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Originally published in 1983 in the print fanzine Final Frontier #2.

"The world is so empty if one thinks only

of mountains, rivers, and cities, but to

know someone who thinks and feels with us,

and who, though distant, is close to us in

spirit, this makes the earth, for us, an

inhabited garden."

 

"Give it up," McCoy said, anguished. "Don't throw your last chance at reinstatement within Starfleet chasing a…a ghost!"

"He's alive," Kirk said in the weary tones of someone repeating something for the hundredth time. "Even the Vulcans have conceded that with all the mind melds Spock and I have shared, plus our…closeness, the possibility of a mental link is very strong. And I am telling you I know he's alive."

"Even if he is, you don't stand a chance of finding him by yourself - not after nearly two years."

"So because Starfleet's given up, and the Vulcan Council has given up, I'm supposed to follow suit? Say 'yes sir' like a good little soldier and leave my best friend - abandon him to a life of unbelievable horror?  I can't believe I'm the only one who cares what happens to him."

"That's right, Jim, You're the only one who cares. Do you really believe that? You think I don't grieve for Spock? You think Christine doesn't grieve, Uhura, Scotty, his family…"

"But you can give up and abandon him to the life of a…a…"

"Slave." McCoy said the word flatly. "Yes. I know."

"And worse."

"I still think you should work this through better before making any irreversible decisions, Jim. Once the Enterprise leaves here no Federation ship will call for three months. You'll be stranded here in this identity - attending those slave viewings, going to every filthy whorehouse you can find - what do you think three more months of this will do to you? And after that, what? Another three months? And another? Your whole life wasted in this sinkhole for what? In search of someone who doesn't even exist any longer."

"I will find him," Kirk said again, coming down hard on each word, "Then we'll take the next ship out."

"All right. Assuming you do find him - what will you have then?"

"I'll have Spock. That's enough."

"He won't even know who you are! You know the way they condition their slaves here; and the drugs they use!  Even a Vulcan - a full Vulcan, couldn't hold out against them. And drugged he won't be able to shield his mind against other people's emotions. It will lay waste to his thinking – devastate his entire personality structure. You won't have Spock. You'll have a slave. More particularly, a sex slave. An orifice."

"You bastard," Kirk whispered. "How can you even…"

"It's the way he's going to think of himself!" McCoy shouted. "And what are you going to do with him after you get out of here? Nursemaid him for the rest of your life? Don't you see the absurdity of it? He'll outlive you by a hundred years! Institutionalized. Practically a vegetable."

"Don't be ridiculous. Once I find him, I'll be able to help him regain his memory." Or at least keep him safe from further harm.

"If you really believe that," McCoy said slowly, "I pity you." He sighed. "Or maybe I envy you, I'm not sure. Maybe I'm wrong. I've been wrong about Spock before. I'll try and arrange earlier transportation - get here sooner myself and check up on you." He hesitated, troubled. "I'd stay if I could, Jim, you know I would. But…"

"But you're a doctor, with an obligation to use your gifts and training on the populace at large, not just one man," Kirk said gently. "I understand. I wouldn't want you to stay - although I will miss you, Bones." His eyes wandered past McCoy to the teeming throngs in the street outside his window. Even as he watched, there was a brief commotion - a slave was being strung up in the square to be whipped. After a moment the crowd continued its movements – the public punishment of a slave was too common an occurrence to attract much interest.

No longer even pretending to listen to McCoy, Jim leaned against the wall and stared into the crowd. The Vepars, although humanoid in appearance and behavior, had a disconcertingly ursine quality. Men and women alike, although differing widely in such externals as hair color and skin tone, shared an average height of nearly seven feet, and a lumbering, awkward gait. And while the women generally were attractive in a sturdy way the men were coarse, brutal, and possessed of ferocious tempers.

McCoy interrupted his solitary brooding with a touch on the shoulder. "They won't be doing that to Spock, you know," he said, nodding in the direction of the whipping which was still going on.

"No," Jim agreed heavily. "No, that would damage the goods, wouldn't it - and they'll want him in prime condition."

"Jim…"

"Just look at the men on this planet!" Kirk burst out. "They're nothing but animals with just enough brains to make them dangerous. Ugly, vicious brutes…and Spock." His throat closed, and for a moment he couldn't speak. Spock. "In their hands, at their mercy…I can't stand it."

"You keep dwelling on it like this and you're going to push yourself over the brink," McCoy warned. "I don't have to tell you what an unhealthy obsession it is."

"How can I help it? I love him - how I love him. I always wanted to show him - hold him - make him happy - but I didn't dare." He laughed shortly. "That's a joke - I didn't want to touch him for fear I'd shock him - scare him off - and now…"

McCoy, who had had this conversation many times, sighed heavily.  "I understand. We all understand. But I still say there must come a point where your own life has to take precedence. You've done more than any other man in your place would have done. You've searched for over eighteen months. You could look for the rest of your life and still never find him. Once someone is swallowed up in their underworld system of brothels and private sales and…and social clubs, for Pete's sake - the chances are virtually nil that they'll ever surface again."

"You're not changing my mind, Doctor."

"Spock would be the last person to want you to throw your life away like this. He'd tell you the same thing I am - give it up."

"Never." It was the final word, and McCoy recognized it as such.

"Then I guess there's nothing left to say."

Jim smiled at him affectionately. "I’m sure you'll think of something, Bones."

"Do you have enough money to live on? You have to present a wealthy image, you know - not to mention the purchase price."

"Amanda and Sarek have provided me with more than enough."

"Well - remember if you do find him, and get him, you'll have to maintain the cover until the ship comes. If they even suspect that you're taking him off-world they'll repossess him."

"I know."

"He won't recognize you, and don't try to prod it. It would be just as well if he thought of you as his owner.  He's not going to be in any condition to carry out an elaborate charade."

"All right, but I have to tell him he's safe. I can't let him think I bought him just to use him and then sell him again."

"There's no real point in trying to figure it out now.  You'll just have to play it by ear. Take care of yourself, Jim - and of Spock, if you find him. I'll see you as soon as possible. Goodbye."

"Goodbye, Bones." Kirk stood in the doorway, watching the doctor walk down the road until he was lost in the crowd. Then he wandered back to the window.

 

 

Spock sat with his hands quietly folded in his lap. A brush was run through his hair one last time, then someone pulled it behind his shoulders to hang down his back. Spock submitted to the handling docilely, his eyes never leaving the slim, elegant man who stood nearby.

"Yes, that makes a very nice picture…just one more minute…" cool fingers tilted Spock's chin up slightly, smoothed his bangs. "Yes, that's better. Go ahead."

A camera whirred briefly. "Excellent. That will be quite suitable. Distribute it through the usual dealers - and remember, I want credits. I must be leaving here shortly and while your currency may be charmingly illustrated it is worthless elsewhere. Dismissed. Spock…" the Vulcan rose and followed him out the door, through a long hallway and into an ornately furnished bedchamber. He hesitated in the entrance, staring in silence at the man within. Larger even than the average massive Veparian male, he grinned at the sight of the Vulcan, stretched, elaborately cracking his knuckles.

"You remember Dola, don't you Spock?" The slender man smiled at the Veparian. "Dola, I will be selling this slave as soon as possible. Before he leaves here I want you to reinforce the mental blocks you established against any unfortunate actions on his part. When I come back I don't want to hear that he's committed suicide, or escaped, or somehow ingratiated himself with anyone of sufficient importance to free him - I want to buy him right back, as usual." His hand had slipped down Spock's back to his ass, beginning the slow, chill, insinuating caresses which always turned the Vulcan weak with revulsion. "I don't quite trust this seemingly guileless compliance - go!" he ordered Spock sharply and, reluctantly, Spock obeyed. He was deathly afraid of Dola and his dirty, probing fingers, his even dirtier and more intrusive telepathic powers, but the consequences of being slow to follow one of his owner's commands were such as to make resistance, even delay, unthinkable. Swallowing, shivering, he moved towards the bed to stand between the broad thighs. The man's hands moved up his legs, then down. Dola was grinning.

"I'll do the mind probe first, unless you have some objections," he told the other man, who had drawn an armchair up to a position next to the bed.

"You're the expert. I place him completely in your hands."

 

 

It was on the next afternoon after McCoy's departure that Jim got the call he'd been waiting for. He'd left his name with every slave dealer in the city, using only his middle name, Tiberius, in a hope against hope that Spock, if he had any memory left at all, might conceivably recognize it. No one else was likely to - he'd kept the rather bombastic middle name a secret from everyone who didn't absolutely have to know. He was aware that he was assuming a lot - that Spock would remember him at all, that he'd be in any position to do anything about it if he did; but it was the kind of long shot he'd been taking since the day Spock had disappeared from the newly refurbished Memory Alpha planetoid. He'd managed, with great difficulty, to trace the Vulcan here; but after that it was as though his friend had vanished into thin air. Sickened by his dawning realization of Spook's fate, 'Tiberius' had put it about that he was looking for something exotic in the way of a male pleasure slave, and had petulantly refused every offer he'd had. Now, turning on his wall view screen in response to the tip he'd received by phone, and scanning the video displays, he found himself on his feet, biting back a yell, freezing the picture and diving for the controls. He punched in a request for the price, blinked slightly at the astronomical sum demanded – in credits, yet - and entered his own, lower, counteroffer. It was rejected, but the next figure asked was somewhat more in line with what he had expected to pay. Still he dickered, hating the necessity yet aware that he must do nothing to attract attention to his purchase. Routine, routine, he thought, feeling sweat trickling down the back of his neck. Just a routine transaction - no need to worry - it's all done by computer anyway, no need to worry - Spock's eyes haunted him, and he accepted the next price that came up. Several personal questions came over, and 'Tiberius' answered them, rather puzzled at the necessity - he had never heard of this before. His replies must have been satisfactory, however, for in a moment the picture returned.

There was a pause and he propped his chin in his hands, gazing raptly at the photograph of his erstwhile First Officer. The trappings of Spock's captivity he had braced himself to expect - the longer hair, the scanty, nearly transparent clothes, but his eyes…Jim gazed into them, yearning, reached out to touch the screen. It is bad, he thought, heartsick. Wide, haunted, vulnerable - pupils dilated and fixed not on the screen but on something - or someone - slightly to the left of the camera. He looked like a shock victim. Spock as Jim had known him had possessed the cool courage of someone who has always been in control, if not of every situation, at least of himself. The man in this picture had learned what fear was, and it was destroying him.

The picture vanished; and the screen was filled with the computer read-out. Spock was listed as being nearly ten years younger than his actual age, and as having been born on this planet. He had been sold seven times, privately, and always returned to the original owner, whose identity was concealed behind the meaningless cover word One. Delivery would be tonight provided, the computer added, that Tiberius had the required number of credits on hand. He indicated that he did, and the screen went blank.

It had happened so quickly that Jim felt dizzy. He wondered achingly what was happening to Spock now. He would be told only that he had been sold - if that. Bound to frighten him - he'll have no idea…he didn't know how he was going to occupy himself until that evening, and settled for alternately pacing and feverishly cleaning and preparing the house. I found him, I found him, was singing through his brain - all other difficulties seemed insignificant compared with the bare fact of Spock's survival and imminent rescue.

 

 

By the time Dola lifted his fingers from Spock's face, breaking the contact, Spock was shaking helplessly, tears running down into his hair, spotting the pillow. The hard fingers had left darkening bruises, and One's hand touched them caressingly. Spock shuddered at that touch. He was still pinned beneath Dola's weight, and could feel the Veparian's arousal pressed hard and burning against his hip.

One spoke, finally, still tracing the fingerprints on the Vulcan's white face. "While you two were occupied I received word that the slave has been sold. I suggest you enjoy yourself, Dola; this may be the last time for you for a while unless you can strike up a bargain with Tiberius. Your new master's name, Spock, I suggest you remember it."

The name meant nothing to Spock, and the fact that he was again to change hands was superseded by the immediate presence of these loathed and dreaded men. As Dola's clumsy hands stripped off his clothes he moaned. One leaned closer, stroking his hair. "This is going to be exquisitely painful," he murmured in one delicately curved ear, "are you ready?"

"Please," Spock whispered, knowing it was useless, and degrading, but unable to stop "please - don't - no, no…" he cried out as the alien organ began to push itself into his body. The size alone would have been enough to cause searing agony, but the Veparian penis was adorned with a single row of tiny flat orange hairs, soft in appearance but which rose, bristling, when the cock became erect; dragging up the tender anal canal they made Spock writhe, desperate to escape, forgetting all his conditioning, forgetting the punishments meted out for resistance. One's face was very close to his and he could feel the greedy eyes drinking in his torment. Icy hands cupped his face tenderly.

"More, Dola," One ordered, and the alien obeyed, thrusting harder and faster for an interminable length of time. Finally, he climaxed, pumping his burning seed into the supine body, stopping at last, sweaty face buried in Spock's neck, massive body heaving with its gasps for air. Spock dug his nails into his palms, trying to brace himself against the withdrawal, arching helplessly and groaning aloud anyway when the cock was slowly dragged out of his body.

With a lazy sweep of his arm Dola shoved him off the bed. Spock curled up into a tight ball and lay where he had fallen, waiting for them to make the next move. He felt One's boot prodding his ribs and, obedient, pushed himself up into a kneeling position. Another, sharper poke in the side brought him to his feet. He could hear One clap his hands, summoning the other household slaves, but he kept his head down.

"Look at me, Spock," One said softly. Spock shook his hair back and met his owner's eyes. The familiar hatred stirred. You watch what he does because you cannot take me that way, much as you would like to…he knew the thought, if not the precise words, was clear in his face and was glad. One's impotence was the only vulnerability in his unflawed facade, and Spock's knowledge of it was his only edge, as well as being his greatest danger. Now he saw madness light in the pale eyes and readied himself for the blow which would bring blessed unconsciousness. Instead he was caught from behind in powerful arms and turned, half smothered in the Veparian's chest.

"My lord," Dola said gently, his large hands kneading the muscles and bones of Spock's back, sending slivers of agony through the Vulcan's nervous system, "you would only regret it if you struck him now. It will do your reputation harm if you deliver him in less than perfect condition. This is equally effective and leaves no bruises at all - there." He released Spock, who swayed.

"Thank you Dola," One said, his composure regained. "Have him prepared for delivery and then attend me. We will leave before night."

Spock sat on a hard chair and felt the house slave begin the task of combing the tangles out of his hair. Dola stood in front of him, supervising the selection of the clothes he was to wear when being presented to his new master. "Yes, that will do," he said finally. Placing his fists on his hips he grinned at Spock. "One has promised to take me in as a full partner any time now," he said expansively. Spock closed his eyes, trying to shut him out. Dola leaned closer. "Then it will be I who has charge of you while he is away. And the time comes sooner than you think. Maybe next time - maybe this time? Who knows?"

Spock's eyes flew open. "Is it this time? Are you the one who will have me?"

"I'm afraid you'll just have to wait and see." The affable smile vanished. "But whether it is this time or next time or next year, it will happen. And then…you will know what misery is. You think you know now? One week with me, and you will learn differently." Satisfied with his effect, he addressed the house slave. "Exert yourself, boy…for the price he has paid this Tiberius" he leered at Spock - "whoever he may be - will expect nothing less than perfection."

 

Much later, having been thoroughly cleaned, combed, and dressed, Spock leaned against a pillar by the window, resting his flushed face against its welcoming solidity. He would not be seeing Dola or One again for some time - unless the unthinkable has indeed happened and he will have me for himself. He wrenched his mind away from that thought, aware that if he allowed himself to dwell on it he would lose what precarious self-control he had left. Cautiously, he lowered the barrier he had rigidly maintained between his conscious mind and his memories. He had known from the beginning that if they even suspected his memory loss was not as complete as they thought, that they would either destroy his mind forever with their drugs or kill him outright, despite One's obsession with owning him. In point of fact, he remembered very little. He had deliberately allowed Dola's first forced probe to destroy most of his store of knowledge – that initial sweeping thrust searing away his technical information about the Enterprise and his tactical knowledge of the Federation's workings…laying that bare, enduring with gritted teeth the pain, fighting back with misdirection, evasion…with Dola, a concentration on the physical side of his enslavement was sufficient to arouse the Veparian to a point where he lost all interest in the Vulcan's private thoughts. Logical, considering his character - Spock saw no amusement in the thought of his logic, although One taunted him at times with what he saw as its uselessness in its owner's present predicament. But Spock clung to his logic more fiercely now than ever. It was the only thing which prevented him from sinking forever into a morass of emotions - his own, and other people's. He was immersed in that morass a good part of the time anyway - it was only on those rare occasions when he was alone that he could touch the fragile thread of clear thinking and follow it inward to his sanctuary.

It was necessary to surrender, in order to survive. That had been the hardest discipline of all those he'd ever had to master. He had wanted to fight them all the way, the way he had in the beginning…fighting until they had smashed his will, and broken his body. When strange hands crawled over him it took every last shred of will power to sit and endure it, to lie down when he was told and spread his legs, or to bend over, or perform acts which sickened and nauseated him to the point where he longed for death. Suicide - the ultimate surrender, and the ultimate resistance - tempted him often, despite Dola's strictures against it. But the only logic there was, was in submission, because he had to live, because in the end Jim would surely find him. Having followed the thread home he sighed, absently rubbing his cheek against the cool strength of the stone column. Jim. That was the only memory he had permitted himself to retain, and so far he had been successful in keeping Dola's prying mind away. Whenever Dola tried to follow that fine trail which seemed to lead to recesses in Spock's mind which he sensed dimly were being denied to him, he was always distracted by the images of Spock's surrender, and had thus far never fathomed how Spock clung to the image of Jim Kirk - sometimes so clear, so clear…his face, his smile, his touch - the sound of the door opening interrupted Spock's reverie and he pulled himself back up to the surface again. It was time to go to his new owner, to will his body into submission, to endure…but Jim will find me. He will find me, he would never give up looking until he has found me and saved me from this horror. And yet; if Dola obtained what he wanted before that happened it would be too late. Uninterrupted by other claims on his victim's body and time, Dola would leisurely ravage his mind until there were no more secret memories. And the only logical alternative to that was death.

 

For the last hour Jim had been peering out the window, listening for the sound of a vehicle, trying to steel himself into calm. Until the actual transaction was finished Spock would not be his, and any slip on his part would be…and there it was, the sound he had been waiting for. The air car landed lightly just outside his front yard, and in a few moments someone pressed his door buzzer. He straightened his shirt, moved back from the door - don't look too eager - and, unable to speak, released the lock mechanism. His door opened.

Spock came in slowly, warily, trying at the same time not to come too rapidly into an unknown situation, and to maintain a prudent distance from the two Veparians flanking his entrance. His eyes swept around the room. No one there except the lone figure. Good. He allowed himself a faint inward sigh of relief - at least he hadn't walked into an ongoing orgy, as had happened before. Only then did he allow his eyes to touch on his new master's face - a brief, surreptitious glance, because any direct stare might be construed as impudence. He felt the blood drain from his face even before his eyes snapped back to verify that it was, indeed, Jim, in the solid and wonderfully familiar flesh. The wave of joy left him giddy, but even as his gaze clung to the loved face he saw shock register in the hazel eyes, and in a flash he saw what Jim saw. Abruptly Spock was acutely, painfully conscious of what he'd grown to take for granted - the gauzy white tunic, the heaviness of his hair, which hung below his shoulders. The faint perfume they had rinsed it with suddenly nauseated him. Anyone but him, oh anyone but him to see me like this. The long awaited rescue turned to ashes in his mouth, and when he became aware, in a detached way, that he could no longer see Jim - no longer see anything - he let the river of darkness sweep him under without a struggle.

Jim took a step forward when Spock crumpled to the floor, then stopped, fingernails digging into his palms with frustration. "Is the slave sick?" he asked roughly, hearing the anger in his voice and finding some relief in venting it. "I had assumed that for the amount they charged me he would at least be healthy."

The guard saluted. "He is, lord, he is. It…has been a strenuous journey for him." He was trying unsuccessfully to conceal a grin, and the other guard nearly choked on smothered laughter. He had crouched beside the limp Vulcan and his hand covered his back, fingers splayed in a curious position. He squeezed - Jim saw his knuckles whiten and Spock moaned, trying to pull away. The heavy fingers tightened again, then the Veparian stood up. Spock pulled himself to his knees, but kept his head bent, face hidden in the cascade of hair. The need to go to him was a physical ache, but Kirk forced himself to make amiable chit chat with the guards while he read through and signed the contract. He wanted to smash their ugly heads together but managed to watch them go, smiling, then he closed and locked the door.

Spock didn't dare move. Something was wrong – this man did not belong here in these settings – his Jim was not part of this world - unless he had been deceiving himself all along and Dola had secretly implanted the image he'd been clinging to.  Strong hands closed on his shoulders and he flinched, startled.

"Hey." The voice sounded as though its owner were near tears. "Spock - can it be possible? It's been so long…they all said you wouldn't know me but you do know me, don't you? I saw it in your eyes - Spock!" The quickened urgency of his voice was in itself a command, and the black eyes met his.

"Jim?" Spock whispered, terrified at revealing even that much of the secret vision.

"Yes." Jim tightened his grip. "It's me. I'm here."

"You came?" Spock murmured. "You really…" his breath caught painfully and Jim felt him grow rigid. "No - no, it can't be you. You don't belong here!"

Jim shook the Vulcan slightly. "It is me. Jim Kirk."

"Is it a trick?" Spock asked him nervously. His fingers had begun to twist together. "If there is something you wish, there is no need for this.  You have only to command."

"Come sit with me on the sofa, and I'll explain." They moved, Jim waiting for Spock to seat himself before settling quite close. "You're right. I don't belong here, and neither do you. I've been searching for you for two years now, and I've finally found you. You can trust me, Spock - it is Jim." He reached out and brushed the silky hair back. "That's better - I've waited this long to see your face, and I don't want to wait another minute." He stopped. Something was flickering in those eyes – long fingers reached hesitantly to touch his face, his hair - the thin body braced for a blow which never came as those light butterfly touches brushed Jim's shoulders, arms, chest…came back to his mouth, jaw…pushed back one errant lock of hair.

"Even that is the same."

Jim smiled, took both warm hands and held them in his. "The same as what? Your memories of me?"

"Memories…or dreams. I never was sure whether…" Spock fell silent, staring at their joined hands. "If this is a ruse," he began painfully, "if you are acting for Dola and he wishes to destroy me…you may tell him that it is most effective. It seems, however, to be rather a waste of his investment."

The lump in his throat prohibited any speech Kirk might have made, and instead he brought their hands up to his face, pressing Spock's fingers into the position for a mind meld. "There's only one way for you to be sure, isn't there?" he managed. Spock snatched his hands away, sprang from the sofa and was half-way across the floor before he could stop himself.

"I'm sorry," he whispered and forced his legs to bring him back, resuming his position. With a visible effort of will he held out his hands to Kirk's again. "I will obey you, of course - if I must." He was shivering violently, and the hands Jim accepted were ice cold.

"It'll be all right…I won't hurt you. I won't do anything - all you have to do is probe my mind enough to establish my identity to your satisfaction."

"You want me to probe…" panic pounding in his eardrums…to extend his own mind to another's… "no one has ever asked that."

"When it's done you won't be afraid of me anymore. Hurry."

Tendrils of Spook's thoughts touched his mind lightly, and at the unfamiliar hesitancy of that touch Jim stiffened. Spock was afraid of what he might do, with a fear that went beyond reason and seemed to have unfathomable depths…terrified of an attack so brutal and vicious as to be beyond comprehension. Something seemed to snap inside James Kirk then - this was Spock who had been so abused and terrorized - his Spock - and at the possessiveness of the thought he felt Spock's own thoughts turn, away from their clinging fear towards something which even in his altered reality he could understand.

Yours? I am yours? Now, of course - but even before?

You were always mine. They took you away from me and tried to make you forget, but I never forgot.  I looked for you, and now I've found you. Spock's memory was indeed almost entirely obliterated, he could see that.  Bones and everyone else had been partially right after all. He didn't see himself as a Starfleet Officer, or a Vulcan - but as a slave, a possession - a thing to be used and

discarded at whim - stroked or beaten, held suffocatingly close or kicked to the floor with equal callousness.  It enraged him, and Spock flinched. 

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not you.  It’s … Spock.  Spock.”  Spock had dropped his hand, ending the contact, and covered his face.  He bent over double, shivering as if standing in a cold wind instead of curled on a comfortable sofa, in a well heated room.  Jim, alarmed, gripped his shoulders, pulled him upright and Spock moaned, a terrible thick sound, as if coming from some dark place where the sun never shone.  Jim drew him in, forcing the anger down, forcing his hands to open, relax, handle him carefully, slowly, rewarded when Spock lowered his hands from his face, and sagged against him, head drooping onto his shoulder.

“Hey.”  Jim’s voice broke, and he cleared his throat and repeated it.  “Hey.  Spock?”

"What?" Spock blinked up at him, eyes heavy, and Jim smiled at him.  "If you're going to go to sleep, maybe you'd be more comfortable on the bed."

"All right," Spock agreed, and tightened his hold. "You won't go away? You'll still be here when I wake up?"

Jim rose, lifting the lax form with ease. He crossed over to the bedroom, nudged the door open with his foot, managed to draw back the covers while maintaining his hold and laid his precious burden down carefully. Spock was still watching him, dark eyes enormous in his pale face. "Now where would I go?" Jim asked lightly, regretting it when Spock only looked confused, as though wondering whether he would be required to list all possible destinations. Jim stretched out beside him, and hugged him fiercely. "I'll still be here, yes. I won't leave you."

Spook's voice was so low Jim could hardly hear him. "You won't hurt me."

"No. I won't hurt you."

"And you won't let them hurt me anymore? I…do not think I could bear it - at least not tonight."

"I won't let anyone hurt you ever again. You're safe now. I'm here. Go to sleep." Obediently, Spock grew quiet, and in a few minutes Jim heard him give a tremulous sigh and felt him move closer, pressing his face into the Human's neck. His breathing slowed, and his body went limp. Jim was not far behind him.

 

 

Spock woke first, when the slanting rays of early morning fell across the bed. His first awareness, that of a warm body pressed against his, and of powerful arms wrapped around him, brought a suffocating panic. Not daring to move, he was yet unable to control his trembling and soon, helpless, he felt the other man stir. "Spock?" The arms tightened, and a sob broke through his shaky control. "Hey. Hey. What's wrong? Are you having a nightmare?" Suddenly aware that the Vulcan was taut, rigid…obviously desperately desiring escape, Jim released him. Spock inhaled sharply and cringed. When no blow fell he risked opening his eyes. Jim smiled down at him. "I won't touch you if you don't want me to. Good morning. You look - better." You look marvelous, he thought, admiring the soft black hair tumbled over the pillows, the cheeks warm and slightly flushed with sleep…eyes softening, lips curving into a first tentative smile.

"Jim. I thought I dreamed you." The eyes widening, darkening. Jim swallowed, shaken by the unabashed adoration in them. He brushed Spook's hair with one light finger.

"Is it okay if I touch you now?" For answer Spock threw himself into his arms, clutching him with a desperation which touched him almost unbearably. His own arms closed - warmly but not too tightly, feeling the stranglehold around his neck loosen. Instinctively he began rubbing Spook's back with his palms, massaging a little with his fingers.

"You found me," Spook marveled, dazed. "You really did - it is hard to believe."

"For me too. So many times, I ached to hold you like this.  I knew what they must be doing to you. I'm only sorry it took me so long."

"It doesn't matter now." Spock closed his eyes, content. He wanted to stay like this forever, feeling the Human's cheek against his temples, the wonderful pressure of his hands as they so softly kneaded Spock's back, stroked his hair. There was quiet for a long time, then, reluctantly, Jim disengaged himself. After changing his clothes and using the bathroom, he waited for Spock to finish his quick shower, then led the way into the kitchen, Spock trailing behind.

"After we eat, will you take me home?"

Jim paused while mixing pancake batter. "Where is home, Spock? Can you tell me?"

He couldn't hide his shock. "Are you, then, also lost? I'm sorry, I thought…"

"No. No…I just wondered how much you remember." He began pouring the batter into the pan. "Have a seat - this won't take long."

After Spock was settled at the table, Jim flipped the pancakes, waited another minute, then set two filled plates down, hitching up a chair for himself. "There. Filling, nutritious, and delicious. Eat. You've gotten much too thin. You can answer my question when you're done, if you'd rather."

Spock kept his eyes on his plate. "Question?"

"About home. I want some idea of how extensive your memories are."

At a complete loss, Spock stuffed a forkful of pancakes into his mouth. He had no idea what was required of him, apprehensive that Jim's warmth and gentleness might lure him into making a possibly fatal slip. To lose this protection now…

"What is it?" Jim asked, reaching across the table to give Spock some syrup. "You looked as though you were about to say something."

"No!" The very hastiness of his reply was a mistake, and he could see Jim's eyes darken. Biting his lip, he looked down again.

"You're afraid of me. Why? Have I done or said something to hurt you?"

"I…do not know what you want from me…what you expect…"

"I want you to tell me the truth," Jim said firmly. "That's all. I want to help you - but I can't, if you won't open up to me. You can trust me, Spock. I'm your friend."

"You are my owner, and it is my duty to please you." Holding his breath, heart pounding, wondering if that sounded too bold. Watching Jim Kirk, who was studying him just as intently.

"I guess I should agree with that. It wouldn't do for anyone to guess I'm not…okay. I am your owner, and it is your duty to please me. To please me you must be honest with me, and say what's on your mind. I'll be aware of it if you don't, because I know you very well, Spock, Do you understand?"

"No," Spock said frankly, "but I will do as you say."

"Good. Very good." He smiled, seeing the Vulcan relax a fraction at the approval in his voice. "No, I can't take you home yet. For a variety of reasons, we have no way off this planet for another three months." He saw Spock's face cloud before he bent his head. "What? You've thought of something -  what is it?"

"He will come back before that."

"Who is he?"

"One. My former owner."

"The man I bought you from? What difference does it make to us whether he does or not?"

"He will repurchase me, when he returns."

"No, he won't. He can't."

"He always does - I think there is something in the bill of sale which guarantees it."

"There's a clause which says that when I do sell you I have to give him first refusal. Is that what you mean? But I'm not selling you at all."

Spock eyed him uncertainly, "He has always managed before."

"I don't understand. If he wants you for himself, then why sell you at all? There must have been other people who didn't want to sell you back - why should he take such a risk?"

"Periodically he has to go away. I don't know why…he never told me. He has always been able to buy me again with no difficulty. I do not see why this time should be different." He thought of One's chill grey eyes and shuddered. "He will never let me go."

"Listen to me," Kirk said sharply. He pushed Spock's forgotten meal aside and reached across the table to take his hands. "All of that is over. Over. This - what does he call himself? One? Well, he's outsmarted himself this time. Sure, it always worked before – because he was probably pretty careful about who he sold you to." And that explains those peculiar questions I had to answer before I bought you. "Look at me - as far as he knows I'm just a drifter - not likely to settle here for very long - a man of extravagant habits and exotic –" he grinned at Spock – "tastes; why shouldn't he think I'd be ready and willing to trade you in for a new thrill in a few months? But that's where he's wrong, my friend. I'm the one who'll never let you go, so he might as well forget it and go find himself a new diversion because he's not getting his hooks into you again. You have my word on it." He released Spock's hands. "Will you eat?"

Startled, Spock went back to his meal. After a moment he reached across the table with his free hand and gave Jim a shy pat on the arm before pulling back quickly. Jim made no attempt to follow through on that tentative gesture, sending a warm smile instead. Even that much of a response overwhelmed Spock's defenses. He flushed and looked down, suddenly becoming very interested in the rapidly cooling breakfast in front of him. Jim's smile lingered affectionately in the corners of his mouth and he, too, returned his attention to eating.

When they were done, Spock rose and began collecting the plates. Jim put an arresting hand on his arm. "Sit. You're worn down to nothing. I can do this."

Shocked, Spock stared at him, mouth slightly open. Jim chuckled at his expression. "Don't look so stunned. I do have some abilities in the kitchen. How do you think I've been managing here for the last several months?"

"But…you can't do that for me! It's not…"

"Don't worry, we're alone. I have no house slaves to notice and ask questions."

“Oh.”  But he looked nervous, watching Jim clear the table, and Jim was very careful as he stacked dishes, turned on hot water, put them in to soak.  Spock's emotional fragility terrified him, and he trembled at his own destructive potential. One harsh word, a broken promise, an unexplained absence - any of those could blight the first tender shoots of confidence Spock was

extending towards him. Moreover, as time went on, given their enforced isolation in this culture, Spock's dependence on him would only increase. And if he ever suspects what I really feel for him, how I yearn…he mustn't know. But it's so tempting, being able to hold him this freely, touch him…grimly, he closed his mind and concentrated on the task at hand.  Then he turned back to the table and smiled. 

“Okay?”

The briefest nod - up, down, back to position. It was only then that Kirk really noticed how restrained all Spock's movements were - every motion carefully regulated to avoid…what? Attracting attention to himself? Reasonable, considering…he reached out, smoothing the dark hair, and, almost imperceptibly at first, Spock was relaxing. This was Jim – how could he be afraid of Jim? Everything about him spoke of protection, and gentleness, and a yearning sadness which enveloped him like a fog. Stirred beyond his own need for comfort, Spock reached up and brushed his face lightly.

"Jim? Why are you so unhappy? Is there anything I can do to help?"

"No, no, I'm okay.  I just" miss you, Spock, "I'm okay,” he repeated.

Spock's hand dropped. "You do not have to tell me if it is private."

"It isn't like that. Never mind. It's not something you have to worry about." He smiled, meeting those penetrating black eyes, which wavered and fell before his own. There was a long silence, during which Jim continued stroking Spock's hair.  It seemed a safe caress, expressing affection without having in it any hint of the sexual.  When that quiet voice broke in on his thoughts again he flushed hotly, helplessly, feeling the color mount in his face. Fortunately, Spock was not looking at him. He was watching his fingers pull at his napkin.

"This must be a terrible disappointment to you. I sympathize."

Jim stared at him blankly. "Disappointment? What? Finding you? Listen, Mister, if I hadn't found you after all this time - that would have been the disappointment. The hard part's over. All we have to do is wait for a Federation ship to come get us."

"What I meant was," Spock swallowed hard, then forced himself to go on, "I myself must be a great disappointment."

"You? Never."

"Yet I am not as I was when you last saw me."

"No. No, you're not. But I didn't expect you to be."

"No?"

"Of course not. I knew what would have been done to you - that's why I was so crazy to get you out. Now that I've found you - hell no, I'm not disappointed. I'm overjoyed."

"And yet you grieve for something, or someone - I can feel the cloud upon you." The oddly poetic image - so typical of his Vulcan - made Jim smile.

"Can you? I never could hide anything from you." And maybe, just maybe, that'll be our salvation, Spock. "Okay. I'm not disappointed in you, first of all. I just…don't want to hurt you. I don't know how well you remember me, Spock, but I do tend to let my mouth get away, from me sometimes - particularly when I'm worried. Most particularly when I'm worried about you. I wish I could wipe all this away for you, make it like it never happened. I'd like to go out there and kill everyone who ever harmed you. I want to keep you safe, to wrap you up in my arms and never let anyone hurt you again, but I’m worried that I might say, or do something too sharply, or too abruptly, and hurt you." Spock put a finger to his lips. the faint contact sending a jolt through Kirk's nerves. He looked at the Vulcan questioningly.

"It is all right," Spock said quietly. "I think I do remember that about you, that you say things you do not really mean when you are under pressure." His lips twitched in what Jim was delighted to see was real amusement. "I do not believe I ever handled that well, but I shall endeavor not to 'go under' as you put it."  He smiled, and Jim smiled back. They glowed at each other for a few minutes.

"And I'm no psychologist," Kirk added, "nor am I a mind reader. If something is upsetting you say so, and if you need something from me, ask."

"I would not wish to add to your burdens."

"The only way you could do that would be by not communicating with me." He eyed Spock shrewdly. "Does that self-deprecatory remark mean that there is something?"

"Well…you may find it distasteful."

"Spock…" Jim said warningly.

His voice was barely audible, and he had dropped his eyes. "Earlier, when you held me - it felt wonderful."

Jim wrapped him up in a gigantic hear hug. "Like this?"

"Yes." Spock relaxed against him with a faint sigh. His breath was warm on Jim's neck.

"Distasteful?" Jim said in a strangled voice. "Are you out of your mind? I could hold you like this forever." His lips brushed Spook's hair, then, bending his head, he kissed the Vulcan's cheek. "Is that all right?"

"Mmmmm." Spock wriggled closer. "Yes. Why would it not be?"

"I just don't want to remind you of anything…unpleasant."

"Unpleasant? I don't…oh. You mean what they did to me."

"Yes."

"But you do not want - what they wanted."

"No, of course not," he lied stoutly. "But I don't want you to make any sort of connection between me holding you, and them."

"All they wanted me for was to satisfy their sexual urges, I see no connection whatever between what you are doing and that."

"Are you sure?" Jim pressed him. His lips touched Spock's forehead, then his cheek again. Spock quivered under the touch and turned his face so their lips met. Despite himself Jim lingered for a moment, savoring the taste, the soft warmth, then, startled, he pulled back. Spock smiled up into his eyes.

"Your mouth is so gentle," he said as though that explained everything. "How could I think you wanted that?"

Jim's throat closed and he couldn't answer. That means that in almost two years, and with God knows how many men, no one ever held you gently, kissed you softly…

"Your face is wet," Spock said, and looked up at him again. "Tears." He touched them wonderingly. "For me?"

"For you, my…" the phone rang. Jim swore and reached for it, leaning over Spock's shoulder. "I can't think of a single person on this planet that I want to talk to." Holding the receiver wedged between shoulder and ear he sat back again, still cradling Spock in his arms. "Yes?"

"Tiberius, old pal!" Jim winced at the voice.

"Chape," he said without any enthusiasm. "What's up?"

"I hear you bought a bed slave yesterday. Finally found something you liked, huh? When can I come and have a look for myself?"

Spock had grown very still. Somehow Jim kept his voice level. "Today isn't good for me, Chape - I'm going to be quite busy all afternoon."

