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James Kirk, newly made the youngest Captain in StarFleet history, on his first shore leave since assuming command of the Enterprise, found himself intensely disliking his host planet. The society was, in his view, an oppressive one, resting complacently on the backs of an enslaved minority. All morning he and Gary Mitchell had been seeing the sights - guided by Commodore Angelo who had been stationed on Todaka for five years. They had been to a few museums, curio shops, and a match game vaguely reminiscent of soccer. Both Mitchell and Angelo spent their lunch animatedly discussing the sport. Now Angelo was mysteriously guiding them out of the restaurant into a shadowy alley.

"This," he announced, "is the piece de resistance of the tour - which is why I like to leave it for last. What's your pleasure, gentlemen? Beautiful women? Boys! Men? Acrobats, animals, groups? Underwater, weightless, in the dark, in public - whatever your particular - ah, shall we say, interest is, they have it here."

"Yeah, but who can afford it?" sighed Gary theatrically. "I've heard of this place."

"Too true, but it costs nothing to look," and Angelo clapped Gary on the back. The two of them went ahead, with Jim following, intrigued and annoyed. He also had heard of the infamous Todakan dealer’s mart, and the idea of slavery in any form was repulsive. But it could hardly hurt him to have a look - Angelo was obviously making a special effort to be a good host and he didn't want to appear ungracious. This planet had had its customs long before the Federation arrived - breeding their special sexual stock carefully for beauty and docility. There had been dark rumors that for a higher price it was possible to obtain the services of someone off-world in origin; kidnapped, bought or bartered, but the planet's vast mineral wealth created a widespread case of official myopia. The Todakans were old hands at greasing the gears of bureaucracy with a combination of bribes and favors, which met little resistance in the well-fed ranks of StarFleet Command.

Gary poked him in the ribs. "Wake up, Jim, and take a good look around - there's nothing like this back home."

‘This’ was a long avenue, stretching as far as the eye could see. It was bordered on both sides by a succession of large colorful pavilions, each with a loud mouthed dealer standing out front, and each with at least one and usually more prisoners displayed on a raised platform. It was a depressing, tawdry spectacle - he did not see what attraction it could have. Gary had paused and was studying a trio of slender girls, hardly more than children, kneeling upright, all chained about the neck and wrists. The price quoted made Gary whistle.

"You're not seriously considering…" Jim began, when his attention was caught by a commotion at a nearby booth. One of the slaves had been sent sprawling by a backhanded blow from a massive, evil-visaged man, flaunting his evident wealth with fabulously expensive garments, and a large train of followers.

"Peryard, you must not damage my goods," insisted the booth's owner. "This is a particularly valuable piece of merchandise and see!” the trader turned to the captive, who had quietly resumed his position. "You have bruised him, and that will lower the asking price."

"No matter." The fat man took out a heavy purse, and flung it on the ground. "I have already resolved to buy him, therefore any injury I cause is my concern."

The slaver hefted the purse, peered in, and beamed. "Certainly, most noble Peryard, certainly. A word, however, if I may be so bold, just a little word - it would be a pity to seriously damage such a rare and exotic slave. As you can see for yourself…"

"Mind your place, fool. I have sampled him before - too briefly, alas, and can appreciate his value as well as you can. Better, since I am an educated, cultivated man whereas you are naught but scum. Have him sent…"

"Just a minute," Jim interrupted, and both men turned to him in disbelief. The vendor, seeing his uniform, became, if possible, even more obsequious - Federation credit was excellent with all merchants on Todaka.

"Hardly your speed, Jim," Gary murmered in his ear, "although I must confess a certain interest myself."

"Shut up," Kirk hissed furiously. "Can't you see he's not a Todakan?"

"So what?"

"I'd like a word with you," Jim said to the dealer, and something in his tone made the man wince. "Where is he from?"

"Your lordship surely knows it is illegal for us to import aliens into our bazaar - you yourselves have decreed it. Therefore he is a Todakan - what else could he be?"

"Captain,'' it was Angelo, "these matters are best left alone, unless you wish to provoke an incident. This is their planet.”

Jim ignored him. "It is possible that I may be interested in making a purchase," he told the dealer coldly. "That gives me the right of inspection, doesn't it?"

"Oh, yes, my lord, it does. I will strip him for you if you wish…"

"No!" If he is what I think he is, that would be worse than… he mounted the platform and crouched down so he could look the slave in the face.

Dark, guarded eyes, shaded by the long bangs, watched him warily, and Jim had a mental image of a deer he'd seen once on the road at night, caught in his land vehicle's headlamps. He'd switched the lights off briefly, and the animal had been gone when he turned them back on. But no such escape was possible here - the metal collar was fastened in back with two lengths of chain, one attached to the handcuffs, and another, longer, leading to a pole in the center of the platform. The weight of the shackles seemed totally incongruous in the slim, tiny-boned prey they were designed to hold.

The slave himself was striking. Shining black hair hung straight to bare shoulders; softening the strong lines of the jaw, emphasizing a haunting vulnerability. Jim's hand was shaking with anger as he brushed it back, peripherally noting its non-Human softness, to reveal the exquisitely pointed ear he knew he'd find. At that precise moment the prospective buyer shifted his considerable weight impatiently. The Vulcan eyes flickered to him, then dropped, but Jim had seen the fear in them. "What's your name?" he asked quietly, and the other looked at him again.

"Spock."

A Vulcan name, Kirk thought. "How do you know that?"

"I have always been called so." Jim could see the tension, and was aware that he was being regarded as some strange and probably dangerous animal. Small wonder, considering the circumstances - the surprising thing was that he was being addressed directly at all. The other Todakan slaves he'd seen cringed and whined, desperate to please. It was that difference which had caught his eye in the first place.

Angelo was tugging at his arm. "Kirk," he whispered, "don't be a fool. You can't possibly have that kind of money."

Kirk turned, icy now in his anger. "Surely even you can see that he's a Vulcan - a member of the Federation! He's entitled to Federation protection - Our protection, Commodore."

"I am not going to get mixed up in a sordid attempt to cover… look Kirk, if you want him that badly, which I can certainly understand, by the way, go ahead! Just don't expect StarFleet to pick up the tab for you, that's all."

Jim rose, fists tightening, and Gary poked him. "Don't sweat it, Jim. If it's important to you, do it. Don't worry about the money - I can help you out there."

"Thank you, but that won't be necessary," Kirk said, feeling touched and surprised that Gary would back him on this. Avid for a swift climb to the highest ranks, his overriding ambition was compensated for only by his total lack of hypocrisy. And it was only in that detail that he differed from most of StarFleet's personnel. He was also completely lacking in moral scruples -again, like the vast majority of his contemporaries. His next words reconfirmed all the worst opinions his friend had ever formed of him.

"No, really. I have some acquaintances who know people in this market business - before we leave I can arrange to sell him back - you could even make a profit if we work it right."

"No, thanks," the Captain said, and turned his back. The fat would-be purchaser, annoyed by the delay, poked him sharply.

"Hey, earther! I don't have all day to wait while you count your credits! This filthy…" with a loathing gesture he indicated the dealer "is such a jelly that he crawls after every uniformed Federate he sees, so if you want this one, say so." He prodded the kneeling Vulcan with his foot so roughly that, unable to maintain his balance the slave toppled sideways and would have fallen had Kirk not steadied him with his free hand. The other hand had completed the action of shoving the Todakan backwards before he realized that he had moved between them. The man bowed. "Evidently you do. Enjoy him, earther - I can wait. Remember me…" addressing Spock now, "for you will assuredly see me again." Gathering his entourage with a jerk of his head, and retrieving his purse, he walked away, surveying the other wretched prisoners displayed for his choice. Angelo had also gone, and Kirk turned back to the trader, who looked disconsolately after the bag of money.

"I'll take him," he said flatly, and the man brightened. He named a price, and Kirk pressed his thumb to the id-disk, cleared his credit, and the deal was finished. Now the slave lifted his head to stare at Kirk with a taut caution, acknowledging the Human's new status as his owner. Jim smiled at him warmly, doing his best to silently communicate his good intentions. The contact held momentarily, then Kirk felt Gary at his side again.

"Let's go. He'll have the slave sent to your room later - that's the way it's always done."

Kirk hesitated, unsure. "I really don't think…"

"What are you going to do - take him to headquarters with you? He'll be more comfortable back at the hotel."

True. "All right, I'm at the Orion, Suite 138." Suite was a rather grandiose description of his three rooms, but the trader was impressed as hell. Good. He turned on the man arrogantly. "Understand. I do not wish him mistreated in any way. Just bring him there, and leave him alone. Spock," he deliberately used the name, and those strange eyes widened slightly, then were instantly veiled and lowered. "I don't know how long I'll be - I'm on my way now to a meeting which could take quite a while. In the meantime just make yourself at home." Kirk swung back to the dealer. "Remember, I won't have him abused. And for God's sake, he's a Vulcan! Don't you have anything warmer…oh hell. Here." He removed his cloak, knelt, and gently wrapped it around the slender shoulders. He fastened it securely in front, and smiled again. "Better, right? You must be freezing. It's much warmer where you come from, you know. Totally different from all this," he waved an arm, indicating Todakan society in general. "I'll tell you about it later when I get back to my rooms." He glared for a moment at the heavy manacles, then switched back to the dealer. "And do something about those - they're barbaric." He rose slowly. The Vulcan hadn't looked at him again, and now the dealer was hustling him inside the tent, very pleased with the deal he had struck.



It was late. Spock knelt, motionless, in the darkened bedroom, waiting for his new owner to return from whatever business engaged him. He shifted slightly, but his movements were restricted by the heavy slave chains, still in place, and fastened now to the bedpost. The chain had been ruthlessly shortened - he could not stand or sit - the rigid discomfort of his position a reminder; submission, total submission, or swift, vengeful punishment. It didn't occur to him to attempt to free himself even if it were possible. Where, after all, could he go?

As the long hours wore on, his tension increased. What would this Human be like? Would his hands be hard, bruising, uncaring about any damage inflicted in the pursuit of his pleasure - or perhaps, like so many of them, the damage was an integral part of the pleasure. His new slave had no way of knowing, and experience had taught him only that each new owner was worse in his own way than the ones before. Humans were known to be capricious and demanding, and this one had proven himself treacherous also. What was this game he was playing, with his soft words, warm coat? Tricks to get Spock to trust him, so that the pain, when it came, would be even more devastating? It had almost worked - he had felt an involuntary surge of hope, but the long hours in the cold dark, his wrists and throat lacerated by the tight frigid metal, had dispelled that. Tired, too, he was overwhelmingly tired. It had been days since he last slept. Better perhaps to have been bought by the fat merchant, whom at least he knew. Then, remembering where and when he knew the man from, Spock shuddered, bile rising in his mouth. If his choice was between an unpredictable alien, and that pig whose reputation stank throughout the city, then he was almost relieved that the choice had not been his to make. His portion was only to wait, and to endure.

The muscle in his right thigh cramped without warning and Spock gasped, lost his balance, and swayed sideways - to be brought up short by the suffocating collar. Fists clenched on the manacles, he tried to put most of his weight on the other leg, struggling to control the pain. He felt he should be able to, but could not remember how - only enough sense of identity remained for him to despise his own weakness.

