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"Did you know about this?" Kirk demanded, upon invading his first officer's quarters.

Spock looked up from his terminal, with a typically phlegmatic expression. "Know about what?"

"This--!" Kirk held up his hand in a sort of chopping motion until he couldn't tense up any more. "FedPop is on my case about alleged," and here he thrust his hand forward, "alleged violations of the reproduction quota, and to make a long story short they teamed up with Starfleet to propose that I solve the problem by . . . marrying . . . you."

Spock tilted his head. "Me? Interesting."

"How so?"

"I received word several weeks ago that a prospective bondmate had been identified and an interview was being arranged."

"But they didn't say anything about a male human, did they?"

Spock seemed to consider this for a second. "No." He looked up at Kirk expectantly.

"They even brought in a woman--a Vulcan woman, I mean--from the Vulcan Population Council. T'Tell. She swore up and down that not only was your family behind this, but the Vulcan Council as well."

This got a reaction out of Spock. He raised an eyebrow and said, "Fascinating."

Kirk waited for him to say something more, and when he didn't he blurted out with, "This is ridiculous. Look, I'll just go back and tell them I want the vasectomy." He started back towards the door.

"Are you certain?" Spock asked, stopping Kirk in his tracks.

Kirk turned around. "Spock," he said, wondering how he should broach the subject, "I'm not sure I would make a good match for you. Sure, I'm bisexual, but I've never stayed with a man for longer than two weeks. I always found some excuse to break up. Not like I stay with women that much longer, but . . . I guess I don't like it when I feel like someone else has the power to control me."

"Ah," Spock said. "Then, perhaps, you are correct. A Vulcan bond would give me the means, in some sense, to control you."

"Really? How?" Despite himself, Kirk was intrigued by this comment.

Spock had his fingers steepled in front of him in good 'Vulcan lecture' mode. "A bonding requires a great laying aside of personal barriers--more so than in a typical mind meld, since it is permanent and total. The bondmates become mutually dependent. Therefore, each participant in the bond is no longer the sole pilot of his own destiny, but rather a co-pilot, complementing and conforming to the needs of the other."

"Ugh, not for me. I don't know how your people do it, but we human beings like a little good, old-fashioned freedom in our lives."

"Naturally," Spock said, without rancor. "Your biology does not require you to do otherwise."

Kirk felt a stab of guilt, then. "How has your search for a new bondmate been going?"

Spock looked at his hands. "Not well. There are few unbonded Vulcans, and even fewer who meet sufficient compatibility factors, such as age, occupation, land of origin, educational background, or economic status. Furthermore," Spock said, with a pointed look at Kirk, "there are even fewer willing to consider a permanent union with a young, half-breed, sterile male. I simply do not have enough to offer."

"But," Kirk said in confusion, "what about your father? Isn't he some sort of important person? And aren't you some sort of local celebrity for serving on this ship?"

"Notoriety does not equal desirability, Jim."

Kirk didn't like what he was hearing. "That sounds terrible."

"There is still time," Spock said. And hope, Kirk heard, although Spock did not say it with his words.

"What do you think," Kirk asked, "of this plan? It sounds to me like a lot of baloney cooked up by FedPop's public relations wing, but if the Vulcans support it then there must be . . . some . . . logic to it."

Spock looked up. "From where they sit there is, indeed, some logic to it. We are of similar age, we have chosen the same profession, and we are posted to the same ship. You are under the sanction of the Federation Population Bureau, so my sterility is an asset. We are mentally compatible. There is no logical reason not to enter into this union."

Kirk flexed his spine and neck. "Logic. There's that word again. No logical reason not to. Just a lot of illogical human objections."

Spock sat up straighter. "Even if you have no logical reason to refuse, you do have the right to self-determination. I believe, were I in your place, that I, too, would refuse."

"You would?" Was Spock about to accept that there were motivations other than the purely logical?

"Willingness cannot be coerced. And without volition, there can be no healthy bond. Without your willingness, there would be no safety for either of us."

"That's exactly it," Kirk said. "They're railroading me into this."

"Furthermore," Spock added, "your willingness to stand by your convictions is admirable. As is your willingness to change course when you realize that you have erred. The latter quality is quite rare in humans."

"I do believe I've been complimented," Kirk said.

Spock tilted his head in a mild affirmation.

"We humans do become rather attached to our convictions," Kirk said apologetically. "And attached to certain parts," he mused. "A vasectomy won't be all bad. I could think of it as backup should a condom break."

"You could," Spock said. "Are you certain you won't reconsider?"

"And stay intact? I don't know, Spock. I like you and all that, but . . . I have a pretty high sex drive. I don't know how that would work out."

"Just how high?" Spock asked in his precise, guileless way.

