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A note to you from the Author:

WARNING: Jagged Edges contains a depiction of rape and, while it does not specifically involve either Kirk and Spock, I hope I wrote it so that the scene is disturbing. There is also some violence in this story. Read with caution.

While I tried to write all the entries in the Sharing the Sunlight series so they would stand independently, Jagged Edges has a closer relationship with its prequel, the novel Promises to Keep, than other STS stories. So it would be best if you read PTK before you read Jagged Edges.

I wrote this story back in the middle nineteen ninties, and I’ve learned a lot about writing since then. I had hoped to be able to edit Jagged Edges before I posted it to the archive, but Real Life just isn’t giving me the time to do so. Rather than wait for that mythical day when I’ve got some extra time away from my other writing commitments (currently, I’m writing gay romance that’s being professionally published by Dreamspinner Press. See information about and buy links for my fiction at bookworld.editme.com/jennahilary), I’ve decided to post all the Sharing the Sunlight stories and novels without additional editing, errors notwithstanding. I hope that you’ll enjoy these stories anyway. I’d be happy to receive any feedback directed either to Hilary54@aol.com or as a review on the archive. Thanks!
Love,
Jenna

Jagged Edges is the tenth entry in the author’s Sharing the Sunlight series, which includes:
Sharing the Sunlight (novel)
Reflections on a Lunar Landscape
Pursuing Hyacinths
Heart’s Delight
Primal Scream
Parallel Courses
Double Trouble
Son of Sarek
Promises to Keep (novel)
Jagged Edges
Manna
Journey’s End
One Night
In the Shade (novel)
All stories and novels in the Sharing the Sunlight series will be posted to the K/S Archive

(Jagged Edges first appeared in Amazing Grace 3, edited and published by Dorothy Laoang. Many thanks to Dot for editing help.)



JAGGED EDGES
by Jenna Sinclair

“Captain, look out!” Sulu shouted.

A Klingon leaped from behind a waving fern-tree, his arm already pulled back to release his weapon. Kirk saw the flash of long-bladed metal even as he commanded his body to Move! But he was too late. A knife quivered into his left upper arm.

Pain raced up to his shoulder even faster than the surprise that he hadn’t side-stepped fate this time. His head snapped back, and his knees buckled. He couldn’t see his attacker, couldn’t see Spock or Tu or anyone else, not even the yellow sky of this strange world.

He grabbed hold of consciousness even as he forced his head forward, grabbed his wrist and hunched over to protect his arm. God, it hurt. His legs shook, and he staggered to keep to his feet. Had to stay upright. Where there was one Klingon there would be more, and his landing party had only two phasers. They hadn’t expected trouble on this innocent world. He couldn’t succumb to the agony that was streaking into his shoulder, he couldn’t....

But Kirk was no longer in command of his body. He collapsed.

The moment his shoulder hit the ground blackness threatened to overwhelm him, but he fought it. Had to stay conscious.... help the others.... find Spock.... Damn it, up! Get up!

Red lightning invaded the blackness. Blood. It must be the blood pounding in his eyes....

The pain forced the air from his lungs in a gasp. His arm was white-hot torment. He could feel every vibrating millimeter of the incredible bulk in his arm, it pierced through his skin and went deep into muscles and sinews. He couldn’t move, he was paralyzed through fear of more pain, and that realization made him angry. He would move. His people needed him. He jerked his forearm up to his chest.

Dizziness and pulsing light kept him prisoner for long moments. There was a man nearby gasping for breath; it took an eternity before he realized the ragged inhalations matched his own desperate efforts to fill his lungs. He struggled to hear more. There was the sound of a fist impacting against flesh, the discharge of a disruptor and the whirr of a phaser. And then a high-pitched cry that was distinctly human.

Get up! He gulped in air, tried, tried harder, pushed down against the moss-covered ground with his elbow, lifted his head.... But everything throbbed and everything hurt and all his strength had fled. His body betrayed him. His elbow slipped against the moss and he went down again with a groan.

All right, all right. Do what you can do. He bit down on his lower lip and concentrated. Slowly, he opened his eyes.

A Klingon stood over him. He was tall, with legs spread and long black hair caught in a top-knot that flowed down his back. A wrinkle-browed Klingon from the Homeworld, not one of the lower classes. Kirk blinked through his pain, saw thin lips curl into a smile.

There was sudden silence. Without looking from his captive, the victor growled to unseen accomplices, “Qama’ nge bIghHa’!” The Klingons had won this unexpected skirmish and Kirk didn’t even know the cost. How many of his people were still alive? Was Spock?

He turned his head and managed to focus on the knife penetrating his body, the sign of the Klingon’s mastery over him. It had a wide blade and a worn grip of leather. This was not an ornamental weapon. This knife had been thrown often.

The Klingon kicked him in the side with an iron-capped boot. Kirk couldn’t stop the grunt that whooshed from his lungs. He looked back up.

“Qam,” the Klingon said, then in heavily accented Standard, “Stand.”

With a shaky, effort-filled breath, Kirk moved his hand to rest just under the knife. His uniform was blood-wet under his fingers. He hunched his shoulders, as if preparing to sit up, as he had been commanded. He could do this....

His fingers slid to the hilt. He pulled. Opened his mouth in soundless agony as the blade violated muscle and flesh once more, then came free.

The Klingon grabbed at his chest as the knife found its target. Good. That was good....

A disruptor bolt sent him back into darkness.

*****

The evening before the landing party from the Enterprise beamed down to the planet with the yellow sky, James Kirk was jogging in the ship’s gym.

“Hey, Jim, wait up.”

Kirk slowed and glanced over a shoulder. Leonard McCoy, remarkably clad in white gym shorts, a purple t-shirt and black high-top running shoes, puffed up alongside him. Kirk resigned himself to a slower workout than he had planned and took up pace next to his CMO.

“I didn’t know you’d taken up running.”

“Gotta follow my own advice. Fine doctor I’d be if I told everybody else to exercise and got fat myself.”

Kirk snorted and surveyed the razor-thin form. “Fat! That’ll be the day. So, what’s going on?”

Two crewmen from maintenance passed them on the narrow track that circled the Enterprise gym before he answered. “Gave Spock a physical today.”

“Another one? Can’t you leave him alone?”

McCoy shook his head; already sweat plastered wisps of hair to his forehead. “Nope. No Vulcan’s ever lost all their mental powers like he has, so nobody knows what it means to his body.” The doctor breathed noisily through his nose as they continued around the far curve of the track, then said, “I’m not gonna miss a thing if I can help it. I wanted to talk to you about it.”

Kirk gave the physician a sharp look. “Bones? You got something to tell me?”

“No, no, he’s all right. It’s just that he’s been so darn stiff lately. You know, pulling the stoic Vulcan act again so I can’t even guess how he’s doing under that crust. All I can get out of him is ‘I am well’.” It was a credible imitation of Spock in high dudgeon. “So I thought I’d ask you. How do ya think he’s doing?”

“He’s fine. He sure doesn’t need a physical every two weeks, you’ll drive him crazy. You’re worrying too much.”

“It’s impossible for me to worry too much. He’s seemed awfully quiet lately. Has he been talking to you? Any problems?”

“Bones, if you’re going to try to psychoanalyze Spock, forget it.”

The physician managed a breathless grunt. “I just want to be sure that he’s dealing with the emotional aftermath,” a pause for a huge gulp of air, “of what happened to him okay. I thought maybe since you and he—”

“He doesn’t need any special treatment. You’re barking up the wrong tree. Spock is fine.”

That, Kirk determined, was that. He picked up the pace and moved a few steps ahead of the physician, but McCoy stayed doggedly at his heels. Through two circuits of the track they ran, fox and hare. The technicians left, but Lieutenant Joe Vitek took their place. The third shift com officer was halfway across the track from them when McCoy put on a burst of speed and came abreast of his captain. The doctor was breathing heavily but still managed to speak.

