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Captain James T. Kirk looked up with a sinking heart, abandoning all hope of enjoying his meal in peace, as the ship’s chief medical officer came into the rec room.

Sure enough the doctor turned towards the captain’s table with an unmistakable glint in his eye and plonked himself in the seat next to Kirk, placing the tray carrying his well-balanced meal pointedly on the table.

“Jim,” he said, the tone undoubtedly heralding the lecture Kirk had feared, “why do I bother? I spend time working out these diets, you know. I put all my medical skill to work in trying to keep the captain in shape, and every time I come in here you’re eating...” the doctor trailed off as he got a closer look at the contents of the bowl in front of his friend.“...God in Heaven - what are you eating?”

Kirk sighed. “I was just trying to get into the spirit, Bones. Seeing as we get to Vulcan in a couple days I had some more local dishes programmed into the replicator, but,” he prodded the food in front of him disconsolately with his fork, “I have to say I don’t think this is really my thing.”

There was a movement beside him and Kirk looked up to see his first officer standing next to him, his curious regard also directed at the bowl on the table.

“Spock,” Kirk cleared his throat, “I wouldn’t want to be rude but I don’t think Vulcan cuisine is going to agree with me. I thought I’d have more luck with sweet rather than savoury but this is so sweet it’s making my teeth hurt just looking at it.”

McCoy peered even more closely into his companion’s bowl at what looked to all intents and purposes like a heap of seaweed smothered in whipped cream. “I thought Vulcans only ate nutritionally balanced meals,” he said. “That,” he pointed into the bowl, “looks suspiciously like a dessert to me, Spock.”

The Vulcan inclined his head in a slight nod. “Indeed, Doctor. Vulcans require a small amount of sugar in our diet, children more than adults. K’lar,” he looked towards the captain’s bowl, “is designed to meet that need. It is, however,” he continued, with subtle amusement colouring his voice, “too sweet to be palatable to adult Vulcans or, it seems,” he looked at Kirk, “Humans. It is generally served to children at special events - perhaps you would call it a ‘treat’?”

“Jello and ice cream?” Kirk asked, a resigned tone in his voice.

“A not entirely apt comparison,” Spock said as he sat at the captain’s other side, “since jello and ice cream fulfil no dietary requirement that I am aware of, but one that will suffice.”

McCoy rolled his eyes at Spock’s words even as he started laughing.

“Brilliant, Jim,” he chuckled, “so much for preparing yourself for Vulcan food. I can just see Sarek serving jello and ice cream at the council banquet!”

Kirk couldn’t help but join the laughter, aided by the image that suddenly popped into his head of Spock’s sombre father handing out party bags and balloons to bemused diplomats.

“Oh, well,” he said, abandoning his fork, “while we’re on Vulcan, Mr. Spock, I’ll just have to make sure I ask for your always impeccable advice before I start tucking in.” He got up and yawned widely. “Right, I’ve got some paperwork to take care of, then I need to get some rest. I’ll see you both in the morning.”

Kirk smiled as his two friends said goodnight. As he walked towards the door he could hear the doctor good-naturedly ribbing Spock about the logic of providing children with treats. He chuckled as the door swooshed shut behind him, cutting off the clever retort he was sure his first officer was about to make.

In his cabin he carefully reviewed the instructions from Starfleet on the upcoming Federation Council meeting. He sighed. Ferrying diplomats around wasn’t exactly his favourite occupation, but this conference was high profile. The powers that be had decided to experiment, in the interests of ‘transparency’ and ‘bringing government to the people‘, with holding occasional meetings on other worlds rather than at UFP HQ in San Francisco. The Enterprise and its crew had been tasked with ensuring the diplomats from various worlds got there safely.

They were due to arrive at Spock’s home planet in a few days and then, other than the senior officers’ required attendance at the end of conference banquet, he and his crew would be free to take some shore leave. Meanwhile, the Enterprise herself would provide a visible symbol of Starfleet in orbit around the planet. Spock had invited him and McCoy to stay at his family home and he was looking forward to getting to know Spock’s parents better. The ill-fated trip to Babel had not provided the best of circumstances in which to get acquainted and he was hoping he might learn a little more about his first officer’s life before he joined Starfleet.

Other members of the crew, he had gathered from the baleful looks and muttered comments when it had been announced, were not convinced of the delights shore leave on Vulcan would have to offer. “If ve survive ze heat ve’ll end up getting logicked to death,” he’d heard a distinctly unimpressed Chekov whisper to Sulu.

And Scotty, whom he’d seen manfully listening to an excited Uhura trying to convince him of the marvels of the Vulcan music scene, hadn’t seemed persuaded the concert she wanted him to escort her to was worth leaving his engines for.

'Oh well,' he thought, as he kicked off his boots and headed to the bathroom, 'can’t please all of the crew all of the time'.

~*~*~*~

A wall of heat hit them the moment they materialised and Kirk felt himself break out in a sweat as the doctor started muttering under his breath. Spock, looking perfectly comfortable, shouldered his bag and led them off towards his childhood home.

The door opened before they reached it, revealing a smiling Amanda waiting to welcome them.

“Mother,” Spock said in greeting, and the doctor nearly dropped his bag in shock as the science officer permitted his mother to kiss his cheek. She briefly squeezed her son’s arm. “Oh, it’s so good to see you.”

“I am gratified to be here, Mother,” Spock replied.

Kirk smiled. His so proper science officer had become much more relaxed in the time they’d known each other. Spock was supremely confident and sure of himself in the professional aspects of his life, but when it came to personal relationships he could be far less confident. He preferred to keep his Human side hidden deep within, buried under the logic of his Vulcan half. Spock’s time on the Enterprise and the acceptance he had found there had been slowly but surely changing that. He allowed himself a self-expression now that he never would have when Kirk had first met him.

“Captain, Doctor.” Amanda’s warm smile turned to her son’s friends. McCoy slipped into his best southern gentleman persona as he returned the smile, “Leonard, please, ma’am, and thank you very much for inviting us to your home.”

Spock raised his eyebrow at the sight of the doctor’s charm being turned on his mother, as Kirk echoed McCoy’s words of greeting.

The trio followed Amanda into a large kitchen and dining area, Kirk and McCoy both relieved at the coolness of the air compared to the ferocious heat outside.

“Sarek sends his apologies he couldn’t be here to greet you,” Amanda said. “He got called in to sort out some last minute glitch in the conference arrangements, but he should be back in time for dinner.”

Spock looked around sharply. “Are you intending to cook?” he asked.

Amanda laughed. “No, I’m not,” she replied, waggling her finger at her son in a way Kirk knew few others would dare, “and you can take that look off your face. Anyone would think I’d spent your entire childhood trying to poison you!”

“It was a thought that occurred to me on occasion,” Spock intoned, the slight crinkle at the sides of his eyes the only thing to betray his amusement.

Kirk was amazed. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected, but this teasing warmth wasn’t it. He felt a moment of shame as he realised he shouldn’t have taken the atmosphere between Spock and his mother during the Babel trip as the norm - it certainly hadn’t been a normal situation by any stretch of the imagination and Amanda must have been under a huge strain. He pulled himself back from his inner musings and turned his attention back to his companions.

“I’m sure your cooking skills are being unfairly maligned,” Bones was saying.

“No, no, Leonard,” Amanda admitted, still smiling widely, “Spock does have a point, however rude it may be to mention it.” She threw a mock glare at her son. “Sarek’s the cook in the family, although I often think he honed his culinary skills to avoid having to eat my woeful attempts at Vulcan dishes! Now, how does some cold lemonade sound? I can just about manage that!” It sounded very good indeed to the Starfleet officers who gratefully took the proffered glasses.

Amanda turned to her son. “Oh, Spock, have you heard from Setan lately? He’s back home and can’t wait to see you, so I thought I might invite him for dinner. What do you think?”

“Yes,” Spock replied. “He said he would be back on Vulcan. His presence at dinner would be agreeable if the captain and doctor do not object.” He raised a questioning eyebrow at his friends, neither of whom had any objections.

Kirk looked curiously at his first officer. “Setan is an archaeologist with whom I am acquainted,” Spock said by way of explanation. “I have not seen him for several years.”

The words did little to assuage Kirk’s curiosity but, he supposed, he would meet this Setan soon enough.

Suitably refreshed by the delicious homemade lemonade, the captain and doctor followed Spock as he took them to their rooms to stow their bags before showing them the rest of the house.

They ended up in the garden where they found Amanda carefully pruning what looked like the Vulcan equivalent of a rosebush.

Kirk looked around at the beautiful, lush garden in surprise. “I wouldn’t have thought you could get so much to grow in this environment,” he said, taking in the casual, dirt-stained garb Amanda had donned and thinking how far away she looked from the formal ambassador’s wife he’d met aboard the Enterprise. “I take it you’re the gardener rather than Sarek?”

Amanda looked at her son’s friend and laughed, thoroughly amused at the idea of Sarek getting dirt under his fingernails. “Yes, Jim,” she said, “and you’d be surprised how hardy some plants can be. I’ve worked out over the years what can survive and what I should just give up on.”

She looked at her son with a twinkle in her eye and Kirk glanced at McCoy long enough to see a look of anticipation on his face as she turned to address them.

Amanda smiled. “When Spock was little he used to follow me all around the garden. He would insist he had to wear his special little ‘gardening’ coveralls and boots, wouldn’t come out of the house without them. He even had a little watering can,” she laughed.

McCoy broke into a delighted laugh and Kirk had to smile as he looked at his first officer’s patiently stoic face as the cool, impassive gaze fixed on the doctor, daring him to make a comment.

