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Galactic Ring

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“Sweetheart,” Captain Kirk said, almost whining, “it’s been a really long week, I just want to go back to our quarters and—”

“I promise you will enjoy this,” Commander Spock said for the umpteenth time, squeezing his husband’s right hand in reassurance as they walked briskly down the curving corridor.

“I trust you, I just thought we’d decided yesterday that…”  Kirk bit back the rest of his complaint at Spock’s raised eyebrow.

They had arrived outside the transporter room, having gone straight there from the nearly empty officers’ mess.  Most of the crew had already disembarked at Starbase 6 for their scheduled layover and shore leave, which Kirk thought he and his lover had agreed they would spend shipside in the interest of enjoying the increased privacy and calm.  Yet as soon as their shift had ended, the tight-lipped, blue-shirted half of the command team had practically hauled him bodily to dinner.  Then, after insisting on a strangely hurried meal, which he had also stubbornly refused to explain the reasoning behind, Spock had all but dragged the captain out by his sleeve as he chugged the last of his coffee.

Now, Spock halted just short of the transporter room and slid their fore and middle fingertips together in a deliberate ozh’esta.  Meeting Kirk’s eyes for an electric moment, he gave the Human his sweet not-quite-grin before stepping into the door’s motion sensor range.

Bolstered by the brief intimacy his bondmate had allowed him, the exhausted Kirk sighed quietly and followed Spock through the swishing doors.  Despite his bewilderment and his moderate tension headache, he summoned a polite nod and a smile for the beta shift transporter technician.

“Everything is ready for you, Commander,” the engineer said to Spock.  He returned Kirk’s smile with a considerably more knowing one of his own.

“Excellent.  Thank you for your assistance, ensign.”  Spock nodded as he steered Kirk toward the transporter pads.  “The captain and I will return at twenty-one-hundred hours tomorrow.”

“Acknowledged, sir,” the ensign said, not seeming surprised and indeed already working the controls as the couple mounted the steps.

What? Kirk transmitted through their telepathic bond.  Tomorrow evening?  Spock, we have reports to—

Spock silenced him with another pointed stare.  He maneuvered Kirk onto the circular floor pad the scientist himself usually took, then stood poised on the foremost pad to Kirk’s right and finally let go of his hand.

Having already been startled by the oddity of Spock keeping some kind of secret from him, Kirk was even more disoriented by their reversed physical positioning on the transporter platform.

And if we’re staying overnight on the starbase, Kirk persisted, we don’t even have any clothes or—

James Tiberius!  Spock’s voice was good-natured but stern in his head and brooked no room for further argument.

Kirk blushed at the reprimand, but the corners of his mouth turned up in amusement.  He wasn’t accustomed to being so uninformed, especially about anything involving his own departure from the ship.  And although he knew his spouse understood as much, he couldn’t help but tease as a means of lessening his own discomfort.

“Energize,” Spock said to the technician, who was none the wiser to their nonverbal squabbling.

“Have a magical night, gentlemen,” the ensign said buoyantly before sliding the controls.

Kirk managed one last suspicious glare at his executive officer—who was barely eyeing him over his shoulder—before their bodies glittered away in two clouds of golden particles.

  

*          *          *          *          *

  

Taking a moment to get his bearings when they rematerialized side by side, Kirk was surprised not to see the base’s familiar main transporter area they had come and gone from so many times.  The oblong room before them looked more like a hotel lobby than a starbase.  The captain gasped as he took in the surroundings: marble floors, a magnificent tree-like fountain, chandeliers made of what appeared to be crystal and Tellarite firesalt… It all looked like something out of a tourism advertisement.

What are you up to? he thought absent-mindedly.

He snapped to when Spock cleared his throat.  The Vulcan was looking at him with that wistful sidelong glance of his that Kirk could never seem to resist.  He grinned back, still bewildered but far more intrigued now than nervous.

Tal-kam,” Spock prompted in, surprisingly, his lowered bedroom tones.

Kirk felt his eyebrows rise in question before something moved in his peripherals.  Looking down, he saw that Spock had bent and extended his left arm toward him in invitation.  Shocked as he was by the whole situation, it took him a few moments to understand what the old-fashioned chivalrous gesture meant.  When it registered in his brain, he linked his own arm with his lover’s and settled both his hands on the lean but powerful bicep just above Spock’s elbow.  He found his cheeks felt abruptly hot, and he could barely look Spock in the eye as a silly grin hijacked his face.

Spock didn’t budge.

When Kirk lifted his chin, his nose nearly collided with his mate’s.  The most beautiful pair of eyes in the galaxy—soulful mahogany irises half hooded by violet-tinted lids and long, graceful lashes—stared down at him, sparkling with undisguised affection and amusement in the low light.  Kirk’s breath caught for the second time in only half a minute.  And his pulse quickened when Spock placed his free hand on his neck, gently rubbing his thumb across Kirk’s cheek.

La wi ha?” the commander asked in that spine-tingling, erotic baritone.

His gaze drawn to Spock’s luscious lips, Kirk spent a few beats translating, then gave a nervous giggle.  “Yes, I think so.”  Anticipating (needing) a kiss, the psi-null Human shut his eyes and hoped as loudly as he could.

When Spock’s mouth met his, everything else became irrelevant, inconsequential.  Kirk still had no idea where they were or what they were doing.  He was still exhausted from their last few missions, one of which had resulted in three security personnel and a shuttlecraft technician getting third-degree burns from a mechanical malfunction in the hangar bay.  And when their lips inevitably parted, the upsetting message he had received just hours before this excursion would go right back to being every bit as upsetting as it had been a few minutes ago.

But for now, the single most extraordinary life form ever to exist in this universe was kissing him; for a few precious seconds, Kirk was simply able to be a man desperately in love and trying against all hope to hide in the comfort of his husband’s embrace.  No ship to sail, no crew to protect, no briefings to oversee, no frigid correspondence from a hostile molecular biologist to cast shadows on every waking thought.  Just Spock, just his pure, unassuming kiss and his gentle touch.

Far too soon, the kiss was over.  Kirk, not even having realized how tired he was or how much he’d been craving that physical contact with his partner, stifled a whimper at the loss.  Even as his heart sank, though, a warm breeze floated through his body from Spock’s side of their marital bond, caressing his nerves and muscles with an inexplicable healing effect.

Bear with me, my love, Spock thought to him, holding Kirk securely on his arm.  We are almost there.

With a tiny chuckle, and at a much more leisurely pace than he’d set between the lounge and the transporter room, Spock guided them away from the platform in the direction of the impressive sculpture at the center of the elliptical chamber.

The relaxed clicking of their regulation boots on the polished floor echoed through the room as they approached the sleek fountain.  A thin, metallic skeleton serving as a sort of trunk towered a meter or so over them, and innumerable branches of water cascaded out from it in parabolic curves to form a serene aquatic umbrella.  It resembled a weeping willow tree—to him in particular, one at the far edge of the Kirk family’s property to which the romantic captain had long since fantasized about taking Spock upon their return to Earth.  Obviously the base of the liquid willow before them here would be a poor location for a picnic (and an even poorer location for making love), but nevertheless, the shallow pool catching all the structure’s flowing branches gave Kirk a fond wave of nostalgia for his home planet.

