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He got a long look from both of them before he stalked off. He was angry at himself and nursing a couple of broken ribs at the time, but he still should have paid more attention to it. The look they shot him, and the look they turned on each other as he plastered a pleasant expression on his face, took that ass of an ambassador by the arm, and led her along after the chancellor himself.

It was a hell of a gracious gesture, considering how badly she'd aggravated the situation. He wasn't entirely sure the Capellans would have even re-entered talks if he hadn't given them such a blatant sign of Federation solidarity.

The Capellan people suffered from a surprising sense of entitlement that had irritated his CMO right off the bat. The ambassador tended to react to them even less favorably than Dr. McCoy did. Things had started out bad and gone downhill from there.

Plenty on his mind. He still should have known better. He endured the rest of the afternoon and collapsed in his suite sometime after local sundown. He was expecting Bones. He would have been ready if it had been Bones.

Spock saw through him immediately. He might've been able to keep his temper if it hadn't been so glaring. When Spock walked in he looked vaguely harassed, like he'd been forced to do a level one systems check with academy cadets, explaining every single step a hundred times. He looked up at his captain, mouth already open to speak-

He checked his stride. His eyes went soft, his body language immediately shifting. He abruptly had the look of a man proven wrong.

"Captain, are you all right?" He approached cautiously, looking concerned. Kirk would have taken a deep breath to stem his sudden irritation but he couldn't guarantee his expression would stay steady with his ribs in their current state. The last thing he needed at that point was a couple hours in sickbay under his CMO's watchful eye.

"Yes, I'm fine," Kirk snapped off, turning away from his approach, rebuffing him with body language as well as words.

Spock paused, pressed his lips together.

"If you'll pardon me, sir, you seem..."

Tired, Kirk thought silently. I'm tired.

"Thank you, Mr. Spock, for your concern," Kirk interrupted. He looked his first officer dead in the eye and put all of their knowledge of each other into the flatness of his voice. "I can do without the sentimentality."

He winced inside a bit at hearing that come out of his mouth. He'd meant to say sentiment, he swore he had. Spock straightened like someone had yanked on his strings, some echo of past admonishments lending weight and mass to his captain's voice. Kirk had an instant's thought that perhaps that was the seed of some of Spock's respect for him; when Spock melted he really melted, it seemed like Kirk was always there to snap him back in line...

Some strange echo of Sarek trailed after his words and he flinched away from the implication.

Spock had gotten sharp, too damn sharp and it was his own fault- after so many years, he'd picked up some of Kirk's devious nature. Spock's lips parted, and he hesitated. Kirk could almost see the gears turning.

"Jim," he said then, gently.


"You are attempting to divert my attention," he continued, eying Kirk carefully. Probably making note of his posture, his coloring, the rate of his breathing...

Dammit, he couldn't do this now.

"I am attempting-" His voice was nearly a shout, and he stopped, continued at a lower volume without sacrificing one iota of intensity. "I am attempting to keep my first officer's nose out of my private business."

Spock stared at him. Then, slowly...

"Dr. McCoy has concerns. Concerns that I share."

"If Dr. McCoy believes my behavior is adversely affecting the smooth running of my ship or this mission, he can file a report or come to me directly, thank you for your time, Mr. Spock." He knew it would never happen. As far as anyone was concerned, he'd saved the mission and the ambassador nearly singlehandedly.

Spock knew that, but it didn't stop him. He paused, lifted his eyebrows, and regrouped.

"His concern is not for the ship, or the mission," he said quietly, the contrast in their tones of voice a kind of delicate blow to Kirk's spine. Spock glanced up under his eyebrows. "And neither is mine."

For Spock, that was quite an admission. Kirk's stomach sank a little. The air was suddenly thick with what Spock wasn't saying. He took a step toward Kirk, only one. Kirk wasn't entirely sure Spock was aware he'd done it. His body language shifted as he moved, until Kirk was sure a blind man could've seen Spock wanted to be touched. Some small gesture, some acknowledgment of the risk Spock was taking, leaving himself open. Kirk looked point blank into the gentleness seeping into his friend's eyes and felt a sudden black rage boil up. Now? He was doing this now?

