Title: Learning Home
Rating: Adult only
Word Count: 25,375
Summary: Even though retired, Kirk can't resist a challenge. Sometimes, though, challenges deliver more than you expect.
A/N: Big, big hugs and thank-yous to my cheerleaders and editors, Jenna and Dusky, who consistently supported me to write from my heart. If you haven't ever read their Beyond Dreams Press zines, you don't know what you're missing. This was originally written for Beyond Dreams 7, printed in March 2004. And it wouldn't be complete without throwing big, wet kisses to devohoneybee, who has always, always listened.
Learning Home (2/3)
Learning Home (1/3)
For the first time since entering the desert, Kirk was pathetically grateful for the time-eating occupation of searching for water. As their journey had worn on, he'd discovered that under the light of T'Khut and a small hand light, the manoc vines were visible to his naked eyes.
He fell into a rhythm, using the siphoning tubes as a ground sweep, swinging them back and forth over the surface of the sand and holding close the feelings he had shared with Spock during their contact. He had always depended upon having Spock by his side on the bridge and during a crisis on the Enterprise, someone to lean on and who could lend wisdom and strength when needed. The active link, however, was even better. Spock's strength and surety became his as easily as breathing in the air.
Kirk checked on R'Kal after an hour passed, and another hour went by before he found a vine. Grateful, he began the tedious job of twisting the tubes down and pausing at various levels to use the hand pump.
Either he didn't have R'Kal's knack for judging the depth, or the water source was drying up. After hours of work, all Kirk could show for it was two containers filled, not enough for R'Kal's needs. He was tired and hungry, glad enough to fall into the shelter for the remainder of the night, resting up to tackle the water situation again tomorrow.
R'Kal was as he'd left her, as still as the mummy she looked like, her breathing shallow and regular. Kirk stowed the water, took care of his daily tri-ox and salt, and ate a thoroughly boring but adequate meal of nutrient bars and water before lying down. They would survive this, all of them. He insisted on it.
And when they did...food, freshly prepared and cooked, with flavors exploding in his mouth...water, enough to submerge himself in, cool against his hot skin...sheer heaven. The first thing he'd do upon leaving the desert would be to wash and eat a decent meal. After that...no doubt there were family obligations-his new family, of the forbidding faces and gimlet eyes-that would have to be addressed. Perversely enough, he was looking forward to it immensely.
And after that...according to Spock, two ten-days in a Vulcan equivalent of paradise. Kirk grinned at the thought. Hell was usually the image that came to mind when thinking of Vulcan, not a tropical zone. But of course, it could be hell for all he cared, because he'd be with Spock, and right now, that was the only thing on his mind. Constantly. His body vibrated from the energy generated when they touched through the link. The thought of what might happen when they actually touched in person was enough to slowly drive him crazy, so in his own self-interest, he kept his thoughts on the problems at hand.
Kirk resisted an urge to reach over and touch R'Kal and feel the warmth of her skin. Normally they'd be walking now, taking advantage of the cool of the night and the high position of T'Khut to get in some good miles. Kirk thought of the heavy burden S'Taal must be feeling, with no immediate way to help R'Kal and no way to get to her quickly.
Kirk had a sudden memory of an empty chair, a broken voice on the comm, and the utterly overwhelming chaos of his thoughts as he made the long trip from the Enterprise's bridge to main engineering. Fighting against arms holding him back, fighting against the truth...then the crush of grief upon him, almost more than he could bear. The feel of cold, hard, transparent aluminum beneath his hand instead of the vivid heat of pale olive skin.
He turned to watch R'Kal, her face a pallid moon in the shadows. "Fight hard, R'Kal." He didn't want to meet S'Taal only to turn over a cold and lifeless body to him. No one's last memory of someone dear should be the cold, chill touch of death.
Instinctively, he reached for Spock's presence within, drawing on it to chase away the memory of bottomless grief. No more grief now. No more distance between them, no formality, no feeling shut out or left behind. Assurance was constant, and Kirk didn't hesitate to let his need show. There was no room in the desert for ego, and he learned there was no room between him and Spock for it, either. Their need was made plain before each other and, for the first time, Kirk knew he could hand over his heart with no fear of having it turned against him.
Kirk slept restlessly that night despite his fatigue, waking every so often to check on R'Kal. The winds had picked up late, blowing in from the west, stirring up the sand and bringing a cooler air scented with things he couldn't identify from the mountains. He secured the shelter's sides against the wind-driven sand, leaving the leeward side slightly open for circulation, and lay back down.
