made his claim and Jarann had refused.

The conversation suddenly ceased when James was pushed down next to Jarann. He still wore only a thin shirt, although not the same one he had worn at the castle. His legs were bare and he was shoeless, the chains still binding his ankles. The icy breeze made him shiver and he kept his gaze fixed on Jarann, refusing to look at the other men.

Spock started to stand and call out to him, but Rytarr raised his arm in a threatening gesture. "You will wait and watch," he ordered in a low voice, lifting a weapon.

Jarann put an arm around Kirk and pulled him close. "You are very cold but the fire will warm you." He smiled as his hand moved up and down the naked thigh. "Actually, there are many ways to warm you. I will try some of them tonight!"

The other men began to laugh, but Kirk still did not look at them. Instead he turned his attention to the fire, his mouth forming into a rigid line.

"You are very quiet. Are you so happy to see me that you cannot find the words to express yourself?" Jarann teased.

For the first time, Kirk spoke. "I want to return to Getham's castle and see Spock. And I want you to tell me where McCoy is."

"So, you start with your demands again!" Jarann growled, grasping Kirk's shoulders in a bruising grip.

In spite of the fact that he was endangering himself, the Vulcan swiftly stood. "You will remove your hands from him!" he nearly shouted, ignoring Rytarr. His eyes were fastened on the human.

Kirk turned at the sound of the voice, a smile brightening his face. "Spock!" he cried, starting to rise. Jarann pulled him back down.

For a moment, he glared at the visitor, then said in a scalding tone, "Do you dare to give me orders, Visitarr--or Spock, whoever you are? I think not. You will sit quietly by the fire and observe. Correct, Rytarr?"

"Correct." Rytarr motioned and two other men drew their weapons, leveling them at Spock. The Vulcan was shoved backward and forced to sit down, an armed man on either side of him. Rytarr stood behind him, firmly holding his shoulders.

Kirk's eyes widened in alarm, "Call your men off him! He's done nothing..."

"But he would like to do something, James... take you from me. I will show him why he cannot." Jarann held Kirk tightly as he murmured, "It has been too long since I have taken you." He pressed his mouth hard against his slave's, while his hand slid across the golden thigh, coming to rest on the genitals.

Kirk pushed himself away, trying to move his body out of Jarann's reach. "God damn you! Keep your hands off me!"

"You will not talk to me like that!" Jarann flared, grabbing his slave and, with amazing strength, flipping him onto his stomach. He raised the shirt, sliding his hand into the tight crevice as he whispered in Kirk's ear, "Shall I take you in front of him? He says you are his. I will prove to him that you are not." He fondled the rounded buttocks, then turned the slave onto his back, lifting the shirt to the nipples.

The hazel eyes sparkled with fury. Bound as he was, he had no chance against the stronger man--except by words. "I don't belong to any man, including you! I'm free."

Jarann touched the chains. "You do not look 'free' to me."

Kirk sat up, meeting Jarann's eyes. "You can chain the body, but not the mind. I am free... more free than you!"

"Another lecture, James? This is not the time for it." He pressed his lips against the slave's mouth as his fingers again caressed the genitals. Kirk pushed at him, struggling to pull away, but it only excited Jarann more. His hand began to rapidly stroke the cock.

"Release him, Jarann!" Spock commanded. Even in the firelight, his face was white with rage as he brushed Rytarr's hands away and stood, paying no attention to the weapons trained on him. He took a step forward.

"Stop!" Jarann turned Kirk onto his side, taking the slave's arm and shoving it upward behind his back. Kirk grimaced with pain but refused to cry out. "You would not want to see 'your' slave hurt, would you? It would be easy to break his arm." He pushed harder and Kirk bit at his lower lip until it began to bleed.

Two more men surrounded Spock and he was forced once again to the ground, where he watched helplessly.

"That's better!" Jarann smiled. "Sit back and enjoy it, Visitarr. See how gently I can treat my slave." He released Kirk's arm and his hand began moving across the human's body, stroking him tenderly. "It excites me, knowing he is watching us, James. Does it excite you?"

The Vulcan swallowed hard, stimulated by the sight of James' naked body. Suddenly aware of his own arousal, he placed his hands on his lap, trying to conceal his burning need. He sat quietly, afraid to speak--frightened that if he did, Jarann would harm James further.

"Damn you! You're not going to do this! Not in front of him!" Kirk raged, sitting up. He suddenly struck out, surprising Jarann, who found himself awkwardly sprawled on the ground.

During the minute it took him to recover, two men rushed over to the slave and held him down. Jarann got to his feet, trembling with fury.

"I will take no more of this! I am tired and do not wish to put up with your defiance tonight. Rytarr, drug him!"

Rytarr disappeared inside Jarann's tent. He returned with an animal-skin pouch and poured some of the contents into a cup. He motioned to the men who held Kirk and they roughly pulled his head back, forcing his mouth open.

"Hold his nose so that he may not breathe," Rytarr ordered, pouring some of the drugged wine into Kirk's mouth. The human choked as he tried to fight them off, but Rytarr was efficient and the cup was soon emptied.

Several minutes passed before Jarann commanded, "Give him more!"

Rytarr looked surprised. "The drug is already taking effect. Another cup may be too strong."

"That is for me to decide! Give him more of the drug. He has earned this punishment!"

Spock again tried to stand, but strong arms held him down--and a firearm touched his cheek. He watched as Rytarr forced the slave to drink another cup... and this time, James was too weakened by the drug's effect to struggle.

"Release him!" Kirk fell forward and Jarann knelt beside the slave, maneuvering him to a sitting position. He lay Kirk's head against his chest and brushed back some hair from the already feverish forehead. "Now I will take you... and you will not fight," he said softly. Jarann glanced at Spock, whose face was pale and strained in the firelight, then back at Kirk. "It seems important to you that he does not watch us. I will be kind and honor your wish." He turned to Rytarr. "Carry him into my tent."

Rytarr bent down and effortlessly picked up the barely conscious slave. He worried that James had been given too much of the drug, but there was little that could be done about it now. He gently carried him toward the tent.

Jarann walked over to Spock and looked at him arrogantly. "You see... he is mine--to do with as I wish. As for you, Visitarr--you will still be given shelter for the night, but guards will be posted outside your tent. I warn you not to stray." He gestured at two of the men, who got Spock to his feet. "Tomorrow you will return to Getham and tell him that I treated you with more courtesy than you deserved. You will also tell him that I did not accept his bribe of thirty drammits!"

Jarann turned abruptly and walked toward his tent while the two men led Spock away, weapons brushing against his back.

*****


Spock moaned as he writhed on the floor of the tent, holding his stomach.

"Bryak, come in here!" the guard inside the tent called. Bryak entered and stared silently at the suffering man.

"We must tell Jarann that something is wrong with him!"

"The... stew...” Spock gasped. "I am... ill."

Bryak bent over him, his lips pursed.

"I must... relieve myself... but I do not think I... can stand," Spock continued, his body curled into a tight ball.

"We will help you," Bryak said. He and the other man urged Spock to his feet, trying to steady him. The Vulcan's hands quickly moved to their necks and they dropped to the floor, unconscious.

Spock removed their weapons, then walked cautiously from the tent. The fire had died an hour ago, but he could see through the darkness well enough to observe that no others were present--not even the slaves. He had waited to make his escape until he was certain the others would be sleeping. He moved soundlessly toward the largest tent, then entered.

The inside of the tent was vaguely illuminated by a small lamp. Kirk lay naked on top of an animal hide, Jarann's arm thrown over him. The slave's ankle was now chained to the other man's. Apparently, Jarann took no chances.

Spock moved to the human's side, touching the burning face. Perspiration coated the slave's body and his hair was damp and curling.

"James," he said softly, shaking him, not surprised to find there was no response.

"Wh-what?" Jarann asked in confusion, opening his eyes. He quickly came to awareness and sat up, glowering at the Vulcan. "Why are you here?"

"To take back what is mine." Spock pointed a firearm at Jarann's face. "Where is the key to release the chains?"

"You think I would answer? I do not fear you!"

"You should," Spock said levelly, letting his anger show. "You have stolen from me... and the punishment for theft is death. If you do not wish to die, you will tell me the location of the key."

Jarann was silent, meeting the other man's gaze. There was something in Visitarr's face that told him he had pushed that man to the limit... and now he was extremely dangerous. He pointed to a satchel which lay to one side of the tent.

Spock took backward steps, never taking his eyes off Jarann. He bent down and felt inside the satchel, the other hand keeping the weapon aimed. When he had found the key, he walked back and knelt beside their chained feet.

"Lie down, Jarann--and do not move."

Jarann did as ordered and the chains were quickly released. Spock stood, glaring down at him.

"Now what?" Jarann asked. "Do you kill me?"

Spock allowed his mouth to form into a menacing grin. "There are other methods of dealing with you."

"What do you mean?"

The Vulcan picked up an animal-skin pouch and sniffed it, then poured some of the contents into a cup. "This is what you gave James to drink. You will also drink it." He thrust the cup into Jarann's hand, keeping his firearm raised.

Jarann sat up, putting the cup to his mouth, then hesitated.

"Now!" Spock said sharply. "Drink it quickly!"

Jarann drained the cup and flung it down.

"James was given two cups... and you will have the same." Spock picked it up and refilled it, handing it back to Jarann.

"Getham will hear of this!" the man threatened. "The drug will make me ill!"

"No more ill than James will be," the Vulcan stated, venom in his tone.

Jarann started to put the cup to his mouth, but the effort suddenly seemed too great. "I c-can't... I...” His words trailed off as he felt the lethargy creep over his body.

"I will be happy to assist you," Spock said, opening the man's mouth and slowly pouring the contents inside. He stood waiting, until Jarann lost consciousness, his hands lying limply at his side.

Spock quickly turned his attention to the slave. "James, wake up," he ordered as he shook him. "Getham's castle is but a few hours' ride from here. You will be safe there. Getham has promised it."

Kirk lay very still, breathing raggedly, his face flushed, and Spock realized he was too deeply drugged to awaken. He walked to one side of the tent and rummaged through a pile of clothing, then returned and carefully dressed him. He wrapped the slave in his cloak and carried him from the tent.

*****


Kirk tried to fight off the terrible dreams, but he had no strength and his body... was on fire. He tossed fitfully, feeling a wet cloth touch his face. He struggled to push it away, knowing it was Jarann it must be Jarann... Suddenly the fire seemed stronger and his body convulsed with pain. Someone called his name... but the voice sounded so far away. He drifted back into the nightmare as his body writhed in torment.

Hours later, Kirk lay on his side, attempting to open his eyes. The pain was gone, but he felt incredibly weak. With a great deal of effort, his eyes opened and he stared, disoriented, at the sunlit room—unable to fathom where he was. He remembered Jarann and the drug... and Spock...

The bed shifted with another's weight and he managed to turn onto his back, meeting the Vulcan's worried gaze.

"S-Spock? How...?"

"You have been delirious, but are now recovering." The Vulcan took his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "How do you feel?"

"Not... very strong at the moment."

"It has been a long time since you have eaten. I will send for food."

Kirk shook his head. "I don't think I can eat anything. I feel a little... nauseous."

"The result of a very potent drug."

"Where are we? Where's Jarann?"

"We are at Getham's castle, where he has given you sanctuary. As for Jarann--he is still at his camp... feeling unwell, if my guess is correct."

Kirk sat up a little, the Vulcan helping him. "Well, we're finally together. Now all we have to do is find McCoy."

"McCoy?"

"Jarann sold him shortly after we arrived in his camp. I don't know who bought him. Jarann... wouldn't tell me."

"McCoy," Spock said thoughtfully. "An unfamiliar name. Do I know this man?"

"Know him? Spock, what's the matter with you?"

The Vulcan raised an eyebrow. "My name is Spock?"

"Of course it is! Don't you remember?"

"I have suffered a loss of memory--but I do recall you."

Kirk was thoughtful for a moment, biting at his lower lip. "The concussion! Damn! McCoy didn't say anything about...”

"McCoy? Again you mention him."

"You've forgotten everything, Spock? Even the ship?"

"I do not understand what you are talking about."

The room was very still, the heat intense. Kirk pushed the sheet off and sat forward a little, wrapping his arms around his knees--paying no attention to the fact that he was naked. His voice was filled with pain as he asked, almost to himself, "What kind of hell have you been going through, Spock?"

"My life has been quite... comfortable." He stroked his hand down the human's back. "I am sorry for what you have suffered... and that I did not find you sooner."

"Never mind me. How are you going to get your memory back?" Kirk frowned. "Amnesia can be pretty tricky. I wish we had McCoy here."

The Vulcan began to massage Kirk's tense shoulders. "Are you feeling stronger now?"

"Yeah, I guess so. It takes a while for the drug to work itself out of my system."

"How many times have you been drugged?"

"Too many," Kirk said flatly, then quickly changed the subject. "What's the first thing you can remember? The crash?"

"You are the first... and last... thing I remember." He put his arm around Kirk's waist, pulling the human against him in a light embrace. "I know only that I have missed you... and have need of you now... if you are strong enough."

Kirk paled. "Need of me? What are you saying, Spock?"

"We have much time to speak of my past. Now, I claim my right to you," the Vulcan whispered, his hand parting Kirk's legs. "You belong to me, James--not to Jarann."

"I belong... ? Shit!" Kirk flared. "Who do you think I am... your slave?"

"Precisely, and we shall pleasure one another." His hand began to stroke the warm balls. "When I saw Jarann touch you... I could not control--I desired you so." He began to caress Kirk's penis.

"Spock, you're not thinking straight! You can't really want to screw me?"

"Screw? An interesting, though appropriate, term." Spock got to his feet and stripped off his robe. He stood, his erection throbbing. "I must have you now, James."

Kirk stared at the hardness, then at his own cock, realizing he had responded to Spock's stimulation. He reddened. "You're acting like you're... in heat! I'm your captain, damn it! You're my first officer, assigned to...”

"Your statement makes little sense to me. We can speak of it later." Spock gently pushed Kirk's shoulders down until he lay flat on his back. He stretched out beside him, manipulating the human's shaft, as he whispered, "In heat? Yes... I am in heat. Your body excites me."

"Spock, that doesn't sound like... something you'd say! You're not yourself! You...” Kirk writhed beneath the touch, his cock becoming engorged as the Vulcan caressed it. "We can't do this, Spock!" He took a deep breath, his face brightening with realization. "Can it be the... Pon Farr? Have you been... feverish?"

"Feverish with desire for you... since the first time I saw you in Jarann's chambers. I dreamed of having you this near...” His words trailed off as he bent to lick an already erect nipple.

Kirk's mind was in a turmoil, wondering if Spock was experiencing the first stages of the blood fever... or if it was the fact that he had lost his memory--and all his Vulcan controls. He gasped as his shaft was taken into the hot mouth and he thrust forward in an automatic response.

Spock released the cock, then smiled as he lay back beside the human. "Your body does not protest. Why do you?"

"You're smiling!" Kirk exclaimed in bewilderment. "Spock, I don't know what the hell is going on, but this isn't right!"

"Isn't it?" The Vulcan took Kirk's hand and placed it on his erection. "Feel how swollen I am with need. I must have you, James."

Kirk had never seen Spock's face so open, so full of desire. He moved his hand away. "I'm going to confess something to you, Spock. I've thought about you... sexually plenty of times. I hoped maybe someday... but not this way! Maybe when you're whole again...”

Kirk stopped speaking as the Vulcan pressed their mouths together, his tongue darting inside. He flung his leg over Kirk's hip, causing the straining cocks to meet, then reached down and stroked the human's hardness.

"No...” Kirk whispered, but his protest did not have much force. He was too aroused to think clearly and his body suddenly seemed weak and vulnerable. He was uncertain if it was due to the intense stimulation or to the after effects of the drug... or even if it mattered any longer. He was too greatly aroused and his body screamed for release.

Spock got to his knees, positioning himself between the well-muscled thighs. He wet his hand with saliva, then moistened his shaft in a slow, erotic movement.

Unable to turn his gaze from the sight, Kirk began to realize how much he wanted and needed the Vulcan... and that the need was shared. Each time Jarann had taken him, he had mentally retreated, imagining himself in Spock's arms, not Jarann's. And now it was reality. He watched Spock from beneath his thick lashes, feeling powerless--yearning for the feel of the Vulcan's cock inside him.

"You no longer object?" Spock asked with a hint of amusement.

"I have plenty of objections, but right now I don't give a shit!" Kirk admitted, thrusting his hips forward to meet the rigid cock.

Spock slowly inserted himself as he continued to stroke Kirk's hardness. He smiled, pleased that his slave was so responsive. He began to thrust as Kirk moved his hips in rhythm to the gentle stroking--strokes that became less gentle as he plunged forcefully inside, no longer able to control. On the verge of climax, Spock's hand automatically sought the meld position. They cried out together as they came, their orgasms intensified by the mind touch.

Spock suddenly froze in position, his fingers still on the human's face.

"What... ?" Kirk asked in alarm, noticing how pale the Vulcan had become.

Spock slowly withdrew, removing his hand from the human's face. "Jim? What have I done?" he cried, then collapsed on the bed, trembling. His eyes closed and he sank into blackness.

*****


"I do not understand why he does not awaken," Getham said worriedly, looking at the unconscious man. "If you have harmed him, you will be punished, slave!"

Kirk stared blankly out the window. He wore Spock's robe and it was too big for him, making him appear fragile in the faint light of the setting sun. He turned to face Getham, his face tense and strained. "I don't really know... what happened to him. Maybe his memory was forced to return too quickly or... maybe...”

"Visitarr lies unconscious and my brother is probably furious with me. You have brought much trouble into my life, James!"

Kirk moved away from the window and sat down on the bed, gently running his hand across Spock's face. "Do you have a healer here, Getham?"

"I have a healer, but he has gone into town. It is a four-day ride to the city...”

"I see." Kirk sounded tired and depressed.

Getham took the time to really look at the slave. He had been too concerned with Visitarr to pay the man much attention, but now he realized that the slave seemed ill. The strangely colored eyes appeared overly large in the tormented face.

"Are you unwell?" he asked. He glanced around the room, noticing that there were no empty food trays. "Have you eaten?"

"Is there no other healer nearby?" Kirk asked, ignoring the question.

"There is no 'nearby'. We are isolated here."

"Great," the human muttered, then looked at Getham, his face dark with worry. "I don't know how to help him! God, I shouldn't have let him...” Kirk jumped from the bed and began to agitatedly pace the floor.

Getham frowned, knowing he had another problem on his hands. He went to the door and called to a servant, then walked to Kirk's side.

"Sit down!" he ordered, taking the slave's arm and leading him to a chair. "You are making yourself frantic with worry. Visitarr may only be in a deep sleep."

"It's more than just a deep sleep! I can't wake him up!"

Getham gently pushed him down into the chair. "Sit still and be silent. You must get control of yourself."

Kirk quieted immediately, realizing that what Getham said was true. He felt like he was about to explode... and his anger wouldn't help his friend. He had to calm himself and think rationally--forget for the moment what he had done to Spock...

"I have sent for food and clothing. You will be taken to the lower floor, where you will bathe."

"I can't leave Spock now!"

"You must. The warm water will be soothing to you. You are too upset to think clearly now. I will watch over him."

Suddenly Sashan burst into the room, halting at the foot of Spock's bed. She turned to her father, her expression troubled. "I heard Visitarr is sick. What is the matter with him?"

"He is only sleeping, child. Do not be concerned." His voice became less gentle as he added, "You should not enter private rooms without knocking."

"I know... but I was so worried." She stared at the slave, then walked over to him. "You are the one called James. I find the name pretty... and musical."

Kirk smiled at her and she felt her breath catch in her throat. No wonder Visitarr wanted this slave so badly--he really was beautiful!

Getham noticed her interest in the slave and sighed inwardly. Yes James was definitely trouble...

"Father, may I stay with Visitarr a little while--until he awakens? I have missed him."

"You're his friend?" Kirk asked softly.

"Yes. I tell him stories and make him smile. We play games, too."

"That doesn't sound like Spock... but I'm glad he found someone like you for a friend." Kirk turned away, wondering again what had happened to the Vulcan--smiling, playing games and...

Sashan thought of Uncle Jarann, remembering that he owned this man and that he could be cruel. She touched the slave lightly on the shoulder. "I could be your friend, too."

"Sashan!" Getham admonished.

Kirk gave her a quiet smile. "Thank you, Sashan. I'd like that."

When their eyes met, she felt her heart skip a beat. Hearing the door open, she reluctantly turned her head away.

Two servants entered the room, one carrying food, the other clothing. Both seemed nervous.

"Master Getham, your brother has just arrived. He is in the main room and says he must speak to you."

"Very well. Tell him I will attend him in a few minutes." The servants bowed and left.

Kirk got to his feet. "I'm going with you."

Getham was startled. "You make a demand? Do not forget that you are a slave!"

Kirk flushed. "I have to see Jarann. I don't want him to think I'm hiding, afraid of him! Besides, I need to find out something. He sold a friend of mine, and I have to find out where he is."

"I hardly think Jarann believes you fear him. As to your friend...” Getham shrugged. "Maybe it would be best if you accompanied me. You seem to be the focus of our recent problems."

"I can stay with Visitarr," Sashan offered. "I'll take good care of him."

"You may stay," he agreed, then turned to Kirk. "As for you, you must first eat and then get dressed."

"But Jarann's waiting...”

Getham pointed toward the food. "Eat now. Jarann can wait a little longer."

*****


"So, Getham--both you and my slave honor me with your presence!" Jarann observed sarcastically. "Where is the other one?"

"Visitarr has fallen ill."

"Pity," Jarann grinned. "I hope he is as ill as he made me! Your 'guest' forced me to drink some drugged wine!"

"It seems a fitting enough punishment." Getham's voice held a trace of amusement.

"Punishment? For what? He stole my slave!"

