“Spock! Wait till you see this!” Jim Kirk’s dirt-smudged nose appeared over the edge of the precipice, followed by an exuberant grin. “It’s great! Hurry up here!”
“Yes, sir,” Spock responded. He was not surprised to find that Jim did not wait to hear his reply, but had already scrambled away to explore whatever wonder he had just discovered. With a slight shake of his head, Spock grabbed a sturdy branch and used it to haul himself up the steep incline, toward the spot where his captain had hailed him.
It was not a particularly challenging climb, this ascent up the long-dead volcano. Though not blessed with any significant animal life, the climate, soil and abundant water of Merinus VI were such that vegetation abounded everywhere, and the steep slopes that Spock and Kirk climbed now were no exception. Young trees and strong, supple vines obligingly provided handholds; moving with his usual efficient grace, it took Spock no more than a few moments to clamber up the eight meters or so of cliff to where he had last seen Jim.
But Jim was not there.
Spock frowned slightly, scanning the ledge and all around him. In front of him was a sheer rock face. It was certainly climbable, but it appeared to be steep enough so that conquering it would take at least a half an hour. Jim was nowhere on it. Could he have fallen somehow without Spock hearing him? And if so, where could he have ended up? A thin needle of panic pierced the Vulcan’s chest. It was so easy these days for that feeling of black dread to consume him, whenever Jim was out of his sight. Struggling to control his voice, he called out. “Captain!” No response. “Jim!”
He was answered by a loud rustling at his feet. Looking down, he saw a familiar human head seemingly jutting out of solid rock, beaming up at him.
“Do you know,” the head said, “it was my childhood dream to discover a cave? And this one is a bona fide, genuine, cave’s cave – a real beauty. Come on in.” The head withdrew into the cliff as if yanked by a string.
Spock stood for a moment contemplating the place of the head’s disappearance, slanted eyebrow aloft. It had been agreed, when they left their campsite one short hour ago, that the activity of the day would be hiking. Spelunking, on the other hand, had not been on the agenda. And of course, Kirk had not bothered to check to see if Spock was as enthusiastic as he was about clambering into the bowels of a dark, dirty, unexplored cave. Had he in fact been asked, Spock would have told his captain that he preferred not to become involved in such an illogical endeavor. It was fortunate, he mused, that Vulcans did not easily become irritated.
“Spock! C’mon!” a muffled voice called impatiently.
With a tiny sigh, Spock dropped to the ground and stuck his head into the hole. “On my way,” he said dutifully.
It was a relief to find that the entrance opened up almost immediately into a fairly spacious chamber; with alacrity, Spock got to his feet, brushed himself off, and moved over to Jim, who was regarding his discovery with admiration. “Get out your light,” Kirk said, flashing his own against the stony walls. “Let’s see what we’ve got here.”
Spock took his light from his belt and unslung his tricorder. As he studied it, he was aware of the sounds of Kirk moving about the chamber and of rushing water from somewhere in the distance. It would be interesting to find its source. But for now, the information he was gleaning from his tricorder seemed more remarkable. “Fascinating,” he murmured. “These walls are formed of a vein of a type of rock I’ve never encountered before.” He studied the tricorder readings for a moment, and continued, “Nearly as hard as diamond, but aphanitic in texture. Obviously igneous in origin. Most puzzling. How could it have attained such… ”
“Spock! Come here! Hurry!”
The urgency in Kirk’s voice alarmed Spock; for the second time in ten minutes, anxiety seized him. He instantly swung around and scanned frantically for his friend, frowning as he discovered that Jim was nowhere to be seen. His keen eyes, however, found an indentation at the far end of the chamber that looked like it could be a passageway. Hurrying to it, he found that there was indeed an opening and went into it unhesitatingly, thinking only of finding Kirk as quickly as possible. The passageway was narrow and twisting, but Spock navigated it easily, becoming conscious as he did so that the sound of rushing water became more pronounced with every step. Slipping around the final turn, he careened out of the tunnel, instantly skidding to a halt at the sight before him.
Kirk stood in the middle of a vast, glittering cathedral of a cavern, his arms thrown out from his sides and his head tipped back in ecstatic joy. For a mad instant, Spock thought that his captain was caught in a transporter beam: everything around him glittered, just as if he were being beamed away somewhere. But then the Vulcan realized that the shimmering light was coming from far above them, its source a shaft in the lofty ceiling of the chamber. Dazzling light from Merinus VI’s sun poured through this opening; the beam struck a cascade of water that poured, white and alive, from the top of the cavern all the way to its floor and ended in a frothing dark pool. Reflection was everywhere: from the cascade, from the pool, from the sparkling walls of the cavern itself, much of which were encrusted with layer upon layer of hexagonal lavender crystals.
Kirk slowly lowered his arms and smiled at Spock. “Beautiful,” he said.
“Beautiful,” agreed Spock, quietly, seeing nothing but Jim. Indeed, the light reflected also from Kirk: his hair, his skin, his entrancing, captivating eyes. Spock felt a familiar tightening sensation deep within his chest, the same one he always felt when he allowed himself to truly look at this human, the one who walked up to him now and gazed back at him with such frank, wholehearted delight.
“Do you know what I want to do?”
“What do you wish to do?” asked Spock, a little breathlessly. He knew only too well what he would like to do, but quickly suppressed the wild impulse.
“I want to stay here, instead of at our campsite.”
“Yes. Here.” He gave Spock the foolproof grin, the one that always set off all kinds of alarms within Spock but that Spock could never resist for long. “A place like this comes along once in a lifetime – we can’t pass it up.”
Spock tilted his head, considering. “The logistics of transporting our camping gear up the side of the mountain and through the narrow entrance to the cave…”
“…can easily be surmounted if we put our minds to it,” Kirk finished firmly. “It’ll be worth it. This place is magic – we have to stay here. If we don’t, we’ll – we’ll regret it forever.”
Spock’s mouth twitched in what might have been construed as amusement as Kirk half cajoled, half commanded him. Jim wanted this, and what Jim wanted, he nearly always managed to get. The willful human had already won - Spock knew it, and Kirk knew it; the only logical thing to do was to give in gracefully.
“Very well, sir,” he told his captain solemnly, not even bothering to point out that regret was merely an illogical human emotion.
Two hours later, Kirk and Spock positioned their sleeping bags a distance away from the cascade, against one wall of their magical chamber. In spite of Kirk’s sanguine outlook, the second trip up the volcano had not been easy: they both had been loaded to capacity with their sleeping bags, food and clothing. After that, they had to gather firewood for the night and maneuver it through the constricted entrance to the cave, a task that also turned out to be far from uncomplicated.
Kirk flung himself onto his sleeping bag, heaving a dramatic sigh. “Whew. That was quite a jaunt. I’m glad we were smart enough to leave the tent behind. We certainly don’t need it here – even if it poured, I don’t think it could reach us.”
“Indeed. This shelter should be adequate to withstand any storm that might occur.”
For quite a while, there was a contented silence. Finally, Kirk said softly, “I meant what I said, you know. This was a dream of mine – to find a place like this. Well, not really like this: I guess I didn’t dream big enough. I just wanted to find a cave – like the outside room of this one. I never imagined anything like this.”
“Did you ever find it?” Spock asked.
“Never.” The heartbreaking grin flashed. “Well, not until now.” Kirk rolled over onto his stomach and contemplated the pool that roiled across the chamber. “Spock?”
“What was your dream?”
“I do not understand.”
“When you were a kid on Vulcan - what did you most desire? What did you dream about?”
The question brought a surge of bitter remorse that did not catch Spock entirely by surprise; it was the same feeling he always had these days, whenever he thought about his home world. The same feeling, if he forced himself to be truthful, that flitted in the background of his consciousness at all other times as well. Twelve point two days since you nearly killed Jim over T’Pring, a harsh voice in his head said accusingly. Twelve point two days since your shameful madness nearly robbed him of his life. He could smell the hot red Vulcan sand as if he were standing upon it now. He could remember the thin searing air rushing into his lungs at the same time that Kirk struggled for breath and then went still. Every sickening detail was branded upon his mind, never to fade. “I did not dream,” he said firmly.