As they rounded the water feature, a small bank of concierge desks and several fancy transporter vestibules came into view, and it finally struck him: this place actually was something out of a tourism advertisement.  Kirk had seen pictures of this foyer for years, but disregarded them since this was a luxury establishment he’d never dreamed of having the means—or, perhaps more significantly, the time—to experience.  How his crafty spouse had arranged this was beyond him.

No way, he thought.  My husband brought me to the Galactic Ring?!

The details started falling into place with his revelation.  The ovoid lobby represented the perceived elongated annular disc shape of the ring system around the unnamed planet they were presumably orbiting.  The tree-shaped fountain was an homage to Dr. Graves-Willow, the astrophysicist who had first observed this and five other local planets in this solar system.  And the firesalt accents in the décor were a nod to his being one of the first Human scientists ever to work with a research team almost exclusively made up of Tellarites, whom he had famously declared were underrepresented in and marginalized by the Federation.

Speaking of…

“Good evening, gentlemen!”  A perky Tellarite woman (with remarkably delicate-looking legs for her species) in a shiny navy blue shirtdress beamed at them from a brochure stand near the front desk.  Still carrying the little pile of informational booklets she was using to restock the racks, she took her place behind the check-in console just as Spock and Kirk arrived on the other side.

By the looks of it, she was the only staff member on duty, which wasn’t too surprising since this entire sector was well past its busy season.  Commodore Enwright at Starbase 6 had once told Kirk that everyone in the area both loved and hated what they called the transit rush, a period of about sixteen and a half weeks that came around every twenty-nine months or so and served as the major peak economic time for the region.  It was when the massive and heavily populated moon of a neighboring star would pass by, bringing with it tens of thousands of colonists eager to get away from their workaday lives for some recreation in the short window available to them (all at the relatively limited assortment of hubs, bases, and nearby planets).  Enwright had described it rather indelicately as “a commercial clusterfuck,” yet even he had been forced to admit it usually proved to be an exciting albeit stressful time of plenty.

Kirk was grateful that the Enterprise had so far always managed to catch her stopovers here during the off season.  He knew some of the younger crewmen got cabin fever during their longer stretches between breaks and looked for bustling centers of activity on their shore leaves.  But most anyone who had been out of the Academy for more than two or three years saw their intermittent reprieves for their original intended purpose: rest and relaxation.  Just the promise of an upcoming day of leave, which he could spend snuggled up with his first officer and a non-synthesized meal in some quiet stellar arboretum, was often enough to motivate Kirk through entire stacks of evaluations and mission reports.

But this…!  The couple had never indulged in this kind of opulence before, and certainly not on such a brief layover.

I feel like a princess, Kirk thought as he clung to Spock’s arm with both hands and smiled giddily at their hostess.  And I’m being completely spoiled by my handsome Vulcan prince.

“Good evening, Ms. Kaas,” Spock was saying to the woman, who must have introduced herself while Kirk was distracted.  “We are the Kirks, reservation for—”

“Oh, yes, yes, the Kirks!  Yes, wonderful!”  The effusive clerk seemed to have been expecting them.  “Let me bring up your reservation and get your transport codes for you.”  Cloven hands flying across an appropriately-calibrated touch screen embedded in the desk, Kaas rattled off details of their plans to Spock, confirming that everything in her computer matched his expectations.

I wonder if there’s even anybody else staying here tonight, Kirk mused, looking around at the otherwise empty lobby.  Or this month.

It was unexpectedly relaxing to stand petting his spouse and not be responsible for anything.  Kirk let his mildly aching mind wander and even laid his head on Spock’s shoulder as he finalized their accommodations.  It didn’t take long, however, for Kirk’s blissful thoughts of the present moment to be invaded by the unpleasantness of the afternoon.  Plus, he was certain Spock had immediately picked up on his melancholy when he’d returned to the bridge, and he no doubt intended to ask about it once they were alone and settled for the night.

As with any news that was less than interesting or positive, Kirk knew it would be cathartic to have his bondmate know about it, share the pain it was causing him, and in all likelihood help him come up with a dignified solution.  But he still somewhat dreaded having to discuss things like this… and in such a breathtaking place, to boot.  Spock had obviously wanted this to be a romantic night for them, but now Kirk was going to kill the mood by both admitting what had happened and continuing to be hurt by it.  He considered the possibility of waiting until they returned to the ship to tell him about the video transmission he’d received, but dismissed it almost as a reflex; Spock was never content to let things like this go unsaid between them, a fact for which Kirk was most grateful on most days.

Still, that didn’t mean he had to like the idea of thoroughly unraveling on his lover tonight.

“Should you have any sort of emergency and need to depart,” Kaas was saying to Spock, “your transport codes will bring you back here, and then you may either use one of our complimentary shuttlecraft services or the transporters you just came through to get wherever you need to go.  I’m sure you’re already aware, but these transporters here only go back and forth between the lobby and the guest suites.”

Spock nodded, as he had been doing for most of their conversation.

“If at any time you should need assistance,” the hostess went on, “there are standard wall-mounted intercom units in each room of your suite that will patch you through to our operator, who is available, um… twenty-four seven, I believe is the Earth expression.”  Kaas blinked emphatically and wrinkled her cute upturned nose at Kirk, and the two of them giggled for a moment.

Kirk could feel Spock’s simultaneous delight and possessiveness through their connection.  Spock hated to admit it, but he was a jealous Vulcan.  And Kirk hated to admit it, but he was always a little bit turned on by that fact.

My poor Spock, he thought, hoping the commander wasn’t listening to his mental wanderings.  My emotions are all over the place tonight.  Get a grip, Jimmy boy.

“Did you receive our luggage earlier?” Spock asked, placing his free right hand on Kirk’s knuckles.

“Yes, indeed we did!” Kaas said.  Swiping to another screen, she added, “Looks like we have two small suitcases and one… instrument case?”  She looked up curiously, but Spock only nodded in acknowledgment.  “You should find them all waiting for you just inside the bedroom doorway.  If anything is missing, just call on your intercom and we’ll be happy to help in any way we can.”

Of course, Kirk thought, shaking his head minutely and feeling silly for not having put that together before now.  You packed for both of us and shipped our bags here this morning.

Kaas had unfurled one of the brochures she’d been holding when they arrived and began pointing out a few things in it to Spock.  But the first officer, while putting on a good act for their friendly hostess, was more interested in rubbing his fingertips over the back of Kirk’s hand in unjustifiably distracting little Vulcan kisses.

She is overcompensating for Tellarites’ argumentative reputation by being aggressively cheerful and long-winded, Spock said in Kirk’s mind.  I do not wish to offend her, but I am most eager to have you alone in our suite.

God bless his faultlessly polite and endlessly gentle partner.  Kirk mooned up at Spock’s profile and simply ogled him for a moment.  You’re perfect, so beautiful.  Inside and out.