"I'm not your slave," Kirk said quietly.

Getham took a step forward. "What James says is true. He belonged to Visitarr when you took him. I have should have been more forceful with you when you were last here. It is against our laws to steal another man's slave."

"Visitarr has lied to you! James does not belong to him!"

Getham turned to the slave. "Well, James?"

Kirk hesitated for a moment, then said, "We've always belonged together."

"That settles the matter, Jarann. You do not own him... and you never truly did."

"You are giving him protection?" Jarann regarded his brother coldly, waiting for him to back down.

Getham knew he had failed Visitarr before when he had not stood up to his brother, but he would not make that mistake again. "As long as James is in this castle or on my lands, I offer him protection and sanctuary. It is my right."

At first Jarann seemed surprised by his brother's temerity, then became thoughtful. It was in Getham's power to provide sanctuary and there was little he could do about it. Still, James could not hide here forever.

He stepped so close to Kirk that they were almost touching and promised softly, "I will own you again."

"You never 'owned' me. You may have kept me in chains, but I never belonged to you!" Kirk's head was held high, and the hazel eyes flashed.

"Still so much spirit. In a way, I am glad I could never tame you." Jarann looked at his brother. "I respect your sanctuary, Getham--but should he ever leave this castle... or your lands... I will take him."

"There is no reason for him to leave."

"I think there is." Jarann smiled knowingly at Kirk. "How many times have you asked about the slave I sold? Now I will tell you where he is." He paused dramatically, then revealed, "I sold him to a merchant in town."

Kirk's face was full of hope as he asked, "What's the merchant's name?"

Jarann inclined his head, satisfied that his challenge would be taken. "Do you think I will make it easy for you? You have never been to Elgin. It is a very large place--your friend is one among thousands."

"You are not being very helpful," Getham objected. "How can such a person be located?"

"That is his problem, not mine. You will go to find him, won't you, James?" Jarann laughed, touching his hand to the human's face. Kirk flung the hand away, taking a step backward. "What is the matter? You often enjoyed my touch before--and you will enjoy it again;"

"He is goading you into going after your friend," Getham pointed out, looking at Kirk. "I can give you no protection in the town."

"He will leave and go there," Jarann predicted. "And I will be waiting." He turned and quickly strode from the room, an arrogance in his step.

*****


Late the following afternoon, Spock sat up in bed, eating a dish of fruit. Sashan was next to him, talking steadily, trying to bring him out of his dark mood.

Kirk entered the room and smiled at the girl. "Thank you for staying with him, Sashan. Could we be alone for a little while?"

"Of course, James." She returned the smile, then left.

Kirk took a steadying breath. "Well, Spock? Do you feel like talking to me yet?"

The Vulcan looked away. "Is there something in particular you would like to discuss, Captain?"

"You said earlier that you'd regained your memory. Is everything there? I mean, is anything missing? Shit!" Kirk frowned and sat hesitantly on the edge of the bed. "What I'm trying to say…."

"I know what you are attempting to say. My memory has returned in full. There is... nothing missing.

Kirk felt his face grow warm. "Do you remember what... happened yesterday?"

A piece of fruit stopped halfway to the Vulcan's mouth. He dropped it back into the dish as he whispered, "I remember."

"Maybe we should talk about it. Get our feelings into the open."

"I am a Vulcan. Any feelings I may have are totally under control."

"So you're going to hide behind that mask again!" Kirk flared. "After what we did yesterday, I thought...”

"Please do not mention that incident, Captain. I am... dealing with it to the best of my ability."

Frustrated, Kirk tried to calm himself. "Dealing with it? Spock, we made love... pure and simple."

"It is far from simple. I regret what has happened and prefer that you do not speak of it again!" the Vulcan said sharply.

"Regret?" Kirk paled, turning away. "All right, Spock. Whatever you want." He straightened, then began unconsciously rubbing his hands together.

Spock watched the human, surprised to find the desires again building within him. He wanted to reach out and touch him, but fought the urge. His body had betrayed him and he had taken advantage of this man. He had wanted him for so long, but to take him when he was half ill... and to ignore his protests! Spock knew he could never forgive himself. How could he expect Jim to?

"I found out from Jarann last night that McCoy was sold to some merchant in Elgin," Kirk said suddenly, bring the Vulcan from his reverie. "Tomorrow I'm going to leave for town to try to find him."

Spock wanted to cry out that Kirk must not leave, but the words caught in his throat. He recognized the determined look on the human's face and knew that nothing would stop Jim from attempting to find McCoy. But Kirk would not go without him. Spock had an equal look of determination as he stated, "I will be fully functional by that time and able to assist you."

"I've got to do this alone. Getham's protection doesn't extend to Elgin--and Jarann's threatened that he'll be waiting for me."

The Vulcan tensed. "Then you must remain here. I shall go to search for the doctor."

Kirk shook his head. "You're the one who's staying, Mister! Jarann isn't too fond of you. It could be dangerous if...”

"We have faced danger before... together." Spock met the worried eyes with trepidation. "Do you no longer wish my company?"

"You're twisting things! That's not what I said."

"I cannot allow you to visit the town alone. As First Officer, it is my duty to see to your safety."

"Duty?" Kirk rose from the bed and glared down at the Vulcan. "Far be it from me to interfere with your efficiency, First Officer!" No longer able to tolerate the coldness in Spock's voice, he strode from the room, slamming the door behind him.

"Jim...” Spock murmured, staring at the closed door. He bowed his head in shame. He had lost Jim as a friend--and he had deserved to lose him...

*****


Five days later, tired and dusty, the two men rode into town and dismounted. Getham had insisted they both be heavily armed. Spock carried a knife and firearm on his belt and Kirk's weapons were hidden beneath his hooded robe, which he wore in the hope of concealing his light features. His rounded ears were not a problem, since his longer hair hid them from view.

"Look at the size of this place!" Kirk exclaimed, studying the myriad of streets and shops. "I hadn't expected anything like this!"

The town was old, many of the wooden buildings decaying. They'd had to pass through one of the worst sections to reach the center of town and Kirk had looked away from the drunken men that called to him, grateful that there were no shops there--only bars. He didn't want to think about McCoy existing in such a place and hoped that the rest of Elgin was cleaner... and more liveable.

The main part of town proved to be only slightly more habitable than the outskirts, a section of the city that contained a mixture of stone and wooden buildings, comprised mostly of lodgings and shops. Wooden walkways crossed the front of the buildings and people moved cautiously across them, watching their steps on the uneven planking. Apparently, the citizens of Elgin did not put much priority on maintaining or trying to beautify their city.

"Getham said there are nearly 4,000 people in residence here. It will not be easy to find Doctor McCoy," Spock pointed out needlessly. They were both well aware of the odds but Kirk, as usual, was counting on luck.

"We won't find him while we're standing here talking about it. Let's take one shop at a time and start asking questions." They tethered the horses and stepped up onto the sidewalk.

"Maybe we should split up and cover more territory," Kirk suggested.

The Vulcan can stiffened. "I am opposed to that idea. I would prefer that we remain together."

"Of course. It's your duty!" Kirk said sarcastically, then walked inside one of the shops. Spock hesitated, hurt by the remark, then finally followed after him.

By evening, they had still made no headway. The only method they had of describing McCoy was that he was a dark-haired man with light eyes and rounded ears--a fact they were no longer sure they could use. The people wore their hair long and the doctor's probably had grown to cover his 'impairment'. They entered a building, an awkwardly askew sign proclaiming it the "Comfort Lodge". After asking about McCoy, they took a room for the night.

Kirk and Spock walked into their lodgings together, the human glancing around at their surroundings. "Isn't much, is it?"

Spock's eyes were fastened on the small bed against the wall. The only other furnishings were a chair and table with two candles, and a broken mirror on the wall. "It should prove habitable enough for one evening."

Kirk noticed the direction of the Vulcan's gaze. "I'll just take some covers and sleep on the floor. I'm used to it," he shrugged. "You take the bed."

"A most illogical suggestion, Captain. We are both exhausted from our journey and are in need of a good night's sleep. We have shared a bed many times before...” His words trailed off as he remembered the last time they had done so.

"But things have changed, haven't they, Mr. Spock? I'll sleep on the floor."

"Some things never change. You are a most stubborn human. If you will not sleep on the bed, neither will I." The Vulcan's expression showed that he was not about to relent.

"I'm stubborn? Listen to you!" Kirk said in exasperation, then finally gave in. "Looks like we're at an impasse. Guess we'll have to share the bed... or the floor. The bed sounds better."

"Very well. The hour is late." Spock tugged off his clothing, leaving the underwear on. He quickly snuggled under the covers but his eyes were open, watching the human.

Kirk pulled off his boots and cloak, then the tunic and pants, hesitantly, giving Spock a questioning look.

"You have always slept in the nude," the Vulcan replied to his unspoken question. "I would not be offended if you did so now."

Kirk quickly stripped away the rest of his garments, unaware that the fullness of the moon shining through the window highlighted his nakedness. Spock watched intently, entranced by the perfection of the human's body, until Kirk slid in beside him. In the close confines, their bodies touched, and Spock tensed as he felt a tightening in his groin.

"Sorry," Kirk said. "I'll try to scoot over a little."

"Unnecessary. I am... comfortable," the Vulcan said, although he knew it was not the truth. He was anything but comfortable as he felt his arousal begin.

"Spock, I have to talk to you," Kirk said, turning to face him. The Vulcan swallowed hard, waiting for him to continue. "We'll never find McCoy this way. We have to split up tomorrow."

Spock gave an inward sigh of relief. He had thought Jim wanted to talk with him about quite a different matter. He turned onto his side, his back to Kirk, worried that the human would notice his growing erection.

"Under the circumstances, I must concur that it would be wise to separate," the Vulcan said over his shoulder.

Kirk was silent for a moment, then said, "Spock... I...”

"Yes, Captain?"

Kirk flinched at the use of his title. "Nothing. Good-night, Mr. Spock."

"Good-night, Captain."

As the night lengthened, Spock found himself still awake. He sat up in the bed and gazed at the sleeping human. Finally he turned away and got to his feet, walking to the window and looking out into the moonlit street. He could not recall ever having such difficulty getting to sleep, and he was deeply troubled by his inability to control his body's responses. He begin to mentally recite Surak's tenets until he decided it would be best to meditate for a time. He had just knelt on the floor when he heard Kirk moan and cry out in his sleep.

Spock rushed to the bed, wondering what was wrong. The human tossed restlessly, his face damp with perspiration, apparently in the throes of a nightmare. He mumbled something, but Spock could not understand him.

"Jim, wake up," the Vulcan said softly, touching his shoulder. "You are dreaming. Wake up." He shook him gently.

Kirk's breathing became more rapid, almost panting. "No... the crew looks... at me! I can't!"

"Jim!" Spock shook him-harder.

The human's eyes flew open and he stared bewilderedly at Spock. "You, too! The same look."

"Jim, you were having a nightmare. It is over."

"So... real...”

Spock brushed the damp curls from the human's forehead. "It was a dream. Go back to sleep now."

Kirk slowly sat up, shivering. "I c-can't! I don't want to!"

"Do you wish to talk about it?"

"No."

"Then there is no need to." Spock climbed into the bed, taking the human in his arms and holding him in a comforting embrace, Kirk's head on his chest. "You are safe with me, Jim. The nightmare will not return," he promised. .

Kirk visibly relaxed, resting an arm across Spock's stomach. The Vulcan began to tenderly stroke Kirk's hair until the human fell asleep.

*****


Kirk was in a somber mood as he strode into the bar, still puzzled by Spock's actions. He clearly remembered the previous night's dream and how the Vulcan had gently comforted him; yet this morning, Spock had again become the typically stoic Vulcan. He had treated Kirk crisply and efficiently, no hint of warmth in his manner.

Finally Kirk pushed those thoughts aside. He had a more urgent matter to attend to...

"I'm looking for someone," he said to the bartender. "A man who came here as a slave a couple of months or so ago."

The bartender shrugged. "There are many slaves in town."

"Not like this one. His eyes are blue--and he has rounded ears."

"Round ears! I would have noticed if he had ever been brought in here!" the man laughed.

"Is there anyone who might have heard about him? His name is Leonard McCoy and he was sold to a merchant--but I don't know the shopkeeper's name."

"I do," said a voice from behind him. Kirk whirled to face Jarann, who gave him a victorious smile.

"I knew you would come for him--and now I will take you back to where you belong. With me."

Kirk showed no fear as he steadily met the man's gaze. "I'm not going anywhere, Jarann. I warn you, I'm armed and I know how to use the weapons."

"You will come with me now," Jarann ordered, ignoring the threat. "I am sure you would not want any harm to come to Visitarr."

Kirk tensed. "You have him?"

"Yes. We took him prisoner an hour ago, outside the 'Comfort Lodge', and he is now on his way to our encampment. The choice is yours," Jarann said flatly. "Come with me--or I will do as I wish to Visitarr."

"If you've hurt him, I'll... !"

"He has not been injured--as yet. I can promise you that he will be if you do not come with me now." It was clearly no idle threat.

"You bastard!" Kirk said hotly. Realizing he had little choice, he added abruptly, "I'll go with you."

"First, give me your weapons. I do not want to offer you too much temptation!"

Kirk reached inside the robe and handed the man his firearm and knife.

"Good. It is nice to see you so cooperative for once!" Jarann grinned. "I have missed you, James. I believe we will have a most interesting reunion this evening."

Kirk stiffened as Jarann gripped his arm, leading him from the bar.

*****


It was nearly a week before they arrived at Jarann's encampment. Kirk dismounted, stretching his aching muscles. It had been a long, hard ride and he felt dirty and exhausted. He glanced around at the new camp, noticing that it appeared much the same as the last one, which had been located further out on the plain. A few men milled around the tents, but Spock was not among them.

"Where is he, Jarann?"

"Maybe in the tent." Jarann glanced up at the blazing midday sun. "It would be a pity if they left him out in this heat," he said tonelessly. He had purposely delayed their arrival, giving his men time to carry out his orders. Visitarr would pay for abducting James.

Rytarr advanced toward them and gave Jarann a hearty embrace. "You have been gone a long time."

"But I have made a great profit!" Jarann inclined his head toward Kirk, then asked Rytarr, "Where is our guest?"

The man smiled knowingly. "He gave us a... bit of trouble, but we found a way to control him."

Kirk clenched his fists, his eyes flashing with anger. "What do you mean? What have you done to Spock?"

Rytarr took a step backward, frightened by the outrage on the slave's face.

"Take us to him," Jarann ordered.

They walked through the center of the encampment and up a pathway which led to a hillock. Spock was sprawled naked on the ground, his arms and legs spread apart and tied to stakes.

"Damn you! How long has he been tied up?" Kirk rushed to the Vulcan's side. "Spock, are you all right?"

"I am somewhat uncomfortable," he admitted. "However, the sun on Vulcan radiates more heat."

"Well, I don't think you normally lie naked in it!" Kirk turned to face Jarann. "Let him go!"

"Rytarr said he is being punished for disobedience. That is the fate of a slave."

"He's no slave!" Kirk took a menacing step toward him, his jaw tightening.

Jarann cocked his head to one side, amused by his slave's anger. "He will be. I already have a purchaser in mind."

At first Kirk was stunned by the statement, then he fell back on the knowledge he possessed of this world's law. "You can't sell a freeman!" he snapped.

"Can't I?" Jarann eyed him without compassion. "This man has no family to fight for him, and the one who will buy him is not choosy."

Kirk finally managed to control himself, realizing his anger was only making things worse for Spock. "Let him go back to Getham."

"Why should I?"

Kirk's glance traveled from Jarann to Rytarr and back. It would be useless to try to fight the two men; they were too strong and he could not win against them. He decided to fight with words instead. "Because your brother will be angry when he learns what you've done to Spock. Do you want to risk losing everything? At least Getham offers you his hospitality and helps you through the lean times."

"What you've said is true, but not reason enough," Jarann shrugged. "I may free him if you offer me something."

Kirk was puzzled. "What can I offer?"

Jarann smiled inwardly, knowing James had now fallen into his trap. "Obedience. Pledge yourself to me that you will not escape again... that you will remain here as my slave. I want your oath, then I will release him."

"No, Jim!" Spock cried, raising his head. "You cannot do it!"

Jarann grinned at Kirk. "Visitarr will make an interesting slave. His spirit is much like yours."

Kirk stood tensely, revolted by the thought of belonging to this man. Yet he really had little choice--Jarann would not likely allow him to leave the camp, anyhow. But to pledge obedience? He felt sickened, knowing what would probably be required of him, but there was no alternative. Spock would not be sold as a slave as long as it was in his power to prevent it. Still, there was another matter that had to be settled.

"I agree to your terms on two conditions."

Jarann looked at the human curiously. "Name them."

"First, you let Spock go--and give him a horse to get back to the castle. Second, you tell me the name of the man you sold McCoy to."

"What value is his name? I will not allow you to look for your friend."

"No, but Spock can. What's the merchant's name?"

"Jim!" Spock again started to protest, but Kirk's quick glance silenced

Jarann was pensive for a moment. The conditions that James required would not cost him greatly and he wanted the slave--no matter what the price. "Before I tell you, you must give me your oath that you will remain by my side and cooperate with me fully... in all ways."

Kirk flushed, knowing exactly what the man meant, and that Spock and McCoy's lives rested on his answer. "I give you my word that I won't try to escape and that I'll... cooperate with you." His jaw tightened as he met Jarann's gaze.

"Good!" Jarann grinned. "I will admit that I never liked chaining you or giving you the drug. You left me with little choice."

"Are you going to give me my answer?" Kirk asked impatiently.

"Ah, yes--the merchant. His name is Taskoll and he owns a small shop in Elgin on Bartel Street."

Kirk turned away. "Release him," he ordered, kneeling beside the Vulcan.

When the ropes were cut, Spock sat up, trying to rub the circulation back into his wrists.

"You have to find. McCoy," Kirk said quietly. "Maybe Getham will give you the money to buy him back. He's a generous man."

The Vulcan's dark eyes steadily met the hazel ones. "I will not leave you here."

"There's no alternative. I'm giving you a direct order!" Kirk said sharply. "Find McCoy and bring him back to the castle where he'll be safe." He added in a whisper, "Scotty must be searching for us--and he's not one to give up."

"There are many habitable planets in this sector," Spock pointed out in a low voice. "Mr. Scott could not find us easily."

"No, but at least it's a hope. If he doesn't, we'll just have to live our lives here."

Spock felt a chill run the length of his spine. "With you living as a slave to another man?"

Kirk looked away. "Yes, with me as a slave... but I'll know that you and McCoy are safe."

"Enough talk!" Jarann growled, stepping over to them. "You, Visitarr... or Spock--whatever you are called, go with Rytarr to the horses. A slave will bring your clothing. As for you," he added, his eyes raking Kirk's body, "Go inside and get out of those clothes. They are not... flattering."

"They don't bother me."

"But while in town, I purchased some new clothing for you. I wish to see you in the shirt. It is... remarkably revealing."

"I'll bet!" Kirk spat, then turned to Spock. "You have your orders."

"Yes... Captain," the Vulcan replied stiffly, feeling his heart pound against his chest. "I will follow my orders."

Spock walked away, Rytarr beside him. He glanced back once, only to find that Kirk was heading toward the tent with Jarann.

*****


Almost ten days later, a bone-weary Vulcan rode into Elgin, wondering if there was anything else he could have done to make Getham change his mind. He wished that he'd had Jim's diplomatic flare.

Getham had refused to send men to free Kirk, stating he would not fight his brother. He pointed out that he had offered the slave sanctuary--yet James had gone into the city against his advice, disregarding Jarann's threat. It had been a mistake and one that, unfortunately, James would have to pay for.

Spock had done everything in his power to convince Getham that he must not leave Jim in Jarann's hands--but Getham had been adamant in his refusal, saying that James had brought enough trouble to his home... and he wanted no more. It had not helped that Sashan had been listening at the door and had charged into the room, begging her father to free James.

This time, Getham did not bother to admonish her, only gave Spock a knowing look--one that the Vulcan quickly read. Too much trouble within their house...



He finally managed to push the thought of Kirk from his mind, concentrating instead on locating the doctor. He fingered the pouch under his cloak. At least Getham had provided him with enough money to purchase McCoy. He rode down the dusty streets, following Getham's directions. At last he stopped in front of a windowless shop, the name "Taskoll's" painted across the decaying wood. An overweight man in stained clothing sat in front of the building.

Spock dismounted and walked up to him. "I am looking for the owner of this establishment."

"I am the owner... but I would hardly call it an 'establishment'!" the man joked.

"You are Taskoll?" Spock asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Yes. What do you want with me?"

"I have been told that several months ago you purchased a slave by the name of Leonard McCoy."

Taskoll's eyes narrowed. "Yeah. McCoy belongs to me. I did it legal!"

"I am certain you did. Where is he?"

"He's inside running the shop. Why are you asking about him?"

"I wish to purchase him."

"Buy McCoy?" Taskoll shook his head. "He's too valuable to me--a good carpet salesman. Business has picked up since I bought him."

"Carpets?"

"Yeah. I sell all kinds of rugs." The man's face brightened. "Maybe you want to go look around inside. We have the finest rugs, woven by...”

"How valuable is McCoy to you?"

"Huh?"

"Is he as valuable as this?" Spock opened the pouch and dropped several large coins into the man's hand.

Taskoll's eyes widened. "This is enough to buy two slaves!"

"Indeed. Are you now willing to sell him to me?"

The man smiled, showing his crooked teeth. "For this I'd be willing to sell my own mother!"

Several minutes later, Spock entered the building. McCoy stood at the far side of the small room, talking to some people. When he saw the Vulcan, he froze in disbelief, then rushed over to him.

"Bless my soul! I've never been so happy to see anyone in my life!" McCoy blurted, giving the Vulcan a giant bear hug.

