He has become wistful. This emotion makes the captain even more golden. He speaks as though from a distance. "I wonder sometimes. The melds. Do they bring us closer together or keep us apart?" "Yes." He smiles, almost laughs. The more I behave as I have in past moments of high camaraderie, the more relaxed the captain is. He is pleased to the core to receive an illogical response from me. I have thought this through already, long ago. "Melds are both a means of knowing very deeply. But it is a means of knowing that satisfies you such that you need not seek out other means of intimacy." The captain fidgets with his empty tumbler. "You've been paying attention when we meld." "I must. I have to keep you safe."

The door buzzes. Doctor McCoy enters. "Didn't know you were back on the ship, Jimbo. Something up?" "We got caught on a cold walk a little too far from the hotel." "Not like you to plan that poorly." The captain smiles with his eyes. "What poor planning? I brought a starship." McCoy looks at each of us. It is perhaps the intentional posture of welcome that communicates itself to him. "I should leave you two alone. I see." Another look between us. "Let me know if you need anything." Quiet settles on the room. The captain pours us both more alcohol. "We're transparent as hell." I pull my vaporous tumbler closer but do not sip from it. "Based on my acute overhearing of comments when we are on base, half of Starfleet Command suspects we are already more involved." This gives the captain pause. "How long's that been going on?" "It began soon after you took command." He tilts his head, sips his drink. "No hope for that then."

"You never said anything. About the rumors." The captain speaks, then looks up. He is so human. Bulky and soft, compact and mercurial. I have grown more than accustomed to this humanness. He is the opposite of T'Pring. By every possible measure. "I did not see a reason to distress you with the information if you were unaware." His brows rise up. "Distress?" I am illogically protective of this past decision. I say nothing. His expression softens. It projects affection. "Were you afraid how I'd react?"

"It's okay." I don't need to push Spock on this. "Command's misunderstanding may have been useful, keeping them off my back when I needed to disobey orders to rescue you." Spock is looking me over. His mind seems elsewhere than my words. The idea of that great mind assessing me as a potential intimate ignites me. I am the ship's warp core. Does he imagine us. And if he does, how does he imagine us.

The captain stares at the overhead. "I rebel innately against this kind of commitment. It's as if I have nothing left to spare, and anything else, any one else, threatens my solemn duties. Don't be in denial, please, Spock, my friend. It happens every time. It seems." "You have already forgiven me for my far more significant shortcomings in the area of personal relations." "I love who you are and that you are beside me." "That is a superior way to put it."

"There is no other being in the galaxy I trust the way I trust you." I'm thinking aloud now. Not like me. "And we're so close it's probably pointless to worry about whether we're closer." "Logical." I smile, but I can feel it's pained. "I can't mess this up. This life is everything to me." Spock's voice is low and it wavers with awkward discomfort. "I am more aware of your inner thoughts and motives than your previous intimates were capable of being." I'm teetering. And if I fall on the edge rather than commit, it's going to sever me in half. "You're going to keep forgiving me. Even when I do something spectacularly hurtful to you for no good reason?" "I am perfectly aware that you are human, in the philosophical sense of that word."

He is fighting me rather than something internal that I cannot assist with. And here I, the Vulcan, am arguing for additional emotion between us. Or perhaps that is impossible. I lack sufficient data. I already harbor more emotion than I thought possible. I already submit to more vulnerability than I thought I could tolerate. My estimates regarding this will continue to be faulty. It is unacceptable. I cannot come to an understanding of myself without him.

I'm chilled and hot. I can't possibly drink fast enough to get drunk enough to get up and approach him. I am relieved beyond imagining by the openness we have managed. Despite the way it has left me yearning in ways I don't recognize. But really. Am I going to sit here and force a Vulcan who suppresses his emotions, suppresses his every physical reaction to stimulation internal and external, am I going to force him to come to me? He is sipping his drink with a deeply inward expression. I am now consciously stalling, allowing the barriers to remain there between us. Once they are down we'll be free of them for good. I ache for that release.

The captain's thoughts are manifesting in his physical presence. Indecision is unfamiliar to him and experiencing it makes him question his assumptions about himself. I can see all of this play across his face, across his posture as he sits hulking over his half empty tumbler. To be human is to be uncertain. I let him seek his way for a time. "Jim?"

I stand up because I can't be the man who doesn't stand up. I stop beside his chair. The side of my knee bumps the side of his and holds there. The room is warm but that's not the reason I'm overheating inside my thin shirt. He holds his drink in mid air, slowly stretches to set it down. His face tips up, tracking me. It is tinged a deep green around the edges. He's blushing or he's also overwrought. Either makes me warmer still, makes my stomach flutter. I take his face between my hands, insert my fingers into the short hair at his nape, my thumbs slide over his ears. A twinge spasms through him. He reaches up for my hands and I almost release him. His hands slide down my arms instead of taking hold of my wrists. They slide down my sides to my hips, rest there. It's just his fingertips, one palm of one hand on my hip bone. But I am lit up by it, reacting electrically up and down my core. It's as if I've never been touched. I bend slowly toward him. The suspense is rendering me sensitive to the fabric of everything. There is no membrane between myself and the universe. His eyes half close. His lips part. I can't deny that kind of invitation. I put my lips on his. I want to sink into him, but draw up his lips gently instead, press them down against his teeth, wet them. Taste him. Draw the hunger up out of him to keep mine company. His hands are on my ribs, pulling to steer me around the chair to stand between his knees, which he clamps around mine. He's pulling me forward, holding firm. I release his mouth and look down at him to sink into his gaze. I have never been more alive than this moment. And I am still utterly terrified.