Your assistance would be appreciated, Spock responded with a hint of annoyance, though he was still pleasantly bantering back and forth with Kaas, and his kissing fingers tapped a surreptitious pattern into Kirk’s hand which he’d taught the Human was a rather lewd sexual gesture on his native world.

Why, Mister Spock! Kirk thought, blushing in spite of himself.  Cool your warp drive, I’ll get us out of this.

He made a show of pressing his whole body closer to Spock’s, nuzzling the base of his neck, and shutting his eyes.

Kaas noticed the display and smiled even wider, but she kept right on talking, essentially reading the whole brochure aloud to Spock.

She finds you adorable, as well she should, Spock thought.  But pleasant as it is to feel you so close to me, this is not working.

She finds us adorable, kitten.  And hey, have a little faith! Kirk thought back.

A few heartbeats later, Kirk opened his mouth as far as it would go in an exaggerated yawn.  Feigning embarrassment as the other two turned to look at him, he hid his face behind Spock’s shoulder, followed through on the yawn with several long blinks, then sheepishly looked between them.

“Goodness,” he said in his most over-the-top Midwestern lilt, “I am so sorry!  I guess it’s been a longer day than I realized!”

“Oh, you poor dear!” Kaas said, still grinning at the couple.  “Here, why don’t I just give you these…”  She picked up a few other informational leaflets and passed the bundle to Spock.  “And then you can get this one tucked into bed for the night,” she said, still talking to Spock but looking at Kirk sympathetically.

Tucked into bed… that sounds promising, the gratified Vulcan mused, causing Kirk’s blush to intensify.

Outwardly, Spock very nearly smiled full-on before taking the brochures in hand and shifting his left arm to encircle Kirk’s waist.  “Thank you very much, Ms. Kaas,” he said.  “You have been most helpful.”

Kirk wrapping both arms around Spock’s neck and hamming up his entirely too real fatigue, they exchanged a few more pleasantries with the Tellarite as she ushered them into the crystal- and firesalt-walled transporter vestibule.  Then, with a bubbly enjoy your stay, a deep and oh-so-sexy goodnight, miss, and a few deft keystrokes of Spock’s elegant fingers on the console before them, their molecules scattered once again, this time in a shower of sparkles in every color imaginable.

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

It was obvious when they beamed into their suite that the rooms here were kept dark prior to guests’ arrivals for a reason.  With no artificial light to distract the eye, it was utterly impossible not to be immediately spellbound by the overwhelming view.

Proving that the staff’s efforts at eliciting such a response were not wasted, both Kirk and Spock were stunned into absolute silence when they appeared on their suite’s transporter pad.  The wall in front of them and the entire ceiling overhead formed one massive curved viewport through which the Galactic Ring hotel’s focal point was plainly visible.  Dr. Graves-Willow’s pinkish-orangey-yellow gas giant, in many ways reminiscent of Saturn, adorned with its spectacular system of gold, purple, and jade-colored ice rings, dwarfed the sky and their entire field of vision.  At such close proximity, it seemed to glow from within, although both the captain and science officer knew the light it gave off was reflected from the local sun.

Jaw hanging open, Kirk felt as if his heart had stopped at the sheer beauty and magnitude of the planet before them.  He slowly lifted his head from Spock’s shoulder and blinked the disbelief from his weary eyes.  Several moons floated in and out of sight as he stood leaning into his husband, totally incapable of movement or speech.

Spock, too, was affected by the breathtaking scene.  His left hand had tightened around Kirk’s waist, and his right, which he’d rested just over the Human’s heart as they dematerialized, absently drifted to join with its counterpart, completing his embrace and instinctively drawing Kirk that much closer to his body.

Neither of them could even form a coherent thought.  They simply stood and held each other, equally mesmerized by the singular landscape, the impressively close orbit they were in around the planet, and the knowledge that for the next twenty-four hours, this view was entirely their own.  There would be no interruptions or red alerts, no communications from landing parties in distress, no demands on either of their time.  In this room, they were truly alone together, free to share this striking vista, free to let their love be completely exposed in a way that it never could—even off duty—aboard the Enterprise, free to gorge themselves on one another to their hearts’ content, knowing that their only witnesses were the stars, the nameless planet, and its satellites.

Kirk could have stood and stared out that window for the rest of eternity.  His attention was so glued to the glass wall that he didn’t even notice when Spock finally pulled his own gaze away and turned his eyes on him.

“Are you pleased, adun?” Spock whispered, his warm breath ghosting over Kirk’s ear.

With a little start at the silence being broken, Kirk brought his face around, straining his eyes to look at Spock in the comforting darkness that surrounded them.

Pleased?!

The Vulcan’s exquisite features were faintly outlined by the planet’s reflected light; his deep-set eyes, his sharp cheekbones, his angled brows, his porcelain skin were so beautiful that he was almost painful to behold.  Not even knowing why, Kirk felt tears threatening and a catch in his throat at the sight of his lover, his soulmate, his resplendent t’hy’la in this most gorgeous of places.  How many undiscovered worlds, celestial wonders, and humbling sights just like this had they seen together in their travels?  And why was this one creating so much more passionate a response within him?

Whatever the reason, Kirk supposed it didn’t much matter.

“Oh, Spock,” he whispered back after taking a long beat to compose himself.  He tried in vain to think of any more words as he let those dark, fathomless eyes pierce into him.

“It has long been a profound desire of mine,” Spock said, “to experience this with you.”  The commander shifted his arms so as to pull Kirk flush against his chest.  Pressing their cheeks together, he said rather simply, “I hope… I hope you like it.”

Heavens above, Kirk thought, nearly choking on the knot in his trachea while a powerful shiver coursed down his spine.

Exhaling raggedly against Spock’s cool cheek, rough by now with a fine dusting of stubble, Kirk forced down the emotional outburst that was attempting to detonate from within his very soul.  He blinked heavily to combat his tear ducts, swallowed hard to unclog his throat, and took a deep but trembling breath to calm the swelling in his chest where he thought his heart may just decide to explode at any moment.

Like it?” he finally managed to half whisper, half chuckle around all the raw emotions struggling to devour him.  “Oh, honey…”

I love you so much I think it might kill me, he thought, once again too overwrought to speak.

Spock had never been one for outward displays of melodrama, but in the metaphysical space they shared through their bond, he was unequivocally beaming with joy.  Squeezing Kirk as tightly to him as he could, and keeping his cheek pressed against Kirk’s temple, he let an intense zephyr of happiness and completion swirl around them, saturating them both and breathing fresh energy into them.

Pulling back to stare at his Human, Spock cupped his face in one hand and said, “Your beauty is transcendent, kahs’khior’i.”

For a split second, Kirk felt grateful that the darkness would prevent Spock from seeing the revived blush spreading across his cheeks.  Then he remembered his superior visual acuity as a Vulcan and his blush deepened.

“Come,” Spock said, shifting around to take Kirk by the hand.  “Let us familiarize ourselves with the suite.”

Kirk smiled and followed his husband around on the plush carpet.

