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First published in KS Connections con zine.

Exchanges

 

 

By Deanna Gray

 

"Personal log, stardate 3454.6.  We're back on course for our rendezvous with the Potemkin, I passed Bones’ physical with flying colors, and tomorrow morning I can report for regular duty.  Everything is back to normal."

 

            A derisive laugh escaped his lips.  "Normal.  What a joke.  I don't feel normal.  It’s like I’m a stranger in my own body.  How could a few hours in another body supercede a lifetime in my own?  It wasn't like this when I let Sargon use my body; and he was an alien, and I was in that weird limbo in the sphere."

 

            Restlessly he paced his cabin.  "Spock said my transference with Sargon was temporary and willing, whereas Janice attacked me and not only usurped my body but tried to steal my entire identity.  He even theorized that it felt more alien with Janice because she's a woman while Sargon's essence was at least male, even if not human.  Trust Spock to have an explanation handy."

 

            Halting, Kirk ran his hands along his arms, till he was wringing his hands together.  His own flesh felt foreign to his fingers.  "Trusting Spock is the only thing I feel I can count on right now.  If it weren't for his intervention I would be the one on Benicia right now, still trapped in her body and everybody thinking I was insane.  By the time anyone else might have discovered the truth it would probably be too late; Bones said the longer we remained in each other's body the greater the possibility of being unable to reverse it."

 

            Kirk couldn’t stop the shudder.  It had been such a near thing.  His crew knew something was wrong, but no one, not even Bones or Scotty would have believed him on his own.  Only Spock's unswerving persistence made them believe.

 

            "Computer off," he ordered, not wanting to talk about it anymore.  He didn’t want to remember another minute of that god-awful experience.  Retreating into the sleeping area, he stripped off his uniform and stuffed it in the recycling unit with unexpected force before practically throwing himself down on his bunk.  Damn Janice!

 

            He wasn’t going to do this.  She was off his ship and light-years away on Benicia, Bones having arranged for local transport to take her and Doctor Coleman to Starbase Two.  He was going to put it out of his mind and sleep.  Closing his eyes, he tried to settle down but it just wasn’t possible.  He was too keyed up, anger and sadness at his ex-lover roiling within him.  Worse, he still felt as if he wasn't anchored in his body, like he could slip away again.  Of course, he hadn’t mentioned that to Bones, not wanting the physician to take him off duty.  More than anything right now he needed to have his command, his life, back again.

 

            Maybe I should go talk to Spock.  He’d understand.  Maybe another meld….

 

            Quickly he dismissed that thought.  The Vulcan had already gone beyond the call of duty.  When they were being held in the brig he’d made Spock meld with him again, going deep to try to oust him from Janice’s body back to his own.  It had almost worked – for a moment he’d been in his body on the bridge.  They had still been linked when she’d taken him from the brig and tried to kill him, and it was that link that had finally torn Janice from his body and restored him.  He couldn’t ask Spock for more.

 

            “I will do all within my means to oppose you.”  Spock’s words to Janice at that travesty of a trial floated through his mind, bringing a sense of peace to him.  Spock had meant every word, would never have given up, and would never abandon him.

 

            “Spock,” he murmured.  Despite the lingering sensation of not being completely connected to his body, thoughts of his friend lulled him to a gentle sleep.

 

****

 

It was happening again, his being, his soul, was floating away from his body.  He clutched for himself but there was nothing physical to grab.  Drifting in a void, alone…until another he sense another presence.  Steeling himself, determined not to let her get away with it again, he was ready to fight.  But it wasn't her.  This one was warm and loving.  It wasn't an assault; it was...comfort and peace.

 

            It was Spock.  The Vulcan was here, with that amazing mind and unstinting loyalty.  Spock wouldn't let her do it again.  Kirk welcomed the other, not just opening himself to his friend but drawing him within, urging a deeper connection.  Surprise and uncertainty flowed, but quickly dissipated as their souls entwined.

 

            Enveloped in security they slept.  Content.

 

****

 

A sweet odor assailed him.  It was familiar and somehow not quite at the same time.  His drowsy mind took several minutes to place the scent: Spock’s incense.  But it was richer and sharper than he remembered, and what was it doing in his cabin?  Opening his eyes, he was surprised to find he could see.  The light wasn’t programmed to come on till the alarm.  Craning his neck to check the chronometer, he blinked when it wasn’t there.

 

            Suddenly he realized what was wrong: he wasn’t in his cabin.  He was in Spock’s.  The dim red glow allowing him to see was from the Vulcan’s meditation statue, which was quietly billowing out the alien incense.  The walls were covered in heavy red draperies and adorned with ancient, alien weapons.  Definitely Spock’s quarters.  How did he get here?  And where was Spock?  There was no sign of the Vulcan anywhere.

 

            Throwing aside the blanket, he noticed he was dressed in a nightshirt that wasn’t his.  When he went to bed last night he’d been naked, so Spock must have given him this to wear.  Kirk frowned.  He didn’t remember leaving his cabin, or coming to Spock’s, and he certainly didn’t remember dressing or climbing into his friend’s bed.

 

            Kirk sprang from the bed, immediately regretting it as a burst of dizziness almost caused him to fall.  He caught himself in time, closing his eyes and concentrating on just standing still.  Cautiously he opened his eyes.  The room was steady.  Taking a deep breath, he waited another minute.  The dizziness was gone.  Shit, he was going to have to see McCoy about this.  He couldn’t report for duty having dizzy spells and memory lapses.  Fervently he hoped he’d crossed through their shared bathroom to Spock’s cabin, and hadn’t been wandering down the corridor naked.  That wouldn’t look good in front of the crew, and after the incident with Janice he had to maintain his command image.  Uppermost in him mind, though, was the need to know there was no way a reversal could happen, putting him back in Janice’s body again.

 

            He raised a hand to run through his hair but stopped dead in his tracks.  In horror he studied the hand before his face: long fingered, fine-boned, with an odd hue to the skin.  Shaking, he raised his left hand, dismayed to find it matched the right.  These weren’t his hands.  A man’s hands, not Janice’s, but still not his own.  Looking down he found feet larger and longer-toed than his, attached to legs slimmer and slightly hairier and also green-toned.

 

            Fear propelled him to the dresser unit, slamming his hand against the control so the unit would turn and reveal the mirror.  He stared in amazement at the bent metal his hand had left behind – he hadn’t hit it that hard.  But it still worked; the bureau was now in front.  Dread filling him, Kirk lifted his gaze to the mirror.

 

            And found his first officer’s visage staring back at him.  Brown eyes widened in shock, black hair rumpled from sleep, the so-familiar cant of brows and points of ears that belonged to Spock were in his reflection.

 

            A sudden wild thrumming in his side alarmed him – now what the hell…?  Spock’s Vulcan heart, reacting to the surge of adrenalin or whatever equivalent Vulcans had, from Kirk’s discovery.  Oh, god.  Stumbling back into the bedroom he unsteadily sat down on the bunk.  He forced himself to take deep breaths, striving for calm.  Kirk placed a hand over his side, wondering how long the alien heart could bear the thundering pace.  It was so unnerving to feel a furious pounding in his right side and nothing in his chest.  Certainly it wasn’t helping him settle down.  Shit, he was going to give his best friend’s body a heart attack and kill himself in the process.

 

            Eyes closed, continuing to take deep breaths, hands resting on his thighs, he called upon his command training.  Slowly but surely the Vulcan body he inhabited quieted.  His breathing evened out and his heart returned to a steady fluttering in his side.

