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I.

Spock of No World

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The Leda moved closer to orbit, the black ship maneuvering precisely into position. Spock's hands were steady at the controls, even as Fever flared within his body. The restlessness, the urgency was eating him alive. Too soon. It had been less than two years since his last Time. He cursed his Vulcan heritage with fervor, and wished, as he had many times before, that his Human blood had predominated. Especially in this.

His hands continued the precise commands that established the Leda into orbit. One final instrument check assured him all was functioning properly. All subterfuge systems were switched off. The concealed cargo holds were empty; he had only one purpose for visiting this world; there was no need to endanger any of his work. He had traveled fast and light, and in any event, no one here would raise the question of his business—legal, or not.

The communicator crackled to life and a rough male voice announced, "Space Control Area 1335, hailing the Leda."

"Acknowledged." There was no visual image; he had pre-approved clearance. There was no need for a visual inspection; they wasted little money here on unnecessary frills, particularly those which might lead to inconvenient inspections. What the spaceport staff didn't see they needn't report. He had been here, many times, an obvious alien, and yet there were far stranger beings than he frequenting Loris Town. Though this world officially held to Pure Human thought, where there was money to be made, there were blind eyes to be turned.

"We have you cleared to dock at Loris Town Spaceport. We are transmitting control data now. Please set your automatic pilot to accept our command."

His hands, still steady, touched the necessary controls. "Acknowledged, and complete."

"Prepare for docking. We are locked on to your ship." Ship's sensors confirmed that his ship was moving into planetfall course, heading toward the outer traces of atmosphere.

"Acknowledged. Leda out."

He let himself relax back into his chair. His hands, now freed of necessary tasks, closed into tight fists; he watched without much interest as the knuckles turned white from the pressure. He shifted, trying to ease the pain of that other pressure; the pain in his testicles, the unassuaged ravening ache in his iron-hard penis. Soon. Soon.

The Leda slipped into atmosphere and began making its steep descent. He closed his eyes, feeling the effects of the changes in gravity on his biology, grateful that the way had been made smooth for him. His cousin Daniel had made all the arrangements, as he had done every Time before.

He recalled the terror of that first Time, when the danger of exposure, up until then only a theoretical fear, had suddenly become quite clear to him. Daniel, one of the few who knew everything about him, had chosen this place. But neither of them could have known if this would work, if he could satisfy the rut and still conceal that which would cost him his life. And not only his life, but the lives of his only surviving family.

They had taken pains to conceal his identity, erased every reference to this ship on every world on which it had docked, obliterated every possible connection Spock had to the Grayson Clan. They had always been careful; and yet, further out in the Fringe, they were known. If his secret had come out, the most likely—the best—possibility would have been his instant death. But if he had been arrested instead, been turned over to Terran authorities, his life would have been carefully assured—and equally certain, the arrest and execution of anyone who had concealed his existence.

Then Daniel had sent him here. Alone. And though in certain ways he had been alone since the death of every Vulcan in his Clan, he had always been in the proximity of Family, whether it was just Daniel, or his many other Human relatives.

He remembered the difficulty of concealing his fear when he first met Rilka. Daniel and he had discussed different ways to handle this situation, and had come up with a possible solution. Rilka was then told of his specific needs, and since these desires were a common variation among Humans, she hadn't evidenced the faintest hint of surprise. Nor had she betrayed any surprise or consternation at the intensity of his cycle. Her House, exploiting the fascination Humans had for the forbidden, featured many alien beings to attract clientele. Additionally, she catered to many different alien species. All were welcome in the House of Flowers. It was true that they had never seen one of Spock's kind before, but species with rut cycles were not unknown. She had assured them of both discretion and complete satisfaction.

Rilka had met Spock personally at her door, something he knew was rarely done. She had led him to his chamber, already ready for his requirements, and finished the necessary preparations. Then Need had burned his fear and all his other concerns away.

It had worked. And though his mind had cried out, had brushed against the scarring of that damaged place where his Bondmate had once existed, had sought but not found—he had survived. He had survived, with his secret intact.

He had been back several times since then. He had had no idea how often his Time would come; it seemed to vary between two to three years, shockingly frequent for a Vulcan. But nothing was known of the needs of a hybrid. To his knowledge, he was the only one in existence. Sarek's ship had ventured far away from the confines of Vulcan space; to his knowledge, the contact between his father's people and the Grayson family had been the only contact ever made between the two species.

It was all pro forma now; merely the notification to Rilka, and the necessary landing fees, and of course a handsome payment to her, as well as the chosen Companions who would meet his need. Rilka would have everything arranged for him. She always did.

Settling back in his chair, he strapped in for landing, hands tight over the arms of the seat. Control. Control. Soon, Rilka's restraints would give him freedom, and he would know satisfaction, the quenching of the desperate need enflaming his body. And if it wasn't enough? If it was never enough? It was adequate, and that was all he required. Since the death of his Bondmate, he had never hoped for anything more.

The ship was drawn into a smooth landing, settling securely into a side bay at Loris Spaceport. Hands carefully steady, he performed the final systems check, then shut down and locked ship's controls. The exit hatch slid smoothly open, then closed behind him. The ship would be safe until his return; it was currently programmed to allow only him access.

The landing pad was streaked with burn marks and smelled strongly of ship's fuel and singed synthsteel. He found his gait had become unsteady; he drew in a deep breath, throat and lungs stinging from the chemical scent. He found steadier footing, though the flooring remained unchanged, and walked toward the landing agent, who was waiting for him, padd in hand. Fever flared; he felt its heat dance over his skin, like crackling electricity. He swallowed, fought against it, fought for control.

He knew his face revealed nothing as he handed over his forged identification, along with a substantial bribe. The agent regarded him, his gaze bored, incurious. The agent barely glanced at his credentials, took a longer look at the money, then pressed Spock's ID against the padd, giving him authority to travel freely throughout Loris.

Loris was a restricted area; a free port open to any spacer with sufficient money, closed off from the rest of the world beyond. But he had no need to go anywhere else. All he needed was three days at Rilka's establishment; three days that he knew would be spent in a haze of need and fever and perhaps pleasure. Pleasure was not something he ever expected, but when it happened it was a welcome surprise. But it was unimportant, as long as Need was slaked.

The man waved him through and he entered the main building of the spaceport, stepping into the cavernous main room. It was dirty, cluttered, and crawling with Humans, a few Andorians, and a large contingent of Delemites. Singly or in pairs, aliens of a dozen species shoved and jostled against him. Thick odors from unwashed bodies of many species, spice perfume, and the dry scents of fabrics from several worlds filled his nostrils. An uncounted number of beings milled about or moved with purpose toward the many shops, service bays or exits that competed for space in the interior of the spaceport dome.

Incurious, he found himself looking around. It was not possible that this time he would see another Vulcan. It was as always. No being here looked like him. None ever would. He was the only one of his kind in this part of space; he had not seen another Vulcan since the death of his Family and his Bondmate over eleven years earlier.

Nevertheless, he always looked for another of his kind. Perhaps, one day, some other Vulcans might venture out this far in space. But, after all these years, he found it highly unlikely.