The outer door opened, and a light came on in the next room. He froze, feeling the trembling start in his cold hands and take over his whole body.

"Spock?" The man sounded puzzled. "Where are…" the door to the bedroom opened, and the overhead lighting dazzled Spock's vision so that he could hardly see the figure in the doorway. Fear tightened its grip on him - icy, deathly fear, and he lowered his head, eyes clamped shut. Now it, whatever form it would take, was upon him. Soon there would be the violent hands on his body, or the lash on his back, or the searing touch of the hot iron, or… an alien, a Human, would doubtless have totally new ideas of pleasure. He felt nauseated by his panic, and deeply humiliated by it also.

"What the hell?" The anger in the man's voice struck Spock like a blow, and his trembling increased. A hand caught his chin, forced it up, the man's voice hardening to a command. "Look at me. What in the name of…" Jim Kirk broke off - the terror in the black eyes bringing him up short. "Hey," he said tentatively. How to reassure…"hey, take it easy. I'm not going to hurt you." He looked around. "Where are the keys to these fucking things?”

Spock swallowed, voice shaky. "Only one, on the bed … there." Jim picked up the shiny object, and turned his attention to the manacles. Very carefully he unlocked and removed the neck chain, then the handcuffs. Spock swayed, and Jim's hand held him.

"That jackass of a merchant - I told him not to mistreat you! When I get my hands on him, I'll…"

"He did not." With no desire to make difficulties for the dealer, in whose hands he would doubtless find himself again, Spock risked the interruption.

"No? What do you call these?" With surprising violence, the Human threw the chains across the room. Spock flinched.

"They are customary - I am sorry if they displease you."

"They do, but they're off now." Calm down, he told himself angrily, you're only scaring him more. He checked the raw places where the metal had rubbed away the skin, and it was an effort to keep his voice low. "This must really hurt. Hold on, I'll get you something." He rose, went into the bathroom, groped in the medicine cabinet, gratified to find not only soothing ointment and clean bandages, but a bottle of sleeping tablets. He shook out two, gathered the rest of his loot together, and returned to the bedroom. The Vulcan hadn't moved, and it was just occurring to Jim that he wouldn't without permission. "That doesn't look very comfortable - here, let me help you up." He eased him onto the bed and could feel, like an electric current, the fear in the air. If I just act naturally, he thought, surely he'll catch on that I mean him no harm. After all - he's a Vulcan. There's a brilliant mind working somewhere - underneath whatever's been done to him. Submerged, but I can feel it. "Take these," he ordered, proffering the pills and a glass of water. Obediently the slave swallowed them and looked up again, lips bloodless. "It's ok." He probably thinks I just poisoned him…" they're only to help you sleep. Here - raise your chin a bit so I can reach …that's it." His hands touched the other's throat and Spock made a small, trapped sound, the protest choked back almost as soon as it was born. Pretending not to notice, Jim finished his ministrations, went on to examine the injured wrists. He held both hands in his for a moment, palms turned up, and saw underneath the present blood-welling wounds the scars of other chains, other nights like this one. The injustice of it tilled his soul with fury. He couldn't even imagine what atrocities had been committed to so thoroughly cow a member of that proud, self-willed race.

And although he was an adult male by Human standards, in Vulcan years he was barely out of adolescence. How could this have happened? Well - morning was soon enough to find out. For now, his new … companion - needed sleep more than anything.

Heavy-lidded with fatigue and the drug, Spock allowed himself to be pushed back on the bed. He lay still, awaiting the inevitable violation with a familiar, sick horror. His apprehension had increased. Whatever was hidden behind this elaborate disguise must be horrible beyond belief. His surprise, therefore, when Jim pulled several warm blankets over him, brushed the hair out of his face, dimmed the lights, and left, was total.

Left! Why? It seemed imperative to stay awake, so as to be prepared for the next step, but that was impossible. Despite his fatigue, and the pills, sleep was not a welcomed guest, but an enemy to be fought for as long as possible until he was literally pulled underneath by an undertow he could no longer resist.

He was held down by powerful fingers clamped about both wrists and ankles, spreading him wide open. A heavy, f1at palm covered his mouth and nose until his whole body was on fire for air. He arched, twisted, struggled for escape, for freedom, for breath, but it was useless. Callous fingers fumbled between his legs, the enormity of the action making his lips open in a strangled scream against the hand mashing them into his teeth, desperate, agonized… Strong arms snatched him away, his tormentors faded into the mist and he could breathe - face buried in something warm, and yielding. He was safe, finally safe; the thought remained as the powerful sedative once more threw blackness around him like a cloak – a warm, soft, safe cloak.

Within minutes Jim felt the desperate clutch around his waist lessen, and the Vulcan subsided, limp against his chest. Breathing evenly, soft, long black eyelashes shadowing a face which seemed very young, and beautiful. Jim contemplated him, newly aware of the enormous responsibility he had taken on. Instinctively, his mind backed away from it. There must be family on Vulcan - probably searching - they would be able to reach his mind and restore his memory. The silky black hair was soft under Jim's cheek, and he leaned back on the bed, allowing Spock to settle into a more comfortable position against him. There was a lump in his throat. He felt strongly protective of this elusive, vulnerable Vulcan - a feeling brought powerfully to the surface by the cry which had torn him from sleep to pull Spock out of the clutches of whatever nightmare had been tormenting him. Now he relaxed into the pillows, resolved to stay the night here, to ensure that the dark vision would not return. He slept.

*****



The intercom awakened him. Its insistent note kept sounding while he carefully - extricated himself from the still sleeping Vulcan, nearly falling over the bedside table in his haste to silence it before Spock awoke. It was Gary.

"Hey, Jim, what's happening? Are you up?"

"I am now." Jim's lips were twitching in reluctant amusement. He didn't want to be amused by Gary right now - the man's callousness in the bazaar yesterday still rankled. There was very little love or compassion in Mitchell's nature, but Kirk was aware that that was what made him eminently suited for StarFleet service. It was he himself who, despite his apparent success, was the misfit.

"Had to call and see how your new - ah, acquisition was working out. Is he any good?"

"Go to hell."

"Now don't be mad - I'm only kidding. I know you better than that -you're too soft-hearted, or soft-headed. Anyway, your tastes run to the rounder, curvier gender, right? At least they always…"

"Is this why you called?"

"Only in part. Look, I'm on my way out for breakfast - want to join me?"

Kirk looked at the time. "Breakfast?"

"Whatever - lunch, it you prefer. Coming?"

"No, I don't think so - he's still pretty frightened."

"You mean you haven't impressed upon him the fact that you're Great White Captain - protector of the oppressed?"

"He's not going to be easy to convince - I can't even imagine what he's been through."

"Yeah, I'm sure it's been rough. Come on, Jim - lighten up. At least you wouldn't have to worry about him running away - they're conditioned against any escape attempts."

"Conditioned how?"

"You wouldn't want to know. Believe me. Just take my word for it, he'll stay put right where you leave him."

"Well, I should be here when he wakes up. We'll have lunch sent in."

"Suit yourself. I'll see you later. Listen, I'll do some research for you - see if I can track down his original owner. That might shed some light on how he got here."

"Thank you, Gary - I really appreciate you giving your time like that."

"It's a royal pain, but I'll force myself to go through the bazaar again, talk to some of the dealers, checkout the night-houses…

He snorted. "Have fun."

"For you, my Captain, I'll work my bone to the bone. Mitchell over and out."

Kirk was chuckling as he deactivated the intercom. Turning, he saw with a start that Spock was awake, covers drawn up to his chin, regarding him gravely. Again he was aware of the intelligence behind those black eyes, analyzing him, monitoring his every facial expression. Kirk smiled, took a step towards the bed. "Good morning. Are you hungry?”

With the increased proximity, Spock felt his precarious composure waver. The man had been too tired for it last night, that was all. Now … but the Human turned back to the intercom. "Well? What would you like? They have pretty much anything you could think of, so feel free."

"I … am not particularly hungry, thank you."

"Oh?" Kirk stopped studying the menu card, and turned. "How can you not be hungry? How long has it been since you ate?"

Spock tried to remember. "I - yesterday morning, some cereal."

"Yesterday morning! Only some cereal? What about before that?"

"Three days before."

"Damn!" The man hit the intercom button again, and spoke into it, keeping his voice low to cover the fury. Done, he turned back to the Vulcan. "Look," he said, picking his words carefully, "I don't know how to convince you of this, but I'm not going to hurt you. Really. I'm not. I bought you to help you. To free you." Pause. "You don't believe me, I see."

Spock nearly choked. "I do not doubt your word, my lord, and I - I am sorry I did not answer your previous question to your satisfaction. It was unintentional."

"Oh, I'm satisfied. I'm satisfied that you're half-starved and afraid to tell me so. That's why I called…" the outside door's buzzer interrupted him. He started to answer it, but stopped. Spock's eyes had snapped to the door, and his face was paper white. Jim stared at him, at a total loss. The food will help, he thought, and got the tray. He had ordered pancakes for himself, vegetable broth for the Vulcan, and juice for them both. "Careful, it's hot," he warned, and set the two platters on the table. He turned to Spock. "Well, come and get it."

With an unconscious grace which again reminded Kirk of the deer, Spock came over to the dining area, and sat in the chair indicated. "Eat slow, now, or you'll be sick. Here, let me…” he reached across the table to remove the spoon and napkin from their plastic wrappers. Spock pulled back so suddenly he nearly tipped over the chair he was in, and Jim's mouth tightened. Ostentatiously, he placed the spoon and napkin beside the bowl and sat back. He thought I was going to scald him, my God … I don't know if I can cope with this. Spock still hadn't touched the soup, and Jim was feeling frustrated. "Eat," he said sharply, and felt an instant stab of guilt at the nervous haste with which the Vulcan complied. Jim surveyed him gloomily. "What do you think I'm up to? You think I'd go to all this trouble to get you to trust me so I could turn around and…" he stopped. He reached out on impulse to cover the hand lying on the table top with his own. He lifted it, looked again at the abrasions from past restraints, felt the seeming fragility of those long, sensitive fingers lying quiescent in his palm. "It's been done, hasn't it? All I can say is I didn't hurt you last night, did I, and I could have. Don't you remember how I held you after you cried out in your sleep?"

Spock was startled. He had decided that the memory of warm, comforting arms had been part of the dream. Now he found himself flushing. "It was you…?"

"You trusted me instinctively then," Kirk said quietly. "You turned and clung to me and fell asleep again in my arms, and I stayed with you all night. Now if I were going to make a move of some kind, that would have been the perfect time, wouldn't it?"

"Yes," Spock admitted.

"And did I?"

"No." Hesitation, then, "thank you."

Jim smiled with genuine warmth into those wide, appraising eyes. "Okay then. Eat."

Slowly Spock dipped his spoon into the soup. The smell and taste combined to make him remember how really hungry he was, and, with food, his mind cleared slightly. Kirk could have destroyed him last night and had comforted him instead. Perhaps he wanted a semblance of cooperation in his love making - perhaps force was not his way. As though to confirm this line of thought, Kirk reached out again, laid a gentle hand along the other's face, instantly commanding his complete attention - and renewed speculation. Now? He would try to relax - would not risk displeasing his apparently benign master.