 

            Kirk opened his eyes, relieved the techniques he used on his own body worked in Spock’s.  Spock’s Vulcan controls regulated his body precisely but he didn’t have those controls.  The last thing he wanted to do was damage his friend’s body.  Besides his Vulcan training, Spock knew some human techniques so he would probably have fewer problems managing his body.

 

            “Oh my god.”  The words sounded so strange, Spock’s deep baritone suffused with emotion.  But his mind was too concerned with Spock to really think about how he sounded.  Spock, who wanted to be Vulcan and only Vulcan, was now ensconced in a totally human body.

 

            “My god,” he repeated.

 

            “Indeed.”

 

            Head snapping up, Kirk found himself looking up into his own face.  He felt like he was looking in a mirror - Spock had dressed, taking care to wear the gold captain’s command uniform, his hair combed just the way he always did.  Captain Kirk was standing right in front of him.

 

            Except he was Captain Kirk and a flood of dread and anger filled him.  It was happening again, just like with Janice….  He shook his head violently.  No, not like her.  Spock wasn’t trying to steal his identity; Spock was his friend and had helped free him from Janice.

 

            “Spock?”  He had to ask, to be one hundred percent sure.

 

            “Yes, Captain.”

 

            Kirk stood.  “What the hell happened?”

 

            It was so weird, seeing his own body position itself like Spock’s: hands clasped behind his back, legs slightly parted, gaze respectfully averted.

 

            “I have no specific data-”

 

            “Then speculate,” he snapped.  Hearing the words in Spock’s voice made him catch himself.  Fighting with the Vulcan wasn’t going to help, and it wasn’t his fault.  “Spock, I went to bed last night in my own body.  Now I’m in yours, and you’re in mine and I really need to have some idea what could have happened and how we can fix this.”

 

            “I am at a loss to understand it myself.  I can only hypothesize that somehow during the night we transposed ourselves.”

 

            “That much is clear, Spock, but how?”

 

            “Unknown.”  Spock raised a hand to stop him from answering.  “The most likely cause was my intervention in driving Doctor Lester from your body and restoring you.  It was…a very deep meld, with the both of us united in fighting Doctor Lester.”

 

            “I remember before I fell asleep that I still felt disconnected from myself.  I thought it was just because of the whole situation with Janice.”

 

            “I recall an odd sensation during sleep, a sense of you.”

 

            “I felt something similar, too.  I thought it was just a dream.”

 

            “Apparently not.  Captain, I would postulate that the meld drew us together and our psyches merged during the night.”

 

            “And we separated again and wound up in each other’s body?  That’s crazy.”

 

            “It is the only explanation that fits the facts.  A mechanical device originally displaced you and only our concerted efforts freed you from Doctor Lester.  That effort was not simple.  It was not a typical meld that we shared.  I had to touch your katra, your living essence, and uproot it from her body while helping you to seek your own again.  When you finally were back in your own body we must have still been linked.  You mentioned you felt ‘disconnected’ from your body afterward – I would say that was because you and I were still intertwined.”

 

            “How come you didn’t know this last night?”

 

            A flush of red crept over his face.  “It was a new experience for me, melding so deeply with another.  I have never done so before.  Any odd sensations I felt I simply attributed to the depth of the meld.  I had no knowledge or experience that this could occur.”

 

            “I’m sorry; I’m not blaming you, Spock.  All right.  It happened.  The question is what do we do now?”

 

            “I do not know.”

 

            Kirk just stared at the other man.  “Can’t you meld us again and switch us back?”

 

            Spock looked down at the deck before answering him.  “I do not possess the ability to meld us.”

 

            “Of course you do!  You’re a Vulcan.”

 

            “I am presently in your body, Captain.  My telepathic abilities are linked with my Vulcan brain and body.”

 

            “Then I can do it.”

 

            It was so odd, seeing Spock catch his lower lip with his teeth, a familiar sign of discomfort from Spock but looking so strange on his own face.

 

            “I would not recommend it.  While the mental and physical ability to meld is there you do not know how to use it.  It could be dangerous.”

 

            “How?”

            “You may inadvertently lock us in one another’s body permanently, or cause a deeper, irreversible link to form.”

 

            “Which brings us right back to what do we do?”

 

            “A Vulcan healer may be of help.”

 

            Kirk ran a hand through his hair, surprised at how soft the black strands felt.  He almost laughed at the sight of Spock staring at him, eyebrow rising.  That raised brow looked good on Spock when the Vulcan was in his own body, but Kirk didn’t like it on his own face.

 

            “Maybes aren’t good enough – we need a solution.  Fast.  My report is already on its way to Command about Janice.  You know what that means.”

 

            “We will likely be rerouted to Starbase Two for several days.”

 

            “Yeah, so their doctors can poke around in my head.  That’s bad enough, but, Spock, when they find out you and I switched places too, they might think I’m at risk of this happening again and again.  They might take my command.”  He shook his head.  “I should send a message to Janice.  She’ll be thrilled to learn she at least managed to get my command taken from me.”

 

            “That will not happen.”  Spock took a step forward as he spoke, emphasizing his words.

 

            “How are we going to stop it?  You just said we can’t undue this ourselves; we don’t have a Vulcan healer on the ship and HQ is going to order us to the base after our rendezvous with the Potemkin.  It’s going to come out.”

 

            “No.”

 

            Kirk was startled at the vehemence of the denial.

 

            “There is an alternative, Jim.”

 

            “I’m listening.”

 

            “That we will be rerouted to Starbase Two is almost certain.  However, we could return to Camus Two first and use the alien mechanism to transpose us back prior to going to the base.”

 

            Kirk absorbed this then slowly nodded.  “It might work.  Command’s going to want to a more detailed report on that equipment anyway, maybe even want it transported to the base.”  He shuddered involuntarily at that thought.  “The only problem is the time factor.  Waiting till after the rendezvous is going to be a problem.  You’ll have to pretend to be me and I have to pass off as you.”

 

            “An unavoidable circumstance.  Without disclosing the problem to Command they will not authorize our return to the Camus system prior to transporting the drugs to the Potemkin at Beta Auragi.”

 

            “I know, I know.”

 

            “Jim, I am hesitant to say this, but another risk is that the prolonged duration in each other’s body may make the transference difficult, or impossible.”

 

            “A chance I’m willing to take.  But since it worked for Janice, I think it’ll work for us.”

 

            “True.”

 

            Kirk studied his friend.  It was hard to tell, Spock’s natural body language wasn’t translating to his body the same, but Spock still seemed disturbed and somehow Kirk knew it wasn’t the risks they were discussing.

 

            “Spock, I know this goes against the grain for you, not reporting this.  It does for me, too.  I also know it’s hard for you, being in a human body and impersonating your captain, but I don’t want to risk my command.  Janice almost stole it from me and we don’t know Fleet’s reaction to that yet.  Now this happens…”

 

            “I understand, Jim, and I do agree with you.”

 

            “Can you do it, Spock?  Act like me for a few days?”

 

            “I believe I know your behavior patterns well enough.”

 

            “It’s not just knowing them, it’s acting them out.  Can you?”

 

            “Since I must, yes.  And you?”

 

            “I can do it.”  Spock was doing it again, raising his brow.  “You’re going to have to not do that,” he gestured at Spock’s face.

 

            “And you must practice doing so.”