It was the wrong answer. Kirk was suddenly sympathetic, concerned. “You didn’t dream? What kind of a childhood is that? There must have been something you wanted. Something you wished for so badly you thought you’d just die if you didn’t get it.” He stared into the distance, his amber eyes intent. “That’s what childhood is all about. Hell, that’s what life is all about.”
“Vulcans do not dream,” said Spock, in what he hoped was a tone of finality.
“Hmm,” said Kirk, unconvinced.
Spock decided that it would be advisable to divert Kirk’s thoughts before more painful questions came. “I am curious,” he said.
“Why doesn’t that surprise me?”
Spock persisted, ignoring the amused glint in Kirk’s eyes. “What did you intend to do, once you found the cave you dreamed about?”
Jim considered for a bare moment and then grinned. “Damned if I know. To tell you the truth, caves are pretty rare in Iowa, at least in the part I come from.”
“Indeed. The closest thing I ever found to a cave was an irrigation ditch, and that was a shallow one. But if I’d found one…”
Spock raised his eyebrow, waiting.
“Well, I guess I would have done typical caveman things inside of it.”
“If I may ask, what sort of activity would qualify as a typical caveman thing?”
“Well, like wearing a fur loincloth, or making weapons out of sticks and stones.”
Spock frowned, considering. “I fear that there are no animals at all on this planet - certainly, none that would provide the raw materials for a fur loincloth. And the formation of weapons…”
“Would be most illogical, given that there is nothing to defend against.”
Kirk sighed. “I suppose you’re right. Still, it seems a shame to wait all these years to fulfill a dream and then not carry it through properly.” He looked around admiringly. “And this really is a gem of a cave, isn’t it?”
Kirk fell silent for a few minutes, pondering and chewing his lip. It made Spock somewhat uneasy, but not as uneasy as questions about Vulcan, so he waited patiently, certain that Jim would soon share what was in his thoughts.
Finally, Kirk straightened up and grinned at Spock. “I’ve got it!”
“Got what, sir?”
“The typical caveman thing that we can do. Doesn’t involve fur or weapons, either.”
Spock tilted his head and regarded Kirk. “I am most interested in your solution,” he said politely but cautiously.
Spock blinked. “Are you referring,” he said slowly, “to paintings such as the depictions of animals and hunters which were executed by the Cro-Magnons during Earth’s Paleolithic Era and subsequently discovered in the caverns of Lascaux, France in the mid-twentieth century?”
“Um, yes – good example. I bet if we look around, we can come up with all kinds of things we could use for paint.”
Spock made a quick mental catalogue of the minerals and vegetation he had noted on their ascent and was forced to agree. “Your hypothesis is correct. However, I must confess I do not fully understand what our purpose would be in undertaking such a venture. If I recall correctly, the Cro-Magnons painted their images in an effort to ensure a successful hunt. Whereas we…”
“Just want to have fun,” Kirk finished resolutely.
Kirk sighed. “We’re on shore leave,” he said patiently. “The purpose of shore leave is to have fun – relax – unwind. God knows we deserve it, after…” When Spock visibly winced, he faltered for a moment, obviously kicking himself, and then tried another tactic. “I’ll tell you what – we’ll make a contest out of it. We’ll each take a tricorder and a specimen bag, and we’ll go off in different directions and hunt for things we can use for pigment. After half an hour, we’ll meet back here. Whoever has the widest variety of colors wins.”
Spock tilted his head to one side, considering. The entire idea was impulsive, illogical, and without a practical purpose. It therefore probably should not be considered. On the other hand, the competitive nature of the project did have a certain appeal, particularly since Jim had bested him in chess a mere 48.3 hours ago. As he weighed the pros and cons, Kirk flashed him the failsafe, brilliant grin. Spock sighed. “Very well, sir. Half an hour.”
Precisely thirty minutes later, Kirk triumphantly displayed the colorful fruit of his labor. “I found these berries just a few meters from the entrance,” he announced. “If we crush them up, they’ll do just fine for blue.”
“Indigo, to be precise,” Spock said, regarding the pea-sized berries solemnly. “I assume you have ascertained their non-toxicity? If they should prove to be caustic...”
Kirk waved away his concern. “Don’t worry – I checked out everything already. I didn’t bring anything back that will burn, sting or itch. I’m not sure I’d wolf down a bunch of these, but they’ll be perfectly safe to use for paint.” Smiling proudly, he reached into his specimen bag and pulled out a neatly bound packet of bright green leaves and a slightly withered bouquet of vibrant yellow flowers. “These leaves are absolutely loaded with green juice. The flowers aren’t quite as moist, but if we use some water with them, I think we can get a decent yellow. It may be a little diluted-looking, though.”
“Two of the three primary colors,” Spock said approvingly. “Were you able to find red, by any chance?”
Kirk shook his head. “I’m afraid not. And it wasn’t for lack of trying, either. It turns out there aren’t as many colorful things on this mountain as you’d think.” He eyed Spock’s bulging specimen bag curiously. “So what did you bring back?”
Spock tipped the bag upside down, allowing several chunks of minerals to roll onto the floor of the cavern.
Kirk looked up inquiringly. “Rocks?”
“Hematite, limonite, and solidified volcanic ash, to be specific,” Spock said, holding a reddish, yellow-brown and chalky white nugget up in turn. “Also, this mineral, which I am unable to identify. It should be most suitable, should we require black.”
“But how are you going to turn them into paint?”
“I shall pulverize them and then add a small quantity of water to the resulting powder.”
“Of course,” said Kirk. “I should have known you’d have a plan. Well, it looks like we’ve got a tie then – three to three.”
Spock’s eyebrow shot up. “Three to three? But I have four different types of minerals.”
“Yeah, but that unidentified one is black, and black isn’t a color.”
Spock’s other eyebrow joined its counterpart. “A technicality. The intent of the contest was to find the highest number of pigments. While black admittedly is not a color per se but rather the absence of it, still--”
Kirk threw his head back and laughed, pleased to have goaded the Vulcan into defending himself. “All right, all right. You win. But you’ve got to admit – you should be the last person to object to getting technical. Hematite and limonite, my ass.”
A short time later, vegetation crushed and minerals pulverized, Kirk and Spock knelt in front of one of the few sections of cavern wall that was devoid of the glinting lavender crystals, and smooth enough to serve as a canvas. Kirk had devised a couple of makeshift paintbrushes by mashing the ends of a pair of green twigs between two rocks; he held one up invitingly. “Go ahead,” he prompted.
“Perhaps it would be best if you were to go first,” Spock said, “since I am still a bit uncertain as to the purpose of this endeavor.”
Kirk shook his head and sighed. “I swear to God, I’m going to teach you how to appreciate frivolity if it’s the last thing I do.” He looked down at the array of pigments and chewed his lip. “I think,” he said slowly, “we should leave a record of who we are and where we come from. That’s kind of what the Cro-Magnons did, whether they intended it or not.” He dipped the brush into the mashed-up berries, and carefully traced an orb on the cavern wall. Cleaning the brush with water, he applied green within the circle’s borders, and then filled in the rest of the outline with more blue.
Spock scrutinized the roughly executed round mass. “Earth,” he announced.
“Uh-huh,” Kirk said, already intent on his next drawing. This time, he dipped the brush in the hematite and then the limonite, ultimately producing a blotchy reddish-orange circle. Casting a sidelong look at Spock as he cleaned the brush, he said, “Vulcan.”
“Quite recognizable,” Spock said expressionlessly.
“Now,” Kirk said musingly, “for the hard part.”
Spock watched as the human laboriously applied the whitish volcanic ash to the wall, at first totally baffled. But as Kirk toiled away at his creation, little by little it became more apparent what was being depicted. “The Enterprise,” Spock finally said.
