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Jim Kirk stumbled from the force of a well placed shove between his shoulder blades. He landed hard against the stone wall of the cell, barely bringing his hands up in time to halt his momentum. He took a moment to ensure his own lack of injury before turning his attention to Spock. Seeing that the Vulcan also appeared unharmed and already occupied studying their surroundings, Kirk busied himself with like observation.

There wasn't much to see. Three rough stone walls and one of iron bars. He watched a moment as Spock tested the strength of those bars, but turned away when it seemed they were more than a match for Vulcan strength. There were no obvious sanitary facilities, although a closer inspection of one dark corner revealed a hole in the floor that led who knew where and proved to be the source of at least some of the overpowering stench. Furnishings consisted of a bare wooden bunk bolted directly to the back stone wall under the only window. This opening was also decorated with iron bars.

"I guess we either sit on the floor or the bunk," Kirk observed.

Spock looked at the littered floor with distaste. He moved a bit of mold covered debris with his boot, not caring to hazard a guess as to what its original form might have been. He made his way as delicately as a cat through the mess to the bunk where Kirk already sat.

"I agree." Kirk easily read Spock's expression. "Why is it we never get thrown into a nice, modern, clean prison? Why always some backwater cesspool?"

Spock didn't answer, understanding the questions were rhetorical. Instead, he pursued his own line of thought. "You do not seem overly concerned about our incarceration."

"What's to worry about? We're due to call in in less than twenty minutes. Scotty might give us ten minutes longer, but after that he'll be looking for us," Kirk explained his seeming casualness.

"May I point out that the natives are in possession of all our equipment," Spock reminded.

"And may I point out," Kirk returned in the same dry tone, "that I have the perfect homing device sitting right beside me. You're the only Vulcan on the planet, Mr. Spock."

Spock relaxed fractionally, feeling somewhat less concerned himself. What the Captain said was true and, further, their equipment could be retrieved in the same manner.

Their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of a group of natives. About a dozen, Kirk estimated, as the roughly dressed men shifted and muttered to themselves and each other. The words were too low and garbled to be picked up by the translators. They cast surreptitious glances toward the two officers and Kirk was surprised to realize most of their attention was directed at himself. The natives were human looking and should, therefore, have been much more interested in Spock. Tiring of the stares and beginning to feel like a zoo exhibit, Kirk rose from the bunk and approached the front of the cell.

Silence fell on the room as the natives watched curiously. Kirk put his hands on the bars and leaned forward trying to think of some way to communicate. He was unsurprised to feel Spock's presence beside him as the Vulcan took up his usual place at his shoulder.

"Gentlemen," Kirk began, only to be drowned out by the jumbled shouts of the natives. Pushing and shoving in their attempts to flee their fear, the men scrambled along the corridor and out of sight.

Kirk turned a puzzled expression to his First Officer. "What was all that about?"

"Unknown, Captain. Perhaps they were alarmed by the fact you spoke their language," Spock suggested.

"Hmmm, maybe," Kirk muttered as they made their way back to the bunk. "Sometimes I think these things," he rubbed the spot on his forearm where the subcutaneous translator rested just beneath the skin, "are as much hindrance as help. It must be pretty damn startling to hear your own language come out of the mouth of someone that doesn't look like you."

They settled back to wait. Their check-in was now overdue and the Enterprise should be looking for them. Any time they should be feeling the welcome tingle of dematerialization.

An hour later they were still waiting. Kirk no longer sat patiently on the bunk but paced the cramped confines of the cell, casting frequent, worried glances toward the darkening square of sky framed by the window. The rapidly gathering clouds were being sundered by increasingly frequent flashes of lightning and the distant rumble of thunder echoed in the silence of their cell.

Spock watched Kirk's agitated movements, reminded strongly of a Terran lion he had once seen in a zoo on Earth. Kirk possessed many admirable traits, but patience wasn't one of them. He was a man of action and when there was no action to take, he became restless. When you added confinement to the lack of action, it almost guaranteed an imminent explosion.

"You think it's an ion storm causing this?" Kirk finally asked.

"Possibly," Spock conceded.

"Did you scan any before we beamed down?"

"No. But the system is known for the unexpected arrival of such storms," Spock admitted reluctantly.

"Unexpected and severe," Kirk recalled from the reports he had read while preparing for the survey.

Spock nodded silent agreement. Neither of them needed to state the obvious. If there was an ion storm, Scotty would have no option but to abandon the search for them and take the Enterprise to safety. It could be hours, even days, before they could return and in that time the natives would have had plenty of time to do as they pleased. Outnumbered, jailed and without their equipment, Captain and First Officer of one of the mightiest ships in the universe were helpless. The situation didn't seem like such a petty inconvenience now.

Kirk resumed his restless placing, seven steps forward, pause, turn, seven steps back and then repeat. Spock continued to watch the monotonous movements, acknowledging the grace of the compact form subconsciously while his conscious mind searched for a method of escape.

The sharp clang of a metal door startled both men into defensive positions. They gradually relaxed the futile pose as footsteps drew near. Another clang, more footsteps and then the appearance of a lone alien. He approached the cell cautiously, a three-pronged, highly polished branch held before his face defensively.

With equal caution, Kirk stepped to the front of the cell. He held his hands at his sides and kept his mouth closed. He caught sight of Spock once again stepping to his side and immediately felt more secure.

"Speak, Evil One," the native demanded.

The two officers exchanged glances, unsure which of them was being addressed.

"We are not evil," Kirk finally began but stopped when the man shrank back, holding the branch out to arm's length.

"You cannot steal my mind, Evil One. The sacred Branch protects me from your spells. Your evil master is a fool to mark you so plainly. He grows over-confident to send a pale-eyed, pale-haired mutant among us. He thinks himself so powerful that we would not recognize his tool. We see. We know. The deformed one," he stabbed the Branch toward Spock, "will take his evil back to him, ripped from life on the talons of our Branch!"

The native backed away, out of sight, and eventually even his footsteps faded into nothing. The stunned officers retreated to the bunk once again where Kirk sat withdrawn into his own thoughts.

Spock alternated between watching Kirk and the tiny square of increasing storm. In rapid succession his mind studied and discarded a dozen impossible plans for escape. He was as close to panic as he had ever come and the cause, as always, was the same -- a threat to the life of his Captain and friend. His soul screamed for his body to take action, but there was nothing he could do.

The voice, when it finally came, was deep and hushed and without looking Spock knew that even white teeth nibbled at a soft underlip between the hesitant sentences.

"You know, Spock, every thinking being considers its own death sometime. I've thought about mine. A lot. The business I'm in, I guess. But I never thought it would be this way."