 

            He couldn’t help it; the gentle teasing made him grin.  But it faded as fast as it surfaced when Spock quickly glanced away.  It was probably too much for the Vulcan to see himself smiling.

 

            “So we’re decided.”  After a nod from the Spock he continued.  “We’re in friendly space right now so you won’t have any problems, and you could command the ship anyway.  I can handle your duties as first officer but the science department might be trouble.  I’m not a scientist.”

 

            “You do not need to be.  My own experiments can wait, and there is nothing critical being worked on at this moment.”

 

            “We should tell McCoy.”

 

            Spock swallowed.  “I would prefer not.”

 

            Kirk considered.  Spock was an intensely private person and this was hard enough on him without bringing in another person.  He knew the physician cared for Spock in his own way but he could, and often did, make things difficult for him.  Now was not the time to give Bones any fuel for their tirades.

 

            “Okay.  But, if something happens, if we need to tell him, we do.”

 

            “Agreed.”

 

            “Good.  If you’ll give me a few minutes I’ll get dressed and we can get something to eat.”

 

            “Yes, Captain.”

 

            Kirk watched as Spock left, feeling slightly surreal seeing his own body retreating from him.  Peeling off the nightshirt, he headed into the bathroom to prepare for the day.

 

            Stepping into the spray, he expected to feel warm water on his body.  What he got was a cool blast of liquid that made him jump back.  Checking the controls he saw they were set at the usual temperature.  The usual temperature for a human body, not a Vulcan one, he reminded himself.  He reset the controls little by little until it was comfortable.  Quickly he washed himself, feeling somewhat embarrassed at touching his friend’s body so intimately.  Briskly he dried himself and dressed.  Entering the corridor, he went to his cabin and buzzed.

 

            Spock stepped out. They both regarded each other for a minute.

 

            “Good morning, Captain,” Kirk said, as several crewmen walked past.

 

            “Good morning, Mister Spock,” was the reply, but it was the small smile that threw him.  It was the exact smile he greeted his first officer with every morning but it seemed so strange to be on the receiving end of it.  Did he really smile like that at Spock?  It seemed so…so…flirty?

 

            “Join me for breakfast?”

 

            There was a definite twinkle in the other’s eye.  Spock was teasing, an attempt to relax them both, Kirk knew.  Forcing himself to keep his face impassive, Kirk gave a quiet “Yes, sir.”

 

            And there Spock faltered.  He hesitated, as he usually did, waiting for his captain to start walking.  For his part, Kirk had begun to turn and take a step when he realized what they were doing.  Quickly he shifted, moving back to allow Spock to go first.  Spock took his cue and started off, and Kirk carefully positioned himself one step to the side and two back from his own body.

 

            Fortunately the rest of the journey to the mess went well.  Kirk followed his second-in-command to the food dispensers and stood behind the other in line.  He scanned the room - it was business as usual, and no one seemed interested in observing their commanding officers.  Turning back to Spock, he realized the other was at the dispenser but not ordering.

 

            “Problem, Captain?”

 

            Spock shot him a quick glance and punched in an order.  Kirk watched him remove his tray.  Cereal, muffin, banana, a small glass of orange juice and a steaming cup of coffee were there.  Kirk faced the dispenser and suddenly understood Spock’s dilemma of a moment ago.  What was he going to order?  Spock could manage what was on his tray, Kirk didn’t always eat meat for breakfast, but what was he going to eat?  Nothing he could think of right now that he’d seen Spock eat held any appeal for him.

 

            “Code N576.”

 

            Whispered conspiratorially, Kirk almost grinned.  Instead, he punched in the code and took his order.  And nearly made a face.  Gwengin oatmeal, sliced Tsucv pear, Vulcan Kra’wew juice and piping hot Myvdian tea.  It looked awful.  There was no way he was going to be able to eat this mess.

 

            But Spock was already on his way to their usual table, where McCoy was sitting there as expected, so Kirk could do nothing but follow.  Each man took the other’s customary seat.

 

            “Morning, Jim, Spock.”

 

            “Bones.”

 

            “Doctor.”

 

            “How you feeling, Jim?”

 

            “I am func…fine.”

 

            McCoy frowned and Kirk groaned inside.

 

            “Are you sure?  Did you sleep okay last night?”

 

            “I slept fine.”

 

            “Any dizziness, disorientation?”

 

            “No.”


            “Any nightmares or strange dreams?”

 

            “No.”

 

            “How about-”

 

            “Doctor McCoy,” Kirk interrupted impatiently, “this is hardly the place to conduct this conversation.”

 

            Both men stared in surprise at him.  Blue eyes zeroed in on him.

 

            “It’s just a few questions, Spock.  The captain underwent something very traumatic and I just want to be sure he’s okay.  In fact it’s my job to make sure he’s all right.”  Bones was throwing him a challenge, but Kirk didn’t feel up to it right now.

 

            “Agreed, but this is not an appropriate time or location.”  Kirk glanced at Spock but quickly turned away from the incredulous look plastered on his face.

 

            “That had to have been a pretty deep meld you initiated to get Jim back,” Bones was continuing, “how are you feeling?

 

            Staring into hazel eyes sitting opposite him, Kirk replied, “Functional.”  Hastily he turned his attention to his meal, not wanting to see that eyebrow rise.  It didn’t help, though.  The Gwengin oatmeal looked like mud with tiny rocks in it.  It was doubtful he could manage a bite of it.  Why had Spock told him to order this?

 

            “What’s the matter, Spock?  You look like you’ve never seen your food before.”

 

            McCoy was watching him carefully and he couldn’t afford to arouse his suspicions.  Bracing himself, he lifted a spoonful to his mouth and shoved it in before he could stop himself.  Surprisingly it tasted good.  He took another mouthful.  In fact, it was very good.  He dug enthusiastically into his breakfast and was almost disappointed when it was all gone.

 

            Spock had managed all right with his food too, it seemed.  Kirk wrapped his hands around the still-hot cup of tea.  It was chilly in here for some reason.

 

            “Well, I best be getting to sickbay.  Remember, we have an appointment after lunch, Jim.”

 

            “Right,” Spock answered correctly, but Kirk could see the dismay the other was feeling.  Once Bones was out of earshot, he leaned forward.

 

            “That wasn’t too bad.”

 

            “Perhaps but I do not know if I can deceive the doctor during an examination.”

 

            “Just relax and it’ll be fine.  The readings will be from my body and they’ll show human norms, so as long as you don’t say anything suspicious it should be okay.”  Kirk shivered slightly.  “It’s cold in here.”

 

            “You did not find the thermal undergarments?”

 

            Kirk caught himself before making a face.  “I didn’t even look for any.  I’m going to have to go back to your cabin and put some on or I’ll freeze before the day is out.  How do you stand it?”

 

            “I have adapted to ship’s climate and can regulate my temperature to compensate.  I am sorry for not having reminded you to wear the extra clothing.”

 

            A sudden loud clatter painfully assaulted Kirk’s ears.  A quick survey of the room showed it to be nothing more than a dropped utensil.

 

            “That was so loud.”

 

            “I was just thinking how low the sound was,” Spock replied.

 

            The comment brought home the realization of how different he and Spock really were.  Spock had been by his side through so much he hardly thought about the fact that Spock was an alien to him.  Spock was always just…Spock.

 

            “Let’s go.”

