This is it, folks.

And Paramount still owns Star Trek.


Chapter Ten:

Pike stared at the wall, his head nodding slowly at Jim's words. His lips were pressed thin and his knuckles white on the arms of his chair as Jim's words tapered off. This was just the kind of thing to royally piss an honorable man like Pike off.

"So, how do we catch them," he demanded. "Is there any way to trace the infiltration back to the source?"

Jim shrugged. "I didn't look that carefully, but I doubt it. They obviously know what they're doing. I don't think they'd be sloppy enough to leave a trace."

Pike glared. "But you did find a trace. You knew they broke in."

"Yeah, but it was really well-covered. It took me, Spock, and Chekov to identify the signature, but it was nothing but a crack left in the wall. There was nothing attached to it, no trail to follow, just proof that someone had been there." Fisting his hands, Jim met Pike's furious expression.

"C'mon, Jim, there has to be something. The implications of this kind of an act are astronomical. Attacks against sentient races for profit are exactly the kinds of things Starfleet is supposed to protect against. It's our duty to find out who did this and bring them to justice."

Pike's voice was taking on a decidedly aggressive tone that was grating Jim's already frayed nerves. "Chris, I came here for help, not for a lecture about my duty to Starfleet. Believe me; no one feels this more than me. They messed with Bones' work and Spock's people, and I have every damn intention of hunting them down and making them regret the hell out of it. But that's for later. Right now, what we need more than anything is to protect this cure, and I need your help to do it. I need you to keep this locked away and to draw no attention to yourself, okay.

Strain registered on Pike's face. "Look, Jim, I'm sorry, but you aren't known for you caution, and your recent actions have me concerned. I mean, you didn't even tell anyone before you ran off and got married." Pike's eyes met his, hurt blending with a sliver of challenge. "I thought I had given you enough reasons to trust me."

Jim sighed heavily, crouching down near Pike's chair. "It's just not that simple, Chris. I'm sorry I didn't tell you, really sorry, but I promise you, it's not like we just ran off to Vegas together one night. It was complicated and messy and because I do trust you, I swear I'll tell you the whole story some day, as long as Spock and Bones are okay with it. I do trust you, which is why I'm here."

Look," he continued, ruffling an agitated hand through his hair, "I have no idea how far up this goes, or who's involved. I'm assuming there's someone working on the inside, but I'm not even sure about that. All we know for certain is that someone deliberately changed Bones' test results. Whoever's behind this, they're obviously willing to go to pretty fucked-up lengths to get what they want and I doubt that killing a few Starfleet officers would upset them much. Spock and I snuck this stuff out of Starfleet Medical, illegally, by the way, to make sure there was no way for these people to make the cure disappear again, and we left Bones back there, totally unprotected, to act as a fucking diversion." Pulling himself to his feet, he sank back heavily on the desk behind him, his voice marred with real fear. "I'm sorry if you feel slighted but I just don't have the fucking time to stand here and hash this out right now. I need an answer. Will you sit on this for me or not?"

He heard the whir or Pike's chair as the admiral rounded on him. "What the hell do you mean, you left him unprotected?"

Jim grimaced, his hands digging into the hard edge of the desk. "Someone's already almost destroyed this cure once. We weren't taking any chances. We just took the cure and ran."

"You didn't call security or inform anyone in the admiralty? Jesus, Kirk."

"I did inform the admiralty. I informed you," Jim barked, real anger creeping into his voice as he pushed away from the desk to stalk the length of the room. "Chris, we weren't just going to sit there and let the Vulcan's cure linger in a vulnerable state while Starfleet tried to consider all the possible P.R. implications, or whatever other bullshit they could dream up. We weren't going to leave the only copy of this in the hands of bureaucrats or the people who tried to destroy it in the first place. Our only concern was to get it to safety, and we came here because we knew you were safe. But don't think for one second that I don't realize how dangerous this is, which is why I'd really appreciate an answer so Spock and I can go get our fucking husband."

They glared in a tense stand-off as Pike quickly ran Jim's speech through his head again. He could read it on Pike's face when the man finally relented, when the sensibility of his words sank in, and the breath he hadn't realized he was holding hissed between his teeth.

"Okay, Jim," the older man intoned, nodding his head deferentially, "I'll trust you on this. What do you want me to do?"

Jim paused for a second, re-tracing the plan in his mind. They needed Pike to hold a sample here, securely, until they'd managed to bring the cure public. If something happened to them, it would be up to the ambassador to take the copy that Spock was sending to him via the hopefully secure Vulcan ambassadorial comm lines and go public. Chris just needed to keep it hidden, keep it safe, no matter what, and that meant keeping his head down, whether he liked it or not. Turning back to the seated man, he opened his mouth to explain.

And his mind blew apart.

It took little more than a second and he was back; seeing, thinking, breathing. His brain felt okay, he guessed, but somewhat off-balance, as if he had re-booted and programs were still coming on line. Pike's eyes narrowed in concern as Jim ran through his own head; memories, access codes, the spot on the farm where he'd buried his goldfish Blinkey. Everything was accounted for except…

Oh, Shit!

Words came pouring out of him, maybe verbally, maybe across their bond, as he raced down the hall towards Pike's study. "Spock…SPOCK…Jesus, Spock, get out here. Something's wrong." Strong hands caught him in the hallway and he nearly took them both into the wall. "He's gone, Spock. I can't feel him anywhere."

Spock's face looked stoic but Jim could sense his panic as the Vulcan closed his eyes and delved deeply into their collective minds. Jim could feel the harsh bite of his own fingernails digging into the palms of his clenched fists as he waited, heart hammering as Spock searched. Finally, finally, the Vulcan's eyes flew open, intense relief blending with blood-deep fury. His voice was murderously calm as he spoke.

"Leonard is alive, Jim, and currently unharmed, at least physically." Pushing off the wall, he turned and stalked down the hall. "It would appear someone is placing a block on our bond."

"A block? Who the hell…why?

"Unknown." Reaching into their things, Spock retrieved a communicator and tossed it to Jim. "Contact Medical Security and have them converge on Leonard's lab immediately," he ordered. "Admiral, we are in need of phasers."

