• Rating: NC-17
  • Classification: m/m
  • Spoilers:Oh come on now.  Well, okay, I guess there are people too YOUNG to have seen all the episodes...  "Amok Time" is spoiled herein, maybe a few others.
  • Keywords:Kirk.  Spock. Whips.Chains.
  • Summary: Kirk gets an ultimatum.
  • Warnings: Extended foreplay.
  • Disclaimer: Don't own 'em.  Wouldn't want to.  Leave them all free and happy in the wild where they belong.
  • Dedication: To Vera, my first beta reader, surely the kindest beta reader in the universe and yet one of the most keen-sighted.  Who said I should post it anyway.  And painstakingly scanned every typewritten page into her computer so I could.
  • And to Terry, who's known me this long!  Even longer.  And still speaks to me!
  • Start date:  oh boy.  198....7?
  • Feedback:   mog@pacific.net

    Go To Part 1 2 3

Intreat Me Not to Leave Thee

by C.M. Decarnin

 

Part 1: A Declaration in Form


 

A Word of Explanation...

This story was begun way back in the 80s, when slash was pubbed in paper zines.  There was high controversy just then over S/M content in slash. Many zines refused to accept any story with violence, non-consensual sex, etc.

Nurtured up as I was on the Star Trek Action Group stories out of Scotland and other heavily S/M oriented old slash, I felt that by denying S/M, slash would be denying its roots.  Having finally gotten charged up enough to write a story of my own, I wanted to write one packed with S/M politics.  I rented an IBM Selectric (for those who snuck in under the tent, I'm talking about a typewriter -- sort of like a computer keyboard hooked directly to a printer, bypassing RAM, ROM, and monitor).  When I had about 90 single-spaced pages, I sent them off to Kathleen Resch.  She explained that she wanted to publish it, but had an honorable policy of not torturing readers with "to be continued" stories; so she couldn't publish it until it was done.  I, on the other hand, had cherished this vision of getting responses to the first three parts, and using those to springboard the rest, addressing any issues readers might have raised.

This probably never would have actually happened.  In those days, feedback was hard to come by -- everything being done by U.S. mail, not the Internet. But it was my fond underlying plan.

Still, I figured I could finish the story without it.

Time passed.

This story would now only raise controversy inside a few benighted religious cults and Hollywood law firms; sometimes, change is good.  It's still not done.  It never got any further than those original 90 pages (and a couple fragmentary scenes intended to hook on later).  But, the time has come for it to get its butt off the shelf and get read.  Who knows -- maybe once the next Highlander story is done, and the X-Files story is done and the Sentinel story is done...


 

Captain James Kirk's mind was on chess, as he left the Bridge.  He was thinking about the way Spock's long fingers caressed the tall pieces.  Not actually caressed, probably no Vulcan would ever caress anything, perhaps not even a lover, if Vulcans could be said to have "lovers" as opposed to mere mates.  (Could they?  What human knew?  Spock's mother, perhaps.)  But the way Spock touched anything was almost a caress, so attentive, deliberate, touches instinct with curiosity and respect.  He had suddenly noticed it some weeks back, when Spock had accepted a queen sacrifice and reached, imperturbably, to enfold her length in those slender fingers and carry her away, dropping his own erect black bishop in her place.

Kirk's mind had been focused on the move, willing it.  And somehow, in the moment of capture, he had, triumphant, felt himself the regal prize borne away in Spock's hand.  Hot, it would be, hot, firm but velvet-soft to be clasped in that human-Vulcan hold, the grip controlled, inexorable around the royal prisoner.

Any struggle would press him against that alien, engulfing heat, flesh exquisitely tender, irresistible muscularity -- himself the cold stiff brittle piece, unyielding, unable to move, carried away in his surround of Spock's warmth, silken skin, and strength.  His utilitarian plastic in this intense coccoon about to metamorphose into --

Spock set down Kirk's queen and had fixed his eyes on the Captain's face with a look of peculiar, self-absorbed inquiry.  Plummeted from his moment of fantasy, Kirk realized his outstretched leg had indeed touched Spock's under the table.  He moved it away and returned his attention to the board: he had Spock now, even if he stubbornly refused to resign.  Spock had been illogically persistent in playing all games through to the end, lately.

"Check."

And Spock's knight descended on it out of nowhere as Kirk fell back with a half laugh, half cry of anguish, unbelieving, seeing too late -- through his dramatics Spock's calm, uninflected conclusion:

"Mate."

He still couldn't believe he hadn't seen that one coming.  All this time and he still kept trying to work out a way around it.  If he had shifted his queen's rook's pawn first....

They had played many games since, but that one kept coming back to him.  How could he have missed something so obvious?  It had even fleeted across his thoughts that this might be a sign (but not so soon!  He was only -- well, he wasn't old.) of a loss -- tiny, but real -- of mental powers.  Not that it worried him on any serious level, of course.  But supposing it hadn't been chess.  Supposing it had been combat, or diplomacy, and he had missed something that vital?  It had never happened.  It had never occurred to him that it could.  He had good reason to trust his own mind, he assumed it would function efficiently, accurately, at speed.  And most of the time he had the crew and computers of the Enterprise to back him up, and wasn't playing against Spock, but with him.  And he did win a proportion of their nearly nightly games, the same as always.  It didn't really bother him, he just kept reverting to it every now and then and dammit, trying to win!  Win that already lost game. He'd even toyed with the idea of asking Spock to do it again, he remembered the positions perfectly, they could set it up, at the moment of Spock's taking his queen; heck, he'd give him that, and then try to find the right moves.

But somehow he hadn't brought himself to make the request. It looked foolish to care about such a little thing, losing a game.  And he didn't care all that much.  But it was as if there were something, something in that game that still eluded him.  Half the time, once you did remember those elusive things, they turned out to be incredibly trivial.  Still, it nagged at him.

He was on his way now to their game, in Spock's quarters.  As usual after dinner he'd drifted back to the everlasting lure of the Bridge.  Maybe he should just ask Spock, to get the thing out of his mind.

Spock had long since arranged non-emergency override keyed to his Captain's voice, so that his door was never locked to Kirk.  When there was no reply from within, Kirk entered, sure he wouldn't have long to wait.  To call Spock "prompt" was almost to indulge in sarcasm.  A glance at the chronometer showed that he himself was -- as Spock would put it -- seven point six two five minutes early.

He glanced into the bedroom and to his surprise saw that it had been left in a certain disorder.  Spock would have had to be interrupted by something fairly urgent to leave magazines strewn on the bed -- technical journals, probably -- and his video screen glowing through the dimmed lights.  It had been frozen on a scene of mounted figures, but not turned all the way off. Lured, Kirk hesitated.  Friendship with Spock, however real, did not imply intimacy.  At McCoy's door he'd never have paused, expected and invited as he was.  And it was odd really, since those things one thought of as requiring privacy, those secrets every human being cherished (shared, unbeknownst, with only a couple of billion other like-minded souls), were far more likely to shelter behind the cantankerous country-doctor facade than in the repose of the Vulcan mind.  Odd too, when you thought of it, that the comparatively loud, extraverted, revealing emotional expression of humans could hide such strangeness, at times, such perversity, fears, desires, while in his evident reserve, his calm and silence, the Vulcan was an open book.  In his views, his affinities, his distastes, nothing was made a secret, and secretiveness was as unimaginable in Spock as any rowdiness or vulgarity could be.

And still he hung at the door, trying to make out the figures on the video screen.

They looked very like mounted Vulcan warriors of the Pre-Reform era, signaling a S'kanderai film, the peculiarly addictive genre that had been compared to Terran samurai and cowboy films, and, by some, to Klingon genealogy plays.  He'd developed a rapacious appetite for the things over the past few years.  Spock wasn't an aficionado, and if he had one on his screen it might very well be a rare find he was having subtitled for Kirk by the computer.  He could make out the distinctive flared-shoulder silhouette of period costumes, but it almost looked as though the warriors were mounted on horses -- which would be a bizarre anachronism indeed.

Perhaps Spock had left a note on the recorder?

It was ridiculous to hover here, wondering.  He stepped into the room that was, almost, Spock, the place he felt he wasn't allowed to be without permission.  He smiled.  Spock would never object to his presence.  On one level, he knew that.  If he felt as guilty as a child sneaking toward the cookie jar, it was only an aspect of his own impalpable shyness in the Vulcan's presence -- or, apparently, absence.  It was nothing that anyone would ever notice.  He didn't notice it himself, most of the time.  But at odd moments it came over him: the little he knew about this close -- yes, closest -- friend, his helplessness to understand to just what extent Spock welcomed his company, how far his blunt, unimpassioned statements of enjoyment, so like sensor reports of a distant world's climate, were to be trusted.  Twenty times a day he might remind himself that Vulcans do not lie, that even those social lies that in so many human cultures "don't count" were to Spock foreign and unnecessary.  And twenty times he would find in himself that slight hesitation, that tiny doubt as he approached him.  Am I welcome?  Would he rather be alone? Do I encroach too often on his privacy?  Where are the limits?  Perhaps it was this more than any other feeling that kept others at a distance from the Vulcan, Kirk thought. After so many years of communication he was always startled to hear some crewmember remark on Spock's inscrutability, or expressionlessness.  He, now, read much in subtle nuances of tone and demeanor and it was hard to believe that what was so visible to him didn't exist for others.  Yet he too met a barrier, beyond which he had no comprehension of the Vulcan's being. What did friendship *feel* like to a Vulcan?  Sometimes it seemed he had groped in the dark for years, encountering here and there another tiny nub on the shape of what Spock was.  The blind men and the elephant.  How would I describe a Vulcan ... ?

He hoped no one ever asked him to try.

Just now he was groping in the dark trying to encounter the nub that was the "play" switch of the com unit, and if anyone had asked him to describe the Vulcans on the screen, he would have said, "Off."  Ever so slightly off.

It wasn't just that they were, yes, mounted on horses.  Which, in the context of the S'kanderai, was completely inexplicable.  The costuming was correct:  hveist'hei-skin trousers, close-fitting, tough, but almost as thin as silk, the traditional S'kanderai riding wear; full bloused dark tunics, with slightly flared shoulders.  The central figure on the screen wore a wide sash of gold -- sure sign of the villain.  The heroic Vulcans generally disdained all outward show of rank, in a prefiguring of Reform ideals. Their own kashta sashes were kept locked modestly away, or, sometimes, had not yet been bestowed on them.  No, the oddness wasn't in their dress.  The shadows that fell across them, and there in the background -- trees!  Terran trees.  What on earth --?

And yet it was something more even than that.  It was their expressions -- at least, that of the gold-sashed leader.  It was -- strongly marked. Even in this action shot, where heavily concentrated acting was not so important, there was a violence to his intentness, a light in his eyes, a clenching of the teeth between open lips that was almost disturbing in its un-Vulcanness.  Vulcan actors attempted, with doubtful success, to imitate the expressiveness they believed necessary to correctly portray their violent ancestors.  Secretly Kirk thought that this, rather than any purely historical interest, was the great attraction of S'kanderai films, for the Vulcan audience as well as the human; that the emotionality they so severely repressed in themselves was -- well, titillating, on some level, viewed from safety at the distance of Art.  And the films were well-made enough to be called art, heavily researched and nearly always based on historical incidents, full of subtly-made points about honor and virtue and self-knowledge.  The best ones actually tried to present these concepts not at their current value but as they would have been perceived by the S'kanderai themselves, the warriors of that particular era and locale that, for some reason, so intrigued the Vulcan imagination.  The films were far more dignified than any counterpart in the history of human entertainment, but they did conform to a pretty standard plot formula.  Good always triumphed through Reason.  The hero's logic defeated the passion of the egoistic and sensual villain.