 

            Together they rose, deposited their trays and left the mess, Spock accompanying him to the Vulcan’s quarters.  Kirk took the proffered thermals gratefully.  He undressed, put the thermals on, and redressed.  All the while Spock had turned his back to him.

 

            “It’s your body, Spock.”

 

            Finally the other met his gaze.  “But you are currently using it.”

 

            Kirk smiled at his friend’s ever-present consideration for him.  Spock was one of a kind.  “Actually, I felt kind of the same way in the shower.  I mean, there I was washing myself but it was your body.”

 

            “I had similar thoughts as I prepared for the day as well.  In fact, this entire morning has demonstrated how your human senses are different from mine.”

 

            “In what way?”

 

            “Colors are duller and somewhat blurred, not as refined as I am used to.  Minute distinction of colors is difficult, if not impossible in some cases.  It is a fact that Vulcan vision operates further on the light spectrum then humans but it has been disconcerting to actually experience it firsthand.  Sound is muted, low, at times almost garbled.  Your sense of taste is radically different, although even with your human palate I did not care for the coffee.”

 

            Kirk laughed.  “Sorry, Spock.  But you’ll have to drink it again tonight after dinner, unless we can come up with an excuse to eat alone.”

 

            “We have done so before.  I am sure the doctor’s suspicions will not be unduly aroused by that.”  Spock cocked his head.  It was such a familiar gesture but so out of place seeing it on his body.

 

            “And you?”

 

            “Everything seems more vivid, clearer and crisp, as if I'm using an amplifying device.  Sounds are loud, to the point where a simple noise like that dropped fork was painful. Your sense of smell is really different - all that food in the mess was almost overwhelming, and it's kind of odd, smelling something I know and yet it doesn't smell the way I remember it; like your incense this morning.  I recognized it but it wasn't the same.  Actually, now that I think about it, it seemed sweeter.”

 

            "Whereas it is now more bitter than I recollect."

 

            "I guess we're pretty different that way.  Must be why I was able to eat that stuff you ordered for me.  I didn't think I'd be able to put it in my mouth, much less enjoy it.  But it was good."

 

            "I, too, was surprised to find your usual breakfast selection to be palatable.  A most fascinating experience."

 

            "Oh, it's fascinating all right.  I just hope it doesn't last much longer."

 

            Spock quickly glanced away.  "I am sorry."

 

            "I'm not blaming you."  When Spock continued to avoid him, Kirk gently placed his hand on the other's arm.  A tingling started in his fingertips and spread quickly upward.  A flash of emotions swept through him: guilt, and sorrow, more, too fast to comprehend.  Quickly he snatched his hand back, afraid to invade Spock's privacy any further.

 

            "Jim?"  Now Spock was looking at him, questioning eyes full of concern.

 

            "Sorry, Spock.  I guess I'm not too good with your telepathy."

 

            Hazel eyes widened in something akin to horror but Kirk couldn't be sure as he turned away again.

 

            "I didn't mean what I said before, and I didn't really get anything from you telepathically.  I just...felt you a little, that you're feeling bad about this.  Believe me, Spock… I don't blame you.  If it weren't for you I'd still be in Janice's body."

 

            Open relief was visible on his face's features.

 

            "I'm grateful you were able to help me.  That you wanted to help me."

 

            "I would not have abandoned you," Spock said quietly, his gaze now fixed on the deck.

 

            "I know that.  And I'm not worried about this, not really.  I trust you, Spock.  We're in this together and it'll all work out."

 

            Spock nodded.  "I must report to the bridge before your absence is noted."

 

            "What did you have scheduled for yourself today?"

 

            "There is an experiment in the quantum physics lab, and a meeting in computer lab three this afternoon, but both can be rescheduled.  I have an appointment with Ensign Kenin that should not be canceled, however."

 

            "Was she the one involved in that chemical spill?"

 

            “Yes.  She did not follow proper safety protocol, and her actions once the spill occurred demonstrated a lack of knowledge of emergency procedures."

 

            "Should she be in Sciences?"

 

            "She has potential as a theorist, and her work has been adequate.  She needs more experience in a laboratory setting.  My recommendations are logged."

 

            "I'll review it and take care of it.  Anything else?"

 

            "No.  If you wish, you can use my office.  With your permission I will be in yours doing my work."

 

            His dismay must have been obvious because Spock quickly added, "Of course, there are a number of reports that can be accessed by the bridge computer."

 

            "Good.  Let's go."

 

            The journey to the bridge was uneventful if strange.  Spock's habit of keeping two paces behind his captain was proving tedious, as it took a conscious effort on his part to maintain a normal Spock-position, not on easy task using those long Vulcan legs.  For his part, Spock kept himself in front and didn't hesitate to take the lead but he walked stiffly.  Kirk knew it bothered his proper second-in-command to be leading him through the ship.  At last the lift doors opened to the bridge.  He gave a quick survey before going to the science station.  Activating the computer, he pulled up the morning reports.

 

            "Status."

 

            Before he could stop himself he spun about to look at Spock.  The Vulcan was settled in the command chair, reading the porta-comp that had been handed to him.  Spock had gotten everything right: the volume and tone of voice, sitting with one leg crossed over the other, balancing the comp on his knee and holding the top of it with his left hand.  Spock signed off on it and returned it to the waiting yeoman before turning his gaze on him.

 

            "Something, Mister Spock?"

 

            He couldn't believe this - Spock was actually teasing him, on the bridge no less.  Well, two could play at that.  "No, sir," he answered in a steady, measured tone, "All stations report nominal.  We are on course and on time for rendezvous with Potemkin, traveling at warp three."

 

            "Thank you, Mister Spock."

 

            Kirk was hard put not to grin.  Swiveling back to the console, he immersed himself in the first report.

 

****

 

“Computer, record and forward to Captain Kirk’s terminal, code as ‘personal’.”

 

            Back in his first officer's cabin, he peeled off the blue tunic, soaking in the warmth.

 

            “I should tell Spock to raise the temperature in his office – I know he keeps it at ship’s norm in case anyone has to see him, but only Ensign Kenin was in today, and I doubt too many go to see him in his office.  It’s just not enough to warrant him being uncomfortable in his own office.

 

            “Being in Spock's body today really opened my eyes.  He’s so alone.  I mean, I knew he didn’t really socialize with anyone outside of the Alpha bridge crew, and even with them it’s not much.  But he’s really isolated.  Spock can make it hard to get to know him, and as a senior officer, and the first officer, he has to keep a certain distance and image.  But I felt so lonely today.  How can he stand it?  Even being a Vulcan can’t mean he doesn’t want any companionship.  He responds to my company.  But then, I guess he feels accepted more with me.”

 

            It hadn’t been easy, overhearing some mutterings with Spock’s Vulcan hearing – about the coldness of Vulcans, their anal-retentive expectations.  There had even been that nasty joke about how Vulcans reproduced by thought because they didn’t even want to touch one another.  Quick anger had risen but he controlled it.  There had been nothing about Spock directly, and crew mumblings about senior command existed on any ship.  He didn’t like to think any member of his crew was bigoted, though.  It hurt to know that Spock heard such things.  After the kind of rejection his friend had lived with on Vulcan, then to have it follow him in ‘Fleet…it was so unfair.

 

            “He’s the best person I know.  It isn’t fair he’s always judged so harshly because of what he is.  There’s not much I can do about it, but whatever I can, I will.  He’s been the best of friends to me and I’m going to make sure he knows how much he means to me.”  Kirk sighed.  “At least this will be over soon.  Tomorrow we transfer the drugs to the Potemkin and right after we’re going back to Camus Two and straighten this mess out.  Then the debriefing at the base and hopefully in a few days we can finally get back to what we’re supposed to be doing: exploring.  Computer off.”