Kirk smiled, and shrugged. "I like to have sex a lot. Every day, if possible."

"And yet, you do not."

"You're right, I have to wait until shore leave. But I go half-crazy in the meantime."

"You do not."

"How would you know?"

"I am merely stating fact. You do not go crazy in between shore leaves."

Kirk was exasperated. Would Spock ever get it? "I don't mean crazy as in clinically insane. I mean crazy as in it drives me up a wall."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Like I'm going bananas, like I want to jump out of my skin. Like I've got ants in my pants," Kirk concluded, hoping one of the similes made sense to Spock.

"Now that I consider it, I do recall that you become somewhat . . . tense in the week before scheduled shore leave. However, you are remarkably well-balanced, for a human, at all other times."

". . ."

"I do not believe your 'unusually high' sex drive, as you describe it, will be a burden," Spock volunteered. "I myself must admit to great curiosity about human sexuality. I have gathered data through my studies but I have had very little opportunity to test my knowledge in praxis."

Kirk's jaw hung open. "You're kidding me."

Spock tilted his head to the side. "I do not kid."

Kirk rubbed his jaw. "No, you don't, do you?" He thought about Vulcans and sex drives and vasectomies, and public relations hacks, and the Vulcan Council for a long minute. When he was done, he turned to Spock and said, "I'll tell you what. FedPop wanted a reply in 24 hours. That gives us both the night to sleep on it. I've heard about how Vulcans value their privacy so I'll remind you that if we go through with this, it's going to be a Public Relations Office wet dream. And if I find that embarrassing, I can't imagine what it would be like for you.

"Let's meet at 0800 for breakfast in my office tomorrow. We'll discuss this further."

--//--

Kirk studied Spock over their breakfast table that morning. There was grace to be found in those pale green fingers, and a warmth in those hooded brown eyes. He remembered other mornings, mornings on alien planets, mornings in alien jails, mornings in the conference room at 0655 with a cup of coffee in his hand. They had had a lot of good times together. Been in a lot of difficult spots too. Somehow, they always muddled through. Together.

He really was quite fond of Spock. He supposed he'd judged Spock unfairly the other day. Maybe . . . maybe Spock did understand. He'd caught Spock looking at beautiful women once or twice. To know you could never have children of your own--at least, not without extraordinary intervention--that must be a difficult thing to bear.

Kirk fingered the rim of his orange juice glass thoughtfully.

--//--

"I'm doing this to save my balls. That's a good enough reason." Kirk made a kissing motion which was apparently directed at his testicles.

"No, Jim, you are not. You have been ordered to take a vasectomy, a reversible surgical procedure. You will not be castrated."

"I know . . . But going ahead with this will make Starfleet happy, it'll make Vulcan happy, and it'll make you happy. Am I right?"

Spock smiled with his eyes. "Indeed. But I do not wish to see you coerced into this."

"I'm not being coerced."

Spock exhaled sharply and rearranged his long limbs in the chair. "FedPop wishes to make an example of you by marrying you. Yet, this is entirely unnecessarily. With a minor surgery you will be rendered effectively sterile. There is no reason for you to change your lifestyle in any way. Have you considered the agenda behind this move?"

"Yes," Kirk said, "and I considered the costs and benefits to me, and I think, if what you say is true, that I'd be a fool not to take you up on a very . . . sexy opportunity." Kirk tried a lazy cat grin on Spock, but the Vulcan was not swayed quite that easily.

He raised an eyebrow. "Surely this is a flimsy reason on which to change the patterns of a lifetime."

Kirk shrugged. "I've been giving it some thought, and I thought, Why not? I've sown my wild oats. I've had some wonderful experiences, enlightening experiences, awful experiences. Maybe it's time to settle down. Besides, you seem a little hard to get, and I've always liked a challenge."

"That is fortunate. Personally, I am finding this mode of interaction rather challenging already."

"Hang on. It's going to be a bumpy ride."

--//--

"Good morning, Tom." Sandra smiled briskly on her way to the watercooler, walking as fast as high-heel clad feet sinking into plush dura-carpet could carry her.

"Sandy," Tom Alvarez said, turning around. "Any calls from our Starfleet friend?"

"No, but I have a good feeling about this one. He really doesn't want to go through with the surgery." She leaned over to fill her cup. "What was it the other day when he starting talking about Vulcan weddings? He said 'go far,' or something like that."

Alvarez shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine. I'll tell you, though, T'Tell was pretty snippy when she left yesterday. Sometimes I suspect these Vulcans aren't quite right in the head."

They both laughed.

--//--

"Jim, there is something I do not understand. Why, now, after all this time, after never entertaining the possibility, are you capable of considering this?"

