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Captain's log stardate 2261.43: We are in orbit around the planet Praxis. Two years ago, a virulent and deadly plague swept through their population. At the time, they requested and received aid from the Federation. Federation doctors and scientists were able to stop the airborne pathogens, but not before it killed more than three quarters of their population.

The planet is rich in dilithium and trilithium crystals. They are in great need of an influx of capital to get their spaceport running again, and the Federation is always in need of raw materials.

The Praxians are an odd mix of strong traditions and modern technology. Every encounter with them is filled with pomp and ceremony. We've been here for four days and the negotiations are finally scheduled to start tomorrow. As part of their tradition of hospitality, we will be staying on Praxis for the duration of the negotiations.

At 2000 hours, Jim made his way to the transporter room. He rolled his shoulders. His dress uniform tunic was getting tight. The away team was already assembled when he came into the room.

"I hate having to wear dress uniforms," Bones complained as he tugged at his collar and grimaced.

Jim bit back a sigh. He wasn't all that crazy about the formal dress either, but they were a requirement of command. "It's part of the tradition here to have a formal dinner before negotiations start."

"We've already had two formal dinners and a tour of the city," Bones said. "If you can even call so few people a city."

Jim didn't let himself shudder. The capital city had once been teaming with over a million people, and now there were blocks of empty buildings all perfectly preserved. It lent an echo of desperation to everything they'd seen. "It's not like we have a choice about the dinner, Bones."

"The Captain is correct. The dinners are required, doctor. Complaining is not logical. It will do little more than irritate those around you." Spock sounded resigned in that unemotional way he had.

"So, you find my complaining irritating, Mr. Spock?" There was a maniacal gleam in Bones' eyes that Jim knew to be wary of.

"I do not. But I am quite sure that those around you who are subject to such emotions, no doubt do." Spock looked at him with thinly veiled contempt. "You might attempt to remember that."

"I'll take it under advisement." Bones gave him a baleful look.

"The Praxians have a tradition of getting to know the people they are negotiating with, which is why they have so many receptions and tours before the actual work begins." Uhura, of all of them, looked the most comfortable in what she was wearing. And, Jim couldn't help noticing how stunningly beautiful she looked in her dress uniform.

"I can't imagine how. We've barely spoken to the president or anyone on her staff," Bones said, pulling his collar again. "I'm a doctor, not a fashion model."

Jim did laugh. "Ready to beam us over there, Mr. Scott?"

"Aye sir. They have lowered the force field around their capitol building. Once you've gone, I'll transfer your packs to each of your room coordinates, which the Praxians kindly provided. Whenever you're ready."

"Thanks. You're in charge while we're gone," Jim said and smiled. "Energize."

They arrived in the foyer of the capitol building. There were several groups milling around, waiting to go in.

"Captain Kirk?" A woman dressed in dark green pants and a frilly top said. "I'm the president's aide, Lotha Mediume. If you and your party would please come with me."

She led them through two sets of double doors into a ballroom with a ceiling that must have been twenty meters high. The walls were done with a rich gold and black paper that was elegant enough for Jim to notice it.

"Oh my, it's beautiful," Uhura gasped.

"This is the Capitol Ballroom. It is nearly eight hundred years old. It was built after all the clans united under one system of leadership so that there would be room for all the representatives," Lotha said. "A few years ago, a reception like this would have packed the room to capacity. Now we will echo in it."

"We hope that it will be filled again," Uhura said quietly.

"Not in my lifetime, I'm afraid."

There was nothing that could be said to the truth. Sadly, the room was only half full with various dignitaries and their spouses.

"Here is the president," Lotha held her hand out to the woman who just entered. "Janna Parkerson, President of United Praxis."

"Captain Kirk," the president said. "It's good to see you and your officers again."

They'd met when he and the away team had first beamed down.

"Good evening, ma'am. It's good to see you again. You remember my First Officer, Mr. Spock. And my Chief Medical Officer, Doctor McCoy, and my Communications officer, Lieutenant Uhura."

"I'm very pleased to see you all again." She turned to the people standing with her. "The Minister of Finance, Marlena Bronson. The Minister of Health, Dr. Whitman Maxell, and the Minister of External Affairs, Morgana Robertson."

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Jim said. The health minister did not seem to be in good health at all. He was pale and drawn and while his face wasn't lined, he looked...old, for lack of another word. Maybe tired was a better description, but that couldn't account for the washed out look he had. As a counterpoint, the two women were robust looking, beautiful in their evening clothes, but more than that, they seemed full of life.

There were more introductions, and Jim committed each name to memory, then circulated through the room, making small talk with whomever he came into contact with. McCoy stayed by his side.

After about half an hour, Jim moved to the back of the room so that he had a bit of privacy. "Bones? Is something wrong?"

"Not really. But something doesn't feel right to me," Bones said, glancing around. "I'm not sure what, either."

As much as Jim trusted Bones' instincts, nothing seemed out of place or wrong to him. Well, aside from a cavernous room with very few people in it. "Can you give me something more than that?"

"I just said I didn't know. It's just a feeling." His tone had a lot of tension in it. "I can't quite pinpoint what's making my hair stand on end. But something is making me really jumpy."

"Are you coming down with something?" Jim was concerned. Bones was never badly behaved on a mission. In his own sickbay, he could be as cranky as hell, but he knew when he had to be polite, and usually, he was downright charming. "Do you want to go back to the ship?"

"No. I'd just be worried from there. I wish I could have brought my tricorder." Bones looked around and then back at Jim.

"They specifically told us not to bring any technology. Though why, I can't imagine." That should have set off alarm bells, but they said they didn't allow technology that wasn't their own. They allowed the communicators, but nothing that would record or analyze data.

Since Starfleet wanted the minerals they were willing to go along with whatever customs the locals had.

"Maybe that's what's making me twitchy." Bones ran a hand over his face.

"Are you having a good time?" Whitman asked, joining them.

Whatever the real answer might be, Jim knew the correct one. "Yes, of course. Thank you."

Bones was looking at Whitman with an odd expression on his face. "Are you feeling all right, Minister?"

"I am well," Whitman said, seeming surprised by the question.

Jim was surprised, too.

It wasn't like Bones to be rude. Not that the question was rude exactly, but it lacked tact. "I'm sorry. It's just that --"

"You are much younger than I am Dr. McCoy. Surely you have dealt with older men before."

Bones tilted his head. "Forgive me for asking this, but how old are you?"

"Thirty-eight." Whitman folded his arms over his chest.

Fuck. Jim couldn't believe that. He looked at least twice that age.

Before he could say anything, Bones said, "I'm thirty-five."

Whitman's eyes widened. "You're joking."

"I never lie about my age." Bones had that look on his face. The one he got when there was a problem that didn't make sense and would drive him crazy until he figured it out. "Tell me about the men on this planet."

For a moment, Whitman looked as if he wasn't sure what to say. "I don't think this is the right venue for this discussion."

Jim wasn't so sure of that. "I'd like to hear more about it, too."

"What would you like to hear more about, Captain?" the president appeared at Whitman's side.

Whitman looked relieved. "Doctor McCoy just informed me that he was thirty-five years old."

She looked at Bones and then looked to Jim. "Is that correct?"

"Yes. Bones...Doctor McCoy is thirty-five. Why is that so unbelievable?" Jim asked.

The expression on the president's face changed from disbelief to something else, something that was unreadable.

"I am very well aged for the number of years I've lived." Whitman was still staring at McCoy, like he would find answers he was looking for by just looking.

They were missing something. "What are the rest of your men like?" Jim finally asked.

Whitman looked at the president and she nodded.

"Our male population has never been strong --"

"Strong?" Jim asked. "What do you mean?"

"While the males in our world are physically stronger than the females when they are healthy, we are only very healthy for a short time in our lives, usually from our late teens until our late twenties. As babies and young children we are much more prone to sickness and disease than the female children are. As older adults, we are also much more fragile."

"Fragile?" McCoy asked.

"As you can see, we age much faster than the females."

"Do you know why?"

"We believe it has to do with a defect in the male genetic makeup, but we've never been able to isolate it completely," Whitman said.

McCoy raised an eyebrow at that. "Would you consent to being examined by me?"

The minister looked surprised by the request. "What purpose would it serve?"

"I'd like to see exactly what your genetic makeup is and maybe I can find something else to help you."

"Our medical knowledge is akin to that of the Federation and our finest physicians and scientists have been trying for decades. Do you think you can do better?" There was ever so slight a note of scorn in Whitman's voice.

Jim wondered if they wanted to keep their society that way, but he couldn't credit it. No one would want half their population to die that young.

"Maybe I'll see something that they haven't. While our knowledge is similar, it is not the same. I was trained differently."

"An outside opinion could look at a problem from another direction," Jim said. It certainly couldn't hurt.

Whitman nodded. "You are correct. However, you will likely want to look at more samples than just me. As I said, I'm well aged for a male of my years."

"After the meetings tomorrow, why don't you come aboard?" McCoy suggested.

"We will do so."

Before anyone could say anything else, someone rang a chime. "Dinner is served through the double doors at the back of the room. There are name cards on the table."

"Great, assigned seats," Bones grumbled as he and Jim walked towards the doors. "I always end up next to someone who feels the need to tell me their life story. Usually in excruciating detail."

Jim didn't bother to tell him that was half the fun of these kinds of things. Each assignment was a chance to see something new or do something new. There was nothing like the adrenalin rush of a new planet with new people and new things to do.

"Let's go in." Jim held out his hand for McCoy to precede him.

They met Uhura and Spock at the table with the cards. None of them were seated together. The food was surprisingly well done, but about halfway through the meal Jim started to feel dizzy. By the end, he had trouble standing.

"Captain," Spock said appearing at his side when he stumbled as he stood up. "Are you all right?"

"Yes. I feel as if I'm drunk, but --"

"You didn't drink enough to become intoxicated."

He'd never gotten drunk during a mission. He considered that conduct unbecoming and had an unofficial rule that no one on the command crew or away teams could have more than one intoxicating drink in the course of an evening. "I'm so glad to know you keep track. That doesn't explain why I feel like I can't stand."

"Perhaps our beverages are stronger than you anticipated?" Marlena, who had been sitting next to him, said.

Bones took hold of his arm. "We should get you back to the ship to see if there is a problem."

"I'm sure the Captain will be fine. Nothing we served is harmful to humans. Why not retire to your assigned chamber and sleep. We'll start the negotiations tomorrow morning."

"Maybe some sleep." He wasn't that tired, but a sound night's sleep before negotiations might hold off whatever he was starting to come down with.

"Jim. I think --"

"Bones, I'm fine. I was just a bit dizzy. It's better now." He still felt it, but not as badly as he did when he'd first stood up. He was not going to leave important negotiations if he could avoid it. He turned to the finance minister. "I think I will retire."

"I will be more than happy to show you to your room so that your colleagues do not have to leave before dessert is served," she said with a smile.

"Thank you. Good night, Bones, Spock. I'll see you both in the morning."

"Good night, Captain." Spock didn't look any happier than Bones did. Jim could almost hear him thinking how stubborn Jim was. And it was true.

It is a dream. At least he thinks it's a dream. But it seems awful real and he feels conscious. Still, what else could it be since he is back in the bar in Iowa? And Uhura has just told him her last name.

He moves to stand beside her. "What's your focus?"

"Xenolinguistics," she says with an air of superiority. "You probably don't know what that means."

He loves it when they underestimate him. "Study of alien languages: phonology, morphology, syntax, variability in different mediums of aural conveyance, symbology…" He smirks at her. "It means you've got a talented tongue."

"And for a moment I thought you were just a dumb hick who only has sex with farm animals."

His smile widens. "Well, not just."

And he can tell that she doesn't want to, but she laughs anyway. "Very funny."

Damn, she's even more beautiful when she's smiling. "You think so?"

She looks him up and down and pauses for one second, as if she's considering her options. "Do you have a place around here?"

"Oh, yeah," he says taking her hand and kissing it.

Wait. It didn't happen like this.

She's still smiling at him, and his heart picks up its beat, racing ahead. Oh, hell. It isn't that often that he gets this lucky so maybe he should just enjoy it.

In the way of dreams, they are in a bedroom, but it isn't his. He doesn't recognize it aside from it looking like an upscale hotel. There is a gold and maroon bedspread made of what looks like raw silk. A noise at the door makes him turn. Uhura is there, wearing an oversized white terrycloth robe, maybe from the bathroom. She moves across the floor to stand in front of him. Even though she is tall, she isn't as tall as he is.

He leans down and kisses her deeply, his tongue sliding into her mouth. She tastes so good, like the shot she did before.

She pulls back, and he undoes the tie on her robe, allowing it to fall open. He puts his mouth on her neck, sucking as he slides his hands under the heavy fabric. Her skin is warm and soft under his fingers, her breasts full. She moans softly as he brushes his thumb across her nipple.

Some part of his mind that isn't completely engaged in what he is doing is wondering what is going on. He's never had a fantasy like this one. On the other hand, he is finally having Uhura. So, it's all good.

She tips his head up and kisses him again, her tongue stroking along his. Jim shudders. Oh, God. Her hands push his shirt off his shoulders. When did he unbutton it? And then his pants are gone, and she pushes him down, flat on the bed, crawling up from the foot. The robe hangs open, and he reaches up, putting his hands on her shoulders to push it off.

She is magnificent. Long, trimly muscled, ebony skin. She lies down on top of him and he tries to move over, to put her onto her back, but she shakes her head. "No. We do this my way."

Oh. His heartbeat is speeding up. He runs a hand down her back and grips her hips and rolls. This time, she lets him move her.

He mouths down her neck, tasting her skin, breathing in her spicy scent. Beneath him, she moans and bucks up as he sucks a purple nipple into his mouth. Her skin is smooth and delicious. He is going to make a meal of her.

Taking his time, he licks and kisses his way down her long body, delighting in the changes in flavor of each part. He finally settles between her legs, licking and sucking. He's barely had a chance to start before he feels her tighten around his mouth. That doesn't stop him, though. Nope. He is going to make her squirm for hours.

Well, maybe not quite hours. But for as long as he can take it, until the heat and scent and taste drive him to the brink. Finally, he has to move or he'll come without ever getting inside her. She is moaning and shivering nonstop at this point, and he can pretty much tell she's been ready for a while.

When he pulls back, she rolls him onto his back, and sinks down on him with a sigh. Fuck. The tension tightens around him and he might have miscalculated just how much he can take. He pants and swears softly as she rocks very slowly, lifting up and then moving back down again. Pleasure washes over him and even with the slow pace, he isn't going to make it long. Damn.

"Oh, hell yes," she says, moving on him, faster now.

He doesn't bother to say anything, just concentrates on not coming for as long as he can. Damn, it isn't going to ever be long enough. Oh, oh, oh.

The world explodes into shards of white pleasure and Jim goes down in the heat of it. Damn, damn, damn. It is every bit as good as he's ever imagined it would be.

As he starts to pull her into his arms to hold her close, the world fades into gray.

This has to be a dream, right? He can still remember the bedroom and the way Uhura had smelled and tasted, but now he's somewhere else and everything has changed.

Before he can wonder what's happened, he's in an arena. It is hot and dry and the air is much thinner than he is used to, but it's still breathable. T'Pau and the marriage party are approaching him and Spock. They are dressed in traditional Vulcan clothes. How does he know this?

Spock stands to one side, his fingers steepled in front of his face.

"Spock," T'Pau says, her voice dripping with disdain. "Are our ceremonies for off-worlders?"

"He is my friend. I pledge his behavior with my life." Spock says, as he comes to kneel before her.

There is a whirl of bells and sounds, and instead of hitting the gong, Spock holds his hand out and says, "Kal-if-fee."

"Spock?" T'Pau says, sounding shocked. "You challenge?"

"It is my right," he says, his words sounding breathless and controlled by the barest thread.

She nods, but looks gravely concerned. "It is thy right. You understand that you will become property of the victor?"

"I understand."

"Choose thy champion."

He moves to stand in front of Jim. "My champion. James Kirk."

"A human?" she says. So much for unemotional Vulcans. She turns to him. "Do thee accept the challenge?"

