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Intreat Me Not to Leave Thee

by C.M. Decarnin

Part 2: Attachment; or, The Star


Leonard McCoy sat slouched back in his chair, and the set of his mouth boded ill for the entire race of computers, in particular the terminal on which he'd summoned up a split-screen record-match from the week before.  If you looked at it this way, he had no problem.  Compared to last week, just about every number on the right-hand side of the screen was down only a hair.  A decimal fraction.  A couple of hours' indigestion could put that kind of nick in your chart.

A flick of the screen and you suddenly had trouble, with a capital T.

The left screen now displayed the record from four months previous.  And everything, from efficiency to reaction time, and worst of all, personality integration, showed intervention-level deterioration.  The Big Six-Oh, the point at which the computer prissily added up all the tiny week-by-week slivers of decline and stuck out a paper tongue of Trouble at McCoy.  It had been waiting for him in his in-basket, in a confidential sealer.  A great big fat embellished, illuminated T.

As in Tiberius.

As in the name at the top of each page of this record.  It was the one place Jim's access code hadn't allowed him to alter even that innocuous a datum. His first week in command he'd managed to whip through every other program on board and ensure that his name would read out only "James T. Kirk".  But no one, not even McCoy, could change officially entered medical records. You could only add amendments.  Try anything else and you got an impersonally worded smack on the wrist, and a smug announcement that your attempt to modify an official military document had been logged.  McCoy knew this because he had tried it.  Someday he was going to kick that computer's butt into the antimatter universe.  Maybe today.  There was nothing he hated more than a diagnosis ex cathedra out of a pile of crystal helium and cathode rays, especially when it confirmed something he'd been trying to tell himself was all in his imagination.  Jim's faint peevishness, his slightly listless responses, that look around the eyes, an indefinable lack of resilience.  Nothing you could put your finger on -- unless you were a doctor whose job it was to do just that.

Page by page he recompared the meaningless-looking little numbers.

Jim was starting to crack.

'Crumble' maybe a better word.  Or dissolve.

Something was going, seeping out of his personality, his soul, his heart, whatever you wanted to call it.  The rate was accelerating, but it was still very slow.  Nobody would notice a thing until one morning the best damn officer in Starfleet would walk onto the Bridge and start talking to stars on his viewscreen.  Or they would start talking to him.


Now that the problem had been identified, all he had to do was solve it.

Give him a broken body every time over this kind of thing.  A patch here, a shot there -- Superdoc strikes again.  This stuff -- the mind.  Soul.


He knew what he was thinking and he might as well face it.  He tapped ahead to the page and looked balefully at the graph that had given him his only moment's pause the first time he'd familiarized himself with the new Captain's file.  Seven years ago.  Seven years of responsibility for everything a multibillion-credit vessel and four hundred thirty-plus/minus crew could do or fail to do.  Of solitary command.  Of diplomacy, of force, of the fine line between them.  Seven years of blood, pain, and loss.

Seven soul-crushing years.  And he had seemed to be thriving on it.  Till now.  His weaknesses were all small things, like that aversion to revealing his middle name.

Or was it so small?

After all it was a concealment of himself.

And that graph had to do with nothing else but.

McCoy sat hating it.  A graph with the brief comment, 'Heterosexual expression'.  There was nothing to show this was the seat of the problem. But it was the faultline; the one place James Tiberius had shut a door on what he wanted to be, locked it, bricked it over.  So far back in childhood that now, if the bricks were falling and the door was being wrenched off its hinges, he would have no idea where the destruction emanated from, or why. The Sisyphean effort to sustain that little patch of amnesia, block out that memory that no longer wanted to be forgotten, would slowly skew judgment, perception, everything he said and did, like the gravitic vortex around a black hole.

He'd begin to notice, of course, eventually, but the changes were so gradual it could be months before he realized he wasn't the man he had been. Assuming the Enterprise survived that long under his command.

It happened every day, that unperceived slide into insanity -- to people who weren't subject to the rigorous scrutiny of Starfleet Medical.

It wasn't going to happen to Jim.

But that meant McCoy had to act.  And he had so damn little to go on. Warning flags all over the place, and only the one hunch as to what they were warning about... that one little pathetic secret he was trying to tell himself and couldn't?  If so, McCoy had two courses.  He could help Jim bury it so deep it wouldn't surface again for another twenty, thirty years; or he could pull the monkey's paws away from its eyes.

He didn't believe in burying things that weren't dead.  He'd tried it a few times and hadn't cared for the results.  If it were any ordinary mortal, he wouldn't even stop to consider the possibility.

But Jim was that demi-divine anomaly, a Starship captain, and the best of the breed.  Whatever had made him what he was, the delicate works had functioned exquisitely, in a perfection of performance McCoy felt utterly unqualified to tamper with.  If he integrated Jim's sexuality, it would be a change in that machinery.  Jim would stay sane, might even be happier.  But would he be the James Kirk whose real middle name was Enterprise?  Would *that* love-affair survive his meddling?  Did he have the right to risk it?

Did he even have the right to make the decision?

It was its own kind of command, being a doctor.  You made decisions every day that determined the courses of lives.  Usually it was easy:  fix what was broken, no mooning about whether someone might function better with a punctured lung or metastasizing cancer.  When it wasn't that cut and dried you could ask the patient.  If he asked Jim about this, what would he choose?  The return to status quo that would preserve The Captain in all his deity?  Or full knowledge of himself -- knowledge he'd chosen once to bury, and that might alter him, make him something... less.  Or more.  Different, risking the particular obsessive vitality, the concentration on externalities, the edge.  And risking it for an unknown value.

Put that way, what would Jim Kirk do?

Risk was a part of him.  And he had always wanted the truth.

But he wanted the stars.  He wanted command -- needed it, as a carnivore needed to kill to be at its full potential. Bad analogy, McCoy thought, disturbed a little.  Jim had killed, many times, would kill again.  But he doesn't command a Starship as an excuse to kill.

Does he?

Was that the edge -- the little inbred something that set a ship's captain off?  Jim had more combat decorations than any captain of the Fleet. Colorful bits of ribbon and metal he kept hidden away in their boxes.  Was that what set him apart, a stash of secret moments of fulfillment in butchery?  Was it that that might disappear if this sexual Fort Knox got broken into?  But Jim also had medals for actions that had saved thousands, even millions of lives.  And even split off from every responsible, controlling influence by the transporter malfunction, the "bad" Kirk hadn't gone on a psychotic blood-spree.

Yet the image stayed with him, of some big cat with every nerve and muscle blazing as it flashed in for the death.  Maybe just his own anarchic reaction to authority, envisioning the urge to command as an attack impulse.

How did he know what Kirk wanted?  Let alone what he would want if something changed him profoundly.  Not that a switch in sexual orientation was that big a deal, but whatever had caused Jim to hide the thing from himself was going to have to be dealt with -- and that might be a very big deal indeed.  Jim'd never been prone to self-delusion, unless you counted those staggeringly predictable at-first-sight heart-throbs that lasted all of a week.  That was what made this sexual glitch the only thing in his file McCoy could latch onto as a locus for trouble.  In everything else, Jim pretty well had his own number.  Whatever had made him lock this up and throw away the key must have been a trauma the size of Godzilla.

He got a quick mental picture of the classical monster seated, one leg crossed over the other, in Jim's command chair.

Psychiatry really was the pits.

In the command chair Kirk crossed his right leg over his left knee, balanced the clipboard on it and marked its screen in three places with the stylus. A second clipboard was thrust into his hands.  Check, check --  Dammit -- "Ensign O'Day!"

O'Day spun his chair around smartly.  "Sir!"

"Navigational subsystems?"

"Right on it, sir.  I was assisting with Environmental, sir."

"Navigational was scheduled at oh nine hundred, Mr. O'Day.  Ensign Weng has been doing her own rundowns for the past month."

"Yes, sir, on my way, sir!"  O'Day bounced zealously over to the N. S. checkout boards and started flipping switches.  He should --

"Captain?"  Another clipboard, and a light from Engineering was blinking.

"Kirk here."

"Captunn, it's th' intermix backup relays --"

Kirk had stepped onto the Bridge determined to let nothing of last night interfere in the minutest degree with ship's routine, or alter his behavior to anyone, especially Spock.  He was relieved -- Spock comported himself with his usual reserved courtesy.  The bustle and chatter of the weekly systems rundowns had kept Kirk well-occupied and steadied his resolve. Nothing was going to change.

Spock turned away from his station.  "Mr. Scott has asked me to assess damage and contamination integration factors in water storage bay three, Captain.  Will you inspect?"

"That'll be all for now, Yeoman.  No, Mr. Spock, I see no reason why you can't handle it yourself."

He would have bitten back the words if he could.  He was busy, but Spock could see it was just routine Uhura or Sulu could deal with.  If Spock asked him to inspect, it was of course because there was some detail he thought the captain of a vessel should know; if Kirk had long suspected the deeper purpose of the invitations, from Spock's point of view, was social -- the nearest the Vulcan could come to joining him for a coffee break -- that was neither here nor there.  The way he'd phrased his negative, just his usual intended compliment to an officer's competence, in this case sounded...

"One moment, Mr. Spock.  Uhura, you have the con."  He swung out of his chair and joined Spock at the open turbolift doors.  Nothing would be any different between them.  Spock would understand that from his behavior, and accept it, or --

He didn't even want to discuss it, during duty hours.  Later, he'd have to confront it at least once, and if Spock could be brought to see reason, it would become a problem for them to solve.  If not --

Either way, it would not be allowed to --

The turbolift doors opened on Deck Seven.  Without exchanging a word, they passed quickly through the busy Sickbay lab territory into the deserted corridors of the outer shell.  With no visual distractions, Kirk became aware of awkwardness in the silence between them.  He should say something. This seemed a circuitous route to Bay 3.  "Where's the thing you want me to see, Spock?"

"Here, Captain."  And grabbing the front of Kirk's tunic in one hand, Spock shoved him up against the bulkhead, and kissed him.

Spock's mouth, hot, astonishingly sweet inside, Spock's hard body against him, had snapped Kirk to a fantastic universe -- a black, floating place webbed with starlike electricity, founded on heat, heat, somewhere -- just where made clear when a hand sought and found his penis-- one swift caress and gone --  It was his own body he was lost in!  He opened his eyes and saw Spock's face, so near, still felt his breath as a flame licking his skin, looked into the eyes --

"For god's sake Spock, don't be a fool!"  It came out a vehement whisper. "Anybody could come through here and see you!"

"I have calculated the risk at less than three point twelve percent."

Spock's body moved against him and he suppressed a gasp.  "Stop it!"  He set his hands on Spock's chest and pushed.  There was no detectable movement. It was like pushing a wall -- a wall warm against his palms.  His body flamed.  Conceal!  He pushed harder.  Spock crushed him to the wall.

"You are mine."  The triumph in eyes and voice was unmistakable.  Kirk's hands, wanting too much to touch, jerked away from Spock's body, and flattened against the wall.  He felt the cheek gentle against his, the lips on his throat -- then a long stripping of warmth as if his uniform had been ripped all down the front, absence of pressure --

He reached blindly, to clutch or ward off -- and met nothing.

He tried to take a step and nearly fell.

His cheeks burned, his blood felt loaded on pure oxygen, his legs seemed disconnected while his groin throbbed into a penis hard as a tree limb.

He was aflame from head to foot with the most untamable lust he had ever undergone.

He was alone.

He leaned his head back against the bulkhead.  He moved his hips, and liquescent lightning jolted him, forced his mouth open.  "Oh, god --"  The involuntary sound shamed him, and the shame increased his heat.  His head fell forward, his silent breath released in the only word that had any meaning at all:  "-- Spock --"

If I pleaded -- If I went down on my knees to him --  A tactile image of long Vulcan cock filling his mouth made him groan and turn in against the wall.  He had to just ease the material at his crotch... touch --  He moaned wildly.  Do that again and you'll go down on your knees all right.  His head cleared momentarily.  If someone came --  There had to be a rest cubicle somewhere on this deck.  Yes, around in the next corridor...

He managed to stumble through the door and latch it, before his legs gave way under him.  He went to his knees.

How could he leave me like this!!!  That son of a bitch --!

One hand found his crotch.  "Aahhh -- aahh --"  The breaking, voiceless wail came unwilled, as from someone else's throat.  He couldn't wait even to unfasten his pants but fell forward on the hard knob of his hand, grinding into the floor.  Suddenly he imaged Spock kneeling, bending, grinding in turn down onto his clothed buttocks -- pressing his hands heavily into Kirk's shoulders --

-- he came

and came -- the orgasm jerked him like a puppet, blasted, laid waste to him --

Gradually his senses returned.  Still he lay like a vista devastated by Armageddon -- consciousness coming back in bytes -- the cool floor adamant beneath -- empty air above.  Damp at his right hip.  Smell of semen. Presence of Spock in his world like a monument, Colossus, astride him -- he rolled over almost expecting boots to tower up on either side of his waist, to hard Vulcan thighs, joining --

He reached up his hand, obliterated by a last wave of bliss.  He lay, open, simple, utterly receptive, and let the humbling new realizations have his mind, as Spock had had -- without taking -- his body.

He was a masochist.  It was impossible.  He had never had that kind of fantasy -- though, true, he didn't have much fantasy life at all.  Too much to accomplish.  Too much real life.  Sex -- for the asking.  No permanent unions of course.  Interfere too much with -- everything.  Career, ambition, dreams, exploration, new worlds -- better to have the kind of sex he could live without, hot, fast, and not alloyed with love, worship, helplessness, ties... it was a bondage he could not afford, a subordination of his will to desire, a surrender of control over his destiny--

Silent laughter bubbled up as he saw, sudden as a reflection in an unexpected mirror, the innocent incrimination of the images no one but he himself had selected.  Love?  Bondage?  Surrender?  Were these, then, in his own mind, identical?  What was love to him, if not loss of freedom? Waiting on the response of another, one lost one's own autonomy of action, one's direction, drive...

But such a belief was surely not identical to masochism. The mind could not be so literal as to turn "Love can only be bondage" around into "Only bondage can be love."

Could it?

But then -- which idea had come first?

Well one thing he was sure of.  He had never, never got a thrill in his groin over whips and chains.  It was just too theatrical.  He'd been asked a few times to dominate partners, and had felt silly trying to run an extravaganza like that and still feel aroused.  Good old straight sex and plenty of it had been his cheerful philosophy, and a little affection thrown in never hurt anybody -- it had been good that way, sometimes even spectacular, and everybody walked away unscathed.  He'd heard himself referred to as a tomcat.  So it wasn't as though he didn't know the ropes, even if he hadn't ever let sex tie him down --  It --

This time he felt a slight sting of annoyance.  They were perfectly everyday expressions, and he had the subject on his mind, to say the least.  It was certainly nothing to wonder at if his subconscious tossed him a few curves while he was going through a crazy mess like this.