“So, Spock is fine, according to you. How about,” the doctor heaved in air, “you? How about the two of you together? I notice you’re here jogging alone. I thought,” puff, puff, “you usually played handball with him on Tuesday nights.”

Kirk groaned and wiped the sweat from his eyes with a forearm. “You gonna be keeping your eagle eye on everything I do? You know, there are other things to do on this ship besides play games with Spock.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, just drop it. How was his physical?”

“Okay. Mind if we slow down for a breather? I’m not used to all this running around.”

They dropped to a walk. McCoy snagged a towel from a bench and panted while he mopped at his face. “That’s better. Now, as I was saying, that pointy-eared computer who’s your first officer seems a little run down. I’m wondering if he’s sleeping okay.”

“Vulcans don’t need as much sleep as humans do.”

McCoy rolled his eyes. “Now you’re beginning to sound like the guys with the pointy ears. They need some sleep, especially if they had their minds ripped apart just three months ago.”

“He’s got his time sense back.”

“Yes, he has,” McCoy agreed. “But there aren’t any signs of anything else returning.” Their footsteps fell in unison. “Sorry about that, Jim.”

“It’s all right,” the captain said lightly, looking straight ahead as he walked. “We’ve both adjusted to not having the meld. Billions of couples communicate with just words, and we can too.”

“Sure about that?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. Everything’s fine, Bones. We’re doing fine.”

“Okay. But keep an eye on him and let me know if you two run into any problems. Of any kind.”

“Yes, mother hen. But there aren’t any problems. Three months is a long time. We’ve both had plenty of time to adjust. Listen, I’ve got a lot more running to do. See you.” The captain took off, and the doctor, unsmiling, watched him go.

Ninety minutes later Kirk’s white tank top was stuck to his back and good sense told him he’d run as far as he should that evening. The banter of the co-ed locker room didn’t appeal to him this night, and so he returned to his quarters, enduring the Hello, Captains, the nodded Sirs, and a few silent stares in the hallways instead. He was just toweling his hair dry after a shower when the intercom buzzed. He punched the button on his desk.

“Kirk here.”

“Bridge here, Captain, Lieutenant Resssl’t. We have identified a Class M planet in a ssstar sssyssstem tangential to our course. Ssshould we change our courssse or continue with the logged flight plan?”

“I’ll be right there. Notify Mister Spock and ask him to join me on the bridge. Kirk out.”

The first officer was the only occupant of the turbolift when it stopped at deck five for the captain. Kirk moved inside and the lift moved up again.

He leaned against the wall, folded his arms and surveyed the immaculate presence before him. Spock stood easily, hands at his sides, and as always he was precise from each strand of his dark hair to the tips of his shining boots. And as always, Kirk was pleased by the sight.

“I hear McCoy dragged you to sickbay for another physical.”

Vulcans did not frown. But this particular Vulcan often displayed displeasure by the smallest crinkling between his eyes. “Indeed. He has been most persistent. And he is not content with a brief examination, but requires me to undergo numerous tests.”

“I think he’s losing his perspective. How long were you away from duty for these tests?”

Kirk watched as Spock paused and pressed his lips together before replying, “Fifty-two point five seven minutes.”

Kirk shook his head. “That’s too long. He sure is a worrywart.”

“I would not have used that term. However, it is true that he persists in looking for what is not there.”

“He told me you were run down.” Kirk ran his gaze up and down the lanky frame that he knew better than his own body. “You look okay to me. You have been taking your vitamins lately, haven’t you, Mister Spock?”

The first officer folded his hands behind his back and examined the bulkhead. “I am well.”

“I know. ‘least, I think I do. Have you been able to find the time to meditate like you need to? I know the schedule’s been tough lately.”

“There has been no difficulty finding the time.”

“Good. I told Bones you were okay. But I don’t think he believed me. I think he’s waiting for you to have the equivalent of a Vulcan nervous breakdown.”

“It is distasteful to be the subject of such unnecessary scrutiny.” Abruptly Spock’s gaze shifted to his captain. “It is you who should be seeing McCoy.”

“I told you I’m fine.”

“Last night I saw evidence to the contrary.”

“Now you’re the worrywart. It was nothing.”

“So you say.”

Silence was the answer, until the turbo doors opened and they moved out onto the bridge.

Ensign Singh, the science officer for beta shift, stepped back to allow Spock access to the viewer while she reported her findings. Just a few light years away were a yellow star and a solitary planet, she explained to her captain. Preliminary scans revealed a primitive ecosystem on the Earth-sized world; Singh believed that another fifty million years would pass before intelligent life might evolve. It was much like many other uninhabited class M planets they had discovered since Starfleet had sent them, a few months before, on a voyage of discovery outside Federation boundaries.

There was nothing that tempted Kirk. “Log the long-range scans and let’s move on.”

Spock straightened. “Sir, it is my belief that this planet warrants more than such cursory examination.”

Kirk checked his move to leave and turned back to his second-in-command. He looked at Spock mildly. “We’ve already catalogued ten planets just like this one in the past month. I don’t think we need another one.” Behind Spock’s shoulder, Singh was an interested observer.

Spock’s hands retreated behind his back. “This planet is an anomaly by virtue of its solitary state. T’Rill’s hypothesis on the influence of planetary partners has yet to be confirmed and this may be an opportunity to do so. A landing party would be the logical way to proceed.”

“A landing party? This is a big area of space, Mister Spock, and Starfleet Command wants an overview, not a detailed analysis of every bump in the road.”

“Nevertheless, it is my duty as science officer to collect data that may be important to our understanding of planetary evolution.”

Kirk considered, then shook his head. “No. We still have too much space to cover, and unless there’s a good, solid reason to stop we need to move on. Is there? Beyond this hypothesis, that is?”

“No, sir, there is not. At this range only the most minimal data is available.”

Abruptly, Kirk sat down on the railing that circled the upper level of the deck. He laced his fingers between his knees so he would look easy and casual but knew that the expression on his face labeled his effort a lie. He was not used to this. What exactly was it that Spock was arguing for?

Spock lowered himself into the chair in front of the science station. Singh looked from one man to the other.

“You really think this is important.”

“Scientifically speaking, it has the potential for importance. It is most unusual for a Class M planet to evolve alone. Such isolation must be reason for interest.”

Kirk stroked his chin. “This is the closest we’ve been to the Tholian border. How far are we?”

“Approximately thirty-five point seven two parsecs.”

“The Federation has a delicate situation going with the Tholians. I hadn’t planned on coming any closer than twenty parsecs.”

“There is still a forty-one point nine nine percent tolerance at this distance.”

“But do I want to stretch it even that far? I don’t think so. And if we stop for every planet that’s a little unusual—”

“—it is more than ‘a little unusual,’ Captain, it is —”

“— we’ll never get half our assignment done. We don’t have the time for it.”

Spock held his captain’s gaze for a human heartbeat before he nodded and said, “Of course. I understand the parameters upon which you base your decision. We will extract what we can from the data available.” The first officer rose and bent over the scanners again, an uncertain Singh hovering behind him.

Kirk walked towards the lift, then swung around and walked back. He rested one hand upon the scanner hood and addressed the back of Spock’s neck. “Would a close-in scan be any help? Maybe, five or ten orbits? That should just take a few hours.”

Spock looked up. “Indeed.”

“All right then.” Kirk looked towards the center seat, where Lieutenant Qaddoumi presided as officer of the watch. “Give it ten orbits, Mister. Nice and slow, for maximum scanning.” He turned back to the Vulcan and said quietly, “I’m tired and I’m going to sleep. I guess you’ll want to be supervising the data collection, right? How long do you think you’ll be?”

“At least four hours and thirty-seven minutes, given the need to run the Rathkin analysis and the —”

Kirk stopped the explanation with a raised hand. “Enough. Enjoy your planet, Mister Spock. See you tomorrow.”

The next day brought an early wake-up call for the captain from the bridge, and information about the planet that changed his mind about a landing party. Ship’s scanners could not penetrate five small areas of presumably dense vegetation.