 

            Despite the warm temperature of his first officer’s cabin, he still felt cold.  Opting for a shower, Kirk heading for the bathroom and stepped into the hot spray, feeling really warm for the first time that day.  Reaching for the soap, he pumped out a generous handful and began lathering himself.  His fingers carded through the curly dark hair on his friend's chest.  It felt...nice.  Spock was thin but not lanky as his uniform often made him seem.  The body he was washing was lean and toned, long, well-defined muscles beneath surprisingly soft skin.  A strong body, superior in strength and endurance to his own, and possessing sharper senses and telepathy.  His friend was, he realized, a work of masculine art.

 

            That brought him up short.  He had no idea where that thought had come from and he suddenly felt like a voyeur, checking out his best friend's body.  He finished washing, scrubbing lightly and quickly at the Vulcan genitals without looking at them.  After drying he slipped into the same nightshirt that he'd awoken in this morning, grateful for its warmth and comfort.

 

            For the hundredth time Kirk stopped himself from calling Spock.  After dinner Spock had turned down an invitation for chess, saying he was unused to the fatigue descending on the human body he was inhabiting.  It was probably true, but Kirk couldn't help but feel there was something more to it, something to do with those emotions he'd inadvertently picked up from Spock earlier.

 

            For himself, he was wide-awake and bored.  He couldn't go to Bones and drink, or join in the poker game down in engineering.  Going to the gym was out too, because apart from the wrestling they did, he had no idea what machines Spock used or what routines he did.  Even if he did know, he didn't trust the Vulcan's strength.  All that day he'd had to be careful handling the computers and various equipment; more than once he found that he bent or damaged something.  Spock was a lot stronger than he thought, and he didn't want that strength hurting anyone, including his friend's body.  He just didn't know Spock's limits.  Plunking down on the bed, he tried closing his eyes. That lasted all of a minute.  He wasn't tired so he wasn't going to sleep.  Looking around the room he spied one of his books that Spock had borrowed.  Retrieving it he settled down to read.

 

            Some hours later he was pacing.  He'd finished the book in record time, Spock's Vulcan brain absorbing the information at a speed he knew was humanly impossible.  Then he'd worked a little more, finishing the last of his paperwork, and had even played chess with the computer.  He just wasn't tired.  Grimly he acknowledged that Spock hadn't been exaggerating when he claimed his need for sleep was much less than a human's.  Maybe he should try something physical, but what?

 

            If he'd been in his own body he knew exactly what he'd do.  But he wasn't in his own body, he was in Spock's, and he couldn't do that.  Could he?  Kirk threw himself back down on the bed.  That wouldn't be right, using his friend's body like that.  On the other hand, he couldn't afford to exhaust the Vulcan body simply because he didn't know how to get it to sleep.  He was weary in his mind, too, and that could be dangerous to the ship.  He could slip up and the charade would be over, with possibly disastrous results.  It was more logical to use whatever means he could to rest.  Since the gym was too dangerous an option that left one choice.  Vulcan sexuality was still pretty much a mystery to him but most males of a given species usually got tired after sex; logical reasoning, logical method.  Spock was sure to approve.

 

            Quickly he rolled onto his back, before he thought too much about what Spock might really say about what he was about to do and before he talked himself out of it.  He slipped the nightshirt up and off, dropping it over the side of the bed.  He hadn't a clue what Spock liked so it'd be trial and error.

 

            Bringing his hand to his chest, he began as he had in the shower, threading his hands through the ebony curls.  It did feel nice.  His fingers found the two almost-hidden nipples.  Somewhat smaller than a human’s and more ovoid shaped, they nonetheless responded to his touch.  Softly stroking with his fingertips, the small buds rose, forming tight peaks of sensitive flesh.  He rubbed and pinched them, teasingly scraping a nail across them.  The sensations were delicious.  His left hand continued to play with the so-sensitive nubs as his right hand began traveling down the lean torso, exploring the prominent ribcage, tickling through soft dark hair, skimming over a flat belly.  A fingertip delved into the deep bellybutton.  Descending lower, he encountered wiry pubic hair.  Playing with it, scratching here and there, felt so good.

 

            He hadn’t touched the Vulcan cock yet but he was erect, he could feel a fast pulsing in it.  Daringly he wrapped his hand around the shaft.  It was about as thick as his.  He could see the prominent veins, but they coiled around the shaft, instead of running up and down along the column, as they would on a human.  The head was thinner than a human’s, more oblong, and there was something else…an extra ridge, he realized.  Double ridges.  The cock in his hand grew harder.  He thumbed the lower ridge and gasped.  It was ultra-sensitive, to the point of being nearly painful.

 

            Releasing the turgid column, he probed lower.  Where were Spock’s balls?  Fingers found soft, sensitive flesh partially embedded within his body.  He stroked them, his excitement mounting as they quivered at his touch.  His left hand abandoned Spock’s nipples, joining the right to play with the partially-hidden treasure.  While his fingers palpated his balls his right hand moved once more to the straining cock.  Closing his fist around it he pumped.

 

            “Uh, uh,” he moaned, as his hand worked faster.  His hips started to thrust, wetness leaking from the tip of his cock.  Sliding a finger between the two ridges, he groaned, head snapping to the side.  It was exquisite.  A new sensation wracked him, what felt like a rush of fluid within and suddenly the Vulcan balls descended from his body, full of semen and quivering with the need to release their load.

 

            Hips pistoning hard, hand pumping furiously, the pleasure growing and growing, this is what Spock would feel when aroused, when having sex, Spock would feel all of this, so good…with a loud cry he came, the Vulcan cock spurting hot semen over his belly, seemingly endless, the tide of orgasm crashing over him and dragging him into waves of pleasure he’d never known.

 

            He wasn’t sure how long it took for his head to clear.  Spock’s balls were already retracting into his body.  Carefully he released the depleted cock.  The cooling semen was already drying.  Experimentally, he ran a finger through it.  It was thicker and clearer than human semen.  Without thinking about it he brought his finger to his lips and tasted it: bitter but not unpleasant.

 

            The thought didn’t go challenged because his plan had worked, all too well.  His eyes were closing, sweet oblivion beckoning him.  Turning onto his side, he let himself slip into the welcome arms of oblivion.  His sleep was deep and restful.

 

****   

 

The next day, however, found him distinctly uncomfortable around his friend.  When they’d met in the morning Spock had asked him how he’d slept.  He didn’t want to lie, but the truth was out of the question.

 

            “I found out you really don’t need much sleep.”

 

            “Perhaps if you engaged in physical activity it would help.”

 

            The heat was rising to his face and even though he was inhabiting Spock’s body he didn't possess Vulcan control.  One look at Spock and he knew the blush was visible.

 

            “I, ah, did that.  It worked.”

 

            Spock didn’t pursue it, for which Kirk was grateful.  How to tell him he’d used his body to get off?  More disturbing to him now was remembering how just touching Spock’s body had done it for him.  Usually when he masturbated he conjured up a little fantasy.  Not last night – last night all he’d needed to do was caress and stroke that hot Vulcan body.  The sudden realization shocked him.  What exactly did that mean?