And another thing.  He was heterosexual for godsake.  No men in his life, never even thought about it.  Whatever Spock said, that had to mean something, if you just weren't interested.  Heck, he didn't even think about women that much, if they weren't right there in front of him.  Hardly at all in fact.  If they were there, of course it was a challenge.  They expected something of a Starfleet captain.  At least the kind he liked did, to them he was a challenge.  It was fun for all and no strings attached.

He rolled on his side and pushed himself to a sitting position.  He was getting old if it took him this long to recover from an orgasm.  But at least he had settled a few things.  He got up, and wondered at himself lying there on the floor like an idiot.  The situation must be getting to him.  He was going to have to come to some decision.  Calmed, he felt as if now he could do just that.

He stripped down his trousers and ran them through the laundering unit.

A masochist!  What earthly reason had there been to jump to such a conclusion?  So he'd been turned on by a little physical contact after -- let's face it -- a pretty long period of celibacy.  It meant nothing.

Spock was obviously suffering from the mental unbalance preceding the onset of true pon farr.  A physical would confirm it, and leave could be arranged. They'd figure out something.

Responding sexually like that himself --  Fortunately, considering Spock's delusion, he had shown nothing of his sensations.  Spock would never know there had been that momentary response simply to a physical stimulus. Adrenalin was enough to explain it.

Besides, he had been caught off guard.

Having reached a sensible explanation of the occurrence, he crimsoned like an adolescent moments later, swinging briskly into the rec room and coming face to face with Spock.  People glanced curiously.  But Spock was supposed to be on command deck.  That was why he'd -- that is, he hadn't expected to find him here, so soon; it was -- awkward -- even more of course for Spock than for himself.  The disgrace of the Vulcan's outbreak --

Spock's dark eyes met his, cool and level, evaluative.  The Captain of the Enterprise turned a richer scarlet, standing dumbstruck under the uncompromising look.

A touch telepath.

Spock knew.

His rational structuring fell in like a castle of cards.  He had been seen, denuded to that agony of want, that sweet, sweet pain, all black flame and liquid ruby luminance, dissolved in the pervading force of another. Stripped.  Exposed -- to Spock.

In crowning vowal of his annihilation, his cock sprang thick and taut again. He turned and fled the room.

That evening Kirk poured brandy with a steady hand, but his mind was in turmoil.

How could he have forgotten?  How had he managed to convince himself his arousal was a secret?  Telepathy aside, Spock had been plastered up against an erection the size of the Admiralty.  There was no way he could not know Kirk's state.

Why had it seemed so important?  He'd got a little turned on by a warm body. So what if Spock noticed?  He'd just have to get it straight:  one response to direct physical stimulation didn't mean Kirk was going to mate with him! If he'd got his hopes up, it was his own fault.

When he tried to think about the incident clearly, something kept veering away.

He had work to do.  He couldn't keep stewing about this.

Sternly he immersed himself in his job.  He had reached Engineering's assessment of why the drinks synthesizer kept producing coffee that was frozen solid, in outlets on the port side of Decks Three through Eight, and how they could program it to do this on request, as the coffeesicles had become rather a fad, if Command thought they could spare the cellulose components for sticks; and he was briefly considering the twenty-five years he'd put in to be able to be in a position to make this decision, when his buzzer sounded.

McCoy heard the single word, "Come."

Kirk looked toward him as he entered.  "Bones."

"Hello, Jim.  Have you got a minute?"

Kirk glanced wryly at the stacks of printout to either side of him on the desk.  "I've got time for anything that'll rescue me from this bureaucratic jungle, you know that."  He waved to a chair.  "What's the problem?"

The problem.  Everyone who comes to him has a problem and the Old Man -- not such a ridiculously young Old Man anymore, but you still can't help thinking of him as kid half the time -- the Old Man is supposed to have all the answers.  And the hell of it is, he does.

At his silence, Kirk gave him another interrogatory look, just tinged this time with apprehension.  McCoy hitched his chair closer to the computer screen.

"Jim, it's your performance ratings."

The boyishly smooth face showed a faint relief.  "Down, I assume.  Senility catches up with all of us sooner or later, Doctor.  Let me guess -- you want me on shore-leave at Gareytown, no ifs, ands, or buts."

Same smile -- that impudent look in his eyes -- god, you'd never guess a thing was wrong...  "Jim -- I'm afraid it's not that easy.  I'm going to have to ask you for some couch time."

Lips rounded for a question, Kirk stopped.  The hazel of his eyes was transfixing as he searched McCoy's face.  When the gaze fell away, McCoy let out a breath.  Try as he might, he'd never be able to get completely immune to The Look -- that surfacing of the steel that made you wish you'd led a better life, preferably in some other part of the Galaxy.  Captain at twenty-nine, commanding a Starship at thirty-three. And this I'm supposed to keep in working order.  I don't even know what it is.

Jim's gaze came back to him, an ordinary stare this time.  "Six-Oh?"

McCoy nodded.  "I'm afraid so, Jim."


"That's impossible."

I feel fine.

"I feel the same as I always have."

There must be some mistake.

"It's got to be a computer error.  Did you check --"

At least his reactions were Starfleet normal on some things.  "Jim.  It's been building up over four months.  No possibility of error, except mine in not noticing till the Golem here knocked me over the head with it.  Take a look for yourself.  Computer."  The screen lit.  "Medical records.  File: James Kirk."

"Voice code identification," the terminal requested politely as Jim walked over and leaned on the console desk with both palms.

"Leonard H. McCoy, Ship's Surgeon."  He touched keys.  "There, Jim.  That's four months back."  He split the screen and started flipping forward through the weeks.  "You can see the drop.  And it kept going down, until --"  He pulled up the current readings.  "-- this."  The numbers looked so nearly unchanged.  Except above the column -- above half the columns as he paged through -- the red numerals "6.0" blinked slowly on and off, like a heart beating.

Jim's eyes had stopped scanning back and forth over the screen.  He straightened with an exasperated sigh.  "Bones, I just don't have the time --!"

"I'm making you the time, Captain.  As of now."

He got The Look.

And shot it right back.  This was his turf, and Jim knew it.  The only way to handle him:  pull rank, hard.  He'd never known why it worked, why anything worked to keep a man like Jim Kirk in line.  It felt like reining in a Bengal tiger.

And you'd better be right when you tried it.

This time, unfortunately, he was.

"Understood, Doctor."

Kirk turned away, arrow-straight.

"Jim --"

"Bones --"

Both stopped together.  Kirk had turned back, and now grinned crookedly. "Sorry."

"It's all right, Jim."

Kirk sucked in his upper lip for a moment.  "What's your diagnosis, Doctor?"

McCoy spread his hands.  "That's what I've got to find out."

"No ideas?"


"One hypothesis."

"Let's hear it."

"There's only one place in your current psych profile that shows an anomaly that could get you to this stage without gross provocation."  McCoy saw a glint of flame in the topaz eyes.  Very careful.  "Jim, if it's what I think it is, it's a bad one."  Their catch-all term for something not just bad, but one way or another hurtful.

"Show me."

Ought to feel my way; but -- it's Jim Kirk.

"All right, Jim.  This is the graph I mean.  You can see how --"

Kirk's fist slammed the desk.  "That son of a bitch has been talking to you!"


McCoy leaned casually back under Kirk's murderous glare.  "Which son of a bitch is that, Jim?"

"You know damn well I mean Spock!"  But doubt and a struggle for control were already mixing with the anger on the expressive face.  Safe.

"Oh?  Since when has that pointy-eared refugee from a helium farm been assistant headshrinker on this tub?  You'd have to be a lot further gone than you are now before I'd discuss your chart with your Second, Jim."

He saw Kirk relaxing further, but still with something eating him, bad.

"Now.  What's Spock been sayin' to you about this?" Damn Georgia accent -- always shows when I've been scared half pissless.

Kirk ground his right fist against his left palm.  "No."  He turned and there was fresh challenge in it.  "Let's hear what you say first."

McCoy laced his fingers in his lap.  "Okay Jim.  You know what the graph's about.  Thing is, it should have at least a couple paragraphs of interpretation tacked onto it.  Fact that it doesn't means there's something Starfleet didn't want you to see."

"Such as?"

I could have gone into xenodermatology...  "This green line across the top.  Ordinarily at various points on the graph it would squiggle up and down, and damn few of the squiggles would get up that high."


"Jim, that line... is the indicator along the gay-straight continuum.  Look how most of your other lines wave up and down around the middle, except for a couple down in the low end.  But that one starts at the top, goes straight over, and ends at the top." Jim backed away from the screen, not glancing at McCoy.  His eyes moved side to side as if looking for a way out of something.  When he spoke it was on a slightly higher pitch than usual.

"Let me see if I can save you some time, Doctor.  It indicates a repressed homosexual orientation."

Angrily, McCoy came to his feet.  "Did Spock tell you that?"

The Look.  "Was he wrong?"

"He had no business meddling with --"

"Was he wrong, Doctor?"  It was quietly spoken.

Not daring to take his eyes from Kirk's, McCoy growled, "He was right, Jim."


"Sit down, Jim.  Please."

Impatiently Kirk flung himself back into his chair.

McCoy outlined the two treatment alternatives.

Jim gazed unhappily at his desk.  "And if you bring this thing up, afterwards I'll be -- attracted to men?"

"It's possible, but not certain.  Just bringing an event into consciousness doesn't automatically eliminate its effects.  And you've been living as a heterosexual some thirty years."

"What kind of thing would do this to a person?"

"Jim, I can't be sure."

"Speculation, Doctor?"

He's handling this like a command decision!  But then, he has to.  "Jim, it could be a number of things...  But given your family background, the absence of strong homophobia in that environment, what I'd most expect to find would be a violent sexual assault, almost certainly before the age of ten.  Probably a single attack -- anything ongoing would be hard to get past the psych people at Starfleet."

"But you said they knew about this."

"I don't think they know any more than I do, Jim -- that something turned your sexuality around, and that you've lived with that very well. You were in good shape when this profile was done, and one thing I'll say for them, if it isn't broke, they don't try to fix it."

"But now it's broke."  Jim smiled tightly.

"I think so."

"Why?  Why now?"  McCoy thought he heard a guardedness in the question.

"That's the second thing I want to find out.  Any ideas?"

"No."  Definitely a set jaw on that one.

"Jim, I know how you must feel about this.  Believe me, I'll do everything I can to make it fast and effective, whichever way you decide to go."

The look in Kirk's eyes was one McCoy knew from countless Enterprise crises.  "I want to know.  I want to know what happened."

"I think you're right, Jim.  With something like this, the best way out is straight through."

But the seeking look was still there as McCoy said goodnight and left.

Kirk sat relaxed in his command chair, mulling over the pleasant blue-green globe on the screen.  A lovely Class M world.  What made it unusual, and would keep them here for at least a week of detailed surveying, was that it was only one of two such worlds in this system, both readily habitable by humans, neither with any form of advanced animal life.  This one, third out from its star, was covered with beckoning archipelagos in warm seas.  The fourth had sturdy continents and a wide range of climates, so much like earth it almost made him homesick.  The pair would be the prize of their year's work -- colonies with near planetary neighbors to take the chill off the light-years.  How had humans endured the isolation, he wondered, before they found they weren't alone in infinity?

Sensors had picked up the planets yesterday, and it had been a good day altogether.  His first session with McCoy had been a lot easier than he'd expected.  He'd been able to answer questions honestly without much embarrassment.  When McCoy probed the sore point of recent disturbances, he had finally explained that a 'personnel problem' had arisen but that it had only been in the last couple of days.  McCoy had accepted that it couldn't be responsible for his months-long decline, and had dropped it.  If this was all there was to therapy, he should be able to manage it without difficulty.

Spock was at his station and Kirk could not help but be aware of him.  But he avoided looking at him.

What had happened between them was a fluke of circumstances.  Almost inevitable if you considered the stress he was under and that he hadn't had any sex in, well, weeks, it must be, now.  Spock had had the sense not to try it again.  Quite likely he too had realized Kirk's response, though admittedly strong, meant nothing.

For one thing, McCoy had made no mention at all of sadomasochism on his sexual orientation graph.  Whatever showed there must be completely normal. So Spock was wrong.  He'd seen the graph's suppressed homosexuality, and he'd somehow let it mislead him about the other thing.

The planet before him shimmered with the turquoise of the one-celled plant life in its oceans.  Something was different about today, a weight of gray was missing.  A dragging sensation, as if all the spice and sparkle had gone out of life -- he realized, looking back, it'd been with him a long time. He'd gone on acting as usual (or so he'd thought), and the thing had crept over him without his really being aware of it.  Was that what depression was?  Had that been what was affecting him?  McCoy's therapy must be working already, innocuous as it seemed.  Amazing.

He felt, as if there were sensors in the back of his neck, Spock approach and stand just behind and to the right of his chair.  Chekov spoke up.

"We're ready for etmospheric sempling, Keptin."

Regulations called for hands-on analysis as well as sensor readings, when colonization seemed a certainty.

"Proceed, Mr. Chekov.  Ahead dead slow, Mr. Sulu."

From behind him came a silken voice.  "Yes, I believe a very careful initial penetration will be in order, James."

As the suggestiveness hit home, Kirk started to turn, and stopped.  He kept his eyes front as the Enterprise dipped gingerly into the outer skin of the planet's air.  If he called Spock on this, would he say something in front of the crew?  That threat was implicit in his choosing this place and time...

"Got it, Keptin."

"All right, Mr. Sulu, pull out."

"Aye, sir.  Ready for second pass, sir."

"Begin second pass."

"A few slow dips in and out -- quite right, James, under such unaccustomed conditions."

Kirk felt himself turning red.  Thank god no one else was paying any attention -- maybe they couldn't hear what Spock was saying.  Should he risk a scene by ordering him back to his station?

The shallow passes were completed.  Chekov reported ready for ionospheric dive.

"Take us in to a depth of four miles, Mr. Sulu."

"Some deep thrusts can be tolerated.  The design was intended to absorb considerable punishment."

Humiliation prickled through him.  He didn't even dare to protect himself! It must be true he was losing his ability to command.

A thin sound began of ionosphere screaming past.

"Hull temperature 800 degrees, Captain."

"I notice your equipment is registering a rise, James."

Kirk whirled and, almost voiceless with fury, gasped, "Report to my quarters after duty."

The Vulcan lips moved a fraction toward a smile.  "With great pleasure, Captain."

"And get back to your station."

Spock inclined his head and, with a glance of amusement that washed Kirk with rage, retreated.