“Could it be artificially produced? A force field that can block sensors?” Kirk asked, looking well-rested despite a short sleep alone in a bed meant for two.

“No, sir,” Spock replied. He pointed to a screen over the science station that was aglow with numbers and graphs. “It is a natural phenomenon, we believe, perhaps caused by the unusual growth in those areas. Closer investigation is necessary to form a valid hypothesis.” The carefully chosen words did not hide the Vulcan’s eagerness to confront the unknown. Kirk read the desire to make a scientific discovery, knew it himself.

“Let’s go then.”

And so Kirk picked a landing party. Spock, naturally, and Lieutenant Tu, as a reward for all the fine work the older man had done recently in picking up new duties that the first officer had been forced to relinquish. Sulu was the next choice. He could always use more experience, and because of his interest in botany the helmsman might be some help in analyzing the trees that were the suspected cause of the interference. The captain added two members of security from the top of the duty rota, for form’s sake: Josephs, newly appointed head of the redshirts, and Ensign Henderson, a capable round-faced woman from Martian colony two. And himself. It had been two weeks since he’d felt sunlight on his face.

So close to the Tholian border, it would have been understandable if they had encountered some of Loskene’s race on the planet, or even a scout ship warning the Enterprise out of orbit. No one expected Klingons.

*****

“Take your hands off me, you Klingon pigs!”

Kirk rocketed back to consciousness and snapped his eyes open. Three meters in front of him, in the center of a strange grey room, two Klingons were forcing a wildly struggling Ensign Henderson down to the floor. The taller one smacked her on the forehead once, twice. Her waist-length brown braid swung with the force of the blows and she fell upon her back; her assailant jumped to kneel behind her and leaned heavily upon her shoulders. The other went down between her legs and pressed one hand on her neck, choking her words into strangled gasps. He fumbled with his pants, and as Kirk watched exposed his erect, featureless, alien penis.

“No!” Kirk roared, and surged forward. But he didn’t even manage to get to his feet. Chains that cuffed him at wrists and ankles rattled, bit into his skin and pulled him back to the floor where he leaned on one knee, gasping. His left arm throbbed hotly; fresh blood flowed down his sleeve, soaking through a tight, white-cloth bandage that someone had placed there. He jerked at the chains with his good arm, uselessly, and tears of rage filled his eyes. The tears did not disguise the Klingon forcing Henderson’s legs up, pushing between them.

“The information on Humans is lugh. Qapla’! You care that Atuk uses this be’. For his pleasure.”

Kirk twisted to see a third Klingon. “Stop them!” Kirk tried to bark the command, but his voice was a whispery rasp. “Don’t do this to her! Don’t hurt her!”

The Klingon ignored his plea. Hands on his hips, he sauntered over to stand in front of Kirk, but he remained well out of the human’s reach. Kirk strained forward, jerked at his chains, gasped at the pain and jerked again. His captor merely looked at him. Through his rage Kirk saw a heavy Homeworld top knot, a narrow, unusual Klingon face with grey eyes and a pointed chin. More unusual, the man’s hair and goatee were white with just a few streaks of black as accents. This face was uncompromising. Uncaring. But still Kirk had to try. “Make them stop! Make them—”

He saw the hand pull back and could do nothing to avoid it. The heavy blow against his cheek sent him sprawling to the floor directly onto his wounded arm. God! It... hurt.... He fought the nausea, fought the encroaching darkness, concentrated on breathing.

As if from very far away, he heard the clank of metal and two voices.

“Captain!”

“Captain Kirk!”

Oh, God. The Klingons had Spock and Sulu too.

Before he could look for them a hand tangled in Kirk’s hair, effortlessly pulled him to a sitting position and banged his head against the wall. Even worse than the agony sparking in his arm, lightning lanced through his head.

“Look, Federati! Open those mIn!”

Again his head was smashed against the wall. He wouldn’t do anybody any good if he blacked out. He forced his eyes open.

“Maj! See what we do to your be’.”

Atuk still moved upon Henderson. Her body was motionless under his weight as he pounded in and out between her legs. Kirk could just see her face turned to the side. Her eyes were shut.

The rapist’s heavy breathing, the sound of moist tissue being violated filled the room. Henderson’s mouth opened in a strangled, very human sob. Kirk caught thick saliva that flooded his mouth; it was bitterly flavored with his helplessness.

“Damn it,” he whispered. “Damn it to Orion’s hells.” The temptation to look away was great, but he would not. He could do nothing else for Henderson, at least he could witness her courage.

A moment later the Klingon released his hold on Kirk and walked over to the two locked together on the floor. The third Klingon stood as a silent sentinel. As if the presence of his commander were some sort of signal, the rapist raised a clenched fist in the air and shouted. He jerked once inside the human vagina, twice, then pulled back and palmed his still-spurting penis for the other two to see. The alien seed fell upon the floor between the woman’s legs.

White Hair grunted and nodded, “majQa’!” Atuk shoved his phallus back in his pants and the two subordinates reached down to Henderson.

But she was up before they touched her, and she fell into a trained fighter’s crouch, her hands curved between them. Her plain, round face was tear-streaked, her brown eyes wild. Her skirted uniform had been torn and bunched up around her waist so that all her muscled lower body was exposed, she stood bow-legged because of the way the Klingon had used her. Her voice shook in a sob, but she spoke.

“Come on, you pigs.” A heavy breath. “Come on.”

She backed towards the door, goading with an obscene gesture of her middle finger. Kirk wanted to cheer her, yet he knew now was not the time to attempt an escape. She must be weakened after the assault, she had no help and no weapon, resistance now would only lead to more injury for her. An order for her to stop was forming on his lips when the rapist moved. Atuk jumped forward, reached for her neck again, but she sidestepped and kicked. She connected solidly with his groin.

“Yahhhhhh!” she screamed in a primal sound of triumph, of retribution, and Kirk swallowed around the boulder in his throat. Henderson spun around to face the other Klingon.

But she was too slow, Kirk knew that she was too slow, and his heart ached when the Klingon caught her flying kick, jerked her leg forward and wrapped burly arms about her. She chopped at his chest with both elbows, but he easily took the blow and forced her arms up behind her back.

That was the end of her defiance. The Klingon shoved her to the side of the room. In another moment her wrists and ankles were bound, and she curled up on the floor, a ball of silent misery.

Sulu, who was chained to the floor between Henderson and Kirk, reached a shaking hand to her shoulder, but the Klingons had confined them too far apart to touch one another. Spock, to Kirk’s right, was up on one knee, extending the chains as far as they would go, and his face was stone. His black eyes followed White Hair as the Klingon walked back to the captain.

The commander looked down at Kirk. “We take what we want. We take what we want from you, human. Jutu.” He held out his hand, and the Klingon who had subdued Henderson reached into a pocket of his belt, then slapped something into the outstretched palm.

Kirk remained still, his back against the wall, and stared up with as much hatred as he could while the hypo hissed against his shoulder. It burned; Klingon medical procedures were not painless. But it was still a minor discomfort compared to the fire where the knife had been.

Whatever now circulated in his bloodstream didn’t have an immediate effect. “What do you want from us?” he asked.

White Hair towered over him. “Hoch. What you say, everything. But you will not say Hoch willingly, and so we will use tuQDoq. Our truth finder. I return tugh. Soon.” He gestured to the others to follow him. The door slammed shut behind them.

There was a moment of pregnant silence. Then Spock’s urgent, worried voice. “Captain? Are you all right?”

He was fine. He tried to say it, worked to let the thought reach his lips but somewhere between intention and execution the words got pulled off track, were pulled and stretched and stretched until they reached far away into infinity....

Act. He had to act before he lost the ability to act. Already, his thinking was sluggish. The drug must be to prepare him for the mind sifter. The tuQDoq. The thought should terrify him, and somewhere far away, maybe where the words had gone, he knew he was experiencing fear. He knew too much. Ship dispositions. Security codes. Access codes. How could he fight? How long did he have before they came for him?