Sand blew against their shelter, skittering across the material with every gust, and the material itself shook and rattled as he lay there, pacing his own breaths to R'Kal's breathing and listening to the desert dance in the wind. He wondered how S'Taal was and when he would arrive. Wondered how Spock was faring in the wind storm, without shelter....
But Spock was at home here in the desert, he'd be fine...wished they hadn't had to come out here separately...they'd be fine....he'd be fine....
"I am fine," a deep baritone acknowledged, and Kirk looked up to see Spock standing there in front of him, the light of T'Khut pouring down bright as midday.
"Spock, it's so good to see you." Kirk reached for him, relaxing from the feel of a warmer-than-normal body next to his. "I'm worried about R'Kal and S'Taal, and you, too."
"Jim, be at peace," Spock said. He placed both hands on Kirk's shoulders, grasping him tight. "You have done all that is within your ability to do. The rest is up to R'Kal and S'Taal. Through their link, he can lend her his strength. When he arrives, S'Taal can meld with her and speed up her healing. Until then, keep yourself safe. I will be with you soon."
"But you just got here, Spock. I don't want you to leave," Kirk declared as Spock retreated into the desert. "Stay. Don't leave...."
Kirk's own voice woke him up. Startled, he sat upright. Back muscles protested the sudden movement and drove any lingering sleep from his mind.
No one was there. The wind still blew, R'Kal still breathed, and it was still the middle of a long night.
He must have fallen asleep. It had seemed so real: Spock's presence, his voice, the heat of his hands. Keen disappointment lingered even now from Spock's leaving.
Kirk lay back down. It was a hell of a thing to feel this kind of emotional and physical frustration at his age, like an overly hormonal adolescent.
But he wouldn't trade it for anything.
The next day crept by at an impossibly slow speed. If Kirk had been ten years younger, he would have packed up the camp, made a travois for R'Kal from the lean-to, and set out in Spock's direction in an effort to get help for R'Kal as soon as possible. But he had to believe R'Kal and Spock knew what was best, and they had said to stay. It left him antsy and restless, but he stayed and waited, nothing but time on his hands and too much to think about.
The long, blistering day crawled by. Kirk dozed off and on through the day, took care of his needs, thoroughly checked and repacked their stores, and monitored R'Kal. Her mouth and skin seemed drier than ever, and it worried him. As the sun began its long, slow descent to the horizon while the temperatures soared, he decided to attempt hydrating her, in spite of her trance. Cautiously, Kirk wet her mouth with water, squeezing scant drops between her lips and letting them roll down her throat one by one.
It was damned tedious, but Kirk comforted himself with the knowledge that it seemed to work. The water disappeared without causing her any physical distress, and her trance remained undisturbed. He kept repeating the long process every hour until T'Khut rode high in the sky. Then it was time to begin the mind-numbing hunt for water once again.
The day's heat in the sand warmed the soles of his desert boots as he walked away from the lean-to. He was beginning to understand the real purpose of the challenge: Reduce their world to nothing but sun, sand, heat and water, the most basic elements. Scour away all extraneous things, and the thoughts, feelings or ideas that weren't basic to survival would no longer be a barrier to the fundamental truths that lay at one's core.
As he swept the sand for manoc vines, Kirk touched the radiant place of connection he had within. Spock was only a thought away, and it lightened his heart.
Family, connection. It was that which had driven him, and that which he had now in abundance.
Their connection was precious and rare, and Kirk knew he would hold onto it tightly with everything in him. Spock needed him, and he needed Spock, in every way-it was as complex and simple as that. That was the truth the desert had revealed to him.
I was really worried about R'Kal. She was still in the trance, and the longer it took, the more I was afraid that she couldn't let me know she needed help to wake up. I'll hit her when the time comes, however strange it feels, but that time better come soon.
A combination of environmental factors and stress must be affecting me, maybe the tri-ox shots-honestly, I didn't have this problem years ago on the bridge of Enterprise. My bladder was very...active. There I was, just me, T'Khut and the stars as I watered the sand. R'Kal was fascinated from the start by how "frequently" I needed to go--"such a waste of water"--and it became a kind of joke between us. In one end and out the other isn't a phrase often heard in the Vulcan language. R'Kal gave me that straight-eyed stare of hers and said that perhaps Vulcan healers could improve upon the inefficiency of my human system, or I'd be the only member of Spock's clan with a sunburned lok.