There was no answer Spock could offer, so he remained silent. He too had imagined and dreaded this man's death many times, but never had he envisioned such an end for the dynamic human. To be tortured to death for the sake of the fear of a backward, superstitious people on a backwater planet seemed a sacrilege to all Kirk stood for. They did not even know the name of this place. To Starfleet, it was simply a number.

Far, far away within the underground dungeon they heard the clang of a metal door.

"I can...." Spock raised his hand silently, unable to speak the words of his offer aloud although they had dwelt in his mind since the death sentence had been passed.

"Tal Shaya, Spock?" Kirk voiced what Spock could not. "I'd like to say yes," he admitted. "Gods curse my cowardly soul, I'd like to say yes. But I can't. I'm their focus. Deprive them of their sacrifice and Gods know what they'll do to you."

Spock did not lower his hand. His expression said he was ready to take that chance and more.

"No, my friend. But thank you," Kirk declined.

Another clang sounded, a little less faint, a little nearer.

The sound robbed Spock of whatever further words he might have spoken. He sat in the heavy silence, imagined horrors vivid in his mind's eye until the cool strength of Kirk's hands enfolding his stole the bitter edge of what would be and replaced it with solid reality. Even through mental shields as natural to him as breathing, he could feel the muted throbbing of the human's caring.

Kirk bent his head, staring at their joined hands for a moment, thinking of all the times this hand had come to his rescue, had offered comfort and care.

"It seems I've never found the right time to tell you a lot of things, Spock. Things I really wanted you to know. Maybe you already know, but I don't want to die wondering." He raised his head, his eyes bright with emotion. He squeezed the hand he held with all his strength. "You're the very best friend I've ever had, and I love you, Spock."

The silence between them as Spock tried to force reciprocal words past the lump in his throat was shattered by the clang of another door. Much closer, much louder.

"It's alright, Spock. You don't have to say anything. I just wanted to be sure you knew."

Again Spock struggled to bring his feelings into words, shamed by his inability to give so small a thing at such a time.

"Drop your shields, Spock," Kirk asked suddenly as the echo of footsteps reached them. A husk of desperation roughened the soft request.

Without considering, responding only to the urgent plea in Kirk's voice, Spock dropped his mental shields, leaving himself wide open to the rush of jumbled emotions in Kirk's mind.

Allowing himself one last impulsive act, Kirk pulled the Vulcan's head down to his and kissed him full on the mouth, his lips and tongue hungry for a lifetime of tasting in one fleeting moment.

With the kiss, all of Kirk's raging emotions crashed through Spock to be met by the swelling tide of his own response. By the time he had gained some control, all he could do was watch as Kirk walked through the door of their cell to face the guards, his back ramrod straight.

Spock sat in stunned silence, recording the retreating footsteps and clangs in his memory, but the ominous sounds made no impression on his conscious mind. When paralysis left him, he flung himself across the cell and grabbed the bars in desperate hands. He strained in anguished hopelessness, knowing already he could not part them, but aroused emotions urged him to attempt the impossible. Surely, what he had found within Kirk's kiss and within his own responding soul would not be revealed only to be snatched away. If this were to be their fate, his aching heart wished he had remained forever ignorant.

He admitted defeat with the bars, green blood slicking his hands from his futile efforts, and turned his attention to the tiny square of a window. He clambered up on the bunk and grasped the bars, twisting and turning and straining with all his strength. Again to no avail. These bars were as firmly planted as those of the door.

He gave up finally, slumping until he hung by his grip on the bars, his face pressed to the damp stone. For the first time in his life, complete and utter despair engulfed him. He floundered in the unaccustomed emotions, unable to find his way through the morass of his own confused mind. He knew only that the being he loved most in the universe was about to die, and he could do nothing to prevent it.

His infallible time sense ticked away the passing minutes, each dragging into an eternity. It was that relentless reminder of the inevitable passage of time that finally brought some semblance of calm to Spock's mind. His head came up, eyes staring blindly through the window. Long moments passed before what he was seeing filtered through the emotion-clouded layers of his perception.

No flashes of lightning stabbed his eyes. No echoing roar of thunder rumbled along his nerves. The sky was clearing! The storm was passing! Each fact registered as a distinct and separate entity in his brain before merging into one shout of incredible joy. The Enterprise would be returning. Even as the thought was born, he felt the tingling and understood he was caught in the Enterprise's beam. Before consciousness faded he gathered all his great mental strength and sent his thoughts toward his beloved. "Hold on, Jim!"

He formed on the pad, not even seeing the familiar surroundings and faces.

"Reverse controls. Co-ordinates ten meters forward of the point you beamed me. Energize."

"Spock! Where the hell...?" McCoy's shout was cut from his ears as Kyle immediately obeyed the command.

The moment his vision cleared, Spock was moving. Racing down the corridor, only dimly aware of the sound of the transporter behind him as McCoy and a security team followed him down. A silent litany of, "Please. Not too late," repeated in time with his pounding footfalls.

Only hours later, when he finally sat down to record his report, would Spock realize, with some embarrassment, that he could not recall one single clear impression of the frantic race for Kirk's life.

Emblazoned in his mind forever was the sight of Kirk stretched upon the giant three pronged branch in some grotesque mockery of a crucifixion. Ingrained upon his senses was the smell and feel of Kirk's rich, red blood as he'd ripped away the cruel bindings and gently lowered the human to the blood-soaked floor.

He would not know until he had read security's report that the natives had fled before him like scattering sheep. He would have no recall of the measures taken to secure their position for he had eyes only for the slight rise and fall of Kirk's chest. His ears heard only McCoy's voice giving frantic orders for Kirk's removal. Those words gave him his focus, for the very desperation in the doctor's voice eased his worst fears. He had found Kirk while life still remained. He had no doubt that in McCoy's capable hands life would continue.

Despite his faith, Spock nevertheless beamed up with McCoy and followed silently as the stretcher bearing Kirk was sped through the corridors. He made no attempt to follow into the intensive care room. Although desperate for reassurance, he wanted nothing, not even himself, to distract McCoy for one vital moment. He stood out of the way, watching as personnel and equipment passed in and out of the room.

McCoy came out, still shouting rapid-fire commands. Spock stepped further back, but the doctor noticed him anyway.

"Spock, I just don't know yet."

Spock nodded in mute understanding, unaware of the naked desperation in his eyes.

McCoy laid a hand on a shoulder as tight as steel. "Go take care of his ship. I'll do my best."

Again Spock nodded. It would be many hours later before McCoy would remember that Spock hadn't withdrawn from his reassuring touch.

* * * * *

"Spock."