"Such an outburst of emotion is not necessary," Spock said, pulling away.

"Haven't mellowed much, have you? Where's Jim?"

"You seem to be in good health," Spock said evasively. "Your hair is somewhat longer than usual...”

"You bet it is! I got tired of people laughing at my ears. You know the feeling, Spock?" McCoy paused, frowning. "You didn't answer my question. Where's Jim?"

The Vulcan tensed, hands held stiffly behind his back. "He is with Jarann."

"Jarann! What the hell? You managed to find me, but you didn't get Jim away from...!"

"Lower your voice, Doctor. You are causing attention to be drawn our way.

McCoy peered around the room, thinking how disheveled the place probably appeared to the Vulcan. Woven rugs were stacked in piles, some of them draped over the walls. The shop had a musty, displeasing odor. Several shoppers stood listening to their exchange.

"I have purchased you from Taskoll and now you are free," Spock continued. "During our journey to Getham's castle, I will explain what has occurred. This is not the place for our discussion."

McCoy gave the shop a parting glance. "I suppose I should say good-bye to Taskoll. He's really not a bad sort of person. I was lucky to wind up with a rug dealer instead of a drug dealer!"

The doctor's attempt at humor fell flat as Spock gave him a look of animosity.

"I was just makin' a joke," McCoy protested.

"Jim has been... drugged... many times."

"Drugged? Jarann did that to him? And you've come for me, but left him!?"

Spock was too tired, mentally and physically, to answer the doctor's accusation. In fact, there was no reply he could make except to admit his guilt. He had left Jim. Instead he said, "I stated that I will explain en route. Please come with me." He walked to the door and out of the building.

McCoy stared after him. For months he had been trying to find out what had happened to his friends, but no one seemed to know of them. At last the Vulcan had found him, but Spock seemed-- depressed, dejected. Something had hurt him deeply and he was certain that 'something' concerned Jim. Since the Vulcan apparently knew where Jim was, why had he not freed him? After a moment, he followed after Spock, anxious to get some answers.

The Vulcan stood on the worn planking of the walkway. Taskoll, who was again leaning back in the chair, called to him, but Spock paid no attention.

His thoughts were far away. Somewhere on the dry and dusty plain, Kirk was enslaved. There could be no rescue, for Getham would not help him. His jaw tensed with the realization that even if he could manage to rescue Kirk, Jim had given Jarann his oath and would not go back on it. He would return to his captor--or would be made an unwilling prisoner in Getham's castle... in order to stop him from returning.

There was no answer. No way out. Kirk had bought their lives with his own. And now Jim lived in his lonely hell.

McCoy walked up to him and touched his arm, giving Spock a questioning look.

The Vulcan said nothing, could say nothing. His throat felt so constricted that he was unable to speak. He walked to his horse and mounted it, wondering how he would be able to make the doctor accept the fact that Jim was a prisoner... a slave. And there was nothing which could be done to change it. He could not accept it himself.

Spock motioned the doctor to a horse he had purchased from Taskoll, and they rode in silence down the littered street

*****


Weeks later, a tired and filthy group of men entered the encampment. Jarann gestured at the slaves to take their kills, then dismounted. He breathed deeply of the fresh morning air.

Kirk jumped off his mount and stretched his protesting muscles. It had been a long, but profitable, hunt. They had managed to find a small group of darryas, a rare and lightly furred animal. Jarann had told him that its meat was delicious.

Kirk pulled Jarann's cloak tighter around himself. They had ridden throughout the night because Jarann was anxious to return to camp--and the night air had been decidedly cold. He was grateful that Jarann had taken notice of his shivering and had given him the warm cloak to wear. For a moment, Kirk remembered his comfortable Starfleet uniform and sighed deeply, thinking of the Enterprise, wondering where she was.

"Day dreaming?" Jarann smiled, taking Kirk's arm. "Come. We must rest."

Once inside the tent, Jarann quickly slipped out of his clothing. Kirk remained standing at the entrance, still wrapped in the cloak.

"Undress," Jarann ordered softly as he reclined back on an animal fur.

Kirk reluctantly dropped the cloak, then pulled the thin shirt over his head. He felt Jarann's hot gaze rest on his naked body, but was uncaring. Indifference was now his only retreat.

"Come here," Jarann grinned, opening his arms. Kirk cast a quick glance at the man's hardening cock, then walked over to him and stretched out beside him.

Jarann turned so that his cock pressed against Kirk's thigh. He ran his fingers through the light hair. "You are so very beautiful. Where you come from--are there many like you?"

"You mean fair? Yes... but I come from a place very far away."

"I would like to go to this place, no matter how far the journey." Jarann's hand left the hair and played down the length of Kirk's body, until it rested on the genitals. He began to gently stroke the cock. "I would become richer than Getham if I dealt in light-haired slaves!"

"That's why I'll never tell you where I come from."

"Why did you travel here? I have asked you a thousand times, yet you never answer me."

"It's none of your god-damned business!" Kirk said hotly, angered that his shaft was beginning to stiffen in the other man's hand.

"You are aroused so easily," Jarann remarked, pulling away a little to look at his slave's body.

Kirk took the hand and pushed it away. "Forget about trying to satisfy me. I'm too damned tired and dirty." He turned onto his stomach and said wearily, "Can't you just fuck me and get it over with?"

Jarann pressed his lips against a rounded ear. "I want you to be aroused. I enjoy satisfying you." He plunged his tongue inside the ear, smiling inwardly when he heard the slave gasp. His hand drifted down to the buttocks and parted the cleft, his fingers probing the resisting opening.

"This feels good, does it not?" Jarann purred, then withdrew the fingers. He took Kirk's shoulders and rolled him onto this back. "This also will feel good." He stroked his hand across the smooth chest and down to the groin, then maneuvered until his head was next to the slave's cock. He licked it teasingly, his hand cupping the warm balls.

"Damn you, Jarann!" Kirk snapped. "Stop trying to make me hard and just screw me!"

"Giving orders, my slave?" Jarann's tongue placed across the slit of the cockhead, then he took the shaft into his mouth, sucking gently. Finally he released the cock and propped himself up on an elbow, gazing at the slave.

"You are already hard, James. As I said, I want you to be satisfied, also." He pressed his cock against Kirk's cheek. "Take me now."

The human opened his mouth and Jarann forced his shaft into it. At the same time, Kirk felt himself being taken. They sucked and moved together, thinking of nothing but their own body's release. The men plunged rapidly until they both climaxed, spewing hot semen into each other's mouth.

After a moment, Jarann stretched out, his head next to Kirk's, and gave him a questioning look. "You frown. Why? You have been satisfied."

"Yeah. I don't have control of my life... or even my body!" Kirk sat up, his eyes darkening.

"Do not be so angry," Jarann said softly, gently rubbing the slave's back. "At least you are no longer chained."

"I'm still wearing a chain... only you can't see it." The words were filled with bitterness.

"The oath you swore to me?" When Kirk nodded, Jarann said, "You have much honor to live up to it and not run away." He carefully pulled the human back down, his fingers delicately touching Kirk's lips. "You must rest now. Our journey has been long and tiring."

"And I'm filthy and I stink! Let me go clean myself first."

He put his face against Kirk's neck, breathing in the scent of the golden hair. "You do not stink. You always smell... provocative. However, if you are uncomfortable...”

Jarann got up from the fur and walked to the tent flap, calling out to a slave, then returned to lay next to Kirk. A few minutes later, a slave entered, carrying a pan of water and a cloth.

"The water is warm?"

"Yes, Master Jarann."

"Good. Then clean James."

"I can clean myself!" Kirk protested.

"But I want to watch him wash you," Jarann smiled. He spread Kirk's legs apart. "I want to watch him clean you... everywhere." He motioned to the slave and the man knelt, wringing out the cloth. He began to sponge Kirk's body.

After a time, Jarann ordered the slave to cleanse the genitals, his eyes fixed on the movement of the washcloth. Kirk glanced at Jarann's cock, which was no longer limp.

"I find this pleasurable... and stimulating!" Jarann gasped.

"So I see," Kirk said quietly.

When the groin area was clean, he commanded the human to turn onto his stomach. Jarann sat back, watching as the slave continued the sponging, tensing when he saw the washcloth glide into the cleft of the rounded buttocks.

"That will be all. Leave!" Jarann did not even wait for the slave to obey before he pulled Kirk toward him, kissing him passionately. His hard cock pressed against the human's limp one.

Kirk pushed himself away. "Don't try arousing me again. I'm too damn tired," he sighed, then lay on his back and spread his legs. "Go ahead and fuck me."

Jarann sat up, studying his slave.

Kirk's eyes had drifted shut and he lay very still, breathing evenly. The long lashes made shadows against the planes of his cheeks. He slowly opened his eyes. "Well? Go ahead," he repeated in a voice heavy with exhaustion. "I want to get some rest. I'm half asleep now."

"Yes--I can see that.” Jarann gave him an affectionate smile, then covered him with a blanket. He rested his arm across the human's shoulder. "Sleep well, James."

Kirk gave him puzzled look. "Sleep well? But aren't you going to... ?"

He kissed the slave's forehead as he repeated, "Sleep well." Then gathered him into his arms.

Kirk closed his eyes, feigning sleep, remembering the hunt.

As Jarann and his men closed on their kill, he had found himself alone on the plateau, Jarann's hunting knife in his hand. He gazed at it almost dispassionately, knowing the knife meant his way out of hell.

He had never contemplated suicide before, but then he did. It would be a release from his tormented life--and from his oath. There was no way he could escape from Jarann, since he had sworn not to. Still there was one condition of the oath that Jarann had not stipulated or foreseen. Death.

Kirk had shuddered, knowing that he was not in a stable enough mental condition to make such a decision. He recognized that he was emotionally shattered, and doubted if he would ever feel secure or have a sense of self esteem again. Of course, if Scotty ever located them, there were psychiatric clinics...

Kirk had flushed at the thought; then, without hesitation, brought the knife to his throat. His life was already over. He could never captain a starship again, or earn men's respect. He did not even respect himself.

He had started to press the knife against his jugular vein, closing his eyes and saying a mental farewell to his friends. Suddenly Spock and McCoy's faces became vivid in his mind, faces filled with pain. Both men seemed to be silently calling his name.

The knife had slipped from his fingers and dropped to the ground. He had stared at it disbelievingly, realizing what he had almost done to the two men he loved most.

They would find out about his suicide, and they would feel responsible, a lethal, overpowering guilt which could ruin their lives. They would have to face the fact that he had saved them and by doing so, forced himself into such a pain-filled existence that he had taken his own life.

For a moment, Kirk had wanted to cry, but he knew that was one release that would not be granted him. He had no tears. They were buried deeply away in his tortured soul. He would never give in to them... never cry.

Finally Kirk had kicked at the knife, sending it flying. It was all so damned hopeless. There was no way out, not even death. Feeling an overwhelming sense of rage, he had shouted, "Damn you, Spock!"

His shout had caught Jarann's attention, and the man started walking toward him...

Jarann's soft snore brought Kirk suddenly from his thoughts. He glanced around the tent, trying to forget the plateau... and the knife. His eyes finally came to rest on Jarann's sleeping form and he tensed, hating the man. Hating himself.

He squeezed his eyes tightly shut, thinking about Spock and McCoy, wondering if they were safe within Getham's castle. He was sure that Jarann knew, but the man had obstinately refused to speak about them. He had to find out somehow...

A few minutes later, his exhaustion overcame him and he fell asleep.

*****


Several hours later, Jarann awoke. He stared at Kirk, who stood idly at the tent entry, gazing outside. Jarann was quiet for a while, enjoying the sight of his slave. He secretly admitted that he greatly admired him, not only for his attractiveness but for his spirit as well, and felt a sense of pride in owning such a man. In fact, it was more than just pride he felt...

He pushed the thought aside as he silently got up and walked to the slave, standing behind him and holding him close, his arms wrapped around the well-muscled stomach. "You are so beautiful, James," he whispered.

Kirk pushed the arms away and whirled to face him. "Damn you! I'm sick of hearing that!"

Jarann took a step backward in dismay. "I do not understand. I complimented you."

"It was no compliment. I'm tired of feeling like your god-damned pet!" He added in a mocking tone, "Of course, you probably don't know what I'm talking about."

Jarann felt his own temper begin to rise, until he noticed the tense and drawn face and the dark circles under the hazel eyes--and realized something was very wrong. Concerned, he put his hand gently on the slave's shoulder. "What is it James? Tell me?"

"Nothing. I'm just tired."

Jarann glanced out the open tent flap. It was still morning, judging by the sunlight. "You did not sleep very long. Perhaps you should lie down and get more rest."

"No!" Kirk said abruptly. "I don't feel like sleeping!"

Jarann was pensive as he studied his slave. He had often awakened to find James writhing in his sleep, sweat coating his body as he was caught up in the throes of a nightmare. He would wake him and hold him until the shivering stopped and he fell back to sleep. James would always refuse to tell him about the dreams, although he once admitted that they concerned his friend Spock.

"Did you have another nightmare?" Jarann finally asked.

After a moment, Kirk nodded.

"About your friend?"

"What difference does it make?" Kirk shrugged, turning away.

Jarann was silent for a moment, then admitted truthfully, "I wish I could help you."

"Help me?" Kirk's face reddened as he faced him. "You don't give a damn about 'helping' me! And why should you—I'm nothing but your slave!"

"Calm down!" Jarann ordered, clutching Kirk's shoulders in a bruising grip. "Yes, you are my slave, but I am worried about you." He slowly released the shoulders, then pulled Kirk's body against his own. "I do not like to see you so troubled."

"Then why don't you do like I've asked--and find out about Spock and McCoy? Hell, I don't even know if they're alive!"

Jararrn sighed deeply. "If they are alive and living at Getham's, you would want to go to them. If they are dead...” He paused, his hand running down the human's back. "Either way, it would be difficult for you."

Kirk looked steadily into Jarann's face. "It's already difficult for me. Why not send someone to the castle to find out about them?" His tone was caustic as he added, "If you think I'll run away to join them, you're wrong. I've given you my word that I'll stay."

"And was it worth the price?" he asked softly.

Kirk nodded. "If they're alive and well, yes."

"And if they are not?"

Kirk tensed, not replying.

Jarann stroked his hand down the slave's back in an effort to comfort him. He knew James was literally making himself sick with worry over his friends, but he truly did not know what had happened to the one called Spock. Or, for that matter, to the blue-eyed man that he had sold to Taskoll.

Six weeks had passed since he had given Spock his freedom in exchange for James' pledge of obedience. He had no knowledge of what had become of Spock, nor did he really care. The man was probably again living at the castle, but Jarann had sent no message to Getham to find out. He was still bitter over the way his brother had treated him, accusing him of stealing James--and even taking 'Visitarr's' side against him. He wanted no contact with Getham; at least, not until he had to.

He began to wonder if it would look like he was swallowing his pride if he sent a slave to the castle to inquire about Spock. Probably not, since he would be doing it for James, not for himself. Still, he knew that if Spock had not made his way back to the castle and was no longer alive, he would never tell his slave. With an unerring insight, he knew that Spock's death was the only thing that would certainly destroy James.

Finally Jarann asked, "If you knew they were alive, would the nightmares end?"

"Shit! I don't know." Kirk moved out of Jarann's arms and walked to the center of the tent, stretching out on the fur. "Maybe I'll try to get a little more sleep."

Jarann remained by the tent flap and stared thoughtfully at his slave. The nightmares were becoming more frequent and a way must be found to stop them--before James truly did become ill. He lifted an upswept eyebrow, coming quickly to a decision. He would find out about Spock. If the man lived, then James would be happy and perhaps the nightmares would end. If Spock were dead... he would make up a lie, saying James' friend was alive but in another part of the country. It was really very simple.

Jarann finally left the tent, unembarrassed by his nudity. A few minutes later he returned and stretched out beside Kirk, smiling. "I have ordered Bryak to ride to the castle and find out about your friends. This pleases you?"

Kirk faintly returned the smile. "Yes, Jarann. It pleases me."

"Good. Since you are now in a better frame of mind, perhaps you will not object when I call you 'beautiful'!" Jarann teased, running his hand over the slave's face. "You are so very fair and your body is golden." He bent Kirk's head back, kissing him in the hollow of the neck, as his hand moved down to tenderly caress the cock. "I want you now. We will rest afterward."

"You're always 'wanting' me," Kirk said in resignation. "So take me--it's your 'right', isn't it?" He turned onto his stomach, raising his hips slightly.

Jarann sat up, a bewildered look on his face. "I sent Bryak to ask about your friends. Why do you now seem so... unhappy?"

"You wouldn't understand. Besides, I don't have to be happy to let you enjoy a good fuck." His words were spoken flatly, no emotion in them.

"Turn over and look at me!" Jarann commanded. When Kirk failed to move, he swatted the buttocks. "I ordered you to turn over, slave!"

Kirk rolled onto his back, paying no attention to Jarann's anger. "Why? Do you want me to suck you instead?" He got to his knees and grasped the other man's cock, then bent toward it. "I'll suck you. Anything to get it over with."

Without thinking, Jarann lashed out and struck a resounding blow across Kirk's face, sending him sprawling across the fur. "You will not speak to me in that manner!"

"Sorry," Kirk said coldly. "Do you wish me to suck you, Master Jarann?"

Jarann quickly stood, his need forgotten. He gazed down at Kirk, noticing the red mark on his cheek where he had struck him--and suddenly felt guilty. There had been no need to hit the physically weaker man with such force, but his slave had provoked him. He suspected that James had done it deliberately, almost as though he wanted to be punished. But punished for what?

He took a calming breath before he asked, "Why do you try to anger me? It is not the first time you have done this." Jarann opened and closed his fists, flexing his muscles. He wanted James to understand that he must not challenge him again. "You see my strength and know I could easily break you in half. Do you not realize that you should think before you speak? Or do you not value your life?"

"I don't have any life to value.” He glared at the other man.

"What do you mean?" Jarann knelt next to him and slowly extended his hand until it came to rest against Kirk's shoulder. He squeezed the shoulder gently. "There is such pain in your voice. Make me understand why."

Kirk pushed the hand away, revolted by the look of compassion... or was it pity?... on Jarann's face. Either way, he wanted none of it. He did not try to hide his bitterness as he asked quietly, "How can you understand that I no longer have a life? You can kill me, if you choose... or hit me... or fuck me. It doesn't matter, since I belong to you as your personal whore."

Jarann paled. "You are no whore! And I would never kill you!"

Kirk gave him a savage grin. "Just fuck and hit me? And I think 'whore' is a pretty good description."

"It is not. A slave is responsible for his master's sexual gratification as part of his duties...”

"It seems to be more than just 'part' of my duties!" Kirk interrupted, his face growing warm. "All you care about is how many times a day you can shove your cock up my ass.”

"That is not true!" This time Jarann did not try to control his anger as he reached out and roughly shook Kirk. "I care about you! You do mean something to me...” Surprised by his own confession, his words trailed off and he released Kirk's arm. He stared at the bruises that were already beginning to form and knew he had inadvertently hurt him again.

"I'm sure we both know exactly what I mean to you. In fact, you probably want it now, don't you?" Kirk stretched out on his back, parting his legs invitingly.

"Yes, I do want you now," Jarann replied honestly, his hand moving toward his slave's groin.

Suddenly Kirk twisted away and sat up, his eyes flashing dangerously. "I'm not going to let you have what you want this time. So now what are you going to do--hit me again?"

Jarann looked at him in bewilderment. "Only minutes ago I told you that I sent a rider to find out about your friends and you were grateful and happy. Now you are angry and challenge me continually. Why? What have I done? Your strange behavior is difficult for me to bear."

"You'll forgive me for not feeling sorry for you?"

Jarann lowered his head and stared silently at his hands. A minute passed until he finally looked at Kirk, his expression one of concern. "I do not understand why you are doing this to me, only that your--attitude is growing worse, day by day. I do not wish to have any dealings with my brother, but I now see that it may be necessary to have Getham's healer come here to see you."

Jarann pushed Kirk back down onto the fur, then carefully covered him. With a feathery touch, he trailed a finger across the dark circles under the eyes, then down the slave's neck. "You are so very tired. Rest now."

Kirk felt his eyelids begin to grow heavy, but refused to give in. "Why are you being so damn good to me suddenly? Did you decide that if I got some sleep, I could fuck better later on?"

"Stop it!" Jarann jerked his hand away as though the words had burned him. "You are doing it again! You are trying to make me angry!" He stood and walked over to the tent flap, keeping his back toward the slave. "Go to sleep, James," he said coldly.

Kirk stared up at the top of the tent, his mind in a turmoil--realizing he had deliberately provoked Jarann and had enjoyed every minute of it. It was only a matter of time until his captor would become overpowered by his own rage and strike out...

Kirk's body jerked sharply. He could almost feel the strong blow that would break his neck. Death and freedom. It was almost a welcome thought, except for that fact that he did not really want to die. McCoy and Spock... especially Spock...

He pulled the covering up to his chin, suddenly feeling chilled. He wondered why he was courting death so openly; in fact, inviting it. There was a time when the universe was his and he fought against dying. He'd had a lot to live for, his friends, the crew... recognition, power, love.

The ship...

Kirk tensed as he recalled the nightmare, one that had varied little in the uncounted times he had dreamt it.

He was standing in the corridor of the Enterprise, begging Spock to listen to him, but the Vulcan only gave him a look of loathing. Several crew members started to walk by, then stopped. They began laughing at him... harsh, echoing laughter that reverberated against the bulkheads. It was then that Kirk realized he was wearing only a shirt that reached to his waist--and that he was fully exposed as he faced the crew members.

He tried to cover himself, then looked at Spock--who had a wide grin on his face. "You're smiling, Spock! What's happened to you?"

"What has happened to you, 'Captain'?" the Vulcan replied icily, then turned abruptly and walked away.