After raising the lights to a minimal level, they found that the room they’d beamed into was a sort of all-in-one sitting room and kitchenette.  A wonderfully cozy-looking overstuffed sofa and a coffee table faced the window on the far side of the room.  There was a food synthesizer to their left, and a decent-sized dining table and chairs took up most of the remainder of the space.  The couple spent a moment shucking off their boots and placing their communicators on the table before wandering into the bedroom to the right.

The captain gave another enraptured “Oh!” at seeing the posh bedroom.  The far wall, just as in the sitting room, was a floor-to-ceiling window, although from where it curved inward the viewport only extended a few meters overhead, where it met with the opaque metal that comprised the rest of the walls—probably for a more secure feeling of privacy.  In the middle of the room sat an enormous circular bed; it faced the window, of course, and sported a fairly tall headboard that stretched along at least a full third (if not half) of the bed’s circumference.  An ornate wardrobe stood on the wall to the left, and there was another door off to the right of the bed which no doubt led into the bathroom.

Dragging Spock with him, Kirk sidestepped the giant bed and their luggage—which was precisely where Kaas had said it would be—to pad in the direction of the corner diagonally across the room from where they’d been standing.  He was drawn like a shuttlecraft in a tractor beam to the feature he was suddenly positive had motivated Spock to pull the trigger on this undoubtedly expensive trip.

There was a hot tub in their bedroom.  A hot tub!  In the bedroom!  Kirk was elated, and he felt Spock’s pleased lack of surprise through their joined hands.  Coming right up to the side of it, Kirk peered over the shoulder-high wall at the still water.  There were all manner of massaging jets and little domed lights lining the sides of the tub, and by the steps leading into it were eight or nine different bottles of various scented oils to further enhance the sensory experience.

“Spock!” he said, bubbling over with delight.  “A hot tub!  You got us a bedroom with a hot tub in it!”

When he turned to look at his spouse, the modest commander was smiling quietly at him, eyes full of devotion and gratification at Kirk’s glee.

Reigning in his effervescence, Kirk shook his head fondly and pulled his lover over to the window with him.

Instead of standing by his side, Spock unclasped their hands and came around behind the man, wrapping his long, thin arms around Kirk’s midsection and resting his chin on his shoulder.  He stepped as close as possible, slotting their bodies together and positioning his legs and feet along the outsides of Kirk’s.  It was as if he was a living, breathing suit of armor, surrounding his bondmate with a cocoon of tranquility and safety and contentment.

The Human gave a relieved hum at the embrace, draping his own arms on top of Spock’s.  Wanting direct contact with skin, Kirk slipped one hand into a blue sleeve at the wrist, tenderly caressing the soft hair underneath and savoring the way Spock nuzzled into the back of his neck and started to purr at the touch.

They stood gazing out at the incredible view for another few minutes while Kirk’s heart rate calmed back down with the soothing feline vibrations coming from Spock’s chest.  The captain leaned back into his spouse and became somewhat hypnotized by the movements of the stars and moons as their module stateroom glided through the blackness like a huge, slow-moving cosmic Ferris wheel cab.  None of the other five hundred or so of the hotel’s guest suites were visible, as Kirk had once read they were spaced evenly in a colossal disk configuration that orbited the planet at about a forty-five degree tilt from its axis and its own organic ring system.

“‘Every single moment,’” Spock said, “‘of each completely private ten hour and thirty-three minute tidally locked orbit provides guests with a unique and exciting glimpse at our beautiful planet and its magnificent neighborhood of satellites and stars.’”  Apparently he had overheard Kirk’s thoughts and decided to annotate them with a deadpan commentary that had probably come straight out of the brochure.  His voice, low and sensual in Kirk’s ear, gave the Human another little startle at first, but by the time he finished the quotation his partner was chuckling in his arms.

“I love you so much,” Kirk said dreamily.  His fingers unconsciously traced over the wedding ring on Spock’s left hand.  The parallelism of it all didn’t even occur to him until the first officer mimicked the gesture on him… their wedding rings, the ring of Spock’s arms around him, the ring-like path of the hotel’s suites around a ringed planet—everything here was pleasantly circular, no beginning or end, just the two of them suspended in a remarkably infinite paradox of time and space.

It almost made Kirk want to write poetry.  Wisely, though, he decided his talents were better suited to admiring the scenery and absorbing as much of his Vulcan’s love as he possibly could.

“Shall we get more comfortable and adjourn to the sofa for a while?” Spock asked, still purring between words and planting a few sweet kisses along the neckline of Kirk’s uniform.

“Mm, that sounds wonderful,” Kirk said, though he gripped Spock’s arms even tighter around him at the same time.

With practiced deliberation, Spock continued kissing the skin of Kirk’s shoulder, more and more of it being revealed as he freed a hand and eased the tunic’s closure open.  His attentions encouraged the captain to tilt his head forward, granting his lips better access as they retraced their steps back up to the hairline at the base of his neck.  With a few deft, swift movements, Spock worked the golden uniform up and off his lover’s torso before replacing his wandering hands on the smooth plane of Kirk’s chest.

“I’ll put on my nightclothes and join you in the sitting room,” Spock said in an almost questioning tone.

Though he hated to let go of his husband, Kirk hummed his assent and turned to watch Spock move their bags onto the bed, unpack his pajamas, and favor him with a sultry look before striding elegantly into the adjoining bathroom.  Once the door slid shut behind the commander’s retreating form, Kirk quickly removed the rest of his uniform and changed into his own loungewear—a snuggly pair of red and black plaid flannel pants (which Spock had always said were his favorite), a form-fitting black tee-shirt, and black Starfleet-issue flip-flop sandals.

A little scandalized, Kirk noticed as he pawed through his suitcase that Spock had neglected to pack swim shorts for him, despite clearly knowing his bondmate would insist on spending as much time as they could in the hot tub.  Glancing into the science officer’s suitcase, he confirmed that neither of them would be wearing a bathing suit to indulge in the aquatic luxury.  That crafty, debauched Vulcan…

Ordering the lights off again, preferring the natural glow of the stars to the artificial bulbs which had resurrected his headache, Kirk trailed his fingertips over the smooth, hard case in which Spock’s ka’athyra lay.  A smile broke out over his face at the thought that his unfailingly sentimental lover must be planning to serenade him at some point during their mini vacation.  How he adored the sound of Spock’s lyre-playing, especially when he added his intoxicatingly melodious baritone to his practice sessions.

Kirk’s heart ached at the pressure of his overwhelming love for his spouse.  Clearing his throat, he strode to the synthesizer in the main room to prepare drinks for himself and Spock, hoping the simple task would stave off the intermittent emotional floods he’d been fighting all evening.  While he waited for their spice tea and decaf coffee to materialize, however, his stubborn, masochistic mind strayed back to his concerns from earlier in the day and a familiar melancholy began to settle in.

The synthesizer pinged when his beverage order was finished.  Kirk took a mug in each hand and shuffled to the couch, placing the cups down on the artsy coffee table and collapsing back against the cushions in resigned exhaustion.  He didn’t bother taking a drink of his brew yet as he slumped into the plush seat, wanting it to swallow him up as he slid his sandals off.  And he could just hear his father playfully admonishing him for his poor posture, warning him he’d never make admiral with such a soft backbone.

Turning his eyes to the majestic view before him, he wondered against his will what this trip would have been like had he been able to bring the only other person in the universe besides Spock whom his heart longed for with a constant agonizing desperation.

“For one thing,” a gentle voice said behind and above him as a hand stroked into his hair, “were he with us, it is likely we would not have any opportunity to make love while we are here.  And we would indeed have far fewer opportunities to do so aboard the ship as well.”

Fair enough, Kirk thought ruefully.

Fingers stilling against his scalp, Spock’s lips met the crown of Kirk’s head before he rounded the left end of the sofa and came into view, highlighted once more by the starlight streaming through the window.

“And that would be a shame,” Spock continued, “as I very much enjoy making love with you.”

He was resplendent, and Kirk, astonished, bolted forward on the couch to take in the absolute vision he made.  Rather than the familiar pajamas he’d taken from his suitcase, Spock had dressed in an ankle-length iridescent silver bathrobe that shimmered as he moved.  Kirk had never been good with fabric names, but it looked simultaneously as light as silk and as polychromatic as holographic vinyl or sequins.  The kaleidoscopic material cascaded effortlessly down his tall, lithe frame, flowing in an almost waterfall-like formation from the cinched tie around his waist.  A small but tantalizing bit of exposed flesh and dark chest hair peeked out above the V-shape where the wrapped fabric met itself below his angular clavicle.

For what seemed like the hundredth time in the last hour, Kirk was at a complete loss for any words other than the most wonderful name in the galaxy.

“Spock…!”

The radiant executive officer gave him that seductive little grin of his and slowly walked to Kirk on pale bare feet.  One of those handsome eyebrows climbed up his forehead when the dumbfounded captain scrambled back into a standing position and held a hand out to him as he approached.  He gracefully took it (electricity sparking between them at the contact) and allowed his mate to guide him down to the sofa on Kirk’s left.  Were he fully Human, he might have laughed at the way Kirk’s hands trembled as he delivered Spock’s tea to him from the coffee table.

For a few moments, Kirk thought every neuron in his brain had been completely fried by his incomprehensibly attractive husband.  It was all he could do to run his gaze up and down Spock’s body where he reclined in a far too dignified manner on the couch beside him, sipping his tea and waiting for his spouse to come to his senses.  Kirk vaguely wondered if he was wearing anything else underneath that robe.

With an appreciative hum, Spock bent forward to put his cup on the table.  When he leaned back into the cushions, though, he crossed his left leg over his right, leaving the fabric of his robe to fall as it pleased—which happened to be off the edge of his long naked thigh.

The reveal left Kirk feeling even more short-circuited than he’d been seconds before.  He knew it was horribly indelicate of him to stare, but he couldn’t look away from that tempting line of lean muscle that his fingers (and his lips) were so eager to touch.  Memories of stroking and kissing the excruciatingly soft hair there sent phantom tingles through his hands and tongue as his wide eyes drank their fill of Spock’s seductive display.

“Spock.”  Kirk was enthralled, watching the subtle progress of a nearby moon reflected in his Vulcan’s eyes.  “You’re…”

Mercifully, Spock reached out and guided Kirk’s hand to his bared knee.  Covering it with his own left hand, he patiently trailed his right up the tanned Human arm and molded his fingers around Kirk’s neck and ear.

Kirk knew his telepath was listening to the chaos in his head, where he himself felt that there were a million things happening, and yet also nothing at all, such was his delirium.

You’re too much, he felt Spock hear in his stupid, bewildered voice.  Love too much.  So beautiful can’t comprehend.  Angelic.  Look at you forever.  Divine.  Perfect.

“Jim,” Spock said, silencing his jumbled thoughts.  “Your coffee will get cold if you… look at me forever.”

Who cares about coffee? Kirk thought incredulously.

Yet as if to prove him wrong, Kirk kept his eyes fixed on Spock and blindly grabbed his mug with his free hand.  Even blinking seemed like an indefensible waste of a nanosecond which could otherwise have been spent admiring the magnificent creature sitting next to him.  Kirk’s eyelids only fluttered five or six times while he took a long chug of his coffee, all the while training his gaze on the commander.

There was an odd shift in their bond then, like an unexpected change in the winds from old nautical Earth legends.  But Kirk didn’t think he was the one who had caused it.  He felt almost bereft when Spock’s thumb stopped rubbing his cheek.

“You have been troubled since fifteen hundred hours,” Spock said, lowering his eyes to where their hands rested on his knee.  “As you predicted earlier, I felt it immediately.”

Kirk had been about to replace his cup on the table, but now gripped its handle like a lifeline.

“When your mood took such a drastic turn this afternoon,” Spock went on, “I hoped I might manage to intercept you on your way back to the bridge so as to determine the source of your distress.  But by the time I was able to relinquish the conn, you had returned.”

Downing another large gulp of coffee, Kirk remembered the awkward moment several hours before when he’d stormed out of the turbolift and almost run right into his first officer behind Lieutenant Uhura’s station.  At that point, his vision had been so red that it actually turned out to be a good thing they nearly collided: the surprise of it had jolted Kirk back into the realization that he was still on duty, still the captain, still responsible for being level-headed and dispassionate.

“I know you do not hide your thoughts from me lightly,” Spock said, slipping his hand away from Kirk’s face and back down his arm.  “And I understand, of course, if it is confidential information from Starfleet, or if, as I suspect, it is something of a personal nature which you still require time to process.  However…”

How was his coffee gone already?  Only half aware of his body’s actions, Kirk set his mug down and pinched the bridge of his nose.  That damned headache was back again.

Spock pried Kirk’s fingers away from his knee, which he had unintentionally been squeezing like a vise.  Before Kirk could even mentally form an apology, Spock was mirroring that pressure with his own hands sandwiched around his palm and knuckles.

“If there is any way I might be of assistance,” the commander said, trailing off.  “If there is anything I can do to help you or to comfort you, my adun… as always, I very much hope you will allow me to do so.”

Finally bringing himself to meet Spock’s eyes again, Kirk saw (and felt through his touch) the sincere longing the Vulcan felt to protect and soothe him, as well as his torment at knowing his partner was in pain but not knowing why.  Caught between wanting to climb into Spock’s lap to cry for hours and wanting to pretend he’d be alright until they returned to their normal routine—so at least they could enjoy this brief leave together—Kirk froze with indecision and stared helplessly at his spouse.

“I also want you to know,” Spock said after a long silence, “that unless you are harboring a sudden desire to sever our bond and dissolve our marriage, nothing you could possibly say or do will prevent me from enjoying this leave with you.”

Wanna bet? Kirk thought.  He stared at his lap with a wry smile.  It wasn’t that he didn’t believe Spock—Kirk knew for a fact that the executive officer meant everything he said.  It was that he had never believed anyone would ever be capable of truly loving him, let alone as thoroughly and as unconditionally as Spock did.  He had never felt worthy of anyone’s loyalty or devotion, and it still baffled him that his bondmate gave him all of those things.  But he especially felt unworthy of it all in this moment.

Ashal-veh,” Spock said, tugging on his hand to get him to look up.  He massaged Kirk’s wrist with delicate strokes, his earnestness flowing into the Human’s bloodstream.  “If you wish to cry on my lap for the duration of our stay here, I will hold you close to me and attempt to ease your pain, to calm you and reassure you.  Or if you would prefer I divert your attention to other things, I will distract you in whatever way you please.”

No doubt sensing that Kirk—conflicted by the opposing forces of despondency and arousal—was still at a loss for what to do, Spock perched forward on the couch and quickly downed the rest of his tea.  Then, in a flurry of glistening fabric, shifting limbs, and wandering hands, he brought them lying down face to face in the generous cushions.  Spock lay on his back with his head against the pillowed armrest; with his superior strength, he pulled Kirk to nestle into his right side, protected by his arm and the back of the sofa.

His system shocked by the abrupt but powerful feeling of safety, Kirk let himself sink into his husband’s body.  Resting his left cheek on Spock’s collarbone, he gazed unthinkingly into the crystal- and diamond-studded void beyond the window, the smooth, flawless movement of all those millions of stellar objects outside calming his mind just as the Vulcan’s deep, measured breathing did.

“Thank you, sweetheart,” Kirk whispered, closing his eyes.

Spock responded by sweeping Kirk’s unruly wisps of hair back and planting a kiss on his forehead.

They lay in the pleasant, intimate darkness for several minutes, listening to the sounds of one another’s mingled breaths and heartbeats, watching peach-colored clouds swirling in the atmosphere of the luminous planet before them.

As Kirk snuggled against the first officer’s soft robe and adjusted his limbs to mold more comfortably with the lithe ones beneath him, he replayed what Spock had said on finding him sulking here in the first place.  Were he with us, we would have far fewer opportunities to make love, he had claimed about the subject of Kirk’s useless fantasizing.

And it was true.  Kirk knew Spock was right, and now he knew there would no longer even be the hope, the dream, the desperate prayer of anything more.  But he still couldn’t help wondering…

He wondered how different his and Spock’s marriage would be if Kirk could have had both of them in his life.  He wondered if Spock would have married him at all had that been the case.  Mostly, he wondered whether that anguished seed-like kernel of spite that had taken root in his heart years ago and germinated into a sprouting tendril of resentment would continue to spread within him were their situation to change now.  Would it suffocate, dry up, retreat back into its cracked shell and finally stop haunting him?

The injury he had sustained from that one particular trauma stung and bled worse than ever in moments like this, moments when he knew he should be focused on his soulmate, on being grateful for the amazing things he did have in his life and ought to be enjoying.  Earlier, on his ship, in his command persona—he could handle the wound reopening then, he was trained to compartmentalize it and push it out of his mind whenever it became irrelevant to the task at hand.  When he was in uniform and on duty, when his shields were up, he could take the hit because that was, in fact, his job: taking hits and keeping cool as he determined how best to protect his crew in the onslaught.

But when it came to protecting himself?  That was a different matter altogether.

The wound, that nasty little sprout would wait, then prey on him again after hours, when he’d come out of the red alert, left the security of his crew’s presence, and almost managed to forget about it.  The present was no exception.  All he wanted was to spend one passionate night in this glorious hotel with his lover and simply not have to think about it.  Was that too much to ask?

Sometimes, he selfishly wanted never to think of any of it again for the rest of his life.  Yet he also wanted to think of it all the time.  Sometimes he wanted to let the bitter, righteous anger fester and bloom inside him until it had strangled his soul with its vines.  Sometimes he wanted it to leave him no choice but to unleash the venom it had slowly infected him with back upon its desired target, its very source.

He wanted to wrap himself in Spock’s embrace and bawl until his eyes were chapped and sore.  He wanted his Vulcan to hold him and caress him and whisper reassurances and sweet nothings to him as he cried into eternity—here at what seemed to be the splendid border of eternity—over this incurable wound, this scar tissue that was destined to open and reopen and never fully heal until he was dead and gone.

Perhaps not even then, he thought frantically.

While his anxious brain had been spiraling out of control, Kirk had failed to notice that actual tears had begun to fall from his eyes.  He was similarly unaware of Spock’s purring, vibrating chest under him, his left hand lovingly sifting through his hair, and his right arm tightly threaded around his back holding him fast and secure.  By the time he regained a sense of mindfulness of his own body, he felt just as spent as if he was coming down from one of his periodic panic attacks, although he couldn’t recall whether he’d experienced any other of his usual symptoms than catastrophizing… and, apparently, crying.

“He just turned six,” Kirk croaked, bringing his right hand up to smear the moisture from his face.

Through their link, he felt a brief mixture of curiosity and confusion in Spock being replaced by a deep but sorrowful understanding.

K’diwa,” Spock murmured, “you do not need to put yourself through this right now, or explain any—”

“You deserve to know,” Kirk said, disregarding his spouse’s well-meaning sentiment.  “I’ve been so upset today because… the message I took in the briefing room was from Carol.”

Although he’d clearly been expecting to hear the dreaded name, Spock noticeably bristled—as he always did—at the mention of Kirk’s ex, a woman he believed to be (as he’d mentioned several times before) a bitter, cruel life form whom the governing forces of the universe would never forgive for what she had done to such a compassionate and benevolent soul as his Jim.  The commander’s gentle purring stopped mid-breath, his fingers stilled in Kirk’s hair, and he twisted their legs together in a tense, possessive knot.

“I know things aren’t easy for her,” Kirk went on, “especially now.  Apparently she’s been promoted, so she’s trying to juggle a new set of responsibilities along with taking care of him.  It’s just… it’s… hard, it just hurts to only get a two- or three-minute update about him every six months—or less—especially when she makes a big show out of sounding so rushed and cranky whenever she does decide to send me something.”

“As always, you give her an undeserved amount of sympathy,” Spock said, sliding his right hand under Kirk’s shirt and rubbing the small of his back.  “Her life would not be so difficult now had she been willing to consider any form of shared custody with you when David was born.  She has no right to treat you with scorn or contempt when she was, in fact, the one who caused the damage between you in the first place.  She has been abhorrently unfair to you for his entire life, refusing to grant you any opportunity to see him or even to communicate with him indirectly.”

“Spock, we’ve been through this,” Kirk sighed, absent-mindedly petting the patch of dark brown chest hair under his fingers.  “She had every right to—”

“We have indeed been through this,” Spock said, “and I continue to disagree with your assessment of what she was or was not entitled to demand of you.  Had you been uninterested in helping to raise him, she would certainly have been justified in shutting you out.  Given, however, that you made your desires clear to her, that you wanted to at least discuss a comprom—”

“It’s all academic now,” Kirk said, more harshly than he intended.  “It’s done and the situation is what it is.  No matter how I feel about it.”  He swallowed hard and followed the line of a distant comet that had just come into view.  “Kaiidth,” he added in a whisper.