Spock looked up from the computer screen in McCoy's office at the sound of the doctor's voice. He had done as McCoy suggested and turned his attention to seeing to Kirk's ship. However, he had not been able to bear the thought of being too far away, so had appropriated McCoy's office in which to work. The minor damage to the ship had been repaired and reports by all involved parties were completed. Now, all thoughts of ship and duty fled his mind as he studied McCoy's exhausted face.

"He'll live, Spock. Pure, uncut stubbornness on his part mostly, but he will live," McCoy pronounced as he slumped into a chair.

Spock unconsciously mirrored McCoy's position as relief surged through him.

McCoy ran his hands through his hair and then rubbed his tired eyes. "Oh Gods, that was a close one. Too damn close."

Spock's throat tightened in agreement until all he could do was nod.

"One of these days that man's impulsive nature is going to land him in more trouble than either one of us can get him out of. Why does he always have to jump in with both feet without thinking?" McCoy levered himself out of his chair. "I've got to sleep. You want to sit with him for a while or are you tired?"

"No, I am not yet in need of rest. I will sit with him," Spock hastily accepted the offer.

Had Spock not already had McCoy's reassurance, his first sight of Kirk would have brought on a renewed surge of paralyzing panic. The helpless figure on the bed, looking dwarfed by the machinery surrounding him and attached to a seemingly endless number of tubes, reawakened all the fierce protectiveness Spock had felt on the planet. But the monitor hummed and beeped along normally, reinforcing the doctor's assurances.

Silently, Spock slipped into a chair beside the bed, allowing his eyes to feast upon the unmarked face and steady rise and fall of the blanket draped chest.

For long moments contentment surrounded him. It would appear fate would be kind after all. They would be given a chance to explore the feelings that had flared between them so briefly. Slowly, the mood receded as he recalled his conversation with McCoy. For the first time, doubt reared its ugly head. Impulsive, McCoy had called Kirk, and Spock of all people had reason to know that truth. Had Kirk's actions been an impulse? Would he regret them when he woke to discover himself alive and returned to his normal life?

Briefly, but stubbornly, Spock locked the thought away from his mind, but he pulled it out again. Despite the pain of such a possibility, Spock was finished with self delusion. For too long he had refused to admit that what he felt for Kirk was more than friendship. He would lie to himself no longer.

But neither would he allow such thoughts to trouble this moment. The morrow would come and bring with it what it may. He would face it then.

* * * * *

"Feel up to a visitor, Jim?" McCoy asked as he finished examining his patient. "I'd like to offer you a pretty face to speed along your recovery, but all I've got is Spock. Will he do?"

Kirk was still flat on his back and attached to a disgusting -- as far as he was concerned -- array of equipment, but his pale face brightened immediately at the mention of Spock's name.

"Thought that'd perk you right up," McCoy laughed as he stepped to the door and motioned to the Vulcan.

Panic and embarrassment flared at McCoy's teasing words and Kirk felt his cheeks heat. He dropped his gaze to his own hands as Spock stepped through the door.

Not having heard McCoy's teasing, Spock completely misinterpreted Kirk's actions and the doubts of the night before dug their sharp claws into his heart. The greeting he had intended died on his lips, replaced by the cold facade that had protected him for so many years.

"Captain."

Kirk cringed at the formality, forcing himself to look at Spock, but completely unable to meet the Vulcan's eyes.

"I believe I owe you my thanks. Again," Kirk offered in a husky whisper.

"I merely did my duty, as did Mr. Scott and the rest of the crew," Spock said coolly.

McCoy looked from one to the other in troubled surprise. What the hell had happened?

"Yeah, sure," Kirk muttered, his voice huskier.

"Ah, I think that's enough for now, Jim," McCoy jumped in. "Why don't you come back later, Spock, when Jim's had a little more rest."

Spock jumped at the opportunity, murmuring his excuses and exiting the room as quickly as possible.

Although mightily concerned and confused, McCoy made no comment. He slipped a sedative to Kirk and spent the few moments until it took effect fussing with the covers and equipment. Perhaps it was just a case of too much tension. As McCoy returned to his duties, he fervently hoped that was the case.

* * * * *

Leonard McCoy had a sixth sense when it came to trouble; it always made his back itch in a place just beyond his reach. That extra sense was almost as acute when it came to secrets. And he'd been spending a whole lot of time in the two weeks since PL498 rubbing up against every door frame in sickbay trying to scratch a very persistent itch.

At first, he'd thought it was trouble when Spock almost never showed up in sickbay while Kirk was recovering. He'd had to dismiss that idea, however, for Spock called at least three times a day to openly check on the Captain's condition. McCoy didn't know everything that went into the running of the ship, so he concluded it was, theoretically, possible that Spock had only the few spare minutes he spent with Kirk each day to provide the daily report.

He'd swung back to the trouble theory when Kirk failed to demand immediate release as soon as he was capable of sitting up. That was unusual enough that even the third shift nurse commented on it. Once again he shuttled the worry aside when the Captain finally began to show impatience to get back to his ship. But his curiosity remained.

His opportunity to scratch that itch came as he finished the final exam on Kirk before allowing him to return to duty.

He patted a bare shoulder then jerked his thumb toward the neatly folded uniform on the end of the bed. "You can get dressed."

Gratefully, Kirk began pulling on the clothing, anxious to get back to some semblance of normality.

"Light duty, Jim. Half shifts today and tomorrow. I'll let you know if you can do more after that. And no exercise. And no heavy meals," McCoy rattled off his orders.

"Anything else, mother?" Kirk asked with a grin.

"Well, you could tell me what's wrong between you and Spock," McCoy dropped in innocently.

Kirk's grin froze and then slowly faded. "Nothing," he snapped.

"Nothing you want to tell me about, you mean," McCoy prodded.

A myriad of expressions from joy to sorrow flitted across Kirk's face before he spoke. "I made a complete and utter ass of myself. Can't we just leave it at that?"

McCoy backed off, compassion aroused by the pain in Kirk's voice. He understood that his prodding could not help, only tear at an already raw and bleeding wound.

"Alright, Jim. I'll drop it. But you know I'm here if you need me," he offered.

Kirk's face softened and he acknowledged the offer with a nod before turning away and hurrying out of sickbay.

* * * * *

Kirk's first half shift on the bridge was less than comfortable. For the first time in memory, Spock was pleased to see the Captain quit the bridge.

At the end of the shift, Spock retreated to his quarters, hoping to be able to find escape in meditation. A vain hope, he was sure, for that peaceful state had eluded him since PL498. Night after night he sat in uncharacteristic idleness before a blank computer screen while memories and speculation played through his mind. Tonight was no different.

With a deep breath and a blink of his eyes, the blank screen came back into focus along with the awareness that his door signal was chiming and had been for some time. He called admittance, somehow not surprised when the object of his thoughts entered.

