Summary: Spock relates an ancient Vulcan myth.
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He nearly died.
I remember the rebellion breaking out in the street, his face pale with shock, his blood spreading out across the front of his uniform as I caught him and pulled him out of the line of fire. I remember the whine of the transporter, running with him in my arms to sickbay, and that look on Doctor McCoy’s face - the one that told me it was better not to ask.
I remember going – I admit with some reluctance - to my duty on the bridge, scanning to locate the mediators who still remained on the planet’s surface so that we could beam them to safety. I remember, finally, the call from Doctor McCoy that told me Jim was conscious and that he would live.
He nearly died, and I remember every detail.
What I do not remember - what I cannot seem to recall at all - is the precise moment when that phrase “He nearly died” became unalterably translated in my mind to “I almost lost him.” And yet I say it again now: I almost lost him. And once again I feel the same infinite coldness that always fills me whenever I contemplate a universe that does not have James Kirk in it.
He nearly died. I almost lost him.
Five days after the uprising that almost took Jim Kirk’s life, I was working in my quarters attempting to complete the science reports that I had started before the rebellion on the planet below. The duties of command had superseded my duties as science officer while the revolt had been taking place, but now the political situation on the planet below was more stable, and the mediators had returned to try to establish peace. I therefore had been able to steal a few hours away from the command chair. I am not accustomed to being behind in my work, and I therefore was determined that the reports all would be completed before I slept that night. I was grateful for the solitude I found in my quarters.
Nevertheless, when the captain hailed me I answered promptly. “Spock here.”
“Spock, I’m bored. Are you busy?”
I took a moment to contemplate the content of this query, and quickly reached the conclusion that the situation did not call for a Vulcan’s literal interpretation. In this case, the key word “bored” told me all I needed to know about what the captain was asking: not if I were busy, but if I would keep him company. Doctor McCoy had finally released Jim from sickbay, but had ordered him to bed rest for a week. After a vigorous protest, during which McCoy had to apply a series of threats ranging from numerous painful treatments to declaring Jim unfit for command, Jim had finally obeyed. Jim is an excellent starship captain, but I calculate that he would rank in the bottom one percent in the ability to rest, either physically or mentally.
“No, I am not busy, Captain. Would you like a game of chess?”
“That sounds great. I’ll let you set the board up when you get here.”
I am not always adept at reading the emotions of humans, but even I could detect the eagerness in Jim’s voice. He had doubtless been, as Doctor McCoy would put it, “climbing the walls” since being confined to his quarters. I could understand that: I am not especially proficient at resting myself. I admit that I did glance, just once, at my unfinished reports before I answered him. “I will be there momentarily, sir.”
When I entered his quarters, I found Jim in bed, propped up with pillows, with three of his antique books scattered around him. I allowed myself a moment to study him, in part to reassure myself that he really was alive and recovering; in part because…
…because I find the captain’s form and face aesthetically pleasing.
There is no shame in appreciating beauty; I do not know why it is so hard for me to say, even within my own mind, that Jim is beautiful. He seemed especially so to me that night, shirtless and tousled, sprawled on the bed with his books, everything at rest except for his eyes. His eyes are fascinating. They are mercurial, changing color and mood without warning, full of life, teeming with all of the emotions that I, myself, so carefully sequester away. The captain is most un-Vulcan: he is unafraid to display his feelings - a fortunate thing, because those eyes would betray him regardless.
They lit up at the sight of me.
For a brief second, I could only stand there and stare at him, with that phrase running relentlessly through my head: “I almost lost him.” I had to swallow, and turn away, and busy myself with setting up the chessboard. I had to allow time for that phrase to turn into the barest of whispers before I could look at him again.
We both played badly. I surmise his game was off because he still was weak from his injuries; or possibly he was distracted because he could not be on the bridge. I played badly because of the whispered phrase, and because of my memories. I moved my rook, and I saw Jim’s blood spread across his chest. I parried an attack by Jim’s knight, and I felt his lifeless form in my arms. He threatened one of my pawns with his bishop, and the only response that came to my mind was “I almost lost him.” When my eyes fell, seemingly of their own accord, to the place where he had been injured, I had to exercise the most stringent of control to prevent my hands from shaking.