He stood alone in the corridor... totally alone. The crew members had disappeared and it was so quiet that he could almost heard the throbbing of the engines. Alone...

It was at this point that he always woke up, afraid and trembling.

"Alone...” Kirk murmured, his throat tightening.

"Bryak returns!" Jarann announced suddenly. He stepped outside the tent, and several minutes passed before he returned and headed toward a pile of clothing.

"What's happened?" Kirk asked.

"Bryak spotted Drii and his men riding in this direction. The camp has been alerted and we will be ready for them. They are ten minutes away." He tossed a shirt and pair of pants at Kirk. "Put them on."

Kirk stood and both men quickly dressed.

"There will be a battle and I will not be able to protect you." Without hesitation, Jarann handed a firearm and knife to the human.

Kirk turned the weapons over in his hands. "Believe it or not, I know how to defend myself."

"I am certain that you do." I may have to deal with my brother sooner than I expected. I have sent a slave to Getham's to tell him that we may require the services of his healer."

"Good." Kirk buckled his belt and placed the blade of the knife inside it. "How many men does Drii have? What kind of defenses have you set up?"

For a moment, Jarann seemed surprised by the questions, which were asked in such an authorative voice. "Bryak said there were about twenty riders; we should be evenly matched. Drii no doubt believes most of us are still at the hunt. He will be surprised to find me here!"

"I think you enjoy the idea of a fight."

"I always enjoy a fight!" Jarann smiled. "It is my way of life."

Kirk looked at him curiously. "Have you ever thought there might be a better way of living?"

"Never! I do not want to be soft... like Getham!" Jarann strode from the tent, motioning Kirk to follow.

*****


Their new encampment was on hilly, tree-covered land. It was one of Jarann's favorite sites to set up camp, used during the hottest days of summer. The trees offered shade from the relentless heat and a cooling stream flowed nearby. Kirk had once asked why he did not set up a permanent camp here and Jarann had been offended. He was a vagabond and wanted nothing of any permanence in his life.

The thunder of the horses' hoofs could now be heard approaching. Jarann ordered his men to assume fighting positions and stood waiting.

"Not like that," Kirk frowned. "Send two men over by that tree. There's a pathway that some of Drii's men are bound to take. And scatter the others around more. Drii's group will probably approach from several directions."

"Any other orders, my slave?" Jarann teased, then considered James' words. Realizing the strategy was sound, he commanded his men to different positions, then regarded his slave curiously. "Where you come from... are you a leader?"

Kirk hesitated a moment, then said flatly, "I used to be."

Jarann inclined his head. "I believe you." His already high estimation of his slave increased even more. Truly, James could be a leader of men... even of these men. Not that he would ever give up his position, but it would be interesting to have James as a companion, rather than a slave.

His thoughts were disrupted when the first of the riders burst into their camp. Drii and his men swooped down on them so quickly that the firearms were useless.

Deadly, brutal knives were raised, the sun glinting off the blades. Men screamed as the weapons found their targets and the sound seemed to echo off the surrounding trees. The ground swiftly darkened with blood.

Riderless horses tore around the camp, causing confusion and knocking down some of the tents. Little attention was paid to them as each man kept his sight on his goals--killing the enemy and staying alive.

At one point, Kirk and Jarann fought back to back, getting the better of their opponents. There was a gaping wound in Kirk's left arm, and Jarann's face dripped blood, but they paid little attention to their injuries. They were too busy trying to stay alive. Finally Drii managed to catch Jarann off guard, grabbing his arm and flinging him toward the cooking pot.

Kirk cast a swift glance toward the two antagonists, knowing their fight would probably decide the entire battle. He had no time for further thought, as two men attacked him. He kicked one in the groin, doubling him over, then whirled to face the other man.

Kirk gasped, more with surprise than pain, when a knife was plunged into his ribs. For a moment, his body seemed to be in shock and the wound did not even bleed, but he knew it was only a matter of seconds until it would. As the enemy pulled the knife from his body, he struck out with his weapon, severing an artery in the man's neck. The other man started to get to his feet, but a swift kick to the jaw rendered him unconscious.

Still on his feet, Kirk held his injured side. The blood had finally started to flow and he glanced around, looking for something to press against the injury. His eyes skimmed across the dead and injured and he noted almost dispassionately that the fight was beginning to wind down. He realized that he would soon collapse, one body among the many. Death was probably certain for him, a death that he once thought he would welcome. Now he knew differently. He did not want to die.

Suddenly he stiffened, his attention focused on Jarann, who had fallen wounded--one arm raised in a feeble attempt to defend himself from Drii, who knelt next to him, knife raised in the air. Seemingly in slow motion, the knife began its descent toward Jarann's heart, then halted in mid-air and tumbled to the ground.

Kirk pulled his knife out of the man's back and wiped the blood off onto his shirt. Exhausted and sickened by the bloodshed, the human weakly fell down next to Jarann. "I think it's over. Some of them are leaving."

Jarann's breath came in short gasps. "I fear... I am badly wounded." Blood covered the front of his shirt.

For the first time, Kirk noticed that the blood was red. Somehow, he had expected it to be green. "Just be still. Stop trying to move around," he said softly.

"Ordering me... again, James?" Jarann attempted to form his mouth into a smile, but grimaced instead.

Rytarr came rushing over to them, his shirt and pants stained red. "Jarann!" he cried.

"Is it... over, Rytarr?"

"Yes. The others have fled."

"How many dead and... ?" Jarann found it difficult to talk, and a red haze began to cloud his vision.

"I do not know." Rytarr replied.

Jarann tried to sit up a little, but Kirk weakly rested his hand against the man's chest, his frown warning him not to get up.

"The healer... will be here... soon?" Jarann asked hopefully.

"Yes," Rytarr assured.

"See to my... men. Help the wounded." Rytarr nodded, then left.

Jarann closed his eyes and lay very still. He reached out with a trembling hand to touch Kirk's face, inwardly overjoicing that his slave lived; James had, in fact, saved his life. As his hand traveled down the slave's body, it encountered a warm stickiness.

Jarann's eyes shot open and he looked at the man next to him, for the first time realizing that the blood that covered James' shirt was not the enemy's. "James! You... have been hurt!" he managed to gasp.

Kirk did not reply. He was exhausted and dizzy and could feel his life force being painfully drained from him with each heartbeat. He closed his eyes as he waited for death, feeling the hot sun kiss his face. But something within him refused to give in as his eyes snapped open and he said determinedly, "I'm not going to die!" His voice was weak and the words emerged in a whisper.

"No, you must not die." Jarann touched a shaking hand to his slave's sun-bleached hair. "You are... released from your pledge. You have... done well, James."

Kirk seemed to hear the voice as though from a great distance. "R-released? Free?"

"Yes, James. You are... free to... live, while I must die."

"Free," Kirk repeated before he slipped into darkness.

*****


The thick clouds that passed across the face of the sun caused the usually sunny courtyard to darken ominously. Inside Getham's castle, two men carried on a quiet vigil, Spock's eyes never leaving the injured man.

McCoy leaned back wearily against the head of the bed. "There's nothing more I can do for him, Spock. I've stopped the bleeding, but the infection is massive."

"He will live?" There was little hope in the Vulcan's voice. He already knew the answer.

"No. He's dying. It's just a matter of time," McCoy said defeatedly.

Kirk lay on the bed, writhing in delirium, his body bathed in sweat. The doctor had continually sponged him, trying to get the fever down, but it had been useless. As the hours passed, his temperature had only increased.

Spock took the wet cloth from McCoy's hand and began gently wiping away the perspiration. "His body is so hot," the Vulcan murmured. "Doctor, there must be something you can do." The words were a plea, and they cut across McCoy's heart like a knife.

"We've already tried the healer's poultices. Damn, if I just had my medical kit!"

"What is a medical kit?" Sashan asked. Both men were startled by her voice, unaware that she had entered the room. She walked over to the bed and reached out, touching Kirk. She quickly pulled her hand away. "James is so sick! As though his body is on fire!"

"Yes, Sashan. He is very ill," Spock said softly.

"If I hadn't left my kit at the site of the crash... explosion, I could've helped him!" McCoy's frustration began to build as he watched Kirk continue to toss fitfully, sometimes moaning. "The drugs would have knocked out the infection...”

Spock brightened measurably. "Of course! We will send someone to find the kit and bring it here."

"We're talkin' hours, Spock! Jim hasn't got that much time!" The doctor frowned thoughtfully, equally unwilling to give up. "The kit has probably been lying out in the open for months, but...” He glanced sharply at Kirk as the injured man again moaned, then looked back at Spock. "Dammit, it's worth a try!"

"What is a medical kit?" Sashan persisted. "You said you left it where the explosion occurred, What does it look like?"

McCoy wanted to ask the girl to go away, but Spock began explaining patiently, "It is small and black. This man is a doctor... a healer. He keeps his healing drugs in the kit."

"Is it this big?" She held out her hands, forming them into a square.

"Yes, Sashan. How did you know?"

"I have it! I found it when I went exploring!"

"You have it?" McCoy asked incredulously. "Then stop ditherin' around, little girl! Go get it!"

"Please bring the kit to us, Sashan," Spock requested more gently.

"It is in my room. I will return in a minute!" She paused at the doorway. "When I give you the kit, you will be able to save James' life?"

"I don't know," the doctor admitted. "I hope it's not too late."

She cast a worried look toward Kirk, then swiftly left.

"B-Bones...?"

McCoy turned in surprise. "Jim! You're awake!"

"Really is... you," Kirk said groggily, then gasped. As his body began to spasm, he drew his knees to his chest, trying to fight the pain which coursed up his side and across his shoulder.

"Doctor, I must help him! A meld...”

"I can't allow it," McCoy said flatly. "It's too dangerous. At any moment, Jim could... It would mean losing you both."

"He is suffering! I will be able to control some of his pain." Spock wanted more than just to stop Kirk's pain. He wanted to take it fully into himself, free the human from his suffering. But it would take a very deep meld.

McCoy read the Vulcan's expression, then shook his head. "I'm sorry, Spock. He's not strong enough."

Spock was momentarily surprised by the doctor's perception. He reached out and took Kirk's hand, trying to will some of his own strength into the weakened body. He was startled when he felt a slight pressure against his hand.

"S-Spock?" Kirk stammered, turning onto his back. He looked at the Vulcan. "Sorry... I'm sorry...”

"Take it easy, Jim. Don't talk." The doctor ran his hand up and down Kirk's uninjured arm, trying to comfort him.

"My... fault. I allowed...” He quieted and lay staring at the Vulcan, drained by the effort to speak.

"What's he talkin' about, Spock?"

The Vulcan moved closer to Kirk and continued sponging his face with the cloth. "Why are you sorry, Jim? What is your fault?"

Kirk took several deep breaths, finally summoning enough strength to talk. "I... never should have let you, but I wanted...” He gazed at McCoy, his eyes bright with fever. "I've lost him, Bones! I've... lost Spock!"

"You have not lost me. I am here--by your side... as I have always been," the Vulcan said softly.

"Not Spock... It's Jarann! Hurts...” His words trailed off as he moaned in pain, then began to twist violently.

"Hold him down, Spock! Don't let him move around!" McCoy ordered, frantically grabbing the injured man's shoulders. "Damn! He'll re-open the wound!"

Kirk's hands flailed out, as though trying to fight him off. "Trapped! I'm trapped! The oath...”

"No, Jim. You are free now," the Vulcan murmured as he restrained Kirk's arms.

"Spock... sorry...”

McCoy touched the hot forehead, then grabbed the cloth. "His temperature's gotten higher. Hell, this washcloth is warm! I need to sponge him with cool water!" The doctor jumped up and headed toward the basin.

"Jim, can you hear me? It is not your fault," Spock whispered, attempting to make the fevered human understand him. "I love you... and I have always loved you. When I lost my identity as a Vulcan, I...”

"No use talking' to him, Spock. He can't understand you." McCoy wiped the wet cloth across Kirk's body. "He's delirious. He doesn't know what he's saying."

Spock's face darkened. "He knows, Doctor."

Suddenly Kirk became still, exhaustion overcoming him. He breathed in short, panting breaths.

"It'll be okay, Jim. There's medicine on the way that'll help you with the pain," the doctor said with more reassurance than he felt.

As though in response to his words, Sashan breezed into the room, carrying the med-kit. McCoy quickly took it from her and opened it. "You haven't messed with any of the vials, have you?"

Sashan shook her head. "I only looked at them. I thought the different colors were pretty."

The doctor picked out a vial and inserted it into the hypo, pressing it against Kirk's arm. He sat back watching him, waiting for the medicine to work. Only the sound of Kirk's raspy breathing broke the deafening silence.

McCoy wiped at his own perspiration with the back of his hand. Although it was a little past noon, there was no sunlight in the room. The clouds had begun to form last evening, bringing with them a promise of rain, a promise that had still not been fulfilled.

His mind began to drift, thinking of his immaculately clean sickbay, the room temperature kept at an even 72 degrees; then his face flooded with anger. Jim was literally burning up alive on some hot, unwelcoming planet. Where the hell were Scotty and the Enterprise?

"Doctor?" the Vulcan asked curiously, and McCoy knew Spock had clearly read his outrage.

"Jim shouldn't have to die like this!" The doctor's face was tormented as he looked at Kirk. "It's going to take more than the Drioxcilan. I can't start combining drugs when there's no way to monitor him!"

The Vulcan paled and his breathing was unsteady as fear tore through him. "You may have no alternative." He looked at Kirk as though he would keep him alive by the sheer force of his will.

"I could kill him!" the doctor flared. "Hell, if I hadn't left my damn scanner, he'd have a chance!"

"Is it...?" Sashan began hesitantly. "Does the... scanner make funny sounds when you touch a button?"

"You found it, too?" McCoy asked in astonishment.

“I’m sorry. I should have brought it to you when I brought the medical kit."

"Don't be sorry. You may have just saved his life!" The doctor reached out and patted her hand. "Go get it, Sashan. Please hurry!"

A half hour later, Kirk's fever broke.

*****


"You look a lot better today," McCoy said as he stood beside the bed.

"I feel better." Kirk was propped up on two thick pillows.

The doctor observed that his friend had lost a great deal of weight. His cheekbones stood out prominently and the eyes seemed twice as large in the almost translucent face. He sat down on the edge of the bed. "We've got to get some more food in you, Jim."

"I'm not very hungry."

"Spock is in the kitchen, having the cooks make some kind of Vulcan healing soup." McCoy smiled, giving Kirk's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "It's not really Vulcan—but Spock says some of the herbs they have here are almost the same...” He paused, waiting for Kirk to say something, but he remained silent.

"Not very talkative, are you?" the doctor prodded. "I expected you to be complainin' by now that you wanted out of bed!"

Kirk looked away. "I still feel a little tired."

"You're more than just tired--you're showing signs of depression. It was a hell of an ordeal that you went through."

"I was just lucky you were here to patch me up."

McCoy reached out and turned Kirk's head to face him. "That's not the ordeal I'm talking about. I mean the months you spent with Jarann."

Kirk knew what the doctor was trying to do, and he refused to fall into the trap. "Getham said Jarann is here, and that he'll be all right."

"Yeah, he should be fine. The healer's potions are doing their job." McCoy took Kirk's hand into his own. "Want to tell me about it?"

"No."

"Jim, I don't want to push you, but sooner or later you have to talk about it. You can't have it eating away at you."

"What makes you think it is, Doctor?" Kirk asked sharply. "I think I'm handling... what happened just fine! Why should I talk to you about it?"

"Simmer down, Jim-boy. How about because you're a starship captain and I'm your CMO? It's my duty...”

"Your duty! Hell, you sound like Spock!" He tore his hand from the doctor's grasp.

"No need to be insultin'," McCoy smiled, trying to lighten Kirk's mood. "The fact is--I'm concerned about you not just as a doctor... but as your friend."

Kirk's anger quickly faded as he saw the worry in the blue eyes. "Thanks, Bones... but I can't talk about it. You'll just have to accept that."

"Have you accepted?"

Kirk opened his mouth to reply, but halted when the Vulcan entered the room, carrying a tray.

For a moment, Spock stood unmoving, rejoicing for the hundredth time that the human lived. He remembered how McCoy had exuberantly hugged him when Jim's fever had broken--and he had returned the pressure without embarrassment. It had been a very private, and special, moment.

Finally he walked over to Kirk. "I have brought you a facsimile of Vulcan plantgen soup. It has strengthening properties." He set the tray beside Kirk.

Kirk wrinkled his nose as he sniffed the soup. "Strengthening or stinking?"

"I will admit that the smell is not inviting, but the taste is pleasant."

"Thank you, Mr. Spock," Kirk said levelly, laying back on the pillow.

"It can't help you unless you eat it," McCoy pointed out. "Sit up a little and I'll try to get some of this into you." He took a spoonful of the soup and put it to Kirk's mouth.

After several sips, Kirk frowned. "The taste isn't exactly 'pleasant', Mr. Spock. I think dishwater would taste better."

The Vulcan flinched inwardly at the coldness in Kirk's tone, then replied stiffly, "Really, Captain? I have always enjoyed the flavor."

"Just shut up and finish it, Jim!" McCoy ordered.

Kirk reluctantly obeyed, then yawned, leaning back on the pillows.

As he gazed at the overly pale face, the doctor smiled softly. "You've been awake most of the morning. I think it's time you got a little more rest."

Kirk's eyes began to drift shut. With a start, he opened them and looked at the Vulcan. "What was in the soup, Mr. Spock?" he asked suspiciously, but before he received an answer, his eyes again closed. A few seconds later, he fell into a heavy sleep.

"What was in the soup?"

The Vulcan looked a bit guilty. "Herbs for strength... and rest."

McCoy turned to Kirk, running his scanner over him, then he stood. "I want to talk to you, Spock."

"I am listening."

"Not here. Let's go to my room." The words were a command, although a gentle one.

An eyebrow lifted into the Vulcan's bangs. "And leave the captain alone?"

"He'll be sleepin' like a baby for hours--thanks to your soup." McCoy walked toward the door. "Come along, Spock. I have a few questions."

The Vulcan left the room with McCoy, pausing to cast a quick glance back at Kirk. They walked down the dark corridor and entered the doctor's chambers.

"I think I need a shot of this." McCoy picked up a decanter and poured himself a glass of greenish liquor. "You?"

"I do not care to indulge."

The doctor quickly downed the contents. "Of course not. Havin' a drink would be too unVulcan!"

Spock's lips formed into a grim line. "Did you ask me here in order to discuss the drinking habits of Vulcans?"

"Don't get smart, Spock! Of course I didn't." McCoy went over to a chair and sat down, motioning Spock to be seated in the other chair. The Vulcan remained standing.

"So have it your way," the doctor shrugged. "I'm gonna get right to the point. What's all this 'Mr. Spock' and 'Captain' crap?"

Spock raised both eyebrows. "I do not understand your meaning."

"I think you do. Why have you been playing 'super Vulcan'... and why is Jim acting so formal?"

"I do not believe it is any of your concern, Doctor." He walked toward the doorway, intending to leave.

"Maybe it isn't, but I can't stand to see Jim hurting," McCoy said softly.

The Vulcan dropped his hand from the door handle. "What do you mean by 'hurting'? The captain is out of pain." He deliberately kept his back turned to the doctor.

"Physically, yes. Mentally, I think he's an emotional time bomb about to go off."

"I believe you are being overly dramatic." The Vulcan hesitated a moment, then walked over to the chair and seated himself. "Please explain."

"He's spent nearly three months as another man's slave--even worse, his unwilling bed-partner! Hell, Jim is a proud man. To be treated like that... I'm sure he's lost his self esteem." McCoy paused, looking intently at the Vulcan. "I heard what you said to him."

"What... I said?"

"Three days ago, when we thought he was dying. You told him you loved him, Spock. Now you're acting like a cold fish!"

"How am I expected to act? I am a Vulcan...”

"Who is in love with James Kirk," McCoy interrupted, fighting his exasperation. Somehow, he had to get through to Spock. "Are you going to deny it?"

The Vulcan swallowed hard, then shook his head.

"Good! At least now we have a little honesty." McCoy rubbed his chin as he contained to hold Spock's gaze. I want you to use your love for Jim to help him through this... make him regain his self-respect."

"He does not share my feelings," Spock said stiffly.

The doctor looked at him in bewilderment. "What? For over a year I've watched the two of you, seen how you exchanged looks. You can't tell me he doesn't love you!"

"I believe I just did."

McCoy frowned. "There's something strange goin' on around here. I think I'd better have a talk with Jim."

"You will not do that!" Spock exclaimed, quickly standing. "You do not understand."

"Then make me understand. Sit down and tell me about it. You want to help Jim, don't you?"

Swayed by the open plea, the Vulcan finally slid back into the chair. There was nothing he would not do to help Jim if it were in his power. "I do not know... how to begin," he confessed.

"I think starting at the beginning would be... logical."

Spock clasped his hands together, head bowed. "After the crash, I awoke with no memory. I had no tenets on which to base my responses and I began to think in a most... human manner. I realize that I had no alternative, as I was unable to remember my past--but what I later did...”

"If you're tired of talking in circles, go forward a little," McCoy coaxed.

"I was certain Jim belonged to me as my slave. When I went to the encampment and saw him with Jarann, I realized how much I... desired him. Later, when I brought him back to the castle, I... expressed my desire." The Vulcan looked up, meeting McCoy's gaze. "Jim was still under the influence of the drug when... I took him. He protested, but I would not listen. I could not control my... sexual urges...” His words trailed off and he looked down at his hands.

"You raped him?" the doctor blurted.

"No," he whispered, letting out the breath he had been unconsciously holding. "I stimulated him until he was also... aroused and in need. I took him then." Spock rose from the chair and walked to the window, his back to the doctor. "I entered his mind when we were on the verge of orgasm. Too late, I saw who he was... who I am."

"And who are you, Spock?"