"Getting a bit too close, aren't you, Spock?" Kirk said with starch. He was moving forward before the meaning of that had fully hit home. He stopped half an inch from Spock's nose. "Showing through?" he growled.

A kind of sick suspicion flared in Spock's eyes. Kirk smiled a tight little smirk that had nothing to do with happiness.

"It's getting hard to ignore," he said, quietly, viciously, and stepped back.

Spock had gone white.

"I...I beg your pardon?" he said, sounding faint.

"Your concern," Kirk said with delicate emphasis, "went beyond friendship a long time ago."

Spock jerked, just slightly. As if the words had actually struck him. His eyebrows went down in a sharp V. He shook his head.

"I...have not..." he protested weakly. He looked like he'd been shaken hard, right down to the roots. Kirk could almost read his mind in that moment. 

I have not said anything. I have not done anything. I have, in fact, done my Vulcan best to make sure you never found out...

"Haven't you?" Kirk said coldly. It was true; at this point, he'd have to be blind not to see it. Kirk watched whatever color that remained in Spock's face vanish. Shame tugged at his face so blatantly he might've held up a sign. Kirk struggled for a moment with the taste of bile in his mouth and forced the words out.

"Get out," he said sharply, sounding disgusted to his own ears. "Before it's too late." He was disgusted. Just not with Spock.

Spock looked up at him with bleak recognition in his eyes. "Yes, sir." He choked.

Kirk was ready. He was good to go. His personal life on the pyre to duty; just the universe operating normally. He glanced up, as his first officer left.

He glanced up.

On his way out, just for a moment, Spock rested his hand on the ledge by the door, where Kirk was currently keeping some horrendous gifts he'd been presented by the chancellor and his wife. Spock rested his hand there as he faltered, leaning his weight on it as if he couldn't possibly go on. Then he straightened, curled the offending hand into a fist, and moved to leave.

There was something so poignant in that small loss of control. Something hideous in the fragile stiffening of his posture. Bracing himself for the world. The world, Kirk abruptly realized, without Jim Kirk in it.

"Spock," he said and nearly twitched in surprise. He hadn't meant to speak. He really hadn't. Spock shuddered to a halt. Very stiff.

There was something wrong with Kirk's chest. He couldn't breathe properly.

"It's already too late, isn't it," he said quietly, any anger he might have had drained. Not Spock's fault his timing was lousy. Not Spock's fault he knew his captain so dammed well he could spot trouble in Kirk a kilometer off.

Spock, you observant bastard...

Spock said nothing. Maybe a little shake of his head? Kirk took two long strides across his suite and caught his first officer by the arm, swinging him around.

For a moment Spock flared, jerking his arm; then froze, looking shocked with himself, composing his face savagely.

Kirk pressed his lips together. Too late. He bowed his head a moment. He had some time, some leeway. Some. He looked up. Spock was breathing unevenly. He would say something in a moment. In a moment the chance would be gone.

Jim Kirk sighed from the bottom of his weary soul, leaned in, and kissed his friend. He shoved his head up and pressed his mouth against Spock's with a savage simplicity.

Spock yielded to it, his lips parting, his body stumbling back against the closed doors. He made a soft little sound, swallowed by Kirk's lips. It said everything that needed to be said about longing and wanting and what was felt in the quiet darkness of the early morning hours. It raised gooseflesh all down the backs of Kirk's arms. He was doing this now. They were doing this now.

Kirk got a knee in between Spock's legs, which suddenly didn't seem all that steady under him. Then Kirk pulled back a little, looked up at Spock's face. For a moment he wondered, absently, if the reason Vulcans tended to be so standoffish was because the more you got to know them, the easier it was to read the expressions on their faces. He barely had to try with Spock anymore.

Spock's mouth was slack, his lips smeared wet from Kirk's mouth. He looked like he'd been slapped. And Kirk had slapped him once or twice. He could spot the expression.

"Captain," Spock managed, sounding like the word had been squeezed out of him.


Kirk curled his lips in a predatory smile, pushing aside the clear feeling he had that he was doing something vaguely monstrous. At the moment he didn't have much in the way of alternatives, so he leaned up against Spock, putting a lot of deliberate, solid pressure on the object currently digging into his hip. Spock shut his eyes, his breath going out in a hiss. Kirk tilted his head up, brought it close to Spock's ear.

