Best KFF

No and Yes

The Vulcans had been picked up last, so protocol dictated they be conveyed back last. Jim didn't mind末with no one but the crew and the Vulcan delegation on board, Enterprise was the quietest it had been in a tenday.

Sarek was resting in his cabin. Amanda had been seen everywhere on board, her husband's eyes and ears, Jim presumed. All was quiet, all was normal, all was assuredly about to break out in some variety of chaos, that being the nature of the universe when quiet and normal had prevailed for too long.

The chaos wasn't quite what he expected this time. Not Klingons, or Orions, or any other variety of strangely shaped or colored aliens, not geometric entities with evil intent or computers gone mad. Only a puzzled Vulcan voice saying, "Kirk, why have you not acknowledged your bond with my son?"

"I beg your pardon, Ambassador?"

Sarek had requested a meeting. Jim turned up at the appointed time, unsuspecting. Thinking about it now, he realized there had been a quizzical glance or two from Amanda during the last few days, but nothing to suggest that his relationship with his First Officer was anything other than as sanctioned by Starfleet.

"You and my son are bonded," Sarek said patiently. "It is not logical to withhold that fact. There must therefore be some reason for your failure to speak of it. I do not question your reason. I am only curious."

Acting in logic, the only thing for Jim to have said was, "You are mistaken. We are not bonded." What he did say was, "Perhaps it would be more appropriate to speak to Spock."

Sarek shook his head slightly. "I find that my son and I still speak at . . . cross-purposes. You are bonded末it is as proper for me to ask the question of you."

"How can you tell there is a bond?" Jim asked, stalling. It had to be some artifact of their melds. Too frequent, Bones said, but it was hard not to use a tool when you had it at your disposal.

Sarek apparently didn't object to a lecture. "Your minds resonate," he said. "Humans would say that your 'auras' are attuned. We do not make such distinctions. The mind is the mind."

"That's the only indicator?" Jim asked.

Sarek's voice became even more pedantic. "It is not unknown for close associates to develop a similar resonance," he said, "over time. Your bond with my son, however, is rua." He looked as though he assumed the term would be understood, and when it obviously was not, he made a sharp impatient gesture. "As mine with Amanda. Any Vulcan could see it."

It was surely long past time to correct this misapprehension, Jim thought, but it would be even more awkward to deny the relationship now when he had not done so earlier. "I would prefer to talk to Spock first," he said.

And of course, Sarek replied, "That is logical." What else could he possibly have said? And why, Jim thought, did he have the awful feeling that he had just backed himself into a very tight corner . . .

He knew where Spock would be this time of the ship's day. He and Scotty were engaged in delicate negotiations with the software that operated the intermix chamber, and it was Spock's habit to drop in to Scotty's office at about this time to discuss their progress. It could as easily have been done over an in-ship comm channel, of course, but Scotty found face-to-face conversation more intellectually stimulating, and Spock, ever pragmatic, was more interested in tuning the intermix parameters than dogmatically pursuing logic.

Scotty would not be there, because Scotty was on the bridge. Scotty was on the bridge because Jim was engaging in oblique discussions with their First Officer's father on a subject that he obviously knew nothing about, regardless of first-hand experience with ahn-woon and lirpa.

He waved Spock back to his seat in Scotty's little office. "I have some questions," he said. "I'd like to spend some time with you this evening. Would that be convenient for you?"

"Certainly," Spock said, probably wondering at the more than usual formality.

"I'll come to your cabin at eight, then," Jim said, and Spock agreed, in his unflappable Vulcan way, that eight would be acceptable.

Jim left him speaking to the intermix computer about thayta pies, whatever in the galaxy those were, returned to the bridge and shooed Scotty back down to Engineering to help.

At eight, he stood nervously outside Spock's door. It hadn't been difficult to wait; he'd always been able to compartmentalize his life. Command training had only reinforced an inherent skill. But with the confrontation staring him in the face, he was suddenly apprehensive.

He touched the annunciator and the door slid open. Spock sat at his desk in the day cabin, a tray with two glasses before him, playing the host as he understood human propriety to require.

"Captain." Sonorous voice, dark eyes, the slight smile that was only for him. He was egotistic enough to enjoy that, sensible enough to be scared silly of the implications.

He accepted a glass of something Vulcan, fruity and dry. Offered a toast to their success with the intermix, which Scotty had relayed to him just before the end of first shift. Took a deep breath and jumped in with both feet.

"We never talked much about what happened with T'Pring. I think that was a mistake."

Spock's expression didn't change but his voice was more stiff than usual. "It will not be a problem for the remainder of this mission."

Jim shook his head. "I'm not worried about that. This is a personal question. You don't have to answer it, but it would help me understand better."

Spock said evenly, "What is your question?" He wasn't exactly unbending, Jim saw, but hadn't thrown him out, either. That was at least a start.

"I want to know about the bond. What you had with T'Pring. I've seen some textbook stuff, McCoy showed me, but that's all."

"What do you want to know?"

"How does it feel? How does a person know that a bond exists?"

"You have asked two questions."

Jim relaxed a little, because Spock's tone of voice, though still a bit tense, had returned to their usual half-serious, half-teasing mode.

"You only have to answer one at a time," he pointed out, with a grin.

"Is there a particular reason for the questions?" Spock asked him. "I do not object to providing the information, though my knowledge is sketchy. But I am curious as to why you ask."

"Just something I wanted to know, and never got around to asking." Which was true enough, if not all the truth.

Spock eyed him dubiously but steepled his hands and looked inward for a moment. "The bond between children is set in place by an adept, usually a Healer. It serves only to draw them together when . . . the necessity arises. A deeper bond is formed at that time, by the partners themselves. Since this did not occur for me, I have no personal knowledge of it."

"Rua," Jim said, and Spock looked at him in surprise.

"That word is an adjective, not a noun, but you are correct."

"What exactly does it mean?"

"There is no exact equivalent in Anglish," Spock said slowly, "but the closest description would be 'married,' with all the accompanying context of an intimate relationship and the partners' commitment to each other."

"Like your parents."

Spock nodded. "There is additional sub-textual meaning, specific to Vulcan relationships, but the sense of physical intimacy is dominant, with its implication of lifelong commitment."

"Would you know, just from being in the company of two Vulcans, whether they had this kind of relationship?"

"Certainly. It is something one learns as naturally as language."

"Then why didn't you know it about us?" Jim asked him evenly, and saw Spock's eyes close and his face go white.

"I was not certain," he whispered. "To perceive the relationship in others is not the same as to recognize the feeling in oneself."

"But you suspected."

"Yes."

"When were you going to tell me?"

Spock turned his head away, answer enough.

"You weren't going to tell me."

"What could I say? 'I have reason to believe that our melds have resulted in a permanent bond between us,' and 'Oh yes, be prepared for my next pon farr?'

It was phrased in more bitter, and more human, terms that Jim had ever heard him use. He reached out and laid his own hand over both of Spock's, where they were clasped on the desk.

"Is it something you want, Spock?"

No answer, but he thought he knew.

"Listen to me," he said. "I will not have misunderstandings between us. We're the two senior officers on this ship. The lives of four hundred people and a hell of a lot of expensive Starfleet hardware depend on our ability to work together." He paused and said in a softer tone, "Not to mention that you've been my best friend for all the time we've been out here together. Just tell me, Spock. Whatever you say, we'll figure out what to do. Just be honest with me."

Spock said simply, "Yes." Still not looking at him, but that was progress, Jim thought.

"I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought of it too." Spock's head didn't move the his eyes returned to Jim's. "I'm just not sure it's wise."

Spock nodded, with a bleak expression. "Indeed. How is it that you knew of this?"

"Your father asked me why we hadn't spoken to him and your mother."

"He asked you?"

Jim had to smile at the surprise in Spock's voice. "He said that you and he were still not . . . communicating effectively and that as we were bonded it was just as proper to ask me."

"What did you tell him?"

"That I would have to talk to you first before I could discuss anything with him."

Spock sighed a little. "I appreciate your discretion."

"You need to talk to him, Spock. You need advice that he's best equipped to give you."

The expression on Spock's face was so nearly identical to what any Terran teenager would have worn, given the same suggestion, that it was all Jim could do not to laugh.

He knew Spock would have picked up on his amusement. "I'm not making fun of your feelings, believe me. But you do need to talk to him. There are answers we need. There are probably questions I don't even know to ask."

"That is true. Unfortunately, I am not sure I know how to ask them."

"We can talk to him together, if you want."

"That may be advisable at some point. I won't ask you to shield me from my father, however. I will speak with him myself."

"My dad was dead by the time I would have been having this kind of conversation with him."

"I know," Spock said softly. "And I have come close to losing Sarek. I am not unaware of that."

Jim rose and laid his hand on Spock's shoulder. "Talk to him then, and if he wants to see us both, just let me know." He gave the shoulder a squeeze and got out before he was tempted into any more intimate touching than that.

The one question he hadn't asked, and that Spock had carefully not brought up himself, was what Spock had planned to do about the bond. Anything that could be made could be unmade, he supposed末not a particularly pleasant thought.

And there was that great looming question: What do we do now?

Laying out all the factors, as though it were a command decision, wasn't going to be much help, when he didn't yet have all the factors. Advice from others was something he couldn't request, not with Spock's privacy to consider. File it with tomorrow's problems, he decided, and went to bed.

They were only three days out of Vulcan when Sarek again requested his presence. This time, when he arrived in the VIP suite, Spock was already there. They had been circling each other politely but warily ever since their discussion, Spock presumably waiting upon advice from his father, and Jim unwilling to take the initiative again himself. He knew he was probably being unreasonably stubborn on that point, but dammit, without some input from Spock he didn't know what initiative to take. He'd made it through the last few days only by refusing to let his mind dwell on the complexities and problems that could be facing them.

Spock rose when he entered. "Captain," he said, and alarm bells began to go off in Jim's brain. Too distant, too formal, too Vulcan末closed-off and unreadable.

He nodded at Spock, bowed to the others. "Ambassador, Lady Amanda."

"Please be seated, Captain Kirk."

Jim took the only empty chair, wondering whether its placement conveyed anything significant. Sarek and Amanda sat together, Spock slightly to one side but in line with them. Jim's chair faced the other three. He felt like a cadet being called on the carpet before a tribunal of superior officers.

"We have discussed the current unfortunate situation," Sarek was saying, and Jim felt a profound, gut-deep rebellion at what he knew was coming. "You are not in any way to blame for what has taken place, and if you wish to claim compensation, a fair and logical offer will be made. A Healer will meet the ship to remove the bond, as soon as we reach Vulcan."

Jim fought to keep his face still. "Is this what you want, Spock?"

"There seems no logical alternative, Captain."

Jim inclined his head, less of a bow than he'd made a moment earlier. "Very well. Please alert me when the Healer is on board." and stood and walked out. Sometimes the Vulcan disdain for protracted goodbyes served one well, he thought. No need to look anyone in the face: discussion's over, just leave. Logic had its uses, and one of them, at the moment, was to disguise the helpless sensation that something he wanted very badly was about to be taken from him.

He finished his shift, turned command over to the second shift watch-stander and left the bridge with the cluster of others going off-duty. The press of bodies, that he usually didn't even notice, grated on him unpleasantly, the air close, their voices loud and clamorous as they joked about the day's incidents or discussed their plans for the evening. Most were going to officers' quarters, but the lift stopped at the same level as the Observation Deck for one or two others, and on impulse, Jim got off there too.

The Observation Deck was dim, cool and open. No loud voices, nobody touching him. He could sit here for a while and regain his shattered equilibrium and try to figure out what the hell to do next.

Damn. Ssomeone else was here after all, sitting at the bottom of the steps. In the next instant he realized it was Spock. He almost turned and left, but Spock would know he'd come in and it would be rude to just walk away. Not to mention that some discussion of their future was inevitable and might just as well take place now. Their very short future, measured probably in hours, considering Vulcan efficiency.

He walked slowly down the wide steps, feeling for Spock's mind, realizing he'd been doing that for quite a while without understanding the significance of it, and that the next time he reached out for that strength and certainty, it wasn't going to be there.

He sat on the bottom step beside Spock. "Can we still work together?" he asked after a moment, not looking at Spock's face.

Spock said, "Yes." Nothing more.

"And meld, if we need to?"

"Yes."

He threw caution and logic to the wind and went with intuition. "Are you as miserable as I am?"

"Undoubtedly."

"Do we have to go along with this?"

That got him a long pause. He wondered what kind of equivocation Spock was going to come up with, but in the end all he said was, "No."

"Do you really want to?"

"No."

He leaned closer to Spock, so their arms touched. "What do you want?"

Another long pause, and then, softly, "To touch you."

He stood and gave Spock his hand, pulling him up. "Like this?" he asked, running the tips of his fingers over Spock's lips.

"Yes," and Spock did the same to him.

"And this?" He captured Spock's hand before it could leave his mouth and sucked the pads of two fingers.

"Yes," shakily.

"What else?"

Spock glanced down, and he said a little breathlessly, "You touch me there and you'll have to bring me clean clothes before I can walk out of here."

He wasn't sure whether that would offend a Vulcan's sensibilities, but Spock only smiled with his eyes and said, "Then we must find a more suitable location."

"Yes."