Had to consult with Spock. Spock had survived the mind sifter years ago on Organia, had actually defeated it. But first.... His crew.

Kirk tried to sit up straighter, but the pain in his arm defeated him. He didn’t think he could move it at all. He remained slumped against the wall, which didn’t make him feel any better, but at least he didn’t use any energy struggling to stay stiff-backed. All right now. Speak. His crew....

“Ensign,” he croaked. “Ensign... Henderson.” He had to stop to breathe. “Are you... all right?”

She made a sound that was laughter and tears together, then jerked her head from her knees. The back of her head hit the wall with a thump. Kirk winced as red-rimmed eyes pierced the space that separated them.

“No, Captain, I am not all right. In case you haven’t noticed, I was just raped.”

Her braid had come undone and her hair hung wildly over her shoulders. Her unnaturally swollen lips twisted. “But that’s all right. Coping with sexual assault is part of our training in security. And I’m a woman. Isn’t it traditional? Women have always been raped when two armies collide. I’m just upholding a fine tradition.”

“Hen... der... son....” It took an eternity to say her name, and once it was said he didn’t know what else to say. He ached for her pain. He wanted to comfort her, hold her. But she wouldn’t want that. In his mind’s eye he saw how she would recoil if he stood, the bonds dropped from his wrists and ankles, and he walked over to her. No, better not to touch her even if he could.

She was still speaking, only now he could see the sounds she made. She was so angry. So hurt. Her words erupted like flaming lava thrown from a suddenly active volcano.

“Don’t worry about me. Of course I’m all right. I have the equipment for it, right? Nothing torn, nothing bleeding. Not like it would be if it had been one of you. But these Klingons must not go for men. Not like the captain and first officer of the Enterprise do. It’s a good thing those bastards didn’t know that. They might have raped you instead, and then....”

He watched her molten words spin towards him and fall on his skin. But they didn’t burn. Odd, that they didn’t burn. She must be one of the crew who disapproved of his relationship with Spock. It wasn’t a secret any more, ev-er-y-bod-y on the ship knew and some of the ev-er-y-bod-ies didn’t like it. Didn’t like it at all. They stared and whispered, sometimes.

You’ve got to expect that, Jim. They’ll come around.

Now Henderson was shouting. “They shouldn’t have raped me! It should have been you!!! You!! Y—!!”

“Ensign! You will cease!” Spock’s deep voice snapped, as if he couldn’t keep silent any longer.

“I don’t care.” She choked back a sob and her voice held only despair. “Why didn’t they do it to you? Why not to you, you perverts!” Her shoulders shook.

It was all right. Henderson didn’t know about the light they’d made in the melds, or the light in his heart when Spock touched him. It didn’t bother him, to know that a member of his crew hated him.

Not everybody is as open-minded as they might be. They’re still a good crew.

I know, Bones. I’m proud of them.


With an effort he turned his head, towards Spock. Had to consult with him....

The expression in the dark eyes drained his resolve away. Dear Spock, so sad and so angry and anxious all at the same time. Just like Henderson was a jumble of emotions, so was Spock. It was easy to see.

The Klingons had chained them next to one another, his first officer was still at his right side. How had White Hair known? Always there, on the bridge, on a landing party, in bed. The right side of the bed was now Spock’s side. His Vulcan would come in from the bathroom and walk over to the right side, pull the blankets back and slide under them. Kirk would feel the body warmth next to him, he felt it now, a warmth oozing over his skin and down to his fingers and toes, a tingling warmth that sang in his blood. How could Spock be too far to touch and yet still make him feel so warm? Kirk shifted so that his shoulders were turned towards his lover. Spock was moving....

Oh, no. No. He shouldn’t. No, don’t do that. Spock jerked at the chains that bound him but Vulcan strength wouldn’t be enough here. It would only hurt Spock to try to get free. What did he think he was doing, yanking until his wrists bled? It wasn’t logical. Even from this far away, Kirk could see the raw tissue, and the blood stains that already covered the blue tunic from wrist to elbow. No, don’t do that.

“Don’t,” he managed.

It was a word he’d wanted to say before, but he hadn’t. He hadn’t said it because no matter how much he was hurting he didn’t want to hurt Spock. Sometimes it seemed that this was all they had left, the hurting and the love that prevented don’t from ever reaching his lips....

Just two nights ago and he was tired but Spock was restless. Without the Vulcan mental skills to release him to sleep, Spock lay upon the double mattress and stared at the ceiling, straightened the bedclothes, turned over onto his side. Kirk forced his eyes open, drew upon his heart and molded his body to his lover’s curved back. “Let’s make love,” he whispered, and then Spock turned and they kissed and Kirk eased off the rust-colored nightshirt his Vulcan wore now because he couldn’t control how cold he became in the night. He sucked Spock’s nipples and listened to the deep breathing. In, out, in, out in out, just like the thrusts of a lover and Spock didn’t have the patience anymore that once he’d had and strong hands already were on Kirk’s hips, turning him over.

“Jim?” that breathless request, the request that Kirk couldn’t refuse because it came so seldom, he didn’t want to refuse, but maybe he should, it seemed each time Spock entered him it hurt a little more, the weeks hadn’t seemed to help him heal like Bones said they would but that shouldn’t matter, not when Spock needed so much, and so he pushed back against the slick finger and took a deep breath to prepare himself for the stabbing....

“Jim? Is this uncomfortable?”

“I’m fine. Come on.”

That one spot just within the entrance to his body turned to fire with each thrust and lately maybe Spock had suspected and tonight there wasn’t any way that Kirk could lose himself in sex in the wonder of Spock within his body or the delight that the two of them created in the dark cocoon of night. This night he was caught in the spotlight and his cock was flaccid when Spock reached for it.

“What is wrong?” A ragged whisper, for Spock hadn’t stopped, he was still thrusting, still reaching for an orgasm that would purge him, maybe help him to sleep....

“Nothing. Go ahead.”

He hadn’t needed to say it because nothing was going to stop Spock now he was too close and he came. Good, Kirk thought, good, until Spock abandoned his body and said, “There is blood on my penis. You are bleeding.” An investigating finger where they had joined. “Definitely. You must see McCoy.”

But he hadn’t. The places where he’d been ripped from the pon farr three months before were just acting up a little. He’d get better and they’d make love again and Spock would ask his breathless question and he’d welcome his lover into his body without pain, without any blood, red blood because it was his, not green blood...


Not green blood like the blood he saw now on Spock’s wrists and hands because he was trying to get free, no, he mustn’t do that.

“Don’t,” Kirk said again, louder this time.

He was the captain. Spock’s insistent jerking stilled. His sensitive mouth moved and there were words in the air. Something like within a few minutes.... Words in the air? Or in his mind?

The thought shocked right through him, and suddenly Kirk felt very smart, very proud of himself. That was the answer. Spock could reach into his mind with the meld and clear his head, tell him exactly how to withstand the sifter. Maybe they could even stay linked when he faced the machine. Two minds were better than one.

He watched as his right arm rose, extended as far as the shackles would allow it to go. His fingers stretched too. Spock would have to touch him to initiate the meld....

Spock looked at the reaching fingers. His blood-stained hands curled against his chest. “Captain?”

“M-meld.” It was all he could force through his heavy lips.

Of course Spock understood. There had been moments in the melds when they had achieved perfect understanding of one another. Though there was a look in Spock’s eyes now, a look that lasted but a moment as Spock paused and pressed his lips together before he spoke. If time hadn’t slowed he wouldn’t have noticed, he was sure. Where had he seen that look before?

And then Spock’s face was impassive again. “You know I cannot.”

Kirk’s arm fell back to his side. He’d forgotten. That was stupid of him. The days of their ecstatic mental lovemaking were months in the past. Spock wasn’t even really a Vulcan anymore. All he had left was a Vulcan body that bled green.

But that was all right. He remembered; they’d adjusted.

Everything’s fine, Bones. We’re doing fine.