"Spock?" he said, the exhalation ruffling a few black strands of hair. "Have I read the situation correctly?"

Spock swallowed audibly. Kirk did nothing further, just resting his weight. Comfortable.

His stomach churned once, reminding him...and after a long moment of hesitation, he yielded to the need to accelerate things a bit. Lightly, he put his lips to the base of Spock's neck, bit him a little. Underneath him, Spock's whole body tightened at the touch. His hips jerked, just barely enough to feel, and Kirk rewarded him with a light caress over the area in question.

Spock tightened his grip on Kirk's shoulders. Kirk tilted his head up as he leaned in. His breath spread warmly over Kirk's face. Then Spock hesitated, eyes flicking up... needing to see the look on his face? Kirk wasn't sure. The moment passed fluidly with Spock's forward motion as he dipped his head and pressed his lips lightly against Kirk's.

Kirk responded in kind, teasing with his mouth, pulling back and leaving Spock a little frustrated with each brief, gentle pass of his lips. He was enjoying himself immensely, savoring the little noises he was drawing out of his friend. He was pressed so hard into him he could feel Spock's erection twitch through the fabric of his pants.

Spock's hands slid down his arms, gripping just above the elbow. Gripping hard.

It was a good thing he had- Kirk would have had to brace himself as he felt a quick clench of nausea. He shivered and swallowed, fighting the reflex for all he was worth. Spock interpreted it as something else, kissing him more roughly, urgent.

The moment passed and he responded to Spock's bright flare of passion with lightheaded relief. In the wake of his churning stomach he was left oddly energized. An unhealthy, buzzing, electric feeling, all down the back of his neck, shooting sparks out his fingertips. His heart stuttered once in his chest, irritable and jittery.

He felt an abrupt hesitation in the rhythm of Spock's mouth on his, a sudden faltering in the grasp of his fingers.

It was possible, with his ears, that Spock had heard.

Kirk pulled back, sucking at the Vulcan's lower lip, scraping assiduously with his teeth. As he pulled away, his fingers were plucking at Spock's waistband, diving below it, hungry for the feel of warm flesh. Anxious for a distraction. Kirk released Spock's lip with a sloppy sound just as his fingers closed around his erection.

Spock gasped, arching into the touch, pushing into the palm of Kirk's hand. Shocked and eager. Attention successfully diverted.

Breathing harshly, Kirk freed himself, pressing his erection against Spock's. Feeling the hard, moist length of him and rubbing up against it roughly. A deep, guttural moan slipped past Spock's lips and he jerked his hips forward roughly, his hands clutching Kirk close with iron strength. Pushing into him with a sudden, desperate single mindedness, like a man offered his hearts desire...but only for about five minutes.

Kirk felt a long-fingered hand grasp him just below the curve of his rear end, lifting at the base of his thigh. Spock took a step forward and turned, pushing him up against the bulkhead. Bringing them closer. Shifting him to fit more snugly.

He rested his forehead on Spock's shoulder, breath muffled on his neck as he strained, groping for friction. Spock's penis was seeping fluid everywhere, slick and fragrant, and Kirk kept sliding off to one side. Spock choked out something, possibly his name, he couldn't tell. It nearly sounded like a sob. Kirk looked up sharply.

Spock almost looked like he was in pain.

Kirk pushed his face up close, hesitating. God, he hadn't thought this through. He wouldn't have done it if he'd thought it through.

"Spock," he breathed, brushing their cheeks together, lightly. Kirk pressed against him, wanting to comfort but knowing he couldn't. He could feel Spock starting to tense up underneath the stretch of his body.

"That," Spock gasped weakly, "That feels..."

The break in his voice sent a sharp shiver of raw desire down his throat. Spock was almost there. He could hear it.

Kirk slid off to one side again, and with a flare of frustration reached down and grabbed the both of them with one hand, pushing against Spock into his own fist.


"Oh," Spock breathed, with rising tension. Jerking into Kirk's fist with an intense, irregular desperation. "Oh-" Sounding excited beyond bearing, Spock suddenly stiffened against him with a strangled sound. It was possibly the best thing he'd ever heard in his life.