"First Officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise."

"Now you are. Then you were just a man in love."

"A more apt description would be a man in heat!" Spock whirled, around, not trying to mask the pain on his face. "I had sexual intercourse with my captain--against his wishes."

"It doesn't sound to me like he was protestin' too much."

"As I told you, he was overly aroused."

"Yeah... well, let's get to the basic facts. You made love to him to him. Aroused or not, if he hadn't wanted you, he wouldn't have gone along." McCoy walked over to the window and stood next to Spock. "You heard what Jim said when he was delirious. I think you're both feeling guilty--and are too afraid to admit it."

"I am guilty." The Vulcan took a deep breath. "I do not know how the matter can be resolved."

"It's going to have to be settled. Jim is having enough problems dealing with his enslavement to Jarann. He doesn't need to have guilt weighing on him, too!"

"He did nothing!"

"Then tell him," McCoy said flatly.

Spock swallowed hard. "What you ask is... most difficult." He walked from the room, leaving the doctor staring after him.

*****


"You seem to have regained some of your strength," Spock observed, stepping into the room.

Kirk was sitting in a chair next to the window, the sunlight streaming across the thin robe he wore. Last night it had finally rained and the breeze that drifted in through the window carried a sweet, fresh smell. He breathed deeply and, for once, did not start to choke on the thick dust.

"I'm sure your soup concoction helped," he said, glancing up at the Vulcan. "I haven't done much but sleep."

"I am glad it was of benefit to you. Doctor McCoy gave you permission to leave the confines of your bed?"

"Permission?" Kirk grinned. "He ordered me to get my ass out of bed!"

"I am certain it was sound medical advice." There was a glimmer of amusement in Spock's eyes.

"Yeah." Kirk scrutinized the Vulcan, then said softly, "How have you been, Mr. Spock? You look like you've been treated well enough... maybe even put on a little weight."

Spock walked over to the human, then knelt beside the chair, his face troubled. Jim seemed to be behaving like his old self, some of the tension gone. He savored the moment, knowing that it would not last. McCoy had said that Kirk had to be brought from his shell and face things openly, but he was reluctant to bring up the painful subjects.

He gave a mental shrug, deciding to plunge ahead. "The same cannot be said of you, Jim."

Kirk flushed deeply. "I'm not going to talk about it."

"Talk about what?"

"You know. Jarann."

Spock took a deep breath. "There are other matters which must be discussed," he said hesitantly.

Spock fully expected the human to try to avoid the issue but instead, Kirk straightened and asked tensely, "You mean about us, don't you?"

The Vulcan nodded and started to speak, but Kirk interrupted him.

"I don't know what made me do it. Damn it, when you went into that coma-like trance, I thought you wouldn't live! I thought I'd killed you!"

Spock heard the anguish in the human's voice and swiftly reached out and grasped Kirk's hand. "You did nothing. I wanted you, and I took what I wanted. I had no control."

"But I did. I should have stopped you. Instead...” Kirk's words trailed off as he stared down at their entwined hands.

"I have suffered much guilt, knowing that I forced you," Spock admitted softly. "Still, one thing has not changed. I love you now as I loved you then."

Kirk turned to stare out the window and the room was engulfed by an uncomfortable silence. Finally he murmured, "I know that I love you, Spock, but I just can't believe that you feel the same way."

"Why, Jim?"

"I'm tired," Kirk evaded, rising. "I think I'll get a little more rest." He stood shakily, supporting himself on the arm of the chair.

"I will help you." Spock started to put his arm around the human's waist, but Kirk pulled away.

"I can walk!" he said sharply, then moved toward the bed.

For a moment, Spock stood in dismay, not understanding Kirk's rebuff, then he walked beside the human until they reached the bed, careful not to touch him.

Kirk shrugged off his robe and got in under the covers, but not before Spock had noticed the bruises and scars marring the body that seemed far too thin.

"I'll be all right in a few days," Kirk assured, noting the direction of the Vulcan's worried gaze. "It doesn't hurt so much anymore." He pulled the sheet up to his chin and closed his eyes.

Spock realized he was being dismissed, but refused to comply. "You have not answered my question."

Kirk's eyes flew open, a hint of anger on his face. "I said I'm tired! I don't feel like talking."

"Why do you refuse to believe that I love you?"

"Persistent, aren't you?" Kirk propped himself up on an elbow, glaring at the Vulcan. "I know damn well you don't mean it. Is this part of McCoy's therapy?"

"I... do not understand."

"I think you do. I don't feel very good about myself right now."

"I have not confessed that I love you in order to restore your self confidence!" Spock protested, both eyebrows flying into his bangs. Jim was behaving in a most illogical manner, attempting to turn everything he said against him.

Kirk sat up a little, certain that the Vulcan was lying. He could almost hear McCoy prodding Spock along. 'Just tell him what he needs to hear, Spock. It's his mind I'm worried about now.' The phantom words tore at Kirk's soul.

Finally he managed to ask, "Why else? You didn't take me out of love, Spock. It was pure and simple lust on your part! You admitted that once you saw me with Jarann, you had to have me sexually."

"You are twisting things."

"Am I? Do you really think you could commit yourself to a relationship with another man's whore?" Kirk asked bitterly.

Spock swallowed hard, startled by the human's words, but managed to say in a reassuring voice, "You were not to blame."

"A lot of the time, I liked it," Kirk said suddenly, his chin raised in defiance and his eyes locked onto the Vulcan's. "I liked it when he fucked me! Still feel the same way about me, Spock?"

The Vulcan sat down on the side of the bed. Kirk was pale and trembling, but the hazel eyes burned with rage--and another emotion Spock could not define.

"Why are you saying these things, Jim?" he asked softly, this time daring to touch the human's arm. "Earlier you stated that you love me; yet, I see only bitterness and hate."

"Hate?" Kirk seemed surprised by the comment. "You're wrong. I don't hate anyone." He was calmer, his words quiet.

"Not even yourself?" Spock prodded.

For a moment, Kirk was silent and the Vulcan hoped he now would talk and get his feelings into the open. He ran his hand along the human's arm, trying to comfort him in the same manner he had seen McCoy use. The effect was not the same as Kirk pulled away and lay back on the pillow.

"Please, Spock. Just leave me alone," he whispered.

The Vulcan felt his throat tighten at the pleading look. Kirk was so deeply hurt and troubled, but there seemed to be no way to help him--unless Jim wanted to help himself.

"If you truly do not wish to talk, I will not press the matter," Spock promised.

Kirk closed his eyes, then said softly, "Thank you."

Spock remained by his side until the human fell asleep, then rose and sat in the chair, his shoulders slumped in defeat.

*****


Outside the great stone castle, a hot breeze wafted through the courtyard, rustling the leaves of the many latak trees. A couple of slaves rushed back and forth carrying stacks of laundry to the washing area, too busy to pay attention to Lord Getham's daughter and the new house guest.

Kirk tossed the ball to Sashan, who deftly caught it, then hurled it back.

"That's enough for a while! I think I'll rest a minute," Kirk laughed. He sat down on a bench at the side of the courtyard. "It's too bad we don't have a stick to use as a bat. I could teach you a real game--baseball."

Sashan took the ball and bounced it a couple of times. "We've only been playing a few minutes. You really are tired, aren't you?"

"Yeah. A bit." The exercise had left him breathing heavily and he wondered when he would ever get his full strength back.

She sat on the ground, pulling her knees to her chest. "I'm tired, too."

"You? I don't believe it!"

"I truly am! I went for a long ride this morning, all the way to the foothills. Father would be angry if he knew I went so far by myself."

Kirk reached out, ruffling the dark hair. "You love to tempt fate, don't you? It seems to run in your family."

"My family? Oh, you mean Uncle Jarann," she frowned. "Did Father tell you that my uncle has been asking about you and wants to see you?"

"Yes." The word was spoken tersely, inviting no further comment, but Sashan was not about to put her curiosity aside.

She looked up him. "You don't want to see Uncle Jarann, do you? Is it because he was mean to you? I saw you that day in the courtyard when he first brought you here and...”

"How James feels about your uncle is not your concern," Spock said levelly, walking up to them. He had been watching, unnoticed, as he stood half-hidden in one of the castle's many doorways. Two days had passed since he'd had his discussion with Kirk--and told him that he loved him. There seemed to now be an unspoken agreement between then that they would not speak of the matter again; yet, things must be dealt with... and soon.

Sashan's mouth formed into a pout as she apologized, "I'm sorry. I guess I was being rude again."

"You weren't rude," Kirk smiled. "You're just a curious child."

"I'm not a child! I'm 12... almost 13! A woman!"

"Getham has stated that you are 11," Spock pointed out. "Almost 12."

"Sometimes I forget," she shrugged.

"Don't feel bad. Sometimes I forget my age, too," Kirk confessed.

"Sashan, if you would excuse us, I would like to speak to James alone."

"Certainly, Visitarr... I mean, Spock." She got up and inclined her head. "I like 'Visitarr' better!" she laughed, then dashed away.

"You should not encourage her," Spock said evenly. "She is enamored of you."

"Me? You're the one she's crazy about."

"I hardly think so."

"You tend to underestimate yourself," Kirk said quietly.

"The opposite is true. It is you who underestimate yourself." Spock met the human's gaze, watching as the hazel eyes darkened. Kirk turned his head away.

Spock finally sat down on the opposite side of the bench, and the silence hung heavily between them. He was only slightly encouraged by the fact that Kirk had been in a good humor when he was with Sashan, knowing the human's mood often shifted rapidly. Still, it was a pleasant day and Kirk seemed in better spirits than usual. There probably would not be a more opportune time to talk with him.

Finally the Vulcan said softly, "We have not yet completed our earlier discussion."

"Any one discussion in particular?"

"Please do not try to evade the matter. We should have discussed it fully long ago." Spock paused, then said evenly, "What occurred between us happened spontaneously. Our... urges overwhelmed us and...”

"No one is to blame," Kirk finished. "Yeah--the matter is conveniently resolved."

Spock was surprised by the bitterness in the human's tone. "Jim, I confessed to you that I love you."

"And I said that I love you. Here we sit. What next?"

The Vulcan raised an eyebrow. "It is obvious that you do not believe me."

"And you don't believe me." Kirk was silent for a moment, then asked, "If you had the opportunity, would you... make love to me again? I mean, now that you're back to... normal."

Spock tensed, feeling his heart skip a beat. He chose his words carefully. "If you desired it."

"Me? Why don't you say the whole thing--if you desired it, Captain!" Kirk got slowly to his feet. "You know your problem, Mr. Spock? You'll always see me as your captain. For once in your life, you lost control and thought of me as a human... a desirable human!"

The Vulcan was momentarily confused, unable to understand why his reply had angered Kirk. The human's temper had been quick to rise to the surface lately and Spock spoke his next words cautiously, hoping his honest answer would have a calming effect.

"Yes, Jim. You are very desirable."

Kirk's face flamed. "You bet I am! I’m worth a hell of a lot of drammits... just ask any slave dealer!" He turned abruptly and walked away.

'An emotional time bomb about to go off.' Spock sat thoughtfully, recalling McCoy's words. 'A proud man...who's lost his self-esteem.' He had tried to reach Jim, express his feeling toward him, but the human had fought at every turn, refusing to believe him... refusing to accept that he was loved. And in the process, Kirk had managed to twist everything that was said.

Spock raised his head in determination. If Jim would not listen to him, he would have to listen to Dr. McCoy.

*****


"I'm headin' to check on Jarann. Want to walk along with me, Spock?" the doctor asked.

"I think not. I have other matters to attend to." The Vulcan could think of nothing less inviting than a visit to Jarann's chambers.

"I just spoke to Jim." McCoy continued down the long, dark hallway, the sandals he wore making clicking sounds against the stone floor. Within seconds, Spock caught up with him.

"Thought that would get your attention!" McCoy grinned, then halted, his expression becoming serious. ""He told me what you said to him. He thinks you're trying to... make him feel better about what happened between you."

"He does not believe that I love him." Spock's voice held a hint of despair.

McCoy studied the Vulcan's face, understanding that his friend had been deeply hurt. He spoke firmly, trying to make Spock realize the truth of his words. "You're wrong. Deep down inside, he believes it--but he's fighting it. He doesn't feel worthy of your love."

Spock held his hands behind his back and stared grimly down at the floor.

"Because of the fact that he was enslaved and taken sexually." It was a simple statement, filled with pain.

"It was bad enough for him to face his captivity alone--and then you came for him and were made to sit and watch while Jarann degraded him. Jim feels... disgraced. It doesn't help that you were a witness to his humiliation." McCoy hesitated, reluctant to cause the Vulcan more anguish, yet knew he had to speak the whole truth... at least, as he saw it. "You brought him here and made love, then rejected him."

"Rejected? I only...”

"Hear me out, Spock. Maybe you thought you had to do it for Jim's own good, or maybe you were only protecting yourself. Still you did reject him, and he countered by rejecting you back. It was his only defense."

"He told you that?"

McCoy shook his head. "He didn't tell me much of anything. I'm just using my psychiatric training and putting things together. God, I'm worried about him! Sometimes he seems like he's entering a state of depression. The next minute, he's happily playing a game with that little girl. He's got to snap out of it somehow!" The doctor knocked at Jarann's door, then pushed it open and entered the room.

Spock followed reluctantly after him, then glanced around. He nodded a greeting to Getham, who was sitting in a large, comfortable-looking chair. Jarann was propped up in bed and smiled warmly at McCoy, but Spock looked away, refusing to acknowledge Kirk's former captor.

The Vulcan well remembered the last time he had been in this room. He had found Jim drugged and unconscious in the same bed that Jarann now occupied. Embarrassment suddenly flooded him as he recalled how easily he had accepted the fact that Kirk was his slave, not Jarann's. He made no excuses to himself that it was a logical decision. He had wanted Jim then, just as he wanted him now. Logical, perhaps. Convenient, definitely.

"Visitors!" Jarann called, breaking into Spock's introspection. "Though not the one I wish to see."

"I'm afraid I'll have to do. Let me check you again." McCoy began talking his pulse by hand, the scanner still hidden in his room. He was grateful that Sashan had promised to say nothing about his medical equipment. He hadn't any reasonable way to explain the strange devices to this planet's natives.

"My heart is still beating, I assure you."

"You're lucky it is. That was a bad wound. It's almost a miracle that you survived it."

Jarann turned his attention to Spock. "You surprise me by coming here."

The Vulcan had nothing to say to the man. He stood stiffly, impatient to have McCoy finish the examination so that their discussion could be continued.

Jarann regarded Spock's closed expression briefly, then looked back at the doctor. "How is James?"

"Every day you ask me that and every day I say he's fine. So let me answer your next question. No, he doesn't want to see you."

"Why?"

"I think that's probably the stupidest question I've ever heard!" McCoy said flatly.

Jarann changed positions, dangling his legs over the side of the bed. His dark hair was no longer tied back, but fell loosely to his shoulders. "I believe I am almost recovered. Perhaps I can walk around."

"I'm not sayin' yes and I'm not sayin' no. I have a feeling you'll do what you want to, anyhow."

Jarann met the doctor's eyes. "I intend to see James." The words were underlined with determination.

Spock tensed, then took a step forward. "It is clear that he does not wish to see you. I would advise you to leave him alone."

"A threat, Visitarr?"

"Interpret my intent as you choose."

Jarann's eyes narrowed. Yes, most definitely a threat--one which his brother's 'house guest' had no right to make. "There is no reason for you to be here. Leave!"

"Perhaps you should," Getham said quickly. "Thank you for coming, Healer."

"Quite welcome," McCoy replied. "You've done a lot for us, and I want to return the favor--although I think your healer is doing a better job on your brother than I could." He nodded toward Spock and they left the room together.

"Well, Doctor?" the Vulcan asked when they were in the hallway.

"He has amazing recuperative abilities. Must have something to do with the life he's led. A couple of days ago, I would have thought...”

"I am not referring to Jarann!" Spock interrupted. "I am speaking of Jim."

McCoy was thoughtful for a moment. "There's not much more I can say, Spock. I've told you he has to get things out into the open, not leave them smoldering inside. God knows, I've tried to help him, but that stubborn nature of his...” He paused, giving the Vulcan a commanding look. "I've done all that I can. It's up to you now."

The comment seemed to make Spock uncomfortable. “You are a trained psychiatrist, while I...”

"Love Jim. Maybe that's what it'll take--he needs your love and faith to reassure him. I think you're the crux of the whole matter. He's been too hurt to really give of himself, and you've spent your entire life learning to hide your emotions. You two are a pretty mixed-up pair, but you have one thing going for you. You both love each other."

The doctor suddenly seemed extremely weary, his shoulders slumping. "I'm going to my room to kick back and have a drink. Don't suppose you'd want to join me?"

Without hesitation, the Vulcan replied, "Thank you. I will." At McCoy's look of surprise, he added, "I believe we should have a lengthier talk in regard to the captain."

"Not 'the captain'. Jim." McCoy walked down the corridor, Spock at his side.

*****


Late the next morning, McCoy sat in a chair, fanning himself. The day was already far hotter than any he had experienced, and sweat ran down his brow. He watched worriedly as Kirk paced the floor.

"Good thing there's no carpets in here," he grumbled. "You'd have them ruined by now!"

"Huh?"

"Your continuous pacing. Why don't you sit down for a while? It's too damned hot!"

Kirk brushed the perspiration from his forehead. "It's always hot. I hate this planet!"

McCoy started to leap at the admission and try to prod him into saying something further, but Spock entered the room, quietly closing the door behind him. Kirk gave the Vulcan a quick glance, then continued his nervous pacing, while McCoy settled back in the chair.

"I think he's tired of being cooped up," the doctor said by way of explanation.

"There is no reason to remain within the confines of this room," Spock pointed out. "Perhaps we could take a walk."

Kirk halted and stared at the Vulcan. "In this heat? I'm bored, but not that bored!" He looked pensive for a moment. "It's just that there's nothing much to do here...”

"There is a great deal to do. You must recover your health."

"I feel fine. The wounds have healed."

"Have they?" the Vulcan asked quietly. Kirk gave him a questioning look.

"Maybe I should leave," McCoy said, rising from his chair. "It's time the both of you had a talk."

"No!" Kirk said sharply, suddenly feeling trapped. "That's all I've done over the past few days--talk!"

"You might have talked, but you haven't said anything. You have a lot of inner turmoil to resolve, and part of the problem is your relationship with Spock."

Kirk glanced from Spock to McCoy. "I don't know what you mean. We haven't got a 'relationship'."

"By your choice," the Vulcan stated flatly.

"Mine?" Kirk looked confused. "How could you... ? How could we have any kind of relationship after what I've done?" He flushed, realizing he had spoken without thinking. The words seemed to hang heavily in the hot stillness of the room.

McCoy rose from the chair and walked over to Kirk, gently turning him until they their eyes met. The doctor kept his face open and nonjudgmental as he rested his hands on the tense shoulders, asking softly, "Are you ready to talk about it now?"

Kirk shook his head, but was moved by the concern and caring on McCoy's face. He wanted to unburden his soul to this compassionate man, but he had suffered in silence for months, bearing things he never thought he would be able to bear. His pain was now a part of him, hidden in a place too deep for anyone to reach... and it would stay buried.

"Why don't the two of you leave me alone?" he pleaded. He was tired of the endless questions, the constant prodding, and truly wanted to be by himself; yet, he was reluctant to firmly order the two men to leave. Whether he deserved it or not, they did care about him... and he realized they were his anchor to reality, his only stability in a universe that had shattered his spirit.

The doctor slowly withdrew his hands from Kirk's shoulders. "If you want us to leave, we will. I'm not trying to push you."

Kirk smiled slightly, giving him a look of gratitude. He started to speak, then turned when he heard the door open.

Jarann entered the room, then paused, grinning broadly. "James! I heard you were better!"

Kirk stood transfixed as he stared at the man.

"You will leave!" Spock ordered, venom in his tone.

"Leave? I do not think so." Jarann moved to Kirk's side and reached out, resting his hand on the side of the human's face. "I have missed you, my beautiful slave."

Kirk's eyes blazed as he flung the hand away. "I'm not your slave, damn it! And I don't want you to touch me!" Before the others could react, Kirk darted from the room.

The Vulcan started to follow after him, but McCoy's words restrained him.

"Let him leave, Spock. There's nowhere for him to go."

The Vulcan halted, his gaze fixed on the open door, uncertain of what to do. He had seen Kirk's face when he stared at Jarann, and he had never before seen such a look of loathing. Kirk's expression had spoken the words he refused to say out loud.

"I do not understand," Jarann said, puzzled. "I only wanted to make sure James was in good health. I did nothing...”

"You've already done plenty!" McCoy said coldly. "I think you should follow Spock's suggestion and leave."

At first Jarann looked angry, then finally shrugged. "I have no wish to spend time in your company." He squared his shoulders and marched from the room.

"Spock, you can stop staring at the door now. It'll probably be a while before Jim returns."

The words pulled the Vulcan from his reverie. "I still believe I should follow him. His reaction to Jarann was... unexpected. There was such hatred on his face."

"I wish he'd slugged him!"

Spock's eyebrows shot into his bangs. "'Slugged him', Doctor?"

"It might have been a catharsis of sorts." McCoy frowned thoughtfully. "It's not like Jim to run away from his problems."

"I agree. I shall find him." Spock moved toward the doorway.

"No!" the doctor said forcefully. "Give him a little time to be alone. Maybe seeing Jarann brought things to a head. He can't hide any more, especially with his former captor up and about in the same building."

"Perhaps you are right," Spock admitted reluctantly, clasping his hands behind his back. "I shall allow him one hour."

*****


By the time Kirk reached the courtyard, his anger had dissipated. He could not understand why he had been so suddenly outraged by Jarann's touch. After all, it wasn't the first time the man had touched him...