"No problem - I can leave my place now and be there in under half an hour. Come on Tibe - don't be greedy. I only want a quick look."

There was really nothing he could say. More than ever, it was essential that he maintain his cover. "Sure. Come on over."

"Soon as my legs can carry me, friend, as soon as my legs can carry me." They both hung up. Spock was already disengaging himself from the embrace, standing, smoothing down his tunic. Jim watched him helplessly.

"Spock – I…I'm sorry."

"Do you have a hairbrush?" Spock asked. "Why are you sorry? You cannot avoid it."

"I would spare you, if I could. Here - let me do that." Spock sat on the bed again, hands clasped tightly and allowed Jim to run the brush through his hair. Neither spoke until he was done. Then he cupped the Vulcan's face in his hands. "I won't let him touch you - I promise - but you'll have to…ah," he gestured at the brief robe.

Spock managed a very weak smile. "I am aware of the procedure."

"I guess you are. That doesn't make me like this any the more."

"Nor I."

"I know." A cheerful tattoo was beat against his outer door, and Jim got up and answered it. Spock rose also, visibly bracing himself against the upcoming ordeal.

"Very nice, Ti, very nice." Davme Chape walked slowly around the Vulcan, nodding his head in appreciation.

"Thanks," Jim said calmly. "I told you it was just a matter of patience and not settling for anything less than perfection."

"Which is certainly what you got," the Veparian agreed. "I'd like a better view, though."

"Strip," Jim ordered sharply, and Spock complied without a word, releasing the catches at his shoulders and allowing the garment to slide to the floor. Davme inhaled sharply, devouring the slender, lithe body with his eyes. Visibly fascinated by the Vulcan's pale green genitals he reached out avidly, "Don't touch him!" Kirk snapped, and Spock jumped. Seeing the surprise on Chape's face Kirk forced himself to smile. "A filthy habit, allowing everyone to handle so intimate a possession," he lied smoothly.

"Aah, you Humans and your need to have everything so sanitary," the man grumbled, but he stepped back. "Don't you think you're being a little selfish?"

"I'm being extremely selfish," Kirk returned. "And I intend to keep right on being that way. I paid a small fortune for this slave and I have no intention of letting everyone who walks in here paw him."

"I'll give you seven hundred credits for one night, and I promise to return him in good condition."

"No," Kirk said curtly, and saw the incredulous look on Chape's face. It was almost unheard of to turn down this kind of an offer - even Spock had glanced at him in surprise before looking down again. "If I wanted to dunk my cock in a public toilet I'd pay five credits and hire a street walker. While I have him he's mine. When I'm through with him, we'll talk."

"I'll buy him whenever you grow bored," Chape promised, again walking leisurely around Spock, whose lips were trembling.

"Can't. I have to give his former owner first refusal. But if he isn't interested, I'll certainly keep you in mind."

"Then this must be One's pleasure slave! I should have known!" He was standing very close behind Spock now, surveying the line of his back, eyes lingering on the hard buttocks. Appalled, Jim saw silent tears slipping from under Spock’s eyelashes. He had to turn away, nearly choking on his impotent fury. He wanted to smash Chape's face for him, to watch him spit blood and beg for mercy. He also wanted, irrationally, to shake Spock until his teeth rattled. You know I'm not going to let him touch you - why give the bastard the satisfaction of knowing he's getting to you? He's not worth your tears. How can you let him see you break? Don't you have any pride left at all? You're giving him exactly what turns him on.

"Enough," he said shortly, and wrapped his own bathrobe around Spock, ignoring the discarded tunic. Spock's eyes were very dark, and under cover of fastening the buttons Jim brusquely wiped the tears away, knowing as he did it that Spock had followed his train of thought. The naked hurt and awareness of rejection on the Vulcan's face was almost beyond endurance.

"Tiberius." Chape laid a protesting hand on his arm. "Why muffle him in such an unbecoming garment? It hides his beauty."

"He's more susceptible to cold than we are. I hate screwing people with pneumonia and getting phlegm coughed up in my face," he snapped and Davme laughed. "Now if you'll excuse me - I find myself urgently desiring a private conference with my bed slave."

"You lucky bastard," the Veparian said enviously. "Got you turned on, didn't it, watching me admire your property. You Humans are so possessive. We take our pleasures more lightly." He lingered for a while, chatting aimlessly while continuing to stare at Spock. Finally Kirk guided him to the door, and, amid mutual backslapping and many fulsome compliments, the door closed again and Kirk and Spock were alone.

Jim turned finally. Spock hadn't moved. "Sit down, for God's sake, before you pass out," he ordered and Spock flinched, looked around, and hastily pulled a chair out from the table. Without taking his eyes off Jim's face, he sat, Jim began pacing restlessly. After several turns around the room he swung back to Spock, "Do you think I liked doing that? Treating you like some sort of…of…you think I liked that?"

"No," Spock whispered, then, more definitely, "no.  I know you did not enjoy your role."

"All right then." Swallowing his impatience Jim went over to him. He stood behind the Vulcan's chair and, after a moment, rested both hands firmly on his shoulders. His mood softened still more as he felt the tension knotting Spock's muscles, and he began a gentle massaging notion. He kept it up until he was finally rewarded by a sigh and general relaxation. Spock slumped.

"You do not have to do that."

"I want to."

"You despised me."

"No. That is absolutely not true."

"No?"

"No." He forced a rather sheepish grin. "You know me too well for me to pretend that I didn't feel a surge of irritation, but that doesn't mean it was right, or justified. I'm sure if I knew everything…I mean, I'm sure there are circumstances I don't understand…well, damnit Spock, it's so unlike you!"

"Is it unlike me?" Spock asked wistfully. "I don't remember anymore. I am sorry if I embarrassed or annoyed you…" his voice broke.

"There is something I don't understand, isn't there. Tell me."

"Veparians are mildly telepathic, and although they need a physical touch to establish any true contact it is possible for them to make…suggestions…without actually…" he faltered, and stopped talking. Jim's hands had tightened fiercely.

"Do you mean he…" of course, like Vulcans, "oh, Spock. He leaned over, hugging his friend from behind. "I'm sorry. What a fool I am, thinking I was going to keep you safe - I can't protect you against that, Spock. I would if I could."

"I know." Spock leaned his head back on Jim's shoulder, and looked up at him. "So long as you do not hate me, it is all right."

Jim smiled into the brown eyes so close to his. "Mister," he said unsteadily, "I am so far from hating you… if I didn't care about you it wouldn't have bothered me the way it did."

Spock had lost interest in the conversation, fascinated by the play of emotion across Jim's face. "You know," he said dreamily, "when you smile at me like that I feel dizzy - you said if I needed something from you - you want me to ask?"

"Consider it an order."

"Would you kiss me again? The way you did before?"

Wordless, Jim obliged, brushing their lips together, barely touching, Spock sighed, content. "It is very pleasant," he confided. "So different…so gentle. I think I have always wondered what it would feel like if you did that."

Aware of a growing urge to crush the Vulcan to him and claim another kiss, far less casual than the first, Jim seized on the chance to change the subject, "Always? Do you remember wondering that? How much do you remember? In the meld we had I got the impression that your amnesia is total."

"I remember you.  I remember everything about you." Kirk stood up straight, got his own chair, hiking it around and straddling the back. The physical distance helped him to control his thoughts somewhat. Spock noticed nothing amiss and continued, still gazing at Jim with that unsettling expression of joyful worship, "The way you look, and feel, your scent, the way you move…and the way you smile at me. Your voice - the way you say my name…"

"Nothing else?"

"Else?"

"Besides me."

"Oh. No. Nothing else. I am no longer quite clear why - but I let him destroy everything I remembered about - everything. I do know it was important - that there were things no one must see in a probe - that there were things more important than myself to protect."

"You were right. Starfleet will be pleased to hear that. They've been more than a little concerned about what you might reveal - at first. Then after a few months when no damaging information had come to light they started saying you must have been killed."

"It was a logical conclusion, under the circumstances," Spock agreed, then, "but you did not concur."

"No."

"I am glad." They smiled at each other for a few minutes until Jim, feeling that treacherous melting sensation again, rose quickly.

"I'm starved. What do you feel like for lunch?"

"I will prepare it," Spock offered, rising too. Seeing Jim hesitate, he reached out and touched the other man's arm, "Jim - I would like to do something for you."

"Okay.  Sure. I just don't want you to wear yourself out."

"I believe I am equal to the task." He busied himself in the kitchen and Jim made the bed and tidied up. By the time he was finished, a delicious aroma had wafted back to the bedroom and his stomach began to grumble.

"That smells great," he called, coming back to where Spock had already laid the table. Soup, toasted cheese sandwiches, and coffee. He sniffed appreciatively, waited for the Vulcan to seat himself, then tucked into his bowl. After satisfying the first pangs of hunger, he grinned across at his companion. "I didn't know you could cook, Mr. Spock - I mean, not like this, from scratch. You always were a whiz with concentrates, but this soup is incredible."

"Thank you. I found it expedient to learn."

Swallowing the last of his sandwich. Kirk leaned on his elbows and watched Spock eat. "You mean there was a logical reason to learn to cook?" he teased.

"I discovered that a man tended to be more careful of his bed partner if that same partner was also skilled at preparing his favorite breakfast. Generally, it guaranteed my being at least functional the next morning."

"Oh."

"Some of the Veparian ideas of pleasure are rather bizarre."

To say the least. Kirk thought, remembering some parties he'd been to. "So, the more varied your skills, the better off you were."

"Sometimes, yes. Sometimes…no. Dola never…he enjoyed eating out."

Jim shook his head, then glanced up. "Dola? Was he one of your owners?"

Spock put down his spoon. The very thought of the Veparian brought a sickness to his stomach, a cold trembling throughout his body. "No - he works for One.  I…" he got up quickly to clear the table, hands shaking. Rising too fast, he knocked his chair over backwards. When it hit the floor, he jumped and dropped the dishes he had gathered up. They joined the chair with a resounding crash. Horrified, Spock stared at the mess, then raised terrified eyes to Kirk. "I'm sorry," he gasped, dropped to his knees to begin picking up the pieces. In his agitation he promptly cut his hand. Jim, galvanized into action by the blood, jumped up, went around the table and lifted Spock to his feet.

"All right," he said firmly, "it's all right. Come with me and I'll fix that for you."

"No," Spock protested, glancing uncertainly back at the abandoned dishes, but after a sharp look he followed the human obediently to the bathroom and stood quietly while Jim cleaned off the deep, blood-welling cut, and sprayed on an antiseptic bandage.

"There. Better? Now you sit here -" guiding Spock to the sofa, "while I clean this up."

“You should not…" Jim's smile hardened - just a little, but it was enough. Spock swallowed whatever else he had been about to say, and gazed out the window while Jim finished up in the other room. When he came back, he stood a few paces away from the couch, stifling the desire to take Spock in his arms and again soothe him back to peace.

"Spock," he said firmly, and steeled himself against the Vulcan's faint start as he turned his attention back to Kirk.

"Yes?"

"I hate to pull rank on you like this. Commander, but the issue here is your survival. It is a bad idea for you to get into the habit of questioning my orders just because they're not what you're accustomed to. After all, I'm a Human, and Humans are supposed to be eccentric, so if I do anything out of the way no one will pay too much attention to it. But if you give me a debate every time I tell you to do something - or not to do something, like now, someone might get suspicious. If they start putting two and two together we'll be in trouble. I don't know how well my cover will hold up under examination. Do you understand?"

Spock nodded, white lipped. Jim relented and sat down, drawing him close. "It would kill me if they got their hands on you again," he said fiercely. "We have to be careful. Very, very careful. Okay?"

"Yes."

"Furthermore - when we're with other people I won't be able to treat you the way I would like to. I'll have to act more like a slave owner. For example…" he groped mentally for an instance, and Spock pressed closer to him.

"I understand."

"Do you?"

"Yes."

"Will you remember?"

"I will try."

"Can you handle it, if I have to shout at you – maybe even strike you?"

"Probably not," Spock admitted ruefully, "but that will further the deception." He yawned. "Why am I so sleepy? I rested very well last night."

"Perfectly natural. You're recovering from a tremendous ordeal, and rest is the best thing for you. Come on, I'll put you to bed." He drew the unresisting Vulcan up with him and guided him to the bed, pulling the blankets up to his chin. "How's that?"

"Good." He stretched, catlike. "Where will you be?"

"Around the house - I won't go out without waking you up."

"Thank you." Spock yawned again, gave Jim one last drowsy smile, and fell asleep. And for the first time in over eighteen months, Jim was whistling as he busied himself around the house.

 

 

For more than a month, things went smoothly. Spock relaxed into Jim's care with the ease of absolute trust, and their days were calm, with something of their old rapport reasserting itself.

The nights were more difficult. Spook suffered from recurring nightmares, and Jim woke frequently to gather the shuddering form in his arms, patting and rocking him back to sleep. During these nocturnal terrors Spock muttered Dola's name over and over, crying out in blind fear, hands outthrust as though to push someone away. Every night Kirk's anger against the unknown Veparian increased, simmering below the surface, making his hands twitch with the urge to wrap around an unseen neck and squeeze, and every day Spock never even mentioned him. This dichotomy added an extra touch of unreality to their already strangely altered relationship.

On Jim's infrequent trips into town, he spoke of his new acquisition in highly proprietary tones, which was considered an amusing aberration…but many had stranger whims, and little interest was excited.

He returned from one such expedition, midway through their second month, to find Spock visibly agitated. "You had visitors today," he said as soon as Jim entered. "Davme and two others."

Dropping his coat onto the table, Jim stared at him. "Did they touch you? Hurt you?"

Spock shook his head. "No. They only stayed for a moment - you are invited to a party at Davme's villa tomorrow night. They said," he swallowed hard, "that you have been keeping me to yourself for entirely too long. Jim, what are you going to tell them? You could say you were ill, or busy…"

"And they'd reschedule it for another night, which would be no improvement. Spock, you know as well as I do that there's no way out of this.  I'll have to go, and you'll have to come with me.  And we’ll have to play our parts.”  All the way through, he thought, and hated himself a little for the unbidden, unwanted, flash of desire.  He cleared his throat.  “It won't be that bad; I won't let anyone else bother you.  They'll have plenty of other pleasure slaves there - after a few minutes no one will pay much attention to you - us." Jim lifted his voice slightly, trying to stem the rising panic he could see in Spock's eyes. "Are you listening to me? It - won't - be - that - bad." Stupid, stupid, he berated himself. I should have thought of this – it was bound to happen - I could have prepared him. "We both should have known this might come up. It'll be all right - I'll take care of you.  I’ll… I won’t" he was losing his audience. Spock's face was white, and he was breathing with difficulty.

"You will…you…" he gasped, feeling the trap close on him, forcing him back to an unbearable reality. "No…"

"Spock," Jim called, putting both hands on his shoulders. "Spock - listen to me. It's going to be okay, it will." Spock looked around wildly, as if seeking escape where there could be none. Cornered, he brought his eyes back to Jim's face.

"No…you said you would not…you said you did not want that…you promised! You promised I would not have to…" he began to struggle in Jim's grip, blind to everything except the images flooding his mind and the desperate need to get away.

Jim slapped him - hard. Spock froze, bringing one hand to his burning cheek, eyes wide. Reaching out, Jim drew the shaking body into his arms. "Now stop this!" he said gruffly, voice catching on unshed tears. "Just stop it. You're not thinking, and it's when you stop thinking that you panic, and panicking is very dangerous under these circumstances. Use your mind, Spock - would I do this to you if I had any choice? If it was anything other than your life at stake I would never force you, but…"

"You promised you wouldn't," Spock said, voice muffled in Jim's shoulder. "You promised me."

"I know. I was wrong, okay? I shouldn't have promised - I should have foreseen this. It was stupid of me and I'm sorry. What do you want me to tell you? I made a mistake."

"Please don't make me - I can't do it I can't…"

"You have to."

"Oh - no, no…" it was a cry of pain and it snapped the last thread of Kirk's self-control. Seizing Spock's shoulders, he shook him breathless.

"Shut up!" he shouted. "Don't you understand? If they find out I bought you to get you out of here they'll send you right back to One and his friend Dola, who seem to frighten you so! You'll be exactly where you started - only worse, because they'll make damn sure I never get back to find you again! Do you want that?"

"No," Spock choked out, and began to cry, terribly.

Here we go, Kirk reflected, then was ashamed of the uncharitable thought. In the by now familiar ritual he got them both over to the bed where he stretched out, pressing the Vulcan hard against him. The snug, body to body contact always seemed to help, and gradually, almost imperceptibly at first, Spock calmed. Jim stroked his hair. "Now tell me what you're so afraid of," he murmured. "It can't be me, can it? Can you really be this afraid of me?"

"No, not you - but - you will have to use me, it will be expected. And I - I don't see how I can bear it."

"You will bear it because we have no choice. And I don't like that term - 'use' you. I'm not going to 'use' you."

"You will have to!"

"Will you listen? This is me, remember? I love you. That's all I'm going to do - love you. It won't be terrible at all. Do you seriously think I would harm you?"

"You would not wish to, I know that. I…I am aware that I am being unjust - but please, please, Jim, can't you think of something else - some way out? There has to be a way out, there has to be!"

"Spock…"

"You said you wouldn't!"

"Don't you care what you're doing to me?" Jim cried, his own voice climbing. "Every time you say that it's like someone sticking a knife in my gut! I know I promised! I'm sorry! I've failed you – I know that, all right? Now you have to stop this, Spock, you have to. Because I can't take it. If you don't stop I'll be incapable of anything sexual tomorrow night and that'll end our little charade for good. So, I'm making this a direct order. No more. No more arguments, and no more begging. Enough! Is that clear?"

"Yes," Spock whispered.

"Good."

"Are you very angry with me?"

"Not now, but you'll see how fast I can get that way if you say 'you promised' one more time."

"I won't."

"You will have to submit to me totally - with not a word or a gesture to even hint at anything else."

"Yes."

"Okay." They lay quietly for several moments, then, "that doesn't mean you can't talk to me about it. In fact, I want you to talk about it - I want to know exactly what it is that's upsetting you like this. Don't you believe me when I promise not to hurt you?"

Spock just looked at him, biting his lip, and Jim sighed. "Okay, I know, it's hard. But if you'd let me, not only can I make it absolutely painless, but it can be quite pleasant for you."

"That is something I would never give them," Spock said softly. "Often, they would want me to show response - to feign response, at any rate, but I would not. I will not. That is part of myself that I do not have to give."

"I can understand that - but aren't I different?"

"I had thought so." Instantly ashamed, Spock tightened his arms around Jim. "I am sorry - that was uncalled for. You have been so good to me, and I know you are doing this to save me - I do not intend to be unreasonable."