He could feel the orgasm in the pulsing of Spock's erection in his hand. In the convulsive clutch of his fingers on Kirk's upper thigh. Spock spurted into his fist, the front of both their pants already wet with his fluid. Kirk's palm was already slick with it. He had a brief, vivid flash of what it would be like to have that in his mouth.

Clear pre-ejaculate dripping down his chin.

With a harsh gasp he came, spilling come onto his own fingers, onto Spock's penis. It clung in pale beads to the dark hair at the crease of his thigh.

For a moment, they held it there, panting against each other.

Then Kirk pushed away, knowing from the sizzle of energy under his skin he'd pushed the timing a bit too far. As he looked up at Spock he felt the strain in the muscles of his eyes, noticed the unnatural brightness of the room. He looked aside before Spock could see the size of his pupils. Fell back a step, covering himself with one hand.

Spock leaned back against the wall. He looked...frightened.

Kirk realized his unoccupied hand was twitching a little in an abundance of energy and stopped it.

"I have to go." The pure and literal truth. Spock flinched at the impact of the words. Flinched as they struck him, hard, in the face.

"You...I...do not understand." The look on his marvelously impassive face was clear as cut glass. Don't say it. I know what you will say. Don't say it.

Kirk looked at the ground, blinking his altered eyes in the sudden brightness.

"I have to go," he said quietly, adjusting his clothing. "I can't-" He caught himself looking up, up into bleak brown eyes."I can't stay," he continued, voice calm. Watching his friend start to unravel like weak thread right in front of him.

What had he been thinking? What-

Kirk straightened, took a deep breath, and turned away from him. He thought, as he passed through the door, that he might've heard something. Something from Spock. He didn't stop to check.

Sometime far too close to dawn for his comfort, Kirk was approaching Doctor McCoy's suite of rooms. He had a heavy load in his arms that practically guaranteed a stab of soul-curdling pain from his broken ribs with every single step. With each breath he got the urge to lay down and whimper. Needless to say he had a definite tendency to stagger to port.

The journey wasn't far. He paid for every last inch of it. He was half terrified he'd miss the room in the blinding light of the hallway. When he got to what he thought was the right room, he checked the number twice, blinking and shaking his head, feeling his own blood spray across his face.

He leaned on the door frame and nearly slid down it, nearly dumped his awkward bundle on the floor. He caught her under the arm at the last instant, made a wild grab for the door panel.

The doctor, bless him, hadn't locked his room.

Bones looked up from an earnest-sounding conversation with Spock and dropped his drink.

"Jim!" he sputtered in shock and dove forward as Kirk started to tilt. The doctor caught him, jarring his ribs, tearing an anguished sound from him. The ambassador spilled from his suddenly senseless fingers, landing in an inelegant heap on the floor. He heard the whirring of a medical scanner. Heard Spock calling for assistance...

"The ship!" Kirk snarled, grabbing at the Doctor's shirt, making a fist in the fabric. "Sickbay."

A flare of surprise in Bones' clear blue eyes. "But Captain-"

"Sickbay. Both of us," he demanded, reaching out for the ambassador's sleeve, pulling her close. Bones looked up at Spock, and he must have called a beam-up. The next thing he recalled clearly, he was on the transporter pad, his face pressed to the cool metal. Scotty was shouting something-

Then nothing.

He heard the beeping of the overhead monitor first. It seeped in around the edges of his awareness, mingling with his dreams. He jerked awake with the realization of what the sound was, what it meant. He caught himself on the edge of the bed, was abruptly pushed back down by strong hands. He blinked up, blearily.

"Now, are you going to behave, or do I have to break out the restraints?" Said a dry, familiar voice. Kirk couldn't quite get his face in focus, but...

"Bones," he said with a wince. A hypo hissed at his shoulder. "What-" he started to snap, sharp as a whip.

"It's to help with the muscle spasms. I've kept the lights down for you, your pupils are sensitive right now." There was busy noise, the sound of things being shuffled on a tray." I don't suppose you care to tell me what happened."

Kirk hesitated.