"Yes," Jim says. A sash is tied around his waist.


She bows with a grace that seems nearly relieved. "As I do not wish to be consort to Spock, I concede the challenge."

Spock has told him this would be the likely outcome. He'd rather not have had to fight the girl. It would have been a close match. While she is much stronger than he is, he has the advantage of being far better trained.

T'Pau nods again. "Kirk. Spock is yours."

They are in a cave somewhere else on Spock's family lands. Lands he knows do not exist anymore.

"Are you okay?" Jim asks, but he knows the answer already. He can feel the heat coming off Spock, knows that he is seconds away from losing all of his Vulcan control. Jim's own desire is rising to the point where he isn't going to be able to control it, either.

Spock approaches him in a predatory way, and Jim's heartbeat accelerates. Yes. He wants this. Wants Spock.

Spock lifts him and sets him against the wall of the cave, holding him there with his greater body density and strength. "You are mine."

He put his hand on Jim's face, and their minds slide together easily. The fire in Spock's mind rages through Jim. He burns with need. "You are mine," he says to Spock. And quite literally, it is true.

Jim leans into Spock and finds his mouth.

He can feel Spock start, and knows that Vulcans don't kiss that way. But he also knows he isn't the first human Spock has kissed. And then he doesn't care because Spock's tongue is in his mouth and it's hot, both literally and figuratively. Jim moans into Spock's mouth as his thigh presses between Jim's legs.

Spock's strength makes it easy for him to rip Jim's pants off, and then press his legs up. He vaguely wonders how he could bend this way without breaking something, but then Spock is sliding into him and there is nothing left but heat and rhythm and light breaking over him.

The scene shifts. All of their clothes are gone, and they are on a pallet on the floor of the cave. Jim's hand slides over Spock's skin, luxuriating in the heat rising from it. He puts Spock on his back and leans over him, kissing down his chest.

Spock moans. In his mind, he can feel Spock's desperation, his need and it's as if it's his own. He reaches for the lubricant and prepares himself and then Spock. There is no hesitation as they join physically again. Spock's body is hot inside, hotter than any human could be, and it presses Jim onward toward completion.

Orgasm is like a freight train running toward a crossing and unable to stop. It slams into him with such force and speed; it takes Jim's breath away. He wants to reach for Spock, but he can't move.

And before he catches his breath, the world goes gray again.

Another dream? It has to be. He's in a rustic cabin with frilly curtains on the windows. It isn't anyplace he's ever been. And if he was going to make this place up, he doesn't believe his subconscious would choose those girly curtains.

Bones comes in and smiles at him. A real happy crooked grin. The one Jim doesn't see him wear very often. Bones is dressed casually, more so than usual, even when he's on shore leave. Faded blue jeans that cling to his narrow hips, and a red checked flannel shirt open over a black t-shirt.

Jim is wearing something similar. He's never owned clothes like these in his life, but they are comfortable and he smiles tentatively back as Bones moves across the floor to where he is standing.

"Ready for dinner, Jim?" Bones asks.

Something smells good. "Oh, yes. I'm starving."

"You're always hungry. But sit right down at the table and let me feed you." Bones waves him to the set table in the corner.

The food is exquisite. The best he's had in a long, long time. "How is it I've known you for almost six years and didn't know that you could cook like this?"

Bones just grins. "There are plenty of things you don't know about me."

"Yeah? Like what?" Jim looks at him. "Tell me all your secrets."

Something about what he just said makes Bones turn away. But not before Jim can see the tell-tale redness on his face. "Let me get this cleaned up," Bones says, standing.

So, there are secrets. Jim is pretty sure he knows what this one is, too. But he's going to let it play out the way it's supposed to. "So, why the fancy dinner?"

"I can't make dinner for a friend?"

Not that he doesn't appreciate it, and the effort Bones went to on his behalf; he does. "You could feed me without going to such trouble. Bones?" Things are just now clicking into place. Things he probably should have noticed sooner.

"What?" Bones snaps. "You didn't like it?"

"Of course I liked it. I just said that." Fuck. If this is seduction, and it is looking more and more like it is, then Jim needs to get with the program. Thing is, he knows Bones, knows he's not the buddy fuck kind of guy. So that means that this is more than that. And it has been a long time in coming to this.

The sudden image of him and Bones wrapped in an embrace slides pleasantly across Jim's mind. Yeah, he can do that. More than that, he wants to. More than he's ever considered possible.

Jim smiles softly. "Should I ask you what's going on?"

"Does there have to be something more to it than this?" Bones isn't coy, but it almost sounds as if he's uncertain of his reception.

Jim puts the power of all his affection for Bones behind his smile. "Is there more?"

Bones looks him right in the eyes. "What if I said there was?"

"I'd be okay with that. No, more than that, I'd love for there to be more." He doesn't know where this is going to go, but without question he knows he'd go there with Bones.

A whole lot of things play across Bones' face. "Stand up, Jim," Bones orders, his voice low and deep and ten kinds of sexy.

Jim slowly pushes away from the table, his heart pounding so loud it's probably audible from where Bones is standing.

It only takes Bones a second to stalk around the table and pull him into a rough embrace. He holds Jim's cheek and kisses him deeply. The kiss lights something inside of Jim, something he didn't even know was there.

Feelings of home and comfort and joy wash over Jim. He's never felt the like, and certainly not in association with sex. It was cliché to say that he didn't have any clue about what he was missing, but this feeling is so wonderful that he knows he's never going to get enough of it.

He threads his fingers into Bone's hair, and holds him closer, luxuriating in the taste of him. How could he not have known that kissing Bones would be so amazing?

Jim is shaking as he pulls back. He's never let himself consider Bones as a possible partner before this moment, and now that he has, he knows what a fool he's been. This, this was what he's been looking for in every encounter. "Bones," he murmurs, leaning into another kiss.

When they pull apart again, Bones smile is stunningly bright. "'bout time you figured it out, boy."

"Yeah. I'm pretty damned slow, aren't I? Forgive me?" He gives Bones his best smile.

And Bones kisses him again, slowly exploring his mouth. "I'm gonna make you work for it. That's for sure."

Jim takes a deep breath. "I'm good with that. Whatever you want."

"I want you. On that bed over there. Naked."

"Naked is good," Jim says, pulling his shirt over his head as he moves. "Naked on you is good, too."

At Bones' look, Jim's heart feels like it's going to expand farther than his chest will allow. Bones slowly pulls the flannel shirt off, and then the t-shirt goes over his head and is tossed into a corner. Jim's breath catches. He's seen Bones naked before and deliberately didn't notice. Now he does, and he's entranced by Bones' naked chest, the light dusting of hair, the smooth muscles. His fingers itch to touch.

"Come here," Jim says, crooking a finger.

"Like what you see?" Bones murmurs against his mouth. Chest to bare chest, the friction is delicious.

"You know that I do." He falls into another long, slow kiss that tastes like everything he's never known he wanted.

His hands slide onto Bones' chest, carding through the hair. He tweaks a nipple just to hear Bones' moan.

"God," Jim says. "I want you so badly."

"Then have me," Bones says, and his hands slip into Jim's pants and grip his ass. "Or I'll have you."

Jim pushes into Bones hands. "Whichever. But now. I don't know how much longer I'm going to last."

"Oh, you'll last. I promise you that."

As Bones opens Jim's pants and pushes them and his underwear off, everything gets tangled up in Jim's boots and he's afraid he's going to end up on his ass on the floor and not at all in a good way.

Finally, Bones gets them untangled and the rest of both of their clothes off. Jim is pushed flat on his back and Bones crawls on top of him. With a kiss to Jim's hands, Bones puts them on the headboard and says, "Leave 'em there."

The accent has gotten progressively thicker as the evening has worn on. Jim thinks he could probably come from just hearing it. He clutches the rungs of the headboard. He's never good at this. Most times, he needs to be tied down, but that's not what they're going to do tonight.

Bones pulls out a tube of lube from somewhere and squeezes some on his hands, coating a finger. And then reaches behind himself.

Jim's breath leaves his body and he tries to drag it back in as his vision goes gray at the edges. Nothing, nothing has ever been as hot, or stunningly sexy, as Bones preparing himself. He's still trying to get enough air in his lungs not to pass out when Bones' hands touch him.

He can't help it; he bucks and cries out, only just stopping from humiliating himself. "Not too much, okay."

"Can't take it, kid?"

"Not much more. Not if you want to use that for anything else."

"And I do." Bones leans forward and up and then settles slowly on top of him.

It's a slow process. Clearly Bones hasn't done this in a while, but eventually he's seated fully and they both let out a sigh.

Bones lifts up and then slides back down again and Jim's eyes start to roll back in his head. The heat and pressure and, more than that even, the look of intense emotion on Bones' face, are going to do him in very shortly. After another slow up and down, Bones starts to move on him, picking up speed.

He's not going to last. There is no way anyone can do this with Bones and survive to tell the tale. Ah, but what a way to go. Jim shouts out as the pleasure and the pressure and the heat all coalesce to a rolling boil and he comes, moaning.

A second later, he hears Bones cry out his name. And it's the most wonderful sound he's ever heard. He knows he wants to hear it again and again, maybe for the rest of his life.

Before he can take Bones into his arms to kiss him and hold him like he wants to do, the world goes dark.

Leonard woke up slowly, stretching out in the unfamiliar bed.

Jesus H. Christ, but that dream had been intense. His body felt sated. So much so that he touched himself, expecting to find semen in his shorts. No tell-tale remnants of a wet dream to be found. Not that he should be having one at his age.

He shivered. Damn, it had seemed real. Like he'd actually had sex with Jim Kirk.

Some part of him wished that it had been real. That Jim had been that responsive to him, that he'd even noticed what Leonard felt. But even if Jim had figured it out somehow, Leonard still wouldn't take him up on it.

No way.

Early on he'd known that it would be so much worse to be one of Jim Kirk's cast offs. Better to be his best friend and keep him in his life. Better for his pride and for Jim's continued existence.

Why did he always fall for the pretty ones? The popular ones? The shining stars that were so hard to keep hold of. What was wrong with him anyway?

Jocelyn was the most popular girl at Ole Miss. Fun loving, into everything, knew everyone, always in motion. Smart, too, doing a double major in math and computer science.

He'd never been sure why she chosen him. His personality wasn't much different then than it was now. But he'd been happy to go along for the ride--right up until she'd shoved him off the merry-go-round and found someone else to ride it with.

Not that it had been all her fault. He'd withdrawn more and more after his father's death. And after a while, she just didn't want to deal with someone as morose as he'd become. Truthfully, he couldn't blame her.

But he'd learned his lesson. No more merry-go-rounds. No more bright stars.

God, what was he thinking about? Jim Kirk was never going to know, let alone try to come after him.

The red light of the chronometer distracted him. It was hours before he had to get up. More sleep was in order. He turned over and punched the pillow.

Before he could dose off again, his communicator beeped.

"Bones," Jim said, sounding half-asleep.

"What do you want at this hour?" Leonard snapped at him.

"Sick." And now Leonard could hear it in Jim's voice.

Leonard was wide awake and reaching for his pants. "What's wrong?"

"I'm going to throw up. And tired..." Jim trailed off.

"Jim? Jim?" As the communicator switched off, Leonard's heart started to pound.

He had his shirt on and was heading out the door. "McCoy to Spock."

"Spock here, Doctor. What is the problem?"

"Jim's sick. I'm on my way to his room." Fortunately, it was only down the hall. He palmed the door, and it didn't open. Of course not.

Fuck. "We need to get into his room."

"I'll contact one of the aides and meet you there presently."

Too long. He flipped open his communicator. "McCoy to Enterprise."

"Enterprise. Johnsen here."

"Can you beam me from where I am into the captain's quarters on Praxis? And get me a medical scanner while you're at it." Damn the Praxians for not allowing any technology.

"Got your coordinates."

The transporter took him and he materialized on the pad and Johnsen tossed him the scanner. Then beamed him back down to Jim's quarters. God, he hated transporters. But he didn't have time to worry about it. Jim was passed out on his bed.

Leonard ran a scanner over him. "Oh, good Lord," he muttered as he heard the door to Jim's quarters opened. "He's been poisoned."

"By what?" Uhura asked, holding her robe closer around her. Spock, he noticed, was dressed.

"I don't know. And I won't be able to find out here." He could probably lift Jim, but it might hurt him. "Spock, can you carry him?"

Spock hesitated for one second, and then nodded, easily lifting Jim into his arms.

"McCoy to Enterprise."

"Johnsen here. How's the Captain?"

"Not so hot. Lock onto me and Mr. Spock and beam us both aboard." He looked at Uhura and the aide. "Get dressed and return to the ship."

Before she could say anything, the beam took them.

When Jim woke, he was in sickbay. As he tried to focus, his stomach roiled again. A very concerned looking Spock was beside his bed.

"What --" he tried to ask.

"Don't speak yet. Drink this." Spock held a glass with a straw in it to his lips. He drank. Nothing ever tasted so good.

"What?" His stomach was starting to settle.

"You were heavily drugged and had an allergic reaction to whatever you were given. Dr. McCoy found you in enough time to flush your system. However, some of the drug still remains."

That would explain the nausea. "Do we know who did this?"

"Not as of yet. Do you remember anything? Did you eat anything after dinner?" Spock asked. And even if the tone was unemotional, it was pretty easy to read his anger.

Oh, God. Jim did remember and it wasn't about dinner, either. It had been a very long time since Jim had blushed, but he could feel his face heat. "No. Nothing."

"Captain?" Spock's tone was solicitous. He touched the wall communicator. "Spock to McCoy."

"I'm right here," Bones said coming into the room. "What's the problem?"

"The captain is in some distress."

"No. No. I'm fine," he choked. He wasn't fine. The dreams had been so unbelievably real. If he didn't know better, he'd swear that under the nausea, his body felt, well, satiated. Like he'd had really great sex. But if he'd had sex with them, wouldn't they be acting differently, especially since it had been so good with each of them?

"Captain," Spock said, in that slightly superior tone he used when he was going to point out something obnoxious. "I believe you are not telling us everything."

Spock also had the intense look of concentration that meant he was trying not to react at all.

"Why would you think that?" Jim asked.

Spock hesitated, and focused on a point over Jim's shoulder. "You are blushing. In the two point five three years that I have known you, I have never seen you do so." He cleared his throat. "Also, I had a very realistic dream last night that was sufficiently different from the norm for me to think it was not completely of my own subconscious."

"Holy Mother of God," Bones choked. The hypo in his hand clattered to the tray.

Okay, so maybe there was more to this than he'd thought or hoped. "It wasn't just you both, either, was it?"

"I haven't spoken to Lieutenant Uhura since she beamed on board." He flipped open his communicator. "Spock to Uhura."

"Uhura here."

"Please come to sickbay immediately," Spock's tone lacked any emotional flavor to it. When he usually spoke to Uhura there was the slightest amount of warm indulgence in his tone.

"Yes, sir. Uhura out."

It didn't take her long to get there. And from her slight awkwardness, Jim could pretty much tell that something wasn't right with her, either.

Before he could open his mouth to ask, he was falling asleep again. In the distance, Jim could hear Spock tell McCoy that something grave was wrong with him. Nausea washed over Jim again. What the fuck was wrong with him?

"Doctor," Spock said, not allowing his concern to color his tone. "He's --"

"Passed out again. Tell me something I don't know." McCoy turned to Chapel. "10cc of Lofexitate."

"Yes, doctor." She prepared the hypo spray and handed it to him.

With more care than Spock had seen him use when the captain was awake, the doctor pressed the nozzle against his neck.

"That's another dose of a general detoxification drug. Until I know exactly what was given to him that's as much as I dare do," McCoy said, sounding tense and worried.

"They have not admitted culpability. Indeed, they have suggested that the problem might be due to something we all ate at the banquet."

"Except for the dreams." McCoy had the faintest blush on his cheeks.

Though it was logical that the two incidents were related, Spock had no intention of discussing that with McCoy. At least, not without more data.

He turned and saw that Nyota was still standing, waiting for him. "Go back to your station, Lieutenant I'll speak with you later."

"Yes, sir." She turned smartly and walked out.