They were going to have this out, once and for all!  That last outrageous lie had done it.  To hell with patience and understanding!  If Spock couldn't tell the difference between anger and arousal he was just one more sexual harassment freak.  Kirk had come down on that hard the few times he'd encountered it, there was no excuse to get soft just because this time the victim was himself.  If he felt sorry for Spock it was false sympathy to let the madness go any further.  They would both be better off once it was stopped.

Spock didn't keep him waiting.  He entered unannounced as Kirk was coming out of the bathroom, and strolled slowly into the Captain's bedroom.  His expression was coolly amused.

"So, James, you burn with desire for me."

"Liar!"  Kirk's voice cracked.  All his speeches and denunciations struggled in his throat at once and blocked each other.

"You will learn, James, once our relationship is made clear to you, always to tell the truth.  Vulcans regard honesty as the first principle of civilization.  At present, James, I regret to say that you need to be -- civilized.  Incidentally, I have decided that the name James will be our signal for you to assume your duties as my subordinate.  You will address me as 'Commander'.  You will find this useful in public situations."

"There aren't going to be any public situations.  This is ended as of now. That is a direct order -- Commander."  His lips tightened.  "I ought to have you court-martialed for your behavior on the Bridge today."

"Time is short, James.  You require my assistance in order to know your own mind."

Kirk tried to slow his breathing.  He couldn't seem to keep control of the confrontation.  "I don't want anything from you."

"You do."  The light tone had left Spock's voice.


"You do, James, and before I leave this room you will name it."  He took a step forward.

"Don't touch me!  If you lay a hand on me I'll call security."

"Will you?"  Spock raised one eyebrow.

Call security -- and explain why.  My Vulcan science officer, not in pon farr, threatened to rape me.  He might be able to prove it eventually -- after putting on record the whole sequence of events, including the episode in the storage bay corridor.  With Spock's testimony.  The whole truth...

"There is no need for dramatics, James.  If you wish me to accept that what you say is the truth, you can hardly object to a simple proof."

"What proof?"

Spock came forward quickly and Kirk stepped back, found himself blocked by the bed.  If he fought, he would lose -- there would be questions --

Spock turned him, not roughly.

"Kneel on the bed, James."

"What --?"

"Do not question me, James.  Kneel."

A steady pressure from behind forced his knees onto the mattress, while firm hands on his shoulders kept him from falling forward.  He floundered for balance, ending kneeling with his feet hanging over the edge of the bed. Spock reached down and moved one ankle, pulling his legs further apart.

"You will learn not to question that what I do is right and necessary."

Spock's left arm came around Kirk's chest, just below the neck, and pulled him back, leaving his body arched, vulnerable, his head against the tall Vulcan's shoulder.  "Now, James..."  Spock's right hand stroked inexorably down Kirk's belly.  Vulcan body heat penetrating from behind, Spock's breath ruffling his hair, the hand, descending, stopping over his cock... stroking up, back up, to his face, turning his mouth to Spock's, the hot, hot tongue pushed seemingly endless into his mouth, filling him so he struggled back and gasped for air, the hand, again, descending the taut helpless curve of his belly and loins --

"Oh god -- oh Spock, oh don't no -- "

-- his cock -- his cock -- the heat -- his cock yearning for the sensation, reaching, as the hand deserted it, up, the trail of fire left on his belly, his chest, his throat, and then two fingers forced steadily between his lips, parting him, entering --

"Suck me, James."

A whimpering cry tore from him without warning.  His lips closed convulsively, his tongue strove upward, he sucked the salt intrusion, his hips slowly, involuntarily rolling in the same rhythm.  Spock invaded him, deeper, choking him, this time gripping his face with iron strength.  He arched, unable to escape, while the long fingers entered and withdrew, controlling, with such contemptuous ease, the very breath of his life.  When Spock withdrew for the last time he was gasping already as the hand slipped toward the truth, the truth aching and straining for his touch, Kirk's cock meeting Vulcan heat with its own exquisite fires --

Spock's breath heated his cheek, the voice throaty, roughened by passion. "Now, James."  Kirk scarcely heard.  The hand moved, away, onto his thigh, close, close --

"Please - please -- "

"Say it, James."  The hand stroked nearer.  "Say it.  'I burn...'"  One finger made brief contact in a trace of unbearably inadequate pleasure.

"I... burn..."

The forearm across his collarbone tightened.  "'With desire.'"  The finger stroked lightly down the erect underside of his excruciatingly swollen cock. He writhed -- the finger stroked on, over his testicles.  The lightness of the touch through the fabric of his clothing was more tormenting than absence of all touch.  "'With desire!'  Say it!"

The hand abruptly tore open his fly fastenings.  Kirk bucked, heedless with lust.  "With desire!"  His loins arched again, seeking.

"'For you.'"  Hoarse, Spock's voice sank.  Kirk sobbed for breath.  Spock lifted one knee onto the bed behind Kirk, and pressed the hot length of himself against the human's uncontrollably contorting body.  His hand slipped into the opening and Kirk felt his long fingers slide down, over the tip, onto the ecstatic shaft of his being, and then slide away, to nest, moving restlessly, in the soft angle of the join of the thigh.  "'For you.'" Fingers reached, touched him far behind the balls, pressed.  The muscles of his lower belly jerked and trembled.  "'For you.'"  A growl, a tigerish caress had entered the disembodied voice in his ear.  "For you," Kirk whispered to the universe.  "For you!" he moaned, as Spock's palm dragged his balls, pulled up the length of his tortured cock, gripped, pulled down, ripped hard up once.

"Say it."  Spock squeezed, and released his hand completely, leaving Kirk's cock naked, maddened.  Voiceless, Kirk's breath cried for completion.  Spock placed his hand over, around the cock but not touching, close enough for just the heat to caress Kirk's shaft, and stroked.  "Say it all!"

"I burn - I -- no -- with desire -- for -- you -- ahhh!"  Spock pumped him and let go.


"I burn with -- desire for you --"  The hand took him, took him, clasped and held him, plunged with him --  "I burn with desire for you -- please - oh please, please I burn with desire for you, Spock, Spock no don't stop, I burn with desire for you I burn with desire for you --!" but Spock's hand let go, pulled out of his clothing, Spock turned him, he reached as he was laid on his back and felt one final brush of Spock's hand upon his cheek, then nothing, and Spock was gone.  In shock he lay, knowing it, bursting with need that would not be fulfilled, need for his touch, his presence, his mastery; and too shattered to move of himself, knowing it for truth, he formed again the words, without sound:  I burn with desire for you.

What have I done what have I done...

A simple proof.

He had never turned on so fast to anyone or anything in his life before. Seconds -- mere seconds from the moment Spock laid hands on him and he was reduced -- exalted? -- to this state of helpless want, paralyzed by his own desire.  Or was it his?  Could Spock have telepathic control over him, be influencing him?  His cock twinged.  Spock was influencing him all right. But not by mental control.  The sensations he had experienced were his own -- perhaps more his own than anything had ever been before, from a level of response he hadn't known he was capable of.  As if Spock's form, Spock's actions, his touch, the whole that resulted from this unprecedented addition of the factor of lust to all that had been Spock, touched some trigger inside him... the way molecules fitting into a bond triggered sensations of flavor and scent, this... fit.  Fit him, deep down, a key to a dark, secret lock on treasures he had not known he possessed...

What have I done... what have I done...


How could it be so strong -- overpowering -- so demanding of what, in any sane moment, he would emphatically reject?  To want Spock's hands -- oh god he wanted them still!  To do what he wished, to touch, there, hold, press -- he wanted Spock to --

-- to do just as Spock had done, only never to stop, never.

He was able to move his hand.  He slid it up over his groin.  Spock's hand...

Spock's hand sliding under his neck, Spock's lips, Spock's weight on him --

Oh god he wanted it!  That weight and strength on his body --!  Strong hands holding him, Spock's mouth forcing his kiss, heat and strong thighs, hips bearing down on his crotch -- Irresistible longing flooded him, he trembled and trembled with mindblanking lust, his hand gripped and stroked -- but he couldn't come.  He couldn't.  He had to!  He was disintegrating in his own fires --

And something locked, with an almost audible click.  What he wanted -- what he needed -- he could not have.  Forbidden.  Interdicted.  Flaming swords crossed before the gate.

His hand worked.  He set his teeth.

He couldn't make it happen.

A moment before and he had been ready.  He had been thinking of -- about to imagine--

He had been imagining Spock and --

Spock --

Spock was the problem.  He couldn't come because he really didn't want Spock.  Spock was blocking him.  If he had to think about Spock and -- and all this business, he might never have an orgasm again.  He felt cold and logical as a Vulcan himself.  Spock would have to go.  It was the only solution that would leave him any peace.  He hadn't asked for this.  Spock had brought it on himself, left him no choice.  It would be sad -- it would be sad to lose him --  Tears stung his eyes but he caught himself. Sentimentality had no place when it was a question of right and wrong, and Spock was absolutely out-of-line wrong.  He pushed himself up to sit on the edge of the bed and was surprised to find he was trembling deeply.  Cold. He'd gotten chilled, somehow, and his whole body felt as cold as ice.

McCoy had scheduled therapy sessions for every other evening.  It was just before their second session that Spock joined them at supper.  McCoy eyed the tray of Vulcan vegetation and muttered, "How he gets any pleasure out of eating sagebrush and bindweed I'll never understand."

"The purpose of eating, Doctor, is nourishment.  It is unnecessary for an evolved species to feel pleasure in the process."

"Someday, Spock, I'm going to hogtie you and feed you baked ham and sweet potatoes and pecan pie and make you admit you liked it."

"An interesting fantasy, Doctor.  Wouldn't you agree, Jim?"

Kirk made no answer, but it seemed to McCoy he put his down his coffee cup with exaggerated care.

"And so typically human.  I find it intriguing that so many of your words for pleasurable experience have their roots in the concept of loss of autonomy.  For example, 'captivating'.  Or 'ravishing'.  'Enthralled.' 'Rapture.'  'Irresistible.'  The cluster around the idea of enchantment -- charm, bewitching, glamor, entranced.  It is as though humans were frequently compelled to feel pleasure against their will."

"Better than never feeling it at all," McCoy growled.

Abruptly Jim pushed his chair back from the table and stalked out of the room.

McCoy glanced to see if Spock would comment, but the Vulcan merely shrugged his eyebrows at human incomprehensibility and continued his meal.

Jim was waiting for him in his office, with an expression that moved McCoy to the shelf where he'd set out glasses, ice and muscle relaxants.  He poured Kirk a straight Scotch and took it to him.  "How's it been going, Jim?  Anything come up since we talked the other day?"

"Not really.  Except -- I did have a strange dream last night.  I dreamed of my father -- with me, here, on the Enterprise.  We were having a great time, talking about everything like I never got to do with him in real life. And then gradually I realized it wasn't my father... it was Sarek.  Does that -- mean anything special?"

McCoy grunted and rattled the ice loose in the bucket.  "No more than what I've been telling you for the last four years, that you're trying to become the only round-eared Vulcan in the Galaxy."

Kirk's drink splashed over the breast of his tunic.  "The only what?"

McCoy stopped tilting cubes into his glass and stared.  "The only round-eared Vulcan.  In the Galaxy.  What did you think I said?"

Kirk sat back slowly into his chair.  "Nothing.  Nothing, Bones.  I just misheard."

"Jim, I've never seen you this jumpy.  I wish you'd let me try a regression. If it works, we could have the answer to this in an hour."


"Jim, can you tell me what it is about it that worries you?"

"I don't want to discuss it, Bones."

After a long look at Kirk's averted face, McCoy capitulated.  Jim was holding back too much.  It was only their second session, but the doctor in him already had a strong intuition that this wasn't going to work.

Everything was going to work out.

McCoy was curing his depression or whatever it was.  He already felt better. As he reached his quarters, Kirk found a smile on his lips that turned into a light laugh.  His shirt was still damp and smelling faintly of alcohol. He could still feel the shock it'd given him -- thinking McCoy had accused him of trying to be 'a round-heeled Vulcan'!

A giggle escaped him as he entered.  It was really pretty funny when you --

The door slid closed behind him and Spock stood up from the computer desk.

An eyebrow lifted.

The laughter died out of Kirk's mouth, which suddenly felt dry.  He had meant to order a physical on the First Officer -- prepare McCoy with hints of the inevitable transfer.  It had slipped his mind.  No, he'd thought of it, but put it off, and now --

Spock's nostrils distended delicately.  "James, it is hardly advisable for the captain of a starship to return to his cabin at night reeling and smelling like a distillery."

"I spilled a drink."  He had meant to say, Get out.

Spock looked him up and down.  He was suddenly transported to his cadet days when the petty officers inspected the remains after drunken revelries.

"Quite," Spock said austerely.  He paced in a circle with Kirk at its center, keeping his hands clasped behind his back.  He was holding something there, Kirk suddenly realized -- and he was now between Kirk and the door. "You've kept me waiting, James."  Something in the Vulcan's tone sent an electrical thrill of warning from the pit of his stomach to the soles of his feet.

"Spock, I won't --"

"You will address me as 'Commander'."

"-- I won't put up with any more of this!"

"You are drunk, you are late, and you are insubordinate."  Spock came close. "In the days of sailing ships, Terrans knew how to deal with these things." Kirk forced himself not to step back as Spock touched his cheek -- with something black, coiled --  "A pity if we were to let the old traditions die out."  Spock took the thing in both hands and let it uncoil slickly across Kirk's chest.  "The cat o' nine tails.  Such quaint names humans used to give things.  A charming aspect of your inherent instability.  As a race, you really only understand the language of pain and pleasure, James, the language I am about to teach you."

"You wouldn't dare."  Kirk felt the lashes of the long whip sliding back over his shoulder.

"Wouldn't I?"  Spock's look was so unmoved, so undeceivable, that Kirk had trouble meeting his eyes.  He knew full well that Spock would dare absolutely anything -- given a logical reason.  But he also knew, with the certainty of years, that Spock would never hurt him.  The dark eyes were watching for his reaction.

With that awareness, Kirk suddenly felt the slide of the lashes over his body as incredibly erotic.  He had to stop this.  Spock couldn't be allowed to experiment on him until he found the right--

He pulled back and twisted away quickly.  Spock made no attempt to hold him and didn't even turn to look.  He merely stood gazing down at the thing in his hands, stroking and caressing it.

Kirk felt a wave of despair.  What could he say to this man that would convince him to give up?  Reason had failed.  Anger had failed.  Everything he said was turned back on him in the warped logic of Vulcan delusion. Reason...  Anger...


He looked at the strong shoulders that curved slightly forward in that self-protective way you wouldn't expect to find in a Vulcan, seeing, really seeing him for the first time in days.  My god, he's so alone!  He's left himself completely vulnerable to do this... for me.  I can't abandon him here.  There must be a way back from this... precipice he's standing on.