"Not...especially." He pushed himself up. "The ambassador?"

A pause.

"Alive. Worse off than you are, that's for sure." Another pause. "I don't know what was pumped into you, but don't think for a second I don't-"

"Doctor." A no-nonsense baritone, off to the left...he couldn't quite get his eyes to behave.

"Mr. Spock, " Kirk said lightly. "You'll forgive me, I didn't see you there."

The vague blue shape broke away from the wall, approached the bed until his face was nearly clear.

"The chancellor is dead," Spock said pointedly. "He was murdered."

Kirk narrowed his eyes.

"Now, we don't know that-" insisted the doctor.

"Doctor, please," Spock said sharply, with the definite air of being at the far end of a long argument.

"Gentlemen, I don't know what you are implying, but the death of the chancellor is obviously a great tragedy," Kirk said smoothly.

"And his murderer, Captain?" Spock said, cautious. Kirk smiled benignly.

"If the chancellor was murdered the culprit must be caught, and punished." He nodded soberly. "I trust, in my absence, you have offered the planet side authorities your full cooperation."

Spock stared at him for a moment. "Is there some reason I should not, sir?"

If Kirk had to guess, he'd say his first officer was caught off balance.

"Of course not, Mr. Spock, I'm surprised at you."

"Your condition-"

"My condition is of no concern," Kirk replied firmly.

"Captain-" Bones sputtered. Spock touched his arm to still him, and Kirk got a sudden sick lurch of suspicion.

"The Capellan authorities reviewed the sensor logs for the chancellors quarters. The images were wiped, but a technician managed to pull out the signatures of two distinct life signs. Capellan."

"And?" Kirk prompted with his usual brisk impatience.

Spock stared at him for a moment. Then he turned his head with surreal deliberation to look at the readings on the monitor over Kirk's bed.

"Your readings, sir, are most unusual for a human," Spock said quietly, with the sober, predatory air Kirk recognized from one or two chess endgames. Kirk opened his mouth...and Spock lifted a hand, adjusted the console above Kirk's head. Kirk went utterly still as he watched the readings shift with the adjustment, evening out to green right across the board with a simple, understated obviousness even he could see.

"However, for a Capellan, they are quite normal," Spock finished softly.

Kirk felt the color drain out of his face.

"That's quite a coincidence, Mr. Spock," he said in a flat voice. Spock and McCoy shared a glance.

"It's more that a coincidence, Captain, and I think you know that." Spock looked up again. "Doctor?"

McCoy made an abrupt, explosive sound and lost his temper. "Dammit, Spock, you haven't proven anything!" Bones shouted.

"Yet," Spock corrected, and internally, Kirk couldn't help but smile. “If you would share with the Captain the results of the chemical analysis of the compound you isolated in his bloodstream-”

"I'll have no part in this," Bones insisted, jabbing a finger in Spock's direction. "If you honestly think Jim Kirk could be capable of-"

"I am quite aware," Spock said with deadly seriousness, "of what James T. Kirk is capable of."


James T. Kirk took a moment to swallow that, then leaned back and fired off.

"You're right, Mr. Spock. Of anyone in the universe, you would know what I'm capable of." He leaned forward, swung his legs over the side of the bed. "Tell me," he said casually, "hypothetically speaking, of course-" he caught the intent nod of Spock's head, "- what, in your opinion, could be an acceptable motive for such a heinous act?"

Spock looked at him for a moment. Then down at his hands.

"This room," he said calmly,"Is currently secure. So any comment I might make would be confidential to the people present."

"Mr. Spock, I expected nothing less of you," Kirk replied, and Spock accepted the complement with a graceful incline of his head.

"I...would have to say..." Spock paused, obviously uncomfortable. He glanced up. "If the obvious motive of self-preservation were discarded..."

Kirk nodded encouragingly.

"If there was a...danger to the ship, or her crew..."

"It would be unlikely, though, given the apparent element of careful planning involved," Kirk said, as though having a pleasant conversation. Spock fell silent and Bones flinched.

"Jim," the doctor said, appalled, "you can't mean..."

"This is a hypothetical exercise, Doctor," Kirk began lightly, then continued with sharp eyes. "I haven't said anything."