"He'll be all right," McCoy said, pulling the blanket up on the captain's biobed. "Why don't you go back to the bridge? Maybe you can convince the Praxians to tell us what the hell they gave him.

Nyota was waiting for him in the hall after he left sickbay. "How is the captain?"

"I believe he is resting more comfortably now." He stopped. "I told you to return to your station."

Her look turned cool and professional. "I know. You said before that you wished to speak to me."

That was true. He did not want to talk about the dream he'd had until he could ascertain where it had come from. There was a 97.6% chance it came from the Praxians. "You dreamed of the captain in a sexual setting?"

"Yes," she choked, refusing to meet his eyes. "I did. And really, I would prefer not to talk about it, especially not in the corridors." She folded her arms across her chest.

Spock put his hands behind his back. "I understand the inclination to remain silent. It is mine as well." It went without saying that her dream, whatever it was, had been as realistic as his had been. And with the captain. Someone who had flirted with her the entire time he'd known her.

"Then why even bring it up --"

"I suspect that this is related to what made the captain sick. And that it is not something we are going to be able to, what is the human expression, sweep under the rug."

"However, if it's what made the captain sick, then why didn't it make you or I sick?"

"Or Doctor McCoy? I do not know. We do not have enough data at this point to form a hypothesis."

"Well, we'd better do something about that."

"Indeed." He squared his shoulders. "We should return to the bridge so that I can contact the Praxians."

Waking up feeling sick was starting to get very old, Jim thought as he opened his eyes to the bright light. He blinked several times. Whatever Bones was giving him wasn't working that well.

Christine Chapel was watching over him. "How are you feeling?" she asked when she saw he was awake.

"Better." Well, he hoped he was feeling better. She gave him an incredulous look. "Maybe a little. How long have I been out?"

"A couple of hours. Mr. Spock made contact with the Praxians and they are negotiating something. I'm not sure what."

"The treaty? That's what we're all here for." Ever efficient Mr. Spock. Jim sighed as his stomach roiled again. Was this never going to be out of his system?

"Actually, Captain, I have not begun negotiations with the Praxians yet," Spock said as he came into the room. "I have informed them of your condition and asked if anyone else had a reaction to something they served last night. They have indicated that no one else did."

Jim knew that look. "What aren't you telling me?"

"I am keeping nothing from you. However, I believe they are keeping something from us. They seemed very concerned about your health. So much so that I think they may have had something to do with it."

Jim had been getting there himself. It didn't make sense, even with his allergies, that he'd have such a severe reaction to whatever he'd eaten. "Try and tell them that we know they had something to do with my reaction, and that trying to poison a Federation officer is akin to an act of war."

"It is not. Directive 394 clearly states --"

Jim waved a hand to cut him off. "I know what it states, but they don't."

Spock's eyebrow rose almost to his hairline and his lips compressed into a disapproving line. "You want me to lie to them?"

"They drugged me. I want to know why."

"I shall see what I can ascertain without declaring war on the Praxians."

"You do that, Mr. Spock."

Spock walked away. Chapel returned.

"Where's McCoy?" Jim asked.

"Not on duty."

"I thought he lived on duty?" Jim had rarely woken up in sickbay without Bones there to greet him and give him hell for whatever illness or injury he'd had. "How long has it been?"

"You were brought in early this morning and it's almost midnight ship's time."

So, he'd been on duty since he found Jim. "I guess he needs his sleep."

She seemed a bit perplexed about it, too. "I guess so."

It occurred to Jim that he might also be embarrassed about what happened between them. Which didn't seem like Bones at all.

If anyone had anything to be embarrassed about, it was Jim. He wasn't usually that slow on the uptake when someone had feelings for him. Of course, he wasn't looking for it in that direction.

Jim was too tired to think it through. He closed his eyes again.

"Hey, Nyota. I didn't think I'd see you here," Gaila said as she sat down across from Nyota in the mess. "Why aren't you down on the planet negotiating with the captain?"

"You make that sound vaguely dirty," Nyota complained. She didn't want to think about Jim Kirk in any context right now.

"What are you talking about?" Gaila tilted her head slightly, staring at her. "And why didn't you answer my question?"

She loved Gaila. She did. But sometimes that one-track engineering mind drove Nyota mad. "The captain is sick. We think it might be something he ate on the planet." Which didn't explain the dreams. But she was not thinking about that. "We all ate the same thing, though."

"I've heard he has some pretty serious allergies," she said, taking a bite of her roll. "Hopefully Doctor McCoy will be able to fix him up. Do they know what it is?"

"No." Nyota looked down at her own breakfast, and pushed her tray away. She needed to be at her station in ten minutes. There hadn't been time to even think about what happened. And now really wasn't the time.

She could feel Gaila's gaze on her and it was like she was looking into Nyota's mind.

"What aren't you telling me?" Gaila asked.

"Nothing." But that wasn't going to work.

It never worked with Gaila. Maybe it was some Orion telepathy or maybe it was intuition. Or maybe after five years, Gaila just knew her.

Gaila's curls bounced as she shook her head. "Right. So, spill it. What's going on?"

"If I asked you to drop it, would you?" Nyota just couldn't talk about it yet. "Please."

"Only if you promise to tell me later. I can see that whatever it is, it's bothering you. Which means you need to talk about it. And I know you'll never bring it up with that boyfriend of yours."

"Boyfriend?" Nyota raised an eyebrow. It never failed to amuse her the way people referred to her relationship with Spock.

"You know what I mean. You can't talk to him about anything. That's why you have me."

"I can talk to Spock just fine." They had any number of long intellectual discussions. And quite a few personal ones as well, but this, this might not be something she could talk about with him. At least, not yet. And of course, Gaila knew that.

She was grateful to have Gaila's continued friendship and had even gone as far as to ask Spock to get her assigned to the Enterprise.

Gaila was one of the handful of cadets who'd made it into escape pods after her ship had been destroyed by the Narada. Nyota was very grateful that she'd survived. Spock could probably tell her the odds on that, but she'd never ask.

"Okay. I'll let it go. For now." Gaila stood. "I need to get down to Engineering. Mr. Scott has us rebuilding a couple of the terminals."

"Sounds like fun," she said.

"It is. And don't think I'm going to forget about this."

Right. Gaila had a memory like a steel trap. She never forgot anything.

"Uhura to Captain Kirk."

Jim sat up and his stomach roiled. He turned off the picture on the console. "Kirk, here."

"Captain, I have Admiral Pike at Starfleet Command for you." Pike had taken over as his main contact with the admiralty about a year ago. It was a promotion for Pike, as well as an indication that he was back on full-time duty. Jim liked dealing with him better than he did Barnett or any of the other brass who had been sitting on their collective asses for too long.

"Put it on the console in here." He turned the picture back on. God, he hoped he didn't look half as bad as he felt.

"Jim," Pike said, "What in blue hell is going on there? This was supposed to be an easy mission."

"Don't know yet." Jim took a breath. His stomach still hadn't settled. "The Praxians drugged me for some reason."

"Why would they do that? Were you abused in any way? What about the rest of your away team?" Pike's questions came rapid fire, but under it, he could hear the concern.

Without more information there was no way to know anything. The lack of answers was disconcerting. He wasn't going to discuss it until he knew more. "We're still looking into the why."

"They aren't hostile. And they don't have much in the way of defenses, not with their population so thin." Pike's eyes narrowed. "They are very tradition bound. Did you offend them in some way?"

"Thanks for that vote of confidence, sir. And no. I've been good and I've made sure that no one else has misbehaved." Jim sighed. "I wish I had something to tell you about this. But I don't."

Pike scratched his head. "Well, find out. We need those dilithium rights. It will be a huge boon for us. And they came offering, so all you need to do is give them what they want."

"Right. I get it. Spock is talking to them right now." He had the distinct feeling that it was more than just simply drugging him. The Praxians needed the Federation right now, which made it unlikely they would do anything to harm him. And those dreams were tied in somehow, too. "I'll let you know when we find out something."

"Good enough. Pike out."

Jim was still sitting up when Spock finally came back to sickbay. It was the longest he'd been awake since all of this started.

"How are you feeling, Captain?" Spock asked, standing beside the bed.

"Fine," Jim lied. His stomach felt like it was on the verge of giving back everything he'd eaten, which actually hadn't been much. Maybe on Spock's shoes.

"I do not believe you are telling me the truth," Spock said in the same tone most people used with children who were lying.

"What gave you that idea?"

"Your skin color should not be that shade of green." The line was delivered without so much as a twitch of his lips.

Jim smiled slightly anyway. "Good point. Progress?"

"The Praxians wish to meet with you. They have not admitted culpability, but I believe they have a drug that should help with your symptoms."

"I suppose I'll have to talk to them." Starfleet had been pretty clear on what they wanted. "We need those mineral rights."

Spock nodded. "I concur. I do not believe we should go down there unarmed. Perhaps a detail from security."

"Yeah. Let's take Cupcake and his team."

"You should not refer to Lieutenant Commander Lewis as Cupcake."

"Probably not." It had become something of a joke between him and Lewis. They'd spoken when Jim had been promoted. Lewis had wanted to serve on the Enterprise, and as long as Jim wasn't going to hold what happened in Iowa against him, Lewis was good with the arrangement. And if Jim occasionally called him Cupcake, then Lewis could just live with it.

Jim gingerly levered himself off the biobed. For a second, he held onto the side, waiting for his stomach to settle. Was he going to be able to walk? He straightened his shoulders. He'd do what he had to do, just like he always did.

"I'll arrange it." Spock said, and then looked at Jim closely. "Are you well enough to --"

"Let's not move too fast. And no dress uniforms this time."

"Good. I'll be coming along," McCoy said as he folded his arms over his chest, daring anyone to argue with him. Not that anyone would have done that, not with the protective look on Bones' face.

And while he'd never admit it to anyone, that look gave him a warm feeling in his gut. "I'll need you to keep me from throwing up on everyone's shoes."

Spock took a step back.

They beamed directly into the entryway of the capitol building and were met by Lewis' contingent, as well as several aides and ministers.

"Please come this way," Marlena, the Minister for Finance, said, holding out her hand for them to follow her. "We're very sorry about this."

"That's all well and good, ma'am," Bones started to say, his drawl pronounced. "But we'd surely like an explanation."

When she would have spoken, Jim shook his head. "Let's only do this once."

Everyone was silent during the rest of the brief walk to the executive conference room. The president came in a moment after they did. No keeping them waiting this time.

"Madam President," Jim said. "We'd like an explanation."

"First, I'd like to give you this. It will help with your symptoms." She handed him a vial, which McCoy immediately took from his hand and ran his tricorder over.

"It is not harmful." Her tone was tight. "And I believe we asked you not to bring foreign technology to our planet."

"Yeah, and I agreed until you poisoned our captain."

"Bones," Jim warned.

He just shook his head and glared. "I am not letting you take anything until I've scanned it to make sure it's safe."

"I concur with Dr. McCoy." Spock's arms were folded over his chest, and he was looking rather menacing.

Jim appreciated their protectiveness, but it wasn't necessary.

The president sighed. "I'm allowing this only because we've given you no reason to trust us."

"Damned right you haven't," McCoy muttered, and fiddled with his tricorder again. "It looks like it should be okay. There's nothing in it that can hurt you."

"Ringing endorsement." But Jim took the vial and drank it. Within ten seconds he felt considerably better. He breathed out a sigh of relief.

The president had taken a seat at the table and Jim sat down across from her. She indicated that everyone else should sit as well.

"Now," Jim said, his tone carefully modulated. "We'd like that explanation."

"As we've said, our population was decimated during the plague three years ago. What we failed to tell you was that our male population was nearly wiped out. Over ninety percent of our men died in the plague."

For a moment, the room rang with silence. The people around the table all looked down. Bones bit back a gasp, and Spock's spine got even straighter. Jim just closed his eyes for a moment.

"The result was not unexpected," Whitman said, his voice betraying nothing of what he was thinking. "We've explained the health problems most of our male population suffered from."

Jim nodded. They hadn't had a chance to examine the men yet, but it was obvious just from the men that he'd seen that there was a problem. He was curious to see what McCoy's results would show.

"Only a handful of clans had males that survived from all of the thousands of clans that lived on this planet. Those of us who did survive had alien DNA introduced into our breeding lines that strengthened our own DNA," Whitman said.

"We have come to realize," the president continued, "that we would not survive unless we could not only find males to mate with, but also find a way to continue to strengthen them for future generations."

"I'm very sorry," Jim said. And he was. No civilization should be faced with this kind of threat of annihilation. He could not imagine what it must be like for them. They were facing extinction in a way that the Vulcans weren't, even with less population left. "But that doesn't explain what you did to me. Or why?"

The president cleared her throat. "Right after we got the plague contained and started to assess the damage, we had a ship of miners require emergency assistance at our spaceport. Since our numbers are so small, we had only a few people on the station. We sent several people up to help and offered what assistance we could. They provided a much needed infusion of DNA to our stores. We had to synthesize it, of course, to match our blood chemistry, but it proved easier than we'd first thought. After that --"

"Wait. Did they know they were giving you their DNA?" McCoy choked, clearly outraged.

"They were willing enough to take what was offered and not ask any questions. We hadn't developed the dream program yet, so each one of them had several nights of pleasure with a different woman each night."

"How many children?" McCoy asked.

"Close to two dozen." Whitman said, proudly. "And all of them healthy and strong. So strong. The males have thrived in a way none of our males have before. Even when we've had other alien DNA spliced into our own. The female children are just as strong. We synthesized the DNA and had many women available for breeding."

McCoy's face went red. "You forced your women to --"

"What dream program?" Jim asked at the same time.

"Certainly not," the president said, indignant and all injured virtue. "No one is ever forced. But it is our civic duty to repopulate our planet. We are on the brink of extinction. Do you think anyone on the planet would shirk from their duty?"

"What dream program," Jim asked again. But really, it wasn't that hard to extrapolate where this was going.

"We developed a drug that would give the person taking it a dream-world scenario of someone they wished to know. It also allowed us to collect their DNA."

"Why do it in a dream?" McCoy asked.

"Most of our people form triad relationships. Two females establish a household and then take on a male to father their children. However, as is true with all species, some of our people prefer only their own sex for mates. We need DNA from everyone. So for those that would prefer not to act physically, we hoped to provide the dream world drug," Whitman said.

"Why did you do it to me?" If someone had come to him and asked, he wouldn't have said no. He would have liked to have helped them. If they'd asked.

The president looked down and then back at him. "I'm afraid there were several of our females who wished to mate with you, but you didn't respond to their advances."

McCoy choked, but said nothing.

Despite the subtlety of the invitations, Jim had known what they'd wanted. Not why of course. "It would have been inappropriate for me to accept those advances from someone who was part of the negotiating team. Not unless they made their interest much plainer than they did." Jim could not believe that was coming out of his mouth. God, when had he gotten to be such a grown-up?

The president's cheeks were pink. "Perhaps they were too subtle in their pursuit. We are not forward people. Instead of allowing the matter to drop, they took action. Although it was for the greater good, it was not sanctioned by this government." She met his eyes. "Not at all."

"So, they, whomever they were, thought it's just fine and dandy to take the captain's DNA without telling him they were doing it?" McCoy asked in a heavy accent.

The president and health minister looked at each other. "We know who the people are who perpetrated this, and they will be dealt with accordingly. And while we are deeply sorry about what happened, we cannot change it."

"What are you going to do with them," Jim asked. Because really, they all seemed a little too casual about it. And Jim felt...he wasn't sure, but this was so categorically wrong. It was worrisome that the Praxians didn't see this as quite as wrong as Jim did.

"What will happen is up to the courts, but I will tell you there isn't likely to be a harsh penalty. I'm sorry, but it was done for the greater good," the president said.

Jim wondered if maybe whoever was responsible did have some kind of unofficial sanction to do what they'd done. And there were now a couple of people who were going to take a hit for the team. Of course, there was no way to prove it one way or another.

"I can see you're upset. We do understand it was a grave violation, but we must also think in terms of the greater good. There is nothing more important to any of us than the survival of our world."