 

            Thankfully they were almost at the rendezvous point so he was too busy to give it any more thought.  They arrived to find the Potemkin already waiting for them as the delay with Janice had shifted back the schedule.  He helped oversee the transfer and storage of the drugs while Spock met up with his friend, Captain Reynolds.  Fortunately everything went smoothly and the other ship was soon warping on its way.

 

            “Mister Chekov, set course for Camus Two, Mister Sulu, warp factor three.”

 

            Kirk swung around, as did everyone else on the bridge.  Spock glanced around.

 

            “Our orders are to return to Camus Two to retrieve the alien artifacts and transport them to Starbase Two.”

 

            Relief swept through him.  Spock must have gotten the orders from Command while he had been busy with the Potemkin.  Thank the stars they were heading back to Camus Two.  Once he and Spock were back in their own bodies he was going to see if there was some way to disable that damn machine.  Permanently.  He was going to make sure this wouldn’t happen to anyone again.

 

            It turned out to be a pleasant day.  He was doing some of Spock’s work as first officer and it was fun, something he hadn’t done in a while.  While in Janice’s body he’d been trapped, helpless and vulnerable.  It wasn’t that way in Spock’s.  It didn’t feel normal and he missed socializing with his crew, but it was still…okay.  He was learning to handle Spock’s senses and it was a challenge of sorts to be imitating his first officer.  The most important thing was there was nothing threatening about it.  Spock wasn’t out for his command or his life.  His friend was taking care of his body and ship, and would restore them to him once they reached Camus Two.  It was getting almost comfortable.

 

            Catching himself before he actually smiled, Kirk still knew his face wasn’t composed as it should be.  But he couldn’t help it - it was true.  He’d tried to imagine if this had happened with someone else, Bones or Scotty or just anyone other than Spock, and he couldn’t even fathom how he’d get through it.  Not that Bones or Scotty would have tried to usurp his command; he knew they wouldn’t.  But no one else would have stuck by him the way Spock had.  The way Spock always did.  And there was something there, some undercurrent of support emanating from his friend that he could feel.  Warmth filled him.  Spock knew him, knew his faults, and still stood by his side, through anything.  The Vulcan had trouble admitting to his emotions, but Kirk knew he cared.  And he loved his friend.

 

            His attention should be on his work, not on Spock.  Resolutely, Kirk returned his focus to the task at hand.  But that warm feeling still suffused through him.

 

****

 

Two days later the view-screen filled with the image of Camus II as they entered orbit, causing a shudder to run down his spine as he looked on the planet.  Kirk glanced over to the command chair.

 

            “Mister Spock, please accompany me to the transporter room.”

 

            “Yes, sir,” Kirk answered, following his first officer into the turbo.  In moments they were on Camus Two, in the same room where Janice had hijacked his body and almost his life.

 

            “This is it,” he pointed to the alien structure against the wall.

 

            “Do you remember how it worked?”  Spock was standing on the same platform Janice had stood on, examining the strange markings.

 

            “I was held by a force-field of some kind on the other platform while Janice stood where you are now.  I couldn’t see how she activated it.”

 

            Spock stepped off and checked the side.  “This must be the mechanism here.”  He studied it for a few more minutes.  “I believe I can operate this.  Please stand on the platform, Captain.”

 

            Kirk took his place and waited.  A familiar force gripped him and he felt his being floating free of any body.  Panic assailed him as he wavered, alone, in an empty void.  No, he wasn’t alone; Spock was with him.  He could feel the Vulcan, tethered to him as they hovered in the non-dimension.

 

            Then he was once again standing in the dim room.  Glancing down he saw his own body.  Needing surety, he ran his hands over his chest.  He was back where he belonged.  Quickly he turned to the right, just in time to see Spock almost stumbling down the other platform.  He was at the Vulcan’s side instantly.

 

            “Are you all right?”

 

            “I am fine, Captain.”

 

            Spock shook him off and although Kirk made no attempt to touch him again, he studied his friend carefully.  Spock had closed his eyes and seemed to be concentrating.  He swallowed; a sign of nervousness that Kirk recognized.  Slowly the Vulcan met his gaze.

 

            “A momentary dizziness only.”

 

            “Are you sure?  You don’t seem-”

 

            “I require meditation but I assure you I am fine.  And you?”

 

            Kirk decided to let it go.  The experience had been difficult for Spock, too, and he was probably relieved to be back in his own body at last.  Pushing him was the last thing he needed from Kirk right now.  “I’m okay.  It’s over,” he breathed a sigh of relief, but it didn’t last long.  “Spock, do you think this will happen again?”

 

            “Unknown for certain but I believe not.  As I said in the beginning, it is likely that the particular circumstances with Doctor Lester and the depth of the meld we shared caused the problem.  Our psyches are restored to their natural body – it should remain that way.”

 

            Kirk slowly walked in front of the alien machine, careful not to touch it in any way.  “I want this thing dismantled.”

 

            “Starfleet Command was specific in our orders to transport it whole and functional to the base.”

 

            “It’s dangerous.  It shouldn’t be used for anything.”

 

            A familiar brow took wing and Kirk couldn’t help but smile at the sight.  It was so good to be back in his body and have his friend back in his.

 

            “You will breach the order?”

 

            “I’d like to,” Kirk placed a hand on a side panel.  It felt cool, more like a slab of rock than a machine.  “But I don’t have much choice, do I?  I’m going back to the ship, Mister Spock.  Please see to getting this thing stored.”

 

            Four hours later the Enterprise was en route to Starbase Two.  He’d finished his shift on the bridge and then enjoyed a leisurely dinner with McCoy and Scotty and Tompkins.  All in all, a good day and he was finally feeling secure again in his own body.  The only thing bothering him was the thought that the device responsible for all his recent problems was ensconced below in his ship.  He wanted it gone.  No, he wanted it rendered harmless so no one would be endangered by it the way he had been with Janice.

 

            But that wasn’t the only thing troubling him.  Spock was, more so than that contraption.  Even though it had felt good to socialize and interact with his friends and crew normally again, it also made him sad knowing Spock was all alone.  The few days in his friend’s body really brought home just how isolated the Vulcan was.  Spock really had no friends, no one he could talk to or share with, except him.

 

            Right now his first officer and friend was even denying himself their friendship, and Kirk didn’t understand why.  He was well aware that Spock’s first reaction to any personal situation was to withdraw into himself – it was defensive and he understood that.  But he and Spock had gotten past that with each other, or so Kirk thought.  They were best friends, and Spock been so supportive while they’d been in each other’s body’s – why was he closing himself off now, when things were back to normal?  It didn’t make any sense.

 

            Still musing, Kirk idly swished the brandy in the glass he held.  Spock had turned down his invitation to spend some time together tonight and that bothered him.  He was truly back in his own body, he felt it, knew bone deep that he was okay.  But things weren’t right.  Something was missing, no, someone was missing, and it was Spock.  He’d had such a presence of the other the last few days and now it was gone.  It disturbed him, missing Spock so much, but the Vulcan’s distance troubled him infinitely more.

 

            He startled at the sound of his door buzzer.  “Come,” he called out, and to his delight Spock entered, but his mood changed quickly to one of concern seeing the set face on the man before him.

 

            “What is it, Spock?”

            The Vulcan said nothing, only setting something down on his desk.  Picking it up, Kirk examined it.  It looked like a metal rod, about 10 centimeters long.  Along one side were a number of grooves and dips, purposefully and precisely cut into it.