He managed enough control to keep his walk steady. No one glanced his way for more than a second. Everyone in Loris Town kept a studied politeness, an averted gaze, unless deliberately looking for trouble. His long hair covered his ears, obscured his brows, made him look almost Human. The greenish cast of his skin could be concealed through cosmetics or drugs. Cosmetics were inconvenient, drugs were difficult to assimilate without illness, but he knew he needn't go to this trouble at this time. There were no official Terran ships in dock; there was no need for the spaceport authorities to pretend they enforced Pure Human regulations. There was no need for any aliens onplanet to go into hiding in case of a crackdown.

He took care of the necessary bribes in short order, and took the first available groundcar. It was not an autocar, but had a human pilot, who insisted, with no encouragement on his part, on making lewd conversation about the prostitutes at Rilka's establishment. He sat quietly, most of his attention focused on the agonized ache between his legs, on how the motion of the aircar jolted through his genitals like a lance of fire; need and pain indistinguishable.

Mindlessly, he watched the garish lights of the bordellos slide by, the holosigns promising ultimate pleasures. Nothing but artifice and sham. And, since he himself no longer had the identity he had held from birth, since Spock cha'Sarek was no more, since what he still mindlessly sought was impossible to attain, he, too, was artifice and sham.

The groundcar came to an abrupt halt, crashing into another vehicle. The drivers leaped out, screaming curses and arguments. Ignoring them, he keyed in his payment and staggered slightly as he stepped out.

Multicolored lights from the House of Flowers washed over his face; music and voices blared from all corners of the street. He blinked, stunned by the sensory overload of the street around him. He drew in a deep breath. Control. Control. Soon.

He took an unsteady step forward, then gained strength and approached the door. A dark-skinned woman, dressed in a few artfully-placed strips of red leather, greeted him with a blinding smile and a warm welcome. He managed a mumbled greeting. Rilka's people were good. They always made him feel welcome, even though their words, like everything else, were part of what customers paid for.

She led him past a holo-wall that shifted from one sexual scene to another. Unlike other establishments, the scenes approached art, an erotic, ever-shifting dance of bodies, but subtly shaded, concealing as much as they revealed in each seductive movement.

An anonymous door, neatly camouflaged by the same wallpaper that covered the walls, awaited. She touched it open and stood aside.

Rilka was there, waiting for him. He knew that was a privilege few merited. Her calm face, carefully painted, appeared young in the dimness of the revealed corridor. Her black hair was done in its usual elaborate array, threaded through with jeweled sticks and tiny gossamer decorations. Some of her wealth glittered on her earlobes, around her neck, and threaded through one nostril.

Rilka gave him a welcoming smile, then glanced at the woman who had brought him here. "Thank you, Nyta."

The woman inclined her head, then turned and walked away.

Rilka touched his arm, directing him away from the public rooms into this side corridor that, unlike most of the rest of the establishment, was cool and calm in pale green paint and scattered still holos of local scenery. The lights were dim; he was always grateful for this.

A few feet down the corridor, and they entered Rilka's private office. Her inner sanctum was cool, welcoming to his fevered skin. A few pieces of abstract art decorated one wall; another wall was composed entirely of a holographic image of a pastoral scene he knew existed nowhere on this world; expensive technology for anyone, a testament to Rilka's wealth.

Rilka smiled. "Will you have a seat?"

"Thank you, no." He remained standing, and tried to uncurl his fingers from where they had clenched into fists. His iron-hard erection probed at the fabric of his cape, screaming out its urgency; his skin felt as if it had been scraped raw, entering into a wholly new level of naked exposure.

Rilka still had her tiny brown cat. Spock managed to focus his gaze on the creature as it leaped to the top of an elaborate armoire. It gazed down at Spock with huge gold eyes. Rilka extended her hand, and the creature joined her, jumping to her shoulder then settling down, wrapping its tail around her neck. The animal's round eyes continued to regard Spock calmly.

He shuddered as another surge of need filled his hardened flesh to the edge of endurance. Rilka's eyes reflected sympathy.

"Your room is ready," Rilka said, her pleasing contralto voice warm, reassuring, inviting trust. And he could trust her. She thought she knew his secrets. That was, of course, not accurate.

"Thank you." He inclined his head. He could still Control. There was that, at least. Though it had been many years since Control or Concealment had mattered to anyone but him.

She indicated the security screens, dozens of them filling an entire wall. One displayed the main public room, a room he'd been in only once, on his first visit nearly nine years ago, when he had first been confronted by the reality of facing his biology without the comfort of his Bondmate. He had been here four times since then, the erratic nature of his human blood triggering Vulcan hormones far more often than a fullblooded Vulcan would have to endure.

Rilka touched a button and a blank screen sprang to life. His cock pulsed as he recognized Seela. She had been one of his Companions the last time. He remembered the feel of the masses of her red hair against his skin as she had bent her head to take his throbbing erection into her skilled mouth. That had been toward the end of his last Time, when he was able to remember something of an encounter. Her energy had been good. She had brought him pleasure, not pain.

He nodded in agreement, and quickly approved an ebony-skinned human male as thin as he, and taller, and a small human female with yellow hair.

He turned down the offer of an Andorian woman. He had never accepted any but Humans; he knew them to be safe. What secrets other races possessed he would not explore, at least not sexually. Additionally, the House of Flowers generally charged three times as much for sex with a non-human. He had neither the funds nor the interest.

"Will three be sufficient? Would you like alternates?"

"Another alternate, perhaps." She bent over her computer, and in the second before another image flashed on the screen, he glanced back at the image of the public room—and froze.

A human male was standing directly in front of the security camera, talking to someone he couldn't see. For an instant the camera displayed an astonishing face, ordinary in its parts, extraordinary in its whole. Beautiful. The man seemed to shine, to radiate something... something he could not define. Eyes, seemingly composed of many colors, appeared to look directly at his; the animated expression spoke to him. The man smiled, a smile that seemed entirely to belong to him, an unmet stranger.

His cock wept with need.

Dangerous. This is dangerous, part of his mind insisted on saying. But Fever spoke, and his voice followed, "That one. First."

Rilka raised her brows. "He's retired from the Profession. He's my general manager."

"He's new since the last time I was here." His voice had roughened; his control was fading fast, and yet he persisted in conversation. Dangerous. A moment longer, and his mind might vanish.

He might rape this woman.

And rape was the lesser of the dangers he courted.

Rilka was watching him carefully. "Yes. He only worked in the Profession here for a short time. He has other talents." A certain amount of pride showed in her face as she glanced at the monitor. "Prior to joining me, he had been one of the Administrator's Favorites."

And now he is one of Kodos' discards, you mean.

He did not express that thought. Even here, in Loris, kept separated from the rest of Tarsus by security walls, speaking ill of the Administrator warranted a death sentence. He turned his gaze back to the monitor. "I wish him."

"It is not usual."

His voice shaking, Spock named a fee five times his usual price. It would take him many months to earn enough to repay his cousin. Stealing another glance at the face in the monitor, he thought, it will be worth it.

Rilka regarded him without expression for a moment longer, than touched a control on her desk. "Jim. Can you join me in my office?"

Spock squeezed his eyes tightly shut, but he was aware when she moved to stand directly in front of him. "It will be his choice," she said gently. "Come. Let us go to your room. You can be ready for him. Or Seela, if he chooses otherwise."