Pike nodded, leading Spock into a side room while Jim called the Security office. There was no answer. How the hell could there be no answer? It was a secure fucking medical facility, filled with all kinds of top-secret shit. He felt his stomach heaving. Jesus Christ, this was bad. What the hell had they left Bones in the middle of?

"Spock…shit, Spock, no one's responding."

"Jim, that is not possible. They would not simply abandon their posts." Spock paused. "Unless…"

Jim's eyes blew wide. "What? Unless what?" He demanded.

The Vulcan's hands were fisted tight, the slightest of tremors tainting his voice. "Jim, someone is blocking our bond. This could only be accomplished by a being with exceptional telepathic abilities. There are several capable species, each of whom would also be able to project their telepathy and use it to manipulate other's minds. It is illegal and immoral but certainly possible. Vulcans possess this ability and so do…"

"Betazoids?"

Spock's eyes met his. "Correct."

"Son of a bitch." Jim raged, slamming a fist into the wall, "I knew we couldn't trust that bastard. I swear to God, if he's touched…fuck." Flexing his bleeding knuckles, Jim met the Vulcan's stare. "Okay, so we operate as if Tor is the threat."

"Tor?" interjected a shocked Pike, "The Betazoid on the team? Jim, I know his father and I can tell you, the psionic abilities of that family are very high. If what you're saying is true, we don't know how many people he could be controlling." Turning to Spock, he asked, "Will your bond protect you?"

Spock nodded, "Yes, but only if it holds. Tor is attempting to damage it."

"Will that expose you?"

"It will likely lead to our deaths."

Pike blinked, "Well then, what the hell are you still doing here? Take the phasers. I'll place a call to the campus security force and have them meet you at Medical."

Jim shook his head. "No, Chris, you can't get involved. Your name can't be connected in anyway. We don't even know who in security we can trust."

"Jim, you need backup."

"I know." He snapped, rubbing a hand over his face. "Okay, give me the damn comm unit."

The back of the chair bit into his shoulder blades, digging into the muscles as his arms dangled uselessly at his sides. His neck felt spindly and weak as his aching head lolled to the right, but he forced his eyes to scan the room, to take in the distance to the door, Settle's catatonic slump against the wall, and the relaxed set of his attacker's shoulders as he stood in front of the computer console, casually destroying the lifeline of an entire people group.

"Now don't get any stupid ideas, McCoy." Turning around, Tor leaned idly against the counter and let his eyes wander over Len's sprawled form. "Your nervous system isn't going to start working properly again for about four more hours, and by then you probably won't need it anyway. It really is a shame," he continued, striding over and crouching down, letting a hand wander almost gently through Len's hair. "I had a few very colorful plans for you, Doctor, but you certainly know how to complicate a situation."

Len smirked. "Sorry to be a bother," he muttered.

Tor's expression darkened. "Apology just not accepted, McCoy." He hissed, hands tightening painfully in Len's hair. "You see, this was supposed to be very simple. I was just supposed to manipulate the minds of the research team away from an actual cure and direct them down an avenue that looked promising but was a dead-end. But you and that Vulcan, and that stupid, arrogant human just had to bring matrimony into the equation. The three of you, acting as each other's little gate-keepers, locking me out of your minds. Well, that comes to an end right now."

Mustering all his strength, Len yanked his head away, the momentum propelling him sharply sideways. With a frustrated growl, Tor hauled him back steady, dropping him hard on the seat. "Didn't you hear me, McCoy? Your muscles don't work right now. There is no escape."

Len grimaced. "So what are you going to do?"

Grinning, Tor patted his cheek. "Oh, what am I going to do? Well, now that I've completely wiped out all remnants of your cure, including the records of the formula and all the samples, I'm going to destroy the last remaining stronghold. You conceived this. Every element of that cure is locked away in that brilliant brain of yours, McCoy, and I just can't have that. So, I'm going to erase it, Doctor."

Len recoiled inwardly. "How? You said yourself that you can't get through our bond."

Leaning in close, Tor let his hot breath pant across Len's face. "Doctor, what do you notice right now? Can you feel them, Doctor? Can you feel them at all?"

An ungovernable sense of panic caused his heart to stutter. Dammit, the crazy bastard was right. He couldn't feel them, not anywhere.

A malicious smile curled the Betazoid's lips. "Nothing terribly complicated, McCoy. I just put a very basic block on your bond. It wouldn't stand a chance against an accomplished telepath like your Vulcan, but it'll do a fair enough job on you." His hand struck out, roughly seized Len's chin. "That bond of yours caused me more trouble then you know. I fucking hate it, McCoy, and I'm not really the merciful type. So, I'm going to kill it, Doctor. I'm going to rip it right out of your head."

Len's blood ran to ice. "You can't. We can't…it's been too long."

"That's right, that's the whole reason you had to jump into wedlock in the first place, isn't it. Yes, McCoy, it'll damage you all irreparably, no doubt about that. It might even kill you, but I don't have time to worry about that anymore. In fact, I can't even feel sorry. You brought it on yourself. If you hadn't run off and eloped, your mind would've been totally opened to me and I wouldn't have had to hurt anyone."

"Right, except for the ten thousand Vulcans who would've fucking died," Len sneered, his contempt bubbling over as he stared at Tor's calm features. His damned hands wouldn't work, but if they did, God, he'd rip the bastard's smug face off.

"Ah, yes, them. Collateral damage, Doctor," the Betazoid replied indifferently. "You've heard of evolution, McCoy; natural selection? Well, guess what. They were selected."

"What the hell are you saying, man," Len yelled, his blood leaping in his veins. "There was nothing natural about what happened to Vulcan. A lunatic blew up their planet. Don't try to slap some kind of noble label on your genocide. I know what this is really about."

Tor smiled, "You do, too, don't you, Doctor. I guess your little golden boy figured it out. Well, Narellium is the future, Doctor, and I want a part of it."

"It isn't even viable yet."

"Not yet, but it will be, and all thanks to me. I created an entire chemical sequence for a pseudo-cure for the Vulcans' syndrome that was complete nonsense but still looked good enough to fool the most brilliant minds in Starfleet. You don't think I can work out a way to process a simple element and turn it into fuel? Have a little more faith, Doctor."

"So, that's it, huh. You're going to kill off an entire race for money."