Automatically, Spock rose to his feet. "Captain?"

Kirk stepped just inside the door, waiting for the swish of closing before saying anything. "I need to talk with you for a few minutes, if that's agreeable."

Spock inclined his head toward a chair across the desk from him, alerted by the odd wording of Kirk's request. It appeared the time for useless speculation was over. "That is agreeable."

Kirk remained where he was, not even acknowledging the offer of a seat. "I've wanted to talk to you, but sickbay is so public and besides, you weren't there much." Despite himself, Kirk couldn't keep the note of hurt and accusation completely from his voice.

He hurried on without giving Spock a chance to speak. "I've come to apologize and explain." He knew he didn't have to mention to what incident he referred.

"I require neither," Spock stated emphatically. Even from across the room he could sense Kirk's tension. The possible sources of that tension tightened his chest until he had to consciously force himself to breathe.

"Don't you?" Kirk asked, his voice very low.

After long moments, Spock acknowledged Kirk's words with a nod. He wanted no apology, but he very much wanted an explanation. Cowardly to use the emotions driving Kirk to force the human to speak first, but he was not sure he had the courage to reveal his own emotions until he had some direction from Kirk.

"I know you don't want to hear it, probably don't need to hear it, but I want to apologize for forcing my feelings on you."

"Apology accepted," Spock said simply, noting Kirk did not apologize for the feelings themselves. He indicated the chair again. "You need not act as if you are on trial, Jim."

Reluctantly, Kirk took the seat. He didn't really trust himself to be this close to Spock, but if what he was about to promise was to have any meaning, then he'd have to demonstrate his ability to live it.

"I know humans have done that to you before, and it was never my intention to force my emotions on you."

"The cause was sufficient," Spock offered when it appeared Kirk had run out of words.

"Maybe. Still, I'd promised myself never to let you know. You've given me so much, Spock. Lowered so many of the barriers it took you years to learn in order to offer me a friendship that's perfect in every way. That's precious to me, Spock. Don't ever think it isn't. The rest I can control; I have for almost a year now, and I promise you I'll never do that to you again."

"Control it?" Spock echoed.

To Kirk, the question sounded like all the others Spock used when he wished to appear obtuse.

"Don't play dumb, Spock. You know as well as I do what I was feeling when I... when I kissed you." His voice had dropped to an almost awed whisper as he spoke of the moment so vivid in his memory.

"Do you mean you have desired a more intimate relationship with me for over a year and have said nothing?" Spock asked incredulously. In all his speculation this had simply never occurred to him. He had managed to convince himself that Kirk's actions had been impulsive. The feelings perhaps true at the moment, but not the unspoken desire of long standing.

Kirk bowed his head at the shock in the deep voice and thereby missed the look of dawning joy spreading across Spock's unguarded features. "I'm sorry, Spock. It sounds like I'm a greedy child, with the moon in my hands and still crying for the stars."

Spock managed to regain control of his expression if not of his voice. When Kirk found the courage to look up, he encountered saturnine features wearing an expression somewhat more stern than even Spock usually wore. No more than he'd expected, really.

"I promise you, Spock, I won't ever do or say anything to bring it up between us again," he swore.

"Would that not be illogical?" Spock asked.

"Huh?" was all Kirk could manage. He'd been so sure Spock would accept his apology and promise. What would come now -- a request for transfer?

"To use your own analogy, why would you wish to make such a promise and continue to cry for the stars when they are within your reach?" As he spoke, Spock stretched his hand across the desk toward Kirk.

Kirk stared at the outstretched hand as if he did not see or could not believe his eyes. He finally reached out slowly and clasped the warm fingers, feeling a thrill as their warmth enfolded his hand.

Kirk's feelings coursed into Spock, providing reassurance where none was now needed.

They sat like that, hands clasped and staring into each other's eyes. The desires were acknowledged, the way open to them, but they sat there in silence until the tender moment became awkward.

Spock's grip loosened and the cooler hand slipped away. Try as he might, he couldn't seem to stop the automatic withdrawal which had served him so well all his life.

"Don't, Spock. Please. I can feel the stars slipping through my fingers," Kirk pleaded. He was no more comfortable himself, but couldn't bear the cold distance spreading between them.

"Ask me to stay. It doesn't matter if we're awkward and fumble. I want to be with you, touch you, so much I ache. We both have to learn. Please, let me stay."

They rose, moving together until they almost touched. They reached for each other, arms tangling for a moment, but a compromise was found when Kirk slid his arms around the trim waist leaving Spock free to chose his own preferred grip.

The fit of their bodies felt awkward too, but Kirk dismissed it as newness. Surely something that had begun with such a memorable first kiss was meant to be.

He was right, of course; the discomfort soon faded beneath the wonder of holding each other. If he felt no arousal, well, that was sure to follow as well. It did, swelling his penis deliciously as Spock tilted his face up and lowered lips that felt hotter and softer than anything Kirk had ever imagined. Shivers climbed his spine as Spock eased closer, pressing an equally aroused organ against his belly.

Hungry for the touch of skin to skin, Kirk slid his hands beneath the blue tunic. But instead of the heated flesh expected, he encountered more cloth. Their lips parted as his concentration centered on pulling the stubborn T-shirt free. He felt Spock fumbling at the fastening of his wrap around tunic, but was distracted as the stubborn T-shirt finally came free. Beneath the loose material he found -- more material! Frustrated, he grabbed a handful and gave a strong tug. He realized the obstruction must be a full length thermal liner at the same moment Spock gave a yelp and broke from his embrace.

Kirk winced in sympathy. "Ouch. Sorry I yanked like that. I didn't hurt anything, did I?"

Spock shook his head in reply and pulled Kirk back into his arms, becoming quickly absorbed in his attempt to get to Kirk's skin. He had seen Kirk get out of this shirt in the blink of an eye. Why wouldn't it open for him?

Kirk eased away gently. "Spock, mind if I make a suggestion?"

Spock tore his attention away from the clasp.

"We're probably both more familiar with our own clothes. Let's just get ourselves undressed and get into bed."

Spock nodded eagerly.

Pretending a nonchalance he didn't feel, Kirk stepped back and began stripping. His erection had disappeared and he felt a little embarrassed until he realized Spock was in the same condition. This certainly wasn't going as smoothly as his fantasies.

Things didn't improve when they were finally naked and climbed into the narrow bunk. Sharp elbows found tender spots and knees banged as they tried to embrace. When they finally got their uncooperative limbs into order and were finally pressed close, Kirk realized with growing horror that he wasn't responding. He concentrated so fiercely on forcing response from his own body, he did not notice Spock's lack of arousal.