Kirk smiled at him. “The planet of your birth, the planet of my birth, and our mutual home,” he summarized, satisfaction apparent in his voice. He looked at Spock expectantly. “Your turn,” he said.
Reluctantly, Spock picked up the second brush and regarded his captain solemnly. He was completely at a loss. Jim consistently seemed determined to treat him as if he were an imaginative creature, no matter how many times Spock pointed out to him that Vulcans were incapable of such illogical flights of fancy. And sure enough here he was - smiling encouragingly, expressive eyes dancing in the shimmering cavern light - obviously expecting Spock to come up with something marvelous out of thin air. There was an old Terran fairy tale, Spock mused wryly, about converting dry stalky plant residue into gold. The story had never held much interest for him, depending as it did on magic for the resolution of the plot. But now he had a new appreciation of its symbolism: he was indeed sitting at a spinning wheel, knee deep in straw, with no instruction manual in sight. He turned to the cavern wall and contemplated Jim’s drawings, hoping against hope for inspiration. Suddenly, his visage brightened and his lips curled in a little half-smile. “You must turn your back,” he instructed Kirk.
“What? No fair - I let you look.”
“Indeed. However, since I wish to surprise you, it is necessary for you to turn your back.”
Spock pretended to reconsider. “Perhaps you are correct,” he said slowly. “It is, after all a frivolous idea.”
Kirk made a sound that was exasperated and good-natured at the same time. “All right, fine – have it your way. I won’t look until you tell me I can – I promise.” He turned around and covered his eyes, heaving an exaggerated sigh as he did so.
When Spock was satisfied that Jim had complied, he dipped the brush into the hematite and set to work, biting his upper lip in concentration.
Jim listened to the scratching sound of the twig-brush on the wall as long as he could stand it and finally said impatiently, “For God’s sake – I didn’t think you were going to take on the Sistine Chapel. Aren’t you done yet?”
“Very nearly,” Spock said calmly. “Just one last detail. There. You may look now.”
Eagerly, Jim spun around, burning with curiosity. As his eyes fell upon the Vulcan’s rendering, his chin dropped in amazement. Looking back at him was an uncanny likeness of - of himself! Jim leaned forward, studying the details with near-incredulity. Yes, there was no mistaking it: there was the lock of hair that never stayed in place, the lopsided smile, the gold tunic. Spock had created all of it with astonishing proficiency, especially given the crudeness of the materials he had to work with. But it was the eyes that gave the portrait its strangely life-like quality. Light brown and expertly flecked with dabs of limonite-yellow, they stared back at the observer with a half-mocking, half-humorous expression that was uniquely Kirk’s.
Jim shook his head in admiration, and finally pulled his gaze away to his first officer. “I did not think,” the Vulcan said a little shyly, “that the Enterprise should be without its captain.”
Kirk’s smile radiated admiration and wonder. “I’ve always known that you are superb at absolutely everything,” he announced. “But this is – it’s extraordinary. It’s so realistic that I can scarcely believe it. How did you do it?”
“It pleases you?” The voice was soft and even shyer this time.
“Pleases me! Of course it pleases me – it’s perfect. It’s amazing.” The human studied it again, considering. “Only one thing missing,” he finally added.
Spock’s eyebrow rose. “I omitted something?”
Jim cocked his head and said, seriously. “Something essential, I’m afraid. If the Enterprise mustn’t be without her captain, then it stands to reason the captain mustn’t be without his first officer. It’s only logical.” He grinned at Spock. “Draw yourself.”
Ruefully, Spock wondered how he had become so deeply involved in such a fantastical endeavor, and then Jim’s grin started to have its customary effect, and he remembered. With a tiny ironic smile, he conceded once again. “Very well,” he said with patient resignation, and bent over the pigments.
Sharply angled cheekbones, a mouth both solemn and sensuous, elegantly pointed ears. A neat cap of black hair compliments of the unidentified dark mineral. Dark brown eyes. Above them a pair of slanted eyebrows, one of which was arched up in either inquiry or disapproval, depending on how the observer wished to interpret. And, finally, a blue tunic, comprised of the remainder of the berry juice.
Spock put down the brush and sat back, unaccountably anxious to see Jim’s reaction.
Kirk chuckled appreciatively. “Those eyebrows really make it. I can actually hear what you’re saying when I see that expression.”
“Indeed. What am I saying?”
“’Your statement is highly illogical, Doctor McCoy.’”
Spock’s eyebrow rose in a perfect facsimile of the portrait, causing Jim to smile more broadly. But as he turned back to assess the portrait, his smile faded and he said thoughtfully, “It’s funny.”
“What do you find humorous, sir?”
“Not that kind of funny. It’s just… odd. The expression is exact, and it’s beautifully drawn, just like my portrait is. But there’s something that isn’t quite right.” He fell silent, studying the portrait for clues.
Spock waited, clamping down upon a tiny tendril of disappointment at Kirk’s dissatisfaction.
“I know what it is,” Jim said at last.
“It’s the eyes - they’re too flat. They don’t show your personality like the ones in my portrait show mine.”
Spock raised his eyebrow again. “Personality traits are displayed by the individual’s behavior, not by his physical features, sir.”
Kirk leaned over and stared deeply into the Vulcan’s eyes, causing Spock’s breath to catch in his throat in a most illogical fashion. “You’re wrong. Oh, I admit I’ve learned a lot about your character by the things you’ve said and done. But when it comes right down to it, I think I’d know the same things just by all the times I’ve looked into your eyes – just like this.”
Spock froze, half panicked by Jim’s illogically confident assertion, half consumed with curiosity to know what the human thought he saw. After a brief internal struggle, curiosity won out. “Indeed. And what knowledge, if I may ask, do you believe you have gleaned from this exercise?” To his relief, his voice, although a little huskier than he would have liked it to be, sounded perfectly rational and calm. In direct opposition, unfortunately, to his heart, which was pounding away in his side in a highly chaotic manner. It was most shameful, how the scrutiny of this human seemed to bring about that reaction in him. He must meditate with greater frequency.
Kirk cocked his head, studying the countenance of the Vulcan closely. “Well, for one thing, there’s the color. It’s a color unlike any I’ve ever seen – it’s unique, just like you are.”
Spock shook his head slightly, inexplicably disappointed. “Brown,” he said dismissively.
Jim smiled a little and countered, “Brown, yes. But have you ever known a brown that could be felt?”
Perhaps this irrational train of thought was a precursor to some dangerous mental illness, Spock thought with some alarm. Perhaps the alien indigo berries, in spite of the assurances of the tricorder, were hallucinogenic, and Kirk was beginning to suffer the effects. “Felt?” was all he could manage to say.
“Yes. I know it sounds weird, but the color of your eyes is tangible. It’s heavy velvet, draped over iron.” Seeing Spock’s look of total bafflement, Kirk laughed softly. “And that’s what you are, too. Soft and steely. Compassionate and dispassionate, tolerant and stubborn. Forgiving of others, ruthless toward your own self.”
Jim had said that last so pointedly that it was impossible for Spock to miss the unspoken message: Stop blaming yourself for what happened on Vulcan. Shaken, Spock averted his gaze. How did this human, supposedly incapable of telepathy, always seem to be able to deduce what was in Spock’s mind? He would just start to congratulate himself on his excellent shielding techniques, confident that all was hidden appropriately away. And then with just a flash of a glance or a casual touch, Kirk would let it be known that it was all for naught. “What’s wrong?” the human would ask, apparently out of the blue, and by the simple question reduce Spock’s carefully erected Vulcan shields to ash. It was most disturbing.
“And then there’s the way your eyes are always… I don’t know. Searching, I guess. Seeking something,” Kirk continued, ignoring Spock’s unease.
In spite of himself, the Vulcan felt his gaze being pulled inexorably back to Kirk’s. “Seeking?” he asked, thoroughly disgusted to hear that his voice was a little shaky this time.
“Always and forever,” Kirk said, with certainty. “Seeking answers, solutions, possibilities…”
“I do not—”
“And that tells me a lot about you.” Kirk continued steadily, refusing to be deflected.
Again, Spock could not resist. “What does it tell you?” he asked, though he instantly regretted the question.
“Well, it tells me you’re intelligent, of course, although anyone would know that just by spending a couple of minutes with you. And it tells me you’re curious, and that you value knowledge for knowledge’s sake. But those aren’t exactly secrets about you, either. It’s the constancy of that searching expression that tells me what I don’t think most others understand about you.”
“And what is that?”
“Well, that you haven’t found what you’re looking for.” Jim shrugged, and said almost as an afterthought, “If you had, you wouldn’t need to keep searching.”
Thoroughly rattled, Spock realized there was only one thing to do to put an end to this completely illogical, totally ridiculous, highly disturbing conversation. Hitching his eyebrow up so that it was an exact match to the one in the portrait, he said as coolly as possible, “I fear that you would be highly unsuccessful as an ophthalmologist, sir. Your ocular examination procedures are most unscientific.”
To Spock’s profound relief, the ploy was effective: Kirk laughed. “Guess I’d better keep my day job, then. Probably just as well.” Scanning their surroundings, he added, “You know - it’s starting to get kind of dark in here. We’d better get our fire going and start dinner, don’t you think?”
Spock was more than glad to agree.
Two hours later, both the men were experiencing the predictable effect of a full stomach and a fire. Eyes closed and snugly cocooned within his sleeping bag, Spock heard Kirk give a huge yawn. “This is nice,” said a muffled voice. “Very nice. Admit I picked the perfect camping spot."
“Indeed, sir.” Spock’s own voice was drowsy.
“This is gonna be the best shore leave ever,” Kirk murmured. “You wait – we’ll come back so relaxed that Bones won’t even recognize us.”
Spock opened his mouth to reply, but a soft snore beside him let him know that it was not necessary. Feeling a most un-Vulcan surge of contentment, he burrowed more deeply into his sleeping bag. Tomorrow, Jim would doubtless wish to climb to the top of this mountain. It would therefore be logical to rest, in preparation for the hike. That brief reflection aside, Spock relinquished all other thoughts and fell instantly into a deep, dreamless sleep.
“Hey, c’mon – wake up. Spock. Wake up.” The voice was persistent, in spite of Spock’s attempt to shut his ears to it. It was annoyingly persistent, in fact, especially when it began to be accompanied by shaking. Spock kept his eyes shut and frowned as he attempted to trace the source of the irritation, finally coming to an uncharacteristically fuzzy realization that the jiggling occurred at his left shoulder.
From a hand placed upon his left shoulder.
A low growl of anger and alarm came from deep within Spock’s throat. His eyes flew open; simultaneously, he reached out and captured the offending hand in his own, clamping his strong fingers around its wrist in a grip of iron.
His answer was a yelp of pain.
“Christ, Spock – let loose! You’re hurting me!”
The Vulcan stared up at the source of the voice, squinting his eyes against the glimmering reflected light of the cavern. For an instant, he saw nothing but a silhouette, blurred and elusive, fuzzily outlined. A wave of near panic swept over him: there was something terribly wrong, something indefinably poisonous in the way the world appeared to be slanting and spinning, in the way the light seemed to scatter and coalesce. There was something wrong, and it was familiar – why could he not name it? Then the voice spoke again, through gritted teeth, but with a calmer tone. “If you could let go of my wrist, that would be good. You’re holding on a little bit too tight.”
Jim. Spock’s eyes widened as he looked down to see his captain’s wrist caught in his hand in a grip that must indeed have been excruciating. Instantly, he released it, and looked up, horrified, into Jim’s golden eyes. “Forgive me,” he whispered.
Kirk grimaced and rubbed his wrist. “Don’t worry about it,” he told the Vulcan with a wry smile. “It’s my own fault for touching you like that - I should have known better.” Suddenly becoming aware of the stricken look upon Spock’s face, he peered down at his friend with concern. “What’s wrong?”
That question again - the one that crumbled shields. Spock shut his eyes and swallowed against a rising swell of nausea, and of something else – something he could not put a name to, perhaps did not wish to name. Struggling to a sitting position, he forced himself to think, aware all the time that a pair of worried amber eyes were focused upon him, waiting for an answer.
What was wrong? As dispassionately as possible, he took an inventory of himself and his symptoms. Dizziness. Nausea. Intolerance of light, possibly as a result of the fever that he was fairly certain that he possessed. A pounding head. A pounding heart. With an odd sort of relief, Spock put a name to what was wrong. He was ill. He simply hadn’t recognized it because he almost never ailed. But they had a well-equipped medical kit, thanks to Dr. McCoy’s near-paranoid concern for their welfare. Certainly there would be something in it that would relieve the symptoms, probably even cure them. People became ill all the time, and nearly as frequently recovered. This was not, therefore, a matter of extreme concern. He turned his head to inform Kirk.
But at the same instant, Jim leaned forward, and put his hand on the Vulcan’s arm. “Spock?”
Spock’s response to the touch was nearly cataclysmic. He felt the blood rush into his face and pound away inside his ears, his heart lurch within his side. Horrified, he stared at Jim’s face, noting as he always did the beauty of the human’s eyes, and skin… of his lush, enthralling lips. Spock invariably responded in one shameful way or another to all of the aspects of that beloved, tormenting countenance. Sometimes the reaction consisted of a simple surge of tenderness or protectiveness, which was easily masked if not controlled. Sometimes the response consisted of something more disgraceful yet, far less easily concealed: sexual desire, a bittersweet yearning to touch and to join.
But this – this sudden fierce engorgement of his penis, this overwhelming need to possess, to take, to plunder – this was different. It was different, but it was all too familiar. Spock inventoried the rest of his symptoms. Disorientation. Inability to think clearly. Lust. He looked down at the hand placed so trustingly upon his arm. “No,” he whispered.
Kirk instantly let go of the Vulcan, interpreting Spock’s denial as unwillingness to be touched. “Sorry,” he murmured.
Dark horrified eyes met his. “No,” Spock said again.
Kirk leaned forward again but refrained from touching this time. “Tell me,” he demanded. “Tell me what it is, and we’ll fix it. I can’t help you if I don’t know.”
It was imperative that he think, that he form a course of action that would ensure Jim’s safety before this thing consumed him. Think - think quickly, Spock ordered himself. What is the logical thing to do?
His voice when it finally passed his lips was harsh but surprisingly coherent. “We must leave here - separately. I shall go first. Make note of my direction and allow me to get out of your sight. Then, go in another direction and walk as long as you can endure. Take both the tricorders, and be certain to conceal your path.” He shivered; the fever was progressing much more rapidly this time. In truth, the idea of Jim leaving him also caused the shudder – every element of the Vulcan’s enflamed body rebelled against the idea. All the more reason, he thought with sick fear, to get away from him while I can still force myself to do it.
“What the hell are you talking about?” The hazel eyes were starting to snap in anger. “What is wrong with you? Tell me – now!”
Spock trembled again and noted with disgust that his hands were starting to shake – just like they had the last time. He licked his lips and said haltingly, “I believe… no - that is not accurate. I know. I- I know. It is Pon Farr.”
“Pon Farr? But that’s not possible. You just…”
“Yes,” Spock interrupted, through clenched teeth. “I am aware. Just thirteen days ago.”
Jim studied the face of his friend closely. “But…you told me it’s a seven year cycle. Are you sure?”
The eyes that turned to him were anguished, full of self-recrimination. “I assumed it was ended. But I should not have assumed anything. There are so many elements that made the situation unique and therefore unpredictable. That I am half human. That I did not mate. That I survived. That it was you who - ” Spock shut his eyes, unable to go on. Finally, he continued, so quietly that Kirk had to crane forward to hear, “There is no mistake. Forgive me, Jim.”