 

            “This is the key to the mechanism.  Without it, the transposer will not function.  Not even a duplicate will work.”

 

            His eyes flew up to meet Spock’s.

 

            “I thought you would perhaps wish to safeguard this personally.”

 

            “And once we reach the base?”

 

            “It is unfortunate but sometimes things are misplaced.”

 

            Kirk stared at the Vulcan, then down at the rod in his hand.  Spock was giving him a gift: peace of mind, knowing that machine would never be used again.  His friend was going against his duty, training, and integrity in offering this.  Placing it carefully on his desk, he rose and moved around his desk to stand in front of Spock.

 

            “Thank you, Spock.”

 

            Spock bowed his head slightly then swallowed.  “There is something else, though, Jim, that you will not be pleased with.”

 

            “Does this have to do with why you’ve been distancing yourself from me?”

 

            A slight nod.  “You remember I hypothesized that the meld we shared to evict Doctor Lester was so deep it formed a link between us?”

 

            “Yes,” Kirk answered slowly.  His instincts were suddenly sending him a red alert.

 

            “More than a link was formed.  I did not know right away because I was in your body.  I was aware of your presence when we transposed back but I was not certain.  After meditating this evening I am.”

 

            “Certain of what?”

 

            “We are bonded.”

 

            “Bonded?  As in…?”

 

            “Mated.  Marriage, among your people.”

 

            “But…how?”

 

            “The meld went too deep.  Even using every safeguard I had been taught, I joined us too deeply.  We are bonded.”

 

            “That night, right after I was back from being in her body, were we bonded then?”

 

            “I do not know.  At the least the bond was forming and we completed it that night.”

 

            “Bonded.”  Kirk stepped away from the other man, trying to absorb this news.

 

            “Jim, please believe me when I say I did not do this intentionally.  My only goal was to release you from her body and place you back in your own.”

 

            “I know; I believe you, Spock.  What do we do now?  I’ve heard Vulcan bondings are permanent?”

 

            “Generally but not always.  Sometimes those who are linked in childhood find they are incompatible once bonded as adults and the bond is dissolved.”

 

            “If we’re incompatible then how did we bond in the first place?”

 

            “I did not say we were incompatible; on the contrary, our minds are very compatible or else we could not have bonded without the aid of a healer.  However, since the bond is relatively new it is possible it could be broken.  But we must act quickly.  Since we were not in our own bodies for several days the bond is still not sufficiently anchored, as it involves the physical as well as the mental.”

 

            “So now that we’re back in our own bodies the bond will try to anchor itself.”

 

            “Correct.”

 

            “I don’t feel any mental contact from you.”

 

            “I am shielding, and the bond does not function like a meld, where thoughts are expressly shared."

 

            “I’d think I’d feel something.”

 

            “You are not a telepath, Jim.”

 

            “I didn’t feel it when I was in your body, either.”

 

            “You may have, but not having experience you may have merely associated it with nothing more than my mind’s natural telepathic abilities.  There is also the fact that you had to adjust to my other Vulcan senses.  My body’s alien nature to you overshadowed any one sensation.”

 

            “So we have to break it.”

 

            “Unless you wish to remain my mate.”

 

            Kirk opened his mouth to speak but Spock held up a hand, forestalling him.

 

            “I am aware of the impossibility of that situation, Captain.  It must be broken, with all speed.”

 

            “Can you do it?”

 

            Spock drew a deep breath.  “It is beyond my skill and could be dangerous.  It is best to employ a healer.  I took the liberty of contacting one.  We will meet with Skopin on Starbase Two prior to the debriefing.”

 

            “I’m going to be under a microscope with the base doctors, Spock.”

 

            “There will be nothing for them to find.  You are not a telepath, Jim, and once the bond is broken there will be no trace of it in your mind.”

 

            Relief swept through Kirk, but concern for his friend was instant.  “What about you?  What will this do to you?”

 

            “Likely nothing.”

 

            “Likely?  Spock, is this dangerous for you?”

 

            “I do not believe so.  The bond is very new and I am half–human.”

 

            “But you could be hurt, that’s what you’re trying not to tell me.”

 

            “I remind you that I have simultaneously survived a severed mating-link and an unmated first pon-farr.  That event had a greater chance of harming me and it did not.  However, I do recommend that we do not spend any time together, as close proximity could aid the bond in growing.  With your permission, I will switch to Gamma shift for the next two point three days until after the bond is severed.”

 

            “All right.  I guess there isn’t any other choice.”

 

            “No.  There is not.”

 

            The words were so low he could hardly hear them, but the sorrow and hopelessness he heard in them lodged in Kirk’s chest painfully.  He studied his friend but Spock now had his best Vulcan face on and it was like staring at a stone.

 

            Spock excused himself and Kirk let him go without another word.  What else could he say?  The situation was beyond him.  They were bonded.  He was bonded to Spock.  Married to the man, for all intents and purposes.  He didn’t know what to think about it.

 

            Pouring himself a generous drink, he downed it in a single gulp.  Bringing his glass and the bottle into the bedroom, he settled on his bunk for a long night.

 

****

 

“Personal log, stardate 3482.6.  It's finally all behind me.  That alien contraption is on the base but Spock's reassured me it's completely useless without the key, and that's secure in my personal safe.  I passed every test the base doctors threw at me and my psyche scan came up clean.  Command accepted my report and the medical findings and saw no reason to delay us further, so we're on our way to deep space for exploration.  Everything's fine.”

 

            Kirk sighed.  “Everything except Spock.   He was right - there was no trace of the bond left in me, and apart from a mild headache it doesn't seem to have affected me.  But what did it do to Spock?  Neither Skopin or Spock would say but I know something happened.”

 

            The Vulcan's face appeared once more in his mind's eye, as it had hauntingly all day: paled skin with eyes tightly closed, the stern features pinched with pain that couldn't be concealed.  He’d reached for his friend but Skopin had intercepted his hand before he could touch Spock.

 

            “What’s wrong with him?” he demanded.

            “Nothing unexpected.  You may return for him in approximately three hours.”

            “I’m not leaving him.”

            “Your presence will only harm him right now. His discomfort is quite normal following the severance of a bond, especially one of that depth.   Spock will recover fully, Captain Kirk, I assure you.  Return later.”

 

            And with that Skopin had left, leaving Kirk in the outer room alone.  He’d gone to Admiral Janock’s office and given his report, then submitted himself to the base medical staff.  When he picked up Spock later the Vulcan was still pale, but standing on his own and seemingly okay.

 

            “Once we broke orbit, though, he took himself off duty and I haven't seen him since.  I'm worried about him.  Despite his insistence on being okay I know something's wrong.  He's keeping something from me.”

 

            The captain restlessly paced his quarters, stopping as he punched his fist into his other hand.  “Damn it!  He stood by me through the whole nightmare with Janice and that charade when we were in each other's body.  We've been so close for so long - why is he withdrawing now?  Did something go wrong when the bond was broken?  Skopin said it was nothing unexpected, though.”

 

            Kirk mulled that over.  “Spock told me the bond was new so it shouldn't be a problem...yet Skopin wouldn’t let me touch him.  He even said I could harm Spock.  What did he mean by that?”

 

            Sitting at his desk, he picked up the drink he had poured earlier and took a healthy gulp from it.  “Spock said he went too deep when we melded and that’s why we bonded.  But healers have to enter deep melds all the time and they don't automatically bond with their patients.  Wait a minute – Skopin mentioned something else, about the severance being hard because of the depth of the bond.  How could that be when it was accidentally formed?”