"Oh Gods, Spock, I'm sorry," Kirk mumbled his apology into Spock's neck. "I don't know what's wrong with me."

"You are still recovering from very serious injuries," Spock was quick to defend.

"So what's your excuse?" Kirk asked innocently, having finally noticed Spock's equally unresponsive state.

Straight-faced, utterly deadpan, Spock replied, "I am, I believe, as nervous as a fox at a hound dog convention."

Kirk hooted, laughing so hard he would have fallen out of bed if not for Spock's quick grab. "Oh. You. Quoting McCoy. Now. That's rich," he gasped.

The laughter died and he allowed himself to be drawn back into the warm embrace. "Well, it's not a complete disaster. My body may not know what it wants tonight, but my heart's never been so full."

Spock nodded in agreement. "Sleep now. We will have many tomorrows in which to teach our bodies the way."

* * * * *

They woke the next morning to the strange/delightful sensation of togetherness and spent the few moments before the alarm rang in tentative exploration of each other. Bright eyes met dark in a silent promise of things to come as Spock reached to still the strident call.

The mood soon fell apart, however, as they prepared for their shifts. After Spock had bumped him for the third time in the small bathroom, Kirk finally gave up and allowed the Vulcan sole possession. He went through to his own cabin and pulled on a clean uniform over his less than perfectly clean body, promising himself a shower instead of lunch. He was sitting on his bed, pulling on his second boot when Spock emerged from the bathroom, looking perfectly groomed.

Kirk stood and pulled his tunic into place. "You and I have been sharing that bathroom for over a year. We've never had this problem before."

"Neither have we ever attempted to make use of the facilities at the same time," Spock pointed out.

"True. Guess we better start thinking about some modifications around here," Kirk said as he headed toward the door.

Spock stood his ground. "Should I not exit through my own quarters?"

Kirk stopped in his tracks, back turned. He wasn't sure if he was more embarrassed that he hadn't considered discretion or hurt that Spock had. "Sure," he answered.

"Jim, I mean no insult...," Spock began.

"Of course not, Spock. And you're right. I'll see you on the bridge." Kirk moved a little closer to the door.

"Jim."

"We'll talk tonight, Spock. Sort things out when we've got time to talk."

* * * * *

Unfortunately, time to talk along with the slow convalescence McCoy had planned for the Captain went out an airlock within minutes of Kirk beginning his shift. The mission relayed to them from Starfleet seemed simple enough on the surface: pick up delegates from the second and fourth planets in the Belegia system and deliver them to Babel. It appeared to be a simple five or six day milk run. Appearances were deceiving, Spock discovered when he began his research into the system and its history. He provided a bare-bones synopsis to Kirk by lunch time that soon had a formidable frown creasing the smooth forehead.

McCoy appeared on the bridge just as Kirk finished reading the report, determined that Kirk, for once, was going to follow orders.

"I believe I said half-shifts, Captain," he reminded as he stepped down into the well.

"I'm not arguing, Bones. Today. Here, read this." Kirk handed the report over to McCoy.

McCoy read for a few minutes, disgust creeping over his mobile features. "Why is it always this ship?" he asked no one in particular as he handed the report to Spock who had also stepped down from his station.

"I'm going to follow the good doctor's orders," Kirk told Spock, totally ignoring McCoy's muttered remark, "and get some rest. Will you bring the detailed report to my quarters at the end of your shift? I think this situation will benefit from a little strategic pre-planning."

"I agree. I will correlate the data and route it to your terminal within four hours," Spock said and returned to his station.

As McCoy accompanied Kirk to the lift, he suddenly realized his back had stopped itching. The tension between Captain and First Officer had vanished as suddenly as it had come. He wasn't entirely sure what tipped him off; their conversation certainly hadn't been in any way unusual. Perhaps that was it. All the subtle and unsubtle signs of tension between the two officers were gone as if they had never been. Tempted to question the sudden reversal, McCoy decided not to push his luck. He'd keep his mouth shut. After all, it had worked so far.

* * * * *

"Suggestions, Spock?" Kirk asked.

"You are the strategist, not I," Spock declined.

Kirk gave a snort of disbelief as he leaned back in his chair. Spock had supplied the report as promised and Kirk, fresh from a relaxing nap, had reviewed it thoroughly and begun to consider plans.

"Alright. Synopsis: we are going to have two sets of delegates aboard. One from each of the second and fourth planets in the Belegia system. Planets which, incidentally, have been trying to annihilate each other for the past fifteen years. They've finally realized they're killing themselves as well as each other and have appealed to the Federation for help in resolving their differences. Neither group is willing to meet on the other's planet so Babel's been agreed on as neutral ground." Kirk paused to see if Spock had anything to add.

The Vulcan signalled him to continue. He had all the facts fresh in his memory from his research, but often found that listening to Kirk summarize a situation would attune their thinking.

"That's where we come in, getting delegates of these two races that can't stand each other to Babel without them starting their own private battle on our ship."

"The fact that the one group is nocturnal, while the other is the opposite could be used to our advantage," Spock suggested.

"Exactly my thinking, Mr. Spock," Kirk said, not in the least surprised. "Think you can take a week of night shifts?"

"Of course. You will assume charge of the Valman delegation?"

Kirk nodded. "And I think I'm getting the raw end of this deal."

Spock's eyebrow rose in silent query.

"We know the Ryalts are fascinated with Vulcans. They only agreed to the talks when the Vulcan diplomats agreed to mediate. That should make your job a little easier. On the other hand, the Valmans are known for their... dislike of aliens," Kirk said.

"If you wish me...."

Kirk waved the offer aside. "No, why create more problems than we already have."

"With each of us 'dancing attendance' on one group, contact with the rest of the crew should be minimal and, therefore, possible tensions and incidents avoided."

"Exactly. Now, Mr. Spock, if you could do a calculation for me. I want to time it so that the delegations come aboard during their own waking cycles and so it coincides with the appropriate cycle on the ship."

Spock immediately rose and came around the desk. He leaned over Kirk's shoulder as he entered the appropriate facts into the computer. When the answer arrived, he double checked it, then routed the speed corrections and times they were to be made to navigation. As he completed the work, he straightened and stepped back.

"Spock, why didn't you just swivel the computer to face you?" Kirk asked curiously.

"I...," Spock began before realizing he didn't have an answer.

Kirk reached out and clasped a long fingered hand in his. "You don't have to think of logical reasons to be close to me anymore, Spock. You can touch me whenever you want."

Spock stared at their joined hands for a moment. There was nothing seductive in Kirk's offer. The human had sensed a need that Spock himself had not recognized, a craving for closeness and touch denied him most of his life, and offered to fill that need.