He gasped out an agreement, now barely able to speak. But his mind repeated the word, Jim, Jim.

*****

The room Rilka took him to was plain, walls painted a calm cream. There were no erotic objets de art, no elaborate sexual paintings. A table. Two chairs. A plain bed. Rings in the wall behind it.

He did not require any of the elaborate fantasy decor available in the other suites in this brothel. He had tried one of these rooms early on, hoping that by using Human fantasy he could hasten the process. Daniel quite liked the Orion slave girl scenario, so he had borrowed his cousin's fantasy, and requested that suite the second time he was here. The room itself had been its own seraglio; luxurious draperies and cushions, elaborately carved low tables, dancing girls everywhere. He'd been surrounded by holographic human males having holographic sex with moaning, licentious green women. He had observed all this even as a succession of Human women, painted to resemble Orion women, impaled themselves on his needy cock; had tried to fuel his need with these Human fantasies, had tried to end the Fever sooner, quicker, faster.

To no avail. His Fever had lasted precisely as long as it had the time before, and the times since. He had given it up as a failed experiment and stayed with this plain room.

Spock removed his clothing and lay on his back on the bed. Contemplating his raging erection, he promised it relief. Soon.

The bed was soft, comfortable, not too yielding. The manacles Rilka brought were lined with a deep soft material. He raised his arms up beside his head. She expertly attached the cuffs to his wrists and attached them to the rings in the wall behind the bed. He pulled, hard, then sighed and relaxed against the bed. His partners would be safe now. He would be safe now, safe from the danger of fulfilling the need that could never be satisfied.

"Please... soon..." he heard his voice whisper.

She touched his hand lightly. "A moment, only," she promised, then vanished through the doorway.

His body insisted on thrusting into air; he wound his hands around the chains and gripped tight. Teeth gritted against the agony, he forced himself to count his breaths, which persisted in matching themselves to his fruitless thrusting. Fire. Fire everywhere, and the intense pressure in his genitals seemed enough to tear through his skin.

An eternity of this torment. He fixed his gaze on the doorway. Soon. Please. Now.

The door opened. The man called Jim walked in.

Spock's gaze riveted on Jim's eyes. The man smiled an easy smile as he approached. Electricity and heat seared the air, leaping between them. Some still-rational part of his mind cautioned, Danger. But he was deaf to the warning. His cock, now a dark angry green, surged as it recognized that relief was almost here.

Jim was still wearing the clothing he'd worn when Spock had seen him on the monitor; not the clothing of a Companion, but rather the elaborate clothing of a wealthy man. Spock wanted that clothing gone.

As if reading his mind, Jim stripped quickly and efficiently, placing his boots on the floor and his clothing on the table. His skin—a warm tan—seemed to glow against the room's neutral walls. Spock focused on the unaroused Human genitals, nestled in a bed of golden curls. He didn't need an aroused partner. But, oh, if he could have that, just once... Pain stabbed through his cock and he fought against the fantasy of having one who also desired him.

A searing green nearly obscured Spock's vision as Jim approached the bed. With quick expertise and an economy of motion, Jim straddled him. He cried out as cool Human fingers touched his titanium-hard penis, guiding him, snubbing him against the well-lubricated opening to the other man's body. And then—Jim slid down, engulfing his flesh in one smooth practiced movement.

Fever stole his mind. Flashes of intense pleasure radiated from his groin as that strong human body fucked and milked his cock with powerful upward and downward movements of his thighs, and with the clenching of the muscles of his buttocks. Spock could barely see through the haze of green heat nearly obscuring his vision, and yet he caught sudden glimpses of the other man, images as quick and indelible as those from a remembered dream. The cool human skin was composed of electricity. He could feel it crackle, cold fire, cool skin to slake his heat; such a contrast to the conflagration surrounding him. An aura of light danced around Jim's face, inviting Spock's hands to Touch. He pulled savagely against the restraints, needing to Touch. The restraints held him fast, and he keened in frustration even as the last remnants of rationality insisted that that need must be denied, must forever be denied. His hands clenched nails into his palms; his cock jerked and let loose its first flood of seed deep inside the Human's body.

He remained hard, as he would for many more hours. The Human paused briefly, and he saw a flash of surprise flash across Jim's face. Surely Rilka told you... And then rational thought vanished again as Jim rode him again, first in long luxurious strokes, then in short, hard, fast snaps of his hips, driving Spock's cock deep into the slick silk heat of his channel. Spock lost himself into the pain of the Time, into the brief ecstatic releases and the continued agony of the still-unrelieved pressure.

Dreams. Dreams. Heat, aching, pain, a tight tunnel constricting his hardness, thrusting, thrusting, relief. Sometimes seconds in duration. Sometimes minutes. Again. Repeat. Again. Some part of his brain, far away, kept count, and he knew when he had come six times. 12. 14. And finally, when it took him several minutes to find relief, he was able to open his eyes and see something beyond a green fever haze, able to see the tan/pink body of his companion lift off his depleted cock, and not feel his flesh instantly harden into more need.

He felt a warm cloth wash his genitals, and then another wet cloth cleanse the sweat from his fevered skin. The touch was gentle, kind. He smiled his gratitude and Jim, standing near his left shoulder, paused his task of washing Spock's face and neck, and smiled back.

"Thank you," Spock whispered, his voice a dry croak. His hands still wanted to Touch; he could feel his fingers, still gripped around the chains, longing to let go, to Seek. He forced himself to speak. "Do you wish to retire? You could send in Seela, or one of the others?" He always had several Companions, to avoid the danger of desiring just one. But he did not wish Jim to leave, and his voice betrayed his need.

This human was different. He wanted to keep this one with him a while longer. A tiny portion of his mind cried out a warning of the danger involved, and he buried its protest till it hid silent and unheeded in some recess of his mind.

"I can stay for awhile longer."

"You must be sore."

Jim smiled. "I know what I'm doing. And your needs are so..."

He hesitated, and Spock realized he was being diplomatic. "Brief?"

"Yes. I barely touch you, and you come. Yes, we've done it a number of times—"

"Fourteen."

Jim laughed. "I wasn't counting. But all together," he ran the cloth sensuously over Spock's upper chest, "they would make three—maybe four—good satisfying encounters for a human."

"I envy you." The words were out of his mouth before he even realized their reality.

Jim looked surprised. "You're doing what is natural for you."

"Humans get great pleasure and enjoyment out of this act."

Spock watched in fascination as a series of expressions chased themselves across the human's face. Surprise. Curiosity. And, oddly, understanding. "You do not get any enjoyment from sex?"

"As I'm sure you noticed, I am barely rational during this time. There is pleasure, yes, but I do not remember it very well, and what I am conscious of is relief when it is over." He started to admit he was half-human, but remembered just in time that it would be dangerous anywhere in Terran space to share that information with a stranger. He changed his words to, "I should say, instead of envy, I am curious as to what it is like for Humans. But I cannot experience this. We are what we are."

"Can I do something to make it better for you? I'm sorry—I would have asked Seela or Robert for their advice, but I didn't have the time."

"Later, when the need is not so great, I enjoy it when Humans have used their mouth."