Kirk flushed at the thought, then tried to fight back the rage which was again mounting within him. Battling desperately to keep control of his emotions, he walked toward the stables.

By the time he reached them, he was tired and his anger was replaced by a nearly overpowering depression. He should not have reacted to Jarann the way he had and, at the moment, he wanted nothing more than to get away from the castle... and from the watchful eyes of Spock and McCoy.

Sashan was busily feeding one of the horses. She turned at his entrance and smiled brightly. "James!"

"Mornin', Sashan."

Her expression quickly changed to a frown as she noticed his attention was on the horses, not on her. "It's not morning. It's noon."

"Oh," Kirk said absently, patting the head of a dark stallion.

"You want to ride him sometimes? He's very fast," she said, almost as a warning.

"I feel like riding fast." For the first time, Kirk smiled at her and, as usual, her heart seemed to melt. "Do you think your father would mind if I rode him now?"

"Of course not, but should you? The day is very hot and you are still unwell."

"You sound like McCoy." Kirk lifted a bridle and slipped the bit into the horse's mouth, then led it from the stable.

Sashan followed after him, "No saddle?" she asked curiously.

"I've gotten used to riding this way," Kirk said, hopping onto the stallion's back. As a slave, he'd always ridden bareback.

"Can I ride with you?" Sashan asked hopefully.

"Not today. I need some time to myself." Seeing her downcast expression, he added, "Maybe tomorrow."

"That would be fine!" Sashan watched him as he rode away, the breeze ruffling the light tunic he wore. When he was out of her range of vision, she moved back into the shade of the stable, thinking it odd that he had chosen such a scorchingly hot day for a ride. It did not make sense.

As she finished feeding her horse, she realized that James had seemed very tired and dispirited. For a moment, she considered riding after him, but he had emphasized that he wanted to be alone. Why? What had happened?

Sashan gave her horse a pat, then walked toward the castle, certain that Visitarr would be able to explain James' strange behavior.

*****


It was nearly three hours before the Vulcan finally managed to track Kirk to a lonely tree on the barren plain, three hours of finding the horse's tracks on the rocky ground and then losing the trail again.

Spock had not been made terribly uncomfortable by the hot sun which blazed down on him relentlessly, but anxiety had gripped him as he searched desperately, knowing that the human was still too ill to survive the inferno for long. He had chosen to go after Kirk alone, certain that the human would not travel far in the sweltering heat. As his journey turned into miles and the day wore on, it became too late for him to return to the castle and request a search party.

When he finally saw the grazing horse and spotted Kirk beneath the tree, his heart began to race. Resting. Jim must only be resting. He mentally chanted the thought, praying that it was true.

He rapidly rode toward the human, but Kirk did not move--and Spock was seized with fear. He flung himself off the horse and ran toward Kirk, then halted as he gazed down at him, noting from the rise and fall of the chest that the human was only deeply asleep.

The Vulcan let out the breath he had been unconsciously holding, then knelt next to Kirk and touched the too-hot forehead.

"Spock?" Kirk opened his eyes and looked at him groggily.

"Are you unwell?"

"No. I was just resting." Kirk took a deep breath, then straightened. "The ride gave me a headache."

"You brought no water?" His tone was accusing. Spock was angry with him for foolishly riding so far, but his anger was mixed with relief at finding the human alive.

"Guess I forgot," Kirk said sheepishly.

Spock stood and walked to his horse, bringing back a canteen of water and offering it to the human. "Please drink it slowly."

Kirk ran his tongue over his parched lips as he took the canteen. He drank greedily, ignoring the Vulcan's advice, too thirsty to care. Then he leaned back against the tree, rubbing his forehead.

"Jim?" Spock asked worriedly.

"I guess I drank too fast. I'm a little dizzy."

Spock sat down next to him and they were quiet for a time until he asked, "Why did you leave and ride here?"

Kirk's eyes darkened. "I wanted to get away from that bastard! What was I supposed to do, stand there and let him... touch me?"

"I was... concerned when you ran away."

"Ran away?" Kirk bit at his lower lip. "That's exactly what I did. I ran away."

"Why? Do you fear Jarann?" He asked the question deliberately, trying to draw Kirk out.

"Of course not! He doesn't have any claim on me now. It's just that...”

"Tell me," Spock urged softly.

"I don't think you'd understand."

"Please try to explain. In the past, we have always confided in one another."

Kirk sat forward, wrapping his arms around his knees. "This is different. I've never been so scared before."

Spock was startled by the admission, hesitating a moment before he asked softly, "Why are you frightened?"

It was a full minute before the human spoke. "I thought I was getting some semblance of my life back together. You were there, and McCoy... and I almost thought things could be right again." His expression was distant as he shook his head. "But when I saw Jarann, I felt like a... slave. Nothing has changed."

"How exactly did you feel, Jim?"

"Dirty. Helpless. I don't know." Kirk looked at Spock, his face filled with pain. "I suddenly realized things will never be the same. I'll never be the captain again."

"That is not true. You are the same man you have always been."

"Am I? I ran from Jarann--like a filthy coward! I've lost my courage!"

Spock was surprised that the human did not see that the opposite was true. He stated flatly, "You are in error. It has taken a great deal of courage for you to tell me this."

"Words, Spock--not actions. I ran away!"

The Vulcan sat thoughtfully for a moment, then said, "You were not running from Jarann, but from yourself."

Kirk closed his eyes and leaned back against the tree. "Shit! You're beginning to sound like McCoy!" He again rubbed his hand over his forehead, then said wearily, "There's no room for cowardice in command. My crew depends on me--one wrong move on my part could cost them their lives. I'm not a leader anymore.

Spock spoke firmly and with reassurance. "You underestimate yourself. With time, you will be able to reconcile the trauma you have endured."

"I wish I could believe that."

"Doctor McCoy and I have attempted to help you, but it is difficult without your cooperation." He pulled Kirk forward a little and began to tenderly massage his neck and shoulders.

"Won't do any good. This is the worse headache I've ever had!" Kirk protested, but began to relax under the Vulcan's ministrations.

"Your body is overly warm," Spock noted worriedly. "You stated that you were dizzy?"

"Yeah. A little." Kirk paused, then amended, "A lot."

Spock stopped the massage, then said, "I want you to stand up." Kirk looked at him curiously, but got to his feet with the Vulcan's help.

"Oh, shit! I think I'm going to be sick!" Kirk groaned, his body suddenly trembling. "What the hell's the matter with me?" If Spock had not been holding him, he knew he wouldn't have been able to stand. He felt himself gently lowered back to the ground.

Filled with alarm, Spock inwardly admonished himself for not recalling the symptoms of sunstroke earlier. "I must take you back to Doctor McCoy."

"I don't feel much like riding."

The Vulcan walked away, took a length of rope from his saddlebag and tied Kirk's horse to his. He pulled out a light blanket, then lifted the human onto the lead horse. He mounted the animal and held Kirk tightly, covering the human's shoulders and head with the blanket.

"It's too hot to have a blanket over me!"

"Hush, Jim. You should not have ridden into the heat of the day without a head covering."

He rode toward the castle, the human snuggled against him. After a while, Kirk fell asleep, comforted by the rocking motion and the strong arms that held him.

During the long ride to the castle, Spock thought about what Kirk had said. He had revealed only a little of his inner turmoil, but at least it was a beginning. Jim had been traumatized to the point that he felt he could never be a starship captain again. Fear and humiliation were powerful enemies, but he and McCoy would make Jim whole.

*****


Kirk stared out the window, a smile on his face. "Look at Sashan. She's playing a game almost like hop-scotch!" The sunset colored the peaceful courtyard which was empty, except for the child.

"Yeah. I taught it to her," McCoy grinned.

"You?"

"Didn't have much else to do. For the last two days, you've done hardly anything but sleep."

Kirk continued to watch Sashan, finding the calmness of the scene relaxing. "Well, I feel great today! I kinda want to do something exciting."

"Not another horse ride! You were just lucky you only got a mild case of sunstroke!"

Kirk shrugged. "It was stupid of me to ride off like that."

"Not necessarily. I think you realized that you needed some time to sort things out...”

"Stop analyzing me!" Kirk whirled, his mood quickly changing. "I ran off because I didn't want to face Jarann!"

"It wasn't Jarann you didn't want to face. It was yourself."

"God damn it, stop! You and Spock are beginning to sound alike!" Kirk moved away from the window and flung himself down into a chair. "Every time I get in a half-way decent mood, you start trying to make me angry!"

"That's not what I'm trying to do," McCoy said cautiously. "And how am I supposed to tell when you're in a good frame of mind? Your mood shifts minute by minute."

Kirk's anger quickly faded as he asked quietly, "So what?"

"You're doing it again! I can't keep up with you!" McCoy sat down on the floor, next to Kirk's chair. "Spock stayed by your bedside practically the whole time you were asleep."

"I know. I could... sense his presence."

"And it comforted you?"

"Jarann didn't try to see me again?" Kirk swiftly shifted the subject.

"He wouldn't dare. Spock had a 'chat' with him. I doubt if Jarann'll get within ten feet of you!"

"Guess I'm lucky to have Spock's protection." There was a trace of bitterness in Kirk's tone.

"Not only his protection, but his love." The doctor waited for a reaction but Kirk looked away, refusing to meet his gaze.

"Well, Jim? What about Spock?"

"That subject is closed."

"It's about time you opened it," McCoy began, but stopped speaking when the Vulcan entered the room, casting a concerned look toward the doctor. McCoy gave a nearly imperceptible shake of his head.

Spock sighed inwardly, then walked to Kirk's side. "You look well this evening."

"Aren't you going to add 'Captain'?" Kirk replied sarcastically, then quickly changed to a softer tone when he saw the Vulcan's hurt expression. "Yes, Spock. I feel fine."

Feeling the tension between the two men, the doctor attempted to lighten the moment. "Jim was even sayin' he felt like doing something exciting but I talked him out of a horseback ride!"

"Perhaps a stroll around the grounds would be invigorating."

"That's not very exciting." Kirk leaned his head against the back of the chair. "I'm beginning to feel a little tired again. Maybe I'll just get some more rest."

McCoy got to his feet and pitched his voice so that only the Vulcan could hear, "Depression," then said more loudly, "It's a beautiful day. I feel like taking a stroll. "Without a backward glance, he walked from the room, leaving Kirk and Spock alone.

Kirk started to protest, but saw that the doctor had already left. He suddenly felt very uncomfortable in the Vulcan's presence. There was a heavy silence in the room.

A minute passed before Spock said reassuringly, "I have spoken to both Jarann and Getham, and it is agreed that Jarann will not approach you again."

"I know." The words held a hint of defeat. So it had come to this. He now needed a protector.

Spock studied the human, not certain of what to say to him. He took a steadying breath before he spoke. "Jim, when you said before that you could never be the captain again...”

Kirk shot to his feet, startling Spock. "Don't start on me! I've had it with you and McCoy! I can't be around the two of you anymore without feeling... caged."

"We are endeavoring to help you."

"Maybe I don't need help. I've been working through a lot of things, and I'm okay now!" Kirk said defiantly as he stood, hands on hips.

"You know that is not true."

"I had sunstroke that day, remember? I didn't know what I was saying."

"You were aware. The fact is, you said more than you meant to. Stop lying to yourself," Spock said firmly.

"So now I'm a liar?" Kirk hesitated, then gave the Vulcan a half-smile. "It won't work. I know what you're trying to do--but you're not going to make me mad."

"Why would I wish to anger you?" Spock asked curiously.

"To make me say things...” Kirk's words trailed off as he looked away.

Spock stepped forward and lightly touched the human's face. "I have much patience. I love you, Jim."

Kirk flinched, almost as though the touch had burned him. "Love me? We've been over this before!"

"And nothing has been resolved."

Kirk began twisting his hands together, staring at the floor. "Can't you understand that things can never be... right between us after what Jarann did to me?"

"The fact that he assaulted you sexually...”

"It was more than just that. God, I felt so humiliated! I hate this planet and I hate these people!" Kirk continued to stare at the floor, refusing to say anything further.

Spock noted the anguish on the human's face and was reluctant to push him further, but an inner sense told him that Kirk was now very vulnerable and near the breaking point. There could be no better time to force him to speak.

The Vulcan swallowed hard before he hesitantly prodded, "It must have been degrading for you to have another man... use your body."

"You used my body!"

Spock tensed, stung by the words. "We are talking about Jarann."

"Jarann? Want me to tell you about him?" Kirk glowered at Spock, then straightened, a determined look on his face. Suddenly his words erupted, as though he could no longer control them. "I hated what Jarann did to me, and I felt disgusted with myself. It would have been one thing if I had just given into it, but he made sure that I responded, too! It was like living in hell--a hell I couldn't escape. Day after day...” Kirk halted, surprised by his own confession. "Get out of here, Spock! Leave me alone!"

"I will not leave," the Vulcan said quietly.

"'I will not leave, Captain'! I'm ordering you to go!"

"Do you hate me also, Jim?" the Vulcan asked in a near whisper.

"I don't... !" Kirk started to object, then paled.

"I am certain that at this moment, you hate me as much as you hate yourself."

Kirk squared his shoulders and strode to the door, flinging it open. "Get out!"

Without a word, Spock walked to the door and shut it, bracing his back against it. He stood rigidly, arms crossed.

"What now? Are you trying to keep me prisoner here?" Kirk nearly shouted, his face flushed. He took several steps backward, fists clenched, until he stumbled into a small table.

Infuriated, he whirled and kicked it, sending it toppling over. This seemed to increase his fury, and he picked up the table, repeatedly smashing it against the wall until it shattered. He glanced up to see his reflection in the wall mirror and halted abruptly, stunned by the rage on his face. Suddenly, he pulled the mirror away and sent it crashing to the floor, then kicked at the broken pieces, scattering them.

"Why did you do that?" Spock asked, bewildered by the human's actions.

"Maybe because I'm sick of my face!"

The Vulcan had never seen Kirk lose complete control and he wished that McCoy had remained. The doctor would know what to do, how to calm him. The hazel eyes sparkled dangerously and he realized he had to make an effort to soothe him--but how to soothe a human who was behaving irrationally?

He walked forward, then said softly, "Your face is very beautiful. I do not understand why...”

"Beautiful!" Kirk spat, stepping up to him. Without thinking, he swiftly swung his fist, landing a blow across the Vulcan's face. Caught off balance, Spock fell to the floor, then quickly got into a crouch, ready to defend himself.

After a minute, Kirk stared down at him, a look of horror on his face, he knelt beside the Vulcan. "Are you... hurt, Spock?"

The Vulcan touched his chin where the blow had landed. "I do not believe any permanent damage has been incurred."

Kirk said nothing further, only glanced down at his hand, flexing his fingers.

"Let me see your hand, Jim." Kirk gave him a questioning look. "I am concerned that you may have injured it." He pulled the human's hand toward him and gently rubbed it, making sure there were no bones broken. He did not release the hand, but continued to hold it in his own.

They sat silently for several minutes until Kirk whispered, "I'm sorry, Spock."

"I know."

"I don't understand why I... lost my temper like that."

The Vulcan took a deep breath, meeting Kirk's gaze. "I think you do. You are still lying to yourself. You do not hate this planet's inhabitants. Your animosity is toward Jarann... and me."

"You? I'm not mad at you, Spock."

The Vulcan rubbed his chin. "I would prefer at this time to discuss your relationship with Jarann."

"I wouldn't! What happened is over and done with... and I just want to forget about it!"

"But you obviously cannot forget. Do you intend to continue to take your frustrations out on Getham's furnishings?"

Kirk glanced at the broken table and mirror, feeling his face grow warm. "That was a pretty stupid thing to do."

"Not necessarily. Perhaps it made you feel... better at the time." Spock released the hand, then got to his knees and faced the human. "Jim, you cannot continue to keep such anger within. You must talk about your feelings. I believe you realize that now."

Kirk reluctantly nodded. "That... temper tantrum I threw scared the shit out of me," he admitted.

Spock gave the human no time to recover himself or try to hide behind his mental shields. "You had begun to speak of what you experienced as Jarann's slave. Will you tell me now?"

"You want to hear... everything?" Kirk whispered.

"Everything." He waited patiently for the human to speak.

Kirk tensed, looking away. Suddenly the words began to tumble out, words filled with bitterness and loathing. "Jarann only allowed me to wear that damned skimpy shirt, while the other slaves were fully clothed--and do you know why? I didn't have any other 'duties' but to function as a sex slave! And there were other things...” His voice trailed off, then he said hesitantly, "I don't think you want to hear the rest."

"I do want to hear," Spock said softly.

Still not meeting the Vulcan's eyes, Kirk began to speak reluctantly. "Do you know how much I wanted to die? I almost did it once... killed myself. We were all out hunting and I was alone and had a knife. I almost did it, but I thought of you and McCoy and... I couldn't. I dropped the knife and stood there shaking...”

Kirk paused and stared down at his hand, almost as though he still saw himself holding the knife. "Jarann walked up to me then, excited by the kill. He asked me what was the matter, but I didn't answer, knowing that he didn't really care. Then he lifted my shirt and started stroking me, not concerned that there were others nearby. All he wanted to do was fuck me... and he did. Right on the god-damned ground."

Spock could not help but envision the brutal scene and mentally replaced Kirk with himself, experiencing the human's suffering and humiliation. Suddenly he broke his concentration, aware that Kirk was now silent and staring at him intently.

"I'm sorry, Spock," the human nearly whispered. "I shouldn't be telling you this."

"I must live through this hell with you," the Vulcan said in a choked voice. "Please, Jim. Do not try to hide things from me. Tell me everything."

"I hate him."

"I know."

Kirk sighed deeply. "When I was first enslaved by Jarann, the situation wasn't hopeless. I tried to escape a few times and was... punished...”

"Drugged and beaten?" the Vulcan asked quietly.

"Drugged. Jarann never hit me that much. I just knew I'd find a way to escape, in spite of the chains. Then I would be able to find you and McCoy. It kept my spirit alive, but then ...” Anguish crept across Kirk's face. "After I'd given him my oath, I could only live hour by hour. There was no future... and I didn't want to remember my past."

"You must face that past. You have left out a great deal." Spock took a deep breath. "I brought you back to this castle, took you from Jarann...”

"And fucked me," Kirk said caustically.

"Jim!"

The human seemed contrite for a moment, then spoke softly. "It wasn't your fault--it was mine. I knew you weren't fully aware of what you were doing, but I didn't stop you. I'd been so alone and I wanted you... badly. And it hurt so damn much when I was suddenly the 'Captain' to you again... and you didn't want me...” Kirk's voice trailed off.

He held his head high, challenging Spock. "Since we're being so honest, why don't you admit that you were ashamed--and wished it had never happened?"

"It was wrong of me to take you as I did. You did plead with me to stop and I refused, thinking that you were my slave and... knowing that I desired you." Spock hesitated for a moment. It was difficult for him to admit the truth; yet, there must be nothing but honesty between them now.

Finally he confessed, "When I suddenly regained my memory during the meld and saw you beneath me... I realized that I had taken you out of uncontrolled lust. Yes, I was ashamed--not of you, but of myself. I turned inward, using my Vulcan half as protection."

"From me or from yourself?"

"Both."

"That's the heart of the matter isn't it?" Kirk asked sadly. "You'll always have that Vulcan shield to hide behind."

Spock shook his head. "I tried to hide behind it, but it only hurt both of us. There is no shield now. I am being truthful when I say that I love you with all my soul."

"You love another man's whore?" Kirk snapped, his voice laced with self- hate.

You are still fighting me, Jim. Spock reached out and gently touched his hand to the human's face. "That is in the past. You are James Kirk—the man I love and desire."

Kirk moved his face away and smiled, a cold smile that never touched his eyes. "That makes it pretty simple, doesn't it? Since we both love each other so damn much, we can climb into bed and fuck a while. There's only one small problem. I can't."

Spock heard the fear in the words and noticed the nearly imperceptible trembling of the human's body. "What do you mean?" he asked softly, already suspecting the answer.

"I can't, that's all!" Kirk moved away and stood up. "I've admitted that I love you, yet I know I don't want to be... used sexually again. Not by you or anyone else."

Spock also stood. "If you do not desire a sexual relationship, there will be none."

"How pleasant!" Kirk said sarcastically. "You can follow me around the rest of your life, picking up any crumbs I want to toss your way. With practice, you can learn to masturbate pretty well--if you don't already do it!"

"Stop it.'" Spock nearly shouted, his face paling.

"Why? I thought you wanted to hear the truth," Kirk returned. "You can never have me... not that there's much left of me to give. The Jim Kirk that you say you love is dead--killed by his own hand on a plateau on some backwater planet!"

Spock was agitated beyond control and spoke without taking time to think. "Perhaps you are right. The Jim Kirk I knew would not waste his life by condemning himself with self-pity!"

Kirk took a step backward, as though the words had struck him. The two men eyed each other warily and the silent seconds passed as they faced each other like combatants in a duel.

Finally Kirk said calmly, "I want you to leave, Spock. I'm not thinking clearly right now, and I have some plans to make."

"What plans?" There was alarm in the Vulcan's voice.

At first, Kirk did not answer. He walked over to the bed and flung himself onto his back. Hands behind his head, he stared up at the ceiling, then said with finality, "I'm going away."

The Vulcan's breath caught in his throat, but he managed to ask steadily, "Where?"

"I can't live off Getham's hospitality forever," Kirk shrugged. "I'll go to Elgin, find some kind of work. It's time we all got on with our lives."

"Alone?"

"Yes, Spock." Kirk turned his head to face him. "Alone."

The Vulcan took a step toward the bed and started to speak, but Kirk's words halted him.

"Please leave now. I can't talk anymore... or face anything else." He gave Spock a ghost of a smile. "I won't go 'off into the night' without saying good-bye, if that's what you're thinking. We're still... friends."