Slowly he drew Kirk to his feet and into a loose embrace. They slid together more naturally this time.

"I know," he murmured into the soft, bright hair.

They stood that way for long moments, basking in the unhurried tenderness. Reluctantly, Spock released his hold as he felt Kirk's head slip tiredly to his shoulder.

"You should rest," he said gently.

"Yes. I know we haven't had a chance to talk, and probably won't until this mission is over, but... will you stay?" Kirk asked with uncharacteristic shyness.

Spock simply nodded his agreement and followed Kirk to the bed.

* * * * *

Spock dropped his dress tunic and took two half-running steps toward the bathroom door when he heard the resounding crash from Kirk's quarters. He stopped, checking his first natural impulse, then hurried on when he remembered his new freedom to feel and show his concern for Kirk.

He passed through the bathroom and into Kirk's quarters, skidding to a halt when he reached the divider. Kirk was in his office, on his knees, replacing tapes in a dented carrier. Spock allowed himself to relax when he saw that Kirk obviously was not hurt.

"Jim?"

Kirk looked up, a flush spread over his features when he realized he'd been caught. "Sorry. Didn't mean to disturb you."

Spock joined Kirk on the floor, automatically helping to replace the tapes. He remained silent, knowing Kirk would offer an explanation when he was ready.

"I was just showing my temper. Sometimes nothing relieves the tension like throwing something and hearing it crash," Kirk mumbled, head down as he continued to slide tapes into the carrier.

"Indeed?" Spock asked innocently. "I shall endeavour to remember to duck should it be necessary in future."

The remaining tension eased from Kirk at the teasing reply. He placed the last tape in the carrier, rose and carried it back to his desk. He turned to find Spock had followed him.

"Actually, I was rather proud of myself for holding on until I got here."

"The Valmans," Spock assumed.

"Yeah," Kirk agreed. "Not anything specific, mind you. Just their whole attitude."

"You are used to a much more respectful attitude. With good reason, of course," Spock added when he realized how his first statement might sound.

Kirk stepped forward, wrapping his arms around the Vulcan's waist and rubbing his face against a T-shirt clad shoulder. He laughed softly.

"That's the nicest way anybody's ever told me I'm spoiled."

Fingers under his chin tipped his head back. "I did not mean to imply you were over-ripe, Captain," Spock teased, straight-faced.

"Oh shut up and kiss me," Kirk demanded.

Spock complied obligingly. In two days of alternating shifts, they had managed to find enough fleeting moments together to perfect at least this much of their physical expression of love. And growing better all the time, Spock decided as the kiss quickly deepened from tenderness to passion.

Kirk pulled back, panting as he glanced down at near identical bulges in two pairs of uniform pants. "You must admit, our timing isn't the greatest."

"Yes," Spock agreed, moving Kirk to arms' length and relinquishing his grip on the broad shoulders. "I am on duty in five minutes."

"You better go now then, or I might be tempted to make you late," Kirk threatened with a laugh. "Be a little difficult to report you derelict in duty when I'm the cause."

Spock exited through their bathroom and Kirk turned his attention back to the tape carrier. He wasn't in the least surprised that his earlier tension and anger were gone. Somehow, Spock always had seemed to know just what he needed.

* * * * *

Two days later Kirk stepped from his shower just as Spock entered the small bathroom. A towel wrapped around his slim, naked hips indicated Spock's intention to shower before sleep. Smoothly, they exchanged places and Kirk continued with his morning grooming. He exited to his quarters, dressed and returned in time to hand Spock his towel, then combed his hair into place. They brushed past each other once again as Spock stepped to the sink and Kirk moved to push their wet towels into the recycler.

Spock looked up into the mirror to find Kirk leaning against the wall behind him. He pivoted to face the smiling human.

"What is so amusing?"

"Didn't this room used to be too small for the two of us?" Kirk answered the question with one of his own.

Spock's brows shot into his bangs as he realized, in retrospect, the delicate dance they had each been performing this morning and the evening before. The tiny bathroom that had seemed much too small for both of them had become almost the only place they ever saw each other. With only these few moments of either preparing for the day ahead or for sleep to spend together, they had learned, without realizing, to make the most of the small area and time. The bumps and missteps of that first morning had become caresses and fleeting touches that had to be enough to satisfy their yearning for contact with each other. It was much less than either of them wanted, but it was also more than either was used to and therefore quite pleasing.

Kirk stepped forward for a quick, hard hug. "We're learning, Mr. Spock. We're learning."

* * * * *

Kirk strode into his quarters, surprised when the lights came up to only their dimmest setting. Just what he needed, a malfunction to make him stumble around in the dark when he was in a hurry. The mission would be over in the morning so he had only one more dinner to get through. He knew he'd set the dinner hour a little early; he hadn't missed the disgruntled stare from the Valman senior diplomat, but he was anxious to get this almost last duty over with.

He made his way carefully to the divider, stopping himself from reaching for the manual light control when he saw that someone lay in his bed. No wonder the lights wouldn't come on. They would stay dim as long as the sensors recorded someone sleeping in the cabin.

Cautiously, he crept closer, relaxing when he recognized a shiny cap of dark hair and pointed ear tip.

Quietly, he knelt and gently shook a blanket covered shoulder. "Spock," he called softly.

Spock came awake instantly, drawing back a little and lowering his eyes when he saw Kirk kneeling beside him.

"Is there something wrong with your cabin? Why didn't you call maintenance?" Kirk asked curiously.

"There is nothing wrong with my quarters," Spock mumbled, head still lowered.

"Then what are you doing here?" Kirk pursued as the lights finally began to rise.

"I... I," Spock stuttered then began again, determined to admit his weakness. "I...missed you. I slept here because I could smell your scent, feel your presence."

A swelling tide of tenderness overtook Kirk, trapping the reply in his throat. Words denied him, he scrambled up and hugged the Vulcan tightly. Spock returned the embrace enthusiastically enough to endanger fragile, human ribs.

"You are not angry?" the Vulcan asked just to be certain.

"My love, you will never cease to surprise me," Kirk assured.

"Speaking of surprises, why are you here?" Spock asked. "Are you not at least an hour early?"

Reminded of his duty, Kirk reluctantly left the warm embrace. "I moved the dinner hour up so I could be finished with those... people early."

He eyed the delightfully sleep tousled Vulcan with an exaggerated leer. "Now I wish I hadn't. I'd much rather stay here and have you for dinner. You look good enough to eat."

Spock responded with the expected flush.