Finally, Jim sighed and fell back on his pillows. “It’s no use. My game’s terrible tonight, and I’m afraid yours isn’t much better. Let’s just scrap it and try again another time.”
“Agreed. Perhaps you would prefer conversation instead?”
He grimaced, and gave the far wall a cross look. “I would, if I had one blessed thing to talk about. I’ve been so cooped up lately that I don’t have anything interesting to say.” He settled further into the bed; I noted that his face looked somewhat drawn.
“It would be advisable, then, for you to try to sleep. It will assist your body in healing more quickly. I believe that is what Doctor McCoy had in mind when he ordered you to bed rest.”
He scowled at me. “What do you think I was trying to do before you came in? I’m honestly too bored to sleep. I tried reading, but I’ve read all my books so many times I’m sick of every last one of them. I thought maybe chess would do it, but that was a fiasco.” He sighed and said to me, “You don’t have to stick around - I know I’m no fun tonight. Go ahead and go back to your quarters and get some rest.”
My voice came out so quietly I barely recognized it. “I would prefer to remain with you until you sleep.”
He looked startled for a moment, and then his fascinating eyes softened. “Thanks. No one could ever accuse you of being a fair weather friend.”
I saw my opening then and took it. Making my face as blank as possible, I said, “I fail to see what the weather has to do with friendship. Even if it were a factor, the ship’s environmental systems guarantee that the temperature will not vary more than…”
As I had hoped, the captain laughed, and interrupted me. “Never mind. It’s just another one of those old Terran expressions. I only meant that there could be flood, fire, and famine, and you would still stick by me.” He gave me an unreadable look, and added, “And I don’t tell you often enough how much I appreciate that – but I do.”
I am, after all, half human. Therefore it is perhaps not surprising that I felt a surge of pleasure at this statement. Before I could either relish it or squelch it, however, Jim’s face brightened and he said, “I know! Tell me a story. That’ll help me to sleep.”
I fear that I very nearly gaped at him; his request was so utterly unexpected. But he only smiled at me with eager anticipation, obviously never doubting that I would comply with his wishes. And I certainly wished to comply, wished to help him to sleep and to heal, but I was hard pressed to make an appropriate response.
I have no imagination, so it was unthinkable that I attempt to formulate anything of my own. Thinking back to tales my mother had told me, I realized that they were all Terran nursery rhymes and fairy stories; therefore, Jim would already know them, and would doubtless be bored if I were to attempt to recount one of them. Vulcans are known for scientific research and philosophy, not for great works of fiction: they simply do not have such writing in them. Therefore, it was with some desperation that I scanned Jim’s bed to see what he had been reading that night, hoping for an inspiration. My eyes fell upon a beautifully bound edition of Bullfinch’s Mythology.
“Perhaps a myth,” I offered. “An ancient Vulcan myth about the origin of fire.”
Jim’s interest was piqued. “Like Prometheus,” he said.
“Yes,” I replied. “But the ancient Vulcans had another explanation for how fire came to be.”
“Tell me,” Jim demanded. His eyes were intent, flashing with interest instantly, and his lips were parted in an expectant smile. Seeing his enthusiasm, I had to fight the highly illogical urge to smile back at him.
“Very well,” I said. “This is the ancient myth of the Bond-Brothers Kiltukh and Mintor, and the Origin of Fire.” I took a moment to collect my thoughts. The myth was very old, constructed long before Vulcans pursued the path of logic. It was told rarely, and always in Old High Vulcan, so I would have to attempt to translate it adequately into Standard without losing too much of the meaning. Finally, I began.
“Many thousands of years ago, Vulcans were little more than vicious beasts of the desert. They were born into clans, and these clans fought among each other fiercely. At times, they warred for a small bit of sand on which to live and hunt. Other times they warred because they loved the sight and smell of their enemies’ blood. To these ancient Vulcans, war and life had the same meaning: one did not exist without the other. But life was little more than miserable existence. They had no words in their language for plenty or enough, for they knew nothing of these. They knew only a continual cycle of blood, and hunger, and cold.”
“Cold in the desert?” Jim murmured. He already looked more relaxed. Perhaps he would be able to sleep soon.