"Spock..."  He felt for the words.  "Spock, don't do this to yourself.  You don't have to go through with this.  We can... put it behind us.  No one will ever know and -- we'll find some way around the pon farr.  Someone, somewhere, must have an answer, or we'll make it ourselves.  You know me, Spock, I can always find a way out!"

There was a silence, and Kirk thought he saw the shadow-smile on the corner of Spock's mouth.  Then his head lifted.

"Yes," he said dryly.  "You do have abilities in that direction, James."  He looked back down at the whip, and murmured detachedly, "You will come to realize, however, that I am the one person you cannot wheedle, or bluff -- or seduce.  There is no way around me, James.  The sooner you admit that to yourself, the sooner you will have what you really want:  total and absolute submission to my will and my demands on your body."

Kirk felt his anal muscles contract and his thighs shiver.  To blot out this false response he blurted the first thing that came into his mind.  "I do not like being ordered around!"

"On the contrary, James.  You revel in it.  Why else did you join a military organization?"

Kirk was halted, stunned.  "I --"  But something within him reverberated to the charge.  He could not answer.  He remembered days of drill, the warm sense of having done right, the pride in perfect obedience, in being tough, able to take it during hazing weeks and survival training.  How it somehow connected him with the whole cadet corps, Starfleet tradition, predictability and absolution, the tough older cadets, officers...

"Starfleet was my way off Earth."

"Not the merchant fleet?  Or independent corporations?"

"They wouldn't have paid for my education.  We can't all come from rich ruling class families, you know."  Good god.  How jealous and childish -- he hadn't meant to say that -- he was so off-balance he was babbling anything to deflect Spock's wild accusations!

"You worked your way up, James.  You rose at phenomenal speed, through a combination of obedience and defiance.  Now you are the ruling class." Spock wheeled slowly to face him, drawing the long black strands of the cat gently through his fingers.  One by one the dark lashes fell from his palm to hang swaying, brushing through one another, till finally all were still, a black waterfall of supple leather, riveting.  "You have all you ever wanted.  Except, of course, the one thing you could never let yourself have."

"You mean the love of a good man, I suppose."  Kirk tried to make his voice overflow with amused indifference.

The stock of the whip seemed to move involuntarily, and the heavy lashes swayed.  Long sensitive Vulcan fingers touched the black cataract, encircling it, and stroked down the silken column.

"No, Jim..."

The dark gaze fixed on him with that expression he could not interpret, the gravitic intensity of blackened stars.

"I mean ecstasy."

Weakness ...

...trembled through him, in the memory of his body and mind yielding so wholly to Spock's touch, to the sexual imperatives of his authority.  The depth of response he had exiled from awareness rippled back, incontestable as the return of the tide.

When he could command his voice he asked, "If I've never let myself have it before, why should you think I will now?"

In the fathomless night of Spock's eyes he thought he saw pity.  The Vulcan answered only, "It is time."

It is time, responded something deep within him, something terrifyingly new, powerful, alien to all he had been.  I am the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, responsible for four hundred thirty crew and uncounted billions of lives in my sector...

"Will you resist me, Jim?"

Spock was nearer, seeming to move as slowly as the sea, as certain to engulf him.

"I must."  Spock's arms came around him, touching gently, slender and incomparably strong.  Kirk closed his eyes.  "I must resist."

"Why, Jim?"

I am the captain of... of my soul...  In Spock's arms was Eden...  How often had he destroyed, rejected Paradise...  A man needed to struggle, overcome obstacles, to stay alive, he'd said, the human spirit demanded continual challenge.  But was it the human spirit that needed these things, or only...

... himself?

He must resist.  Whatever others wanted or needed, his spirit must have opposition to keep its flame alive.  But how was he to fight this elysium, when even the thought of struggling in Spock's embrace, of brushing against his imprisonment, left such weakness in his bones, and set such tongues of pleasure licking along his flesh, as made his body a heaven in itself?


"Because..."  If not in action, then in words, if not by passion, then by self-command.  He opened his eyes, and stood as if untouched, quiet. "Because I am a Starship captain, Mr. Spock.  Ecstasy is not in my job description.  I would appreciate it if you would release me."

And he was free, as Spock stepped back, the ends of the whip trailing on the floor.  The Vulcan said softly, "I have never underestimated your strength."

Kirk made no reply.

"I will never hold you back from anything you wish to do or be.

"I doubt that I could do so, but in any case I would not.  Your strength is beautiful to me."

Carefully he looped the lashes of the whip against the stock and laid it on the desk.

"You must choose, Jim."

And he was gone, leaving nothing but an echo of the sighing of the door.

And the black, coiled leather.

He'd wanted Spock to quit.  But... they could have argued a little longer.

Frustrating, getting set to push against something that suddenly wasn't there.

Would Spock really leave him -- to choose?  Never touch him again?

He looked to where a few lash-ends of the cat dangled over the edge of the desk.  Slowly he stepped nearer.  The stock was worked in tiny black leather braiding.  He ought to drop the thing into the disposal chute... but it was beautifully made.  His fingertips were drawn to the leather.  He suppressed a shiver at the touch.  More boldly he lifted the whip and let the long, flat lashes be pulled over his palm.  He closed his hand gently.  The incredibly soft, supple strands gliding through his fingers gave a lovely sensation.  You wouldn't think it could ever hurt.  Experimentally he caught the ends and whacked them against his palm.  Nothing much.

He tried it harder.  It stung a little.  Of course you couldn't tell from that what it would be like at full swing with a strong arm behind it.  Would Spock ever actually... ?

He had a flash of himself face-down on a bed, and the lashes slashing into his naked buttocks.

It set up long tremors of fear deep inside him.

Why would he fear something that was never going to happen?

He'd felt whips once or twice under circumstances where he'd been too busy to pay much attention to the pain.  It hadn't particularly scared him.  The truth was, he just didn't feel fear much, the way other people seemed to, at moments of physical danger.

The tremors faded.  He coiled the whip as carefully as Spock had done.  He'd return it to him, after all this was over, when such a gesture could no longer be misconstrued.  Meanwhile he had to hide it from his yeoman.  For years he'd looked after his own quarters, but lately he couldn't seem to find the time, and his yeoman had taken to tidying.  It was an ancient Enterprise joke, the way they invariably assigned him females.  He'd privately decided it was because he kept his hands strictly off his crew -- even slapped down any cracks about "Captain's Woman" -- and Starfleet welcomed safe berths for the increasing number of women they were graduating.  But it occurred to him now that maybe it had more to do with his aberrant sex graphs; though that wouldn't really make sense -- even the graphs admitted he had sex only with women.  And if they assumed a young man wouldn't be safe with him... it didn't speak too well for their attitude toward gay senior officers.

Actually he didn't know any gay senior officers.

He turned that over in his mind as he went into the bedroom, opened the closet door and pushed the whip far to the back of the overhead shelf.  It'd be safe for now.  No one ever looked up there.

Over the next two days gradually his wariness of Spock started to calm, the Vulcan making no untoward gestures.  As First Officer he was correct and reticent.  He carried out duties with a minimum of interchange with Kirk, and at other times was out of sight, in the labs or in his quarters.  Kirk stopped glancing nervously over his shoulder.  On the third day the Captain spoke up casually as they met in a corridor, wanting to prove his appreciation of Spock's good behavior, but the Vulcan only inclined his head and passed on.  Kirk gazed after him, a little wounded.

On the Bridge that afternoon he felt the distance between them as if there were a tractor beam radiating from his right side to the Vulcan's station.

Was Spock angry?  Had he decided to reject Kirk completely as the only safe path?  Or had he come to the conclusion that after all his skittish Captain wasn't worth it?  He seemed to be spending most of his time instructing Chekov in the finer points of sensor evaluation of large bodies of water. Kirk, watching surreptitiously, caught a look of grave attention directed into the Lieutenant's soft brown eyes.  Irritation twitched at him.  Then, as he watched, Spock's hand lifted, and the long, pale, sensitive fingers touched Chekov's shoulder, turning him back toward the sensor readings.

Hurt shocked through him, leaving the crevice for a narrow, primitive vein of hatred.  Spock's hand was still on Chekov's shoulder!  Spock was sensing him -- feeling out his emotions -- Chekov, who had had sex with men, whose punctilious correctness and precision would appeal to a Vulcan mind, who already looked up to Spock with near idolatry, and who was so darkly handsome -- if you liked that soft type.  Chekov!  Why had he assumed that Spock would go off to look for another mate among strangers?  But could he have adjusted his interest this swiftly, this -- logically -- from one who could not respond to one who -- might?  So much for Vulcan fidelity, for stoic perseverance in a chosen course --!

The ship seemed to jolt around him...  How could it be that Spock's hand was still on Chekov's body?  Spock had never done that with him.  A thought trickled in, with a sensation cozy and piercing at once:  could Spock be doing it because -- he knew Kirk was watching?

It was a delightful idea.

Spock -- trying to make him jealous?  Hopeless attempt, but -- how -- pathetically endearing!  The next time Spock looked his way he would be sure to show him an expression of forgiveness and understanding.  Nothing inviting, of course, but --

"McCoy to Captain Kirk."

He touched the intercom.  "Kirk here."

"Jim, I need to see you as soon as you're free."

"Can it wait till after duty hours?"

"I'd rather not, Jim."

"I'll see what I can do.  Kirk out."

Spock and Chekov turned from the computer station without a glance at Kirk and passed near as Chekov was saying, "The obserwation deck, sir?  It will be a pleasure, sir."

On the observation deck the private star-viewing rooms had doors that locked.  There was the sound of the turbolift door as it whisked open and shut.  Ensign Weng, with O'Day hovering at her elbow, handed Kirk a status report.  He raked it viciously with the stylus, in the wrong place.

Letting himself feel irritated at the interruption, he was nevertheless half glad to be dragged off the Bridge.  The chaotic petty demands there were getting on his nerves.

Nurse Cohen nodded him to McCoy's private office.  The doctor looked up and switched off his computer screen.  "Jim. "

Kirk dropped into a swivel chair, turning it to face him.  "Make this fast, Bones, I've got work to do."

"How fast it is depends on you, Jim.  I've been monitoring your ratings practically on the hour.  For a while they seemed to show improvement.  But yesterday they started dropping like a pile of rocks.  You're now at six point six.  I thought I might pull you out gradually but it's not working. I want to do a regression and I want to do it no later than tomorrow morning."

"Out of the question."

"That wasn't a suggestion, Jim, it was an official medical recommendation. I haven't logged it yet, but if you force me to, I will."  The blue eyes stared implacably, then softened.  "Jim, your resistance is part of your problem.  It's a symptom, just like the little errors and oversights you've been making.  You're slipping fast and it's partly because of the energy you're having to put into this denial."

"Or maybe it's because of your harping on it!"

McCoy's mouth set.  He got up and leaned over the desk aggressively.  "That may well be.  But whatever the cause, it's happening.  Now you can do this the easy way or you can do it the hard way.  You can tell me what it is or you can wait till it rips you open and then you'll be telling the world. And it will be a world, because when that integration rating hits eight point oh you are relieved of command.  Grounded, Jim.  Just try getting another Starship with that on your record.

"Do you think I like putting this kind of pressure on you in the state you're in?  I'm trying to help you.  And you've got to let me.  We don't have weeks or months any more, Jim.  It may be only a matter of days."

Kirk steadied himself with effort.  His mind seemed to be warping off in all directions, but there was only one point he must focus on:  he could lose the Enterprise.  It didn't seem possible, he could see or feel no reason, but it was perilously near.  All must take second place to that fact.  His privacy.  Spock.  It was Spock he'd been trying to protect, after all.  If anything came out under McCoy's prying it would ruin him.  But Spock had only himself to blame.  Probably his unbalanced ultimatum had brought on this crisis in the first place.

Now Spock would just have to take his chances.  All Kirk could do was give him advance warning of what might happen.  He'd go tonight to Spock's quarters and tell him.

That resolution made, he felt more at peace.  And, he told himself, several people had tried to hypnotize him over the years.  All had failed.  He just had a built-in resistance to it.  McCoy might not get anywhere.

His friend and CMO, he suddenly saw, was looking tired and almost -- scared. The perpetual circles under his eyes were more pronounced than ever.

"All right, Bones."  He said it mildly, and saw McCoy try to hide relief. Odd he'd never really registered how tense Bones got in a disagreement. That stare, his head a fraction lowered, like someone alert for the first strike in a hand-to-hand.

He stood.  "I'll see you at oh eight hundred."

"We'll lick this, Jim."

Kirk only nodded, and left.

It was later in the evening than he had planned on when he reached Spock's door, and then he stood outside it, with suddenly beating heart and dryness in his mouth.  Foolish to be nervous.  He would simply explain... that... That he was under treatment, of course, that it could lead to a revelation of Spock's behavior -- but could it?  McCoy would be digging around far in the past, childhood, he'd said.  It was unpleasant having to tell anyone about this weakness, and maybe there was no need.  It might make Spock think he was unworthy of --

Kirk averted the thought sharply.  Really there was no need to see Spock... he could have left him a message... and could he be sure Spock was alone? That afternoon Spock and Chekov had been absent from the Bridge a total of forty-eight minutes.  Perhaps at this very moment --

He didn't know if it was the thought or the appearance of a crewman coming down the corridor, but suddenly he had pressed the buzzer and Spock's door slid open.

He stepped inside.

The lights had been turned surprisingly low.  In a pool of light falling on the desk, long slender hands closed an antique paper book.

When Spock looked up, his eyes were black victorious flame.

"I see you are ready, James."

Kirk stood transfixed.  The Vulcan had been expecting him.  Collectedly waiting for Kirk to seek him out.  Knowing he would find a reason, convince himself, contrive a necessity of seeing Spock alone, in private, in Spock's own quarters.  And this three days of reserve had been as long as he had been able to resist.  All this Kirk knew, because he saw it in Spock's eyes. What Spock knew, he himself could no longer deny.

He had come...

"I came to tell you --"  The automatic shield of words went up, but faltered.  Because Spock rose from behind the desk.  He was wearing neither Starfleet uniform nor Vulcan meditation robes.  Over close-fitting dark trousers of silken hveisth'ei leather fell, to mid-thigh, the voluptuous full tunic, belted with the wide wrap of shimmering gold sash.  Subtle shoulder-flares winged out from the bloused garment's yoke, emphasizing the elegant power of the Vulcan physique.  He wore Krellesh'han boots.

He had known indeed.

Numbly Kirk let the image, like a force-bolt, shock through him.  Waves of blackness flashed in alternation with swells of a muted tingling over the whole surface of his skin, and deeper...  No/Yes.  No.  Yes.  No/yes.  No yes.

"You are ready, James, for your next lesson in Vulcan decorum."

Lust splashed at his groin, upward like sweet rolling steams from steeping cinnamon, shuddered his flanks, tightened his biceps.  His arms moved forward.

No yes.

