One looked at the other, light dawning. "Go find him, Spock," said the physician. "You're the one he needs."
Spock gave a half bow and headed out the double doors, leaving McCoy staring at him with a worried look.
The three men hopped into the turbolift and headed for the bridge to view the hostage tape and pick up their orders. The containers of bottled gas that hung from the clip on Kirk's backpack clanked a little as the lift rose. The captain absentmindedly rubbed his shoulder through the rough shirt, and he turned to look at Spock. "I could use a shower," he said blandly.
"Yes." Spock knew for a fact he had given a simple answer to a simple statement. But he still couldn't shake the feeling that Kirk had seen the fevered need burning in his Vulcan companion. Saw the un-Vulcan wish in his soul, the desire in his body, and knew it for what it was. But turned to another man.
Now, as Spock remembered that moment and the experiences he and the captain had shared over the years, he found it hard to understand how he could have forgotten this human and his love. Surely such a love didn't need fal-tor-pan to bring it alive?
Jim Kirk, welcoming him into his life. Embracing him wholeheartedly, mind and body. Teaching him human values, and customs. Teaching him to honor, to accept himself. Teaching him so much more--that time in the shower in his San Francisco apartment. Showing him how the antique levers worked. Soaping his back helpfully, oh so helpfully. Leaning him against the wall of the shower. Helping him spread his hands apart, and then his legs ...
Spock smashed his fist against the turbolift wall. This was *not* logical. He must find Kirk, find him and, and, settle this situation. This not knowing was torture. A most exquisite sensation.
Captain Spock whirled out of the lift and strode down the hall toward his quarters. The computer would privately locate James Kirk.
The door shussed open and Spock stalked into the red gloom. To his surprise he had company, sunk deep in a chair on the far side of the room. The visitor gazed sightlessly out the window at the magnificent starfield. The fingers of one hand spread slackly against a chair arm. Kirk's head sagged against the back but he wasn't asleep--the forefinger of the other hand traced endless circles around the rim of the heavy glass resting on the floor.
Spock stopped short. Consciously and unconsciously he weighed what he saw. After a moment he crossed the carpeting with a heavy tread.
He stood to one side of the chair, at a distance, but where Kirk could see him. Kirk did not turn his head or otherwise acknowledge Spock, who could see even in the dim light that Kirk's command tunic was open. He wore no shirt beneath, a mild violation of regulation dress. But he did have some sort of thong knotted loosely about his neck, with a few square objects on it that glittered. He looked utterly spent, exhausted, a man at the end of his tether.
In silence Spock waited. Eventually Kirk sighed. He turned his head slightly and his eyes focused on Spock.
"What did you mean?"
"When you said to me, 'Not in front of the Klingons.' "
"It was a figure of speech."
Kirk rose to his feet. Evenly he said, "Don't play games with me, Spock. I'll say this--for all we've been through, you and I, you've dealt straight. Don't play games *now*."
Spock looked Kirk over head to toe. The man seemed fragile. "I judged it the best response. It did not seem appropriate to engage in affectionate reminiscences in front of a group of men whom you charge, albeit at second hand, with the death of your son."
"Oh, you thought so, did you? And just what gives you the right to make decisions for me?"
"I was not 'making decisions for you.' I was merely attempting to show you the same common courtesy I would offer any member of my crew, or any old friend."
" 'Old friend'? Is that what I am?"
Kirk began to pace, away from the chair to the window, from the window back to the chair.
"Of course not. It would be illogical to pretend otherwise." More tentatively he added, "Jim, I am attempting not to argue with you."
"Why is it your job to do that? Goddammit, Spock, you're treating me like a child. In fact, you treat most humans like children. Talented monkeys, we know a couple little tricks--but we're never as good as the Vulcans, are we, never quite good enough. We're weak, we have emotions. We show our weakness when we're upset, when we're elated, when we're scared. Well, perhaps we're more normal than you are. You're the only race in the galaxy that lives this way. Doesn't that tell you something, Spock? Doesn't that give you a solitary goddamn clue how wrong Surak was?"
"It is our privilege to follow Surak if ... "
"Don't give me that crap. You know damn well that Surak didn't provide for any number of situations--like our wedding and your parents'--and you people have been improvising ever since. But heaven forfend we admit that the Great Surak was not completely wise. His gift to you was to make you all afraid of emotion." Kirk stood aggressively in front of Spock, toe to toe. He glared at the taller man, but the Vulcan did not flinch.
"We are not afraid of emotion, we merely respect it."
"Respect it, my ass. You're afraid of it. You're scared of the loss of control it represents. Control is the real god of Vulcan, isn't it, Spock? You ought to spell it with a K, so that it fits Vulcan spelling. Goddamn." Kirk whirled away and picked up the bottle standing in front of the chair. He sloshed some liquid into his glass. Spock followed his movements with his eyes.
"Perhaps we are concerned about control. But that is hardly a concern strictly for Vulcans. Certainly many on Earth..."
