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Tucked away in a corner of the rec room, ostensibly playing chess with the computer, First Officer Spock actually had most of his attention riveted on a little scene playing out across the room. It was a scene he had watched many times, with the change of one central character, but repetition had never eased the icy fingers that clutched him every time he saw it.

This particular evening, it was pretty Lieutenant Deleherty, a recent transferee in Spock's own department, who took up one role, while the other was filled, as always, by his friend, Captain James T. Kirk. Had the second player not always been Kirk, Spock would have had no interest in the proceedings.

The fact of the matter was the pretty lieutenant was trying to coax her new captain into bed. A great many factors worked against her, not the least of which being Kirk's hard and fast rule that he did not get involved with his crew. It was, however, the small possibility of her success that kept Spock glued to his seat. As much as he hated the possibility, as much as it would hurt if Kirk did follow her from the rec room, Spock could not force himself to leave.

The little scenario finally came to its conclusion with the captain rising and making his way slowly out of the room while the pretty lieutenant flounced over to pout among her friends. Freed of his morbid fascination, Spock was finally able to return his attention to his game.

* * * * *

"Dammit, Bones, you're not much help!"

On his way to his own quarters after playing the computer to a draw, Spock heard the captain's complaint from around the last bend of the corridor. He continued on, coming into sight of Kirk and McCoy where they stood in front of Kirk's quarters. Both men had their backs to him, but Spock could not miss the sarcasm in McCoy's reply.

"Well, I feel really sorry for you, Captain, sir. We should all have such galaxy shaking problems. Seems to me a little temp..." McCoy cut himself off as he turned slightly and caught sight of Spock.

"There you go, Jim, you can tell your troubles to someone who cares," he suggested.

Kirk followed McCoy's gaze, his gloomy mood lightening considerably as he saw Spock approaching.

"Can I be of assistance, Captain?" Spock asked politely.

"Jim was just telling me..."

"Never mind," Kirk interrupted. He stepped into sensor range so that his door slid aside. "Come on, Spock. Let's play chess."

McCoy waited until the door closed behind his two friends before allowing a wide grin to reach his lips. "I really wish you two would stop waltzing around and just tell me," he muttered as he proceeded along the corridor to his own quarters, completely oblivious to the odd looks he gathered from passing crewmen.

* * * * *

Spock watched as Kirk reset the chessboard. They had played barely an hour before Kirk had tipped his king acknowledging his inevitable defeat. Only a few words had passed between them, none of which seemed to have anything to do with whatever problem Kirk had. Spock's curiosity and his concern had been aroused for Kirk appeared both physically well and emotionally content at the moment.

Spock' quandary now was to ascertain if his help was needed without unduly invading his friend's privacy. The opportunity to solve some thorny problem for Kirk was exactly what Spock needed after watching the scene in the rec room. True, Kirk had resisted temptation. Spock cut himself off in mid-thought. McCoy had been about to mention temptation before he caught sight of Spock. After years around Kirk, logic no longer prevented Spock from adding two and two into five. Kirk had been complaining about temptation, and Spock certainly had plenty of experience at resisting it himself.

"Dr. McCoy mentioned that I may be of some assistance to you, Jim," Spock reminded.

Kirk shrugged, picked up a chessman, then put it back. He did not feel like playing. He would much rather talk to Spock, if he could change the topic.

"It's not important. Like Bones said, not exactly galaxy shaking," he dismissed the subject hopefully.

Spock was never so easily sidetracked, and he knew exactly how to appeal to Kirk. All he had to do was let a little of his own affection peek out.

"If it is of concern to you, Jim, then it is of concern to me," he said softly.

The look in Spock's brown eyes gave Kirk a large case of the guilts. Poor Spock was obviously thinking there was some major difficulty. It just wasn't that important.

"I think I'm getting old, Spock," he finally confessed.

Old, Spock thought, at thirty-seven? But he did not say anything, just allowed a rising eyebrow to question the logic of Kirk's conclusion.

Kirk leaned back in his seat, relaxing as well as he could, considering the topic under discussion. He always got the feeling that Spock found human male sexuality somewhat amusing, in a condescending sort of way. Perhaps because, for Vulcan males, it was such a deadly business.

"I got propositioned by a very attractive young lady tonight, and it annoyed me. McCoy thinks it's because my position as captain made me reject her considerable charms. But that's not it at all. A few years ago, I'd have followed her home. Even a year ago, I'd have at least been flattered. Now, I find it a pain in the a...neck. I'm just sick of being hit on."

"I have occasionally encountered such difficulties myself," Spock admitted with a seriousness that made Kirk feel much less uneasy. "The unwanted affections of another can be a burden." Which was why he made sure to keep his own love carefully hidden.

"Yes, I know, but even your super Vulcan mask can't stop them from trying." Kirk had observed that Spock's Vulcan mystique usually had the opposite effect.

"True." Spock assumed a meditative pose to conceal his disappointment. He had been hoping the problem would be something he could solve for Kirk and perhaps earn himself one of the special affectionate smiles Kirk often bestowed on him for his efforts.

"Ah well," Kirk sighed. "I suppose it's just a cross we'll have to bear."

Although he had been unable to help Kirk, Spock decided that with the seldom discussed topic of sex open between them, perhaps now would be a good time to mention something that had been on his mind for almost a year. He hesitated briefly, debating the wisdom of bringing the subject into the open, but his curiosity got the best of him.

"I regret I am unable to suggest a solution for your difficulty, but perhaps you can provide me with some insight into a facet of human behaviour that has been puzzling me."

"Sure," Kirk encouraged.

"I understand that humans lend a great deal of credence to rumour, and that they are also very territorial. By custom, you avoid encouraging a romantic entanglement with someone already involved with another."

Kirk nodded agreement and encouragement, wondering how this subject could possibly have arisen from the previous one. However, you could never tell how Spock's ever questioning mind worked.

"That being the case, I have been unable to understand why the behaviour you and I have been discussing should persist. In light of the rumour, would not their actions be considered socially unacceptable?" In hopes of finally obtaining a satisfactory explanation, Spock had almost forgotten his own very personal involvement in the situation.

"What rumour?" Kirk asked curiously.

The question brought Spock to an abrupt halt in his search of understanding. He studied Kirk's face, but the innocent expression seemed genuine enough. Spock himself had heard the rumour mentioned at least six times, but then Kirk did not have Vulcan hearing. He had to swallow the sudden lump that appeared in his throat before he could answer.

"That you and I are lovers."

Spock watched his friend's face closely, anxiously awaiting the reaction. If this was truly the first time Kirk had heard it, would he be offended? Angry? The handsome features reflected surprise, then settled into amusement. Finally, much to Spock's surprise, a speculative expression settled over the face he knew so well.

"Where did you hear this?" Kirk asked.

"The first time was eleven months ago while on leave at Star Base 17. I have heard it five more times since," Spock supplied the information.

"Never on the ship?" When Spock shook his head in the negative, Kirk got to his feet and began to pace. He rubbed his hand over his mouth while his strategist's mind offered ways and means to implement the idea burgeoning in his head.

"You know, Spock, maybe we could use this. If we could convince the crew we're lovers, the propositions would stop." He paused in his thoughts and his pacing to cast Spock an inquiring look. "That's assuming it wouldn't offend you to have everyone thinking you're my lover."

The bottom dropped out of Spock's world, and his perceptions whirled for a moment before he brought them back under control. Offend him, he thought. If only it were true! It was a role he could play to perfection. Or was it? Could he play the devoted lover without revealing how true the emotions were? He looked at the hopeful expression on Kirk's face. He could certainly try.