But still, he shouldn’t have asked his first officer to do what he couldn’t do anymore. No captain should do that to any officer.

He stared down at the grey floor and contemplated how badly he felt. His shoulder was one giant nerve ending shrieking, but his forearm felt numb, as if he had slept on it. But he wasn’t sleeping now. This wasn’t a dream from which he’d awakened, not like he had last week in the middle of the night, to find

...Spock seated cross-legged on the bed beside him, the posture for his meditation, then an abrupt shake of the head and slumped shoulders. After a moment his Vulcan eased back onto the mattress, and curled up onto his side, shivering, Kirk could feel the mattress moving. Roll over closer, touch a shoulder and ask “Are you all right? Did you have a bad dream?” though he didn’t think it was that, he thought his lover hadn’t been able to achieve that most elementary of Vulcan disciplines, and anyway would it be so unusual for Spock to substitute a nightmare for his frustration? Like the nightmares that had plagued his Vulcan right after his mind had been stripped, when he had dreamed that he was always falling through darkness. Back then, with both of them suffering from the new, bleeding wound of the bond being ripped from their minds, Kirk had wrapped his arms around his lover and they had suffered together....

But now Kirk couldn’t feel the torn edges of the bond echoing in his mind anymore and he wouldn’t talk about private meditation when Spock wouldn’t, and Spock said, “It is nothing. You have kicked the blankets away and I am cold.” Kirk reached for the covers at the foot of the bed but Spock was faster. He jerked them up and cocooned himself in the warmth, turned over so his back was to Kirk “Good-night, Jim” and what else was there to do but say good-night and fall asleep again, hoping to dream good dreams?


But this wasn’t a dream. Even though it felt like it, a little, it wasn’t. He’d been drugged, a hypo had been held to his arm and that’s why he wasn’t... quite... thinking straight. It was hard to tell his memories from real time, it was hard to focus on anything in this grey room and so he looked down at the space between his sprawled legs. The seconds ticked by and the minutes dragged by, and tugh White Hair had said, that meant soon, I will be back soon and then I’ll take your body and put it in a little room with a machine and you’ll blink because of the lights and you’ll scream because of the pain and your mind will turn itself inside out while we get every bit of information about Starfleet and the Federation that we need and you won’t be able to do anything but tell us the truth.

But not yet. He was still in the grey room with Henderson and Sulu and Spock, wasn’t he? But soon beings who could split his mind open would come and take him away. Fear rose up from the fog that encased him and he shivered. God. Dear God. He didn’t want to be tortured. Didn’t want to betray the Federation or his people on the Enterprise. Didn’t want to leave his Vulcan all alone. They needed to get out of here.

“Captain. Jim.” An insistent voice broke through his thoughts. He heard echoes too, as if the voice had been calling a long time.

He grabbed one of the lines of infinity that stretched through him and pulled it back. Pull. Pull. There. It was tight and warm in his hands.

“Spock.”

He tried to turn towards his second-in-command, he needed to look at him while they talked, but he couldn’t quite control his neck muscles. His head lolled against his shoulder, and with surprise he evaluated his body. He was slumped almost entirely down to the floor, just his shoulders and head rested against the wall. The restraints around his ankles were tight, stretched to the limit. He blinked, and the image of his first officer came into focus, lopsided because of the way his head was twisted to the side.

“Jim, can you hear me?”

He couldn’t nod, his neck was already too compressed. Slowly, Kirk rolled over onto his right shoulder, pushed down with his arm and levered himself up to a sitting position. By the time his back was up against the wall the breath rattled through his open mouth. Mother of the Galaxy. He wished he could just cut off his left arm. Fire raged beneath his skin.

But there was an advantage to the pain. It was easier to think now. Was it the pain, or sitting upright? Or maybe just time passing? Don’t question, take whatever the enemy gives you.

First things first. Orders. He flattened his right cheek against the wall; it was at least a little support. “Try... to escape. Get word to... ‘fleet. Even... without me. Important.”

“Yes, Captain.” He had seen the set to the eyes before, the ripple in clenched jaw muscles. Spock would find it hard to follow that order.

“How much... time?”

There was that indefinable look on Spock’s face again, a pause and compressed lips, there and gone in a moment.

“The Klingon commander left this room seventeen minutes and thirty-one seconds ago.”

“He’ll...,” Kirk licked his lips. He knew what he needed to say but his mouth didn’t want to cooperate “...be back soon. On Organia.... How... how did you—”

“I defeated the mind sifter through misdirection. I convinced myself of the truth of a lie. But your mind is not sufficiently compartmentalized to accomplish the same feat. You will not be able to do it.”

“What about the Organians?” That was Sulu’s voice. Kirk made no attempt to turn and look at the lieutenant. It took all his strength to keep focusing on Spock’s pale face. “Aren’t they enforcing the peace? There haven’t been any reports of anybody being put under the truth finder since the truce.”

“It would be the height of folly to rely upon Organian intervention.” Spock’s words were hard as diamonds. “If they were going to stop the Klingons they would have done so by now. We must remain alert for possibilities for escape ourselves.”

“What about the ship?” a small voice asked. It was Henderson, speaking up from the corner.

“The local conditions prevent us or the Klingons from registering on ship’s sensors, or from transporting to or from this area.”

“We’ve missed our check-in,” Sulu countered.

“And Mister Scott is no doubt concerned. However, the ship can do nothing to assist us as they are not aware that this Klingon encampment exists among the obscuring vegetation.”

“Joey and Tu might have escaped. If they did then they’ll make it out from under the trees and the Enterprise will pick them up.”

“Agreed. If they survived, which we cannot verify at this time. This is speculation that gains us nothing. Our most pressing concern at this time must be finding a way to help the captain survive the mind sifter. Captain. Captain!”

Spock’s call was like a stone that he threw upon the liquid surface of Kirk’s drifting mind. Kirk felt the impact of each syllable, and he shook his head, as if to see his way through the ripples the stone had created. “Y—Yes?”

“Can you hear me? Listen to me. There may be a way that you can resist the mind sifter. At least for a time.”

He wanted to shake his head again, but the first time had been a mistake. It had hurt too much. He also wanted to agree with Spock, it would give himself and the others hope, but something prevented him from doing so. It was logical to acknowledge the truth even when it was painful. Wasn’t that obvious?

“I... don’t think so. I can’t... convince myself that a lie is the... truth, remember? I’m not Vulcan.”

“No, you are not.” Spock’s voice was very deep, and he over-enunciated his consonant sounds. That was the way his Vulcan always spoke when he was trying to control emotion. Kirk concentrated on watching the thin upper lip move. “But you have shared minds with a Vulcan. We have been one.”

Henderson was shrill. “That’s disgusting! Don’t you have any decen—”

“Shut up!” Sulu snarled. Chains rattled as the lieutenant must have moved. “This is the captain’s life we’re talking about. Just shut up and let Mister Spock try to help him.”

Spock’s voice was soft when he spoke again, an eternity later. “In our deepest melds we exchanged much. It is possible that somewhere within your recollection of those melds there is the information on how the mind sifter functions and how I managed to mis-direct it. You may access—”

“No,” Kirk said, though it was hard to get his mouth to move. He was so tired, but it was essential that Spock comprehend the hard truth. “It won’t... work. Don’t remember. Months ago. Kling...ons will kill me, and I’ll... spill my guts before they do. Accept it.”

Spock looked at him and he looked at Spock, and at the same moment they drew breath. In. Out. Another breath together, in, out. Kirk pulled on one of the lines that snaked through him to forever, the one with duty on the end of it. He needed it to withstand the bruised look in his lover’s eyes, to live through the emptiness in his gut. He was going to betray the Federation. He was going to die.

Another breath, but this one Kirk took alone because Spock opened his mouth and said, “It would not be logical to kill you until you have told them everything they wish to know. It is important to delay as long as possible, to give Mister Scott the opportunity to attempt a rescue or give us a chance to escape and aid you.”

Why couldn’t Spock see? “What are... odds, Mister Spock?”