Kirk leaned back and scratched the back of his neck. "Spock, it's . . . well, it's not like I've never noticed you."

"I imagine you are aware of my presence frequently."

Kirk's cheeks turned a curiously violent hue in the ruddy spectrum. "Notlikethat. I've noticed you. All right, I've fantasized about you! Not just you, of course--there were others--Sulu, Uhura, Rand--"

"Yeoman Rand? But I thought--"

"I told her I wasn't interested. That doesn't mean I never--"

"You lied?"

"It would have been unprofessional." Kirk ran a hand through his hair, messing it up. "I just don't believe in fraternizing with the crew. Looks too much like favoritism."

"And your officers?"

"Too late. Everyone knows I like you."

"Excepting myself, evidently."

Kirk moved towards him and put a friendly hand on Spock's shoulder. He tried to smile reassuringly. "I've tried to control that aspect of my personality. Besides, I was convinced the response from you would be a resounding zero, so I wasn't going to insult you--or embarrass myself . . ."

"Jim, on the contrary, I would find it flattery of the highest order."

"Really? Better than praising your quarterly summaries of the fuel consumption reports?"

"You give yourself away, Captain. Even you have been known to while away a long hour pondering the finer points of fuel consumption reports. The difference between you and me is that I am not ashamed to say so. It would be illogical to deny what is true."

"Then, do you like me, Mister Spock?"

"Affirmative. I find you most acceptable."

"And you didn't think it was important to tell me this before now?"

"I should have volunteered this information? I'm afraid I'm not familiar enough with your culture. Would you be willing to describe the appropriate circumstances?"

"Mister Spock. Are you trying to tell me that the only reason you've never told me how you feel about me is because I've never asked!?"

--//--

At 0930 hours Kirk stepped into the Secretary's office, neat as a pin.

"Captain Kirk," the pencil pusher smiled, "you're back."

"I have your answer, but you're not going to like it. I refuse to go through with it. I'm going to schedule a vasectomy with my personal physician, Dr. Leonard McCoy. He'll forward the proof to you. Good day, Mr. Clyde."

"It's Ernest!"

--//--

Spock was waiting for the captain in Transporter Room One. This was not unusual, but did it seem to Kirk that Spock's greeting was a mite warmer than usual.

"Welcome back, Captain. Did your meeting go well?"

Kirk shook his head once, gathering Spock up in his wake as he made for the nearest turbolift. "Don't think they're pleased. They're awaiting a certificate proving that my surgery is complete."

"You chose the vasectomy?" Spock said, one step behind him.

"Well, it wasn't much of a choice," Kirk said, gripping the 'lift handle. "Deck Five."

"I see, sir," Spock said meekly.

Kirk sighed. "It's not like that."

"Not like what, sir?"

"It's not about you. I mean, well, it is. Look, I'm not explaining myself well." The doors opened, admitting them to the deck.

"Spock, I think we can both agree you're a very private person."

Spock inclined his head in assent.

"The press--they're like vultures. They'd eat you alive. They circle and hound. They don't stop. I can't imagine for two seconds that you'd feel comfortable in the center of a media firestorm. So, I said, you know what? They can forget it."

The doors to sickbay slid open to admit them.

"So," Kirk said, unconsciously straightening his spine, "this is where we part ways. See you on the other side."

Kirk almost jumped when a warm hand brushed his shoulder. "Jim. I still do not believe this is necessary," Spock said quietly.

A passing nurse bearing a tray of various fluids in dropper-topped Nalgene bottles seemed almost startled by the intrusion of two command officers. "I'll tell Doctor McCoy you're here."

--//--

"It's a reversible procedure. I'll have plausible deniability. I'm not seeing a downside, here."

"Are you sure you're sure?" McCoy demanded.

"I . . . I'm freaked out by the thought of shooting blanks. Actually, I really don't want to think about that. But I'm not going to be pushed into some sort of life-altering arrangement by a bunch of nosy bureaucrats."

"You're awfully fond of the hobgoblin, you know."

"Yes! I know! That's still not a reason to rush into something."

"Okay, well, I can do this, but I'm concerned about your well-being. You seem to have a real issue about this."

"I have an issue with being a glorified poster boy. Plenty of men get vasectomies. I'll be fine."

"If you say so."

"As soon as you're ready, Doctor. I'll be on the bridge."

"Let me take your order. I'm not a doctor, I'm a concierge."

--//--

Kirk hesitated in front of Spock's quarters, but only for half a second. He pressed the call button and was admitted at once.

Spock acknowledged the captain's entrance but his attention was divided by something on his screen. Whatever it was, he couldn't seem to tear his eyes away. "The procedure is complete?"