Kirk found the "play" button.

At his touch the Vulcans' mounts leaped forward, plunging down an incline and in among thicker trees, as hard music hit and engulfed him.  The film cut to a running figure, darting among trees, looking back over its shoulder.  The Vulcan band parted, at arm-signals from the leader, and swept on into the woods in two streams.  The runner again appeared, this time in a close up.  A human!  It was a teenage boy, glancing back over his shoulder in fear, long tangled blond hair and fluttering rags of his costume flying as he ran.  The horsemen were pursuers, then.  Kirk thought briefly of the times in human history when human "game" had been released and, for sport, chased by hunters to the death.  But how could a S'kanderai film, about Pre-Reform days, involve a human and Terra at all?  Both had been unknown to the Vulcan of that time.

The end of the chase seemed inevitable.  Madly as the boy scrambled up each leafstrewn slope, or darted between the beautiful tall trunks, no one could outrun horses forever.  Suddenly Kirk became again aware of the music behind the chase -- good god, it was Mozart!  He'd vaguely known it was Terran music, but the visual images had sucked him in so immediately that he'd all but blocked out sound.  And the stormy Twenty-Fifth Symphony had so driven the screen's action as to seem the inevitable background.  But Mozart, that most human of all human music --  The boy ran down, half falling, into a broad depression where no trees grew.  He was staggering as he ran, but pushed on; as he started up the opposite slope, the Vulcan leader crested it, and sat laughing (!) down at his prey.  The boy wheeled.  All around the ridge of the little dell the Vulcans materialized, urging their mounts closer, cutting off escape with their leering omnipotence.  The boy stumbled back, ran -- turned, turned again -- and faced back toward the leader, as the most terrible threat, despairingly.

The leader's horse plunged and backed, he sat it as though glued to the beautiful animal, his face lit with joy as he revelled in the strength and rebellion under him, participated in it even as he mastered it.  The unholy flame in his eyes leaped higher as he fixed his gaze and mind immovably on the trapped, trembling boy, and forced the horse closer to him.  His lips parted in a smile -- a smile of such spontaneity yet such cruel will that Kirk, watching, was shocked into the thought, "What an actor!  He must be one of the greatest, yet I don't recognize him --" before he became again absorbed into the world of light in the dark around him.  The boy backed precipitately, stumbling into one of the other horses, whose rider leaned down and shoved the human back into the ring.

Every way was blocked by the mounted followers. He tried to straighten himself to an attitude of defiance, shaking back the tangled cloud of golden hair whose strands still clung here and there to the sweat on his face.  He was a beautiful boy, gorgeously formed and more gorgeously costumed in the artful rags of a peasantry Earth had never known.  His tan skin glowed through the torn shirt, and as he fought for breath the rough material slipped still more revealingly down one shoulder.  Almost like --

The leader dismounted slowly, his eyes still on the boy.  The rider next to him caught up his horse's reins.  The Vulcan still smiled, as if savoring some private triumph, as he stroked his mount's neck.  His eyes were dark, narrow and shining.  The look on his face --

He stepped toward the boy.

The music had fallen.  The sound of his boots crushing the leaves became unnaturally clear.

Around the circle several other Vulcans dismounted.

The leader's slow swagger halted.  His eyes moved from the boy's face down his half-bared chest and back up.  His gloved left hand rose and touched the boy's cheek, stroking back strands of caught hair.

Kirk thought, No.

The caressing fingers fell along the back of the jawline, the throat, till the palm spread on the still-heaving chest.  The boy's eyes slid closed in an agony of dread.

It can't be.

The Vulcan's other hand came up, brushed back more hair, and swept behind the boy's neck in a grip of iron.  Deliberately the Vulcan lowered his lips onto the boy's helpless mouth.  There was a convulsive tremor through the human, then a terrified paralysis.  The Vulcan kiss claimed him more imperiously.

In Kirk white shock stopped all sensation.  An instant he only felt the disembodied tingling at odd edges of his perception that signified battle-lines of fact against disbelief.  New knowledge swamped him a fraction after:  God!  It is!  It's unheard-of, it's -- it must be the most incredibly avant-garde --  And bodily awareness tripped immediate guilt: all through his hips was warm, tight rut!  He wanted to see more, he wanted them to -- of course they wouldn't.  Already it had gone beyond scandal -- daring -- to make an artistic point, the only thing that could ever compel a Vulcan director to outrageousness.  But what, what was the human boy doing there at all?  And those horses, trees --  It wasn't making sense, but it intrigued --  And he couldn't be blamed for having a sexual reaction when he'd been taken so much by surprise.

His finger, he suddenly realized, was jammed hard down on the "stop" button of the unit.  The inhuman Vulcan strength imprisoned the boy's head, the forced kiss bruised his wide, tender mouth, weathered Vulcan harshness of feature was its own intrusion against dewy young human freshness and gold beauty.  The cruel kiss in its color hung glowing in the dark before Kirk like some eternally insoluble opposition.

Guiltily he eased his finger over to the "play" button.  He wanted to just see how they got out of this one.  Lord, Vulcan audiences must have rioted -- or rather, the wind from the flurry of lifted eyebrows must have amounted to a hurricane.

He pressed "play".

The boy wrenched aside, thrust at the Vulcan with all his young strength, and screamed.  It was a short, falling cry of such heart-rending pathos that Kirk's passion woke on an entirely different level, the hot ache of the instinct to succor.  Struggles of no avail against Vulcan speed and force, with his body already exhausted, the captive human relapsed into shuddering stillness between the viselike hands gripping his arms.  Kirk could see the swell of hard muscle on one Vulcan forearm.  It took no stretch of imagination to accept the boy's despair of escaping such overmastering power.  He was as imprisoned as if he had been enmeshed in steel.  And Kirk felt the first stir of an uneasy questioning.

Could it be -- was it possible that this scene, so perverted in every way from the standard of Vulcan decorum, was in some way more than just an act? No, it couldn't be; camera-angles, cuts, it all had to be retaken many times, in meticulous Vulcan esthetic; and even more surely, no Vulcan, let alone a whole pack of them, would lend himself to such atrocity.  But were they Vulcan?  The setting was Terran -- could they be human actors?  No. Kirk knew Vulcans as few humans did.  These were no impersonators.  The shape of a hand, the turn of a gesture -- he could not have said how he knew it, but it was a certainty.

The boy raised his damp face, and lifted his eyes, tear-blurred, in a hopeless appeal to pity.  His lips formed a word -- "--please--" -- even as his body shrank away trembling from what he knew must come.  A shiver rose from Kirk's thighs to his biceps.  The expressiveness of the boy's face -- what it would do to a Vulcan audience!  They would be squirming in real humiliation and fright at being witness to such excesses. But it was another reassurance:  only an actor could ever mirror each response to violent emotion with such limpidity of expression, and only a very good actor, at that.

The Vulcan flung the boy back and spoke a harsh command. In a flurry of one-sided struggle the Vulcan horsemen stripped away most of the boy's clothing, slashing with knives at the crude seams.  He was left with only the cloth boots bound high on his calves, and a tattered, triangular gray loin rag of the sort conventionally supposed to represent primitive underwear.  Kirk had always thought it looked damnably inconvenient.  He could see now the scene was going to go further than he could have imagined possible, before the inevitable arrival of the hero, but it was only in Vulcan terms that the progression had been shocking.  It was fairly tame by human standards.  Still it jolted him each time he was confronted by the Vulcanness of the men performing these violent actions.

Especially the leader.  His brutal smile and raking glance stripped the boy again, and more thoroughly.  The boy turned his face aside in shame, and closed his eyes involuntarily against the invasion.  The long line of his lashes was spectacular. He forced himself to look back, to lift his chin with the rags of pride, and meet the cruel eyes.

The Vulcan lowered his hands to his own waist, his thumbs opening the broad ceremonial knot of the shimmering kashta sash.  He let the gold fall loose to his sinewy hips, then unwound its full length.  For a moment he let it drape from either side of his upturned palms in a signification Kirk knew and started at.  Then he spoke -- in Federation English!  A single word:

"Come."

The Vulcan accent was thicker than Spock's.  Most were.

What in god's name would Spock think when he got this far into the tape?

The boy stood rooted, unable to move either in obedience or any futile renewal of flight.

Kirk knew enough to understand the two-word order rapped out in Vulcan:

"Bring him!"

Two of the followers thrust the boy forward roughly.

He looked stunned, as though he had finally lost all ability to comprehend what was happening to him.  He stood staring into the face of the Vulcan, who spoke again.  The boy's arms were grasped and raised before him.  He flinched and then stood alone and naked as the followers backed off.  The Vulcan laid the sash across the lifted forearms.  His black eyes held now with mesmeric intensity the eyes of the paling captive, as with slow, deliberate movements he wound the silken gold around and between the wrists, and then, in a sudden rough gesture of possession, pulled tight, and made firm the glimmering bond.

And this, Kirk knew, though he could not feel it himself, was where the Vulcan audience would have risen as one and quitted the theater.  The kashta sash!  To be polluted in such images!  The kashta that still descended generation to generation, precious, revered, worn only in the most sacred ceremonials; symbol of all that was Vulcan tradition and courtliness, badge of conservatism indeed -- the kashta that passed from the hands of its bearer only once, in permanent transfer to its heir, the greatest public gesture of love and honor a Vulcan could bestow --!  To see it used as if to drag another, and that other male, a youth, and alien, down to rape -- it was more than decency could tolerate.  Where they could have found Vulcans to play this scene Kirk couldn't conceive.  As for writing it -- no, it had to be a Terran production, written by some human who didn't understand the significance... but then, the actors --

The kashta hung long from between the human's wrists.  The boy looked near fainting. Slowly the Vulcan wrapped the reins of kashta gold around his own left fist.  With his right hand he gathered the folds of his tunic and thrust them under his trousers' thickly worked waistband.  Below was an obscenely protruding codpiece of the same soft glove-leather thinness as the black hveisth'ei -skin breeches.  The right hand fell to releasing its fastenings.  When the codpiece dropped, the broad hand lewdly massaged what it had contained.  Then, slowly, it drew aside from a brutal, huge, jade-flushed erect phallus.

Kirk had stopped breathing.  It couldn't be happening.  He couldn't take his eyes off it.  It filled the screen interminably.  He'd never seen one.  The sullen emerald engorgement, the double-rimmed head, massive rounds bulging under the broad thrust from dark, thick moss; the heaviness of writhing veins like swollen vines sucking tight on some monstrous jungle bole.  The upright weight twice capped with brilliant citrine.  The heaviness.  The thickness.  The length.  What that heavy chasing of veins must feel like entering --

The boy, as paralyzed by the revelation, suddenly lunged back, mouth open in horror.  The Vulcan yanked him savagely to his knees and before he could move jerked the bound hands up and back, behind the boy's neck and down, bending him into an excruciating arc, arching over him and thrusting the other black glove to grip in the wild tangle of blond hair, pulling still further back to admit his mouth's onslaught.  When he drew away the soft mouth was slack.  Then a breath came hard, from tortured muscles, and another -- the bruise-dark eyelids fluttered, and raised on a look of such piteous pleading as no one could have resisted.  But the Vulcan, looking into those eyes, moved his reinhand close under the neck, in support, while the right hand went to his belt-sheath.  He drew out the heavy-bladed hand-knife of Vulcan, the warrior's knife of all work, from gutting an enemy to cutting switches for a brush shelter.  He held the blade before the boy's eyes, and then, his dark stare never wavering, inserted it between the gasping lips.  The boy swallowed convulsively, open-mouthed, and his eyes took on terror.  The razor-honed knife entered further.  Then the Vulcan exerted pressure on the flat of the blade, forcing the jaw down, depressing the tongue.  The boy's breath came high and strained.  The blade slid further, must have touched the back of his mouth; they waited, the boy for death, the man for enough fear.  He began to rotate the blade, the sharp edge moving upward, the boy's mouth stretching wider to avoid it.  When it stood edge up, he withdrew it and held it again for the boy to see.  Then, casually, he drew a thread-thin line of red with it on one side of the boy's throat.