So, Spock did see. The suddenly taut lips told him that. “Irrelevant. I will assist you in remembering the pertinent information. Do you recall our time on Fal-T 3?”

“Shore... leave.”

“We melded on the mountain, that first night of our climb.”

Yes. Fal-T 3 had no moon, and the night had been very dark, with just a scattering of stars. He had pressed his body over Spock’s and they had kissed, and the air had kissed his naked backside, the way that Spock sometimes did to make him shiver. And then he had taken his lover’s hands and pulled them up, up into position on his temples and face. The night had been dark, but two minds together had been very bright.

But what did Spock expect him to find in the memory? Passion and pleasure, a deep surging happiness that they fit so well together, on the ship, on any planet in the galaxy. But the key to the mind sifter?

“No.” It seemed very important to express only the truth. “Not going to... work. Have to... think of something else.”

“There is nothing else.” Spock’s words tumbled one over the other, like the rushing stream on Fal-T 3 had tumbled over rocks. “The mind sifter requires the truth. I do not know how you can withstand it unless you tell it some version of the truth.”

Too late for him to contemplate how the truth could be twisted to a lie in the human mind. Or was that a lie into the truth? He no longer knew. There was a sound at the door, it opened and two Klingons walked in. It was Jutu and the rapist, Atuk. They used a whirring gadget to unlock his chains.

He looked over again at his first officer. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll be all....” But he couldn’t complete the sentence. He swallowed the word and his fear together.

He tried to stand and walk on his own, to retain some dignity, but before he could get to his feet the Klingons put hands under his arms and dragged him across the room. The pain of his wound rose up and up, like a ghost looming in a nightmare, and he wanted to scream because it hurt so much and he could walk, he could walk, they didn’t have to drag him....

He blinked against a very bright light. There was a hard surface against his back. White Hair’s face loomed over him, with the cumbersome Klingon version of the universal translator by his open lips, and the machinery that Kirk feared looming in the background. There were electrodes on his temples; his hands and feet were bound. Kirk tensed, searched feverishly within himself for the strength to resist.

Why is your ship in this sector?

What? A simple question that could be answered truthfully. There wasn’t any need for elusive resistance now. Before he could think further, he heard his own voice.

Exploring. We’re on a mission of peace.

A lie! Quiotu, increase the setting! Go immediately to force four.

My lord, I am unfamiliar with this machine. Malinar was the expert.

Malinar was stupid enough to be killed with his own knife. Increase the setting! Now, human, do not play games with me. Tell me about your meeting with the Tholians.


Play games? Not the classified games the Federation was playing with Loskene’s people he couldn’t talk about that, no, but what of other contests? Like the games he sometimes played with Spock, the chess games, the games of surrender I need you and of power I take you, the games within games that shielded how they really felt and what they really meant I’m fine You’re a worrywart it was nothing I am well Indeed Bones we’re fine....

Dear God. The damned machine was humming and something foreign was inside his body. It dribbled down from his neck and coated the membranes of every organ. He could feel it, viscous liquid invading, covering. Force four? He drew a ragged breath full of fear, and the liquid pressed against his chest, moved down his bronchi into his lungs. Inside him.... He had to say something.

The Tholians?

His voice gurgled. The sifter’s shallow sea rolled into his brain, down into his toes. The swell of the waves was inexorable. It would be better if.... if... if this were a game and he were swimming in the sea instead a game of tag in the water. Catch me if you can, oh, mother of the universe they’re going to catch me and take all my secrets, all my lies, they can’t....

Yes! When your ship met with them! How long since you talked with the scum?

The sea was briny; with the receptors of his brain he tasted salt, he tried to spit out scum from the sacs around his knees. It... hurt.... Can’t talk, can’t talk, but it hurts and what else can I think of but You’re hurting me, Spock, I wish I could tell him, pull back, love isn’t supposed to hurt when you fuck not like this the scar tissue from the pon farr and I want to kiss so you’re not hurting me and telling me lies and I’m not hurting you telling you lies let me lose myself in your kisses like diving into the sea of you —

Answer me! How long since you talked with the scum?

He meant the Tholians yes but he wasn’t going to talk about them and they aren’t scum we just don’t know them don’t understand them we need to make contact even with the Klingons don’t think about the Tholians think about anything else the truth about beings who don’t understand each other, the crew who didn’t like the way he and Spock kissed and overheard I can’t believe it they’re sleeping together it’s disgusting what’s wrong with you are you against free sexual expression he’s like a rock what a waste of good material the captain can’t be a daisy mister spock can’t be a daisy he’s an alien too....

Scum?

Zhai! Is this Federate an idiot?

My lord....

What?

Malinar said....

What? Speak!

...that it was important to ask questions clearly.

Malinar was a dog! Federati! When did your ship meet with the Tholians?


Could he answer that? At least a small truth wouldn’t hurt, would it? He opened his mouth and he knew that some of the sea would spill from his lips and with it would come the truth. Inevitable. Right. It wouldn’t hurt the Federation. Besides, how could a mere human contain the infinite ocean within him, or deny the truth the path it would seek?

We haven’t met... Tholians. A swell covered his head; he swallowed some of the water and choked.

Another lie! Gnashta humana! Increase the setting!

Yes, my lord. Force five.

Now tell me the truth! Tell me about the alliance. How many ships will you send against the Empire?


The sea disappeared. It sank down, down and left a crusty residue over the newly moist topsoil of his soul and from the soil sprang a new crop. Knives. Row upon row of knives, their blades slashing into the air, marching to forever, slashing into him and turning the land red with his blood. He gasped...

Uhhhh!!!!

...and writhed to know the Klingons heard his weakness. He dashed among the forest of blades, left a red trail but one of the knives curved and impaled him as he ran and lifted him up and he was filled with the hard cutting edge of truth, it pierced right through him, and how could he be silent now with the wind blowing through his body.....

Answer me! How many ships?

...the Enterprise was his ship with a sail that took the wind but she wouldn’t lead an armada against the Klingons because the Federation didn’t want to attack they wanted to defend and would only attack if they had to yes that sounds naive how unsophisticated the phasers on the Enterprise have killed and will kill again but with sorrow peace is better than war and I’m a soldier yes but he’s a scientist and he’s part of me and he’s killed he’s hurt and I’ve killed and I’ve hurt others them him he’s hurt others them me....

Defeat.

No.... ships.

We know about the alliance so do not deny it. Why else is one of the Federation’s finest cruisers in this devil-forsaken part of the galaxy? I will rip the truth from your brain and you will have nothing left to think with! Now, tell me! When will you join with the Tholians to attack us? The truth now!

No... attack.
He slid down the blade of the knife, fell onto the soaked land. He looked up at the yellow sky and groaned dear God he didn’t want to tell them even though it was the truth.

Still he lies! Give me force six.

He felt it happening. The knives at the farthest reaches of his personal universe began to tilt, to fall in towards the center where he lay limply and without power, they were rolling closer and closer and their blades were flashing and soon he would be pierced by not one but by every knife and he knew how it would feel he’d felt it all before the knife edge of hard decisions as people died and the pointed joys of his responsibilities as captain no one else can do it as well as I can and the sharpened thrusts of his love I love you always but sometimes I don’t tell you in the right ways and soon he would do nothing but bleed true....

Tell me! A hand grabbed his neck. Tell me!!! Tell —

...and a familiar tingle took his body and his world dissolved even the knives and for a moment he didn’t exist at all and....

...another voice spoke a familiar voice....

Two cc’s of thalicet. Hiss. Get him to sickbay. Stat!

...and the world moved but it didn’t matter because all that was important was that he find a way to say the truth....

*****

Five days later McCoy released the captain from sickbay. He watched as the captain shed the blue pajamas and pulled on his uniform with provocative speed.

“How’s the arm feel?”

Kirk tugged the shirt over his head. “Just a little sore. All right.”