"Yeah." Kirk fidgeted. "It was no big deal, actually. Not as bad as I thought. Everything works the same, it's just . . . I don't know how it works. But I tried it and . . . you know . . ."

"Indeed," Spock said.

Kirk sauntered over to the desk and leaned over it. "Overtime, Mister Spock?"

"Mr. Scott's simulations. They could boost efficiency by up to 4% in low warp. Naturally, one must account for all variables . . ."

"Of course," Kirk said. I don't even think he notices me at all, Kirk thought. I should dress up as a warp nacelle. "Spock."

Spock looked up, briefly.

"You know those things we talked about before--were you serious?"

Spock turned his head now. At last Kirk had his undivided attention. "Yes," Spock said. "Quite so."

"I'm still," Kirk spread his hands, "interested. I just needed to take some of the pressure off. All the publicity, and the ultimatums . . . it makes it something less than freely chosen. I don't believe in being coerced."

"I believe you do not," Spock affirmed.

"Actually," Kirk started to pace, "I'm sorry it took all this to make me realize what I--what we--could have . . . I never realized the potential that was there."

"It is there still."

They looked at each other for a long, quiet moment.

"Spock, show me something. How do Vulcans kiss?"

"The same way that humans do?"

"No, I mean--don't you do that thing with the hands?"

"The treya? It could be likened to a kiss, yes."

"Is that something you would feel comfortable showing me?"

"There are many different ways to tre-dihl." Spock stood up and came around the desk, facing Kirk. "You wish to be shown the most basic level?"

"First base?"

"Unlikely. More akin to first pitch."

Kirk groaned. "This is going to take forever."

Spock almost-smiled. "It is you who make it so. On Vulcan the parties perform a meld to determine if they are compatible, and, having declared in the affirmative, they arrange to bond promptly thereafter. It is a most efficient system."

"Since we've already melded, purely for duty-related reasons, naturally, I suppose you've already made that  . . . determination?"

"I have."

"But you're going to take your time to convince me."

"To do otherwise would be illogical."

"I bet you say that to all the girls."

"Hold out your hand."

At first Kirk felt nothing more than a slight nervousness. After all, this was Spock: amazingly capable, amazingly strong. He'd seen Spock bend and crumple metal with his bare hands. Spock never shook hands in greeting because of the risk of telepathic contact. Spock had even gone into his mind during the incident on Miramanee's planet and restored his identity while he--Kirk--had fought Spock all the way. So, when Spock asked for his hand, there was some animal part of his mind which was not quite sure what Spock was going to do.

Spock gently molded Kirk's fingers into the correct form, first two fingers raised, the others curled towards the palm, and pressed his own, likewise, against Kirk's.

Kirk noticed the feverish warmth of Spock's skin, a trait he had long ago become accustomed to. "Now what?"

"Patience," Spock said. His eyelids drooped as his attention focused inwards.

Kirk felt, or rather saw, a jolt, a yellow spark against the darkness of his mind's eye. Suddenly, Kirk was somewhere other than in that room; he was in a universe where only Spock was close at hand and every other object was lightyears distant. Spock's fingers moved against his own. Kirk licked his lips. He felt heat up his spine. A consuming lust was invading his body through his fingers. Was this Spock?

Kirk pulled his hand away. The room came back into focus. "That was . . . intense. That kind of felt like first base to me."

Spock seemed to mentally shake himself. He slowly withdrew his hand.

"What I was feeling--is that how you feel?" Kirk was trying to reconcile the feeling with the image he had always had of Spock: disinterested, logical, unmoved.

"Indeed," Spock said, as if it were self-evident.

"So, what, you control this all the time?"

"I would not go so far as to say that, however, increasingly in your presence I have had to control emotions of that intensity."

"I have to say you hide it well." Kirk rubbed his chin and looked aside.

"I am a Vulcan," Spock asserted.

"Right."

"I hope that what you have learned today will, in some way, factor into your decision."

"Mm."

"Very well, I will leave you to it." Spock took a seat at his desk.

"Won't that be a big change?" Kirk said suddenly. "We'd have to share quarters . . . We'd probably drive each other nuts. I think I need you to submit a plan on that before we do anything hasty." Kirk waved his hand vaguely.

"Yes, sir. Any other orders?"

"Nooo . . . I'm headed to my quarters, where I'm going to write a letter to the head commissioner of FedPop telling her where she can stuff it."

"I'm certain that she is only doing her job."

"That's what they all say."

--//--

Spock was writing a letter of his own. It was addressed to his great aunt T'Lema, who was responsible for all the matchmaking in the family.

"All is well on the Enterprise. As for the bondmate you have proposed for me, I find him to be most satisfactory."

~.~

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