Spock knew the words were a dismissal--and that Kirk had now closed him off and would not listen further. He turned and walked defeatedly to the door, keeping his back toward the human as he echoed, "Still friends." A moment later, he reluctantly left.

Kirk again stared at the ceiling, knowing this time he had lost Spock for good. But the Vulcan had to be free, not tangled in his web of remorse and ruined dreams. Dreams...

Alone," he whispered, and remembered his nightmare of the ship... and Spock. Even in the dream, he had been left alone.

Kirk suddenly felt tears begin to well, but he fought them away. Something inside him refused to give in. He had not cried before--and he would not cry now.

*****


Spock walked down the corridor, a leaden heaviness to this step. Kirk had finally faced all his terrors, but the result was not the one anticipated. Jim had driven him away.

The Vulcan stopped before the door to his room and opened it, stepping inside. He glanced around at the shadows made by the moon, shadows which made the room seem foreboding.

Realizing how very tired he was, he moved to the bed and sat down, knowing his mind was as muddled as Jim's had been. Why did he consider the room to be foreboding? It was a nice chamber with a view of the courtyard, nothing ominous about it. Only it was lonely... incredibly lonely.

"Jim, why will you not listen to me?" Spock asked out loud. Minutes passed as he sat in silence, head bowed, wondering how he could manage to live his life without the human. Yet, Kirk was determined to go to Elgin and it was, after all, his decision. Or was it?

"Do you want to follow me around the rest of your life, picking up any crumbs I want to toss your way?" Kirk's bitter words echoed in his thoughts.

"Yes, Jim," Spock whispered. "I would follow you anywhere and take anything you offered. I should have told you that. It is not only your decision, but mine as well."

The Vulcan suddenly stood, a fierce determination on his face, then strode purposefully toward the door.

*****


Kirk was undressed and laying on top of the bed. He quickly sat up when Spock entered the room, then covered his nakedness with a sheet. The moonlight was bright and he could clearly see the expression on the Vulcan's face. Unsure of what to say, he remained silent.

Spock moved gracefully across the room until he stood next to the human. "I will not leave you again--not now, or ever." He was startled by the unexpected reply.

"Thank God!" Kirk exclaimed, letting out the breath he had been holding.

A smile tugged at Spock's lips. "There is no deity involved."

"There must be--after what I said to you." Kirk brought his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. "I thought you left... hating me. And I couldn't blame you."

"I could never hate you. I am ready to take those crumbs which you offered."

Kirk looked at him in surprise. "You can't mean that! I told you how it is with me, that we never could...”

"Do you trust me?" Spock interrupted.

"What?"

"Do you trust me?"

After a moment, Kirk nodded.

"You are not now and perhaps never will be ready for a sexual relationship with me. I accept that." Spock inclined his head toward the chair. "You have faced a great deal of trauma and should not be alone tonight. I will stay."

"You're going to sleep in the chair?"

"It is not my preference, but I know you would be reluctant to share your bed."

"Very reluctant."

The Vulcan removed his lightly woven shirt and folded it neatly, then placed it on the floor. The sandals and pants swiftly followed. He walked to the chair and sat down, trying to find a comfortable position.

"You can't be serious about sleeping there," Kirk said. "Go on back to your room and get some rest. I'll be okay."

"I will not leave you," Spock stated emphatically, then requested, "Would you please hand to me a blanket? The night air is chilly."

"Crazy Vulcan," Kirk muttered, tossing him a blanket. "I don't need a baby-sitter!"

Spock wrapped the blanket around himself, then met the hazel eyes. "I repeat, for the final time, I will not leave you. If you wish to go to Elgin, I shall go with you. You have had to endure too much by yourself, but you will not be alone again."

"Never alone...” Kirk stretched out on the bed, comforted by the words.

The minutes ticked away in silence and Kirk tossed around, while the Vulcan sat stiff and unmoving in the chair. There was, in fact, not very much of an area for Spock to move around in. He had shifted positions several times and was not sitting erectly, hands folded in his lap.

Kirk turned over and looked at him. "You don't seem to be very comfortable, Spock."

"I am not comfortable", the Vulcan admitted. He maneuvered to his side, crossing one leg over the other.

"That does it! It's impossible to deal with a stubborn Vulcan!" Kirk patted the bed. C'mon and get in under the covers. There's enough room for three in here."

Spock hesitantly rose from the chair, studying his face. "Are you certain?"

"I guess. We've shared beds lots of times in the past. Of course, back then...”

"We had never made love," Spock finished, sliding in next to the human. Kirk immediately moved away until he was at the side of the bed.

"You fear me?" The Vulcan did not try to hide his astonishment.

"No! It's just that...”

"What, Jim?"

"Please. I don't want to talk anymore," Kirk said softly. "I'm tired."

Spock dared to brush back a lock of the human's hair. "I am certain you are. Go to sleep now." He continued to stroke his hand across Kirk's forehead.

"Making me sleepy..." Kirk mumbled.

Spock's warm smile went unnoticed by the human. "It is meant to. When I was young, my mother often used this technique to help me sleep."

"My mom, too." Kirk yawned, while the Vulcan sat watching him.

*****


Nearly an hour later, Kirk began to moan and toss. Spock automatically pulled the human toward him and ran his hand up and down Kirk’s back, knowing he was probably in the throes of another nightmare.

Kirk reacted violently to the touch. He opened his eyes, only half awake and totally disoriented. "Keep your hands off me, Jarann!" he gasped. His breathing was ragged as he took short, panting breaths.

"Hush, Jim. You were dreaming." The Vulcan continued to stroke his back.

"Spock!" Kirk became more fully aware and pushed himself away. "On the ship... the way they all looked at me!"

"A dream," Spock repeated.

"Disgust," Kirk shuddered. "You looked at me with disgust... and loathing!"

"Face me!" Spock ordered, raising the human's chin until their eyes met. "Do you see disgust on my face?"

"It's dark...”

"No, the room is bright with moonlight. Do you see disgust on my features?"

"This is real." He gently caught and squeezed Kirk's hand. "I am real. There is nothing written on my face but love for you. Do you see it?"

Kirk's breathing became steadier, but he refused to answer the question. Instead he asked, "What if I can never command the ship again? What then?"

"You will command. It-will take time for you to regain your confidence and self-esteem, but you will regain it."

"And if I don't? If I wind up at the gates of Hell?"

"I will follow you there," Spock said quietly.

"No!" Kirk blurted, sitting up. "I won't do that to you! I won't bring you down with me!" The Vulcan reached toward him, but he pushed the hand away. "I can face losing the ship and my command, if I have to--but I couldn't stand to ruin you!"

A tear traced a path down Kirk's cheek as he continued, "You have your own life. I can't bear the thought of losing you, but...” He wiped away the tear and said with a mixture of anger and dismay, "God damn it! I'm crying!"

"Let it go, Jim." Spock pulled the human into his arms and this time Kirk did not protest. He rested his chin on the golden hair and gently began to rock him. "You need this. Let go."

"I can't... stop myself!" Kirk gasped as the tears began to flow. Spock held him tighter as the human's body was suddenly racked with sobs. Kirk turned his head, snuggling into the warmth of the Vulcan's chest, and continued to cry.

Spock began to run his hand across Kirk's shoulders and down the broad back as he rocked him. Tears were in his own eyes, tears for all the pain and humiliation the human had suffered, but he refused to cry. He must remain strong because Jim needed his strength tonight.

After a time, Kirk stopped trembling and the crying subsided. He looked up at Spock in embarrassment and started to speak, but was quieted when the Vulcan touched a finger to his lips.

"Do not be ashamed of your own courage," Spock said softly.

"My courage?"

The Vulcan nodded. "You have found the strength to cry. Now do you have the courage to live?"

"Spock, I don't need another lecture!"

"There will be none." The Vulcan's heart seemed to catch in his throat as he gazed at the dark, wet lashes, the open vulnerability on Kirk's face. He regretted the fact that he would have to push him further.

"I must ask your intentions," Spock finally said. "Will you fight to be strong enough to again command the Enterprise?"

Kirk was thoughtful for a moment. "I'm not giving up. I do want her back. Maybe with time, I'll get myself back together."

"With Doctor McCoy's help... and mine."

Kirk nodded, then looked puzzled. "For some reason, I seem to feel more at peace with myself than I have in a long time."

"The tears were a catharsis." Spock lifted the human's head. "You will fight for the Enterprise?"

"Yes."

"Will you fight for our love?"

Kirk tried to pull his head away, but it was held firmly in the Vulcan's grasp. After a minute, he admitted, "I don't know what to do. I don't know how."

"You will not deny my love for you, but learn to accept it. Together we are strong--strong enough to fight your fears."

Kirk sighed deeply. "Spock, no matter what 'catharsis' I've gone through, I'm still pretty mixed up."

"Does your confusion encompass your feelings toward me?"

"What... ?"

The Vulcan released Kirk's face and gazed at him softly. "Do you love me, Jim?"

Kirk gave him a half-smile. "That's one thing I'm not confused about. I do love you."

Spock felt his heart skip a beat. "Much has happened that could have destroyed that love--but it has not been destroyed because our feelings toward one another are too strong. There is nothing now that will ever serve to separate us."

For the first time, Kirk accepted the truth of the Vulcan's words. Spock did love him, but his own confusion and stubbornness had not allowed him to see it. A sense of peace settled over him and his features were filled with an overwhelming happiness.

"You really do love me, Spock," Kirk whispered, almost to himself, then his face brightened. "After all that's happened, we still love each other!"

"And will always love one another." Spock took the human back into his arms and held him in a comforting embrace.

Kirk was silent for a time, growing sleepy in the secure warmth. His eyes began to drift shut until he suddenly jerked them open, surprised that he was falling asleep.

"Rest now," the Vulcan murmured. "You are tired."

"I can't." Kirk's words were muffled as his head lay against Spock's chest. "I started thinking about us... and sex. I told you that I couldn't respond...”

"You also told me that you responded to Jarann even though it was against your will."

There was almost a full minute of silence before Kirk confessed in a whisper, "Maybe I can. I don't know. All I'm sure of is that... I don't want to."

"I understand. Truly, Jim, I do understand." Spock bent his head and kissed the softly scented hair. "Even if you can never respond to me in a sexual way, I will still love you. Now and forever."

"It doesn't sound like you're getting much of a bargain," Kirk said defeatedly.

"You are beyond value." Spock pulled the human tighter against him, as though illustrating the point. "I will be satisfied to take only what you can offer, my t'hy'la."

Kirk moved away a little and smiled up at him. "Thank you, Spock."

"You are quite welcome." The Vulcan resisted his urge to press his mouth against the sensual lips. He did want to join completely with the man he loved... but he wanted something even more. He wanted Kirk whole again, and he would never do anything to harm him, or lose his trust.

"Sleep now, Jim," Spock murmured, his heart thudding heavily against his chest.

Kirk wrapped his arms around the Vulcan and snuggled against the hotter body, almost as though he were a child in its mother's embrace. "I trust you," he whispered. Minutes later, he fell asleep.

Spock felt his erection press against the human's stomach, but he was unembarrassed by his response. Jim was so very desirable--and he needed him so badly... needed the complete joining of body and mind, but he realized that completion may never happen. He closed his eyes, knowing that if this was all he would ever have, it would be enough.

*****


The sunlight crept into the room, awakening Spock. Without opening his eyes, he reached toward Kirk, then bolted upright when he realized the bed was empty.

"Looking for me, Spock?" Kirk was sitting in the chair, smiling at him. He was shirtless and shoeless, dressed only in a pair of loose-fitting pants.

The Vulcan said nothing, still fighting his panic. When he had found the bed empty, his first thought had been that Kirk had left--and gone to Elgin.

"You have to trust me," Kirk said as though reading his mind. "We're in this together."

"Have you been awake long?" Spock decided to shift the conversation to safer ground, certain that Kirk did not want to talk about all that had happened last night. He was wrong.

"I've been up for nearly two hours, thinking about things. I've decided to face my demons... all of them."

"What do you mean?" He gave the human a puzzled look.

"I'm going to say this point blank--and I don't want you turning green with embarrassment," Kirk grinned. "Spock, I want you to make love to me."

The Vulcan looked at him speechlessly, feeling his face grow warm.

"Green! I knew it!"

Spock was clearly surprised by the human's levity. "Jim, you cannot mean that you desire a ... sexual coupling. If you are joking...”

Kirk rose from the chair and walked over to the bed. He sat down, keeping his eyes fixed on the Vulcan's face. "I'm not joking. In fact, I'm trying to hide the fact that I'm scared shitless."

"Then... why?"

"I've been doing some serious thinking and I know the root of my problems... me." Kirk stared down at his hands. "A lot of things have screwed up my head, but I'm the one who wants to wallow in fear and self-pity. And you know what?" He again gazed at the Vulcan. "I've faced a lot of enemies, but I've never had a tougher one than myself."

Spock nodded. "And now you intend to defeat that enemy?"

"Yes. And I'll win... against myself." Kirk straightened. "That brings me back to my original request. I want you to make love to me."

The Vulcan swallowed hard. "Why?"

"Because we both want it, but I'm too damned scared." Kirk's eyes were shadowed as he continued, "I was remembering the night you took me from Jarann and made love to me. When we joined, it felt so... right. Like we should always be together. What I'm trying to say is that I felt so... complete. My love for you was so strong that I realized I had finally found happiness."

"Jim, I...”

"Let me finish. Afterward, when you changed toward me, I was hurt. No, more than hurt... devastated. I tried to hide my pain so deeply away that no one could hurt me again. I knew I loved you, even told you so, but I tried not to feel that love. Last night when you held me, it was there again."

"Yes," Spock whispered. The feeling had been shared.

"I want you... and I'm afraid," Kirk confessed. "I keep telling myself that in time my fear will disappear... but I have to make the fear vanish. I do want you, but I'm not sure if I can...”

"Jim, do not do this to me," the Vulcan pleaded. "You cannot know the nights of torment I have suffered, dreaming of you... desiring you."

Kirk's expression was a challenge. "Then take me now."

Warm lips were suddenly pressed onto Spock's mouth and a tongue darted into the wetness, meeting his own. He began to savor Kirk's taste, his excitement building. For a moment, he was lost in the sensation, content to be in Kirk's arms, feeling his own cock engorge and begin to throb. Suddenly, he pulled away.

"What... ?"

Spock tried to steady his breathing. "I cannot!"

Kirk glanced down at the Vulcan's erection. "Looks like you can."

"Do not make light of this!" Spock warned. "I want to love you, but I am not certain it is the right thing to do at this time."

"At this time?" Kirk echoed, frowning. "When do we decide it's the right time? An hour from now? A week? Maybe after I've been committed to psychiatric care at Benecia?"

"Do not talk like that!" Spock moved away and stared toward the window.

There was a heavy silence until Kirk said quietly, "I'm sorry. I'm pushing you into something you don't want to do."

The Vulcan turned to meet the hazel eyes. "You are wrong. I do desire you.

"But not now."

"Even now."

Kirk took a steadying breath. "Maybe we should try again. Go slow. Then if things don't work out...” He shrugged, giving Spock an expectant look.

"I am not certain that I could... go slow."

"Try?" Kirk gave him an encouraging smile, one that the Vulcan found impossible to resist. He quietly studied Spock's face. After a moment, he knew that he had won.

"You are... certain?" the Vulcan asked hesitantly.

"Very certain."

Spock opened his arms and Kirk flung himself into the welcoming embrace, content to rest quietly against the Vulcan. Finally he pulled his head back and opened his mouth in invitation.

Spock kissed him deeply, greedily sucking Kirk's tongue. He stroked his hand across the human's chest, fingering the nipples, and felt his own cock fully engorge. He was rapidly losing control, but he had wanted this for so very long...

He disengaged himself from the kiss and gently pushed Kirk down, stretching out beside him on the bed. Gazing at the human, he raised a questioning eyebrow.

"I want this," Kirk whispered, answering the unspoken question. He pulled Spock toward him and they kissed again.

The Vulcan's hand wandered down Kirk's body, loosening the tie of the pants. He began to push them down, finally ordering in a voice hoarse with arousal, "Raise your hips."

Kirk quickly complied and the pants were removed and flung away. Their bodies pressed tightly together and Spock's fingers traced down Kirk's thigh, then snaked toward the human's groin.

"Stop!" Kirk ordered breathlessly, startling the Vulcan. The brown eyes were filled with dismay as he stared at him.

"Jim...” Spock reached out to touch him.

Kirk bolted from the bed and strode to the window, gazing blankly down at the courtyard. He continued to stare out the window, trying to fight the fear that now gripped him. He did not turn around, but knew the Vulcan had crossed the room and was now standing supportively behind him.

"'Impotence' is a nasty sounding word, isn't it?" Kirk asked bitterly, keeping his back to Spock. Finally he whispered, "I'm scared."

Spock rested his hand on Kirk's shoulder and felt the human shiver. "I do not understand, you. You are scared of me, yet Jarann did not frighten you."

Kirk turned around, his face haunted. I didn't love him. All he ever offered was a few minutes of pleasure, nothing at stake, and that love is on the line."

"As well as our lives together." He gathered the human into his arms and gently held him, feeling Kirk's heart race against his chest. The human was again running away from him and he realized that Kirk must not be allowed to retreat--his fears must be faced. He said quietly, "Your earlier instincts were correct. You must fight your demons now."

"How?"

Without a word, Spock wrapped his arm around Kirk's waist and led him back to the bed, where they stretched out together.

"I thought I was... ready for this, but it's pretty obvious I'm not," Kirk said, his face coloring. "Let's just forget about what happened."

Spock shook his head. "That is not the answer, for you will not forget." He brushed back a lock of hair and kissed the human lightly on the forehead. "I am going to love you, Jim, touch your body. It does not matter if you are unable to respond. I only want you to relax... and trust me."

He began to trail his tongue down Kirk's smooth chest, his fingers gliding down his side to the hips, then returning. As he sucked on a nipple, his hand continued to make the same motion, careful never to move further than the hips.

Finally he took Kirk's face and kissed him gently, then pulled away, his eyes soft with love. "Are you still afraid?"

"I am. A little," Kirk admitted. "Will you just hold me a while. Talk to me?"

"I would hold you forever, if you wished it." The Vulcan rested Kirk's head on his shoulder, tenderly enclosing him in his arms. "I have dreamed of this moment."

The human remained silent and Spock continued, "Nights were the most difficult. In my dreams, I would hold you, see your face filled with love for me. My hand would be stroking your golden body, touching your nipples until they stood erect and inviting. Then my mouth would cover your hard shaft as you writhed beneath me, moaning with pleasure... my fingers moving inside you as your cream erupted in my mouth...”

Kirk was no longer able to keep silent. His eyes widened as he exclaimed, "My God, Spock! You paint a damned erotic picture!"

"Reality can be even more exciting."

"Or devastating."

Spock sighed deeply. "Let me love you now."

He could feel Kirk tense slightly, but the human finally agreed. "All right." Only two words, but the tone was resigned, terse.

The Vulcan's hands began to move with a graceful slowness across Kirk's body, as though trying to gentle a frightened animal. He trailed wet kisses down the chest and across the taut stomach, his hands parting the well-muscled thighs. He raised his head and looked into Kirk's half-opened eyes.

"Do you know how truly beautiful you are, Jim?" he asked in a whisper. "In all the worlds, there is none such as you."

"You make me feel... beautiful."

The Vulcan smiled, then got to his knees. At an unhurried pace, he kissed the inside of the thighs, holding them well apart. He heard the human moan but did not look up, completely engrossed in savoring Kirk's taste and delighting in his scent. Finally he moved back to the human's side and kissed him tenderly as his fingers played down the smooth chest.

"Feel my touch, Jim," he purred softly. "There is no need for you to respond. I only want you to relax and understand that I am showing my love for you."

"Yes," Kirk murmured, his eyes closed.

"You are everything to me." Spock licked the thick lashes, then slowly moved his lips to the human's ear. "Everything," he repeated, plunging his tongue inside. Kirk gasped and opened his eyes.

"My Jim." His voice caressed the name. "Watch me as I make love to your body." Spock moved his lips to the human's chest, teasing the nipples, as his hand again parted the thighs.

"Spock, I want to... make it right. Please you...” There was still a hint of fear in his voice.

"You have already pleased me more than I have ever hoped." The Vulcan let his affection show on his face. "I want to join with you and bind us together forever. If we cannot do this in body, we will do it in spirit. It does not matter."

"But it does!" Kirk protested. "You can't be satisfied with...”

"Hush, Jim. It is enough to simply hold you and know that you are mine. I ask nothing further from you." He gathered the human into his arms.

Kirk snuggled against him, burying his face in the Vulcan's chest. Minutes passed as they lay silently together, until he pulled away a little and looked up at Spock. "I... want you to love me," he said in a small voice.

"I do love you."

"That's not what I meant. I like it when you touch me, but...” Still filled with doubt, Kirk's words trailed off. He wanted Spock to touch him, stimulate him... but what if he could not respond?

"It will be all right," the Vulcan assured, knowing the direction Kirk's thoughts had taken. "We belong together and there is nothing that could happen which would change that fact." He pressed his mouth against the human's and they kissed again, slowly and passionately, his hand drifting down Kirk's body. He gently stroked the human's chest, until his fingers teased further down and lightly touched the cock--pleased to find the beginning of a response.

Spock moved away and again trailed his lips over the human's chest. He sucked at a nipple as his hand caressed the balls. Finally he lifted his head and smiled. "I cannot express the joy that the touching of your body brings to me."

"You don't have to," Kirk smiled back. "You're so gentle, Spock."

The Vulcan's heart fluttered wildly at the trusting look on Kirk's face. Jim was very vulnerable now. Gentle. Yes, he would be infinitely gentle.

He continued to slowly love the human with his mouth and hands, murmuring soothing words as he moved down Kirk's body. He turned onto his side and began to tease the balls with his tongue as his hand stroked the thickening shaft. For a moment he gazed silently at the cock, admiring its perfection. Unable to resist the temptation, he took it into his mouth and began to suck.

