Because neither healer had much experience with humans, they were reluctant to advise us about 'the correct course of action'. Normally, in a situation like this, they would ask the stable mate to exert some control over the one having difficulties. Through meditation, the troubled mate could then regain control of him/herself. But I, as a human, was not logical enough or psychically strong enough to exert control over Spock, according to the healers.

But I was stubborn enough to do something on my own to get this situation resolved. So I waited until the healers left to consult with some human doctors (Bones just glared at Sortik, so even the Vulcan could tell his advice might be suspect). Then I went to my room to consult my own expert. After taking off my boots, I laid on my bed and poked Spock.

'Yes, Jim?' he asked almost immediately.

'You're not harming the bond deliberately, are you?' I didn't think he was, but I had to make sure. Although Vulcans can lie, it's rather hard to lie to someone who has access to your mind.

Spock sounded offended that I would ponder such a thing at all. 'Of course not. I could hurt you in many ways by doing so. I have no desire to harm you. But unfortunately, I cannot control what I do while sleeping.'

But there was another consideration here, since our bond was supposed to be temporary...

'Maybe your mind found someone else more compatable. Maybe that's why it's trying to disconnect us,' I suggested.

But the wave of regret that came my way said otherwise. I could almost hear Spock's sigh as if he were in my cabin with me. 'That is impossible. My mind resists all attempts to get close to another.'

'All attempts?' I asked worriedly. 'So you found others who are suitable?'

'Yes. I found two persons who were reasonably compatable with my mind. But I was unable to establish even the shallowest of connections with them.' He sighed. 'I wish to be able to free you from your obligation, but I cannot until I find another I can bond with, or I would put myself at risk.'

'You *are* putting yourself at risk.' I admonished gently. 'You're destroying the bond. And that could leave you vulnerable.'

I stopped him with a soothing noise when he started to protest. 'Yes, I know it's not your conscious mind...but...' I looked at his presence in the bond. I studied it carefully. As I did, an idea began to form.

Then I asked a question that was dangerous, especially to a Vulcan.

'Do you like me?'

I could tell that Spock was surprised by my query, but he did me the favor of not rejecting it, as most of his people would.

He was quiet for a time as he contemplated his answer. But I waited patiently. I needed to know.

I could feel that he considered the question in contradiction of what he was taught. Liking acquaintances was in violation of Surak's teachings. Even feelings for family members and bondmates were supposed to be muted and should not translate into any of a Vulcan's actions.

'That is stupid,' I said vehemently as his contemplations drifted across our injured connection. My emotion was so strong that it caused us both to wince as the bond reacted with pain.

But that didn't change the way I felt. Because it was a justified anger. How could anyone be married like that? How could anyone be emotionally passive when they were in mind-to-mind contact? To me, it defeated the purpose of a bond.

Spock listened to my thoughts without responding. At first, I thought his silence was so the bond wouldn't yell in pain. Then I realized he was actually *listening* and even more surprisingly, agreeing with me. That startled me enough that my mind quieted.

After a few moments of mental silence between us, Spock said, 'I do enjoy being with you.'

I nodded, understanding how hard that was for him to admit. 'The feeling is mutual,' I replied simply, in acknowledgement of his struggle.

I wanted to say more, but I didn't want to overwhelm him with my feelings. So, I paused before I ventured, 'Could that be why your search isn't working?'

Spock thought about this for a moment, then sighed. 'Perhaps.'

So I was right. That meant we had to try a new tactic. So I prodded him gently. 'Why don't you stop trying for now? The stress might be getting to you. Humans can do some odd things under stress.'

Spock didn't bother to argue with me about how much of him was human. In fact, he agreed with my suggestion. 'Since the healers have no current suggestions, it would do no harm to try yours. I will also attempt meditating.'

I wanted to help him with his meditation, but I looked at my bedside clock and sighed. 'I have to get back to work. I'll check in with you later.'

Spock agreed and retreated to his side of the bond. The connection throbbed with relief. I didn't realize we were causing ourselves pain until he was gone. The warmth of being together had masked it.

As I got up, I wondered what the hidden pain meant. But just then, Uhura commed me. So, two seconds later, I pushed those concerns to the back of my mind as I went to take care of my ship.

After eight hours of pointless diplomacy with an angry king (We had been attempting to get mining rights on Zerebus II), I fell into bed. I had forgot about the bond for a time, so it almost surprised me when I winced in pain from an instantaneous headache as Spock made his presence known again.

He sounded contrite but determined to speak to me. 'I apologize for the intrusion. But I have a discovery which may interest you.'

The apology wasn't necessary. But his determination had me curious. 'You just startled me. Don't worry about it. I'm listening,' I sent back gently, as he seemed a bit skittish for some reason.

'While you were meeting with King Leebus, I meditated on our problem. And I believe I have found its cause.'

'Then tell me,' I encouraged him.

I felt Spock draw away from me slightly, causing the bond to twinge in pain again. 'You were correct in the assumption that my emotions toward you are affecting the bond. My resistance to others is indeed due to this. But so are the bond's injuries.'

'What? How?' I asked, rather shocked.

'I was attempting to give you what you desired,' he said, the apology back in his mental voice.

'I didn't want you to destroy the bond,' I protested.

'But you wanted to be free of all relationships. In a bond, this is not possible.'

'So part of you tried to set me free.' I sighed as I realized what he was saying. 'Can you make it stop?'

'I believe so,' he said cautiously. 'But your discontent concerning relationships might prevent me from controlling that part of my mind.'

'I can't just stop my fears, Spock. They're part of me.'

Spock nodded. 'I am well aware that humans do not have the emotional control that Vulcans do. Therefore I suggest you let me address them.'

'How?' I asked, skeptical of his ability to handle emotions he usually suppressed.

But my bondmate had no such worries. 'I will logicaly counter each fear until you are content to stay with me until such time when I find another.'

That didn't sound very effective to me, but I didn't see anything dangerous about his plan, and I didn't have a better idea, so I said, 'Okay, let's try that.'

Spock seemed pleased by my acquiescence. But I realized I should have asked for more details before agreeing. Because a moment later, he dropped a bomb on me.

'Since we must stop my mind from destroying the bond as quickly as possible, I have decided to start with your most difficult fear. I will refute any similarity between me and Kodos the Executioner.'

Although I knew he had our best interest in mind, I couldn't suppress the shudder that ran through me at his words.

end part 17