“Yes,” I answered. “There was great heat during the day of course, but at night the desert grew frigid. All suffered. The clansmen huddled together for warmth because that was their only way. There was no fire – not yet.”
“Mm.” Jim said. I continued:
“Into the Kome Yasha clan, in the same month, on the same day, in the same hour, two sons were born: Kiltukh, child of El’es, and Mintor, child of Ta’an. Kiltukh and Mintor grew up side by side in the usual manner of the clan. Together, they learned to hunt, to fight, and to wage war. From the time they first crawled until the time they reached young adulthood, the two were inseparable, bond-brothers from birth. They were known among the Kome Yasha as Itisha-Ana - literally, ‘Are One.’
As Kiltukh and Mintor grew, they became the most successful hunters and the fiercest warriors of the Kome Yasha. If Kiltukh flushed a beast from hiding, Mintor was in exactly the right place to make the kill. If Mintor was overwhelmed in battle, Kiltukh instantly was at his side to turn back the enemy. They knew each other’s minds and hearts so well that they did not need to speak or call, or even to think. Where one was, there was the other. They were, indeed, Itisha-Ana, and their fame grew throughout their own clan and all the others.
One day a rival clan, the Yatomi, invaded the Kome Yasha. The fighting was fierce; soon, the desert sand ran green with blood from fallen warriors of both the clans. Kiltukh and Mintor fought with their usual skill; at first it seemed that none would be able to prevail over them. But the Yatomi was a larger, stronger clan. As the battle wore on, Kiltukh found himself fighting four of the Yatomi at once. Mintor was at his side, but three Yatomi descended upon him as well. Mintor saw that Kiltukh was about to be struck and turned to help him, but he himself was stricken and fell unconscious to the ground.
Mintor, though wounded, lived. When he awoke, his first words were for his bond-brother. To his great anguish, he was told that the Yatomi had carried Kiltukh away with them, taken him back to their camp as a prisoner. Mintor was distraught. He knew that the Yatomi would torture Kiltukh in an attempt to make him consent to join their clan and help them fight their wars. Mintor also knew that Kiltukh never would agree to this, and would therefore almost certainly die an agonizing death at the hands of the Yatomi.
Weakened by his own wound but thinking of nothing but Kiltukh, Mintor donned the red cloak that marked him as a member of the Kome Yasha, took his weapons, and set across the desert in search of his bond-brother. For four days he walked. He did not need to try to follow the trail of the Yatomi to find Kiltukh, for his bond-brother’s mind and heart reached out to him across the distance and guided him unerringly in the right direction.
At the end of the fourth day, Mintor found the Yatomi camp. He sensed that Kiltukh was alive but in pain from torture and weak from starvation. Mintor’s blood burned with rage, and he walked boldly into camp and shouted, ‘I challenge your leader, Zul, to the Kalifi Oyaka, in the name of Kiltukh of the Kome Yasha.
“What’s the Kalifi Oyaka?” asked Jim.
“Literally, it means ‘The Splendid Test.’ It was a challenge sometimes issued between two people to settle a dispute, rather than involving clans in an all-out war. By issuing it to Zul, Mintor was in essence holding him personally responsible for the abduction of his bond-brother, and absolving the Yatomi clan of blame. It would have been considered shameful for a clan leader to turn down such a challenge, as the leaders were always supposed to put the good of their clan above their own personal welfare.”
Seeing that Jim had closed his eyes again, I continued.
“Zul strode forward. In his day, he had been a fierce and able warrior. Although now past the very prime of his life, he yet was tall and strong, and still wielded his weapons daily in practice or in battle. He smiled as he regarded Mintor, wounded and now weak from his trek across the desert. ‘What are your terms, little Kome Yasha?’ he taunted.
‘The life of Kiltukh,’ Mintor said.
‘And if I prevail?’ asked Zul.
‘If you prevail and if I live, we both shall join the Yatomi,’ said Mintor.
Zul was pleased at this. He was certain that he could defeat Mintor, and he resolved to do so without killing him. In that way, two famous and skilled warriors would be added to his clan, and the power and renown of the Yatomi would increase.