“I can’t forgive you for something that isn’t your fault in the first place.”
The compassion that flowed like a warm river from the human nearly undid him – his control was alarmingly tenuous. Time must indeed be short, Spock reflected, but he still squandered a tiny moment of it in studying every line and curve of the human’s face. He was not deceived about the agony he would face as the Plak-tow consumed him. It was an unenviable fate, to be devoured by the fever, by the flames of endless, fatal want… and to be alone, with no one to quench the fire or even to witness the end when it came. He would not deny himself this tiny comfort to take away with him: the memory of this beautiful man, whom he loved.
And whom he desired, already, beyond all reason – and nearly beyond all control.
Frightened by that truth, Spock said, “I must leave - now. Please remember what I told you, about taking the tricorders and about concealment. I fear that once I –”
“No.” Jim’s reply was calm and supremely determined.
“I said, ‘No’. You’re not going anywhere, and neither am I. And if you try to leave, I’ll find you.” Kirk’s mouth was set in a straight, stubborn line; his tone of voice indicated that he would brook no argument. Spock’s heart sank.
“You do not understand --”
“Really?” For once Kirk’s expression, usually so open and transparent, was unreadable. “Let’s review the situation. You’re in Pon Farr. The Enterprise is out of range. If you don’t mate soon, you’ll die. And we are the only two people on the planet.” He looked directly into Spock’s eyes and said, as serenely as any Vulcan could hope to do, “What part of the circumstances do you think I don’t understand?”
For a long moment, Spock could only gape wordlessly at his captain. It sounded as if Jim were offering… But humans, Jim included, so often said one thing, and meant something entirely different. This must be the case now. It must. And yet what other interpretation could there be? The Vulcan struggled to rally his befuddled thoughts, to try to make sense of his captain’s words.
Kirk saw his agonized confusion, and said slowly, “Would it help if I told you that I’ve thought about it already?”
Spock shook his head slightly in an attempt to clear it. “Thought about…?”
“Thought about what it would be like to have sex with you. I’m attracted to you, and I’ve already thought about it – fantasized about it, to be honest. So it’s not like we’d be doing something I didn’t want to do.”
A sharp ache in his groin, portent of the agony to come, seized Spock when he heard Kirk’s words. The thought of Jim splayed out willingly - even eagerly - before him. Spreading himself. Urging Spock to take him. Offering his beautiful, golden, cooling flesh as balm to the Plak-tow’s fires. And…
…Jim lifeless in Spock’s arms, torn and bleeding - victim once again to the Pon Farr, to the base, unbridled, shameful madness that soon would be all that remained of Spock. “No,” Spock half shouted, to banish the thought.
Kirk was unmoved. “You don’t believe me?”
“I believe,” Spock replied with some bitterness, “that you would say or do anything if you thought it would save me.”
Kirk replied slowly, “You know, you’re absolutely right. There is nothing I would not do to prevent you from dying – now or ever.” He took Spock by the shoulders, heedless of the Vulcan’s attempt to draw away. “This is my choice, and I make it freely. Let me help you through this.”
Spock bowed his head. “You cannot know what you say.” He looked up at his captain, eyes dark with dread. “There would be no control – do you not understand? Once the fever and the madness came upon me, I would have no thought for your safety. I might harm you. I – I might even kill you. I cannot allow it.”
Spock saw a tiny flicker of fear in Jim’s eyes at these words, and he knew that for a horrible instant his captain was back on Vulcan, the ahn-woon wrapped mercilessly about his neck. But the flicker was gone nearly as soon as Spock detected it, and when Kirk spoke, it was with his usual confident determination. “You won’t hurt me.”
“How can you say that? After the Kal-if-fee…”
“That was different. I was your challenger then - this time, I’ll be your mate. I know you won’t hurt me – I trust you. As for what you will and will not allow, I’m afraid your body is going to make that decision for you.” Kirk smiled sadly. “I know you don’t want any of this, and I’m sorry it has to be this way. But when it’s all over, I promise you – I’ll never speak of it again. All I ask is that you take what I offer you today, and that you live to see tomorrow.”
Spock opened his mouth to reply, but all that came out was a low moan as a spasm claimed his body, ending in an uncontrollable shiver. The fever. It had increased much more rapidly than normal. Bleakly, Spock realized that even if he attempted to leave the cavern now, he would not get far. He had delayed, and now the choice had been made for him. He gritted his teeth as another tremor shook him.
Concerned, Kirk touched his palm to Spock’s forehead. “You are way too hot, even for you,” he told the Vulcan. “Take off your nightclothes.”
“No argument. Get rid of everything but your briefs, and lie on top of your sleeping bag. I’ll be right back.”
Dully, Spock obeyed, and waited passively for Kirk to return to his side.
When Jim came back, he brought with him a bowl of water and a cloth. “Pretty smart of us to choose a place that has running water,” he told Spock with false cheerfulness as he ran the cool cloth over the Vulcan’s face and then his chest. “How’s that feel?”
“Better,” Spock whispered, eyes closed. He did not dare look at his captain for fear that he would grab him and throw himself upon the human then and there. He was painfully aware of Kirk’s scent, his touch, his nearness. He clutched at the sleeping bag beneath him and twisted his fingers into the cloth as another tremor shook him, left him gasping for air.
Kirk leaned over him, his eyes worried. “I hate to leave you, but I need to make some preparations. It’ll just take me a few minutes – will you be O.K?”
“Yes,” Spock gasped, though every fiber of his being urged him to say “no.” He gripped the sleeping bag more tightly; it had become his only anchor in a world slipping madly out of control.
“All right,” Kirk said softly. “I’m going to gather some firewood, in case I’m… ah… not able to later. I won’t go far.”
Spock watched as Kirk walked over to the cavern entrance and slid into it. He was strong for a human, but Spock knew he would be no match for Vulcan force. He shivered again and bit back a cry of pain. He had not left when he should have – when he was still capable – and because of that inexcusable weakness it was unavoidable that Kirk would be swept up into this madness, whether he ultimately wished it or not. “I trust you,” Kirk had said. Spock treasured that trust above anything else; he would not betray it. He must find a way to ensure Jim’s safety. He lay on his sleeping bag, watching the crystals and the sunlight swirl and sparkle all around him… and tried to force his fevered brain to think.
Kirk made three trips out the cavern’s opening, each time returning laden with firewood. Finally, he announced, “That should do it. We still have a little left from last night, anyway. Now for the next order of business.”
Spock watched silently as his captain got out the medikit Dr. McCoy had sent with them and searched through it systematically. Finally, Jim chuckled and said, “Well, I’ll be damned. I don’t know whether to commend him or kick him.” He walked over to Spock with an amused smile on his lips and held out his hand. “Take a look at this: lubricant, courtesy of Bones. Nothing with any kind of medical use, mind you - it’s just plain old slippery stuff. Do you think he –” Kirk broke off the thought as he realized that Spock was not listening to him, but was staring at him intently. “What is it?”
“I need… I need you to do something for me,” Spock said, with some effort.
Kirk dropped to his knees beside the Vulcan. “Name it.”
“I need you to go outside the cavern. On the slope… we climbed last - the vines…”
“Vines. Yes, I saw them. What about them?”
“You must go out and cut some of them… bring them back here.”
“I think that they are strong enough so that if you bind me with them, they will hold.”
Kirk’s eyes widened. “What? You mean you want me to tie you up? Forget it.”
“Do this for me, I beg you. I- I cannot bear the thought of what will come, unless I know you will be safe.” He drew his breath in sharply and bit his lip against a tremor of pain. “Give me your word. Please.”
Kirk stared helplessly at the Vulcan, unwilling to agree, but unwilling to add to Spock’s torment by refusing. “All right,” he finally said, reluctantly. “I’ll do it, if you think it will ease your mind. But if you ask me, it’s the worst idea you’ve ever had.”