"It's all right. I understand, I do understand. I just wish there was something I could do to make tomorrow night easier.” Jim fell silent, thinking. Bad enough, he thought bitterly, bad enough that I have to practically rape him, but in front of all those people - all those drunken disgusting animals.  I won't be able to do any of the things I'd like to do to him to show him sex is not necessarily a nightmare. And this is Spook - my friend, my brother - the first time I make love to him should be special — I should be able to take my time, give him some enjoyment. Instead I'll have to make him do all the things the others do - touch me, arouse me, he'll have to take me in his mouth - for a while at least, to make it look good - then I'll have to push him down and fuck him - just like that. Don't dare let anyone see me being gentle with him - I'll have to be as callous and brutal as everyone else. And he's going to be tense so it's bound to hurt, no matter how careful I am. If only it wasn't the first time, it wouldn't be so bad but…damn. Despite his words to Spock he felt no concern about his own ability to perform — he was hard already at the mental scenario he'd just painted. Part of me is going to enjoy this a whole lot. If only it wasn't the first time it would be better. If only… the idea struck him with the full force of revelation. Why did it have to be the first time? He sat up abruptly, stunned by the stark simplicity of the solution. Why does it have to be the first time? Answer; it doesn't. It doesn't, I can seduce him slowly, sweetly. After all, we have until tomorrow night.

"Jim?" The Hunan's sudden movement had jerked Spock out of the half doze he'd drifted into. He reached out, stroked Jim's leg timidly. "Please do not be offended…or hurt - I do trust you, and it is not pain I fear as much as…" he groped, at a loss. "I really do not know," he finished awkwardly. "When I think of it I cannot maintain any sort of rationale - it is like falling into a dark, terrible place - I feel I am suffocating, trying to scream for help but there is nothing except horror, and fear…and the pain. I will try to control myself as best I can."

Jim turned back to him, smiling, resolute. "Don't worry about it now. You liked it when I kissed you before, didn't you? May I kiss you again?" Spock held out both arms to him without a word and Jim leaned down into them, letting their lips brush lightly, and again, more lingeringly this time, smiling to himself as he felt the warm mouth under his quiver, then open to admit him. He wrapped his tongue around Spock's, sucking gently, probing deeply before pulling out to lick the soft lips. Spock clung to the mouth over his, unwilling to let go. Jim accommodated him - kissing those lips yet again - long, slow kisses, while his hands began to move down, pressing the two of them even more tightly together.

Peripherally Spock was aware of Jim's hands stroking his back, molding their bodies, but it didn't seem important compared to the sweetness of that cool mouth. When light oral caresses were deposited on his nose, cheeks, forehead, and chin he found himself smiling. Jim kissed that smile, tenderly. At the same time both hands slid down to cup Spock's ass, pulling it up hard against his groin.

Spock went cold with fear, both at the unexpected motion and at the feel of Jim's hard organ pressing against him. He whimpered softly, but made no other protest.

"No, now," Jim said quietly, "don't do that. There's no reason for that - Spock? Spock, relax. This is still me here. Tell me what you're thinking right this minute."

"You said…tomorrow night."

"Tomorrow night is for them. This…" he kissed Spock again "…is for us. No one's watching, neither of us is drugged or drunk - don't you think it's much better?"

"No."

Jim laughed. "That's not a very well thought out response. Besides, you can't tell me you didn't enjoy what we just did. You did like it, didn't you?"

"Yes," Spock said miserably, "but that had nothing to do with…" he stopped, and the color rose in his face.

"Illogical," Jim teased him gently, and Spock flushed still more.

"I know. It is embarrassing to hear myself being so foolish."

"Not foolish at all," he corrected. "Cautious – and with good cause. Now I'll tell you what."  He waited for Spock's nod before continuing. "I'm going to continue doing what I was doing, and I guarantee there won't be any point where it suddenly turns into pain or humiliation. Just…love. How does that sound?"

"All right," reluctantly, "what do you want me to do?"

"Lie there and let me touch you - nothing more for now. Easy, easy," slipping the other's clothes off, using such exaggerated care that Spock had to smile in spite of himself. Jim smiled back, stripping quickly, "There. Now, you can't honestly be frightened of me. If you could feel what Davme was thinking, then surely you can pick up on my thoughts. And I know there can't be anything harmful in the way I feel about you."

"No," Spock agreed, relaxing somewhat. "I can feel what you feel - so warm, and strong - but if it should change…"

"It won't change." He began running his fingers lightly over the warmer than Human skin, exploring, searching. Spook's fists clenched and Jim's fingers slid down his arms, paused while he pressed moist kisses on the insides of both elbows, and carefully opened each trembling hand, patting them reassuringly. Spock lay still, flinching at each new sensation, breath coming in quick gasps, shivering uncontrollably.

He could not have explained, to Jim or to himself, the source of the terror which flooded him, why he could not stop shaking, but Jim seemed to understand without words, touching him with smooth, flat palmed strokes, trailing light butterfly fingers in their wake. Those hands were everywhere…brushing thighs, ribs, fingers, face, caressing his nipples and balls and the tender place just below with equal care and precision. Hs voice, too, was a caress - low, crooning, falling like cooling liquid on the parched desert his spirit had become over two years of neglect and abuse. He sighed involuntarily, and stretched, thighs relaxing, and began to purr contentedly. Intrigued, Jim leaned over and pressed his lips to the throbbing pulse at the base of the Vulcan's throat. Eyes drifting open, Spock smiled up at him nervously. Jim nuzzled at his mouth, claiming the first kiss in a long time. The other's mouth opened, savoring the now familiar taste of the Human, and when Jim began to very gently pinch and squeeze each erect nipple in turn there was no alarm, just a moan of satisfaction. Growing dizzy, Spock got both arms around the broad shoulders and clung, pressing closer, trying to fill an indefinable yearning…for something further. Judging the time to be right, Jim slid one hand down the straight back to caress his buttocks, while wrapping the other arm firmly around his waist. Spock tensed again, briefly, but the pleasure was too strong to be ignored, and he moaned once more, softly. Jim began kissing his way down Spock's body, while continuing the tantalizing stimulation of the high, firm ass. He kissed one nipple and Spock's hands instinctively moved to his head, pressing him closer before releasing him to allow the continuation of that damp, wonderful journey.

Jim pressed each successively lower kiss deeply into Spock's flesh, nuzzling, letting his mind run freely over the same images which had been the source of his deepest heartbreak during his seemingly endless search. Spock leaping between me and an angry Klingon, a deadly plant, a hail of bullets from the sky; Spock sagging in my arms after Nomad's reluctant release of his mind. Spock raising an astonished eyebrow after being thoroughly beaten in a chess game he'd thought already won. And the new memories, too, crowded in - equally compelling and, strangely, not incompatible - the way Spock's face lit at the sight of him coming home after a small absence, the feel of him nestling down in Kirk's arms for the night…he took the fully erect cock in his mouth, overwhelmed with gratitude for this chance to finally express some of that long-buried affection and tenderness.

Spock's legs opened without hesitation, and he felt Jim's lips around his aching organ, and Jim's hands cupping his testicles with a joy so complete it was fulfillment all by itself. He had been lulled into a state of intoxicated tranquility by Kirk's mental projections of peace and safety, lost in the swelling tide of pleasure, never thinking where it might end. When the orgasm came he cried out sharply, taken unprepared, clutching Jim's upper arms for support.

Jim continued sucking until the last drop of semen had slid down his throat and he felt Spock's fingers grow lax. Then he moved, knelt between Spock's legs, lifting them over his shoulders. The Vulcan tensed, eyes widening, fixed on Jim's face. "It's all right," Jim whispered, liberally anointing first his index finger, then his cock with saliva. Gently he pressed the finger in, lubricating the skin, stretching the muscles slightly. Spock was tight, unyielding. "Spock. Spock…love. Don't do that," He moved his finger in small circles, teasing, pleading. His erection had long since become painful. "I need you. But I can't hurt you, I don't want to hurt you. Please…sweetheart, relax," He replaced his finger with the tip of his cock, pressed. Spock's breath caught as the familiar pain shot through him. Jim waited for the spasm to subside and moved forward again, savagely controlling his own need to thrust. When he felt the muscles clamp around him he stopped, taking deep breaths, unable to control his trembling. "I don't want to hurt you," he whispered again, through clenched teeth. "Can't you relax just a little bit?"

"It hurts." Barely audible.

"I'm hardly in you."

"I know."

"I'd really like this to be good for you."

That was evident - the strain Kirk was under in holding back obvious. Deliberately Spock tried to unclench his muscles, and Jim slid in a little further.  Spock froze, and so did he.

Jim smiled down at him, "Hey, that was pretty good."

"I…I am doing my best to make it easier."

"You're doing very well." They kissed again. Jim did his utmost to get Spock engrossed in the pleasing sensation of having his lips and teeth licked in tiny, elaborate strokes. The bulk of his cock went home in one smooth push. He grinned, partly in relief and partly in triumph. "Success at last! How does that feel?"

Spock waited in breathless silence for the pain, and when after several seconds it didn't come, he exhaled and smiled up at Jim. "It feels…pleasant." Experimentally he tightened up again. Jim moaned with surprised delight and gathered Spock very carefully into his arms.

"Now try and move with me," he directed. "I'll take it easy." Spock wrapped his legs more securely around Jim's waist and they began a slow, steady rocking motion. At first Jim's cock barely moved inside Spock, the rhythmic sway of their bodies providing the stimulation he desperately craved, but as Spock relaxed even more the strength of the Human's thrusts increased. After the prolonged entry, his orgasm came quickly and he groaned in a relief that was absolute. Pulling out, he fell back on the bed, body soaked with sweat.

"Are you all right?" he finally managed to gasp.

"I am fine. You were very kind. I am grateful." The slight awkwardness in Spock's voice made Jim chuckle. He yawned hugely, reaching out to pull the unresisting form back into his arms.

"It's a little late to be so formal, isn't it, Mr. Spock? You'll be calling me 'Captain' next. Or sir."

"I shall have to call you 'my lord' tomorrow night."

"That'll be different. Do you feel better about that party now?"

"Much." Spock looked up, and Jim saw to his delight that the black eyes were brimming with amusement. "That demonstration of your skills was quite impressive."

"Indeed," was the only reply, and Spock's laughter rang out - that low, husky laugh Jim had heard so seldom. He grinned back. "Of course, there's no reason we have to wait for that - give me an hour or so to nap and we'll - ah, practice - again. If you really enjoyed it, that is," he added seriously.

"I loved it," Spock informed him, pretending a matching gravity he obviously did not feel. "I should have known that I would."

Jim shrugged modestly. "Well, I hate to sound smug, but - yes, you should have. After all, rumors of my prowess have spread far and wide."

"Oh?" Spock considered. "I do not remember that," he said finally.

"Just as well. Are you sure you're okay about tomorrow? It'll be different from this, you know. I'll just have to, ah, dive right in, so to speak."

"I know."

"As a matter of fact, I'll have to be pretty obnoxious. Can you handle it?"

"I will try."

"I can't ask for more than that. Just be very careful not to give us away, whatever you do. And remember…remember that I love you. That everything I do is motivated by love of you, even if it occasionally doesn't look that way. We'll be all right."

"I believe you," Spock said, and closed his eyes for a minute.

 

When he opened them again it was broad daylight, and Jim was gone. He sat up in a sudden panic, then was reassured by the sound of the shower. The space beside him in the bed was still warm and Spock rolled over onto it, savoring the lingering scent of Jim's body. After a moment the shower was turned off and there was a series of sounds in the bathroom which culminated in Jim's emergence wrapped in an enormous towel. Rubbing his hair vigorously with another, he grinned at the Vulcan. "Good morning. I see you slept well - hurry up and get dressed - we're going to the stores. If we're going to be on public display tonight we might as well get used to it. Besides, I have to get us both something to wear for tonight. I have a reputation to maintain in this city."

"This all must be very expensive," Spock observed as he searched for and found the plain white tunic he'd been wearing when he arrived. Since then he'd been wearing Jim's own warmer clothes, despite the difference in size. He took a shower himself, dressed and brushed his hair quickly; impatient, as always, at the time it took. Most inefficient, he fumed silently.

Jim, irritated by the heavy ostentation of the Veparian dress, had made a point of sticking to Earth styles. By now his clothes attracted no attention at all, but they would be no more suitable for a formal party than Spock's tunic. He sighed, suddenly overcome by a wave of homesickness. Spock's quiet voice broke in on his thoughts. "The time will pass, Jim, and we will go home." Touched, he turned, smiling.

"In case you're interested," he said softly, "you haven't changed a bit where it matters."

"Thank you," Spock whispered. "I…I love you very much, Jim. I do not know whether I ever told you that before I lost you, but it is true."

For once in his life Jim Kirk was at a complete loss for words. Instead he crossed the room, slid his arms around Spock's waist, letting his head rest on the Vulcan's shoulder. "I couldn't face it alone," he answered at last. "Nothing was any good without you. I need you. I love you. Hold me - tighter." For a long time they stood there, soothed by the feel of each other's bodies." The strong impression of loneliness Spock had felt from the Human was gone now, and he marveled at the transformation his own touch had wrought. Surely the warmth of this moment would carry them through whatever the night might bring.

Neither mentioned the party again that day, throwing themselves into the novelty of the shopping expedition. Jim made a great production of selecting a few showy outfits for Spock to wear on special occasions, and surreptitiously managed to acquire at the same time a more practical wardrobe for the Vulcan when they were alone. Spock stayed close to his side, made apprehensive by the speculative and admiring stares he received, and Jim had to struggle against ever mounting anger. Fortunately, his sense of humor came to their rescue, and he began whispering comments too low for any but Vulcan ears while he loaded Spock down with bundles, rendering him nearly helpless with suppressed laughter. After depositing their bags to be crated and delivered to Tiberius's house they wandered around the stores. Jim bought himself an enormous ice cream sundae, tasted it and declared it unfit for Human consumption. He berated the hapless waiter, ordered another, and shoved the rejected dish across the table to Spock with a wink. In another shop he used the same maneuver to get each of them a cold drink, and even further down the street Andorian sweet-breads. He also bought several warm embroidered blankets and some scented firewood. At last, dizzy with happiness and stuffed with food they went back to their house.

 

 

It was much later, and their elation had long faded. Jim finished dressing, stepped back to inspect himself in the mirror, then turned to survey Spock. He had tried not to make the Vulcan feel more on display than necessary, but the high necked, long sleeved, ice blue tunic was more provocative in its attempt at concealment than anything else could have been. Lips thinning, he picked up the hair brush and dragged it through Spock's hair, yanking angrily at the tangles. "I've never seen anyone's hair knot up faster than yours," he muttered irritably, then, biting his lip at his own impatience, started at the bottom and drew a comb through it carefully, taking his time. Done, he slid his hands under the heavy mass. "Because it's so fine, I guess - and so soft." Sighing, he rested his cheek against the sleek blackness. "I'm sorry I hurt vou."

"It doesn't matter," Spock murmured.

"Yes, it does. Spock, Spock, I'm scared to death about tonight. If I could take it on myself and spare you, I would. I'd rather tear my heart out than hurt you. Can you understand that?" He was openly pleading for comfort, but Spock, immersed in his own dread, had none to offer. After a moment, Jim sighed again. "I know. It's all right." Crossing the room, he picked up the kcheiba bottle and drank deeply.

"Be careful," Spock said from behind him. "That is very potent, and there will be a great deal more at the party."

"What difference does it make how much I drink? We're hiring an air car and driver to take us back and forth and, taking another long swallow "if it makes it a little easier on me to blunt the edges a bit, what do you care?"

"I do not know you when you are like this," Spock said to his back.  "Is it going to continue all night?"

"Hold me," Jim said fiercely, turning and pressing himself against the taller man. "Just hold me." He relaxed into the strong arms, briefly allowing himself the luxurious illusion of dependence. He swayed slightly, and Spock braced him. Jim laughed shortly. "Terrific. I’m already half-crocked and we haven't even left yet. Have I told you that you look beautiful, damn it?"

Spock almost smiled, ruefully. "Thank you."

"I suppose we should be going." Spock felt suddenly chilly in his arms. He drew back, released the Vulcan so he could lay two firm hands on his shoulders, holding him at arms-length. The dark eyes met his directly. "I'm getting into my role now, so remember this. Everything I will do tonight – or allow to be done - is because I love you. I would do anything to prevent your being taken away from me and returned to that existence, if you can call it that. And I expect you to comply with every demand I may make because it's your life on the line, and I won't allow you to jeopardize it. Is that perfectly clear?"

"Yes."

Jim clenched his jaw. "Yes, what?"

Briefly, Spock looked confused. "What - oh. Yes, my lord."

"Good." In compensation he pulled the Vulcan close again. "The party won’t last forever.  We'll be back here in a few hours, and I will hold you just like this…" arms tightening "…and you'll be safe again. Now let's stop stalling and go. Get my cloak."

Spock brought it from the closet and Jim wrapped himself up, grateful for its enveloping folds as they stepped into the cold, windy night. He spared a moment to wish he could provide his companion with one also, then resolutely dismissed the thought. The air car was waiting, and he got in the back, lounging across the seat, leaving Spock to slide in next to the driver. The Veparian leaned over the Vulcan and, amidst a great deal of unnecessary fumbling and jostling locked the door. Jim stared grimly out the window, knowing it would be considered beneath Tiberius's dignity to object to snatched caresses from so insignificant a person. He did, however, ostentatiously check his wrist chronometer and clear his throat, and the driver settled back behind the controls. Spock stayed as far over on his side as possible, and he, too, gazed out at the night. The man's rough hands had started the terror growing again, and there was a very real possibility that he was going to be sick. He swallowed hard, forcing back the nausea.

Jim studied his profile, so finely etched against the night blackness of his hair.  Briefly he considered the sweet pleasure of choking the driver to death from behind, then, with a swoop and flourish, the air car landed outside Davme's lavish abode.

Inside it was dark, steamy, with the fragrance of various types of incense and differing drugs filling the air. Jim relinquished his cape at the door, and stood at the entrance to the main living area, scanning for a comfortable niche to settle in - one which it would then be Spock's job to hold for him while he wandered around the room and amused himself. There was only one really good spot left, and it was in the very center of the hustle and bustle, a far cry from the secluded corner he'd been hoping for. Noticing the attention they were attracting, he doubted it was accidental. Taking a deep breath, and a long drink from a glass nearby, he strode across the floor, Spock in his wake. After a few meters he was stopped by Davme himself. His host was already well on the way to complete drunkenness, and he clapped Kirk's back with such force he nearly knocked the Human over.

"Tiberius, my friend! Such a pleasure to see you - have a glass of Ffej - the greatest little party drink ever known." Jim sipped at it warily - its properties being legendary - then decided 'what the hell' and emptied his glass. It was instantly refilled. Davme was continuing. "As I say, always a pleasure to see you - would you step out of the way Tibe? You're concealing your best assets." Jim laughed, and tossed off the remainder of his second drink.

"When I'm drinking I don't move aside for any man. However,…" reaching around behind him, he caught Spock's wrist and pulled him forward. There was a stir…several people came over to eye the Vulcan curiously, and Kirk received many offers for him, but smilingly declined. He maintained his light grip, hoping to at once block other incoming impressions and transmit the security of his own presence. It seemed to be working - at least he's not crying, thank God. Spock's tears unnerved him in a way he'd never experienced, and now, with the Ffej stealing through his nervous system, he felt relieved to be spared tonight. He had a few more drinks, pretending indifference while Spock was discussed and analyzed. Soon enough something else drew attention away from both of them, and Jim was free to guide Spock to their seats.

"I'll get us both something to eat," he murmured, thankful for Vulcan hearing, "Hold down the fort. You all right?"

Spock nodded. He appeared perfectly composed, and only Jim could see the fine, nearly imperceptible trembling he could not quite control. He gave Spock's shoulder a pat, then strolled across the room toward the buffet table. Later on, when the Ffej had affected everyone past the bounds of propriety, he could settle beside Spock and no one else would intrude, but for now he had to mingle. His head felt light, and he was beginning to enjoy himself. He'd been to these parties before, but always there'd been the strained search through the room for his lost friend. Tonight, however, the search was ended; Spock was waiting for him in their own little nest of cushions, and soon his cock, which was already starting to ache in pleasant anticipation, would be buried to the root in that sweet, yielding flesh. His mouth was very dry, and he emptied another glass of Ffej to relieve it. Why was l so worried about tonight? he wondered cheerfully. This is going to be a fine evening. The Veparians amiably jostling him at the table suddenly seemed not such a bad bunch - they certainly knew how to throw a party here, which was more than you could say of more civilized societies.

Within ten minutes of Jim's departure, Spock had fended off four approaches - something at which he had become quite adept, walking the thin line between refusal and offense skillfully, while scanning the crowd nervously for the one face he dreaded seeing. One didn't attend these festivals, but Dola delighted in them. Rising to his feet, he became so absorbed in his search that he didn't notice the middle aged Veparian - large, muscled body now turned almost completely to fat, being egged on by his even more inebriated friends.

The attack caught him totally off guard - strong arms encircling him from behind, turning him to press him close. Fat, wet lips covered his, a tongue was thrust into his mouth, the sour taste of wine making him gag. Panicked, Spock struggled within that suffocating grip but it was pointless – only increasing the man's desire. Another pair of hands gripped his waist from behind…he struggled more wildly…everything dissolving into the black chaos swamping him, pulling him under.  Bruising fingers dug into his shoulder, and the other hands dropped away.  There was a short dizzying fall, and he hit the floor hard. "Up!" Kirk's voice struck him like a lash, and he came to his feet instantly, recoiling from the blast of emotion - anger, worry, guilt - coming from the Human. Jim pushed him, hard, moving him towards the softer cushions in preparation for the punishment which had to be given. Spock, shattered, saw Jim's hand come up, swinging with the full force of his shoulders behind it. Then his head exploded in a shower of pain and he went down again, striking the couch. Jim landed on top of him, pulling his clothes off. The other men turned away, courteously, and in seconds they were as alone as it was possible to be. Jim brought his lips to Spock's ear while continuing to remove both their clothes. All around them, the orgy was in full swing.

"I'm sorry I hit you - it was the only way I could think of getting them off you without arousing any suspicion. And I'm sorry too - because I want you. I have to have you…" he kissed the Vulcan's lips feverishly, uncaring that Spock was passive within his grasp, not resisting, not responding. With the Ffej coursing through his veins, the other's compliant body was sufficient. The taste of that hot mouth made his groin ache. "Suck me," he whispered hoarsely and Spock shifted position and obeyed. Jim groaned aloud at the warmth and wetness and tangled his fingers in Spock's dark hair, pressing that head closer, holding it there while he came.

"Get me another drink, and get your clothes back on," he ordered after a breathless silence, eyes closed, and again Spock obeyed. Jim propped himself up on one elbow, accepted the Ffej which Spock placed in his hand and drank it down, smiling to himself. "Hey." He poked Spock affectionately. "Get two more of these - one for me, and one for you. I think you need to loosen up a little."  Spock made no protest, merely obtaining the drinks. He hesitated then, wondering if he really had to drink it or if Kirk was distractible. The hazel eyes hardened. "Loosen up, I said!" He watched closely as the Vulcan drank from his glass and, temporarily satisfied, tossed his own down. "Quite a party."

"Yes." Spock groped for something to say to keep Jim with him - unsettling as he might be now he was still familiar, and comparatively safe. "You seem to be enjoying yourself - is there anything else I can get for you?"

"Not at the moment."

"Well…" Kirk's attention was starting to wander and, desperate, Spock did the only thing he could think of.  He moved closer, bent his head so a strand of his hair brushed Jim's arm lightly, and allowed his voice to drop to a whisper. "Is there something I can do to please you?" He saw Jim's eyes return to him with flattering speed. The Human captured the teasing hair and tugged, pulling Spock's head down. Their lips were scant millimeters apart.

"That," he breathed, "is the best offer I've ever had, and I'll take you up on it in a few minutes. Let me get something else to eat and go take a leak and -" his tongue emerged from his mouth to trace the shape of Spock's lips. "Hold that thought till I get back." He pulled on his robe, and whistled jauntily as he strolled across the room, pausing at the table to refill his plate. In utter dismay, Spock saw him getting drawn into a discussion group and knew that his own existence had been, at least temporarily, forgotten.

"So, for him you will offer yourself. How interesting," came a mocking voice from behind. "Spock, Spock, you never cease to amaze me…although I find it somewhat annoying that I haven't had the same pleasure - in fact, you had me convinced that you were quite unreachable. Ah ah…" Dola shook a warning finger "don't get up. It's been such a long time - you look wonderful, Spock, you really do. Your new master is treating you with care, I can see that. Well, each to his own."

Spock threw a terrified look towards Jim, but the Human was oblivious to developments across the room. Dola followed his eyes. "Yes, I do hear that he's the possessive type - rather chary with your favors, is he? I can't fault the man for that - I'll be the same way when you're mine. Or perhaps he is wearying of you already - I mean, leaving you unattended like this - at the mercy of anyone who might happen to come by." He laughed suddenly. "Come for a walk with me outside, Spock." He took both slender wrists in one iron fist and pulled the Vulcan to his feet.

"He told me to wait here," Spock protested, then flinched as Dola's fingers tightened, grinding the delicate bones together.

"And I am telling you to come outside with me. You'll be back before he even notices you're gone. He wrapped a huge arm around his captive's shoulders and tugged him towards the door. Spock could no more disobey this man than he could sprout wings and fly away, so he went without further demur.

The air in the outdoor garden was bitingly cold, and he shivered as the wind whipped at his hair, flattening his clothes against his body. Dola released him, devouring him greedily with his glittering stare. Spock was tense, poised for flight, yet held immobile by the force of the other man's will. His nostrils were dilated slightly and his pupils, catlike, were enormous in the dim light.

"You will be mine soon," Dola said finally, heavily. "That is what I wanted to tell you. I have already talked with One, and he has given me power of attorney on all his dealings here on Vepar. So…one way or another, Spock, you will be mine very soon - perhaps within the week." Spock shook his head,

"No," he said, and it was a plea.

"Oh yes – yes, I will own you - body and soul, I will possess you." He moved closer and began to run insolent hands over the other. Exploring fingers pushed Spock's tunic off his shoulders, tucked it up from the bottom, groped underneath. His voice went on, smoothly, while he probed, pinched, squeezed, "Never have I wanted anyone the way I've wanted you. You fill my dreams day and night - the thought of you obsesses me." Both hands clamped on Spock's shoulders and shook him effortlessly, as the Vulcan might shake a child. "You! Who are you that you dare disturb my mind so? No other gives me the pleasure I find in you!" One thick arm moved down, clasping Spock around the waist while the other hand tangled itself in the thick black hair, pulling back savagely, feeling Spock arch against him, taut as a drawn bow, his inclination followed by the bending body of the Veparian. Dola pulled harder, leaned over, biting Spock's neck, his shoulders, pulling even further back, biting tender nipples until blood filled his mouth. He released him, then, and his victim crumpled to the ground. Dola reached down, lazily got hold of his hair again, pulling the by now semi-conscious Vulcan up to his knees. "Unfasten my pants and suck me," he ordered, then jumped as Spock fumbled obediently with icy fingers. "You fool!" A blow sent Spock to the ground again. Furious, Dola kicked him. "Up! Up on your knees to me but keep your hands behind your back this time!" As quickly as possible, Spock complied. Everything else - Jim, his gentle lovemaking, their shared home and the promise of a bright future, had fallen away like dried leaves, leaving only himself and Dola, and that was the way it always had been and always would be.

Dola was opening his pants himself. "Take me in your mouth," he ordered again, then suddenly gave Spook's hair a violent yank. "And if you bite me … if you bite me, Spook, I'll shove my fist up your ass all the way to my elbow - or make you think I did," hands menacingly settling into position for a mind probe "which would be just as bad…for you. Would you like that?"

"Dola…no. I…I will not resist you." He could feel the Veparian's mind hovering, just on the edge of his own consciousness, and trembled at the black power there. "Please," he whispered, almost physically ill at the threat. Thick fingers tightened on his face and the mental presence grew stronger.

"Suck me, then," Dola murmured as he settled himself on a bench, "and make it good, because if I'm not properly aroused I might become bored and turn to other distractions." He sent a quick blast of sensation at the other's unshielded mind, hinting at terrible pain and nameless perversion, simultaneously drawing the dark head down. Spock did what was expected of him, feeling a merciful numbness spreading through his body and mind. He was even colder than before, but it didn't matter as much. Shock, his brain registered distantly and he was grateful for it. Dola growled appreciatively, sprawling comfortably in his seat.

"Ah, Spock. Nobody does that like you do." He spread the long black hair out over his thighs, and admired the effects of the moonlight on the shining strands. "I will do that mind probe, and more, when you are mine. I only hold back tonight because you are temporarily owned by another. It would hardly be fair to Tiberius to cause such extensive damage to his property." Spock shut his eyes even more tightly, trying to disregard the other man's remarks, but couldn't. I do belong to him…there is nothing left to me now…he has destroyed me and filled me with himself.  No escape, no escape…the hot gush of bitter liquid filling his throat made him retch but Dola held his head firmly, not releasing him until the orgasm was complete. Finally, he leaned forward, tipped Spock's chin up again, and smiled almost tenderly into his eyes.

"You will pay for this obsession of mine, Spock, pay very dearly. I will have my revenge for the way you have aroused a passion in me which will not take satisfaction elsewhere. Do you know how inconvenient that is for me? Do you know the trouble you have caused me? When you are mine…" the massively built man actually trembled with anticipation, and desire shone in his eyes. "When you are mine…" roughly he pulled Spock into a bear hug, crushing the slender body against his own. Then, just as abruptly, he released his hold and rose. Carefully he brushed his clothes off, and refastened his pants. "Tell Tiberius I will be calling on him soon, to find out his price. You may complain to him of what I did to you if you dare. His fastidiousness is well known in the city, and he has said he would sell you instantly if he knew another had used you." He leaned forward. "Or you can save your story until I visit him, if you can explain your rather battered condition. In any event, I'll be sure to tell him how pleased I was with you." His laugh was harsh. "He'll sell you in a minute once he knows. So return to your temporary owner, and be patient. Now."

Spock was stumbling back to the house before he realized he had obeyed. He could hear Dola still laughing behind him. "Go in like that, my sweet, and I'll own you before the night is out." Chuckling, he watched Spock stop, stricken, then faded into the shadows of the night. Spock leaned against the wall, panting. Automatically he pulled down his tunic, buttoned the top buttons, and ran shaking fingers through his hair, before moving back into the house and into the thick of the party. What had seemed like an eternity to him had actually only been about thirty minutes. Jim was still engrossed in conversation, and hadn't even noticed his absence. Carefully, Spock picked his way to their seat. He passed unmolested for the most part – the lights had been turned down, and everyone had either left, paired off, or formed into groups, all too involved to pay him any mind. Once a hand shot out, caught his ankle and pitched him to the floor, but it was not a serious gesture, and after some ribald remarks and clumsy groping he was allowed to continue on his way. Sinking into the soft cushions he had so recently left he drew his knees up to his chin and shivered uncontrollably. The room was quite warm by now, even hot, but it couldn't alleviate the chill he felt.

"You still cold? Here, try this." Jim stumbled, nearly spilling the drinks he was carrying, but managed to recover. The sight of what he perceived as Spock's physical discomfort aroused many warm, pleasurably protective instincts. When the Vulcan didn't react immediately, Kirk pressed the glass into his hands. "This'll warm you. C'mon, drink up." His voice had sharpened slightly, and Spock straightened, disposing of the drink in one long swallow. It went straight to his stomach, a silent spreading explosion of heat, then rebounded to his brain. He swayed, and Jim pushed him down, stretched out on top of him, taking care to spread a warm blanket over both of them. Urgently pushing the impeding garments aside, he sought and found the entrance to Spock's body with his fingers, then began to push his cock in. Desire filled his mind, his thoughts - there was nothing else he wanted but to be buried to the fullest extent in the body of his lover. Drink had not robbed him of his innate gentleness, and he took some pains to go carefully, to make his thrusts slow and easy. Moreover, he was marginally aware of Spock's misery; the taut body, motionless in his arms except for an occasional shudder was mute testimony to that. He allowed himself to come to orgasm quickly, clutching Spock and moaning in release. Afterwards, his lips, wandering up Spock's throat to his face tasted a familiar, faintly spicy wetness. Biting his lip he sat up, put on his cloak. "Let's go," he said softly and rose, heading for the door. Spock followed, wrapping his arms around himself as the icy outside air hit him again. He couldn't help looking towards the garden as Jim hailed their air car, and his heart leapt violently when he saw Dola strolling casually towards them.

"Tiberius!" he called, and Jim turned. At the same time, he heard Spock's sharp intake of breath.

"Yes?" he asked pleasantly. He could feel Spock's terror, an almost visible aura surrounding them both. "Get in the car," he ordered quietly. Spock turned gratefully, fumbling for the handle, but Dola forestalled him.

"Now Tiberius, you wouldn't deprive me of such a delightful view, would you?" He made an elaborate, mocking bow. "Spock. Always a pleasure."

"Thank you, my lord."

"Tiberius - I won't keep you. I just wanted to make an appointment to come to your house sometime this week. My name is Dola - and I am currently acting as One's agent in certain matters." He smiled fondly at Spock, not missing the sudden stiffening of Kirk's body.

Dola! The haunter of Spock's dreams…the damage this one man had done, Jim thought often, was irreparable. There was no way out of the visit, but he wanted Spock to recover from tonight before subjecting him to any further ordeals. The Veparian was still watching Spock, and Jim could see insane rapacity in his eyes, could sense the force of his desire. Instinctively he moved between them, making his voice harsh. "I told you to get in the car!" he barked at Spock, who jumped, then obeyed, climbing into the front seat and shutting the door behind him.

"I am honored, sir," Kirk said formally, aware that it would not be expedient to antagonize this man. "Unfortunately, I am going away for the next week - renting a cabin in the mountains," he improvised rapidly. "I'll be back in six days - suppose we make our appointment for after that?"

They settled on a date, amiably enough, then the hunger flared again in those small eyes. "Is there any sum I could mention which would induce you to let me have Spock for some time? Even two or three hours would suffice."

I'll bet, Kirk thought, but merely shook his head. The awesome bulk of the alien did not encourage debate.  He was aware of a powerful will and raging appetites behind that seemingly placid exterior, and knew that this man was a formidable threat. It was imperative that his suspicions not be aroused. "There isn't any amount of money that could buy you that," he smiled. "I abhor having my property soiled by another's touch. I am sorry - but you'll have to be patient until I leave."

"Well, no offense meant, my friend, but I shall await that day with breathless anticipation. Until next week, then." He rapped sharply at Spock's window. "Open it," he ordered, and, when Spock had done so he bent over, resting both arms heavily on the door. "I'll see you next week, Spock - your owner and I have an interesting discussion ahead of us. Goodnight."

Spock closed the window very carefully, then leaned back against the seat. His mind was reeling from the cumulative shocks of the evening. It hardly registered that Jim had gotten into the back seat and ordered the driver to take them home.

Jim himself was wrestling with his irritation. "There's no reason you should do everything he tells you, you know," he snapped finally. Spock flinched, but made no reply.

"Looks like you're in for it tonight," the driver said in a low voice, obviously delighted at the prospect.

"Mind your own business!" Jim flared up instantly. The rest of the ride was made in smoldering silence. When they arrived Jim paid the driver, making the tip as small as he could manage, gripped Spock's arm and fairly dragged him out and into the house. With the door safely locked behind them he released the Vulcan, went into the kitchen and made himself a pot of steaming black coffee. After two cups he felt nauseated, went into the bathroom and threw up. Feeling somewhat shaky but clear headed he showered, changed into warm pajamas and a bathrobe, and combed his hair. "There," he said aloud to his reflection, and marched back into the living room.

He was totally unprepared for the fact that Spock was still standing in the middle of the room, exactly where he had left him. Wearily, Jim stood in the doorway and rested his head against the frame. He knew Spock was on the edge of hysteria, and, although feeling more capable of handling it now than half an hour ago it was still not a prospect he was particularly looking forward to. The conflicting emotions which filled him made his head ache. Concern, of course - and love – and black anger at everyone who had contributed to the situation. But mingled throughout that was the anger he felt towards Spock himself for allowing this to happen to him, and, on top of that came the guilt, and beyond that was a sick fear - for he knew perfectly well that if Spock - cool, composed fearless Spock – could be broken so completely, then what would have happened to James Kirk under the same circumstances? He had a fairly good idea, and the reflection was not reassuring. Looking at the motionless Vulcan now, studying the defeat written in his posture, the unhappiness implicit in the droop of his head, Jim allowed tenderness to well up from the depths of his soul, superseding everything else. He waited until he was sure the hot welter of emotion had abated, and would not be in his voice, before he spoke.

"Spock." Letting the one syllable hang there, filled with a pulsing gentleness. "Come here, my love - come to me." Spock came into his arms without a word and rested there, like someone who has been terribly injured and needs a refuge. Jim guided him into the bathroom, stripped him and adjusted the shower. It wasn't until he'd gotten the temperature to a satisfactorily high level for a Vulcan that he turned, dialed up the lights, and got a good look at the bruised shoulders and ribs, the mottled areas on his neck, and the imprints of savage teeth on both tender nipples. "My God," he whispered, aghast. "Spock! What happened?"

Spock stared at him blankly for a moment, then a wash of terror shook him. He knows! He sees, and he’ll make me tell him, and…and… he couldn't make his thoughts spell out the rest, but sell me, he will sell me was a muffled chant beneath the dull roar of his heart in his ears and the weird reverberations of hysteria in his head.

Jim saw him blanch, and backed off. "Look, you don't have to tell me about it now. Get in the shower and relax a little. Tomorrow I'm taking you away from here – since I told Dola we were renting a house in the mountains we'd better do it. No more parties for a while, and some fresh air…" he went on talking easily while Spock stood under the hot jets, feeling with utter gratitude the heat of the water running off his chilled skin. When he was out, and Jim had gotten him dried off and into warm clothing, and spooned some hot soup inside him, Spock felt a measure of sanity return.

"Jim?"

"Yes?"

"You…you care for me, do you not? You have said you do…"

Here it comes, whatever it is, Jim thought, and gave Spook his most devastating smile. "Yes, I care for you. Very much." The smile worked - he could see some faint color coming back to his Vulcan's lips now.

"It was said, at the party, that you have stated your intention of selling me if…" Jim interrupted decisively.

"I have put several rumors about in the city, but none of them are true. I will never sell you under any circumstances - damnit Spock, you're not mine to sell!"

Spock choked. "But…I thought you had purchased me!" His voice rose. "You have not? I still belong to One? But…"

"Will you calm down?" Jim scowled at him in mock exasperation. "What am I going to do with you? Come to bed." When they were both ensconced under the blankets, and Spock's head lay on his shoulder, he began stroking the black hair with a rhythmic, hypnotic motion. "Yes, I bought you. But that's a charade, remember? These people have no right to you - no right to buy and sell you - you're a sapient being! A Starfleet Officer. Consider the money I spent as a sort of ransom. I certainly don't regard myself as having any property rights to you, and I have no intention of selling you to anybody else. I'm going to take you home, remember?"

"Even if I have been…" he groped, and used Kirk's own word "…soiled?"

Jim grew very quiet. After a moment he sat up in bed and slid his hand under Spock's pajama shirt. Very carefully, he touched the bruised skin. "I get the impression that you have something to tell me, and I think I can guess what it is. Who hurt you tonight?"

"He said that when you know you will sell me."

"He lies," Jim said shortly, "and I would expect you to have more sense than to listen. Who did this to you?" He propped himself up on one elbow and looked sharply at the Vulcan's face. "Did he rape you?"

Spock flushed. "No…not precisely."

"Give me a name, Spock," Jim said quietly. "I want to hear a name - or at least a good description."

"Dola."

"When?"

"While you were at the table, in conversation."

"I'm surprised no one mentioned it to me – everyone around knows me by now."

"It was not there…he took me outside, in the garden."

"Took you? How?" Jim sat up. "I can't believe I was so drunk I didn't notice a struggle."

The answer was hardly audible, even as closely as he was sitting. "There was no struggle. He ordered me to accompany him - I obeyed."

"That's it?"

The disbelief in Kirk's voice touched a raw nerve, and Spock sat up himself, dark eyes blazing. "What do you know about it? What do you know about anything that happened? About him…the way he is? Nothing! You have no idea what he has done to me!"

Jim kicked himself furiously…stupid, stupid…and tried to make amends. "Then tell me, so I may understand."

But the anger was gone, and only an overwhelming depression remained. Spock lay back down on the pillow, staring at the ceiling. His voice was flat. "It does not matter. Am I to presume, then, that you are not planning to sell me?"

"You presume correctly," Jim said gently. He tried not to worry…after all, if Spock was at the point of emotional collapse it was certainly nothing to wonder about. Still he was uneasy, unsure of his ability to cope with these mood swings, and he wished, not for the first time, that McCoy was still there. Spock had turned on his side, wrapping himself up in blankets - withdrawn, self-contained, quite obviously desiring no body contact. Now what? Jim wondered, staring at him. Is that a barrier I should try to breach, or should I let him be? Very tentatively he touched one rigid shoulder. "Spock? Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Leave me alone," Spock said in a muffled voice. "Just…leave me alone."

He allowed his hand to settle more firmly on the mound of blankets. "Sure?"

Spock recoiled violently from his touch, twisting around into a half upright position. "Why can't you leave me alone for once? Didn't you get enough tonight? Then do it and get it over with! Or do you want to make me another drink? Perhaps you have more friends you want to show me to!"

Jim opened his mouth, and shut it again. There was nothing he could say to that which would not make things worse. Lips tight, eyes bleak, he shook his head. "Goodnight, Spock," he murmured finally, and the Vulcan, without answering, rolled himself up into a tight ball, back turned to Jim, as far over on his side of the bed as possible. Despite his good intentions, Jim was annoyed. "Look, if my presence is making you uncomfortable, there's another room I could sleep in."

"Please yourself," Spock returned.

"Well then - fine." He sat up and slid his feet into slippers. At the door he paused, waiting for Spock to call him back, but there was only silence from the bed. With a sigh, Kirk went into the kitchen. His head was throbbing dully. Is it so surprising that he should need a little space of his own? So much of a shock that he doesn't want anymore touching him right now, even me? Particularly me. I wasn't exactly the soul of sensitivity tonight. Damn.

In the chilly spare bed sleep proved elusive. Finally, after over an hour of tossing and turning, he rose, and padded softly into Spock's room; just to be sure, he told himself, just to be sure this is really what he wants.

Spock lay on his side, having evidently wept himself to sleep. The traces of tears still lingered on his face. Jim reached out to touch him, then drew back. He looked longingly at the empty place on the bed. Well…he didn’t actually say…it was still with some trepidation that he crawled in. Making no attempt to touch the other's still form, he merely lay quietly, basking in the warmth of the Vulcan's presence. Within a few minutes he had his reward. With a faint, choked sob Spock rolled over and curled up in his arms. Jim, eyes stinging, stroked the dampened hair back from the now peaceful face. He was made absurdly happy by that welcome weight in his embrace, by the feel of soft breathing on his chest, the sweet scent of Spock's hair. In seconds his body felt weightless and he was spinning down, down…here comes sleep, he thought gratefully, and those were the last conscious words framed by his mind for several hours.

 

 

The cabin he'd found was beautiful, the surroundings peaceful, but it seemed to help not at all. Spock had become alarmingly unpredictable. During the first day he alternated long periods of sullen silence with sudden, desperate clutches at the Human. Jim would soothe him as best he could, only to feel the slender body stiffen, and brusquely pull free. That night Spock rolled away, seeking his own side of the bed. Eventually, however, the muffled cries betrayed the inevitable nightmares, and Jim gathered him close. Seemingly, Spock accepted the comfort, and they slept together in peace until the next day, when his resentment seemed only fueled by what they had shared. By the third morning he was being so difficult that Jim was hanging onto his patience by the thinnest thread of self-control. After several unpleasant hours he flung himself out the door and went for a walk, scuffing his feet angrily, breathing the fresh clean air in deep gulps.

The magnificent view of mountains and pale pink sky was lost on him. He'd replayed the night of Davme's party over and over in his mind, trying to see what it was he'd done that was so wrong. And over and over, he'd come up with nothing that would explain these new developments. He didn't think he'd been unnecessarily brutal - callous, maybe, but that had been part of the disguise - the essential disguise. Spock was intelligent enough to understand - or at least he used to be.  Suddenly he found himself facing the stark possibility that this damage might, as McCoy had predicted, be permanent. He'd been so sure he would be able to find a way to help Spock…what if he were wrong? What if Spock was never able to function again? Maybe what he really needed was the sterile efficiency of a Starfleet hospital - or the polite indifference he'd find on his home planet. What made him think that the hot tangled sea of emotion he'd thrown the Vulcan into would be of any benefit? What did I expect - for him to fall into my arms unreservedly grateful? That my mere presence would be enough to bring him all the way back? But it had been, until the disastrous reappearance of Dola, whose very presence had apparently frightened Spock out of his wits - literally. The Veparian had been a catalyst of some sort, but…I still don't see why it should have turned Spock against me. I'd have thought it would have worked the other way…a familiar halloo startled him from his reverie and he turned, thinking it a hallucination. It couldn't be…but it was! Leonard McCoy, looking so blessedly ordinary and prosaic that Jim could have kissed him, sweaty and disheveled as he was from the long climb.

"Bones!" he yelled, and covered the space between them with long strides, catching the Doctor in a gigantic hug. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"I told you I'd be back as soon as possible, you stubborn pig-headed fool - did you think I'd forgotten?"

"I didn't think about it at all," Jim admitted sheepishly. "Sometimes I get so tangled up in what's going on here I almost forget there's a galaxy outside. Can we leave the same way you came? Is there a ship in orbit?"

"No such luck - it was hard enough getting them to divert here and beam me down. It's true, then, what I heard in the city? You've found Spock?"

"Yes…it's true. He's in the cabin now."

"Happy?"

"Relieved, of course.  So relieved to have him back.  But Bones, I can't seem to reach him anymore. Nothing I do works - at first it did, at first - if you'd shown up a week ago I'd have told you how well things were going, but now…"

McCoy sat down on a rock and regarded Jim with deep compassion, "Tell me how it's been," he said quietly. "From the beginning."

Jim talked for over an hour, sometimes pacing up and down, gesticulating wildly, sometimes just standing with his hands clasped behind his back. "And I don't know how to handle it anymore," he finished, exhausted. "Half the time he acts as though he can't stand the sight of me, but then he'll cling to me like I might disappear at any moment. I just…what the devil are you smiling about?"

McCoy was indeed smiling. "Because it's such a healthy reaction, that's why."

Jim stared at him, stupefied. "It is? Healthy?"

"Look at it this way. When you first found him he was motivated by the one need - to have your bodily proximity, your physical affection - very basic, primal demands. That got a little complicated when you were forced to bring sex into it - obviously it would have been better if that hadn't happened. Even so, you might have gotten away with it - but then there was the party…and Dola."

"I wish we could have avoided that party altogether.  I wish I had thought of this –“ he gestured widely, including the mountains, the woods, the unseen cabin behind them -  “sooner.  But I didn’t, and it might have aroused more curiousity than we could afford.  As it is – and I shouldn’t have been drinking.  I should have said no to that first glass of Ffej.”

McCoy intererupted him.  “And how would that have looked?”

“Strange.  Odd.  Wrong.  But I was drunk, and from that point on I was just reacting.  Reacting to finding some strangers mauling him.  Reacting to … to my own selfish desires.  I shouldn’t have left him alone, but everybody else was moving around and mingling.  I never dreamed he'd just go off with someone without even…"

" You say Dola told him you planned to sell him?"

"And I told him that was nonsense! Why should he believe that bastard over me? "

"You're not seeing it through his eyes. During Spock's captivity, this Dola has evidently become an extremely powerful authority figure. His word is law, his orders to be instantly obeyed.  You said yourself that even by the air car, with you right there giving counter orders, it was Dola’s command that won out. That shows how ingrained the pattern of submission is. Now Dola tells him he intends to buy him. Spock has no reason to doubt him, - and yet…you are also an authority figure of long standing, and he's never had cause to mistrust your word, either. But if he should displease you, he thinks you might change your mind. Being Spock - and again I emphasize how much of his thought processes are normal, despite the distortion - the not knowing, being unable to predict, is unendurable. So…"

"So, he's arranging the situation so he can be sure," Jim completed slowly. "He's testing me, is that what you're saying? To see if I still…"

"Exactly. Dola's motives for wanting him he can understand. Lust, the desire to control, sadistic pleasure in the inflicting of pain - he's become accustomed to that. What you're saying as a counterbalance is that you will not give him up because…because why? And never mind the noble speeches I'm sure you've made about the evils of slavery. What are your personal reasons for wanting to keep him?"

"I will not give him up because I love him."

"You've told him that?"

"Yes. Over and over again."

"But he must wonder - why do you love him? Remember, he hates and loathes what they've turned him into. He feels he can't possibly measure up to whatever it is that you used to see in him, so what can he offer you now? If he were fawning on you, doing his utmost to placate you – that would bother me. But he's not. He's pushing you to your limits to find out exactly what those limits are, and what you'll do when you reach them. Don't you see what a terrible chance he's taking? You might throw up your hands in disgust and sell him back to Dola. Or - and this is the potential payoff that makes it worth the risk - he might find that you love him still, even when he's not being meek and submissive and obedient - all the things they've taught him he must be on this planet to have any worth at all, even the basic worth of survival. Plus he might even discover that you love him without him being everything I have no doubt you've told him he used to be. I'd say deep down, even before this happened, he's always wondered whether you cared for him, or for the best First Officer in the Fleet."

"Then all this is deliberate?"

"No, no. On a conscious level Spock has no idea why he's acting the way he is. You said yourself it seems to frighten him. Let him work it out, but don't put up with too much. You have the right to demand common courtesy - so demand it! He'll like himself more if you do." Rising with an effort from his uncomfortable perch, he clapped Jim on the back. "Sounds like you've been doing a fine job, and I apologize for not thinking it possible. Feel like introducing me?"

"He might recognize you, too."

"I doubt it, but Spock has surprised me before. Let's go."

 

 

Spock had watched Jim's back until the Human was out of sight. Sighing, he rested his head on the door for a long time, then wearily went back into the cabin. He felt absolutely miserable – guilty over driving Jim away, afraid that this time the man wouldn't return. What is wrong with me? He wondered desolately. I have been given everything, and am busily engaged in throwing it away.  I must be a fool, an ungrateful…a large hand clamped over his mouth from behind and another closed around his wrists as he instinctively tried to tear the hands away. "Hello, Spock," Dola murmured seductively in his ear. "The game's over. Come with me quietly and you won't be hurt - too badly." He began to back out of the cabin. Spock balked, twisting in his captor's grip. Dola's hands tightened cruelly. "Come on, Spock," he repeated. And when the Vulcan remained taut against him, not yielding to the pull towards the door he swore softly. "I know, Spock. I know that the man masquerading as Tiberius is actually your former Captain, and that this is an elaborate escape attempt." He laughed. "Did you really think it would work? I know I've managed to turn your brains to water over the past few years, but still…how could you seriously imagine that you could escape me? Or One?"

Spock went cold. His mind raced frantically. Jim. He had to alert Jim, somehow. They had apparently taken care to wait until the Human was out of reach so Jim must be a serious threat to their plans. He swayed against Dola as if faint, felt the Veparian's grip change unconsciously from containing to supporting, and with one tremendous burst of strength wrenched himself free. Instantly he dodged around the startled man and fled through the door. "Jim!" he called wildly, then was tackled from behind. Dola's weight drove him to the ground, that massive hand closed around his mouth again. He tried to shake his head free and drove backwards with both elbows, hearing a satisfying grunt of pain from above him. A rich, familiar chuckle made him blink his eyes open and he saw two elegantly booted feet planted on the ground in front of him. One knelt, there was the hiss and pressure of a hypo against his arm, then a swift, dizzying spin to oblivion.

 

 

Jim had taken off like a shot at that frantic cry for help, McCoy panting at his heels, but it seemed to take forever to get back. When they arrived the mutely swinging door, and the clear indications of a scuffle in the dirt in front of the cabin were their own silent testimony. Still, they went inside, and searched the cabin. Nothing.

"What is going on here?" McCoy demanded. "Is there much crime up here in the country? I knew the cities were pretty bad, but…"

"Shut up," Kirk said harshly. "Shut up and let me think. If he hadn't yelled for help I might think he just walked away - the way he's been acting lately that wouldn't be as much of a surprise as you might imagine."

"Yes, it would."

Jim glanced at him. "I'm not so sure - ever since the party he's acted as though he hated me at times. But that's irrelevant anyway. We heard him call out - and it looks like there was a fight of some kind out front, doesn't it? So he was taken - forcibly. It's almost as though someone knew who I was - but that's impossible. No one could know. It has to be Dola…I saw the way he looked at Spock." His face hardened. "Spock is terrified of him." Restlessly he began pacing. "Damn, I wish the Enterprise were here. It would make it so easy - just find him and beam up. But we can't. And I have a feeling he's going to lock Spock away someplace where I'll never find him, so we have to move fast."

 

 

One week and two days later, Spock was still missing. No one in the city had seen anything of either Dola or One - or were saying so if they had. From the evasiveness of two or three Veparians of his acquaintance Jim sensed that there was more going on than he knew, and when one of those men suddenly acquired a new and very expensive house, and another received a political plum of a job, he was sure of it.

Not for the first time he wondered how he would have managed without that bulwark of Sarek and Amanda's personal fortune - he would have, somehow, but the money certainly made it easier. There was no doubt in his mind that eventually he would find Spock. Whether it would be in time, he didn't know.

 

 

Spock lay flat on his back on the immense bed, staring at the ceiling. The hum of a shower gave him Dola's location - and peace for a few moments, at least. His entire body was one massive ache - he barely possessed the strength to turn his head. It was the painful dryness of his mouth and throat which provided the impetus necessary for him to prop himself up on one elbow, lift a languid hand to the glass of water beside the bed, and drink. Done, he returned the glass, watching apathetically as it fell on its side, and dropped back on the pillows. The slight movement had started his head pounding.

Exultant with power, filled with insatiable greed, Dola had driven him without mercy since his recapture. The man's passions were as mountainous as his shape, and with awesome frequency he threw his slave down on the floor or bed and raped him. Grunting with pleasure, he drove himself into the unresisting body. When through, he would kick him aside until the next time, when the process would be repeated. The first thing he had done was to carry out the threat he'd made in Davme's garden that cold night. The hideous telepathic violation had sent Spock spinning into a nightmarish half-life from which he could not awaken. There was no sense of anger in him, no outrage. He knew now that he had never really believed in the promises of perpetual safety Jim had given him, and for that lack of faith alone he deserved to be punished - and who else but Dola would be chosen to administer that punishment? One visited occasionally, to watch and applaud, but it was Dola who was in triumphant possession.

The sound of the shower stopped, and Spock could hear hurried movement within the bathroom. That Dola was hurrying boded nothing but evil. Spock didn't even sigh - he was past that. He merely settled himself more firmly on the pillows and waited.

The Veparian emerged from the bathroom and stood, a towel wrapped none too securely around his ample waist. He glared at the motionless form on the bed with baffled anger and frustration. It seemed that all his life he had dreamed of owning this elusive, beautiful slave. Visions of that ecstasy had returned in hot, sweaty dreams over the past two years. Yet now - he tossed the towel to the floor and crossed the room to stand over his captive.

Dark eyes regarded him listlessly, with none of the terror and supplication he was accustomed to seeing there. No more did the slender body pull uselessly - yet oh, so enticingly - against his frenzied embraces, or tremble deliciously beneath his conquering weight.

Bending over, he slid his hands through the magnificent hair, finding it matted and unwashed. Furious, he pulled Spock to his feet. "Wash it, damn you! Go take a shower, wash it, comb it, and be done before I return!" Drawing his arm back he slapped the Vulcan hard on the side of the head. Spock went down heavily and didn't move. Dimly he could hear drawers opening and closing as his master dressed. When the door slammed he rose, went into the bathroom, mechanically showered, and washed his hair. A blast from the hot air jets dried it, and he sat down to begin combing out the tangles. He did it quickly - if Dola wanted it to be finished before he came back then it had to be finished. Exhausted by the effort he sank back down on the bed, one arm hanging limply over the edge.

"Well, I must say that's an improvement," Dola grumbled, banging the door shut behind him. He stripped, tossed his clothes on the chair and came over to the bed. "What is it about you…" he murmured thickly, pulling Spock up into a smothering embrace. The total unresponsiveness made him frown. For a moment he pondered, still absently clutching the Vulcan to him, then dropped him and rose. For a moment he paced in silence, unconcerned about his nakedness. "I'm not a fool, you know," he said finally, then stopped pacing and turned to stare directly at Spock. "Look at me," he commanded, and obediently the dark eyes fixed on his face. "Do you think me unaware of what you are doing? You think you are unreachable now - untouchable? To me?" He laughed shortly. "I think it is time I reminded you of just what you are, Spock - slave - and of who I am." Lifting his hands he curled his fingers slightly into the position for a mind probe, laughing again, with satisfaction this time, when Spock flinched. "This is worse than the other, for you. I must remember that. The past few days I've been…preoccupied…but I won't neglect this again."

Desperate, Spock twisted to one side but Dola was too fast for him. Draping himself comfortably over the Vulcan's body, he closed both hands over his face. Spock struggled in his grasp, and the other man groaned. "Oh yes, struggle, Spock - let me feel your body moving against mine…so good, so good…" revolted, Spock forced himself to lie still. Chuckling gently, Dola shifted his grip, clamping both wide palms over his prisoner's mouth and nose. "I will feel you writhing under me," he murmured, "it's just a matter of a few minutes…a few minutes more, and I have time…all the time in the world.  Your self-control is admirable, my lovely little toy, but it's no match for my leisure, is it?" He waited.

Within a short time, Spock could feel his chest tightening, the pain expanding outward and up to his throat. Frantic, he managed to get his hands up to pull at the restraining fingers. Sharp teeth closed over them, gnawing until he had to retreat. Beyond his own volition his body arched, twisting and bucking in an increasingly frenzied need to breath, beyond which nothing else mattered. Abruptly he was released, and gasped convulsively for air, sobbing brokenly in relief and mortification. "There, there," Dola said comfortingly, stroking his hair. "You don't think I'd let you die, do you? After all we've meant to each other? I'm very fond of you, you know, Spock - in my own way, I think I love you."

Shaken out of his apathetic withdrawal, Spock stared at his captor with genuine incredulity. "Love?" he demanded. "Love? You call this love?"

"And what," he inquired silkily, "would you - an object, a plaything for anyone with the price - know about it? What makes you think you would recognize love if you saw it - and that what I feel for you is not it?"

"It is not even close!" Spock flared. "Jim loved me, I felt it! And what you feel is not…" Dola struck him, and again. After the fifth or sixth blow he lay quiescent, dazed, feeling the reality of the moment slip away, falling, falling…

Dola swore. Physical violence only sent the Vulcan further into his protective shell which meant that, satisfying as it was, it would have to be avoided - at least for the time being. "Oh no you don't," he muttered fiercely, and initiated the mind probe, driving his way in with tremendous blows, feeling Spock's consciousness reel under the impact. Furiously, purposefully, he sought for the first time Spock's mental image of James Kirk - the man who had had the audacity to try and take Dola's most precious possession beyond his reach. Love? he sneered. You think he loves you? Foolt - he wants to possess you just as I do, and as One does - and I will show you that once and for all!

He does love me! Spock blazed back. He did! You may see for yourself if you wish - defiantly he opened up, letting the memory of what he had felt from Jim stand before them both in all its gentleness and strength. At the sweet warmth of it Spock felt tears come to his eyes. There. That is love. I did not deserve it, but…Dola, who had been trying to find some way to discredit and blot out Jim Kirk's image from Spock's mind, seized on that with relieved triumph.

No, You did not deserve it. And why, Spock? Because you are an object, a thing! What makes you think he would love you if he knew what you have done, what you have been? He would turn away from you in horror, in disgust. You were never worthy of love - because of what you are. Not quite Vulcan, not quite Human – worthless! Worthless!

No, Spock protested feebly. No - if that were so he would not have come looking for me.

That is because he does not know you as I know you. Be honest with me – and with yourself - if he knew you as I do, would he have wasted so much of his life trying to find you?

No. The mind whisper was drawn from bleeding depths of his soul. No. He would not. He should not have wasted…wasted…Dola pressed harder, sensing victory.

No. He should not. Because you are not deserving of it - you are nothing, Spock, nothing. Acknowledge that! He leaned heavily, making it a command.

Yes - nothing. Nothing – Dola! Pure misery. Will you ever let me go?

Never. I love you. Not even a flicker of a reaction this time. I do - as best I can. If things were different – if I did not feel your abhorrence of me with each pulse beat of your mind - I could almost cherish you. But you will never change towards me.

No.

Then I mast destroy you. And when I am through, when you no longer hold any interest for me whatever - two, maybe three years from now - I will kill you.

Kill me now. A plea. If there is any pity in you at all…

There is none. And you will not kill yourself – I have made certain of that. Now, I will fuck you. You will not resist me - actively, or passively. A vicious twist. Or I shall enter your mind again. Is that clear? The mental equivalent of a mute nod. Excellent. Deliberately, the Veparian yanked his mind free of the meld. It was uncomfortable for him that way, but after discovering the wrenching agony it caused his victim he considered it well worth the cost. Sitting up on the bed, he reached for his wine bottle and drank deeply. Done, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and belched happily.

Spock had turned his face away, deeply humiliated by the tears he could not control. Dola glanced at him, eyes bright with malice. "Put your hair back, Spock," he ordered calmly, and sit up. I enjoy seeing you weep - it excites me.  I know how you hate it – for that reason it was one of the first of your vaunted controls which I removed."

Spock pushed his hair behind his shoulders with shaking hands and looked fully at his tormentor. At that moment he hated with a pure and complete hatred he'd never known before. Dola saw the sudden flash and laughed. "So. Your mind slumbers undisturbed by me no longer. Good. I will not permit you to escape me in that way again. But you must also learn to keep your hatred to yourself. I do not wish to see it displayed so openly hereafter. To help remind you, I think I shall beat you. It is a pleasure," he continued, lovingly caressing the smooth surface of the wicked little braided whip he kept beside the bed, "not to be concerned with causing you visible injuries. One doesn't mind a few bloody welts, and I surely don't." Uncoiling the whip, he shook it out.

"Dola? What are you doing?" One strolled in, holding a beautifully carved goblet in one hand. He smiled at Spock. "Have you roused his anger again? So foolish of you. I think I shall watch - it will compensate for a whipping I would have administered a few years back - but at that time I was forestalled. This time…" he sighed in voluptuous pleasure and sat down, carefully arranging his toga so it fell in graceful lines to cover his feet. Settled, he waved a languid hand at Dola. "Proceed."

Spock set his mouth stubbornly against any outcry, and endured the fierce lashing in silence. When Dola finally tossed the whip aside and fell on him, he was nearly unconscious. As though from very far away he felt the hot spurt of semen within his body. One's light laughter tickled the edges of his mind, keeping him from lapsing entirely into blackness. That laughter seemed to grow fainter after a few moments, and the unexpected clang of the door closing made him start into pain wracked awareness. Dola's weight was still crushing him into the mattress, and breathing was difficult. The now flaccid organ slipped from inside him, and the monotonous sound of someone sobbing pounded at his eardrums. It took a moment for the tightness in his chest to make him realize it was himself he was hearing, and even then, he did not care. Sharp teeth nibbled at the nape of his neck, and then moved up to his ears. "I think you will suck me now - I crave…" the weight was off him so suddenly that he cried out, and heard Dola's answering cry of rage. Unable to resist his curiosity despite his fear, he twisted around into a sitting position just in time to see the massive form lunge forward, every line bespeaking murderous intent. Jim Kirk fired his phaser…Dola shimmered and vanished. Spock sat all the way up in bed, mouth falling open incredulously.

"Are you all right?" Kirk panted, sending a quick survey around the room. "Is there anyone else here?"

"You…you killed him." He got up then, staring with wide, shock-glazed eyes at the spot where Dola had been. He actually reached out to touch the place, then drew back.

"You're hurt," Jim breathed, appalled by what he saw. "You're bleeding - Spock, you must be terribly injured. Let me help you." He moved forward, one arm out in a coaxing, placating gesture, and Spock flinched. "No, no," Jim soothed, tucking the phaser back into its clip and moving towards the Vulcan slowly. "He's dead, love, dead. He can't hurt you anymore - not anymore, no. Come – come to me. I'll take you away from here…and he's dead, so he can't stop us, or come after you. Don't be afraid." Rooted to the spot, Spock watched him approach, then, as Jim held out both arms he swayed, and collapsed limply into the extended embrace. As he fell, an alarm went off in his brain - there was some danger, some warning he should give.  But Jim was lifting him and moving towards the bed, and the palpable aura of protectiveness emanating from the Human acted on Spock's frayed nerves like a powerful sedative.

He passed into complete unconsciousness before Jim had settled him on the mattress.

Not wanting to disturb Spock, Jim crossed over to the window before taking out his communicator. His voice was terse. "Bones? I've got him. Everyone here is either unconscious or dead. Bring the air car around front."

"Okay - be careful, Jim. Do you need help with Spock? Can he walk?"

"I don't think so - but I can manage. He's so thin…whatever you do, don't come in. If something goes wrong, I want you and the air car ready to go. Kirk out."

"You are overly confident. Captain," came a smooth voice from the door, "but then you always were. Did you really think Dola would have acted on his own, without explicit orders from me? Everything he has is due to me - or, rather, everything he had."

Kirk's senses swam, and for a full minute he couldn't speak. Finally, he cleared his throat. "Parmen." His voice was a croak. "Parmen," he repeated. "You? You are responsible for all this? I…I can't believe it. But why? Why Spock?"

The man lounged against the wall, but the point of the deadly little gun never wavered from Kirk's midsection. He was evidently amused at the effect he'd created. "I am a dying man. Captain - I have been for a long time. My cohorts exiled me from Platonius, and without the source of my power my health failed. It declines daily, and only rigorous and painful medical treatments have preserved me thus far. That is why I had to make so many journeys away from here - and why you managed to get as close to escaping with Spock as you did. I should have made Dola a full partner before this, and eliminated the necessity for these frequent sales, but I was afraid he would cause too much damage for my esthetic sense. Now I no longer care. My doctors have told me they can do no more for me. After I kill you I shall divert myself with your Science Officer for whatever time remains to me - although," he frowned thoughtfully, "without Dola to keep him under control I will have to use other methods – more drugs, perhaps - to assure his continued docility. When I feel close to death, I will kill him."

"Then that's how you knew who I was," Jim said, trying to stall for time. "Dola must have described me to you."

"Of course. He was suspicious of you to begin with - said Spock seemed to look to you for protection. I am really quite vexed with you for killing him. Captain - he was a useful tool."

"I still don't understand. Why? What possible reason could you have for bringing Spock here – to this? If anyone should be held responsible for exposing your little Utopia it's me. Why not punish me?"

"How naive you are, Captain. For the simple reason that I do not desire you - although you are attractive enough in your own way. Spock, I had to have."

"As simple as that."

"Yes. As simple as that."

It was the voice - that detested voice - that pulled Spock out of the blackness enveloping him. One - and Jim? In the first sleepy awareness there was only relief – if Jim knew One was here then there was no need to warn him - before he jolted abruptly to full wakefulness. Even as he began to push himself into a sitting position, he was checked by a sudden image - Jim tucking his phaser away before moving to take him in his arms - and instead of getting up he rolled silently off the bed and onto the floor.

Moving stealthily around the edge of the room, he rose to his feet behind One, who was still unaware of him. He saw Jim's eyes widen fractionally before the Human's voice rose in pitch, keeping the man's attention fixed on him. "Don't be a fool, Parmen," he rapped out, trying to keep the glee from his face. "You can't possibly hope to get away with…" long fingers closed over the Platonian's neck, and Parmen collapsed to the ground where he lay still. Spock turned away. Jim knelt beside him, felt for a pulse.  It was weak, and thready, and he sensed that Parmen had less time to live than his bravado had let show.  He had never wanted to commit cold blooded murder more than he did right then.  But he didn’t.  He contacted planetary authorities, reported that they could find a fugitive from Federation justice at this address.  “A very wealthy fugitive,” he added, and disconnected.  “They won’t miss this opportunity to confiscate his estates and bank accounts,” he said curtly.  “And he won’t live out the month in one of their jails.  I’ll put a tracer on him, just to be safe, but in my judgement he is no longer a threat to you.  Is that acceptable?”

"Yes." The reply was barely audible. "Thank you."

"All right," Jim's voice softened. "Bones is waiting outside with the air car - he must be frantic by now." Impatiently he yanked open the closet door, pawed through the garments hanging there, and pulled out a long, dark brown street robe. "The sooner we get you out of here the sooner McCoy can fix you up. Put this on. It's the softest thing in there but it's probably still going to sting like hell. I'm sorry…but I don't dare linger here." He pulled the robe over the Vulcan's head, trying to ease it as gingerly as possible over the 'bloody welts on his back. There was dried blood on his mouth, too, and mingled blood and semen on his thighs…Jim pulled the garment down. "Can you walk?"

"Yes," Spock said, and was surprised at how faint his voice was. Jim sounded very far away, then his face rushed up close and seemed to be spinning around quickly in a most disconcerting way. Spock put out a hand to hold him still, and found him standing solidly, reassuringly close. "Perhaps not…" he stumbled suddenly, and would have fallen to the floor had Kirk not been there to hold him.

 

He came to briefly in the air car - swimming up through black mists to encounter a cacophony of noise and pain. Every shift and jolt of the vehicle sent fresh agony through his body, and he moaned. "Bones…" he heard Jim say, then there was a slight pressure against his arm, a soft hiss, and he lapsed into unconsciousness again.

The next time he opened his eyes the nauseating motion had stopped, and gentle hands were moving over him, checking for injuries. Gentle as they were, they weren’t Jim’s and he moaned again, trying to pull away. "No…don't touch me - no."

"Shhh," Jim soothed, and Spock realized fuzzily that the warm, comfortable platform his head was pillowed on was Jim's lap. Cool fingers stroked his forehead. "It's all right - this is Dr. McCoy. A friend. He won't hurt you."

"McCoy?" Forcing his eyes open again, Spock studied the intent face bending over him. Cautiously he examined the impulses he was picking up from the Human - concern, relief - overlaid by a firm, competent professionalism which was very comforting. Something connected, and he smiled contentedly. "Leonard," A rush of warmth flooded him and, uncomprehending, he saw tears glisten in the blue eyes.

"Spock," McCoy returned. "How do you feel?"

"Terrible," he whispered. "Sick…" again the hypo was applied to his arm. "Jim…you won't leave, will you?"

No," Jim said firmly. "I'll stay right here with you. We just want you to sleep until Bones is done fixing you up." Blindly, Spock tried to reach for him and Jim took both his hands.

"Don't go," Spock said into the gathering darkness. "I won't make you angry anymore - only please don't leave me alone again."

"I promise," Jim said, leaning over until his lips were right against Spock's ear. "I won't leave you alone again, I promise." His voice, growing more and more distant floated from above him, following Spock down to oblivion.

 

 

"Personal Log, Leonard McCoy recording. It has been two weeks since our daring rescue, and all is very quiet at this point. Spock's physical injuries are healing well - it would, of course, have proceeded more rapidly had he been able to enter a healing trance, but he cannot achieve the necessary level of concentration. It seems to be linked somehow to his telepathic controls and shields, which have sustained such massive damage. I had never fully realized Spook's reliance on those controls, and wonder if his Human half makes it more or less difficult to get along without them. In any event, it is clear that the repairing of this damage will take some time - if it can be done at all.

"I have never seen Jim so subdued - he blames himself, of course, for leaving Spock alone in the cabin even for so short a time. I have tried to persuade him otherwise, but do not think I have convinced him. He finds…absolution, for want of a better word, in surrounding Spock with affectionate attention. Spock accepts this," like a kid sinking into a new feather bed, he thought fondly, "quite naturally. He doesn't question Jim's constant presence, nor does he demand it. Jim is simply…there, like the air, and the food, and the water. I am not sure whether or not this is a healthy relationship, but it seems to be filling both their needs and is, at any rate, unavoidable under present circumstances.

"We are staying here at the cabin until the freighter arrives, Jim having given up his town house. If anyone knows of Spock's kidnapping and events subsequent to that, they're not saying.  Parmen is in prison, his assets confiscated.  Dola’s body was never discovered, of course, so no one knows what to think - or cares much.

"We will be leaving here soon, and what will happen then I have no idea, although I suppose Jim has something in mind. His heart is set on ultimately returning in triumph to the Enterprise, Captaincy and Science Officer intact. I have my doubts, and I'm sure Spock has his, although he wouldn't say anything. He never says much anyway, just follows Jim with his eyes like a starving man watching warm bread. Sometimes they're locked in their room for hours, and whatever Jim does then helps - to a certain degree. I asked Jim if Spock had melded with him - at least it would be some form of communication, and he said Spock has consistently refused. That may be good – or not.  Spock's apathy is not encouraging. In any event, all I can do is wait, and do my part by bringing Spock back to physical health. Leonard McCoy out."

Rising, he went over to peer out the window. He knew it was too soon for Jim and Spock to be coming back from their walk, but the sight of the beauty spread out before their front door never failed to lift his spirits. Another place like this one, after we leave here, he thought. I'll recommend it in my medical report. Six weeks shore leave on some remote, beautiful planet - in the mountains maybe, or on a beach. That might do it - I wouldn't be surprised if he came all the way back, just like Jim thinks he will.

 

 

"One, two, three - four skips! See, I told you - it's just a matter of finding the right pebble." Jim stretched, shaking his hair back from his eyes. Spock was sitting on a mass of tree roots set in the bank of the tiny, sandy-beached lagoon. He was sorting through a pile of small stones, selecting and setting aside the flattest, smoothest ones for Jim to skip, seemingly absorbed in the small task. In a burst of impatience, the black hair had been tucked under his shirt collar to keep it off his face. Despite everything that had happened, he still retained that air of being slightly apart, self-contained - untouched. Jim hoped it was a good sign. Lately he had no way of knowing, for despite his total dependence Spock actually said very little to him. He was going on intuition, and there were times when he wondered if he was having any beneficial effects at all. Sighing heavily, he turned back to the water.

"Jim." Spock's voice, soft as the pervading breeze, reached his ears. He turned, straightening slightly as he did so. Shoulders back, smile, don't let him know you're scared to death of losing him again to this chilly withdrawal, this terrified clinging. Where in all of this are you, my love? Reaching Spock, he dropped to the ground beside him and inspected the small pile of selected stones.

Spock rested one hand lightly on Jim's arm. "You seem troubled."

Jim stared at him rather wildly. "Troubled!? Of course I'm troubled! You're so unhappy, and you won't let me help you!"

"I do," Spock protested, stung.

"I feel so useless…"

"I would die without you." His lips trembled, and he bit them sharply. Jim saw that, and saw the long, fine hands tightly clenched over the small stones they contained. Wordless, he held out his arms; Spock sighed and came into them. Jim wrapped him up securely, and began to rock. He closed his eyes, allowing the steady primal rhythm to take them away, feeling Spock's arms steal around his waist, give him one quick squeeze, then relax. The shining head rested on his shoulder, and he inhaled the scent, smiling despite his concern. "How could you say this is not helping?" Spock said after a long time, voice muffled against Jim's shirt. "It is the only thing that does. I feel so…safe here, and that frees me to concentrate my energies on healing myself."

"Oh. Well, then, I'm glad." He nuzzled the side of Spock's neck, then guiltily drew back.

"Why do you do that?" Spock blurted. "I…I mean – if it is that you are no longer…" he faltered, stopped talking. Then, lifting his head, he pulled back slightly to meet Jim's eyes. "I would understand if after what has happened you no longer desire me, but it really was not so different from what went on before you found me, and you didn’t seem to mind - so I thought I would ask.  Have I done something to offend you? Are you angry with me for going with them? But I did try to resist…is it that I no longer please you?"

It took him a few seconds to sort out that jumbled mass of statements and questions. "Are you asking me why I haven't…why we haven't made love since that night at the party?"

Spock flushed, looking down. He nodded briefly. "It was most pleasant, when it was just the two of us," he whispered, "and I thought - I thought you enjoyed it.  I thought you said … I thought…"

"I did enjoy it. I just wasn't sure you'd want me again after everything that's happened to you. I didn't want to frighten you."

Spock actually smiled at him, and nestled closer again. "I am not in the least afraid of you," he confided, "and I would like very much to feel your hands on my body, and your lips on mine again."

His first chuckle grew into a delighted whoop of laughter. "And I've been walking on eggs around you all this time? Terrified that you might see how much I want you - and think I'm just like Parmen and Dola?"

Walking on eggs? Spock wondered, but didn't pursue it. Aloud, he said only, "you keep calling him that. Why?"

"We've met. You don’t remember?  Of course you don’t.  Well, Dola described me to him, and he recognized me. That's why they took such a risk to get you back."

"That is how he knew? Then it wasn't anything I did wrong at the party?"

Jim squeezed him. "Of course not. What made you think it was your fault?"

Spock shrugged. "I just assumed…and Dola kept saying how could I have expected to get away with it, so I thought…" he shrugged again, smiled. "Never mind.  It is not important."

"Well, not right at this moment, anyway." Disengaging himself from the embrace, Jim rose, holding out a hand to Spock. "Come on, let's go,"

"Where?"

"Back to the cabin, of course. You didn't want to do it here, did you? It's pretty chilly to get naked, and there are all sorts of flying insects, and the grass is prickly…"

"Dr. McCoy is back at the cabin."

"Well, we could go in our bedroom and shut the door - no, wait, I've got a better idea. You wait here for me. If that’s okay."

"Yes.  What are you going to do?" Spock called as Jim swung off in the direction of the house.

Jim looked back. "Give him a quarter and send him to the movies!" he yelled, before disappearing around a bend.

What? Spock wondered, then stretched out flat on the ground, soaking up the sun in lazy delight. He felt as though he'd been nearly unconscious for the past two years - unable to feel the sun's warmth, or the softness of grass under his back, or the sweetness of fresh air. Now he marveled at the delicate rose of the sky, deliciously aware of the creeping languor making his body feel so heavy, and his eyes, too, were heavy.  He allowed them to close and sighed slightly, turned his face away from the sun, and slept.

"Take the air car and go to the city for a while," Kirk told McCoy, "Don't ask any stupid questions. Have dinner, go catch a show, and don't be back here till midnight at least."

"All right," McCoy said rather huffily, gathering his things together - "but I hope this doesn't become a habit. I'm too old to be gallivanting around by myself."

"Like hell," Kirk scoffed, "All those people had better watch out if you're on the loose, that's all I have to say. And no, it won't get to be a habit - it's just this first time that I want everything perfect. After tonight -" flashing an impudent grin up at McCoy as he sat back on his heels, surveying the fireplace, "we'll stick to our own room. Go on, shoo." He escorted the doctor to the waiting air car, and watched it take off. Bending to his task, he chopped a plentiful supply of logs, carried them inside, and loaded the fireplace. Going back outside he chopped several more, and stacked them efficiently beside the hearth. Then he swept the area in front of the fireplace, spread the large rug, which he'd dragged in from their bedroom, on the floor, topping it with several blankets and a sheet. Touching a match to the logs, he blew on them till the flame leaped, then settled down to a comfortable level. He closed the screen, straightened the sheet, flicking some imaginary dust from its surface. Going quickly around the living room he tidied up, closed the shutters on the windows, and stood at the door, giving one last look around. The room was quiet and dark - the only sound the crackle of flames upon log, and the only illumination the reddish, shifting glow. All was neat and clean, cozy and warm - secure. Perfect.

The sun had set by the time he headed back to the spot where he'd left Spock. Violet shadows hung in the air, and the wind was picking up, lashing the tree branches into uneasy motion. For the first time Jim became aware of dark clouds piling up in the north. From far off came the rumble of distant thunder. His communicator sounded, and he pulled it out, flipped it open, keeping one eye on the gathering storm.

"Kirk here."

"McCoy - Jim, I don't know how you arranged it, but there's one hell of a thunderstorm hanging right over the city."

"Yes, I can see the edge of it from here."

"Now try to contain your grief - I'll have to put up in a hotel tonight and come back tomorrow."

"Oh. Oh, that's too bad."

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Well, it happens to be working out for the best, no thanks to you. I met a very lovely lady at the restaurant, and it turns out she's a stranger in town too, and since we're both stranded, we thought…"

"Have fun," Jim grinned. "Anything else?"

"Batten down the hatches there - you should be on the receiving end of this storm real soon. And don't expect me until late tomorrow."

"Will do - see you then. Kirk out." He hurried around another bend in the path - it was much darker now, and he was beginning to worry about leaving Spock for so long.

It was the increasing wind that woke Spock up and he blinked, disoriented. It was nearly dark, and cold – and Jim hadn't come back. He sat up abruptly. There was a heaviness in the air, a sullen stillness broken only by the gusts of impatient wind. The growl of thunder brought him to his feet. He felt a terrifying sense of isolation - as though some cosmic calamity had occurred while he was asleep, leaving him the only remaining being on the planet. Why hadn't Jim returned? His mind fought for some rational answer. Perhaps he was injured - at the cabin, or along the trail…his feet had started to carry him up the path before he even realized he was moving. Rounding a turn he paused, trying to see ahead of him through the gathering darkness, holding his hair back with one hand while the wind whipped it about wildly. "Jim!" he called.

"Spock! Wait a minute, I'm coming!" Jim's voice floated from further along the path and Spock felt weak with relief. He quickened his pace, and they saw each other in the same instant. Jim halted, and held his arms wide, and Spock fell into them, breathless. Their lips met, and parted in a fiercely passionate kiss. All restraint dropped from between then, and it was as though they'd never left each other's arms. They swayed drunkenly, clinging to one another with clutching, feverish hands. The next frenzied gust of wind almost knocked them over, and it was followed by a deafening crash of thunder as the storm broke. Rain sluiced down, plastering their clothes to their bodies.

"Run for it!" Jim yelled, and they bolted up the trail to their cabin. The noise was spectacular now, with thunder crashing and rolling and booming continuously, and the wind shrieking and howling. They reached the cabin door and were blown inside, throwing the bolt across the door as soon as it closed behind them.

Inside, all was soft shadows, and flickering tongues of flame reflected off the walls. The storm still raged outside, but the timbre was reduced to a muted roar by the solid walls of their retreat.

Going to the linen cabinet Jim got out two large towels, and threw one at Spock. "Get out of those wet things before you catch pneumonia." As one they peeled off their sopping clothing, rubbed themselves down, and got into warm robes. Jim toweled his own hair dry briskly, then got Spock settled in front of the fire.

"It is so soft," Spock said, surprised, and lifted the sheet to peer underneath, raising an eyebrow at the layers of blankets. "You have gone to a great deal of trouble."

"I wanted you to be comfortable." He wrapped Spock's hair in a towel and squeezed gently, blotting it as dry as possible. Then, kneeling behind him he began to comb it, working out the knots at the bottom first, before moving up. Spock wrapped his arms around his knees, head drooping.

"This seems familiar," Kirk said after a moment, bemused by his task.

"The evening before the party," Spock returned, and the joy had gone from his voice.

Biting his lip, cursing silently, he tried to change the subject. "It must feel strange, all this hair." No answer. "It really is long - and incredibly beautiful."

"It is an irritant," Spock said sharply. "It gets in my way, it attracts an undue amount of unwelcome attention and…and…I have had to wash too many vile things out of it to share your somewhat overly romantic view."

"Your attitude, while understandable, is illogical," Jim teased gently. "It's clean now, and no one's here to pay any 'undue attention' and…" resting his cheek on the silken strand he held – already nearly dry from the heat of the fire - "and I love it."

"Non sequitur," Spock said sternly, but Jim could see from the slight curve of his cheek that he was smiling. He smiled back.

"In any event, transportation will be here soon and you can get it all cut. You'll have to - it's hardly regulation,"

"Neither am I, any longer." Spock had stiffened again. "Jim - what is to become of me? They have destroyed me.  I am useless to you now."

"Untrue."

"Oh…" genuinely angry, Spock turned on him swiftly. "You are treating me as though I were a child! You tell me everything will be all right, and that you will take care of me, and I do not see how that is possible. When we return I will be ordered to a rehabilitation center - yet unshielded as I am, that is unthinkable. The only other recourse will be Vulcan." A wave of desolation swept him, and he silently accepted the embrace Jim offered, sliding down to lean against him wearily.

"Do you think I don't know how terrible that would be for you? McCoy has arranged six weeks emergency medical leave once this is all over, and we'll go someplace nice and quiet - just the two of us. After that, if you're capable of returning to the Enterprise it'll still be open - if not, we'll do something else. Everything will be all right, and I will take care of you. I wouldn't say it unless it was so. I'm sorry if you feel I haven't kept you informed – to be perfectly honest I didn't know your memory was returning to such a degree that you'd worry about your future with Starfleet."

"A side…benefit…of Dola's mind probes. He had begun to strip away the blocks on my memory for his own purposes - whatever they were." He paused. "He enjoyed the additional humiliation it caused me, I suppose."

"He's dead."

"Yes," He sighed then, rubbing his cheek on Jim's shoulder, the soothing, sliding pressure easing the knot of tension in his chest. "You really believe I'll be able to return to the Enterprise following this medical leave?"

"If it's at all possible, yes - but if you can't, we'll just…figure something else out, that's all."

"But do you think I can?" Spock persisted.

"I think you can. Yes."

"Thank you.  I…your confidence in me is most gratifying.  And reassuring."

'I'm glad." He began to caress Spock, slipping both hands underneath the enveloping robe and pushing it aside. Spock lay passively in his arms, allowing those gentle, knowing hands to smooth and stroke his vulnerable body - so long starved for those very caresses. After a long time he sighed again, deeply, and stirred, turning towards that powerful form. The shift in position brought Jim's hands around to his back. He ran one finger down Spock's spine, smiling to himself at the arching response. "Lie down," he said softly, "and let me look at you." If there was a slightly proprietary tone to his voice neither man seemed to notice. Spock stretched luxuriously on the soft, smooth, clean bedding, revealing in the heat emanating from the fireplace. He kept his eyes closed, feeling Jim trace the barely healed scars from the whippings with one tentative finger.

"Does that hurt?"

"No - McCoy's treatments were most effective."

"We can get the scars removed when we get back to civilization, if you want."

"That opportunity would be most welcome, thank you. All of them?"

"Uh huh." Jim touched a series of burns along Spock's ribs. "All this is new."

"Since I was not destined for any further resale, it did not matter anymore - and Dola had been waiting for a long time."

Abandoning the sites of old pain, Jim began trailing a very delicate circle around Spock's midsection, tracing down one side, along the soft flesh of his abdomen, back up the other side, down to his thighs, stroking along them, brushing very lightly against the tangled patch of pubic hair - Spock catching his breath at the flood of sensation, so out of proportion to the prompting touch. Jim stroked one nipple, pinched it lightly, rubbed his thumb over it, then, taking his cue from Spock's quickened breathing, slid his finger slowly across Spock's chest, through the soft chest hair, watching the other nipple hardening in anticipation of the same treatment. He didn't disappoint it, lavishing upon it an equal amount of attention before taking both in light fingers, twisting slightly.

The firelight cast flickering shadows, mingled amber and gold, smoky blue and soft yellow, over the nude body spread wide for his pleasure. "Turn over," he directed quietly, and Spock's eyes widened. He shrank visibly, then, responding to Jim's affectionate smile, complied. Kirk touched his back, hands moving carefully, lovingly. He waited until the Vulcan had begun to moan and stir restlessly before continuing down to his ass, caressing the smooth, tight cheeks with exquisite lightness and delicacy. Bending over, he pressed his lips to the tender flesh of Spock's upper thighs, promising delights to come.  Spock's legs parted, and Jim insinuated a finger between them, then his whole palm, spreading them further. Nuzzling lower still, he pressed his open mouth to the base of the spine, depositing a moist kiss there. He could hear Spock purring softly, deep in his throat, a pleasant, encouraging sound. He moved the kiss lower, lower, spreading the now relaxed buttocks, tongue flicking out to lick softly, then burrowing in, twisting, sucking. Spock sobbed with pleasure, hands clutching at the blanket, body writhing helplessly. The blunt pressure of Jim's cock replaced the cool wetness of his mouth, sweet assuagement of the burning ache deep within. Spock pushed backward, frantic for more of that deliciously cool probe, deeper…and deeper.

Fully sheathed, Jim hesitated. But Spock was moving urgently, obviously desiring more…he wrapped one hand securely around the hard, throbbing, hot Vulcan cock, driving, thrusting, crying aloud at the wild pleasure of his climax, hand halted in its pumping action while the marvelous pulsations shook him, leaving him collapsed over Spock's back. Spock gave a low, anguished cry, feeling Jim's organ slip out of him, and quickly Jim turned him over, leaned forward once again and sucked him to quivering, shuddering orgasm. When the last spasm had passed they lay still, listening to the storm rage unabated outside, and the pleasant crackle of the fire. Jim roused himself enough to add more logs, refasten the fire screen, and fetch the huge down quilt he'd been saving. It as wonderfully warm and gentle on bare skin, and he could feel Spock stretching again, body arching lazily, sensuously, before the Vulcan snuggled contentedly against him.

"It feels so good to be back with you," he said drowsily, and Jim's arms tightened. Spock fell asleep almost immediately, but Jim lay awake for quite a while longer. It hadn't been his original intention to fuck Spock, and he wondered what repercussions it would have. What went on behind those black eyes? Tomorrow I find out, he silently told the sleeping Vulcan. Tomorrow we do that mind meld if I have to order you to it. He thought of their last meld, remembering the chaotic mass of fear, hatred, pain, humiliation, and black memories he'd sensed then. This time he wouldn't pull back, this time he would know it all - every detail of the past two years. Only then would he fully understand the Spock he now dealt with - not the fear-paralyzed slave he'd first purchased, nor yet his cool, logical Science Officer. And only when he understood could he make the upcoming major decisions it seemed he'd have to make for both of them. As things stood, he had no actual legal tie to Spock. If I don't take over right away, with some kind of definite authority, he thought grimly, Starfleet or your father will. It would be easier if we were bondmates and I want that, oh…thinking of the possibilities…I want that - and moreover I'm pretty sure it would be the best thing for you, too. Who else cares about you the way I do? No one. And while I, on the other hand, sometimes feel inundated with the affection and interference of others, it means nothing without you. We belong together. So…he sighed. Relaxing back onto the pillows, he stroked Spock's hair. Sleep well, my dearest love. Tomorrow you're going to have to pass through the dark places again, only this time…this time I'll be with you, to share it with you…and, hopefully, to remove some of the burden from your shoulders. That was his last conscious thought.

 

 

"No!" Spock gasped. He had been sitting contentedly, allowing Jim to brush his hair into submission after the night's sleep had disordered it. Now he recoiled violently. "A meld? Now? With you? No – no! I will not!" Then, suddenly, he was still, and tears streaked his face. "Please Jim, do not ask that of me - do not. If you care for me at all - you will not demand to see - there are things…things I do not want you to know!" and his voice rose again.

Jim gripped his shoulders, refusing to be drawn into the mounting hysteria. That had been his mistake before, allowing the whirlpool of emotion to pull him under. One of them, at least, had to keep a cool head. "Sit still and let me finish your hair - you complain about what a nuisance taking care of it is, so I'm doing it for you. Sit still, I said. There's no reason to panic. Yes. A meld. Now. In my opinion, it's necessary for your peace of mind. And mine."

Spock choked, miserable. Dola's mocking mind voice rose again. 'What makes you think he would really want you if he knew what you have done, what you have been? He would turn away from you in horror, in disgust…You are nothing, Spock, nothing. Remember…' a shudder ran through him. "If you order it, of course…"

"I am not ordering it.  I am asking.  I am asking you to trust me." Jim said, setting down the brush and, when Spock made no further protest, kissing the top of his head. "Turn back around, to me. Do you need a minute or two to prepare?"

"It wouldn't help," Spock said forlornly, then lifted his hand in preparation for the meld. Jim caught his wrist.

"If you're worried about my reaction, don't," he said softly, I'm pretty un-shockable, and although I may see things that will anger me, I'm sure it's nothing I haven't already imagined. And at the end - you won't be so alone with what happened. Spock, I can't bear seeing you caught in this self-inflicted prison - afraid to keep me away, and afraid to let me in. Would it cost you so much to admit that, that you need me? Do I seem such a threat?"

"It is because I do need you that I am afraid…" Spock whispered, "but if you think…you have never deceived me, and you are generally right…" his fingers settled on Jim's face. As he watched Jim close his eyes, trying to open himself for the mind touch, there came a blinding flash of insight. How can I doubt you? You will understand - you will not condemn me. And your anger against them - the anger I have been damning myself for not having the strength to feel - will be very satisfying to experience. "Very well - I do trust you. I will trust you.  Here." And, with a kind of defiance he threw his remaining shields wide on the seething cauldron of tangled emotions. They roared forth as a released inferno, and he was suddenly terrified that Jim might be devoured in the ravening flames.

No. There is nothing in your mind that could hurt me, and I am strong, Jim soothed…cool, cool on the scalding tears and on the hot shame and hatred. The warmth of his love eased the wretched despair, moving past the final blocks to penetrate the sealed off store of memory.

When his hand dropped from Jim's face nearly two hours later he was aware, from the wetness on his cheeks and the tired ache in his chest and throat that he had been crying again. He drew back slightly, dazed, and looked up into Jim's own tear ravaged face, "Oh, God," the Human said and drew him back in, swaying with the intensity of their shared grief, "Oh, my God," he repeated, and pressed his cheek to the black hair. He couldn't stop weeping, and shaking, and clutching at Spock. Surprisingly, it was the Vulcan who recovered first.

"And you said you were un-shockable," he accused faintly, and Jim's laugh was harsh, painful.

"I thought I was. My God…what they did to you…what that animal did to you…my poor, sweet love."  Spock sighed, basking in that flow of concern, balm to injured feelings, blasted senses. He felt freed - Jim knew all, had seen all, had felt, in the depths of his being Spock's own emotions, and still loved him,

"You were right - it is easier to bear," he confided, rubbing his head against the shoulder it rested on. Then he smiled, giddy with relief from the intolerable stress he'd been under, "Now you are."

"Now I am what?"

"Un-shockable."

"I guess so!" and he had to laugh again. "How do you feel now? I must say, you seem to be pretty chipper for someone who had to be dragged kicking and screaming into that meld."

"I feel wonderful, but perhaps…" he blinked against the gathering darkness. "Perhaps I should rest - it feels as though my systems are shutting down."

"Shock," Jim said comfortingly. "Temporary – and doubtless beneficial." He eased the Vulcan down onto their nest of blankets, and poked up the fire. "Are you hungry?"

"Hmmm?" Spock opened his eyes and peered up at him. "No. Thank you." His eyes drifted closed again, and Jim frowned down at him. It's been a long time since he ate…he felt a warm hand tugging at his arm. "Lie down with me - please? You must need rest also…and I need you here."

Filled with an aching tenderness Jim gathered the limp Vulcan close, cradling him. "I love you," he whispered, not trusting his voice.

"Yes," Spock answered quietly. "I know that now – and I love you too."

"See how nicely that works out?" Jim said, and Spock smiled again, curling more deeply into the security of that embrace. Jim bent his head and covered the upturned mouth with his own in one last, drowsy kiss before sleep drew them both down into its velvety depths.

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