Finally he released it, then got to his knees. "I cherish you," he whispered.

Kirk's unrestrained smile almost melted his heart. "God, Spock! How I love you!" He sat up and grasped the Vulcan's face, deeply kissing him. After a minute, he drew away, breathing heavily.

Spock gently pushed him onto his back, continue to enjoy your body.

"What does 't'hy'la' mean?"

"Everything. You are everything to me."

Spock again parted the thighs, skimming his hand across the taut balls. His tongue trailed up the shaft and teased the slit of the cockhead. Kirk moaned and lifted his hips as the Vulcan licked away a drop of cream. The cock was now fully engorged and straining. Unable to resist any longer, Spock covered it with his mouth.

He sucked eagerly, his own cock ready to erupt with the sensation. His delight was almost too intense for him to bear, knowing that he was giving Jim pleasure. He sucked harder and more rapidly, feeling the silken skin against his tongue, until he felt the thick cream burst into his mouth, triggering his own release. Their simultaneous orgasms had seemed as one.

He lay very still swallowing the seed, tasting it, until the shaft finally became limp. After what seemed an eternity, he reluctantly released it, then remained unmoving.

"Come here, Vulcan!" Kirk urged, grinning. Spock weakly stretched out alongside him, throwing an arm across the smooth chest.

When his breathing finally steadied, Kirk glanced down at the Vulcan's limp cock. "Looks like you found some satisfaction, too."

"The evidence of that is apparent." He reached out and touched his hand to Kirk's face. :

"That was wonderful, Spock!"

"I can assure you that it was more than just 'wonderful'."

"Okay. It was extraordinary! Is that a big enough word for you?" Kirk paused, then added softly, "Thank you... for everything."

The Vulcan's dark eyes glimmered. "You are most certainly welcome."

Kirk propped himself up on one elbow. "I'm serious. I don't know what I would've done if you hadn't been here to listen. Probably broken a few more pieces of furniture!"

Spock trailed his finger across the sensual lips. "I have always been here to listen. You did not want to talk."

"It wasn't just stubbornness. I knew I needed help, but...”

"When you are angry and hurt, it is difficult to reason. How do you feel now, Jim?"

"Feel? I guess I'm still angry... maybe I always will be."

"And scared?"

Kirk shook his head.

"Are you certain?"

The human reddened slightly. "You're seeing through me again. I want to make love to you... today and forever. But I know that at some point, I'll probably think of Jarann...”

"Undoubtedly; but with time, those thoughts will fade and become brief shadows," Spock assured.

With time. Kirk thought to himself, knowing it could be tomorrow... or forever... before the memories faded. "I just want you to be able to understand how I feel," he explained.

The Vulcan snuggled closer to Kirk. "I understand you fully, Jim--and, in some ways, will never understand you at all. You have always been a paradox and, throughout all eternity, I will delight in comprehending your myriad of emotions, learning something new about you each day."

"You're saying it won't be boring?" Kirk laughed, again relaxing.

"Never." Spock pressed his mouth against the human's, throwing his leg over Kirk's hips.

Kirk returned the kiss avidly, his hands gripping the Vulcan's shoulders. The kiss was fervent and unrestrained, and both men's bodies quickly responded. The human thrust his hips forward and Spock felt the hardness against his thigh.

The Vulcan pulled away a little, then said softly, "You have only touched me once, and only then for a moment. Will you me now?"

Kirk smiled gently, then took the rigid cock into his hand. He began to stroke it until the Vulcan moved his hand away.

"Why... ?" Kirk gave him a puzzled look.

"I cannot control. I want to love you... slowly."

"You've already done that. I think it's my turn." Kirk kissed him lightly, then began moving down the Vulcan's body, wet lips traveling across the chest hair. His mouth and hands seemed to be everywhere at once, stimulating Spock.

To Spock, each touch of the lips and fingers was ecstacy--or agony. He was no longer certain which, only that he was beyond caring. When Kirk’s tongue teased his cockhead, he suddenly made a low growl in his throat and sat up, pushing the human onto his back.

"I must take you now." The Vulcan body was engulfed by flame, and Kirk's face mirrored the same passion as he silently spread his legs.

Spock maneuvered between the thighs, wetting his own cock with saliva. He threw Kirk's legs over his shoulders and, for a moment, sat gazing at the tight opening. Almost as though he were in a trance, he inserted one finger, then another, inside, basking in the knowledge that Jim would now be his... body and soul. He did not see the human pale and tense.

Ever so slowly, he removed his fingers and pressed the tip of his cockhead into the resisting opening. A gasp from Kirk brought him to full awareness and he looked up, startled. Kirk's head was turned away, his eyes tightly shut.

"Jim?" Spock asked worriedly.

Kirk opened his eyes and the Vulcan could see a trace of fear in them.

"I warned you that I'd... remember Jarann."

"I am not Jarann!" Spock said firmly. "I am a man who loves you—who wants to be one with you." Kirk lay open and vulnerable beneath him and Spock recognized how badly the human needed reassurance. "I will love you to the end of time—and beyond."

Kirk smiled softly. "That's a long time."

"But still not long enough." Spock had remained frozen in position, not daring to move. "Tell me what you want, Jim. If you are not ready for this, I will withdraw."

Kirk was silent, then a look of determination crossed his face. "I want you to love me... to feel you inside me."

"You are sure of this?"

Kirk nodded, his expression clearly conveying that he had made his decision. His quiet words were a command. "Fuck me, Spock."

"No, Jim. Love you." The Vulcan moved his shaft slowly into the channel, watching Kirk's face for any sign of pain.

The human held his gaze steadily, then suddenly thrust his hips forward, impaling himself. He grimaced, then lay very still, his breathing rapid.

"Are you all right?" Spock's face had become as pale as the human's.

After a moment, Kirk replied flatly, "You forget. I've done this before."

"Nevertheless, you are very tight. I do not want to hurt you."

"I'm okay now. It did hurt at first," Kirk finally admitted. "It takes a while to get used to the... fullness." He closed his eyes, feeling the gentleness of Spock inside him--so different from Jarann's brutal thrusts. This was a true joining of two men who love one another, and he felt his fear vanish.

Spock was silent, enjoying the sensation of being inside his t'hy'la. He would be gentle, give Jim pleasure. He automatically lifted his hand and started to press his fingers against Kirk's face.

"No, Spock. I'm not ready for a bonding, if that's what you're doing."

The Vulcan flushed. "I must apologize. I did not think...”

Kirk smiled. "No apology necessary. We'll bond... at the right time. What you don't need now is a mixed up, muddled mess for your lifemate."

Spock raised an eyebrow at the description. "In fact, I do," he replied frankly. "However, you are probably correct that this is not the right time. I am patient."

"I'm not." The human rotated his hips. "You want to love me or lecture me?"

Spock's answer was a thrust of his hips, then another. He grasped Kirk's shaft and began to stroke it in time with his own thrusting, causing the human to groan and writhe beneath him. As they plunged together, their bodies became bathed in perspiration and Spock heard his own moan escape his lips. Moments later, Kirk climaxed into Spock's hand and the Vulcan shuddered as he orgasmed violently, exploding into Kirk's body.

Fully sated, Spock collapsed next to the human. Time seemed to stand still as they lay together, the Vulcan's arm thrown protectively over Kirk's shoulder.

When he was finally able to speak again, Kirk said, "Hell of a universe, Spock--but at least we now have each other."

"And a hell of a planet, also."

Kirk laughed. "It's that all right! We've already been here for an eternity." His expression became serious as he asked, "I wonder how long we'll be stranded on this planet, anyhow?"

The Vulcan raised an eyebrow, knowing the question was probably rhetorical. However, he had often wondered the same thing and had formulated a theory. "We were enroute to the Gamma 9 system when we encountered the storm. There would have been traces left of our shuttle had it been destroyed. Since there were none, Mr. Scott would have to conclude that we were forced to land somewhere. There are approximately twenty-two type H through M planets in this sector...”

"Spock, you've already calculated it?" Kirk asked in astonishment.

"I can only estimate the time involved, taking into account that each planet must be thoroughly scanned...”

"How long?" Kirk interrupted excitedly. "If this was the last planet Scotty scanned, how long... ?"

"From the initiation of the search proceedings, it would take approximately 6 point 2 months."

Kirk's face brightened. "Six months? We've already been here three! And this may not be the last planet--maybe the ship is in orbit now!"

"Calm yourself, Jim. Six months is a very long time to continue a search. Starfleet Command may not allow...”

"Scotty will look for us, anyhow. If Command ordered him to stop the search, he'd still find a way." Kirk smiled as he lay back, his hands behind his head. "I feel like everything is beginning to work out. Three months! That's not so long."

"It may, in fact, be a pleasant three months," Spock conceded, seeing the hope on Kirk's face and knowing that he would do nothing to diminish it. His fingers began idly playing across the glistening cream on the human's stomach.

"Messy," Kirk frowned. "Guess I should get cleaned up."

"Unnecessary. I find this... exciting."

"Is this exciting?" Kirk ran his fingers through the sperm until his hand was coated, then touched his hand to Spock's mouth. The Vulcan slowly sucked the cream off the fingers, then licked the palm.

"I love you... so very much," Kirk whispered.

"Indeed." Spock embraced and pressed their bodies tightly together.

"Spock, I...” Kirk began hesitantly, pulling away a little.

"What, Jim?"

"Could you just hold me for a little while?"

Spock pulled the human close and held him tightly, softly speaking the reassuring words Kirk needed to hear. "You have come to terms with yourself and will be whole again. I will never leave you."

Kirk smiled up at him, for the first time in a long while, feeling totally secure... and loved.

*****


Getham sat at one end of the massive dining table, Sashan at the other. McCoy was seated next to Jarann, facing Spock--who did not bother to spare a glance at Getham's brother. The room was dark, its furnishings a study of blacks and browns. The only ornamentation were the tapestries, the same type that hung throughout the castle.

"And then I asked James if he would teach me baseball," Sashan was busily saying to her father.

"What is baseball?" Getham asked.

"You hit a ball and then run around."

"That's not exactly how it's played!" McCoy laughed.

"How is James?" Getham asked, concerned.

McCoy glanced at Spock, then replied, "Chipper."

Getham raised a tapered eyebrow at the strange terminology, then watched as several slaves entered the room, carrying covered dishes. They set them on the table, removing the covers, and the air was filled with appetizing odors.

"I am going to enjoy this while I can," Jarann said, helping himself to one of the meat dishes. "In a few days, I will be back at my camp and life will not be so easy."

"There is no reason for you to go," Getham said quietly.

"This life is not meant for me." Jarann inclined his head, indicating the richness of the room's furnishings.

"You will continue to live as a vagabond, fighting and stealing, until you are again brought to me--this time to die."

"Possibly, but it is the way I choose."

"Seems like you've given up a lot," McCoy observed thoughtfully. "You don't have any regrets?"

"Not about the way I live. I am sorry for nothing I have done, except...” He looked at Spock, his words fading away. He had almost said too much.

The conversation stopped as Jarann plopped more food onto his plate, the others following his lead. The room was quiet, only an occasional comment being made, until Getham turned toward the door and said in surprise, "James!"

Kirk stepped up to the table, uncomfortably aware of the eyes trained on him, then sat down next to Spock.

"You always have food brought to your room. Why are you eating with us now?" Sashan asked curiously.

"I'm hungry." Kirk picked up a dish and ladled a potato-like vegetable onto it.

"You are being rude again, Sashan!" Getham admonished.

"I'm sorry. It's good to have James here." She blushed as she spoke. "He hardly leaves his room anymore." Ever since her Uncle Jarann became well and started to wander the castle, James had kept to his own private sanctuary.

Kirk seemed not to have heard the comment as he sat idly toying with his water glass.

Jarann cast a nervous glance toward the Vulcan, who coldly returned the look. He squared his shoulders, then asked, "Did you come to say farewell to me, James?"

Kirk raised his head and stared at Jarann. "You're leaving?"

"Tomorrow."

Kirk continued to ignore the food on his plate as he absently turned the glass in his hand. "No. I didn't come to say good-bye."

McCoy quietly studied his friend, inwardly pleased that Kirk had finally decided to face Jarann. Still, he was deeply worried about Kirk's sometimes tenuous emotional control. He had been calmer since he had reconciled with Spock, but what if Jarann provoked him enough to cause him to lose his temper?

Hiding his tension, the doctor encouraged, "Better stop fiddlin' with that glass and eat something, Jim."

"Sure." Kirk cut off a piece of the vegetable and began chewing on it, hardly noticing the taste.

"Tomorrow I leave," Jarann repeated. When he was met only with silence, he added, "I owe you my life, James."

"That's true enough," Kirk said flatly.

Jarann paid no attention to the human's coldness as he said brightly, "If I had known I would live, I would not have freed you!"

Kirk seemed puzzled for a moment, wondering whether or not the man was joking, then decided he probably was not. He shrugged and said, "Too late now."

"Perhaps not. I would wish you to again join me in my camp. This time as my companion, not my slave."

"I suggest you discontinue this discussion." Spock advised menacingly, starting to rise.

Kirk placed a hand on the Vulcan's shoulder, gently restraining him. "I assume you think I should be flattered by your offer, Jarann?"

"Flattered? No. I ask only that you consider it."

Kirk spoke quietly, his words measured. "I wouldn't willingly join you as your slave, companion... or even your master."

Getham cleared his throat. "Try one of the runyan steaks, James. They are delicious."

"Thanks, but I guess I'm not hungry, after all." He pushed his plate away. "I really came here to talk to you, Jarann."

"Sashan, please leave," her father ordered.

"I don't mean right now." Kirk sat back, staring at Jarann. "After you've finished dinner, I want to talk to you alone."

"Jim...” McCoy began, but Kirk's quick glance silenced him.

"I find I am no longer hungry." Jarann also shoved his plate aside, then stood. "We will have privacy in the study chamber." He walked toward the door, then halted, waiting for Kirk.

As he stood, Kirk noticed the Vulcan's concerned expression. "I'll be all right, Spock," he whispered, then followed Jarann from the room.

The study chamber was darkened by the rich drapes which covered the small windows. The only furnishings were two comfortable-looking couches, several lamps, and a large desk and chair.

Kirk stepped over to the fireplace and leaned against it, studying the other man. Jarann wore an embroidered tunic of deep burgundy which emphasized his dark, rugged features. Still, the richness of his attire did not seem to suit him. He was out of place here, a man who belonged to the vastness of the plains.

He noticed Kirk's scrutiny and glanced down at his own clothing, then shrugged. "It pleased Getham that I accepted some of his... comforts. However, I cannot be changed."

"You're right. You'll never change," Kirk said flatly.

"Why should I?" Jarann smiled as he walked forward, pulling Kirk into his arms. "At last we are alone. I have missed you."

"In one second, you're going to feel my knee in your groin." The warning was spoken softly.

Jarann released him, surprised by the threat. "You said you wanted to be alone with me!"

"So, of course, you thought I wanted you to screw me!" Kirk snapped, meeting the dark eyes.

Jarann flinched at the words, but quickly composed himself. He moved to a couch and sat down, casually crossing his legs. "Why did you want to speak to me?"

Kirk took a deep breath, still steadily meeting the other man's gaze. "I wanted to tell you how much I hate you for what you did to me."

"Hate me?" Jarann's face was a mask of bewilderment. "At first I had to be cruel to you, as you left me with little choice. But later...”

"But later it was worse," Kirk interrupted quietly. "I'd given you my word that I'd stay, so I was trapped by my own promise. You're a monster, Jarann. You never gave a thought to how I felt."

The bitterness in Kirk's words struck Jarann like a blow. "You are being unfair! I did care about the way you felt, but I could not let you go."

"Why?"

"Don't you know?"

Kirk shook his head.

"Then perhaps I am not the only one who is uncaring of another's feelings," he accused.

Kirk looked puzzled. "I don't understand."

Jarann rose from the couch and stood in front of Kirk, close enough to touch him, but not daring. His voice was soft as he confessed, "I love you, James."

Kirk stared at him in astonishment, saying nothing.

"Why do you look so surprised? It is not unusual for a master to fall in love with his slave."

"Why are you telling, me this now?"

"I want you to reconsider your decision. Cone with me to my camp. You are a free man now, and will be treated as an equal." His words were a promise.

"Aren't you overlooking the fact that I've just told you how much I hate you?"

Jarann shook his head. "If you truly hated me, you would not have allowed yourself to respond when we had sex. You are not that kind of man."

His comment made Kirk curious. "Exactly what kind of man do you think I am?"

Jarann was thoughtful for a moment, finding it difficult to express himself. He decided to try, desperately wanting James to understand. "A strong one, with much courage and pride. I admired you from the beginning, and as I grew to know you, my admiration became greater. I not only love you, I respect you as well."

"Respect? You hardly treated me that way!"

"How else is a slave to be treated?" Jarann shrugged. "Had I told you of my feelings, I would, in a way, have become your slave."

Kirk suddenly laughed out loud. "Too late, Jarann! You've already confessed how you feel about me." He suddenly understood the power he now held over this man.

"I had hoped you would understand."

"I do... a lot more than you think. I know what it's like to love someone and think the feeling isn't returned." Kirk was silent for a moment, then looked coldly at Jarann. "How much do you want me? If I asked you to get down on your knees and beg to have me, would you?"

Jarann swallowed hard, considering the question. He had never begged for anything--or anyone--in his life, but he did not want to lose James. After a moment, he said in a near whisper, "I will."

Kirk's eyes narrowed. "I should make you do it, you bastard!" He turned abruptly and strode toward the door.

"Janes! Where are you going?"

Kirk held his head high. "Wherever I want to!"

"Please wait." Jarann gazed at the floor, his shoulders slumped. "Tell no one else what I have said to you."

"I won't. I wouldn't take much pleasure in humiliating you," Kirk said, inwardly satisfied that if he chose to, he could demean the man. He left the room, Jarann staring after him.

*****


Kirk nuzzled more deeply against the Vulcan's shoulder, turning his head away from the brightness of the sunlight. He felt a warm hand glide down his back.

"It is time to awaken, Jim."

"I am awake. Just a couple of minutes more...”

"Dr. McCoy will be here in approximately ten minutes. We must get dressed."

"Ten minutes, Spock? Not 9 point 8?"

"The doctor is somewhat unpredictable."

"All humans are." Kirk's hand began to leisurely trail down Spock's stomach until it came to rest on his groin.

"Jim! Now is hardly the time!"

"That's, true. McCoy is bringing us breakfast--and it wouldn't be polite to have a before-meal snack!" Kirk teased, gently stroking the Vulcan's cock.

Spock moved away, then stood, looking affectionately at the human. "I suggest you wait for dessert."

Kirk propped himself up on an elbow and grinned. "I warn you, I intend to savor my dessert!"

"No doubt," the Vulcan smiled. The previous afternoon and evening had been spent in patient love-making and quiet discussion. Very slowly, Kirk's confidence was returning, and Spock could almost see the aura of a starship captain begin to grow.

The Vulcan removed his folded pants from a chair and pulled them on just as the door opened. McCoy walked in, followed by two slaves carrying trays.

"Just set them on the bed," he ordered. There was no other place to put the food, since Kirk had done a very good job of destroying the table. The slaves did as requested and left.

"Well, at least one of you dressed," McCoy grumbled as he walked over to the bed and lifted the top of one of the trays. "Smells good. This one is yours, Jim."

Kirk glanced at the food, then said in surprise, "All my favorites! What have I done to deserve this?"

"I'm kinda proud of you. I'll admit that I was worried yesterday morning when we all gathered to say good-bye to Jarann, but you handled it well."

Kirk tensed. "Meaning when he touched me, I didn't hit him?"

"Meaning that you've finally come to terms with yourself, and now you're actin' like the old Jim Kirk."

Kirk was thoughtful, then confessed, "Not really. There's times that I still feel... angry and bitter."

"That's only normal," the doctor said reassuringly. "You were another man's slave for three months. It'll take time to get over it."

"Time... and friends." Kirk's glance traveled from McCoy to Spock. The doctor caught the look and, for a moment, felt like an interloper.

"I said friends, plural," Kirk stated, reading McCoy's expression. "Have I thanked you, Bones? You've done so much for me."

"And I intend to do more. I'm gonna be spending most of my time makin' sure you've got your head on straight." McCoy paused, frowning, then asked, "Talking about time, I wonder how long we're gonna be stuck on this planet, anyhow?"

"I made an estimate," Spock started explaining. "Based on the fact that Mr. Scott would begin his search in section...”

"Not the whole thing again!" Kirk protested.

"In synopsis, I estimate 84 days--or less--until Mr. Scott discovers our location. Is that concise enough, Jim?" The Vulcan's eyes sparkled as he gave Kirk a half-smile.

McCoy nervously rocked back on his heels. "What if Scotty doesn't find us? What if... ?"

"Stop being a pessimist, Bones!" Kirk grinned brightly as he picked up a piece of toast and hurled it at the doctor. "In three months... or less... we'll leave this planet. We will go home, I just know it!"

"And the captain is highly intuitive," Spock added.

"Not to mention optimistic." The doctor's face brightened as he smiled at Kirk. "God, it's great to see you so happy!"

"It's good to feel happy. Sometimes...” Kirk looked self-conscious as his words trailed off, then he straightened. "Now is no time to think about problems. I should get dressed. We've got a lot of things to do."

"Eat first, then dress." McCoy gave Kirk a questioning look. "What things?"

"I told Sashan a while back that I'd teach her to play baseball. Spock, think you can find something we can use as a bat?"

"Are our final months here to be spent in such non-productive pursuits?" the Vulcan teased.

Kirk got out of bed and walked over to him, giving him a playful swat on the buttocks. "You bet your ass!" he laughed. "All kinds of 'playful' pursuits!"

The Vulcan turned a dark shade of green.
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