Jim really did understand that, but that didn't make what they'd done to him any less acceptable. He could see by looking at them that they didn't understand. Had he let this bother him too much? Maybe it was more a matter of what the dreams had showed him. "Had the dream drug been used before it was used on me?"

"We tested it thoroughly. There were many volunteers," Whitman said. "It should not have harmed you."

That was another problem. It had made him sick and put him at a disadvantage. Something he hated.

"Well, it did. And you might think about that --"

Jim cut McCoy off with a look. As much as Jim appreciated McCoy's defense of him, they couldn't let this get too far out of hand.

"We apologize for what befell you and certainly for the illness it caused. However, until the courts rule, there is nothing else to be done," the president said. "Perhaps we should adjourn until later. And then we can reconvene to speak about the mineral rights negotiations."

That wasn't a bad idea. Jim needed to get his thoughts together on this and for the first time since it happened, he could think clearly. "All right."

"Before we do adjourn, a question if I might?" Spock asked.

Jim nodded.

"You implied that we were all given the drug?"

"I was told that all of the males were given the drug and their DNA harvested. The female, while both strong and intelligent, was not needed."

They had plenty of women of their own.

Which led to the questions of, "Why was Uhura given the dream, too?" Jim asked. If they weren't going to use her then it made no sense.

"It was thought that if the dreams were discovered, it would be easier to convince you that it was something you ate if all of you had the same reaction."

"That is logical," Spock said, in a tightly controlled voice.

Fuck logic. This was outrageous. If it had been just him, Jim could have forgiven it. Maybe. But they did this to Spock and McCoy, too. As well as subjecting Uhura to the dream for no reason at all except to cover their own asses. It was too damned much.

"So, not only did you take my DNA without asking and subject me to a realistic dream using a drug that made me ill, you did the same thing to my command staff?" Jim's outrage could not be conveyed in words. He glared at the president and she seemed to shrink in on herself for a moment. "You think this is acceptable behavior from a planet that wants membership in the Federation?"

The president squared her shoulders. "We have apologized. And I reiterate this was not a sanctioned attack on you or your people. We have little of value, but if you wish reparations, we will do the best that we can to pay them."

"I don't want reparations, and I don't want another apology. I think I've had just about enough of this." Jim stood, rubbing his hands down his pants. "We'll continue this later."

Spock and Bones stood as well. Together, they exited the room.

It was mid-afternoon, so the mess was almost totally empty. Nyota had stopped in for a very late lunch and hopefully a moment or two by herself. The command staff just returned from Praxis where the captain had walked out. Spock had explained in cryptic words and then dismissed her before she'd had a chance to comment.

"Oh, dear. Why do you look more upset now than you did this morning?" Gaila said, sitting down across from her.

And that would be a gross understatement. Rightly so, considering what she'd been told by Spock. "Yeah, you could say that."

"Rumor has it that something major happened when you were down there."

"But not what?" Nyota asked. It was always good to keep up with ship's gossip. And everyone seemed to tell Gaila everything. It was interesting since she wasn't much of a gossip herself.

"No one is sure. Something about the captain being made sick by something on the planet. And something about him having some kind of dream. Doesn't make a lot of sense yet."

"Not much I can add, either," Nyota lied. She couldn't even begin to talk about it. Even with Gaila.

"You know, when you start on the offensive like that, then I know you're lying."

"You should just let this go, you know?"

"Well, it's later now." And Gaila grinned that damned, irrepressible grin that she had. Most times Nyota was charmed by it and told her what she wanted to know.

Not this time, however. "It's not later enough." As far as Nyota was concerned, it was never going to be that late.

"Come on. If it was a dream, was it at least a good one?"

Nyota fought not to blush. "What makes you think it was a dream I had. Didn't you say it was the captain's?"

"That's what the rumor says. But you wouldn't have worked yourself into this kind of state if you weren't the one who had the dream." Gaila's logic was really linear and it drove Nyota crazy at times.

"Let it go, okay?" Nyota asked.

It probably wouldn't work. Gaila never let anything go. "And if you had a dream. I'm assuming it was about sex."

"What makes you say that?" Nyota choked.

"You humans are very worried about sex. And I've already mentioned the state you're in. Clearly, it must have been about sex."

This was one of those times where no matter what she said, Gaila had her. "Gaila --"

"Tell me. You know you'll feel better once you do."

The problem was that she probably would feel better to talk about it, and Gaila was someone who would not judge her. "I can't. Not yet."

"Okay. I'll just keep guessing until I figure it out. I'm very good at guessing games." Her red curls bounced as she shook her head. "Let's see. Not about Mr. Spock since you wouldn't be upset to have a sexy dream about him, what with you having sex with him all the time."

Nyota had never confirmed, in so many words anyway, her relationship with Spock to anyone. Mostly because she didn't want to field the inevitable questions. Gaila was never deterred.

"So, if it's not Mr. Spock, then who?" She blinked. "Someone else on the away team. So, either the doctor or the captain."

"Gaila," Nyota hissed. "Stop. Please."

"Well, I can't see what's wrong with either of them. The doctor has such lovely hands. I wouldn't push him out of bed. And Jim Kirk? For a human, hell for any male, he is remarkably talented." Her smile said that Kirk was a very good memory.

Damn, Uhura knew just how good he was. Kirk was talented and passionate. And a whole lot of other things she didn't want to know about him. "Don't you have any shame?" Nyota laughed as Gaila shook her head.

"None at all." She met Nyota's eyes. "There is no shame in wanting someone. There is no shame in having sex with them. There is no shame in pleasure of any kind that is consensual between two, or more, people."

Gaila let out a sigh when Nyota didn't even look at her. "The shame comes when people are forced to do things they do not wish to do. And that isn't their --" she blinked. "Were you forced?"

"I wasn't asked. But it was my fantasy." As much as she wished that she hadn't enjoyed Kirk's touch as much as she did, she couldn't deny he was a generous lover.

"Was it one that was better left as a fantasy?"

"No. It was sweet. I hadn't thought about it in a while, but it had always been one of my favorites." What if she had taken Kirk up on his offer in Iowa? She loved what if scenarios.

God, she couldn't believe she was telling Gaila about it. But of all people, Gaila might really understand her.

"So, what is the problem?"

She looked down at the synthetic wood grain of the table and traced it with her finger. "Apparently, he lived it, too."

"Oh?" Her eyes widened. "So, the problem isn't that you had the fantasy about him, it's that he knows you had it."

God, she hated Gaila sometimes. "I would rather he not have known that, yes."

"But why not? Honestly, you humans, I don't understand how you manage to reproduce at all."

"I'm not interested in him. Not like that."

Gaila raised an eyebrow reminiscent of Spock.

And oh, God, that was another problem with all of this. How could she even begin to talk to Spock with Jim Kirk sitting between them. Nyota closed her eyes. "All right, Kirk might be good looking, but he's still an ass."

"Not so much anymore. Since he's become captain, he's stepped up very well. I'm proud to serve with him."

Nyota was too. Not that she'd ever admit that to him. But he'd turned out to be more than she'd ever believed possible in that bar in Iowa.

"You must want him very much." It wasn't even phrased as a question. Which was just annoying.

And unfortunately, very true. "No. I don't."

"I think yes. You do not have favorite fantasies about someone you do not want."

She had a point, damn her. "I want Spock more."

"I don't argue with that. But you should admit to yourself that you want him as well. And then you can walk past it. And get on with life."

To herself, Nyota had admitted it. It was just the thought of anyone else knowing that had her gnashing her teeth. "He's insufferable without knowing how much I might want him. And he has no discretion. I think he's probably slept with half the ship."

"He is a terrible flirt. But he has taken no one of lesser rank to his bed since he became captain." Gaila sounded pretty damned sure of that.

"That's not true." But she wasn't sure. She'd never actually seen him take anyone to bed. That didn't mean he hadn't done it.

"Think, Nyota. It would not make sense for him to initiate relationships among his crew. It would be very poor for morale."

"That doesn't mean he hasn't."

"He told me once that he would not do such a thing."

"And you believed him? When did he say that?"

"When I was with him the last time. Right after I got back from the Battle of Vulcan. He came to see me. After we were done, I told him I would be joining the crew of the Enterprise. He said that he would not be with me while I was on board. I had hoped that he meant that on shore leave it was all right, but alas, it was not."

Nyota didn't want to believe that of Jim Kirk. He just wasn't that virtuous. It was more likely that he didn't want Gaila anymore. But...well, that wasn't fair either. "I need to get back to work."

Gaila gave her a look that said she knew what Nyota was doing, but she also nodded. "If you'd like to talk about it more, we can."

"Thanks, but I don't think so," Nyota said, hoping it sounded final. She had a lot to think about and she'd probably better talk to Spock, but right now, she was going to do the job she got paid for.

"Sure." Gaila smiled and walked away.

Despite the discomfort of the discussion, Nyota had to admit she felt better.

"Uhura to Captain Kirk."

Jim sighed. As much as he'd rather wait until it was all settled, he needed to let Pike know what was going on. "Kirk here."

"I have Admiral Pike for you." She sounded perfectly professional, for which Jim was eternally grateful.

"Put it on the console here, Lieutenant," Jim said and waited for Pike's face to show up on the screen.

Pike looked perplexed. "What's the problem now? Did they poison you again?"

He supposed he should smile at that, but really, he was not in the mood to deal with humor right now. "No, sir. We did, however, find out what happened to us."

"Us? I thought it was only you who was sick."

"I was the only one who was made sick, but I wasn't the only one who had something done to them." Jim paused for a second. As much as he didn't want to talk about it with anyone, there really wasn't much choice.

The silence went on too long. "And?" Pike prompted.

Kirk explained about the dream, leaving out the details of the encounters, but telling him the gist of it. And then about the population problems on Praxis.

"Where did you leave things with the Praxians?"

"I told them it was all well and good that they have a problem, but what they did to us was unacceptable."

Pike ran a hand through his hair. "Are you that troubled by what happened?"

It annoyed Jim that he was so unsympathetic to what happened. "It was a violation."

"Of what? I don't mean to be unkind, but it's not like you haven't slept with half the population of the Federation. Was it that big of a deal?"

"As a matter of fact, sir," Jim said, gritting his teeth. "It was. I have fairly intimate knowledge of my command staff. Knowledge I didn't ask for." And it was knowledge he wasn't sure he wanted, either. Well, most of it.

Pike's look changed. "What do you want to do about it? Do you want to file a formal complaint? That would block their acceptance into the Federation and limit the amount of help we could give them."

Truth was, Jim just wanted to ignore it. But that probably wouldn't make it go away. "I don't want to block their acceptance into the Federation." Jim knew what that would do to his career.

"You'll need to follow procedure on this and talk to each member of your staff who was subject to the drug and the dreams. Make sure they aren't having issues with what happened to them. And if they are, they can file charges against the Praxians who did this. Has anyone been charged?"

"They said that they had found and charged those who had done it. And that they would be brought to trial. However, there probably won't be much of a penalty since from their perspective it was for the greater good."

Pike nodded. "I expect not. I don't want to belabor the point, but we do need those mineral rights. I think you're in a much stronger position now to bargain for them."

"What are you saying? That I should trade on what they did to us?" It disappointed him that Pike had become the same as all the other idiots at Starfleet who thought only of the big picture and not about the people the 'big picture' was supposed to serve.

As if he could tell what Jim was thinking, Pike's expression changed and he shook his head. "I wouldn't go that far. What they did was inexcusable; however, I would let them know they are in danger of losing the credits they so badly need."

There was a tiny part of Jim that did understand the concept that the needs of the many were more important than the needs of the few. The Federation would benefit greatly from a large and constant source of dilithium. "I'm not sure I'm comfortable doing that."

"You're a starship Captain. Things like this happen. You should have paid more attention in some of the cultural survival classes."

"I scored top marks in all of the survival classes." What did that have to do with this? He met Pike's eyes across light years of space. "Have you had anything like this happen to you?"

"Not this scenario exactly, but I've had crew members traumatized. I've been traumatized," Pike said quietly.

Yeah, Pike had. And he was still in a wheelchair if Jim needed any more proof of that. "Would you have negotiated with someone who did that to you or your crew? For mineral rights?"

"I couldn't change what happened to me or my crew, but yes, I did what I had to do to get the job done." Pike's look softened. "I know it's tough sometimes, but you have a counselor on the ship. And Doctor McCoy is a highly skilled physician. Between the two of them, I think you and your crew have plenty of people to talk to."

Jim wanted to point out that Bones was also one of the people who needed to talk to someone. "All right. I'll speak to the president again."

"Good. Let me know how the negotiations go. Pike out."

"Captain. May I speak with you? In private?" Spock said a few minutes after alpha shift started the following morning. He wanted a few words with Kirk before they beamed down to talk to the Praxians again.

Kirk looked startled. "My office?"

Spock nodded.

"Mr. Sulu, you have the comm."

"Aye sir," Sulu said, looking over his shoulder at them as they exited the bridge.

"Lights," Kirk said and waved Spock to a seat.

Spock cleared his throat. He wasn't nervous, of course. Vulcan's were not subject to such emotions, but he could admit to a small amount of trepidation. Not in what he was asking, but Kirk had been more emotional than usual over the situation. "I have given the matter of the Praxian's dilemma concerning their population problems some thought."

Kirk smiled that ridiculously indulgent smile he had. "What have you got for me?"

It wasn't for him, Spock wanted to say, but instead he gave Kirk a blank look. "They are experiencing a problem that is the exact reverse of the one that the Vulcans on Vokau are having."

The smile left Kirk's face. "How so?"

"We had more males than females survive. Not in the drastic numbers that they have, but enough so that there are many unbonded males without hope of finding a bondmate." Spock stared straight ahead. "As you no doubt know, the Vulcan Science Academy reopened this past year. You may not know that they accepted more off-worlders than in any other incoming class. There were also more females than males accepted."

Kirk nodded. "That makes sense for the population. How can the Praxians help with that?"

"Of those who have married non-Vulcans, there have been many failed attempts at reproduction." Spock could quote statistics on last year's miscarriages, but it would not add anything to the conversation.

"That's interesting. I would have thought Vulcan had perfected that a long time ago. I mean, you exist."

Yes, that was probably what most people thought. "My gestation and birth were not easily accomplished. It took a team of four scientists, two very dedication doctors and my mother's stubborn nature for me to exist at all. I was the first Vulcan-Human hybrid to survive."

"Because your blood chemistry and your mother's are so different?"

"Precisely. And the Praxians have found a way to easily synthesize DNA and mix blood chemistries. This technology would be very useful to the remaining Vulcans."

"So what you're saying is that we should negotiate with them for their DNA technology." From the look on his face, it was clear that Kirk was uncomfortable with the situation.

He did not understand exactly why Kirk was upset. Admittedly there were parts of what the Praxians did that had left Spock with the need to meditate to regain his control, but that had more to do with Nyota's reaction than his own. "I would like permission to bring it up in the talks. I believe it would be one more point in our favor, as it were."

"I'm sure they'd jump at the chance. Kirk looked at him then. "You don't have a problem with what they did to you?"

"I would have preferred to have been asked --"

"Yeah, me too."

"But I suffered no ill effects." Instinct told him that he should question Kirk more about his experiences, let him speak of it, if he were a mind to. But Spock had no idea how to initiate that kind of conversation even with someone he was close to. And with Kirk, he wasn't sure they were close enough friends for that kind of intimacy. Before he could decide what he should do, Kirk went on.

"All right. It makes sense. With their abundance of females, and their ability to mix blood chemistries, your extra males might have a chance at bonding."

Spock nodded. The moment had passed and part of him was sorry he had not spoken up and inquired what troubled the captain. Perhaps he should speak to Doctor McCoy about the issue. The doctor might be able to approach the subject with Kirk. "It could be very beneficial to everyone involved."

"Can you speak for Vokau?" Kirk asked.

"I have spoken unofficially to my father and he has given me leave to speak, if you also agree."

"Of course. " But Kirk's expression was still quite pensive.

Spock stood. "I will return to the bridge."

"We'll beam down again in a few hours."

