Chapter 8

One week later. Starfleet's Courthouse.

"Schin T'gai Spock. Please stand."

Spock stood, spine straight, fingers linked behind his back.

"Commander Spock, you stand accused of the following: Aggravated assault, misuse of Starfleet weaponry, telepathic assault, housebreaking, forgery, abduction of a fellow officer, absence without leave—"

"Without leave?" hissed McCoy. "What the hell, we were on leave."

Their lawyer raised an elegantly up-swerved eyebrow. "Objection, your Honor," she said. "The defendant states that they were on leave at the time of the incident."

"Objection sustained," said the judge. She looked over at the prosecutors' table.

"Commander Spock was on Medical leave, but was also being monitored as a person of interest in the case of the abduction of Captain James Kirk," said one of the prosecutors. He was whipcord thin and wore heavy round spectacles that made his eyes seem twice the size they should be. "He was ordered to remain on Base or to remain accompanied by Dr. McCoy at all times."

McCoy sputtered, "A person of— he had amnesia you—"

T'Sarai, their Vulcan lawyer shipped out from the Colony especially by Sarek ('"You're so lucky your daddy doesn't want to see you in jail, Spock," McCoy had said when he found out just who was going to be defending their case) spoke over him coolly. "Dr. McCoy did accompany Commander Spock to T'Brin's House, as well as to the stronghold of Jim Kirk's abductors."

"As an abductee himself," countered the prosecutor. He crossed his arms, "Or would you rather he be accused as an accomplice?"

"As neither," said T'Sarai firmly. She turned back towards the judge. "Please continue reading out the accusations," she requested.

Judge Rodriguez, a heavyset woman in her mid fifties, gave a nod. "Very well," she said. "In addition to destruction of private property, and conduct unbecoming of an officer and a member of Starfleet."

"Well, that's only nine," quipped Chekov, seated in the first row. Uhura shushed him, gazing intently at the Court proceedings.

"If found guilty, you will be dishonorably discharged from Starfleet in addition to a ten year prison sentence."

Chekov winced. Angry mutterings broke out from the crowd sitting in the courthouse.

"Understood," said Spock. "I plead not guilty," he added.

"Dr. Leonard McCoy," said the judge. "Please stand." He did so, hands shaking slightly. "Dr. McCoy, you are accused of: Aggravated assault, misuse of Starfleet weaponry, housebreaking, destruction of private property, failure to obey regulations, disobeying of a direct command given by a superior officer, as well as willfully aiding and abetting Commander Spock."

"Now wait just a minute," McCoy protested, "How can I have been abducted and willfully aiding and abetting at the same time?"

"Objection sustained," the judge said thoughtfully. "Either Dr. McCoy was abducted and thus acted under duress, or else he was not abducted, and Commander Spock is not guilty of that particular charge." She looked over at the prosecutors, who were whispering among themselves. "Well, Commodore Joachimski?"

The prosecutor who had spoken before stepped forward, pushing his glasses up on his nose. "We will strike the accusation of abduction from Commander Spock's list of accusations, but maintain that Dr. McCoy did willfully aid him in his crimes," he said.

"Very well," Judge Rodriguez said. She looked back at McCoy. "How do you plead?"

"Not guilty," said McCoy.

"If found guilty by this court, you will also be dishonorably discharged from Starfleet, and will be required to serve a sentence of up to seven years."

"I understand, Ma'am," said McCoy, throat dry, and sat back down.

"Then let us proceed," she declared. "Prosecutors first."

Joachimski stood and came out from behind the prosecutors' table. "On April fourteenth of this year, Captain Kirk and Commander Spock were reported missing. They had been scheduled to return from a backpacking trip in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest Region earlier that day. When they did not return on time and neither of them had been in contact with either friends or family, Dr. McCoy," he indicated the doctor, who sat with his arms crossed, "alerted the authorities. Search parties were sent out to the area with no success." As he spoke, he paced back and forth across the floor, hands clasped behind his back almost in the exact same manner that Spock himself would adopt on the bridge of the Enterprise.

"On May sixteenth," Joachimski continued, "Commander Spock was discovered unconscious and alone in the desert by five paleontologists conducting research in the area. To be more precise, he was found approximately seventy kilometers west of the city of Delta, Utah. He was transported to Starfleet Medical here in San Francisco, where he spent four days in the hospital before being released – although still on medical leave. Commander Spock," he stopped, turning to look at Spock directly. "Commander Spock was treated for superficial bruises, cuts, and lesions, especially around his wrists, as well as dehydration and malnutrition. For the first two days he was non communicative. After a visit and medical consultation from two Vulcan healers, the Commander was discovered to be suffering from amnesia due to severe mental trauma – most likely inflicted under torture. Commander Spock was referred to a specialist, Dr. Valdez—"

"Who turned out to be one crazy son of a bitch," McCoy muttered under his breath.