For once, however, McCoy seemed lost for words, too busy laughing at the image Amanda’s words had conjured up in his mind to come up with one of the acerbic remarks that so often came Spock’s way.

~*~*~*~

The three Starfleet officers went to unpack and get washed up before heading back to the kitchen, where Amanda was making a fresh batch of lemonade. The hum of an aircar outside heralded the arrival of Sarek, and Kirk took a surreptitious glance at Spock. His friend looked at his most Vulcan; his face expressionless, his posture ramrod straight and his hands clasped firmly behind his back.

When Sarek came through the door Amanda walked towards her husband and held her hand up to meet his. Their index and middle fingers touched briefly before Sarek turned and nodded politely at their guests, raising his hand in the traditional Vulcan greeting. “Captain, Doctor, your presence in our home honours us.”

“It’s an honour to be here, Ambassador,” Kirk replied, returning the salute with a practised ease, while McCoy managed a claw-like gesture and an abashed smile.

Spock raised his hand. “Greetings, Father,” he said formally, “I trust the preparations for the council meeting are proceeding as planned?”

“They proceed adequately.” Sarek answered, then paused before continuing. “Your presence is also welcome, my son.”

Kirk smiled to himself as he noticed the almost imperceptible relaxation in Spock’s stance at his father’s words.

Amanda gave Spock a warm smile before turning to Sarek. “Shall we get dinner started?”

Kirk, Spock and McCoy sat at the kitchen table as Sarek, with Amanda on chopping duties only, quickly and efficiently prepared the evening meal. Kirk couldn’t help smiling at the unexpected sight of Ambassador Sarek of Vulcan skilfully handling the cooking. His smile broadened as Amanda caught her son’s eye and Spock, obviously slipping back into a childhood role, immediately got to his feet and started laying the table. McCoy leant towards him and grinned as he raised his eyebrows. “Whaddya bet washing up is one of his chores too?” he whispered.

Just then the door chime sounded. “That’ll be Setan,” Amanda said brightly. She went to the door and, a few moments later, ushered in the new arrival.

Kirk and McCoy regarded Setan with interest. His hair was wavy and blond, the colour uncommon among his race, and he wore it longer than the Humans regarded as the norm for Vulcan males, reaching almost to the collar of his casual shirt.

He was tall, about the same height as Spock, and his brown eyes seemed to smile as he returned the greetings offered by the humans before turning towards Spock. “It’s been too long, Spock,” he said. “It’s good to see you.”

Kirk felt a jolt of surprise, and something else he couldn’t immediately identify, both at the unusual statement from a Vulcan and the warmth it engendered in his friend’s eyes as he simply nodded in reply.

    ~*~*~*~

The food was delicious and, to the captain’s immense relief, did not feature K’lar, nor anything remotely resembling it. The conversation flowed and Kirk and McCoy were pleasantly surprised by the relaxed atmosphere.

Sarek didn’t seem half as forbidding at home as he had appeared during his time on the Enterprise, Kirk mused, questioning yet another of his first impressions of a member of Spock’s family. The older Vulcan filled them in on the preparations for the council meeting, due to begin the following day.

“I do not foresee any need of Starfleet’s services, Captain,” he finished. “There is nothing on the agenda likely to cause a level of controversy that would require military intervention, despite the presence of the Tellarite delegation.”

Kirk smiled at the subtle humour and nodded. “I agree, and I’m sure Vulcan’s security services can handle anything that might come up.”

Amanda smiled. “So, Jim, you may as well all relax and enjoy yourselves. Our home is your home; please feel free to come and go as you wish.” She looked at Setan. “And that applies to you too,” she added, smiling fondly at him.

Setan seemed relaxed and at ease. There was still something about his manner that didn’t seem, well, ‘Vulcan’, Kirk supposed, and he resolved to ask Spock about it when he got the chance.

Amanda continued, “How is Tomas? He couldn’t join us tonight?”

“He is well, Amanda,” Setan replied. “He is still engaged in the project examining the ruins on Delotas IV.” He paused a moment before continuing. “However, he and I have ended our relationship.”

McCoy’s startled intake of breath caused him to choke on his mouthful of food and Kirk, despite his own surprise at Setan’s unexpected admission of a homosexual relationship, struggled not to laugh as he watched the doctor hurriedly gulping down some water, valiantly attempting to cover up his uncouth outburst as a coughing fit.

He looked over at Spock and Sarek, who were regarding McCoy with identically raised eyebrows.

“I’m sorry,” Amanda was saying, politely ignoring the doctor. “I didn’t mean to pry.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Setan replied, the casual terminology adding to the captain’s curiosity about this man. “It’d run its course and we’re both fine with it. I was due to take some leave from the project anyway so I thought I’d give us both some space, which is why I’m here.” He gave a quick smile, nearly setting McCoy off on another coughing fit.

Spock changed the subject, questioning Setan about his work. The archaeologist talked easily and animatedly about the ruins on the newly discovered world and the clues left behind by a long-gone, ancient civilisation.

He had a presence that easily held his audience in rapt attention and his obvious enthusiasm was so different to the reserve the two Human Starfleet officers had come to expect from his race.

As Setan spoke, McCoy studied the reactions of his friends. Spock was listening intently to the archaeologist’s discourse. ’Not surprising’, the doctor thought. The science officer was always eager to expand his knowledge, and the discoveries made by the archaeology team were interesting, pointing to the existence of a civilisation that seemed to be very like that of ancient Greece.

What was really interesting was their body language. McCoy made it his business to learn to read the emotional reactions of those under his care, Vulcan or otherwise, and he watched them carefully. Setan was engaging everyone around the table but it was Spock he kept looking towards, a regard the first officer appeared to be returning.

McCoy stole a glance at Kirk. The captain was also observing the pair. His face showed nothing but polite attention, but McCoy noticed the tension in his broad shoulders, a sure sign the captain was wary, and filed a mental note to consider that reaction later.

~*~*~*~


After the meal the group retired into a room populated by comfy chairs, decorated tastefully but warmly, with a definite Human touch moderating the Vulcan tendency towards austerity. “So, Setan,” McCoy said, turning to their new Vulcan acquaintance, “you and Spock look to be about the same age. Did you know each other as children?”

Kirk sighed inaudibly. The doctor was determined to ‘dig up some dirt’ as he liked to put it, to use as ammunition in his constant verbal sparring with Spock. Obviously the image of their dignified first officer as a child toddling around a garden with a watering can wasn’t enough to satisfy him.

A knowing smile quirked the corners of Setan’s mouth as he regarded McCoy. The expression on the Vulcan’s face seemed to show he’d discerned exactly what the doctor was up to.

“Yes, Doctor,” Setan replied, throwing a quick glance Spock’s way. “I spent my early years on Earth, but returned to Vulcan when I was thirteen Earth standard years old. Spock and I went to school together.”

He turned towards Spock’s father. “Sarek, do you think the council will approve the Belken petition to join the Federation?”

The Belkens were an interesting race, peaceful and friendly to the point of greeting any visitors from other planets with an enthusiastic bear hug before showering them with gifts.

Sarek proceeded to provide an analysis of the pros and cons of Belken’s admission and added that his own personal reservations of the natives’ somewhat effusive method of greeting notwithstanding, his belief was that the planet should be granted its request.

The rest of the evening passed in a discussion of the rich culture of that race, which prized the arts above all else, and naturally moved on to conversation about the varied worlds visited by the Enterprise crew and, to a lesser extent, the others present.

Setan spoke knowledgably and amusingly about his experiences. Kirk was unusually quiet, McCoy noticed, and Spock seemed far more talkative than usual, even unwinding enough to relate some tales of his own. McCoy had to admit, if only to himself, some stories were funnier for being told in that deadpan voice. When Spock spoke of their experiences with tigers and giant white rabbits while on shore leave, Setan threw back his head and laughed delightedly.

Finally, the evening drawing to a close, Setan stood and turned towards Sarek and Amanda. He held his hand up in the Vulcan salute. “I’d better be off. Live long and prosper, Sarek.” The older Vulcan returned the gesture and Setan turned towards his hostess with a smile. “Amanda, thank you for a lovely evening.”

Amanda smiled back warmly and elicited a promise the younger man would visit again soon. Setan nodded at Kirk and McCoy and wished them goodnight before turning to his friend. “Spock, are you free for dinner tomorrow night? It would be good to spend some time together while you’re here; communiqués aren’t quite the same as getting the chance to talk in person.”

McCoy peered at Spock with open curiosity as he accepted the invitation and Kirk could read the doctor’s mind with ease. Setan was certainly a revelation and, the captain was sure, his sexual orientation, his smiles and his seemingly ongoing friendship with Spock were all prompting questions that McCoy was simply dying to get out.

Kirk was also curious, the last one especially giving him a pause. Spock showed an ease with Setan that he had never seen the Vulcan display with anyone but himself, and Setan’s words suggested they regularly corresponded; yet Spock had never mentioned him. Kirk frowned to himself.

Shortly after Setan’s departure Sarek turned to Amanda. “I am fatigued, my wife, and I am required at the conference centre at 7am.” He looked over at Kirk and McCoy. “If you will excuse me Captain, Doctor. Spock will tend to any needs you may have.” He inclined his head slightly to take his leave of Spock as Amanda rose to join him, touching two fingers to those he held out. “Good night,” she said, smiling at her son and his friends. “I hope you sleep well.”