Kirk turned away to let Spock regain his composure and began searching out a fresh dress uniform. It was not his intention to embarrass Spock, but he had meant exactly what he said. A shiver ran down his spine as the covers rustled and he felt the Vulcan slip up behind him. It was thrilling to know the body pressed to his back was Spock, naked and, he shifted slightly and felt a revealing hardness, aroused.

"I trust I can depend on you to follow through with your... promise tomorrow night," Spock's husky voice murmured close to his ear.

"Count on it, my friend."

* * * * *

They reached Babel on schedule the next morning and by the time the leave taking and final diplomacies were observed, it worked out that Spock had just ended his duties while Kirk was beginning his. They shared the morning/evening bathroom ritual one last time. The realization that they would be free to be together that evening lent poignant promise to the exchanged looks and touches. They had learned to 'share space' without passion's aid and now looked forward to the more sensual merging of their lives.

When Kirk returned to his quarters after bridge duty that evening, it was to find a private dinner laid out on the table they usually used for chess. The chess board was nowhere in sight and it was obviously not going to be standing between them this evening. However, in many respects the entire evening retained that casual atmosphere of friendship that had existed between them almost since Kirk took command. If the Captain felt somewhat less inhibited when making a point in the conversation with a touch and if Spock accepted those casual contacts more readily, it was still all so familiar as to create no new tension between them. Their conversation that night was, as usual, wide ranging and varied, but now neither man hesitated to include expressions of his personal feelings and past.

When the simple dinner had been consumed, they moved by mutual and yet unspoken consent to the sofa where Spock stretched out with his head in Kirk's lap. Kirk let his fingers run through the soft silk of Spock's hair, smiling when the Vulcan almost purred his pleasure.

"You like that don't you?" he asked without ceasing the gentle rubbing.

"I find your touch most pleasing," Spock confirmed, shifting slightly to press the back of a sensitive ear more firmly into caressing fingers.

"I had a cat who used to do that," Kirk reminisced, letting his fingers trail up to the delicate point.

"Are you comparing me to your cat?" Spock asked, lulled well past insult by the attention.

"Maybe. You're both long and lean and graceful. He used to cuddle in my lap looking for affection as well." A teasing grin played around his lips as his caresses lowered to the blue clad chest. "Of course, he was neutered, so I was about the only place he could get any affection."

"As you are well aware, I am not neutered," Spock baited.

"Neither do you have to depend on me for affection," Kirk pointed out, his tone gone from teasing to very serious.

Spock breathed in a quiet sigh and lifted himself from his comfortable position. "I believe we are about to commence a serious discussion regarding our relationship." An insistent hand at the back of his neck settled him back in the warm lap.

"Doesn't mean we can't touch while we talk, you know," Kirk said as he resumed his casual petting. "We do have a few things to discuss, like, I never realized you were such a romantic. Quiet dinners for two?"

"I am not. Such ideas and expressions do not come naturally to me, but must be consciously instigated." Spock's brow creased in worry. "I do not know whether I can change my nature."

"I don't want you to change at all, Spock. I didn't fall in love with you for what I thought you might be or become, but for what you are. Your personality, like your blood, is neither wholly human, nor completely Vulcan. It's always been my opinion that you're the best of what both worlds have to offer."

There was a long silence as Kirk's words ran around both men's minds. Only as Kirk spoke them did he realize the absolute truth of them. For Spock, the words and tone were a boost to a too often faltering ego.

"I meant no insult when I suggested discretion the first morning," Spock finally said.

"I know that, Spock. Although I admit at first I was a bit... hurt that you didn't want anyone to know about us. But that's part of what I was saying before. I don't want you to change for me. I know how much your privacy means to you and I won't do anything to violate it," Kirk promised.

"It would be impractical to think that our relationship will not become known. At this point, however, it would appear sensible...."

"Until we have all the kinks worked out, you mean?"

"Yes. As well," Spock paused, "I find I wish to...."

"Keep it just between us for a while? Our special secret," Kirk finished for him.

"Precisely," Spock agreed.

They smiled openly as they realized they had just completed each other's thoughts.

"Me too. Although it won't be long before McCoy guesses and we really should tell him before that. He already knows something's in the wind and I've been surprised as hell that he's keeping his mouth shut so far. Besides, he's our friend and, who knows, either one of us may need a friend's advice while we adjust."

"I agree. It would be wise to tell Dr. McCoy when the opportunity presents itself," Spock said.

Kirk leaned down to brush a soft kiss over Spock's lips then sat back. "Anything else you want to talk about?"

"No," Spock said simply.

"You sound pretty sure of yourself," Kirk teased.

Spock sat up, his manner very serious and ernest. "I have never been more certain of a personal decision in my life. I know we will need to make adjustments. I understand that we do not yet know if we are physically compatible. However, this past week has convinced me that we will deal well together. We have always been considerate of each other. This will not stop because our relationship has expanded. On the contrary, being lovers should heighten that consideration."

"Does all of that mean you want to sleep with me tonight?" Kirk quipped, but the softness in his eyes revealed his understanding.

"Eventually, yes," Spock agreed.

It took a moment for Kirk to catch on, but when he did a smile of stunning magnitude lit his face.

"Eventually?" he echoed.

"Indeed. In the meantime, I plan to stay most busily awake with you," Spock revealed.

"Really?" Kirk said as he stood and drew Spock up beside him. He slipped his arms around the trim waist in a loose embrace. "I have a few plans myself. Think they might be similar to yours?"

"I believe the odds that they might differ approach zero," Spock answered, lifting his own hands to rest on broad shoulders to complete the circle.

"Only approach?" Kirk asked.

A lifted eyebrow acknowledged the correction.

Kirk eased a little closer, pressed a soft kiss against the pulse throbbing in Spock's throat. "My plans start with a shower," he said as he dropped his arms and drew away. "Separately, unfortunately, considering the size of that bathroom."

"Agreed," Spock said, also dropping his arms. "If you would like to go first, I have some matters to attend to in my cabin."

Kirk turned away, took a step toward the bathroom, then hesitated. A firm hand on his shoulder and whispered words stilled his fears before they were even fully realized.

"I will return, Jim. I wish to return."

* * *

When Spock emerged from the bathroom, Kirk already lay on his bed, squeaky clean, totally naked and unashamedly aroused. Spock opened the towel he had wrapped around his own waist and lay it over a chair as he approached the bed. False modesty had been one of the first things to go. He was now quite used to appearing before Kirk nude and was growing more comfortable beneath Kirk's appreciative gaze.

As Spock lay down beside him, Kirk waved a casual hand toward the sheets neatly folded away at the end of the bed.

"We can pull them up if you like," he offered.

"I feel no need to hide from you," Spock said.

"I've been thinking about this," Kirk said, a wry grin acknowledging his understatement. "And, considering the problems we had the other night, I was wondering if you'd mind if I took the lead tonight."