Jim's mouth—already a source of fascination to Spock—formed a brilliant smile. "As much as you want."

Yes. As much as he wanted. For three days time. An emotion he couldn't identify impinged upon his mind. He tried to examine it, and recognized that it contained the concept of reluctance, of regret. For what? Always, in the past, he had been grateful when the Time was over, eager to put it behind him, eager to move on with his life. Why, then, this desire to prolong his stay?

Fever rose again, and thought receded, left discarded by the unseen tide of lust that consumed him. Fire flashed when Jim mounted him again, and then flame destroyed his mind.

*****

Spock opened his eyes, drifting in a haze of satisfaction. His cock, once again temporarily sated, had slipped from the recesses of the Human body, and Jim was moving, swinging one leg up and over, kneeling briefly at Spock's side. Lying there in a wonderful lassitude, briefly unplagued by need, Spock got a clear unfettered look at Jim's hard Human penis.

Jim was aroused. He admired the Human cock, its arching shape, its pinkish-red color, the way the skin stretched taut over the shaft.

Without thinking, he pulled his legs up and offered himself. Turning his gaze to Jim's face, he found himself smiling at the surprised expression.

"You don't have to do that," Jim said.

"You are in need."

"Not the same thing at all." Jim offered him an easy grin, and Spock felt something in himself shift in response to the beauty of that expression.

"I want to do that." He looked pointedly at Jim's groin. "Would you not enjoy it?"

Jim shrugged, then grinned. "The customer is always right." He retrieved a tube from a drawer beneath the table.

Spock caught his breath as Jim stroked his cock, spreading the lubricant from base to tip. Jim's lips parted, his eyes unfocused and distant with the pleasure he was obtaining from his own hand. That, too, was another reason to envy Humans: they needed no other being to obtain their gratification.

Then Jim's gaze refocused, and he put on a practiced smile, slowing his stroke, smiling seductively, moving closer so Spock could have a better view.

It was becoming difficult to hold his legs up without the use of his hands, but Jim quickly made it easy for him. Positioning himself so his cock nudged the entrance to Spock's body, he settled Spock's legs on his shoulders.

The press of Jim's penis against his anus was a startling sensation; he wondered if there would be pain. He had not experienced penetration before. But Jim moved back, and reached once again for the lubricant. Spock craned his head, trying to see what Jim was doing, then he gasped at the sensation of a new touch: a strong finger, circling his entrance slowly, sending sparks and shards of sensation arrowing through his body.

The finger entered his body. The touch was most welcome. He pressed against it, already aware it wasn't enough. Jim looked up at him, and there was a smile on his face. Spock found himself smiling back, utterly unconcerned at this breach of Concealment.

He gasped as a second finger joined the first, his body eagerly accepting its slow invasion. When Jim withdrew his hand, he felt only a brief moment of bereavement before a third finger joined its companions in a slow penetration of his body. His cock was pulsing again, but it was with less urgency, less flame than before. Need did not destroy rationality. He found that to be a wonder, and then forgot to think, focusing instead on the sensations inside his body, the way those fingers were spreading him, opening him. When they withdrew and were replaced, once again, by the tip of the Human's cock, he pressed forward immediately.

Spock gasped as the head entered his anus. Despite Jim's ministrations, the sensation was startling and painful.

Jim paused. Sweat beaded his face and body, and his skin was flushed. "I can stop now." His voice held a low throatiness that Spock found compelling. "I don't need to do this."

Spock saw need in the other man's eyes, and he couldn't help but respond to it. "Yes, you do. I wish it." And, in truth, he did. Flames were licking at him again; he could feel renewed pressure building in his groin, and suddenly he wanted nothing more than for Jim to continue with his actions, to place his penis inside his body, to pierce and penetrate him.

Jim shifted a bit, seeking a better angle, and Spock pulled at his chains, eager to assist him.

"Would you like me to take those off?"

"No," Spock gasped in sudden fear. "No. Do not."

Jim didn't say anything else. Strong hands moved from Spock's hips to his buttocks, parting him further, and then the slick Human cock was sliding in, penetrating him. Spock gasped at the unaccustomed feeling as the human began to thrust, slowly at first, and then more quickly. Sensations—of pain, of fullness, and then—startlingly—of pleasure filled him as nerves awakened and sent new information racing to his brain.

Jim's face revealed his pleasure. Spock watched, fascinated, as expressions of lust and need and surprisingly, tenderness, chased themselves across the mobile features. Now Jim's face was close to his, so close. He was desperate to close this gap. Fever made auras visible; he could see the crackle of brilliant light around Jim's face, see the way Jim's energy arced toward his, Seeking. Humans did not Seek, he reminded himself, and yet some treacherous part of him wanted to ask for a kiss, anything so he could touch Jim's face, anything that might initiate Touch.

Fear licked at his mind. He savagely bit his lip to prevent those words from escaping his mouth, and used that pain to quell his desperate longing for completion.

"Am I hurting you?" Jim gasped, but his body belied his concerns by thrusting more strongly.

"No," he replied softly, feeling a thin trickle of blood from his lip. "No."

His own penis had fully awakened now. The Fever, oddly, seemed less urgent; the sensations in his penis sharper, more localized. His cock was trapped between his body and Jim's, eagerly enjoying the friction in its contact with the skin of the other man's belly. He gasped at each dragging contact, writhed against the hardness inside him. The Human suddenly gasped out a short harsh cry, snapping his hips strongly, and Spock squeezed his eyes shut, savoring the sudden rush of hot fluid deep inside him; then suddenly, caught in the same tide, felt his body find its own satisfaction.

Exhaustion crashed in on him. He closed his eyes, welcoming oblivion.

*****

The Human, wearing a short robe, was sitting at the table, making entries on a padd that was angled away from Spock's view. A tray of food was pushed to the edge of the table, several small plates showing the remains of what had been a large meal. The scent of strong coffee wafted from a cup and a carafe placed within easy reach.

Upon emerging from a sound sleep, Spock had spent several minutes just gazing at the Human, who seemed wholly focused on his work.

Spock's body felt good—calm, relaxed, peaceful. This was only a momentary lull; he knew the Fever would be back full force within the space of a few hours. But for now he could enjoy this simple sense of well-being.

It wasn't wholly unalloyed. His arms ached from the extended amount of time he'd been chained to the bed, and he felt an entirely unaccustomed soreness in his rectum. These discomforts did not matter. At least his body was clean; he had hazy recollections of Jim gently using cleaning cloths on him on several occasions as the hours had passed.

The Fever was abated for now; this Human had done wonderful things for him, and he knew he would once again survive the Time, and go back to his Family.

He had woken several times during the past few hours, sometimes in Need, sometimes not. Each time, he had found the Human sleeping beside him. Once Jim had been sprawled out on his back, head turned away, arms and legs flung wide. Another time, he had been curled up on his side, his face so close that Spock could examine each individual eyelash and the shadow it cast upon Jim's fair skin. Spock had spent long moments contemplating the fine texture of that skin, the curl and color of Jim's hair. His hands, still confined, had curled restlessly in their futile quest to know Jim's touch and texture, and though the rest of Spock's body was now intimately acquainted with these facts, that tactile knowledge was not enough, and never could be.