"I can see you're still waiting for the other shoe to drop."

One winged eyebrow rose, in a gesture which Kirk found instantly endearing. "My lord?"

"I am not going to abuse you. I am not going to touch you, sexually. That is not why I bought you. I bought you because you are - well, you know you're different from the natives of this place."

"Yes. I am a Vulcan."

Startled himself, Kirk let his hand drop. "How did you know that? You know where you're from? How you got here? Why…" the Vulcan was shaking his head.

"No… I only know I am, as you say, different … and my first owner called me that."

"He called you 'Vulcan'?"

"Yes."

"Strange. Your first owner. Tell me about him."

"He…" Spock felt his throat close up, and an icy chill shook him.

Reality slipped sideways, opened up a chasm under his feet. He was holding onto a precipice edge with one hand, the wind howled around him, cold, slimy fingers tugging suggestively at his ankles. A low moan escaped him, and then he was again caught in powerful arms, his head pressed into someone's hard shoulder, hands stroking his hair and there was, wonderfully, no threat in those hands, they were strong but not brutal, sliding down his back with no sudden pinches or hurtful blows, just reassurance. A voice was in his ears, low, murmering, soothing - like water in a stream he paused on the bank, listening.

"It's all right, it's all right, it's over. Over. I don't know what they did to you but it's never going to happen again. I'll see to that, I'll take care of it, take care of you, I promise - Spock, can you hear me?"

Normal perception was returning now. They were both on the floor; he was enfolded in the Human's arms with - unforgivable trespass his own hands tightly clutching the man's shirt. The deathly cold was abating, and Spock brought his shuddering under some control, lifted his head, and managed to gasp "I'm sorry - I'm sorry - please, don't be angry, I…" the pain in the man's eyes stopped him.

"No, of course I'm not angry - don't even say that." Jim cupped Spock’s face in both hands. "Please," he said softly, "please don't be afraid of me. It hurts me to see you afraid of me - I'm sorry I upset you by asking about him - you tell me when you're ready, when you feel safer, okay? You don't have to remember him now if it frightens you so much." Spock was biting his lip, fighting the tears, not wanting to do anything to further distress Kirk. "Ah, no," Jim drew him closer "if it makes you feel better to cry go ahead, get it out of your system. God knows you have reason. Come here." Spock, pushed past the limits of even his endurance, leaned against him and wept for a very long time. Jim kept silent, rocked monotonously, thinking. This reaction to mention of his first owner was way out of what could be expected - even considering Todakan conditioning. The abrupt disintegration suggested - what? Drugs? Maybe - hypnosis - but the Todakans wouldn't bother with those refinements. He didn’t want to upset Spock any further, but he had to know - "Spock. Listen to me. Before him, before - what do you remember?"

"Nothing. A void, a blank. I…" the effort of thought seemed to calm him, although he made no attempt to pull back from Jim's grip.

"Well, what's the first thing you do remember?"

"Waking up in a cell. It was dark, and cold - I remember it didn't seem natural, that I should be so cold. I was chained to the wall by one leg." He actually managed a faint smile. "I thought that was uncomfortable - but then I hadn't had the neck manacles yet."

Jim touched the sore place gently. " I couldn't believe it when I saw them for the first time. You can't remember anything from before that?"

"No - I had no idea where I was, who I was… nothing. Then… he came in." Spock began to tremble again, and Jim, fascinated, could actually feel his body temperature dropping. "Please - I cannot speak of him, think of … please don't make me, I can't."

"Shhh. Shhh. Of course I won't make you. I would never do anything to upset you or hurt you - it's okay. Later on, you can tell me. It's all right. Forget it. Look, would you like to have a shower? There's plenty of hot water, and huge towels. Meantime I'll… hmmm." For the first time, Kirk was fully conscious of the barely adequate tunic Spock had been wearing. "While you shower I'll run down to the hotel shop and see if I can pick you up something to wear - something warmer than that, anyway. I'll be back before you get out."

*****



This was not strictly true. The shop was crowded, there was a wait at every credit stop, and by the time Jim had paid for the considerable bundle he'd accumulated and returned to the rooms Spock had finished showering, and was sitting quietly, wrapped in towels, combing his hair. At the sound of the door opening he stiffened, but smiled slightly, shyly, when he saw Kirk. The Human grinned back, dropped the parcel on the bed. "Assorted pants, shirts, socks and underwear. Warm coat. Hat. Gloves. Shoes. Ah, let's see. Pajamas. And this." 'This' was a long, full sleeved, hooded robe in dark green. Speechless, Spock touched the soft fabric, looked at the pile of clothes, and lifted his eyes to Jim.

"I … do not know how to thank you. You are more than kind, and I apologize for having misjudged you."

"Perfectly understandable. You think you can trust me, then?"

Spock's eyes didn't waver, and to the overwhelming protectiveness Jim already felt was added a healthy, thriving respect. The Vulcan had been through every kind of hell man could throw at him, and had come through with his sanity intact - a not inconsiderable feat. Of course the peculiar reaction to mention of his first owner had bordered on the psychotic, but that, Jim was positive, was artificially induced. Somehow.

"Yes," Spock said firmly. "I trust you. You will not harm me - I know that."

"No, I'm going to help you. Tell me something. I bought you. If I want to take you away with me I can, can't I?"

"I am your property. You can do with me whatever you wish.”

"You must have family still on Vulcan. They're a very clan minded race and whoever lost you is probably still looking. Before we start our next mission I'll take you there, return you to your people. They'll be able to help you get your memory back." Maybe. Hopefully.

The tremendous hodge-podge of emotion that statement produced made Spock dizzy. Paramount was a devastating feeling of rejection. This Human was, as far as Spock could tell, the only kind, reliable being in a cruel and unpredictable universe. The thought of being abandoned alone to that universe again terrified him.

"Hey." Jim brushed Spock's cheek, tugged his hair lightly. "Hey, what did I say? Spock?" He was alarmed. The blank, shuttered look in the Vulcan's eyes told him that he had again withdrawn to his private, tormenting fears.

"You mean - leave me there?" Spock forced himself to say the words, and, hearing them, was swept by a gust of renewed panic. "Must you…" he bit his lip, tears blurring his vision.

"Everything will be fine," Jim said softly, reaching out and pulling Spock nearer to him. "Nobody will hurt you there - Vulcans are completely peaceful and nonviolent. They have techniques, mental abilities - they can reach inside your mind, and…" he stopped. That doesn't sound very reassuring, he thought wryly. "Listen, don't worry about it. I have a week here still, and then it'll take a couple of days to reach Vulcan. By that time you'll feel better about it. Look how much better you feel now than you did yesterday."

"Because you are here. With you, I am safe." Tentatively, he touched Kirk's shoulder. "Please - don't leave me. Keep me with you - I will make no difficulties - I promise." Kirk was shaking his head reluctantly.

"It's impossible," he said gently. "I'm in command of a starship in the United Federation of Planets. I can't - take someone along for personal reasons. It's against regulations. I just can't - I'm sorry."

Spock was silent, gathering himself together. "Forgive me," he murmured finally, eyes down. "I did not intend to put you in an awkward position. You have been very generous and I have no right to be importunate. It will not happen again."

"Spock." Jim held him tightly, feeling that slender body quivering slightly against his. "I'm sorry. I would if I could. I do care about what happens to you - about your happiness. I promise, I'll see you safely to your home and your family. No one will hurt you. And…" he hesitated, considering, then continued "I'll visit you whenever I can." He was glad he'd said it when Spock looked at him again.

"You will?"

"Of course. And once you remember who you are, you'll recognize your family - it's not like I'll be leaving you with strangers. Meanwhile we have over a week, so just relax and concentrate on getting stronger."

"All right," Spock agreed, and rested his head on Jim's chest again. He had never imagined being touched like this, so gently, and yet such strength was contained in this man that he seemed a perfectly adequate shield against a hostile universe. His touch relaxed Spock to such an extent that he didn't even jump when the door buzzer sounded.

"Gary," Kirk said, remembering. He got up. "I'll let him in. You get dressed and come on out when you're ready."

Gary was exuberant. "Jim, you'll never believe what I found out. Listen to this story - it's practically an epic. I traced his records back and he's had relatively few owners. Generally he changed hands only when some financial reverse dictated it - he must be pretty good at whatever he does."

"Can that," Kirk said sharply. "Just give me the facts."

"Aye, aye sir. You saw him in the market yesterday because his last owner, a very influential nobleman, went bankrupt. Everything he owned was liquidated. Now, he got your friend from a sort of brothel - took quite a fancy to him, from all accounts."

"A brothel?" Kirk was disgusted. "Charming. Go on."

"Well, he hadn't been there very long - he was owned before that by a diplomat from another continent. When the diplomat had to return home, he reluctantly decided that his wife wouldn't allow his new acquisitions, so he dumped them in the night-house I mentioned already. Before that there were two consecutive businessmen who bought him when they were flush with money, and sold him when they ran low. All in all, a period of about two years, between original owner and you."

"Ah. This first owner. What did you find out about him?"

"This is the big news. It looks like you really stumbled onto something after all. The first owner was the commander of the Klingon garrison stationed here at the time."

"A Klingon!?" But even as Kirk said it, it made sense. "Of course - who else would kidnap a Vulcan and … they must have used that device of theirs - the Mind-Sifter. That's what happened to his memory." No wonder he falls apart when I ask…" Gary, are you absolutely sure of this?"

"I've got the dealer who handled the original transaction when the garrison was ordered home. He's waiting in the bar downstairs. For a price, he'll tell us everything he knows. Why don't you…” he broke off as the connecting door to the bedroom opened, and Spock came in. Jim was unaccountably pleased to see that he had put on the green robe and actually looked relaxed for the first time. At the sight of Gary he hesitated, and looked at Kirk. The Human thumped the cushion next to ­ him and Spock came over, sat down. Jim smiled at him. "That looks nice - is it comfortable?"

"Very, thank you. It is warm enough, which is rather a novelty in itself."

"I have to go out for a bit" he saw the leap of fear in the Vulcan's eyes, and rested both hands on his shoulders. With all that glossy hair soft about his face and neck he was impossibly beautiful. Defensively, Jim hardened his voice against the inexplicable tension he felt. "It's important. Stay here. If you want to eat, just call room service on this," he indicated the intercom. "And if you need me for anything, this channel" he tapped a button "is hooked up directly to my communicator. I won't be too long. Okay?" Spock didn't seem reassured, but he nodded obediently. "Good." Jim got to his feet and grabbed his coat. "See you later. Bye."

"Goodbye," Spock whispered, and watched them go. Sighing, he looked around the living room. There was a shelf stuffed with old print-books, and a taped music center. He selected a book at random, flicked on the music, and settled in the large armchair, still, savoring the silence and freedom. Incredible luxury, to be able to sit and do nothing, no demands upon him, nothing to … the buzzer sounded again.

He has forgotten something, Spock thought, and touched the release button. Then the book dropped from his fingers, and an icy chill seized him despite the warmth of the room.

*****



The man who entered was not James Kirk. He stepped in, waited for the door to close and lock behind him. Then he allowed the hood to fall from his face, but Spock bad already recognized the man from the bazaar, his would-be owner. He was shocked into immobility and could only watch dumbly while the Todakan disconnected the music system, and removed his cloak. By the time the man reached for him, grasped both arms and pinned him to the chair, it was too late to even consider escape. The hated weakness was spreading through him again, draining his will – leaving him nearly paralyzed with fright.

"You won't mind if I get right to it?" the man asked cheerfully. "I paid the Human well for this time and don't intend to waste any of it. Where are your manacles? Surely even a Human wouldn't go out and leave you like this. What did you do with them, hey?" He leaned over, brought his face very close to the others. "Well? Where are they?"

Spock was reeling from the disclosure. "You - you paid him? He took money from you to…"

"What did you expect? He spent a fortune yesterday and wasn't the least bit averse to getting part of it back."

The enormity of the betrayal closed Spock's throat. I was right, he thought bitterly, right all along. He was just setting me up - softening me - and I believed him. I trusted him. How could I have been such a fool? I knew better. I knew it could not be… the blow knocked him backwards.

"I said where are your manacles? Tell me or I'll break every bone in your body'!"

"I don't know - the first night he…" further speech became temporarily impossible when, with deliberation, the man delivered three hard punches to Spock's stomach. He doubled over in agony, and was pulled upright by a hand tangled in his hair.

"Answer me, or…"

"I don't know! He put them away somewhere… I do not think he uses such devices. When I was asleep, he…" the man released his hair suddenly, and just as suddenly, Spock was convinced that the trader was lying. Jim Kirk would not have done this to him. That certainty, and the sight of Peryard yanking open Kirk's drawers and paving through his belongings, gave him a courage he had forgotten he possessed. He lifted his chin and addressed his enemy.

"You have no right to search his rooms. Moreover, you have no right to touch me. He would not have sold me to you, not even for an hour.

It is illegal for you to…" the man swung around, arm extended. Spock saw the heavy chain and cuff of the manacles almost too late, and instinctively he threw both arms up to protect his head. There was a sickening snap, and pain descended, threatening to drown him. Dimly, he was conscious of being thrown to the floor, and the cold metal bit into his neck. He cried out only once, when his broken right arm was pulled back and cuffed behind him. The man pulled the chain between wrists and neck cruelly tight, making it necessary for Spock to labour for every breath. Then the new robe was jerked up around his waist, and he was crushed by the man's tremendous weight. A sob escaped him when that weight pressed on the injured arm, and fat fingers covered his mouth, stifling the sound. Mercifully, he lost consciousness with the first searing, brutal thrust.

Fresh shocks of pain dragged him back to consciousness. Spock forced his eyes open - anything to stop the punishing rain of blows and kicks. "That's better. Now get up! Up!” He was dragged to his feet and over to the large recliner. A heavy rope was dangled in front of his eyes. The man tied one end to the arm of the chair, looped the other around the chain connecting hands and neck, effectively immobilizing his victim. He grinned fiercely into Spock's face. "You - telling me I can't search this place if I want? Calling me a liar? Unfortunate - dreadful waste, but no slave can say those words to me and live." Getting a muffler from Kirk's drawer he wrapped it several times around the Vulcan's face and head, knotting it securely over his mouth and nose.

There was no air. The material was tight and thick, and there was no air. "I wish I could stay and see the fun, but I have an appointment. I told Kirk I'd leave the money on the dresser here, which, as you see, I am doing, plus a little extra to defray his loss." Spock closed his eyes. He was fairly sure that, with some maneuvering, he could reach the intercom on the table next to him, if only Peryard would leave. But the man stayed for a while - an age, it seemed, alternately caressing and prodding the rigid body before him. Spock refused to react to either, and finally he heard the sound of heavy footsteps crossing the floor and the closing of the door.

There was a high, sickening buzz in his ears and his chest was on fire. He couldn't hold out much longer… and his hands were weakening fast. He couldn't seem to make them work properly, they fumbled, but grazed the intercom's panel. For a second more he was afraid to activate it. If the fat man had been telling the truth it might be better not to know - but Jim Kirk had declared himself a friend and protector. Spock depressed the stud for Kirk's personal frequency, and was rewarded by his voice. "Kirk here."

With one last burst of strength Spock managed to push the table over, hoping that the resounding crash would do what his voice could not. Blackness was sweeping over him, his head was pounding ferociously, and the pain in the rest of his body was at a peak. I don't want to die, not now, not when I was almost safe - no, no… but his hands were limp and he was fading, falling, dying. He didn't even hear the door being thrown open, nor Jim Kirk's inarticulate cry.

*****



Not bothering to wait for the elevator, he'd taken the stairs two at a time, Gary Mitchell on his heels. Bursting into the room, he got one look, ran over and dropped to his knees beside the chair. Pulling the knot out, he unwound the muffler, easing the deadly pressure. Spock, limp, lips and fingernails turning violet, didn't respond. Jim shook him once, hard, then half rose, pressed on his chest. "Come on, dammit wake up, breathe. Breathe!" Spock gasped convulsively, breathing in great gulps, shuddering, and Jim shouted to Gary. "The key is someplace in my dresser drawers - the top one, I think. Get it!" He ran his hand down Spock's arms, intending to ease cramps he was sure were there when he felt the broken bone. Spock moaned in pain, and Jim spoke over his head. "This arm's broken. Is there a doctor in the hotel?"

Gary was going through Kirk's drawers. "This place is so fuckin' primitive you'd be better off calling the Enterprise and getting Piper down here."

"They're not that far behind, are they? Their medical techniques should at least be equal to a simple fracture."

"Yeah, but you'd never get a Todakan doctor to waste his time on a slave. Even if you paid him a stupendous fee, and waved your braid around, he'd still rush, and he'd probably be rough – aha! Here it is!" He brought the key over and unlocked the handcuffs while Kirk held Spock tightly against the inevitable pain. As his wrists were released, Kirk tried to keep the injured limb as still as possible, and even Gary Mitchell's hands were gentle as he removed the collar. Under it, the neck was bruised, raw, and bleeding. Gary got busy with his communicator, and Jim stroked Spock's hair. Except for the first moment, he hadn't made a sound, only the rigidity of his body telling Kirk whether he was conscious.

"Is Piper coming?"

"On his way. I gave him a little background, and he's doing a quick check on Vulcan bone structure."

Jim looked at the dark head buried in his shoulder. "The doctor will give you something for the pain," he said gently, "and set your arm. Are you okay?"

There was no answer, although Jim could still feel him trembling. "His throat's probably too sore to talk," Gary said. He was checking around the room. "Nothing's been taken, as far as I can tell - no sign of forced entry, either."

"I thought it was you, at the door." Spock's voice was hardly audible. "I'm sorry - I unlocked it. I didn't mean…"

"I know," Jim soothed him. "Of course you didn't know it's not your fault."

"There's also this," Gary said, and put a packet of notes into Kirk's hand. He stared at it blankly for several seconds before realizing what it was - Todakan money. Quite a lot of it. "What the devil…"

Now Spock drew back, sat up, cradling his injured arm with his free hand. "He said you agreed on a certain sum for my services," and now his eyes, which had been lowered, were very wide and vulnerable fixed on Jim's face, the question plain in them.

"He told you I took money for you? That this was prearranged with me?" He waited for Spock's quiet nod. "Did you believe him?"

"I… at first I did. Yes. But after a moment - it seemed very unlikely." His lips quivered, and he bit them hard. "Did you?"

"No. Of course not. I can't believe… he really told you that? What a scumbag thing to do!"

"He who?" Gary looked puzzled.

"Oh." Jim was momentarily taken aback. "I guess I've been assuming it was that man from the bazaar yesterday - the one I outbid. Was it?"

"Yes. I… have encountered him before. He…" the shimmer of the Enterprise transporter interrupted him, and, visibly fascinated, he watched the sparkle solidify into Dr. Mark Piper. Jim didn't know him very well personally - although he'd heard that he and the previous Captain, Chris Pike, had been very close. He greeted them with a nod, and went right to Spock, pulling out his tricorder.

"Are you in pain?"

Kirk couldn't contain himself. "Of course he's in pain. What do you think…"

"Did I ask you? I asked him. As a matter of fact, you two get out. I don't work in crowds. Out!"

Jim sent a smile over the Doctor's head to Spock who, alarmed, had begun to rise. "It's all right, Spock, the Doctor will help you. You stay put - I'll be right in the next room if you need me."

"We won't," Mark said without looking up from his tricorder. Spock, reluctant to see Kirk leave, drew back from Piper's hypo. "Young man, I refuse to chase my patients around the room. Sit still and let me see that arm." He readied the hypo again, and again Spock tensed, prepared to retreat.

"I said to sit and let him fix you up. Do it." James Kirk's command voice had the effect of freezing Spock to his chair. Dumbly he watched the door close behind the two men and heard the hiss of the hypo. In seconds, the hurt was fading into nothing. Even when the older man probed the break there was no pain. Spock conceded his good intentions, and observed with interest the application of the spray bandage.

"This'll hold it until it knits - Vulcans are very good at self-healing. Just let me take some more readings, and check your neck - better put some antibiotic on your hands, too." He continued to make adjustments to his instruments. "There! Why don't you get some sleep now, and I'll send the Captain in as soon as I talk to him." Spock nodded agreement and rose, apparently fully recovered. When the doctor reached around his waist to help him to bed, however, he recoiled so violently he almost fell. Piper let his hand drop.

"All right - if you can make it by yourself go right ahead. I just thought…" he stopped. The Vulcan was gone, and the bedroom door closed behind him.

Kirk and Gary were waiting in the spare room. Jim pounced immediately. "Well? How is he? Where is he? Will he be all right?"

"He’ll be fine, and he's probably asleep already. The injection I gave him was pretty strong. Found something interesting, though - he's not a full-blooded Vulcan."

"A half-breed?" Gary was intrigued. "I didn't know Vulcans even believed in spreading the wealth. They're pretty rigid. What's the cross?"

"He's half-Human."

Kirk's eyebrows rose. "And half-Vulcan? That's a pretty rare combination."

"More than rare. There's only one such hybrid in our computer banks. The Vulcan Ambassador to the Federation has a Human wife, and a son; who vanished some two and a half years ago while on a deep-space science probe - his first trip off-world, if I remember it correctly. Of course there was a search, but it was a small vessel, and it just seemed to disappear without a trace."

"And his first owner was a Klingon," Jim said softly. "It really is starting to fit together now. But why would the Klingons attack a science team?

"They don't need much motive - you know that. It probably got too close to some planet they claim as theirs. Captain, I should contact StarFleet immediately - they'll be very interested in this. A ship can be here in twenty-four hours and take this mess out of your lap right away.

"No," Jim spoke slowly, trying to find words for his reluctance. "No, he's not ready."

"Ready for what?"

"To be thrown to the wolves like that."

"StarFleet Command and his family hardly qualify as wolves."

"Come on, Doc, you know what it'll be like. They'll put him through a series of interrogations and questionings and rehabilitation therapy, and the Vulcans will probably do mind probes and melds and what all…"

"All necessary, Captain. We have to know why the Klingons took the ship, what happened to the rest of the crew, exactly where they were when they were attacked, and where they were taken, the strength of the enemy- forces and so forth and so on. He's the only one we've got with any answers."

"All right, it has to be done, but not tomorrow, for God's sake. He'd go to pieces under an interrogation, even an easy one." The more he thought about it the more determined he became. "It'd terrify him. I won't allow it."

"Jim," Gary was looking unhappy, "don't you think you're getting a bit too emotionally involved with this thing?"

"I am not in the least bit involved with any thing, Gary. It's true I have become extremely involved with Spock, as a person." He turned back to Piper. "I'm not demanding much - just a little time. The rest of my leave here, and the time it'll take to get to Vulcan."

"To StarFleet headquarters, you mean. StarBase 8 is a couple of hours from here."

"I think it would be better to take him to Vulcan first and get in touch with his family."

"They can locate them much more efficiently from the StarBase than you could on your own."

"But ..."

Piper held up a warning hand. "You want that extra week or not?"

"Damnit, it's not what I want! It's what he needs."

"The question remains. Yes or no?"

"Yes, of course."

"Then take him to the StarBase directly from here after your leave."

"That only gives him six days." Kirk could see the warning in Piper's eyes and gave in. "All right, I'll take him to StarBase 8 as soon as my time is up. Now how is he?"

"Well, the arm is set, and it should heal very quickly with no trouble. I’ll stop in again tomorrow just to make sure. Keep an eye on those sores on his neck and hands. I put an antibiotic on them but they could still get infected, if not watched. He'll be okay."

"Look, Mark, I really appreciate your coming down. I know you're doing what you think is best. And… thanks for those six days."

"Captain, could I discuss something with you? Privately?"

Kirk glanced at Gary. "Why don't you go down to the bazaar again and see if you can find out where that fat bastard lives? We have a job there tomorrow."

"Sure. See you later." He waved jauntily, and departed.

"He's being a big help," Jim said absently. "I just wish he weren't enjoying it all so much." He seemed to shake himself. "You wanted to talk to me?"

"He's right. You're getting too emotionally involved. It's not good for you or your career and… let me finish… in the long run it won't be good for him either. For instance, the only reason he let me examine him today was because you told him to."

"So?"

"My point, Captain, is that you aren't going to be his buffer for much longer. Making him so dependent on you is only going to make it worse for him when you do have to leave. Have you even mentioned the fact that ultimately you're leaving?"

"Yes, I did. What do you think I am? I told him I'm in command of a starship, that I couldn't stay with him, and he couldn't come with me. He accepts it. I also told him I'd visit whenever I could. I'm not cutting him off totally, whether you like it or not."

"I don't, but I guess that doesn't matter. I have to run now. If he looks like he's getting worse rather than better, call me again. Take care." He flipped open his communicator, spoke briefly into it, threw Kirk a salute, and was gone.

*****



Spock wasn't asleep. Jim eased the bedroom door open cautiously and saw him sitting on the bed, back against the wall, arms wrapped around his tightly drawn-up knees. The relief in his face at the sight of Kirk was absolute. Kirk went over, sat down, and Spock leaned against his shoulder. Jim touched his hair lightly. "Why aren't you asleep?"

"I was waiting for you."

"I'm… so sorry about what happened. I feel responsible."

"Why? It was not your doing."

"No, but I promised that no one would hurt you again. And now this - I feel I let you down."

"You saved my life. I am more in your debt than ever." He hesitated. "My lord…"

"My name is Jim."

"Jim."

"Better." Jim slipped an arm around the Vulcan's waist. "What?"

"I could not help overhearing your conversation with the doctor."

He swore silently, and offered the most positive information first.

"Then you know we've found out who you are."

"Yes - Jim?"

"Hmmm?"

"You spoke of questioning? What - what kind of…"

"Nothing bad," Kirk reassured him. "Nobody there will lay a finger on you, I promise."

"Yet you seemed to think it would be…"

"It'll be difficult, that's all - not painful. Long sessions. They have to try and get you to remember anything you can about the Klingons who captured you. That's why I was so determined to buy you a little extra time. Sooner or later you're going to have to talk about your original owner, and you don't react too well to questions on the subject. Yet."

"I am grateful."

"Whatever I can do to make this easier for you I will. You know that."

"Yes."

"Aren't you sleepy? Dr. Piper said he gave you a pretty heavy sedative. You don't have to talk any more tonight. We still have time."

Spock was indeed very sleepy, but fighting it. When Jim moved to get up, he was clutched tightly. "Where are you going?"

"Absolutely nowhere. Just turning out the lights - turning up the heat, getting blankets, getting undressed," suiting his actions to the words, "and coming right back." He slid under the covers, and felt the Vulcan's head against his shoulder again with a feeling of deep satisfaction. This closeness was very soothing to him too. At the same time a thought tickled the back of his mind. The body he held was not fragile, despite the deceptive slenderness of the Vulcan build. There were hard muscles under the warm skin; the long fingers were actually extremely powerful. "If anything like that happens again," he said, voice muffled slightly in Spock's hair, "feel free to beat the living hell out of whoever it is. You're more than capable of it, you know." It had been intended as a reassurance, but Spock winced as though he'd been slapped.

"You think I should have fought him."

"No, no, I'm not saying you should have done anything. I'm saying next time - I mean, it there is a next time which of course there won't be – probably… anyway, forget it." Why couldn't I just keep my mouth shut? He was almost asleep and now I've got him all upset again.

"You despise me for being a coward. You are quite right. I should have resisted. I should have…” I thought of that after. I knew you had not sold me to him - he had no legal right to touch me - I would have been justified in… but I couldn't - forgive me - I hate myself for my weakness. I should have killed him before I let him touch me – all of them! I should have…”

"Spock…"

"I did once. I fought - the first time it happened I fought. I couldn't believe…couldn't believe he was going to…when he touched me I…I tried to kill him - I would have, if my leg had been free, and if I had not felt so strange, weak and dizzy. He…"

"The Klingons would have held you for at least a week, with nothing to eat, no blankets against the cold, to weaken you before they even started anything else. Their practices, are pretty well-known to our Federation. You don't remember any of that, though."

"No. No, the first thing I can remember after I awakened was the door of my cell slamming open, and the Klingon…walking in. Yet it seemed I knew him, although I could not remember…" he paused, frowning slightly as he pursued the errant impression. "Doubtless they had already used the machine once, that would explain why I couldn't…"

"The Mind-Sifter?"

"A device - I don't know what they called it - attached to the temples. It ripped into my mind, smashing…" he shuddered, and Jim tightened his embrace.

"How many times did they use it on you?"

"Twice that I recall. And, as I said, at least once that I do not." After a moment, the Vulcan spoke again. "I think I could tell you about him - perhaps it would help you to understand."

"I understand already - but it can't be doing you any good to keep it inside, the way you're doing. I'm sure you'd feel better afterwards."

"That seems unlikely, but I owe you some explanation for my lamentable lack of courage."

"Stop that." Jim allowed his voice to sharpen slightly. "The very fact of your survival proves you're no coward. I don't know if I would have been able to stand what you have. I'd have gone stark mad along with almost anyone else I can think of."

Spock was doubtful. "You do not know…I have felt such fear.

"Nothing wrong with being afraid. But you hung in there and endured. I wouldn't lie to you, Spock. I have the greatest respect for the fact that you're here and rational. Now tell me what happened. You fought him."

"Yes. He grabbed me, and I struck him. He fell, I got my hands around his neck. He kicked me, and my hold loosened enough for him to yell for his guards, who were posted outside the door. I struggled, but there were too many of them."

"How many?"

"Four. They held me, face up on the floor - one at each limb. I had on some type of overall, which he - Kfav, the leader, cut off with a knife. Then he beat me with a whip made of some sort of braided hide. That went on until I passed out. They brought me to with a hypo." Spock's voice had changed, sounding vague, far away, and Jim could feel how cold he was. He's practically in shock, he thought, and pulled him even closer, arms wrapped all the way around the slim shoulders, listening.

"I was so… I tried to move, but they held me - I could hear the guards talking with one another about the shifts they had drawn, and an upcoming leave - as though I wasn't even there! Then,” hands clenched into fists now, “he raped me. When he was done he traded places with the guard who had been holding my right wrist, and so on. After they all had turns, I thought it was over, but" he stopped. Jim's silent fury beat against his consciousness. "Is it me you are angry with?"

"No." A terse answer, but Spock was satisfied with it, and rubbed his cheek briefly on Kirk's shoulder. His voice was thin with the effort to remain calm, but he managed to continue, speaking now with a curious detachment, as though reporting something which had happened long ago, to someone else.

"Kfav explained it to me, and it did make sense from their standpoint. After all, while it was purest chance that these particular guards had been on duty at this time, what they had enjoyed was a very rare privilege generally granted only as a reward for exceptional valour. There had been no such grant, and he was concerned less there be dissension in the ranks arising from jealousy - at any rate…he said it was regretable, but called for the other four guards - the day shift."

"The other…"

"I passed out once, but they put something under my nose - I don't know what. Finally they left." He sighed deeply. "I was sure it must be over - at least it's over, I kept thinking that to keep from screaming, or going insane. It had been terrible but it was over until he asked me if I were now prepared to submit to him - that he had claimed me as his property. He said it was a large military base and that if I still wished to be difficult there would be no shortage of volunteers to assist him."

"Dear God."

"I assured him…" Spock's voice caught "that I would make no trouble. He pretended not to believe me. So I begged him - begged him to let me show him I would not resist."

"I get the idea," Jim said grimly.

"He raped you again."

"By then it was hardly that."

"Don't even start thinking… you must have been nearly out of your mind by that time - and in agony. Just because you were tortured past the point of resistance doesn't make it any less rape. Every time someone on this planet has touched you it's been rape whether you resisted or not."

Spock shook his head forlornly. "I should have made him kill me first."

"It doesn't sound as though you had that option. He wasn't about to kill you no matter what you did."

"Then later I should have done it myself - I had plenty of opportunities. It would have been infinitely preferable to… although… if I had died then, I would not be here, with you." He raised his eyes to Kirk's then, wonderingly. "Safe."

Jim was smiling at him. "Right. Exactly what I've been telling you. It's over. You made it through, and it's over."

"That is hard to believe, and yet - you would not say it if it were not true."

"Thank you." The profound trust in that simple statement made his eyes blur. "I'm glad you believe that. Talking about it helped, didn't it."

"I don't know what I thought would happen to me if I did. I can see now I was not thinking at all."

"No. Of course not. Just surviving was enough. The hardest part has been getting yourself to believe that it's over, hasn't it."

"It was - yes. I had never even considered that anyone would ever - when you bought me I could not fathom what it was you wanted."

"I wanted to help, that's all. It's this planet that's unique, Spock, not me. I've never seen anything like this place. I hated it even before I saw you." That seemed like so long ago although it was only… it was then that he began to seriously doubt his ability to walk away from this when it was over. Not only because of Spock's hourly increasing attachment to him, but he… he was getting much more involved than he'd ever dreamed. Spock moved a little closer to him, sighing slightly. Jim could feel a smile tugging at his mouth. "Sleepy?"

"Mmmmm." He turned his face into Jim's neck, eyes drifting closed.

It seemed the most natural thing in the universe to deposit a soft kiss on the top of that dark head. "I love you," Spock whispered from the very edge of oblivion.

"I love you too," Jim whispered back, amazed at how easy it was to say. How long had it been since he'd spoken those words? And never had they felt this right. He could tell by Spock's easy breathing that he was finally asleep. He himself lay wakeful for quite a while, thoughts drifting aimlessly in the dark. I love you - the words themselves a commitment - one which, no matter how he tried, he couldn't imagine being able to keep. The very nature of things dictated that he was to bring Spock to StarBase 8 where first StarFleet Command and then the Vulcans would be in charge. It's ridiculous to regard them as some kind of enemy, though - they'll want to help, too. And I'll come back and see him - after all that is over. He probably won't even want to see me by then, to be reminded of what happened. But something inside him said, even while his conscious mind denied it, that for the Vulcan those three words had been irrevocable. It was more than just their relative roles of victim and rescuer. There was an abiding sympathy between them, a spontaneous warmth which seemed to be flowering with astonishing speed. Already he would miss their companionship intensely - it eased a loneliness inside him which he hadn't ever questioned before. He'd always assumed that every being was ultimately alone with himself - the self being the only thing which could be counted on. It was the wanton destruction of Spock's sense of self which outraged him even more than the sexual assaults. To take away someone's memory, their identity was more than cruel. It was ... unconsciously he had tightened his arms, and Spock stirred, shifting position.

Jim raised up on his elbow as Spock rolled onto his back, head still pillowed on Kirk's supporting arm. With his other hand, Jim gently stroked the silken waterfall of hair, traced the line of his cheekbones, the strength of his jawline, his touch more like a caress on arched brows, delicate ears. Lips slightly parted, and Jim, overcome with an aching tenderness and a need to express it, leaned over them, his own lips opening, breath touching before he could, hungry for the taste of ... you bastard, he thought incredulously, pulling back. You fucking - what is getting into you? He whispers 'love' and falls asleep in your arms, and what are you trying to do? You'll frighten him out of his wits if you - hell think this was all a come-on, he'll think you planned it from the start, he'll never trust you or anyone else ever again, you could do irreparable harm. Don't touch him, don't even think about touching him. The fact that he's more beautiful than any fantasy you ever had, that he feels soft, and strong, and hot all at once - that's no excuse. None. Just forget it. It’s a good thing after all that you’re bringing him straight to the StarBase. Now stop this nonsense and go to sleep. He forced himself to relax, lying back. Spock curled up against him and again there came the rush of tenderness, lifting him and carrying him off to sleep.

*****



The next morning, he awoke first. Spock made a drowsy protest as Jim started to get up, and the Human stopped, his eyes again drawn to the other's sleeping face. Despite himself, he reached to touch the dark hair spread out on the pillow. That's something we can do today; take you for a haircut. With a regular Vulcan style, and the clothes I bought yesterday, you won't be cooped up in here. You'll be able to get out - we can go sightseeing. The more he thought about it, the more attractive features there were about Todaka. It was a planet of great natural beauty, and it would be fun to see it in Spock's company. It'll be a shame to cut it, he thought, wrapping one long, fine, shining strand around his fingers, but it marks you. It… the smile began on the Vulcan's lips before his eyes opened. He reached up, and stroked the hand entwined in his hair, then slid both arms around Kirk's neck. It was a spontaneous gesture, and Jim's response was equally unplanned. He bent lower and brushed Spock's mouth with his, intending to withdraw immediately. But the arms around him did not loosen, and the warm mouth under his parted willingly, sucking his tongue in. Spock tasted delicious, and Jim left no portion of his mouth unsavored, pressing their bodies tightly together, thigh to thigh. His lips behind the pointed ears brought a muffled cry. "Oh, oh yes, that's marvelous, yes…"

"You like that?" Jim kissed him there again and again, pausing only to change sides, reveling in the warmth, the smell, the feel of the Vulcan's hands sliding down his back, tickling his ribs. He kissed both nipples, lingeringly, then moved steadily down the other's body, unfastening and pushing the robe aside. He buried his face in Spock's abdomen, letting the heat and the scent of him become his whole world; drifted downward, mouth starting to water as the spicy scent of the erect cock filled his nostrils. He licked it, hearing Spock gasp again, letting his mouth slowly settle over and down wetly, both hands cupping the heavy balls, rolling them, squeezing slightly, rubbing them between his palms, probing with his fingers, all the while sucking, sucking, harder and faster. Spock had pulled the blanket over his face, shutting out everything except the cool, hot, wet fire which spread out from Kirk's mouth to fill his whole body. Gasping, he groped with one hand, encountering Kirk's leg, pulling and tugging on that until his hand closed over the Human's stiff organ, holding it tightly as they came, soaring, flying, instinctively moving his hand to his own rhythm, feeling Jim throb in his grip, the hot seed on his hand no different from that pouring forth from his loins down the eager throat; Jim not even aware that he was fully aroused until the climax, pulsing and drinking giving out and taking in, finally collapsing, sated and drained all at once. There was a long still time, then Jim spoke. "Are you all right?"

"Perfectly." He stretched like a cat. "I did not know it could be like that - is that the way it's supposed to be?" His face clouded. "Is that what they… felt - when they had me?"

"No." Emphatic. "Nothing like that - because what they experienced made them want to hurt you. I can't conceive of ever wanting to see you hurt."

"Does that mean you are pleased with me?"

Jim grabbed him, hugged him hard, close. "Pleased is an understatement, but - I promised you I wouldn't do that - and I meant it, at the time. I don't know what came over me. Are you sure you're okay? I feel like such a bastard."

"Why? You did not harm me - it was very pleasurable."

"You weren't just… well, giving in, were you? Out of fear?"

Spock became aware then that this man needed reassurance as much as he himself had, before. The realization brought an overwhelming flood of affection. He reached out, stroked Jim's face. "If I had asked you to stop, you would have. I knew that. There is nothing for you to reproach yourself for. It was my choice - for the first time, it was my choice."

"I'm a bastard anyway. Because despite this I have to take you to the StarBase and leave you there."

"You will come back." A calm statement of fact.

"Only to leave again." Painfully, he added "it's a given fact of my life. I hate it, but there it is."

"I understand. Jim, why are you doing this to yourself? You have given me back my life - and have brought me such happiness. It is irrational for you to feel guilty."

Jim had to laugh. "You are feeling better, aren't you? You're starting to sound like a Vulcan. But…"

"We have a week - is that correct?"

"Yes."

"Very well. We will enjoy it. And when it is over - it is over. You need have no apprehensions regarding me - I will be fine."

Why not? A shore leave to remember - and perhaps not such a bad thing for Spock, to experience the normal give and take of a genuine love relationship. He certainly didn't need to carry the burden of Kirk's guilt. A week of this happiness - that's more than a lot of people get in their whole lifetime. Stop thinking so much about yourself, Captain, and think of him.

"How's your arm?"

"Much better - there is hardly any pain at all."

"Speaking of which, Gary - and I have a little call to pay on that murdering…"

"You will not find him - he will have removed himself to one of his other properties. He has several scattered around the country-side."

"Why should he have left."

"What he has done is a capital offense. He assaulted your slave - more, he thinks he has killed me. They would behead him for that. He will not return until your ship has left orbit." •

"Still, it's not right that he can do that to you and just… get off scot free. He should be punished."

"What would that accomplish?"

"It would make me feel one hell of a lot better to beat him to a pulp, for one thing."

"You do not have that choice. If you report him to the authorities they will do nothing because he is now out of their jurisdiction. And if you…"

"You don't know that for sure."

"The man is a great many things, but he is not stupid. He will not be sitting at his house waiting to be arrested. Were you to find him yourself, his bodyguards might do you a serious injury." The flash in the hazel eyes told Spock that was the wrong approach. "Moreover, although you, as a StarFleet officer, are not subject to arrest you would be required to return to your ship and all your property on Todaka would be confiscated for sale at public auction."

"So? I have no…oh. You mean yourself. Well, that would seem to be that."

"I would prefer it to be forgotten, in any event. As you said, it is over."

"How can you know he won't come back? Unless you plan on hiding in these rooms for the rest of the week - which sounds pretty dull - he's going to hear that you're alive."

"He will not return. He obtained what he wanted, and will not risk…Jim, do we have to talk about him?"

"No, no, of course not. I'll tell you what. We'll have breakfast while we're waiting for Piper - you know, the doctor who treated your arm last night. He said he'd be by to check it out this morning. Then - much as I hate to suggest it - what do you think about getting a haircut?"

Spock's face lit. "You would do that?"

"Why not? It's not a big deal, or anything, I just thought…"

"It is a very big… it will totally change my status here."

"That much of a difference?"

"I would be able to go out - without being considered fair game for anyone with a little time on his hands. That would make a great difference to me."

"Okay, you can get that done in the hotel shop" he saw Spock's eyes change - "no good? All right then, let me do it. I'm pretty good - at least I used to be." His communicator beeped. "And that, if I'm not mistaken, will be Piper."

*****



Two hours later, Jim stood in the door and watched Spock fasten his jacket. It was difficult to believe that this was the same terrified disheveled Vulcan he'd picked off the market block only - what, two days ago? The sleek haircut made a tremendous difference, as did the warm serviceable clothes. But the biggest difference was in his manner, which was no longer frightened and withdrawn. Only his eyes still revealed the ordeal he'd gone through, and even that trace of horror was gone when they rested on Jim Kirk, as they did now, with a softness which brought Kirk to him, filled with the need to touch, to hold. Arms around the Vulcan's waist, head leaning against the other's shoulder he felt powerful arms wrap about his back with a sense of wonder. He couldn't remember when he'd been in the embrace of someone taller and stronger than himself. It felt wonderful, and he sighed, pressing his face into that warm neck.

Spock was somewhat taken aback by this beginning of the equalization of their roles. Feeling the Human lean against him, aware suddenly of the relative fragility of the bones and muscles under his hands, it was as though he realized his own strength for the first time. Turning his head slightly, he breathed "Jim" ever so softly into the other man's ear, and felt him shiver with pleasure. Intrigued, he blew gently, licked. Jim shuddered, bit his neck, then let his head fall back into the crook of Spock's arm, mouth open, accepting the kiss, letting the force of it press him further back and down, trusting absolutely in the strength and firmness of the arms surrounding him.

The sweet, demanding kisses were turning his legs to hot soup, willing them to open. He wanted to lie down, and managed to get a few words out between the repeated delicious assaults on his mouth. "Spock… don't you think… the bed would be better? Before I fall down, I mean."

"You will not fall." Spock's right arm moved from Jim's back to lift him under his knees with ease - he felt weightless. Spock carried him into the bedroom and deposited him on the mattress, leaning down with him to suck the cool Human tongue into his mouth, releasing that last. Jim lay still, eyes closed, listening to the sounds of clothes being unzipped, unsnapped, and dropped to the floor. His own garments unfastened with such delicacy that they seemed to slide off him of themselves.

Then Spock's hands were all over him, tormentingly light, and he was painfully aroused, his body moving, aching, needing. His own voice, begging shamelessly. "Spock, Spock, suck me suck my – oh yes, there too."

Spock, remembering the pleasures he'd been given, was licking the nipples so like his own except for color, exquisite, he thought, raptly admiring the delicate pink. Kirk's hands were in his hair, pushing his head down, down - willingly he allowed himself to be guided, stopping to study the erect cock, beautiful in its blood engorged state - the head almost the same color as the nipples - he licked it - beautifully iridescent when wet - he licked it again, then swallowed it almost whole, throat muscles rippling around the head, lips and teeth daintily feasting on the base. He combed his fingers through the golden pubic curls, tugging, twining them around his fingers. Closing his teeth with infinite gentleness around the throbbing organ, he clamped his hands around Kirk's waist, lifting him, rolling them both over. Jim went happily, wanting only to follow that hot, devouring mouth, to allow those hands to position him however they pleased. Spock leaned forward, guiding Kirk on top of him, between his legs, and, his own face still buried in the Human's groin, very slowly lowered the ass he held so firmly onto his own demanding rod. Jim, realizing through his haze of pleasure Just what Spock wanted, pushed down, tucked both his legs under Spock's thighs, letting the Vulcan's cock fill him to bursting, arching back and resting on his spread arms. Spock brought his mouth slowly back up Jim's cock till all suction was concentrated on the head, long fingers wrapped around the still wet base, rubbing, squeezing, thrusting his tongue into the tiny hole at the very tip, Jim moaning, thrusting along the length of Spock's organ, feeling the soft balls tickling the crevice of his ass, faster, harder, till the orgasm set them off in a shared fusion of monumental intensity, leaving them a crumpled, inert heap. Jim collapsed forward, feeling the cock soften, relax, sliding out of him. He groped for the blanket on the floor, wrapped them both up in it, snuggling closer to Spock, eyes closing. "I thought we were going out." Spock's voice sounded very far away.

"Later," he mumbled. "Everything'll still be there. Let's sleep now - just for a little while," his voice trailed off. Spock lay awake, holding him, shaken by the unexpected vulnerability of the Human. I must not allow him to feel guilty for 1eaving - that would be poor recompense for all he has done for me. I must convince him that it is all right, that I am strong enough - don't let him suspect that it comes from him, that alone I would be… will be - but that is far away and I will not think of it. I will think about him. I will give him happiness for as long as it is permitted - and he is happy with me. In a week I could make him change his mind about leaving - there must be something he could do that would allow him to keep me with him. How can I let him go? But I must - I must. I will not think about it anymore. Surely a week of this joy will last me for a long time - perhaps even until he comes back. He promises to come back. - but no, I shall not hold him to that. When he goes he will be gone. Now is all I have and will have, and it is absurd to waste this time regretting the future. Whatever he wishes, I will do - and now he wants us to sleep together so I will comply. Resolutely, he closed his eyes and, eventually succeeded.

*****



The rest of Kirk's leave passed in a happy haze of lovemaking, trips to the beach, the zoo, the park; long walks, meals untasted and unfinished, more lovemaking, and dreamless sleep wrapped in each other’s arms. No one disturbed them, and Kirk's imminent departure was not mentioned again. The night before they beamed back to the Enterprise was the first time either of them spoke of it, and then it was brief. He fucked Spock for the first time that night, a thing he had desperately wanted but hesitated to do before, unwilling to bring back painful memories. That night, however, they had both known would be their last together, and when he slid his hands up the insides of Spock's thighs, feeling them tremble, and part, he didn't even pause to worry, he went ahead and entered, Spock's deep throated pleasured purr arousing him more than ever before and he had three gloriously effortless orgasms before Spock cried out and clung to him, almost sobbing with the pleasure. Afterwards, Jim sat up.

"I feel like shit to be leaving you - after this. Are you sure…”

Now is the time, Spock thought. If I ask him now to stay, if I told him how afraid I am, how much I dread what is to come, he will not go. But that would not be honorable. He deserves more from me than that.

"Everything will be all right, Jim," he said gently, thankful that the darkness prevented Kirk from seeing the lie in his eyes. "They are my family, after all. It is where I belong. You have your duty, your ship," he'd seen the light in Jim's eyes when he spoke of the Enterprise and had to force back the quick jealousy, but was glad now for the distraction.

"Mark spoke to StarFleet already," Kirk said finally. "First the Vulcan Healer will touch your mind, attempt to restore your memory, and then you'll be debriefed on the original Klingon attack and hopefully you'll remember what happened to the rest of the crew. After that - you'll be free to go."

"Where?" The word slipped out, and he could have bitten off his tongue for the barely disguised despair in it. Jim looked at him sharply.

"To Vulcan, I imagine. You'll want to, once you remember - it's your home."

You are my home, Spock thought desolately. Only you… "I don't want to talk about it anymore," he whispered. Time enough… "hold me now…" they made love again before falling asleep - neither dominant this time - facing each other, arms and legs wrapped around each other, hips pressing, cocks rubbing, stroking each other until the climax was a spreading sweet warmth in both of them and they didn't even have time to get untangled before darkness took them.

*****



The next days passed in a merciful blur. Piper had beamed down before they were ready to go, and observed the rigid, closed-off efficiency with which Kirk was packing their belongings. He deeply pitied the white-faced silence Spock was moving in, and gave him a hefty shot, which had the effect of wrapping the Vulcan in a blanket of unreality. Events lost meaning, and he watched calmly as the Enterprise transporter room materialized around him. Kirk headed for the bridge, while he himself was hustled off to Sickbay where he spent the two hours until the StarBase undergoing a barrage of tests. Piper almost hoped to find some good reason to forbid the upcoming interrogation - he was of the private opinion that Spock wasn't strong enough yet for the combination of deep mind melds and a painful recapitulation of his capture and imprisonment. But all readings showed him as fit, and, reluctantly, Piper signed a report to that effect. Jim was in the transporter room, waiting, when they got there. New orders had come through - highly perishable vaccines to be delivered to Sigma VII with all speed. There was no time for him to do any of the things he'd promised, not even to beam down briefly for a farewell… He suspected this had been arranged for him, and it rankled. Already he didn't like the turn things were taking. StarFleet was not disposed to wait for the arrival of the Vulcans, who had already been delayed several times. Commodore Nosar proposed to use a psychotricorder to establish the facts. That bit of information almost made Kirk change his mind altogether - he had a wild urge to throw his arms around Spock and warn everyone else off, but he stifled it. They had to know what the Klingons were up to, and if there was any hope at all for the rest of the crew. There had been no guarantee that a mind probe would work. With the psychotricorder they would know absolutely everything which had happened for as far back as they cared to make the setting. Once they knew what they had to know, then the Vulcan Healer could do his part. The fact that to all intents and purposes Spock would have to relive his ordeal was regrettable but necessary. He refused to dwell on it. Their affair was over, and it was time for them both to go their separate ways.

Now, behind the controls, Jim gave the order. "Energize." Spock's eyes met his as the sparkle took him - alone - to his unknown future, and at the misery in them Jim took a step forward, wanting to call him back, to reverse the beam, to follow his original impulse, but it was too late. He was left staring at the empty platform.

*****



"It's done, Jim," Gary was saying as they sat at dinner together. "What are you feeling so badly about? You picked him up practically out of the sewer and delivered him to safety. On the way you performed what has to be the quickest therapy on record. I don't understand why you're still harping on it."

"I guess I did get more involved than I should have," Jim admitted, picking at his food with disinterest. "And I'm not happy about leaving him there to go through a psychic reenactment of the whole thing. He's suffered enough already."

"What would you suggest, that StarFleet drop the whole thing? Pat him on the head and send him back to Vulcan, just like that?"

"Why not?" Kirk was becoming more belligerent the more he thought about it. "It's been nearly three years - we've lived without that damned information all this time, and if he'd been killed we'd still be without it."

"And it the other crewmembers are alive? They might be…"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. You're right." He sighed, pushed back his tray, and rose. "I just - ah, hell. You are right. I'll get back to work and forget about it."

*****



Over a week later, with the vaccines delivered, and the Enterprise waiting for reassignment, he still hadn't forgotten - how could he forget the feel of that hard, slender body in his arms, the scent of soft black hair in his nostrils, the taste of those warm lips under his? And so much more - their easy communication, the warmth which had grown between them even before he'd taken Spock to his bed. He was wretched. Nothing interested him, nothing mattered. All his previous dissatisfaction with his job had returned tenfold. The petty bureaucratic haggling, the sharp competition among the Junior officers, the ridiculous squandering of a starship, its fuel and crew on one routine mission after another was wearing him down. He hadn't seen his new orders, but he knew what they would be - escort two diplomats here, transport this fragile cargo there - in a galaxy long controlled he was beginning to feel obsolete. No challenge, he thought, no… he wished he could take the ship, which, despite all, he dearly loved, and just go. There were countless unexplored solar systems out there, and light years of uncharted space, but he was confined to the known areas of Federation influence. And he missed Spock more than he would have believed.

"But I can't go back for him. I can't. It wouldn't be fair - he'll be done at the StarBase soon and on his way home. He doesn't need me complicating his life by showing up again."

"Why not try to find out, if you feel so strongly about it?" Piper poured him another drink.

"You know I can't. There's no way he could come with me - I'd have to leave the Enterprise."

"Oh, that's right. You'd have to leave here - where you're so very happy and fulfilled."

Kirk glared at him. "That's a pretty low blow, Doctor."

"I'm sick and tired of your grousing. You hate the service, but you won't leave it, or even try for a new place in it. You love this Vulcan but you won't go to him. Give me a break and either do something about your life or shut up. I have patients with worse problems than terminal indecision."

"Thanks for the advice, Mark."

"That wasn't advice. You want advice? Here. Either dedicate yourself to StarFleet as it is, without wishing it was something else, or try to achieve change within the bureaucracy, which I admit is pretty hopeless - the system works, after all, even it doesn't exactly thrill you - or go back to StarBase 8 and take a shot at love. It just might be all it's cracked up to be, you know."

"I have responsibilities. I can't ignore them for personal motives. It wouldn't be right."

"There's nothing else in the universe tor you to do but run a starship? And of course the starship couldn't fly without you. Bull. There's planet colonization, independent surveys…and if responsibility is what enamours you, you might consider your responsibility to that young man you picked up. I don't know what you did for him, or what you two were to each other, but…"

"We were friends. It's funny, but we were friends almost right away - even before we were lovers."

"Lovers?" Mark set down his cup with a bang. "You mean to tell me you took deliberate advantage of him like that? Took advantage of his trust in you, his dependence on you - and used him? Just like everybody else he's met?" He shook his head. "I don't believe it. It I had even suspected that, I'd have had him out of there so fast you'd never have known what hit you - not that you do anyway."

"That's not the way it was!" Kirk shouted at him. "There was more to it…it was…"

"It was just like that!" Piper thundered back. "You proved it when you left without one backwards look!"

"I didn't force him. He came to me willingly - and it was good for him."

"Very kind of you, I'm sure." There was a pause, while both men collected their tempers. "Look, Jim, never mind all these things you think you should do. What do you want to do?"

He answered without hesitation. "I want to turn this ship around and go back and get him. It isn't just him needing me, depending on me, you know. He had - has a strength I've never found anywhere else. I think… I need him as much as he needs me." Reaching across his desk he gave Piper a sudden, brusque hug. "Thanks, Mark. You're right. You're absolutely right. I'll work things out here, somehow. See you later." He escorted the doctor to the door, and sat down again. Time to call in every old favor he was owed; time to reorganize his life, change his life, do anything necessary in order to make room in it for one other.

*****



Spock sat on the couch in the treatment room, waiting for the technicians and the Commodore. He regarded his hands, folded quietly in his lap. His memory had been restored two days ago - he had himself in context now. He had something else, unfortunately - the Vulcan had been unable to completely disguise his own reactions, and Spock was newly, humiliatingly aware of the depths of the degradation to which he had been subjected. Loss of self-control - he knew now that that was the thing to feel shame for. What had been done to him was repugnant and disgusting, but his own surrender to his fear and pain was worse. He had failed to maintain his equilibrium. He had proven himself less than he should be. And it had been while this awareness was fresh in his mind, while he was still wrestling with the self-loathing it had engendered, that they had come for the third time with the psychotricorder. They had said that his awakened memories might throw new light on his original capture. He had submitted to it, seeing no alternative, but the experience was nearly intolerable. Today he had been sent for again and he seriously doubted his ability to handle another session. I will not, he thought angrily, they have all the information they need, it is not fair to make me… the door slid open, and his worst fears were confirmed as he saw them carry in the machine. Spock eyed it suspiciously, considering it as deadly in its own way as the Klingon Mind-Sifter.

"Well, we are sorry to have kept you waiting. It's all set up, so if you would sit over here, we can begin." Commodore Nosar pulled an upright chair next to the tricorder, and beamed at Spock. He had an affected very fatherly attitude which was becoming irritating, combined as it was with his peculiar fascination with these repetitive sessions. Spock, who knew the type well, set his jaw and his eyes hardened.

"No, I will not. Three times is enough."

Genial laughter. "I'm afraid I don't understand - you can't be refusing to cooperate?"

"You understand perfectly. I refuse to submit to any further use of the psychotricorder. If it is more information you need, I shall attempt to satisfy you from my own memory, which is now quite comprehensive.”

Nosar thumbed the intercom. "Send in Dr. Iren with a sedative, will you? Our patient seems rather agitated."

"You are wasting your time. I will not accept sedation."

"Send in two security guards as well." The malicious smile he sent Spock as he closed the channel indicated that he knew perfectly well the impact his words had. Spock felt the icy grip of fear again - that fear which he had thought banished forever. To go through that again… Jim, he thought wildly, where are you? If you were here they would not dare… the doctor came in, readying the hypo, flanked by the red-shirted security guards. Knowing that a struggle would be useless and undignified, Spock nevertheless felt every muscle readying for it when the door opened again. Nosar looked up, annoyed.

"I thought I issued strict orders that no one - what the hell are you doing here?"

Spock lifted his head cautiously, reluctant to see who had entered. It could not be good… his breath caught, voice reduced to a whisper. "Jim!" The light in his face told its own story, however, and Kirk went to him instantly. He was dismayed and angry at the Vulcan's pallor the dark smudges under his eyes, and mostly at the tight wariness he had seen in that turn towards the door. Somehow Spock had been frightened again, and Jim laid a hand lightly on his shoulder, feeling tension drain away as supple fingers covered his.

"What's going on here? Are you people still at this? I thought it would be done by now."

"It's taking longer than we expected, Captain Kirk. Now if you will wait in the outer office until this session is over, you'll have time for a brief visit afterwards."

"No - Jim, don't go." Spock tightened his grip. "You must make him stop - I cannot go through it again."

"Now you see what you've done - you've upset him. Doctor… the tranquilizer, it you please." Obligingly, Iren again produced the hypo, and the guards came to attention, signaling their readiness for action if it were needed.

"No," Spock said it rather desperately, and when the doctor paid no attention, merely reaching for his arm, Kirk put out an arresting hand.

"Hold on," he said sharply. "He doesn't want a shot. What - " he caught sight of the equipment on the table. "Haven't you used that yet?

"Three times," Spock said. "Twice before my memory was restored, and once after, and I cannot do it again. I'm sorry…" he looked at Nosar - "I'm trying to help, but… you must understand, I cannot do it anymore." Seeing no softening in Nosar's face he looked again to Kirk. "I am afraid I will lose my reason, if I have to… now that I remember…"

"Your memory is back?" Jim waited for him to nod. "And you've been debriefed three times - looks to me like you've done your bit here." Pointedly, he stared at Nosar. "Don't you agree, Commodore?"

"No, I emphatically do not agree! The psychotricorder readings must be taken again, and again after that, as often as I think necessary. And you, Captain, have no right whatever to interfere!"

Spock shuddered, and Jim squeezed his shoulder. "Stop worrying," he said calmly. "I'm here - you know I won't let him do this. Just relax and let me handle things." Spock obediently allowed his head to drop back onto the sofa cushion, and closed his eyes. He was worn out, and the angry voices around him gradually faded into a mildly annoying buzz.

"I'm considering making a log entry," Kirk began slowly, "concerning my belief that you are deliberately prolonging these sessions for the sick pleasure you get out of them. How would that look on your record - whether I could prove it or not?"

"You… you… how dare you suggest that I - I - a respected member of StarFleet, would… I'll have you brought up on slander charges! I'll…"

"And how are you going to justify three, or four, of these little porn festivals of yours? Is there really vital information you're missing? The fate of the other crewmembers, for instance?"

"They are all dead. He saw it happen."

"Klingon strengths? Military secrets? Got all that? Then I suggest sir, that this would look extremely odd." He looked again at the security men. "This strong arm stuff - sedation - you're planning to use force on him? After all he's been through, you're actually using violence on him?"

"We've done no such thing!"

"Not yet." God, if I hadn't arrived…"sign his release, or I warn you, I'll make such a stink about this matter that you'll never be able to show your face anywhere except places like Todaka." Kirk lowered his voice. He had to give the man a graceful out. "Come on, Commodore, let it go. I really don't want to have to do that, if only for Spock's sake. You have your information, you've succeeded in your assignment. Now sign his release." Without even waiting for an answer, he pulled Spock to his feet. Reaching into his pocket, he produced his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise. Two to beam up." He tightened his grip on Spock and felt the beam take them.

Jim shepherded him directly to his own quarters, and called Piper. Spock sat quietly throughout the examination and was pronounced exhausted but fit. He allowed himself to be put to bed, listened to Jim make his farewells, explaining that he was still on duty but that nobody would bother Spock while he slept, managed a faint "thank you" directed at both men before they left, and sank into a deep, refreshing slumber.

When he awoke, it was ship's night, and Jim was sitting on the bed holding his hand. "Hi."

"How long have you been here?"

"About an hour. Are you hungry?"

"Not now - Jim. You came back. I didn't even dare hope that you would."

Jim reached down, gathered Spock into his arms, pressed the smooth head into his shoulder and sighed contentedly. Now that he held the Vulcan once more, it was incredible that he had ever let him go. "I missed you."

"You have saved me - again. I do not know how I can repay you."

"Don't be ridiculous. What's important is that I want… I want you with me. Forever. I want…" he stopped. Spock pulled free of his arms, moved back a little. The dark eyes were very penetrating, but he met them without hesitation.

"Why?"

"Because I love you."

"You have said that before… yet you left. Why is it different now?"

"I was wrong to leave. Nothing was any good without you."

"I wish you to understand that you are not tied to me in any way. I am grateful for what you have done, but you are not obligated to continue. Nothing has changed. You still have a career to consider, and I…"

"And you," Jim completed slowly, "have remembered just who you are, that you're a Vulcan, and that this is a whole new ballgame. Is that it? If it is, just tell me. I don't want you to feel under any kind of compulsion to be with me. I didn't do this for a reward, or for a piece of ass, either. I did it because it was the right thing to do. Afterwards, when I got to know you, I fell in love with you - as an individual. I would have fallen in love with you eventually no matter how we met. But if you don't want me, I can handle it." Probably. "As for my career, I've already served notice on StarFleet Command that they can either rearrange my commitments so my life can include you, or they can forget it. As someone pointed out, it's a big galaxy. And you happen to be a computer expert second to none, incidentally, so it wouldn't be that difficult to work it out. If you want. If not, well ..."

"You have done that?" Spock was staring at him with amazement. "You really want…"

"You." Jim finished the sentence, smiling. "I want you. I haven't been able to think about anything else. And you?"

"I… of course I want you. You know that I love you. You are the only one I have ever loved. To be with you, to work with you, would be an honor and a privilege."

"And to sleep with me?"

Spock dropped his eyes, and the color rose in his face. "To sleep with you… would be a delight. As always."

Jim began to laugh. "Then may I ask what we're waiting for?" Spock pulled him down and, driven by a sudden torrent of desire, they tore at each other's clothes till they were cast aside, and sank into the embrace. Jim took him without hesitation, driving his cock home, grasping Spock's organ, pumping, squeezing, while with his free hand he stroked the beloved face, brushed the fringe of dark lashes, traced the outline of mouth, jaw, placing his ear over Spock's mouth, shivering with pleasure as Spock's moans tickled him all the way down his spine. Spock came first, thrusting his tongue into the small, delicately rounded ear as he arched upwards, feeling Kirk's hand become slippery with semen, sliding over his pulsing cock. The feel of Spock melting against him, his arms wound around Kirk's neck, the anal muscles softening after the heated orgasmic contractions, all combined to make him cry out, pressing, grinding himself as far into Spock's body as he could get, gasping frenzied endearments until it was over, and he stopped, face securely tucked into the warmth of Spock's throat, Spock's arms still tight about his neck. They stayed like that for a long time, neither wanting to be the one to move. Finally, by mutual, silent consent they separated while Jim rinsed off his hands, brought Spock a cold glass of water and a warm wet cloth with which he caressingly wiped the Vulcan's thighs clean. Then he perched on the edge of the bed again. "Well? You hungry yet?"

"Yes." Spock was smiling at him, rather shyly. "Do you always do that?"

"What?"

Spock blushed again, to Jim's delight. "Talk so much when you - you know, when you…"

"Never before - never with anyone else. Did it bother you?"

"Oh – no… it was wonderful. I liked it. Please feel free, in the future, to repeat yourself as much as you choose."

"You'll have to teach me some Vulcan words. Do Vulcans have terms like that?"

"Yes - although I must admit I never thought to hear them expressed in that context. Jim?"

"What?"

"I am now extremely hungry."

"Good. Me too. Let's go eat. And then we can come back here and play around some more. Here's your clothes, no, these are my pants… here are yours…"

"Your boots are over there." They untangled their clothing, dressed, Jim kissed Spock once more, loving the taste of him, the implied promise in the way his lips opened so willingly, the brief feel of their bodies pressed together, before he bowed the Vulcan out the door and they walked together to dinner, and a new life for both.

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