"A very acceptable suggestion," Spock said, a shiver tracing his spine at the thought of placing himself in Kirk's experienced hands.

"I'm glad." One hand on Spock's shoulder encouraged the Vulcan onto his back while Kirk propped up on his elbow.

"I've wanted to look at you like this for a long time," he revealed. His hungry gaze traveled slowly from damp hair to long toes, marvelling at every beloved feature in between. "I know we've been looking at each other all week, but this is different. There's been no time to really appreciate what I'm seeing before tonight."

Growing uncomfortable under Kirk's intent regard, Spock shifted restlessly. "Jim?"

"Mmm, sorry. Didn't mean to make you nervous," Kirk murmured as he stroked the length of Spock's arm soothingly. "This is like having all my favorite desserts laid out before me. I just don't know where to start."

A lump formed in Spock's throat at the tender/teasing words, locking any reply within him.

"Should I start here?" Kirk began as he bent over the Vulcan and delicately traced the elegant ear tip with his tongue. "Would you like to know how many times I've fantasized doing that?"

"Yes," Spock managed to gasp as Kirk's lips caught his lobe and sucked gently.

"203. And this," the lips moved along the sharp jawline, over the high cheekbone, around the closed eye, until they could brush a kiss along the line of the slanted brow, "305".

Spock lay utterly still as the teasing lips left his eyebrow, in favor of his forehead. He felt an illogical surge of pleasure as Kirk's nose brushed his bangs, mussing them, as those lips continued to map his face, detouring briefly to the other ear, down the jaw to his throat.

"And this spot right here," Kirk murmured against the hollow of Spock's throat, "308.5".

"Point five?" Spock echoed huskily.

"Yes. I was on my way here but got distracted to here," Kirk said as his lips continued down the hairy chest to a small, copper nipple. He mouthed it gently, delighted when it came immediately erect, stabbing at his tongue.

Spock moaned in disappointment as the suckling mouth left him, but quieted as Kirk's hands glided along his sides in soothing strokes. A small sigh escaped him as the lips left a pattern of dry kisses across his chest before engulfing the other nipple and encouraging it to the same sensitive erection.

Kirk's hands caressed lower on either side, smoothing, flat palmed from top of hip to top of thigh, seemingly preparing the way for the further light kisses and soft licks that followed.

Spock's hands clenched in the sheets as Kirk circled his groin, completely ignoring the begging organ jutting above his belly.

Sensitive to his lover's needs, acutely conscious of the week of unintentional teasing they had already subjected each other to, Kirk eased off. He sat back on folded legs and waited.

"If it's too much, I won't tease anymore. I want this to be pleasurable, not painful," he offered.

"I would not describe what I am feeling as painful," Spock whispered, feeling bereft at the loss of the expert touch, but appreciating the moment to regain his calm.

"You sure?" Kirk asked, concerned. He laid his hand on Spock's knee and ran it palm down to the juncture of thigh and groin. He felt the muscles quivering as the hairs were ruffled against the grain, saw the erect organ jerk at the unexpected stimulation.

"If I cannot bear it, I will speak," Spock promised.

Kirk bent back to his most pleasurable task. "Don't you want me to keep telling you how many times I've fantasized this?" he asked as he placed a beginning kiss at the top of a long thigh.

"For the first time in my life, I have absolutely no interest in numbers," Spock admitted.

Wet kisses traced the long tense muscle of a thigh as Kirk swung himself over to straddle Spock's calves. He nipped at the less sensitive skin of the knee before transferring to the other knee for similar treatment and on up the other thigh to the smooth skin of the hip.

"Turn over," he commanded as he sat back.

Spock turned, moaning as his penis became trapped between his belly and smooth sheets. Instinctively his hips thrust, seeking relief from the exquisite pleasure. Kirk's hands lightly stroked his buttocks, neither encouraging nor discouraging, or Spock might have been tempted to take his release then and there. But the skimming fingers promised such delight, he forced himself to be still, even managing to relax a little when no further stimulation was offered.

"Ready?" Kirk asked when he felt the tense body beneath him ease.

"More than ready," Spock agreed.

A soft chuckle gusted across his nape just before soft lips nibbled, sending a shiver down Spock's spine and straight into his groin. His penis throbbed its appreciation as his shoulders and back were treated to the same delicate exploration bestowed upon his chest. A sharp gasp slipped from him as the mouth continued downward, nipping and licking at the small spheres of his buttocks. He stiffened in surprise as a wet tongue slid wetly down the crevice between the quivering mounds.

Kirk backed off, taking the sudden tension as a signal that he was going too far, too fast. "Turn over." A request this time.

Slowly, Spock rolled to his back again, meeting the bright eyes, taking in the flushed features and the obvious arousal of his lover. He had not touched Kirk in any way, and yet the human seemed as excited as he himself was.

Kirk leaned forward to claim a passionate kiss, thrusting his tongue into Spock's eagerly opened mouth.

"No more teasing," he promised.

Boldly, Spock's hands clamped on the broad shoulders, pressing downward. Kirk smiled as he let himself be guided, tongue circling his lips in anticipation as his cheek brushed the satiny smooth heat of Spock's erection.

"Jim," Spock panted, one hand slipping from Kirk's shoulder to his face. "Let me meld us?"

"Yes. Feel how much I'm enjoying loving you," Kirk encouraged.

Trembling fingers found the meld points as Kirk's lips parted around the flushed head of Spock's organ and slid down the shaft. Lightning seemed to burst in Spock's groin, zigzagged through his singing veins to his brain where it exploded in the white hot sheen of climax.

For a disorienting moment, Kirk felt the cool, wet grip of his own mouth around his aching shaft and then his penis was jerking in similar rhythm, spilling his semen even as he swallowed the hot salt silk of Spock's.

The meld dissolved as Spock's numb fingers slipped from Kirk's face, but some echo of the shared pleasure remained, synapsing back and forth between their minds and shivering through their bodies.

Only more-than-human strength allowed them to right themselves in the tumbled bed. Spock pulled Kirk's limp form into his arms and cradled him gently.

"My God, Spock," Kirk breathed when he was once again capable of speech. "I've never felt anything like that in my life. You feel so intensely."

"Never before, Jim," Spock said reverently. "Your touch is... is exquisite. The welcome in your mind. The sharing...."

"Oh yes, Spock. So much better than I ever imagined it could be," Kirk finished the thought. "It's almost as if I can still feel you."

"There is a resonance between us from the intensity. It will fade as we calm." Spock's tone was one of regret.

"But we'll create it again," Kirk promised sleepily.

"Indeed we will," Spock agreed.

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