"No, I would not be offended."

Kirk beamed at him as he rubbed his hands together. "Okay. Now, since some people may have heard the rumour and we don't want to cause any confusion, we're going to have to make this subtle. We need to make it look like we've been together a while and we're just not being so careful now. I think we could start with..."

* * * * *

Kirk yawned hugely and tried to focus his tired eyes on the chessboard. Spock had kindly lowered the temperature and raised the lights of his quarters for his visitor's comfort, but, as late as it was, Kirk knew he was about to fall asleep where he sat.

"Is it 0300 yet?" he muttered, yawned again, and abandoned the chessboard. He stretched, ran a hand through his hair, then made a vain attempt to straighten his rumpled tunic.

"Almost," Spock replied. "I still believe it would have been wiser to use your quarters. At least you could have slept."

Kirk chuckled wearily. "It never would have worked, Spock. Take a look at yourself. Not a wrinkle in your clothes. Not a hair out of place," he observed. "Hell, even your boots are still shiny."

"All of which could have been remedied prior to leaving your quarters," Spock pointed out. His neat appearance, even after nearly twenty-four hours in the same clothes, was really no mystery - he did not slouch, nor did he repeatedly run his hands through his hair. As for his boots, well, it was truly a mystery to him how Kirk's managed to become so scuffed in the course of an uneventful duty shift on the bridge.

"Huh," Kirk snorted. He pushed up to his feet. Whether it was 0300 hours or not - the hour they had chosen for him to "sneak" from Spock's cabin to his own, looking as obviously fucked-out as he could manage without actually enjoying the activity - he was going to bed. "Spock, you always look as immaculate as...as...immaculate. Anyone seeing you wandering the corridors in less than that condition, no matter what time of day, would smell a rat."

After some consideration, Spock nodded agreement and watched as Kirk made his way to the door. He could tell by the slumping of Kirk's shoulders as the panel slid aside that there were no crewmembers conveniently loitering nearby to see him emerge. Nonetheless, with a quiet good night, Kirk exited.

Thoroughly pissed off, Kirk made his way toward his own cabin, grumbling to himself about junior officers who were never around when you needed them. Two steps short of his door, a lieutenant, heavily loaded down with report cassettes and attempting to make a silent, speedy passage through sleeping officers' country, rounded the corner. A few tapes escaped his shock-slackened grip and clattered to the deck when he came face to face with his rumpled captain.

The tardy lieutenant valiantly suppressed a nervous urge to salute. He had seen the captain only once since coming aboard two weeks ago at an orientation briefing when Kirk had welcomed the new transferees. The unfortunate young man could not help but wonder what cruel twist of fate made him the one to catch the disreputable-looking captain skulking through the corridors in the wee small hours.

Unable to bear up under Kirk's baleful stare, the junior officer half bent and groped for the fallen tapes. He only made matters worse by dislodging more from the heap to batter the quiet with plastic explosions as they hit the deck.

Taking pity on the poor man, Kirk signalled him up and gathered the tapes himself. He stacked them on the unsteady pile and stepped back.

"Thank you, sir," the young man stammered. "Ah...sorry, sir."

"You're welcome. Bates, isn't it?" Kirk replied, displaying the uncanny knack he had for putting name to face no matter how few times he had seen the person. That talent had a way of making an officer feel much more important than a mere cog in the machinery. It was a recognition Bates could have done without at this particular moment. He blushed scarlet and once again suppressed an urge to offer a snappy salute.

"Carry on, Lieutenant," Kirk said, and took the last step to the sensors that opened his door.

* * * * *

"Well, last night was a waste of time and sleeplessness," a red-eyed Kirk grumbled into his morning coffee. He kept his voice low, mindful of the other diners in the officers' mess.

"I am afraid it is worse than just a wasted opportunity." Spock also kept his tone muted. "Lt. Bates, whom you encountered outside your quarters..."

"How did you know about that?" Kirk interrupted.

"Humans often forget that Vulcan hearing is quite acute," Spock reminded.

"Which makes them the best eavesdroppers in the galaxy," Kirk teased with a tired smile. He waved away Spock's objection and signalled him to continue.

"It appears that Bates did draw the conclusion we wished, that you were returning from a tryst. However, since he did not see from which cabin you emerged, speculation now appears rife as to your partner. The favourite at the moment, I understand, is a certain Lt. Commander Deleherty from the astrophysics department."

"Shit!" Kirk muttered into his cup.

Spock agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiment, if not the vernacular with which Kirk chose to express himself. If the crew believed Kirk's attention was engaged elsewhere, it would be much more difficult to convince them of a thriving, and long-running, affair between the two of them.

"Hey, wait a minute!" Kirk nearly shouted. He moderated his tone before continuing. "Everyone knows I don't mess around with my crew!"

"Since we are attempting to convince them of just the opposite, might I suggest you refrain from such vehement protests," Spock counselled mildly.

"Shit," Kirk repeated disgustedly. His reputation for sexual prowess was of little or no concern to him. He had, however, been very proud of the fact that he had never 'gone hunting' among the crewmembers under his command. "At least you're of command grade."

"We will have to discuss alternate plans," Spock reminded him.

Kirk glanced at the chronometer. "We're on duty in a few minutes. It'll have to wait until lunch. Between now and then, we'll just have to wing it."

* * * * *

The mental picture evoked by Kirk's suggestion that they "wing it" was surpassed in ridiculousness only by the subsequent image conjured by his attempted clarification, while they rode the turbolift to the bridge, that they "fly by the seat of their pants". By the time Spock had sorted through the idioms to discover that Kirk meant that they should improvise, they had assumed their respective duty stations.

Understanding the order made little difference to Spock's dilemma. He was not inexperienced, but what knowledge he possessed tended toward extreme discretion. He was, therefore, at a loss as to how one went about unobtrusively flaunting a personal relationship. He knew himself to be ill-suited to seduction, he was much too literal minded. If sex were the goal in mind, Spock saw no reason not to simply state as much from the beginning. Walking up to Jim and asking him if he wished to have sex would certain clue the crew in. It did, however, lack in subtlety, being rather akin to eliminating kitchen scraps with a phaser.

There was a second element to consider. In this instance the delicate interplay of seduction, even had he been capable of it, was useless. They wished the crew to believe that what they were seeing was not the beginning of an affair, but the command team becoming less careful in guarding their on-going secret; an effort already complicated by Bates' assumption.

Still working outside his own personal experience, Spock came to the conclusion that any lasting romantic relationship must be based on consideration of one's partner in order to thrive. It therefore appeared to him that the best way to reveal their supposed affair was to show his consideration for Kirk in public. He was always efficiently solicitous of Kirk's well-being as his captain; he needed now to publicly display that same concern for the man behind the rank.

Turning to answer a query directed to him by Uhura, Spock saw Kirk attempting to stifle a yawn behind his hand. A few moments later, an opportunity presented itself for Spock to beckon Yeoman Walker to him. He gave her low-voiced instructions that sent her hurrying off the bridge.

When Walker returned to the bridge, she carried a steaming mug of coffee and brought it down into the well. Kirk glanced up in surprise as she offered it to him.

"Ah, thank you, Walker," Kirk said, exchanging the cup for a report he had just signed. His tone and expression questioned the unusual service.

