"As you wish, Captain." Four simple words and you were gone. Four words you have said to me countless times. But this time they were said in anger, not respect. This time I was the one being dismissed even as you left my quarters.

Am I to blame for the tension that is strung between us like a rope about to fray? I don't want to admit that the fault is mine, not even to myself. It has been building slowly, barely noticed by anyone except me. And you? I ask myself, hoping you too are aware of the subtle shift in our interactions.

When did it begin, your barely concealed animosity? Was it when I ignored your warnings and beamed down to the base of Lowdermilk Mountain? You reported that it was unstable and further surveying would be inadvisable. How could I order the planet geologists into danger yet refuse to go myself? I bristled when you inadvertently said that the Captain is not expendable. Expendable? How dare you say any of my crew deserved to be sent intentionally into harm's way? My reaction was disproportionate to your statement. I still can't believe I raised my voice to you. Yelled at you – on the Bridge. Later you hesitantly listened to my explanation, your reluctance to hear me out further annoying me.

Maybe it had started before that day. Was it when I countermanded your order concerning the redesign of the astrophysics lab? Those decisions had always been left to you to make. I should have explained to you in private. If you had not been avoiding me quite so studiously, I would have shared the reasons that the overhaul had to be delayed. Instead, I told you at the meeting of Command Crew. Your shock was hard to see, your dismay pervasive. And your coolness toward me became frosty.

You are angry at me now because I denied your request to reassign three of your science staff. I know that their personalities annoy you, their bickering tiring to you. The quiet of your orderly labs is disturbed when they are on duty together. If they were reassigned, their behavior would deteriorate even further. They are young and need a firm hand to guide them, mold them into proper officers. You are the best one to show them the right path to follow. You see them only as irritants. I see their potential and know you will assist them in realizing it.

And if you were not already so angry with me, you would understand my motives. Just as I understand that your enmity is a façade behind which resides emotions that are deeper and truer. I know that you care for me in ways you believe are forbidden. I know that you are fighting the emotions stirred in you at my presence. And in fighting to remain in control, you fight me.

After you left my quarters, leaving behind those cold words of dismissal, I could stand it no longer. I didn't want to be without the guidance of my best friend, to have my right hand unavailable to me. I entered your quarters without first requesting your permission. A breach of protocol. A violation of your personal domain. I did not care, not even when you looked at me with the anger blazing in your black eyes. You remained obedient to my authority when I ordered you to listen without interruption. A strange way to begin a deeply personal conversation, I know. But what I needed to say to you was what you needed to hear. Even if you would have chosen to continue to ignore the truth which was so obvious to me.

"I'm sorry" were the first words I said to you. Never apologize - Captains have this drilled into us until we know these words more steadfastly than our own names. Never show doubt. Never reveal that your decision, your action, might have been incorrect. Never second guess yourself to your crew. All these things I knew, yet still I had to say it to you: "I'm sorry." For I was not in your quarters as your Captain. I came as your friend, to ease your burdens and try to heal the rift that separated us.

I'm sorry you have been angered by my recent orders. That you have bristled at my recent actions. I'm sorry you couldn't listen to my explanations. And I'm sorry I pulled rank on you to make sure you would listen this time. All these things I thought as I stood staring into the face of your anger. None of them I said. Only "I'm sorry."

You looked up at me from where you still sat, your black eyes wide and shining. Had you understood? Had you heard the words I had yet to say? You made no indication. You made no response.

I did tell you the reasons behind those order you could not comprehend. You listened intently, your expression barely changing at my confession.

Finally I asked the one question that had really brought me to this point, to your quarters, uninvited. "Why are you so angry, Spock?" Why are you hiding from me? What are you hiding from us both?

Rather than deny your very Human, very evident anger, you looked away from me. You studied your hands with those oh-so elegant fingers. Finally you spoke, softly and with certainty. You demonstrated none of the hesitancy I had thought might be your response. Finally you were able to tell me the truth, the truth I already possessed. You had been avoiding me, unable to remain in my presence for fear of what you might say or do.

I asked if there was something specific you were not saying, something specific you had kept to yourself. I could tell you knew at that moment that I understood. And your eyes caught mine once more. Smiling black eyes. A smile on your lips as you stood. I feel the same way, I assured you. I too am in love, I confessed.

And so the rift was healed, the gulf bridged. We became one, our bodies and souls merging. When we finally were able to maintain enough distance between us to leave your quarters, the entire crew knew things had been righted. The collective tension was released, one sigh of relief coming from all those on board. For I had gotten my wish.