So it was that the Kalifi Oyaka was issued and accepted. Thinking to dishearten Mintor before the test began, the Yatomi dragged Kiltukh to the challenge ground. Bound with rope, bruised and bleeding, he was barely able to stand. Mintor saw the condition of his bond-brother and felt his wrath grow.
As the challenged, Zul had the choice of weapon. He sagely chose the lirpa, knowing that the heavy instrument would be difficult for the weakened Mintor to wield. But Mintor’s anger gave him strength, and soon the two warriors were engaged in fierce combat. The Yatomi circled the challenge ground, shouting and chanting to encourage their leader, excited by the ferociousness of the fight. No one noticed Kiltukh, who was working to loosen his bonds. Even Mintor, enraged as he was and intent on finding Zul’s weakness, did not realize that Kiltukh was freeing himself and moving closer to the site of the challenge.
The Kalifi Oyaka wore on, with neither the older nor the younger opponent prevailing, until Zul’s overconfidence betrayed him and he made a misstep. Mintor took advantage: with a quick motion he sliced Zul’s right arm deeply with the lirpa blade. The pain of the wound and the loss of face in front of his clansmen infuriated Zul; he instantly forgot his vow to spare Mintor’s life and began to fight him furiously, swearing to end the young Kome Yasha’s life then and there. Mintor found himself growing exhausted in the face of Zul’s onslaught. Though he struggled valiantly, his thrusts and parries were becoming weaker and less accurate. The onlookers could see that it was only a matter of moments before Zul won the challenge and Mintor fell to his death. Soon, it came: Zul hurled the lirpa like a spear, aiming it directly at Mintor’s heart. Mintor, gasping for breath, totally expended, could do nothing to help himself. But as the blade flew toward Mintor, Kiltukh sprang from the edge of the crowd and jumped into the path of the weapon. The lirpa plunged into his side instead of into Mintor. Kiltukh fell to the ground, gravely wounded.
Horrified, Mintor pulled Kiltukh to his breast, no longer caring if he fell beneath the lirpa or not. But as Zul beheld the bond between the clan brothers, he lost his thirst for Mintor’s blood. He left the lirpa lying on the ground. ‘Take him,’ he told Mintor, and turned his back and walked away into his camp.
Mintor carried his bond-brother off into the desert. He walked until he could walk no more, until the dark and the bitter cold settled all around them. Then he laid Kiltukh upon the ground and carefully covered him with the red cloak of the Kome Yasha.
Through the long night he held vigil, holding Kiltukh close to him to warm him. ‘Do not leave me, my brother,’ he begged Kiltukh over and over again. But in the coldest hour, close to dawn, Kiltukh’s eyes opened. He gazed one last time upon the face of Mintor, and drew his final breath. Mintor fell upon the body, weeping silently in the frigid desert.”
I hesitated. Suddenly, I regretted that I had chosen this myth: as I recounted the death of Kiltukh, the image of Jim Kirk dying in my arms flashed comet-like across my mind’s eye. I had to swallow back the bitter taste that filled my mouth before I was able to speak again. Jim lay quietly with his eyes closed, but I knew that he was not asleep. He was waiting to hear the conclusion of the myth. I shut my own eyes against the sight of his too-still body. Carefully modulating my voice to mask my shameful emotions, I forced myself to continue. “According to the myth, the first fire on Vulcan arose from the all-consuming grief of Mintor, the grief that devoured him upon the loss of Kiltukh and the bond.” I risked looking at Jim once more. He was nearly asleep, but not quite. He still listened. I looked down at my hands, and went on. “This is why,” I said, “that to this day when one stares into fire, one sees these colors: the yellow and orange of the sands of the Vulcan desert. The red of the cloak of the Kome Yasha. The green of Kiltukh’s blood. And in the heart of the fire, where the flame burns the hottest, the blue-white of Mintor’s tears.”
“…The blue-white of Mintor’s tears.” Jim did not speak this, but he thought it, and I heard it as clearly as if it had come from his lips. He drifted, then, off to sleep.