Kirk gasped.  The man was returning the knife to the sheath.  The cut was so infinitesimally fine no blood even beaded along it, but it was real.

Now while he supported the shoulders a follower was knotting the loosed tails of the kashta together a little way down, then tying each end to one of the boy's ankles, jerking it taut to keep his arms tortured back and spine arched.  The Vulcan moved swiftly into him, boots straddling his bare knees, thighs molding along his ribcage, hands gripping behind neck and head, and broad-headed phallus forcing into, stretching and immediately glutting the gasping mouth.  The boy struggled reflexively an instant and stopped as suddenly when the grip around his head tightened, the Vulcan thumbs pressing hard in the hinge of his jaw.  Breath half cut off, already smothering, he yet remembered the lesson of the blade, and held still.  The Vulcan looked down.

"Now you will learn," he said softly

"Swallow it.  When I tell you.  Swallow it or die."  His hand moved among dishevelled blond.  "Little human scum."  He set his hips a fraction lower. "Would you like to die choked on Vulcan flesh?"  He pressed his organ further into the quiescent boy.

He can't, Kirk thought.  It's not possible.  He swallowed.  He felt as if he were trembling inside, though he sat stock-still.  How could this film have been made?  How could a Vulcan even speak such lines, let alone imbue them with such coarse lust?  Kirk's arms felt frozen to his sides, he watched as, unbelievably, the gross cock was rammed inch by inch straight down into the upturned face.  The Vulcan threw back his head, climax immediate on completion of his ensheathement, unmoving, consumed from within by satanic ecstasy.  Then he writhed, revelling, arching atop the boy in an ikon of unconditional conquest.

When the phallus emerged from the boy it was coated and glistening -- and still hard.  Even as the bruised lips left it, a gout of clear mucus covered the tip, and dribbled down over the swollen olive veins, with more gushing out above, the secretions increasing when the Vulcan brought his fist to slick down the glutinous length.  The boy had sunk back on his ankles, the slack in the kashta letting him rest his forearms against his bowed neck, easing his strain.  The back of a gloved hand caressed lightly down the side of his hidden face.  Then slid under and lifted his chin.  He was suffused with shame.

"Yes."  The Vulcan's voice fell to black velvet.  "You learn.  You live as I have pleasure in you.  Otherwise..."  A black finger traced under the red knife-line on his throat.  The Vulcan thrust his face close to the boy's. "I shall have much pleasure in you, Terran animal."  His black eyes glazing with augmented lust, he touched under the raised bare biceps, brushed along it lightly and down the cup of the armpit to the flank, making the boy shiver.  The hand slid behind his back and pulled him again up onto his knees, the other steel-strong arm shot beneath his crotch.  He was lifted, his face distorting with pain, and tipped back.  The Vulcan kneed between his legs to part them and dumped the boy onto the ground.  He lay opened, elbows butterflied, ankles stretched wide apart and doubled almost to buttock-level by the taut kashta's ends.  At an order the Vulcan was brought a tightly lashed saddle-roll, which he thrust under the boy's hips.  Then his knife whipped out and slashed the crotch of the loin-rag, exposing his opening.

One gloved hand went to the rag still covering the human's genitals and the Vulcan leaned there as he bent forward to gaze into the agonized blue eyes. Satisfied at what he saw, he shifted his weight on the crushing hand and began to breathe more hoarsely.  The boy writhed.  The Vulcan hissed. "Little naked snake.  You will be silent now.  You will not scream."

He rocked back between the boy's spread thighs.  The dripping phallus stood in his hand.  It made a contractile movement and more ichor oozed its thickness as its head touched the helplessly presenting buttocks and was wedged into them to press against the anus.  Bound, the boy could put up no struggle, but his muscles convulsed and jerked as the pain of the implacable pressure began.  Harder and harder the wood-tough phallus bore in, till finally flesh began to stretch around it.  The tip was immured, the first flaring rim was squeezed inexorably forward in its jellylike coating.  The Vulcan laid his hands in preparation on the arching, trembling thighs where they joined the pale tenderness of the loins, in time to control with an iron grip the jolting heaves of agony as the apple-thick head forced, twice, through the flesh.  With the head of the organ buried, the Vulcan paused, holding the boy's struggle till it stilled.   Kirk could see the motions as the heavy stem contracted, releasing its copious pre-ejaculate now inside the boy. None escaped the torturously tight seal.  Again the Vulcan pressed in, the glistening varicosity sliding hard and slow into the breached boy, distending him further.  The final massive root of the phallus sank implacably into him.  In deep possession, the Vulcan leaned into the quivering thighs and gazed down at the boy with lust only amplified by the tormented body's futile attempts at ejection.

"Bed-slave.  Vulcan manhood honors you.  You are to be its sheath.  Learn now the sensations of your kind, and the whole of your destiny."  The Vulcan reared back and thrust violently inward and the boy screamed, oblivious to all but the pain of his impalement.  Viciously the Vulcan reached behind the blond head and with incredible strength hauled up the tied wrists, dragging the roped ankles impossibly higher through rasping leaves, then released the crossed wrists over the boy's throat.  They were immediately pulled stranglingly tight by the straining ankle-ropes.  The knot behind the boy's shoulders kept the kashta crossed beneath his arching back, holding his position immovable but for the useless strugglings of his pain.  Only a few small cries escaped him now in his fight for breath, as the Vulcan rammed him joltingly again and again, mounting on his agony toward climax.

The image froze, the sound of the Vulcan's triumphant hoarse panting cut. Kirk sat with both hands clamped over the stop control.  His pulse raced. His mouth was open and coated with dryness.

His groin ached.

He didn't want to see the Vulcan orgasming on that boy's pain and subjugation.

He didn't.

He had to turn the tape back to where he had found it.  Spock mustn't know that he had watched so far into it.  Because -- his mind hit white static. Spock might return at any moment.  He would be humiliated if he thought anyone aboard the Enterprise had witnessed this Vulcan depravity.  Where the devil was the rewind?  Panicking, he stumbled against the end of the bed and groped for the dim-hold switch of the light controls.  Spock mustn't catch him --

The lights sprang up as he finally fumbled onto the right switch.  He whirled toward the com unit and again almost tripped over the bed, falling forward off-balance and catching himself with both hands on the mattress. Scattered under his eyes were the "technical journals" Spock had left so uncharacteristically littered about.

On one, a human wrapped in chains stood naked.  On another, a Vulcan dressed in leather exposed green genitals.  The two-page spread of a third showed such a complex of activity that Kirk could only register a lot of white rope, black leather, and bare skin.

All of the pictures were of males.  Most were of humans.  Most of the humans were light-haired, white-skinned Terrans.  Every single one had a hard-on. Over all, seemingly garlanded from page to page to page, looped thongs, chains, cuffs, gags, belts, ropes, blindfolds, leashes, straps, halters, collars, reins, hobbles -- all the frank blazons of restraint.

"Good evening, Captain."

Even as his heart almost jerked out of its mooring he knew this had been bound to happen.

Spock was always punctual.

He would have to acknowledge --

He would be forced to admit --

There had to be a graceful way out of this.

He got himself upright.

"Spock."  His casual tone was not a complete success.  Now.  Another sentence. And suddenly an explanation came to him.  If he'd turned on the light before and seen the magazines, it might have occurred to him immediately.  Yes!  It accounted for the carelessness of the activated screen, the scattered magazines -- "Spock, I'm afraid someone has managed to get in here and set up a practical joke.  Not a very funny one," he added grimly, as the implications sank home.  Spock's extreme reticence on the subject of sex would likely make the discovery painfully embarrassing.  What crew member would dare do this to such a senior officer?  Among the senior staff, who...?  Some unsuspected xenophobe--?  But Spock halted Kirk's lightning speculation.

"You refer, I believe, to the items of a pornographic nature in this room. No practical joke has been perpetrated, Captain.  They are mine."

Kirk felt his stomach sink away as if into another dimension.  Spock's... they were Spock's... and he had seen them.  No wonder Spock was using such formal address.  He had become an interloper.  If only Spock had put the things away!  Any moment he might -- would -- notice the com screen.  But Kirk felt now only excruciating embarrassment and a miserable sense of Spock's exposure.  The inexplicable deadly panic of a few moments earlier had gone.  He was experiencing the predicament as a colossal faux pas, a disturbance of Spock's equanimity that he must somehow ease.

"It's -- quite a collection."  It was something he might have said to a human in like circumstances.  It sounded completely inadequate now.  Spock, unlike a human counterpart, wouldn't be able to take advantage of the distancing maneuver implicit in the phrasing.  It would be too close to a lie, to evince only a connoisseur's or scientist's interest in the array -- though of all people, he realized, Spock might actually be the one who could take just such an interest.  The thought brought a surge of indignant protective warmth.  This shouldn't have happened.  Spock did not deserve to be exposed to such embarrassment; Spock, who harmed no one, whose impartial understanding awaited any who needed it; endless patience, thorough integrity, utter absence of malice -- passive virtues, maybe, but healing to the spirit of the ship as McCoy could ever be to its bodies.  The verbal fencing with the doctor, even, a communication method tailored to its object!  He had sometimes felt that the flickers of dry sarcasm parrying McCoy's belligerence were instantaneous conduits, ephemeral as heat lightning, to areas of Spock's being he himself could never touch.  And had, sometimes, known himself a trifle jealous of that quirky intimacy.  But he would never have intentionally forced himself into any part of Spock's life. If only he had never come into this room!

"Captain, I sense that you believe me to be displeased by your presence here.  I assure you, that is not the case."

Then why do you keep calling me "Captain", Kirk thought.  "I shouldn't have come into your bedroom without permission."

"Such permission has always been yours."

The formality!  Yet the meaning was only what he had known, in his heart of hearts, to be true.  But could Spock really be accepting his discovery calmly?  There was an intensity about him -- not fidgetty or what in a human could have been called nervousness; more as though he were suddenly operating from a deeper level than usual.  Kirk felt -- observed.

Spock continued, "There is a great deal I would like to say to you on this subject, if you will allow me."

Something locked, momentarily, like stuck brakes, in Kirk's reflexes.  Then, as the import of the words was absorbed consciously, a flush of warmth went through him, a delight at the flattery of being so chosen by Spock.  This he carefully suppressed, as being too frivolous a reaction to display; he sought among various agreeable responses and said, "Certainly."

He sounded more like a Vulcan every day.  Or so Bones complained.

"Please be seated, Captain.  I believe I shall be more comfortable standing, but what I wish to say will take a considerable time."

Kirk glanced around, then moved to the side of the bed nearest Spock, pushed aside a few magazines, and sat down.  He noted with a wry, poignant sensation that Spock had adopted his "lecture" stance, spine straight, chin slightly cocked, feet a little apart, and hands clasped loosely behind his back.  There seemed, tonight, an added darkness to the Vulcan eyes.  Kirk suddenly had a strong sense of the difficulty of the intended communication; but when Spock began, his voice was calm and even, with inflections impeccably Vulcan.