"Mr. Spock asked me to get it for you, sir," Walker explained. Since Spock had failed to indicate she conceal the true source of the consideration, she hastened to reveal it. She certainly did not want Kirk to think she was falling for him the way his last three yeomen had. There was no quicker ticket off the Enterprise, and she liked it here. Besides, if she were to allow herself to fall in love with one of the command team, it would be with Spock - for all the good it would do her. Anyone aboard more than a month knew to aim their romantic interests elsewhere since both senior officers definitely were not on the market.

Kirk's gaze travelled to Spock to find the Vulcan watching him from the science station. It took a moment for Kirk to realize that Spock was winging it, but when it did, a warm smile spread across his face. Spock caught his breath at the power that smile wielded over him, and was saved from offering one of his own in return only by the teasing sparkle in the hazel eyes. Their gazes held as Kirk raised the cup and took a sip.

"Is that all, sir?" Walker asked, anxious to get back to her interrupted work.

Deliberately taking an extra moment, Kirk finally looked at her and nodded. He glanced around as the woman departed, attempting to gauge any possible reaction to their little by-play, but everyone's attention seemed to be on their duty.

At precisely noon, Kirk sauntered over to Spock's station and tapped him on the shoulder. Spock swung around.

"You didn't eat breakfast this morning, Spock. Join me for lunch?" Kirk asked in a slightly louder tone than he generally used for a personal discussion on the bridge.

Spock began to voice his automatic response that he did not require nourishment at that time, thought better of it, and nodded assent.

Inside the lift, Kirk leaned against the wall and watched the levels flash by. "This is tougher than I thought it would be."

"Indeed," Spock agreed.

They spent their lunch hour planning a new strategy in Kirk's quarters and the afternoon attempting to implement it. Nobody seemed to be paying any attention to them. At one point, Kirk nearly burst out laughing when he realized that Spock was trying to gaze soulfully into his eyes and watch the reactions of everyone else on the bridge simultaneously. A quandary, certainly.

One which bore a marked resemblance to the one Kirk found himself in. He knew how to flaunt an affair, and he knew how to hide one, but he had no experience whatsoever at hinting at one. The task was made doubly difficult by the fact that there was no actual relationship. It was his own performance, he feared, that lacked credibility, for if he had known no better, he would certainly have found the gentle devotion in Spock's eyes easy to believe. He had never before realized what a truly gifted actor Spock was.

At the end of shift, they disappeared into Kirk's cabin again for a couple of hours, before Spock ventured out to see what he could overhear. Tentatively, they planned to repeat their strategy of the previous night, quite certain that if there was a betting pool on the identity of Kirk's paramour, a lookout would be posted. In the meantime, Kirk took the opportunity to try to catch up on some sleep.

Spock returned to his own cabin after making an unnecessary round of inspections through the labs. He used the connecting door between their bathrooms, entering Kirk's darkened bedroom on silent feet. He stood gazing down at the sleeping man, wishing he could leave him to his rest. Kirk would not, Spock knew appreciate the gesture. Nevertheless, he delayed another moment, allowing himself the luxury of studying the face of the man he loved, then reached out and gently shook Kirk awake.

Kirk wakened slowly, yawning and stretching, then rubbing his eyes as he sat up. "You don't look too pleased. I take it our performance didn't make much of an impression."

"So it appears, although it seems someone has put the earlier rumour to rest," Spock reported.

Kirk offered a disgusted expression but no comment.

"Would it not be logical that they would be watching to see who you pay attention to?" Spock wondered.

"Who knows? I'm surprised nobody seems to notice that we keep disappearing in here," Kirk said, while twisting his head around and rubbing the back of his neck.

"If anyone has noted out activities, no one is mentioning it within my hearing." Spock watched Kirk's ineffectual efforts to relieve his discomfort, and considered offering a massage. It was not an offer he would normally make, so he hesitated to do so now. Then it occurred to him that the fact that they seldom touched might well be part of the problem. It had not even occurred to them to do so today. Since everyone knew that Spock avoided casual contact, increased physical interaction between them might well be noted where words and looks would not.

"Would you like a massage, Jim?" he asked.

"Huh?" Kirk grunted, puzzlement replacing the grimace on his face. "Ah, yes, I guess so."

Kirk turned over, and Spock began kneading the tight muscles of his shoulders and back firmly while explaining his theory. The wariness immediately disappeared from Kirk's attitude, but its very presence served to reinforce Spock's belief that there could be nothing romantic between them.

"Ohhh," Kirk groaned in relief as Spock's adept fingers seemed to draw the tension out through his pores. "Too bad you couldn't do this on the bridge."

Just the tiniest bit distracted by the cool flesh beneath his hands, the comment failed to penetrate Spock's mind until Kirk suddenly rolled away and sat up.

"That's it!" Kirk exclaimed.

"Jim, I hardly think massaging your back on the bridge is subtle," Spock protested.

"No, not the bridge, Spock," Kirk said. "How about a workout tomorrow after shift?"

"Hardly an uncommon occurrence."

"And a sauna afterwards," Kirk finished.

Possibilities immediately presented themselves to Spock, and he nodded.

"In the meantime," Kirk said, reaching for his discarded uniform, "we might as well go play chess until it's time for me to sneak back here."

"Would that not be...tipping our cards?" Spock asked.

"Hand," Kirk corrected automatically. "How so?"

"If you were attempting to be discreet and were caught as you were last night, would you not refrain from further trysts to avoid a recurrence?"

Kirk frowned as he considered. "Maybe. It would depend on how discreet I really wanted to be. Are there any taboos against same-sex relationships on Vulcan?"


"Hmmm. And we're not breaking any regs, so discretion wouldn't be all that important, but you're right, it might be pretty obvious."

He lay back on the pillow as Spock walked toward the bathroom.

"Shit!" Kirk suddenly exclaimed, sitting up again. "No wonder nobody even suggested it was your cabin I was leaving. Everybody knows our bathrooms join!"

* * * * *

Kirk lay stretched out on a bench in the sauna, a towel beneath him to protect his skin from the heated surface and another draped over the shapely mound of his buttocks to protect his non-existent modesty. He and Spock had been in here for nearly thirty minutes, and he was beginning to feel thoroughly cooked. The thought of plunging into the cool depths of the ship's pool was becoming more irresistible every moment. He glanced at Spock, who sat beside him wrapped in a towel, and noted that even the desert-bred Vulcan was beginning to sweat. Without really being conscious of what he was doing, Kirk studied the effect the unusual sheen had on the Vulcan's body. His often dry-looking skin gleamed as if it had been oiled, while the thick hair on his chest had coiled into curling tendrils, arrowing down the flat belly to where it disappeared beneath his own towel.

Already overheated, Kirk was only vaguely aware of the wash of warmth which flooded him when a rising eyebrow questioned his prolonged scrutiny. Had he been more aware of that telltale reaction, he might well have held back the comment that sprang to his lips.

"Anyone who saw you looking like you do now, Spock, would never again doubt what a sensual person you are."

The words, and the admiring tone in which they were spoken, robbed Spock of speech for the briefest of moments. It was long enough, however, for the moment to be forever lost. The sound they had been awaiting so impatiently - that of voices - echoed hollowly outside the door.

Kirk lowered his head back to the towel and Spock leaned over him, laying long fingers on his glistening shoulders. His touch lacked the impersonality of last night's massage, however, for now, with an audience waiting just outside the door, he was free to invest his public caresses with all the desire in his yearning soul.