They walked up the steps in accord, but at the door Jim stopped. "Wait, I'm not really decent yet."

Spock touched his temple and he felt their minds flowing together, so familiar and necessary that he knew neither of them could have tolerated separation. His cock subsided immediately and his heart slowed. "That's a neat trick," he said with a grin.

"It has proven so on occasion."

As they walked to the lift, Jim asked, teasing, "Are you telling me I give you a hard-on in inappropriate places?"

"Yes."

Jim glanced sideways at him while they waited for the lift, hoping no one would be in it. Spock's face was solemn but there was a charged energy about him that no one could miss. "If I'd known how much fun you could be, I'd have suggested this a long time ago."

"You might have been surprised at the response."

Jim just smiled. As the lift doors began to close, he heard footsteps pounding around the curve of the corridor, and resignedly put his finger on the 'Stop' button. One of McCoy's techs skidded to a stop at the sight of his Captain and First Officer. "Sorry, sir! I heard the door closing and I was hoping I could make it in time."

Spock said, totally deadpan, "No running indoors, Mr. Davis," and Davis gave him a startled look and replied, "Yessir! I mean, no sir! Sorry, sir!" while Jim held his breath to keep from laughing and wondered what he'd unleashed.

Spock's door was closer to the lift by five steps. He tilted an eyebrow at Jim.

"Yes."

Inside was warm, all the surfaces touched with the flicker of the Fire God. Spock turned the lights up just a bit, not enough to bring hard edges back to everything. He took a small ornately carved box from a drawer and shook a pinch of powder into the flame. A scent like incense rose up and curled around them, a tantalizing odor like evergreens and sunlight and the hint of distant water all mixed together.

"What is that?" Jim asked, delighted with it. "Not some sort of aphrodaisiac, surely."

Spock seemed amused. "No. A ritual." He paused. "For celebrations. It seemed appropriate."

"Yes."

Vulcans seemed to have rituals for everything, he thought, but this one was nice末heady and sensual, just like their mood.

"Do you know what I want?" Jim asked him, and without waiting for an answer he said, "To feel your mind."

"I want to feel your body," Spock said. "May we not do both?"

"Oh, yes."

He stood close to Spock and could sense the background presence of his mind even without physical touch. Spock touched him all over with his eyes, a hot gaze that had Jim hard again in seconds.

"We have barely spoken to each other for days," Spock said huskily. "You have not touched me once."

"No," Jim said regretfully. "I didn't think it was appropriate until we knew where this was going. I didn't want it to look as though I was trying to coerce you."

He listened a little more carefully to what Spock had said. "Have you always liked me to touch you? Did you enjoy it when I touched you in front of others?"

"Yes."

After a pause he said, "I saw how you touched everyone, but your hand on my arm, on my back, was for me alone."

Spock lifted his hands to Jim's shoulders, sliding over the biceps and then the elbows to his wrists, learning his shape. His fingertips slid under the uniform tunic. Wherever they touched, Jim could feel how he felt to Spock, as though it was Spock's mind that touched him instead of his hands, as though Spock were building a mental picture of the topography of his body.

"Yes. Your face, your voice末these are stored in my heart. But to know how you feel . . . I have longed for that."

"In your heart?" Jim teased him. "That isn't logical, is it?"

"No."

The hands grazed his hips, swept down to outline his thighs, knees, calves. Spock knelt before him, his cheek and then his ear brushing against Jim's groin. "None of this is logical," he said. "I could not give my father a logical reason not to dissolve the bond."

He glanced up. "'I want' is not sufficient reason. 'I want to touch my commanding officer. I want our bodies to melt together as our minds do.' If I had been able to say those words to him, he would not have understood." He rose, with longing on his face. "Jim . . . "

"Yes."

They were so close already. It was nothing for Jim's arms to come around Spock's back and for one of Spock's hands to cup his chin and the other slide behind his neck and for Spock's mouth to come down on his, so sweet and hot, just as he had known it would be, in the few fantasies he'd allowed himself.

He pulled away a little, before the kisses became overwhelming. "Did you wonder what it would be like? To touch like this?"

"Yes." Spock kissed him again. "Did you dream of the touch of my mind?"

"Yes. Touch me now."

The room dissolved. They stood on the sands of Vulcan. Mountains cut a jagged purple line across the horizon, hazy in the distance, and at their backs a clump of tall trees ringed a watering hole where their mounts drank noisily. It was twilight, the brief moments in which heat still rose from the sand but was moderated by the chill of the coming night. Another day's ride separated them from the ancient place where they would be joined. Their longing for each other was a palpable thing, coloring every word, every accidental touch, and some not so accidental. It had been a long journey to this place, but they were attuned now, both desiring the same outcome.

Spock turned from scanning the line of mountains, where he had strained to see the still invisible ring of stones. Tomorrow.

James had opened one of the packs and was setting up the tent and Spock hurried to help. He stumbled a little in the soft sand and Spock caught him around the waist to prevent a fall, and in the moment when he should have let James go he tightened his arms instead and they stood there pressed tightly to each other, and Spock knew they would not reach the place of Koon-ut-Kalifee before coming together.

The vision faded and they were back in Spock's quarters, locked in each other's embrace.

"Do we have to wait?"

"No."

In the soft light, the dry air scented like the living desert, they disrobed, touching each other now and then as each was revealed. Jim ruffled the hair on Spock's chest with his fingers, admiring it with his eyes. Spock laid his hand against Jim's belly, muscles taut under the soft skin. When Jim bent to pull off his boots, he felt Spock's fingers in his hair.

No more words now, every touch was yes. Their bellies together with their sex trapped between, Spock's hands holding the curves of Jim's ass, Jim's hands clenched on Spock's biceps, their knees bumping together, Jim's tongue in the exquisite whorl of Spock's ear, Spock's breath hot on Jim's neck, his teeth leaving little marks in the sensitive skin, their voices making the inarticulate sounds of pleasure that all lovers say to each other, their minds far far away on a desert oasis by a pool of clear water on the tasselled cloth that was supposed to have been their tent, crying out their passion in broken-voiced phrases of Vulcanir and Anglish.

Coming back to find themselves half on Spock's bunk, their legs sliding off, in imminent danger of landing in an undignified pile on the floor. Jim pushed himself up and hauled Spock with him and managed to get them both to a sitting position on the bed, Spock looking at him in bewilderment.

"I do not remember coming in here."

"I don't either. Those whaddyacallems, that we were riding on, must have given us a shove. They probably didn't want us muddying up their drinking water."

"A'stani," Spock said automatically, and then, "Jim. That is illogical." But he was smiling.

They stood in the shower and it was a geyser of steaming mineral waters, and found the bed properly this time and it became a pallet on the sand under a blazing celestial bowl, and in the early morning they woke and whispered "I love you" to each other and made love again just as themselves, touching the places they had learned now to touch and saying "Yes" and "Oh" and "More" and "I love you" again and again.

They had waked to only the faint flicker of the Fire God. Jim fumbled for the bedside light and looked down at his sated lover. "Oh, boy. Do I look as thoroughly fucked as you?"

Spock raised an amused eyebrow. "Yes."

"Think there's any chance at all of keeping this from everybody?" He answered his own question. "Not if you're planning to go around with a look like that on your face."

"I will endeavor to control my expression," Spock said, with such wonderful sincerity and total lack of success that Jim began to laugh helplessly.

"Come on," he said, still chuckling. "Let's have another shower and get dressed and have an early breakfast."

At this hour the mess hall was nearly empty, only a few others up early like themselves, or having a late snack after third shift before going to bed. And in the far corner, with a pot of tea before him on the table and a small reader in his hands, Sarek.

Jim said, "This isn't going to be a problem, is it?"

"No," Spock said calmly. "But it would be rude to ignore him."

They carried their trays to Sarek's table. He was concentrating on whatever it was he was reading, but looked up as they approached. His expression shifted from pleasantly neutral to a very expressive stillness.

Spock said, "Father," the first time Jim had heard him use that title, and Sarek rose.

He didn't know whether to expect Vulcan fireworks or cold Vulcan disapproval, so he was astonished when Sarek made a ceremonious gesture and reached out to touch his temple, his fingers brushing the meld points and swiftly gone. It was a ritual, Jim saw. There had been no mental contact.

"Spock. James. Shall I tell your mother?"

He saw that Spock was as astounded as himself. Sarek gathered up his empty cup and the reader and bowed to them both as he turned to walk away.

"Ambassador." Jim stopped him. "You don't disapprove, then? I thought末"

"No." He took another step, then stopped. "In the absence of certainty, drastic measures may be required."

He strode away, his black robe flapping around his knees.

Jim looked at Spock, stunned. "I wouldn't swear to it, but I think your father has been playing matchmaker."

And right there in front of everyone, Spock smiled the most joyous smile Jim had ever seen, even in the last twelve hours, an Irish elf smile, a Pan-god smile, a Vulcan in love smile.

"Yes," he said.

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