When he had been in Need, Jim, somehow sensitive to these changes, had awakened and used his hands or his mouth to give Spock relief. And that had been enough, for the first hunger was now past, and though it would flare again, several times before the Fever was fully assuaged, these other manipulations were enough to give him a quick and sometimes painful relief.

When he had awakened a few minutes ago, he had been alone in the bed. He had not, however, felt abandoned.

The Human was fascinating to observe. His hair was as changeable as his eyes. The overhead light picked up blond glints in otherwise light brown hair. And those eyes... When the Human had penetrated him and bent over his body, that face had been so close to his own that, even in the grip of his need, he had memorized every feature. He had stared into those eyes, trying to understand how flecks of green and brown could form an entirely new color, one that was changeable with each shift of the light. How odd to remember so much, during his Time. And yet he did.

He felt himself spontaneously smiling at the unaware human and examined the unusual phenomenon. He could smile, he had learned to do so among humans, as they did not understand parhavt'hal—the polite Concealment of all emotion. Smiling was something he had practiced. Smiling had led to acceptance among humans, and since he and the other men in his Family were rarely required to discuss their emotions, he found he was able to utilize some minor outward facial expression of feeling to good effect. These expressions were far simpler to manage than the intricacies of emotional language; he was grateful he rarely was confronted with the necessity of conversing about matters best left unvoiced.

It had taken years before his sense of indecency had faded enough to allow him to smile spontaneously, and he could still be shocked by public displays of tears or anger or laughter. It was, of course, entirely different if these displays were among the Family; it had been thus with his father's people, though such displays were quite subtle and restrained compared to those his Human Family indulged in. The Graysons were exuberant people, given to great emotional displays, both positive and negative. Parhavt'hal was not something many Humans valued, though all the members of his Family understood it and accepted it in him, and some, his cousin Sarah prime among them, practiced her own form of emotional control.

Jim looked up, and smiled back. It was a spontaneous smile, with none of the practiced art of a Companion. Jim quickly realized this, and got to his feet, body already in a seductive pose, his warm smile altering to one indicating sexual interest. "Do you need me now?"

Spock had noticed the human's gaze had shifted to his groin, before returning to his face. His penis was quiescent; he did not need now, nor would he, for a short period of time. "No, thank you. Do you not require rest?"

"Not right now." Jim touched the padd, and Spock heard the distinctive click as the machine deactivated. "Do you need anything else? Food? Drink?"

Rilka had clearly not had the time to share information about many of his needs with Jim. His other Companions, on previous occasions, had known exactly what he required—and did not require—during this time. He would need neither food nor drink until the Fever had passed completely.

Jim had come to him clearly with little knowledge. Oddly, instead of inspiring fear, this realization triggered a surge of exhilaration. He wondered if he dared freedom from the restraints? It would be safe enough, now that he was not burning.

"No food. But if you would release me for a short time? Perhaps I will have some water."

Jim moved to the bed, and touched the controls on the restraints. The manacles fell away, and Spock moved his stiff, painful arms down to his sides.

Jim moved to help him to a sitting position, and ran strong fingers over his shoulders and upper arms in a brief massage, taking Spock by surprise. "If you'd like to wash...?" Jim indicated a nearly-concealed doorway to a lavatory unit.

Spock, aware that the air was heavy with the smell of rut, both his and the human's, ducked his head in a nod. He went inside the small chamber and made quick use of the water shower. After all these years, he still longed for sonics, but Humans hadn't invented that technology yet, and with many matters of more importance facing them, he'd never gotten around to designing one for either the Leda or any of the other Grayson ships.

He dried himself thoroughly, and discovered a thick, dark robe in the tiny closet space. Wrapping it loosely around himself, not bothering with the cloth belt, he joined the Human at the table.

In his absence, Jim had arranged for the delivery of an assortment of mineral and plain water. The small glass bottles were arrayed on a lacquer tray. Moved by this thoughtfulness, Spock selected one, and tasted its contents briefly, before setting it back down on the table.

Jim was watching him with open curiosity. "I've heard about you, of course, but meeting you is another matter."

Spock felt strangely disconcerted at these words. "I hope you are not offended that I was so insistent in my choice of you. Rilka tried to explain to me that you are not a Companion, but in my need I desired you greatly when I saw you on the monitor."

Jim spread his hands in an open gesture. "I have been a Companion, in the past. I don't object to serving again." He didn't mention the exorbitant amount of money Spock had offered for him, and the Vulcan was grateful for that omission. Now that he wasn't in need, the sheer obsessive extravagance of his offer was vaguely embarrassing. He knew, of course, that he had no control over any of his actions during his Time, and yet, his instant craving for this human surprised him.

"I've never seen anyone like you before."

Jim was studying him with open interest, and—Spock was surprised to recognize—admiration. Jim's gaze flicked to the tops of his ears. Suddenly aware that his ears were completely exposed he made an aborted gesture to pull his hair forward to conceal them, then stilled his hands before the other man's curious eyes.

"Where are you from?"

"I do not know." How easily he lied. But it would not matter if he spoke these truths. "I was born in space. I have never been to my father's world. I do not even know, precisely, where it is." Not precisely, no, not at any given time, but he could make a close approximation. That was another fact he would not confide. "My Family were—are merchants, travelers. We have been exploring space for many generations, but only recently encountered Humans."

"You must have seen many wonderful things on your travels."

Spock detected the emotion called envy in Jim's tone. "Yes. I have."

Jim began asking questions, and for the next hour, taking an occasional sip of water, Spock related many things... the iridescent nebula of K'tharu, the Thousand Moons of Dö'orýv, the winged people of Ñòykl. Spock drank in the many expressions that crossed Jim's face—interest, curiosity, and an odd hunger he didn't quite understand. Jim seemed fascinated by his tales of other worlds; and Spock found many incidents to relate. While he spoke of his travels, he contemplated with interest the color of the human hair, complex in its shades of gold and brown, and the fine texture of Jim's skin, and the supple softness of his features which could display many pleasing expressions.

Jim's most pleasing expressions were his smiles. Spock found himself captivated by the variety of those smiles. He was long since accustomed to the ease of Human emotional expression, and yet, Jim was unlike any Human he had seen before. Jim was looking at him as if, when he smiled, that smile were intended for him alone. He wasn't like Rilka's other Companions. Professional though they were, Jim was different.

"I dreamed of going into space, as a child—being a pilot, exploring new worlds." Jim was focused on some distant, interior vision, not on Spock.

"Have you ever been off Tarsus—perhaps to Terra?" Spock asked.

Jim's gaze snapped back to his face, and a shuttered look instantly concealed the expression in his eyes. "I've never been offworld—not since I arrived here, and I was a boy then."

Spock heard the presence of strong emotion in Jim's voice, but he had once again become fascinated with Jim's eyes. That combination of green and gold and brown... so curious, how first one color seemed to predominate, and then another, changing in response to what Spock said.

He realized a silence had stretched out between them during the time he had spent studying Jim's eyes. Jim gave him an encouraging smile. He searched his memory for the human's last words. "Where were you born?"

"On Terra. My parents were hoping to make a new beginning here. We came in the second wave of settlers."

Spock knew the meaning of that bitter fact. "Before the famine," he whispered.