Jim didn't let himself sigh. Here they were again, listening to the president try to explain that their population problems were the reason for everything that happened. They had to somehow find a way to stop their planet from becoming extinct.

"Again, we apologize for the trauma that this has caused you and your people," the president said, looking around and trying to meet each of their eyes. Her tone was full of sincerity. "We hope that negotiations can begin shortly so that we can settle these matters and work on becoming full members of the Federation."

"You do know that just a slap on the wrist isn't going to cut it for the people who did this," Bones said.

Jim gave him a stern look. Not that he didn't agree, but even though they might want to, they couldn't interfere with the local legal system.

Two of the ministers looked very uncomfortable. "Those responsible will be brought to justice, we promise you that," the minister of external affairs said.

"Do you know who it was? Have they been apprehended yet?" Uhura asked.

The minister cleared her throat. "We believe we have apprehended the females who performed the actual violations. They are scientists in our worldwide medical program for repopulating the planet. We are not sure about who might have sanctioned their actions."

And it was likely, Jim thought, that she didn't want to know. He could understand that, even as it made him angry. But he curbed his temper. Walking out wouldn't get them the mineral rights that Starfleet wanted. "I wish to be kept informed of the status of the trial. Even after I leave here. You can get in touch with me through Starfleet."

The president nodded. "We shall keep you informed. It will be a few weeks before the investigation is complete. And then a few more weeks before charges are laid."

"All right. Do you want to begin the negotiations now?" Jim asked. He wanted to get this over with as fast as possible and move on.

The president looked scandalized by the suggestion. No doubt it was a breach of their traditions. "Of course not. We will start in the morning when we are all fresh from a good night's sleep. I will leave the details of the treaty to the minister of external affairs. It is her purview."

Jim was going to let Uhura and Spock handle the beginning of the negotiations. Uhura had become something of a xenocultural expert, which of course dovetailed nicely with her xenolinguistics. It would be her first time negotiating a treaty.

"If there is nothing else," the president said, clearly ready to leave.

"Actually, there was something else I wanted to ask you. From all the possible solutions you've mentioned, it is clear you never thought about asking the Federation for assistance." Jim found that hard to believe. "You asked for aid during the plague and credits for your mineral rights, but not help from the medical community when you're teetering on the edge of extinction. Why not ask us for help?" Rather than just trying to take it.

"We could not imagine how you could help us. And judging from your reaction to the dream drug, we were right to believe it's a delicate issue. Do you have males who will donate DNA for our use?"

Jim stared straight ahead. It was on the tip of his tongue to say that there were two hundred and forty-eight males on the Enterprise. If asked, possibly as many as two thirds would volunteer. But in one breath she asked and in the next she wrote them off as puritans. Instead he said, "It is possible that there are other solutions, too."

The president shook her head. "We believed, still believe, that we had very few options. We had not considered what else might be done. Not closely, anyway. There are hundreds of clans where not a single male survived. Not even the strongest of the male children. We have been trying to deal with the problem ourselves."

That was particularly short-sighted. It occurred to Jim that maybe she wasn't the best person to be in charge. Given the devastation of their population, it was too likely that she had succeeded into the position. He nodded to Spock.

"Madam President, I understand your desperation, better then you can imagine." Spock said, quietly. His voice was nearly devoid of emotion, but Jim could hear a slight inflection.

The president looked at Spock. "I don't mean to offend you, Mr. Spock, but I'm not sure that you can. Should something else happen to our population, even a minor disease outbreak, we will become extinct."

"I do, in fact, understand. Only too well, I'm afraid," Spock said gravely. "Are you willing to share you findings on how to mix species with different blood chemistries?"

She nodded, looking momentarily confused by the seeming non-sequitur. "We are always willing to share our medical technology. But who would need something like that?"

"As it happens, the technology you speak of could be of tremendous benefit to the Vulcan colony. We have been working on it for some time with only marginal results."

There had been only a few hundred births last year on Vokau. Not nearly enough to sustain the population. "And Vokau has an abundance of unbonded males," Jim added.

"Excuse me?" the president said, her focus suddenly very intent on them. "I had not heard of this."

"Do you know of the destruction of the planet Vulcan two and a half years ago?" Jim asked.

She nodded. "We know of the tragedy, of course, but I'm afraid the epidemic had just started to recede by that point and we were only peripherally aware of anything else. We are too far away to have been a target for the Romulan."

"The remaining Vulcan population is in virtually the same situation as you find yourselves," Jim said.

All of the ministers and the president seemed to look up in tandem, tentative hope on their collective faces. "There are males that are willing to be bred?" the president choked.

"Affirmative. Males who are intelligent, strong, and long lived," Spock said.

Whitman sighed. "Wouldn't you require children for your planet as well?"

"I believe that it could be negotiated. A female may have more than one child," Spock said.

As much as it was difficult to put aside what they'd done to him, Jim was going to do just that. There were bigger issues here.

The president smiled. "I believe we should look into this. We will invite representatives from Vokau as fast as it acceptable to your people."

"I believe they will be pleased to send a delegation." Spock inclined his head. "And I will speak to someone this evening about the possibilities."

"We are very grateful for your intervention on our behalf," the president said. She didn't try to hide her hope or excitement.

Jim leaned back in his seat. The negotiations would no doubt be resolved amicably. Much more so than the personal issues that had come from the dreams. "You indicated that we will begin negotiations for the mineral rights in the morning."

The president nodded and stood. "We will be pleased to negotiate a fair price with you. With the sale of the mineral rights, we will be able to open a true spaceport."

Jim stood too. "Until then."

The other ministers started to file out.

"Ma'am, a word if you please," Jim said.

She stopped, and signaled for her people to move on.

There was a moment of silence when everyone else left the room. "What was the dream exactly?" Jim asked.

"I beg your pardon?" she asked, nonplussed.

"Those weren't my fantasies. None of them," Jim said. The answers that he'd come up with didn't make sense.

For a moment, she just looked at him, and then understanding lit her eyes. "It was the dream world scenario of your partners. They each had those thoughts, dreams about you. It was easier to use one for both of you."

That implied more than one and Jim just couldn't buy it. He might have believed that Uhura had a stray fantasy about him, or maybe even that Bones might secretly be in love with him, but Spock? No way. That just didn't seem possible. "You can see each fantasy separately?"

"The drug gives the administrator the ability to see into your mind. We look for a dream world scenario that would please you. Did it not?" She actually seemed concerned that he hadn't been pleased. Good God, that was the least of his worries.

He felt like he'd been sucker punched. "It's impossible to talk about it. Why did I get all three?"

She looked down, and suddenly seemed much younger. How old was she anyway?

When she looked up again, she was every inch the president. "You were the favorite, both of your people and of ours. All of the females involved wanted your DNA spliced into theirs. You were given three doses so that your DNA could be taken three times.

Fuck. This was totally not a scenario they taught in command school. He held up a hand. "Are you saying I'll have children from this?" he choked out.

"Not exactly. Your DNA strengthens the DNA we have. Some of your physical characteristics are possible. About a one in three chance." She sighed. "If this had been sanctioned, we would have tested a small amount of the drug on you before we used it, but...but I was told that because you were so healthy and strong, they believed you would not have a reaction. Clearly they were wrong." She shook her head. "They rushed to use the drug because they wanted you specifically."

God, he didn't know what to think. Some juvenile part of him was pleased that he was so appealing that they wanted him that badly, but the grown up was appalled. And right now, the grown up was in charge. He felt a little sick. "I have some heavy duty allergies," was all he could think of to say.

She nodded.

¬Nyota opened the door to her quarters at Spock's buzz. She didn't know what she'd say to him. Even though she knew it was ridiculous, she felt guilty about the dream. It was like one of those weird religious cults from a couple a hundred years ago where a person could be condemned for their thoughts.

And really, it wasn't like she'd been alone in her fantasies. He'd had them too. Which bothered her more than she cared to admit. It was just that Jim Kirk was so fucking there. So much a part of everything they did.

She looked up at Spock and waved him inside. They were totally not going to have this conversation in the corridor. His movements, usually so fluid and graceful, seemed jerky. But she could guess that he was upset. Not that he'd ever call it that, of course.

He sat down and watched her, making her feel very aware of the silence between them.

"Nyota," he began.

"Um...look. It's okay." But it wasn't. She didn't want to be gracious. She didn't want him thinking about Kirk in that way. Spock was supposed to be hers.

"It..." He looked down at his hands. "I am uncertain as to how to ameliorate the situation."

She didn't know either. "I think it will be okay. Once we get out of here. We can forget --"

"Can you forget? My...contemplation of him was not serious. I do not desire James Kirk." He looked right at her when he said it.

She wasn't sure what to make of that. On the one hand, it was exactly what she wanted to hear. On the other, it was awfully quickly said. Like he'd rehearsed it. "Okay."

He was looking at her expectantly. "What?" she asked.

"If I understand the situation correctly, it is now time for you to make the same declaration."

Yeah. She should. Even if it was only partially true. "I wouldn't anything like that with him." She couldn't even say it, which was completely pathetic. Or not. Since she wasn't going to lie to Spock.

Spock tilted his head like he did when he was figuring out a mathematical problem. "That is not the same thing."

She sighed. "No. I'm not going to lie to you. He is unbearably attractive." And smart, and brave, and compassionate. And so many other things that she'd never considered he might be when she'd first met him.

"Why unbearably?"

"Because I don't want to find him attractive."

Spock raised an eyebrow and she could almost hear him thinking that he didn't want her to either. "Yet, you do."

"So do you, apparently."

"No." Spock started and then took a breath. "I do not."

"What would you call that dream then?"

Spock's cheeks took on a faint green tint. "Merely a thought. A what if scenario. Nothing more."

She would have loved to ask about his dream, but she'd have to give up her own secrets and she wasn't ready to do that. "You're allowed --"

"No. Because you are--" He was clearly looking for words and not finding them, which in itself was odd for Spock. Definitely not logical.

Nyota didn't know what to say, either. "Humans have fantasies. It's perfectly--"

"I understand that. What I cannot comprehend is why you had one about him."

Oh. Damn. Spock had never showed any possessiveness before. Or maybe it was just that Jim Kirk brought it out in him.

How on earth did she explain human sexual attraction based solely, almost solely, on physical appearance? "Mostly it has to do with the way he looks."

"That is not logical."

"No. It's not. But that doesn't make it any less true."

"Because he is physically appealing, you wish to have sex with him?"

"Yes. No. I don't want to sleep with him per se." Well, she did in a way. "I wouldn't do it."

Spock looked nonplussed. "I do not understand."

"I'm not sure how I can explain it to you since, as you said, it's not logical." Really, Spock should understand something more of human nature.

Spock stood and she didn't want him to go, especially with things unresolved between them.

"I require meditation." That was his answer to everything.

She needed to talk about it. How did she approach him? If he were to reject her...she wasn't sure she could deal with that. "Spock--"

He turned back. "I do not wish to hold you if you wish to be with someone else."

"I don't want to be with anyone other than you." That much she did know. Because she had been with Kirk, and least in her mind, and while it had been good, it was never going to be as good as what she had with Spock.

When he beamed up from Praxis, Jim went straight to his ready room. He wanted a couple of minutes to think through what to do.

The entire situation had become bizarre beyond measure. Yes, he was good looking, but to be used like that made him feel kind of sick. Literally and figuratively. He needed to let the whole thing go. There were larger issues to consider here.

Starting with Spock and Uhura having fantasies about him. That was too weird to contemplate. Not that he didn't have the occasional fantasy about either of them. Especially Uhura. He was still very much attracted to her, but she wasn't supposed to be attracted to him.

And Spock. God, he just wasn't even going to go there.

Bones, on the other hand, was something he wanted to believe in. Just the thought of Bones and him together put a warm feeling in the pit of his gut. Of course, given how grouchy Bones had been whenever Jim had tried to talk to him, or hell, gotten within ten feet of him, he wasn't sure that any of it was actually true.

"Kirk to McCoy."

"McCoy here. Is there a problem?" His tone was particularly clipped.

Jim winced. "No. I was wondering when you were going to examine the men from Praxis." The results would probably confirm what the Praxians had already told them, but maybe there was something that Bones could come up with to help.

He could almost hear Bones sigh. "They're due here any minute, so I don't have time to chat."

"Let me know what you find."

"You'll be the second to know. McCoy out."

Bones hadn't talked to him for more than a couple of minutes since that night. If he didn't know better, he'd say Bones was embarrassed by the dream. But...yeah, okay, so maybe he was.

If Bones ever gave him the chance, he'd definitely tell him all about how good it could be between them. The trick would be to get Bones to believe him with all the baggage they both carried.

This was one of those times when his reputation preceded him. And okay, yes, he liked to party when he had time and to have sex whenever he could, but damn it, that wasn't all there was to him.

When he'd been at the academy, he'd been okay with people thinking he was a sex-crazed drunk. It meant they'd underestimate him. But he'd done four years of course work in three years with top grades. How could anyone think he'd managed that and still gotten drunk every night as well as fucked anything that would stand still long enough? It didn't make sense.

And really, Bones, of all people, should know that. He'd been there. Bones should also remember what he'd said about settling down. Jim would do it once and it would be for life. Or maybe that was the problem. No. He couldn't buy that Bones didn't want to settle down. It wasn't as if Bones were going out and partying every night.

With a sigh, he rubbed the bridge of his nose. He wasn't going to solve this now. There were other issues he needed to deal with first. Like talking to the other participants in this drama.

The list of potential problems and pitfalls associated with the dreams were too endless to even contemplate sober. But that didn't make it any less Jim's responsibility to see that those problems were mitigated as much as possible. He pressed the button on the console on his desk. "Kirk to Spock."

"Spock here."

"Can you come to my ready room before you and Lieutenant Uhura beam down to the planet?" Of those involved, he had a slight hope that Spock would be the easiest to talk to. Only because he couldn't believe that Spock actually had any true desirous feelings for him. Or he hoped not. But really, nothing was going to make this conversation any easier.

"Yes, sir."

A moment later, the door chimed. "Come," Jim said, squaring his shoulders and taking a deep breath.

"Have a seat, Mr. Spock." He waved at the chair in front of his desk.

Spock sat down without a word. His eyes forward and his back perfectly straight, not that he wasn't always perfect in his bearing, but now he was particularly stiff.

"Let's start with the basics. Do you feel any trauma associated with the drug the Praxians used on you?"

Spock blinked and managed not to look surprised. "No. Sir."

What had he thought Jim wanted to talk about? "Do you want to file any kind of complaint against them?"

"No. Sir."

"All right. Then I'm going to close this out. And you have forty-five days to change your mind, if you want to, before it becomes final." Jim hadn't expected that he would have any problems, but he had to ask. "Computer, turn off the recording in this office. Authorization Delta-472678"

"Confirmed. Recording off."

"The rest of this conversation does not need to be recorded." He'd have to account for turning off the record to Pike, but Jim was pretty sure he'd be okay with it. And if he weren't, it would be easier to apologize and take the hit, than to request it and be refused.

If it were possible, Spock's back seemed to get straighter. "As I suspect you are going to speak about the dream we shared, I would concur."

"I'm not sure where to start with you," Jim said. Giving Spock a chance to say what he wanted might work better.

Spock raised an eyebrow at that, but remained silent. Not much help at all.

"I mean, I wouldn't have thought..." Jim wasn't shy, not about anything sexual or otherwise, but he could nearly tangibly feel Spock's discomfort. He took a breath. "I wouldn't have thought you'd had those kinds of thoughts, not about me, anyway."

Jim was still trying to wrap his mind around the fact that Spock had fantasies about him. It just didn't seem...well, logical.

"Clearly, you were incorrect in that assumption." And how unhelpful was that?

Spock's face had a very slight green tinge to it, now.

Jim wasn't about to let that stop him. "Do you want to say anything to me? Do you want me to drop it and forget it ever happened?"

"Affirmative." Spock was silent for a moment. "However, I will say that I have spent time considering my alternate self's words on how our friendship will define us both."

Jim had thought about it, too. And while he liked and respected Spock, he just couldn't get to that lover's place with him. Sure, Spock was a good looking being. Well, if you liked the unemotional type. And maybe in another time and place, where he wasn't Jim's first officer or involved with Uhura, Jim wouldn't have said no. But it still wouldn't have been a love match. Not like he and Bones were going to have. Like he hoped he and Bones were going to have.