The doctor made a notation on a porta comp he carried. “Take it easy for a few days. Half shifts for at least two. Now get out of here and leave me in peace. And,” he called to the captain’s retreating back, “don’t go overboard with breakfast!”

Kirk made his way to the mess on deck five for toast and eggs and a fresh peach, a specialty of the day grown in the ship’s own hydroponic garden. He deserved it. It hadn’t been easy, waiting for McCoy’s treatments to flush the drug from his system, giving him plenty of time for thinking. And because of the surgery, Bones had kept him on a soft diet. It felt like ages since he could eat what he wanted.

It was past the beginning of alpha shift, but that was okay. Spock would be manning the con and he’d logged from sickbay that he would be a little late. The mess was sparsely populated. Ensign Henderson sat in one corner, alone, as the captain had eaten alone.

Kirk wiped his mouth with a napkin, rose and dumped the remains of his breakfast in the recycler. He glanced towards the woman he’d last seen from his sickbay bed when she walked into McCoy’s office for a private therapy session. He didn’t want to talk to her. Some captains would have put her on report for what she’d said on the planet. Respect for commanding officers must be maintained. The lines between ranks were clear.

Rank imposed responsibilities, too. He didn’t like Henderson because she didn’t like him, but as a member of his crew she deserved the attention he hadn’t been able to give her while he was still a patient himself. She’d suffered on the planet too.

She must have known he was coming towards her, but she kept her attention on her plate until he spoke. “Ensign Henderson.”

She stood, slowly. She wore red shirt and black trousers, not too unusual for a woman from security. “Yes, Captain.”

“I hope you’re feeling better. Recovered from your experience on the planet.” That was bad wording. Five days, and there wasn’t a chance that she’d recovered from a rape. But he had to start somewhere.

“I’m coping, sir. I guess I’m better.”

“I’m sorry, very sorry about what happened to you.”

She shrugged. “Fortunes of war, sir. I’m sorry about what happened to you, too.”

He looked down at the table between them, then straightened his shoulders and looked back up. “Are you back on duty now?”

“Yes. I came back two days ago.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“And you, sir? Are you back on duty today?”

It was an odd question for a very junior officer to ask her captain, but he answered. “Yes. Doctor McCoy has me on half-shifts.”

“I went on full shift right away. I think the doctor didn’t want to give me too much time to think.” She picked up a napkin, folded it precisely down the middle, then returned it to the table. “But it doesn’t matter. You keep thinking no matter what.”

Kirk drew a deep breath and nodded.

There was an awkward silence. Then Henderson straightened to attention and said, “Sir, I hope that what occurred on the planet won’t affect my efficiency rating for this quarter. I... said some things I never intended to say out loud.”

He nodded slowly. “I understand that, Ensign. Do you understand that I will not tolerate prejudice on my ship, no matter who it’s directed against?”

“Yes, sir.” She stared over his shoulder. “It won’t happen again, sir.”

“I expect that it won’t. As to your efficiency rating.... There’s another month to go before Lieutenant Josephs determines them for your section.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

“Shouldn’t you be reporting for duty?”

“Yes, sir.”

She turned smartly and exited the room at security’s double-quick trot. He watched her go.

He emerged from the turbolift to smiles all around. Except from Spock, of course, who relinquished the command chair with a nod.

“Thank you, Mister Spock. Any word from Starfleet Command yet?”

“No, sir. We are still on course for the next star system in this sector, YZ124. ETA 36 hours, 12 minutes.”

Kirk settled down to reports handed to him by yeomen, to the sounds of instruments whirring and bodies shifting, to the viewscreen showing the stars.

At noon the intercom bleeped. It was McCoy, inviting him to lunch and none too subtly indicating his time on the bridge for the day was over. Kirk grimaced down at the com grid and gracelessly acceded.

But the unforced, comfortable conversation at lunch with the doctor and chief engineer was good, almost as good as resuming his place on the bridge had been. The mess, this time the largest one on the ship on deck six, was crowded, the noise level high. Kirk ate his salad and roast beef on a roll and listened to the words buzz around him. It was such a contrast to the quiet he’d endured for days.

Lieutenants Hunyady and Dawson stopped by the table to greet the captain, and after them came a few others not too intimidated by his rank to express their satisfaction that he was recovered from whatever it was that had harmed him on the planet they’d left behind. The crew didn’t know for sure what had happened, they seldom did. But the captain had been in sickbay and now he wasn’t, and there were some crewmen and women who seemed pleased.

Kirk drained his glass of Altair water spiked with guava juice and listened as Scotty told a joke he hadn’t heard before.

“Do ya know the one about the sadist and the masochist on their wedding night? The masochist says ‘Beat me, beat me!’ and the sadist says, ‘Nae, I won’t.”

Kirk smiled down at his plate. McCoy laughed and said, “Now that’s a couple with perfect communication.”

The accumulated details of his absence were on his desk in the captain’s quarters, including the official report of how the Organians had finally intervened on the planet with the yellow sky. Kirk sat down and read about the strange properties of the trees that acted like forcefields, which had even managed to fool Ayelborne, Clayborne and all their fellows. Who knew how the annoyingly omnipotent beings monitored galactic affairs? Somehow they had eventually realized there were Klingons hiding beneath the leaves, and that their intent was not innocent. The effect of the trees had been suddenly negated; Scotty had read human and Klingon readings mixed together and had wasted no time operating the transporter himself to rescue every member of the landing party. Kirk had been the last one beamed aboard; his proximity to two Klingons had made the beaming tricky.

Then the Klingons themselves had disappeared, along with their encampment. White Hair had never seen the inside of the Enterprise’s brig. The Federation had appealed the summary decision, but the protest vanished into the ether around Organia.

Kirk set the report aside without re-reading it. There were other things to do.

A few hours later he stood and stretched, then wandered into the bathroom to relieve himself. He passed the bed on his way back to the desk and remembered McCoy’s caution to get plenty of rest. Maybe just a minute to collect his thoughts.

He awakened to darkness. The computer must have turned the lights out when it sensed him sleeping. Spock stood next to the bed, a figure in shadow. Kirk couldn’t see his face.

“I apologize for disturbing your rest. I believed you would wish to know that we have received a transmission from Starfleet Command.”

Kirk sat up in the bed. He was overheated. He’d fallen asleep with his boots and uniform on. “Go ahead.”

“Headquarters on Earth received a direct transmission from Organia which included a transcript in Klingonese of your interrogation under the mind sifter. Also an opinion from Ayelborne that your mind had not been tampered with and it would be to the benefit of the Federation to allow you to remain in command.”

Kirk reached forward and yanked off one of his boots. “So?”

“Orders are for us to continue with the current mission.”

He pulled off the other boot, dropped them both to the floor. “No recall for psych evaluation?”

“None.”

“Rather strange for someone who’s gone under the mind sifter. You’d think that Starfleet would want to wring my mind dry.”

“Perhaps our superiors are satisfied by your debriefing report.”

Kirk contemplated his socks. “More likely it’s a political decision. Nobody wants to offend the almighty Ayelborne, do they? My friend in high places. Well, guess I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” He coughed; his throat was dry. “Lights up one-quarter.” Now he could see Spock’s face: severe, concerned. “What time...”

He stopped himself from asking, knew that Spock would pause and press his lips together before answering. So Kirk turned his head and looked at the chronometer. It was seventeen hundred hours, and Spock was off duty.

He regarded his first officer again. “It’s been a long time since I kissed you.”

As always, Spock’s lips were warm and dry and perfect. Kirk opened his mouth and the tips of their tongues met.

“Take off your clothes,” Kirk whispered. “Lie down with me.”

Kirk was nude too when Spock pulled the blankets back from the right side of the bed and slid in next to him. He turned on his side so that his head was cradled on Spock’s shoulder. He slid one arm across Spock’s chest, then strong arms came under him, around him, enclosing him. This was just where he wanted to be. He kissed the heated flesh beneath his lips and murmured, “Lights dim to one-tenth.” Perfect.