 

            A past conversation with Bones popped into his mind.  It was after Spock’s pon farr, and McCoy had just gotten some information on Vulcan bondings.  “Bones said that if Spock and T’Pring had bonded it probably would have ended up breaking.  He said it wouldn’t be deep enough to sustain, because they didn’t care for one another and had no interest in being bonded.  Skopin said our bond was deep….”

 

            The sudden clarity his intuition was famous for kicked into gear, and the shock of the truth hit him like a phaser:  Spock loved him.  That was the only way for that bond to have formed spontaneously and so deeply.  Spock’s emotions went far beyond the love of friends or comrades-in-arms.  Spock cared for him like a lover, and that Vulcan mind had sought out his like a mate’s.

 

            It was so incredible, but there was no doubt in his mind he was right.  How could he have not seen it before?  Reflecting on their relationship it was now obvious.  Spock’s habit of throwing himself between his captain and danger, the unfailing loyalty that far exceeded duty or ordinary friendship.  Everything the man had done this entire last week for him was rooted in their friendship, born from the respect and trust they had for one another, but it was also love.  And because of that love Spock destroyed the bond between them, so his captain would be free.

 

            "Spock," he whispered, then sighed.  Nothing was simple when it involved the Vulcan.  "Can I just let this go and say nothing?  Pretend I don't know how he really feels about me?"  Even as he said the words he knew that wasn't really an option.  There was no way he would keep silent, or have this between them like it was some ugly secret.

 

            "Computer, delete last five minutes and discontinue log entry."

 

            Working.  Log entry completed.

 

            Kirk drummed his fingers on the desk.  Before confronting his friend he had to first be sure of his own feelings.  It was surprisingly easy and quick.  He might not have seen it before, but he knew Spock was already the closest friend he had, was, in fact, the most important person in his life, and that his life without that steady presence by his side would be intolerably empty.  No, now that the way was pointed out to him, it didn't take much to know where his heart was, had been for some time.  As for sex - the memory of masturbating while inhabiting Spock's body surfaced, bringing heat to his groin and a thrumming anticipation through the rest of him.  No fantasy that night - Kirk laughed.  Spock had been the fantasy.  He’d been making love to the Vulcan that night.

 

            Suddenly he felt better than he had in a long time.  His course was clear and he was ready for a new future.  Finishing his drink, he slipped through the bathroom into Spock's cabin, where that future awaited.

 

            He stopped in his tracks just inside the sleeping area.  Spock was lying on his side; clad only in his uniform pants and undershirt, he was a long, slim figure in black, sleeping, head pillowed on his arm.  Sadness rose at the pain the Vulcan had gone through for him, and tenderness, wanting nothing more to hold this man.  Spock probably needed the rest but Kirk wasn’t going to wait.  This was right between them and he wasn’t going to allow another hour to pass without this being acknowledged between them.

 

            Sitting down beside his friend, he called softly, “Spock.”  Brown eyes instantly opened, questioning his captain's close proximity.

 

            “I know, Spock.”

 

            Slanted brows knitted together in a frown.  “Know, sir?”

 

            “Why we bonded.”  Kirk watched as the frown gave way to wariness.

 

            “I explained that, Captain.”

 

            “You neglected to tell me the most important part – about you loving me.”

 

            Spock swallowed and quickly looked away but he didn’t deny it, which Kirk took as a good sign.  He started to push himself up but Kirk placed a hand on his chest, stopping him.

 

            “Stay.”  Kirk waited a moment, pleased when Spock remained as he was although he still refused to look at him.  “Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

            The dark eyes lifted to his now.  “What would you have me say?  You are my commanding officer, therefore my emotions are inappropriate.”

 

            “That’s an excuse.  There could be problems, yes, but nothing insurmountable.”

 

            Both brows went up.  “You have never previously given any indication that you felt anything other than friendship towards me.”

 

            Kirk nodded.  “I know.  I guess I never really thought about you that way before because we’re friends and the command team and I didn’t know how you felt about me, and I still don’t really know much about Vulcan relationships.  But I know you, and that I love you, and you’re the most important person in the galaxy to me.  We share everything else; why not love?”

 

            “Captain, have you considered that this may be an after-effect of the bond, or from your transference with me?”

 

            “I know my own mind, Mister Spock.  And my heart,” he snapped, then more calmly, “I’ve had a lot of affairs, some serious, many that weren’t, and you’ve been a witness to a lot of them.  But I always knew those wouldn’t last, because there were still empty places in my soul they couldn’t fill.  You’re the one who’s been filling those places, Spock.  From the beginning you and I shared something special.  We’ve seen one another at our worst and always accepted one another, faults and all.  Why it took this incident with switching bodies to make me see that and not before, I don’t know.  Love isn’t a science.  But now that I know I love you, I’d like for us to deepen our relationship.”

 

            “Jim, it is not that simple.”

 

            “Nothing worthwhile ever is, Spock.  We’ll have problems because I’m the captain and you’re my first officer, our duty to the ship, cultural differences.  We’ll handle problems as they come, like we’ve always done - together.”  Kirk watched the Vulcan’s face.  Spock seemed about to protest but instead he shook his head.

 

            “You are always so humanly optimistic.”

 

            “Is that a yes?”

 

            “I am not certain this is the wisest course for us, but yes, I do wish for more with you.”

 

            Kirk reached a hand out to slide his fingers through sleek bangs.  It felt good.  Right.  “Do Vulcans kiss?”

 

            “Not as humans do.”

 

            Intrigued, Kirk leaned closer.  “Show me.”  As he watched, a light dawned in those dark eyes.  It was all there for him to see: warmth, love…desire.  Kirk remained still as two long fingers tenderly stroked over his temple.  Kirk closed his eyes and held his breath, waiting to feel Spock’s presence within himself.  But when it didn’t come he opened his eyes again, catching the sadness in the beautiful orbs staring at him.

 

            “I regret that is impossible at this time.  Skopin instructed me against using any mind techniques, including meditation, for the next ten point three solar days.”

 

            “I’m sorry.”

            Spock cocked his head to one side.  “You did nothing wrong.”

            “Not directly, but it was my mess with Janice that got you involved in the first place.  And if I’d allowed myself to see the truth sooner about how I felt about you-”

 

            “No, Jim.  Even if I could right at this moment, with our feelings admitted, I would not bond us now.  Neither of us is ready for the type of commitment and permanency of a bond.  We are not even lovers yet.”

 

            “But we will be soon.”

 

            “Yes.”  Spock’s voice was at its deepest register and it vibrated through Kirk.  Those hot fingers trailed down his face, along his jaw, brushing over his lips.  Kirk captured the Vulcan’s hand and kissed it.

 

            “When the time’s right and we’re both ready, we’ll bond.  It won’t be an accident or due to any outside force.  It’ll be because of us, our choice, and it won’t be broken.”

 

            “And in the meantime?” Dark eyes glowed with joy, and Kirk marveled that he was the reason.

 

            “In the meantime, Mister Spock, we live and love.”

 

            Kirk bent over at the same time Spock raised up, their lips meeting for the first time.  There was nothing shy or tentative about the kiss – they both accepted and wanted what was happening between them.

 

            Without breaking their kiss, Kirk rolled over onto the bed, pulling his first officer into his arms, happy in the knowledge he was truly where he belonged.

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