It did not take Kirk long to come back with a supply of vines looped over his shoulder. At Spock’s direction, and scowling the whole time, he bound the Vulcan’s ankles together. With a long reproachful look, he took his friend’s hands and began to loop the remaining vine around his wrists. “No,” Spock whispered. “Behind my back. Otherwise, I shall be able to use my teeth to free myself.”
“I hate this, I hate this, I hate this,” Kirk muttered viciously as he complied.
But when he was finished, Spock lay back and looked up at him with some measure of peace apparent on his face. “Now,” he said, “whatever happens is in your hands. And nothing can occur that you do not agree to.”
“My friend,” Kirk said, stroking the Vulcan’s silky hair affectionately, his eyes suddenly bright with unshed tears. “How can you worry so much about me, when you’re the one who’s suffering? I wish I could spare you all of this. I would do anything, if only I could.”
“I know that,” Spock said quietly. “What you have offered me… I shall never be able to –”
“Don’t say it,” Kirk told him. “It’s not like that. I want to do this.”
Spock shut his eyes, unable to believe that anyone would welcome the madness of the Plak-tow.
“So, what happens next?” Kirk finally asked. “Uh, I guess I mean: when does it happen?”
Spock had already decided that he was going to try to meditate away the Pon Farr’s effects. Granted, he was not aware of anyone other than the Masters of Gol who had ever done this successfully. But so far none of this had gone according to the norm; there was therefore a slim chance, and he would take it. He said to Jim, “I shall rest for a time. If… when I need you, I shall call you. Please do not approach me until then.”
“All right,” Kirk said. “I’ll be right here - waiting.”
Spock quickly found out that it was like trying to stop a raging flood with a sponge. He ran through every mind rule, every technique of control that he had depended upon daily since he was a child, only to find himself ever more tormented, ever more consumed. In less than an hour, he was twisting spasmodically about on the cavern floor, fighting against his bonds, half moaning, half sobbing, shuddering in anguish.
Kirk kept a silent vigil nearby, remaining true to his word to wait, but flinching every time Spock cried out.
Finally, the Vulcan could bear it no longer. Hating himself for his weakness, he took a deep breath and said, “T’hy’la… t’hy’la. Jim – I- I need…”
In an instant, a soothing hand was pressed against his brow and then trailed down to rest gently against his cheek. “Yes,” Jim answered. “Yes - I’m here.”
Cool human hands slid across his shoulders and his chest, found the waistband of his briefs, lifted and tugged. Spock whimpered as his straining erection sprang free, and then groaned as the hands began to stroke him, spreading slickness along the full hard length of him. Preparing him… Jim was preparing him. That knowledge alone almost unraveled Spock; he struggled impatiently against his restraints and growled with rage as they held fast, crazed to take hold of Jim, to pierce him, to claim him.
“Soon, I promise. Soon,” Kirk assured him, as began to undress himself. Even in the thick haze of the blood fever, Spock saw that his captain’s hands were shaking, and he felt a sick surge of self-loathing at the knowledge that Jim was afraid of what was to come. But then Kirk was naked, bending over him, straddling him, and all was swept away but the scent and the feel and the sight of his t’hy’la, his golden, beautiful salvation.
Jim leaned forward and reached around to grasp the Vulcan’s cock in his hand. When Spock felt the head of his penis shoved up against Kirk’s tight opening, he arched up off the sleeping bag, impatient and desperate, sobbing with frustration because his hands were bound behind him. He needed, he burned… and he was helpless. “It’s all right,” Jim crooned as he pushed himself steadily down upon the rigid shaft, his own erection bobbing stiffly in front of him. “It’s all right.” With a little grunt of pain, he worked the head of Spock’s cock inside of him, pausing to draw a ragged breath as his muscles gradually stretched to accommodate the bulk of it. Gazing steadily into the Vulcan’s unfocused eyes, he bit his lip and resolutely shoved himself down, encasing the whole of Spock’s hard sex within him.
Spock came totally unhinged.
Crying and screaming, gasping out incoherent fragments in Vulcan, he ejaculated almost instantly, filling Jim to overflowing with thick hot semen. But the climax brought with it no relief: Spock remained swollen and unsatisfied within his human sheath, his want as keen as it had been from the beginning. Jim frowned at Spock’s whimpers of frustration and rocked forward on his knees and then slid himself back again. Forward again, and back. Once more – and Spock convulsed beneath him and within him, shooting his seed out again.
It was not enough, not nearly enough.
The Plak-tow was ruthless - it demanded all: a total claiming, a complete possession. Spock stared up unseeingly and strained against his tethers, causing the cords of his neck to stand out with the effort. The noises that came from his throat were those of a suffering beast; Kirk listened in dismay, and watched as tears slid from the corners of Spock’s eyes and dampened the sleeping bag beneath.
“This is crazy,” Kirk finally muttered, and pulled himself off from the Vulcan, ignoring the cry of protest that followed. “You’re getting no pleasure from this – no relief even. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” He rolled away from Spock and searched on the cavern floor beside them until he found the medikit. Opening it up, he pulled out a scalpel. He held it up before Spock and said, “Those stupid vines are going. Now.”
“No…” Spock managed to gasp, though his struggles against the restraints belied his denial.
“Shut up,” Kirk muttered, as he sliced away at the sinewy green cords that held Spock’s feet. “I’ve never done anything halfway in my life, and I’m sure as hell not going to start now.” Having freed Spock’s feet, he moved to his friend’s side. “Not with anything this important,” he said as he began to sever the bindings around Spock’s wrists. “Not with you.”
There was a rustle as the loop of vine fell away onto the ground.
Spock made a muffled sound of mingled relief and triumph, twisted around with inhuman swiftness and filled his liberated hands with as much of Jim as he could grasp. It was like embracing an oasis, to feel Kirk’s skin beneath his hands and body. Hands trembling with eagerness, he ran his fingers over its cool curves and planes, eyes half shut in lust. He explored and tormented and tasted the exquisite flesh, rubbed his own body all along it, inflamed himself and inflamed Kirk until their need was equal. Finally, with a low growl, he shoved the human onto his stomach and fell upon him, plunging into his taut opening and thrusting savagely into him until his semen spurted forth once again. Breathing harshly against Jim’s neck, he reached beneath Kirk and took him in his hand, milking him until he too arched and moaned and trembled and finally covered Spock’s fingers with slippery cum.
In years to come, Spock was never able to recall the entirety of those frenzied hours inside the crystal-studded cavern. The madness of the Plak-tow stole much from him, but it was not completely merciless: small fragments, sharply focused, remained forever within Spock’s mind.
There was Kirk’s mouth, filled beyond capacity with the Vulcan’s cock, conspiring with lips and teeth and tongue to bring Spock to the brink of madness; causing him to twist his fingers in Kirk’s hair and cry out shamelessly as he emptied himself into the human’s cool throat.
There were Kirk’s hands, fingers tightly wrapped around Spock’s long sex – eliciting, demanding, and healing. Alternately soothing him with pure, cleansing water… and inflaming him with sure, insistent strokes.
There was Kirk’s body, held fiercely within Spock’s arms - an Eden of pleasure and delight, flushed and responsive and nearly unbearably beautiful.
There was Kirk’s tight, moist tunnel.
Ah! That was a place more magical, more sublime, than any world Spock had ever explored. He could not bury himself within his t’hy’la deeply enough, or often enough. The sensation of filling the human with his hard flesh and his seed was delight in and of itself. But the primal joy of witnessing what it did to Jim as he drove into him – the passion on his face and the wild sounds from his mouth – that was beyond delight, beyond any pleasure, in truth, that Spock had ever known.
He lost track of the number of times he took Kirk that way, or the number of hours that passed before the Plak-tow finally burned itself out. But when it and the madness were gone from him, he could not keep himself from pulling the exhausted human to him and entering him once again... for the last time, he thought to himself, with a sharp feeling of loss. Slowly thrusting into Kirk, he took the human’s face in his hands and kissed him on the mouth, a kiss full of love and gratitude, tempered with sorrow. Kirk smiled softly and wrapped his arms around Spock’s back, brushed his lips against the Vulcan’s neck. Murmured something incomprehensible against his skin.
Overcome with fierce tenderness, Spock clasped Jim to him tightly. “T’hy’la,” he whispered, his voice thick with his approaching orgasm and with grief. “My rau-nol. I- I cherish thee.” With that, he came - a sweet, gentle release, untainted with the fire of the Plak-tow.
Afterwards, as he held the sleeping Kirk in his arms, Spock stared upwards into the darkness and reflected upon the words: “When it’s over, I’ll never speak of it again.” Indeed, the day of madness was over, and Spock would live to see tomorrow. That is what Jim had given him: his life. It was a great gift - a most generous gift. It is enough, Spock told himself sternly. It is enough. He fell into an exhausted slumber, his brow furrowed and his arms wrapped possessively around Kirk.
In spite of all of Spock’s fears about Kirk’s safety, it was the human who rose first, started the fire and bathed. Still dripping from the cool waters of the pool, he stood over the sleeping Vulcan for some time and studied his friend’s face, a sad little smile on his own lips. Finally, he knelt down and called out softly. “Spock. Wake up.”
Spock stirred slowly and reached instinctively for Kirk. When his arms found nothing, he jolted awake, eyes widened in alarm. “Jim.”
“Right here,” Kirk answered. “Everything’s O.K.”
Spock struggled to a sitting position, blinking in confusion. The cavern was almost totally dark, lighted only by the flickering campfire. How much time had passed? He frowned as he tried to estimate, concerned that his internal clock did not seem to be working the way that it should.
“We slept through all of last evening and most of the night,” Kirk informed him, as if reading his mind. “I figure it’s about half an hour until dawn.” He leaned forward, studying his friend’s face closely. “Are you… are you all right now?”
As the chaotic memories of the past hours rushed back, Spock gazed into the dark worried eyes that were focused upon him. With dismay, he realized that he still felt the familiar thrill of desire that he always felt for Kirk whenever the human was within reach. It would have been so much better if that feeling, like the madness, had been burned away in the Plak-tow’s consuming flame. Better and easier for both of us, he thought, resisting the urge to reach out and smooth Kirk’s unruly damp hair into place. He swallowed, not trusting his voice. “I am well,” he finally managed to say. “And you – you are unhurt?”
Kirk grimaced at Spock’s anxious expression. “I’m fine,” he said firmly. “In spite of all of your theories about me being made out of porcelain, I’m just fine.”
Spock scanned Kirk’s bare torso, eyes narrowing as he beheld an angry-looking bruise across his friend’s left ribcage and what looked suspiciously like teeth marks along his neck. He reached out to touch the latter, but Kirk grabbed his wrist. “Stop,” he ordered gruffly. “I told you – everything is all right. No injuries on my part – no regrets on yours.” Releasing Spock’s hand, he stood up and said with forced casualness, “Don’t you want to get cleaned up? The water’s cooler than you’ll like, but you can towel off in front of the fire when you’re done.”
Spock automatically reached up to take the hand that his captain offered him and allowed Kirk to assist him to his feet. With disgust, he found that he was shaking. Aftereffects of the Pon Farr? Or proximity to Kirk? He could not tell which, but in either case his weakness was most distressing.
“I’ll help you,” Kirk offered, seeing Spock’s state.
“I know you can,” Kirk interrupted. He looked up at Spock, his face disturbingly close, his expression as unreadable as it had been the morning before. “But let me help you. Please.”
It was little enough to ask, Spock thought with a pang as he contemplated what Jim had done for him just a few short hours earlier. He lowered his head slightly in assent and silently allowed Kirk to lead him to the edge of the pool and assist him into the water. As he entered the chilly foam, he began to shudder in earnest; he gritted his teeth to keep them from chattering.
“I know,” Kirk murmured sympathetically. “It’s too cold, even for me. I promise I’ll hurry.” As good as his word, he took soap and a cloth that he’d left waiting on a rock nearby and began very efficiently to work up lather.
Spock shut his eyes against the instinctive reaction he feared would soon come: it was the same soap Kirk always used, the one that smelled like Earth’s forests and of its sunshine. How many times had he caught a faint scent of it on the bridge of the Enterprise and had to turn away to hide the sharp, secret longing that it evoked in him? How many hours had he spent surreptitiously drinking it in, along with Kirk’s intoxicating presence itself, over a chess game? Jim could not know of the self-tormenting exercise he’d devised for himself during those evenings, how he would inhale deeply and allow his own physical response to overtake him. He would become instantly, effortlessly erect. Then he would employ all of his Vulcan devices to systematically quell the reaction, just to prove to himself that he could master it. He could control it.
But not, he thought grimly, now. Not with Jim’s hands upon him massaging and kneading, not with the lathery, fragrant soap sliding across his chest and back, not with his t’hy’la standing beside him, naked and beautiful and so treacherously close. Even the chill of the water did not help: with a paradoxical combination of resignation and mortification, Spock felt himself grow hard beneath Kirk’s ministrations. He could not bear to open his eyes and face Jim’s reaction, but he felt the human pause for half a heartbeat. He braced himself, but Jim only wrung the cloth out over Spock several times to rinse away the soap, and said, “O.K. All finished. Let’s get you over to the fire and towel you off before you freeze to death.”
Spock came with Kirk without protest, thankful that the ordeal was soon to be ended. However, when he started to take the towel from his captain, Jim shook his head and clutched it tightly. “I’ll do it. You just stand as close to the fire as you can, and I’ll have you dry in no time.” Spock knew it would do no good to argue, so he stood passively by the fire, eyes averted, and allowed Kirk to dry him. The heat of the blaze and the warm towel upon his skin felt wonderful, but there was a decided disadvantage: both caused Spock’s erection to grow ever more insistent. By the time Jim had dried the Vulcan’s upper body and was working his way down, Spock’s cock was standing out just as stiffly as it had during the madness of the day before, and he had to bite his lip to keep from moaning.
Kirk finally stopped and looked up at Spock, uncertainty in his eyes. “You burn…still?”
Spock did not know how to answer. Indeed, he still burned, although the Pon Farr was past. He shook his head, his cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
“I see,” said Kirk quietly. He looked at Spock for what seemed to be an eternity, and then said, very softly, “Come with me.”
“Come.” Taking the Vulcan by the hand, Jim pulled him gently toward their sleeping area, guiding him until they stood beside Kirk’s neatly laid out sleeping bag. “Lie down,” he directed.
“I –” Spock began, but Jim just looked at him expectantly, and the words died in his throat. Slowly, without taking his eyes from Jim’s face, he obediently sat down upon the sleeping bag and gazed up at Kirk as if in a trance, waiting to see what would follow.
Jim smiled faintly. Sitting down beside Spock, he pushed gently against his friend’s shoulders. “Lie down,” he prompted again. “All the way down.” He waited until Spock obeyed, and then stretched out beside the Vulcan with a little sigh. “That’s better,” he said. “Now, we’ll see what can be done.” He leaned forward and kissed Spock slowly and gently on the lips, pausing when he heard Spock respond with a little whimper, and then deepening the kiss until his tongue slipped into Spock’s mouth. Spock felt his body instantly ignite; opening his mouth readily under the kiss, he ran his hands over the human’s muscular back and down to the rounded curves of his ass.
Without breaking the kiss, Jim reached down and took Spock’s long swollen cock in his hand, stroking it expertly until its head glistened with precum and Spock started to writhe on the sleeping bag, moaning his need and desire into Kirk’s mouth. Finally, Kirk pulled away. Looking intently at Spock, he gently caressed the Vulcan’s angular cheek before squirming down beside him until his mouth was level with Spock’s engorged sex. Grasping the rigid shaft in his hand, he took the tip of it just past his lips and flicked his tongue over it, causing Spock to gasp out his pleasure and thrust impatiently into Jim’s mouth.
Jim accepted him eagerly, his tongue slipping sensuously along the underside of the Vulcan’s penis, his mouth sliding down to take in the whole hard length of him. Spock felt Kirk’s breath against his skin, felt Kirk’s tongue move upon him, felt the heat build within his belly and his groin. What sort of outlandish alchemy did this human work upon him, that he could turn Vulcan coolness and control to such sudden conflagration? Spock did not know, and he did not care: all that mattered was Kirk’s mouth and the glorious, magnificent things that it was doing to him.
And it was glorious; it was magnificent. His pulse hammered in his neck and in his groin as Kirk’s mouth blazed a delightful, excruciating trail along his swollen shaft. Teeth gently teased at his inflamed skin; a moist, questing tongue both soothed and excited his burning flesh. Jim’s lips encased him snugly, slid over him, captured him and teased at him. Spock soon found himself breathless and thrashing beneath the assault, the fire building steadily within him as Jim’s tongue glided rhythmically over him, until with a wild, frantic thrust, he spilled his seed into the moist confines of his t’hy’la’s mouth.
Spock lay passively in the hazy early morning light of the cavern as Jim gently sucked and lapped away every last bit of cum from his softening cock. Impossible, he thought to himself, that I existed before I knew this pleasure. As soon as that thought flitted across his mind, another came on its heels: Impossible to exist without it, once having known it. A chill swept over him; resolutely, he resisted the urge to grab Kirk and pull him close.
Jim nuzzled at the hollow of the Vulcan’s narrow hip. “Mmmm,” he purred. “For someone who’s supposed to be so unemotional and logical, you’re a pretty passionate man. I wonder if I’ll be able to keep you satisfied.”
“Keep me satisfied,” Spock repeated softly. “You- you wish this to continue?”
Jim looked up at him, his expression stricken. “My God,” he whispered slowly. “What am I saying?” He sat up and stared down at the Vulcan, his eyes troubled. “I- I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry.”
Spock regarded him silently for a moment, then sat up in one graceful motion and said to his captain, “I must confess, I do not fully understand the reason for your distress, or why you believe an apology is in order.”
Jim gave a little groan and hid his face in his hands. Finally, he shook his head and said slowly, “I’m… disgusted with myself. I’ve never made a promise to you that I haven’t kept… but I’m having a very hard time keeping one now.”
“Which promise is causing you difficulty?”
Kirk looked away. “I told you,” he whispered, “that I would never speak of what happened between us, once it was over.” He turned back to Spock; the yearning that filled his mesmerizing eyes made Spock’s heart stop. “That’s the promise that’s - that’s the problem for me.”
He gestured toward the portrait of himself on the wall of the cavern. “Do you know,” he said slowly, “I can’t believe you drew that less than two days ago. I thought then that it was a perfect likeness. But now I don’t recognize that person at all. That person was playful, happy – glad to be alive, overjoyed to be here with you. But today…”
“No.” Jim turned on him, his eyes flashing. “Don’t say it. This is not your problem. It’s mine. You didn’t ask for any of this. Not what happened yesterday – not what I pushed on you today. I just did exactly what I told both you and myself I wouldn’t do. I- I acted as if I have the right to touch you, to make love to you anytime I want. All because of yesterday. All because of an accident of biology and proximity.”
“You do have the right,” Spock said. His voice was calm, but his heart was beginning to hammer in his side.
Kirk gave a bitter laugh. “And what do you think gives me that right? That you didn’t say ‘no’ to me? How could you? I know you – you wouldn’t deny me anything to begin with, even if it was the last thing you wanted to do. And now – after yesterday – you think you’re obligated to me. That’s not what I want.”
Spock leaned over and touched Jim’s face gently. “It is not that way,” he said softly. “You have the right. You have always had the right. You are my t’hy’la.”
Kirk frowned. “T’hy’la. You called me that yesterday, but I didn’t know what it meant.”
“T’hy’la can mean many things. Brother. One-who-is-closer-than-brother. Lover. To me, however, it means The One. The One who completes, the most essential part of one’s existence. You are T’hy’la to me. You were before yesterday – you shall be always.”
“Are you saying,” Kirk said slowly, “that you still want me? Even without the Pon Farr?”
Spock lifted an ironic eyebrow. “Could you not tell that this morning?”
“You mean just now? I thought… I thought it was just some kind of aftereffect.”
Spock’s dark eyes glinted with dry amusement. “To an extent, you were correct. It was an aftereffect of having my beautiful naked t’hy’la soap me and towel me dry.”
“Ohhhh.” Jim’s grin was brilliant with sudden understanding and relief as he put his arms around Spock and drew him close. “Well then - that’s different. Thank God.” There was a long silence as Jim held his Vulcan to him, during which Spock quietly reveled in the sensation of the warm, comforting embrace and the same familiar, clean scent of Kirk that had caused him so much trouble, just a short time earlier. Finally: “Spock?”
“There was something else you called me yesterday. I’ve been trying to remember it… ‘Rau’ something.”
“Rau-nol,” Spock said promptly.
“Rau-nol. Yes, that’s it. What’s it mean?”
Spock drew back and regarded Kirk gravely. “Rau-nol means shelter – or more precisely, refuge.”
“Like this cavern,” Jim said.
“Very much like this cavern,” Spock replied. “A place of beauty and light. A place of magic, of endless fascination. A place to turn to in a storm.” Spock’s dark eyes were soft and infinitely warm. “You asked me, before the madness struck me, what I dreamed of finding. It seems that we both wished for and found essentially the same thing. For you, this cavern – indeed a magnificent place. But I found a refuge more beautiful yet.” He leaned forward and kissed Kirk gently. “I wish to dwell in it forever. I shall not leave it, unless you cast me out.”
“Cast you out? I don’t think so!” Jim took Spock’s face in his hands and returned the kiss, letting his lips linger against the Vulcan’s mouth as he murmured, “Not in exactly forever and a half.” He smiled as Spock automatically pulled him close, and added, “Give or take an eon or so.”
He leaned his head against Spock’s shoulder and regarded their portraits thoughtfully. Finally, he sighed. “Two more days,” he said wistfully, “until the Enterprise picks us up.” He turned to the Vulcan, his expression pensive. “Don’t you kind of envy that pair up on the wall? They get to stay here, together, surrounded by all this loveliness, without a care in the world. Whereas you and I are going to have to go back and face all of the usual uncertainties and dangers of life… and what’s happened between us here.” He studied Spock, his smile tinged with apprehension. “We’ve got a lot to sort out,” he told his friend. “Whether and what to tell the crew, how to handle what we now know we are to each other…” He shook his head. “Part of me wishes it could always be new and uncomplicated, just like this right now.”
Spock’s eyebrow rose slightly and he cocked his head, considering Jim’s words. Then he said, in a serious tone belied by the twinkle in his eyes, “Indeed. We shall doubtless contend with much in the future, just as we have in the past. But of course, I have no fear.”
Jim rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I know: because you’re a Vulcan.”
“No. Rather, because I chose my rau-nol wisely.” He leaned forward and claimed Jim’s lips in a long kiss. “Unlike your cave, my refuge is portable.” Wrapping his arms around his lover, he said, “When we return to the Enterprise, I shall of course be bringing it with me. And when a storm next comes…”
“…You’ll turn to it.” Spock could hear the smile in Jim’s voice.
“Yes,” he agreed. “I shall turn to it. I shall gaze upon its beauty. And then… I shall enter it.” His lips curved in an almost-smile. “I do not believe that any storm will reach me there.”
“Mmm. Not if I have anything to say about it. But… there’s just one thing.”
“What is it?”
Jim grinned, causing Spock’s heart to respond with a most illogical flutter. “Don’t wait for a storm.” He reached up and started to pull his first officer down to the ground with him. “You can come in - anytime.”