A Second Chance, Part 4 of 4

Leonard feels as if he should be angry at Spock for the stupid stunt he pulled. For the secrets he kept. For all the trouble he gave Jim.

But all he has to do is take one look at him lying on that biobed, and remember the state he was in when they brought him back to the ship, and the anger dwindles. He'd been missing for close to eighteen hours, during which those fucking bastards really had done a number on him. As far as physical injuries go, Leonard has seen far worse even on Spock himself on previous occasions. However, the duration between the point of injury and the moment of rescue was longer and more grueling on this occasion. The overall state he was found in simply far more troubling.

The physical wounds have been taken care of now. The stab wounds on his back, the incisions along his arms, his shoulders, the deep slash in his chest, where he had bled and lost almost two point three pints of blood—all signs of a physical struggle. The bruises on his face from the metal mask that the rescue team had removed and brought back to the ship for study are also gone now. The Healer had seemed particularly troubled to see that injury. That and his hands, most specifically his fingertips, where the aliens had inserted some kind of needles that had severely damaged the nerve endings. Sonok explained the importance of Vulcan hands to him. They are one of the most sensitive parts of their bodies, even more than their facial psi-points. Fingertips are the point through which a Vulcan initiates a mindmeld, to form a mental connection with another being. To have an injured hand, to have one's fingertips with their millions of sensitive nerve endings compromised, even temporarily, is like having your hands chopped off.

Leonard had to place Spock's hands in a regenerative chamber over the biobed to accelerate that repair. While he knew there wasn't going to be any permanent damage, he realized that even after the restorative surgery he'd performed, the complete healing process was going to at least take days, if not weeks.

Not that this particular Vulcan is aware of much anything at the moment. He is out cold, in a Vulcan Healing Trance, according to Sonok. He knew about them, but having the Healer's word that this is a Vulcan body's natural defense mechanism in the face of a traumatic injury, and would aid in the healing process better than any therapy is reassuring. Still it is disquieting to see him like this, his heartbeat so slow, his blood pressure even lower than he would have expected. But Sonok assures him that the trance would help Spock heal both from physical wounds as well as those inflicted on his mind.

Leonard has no cause to doubt Sonok, who is the expert in this case. Spock's brain scans show the ravage those aliens caused on his mental state, with the prolonged barrage of psionic energy and the other insidious, malicious ways they chose to torture him physically. Sonok performed a mindmeld on him immediately after he was rescued and says he had to do it to retain the integrity of his telepathic shields. He says they were shaken during the assault but are intact, though they too will require time to heal completely.

He still doesn't know what Spock was thinking when he decided not to disclose the nature of the mindmeld he'd performed on Jim and the resultant bond that had formed between them. It was clearly an accident, and there should not have been any problems disclosing it. But Sonok alludes to the possibility that their First Officer may not have been acting rationally in the wake of the Antara incident. Also the fact that he did arrange to have the Healer arrive possibly means he was finally ready to do something about it.

As for Jim, he's not saying much. He has spent time with Spock in the sickbay but he's also been busy dealing with Starfleet brass after the whole Arkon III fiasco. Still, Leonard finds him sitting by the First Officer's side from time to time, before he's called out again. The look on his face is always perplexed.

Leonard figures only Spock can answer the questions he has.

They'd arrested seventeen aliens alive from the underground cell where Spock had been held. Five were killed in the encounter and three bodies were found awaiting burial when they first broke into the facility. Apparently, Spock had given them trouble of his own. There were no casualties on the Starfleet side.

Everything had happened so fast once they'd arrived back at Merak II. They'd run resonance scans of the entire planet, searching for any presence of the psionic signal, and it had taken them a while before they'd detected something at a location in the northern hemisphere, forty-five thousand kilometers northeast of the Meraki central government offices they'd visited earlier. The fact that the cell was buried under a thick layer of rock added to the difficulty of the detection.

As for the aliens, it is not a species anyone in the Federation has ever encountered before. They call themselves the Kalahans, a xenophobic race that originates from a planet near the Corian Nebula in sector 342, and which supposedly has been a victim of hundreds of years of carnage at the hands of a telepathic species called the Yintis. From this arises their hatred of all telepathic races, irrational as it is. They created the psionic device in conjunction with some of their mercenary contacts and Antara was their first live experiment of the device's effectiveness.

All the while the Enterprise and the Potomac crew had been following the trail of the P-9 component, the Kalahans had been following the Enterprise's trail—having set their sights on Spock, who had apparently caught their attention for having survived the psionic device's effects on Antara.

When Jim thinks of everything Spock went through while he was missing, what those aliens did to him, he wants to take a phase rifle and start vaporizing them one after the other.

He is also restless. He cannot feel the bond at the moment, cannot feel Spock's presence. The feeling is unlike the depression he'd felt when Spock had blocked the bond before. This time, he feels a vacuum. Sonok says it is because Vulcan mental shields go up during a healing trance, in order to heal any damage caused and reestablish the telepathic controls, if compromised. In Spock's situation, the damage has gone on for so long, that his controls will obviously take some time to get back to normal. He says Spock would likely stay in a trance at least for the next two days.

Logically, he knows why Spock did what he did with the bond. Why he's been acting so irrationally these past few days, why he blocked the bond from Jim. Spock has been suffering from a delayed PTSD. From the loss of Vulcan, from the loss of his mother, and the severing of his betrothal link. This was months ago, and Spock has been in mental pain all this time.

However, Jim cannot help but feel his heart squeezing at the thought that this was just an accident to Spock. An accident in which Jim became a casualty along with him. Spock never really wanted the bond. He never really wanted Jim. He cannot help but feel a strange, misplaced sense of hurt and betrayal at this. At being shut out of Spock's mind. He did not have it easy while Spock was being tortured. He went through hell himself trying to get through to him via the bond. And every time he tried to find a way in, he faced a wall. A blockage. A closed door.

He needs to get to the bottom of this.

He comes to awareness slowly.

The first realization to register in his conscious mind is of the lack of pain. No part of his body or mind hurts. No malevolent presence lurks beneath his thoughts. No one is touching him, probing him, scouring his body. He can feel his telepathic shields in place. He takes in a deep breath, and attempts to assess their integrity and knows they are intact, their control nearly complete. He opens his eyes and knows he is in sickbay, lying on a biobed. The lights are dimmed where he is and a complete and utter silence surrounds him.

He detects a movement at the periphery of his vision and recognizes Nurse Chapel noticing his current awake status, and what appears to be surprise mingled with relief shows on her face.

Then Dr. McCoy appears and stands over him, his eyes concerned, and asks him a question but his hearing does not seem to be working yet. He has a pen flashlight in his hand, which he switches on and directs into Spock's eyes to check for autonomic response of his pupils. Nurse Chapel appears by the doctor's side with a tray in hand and the doctor picks up a hypospray and presses it to Spock's neck. He does not hear the hiss but feels as the contents are released into his skin, and suddenly his ears pop and his hearing returns.

"...you feeling?" the doctor is asking him.

Spock tries to tell him he is well, but his throat is too dry and what comes out is no more than a rasp. Another hypo appears and its contents released into his bloodstream and Nurse Chapel brings a glass of water which she helps him sip with the help of a straw.

McCoy looks at him closely. "Do you know where you are?"

Spock wets his dry lips and replies, "I am in sickbay."

McCoy nods and then narrows his eyes. "Can you state your name and designation for me?"

Spock exhales. "I am Spock, son of Sarek, First Officer, USS Enterprise." He looks at the doctor. "I assure you, Doctor, I am in no way suffering from a memory loss."

McCoy looks at him appraisingly. "Then you remember what happened?"

He looks at the doctor closely and then feels his eyes close as he lets himself recall the hazy memories of his incarceration. It all comes back slowly. The voices, the pain, the misery. The metal protrusions touching his psi-points, sending a hot, nauseating wave of agony into his brain. And then it comes to him: Jim.

His eyes fly open as he looks at the doctor. "The captain...is he...?"

"He's fine," McCoy interrupts him, as his expression suddenly seems to close off. Spock feels a strange fluttering at his side. He wishes to know about his bondmate but the doctor is looking at him with an expression Spock cannot recognize. "He's busy, but I'm sure you'll see him soon," McCoy's voice is sharp.

He then continues in a softer tone, effectively changing the subject, "Well, the good news is, your readings are mostly back to normal. Your heart rate is 238 bps, which is close to normal, your body temperature is almost back to 91F, which is again good." The doctor's focus is on the monitor. "What concerns me is that... your electrolyte levels are still severely down. You lost close to two point three pints of blood, most of which we replenished intravenously. However, it is not anything that a nice long rest and a few days of regular good meals cannot help."

However, there is a peculiar blankness filling Spock's mind, a void that he should be grateful for, for its lack of feeling and emotion. But it reminds him of that haze, of the fog that had confounded him during his captivity.

McCoy asks him if he can get up and when Spock nods, the doctor presses something on the panel above the biobed and Spock realizes his hands had been held in some kind of a chamber. The doctor expertly pulls open the cover, and removes Spock's hands from it, and then carefully helps him get up and sit upright. He is saying something about regenerative surgery and nerve endings being damaged and healing time required but all Spock can do is stare at his hands with their bruised fingertips.

He notices the Elder's presence in the room, remembers he had felt his presence in his mind soon after his rescue as well, but at the moment he cannot bring himself to focus on him. The Elder comes to stand in front of him, but Spock can only look at his hands. The Elder says something to him about meditation and Spock murmurs something about his shields working adequately. That is correct, the Elder says, but he will still need to meditate, to work on letting his control become absolute once more.

But his fingers are hurt and he cannot even... Spock refrains from closing his eyes, from letting what he is feeling appear on his face.

He will do as the Elder says. He will make his control absolute.

He lets the blankness pervade him.

Nyota nods to Lieutenant Seltzer as she hands over her station and walks out of the bridge.

The last few days have literally felt like a whirlwind. Members from Starfleet Intelligence arrived two days ago and are currently working with the Meraki authorities to question the aliens captured as well as the crew of the Vallentian vessel seized by the Potomac right at the edge of Federation border, all now being held planetside in a detention facility, to get to the bottom of the Kalahan conspiracy.

In all this time, with the constant barrage of communications from Starfleet and meetings being set up between the captain and the various fleet brass arriving every few hours, Nyota has barely had the chance to go check up on Spock more than that one time when there was a lull in the activity. And now he's back to his quarters, but no one but the Healer has seen him for the past one day.

She wonders how the captain is faring after all that he went through.

She knows now that something happened on Antara, something which caused a bond to accidentally form between the captain and Spock. Christine was being tightlipped about what she'd witnessed between the captain and the Healer when they were in sickbay, but when Nyota told her she knew about the bond—which was a lie, she'd only suspected until then—Christine did not deny it. So now she knows. Why Spock decided to hide that link, she doesn't know. All she remembers is how Kirk was when Spock had gotten abducted, how agonized he appeared. She also remembers how he'd led the team down to the planet to get Spock out of that horrible place, how he'd held him in his arms when they'd been beamed back.

Then she recalls what Sulu had said about how tense Spock had seemed when he'd brought back the captain from Antara.

She thinks she may have her answer.

She just needs time to process this.

On the second day, when the Elder attempts a mindmeld with him, Spock nearly gets physically ill.

It is the memory of those metal protrusions digging into his psi-points, sending a fire of agony into his brain, that keeps haunting him. He was already in emotional pain, but now he has also been physically damaged. He cannot use his fingertips to meld and just the thought of lifting his shields makes him feel nauseous, throwing him in that pain-memory circle that tells him his bondmate will come to harm if he allows the aliens access to his mind.

Logically, he knows it is over, knows no harm will come either to Jim or himself. But he cannot help but feel crippled, as if he's still in that fog-filled place where there was no tether.

"I apologize, Elder, for losing control," Spock says to the Elder.

Sonok looks at him calmly. "Control can be found again, Spock. You must remember that I have already melded with you once while you were unconscious. The pain no longer exists. Your psi-points were not permanently damaged. Your hands too will heal and then you will once again be able to perform a meld on your own. But you must let me assess the integrity of your mental shields after being in a healing trance."

"I understand." Spock tilts his head. "I will attempt again."

The second time, the meld is successful and the Elder enters his mind with relative ease. But the moment he feels a mental prod at his shields, he feels a panic inundate his senses, a memory of sniggering whispers pushing their hateful, sickening presence into his mind. His mind struck in that memory, of the whispers that wanted to hurt his bondmate, Spock pushes the Healer's conscience away from his mental place, abruptly falling out of the meld.

He watches the Elder look at him gravely. He is still crippled. Still unable to concentrate.

"You are still living in the memory of that pain," Sonok says. "But it would not hurt if you let it heal." The Elder looks at him. "You must let the strength of the bond heal your mind."

Spock feels his fingers digging into his thighs. "No," he replies.

The Healer stares at him impassively for a few moments, and then says, "Your shields are adequate, Spock. But you must lift them to assess the condition of the bond. You have not been able to successfully meditate since you came out of the trance, and that is something you cannot avoid any longer."

Spock stares at him. "I do not wish to assess the condition of the bond."

The Elder stares at him. "You must!"

"The bond is damaging to him," Spock tells him. "It has caused him pain."

"You are mistaken," The Elder says. "The bond has a soothing presence. It heals. Once the bond has been stabilized, it will not hurt."

"It was formed without his knowledge," Spock says. "Without his permission."

"That was an accident. He knows of its existence now," the Healer states.

"Yes, it was an accident," Spock says. "And thus it must be dissolved."

Sonok stares at him solemnly. "That is a decision you cannot make alone. Your bondmate must be conferred."

Spock looks at him, his throat convulsing, and replies, "He will be."

Jim has just finished a meeting with the Meraki officials on the surface when an officer with Starfleet Intelligence requests to speak with him.

"One of the aliens is asking to speak with you, Captain." the officer, a Lieutenant Marcus tells him, looking perplexed. "He's one of the Kalahan underground leaders that your team captured from the cell. We've been questioning him for the past two days, but he specifically asked for you, saying he had something to tell you."

Jim looks at him in surprise. "Why me?"

"We have no idea, Sir," Marcus answers. "We've been putting him off but he's insisting he has a message for you."

"Where is he?"

Marcus gestures to a passage. "In the detention facility, right this way."

Jim follows the officer through the pathways of various corridors and passages, passing Starfleet Intelligence representatives and Meraki officials moving about, armed guards standing at attention, the security tight in the wake of the severity of the situation. After a few minutes walk, they arrive at the detention facility. All aliens captured are being held in separate cells and Jim is led to a chamber at the end of the passage, where he sees the Kalahan sitting on a bench affixed into the wall, his silver white hair shining in the overhead light.

The pink gaze turns to him as he stops in front of the forcefield. "Captain James T. Kirk," the Kalahan says, a strange smile appearing on his face, "we finally meet."

Jim stares at him. "What do you want?"

"What?" The alien looks innocently at him. "Aren't you going to exchange pleasantries first? My name is Molta."

Jim takes a deep breath. "Look, if you have something to say to me, then do it. I don't have time to waste."

"Oh, how rude of you." The browless eyes blink at him. "Your First Officer seemed to think so very highly of you. But you have no manners."

Jim feels his lips press closer. "What the hell do you want?"

"I just wanted to see the man who had such an impact on the telepath we captured," Molta says. "He got into a little trouble while he was in our custody, you see. I was concerned he hadn't survived our hospitality."

Jim feels the stirring of that anger that always hits him whenever he thinks of these aliens and what they did to Spock. "You are not going to get away with this crime," he tells the alien. "You will pay for everything you did."

"It does not matter," the alien sneers. "Our experiment has been a success beyond anything we could've expected. Our technology works not only on non-telepathic minds, it actually renders telepaths absolutely helpless against the barrage of our controlled psionic energy." The smile turns ugly. "What we reduced your half-breed to is a testament to that claim."

Jim feels himself freeze. "You failed with him. He did not break. He fought back."

"Did he?" Molta laughs, his tone derisive. "Oh, but I seem to distinctly remember how pathetic he became, how weak he was, how absolutely despicable in his attempts to fight back." The alien looks into Jim's eyes. "All we had to do was take one name: yours, and there he would light up like a Polwari firecracker, lashing, screaming, crying in pain."

Jim feels his heart pounding as he turns to leave. "I don't have time for this shit."

"Why, Captain..." the alien calls out to him, "he found it so overwhelming, he even tried to kill himself."

Jim freezes. He turns to look at the alien. "What?"

"Oh, don't tell me he didn't tell you," the alien jeers. "He was so wretched, so pathetic. Did you really think he was trying to get away from us? Did you really think he could fight us?"

Jim growls, "He did fight you. Three of your people were killed."

Molta laughs. "It was a suicide attempt, Captain. He wanted to die."

"You're lying."

"He was so desperate, so pathetic, so weak," Molta mocks. "At the absolute end of his rope."

"You're lying."

"Am I?" the alien looks at him. "Why don't you ask him yourself then?"

Jim turns around and walks out of the detention facility, his thoughts caught in a tempest. It is a lie, a fucking lie. The alien was just trying to rile him up. Give him a mindfuck. Spock could not have tried to kill himself. He is not suicidal. He has been upset, going through a trauma, but he is not suicidal. He may not have wanted the bond with Jim, but he could not have tried to kill himself. No.

Jim hears a beep on the padd he's carrying in his hand. He looks at the screen. It is a message indicator, telling him he has a priority message on his personal console in his office. He sees the sender. It is Spock. Feeling his brows come together, Jim punches in the code to access the message remotely. With a beep, the console retrieves his inbox list with the waiting message. Jim looks at the subject line.

Request for Resignation from Starfleet

And curses.

Spock is alone in his quarters, when his door chimes.

He has been putting his things away, getting his affects in order, for the past one hour. He has been waiting for this visit since he filed his request with Jim for approval. He knows this is the only thing he can do. After everything he has done, all the lies he has told, he cannot be here anymore. He cannot be here. The bond has to be dissolved. Even if the thought fills him with dread, makes him ache inside, this is the only thing he can do. He has hidden it for too long, caused too much damage. Everything needs to come out now. He needs to come clean.

He walks to the door, takes a deep breath, and presses the panel to open.

Jim stands staring at him with a cold, incredulous anger on his face. His lips are pressed tightly together, his face enraged, his eyes a cold sky blue. He holds up a padd in front of Spock. "What the fuck is this?"

Spock sees the resignation request he had sent open on the screen. He swallows and begins, "I must apologize, Captain, but I can no longer continue my duties aboard the Enterprise, or in Starfleet, as I have been... emotionally compromised."

Jim's lips press even closer, as he suddenly moves, shoving Spock aside hard as he stalks inside the quarters. The doors close behind him. "Don't fucking 'Captain' me now." He snarls as he whips around to face Spock, his eyes burning. "And this is unacceptable. I won't accept this."

He is angrier than Spock has ever seen him. His anger is completely warranted.

Spock puts his hands behind his back, trying to reach for that inner calm he so needs. "You cannot deny my request. It is in the best interest of the ship that I leave." He swallows again. "It is also in the best interest of your wellbeing that I am far away from you."

Jim glowers at him. "Yes, because everything you've done so far has been in my best interests, hasn't it?"

Spock feels his throat tighten. "I have lied to you. I have deceived you."

"So your solution is to run away?" A look of contempt appears on Jim's face. "I never took you for a coward, Spock." He looks at him. "What about the bond?"

Spock blinks, feeling a tingle at the back of his throat. "I have requested the Healer to assist in the process of..."

Jim cuts him off, his eyes furious. "...the process of ripping it out of my mind?"

His heart squeezing at his side, Spock stares at him. "It is for the best."

"Is it?" Jim grits his teeth, his nostrils flaring. "Yes, it must be. You seem to have all the answers, don't you, Spock?" He grimaces. "And today is a day of revelations for me." Something painful passes through his features. "I just had a conversation with that Kalahan who'd captured you, and I found out that... that those injuries we found on you after your rescue were actually self-inflicted."

Spock feels his brows come together. "No."

Jim's eyes are shining, his face set in a scowl. "Did you want to be away from me so badly? Was my presence in your mind so reprehensible that you'd rather die than be bonded to me?"

Spock stares at him as the words register in his mind. "That is not the truth."

"Don't you fucking lie to me now, Spock!" Jim yells, as he suddenly smashes the padd held in his hand against the wall behind Spock who hears it shatter into pieces, Jim's face turning livid, his breath coming out in furious gasps.

Spock feels the barrage of his bondmate's wrath hitting his senses and struggles to breathe. "I am not."

"You've been lying all along," Jim shouts. "You've been keeping this bond from me, you've been fucking blocking me."

Spock feels the tightness in his throat grow even more constricting. "Yes."

"I had no say in getting linked to your mind, and now I don't get any say in getting ripped out of it?" Spock notices Jim's hands shaking. "I have no fucking say?"

Spock's heart is thudding wildly in his side. "I have acted towards you in the most grossly violating manner."

Jim's eyes are accusing. "Yes, you have. But it was my presence that was vile to you, wasn't it?" There's pain in those eyes, betrayal. "You find me vile, you find me gross, the violating presence."

Spock steps forward, his breath stuck in his throat. "No."

"That's why you want me out," Jim cries. "That's why you couldn't bear to let me know about the bond, couldn't bear to even talk to me."

The words are like a stab into Spock's side. "No."

Jim's eyes are shining with unshed tears. "That's why you tried to kill yourself!"

Spock looks into his bondmate's tortured features and tries to explain, "They are misleading you."

"Just like you mislead me?" Jim grinds out. "That's what you've been doing all along, Spock. Misleading me!"

Spock feels a weight on his chest, his breath hitching. "I have committed a gross error."

"I know you didn't want this." Jim bites his lip. "I know this bond was an accident to you. I know you would never have chosen this for yourself." He snarls. "But was the... prospect of being linked to my mind so hateful, so... disgusting to you that you'd rather die than be bonded to me?"

"No!" Spock suddenly shouts. "I did not try to kill myself." He looks into Jim's eyes. "I was trying to... keep them away from you. I would never let them touch you again, Jim. I would destroy anyone who tried to hurt you." He stares at his bondmate, his tone pleading, as words stumble out of his mouth, unstoppable. "I would never let anyone hurt you. You have been hurt enough already. I have caused you pain unlike anything you have ever experienced. You will not be harmed again, Jim. I will not allow it."

Jim stares at him. "Spock..."

Spock continues, "You kept looking for me. You kept trying to reach out to me. I did not want you to come to my rescue, Jim." He stares at him. "I did not want you to get hurt. They were going to hurt you."

"They lied, Spock." Jim's voice has suddenly turned soft. "You're the only one they hurt, not me. And you had been hurt for so long."

Spock shakes his head. "Not after everything I made you go through. Not after the way I violated your mind, and then hid the truth from you."

Jim looks at him. "Spock."

"I should have told you the truth," Spock admits. "I treated you in the worst way possible. I lied to you, kept the bond from you. When you had every right to know of its existence. "

Jim takes a step closer. "Spock."

"I did not want them to find you, Jim," he explains, his throat closing. "I would have done everything in my power to keep them away from you. I was going to kill them," his voice breaks. "Or die trying. I would have rather died than let them touch you."


He stares at his bondmate's face, his beautiful eyes sparkling with something he cannot yet fathom. "I cannot... do this anymore, Jim," he murmurs.

He watches Jim raise his hand and touch a finger to a spot under Spock's left eye and Spock realizes his face is wet.

"Spock," Jim's voice is stunned. "You're crying."

"No." Spock stares at him. "Vulcans... do not cry."

Spock watches in amazement as Jim brings his hands up to cradle his face. "Spock, look at me." His eyes probe Spock's, as if he is looking into the very depths of his soul. "I need you to look into my mind and see everything that I feel, and I need you to show me what's in your mind." Spock feels the coolness in those hands seep into his skin. "Don't hide from me anymore. Lift that block, let me see."

He stares at Jim, his heart hammering, his throat tight. He has fooled himself long enough. He cannot do this anymore. He can no longer block Jim's feelings from himself.

So for the first time in weeks, Spock allows himself to feel. He lifts his telepathic shields completely, and allows himself to receive everything his bondmate is feeling. All the anger and rage and pain and agony and heartache. It washes over his senses like a wave crashes onto the jagged face of a rock. It drenches his senses, his mind, his soul. All the hurt that he has caused, that he has allowed to settle in his bondmate's mind, because of his own doubts and insecurities and fears. All that pain that he had only gotten hints of until now, but which is suddenly all over him, as his eyes close and wave after wave of emotions slam into him. He feels the need to slide down to the floor but somehow manages to stay upright, catching the crest and fall of the crashing waves of sensation, deluging his mind, his thoughts, his body. So much pain, so much hurt, all because of him. Spock! He hears Jim call out to him. Look at me. Let your shields down. Let me see you. He feels his hands taken in cool human ones, their fingers entwined, his healing nerve endings buzzing with the energy of the aura that surrounds his bondmate. He takes a deep breath and reaches for that place inside his mind where their bond resides. And he reaches through the bond and allows everything he has ever felt for his bondmate over the past three weeks—all the longing and the doubts and the protectiveness and the fears and the love, and everything he has ever felt for his friend over the past eight months—the respect, and the loyalty, and the camaraderie, and the ever-growing affection, to flow into the bond. He feels Jim slide closer to him, feels his bondmate's breath wash over his face and breathes him in, deeply, keenly, letting the weight of his fingers rubbing against Spock's carry them both into that mental landscape. And there he sees the bond, its energy glowing beautiful colors in this place—it is stronger than ever, as if lifting his shields and letting his bondmate's emotions through have somehow rejuvenated it, have given it new life. Its warmth and beauty astounds him as he hears the hum of its pulsating aura drench his senses in healing energy. He sends everything he has ever felt that the Vulcan part of him would never admit to existing, but which is there nonetheless. His admiration for Jim as a captain and as a friend, his high regard for his intellect, his wit, his intelligence, his appreciation for his exceptional leadership skills, his courage, and his charisma. And his attraction to both his mind and body. The feelings that had started to grow after the bond was formed, but which always had a basis on what he had already felt for Jim. And then the wave turns and he is drenched in feelings of love and compassion and acceptance and gentleness and adoration and safety and harmony and a heartrending sweetness. And now he does slide down to the floor, overwhelmed by the outpouring of warmth and affection and love and understanding from his bondmate.

For the first time in weeks, Spock knows that Jim wants him. Jim had wanted him all this time but because he was blocking the bond, he never found out. What a fool he has been. What an absolute fool.

When his eyes open, he finds their arms wrapped around each other, their legs entwined, their mouths joined in the sweetest kiss he has ever tasted. They are on the couch, and he has no recall of how they got there. His shirt is halfway off and one of Jim's cool hands is dragging over his bare back while the other holds his head as he feels shivers run through his entire frame. He touches the muscles in his bondmate's shoulders, feels their wiry, masculine strength so different from a female's, feels Jim's erection pressing against his thigh through two layers of cloths and himself grows hard at the sensation. This is new to him. Spock has never been with a male. But he needs Jim, has wanted Jim for what feels like forever. He needs his bondmate anyway he can get him.

"Please," Jim murmurs against his lips, as he pulls his shirt off the rest of the way, his eyes raking over Spock's body hungrily as he hovers over him, the blue of his irises almost obscured by the black. "Please, I need to..."

"Yes," Spock says, as he grabs Jim's shirt and pulls it off his frame. They come together again, both naked to the chest as their lips meet once more, their tongues wrapping around each other as they taste each other eagerly. Spock's skin feels over-sensitized wherever he touches Jim's, and he feels goose bumps form over his arms as he holds his bondmate close, his heart pounding at his side. He feels Jim's fingers sink into his hair as their teeth clash.

"I need to taste you," he hears Jim say and groans as he is pushed on his back and Jim lifts his mouth from his, only to lower it to his neck where Spock feels sweet kisses and sharp nips mark their way down his throat. He feels Jim's hands drag from his neck to his shoulders down to the length of his arms until his fingers are entwining with Spock's again, as he kisses down his chest and then sinks his face into Spock's chest hair, groaning loudly as he nuzzles into it. "God, you're so beautiful," Jim moans as he nips first one and then his other nipple, making Spock writhe helplessly.

Such affection, such lust, he is unused to this. No one has ever treated him with such hunger, such passion. "Jim," he sighs, as he feels his erection press against his sweatpants, as Jim nips at his chest muscles, making him shudder in response.

Jim moves downward, leaving cool, wet kisses down his stomach as he laves his tongue into his navel, and then grabs the belt of his pants and pulls it down his hips. Spock had not been wearing underwear, and his erection springs out against his stomach, heavy and thick and wet with its natural lubrication. "Christ," he hears Jim murmur and looks down to catch a reverent expression on his face. "So beautiful, so fucking beautiful," his bondmate says as he reaches out to run a finger along his length and Spock feels a jolt run down his body as he lets his head fall back, unable to watch.

He feels Jim's hands enclose his erection, feels the blunt thumb caress his length before the grip tightens and he feels an incredible wetness enclose the head of his penis. He lifts his head and looks down in wonder, his heart thudding fast, to find his bondmate's mouth wrapped around his head and thinks he is going to explode. He moans as he feels the cool, wet tongue run up and down his length over and over, tasting him and kissing him and he closes his eyes again as he feels his head once more enclosed in that cool, wet mouth. He has had fellatio performed on him before but never with such devotion, such prolific enthusiasm. Jim hums around his length, as his tongue licks from the bottom of his length to the tip, where it swirls around the head, making Spock groan, and then back down again. He feels his hips jerk erratically once, twice before he is gripped in strong hands and held down firmly and Jim takes his length all the way in until he can feel it touch the back of his throat.

And he erupts, ejaculating copiously, still caught in his bondmate's mouth, as a long groan emits from his mouth. He falls back on the couch, as he feels his breathing slow down, his heartbeat gradually coming back to normal. After a while, he feels Jim release his softening length from his mouth and slide up to wrap his arms around his waist, as his mouth fits around Spock's once more. He tastes himself on his bondmate's lips and realizes he likes this combined taste: Jim and himself mingled together.

They kiss slowly, as Spock runs his hands unhurriedly up and down Jim's back, his muscles hard under his touch, as he feels his bruised psi-points pulse against his bondmate's skin. The doctor estimated complete recovery in three point two weeks, but Spock can feel a spark of sensation even now as he touches his bondmate's skin. Jim drags his hands up his body to sink his fingers into Spock's hair and then runs them so softly, so gently, so tenderly through his strands, his pads slowly rubbing his scalp, that Spock feels as if his bones would melt. Jim settles against him, his face resting in the crook of his neck, and Spock feels his heart flutter in his side.

He touches his hand to his bondmate's neck, then to his hair, as he rubs his nose against his forehead, his touch suddenly tentative. His thoughts are awhirl, his mind in a conundrum at the complexities of human emotion. He feels that sense of protectiveness and warmth from the link spark against his consciousness, and exhales into his bondmate's hair.

"I cannot believe you tried to hide this from me," Jim murmurs against his neck.

Spock looks at him, takes a deep breath. "And yet... you treat me with such compassion."

Jim stills, turns to face him. "Spock. You were hurt, all right? You had been hurt for a long time. I can't even imagine the pain you've been living through, all these months." He looks at him. "I can't."

"I am Vulcan, Jim," Spock says. "I am not supposed to lose control."

"You're also human." Jim looks straight into his eyes. "Humans can lose control when they are hurting."

Spock looks into his eyes. "That is not an excuse to lie."

"No, it isn't." Jim says then looks at him closely, his eyes serious. "Spock, tell me one thing." He swallows. "Do you... want this? I know this was an accident for you." He looks confused, his eyes anxious. "And you already had something with Uhura. So if this isn't something you want... if... the Healer can..." he stammers, "if you wanted to..."

Spock stops him by gripping his shoulders to bring him against him as he presses his lips to Jim's mouth. He holds Jim tightly, his fingers digging into his shoulders hard enough to leave marks as he kisses him hard, his tongue dipping into the cool human mouth, laving over his teeth, his gums, dueling with his tongue, sucking in his breath, until his bondmate is moaning, his whole body trembling with want. Spock lifts his mouth from Jim's and stares into his eyes darkened with lust and moves his hands to his beautiful face, his thumbs rubbing Jim's cheeks reverently.

He speaks softly, "I know I have caused pain to more than one person here." He presses his lips to Jim's mouth and holds his gaze. "But... what I feel for you... I find myself unable to express through words. All I know is that the thought of being without you is... most excruciating." He swallows hard. "I am sorry I have given you reason to doubt me, but that is the truth."

Jim's eyes are wet. "Spock, I..."

"Jim, if you would give me a second chance," Spock says, his throat tight as he stares at his bondmate, "I would like to show you what I feel for you."

Jim stares at him a moment, his throat convulsing, and then nods.

So Spock pushes him down on the couch and hovers above him, as he runs his eyes from his face, the expression in Jim's eyes expectant, to his neck to his wide shoulders to his chiseled chest to his flat stomach which he sees quiver with anticipation. Then he leans down to kiss him softly, slowly, letting himself explore Jim's mouth with tender, lingering strokes of his tongue as he slants his mouth against him, making Jim moan. Then he leaves his mouth and follows the path his eyes had taken over his bondmate's body, but this time with his own mouth, slowly, almost shyly, a little awkwardly, he moves from Jim's lips to his chin to his neck and into the hollow of his throat, which he laves lovingly, his tongue running over the pulse he can feel flicker under his bondmate's skin. He grips Jim's hands in his own, their finger intertwining, as he slowly slides down his taut, muscular frame, kissing and learning every inch he passes, pressing his nose into his skin as he inhales his bondmate's scent, slowly licking, laving, dragging his teeth down his body, until Jim is writhing in his arms.

"Please," he hears his bondmate moan, as Spock reaches his stomach and presses kisses into his navel. His eyes follow the trail of wiry hair disappearing inside Jim's trousers, and then he unsnaps the button and lowers the zipper, watching his bondmate's erection tenting the fabric of his white regulation briefs. He feels Jim's eyes on his every movement as he grips the hem of the briefs and slowly lowers them off Jim's hips and watches as the erection pops out from between the opening. He looks at the long, thick column of flesh, flushed with blood and dripping pre-ejaculatory fluid, and feels blood fill his own face. He splays his hands on Jim's stomach as he watches the very hard organ, not unlike his own, and feels his mouth water. "Spock," he hears his name called and looks up to see an anxious expression on Jim's face. "If you... don't want to..." Jim says, then pauses, and Spock knows he is being given a chance to decline if he so wishes. He looks down at his bondmate's penis, and notices it has wilted a little, and suddenly his mind is made. He snags his fingers under the belt of Jim's trousers and slides them, and the briefs, completely off his hips and legs. Then he grips Jim's thighs and pushes them open, and lowers himself between them. He reaches out to touch his bondmate's erection and sees it jerk as Jim groans. Spock grips the bottom of the erection experimentally, feeling its heat in comparison to the rest of Jim's body, and reaches down to put his lips to the hard, throbbing flesh. The touch is barely registered before Jim is twisting as though an electric current has passed through him, his moans loud and wanton.

So Spock grips his bondmate's hips in his hands as he opens his mouth to fit it sideways along the erection's length, and lets his lips drag up as he soaks in the taste of the throbbing flesh, the pungent smell filling his nostrils not unpleasant in the least. Jim moans as Spock wraps his tongue around the column, tasting his bondmate's essence, letting it fill his senses, as he realizes he himself is getting hard again. He feels his bondmate reach down to grip his free hand as he nuzzles the hard flesh, nosing the wiry, dark hair surrounding it, and then suddenly freezes as he realizes his fingers are surrounded by a wet, coolness. He looks up at his bondmate and sees him sucking on Spock's fingers and groans at the sight of it, at the sensation of the wet, probing tongue lapping at his digits. His penis is suddenly fully erect, and he pulls his gaze away from that delectable sight with difficulty as he tries to focus on his bondmate's erection which is twitching in the grip of his other hand. He presses a kiss along the thick vein and then rises up to press the tip of his tongue to the engorged head, but that is as far as he gets as suddenly, Jim's body arches and his penis jerks and releases pulses of ejaculate—some of it falling on Spock's face as he attempts to catch it into his mouth. With a long drawn out groan, Jim falls back on the couch, his breathing loud and harsh in the stillness of the room. Then just as abruptly, Jim reaches down to grip Spock's shoulders as he drags him up and holds his face in his hands as he kisses Spock over and over. Repeatedly, Jim runs his lips and tongue over Spock's mouth, as he kisses him, and then over his chin and cheeks as he cleans his face of the ejaculate, all the while moans emit from his mouth and he thrusts helplessly against Spock, his penis twitching again as if one orgasm is nowhere near what he needs, what he wants. And it is not nearly close to what Spock needs either.

Spock runs his fingers through Jim's soft hair, as he stares into the blue eyes. "You are the most beautiful being I have ever encountered," he murmurs, hears Jim groan at his words. He touches his fingertips to his bondmate's psi-points, knows a true meld cannot be performed, but he can still feel the energy of the bond buzzing underneath his damaged nerve endings. He can feel the warmth pulsate through the link that is always there, the link he has no reason to block anymore. He holds his bondmate's face in his hands as he lowers his mouth to kiss him, deeply, lovingly, tasting their mingled essence on their dueling tongues. Feels his erection digging into Jim's hips as he cannot help but thrust into the vee of his bondmate's thighs. "Jim," he sighs, as he kisses his face and nose and mouth, and rakes his teeth over his chin, as he feels Jim's fingernails dig into his back. "I need you inside me," he hears Jim say and lifts his head up to look into his eyes. "I do not know how," he says. In answer, Jim wraps his legs around him and squeezes him tightly in his grip, his pupils almost black with need.

"Let me show you," he says. And then Spock watches as his bondmate pushes him up until he is hovering over Jim. And then he reaches down to hold Spock's erection in his hand, making Spock gasp, as he rubs his fingers over the sensitive head, coating his fingers in the leaking pre-ejaculate. And then Spock watches in amazement as Jim pulls his legs up and splays them open before his eyes, and Spock finds his gaze sliding to the tight, puckered opening of his bondmate's anus. He watches as Jim uses Spock's pre-ejaculate to ease his fingers into his opening, first one then a second, watches as Jim pushes the fingers all the way in, and then pulls them out, and then back in again, until he is panting in need. "I need you, I need you," he moans as he repeats his actions a few more times, before Spock reaches down to grab Jim's hands and pull them out. He then coats his own fingers with his pre-ejaculate and slowly, achingly, enters one and then two fingers into the human's tight opening. The velvety channel grips his fingers snugly, as he attempts to loosen the opening, his eyes on his bondmate's face to catch any sign of pain, as he scissors his fingers inside, until Jim is arching up and moaning, "Please, now." So Spock pulls out his fingers and holding Jim's legs up and apart, he carefully aligns the head of his penis to Jim's opening and slowly pushes in. The ring of muscle that grips his head is too tight, too small, and Spock is unsure how he will ever be able to work himself entirely inside. That thought has barely crossed his mind when Jim suddenly reaches down to grab his hips with both hands and then hastily, with a quick and harsh jerk of his hips, has pulled Spock all the way in.

Spock cries out as he feels the heat and the tightness of his bondmate's core suddenly surround him. "Move," Jim moans, as his fingers dig into Spock's hips, his face contorted with pleasure. Spock looks down at the point of their joining, his eyes wide, runs his hands up the backs of Jim's thighs until he can grip his bondmate's ankles, and then he starts to move. His eyes locked onto Jim's, he leans down to kiss his mouth and feels Jim's teeth drag against his lips, his bondmate's erection once again hard and poking into his stomach.. He reaches up with his left hand to touch Jim's face, his fingers against the psi-points, feels the bond pulse underneath, as with his right hand he presses Jim into the couch and slams into him, harder, faster, his movements jerky, fervent, desperate. He feels Jim's fingers dig into his back, feels his nails rake his skin and moans against his bondmate's throat as his fingers dig into Jim's psi-points. And he closes his eyes and reaches for that place inside his mind, sees the bond, hot and pulsing with energy, thrumming against his senses, alive, dazzling, achingly beautiful. He reaches for its multihued strength, its potent brilliance filling his mind, and watches as its shiny, silken threads erupt into a sudden fusion of colors and sparkling light that wrap themselves around them both, inundating their senses, their minds, their hearts beating in unison. And with that he comes, his hips jerking against Jim's body again and again, his mouth open in a cry, as he empties himself inside of his bondmate, feeling Jim's ejaculate sear his skin, as his bondmate's moans fill his ears.

He tries to keep his eyes open after that. Tries to focus on his surroundings. But he's wrapped up in a cool embrace, a satiated hum thrumming against his senses, as a beautiful lassitude fills him.

The last thing he remembers is the feel of his bondmate's lips moving against his forehead.

Before he falls asleep.

Jim wakes up to the awareness of a heavy, warm weight lying on top of him.

He opens his eyes and looks around. They are lying on the couch in Spock's living room. His mind is clear for the first time in weeks. He figures it has something to do with the fact that Spock is in his arms, his expression open, unfettered, his strong arms wrapped around Jim tightly, even in sleep, as if he cannot let him go even now. But Jim knows this feeling goes beyond the physical, is a part of his mind. The bond is no longer closed to him. He can feel its loving, heartrending presence fill him to the brim. Its incredible warmth permeates his being, letting loose a sense of safety and belonging that fills his senses.

Jim gently runs his fingers over Spock's dry, warm skin and feels a surge of protectiveness and affection for his beautiful, mysterious lover as he mulls over everything Spock has gone through over the last few months. His planet's destruction, his mother's death. The loss of his betrothed, leading to the pain of the broken bond. Then the accident on Antara, and the irrational fear that Jim would reject him, would reject the bond. All those decisions he made based on that erroneous belief. And then getting abducted and tortured by those same aliens and nearly getting killed in the process. And then wanting to leave because he thought Jim didn't want him. So stupid. So fucking stupid.

Jim would never let him go. Jim cannot bear the thought of letting him go. He knows it's not just the bond. What he feels for Spock started somewhere earlier, at the onset of their mission. It has only grown into something stronger, something solid, during these long months in space. He loves Spock. He has never felt like this for anyone.

The bond is open to him now. He knows of the fears Spock had. He knows the fears those aliens fed on as they tortured him. But there is no doubt in his mind of how Spock truly feels for him. There is no block on his feelings, no shields hiding Spock's emotions from him, no closed door. There is a gentle hum of protectiveness, harmony and satisfaction permeating his senses. He is wanted. He is loved. He will be protected and kept safe, always and forever.

Spock's got him now, the bond tells him. He will never let him go. Never.

Jim feels Spock stir as he comes to wakefulness and soothes his back with a stroke of his hand. He feels eyelashes flutter against his throat as Spock blinks. He tightens his arms around his lover and kisses the side of his face, dragging his teeth over the tip of that delectable ear. Spock's face tilts up and he finds himself staring into warm, brown eyes.

"Hey," he greets him, feeling his lips turn up in a smile.

"Good morning," Spock says, his face solemn, his lips looking softer than he's ever seen them.

"How're you feeling?" Jim asks him, bringing his hands up to smooth Spock's hair. God, he loves his hair. They're so soft, so luxuriously thick. So silky.

There is a soft expression in his lover's eyes. "I am well-rested. I presume you also slept well."

"Fabulously." He grins. "Though, you need a bigger couch for next time. This is far too short for our legs."

"Indeed." Spock raises a brow and Jim cannot resist the urge to reach for the slanted length with his lips. He loves Spock's eyebrows too.

He looks down at their bodies. "Also, I think we're kinda stuck together," he says sheepishly. "All this combined gunk is no good for pubic hair, you know. I think you got a little in your chest hair too." He teases a few curls of hair for proof, watches Spock's eyes darken. "More than a little, in fact."

"How unfortunate," the half-Vulcan stares at him deadpan.

"Yeah." Jim stares into his eyes. "Seems like we'll have to wash it out real thoroughly."

Spock inclines his head as he sits up. "It does appear to be the only solution."

"Hmm." Jim looks at him happily. "C'mon. Let's hit the showers. It's a good thing we share a bathroom."


Bones shows up at his quarters later that evening as he is going through the latest reports from Fleet intelligence.

He looks at Jim closely. "You look better today."

Jim smiles at him, as he gets a coffee for Bones and a glass of juice for himself from the food processor. "Yeah, I'm fabulous."

Bones is looking at him strangely. "Really?"


"Do you know where's Spock hiding?" Bones asks him. "No one's seen him since last evening. I ran into the Healer this morning and he was being completely tight-lipped about what was going on with him."

"Spock's doing just fine," Jim replies cheerfully. "In fact, I have it on great authority that he too is doing fabulously well."

At this point, the door to the bathroom he shares with the First Officer's quarters opens and Spock walks inside. They have been using this access between their quarters all day, preferring the privacy it provides for the time being. Spock pauses to see McCoy in Jim's quarters and the doctor looks just as baffled at his appearance.

"What the hell is going on?" he snaps at Spock.

Spock gives him a look and then walks into the room. "Doctor," he nods at him.

"Hey," Jim greets him as walks to him and then holding Spock's face in his hands, gives him a firm, thorough kiss on the mouth.

"What the hell!" he hears Bones say from behind him.

Spock looks into his eyes. "Hello," he says warmly.

"Jesus fucking Christ," Bones swears.

Jim turns to face his friend, his face serious, but his eyes are twinkling. Bones looks shocked at the spectacle he and Spock must present, but he has to make the point. He wraps his arms around Spock's waist. "Yeah, well. Remember that bond that was accidently formed?" He squeezes Spock close to him. "Let's just say, we...finally solemnized it."

"Sonofabitch," Bones mutters, then a scowl forms on his face. "After everything he made you go through, this is how you resolve it?"

Jim looks at him firmly. "This was the only way, Bones. If you had any other suggestions, you should've given them before."

Bones looks at him incredulously. "What are you talking about? The Healer was here. You could've asked him to dissol-"

Jim cuts him off sharply. "Don't even fucking go there. That is not an option!"

"Right." Bones scowls at him distastefully. Then he turns to Spock. "And you... Hiding the link all this time. Do you have any idea how painful it was for Jim? How close he came to losing his mind?"

Jim frowns, "Bones, that's enough."

But Spock's voice is dead serious when he looks at McCoy. "You are absolutely correct, Doctor." Jim feels a flare of hurt, pain, regret reach through the bond and grips Spock's hand tightly. "I acted highly irrationally and made a gross judgmental error, thus causing damage that could have been avoided if I had been forthright from the beginning. I caused pain which was needless, pointless, unwarranted." He turns his face to look at Jim, his eyes soft, sparkling with warmth that makes Jim's breath hitch. He says in the softest tone, "I will endeavor to make sure I never do anything in my life that causes pain to my bondmate ever again."

Bondmate. Jim feels his senses infused with a longing and love and warmth that almost hurts. "Spock," he whispers and his lover looks deeply into his eyes, his eyes warm, his mouth parted.

Whatever Bones sees on their faces makes him pause. "See that you don't," he grumbles, then continues, "But what about the stability of the bond? Jim went nearly mad when you were captured. Is this going to happen all the time now, every time either of you are hurt?"

Spock turns to face him again. "Unlikely. While the link was strong from its inception, while it remained unsolemnized, it was unstable, resulting in the physical pain Jim experienced when I was hurt," he explains. "In a stable bond, the mental controls are much stronger and such an imbalance is not likely to occur. Now that our bond has been solemnized, our connection is finally secure and our emotional stability should not be in question."

Bones looks at him dubiously. "This can be verified?"

"Affirmative," Spock replies. "The Healer has already checked the integrity of the link and should be able to confirm this to you."

"Can you get off our backs now?" Jim looks at the doctor. "I need your support on this, Bones."

But McCoy's face is serious. "I will only support this if it doesn't hinder with your duties, Jim, and you know that."

"It won't," Jim replies. "It's a good thing, Bones." He feels Spock's hand squeeze his own and turns his face to press a kiss into his neck. "Trust me."

"It better be." Bones looks at them critically. "I don't ever want to go through all that shit again."

"You won't."

Then McCoy scowls again. "And for God's sake, spare me this saccharine sweet display of affection." He makes a dirty face. "I'll need brain bleach after seeing you two kissing."

Jim chuckles aloud as he twines his fingers with Spock's, and feels their answering grip. "I'll send you a whole canister."

"Fuck you."

If they thought talking to McCoy was hard, they have no illusions left when they file their report to Starfleet.

But the bond is stable, is finally secure. All this is confirmed by the Vulcan Healer Sonok who is fortunately on hand to verify the integrity of their mental shields and the strength of the now stabilized bond that exists between them. The Healer also wastes little time in reporting the existence of the verified bond between Spock, son of Sarek and James T. Kirk, Captain of the USS Enterprise to the Vulcan authorities.

Spock explains to Jim what this means. As per Vulcan custom, they are as good as a wedded couple. And since Vulcan marriages are officially recognized under Federation law, there's nothing Admiral Pike can do except reprimand them off the record, if he feels the inclination.

The fact that it was the bond that directed Jim towards the actual location of his First Officer when he was missing helps their case. If the bond hadn't existed, no one could speculate how much longer it would have taken them to figure out they had been led astray. And by that time, Spock could have been moved from the planet or taken to a location where it was even more difficult to find him. Or worse, they could have been too late; he could've been killed. And Starfleet would never have captured the aliens who were actually behind the psionic device.

Pike looks at them with a strange, considering look on his face and sighs. He tells them to avoid throwing such curveballs his way in the future, he has it tough fighting for their case as it is. They're the youngest command team in the history of Starfleet, they're commanding the Federation flagship, for God's sake. He needs them working like a well-oiled machine, with no hitches, no problems.

But that is exactly how they have always worked. Kirk and Spock. In complete sync with each other. Moving together, walking in step, always knowing what the other wants, always in tune with each other. And their new status ensures that it will continue thus. With no hitches and no problems.

The bond will make sure of that.

That afternoon, they are having lunch in the commissary, the first time they have been out together since Spock's rescue, when Nyota walks in.

Jim looks at her as she freezes at the door, her eyes on them both, and then he looks at Spock, a soft expression on his face, as Spock feels a surge of compassion and understanding flow through the bond, his bondmate's eyes kind and sympathetic.

They both know it cannot be avoided. Jim picks up his tray, and takes it to the counter to deposit it, and then he nods at Nyota as he passes her, and walks out of the commissary.

Spock watches as Nyota fills up a tray and takes it to a free table across the room and sits down. He gets up from his table and slowly approaches her. She looks up at him as he arrives at her side.

"Nyota," he greets her.

"Spock." She nods.

He asks, "May I join you?"

She looks at him thoughtfully for a second and then gestures to the chair opposite her. "Of course."

He sits down and watches as she sips from her tea, her eyes on him. He decides the time for hedging has passed; it is best to come right to the point. He holds her gaze. "Nyota, I was not completely forthright with you," he begins. "I did not tell you the whole truth when I terminated our relationship. And by doing so, I have undoubtedly caused you pain, and shattered any confidence you may have had in me as a friend." He swallows heavily. "I do not know if there can ever be a way to make amends for what I did. I do not ask for forgiveness, for I am not sure I deserve it. But I request that you try to understand that I did not intentionally set out to hurt you."

Her eyes are considerate as she looks at him. "Spock, why did you keep the bond a secret?"

He looks down at the table, at his hands, then up at her face, his face solemn. "I erroneously believed he would have rejected it, were it offered in any other circumstances. I did not believe he would have accepted it."

She stares at him. "You didn't think he wanted you."

"I did not," he replies.

"But he does," she states.

He looks into her eyes. "Yes."

"And you want him." Her tone is contemplative, no reproach apparent in her voice.

Spock inclines his head. "He..." he swallows. "...fills a need in me that I had lost hope for ever being filled."

"You two are compatible." Nyota looks at him closely. "More than you and I ever could've been."

Spock presses his lips together. "Nyota..."

She stops him. "I'm a grown woman, Spock. I can see when something works and when it doesn't. You and I weren't working." Her eyes are introspective. "You weren't happy."

Spock feels his throat constrict at this. "Nyota, I have the highest regard for you. You have been my best friend for almost three years. I cherish our interactions, our times spent together, our friendship. You have understood me in ways many others did not." He feels his brows come together. "You did not deserve this deceit from me, you deserved to know the truth."

"That is correct, I did deserve the truth," Nyota says, her voice firm. "We were friends first and foremost, Spock. I never wanted to lose that no matter what happened." She stares at him. "So promise me, Spock. You will never lie to me again. No matter how difficult the situation, no matter how uncomfortable it feels." She looks directly into his eyes. "You will tell me the truth."

"I endeavor to never make that mistake again," Spock promises.

Nyota is silent for a moment, and then she looks at him. "The bonding... it happened by accident." She searches his eyes. "You did not set out to cheat on me."

"No," he replies. "I would never do that, Nyota."

"You hadn't been with him before that." She says and then she sees something on his face and her eyes widen. "You have now, though, haven't you?"

Spock feels his face get warm suddenly. "Our bond... has been consummated."

Nyota's mouth falls open. "My God, Spock, are you..." She stares at him incredulously. "...are you blushing?"

Spock straightens up imperceptibly, his face going blank. "Indeed, I am not."

"Yes, you are." Nyota shakes her head, her eyes suddenly warm. "Oh my God, you're... you really make it hard to stay mad at you, do you know that?"

Spock has nothing to say to this. She continues after a moment, a rueful look on her face. "You know... if this had happened six months ago, I would have gone after Kirk and told him not to ever hurt you." Spock feels his chest tighten. "But now... I've seen how he is around you, Spock. And I have one thing to say to you: take care of him." His eyes widen. "Don't ever hurt him."

Spock closes his eyes for a second, his heart pounding in his side, as a rush of gratitude fills his mind, and then he opens them again to look at her. "Nyota ..."

"It is okay, Spock. I know I need some time to get my mind wrapped around all of this" There is a soft, sad smile on her face. "But I'll be all right."

And he knows she will be. She is the strongest woman alive he knows. Her courage and maturity and intelligence are what made their friendship such a vital part of his life. He knows no matter what happens, she has the ability to bounce back from any hurdle.

Nyota Uhura will be all right.

Jim can see his bishop is in the right position. In exactly five moves, he can see it having a go at Spock's queen.

He would've thought that having a telepathic link would make things like guessing his bondmate's next chess move almost a given. But even with the bond open, Spock has no problem shielding specific thoughts from him when the need arises, and Jim realizes it's only fair. There is such a thing as privacy, after all.

The latest report from Starfleet Intelligence on the Kalahan conspiracy unearths even more startling facts. It appears the Yintis were once persecuted by a race called the Krolians, who were the biological ancestors of the Kalahans, who destroyed the Yintis' homeworld for a rare ore that was used as a life-saving fuel by the Krolians. So the Yintis spent the next hundred years waiting, regrouping, and finally regaining their technological advantage, and then retaliated by the best means they had at their disposal. Their telepathic capabilities. They spent the next two hundred years targeting the descendants of the race that had destroyed them, and thus began a cycle that hasn't ended to this day.

Jim realizes that xenophobia is something that will never completely be eradicated. Fear of something that is different, doubting those who are unlike you, the inability to accept new things. He knows the Federation was formed on the basis of peaceful exploration, that is the reason why he joined Starfleet, to seek out new life and new civilizations. But there is still life out there that is not ready to accept the diversity of the universe.

"Your mind is straying."

Jim looks up to stare at Spock in surprise, and a slow smile breaks on his face. "Why, Mr. Spock, that is usually my line."

Spock raises his brow. "It fits the occasion."

They are in Spock's quarters tonight. The lights are kept at 70 percent, and yet the illumination from the panel in the ceiling falls at a sharp angle on Spock's face, making his high cheekbones appear ever more prominent, rendering his lips fuller, somehow softer.

Jim leans back in his chair and stares at him. "Watch out. I've got this game all figured out."

Spock's eyes twinkle. "Indeed?"

There is something in his voice that goes straight to his groin, and suddenly Jim has only one thing on mind. He pulls his chair back and gets up. Spock watches him as he takes the two steps around the table that separates them and stands between Spock's legs. Jim leans down to hold his face between his hands, and touches his lips to Spock's.

"I thought we were playing chess," Spock murmurs.

Jim nudges Spock's knees apart and lowers himself into his lap. "Oh, we are."

Spock tilts his head up to catch his lips. "I see that this is a new form of the game."

Jim lets his fingers caress Spock's cheeks as he stares into deep brown eyes. "Yeah, it's called body chess."

"I am unaware of the rules of this version." Spock rubs his hands leisurely over his back and Jim sighs. "Would you enlighten me?"

Jim leans in and kisses him firmly. "Oh, you'll catch on, you've always been a quick study."

"Have I?"

"Yes, it's all very simple." He sucks a kiss into Spock's upper lip. "I make a move." His tongue traces the seam of Spock's lips, watches them open to fit over his bottom lip. "Then you make one." Their tongues tangle together. "I try to guess how you'll proceed." Their tastes mingle together to form an intoxicating mix. "You try to... capture my king."

Spock's hands tighten around his body, his face flushed. "What happens if I succeed?"

"Oh you won't." Jim sinks his fingers in Spock's hair, rubs them over his scalp. "I've got you surrounded." He pulls his legs up and wraps them around Spock. "From all sides."

Spock's warm breath washes over his face. "I see you have me in your control."

"Yes..." Jim tilts Spock's face back and kisses him thoroughly, sweetly. "...you can't run away."

Spock's hands hold him close, his eyes dark. "I guess then I should do the logical thing, and surrender."

"Yes, surrender," He murmurs as he kisses Spock. "You must surrender."

But Spock has stopped speaking and is kissing him back. His lips are warm against his. His eyes are closed. Jim knows he doesn't need to keep his eyes open to see him. He can see through the bond.

He closes his eyes and reaches for the bond. He feels the crackle of energy that pulses between them.

And he sees.

The End