Sure enough, as soon as the couple left the room McCoy’s perceptive blue eyes fixed on Spock, as he folded his arms across his chest. “All right, Mr Spock,” he said, keeping his tone light and conversational, “let’s start with the obvious - since when are Vulcans gay?”

Kirk watched Spock closely. Truth be told he’d been rather taken aback at that himself. He was as open minded as they came but he’d never even considered that Vulcans might have same sex relationships; it just didn’t seem logical. He’d assumed sex for a Vulcan was a necessary, and not entirely welcome, means to ensure procreation - but it looked like that was another assumption that had been blown out of the water today.

Spock raised his eyebrow and fixed the doctor with his cool regard. “‘Vulcans are not gay doctor,” he said, choosing not to be pedantic at McCoy’s colloquial term. “Approximately 13.24 per cent of Vulcans are homosexual, a percentage slightly higher than that among humankind.”

“But,” McCoy spluttered, apparently unable to maintain his former calm in the face of the unexpected answer, “how can that be logical? and what happened to Vulcans only getting it on every seven years to make little Vulcans?!”

Spock appeared completely unruffled. “Doctor, those are assumptions that you have made based on very little evidence. To a Vulcan, compatibility of the mind is the most important aspect of a bonding. The sex of a bonded pair is irrelevant by comparison. And I have never stated Vulcans mate only once every seven years, only that we must do so at that time.

“Indeed,” he continued, an amused glint in his eyes, “very few of my race would choose to abstain from sexual relations for such an extended period of time.”

McCoy just stared at him, his mouth open in what Spock, not for the first time, was tempted to inform him was a most unbecoming manner.

The medic shook his head, his face a picture of disbelief. “But what about linking children; how on earth would you know you had gotten them with the right sex?”

Spock sighed. “You surely mean ‘how on Vulcan?’ Doctor.” Kirk let out a bark of laughter at that one as McCoy glared at the first officer.

“It is quite simple,” Spock continued. “Vulcan children show characteristics that indicate a preference for a particular sex at an early age and their future mate is then chosen accordingly.” He paused. “It is only in approximately 1.2 per cent of cases that an error occurs.”

“And what happens then?” Kirk asked, genuinely interested in the answer.

“The error will come to light when the male enters his first Pon Farr,” Spock answered. “In most cases the ceremony will go ahead in order to preserve the male’s life and the parties involved will then choose either to accept a bond of, for the most part, platonic companionship, or to seek a healer to dissolve it.” He paused for just a moment. “It is also one of the few circumstances in which the challenge may lawfully be invoked.”

Both the captain and the doctor stared at their Vulcan friend, any plans to ferret out more information about Setan completely railroaded by his words. Still looking utterly impassive, the Vulcan rose to his feet.

“I find I am also fatigued,” he said as he moved towards the door. “Goodnight Captain, Doctor.”

There was silence as the door closed behind him.

“Jim, you don’t think he meant...” McCoy began.

Kirk tore his eyes away from the door through which Spock had just exited and glared at the doctor. “Bones,” he said, a little more sharply than he intended, “I know what you’re thinking and he said nothing of the sort. I don’t want you using this to needle him about something that is none of your business - and that’s an order.

“Look,” he added, holding up his hand to stave off McCoy’s retort, realising he had spoken harshly and deliberately softening his voice, “it’s been a long day. I’m going to turn in and I suggest you do the same.”

It was McCoy’s turn to stare at the door after his friend left the room. He pondered the conversation and, after a moment, shook his head. ’Nah,’ he said to himself. ‘You’re just letting your imagination run away with you; must be the heat’. He yawned as he stood and followed his friends out of the room.

~*~*~*~

Spock and McCoy were already there when Kirk wandered into the kitchen in search of breakfast the following morning. The captain smiled at the unusual sight of his two best friends, both in civilian clothing, preparing a meal together. Spock was stirring something that looked like a type of oatmeal while McCoy filled a serving plate with freshly prepared toast and some of the Vulcan muffins he regularly dismissed on board the ship as ‘about as digestible as cardboard and nowhere near as tasty’.

They were going about their tasks in silence. Presumably McCoy had either already satisfied his curiosity about Setan or he’d decided to wait until an opportune moment to pounce on Spock with more questions. Or, perhaps, he was letting the matter of smiling Vulcans drop. Kirk sincerely doubted it was the latter.

The captain chuckled fondly. “Look at the two of you. You look like an old married couple getting ready for the day ahead!”

“Really, Captain, I see no reason for insults,” Spock retorted, prompting McCoy to turn towards him.

“What are you trying to say, Spock?” the doctor asked, waving a slice of toast in the air as he spoke. “A Human not good enough for you? Well, let me tell you, you could do a lot worse...” His voice tailed off as he realised what he was saying and blushed right to the roots of his hair.

Both Spock’s eyebrows had all but disappeared beneath his neat bangs and Kirk found himself lost in a helpless paroxysm of laughter as McCoy defiantly muttered, “Well, you could,” as he picked up the plate of food and stalked over to the kitchen table, still bright red.

Kirk sat down next to the doctor, still caught up in helpless laughter. “I think you’d make a lovely couple, Bones,” he managed to get out as the doctor glared at him. “Do I get to be best man?” he continued as Spock placed three bowls of the oatmeal on the table.

“Jim,” the Vulcan said, straight faced, “in the unlikely event the doctor and I decided to marry, and did so in a Terran-style ceremony, you would be the obvious choice for best man.” He picked up his spoon as McCoy’s glare focused on him. “However,” he continued, “he is not, as I believe you would say, ‘my type’.”

Kirk’s laughter turned into the sort that’s almost impossible to stop.

“Well, I’m mighty relieved to hear that,” McCoy emphatically declared, as he helped himself to the butter, “because you most certainly are not mine.” He turned to the still snorting Kirk. “Now, if you’ve quite finished, Jim,” he said, mustering all his dignity, “your breakfast’s going cold.”

Sarek and Amanda, Spock informed Kirk once he’d got over his laughing fit, had left the house early and would be working all day. With no pressing duties to attend to, the trio of Starfleet officers were free to do as they wished. McCoy turned his nose up at Spock’s suggestion of the Science Academy Museum, more for appearances than anything else, Kirk suspected. The doctor was, despite his frequent assertions of being just a ‘good ’ole country doctor’, a brilliant research scientist in his own right, but he was never going to accept one of Spock’s suggestions without a fight.

“I’m not going to spend the first day of my leave cooped up in some fusty Vulcan museum,” he loudly proclaimed. “We can save that for a rainy day and try to find something fun to do.

“If there is such a thing as fun on this godforsaken planet,” he added under his breath.

As Spock opened his mouth, undoubtedly to deliver a lecture on the unlikelihood of a ‘rainy day’ in the middle of Vulcan’s dry season, Kirk held up his hands to stall him. “All right, all right. How about we go visit the ruins at R’Tahr? Act like proper tourists for the day? What do you think, Bones?”

The plan for the day was decided upon and, accompanied by the obligatory grumbling from McCoy about the heat and the likelihood of excessive walking exacerbating the effects of said heat, the three set off for the ruins left behind by Spock’s warlike ancestors.

Kirk found the visit fascinating, his interest in history piqued by the majestic fortress the ruins must once have been. Spock, despite science being his field of expertise, knew an impressive amount about the ruins and the events that had occurred there and he even forgot about the oppressive heat as he listened intently to his friend’s running history lesson. ‘I could listen to his voice all day.’ The surprising thought came from nowhere and Kirk frowned in puzzlement.

Spock quirked a questioning eyebrow at his expression, and he laughed it off, saying, “It’s nothing. I’m enjoying myself, please carry on.”

“Well I’m hot and thirsty,” McCoy interrupted, “and much as I always enjoy your lectures, Spock, I’m going to go sit down before I fall down.” McCoy trudged off towards a nearby café, thoughtfully provided by their Vulcan hosts to cater for tourists, leaving Kirk and Spock alone.

Kirk listened to the rest of Spock’s detailed discourse, smiling to himself at the wholehearted dedication his friend gave to using his brilliant mind to learn as much as he could about any given subject.

“Spock, can I ask you something?” Kirk said as the Vulcan drew to a close. He sat down on a rock and looked up at his friend.

Spock carefully set himself down next to the captain as he replied, “Of course, Jim."

Kirk took a deep breath, “I’m curious, you and Setan...you’re friends?” Spock nodded.

Kirk found himself hit by a peculiar mix of emotions. On the one hand he felt a soaring joy that Spock could admit to feeling friendship, something he had revealed caused him deep shame just a few years ago when the Psi 2000 virus had released his inhibitions. On the other he felt a pang of something, he wasn’t sure what, that the friendship Spock was speaking of now wasn’t the same one he spoke of then. A shadow passed briefly across his eyes before he firmly pushed whatever it was away and concentrated on Spock.

“You’ve never mentioned him,” he continued. “He seems...different.”

Spock nodded again. “Setan’s parents were somewhat,” he paused, apparently searching for the right word, “unorthodox. They chose to settle on Earth and to allow their son to make his own decision on whether to follow the ways of Vulcan.
“Setan was instructed in the traditions of our people but was also encouraged to experience the diverse cultures of Earth and to express his emotions should he desire to do so. His parents also chose not to link him to another in order that he might choose his own partner when the time came.

“However,” Kirk saw a slight cloud pass over the strong planes of Spock’s face as he paused, “his parents were killed in an accident when he was 13 and he was brought back to Vulcan to live with his maternal grandparents.”

Kirk nodded, listening closely. He could well imagine the young Vulcan’s grandparents would have had something to say about any ‘Human’ characteristics Setan might have picked up.

“Setan’s grandparents tried to compel him to behave as any other Vulcan child would but,” Kirk thought he heard a hint of pride creep into Spock’s voice, “he is very strong-willed, and resisted any attempt to change who he is.”

Spock allowed himself a hint of a smile. “His grandparents eventually abandoned the attempt.”

Kirk chuckled. “And how did the two of you become friends?” he asked. “I admit I’m surprised you would be friends with the ‘class rebel’.”

“Indeed,” Spock began, “when Setan joined my class I found him extremely puzzling. I could not understand why he did not wish to belong.”

Kirk felt a pang of sympathy at the words. He knew Spock had never felt he quite fitted in; knew, although his friend seldom spoke of it, that growing up as a half Human child on Vulcan had been hard on him.

“However,” Spock continued, “Setan sought me out.” He paused and Kirk kept quiet, knowing how difficult Spock often found it to speak of his personal life.

Spock appeared to study his boots intently as he continued, “I resisted at first. I was unsure of my ability to form a friendship with such a person; however, Setan is not one to give up easily. In time I found the force of his personality impossible to ignore.” He paused again. “He has proven to be a very loyal friend.”

The captain nodded. He could see in his mind’s eye the lonely and awkward boy Spock must have been; knew that underneath the impassive façade was a sensitive being who, far from being emotionless, felt deeply and strongly and could so easily be hurt.

A thought occurred to him. “How did Sarek react to your friendship?”

Spock’s mouth quirked slightly, his amusement obvious to one who knew the Vulcan as well as he did. “He was concerned Setan might prove to be a ‘bad influence’, but my mother resisted his wish to intervene. I believe her words were, ‘If you think Humans are such a bad influence, then where was the logic in marrying me?’”

Kirk laughed. He had begun to get to know Spock’s mother on the ship and his liking and admiration for her was growing all the time. She was the perfect, attentive ambassador’s consort in public but he was beginning to realise she was far from a pushover. He was willing to bet she got her own way more often than not in her marriage.

His thoughts returned to Setan. “But why have you never mentioned him?”

Spock looked thoughtful. “I do not know, Jim.”

Kirk felt a brief stab of hurt that he quickly pushed away. ‘You don’t own him,’ he sternly told himself. ‘He has a right to his privacy and he has a right to friends other than you’.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said quickly, jumping to his feet, “I’m glad you had someone you could turn to.” He extended his hand to his still seated friend then, remembering the Vulcan aversion to casual touch went to pull it away again, only to be surprised when Spock reached out and clasped it, allowing Kirk to pull him upright.

They stood for just a moment with their hands clasped between them and Kirk felt an enormous rush of warmth and affection. Spock quickly let go and Kirk cleared his throat, embarrassed his telepathic friend would have picked up on those feelings. “Right, lets go find McCoy before he can get himself into any trouble,” he said, marching decisively towards the café.

~*~*~*~

The unaccustomed heat and higher than Earth norm gravity, combined with all the walking they’d done, made sure McCoy and Kirk were grateful to sink into comfortable chairs as soon as they got back to Spock’s home. Spock himself disappeared upstairs to get ready for his dinner with Setan.

Kirk filled in McCoy on Setan’s background. He carefully left out any of the personal experiences Spock had shared but the doctor’s curiosity was obviously piqued anyway. “And he and Spock are friends...” he pondered out loud. “Now why would someone who has spent his whole life trying to be some sort of ‘super Vulcan’ want to be friends with the one Vulcan who chooses to act like a Human?”

Kirk shook his head, “I don’t know, Bones, opposites attract maybe?”

The doctor looked at him and opened his mouth to reply, but at that point the door opened and Amanda walked in with one of the objects of their discussion in tow.

“Jim, Leonard,” Amanda said in greeting, “how was your day?”

“Good, thank you,” Kirk smiled, “but tiring. I don’t know how you stand this heat day in, day out.”

Amanda smiled back. “Oh, you get used to it,” she said, turning back towards the door. “Have a seat Setan, I’ll tell Spock you’re here.”

The archaeologist smiled at the two humans who, despite knowing his background, were still a bit disconcerted to see the easy expression on his face as he asked about their excursion that day.

Setan chuckled when McCoy groused good-naturedly about Spock’s accompanying lecture as they toured the ruins.

“I can imagine!” he said. “I think I heard that one on a school field trip there once. I cut him off by getting into the out of bounds area. He was horrified!”

McCoy laughed delightedly. This was one Vulcan he thought he might have something in common with.

They all looked up as the door opened and Spock appeared, his slender frame encased in a form-fitting black tunic and pants.

“Hey,” Setan said, as he stood up and grinned impishly at his friend, “don’t you look gorgeous?”

Kirk and McCoy looked at each other and then at Spock, who seemed completely unfazed by the comment as he walked across the room to join them.

“Thank you, Setan, I am gratified my appearance meets with your approval,” he said, before turning to his fellow officers. “Captain, Doctor. I trust you have everything you require?”

“Sure, Spock,” McCoy said distractedly as he stared curiously at the pair standing in front of him. “Your mom’s taking good care of us. You go ahead and let your hair down, don’t worry about us.”

Spock nodded at his two Human friends, deciding to let McCoy’s illogical statement pass without comment, and turned to Setan. “Shall we go?” he said.

“After you,” Setan smiled as he gestured towards the door.

McCoy turned to look at Kirk, who felt a sudden sense of deja vue as he once again found himself staring nonplussed at a door through which his first officer had just passed.

“Well, well,” McCoy said. “You know Jim, he never ceases to amaze me. Just when you think you’ve got him all figured out he turns up with a smiling, gay Vulcan who thinks he’s gorgeous!”

Kirk felt a flash of irritation. “There’s nothing going on between him and Spock!” he barked, the words almost a shout.

McCoy started at Kirk’s tone. “I never said there was, Jim.” Surprise was written all over his face as he fixed his perceptive blue eyes on the captain. “This really bothers you, doesn’t it?”

“What?” Kirk said sharply. “Of course not, Bones, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Uh huh,” McCoy said. “So you don’t think that maybe you’re just a tiny bit jealous?”

Kirk jumped to his feet. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he snapped. “Why the hell would I be jealous?”

McCoy looked thoughtful, as if he were giving serious consideration to what Kirk had intended to be a purely rhetorical question that he hoped would put a welcome end to this uncomfortable conversation.

“That’s a good question, Jim,” he said slowly. “Maybe you should think about it.”

~*~*~*~

Later that night Kirk lay awake - following the good doctor’s instructions - and thought about it. There was no doubt Spock’s relationship with Setan made him uncomfortable but he couldn’t pinpoint why. ‘Surely,’ he asked himself, ‘surely you’re not petty enough to want his friendship all to yourself? Was that it?’ he wondered. But no, it couldn’t be - McCoy and Spock, although they would have to be pressed to admit it, were friends, and that had never bothered him. In fact he enjoyed their teasing battles, was reassured by the fact that each of his closest friends had someone else they could always rely on.

Maybe it was the obvious depth of the friendship between the two Vulcans, very different to the sparring between Spock and McCoy. Or that Spock had chosen to keep this other friendship separate from his life on board the Enterprise; had chosen not to mention Setan.

Kirk sighed as he distractedly turned over in bed. Those facts did bother him. Maybe they shouldn’t, but they did. And the way Spock reacted to Setan just seemed so unlike him. Today at the ruins his reserved friend had found it difficult to talk of his childhood feelings, but tonight that same friend had responded with a blithe self-confidence to Setan’s comment about his appearance.

Kirk frowned. He was reading too much into it, he told himself. Setan was an old friend; Spock felt comfortable in his presence and that’s all it was.

But he was still awake when he heard Spock arrive back from his dinner date in the early hours of the morning.

~*~*~*~

The following day Kirk woke in a better mood. The doctor had arranged to visit the Shi Kahr medical centre and, much as Kirk enjoyed spending time with McCoy, he appreciated the chance to have the day with just Spock for company.

He got up early and helped himself to some juice before wandering outside into the garden, aiming to enjoy the mild morning air. Amanda, it appeared, had the same idea and he found her sitting on a bench looking out over the garden she so lovingly cared for.

She smiled brightly as he approached. “Good morning, Jim,” she greeted, gesturing at the place next to her. “Please sit down. I find early mornings the most beautiful time here. It’s also the most bearable time to tend the garden, before it gets too hot.”

Kirk regarded her curiously as he sat down. “Do you find it difficult living here?” he asked on impulse. He wasn’t thinking of the heat, but rather remembering Spock’s words when, his inhibitions gone, he had cried tears of pain for his mother, a Human living on a planet where love was a word never spoken.

Amanda looked surprised. “Not at all,” she replied, “it’s my home. I do miss Earth sometimes, of course, but we visit regularly, and Vulcan is a wonderful place to live. Why do you ask?”

Kirk shifted, suddenly a bit uncomfortable. His question had come out of remembering a conversation he certainly had no place in relaying to Spock’s mother.

It was Amanda’s turn to look curious. “Jim?” she questioned, fixing him with a perceptive look that, all of a sudden, reminded him of McCoy’s intent gaze when he knew there was something a patient, or a friend, might need to talk about.

Kirk chuckled, an old trick he’d often found would break the moment and get him out of awkward situations. “No reason,” he said keeping his tone deliberately light. “I suppose I just thought many people might find it hard to live in such a rigid society, and I wondered how you cope with it.”

Amanda smiled. “Vulcans and Humans aren’t so different, Jim. They feel what we feel, they simply control it better. You must know that considering how close you are to Spock.”