"As you know, Captain, Vulcan long elected to maintain privacy on the subject of Vulcan sexuality.  In the daily interactions of an entire world with other populations, information must continually seep out, however.  My own mother's marriage was, for example, a source of much information to the human physicians who attended her.  Indeed, the principal reason the facts of Vulcan sexuality were not widely known was simply that for many Vulcans, even to speak of these matters other than to bondmates can be -- difficult. As it once was for me."  Spock paused.  "This does not mean that Vulcan science has failed to investigate an area of such importance to our survival.  And there are some who simply find it a fascinating field of study in its own right.  I myself am among that number."

"This --" Kirk gestured, brows drawn in uncertainty -- "is... part of your studies?"  Was it possible?

"In one sense.  The tape you have been viewing is a Vulcan reinterpretation of a Terran pornographic video work from the classical period; approximately 2000 AD.  The difficulty in precise dating stems from local fluctuations in the censorship practices that obtained during that era."

"Vulcans make pornography?"

The faintest shadow of expression played for a moment near Spock's lips, and might have showed as a slight glimmer in the dark eyes.  "A few have experimented with the form since shortly after the first human contact with Vulcan.  Pre-Reform fragments also survive that suggest similar intent -- primarily drawings and sculpture, as literacy was not widespread."

"Vulcans ... Vulcans ... make pornography..."  Kirk's voice rose on a note half incredulous, half marveling, almost to a laugh.  Yet his expression showed more shock than amusement.  Then he recollected himself. "I beg your pardon, Mr. Spock.  That remark verged on racial stereotype."

There was a moment's silence during which a genuine unease budded far down in Kirk's consciousness.  But the dark eyes held only their usual mild inquiry.

"Quite understandable, Captain.  The human tendency is to view rational behavior as incompatible with sensual appreciation.  This attitude is not unknown on Vulcan, but is by no means universal, as my past few years' study has allowed me to discover."  He hesitated.  "There is also a tendency, particularly in Starfleet, to view Vulcans as... I believe 'pillars of integrity' is the nearest English equivalent to the word I have in mind. Though it has also been translated as 'stuffed shirts'."  Kirk made a sound of protest but Spock continued, "In Starfleet, the perceived Vulcan lack of sensuality is also misinterpreted as -- again I believe the term is 'a will of iron'.  Though humorous references may revolve around a Vulcan's complete lack of sexual desire, for example, there is an underlying belief in 'raging hormones', if you will, held in leash by strict Vulcan morality.  Except," and the calm voice took on an almost imperceptible tension, "during pon farr, of course."

A patterning flash of insight connected the taut note to the scene on the frozen viewscreen, the scattered magazines on the bed.  Unconsciously Kirk leaned forward.  "This... study of Vulcan sexuality, over the past few years -- how many years did you say?"

Again that faint glimmer in Vulcan eyes.  "I did not say.  But my interest turned to the subject approximately six years ago."

Kirk felt he might be blushing.  "I see," he said hurriedly, and then found nothing to add.  Awkwardly, he looked up into the somber dark eyes.  Their kind, almost affectionate expression eased him.  "Spock, I didn't intend to pry."

"Captain," -- Kirk felt a mote of hurt at the continued formal address, wiped away immediately by Spock's words -- "it is true that Vulcans have a highly developed sense of privacy.  For that very reason, we are most unlikely to allow ourselves to be interrupted during activities of a private nature.  That is, not accidentally."

Kirk's lips parted, but not a single word came to him.

Spock added, "I said that the various articles you found here were relevant to my studies.  That is true.  But I have no wish to mislead you.  They are considerably more relevant to my own personal pleasure."

His tone on the last words was so dry that the effect was like a slap.  A part of Kirk felt how very far from philosophical ease stood the Vulcan who could speak those words in that tone.

A larger part of him was rapidly assessing the straits of a Vulcan, even if half human -- no, especially if half human -- with this sexual orientation, on board the Enterprise.

The rest of him was simply frozen, like the scene of rape in the Terran woods.

Spock was carefully observing him.  "I wished you to know, Captain.  Humans say one picture is worth a thousand words.  A valuable insight, where complexity is involved.  Also, I believed that your concept of me was such that it might be preferable for you to accustom yourself somewhat to adjustments of that concept in a period of privacy.  I regret that I appear to have underestimated the necessary interval."

Guiltily Kirk realized that if the "interval" had been much longer he would have rewound the tape, turned out the lights and fled, trying to deny all knowledge of that "new concept" of Spock.

"I also wished you to understand immediately that I speak not as a unique individual but as one of a number of Vulcans whose sexuality parallels my own.  I -- did not wish you to believe that my sexuality was somehow a result of the human component in my genetic make-up."

Kirk felt that he should say something.  He knew -- and Spock knew that he did -- that to call any Vulcan's individual behavior genetically influenced was highly offensive, implying as it did that that behavior was uncontrollable.  He had more than once tried to reconcile for himself the irony of this reaction in a people whose behavior, at certain times, was so rigidly prescribed by its genetics, far more so than in infinitely malleable humans.  Still, it made sense up to a point:  conscious control of behavior was the pivot of most Vulcan culture and, according to themselves, necessary to their very survival.

Spock was admitting that he had not had entire faith in Kirk's ability to wait for sufficient data before forming an opinion; and that Spock had allowed his own dread of being misjudged to influence his procedure.  A heavy confession.

Kirk almost smiled, but stopped himself.  He said, "I understand."

"There is, in Vulcans, no truly driving sexual urge until pon farr.  I understand that human children seek and enjoy orgasmic experiences long before they may have had intercourse with another person.  This is not true of Vulcan children.  We experience no strong hormonal compulsion until adulthood.  It is not so much that sexual experimentation is discouraged, as that it gives rise to emotional states we are taught to avoid.

"It is thus not uncommon for an adult male to have no experience of orgasm before marriage and pon farr, and many have, until then, avoided detailed knowledge of sexual matters.  You will notice that I am better able to discuss these things than I was in the past.  At the time of pon farr, I knew little more than the barest biological facts.  Also, I was not, then, well in control of the emotions pon farr itself was causing.  I had avoided facing the issue.  The grief -- the guilt I felt when I thought I had killed you... these brought home to me, when I had leisure to reflect on them, the folly of attempting to evade what was inevitable.  It was clear that my refusal to face the concept of marriage had led directly to the situation in which I endangered you.  I therefore concluded it would be necessary, and best, for me to marry immediately.

"Further analysis, however, revealed underlying factors in my aversion to marriage.  I came to realize that study of these matters was my only hope of reaching a correct conclusion.

"This in itself required all the discipline at my command.  I forced myself to send to Vulcan for texts.  When the first volumes arrived, it was more than a week before I could reach a state of calm sufficient to allow me to open them."

Kirk felt almost a physical pain at the image of Spock, alone, struggling with such fears and confusion.  "I wish I had known."

"I could never have brought myself to discuss such things.  Indeed, it was more than a year before I became consciously aware of all the precautions I took to ensure secrecy.  In ordering such materials as these, I employed a pseudonym.  Of course," he added, "I informed my correspondents that the name I used was not my own."

Kirk looked away.  Oh Spock...

"As I achieved fuller understanding, there were other reasons for preserving silence on the subject.

"I began to seriously examine alternatives that would previously have been unthinkable to me.

"There are, on Vulcan, individuals who serve as sexual surrogates.  They are frequently insane or retarded persons whose behavior is -- deranged.  Many are incapable of the bond.  They indulge in promiscuity by choice, yet the sense of exploitation in relating to them is inevitable.  The experience is said to be most distressing.

"In my family it was considered beyond the bounds of possibility to engage in intimate behavior with one other than a mate.

"You must find it difficult to imagine what the feelings of a Vulcan male would be, approaching the time of first pon farr, without the ability or the wish to wed.  A sudden journey...  After two weeks' absence, the return. And time passes... eventually, acquaintances cannot help but be aware that pon farr is long overdue, and, on some level, acknowledge what must have occurred; though a surprising number remain sincerely unconscious that their friend or relation could have done anything so shocking.

"I had been brought up to these things and at that time I thought all Vulcans shared my -- or perhaps I must more accurately say my father's -- point of view.  Pon farr was -- a nightmare to me.  It was only afterward that I even grasped the extent of my shock and fear at what was happening to my body, my mind -- I attempted to preserve an unchanged exterior, with less than total success.  The struggle to deny the intensity of my state probably added to the violence with which it at last overwhelmed me.

"It is difficult to know how to convey the dread I felt of marriage.

"I felt as though I had been condemned to death, rather than merely trapped into a savorless social contract.  I knew this fear to be irrational.  It shamed me.  Of course I told no one.  I lived for many years in that state of denial which many beings utilize to suppress the knowledge of their eventual death.  I even told myself that as a half-human I might never enter pon farr.

"I believe some of this fear can be attributed to what in humans has been termed an inferiority complex.  In my childhood I was frequently reminded of my hybrid status.  Adults did it subtly. For the most part the playmates of my own clan were civil.  Certain others..."  The Vulcan's gaze seemed to turn inward, to an unsharable past.  "It is interesting to realize that those children with their angry or scornful reactions could have demonstrated to me that not all Vulcans were raised in the atmosphere of refinement and idealism that obtained in our clan.  Doubtless I was too occupied with repressing my emotional responses to their attacks for any such observation to penetrate.  It might have saved me a great deal of time later, had I become truly aware of variances in Vulcan culture and behavior. As it was, I had absorbed the idea that any differences I felt in myself were due to the human component in my genetic makeup."  Kirk winced.  "And that this human component was vastly inferior to Vulcan heritage.  A natural conclusion, given that those traits my father and teachers most discouraged were the same 'human' flaws my schoolmates accused me of in less moderate terms.  The degree to which such faulty childhood deductions determine the adult outlook is indeed astonishing.

"The only person who seemed to share my failings and, occasionally, when we were alone, even to cherish them, was my mother.

"My human mother." Spock's eyes were fixed somewhere on a nonexistent middle distance.  "For years -- most of my life -- that was a shameful phrase, a vulgarity.  I literally could not have uttered such words.  And that attitude I did learn at home.  A child learns from the averted eyes, the hasty changes of subject...  Once, when I was four, I was sent to my room for asking in company if mother used to live in the trees on Earth -- a hazy hypothesis after being told by another child that humans were once monkeys. I remember I thought it sounded like an exciting and desirable way to live, and it was several years before I understood why I was punished.

"The underlying theme was always that humans were equal and valued beings and that therefore one must never allude to the misfortune of their not being Vulcans.  From this I might have formed alternative views on the omnipresence of Vulcan logic.  Instead, I once again accepted what I was told, at face value, and attempted to conform to the expectations of this system.

"Naturally, I failed.

"I became aware of a longing for the presence of humans.

"I concealed the perversion as well as I could."

Kirk looked up, startled.  Had Spock actually made a joke -- in a discussion of sex?

Spock did seem to smile, very slightly.  "As an improvement on a life of adventure in the canopy of a Terran jungle, I determined to escape even further off the ground.  I applied, against my father's wishes, to Starfleet Academy, ostensibly to enlarge the scope of my scientific research objectives.  I would have been out of easy reach in the treetops; in the sky I would be invulnerable.

"And I would never have to compete with Vulcans again.  I would be measured only against humans.

"Please believe that this thought was not conscious.  It never occurred to me that my sense of relief and security, despite the great culture shock I experienced and the xenophobia I encountered, stemmed from my own sense of the inferiority of humans.  Later I realized that this was an inevitable, though subconscious, corollary to my own feelings of inferiority as a half human.  One cannot depreciate something in oneself without depreciating it in others."

Spock paused.  "I wished you to know of this aspect of my character, both in itself and because it is at least tangent to another, more positive, aspect -- though I once considered it infinitely degrading, and hid it from everyone.

"I refer to my sexual attraction toward humans.