The reaching checked.


Sweet need unbearable.

Forgotten, everything he must say, meaningless under this wordless shock and surge.  Yes/no.  No.  His hands rose without his conscious will and touched, in loose fists, his mouth.  No yes.  His eyes, closed, flew open when he heard Spock move.  He was coming nearer -- unbelievably, inevitably, a figure out of Vulcan myth, an indomitable force, a friend, a stranger, violence, immanent peace, the detonation of yes and no --

Spock seized his wrists and drew his hands down.  The fists pressed together, between their two bodies, as if in pleading.  Spock's voice was soft.  "Tonight, James, you will begin to learn to serve me."

"No --"  Yes.  The sound could not betray him, for he meant nothing by the word, hardly knew which of the two he had uttered.

"No?"  The word was still soft, but Spock's grip forced Kirk's forearms up, then back as he applied heavy pressure.  "Do you say no to me?"  Kirk's knees gave.  He went to the floor.  Spock's booted leg eased against his groin.  He pressed himself to it.  His world became liquid, salt and dark, dangerous, and warming.  The sensations washed through him unpredictably rhythmic as tremors of sea depths, rippling his nerves in preemptive overload.  Nothing left of him but this gauze mesh saturated with gratification, this swell, moving him will-lessly.

"No... you will not resist.  You are the slave of your senses.  Like all your kind."  A scalding humility opened him further. I am... slave to you... bed slave... degraded lower than the lowest...  You will reach down and take me at your will...  I am powerless even to withhold my soul from you...

Spock seized his upper arms and shook him roughly.

"You will not pleasure yourself!  You are to attend my wishes, not grovel in your human lusts."

Dragged from his swollen oblivion Kirk blushed fiercely.  He wrenched out of Spock's hands and staggered to his feet.  Spock advanced swiftly, and Kirk tripped, recovered, and retreated, and found himself gripping the frame of the bedroom door.  Then hard hands were expertly deflecting his instinctive defenses.  He was shoved into the bedroom.

He stopped with a gasp.  The whole room had been changed.  Vulcan carpetings were spread in layers over the floor.  The walls were hung with arrases, the ceiling with tent-silk, heavy worked draperies were drawn back from the doors.  In the low light he had noticed nothing until he was actually within.

The bed was larger.

It was draped with a Vulcan winter-silk, and the end against the wall was piled with pillows.

Utilitarian items had been put away or removed.  The whole room was now a Vulcan warrior's pavilion.

Spock stood framed in the door, watching him.

The room had been furnished with just one thing in mind.

He felt himself blushing again.  Everything his eyes fell on spoke to him of himself, legs spread, and Spock -- little chills ran up under his skin.

Spock had done this.  It was so incredible.  Spock's room had always seemed, to unaccustomed eyes, a bit exotic; not quite the expected, from an imperturbably logical First Officer.  But this --!  He turned.

"You did this for me...?"

Spock folded his arms.  "Vain and egotistical pampered toy."  Kirk could see the shadow-smile even in the dim light.  "Must everything be done with reference to your pleasure?  Truly your character flaws will require ceaseless correction."

"It's --"  He jolted back to reality.  "Spock, you shouldn't --  It --  I don't say you're-- completely wrong about me.  I --"  He decided not to cloud the issue by bringing up McCoy.  "But even if you were right... I can't do this.  Everything is against it.  You want a commitment.  I've been -- the Tomcat.  And -- it would finish us both in Starfleet.  And then--" Say it.  You owe him that much honesty.  "It's a moral issue, Spock.  I've thought about it and -- I realized I just feel that kind of sex is wrong."

"Why, Jim?"

"It's just not right.  Two people ought to be equal when they make love."

"Are you and I not equal?"

"Yes, but you'd be trying to change that."

"Jim, are we equal in rank?"

"In Starfleet?  Of course not, but that's different.  Someone who knows what they're doing has to be in charge where danger is involved."

"Yet we are equals?  Though I must and shall obey you?"

There was a frustrated silence.  Finally, "It's not the same.  The chain of command is necessary.  What you're trying to do is just for -- just for --"

"Pleasure?  Is that what makes it so different?"

"I haven't thought everything through.  But -- maybe that is the difference. People shouldn't take pleasure in that.  And you're not talking about just command, you're talking about antagonism, enforced obedience and -- resistance.  And inflicting pain."

"Resistance... yes.  You love resisting.  You have little opportunity -- except to resist your own impulses.  Constantly.  You can never let your longing to fight back overcome your judgment -- you never get to resist an outside force with all your strength, forgetting restraint.  That alone would give you pleasure."

"That doesn't make it right."

Spock's head cocked slightly to one side.  "Nor does it make it wrong."

"It's -- it's hostile, Spock.  Underneath it has to come from hostility."

"If so -- what rational objection can there be to hostility channeled so as to give limitless pleasure to another being?"

"It's not fair to people who are really suffering."

"In what way can it harm them?  What added harm comes to those who are suffering, if you and I do these things together?"

"If this kind of thing is shown as pleasure... it could make people -- careless about real suffering."

"Does it have this effect on you?"

"Of course not.  But --"

"But others may not be so wise and compassionate."

Kirk flushed.  "Maybe I don't have your trust in the basic goodness of sentient nature.  There are some out there I wouldn't want to have access to your little porno collection!"

Spock regarded him a moment.  "I should like you to view the rest of the tape you were watching eight days ago."

"I don't want to see it."

Spock lifted a drapery and pulled the com unit from its cabinet.  "It will form a valuable part of your education."

"I don't want to see this."

Spock continued as though he had not spoken.  "This time I should like you to be aware, as are most in our extended community, that the two principal actors are lovers, pledged to one another though not yet bonded.  The Vulcan's name is Ktath.  The boy is Azon-Shannonda Unizhennye.  Ktath was known on Vulcan as an extremely radical teacher-philosopher.  He has been self-exiled for some twelve years, making films with a traveling company."

"'Azon-'?"  Kirk could not repress his curiosity.  "From Atropos?  The renegade colony?"

"Correct.  That prefix, together with the '-da' suffix, indicates a captaincy in one of the child tribes of Dakkis, the principal city.  He was smuggled into Federation territory by a freighter operator, and two years later met Ktath in the Fomalhaut system."

"Pretty rough territory," Kirk commented.  "But compared to Atropos I suppose anything would be an improvement."

"So I understand."

Kirk eyed the Vulcan.  "And you think it's okay to take advantage of that background to get a kid working in this kind of film?"

Spock asked seriously, "You object to sexual acting?"

"I object to the fact that the scenes I saw could not have been performed without pain."

Spock slotted a cassette wafer into the com unit.  "Azon-Shannonda is sexually aroused by pain -- in the proper context."

"Then he should get treatment."

The Vulcan eyebrow shot to its highest slant.  "To be cured of arousal?" Kirk suddenly blushed, brought up short by his own recent display.  But that had been different.  It had been... it had felt...

It had felt wonderful.

"Come."  Spock slipped his fingers under Kirk's palm and led him toward the bed.  Kirk balked.  "First I wish you to view the film.  It may clarify some matters more quickly than discussion could do."

Reluctantly Kirk sat on the bed, while Spock activated the com unit with the remote.  He felt curiosity, but also a dread of seeing that scene again, those moments that had started to turn his life upside down.  The film was running, scenes of a rural Earth, and the words Vulcan Lords of Terra. Despite his tension, he almost laughed.  It was the quintessential B-movie title.

The film opened in a peasant village, following primitive activities and introducing the blond boy, who was shown as something of a misfit.  It was quickly established that in this alternate reality Vulcan military overlords ruled a conquered Earth, as mercenary garrisons for mercantile exploiters whose description bore a suspicious resemblance to Orions.

When a Vulcan unit, led by Ktath's gorgeously flamboyant character, rode into the village, the boy watched from the shadows, with naked worship.  By the time the Vulcan in turn noticed the boy, it had been made clear that enormous cultural differences separated the romantic yet practical humans and the arrogant, impossibly honor-bound invaders, who had been taught to think of the peasants as dangerous, demi-sentient brutes.  The chase in the woods and the boy's rape became, gradually, inevitable, through the buildup of misunderstanding and tension between the two races' sets of assumptions. Kirk watched fascinated.  The economy with which whole cultures were delineated was astounding.

When the chase began he went tense.  His mouth was arid.  Suddenly he felt Spock's hand laid gently on his thigh, and his mind veered and fluttered.

When he could once again follow the film, the riders had reached the clearing.

The scene seemed to go more quickly -- that always seemed to be the way, the second time you saw something.  In only a moment the boy was brought to Ktath naked.  They're lovers, Kirk thought.  With the words his eyes suddenly focused on the boy's loin-rag, and widened.  Clearly outlined under the cloth was an unmistakable erection.

So that's why they didn't strip him completely!  He looked to the boy's face.  It was dream-like and distant with desire.  But as the kashta came off, and was held out to bind him, Kirk saw again that odd look of confusion, a sort of benumbed disbelief, turning to something Kirk couldn't interpret.

The boy was dragged down, and kissed brutally.  His face was still a moment, the lips open in utter surrender.  He gasped in air, then slowly his eyelids rose on a look of such erotic supplication as no one could have resisted. By a slight movement Kirk recognized one of those shivers of desire he himself had felt, locked in a Vulcan's arms.  With no further warning, he felt himself beginning to erect.

This wasn't the way it had been!  The first time he had recognized no such arousal on the human's face.  And even now there were, masking the desire, the fear and repulsion true to his role.  The peasant boy took no pleasure in this rape; the Atroposan boy conspicuously did -- once you knew what to look for.  It was incredible that an actor performing should get so turned on, and more incredible still that he could continue to play his part, but the desire driving the act was unmistakable.  How could he not have seen it, the last time?

Spock's hand lay unmoving on Kirk's thigh.  He looked down at it, pale and long and suddenly unignorably erotic in the sensitivity it expressed even in its stillness.  Its warmth penetrated the plain dark material of his trousers.  If it moved up, and lay that warmth on his crotch -- Kirk's thigh muscles tingled.  He looked back at the screen, where the sex acts taking place made him think of Spock's mouth on his cock, Spock's hand on his neck, Spock's body full-length against him, Vulcan phallus on his tongue, Vulcan murmuring near his ear, Vulcan strength opening him sexually.  The hand burned on his thigh like a hot salve.  The film rolled on.  The boy was carried off to the Vulcan camp and in sets of barbaric luxury met with all the cruel humiliations of a subject race.  Vulcan features, which to Kirk had always represented intelligence and serene courage, began to startle him as the signal of imminent violation.  In his master's absence the beautiful captive was raped by others too low in rank to keep pleasure slaves, under threat of death if he exposed them.  He attempted escape and was punished. The sexual violence became nightmarish and relentless, until one night the master, increasingly unable to think of anything but his slave's allure, succumbed to the temptation of a forbidden meld with a lovely animal.  Kirk watched in fascination the subtlety of the actor's play of expression, as the mind of the warrior sank into that torn, agonized consciousness, and the devastation of what he had been to the vulnerable being struck deeper and deeper into a Vulcan psyche.  Kirk could almost feel the lacerating, unbearable-yet-borne human emotion severing the conqueror forever from his joy of conquest.

Kirk's reactions to the sex scenes had been a rollercoaster of lust, guilt, and revulsion.  But as the warrior now only watched the boy with controlled, tormented desire, Kirk became aware again of Spock's hand, still on his thigh.  Spock would suffer that, if Kirk rejected him.  And at pon farr...

The rapists again attacked the slave, but learning of the Vulcan-human meld, and fearing another meld might expose them, they arranged an accidental death for the boy in a primitive human mill.  The warrior arrived in time to interpose his body and Vulcan strength between the bound human and the huge stone.  As he was crushed further and further down, clothes torn in desperate attempts to press back the weight, the Vulcan musculature was exhibited in extended, sensuous detail.  Once again the Vulcan became a beautiful object, as at the beginning of the film, but now with an intimacy and emotional impact that gave the two living creatures' struggle against death profound dimension.  The struggle, in one sense futile, as all life must ultimately die, became nevertheless the symbol of life's stand against its end, the gallantry and beauty of the living organism that was perhaps life's deepest purpose.  The warrior met and held the boy's eyes, and asked forgiveness -- in Vulcan, which the boy could not understand.  Then vowed, in desperate English, "You shall not die!"

The warrior's followers turned up at the last moment to save them.  The warrior freed his slave far from the danger of the camp.  Weeks later, feeling the heat of his approaching need, he prepared to die in the ancient ceremony of oon tes'ek, the deliberate death in pon farr of the male whose desired mate was unobtainable.  The historical ceremony was one Kirk had read of, but had never seen represented in a film before.  It touched too close to the heart of Vulcan sexual irrationality to be a sedate subject for art.

In the falling snow, the warrior knelt on the tapestry in the immovable circle of unsheathed swords.  When the rage encompassed him, he would run himself upon them in the need to reach his Chosen.

The boy slipped between the swordsmen, put back the hood of his robe, and knelt facing his former rapist.  The outraged swordsmen leaped forward to slay him, stopped by the leader's upraised hand.

The Vulcan's voice trembled.  "You must leave this place."

The boy glanced at the drawn swords, and the camp beyond, and said simply, "I cannot."

"I swore you would not die at Vulcan hands."

"Then you must protect me."

"Honor demands --"

"-- that you survive.  Fulfill your vow, S'kanderai."  The boy let his robe fall away.  It lay wreathed around him in shades of green, like a promise of spring against the snow.  The warrior's breath shook.  At the human's naked waist the kashta glimmered.  From under the crushing weight of his memories of suffering and fear, the boy looked into the warrior's eyes and vowed, "You shall not die."

When the boy pulled the Vulcan to his feet, there was a rattle of metal. The perplexed guard had sheathed their weapons, in affirmation that the warrior's oath was binding upon his honor.  Within the tent, the Vulcan immediately sought the meld.  He revealed his spiritual and intellectual struggles, and the reactions of the S'kanderai, and drew out the human's recent history.  The boy had been cast out of his village as a willing whore, after he had sought affection from a local man.  He had wandered, barely surviving, until he heard the electrifying gossip that was flashing through the country towns, of the Vulcan who had chosen to die rather than rape a human boy.  Meld-knowledge of the Vulcan's intimate being, obligation for his life, and the belief that nothing could add to what he had already endured, had brought him.  And a last shred of his original impulse toward the beauty of the Vulcans.

The warrior's heat was overtaking him.  He refused to relinquish the meld. Slowly the two joined deeper and deeper, and were bonded, their lovemaking and their cries as of one person.  The beauty and eroticism of the embrace set Kirk's persistent erection to throbbing.  The roughness was not entirely gone even in the most tender moments, though the Vulcan was shown to be continually reining in his strength to his lover's limitations.  Without the bond pon farr would clearly have annihilated the weaker human.