Pain flashed across Jim's features. "Yes. Before the famine."

Spock swallowed at the sorrow in Jim's voice. Then a hard brightness crossed the human face and the sorrow vanished as if it had never existed. Spock was quite impressed at this evidence of Parhavt'hal. He'd long known, of course, that Humans could be as skilled as Vulcans at concealing or denying their emotions; few of them ever chose to do so.

Spock wrapped his hands around the hard glass bottle. He dared to take a sip, then relaxed as the cool water soothed the dryness in his throat. A flush of heat bloomed in his body, a tightness gripped his genitals, and he shifted uncomfortably. "You were one of the Favorites?" He hadn't intended to speak of this, and regretted it the instant the words left his mouth.

A bleak light shone in Jim's eyes, but an easy smile touched his lips. "Yes."

"You must have been very young." He should stop speaking of this. Why was he speaking of this? He shifted again. Need was back again, and he regretted it bitterly. He was actually enjoying this conversation with this fascinating stranger; he dearly wished that it could go on for many more hours.

Jim's smile hardened. "He chose me when I was thirteen, and I—left his service—when I was seventeen." Jim studied his face again. "Tell me more about yourself—your people. Do you prefer humans to your own kind? Is that why you choose to come here—"

Spock had the sensation of quicksand opening before him. The need in his body was making it difficult for him to remember what it was safe to speak about, and what it was crucial never to say.

Jim must have read something in his expression, because he stopped speaking and gave a rueful laugh. "It's obvious I haven't done this work for awhile. I apologize for asking questions."

"Do not apologize." Spock wanted the softer expressions back on Jim's face. "I am very far from home. There was an—accident." Some of his words were lies. Not all. He was saying too much—he knew it—but more words escaped him. "I know no others of my own kind."

Jim's eyes were astonishingly expressive. They now displayed sympathy and sorrow for him, and more curiosity. "Can't you go back to your home world? Is there no one who knows where it is?"

"It is too far. My family had traveled for many years. It would take half a lifetime to return, and to what purpose? I know no one there. I would be a stranger."

"You would be among your own kind."

I am equally among my own kind here.

But he managed to keep these words inside him.

Jim's eyes were glowing with sympathy, and he suddenly reached out, laid his hand gently on Spock's forearm.

Heart racing, Spock flinched away from the unbidden touch, even as his cock leapt. He twisted at the sensation, and his robe fell open. Jim pulled back his hand, and opened his mouth to utter something—an apology? —but caught sight of Spock's urgent penis.

Jim glanced toward the bed, then at him, a clear question in his eyes.

Yes. That would be best. These words were becoming dangerous. It would be better to finish this; safer to be confined to the bed; preferable not to speak.

Fever was spiking up again, and with a strangled moan, he lurched to his feet, and went to lie upon the bed.

Jim efficiently attached the manacles, then stepped into the lavatory. An instant later he emerged. Spock caught a strong whiff of the lubricant the other man had clearly just applied and his penis surged with need. When the human joined him on the bed and mated their bodies with instantaneous ease, Spock fell willingly, gratefully beneath the flames.

Fever flared. Jim's face hovered in the dimness above him, vanishing, being replaced with pieces of other images. Sometimes he thought it was she who gave him this ease, and he muttered broken words to her, in his childhood language. T'Pring, T'Pring. She had slaked his need only once, before—

Before—

He groaned, as nightmare and memory and need arrowed through his body, laser-sharp, and shoved T'Pring's memory away. He forced his eyes open, blurred through the fever haze, and kept his gaze on Jim as he came, again, and again.

*****

Floating, in a sea of calm well being, he allowed himself just to exist, to be, without thought. He sensed the approach of some warmth, some energy, moving along his side, then pausing next to his head Through slitted eyes, he watched, half-dreaming, as a darker form, haloed by light, hesitated beside him. For a long moment he absorbed that warm presence, recognition of t'hy'la becoming clear on some deep cellular level.

The form bent forward, and he felt the distinct press of lips against his temple. His hands, trapped in the manacles, twisted restlessly, fingers moving into an instinctive pattern. Everything in him yearned toward that one point of contact, moved forward, upward, outward, surging forward to meet its twin, its match. Energy touched energy with an astonished shock of recognition, interlaced and tightened together—

NO!

Consciousness jolted through him and his eyes snapped fully open as Jim, startled, stepped back from his brief, tender kiss.

Spock knew his eyes were wide with horror, knew his face must be betraying some powerful emotion, as the Human's face showed an expression of consternation. "Are you all right?"

"I—" he gasped, and found he was incapable of saying anything more. Some vast surge of energy had hit his body, struck and swirled and raced through his veins, like something struggling in a whirlpool. He coughed, choking, then managed, "Let me go."

Jim quickly released the manacles. He leapt to his feet, staring at the other man. His heart was racing, breath coming in ragged gasps.

"I'll call the medic," Jim said.

"No. No," Spock protested. "I was—it was a dream. You woke me from a dream."

Jim looked mollified. "I'm sorry. I never do that—I don't know why I did." He laughed shakily. "I've been out of the business longer than I thought. I know not to kiss anyone." His concerned gaze searched Spock's face. "That must have been some dream."

Spock fought against a dizziness that seemed to sweep him around the room. "My wife." He managed to speak, through lips that seemed stiff and nearly beyond his control. "I was dreaming of her as she was—before she died." He found he had backed up against the wall, flattening his hands against it to preserve his balance.

Jim's face was betraying more alarm. "You do need help."

"No. I do not," he insisted. He spared a moment to check his physical condition. Yes. The Fever was over. His Time had passed. And yet—

Staring into Jim's concerned gaze, he was intensely aware of what had passed between them.

Fear consumed him. His mind raced. Perhaps this was repairable. Jim didn't act as if he'd noticed anything. Yes. He would meditate; he would destroy this thing that had happened. The sooner he left Jim's presence, the better.

He pulled in a deep breath. "I do not mean to alarm you. I require rest now." Now that he was no longer in Need, he was suddenly aware of the cool air on his nakedness. He needed to find the right words, as Jim's eyes still betrayed concern. He forced his body to relax; he forced himself to step away from the wall. He dropped his arms down to his side, barely aware of the deep muscle ache from his long confinement. "It was being awakened so suddenly that caused me to react so. I thank you. Rilka always provides the best Companions."

Something in Jim's gaze altered at that, and the professional smile returned. "We do our best. Do you need anything else?"

"Nothing. Just a few hours of rest. I will notify Rilka when I leave." He ducked his head in a half-formal bow.

Jim returned the gesture, then grabbed his padd from the table, and left through the further door.

Spock found himself staring blankly after him. Rest. Yes, he needed rest. On the Leda, not here. In the past, he had stayed for some extra hours, to replenish his strength, to be certain the Time was truly over.

He found a harsh, ugly sound had escaped his lips. He recognized the sound. A bitter laugh. His Time might be over. But what he had feared, what he had struggled against all these years, despite his best precautions, had happened.

Now his true difficulties would begin.

A Bond had formed. He must obliterate it, before it destroyed him.