"Whose total involvement in this case is yet to be determined," the prosecutor continued smoothly. "When Dr. Valdez proved to be unsuccessful in helping Commander Spock recover his memories, Dr. McCoy suggested that he and Mr. Spock visit the renowned Vulcan Healer, T'Brin. Unfortunately, due to her age, Healer T'Brin no longer travels. In order to meet with her, Starfleet Command agreed to allow Commander Spock to visit her under the supervision of his attending physician, Dr. McCoy." Joachimski paused for a moment, looking down at a PADD and fidgeting with his glasses. "Both Healer T'Brin and her grandson Mr. Topek, have confirmed that Commander Spock and Dr. McCoy were received into their House. Healer T'Brin has also confirmed that she melded with the Commander, and was able to assist him in the arduous process of recovering the majority of his memories."

"Now it is the juicy part of how the Commander managed to find the Captain before rest of Starfleet," Chekov whispered. Uhura jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow.

"However," Joachimski said. "Once his memories were recovered, rather than alerting Starfleet Command to Captain Kirk's location, as well as to the betrayal and conspiracy of Dr. Valdez, he instead chose to solicit Dr. McCoy's assistance and, breaking several key Starfleet codes of conduct, disappeared off the map, used his father's name as a pseudonym, broke into private property without warrant, assaulted the people within, and set fire to the place."

"Objection your honor," said T'Sari quickly. "It has been determined that the fire was due to a handheld explosive of non-Starfleet origins."

"Like we'd really be stupid enough to use handheld explosives in a wooden house," growled McCoy.

"Objection sustained," said the judge. "They have not been accused of arson." She looked towards the prosecutors. "Will that be all?"

"For now," said the prosecutor. He sat down, placing his PADD gently on the wooden table in front of him.

Judge Rodriguez raised an eyebrow at T'Sarai. "The defense may approach the stand," she said.

T'Sarai stood. "The prosecutor's sequence of events is correct," she began. "However, he is also missing crucial information."

Joachimski opened his mouth to retort, but T'Sarai barreled over him in a manner somewhat akin to a windshield coming into contact with a mosquito.

"The prosecutor has not taken into account that Commander Spock cannot be held accountable for his actions due simply to the fact that at the time, he was being mentally influenced through the affects Dr. Valdez's modified mind sifter. In addition—"

"Objection, said Joachimski, voice rising, "Commander Spock himself has stated that he became aware of Valdez's machinations during his healing meld with Healer T'Brin."

"If I may," T'Sarai requested.

Judge Rodriguez waved a hand. "Objection sustained, but go ahead."

"Commander Spock's precise words from his report, taken under oath, were as follows:" She produced a small recording device and set it down on the table. It began to speak, Spock's monotone echoing throughout the courtroom.

"During the meld with Healer T'Brin, I became aware that the attempts of the shadow man to convince me to bring Dr. McCoy to him with Captain Kirk as bait, had the unintentional consequence of causing his mind to become loosely linked with my own. If not for the efforts of the Captain, with whom I had previously melded on several occasions in the line of duty, it is possible my psyche would have become completely overrun due to the modified mind sifter. Instead, Captain Kirk was able to anchor me with his own mind. Unfortunately, the mental 'tug of war' – to borrow a human idiom – proved to be too much, and I lost consciousness. When I regained both consciousness and lucidity, a mental block had formed on those links and the associated memories– in other words, the amnesia – due to the combined trauma of unintended, conflicting mental links, and torture." She clicked off the device and stored it again in her pocket.

The audience murmured. Tears pricked at the corner of Uhura's eyes. From her other side, Sulu absently handed her an extra tissue, and blew his own nose.

T'Sarai tapped the PADD she held in her hand thoughtfully, then spun to face the jury – hand picked by the admiralty that very morning.

"Even with a healing meld, memories cannot always be recalled perfectly," she said. "In his statement, Commander Spock referred to Dr. Valdez as 'the shadow man.' The prosecutor said himself that Commander Spock had met with Valdez during his recovery. Commander Spock," she said suddenly.

"Yes?" Spock said.

"When did you become aware that, 'the shadow man' – responsible for your and Captain Kirk's abduction and subsequent mistreatment – was the same person as your Starfleet appointed psychiatrist, Dr. Valdez?"

"When he appeared to us at the house where Captain Kirk and I had been held hostage," Spock replied.

"Objection," said the prosecutor. "How can we be certain he is telling the truth?"

"Are you accusing Commander Spock of perjury?" the judge asked, somewhat incredulously.

There was a bit of an outcry, mostly from the members of the Enterprise crew, and the judge smacked the gavel several times.

"Order!" she said. "This is a court-martial, not daytime holovision."

"I am willing to submit myself to a meld to prove my statement," Spock said, voice strong.

Judge Rodriguez eyed him carefully. "You won't have to, Commander," she said after a moment. "It is well known that Vulcans cannot lie. Objection dismissed. Counselor T'Sarai, you may continue."

T'Sarai nodded, turning back to Spock. "And before Dr. Valdez revealed himself to you and Dr. McCoy?"

"Before that time, his face appeared muted in my mind. I have consulted with Healer T'Brin on the matter, and she believed it to be due in part to the unintentional link between us. I believe that Healer T'Brin did mention that fact in her statement to Starfleet."

T'Sarai nodded. "You are correct," she said. "And are you still linked to Dr. Valdez?"

"No," Spock said heavily, "Once I was able to meld directly with Dr. Valdez, I severed the link in order to both prevent him from shooting Dr. McCoy, and to prevent further damage to my own mind. Unfortunately, he was unable to sustain the shock and his mind collapsed." He continued to look straight ahead as the courtroom grew loud with whispers, some angry, some excited.

T'Sarai ignored the reaction. "And what can you tell us about this, 'shadow man?'"?

Spock closed his eyes briefly. "Once Healer T'Brin lifted the block on my mind, I recalled a brief, confusing – unintentional on his part, I am completely certain – immersion into his. During that time I was able to ascertain that the abduction of Captain Kirk and myself was originally a mistake – he had received information that Dr. McCoy would be travelling with us."

"He was unaware of Dr. McCoy's sudden change in plans," T'Sarai said.

"Indeed," Spock agreed. "However, he had enough resources to formulate a new plan – one that culminated in myself luring Dr. McCoy into Valdez's hands by setting me free, but keeping Captain Kirk hostage as a method of assuring my return."

"And if you were aware that your journey to Captain Kirk was a trap, why did you not simply contact Starfleet with the information, as according to Starfleet Regulations, the prosecutor is suggesting you should have?"

Spock's eyes blazed and if possible, he sat up even straighter. "When I shared his mind, I learned that he was a member of Starfleet. Without full knowledge as to his identity, I could not be sure if the conspiracy was isolated or not. I was not willing to risk Captain Kirk's life on the possibility that Dr. Valdez was simply a discontented low ranking officer with a grudge against Dr. McCoy. In addition, he had the resources to abduct and hold two Starfleet officers, as well as acquire a modified mind sifter. In my opinion that was evidence enough to suspect that his rank was high enough to hear anything about new knowledge of Captain Kirk's whereabouts."

"And it seems you were correct to do so – was he not, Admiral Pike?"

The admiral looked surprised for a moment at being addressed out of the blue, but then gave a curt nod, "Valdez would have been informed of any change in Spock's mental status," he affirmed. "Including the return of his memories, and the information they contained."

"In short," T'Sarai asserted, "Commander Spock was unable to inform Starfleet of his knowledge due to suspected conspiracy and corruption within the ranks of Starfleet itself. If he informed Starfleet and the information reached the wrong ears – as top secret information is wont to do – he was aware that Captain Kirk's life was forfeit. Rather than take that risk, he decided to risk his own career and freedom to rescue Captain Kirk. A rescue, I might add, which was entirely successful."

"Successful except for the eleven injured parties and millions of credits worth of damage to a historical farmhouse," Joachimski interjected. "Your honor—"

"Criminals who were assisting Valdez in holding Captain Kirk captive," T'Sarai shot back.

"Enough," interrupted Judge Rodriguez. "Are you finished?" she asked T'Sarai.

T'Sarai raised her chin. "Not yet," she said.

"All right," the judge said wearily, "but make it quick."

"I shall endeavor to do so, Your Honor," said T'Sarai. She gazed around the room, "Starfleet is known as a peace keeping armada," she said quietly. "However, I know firsthand that its members also see their share of battle. Is it not true that officers of Starfleet are often soldiers as well as diplomats, warriors for the Federation, as well as scientists and explorers?"

There were more than a few scattered nods around the room. It was a Starfleet sanctioned court martial after all, and nearly everyone present could identify with her words.

"Lassie's laying it on thick," murmured Scotty into Chekov's ear. "I didn't know Vulcans could do that."

"Soldiers are asked to do many things in the line of duty," T'Sarai said. "Things that, if they were not sanctioned by Starfleet, would be considered crimes. Crimes like manslaughter, assault, destruction of property – crimes of the sort that Commander Spock and Dr. McCoy stand here accused of today!"

"Objection!" cried Joachimski. "While your storytelling is very touching, the fact remains that Commander Spock and Dr. McCoy acted without orders, and so their actions are considered crimes!"

"I object to your objection!" came a new voice. James Kirk stepped into a suddenly silent room. "Am I allowed to do that?" he asked after a moment.

Judge Rodriguez shrugged helplessly, "Why not?" she said. She blinked, "Are you here for a reason?"

"Of course," Kirk said. He walked slowly into the room, mindful of his still aching ribs. "I'm the witness." And he plunked down in the chair.

The room erupted in a buzz of conversation. Kirk turned to wink at Spock and McCoy. McCoy showed him the finger.

"Captain Kirk is called to the stand as a witness," Rodriguez said after a moment's pause.

McCoy leaned over to Spock. "That asshole should not even be out of bed."

T'Sarai 's eyes gleamed triumphantly. "Captain Kirk," she said, circling towards him like a cat about to pounce. "You stated that you, 'objected to the prosecutor's objection,' is that correct?"

"That's right," said Kirk.

"And what, precisely, did you object to?"

Kirk titled his head, "A lot of things," he said, smiling. Then his face grew serious, "But mostly to the accusation that Commander Spock and Dr. McCoy acted without orders."

"Are you suggesting then, that they were, in fact, acting under orders?" T'Sarai asked innocently.

"Of course," Kirk said.

"Under whose orders?" T'Sarai prodded.

"Under mine," Kirk said, crossing his arms. "Obviously."

"Objection," said Joachimski. "Captain Kirk was missing and unable to communicate at the time. How could he have given Dr. McCoy or Commander Spock any orders?"

"Objection sustained," said Rodriguez tonelessly. "Well?" she asked Kirk.

Kirk scowled, "The Commander and I spent a month in captivity together before Valdez freed him," he informed her. "I gave him the orders during that time, and requested that he pass them on to Dr. McCoy. I mean, obviously there was a bit of a delay because of the amnesia thing, but I'd say it all worked out."

Rodriguez spoke. "And what, precisely, were the orders you gave Commander Spock?"

Kirk smiled, showing teeth. "Emergency orders— I told him to help get us out," he said.

"Under Starfleet Code Section 5A, subsection III, paragraph twenty two, it is stated that, 'Commanding officers have the power to rescind shore leave privileges either due to misconduct of the personnel in question, or under threat of emergency,'" T'Sarai jumped in. "Commander Spock's shore leave was revoked by Captain Kirk due to emergency. Therefore, Commander Spock was issued emergency orders by Captain Kirk while he was on duty. In addition, Starfleet Code Section 5A, subsection IV, paragraph three states that emergency orders given by ranks Commander and above are to receive priority over standard Starfleet operating procedure – unless the emergency orders are rescinded by a person holding the rank of Admiral."

"In other words," Kirk said, turning a brittle gaze on the prosecutor's table, "Unless Commander Spock or Dr. McCoy were given explicit orders by an Admiral— which they weren't, my emergency orders trump all, and you no longer have a case."

"He is way too smug," muttered McCoy to Spock. "And don't look so helplessly infatuated, it's a bad look on you."

"I am not—" Spock denied, but was interrupted by the slamming of the gavel.

"The jury will deliberate," Rodriguez said, rubbing her temples. "We will reconvene in one hour."

And that was that.

The results were fairly predictable. Despite the grumblings of about the one eighth of Starfleet that did not have a massive crush on the entire crew of the Enterprise, the jury found both McCoy and Spock innocent enough to drop the charges – McCoy simply because he was apparently acting under orders, and Spock because he was both acting under orders and was possibly being unduly influenced through no fault of his own.


"I cannae believe ye got off scot free," said Scotty. He reached for another slice of bread, dunked it in a mixture of olive oil and vinegar, and shoved it into his mouth. "Brilliant."

"All thanks to Captain Golden Boy of Starfleet," McCoy said cheerfully. "That and, T'Sarai, maybe. I'm thinking she could rule an empire of lawyers." He was already on his fourth glass of wine – one for each course of their celebratory meal – and his cheeks were red with merriment and alcohol. "Where is Jim, anyway? Have you seen him?" He looked around the room, but Pike's home was so full of well-wishers and colleagues wanting to celebrate Kirk and Spock's safe return and recovery, that he could hardly see through the crush of bodies.

"I saw him with the Commander about five minutes ago," said Scotty. He snagged a cookie off a passing plate and bit into it with gusto. "Said they were going to go get some fresh air or sommat."

"Huh," McCoy said. And then he grinned and slung an arm around Scotty's shoulders. "Well, more for us then, right?"

"Aye," said Scotty, giving him a pat on the back. "Anyway, I'm sure they'll be back."

"Oh sure," said McCoy, a strange glimmer in his eyes. He blinked at his suddenly empty glass of wine. "Want to go get another?" he offered.

"Of course!" Scotty crowed, and the pair lurched off to refill their glasses.

Since he had been permanently grounded, Admiral Pike's backyard had been slowly transforming from a wild jungle to a slightly more manageable garden. Jim Kirk sat quietly on a bench at the far end of it. A butterfly bush stretched over his head, and around his feet there was an abundance of moss and ferns. Spock sat down next to him, not close enough to touch, but enough so that Kirk could feel the heat of his body, radiating out into the night.

Eventually, Kirk broke the silence. "I really thought you were dead you know," he said.

"Yes," Spock said. "I know."

Kirk let out a breath. "Sometimes I dreamt about you, and it didn't make sense, but other times it was like you were really there." He shifted so he was closer to Spock, gently touching his hand. "I felt it when you found the link," he said quietly. He gave a small laugh, almost a hiccup. "I thought I was going crazy."

"I know," Spock repeated. He twisted so that he and Kirk were facing one another. "I am truly sorry," he breathed.

"Yeah," Kirk said, "So am I." He dropped his gaze. "But at the same time, I'm— I'm not you know? Because I have," and his fingers found Spock's fingers, "Because I have you, you know? Right?"

Spock swallowed. "Starfleet," he said, his voice catching in his throat, "Starfleet frowns on sexual relationships between commanding officers."

Jim looked up, frowning. "Is that what you think I want?" he said, and Spock could not bear the hurt in his voice, "Sex?"

Spock's resolve crumbled, "No," he said. "I mean, I—" then he blinked, cocking his head, "Wait, do you not? I thought . . . " he trailed off, years of insecurities choking his voice.

But Kirk was shaking his head slowly, and chuckling, "You're an idiot," he said in the gentlest way possible. He tugged him closer by the arm, one hand coming up to trace the outline of Spock's face, his strong jaw and cheekbones, his lips. "Of course I do," he murmured, nearly into Spock's mouth. Spock could smell the mint chocolate chip ice cream he had consumed earlier that evening.— Jim's favorite flavor. "It's just that, I think there's so much more than just that."

"The link," Spock said. He was finding it hard to breath with Jim so close, his scent overwhelming Spock's senses. Their hands were still touching.

"That's part of it," Jim said. He began to trace the outline of Spock's eyebrows as he spoke. "But you're, you know." He shrugged somewhat helplessly, as if there were not enough words in the language to explain. "It's just, the world's not right without you, you know?" Spock was struck by how the usually articulate Jim seemed to be so at loss. He spoke, his voice soft like a rare mist over the desert.

"In my mind, you are a river," he said. Jim titled his head quizzically. "And like the river, you— you irrigate my thoughts, you are essential, you—"

"Oh, just shut up and kiss me," Kirk said, and hauled him forward by the back of the neck until their lips met and Spock was drowning in the possession and claiming and relief and love in their touch. One hand slid under Jim's shirt, stroking his back, while the other remained clasped together with Jim's. Jim's hands were at his shoulders, then touching his face, then gently massaging his arms. Touching everywhere, as if he could not get enough of Spock, as if he had always wanted to touch him this way, to feel his heart race beneath his fingertips, his breath grow labored through his nose as they kissed.

They broke the kiss, breathing quickly. Spock felt his pulse racing. Jim's cheeks were flushed, his pupils dilated.

"Starfleet," Spock managed, "Starfleet would definitely not approve."

"Oh, they can just go fuck themselves," Kirk said fiercely. He pulled Spock in for another kiss. This time when they parted, he said, "We'll be in space, Spock, and we'll," he stole another kiss at the corner of Spock's mouth, "we'll figure this out, whatever it is. We'll figure us out, Spock. And this link, and everything. And they won't," Spock made the first move this time, lips moving over Jim's as if he were desperately trying to kiss to Jim's very core, the center of his being. "They won't be able to stop us," he finished hoarsely. "They won't. Not in this."

"No," Spock agreed, his voice deeper than usual. "They will not. We will have this."

After a final, lingering kiss, they settled together on the bench. With their shoulders touching this time, hands still tangled together, they tilted back their faces to watch the night sky.


8 months later. Earth.

"Shore leave on Earth again, Spock," Kirk said. He jumped up on the beaming platform. Spock stepped up sedately beside him, all lean lines and sleek uniform. "Although I've got to admit, after what happened last time—" The lieutenant at the controls pulled something and Jim started to dematerialize midsentence. They rematerialized in San Francisco's busy spaceport, Jim opening up his mouth almost as soon as he had one, "—I'm not exactly thrilled about it this time."

Spock picked up the luggage that appeared beside him, "The chances of again being kidnapped by a mentally unbalanced extremist whilst on shore leave on a main Federation planet are exceeding low," he informed him.

"Right," Kirk said, smiling slightly. "And that's exactly why you've insisted that we're staying right here in San Francisco the whole time."

"It does no harm to be cautious," Spock said haughtily. They headed for the exit, hailing a cab.

"Starfleet," Kirk requested, as they shoved their bags into the back.

"Sure thing," said the man at the wheel. Traffic was low and the ride was short. Midmorning light shone through gaps in the clouds, and Spock bundled himself further into his coat as they stepped out from the cab and into the crisp February air. Kirk paid the cab driver, who drove off quickly back in the direction of the spaceport.

"We really should get an apartment or something," Kirk said conversationally as they began the long slog up the hill towards visiting officers' temporary quarters. "These places are the worst."

"They are not the worst," Spock chided, "They are—" he stopped so suddenly that Kirk almost ran straight into him.

"Spock?" Kirk queried, shifting his bag from one hand to the other. Spock was staring at something. "You okay?"

"It's them," Spock said quietly.

Kirk blinked. "Um, who?" he said.

Spock pointed. Across the street, a woman and her three young children were walking slowly away from the Starfleet complex. Kirk could see flyaway streaks of blond hair that had been wrestled free from the confines of her winter hat by the wind.

"Uh, the lady and her kids?" he asked hesitantly.

"Yes," Spock said. He stood as if rooted to the ground, unable to take his gaze from them.

Kirk furrowed his brow, stepping closer to Spock. "Do you know them?"

Spock turned to him, and Kirk was alarmed to see actual, visible anguish in his eyes. "Those are Valdez's children," he said. "I saw them, in his mind."

"Oh," Kirk said, at loss for anything better. He clasped Spock's shoulder. "They must be coming back from the high security ward of the hospital."

Spock nodded jerkily, "It is my fault," he said, "It's my fault that they must be here, that they no longer have a father . . ."

"Spock, no," Kirk said firmly, turning him around. He cupped Spock's face in his gloved hands. "You can't blame yourself for that, okay? You said it yourself: the man was mentally unbalanced and a fanatic. You did what you had to do to protect me, and Bones, and yourself, okay? You shouldn't regret that. He did terrible things, to you, to me. But maybe his kids, maybe they'll do something good. Something they wouldn't have done if he were still around, you know?"

Spock swallowed, his gaze still tracking the remnants of Valdez's family as they vanished around a corner. Finally, he tore himself away, back to Kirk's concerned face, the familiar contours of his mouth and eyes.

"You are correct," he said heavily.

"It's going to take time," Kirk said, looping his arm through Spock's, heedless of anyone who might be watching.

"I have had time," Spock replied.

"Then it's gonna take more," Kirk said resolutely. He looked both ways for curious eyes, then reached up and brushed a quick kiss across Spock's mouth. "Come on," he said, stepping back, a smile crinkling at the corners of his lips. "Let's go see how many mouse traps Starfleet's put in our rooms this time."

He headed towards the building again, tugging Spock along behind him. Spock followed willingly, his gloved fingers caressing Kirk's in a Vulcan kiss as they walked.

The End