At his request, I came to Jim’s quarters every evening after the telling of the myth, as long as he remained confined to bed rest. To my relief, he asked for no more stories, but was content to play chess. And I found that I could attend to the game, as long as I did not look too much into his eyes. Indeed, he did not look at me either: he focused his gaze instead upon the board, and kept his thoughts to himself. We played in nearly total silence. There had been other times – many other times – when we had played for hours with hardly a word, and I had always found those times to be relaxing, even comforting.
But since the telling of the myth, I sensed that something had changed. The silence between us was a barrier, not a bond, and I must admit I resented it. Illogical, I know – but Jim would have said it “just did not feel right.” The quiet was awkward; we were strangely self-conscious in each other’s company. I searched my paltry Vulcan arsenal for a way to bridge the gap, but all I could think of to do was to probe gently at Jim’s thoughts. To my dismay, I found that he was shielding them from me. I did not know what further action to take, so I waited. I waited for Jim to lower his shields, or to tell me what was on his mind.
I waited through the third night, and the fourth. I waited through most of the fifth night, the night before Jim was to return to duty. And finally, as I took his knight with my rook, I found I could no longer wait.
“I would know your thoughts,” I said, surprising both of us with my directness.
And then he looked at me, and I am quite certain that my heart stopped. Humans call the eyes the “window to the soul.” I had always thought it a most ridiculously fanciful expression, typical of such an emotional species. But that night, I understood that it is true. I looked into Jim’s eyes, directly into his soul… and I saw something there that I had never seen before. Something that left me unable to speak, or even to breathe.
“What would you do,” he asked me slowly, “if something happened to me?”
I felt like a small animal in a trap: I froze.
“What I mean is,” he continued, without releasing me from his gaze, “if I’d been killed during that attack down there – what would you have done?”
I will confess, here in the privacy of my own thoughts, that I was horrified. If this human had had a sharp knife in his hand and had filleted me with it, he could not have laid me open any more thoroughly, or more excruciatingly. I struggled to regain my composure, to draw breath in, slowly, between my parted lips.
“You can’t answer that, can you?” he said. “You can’t envision existence without me.”
“No.” I do not, even now, know if this denial was in response to his question or an attempt to make him stop. He, of course, interpreted it as an answer to his question.
“No,” he repeated, and got up from his chair and began to pace. “And you know, when I try to imagine my own life without you in it…” he turned to face me, with a smile full of so much sadness that my throat tightened, “I see nothing. Nothing but blankness. It’s kind of the same thing that happens to me when I try to comprehend how vast the universe is: I just can’t do it. I’m not made that way.”
He walked over to my side, looked down at me. I tilted my head to stare up at him; I am certain with an expression made stupid with shock and perhaps a little panic.
“Why did you tell me about Kiltukh and Mintor?” he asked, in essence taking the sharp knife and prying me open wider.
I tried to rally. “You requested that I tell you a story. I- I wished to help you to rest.”
“But why that story?” he persisted.
Again, I simply could not answer. The silence hung long and heavy between us, a gray dense wall. It was Jim’s human courage that finally saved us from the quiet: I saw, in his eyes, the uncertainty, the fear, and finally, the resolve. He took a deep breath and reached out and touched my cheek; caressed it with a gentleness that utterly tore apart my familiar, logical, carefully structured world. Under that touch, so tender and so devastating, I was helpless, and more afraid than I think I have ever been. He must have felt me tremble. For what seemed like forever he looked down on me, with his hand upon my cheek. Then he said, so softly that I had to strain to hear, “Don’t get me wrong. It’s a beautiful story. But I think the Vulcans have it turned around. Grief is ice. Love is fire.”
He kissed me on my upturned mouth.
There are no words in Standard or in Vulcan, or most probably in any other language, that can describe what that kiss was, how it felt, what it did to me. I can only say that I wished it to last forever, even as I became more and more convinced that it was going to dismantle me, once and for all. I think I kissed him back; I know that when he pulled away, his face was flushed, and even more beautiful than I had ever seen it. My heart was pounding uncontrollably. I had the stray thought that of course it would be: everything else was out of control as well. My heart had merely joined the rest of the universe.
Jim fell to his knees. He placed his hand upon my thigh and leaned toward me. “I’m not going to ask,” he said a little breathlessly, “if I’ve ruined everything between us by doing that. I know I haven’t. I know that we… We are like Kiltukh and Mintor, aren’t we? Bond-brothers?”