*****

He barely remembered the aircar ride back to the spaceport, or the way he staggered as he made his way through the terminal and back to his ship. Sheer physical exhaustion competed with the singing electricity of the newly-formed Bond; unpleasant physical symptoms racked his body. His heart raced; then chills shuddered across his skin. Muscles cramped. Doubtless, he appeared inebriated, but this was not something that would draw attention in Loris Town.

Once inside the Leda, he had resisted the temptation to curl up on his bed in the aft compartment. He desperately wanted to plunge into a healing sleep; he wanted to savor the new completeness. He wanted to reach out with his mind, to Touch his other soul.

The coldness of what was left of his rational mind forbade he allow himself this indulgence.

He managed a call to the spaceport authorities, confirming that he would stay docked here for the remaining two days of his prepaid contract; informing them that his early return to his ship did not mean an early departure.

He gave in to one bodily need, and made a quick meal of prepackaged rations and plain water. Then he sat in the copilot's chair, Daniel's chair, and for long moments didn't think at all, merely letting the unaccustomed vantage point keep him conscious and aware on a very basic level.

He unclenched his hands and began a basic breathing exercise. He needed to enter into a deep state of meditation, but it was difficult to achieve any level of calm.

For the next several hours he focused his attention on soothing the surface of his mind; a necessity before he finally dared go beneath that preliminary level, before he dared search out that place where the new connection had been made.

It was difficult to examine this. Difficult to recognize the cauterized stump of his bond with T'Pring. Her death had been a fireball in his mind, a lightning flash erasing sanity, leaving him like one stricken with a catastrophic illness, collapsing instantly to the ground, crawling mindlessly away from the pain, plunging into coma, seeking oblivion, heedless of self. Daniel had told him he did not come back to sanity for weeks after her death.

He did not understand why he had lived after T'Pring died, but in the years since, he had found that by clinging to the surviving threads of his former life he still had purpose: in being of use to his Human relatives, Daniel, Sarah, the children, and all the rest of his Human Family. But with every year that passed he was faced more and more with the pain of his relentless biology. He struggled with the constant fear of what might happen if he should form another Bond—something he knew he must never do. He was the only one of his kind, now; a being unlike any in the rest of the universe. A biological dead end. No one else must suffer, because of him.

He tried never to contemplate the ragged edges of the broken bond; had visualized strong scar tissue covering it, keeping him away from the pain which had nevertheless beckoned in the darkness of many nights spent alone. He would never be truly alone, of course, not as long as he was living with his Human Family, and yet, though he was surrounded by many people, there were none to truly understand that on some level he was starving.

He had collapsed into a coma when T'Pring had died. When he broke this new bond, that might happen again. If so, he had preprogrammed the Leda for departure in two days time. Perhaps his programming might not be sufficient to satisfy the Loris authorities, but they tended to be casual with their security scanning when well-supplied with his money, and would have little interest in the departure of a ship that had visited on several occasions in the past without incident.

Finally sinking down into a level deep enough to maintain calm, he found control and was able to dispassionately examine what had happened.

Here. It was here. Over, and around, and somehow through, like a dead tree now covered with strong, living, intertwined vines—here was the new link, somehow formed over the old Bond; as strong and as true as the link with T'Pring had ever been.

He carefully attempted to unknot the structure, and was instantly surprised at how strong it was, how quickly it had formed. Every careful untwining of the connections filled him with pain, cutting his mind as if the vines were knives slicing open his skin. When he fell back, not able to deal with the anguish, the link reknotted itself, becoming stronger, tighter, more impervious by the second.

Finally in despair, he gave up and fell crashing back into reality, and finally, into a healing sleep.

*****

He awoke, feeling cold, cramped and stiff. He had somehow slipped from the chair and was lying curled up on the hard floor near the navigation console. He tried to sit, and dizziness, sorrow, and pain all threatened to overcome him.

He grabbed the copilot's chair and levered himself up. Blinking blurred eyes, he looked at the ship's chrono. It confirmed his time sense was still intact. Over 48 hours had passed since he had left Rilka's establishment. He had less than a day to deal with the situation, and he knew he must deal with it now. The longer he waited, the more irrevocable the Bond that now linked him to a stranger.

He forced himself to think. There must be a solution.

It was clear he couldn't deal with this now, alone. He stood. This might lead to his death. But if he did not take this step, his death was certain.

He did not know yet what he would do. But perhaps, if he were to see Jim again, he would be able to break the link at its source. He hoped this would not damage the Human. He knew breaking the Bond would cause damage to himself. There was a strong possibility he might not be able to return to the Leda.

And, whether or not he was capable of returning to the Leda, in all likelihood the human would not let him. It would be necessary to tell Jim the truth. He knew the Human's likely response.

Cold fear filled him; he set it aside.

He took a moment to add to the ship's programming. There. If he did not return in the scheduled period of time, the ship would self-destruct. He made certain the damage would be contained to the engine compartments; once done, the ship would be unusable. It was already untraceable. He and Daniel had wiped the computer clean before this Jump to Tarsus; at all costs he must keep his Human Family safe in case the Ministry of Truth discovered his existence.

It was time to leave. He was, very probably, living the last hours of his life. He dressed quickly in fresh clothing, and, taking a selection of weapons with him, went back into Loris Town.

*****

Once outside the confines of the spaceport, he disregarded the vehicles-for-hire. Instead he walked into the vast, smelly warren of Loris Town, letting instinct guide him.

He forced his way through twisted, crowded streets, following his unerring knowledge of the correct direction. Leaving the commercial district quickly behind, he moved into a succession of darkened alleys. Buildings rose above him, several stories high, cutting off the light. In shadowed corners, things shuffled and rustled, stank and dripped. Shouts and arguments and screams rang in the air; once someone ran past him, gasping for breath, followed quickly by a pursuer.

He was well able to see in the low level of light, and in corners and doorways he saw men who would rob him, who would kill him without thought. Yet, he had no need of the weapons he carried. He could feel himself being assessed, and each time unerringly found the gaze of his potential attackers.

Each time, he passed unmolested. He did not understand it, but there was something in the aura around him that projected menace, warned others away.

He had been surprised when his path led him far from the House of Flowers, and yet the link was true and clear, and he mourned at this further evidence of his failure to break the Bond. But this, at least, might lead to success. With the Bond between them already so fully formed, no matter where Jim had gone on this planet, he would be able to follow and find him.

Alleys. Darkness. Violent sounds, repulsive smells. He walked through it all, finding what he knew was the most direct, most sure path to his unwilling Bondmate.

Into a basement, through a dark confusing maze of paths and blank rooms, heading deep underground, and still he knew exactly where to go. Shapes of abandoned furniture, broken crates surrounded him in the darkness. The only light came from a tiny sliver of a window set near the ceiling. Finally, he faced a door half-rotted and splintered with time.

He grasped the handle, pulled it aside, finding it surprisingly sturdy despite its appearance, and stared blankly at what was revealed beyond.

There was another door, inset within the first. Brushed silver metal formed a frame for a shimmer of blue nothing. A hazy ripple shuddered through the energy pattern.

Finally, he realized what it must be.

A transport panel. Exorbitantly expensive, and yet here it was, in a filthy tenement basement, a jewel in the darkness.