Kirk suddenly remembered the actors were reflecting a oneness they had never known; Spock had said they were unbonded.  Throughout the film he had been stabbed periodically by the realization that the acts he was seeing would, if he allowed it, happen to him.  But this... Who knew if this magnificent unity could even occur between Vulcan and human males?  And if not...

He hardly followed the end of the film, as the two rode away to escape punishment for their illicit bonding and to gather resistance fighters in the hills.

Spock halted the tape.  After a moment he spoke.

"You have questions."

Kirk's feelings snarled into a tangled knot for an instant with his thoughts.  But from long habit he rejected the luxury of timidity.  "Why aren't Ktath and Azon-Shannonda bonded?"

"Ktath believes Azon-Shannonda is too young for such a decision."  A smile fleeted in Spock's eyes.  "It has been a source of some contention between them; but I believe that was settled in this film.  Though unwilling to bind Azon-Shannonda unbreakably, Ktath had begun to understand the human craving for tokens of commitment.  It was planned to use leather straps, but in the forest scene Ktath substituted, as bondage, the actual ancestral kashta he had inherited in his youth.  I sensed that you noticed when Shann almost broke character.  He knew that the kashta was legally passed to him when it touched his wrists."

"My god!"  Kirk burst out.  "How -- fantastically romantic!  How could a Vulcan even think of a gesture like that!"

"Through long association with a human, I presume."  Spock picked up the remote.  "Atroposans are among the most virulently romantic of all human cultures."

"But -- how do they even know they can bond?"

"Vulcans know the bond.  Ktath senses it within Azon-Shannonda... as I sense it within you."

Within... me?  Spock's knowing his inwardness had never before felt so oddly... physical.  Kirk was completely silenced by the sensation.

Spock turned the screen back on.  Instead of ending, the video went into a philosophical interview with its maker.  Kirk stared blankly at the Vulcan image without following a word of it. ...bond... within me... why can't I feel it?

His erection, miraculously patient for so long, began to ache.  He couldn't touch it with Spock there... and if recent performance were any guide, he wouldn't be able to bring himself off anyway.  Suddenly he realized the boy was on the screen, looking lazily charismatic.  He wanted to hear this.  The interviewer had just asked, "Can anybody go out and do the kind of things you do in this film?"

"No."  The tone was firm.

"What are the requirements?"

"First you have to be willing.  That may seem obvious, but if people don't believe there are people like me who love this kind of sex -- in the old expression, if I didn't exist, someone might try to invent me, to create me out of a person who doesn't like this kind of sex at all.  And there you have something that would be gruesome."

"But supposing someone wants to do these things --"

"Look."  The boy got up and casually began to arch his back.  He went over in a leisurely back-bend that ended with his forehead almost touching the ground between his ankles.  He pushed off from his hands and flipped erect. "If you can't do that, you can't do a lot of the positions we use.  I'm in training, I'm strong, I know how to bend, I know how to fall.  There are some very advanced things, what we call art positions, in the film.  Try that without being in shape and you end up with torn ligaments, all kinds of injuries."  He smiled slowly.  "I also have the best top in the galaxy. Ktath will never drop me or misjudge my limits, he'll never let my bondage be too loose or too tight.  Human strength couldn't support me in some of the positions we use."

"Are you saying that the things you do in the film should be regarded as stunts?"

"Exactly.  Our stunt trainer is very involved in setting up our sex scenes and in fact she does some of my falls herself, in the escape sequence, for instance."

"There are stories that you're forced to do these films."

"I know.  I've seen them."

"How do you feel about that?"

"That they're exploitative.  They exploit my sexuality and people's defensiveness about that, they exploit the unacknowledged sadomasochistic element in that reaction of protective sympathy they try to arouse.  'Oh the poor thing,' with a big sexual charge to it.  That's sadomasochism and that's what we do, so we know exactly how they do it.  Only we're honest about it and they aren't."

Kirk reached over and pressed the 'off' button of the remote.  "Just a simple street boy from Atropos."

Spock's eyebrow elevated.  "I have never understood your culture's tendency to equate poverty with lack of insight and intelligence."

"So you expect me to believe he talks like that off the top of his head."

"He is, after all, discussing what has been his profession for the last four years."

"Four years!"  Spock had restarted the tape.  Kirk switched it off again. "Spock, that boy can't be more than eighteen or nineteen years old!"

"At the time this film was made, he was believed to have recently turned seventeen.  Record-keeping on Atropos is inexact."

"You're saying that Vulcan put a thirteen-year-old child into his porno films?"  Kirk sat up angrily and started to swing his legs out of the bed. Before he knew what hit him he was flat on his back and pinned.

"James, you will have to moderate these violent parochial reactions.  They precipitate you into false assumptions.  To begin with, the first work Ktath did with Azon-Shannonda was a biographical film of his life in Dakkis, and though there were some sexual scenes, it was non-pornographic.  Secondly, on Atropos, persons of thirteen are considered long past childhood and have been integrated into adolescent tribes.  Thirdly, even in the child tribes of Dakkis sexual and romantic liaisons are of major significance.  All officers are expected to maintain such liaisons, and furthermore are expected to compose complex traditional forms of poetry for and about their lovers, in public exhibition.

"Fourthly, you are extremely sensuous when you struggle covertly like that looking for a weak point in my hold on you."  Kirk froze.  "Logic must tell you you cannot escape... anything... I wish to do to you.  Therefore I interpret your movements as intentionally provocative.  Quite immodest, James."

Kirk repressed the urge to fight back, at that.  He had the sudden certainty that if he flung himself against Spock he would ignite from head to foot with sexual pleasure.  As if reading his mind (as if...!), Spock carefully lowered himself onto the length of Kirk's body.  It was as though a hot glue had sealed them.  Resistance became indissoluble union.  Kirk rubbed his erection blissfully against Spock's groin.  His legs started to fold around Spock's, and he felt the flexible but tough boots -- the thought of Spock's apparel made him squirm harder, and he reflexively sought Spock's mouth. "Oh god, Spock --"

The tearing sensation was like a shock of pure pain.  "No!"  The Vulcan had pulled away and left him pressing his need against the air.  "Spock!"  He groaned.  "Damn it!"  Could he conceivably simply fling Spock to the ground and... no.  Unfortunately.

Spock was studying him.

Bloody Vulcans!

His temper showed in his voice when he blurted, "Is this your idea of sadism?  Endless teasing and never --"  He looked away in frustration.

Spock remained calm.  "I will not take sex from you without your consent."

"Consent?  What, you want it taped and notarized?"

"Jim, the Vulcan sex act is more than a physiological joining --"

"So is the human!"

"I did not mean to disregard human emotional responses.  I referred to the telepathic bond which, once forged, cannot be broken."

"Why should that mean I can't come?  I'm not a telepath, or a Vulcan."

"I have a link with you.  It is light, and unilateral -- it would be strongly reinforced by completion of a sexual act with you.  It was this link that saved me after the koon-ut-kal-if-fee.  Your death, as I then thought it, was, for me, the death of a mate.  Plak tow ceased immediately. Pon farr subsided and my body began preparations for death of another sort. A climactic sexual act at such close proximity -- even if the climax were yours alone -- might cause this link to mature toward a true bond, one that would involve you and from which you could never again withdraw.  The risk is slight, but real."

"What difference does it make?" Kirk muttered bitterly.  "You're going to make me want you anyway, why not just get it over with."

"Jim, my objective is not to override your will, but merely to make you aware of your desires.  I will not accept a decision made in a state of arousal."

"If you keep this up, you won't be able to find me in any other state." Grudgingly, Kirk smiled.  "I think I'm becoming aware."

"This could be."  Spock's shadow smile sent a warm thrill through him that made his toes curl.  My god, am I falling --

No.  It was nothing like the times he'd been lifted into delight and admiration by a woman's appeal.  With Spock he was continually fighting not to be dragged down, by some unimaginably powerful undertow, into a blind realm of... of...

He didn't know what would be there, only that it would be out of his control as an ocean's flows, and dark, and strange.

Whatever it was, it wasn't anything like the lightningbolt of love.  It was slow, it was menacing, it went on and on...

And love had never blotted up his faculties like this.  Over and over he'd become aware of how illogical, how inconsistent were his thoughts and actions, only to forget it in some new inconsistency.  No matter how in love he had ever been, his awareness of duty and performance had only been heightened.  With Spock, his mind had become a chaos, flinging up barriers and tearing them down at random.  No, it couldn't be love, but whatever it was, he didn't seem to be able to think any more.  There was the helpless lust that came over him at Spock's words or touch.  The uncontrollable blushing.  The on/off circuits that oscillated too rapidly to allow decision, freezing him between yes and no.  And there was the deathly fear below it all, seeping up in cracks beside irrational jealousy and reasoned rejection.  In his own way, he realized, he was as unfamiliar with this loss of control over his emotions as any Vulcan would be.

Spock turned from putting away the com unit.  "I believe it is best that we not continue this -- instruction, at present.  You are too aroused. Incidentally, it may interest you to know that, so far as can be determined, only about one in four humans is aroused by overt sadomasochistic sexual material.  Your arousal is not, therefore, as you termed it eight days ago, 'unavoidable' for a human."

There was no doubt about it:  Spock could be damned annoying when he chose. The irritation started to wilt his hard-on.

Kicked out of bed to boot.

A thought struck him as he stood up.  "Spock, you say any kind of climax might force the bond on you.  But these actors aren't bonded, and they have sex together."

Spock glanced aside, as though interested in the pattern of a wall hanging.

"Ktath is of course a full Vulcan.  He has complete control of his telepathic functions."

And you don't.

If I'd thought for just two seconds I would have realized...

Spock looked back at him.  "Curious, how reflexively childhood reactions can intrude upon the rational.  I no longer regret that I am not fully Vulcan. Indeed, I am now most thankful for -- all that I am."  He met Kirk's eyes with unmistakable meaning.

"Spock, I -- don't want to mislead you.  You're right, I shouldn't try to think with my cock.  I -- even if everything you believe about me were true, I still couldn't, and wouldn't, be what you want.  It's not right and it isn't possible."

"Good night, James.  Be here tomorrow night for instruction in sexual attendance upon me."

"I won't be back, Spock."  Kirk turned at the door.  "I'm sorry."

In the corridor, he let out a long sigh.

And tomorrow McCoy would undoubtedly fail to hypnotize him.

Everyone seemed to be asking him for the impossible, lately.

Watching the endless spiral disappear into itself, he felt the drug relaxing him.  At some point he had stopped worrying.  A sleepy, wavelike lift and fall started up among his thoughts, as if they floated in a big lake, a big lake... he was aware of everything around him, McCoy telling him to be hypnotized, the bed he sat on, as he floated further, further into peace... safety... the waves seemed to cover him over, and he was quite safe, just as he had been... the last time...

Watching Jim's eyes, McCoy saw him look away from the spiraling focus and glance around.  It's not working, he thought -- and then Kirk put his hands between his legs, grasping the edge of the bed.  One foot swung casually out, fell back against the bed's housing -- then the other. Clunk-thunk, clunk-thunk, the gentle rhythm went on while Jim took in the room.

Something had happened.  It looked like --  Cautiously McCoy said, "Hello there."

Jim focused on him.  "Hi."

Yes!  The voice was light and high, the expression -- it seemed as if some of the lines had vanished from Jim's face, the eyes grown wide and unsuspicious.  It made you realize just how guarded he did look, normally, McCoy thought.  Some kind of spontaneous regression had taken place here. This was not his Captain.  Who was it, then?  He put on his friendliest manner, and asked, "What's your name?"

"Jimmy."  The tone said, 'Who else?'

McCoy took a careful breath.  "How old are you, Jimmy?"


"Do you know who I am?"

Jim -- no, Jimmy -- gave him a look that plainly classed him among the dumbest of grownups.  "You're Dr. Lindgren."

"Where are we, Jimmy?"

That look -- McCoy nearly jumped as he recognized in the child-man eyes the clear forebear of adult Kirk steel.  Jimmy answered levelly, "In your office."

Was this -- could this be when it happened?  A doctor?  It would be far from the first time, but the thought made McCoy want to vomit.  He made himself smile.

"What did you come to see me about, Jimmy?"  A silence.  Gently, McCoy repeated, "Why are you here?"

"I don't know."

"Have you been sick?"


Impasse.  "Jimmy, I want you to remember when you came into my office today. What did I first say to you?"

"You said, 'Hi, Jimmy.'"

Sounded as if they already knew each other.  "Then what?"

"'Go ahead and climb up in the Captain's chair, Jimmy.  Lay it all the way back.  Okay, you ready for blast-off?'"  'Jimmy' looked at McCoy with the tolerant courtesy children were forced to accord adult crackpots.

What was this Lindgren, a dentist?  "And then what?"

"'Jimmy, fall asleep.'"

For a moment it couldn't register except as senseless non sequitur.  Then a slow, cold hand closed on his vitals.

Of course.

A strong, intuitive man.  A man able to confront constantly, and sometimes to cause, pain and death, without shutting off empathy.  One who had faced and accepted things about himself that few were ever called on to acknowledge.  A man who, with this strength, was yet unable to remember a major point in his own past, who was trying to remember, who, when hypnotized, went directly to the most similar moment in his experience.

With the coldness reaching out through his body, McCoy asked, "What happened then?"

An accusatory look.  "I don't remember.  You told me not to remember."

This was it.  It didn't have to be; there were valid reasons for hypnotherapists to cover their tracks.  But inside he knew, with the adamant certainty that came upon him when he had reached the heart.

"Jimmy... I know I told you not to remember, but that was for other people. It's okay to remember when you and I are talking."

Sullenly:  "I don't remember."

The guy had been careless somewhere, if Jimmy remembered being told to forget.  But evidently there was no slip about the memories themselves.  Try another tack.

"Jimmy, how many times have you come to see me?"

Without hesitation:  "Ten."


McCoy had trouble getting his smile back in place.  This could be one holy mess to clean up.  Try back further.

"Jimmy, what did your parents tell you when they first brought you to see me?  Why did they bring you here?"

Jimmy shrugged.  "They just said it was to talk about stuff.  Like trouble in school or anything."

What the devil?  A child psychologist?  There was nothing like that in Jim's record.  "Is that what you talked about?"

Compressed lips.  "I told you I don't remember."  Captain James Kirk, age eight, was getting ready to lose his temper.  The symptoms were eerily recognizable.

Putting it off wasn't going to make this any easier -- for either of them.

"Okay, Jimmy.  That's okay.  Now, I want you to lie down here on the -- in the Captain's chair."  McCoy stepped closer and Kirk gave him a penetrating look.  Then he obeyed.  "That's right.  Just relax."

