To all intents and purposes, everything was normal on the ship. Almost normal, at least. No one could tell under his layers of shirt and undershirt that Spock still bore the healing scar from drastic heart surgery, or the more recent, but much less invasive, scar from the kidney transplants. Those had, at least, been performed as a planned and controlled operation rather than emergency surgery. Spock, despite McCoy's admonishments and cautions, insisted that he felt fine – although it was obvious to the eyes of Jim Kirk that the ends of the day and early mornings left him ragged with a tiredness that was not quite normal for Spock. He had not yet been cleared for duty, but of course, being Spock, he was still busying himself with plenty of tasks which could easily be classed as duty.

It had been a pleasure to see both Malis Arkania and Commander Stevenson deported from the ship on the same starbase shuttle. Without the threat of Arkania's attacks the last of the kylanil had been allowed to leave Spock's system two days ago, leaving him finally with a clear and acute telepathic sense that seemed, in the first few days, even stronger than it had been before. He found himself constantly turning, believing Jim to be behind him, when in actuality he was several decks above, on the bridge, and his presence was no more than a warm, buzzing awareness in the back of Spock's mind.

It was late afternoon, ship-time, and Spock stood before the mirror in the bathroom he shared with his captain. This room had never seemed quite so *shared* as it did now, now that they had truly *shared* the shower and the bath, and now that the locks on the doors were never bolted, and the room provided an easy and private corridor between their adjoining quarters for more than just the occasional visit.

The Vulcan regarded his own face, marking the differences in his appearance from the days before his first beam-down to Malker. His hair was trimmed back to his normal, traditional cut, and superficially he bore little difference to the officer who had stood in this room months ago, before Malker and its politics had intruded so violently into his life. He was, perhaps, a little thinner than he had been, his face rather more lean and lined – but the most marked change was something most illogical, something that he could barely pin down. There was – a warmth, or a light, or – some indefinable life behind his eyes, as if he carried a reflection of Jim everywhere he went. He was perhaps, he had to admit, happy.

He sighed. Acceptance of Jim had to be acceptance of happiness – of emotion, still tightly controlled, but suffused through his mind like a permanent echo of Jim's own thoughts and a relaxation of his own. Most humans would not notice a change in him, but he knew that it was there. Perhaps something similar was the motivation for the occasional smile he had seen his father bestow upon his mother, or the look of warmth that softened his eyes when he looked at her. Perhaps no Vulcan could hold a human so close to them without allowing a mist of emotions to permeate their mind.

He traced a finger over the scar at the left side of his chest. His heart had recovered more quickly than the superficial wound, despite the lingering tiredness as his body clawed back its former vigour. Humans seemed to think that love resided in that beating organ that existed only to pump blood about his body. They were quite wrong. Love was entirely a thing of the mind. If his heart had been required for love over the past few months it would have been quite unfit for the task. Besides, he did not like to think of Dr McCoy's drastic surgery tampering with the receptacle of his feelings for Jim. No. With his mind cleared of kylanil and free for whatever purpose he chose to turn it to, he was certain that all his emotion lived and died in his own mind. His body was only concerned with biological necessities.

He turned at the noise of a door opening in the outer room. With the opening of the door came a stronger awareness of *Jim*, and a sudden increase in certain of the biological necessities that were very firmly lodged at the centre of his body. There, perhaps, lay the strongest link between body and mind – the moment that a mental awareness of one particular person could provoke an odd and insistent yearning in his loins to do far more than engage in intellectual intercourse.

He was wearing no more than his uniform trousers, having gone to the bathroom for the specific purpose of a daily check of his healing wounds – but he was certain that the entrant to his quarters was Jim, and no one else. He turned away from the mirror, and went swiftly to the door that led into his red-draped bedroom.


Jim met him close on the other side of the door, his voice warm with pleasure at the sight of the Vulcan. He stepped forward to him, putting his palms flat on the Vulcan's naked flanks and resting his forehead against Spock's own. With Spock's telepathy firmly restored to normal the gesture was as intimate as a kiss, or perhaps more so, since thoughts and feelings passed silently between them instead of simple sensation.

'You're tired, Jim,' Spock pointed out, breaking the more Vulcan contact and replacing it with a very human kiss.

'Oh, only as tired as I need to be,' Jim said with a smile, pulling his own tops off and flinging them down on the bed, and kicking his boots underneath it. 'A lot to deal with, and I'm the only one who can. That's one of the perils of leaving the ship for so long – and of reinstating an officer believed dead, kicking out his replacement, and smoothing over the diplomatic ripples caused by the whole,' he added with a grin. 'Believe me, I wouldn't replace *this* kind of tiredness with any other kind, considering the reasons behind it.'

'Not – *too* tired then,' Spock said meaningfully, letting his dark gaze fall directly on Jim's eyes. They widened a little at the dark, controlled intensity in the Vulcan's look.

'*Too* tired?' he echoed, his eyes drifting unconsciously to the bed.

'Convention,' Spock murmured, acting suddenly, pressing his captain away from the bed and against the wall, capturing his wrists in one swift movement with one hand while with the other he worked deftly at the fastening on Jim's trousers. The button and zip seemed to melt away under his touch, and suddenly the warmth of soft, blood-flushed skin was revealed where before the captain had been clothed, and Spock was naked too, the length of his body pressed against him, hardness against hardness.

Spock's hand was moving with inhuman heat, caressing the taut muscles of his buttocks, slipping the yielding fabric of his trousers away from his legs with a foot as if he was perfectly practised at removing men's clothing without the use of his hands. Before he was totally certain of the Vulcan's precise intentions he had been lifted as if he weighed nothing, and his legs were about the Vulcan's waist, gripping at the hotness of his flanks, his back against the red fabric of the wall, his head pressed against it as the Vulcan's kiss melted into his lips. He closed his eyes, yielding to Spock's will, finding gravity rotating about him as his back was laid gently on the carpet, and Spock was kneeling over him, still with Jim's legs about his body, pressing his erection with great gentleness and purpose into him even as his other hand pulsed at the silken heat of Jim's own organ.

Logic melted away. The Vulcan seemed to possess far more than two hands, two lips, as caresses and kisses followed each other in trails over his skin. There was a sharp, millisecond flare of pain followed by gliding, dizzying sensation as Spock's insistent hardness finally found its home and began to move in an inevitable rhythm, his hand matching the movement with Vulcan precision on Jim's own erection, his free fingers finding Jim's face and sinking onto his temple as Spock's thoughts and desire sank and melted into Jim's own until it was impossible to tell whose pleasure was whose.

He came back to himself lying prostrate on the carpet, his body seeming to be sinking into it with perfect exhaustion, and Spock's own hot form laying over his like a blanket, his cheek against Jim's cheek and his panting breath searing over Jim's ear. Spock's heart was beating a regular, healthy rhythm against Jim's side, and his contentment was radiating into Jim's mind like a balm.

'Convention indeed,' Kirk murmured in a voice softened by exhaustion, his eyes drifting against to the unused bed that rose very near to his head. 'Remind me, Mr Spock, that convention will never do.'

'Although,' Spock pointed out, and Kirk was curiously pleased to hear that Spock's voice was as enervated and trembling as his own. 'We actually have a sixty-six point six percent recurring record of using the floor, while the bed – '

A snort of laughter left Kirk's nose. 'We're bed virgins, Spock,' he grinned. 'We'll have to remedy that.'

Spock's head settled a little more firmly against Jim's own, and the captain got the ghost impression of the Vulcan's internal examination, assessing the reaction of his body to his recent effort and finding it satisfactory. The flashes of thought in Spock's mind were so swift and focussed that it was difficult to grasp onto them, but he at least gained a clear impression of the thrust of his thoughts.

'Yes,' he murmured in response to the Vulcan's unspoken thought. 'We have plenty of time – now. And plenty of opportunity.'