I almost choked on the water in my mouth when she said that. It was amusing to think how everyone believes Vulcans are dull and boring. Their wit must be the best kept secret in the Federation.
I'd been thinking about what she said, about being a member of Spock's clan. About being an actual member of his family. The way they accepted me without question, even if I didn't realize to what end. Watching R'Kal silently struggle for her life stripped me raw, and the only thing that had brought me any sense of relief was knowing that Spock was with me, somehow, sharing my fears and shoring me up with his strength. It was...hard to describe, and utterly incredible.
He should be showing up anytime. I didn't know about S'Taal, but I hoped to God he got here soon. I'd taken to sitting up at the top of our dune at night, sitting watch for wandering travelers. With the lean-to sides rolled back, I could keep an eye on R'Kal at the same time. It was damned hard, keeping alert with nothing to look at but kilometers of shadowy sand and the occasional rock formation, so I used a little trick I'd learned years ago and began a narrative composition in my head: Dear Peter, you may have been right. Your Uncle Jim was probably nuts....
I was describing the desert under the light of T'Khut to Peter when I saw something moving on a far ridge. I grabbed the 'noculars, dialed them into focus and.... "Spock? Spock!" I jumped up and waved my arms in the air. The figure paused, then started toward me unevenly.
A minute later, I could tell it wasn't Spock. It was S'Taal, and he looked exhausted. Dark circles sat under his eyes, fine tremors indicated muscular fatigue, and I could tell he hadn't been drinking enough. Probably afraid to drink enough water because he'd have to stop and replenish it.
"James che Sarek," I muttered by way of an introduction and led the tall, rather muscular Vulcan down the last dune to the shelter.
"S'Taal cha Senet. How is R'Kal?" His concern seemed about all that kept his legs moving.
"Still in trance. I'll admit, I'm worried. Shouldn't she have come out of it by now?"
He gave his head one sharp shake. His fine, dark hair, so like Spock's, was dull with grit and sand. "No, not if she was very weak. It is not uncommon for the trance to last this long. I will meld with her and discover her condition."
I stopped him before he ducked under the lean-to. "S'Taal, wait. Why don't you sit, drink the water you haven't been drinking and eat something first? You won't be any use to R'Kal if you don't take care of yourself."
S'Taal looked surprised at that. "Yes, of course, that is quite logical. I-I have not been thinking clearly. The mind rules have been difficult since...." He trailed off uncertainly, wandering into unfamiliar emotional ground.
That much, at least, I could explain. "No wonder...it's understandable. Your mate is very ill. You've been spreading yourself thin, uh, overextending your resources. Pushing yourself to the brink physically and committing much of your mind energy to R'Kal. Now sit."
We crowded into the lean-to. S'Taal collapsed easily next to R'Kal, his attention absorbed completely in her.
"Here, drink." I pushed a full water container into his hands and waited as he opened it and drank a healthy amount. "Now eat." I handed him a nutrient bar. He opened it methodically and chewed it by rote, seemingly more aware of the still figure next to him than the food in his mouth.
I hovered until the bar was gone and he'd sipped more water. "Is there anything else you need before attending to R'Kal?"
S'Taal looked at me clearly for the first time. "I am in your debt, James. Without your care, R'Kal would be...and I-" He stopped, looking quietly stricken.
"Take care of our ginsha, S'Taal," I said gently. "I want to see her shine again."
He looked startled by my words, then nodded once and sat close to her to ready himself. "This may take some time," he warned as he bent over R'Kal and pressed his fingers to her head.
I watched them for a while, then decided that I'd be of more use water hunting, since there were now three of us. Gathering the equipment as quietly as I could, I set out in the opposite direction from my previous forays. Things were indeed looking up; it only took me an hour to find the manoc and trace it back to where it disappeared deep in the sand. Before I started threading the tubes down, I walked back to check on S'Taal; they both were exactly as I'd left them, and nothing appeared wrong to my untutored eyes.
As I worked the tubes down through the layers this time, I didn't rush it and stopped frequently to use the hand pump, afraid I'd miss the water. I didn't this time, though. It took me over four hours of hand-pumping, but I headed back to the shelter with five full containers of water, and a full belly from drinking my fill.
T'Khut pressed down low in the southern sky as I climbed up the last dune before the shelter. The three of us had enough water for two days. I was very tired, but not too tired to stop and appreciate the beauty of the waking desert. The western sky already glowed with fiery colors, heralding the sun's imminent arrival. Mentally, I bid farewell to the cool night air, already anticipating a bit of food and a long rest in the coming heat.
At the top of the dune, I paused, wondering suddenly if I should construct a flag of sorts to stick up there, so that Spock might have an easier time locating us. I could use the siphon tubes and a piece of cloth.
Then I looked down and saw a figure standing by the lean-to, his face turned up toward me.
Spock stood there, tall and solid. No more gaunt leanness to this Vulcan; maturity had brought with it a hard-won contentment that translated itself into his body. Spock had always been someone I depended upon without hesitation, but this Spock...this Spock was someone I would rest against and feel protected by when life overcame my own strength, and when he was overcome, I would return the favor.
"Spock!" The relief I felt was dizzying. Grinning like a fool, I slid cautiously down the side of the dune with five water containers bouncing heavily from my shoulders. "You made it in two days."
The look he gave me rivaled the sun in brilliance. "Jim."
When I skidded to a stop at the bottom, I stood for a moment, drinking in his reality with thirsty eyes, then reached for him, just as I did in my dream. "Spock."
It was awkward as our arms went around each other for the first time with this new awareness between us, but only because the five water containers bumped together and blocked our reunion. Laughing, I let Spock begin unloading my haul, one at a time, from my shoulders.
"Spock, you look good," I said, sounding like a silly besotted idiot. He was the color of sand from head to toe from the grit that covered him. Still grinning, I reached up and brushed some of the grit away from his eyebrows and eyelashes so they appeared dark again.
Seemingly unable to say much more than my name and stare at me with those chocolate eyes of his, Spock appeared no less foolish than I, which cheered and amused me greatly. We were truly a pair, it seemed.
The last of the water removed from me, Spock reached out and touched a gentle hand to my face, brushing at dust in my hair. He took a deep breath, and refocused. "R'Kal has emerged from the trance while you were gone. She is resting now, S'Taal also. The healing meld depleted his energy."
"Oh, Spock, that's so good to hear." R'Kal was going to live; the relief was sharp and poignant. "Everything's okay?"
"I believe so. However, she will be weak for some time. Jim, your actions saved her life."
Shaking my head, I looked away, unwilling to think about what might have happened had I not been there to discover her. "It wasn't her time, Spock. She and S'Taal have to make little S'Taals and R'Kals. And, uh, from what I know about Vulcan plumbing, that'll take a while. So they've got lots of years ahead of them."
Spock made a noise at that as he reached out and pulled me to him. "Jim. You have acquitted yourself with much ability. I know the clan elders will be astounded; I think they feared the worst. I, too, was worried for you," he added, his voice grave. "But I should not have been, since I know you so well."
A small tremor shook the hand he raised to my face, his fingers tracing a path from my temple to my chin and eliciting a matching tremor in me. It was as if he traced that path right along my nerves, his touch branching down into my weary body.
"There will be no clan voice raised in objection to our joining after this. You have more than proved to them that at heart, you may also be called Vulcan."
His fingers shifted and pressed, and everything blurred and went white. There was no gradual transition as when we accessed the link at a distance; instantly Spock was within. There was no space between us like the other times. I could feel him within me, within my body, as if he too were at home there. Whatever boundaries existed between us seemed insubstantial. I was held and surrounded, all parts of me splayed open.
His action took me by surprise. Spock's presence in this way was breathtaking, overpowering, and all the frustration I'd been holding onto crested and spilled out. Instinctively, I pulled him to me, taking his mouth with mine.
Nitroglycerin...one big spark and explosion. I felt mouths, wet and warm, meshed together, tongues thrust together and entwining, bodies hot and straining, and through it all, Spock...not cool, not composed, but made of fire and need and desire, showing me a part of him only hinted at over the years. Spock...his need for me took my breath away and lifted me up higher than I'd ever been. His hands moved upon my body, both reverent and carnal, finding nerve endings that blasted me with sensation when he touched them.
I had no thought to pull away as we rushed toward explosion like flame on a fuse, but grabbed at Spock with everything in me. The sensations crested and I cried out, shattering into incoherent pieces as the white took over, the white became everything.
When I next had consciousness, I was lying on the sand with Spock, wrapped in his arms. I blinked and moved, trying to regain some of the intelligence that had flown away on wings of pleasure.
"Oh my god," I said, unable to speak louder than a murmur.
"You should yell at me." Humor blazed out of Spock's eyes, belying his words.
I was starting to feel less like a jellyfish in mind and body. "Yell? Why?"
Spock sighed, giving every evidence of contentment. "I have not been so lacking in finesse since my youth. It is quite shocking."
I pushed the heels of my hands into my eyes and rubbed, but it didn't help much. My mind still felt like limp spaghetti, and I still had a tendency to see stars bursting everywhere. "Um. Uh...any more finesse, Spock, and I might not survive the next time."
"Traditional Vulcans would say we just gave in to an illogical act, ending in a shocking waste of water in this desert environment."
Spock's words redirected my attention to things I'd been ignoring, namely, the congealing fluid cooling against my belly. "And we'll have to waste some more water to clean it up."
"Didn't R'Kal instruct you in the Vulcan way of washing with sand?" Spock ran a hand up my back and into my hair.
Catching my breath, I lifted my head from his chest and looked at the being underneath me. It was the same face I'd seen for years, long nose, dark eyes, surprisingly full lips. Even his gaze was familiar, banked fire in hooded eyes, and I realized nothing had changed. This was the Spock I'd known years ago, only now I could appreciate all of him, the brilliance and beauty of his mind, and the strength and appeal of his gorgeous Vulcan body.
All of our history together crowded into the silence, thick between us, painting an image I was already familiar with. Contrary to what I'd thought, there were no surprises here, and for the first time I realized this was the appeal.
I thought back on all the threats in our lives, times of loss, sacrifice and dying.
We'd had enough of all that. It was long past time we started living for each other.
Full of love, I placed a hand on Spock's face, felt his warm skin under my hand. Ran fingers along the slightly graying fringes of his hair. Watched love spill from his eyes.
And I thought, oh yes, we can do this, as the brilliance flared open in my mind.
Kirk relaxed back on the bed against his backrest, enjoying the unusual feeling of body hair cushioning him. Spock's wandering hand, never far from Kirk, traced idle patterns down his body. He felt totally boneless and completely at peace. "Excellent choice for a honeymoon, Spock," he murmured.
The water in the Sanay river was a little warm for his taste and an interesting shade of green due to a high copper content, but otherwise, surprisingly nice. Tropical trees and plants grew all over Mau-yan province, even in the midst of ShiMau-yan. There was actual soil here instead of sand, making it the main growing region of the planet, and the high temperatures since they had arrived had been no more than thirty-three degrees Celsius. Today it was breezy and sunny, with a high, thin streak of rare clouds painted across the sky.
"Honeymoon." Spock said the word slowly, drawing it out as if he were testing it on his tongue. Kirk could feel the vibrations from it deep in Spock's chest. "Does that mean you call me 'honey' and moon over me?"
"How do you know about mooning? And don't think I won't." Kirk stretched out a lazy foot and rubbed the leg next to his. A faint breeze stirred the trees clustered outside the bedroom's open sliding wall, and sunlight danced over and around them through the leaves. "Especially when we're in company."
"I would rather you did not," Spock said. There was a decided crispness to his words. "Or I shall be forced to retaliate. As for my knowledge, I know a great many things."
"Hmm." Kirk could attest to that. "Retaliate how?"
Spock only laughed, a low, soft sound that Kirk had discovered he found incredibly erotic. He thought it an odd thing to attract him, but supposed it had something to do with having Spock show him his emotions so easily. Or it might have something to do with the first time he had made conscious connection with their link, and the spontaneous joy and laughter they'd shared, a memory which even now warmed him.
Relaxing deeply in Spock's embrace, Kirk drifted for a while, lulled by a low-level feeling of arousal and his bedmate's body heat soothing his own body, still sore from the desert sojourn and the continual heavy gravity.
"Why did you not ask my mother about her true motive when you had the opportunity at our bonding ceremony?" Spock spoke softly in Kirk's ear, pulling Kirk from his mindless wandering. "I had thought you were set on discovering if she suspected or knew about the existence of our link when she mentioned the kaunshaya to you."
Kirk thought back to the heavily attended family ceremony. "I started to, but...." He shook his head. "I didn't want to risk admitting I didn't know anything about us until recently." At Spock's muffled snort, Kirk continued with exasperation. "How would you like your family to find out you'd all but gotten bonded without even knowing what was going on?"
"Jim." Spock's breath made faint whuffs on Kirk's ear, as if he were laughing. "There is no shame in lacking information."
"Why is it I just don't buy that?" Kirk words held a wry inflection.
There was no way he ever wanted anyone else to know he'd been completely in the dark about the challenge's true purpose. It was bad enough his nephew had known he'd thought it only a survival challenge; Peter would never let him forget it.
"Frankly, Spock, I'd prefer to let that specific bit of knowledge go no further than those few who were already aware of it." He turned a little toward the sunlight streaming over the edge of the bed. "Oh, by the way, speaking of family...Sarek called while you were out this morning." Kirk stretched, enjoying the sensations of being sandwiched between a Vulcan body warming his back and the Vulcan sun warming his front.
The hand on his stomach stilled. "Why did my father contact us?"
"He wanted to talk with me. Apparently, members of the clan have been putting their heads together and have come up with some ideas they want to discuss with me when we get back."
There was a lengthy silence behind him, then, "Such as?"
"Ideas on what I want to do with my time and how I can contribute to the clan."
Spock was still for another long moment, then his hand began its aimless stroking again. "They have wasted no time, I see. I find that fascinating."
"You, a human, have become a member of one of the most traditional clans on Vulcan, as did my mother, the first human to marry a Vulcan. I am not privy to the exact trials she endured, but I do know that it took my mother years to prove to the family and the clan that she was worthy of being called one of them. And now, only one ten-day after you were taken into the family by Sarek and bonded with me, the clan is already making plans for what position you will occupy."
"So, I take it that's good?"
"They will never know what hit them," Spock said dryly, and tightened his arm around Kirk's middle. "Already, they do not. Therefore, good is a relative term."
"Well, since I'm their relative now, it must be good." Kirk glanced over his shoulder and chuckled at Spock's pained expression. "I told Sarek I'd be more than happy to talk about whatever they had in mind, but only after we've come back to ShiKahr. He did apologize for interrupting our time together."
"As well he should. Because our bonding did not take place at the onset of pon farr does not make this time together any less important. Sarek is well aware of that."
Kirk stilled at Spock's words. "Spock...that's something I want to talk about."
Spock nodded. "Pon farr."
"Yes," Kirk said, shifting around so he could see Spock's face.
"Our initial exposure to the reality of pon farr was less than ideal. You need not worry, Jim, because there is nothing at all similar between my relationship with you, and that which was between T'Pring and me. Neither T'Pring nor I wanted the other in any way, but biology overrode our wishes to forget our betrothal link existed. The debacle that occurred during my pon farr was the result. It was twisted and distorted, a perversion of what it could have been."
"Well, then." Kirk burrowed his fingers through the thick mat of dark hair on Spock's chest, liking the sensual feeling of it. "I can't honestly say I'm sorry, because her loss was my gain."
Spock threaded his fingers over Kirk's. "A healthy bond will prevent discomfort for either of us. It modifies and channels the biological imperative in constructive ways."
"That's good to know." And it was; his relief was genuine. However.... Kirk tugged a bit on Spock's chest, a frown forming as he did the math in his head. "The kali-fee was twenty-five years ago, Spock," Kirk said slowly, searching Spock's face. He wanted to know, but hesitated to come out and intrude on what Spock might not want to discuss. "That's enough time for you to experience pon farr more than once."
Spock's hand tightened over Kirk's as he nodded. "Yes." His reply was rough and sorrowful, and Kirk waited as Spock sorted through whatever feelings the memories invoked.
"I went to Gol for a reason, Jim, to learn the techniques necessary for suppressing the biological instinct." He sighed in surrender. "Pon farr was the way of my ancestors, the reality of all Vulcan, yes, but...as time passed after the kali-fee, I found I did not want to be enslaved by the Vulcan cycle and forced into a bonding out of necessity. I had two choices: bond, or take the emotionally stultifying path of Gol. Our relationship and my time among humans had awakened something in me I could not easily forget or put aside, and I found the thought of a purely logical bonding...abhorrent."
Sadness gripped Kirk at his words. "To learn how to suppress the cycle, you had to give up everything, everyone, all of who you were to do it. Spock...." The weight of wasted years bore down hard on him, an almost physical pain. "Why didn't you tell me before you left?"
Spock's gaze mirrored his regret. "Because I did not fully understand what you were to me, not before Gol. You must understand, Jim...at the time of our first five year mission, I was ignorant in many ways for a Vulcan of my age. Because I had left Vulcan so young, because I was betrothed to one who held no regard for me, because I had scant exposure to what most Vulcans experience as a family bond, I had few experiences to show me what a normal functioning mind link was truly like. The first time I realized what was hidden deep within my mind was at Gol, when the elders began the mind-teaching. The knowledge nearly undid me. It was inevitable that I failed in the end. I found myself unable to let go of that connection to you...and then you called to me."
Kirk leaned his face into Spock's chest, absorbing the crisp, oddly sweet odor that rose from him and finding a measure of peace as Spock's arms enclosed him tightly. "All those people that V'ger killed in its effort to reach the creator...and yet I can't wish it hadn't happened, because it gave you back to me. Spock...." He pushed away so he could see Spock's face. "All that time. Why didn't you come to me after V'ger?"
"Jim. You were my commanding officer."
"Not exactly an insurmountable issue," Kirk murmured. "Then what about later, on Earth, when I was not?"
"I-" Spock touched fingers to Kirk's face, his shoulders falling in defeat. "You married while I was at Gol and, as far as I was aware, were widowed during the rush to intercept V'ger. I was unable to see how telling you at that point could be considered a wise decision. I simply did not know where to start. I was at a loss to know how to approach the subject."
Kirk bent his head into Spock's touch. "That's true...we never talked about our time apart, or anything personal for a long time. You wouldn't have known my marriage had been over long before V'ger. All that was left was our contract. There were only six months left on it, and we'd agreed to let it quietly expire. It was...hard, when Lori died. She didn't deserve it. I didn't love her anymore, if I ever had, but she didn't deserve that."
"Jim, I could only think that you were grieving for your loss, and needed time to deal with it. Because I was no longer attempting to eradicate my emotions, my cycle could not be fully transmuted. I...I found temporary relief when it became necessary."
"Oh, Spock." The thought of both of them so lonely for no reason other than their incorrect belief about the other saddened him. "And time went by, and then Khan, and Genesis.... I always felt as if something in me broke when you...and now I know why. David's death on top of yours didn't help." Kirk felt a warm touch on his arm and turned his hand over, letting Spock slide his hand in and clasp it. A simple action, but one rich with meaning and depth, and Kirk allowed himself to be comforted in his remembered grief, and gave a measure in return. "Spock, it's a miracle we're together today, given everything that's happened."
He leaned up to kiss Spock lightly on the cheek, but Spock pulled him in for something deeper, a long mating of mouths that heated Kirk further, notching up his arousal. He'd been so long without feeling anything like it, so many long, dry years when his heart seemed unable to respond to anyone, that he reveled in the juncture of loving and wanting, letting it simmer within and warm him completely.
Spock examined his mouth after, running fingers over Kirk's lips. "Did you know that, as a general rule, Vulcans do not kiss as humans do? It has long been considered an act too emotional in nature."
Kirk settled against Spock more comfortably. "So...kissing is too emotional, but the sex act isn't?"
Spock shrugged. "The sex act is a biological drive; kissing is not necessary to its completion. It supposedly encourages emotional excess and intimacy."
Typical Vulcan double talk. "And a bonding doesn't?" Kirk shook his head. "Spock, for a highly logical people, Vulcans can be masters of a ridiculously circuitous logic."
"Clarity is difficult when fears cloud the issue. For the most part, Vulcans fear strong emotion; therefore, any argument they construct concerning it is most likely faulty."
"R'Kal and S'Taal kissed." Kirk thought of the two younger Vulcans, obviously so in love and connected to one another. "They were very open about their feelings, much more so than I've seen before in other Vulcan couples."
"Other than Sybok, you have only seen the prevailing cultural opinion in Vulcan society, Jim, that of conservative tradition. There are, in fact, diverse interpretations of Surak's writings, leading to a myriad of subcultural groups and behavioral norms. Sybok's was an example of the radical fringe opinion."
Kirk gave Spock a squeeze. "And they're outcast from clan and family, aren't they? So I imagine they don't stay here."
Spock sighed. "No, they do not."
"Tell me about R'Kal's clan."
"They are from this province, a much less harsh, more nurturing environment. Social science has long understood that environment shapes attitudes; therefore, it follows that clans residing here would tend to be less rigid and more nurturing in their societal norms."
"That's fascinating, Spock. So, if I kiss you when we go out...."
Spock gave him a measured look, and Kirk tried not to grin. "While the northern clans may be less conservative, I sincerely doubt it extends to indulging in public displays of labial affection." Spock leaned in and nuzzled Kirk's ear. "However, what we do in private is our affair. Perhaps you would like yet another demonstration of how the bond can enhance our sexuality."
Kirk gasped as Spock's warm breath blew over his dampened skin, and from the promise that deepened Spock's voice. "You know," he said, much distracted, "begging is unbecoming in a man my age."
"I could dispute that." Spock's laughter in his ear was quiet and pleased.
Seduction from his own private seducer. Amused and aroused, Kirk relaxed back into Spock's arms, willing to follow his lead.
Spock turned them on their sides, spooned together, enveloping him from behind, cocooning him in living flesh. It was both soothing and arousing to feel the rough-soft movement of hair on legs and arms and body against his own. Spock's was no soft female form, but hard and sinewy, long and solid.
Hands moved on his body, heat from each finger tracing pathways along his nerves, waking up synapses that were rapidly becoming addicted to Vulcan love-making techniques. Spock took his time and coaxed them to life, coaxed every pathway on his torso, on his hips, in the jointure of his hips and thighs, the tender inside of his arms, the small of his back, awakening, teaching him to take pleasure from a simple touch. Spock attended to his chest, pausing on his nipples with electric fingers, eliciting a gasp from Kirk as the spark entered there and centered between his legs.
The link was alive. Kirk felt it humming between them, vibrating from the energy it contained. Hands on his cock, an exquisite sensation, all pressure and energy, heat and pressure and dear god, it was almost more than he could bear. He reached behind him blindly and found Spock's cock, hard and hood splayed, more than ready. Natural lubrication oozed from beneath the hood, dampening his hands and lower back. He remembered how it tasted, a musky, sweet flavor on his tongue, recalled the look on Spock's face when he had done so, so open and wanting, and he groaned out loud.
The link shimmered wider, leaving him open. Spock caressed him from within it, a liquid heat sliding along nerves and muscles and leaving a swath of pleasure in his wake until he knew a voluptuous surrender.
Take me in, t'hy'la.
Spock's mind-voice slid into awareness as his presence slid along Kirk's nerves. He wanted all of Spock, wanted to tear down any barriers separating them. He bent his leg forward, gasping from Spock's fingers on him, in him, opening him wide.
Do it, all of you, yes...please, please
He was wrong. A man of his age could beg prettily, and Spock heard, moving in the link, moving over his body, an embarrassment of riches and pleasures of the flesh. The sheets against his skin, hard muscle, soft hair, long fingers touching, grasping onto each other, preparing him for Spock. It all ran together, ran along his nerves and bled together into one pleasure, one pleasure piercing him-oh yes-making him soar. The heat, pressure inside, moving in rhythm now, scraping over tender skin, moving faster, holding him back, making him wait-now now-pushing him up and over, over, over-
T'hy'la t'nash veh
oh yes, yes Spock...Spock
There was nothing then but the shape and taste and brilliant color of their union.
It was late afternoon when Kirk awakened. The sun had moved away from the open wall, slanting across the yard and leaving the room in shifting shadows from the hovering trees.
"Jim." Spock reached out and spread his hand upon Kirk's cheek. "You are well?"
"Yes." Kirk rolled over and draped himself over his bondmate, propping his chin on his hands resting on Spock's chest. "Yes, very well. That was...extraordinary."
"Nash-veh ashau tu," Spock murmured, enfolding him in a firm grip. "Kwon-sum," he said, his voice deep with emotion. "Jim, the bond will not always be easy. We cannot hide from each other; the truth of our feelings will always be known. But it does offer certain ameliorating...side effects."
"We'll just have to adopt a hard and fast kiss-and-make-up policy for disagreements. Or hard and slow version, even better."
Spock gave him a tolerant look. "Your humor has gotten worse as you've gotten older."
Laughing, loving the feeling of lying naked on Spock's Vulcan-strong frame, Kirk settled against his bondmate and drifted in the rare, wonderful feeling of being both known and loved. He thought about the mind-blowing sex they'd had earlier-Spock was right, the bond allowed for some unbelievable sex-and about an entire family waiting for him, people he hadn't met and yet who had already made a place for him in their lives.
All of the unfulfilled yearnings that had become so insistent in the last few years had ceased their clamoring. For the first time in a long while, Kirk thought of the future with a true sense of contentment. As he had been on the Enterprise, he was exactly where he needed and wanted to be, and he gave a mental nod of thanks to the hand of fate.
"Spock, I may have retired, but don't ever let me stop being an explorer."
"Why would you not do the very thing that expresses your being at its deepest levels? It is who you are," Spock said.
Oh my. Yes.
He'd found his home once again.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion