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Lovers And Madmen

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“Lovers and madmen have such seething brains

Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend

More than cool reason ever comprehends.”

 

― William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream



      The slide of warm hands along his skin chased heated thoughts through their mindlink. He groaned as he felt his partner’s mouth on the back of his neck; the sharp edge of teeth. Heat along the back of his body, pressing against him, and he arched up, turning his head, seeking that mouth, begging for those hands. He wanted everything, all of him…all of you, your mind, your body…oh… .

      “Spock!” Jim gasped his way out of the thickness of dreams and into pale orange dawn, sweat-dampened sheets twisted around his body and his erection straining for release.

     “Damn,” he whispered, taking himself in hand, still caught in erotic imagery. Quick, efficient motions and he finally exhaled, relaxing back onto his pillow and briefly closing his eyes again. “Damn,” he repeated, and looked at the chronometer.

     Only four hours of sleep this time. Jim gritted his teeth as he extricated himself from the bed and glanced out his window into the early morning of the Federation outpost on Helkaran V. The dreams left him with an aching emptiness that he couldn’t shake. And it wasn’t just at night. He fantasized about his first officer constantly; he wanted him as he had wanted no other before. Jim hissed as he stepped into a deliberately cool shower, feeling uncharacteristically helpless. The wanting wasn’t new, but the sudden intensity and inescapability of it was disturbing and unhelpfully coincided with this current, stressful mission. Jim turned off the water and toweled himself dry, determined to take the unpleasant step of mentioning it to McCoy after the day’s business was concluded.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

      This was something that Vulcan discipline had no answer for: the curve of human muscle and the sweet humidity of human breath; the slick salty heat of human sweat and eyes that reflected every forbidden emotional expression in their changeable color. This man, this vision, stood naked before him, and he could feel the man’s thoughts like an aphrodisiac. Restraint was a far thing and he reached for the man, pulling them together skin against skin as his fingers sought the ancient points and he dove into his mind, diving into delicious madness… .

     “Jim,” Spock whispered, opening his eyes to a new dawn. He shivered as he unfolded himself from his meditation pose, his mind no more rested than it had been when he knelt three hours before.

     Never had he experienced such desire to possess another’s body and mind. Even the depths of pon farr had presented unfocused, relentless urgency instead of this immediate, helpless need. He desired his captain. He wanted him with an unparalleled fervor. And while the wanting was nothing new, the lately inescapable nature of it was. Perhaps this mission, with all of its immediate importance, had been a catalyst.

     Spock stood still, attempting to gather fallen barriers. For the ongoing negotiations to be successful, this discomfiture must be dealt with. He allowed himself a very human sigh, committed to a most distasteful disclosure to the doctor as soon as possible.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

     Jim walked through the outpost’s main corridor, Yeoman Edwards following closely behind. The captain nodded as Spock exited his own quarters and joined them, the two senior officers moving in-step as always.

     “How are things shaping up today, Mr. Spock?” Jim asked crisply. He was determined to be as strictly professional as possible, even if it killed him.

     The Vulcan adjusted his tricorder. “We have less than forty-seven hours before the device detonates, Captain, as measured by the countdown visual as well as our own predictions of power optimization. Starfleet engineers have reported no success in disarming it, and the past eight standard hours given to the two factions to communicate with their respective governments have, apparently, been fruitless.”

     “Dammit,” Jim muttered. “So we still have two sides who hate each other, and distrust us, but who have to work together in order to disarm a doomsday device that threatens both civilizations and also a Federation colony.”

     “Lieutenant Uhura has intercepted a call from the Deriganit’s High Council suggesting that death is a glorious endeavor, especially when it can include one’s enemies. She added that similar messages have leaked from the Ghuratl Assembly as well.”

     “And what about the billions of people on those two planets that will die in all this glory?” Jim shook his head and came to a stop several meters shy of the door to the negotiation chamber. “You know, Spock,” he said, lowering his voice, “we’re almost four years into this voyage and I still can’t get used to the willingness of beings to sacrifice everything for uncertain conceptions of the eternal.”

     “I entirely agree, Jim,” Spock said quietly.

     Jim looked at him, suddenly caught up in the Vulcan’s dark intensity, the way the light shone on his hair, and the way that his deep voice sounded as it seductively curled around the captain’s given name. No one spoke his name that way, except for Spock. He wondered–.

     “Captain?” Edwards chirped. “Should we go in, sir?”

     Jim felt his cheeks heat and spun on his heel. “Yes,” he said hastily. “Yes, let’s get back to it.” His mind was filled with visions of just how that sonorous voice would sound right next to Jim’s ear, and how it might catch in a low, erotic moan as their bodies moved together. The captain cleared his throat loudly just outside the door and he frantically focused on the meeting ahead. The seriousness of the situation helped in deflating his arousal.

     The two ambassadors and their assistants were already seated at the table as the group from the Enterprise entered. Each side was staring directly at the other in an expression of defiance and aggression, and the atmosphere held palpable tension.

     Jim lifted his hands in ritualistic greeting. “Goodness brings this new day,” he said, bowing slightly. Next to him, Spock and Edwards repeated the gesture and the three men took their seats.

     “Time has been allotted for further communication with your governments,” Jim began. “Are there any new developments?”

     The Deriganit ambassador leaned back expansively in her chair as her long, flowing fur fluttered attractively. “We have not,” she said, her bright pink eyes flashing as she turned her head towards the captain. “Our people refuse to retreat from such barbarity, from such ugliness, from such insult. Certainly you can understand, Captain James. Certainly you want the correct side to triumph?” She emphasized her speech with a low purring noise.

     The Ghuratl ambassador hissed from the opposite side of the table. “We also refuse to retreat from such a display of cowardice and lies,” he said. His smooth, silver skin glinted in the light and his black eyes flashed. “Commander Spock,” he said, “you, as a Vulcan, must acknowledge that we are the superior civilization. You, a being of logic, must understand that we must control the situation. Do you not want us to prevail?”

     “I want only peace,” Spock replied smoothly, “and to avoid the loss of life.”

     “Captain James–,” the Deriganit insisted, “do you not–?”

     “I agree with my first officer,” Jim interrupted, casting a look at the Vulcan’s strong profile. His eyes lingered on a pointed ear before continuing hurriedly, “And, uh, we speak for Starfleet in the hopes for peace and cooperation between your two respective planets.”

     The two negotiators made equal noises of contempt and returned to glaring at each other, and Jim stifled a tight exhale and settled in for a long session. He glanced at Spock again, perfect and forbidding in his Vulcan reserve and trim, blue dress uniform. A very long session, indeed.

     Time crawled. Long hours were spent with an aide simply reciting a list of grievances that one species held against the other going back centuries. Jim held his equanimity until the Ghuratl ambassador was accusing the Deriganit ambassador’s ancestors of casting a hex against their people, from a time before spaceflight had even existed in the disputed system.

     “Fellow beings,” he announced, interrupting the devolving situation. “I propose a short recess.”

     The captain exited the room quickly, heading quickly back to his quarters and precious solitude, if only for a few minutes. Spock’s near presence was more than distracting; instead, it was dangerously exhilarating and it suggested all manner of fantasies to his subconscious.

     He imagined being trapped with his first officer in a cave, or in a back alley somewhere, or in a tight, warm closet in the dark, where they had to hold close together in absolute silence lest they be discovered. They would be pressed together, and he would be able to feel Spock’s hard body against his own. He would be able to feel the Vulcan’s mind glide across his own in that way he had when danger was near. He might even feel Spock’s breath on his neck and, in the darkness, be daring enough to turn his head so that their mouths touched. And then he would urge Spock to reach into his pants and caress his growing erection; those long, beautiful fingers taking him in hand and stroking, stroking, tighter, holding him with inhuman strength and heat and–.

     “Ah!” Jim gasped, grunting through an orgasm, his own hand wrapped around his softening penis.

     “Damn.” He cleaned himself and changed his pants and then stood in the middle of the cramped quarters, the fading smell of sex in his nostrils. He flipped open his communicator.

     “Kirk to McCoy.”

      “McCoy here.”

     Jim sighed. “Bones, I have to talk to you in my quarters. And before you say anything else, you have to know that this is dead serious.”

     There was a pause. “Alright, Jim. On my way.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

     Spock stood up from the table. Sixteen point two hours of further evasion and delay. Sixteen point two hours of listening and responding to interminable lectures about species superiority. By the end, even the captain’s voice was hoarse and his body language implied extreme frustration. Vulcan discipline was also wearing thin by the time an urgent communique from Starfleet initiated another short break and the two belligerent groups departed from opposite doors.

     “Spock,” Jim said as they exited the chamber, “you’re with me.”

     “Yes, Captain,” he replied, satisfied that there was no hint of the simmering emotions he had struggled to hide during the session. Almost as unbearable as the rival delegations had been, the stark reality of Jim’s warm body and his silky telepathic presence had been more disturbing to Spock’s faltering shields. And then there was Jim’s right hand, almost constantly placed just so on the tabletop, always in Spock’s vision and very nearly touching. And, since the man had returned from that brief hiatus in the middle of the session, the Vulcan’s hyper-aware senses had detected the faintest scent of sexual release.

     Spock had studied the human’s fingers out of the corner of his eye, unable to avoid imagining how they might taste, or the sounds Jim might make as Spock sucked on them. How they might feel intertwined with Spock’s own fingers in an obscene embrace, slowly sliding against each other as the two men also kissed in the human way. And how Jim’s body itself might feel, tight and hot and smooth, as Spock slid his own saliva-slicked fingers into the man’s most sensitive–.

     “Spock?” Jim was standing in front of his quarters, his expression quizzical.

     Spock blinked. “Forgive me, Captain. I was lost in thought.”

     “I noticed.” Jim offered a nervous, odd smile. “Want to see what Starfleet has to say?”

     “Yes,” Spock replied quickly.

     “Are you alright?” Jim asked, peering at him.

      No. “Affirmative, sir.” He would not say the man’s name. His own voice would reveal too much and the sound of the syllable itself was uncommonly thrilling.

     “Good.” Jim hesitated and then entered the security code for the door.

     Spock stepped into the captain’s quarters just after him, averting his eyes from the bed as Jim headed for the desk to retrieve a PADD.

     “I had Uhura route the communique,” Jim said, punching in his command access key. “I can’t imagine it’s good news.”

     “Good news does seem quite unlikely,” Spock replied dumbly. He clasped his hands behind his back.

     Jim studied the small screen, quite unaware that the light streaming through the window cast his face and body in a luxurious golden glow.

      “Unfortunately, we’re both right, Spock,” he reported. “Still no luck shutting the mechanism down. And long-range sensors have indicated that the populations of both planets are beginning large-scale religious celebrations, possibly as a prelude for meeting the afterlife. Starfleet has ordered the emergency evacuation of the colony, but a significant portion of its members are refusing to leave. Apparently they trust us to fix the situation.” He slapped the back of the PADD with his free hand. “This is absolutely ridiculous,” he fumed. “How long do we have left?”

     “Thirty point three hours,” Spock replied.

     The captain uttered an obscenity. Spock stared at his mouth, the sound of the suggestive word sending a shiver down his spine. Jim kept talking, but Spock found he was no longer listening. His own mind was aflame, reaching out to this attractive, powerful soul in front of him. He could sense Jim’s emotions, and the shape of his thoughts as they streamed like falling rain, like sparks in the night, like the beauty of sculpted ice over kaleidoscopic rock. It was beautiful and terrifying, and Spock wanted so much to simply let go and to bring their minds together. He wouldn’t even need to touch Jim, they were so compatible. He could let go, and the bond would form on its own.

     He caught himself as he realized that Jim had stopped talking. Spock stammered an excuse and turned and left, leaving the captain standing by himself. The human’s confusion filled the air between them, but Spock could stand no more.

     The door to Spock’s own quarters had barely closed before he lifted his communicator.

     “Spock to McCoy.”

     “McCoy here.”

     “Doctor, I find I am in need of your services. It is a most urgent matter.”

     There was a pause. “Alright, Spock. I’ll be right there.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

     Jim stood outside the door to Spock’s quarters. The Vulcan had abruptly left him only twenty minutes before and the captain could no longer keep himself away. He was worried about a fellow officer and friend, certainly, a fact that he kept repeating to himself over and over. He tried to ignore the fact that simply being in Spock’s company had turned into a powerful, seductive draw.

     Even as he had examined him, McCoy had pointed out Jim’s regular association of sex with stress, and this mission had stress in spades. Logically, McCoy argued, Spock was a safe choice for a fantasy: he held himself apart; he was a Vulcan; he was a fellow officer. Jim self-consciously chewed his lower lip, knowing that the doctor’s arguments, while true, were also surficial excuses. Jim was painfully, constantly aware of his friend’s magnetic physical attractiveness, Spock’s breathtaking intelligence, and the sensual way his mind felt when he touched Jim’s thoughts. He was immersed in the man, and the fantasies were expressions of soul-deep need.

     The captain steeled himself and pressed the key to request entry. The door slid open almost immediately.

     But it was not Spock who greeted him.

     “Jim,” McCoy said. “I was about to call you.”

     The captain narrowed his eyes, stepping fully into the room as the doors shut again behind him. Spock was standing off to the side, his head slightly bowed.

     “Bones? What’s going on? Is Spock alright?”

     “He’s fine, as far as I can tell,” McCoy replied. “As are you.” The doctor had a distinctly uncomfortable expression on his face. “However, and believe me when I say I take no pleasure in this conversation, you both claim to be suffering from the same thing.” He looked up at the ceiling. “Which would normally be completely your own business except that it may affect your performance and therefore the success of this mission.”

     A surge of panicked adrenaline coursed through Jim’s veins and then he caught himself, seeing Spock’s head lower even further. “Bones,” he said carefully, “are you telling me that–.”

     “Look,” McCoy broke in. “The subject of what you’ve each disclosed to me is not as important as the fact that both of you have identified the intensity of it as being abnormal and sudden. Spock even used the word ‘compulsion’. Now, I’ve run rapid psych and physical scans on both of you and they’ve come back normal. Granted, I could haul you back to the ship and subject you to a full range of tests, but that would mean stopping negotiations, and on a subjective basis given the lack of corroborative data.” He took a breath. “So, I’ll ask you both: are you able to compartmentalize or otherwise deal with this situation or is it truly at a level where it is actively interfering with your ability to do your jobs?”

     Jim watched as Spock raised his head. Their eyes met and Jim caught his breath as he recognized desire and longing in the Vulcan’s dark gaze. But there was apprehension, too. Jim swallowed his panic. “You, too?” he asked weakly.

     “Affirmative,” Spock replied. He looked as if he was expecting to be yelled at, or slapped.

     Jim nodded, offering a self-deprecating shrug and a smile.

     At the accepting gesture, Spock blinked and his shoulders lost some of their tension, his eyes some of their fear. He tilted his head slightly, his gaze searching Jim’s face, his lips parting.

     Never in Jim’s life had he wanted to kiss someone so badly as in this particular moment. He even took an aborted step towards the Vulcan, both hands lifting slightly at his sides. And then he remembered where he was and with whom. With effort, he turned to face the doctor.

     “I think we’ll be alright, Bones,” he said.

     McCoy had been watching them both intently. “I see,” he said skeptically.

     Jim’s communicator beeped and he flipped it open. “Kirk here.”

     “Edwards, sir. The negotiations are set to resume again in five minutes.

     “Thank you, Yeoman. Mr. Spock and I are on our way.”

     Jim returned the communicator to his belt and looked at McCoy and Spock. “Honestly, we don’t have a choice in the matter. There’s no time for anything else, and if we don’t find an answer in the next, uh… .” 

     “Twenty-nine point nine hours,” Spock finished.

     Jim gestured loosely in assent. “In about thirty hours, two planets, this outpost, and a Federation colony will be destroyed.”

     “I have to agree,” the doctor said with a sigh. “In any case, I’ll dig into my records to see if there’s been any other case of this. I’d say Omicron Ceti III, but in that case the effects were negated by strong emotion and, well, no offense, gentlemen, but there seems to be ample evidence for strong emotion between you and to no avail.”

     “Right.” Jim fought against a grimace at the mention of that particular mission. “Alright, Mr. Spock,” he said weakly, “let’s see if we can’t keep our hands off of each other long enough to save the day.”

     The Vulcan made an oddly choked noise, clasping his own hands firmly behind his back and assuming an expression of fierce reserve.

     McCoy looked at both of them in turn and frowned.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

     The Deriganit ambassador had been speaking for over an hour, describing in excruciating detail her opinions on the meaning and importance of purity and beauty and sacrifice. Her voice grew increasingly loud, assailing Spock’s sensitive hearing. Across the table, the Ghuratl delegate’s bubbling anger was assaulting Spock’s shields.

     The captain, seated again at Spock’s side, was likewise agitated, his fingers curled into a fist on the table. But instead of his heightened emotional state acting as an additional irritant against the Vulcan’s telepathy, Jim’s mind was a beacon. Rivers of human feeling slid smoothly over and under any barriers placed in its path, reaching out for Spock’s very essence.

     Spock could not help himself from placing his left hand on the table, fingers flat against the smooth surface, so close to Jim’s. And then, Jim’s own hand slowly uncurled, human skin just centimeters away, psionic potential rising between them as contact neared–.

     Spock flinched as piercing alarms suddenly sounded in the room. Jim’s communicator beeped, and the captain reached for it, spinning away from the table. In front of them, the ersatz diplomats began yelling and pointing at each other.

     “Repeat that, Lieutenant!” Jim shouted over the din. He shot a look back at Spock and headed out the door, the Vulcan following. The blaring alarms had been muted by the time the doors closed behind them, but the flashing lights illuminated a bustle of activity in the corridor.

     “Spock!” McCoy jogged towards them. “What the hell is going on?”

     Spock held up a hand.

     “Got it. Stand by, Uhura.” Jim lowered the communicator. “The device has suddenly adjusted the remaining time until detonation to fifty-six minutes,” the captain said rapidly, addressing the two men. He raised the communicator again. “Lieutenant, notify Starfleet Command and issue an emergency evacuation order for the colony. Everyone leaves; no exceptions. Let me talk to Mr. Sulu.”

     A click and Sulu’s voice came on. "Captain? We’re on our way back to the outpost to pick you–.

     “Negative,” snapped Jim. “Keep the Enterprise at the colony to aid in the evacuation. Your priority is to get those people out.”

     “But, sir–.

     “I’ll see to the evacuation of the outpost and our people here using the shuttles. Set up a rendezvous point beyond the blast radius.”

     “And the inhabitants of planets two and three?

     Jim hesitated as the door to the negotiation chamber opened and closed, and Edwards emerged, out of breath and covered in sweat. The sounds of shouting between the two factions were joined by intermittent crashing noises. 

     “They know about the change in time frame, Captain!” cried Edwards. “I can’t believe it, but they don’t care, even now! They keep saying they want to die knowing their enemy is also doomed!” 

     The captain met Spock’s eyes, and, in this case, the Vulcan did not require telepathy to know his mind.

     “I am with you, Jim,” Spock said firmly. It was its own command, with the authority of all that was now revealed and held between them, and Spock saw the captain’s acknowledgement of it.

     “Spock and I will attempt to disarm the device,” Jim said to the communicator, his gaze still locked with Spock’s.

     “Jim!” McCoy gasped. “Are you crazy?”

     The captain ignored him. “Those are my orders, Mr. Sulu. You are not to endanger the ship on our behalf. Kirk out.”

     The doctor looked shocked. Spock crossed to the nearest outpost communications panel and entered the command override on the intercom, signaling for general evacuation.

     “This is Commander Spock,” he said, his voice echoing throughout the outpost. “All outpost personnel are ordered to evacuate using base shuttles. Coordinate rendezvous with Enterprise on emergency channel three. This is not a drill.”

     Around them, base personnel started jogging past, voices raised and fear swirling.

     Behind him, Spock heard Jim muttering urgently to the doctor, both hands gripping the older man’s arms. McCoy was shaking his head even as Jim gave him a small push in the direction of the shuttlebay.

     “Go on, Bones. Take Edwards with you.”

     “Jim!”

     “Go.” Jim waited until the two men had joined the small crowd of people before he turned back to Spock. His hands moved again, almost reaching out, before he abruptly clenched his fists. “Damn,” he blurted. “The access tunnel. We have to get to the access tunnel.” He started jogging toward the central hub of the outpost. “Spock, I have to focus on something…something that’s not… .” He moved faster. “Give me a rundown of where we are with regard to this thing. Start from the beginning.”

     Spock moved with him stride for stride, recognizing the captain’s need to disappear into the problem; recognizing it also in himself. “This outpost was constructed four solar years ago when the device was discovered during a routine survey by members of the established Federation colony on planet six. Both the Deriganit and Ghuratl claimed to know about the device, and acknowledged that there had been a previous instance of threatened detonation at the dawn of the two species’ space-faring ages, approximately three-hundred years ago. According to them, a joint venture to disarm the device had been successful.”

     “But relations between the two species soured,” Jim continued, reaching the access port and entering in a code. “Not only did they fail to explore beyond their solar system, but the two species spent most of their time fostering hate to the point of being willing to die instead of working together.”

     “Affirmative.” Spock followed the captain into the tunnel. “The technology behind the device is far more ancient and advanced than either of the native species or, frankly, Federation science. It is unknown precisely how it operates or why, despite extensive research and testing.”

     “Only that it was able to be disarmed once, and so it must be possible to do it again.”

     “And that its potential for destruction is real.”

     They rounded the final corner and came face-to-face with the glowing slab. Four meters high and five across, with a small indentation in the center displaying a rapidly diminishing geometrical visualization.

     The captain’s determination seemed to waver as he stared at the intimidating object, flanked on either side with apparently useless sensory and technical equipment. “Spock,” he murmured, “how much time?”

     “Forty minutes, Jim.”

     “This may not have been one of my best ideas.” Jim looked at him. “Spock, I…I needed you…I’m so sorry. You shouldn’t be here.”

     “I would be nowhere else.” 

     Whatever was driving them together so fiercely seemed poised and waiting here, in this ominous and lonely place. Spock could feel his own heart rate quickening, his breathing coming faster as he looked at this man, at his beautiful friend. Fantasies paled in comparison to the courage and spirit shining in those luminous eyes. Here he was, and here he belonged.  

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

     There was almost no time left. The geometrical display was inexorably winding down to nothing and energy was building within the slab and all around them, seeming to draw from the very rocks under their feet. They had tried every desperate thing, even when surrounded by evidence of the string of failures that had come before.

     The glow from the slab was nearly blinding and yet all Jim could see was Spock. And all Spock could see was Jim. And they finally reached for each other in the brilliant light of certain death, completing a circuit that had been held open for far too long. Jim’s hands were in Spock’s hair and Spock’s fingers cradled Jim’s face as they kissed each other with all the wanting and the longing of years, of lifetimes. Joy filled their minds as their thoughts aligned.

     A violent snap filled the air and a shock wave hit their bodies and all light went out… .

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

     …and still they held together.

     All was darkness and chilled rock, except for Spock’s warmth all around him. Jim blinked rapidly; his eyes were open but he couldn’t see a thing. Disoriented, the captain held tight to the man in his arms.

     “Spock?” he whispered.

     “Jim.”

     “What happened?”

     “The device activated. We are still alive.”

     Jim reached for his communicator. “Kirk to Enterprise,” he said, his voice echoing in the space around them.

     Sulu’s voice came through almost immediately, the crew’s cheering clearly audible in the background. “You did it, Captain!

     “Report, Sulu.”

     “There was an energy wave that came through the system, originating at the device’s location, but it was non-destructive. Chekov says that it reads almost as a scanning beam.

     Jim shifted, slowly separating from the Vulcan as the slab in front of them began to glow again, this time a placid pale green. The geometric object was back, simply rotating about a central axis on the display. He lifted the communicator again. “And the two planets?”

     “The Deriganit and Ghuratl leadership have been silent, Captain. We’ve heard nothing from the representatives on the outpost, but are still reading life signs and nominal activity on planets two and four. Not sure what to make of it, sir.

     “I want communication from both sides before you proceed back into the solar system, Mr. Sulu.”

     “Acknowledged, sir. I’ll signal you when we’re in transporter range. Enterprise out.

     Jim flipped the communicator shut and turned to Spock, who was still sitting on the floor, his hands loose in his lap. The Vulcan looked at him, dark eyes wide in the low light.

     “Jim, the compulsion is gone.”

     A pang curled in Jim’s chest and he closed his eyes briefly, examining himself. It was true: that disturbingly inescapable draw to the other man was gone. Grief rose in its place, borne on a rapid succession of denial, panic, and sadness. But as that sharp tide receded, Jim recognized the thing that had always been there, and it was warm and open. The captain opened his eyes, noting that apprehension had returned to Spock’s expression.

     “It doesn’t matter,” Jim said quietly, smiling. “I love you. I believe I always did.” He paused. “Whatever happened, for me, created nothing that wasn’t there before. If you don’t…if that isn’t the case for you, then we’ll deal with it, but this situation forced my hand and…I think I’m ready for you to know.”

      Spock was watching him. “I…Jim, you are my…you are the very breath of my katra, of my being. I say this now of my own free will and desire.” He reached out and Jim took his hand, their fingers intertwining. And, between them, Spock’s shields fell. Their minds slid together naturally, without the intensity and clarity of a meld, but open and honest. Each could sense the belovedness of the other and any remaining apprehension vanished.

     Jim gently pulled back. “Why do you think it happened now? And why us?”

     “A heightening of what is present, resulting in an intensified response.” Spock stood up and Jim followed. 

     The Vulcan continued, “Recall what little we know of the history of these people, Jim. The last time this device threatened their civilizations was at the beginning of their own space race, when each planet held incredible destructive energies at their disposal. All we know is that they worked together to defuse this device.”

     “Maybe it took…two people from different worlds. And this…heightening of emotion, perhaps intensifying that which was already present?”

     “Such that if there was already hatred, the compulsion would be to strengthen it.”

     “And if there was love, that it would be- .”

     “-inescapable,” Spock finished.

     “Maybe that’s why those delegates were so intractably aggressive,” Jim said. He gazed at the now quiescent device. “So, love or hatred would draw them into salvation or destruction. It was a test. Perhaps a way to see if rival civilizations were fit for interstellar travel.”

     “The problem, however,” Spock pointed out, “has not been solved, but merely avoided for another undetermined interval of time.”

     “They got lucky,” Jim said. “We’ll worry about the rest later.” His communicator beeped. “Kirk here.”

     “Sulu, Captain. Ready to transport.

     “Beam us up, Mr. Sulu.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

     On the bridge of the Enterprise, Spock stood next to the command chair, next to his captain, his t’hy’la. The compelling but intrusive fantasies no longer taxed his control, replaced as they were by real memories of physical lovemaking and telepathic intimacy. Instead of insecure and shamed, he felt cherished. What existed now was far more satisfying than any mere vision could have been, and, astonishingly, far more erotic. For example, he could never have predicted just how pleasurable it would be to feel a slick human tongue–.

     “Spock, are you even listening to me?” Doctor McCoy, unfortunately, stood on Jim’s other side.

     The Vulcan raised an eyebrow. “Affirmative, Doctor.”

     “Well, what do you have to say about it, then?”

     Spock glanced at the doctor’s cross expression, hesitating as Jim's fond smile turned to him. “It is quite fascinating,” Spock said, “to witness a peaceful insurgency develop on this scale in so quick a time.”

     “Fascinating or not, it was emotion that saved them,” McCoy said firmly. “The device increased race hatred in those that already felt that way, but cemented feelings of brotherhood in those who had previously been content to sit on the fence or who had rationalized that it wasn’t worth it to speak up. Given this second chance, they’re now acting to spur real societal change.”

     “And even when the compulsion faded,” Jim added, still softly looking at Spock, “they found the strength to express something in themselves that had seemed impossible to consider.”

     “In other words, logic and reason can only get you so far,” McCoy rejoined.

     “Doctor, I daresay that your illogical conclusion has been logically arrived at.”

     “Gentlemen,” Jim interrupted with a chuckle. “Suffice it to say that the Helkaran system seems to have a way forward after all. But we’re no closer to determining the origin of the device, or whether something like it might exist in other systems.”

     “Continued observation of this device may yet prove useful,” Spock said. Jim was still smiling at him, and the Vulcan could feel gentle affection pouring through that lingering, cherished space where their minds now moved in concert. Spock placed a possessive hand on the back of Jim’s seat and stepped up to the main level, returning to his station.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

     Jim felt the brush of his first officer’s hand against his back as the Vulcan moved back to the science station. He resisted the urge to lean into the touch, just as he resisted the urge to follow Spock’s body with his gaze. Instead, he glanced over to see McCoy’s arched brows.

     “We’re fine,” he said quietly.

     “I bet,” McCoy said. He grinned and clapped his friend’s shoulder. “Alright, Jim.” The doctor threw another look at the Vulcan and headed for the turbolift.

     The captain watched him go, and then turned back to the main viewer. He crossed his legs, hiding another smile behind his hand as he thought of the night before. Better than any fantasy or any fevered dream, the feel of the Vulcan’s hands on his body had been a revelation of sensation. And the way Spock had moved under him, the silk of the man’s hair, and the strength of his mind-.

     “Captain?”

     Jim cleared his throat, accepting a PADD from Uhura. “Thank you, Lieutenant,” he said.

     “Of course, sir.” 

     She smiled at him and walked away and Jim shifted self-consciously in his seat. He mused that dreams and reality each held their share of madness but that the place they met was in a lovers’ embrace. And that was something he was looking forward to, just as soon as this shift was over.



THE END