"The rigidity of Vulcan social relations is difficult for most non-Vulcans to grasp.  Perhaps it was impossible for a half-Vulcan to cope with, even one who denied his difference as vehemently as I did.  As time went on, I found that it had become impossible for me to feel attracted by those enmeshed in that system of relations.  But I had no name for what did interest me, in my incomplete adolescent daydreams -- an affectionate and adventurous relationship with a human friend.  Later, I suppressed all daydreaming as immature.  Thus closing off another route to self-discovery. You will feel that the understanding I have reached over the last six years ought to have been accessible to me by the age of twenty-five.  I can only agree."

Kirk smiled.  "I would be more likely to feel that that inferiority complex still has a hold on you, Spock.  I haven't found that so many people ever come to grips with their real desires, let alone have it all figured out in adolescence.  And... you had more to figure out than most."

Spock turned away briefly, and picked up a meditation focus, a translucent grey stone from the Kaskalan Desert.  Slowly, thoughtfully, he turned the stone in his hands, then brought his gaze up to Kirk's face.  "I can only surmise how alien it must be to you... an upbringing such that, strong as my aversion to marriage was, I never considered surrogate mating.  It was -- unthinkable.

"And, in my case, the marriage to T'pring had been arranged.  To have avoided it by any method would have resulted in open shame and scandal.  I felt, then, that I had no choice.  Yet I resisted.  You witnessed my struggle.  Despite the urgency of my condition, that which, in a rational state, was Spock never wavered in opposing the bond to T'pring.  I knew that it was not right.  Perhaps I knew that it might not even be possible.  For the truth was that I had, unknowingly, already selected another as my bondmate.  I believe that T'pring, through the faint empathy of our potential bond, may have sensed an incompatibility, or an actual -- I know no word for this in English:  k'talemthas -- the turning away of the mind, in the time of the bonding pledge, toward another.  This, indeed, happens rarely.  Vulcans are not encouraged to meditate in romantic modes.  A pledge is regarded as -- perhaps you would say 'sacred'; we would be more likely to call it 'a given'.  One does not consider possibilities outside the given. But where k'talemthas occurs, the empathic contact, so weak as not to be consciously noticed, ceases.  The 'given' may cease to seem any boundary, and, though neither partner may be aware of it, the engagement no longer exists.  That this, which is the effect of nature, is regarded as a scandalous occurrence, ought to have been yet another among the many clues to the serious logical flaws in Vulcan social order.

"I do not condemn that society, Captain.  What may function well in general may fail in exceptional cases.  That I am such a case permits me a perspective which is denied to those comfortable within the structure.  Yet I can see that a great number are indeed comfortable, that our intellectual heritage forms one of the great treasures of sentient accomplishment, and that, given the violence of our biology, Vulcan has achieved remarkable records in the areas of justice, equality and integrity.  Much that I would not change in myself I owe to that culture.  I believe only that development can still take place.  I have dedicated myself to allowing that development to occur, in my personal awareness, perhaps ultimately to be shared with and to influence my people... or perhaps not.  There may be no significant findings... or the experiment may fail in other ways."

There was a question Kirk didn't want to ask.

Who?

Among all the crew -- the male crew, rather, that much was apparent -- which one had Spock thought of while -- embarrassed, Kirk refused to picture what hovered at the edge of his awareness.  Spock, such a private man, ought not to be invaded even in thought.  He could almost forget, at times, as they played chess or worked in tandem, Spock's uniqueness, but in this charged emotional atmosphere it seemed imperative he collect his strength of character, maintain himself at the Vulcan's level of integrity, and keep even his thoughts from any absence of respect.

Yet -- who?  What would strike a Vulcan as desirable?  Tall and thin?  Not necessarily, if it was specifically the humanness that attracted him.  "I had already selected another" -- someone, then, of the original crew.  Below command level, two-thirds had long transferred ... and some were dead.  Oh god, not that.  Spock was telling him this for a reason, and most logically it was because he had formed, or intended to form, a relationship and wanted to bond with one of Kirk's crew.  And could not, ethically, do this without Kirk's knowledge and consent.  Someone, of course, sharing Spock's proclivities -- a Vulcan in love was still a Vulcan, and it would be illogical to attempt such a relationship without some common sexual ground. "In love".  It would take away their evenings, someone else would come first.  Who?

Someone who had been around six years ago.  The Old Guard.  Who...

Sulu, with his secret love of light-hearted errantry and derring-do?

Chekov, impetuous, ardent, intense, ostensibly with nothing hidden -- but then, who really fathomed his inmost thoughts?

Both of them had slept around, in friendly fashion, among sundry, not exclusively female, crew members.  But as far as he knew (and a Captain had better know such things) strictly within their own level of rank.  As per regulations.  And in neither could he envision a sudden yen for the enforced domesticity of the monogamous Vulcan bond.  Lord, damn few joined Starfleet with the idea of settling down!  Could Spock, so rational, neglect to take into account such human personality profile variants?  Surely not.

Who then?

An older man?  Scotty, or Bones?  Unimaginable!

Or was he being provincial?  Scotty cocked a conventional eye at "the lasses", but what underlay that solid common sense and that paradoxical deep sentimentality?  Hard-bitten discretion, for one thing.  No one had ever known where the Chief Engineer ended up on shore-leave, though he invariably began it over a bottle of single malt.  A natural reticence, or was there something to hide?

McCoy -- complex, pugnacious -- certainly with an attitude he couldn't call superficial toward Spock.  Was it possible?  Behind that ceaseless needling, some angular need to be slapped down?  He'd suspected for years that, deep inside, McCoy stood so in awe of Vulcan abilities that he'd had no recourse but sarcasm.  His irascibility was not the overflow but really the lid on seething passions of curiosity, involvement, dedication -- could they be compatible with a masochistic love, or not?  He didn't know.  It was just an area he'd never felt any intellectual impulse to explore.

There were still Old Guard among the ratings.  One or two in Science, actually.  Kang, who was due to transfer in six weeks.  Could that be why? Did Spock want to leave with Kang?

Who?  Who on all the Enterprise was going to take Spock away from him?

Or could it be someone Spock had met only once, in some long-ago planetfall or space encounter?  But then there would be no need to ask his permission.

The questions had all flashed through his mind in a moment.  Spock was again looking down at the meditation stone, as though summoning strength and calmness for the revelation that yet lay ahead.

He set down the stone.  It made a little click against the table.

"Captain, I do not recall that you have ever expressed an opinion on sadomasochistic sexual orientation."

Kirk tried to speak naturally.  "Whatever people have wanted to do has always seemed okay to me."  He added, "Consensually, of course."

"You perhaps feel that sadomasochistic sexual expression, more than other forms of sex, requires that proviso?"

"There is -- the possibility of confusion.  Or so I would think."  Kirk smiled.  "Spock.  This isn't an area in which I claim any expertise."

"Nevertheless, Captain, your opinion -- your feelings, if you will, on the subject, do interest me."

"I have no strong feelings.  It's simply something I've never thought about, Spock."  The Vulcan continued to observe him, imperturbably.  "I suppose I have... reservations."  He glanced at the com screen, and away again hurriedly.  "The... visual images are... disturbing.  In my limited experience the reality is -- well, quite different."  He thought of the two or three embarrassingly uninteresting forays into domination that had been more or less forced upon him.  "Not so well choreographed."  He smiled wryly.

"In what way do the images disturb you, Captain?"

Spock wasn't going to let it go.  It was important to him.  He should be used to Vulcan implacability in the pursuit of truth, by now.

"I know it's only an act.  A performance, maybe I should say.  But why do people want to see it?  Because whatever is actually going on, what people are turning on to, enjoying, is the concept of attacking someone sexually."

"Or being attacked?"

"Yes.  And I admit I -- well, it bothers me, Spock.  You see what I mean?"

"Entirely.  But I cannot agree with you, in this instance.  There are defectively socialized persons who would, of course, derive enjoyment from such a concept.  For the overwhelming majority such enjoyment is impossible."

"But Spock -- these films -- books, magazines -- they're made for thousands -- millions.  It may be a minority, but it's a huge number of people!"

Spock inclined his head fractionally.  "True, Captain.  In maintaining that few are capable of sexual enjoyment from the concept of assault, I intended to assert that such visual media as you mention do not convey the concept of assault, and thus cannot arouse enjoyment of that concept.  We, as observers, cannot be unaware of the fictional nature of these presentations. What we perceive, therefore is not, and cannot be, assault, nor do we react to it as though it were so perceived."

"But is that true?  There was a moment there -- more than a moment -- when I wondered if the human in this film was a willing participant.  On one level, you're right, I knew the cuts, the close-ups, the clearness of the image, the professional panning -- it had to be done over time, with a lot of takes.  But the acting was so convincing, which isn't the case in most porn films.  The actors are chosen for, um, other characteristics."

The Vulcan's right eyebrow rose, and descended.  "Vulcan pornographic film is notable for the quality of the acting and filmmaking.  We see little point in doing something if it is not to be done as well as possible.  But a few moments cleared up your doubts?"

"Well, yes.  At least -- cases of coercion have been known, Spock, in performances like this."

"Regrettably, that is the case.  Let me assure you these particular actors are well-known, dedicated professionals, and, intending no offense, Captain, such an instance of coercion has never occurred with Vulcan participants."

"I believe you," Kirk said quietly.  He felt a moment's shame to be debating Spock's sexuality with him when the human record was so little comparable to the Vulcan.  What did it matter what Spock wanted?  He would never harm anyone to get it.  But it was Spock who had pressed for his opinion.

"My point is this, Captain.  Suppose such an attack to have occurred in reality, in your presence.  What would your reactions have been?"

"I'd have stopped it, of course."

The shadow of warmth that Kirk had come to interpret as a smile passed over Spock's expression.  "Characteristic, Captain.  I refer to your certainty of success."

"If we're talking reality, I have a Federation starship to give me a slight edge in the encounter."

"Taking another instance, supposing you were convinced or highly suspicions that the video's filming had involved coercion?"

"I'd institute an official enquiry.  And I can see where you're heading. All right, I admit any reaction I have to the film is based on my knowledge that it's a voluntary fiction.  But is everyone always so clear on the difference?"

"Indeed not.  Throughout human history there appear to have been startling numbers who could not make the distinction -- whether in opposing sadomasochistic practices or participating in them.  The latter type is now, happily, exceedingly rare."

"And the other type?"

"Very prevalent.  Though hardly so violent as in previous eras."

"Violent?"  Kirk looked up.  Was Spock going to be in danger?

"Ironically, Captain.  Human zeal in pursuit of peace and love has frequently ended in violence and bloodshed.  The inevitable result of emotionality, to cite the traditional Vulcan view.  At the present time, however, incidents are seldom more than verbal or discriminatory on some non-violent level.  That is not to say that violence never occurs.  The Terran actor," Spock turned slightly, his body movement indicating the com screen, "has been the victim of such an attack within the past year."  A strange tone, soft and gentle, came into the First Officer's voice.  "He is, of course, most vulnerably public."  Kirk wondered at the sound, and felt a twinge of directionless jealousy.  There was so much, far more than he had ever imagined, that he didn't know about Spock.

"Strange they'd attack the boy, rather than the Vulcan, if they were objecting to this sort of scene as real."

"Not real, Captain, but representing a reality, on a metaphysical or social level.  The reasoning is generally a bit confused.  Terran psychologists have long observed, however, a logic underlying much seemingly irrational human behavior on cultural as well as individual levels -- a most fascinating concept.  In cases of individual violence, it has been noticeable that the overwhelming majority of victims have had one characteristic in common:  that they were manifestly incapable of defending themselves, thus ensuring the safety of the attacker.  A group of humans could not easily have overcome an adult Vulcan, but another human would present no threat to them."

"Yet that was exactly the essence of the type of relationship they were objecting to," Kirk pointed out.

"Of its fictional structure, yes.  There is also reason to believe elements of xenophobia motivated this particular attack.  However, the attackers were never apprehended.  Their precise rationale remained obscure.

"Nevertheless, it was clear from their comments at the time that they objected to the nature of the actor's sexuality and believed it harmful to society.  Their own behavior they saw as remedial, the consensual sexual behavior as sickness.  The psychology of the reasoning which permits them to indulge in the very behavior that ostensibly so disturbs them needs, I think, no explanation.

"As I mentioned, these reactions are unusual.  The issues raised are complex and many responses are possible.  A negative response, however, is nearly always predicated upon the equation of what is in fact happening with something that is not happening at all.  It is a merging of symbol with reality, of idea with act, that Vulcans find virtually impossible to grasp.

"In human psychology, however, confusion of act and idea has been nearly universal until recently, and has underlain some curious thought patterns. That a desire recognized, for example, is identical to a desire fulfilled. Sinning in thought by merely allowing a wish to become conscious.  Needless to say, the unconscious desire can be useful to manipulators, far more so than any conscious longing, and here again we see the covert logic behind the seemingly irrational.  The confusion that can be generated between the unconscious desire and paths to satisfaction was exploited by your religions, governments, and manufacturers, by substituting beliefs and products for the direct satisfaction of an unacknowledged -- socially unacknowledgeable -- desire.  It would be more accurate to say 'inserted the beliefs and products between the desire and its satisfaction' because no substitution could actually fulfill the desire; thus dissatisfaction remained, to be further exploited.  This form of allurement, toward products, at least, is now, of course, illegal throughout the Federation. But the human psychological structure that permitted it to succeed still exists.

"It is thought by some Vulcan sociologists that this failure to differentiate between representation and reality has been responsible for most, if not all, of your human wars and private violence, either directly or indirectly.  Whether or not this is the case, the phenomenon is one that generates distaste in some observers.  The distinction is so obvious to us that it is difficult not to view the human confusion as deliberate and willful.  I myself find it fascinating, close as it lies to the core of the workings of the human subconscious."

Kirk had grown used to dispassionate discussion of human foibles. Frequently he found himself engrossed in an analysis almost from a Vulcan point of view.  Tonight it was hard to care about intellectual theses; all their discussions would soon be at an end.  (Who?)  But he must make an effort.

"It seems to me the way they used the kashta sash in this film would be likely to trigger some pretty strong Vulcan reactions to a symbol," he commented.

Spock looked approving.  "Precisely, Captain.  One of the philosophical propositions of the film is a re-emphasis on the Nome tenet of the danger of romanticizing mere symbols.  In Vulcan terms, this means mainly the reverencing of that which is old.  The filmmaker -- who is the principal Vulcan actor -- reminds us that the kashta originated in a violent culture, where it was regarded as a decorative or utilitarian item.  There is also the suggestion that Vulcan tradition is becoming a form of bondage."

Kirk stared.  He was used to the subtle messages Spock detected so easily in S'kanderai films, but -- in porno?

Yes.   It would be like them.  It fit.

Fantastic as it seemed from whatever angle he looked at it, if Vulcans were going to make pornography, that was just the way they would go about it.

Well, humans had had a few flings at art porno in various genres.  It usually got pretty clunky when they tried to use it for philosophical and social commentary though.  The Vulcans would have an advantage there.  They could trust their audiences to pick up on the most gossamer connections -- they might not worship symbols, but they sure knew how to use them!  It let them skip a lot of exposition and still get the point across.  Very handy.

It also left their art unintelligible to the average human.  After a couple of years' study, he could follow the plots; Spock would mark terms or objects for footnoting by the computer, and he was catching on.  He still lost a lot of the nuances; but he loved the tantalizing way the meanings opened out, and the thrill he got when he came upon an allusion he did understand.  It was, literally and figuratively, another world.

A world never invaded by more than the most delicate and distant reference to sex.

Spock interrupted his rapid thoughts.  "I have digressed, Captain.  You have told me how you would have reacted in the two hypothetical situations.  How did you react to the film as it actually is?"

I was terrified.

The one thing he had to conceal at all costs.  A reflex almost quicker than feeling itself.  Hide fear.  Hide hurt.  Cover up.

"Well, I had mixed feelings."  That wasn't a lie.  "I suppose the strongest was just amazement at seeing Vulcans in those scenes." The terror hadn't been a reaction to the film per se -- it was a reaction to the idea of getting caught.

So he still wasn't lying.  "Why do you ask?"  Changing the subject wasn't lying either.

Spock was silent for a moment, watching him.  His voice was entirely courteous when he said, "I would like to know what the other 'mixed' feelings were, Captain."

Damn it!  "All right.  I admit I did find it shocking.  I turned it off."

"Yes."  The word held a curious lack of finality.  Spock waited.

"And I admired the acting.  The Terran was outstanding for someone so young. The Vulcan was superb.  I've never seen so much expression on a Vulcan face."

Spock waited silently.  Kirk sighed.

With a smile, he turned his head aside and then down.  "Spock."  He looked up.  "Is there some... particular reaction you're wondering about?  If so, you might save time by just asking me about it."

"Possibly, Captain." There was a minute pause, during which Spock's facial muscles seemed to tense almost imperceptibly.  "Did you experience a sexual response to the film?"

Kirk's mouth opened.  Then he closed his eyes.

"Spock."

His eyes flew open and he pointed.  "If -- I answer that question..."  He smiled again.  "Will you come right out and tell me why you're asking it?"

Spock inclined his body slightly.  "That is my intention, Captain."  At the momentary strain in the Vulcan's voice Kirk felt renewed compassion.  It would seem the worst was over, but apparently Spock worried that his lover might be somehow unacceptable to his captain.  Best to get this all over with.

"I felt," he began, "some response, yes.  I suppose it's pretty unavoidable in humans, with enough stimulus.  I didn't like it, because -- well, we've been through that.  I still can't help feeling it's like reacting sexually to assault."

"And I assure you that it is not."

Kirk held up a palm.  "I'll take it under advisement.  And I did have another reaction.  I -- worried you would find me watching pornography on your screen.  I didn't know you'd already seen it and I thought -- it might offend you."  There.  Now everything was out in the open.

Spock lowered his eyelids in assent.  "Thank you, Captain."  He added, "I should explain that though I began my researches six years ago, I have not, till now, felt the certainty that permits me to initiate matters with you. It has been only some four years since I gradually began to comprehend the full truth of my sexuality.  I now believe that the absence of a continual hormonal compulsion combined with repressive education, makes it especially easy for Vulcans to remain unaware of any singularities in their sexual makeup.  I was greatly unsettled by the nature of my discoveries, particularly insofar as they concerned a person who could not, I was sure, complement my needs.  Subsequent observation, however, has led me to theorize that the Vulcan bond-mind -- which might be described as a form of telepathic subconscious -- selects, when left to itself, unerringly."

Kirk, inwardly, smiled.  Whatever the loss to himself, it was pure pleasure to know that Spock's dilemma would have a happy solution; and the accuracy of his own guess amused him.  Only with someone on board could Spock have found opportunity to make observations leading to such intimate knowledge. Who had Spock particularly attended to...?

"But for some time I lived without hope of a partner, believing my desires entirely unreciprocated.  I pursued my explorations with no end in mind but extension of my own self-knowledge, and knowledge of Vulcan sexual parameters.  Also, I realized that the time would come when knowledge of this field could be crucial to my survival.  Indeed, only by the closest study could a recent obscure experiment in hormonal antibody generation have become known to me.  The approach holds out hope, I believe, for those who desire to remain celibate.

"That would, once, have been my choice.

"Should you oppose my wish to mate, it will be my least unpleasant remaining avenue."

"Spock --"  Kirk searched briefly for words.  "I appreciate your awareness that -- certain awkward issues are bound to crop up in Enterprise command. But I hope you know that I would never oppose your intentions in such a personal matter.  I hope --"  Oddly, the words he had said so many times, to so many of his crew, seemed to stick, suddenly, in his throat.  He forced a warm tone.  "I hope you'll be very happy.  And now before my curiosity kills me, tell me:  who's the, er, other man."  He'd almost said "the lucky man" but it had seemed too flippant.

Spock was looking at him with a very intent expression.

"Captain," he said finally, "perhaps I have been too indirect.  It may be a Vulcan habit in matters of this nature.  Yet I find it almost incredible that you have failed to understand me.  Let me now, however, be entirely explicit.

"I wish you for my bondmate."

Kirk sat absolutely still.

He felt as though he had been penetrated to the heart by a stun-ray.  For a moment he thought he was going to fall.

Spock wants ... me?

Me.

What he felt was a puff like air, a huge glitter of pride and flattery.

Me!

Spock wanted him!

What Spock wanted --

A shudder rose through him from butt to throat.

Spock wanted to --

Spock thought --

A blush flooded over him.

It started as a sense of warmth at the back of his mouth and blushed out over him in fountains of heat.  He could feel himself reddening in wave after wave of ever-deeper color, till it seemed as though his whole body were blushing, blushing at what Spock thought.  It felt as if even his toes were blushing, even his --

Decades of urbanity flamed away.

He was onstage at his School Pageant.  He was a little Iowa farmboy who had completely forgotten his lines.

He was younger than any of the other plebes at the Academy by over two years.  On the night of a scramble drill, someone had painstakingly sewn shut the tops of all his trousers and underpants.

Naked and with no part to play, he could only let the waves of red pass over him like prairie fire.

His gaze had been fixed on Spock and he had been too paralyzed even to look away.  Spock's own eyes were lit with compassion.

"I regret that I could not accustom you to these ideas more gradually, Captain.  It is only recently that I have determined my chances of success to be sufficiently high to justify approaching you.  Should you refuse the bond, it will be imperative that I devote as much of the coming year as possible to my own hormone antibody research.  Seven years is merely an average cycle; no one can predict the exact date of onset of pon farr."  His voice was gentle.  "I have delayed longer than is entirely safe.  I must know what is to be between us.

"I can allow no more than two weeks for your decision."

My god, Kirk thought a little wildly, if this is Vulcan courting, no wonder their mates are chosen for them.

The flaming tide was receding.

It left icy bubbles of panic in its trace.

He was a Starship captain.

This panic, somehow so intimate, so unexpected and inexplicable, would not conquer him again.  Deliberately, he calmed himself.  Spock was his beloved friend.  Spock would do nothing to harm him.  There was nothing to be afraid of.  He, indeed, must hurt Spock now.  It was a tragic error the Vulcan had made, he could only suppose the stresses of that long-ago pon farr had twisted and misclassified Spock's friendship for him, imprinting on him, perhaps, as the focus of release from pon farr.  It was horrifying that Spock's logical mind could be led by a moment's imbalance to base so many hopes on such a blatantly impossible premise.  But it was a cause for sorrow, not fear.

He had to say something.  He couldn't sit there forever with, he suddenly realized, his mouth half-open.

He swallowed on dryness.  Where could you start?  The miscalculation was so colossal...

"Spock, I'm -- honored."  He swallowed again, suddenly repressing tears.  It hurt to have to say the next thing.  "I can't bond with you, Spock."  He couldn't go on.  The poor lonely --

"May I ask your reasons, Captain?"

How can he be so blind?  Go easy...

"Spock, my sexuality just isn't compatible with yours."

Spock reclasped his hands behind his back.  "That, Captain, is a point on which I must disagree."

Kirk stared at the calm figure in the blue tunic, feeling as if he had been slammed back against a wall.

"What?"

"Captain, it is my belief that your sexuality is entirely, even ideally, compatible with my own."

