Disclaimer: Star Trek characters belong to Paramount.

Author's note: Sorry, this is fluff. Tons and tons of fluff. Quite shameless, I might add. So, a friend told me I couldn't write a happy ending to save my life. Also, I needed a distraction. What can I say? Sorry about this.

Warning: Adult situations

Codes/Rating: K/S. Romance/General

'

Two Is Company

By

Anna Amuse

--

When Spock had finally beamed down to the planet, the majority of the crew was already there, enjoying the gentleness of Teelousian night. He had to admit that the arrangements were spectacular. The white fabric of tents set throughout the valley for as long as the eye could see, wavering softly in the mild breeze; the lanterns flooding the evening air with languid light that stole the sharp edges and smoothed the rough angles; the quiet sound of pleasant conversation, laughter and sweet, non-obtrusive music; everything here on the surface attested to peace and relaxation and was calling timidly, but persistently to leave one's troubles behind.

Spock looked around, trying to feel more comfortable in the peaceful environment. He did enjoy the slightly mysterious feel of the twilight, illogical as it might have been. It was reminiscent of the nights he spent on Vulcan studying music, listening to the pieces played by the masters of the lyre under the stars. Spock remembered the peculiar sensation of something tightening momentarily in his chest as if in some kind of expectation of something wondrous, something fascinating.

He never did confess having this feeling. In fact, he actively tried to convince himself he had not experienced it. But his mother probably knew the truth, judging by the kind, conspiratorial comprehension in her eyes. And now, as he was standing on the soft slightly bluish grass of the planet so far away from his native world, he couldn't help but take a deep breath and close his eyes for a moment, recapturing that disturbing yet strangely compelling feeling.

He snapped his eyes open, looking around warily to check whether any of his crewmates had seen him doing it. But he had nothing to worry about. They were all too busy talking to each other or their hosts, eating, drinking and enjoying themselves. Spock spotted an improvised dance floor not too far away, where several couples were swaying into the music, with different degrees of gracefulness. The Teelousians were, by definition, very well coordinated people. Humans, particularly after having consumed several alcoholic beverages, were not.

Feeling a smile creeping up on the corners of his mouth treacherously, Spock straightened up determinedly, reasserting his guard. He did have a duty here. His human shipmates certainly required shore leave, but he, as a Vulcan, could do without such pointless exploits. He only beamed down because the Captain had requested a report on the ship's status.

Spock started to walk along the would-be chaotic assembly of tents, looking for the Captain. The request didn't surprise Spock very much. They had just pulled through a rather nasty mission, which ended in a success, but cost the lives of two crewmembers and severe damage to the ship.

It took a while to make the Captain agree to go ashore. He desperately needed time to heal, particularly as he had always felt the loss of his people so keenly, but he wasn't all that easy to convince. It took the combined efforts of Doctor McCoy, Spock, Scott, Uhura and even Chekov to set a plan in motion, which actually did get Kirk off the ship for a while.

Spock knew McCoy tried to get the Captain to talk about his feelings, but it never worked. It didn't work after Edith Keeler, didn't work after Deneva, didn't work after Janice Lester, either. Spock understood this need for privacy perhaps better than anyone, but he still couldn't help wondering sometimes if it would have been easier on the Captain if he'd let his pain out just once.

Spock spotted him from afar, the familiar, warm sound of his laughter acting as a beacon. Kirk was half-sitting half-lying on a couch, talking to a lovely Teelousian female. Her silvery hair gleamed and shimmered in the soft light, and Spock had to admit that it was a most enthralling sight. She bent over the low table reaching to refill Kirk's goblet, and the fluid grace of her movements made Spock's breath catch for a second. A most compelling race indeed.

His pace slowed, as he approached the tent, until he finally stopped within some five meters. Spock's gaze locked on the Captain, and for a moment, the Vulcan was utterly thrown out by how relaxed Kirk looked. It seemed like the exhaustion and the weariness coming from tension and grief were lifted, and he was free to breathe and enjoy life, without any inhibitions to prevent it.

Spock paused, watching him. It didn't seem like a good moment to interrupt. Kirk looked almost happy for the first time in days. The woman was obviously to his liking. And surely, the report contained nothing requiring the Captain's attention right this instant. Kirk did ask for it, but it was doubtful, judging by the way he was smiling at the woman, that he would remember his request any time soon. Spock debated silently for a moment longer, then finally gave in and turned to go.

"Spock?"

Spock froze. For some reason he felt as if he'd been caught doing something indecent. He must have waited a moment too long, he realized, as he turned towards the tent again.

"Captain," he said, taking the last several steps in.

Kirk stood up to meet him. He was grinning softly.

"Wanted to sneak out without saying hi?" Kirk asked, looking at him all too knowingly.

"I did not want to disturb you," Spock said, his gaze sliding briefly towards the woman.

"You never do," Kirk said and stepped slightly aside, so that Spock and the Teelousian could get a clear view of each other. "This is Taleena, our generous hostess. Tal, this is my First Officer, Mr. Spock."

He placed his hand on the small of Spock's back and pressed him forward slightly as he introduced him, urging him to step more fully inside the tent. Spock complied automatically, bowing to the woman politely.

"Madam."

She rose to her feet fluidly and offered him her hand.

"It's nice to meet you in person, Commander," she said in a melodic, singsong voice, smiling at him. "Though I feel like I know you already."

Confused, Spock took her hand reflexively. An eyebrow crept up quizzically, as he looked at Kirk for an explanation. The Captain appeared to be somewhat flushed and stepped back quietly, looking over them both curiously. A fleeting frown of apprehension clouded Spock's expression. Surely, the Captain was not playing matchmaker?

"Am I to assume I have been a topic of your conversation?" Spock directed his query to Taleena.

"The topic is more like it," she replied, with a laugh. "Don't worry, it's all good."

"Oh? That is hard to believe."

"Well, let's see," she tilted her head to the side and frowned in feigned pensiveness. "The Captain said you were the best first officer in the fleet. He also said you were a wonderful friend. And what was it? Ah yes, that he wouldn't be here tonight alive and well without you."

Spock could feel Kirk's eyes on him, but for some reason found it difficult to meet them. He concentrated on Taleena instead.

"You are doubtless aware of the human inexhaustible propensity for exaggeration," Spock told her evenly. "That was one prime example."

She grinned mischievously. "On which part?"

"On every part."

Taleena laughed and looked at Kirk briefly, before returning her gaze to the Vulcan.

"I don't think so. Your Captain seems to have acute powers of observation, Mr. Spock."

"Indeed," Spock inclined his head. "And he hasn't been putting them to good use if he neglected to tell you until now that you are an exceptionally beautiful woman, and even those of my people would not be averse to admitting that."

She laughed softly again, her eyes gleaming in pleasure and surprise. She looked at Kirk with mild reproach.

"You didn't tell me he was a charmer."

"I didn't know," Kirk shook his head, grinning and shooting a somewhat incredulous glance at Spock.

The Vulcan looked at him calmly, refusing to be stared down.

"I have the report you requested, Captain," he said, handing Kirk a data chip.

Kirk took it, looking at it thoughtfully, but making no attempt to find a viewer.

"Everything fine on board?" He asked.

"Indeed, sir. Everything is proceeding according to schedule. If I may, Captain?" Spock nodded at the data chip. "There is nothing there, which requires your immediate attention. I am confident that no emergency will arise in the next forty-eight hours, and I am fully capable of overseeing the proceedings."

"I know, Spock," Kirk said, finally putting the chip in his pocket. "There's not so much even to oversee, nothing that Ensign Lopez couldn't handle."

"Indeed, sir," Spock nodded cautiously. "She is a most capable young woman. Her competence allowed me to concentrate on my work in the lab."

"Don't you ever relax, Mr. Spock?" Taleena asked curiously. "You know," she ran her fingers soothingly over Kirk's arm, "enjoy yourself?"

Spock's gaze lingered for a moment on their joined hands, before he shook his head softly.

"Not like this, Ms. Taleena. Vulcans have different ways." He tore his eyes away from her mesmerizing silver-blue ones and looked at Kirk. "If there is nothing else, Captain, I will be returning to the ship."

"Can't you stay for the fireworks at least?" Kirk asked him quietly, hope and regret mixed in his expression. He was suddenly looking weary all over again, as if someone had popped his fragile bubble of contentment. "From what Tal told me, it's a fascinating show."

"Yes, really, Mr. Spock," she took a step towards him, nodding enthusiastically. "It's a spectacular view. People come from all over the Federation to see our fireworks festival, and believe me it's well worth the trouble. They are about to start anyway. Certainly, your work on the ship is not that urgent?"

Spock hesitated, unprepared for such a forceful attack, and glanced at Kirk in confusion, seeking his support. Surely, the Captain wouldn't want him to intrude on his time with the lovely Teelousian?

"Please, Spock," Kirk said, in the same quiet, inscrutable tone. "It won't take much of your time."

Spock straightened, fighting away the growing embarrassment he always felt whenever he happened to be the 'fifth wheel.' It wasn't a logical feeling, but then, feelings rarely were. It was the one that he experienced quite often though. When it happened, he reminded himself that he was left out by choice, and a logical one at that.

Besides, it might be indeed beneficial to stay and make certain that the Captain did enjoy himself. Kirk was sending all kinds of mixed signals tonight, and for the first time in a year, no less, Spock had had difficulty reading him.

"Very well, sir," he acquiesced, clasping his hands behind his back, trying to look completely unaffected by the situation. "If you request it."

Kirk shook his head, looking strangely serious.

"That wasn't a request, Spock. I just thought you might enj—find it interesting."

Spock felt a pang of guilt at this quickly corrected slip. Kirk was one of the few individuals who was always highly cognizant of Spock's sensitivities and made an effort never to upset them. Sometimes the length Kirk was willing to go to maintain Spock's comfort zone for him shamed the Vulcan to bits. Certainly, enduring several more minutes of awkwardness was not so much to ask?

"Thank you, sir," Spock nodded hastily. "I believe I will enjoy watching the fireworks indeed."

Kirk grinned, though somewhat sadly.

"Let's get outside then. I think I can hear the announcer."

The three of them walked from under the tent's roof into the open. Taleena waved to a server, who came over to them with a tray. Spock surveyed the peculiar shape of the glasses that seemed to reflect every small droplet of light and multiply it. The liquid inside was indigo blue, sparkling and hissing softly, reminiscent of the Earth champagne. Kirk took a glass, and Taleena took two, offering one to the Vulcan.

"Thank you, but I must decline," Spock shook his head at her.

"It doesn't contain any mind altering substances," she replied teasingly, peering up at him, with a most suggestive look on her face. "It merely heightens the experience and brings joy to one's heart."

"It's not too sweet, Spock," Kirk's voice sounded from his other side. "You'll probably like it."

"It's completely harmless," Taleena added, smiling slyly.

Spock found himself unable, or more likely unwilling to resist so sweetly exerted pressure. He took the proffered glass from her, thinking regretfully that his defenses against someone so aesthetically pleasing left much to be desired. He also had a strange, inexplicable suspicion that Kirk was well aware of it and put her up to it.

For a moment, Spock felt something akin to a pang of envy towards the Captain, though it was fleeting in passing and never made it anywhere near jealousy. In his wildest dreams, Spock could not envision himself competing with Jim over anything, least of all over a woman.

It was just that there was a certain sense of belonging here, something he very rarely experienced himself. As McCoy had once put it, quite tactlessly as was his habit, Spock was always a bridesmaid, never a bride. Most of the time, Spock was perfectly content with it. But for some reason, on this planet, it was... disquieting to be alone.

He brought the glass to his lips and took a cautious sip.

"Well?" Taleena asked, watching him avidly and still smiling.

"Incredible," he admitted honestly. "It is like... I do not believe I can define the taste, yet it is... very pleasant."

"Told you you'd like it." Kirk's shoulder bumped into his gently, the Captain's glass half-empty already.

Spock observed him carefully, with a fine measure of wariness. Kirk gave him a cocky grin.

"I won't cause a debouche unless I'm asked to, Mr. Spock. Is that what you're worried about?"

Spock took in the way Kirk's eyes seemed to glitter and inclined his head blandly.

"The thought did cross my mind."

Kirk laughed, clapping his back amiably.

"Don't worry, I won't be embarrassing you like this any time soon."

Spock lifted an eyebrow.

"The way in which your phrase is constructed suggests that you may try to 'embarrass' me in some other way, Captain. Is that really your intention?"

"Well," Kirk's grin became wicked. "You never know."

"Look, it's beginning," Taleena pointed at the sky.

The sky suddenly attained a plethora of bright colors, lightening up the surface of the planet as if it was daytime. Spock immediately started to calculate the method of keeping such smooth a background for the show, but his analysis was interrupted by the first image.

A huge purple and red bird spread its wings over their heads, sending sparks of pure gold around it. Enchanted, they watched its daring flight from one side of the horizon to the other, when another figure appeared. This time, it was an archer with a crossbow. The valley erupted in gasps, as he took aim of the bird and sent his arrow towards the zenith. Spock had no time to spare for the excited female voices shouting, as the arrow sank into the bird's wing. They were then treated to the image of feathers melting in a cascade of fires.

As the remaining feathers touched the imagined ground, they immediately turned into trees, growing at the abnormal rate, blossoming in violet and blue, and then miraculously producing golden fruits on their crimson branches. The fruits grew bigger until they filled the whole sky and then exploded spectacularly, evoking a new wave of delighted gasps.

The incredible show continued with two kittens chasing each other across the sky dome. On the ground, people laughed and cheered. Spock felt strangely warmed up by the shared experience, as if the crowd's emotions were cradling him, taking him higher and higher along the road of pleasure. Vaguely he felt Kirk standing right next to him, his head almost lying on Spock's shoulder, eyes following the show diligently. With difficulty, Spock suppressed the urge to reach out and steady the Captain with his hands. He looked up again, concentrating on the marvelous spectacle.

The kittens were gone, and a huge barge was now entering the high stage. They were introduced to the image of an actual sea storm, with the sky going all dark and the waves attacking the sturdy vessel ruthlessly. Lightning bolts looked frighteningly real, and when the 'sun' came up and highlighted the sign 'Enterprise' on the barge's board, the crowd erupted in cheers and whistles.

The show ended with the streams of gold flowing down the sky, covering it completely, shimmering and sparkling, and bringing smiles of pure delight on every face. As the sky grew quietly dark again, people started to come back to their senses slowly, still totally enthralled by what they saw.

"Well, Mr. Spock," Taleena smiled at him slyly. "What's your conclusion?"

Spock looked at her, suddenly aware that Kirk must have moved away without him noticing. The Captain was now standing at the Teelousian's side, grinning at him softly.

"I must admit," Spock said honestly, "this was the most impressive light show I have ever seen. Phenomenal."

Taleena's smile widened.

"I'm so glad we pleased you."

"As I am glad to have stayed," he bowed his head in acknowledgement. "I thank you sincerely for your hospitality. But it is time I returned to the ship."

"Oh," she pouted charmingly at him. "Must you go? The night has only just begun."

Spock looked from her to the Captain, who watched him, with an enigmatic expression on his face, and back. He tried to appear apologetic and not uneasy as best he could.

"There is an Earth saying, Ms. Taleena. Two is company. I would not wish to intrude."

"Oh, what nonsense," she waved off his words with a laugh. "You're on Teelousia, Mr. Spock, the world where no guest feels unwanted."

"Still, I must insist—"

"Spock." Kirk stepped forward and placed a hand on his arm gently. "Walk with me?"

Spock considered him for a moment, not really understanding why his presence was requested when he was so obviously the odd man here. But there was something in the way Kirk waited for his answer, patiently and hopefully, that made him nod his agreement before he knew it, all logical arguments instantly forgotten.

"Of course, Captain."

Kirk turned to Taleena. "Any places you can recommend?"

She smiled and pointed at the narrow, just for two, path to her left.

"It goes into the forest and there is not much light there, but do not fear. There are no obstacles and no dangers. Just quietness and privacy."

"Thank you," Kirk bowed his head curtly. "That's all we need."

She nodded silently, smiling mischievously at Spock's surprised expression, as he realized she wasn't coming with them.

"Come on, Spock," Kirk gave his sleeve a gentle tug. "Let's go."

Spock pushed down his reaction to the sudden turn of events and followed the Captain dutifully, falling in stride with him without effort. It occurred to him that perhaps Jim was more concerned about something that he had let on. Perhaps there was a problem he wished to discuss. Yes, that definitely must be it.

His theory, however, seemed to be disproven quick enough. Kirk was walking beside him silently, frowning slightly and looking around without really seeing the beautiful scenery. Spock decided to wait it out, but as they entered the marge of the forest, still without a word, he allowed his own frown to creep onto his face. Something was definitely wrong here. The voices and the lights died out gradually behind them, and they were walking in the near complete darkness now, their path barely discernible.

Kirk chuckled suddenly.

"Damn, this is fitting."

Spock shot him a quizzical look.

"Captain?"

He could see Kirk shaking his head. There was a soft smile curving his lips. Spock could only see so much in the darkness, but he had the distinct impression that the smile was bitter. Kirk spoke quietly.

"Half way through the journey we are living I found myself deep in the darkened forest..."

He fell silent. Spock waited a moment and then finished the quote.

"For I had lost all trace of the straight path."

"Somehow I knew you wouldn't fail me," Kirk said, and Spock could feel the smile in his voice.

"You are aware that Earth poetry is a particular... weakness of mine," Spock amended.

"A romantic in you, Spock?"

"I would not necessarily go that far, sir. The forms are most compelling. And the imagery is powerful."

"Yes," Kirk sighed. "Yes, of course." After a short pause, he said, "I confess, those words have been on my mind lately."

"How so?" Spock asked, cautiously neutral.

"I think I find myself in a similar predicament. I feel like I no longer know where I'm going."

Spock considered that for a moment.

"As I recall, Dante had a guide who helped him find his way."

Kirk chuckled, still without a trace of mirth.

"Know of anyone fitting the job description?"

"I might," Spock said, with the slightest hint of teasing. "However, prior to advising you of a candidate, it would be logical to inquire as to your destination."

"Destination," Kirk sighed. "You have a knack for asking difficult questions, Mr. Spock. I don't know my destination. I wish I did."

Spock chewed on it a little, his need to reassure battling with concern. But as usual, Jim's need prevailed.

"In that case, I can only propose one candidate," Spock said with deliberate lightness.

"Hm. Just one? Do I like him?"

Spock's eyebrow crept up. "I would not know, Captain."

"I can't go through hell with just anybody, Mr. Spock. Maybe I should ask a different question, then. Does he like me?"

"It is difficult to say," Spock admitted. "However, there is some evidence to that effect."

"That's promising. What kind of evidence?"

"For instance, the fact that he is in the forest with you already."

"Spock." Kirk stopped, turning to him. Spock held his breath. "Thank you."

Spock could only incline his head, fighting desperately to suppress his emotions. Was the planet's atmosphere affecting him so? He had held his feelings in check for so long. Why was it suddenly so difficult now?

"Jim," he said quietly, concentrating on his friend's need again. "Jim, what is troubling you?"

Kirk tensed beside him and stepped back awkwardly.

"I... don't think I want to talk about it, Spock."

"Is it so hard to share?"

Kirk laughed nervously. "Spoken by the one who should know."

Spock had known him too long and too well to be derailed so easily.

"Jim, you have not been yourself lately. Everyone noticed this, not only I. I have hoped that this shore leave will help you restore your equilibrium. But now you seem to be unhappy to be here."

"No," Kirk shook his head. "No, Spock, I'm not unhappy. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to appear ungrateful. I know you had to pull a lot of strings to get us shore leave on Teelousia."

"That is of no consequence."

"Of course it is. I know how much you hate to call in the favors. And I know it was your doing, don't dare to deny it. Bones might have helped, but he just doesn't have enough leverage, and—"

"Jim. It is unimportant. What is important is that you are not enjoying yourself. I wish to know why. Teelousia is one of the most beautiful planet resorts in the quadrant. Is it not to your liking?"

"It's beautiful," Kirk nodded. "It's just that..." he paused, searching for words. "Being here, seeing all this happiness and love, it's... unsettling."

"Oh?"

"It makes one feel lonely, Mr. Spock."

Spock considered it for a moment, but then gave in to his utter confusion. He might be feeling lonely. But Jim?

"Jim, you have never known the lack of willing companions. Even now, had you not insisted on leaving, Taleena would have been happy to stay with you. She is beautiful and intelligent."

"And you think I should have stayed with her?" Kirk asked, with strange sadness.

"I would never dare as to presume on what you should do, Captain. I am merely puzzled. You have never been averse to the company of a beautiful woman before."

"That's what you think of me? That all I need is a pretty face and my troubles will fly out of the window?"

"No, Jim, of course not, I merely sought to provide some comfort—"

"And that's the best you could come up with? Dear God, Spock. Has it ever occurred to you to ask me what I need?"

Without warning, he turned on his heel abruptly and marched into the forest, abandoning the more or less lit path in favor of deeper darkness. Spock stood still for a moment, stupefied, then rushed after him.

He knew Kirk's night vision was sharp for a human, but still completely inadequate in their surroundings. And while there were no wild animals or poisonous plants and the forest itself wasn't too thick to move freely, Spock still felt it wasn't wise to wander its depths in the dark. He had little difficulty following Kirk's progress. But when the Captain had stumbled into a clearing and stopped looking at the stars and catching his breath, Spock didn't go to him immediately. He approached slowly, but didn't come out.

Several minutes passed, before Kirk finally looked in his direction.

"Oh, come out here, Mr. Spock," his tone was light. "I wish to see at least some of you when I apologize."

Spock did step into the open then, closing on Kirk slowly. He admitted to himself that an apology was the last thing on his mind.

"Jim," he said quietly. "To quote our mutual friend, I cannot help you if you do not tell me where it hurts."

Kirk chuckled and shook his head, clasping Spock's arm lightly.

"You don't have to do this, Spock. You're not my doctor."

"No, but I am your friend. I have apparently wronged you once while trying to help. Please let me rectify this mistake. Tell me what you need, Jim."

"And then what?" Kirk asked in a dead tone, stepping back into the shadows. "You're going to run and fetch whatever I need?"

"If it is within my abilities."

"God, Spock, listen to yourself. What makes you think I'm deserving of this kind of devotion?"

Spock followed him towards the forest fringe.

"Jim." Spock stopped in front of him. "What is it that bothers you so? What makes you think you're undeserving?"

There was a tense beat of silence and then, "I should have gone—"

"No."

"Yes, I should have—"

"Jim—"

"I'm the captain, dammit!"

"That does not mean—"

"How could I have sent them, while staying behind, safe and sound, while my people risked their lives?"

"Jim, you cannot do everything yourself. Sometimes it's your duty to stay behind and—"

"Duty! God, Spock, don't tell me about duty, not right now! Here I am, alive and well, and being shoved down onto a planet where I'm pampered and my every wish is taken care of, and I'm here because I don't feel so well and this is designed to cheer me up, because I'm the goddamned captain and am entitled to all this pampering while MY PEOPLE ARE LYING THERE DEAD!"

The echo died, swallowed by the dark forest around them. Spock realized his hands were gripping the human's shoulders of their own volition. He found he didn't care.

"Jim." He shook Kirk a little. "Jim, you are being awfully unfair to yourself. There was absolutely nothing you could have done to prevent this tragedy. I can think of no other action you could have taken that would have changed anything. Jim. It wasn't your fault."

"Leave me alone, Spock," Kirk said in a broken, defeated voice, making a weak attempt to push him away. "This was a mistake. I shouldn't have asked you down, shouldn't have coaxed you into coming with me. I meant you to relax, and instead you're standing here listening to me whining."

Spock processed the words for a moment, and then his grip tightened.

"You asked me to beam down here on purpose."

"Yes."

"You didn't need the report. You just wanted me to be here."

"Yes. I'm sorry. You refused to take leave, and I knew of no other way of making you come down. I thought... I thought you might like it down here. What with the fireworks, and Taleena seemed to be your type, and I just…"

"You needed me."

Kirk was silent.

"Jim," Spock couldn't quite identify the feeling that was pushing on his shields from the inside, but it was definitely overpowering his control. "Jim, all you ever had to do was tell me. You barely spoke to me for days. You purposefully avoided me. How was I to know? I thought I was doing what you wanted."

"That's your problem, Spock." Kirk lifted his head to look at him, his voice a peculiar mixture of anger and wistfulness. "You always do what I want. Whatever I want. How far are you willing to go?"

Spock didn't have the time to come up with an answer. Kirk stepped closer suddenly, catching him off guard. The next moment, Spock felt one insistent hand on the back of his neck, pulling him close, while the other exerted equal pressure on the small of his back. He didn't have the time to think of what was happening, he just turned his head instinctively, and their lips met.

Shock was his first reaction. Then slowly, Kirk moved against him, kissing him tentatively at first, and then with growing fervor. Spock forbade himself to think, firmly and consistently, and simply gave in to the whirlpool of sensations. He didn't know what his hands were doing, what Kirk's hands were doing, only that he had to get more of that, his desperate need outweighing his doubts. He moved in closer, rapidly losing his ability to think and analyze and concentrating solely on feeling.

It was incredible.

And then suddenly it was over.

--

The kiss ended as abruptly for Spock as it had started. Kirk let go of him and stepped back, his breathing uneven. The Captain tugged at the collar of his shirt as if it was strangling him.

"You have to transfer," he managed hoarsely.

Spock straightened up, shaken, taken aback by the illogical switch.

"Why?" He managed, with difficulty. "Have I... Have I been derelict in my duties? Do you find my performance unsatisfactory?"

"No," Kirk let out a pained little laugh. "It's very satisfactory, Mr. Spock. Very. You outdo yourself to see to my every need. You beamed down when there was no need, you stayed when you didn't want to, you drank the wine for which you have no taste, you delayed leaving though it went against your wishes—all because I asked you to. And just now—just now you allowed me to do something no one should without consent, and you wouldn't have stopped me had I not stopped myself, would you, Spock?"

The Vulcan was silent.

"Answer me," Kirk pressed. "Would you have stopped me?"

"No."

"No," Kirk nodded, his mouth twisting in a pained grimace. "And that's why you need to transfer off, Mr. Spock. I know your loyalty to me knows no bounds. I know you wouldn't say 'no' to whatever I ask of you. I've known it for some time. You have no idea how hard it was not to give in to temptation every minute of every day, wanting you so badly, knowing you wouldn't push me away."

"Captain—"

"No, Spock," Kirk snapped firmly. "That I allowed myself to act on my feelings at a moment of weakness only means that my resistance is at an end. I don't want to be exploiting your loyalty to your commander, because once I do, there'd be no going back. I don't want to be using you, and I just can't—"

He was cut off determinedly when Spock, who had no trouble seeing in the dark, pushed him roughly against a tree and pressed their lips together in a claiming kiss. Kirk made a muffled noise of protest, which wasn't taken into consideration. Nor were his feeble attempts to push Spock away. The Vulcan held him easily, with what was probably a third of his formidable strength, held tightly in check for the sake of this stubborn human.

His kiss wasn't sweet or gentle as Kirk's was. It was searing, possessive, a little harsh and completely mind-blowing. Kirk moaned softly into it, surrendering to his own weakness, his own need. His hands twitched within Spock's grasp, aching to touch, to pull closer, to feel, but Spock would have none of it. He held Kirk captive effectively, with combined press of his hands and his body, making it crystal clear of just who was reigning this ball.

Kirk was beginning to feel dizzy when Spock had finally decided to let them come up for air. He broke the kiss and pressed his forehead against Kirk's as they both tried to catch their breaths.

"What makes you think," Spock said huskily, "that I would be doing any of this out of loyalty? What makes you think that you can make me do something I do not wish to do?"

"You..." Kirk panted. It was very hard to concentrate, having Spock pressed up against him like that. "You do have a tendency... to indulge me."

Spock leaned back, only far enough to be able to see his face.

"How little must you respect me if you think I'm incapable of deciding for myself," he said. "I do not 'indulge' you because you are my captain. If I do things to please you, it is because I choose to. Because I want to. Ask me the question, Jim."

"Spock..."

Spock's hands clasped Kirk's shoulders tightly.

"What are you afraid of? I have never lied to you. I would never lie to you. I would not ask for anything in return."

"Spock, I..."

"Ask me the question, Jim."

Kirk went very still in his arms and spoke very quietly.

"How do you feel about me, Spock?"

Spock's hands slid from his shoulders up to cup his face as Spock himself leaned closer again.

"Let me show you."

Kirk nodded vaguely, expecting a familiar sensation of slipping into a meld, but it never came. Instead, there was a feeling of Spock's mind brushing against his gently, just as Spock's lips brushed against his own. And he was lost.

He wasn't allowed to do much, and he knew why. This was Spock's show. Kirk had never imagined it would be this way the first time between them. Somehow, he always thought it would be about Spock, not him. He imagined Spock to be uncertain, maybe even shy, and invariably following his lead. He didn't expect this.

Spock moved with dexterity of absolute confidence. He handled Kirk's body like an exquisite musical instrument, playing it expertly to extract the full gamma of sounds and responses. Kirk had always suspected that Spock would have this power over him; Spock's proximity had always had a slightly intoxicating effect on him from day one, but he had always thought it was a function of the mind.

Spock was Spock, and everything about him was fascinating and intriguing, beautiful and enticing, because it was him and none other. Because Kirk was infatuated with him, not someone else. He had known for a long time that when deeper feelings, truer feelings were concerned, real appearances mattered little, all the external factors mattered little, because the object of these feelings existed in his mind's eye as an integrate image, going above and beyond the sum of its parts.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

It was simple really. He was in love with his First Officer, and no matter how Spock looked or what he did, he would still be attractive and desirable in all senses—intellectual, social, physical. Spock didn't need to be a dexterous lover to have that effect on Kirk. Somehow, Kirk wasn't ready for the fact that Spock would be this talented or confident objectively, even without the haze of Kirk's very partial, very biased adoration.

Spock seemed to know exactly where to touch, how hard to press, when to move. Kirk realized, with what little part of his brain wasn't yet on complete overload, that there definitely were advantages to being a touch-telepath—or with a touch-telepath.

But there was more to Spock's uncanny understanding of him than what his telepathy granted. Spock knew him, like no other being alive in the universe. Spock knew him, body and soul; knew his mind, perhaps better than his own; knew the essence of him in ways Kirk didn't know himself. Knew everything about him that was stupid, unkind, embarrassing or shameful. Every trait Kirk wasn't proud of, every quirk he despised. Every doubt. Every fear.

Spock knew it all, and he didn't turn away. Didn't deny the existence of these darker corners. Wouldn't dream of eliminating these imperfections. He simply accepted them as part of the complexity that was Jim Kirk. Accepted better than Kirk ever could himself. But since it worked both ways, Kirk figured, it was all right.

Kirk had lost all track of time, somewhere between the moment when Spock's lips first touched his, marking the beginning of the conquest, and the moment when Spock's hands touched his bare skin. He wouldn't be able to tell if asked in what order or at what speed he had lost his articles of clothing, or when was it that he first realized he was laying down on the soft carpet of silky grass, which felt so incredibly pliant as if it was specifically designed for the purpose.

Given the planet's specialization, it probably was.

Spock was everywhere at once, kissing, stroking, caressing. A silent dark presence above and around him, catching his every breath, drinking away his moans, making him feel he was falling only to be inevitably caught by a pair of strong, caring arms. Spock didn't ask, didn't have to. Every permission had long been given, every desire, every wish carved in starlight, sewn into the sweet night air. He was deliberately more rough than gentle, and Kirk knew he'd asked for it. He wanted to be convinced, and Spock was doing one hell of a job convincing him.

There was a moment when Kirk realized he was a prisoner of his own pleasure, unable to move past the walls of the excruciating, incredible sensations. He had never felt so helpless in his life, and it was frightening.

"Let go, Jim," Spock whispered, warm breath in Kirk's ear. "Trust me. Let go."

"I can't..." Kirk managed, holding onto him, as if he was a life preserver. "I will... I will..."

"You will not fall," Spock traced a fiery line across his neck. "I've got you. I won't ever let go."

Kirk pulled him closer, if that was even possible.

"Promise?"

Instead of answering, Spock kissed him again, fully and deeply, and then they were both falling, and neither one was afraid.

--

"What is so amusing?"

"You," Kirk chuckled, drawing lazy circles on the warm skin between Spock's shoulder blades. "You have a funny way of answering questions."

He could feel Spock's smile against his chest.

"I find it more effective than words."

Kirk snorted softly. "Just don't do that on the Bridge, okay? I'm not ready to share you yet."

Spock lifted his head to look at him.

"Are you saying this is a possibility in the future?"

Instinctively, Kirk tugged him closer.

"Don't even dream of it. You're stuck with me, Mister. Get used to it."

Spock smiled softly.

"I believe I already am, Jim."

"Oh no, you ain't seen nothing yet. People called us joined at the hip before, Spock. And I didn't even have any rights on you before. But now, well. Now, you're in for good."

A warm silence engulfed them, but blissful as it was, it unnerved Kirk a little. He was sensing something disturbing.

"Spock? What's wrong?"

A soft reassuring kiss was pressed into his skin lightly.

"Nothing, Jim. I was merely contemplating the concept of personal freedom."

"Oh?"

"I was thinking that however much it pains me to see you with someone else, I cannot bring myself to impose any kind of restrictions on you."

The silence was now heavier on Kirk's end.

"Really," he said at last, suddenly feeling restless. "Spock, if that's your way of telling me that you don't really want this to go anywhere, then just—"

"Jim." Spock sat up, straddling him, keeping him firmly in place. Kirk couldn't see his face in the dark, but he knew he was being closely watched. "Jim," Spock repeated, gentler now. His hand traced the contours of Kirk's face. "Why so much doubt, t'hy'la? Have I not been eloquent enough tonight?"

"Yes, you have," Kirk muttered, catching Spock's hand and pressing his lips to the pulse point on his wrist. "But what you're saying now... Spock." Kirk pushed himself and consequently Spock up, sitting up and trying to find Spock's eyes. "Spock, I might not be as... open-minded as you are. I'm an old-fashioned guy." He tried bravely for a grin. "It may not be pretty, but the idea of you with someone makes me physically ill."

"Hence your brawl with Ambassador Kovan."

"Yes. Sorry, it wasn't very diplomatic of me, but the guy propositioned you in front of fifty witnesses."

"He did not."

"He did, Spock. You were the only person in the room who didn't get the drift."

"Nothing would have happened, Jim. I was not interested."

"I know. My point is, if you ever become interested—"

"I will not. How little confidence you have in yourself, Jim. This is unexpected."

"You do this to me. I've never been this territorial about anyone in my life."

"Jim." Spock sighed, locking his hands behind Kirk's neck. "I have been interested in you since the moment I met you. I have not been interested in anyone else since our first meld. I have been and always shall be yours, for as long as I breathe. Even when you no longer want me to."

Kirk tugged him closer.

"Now who's having doubts?"

"You are the embodiment of free spirit, Jim. I would be a fool to try and cage you."

"It's a little late to be afraid of that, Spock. You already have."

The kiss deepened and continued through the change of position, and it was Spock who found himself laying flat on his back this time, without a clear recollection of getting there.

"Jim," he let out when he was finally allowed to take a breath. "This grass..."

"...was made for it." Kirk's smirk could be heard. "I know."

--

"Has anyone seen the Captain?" McCoy asked, looking around the clearing in bewilderment. In his entire memory, Kirk was never late for breakfast in his life.

His question was met by numerous shrugs and shaking of heads.

"I wouldn't worry, Doctor," Taleena smiled at him, handing him a cup of steaming lee-tan, the traditional Teelousian morning drink. "Our planet is completely harmless. People come here to find peace and joy, and usually do."

"You don't know Jim Kirk," McCoy grunted, taking the cup and eyeing it suspiciously. "No matter where he goes, he's looking only for one thing—trouble, and he usually finds it."

She chuckled.

"Perhaps, but this time he took his guardian with him."

"Huh?" McCoy looked at her in confusion. "His who?"

"Wrong word?" she arched her eyebrows beautifully. "I should have simply said his First Officer."

McCoy stared at her. "Spock's down here? You've gotta be kidding me."

"I'm not," she shook her head with a laugh. "Last time I saw him was last night when the Captain invited him for a walk."

"You're kidding me," McCoy repeated, not even trying to fight the enormous grin spreading on his face. "They went off for a walk? Here? Together? And no one has seen them since? Oh, that's just too good to be true."

"On Teelousia, Doctor, nothing is too good to be true," she said, with a mischievous twinkle. "See for yourself."

He turned around to look where she pointed. Sure enough, there were Jim and Spock, sitting alone under the tent at a small table. They were having breakfast, or at least trying to have one. Only every second forkful of food actually made it into Jim's mouth. Spock, in an uncharacteristic fit of gracelessness, kept trying to make his cup swallow twice as much lee-tan as it could possibly contain.

"They're ruining your furniture," McCoy commented.

Taleena giggled. "It's replaceable."

"Yeah, well. If they keep staring at each other like this all the time, we'll need someone else to run the damned ship. And I'll have to feed them intravenously."

She patted him on the back gently.

"Give them their two days, Doctor. Those might be their only two days in the next two years, given your occupation."

"I know," McCoy sighed. "And believe me, I'm all for it. But there's such a thing as command image. When our people start to wake up, there might be a problem."

"Do not worry," Taleena shook her head. "I'm going to send the two of them to the coast. We have a wonderful resort there. Private and quiet. And no one needs to know."

He turned to look at her, grinning slyly. "Those two owe you one hell of a lot," he said.

She gave him a dazzling smile. "I do not create feelings, Doctor. I only help those who want it to act on them. If you'll excuse me, I have to go talk to your friends now."

Still grinning, McCoy watched her gliding over to Jim and Spock. Both of them stood up to greet her, wearing almost identical looks of guilt and embarrassment. Taleena talked to them softly for a moment, and suddenly Jim's face literally lit up like a candle. He turned to Spock, who was pointedly ignoring him, responding to the woman instead.

Spock looked incredibly calm. It was a strange thing to notice, McCoy mused, as Spock was always calm and reserved. But this time, it was different. It wasn't the calmness of someone meticulously controlling every fiber of his being. It was the calmness of someone who was at total peace with himself and the universe around him. Serenity. Happiness.

Jim looked... McCoy had to shake his head, stifling a snort. Jim was beaming. Bright, blazing, constant glow, shining through him, despite his tousled hair, wrinkled clothes and all the blatant evidence of what he had been up to just a short while ago. He looked like he had swallowed a piece of sun, and there was no force in the galaxy that could extinguish that light.

What the hell took them so long, McCoy thought in bemusement. He frowned slightly, thinking about the future. It wouldn't be easy, oh no. Not with these two, not with the kind of life they were living. But if their expressions were anything to go by, every minute of it would be worth it.

McCoy turned back to his own table and flipped open his communicator.

"McCoy to Enterprise."

"Scott here." The disembodied voice was full of surprise. "Didn't expect anyone to call in just yet. Is everything all right, Doctor?"

"Perfectly, Scotty, perfectly. I just wanted to tell you not to call the Captain or Mr. Spock for the next two days, unless it's an emergency. I'm thinking you'd be in command for the whole duration of our stay here."

There was a short thoughtful silence on the other end, and then a single question.

"This is for real?"

McCoy grinned. "Aye, Scotty. As real as it gets."

"Well, then," Scott's answering grin could be heard across all the distance separating them. "I hope ye'll all have a good time."

"Count on it. McCoy out."

He put his communicator away and turned around. There was no Jim and Spock within his field of vision, and Taleena was speaking to a very disoriented Sulu now. McCoy shrugged, feeling relieved and worried all at once. This was not going to be easy. But then, the best things almost never were.

Smiling slightly, he poured himself more lee-tan.