Kirk closed his eyes and drifted, rode the swell of Vulcan respirations, breathed the unique scent of masculine power that he had grown to love. It felt so good to be touching again, to be touched. The front of his body pressed against his lover’s side, his quiescent cock nestled upon his lover’s thigh. Spock’s hand moved languidly up and down the bumps of his spine, caressing with the tips of his long fingers.

They stayed like that a long while. But time marched on even when no one counted the seconds and it was time to speak. “Did you read the transcript?”

The hand on his back stopped, flattened upon his waist.

“I did.”

“I don’t think I could have held out much longer. I was ready to tell them anything they wanted to know.”

The arms around him tightened. “As was already clear from your debriefing, you told them nothing against the interests of the Federation.”

He went up on one elbow, looked down at the face that rested on his pillow. There was just enough light to see solemn eyes. “At the end I told them the truth about the supposed Tholian-Federation invasion.”

“A truth they needed to know. You made a strategic decision under great pressure, and I agree with it. There was no harm in answering those questions honestly.”

“I tried not to. I did what you said and tried to think of other things. I thought a lot. Learned a lot. But nothing I was thinking was what I actually said.”

A finger traced his lips. “You were drugged. You are human and faced a machine of great power. It is to your credit that you resisted for so long.”

Kirk separated his body from the warmth and eased down onto his stomach. He cradled his head in his arms and spoke into the crook of his elbow. “It was so ironic. I couldn’t stop thinking about it in sickbay. There I was, struggling to concoct a lie and make it sound like the truth, but when I answered him it was always the truth. But not the truth the Klingon commander wanted to hear. He kept assuming I was lying. It was a cosmic joke.”

Spock shivered, rolled over onto his side. “I did not find it humorous, neither then nor now. I was most concerned for you.”

Kirk lifted his head, saw the lines in Spock’s forehead, the worry that lingered in his eyes. He leaned forward and their lips met.

“Fuck me,” he breathed into the kiss. “I need you to fuck me.”

Spock jerked towards him, pressed their lips together for even more contact. Kirk felt the double-ridged phallus between them, firming against his hip.

But then the Vulcan pulled away. “I cannot. I do not wish to hurt you as I did the last time. The scar tissue —”

“— is taken care of. I had Bones do some reconstructive surgery. He says it’s okay now.”

“You had surgery?”

Kirk nodded. “Just a little extra at the same time he repaired the tendons in my arm. It wasn’t much.”

“There are other methods of sexual congress and I —”

Kirk stopped him with a finger across his lips. “That’s not the whole truth, Spock.”

The Vulcan’s gaze dropped. “No.” His hand skimmed the length of his captain’s body, from biceps to powerful thigh. “It is not. I would be most gratified to....”

“Fuck me.”

A shivering breath. “Yes.”

Spock reached for the lubricant in the bedside drawer. Kirk turned his back to his lover, drew his leg up to provide access. He heard the sounds of the cream being spread, felt the hesitant touch of a slick finger at the entrance to his body.

“Go ahead. I’ll tell you if it hurts.”

“I will be careful.”

Spock’s finger probing inside him didn’t hurt, not like it had before. Bones, solemn-faced and understanding, had done a good job.

And when Spock moved up behind him, put a steadying hand on his hip and pushed the long penis through his sphincter, it didn’t hurt then either.

Kirk grabbed a pillow and groaned into its folds. “Oh, God. You feel so good. So good inside me.”

Spock pushed again until he was in as far as their position on their sides allowed. He hitched up on one elbow. His lips brushed Kirk’s shoulder. “Are you all right?”

Kirk closed his eyes. He couldn’t answer that question. “Could you stay like that, right there? Can you just stay there for a minute and not move?” He felt breathless, even light-headed.

Spock’s hand came around his body, took hold of his cock as if it were something precious and delicate. “I could stay inside you forever.” It was a younger-Spock voice, fervent and not-logical.

Kirk rested his arm over his lover’s, made an effort to fill his lungs, felt his stretched body define the bulk that had been inserted inside him. It was not foreign, not frightening. It was a part of him that was yet separate from him. Fitting in him so naturally now, without pain, the way his mind and Spock’s mind had fit together a long time ago....

“No,” he said out loud, and opened his eyes. Abruptly he jerked his hips forward, unsheathing the long penis. “This isn’t right.” He twisted around in the bed and cradled Spock’s face in his hands. “Don’t you see? It’s too easy.”

“Did I cause you pain? What—”

Kirk shook his head No, then, hesitantly, the denial turned into a small nod. “Yes. But not the way you think.” He reached down and twined their fingers together, then brought Spock’s hand up to his own face. He pressed it there against cheek and hair and temple, an approximation of the melding position they hadn’t used for months, and watched the play of emotions on the sharp-planed face. Confusion, withdrawal, a hint of anger. Hurt.

Spock tried to pull his hand away. “Why do you—”

But Kirk wouldn’t let him. He pressed the fingers closer. “We’ve been so damn rational about it all. We’ve talked about it like reasonable beings, and like reasonable beings we’ve agreed to put it behind us.”

“It is the only logical approach. I fail to—”

“I want to feel your mind touching my mind. So much.”

There was that little pause, the fleeting pressing of lips again. “You know I cannot.”

“I know. But that doesn’t mean that we both don’t want it anymore.”

“It is better not to—”

Kirk interrupted him by jerking away from the touch of warm fingers. He sat up and swung a leg over Spock’s body, pushed until Spock was flat on his back and Kirk was straddling him. He hitched forward until the double-ridged penis grazed his anus, then looked down into those hurting, belligerent brown eyes.

“Is it better for us to keep pretending that everything is all right? That you weren’t hurting me each time you fucked me? That I haven’t been hurting you each time I ask you about meditation or what time it is?”

Spock twisted his head to the side, rejecting it all.

So carefully, with deliberate slowness, Kirk pushed against the organ that hovered outside his body. His sphincter tensed; he commanded it to relax. With a sigh, he sank down onto Spock’s penis.

Spock lunged forward with the penetration, grabbed Kirk’s arms. But he didn’t begin to thrust. His body quivering, his brows contracted, he stared at his captain.

“Why are you doing this?” His voice shook.

Kirk posted up, then down, felt the warmth inside him sliding, knew he was creating exquisite sexual sensation for his lover, felt the unparalleled satisfaction of being stretched and filled. He moved again, and again, creating for Spock what he would not create for himself.

He looked down at the confused face and vulnerable eyes, looked at the being who shared his life and his heart and soul and said, “Because I love you. Because I’m not going to twist the truth into a lie anymore.”

Kirk could no longer take part in the charade. He closed his eyes and lifted his face to the darkened ceiling. He wasn’t lying to himself anymore. He was filled, and yet he saw emptiness; what used to be, and was no longer there. He saw newer spaces of nothingness, that he and Spock had made between them in their unacknowledged conspiracy of untruths.

He missed the honesty that had always linked them. He mourned the days when Spock was whole and happy, and when they had shared nights of calm certainty. He missed melds and Spock’s contentment and the bond that had thrown out its first tender shoots between them.

Kirk opened his eyes and caught the whirlwind of confusion and stubbornness in Spock’s gaze again. He leaned forward and whispered, “You and I, we’ve both been stabbed. How logical is it to ignore the bleeding?”

The hands upon his arms tightened. Pain shot through Kirk’s shoulder, and for an instant he wondered if his lover were hurting him from anger.

But no. How could he ever think that?

“Jim,” Spock breathed. Then the Vulcan thrust up once. His mouth opened, his lips thinned and stiffened. “Uuunnhhhh.” Kirk felt hot Vulcan semen flood his anal canal.

Slowly, the body beneath him relaxed. Kirk slid forward, relinquished the blade that had penetrated him, flattened himself on his lover in a full-body embrace. He buried his face in Spock’s neck. Spock’s arms came up around him.

Minutes passed. Finally, into the silence, Kirk asked, “How are you?”

“I am... not fine.”

“I’m not fine either,” Kirk whispered. “That’s our truth.”

THE END



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