"Orders," Spock said softly. They both looked at him.

"You were under orders," his first officer repeated, slightly louder. Kirk stared at him steadily as Bones shot him a surprised look. He said nothing, just sat and quietly stared at Spock. Spock reached up and tapped the console, and it went back to reading for human normal, Kirk's readings sliding all over the scale.

Spock glanced down at him significantly.

"I appreciate that," Kirk said, voice soft.

"You realize," Spock said hesitantly, "I can not-"

"Spock-" a ghost of a smile flickered on Kirk's face, "You have had standing permission to enter my quarters for some time now."

Spock met his eye and said,
"I have," in such a way it was impossible to tell if it was a question or not. Another meaning, unintended, abruptly branched off from Kirk's own words and stood there like an offering. Kirk didn't flinch.

"You have," he confirmed, ignoring the doctor's rising eyebrows. "And," he continued, breaking the mood, "if you were to look at some of the sealed files on my computer in those quarters," another bare smile, "you might learn a few things entirely by accident."

Spock narrowed his eyes. "Encrypted files, sir?"

Kirk said something, far too quietly for McCoy to hear it. Spock's eyes widened and he murmured a name. It might have been Keebler...or something similar. Spock straightened, nodded, and went out. Bones made a huffy sound.

"Why you're welcome, Mr. Spock," he said to the closing door, then cocked an eyebrow at Kirk. Kirk saw Spock hesitate in the hall before the doors shut on him, and smiled. He watched the Doctor pull up a chair with a sigh.

"Dammed if I know how one man can get himself into so much trouble," Bones muttered, pinning him to the bed with a glare. Kirk managed a laugh.

"I suppose I owe you an apology," He said, and glanced at the door. Several apologies.

Kirk walked into Spock's quarters with a bottle in one hand, and a pair of glasses in the other. He set the bottle on Spock's desk in front of him, eyes flicking up to the Vulcan's face. Spock's face was shadowed, his eyes dark and glittering in the dull reddish lighting. Kirk placed the glasses next to the bottle with a faint clink. Spock's viewer was on, but Kirk couldn't see what he was studying.

"I trust," Spock said softly, "that you are feeling well, Captain. I presume Dr. McCoy has released you from sickbay?"

Kirk smiled, popped the top off the bottle.

"More or less," he said lightly. Spock raised an eyebrow, and Kirk's smile got brighter.

"We had a short drink and a long talk." He hesitated over the second glass, asked a question with his eyes.

"No, thank you," Spock replied, his voice still quiet, almost distracted.

Kirk's face softened a little. "It would have been...easier if you hadn't known," he guessed, voice colored with empathy. Spock lifted his head at that. His eyes were troubled.

"Easier? Perhaps." He trailed off, looking at the screen. Then he shook his head. "Any...distress I might experience is irrelevant. The chancellor is dead regardless." Spock pressed his lips together, folded his hands.

Kirk leaned a hip against the edge of the desk.

"You are satisfied, then, Mr. Spock?" he asked bluntly. Spock's head snapped up, his features sharp with a frown he wouldn't allow on his lips.

"No, I am not," he said with equal frankness and a slight shake of his head. "But...I..." A thought passed across the darkness of his eyes like a cloud over the sun. It colored his voice with sudden delicate intensity. "I haven't heard a word you've said," Spock finished, and looked away.

Kirk started in surprise. He looked down at his first officer for a long moment with gentle eyes.

"I...see," he said finally, glanced down. "Thank you," he said after a pause. He took a generous mouthful of brandy and sighed past the burn of it down his throat.

"The past few days have undoubtedly been difficult for you." Spock commented in a very different tone of voice. It bothered him. Sounded almost...hollow, somehow.

Kirk cocked his head, set his drink down, and settled himself more heavily against the desk.

"Some of it," he admitted. Spock looked up sharply. He looked abruptly and thoroughly terrified. "Spock..." Kirk continued, concerned, and leaned forward.

"Captain, my..." he choked on the word "...actions, the evening before the chancellor was killed were..." he shut his eyes, as if the conversation was literally too emotional to handle while looking at Jim.