“Yes,” I whispered.
“And… lovers. They were lovers, weren’t they?”
“Yes,” I said again. Indeed, the Old High Vulcan version of the myth was not ambiguous about this point; I had chosen what I thought were safer words when I translated it. A small lie, come back to haunt me.
Jim nodded. “I was sure of it - it’s the only thing that makes sense. That kind of love, and that kind of grief, could only come from two who held nothing back from each other.” He fell silent for a moment, studying me, perhaps gathering his courage again. “It’s the same kind of love I feel for you. The same kind of grief that would consume me if you were gone from my world.” I saw the question in his eyes before he uttered it, and I braced myself because for the hundredth time that night I had no answer available. “Why, then, have we kept this one thing from each other?”
“This one thing?” I asked, stalling for time to pull my thoughts together.
He touched his finger to my lips. “This. This kiss. This touch. We’ve offered each other our minds, our hearts… our lives. Why haven’t we offered this?”
Slowly, Jim got to his feet, then reached down and pulled me up as well. I was mesmerized. I was dizzy. I was afraid. And Jim’s nearness consumed me as surely as Kiltukh and Mintor’s fire: my hard erection pressed into his belly as he pulled me to him in a close embrace. “This is what we are,” he murmured, his lips against my neck. “Bond-brothers. Lovers. Itisha-Ana.”
A low moan came from my throat as I descended upon him and kissed him deeply, hungrily. All through that night, my mouth had been able to offer up no answers to this man, but now it was wise, and sure, and certain. I felt him respond beneath my lips; search with his tongue, open himself to me. I trembled with the power of the utter rightness of the kiss, and felt my fear burn away from me as the fire flared within both of us.
He pushed me, with his body and his hands and the sheer strength of his will, toward the bed. I felt its frame against the back of my legs and sank onto it gratefully, no longer certain of my ability to stand. He fell upon me instantly, tugging insistently at my boots and then my shirt, fumbling at the closure of my pants, ferreting and pulling and divesting me of garments until I lay before him, panting and exposed.
He sat beside me and surveyed me, his gaze as tangible as a touch. “You are so beautiful,” he whispered huskily, as he reached out to run his fingers over my chest, across the nipples that were already hard and needy.
It was essential, suddenly, to have more of him against my skin. I grabbed blindly at his outstretched hand and at his shoulder; pulled him down to me, groped at his clothing. There was a breathy half-laugh as he assisted me in removing his shirt. I heard his boots fall to the floor, and then both of us suddenly were in each other’s way as we hurried to rid him of his pants. He was the more efficient of the two of us: he found the fastening first, undid it swiftly. He arched off the bed for a moment, and kicked, and the pants were gone.
He was naked, and in my arms.
There cannot be anything in the universe more beautiful than to hold one’s t’hy’la the way that I held Jim that night. I remember marveling that none of this seemed new, although until that night I had never kissed him, certainly never had touched the smooth, cool skin of his chest or his thighs. Yet wherever my lips fell or my hands caressed, there was the familiar, the known… what was mine, and always had been mine. Jim. My bond-brother. My t’hy’la. My second self.
He knew of course, in his own, human way, the truth of all of this. He knew that I was his, had always been his, and he claimed me with confident hands, and then… Ah! The memory still has the power to make me burn! …then with his mouth, his lips, his tongue. I had long since discarded any semblance of control: I called out his name as his mouth slid down over my hardness, writhed beneath him as he drew his tongue along my inflamed flesh. His fingers dug into my hips, my buttocks, and I thrust into him fiercely. For a small, bright period of time I knew nothing but his mouth, the curves of his shoulders beneath my hands… and my need, expanding within my belly and groin until finally I could contain it no longer. I thrust again, deeply into his throat, and cried out as my seed spilled from me.
But he did not release me then; he gave to me, instead, a second pleasure. He kept my softening organ in his mouth, sucked gently at it, and coaxed the last remaining droplets from its tip. And I watched him do this thing to me; torn between the wish to prolong the sensation and the sight of it, and the desire to give him everything he had just given me.