"That's --"  The breath seemed to have been knocked out of him.  "Spock, have you ever known me to express the slightest sexual interest in a male? In seven years?"

"Indeed not, Captain.  That uniqueness of your sexual pattern was what first led me to hypothesize an extremely strong repression of equally strong homoerotic leanings."

"What?"  Kirk was off the bed with fists clenched.  Then, "What do you mean, 'unique'?  There are plenty of heterosexuals right in this crew!"

"Indubitably, Captain.  But none who, like you, show no trace whatsoever of homoerotic awareness in their psychological indices.  In human psychological graphing, this is known to have but one possible interpretation."

"Bullshit!  If I were queer it would say so on my psych profile."

The Vulcan displayed no change of expression.  "Ordinarily, Captain, that would be the case.  Not, however, in an instance of such violent repression, with such extremely satisfactory adjustment as your own.  As restructuring is deemed most difficult, if not impossible, it is thought best not to confront the subject with the findings.  Since, as Captain, you have access to every record on the ship, interpretation of that graph was deleted before your record was entered in the ship's computer.  No crewmember with a similar graph would be assigned to the Enterprise."

Spock added, "I violate this principle in revealing my hypothesis to you only because I believe it has become essential to your happiness and well-being that I do so."

"Hypothesis!"  Kirk rapped out.  "You have no confirmation of this 'hypothesis' from Starfleet?"

"None whatever, Captain."

"And no proof?"

"None."

Though what a Vulcan called "proof" --

"Mr. Spock, are you aware of the psychological principle we call 'wish fulfillment'?"

"I am, Captain.  It is not a phenomenon to which Vulcans are subject, however."

That jolted Kirk back to a level of mere irritation, which he tried to keep out of his voice.

"Spock, are you certain of that?  Don't you see that this makes no sense? If I were homosexual, why would I want to hide it from myself?  It's not as if I'd been brought up to think it was anything to be ashamed of.  Hell, I grew up in Iowa, not somewhere in the middle of the Mao Belt!"  He felt his sense of proportion coming back.  He shouldn't have snapped at Spock like that earlier.  After all, it was nothing to be ashamed of.  It was just that Spock had taken him so by surprise, and his reasoning had been so unfair.  Queer because he wasn't queer!  But now he was completely calm. His voice took on the tones of compassionate persuasion.  "Even if I were homosexual, Spock, there's still the matter of --" He gestured at the com unit.  "-- that."

"It is my belief, Captain, that your sexuality complements mine in every way."

"And that I'm keeping that, too, a secret from myself."

"That is correct, Captain."

Kirk was filled with pity.  "Doesn't that seem just too much of a coincidence, Spock?  That I should be repressing two major sexual orientations, both of which would be needed to make me your -- ideal mate?"

"On the contrary, Captain.  It accounts for the strength of your need to repress all homoeroticism."'

The skin on Kirk's palms and face felt cold.  "Explain, Mr. Spock."

"Population indices from the region as well as your own psychological profile show that while hostility to homosexuality might have become virtually a thing of the past during the period of your youth, role expectations for males and females still obtained there.  Males were expected to be assertive, dominant, active.  The sexual was believed to image the social; male masochists were therefore subject to ridicule and discrimination.  The comparative breakdown of sexual taboos had made male masochism more visible, which in turn had allowed hostility to it to become more institutionalized.  Practices which were unknown to the conventional members of the previous generation had become the subject of ritualized humor in media, and communal derision of the individual."

"So?"  His legs were wobbly from all that adrenalin he'd let get the better of him.  Since he was now perfectly at ease, there was no reason not to sit down.  He sat on the bed again and casually picked up one of the magazines.

The page it was folded open to showed things he hadn't known were physically possible.  Computerwork, it had to be.  Casually he turned a page.  Oh my god.

What was Spock saying?

"Community standards are enough to keep a human sexual predilection hidden, but seldom enough to keep it completely unexpressed.  I therefore hypothesize extreme negative reinforcement within the family unit which rendered you incapable of expressing your masochism even in your own mind. It was buried, and with it the homoeroticism that would call forth all your true sexual feelings."

"'True', Spock?  Wouldn't you say one's true sexual feelings were those one does in fact feel?  Not something a person rejected before even knowing the meaning of sex?"

"Ordinarily, Captain."

"You keep saying that, Spock.  Making me out a long string of exceptions to the rule.  Occam's Razor, Spock.  Is it likely?  Logically?"

"Logic does not depend on likelihood but on fact.  It is therefore upon fact that I build my hypothesis."

"Fact?  That I feel something I don't feel, and the proof that I feel it is that I don't feel it?  Look, Spock, you just have to accept that this time you're wrong.  For whatever reason, your logic has gotten off the track somewhere.  I'm truly sorry.  But that's final."

"I have allowed you two weeks in which to reach your decision.  I will accept no statement as final until that period has expired."

Amazement and anger widened Kirk's eyes.  "I said that's final, Commander. Do I make myself clear?"

Spock's dark gaze rested on him in silence.  A strange depth seemed to open in the darkness, drawing in, a power of absorption that blotted up awareness.  The Vulcan's skin too seemed flushed with the dark lure, a beauty like visible force.  Abruptly Spock turned his back and Kirk stared at him in the continuing silence.  Finally the Vulcan spoke, his tone flat with finality.

"This matter is not subject to your orders, Captain, unless you have me physically removed.

"The choice," he said more softly, "is yours.  But do not mistake me.  If we are both on this ship in two weeks' time, I will have you."  He turned around.  His eyes were cold.  "I will not ask your consent.  I will decide the time and the place."  But his breath, incredibly, was unsteady.  "I will take you, Captain, in whatever manner and with whatever prolongations I choose."

Kirk was on his feet.  "I can't believe this!"  He flung the magazine onto the bed.  "You're threatening to rape --"  Unexpectedly the pronoun loomed perilously emotional, through his anger he was astonished to feel tears prickle behind his eyelids.  "-- to rape your commanding officer!  Have you lost your mind?  Do you expect me to just let you -- Spock, what in the hell are you trying to do?"

"Your alternative is clear, Captain."

When Kirk stared blankly, the Vulcan clasped his hands behind his back.

"You may have me transferred off the Enterprise."

Vertigo knocked Kirk's knees from under him, and he found himself sitting, again, on the bed.

"Spock..."

"The choice, as I said, is yours."

"Choice?"  Bitter heat poured into his voice.  "Put out or lose you?  Is that your idea of a choice?"  The painful prickling in his eyes swept back. To his horror, he felt one small drop escape control and touch his cheek in its fall.

"My Jim!"  In two strides Spock was with him.  Hard hands gripped his arms. Kirk could feel the trembling of the restraint on Vulcan strength.  The face, so familiar, was alien again in its indefinable transformation, demanding, urgent.

"Captain -- it is I who have no choice.  Unbonded, I must not be near you at the onset of pon farr.  Afterward... I dare not."  Slowly the strong fingers relaxed their grip and fell away.  Kirk stared, mesmerized, up at the strong, intent, beautiful face -- beautiful...  "It would be torture to me. Already I find my efficiency level impaired by -- thoughts of you.  Indeed --"  Spock backed away.  "Indeed, it has been the case for some time."

"It hasn't been noticeable."  Maybe if --

"It has been noticeable to me, Captain." Control was recovered.  An eyebrow canted fractionally.  "I assure you."

"You said -- torture."

"An exaggeration."  (Vulcans don't exaggerate, Kirk thought.  On the contrary.) "Nevertheless, Captain, you must allow me to be the judge of how much distraction I am able to tolerate without danger to the Enterprise. These things are not known to human psychologists."

"But where will you go?  What will you -- pon farr --"

Motionless, Spock appeared to recede into immeasurable distance.  "As I have said, there are possible alternatives."  The power gathered again, the disturbing darkness of eye and voice.  "It is not your concern.  I suggest you concentrate on your two alternatives:  to have me transferred, or become subject to my sexual requirements.  This decision is your first task in our new relationship.  Should you wish to research the nature of your prospective duties-- "  The coolly sardonic gaze fell to the bed.  "My resources will be available to you."

Kirk's face flamed.  "Has it occurred to you, Mister, that I have the third alternative of throwing you in the brig and busting your ass back to lieutenant so fast you'll see warp streaks?"

"Naturally the possibility had occurred to me.  I calculate the probability at significantly less than 8.7 percent.  Because, Captain, your true desires coincide with mine, though the breakdown of your repressions may be accompanied by exaggerated reactions against that concept.  You will notice that your reactions have already been uncharacteristically repudiative.  The human subconscious is versatile in protecting itself against knowledge or actions which it fears.  It may ultimately prove impossible for you to admit that you wish to be possessed in exactly the way I have described."

"You --"  Kirk fought the break of fury in his throat.  What was happening to him?  His emotions had slammed him up, down and around like a ball in a zero-G racquet court, out of control, irrational -- was this how a Vulcan felt if any emotion at all seeped through the cracks?  He should be calm, he should -- should have sensible suggestions -- send Spock for a psychiatric evaluation?  Send himself, next in line?  How did a Starship captain respond to such an ultimatum from his most trusted officer and -- valued friend? The madness of it had him on the ropes, unbalanced --

"Spock, be reasonable.  This whole thing is nothing but a fantasy!  You said pon farr could come on early -- maybe it is, maybe it's affecting your judgment."

"Captain, it is your judgment that is somewhat impaired, by your conflicting desires."

"Goddamn it!  One person can't know what another person wants!  Not the way you mean, overriding what they say and assuming some superior knowledge!"

"A human cannot."

"Oh, Vulcans are so naturally superior they can't be wrong, is that it?"

"Captain, you are allowing resistance to cloud your reasoning powers.  You are perfectly aware that Vulcans possess capabilities which do not exist in humans."

"The great IQ has it all figured out!"  He was fighting with Spock!  It was terrifying, it was the universe turning upside down, it was the end of everything and he couldn't control what was happening.  Why did his responses sound so childish -- so brattish! -- when he knew he was right? What Spock was doing was wrong -- wrong!  Anyone could see that!

"Intellect," Spock was saying, "has little or nothing to do with it. Intellectual knowledge of another's desires must always contain an element of supposition, however logically that knowledge may be derived."

"Well your supposition is dead wrong, Mister."

"You persist in misunderstanding me, Captain.  My knowledge of your hidden wishes is not the result of intellection."

"A little bird told you?  Or maybe you read my --" -- and like a silent lightningbolt the unspoken word imploded in Kirk's body. Mind.  He read my --  He was looking at Spock yet a blackness had fallen over his vision, as if there were nothing there, no room for anything but the stunned revelation, a physical thing occupying all space, inside or out.  He read --

He felt that something heavy behind him was sinking, dragging him, down, down -- yet he stood, Spock was still there, and he had to say something. Deny.  Explain.  Reason.  Protect.

He couldn't.  There were no thoughts, almost no sensation.  There was only a terrible silence in him that felt as if it could go on, on, take him over, and swallow him always.  It would be possible to turn, away, into it, make everyone else just do all coping and dealing with everything.  It would be a luxury, a completely barbaric indulgence.

One he couldn't bring himself to take.

It was necessary to be there.

To respond.

To make the effort.

It was the law.  The Prime Directive of his being that he had never questioned.

It was so hard.

It had been intrinsic as breathing.  Only now it seemed like picking up an enormous burden, one he had exhausted himself carrying across hundreds, thousands of kilometers of stone.  It was necessary.

The first words were like standing up heavy, heavy, out of supporting water:

"Are you saying you saw this in my mind?"