"They were lovers, the other Spock and Kirk, but that doesn't mean we have to be. We are friends," Jim said.

"I agree. My alternative self also told me that he was only friends with Lieutenant Uhura." There was something in Spock's voice that made Jim look at him.

Could he be jealous? "Do we need to talk about that?" Jim asked. Because, yeah, Uhura was something special and yeah, maybe he still felt something for her, even if he knew it wasn't going to happen, and even if he wanted Bones. So, maybe Spock sensed that.

Spock met his eyes and there was nothing behind them. "I cannot find fault with you for finding her attractive."

"Or she, me?" Because that was the bigger issue. And while she'd never, ever, in any way admitted it or let on that she did, it gave him a thrill to know that she did.

"She chose me." Who knew a Vulcan could look so smug. And maybe he had the right to be. Uhura chose him over everyone else.

"She did indeed," Jim conceded. He was okay with it. Because ultimately, she wasn't the one that Jim wanted.

There was something in Spock's expression that said he knew what Jim was thinking. "I do not think you want her anymore."

"Not really," Jim confirmed as Spock's eyes snapped up. "What I mean is that she's very beautiful and stunningly intelligent, but oddly enough that turned out not to be enough for me. I find myself wanting someone else entirely."

"I see. You will not have an easy time convincing him of that."

How exactly did he know whom? Or maybe it was obvious. God, he hoped it wasn't obvious. It would not help his cause at all. Bones would go ballistic if he found out Jim had said something to someone else before he'd said it to him.

Jim smiled his best cocky smile. "But you know, I love a challenge. One more word on this because I have to know. What was that scenario?"

Spock sat up even straighter. "It is not something we talk about easily and I would prefer not to speak of it."

And in most cases, that might be enough for Jim to let it go. But not in this case. "I got some of the other Spock's memories on the subject during the mind meld. And this involves me. In Spock's memories, his T'Pring challenged, not you."

If Vulcan's sighed, then that would have been what he'd thought Spock had done, but since they didn't it was probably just an exhale. "I am not surprised," Spock said. "Before she died, T'Pring had never allowed any contact between herself and me." Spock looked down at his folded hands. "When I became involved with Lieutenant Uhura, I explained what I had to so that she could make an informed decision."

"So, it would have been Uhura who challenged T'Pring." Okay, so some part of his mind was going: girl-fight. Maybe with some mud involved. And really, he needed to get his mind out of the gutter. Because, so inappropriate.

"Correct." Spock's tone was clipped enough for him to wonder what he might have seen on Jim's face.

"And she would have fought for you?" That in itself showed the depth of their commitment. Even with her combat training Uhura would be at a disadvantage if T'Pring had chosen to fight.

Spock nodded.

"Would you really have become her property?"

"Yes. I would become the property of the victor." Oddly enough, Spock didn't seem to have any more of a problem with that than Spock the elder had when T'Pring had agreed to become the property of the victor of her challenge. Jim had assumed that Spock hadn't been thinking very clearly due to the Pon Farr.

"Literally?" he asked carefully. Vulcan had been one of the founding worlds in the Federation. Jim could not believe they had laws on their books that allowed one person to own another. It had always been against Federation law, a law that the Vulcans helped draft.

"In ancient times, to challenge the bonding was a serious offence. You were seen as rebelling against the decisions of your elders. There were equally serious consequences. Although it would be illegal to restrict my rights in any way, there is a certain honor in agreeing to our ancient traditions."

Jim let out the breath he'd been holding. It wasn't his place to judge what another culture saw as their traditions, especially if they weren't actually breaking any laws while doing it. "Does this happen often?"

"Not in the last several hundred years, but it could. For me, now, it is moot since T'Pring is dead."

"One more question. Are you and Uhura bonded?"

"We are not, not yet."

"But you will be?" Pretty much all he needed was verbal confirmation. Everything Spock had said had already told him that.

"Yes." And then he looked at Jim. "Possibly before the year is out. Or it may be many years yet. Due to the human factors, it is difficult to tell with any accuracy. I believe I will recognize the signs."

"When you need the leave, let me know. I'll arrange it myself. And this won't go beyond me."

"And Dr. McCoy?"

Once Jim had become captain and everyone on the ship was his responsibility, he'd unofficially told Bones about what he'd found out about the Pon Farr from the meld with the older Spock. Bones had gone ballistic that no one knew anything about it and those who did know absolutely refused to talk about it. He'd finally gone to Vokau to talk to the older Spock. Jim didn't know the details of that conversation and Bones had said it was none of his business.

"Neither of us will say anything. I promise you that."

"Thank you," Spock said quietly, but he looked relieved.

"Is there anything else we need to talk about?"

"No, Captain." Spock stood.

Jim was happy to let him escape.

"Have you had time to do much analysis on the Praxian men?" Jim asked preemptively as he came into sickbay. He hated that he had to let Bones know it was business before he could speak. Okay, yes, he could pull rank, but that wasn't going to endear him to Bones at all. He'd learned over the years to just let him have whatever time he needed to get over whatever was bothering him. That didn't mean it wasn't a pain.

"Not much in depth, no. But it looks like it's pretty much as the Praxians said it was." And Bones sounded disheartened. Clearly, he'd hope to find something more.

"Bad genetics?"

"The females are healthier and genetically stronger. The males are more sickly and shorter lived." Bones sighed. "It looks like a sex linked defect on the Y chromosome. The gene variant on all existing haplotypes is bad. It's as if they'd taken all the bad or weak genetic code and used it instead of healthy genetic code."

Jim shuddered. "Is that even possible? Was it deliberate?"

"No. No one would do this. I think there must have been something, some disease or virus, some factor, that killed off the men with a stronger genetic make-up. This is what survived."

"Okay. I am not a genetics expert, but I do know that doesn't make any sense at all. What about survival of the fittest?"

"This would be the reverse of that." Bones shook his head. "I need more time to analyze what I've found. Unfortunately, I don't think that there's much that can be done with the men who are alive now. The problem's in their genetic code. You might be able to introduce a retro virus to fix it, but you'd need to know exactly what you're going after. And it will take years to figure it out."

"Will they survive?"

"As a race? I don't know. Probably not without intervention. Each time they breed, the male's genetic makeup gets fractionally weaker."

As much as he had issues with what they'd done, he wasn't so petty that he wanted to see their whole civilization lost over it. Jim closed his eyes. "Is there anything we can do for them?"

"Aside from being donors, not really. They've set themselves up to fix as much as they can. But there are many women on the planet and too few men." Bones met his eyes. "Are you all right with what happened?"

"I'm okay with it." Which may have been more about wanting to be okay with it than actually being okay. "It wasn't the whole planet's fault that someone took things into their own hands."

"You really believe that?" Because, it was pretty plain that Bones didn't.

"I don't know that we have much choice about believing them. This is all the answer we're likely to get." Maybe that was as much of the problem. No one seemed all that interested in figuring out who did this. He could understand their desperation and that he might look like a tasty treat, but it still didn't quite fit together for him. That rankled more than anything else.

Bones met his eyes again. "Which brings me to my next point. There are two hundred and forty-eight males on this ship."

"You're joking," Jim choked. "I can't order them to --"

"Not order. Just give them the facts. Let them make the decision for themselves. Even if half decided to donate, it will be a big help to the Praxians."

Jim would have liked to have helped, but in good conscience, "I can't order anyone to do that. In fact, I can think of at least three different species where it's against their religious beliefs."

"I can ask, instead. It cost us virtually nothing, but a bit of our time and some DNA we can afford to lose," Bones said.

"Have you volunteered?"

"I told Whitman I'd donate more before we left. He was surprised and grateful. Even if we do, it's only going to be a drop in the proverbial bucket for what they need."

"Can't they synthesize it? Stretch it out?"

"They can and they will, but even that isn't going to be enough for everyone to have the strengthened DNA. They still need to use their own male's DNA to make it compatible with their females."

"You're losing me."

"It just means that they aren't going to have enough. If they can work something out with the Vulcans, it could help both of their races."

"I can't imagine what it must be like for them." This kind of threat to their survival, with nothing to blame, was hard to deal with. That they weren't perfect was the least of their problems.

"They are beyond desperate." Bones rubbed the back of his neck and looked away. "Their scientists know what's going on with the male's genetic problems. They had been working on this long before the plague hit them."

Jim cleared his throat. "We'll be around for a few more days while we negotiate the dilithium rights."

"Thanks. I'd like to do some more research into what started the problem. I can't believe this evolved organically." He looked at Jim. "Was there anything else?"

Jim wanted to talk about the dream, but really, it would have to wait. "No. Give them whatever help you can. I'll see you later."

While Spock and Uhura were starting the negotiations on Praxis, Jim buried himself in his ever increasing backlog of paperwork. Pike could get really nasty about him not turning in status reports on time.

"Chekov to Captain Kirk," Chekov's voice startled him.

"Kirk here."

"I have Admiral Pike on the com for you."

Great. That was just what he needed. "Send it to my desk console."

"Admiral Pike," Jim said pleasantly. He hadn't been expecting Pike to get back to him at least until they'd finished the negotiations and were ready for their next assignment. And after the last time they'd talked, he would be glad to have let it go longer. "What can I do for you?"

"You look like you're feeling better," Pike said conversationally.

"Yes, sir." He was as well as could be expected given everything, which was to say he hadn't had time to address it. "Was there something new on the situation?"

"No. I just wanted to see how you were faring with the negotiations."

It would be just like Starfleet to send Pike in to check up on him. "Starfleet doesn't trust me to handle the negotiations?" Jim asked, evenly.

"It's more about me worrying about your mental health. Which I know has never been as strong as it should be." Pike chuckled at his own joke. "Are you okay, Jim?"

Calling him by his given name was not something Pike did often or lightly. And maybe under other circumstances, Jim would have been pleased with the personal touch; this time it grated. "Why would you think otherwise?"

"Yesterday you seemed, I don't know, more upset than I'd expect from what happened." Something had changed in Pike's expression. He seemed genuinely concerned.

"I was. Oh, hell, I still am. But the situation with the Praxian population is even worse than we thought." Jim told him about the genetic problems with their males.

Pike was white when he was done. "Well, I've dealt with a lot of different situations in my time, but this one..." He sighed. "Usually it's war that pushes a race this close to the edge of extinction. Or some maniac with too much firepower. To have it be their own genetics seems doubly unfair."

"Yeah. And they are right on the edge. One more thing and they cease to exist. I'd hate to see that happen." Jim knew it was all too likely, even with their help.

"What do you suggest?"

"I'm going to let Doctor McCoy make a ship-wide request for volunteers to donate some of
their DNA to help the Praxians." Because, ultimately, he knew that was the right thing to do.
Even if the Praxians didn't have the same moral code that he did, they were in dire need and Jim
just couldn't turn his back on that.

"Why McCoy?" Pike asked.

"I don't want to have any appearance of it being an order. And if I even mention it, it's implied.
I also don't want anyone to feel they need to do something they aren't comfortable with."

Even with letting Bones do the asking, Jim wasn't completely comfortable with it. But he was going to put that aside.

"Good thought. Anything else you'd like to talk about?" Pike sounded like a friend asking him that.

But if he were going to talk about it, and really, he wasn't sure he even wanted to at this point, it wasn't going to be with his commanding officer, even off the record. Besides, he was pretty sure he could work it out on his own. Once he got to talk to Bones about it, he'd be a lot better about it. He looked right into the monitor. "I'm okay. Really. And I appreciate that you got back to me. Thanks, Chris."

For a second, Pike looked like he might say something else, perhaps to try to get Jim to reconsider talking about it. Instead, he just nodded. "I know how it sounded yesterday. Sometimes it's hard to remember to look at the impact on your people rather than the good something is going to cause. If you need anything let me know."

Pike was a good man and Jim was grateful to serve with him. "There isn't much left to do here but finish up the negotiations. The Praxians have promised a fair price for the dilithium, and I expect it all to be done in a day or two."

"Good. The Vulcan delegation has already left Vokau and will be there in about five days," said Pike, back to business.

"Do we wait for them?"

"No. Ambassadors Spock and Sarek are both coming with the delegation. I think they can handle anything that might come up."

"And then some," Jim said, resisting the urge to whistle.

"When you've finished the negotiations, report to Starbase 43. We'll have the supplies you've requested ready for you to pick up there. As well as new orders."

"Yes, sir. Kirk out."

Leonard looked up and breathed a sigh of relief to see that it was Spock coming through his doorway into sickbay. Jim had been all over him since the whole damned situation with the dreams had started. And while he could understand that Jim was surprised by what he'd seen and felt, it didn't mean they had to have a heart to heart on it.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Spock," Leonard said as pleasantly as he could manage.

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Are you feeling well? You are not usually so cordial."

"Ha bloody ha. I'm fine. What do you want?" Even if he wasn't up to his regular repartee with Spock, he'd managed to put an edge in his tone.

Oddly, that made the tension in Spock's shoulders ease. "That is more the reception I have come to expect from you, Doctor."

Leonard rolled his eyes. Trust Spock not to come to the point quickly.

"May I speak to you in your office?"

Usually Spock said what he had to say in front of everyone and left. That he didn't want to do that now was not a good sign. Leonard knew he was going to regret this but he waved Spock in and waited for him to sit down. Then he took a seat behind his desk.

Spock cleared his throat and generally looked a little too uncomfortable, all but confirming Leonard's suspicions that he wasn't going to enjoy this conversation.

"Have you spoken to the captain?" Spock finally asked.

Great. He bit back a sigh and the urge to leave his office. "About what?"

"What the Praxians did to him. The dreams he was subject to."

"Why would you think I'd talk to him about that?" Leonard asked carefully. He didn't want Spock figuring out more than was absolutely necessary. And if he'd learned nothing else about that pointy-eared bastard it was that he was damned perceptive.

"He appears uncomfortable with what happened." Spock said it as if Leonard should know it already. And yeah, so maybe he should.

"Because they've treated him so well." For that alone, Leonard would like to throttle the lot of them. How could they use an untested drug on someone, not once, but three times? God, what were they thinking?

"I believe that he will require someone to speak with about what happened. Someone who can help him." Spock's eyes were on him.

As much as he wished things were different, Leonard didn't think that he was going to be able to put his feelings aside. When he had to treat Jim, he could cut the feelings off, put them in a box, and act to help him. But dealing with feelings? That was a whole other kettle of fish.

"It sure isn't going to be me," Leonard bit out, angrier than was probably warranted. But Spock didn't know what he was asking and there was no way Leonard could possibly tell him.

Spock's lips tightened subtly. His voice was sharper when he said, "I do not understand how or why you would turn him away when he needs you."

"First off, Mr. Spock, he hasn't come to me --"

"You know him well enough to know that he won't."

"And what would you have me do? Track him down and sit on him until he talks to me?" That in itself was an interesting image, and no, he wasn't going there. "If Jim needs to talk to someone, we have a perfectly good ship's counselor whose job it is to deal with just this sort of thing."

"I assumed that since you were his friend you would wish to help him. Clearly, I was incorrect."

No one could make you feel like shit quite like a disapproving Vulcan. "If you're so hot on talking to him about your fantasies, and how they were so realistically acted out for him without his permission or yours for that matter, then why don't you talk to him yourself?"

"My fantasies have nothing to do with this." And then Spock tilted his head in that way he had. "But perhaps yours do."

"Just what the hell does that mean?" Leonard knew that Spock was starting to put the pieces together.

"I had not thought you were so petty that you would put your embarrassment in front of the captain's health."

God, almighty, he really hated that pointy-eared bastard. "It's a little more than embarrassment, Spock."

Again that intense stare raked over him and Spock's eyebrow rose. "You have...genuine feelings for him, don't you?"

That was not something he was ever going to admit. Not to Spock. Not in a million years. "It's none of your concern."

"When the captain does not receive the treatment he needs, then it is most assuredly my concern."

"It's a conflict of interest." More than that, this was something that could shred their friendship. And Leonard wasn't going to have that.

"You cannot avoid him for much longer without damaging your friendship with him. And that would cause him undue pain."

Had he mentioned how much he hated it when Spock was right? And in this situation it was twice as bitter. He'd let his emotions run wild and get in the way of his duty to Jim as his CMO as much as he hated to admit it. And to Spock he could lie, but it was Spock's duty to call him on it.

"You've done your job. Mission accomplished," Leonard snarled at him. "Now get the hell out of my office."

Spock's look didn't change at all, but Leonard could read the surprise in his eyes. He stood. "Of course."

This wasn't Spock's fault and Leonard shouldn't be taking his humiliation out on Spock. He didn't deserve it. "Stop. I'm sorry. That was completely uncalled for," Leonard said sincerely.

Spock said nothing, but the tension bled out of him. He remained standing and put his hands behind his back. "I believe the captain would not be adverse to your advances."

At this point, there was no use in denying it. "Oh, I'm quite sure he wouldn't have a problem fucking me. However, that very amenability is why I'm not going to make any advances." He was not going to be one of the many who'd had Jim Kirk only to be kicked to the curb when Jim was done with them.

Spock raised that damned eyebrow again. "You do not believe that the captain would be faithful?"

"Has he ever been?"

"His prior relationships have all been of a casual nature. I suspect that were he to become involved with you, it would be anything but casual.

That was just the thing that he didn't want to hear. He didn't need the hope something like that would give him. "I think he's incapable of anything else."

"You will not know until you ask. But consider this doctor, if Jim Kirk were to tell you that he was serious, that he would be faithful, there is nearly a 100 percent chance that he would honor it."

"Nearly 100 percent? Not going to give me a real number?"

"99.9786% to be exact."

Leonard wasn't going to smile at that. No, he was not. "Always need to be exact, don't we?"

"We do indeed." And then the damned Vulcan smirked at him.

"I'll take it under advisement. Right now, I need to get ready for that damned reception, and so do you."

"Madam President," Jim said and inclined his head slightly. "It's a very lovely reception. I'm glad we could come to an agreement so quickly."

"It was the least we can do after everything you've done for us. We are in your debt, Captain Kirk." She stood beside him, tall and sleek. "I understand from Mr. Spock that the Vulcan Ambassador and a contingent will be arriving here within the week."

"That's correct. You both may be able to solve your respective population problems." Jim had faith that the Vulcans would see the logic of this. They would work something out.

"I hope you are correct. Our civilization depends upon it." She breathed out. "It is not easy facing the possibility of the complete annihilation of my people. As it is, even with what you've done for us, and even if we can successfully negotiate with the Vulcans, we will still be many generations away from stability."

"I hope that you can work this out. I do understand how important this is for you. And for the Vulcans as well." Jim said, absently noting Bones talking to the minister of finance.

"I sense you are still uneasy about what was done to you. And for that, I am sorry. Is there something else I can say to put you at ease?"

It was interesting that she recognized that. Jim shook his head. "No. It has less to do with what you did as it does the result that came from it. The dreams gave me some insight into some personal matters that are still waiting to be resolved."

"I'm sorry for that --"

"Don't be. I'm grateful for the knowledge, but I suspect that I'll have to work hard to make it become reality." He watched Bones wave his hand slightly as he talked.

She followed his eyes. "The Doctor?"

Maybe he should lie. But there was no reason to. "Yes. Not that he's been very cooperative yet."

"He has done much for us. He is a fine, strong man. His compassion is unparalleled."

"His stubbornness is unparalleled as well." Jim smiled. Mostly he liked that stubborn nature. But lately, not so much.

"I wish you good luck with him."

Jim smiled. "I'm going to need it."

"I will take my leave of you, then. Good night, Captain." She nodded slightly and walked away.

"What was that all about?" Bones asked, appearing at his side.

"She was trying to apologize again. And told me how grateful she was for everything we've done for her." Jim noticed, not for the first time, just how good Bones looked in his dress uniform, even if he hated wearing it.

Bones let out a long slow breath. "Well, this could have turned out a whole lot differently."

"What were we going to do, actually declare war on them for stealing our semen?"

"Spock thought you were serious?" Bones said, sounding amused.

"Quoted regs to me. As if I didn't know them myself. I just wanted to know what was going on." Jim met his eyes.

"Now that it's all said and done, how are you dealing with it?" Bones asked.

Jim was surprised he came right out and asked like that. He'd been wondering when Bones would. But now was not the time to discuss it. "Better. Really."

"Do you want to talk about it?" Bones managed not to sound as reluctant as Jim could see that he was.

He looked around. And fortunately, no one was that close to them. "No. And now is not the time."

"Of course not." Bones looked down and then back at him. "I'm available, and so is Dr. Daniels."

At least he was trying. Jim smiled. "Thanks. I'm good, really." He wasn't lying either. "What about you? They did the same thing to you. Are you okay?"

"I told you I was fine. They didn't do it to me three times with an untested drug that made me sick." Bones harrumphed. "They hurt you in their haste and that's pretty much unforgivable."

Protective bastard. A warm feeling invaded Jim's chest.

"When we get back to the ship, not tonight, but maybe tomorrow, we'll need to debrief on the situation and then it will be done and over with."

Bones shoulders stiffened and he glared at Jim. "I was asking if you wanted to talk, not suggesting that I did." He sighed. "Look, I'm just not ready to talk about that yet," Bones said, though not nearly as sharply as Jim might have expected.

The longer it went on the harder it was going to be to talk about at all. He hated pulling rank. "It wasn't a question. 1300 tomorrow afternoon."

Bones' face turned red, but he nodded. "Aye, aye, Captain." He turned on his heel and walked away.

"That didn't go well," Jim muttered. Why was everything so damned difficult with Bones? Anytime he thought he was making progress, he ended up two steps farther back. It was like walking through a minefield blind.

"No. It did not," Spock said, coming to stand beside him.

Jim sighed. "Thank you so much for telling me that."

"You are welcome."

"I was being sarcastic."

"I am aware of that."

Jim could swear that Spock's lips twitched as he said it. "You're enjoying this too much."

"To what do you refer, sir?" Spock asked in his most bland Vulcan tone. The one that usually set Bones off on a rant.

"Any idea why he is being so difficult?" Jim asked. He didn't really believe that Spock would have an answer, but it was nice to have someone to complain to.

"I could not say beyond the fact that he is always difficult." There was something in that answer, bland though it was, that just didn't sound right.

Before Jim could respond, Uhura joined them.

"Who is difficult?" Uhura asked. "The president has left, so we're free to go back to the ship without a breach of protocol."

Not a moment too soon. He looked around. "Where is Bones?"

"He went out into the gardens with the Minister of Finance," Uhura said, glancing towards the glass doors at the end of the huge hall.

"Let's round up Cupcake and his team and get out of here." He stepped into the foyer and pulled his communicator off his belt. "Kirk to McCoy."

"McCoy here. Is there a problem?" Bones sounded a little breathless.

"We're heading back to the ship."

"I'll be along later on."

"All right. Don't stay up too late. Kirk out." And no, it didn't bother him at all. Bones was a big boy and could do what he pleased. At least until Jim had a chance to talk to him.

"Captain," Lewis said, breaking into his thoughts. "Two of my people have requested that they be allowed to return to the planet after their shift ends."

"If you don't have a problem with it, then I don't either, but do they understand that their DNA is likely to be harvested by whomever they meet up with?"

"I'm pretty sure they've both donated already."

"Just fair warning. They'll be doing it again."

Lewis shrugged. "They're young. I don't think they care."

Cupcake was only a few years older than Jim himself. Neither of them were thirty. How much younger could they be, Jim wondered. "Let's go." He flipped open his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise."

"Enterprise, sir. Andretti here."

"Seven to beam up."

As they were exiting the pad, Uhura stopped him. "You wanted to talk to me, Captain?"

Jim was too tired to deal with it now. He was about to tell her it would wait until tomorrow, but it was clear she was anxious. God, she didn't think she was in any kind of trouble, did she? "Meet me in my Ready Room in fifteen minutes." That would give him time to change out of his dress uniform.

"Aye, sir." She hurried out.

Spock hovered in the doorway.

"What Mr. Spock?"

"I believe she is concerned."

"I got that. I can't imagine why. She's one of the most perfect officers we have on this ship full of perfect officers."

"I concur. And I do not know why either. She has been...distant the last three days."

"Walk with me. I really want to change before I meet her." They started down the corridor and got to the turbo lift. Their quarters were on the same level next to each other.

"Are you worried about Uhura?" Jim said after the door to his quarters closed.

"It did occur to me that she could be...rethinking her choices."

Jim pulled his dress uniform off, and over his head. "I highly doubt that." He looked over his shoulder at Spock. "What? Even before the dream you had seen me undressed. I have ten minutes to get out of this monkey suit and get back down to my Ready Room." He didn't have patience for this right now.

"I should go."

"You're worried that she might want me? I don't buy that for one second." Uhura had all the chances she could have wanted to change her mind about him. Jim flirted with her for years. After he'd found out about her and Spock, the flirting had changed, of course, it was more playful and less serious, but it didn't ever stop. Probably wouldn't now either.

"I am concerned that you may not know what you want."

Jim pulled the gold tunic over his head and ran a hand through his hair hoping it was something close to neat. He'd all but told Spock the truth before; why wasn't he getting it. "That's where you're wrong, Spock. I know exactly what I want. I just need to find a way to convince him of that."

"Indeed." How could someone look so relived without moving a muscle in his face?

Jim palmed the door and stepped back into the corridor. Spock followed.

He was not looking forward to this conversation. Despite what he'd told Spock, he only hoped Uhura hadn't suddenly changed her mind about him. She was way too late, if she had.

Uhura stood at attention, barely allowing herself to breathe. What had she done to be called on the carpet? Though he hadn't requested a specific time, Kirk had been very formal in his request to speak with her.

"Come in," Kirk said. "Lights."

"Aye, sir."

She remained at attention. He'd changed out of his dress uniform and rather than putting on off-duty clothes, he'd chosen the duty uniform. Her nerves stretched a little farther.

"Oh, please just sit down." Kirk fell into his chair. "I should have stolen some of Bones' bourbon. I think this would be easier with a drink."

A drink? Nyota blinked. Okay, so not a reprimand. She shouldn't be so relieved since she knew she hadn't done anything wrong.

"Sit," he ordered.

She did as she was told, keeping her back straight.

He sat back in his chair and folded his arms over his chest. "Relax. Okay."

That was easier said than done. It wasn't that she didn't trust him, exactly. He just hadn't had the command for that long, and maybe he wasn't as sure as a captain should be.

He was looking at her with that strange look he sometimes had. "Don't worry. This is to debrief you on what happened with the Praxians. So first I'm going to ask some standard questions." At her nonplussed look, he said, "The other night? The dreams?"

That was what this was about? Damn. She nodded. "Yes, sir."

He went through the questions and then turned the recording off.

"I think we need to talk about what happened the other night." And it was clear that he was still troubled by it.

Her shoulders eased back and she let out a breath. "What about it?"

"You don't have a problem with it?" He asked tightly.

She was totally not going to go into that with him. Ever. "No. Should I?"

"Well, it was kind of realistic. And I was an active participant and all." He actually looked down and didn't meet her eyes.

Oh, dear God, he was embarrassed. She just couldn't believe that. Not Jim Kirk who took on all comers without discretion. "It did seem real, but I don't have a problem with that," she lied. Her problems weren't the same as the ones he was obviously having.

His eyes widened comically. "What? Why not? What about Spock?"

Her smile probably looked as false as it felt. She deliberately shrugged. "It means that I'm not going to ever think I missed anything."

"No joke?" Clearly he wanted to believe that she was that sophisticated.

And she wished that she actually was. On the other hand, he didn't need to know anything more than that. "I don't joke about sex. Come on, Captain, Jim, you know exactly how attractive you are."

He grinned, his whole body relaxing. "I've always thought you were immune to my charms."

Nyota shot him a disbelieving look. What did he think that she was made of, ice? "No one is that immune. It's only how well we can ignore it."

"Yeah? But why didn't you ever do anything about it? I gave you enough chances. You wouldn't even tell me your first name." And no, that little boy whine was not cute at all.

She let herself smile. "First, you were way too much of an ass to even talk to. And then, when I figured out you really were almost as good as you were saying you were, it was too late."

He grinned back. "Fair enough. I've found who I'm supposed to be with anyway, so now it's moot for both of us."

"Spock?" Nyota asked, keeping her voice even and hoping she didn't' sound defeated. She'd heard all about the whole destiny of their great friendship from Spock. Truth was, she didn't care for any of it.

Kirk shook his head. "You'd think with all the crap we've been fed about our friendship in the other timeline, it would be him."

She nodded and waited. And it was the one thing she couldn't be sure of with Spock. He might have some greater destiny with Kirk than he did with her. And if he did, could she hold him back from it?

"It's not. Spock and I are friends, and I think we'll be better friends as the years go by. But that's all it is. We're not going to be lovers. And like you, I'm not going to wonder what I've missed."

She let out a long slow breath. Wow. So he wasn't chasing after the whole destiny thing after all. "So, who?" And it came to her who it had to be. "Oh. Dr. McCoy? Does he know yet?"

Kirk had the faintest trace of pink on his cheeks. She'd never seen him look quite so young. "It's not who I would have guessed if you'd asked me last week."

"Who?" she asked. Damn, she didn't have the right to ask that question. As she was opening her mouth to apologize, he laughed.

"I would have said you."

"Me? But you have the least emotional attachment to me. I'm attraction." Okay, so it did her ego no end of good to hear him say that, but her good looks were not what she wanted to be wanted for. Spock's regard for her intellectual accomplishments trumped Kirk's horndog desire any day.

"Last week, that would have been my criteria. I would have been talking about purely physical beauty."

Okay, so she could give him that. "That is quite a complement."

"You're quite a woman. But sadly, you're not going to be mine."

His? Oh, she didn't think so. Nyota cleared her throat. "Even if we'd hooked up along the way, I still wouldn't have been yours. Just like I'm not Spock's now."

Without giving it a whole lot of thought, she leaned over and kissed him. She didn't hold it long enough to do more than feel his lips start to respond to hers, but it was enough. "You can call me Nyota when we're not on duty."

And didn't he look pleased with that. "I noticed you finally called me Jim."

Something inside her relaxed. Something she hadn't even noticed was tense. "I did, didn't I."

It was something of an effort to remain seated on Nyota's sofa waiting for her to return from her interview with the captain. Logically, there was nothing to be concerned about. Nyota had not chosen him lightly, nor he her. But right now, as illogical as it was, he felt Jim Kirk's presence between them.

His own 'what if' scenarios were of no consequence. They had been meaningless speculation. Perhaps in some other universe, parallel or alternate, he and Kirk were lovers. Not in this one. However erotic those thoughts might have been, Spock was not interested in Kirk.

Nyota's attraction to Kirk should not have come as such a surprise. He'd taken her at her word when she'd insisted that the flirting was annoying. Once Kirk had become captain, the flirting had changed enough for Spock to speculate that Kirk was no longer truly interested in her.

He clearly didn't understand the nuances of human attraction anywhere near as well as he'd thought.

Perhaps Nyota had misjudged the extent of her attraction to Kirk. Spock supposed that were possible. Still, he was intellectually superior to Kirk in every way possible. That Kirk sometimes got those human leaps of intuition that made him a more than adequate captain aside, he could not comprehend a woman such as Nyota choosing a male like Kirk, especially over him. It was not logical.

Before he could continue on that line of thought, Nyota came in.

"Spock? Is something wrong?" she stopped before him, but did not join him on the sofa. Her bearing was straight, but not ridged as it had been when she'd exited the transporter pad earlier.

"Negative." When dealing with humans he'd found it much more advantageous to state his requirements up front. "I wish to know the outcome of your conversation with the captain."

She was silent for a moment. "What did you think we were talking about?"

It wasn't like her to prevaricate and he could only speculate that she wished more time to come up with an answer. "I assume it was your reaction to the shared dream."

"That's right. What did you expect to happen?" Nyota asked, and while he could generally read her emotions, he could not ascertain her mood right now; that in itself was disconcerting.

"I did not know." He was not going to come right out and ask her if he could avoid it.

She looked at him again, as if she could hear his thoughts. He heard her mutter, "Men," under her breath. "I'm okay with what happened between him and me. I don't want him. I want you."

He would not say the relaxation he felt was relief. "I want you as well."

That he had verbalized it made her smile. "I'm going to bed now. It's been a long day." She held out her hand. "Come with me?"

Nothing was that simple when dealing with humans. "You don't feel the need to discuss this further?"

"You know what, we've discussed it to death. I hope that Jim gets it together with McCoy. But if they don't, then it's on them, not us."

"Indeed." He stood up and took her hand. "I think that is very wise."

"That's what you love about me," she said, leading him towards her bed.

"One of many things," he agreed. Her smile was as brilliant as he'd expected.

Leonard looked up from the supplies he was inventorying as Jim walked into sickbay. Damn it all, this was about the last thing he wanted to deal with right now. Oh, he knew that eventually he'd have to get with the program and let Jim debrief him. The thing was, he didn't want to face the end of his dreams. As long as Jim didn't actually say anything, then Leonard didn't have to acknowledge it.

No matter what he felt for Jim, he wasn't going to get involved with another supernova. The results were too obvious; he'd be consumed and sucked into a great black hole. Then spit out the other side, trying to put the remnants of his life back together. Again.

Not this time.

He watched Jim square his shoulders and walk through the door. Like he was preparing for battle. Fuck.

"Bones," Jim said, coolly. "It's 1330. I was expecting you in my office half an hour ago."

He thought about saying he'd had an emergency, but really, that was easy enough to check. Maybe home turf would make it easier. "My office?" Leonard suggested.

"Sure." Jim followed him in and waited for the door to slide closed behind him. He put up a hand before Leonard could get a word out. The look on Jim's face said there would be no deterring him this time. "I know you don't want to talk about it, but we need to debrief on what happened."

Maybe they would keep it to a professional level. "It's not going to affect our working relationship."

"I'm not worried about that," Jim said.

"Then why don't you just let it go?" He couldn't believe that his voice rose a notch when he said it.

"I'm concerned about our friendship --"

"Which means so much to you," Leonard said and then regretted it as Jim's face hardened. While he had to defend himself, he also needed to remember that he couldn't hurt Jim when he was doing it or it would come back to haunt him later.

"What? You know very well that your friendship means a lot to me." He met Leonard's eyes. "What have I done to make you think otherwise?"

Leonard couldn't look at him anymore. That tiny hurt look in Jim's eyes was going to make him believe things he had no business believing. No matter how much he wanted to. "You could have let this whole thing go like I've asked you to."

"No. As captain, I have to debrief you. As your friend, I want to make sure this isn't going to destroy our friendship." Jim's voice was soft, a note of something that sounded like pleading in it.

"Ask," Leonard said, defeated. And he answered the questions. He was all right with what happened. "That it?"

"Officially, yes. But there are other questions. Ones about our friendship." Jim looked at him. "And maybe how it might progress?"

Leonard finally looked up. "Jim, you're my best friend. That is all you need to be. Really, that's all I want you to be."

"That's not what the dream said to me. Why do you want to throw away something that could be wonderful without even trying?" There was that tiny hurt in his tone again.

"It was just a fantasy." Okay, it was his sentimental dream of how they'd eventually realize they loved each other. True love and all that crap. But Leonard had always known it for what it was. He'd never believed in it.

"It came from you. What you wanted from me." Jim reached out, but Leonard stepped back. "It's what I want, too."

That was such bullshit. "Right. That dream came from me. It had nothing to do with you."

"Except where I got to live it...I can't even describe what I felt." He took a breath. "It made me realize just what I'd missed. Damn it. This, us, we could have something so special. So good. I know it."

"So special?" Leonard sneered. "Right up until the next pretty alien shows up. Oh, yeah, I'm so going to go along with that."

Because that was the bottom line here. He was not going to deal with another lover who couldn't keep it in his pants. And Jim Kirk had never been able to keep it away from that next beautiful being that crossed his path.

Jim was shaking his head. "Been there, done that. Dear God, Bones, even before the dream happened, I'd started turning down more offers than I accepted. It's not going to be a hardship to say no all the time, especially if I have you to come home to. Don't you get that? I had to go through all of them to get to you."

That was just about the last thing in the world he expected Jim Kirk to ever say to anyone, and especially to him. And Jesus H. Christ, it was probably the only thing that might, might change his mind. "Jim --"

Jim held up his hand. "No. Listen to me for once in your life. I'm never going to wonder what I've missed. I'm going to know that I haven't missed anything. Not even Spock or Uhura."

Oh, Lord, he was serious. Really serious. And Leonard was buying what he was selling. God, he wanted to be the one to tame Jim Kirk. He wanted to be the one that Jim came home to every night. The one Jim chose to be with rather than playing the field. But did he dare believe that Jim was serious.

One look at Jim's earnest face said he was. Leonard took a breath to still the trembling that had started inside him. "Jim --"

"Don't you get this? Don't you understand that I'm choosing you with full knowledge of all of my other choices in the whole fucking universe!"

"Jim, shut up. I get it, okay. I do." Leonard couldn't believe this. He just couldn't. With no strength left in his legs, he slumped into the seat in front of his desk. "Jeeesus, please just stop for a second."

"No. I can't. This is too important and I need you to understand me."

"Damn it. I do understand. That's what I'm trying to tell you." He reached up and pulled Jim's shoulder down enough to touch his cheek.

He kissed Jim very softly. Oh my lord, it was so much better than the dream kiss. Which had seemed real until this second. Jim's soft lips tasted so damn good. A wave of tenderness, and desire raced down Leonard's spine.

"It can't be this easy." Jim's tone was totally incredulous, but his eyes were bright and happy.

Just the way Leonard liked to see them. And hadn't for too long. "Why not?"

"Well, for one thing, you didn't want to even consider the possibility when I brought it up the last several times. I was prepared for battle this time."

"Well, I've done some thinking." He probably should tell Jim about his conversation with Spock, but really, the little impassioned speech before was what finally convinced him that Jim really wanted him.

"Last night with the Finance Minister?"

Marlena? What had she got to do with this? "Yeah, that too. I mostly talked about you." Leonard realized Jim might be jealous. That made him smile. "She couldn't understand why I'd turned you down."

"What did you tell her?"

"That you weren't interested."

Jim pouted. "But I am -- was. And you knew it, too."

Bones wasn't going have any of that. He pointed a finger at Jim. "You had no idea until very recently. So what was I supposed to think?"

"You might have given me a hint," Jim said, and his lips twitched up into a smile.

Jim leaned down and kissed him again, pulling him to his feet so that he could embrace Leonard completely. When Jim finally released Leonard's mouth, he sighed, sounding contented, and let his head fall on Leonard's shoulder. Leonard held him tightly. Yeah. This was exactly what he'd been waiting for.

He leaned in and kissed Jim's mouth again, his tongue tracing the line of his bow shaped lips, pushing inside slowly to taste and then retreating, only to move in again. Warmth and arousal eased through him, and he pressed his hardening cock into Jim's hip.

Jim pushed back, moaning softly.

God, what were they doing? What were they thinking? Half the gossips on the ship were in the room next door. And these walls were not that thick. "No. We can't. Not in my office," Leonard said, gently pulling away. "I'm not going to be made into a joke."

Jim's eyes blinked open, studying him intently. "I'm not joking. I want you. Okay, okay, there's not enough room in here anyway. Though if you sat on the desk with your legs spread --"

Do not give his libido any ideas. He was perilously close to caving. All Jim would have to do was crook his damned finger. God, he was pathetically weak. "Get that look out of your eyes. I am not going to settle for a quick fuck on my desk when I can wait a few hours and have you in my bed."

"Or we can just go to my quarters right now." Jim reached for Leonard and tried to draw him back into his arms.

"We are both on duty," Leonard reminded him, folding his arms over his chest, and attempting to glare disapprovingly. He couldn't quite pull it off. He had to fight a smile that would only encourage Jim.

"I guess we can't do this here. I get it." He sounded disappointed.

But Leonard was not about to give in on this one. "Haven't you ever heard of anticipation? It makes the things you get all the better."

"It makes you wait. And you know how I feel about waiting for anything."

Laughing, Leonard shook his head. "Yeah, I know you too well. Go back up to the bridge and I'll meet you for dinner in the mess hall."

Jim shook his head slowly. "Not a chance. Dinner in my quarters. Right after your shift is over."

Leonard rolled his eyes and leaned in for another kiss. Just one more. And then he was going to kick Jim's ass out of here and get some work done. The day would crawl by no matter what he did anyway.

Jim's lips were so soft on Leonard's, so giving, so sweet. He shouldn't let this go on. Jim would push every advantage. Even knowing that, Leonard couldn't help but slide his tongue in at the open invitation.

So warm. His skin was so warm under Leonard's hands. His fingers had a mind of their own as they started to explore smooth skin. He'd only do it for a moment.

Jim's hand was flat on his belly and moving down. His touch firm, seeking. Finding. Leonard arched up into this hand, aching, he wanted Jim so badly.

Maybe they could do it in his office if they were really quiet --

Jim's communicator beeped. And Leonard let out a huge sigh. No, he was not disappointed.

"Spock to Captain Kirk."

"Saved by the bell," he muttered, stepping away from temptation. God, what had he been thinking? It would have been all over the ship in seconds. Not that there would be any way to keep it a secret, but a little discretion would go a long way.

With a sigh, Jim opened his communicator. "Kirk here. What is it, Mr. Spock?"

"We need you on the bridge, captain."

"I'll be right there." He met Leonard's eyes. "Fifteen minutes after shift ends. Or I'm coming to look for you."

"Promises, promises." But Leonard couldn't help smiling. "Get out of here, now. I'll see you at the end of our shift."

Jim could admit, at least to himself, that part of the reason that he'd given Bones so little time between shift end and their meeting was that he wanted to cut his own waiting to a minimum. He had just enough time to change his shirt before the door chimed.

"I didn't even have time to change," Bones said as he came in and looked at the set table. "When did you have time to arrange for that?"

"I'm the captain. I asked for dinner in my quarters to be ready when I got there."

"Abuse your authority much?"

"I often have dinner in my quarters." Though usually it was when he had a lot of paper work to do. "I didn't want to go out."

"There's the mess or nothing."

"Exactly. Sit." He waved a hand at the table.

Bones continued to stand there, his arms folded over his chest. "I'm not sure this is such a good idea."

"Damn it Bones, it's only dinner." Jim stalked over to him. "You're afraid."

"Of course I am, man. Aren't you?"

"No." Jim looked down and sighed. "Maybe a little."

Bones snorted. "Maybe as much as me. If we fuck this up, we fuck up everything. We'll never go back to just being friends."

"Do you think you could do that now? Because I don't think I can get the taste of your skin out of my head. And even if it was a dream, it felt real."

Letting out a huge breath, Bones closed his eyes. "I wasn't ever going to do this again. I was going to let this go and not --"

"Not what? Not love me? I think it's a little late for that."

"Pretty sure of yourself, aren't you, kid?"

"Damn, you haven't called me kid in a long time." Jim smiled. Bones had called him all sorts of things when they were in the academy: kid, boy, idiot. All said in an affectionately exasperated tone that Jim had loved.

"You're the captain of a starship, not to mention my commanding officer; I would hope you were past being a kid."

"I'm not. Not really." Just mostly, he conceded. And maybe it was time for him to act like it. He put a hand on Bones' face and kissed him. When Bones didn't hit him, he moved even closer, flush against him and deepened the kiss, his tongue tracing along the cupid's bow of Bones' lips.

Moaning softly, Bones opened his mouth, his tongue sliding out to meet Jim's. His fingers moved into Jim's hair to bring him closer still. Jim's heart pounded hard and fast.

After a moment more, the kiss ended slowly, with small kisses before Bones' eyes met his. A tremor went through him.

"I'm for skipping dinner," Jim said softly.

Bones just nodded, pulling the shirt Jim was wearing over his head.

He pulled Bones' shirt off too, and drew Bones against him. Skin on skin was so delicious. They hadn't done anything yet and he was out of breath.

With desire clear in his eyes, Bones led him into the alcove and pushed him down onto the bed. He knelt between Jim's knees and took off his boots and socks. Jim lifted up to let Bones slide his pants and underwear off.

"Let me," he said, standing up.

Bones moved back. "Have at it."

Getting Bones out of his clothes was easy enough. Jim ran a hand over smooth muscle and hair-roughened skin. Even though he'd seen him in the dream and that had been very real, it was not like looking now. Bones was beautiful. Long legs, slim hips, dark hair dusting his chest and belly.

An ache started in Jim's chest. Something he'd never felt before. A want so big he wasn't sure he'd ever be able to fill it.

He pushed Bones onto the bed and slid between his spread knees. Leaning up, he kissed Bones deeply, his arms wrapping around Bones' shoulders, feeling him naked and close.

It was sublime. The dream didn't create this. It had just made him aware of it. He'd wanted this for longer than he'd really understood.

Bones moaned softly as Jim started down his chest, licking, nipping, and kissing. The sound of his pleasure spurred Jim on as nothing ever had. In the past, it was a sign of a mission being accomplished; now, now it was more than just mutual pleasure, now with someone who mattered it took on a new importance.

He pushed Bones' thighs a little further apart and looked up to meet his eyes before he slid his mouth down over his leaking cock. There was nothing in the world that tasted like that. Earthy, and male, and enticing. A deep shudder went through Bones' body, his hips jerking in tiny bursts as if he were afraid to move.

Jim slipped a finger under his balls, just touching his hole. Bones slipped down the bed a little, falling back on his elbows with a thud and a deep groan.

"Please," he said, his accent deepening. "Oh sweet Jesus, please."

Jim really couldn't say anything, his mouth was kind of full, but he ran his finger back and forth across the hole, and his other hand encouraged Bones to thrust into his mouth.

Bones didn't need to be told twice. He thrust deep and Jim took it all, opening his throat and letting him go with it. He loved it when he could make a partner lose control, but having it be Bones made it a million times better. In ways that Jim had never considered before. It came to him that this might be a way to show how much he cared without having to be a girl and put it into words.

The tension in Bones was building. Jim could feel it almost as if it were his own. Without warning, he slid the finger all the way in and Bones came, whining out his name. It was almost enough to push Jim over the edge, but he managed to hold back. He had better things to do with it.

It took a second for Bones to open his eyes. When he did, he smiled at Jim, and as corny as it sounded, Jim's heart squeezed. "Good?"

"Oh, you know it was," Bones said, reaching up to kiss him again. "What can I do for you?"

"Anything. Just something, soon. Please."

"In a bad way, then?" Bones' grin turned evil. "We might have to look into that."

Jim didn't care as long as he did something. "Please."

Bones leaned over and kissed him, pushing him flat on his back. "I think something can be arranged."

He moved slowly down Jim's body, nipping sharply and then licking over it. By this point, Jim's mind had turned to mush, and he was shaking with the need to come. If Bones didn't hurry up, he'd lose it without being touched.

"Please," Jim moaned again as Bones bit his hip. "Now."

"Soon," Bones promised. "Very soon."

Jim whined, willing to beg for mercy. And finally, after far too long, Bones' mouth closed over him, taking him in. As soon as the wet heat from Bones' mouth touched him, Jim's control broke and he thrust into Bones' mouth.

Bones put his hand around the base of Jim's cock and pulled back a little, giving Jim some space to thrust. He tried not to go too deep, but there wasn't anything left to hold onto. He moaned and came.

Jim opened his eyes to see Bones leaning on an elbow and smiling down at him. "You okay there?"

"Yeah. Oh, yeah." He reached up and pulled Bones down for a long slow kiss.

"Wouldn't have figured you for a snuggler." Bones laughed.

Jim would have been embarrassed if he'd had any energy for it, but really, he was too damned content to care. He shifted to lay his head on Bones' shoulder and wrap his arms more securely around him. "Don't tell anyone, okay."

"It will be my secret," Bones promised.

And that was good enough for Jim.