He looked at it in wonder. He had heard of this technology. It was truly an amazing achievement—the ability to break any object down into its component atoms, transport those atoms amazing distances and then reassemble the original object, whole and complete, at a selected destination.

Many had died in perfecting this technology. Only Terran warships and the wealthy elite of Terra had access to it. What was it doing here? How could it possibly be here, in this furthest of the frontier worlds? Kodos had more actual authority on Tarsus than Terra's distant Administrator could claim; an object of such fabulous value should be in his palace, not in the basement of some criminal hideout in Loris Town.

It did not matter. He realized, with a sizzling sense of anticipation and fear, that—wherever this led him—Jim would be waiting.

There was no way of telling where the panel was preprogrammed to beam a user. Perhaps one needed a particular code. Perhaps it led to nothing but an unimaginably fragmented, dispersed death.

It glowed in the dark, a shimmering panel of power. He reached out to it, then hesitated, his fingertips a bare inch from the swirling energy.

He swallowed and dropped his hand.

And yet... he had no choice. It was imperative he find Jim and break what had formed between them—even if he died in the process.

If he didn't find Jim, he would die anyway. It would just take a little longer. Better to die now, than in an unfulfilled pon farr.

I am insane, he thought as he stepped through the transport door.

Flash—swirl—sensation—a thousand insects crawling on his skin, screeching in his ears—passing through a thickness, slow as water. Then—light—

Dim light. He stumbled forward into a small barely-lit room. A confused impression of computer displays and racks of weaponry hit his vision before he focused on the Human behind a desk.

The Human locked eyes with him. A phaser instantly appeared in Jim's hand. Spock took a second to wonder at the presence of this new, expensive technology in the hands of someone like Jim. This was Terra's latest weapon and thus the most costly merchandise in the trade of underground arms dealers.

He had seen phasers before. He recognized the setting.

Set to kill.

Their gaze held.

"How did you follow me?" Jim demanded.

Spock swallowed. How to put into words what he had never dared speak of. "I must speak to you. Something happened between us."

Jim laughed, a harsh, hoarse sound. "Yes. Something did. I haven't been able to stop thinking about you since then. What did you do to me?"

"It... is difficult for me to speak of this."

"What are you?"

"I am a Vulcan." There, words he had never spoken outside of Family, in the air now, spoken to a stranger.

Meaningless words. The Human's face showed blank incomprehension. "I've never heard of that race."

"Few Humans have. I spoke the truth earlier. I have never seen my father's world."

"You didn't answer my question. The important question. How did you follow me? What did you do to me?"

Spock closed his eyes tightly, then forced them open. "Rilka would have told you why I come to her establishment every few years. Why I must be chained to the bed while having sex."

"She said your species has a rut cycle; that you are much stronger than humans; that you are afraid of injuring us."

"That is all true," he whispered. "But that is not the reason I need to be restrained. I do this because I cannot allow myself to Touch you—any of you."

"There was plenty of touching going on between us." Bitter irony laced the human's voice.

"With my hands," he explained. "With my lips. I do not kiss, either. I fear Attachment."

He flinched from the heat of Jim's anger. "You're going to have to explain yourself better than this."

"I requested you because I felt shan hal lak..." He struggled for an equivalent Human word. "Attraction. I knew it was dangerous. It is not possible to think rationally in pon farr. I thought all was planned, and then I broke the plan myself, because of my Attraction to you."

Jim's grip tightened on the phaser. "You're going to have to start making sense soon, or else I won't need to listen to you at all."

"Why did you kiss me? It was you who kissed me. I would have warned you, if I had known what you intended."

"I know better than to kiss a client. I don't know why I did that..." Jim shook himself, the phaser wavering for a moment, then leveling again. "Enough bullshit. Explain, in simple words, what you did to me. How you followed me here."

The words threatened to choke him; when he finally spoke, he knew the words to be his death sentence. "I am a telepath."

Jim's eyes went wide with shock. "Psi!" The word was an curse, an abomination.

Spock did not mistake the look of disgust and loathing that filled Jim's face. Inside, something cringed, something broke.

Jim's face displayed fear and sheer rage. "What have you done to me?"

"I have formed an Attachment to you. I can break it. I came to break it."

"How do I know you haven't taken over my mind?"

"If I had, would I stand here, like this, before you? If I could control your thoughts, would you be holding that phaser?" He swallowed against the pain that threatened to overwhelm him; he struggled to find Human words that would explain concepts that Humans did not possess. "I swear to you, I have not done this deliberately. I came to break what formed between us. It had not been my intention to make a Bond."

Dark rage contorted Jim's face. "I don't know what you did. But I think it will end if I kill you."

"Yes. That is true." Spock resisted the temptation to close his eyes against the waves of anger and hatred emanating from the Human. He would face death with his eyes open.

Jim held his gaze for another long moment, then his expression shifted and some of the anger drained away. But his voice was vicious when he spoke. "Get out of here." The hazel eyes blazed. "Get off Tarsus. Never come back. If you do, I'll kill you. Don't think I won't know it, if you return."

Spock hesitated. His own life was forfeit, but what of Jim's? What would this bond do to the Human, if it were allowed to continue, unbroken?

"Go, before I kill you." The phaser shifted up again, aimed directly at his chest. Not that it mattered—a strike anywhere would destroy him.

Spock turned. How odd. It was difficult to move his feet. One step. Another. Then a rhythm resumed; he could move away from this man, back to the transport door.

Don't pause. Don't look back.

He didn't do either. When he reached the door he stepped into that swirling energy without hesitation. He felt nothing for an eternal instant before he found himself in the stink and clutter of that badly-lit Loris Town basement again.

He turned and stared into the blue energy pattern, mind blank. With numb hands, he closed the splintered wooden door against the way to his Bondmate. Forever closed.

He was already dead. It might take another two to three years, but his fate was assured.

Like a sleepwalker, he threaded his way back through the narrow, dangerous streets of Loris Town. Someone tried to rob him; he left his attacker unconscious in a stinking pile of garbage. His actions and words were automatic as he gave bribes and followed port protocol to reclaim his ship.

Once back on board the Leda, his body demanded survival. Foolish, and yet he ate and drank, replenishing the reserves drained by his Time.

At one point he found himself sitting in the pilot's chair, staring at the controls. There seemed no point in doing anything, and yet his hands moved of their own accord. He was able to function. At the very least, he needed to return the Leda to his cousin. The ship was valuable. He spared a moment to consider that it was good that the ship did not have to be sacrificed, as well. The self-destruct sequence had automatically deactivated upon his return.

He secured permission for liftoff and took the Leda into the approved orbit. Once there, he programmed the course heading into the auto-pilot. The ship would make three random Jumps, in case anyone was attempting to trace his course, and then would proceed to the Zeus. From this point on, the ship would do it all without him.

He made his way to the aft cabin, feeling as if every part of his body was now a stranger to him. I have no future, he thought. Without bothering to remove any of his clothing, he collapsed into a fetal position on his bunk and covered himself with every blanket he possessed. He was filled by a weariness so palpable it seemed a thing entirely separate from himself. A harsh emotion stained his mind. He recognized it.

Despair.

He had known this emotion before. He had been saturated in this emotion when he had woken from his coma and discovered that he alone of his people lived.

He had somehow survived.

He would not survive this.

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