“Jim,” I finally whispered.
He pulled away from me, looked up and smiled.
I reached down to him. He squirmed up on the bed until his face was even with mine and kissed me. I could taste myself upon his lips; I felt his hardness press against my hip, a reminder that his own desire had gone unquenched thus far. Taking him in my hand, I watched, fascinated, as I read on his face the jolt of pleasure that touch gave him. He ran his hands through my hair as I stroked him slowly.
I have spent the greater portion of my life studying the various kinds of power that exist in this universe: the power of the atom, of matter and antimatter, of gravity. But at that moment I knew, at last, the power of touch – the power that resided in my own two hands. I slid them along Jim’s hard length and saw him bite his lip, throw back his head. I squeezed him gently, teased at him with my thumbs and fingers, and heard this man, so strong and always so much in command, whimper helplessly. “All at my touch,” I thought in wonder and in gratitude, as I kissed him on his throat, and then on his beautiful lips.
Indeed, I tasted him everywhere, unhurriedly exploring the smoothness and the saltiness of his human flesh upon my tongue and the coolness of his skin against my questing lips. I bit gently at one of his nipples, and he arched and trembled; I could feel his swollen cock pulse in my hand and heard him whisper a half-enunciated plea. “Soon,” I thought to him, and moved down upon him, deliberately tormenting him with my tongue and my teeth.
“Please,” he gasped, and I watched, fascinated, as a shiny bead of precum seeped out of the head of his cock. It glimmered enticingly, and I caught the precious fluid quickly on my tongue, unwilling to allow any small part of this man or this moment to escape my senses. His liquid was slippery, salty and sweet; I found suddenly that I must have more of it.
I took him in my mouth.
Tomorrow, this ship might be destroyed - its fragments and Jim’s, and mine, scattered out among the stars, dispersed and eventually forgotten. Indeed, the future holds no certainty; in that dimension, probability is the sole comfort of mortal beings such as Jim and me.
It is the past where certainty dwells.
And I count myself a most fortunate man that in my own past, I was given these truths to harbor throughout whatever span is left to me: The sight of Jim’s face, flushed and passionate and almost unendurably beautiful. The silken feel of his trembling skin beneath my hand. The musky, human scent of him surrounding me. The taste of his warm essence on my tongue.
The sound of his voice calling out my name.
No matter what may come in the uncertain and the frequently cruel future, I shall have no cause for regret, for I possess these truths… bestowed upon me by my t’hy’la during that first night and all of the others since.
I do not, to this day, know how long we slept once we were finally spent and sated. I recall that I awoke to find Jim seemingly still asleep; he lay facing me, with one arm thrown over me as if it were a long established custom of his. I took some time, then, to gaze upon his face, to study the curves of his cheeks and his lips, to marvel at the improbable length of his eyelashes. I granted myself a small, illogical moment to revel in the knowledge that it was my right to look upon him, to lie with him, to touch him.
My eyes fell, then, to his chest, to the bandage that covered the wound that had nearly taken him from me. I immediately felt the familiar chill, the pervasive coldness that had not quite been banished the previous night. Carefully, I reached out and touched the area, ever so lightly, with my fingertip.
His eyes opened immediately: he had not been asleep, after all. “I almost lost you,” I whispered to him, by way of explanation.
He sighed languorously and drew me closer to him. “And I almost never found you,” he told me, his lips pressed against my throat. I felt his mouth curve into a smile. “It’s a damned good thing that ‘almost’ doesn’t count in this life.”
I pressed my face against the top of his head. The sensation of his hair against my cheek, I found, was surprisingly reassuring, just as reassuring as his embrace. We lay like that for some time, listening to each other’s heartbeats and thinking our own thoughts. I found that for some reason I began to reflect upon Kiltukh and Mintor.
Jim’s thoughts must also have turned to the myth: he kissed me on the neck and murmured, “Itisha-Ana… that’s what you and I are, my love.” His hand stroked my back in soothing little circles. “Itisha-Ana.”
There was something about hearing that Vulcan phrase spoken by Jim that caused my throat to tighten and my heart to race. I closed my eyes and held him to me fiercely, answering him with one word only: