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That summer, James Kirk found he couldn't sleep.  Too many
times rising on the fringes of the night to pace the rooms
of his San Francisco apartment.  The mornings found him
seated before the windows, staring at the vanishing stars
and gripping the arms of his chair so that his hands
wouldn't shake.  He had ceased to notice the tremours that
marked the rest of his body.  He dressed each morning from
a closet full of grey and white tunics, scarred by his
admiral's insignia and colourlessly painted with his
restlessness.

Exhaustion made him edgy.  Once too often he snarled at a
junior officer for some middling offence that he shouldn't
have taken notice of.  He was living on caffeine and
wandering the city like a zombie, radiating a hostility
that drove people away.  No one at Command would talk to
him.  

It was barely July when his dreams began to fragment.  
When he found odd moments of sleep, disconnected pieces of
them merged, disturbing his subconsciousness and breaking
his rest.  Other shards found him in the day, and reality
would shatter.  For half a second, in the halls of
Starfleet Command, he was among the rocks on an alien
planet.  Buried in the shadows at their base.  He had been
searching in those crevices for some small creature to
eat, but others had come and he found the roles reversed
so that he was the hunted.  Ready to kill them to defend
himself.  Unwilling to emerge from these rocks into the
blazing heat of the day.  So hot just beyond this patch of
darkness . . .

"Admiral Kirk?"

Diffident hands on his arm.  Was he all right?  The padds
he had been carrying were scattered across the corridor,
creating a terrazzo pattern in combination with the last
rays of sunlight cutting through the windows.

"I'm fine."  *leave me alone I want to be alone*  "Take
these back to my office.  I'll deal with them tomorrow."

Kirk bolted down the corridor, vanished around a curve and
locked himself in the washroom.  Sat alone in the dark,
running hot hands over his face, then soaking them under
the cold water tap and repeating the process until he
shuddered at the iciness of his own touch.  Losing it.  
Shaking.  So tired.  He shook himself and left, surprised
that beyond the plasteel windows it was already dark.

He went to Los Angeles.

The technology made it too easy.  The moments-long journey
by transporter did nothing for his peace of mind.  He
changed out of his uniform in the sterile silver washroom,
not thinking until he was dressed again, anonymously, no
longer the Starfleet Admiral.  Outside the civilian
station, he rented a groundcar and drove into the city.  
Los Angeles was almost real.  Grubbier than San Fran, at
least, more like people lived there.  More primitive.  He
didn't even realize he was in Hollywood until he was
pulled up to the curb and a face appeared at his mirrored
passenger window.  Four hundred years of the city and you
could still find boys on Sunset Boulevard.

So he ended up with a hustler in the car with him before
his horror had time to even surface.  And they were
halfway out of Hollywood before his hands began to shake
again and he wanted to throw up.  The hustler was a dark-
haired boy with a rough-hewn, Slavic face that was too
familiar for Kirk's own comfort.  He couldn't do this.  It
was awful.  Bought the kid supper at a Thai restaurant on
a back street and threw more credits at him than the boy
could possibly have expected for the trick.  Brown, too-
human eyes stared at him under street lamps.

"Why?"

*because you are not him not mine not my mate
leavemealone*

He gave him the Kirk grin.  Still almost boyish, not as
old as he felt.  "Why not?  Go on."  Until the boy was
gone and then he got back in the car and started to drive.

He called Admiral Nogura from a public communications
centre in the suburbs.

"I need some time off."

Nogura shouldn't have been in his office, but he was.  
Working late again.  Kirk felt a pang of guilt for the
work he'd left behind.  Nogura had iron-grey hair and
black eyes that drooped a little with tiredness.  It was
after midnight, almost oh-two hundred.

"Restless, Jim?"

"Something like that."

Tight smile.  "Go on.  Get out of here.  Come back when
you're sane."  It was not entirely a joke.

He got back in the car and drove until the sun came up.  
North and east.  By dawn, he was somewhere in Utah,
watching light break over the desert and mountains.  
Closer to home.

Every little town with a bar had a hotel to house it.  
Still, he must have got some strange looks when he checked
into that one.  No one slept in those places, really; they
were just excuses for the bars.  Perfect.  Smelling of
dust, the curtains permanently drawn.  The semi-darkness
took him down, weighing him with exhaustion until he fell
asleep full clothed, fetal on the ancient box-spring bed.

*****

For ten seconds he is in darkness, a cut-stone meditation
chamber without windows.  Firepot beast in the corner.  
Heat from its coals merging with heat in the air and the
unspeakable chill of the stone.  All but naked, stretched
back against the wall to feel the cold coming out of the
earth.  Striving for control that eludes him like gossamer
cobwebs and tears when he clutches at it too tightly.

*****

The desert was all around them.  Five sunrises past, they
had left the oasis with skins of water on their hips and
all they owned loaded on their backs.  The ones at the
oasis had regarded them with suspicion and driven them to
sleep beyond the perimeter of the protected camp.  That
was only to be expected; the stranger is the one who comes
to take your water and your hunting grounds.  Before they
left, his mate had traded with the oasis-dwellers for the
water and food.  He himself had remained with their
possessions, watching.

So calm, that one, his beloved.  Fierce bone structure
that might have been carved out of the planet's centre,
impenetrable calm shielding his warrior nature.  His
mate's dark colouring stood in contrast to his own fair
hair that lurked beneath the dust-layers that had accreted
in it since they began this journey, already three seasons
past.  His mate had returned with the things they needed
and they had departed before the sun could rise too high
in the sky.  Before highsun, they had needed to conceal
themselves again.

Now, days afterwards at sunfall, they erected their canvas
shelter at the edge of a stand of rocks and found the
small, moist creatures that lived in the crevices.  The
skins they wore formed a single bed for both.  The desert
so cold in the night.  Sleeping close together.  Warm skin
on the arms wrapped around his shoulders.  His lover gave
the slight urging that brought him deep into the embrace.  
They fit so close together, their bodies accommodating one
another's curves and the hard ridges of bone.  Just before
sleep, his mate's mind touched his own, flashing images of
a day's travel and the dreamings that passed through a
conscious mind in that time.  

*sand  rock   almost golden colourofthesky  taste of water  
touch of your skin to mine almost golden colourofyoureyes
your beauty I love you*

*world of dust and wind and sky   hard ground rim of the
Forge  sound of yourvoicelikesand grating off my ears so
close to my own I need you*

*this is where the world starts I know it   we must be
nearly there*

Flashes of images, moments of telepathic lovemaking before
sleep.

*****

He offers the half-understood image of himself in this
room now dark with the nearly-ended day.  Small sounds of
the world outside a hotel room.  Water pooling in the sink
and dust in the corners where it accreted on his shoes and
hs slowly crumbled off while he sleeps.  Then blankness as
he sleeps again and through the night.

*****

He kept driving.  By mid-afternoon, Kirk already couldn't
remember the name of the hotel or even the name of the
town that he'd stayed in the previous night.  All around
the road were mountains and desert-dry highlands where the
grass crackled at a touch.  There was dust in the air,
raised by the groundcar's wheels.  He pulled onto a gravel
road, stopped, and got out.  He knew he was up high and
that the air should be cold, but his skin was blazing.  
Rocks jutted up from the ground, providing shade.  He was
drawn towards them.  He started climbing.

. . . hunters at the edge of the rocks looking for him.  
The red sun hot against his flesh that was bare except for
the skins wrapped around his waist.  Knife in his hand.  
Calling across the bond for his mate to help him help him,
help him now before they killed him, oh gods he was so
hot.  Whirling vision of a red sky and mountains seen
through the thin air.

Disconnected fragments of a ravaged country of volcanoes
and deep meditation.  His heart beating fast against his
side.

Blazing hands ran over his ribs and settled against his
ass.  Touch of lips to his.  He let himself fall into that
touch, let himself moan when the long fingers slipped
between his legs and pressed into him and stroked him, so
hot against the thin skin too tightly stretched over his
cock . . .

A raven croaked somewhere back and over his shoulder and
there were rocks under his hands.  Blue sky behind the
thinnest layer of cloud and a yellow sun.

Damn it.

Oh, he was losing it.  Kirk let himself slide down the
rocks and rest in their shade.  Some part of his brain
told him he must be feverish, but its voice was quiet
enough to be lost in the dream fragments and fractured
arousal coursing through his head.  He let the heels of
his hands press into his thighs until the pressure brought
him back together and he was able to stand.  And then he
got back in the car.

That night, he didn't bother to stop.  For safety's sake,
he locked a travel plan into the onboard computer and gave
up driving.  He didn't want to think.  He stared out the
window, seeing half a landscape in the car's running
lights and his own reflection in the clear plasteel.  A
slightly heavier face than he had worn at thirty, and
creased around the mouth and eyes.  At some point, his
hair had gotten darker.  Though fair, he wasn't blond
anymore.  He was shading into middle age.  

He'd spent too many nights like this, unable to sleep or
think or concentrate enough to read.  Someone had said it
was like this after you got divorced.  Stupid.  He wasn't
divorced.  At the back of his mind, almost totally silent,
the bond was still there.  There was no ceremony or legal
process that could divorce that.  But he was alone.

At dawn, he was halfway across Nebraska.  He hadn't slept
yet.  Pulled off and bought coffee at a restaurant in a
tiny connector town.  The waitress in the restaurant asked
if he wanted anything to eat and he was halfway into
ordering bacon and eggs before something in him revolted
at the idea of eating animal flesh.  He ordered toast.  
Strawberry jam.  Ate it and paid for it and left, leaving
a five-credit coin on the table as a tip for the waitress
who had given him the oddest look when he interrupted
himself in the middle of ordering.

By mid-afternoon, he was home.

Or as close to it as he intended to get.  He took back
control of the car and pulled into a place called
Winterset, Iowa.  A hundred or so kilometres northeast of
him, his mother still lived on the farm, and at this time
of year his nephew Peter would be home from college.  He
didn't want to see them.  Didn't want to see Peter, the
living ghost of Sam who was dead.  He didn't want to see
anyone.  He checked into a motel at the edge of town and
buried himself in the dark of his room.  

He'd been awake thirty hours, so of course he couldn't
sleep.  As soon as he stretched out, his brain kicked into
overdrive, images flashing through him fast as television.  
Finally gave up in disgust and left the motel room,
wandered through the streets until he found a pharmacy and
a bottle of over-the-counter sleep-aids.  The girl at the
counter smiled at him like he looked like he needed them.

Back in his room, he stripped and showered. The first
three pills kicked in.

*****

Hard, dry lips kiss him, bruise him, press into him so hot
they must leave marks behind them like brands on his bare
skin.

*****

The mountain had loomed above them for days before they
reached it.  Its sides were faceted, already carved like
jewels.  There was water there, dampening the stone, cold
to the touch.  They drank.  And that night they slept
beside the mountain.

Waking in the night.  The ground had shifted, subtly, in
their sleep.  His mate crept from the tent, blade in hand,
only to return for him and lead him outside with an
expression that was only wonder.  Outside was the a'kweth,
an ancient dweller from under the sand spoken of in myth
with the same reverence reserved for the mountain.  It
touched their minds.  Flashes of ancient wanderers
stumbling on the Underliers, the beginning of speech, the
understanding like ecstasy touching that face millennia
dead.  They saw the first traveller, heard the first word.
*Heya*, mountain.  The a'kweth before them swayed like a
stone oracle.

*know that the universe is concerned with origins as well
as outcomes
  all you do affects the other
harm speeds the heat-death of the universe*

Then its voice, whispers like stone on stone, or sand
blowing.  ". . . heat . . . death . . ."

It was so hot.  Flaming even at night, body heat
indistinguishable from the heat of air and stone.

*****

Outside, Gol and Vulcan's Forge beyond it are incomparably
beautiful, but his body is burning and he can't be
bothered to look.  The stone room echoes his breathing
back to him as a mass of noise.  The air stinks faintly of
the sulphur from far-off volcanoes.

*****

The thing was, he didn't really understand whether Spock
had left him.  The five-year mission had ended, Kirk had
been declared Chief of Fleet Operations and re-posted to
earth.  At the time, almost eighteen months before, he
hadn't even really understood what was wrong with that
move.  He'd only felt a vague uneasiness.  Instincts for
his ship had kept him aboard long after everyone else had
disembarked and there was only a skeleton crew in
Engineering to keep the Enterprise company in spacedock.

He'd stayed on, putting off requests for meetings and
walking the empty halls.  Touching panels, feeling cold
metal and the contradictory textures of a starship.  
Finally he came to the bridge.

The area lights had been out, the room illuminated by
half-activated displays that let him see shape but not
colour.  He'd walked the perimeter of that space, then
sunk into his chair, *in medias res*, at the centre of
things, and called for screen on.  Gentle automation had
given him an interior view of spacedock.  Grey metal and
flood lights and vacuum.  Ships hanging in the night.  And
he'd stayed there a long time, trying to evaluate the cold
emptiness that had settled beneath his breastbone and
spread through his limbs.

He hadn't known that Spock had come back to the ship, but
he felt the other's mind in the instant before Spock
stepped onto the darkened bridge.  It was a telepathic
caress, barely words, unfinished.

*what is this cold in you*

"I don't know," he'd whispered.  Spock had come up behind
him so simply and stood there, hands folded, gazing at the
viewscreen.  Kirk had been able to feel the heat radiating
from his lover's alien-warm body.  "What have I done,
Spock?"  Silence.  "I've ruined it.  I've lost the
Enterprise.  I'll never get her back."

Silence.  A flash of warmth had warned him the moment
before Spock's palms came to rest on his shoulders, and
something like comfort had come to him through those
hands.  He'd relaxed into the touch, slumped bonelessly
back in the captain's chair.  A moment of Vulcan lips
against his hair, then Spock had withdrawn.

The low, grating voice ran through his bones when Spock
answered him.  "You have made a decision, Jim.  You will
change your life and adapt as you always do."  And the
silent response, *know you  know you are afraid   you will
adapt survive live   you are James Kirk are my beloved  
you will do what you have to do*

Kirk had turned then, met those reserved, Vulcan eyes that
were shielding something from him, if only he could fathom
what it was.  But it had been so much easier at that
moment to step down from the chair and wrap his arms
around that hard, angular body and feel the warmth of an
alien life against him.  To tilt his head and claim those
dry lips that hesitated a moment before they pressed back
against his own.

*thank you    love you*

Hot body against his own, tracing Spock's narrow mouth
using only the very tip of his tongue.  Feeling through
the bond the sensation of cooling as his mouth left
dampened portions of Spock's face behind.  Then Spock had
kissed him back.  Vulcan lips had massaged his, bruised
and comforted small portions of skin.  He could have
fallen into that mouth and disappeared.  Wrapped around
one another, easing into a single pattern of thought.

After the first deep kiss, there had only been small ones.  
Spock's Vulcan body was so naturally dry; his kisses
suggested the desert, dropping on Kirk's face and neck and
burning him.  Holding and rocking one another in the
almost-dark.

He didn't know after when it stopped being comfort and
started being need.  He had been so *angry*, though not at
Spock.  Someone's else's damned fault.  His hands had
fumbled up and under the other's shirt.  He'd struggled
the garment to chest height before warm, dry hands had
gently removed him and efficiently disrobed.  Efficiently
and unabashedly erotically.  Spock's pale skin, made paler
by years in space, had appeared too slowly; clothes had
danced around the lean body and vanished into the shadows
behind the command chair.  Flash of desire, flash of rage,
and Spock had been at him and undressing him too.  Words
had come through by touch, his thoughts or Spock's he was
never able afterwards to determine.

*you have been my lover time out of mind
 I know your body like my own
     your touch like all of me in you
scars - here and here - trace your body like my hands
I have known you
     I have touched you
  I would touch you again*

He would have liked for them to lie down together and make
love gently over many hours in the semi-darkness of the
bridge, but that wasn't in any way possible.  Even if they
had had the hours, he would have broken the moment those
arms came around him.  He had surfaced again from the
contact to find himself naked and the air cool.  Spock had
stood with his face in Kirk's hair, unmoving, possibly
still absorbed in the bond.  It wouldn't have been the
first time he had lingered there after Kirk had removed
himself.  Spock saw things Kirk didn't want to see in
himself, that he didn't want to know.  He hadn't wanted to
analyse *why* he was angry, he'd just wanted to be angry.

He had wrenched himself back from Spock and then pulled
the Vulcan in to kiss him hard.  There had never been a
question of consensuality when he took the initiative.  
Kirk faced an alien strength that could have driven him
into the wall and into submission, that could easily push
him back if his lover refused.  But Spock had only yielded
to the kiss and then knelt, searching in the darkness and
reemerging with slick hands to coat Kirk's aching
erection.  The touch of a tongue to his scrotum, a kiss on
his thigh, and the other rose, turned, and bent over the
command chair.

Even raging, Kirk had moved as he always did.  Strange to
find it wasn't at all routine, only instinct-guided, led
by the will not to hurt.  He had grasped Spock's hands and
taken the lubricant onto his own fingers, then slid a
single digit between his lover's buttock's and deep
inside.  While he twisted it and listened to Spock gasp
and occasionally hiss his name, he'd kissed patterns onto
the hot, pale skin in front of him.

*I love you like my life
touch you so deeply and you let me
     I could stay here with you
like this a thousand years and never tire of you
always touch you with the same wonder
the same passion
love you   am you  have been each other  still within you
believe I love you that I am yours forever
I could not so easily forget*

He'd had three fingers buried deep inside when Spock had
finally demanded.  It wasn't a moan or a hiss but a growl
that his beloved offered him.  "Jim.  Now."  Two syllables
stretched into many.  What choice could he possibly have
had, even if he hadn't wanted this so much?  His cock had
been so hard; he could feel his own heartbeat as the veins
pressed tightly against the skin.

Consciously, he never understood how they were able to
kiss in that position, but Spock's lips had been so close
and then had been open around his.  When they broke the
contact, he'd kissed his way across Spock's shoulder
blades and spine.  He'd felt the cool touch across the
bond as if it were his own skin he were touching.  He'd
been able to feel the head of his cock pressed against
Spock's opening, threatening to enter and then refusing.  
"Jim, please."  His cheek had rested against Spock's back,
feeling both cool and hot, his hands on the other's hips,
and he had thrust in.

Long moment of acclimatization to penetration in the
excruciatingly tight passage, and then they were working
together for this, thrusting and bucking to deepen the
contact.  He'd thought afterwards that it should have
seemed rough and desperate, but it hadn't at the time.  
There had been, as there always was in their lovemaking,
an understanding of the feelings between them, an
acknowledgement of the desperation, a shared need.  He had
needed this, and, on some level, so had Spock.  Enough for
Spock to relay his deepening pleasure into Kirk's mind,
even enough for Spock to vocalize it.

"Oh by any gods, t'hy'la, *please*, yes, oh yes . . ."

Kirk hadn't himself been in enough control to form words,
but his ragged breathing had formed the single rhythm of
"I love you."  And he had still been there, pressing
against Spock's back, one hand gripping the prominent
hipbone.  The other hand he had drawn around his lover's
body to grip the hard, blazing-hot cock and pump it in
rhythm with his breaths.  Screaming *love you* through
that touch.  He hadn't been in control by then.  He'd come
with a sob without breaking his rhythm, screaming against
the friction even as it pushed him farther, waiting for
Spock to join him.  And when he finally did, Kirk felt the
orgasm in all the muscles pressed against his body and in
his mind as a howl and a sudden tight gripping of the bond
that maintained that Spock would never let him go.

It was only then that they had collapsed to the floor and
Kirk found that he'd been right.  The moment they twisted
into an embrace, all the mental fortifications he'd been
bracing collapsed.  And he'd cried, horrible, wracking
sobs that echoed off the bridge walls and denied whatever
dignity he still possessed.

*oh beloved what have I done what have I done
whathaveIdone    I gave up my ship I could have fought for
her but I didn't    I was so weak so stupid what will I do
what have I done*

The words he would have expected from a human lover had
been conspicuously absent.  There hadn't been any "there,
there," or "don't cry," or even "it's all right."  Just
Spock's calm *I know*.  The acknowledgement of Kirk's
wretchedness and his need to cry.  And all the time
Spock's hands had roamed over his shoulders and tangled in
his hair and Spock's thoughts had touched his and kept him
from true hysteria.

In fact, they had lain there virtually all night.  It had
taken a long time for Kirk to cry himself out.  
Afterwards, there had been no energy left in either of
them to move, and they'd only been able to bury themselves
in their clothes to keep the room's chill from Spock's
body, and sleep.

It had been something on the order of oh-four hundred
hours when Kirk had woken.  He'd felt good, better.  Spock
had left their embrace, dressed, and moved away to stand
on the bridge's upper level.  He hadn't been in uniform.  
He'd been wearing those wonderful Vulcan travelling
clothes, uniformly black and soft, impossible to wrinkle.  
Oh, he'd been beautiful.  Sharp, aristocratic features
defined by the shadows in the still-darkened bridge, hard
body, graceful, watchful stance, perfectly balanced.  It
was so easy to lie there and watch him that Kirk hadn't
noticed for long minutes that the bond was silent.

"I must apologize," Spock had said softly, finally.  "I
did not mean when I came seeking you for us to come
together like that.  It was inappropriate.  It was unfair
to you."

He'd almost laughed.  He'd wanted it, all of it.  How
could they still have these instants of misunderstanding
after years together?  "Spock . . ."

"Let me finish, Jim."  The dark eyes hadn't quite met his,
then or ever that morning.  "You have made a decision to
accept the rank of admiral and the position of Chief of
Starfleet Operations.  I too have made a decision."

Then it had been unreal, the words coming over too great a
distance.  Kirk had already sat up and wrapped his arms
around his knees; he'd needed that steadying posture.

". . . resigned my Starfleet commission as of fifteen
hundred hours yesterday.  I am returning to Vulcan."

Unreal.

"How can I explain this to you so that you may understand?  
I have felt a lack within myself, for over a standard year
now.  I seek to fill that emptiness.  I have declared my
intention to travel to Gol to undergo the *Kolinahr*, the
purgation of emotion, the final attainment of logic."  
Spock's face had been unreadable, even to Kirk.  Not even
the slightest change of muscular arrangement that he had
learned to recognize as easily as human expressions.  
"This has nothing to do with you.  It is something I must
do for myself.

"I must go."

*I am so sorry Jim*

Not "t'hy'la," not "beloved."  Jim.  The public form of
address.  And then the bond had been silent and Spock had
turned and left, and Kirk had been left sitting there, in
the darkness of his bridge, until he could pull himself
together and dress.

*****

Iowa by day presented him with colours that he had not
seen in years.  Space had been monochromatic, defined by
the absence of light between stars.  San Francisco was
brown and blue and silver, the gleaming city sandwiched
between the chaparral hills and the ocean.  Iowa outside
Winterset was a study in greens that hurt his eyes.  
Bright grass, dark trees, shading into one another
maddeningly, like a scene painted in heavy acrylics.  
Unrelieved colour.  It overwhelmed him, penetrated his
sinuses and made him want to scream.

The distraction was welcome.  He'd slept through much of
the afternoon and the night in a drugged stupor, not
dreaming at all.  When sunlight penetrated the room's
heavy curtains, he'd risen, showered, and walked across
the highway to eat in one of the town's small restaurants.  
This time, he'd been cautious and ordered pancakes.  No
part of him had objected, and he'd been able to eat them.  
On the way out, he'd arranged to buy a litre of coffee
with cream and sugar in an insulated container.  He'd
taken it with him in the car and gone driving.

He didn't have anything like a destination this time, he
just wanted to move.  Gods, he was restless.  He found
gravel roads and dirt roads that he knew would wreak havoc
on the groundcar's delicate systems and followed them
anyway.

Kirk stopped when he found water.  A couple of hundred
yards off a road that probably didn't merit the name,
there was a pond and trees.  So much colour, he thought it
must be in the air, that it must penetrate his body.  Easy
enough to pull off the road and hike across a pasture to
the water.  Easier still in the heat and humidity of the
day to strip and wade in, washing himself with small
splashings of his hands.

The pond bottom was muddy; he burrowed his toes down into
it.  Used the traction then to launch himself forward and
swim.  The rhythm of it felt easy to him.  Arm over, face
down.  Arm over, face up and breathe.  Kick.  Then turn
and swim back to shore, climb out and sit naked on the
grass.  Small insects shimmered through the air and landed
briefly on his shoulders and thighs.  Microscopic feet
touched and caressed him and departed again.

Iowa, yes.  He was looking for something here that he
hadn't yet defined.  It wasn't this, but this felt good,
and it might be part of it.  Trees, grass, water, insects.  
Water.  Gods, it was all around him, it was in the air.  
It heightened the colours.  When he sweated, nothing
evaporated off him.  When he'd walked across the pasture
to this place, passing through the air had felt like
parting curtains of water.  Kirk knew he should like it;
he'd spent too many years on a starship where the air was
dry enough to rip the moisture out of his skin.  He wished
he knew whether he liked this new humidity or not.

Wind cut suddenly through the steamy air and ruffled the
trees.  A shower of dry leaves and delicate seed pods came
down over him, settling into the slight curls of his hair
and lodging there.  Kirk laughed and shook himself, then
went to the pond to wash the rest of them off.  He plunged
his head into the water,

                 . . . pulled his head out of the shallow
pool and shook his long, loose hair out over his shoulders
like a pleasured animal.  They were lucky to find such a
place unfouled and still giving water.  Or perhaps it was
giving water again after a long spell as a dry oasis deep
in the desert.  The day was at its hottest, flashing
against his skin with heavy red light.

It was their first stop since leaving the a'kweth at the
foot of the *heya*, the single mountain embracing the
wasteland.  His beloved had staggered on their journey,
was so terribly hot all the time.  His beloved hung back
near the rocks and watched him at the water.

They had been silent a long time, communicating only in
thoughts and gestures.  He gathered water in his two hands
and offered it to the beloved's lips.  The two dry lines
parted and allowed the liquid in before it spilled.  
Almost instantly, his lover's colour began to restore
itself, and he was so grateful he could have wept, even in
the water-stealing heat of the sun.

He was startled when his lover's tongue lashed out to
catch his damp fingers and draw them inside the mouth.  
This wasn't even a kiss, only a fierce devouring, a
sharing of the body's heat.  An expression of desire.

They travelled no farther that day.

In the night, they lay in their tent between the rocks and
he cradled his beloved's head against his chest.  The
desert had stolen away its heat at nightfall; they should
have been terribly cold.  Just the same, his beloved's
skin remained blisteringly hot.  Their bond had been
silent this day, but he could feel a frantic undercurrent
to it, and he recognized that it ignited echoes within his
own body.  Understanding surfaced gradually, a leisurely
movement between water and rock.

"It is your burning time."  His own voice, but in a
whisper.  His lover nodded, a motion more felt than seen.  
Even in the cold, sweat ran over him like . . .

               tiny floods of pond water that streamed
over his naked shoulders and body and pooled on the
ground.  The day was hot, the air was humid, the colours
spoke of Iowa.

Oh he was most certainly losing his mind.  Having waking
visions now.  Desire was in his body all the time.

For a long time afterwards Kirk sat staring at the water.  
Somewhere in his mind he knew that his fair skin must be
reddening in the too-dense sunlight.  When the sun was low
enough to carve elongated shadows on the bank, he got
dressed and walked back to the car.

*****

In the early evening, Kirk lay on the bed in his motel
room and watched television.  The BBC news, having
retained its form and name through three and a half
centuries of broadcasting and the dissolution of Great
Britain as a political entity, recited political episodes
from a half-dozen worlds.  Off to one side, the season's
popular drama played out soundlessly.  Two other marginal
shots seemed to run only commercials.  The images ran
together enough that he didn't have to think about them.  
Eventually, he turned the volume down to nothing and let
the small sounds of the road outside fill his room.

For the first time in weeks, suddenly, he was sleepy.  He
waved the television off, threw the paper carton he'd
eaten supper out of in the recycler, and stripped.  Too
hot.  He pushed the blankets onto the floor and buried
himself in just the sheets.

*****

The transition nearly instantaneous, there is only a half-
second of two rooms on different planets blurred together.

*****

They faced each other across the narrow tent and did not
touch for several minutes.  When he reached out to touch
his mate, it was as though he were bridging an enormous
distance.  The other's hand rose up reflexively and only
the tips of their fingers touched.  Hot skin in the cold
air.  Their minds brushed across the narrow point of
contact.  He began the ritually slow, two-fingered caress,
up his mate's hand, down his arm, feeling the narrow
tendons shift under the skin.  Then he was stilled by
strong hands and the touch was inverted, tracing him over
and defining him.  He could feel awareness growing from
his fingertips, expanding to each place his lover touched
until he gained arms, shoulders, a body, legs.

It was only after that that they kissed.  His beloved's
mouth covered his almost desperately, afraid he might be a
ghost summoned by the desert to taunt a burning man and
then vanish.  Fiery at the back of his skull, the bond
crackled.  He clung to it while his body expanded and
ignited and wanted the other. *love you love you will not
leave you   I am here I promise I will never leave you*  
He threw the thought out and heard it echoed in his
beloved's mind.

They were kissing all the time now.  His hands fumbled
against that hard, olive-toned body, stripping the
clothing away and spreading the skins out into their bed
with movements made awkward by his arousal.  The hides
brushed his cock on their way down and made him hiss into
his mate's kisses.  He couldn't believe they had been
wearing clothes at all.  How could they have needed them?  
He was so hot he was burning and still his mate's skin
scalded him.  Their bodies must be shedding layers of heat
strong enough to distort night images into fever dreams.

He found himself undressed and held against the skins by
the full mass of his lover's body.  His lover's urgency in
kissing him and stripping them both seemed to have been
sated for a moment, because he seemed content to layer
small, sucking kisses across the fair skin offered up to
him.  Then withdrew and smiled.  An odd expression that,
he knew vaguely, and one he had not often seen before.  
Green-tinged lips brushed his, then travelled around the
side of his head.  His lover's tongue grazed his ear in
the instant before those lips wrapped fully about its
rounded edges and the mouth sucked hard.  He exhaled from
the back of his throat, giving near-voice to the
electrified nerve impulses coursing through his body and
centring in his cock. *oh yes oh t'hy'la oh never stop*

There was the sudden need to touch his mate more
intimately; he couldn't tolerate his own passivity.  He
arched his back and rolled up, straddling the other's
thighs and rubbing their erections together, then driving
his weight forward to bear them both down, this time with
him on top.  For a moment, he tensed his inner thighs and
felt as much as heard his lover howl at the stimulation.  
Then he withdrew a little and studied the one under him.

His mate was, by any standards he could remember, powerful
and exotic.  He was not yet old, but the desert had cut
deep creases into that long face, creating down-drawn
lines that contrasted to the flaring cheekbones.  The
normally pale skin was flushed bronze with arousal, green
under the surface with only the barest hint of an alien
scarlet.  Long-fingered hands still clutched at his
wrists, a gesture he mirrored to give them an unbroken
connection.

He lowered himself slowly to that hard body and tasted it
at the juncture of neck and shoulder.  With his tongue, he
isolated the nerve on which the slightest pressure would
render his lover unconscious.  He moved slowly down the
body, kissing open but dry-mouthed against the skin.  
Surely whatever moisture he had not lost to the desert had
burned away already.  His barely damp tongue pictured ribs
and skin and the hard bone of an unpadded hip.  Kissed his
way along that ridge. *I know your body like my own*   The
body under him writhed, sought the contact.  It burned.

His hands were immobilized, trapped at hip-level by his
lover's and held numbingly tight.  He worked without them.  
Dark hair traced the hard, narrow body under him from
chest to groin.  He kissed his way along that path and
dragged his nose through the dark fur, seeking both scent
and sensation, stopping only when his lover's blistering
erection caught at his jaw.  It was so easy to rub his
cheek against that too-thin skin and press his face into
the pubis until he felt the pulse and bone.  Trying in his
own mind to define that smell, of days of sand, of hard,
sharp air, of the cinnamon and ginger that made his eyes
water.  Drawing on the deepest corners of his mouth to wet
his own lips.

Only then lowering his mouth onto that cock, feeling his
lover's fingernails bite into his wrists, driving himself
to swallow before he choked.  The first words in longer
than he could remember clamoured in his ears.  "Oh, Jim,
*yes*!!!"  His jaw already ached from holding his teeth
away from the hypersensitive member around which his
tongue was wrapped.

Fervent hands guided his own to the hinge of his jaw and
massaged the juncture until he relaxed.  Less painfully
now, he sucked at the cock in his mouth, pulling at the
skin and feeling the blood rushing through the twinned
veins along the sides.  He could breathe, still, and feel
a moisture in his mouth that the desert could not touch,
he could grip his lover and hold him.  Once, he withdrew
until only the double-ridged head still remained in his
mouth and, raising his eyes to meet his beloved's, he
flicked his tongue over and into the tip of that cock
until the other's parched gasps became howls again. *oh
please t'hy'la no more   you touch me so deeply feels so
good how could I not love you  please beloved oh please*  
Then back down, not into his throat, but as much as he
could take in his mouth.  

He gained the release of one hand; the other was so
tightly twined in his lover's that he could not remember
which fingers were his own.  With the fingers that he knew
were his, he brushed the tightened scrotum and ran down
the perineum until he found the entrance to his lover's
body.  Reluctant to enter with dry, air-seared fingertips,
he pressed the broader pad of his finger against the
opening, at the same time wailed *I love you* into the
bond.

His lover screamed, a ragged-throated sound as if he were
very far away, and came.  His mouth was suddenly full and
he was tasting the ejaculate like smoke and swallowing
frantically before he lost it to the desert air.  He was
so intent on his action that it was another moment before
his lover's orgasm hit him fully and he felt the shock run
through him, fragmenting the dream.

*****

There is a confusion of images in which neither knows
where he is.

*****

Kirk woke with semen-taste in his mouth and the scream
still in his mind.  Iowa, nighttime, brilliant moonlight
beyond the loosely woven motel room curtains.  The bond
pulsed frantically against his thoughts.  He was naked and
the air was damp and it was so *cold*, this couldn't be
his homeworld.  The sense of Spock, a dozen or more light
years away on Vulcan was so immediate that they couldn't
possibly not be in the same room.  Gods he wanted him, so
badly his body ached.

Spock's hands covered his, lean arms wrapped around his
body, warming him and driving away the water in the air.  
It was unthinkable that he should do something other than
press back against that touch.  Spock was around him,
deepening the embrace, guiding them both down to the bed,
Kirk face down and exulting in the sensation of the other
against his skin.  He was blind now; he didn't care.  
Forget.  Let him carry you through this.

Even in the added warmth, he could feel the heat of
Spock's body.  Those hands spread his thighs wide enough
to edge into pain as he pushed against the limits of his
body.  Those long fingers defined each muscle in Kirk's
shoulders and back, calligraphing names and symbols deep
into his flesh.  Palms stroked him, willing his
frightened, tired muscles to relax and accept the contact.

In the instant after that, he felt deep moisture and hard
flesh against the entrance to his body.  Kirk's anus
throbbed as if he had been stretched impossibly wide and
then abandoned.  The penetration came simultaneously with
a whisper, so absolutely Spock's voice, "I love you like
my life."  Oh gods, that cock was inside him and pushing
deeper, entirely lubricated and still feeling like the
desert, pushing so hard against the tight confines of his
body that he knew he should be screaming, but he couldn't
generate any sound beyond his own breath.  There was an
interval of contact while they rested with Spock's hot
body stretched over Kirk's.  Spock's arms were locked
around his shoulders; he couldn't believe how close they
were together.  Inside, he was burning.

The moment exploded into motion.  Kirk felt the other body
raise up from his back and the cock begin to pump in and
out of his ass.  The friction was incredible; it hurt like
hell and he wouldn't have traded it for anything.  The
violence of the thrusts jolted him out of rational thought
and all at once he was pushing back, daring the other to
pound him into the ground, to take him apart and let him
disappear.  Screaming, "Oh yes, oh yes, yes please oh gods
Spock . . ."  And then only screaming, not caring if
anyone could hear him.  Kirk's own cock was trapped under
his body, pressed into the bed, and he was coming before
he realized that neither of them had put a hand to it.  

He wrenched his face out of the pillow and shrieked
Spock's name, the whole, ancient one of unnumbered
syllables, naming a thing that was part of his bones.  
Calling the other one closer to him and losing the hot
spurts of his lover's orgasm in the complexity of his own
voice.

His heartbeat eased only slowly, and he became dimly aware
that the wind was blowing outside, moving the air into
alien patterns and stirring the water out of it until the
country became livable again.  The kiss on the back of his
neck was only a ghost.  Kirk rolled onto his side and
stared through the gaps in the curtains at the night
outside, feeling its energy prickle across his skin.  Gods
he was cold.  He freed himself from the tangle of sheets
and retrieved the bedspread from where he had thrown it on
the floor.  In bed, he wrapped it around himself, the
insular habit of a man sleeping alone.

Spock?

*Spock?*

Silence.  His bedroom filled with the slight, aching
sounds of an aging motel shifting in the gale.  Isolated
muscles in his body still twitched with the stray impulses
set moving by sex.  He couldn't possibly be alone in this
place.

*Spock?*

*it's all right Jim you will understand   must know I love
you   sleep now beloved I am closer than you know*

The hands on his body were only breaths, but he was
exhausted, and it was so easy to slip deeper until he lost
the continuity of the moment.

*****

The place in which Kirk finds himself is not dream,
precisely.  He is asleep, only vaguely aware of it, as
though buried deep within his own mind.  Through the
warmth and the darkness come glimpses Vulcan and the
sensations of Spock's body in the cut-stone chamber of a
postulate to the Kolinahr.

*Jim*

*.*

*you must recognize I love you*

*. . .*

*please t'hy'la*

*you were never there*

*I was*

*no*

*this is the deep meditation undergone to control the ponn
farr   I did not mean in the beginning to cling to you so
tightly*

*why*

*because I love you*

*you were prepared to give me up*

*never   love you still and always*

*. . .*

*love you though it cripple me
love you in the deepest part of my mind
beneath the Kolinahr   you cannot be rejected or removed
     I will not give you up
you are my mate   beloved   t'hy'la
you are part of my being*

*!*

*came here seeking myself
     found you in me
your deeper name as part of me*

*it cannot be the name you found  the one you called
Enterprise   I gave her up*

*the ship will still be there   you are defined by it
beloved   you were captain are admiral are James Kirk I
love you*

*I love you Spock I miss you*

*I know   you are my mate my beautiful boy I will still be
part of you when you wake*

There are other visions afterwards, of a motel room in
Iowa and of water in the air and the sounds of rising and
falling winds.  The words *you have been my lover time out
of mind* drift vaguely across his thoughts, but they fade,
buried under exhaustion and the fragments of other dreams.

*****

He woke to colder air.  In his sleep, he had clutched the
blanket so tightly around him that it took him several
moments to get free.  Naked, he padded to the high,
horizontal window and eased one curtain back.

Grey clouds had blown in and sucked the moisture into
higher levels of the atmosphere.  They reduced the size of
the sky a little.  The wind was still strong enough to
scream occasionally through the uninhabited streets at the
edge of town, bending trees and throwing bits of paper
into a chain-link fence.  Without the brilliant light, the
colours had muted themselves to bearable tones.  He let
the curtain fall.

To his surprise, the bed sheets were marked with blood.  
His body felt raw.  He stripped the bed himself and
pitched the damaged coverings in the recycler before
making his way into the shower.  In the bathroom mirror,
he made out faint bruises, as of fingerprints, on his
shoulders and hips, but they were already fading.  In this
early morning, he felt disinclined to question which
aspects of his life were reality.  After his shower, the
mirror was fogged and he didn't have to examine the
details of himself.

James Kirk sat in the motel chair with a towel wrapped
around his waist and stared out his window.  He knew on
some level that there were things he should be doing, but
he wasn't prepared for them yet.  He was still hyper-aware
of his own body, of the chair upholstery against his legs
and of the small bones beneath the skin of his hand.  In
the drawer he found a pen and paper, archaic writing
instruments, and a padd with the same book on it that
existed in every hotel room in which he had ever rested.

It had been years; his lettering was awkward at first,
then easier as he fell back into the familiar patterns of
writing.  The ink in the pen was comfortingly black.  He
was going to send a letter, force a Federation built on
ethereal data to deliver it for him to another planet.


                                   19 July 2267
                                   Winterset, Iowa, Terra
Spock,

I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my
beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my brother, my
love, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my
locks with the drops of the night.  (Song of Solomon 5:2)

I miss you.

                                        Jim


On the folded and sealed envelope, he wrote Spock's name
in Vulcan characters.

The wind was still blowing outside, stirring the water and
the air, and soon it was going to rain.  Before he could
go home, he was going to have to put himself back
together.