"Um, yes. That's what I was hired to do, after all, and my backers are rather insistent. And now, Doctor, as much as I love chatting with you, this is a public building and I can't take forever." Leaning down, he ran a thumb lightly over Len's bottom lip. "I don't imagine it matters much now, since I'm about to tear your mind apart, but just so you know, I wanted you. And who knows, maybe I'll still have you. I mean, you'll be an idiot, but you'll still be pretty and probably very willing to please. Maybe I can keep you as a fucktoy, McCoy. That way, you'll still be contributing to advancements in science, you know, as my stress relief."

Len willed his limbs to move, but they were leaden and useless. Tor's hands flanked his face, his fingertips digging in deep, and Leonard could feel the sharp, stabbing pain as the bastard's encroaching mind ripped mercilessly at the bond. His eyes were watering fiercely and his stomach was rolling and churning as he kicked and beat helplessly at the wall in his head, screaming his mental voice hoarse for Spock or Jim to hear him. Then suddenly the pressure receded, and Tor was standing in front of him, his mask of arrogant certainty fraying around the edges.

"They're good," he muttered. "I'll give them that. It looks like I underestimated their attachment to you, Doctor. They know I blocked you, it would seem, and your little Vulcan paramour is doing his best to shore up your bond. It's pretty strong, which means he must be getting closer." Striding over to the comm unit mounted on the wall, he threw a smirk at Len over his shoulder. "Don't worry, McCoy, I have contingency plans. Let's see how they handle this."

Even at midnight, Starfleet Medical was heavily illuminated but from his perch in the shadows, Jim couldn't make out a single moving soul in the entire glass-front building. No Starfleet personnel or researchers scurried through the floors, no security forces roamed the halls. The entire building could have been empty. Glancing up at the tenth floor, he scanned the windows carefully for any sign of Bones but the Xenobiology lab was located on the other side of the building, well out of eyesight. Well, they couldn't sit around here, waiting for some sign of life in the building. They'd just have to make do with what little recon they had.

Turning around, he considered the small group of men below him, unable to quell a rising sense of pride. One quick comm was all it took and he had a mini-militia on his hands. God, he loved his crew.

Jumping down off the wall that had been his vantage point, he walked over and crouched down beside Sulu. Scotty had located a building blueprint, and he, Spock, and Leslie were poring over the details while Chekov, Kyle, and Riley stared over their shoulders. Looking around him, Jim felt a real sense of relief. These men were battle-proven and committed to him, Spock, and Bones. Their situation was improving.

"So, Captain, what are we looking at here," asked his helmsmen. Seven pairs of eyes trained on Jim, and blinked hard at the ground. He needed to check his emotions, needed to treat this like any other mission. It was the best thing he could do to guarantee Bones' survival.

"Okay, from what I can see, there's no visible movement in the building, not even security, which goes against regulation. As a result, we're going in under the assumption that the security force has been manipulated and will treat us with hostility. But, and this is important, you have to remember that these people probably aren't in control of their actions. Also, there could still be unarmed personnel and civilians in there. We absolutely cannot use deadly force.

I want you all to know that I will understand if you don't want to do this. This isn't sanctioned and I'm not sure what the fallout could be. So, I'm not your captain right now, and this isn't any kind of order. I'm just your friend asking for your help."

"Well I owe you," said Sulu, meeting Jim's eyes. "I'd be dead if it wasn't for you."

"Hell, we all would," declared the Scotsman, "And McCoy's saved all our lives as well. I'm with you, Captain." Five head nodded in agreement.

Jim nodded, catching Spock's grateful eyes. "Thanks, I mean it. So how do we do this?"

"If I may, Captain," interjected Riley, "I think I have an idea. How many are on the security team?"

"Ten."

"Okay, well, we're already slightly outnumbered, so let's give ourselves as many advantages as we can get. The building is fourteen stories and the top floor is mostly storage. If they're expecting us, it'll be from the ground. I think we should take the turbolifts to the fourteenth floor. I know it's a confined space but there shouldn't be anyone there. Once out, we split into two groups and each take a stairwell. We'll be dividing their forces and fighting from higher ground."

Around the circle, the group nodded in consideration. Seeking out his mate's pensive gaze, Jim asked, "Spock, tell me what you think?"

"The plan is sound," he replied, carefully rolling up the schematic. "In light of our limited intelligence, it is our most logical option."

"What are the odds?"

The glare Spock fixed on him was long and piercing. "Jim, I cannot speculate about such things when our bondmate is in peril. The odds are excellent because we will not fail."

"That's what I wanted to hear. Okay, boys, you up for this?'

Seven heads nodded.

"Then let's do it. Set your phasers to stun."

For a brief moment, Spock had entertained the notion that he and Jim had overreacted. Not in regards to Leonard, for there was no denying the block on their bond, but in their assessment of the threat the security detail might create. Starfleet Medical had been barren and silent, and their quick journey to the top floor without event. The floor appeared secure and it was with a sense of relief that they had broken off into two groups and he and Misters Leslie, Chekov, and Scott had begun their descent down Stairwell B. They had easily traversed two floors, carefully sealing each door as they descended when, to borrow a colorful metaphor, all hell had broken lose. Six members of the Medical security team had opened fire from below, heedless of their own safety as they attempted to push their way up the stairwell. Their actions were wildly aggressive and it quickly became obvious that he was their primary target. A deluge of unchecked fury washed over him as he considered the Betazoid's nerve. This man intended to steal away his life, his mate's, his people's, for money? Pressing himself back against the wall as phaser shots rained erratically around them, he gave himself over fully to the emotional sensation of rage.

"Mr. Scott," he stated sharply, "I require cover-fire."

The Scotsman's brows shot up. "Where the hell are you going?"

Checking both his phasers, Spock met his eyes. "I, Mr. Scott, am walking down those stairs."

He pressed back against the wall as the men took position above him and began to unleash a barrage of firepower down the center of the stairwell. He could not feel Leonard, could not ascertain his mate's health or well-being, and the unwelcome sensation was pushing him to unusual aggression. Creeping silently down the stairs as his men continued to fire, he allowed the confines of his mental shields to unfold, letting instinct surpass logic as he caught the eyes of his shipmates and cut off their fire with the flick of his hand.

He did not think, he just acted, leaping over the railing to land lightly on the eleventh floor landing, throwing his back against the wall for balance as he fired, one, two, three, and the three security officers standing across from him collapsed in a stunned stupor. A sudden impulse sent him dropping to his knee as a well-aimed phaser shot exploded beside his head. Flinging himself on his stomach, he slid head-first down the next flight of stairs, blasting through the railings as he moved, striking another guard as the last two continued to fire up at him. Reaching the mid-way landing, he flung himself flat on his back as a fresh onslaught of firepower continued to fly over him from the floor below. And he waited, counting slowly backwards from ten until the briefest of hesitations by his last two assailants gave him the opening he needed.

With a vicious twist, Spock threw his feet up over his head, flipping down the stairs, firing blindly at his opponents as their own shots flew past his head. He took no protective measures as their shots barely missed him, the full tumult of his rage racing up his body as he took down a fifth guard and descended the stairs. The last assailant broke off his fire, the sound of his footsteps echoing through the stairwell as Spock eyed his shadow, took careful aim, and discharged. He heard the thud as the man crumpled to the floor.

"Nice shot." A voice rang above him and his head jerked up. "You alright there, Mr. Spock."

Holstering one of his weapons, he met the Scotsman's eye. "I believe I am emotionally compromised, Mr. Scott, but I do not have the damn time to consider the ramifications." Flinging the tenth floor door open, he checked his position and ducked through the door. Following in his wake, Scotty couldn't help but shake his head as Leslie mouthed the words "Damn?" Emotionally compromised, indeed.

The floor was empty and the relatively open floor plan left little room for an ambush as they hurried towards Leonard's lab. Spock felt the block give slightly beneath his assault and it quickened his pace. Making a quick left, he raced came to a halt before the entrance to the lab, the other three right behind him.

"Well, isn't this lovely," murmured the Scotsman as he took in the damage to the keypad. "Mr. Spock, I can fix it but it'll take a minute. I don't suppose there's a way to cut through the walls?"

"This is an exceptionally secure facility, Mr. Scott. The walls are made to be impervious. How much time would you estimate?"

Scotty ran his fingers over the shattered keypad. "To fix this mess? Twenty minutes? Whoever, did this really knew what they were doing."

Spock nodded, clenching his fists against an uncharacteristic tremor. "Very well. Please proceed. In the meantime, there are aids I may provide the doctor even from out here. I will need as much quiet as possible in order to concentrate."

Scotty nodded. "Aye, sir, we'll keep it down. Do what you can for McCoy."

"Thank you. When the captain arrives, please send him to me immediately."

Spock slid into a nearby cubicle, seating himself cross-legged on the floor, his phaser ready beside him. Throwing open the bond, he carefully examined the block before pushing out.

"Jim?"

"Spock! Are you alright?"

"We are fine, Jim. And you?"

"Yeah, we're okay, but the bastards have us pinned down real good. We can't get a clear line of fire. It's like they're not worried about hitting us, just holding us in our position."

"Indeed? The one's we encountered were extremely aggressive. I was forced to stun them all."

"Yeah, well, Tor's no fool. He knows you're his biggest threat. Where are you?"

"Outside Leonard's lab. The door has been disabled. Mr. Scott is repairing it, but he estimates twenty minutes.

"TWENTY…shit!"

"Jim, I am close enough to eradicate the block. I will use the bond to help Leonard hold Tor at bay. However, I will need you here as soon as possible. The three of us together should be able to resist the attack. We could possibly even expel Tor from Leonard's mind."

"How?"

"Consider this a unique form of mental warfare, Jim. Leonard needs commitment and resolve. It is up to us to provide the motivations for those feelings, Jim. Now, I will focus all my energy on Leonard and will not be able to communicate verbally with you until you get here. When you do, put your hands on my shoulders and I will bring you to us. And please hurry."

"I'm coming. Spock…I love you."

Despite himself, Spock smiled, "And I you."

Shifting himself minutely on the ground, Spock took several deep, calming breaths. He allowed his mind to drift down the length of the bond, feeling the smooth, soothing rightness of it over and around his mind. He saw the barricade, ugly and rippled and weak before him and drew back a hand, reaching deeply into the primal nature of his ancestors.

And swung.

"SPOCK?"

"Leonard."

"God, Spock, how the hell did you do that?"

"The block was insubstantial. I simply had to gain closer proximity to you."

"Closer…where the hell are you?"

"I am outside your lab, less than twenty feet away. Your captor disabled the doors. Tor, I believe?"

"Yeah, it's him. God, Spock, please, please, you've got to get in here. He's fucking killing me. It's burning everywhere. It hurts so damn bad."

Gently exploring, Spock assessed that Leonard's pain must be great indeed. The confines of the doctor's mind were red-hot, the walls buckling and rippling as if they were melting away. Leonard's strength was waning, his mind cowering away, and it would take very little for the Betazoid to tear the bond from him.

"Leonard, do you know what I need from you?"

"No, tell me."

"We can fight him, Leonard, the three of us together. We can man the walls in your mind and keep him out. All that is required of you, Leonard, is the conviction to make it happen. You must believe it is possible."

He felt his fragile doctor, felt him fighting the burning onslaught in his own head. How strong this man was, how brave and resilient, and a flash of epiphany jolted Spock's racing mind.

"Leonard, do you still doubt me?"

"Oh, great timing, Spock. Are you kidding me?"

"Leonard, you do still doubt me. Not all the time, but there are moments when you simply cannot believe that we belong together. Tell me, Leonard, what do you remember of our bonding?"

"Spock, my brain is on fucking fire. Please, I need your help. God, don't bring that up."

"Leonard, I must and I ask that you trust me. I want you to remember that day. Tell me what you remember."

"Oh, dammit. Heat, I remember heat. I remember a burning pain in my head. I remember drowning in your hatred."

"No, Leonard, never my hatred. Never. My passion and my anger and my fury that you could arouse such responses in me, but never hate. I wanted to shake you and pin you down because I wanted, needed, to touch you. Go back to that day. You're trapped in my arms, my body in front of you. Tell me, what do you feel behind you?"

"The fucking wall."

"What does it feel like?"

"The wall? Hell, I don't know. Hard, cold, immovable."

"Immovable?"

"Yes, it has me trapped. I can't move it and I can't move you."

"Yes, Leonard, it is immovable. Think about that. Focus on it. Feel your back against it. Push back against it. Push as hard as you can."

"Godda…Shit, I'm trying. I'm fucking trying."

"Good. Now, I am standing next to you. I am leaning against the wall and pushing with you. Keep pushing, Leonard. Can you feel me there? I am right beside you. Feel me."

"Yeah, yeah, I feel you. Oh damn, my head feels, it feels cooler. Spock, what the hell are we doing here?"

"We are pushing, Leonard. We are pushing him out."

"Alright, okay, but how long can we do this? I already feel like my damn feet are slipping."

"Leonard, Jim is coming. He is almost here. The three of us together can block him out permanently."

"You're sure."

"Leonard, there is a compelling and logical reason why I have avoided raising any discussion of our bonding before now. I feared it would destroy the delicate balance we were beginning to find together, and I treasured that too much to take the risk. However, there are some simple truths I would like to share with you, if you will allow me. It may bolster your faith."

"Spock, dammit, I try not to dwell…"

"Trust me, Leonard. Please. You recall that day, obviously. Can you identify the actual moment?"

"I'm not sure. I know you grabbed me and then I don't remember speaking out loud after that."

"That is correct, Leonard. The bond was almost immediate. I caught you in the middle of sickbay and by the time we had reached the far wall, it was already cemented. Think on that, think on me lunging at you and grabbing your arms. What do you feel?"

"Fury, I feel fury. Yours and mine. And fear, my fear."

"Yes, all those things were there. Now, concentrate on the fear. Reach out and push it away. And the anger, too. Can you move them aside?"

"I'm trying. God, Spock, they don't want to move."

"Please try, Leonard. You need to know this. You need to see it for yourself."

"Okay, alright. Alright, they're moving, they're…oh, Jesus, Spock. Jesus!"

"Do you feel it, ashayam, the perfect seamlessness of it? Despite our rage and pain, we simply slipped together flawlessly. There are no gaps here, Leonard, no cracks or fissures for him to seep through. Our bond is secure. He will not break us apart."

A metallic screech echoed from across the room and Spock found himself back into the world of the hallway. In front of him, Scotty had exposed the entire control panel and was hastily maneuvering wires as Mr. Sulu handed him tools. But the helmsman had been with Jim, which could only mean…

"I'm here, Spock. Bring me in."

Warm hands caressed his shoulders, wrapping around him to hold him close. He closed his eyes, raced back down the bond and…

"BONES."

"You damn lunatic. Where the hell have you been?"

"Oh, hell, Bones, I don't know. Hiding your cure. Fighting possessed security guards. Granted, it hasn't been as shitty as your day but can't you cut me some slack. I'm here to save you, after all."

"Listen, kid, you want to play hero, you better get over here and start pushing."

"Pushing? Pushing what?"

"Push on the wall. Dammit, Jim, think of my sickbay. Think of the wall next to my office door. Can you see it?"

"Yeah, sure."

"Now, imagine Spock and I are leaning against it and pushing really hard. Now walk your ass over here and join in."

"Just push?"

"Push, Jim, push now!"

"I'm fucking trying."

"Try Harder!"

"Dammit, where…there…Now?"

"Yes, YES. Oh, thank God. He's gone."

"No, Leonard, he is not. Do not drop your guard. He is hovering outside the perimeter and I assure you, that he will be back at the first sign of weakness. We can only restrain him if we stay alert."

"So, how did you two hold him off?"

"Leonard and I had a long overdue discussion regarding our bonding."

"Yeah, I can see that. So, you two just slipped together, huh. Not surprising. You too are weirdly made for each other."

"I guess. So are we, Jim."

"What, you think you have to tell me that? I handed you back that flask, Len, on that damn shuttle. You remember, right. Our fingers brushed and I got a jolt, a genuine jolt from my head to my toes. And all I wanted, from that moment on, was to take your hand and hold it. I didn't think about fucking you or even kissing you. I just wanted to slide our fingers together and never let go. So, yeah, Bones, we just slipped together, too."

"You felt it with him, too, didn't you."

"Yeah. Yeah, I did."

"My God, you couldn't have resisted it."

"Resisted it? No, but I could've seen it for what it was supposed to be. But that doesn't matter because this, what we have here, is what was supposed to happen. We're here, we're together, and nobody is going to take it away, least of all this prick who has more than worn out his fucking welcome. Do you hear me, Bones?"

"I hear you."

"Spock?"

"I do, Jim."

"Okay, well, I think it's about time we roust this fucker. Are you ready?"

"I am."

"Let's do this."

"Okay, on three. One…Two…

The resistance was strong. There was give to it, but it still felt heavy and thick, like pushing through a wall of mud. It was sticky and dirty and clinging, but the sheer filth of it just made Spock want to push harder, to punch through and permanently drive this creature away from them. Reaching out, he interlaced their minds, tripling their strength as he shoved again. He could feel Tor's presence buckling, pieces breaking away and dripping around them, but Spock had no mercy for his enemy's mind. He shoved again and again, ramming against Tor's mind as it fell apart around him. They were close, so close, to breaking through. He could feel the other side and a rush of raw determination surged through him. Pulling on the substantial strength of his mates, he cast his mind out, netting ever last nuance of the Betazoid in Leonard's head. It was wounded and weak, but Spock felt no guilt as he used this to his distinct advantage. Gathering the vile package close, he hurled it with all his strength, casting it out and away into whatever void it might find.

His mind was roaring, wild and fierce, and the need to pursue and destroy was nearly irresistible He could feel the tension in his own muscles, the furious anger coursing through his blood, but a glowing sense of profound relief and safety managed to pierce the white-hot perimeter of his wrath.

"Spock."

"Leonard?"

"Wake up, dammit. Open your eyes."

He yanked himself back to consciousness, back to Jim crouched beside him on the floor of the cubicle. Their eyes met and flew to the door of the lab to find it yawning open, the panel in pieces, and a nervous looking Chekov dancing from foot to foot in front of them.

"Keptin, Commander. He is asking for you."

His feet were beneath him, moving him forward, before his mind could process the ensign's words. He launched himself through the door, falling at the doctor's side to run accessing hands over the limp arms and legs. To his left, Mr. Scott was helping a dazed, pallid Philip Settle to a chair.

The target of his rage lay to his right, his eyes glazed as he stared blankly at the floor. Mr. Sulu was attempting to elicit some type of reaction from the man, but he remained completely unresponsive. With a low growl, Spock drew his livid glare away from the Betazoid doctor. There would be time later to exact punishment. Right now, his concern was for Leonard.

Jim had joined him on the floor and the two of them began methodically probing and massaging, drawing circulation back into Leonard's limbs. He worked his hands down the length of the doctor's arm, stroking his fingers as a tired voice whispered, "Jim…hypo…blue stuff behind you..."

Turning quickly, Jim grabbed the silver instrument. "How much."

"All of it."

Jim complied, a subtle, vengeful glimmer in his eyes as he depressed the hypospray. A slight tremor ran through Leonard's body, than a stronger shiver and the involuntary flex of muscles. The fingers that Spock clasped twitched and bent, gently squeezing his hand and relief and elation washed through his body as he drew them to his lips, meeting the doctor's warm, hazel eyes.

"Took you both long enough."

Leonard made it a mere two steps inside the penthouse before Spock caught him, seizing him around the waist and pressing him tight against his chest. With his feet dangling an inch above the ground, the Vulcan moved with single minded intensity, initiating the door locks, the primal need to place protective barriers between his mates and the dangers of the outside world overriding all his senses.

Releasing him, Spock began a full-scale assault on Len's clothing, methodically divesting him of his shoes, socks, and shirt as the other man writhed, squirmed and bitched at the top of his lungs. Ignoring the ongoing chorus of "dammits", and "green-blooded…" that spewed from his doctor's mouth, Spock set his fingers to Len's waistband and tore open the button.

"Goddammit, don't rip them…Spock…okay. OKAY!" he roared, ripping himself out of the Vulcan's arms. Yanking his slacks down and kicking them roughly to the side, he turned, his arms held up in surrender as he stood in nothing but his boxers. "Okay," he murmured in a calm, soothing tone, his expression suddenly gentle and understanding, "I'm okay, Spock. Go ahead and look."

He held his arms out wide as the Vulcan surged forward, running sensitive hands over every inch of his body, searching for any possible injury, no matter how small. To his left, Len could see Jim leaning against the wall, an amused expression on his face but a sheen of concentration in his eyes. Len sighed. He wasn't fooled by the nonchalance. Jim needed to see he was okay as badly as the Vulcan.

Spock's search was extensive, his fingers running over and over the cooler human skin as he sought out any damage, his pent-up fear refusing to give way before the logic of his own hands and eyes. Len could feel the tremors against his skin, could hear the slight hitching of the Vulcan's breath. Carefully, slowly, he ran his hands up and over Spock's chest, reaching up to cup his face and draw his gaze. There was fire in the black eyes, an inferno of unresolved rage that drew Len into its depths as a low growl rumbled through the Vulcan's chest.

"It was well within my rights to take his life, Leonard. He challenged me for my mate."

"Spock," Leonard began evenly, calmly, rubbing his thumbs in light circles over the Vulcan's tight jaw, "look, I know you're furious, but you can't fight a man in that condition, and if you were thinking straight right now, you'd know that. It would be like fighting a child. And besides," he continued, letting his hands drift down to gently massage Spock's shoulders, "the best punishment I can think of is the one he brought on himself. Let him live out his life in his broken mind. Personally, I think it's rather poetic."

His hands continued to trace patterns on the Vulcan's shoulders and chest, placating circles smoothing across the soft fabric, but he could still feel the tension tightening, coiling, preparing to explode. Catching his wrists in the gentle but firm manacles of his hands, Spock pushed him back a step and turned sharply away.

"I am not in control, Leonard. I believe the rage I am experiencing is uncontainable and I am without an appropriate outlet."

Len felt himself sliding into doctor mode, his mind unconsciously running through possible avenues of treatment. "Alright, what do you need? Will meditation work?"

Spock rolled his neck in agitation, his shaking hands flexing and unflexing. "Yes, it would help…but I am currently unable…I cannot leave…"

His voice trickled off in frustration. Glancing to his left, Len cast Jim a worried look. His best suggestion was a punching bag and he was about to voice the idea when a strange gleam of resolve washed over Spock's face. In two quick strides, the Vulcan was suddenly beside him, scooping him into his arms and hugging him close to his chest.

There was a strange, primal essence bleeding off the Vulcan as he stormed towards Jim, still cradling Len tight. He easily herded the other man into the hallway, stalking him ruthlessly as his firm hands held Len immobile. He pursued Jim through the door of the master suite, sliding the door shut behind him before dumping Leonard in a graceless pile on the bed. Turning towards his other mate, he caught Jim easily around the waist and sat him on the mattress, silently pulling his shoes and socks off before seizing Jim's legs and swinging them onto the bed.

A single worded command roared through their minds.

"STAY."

With a sharp turn, Spock exited the room as they stared after him, matching expressions of incredulity decorating their faces. "He just told us to stay," Jim mused in disbelief as the distant sound of the study door hissing shut drifted down the hall. "And was there some kind of logic behind taking my shoes?"

"Logic? Who can say? Maybe he just thought you'd be less likely to leave the bed without them. After all, mine are still in the living room." Rubbing his hands furiously up and down his arms, Len repressed a shiver. "Do you think he'd be able to tell if I got out of bed for a second to grab a shirt? It's freezing in here."

Crouching down on the bed, beside him, Jim laid an arm around his shoulders. "Its seventy-two degrees in here, Bones, but you're shaking like a leaf. I'm no doctor, but I think you might be going into shock."

"Acute Stress Reaction."

"What?"

"Real shock requires a physical injury that messes with the body's blood perfusion. ASR just mimics the symptoms. Besides, I don't have it. I'm not sick."

"Just freaked out?"

Len nodded. "Yeah. But I am cold."

Pressing his lips to Len's head, Jim smiled. "I think I can help you with that."

Pulling his arm back, Jim reached for the edge of the heavy down comforter, peeling the blankets and sheets down the bed and tumbling the pillows into an inviting nest. With a gentle tug on Len's arm, Jim navigated him into the center, throwing a blanket over the doctor's shoulder. Then he turned his attention to his own clothes, making quick work of his shirt before unsnapping his pants and shimmying out of them as his legs kicked in the air. Clad in nothing but his boxers, he slid beneath the blankets next to Len, twining their limbs together in a comforting tangle and dragging the blankets up and over their heads.

"Better," he asked mischievously in the muted darkness of the covers.

"Dammit, Jim, what are we, twelve?

"Sssshhh," he murmured against Len's ear. "You need to relax." His fingers worked gently over the tensed muscles in Len's back, his fingers deft and gauging.

"Are you checking me out, Jim," Len grumbled in the dark. "I'm fine, I promise."

"Yeah, I know, but I still can't help making sure. Humor me, Bones."

"Fine, kid." Shifting on his hips, Len pressed tighter into his chest, his own arms holding tight. "So, what do you think will happen now?"

Jim sighed. "Well, security brought some Betazoid representatives in to help guard Tor, on the off chance that he wakes up functional, but you saw the initial report. The chances of his recovery are pretty shitty to say the least."

"Yeah, well, I can't say I'm all too sorry."

Jim nodded, "Neither can I. And I'm glad you stopped Spock. I think you're right. The guy can live with the punishment of his own making, trapped inside his head. Seems like justice to me."

"The cure."

"Man, you really were out of it. Settle's going to be okay, and the rest of the team was only mildly affected by Tor's voodoo. They were reassembled while you were giving your statement to security and they all verified that the end result of your test indicates a cure. They'll be re-running it here and on New Vulcan under Spock's supervision."

"Did they seem optimistic?"

"Bones, they seemed ecstatic. I think if you gave them wings, they'd fly." Nuzzling his doctor, he pressed gentle kisses along his neck. "You did it Bones. I knew you would."

"You mean that when you say it, don't you." A warm arm hugged Jim close as Len's voice took on a scratchy, heavy quality. "Didn't you have any doubts? I mean, I came home and told you that the tests were a complete failure and you automatically assumed that someone must be messing with the results. Why would you think that? Why wouldn't you just think I might be wrong?"

Jim sighed against his neck. "I know you can be wrong sometimes, Bones, and that no one's right all the time, not even my fearless doctor. But, Bones, as far as I can tell, finding a cure is like finding a solution to any problem, right. You pick the very best people and try to create the very best possible scenario but in the end, you need to act on faith, and my faith, my past, and my gut were all telling me to trust you, so I did. I'd do it again, too."

Propping himself up on one elbow, Jim stared down at his doctor. "Bones, I get it, okay. I understand why you always doubt yourself, but maybe I can just see you with more objective eyes. I knew you wouldn't fail because you just don't fail. You didn't fail the Vulcan's and you didn't fail your father, whether you want to believe it or not. In fact, I'd love to hear what all the survivors of Signet would say if they knew how hard you come down on yourself. You know, all the people who are still walking around, living out their lives, because of you. Do you ever think of about them?" He asked, gently stroking the bridge of Len's nose. The doctor sighed.

"No," he replied heavily, "No, I never do."

"Yeah, well, you should."

It was Len who pushed himself up this time, rolling Jim gently on his back and reaching down to graze a finger along his cheekbone. "Maybe I should. Maybe you should, too."

Jim grabbed at his hand. "Should what?"

"Should recognize your own worth. Should stop trying to prove stuff to people who don't matter anyway."

"But you do matter, Bones. Besides, you told me to find a way to forgive myself."

"Yeah, I did say that. And what if I told you to forget it?"

"Bones."

"No, Jim, I mean it. Listen to me. You proved your commitment, okay. You proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt when you decided to throw everything you had behind my theory, based on nothing but pure faith. Because of that, a race of people will live and I…I'll be able to look in the mirror and sleep at night. You might've done stuff that broke me, Jim, but it just doesn't balance out with how much you continue to put me back together. So, I'll make you a deal, okay," he continued, pressing a quick kiss to Jim's lips. "I promise that from here on out, I will forgive myself for my father and I will let it go. I will stop walking around with that weight bearing me down into the ground. And you, in turn, will forgive yourself for me. You'll let it go, stop castigating yourself and trying to kiss my ass all the time. And you will goddamn let me put my hands on you and bring you off. No more of this bullshit about not being worthy of my touch or whatever. We let it go, Jim, right now."

Propping himself up on both elbows with the blanket tenting atop his head, Jim stared into the darkness in front of him. "Hell, Bones, I don't think I've ever done that before. I mean, I'm awesome at letting go, but I usually just let go of the whole relationship, not just the baggage that's fucking it up. I don't know if I'd even know how to do it."

"You think I do?" Bones pushed up to sit beside him. "I'm also pretty good at letting go of relationships, or have you forgotten my first marriage. But I think that's the point, Jim. Let's not be that for each other. Let's be something new, something better. I don't know quite how it works but we'll figure it out." Reaching up, he wrapped an arm around Jim's neck and pressed their foreheads together. "We will figure it out, Jim. We'll figure it out together. Okay."

A shudder ran through his mate and an arm looped tightly around the back of his own neck as Jim nodded against his head. "Okay, Bones. Okay."

A wicked smile cracked Len's lips. "Good," he breathed, gently nudging Jim down flat on the bed. "Then I think it's time we get started." Running his hands down the length of Jim's stomach, he felt a hitch of breath.

"What are you doing, Bones."

"I'm putting my hands on you. Now shut up and enjoy it."

It was stuffy under the blanket, the air hot and thick, but the unique scent of Jim was trapped under there, surrounding him like an intoxicating haze and Len breathed it deeply as he worked his lips and tongue over Jim's chest and throat. Beneath him, he could feel Jim tensing, gripping the sheet with both hands as he struggled not to move. A part of him, the part that still held on to his need to atone, was tempting him to push Len away, but a stronger need was winning out, the need to be close to his mate. Len felt his indecision as it drifted across the bond and he quickly set about confusing the issue further. With a quick yank, he peeled away Jim's boxers and took him fully in his mouth.

Jim gasped, the audible sound registering in Len's ears as the brunt of the sensation raced down the bond to explode in his mind. With his hands winding through Len's hair, Jim gave himself over, panting and whining into the covers as Len laved and caressed with his lips, tongue, and hands. With added determination, Len sucked him down to the root as Jim bucked and cried, pieces of words spilling from his lips between his moans.

It didn't take long.

Grabbing both of Jim's hips in his hands, Len pinned him to the mattress, denying him the slim threads of relief his wild squirming and bucking had afforded. Bearing down harder, Len worked the length of his shaft, letting his teeth graze lightly at the sensitive skin with each thrust. Jim was close, so close, his voice wild and ragged as he pleaded and begged in the darkness. His hands fell on Len's shoulders and the nails digging in to his flesh were the only warning he had. Then Jim was coming, hot and steady and strong. He held him firm and basking in the loving words that poured from Jim's mouth as shaking hands stroked through his hair. Still trembling, Jim reached down and pulled, drawing him up the length of his body to rest against his chest. Jim had no breath but his arms and legs encircled his mate and clung tightly as the same words looped through their minds over and over again.

"I love you. I love you. I love you so much."

Jim's heart was still racing when they heard the click of the door and felt the warm, curling fingers of an approaching mind. Lifting the edge of the blanket, they reached out synchronously, feeling for warm Vulcan skin. Pulling Spock beneath the covers, they fell on his clothing and stripped it away, leaving him bare as they drew him into their tangle.

Reaching out a hand, Len gently traced a pointed ear. "Are you feeling better?"

A warm hand captured his wrist, fingers tracing lightly, deliciously, over the sensitive skin. "I am well enough, Leonard. The bond carried the sensations of your mutual exchange to me and it did…much…to temper my emotions."

"Oh, really. Did ya hear that, Jim?"

"I did. Well, I'm, um, glad we could help. Does this mean you're okay?"

"For now. I am certain the feelings will continue to return in a less turbulent form and I will continually need to address them, but at this point, I am in control"

"Oh. Well, do you have stay in control?"

"If by your words, you are attempting to draw me into intercourse, you will find me willing to oblige."

"Well, that's no damned surprise. Arousal's a natural response to stress."

"You are correct, Doctor. It is also a natural response to fear. And relief."

"You were relieved?"

Slithering a hand around Len's back, Spock drew him tightly to his side.""To have you safe in my arms? Infinitely."

"I second that." Said Jim, curling up around Len's back. "And as your damn captain, I am ordering that no one in this bed get themselves into any more near-death experiences. For at least a month. Now please," he continued, sliding his hands into suggestive places. "Can we please just shut up and have sex?"

"Hell, yes."

With a gentle tug, Spock pulled Jim close, pressing a hand to each of the humans' faces and throwing their bond wide open. They descended into pure sensation, skin on skin on skin as they touched and explored and writhed together. They rolled and pressed, sliding in caressing in artless ecstasy, bodies and minds twining and blending together seamlessly. There was no penetration, there was no need, for how could they ever be further inside each other than they already were.

Throwing his head back, Bones was barely aware of the softness of the bed beneath them. All he felt was them, above him and beneath him and around him. It was their hands and skin and lips but also their thoughts and hopes and dreams, weaving and knitting together to form a whole. Whatever doubts he might have hidden in the deepest recesses of his soul were torn to shreds in that instant, simply annihilated in the face of their connection as a gentle voice echoed in his mind.

"Leonard?"

"Yeah, Spock."

"You asked…"

"What did I ask?"

"You asked if I could even feel love."

"Yeah?"

"I will tell you now, with utmost conviction, that I can."

Epilogue: The Beginning

The Beginning…it was a simple phrase but full of complex layers, invigorating the senses and sparkling with promise and potential. It offered unending possibility, adventure, and the sense of true rebirth. Not just a beginning but the Beginning, the one that marked the most vital of experiences.

For Leonard H. McCoy, the Beginning was marked by a series of ends. The end of his research team, the end of his illness. The end of his pain and doubts and fears. It was the end of a yearlong battle for his mind, heart, and soul, and he had to admit that he felt like he'd emerged the victor. He was treasured, desired, wanted, and loved and he wore that knowledge like a badge of honor.

The first part was statements; endless statements and depositions and debriefings. The bond, the cure, the attack by Tor. They learned that the Betazoid was practically catatonic, his mind ripped apart by the force with which he'd been expelled from Len's head. A hint of sympathy had momentarily wiggled its way into the Len's psyche, but Jim had been quick to point out that Tor had had a similar fate in mind for the doctor. The damage had made Tor an unreliable witness against the backers who had hired him to sabotage the cure, but the company's name had been revealed and placed on a watch list, their Starfleet contracts pulled and cancelled. It burned them all, especially Spock, to see the real perpetrators so lightly punished, but they had done all they could. For his part, Jim was sure that a certain admiral wouldn't let the cause rest easy.

That had been the first week.

The press had been horrible, invasive and pushy, jockeying for the latest scoop and newest angle as the facts and scurrilous opinions blended together and hit the public eye. Starfleet's P.R. office was on red alert, demanding interviews and publicity events to broadcast the intimate details of the Heroes' Wedding to the world. Leonard had borne it as well as he could but when he learned that Starfleet was planning a formal reception for them, he reached the end of his damn rope.

They literally fled in the night, trading the cool dampness of San Francisco for the heavy heat of a Georgian sun. And pigtails, and a wide, green field and his daughter's smile as they blew enormous bubbles that danced on the breeze. Spock had called it an illogical exercise but he had been helpless in the face of Joanna's stalwart insistence and had proven rather adept at bubble-making, much to the little girl's delight. And so they had passed their time in peaceful, familial solitude, hidden away from the public's prying eyes.

That had been the second week.

Then it was paperwork again, launch preparation and mission orders. Jim knew it was a foregone conclusion, that the brass would never deny the request, but he'd still held his breath every minute until the official transfer order was signed and in his hand. He was standing in the transporter room with Spock as the beam disappeared, leaving a scowling figure cursing in muted breaths in the middle of the platform. Taking two quick steps to the floor, Len stared at them both, his expression softening as he came forward and gently linked their fingertips. Catching Jim's gaze with a cheeky grin, he asked, "Permission to come aboard, Captain.

That had been the third week…and the beginning of the rest of their lives.


Hope everyone enjoyed it. Feedback would be greatly appreciated as this story kinda turned me into a nervous wreck at some points. Thanks!