Instead, 'Jimmy' began to tremble.  He turned his eyes to McCoy's face with such sadness and confusion in them that McCoy instinctively took his hand, and held it.  It was colder than his own.  He turned on the bed's heat envelope.

"You're not Dr. Lindgren."

He looked down at the childlike expression and wondered what the child himself had looked like.

"I'm Dr. McCoy, Jimmy.  I'm here to help you.  I'm on your side."

He saw his words accepted, in the trustfulness of deep trance.  The warmth of the bed was rising.  The trembling gradually stopped.  Now.  Do it. McCoy took a deep breath.

"Jimmy," he said softly, "fall asleep."

Aaron Cohen, R.N., started at McCoy's violent entrance into the lab.  The doctor strode to the poisons cabinet and yanked out a private bottle.  He banged it down on the workshelf and braced his clenched fists on either side of it.

"Parents!" he hissed viciously.

Nurse Cohen tried to look sympathetic.  Must be a psych case.

"And doctors!"

Cohen edged back, alarmed.  It was McCoy's worst epithet.

McCoy looked daggers at the bottle, then turned and strode out of the office again.  Cohen stared after him, and went to replace the abandoned brandy. Who the heck was in that treatment room, anyway?

"It's memory displacement, Jim."  Kirk was awake, and sitting in McCoy's private office.  "Sixty years ago they called it 'ego structuring'.  It was a big fad.  Seemed to work miracles with all kinds of social maladjustments, even psychoses.  It wasn't till a couple of decades later the patients started showing up on mental wards.  Thousands of them.  Easy to fix -- if you knew what the problem was.  I'm surprised anyone was still doing it by time Lindgren got his claws into you."

"He seemed like a nice guy, Bones."

"They were all nice guys," McCoy answered sourly.  "Nice guys who were sure they could improve on human nature, and went after every field-mouse with a plasma bomb."

"What did he do, exactly?  I can't remember anything except being in his office.  He -- displaced something?"

McCoy sat forward tiredly.  "Yes, he did, Jim.  And did a good job of it. If you hadn't gone straight back to that moment of your own accord, I might never have found it."

Kirk studied him.  "You look wrung out.  Was it that bad?"

McCoy said hastily, "You didn't do anything wrong, Jim.  And it's none of the things I thought it might be when I assumed this was a spontaneous amnesia.  Though I'm surprised the inhibition has functioned this long without that kind of trauma to reinforce it.

"I didn't bring it into consciousness because I want to go through every session you had with Lindgren and make sure I've got everything, first.  But from what I've seen so far, it was simply a case of -- fixing something that wasn't broke."

"Making me straight?"

"As a matter of fact, no.  That seems to have been a side effect you worked out for yourself.  Why it shows up so strongly on the graph.  Lindgren's work was a lot more subtle.  We'd never have known a thing had been changed."

Kirk looked subdued.  "I... see."  He rose.  "I've got a lot of work to do. I suppose you'll want to see me again tomorrow."

"Yes, Jim.  The sooner we get this done, the better."  McCoy looked at him with concern.  "Are you all right?"

Kirk straightened.  "I'm fine, Bones.  I'll see you tomorrow."

McCoy frowned as Jim left.  No questions, no demands to know more.  Almost as though he already knew.  Could Spock have --  No.  There was nothing to see in Jim's records, even for a walking computer like Spock.  No.  It was something worse:  Jim didn't want to know.  He wasn't ready.  But McCoy was going to have to push him to it.  Jim was strong.  He had got to this point almost by himself.  They'd have to go a little too fast, but he was sure Kirk could handle it, once McCoy had reversed all Lindgren's injunctions.  There would be nothing to see then but two children's love. Jim could look on that and survive, McCoy was sure!

He pressed a button.

"Nurse.  Cancel all my appointments.  I'm going to be busy for the rest of the afternoon."

It'd been a joint shock and relief.  When he'd realized what Lindgren was up to:  not forcing sex on a child but taking it away.  McCoy had given Jimmy all the usual guards for traumatic memory, and told him to repeat everything he and Dr. Lindgren had said, from their first talk.  The resulting imitations of child and adult made it easy to tell who was speaking. Lindgren had established a lot of background suggestion, and then zeroed in on what Jimmy's parents had obviously hired him to take care of.

"Jimmy, I hear you have a best friend."


"That's Gavin Holte?  How old is Gavin, Jimmy?"


"That's a lot older than you, isn't is?  You two play a lot of games with each other, is that right?  Tell me about your games."

"Well, we play Romans.  I'm Tiberius and I get captured by barbarians. Tiberius is my real middle name, that's why we're Romans.  We used to play it with other kids, but now it's just me and Gav, at least for the good parts."

"What are the good parts?"

Jimmy looked a little shy, but his eyes shone.  "That's where I get tortured by the barbarians."

"Is that your favorite game?"

"No, it's only my second or third favorite," Jimmy said candidly.  "My favorite is when we play Space Captain."

"Tell me about that one."

"I get to be the Space Captain.  I get captured by Romulans, and they tie me up and torture me to get Federation secrets.  Then Gav sends all the other Romulans away -- he's the commander.  Really there aren't any other Romulans, just me and Gav.  We don't play Space Captain with any other kids."

"Then what?"  There was a pause.  "Remember you can tell me everything.  You won't feel embarrassed at all.  You like to talk about your games.  What happens next?"

"Well..."  Jimmy had shot 'Lindgren' a flirtatious look that shocked McCoy to his bootsoles.  "Gav does it a lot better than me.  He leans over me and says, 'You're very attractive, Captain Tremaine.'  That's my name.  Gav gave it to me.  'I'd hate to see you damaged permanently.'  Then he touches me and stuff, and kisses me.  I try to get away but I'm tied down with force beams.  Really ropes -- in the equipment hangar."  A shadow of unhappiness wavered across Jimmy's face.  "That's where we got caught."

"Don't think about that now, Jimmy.  What else do you do in this game?"

"Oh, you know."

"No, I don't know, but I'd like to.  Tell me what happens."

"Gav does a lot of stuff to me, and says if I don't tell him the secrets he's going to rape me, and I won't, so he pulls my pants down real hard -- I love that, when he does that -- and rapes me."

"How does he rape you, Jimmy?  Is there penetration?"

"What's that?"

"Does he put his penis inside you?"

"No, he just pretends, with his finger.  He says I'm not big enough.  He just rubs against me."  McCoy's eyebrows had risen at that.  Hell of a lot of self-control, for a twelve-year-old.  "I wish he'd really do it, I bet it'd be so great."  The wistful longing and ardor in Jimmy's eyes had made McCoy look away.  It was a wish that was never to be realized, he was sure, now that Lindgren had entered the picture.  Hearing the uncomplicated pleasure in Jimmy's voice, seeing the slightly mischievous sparkle of his smiles, McCoy was in no doubt about where his sympathies lay in the unequal encounter of child and adult mind.  But the boy was hopelessly outmatched from the start, and didn't even realize he was in a battle.  Lindgren's voice went on eliciting more details of the sex games.  The two boys had been playing them, it seemed, well over six months.  The greater part of the upcoming sessions would be devoted to implanting in Jimmy the belief that their activities were wrong and shameful, harmful, frightening, even criminal -- the necessary preliminary to inducing permanent memory and behavioral block.  Meanwhile, Jimmy spoke of Gavin with a kind of worshipful boasting -- his strength, his limitless knowledge, his courage, even his red-gold hair and his eyes, but above all, in story after story, his care and love for Jimmy, who obviously adored him in return.

From other, more casual, remarks McCoy built up an idea of Gavin as someone who knew far more about sex than he himself had at that age.  From him Jimmy had garnered bits of information on safe and unsafe bondage techniques that McCoy to this day hadn't been called upon to know.  Someone must have taken the time and care to teach Gavin how to handle his special sexuality -- unless he was just one of those odd kids who went and looked everything up in books.  Either way, the results sounded like part of a very exceptional boy -- just the sort you'd expect Jim Kirk to latch onto.

"Do you have orgasms, Jimmy?"  (That should have been the first thing you asked, McCoy thought acidly.)

"Is that like when I come?  Sure.  I don't have any cum yet though."

"What does it feel like?  Describe it to me."

Fearlessly Jimmy embarked on the task that had defeated the poets and pornographers of a hundred worlds.  "It's when everything turns into stars. You stretch out, and you're way inside away from everything, with millions of stars all over you.  Just plus infinity."  McCoy heard the antique slang with a little jolt.  What he was listening to had happened over thirty years ago.  A quarter of a lifetime.  Jim had made cometary use of that time, but he had done so alone.  From the boy who, at eight, had already leaped with sparkling happiness into a steadfast devotion, he'd grown to a man unable to form any love relationship of more than a week's duration.  Like a bird struggling along with one wing broken, wresting a life for itself from the things of the ground -- work, duty, camaraderie of service... what tatters remained of the glory and power of soaring all channeled to this one level -- McCoy knew now why glimpses of that power had always frightened him:  it was the whisper of something so much more, something whole and ungovernable as a storm, a thing the child Jimmy had never absorbed and controlled because he could not get at it -- the gale of the love-passion, strong in him already, rising to a whirlwind as he grew older -- and still older -- mateless and untamed.  It was the thing that looked out, at every being who passed, perhaps seeing in each the possible object of its endless search... the search that had taken it, and Jim, to the remotest reaches of the Galaxy.  Away from everything else... out to the millions of stars.

You couldn't say he had been unhappy.  But he had not been what he was meant to be.  A freedom had been lopped off, and with it, most of the pleasures of intimacy.

What had survived was amazing:  hot temper, impulsive generosity, lightning assessment -- forms of spontaneity that had undoubtedly saved him from the smothered, explosive fate of other mind-game victims.  Lindgren had been an expert, and selective.  The only thing he'd robbed Jim of was love.

McCoy had let Kirk run through that displacement session and the next.  At each stage he inserted reversals of Lindgren's injunctions to forget, but decided against immediate activation of the memories.  He needed time to think carefully about all this.  If the sadomasochistic play was truly a part of Jim's sexuality, and survived its long dormancy, what would it mean to his life?  McCoy had no illusions about Starfleet's stodgy attitudes. Gay sex was tolerated -- it couldn't very well be prevented, in view of the law.  But as you rose in rank you just somehow saw less and less of it. Funny how that worked out!  As for anything really imaginative -- those little graphs and charts nipped devotees in the bud.  If it hadn't been for Lindgren, James T. Kirk, Starfleet's own fair-haired boy, would never have been admitted to the Academy!  McCoy smiled vindictively.  But much as he'd love to rub the Admiralty's nose in it, it could be Jim's career that was at stake.  Thank god he'd used his personal tricorder instead of tying directly into the Medical Log.  It was a habit he, like every Starfleet shrink he knew, had gotten into when dealing with sensitive personal issues.

Maybe that explained why none of this had been on Jimmy Kirk's records.

His father had been Starfleet; knew something of the rigorous psych selection; wanted Jimmy in the Academy.  Lindgren, his technique already viewed with distrust by the health authorities who paid for treatment, could have agreed to take the case privately for direct fee.  Not exactly illegal. It was still done occasionally, when someone wanted to hush something up.

McCoy sighed.  If Lindgren and Kirk's parents had not done what they had, Jim would never have captained the Enterprise.  Shocking, almost, to imagine James Kirk without a command.  What would he have been?  Married in some way, beyond a doubt.  Perhaps in some other space profession, perhaps some daring terrestrial activity.  He absolutely could not picture any version of Jim in an office!  J. Tiberius Kirk, CPA.  He smiled.  There was no way to know.  What's done is done - get on with it.  McCoy set his tricorder on 'playback'.

That evening after official duty hours Kirk prowled his ship as usual, but without satisfying his sense of restlessness.  It seemed that wherever he went he saw something that needed attention, improvement -- even in Scotty's irreproachable engine room he found the Chief Engineer again fretted by the curiosity of young Ensign Awonuga from Environmental.  The Captain's presence, at least, was overawing enough to send the ensign scurrying.

"Giving you a hard time, Scotty?"

"Aye, she's down here all her off-duty hours, it seems like.  She's a nice lass, but I canna seem ta make her understand how busy I am."

"I'll... see what I can do, Scotty."

"I'd appreciate it, sir."

There seemed nowhere but his own room where he could have a moment's peace. But when the door shut between him and his ship, he was only left alone with the biggest problem of all... what to do about Spock... and about himself. McCoy knew now.  He'd found himself not wanting to hear exactly what McCoy had learned, but the general outline fit Spock's claim all too well.  There was no hiding it from himself any more, after last night.  Spock would be waiting for him, at this very moment, intending to --

No!  It was wrong, it was weak, it was... sick.  And if that was what homosexuality meant for him, then he wouldn't look at men, he wouldn't feel what he felt for them.  He would command them, never let them have that position over him that left his defenses wobbling and his soul turning out like a rose in the sun's heat, opening, offering, fainting into the inexistence of ecstasy --

Spock's word.  Ecstasy.  It meant losing all he was -- everything he had worked so doggedly to achieve -- losing -- control -- he couldn't do it. Only Spock wasn't waiting for him to relinquish control, Spock took it -- imposing a mastery that told his soul its own secrets, circumvented rationale, interfaced directly with his desire and brought it front and center into glory.  Spock was -- Spock could --  What was it his stupid soul thought Spock would be able to do?  He couldn't change the universe. He couldn't make it right or reasonable for a starship captain to writhe around in ecstasy under his First Officer's chains, beg for the touch of his long hot body, get more than half out of his mind at a gesture and wholly lunatic if fingers brushed up along his stretched, pleading penis --

Kirk had a terrible hard-on.

If it weren't for Spock -- Spock's imperious biology -- they could have gone on just as they'd always done.  Till -- well, till reassignment; something in him had always swerved from that thought, ever since good luck and wangling had kept him his ship and much of his staff after the five-year mission.  Spock had declined promotion and had, Kirk suspected, brought some big Vulcan diplomatic guns to bear to get what he wanted.  Kirk had bawled him out happily and thrown a few discreet sabots into the machinery of his own career rise.  There was nowhere to go now but behind a desk, and the brass agreed, with some covert relief, that he really was, yes, too young for that.  There seemed to be a feeling that if he bucked for High Command he would get it -- soon.  And heads would roll.

He had his ship and his crew.  For how long?  Even without this mess, how long till he and Spock met for no more evening chess games, no more one-sided martial arts workouts, no more near-telepathic crisis interaction, no more smooth, blessedly smooth, Bridge routine, no discussion of scientific wonders, esthetic disagreements.

What would life be without all that...

There might be unimaginable adventures ahead, after reassignment.

There might be.

He could only imagine them savorless, mechanical.

And what could Spock do about it?  Did he expect to walk in and calmly, rationally, explain that he was applying for spousal assignment with his commanding officer for the purpose of sexually dominating and humiliating him?  Did he suppose that with what was known and what was rumored about Vulcan sexuality Starfleet would give a command -- any command -- to an officer who had sex with a Vulcan male?  What crew, knowing their captain submitted, must submit, at some point, to the exigencies of pon farr, would feel the necessary confidence in his or her command capabilities?  At least, that was how Starfleet would see it.  Even setting aside any hint of overt masochism!  And why should a crew trust a captain whose sexual services might be demanded at a critical moment?  What kind of captain would risk that -- especially with his second-in-command?  Of course, you could plan ahead for it... arrange special leave -- go into dry-dock... but it would take Starfleet cooperation.  Not likely.

If they bonded, there was no way to keep it from public knowledge.  Anywhere but the almost legendary Enterprise, their assignment together would serve as an engraved announcement.

He would never get another ship.  He would lose his career, everything.  All he would have left would be Spock.


He thought about the aversion to commitment, the dread of intimate responsibility he had always felt at that word.

What he felt was a warm tingle.

Spock.  Forever.

He gasped and cradled his unsatisfiable lust.

A captain who converted to a concubine every seven years might not be good. But was a captain who always had to walk bent over any better?

How the hell was he going to get out of this?

It was wrong...

If it was so wrong, why was Spock, that -- 'pillar of integrity' -- trying to get him to do it?  And how long had it been, now, that he had automatically looked to Spock as his arbiter of morality?

Without ever admitting it to McCoy, he often felt himself that he was 'turning Vulcan', drawn in by concentration on Spock's responses unconsciously to mimic in an effort to understand them.  It went deeper... There were times when he felt the Vulcan response was the 'normal', the humans around him almost alien -- at least, he felt a lack, with them, he did not feel in Spock.  A kind of non-understanding -- like someone not laughing at your jokes, or the subtle jars of interacting with civilians.  A cultural thing.  On some level he had come to participate in Spock's culture, through their friendship, to appreciate its beauties, to integrate this comprehension with his own personality.  Did he look different to anyone but McCoy?  Those moments, were they evident only to himself, or did others notice the tick of hesitation, when he tripped over the missing Vulcan element?

And now?  Would he, forever now, find himself adrift, not Vulcan, not by a long chalk, but not ever again content with the merely human?  Involvement might fade, he had work, friends, and who knew what waiting beyond the next curve of warp-space, but there would always be the knowledge, now, of a part of him that was... unused.  No way would he ever bring another Vulcan into his life!

He pulled himself to his feet and crossed the room to obliterate the hot tightness that rose in his throat.  The slug of emerald brandy whuffed fumes up his sinuses.  His eyes were wet. Scotty was right, you should never chug that stuff.

What was he going to do

He had to decide and there was no decision.  He had to lose Spock.  His stubbornness rebelled.  That stubbornness -- the part of him that had always refused to accept reality as it was presented to him, if he didn't like it. It was the part that had always made him find a way out, around or through into a reality he could live with.  But faced with two unacceptable totalities, mutually exclusive, what way was there...

You could not go back.  What way out would let it be forgotten?  The relationship as it had been was shattered.




No Spock.

Or Spock between his legs --

He gasped.  Green liquor splashed his palate with fire.  His mouth.  Full. Of hot.  Green.  He bent with his palms on the cabinet shelf.

Don't think his name -- dodge thought of his body --  Why does he put me in this position?  Can't help himself, poor Vulcan bastard.  No control over his... over his...

Grimly Kirk waddled to the bed and lay down.  Brandy going to his head.  He rolled onto his side, put his hand on his cock, arched...

"Oh Spock."  It was a whisper, just a breath.  "Spock."  Spock's lips on his open mouth.  His mind sank.  Spock's hand, there... there, and oh there, there, yes!  Not -- not really of course -- because if -- Spock's tongue came onto his like -- like -- or if Spock's fingertips -- slid down the length of his cock, to just touch his testicles, palm still on the pulse-shot glans, and if Spock made him part his thighs, then Spock would want to, no, his mind went under, Spock's hard weight, ferocious strength would hold him, if he struggled, while he readied, no, no, oh no, and then with one arm pull his thigh up to open him, start him, please, oh no -- no! --  NO! -- his wrists would be tied back, his ankles, helpless, he'd be unable to resist Spock's thickly swollen -- no -- Spock's -- Vulcan hand hard on Kirk's cock - ruthlessly hurting him -- forcing response on him -- squeezing him -- then when he -- begging him -- Spock's thumb pressed hard into the most sensitive place on his -- harder, he whimpering, writhing, crying aloud as Spock then, then, lowered, thrust in, the pain, thrust in, it hurting, counterpoint to the pain at his shaft-head, forced by pain into motion exciting Spock's frenzy, till hands on his shoulders heaved Kirk down onto each lunge, Vulcan lust unappeasable -- wounding him -- filling-him -- hurt -- it hurt so --

It would hurt.

Real pain.  Of thrusting thickness tearing him, if Spock were anything like the size of that Ktath, not once as if he were a woman with a hymen, but again and again, maybe forever -- and could Vulcans rein their n-times-human strength in throes of lust, or would he end up with a broken neck, or collarbone?  Who the hell to ask?

Amanda!  If Amanda with her slender bones survived, then so could -- not that it was going to come up, but in theory --

The thoughts flicked like lightning, hardly a second till his hand was pulling again, his mind gone down for the third time, vast veil-like wings of his private being lifting him where no Drive could go, out to the universe of his desire, black set with all the jewels of all skies, open, opened, as if turned inside out to the night he floated, floated -- floated with suddenly no sensation of sex in his penis, just, all around him, his space, his stars.  Gradually, he sank down into touch again.  Bed under him. Enterprise around him.

That flameout in mid-fuck -- like the last three times he'd tried to ease these peremptory erections he kept getting.  Would this continue after -- after Spock was --

If it were anyone else, the possibility would at least exist of pretending to go along, playing for time by lending his body to a deception.  It wouldn't work, what with the bond, but he found that even the idea frightened him.  Why?  What would be so terrible about letting Spock have a few moments' pleasure from his body?  Surely he wasn't afraid of pain.  If there were any, it would be nothing compared to things he had suffered a dozen times without fear.

For that matter, what if -- since he obviously felt something, and since he loved Spock deeply as a friend, well, what if --

Terror surged up, so strongly it shocked him.

I can't.

I can't.

I can't let him...


Forget about the bond, forget Starfleet.  Hold onto the feelings:  Faced with Spock and sex together he was either obliterated by lust or full of panic.  Why?  Had he ever been scared by sex before, even on his first time? No, he'd felt completely in control.  Nothing threatened him.  It was a girl who wanted him, at the moment, and let him know it, flatteringly, without complications.  Many times, over the years, he'd looked back on it, smiling at his good luck.  Later he had encountered complications... and learned to avoid them.  He wasn't an automaton, dammit!  He'd been in love, he'd suffered.  It never lasted long, but that was part of being a starship captain -- at least, the kind of captain he was.  Others married... had families.  There was even that woman on the Fomalhaut patrol, she'd had two kids in space.  Commanded some kind of big rescue operation in the middle of labor.


There was nothing wrong with being the sort of person who didn't have long-term affairs.  When he was younger, yeah, he'd always assumed he'd find the love of his life someday.  But after so many years alone, it just wasn't likely he could have adapted to the kind of intimacy a marriage entailed -- always together, seeing each other every day, spending your spare time in each other's company.  Year after year.  He could never get used to it.

He'd lost his train of thought.  He'd been trying to work something out.

His glance fell on the stack of disks by his com unit.  The desk in the other room was thick with paper.  Keeping up had begun to seem impossible, but you had to go on trying.  It took precedence over personal brooding.

He rolled off the bed and headed for the computer.

The night after his second hypnosis session Kirk wrenched awake with a scream of pure terror in his throat.  In smothering darkness he tried to cry out a name -- but no name reached his lips.  All that was left was a knowledge that unendurable horror had entered, had possessed him.    

The dream clung to his day.  He could remember almost none of it.  "Someone I knew was being murdered," he'd told McCoy, but hadn't mentioned the sick trembling feeling inside each time he thought of it, or the urgent need he'd had to find Spock, be in the same room with him.  On the Bridge he couldn't keep his eyes from straying to his First Officer every few seconds.  It was as if he had to know, through the direct evidence of his senses, that Spock was there.

With Spock absent from the dining room, he found he could not eat.  He patrolled through corridor after corridor, abruptly avoiding any area with people in it -- people who were not tall, pointed-eared logicians. Dissatisfaction kept him moving until at last, not knowing how he had arrived, he stood in front of a familiar, featureless door.

Without signaling, he commanded it to open.  Deliberately he moved through the outer room to the entrance of the pavilion.

Within, Spock sat in meditation, apparently unaware.  At first all that registered was Spock's being there, the satisfaction of the compulsion to see with his own eyes that Spock was --  Was what?  Still here?  Of course he was.  There were still three days.

Then he saw the S'kanderai garb.  Spock was waiting for him again; had undoubtedly waited all the previous evening in the same way; would undoubtedly await him every night until the last hope was gone.  This man, against all sense and all odds -- loved him.  He could feel love penetrating the front of his body, as if he himself were a Vulcan, capable of sensing emotion directly.  At no time had love been spoken of; sex, mating, the bond, but some things must still be beyond his Vulcan powers:  he could not say, except in this language of waiting, 'I love you.'

And he realized, with a profound, tectonic shift of awareness, that he had been living in that love for years.  Spock's time and attention had been his, any hour of the day or night he wanted them.  Spock's intellect ever at his service.  An offering made with such self-possession that Kirk had never really noticed.  Spock had simply been -- available to him.

And now, when at last Spock asked something in return, he was to be rejected, and evicted from the world that had been his for over ten years before Kirk ever entered it.  Sent out to die.  For the first time he faced the reality.  Spock and some deranged surrogate?  Impossible.  Spock finding in one year the solution that had eluded Vulcan science for centuries? Unlikely.  Oh, he would try, but his chances must be almost nil.  Spock had presented these alternatives to keep Kirk from seeing the truth about his choices:  Spock as his mate or Spock, alone somewhere, dying tortured with need.  The oon tes'ek, 'combat against inevitability', one of the horrors prevented by Reform mating procedures.  But Spock had fallen through that social net.  And now no sword companions would help him to an easier death.

How could I have been so blind?  What if he had let Spock go, only later to realize... What else might he be missing?  Damn this mental collapse that had to happen now, when he needed every scrap of ability!  Maybe with his talents intact he could have found a way through. As he was, there was only one thing to be done.  Now, before the inexplicable fear returned to cripple him.


Tranquilly, the Vulcan that would be his freed himself from the meditative trance and looked around at him.

Even in its peace, the face was darkly marked with that transcendent beauty.

It would be by far the strangest thing he had ever done, but it would be no sacrifice.  This man could arouse him as no one had before; a friend for whom he would willingly give his life:  how much more logical, then, to live it for him; to give the one gift that friend had need of, and let other things fall into place as they might.

It was settled.

If the fear came, he must conquer it.  He would conquer it.

Calm had descended on him.  It was he, not Spock, who was the expert lover. But if he could not manage to end it here and now, in three days he had only to say Yes to Spock's offer.  Then Spock would --  Hastily he turned his mind from that.  Spock wouldn't harm him.  Whatever happened would be done with the utmost care and --

He had to keep from thinking of it.  The only thing that mattered was that he save Spock's life.  It was the only decision he himself could live with.

It must have been what his subconscious had been trying to tell him --  The dream of murder, this restlessness about Spock all day.  On some level he had known that Spock was going to die -- for love of him.

Spock had risen to his feet.

"James," he said composedly, "you failed to attend me last night.  Have you any excuse for your dereliction?"


"No excuse, of course, would be acceptable in any case.  My wishes are now your first priority.  To assist you in remembering this, your punishment tonight will be severe."

Now.  Go to him.  Kirk had seduced women in the course of duty, human, humanoid, and alien.  Success depended on half-believing your role... seeking the outlines of their bodies with hands that communicated a subtle intensity, falling into a state of receptiveness, sensing when to loose dominance moves on them...  It was amazingly easy, but now, when he thought of practicing such wiles on the long Vulcan body, all his odd shyness of Spock came back.  To touch him would be so... presumptuous.  Quickly he suppressed his feelings.  This must be a completely controlled performance.

Before he got halfway across the room his breath was coming shorter.  When his hands touched Spock's chest a cool tingle ran down his arms and around his back.  He eased his body against Spock's and met his eyes.  "If you let me off this time... I guarantee it will never happen again."

He had never seen the eyebrow raised so slowly.

"I've -- realized you were right.  I do -- want you, Spock."

"I hope you are not under the illusion that your desires interest me, James."

Kirk let a challenging smile touch his eyes and lips.  "My desires could -- become -- interesting..."

"Remove your clothing."

Kirk's heart turned over.  It was now.  Without giving himself time to think, he stripped out of his tunic.  The boots were always a problem at a time like this, but he had learned to get out of them with minimum delay. He did so, sitting on the bed, and then shucked down his trousers.

Spock observed him dispassionately.


The Vulcan in turn sat down, and held a booted foot out to Kirk.  The intimate service of easing the boots off made Kirk blush as his nakedness had not.  Spock rose and stood before him.  Uncertainly, Kirk reached up, under the long tunic, and fumbled to unfasten the hveisth'ei leather. Clumsily he managed to get the garment off.  Too late he realized he'd missed the opportunity for a few telling caresses.  He was finding it hard to submerge himself in this role.

Spock looked down and caressed his face.  "Are you afraid, Jim?"

Inches away, under the light tunic, was the Vulcan male sexual organ he had not yet seen.  "No."  Suddenly he realized the long fingers had slipped into the meld position.  He jerked, but Spock's other hand was behind his neck. He felt the mind-touch, like a breeze rippling through his thoughts.

"My Jim.  You must not attempt to lie to me, in word or action.  Your awareness is open to me.  I cannot be deceived.  But you may deceive yourself.  I have no intention of dying in pon farr.  My life is of great value to Vulcan.  And... I could not place such a burden of guilt on you, Jim.  Do you think I could be unaware of the effect, if, after rejecting me, you heard that I had died for lack of a mate?"

But --  Through his mind passed images, impossible pictures of Spock sexually assaulting a helpless defective, or being pawed by a vacant-eyed, drooling --

"Jim, it does not take place in a primitive manner.  As the bond will not exist to prevent injury, I will be sedated for the protection of my partner. Only those who strongly desire it are ever allowed to act as surrogates. The mating is... regulated closely.  It is not a pleasant experience, but it may be necessary, and I will not attempt to avoid it in the way you fear." Spock took Kirk's hand and positioned it against his own face.  "Enter my mind, Jim.  You must see that what I tell you is so."


End of Part Two, Intreat Me Not to Leave Thee  

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds...
...It is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark...

            -- William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

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