"My... attraction to you has created a sensitivity to the nuances of your mind's patterns.  Vulcans avoid touching others because touch may convey information of a private nature.  With non-telepaths, the information is usually extremely vague; we do not normally become aware of more than a general attitude or emotional state from such contacts.  As you are aware, however, states of emotion can be highly unpleasant to Vulcan perceptions. I therefore ordinarily avoid personal contact in day-to-day interactions, even though no breach of privacy would be likely to result.

"It is reprehensible in me not to have warned you of my enhanced sensitivity in your case.  But from the start the nature of my discoveries was so intimate that I found it impossible to introduce the subject.  The Vulcan training that results in reticence on sexual matters may thus lead us into ethically indefensible courses of behavior.  Again and again I violated your privacy when you initiated physical contacts.  Later, I was able to realize that the sexual content of your thoughts need not be revealed.  Your sexual thoughts were so unavailable to your conscious mind that I could, without embarrassment to either of us, simply have mentioned my perceptive ability to you.  But I did not do so.

"I had become unwilling to relinquish those seconds of intimacy.  The glimpses into your mind were the greatest treasures of my existence.  I refrained from initiating contact, but made no attempt to avoid your touch.

"Still later, when I began to form my complete hypothesis as to your sexual orientation, I desired additional data.  In order not to intrude on extraneous matters, I selected moments at which subconscious masochism or homoeroticism might be expected to be stimulated.  At such moments I would establish physical contact.

"I do not attempt to justify these intrusions.

"I found evidence to support my hypothesis, in such profusion that my second hypothesis seemed confirmed.  I had suspected that the barriers to conscious awareness of your desires were crumbling.  I now definitely believe this to be occurring.  If my telepathic contacts with these areas of your mind have brought this about, insofar as it may cause you any unhappiness, I express my sincere regret."

Kirk stood.  "I think you've explained your position sufficiently, Mr. Spock.  Now understand this.  There is nothing -- I repeat, nothing -- aboard my ship that is not subject to my orders.  If you persist in your proposed course you will be in a state of insubordination and, depending on your actions, possibly mutiny.

"You are the finest First Officer in the Fleet.  Think what this would do to your record, Mr. Spock.  You couldn't conceivably continue in Starfleet. Think of the shame to your clan, your parents, your father's work, if all this had to become a matter of record.  Think, Spock."

Spock's inclination of acknowledgment was formally cool.  "Captain, it has been my privilege on several occasions to observe your play at the game of poker.  In the matter of disaster scenarios, allow me to see you and raise you:  consider the effects of such revelations upon Starfleet Command.  And, which I know will be the higher stakes for you, upon the crew of the Enterprise."

Kirk looked at him with compressed lips.

"I won't be blackmailed, Spock."

"Of course, Captain.  I merely suggest that, should my removal from the ship become necessary, it can be accomplished most simply and quietly in the manner I have proposed."

"But why, Spock?  Why set up this opposition?  We can work together, find a way -- bring McCoy in on it --"

"I have considered the problem for over nine months, Captain.  I found no other solution.  That is, no other solution that would provide me with the sexual partner I desire."

"This won't either!  I've told you that's not an option.  Give up on it, Spock, and let us help you.  We can find a way out."

"That is precisely my point, Captain.  I do not wish to find a way out.  I wish you to be my bondmate, and my chances of attaining that goal are sufficiently high to justify the attempt."

Kirk felt the color draining from his face.  It took him a moment to find his voice.  "You've calculated the odds?"

"Naturally, Captain."  The right eyebrow was raised.

"The odds that I'd -- that you could --"  He stuttered to a stop.  His voice was little more than a whisper.  "You bastard!"

"Most unlikely, Captain.  The genetic engineering attendant on my conception was such that --"

"Shut up!"  One arm flung wildly as though throwing something away.   He could hardly get breath into his lungs.  "Just shut up.  I don't want any more of your Vulcan crap."

"Then perhaps it is best that we conclude this discussion."

Kirk stood breathing hard, feeling as if the rug had been jerked out from under him.  Spock added, "I have nothing further to communicate to you at this time.  Your adrenalin level is probably optimal."

Kirk felt his expression change.

"Optimal, Captain, for imprinting this moment and these concepts strongly on your mind's subconscious levels.  I think you will find there will be few moments in the next two weeks when my proposal will be absent from your thoughts."

"'Proposal', Mr. Spock?  Don't you mean 'ultimatum'?"

Spock started to reply, then looked down.  When he met Kirk's glare it was with an expression of the faintest amusement.

"Your defiant attitude is most alluring, Captain.  I look forward to the measures that will be necessary to subdue it.  At present, however, I require privacy for meditation.  I find I am to some extent unsettled by..." He paused and his voice went silken.  "...anticipation."

The look that accompanied the words was an open provocation.  l'm going to hit him, Kirk realized incredulously.

Illegal.

Degrading.

And useless, as he had had occasion to discover.  Spock could absorb any punch he could throw, without blinking.  Could knock him across the room with one backhand swat.

But I'm going to --

With a guttural sound far down in his throat he whirled and lunged out of the room.  The door of Spock's quarters barely had time to get out of his way.  Storming through the corridors he heard startled murmurs in his wake, but scarcely registered the faces he passed.  It was only when he saw the turbolift that he realized he'd been making for the Bridge.

Like a horse heading back to a burning barn, totally instinctive.  But the Bridge was the last place he could go in this state.

His quarters.  He had to keep this to himself, till he could think it through.

When his own doors closed behind him he knew he'd made the right choice.  He was shaking.

Shocked, he lifted his hands and watched them trembling with anger, with wanting to -- wanting... he wanted a drink, if he couldn't take violent action.

The neck of the bottle chattered against the glass. My god.  He hadn't shaken like this since his first for-real torpedo kill.  He'd had nightmares about burning Klingons for weeks.  He could still see them if --

He slugged back brandy and half-choked on it.

He'd only been a kid on that cruise, acting gunner for someone with a splintered clavicle.  The battleship that attacked had somehow managed to jam intercoms with their own signals, so all he could hear was Klingonaase gibberish, nothing coming through from the Bridge or Weapons Chief -- it turned out she'd been killed in the first direct hit.  And he'd fired without orders, using the deck terminal.  Missed.  Rekeyed.  Missed.  It was as if he could still feel the keys under his fingers, the seconds shearing away -- recorrected, fired --

Hit.

And heard the Klingons die, trapped in a blossoming hell and seared alive.

They gave him a medal for it.

Much later he realized they always gave you medals for the things you wouldn't want to remember.

He hadn't thought of it in over fifteen years.  At least not like this, in full color and sound --

Why was he remembering it now, of all times?

The second slug of brandy lined his gullet with heat and his head with fumes simultaneously.  He gasped.  Captunn, he could hear Scotty saying in injured tones, will y' show no respect for the nectar o' the gods...  But his hands had stopped shaking.  He still wanted to do something physical, sweat out the shock.  The gym -- too many people.

He poured more brandy and set it on the desk.  The room around him wasn't cluttered.  Somehow there'd never seemed to be time to get the knick-knacks other people used to offset Starfleet's sense of decor.  But bare as it was, there was still no room to pace.  He knew.  He'd tried.

Often lately he'd looked around and noticed the bareness and crampedness of the space he supposedly lived in.  But he spent so little time there, except asleep -- and little enough of that -- that it couldn't really matter.  His home was the Bridge.

Now, though -- my god, it looks like a prison cell.  He'd be spending a lot more time here.

Spock.

His anger tried to turn him from the thought.  But he could not turn away. He had to deal with this -- madness! -- of Spock's, and immediately. Transfer him?

No!

It would just be admitting defeat to do that.  Neither of Spock's alternatives was acceptable.  Then what?  What, in fact, was Spock really up to?

The thought hit him like a sledgehammer.

"Vulcans don't lie" -- unless they damn well feel like it!  How many times had Spock tricked him, maneuvered him, misled him and just plain flat-out lied to get a result he considered essential?  Vulcans didn't lie to save their own hides, or for social reasons, status, money -- but give a Vulcan some noble cause and no white man with a handful of beads and a winning smile could come near him for sheer, baldfaced, forked-tongued guile and duplicity.

That had to be it.  Something Spock wanted, for the good of -- what?  The Enterprise, the Federation?  Kirk himself?  Something so impossible he had to take this fantastic route to it?

Excitedly he picked up the glass and drained it.  A transfer, for some reason?  Spock could request and get one, to virtually any station or ship he wanted, no need for this wild charade.  No, it had to be something so incredibly weird and bizarre as to justify the elaborate preparations. Never had Spock spoken at that length about himself.  Kirk's certainty wavered a fraction.  In fact, every time Spock had lied in the past, it had been in the briefest possible words, as if they burned his lips.  And the magazines and video... they could be faked, but it would cost -- the video alone, millions for that kind of computerwork.

And Spock could be deceitful, in his impassive way, but was he an actor? That moment when the shell had cracked, when Spock had clutched at him in desperation -- it took Vulcan actors years of practice to be able to show half that emotion in their eyes, or anything close to the breathtaking intensity that had stunned Kirk.  And that dark shadow of change that had passed over him...

It was not the first time Spock's extraordinary beauty had stopped him in mid-breath.  Days would pass, Spock being merely an officer absorbed in his job, looking as prosaic as anyone else aboard.  Then a turn of the head, a precise shade of expression, some indefinable fall of light -- and there it was again, the smoldering sensuality in lines of the eyelids and full, long mouth, an Egyptian elegance of form like silken carving down the side of the face, coloring deepened in darker outline of features:  a Spock of an imperial beauty beyond gender, as cliffs of ice, and moons, stained with alien fire, are beyond it, as any truly beautiful thing is.  These, at least, had been his thoughts as he had tried to recover, numbed as if by a shock, from the first impact of the vision.

That had been a year ago, and he still felt himself hypnotized every time he saw it.  He'd come to think of it as the second natural wonder of the *Enterprise* -- the first of course being any port or screen that showed the stars.  He'd tried to find out if anyone else had noticed it, and thought he had caught a few sidelong, puzzled glances at the First Officer here and there.  Uhura, once, had been drinking him in, her lips slightly parted with wonder, and then without warning had turned and looked Kirk straight in the eyes.  The questioning amazement of her expression had seemed directed at him, oddly enough, rather than at Spock.  He'd hurriedly looked back at the planetary ore survey readings on his screen.  He hadn't known whether to be relieved or worried that what he saw in Spock's face was visible to others.

And then he began to see it in the movements of the long Vulcan body.  There was no grace like the grace of strength.  You could see it in animals, in athletes... and god, you could see it in Vulcans, any time they laid aside their stiff carapace of dignity to move fast, or forgot themselves in some breakout of emotion.  But he'd begun to detect it even in Spock's everyday motions, at his station, in the lab, at chess, most of all, of course, in the gym --

Could this somehow be part of a physical condition that was causing Spock delusions?  He sipped another small brandy.  Maybe Spock really believed in some emergency that didn't exist, maybe he even believed what he'd said about himself.  Reluctantly, Kirk discarded the idea of a diabolical Spockian plot.  Reliving the urgency of that moment, the almost intoxicating intensity of Spock's nearness, his entreaty --  No.  In that, Spock could not lie.

He looked down at the brandy glass in surprise.  He shouldn't be drinking, he needed a clear head.  He needed to be thinking about how to get out of this situation, turn back the clock, show it had all been an aberration they could attribute to -- hormone imbalance, alien mind control, sunspots -- and go back to zero, bury it, forget it ever happened by next week.  He needed to be finding a way out.  That had always been his specialty --

Instead, like an afterimage of a too-bright flare, all he could feel was the place where Vulcan hands had closed on him, all he could hear the words "My Jim!"

 


End of Part One, Intreat Me Not to Leave Thee Go To Part 1 2 3


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