Jim leaned over and got a steadying grip on his upper arm. Then he angled his head and just barely brushed his lips across Spock's mouth. Spock went still under his hands. His eyes were wide and followed him as he pulled back. Kirk smiled, lifted his eyebrows and asked his friend something simple.

"What do you want, Spock?" He said it gently. Spock could have taken it any number of ways.

Spock stared at him a moment as if his brain had frozen up.

"What do I want?" Spock repeated, looking bemused by the idea. Kirk laughed, a little.

"Yes," he said with a smile that he'd been told could charm bats out of trees. "It's a simple question." Though, he'd always thought bats lived in caves...

"I-" Spock said, and stopped as though surprised. Then he did something Kirk loved him for. He took a moment, and really thought about it. After a small amount of time, his head came up, and his hands came up, and Kirk got one brief flash of intense, dark eyes before Spock kissed him. He felt Spock's hands, strong on the back of his neck, the side of his face. Pulling him in, holding him close.

Kirk made a soft noise as he felt a swift rush of blood to all the right places. His heart was pounding madly- Spock kept breaking away, kissing him again, applying his tongue, then pulling back. The next time Kirk was really aware of anything except for mouth and tongue and teeth he realized he'd practically climbed into Spock's lap. He pulled back and it felt like he was pulling strands of himself, trying to untangle. His mouth was ready to laugh at the situation when he registered the look on Spock's face. It was the same pained, half terrified expression he'd worn just before Kirk had walked out on him, and Kirk didn't much like the look of it.

He grabbed at Spock's shoulders and gave him a brief shake.

"Spock..." then, with feeling, "Spock." Spock blinked, looked out at him instead of inward. Kirk let affection light his eyes, his face, spill over into his voice. "It's all right, Spock." He tilted his head down so he could look his first officer in the eyes. They seemed huge and impossibly black. After a moment, Kirk felt the muscles under his fingers relax a little, and rubbed his hands up and down Spock's upper arms, encouraging. "If it's what you want, it's all right," he insisted. His hands moved further down his friend's arms, kneading with his thumbs. Spock started making soft, pleased sounds, leaning back in his chair.

Kirk kissed him briefly, stood up. Spock shot him an indignant look Kirk thoroughly enjoyed. Kirk held out a hand in reply, cocked his head towards the bed with a speculative look on his face.

Spock was looking at his hand and for a moment he felt strange...like some small concentration of time had made Spock's eyes darker, the blue of his tunic almost unbearable, clearer and sharper than shards of glass in the sun...

Then Spock's hand was closing around his with a finality he felt in his gut.

He was standing up...Kirk frowned as the world suddenly developed a stutter. Time was passing in fits and starts. Spock touched the side of his neck and with a rush, the world caught up with itself, surged forward. It almost felt like Spock had put his hand into Kirk's neck, it was the oddest thing...

He looked up at Spock's face, and the expression he could make out was chiefly one of relief.

"Did...you just..." invite yourself into my head? Kirk watched Spock's face shift subtly. Ahhh. He could feel it, that time. Embarrassment. It swirled around them like milk in coffee.

Kirk abruptly flashed vividly on the look, the pain he'd seen on Spock's face. A few moments ago, and the day before. Whenever the two of them were...close. Maybe Spock wasn't just torturing himself.

Close, but not close enough?

Kirk's surge of concern was warm, and reminded him of apples. He wasn't exactly an expert on Vulcan sex-if Spock needed something he'd have to mention it.

"Does it...hurt?" Not touching him like this? Kirk spoke quietly, riding gently on ripples of not quite thought, not quite emotion. Not wanting to break the tranquil mood that had descended.

Spock hesitated with an oily film of shame, but he didn't stop Kirk from seeing. The clean snap of a sail in high winds let him know precisely how difficult it had been, to avoid touching his thoughts. A crackling cinnamon scent brought the thought of how much better it should be, if they let it happen like this, when they were together...

When Jim was young he would play baseball with his brother. Sometimes when Jim threw the ball he knew the instant it left his hand it would hit dead center. Like the ball was tied to a string, and Sam was just reeling it in.

Rightness. Once in a while, things just fit.

Kirk fell back on the bed, and Spock followed after.

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