“Jim,” Spock said warmly, turning to look at him.  “You are Human.  It is understandable and entirely valid for you to feel anger and resentment toward her.  She has caused you an unconscionable amount of pain over the past seven years.”

“I feel obligated to point out,” Kirk said, his voice lighter, “the irony that for once, I’m trying to be logical and you’re arguing for emotionalism.”

Repositioning his torso under the captain, Spock pulled the lower portion of his robe aside enough to wrap his leg around Kirk’s and then cover them both with the material.  “It is simply illogical,” he said, “to deny that she hurt you deeply, is fully aware that she hurt you, and therefore does not deserve to have anyone—you least of all—making excuses for her behavior.”

Kirk actually grinned at that, so he propped his head up, settling his chin on Spock’s chest.  “And here I thought you would find forgiveness to be the logical thing.”

Spock seemed to contemplate the idea, searching Kirk’s eyes.  “Ordinarily, I would.  However, I find myself willing to make an exception in this instance.”

Oh, how Kirk loved his jealous husband.  Burrowing further into the crook of the protective arm encircling his midsection, he rested his cheek on Spock’s shoulder and wiggled his back to encourage the hand massaging his skin.  He felt his Vulcan plant another soft kiss to his hair before turning to look out at the stars once more, trailing his left hand along Kirk’s forearm where it was curled on his chest.

“Was there something in particular,” Spock said a few moments later, “that was unusually cruel about her message today?  You generally do not become quite so agitated from her correspondence as you were this afternoon.”

With a heavy sigh, Kirk closed his eyes to prevent tears from welling up again.  “You know she sends me photographs of him with her updates.”

“Of course,” Spock said.  “I would never have had an occasion to see him if not for the pictures of him which you keep in our quarters.”

“Neither would I,” Kirk mumbled sadly.  “And you know she’s been sending fewer and fewer each time.  Well, in her message today, Carol…”  An irritating lump formed in his throat.

Spock, clearly picking up on the stress in Kirk’s body, hooked his fingers around the Human’s wrist and rubbed the back of his hand with his thumb in support.

“She said,” Kirk continued, “that she’s been weaning me off of the photos and the amount of information she gives me about him.  She wants to stop sending me updates altogether but thought it would be… easier on me to receive them less frequently for a while, and hear less about him each time, than to cut me off all at once.”  He sniffled and clutched the front of Spock’s robe.  “Today, she said that since he’s getting old enough now to start showing distinctly recognizable features, she doesn’t want me to know what he looks like anymore… in case we ever cross paths when he’s grown up.  So, for the first time… she didn’t send any pictures.  And she’s never going to again.”

Regretting it even though he couldn’t control it, Kirk let out a long sigh that was echoed and magnified by their bond, a sensation like ancient, musty air swirling despondently around them before going still and lifeless again.

“Not even one photograph,” he said, trying to bury his face in his partner’s underarm.  “I’m never going to see my son again, Spock… not even in pictures.”

The first officer pulled his right hand up from under Kirk’s shirt to cradle his head as he tilted it back enough to look in his spouse’s watery eyes.  “Jim,” he said, his own voice thick with concern.  “My t’hy’la… I am so sorry.”

I know, Kirk thought, his eyes burning.

“I wish,” Spock added, “that I was better able to express the depth of my grief.”

“You don’t have to,” Kirk managed, a hot tear cresting onto his cheek.  “I can feel it.”

An elegant, gentle finger caught the salty droplet.  Spock leaned his head forward and placed a feather-light kiss to Kirk’s damp cheek.

For what it is worth, Spock thought to him, if David had been in your care… I still would have fallen in love with you.  I still would have married you.  And I would have been proud to help you raise him—although you would not have needed my assistance to be an exceptional father on your own.

Kirk made an embarrassing sound somewhere between a sob and a hiccup as more tears escaped and his soulmate continued to sweep them away with his lips.

And you need not worry about protecting yourself, Spock added.  That is my charge and my privilege as your husband.

“Spock,” the captain whispered, pawing desperately at the Vulcan’s neck.

“Come to me, James,” Spock said, bringing their lips together in a painfully tender kiss.

Mouths moving languidly against each other, Kirk felt his heart finally shatter under the weight of his turmoil, only to have the pieces immediately gathered by Spock’s careful hands, reassembled by his healing love and comforting purr.

Spock nipped sensitively at his lower lip, silently requesting entry.  When Kirk’s mouth opened at once, he ran his tongue along the soft inner flesh of the Human’s lips before slipping the rest of the way inside.  His right arm clenched around Kirk’s back, and the fingers of his left hand worked into his palm, massaging a passionate ozh’esta into his skin that mirrored the wet caress of their tongues.

Moments ago, Kirk’s life had been a devastated mess of hopelessness and misery.  But now, in this moment, with Spock’s lips and hands on him, nothing else mattered.

After several long minutes of plunging, exploratory kisses free of urgency, filled with the promise of an entire solar day of them yet to be had, Spock pulled back to roll them a small amount, readjusting Kirk’s weight in the crook of his arm.  Still clinging to the fabric at Kirk’s waist with his right hand, he used his left to guide the captain’s head onto his shoulder, then began to play with his fingers one at a time against the furry plane of his chest.

I would use my mouth to console your entire body, my beloved, Spock thought.  But I do not want to overwhelm you further.

Kirk rubbed his nose along the underside of Spock’s strong jawline, letting the commander deliberately tickle every millimeter of his fingers.  As he watched the motions of their intricately dancing hands, silhouetted against the blue-black void sparkling through the window, he focused his efforts on breathing with the Vulcan’s steady rhythm.  All he wanted was to lie in his arms, inhaling the same air which had just been in his bondmate’s lungs, squeezing one of Spock’s naked legs between his flannelled ones.

Although his headache was forgotten, Kirk’s spirit still throbbed with the pangs of the damage it had received.  Yet with each bone and muscle that Spock lazily caressed with his miraculous kissing fingertips, he felt lighter; his partner’s touch was infused with a warmth, a familiarity to which Kirk would be more than happy to fully surrender himself, as he had countless times before.  His body reveled in the titillating intimacy of Spock’s fingers as they brushed as faintly as possible over the nerve endings in his own hand.  Every cell that felt his gossamer strokes was instantly set to buzzing with electrified desire and reverence and submission.

It wasn’t until Spock began to use his lips and tongue in a similar manner on Kirk’s fingers that the Human gasped and flexed his hands with an infinitesimal level of returned pressure.  He started to tremble uncontrollably in Spock’s arms, overcome with the sensation of his dexterous tongue gliding along the fragile webs between his fingers.  When Spock took his fore and middle fingertips into his mouth and Kirk felt the faintest hint of suction, he attempted to silence his ragged breaths by nuzzling into that silken neck which smelled like brown sugar and sunlight and home and safety.

Taking a break from his hand, Spock raised Kirk’s chin to kiss and lick his way into him again, tasting then pulling away to sigh warm breaths onto his skin and against his swelling lips, then tasting some more.  With slow, taunting movements, he intertwined their fingers in a prolonged, full-contact ozh’esta, humming into Kirk’s mouth as the fire of the intimate gesture lit within each of them.  Meanwhile, the commander’s right hand resumed its place under the captain’s black shirt, smashing their torsos together with a bafflingly gentle force on his lower spine.

Drowning in the security of his cozy niche between Spock’s powerful arm and chest, feeling the cushions at the back of the sofa morphing to cradle his body as he writhed against them, Kirk did his best not only to welcome but more importantly to entrap the science officer’s teasing, comforting tongue within his mouth.  Out of seemingly nowhere, he’d begun to almost despair that he would never get his fill of Spock—that even if he spent the rest of his life in the Vulcan’s presence, worshiping his magnificent body, giving up everything he was to those skilled fingers and lips and arms and legs, he might never feel that he’d had enough.

What if he kissed and touched me, Kirk’s disordered mind thought, what if he licked and sucked… if he opened and entered and filled me over and over again… if he made love to me for the rest of time, but… but I still needed more of him?  What if I can never get enough of him?

“Jim,” Spock whispered, abruptly putting distance between their equally ravenous mouths.

Kirk gasped wildly for several intense beats, aggrieved by the loss of contact, though Spock freed his hand and caringly stroked the side of his heated face.

“James.  I apologize.  My intention was to relax you, not to cause you more distress.”  Spock kissed the side of his nose.  “I believe we should… slow down.  We still have twenty-five hours and forty-eight minutes to indulge in physical and spiritual decadence with one another.”  Here, he inhaled deeply against Kirk’s cheek, the subsequent exhalation tickling his mate’s earlobe.  “You need to regain your strength before I can allow myself to ravish you.”

An exhilarating involuntary shiver pulsed through Kirk’s entire body.  And a whimper escaped his lips.

“There is no rush,” Spock went on.  “I promise, I will consume you with passion once you have rested.  For now, however… please… try to relax for me, and let me consume you with tenderness instead.”

Stars help me, Kirk thought with a gasp and a sigh, his heart feeling so heavy with adoration he feared he might go into cardiac arrest.  He melted every time his stoic, logical partner spoke in such poetic, sensual ways.

Through their connection, Kirk could tell it was only with great restraint that Spock managed to kiss him as chastely as he did then.  The commander took his time peppering numerous careful, innocent pecks all over his face, ever-so-slowly threading his fingers into Kirk’s hair again.  His hands kneaded into him alternately, the distinctly feline trait joining the vibrations of his chest in lulling Kirk to sleep.

Gradually, Kirk’s pulse slowed and his eyelids began to drift closed as Spock worked ever slower and wider circles over his back.  The Human, finally beginning to succumb to his own fatigue, nestled his head under his lover’s chin.  The tension in his muscles was slackening, leaving him feeling drowsy and almost peaceful.

“Will you make love to me?” he asked, dragging Spock’s robe aside and moving his searching hand underneath the exquisite fabric.

“Mm, yes,” Spock said when Kirk found and rubbed his nipple, “as many times as possible.  But not until you are more alert.”

“I’m plenty alert,” Kirk said around a yawn.  He rolled Spock’s nipple between his thumb and forefinger, humming at the feeling of his spouse’s touch along his sensitive scalp.  “Honey?” he said after a while, barely raising his head as he remembered one last concern.

“Yes, tal-kam?”  Spock’s voice had dropped into its lowest, most tranquilizing register.

“If I fall asleep, will you come dream with me?”

The Vulcan smiled, the handsome curve of his lips outlined by the starlight.  “My love, of course I will.”

“Thank you,” Kirk said, laying his head back down on his soulmate’s marvelously soft chest.  “Come find me,” he murmured a few minutes later, without fully realizing he was speaking.  “Don’t want to dream alone… be alone tonight.  Need you…”

He was barely aware of an affectionate caress along the outside of his ear and a pair of refreshingly cool, reverent lips pressing into his forehead before the orange planet, its crystalline rings, and all the other glittering gems of the moving painting before him twinkled and faded into the blank canvas of sleep.

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

Spock was gloriously naked beneath his own bare form, but he was sleeping tranquilly, so Kirk kissed his sternum and laid his cheek back down.  He took in the beauty of the stars amongst which they were floating in the warm expanse of darkness.  A ribbon of diamonds no larger than grains of sand swirled around their intertwined bodies, sifted between Kirk’s fingers where he stretched them out to feel its magical texture, and the music created by the celestial granules reminded him of the wind chime on his parents’ back porch.

The void of space was streaked with extraordinary galactic brushstrokes of deep blues and purples and aquamarines, the vivid palette accentuating and illuminating all the most beautiful tones of Spock’s hair and skin.  Keeping a tight hold around his back and legs, Kirk pushed himself back from the Vulcan’s chest just far enough to caress his pectoral muscles and brush his sleek bangs off his forehead.  He traced his fingers over the distinct shapes of his husband’s eyebrows and ears, then his sculpted cheeks, his squared jaw, the velvety skin of his neck.

The commander began to stir, his face blushing and twitching at Kirk’s attentions.  When Kirk leaned close to place a soft kiss to each of his eyelids—swooning at the spectacularly lovely fluttering of his lashes—Spock slowly opened them and finally revealed his mesmerizing, syrupy irises to him.  Kirk’s breath hitched at the sight of those glinting orbs, more stunning than all the planets and nebulae circling them as they drifted through the abyss, and his heart stopped at the overwhelming splendor of Spock’s uninhibited smile.

“I came to find you, ashal-veh,” Spock said, petting every part of Kirk’s body he could reach without sacrificing the closeness of their embrace.

“I knew you would,” Kirk said, sucking little green marks into his lover’s neck and cheek.  “You’re the center of my whole universe, Spock.”

“And you are likewise the center of mine,” Spock said, lifting Kirk’s chin for a zealous kiss.

“Thank you for bringing me here,” Kirk murmured when they parted for air.  He wasn’t sure why he had resisted this in the first place; he didn’t even recall that in the waking world, he’d spent several hours mired in emotional unrest before arriving in this sacred, private realm that he and his bondmate had made their own throughout their epic romance—a romance which was still so young and new.  His heart swelled with joy and love at the thought of spending his infinite future with his angelic first officer.

“I promised you would enjoy it,” Spock said, smiling and purring happily against Kirk’s lips.  “I hope it has met with your satisfaction thus far.”

“There is still something missing from this trip,” Kirk answered.  Suckling playfully on Spock’s earlobe, he guided his husband’s hand between their joined hips.

As their lips and tongues fused again, they mutually began to rub their bodies together in a euphoric rhythm, seeking that blissful friction they each craved so profoundly.  Their hands and mouths wandered all over one another’s naked limbs and torsos in both Vulcan and Human kisses charged with a supernova’s worth of passion and desire.

Their shared dream continued into the night, Kirk worshiping Spock’s body in every way he knew how, and vice versa.