"We're not talking about Earth, goddammit, we're talking about wretched Vulcan, about how its people can never, under any circumstances, admit that they can lose control, that they *like* to lose control..."
"It could reasonably be said of you, Captain, that you too do not wish to surrender control."The human drained his glass with a jerk of his hand. He moved back to stand before his former lover. "Captain? You're calling me captain, now? God, Spock, how far down can you go? I'm the man who taught you the meaning of the word sex, remember? Do you want me to spell it out for you? Or would that offend your precious Vulcan xenophobia? Oh no, you won't admit you like offworlders, let alone want to screw them, want to feel them put ... "
He pressed his palm flat on Spock's stomach and began to slide it downward. Spock rocked his hips backward and out of the way, but not before Kirk's fingers had brushed against a firmer area under the smooth cloth.
Sharply Spock said, "That is enough. What we Vulcans feel is not for discussion here."
"If not here, then where? Why do you refuse? Come on, Spock, what are you hiding? What can't you admit?"
"Perhaps I am attempting not to say that xenophobia can be found within the ranks of Starfleet, as well. Our own Dr. McCoy, in fact, to say nothing of those who equipped Sick Bay so badly ..."
"Leave McCoy out of it, we're not talking about him."
"Why? Why should I leave McCoy out of it? He is highly relevant to this discussion, is he not?"
"What are you talking about?" Kirk ran his fingers backward through his hair.
"Your choosing McCoy. Your choice of him, a xenophobic semi-qualified antiquated ... "
"Stop it. I told you to leave him alone."
"You wish to protect your lover, I assume."
"Yes, another of your charming Earth customs."
"What *are* you talking about?"
Through clenched teeth Spock responded, "Your assignation with our ship's physician when we--when you--were camping. You know only too well what Starfleet thinks of such arrangements between senior officers, and still ..."
"What?" Kirk paused, apparently distracted. He looked at Spock suspiciously. "How do you know I know too well?"
"How do you know I know anything special about policy on inter-rank ..."
Suddenly Kirk was certain what Spock was saying behind the flood of words. He cleared his throat aggressively. "You remember, don't you, Spock?"
"It is of no consequence."
"No consequence? No fucking consequence?" Kirk gestured with a tightly clenched fist, his voice rising fast. "My spouse of a decade or more suddenly recalls that we're--we were married"--he carefully corrected himself--"and I'm supposed to pretend it doesn't matter?"
"What does it matter to you? You turned to another as soon as it was convenient to do so."
It was Spock's turn to walk away from Kirk. He crossed to his dresser and fiddled with a tray resting on the top. He stared at himself in the mirror above and saw catastrophe written in his eyes.
To his rigid back Kirk replied, "How did you know?"
At first there was no reply. Finally, "I straightened the campsite while you were off climbing. I found McCoy's pillow in your sleeping bag." As he spoke, the Vulcan watched himself in the mirror.
"And I ... sensed ... it."
"Aha. I see." The human hesitated for a moment. "And ... you didn't like it."
"Normally we'd call that jealousy."No response.
"That's an emotion. Based on other feelings."
Silence fell. With great deliberation Kirk moved toward the lean figure until his face was also visible in the mirror, at Spock's shoulder. The Vulcan stared forward into the glassy nothingness. He shut his eyes and let his head drop forward onto his hands, resting on top of the dresser.
An eternity passed. Neither man moved.
Like a pickpocket Kirk touched the edge of the other man's jacket. No response. He put his palm on the curve of the other's shoulder-blade, one acquaintance comforting another. Still no reaction. Micron by micron, the human allowed his fingers to curl.
As slow as sunrise Spock lifted his head and looked at Kirk's face in the glass. Softly Spock murmured, "Whose man are you? Dr. McCoy's, or mine?"
His heart in his throat, Kirk replied, "Why do you ask, Spock? Don't you know? Can't you tell?"
"Remembering is what this is all about, isn't it? You said to Sybok, 'Our pain makes us who we are.' My pain took me from you, Jim, but it has also brought me back. I am not the same man I was, but neither are you. Yet ... still ... " Their eyes met, locked. "If you will have me. Never and always touching and touched. I would be your bondmate."
Kirk put his hands on Spock's shoulders and turned him around to face him. As if he had never kissed before, James Kirk leaned forward slowly, ever so slowly. He closed Spock's eyes with his thumbs, as he had done once before on a different kind of day. As gently as he could manage, he touched his lips to Spock's. Once, then again. His fingers crept up to the sides of Spock's head, and found familiar touch-points. He closed his eyes. He could feel Spock's fingers also moving into place.
He could hear Spock moving toward him, across a great distance. Then suddenly there was the old feeling, the feeling of falling down a long flight of stairs, with comfort at the bottom.
As though the words were from an alien language, Kirk struggled to mouth the words he had tried to get Spock to say on Vulcan, so long ago. "I love you."
Spock touched lean fingers to the meld-points on Kirk's head. "I know that, now. I love you too. I've come home."