While his fingers stroked Kirk's smooth flesh down over his rippling back, playing lovingly over his broad xylophone of hard ribs, Spock heard the door beginning to open. Timing the movement to perfection, he cupped the swelling mounds beneath the towel and then guiltily snatched his hands away as Sulu and two young officers entered the sauna.

Sulu came to an abrupt halt two steps into the room. "Sorry, sirs. Ah, we didn't...ah, if you want..." he stammered. Of all the luck, he had to walk in on them when they were getting frisky. It was hard enough to pretend he never noticed anything when it was only looks across the bridge and long speaking silences; turning a blind eye to this type of blatant behaviour would take a Thespian of greater talent than Sulu. He would, however, just have to pretend he had not seen anything and hope they bought it.

Spock turned a stony expression on a point on the far wall, while Kirk good-naturedly waved aside both the apology and implied offer.

"It's all right, Mr. Sulu," Kirk assured him. "We're both about cooked anyway." Under normal circumstances, he would simply rise from the bench and then wrap his towel around him for the walk to the dressing room. This time, hoping the three newcomers were paying more attention than they appeared to be, he made a production of keeping himself covered as he stood, bunching the towel over his groin to give the appearance of covering an erection - a condition that, after the sensual caress of Spock's hands, actually existed.

He glanced through his lashes to see how his little performance was being received. It was, in fact, being ignored, he saw. Sulu was already seated and holding forth regarding his most recent hobby-of-the-week. Kirk had the impression that both he and Spock could have been flaunting record-breaking erections, and none of the other three would notice. Exchanging wry expressions, he and Spock acknowledged another waste of time and headed for the door.

* * * * *

Leaning back in his chair, feet propped on his desk, Kirk once again waited for Spock to return from a mission of reconnaissance. Fingers idling stroking the smooth flesh of his bare chest, he let his mind wander where it would. It was only as his fingers brushed the erect bud of his nipple, sending an electric jolt to his groin, that he tuned into his meandering thoughts. For some reason, he was not surprised to discover they centered around the feeling of long, strong fingers sensually tracing the heat-relaxed nerve-endings of his back. Nor was he surprised to find that his penis was responding once again, stirring and half-swelling as it had when the touch had been real.

That reaction had given him a difficult moment or two in the sauna, but Kirk was well aware that he was a sensual man. His body gloried in the tactile stimulation of a loving caress, and Spock's touch had been that and more. Other than the inherent gentleness that was an integral part of his friend, there had been no resemblance between the massage performed last night and the show put on tonight. Spock's acting ability continued to amaze Kirk, and he was certain it stemmed from the Vulcan's dedicated loyalty to a friend. He was just as certain that Spock would be horrified if he ever learned any act of his was being used, however unconsciously, as a form of masturbation.

And he'd have every right, Kirk thought. He dropped his feet to the floor and reached for the tunic he had not bothered to put on after his shower. He put the arousing image of Spock, sweat soaked in the sauna, firmly out of his mind, and tried to concentrate on the thoroughly unexciting reports he had to review.

Kirk was only just beginning to have some success when the door slid open and Spock walked into the office. They had agreed that the first thing that had to go was requesting permission to enter each other's quarters. Hopefully, someone observing it would note the informal behaviour and draw some conclusions.

Spock's dour expression revealed the continued lack of hoped-for results, but he shook his head nonetheless.

"Damn," Kirk muttered. "But I'm really not surprised. When Sulu's into one of his hobbies, he's blind, deaf, and dumb to everything else while he's off duty."

"Agreed," Spock said, settling himself into the chair on the other side of the desk.

"Too bad it wasn't Chekov or Riley who caught us. They'd definitely have noticed," Kirk grumbled. "Now what?"

"I must admit to being at something of a loss, Jim. I have no practical knowledge and no idea how to go about researching this particular subject," Spock admitted.

Kirk smiled at the thought of the computer being programmed to search out the information. It would probably blow a circuit board. "I'm not all that certain myself how to be semi-discreet."

He pushed up out of his chair and began prowling the room. He had always found he did his best thinking while on the move, a fact he had refrained from admitting to most people after his brother, Sam, spent months teasing him about "taking the pressure off his brain". Sam had relentlessly and indiscriminately tormented him at every opportunity that arose. Inane comments to the effect that it was too bad he had to sit for exams and offering Jim his shoes every time he had a decision to make, had nearly driven Kirk to distraction. Finally, the adolescent younger brother had begun looking for ways to revenge himself. The perfect occasion arose the summer before Sam's marriage, when Aurelan had taken an unexpected trip off planet. Luck was with Jim the day his mother had sent him to the barn on some errand and he had discovered his brother in a passionate embrace with the very lovely girl from next door, thus providing him with enough ammunition to put an end to Sam's teasing.

The memory brought a misty smile to his lips just before he made the connection and his nostalgic expression changed into a glow of discovery. The incandescence quickly faded to a doubtful frown as he eyed his straight-laced first officer.

"You have an idea," Spock stated, having seen that victorious grin on many occasions when Kirk's agile mind had supplied solutions to thorny dilemmas.

Kirk chewed his lip. He had an idea, all right, and if they planned it right, it was a sure-fire, no-doubt-in-anyone's-mind idea.

He glanced up at Spock's expectant face and halted in his mental tracks. What the hell was he thinking of? He had never seriously considered kissing another man before. Well, perhaps a couple of times after someone had saved his life, but that was spontaneous gratitude, not passion.

His eyes wandering to a neutral point on the bulkhead behind Spock, Kirk put aside his usual impetuosity and heeded his instinct to consider this very carefully before he opened his big mouth.

Put it in perspective, he told himself. One little kiss, and a play-acted one at that, is not going to shatter the very foundations of your sexual orientation. Hell, you probably won't even like it.

That made him feel slightly less unstable until he remembered how much he had liked the sensuality of Spock's hands caressing his back.

A few minutes ago you were conjuring up one damn fine fantasy with another man in the leading role. You didn't let that ruffle your feathers, he reminded himself.

So, all right, I might like it. Big deal. One kiss will not...wait a minute. One kiss? Uh uh. I could just see that performance. Unconsciously, Kirk lifted a hand to rub at his lips. Sooo, we'll have to practice or we won't be able to pull it off. But will Spock agree?

Having conveniently sidetracked himself, Kirk put his own doubts aside. There was only one way to find out if Spock would consent to such a thing - ask.

"Yes, and it would definitely work," Kirk said as though he had not been silent for the past five minutes, "but we'd have to set it up just right..."

"It is not like you to thrash...'beat around' the bush," Spock prompted.

"True," Kirk said. He maneuvered himself around the desk and sank into his chair, feeling a bit more in command of the situation with the expanse of his desk between them.

"I was just thinking that...well, if we were seen doing something...intimate..."

I fondled your buttocks in public, however briefly, Spock thought. How much more intimate would you like? Aloud he said only, "Specify."

"Well, maybe...a kiss?" Kirk finally said.

In the sudden silence, Spock made heroic efforts to conceal his delight.

Kirk took the silence as an indication that Spock might, at least, consider the idea and forged ahead. "If we're supposed to have been lovers for a while, we can't just...pick a spot and do it. I mean, it wouldn't look very natural if we broke each other's noses, or got our arms all tangled up. We're going to have to practice."

Spock's delighted anticipation took a nose-dive into the murky waters of guilt. If he consented to "practice", he really would be taking advantage of his friend's ignorance.

Unwilling to assume that the continuing lack of reply signalled agreement, Kirk prompted his silent companion. "What do you think?"

Spock thought himself to be in one hell of a fix. Because of Spock's bonding to T'Pring, Kirk naturally thought Spock's sexual interests were toward women, and Spock, for obvious reasons, had never gone out of his way to correct that misconception. A lie by omission, however, was still a lie, and Spock knew himself to be guilty. The quandary he now faced was whether to continue to 'omit' and thereby compound his culpability, or to confess. Continued silence would provide him with an opportunity to fulfil a long-desired fantasy as well as further their scheme. Should he choose to reveal his sexual preference, it might cause the very awkwardness that would give away their pose. But if he admitted his inclinations, would Kirk suspect Spock was attracted to him simply because of them? Or, if he kept his own counsel now and Kirk learned the true situation later, what harm could it do their friendship?

"Listen, Spock, if you find the idea that offensive, we'll think of something else," Kirk offered, half relieved himself to have to abandon this plan.

Realizing his extended silence and neutral expression, as he attempted to sort through his emotional and moral dilemma, had given Kirk the wrong impression, Spock shook his head.

"I had simply never considered that one might require practice in order to kiss," he dissembled, realizing he was giving tacit consent without actually incriminating himself.

Kirk stood up and moved out from behind the desk again. "But this isn't just any old kiss, it's a performance. Remember? We're supposed to be making an impression with this," he said, reminding himself of the fact as much as Spock. "Stand up."

Spock complied and Kirk moved in closer, finding he had to tip his head back farther than he had expected. Now that he was involved in the actual execution of his idea, Kirk's natural drive and self-confidence returned. It helped immensely that Spock appeared to be even more nervous than Kirk had felt.

"Shit, I never realized before how much taller you are," Kirk complained.

"Perhaps that is because we are seldom in such close proximity," Spock suggested. Every nerve ending in his body had come tinglingly alive with each step Kirk took, but he struggled to keep that heightened awareness from his voice.

"If I have to stand on my toes to reach, it's going to blow my command image to hell," Kirk joked. "Can't you bend a little?"

Holding his rebellious senses under stringent control, Spock obligingly bent forward at the waist. The stiff posture and stern expression, Kirk decided, were about as inviting as a salad. Salad might be healthy, but it was definitely not something to stir the senses. Although that was all to the good as far as he was personally concerned, for the sake of their masquerade, they definitely needed this rehearsal.

"Maybe I should have said to relax a little," Kirk amended. He placed both hands on Spock's shoulders and gave a little shake, hoping to loosen the stiff muscles. Nothing.

Taking the plunge, Kirk brought their lips together in a hesitant brush.

"That would make an impression," Kirk said after the sorry attempt. "But not the one we want. Maybe it would be better if we sat down."

"Are we likely to be sitting for our performance?" Spock wondered. He was fully aware of the inadequacy of their attempt, his own awkwardness in particular. It had not, however, been a complete failure as his swimming senses could attest to.

"No. I was thinking of maybe snatching a kiss in the corridor or something like that. But you're going to have to loosen up a little."

Spock sent an order to his muscles to relax, a difficult process while attempting at the same time to suppress his reactions. He must have been at least outwardly successful, for Kirk smiled and moved back in. After a brief hesitation, the human slid his arms up around the still slightly stiff neck. The touch of cool flesh sent a shiver of delight, hastily suppressed, through Spock.

"That's better," Kirk confirmed. He noted that Spock had given up some of the bend of his posture, but decided that reaching up a little would do no irreparable damage to his image. He lifted just enough to once again brush his dry lips to Spock's.

He settled back on his heels. "Well, we're not damaging each other, but...Spock, it might help if you closed your eyes and put your arms around me."

Another uninspired attempt at labial expression of devotion followed. At least leading Spock and having to prompt each movement had chased Kirk's doubts out of his mind. There was nothing like being in charge to boost his self-confidence.

A little exasperated, Kirk drew back again. He knew Spock was no Galactic-stud, but he had seen with his own eyes that the Vulcan could kiss. Surely, his success with Leila had not been entirely due to the spores. Another idea occurred to him. Perhaps it was the passive role that disconcerted his friend.

"Why don't you try kissing me?" Kirk suggested.

Tempted to groan in dismay, Spock merely complied. Kirk might be finding their awkward intimacy unexciting in the extreme, but such was not the case for Spock. Each hesitant caress strained his self-control to the limit, eroding the barriers he had placed around his desire for this much loved being.

"Spock," Kirk said when the switching of roles produced no greater success. "I've been kissed with more passion by my Great-aunt Annie!"

Tempted nearly beyond resistance to show Kirk just how much skill and passion he was capable of, Spock merely raised a brow in silently ironic comment.

Kirk shrugged. "I guess all we can do, as my old high school coach used to say, is keep running that play until we get it right."

The rehearsal continued, Kirk gradually warming to the task, while Spock, whose interest had surpassed warm quite some time ago and now hovered just below the boiling point, struggled to maintain his cool exterior.

The turning point in what Kirk had almost decided was a hopeless exercise came when, acting out of desperation, he opened his mouth beneath the still-taut lips. The implied surrender and the fleeting caress of a cool tongue tip, ripped away the tattered shreds of Spock's restraint, letting his passion take control.

Grasping Kirk's head in both big hands, Spock utilized every scrap of skill he possessed to strip Kirk's senses from him while greedily drinking of the sweet coolness of the surprise-slackened lips. Sanity returned with the sound of Kirk's deep-throated, muffled groan and the sliding caress of strong fingers down his back. He tore his mouth away and took two stumbling steps back, frantically ordering his body back under his control and his face to impassivity.

Spock had had some measure of success, enough at least to fool Kirk's still befuddled mind, by the time the shaken captain could focus on his seemingly composed first officer.

"Adequate?" Spock asked in as cool a tone as he could manage.

Kirk, unconsciously raising his fingers to his mouth where the incredible excitement of the kiss still tingled, could summon nothing more coherent than a wide-eyed nod.

* * * * *

The next morning found the commanding officers standing at Kirk's door with the panel cracked slightly open. Their plan, such as it was, was to wait until they heard someone coming and then playact a kiss goodbye while the door just happened to open.

"I feel ridiculous," Kirk complained. "And if we wait much longer, we won't get any breakfast before shift." In actual fact, he doubted he would be able to eat this morning. His stomach felt tied up in knots with expectation of the performance they waited to give. After Spock's kiss the night before, he was uncertain if he dreaded or anticipated the moment their lips would meet again.

Spock, who felt just as uncomfortable as Kirk, and for exactly the same reason, refrained from comment.

The sound of an off-key whistle drifted in to them from the corridor.

"That's our cue," Kirk said. Chasing his uncertainties into a corner of his mind and admonishing them to stay there, he stepped close to Spock. Draping one arm around Spock's neck and poising the other hand over the door trigger, he waited for the whistling to come almost even with his door. When it did, he looked up at Spock in time to meet the lips that were lowering toward his. His hand pressed the trigger and the door slid open. Their lips had barely brushed before Spock was withdrawing, playing the part of a startled secretive lover to perfection.

See, Kirk, nothing to get upset about. Kirk congratulated himself over his lack of reaction to the passionless kiss, then turned to find himself face to face with his Chief Engineer.

"Mornin' Captain, Mr. Spock," Scott greeted cheerily.

Kirk's eyes widened as he looked from Scott's retreating back to Spock's uncomprehending eyes. He shrugged.

Ah, isna love grand, Scott thought as he sauntered along the corridor, a grin the likes of which his assistants would pay good credits to see lighting his face.

* * * * *

"We must have done it too quick," Kirk concluded. He had thought about it all day, and that seemed the most plausible explanation.

"We were clearly visible through the open door for at least seven seconds. It is much more likely Mr. Scott was distracted by the specifications Star Fleet recently sent regarding the proposed modifications to the warp engines." Obviously Spock had been giving it some consideration as well.

Kirk squirmed in his chair. He had been so busy congratulating himself on his lack of arousal at Spock's kiss that it had been several hours before he had realized he had reacted nonetheless. The reaction had been emotional rather than sexual, but it still made him feel guilty. It seemed to him he was invading Spock's privacy or rights or something. And now they would have to do it again.

Spock, meanwhile, was mentally reviewing their schedule for the next day.

"Do we try it again tomorrow morning?" Kirk asked hesitantly.

"I will be in the science lab from the middle of night shift until my bridge duty overseeing an experiment," Spock said. "You have a meeting in engineering which your yeoman has indicated will last until your lunch hour. The only time our schedules coincide tomorrow is for the department head meeting."

Kirk shook his head. "Which is just proof to me that this rumour couldn't have started aboard. We're never together."

Again Spock refrained from comment, although the truth of the matter was that they usually spent an average of eighteen hours a day together. Spock had often wondered how he would have dealt with his yearning if this had not been true. It was a great comfort to him to simply be with the man he loved.

"It'll have to be at the meeting then. Try to get there early, and we'll set something up," Kirk said.

"Agreed," Spock said, getting to his feet. "Now, I will need to retire in order to be ready to observe the experiment."

Kirk almost protested. He had been looking forward to spending a few hours with Spock. He swallowed the words that crowded his lips. He was stepping on Spock's rights again.

"Good night, Spock. See you in briefing room three."

* * * * *

"Almost time. Someone's bound to be early," Kirk said hopefully. He leaned back against the long table, drawing Spock with him by the grip he had around his slim waist. They were standing in each other's arms, in clear view of the door, waiting for the first crewmember due at the department head meeting to come through that portal. That lucky person was going to be treated to the sight of his or her commanding officers stealing a tender kiss, and, hopefully, he or she would be someone extremely prone to gossip.

Spock glanced at the chronometer where the seconds seemed to tick by with agonizing slowness. If someone did not come through that door soon, Kirk was going to get kissed without benefit of an audience. He estimated that his self-restraint, laboring under the duress of holding the muscular body close, would buckle within the next 82 seconds.

Another lazy half-minute meandered its way on and off the chronometer face, while Kirk squirmed impatiently in the encircling arms. Each brush of Kirk's body against his was shaving at least ten seconds off Spock's estimate. Funneling every ounce of his indomitable will into resisting his own desires, Spock held out to the very last instant of his estimate. Only the strident summons of the intercom saved him just as he was lowering his mouth to the one that tempted him so.

"Bridge to Captain Kirk," McCoy paged.

Spock jumped as if an electrical charge had been run through his body, earning him a puzzled glance as Kirk reached to activate the channel.

"Kirk here," he acknowledged. Unconsciously, he kept his hold on Spock.

"I'll be a few minutes late, Jim. I've got a clumsy crewman with a sprain here," McCoy's tinny voice explained.

"Understood," Kirk replied and reached to disengage the intercom just as the door slid aside and Uhura entered the room.

Spock stepped away and hurried to his chair, the guilty manner he wore unfeigned while Kirk straightened away from where he leaned against the table, pulling self consciously at his tunic.

There might have been a slight pause in Uhura's step as she entered the room, but otherwise she didn't bat an eyelash.

"Captain, Mr. Spock," she greeted while depositing her reports on the table. Feeling a smile threatening to break through, she quickly turned away from the two silent men.

They really are getting awfully careless, she thought as she poured herself a cup of coffee. Maybe they're just about ready to quit trying to hide it.

* * * * *

"Mmm....p," Kirk mumbled toward his alarm. The computer had been provided with an extensive knowledge of human half-asleep speak (as well as human profanity) and, therefore, was able to translate the garbled acknowledgement. The insistent beep cut off.

Kirk continued to lie wrapped around his pillow with his eyes closed long after the usual minute or so he allowed himself upon awakening. His dreams had been too pleasant to abandon that quickly, and he let himself bask in the contentment they had bred. Who would have thought that dreaming about sleeping wrapped up in Spock's arms could make him feel so good. He refrained from analyzing it, nor was he going to feel guilty. Not for these few minutes anyway.

Time, however, had a way of marching on. Detecting no movement around the cabin, the computer triggered a second alarm that would continue until Kirk crawled from the warm cocoon of his bed and padded to press the cut off on his terminal. Standing naked beside his desk, Kirk felt the first tendrils of guilt sneak into his mind. He grimaced as he once again acknowledged he had no right to use Spock in this manner. Still, he could not help the little bubble of anticipation he felt knowing that in a few hours he would once again be wrapped in that strong embrace. This time for real as they staged another performance for the crew. It would be so much easier to convince the crew if it were true.

Kirk's eyes widened and he looked around as if expecting to see the speaker of that last thought lurking in the shadows.

"Now where did that come from?" he asked himself, but decided he not to wait for the answer. He headed for the shower - a cold one!

* * * * *

Leaning in a handy doorway across from the turbolift and down the corridor from rec room two, Kirk watched as Spock read the various notices tacked up on the bulletin board.

"That low G ball competition should be over any minute and half of second shift will be coming out of that turbolift." Kirk pointed toward the doors, then at a spot next to him. "Shouldn't you be here?"

Obediently, Spock took up his position at Kirk's side. When the muscled arms slipped around his waist, he experienced no physical response. That was not because of any diminishing of his emotions, but rather a testament to the layers of reinforcement he had been able to place on himself. He had, however, learned from yesterday's performance that there were limits beyond which he dared not push himself. Those limits were the reason he had been standing down the hall reading advertisements he had no interest in.

Observing that Kirk was looking at him oddly, Spock sought something to say to fill the waiting silence. He did not feel particularly witty, or even remotely intelligent; he was too busy trying to be asexual.

Held in the arms he had been dreaming about, permeated by Spock's Vulcan warmth, Kirk felt like he could have happily stood there all day. His mind chastised him for his selfishness, but his body told it to go to hell.

The soft ping announcing the arrival of the lift put an end to further ruminations as both men went into their act. Kirk tightened his arms, drawing the spare body close, and stretched up to offer his lips. Fulfilling his own role, Spock allowed himself to be pulled into full contact and lowered his own mouth to accept the moist invitation.

The turbo doors swished open while their lips clung and arms gripped. A small pause ensued during which Kirk's hands unlocked at Spock's back and moved higher in a lingering caress. The doors swished closed, but still exploring lips moved against each other. It was only the warning tone of departure that prompted one pair of lips to withdraw from the kiss that had gone well beyond the participants' intentions.

Spock stepped back and found himself trapped by Kirk's embrace. He opened his mouth but had to clear his throat before he could speak. "It appears there was no one on the lift."

Kirk swayed and blinked owlishly, "Huh?" He looked around stupidly. "Ah..." Suddenly memory kicked in. He dropped his arms, and nervously straightened his tunic as he stepped back. "That's...ah...too bad."

Several decks down, Lieutenant Deleherty staggered out of the turbolift, tears streaming down her face, and straight into the arms of Kevin Riley.

Nonplused for only a moment, Riley quickly donned his most gallant persona. "There now, lovely lady, whatever is the matter?" He steered her into an empty briefing room and settled her into a chair.

"Now, Lieutenant, tell un...ah...your good friend, Kevin, what's wrong," he prompted.

"I just saw the captain kissing Mr. Spock," Deleherty sobbed pitifully.

A gleam entered Riley's eyes as he put a solicitous arm around her shaking shoulders. "Well, now, darlin', I did try to tell you, didn't I?"

Deleherty hiccupped a disconsolate affirmation. "But how could he...?"

"Now, now," Riley comforted. "Love does work in mysterious ways sometimes, but it's a fact there's not a soul alive can come between those two." He paused to tip her tear-streaked face up to his where she could appreciate his boyish grin. "But they're not the only stars in space, you know."

* * * * *

Kirk leaned back in his chair, feet propped on his cluttered desk and hands resting on his stomach. An untouched glass of brandy was cradled between his hands, but his attention was on the man across the desk from him. A frown drew his brows together as he listened to the man say what he did not want to hear.

"I have to conclude that the task we have set ourselves is impossible," Spock pronounced.

Kirk sneered in disgust. "I don't know how so many members of this crew could suddenly become so blind."

"Nevertheless, our efforts have proved fruitless." He waited hopefully for Kirk to admit defeat. Admittedly, the odds were against it, but Spock fervently hoped he was about to extract himself from the untenable situation he had gotten himself into. Remaining totally oblivious to the opening and closing of the turbolift doors while locked in Kirk's embrace had really been the last straw.

"Damn, you know how much I hate to give up," Kirk grumbled.

Spock refrained from reacting in any way, knowing it would not take more than a flicker from him to renew Kirk's determination.

"Have we really given it a fair shot though?" Kirk wondered. "Bates didn't count because we forgot about the door to our bathrooms. As for Sulu and Scotty, well, they obviously had their minds on other things. And you said yourself the lift was empty."

With a sinking feeling, Spock realized Kirk was talking himself out of quitting. Desperately, Spock put forward one last barrier. "And Ms. Uhura?"

Kirk shrugged. "Even if she had seen something, and remember we weren't kissing then thanks to McCoy, she's the absolute soul of discretion. Her position demands it. The only one less likely to gossip about us than Uhura would be, Bones."

Spock jumped on this previously unconsidered objection. "You do realize that Dr. McCoy would never be mislead by such a rumour."

Kirk chuckled. "Bones? Gods no. He'd have to see us fucking in the center seat before he'd buy it."

A sudden explosion of imagery widened Spock's eyes. He could see Kirk, legs spread wide, bent over the Captain's chair, while behind him Spock slid his well lubricated organ up...

"So what do you think, Spock?"

Spock came back to reality with a thump. He had absolutely no idea what Kirk was asking, and he didn't dare ask.

"Should we try it one more time?"

The puzzled expression on Kirk's face at Spock's continued silence left Spock with no graceful out. He nodded.

"What's our schedule like?" Kirk asked.

"We are both involved with appointments for our duty shifts."

"If we can get away a few minutes early, we could beat the rush to the gym and set something up," Kirk suggested.

Again Spock nodded, then pushed out of his chair. "If you will excuse me, I have...work to attend to."

Kirk remained where he was watching Spock leave. He tossed back the last of his drink and stared into the empty glass reviewing the conversation in his mind, trying to figure out what exactly had happened.

After that last kiss, Kirk had been more rattled and embarrassed than he had ever been in his life. So, when Spock had come tonight saying he thought they ought to put an end to their playacting, Kirk had been more than ready to agree. How the hell had he ended up talking Spock into giving it one more try? He did not know why he had done it, but the consequences were now unavoidable. Tomorrow afternoon, he would once again be held in the embrace that was becoming too damn wonderful to live without.

Kirk shook his head sharply, pulled his feet off the desk and set aside his empty glass. "Come on, Jim Kirk, it's just one more little kiss."

With a sinking feeling, he realized he had heard that from himself before.

* * * * *

When Kirk arrived at the gym changing room, Spock was already there. So were half a dozen other first shift personnel. He watched the other men in the room changing for their own favored form of physical fitness. Obviously, it just was not meant to be. He tapped Spock lightly on the arm.

"Come on, Spock. We might as well have a workout while we're here," he suggested.

Groaning inwardly, Spock followed in Kirk's wake, desperately hoping Kirk would suggest some form of exercise that involved absolutely no bodily contact. A vain hope, he concluded, as he saw Kirk reach for wrestling tights.

While he stripped and dressed, Spock concentrated on reinforcing his control over every single one of his bodily functions. He might as well have saved the effort, he realized, as he turned to follow Kirk into one of the private gyms they usually used. The broad expanse of naked back, accentuated by the skin-hugging work-out pants shot any hope of control right out of the water. His only hope was to keep Kirk too busy defending himself to notice any of Spock's reactions.

Spock put his hastily made plans into motion as soon as the door closed behind them. He dropped his towel on the bench, crossed to the mat, and dropped into a defensive crouch.

Kirk, only slightly surprised, quickly joined his friend. "Maybe you're right, Spock. We might as well give up."

Spock did not reply. He waited a moment to be sure Kirk was ready, then launched an immediate attack. Within a few minutes, they were rolling around on the floor, groping for solid holds on sweat-slippery flesh and panting for breath. It was just too much like sex for Spock to have any hope of preventing himself from responding, but by careful manipulation and by giving up more than a few points, he was able to keep his groin from coming into contact with any portion of Kirk's squirming body.

He withstood irresistible temptation for three rounds, but by the fourth, Spock knew that he had to end this farce before he embarrassed himself completely. The last straw was when Kirk, scrambling for a hold, slid his hand between Spock's legs and up the crevice of his ass.

With a silent growl, Spock broke the tenuous hold and flipped Kirk to his back. He threw himself on the smaller body, blessing their disparaging heights that allowed him to settle between Kirk's sprawled legs with his throbbing penis pressed to the floor. He grabbed the flailing arms and pinned them easily beside Kirk's head.

Never one to give up easily, Kirk wriggled and bucked, attempting to dislodge the heavy body. After a minute of unknowingly compounding Spock's torture, he went limp.

Remaining tense, suspicious of the surrender, Spock watched the handsome face warily. Kirk shook his head, attempting to dislodge the sweat soaked hair from his eyes, while he tried to gulp much needed oxygen and smile at the same time. He was completely unaware of how happy he looked or how accurate a reflection of his feelings that appearance was.

"Oh, Spock," he laughed/gasped. "I know I can't win. Why do I even try?"

Temptation far too irresistible to resist looked up at Spock with wide sparkling eyes. He succumbed, lowering himself slowly, seeing the eyes close and the lips part in acceptance.

"I keep wondering about that myself."

So close he could feel Kirk's panting breath in his own mouth, Spock nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of McCoy's voice. He scrambled off Kirk and whirled on hand and knees to face the door, only to discover that McCoy had ducked out as quickly as he had come in.

"Damn," Kirk said, pulling himself up to sit with his arms wrapped around bent knees. "It was a good try, Spock, but he must have been here too long to take what he saw for anything except what it was."

He offered his silent friend a rueful smile. "You heard him come in, did you? To bad you couldn't have signalled me. I didn't realize there was anyone here, until you started to kiss me. Otherwise, I'd have kept my big mouth shut."

It suddenly occurred to Kirk that he was babbling. He stopped, growing concerned when he realized Spock was staring dumbly at him as if in shock. "Spock, are you all right?"

Spock blinked. Neutrality settled over his features like a mask. Unconsciously, Kirk stretched out a hand toward the other man as if to stop the withdrawal he saw coming.

Spock jerked to his feet and nearly ran from the room.

"Hey, wait.." Kirk half rose as if to follow, then sank back to the mat. There was something in the set of Spock's shoulders, the almost uncoordinated way he moved that stopped Kirk from following. He had no way of knowing that Spock had not heard McCoy, that he had simply lost control, thought the invitation in Kirk's face was real, and had let all his barriers come crashing down. He had to escape to try to patch them.

Stunned for a moment by the abrupt departure, Kirk simply sat where he was. What had happened? He tried to recall what he had said, but he had been babbling, trying to hide how aroused he had been. Had Spock realized, been offended? Is that why he ran like a scalded cat when Kirk tried to touch him.

Concentrating fiercely, Kirk tried to recall the progression of tiny expressions on Spock's face. Clearly he remembered the passion in the dark eyes, donned for McCoy's benefit just before.... The thought came to a screeching halt as another intruded - Spock's back had been to the door. McCoy could not have seen the Vulcan's face. So why would Spock.... The only conclusion reared up and slapped Kirk upside his thick head.

"He wasn't acting!" he said aloud.

From the first conclusion flowed a second. "And I told him I was. Shit!"

He jumped to his feet, determined to find Spock and... He stopped after only two steps.

"And do what?" he asked himself. Eyes closed, he remembered the comfort of Spock's heavy body pressing him into the mat and the way the blood seemed to sing in his veins as the parted lips approached his own.

"And make damn sure those rumours have it right," he answered decisively and headed for the door.

* * * * *

Kirk touched the door plate and leaned close to the speaker. "Spock. Let me in."

The door slid aside revealing the dim interior of the private observation room. It had taken him nearly an hour to trace Spock here, but some instinct told him his search was at an end. Taking a deep breath, he stepped inside. The door closed, sealing out the light from the corridor and blinding him. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom, he saw Spock kneeling before the open port. The panorama of the stars made a lonely backdrop for the rigid figure. As he watched, the slim shoulders slumped and then Spock came to his feet.

The predator within Kirk caught the scent of a wounded animal and instinctively he moved in for the kill. A step away he stopped, the predator giving away to the would-be lover as he felt Spock's pain vibrating into his soul. Slowly, carefully, he raised a hand and placed it gently on Spock's shoulder. A fine trembling transmitted itself to Kirk, climbed his arm and spread throughout his body, heightening his every sense.

"You didn't have to run away," he said gently, just loudly enough to be heard by elegant ears.

His movements smooth from years of practice, Spock slipped from beneath the touch and turned to face the man who waited. He did not speak, could not, as he looked into his secret revealed in Kirk's face, unaware that his eyes had taken on the dumb acceptance of an animal that knows it is about to die.

He expects me to reject him, Kirk realized. Just like everyone else. There were no words that would banish that mute misery. Only actions could speak his feelings for him now.

Kirk stepped closer, and grasped the slim shoulders. He squeezed reassuringly when he felt the trembling increase, then let his hands slip up and around the stiff neck. Stretching up, he sought the unresponsive mouth, moving his patient lips tenderly over the tight ones until he felt understanding dawn and response stir. He opened his mouth then, gliding the tip of his tongue over Spock's lips in a signal as he surrendered himself to Spock's kindling passions.

They went to their knees, mouths still locked while fevered hands slid under the cloth barriers standing between them. Kirk's wrap-around tunic was discarded without breaking the kiss, but the same was impossible with Spock's. Reluctantly, they drew apart.

Kirk grasped the edges of the blue tunic, pulled it over Spock's head, and tossed it aside. He hands moved to Spock's head, tenderly smoothing the mussed hair back into a shining cap. His fingertips lightly brushed pointed ear tips, then slid down to cup the thin cheeks.

"How could I have been so blind. I love you so much. I just never let myself think of you in sexual terms."

"And now?" Spock asked, eyes glowing as he took in the desire in Kirk's eyes.

A slight smile quirking his full lips, Kirk let his hands slide down to the narrow shoulders and continue down the long arm. He grasped Spock's hand and boldly drew it toward him, cupping the long fingers around his throbbing erection.

Spock's fingers squeezed gently, stroked the thick shaft straining against the fabric that covered it while Kirk's eyes closed and his head dropped back. He moaned softly, thrusting his pelvis rhythmically against the caressing hand. His eyes snapped open as the fingers suddenly deserted him.

"Spock," Kirk began to protest only to smile wickedly as he felt the fastening of his pants being opened. Questing fingers slid into the opening, pushing aside the damp briefs and touched swollen flesh. "Gods," he groaned, gripping Spock's shoulders tightly. "I'm gonna come."

Heeding the warning, Spock hastily withdrew his hand. "Not yet," he commanded.

Kirk grinned at the authoritative tone, pushing playfully at Spock's shoulders. By mutual accord, they backed off a little, making quick work of discarding their remaining clothing. Kirk stretched out on his back, lifting his arms toward Spock, wearing the same expression of invitation he had worn in the gym. This time, however, the invitation was intentional, and Spock knew he need not fear eventual rejection. Love shone behind the seduction, and that love was for life.

Without reservation, Spock settled between the parted thighs. He lowered himself slowly, brushing their throbbing erections together again and again until they both hung on the edge of climax. Every nerve ending screamed at Spock to give up the game, to firm the contact to give them both the release they craved.

Kirk's frantic fingers glided down a sweat slick back, digging into Spock's hips. He arched his hips, straining against Vulcan muscle to end the pleasure which was beginning to cross the fuzzy line into pain.

"I admire your control," he panted, "but for pity's sake, Spock, no more!"

Well beyond his own limits, Spock gratefully sank onto the writhing body, taking up the rhythm Kirk set and matching him thrust for thrust. Their lips sought and found each other at the last moment, muffling their cries as sudden spasms convulsed them both.

When awareness returned, Spock sprawled bonelessly over Kirk's smaller body. He knew he should remove his dead weight, but his trembling limbs refused to co-operate.

"Stay," Kirk encouraged, stroking the sweaty skin on Spock's back, knowing in a moment Spock would begin to feel the chill of the earth normal temperature and they would have to move. He wanted to savor this moment as long as he could.

In a few moments they would pull apart, deal with the messy aftermath of all those wonderful sensations, and pull back on their rumpled clothes. They would have to talk, he supposed, discuss the more mundane details of joining two lives. And, of course, there was the rumour...

Warm lips nuzzled into his neck, a raspy tongue licking languidly up to his earlobe. Maybe, Kirk thought, feeling the embers of recently sated desire beginning to glow, they could do all that later. Much later.

* * * * *

"We've all tried to respect their privacy the last year or so, and that was fine when it was only those looks across the bridge and all that disappearing night after night for chess. But now they're getting ridiculous. How do they expect us to ignore it when they're jumping each other all over the ship. We're not blind you know. I can understand, Spock, he's so damn...backward anyway, but Jim, well, I must admit...."

Kirk and Spock stepped around the concealing bend in the corridor as McCoy's voice receded. They looked at each other in silent comprehension.

"Damn. They knew all along," Kirk complained half-heartedly. He offered Spock a teasing smile. "You realize what this means, Spock - rumour had it long before we did."

"Indeed," Spock said, stopping as they came abreast of his quarters and palming open the door. "Then we have a great deal of catching up to do, do we not?"

Kirk couldn't have agreed more.
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