Kirk glanced up in surprise and Amanda laughed. “He does write to me, and calls occasionally, you know, and he often talks about you. He might not say it, but I can read between the lines. I know what good friends you are and I meant what I said to you on the Enterprise - I’m glad he’s found such a friend.”

Kirk chuckled again, this time with genuine warmth. He was beginning to see where his first officer’s empathy and compassion – which Spock would rather go skinny dipping in the Enterprise pool than admit to – came from.

He said as much, but Amanda smilingly shook her head. “Jim, Sarek and Spock are like two peas in a pod,” she said. “That’s why they can clash so badly. You were right on the ship when you said they’re both stubborn, and Sarek is no less passionate than Spock. It’s simply not the Vulcan way to show it.”

She leant back in her seat and looked out over the garden. “Has Spock spoken to you much about his childhood?” she asked.

“A little,” Kirk answered, not sure how much he should say; after all this was Spock’s mother he was talking to. He glanced up and saw her expectant look. “I know it wasn’t easy for him,” he risked, then wasn’t sure if he should regret his words as a pained look passed over her face.

“No,” Amanda sighed, “it wasn’t.” She was silent for a few moments. “Children can be cruel,” she mused. “That saying applies to Vulcan children as much as Human, you know; perhaps more so since Vulcan children feel so strongly and are only gradually taught to control their emotions.”

She looked at the man she knew her son trusted probably more than anyone else in his life, and made a decision. “Jim,” she said, in a serious tone of voice that would have commanded Kirk’s full attention had the subject of the conversation not already ensured it. “Sarek and I decided to raise Spock in the Vulcan way because we were raising him on Vulcan, because he would go through the Vulcan school system, with Vulcan children.” She looked at him calmly but intently. “Do you understand that?”

Kirk wasn’t sure how to respond. He had often found himself wondering about Spock’s childhood and how it must have shaped the person he had become. If anything, he’d resented Spock’s parents, judged them for what he’d seen as their rejection of his friend. But Amanda was speaking of her child as any Human mother might when they reached the inevitable conclusion that they hadn’t been the perfect parents they had intended to be.

“I think so,” he replied eventually,

Amanda gave him a brief rueful smile before looking out across the garden. “I’ve often wondered if we made a mistake,” she admitted, her voice quiet. “I worry that he thinks he hurts me by not expressing his feelings and I worry he believes his human blood is why his father has reacted in the way he has to his choices.”

She met Kirk’s intent gaze determinedly. “He’s our son, Jim,” she said, “and we both love him very much. I want you to know that. We are so proud of the person he has become and neither of us would want to change him.”

Kirk nodded, feeling touched and at the same time, slightly guilty. His own parents would have said the same, wanted the same for him. Why had he thought Spock’s parents would offer less to their son?

Amanda kept her eyes fixed on his as she spoke again. “Sarek and I saw on the ship that Spock has found a place where he feels he belongs and friends who accept him for who he is.”

She relaxed a bit and her mouth curved in a slight smile. “Even the way the doctor teases him is so good for him.” The look she gave Kirk was verging on mischievous, as she added “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but he can be rather serious, even for a Vulcan.”

Kirk had to laugh at that. “Oh, he can give as good as he gets when it comes to McCoy,” he said, part of him relieved to get on to safer ground and the rest of him pleased that Spock’s mother felt he was worthy of confiding in.

“You know, I think Spock’s far more at ease with his Human side now than he was when we first met and I know he’s happier now he and his father are back on speaking terms. He wouldn’t admit it but he was so worried when Sarek was ill.”

Amanda’s eyes darkened again as she thought back to that time on the Enterprise. “We both were,” she said, “and worry can lead you to say and do things you’ll later regret.” Kirk looked at her curiously and she shook herself out of her reverie. “Anyway, that’s all in the past,” she continued, “and, thanks to you and the skills of Dr. McCoy, I still have my husband and my son and, despite the fact I sometimes want to knock their stubborn heads together, for that I will always be grateful - to both of you.” She reached out and squeezed Kirk’s hand, briefly but tightly, before she stood.

“Now, I’m afraid I have to go or I’ll be late for work,” she said, the mischievous look back in her eyes, as she met Kirk’s, “and that really is not the done thing on Vulcan.”

Kirk followed her lead and got to his feet, reaching for a less intimate moment of conversation. “Spock said you’re a teacher.”

“I was,” she said as they walked back towards the house, “but I retired when Sarek did. Then, when he came out of retirement after his operation, I decided I might as well do the same. Quite frankly I was fed up with him spending so much time at work, so when an administration post came up with the diplomatic corps I jumped at the chance.

“It’s worked perfectly. I get to see him more often and normally I work part time so I have time to spend in the garden and doing other things.” She gave a rueful smile. “Unfortunately it also means that I’m needed full time while the Council is in session when I would really rather spend more time with Spock while he’s here. Although,” she laughed, “I daresay you boys don’t really want us old fogies hanging around!” She put up a hand to cut him off as Kirk started to protest.

“So what are your plans today?” she asked as they reached the door into the house, just as Spock appeared in the hallway.

Kirk grinned at his friend as he replied, “that depends on your son. He has something planned but he’s yet to fill me in.”

“Well,” Amanda said, “I’ll leave you to it.” She turned towards Spock. “Be good,” she smiled. “Oh and you can take the aircar if you like.”

“Be good?” Kirk echoed as the door closed behind her.

Spock clasped his hands behind his back, an expression of resignation on his face. “The term is one my mother often employed as I left the house as a child.” He gave a slight shake of his head. “It was not relevant then as it is not relevant now,” he said, straightening his shoulders and looking determinedly ahead.

“I’m sure it wasn’t, Mr. Spock, I’m sure it wasn’t,” Kirk agreed seriously. Carefully hiding his fond amusement, he took a sidelong glance at his first officer who looked, at that moment, about 13 years old.

~*~*~*~

Half an hour later, with McCoy already on his way to the medical centre, Kirk and Spock loaded up Sarek and Amanda’s aircar with provisions as the Vulcan filled his friend in on the plans he had made for the day. There was an ancient cave system about 80 kilometres away that Spock, quite rightly, thought Kirk would enjoy exploring.


“Good morning.”


Kirk turned at the sound of the voice behind him, his heart sinking. Setan was standing there, his blond locks shining in the sun and a smile on his handsome face.

“Good morning, Setan,” Spock replied. He turned to Kirk. “Setan is an expert in the cave system and its ancient paintings. He can tell you far more about the history of the site than I am able to.”

Kirk grimaced inwardly. Given yesterday’s trip to the ruins, he had no doubt Spock’s knowledge would be more than enough to suffice, but he forced himself to return Setan’s smile. After all it wasn’t Setan’s fault he’d wanted to spend some time alone with Spock. And, he told himself, how was Spock to know? He hadn’t said anything and had just assumed this would be one of those companionable days together they often enjoyed when they had the opportunity for shore leave.

Spock opened the driver’s door and raised a questioning eyebrow at Kirk, “I assume you would like to drive, Jim?” he said.

Kirk flashed him a smile as he took up the offer and jumped into the pilot’s seat. Spock well knew Kirk’s penchant for taking the controls of any sort of craft, be it a car, shuttlecraft or a sailing boat, and was always perfectly willing to indulge his captain.

As soon as they set off, Setan turned his smiling regard to Spock and took up a conversation the pair had obviously begun last night. The layout of the aircar meant the two Vulcans were sitting slightly behind Kirk and while he could hear them, he couldn’t see them without turning. Setan’s lilting voice started to grate on his nerves as the archaeologist laughingly challenged the position Spock had taken in his last published scientific paper.

‘Not just a pretty face’ he found himself sarcastically thinking as Setan intelligently questioned his science officer, then chided himself at the uncharitable thought. The two Vulcans chatted easily. ‘Setan was flirting!‘ Kirk suddenly realised, and Spock...Spock didn’t seem to mind at all.

The journey to the site didn’t take long, to Kirk’s relief. He had found himself becoming more and more uncomfortable listening in on the conversation between the two Vulcans, and was glad to find himself manoeuvring the aircar to the ground a short distance from the caves.

Inside the cavernous space the air was cool, the atmosphere quiet, almost eerie. It was as if they had stepped back in time to Vulcan’s history.

Setan was indeed as knowledgeable as Spock had said he was but Kirk felt himself suppressing his irritation as the archaeologist spoke. Unlike the previous day, he found he would have preferred silence to simply look undisturbed at this window into the planet’s violent past.

When Setan stopped talking for a while Kirk took the opportunity to step away and found himself in front of an imposing painting depicting two magnificent Vulcan warriors. The image was obviously supposed to portray the two as lovers. They stood, semi-naked and entwined, one holding a sword, the other a shield.

Kirk found himself strangely drawn to it, the work of art simultaneously so at odds with the Vulcans of today yet so reflective of the strength he associated with that noble race. He looked over at Spock who was caught up in examining another painting further inside the cave, a look of total concentration on his face.

Kirk found himself watching his friend as he moved gracefully to the next painting, giving it no less attention than he had the last.

“He’s very attractive, isn’t he?”

Kirk started at the soft voice, so close to his ear he felt the breath of the speaker. He automatically took a step away before turning his head to look into Setan’s face. The Vulcan was gazing over at Spock appreciatively.

Kirk’s fist clenched as he felt the sudden urge to hit him. Setan tore his eyes away from Spock to fix them on the man next to him instead. “Don’t you think so, Captain?”

“What?” Kirk blurted out. “No...I mean... well, yes, but...” He broke off, feeling uncharacteristically unnerved, and took a deep breath to calm himself before continuing. “Spock’s my friend, Setan,” he said pointedly looking at this other man who also claimed that title. “I don’t think of him in that way.”

Setan simply gave him one of his easy grins. “Really?” he asked. “Are you sure about that?” He leaned in close and raised his eyebrows suggestively. “You know, if you don’t want him, there are plenty of others who do.”

With that he walked off towards Spock, throwing a smile over his shoulder as Kirk stood rooted to the spot, strangely caught between fury and an almost hysterical urge to laugh at the surreal situation.

~*~*~*~

The conversation played on Kirk’s mind into the following day, as the end of the conference, and so the end of their stay on Vulcan, drew closer. It couldn’t come soon enough for him. He had appreciated the chance to get to know Spock’s parents better but now he wanted nothing more than to get back to the familiar surroundings of the ship, and away from Setan. He couldn’t for the life of him understand what someone as gentle and sensitive as Spock could see in that arrogant, infuriating Vulcan.

The ship’s senior officers were to attend the end of conference banquet that evening. Kirk sighed. He really wasn’t in the mood for playing nice with a load of diplomats but non-attendance wasn’t an option, so when the time came he dutifully scrubbed up and donned his dress uniform.

Sarek and Amanda went on ahead and when the three Starfleet officers arrived, the banqueting hall was already teeming full of representatives from virtually every planet encompassed by the Federation.

Spock was almost immediately drawn aside into an animated discussion about a recent hotly debated scientific paper and Kirk and McCoy carried on deeper into the crowd.

Kirk felt his mood lift a little as he surveyed the room. This was what it was all about - all these races, so different and yet able to rejoice in those differences and work together. At that moment his eyes came to rest on a group of Tellarites who appeared to be arguing vociferously amongst themselves. ‘Well, most of the time anyway,’ he internally qualified his previous thought with an amused shrug.

The amusement wore off abruptly as he spotted Setan across the room, amiably chatting with Amanda. “Oh get a grip, JT,” he muttered to himself as he felt an immediate rush of disquiet, causing McCoy to turn towards him.

“What was that, Jim? I didn’t quite catch it,” the doctor asked, his gaze easily following Kirk’s across the room, perfectly well aware of the source of the captain’s recent bad mood.

“Nothing,” Kirk said shortly, “I just don’t like him, and why’s he here anyway?”

McCoy didn’t need to ask who Kirk was talking about. “Well now, Jim,” he said, his Southern drawl in full effect, “it’s the prerogative of the hosting ambassador and his wife to invite whoever they want to these things. And I find him perfectly pleasant, certainly less irritating than some I could mention.” He fixed his perceptive gaze on the captain. “Just what exactly is it you don’t like about him?” he asked.

Kirk grimaced but remained silent so McCoy carried on speaking, not waiting for an answer. “Well, lets see. He’s confident, some might even accuse him of being arrogant, he follows his own path, breaks the rules if need be. He flirts with everything in sight...”

Kirk looked sharply at the doctor, who was gazing at him with his eyebrows raised and an amused smile on his lips. “That’s not even remotely funny, Bones,” he said, the warning tone clear in his voice as he turned to walk away. “I’m going to get a drink.”

The doctor sighed. “Well, that went well,” he muttered to himself. He could already feel it was going to be a long night, and just to top it all off he could swear the collar on this blasted dress uniform tunic was even more uncomfortable than the last time he’d been forced to put it on. He headed off into the crowd to try to find Scotty and Uhura, who would be around somewhere.

As Kirk plastered a smile on his face and went off to mingle and make polite conversation, Spock was wondering how best to extricate himself from the discussion he’d been drawn into, which was rapidly descending into a highly illogical argument.

“Excuse me, ladies and gentleman, might I borrow Mr. Spock for a moment?” Setan appeared at Spock’s side as if by magic and drew him away, smiling as his friend shot him a look of gratitude. “You looked like you might need rescuing,” he whispered as the pair made their way to a quieter corner of the room.

“The conversation was not one I had any desire to prolong,” Spock acknowledged. “The Quellan ambassador’s belief that quantum singularities do not exist was an illogical premise on which to base a debate, since they do in fact exist...but that did not seem to dissuade the Mauridan delegate from attempting to initiate such a debate.”

Setan chuckled, “I can see why you were looking so desperate to escape,” he said, prompting Spock to raise an affronted eyebrow.

“Oh stop it,” Setan laughed. “You know I know you well enough to read that much.“ He tilted his head to one side and regarded his friend with interest as Spock gave his little half smile and acknowledged the truth of the statement with an almost imperceptible nod.

“Speaking of which,” Setan said, keeping his voice low, “what’s with you and your friend the captain?”

Spock looked at him sharply. “I don’t understand,” he said. “To what are you referring?”

“I mean,” Setan said with exaggerated patience, “when are you going to tell him you’re in love with him?”

Spock stared at his friend, the shock briefly written all over his face, before he quickly pulled his control around himself, schooling his face into its usual impassive mask as he quickly looked around to ensure the comment had not been overheard. No-one was near them.

“Setan,” he hissed, “why would you think such a thing?”

“Well,” his friend replied, looking thoughtful, “there’s the way you never fail to mention him when you write, the fact that you dropped his name into conversation no less than 12 times when we were at dinner.” He looked pointedly at Spock, his expression betraying his amusement as he watched the normally unflappable Starfleet officer consciously trying to keep his jaw from dropping. “Not to mention,” he added casually, “that you’ve been flaunting your relationship with me in his face since that first night at dinner.”

Spock could feel his face getting hot and willed the reaction down. “Setan, if you mean to suggest I have been somehow ‘using’ you...”

“Spock,” Setan interrupted, laughing. “I’m not saying for a minute you would consciously do that, but you’ve made no efforts to tell me off for flirting with you like you usually would, you’ve directed attention at me when it’s clear from Kirk’s reaction that he’s pretty used to having that attention to himself, and when we went to the caves - it was obvious he wasn’t expecting me to turn up and he was none too happy about it. Why didn’t you tell him I would be there?”

“I...” Spock began, then immediately stopped, for once having no idea what he was going to say. He swallowed and opened his mouth to start again. “You are mistaken, Setan. Even if I did,” he searched for the right word, unnerved by the unexpected course the conversation had taken, “‘care’ for Jim in such a manner, it is not a regard he would return. He is heterosexual. It would therefore serve no purpose for me to behave in the way you describe.”

Setan leaned in close. “Are you certain about that, Spock?” he asked quietly. “I’m pretty sure that man can’t stand the sight of me and if all he felt for you was friendship then why should me being around bother him so much?” He pulled back and reached out his hand to gently lift Spock’s chin so the other looked at him. “Just think about it, my friend,” he said before turning and walking off into the crowd.

Across the room Kirk spotted the gesture and glared furiously into his drink.

~*~*~*~

As the three Starfleet officers bade farewell to Sarek and Amanda and prepared to return to the ship, McCoy studied his two friends closely. The pair of them had been unusually quiet both at last night’s banquet and that morning and, even more unusually, they seemed to be avoiding looking at each other. ‘Oh well,’ he sighed to himself. ‘Jim would talk about it when he was good and ready and Spock, well, he would talk to Jim about it when he was good and ready, or’, the doctor acknowledged with a surge of fondness for his two closest friends, ‘when Jim made damn sure he talked about it’.

He smiled as he turned towards their hosts. “Amanda,” he said, with a slight bow, his charm in full force, “it’s been a pleasure.”

Amanda returned the smile as she took the doctor’s hand, “Leonard, the pleasure has been all ours, and you are always welcome in our home.”

Sarek gave a slight nod of agreement as he raised his hand in the Vulcan salute and spoke the traditional words. McCoy tried to return the gesture and gave a bashful grin as, once again, his fingers refused to co-operate. Amanda laughed and McCoy’s eyes widened in surprise as he thought he saw a brief flicker of amusement pass over Sarek’s face.

As Kirk said his own goodbyes Spock watched him. The Vulcan’s face was as outwardly impassive as it ever was, but inside his thoughts were whirling. He had been unable to sleep or reach the levels of calm required to meditate the night before. Setan’s words kept echoing in his mind.

It was as if a door to his own subconscious thoughts had suddenly been opened and he was forced to examine his own actions, to look back on his friendship with his captain and the way he had been reacting to him since his Pon Farr, since that terrible moment when Kirk had lain lifeless on the hot sands of this desert world, and then the incredible realisation that his friend lived still. Or, he made himself confront the truth, maybe even before. How had he been so blind?

Shame washed over him and he closed his eyes for a moment as he fiercely forced his controls into place before turning to bid his parents farewell.

Was it his imagination or did he see a look of knowing compassion in Amanda’s eyes as he allowed her brief embrace?

“Remember,” she whispered as she squeezed his arm, “‘feeling’ is not a dirty word.”

Spock swallowed and gave a slight nod as he turned to his father, his hand raised in the Vulcan salute, the words required automatically leaving his lips, then joined his shipmates as Kirk hailed the Enterprise.

~*~*~*~

Kirk and Spock headed straight for the bridge and the captain could feel the uneasy nature of the silence between them, so different from their usual easy companionship.

As they stood side by side in the turbolift, Kirk reflected on possible reasons why Spock had barely said a word to him since the banquet and seemed unable to meet his eyes. He mentally kicked himself. Spock must have picked up on his feelings about Setan, who obviously meant so much to him, and he was rightly offended.

Or, he made himself consider the possibility, had Setan said something to Spock? Hinted that maybe his feelings towards his first officer were more than just friendship? ‘Damn him if he did’, he thought. ‘What on earth must Spock think if he believed his captain was lusting after him?’

He’d never even considered his friend as a sexual being before this visit to Vulcan. Even the Pon Farr had seemed so alien to him, so different to human sexuality, that it hadn’t crossed his mind that Spock might have physical needs outside of that time.

And he’d spoken the truth when he told Setan he had never thought of Spock in that way. He didn’t really think of any males in that way, well not any more, at any rate. He’d experimented in his younger days, sure, but that’s all it was, experimentation. It had been over a decade ago and he hadn’t ever gone beyond a quick fumble, some mutual jerking off. ‘It would be more than that with Spock’, the thought flashed unbidden across his mind and his eyes widened. ‘What the hell is wrong with me?’ he thought to himself.

Spock stared directly ahead. He sensed his companion’s discomfort but his normally ordered thoughts were in turmoil. He didn’t trust himself to speak. He found he didn’t even want to look at the captain, felt sure his face would betray him.

Kirk’s thoughts kept returning to that moment in the cave and Setan’s words. Of course other people would want Spock. Why wouldn’t they? He swallowed as he flashed a quick look at his first officer. ‘Had he and Setan...?’ Kirk pushed the thought aside. As he’d told Bones, Spock’s personal life was his own business. He had no right to interfere in any relationship Spock might choose to pursue, no right to be jealous of his friend’s time and attention. But he couldn’t help the feeling of dismay that washed over him every time he remembered Setan touching his normally untouchable first officer the previous evening.

The turbolift doors opened and, with relief, Kirk strode out towards the captain’s chair. He determinedly put his previous thoughts aside. There was a time and a place, and on duty and on the bridge were neither. He needed to catch up on ship’s business and make sure the returning diplomats were adequately catered for. He would speak to Spock later, clear up the problem, whatever it was, and everything would go back to normal between them.

~*~*~*~

At the end of his shift Kirk headed towards sickbay. Normally he would have sought out Spock. It had become their habit, when duty permitted, and their shifts were over, to meet in one or other of their quarters to play chess, or simply to talk. But he felt too discomfited to do that right now; he needed to clear his head, first. Spock may well have been feeling something similar, as he’d taken the first opportunity that had presented itself to leave the bridge to spend the rest of his shift in the science lab.

The door to sickbay slid open as he approached it. There was no sign of McCoy so Kirk headed towards his office.

The doctor looked up as he came in and, grateful for the break from catching up on his paperwork, switched off the terminal in front of him. “Jim,” he said in greeting, immediately gathering that the captain had decided he was ready to talk about what was bothering him. “What can I do for you?”

Kirk gave a short laugh as he sat down opposite the doctor. “Am I that obvious, Bones?” he asked as McCoy poured him a glass of brandy.

The doctor smiled back. “Only to your kindly, friendly doctor.”

Kirk sighed as he took the glass McCoy held towards him. He didn’t speak, just stared into the amber liquid, aware of the doctor’s curious eyes on him.

“So,” McCoy said, “what’s on your mind, Jim?”

The captain let out a deep sigh. “That’s just it, Bones, I’m not entirely sure.” The doctor kept quiet, waiting for his friend to continue.

Kirk shifted uncomfortably in his chair, “It’s Setan,” he started then immediately stopped, unsure how to continue.

“Uh, huh,” was all the doctor said in response, his keen blue eyes fixed on the man opposite him.

“I guess you were right before, Bones,” Kirk continued, still staring into his drink, “when you said I was jealous. I was but I have no idea why. I’m not the jealous type, never have been, and there’s no reason why I should resent Spock feeling friendship, or anything else for that matter, for Setan.” He gave a snort of frustration. “It’s just ridiculous, and now Spock seems to be avoiding me and I have no idea why!”

The doctor considered his words carefully. “Jim, you and Spock are as close as any two people I’ve ever known.“ He paused as Kirk looked up to meet his eyes and made a decision to just say what he had to say, the question that had flitted across his mind several times during their stay on Vulcan. “Are you sure you don’t feel more for him than friendship?” he asked quickly, before he could chicken out.

Kirk started as he felt himself blush. He gaped at the doctor, open mouthed, for a long moment before letting out a startled laugh. “What?” was all he could manage to say.

It was the doctor’s turn to shift uncomfortably in his seat. This was one conversation he had never, in his wildest dreams, imagined he’d be having with this man. “Well, Jim,” he continued, “it’s the way you reacted to Spock spending time with Setan.” He swallowed as he took in Kirk’s incredulous expression, but decided to plough on, despite the utterly bizarre turn this conversation was taking. “It didn’t seem to me like the reaction of someone who was just feeling friendship, that’s all,” he finished firmly.

Kirk stared at him in shock. “Bones, that’s ridiculous. I’ve never..” he stopped, not wanting to outright lie to his friend. “I mean, I, well...have I ever so much as looked at another male in all the time you‘ve known me?”

McCoy looked at him steadfastly. “Not other than Spock, no,” he said.

Kirk jumped to his feet and paced over towards the doctor’s medicine cabinet. He turned and looked piercingly at the doctor. “What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked. “You’ve seen my psyche profile, you know I’m only attracted to women.” This was going from the bizarre to the surreal. It was the second time in as many days that he’d been accused of having feelings other than friendship for Spock.

McCoy met his gaze. “I know nothing of the sort, Jim,” he said and watched Kirk’s face as the words sank in.

~*~*~*~

Kirk left sickbay in a daze. The visit to the doctor had done nothing to help clear his mind. He thought back to what McCoy had said before he left, that his psyche profile left no doubt that he was perfectly capable of responding sexually to a male or a female and that, in fact, his profile showed he leant more towards homosexuality than heterosexuality.

His protests had been stalled when the doctor had held up his hand. “Look Jim,” he’d said, “if you want my professional opinion, you’ve deliberately avoided relationships that might last more than five minutes because you’ve always considered yourself married to your career, to this ship. The subconscious is a funny thing; maybe you chose women because you knew it was less likely your interest would be sustainable, but it doesn’t have to be that way.” His final words rang in Kirk’s ears. “I think you need to have a little talk with our resident Vulcan, Jim, don’t you?” he’d said sweetly, before practically pushing him out of sickbay.

Kirk needed time to think, to be alone, and made his way back to his cabin. He felt numb. ‘Could Bones be right? Did he feel more for Spock than friendship?’ He flung himself impatiently on his bunk. This was utterly ridiculous. He’d been with women from far and wide. He had a reputation and he happily lived up to it. It was rarely more than a quick fling, but that was a captain’s lot. It was that or do what his father did and leave his family and face the dangers of space, and he didn’t want to put any woman through what his mother had gone through.

There had never been anyone he had chosen over his ship. As that thought occurred to him a memory immediately contradicted it. ‘He’s saved my life a dozen times over, surely that’s worth a career?’. He heard the words he’d spoken to McCoy echo in his ears. He had chosen someone over his career. More than that, he’d been willing to give his life for that person, would do it again. Suddenly he wanted nothing more than to talk to Spock. It didn’t matter if his love was platonic or if it was something else. He needed him in his life and he needed to know what was troubling his friend

He found himself standing outside Spock’s cabin and paused, all of a sudden nervous. Before he had time to collect himself, the door slid open.

Spock looked up at his captain from where he was seated at his desk. He’d known somehow that his friend was there, outside the door, and there was no gain to be had in trying to postpone this meeting, much as he might want to. He tried to school the misery inside him. He’d found no way to sort through the unfamiliar emotions Setan’s words of the previous evening had prompted; wasn’t sure if he would ever be able to. He loved Jim, that was now painfully clear to him but, despite what Setan had said, he was under no illusions that his regard would be returned.

Jim had never shown any indication he could be attracted to males, quite the opposite, and he, despite the illogic of such a thought, wished he had never been forced to confront his own feelings. He could have stayed by this man’s side, basking in his friendship, never knowing he wanted more. Now Jim was here, standing in his quarters, and he had no idea what he might be about to say, but knew, without knowing how he knew, that it was to do with the source of tension that had arisen between them.

Did Jim know how he felt? Had he come to ‘let him down gently’, to inform him that he could never feel the same way? Or had his actions on Vulcan led Jim to believe his own affections lay elsewhere, that the friendship he shared with Jim was not the precious, unique relationship it was? He could not decide which of these unpalatable options was worse.

Kirk had stepped into his first officer’s cabin and the door had slid shut behind him. His eyes fixed on Spock, who seemed to have developed a sudden fascination with the empty desk in front of him. He cleared his throat. Spock must be upset if he couldn’t even look at him.

“Spock,” he began, “I think I owe you an apology.” Spock looked up at his words and he saw confusion in the dark eyes, confusion and an undoubted misery that made his insides turn over.

He moved towards the desk at the same moment as Spock stood and moved to one side. The Vulcan clasped his hands behind his back, clamping down on the emotions he knew were all too apparent on his face.

“Indeed not, Captain,” he said staring at some point in the middle distance. “You have done nothing for which you need apologise. “It is I...”

Kirk felt a flash of anger at himself and he thumped the desk in front of him, causing the Vulcan to wince as he abruptly stopped speaking.

“No! Spock, listen,” Kirk continued, forcing himself to calm down. “I was jealous of you and Setan and I had no right to be. I didn’t know...” He took a deep breath, realising he was in danger of making no sense whatsoever and acutely aware that Spock’s gaze had now come to rest on him. “What I’m trying to say is, I know I have no right to want you to myself and no right to stand in the way of your friendships, or relationships, with others.”

Spock stared at him as Kirk dropped his gaze to the floor. “You were jealous?” he said, his voice no more than a whisper. ‘He couldn’t mean...?’ He felt a small flicker of hope rising inside him. He took a step towards his friend.

“Jim?” Kirk looked up, his eyes full of an unspoken plea, as Spock continued, “Jim, Setan and I are friends, nothing more.” He felt shame once more rising within him but forced himself to continue. Whatever the outcome of this conversation he could not allow his friend to think he had been in the wrong. “It is Setan’s belief, and I have come to the conclusion he is correct, that I subconsciously encouraged you to think otherwise because of my regard for you.”

Kirk stared at the Vulcan in amazement. “You wanted me to be jealous?”

Spock nodded tersely before once again staring at his boots. He looked up sharply as Kirk made a peculiar strangulated sound.

Kirk began to laugh hysterically, clutching at his stomach as he tried, and failed, to speak, and Spock’s look of confusion didn’t help.

“Jim, I fail to see the humour...”, he began.

Kirk, if it was possible, laughed even harder at the bemusement on his friend’s face. “Oh God, Spock,” he finally managed to get out, “what a pair of idiots.” He wiped tears of laughter from his eyes as he stepped forward and reached out to grasp Spock’s upper arms. He gave him a little shake as he looked into the soft brown eyes, still radiating confusion. “I love you, you know. I love you so much.”

Spock felt himself start to tremble. Hesitantly he reached out to gently touch the face of the man he so cherished, not quite believing this was happening.

Kirk closed his eyes, letting his arms drop back to his side, and leant into the touch. Spock dared to move his hand up to stroke his captain’s soft golden hair, allowed his fingers to caress the rounded edge of an ear, the skin of his neck. He could barely remain standing; the tremors that possessed his body were threatening to overwhelm him, every cell of his body feeling hyperaware as his fingers continued to explore, moving to trace the curve of an eyebrow, to brush along the slightly parted lips.

Kirk swayed slightly under the gentle ministrations. He could feel his body responding, his breath was getting quicker, his heart racing. ’Good God,’ he thought, ‘if he can do this to me just by touching my face...how did I ever imagine I couldn’t feel this for him?’ Opening his eyes, he stepped forward and reached out to Spock again, this time pulling him close.

Their faces were inches apart. Kirk reached to cradle the back of Spock’s head as he met his eyes, “I love you,” he repeated as he pulled the Vulcan’s willing head down towards his own.

Their lips met and Spock was overwhelmed by a feeling like no other in his experience. As Kirk’s mouth opened against his own he found himself pushing his body as close to the Human’s as he possibly could. He grasped at the rounded buttocks, pulling Kirk’s straining sex hard against his own.

Kirk felt an unutterable thrill pass through his body at the feeling of Spock’s hardness. This was his first officer, his calm, imperturbable, unflappable Vulcan first officer. He felt a sudden urge to laugh out loud at the joy of it all, the indescribable feeling of being in the arms of the one he loved more than anything in the universe, of knowing that he was the cause of Spock’s desire, that he alone was permitted to witness him like this.

The urge to laugh abruptly vanished in a rush of passion as he felt a searching hand slip down the back of his pants, caressing his bare skin. He groaned and started gently urging Spock in the vague direction of the bed. He dimly registered that the process would be easier if he broke away but found he wasn’t willing to relinquish his grip on his so precious friend, even for a moment.

Spock seemed to understand his intention and started shifting backwards, taking Kirk with him. They didn’t stop kissing for a second, breathing raggedly into each other’s mouths as their tongues eagerly met and explored. When he felt his legs touch the bed he allowed himself to fall backwards, pulling Kirk down on top of him.

Kirk moved his attentions to Spock’s neck, nibbling and kissing as he pushed his hand up under the blue tunic, suddenly needing more than anything to feel his skin.

Spock gasped as Kirk found a nipple and squeezed. He arched his body upwards in desire, for once thinking of nothing but the pleasure of the moment.

“Jim,” he heard himself gasp as if from a long way away. He pulled at Kirk’s uniform tunic, impatient to feel the cooler Human flesh against his own.

Kirk was more than happy to oblige and he sat up, pulling in a sharp breath at the feel of Spock’s erection against his buttocks. He grasped the bottom of his gold tunic and pulled it over his head in one smooth move.

He smiled down at Spock and grabbed an arm to pull him up into a sitting position. “Now you,” he whispered, reaching out to the hem of the blue tunic and pulling it off to reveal the tight, black undershirt his first officer habitually wore. Kirk ran his hands over the material, enjoying the feel of the well muscled chest.

“I love the way you look wearing this,” he said, realising the words were true only as he said them. “I’ve always loved the way you look,” he said in wonderment. “I don’t know how I ever didn’t know how I feel about you.”

Spock pulled him closer and laid his head alongside Kirk’s . He seemed to have lost the ability to speak so he busied himself instead in pressing kisses on the smooth neck, stroking the soft skin of Kirk’s back.

Kirk let his head fall back, moaning in delight at the tingles running through him as Spock explored his body with his hands and his oh so wonderful mouth. “Oh, God, Spock,” he groaned. It was too much, yet at the same time, not enough.

He pulled Spock’s undershirt off and pushed him back down onto the bed. Spock’s hair was mussed, his eyes alight with passion and his lips swollen with kisses. He looked utterly irresistible and Kirk couldn’t wait any longer. He moved off the bed, and, standing a little unsteadily, pulled off his boots and his pants, his eyes never leaving his companion’s as he stripped down to his black briefs.

Spock gazed up at him in awe, his eyes filled with desire as Kirk moved to kneel between his legs and reached down to the waistband of his pants. Spock lifted his hips to allow Kirk to pull them down, watched as he was divested of the pants and his boots and socks. He shivered as Kirk paused to kiss one shapely toe before slowly running his hands up his legs as he moved up the bed.

Spock moaned as he ran his hand over the bulge straining against the Vulcan’ underwear. He hooked his thumbs into the waistband and looked up, silently asking permission.

Spock reached out and gently caressed the side of his face, the unguarded smile that curved the Vulcan’s lips sending his heart soaring in a way he hadn’t thought possible.

He gently eased the material down over Spock’s penis and paused as he caught his breath. “Oh God, Spock, you’re beautiful,” he whispered and was caught by surprise when strong arms suddenly reached up and pulled him down.

He gasped as their bodies met skin to skin for the first time. The sensation was overwhelming. They were kissing passionately as their hands roamed all over each other, grasping desperately in mindless desire.

Spock pulled impatiently at Kirk’s underwear and they both moved to discard their briefs as quickly as possible before embracing again. The Human moaned into the open mouth against his own as he felt the hot hand close around his erection. “Yes, oh, Spock, yes.” The Vulcan anchored their already slippery shafts together and they began to thrust against each other. Kirk felt the warning pressure building inside him and knew he wouldn‘t be able to last much longer. “Spock, I can’t, I..” he panted. Spock seemed to understand immediately and Kirk suddenly felt himself flipped over by the strong arms and Spock was looking down at him, his eyes dark with passion and need.

Spock’s gazed up at him as he slid down his body. Kirk stared, his eyes wide at the most erotic sight he’d ever seen. His always so proper first officer was taking his straining cock into his mouth and the mere thought, let alone the sensation of it, was almost enough to make him come there and then.

“Oh God, oh God, oh God,” he found himself saying as the hotter than human mouth welcomed him in, the clever tongue taking him to levels of ecstasy he hadn’t thought possible.

He buried his hands in Spock’s silky hair and couldn’t stop himself from thrusting upwards. Spock didn’t pull back, but seemed to try to suck him in deeper. It tipped Kirk over the edge and he was coming and coming and coming, spurting his seed deep into his lover’s throat, vaguely aware he was shouting Spock’s name with each pulse of his sex.

As he slowly came back to reality he reached out and pulled the warm body towards him. He tasted his own seed in Spock’s mouth as he kissed him.

He felt Spock’s still urgent arousal against his hip and reached down to wrap his hand around the straining erection. Spock immediately thrust into his fist. Kirk tightened his grip and looked up at him.

Spock’s eyes were screwed shut, his lips slightly parted, lost in desire. He blindly lowered his head to reach again for his lover’s lips, thrusting his tongue against Kirk’s as he thrust his penis into his hand. A tremor ran through his body and he groaned again and again into Kirk’s mouth as his seed pulsed out into his lover’s hand.

He collapsed into Kirk’s arms and the two of them lay pressed together, sated and content. He rubbed his face sleepily against Kirk’s chest and Kirk responded by dropping a tender kiss on to his lover’s head. There would be time for words later, for now this tender embrace was all either wanted.

~*~*~*~

They drifted off to sleep, wrapped around each other with a comfort and ease that made it seem as though they had never slept in any other way. And out among the stars, the being that had called itself Setan in their reality glowed in satisfaction as the love and tenderness on which it thrived surrounded it.

As it moved away, the being pulled gently at the tendrils of memory it had created in order to achieve its purpose. They would remember only what they needed to - the slow awareness of the feelings both had hidden from themselves as they had from each other.

That lonely little boy on Vulcan might never have had the friend he so fervently dreamed of in his childhood, but the adult had found him among the stars, a kindred spirit whose own path need no longer be followed alone, and that was enough for both of them; it always would be.

The being pulsed brightly with the joy it felt at another job well done. Sometimes all true love needed was a little push.

FIN

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