"Jim, I don't know if he's going to make it."
The words had circled silently in Kirk's mind for the
last three hours and more while he sat motionless
beside the intensive care unit bed. Spock lay there,
equally motionless, deep in the healing trance, life-
support machines covering most of his body. Kirk kept
watch, remembering all the times he'd seen this sight
before, or seen it played over himself. *So many times
we've cheated death...* He took one limp hand between
his own, marveling once more at the fineness of bone
and tendon, the long supple fingers, more-than-human
heat, so familiar and so treasured. *We can cheat the
Reaper one more time. There's a chance, Spock. Take it.
Fight. Win. We'll make it...*
He refused to think of what losing would mean. That
thought was a shadowy horror, breathing cold wind on
the back of his neck, and if he didn't turn to look at
it, it couldn't gain on him, couldn't catch Spock.
*Don't look. Win. Fifty-fifty. We've beaten worse odds.
You can do it. Hours and hours of fighting, and we
can't lose now. Please, Spock. Come through alive.
Alive and whole. Healing trance, all McCoy's skill, all
my... hope... Oh, please, Spock... please...*
The lean hand twitched ever so faintly. Kirk clutched
it hard, afraid to move. *I'm here, Spock! Here!*
Another twitch, stronger. *Oh, please--* Quicker
breathing. *Spock--* Eyelids fluttered, but didn't
rise. A faint, barely audible word.
"Yes!" Kirk whispered, leaning close. "I'm here, with
"Jim... strike me... waken..."
"Hit you?!" *Get him out of the trance. But I don't
want to hurt him! Never, never hurt him...*
"All right." *I _hate_ this!* Kirk slapped the Vulcan's
Biting his lip, Kirk slapped again. Harder.
Kirk did as he was told, struggling to keep his aim
through threatening tears. Again. And again. Three
times. Four. Spock's head rocked on the pillow. His
eyes snapped open. "Thank you, Jim. That is
"You're alive!" Kirk almost sobbed with relief. He
leaned over Spock, impulsively wrapping his arms around
him. "Oh, you're alive..."
"That... should be self-evident." Spock's mouth
twitched faintly in his Vulcan equivalent of a smile.
He raised one hand, still trembling with weakness, and
gently brushed that willful little lock of hair off
Kirk's forehead. "Have you been waiting long?"
"Half the night," Kirk murmured, running his fingers
softly over the growing bruise on Spock's cheek, as if
trying to soothe the mark away. The skin felt velvety,
"I regret having... kept you from your rest." Spock's
voice was tired, infinitely tired, but the faint note
of warmth was unmistakable. He let his hand slip down
until it covered Kirk's.
"It's all right. Just so long as you're alive and
well..." Gratitude choked off his shaking voice. Kirk
bent lower and gently pressed his lips to the green
bruise. *Safe and well... oh, I can't tell you...*
Spock smiled drowsily, drifting in a quiet haze of
well-being. He turned his head slightly and returned
the gesture, intrigued by the smooth textures, feeling
wrapped in soft layers of peace and contentment. His
eyes slid shut and his breathing stretched into the
deep rhythms of normal sleep.
Kirk held his hand a moment longer, then gently set it
back on the blanket and quietly stood up. He lowered
the area lights to dusk level, studied Spock's sleeping
face one last time, and turned to go.
That was when he saw McCoy standing in the doorway.
The doctor was leaning against the door frame, arms
crossed, as if he'd been standing there for a long
time. His expression was unreadable. He said nothing,
only waved Kirk toward him with an imperious finger.
Kirk followed, hitching one shoulder higher than the
other, wondering why he felt vaguely embarrassed.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
"Sit down," said McCoy, locking the office door.
Kirk sat. "Spock shouldn't have been left alone like
that," he began defensively. "What if there'd been
nobody there to wake him at the right time?"
"He wasn't left alone." McCoy took the chair on the
other side of the desk. "I was watching for a good
twenty minutes before he woke."
"Oh." Kirk settled back in his chair, fighting down an
unexplained sense of outraged privacy. "Well, uh... No
"Oh, yes there is." McCoy pinned him with a hard blue
stare. "I observed a medical condition which is, in my
best scientific opinion, extremely dangerous."
"What?! What condition? Isn't Spock all right?"
"For now." McCoy leaned back, not taking his eyes off
Kirk. "Until next time."
"What do you mean: 'next time?'"
"I mean the next time you deliberately take unnecessary
risks-- or he does," McCoy snapped. "This is the sixth
time this year that I've had to patch up one or the
other of you for injuries acquired not in the line of
duty, but because of stupid, heroic, show-off stunts.
I'm getting more than tired of it!"
"Look, Bones," Kirk displayed his most engaging grin.
"We're in a dangerous line of work. You know I have to
go down on all the landing parties; you can't lead from
behind the lines. The risks come with the-"
"Shut up," McCoy cut him off tiredly. "Stop giving me
the same old excuses and listen to what I'm saying. I
told you, *unnecessary* risks. That's exactly what I
meant. Do you want details?"
"I don't understand what you mean by *unnecessary ,*"
"All right, I'll draw pictures! How did Spock get hurt
"You know that already." Kirk looked down at his hands.
"Protecting me from a landslide."
"Right. And that landslide never would have happened if
you hadn't strolled right up to the edge of that cliff!
You knew it was soft earth, not solid rock; a
kindergarten child would have known it couldn't hold
your weight. Spock could have told you. He was, after
all, standing right by your shoulder. Very convenient!"
"I was careless!" Kirk almost shouted. "I was tired,
and I got careless. Don't you think I've been kicking
myself over that?"
"Not in the right place. This isn't an isolated
incident; remember the last time you got hurt?"
"God, yes! That giant tarantula-thing on V'Dikka.
"The natives call it a snolligoster. They gave us
plenty of warning about it: a usually harmless beast,
but very territorial, so keep away from its private
territory. And what did Spock do? Deliberately poke his
head in a snolligoster hole! Of course the damn thing
grabbed him-- and of course you went running in with a
drawn phaser, and of course you ran up and kicked the
snolligoster instead of stunning it, so of course it
turned on *you.* Took me two days to pump the poisons
out of your bloodstream."
"I didn't know what setting would stun it, and I
couldn't shoot at a higher setting for fear of killing
Spock. What was I supposed to do?"
"You could have fired past Spock. The snolligoster was
as big as a truck."
"I-- It was dark. Couldn't be sure..." Kirk realized he
was actually squirming.
"Umm hmmm. And before that you provoked that
carnivorous plant on Venca 5, and Spock got the
"It looked harmless!" *Why am I shouting?*
"Not quite fatal, you mean-- and you've been a starship
captain too long to be so careless. Now before that it
was the forest fire on Earth, where Spock could have
gotten out safely by himself, but you went plunging in
to help and caught that falling conifer across your
back. Before that it was the hypnotic flame-creature
that jack-lighted you and bit Spock when he hauled you
away from it. And before *that* it was the treacherous
tide on Kyngai-- and what possessed Spock to try
swimming, anyway? Of course you saved him-- damn near
killing yourself with exhaustion in the process-- but
he normally stays away from water, hates to swim.
That's what first started me wondering."
"He said he needed the practice," Kirk snapped. "What's
this all about, Bones? What's the point?" The instant
the words were out of his mouth, Kirk got an ominous
feeling that he shouldn't have asked.
"Oh, come on! Do you mean you really can't see the
pattern?" McCoy studied him for a moment, then reached
into the lower desk drawer for the reliable bottle and
glasses. "You've been taking turns."
"At what?" Kirk picked up a glass, avoiding McCoy's
"Arranging accidents for yourselves, that's what."
McCoy filled the glass for him. "You've gotten it down
to a science-- or maybe an art-form: a ritual danger,
rescue, worry and relief. Formal and stately as a
pavane. A classic case. Cheers."
Kirk drained half the glass in one gulp, waited until
he could feel the liquid heat spread evenly through his
body, then took a deep breath and ventured to the next
step. "A classic case of what, Bones?"
"Conversion Hysteria." McCoy took a leisurely sip from
his own glass. "Specifically, a case of Hurt/Comfort
Syndrome. In layman's terms, that means you both want
something very badly, but don't dare take it-- or even
think about it-- directly. Instead, you've invented a
substitute, an indirect approach, this ritualized
smokescreen, all to give yourselves a bare taste of
what you really want, without letting anyone know you
want it-- least of all yourselves. It's a dangerous
game, Jim, and ultimately self-destructive."
"'Conversion"..." --*hysteria.* The implications of the
word annoyed Kirk enough to make him charge ahead. "All
right, you say we've got this-- this-- uh, problem.
You're the doctor, and I'll take your word for it. So
why are we doing it? Do you have any theories? What is
it that we're unconsciously, covering up?"
"Huhhh?" Kirk almost dropped his glass. "...Us?"
"Yes, you. You know damn well that Spock's your best
friend, and you love him dearly. He loves you, just as
much-- though of course he can't admit it. Neither can
you. That's the problem."
"Wha-- But of course I can..." Kirk fumbled. "I mean,
of course I feel... uh, a lot for him, but you can't
just say-- I mean... Dammit, he's a Vulcan!" *Why the
hell is my heart pounding like this?*
"Right. He's a Vulcan, and can't admit to feelings. He
can't even act out what he can't say, except in very
limited ways-- such as jumping between you and danger."
McCoy grinned wryly over the edge of his glass. "You,
on the other hand, are human. A starship captain, with
tons of responsibility on your shoulders, obliged to
set an example of calm, cool, clear-headed efficiency--
no matter what you're feeling. The result is, you don't
know how to express love, either."
"Now wait a minute! I've got a girl in every port. I've
never had any trouble--"
"Seducing women? Of course not." McCoy's smile softened
a bit. "You've got that down to a science, too. The
whole courtship procedure: charming smile and charming
words, candy and flowers, drinks and dinner,
entertainment and a ride home, in the door and a few
words more, off with the clothes and on with the
action. You're very good at it."
"You make it sound awfully cold and mechanical," Kirk
grumbled, wondering if he were blushing.
"'Ritualized', to be precise. There's nothing wrong
with that in itself, so long as you keep enough
flexibility to deal with individual circumstances.
Trouble is, that's the only procedure you know-- and
you certainly can't apply it to Spock."
Kirk snapped his head up, blushing furiously. "So just
what do you want me to do?" he bellowed. "Send flowers
and valentines?!" *Imagine how Spock would react to
"It wouldn't be very effective, but it'd be a damn
sight safer!" McCoy roared right back at him. "Don't
you realize how dangerous your current game is? You
could get killed this way!"
"I-- Game?! Migod, you think we deliberately got caught
in a landslide? For *love*?"
"Yes!" McCoy slammed his hand down on the desk. "Love
is the payoff. Can't you see it yet? The only way you
two know how to express love for each other is to show
concern when one of you is hurt!"
"What? No! I mean--"
"Come off it, Jim. That's what you were doing in the
intensive care unit just now: showing love the only way
you can. I know a love scene when I see one, and that's
exactly what I saw."
"Damn you," Kirk whispered, gritting his teeth. He
wrenched his gaze away from McCoy and onto his shot-
glass. Steady ripples were spreading through the gold
liquid. *Stop that!* he thought, horrified.
"That's why you do it, both of you: setting each other
up, putting yourselves in danger, letting the other
come to the rescue and get hurt, waiting in Sickbay
until the crisis passes-- all for that one little
moment when the rescuer first wakes up and the rescuee
gets to comfort him. That's the payoff, Jim! That one
moment when you can express the love you feel. That's
why you do it."
Kirk didn't say anything. He stared at the glass,
watching the ripples, turning hot and cold by turns.
"That's the whole point of the game," McCoy bored on
relentlessly. "Days-- maybe weeks-- of unconscious
planning, hours of pain and fearful waiting, all that
useless risk and injury, just for a few seconds'
payoff. Dammit, that's too high a price! And too little
return! Do you realize that Spock broke nearly every
bone in his body, just for one hug and kiss? Migod,
what price will he pay for a necking session?!"
"Bones, stop it!" Kirk squeezed his eyes shut. *No, no,
"Jim, *you* have to stop it. Both of you." McCoy
gripped Kirk's shoulder and shook him urgently. "The
game isn't worth it. One of these days you're going to
smash yourselves worse than I can repair, and that will
raid the game for good. What will the survivor do
"No!" Kirk remembered the shadow that had waited at his
back all through the long night in Sickbay. *If Spock
dies... No, no, I can't lose him! Not for some neurotic
game! I can't let him go on like this, torturing
himself for me. I can't... it hurts... Oh, Spock...
"It has to stop now." McCoy leaned back and finished
his brandy, giving Kirk time to regain his precious
self-control. "I can't tell you what to do instead;
that's up to you. I do know that there are countless
safe ways of expressing love, and you'll just have to
experiment until you find one that satisfies both of
you. All I can do is give you time and an opportunity."
He reached over to the desk's viewscreen, punched a few
buttons and studied the readout. "Hmmm. Yes, that'll do
nicely. Look, the *Enterprise* is heading for Starbase
Six for an overhaul and a long R&R for the crew. On the
way there, in four days or so, we'll pass JL471-4--
also known as Lilliput: a quiet, safe, comfortable
planet with no inhabitants but a few scientists
studying the wildlife. We'll drop you and Spock off
there and pick you up on the way back. That'll give you
nearly four weeks to work out some sort of
"Four weeks! I can't possibly take that much time.
Besides, Starbase Six has some of the best night spots
this side of--"
"Medical orders!" McCoy roared at him. "There are lives
at stake here! I'm sending you off to find a solution
for a serious personal problem, not to go carousing
through clip-joints while Spock hides in the computer.
You two are taking medical leave on Lilliput, starting
in four days, or I'll exercise medical authority and
turn you in. I'm not bluffing, Jim."
"All right," Kirk surrendered. He drained the last of
his drink and stood up. "I'll do it, Bones. I'll find a
way, somehow, to get through that Vulcan shell." He
threw McCoy a vague salute and walked out.
*It isn't just Spock!* McCoy wanted to yell after him.
Instead, he only sighed. *Hell, it was hard enough
getting him to accept this much. And now I've got to
convince Spock, too. Oh, headache!*
It took McCoy nearly three days to come up with a
tight, logical, foolproof argument. It took another
half-day to phrase the argument in stiffly proper
terminology. Spock woke on the fourth morning with his
mind clear and sharp as ever, but McCoy was ready for
"You're progressing well, Spock," he began, glancing
from his handful of papers to the diagnostic panel. "At
this rate, you should be able to walk again in another
two weeks or less."
"I can manage at present with crutches," Spock noted.
"Not for long periods of time. I'm prescribing medical
leave on Lilliput, which we'll be passing this
afternoon. The *Enterprise* will pick you up when it
returns from Starbase Six. Of course, I'll send someone
along with you." McCoy tried to sound nonchalant while
waiting for the reaction.
It wasn't long in coming. Spock's eyebrows winged up to
his bangs. "Lilliput?" he almost gulped. "I was not
aware that JL471-4 possessed medical facilities
superior to those of the ship, much less those of the
"It doesn't," McCoy continued smoothly, "but the
research team there should be quite capable of
rendering any assistance necessary." McCoy waited
again, suppressing a grin.
"Then may I ask why you require me to take medical
leave on Lilliput?" Spock sounded ever-so-faintly
"You may ask." McCoy decided not to tease any further.
He put on his best professional face and recited:
"There is a serious socio-psychological problem
requiring your undivided attention, which you could
best apply far from the distractions of the ship or the
Starbase, on a quiet world like Lilliput."
"What is the nature of the problem?" Spock actually
*Must be eaten up with curiosity,* McCoy judged. "It
concerns the unusual and self-destructive behavior of
two officers on this ship. They have, without spoken
agreement or even conscious decision, entered into a
dangerous private ritual as a substitute for emotional
communication. Of course, we can't allow this to
"Indeed," Spock enthused. "I have often noticed that,
for creatures who place such high value on their
emotions, humans are often remarkably incapable of
expressing them efficiently. What is the nature of the
"Alternately, one or the other will expose himself to
danger-- just barely within the other's capacity to
survive-- thus obliging the other to rescue him at the
expense of personal injury. While the rescuer is
recuperating, the rescued party waits for him to
recover, making a special point of being present when
the other first awakens. That's when the emotional
exchange takes place. It usually lasts for only a
minute or two, but for the sake of that brief exchange,
they're willing to go through all the rest of it. I've
observed them doing this no less than six times in the
past year." It wasn't easy to keep his face straight,
or even his voice, but McCoy managed.
"Fascinating," Spock commented. "I assume that you
would not require my assistance if you were able to
persuade them to forego this dangerous ceremony.
Therefore, the emotional satisfaction involved must be
extremely important to them."
"It is." *Now we get to it!* "It seems to be the only
method they know of to express their feelings for each
"Remarkable. And the emotions involved are too strong
to be effectively suppressed?"
"Much too strong," McCoy firmly agreed. "In fact,
previous suppression is one cause of the problem. It's
like trying to pen up the Colorado River in a dam
without a floodgate. The water backs up, the pressure
increases, and sooner or later the river finds a way
out: over the top, or spilling out at the sides, or
seeping through the surrounding land, or by breaking
the dam. In any case, the uncontrolled leaks are
dangerous. Strengthening possible leakage sites doesn't
work: there's enough volume and pressure there for the
water-- in this case, the feelings-- to go through some
of the damnedest contortions in order to find a way
"A critical situation, then," Spock concurred, bemused
by the striking analogy. "It is imperative that a safe
outlet be found, and quickly. I assume that you cannot
think of any yourself?"
"True," McCoy admitted. "It's gotten so intense between
those two, so fiercely personal, that I honestly don't
know what to suggest to them. Simple generalizations
won't work. They have to be made aware of the problem
so they can find a suitable outlet for themselves."
"Safety may present a problem," Spock considered. "I
assume, from the nature of the bizarre temporary
solution, that the emotions involved are negative:
hostility, hatred, jealousy perhaps."
"Oh, no," McCoy corrected. "Quite the contrary. The
only emotion involved is a very positive one. Love."
"Love?!" For an instant, Spock looked downright pole-
axed. "But... exposing each other to danger, injury..."
"-- has nothing to do with the nature of the emotion
itself. It's simply the only outlet available. They get
themselves hurt so they can comfort each other. See?"
"Astonishing." Spock shook his head thoughtfully.
"Truly astonishing. The illogical convolutions of human
emotion never cease to amaze me."
McCoy almost exploded at that, but managed to hold his
reaction down to a choked snicker. It sounded like a
cough, and Spock took it for a sign of polite
"In that case, since only the safety of the
participants is involved, they must be removed from all
exposure to danger. Certainly, they must be sent off
the ship, as well as made aware of the problem, as
quickly as possible. Perhaps the best procedure would
be to place them together in a safe and unstimulating
environment, under medical orders, to discover a more
direct and efficient way of expressing their, uhm,
affection. To facilitate such efforts, they should be
isolated from other social contacts which might inhibit
or distract them."
"Agreed." McCoy smiled and dropped the bomb. "Then I'll
send Jim down to Lilliput with you and 1630 today."
It took Spock a few seconds to put that together. When
he did, the expression on his face was, in McCoy's
estimation, sufficient payoff for the last four days'
* * *
The isolation McCoy had hoped for didn't happen
immediately; regulations required medical checkups for
the planetary research station's personnel, and that
gave Spock and Kirk legitimate reason to spend the
first day visiting the scientists.
McCoy glowered at both of them as they met in the
transporter room. Kirk, carrying a suitcase and
unobtrusively supporting Spock, sheepishly studied his
feet. Spock, perched uncomfortably on a pair of
crutches, looked at the ceiling. McCoy wasn't fooled.
"Open that suitcase, Jim," he snapped. "Show me what
Kirk started to complain, caught McCoy's look, and
meekly opened the suitcase. McCoy prodded through it
meticulously as a customs inspector. "Umm Hmm. Three
books. No way; one's plenty." Kirk glumly picked out
two volumes and handed them to Scott. McCoy looked
further. "Nope, not the portable chess set either. Take
this back, too, Scotty."
"Aw, come on, Bones," Kirk protested. "We always play
chess after dinner. It's an old tradition."
"It's a substitute for communication! That's not what
you're here for. Hmm, the rest looks harmless." He
closed the case with a snap. "Now let's go."
"Yes, Doctor," Kirk sighed. "Beam us down, Scotty."
Scott grinned and complied.
The little party materialized outside the main dome of
the research station. The door opened and a dozen
scientists trotted out, casually dressed, shouting
assorted welcomes, inviting the visitors inside,
jostling each other in their eagerness to swap
introductions and tell the Starfleet officers about
their research. It was obvious that the medical
examination wouldn't be conducted right away.
Kirk accepted the hospitality, including cups of local
herb tea liberally laced with brandy, and settled
himself unobtrusively in a corner. McCoy was chatting
happily with the scientists and Spock was bent eagerly
over a tape reader screen, both looking relaxed and
quite at home. Spock actually seemed to be enjoying
*...Hope so,* Kirk thought. *Always knew there was a
passionate soul hidden somewhere under that Vulcan
armor... But I never expected it to surface like-- * He
glanced at Spock's bandaged legs. *--Like that! No, not
like that, not again, my friend... * he thought,
studying the elegant point of an ear, the gleaming
smoothness of sleek ebony hair. *My best friend, None
better anywhere. Yes, Bones. Communication. Find a
way... No matter what embarrassment it costs him, or
what pain it costs me. I can't lose him. Not for Vulcan
pride or my reticence or anything else.*
"... priceless opportunity to see civilization just
beginning," the chief xenoanthropologist was saying.
"The killer whales were nomadic hunters until just six
generations ago, when they stumbled on this lagoon. The
single entrance made it easy for them to trap a large
school of the neo-carp-- we call them goldfish-- which
assured a steady food supply."
"Killer whales?" Kirk yawned, intrigued despite
himself. "They can live on goldfish?"
"Ah, those are our pet-names for them," Doctor Brown
smiled, happy to elaborate on his specialty. "The fish
strongly resemble goldfish, despite the size
difference, and the intelligent sea mammals Earth
killer whales. Come have a look."
Kirk got up and came over to gaze at the tape viewer
screen. Spock hitched his chair aside to make room.
Sure enough, the screen displayed a view of a school of
glittering golden fish, their tails and fins elongated
into transparent veils. They were accompanied by sleek
blue killer whales, no more than twice the size of
their golden charges, wearing belts of coarse rope. As
Kirk watched, two killer whales drove a particular
goldfish out of the school, actually bound it with
their belts and dragged it away.
"Like shepherds, or cowboys," Kirk commented, "cutting
a steer out of the herd. Is that one earmarked for the
"Eventually," said the scientist. "They do something
odd with it first. Also, the killer whales are
technically farmers more than herders. In that wide
patch of seaweed behind them, you'll note a group of
killer whales pulling out certain weeds and planting
bits of others. They know that the goldfish prefer the
second sort of weed, and they've learned how to
encourage its growth."
"This reveals excellent powers of observation," Spock
"Oh, true, true. They figured out agriculture in just
four generations of settled living. Ah, now we come to
the interesting part. Look at that remarkable mosaic on
the lagoon floor."
Kirk looked, and saw a pattern drawn in the white sand.
It was filled with rows of bright pebbles and shells,
and did look remarkably like a picture of a killer
whale. Just ahead of the mosaic was a donut-shaped
stone. A third killer whale, apparently quite old to
judge from its faded colors, swam up and inspected the
tied goldfish, then nodded once in what seemed to be
approval. The other two killer whales dragged the
goldfish onto the stone and held it still. The third
killer whale nodded solemnly twice, then set its jaws
just behind the goldfish's head and bit hard. The
goldfish jerked once, then lay still.
Spock looked away.
The other two killer whales pulled off the rope-belts
and began, with surprising neatness, to gut and skin
the carcass. The old killer whale took the goldfish's
severed head, laid it carefully on the sand just in
front of the "face" of the mosaic, bowed three times
and backed off, out of range of the camera.
"Damned if that doesn't look like a sacrificial
offering!" said Kirk. "Is that mosaic a-- an idol to
some sort of killer whale god?"
"Goddess," Doctor Brown corrected. "It has the markings
of a female. That's the only theory that covers all the
bases, and if it's correct, that pretty lady is some
sort of fertility goddess. Here--" He changed the tape,
showing an overhead view of the killer whales dancing
in a complex pattern that centered on the mosaic.
"That's their spring mating festival. Killer whales are
generally monogamous and they usually dance with their
mates during the first warm tide of spring; but nowhere
else do we find a whole community of them dancing
together in a group pattern. Apparently, they've
changed their dance to honor the Lady there."
"So she's a love goddess," Kirk laughed. "Ha! 'Foam-
Spock looked away again, unaccountably embarrassed.
On the screen, all the killer whales leaped into the
air together, gleaming in the sun, and dived gracefully
back into the water.
"Beautiful," Kirk murmured.
"Mrrrowr," echoed a voice from the floor.
Kirk looked down to see a small sandy-brown cat twining
affectionately around his ankles. He bent down to pet
it. It purred and leaned against his hand. "Pretty
cat," he commented, picking it up. "Did you bring it
from Earth with you?"
"No," Doctor Brown laughed, "she's a native. We found
her as an abandoned cub and raised her ourselves. By
the time she was big enough to survive out in the
woods, she'd made up her mind that she wanted to stay
with us. We just couldn't make her leave."
"Oh, yes, cats are like that," Kirk chuckled, tickling
the cat's chin. "What do you call her?"
"'Leo giganticus', though it hardly fits this
particular girl. She may have started out as a lion,
but she's ended up as a pussycat."
"'Leo... giganticus?'" Kirk stared at the little cat,
who responded by licking his nose. "The 'Giant Lion'?"
"That's right. Second biggest land-going predator on
the planet. The Tiny Tyrannosaurus is somewhat taller,
and the Anchovy Whale out in the big sea is nearly five
feet long, but this little darling is right up there in
the heavy-weight class."
"Those killer whales we observed vary in length from
six to eight inches long," Spock added, noting Kirk's
dropped jaw. "The goldfish are of approximately Earth-
Doctor Brown shrugged at his guest's ignorance. "The
planet's constant tectonic activity results in shallow
seas, numerous low mountains, tiny valleys, and
literally millions of ponds and streams. Except for a
few trees, all lifeforms are small. There's no
percentage in being big."
"What's the matter, Jim?" McCoy grinned at Kirk's pole-
axed look. "Didn't you do your homework? This world
isn't called Lilliput for nothing."
Uh uh..." Kirk replied. *Safe as a playground.* "And we
have four weeks to play Gulliver, eh?" Kirk hoped his
expression showed none of the sudden, irrational anger
he felt. *It's not as if we were suicidal, dammit! ...
But... what if Spock is? Migod, has it gotten that
Kirk spent the rest of the evening keeping and eye on
Spock, no way reassured by seeing nothing out of the
ordinary in the Vulcan's behavior. Long after they'd
retired for the night, Kirk lay awake in his sleeping
bag, anxiously watching Spock's ribs rise and fall in
the slow rhythms of sleep. It seemed to him that he'd
never before seen his friend look so fragile, so
vulnerable, or so dear. When sleep finally came, it was
laced with disturbing dreams of falling rocks and
threatening monsters, the only path to safety being a
tangled trail where kitten-sized lions and tiny
dinosaurs led the way.
Early in the morning, they transported to the
surveyor's cabin, two thousand miles north of the main
station. Kirk took a deep breath of the resin-scented
air and looked about him, approving of what he saw. The
small field-stone cabin nestled among low conifers that
resembled white pines, a small garden of mixed flowers
and vegetables half-circling its long side, a mossy
path leading from its front door to a large-pond/small-
lake some fifty yards away. Warm yellow sunlight lay
like spilled honey over the scene and gleamed like fire
from the huge solar window on the south side of the
cabin's roof. The light wind carried countless soft
sounds of wildlife from the surrounding forest.
"Lovely place," Kirk decreed. "I can't think of a
better shore leave spot. Let's go in and set up
housekeeping." He headed up the path discreetly slow,
letting Spock keep pace without too much effort.
Spock said nothing, his mind busy with managing the
awkward crutches, observing details of the local
ecosystem, and covertly watching Kirk. The captain
appeared relaxed and comfortable in these surroundings,
revealing no symptoms of his unhealthy desire for
physical danger, though Spock knew this could be
misleading. Even the safest of environments could
contain hazards, if one labored diligently enough at
*...Which he will doubtless do,* Spock considered
gloomily. *I must endeavor to stay near him at all
times, recognize potential dangers before he can, and
inconspicuously, steer him away from them.
Difficult...* Spock studied the cheerful expression on
Kirk's face, the exuberant vitality displayed in the
smooth motions, the easy strength and deep sensuality
evident in the otherwise-well-cared-for body, and he
cringed to think of all that health and beauty poisoned
by a single psychological error. *It must be corrected!
I must deter him from indulging in this destructive
ritual. Unforgivable that I have ignorantly assisted
him for so long! ...My responsibility, then. I must
diligently encourage him toward safer expressions of
his ... affection ... for myself. My own
proprieties/preferences are irrelevant. I will do
whatever is necessary ... to save him...*
The cabin was unlocked. They stepped inside, canvassing
the interior easily in the light from the great solar
window. The main room was furnished with a wide bed,
several bookshelves and sample cases along the walls, a
broad table and chair with a small self-powered study
lamp, a clothes rack and chest of drawers in the
corner, and a huge stone fireplace with a shaggy
fireproof hearth-rug. To either side of the fireplace
stood a door. The first lead to the bathroom which
boasted a well-stocked medicine cabinet, a small basin
with no water source except a presently-empty bucket,
and earth-toilet, a plain ceramic bathtub with a pump
connected to the solar-window/water-collector, and
nothing else. The kitchen possessed another basin and
bucket, another wooden table, a small cabinet full of
pots, pans, dishes and utensils, a few food storage
cabinets, and no modern conveniences except an overhead
light and a cold-box. Kirk conducted the inspection
tour, commenting happily about how primitive and
unspoiled everything was, while Spock hitched his way
over to the bed and sat down on it. He stood the
crutches against the footboard and glowered at them
while he rubbed his sore armpits. The crutches were at
least half an inch too long, and using them for any
length of time was annoyingly painful. He wondered how
McCoy could have made such an error; for all his human
failings, the doctor was normally quite meticulous
about his work.
"The larder isn't very well stocked," Kirk reported,
coming back from the kitchen with a small box of herb
tea and a jar of pickled sardine-like fish. "But
there's a guide book to the local foods. Let's go out
and -- Uhm, no, you stay here. I'll go out to the
garden and pick breakfast."
Spock nodded agreement, silently biting back the words
'be careful.' He didn't think Kirk could get into too
much trouble in the vegetable garden, at least not this
soon. Nonetheless, he monitored Kirk's progress by
following the captain's off-key whistling of "Red River
Valley" as he picked his way through the plants.
Nothing untoward happened, and Spock felt both relieved
and a bit sheepish when Kirk came back in with an
armload of salad greens and mushrooms.
Kirk dropped his garden-plunder on the table, looked
around for a moment, then slapped his head in
exasperation. "Damn! I forgot -- no running water. I
guess we're supposed to fetch it in from the pond, or
maybe the stream." He went back to the kitchen and
came out with the bucket. "I'll only be gone a few
minutes. Be careful while I'm gone."
*Me be careful?* Spock thought that over while Kirk
trotted out the door, leaving it open behind him as if
to keep a clear view of the interior. *Just what does
he think I would do? One might think that _I_ were the
one displaying self-destructive tendencies! I must
consider the significance of this symptom ...* He
stretched out on the bed, relaxed, and settled into
There was a soft scratching sound at the door. Spock
snapped his eyes open and turned to look. Peering
around the door-jamb was an animal the size of a small
squirrel, shaped and colored like a fangless Vulcan
sehlat or a fat Earth brown bear. Spock watched,
bemused, as the little beast sniffed and looked and
listened. Eventually, it toddled across the threshold,
followed by another tiny bear, then a third, then half
a dozen more. Spock pondered the possibility that they
were social animals. pack hunters, while the little
scouting party reconnoitered the front part of the
room, noses atwitch, converging on the table. It wasn't
until they began shinnying efficiently up the table
legs that Spock realized they were after the food.
"Be gone!" he commanded, sitting up. "Shoo!" The little
bears paused, watching him, but didn't retreat. "Go
away!" He waved his arms at them.
The bears, guessing that Spock wasn't mobile, kept a
cautious eye on him as they resumed their assault on
breakfast. Spock paused in his ignored exhortations to
consider that the bears were familiar with people, and
with the cabin. They could even recognize food inside a
glass container. Then the bears rolled the jar off the
table. It smashed on the floor with an enormous noise
and mess. The little beasts on the floor converged on
the ruins, dug out the fish, and gobbled them up with
notable speed. The bears on the table turned their
attention to the vegetables.
*Sterner measures required.* Spock lifted one foot --
an uncomfortable maneuver in his condition -- pulled
off one boot and threw it. It whizzed a scant inch over
the heads of the fuzzy freeloaders. They only crouched
lower and ate faster.
*Shameless little thieves!* Spock realized he would
have to intervene personally, and soon. He made a grab
for the crutches and missed. The perverse prosthetics
fell over, bounced once, and slithered out of reach. He
pawed uselessly after them, hearing the bears chomp
their way through the mushrooms. When he looked up,
half the vegetables were gone. Even if he rolled off
the bed and crawled, he'd never reach the food in time
to save it. Exasperated beyond endurance, Spock
employed the only tactic available. He leaned back and
yelled for help.
"Jim! Come quickly!"
Down by the brook, Kirk sat bolt upright, dropping the
"Jim! *Help!* BEARS!!!"
Old habits snapped into place. Kirk forgot everything
he'd been told about the planet's harmlessness and the
size of the wildlife. He jumped to his feet, whipped
out his hand phaser and went thundering back up the
slope to the cabin.
Spock was on the point of swearing in ancient lowland
Vulcanian when Kirk burst through the door, phaser
first, ready to do battle with something at least twice
the size of a grizzly. What struck Spock most was
Kirk's expression. He could describe it only as
'ecstatic martyrdom.' All he could think was that this
proved everything McCoy had told him. He was perfectly
Kirk skidded to a halt, saw Spock unharmed but upset,
noted no sign of any large dangerous animals, and
wondered if the bears were in the kitchen or on the
roof. "Where are they?" he panted.
Kirk looked. He did a classic double-take. His phaser
hand dropped and so did his jaw. "...Bears?" he
The fuzzy burglars looked up, squeaked in alarm, and
fled the table as fast as they could waddle.
"They have," Spock pointed out, "completely devoured
Kirk burst out laughing. He stuffed the phaser back on
his belt, ducked into the kitchen, returned with a
broom and gently swatted the last of the miniature
bandits out the door. He was still chuckling when he
turned to survey the mess the little beasts had left.
"I fail to see anything amusing in the theft of our
food," Spock grumbled. "We shall have to start over,
from the beginning."
"Yes, but ... Heh! Bears!" Kirk laughed as he swept up
the broken jar and the remaining scraps of greens.
"When I heard you call, I thought ... Oh, hell, I
imagined a pack of grizzlies trying to have *you* for
Spock recalled that, among humans, the emotion of love
often manifested itself as protectiveness. *Of course,
that is part of the problem.* ... "I was in no danger,
I assure you. I was merely... exasperated at my
inability to deal with the animals."
Kirk glanced at him, noting the fallen crutches and
missing boot. *Actually confessing to 'exasperation?'
Must have been furious... and helpless...* "Well, I
must've looked pretty silly myself, running in here
ready for... Ha! Loaded for bear!" He brought the other
boot and helped Spock into it. "Come on, let's go hunt
up some more food."
Spock winced at the thought of using those miserable
crutches again. "I... may be unable to assist you. I
find these particular pair of prosthetics most ill-
suited to my size."
"Odd. McCoy's usually more careful than that."
*Complaints? Must really hurt.* "No problem: you can
lean on me." Kirk pulled Spock's arm across his
shoulders and hauled him upright. Unfortunately, Spock,
being the taller by several inches, his feet still
dragged on the ground. "Hmmm, looks like I'll have to
carry you..." *Did McCoy set this up deliberately?!*
Kirk slid his arms under Spock's shoulders and knees,
and managed to pick him up without too much effort.
Spock made no comment, kept perfectly still, and Kirk
carried him out into the garden.
They spent the rest of the morning picking vegetables
in companionable silence. Kirk retrieved the bucket,
noted a number of the small sardine-like fish swimming
in it, and found he could make a good-sized catch in a
few minutes by using a large handkerchief for a
fishnet. With the aid of the guidebook, Spick managed
to collect a good assortment of wild nuts, fruit and
edible fungi that Kirk had overlooked earlier. Kirk
brought the food in first, then carried Spock back into
the cabin and set him to building the cook-fire while
he set the table. Lunch consisted of a large mixed
salad, fresh mushrooms, fried fish and herb tea, with
plenty left over for dinner. They ate ravenously and
enjoyed it hugely.
"Damn, that was good," said Kirk, leaning back and
surveying his emptied plate. "Can't remember when I've
had a better meal."
"'Hunger is the best sauce,'" Spock quoted.
"True..." Kirk couldn't think of anything else to say.
In fact, for the first time in ages, he couldn't think
what to do next. The silence stretched. Strangely
anxious, he looked around for ideas. All that met his
eyes were the dirty dishes. He took them into the
kitchen and used the last of the water to wash them.
That led to re-filling the buckets. After that, there
was firewood to find and bring in. Kirk managed to keep
busy for three more hours before he ran out of chores.
Spock, meanwhile, busied himself with tending the fire
and reading the kitchen guidebook, which contained
instructions for finding, gathering-or-catching,
cleaning, and cooking every edible life-form in the
area. He skipped the section on animals and read the
section on plant life. When he finished it, he went
back to the beginning and read it over. He was going
through it for the third time when Kirk came over to
the fire and sat down beside him on the hearthrug,
giving a curiously resigned sigh.
Spock pretended to continue reading. Kirk looked at the
fire, looked at the windowed ceiling, looked at his
hands, fidgeted, and finally turned to look at Spock.
"Hmm, you know, Spock..." he began, "we're here for...
more than just a few weeks' rest."
"I know." Spock closed the book.
"It's because we have a... sort of a... communications
Spock glanced up at him. Their eyes met for a moment,
then darted away. Kirk chewed his lip, studied the
fire, and tried again.
"Look, did McCoy talk to you about... uhm..."
"Yes." Spock squirmed slightly, tossed another twig
into the fire, and picked at imaginary lint on his
"Well, there's a... barrier, and it's causing trouble.
Serious trouble." Kirk laced and unlaced his fingers.
"We have to -- to *talk* to each other, get through
that barrier somehow, really... communicate."
"It won't be easy. I really don't know where to start,
or how, or... anything."
"Well..." *This is like feeling around for hairline
cracks in a solid steel bulkhead* "Damn."
Kirk grabbed a local-version pinecone and hurled it
into the fire, scattering sparks. Spock flinched,
startled and disturbed. He had read that frustrated
communication among humans often manifested itself in
violent action, but he had never personally seen such a
graphic example before. *Indeed, McCoy was right. The
problem is serious!"
Kirk took a deep breath, as if about to plunge into
cold water. "Look, Spock, we're just going to have to
talk to each other -- about anything, everything,
thoughts and ... feelings, no matter how difficult it
is -- for either of us."
"All right." Kirk sighed again and lay back on the
hearthrug, wishing to high heaven that McCoy had let
him bring the chess set. It was hard to talk directly
to Spock without that little screen of game-figures
between them. *Maybe Bones was right. It is a barrier,
a prop... But, dammit, I need a prop! Crutches...*
"Say, do your arms still hurt from those things?"
Spock blinked, bewildered by the sudden change of
subject. "No, I am quite recovered. I only regret that
my mobility is severely curtailed without them."
"I don't mind carrying you. Or does that hurt, too?"
"Oh, no, not at all."
"Fine. How are your legs doing?"
"Recovering rapidly. The unavoidable swelling curtails
movement, but the tissues are effectively regenerated."
Kirk smiled. *Same old Spock. Ask 'how are you?' and
get a medical treatise* "I mean, is there much pain?"
"There is some slight discomfort," Spock admitted.
"In other words, it hurts." Kirk sat up. "It so happens
that I can do something about that. McCoy gave me
instructions: rub the stiffness out, twice a day. I
should have done it this morning, in fact. Get out of
"I -- I find the atmosphere somewhat chill..." Spock
demurred, unaccountably embarrassed.
"Just a minute." Kirk got up, put another log on the
fire and closed all the windows. Then he went into the
bathroom and opened the bathtub spigot. The water
poured into the tub, draining the solar collector;
unchecked sunlight streamed in through the overhead
window, and the cabin began to warm up rapidly.
"There," Kirk said, coming back to the fire. "Now
there's a hot bath waiting."
"You may indulge, if you wish," Spock replied,
resignedly slipping off his boots, socks, uniform
trousers and shirt. "I have never been attracted to the
idea of submerging myself in water."
*Then why did you go swimming on Kynygai?! Oh, it's
bad!* "I suppose I can always pump the water back up."
Kirk sighed, thinking of the effort it would take to
fill the collector again. *Life in the raw, all right!
... Don't complain. It's necessary.* "Lie down on your
Spock stretched out on the hearthrug, glumly observing
the fire. As far as he could tell, they had managed a
personal communications exchange of only sixteen
sentences: ten from Kirk, six from him. His
contributions had consisted, almost entirely, of one
word apiece. *Shamefully insufficient,* he judged. *I
am dealing incompetently with the problem! No Vulcan
should perform so poorly! (Shame!) Jim is attempting to
deal with the situation, and I have been considerably
less than helpful. (And I must help him!) ... But what
could I say? What should I do? I am most
(deliberately?) inexperienced in this area...*
Kirk sat down behind Spock, paused for a moment to
remember how he was supposed to do this, then took one
narrow foot in his lap and began kneading it gently.
Spock noted the light pressure, felt the small pains in
his foot beginning to dissipate, concluded that Kirk
was proficient at this task, and turned his attention
back to the primary problem.
*Crisis situation,* he considered. *I must learn to
handle it, and quickly. Emotional communication... (A
Vulcan would sooner learn techniques of assassination.)
Wait! Anomaly: Vulcans do learn techniques of... (Tal
Shaya. The lirpa. The ahn-woon. Others...) Logical
inconsistency! We suppress emotion because it clouds
logic and leads to violence, which ends in destruction.
Destruction is always undesirable. 'Reverence for
life.' Surak's primary construct. Yet... we learn
techniques of destruction. Why? Analyze!*
Kirk set down the relaxed foot and took up the other
one. They were, he considered, very interesting feet:
sharp-tendoned, long-toed, high-arched. The outer edge
of the foot barely touched the ground; most of the
calluses were on the heel and the roots of the toes. He
wondered if the soles were ticklish, but decided not to
experiment just now. It wouldn't help unkink those
*What was I taught?* Spock pondered. *'There are rare
circumstances under which logic dictates no other
course.' So: violence motivated by logic is acceptable,
but violence motivated by emotions is not. That appears
consistent (Appears? Be sure.) ... Wait. If the effect
is the same, why should the motivation make any
difference? ...But certainly, it makes a difference!
Emotional violence is uncontrolled, blind, irrational,
while logically-motivated violence is... logical... No,
one can't do that. Circular reasoning: illegitimate.
The heat in the cabin was uncomfortably high for a
human. Kirk paused to strip down to his briefs, then
resumed work on Spock's legs. The calves and shins now,
one at a time: even relaxed, the muscles felt as hard
as pine wood.
*One simply cannot say,* Spock gnawed over the knotted
problem, *that logic is right and emotion wrong.
(Though I was taught that as a child. The reasons --
rationalizations? -- came later...) One must show why.
(Show cause! So much misery and effort -- there had to
be a reason for it!) Logic is... orderly and
predictable. Emotion is not. (Is it? Does not anger
reliably make one wish to do harm, while love makes one
wish to protect, to be kind, to make one's beloved
happy?) If that were always true, we would not be
here! (No, the problem here is love denied its direct
expression.) Indeed! Protection -- and relief at my
eventual safety -- those are the only he knows. (What
of the others?) I... do not allow others. How can he
show kindness to me when I do not acknowledge kindness?
How can he attempt to make me happy when I refuse to
feel happiness? (Own fault, then.) Yes...*
Spock laced his fingers together and pressed the
knuckles against his mouth. Kirk's hands, climbing his
left thigh, had reached the site of some serious
cramps. The pressure was not noticeably painful, but
the relief afterward more than made up for the pain
*I do not even know how to feel happiness!* Spock
berated himself. *Only not-sad, not-in-pain, not-
frustrated... (All negative states.) True, nothing
positive. Thus I allow Jim no positive expression of
his feeling -- only these costly rescues from pain...
(Is this where logic has brought us?) Surely, it was
meant to do better than this!*
Kirk's hands shifted to the other thigh, and promptly
struck a knot of swollen muscle. The sudden,
distracting pain made Spock grunt with surprise. Kirk
snatched his hands away as if burned.
"Am I hurting you?"
"Yes, but it is necessary." Spock was too preoccupied
to phrase his words carefully. "Please continue."
"Okay, but... that doesn't seem right." Kirk resumed
the pressure, very cautiously, very gently. It took a
long time to make the cramp yield.
*Examine premises,* Spock deliberated. *One's logic is
no better than its basic premises. Vulcan adopted the
philosophy of logic and emotional suppression in order
to survive. Survival is the only purpose our logic
serves. So there. (And what is survival?) Non-
extinction. (No more?) Surely more! A stone is not
dead; neither is it alive. Life is... an organic
process. There. (Nothing more? Plants live, and
animals; do we only imitate them?) Certainly not! We...
think. Yes, and strive to think well. Intelligence,
then. (But computers think, and are not alive.) Of
course, if one could develop an organic computer... (Is
that what we are supposed to be?) This is a horrible
Spock snapped his head up, his back taut, fingers
digging into the hearthrug. All those old human jokes,
half-serious accusations, distant insults, had finally
Kirk pulled his hands away, certain that this reaction
was his doing. "What happened, Spock? Did I hit a raw
Spock didn't answer. He stared into the fire, jaw
"Spock?" Seriously worried, Kirk edged away from him.
"What did I do? What's wrong?"
Spock blinked, remembering his presence, and turned to
look at him. His expression was unreadable, but it
certainly wasn't his usual impassivity. "I," he
enunciated carefully, "am not an organic computer."
"I -- I never thought you were."
"No..." Spock relaxed slowly. "Not you. Vulcan. But...
surely there is more..." He looked down at his hands.
"I do not think we were meant to stop there. I do not
think even my father would have been satisfied with an
organic computer. I think I... have made a basic
"What error?" Kirk edged closer. "Can I help?"
Spock looked at him. *For his sake, I must not
refuse...* "Perhaps you can. Certainly, I have no idea
where to begin. I must..." He looked away, self-
conscious again. "After all these years of pursuing too
narrow an ideal, I must find what there is to life --
my own, specifically -- beyond mere existence and
logical function." *McCoy would be outrageously pleased
to hear that... How fortunate that we are alone!*
Kirk dutifully applied himself to the problem. The only
answer he could think of was a ridiculously simple one.
"Would you believe me if I said: 'feelings?'"
"I think that is too general a term." Spock gave him a
faint, sardonic smile. "Need I remind you that some
'feelings' are hazardous to one's health?"
"Uhm, no..." *That means he understands his danger!*
Kirk thought. *Maybe this -- this 'philosophical'
approach is the only way he can deal with it. Help
him!* He looked about for some answer, and noticed the
color of the light streaming through the windows. "How
about, uhm, 'aesthetic appreciation?'"
"Indeed." *I had forgotten that. Vulcans are allowed to
appreciate beauty in art... perhaps also in Nature.
This area looks promising.* "What would you suggest
that I appreciate?"
Kirk grinned and tossed Spock's clothes at him. "Get
into these, and then let's go out and watch the
Spock complied without comment. Kirk pulled his
trousers on, picked Spock up, carried him out of the
cabin and down to the lake shore. They sat on the grass
and watched the sun setting over the edge of the hills,
the changing light turning the water to multi-colored
Just as the last of the solar disk disappeared, there
came a faint rustling among the low bushes and a troop
of little horse-shaped animals emerged. The two held
perfectly still, and after a moment the shy creatures
ventured down to the water's edge to drink.
"Look," Kirk whispered. "They're unicorns."
Spock shook his head slightly. The tiny equines
actually possessed two horns, though they were very
closely set and tightly spiraled together. Nor were the
beasts the snowy color of legend; their coats were a
remarkable dark green, spotted with pale blue.
*Camouflage,* Spock guessed. *They could hide readily
under those blue-flowered bushes...*
At that moment, one of the neo-unicorns turned to look
at them, ears pricked forward, nostrils flared. Kirk
did his best to imitate a tree stump. Cautiously, the
little creature stepped forward to investigate them.
*Doubtless our scent is different from that of local
predators,* Spock thought. *Still, its fearlessness is
The unicorn came closer, sniffed Spock's knee, poked
him experimentally with its horn, decided he was
harmless, and amiably rested its chin on his thigh.
Intrigued, Spock stretched out a slow and careful hand.
The unicorn sniffed his fingers and flicked wary ears,
but didn't withdraw. Very gently, Spock reached down
and stroked the silky coat. His hand covered the little
unicorn's back. The tiny creature leaned against the
stroking hand clearly enjoying itself.
"I don't believe it," Kirk whispered, not meaning to be
Spock did hear that. He looked up in surprise. The
unicorn snorted softly, pulled away, and trotted back
to its herd. "Believe what, Jim?"
"Ah, I was just thinking out loud, that's all," Kirk
evaded, furiously embarrassed and hoping it didn't
show. "Nothing important, really."
*Encourage communication!* "We did agree to share
our... thoughts," Spock reminded, "no matter how
"Well, this is, ah, embarrassing," Kirk squirmed.
"Something I really have no right to ask about..."
"We agreed not to allow embarrassment to inhibit
"Uh, true..." Kirk gnawed his lip. "I was just thinking
of the, er, legend of the unicorn. It's an obscure bit
of Earth mythology."
"Indeed. I have not heard of it. What is this legend?"
"Oh, just that..." Kirk realized he was blushing.
"Well, the unicorn is supposed to be a symbol of
purity, and very shy of people. The only kind of person
a unicorn will come to, voluntarily, is a -- a virgin.
Of course, that doesn't apply to real unicorns. It's
just a legend."
Spock blinked, tightly controlling his physiological
reactions. *I did insist. He did warn me. We did
agree... Communicate.* "Yes," he said stiffly, looking
away. "The legend is correct in that particular."
"What?!" Kirk gaped at him. "You mean you -- Not ever?
Not once? Not even with -- Uh, I'm sorry. I have no
right to ask. Please forget I said anything."
*Communicate! Regardless of personal... sensibilities.*
"You may ask, Jim." Spock's voice was a marvel of
serenity. "The answer to your question is no."
'But..." Kirk stared at him, face printed with lines of
concern, sympathy and bewilderment. "Leila. You said
she made you happy."
Spock blinked at that. He had never really understood
the emotional effects of human sexuality. To link
completed mating with the relief of tension he could
comprehend, but to equate it with the positive quality
of 'happiness' was beyond him. Perhaps the progression
was automatic for humans. *Or for Vulcans? How should I
know? I have never completed...* "We did not advance
beyond the ... courtship behavior. For their own
preservation, the spores discouraged violent emotions.
You recall the extreme efforts you were obliged to make
in order to, as you put it, 'get under that thick
Vulcan hide' of mine."
"Yes. I'm still sorry about that, Spock. You know I
didn't mean any of those things."
"I know. Only the spores made it necessary. They also
prevented us from attaining an effective level of...
excitement." He paused, trying to think of an exact
description. "It was very strange, very pleasant,
vague... but incomplete. I suspect that most of my
enjoyment was due to the spores. They kept me in a
constant euphoric haze." The bitterness in his own
voice surprised him.
"But you were happy." Kirk sighed. "And I took that
away from you."
"I do not wish to purchase happiness at such a price."
"I understand." Kirk looked away.
*I should not have said that.* Spock kicked himself
mentally. *He might easily assume that a better price
would be his life!* "I mean... I do not wish to give up
my mind..." *Badly phrased!*
"Of course not." Kirk pulled up a few blades of grass
and rolled then in his fingers. "You mean you've never
been happy when you weren't somehow... mentally
Spock thought a long time over that. "I don't know," he
finally admitted. 'Ignoring my emotions has been second
nature to me for so long... I may have been happy
without knowing it.."
"It's possible, then."
"It is not impossible."
"That's a beginning." *-- and I'm a damned fool! Kirk
thought. *He doesn't know how to be happy, and all I do
is ask if he's ever gotten laid! Some help you are,
James T.!* "Ah well, the last light's gone. Let's go to
He stood, stretched, carefully lifted Spock carried him
back to the cabin.
The lunch leftovers were sufficient for dinner. The two
spoke little over the food, and afterwards, Kirk left
Spock to build up the fire for the night while he went
to see if the bath-water was still warm. It wasn't, but
he used it anyway. When he came out, wrapped in a towel
and shivering a little, Spock had a respectable blaze
going in the fireplace. Kirk watched a moment, yawned
enormously, and remembered the time.
"Decision, Spock. Do you want the bed or the sleeping
bag near the fire?"
"I prefer the temperature here, if that would not be an
inconvenience to you."
"Fine with me." Kirk dug out a sleeping bag and spread
it on the hearthrug.
"It might also be wise to refill the solar collector."
"Right." Kirk went back to the bathroom and worked the
pump until the indicator registered full. It was slow
and tiresome work, and when he'd finished, he was more
than ready for bed. He came back to the main room to
find Spock wrapped in the sleeping bag with only his
"Sure you'll be comfortable there?"
"Quite sure. I wish you a satisfying rest period."
"Sweet dreams to you, too." Kirk felt his way back to
the shadowed bed, shed his towel and slid under the
blankets. He glanced at Spock again, reassuringly
visible in the firelight, and breathed a silent prayer
for understanding. *Please be happy,* he thought. *Find
Spock lay awake behind closed eyes, listening to Kirk's
breathing amid the small sounds of the house, and
reviewing the day's events. *We have," he concluded,
*not begun badly. Communication established, though as
yet only on irrelevant (not to mention indelicate)
topics... No matter. If it facilitates his recovery, I
will discuss anything from techniques of cannibalism to
the history of the Vulcan toilet design... (Or my own
philosophical problem.) Yes, I might benefit there from
his assistance. (Need assistance! How can I help him
until I solve that problem?) Besides, he desires to
help. (And isn't that the secondary cause of _his_
problem? By all means, channel it into something
harmless, even beneficial.) Yes, mutual benefit in
pursuing this line of study. We should make more
That decided, he rolled on his back and blanked his
mind and dutifully went to sleep.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Kirk awoke to the soft sunlight in his face, feeling
more relaxed than he'd been in ages. There was no need
to get up right away; no duties, no pressing business,
no reason not to lie in bed awhile and enjoy the warmth
and quiet. He snuggled deeper into the pillow. Then his
stomach growled. *Well, that's one good reason...* He
sighed, stretched and got out of bed.
Spock was apparently still asleep, bundled up in the
sleeping bag like a caterpillar in its cocoon. Perhaps
he was cold; the fire was out, baked down to a pile of
ashes and few miniscule coals. Kirk sidled carefully
around the sleeping Vulcan, positioned some more wood
in the fireplace and blew on the coals until a steady
flame appeared. Satisfied that the fire would last, he
padded off to the kitchen. There was almost no food
left -- only some tea and a few handfuls of nuts and
mushrooms -- enough for a light breakfast, but no more.
*That decides the next order of business,* he thought,
pouring the food into two bowls.
When he came back to the main room, he saw that Spock
was awake -- or at least lying on his back with his
eyes open. Belatedly remembering his own nudity, Kirk
set down the bowls, put the kettle on the fire and went
to fetch his clothes. He dressed slowly, but Spock
still hadn't gotten up by the time he was done. Kirk
shrugged, set the bowls near the fireplace and threw in
some more wood. When the teakettle whistled noisily and
Spock still hadn't moved, Kirk began to worry.
"Breakfast's ready," he offered, pulling the kettle
aside and throwing in the tea-ball. "Aren't you getting
Spock stirred a little in the sleeping bag, then
stopped. "I... appear to have miscalculated," he
admitted. "Despite my proximity to the fire, I find
myself... immobilized by cramps."
"So much for sleeping on the floor!" Kirk opened the
sleeping bag and rolled Spock onto his stomach.
"Tonight you get the bed." He sat down at Spock's feet
and began massaging him briskly.
The Vulcan shivered in the chill air, flinched a few
times as Kirk's diligent hands found sore spots, and
patiently resigned himself to the necessary discomfort.
After a few moments though, as the sunlight made
progress through the solar collector and the fire got
to the larger logs, the temperature ceased to bother
him. The sore muscles took longer, but in time that
discomfort faded, too. In fact, the relief was
noticeably enjoyable. *Danger here,* Spock considered,
idly rubbing his cheek against the satiny lining of the
sleeping bag. *To enjoy relief from pain, one must
first be in pain, (perhaps even seek it for that
reason)... Yes, dangerously easy to fall into that
pattern. (Beware the delights of subtle masochism.) It
might almost deceive (seduce) me, too. Take care. I am
here to lead him out of this error, not fall into it
Kirk eventually worked his way up to the shoulders,
gave Spock's hair a playful riffling, then sat back and
shook out his arms. "Is that better?"
"Quite sufficient." Spock reached for his clothes. He
managed the shirts well enough, the trousers with some
difficulty, and had serious trouble with his socks.
Kirk came over and helped him into them, and both
boots. Spock remembered to thank him.
"Least I could do." Kirk smiled, got up and fetched the
bowls and cups.
They ate the meager breakfast in companionable silence.
Afterwards, Kirk did the dishes while Spock hunted up a
large food basket and the guidebook. Kirk came back
from the kitchen to see Spock tottering across the room
on the crutches, attempting to carry both book and
basket, and shook his head. "No way you can manage like
that," he decreed, firmly taking the crutches away and
lifting the bemused Vulcan in his arms. "Oof. Besides,
I need the exercise." To prove it, he lumbered out the
door and off the path, up into the thick woods until
the labored sound of his breathing grew alarmingly
"Jim, please stop," Spock finally insisted. "There is
no need to over-exert yourself in this manner."
Kirk stopped, letting Spock's feet slide to the ground,
privately grateful Spock had called for a halt. For all
his leanness, the Vulcan was heavy. "Thought you
wanted... to see the wildlife," he panted, grinning.
"Not at the expense of your health." Spock delicately
tested the amount of weight he could rest on his
untrustworthy legs. "I assure you, there is abundant
opportunity for observation, as well as food gathering,
without prolonged-- oof!"
"Easy!" Kirk caught him under the arm and gently
lowered him to the ground. "You're right. This is far
He sat down and opened the guidebook on both their
laps. They leaned over it, shoulders rubbing, studying
the illustrations on the pages and looking around the
glade for examples. Kirk identified some available
mushrooms, berries, and a few fruit trees. Spock noted
some edible leaves, roots and mosses. Kirk got up to do
the gathering, framing a playful comment about rabbit
food, then stopped in mid-motion.
A small troop of elephantoids entered the glade, saw
the two intruders, and stopped short in a flurry of
waving trunks and flapping ears. They were shaped
exactly like terrestrial Indian elephants, save for
their disproportionately large, artfully-curved tusks
and their long, woolly, orange-brown hair. The largest
of them stood no more than fourteen inches high.
"Mammoths!" Kirk whispered, entranced. "They're little
"The term 'mammoth' does not seem to apply," Spock
"'Minimoths', then. Aren't they cute?"
"I have observed that humans apply that term to
creatures whose behavior would be undeniably dangerous
if the subject were a hundred times larger."
The minimoths shuffled backward, looking for a path
around the dangerously occupied glade. One young bull,
unwilling to retreat without a show of strength, ran a
few paces forward and trumpeted shrilly. An older cow
came after him, took his tail firmly in her trunk, and
imperiously pulled. The young bull retreated,
Kirk burst out laughing. Startled, Spock looked up at
him. Such joy seemed so easy, so natural, for humans,
so harmless, even... almost logical.
Against the background of a white flowering tree, Kirk
seemed to be made all of red, gold and dark bronze.
Spock felt an odd pang of indefinable emotion.
*Beautiful,* he thought. *You are beautiful in this
moment... a phenomenon so fleeting, so ephemeral... yet
I wish to keep it... (Illogical.) Beautiful.* He
watched, silent and intent, as Kirk took the basket and
strolled around the little clearing, picking various
plants, moving in and out of the mote-filled bars of
honey-colored sunlight. *Aesthetic appreciation is
allowed,* he remembered. *I cannot recall ever seeing
anything more beautiful... Oh, to think of that
destroyed, ruined, damaged, only because of-- It must
Right then, as if his thoughts had summoned it, he saw
this Eden's serpent. A lizard, actually: thick-tailed,
dull black-scaled, balancing on its muscular hind legs,
its disproportionately-huge head eighty percent massive
jaws stuffed with bristling, sharp teeth. It stood no
higher than Kirk's knee -- which it studied from its
leafy ambush, less than a yard away -- with stupid,
ill-tempered, tiny red eyes.
*'Tiny Tyrannosaurus.' Not cute. Not safe!* "Jim! Look
to your right!" Spock lunged forward, sprawling full-
length on the thick moss. The impact jarred loose a
thread of logic that whispered cold facts: the distance
was too far, his pace too slow, and he would never
cross the clearing in time. He ignored it and crawled
Kirk turned and looked. It took him only a few seconds
to spot the ugly upright lizard in the underbrush. He
didn't draw his phaser, despite Spock's fervent hopes;
he only stood still and looked. The tyrannosaurus
looked back, red eyes briefly darkening in a slow
blink. Kirk gave a dry laugh, reached down and picked
up a handful of pebbles. The lizard arched its neck and
dropped its lower jaw, plainly meaning to attack.
"Jim!" Spock pleaded, clawing his way through the grass
Kirk threw one of the pebbles. It his the tyrannosaurus
neatly on the tip of its leathery nose. The lizard
squawked like a rusty gate hinge, and bent to rub the
sore spot with its tiny front paws. The next pebble
smacked into the top of its bent head. The
tyrannosaurus snapped its head up, too far back, and
wobbled dizzily. The third pebble whapped into its
exposed belly and knocked it over backward.
Spock stopped where he was, sagging with relief.
The lizard was extraordinarily helpless on its back; it
squawked and rolled and paddled the air with its paws,
either too stupid or too ill-coordinated to get easily
back to its feet. Kirk studied it, laughed again, and
turned away from it with no further thought.
"You could have used the phaser..." Spock whispered,
staring at his hands until they stopped clutching the
grass. "Unnecessary risk!"
"Spock, are you all right?" Kirk came over to him,
trailing the loaded basket. "Did you crawl this far?
Here, let me pick you up."
"Stop that!" Spock rolled over and fiercely clutched
Kirk's arm. "You should have used your phaser the
moment you saw it!"
"Uha-- For a little lizard like that? Why, a kick
would've killed it. Why waste a stun charge when a
handful of pebbles--"
"It could be dangerous! It might have poisonous fangs!"
*--untrue.* "The risk was completely unnecessary, and
you must stop that: Stop exposing yourself to danger
for-- " *What am I saying?!* "--for such illogical...
unnecessary..." *What is my face revealing?* Spock
closed his mouth and looked away.
*...For only a lizard...* Kirk thought, staring at him.
*So much... Don't lose it. Seize the time.* He sat down
beside Spock and gently rubbed the Vulcan's stiff
"Spock, it's all right. I..." *Why is it so hard to say
those words?* "I love you, too."
Spock blinked, astonished. *Success!* one part of his
mind cheered. The rest reverberated strangely. He could
not stop to think of that now. *Communication-- at
depth, at the heart of the problem. Do not lose the
opportunity, or he may never again... (But what to
say?)* "Jim, I..." *How can I say 'love' when I'm not
sure what it means?*
"Is it so hard to say the words?"
"Yes. I am... so unsure..."
"I understand. You don't have to say it."
*But I must! For your sake! "I do... care... that you
should not suffer..." *And more... (What more?)... I
don't know. I have never fully examined my own...
(Failings? Lapses? Indiscretions?) Only repressed. "I
cannot explain further."
"Can you tell me..." Kirk didn't look at him. "What
would make you happy? In your right mind, I mean--
not clouded with joy-flowers or time-changes or...
anything, but... just as you are, right now."
*Good question,* Spock considered, looking up at the
sky. *Concept never analyzed (or even fully defined).
...Satisfaction of desire? Perhaps. (But desire for
what? What do I desire from life?) Life itself, of
course. Survival ... (But not just existence.)
Intelligence also, and not to be in pain... nor to see
him suffer. (Negatives! Negative values again.) This
problem again... (What solutions did Jim offer?)
'Aesthetic appreciation'... (of which Vulcan approves)
and that shadowy (dangerous) realm of 'feelings' (of
which Vulcan does not approve)...* He gave a very
humanlike sigh. "I do not know, Jim. I honestly do not
"How can I help, then?" Kirk sounded defeated.
"Perhaps..." *That's it: I want to know--* He whipped
his face around to look at Kirk. "I want to find the
answer to my philosophical problem. I do not know if
the solution would make me... happy, but there would be
satisfaction, at least." *That, too, is part of the
problem. 'Satisfaction' is merely the ending of a
negative state; 'happiness' as humans define it, is
something more... distinctly positive. I do not know if
such positive states are even possible for a Vulcan.*
"Spock, I'm no philosopher."
"That is not what I need." *Indeed, Vulcan is full of
philosophers, and I have never heard that any of them
conclusively dealt with this problem...* He sighed
again. *'When in doubt, observe'* "I need facts, data,
observation. You have always been most efficient at
providing opportunities for that."
"I have?" Kirk scratched his head, completely at sea.
*'Observation?' What the hell is there to observe
around here, except me and a lot of little animals...?*
"Well, in that case... uhm... Come on, let's go look at
some wildlife." He retrieved the guidebook and loaded
basket, helped Spock to his feet, and half-carried him
back down toward the lake.
They moved slowly, stopping often, and the unstartled
wildlife showed itself in abundance. There was a little
red predatory bird, halfway between an elf-owl and a
sparrow-hawk, that Kirk nicknamed a Red Eagle. It sat
on the highest point of a rose-like hedge, studying
them with burnished golden eyes, and Kirk smiled at it
with a child's delight. Spock feared that Kirk would
reach out and try to pet it, or offer it a finger to
perch on, and get nastily pecked for his trouble; but
the bird sidled cautiously away and finally took to the
air with three hard strokes of its superbly designed
wings. Kirk's expression, watching it go, was every bit
as arresting as the sight of the bird itself.
*He sees something that I do not,* Spock noted,
suppressing a twinge of envy. *Some power of
appreciation.. some ability that makes human art and
music so highly prized, as even my father admits...*
And then there were the bee-snakes: yard-long vipers
with temperature-regulating sailfins on their back, a
mated pair that had set up housekeeping in a hollow
tree not far from the lake. The male secreted wax from
gill-like slits behind the jaws, and the female --
according to the guidebook -- secreted an excellent
grade of honey. Kirk examined the tree, neatly avoiding
the noisily threatening snakes, and estimated that the
tree must be packed full of honeycombs.
"Far more than they need," he added, a hungry glint in
his eye. "We could come back with a bucket, set the
phaser on minimum stun, and get ourselves some
It took ten minutes of Spock's best arguing to make
Kirk even postpone the raid. *What is so appealing
about wild honey,* Spock wondered as Kirk carried him
on down the trail, *that it could inspire him so? Such
a wasteful expenditure of time and energy, not to
mention unnecessary disturbance of the animals -- only
for a 'dessert'... Is this simple territorial greed,
claiming the land and everything on it as his property?
Or is there some hidden meaning, personal or cultural,
which adds importance to the goal?*
"My dad once took me and Sam with him to raid a honey
tree," Kirk answered the unspoken question as if he'd
heard it. "One of my happiest memories of him. He was
so seldom home... Anyway, this tree was full of wild
bees -- not just two snakes -- and we had to stun them
with smoke, so dad built a fire..."
Spock listened, entranced, through the whole recital.
He hadn't realized that humans made such a point of not
killing the honey-producing animals. Smoke-stunning was
a logical and humane method -- and also a risky one.
Kirk was an excellent story-teller, and Spock could
easily imagine the scene.
"... and we ate that honey for the next year," Kirk
finished. "We put it on bread and muffins, and mom
baked it in cakes and cookies, and preserved fruit in
it: pears, apricots, cherries... I remember dad put
some of the honeyed fruit in a jar with some really
good bourbon, and we let it sit until the next time he
came home. It made a drink you wouldn't believe! It was
especially good over ice cream. We had that for dessert
on his last night home..." Kirk frowned abstractly.
"That was the last we ever saw of him. He never came
"I grieve with thee," Spock said, startling himself.
"It's all right now. That was nearly thirty years ago."
*But the mark remains,* Spock marveled. *All those
associations, and doubtless more, revolving about a
tree of wild honey! Amazing... Is this the secret
ability of humans? This breadth of association... a
talent for holistic thinking. They can think sideways
('sideways?') as well as directly ahead, from point to
point... Of course, this can lead readily to prejudice,
superstition, clouded logic, if the associations are
inaccurate. Human history is full of such examples.
(And yet... they are among the most vigorous,
progressive and explorative species in the Federation.)
That thought jarred him. He scarcely noticed as Kirk
set him down on a patch of long grass beside the lake
and went off to inspect the miniature brontosauri
feeding in the adjacent marsh. Spock lay back on the
grass, stretched a protective arm over the food basket,
and continued with his analytical meditation.
*Vulcan: declining population, culturally
introspective, unmistakable signs of stagnation before
Federation membership... (and after?)* He paused to
consider how strange it was that he had never thought
precisely of this before, though he had grown up with
the facts in plain view all around him. The truth had
always been visible, accepted as the weather, never
really examined, not with this intensity. *'Can't see
the woods for the trees.' ... 'None so blind as those
who will not see.' (Human proverbs!) ... True, though.
Perhaps living among humans gave me enough distance for
He raised his head to look for Kirk, and saw him
crouching precariously on a log in the marsh with one
arm stretched out. A careful look revealed that he was
holding out a handful of succulent weed, trying to
entice the little brontos to come and eat it. The
brontos, like most other animals on this planet, showed
remarkably little fear of people. They were also
excellent mimics; they copied Kirk's crooning tone
A faint smile twitching the corners of his mouth, Spock
ascertained that Kirk's only possible danger might be
falling off the log into less than two feet water and
mud; annoying, but not hazardous. He lay back on the
grass, oddly touched by the little scene. *Humans,* he
thought fondly, *attempting to 'make friends' wherever
they go. Illog-- No, not illogical. Not at all. A
'friend' is a person with whom one shares... affection.
Affection precludes violence, harm or even discomfort,
if possible... ("I'm still sorry about that, Spock...
You know I didn't mean any of those things..." Yes,
Jim. I understand.) One cannot do harm to a friend
without hurting oneself worse. (I know.) That is an
automatic reaction, reliable as instinct, in its own
way as effective as logic... ...Perhaps even better.*
Spock sat up quickly, gasping at the sheer effrontery
of that thought, but unable to deny it. He stared
blankly at Kirk feeding the tiny dinosaurs, while the
elegant heresy unfolded in his mind.
*What if... emotions are not irrational and chaotic,
but have a hidden logic of their own? What if... one
could purposefully use one's emotions, harness them,
instead of just repressing them? What if... this is the
secret of human vitality, a secret Vulcans lost long
ago -- or perhaps never possessed? (What if... this were
the reasons my father took a human wife?!) Is that why
father so badly wanted me to go to the Vulcan Science
Academy? Did he hope that I might inherit all those
ill-understood human abilities, use them to rescue
Vulcan from its dangerous stagnation, give our culture
something better than negative goals? But I didn't. I
took my valuable genes (and brain) and ran off to
space. Lost his hope for saving Vulcan-- No wonder he
was so displeased! (Upset? Enraged?) Logical. (My
father, a cultural radical!) It would explain
The idea galloped around and around in his memories,
touching solid bases everywhere. He sat still and let
it run, observing, matching up thousands of bits of
relevant data, wishing to all the ancient gods of
Vulcan that he had access to the Enterprise's Library
computer at this moment. Data-matching in his own
memory was so slow, he might take days, even weeks,
sorting and testing...
"Spock, are you all right?" Kirk crouched beside the
motionless Vulcan and waved one hand in front of his
unseeing eyes. "Spock?"
Spock blinked, snapped back to awareness of his
surroundings, and noted that Kirk was holding a
dripping wet handkerchief that bulged with unknown
"I am quite well. What do you have there?"
"A hanky full of lake fish." Kirk opened the
handkerchief, revealing his glittering prize. "Enough
for two meals. The lake's full of them."
"Indeed?" *Test. Ask him-- * "Why did you bother to
catch them, when you could easily have taken one of
those miniature brontosauri?"
Kirk flinched back, eyes astonished and disbelieving.
"Wha-- Take -- Kill one of the brontos? After I went to
such trouble to make friends with them? Hell, no! I
Spock nodded to himself, noting that test results
confirmed a portion of his theory. "Then you are
generally incapable of killing personal acquaintances,
whether intelligent beings or not?"
"I... guess so." Kirk looked down at his double-handful
of fish. He remembered last night's promise. "They have
to be strangers, or..." He frowned, thinking. When he
spoke again, his voice was much quieter. "There've been
one or two people I knew -- knew fairly well -- that I
really hated -- really wanted to kill. They'd earned it,
"Kodos?" Spock suggested.
"Yes." Kirk studied the kerchief-full of black and
silver fish, noting that there were enough of them for
two good meals. That much food would have been worth a
human life, once. "Lord, how I hated that man! Yes, I
wanted him dead -- wanted to do it myself, if I could.
But when I finally caught up to him..." He shivered
silently. "There was nothing there. Just a tired old
man with a crazy daughter, nothing so big and dangerous
as to be worth all that... that hating... At the end, I
pitied him." Kirk shook himself, wrapped up the fish,
and put the little bundle into the food basket.
"Remarkable." *Predictable: increased acquaintance
increases probability of affection, thereby precluding
violence, save for considerable cause.
(Irreversibility?) ... Test.*
"Have there been any persons for whom you felt actual
affection whom you later came to hate?"
"Yes." Kirk jabbed the collected food deeper into the
basket. "Janice Lester." *I don't want to talk about
her, about that... But we must... I promised... "I
really did love her once. It didn't work out. We
didn't... didn't fit each other. We parted with a lot
of bad feeling, and I thought that was the last of it.
It wasn't. After... what she did to me..." He sat back
on his heels and clutched his arms, hard. "Yes, I
wanted to kill her! I wanted to wring her vicious neck,
smash her face in, break every bone in her... Damn!" He
shuddered, appalled at how much hate he still felt.
Spock eyed him keenly. "Yet, when you had the
opportunity, you did nothing of the sort."
"No..." Kirk looked down at his hands and carefully
opened them. "When the... exchange snapped, when she
howled that she'd lost, and then collapsed so
completely... That was enough. The hatred changed,
diffused, turned into a kind of... pity." He blinked,
surprised. "Like with Kodos."
"Fascinating," murmured Spock. *It _is_ a logical
pattern! Automatic checks on aggression: spectrum of
acquaintance to affection, overcome with great
difficulty and only for extreme cause, and even then
the resultant hatred diffused by clear proof that one's
'target' is reduced to complete helplessness. Quite
logical. (Wisdom of Nature.) Instincts too are selected
for survival value...*
"I don't quite understand it myself." Kirk put the
basket aside and lay down on the grass by Spock. "I
guess I wasn't cut out to be a philosopher... Sorry,
Spock. I just don't know how to help you with that kind
"On the contrary, Jim; you have helped me much."
"By feeding brontosauri -- and feeding upon fish."
"I believe it is time for lunch."
"Oh. Right." Kirk got up, helped Spock to his feet,
handed him the basket, and half-carried him back to the
They were less than five meters from the door when they
saw the new intruder perched on the doorstep. It was
small, somewhat round, and completely covered with
shaggy golden fur. For one horrible moment, Spock
thought it was a tribble.
"What the hell?" said Kirk, stopping.
The noise drew the little beast's attention. It turned
around, showing two beady eyes in a tangle of hair,
squeaked with alarm, then went into what looked like a
dancing fit. It stamped, bounced, whirled and cavorted,
keeping up a constant cry of "Eek-eek-eek-eek!" The
display was clearly meant to impress and frighten. All
it did to Kirk was make him laugh.
"Hee--hee--'yuk'. I've heard of 'having a snit,' but I've
never seen one before! Haw!"
"I believe that is a small rodent, similar to an Earth
chipmunk," Spock elucidated, "but possessing unusually
long fur. The scientific name is--"
"It's a Snit, that's what," Kirk chuckled, pulling
Spock to one side off the trail. "Here, let's give it
room to escape."
Seeing a chance, the Snit took it. With surprising
speed, the small golden blur shot off the doorstep,
down the path, and into a safe hidey-hole somewhere in
the bushes. Kirk laughed again, watching it go.
"Moves like a chipmunk, anyway. Hmm... I recall that
squirrel family makes good eating. Do you think that
critter has any larger cousins around?"
"There is a related species, comparatively larger, but
much slower and less intelligent. Why do you ask?" *...
as if I couldn't guess.*
"It might make good eating, too." Kirk helped Spock to
the table, and took the basket. "These fish are fine,
but I imagine I'd get sick of them in short order if I
didn't try something else now and again."
Spock shuddered delicately, but didn't comment. He
could guess also that Kirk had no intention of hunting
the Snit that had appeared on the doorstep. By making
him laugh, the little creature had gained his
acquaintance -- also a degree of affection -- and was
therefore safe from him. *Is this a constant of human
behavior?* Spock steepled his fingers and went back to
correlating observed examples. Meanwhile, Kirk set
about making lunch.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
After lunch, they went out to hunt unicorns. They
didn't find any; only more birds, a few of the tiny
bears, and a meadow full of wild flowers that Kirk
insisted on rolling in. After that, he stretched out
for a brief nap while Spock sat beside him and
The shadows lengthened. Spock sighed, shook a cramp out
of his left arm, and leaned back on his elbows. He had
run out of observed data in only a few hours, and the
working hypothesis still worked. *Item,* he reviewed,
*life involves more than just negative values (example:
Vulcan, with its declining birth rate and cultural
stagnation). Item: Humans appear to possess
(unconsciously?) knowledge of positive values which
Vulcans lack, and sorely need (which is quite possibly
why I was born.) Item: Said knowledge includes the
deliberate harnessing, manipulation and use (rather
than repression) of emotions (observed example:
affection). Addenda: Emotions not used properly in this
fashion tend to turn on the possessor and cause
destructive/self-destructive behavior (example: Jim).*
He turned to look at Kirk, noting the faint smile on
the relaxed and sleeping face, the strong jaw and
sensitive mouth, the amazingly long eyelashes, the
thick bronze hair with a random wildflower tangled in
it. *-- So beautiful! So infinitely valuable...* He
carefully reached over and pulled a few strands of
loose hair away from Kirk's forehead. Again, that pang
of nameless feeling shot through him. He yearned to do
something, but didn't know what it was. *Show me... I
must learn something from you... these alien skills
(Vulcan lacks) for the positive dimension. Aesthetic
appreciation I know (you are beautiful). Perhaps I
could learn human techniques of emotion management also
(Shocking!) -- purely for scientific purposes, of
course! (And for Jim...) ... But how? The only example
I have seen is the use of affection ... (Jim's
affection.) Perhaps... just as well. Since I must aid
him in finding safe outlets for that emotion, I can
also observe, learn, practice ... Indeed, the solution
to both our problems. Parallel...*
A gold and black imitation butterfly perched on Kirk's
nose. He sneezed it away, opened his eyes and rolled
over. He saw Spock watching him as though he were the
most fascinating sight in the galaxy.
"Are you okay?" he couldn't help asking.
"Certainly. Did you sleep well?"
"Umm hmm. Sweet dreams..." *Go on. Don't hold back
anything.* "I dreamed about Earth -- lazy summers in
Iowa, berry picking when I was little, a fishing trip
with dad... Pity you don't fish. It's so relaxing...
Hmm, and then I was back on the Enterprise, up on the
bridge, watching you take sensor readings. Then I was
here, with you, and it seemed like... a mixture of both
worlds." Kirk smiled, almost shyly. "Then I woke up --
and it was true."
"Fascinating." *...That is insufficient response. Say
more.* "You are pleased to be here, with only myself
"Oh yes, Spock." Kirk reached out a shy hand, squeezed
the Vulcan's shoulder, shook it gently.
"I am ... most gratified."
"Well, I'm a bit hungry. Let's head back and get
ourselves a good seat for watching the sunset, and then
we'll have dinner." Kirk stood up and stretched. As he
turned to reach for Spock, the slanting sunlight caught
his hair and transformed it into a glowing halo.
"Freeze," said Spock, enchanted with the image. "Hold
"Huh?" *Has he gone bananas?* "Er, like this?" Kirk
held perfectly still.
"Yes, excellent." *How beautiful... 'Infinite Diversity
in Infinite Combination creates forms of beauty... and
meaning.' But what meaning?* He sat contemplating the
image for several moments.
"Ah, Spock, my nose itches." *Are you sure you're all
Spock remembered the other problem and snapped back to
present time. "I regret having caused you discomfort.
Let us go."
He held out his arms and Kirk gently pulled him to his
feet. They walked back to the lake in silence.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The little brontos recognized Kirk as he approached,
and paddled near the shore whistling for his attention.
"They learn fast," Kirk chuckled, setting Spock down on
the short grass. "I wonder if they like berries?"
He hunted a berry bush, picked a handful of the fruit
and strolled down to the marshy side of the lake. The
brontos, seeing him come near, gave eager little cries
that sounded remarkably like the Terran 'wolfwhistle'.
Laughing, Kirk climbed out on the half-submerged log
and fed the miniature dinosaurs one at a time, until
all the berries were gone. Apparently satisfied, the
brontos burped, chirped and went back to soaking
themselves in the mud. Kirk hitched himself off the log
and strode back to where Spock sat waiting. As he sat
down, a flock of birds launched from a nearby tree and
flew out over the lake, giving long melodious cries.
The brontos raised their placid heads and whistled,
imitating the birdcalls almost exactly.
"They are remarkable mimics," Spock pointed out.
"True, and they learn very fast -- at least, to
recognize a good source of handouts. They loved the
berries. I wonder why they don't come up on land and
get their own."
"They are probably wary of the land predators." Spock
sharply remembered the ugly tyrannosaurus. "I note that
the appearance of the solar disk is changing."
For the next forty minutes, the sun dropped through
ribbons of high clouds, reddening as it fell, altering
the colors of earth and cloud and sky. Dusk sounds
accompanied the display; soft whinnies of the little
unicorns, bird calls and bronto imitations, the yip and
howl of something that sounded like a fox, and from
somewhere in the wood the distant trumpeting of a
*'Wild concert,'* Spock defined it, applying himself to
Appreciation. *Beautiful. An aesthetic feast for the
eyes and ears... (Strange. Why is the word 'beautiful'
applied only to the use of those two senses?) Indeed,
why not the other senses? Test. Touch, taste, smell...*
Intrigued, he looked about for some proper test
subject. *Flowers?* There were none handy. There was
Kirk, however. To a predator-keen Vulcan nose, he
presented a subtle concert of scents. Spock hitched
closer, long nostrils flaring curiously.
At the first touch, Kirk almost jumped out of his skin.
"What the hell? Spock?!"
"Please remain still. I am endeavoring to test...
Hmmm..." Spock rested both hands firmly on Kirk's
shoulders and nuzzled along his neck. Kirk sat
obediently still, aside from his dropping jaw and
rising goosebumps. "Yes," Spock murmured in his ear,
"subtle but distinct differences." *...probably from
varying occurrence of aprocrine glands. Hair differs
from neck: cut-grass/fur versus musk/smoke/leather...
Intriguing. Aesthetic evaluation: quite high.* "Yes,"
he concluded, pulling away. "The term does apply."
"...'Term'?" Kirk asked, carefully turning around to
stare at his bland-faced friend. *He's out of his
gourd! Snapped his sombrero!* "Ah, what term?"
"'Beauty'," Spock dutifully explained, "can indeed be
applied to scents as well as sights and sounds."
"Oh." It took Kirk a few seconds to realize that that
was a roundabout -- and unorthodox -- compliment. He
blushed. "Uhm... Thanks. You smell nice, too."
"Do I?" Spock raised an elegant eyebrow. "I was not
aware that humans possessed a notable sense of smell."
"Not notable, just sufficient." Kirk noticed the
darkening sky and his quietly complaining stomach.
"Come on, let's go eat." That was a good enough cause
to postpone this meandering, weird and worrisome
conversation. "Let's see if the 'term' applies to
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The meal was excellent, also uneventful, though Spock
did add taste to his list. Afterwards, there were
dishes to wash, firewood to arrange, and an amiable
argument over who should use the solar collector's
supply of hot water.
"I assure you," Spock insisted, "that I do not share
the human proclivity for paddling about in fluid."
"And I assure you," Kirk rejoined, "that there are no
sonic showers available, and after a few days without
baths, you will certainly stop smelling like a nice,
sweet house cat and start smelling like a not-so-sweet
polecat. Now I got it last night, and besides, I can
always go swim in the lake, so tonight's your turn."
"Very well," Spock conceded stiffly.
"Besides, it'll be good for your legs."
Spock rolled his eyes mournfully as Kirk picked him up
and carried him into the bathroom. He allowed Kirk to
help him undress and settle in the tub, then open the
tap from the solar collector. The water was pleasantly
hot -- in fact, Kirk needed reassurances that it wasn't
_too_ hot -- and Spock grudgingly admitted that it did
indeed relax his legs and back. Kirk pulled off his
shirt, leaned over the tub, and helpfully applied the
soap and scrub brush. Spock let himself enjoy the
sensations, almost to the point of purring shamelessly.
"You like that?" Kirk enthused. "Thought so. I know I
have an itchy spot right between my shoulderblades
where I can't scratch, just there." He circled the
brush on Spock's back.
"If you will bend closer, I shall attempt to aid you,"
"Huh? ... Uhm, okay." Kirk leaned forward. Spock
reached up and scratched in an efficient circular
pattern, noting in passing that the skin was quite
smooth and the interplay of muscles was most
intriguing. "Oh, yes," Kirk agreed, "right there.
"Fascinating," Spock marveled at Kirk's enjoyment.
*Very little of this action is required to relieve
irritation; I have continued beyond that point.
Remarkable how relief (negative value) proceeds
directly into pleasure (positive value) without
noticeable interstice... For humans that is..
(Different for Vulcans?) Of course. ...I think...*
"Ah, that's enough, thanks." Kirk pulled away. "I'd
better do something about these clothes."
*Also,* Spock considered, *there is the limiting factor
of enervation: repeated stimuli causing exhaustion of
involved nerves. One would have to vary the
stimulation, or else apply it to other zones, to allow
the nerve-cells time to recover...*
"Damn, what are we going to do about laundry? Hand-
wash, I suppose. Lots of work..." Kirk frowned,
thinking that over. "You know, if the weather stays
warm, it'd be easier just to go bare. For me anyway.
You'd probably freeze your Vulcan b-- Er, well, I'll
think of something."
Spock glanced at him, wondering -- for the thousandth
time -- about the oddities of human tastes. *Still, if
he has some psychological need for temporary nudity (in
this chill climate?), I shall certainly not inhibit him
by remaining clothed (brrr). "If the ambient
temperature continues to rise at the perceived rate of
the last fifty six hours," he offered, "I shall be
quite comfortable without clothing in another two
days." *--though I would prefer three...*
"Two days?" Kirk gulped, imagining Spock strolling
though the meadows clad in nothing but his dignity.
*But I brought it up... Or is this another symptom?
...Then again, I don't know if Vulcans have any nudity
taboos... Don't discourage him from anything harmless!*
"All right, I guess I can wash clothes for two days.
Let me go get the bed ready." Kirk picked up the
clothes, and the remnants of his composure, and fled.
Spock didn't watch him leave; he was busy with the
discovery that his knees could bend several degrees
more than they did yesterday. There were, he conceded,
some benefits to immersing oneself in hot water.
*...Wish the Enterprise were still in communicator
range,* Kirk thought, spreading the sleeping bag on the
hearthrug. *Ought to talk to McCoy. He'll never
believe... 'Bones, Spock just suggested nudism, nuzzled
my neck, and told me I'd helped with a philosophical
problem by not eating a dinosaur. I think he's coming
apart at the seams.' What answer? ... Probably, 'Keep
him talking.' Right. Communicate. Express feelings. He
doesn't know how to show love... for me...*
Kirk paused in mid-motion while pulling open the bed.
*Omigod, is that what all this craziness means? Trying
to find ways to say... trying things at random... and
he has no idea how, or what the effect is...* He
distinctly remembered that surprising action down by
the lake, and felt the goosebumps return. *I ought to
tell him,* he thought, scratching the back of his neck.
*That gesture wasn't entirely harmless. It was...
The thought slid out of reach, leaving him puzzled and
faintly ashamed of himself. *No,* he decided, *it was
harmless. Here, alone, just the two of us; no Vulcan,
no Starfleet, no Earth (Iowa) to approve/disapprove of
anything... anything that doesn't hurt him, risk him,
make him risk himself. Yes, let him explore. We can fit
the results to propriety later...* Kirk settled another
log on the fire, stuffed the clothes into a duffel-bag,
and went back to the bathroom.
Spock was nearly asleep in the water. He did no more
than rise an eyebrow in welcome as Kirk leaned over the
tub to drain out the water. He let Kirk help him out,
dry him off, carry him out to the main room and settle
him on the sleeping bag before the fire. He stretched
comfortably while Kirk kneaded his legs, drowsing in
the warmth and gentle fatigue as his mind toyed
sleepily with Aesthetic Appreciation of the pattern of
the fire. "It is possible..." he murmured.
"What is?" Kirk asked, carefully rubbing the muscles
about Spock's left knee.
"It is possible to visualize recognizable shapes in the
flames and glowing coals."
"Always knew it."
"Mmmm..." Spock let his eyes drift closed, sleepily
considering the transition from relief to enjoyment
might not be sharply defined for Vulcans, either. He
had long since ceased to feel pain or even discomfort
in his legs and back; in their place he felt a deep,
vague, dreamy sense of well being, poised on the edge
of sleep. An unnoticed purr rippled in his throat.
*Cat!* Kirk marveled, not interrupting the motion of
his hands. *He's a cat! 'Felinoid descent'. Purring...
Maybe I should scratch his ears.* He stretched out one
hand and gently rubbed the soft skin behind those
lovely Vulcan points. The purr deepened. *He likes it!*
Kirk exulted. *Like any cat. Pet... Yes, yes, I've
found something that makes him happy. As simple as
that... and as harmless. Good, good. Keep him from
risking, hurting himself, and worse... That means I'll
have to keep on doing this, every night, from now on...
And is that so difficult? So much of a burden? No.
Cheap at the price. ...Besides, I... sort of... like it,
The soft purr died away into the slow breathing of
sleep. Spock lay limp and immobile on the sleeping bag,
the image of peace and innocence. *Pity to risk waking
him,* Kirk thought, letting his hands drop, *but if he
stays here he'll have cramps in the morning.* He sat
down beside the sleeping Vulcan, idly running his
fingers through the smooth, dark hair. *...Like
Right then, totally unexpected, came a vast wave of
overwhelming tenderness, threatening to sweep Kirk away
from his moorings to all common sense. He wanted to
wrap Spock up in his arms, protect him from the whole
fierce universe, beg him never to be hurt again... *My
Lord, that's love! That's what Bones was trying to tell
me! I don't know how to express love either! --At
least, not to him... not in ways he can understand or
accept... But I have to find them. For his sake... and
maybe... even for mine.*
He shivered. *Cold in here,* he thought. *He'll feel
it. Blankets. More firewood...* Very gently, he rolled
Spock on his back, lifted him at the shoulders and
knees, and carried him to the open bed. Spock stirred
slightly, opening his eyes as his head settled on the
"Yes," Kirk whispered, pulling up the blankets. "Go to
Spock blinked once and pronounced, softly but quite
clearly, "The term does seem to apply to the sense of
touch, too." His eyes closed.
"What?" *Did I really hear that?*
But Spock was asleep again.
Next day it rained. Kirk awoke to the unmistakable
sound, swore quietly for a few moments, then got up and
reached for his clothes. He noticed that the solar
collector was overloaded and spilling. *Pity to waste
all that rainwater...* He gathered up the laundry and
went to the big tub in the bathroom.
Spock awoke to see Kirk, damp-haired and dressed in
bluejeans, stringing a rope across the living room and
hanging wet laundry on it. He thought he should offer
to help, but the room temperature was painfully cold.
He huddled deeper into the warm blankets, weighing the
merits of risking cramps by huddling in the cold air
while trying to build up the fire.
Kirk settled the question for him by building up the
fire himself. Resinous brushwood flared up quickly,
igniting the larger logs. The air soon warmed enough
for Spock to poke his nose out. Kirk strode over,
laughing, whipped of the covers, picked up the amused
Vulcan and carried him to the hearthrug. Spock
obligingly stretched out on his stomach and let Kirk
knead his legs.
"We can't go out in this rain," Kirk reflected, working
over a slightly stiff ankle. "We have enough food for
the day, and the washing's done. Damned if I know how
we'll keep from being bored silly."
"Let us consider it after breakfast."
They lingered over the meal, took time over the
subsequent washing, spent extra time adding more logs
to the fire, and eventually wound up back on the
hearthrug, wondering what to do next.
"I've got an idea," said Kirk, getting up. He rummaged
briefly in his gear, and came back with the one book
McCoy had let him bring: "The Ancient Future," a
collection of classic 20th Century 'science fiction'
stories. "This is something Sam and I used to do on
rainy days," he said, stretching out beside Spock.
"Let's choose a story and read it to each other. I'll
read the first two pages, you read the next two, and so
on. No fair turning the pages to peek ahead. Okay?"
[book titles are supposed to bo underlined. but it wasn't in the priginal text.]
"How intriguing," Spock concurred. *Not as efficient as
each of us reading the entire piece silently...
(Efficient for what?) Is this some obscure game, art-
form, means of communication? If so, encourage.*
"Fine." Kirk picked a story at random, coughed briefly,
and read off the title and author: "'The Star', by
Arthur C. Clarke."
Spock listened attentively, noting that Kirk had an
excellent reading voice. The story was, as expected of
human literature, too emotional in tone for Spock's
tastes. However, it was quite smoothly and tightly
written, and Spock could readily understand the central
character's difficulty in dealing with a serious
philosophical problem. The plot concerned an explorer-
ship's investigation of the last planet surviving a
nova, seen from the point of view of a particularly
religious crewman. The description of the investigation
procedure was so clear, so accurate, so familiar that
it was difficult to believe that the story had been
written before the era of spaceflight. Spock wondered
about human precognitive talent, particularly about the
peculiar human ability known as 'imagination', while
the story unfolded. He was eager to take his turn when
Kirk handed the book to him, actually impatient at
being obliged to read only as quickly as he could
*...Voice like velvet,* Kirk thought, listening. He
could easily picture the landing party exploring the
nova-scoured planet, finding the remains of the great
marker and the treasure that lay under it: vaults or
recordings, made by the people who had once lived on
the vanished inner worlds, records of their history,
art, science, philosophy, all that they'd ever known or
done. He smiled as he heard Spock's voice slowing,
fascinated, over the descriptions of the vanished
people. The writer's considerable skill painted a
glowing image of them: beautiful, kind, just, wise,
skilled -- and tragically lacking in any spaceflight
technology that could have saved them.
Once in the description, Spock paused to glance up at
him. "Yes," Kirk answered the unspoken question,
"humans have often tried to imagine people better than
ourselves. That's a pretty good example of idealized
Spock nodded once, digesting that, and went back to
The heart of the philosophical problem, forecast in the
first part of the story, appeared soon after Spock
returned the book. The exploration team's
astrophysicists finally determined the year in which
the system's sun had exploded, and learned when the
nova's brilliance would have been visible to the naked
eye on Earth. Kirk began to guess what was coming;
Spock could tell from the narrowing of his eyebrows and
the tension in his voice. In the last few sentences,
the dilemma became clear.
"'How can I now believe that God is just or merciful?'"
he finished. "'Why were these beautiful people thrown
into fire, only to make the star that shown over
Bethlehem?'" The words ended. Kirk quietly closed the
*Unfortunate choice of story,* Spock thought. *It
appears to have depressed him... Change his train of
thought. At once.* "This is a lamentably ethnocentric
attitude," he ventured. "The star exploded for reasons
of its own, which had nothing to do with events on
Earth that were later considered important."
"True." Kirk dutifully tried to cheer up. "It's just
that from the viewpoint of the person telling the
story, it's rough to find out that one of the major
symbols of one's faith was rooted in a terrible
*True for more than humans!* "At least, in this
character's case, it was only the symbol - not one of
the basic tenets."
"I don't know..." Kirk shivered, hitching a little
closer for warmth. "That 'basic tenet' that the
universe is run, created, whatever, by some -- some mind
that's basically... good... That's hard to hold on to
when you've seen some of the blind cruelties and
injustices that happen -- just happen -- to people..." He
put his chin on his hands and brooded at the fire.
"I see." Spock set the book aside and stretched out
beside Kirk, close enough that a slight shift of weight
would press their shoulders together. "An interesting
dilemma: if some supreme being is indeed responsible
for all events which occur in the universe, then he, or
it, must be either cruel or indifferent."
"Not 'good'," Kirk concluded. "Nothing to believe in."
"Perhaps some form of Prime Directive is in force."
"Then there would be some exceptions, wouldn't there?"
Kirk grinned fleetingly. "Rescue missions, for example.
Beta Niobe ..." *You never told me exactly what
happened to you and McCoy there...*
"Those people were capable of saving themselves." *With
a few exceptions.* "They escaped through time, rather
than space -- as we learned with some difficulty."
"But there've been other cases. The Enterprise alone
has had I-don't-know-how-many missions to save people
from plagues, famines, geological upheavals, novas,
monsters drifting in from deep space..." He sighed.
"What's the sense of worshipping something that's
crueler than you are?"
*Indeed!* Spock's eyebrows climbed. "A... logical
attitude... assuming that survival-based values are
universally applicable... Of course, beings who do not
base their values on survival do not tend to survive."
He glanced nervously at Kirk.
"I guess I just don't like gods..." Kirk's expression
was unmistakably grim -- and lonely. "Whether it's a
super- powered alien lording it over helpless people,
or some supposed ultimate keeper-of-everything who
doesn't lift a finger to keep innocent people from
getting blown to atoms -- I can't just smile and accept
and believe. Better to believe there's nothing out
there but other people: bigger, wiser, more powerful
maybe -- but just people."
"Astonishing!" Spock reared up on his elbows. "We
appear to have come to the same conclusions by totally
different lines of reasoning! Vulcans find it illogical
to base anything as important as behavior or ethics on
unproven theory, whereas you begin with the effect of
belief/disbelief and work... hmmm, backwards. Both
methods are equally valid."
"Are you telling me I can sometimes think as well as a
Vulcan?" Kirk laughed. "You're flattering me, Spock."
"Jim?" Spock did a double-take. "I assure you, I have
never claimed that humans cannot think as well as
Vulcans -- only that their methods are different."
*...Wait. That is true. (True!) My conclusions,
Vulcan's dangerous insufficiency...* "You know something
that we do not."
"How to use your emotions, rather than merely
repressing them or being used by them."
"Oh. ...Well, we're not always successful at that."
"Indeed, but your success do outweigh your failures."
*Had you truly believed --* "Jim, have I ever given you
cause to be ... ashamed of being human?"
For an instant, Kirk looked shocked. "No, Spock, you
haven't. You've only, uhm, occasionally made me aware
of personal shortcomings. That's not the same thing."
"I was not certain; humans sometimes have difficulty
seeing that difference. For a Vulcan it would be
obvious, but..." *Wait. Not necessarily true. So many
times I have seen...* "But then, I am not entirely
"You mean, Vulcans have made you ashamed of being even
"Spock only blinked as the words hit. *How could he
know?! I never told him about-- Good guess? 'Human
intuition'...that strange human ability to think
backwards and sideways... Imagination -- so
illogically, often right!* "Yes... Yes, they have. Many
It is impossible, of course, for human eyes to actually
'soften' or 'glow', but Kirk's gave a remarkable
impression thereof. He reached up one hand and gripped
Spock's arm. "That wasn't fair -- much less right."
*Interesting differentiation,* Spock thought, as an
undefined feeling ached. *Communicate. Reply.*
Awkwardly, he slipped his hand over Kirk's and faintly
returned the pressure. "It appears that Vulcan society
is lacking in several respects: unable to reliably
attain its own standards, which are of themselves...
insufficient." He gave a very human sigh. "Indeed,
Vulcan does not have all the answers. We are not
justified in considering ourselves generally superior
"For what, Jim?"
"For taking that away from you."
"Illusions are not to be mourned. Better cause for
distress that I believed in them for so long, despite
the clear evidence... In fact, Doctor McCoy has been
trying, for years to tell me that."
"All his teasing?"
"'The unchallenged blade grows dull.' I should thank
him for it."
"We have a lot to thank him for." * --like sending you
here to work out this -- this 'philosophical problem' in
safety, instead of...* The overwhelming protectiveness
rose again, impossible to ignore. Impulsively, Kirk
flowed with it. He gripped Spock in a sudden bear-hug
that made the Vulcan grunt with surprise. "Spock,
you've got to stop risking yourself so much! Stop
throwing yourself into danger for no good reason! You
don't have to do that; there are better ways to --
"Me!?" Spock's eyebrows climbed to his bangs. "You
think that _I_..."
"Yes! Yes! Scrambling halfway across a clearing after
that damned lizard when you couldn't walk! Getting
yourself into that landslide in the first place! Poking
your head into that snolligoster's lair! And before
"But you--" Spock squirmed around in Kirk's grip until
he could look him in the face. "It is _you_ who take
For a long moment, they stared at each other. "Spock,"
Kirk ventured, "I think it's... both of us."
*No! Impossible! (...Impossible?) No...* Spock sat
still for a long time, thinking that over, remembering
certain undeniable facts. "Perhaps..." He sank back
down on the hearthrug, fitting the new information into
his computations, appalled at how well it fit.
Kirk, not knowing what to say, maneuvered more wood
into the fire. He considered making some more herb tea,
but decided against getting up and going to the kitchen
for the needed items. He knew without analyzing it
that, in this moment, he dared not put any distance
between Spock and himself.
"'It is illogical to deny one's nature.'" Spock's voice
was so quiet that Kirk wasn't sure he'd meant that to
be heard. "Necessary, critical, to understand these
positive human capacities. Yes the only one I seem to
possess is... that one emotion. How to use it? ... No
idea. And my ignorance allows..." He steepled his
fingers and pressed his mouth against them.
Kirk didn't know if he should try to answer that. He
wanted very badly to say, 'Let me help.' Instead, he
tried something mild and noncommittal. "Should I make
"Spock glanced up without moving his head, and slid his
interlaced fingers beneath his chin. "Yes, I should
*'Like'? Not 'it would be logical'?* Kirk wondered.
*Some sign of... Oh, crumbs! Crumbs... But that's
something.* "I'll get it. --Oh, damn! We used up the
water on breakfast. Hell, I'll got get some more." He
pulled off his boots and tossed them aside. "No point
getting these wet. I'll be right back." He picked up
the bucket and trotted out into the rain.
Spock sat up, worried. Probably Kirk couldn't get into
any danger so close to the cabin, but it wouldn't hurt
to watch. He'd conveniently left the door open. *For my
viewing? Or his?* To get a clear view, Spock took one
of the crutches and limped to the other side of the
laundry line. He settled gingerly on the bed before his
legs could buckle under him. From here he could see
Kirk jogging through the rain, bucket bouncing on his
arm, quite unharmed by the steady rain. Spock shivered
in sympathy, wondering how it must feel to endure all
that cold water on one's skin. He glanced gratefully
toward the crackling fire.
Then his eyes fell on Kirk's boots, lying nearby. *Why
did he not wish to get them wet?* Curious, Spock raked
one close with the crutch, picked it up and examined
it. *Not regular issue...* Ordinary Starfleet boots
were made of neutral plastic, both for low expense and
to avoid various cultural taboos; they were easily
replaced, if not very durable. These, however, were
made of leather -- black Andorian teegh-skin to be
precise -- very supple and durable, capable of taking a
high polish. They also had a slightly-higher-than-
average heel. Inside were built-in arch supports. They
were also surprisingly small.
*...Such little feet?* Spock wondered, trying
unsuccessfully to fit his whole hand into the boot-
foot. *Of course he would require special arch
supports, carrying so big a body on such small feet...
But then, why the heels? Such do not provide extra
support. Quite the contrary. Why should he...*
At that point it occurred to Spock that his friend was
not a tall man. In all these years, he had never quite
noticed before. *-- Of course I tower over him
naturally, being Vulcan)...[ think Leslie wanted a third dot after beieng Vulcan] but then ... So does
[one space before McCoy] McCoy! And Scott. And... half the crew...* Random
facts, duly recorded but never before correlated,
popped into place. *He is barely of average height for
a human male! No one seems to notice (not even myself!
What else have I missed?) -- because he gives such an
impression of... Size? Grandeur? Command? ...But he's
really... compared to myself... Test. Be certain.*
The brontos were wolf-whistling again. Through the
curtain of rain, Spock could see that Kirk had stopped
to pick berries, no doubt to feed to the importunate
little beasts. The bucket stood nearby, filled and
spilling over now with added rainwater. Spock
suppressed a smile, levered himself to his feet, and
limped slowly to the door.
Eventually, the greedy brontos stopped whistling. Kirk
picked up the sloshing bucket and came back to the
cabin, thoroughly soaked. As he entered, Spock measured
against him at the doorframe.
"Wha- Spock, what are you doing here?"
*I could rest my chin on the top of his head!* "I have
discovered that I can walk short distances, with
"That's great. Here, let me help you back."
"Yes." *--so little, so fragile... How could I ever
let him risk himself so?* A nameless emotion welled up,
too swift for control: a deep yearning to protect, to
enfold. As Kirk set the bucket down and turned back to
him, Spock pulled away from the doorframe, reached for
Kirk and wrapped both arm around him.
Kirk gasped at the sudden pressure, frozen with
surprise. *This can't mean what I think -- No, of
course not! He's just lost his balance. Hold him up.*
"There, now. Easy. Let me turn. Get an arm around my
shoulders. That's it. Now, one foot after the other.
Don't worry, I won't let you fall..." He half-carried
Spock back to the hearthrug and set him down on it as
if nothing had happened. Then he went to the kitchen to
make the tea.
*Astonishing!* Spock lay back on the rug, head reeling.
*Why did I do that? (Impulse. Emotion.) What did it
mean? (Protection, of course. Concern.) So fierce? So
sweeping?* He closed his eyes. *Is that... ("both of
us") ... affection? (Friendship? ... Love?) ... If so,
it is very powerful. (Of course: to prevent aggression
in a very aggressive species.) I understand so poorly!
(Is it possible for Vulcans? Does father really --)
More data needed. Communicate. (...But how? I do not
even know the right questions to ask!) Observe...*
Kirk came back with the kettle and two cups. He was
"You should dry yourself," Spock cautioned. "Prolonged
immersion in cold fluid effectively lowers the body
"Right, right." Kirk dug out a dry pair of pants and
went off to the bathroom. He returned in a few moments,
skin and hair toweled to merely damp, wearing the dry
trousers and holding the wrung-out jeans. He hung the
wet pants on the laundry line and returned to the fire.
Spock looked up at him, clearly expectant.
*Say something, dammit!* Kirk berated himself. *He was
wrestling with the real problem before, and I
interrupted him. Stupid. I should have encouraged,
helped... Now I don't know how to get back.* He sat
down on the rug. "Spock, I... Oh, hell, I don't know
what to say, how to help, anything."
"Neither do I," Spock admitted.
"Only for the moment."
They sat side by side, watching the fire for several
minutes, still troubled but growing more calm.
"Right now I wish Bones had let us bring the chess
set," Kirk said. "Keeping that back was a mistake." *So
were those overlong crutches... Or did he do that
deliberately?! Make sure I'd have to carry Spock, make
him lean on me...*
"He did allow me to bring my harp," Spock recalled.
"Would you mind if I played it?"
"Mind? Oh, no. I like your harp playing." Kirk got up
and fetched the lyrette. Spock took it, inspected the
tuning, adjusted a few keys, and played a short piece
from a lowland folkdance sequence. He looked up to see
Kirk tapping his fingers in rhythm. Amused, Spock tried
another piece. He wound up playing until the sky
They kept quiet all through dinner, the washing
afterward, and the now-habitual rubdown in front of the
fire. Again, Spock purred off to sleep before it was
finished, and Kirk carried him to bed and tucked him
in. It was still raining.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Kirk awoke in the dark to an unfamiliar sound, a faint
rattling, something odd that he couldn't identify. He
glanced around the cabin, noting the pitch-dark and the
chill air. *Fire's gone out...* He noticed that the
sound was coming from the direction of the bed, and
finally guessed what it was. He opened his sleeping
bag, slithered out, bundled it up and picked his way
through the darkness to the bed.
Spock came awake at the pressure and motion of the
sleeping bag being spread on top of his blankets.
"J-Jim?" he asked through chattering teeth.
"Yes." The edge of the mattress creaked under his
weight. "No sense in both of us being chilled. Can you
Spock moved, too cold to argue. Kirk slid in beside
him. They shuffled briefly for space, feet and elbows
bumping, and eventually settled a polite three inches
"Y-Yes. The temperature is s-steadily increasing."
"Fine. Good night, Spock."
"Good night." Spock took a few measured breaths,
mentally recited a standard self-hypnotic formula, and
duly fell asleep.
Soon afterward came dreams: vague, gentle dreams of
childhood, of his old pet sehlat nuzzling and butting
against him, slipping a furry paw around him,
shouldering him away from harm or nudging to be petted.
*Very well, I-Chaya...* He reached out to stroke the
furry muzzle, but collided with something smooth
instead. With the strange logic of dreams, this seemed
perfectly reasonable. He petted the smooth flesh until
he drifted back into stillness.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Kirk half-woke to dull morning light, sleepily noted
that there was no sound of rain, but the air was still
cool, and snuggled back into the warm nest of blankets.
He felt that Spock had drifted closer during the night
and now had a limp, hotter-than-human arm draped around
him. It felt nice. He rolled a little nearer, slipped
one leg into the comfortable space between Spock's bent
knees, and sank back into sleep again.
When they both finally wakened, the sun was high and
the air warm. Spock would have been content to stay
where he was; the quiet warmth was so comfortable.
Kirk, however, was getting overheated and hungry. He
slid regretfully out from under the covers and went to
deal with breakfast. Spock remained in bed,
contemplating this new and intriguing feeling of
contentment. There was no logical reason for it, but
nonetheless, he felt it. *Is this part of what humans
call 'happiness'?* he wondered. He stretched like a
cat. There was no pain or stiffness in his legs.
Kirk came over to the bed and whipped the blankets off
with a flourish. He helped Spock to his feet, half-
carried him over to the fireplace, and lowered him onto
the hearthrug for the morning rub down. *Positive,
harmless, even beneficial...* Spock decided. He let
himself sink down into the welcome sensations. A soft
purr rattled in his throat.
Kirk slid a cautious hand up the Vulcan's neck and
gently rubbed behind his ears. The purr grew louder.
Daring, Kirk slipped his fingers under Spock's chin and
lightly scratched. Spock actually smiled, and leaned
against the scritching fingers.
"Ah, you like that, don't you?" Kirk whispered.
"Yess... Please continue. Rrrrr..."
"Cat. My big cat."
"I hardly consider that flattering." Spock twitched a
faint smile. "Would you enjoy being called a 'big
"Just as long as you call me King Kong," Kirk laughed,
"Indeed. Do you feel a deep-seated urge to climb tall
buildings and smash antique aircraft?"
"Nope. Can't say I cared that much for Fay Wray,
either." Kirk moved his hand back to Spock's ears. "I
just liked that old classic -- always felt sympathetic
to the big ape."
Spock frowned, remembering the end of that ancient
story. "Do you find the idea of dying for love
*Hell of a question!* Kirk thought. *Damned if you do,
and damned if you don't.* "Well, there are worse things
to die for."
"True..." Spock subsided, worrying. *Again, death or
communication. Speak.!* He considered the sensation of
Kirk's hands sliding over him, and the unregretted time
Kirk had spent doing it. "Jim," he ventured, "I do find
this... activity... most gratifying. Do you, also?"
Kirk didn't miss a stroke. "Yes. Yes, I do."
Spock reflected for a moment, then rolled over on his
side. "Come here, then. I will reciprocate."
*What the hell?!* Holding his breath, Kirk stretched
out on the rug. *What does he-- Breakthrough?
Expression...?* He turned on his side, facing Spock, with
no idea what to expect.
"I believe this position will be most efficient." Spock
slipped both arms around him, pulled him close, and
began rubbing his back in wide, slow, lazy circles. "Is
"Oh, yes. Very good. Yes..." *But, damn, what does it
mean?* Kirk wrapped his arms around Spock and dutifully
rubbed back, trying to make some sense out of this. For
a human, this action would border -- more than just
border -- on the seductive... *But for a Vulcan? Half-
Vulcan -- and with a -- an identity crisis, at that. I
don't think he quite understands what he's doing...
Experimenting. Trying to make me happy... find out what
makes him happy... Well, if it does...* He dared to
hitch himself closer, rest his head on Spock's
shoulder, and relax completely. Hands moved gently.
Warm yellow sunlight filled the air with a soft gold
Kirk lay still, a quiet, dreamy, peaceful feeling
settled over him. He could hear Spock purring softly
under his ear. *Is this the answer?* he wondered, hope
growing. *As simple as this? Just touching, cuddling...
like a pair of sleepy puppies. 'Nonverbal expression.'
A safe, sure, gentle way to say 'love...'* He rubbed
his cheek against Spock's shoulder, delighting in the
dry velvety texture, the faint spicy smell, the smooth
rippling motion. *So easy to enjoy this... quiet,
chaste, gentle touching...* "Ah, you feel good," he
murmured. "I could stay like this forever."
He felt Spock smiling against his forehead. "Would you
not eventually grow hungry or thirsty?"
"Oh, eventually..." His stomach chose that particularly
inopportune time to growl. "Let's get through
They ate slowly, watching each other, letting the
pleasure of observation mix with the enjoyment of the
food. Spock found it an 'intriguing experiment in
sensory orchestration.' Kirk gave him an odd look,
playfully mussed his hair, and went off to wash the
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Later, they went out to the lake, Kirk carrying the
water bucket and firewood basket, Spock leaning on him
and cautiously trying to put a little more weight on
his feet than he had yesterday. The tiny brontos
spotted them and paddled up, open-mouthed and eager,
making wolf-whistles and downright obscene kissy-
"Where did they learn that one?" Kirk laughed. "They
sound like a bunch of street corner punks." He glanced
around for a berry bush.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Oh. Uhm, those noises they're making are classic
Earth-culture... ah, mating-calls. Heh! The only one
they're lacking is a holler of 'Hey, Baby!'" He laughed
again. "What those little beggars won't do for berries.
Sorry, you bums; I've got to go get water and
"If you will give me a handful of berries, I shall feed
them," Spock offered, toying with the idea.
"Fine with me." Kirk strolled to the nearest available
bush and began picking. The brontos whistled and
smacked impatiently. "All right, already. Here you are,
Spock. Have fun." He handed Spock the berries, picked
up the basket and bucket, and trotted off.
Spock edged closer to the water, waving a berry over
the small horde of open mouths. "'Hey, Baby,'" he
solemnly intoned. The brontos whistled and kissed
frantically. He tried again. And again. After the fifth
try, one of the brontos made a fair attempt at
imitating him. He popped a berry into its mouth. Other
brontos got the idea.
Half an hour later, Kirk came back to the lake shore
with a basket stuffed full of wood and a sloshing-full
bucket. Spock sat quietly, waiting for him, face
revealing nothing. *Jim should be highly amused,* he
thought, suppressing a smile. Kirk strolled up,
The brontos spotted him. They raised their heads and
paddled toward him, greedy and hopeful and noisy.
"Phweee-phew!" "Smacksmacksmack!" "Ayyyy, bayyy-beeee!"
"Huh???" said Kirk, almost dropping the bucket.
Kirk's jaw dropped. His face turned re.
*I seem to have miscalculated...* Spock set his
expression to absolute neutral.
Kirk did a classic double-take. "Spock, did you...?" He
looked at the brontos, then back at Spock. "Nawww." He
shook his head. "I can't believe it." *... But how else
"I beg your pardon?" said Spock. A newborn lamb
couldn't have looked more innocent.
*Of course he did it,* Kirk realized. *My Lord, he's
just played a practical joke! ...he's developing a
sense of humor. Amateur. Doesn't he realize how weird
his jokes are...* Kirk put down the water and wood,
pulled Spock to his feet and picked him up. He trundled
up the slope to the woods.
"Jim?" Spock sounded ever-so-faintly worried. "May I
ask where you are taking me?"
"Out of temptation's way." Kirk carried him to the
honey-tree and set him down. "Stay here and watch for
the bee-snakes while I go put the firewood away. I'll
be back in a few minutes." He strolled off, whistling.
Bemused, Spock sat and watched the tree. From a faint
scratching sound within, he judged that the bee-snakes
were at home and awake. A miniature bear peeped at him
from behind a tree. "Shoo," Spock commanded, pointing a
finger at it. The bear didn't shoo, but it didn't came
any closer either.
Kirk came back shortly, carrying an empty bowl, a knife
and a phaser. Without questioning Spock, he put an ear
to the tree and noted the presence of the snakes. He
stepped back, drew the phaser and played the stun beam
up and down the trunk. He reached into the hole, felt
around for a moment, pulled out the two limp snakes and
set them carefully on the ground.
"They ought to stay asleep long enough for me to get
the honey," he explained, taking up the bowl and knife.
"A little faster and safer than building a fire."
"Indeed," Spock begrudged. "But let me remind you that
the honey was intended to feed their young."
"Don't worry, I'll only take a bowlfull. They have
plenty." Kirk withdrew his arm, holding a fresh-cut
comb dripping with honey. He dropped it neatly into the
The little bear crept closer, nose twitching. Another
bear followed. Kirk pulled out another handful of
honeycomb. A large crumb of honey-soaked wax broke
loose and fell to the ground. The bears scrambled for
"Jim," Spock cautioned, "the snakes are waking."
"Ah, just another handful."
The snakes woke in a vile temper, and the sight of a
giant plundering their tree didn't improve their
attitude. They hissed furiously, raised their crests to
full height, bared their fangs and lashed their
tongues. It was a much more impressive display than the
Snit's. Kirk gave them a thoughtful look, but kept on
rummaging in the tree.
"I believe they are going to--"
The snakes attacked. They boldly threw themselves at
Kirk's feet and fanged his boots. He shuffled from foot
to foot, shaking them off. The bears scrambled out of
the way, but not too far from the chance of honey.
"Note that their tempers are severely aroused."
The frustrated snakes gave up gnarfing on Kirk's boots
and decided to chase the bears instead. The bears
galumped away, bawling. Kirk pulled out a last handful
of honey, picked up the bowl, and came to help Spock to
his feet. The snakes, seeing their way clear, slithered
up the tree and whipped into the hollow.
As Spock limped away, leaning on Kirk's shoulder, he
glanced back to observe the outraged snakes sticking
their heads out of the tree, hissing ferociously and
waving their tongues at him. *Peace,* he thought. *No
Putting away the honey and gathering more food kept
them busy for the rest of the morning. After lunch,
they went out to the meadow to look for unicorns. They
found a few, but the little creatures were
unaccountably shy and refused to come near.
Spock guessed that a predator might be nearby. They
went looking for the predator, but found only a herd of
minimoths and a cluster of grazing Snits.
After that, Kirk wanted to go swimming. Spock politely,
but firmly, refused to join him. Kirk shrugged,
stripped off his clothes and strolled into the water --
which was, Spock noted, reassuringly shallow. Kirk
splashed about happily, paddled to and fro with a half-
dozen different strokes, floated on his back for a
while, then abruptly gave a loud "Whoof!" and sank.
"Jim?" Spock scrambled up to his hands and knees.
Kirk's head broke the surface, a bemused look on his
face. "Just a minute," he shouted, then dived again.
Spock suppressed a sudden urge to bite his nails.
In exactly fifty eight seconds, Kirk came up again. He
moved in close to shore, grinning impishly, nothing but
his head showing. "Hey, Spock!" he called. "What's
large, purple, and rams ships?"
Spock sighed. "I don't know, Jim. What *is* large and
purple and rams ships?"
"Moby Grape." Kirk stood up, grinning from ear to ear.
In his arms wriggled and spouted a little purple water
mammal shaped exactly like a terrestrial Sperm Whale.
It was all of two feet long. "Fierce little devil,"
Kirk said, letting the tiny whale slide back into the
water. "Came up and rammed me in the ribs. See?" He
pointed. Sure enough, there was a good-sized bruise
"You had best come out of the water before the injury
gives you a cramp."
Kirk made a wry face, but clambered up onto the shore.
He stretched out on the short grass to let the air and
sun dry him off. Even with his eyes shut, he could feel
Spock watching him. For the first time, he was sharply
aware of being naked. Wordlessly, Spock brushed wet
hair out of Kirk's eyes.
*He's changing,* Kirk thought. *Good grief, is he
changing! He played a practical joke -- and a raunchy
one, at that. He hugged and petted me for nearly half
an hour. Now he's watching me lie here, nude, as if I
were the most fascinating sight on the planet. If he
were human, I'd swear he was trying to seduce me!
...But he's a Vulcan. A very-unsure-of-himself Vulcan,
daring to experiment with feelings... which he doesn't
understand... said he was a virgin... no experience...
and Vulcans don't even talk about it... Doubly
He heard the grass whisper and creak as Spock lay down
beside him. Long hot fingers probed gently through his
hair. He felt goosebumps start up on his skin.
*Calm down! He doesn't know what he's doing to me! How
the hell should he? Not human... Whatthehell, probably
Vulcans can't feel any kind of horniness out of season.
...But Leila? No, he wasn't in his right mind then.
Still... that was out of season...*
The exploring hand drew away from his hair and slid
under his neck, the soft-sleeved arm pillowing his
head. There was no further movement.
*...Stop,* Kirk decided. *He's completely innocent. If
I'm not, that's my problem. Tomcat! And he... like a
shy kitten that needs petting, like a little unicorn,
that's all. He's found a safe expression for his
feelings, and I won't -- can't! Don't dare! -- scare
him away from it. Don't discourage him. Keep calm.
Think about cold showers...*
Surprisingly he did manage to sleep. There were no
dreams -- at least none that he remembered when Spock
wakened him, with a gentle shake, in time to watch the
sunset. They watched the sky change colors, enticed a
solitary unicorn close enough for a few pats, tossed
berries to the embarrassing brontosaurus chorus, and
went in for dinner.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
After dishes were cleared, the laundry done, the solar
collector refilled, the fire built up, neither of them
were sleepy enough to go to bed immediately, Spock,
sensing a strained silence approaching, took up his
harp and played some short compositions. Kirk watched
the fire, attempted to listen to the music, and
Spock noticed his restlessness, wondering how to ask
about it politely, and tried playing a more soothing
tune. It didn't help; Kirk got up, fed the fire, sat
down, tapped his fingers, and looked itchy.
Spock sighed in defeat, finished the piece quickly, and
gave Kirk the harp to put away. *Unfortunately,* he
concluded, *my music does not appear to provide
'openings' for conversation...*
Kirk came back bearing the book and a hopeful smile.
"Want to read another story with me?" he offered.
"Certainly," Spock enthused, stretching out on the rug.
Kirk settled beside him and thumbed through the pages.
"This looks interesting: 'Pillar of Fire,' by Ray
Bradbury. You want to start?"
Spock did. He was developing a taste for the rich and
intriguing prose texture of Earth fiction, and this
particular author's lush-velvety style did not
disappoint him. It was so easy to become lost in
appreciation of the language that, at first, he paid
scant attention to the plot.
It wasn't until Kirk took over the reading that Spock
began to notice the disturbing elements of the story.
It was an outright fantasy -- that peculiar human art-
form intended as a purely decorative piece of illogic --
but the design of this tale was dark and troubling.
The plot concerned 'the last dead man on Earth', who
had mysteriously reanimated his corpse and now wandered
across the world, trying unsuccessfully to reawaken in
humanity the 'lost' emotion of fear. *Why,* Spock
wondered indignantly, *should that be an admirable
goal, as the author clearly implies?*
When his turn came again, Spock read more carefully,
and the disquieting answer soon appeared. The culture
of this fictional Earth was artificial, deliberately
constructed to avoid all 'unhealthy thought' such as
any 'negative' -- or deep, or strong -- emotions. It
was a calm, bland, hygienic, ultimately shallow culture
-- and it was horrifyingly like Vulcan. Spock had to
peek back at the introduction to make sure that the
author had been dead for more than a century before the
first human ships had set down on Vulcan. *Human
precognition?* He shuddered and handed back the book.
Kirk finished the story, too wrapped in the plot to
count pages. The Last Dead Man, alone against a
politely and implacably hostile world, inevitably
failed. He was captured, his plea neatly reasoned away,
nailed into a coffin, and decorously thrown into a
crematorium. Kirk's voice shook on the last lines; he
closed the book and looked away.
For several minutes, they studied the fire, neither of
them saying anything. "It -- That future did not come
to pass," Spock ventured. "Not on Earth..."
"Not all of Earth," Kirk corrected, shivering. "I've
met people who believe in that sort of thing. No depth.
Like... like flowers cut away from their stalks and
stuck in a vase of distilled water. Pretty, rootless,
and half dead."
*Intriguing analogy.* "How long do cut flowers
"Not nearly as long as the whole plant."
Spock steepled his fingers and pressed them against his
mouth. *'Reasoning by analogy is unreliable...' But
when the analogy is so remarkably close?* He felt an
odd non-external chill, followed quickly by an
impulsive desire to reach out and touch Kirk, to take
some obscure reassurance from the warm and solid
contact. *Harmless to indulge...* He slipped an arm
over Kirk's shoulders and gently squeezed. Kirk leaned
against him, rubbing a smooth cheek against Spock's
ear. *It does have a reliably salutary effect...* Kirk
slid a hand behind his ears and scratched delicately.
Spock arched his neck toward the welcome pressure.
"Cat," Kirk chuckled. "Kitty-cat."
Kirk laughed, took Spock by the shoulders, and rolled
him on his back. "I wonder if you're ticklish..."
Spock clutched at him, but Kirk wriggled out of his
grip and playfully nipped at his neck. Spock grabbed
again. In a moment, they were rolling on the hearthrug
like wrestling bear-cubs, tumbling, gripping,
wriggling, evading holds with most improper tickling.
*Fascinating,* Spock noted past the bubbly-warm
enjoyment. *A parody of unarmed combat.* He managed to
catch Kirk by the arms and pin him on his back. Kirk
relaxed and smiled up at him, cheerfully admitting
defeat, apparently expecting something further. Spock
thought for a moment, then bent over and gently nipped
Kirk's neck, ritually ending the play-fight as it had
begun. Kirk laughed softly and slipped his hands up
Spock's arms. It seemed the most logical action to
slide down into the waiting embrace. He nestled his
face into the hollow of Kirk's neck and relaxed
completely, enjoying the quiet pleasure of the contact.
Kirk's hands slowly circled on his back.
"I love you, you know," Kirk whispered.
*Reply honestly,* Spock thought. "I wish I could give a
simple answer," he ventured, "but that would not be
"You don't have to--"
"I *do* feel... definable forms of affection for you.
I... greatly enjoy your presence, and sharing
activities with you, and thoughts, and I do not wish to
see you harmed in any way, or hurt and... I find you
aesthetically pleasing... at least, to all those senses
which I have analyzed." *Test...* He pressed his face
close and softly licked Kirk's neck.
Kirk managed to suppress a gasp, but his arms wrapped
tighter around Spock's back.
"You even taste pleasing," Spock marveled, rubbing his
cheek against Kirk's shoulder. "Salty, with subtle
Kirk let his breath out slowly, carefully. *Innocent,*
he reminded himself. *Totally innocent. Vulcan, virgin,
completely uninformed... Migod, if he did this to
anyone else, he'd get raped... or his jaw broken. Good
thing I'm here...* "Uhm, Spock, you wouldn't do -- I
mean, ah, do you... feel this way about anyone else?"
"No. No one else draws me to such extremes."
*Astonishing extremes, for a Vulcan. For a human, of
course, this would most certainly be quite mild... Is
my affection enough to satisfy him, save him? I must--
*"I do not know if these combined elements equal what
you would call 'love', but I do feel them."
"Close enough." *For him, that must be so hard to
say...* Kirk squeezed his eyes shut and hugged
shamelessly. "'A difference that makes no
"Oof. Indeed." *That appears to be a positive
gesture... and he obviously enjoys it... as do I...*
Encourage.* "I, too, find these actions most pleasant.
Perhaps..." *Yes. (Yes!)* "Jim, I believe that I am...
happy. Right now."
"I'm glad for you."
They lay like that for a long time, clinging tight,
touching gently, letting the quiet contentment carry
them in soft waves to the edge of sleep. The fire sank
lower. The edges of the room filled with stars.
Eventually, Kirk yawned. "I don't know about you, but
I'm getting sleepy."
"I, too, feel the need for rest."
"Come along, then."
Kirk helped Spock to his feet, supported him as he
shuffled to the bed, and helped him slip off the
remainder of his clothes. Spock pulled the blankets
aside and slid under them. Kirk hummed what he could
remember of Spock's last harp solo as he took off his
own clothes and slipped into the warm bed beside Spock.
It seemed the most natural thing in the world, keeping
warm and safe this way. "Hope it doesn't get too cold",
he commented, pulling the blankets up to his eyes. "I'd
hate to have to scamper across that cold floor to build
up the fire."
"I doubt if the ambient temperature will fall more than
five de-" A huge yawn smothered the last word.
"Fine..." Kirk settled into a relaxed sprawl, one ankle
draped across Spock's. "Good night, then."
Spock's face buried in the pillow, murmured something
that sounded like "Pleasant dreams."
"Mmmm..." Kirk let his eyes drift shut and smiled
drowsily into the star-roofed darkness. *Progress.
We're getting there. Safe...* Everything would be fine
now; they'd found a workable solution. *Several
solutions. Shared fun, exploring a new world together,
reading to each other, an occasional joke, backrubs...
and a little chaste hugging. Not so difficult after
all... to say 'I love you...'* Thought thinned out to
silence. He slept.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Shortly before dawn, strange signals reached to the
deep levels. Disturbed, Spock spiraled up to
consciousness. The peculiar sensations sharpened focus,
making little more sense than before. He knew where he
was: in bed, lying on his side, Kirk pressed
spoonfashion against his back, and clearly in some sort
of distress. Though still asleep, Kirk was twitching
and groaning in irregular pulses, his arm tightening
spasmodically across Spock's shoulder and chest, his
thighs shifting restlessly.
*Nightmare?* Spock wondered. *Should I wake him?*
Through the physical contact, his sleep-unshielded
telepathic sense registered a high level of energy. No
pain, actually no fear either; there was only a sharp,
indefinable urgency. Worried, Spock deliberately
tightened focus, sank into that fiercely dreaming mind,
--tumbled headlong into a seething cauldron of alien
bright /hot/ravening need/pulsing/bursting/exploding--
He scrambled back behind his shields just as Kirk's
grip tightened enough to squeeze him breathless, body
arched rigid and trembling, voice escaping in a long
shivering groan. *What does it mean?* Spock wondered
frantically. *What is happening?*
Then he felt Kirk's arm and body go limp, the frenzy
passing, the incoherent sounds subside into heavy
panting, cool sweat slicking the smooth skin. "Jim?" he
ventured, turning toward him, noticing that the sheet
was wet. "Jim? Are you ill?"
"...Hm?" Kirk blinked to wakefulness. "I... Oh, damn!"
He rolled out of bed, swearing softly. "Be right back."
He stamped off to the bathroom.
Bewildered, Spock sat up and peeled back the covers.
The pale dawn light revealed a damp and badly rumpled
sheet, puddled with a large, sticky stain. *Not blood,*
Spock thought, relieved. *Nor does he appear harmed.
Kirk came back soon, his skin pink with hard scrubbing.
He saw Spock innocently studying the damning evidence,
and blushed to the color of an angry sunburn. "Uh,
here, I'll change the bed." He hurried over to the
cupboard and pulled out a fresh sheet. "Get up, I'll
take care of it." Barely giving Spock time to move, he
yanked the blankets loose and began uprooting the
bedclothes as if they were hateful weeds.
"Jim?" Spock worried. "Are you ill?"
"No. Just careless." Kirk balled up the sheet and threw
it into the corner. *--and I'm a stupid, horny,
unthinking, sloppy idiot!*
"Careless?" Spock puzzled.
*All right, all right, I _am_ going to have to
explain...* Kirk took a deep breath, devoutly wishing
he were somewhere else -- Andromeda, for example. *Go
on! I promised I'd talk about anything, no matter
what... asked him enough embarrassing questions... it's
his turn now.* "Ah, Spock, how much do you know
about... uhm, human biology?"
Spock blinked, sharply remembering a similar statement
that he'd made, long ago. *He can't mean...* "Do you
mean... biology, as in... reproduction?"
"Yes." *--goddamn, blushing down to my toenails--*
"I have never made a specific study of the subject,
though I am aware of the basic mechanism." *--also
that humans are shockingly promiscuous... (by Vulcan
standards. IDIC! IDIC!) They are... enthusiastic and
Kirk tucked down the new sheet with exquisite care. It
gave him an excuse not to look at Spock. "Well, with
human males, if one doesn't get... er, a sufficient
amount of... ah, sexual activity, the uhm, genetic
material builds up, and after it reaches a certain
level, it's ... ah, expelled. Automatically. During
sleep. Usually accompanied by dreams. That's what
happened here. See?" He managed a quick glance and a
weak but reassuring smile. "It's nothing to worry
"'Insufficient...'" Spock's eyebrows climbed to his
Kirk looked up at Spock's humanly-expressive face, and
his embarrassment melted down to bubbly laughter. "Yes,
me!" He tossed the pillows back on the bed and chucked
the blankets after them. "Shore leaves are few and far
Spock sidled around the bedpost, staring in uncurbed
amazement. "Do you mean to say that you are completely
celibate while on the ship?"
"Nnnno, not completely." Kirk grinned, sat down on the
edge of the bed and swung his heels back and forth.
"Once in a while, I get to entertain an interested
passenger, or seduce a local priestess-or-whatever in
the line of duty... Deela, for instance..." He sighed
fondly. "But for the most part, yes. Nothing but my
good right hand. ...Uh, that's a colloquialism. It
"I am aware of the human capacity for sexual self-
stimulation... and satisfaction." Spock looked away,
toward the corner where Kirk had thrown the stained
sheet. "In terms of survival..." His voice grew so
quiet that Kirk strained to hear him. "It seems much
more efficient than... the Vulcan cycle."
"Oh." It had never occurred to Kirk that Spock might
envy him for that. "Spock, I'm sorry."
"Illogical to regret one's nature." Spock sat down
awkwardly beside Kirk. "Equally illogical to envy
others for their nature." * ...or is it? If one might
take action to obtain it... Father?*
"Ah, well, it's just a stop-gap measure," Kirk hurried
on. "Not as good as the real thing. Sooner or later,
the real thing is needed."
Spock turned to look at him. "I was not aware that
humans could also die for lack of a mate."
"We don't die of it," Kirk frowned, remembering a few
cases he'd known. "We just go quietly, dangerously,
slightly mad." He caught Spock's look of alarm. "No,
don't worry; I'm in no danger of that. I get lai-- uhm,
relief often enough to keep reasonably healthy.
Just..." He shrugged. "A little less than I could use."
"I find this most surprising, considering the number of
available females on the ship."
"I can't do that! General Order 43-A!"
"I believe that regulation is, to use the time-honored
human colloquialism, 'more honored in the breach than
in the observance'."
"Not on my ship!" Kirk crossed his arm and firmly set
his feet on the floor. "It isn't right."
"Indeed?" Spock's eyebrows climbed again. He had never
really thought of Kirk as having self-imposed sexual
ethics. *I have,* he realized guiltily, *thoughtlessly
accepted the common stereotype of human sexual
behavior, even applied it causelessly to him. Most
unjust. (Are Vulcans usually so biased?) I shall not
think that of him again.*
"I know some captains do it," Kirk continued, "maybe
even most of them, but that still doesn't make it
right. There's damned good reason for that order; if
you play around with people too far from your own rank
there's always the danger of coercion, favoritism or
currying it, jealousy, dissension, all that. No, you
can do anything you want, but you've got to stick to
your own rank, or at least the rank right next to it. I
just happen to be the only captain the Enterprise has.
As for the next closest grade, the only command-grade
officers we have are you, McCoy and Scotty. Some
choice! I don't know about you, but neither Bones nor
Scotty's interested." He laughed at the nonplussed look
on Spock's face. "I guess they're just not adventurous
"Fascinating. And are you?"
"Well, yes." Kirk grinned, ducked away from Spock's
gaze and reached for his clothes. "When I cut loose on
shore leave, I really cut loose: male, female, neuter,
other, you-name-it. I tend to prefer women, but I'm
willing to try almost anything, at least once."
"Males?" Spock marveled. *How is that physically
"A few times." Kirk shuffled into his bluejeans and
rummaged about for a shirt. "Interesting. Not something
I'd go looking for, but if it's offered, I won't turn
Spock thought about that and decided to postpone his
questions on physical mechanics. "'Other?'" he
"Other," Kirk laughed, pulling on his boots. "Yes, it's
true what they say about Andorian neuters. I don't know
about Tellarites; I just never could get turned on by
something that looks that much like a terrestrial pig.
I don't like doing it with animals -- no way." He
paused, a memory tickling. "For that matter, I can't
say I really enjoy Orion green slave-girls. They may
look like people, but they're animals all the same."
"Not with animals?" Spock mentally scratched off
another stereotype. *Not my Jim,* he thought smugly.
"No." Kirk scratched his chin, thinking. "Same thing,
in a way, as General Order 43-A. An animal can't
refuse, can't really complain, has no choose. Even if
the animal doesn't mind, that's still a little too
close to coercion for my tastes."
"Then I assume you have never been involved in a
"No! Never!" Kirk hitched his shoulders higher. "I
once... observed a rape. It sickened me."
"Quite understandable." Spock's expression shifted to
Absolute Neutral. *Among Vulcans, that would be
considered merely... an unfortunate accident. (His
ethics are superior to--)Of course, our physiology is
"And of course, there's a limit to what I can do with
non-humanoids," Kirk went on. "I found out the hard
way that I can't do it with an Edoan."
"Indeed? Why not?"
Kirk grinned, picked up Spock's clothes and tossed them
to him. "Because I only have *one, that's why."
Spock thought for a moment, and did not bother asking
what Kirk had only one of.
"And I once tried it with a -- a... What do you call
those vegetable people? Well, it was impossible. Really
impossible. I mean, flowers are lovely things, but what
can you do with organs that are just a fringe of petals
around a triangle of... hm, shag velvet?"
Spock gulped at that arresting image. "Nothing," he
agreed. *Zarabeth! Utterly impossible...* His stomach
rumbled gently. "Had we not best proceed to breakfast?"
he suggested, pulling on his socks.
"Hmm? ... Oh, sure." Half-relieved and half-sorry that
the odd conversation was ended, Kirk got up and went to
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Breakfast was salad and mushrooms again, and Kirk felt
a distinct hankering for something a little more solid.
After dishwashing and chores, he sent Spock out to the
vegetable garden, tottering carefully, using one crutch
for a cane, then took his clasp-knife and phaser and
went off to the woods to hunt.
He passed by the herds of skitterish unicorns, snits
and minimoths, moving deeper into the forest, searching
for a particular species of strangers. Within an hour,
he found what he was looking for. A larger and slower
version of the snit, a small herd of them in fact,
grazed sleepily in one of the small meadows.
Kirk tiptoed close and stunned one of them with the
phaser. The others looked up, blinked a few times, and
went back to eating. Kirk shook his head in amazement,
stepped out of hiding and calmly walked up to the herd.
The pseudo-snits looked up, ruminated a bit, and slowly
shuffled out of his way. Kirk picked up his prey,
rummaged through the fur until he found the animal's
throat, and cut it with a single, quick stroke of the
knife. The other pseudo-snits, smelling the spilled
blood, shuffled away a little faster. *Incredibly
slow,* Kirk thought, watching them. *How do they
survive? Too big for most of the predators? Or do they
just breed like tribbles?* He bled the carcass as dry
as possible, stood up and walked back to the cabin.
Spock was still out in the garden. Kirk went into the
kitchen and set about cleaning and skinning the pseudo-
snit. He had just removed the skin and paws when Spock
came in with a full basket. He couldn't help noticing
what Kirk was doing.
"May I ask what you have there?" he queried politely.
"Dinner." Kirk bent over his work, carefully removing
the internal organs, hoping Spock couldn't see too
closely. "One of those big, dumb cousins of the snit.
Should last me a day or two."
Saying nothing further, Spock washed and put away the
groceries, hung the basket back on its peg, and limped
away. A moment later, Kirk heard him tuning the harp.
*I guess he's not too upset,* Kirk concluded. He took
special care to waste none of the meat as he cut the
carcass in quarters, washed them, wrapped them in cold
leaves and put them in the cold-box. He bundled up the
organs and scraps in more leaves, took them outside,
and spent a quarter-hour burying them at the foot of a
berry-bush. *Back to the earth...* he sang to himself,
patting the dirt over the remains. *Waste not, want
not.* He heard Spock rummaging about in the kitchen
behind him, apparently preparing some complicated dish.
*Something Vulcan, I bet...*
He took the skin and stretched it on the cabin's outer
wall, pegging it tight with thorns. He scraped it clean
with his knife and rubbed it thoroughly with the
leftover brains and some salt. He remembered the
guidebook mentioning some incredible berries that were
good for tanning hides. He spent another hour gathering
a half-bucketful of them and rubbing them deeply into
the stretched skin. Inside, Spock had gone back to his
harp. The music was thoughtful, tranquil, and a bit sad
Kirk came back inside. "All done," he announced. "Shall
we have lunch?"
Spock nodded agreement and put his harp aside.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lunch was garden vegetables and a few fried lake fish.
Apparently, Kirk meant to save the pseudo-snit for
dinner. He also seemed restless: not irritable, just
unable to relax completely. Spock wondered if he should
ask about this, but decided to wait and observe.
Afterwards, Kirk wanted to go look for unicorns. Spock
came along, leaning on his shoulder and on one crutch.
They moved slowly from lake to hill, examining every
meadow with no success.
"What could have happened to them?" Kirk sounded more
worried than exasperated. "They seemed shy and edgy
"Perhaps a migration pattern -- No, there are some.
Under that hedge; look."
Kirk followed Spock's pointing finger and saw that some
of the blue flowers on a nearby hedge weren't moving in
the wind, and some of the pale thorns looked
suspiciously like horns. He peered closer, and saw
several pairs of frightened eyes looking back at him.
In fact, there was a sizable herd of little unicorns
hiding in the hedge, afraid to come out. Kirk tried
enticing them forth with fresh berries, but they only
backed further in among the thorns. He gave up. "What's
scared them?" he asked, stepping away from the hedge.
"Any ideas, Spock?"
"Possibly..." Spock turned this way and that, nostrils
flaring like a horse's. "I believe I detect the
presence of a body."
"A what?!" *Whose? An unsolved murder? A Klingon raid?
An unknown invader? This place isn't safe anymore!*
"This way." Spock limped cautiously across the meadow
to the edge of the woods, Kirk following. He stopped
near a cluster of low, dogwood-like trees. The smell
hung thickly in the still, shadowed air. "There it is,"
Near the foot of the tree lay the raggedly dismembered
carcass of a unicorn. The miniature tyrannosaurus was
feeding on it.
"Goddamn! I'll break its scaly neck!" Kirk started
forward, his hands clenched.
"Jim, stop." Spock clutched Kirk's arm, forcing him to
stop or else pull Spock off his unsteady feet. "Such
anger is illogical and destructive."
"'Destructive?' Me?! What about that thing?"
"It is a predatory animal, doing exactly what predators
are designed by nature to do."
"Despite your emotional attachment to them, they do
function as prey for the larger carnivores."
"They function for their own sake, and not for that
ugly lizard!" Knowing that Spock's argument was
perfectly reasonable didn't make him any less outraged.
Spock grew annoyed at this stubborn illogic. "I fail to
see why you condemn an animal for behavior which is
essentially no different from what you did this
morning. Did you or did you not kill an animal for
Kirk glared at him. "It wasn't a unicorn."
"That is not an essential difference."
"The hell it isn't! Those pseudo-snits are too dumb to
come in out of the rain; all they do is eat and breed.
The unicorns are quick, bright, intelligent little
things. They deserve better than to be eaten by a
stupid, ill-tempered ugly dinosaur!"
"Astonishing." Spock gave him such a look of amazement
that Kirk felt his anger drain away. "Am I correct in
assuming that some form of predator's ethics applies
here? Are there potential prey-animals that one does
not eat, graded according to intelligence?"
"Huh?" said Kirk. "Er, you mean the smarter the animal
is, the less I want to eat it? Well... I never thought
about it before, but... yes, I think that's true."
"And you disapprove of an intelligent animal being
preyed upon by a less intelligent one?"
"Yes." Kirk took two steps backward, glowering at the
smeared tyrannosaurus and the hanks of fine blue hair
drifting over the moss-like dark milkweed. "Other
things, too: we've fed and petted the unicorns, and
they're neighbors, and they're harmless, and pretty and
I like them, and they're so small... I don't like
bullies, animal or human or whatever." He turned away
from the unpleasant scene and walked back through the
"Intriguing," Spock murmured, hobbling carefully after
him. *A compound of ethic, aesthetic and personal
affection (protection? ownership?) in imprecisely-
described ratios... Is the famed (stereotyped?)
unpredictability of emotions due only to unrealized
complexity/compound nature? Is that all? If so... (how
lax, petty, unworthy of scientists to settle merely for
repression instead of trying to analyze, to unravel the
complexities, to understand...) It is possible -- for
me, for all of Vulcan... (Success, Father!) I will not
turn aside. Onward, wherever; victory in sight.*
Kirk waited at the edge of the meadow. He slipped one
arm around Spock and supported him on the way down the
slope. Just once, he turned to look back. The
tyrannosaurus was still feeding. "Go pick on someone
your own size!" he shouted at it. His surface tone was
light, but there was a determined anger beneath it.
Spock thought fleetingly of the ancient human word
'malediction.' They went back to the cabin with no
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Spock set the table for dinner, quietly pleased that he
was sufficiently recovered to manage such work. In the
kitchen, Kirk washed and chopped vegetables. There was
a long moment's silence, then the sound of the cold-box
opening. A minute later, Kirk came out with a skillet
and a fork, some oil and half of the pseudo-snit
carcass. Spock said nothing, but watched while Kirk
arranged the pan on the fire and cooked the meat.
Wordlessly, Spock shuffled into the kitchen and came
back with his own leaf-wrapped contribution and a small
loaf-pan. He went to the fire, sat down beside Kirk,
filled the loaf-pan and maneuvered it into the coals.
"What's that?" Kirk asked.
"A form of quick-bread, made of local grains and nut-
"Oh. Is that what you were making this morning? I
thought it was some kind of Vulcan specialty."
"This provides a better base for the honey. Besides,
this environment does not provide the materials for
"Hmmm, I never knew you could cook."
"You never asked me, Jim."
Kirk laughed softly, and turned the meat. When the food
was done, they sat down and shared the salad. Spock
took the lion's share of the vegetables. Kirk looked at
the meat, put his hands together palm to palm, pressed
his fingertips against his forehead, and shut his eyes.
*A reverential gesture?* Spock wondered, counting the
seconds. *I have not seen him do that before...*
After half a minute, Kirk lowered his hands, took up
his knife and fork, and cut into the meat as if nothing
had happened. After the first bite, Spock stopped
watching him. *Considering his earlier statements,*
Spock concluded, *that could have been only a ritual
gesture of respect to the animal itself!* He picked his
way through the vegetables, thinking long thoughts
about predator's ethics. He noted that Kirk ate every
bit of the meat, even crunched up the small bones,
wasting nothing. He could not recall seeing Kirk do
that at other meals, over other meat. *--But then, he
did not hunt those himself.* Yes, there was some
complex but reliable ethical pattern at work here. He
found the thought remarkably reassuring.
Kirk ate the quick-bread with honey for dessert and
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
After the dishes were cleaned, Spock went to the rug
and stretched out on it, wondering if Kirk would prefer
harp music or another mutual reading session. Kirk,
absorbedly feeding wood into the fire, gave no
indication of preference. If anything, he seemed
distant, abstracted, oddly restless again. Spock
studied him, wondering how to interpret this. *A
dissatisfaction? An insufficiency? Of what?* Spock
thumbed through his memories under 'Human Needs,
Physical and Mental,' and came up with no better answer
than the same old problem. *Lack of sufficient
emotional communication. Our recent progress, though
considerable, does not seem to have gone far enough.
Why? (Perhaps the feelings involved are too intense to
be drained by such 'safety valves.') What would be
There was one method he knew, had always known, for
complete and direct communication. *Mind meld...* He
shivered away from the thought, embarrassed and a
little afraid. *The loss of privacy... (but I've seen
his mind before, and neither of us were shamed) ...not
a thing to be done lightly, only for need, in crisis...
(and is this not a crisis situation?) ...usually
reserved only for one's most intimate acquaintances
(and is he not closer to me than anyone living?) Very
He rolled over and sat up. "Jim?"
Kirk turned and looked at him.
"I have been considering our... mutual problem. There
is a possible technique which I have hesitated to use,
perhaps to our loss. If you are willing, I shall
"Spock, I'm willing to try anything that has any solid
chance of success."
"There will necessarily be an invasion of privacy."
"There's nobody here but the two of us; that's private
enough for me. What did you have in mind?"
For answer, Spock raised his hand and held it, fingers
spread, an inch from Kirk's face.
"Oh. That." Kirk gnawed his lip for a moment. *It might
work too well! Don't show him--* "Ah, just a minute.
Let me take care of a... minor annoyance first." He
stood up and hurried off to the bathroom.
Spock followed him with a fond and amused gaze. *Such
delicacy... It should have occurred to me that he, too,
might have reasons for embarrassment...* He fetched his
harp and turned his attention to mastering a
particularly intricate passage of a short concert
piece. It wasn't until he'd practiced the phrase to
perfection that he noticed how long Kirk had been gone.
Speculating briefly on the strange toilet habits of
humans, he selected another tune.
Eventually, Kirk returned, looking subdued, a little
tired, and quite calm. He smiled and flopped down on
the rug. Spock put the harp aside and hitched onto his
knees, facing Kirk. He took a few measured breaths,
lowered his mental shields to the first level, and
placed his hands lightly on either side of Kirk's head.
*Feather-touch...* Kirk thought, holding himself
relaxed, open and calm. Spock was there, close, shy,
just touching the surface, a warm and gentle pressure
like a summer breeze. *Come further. It's all right.* A
faint stirring, like motion, like sliding cautiously
into a pool that might be chilly, and then Spock was
his mind, his personality, thoughtful and
gently, shy and curious.* ...like a little unicorn,*
Kirk laughed silently.
*Indeed?* Spock answered, bemused. *You symbolize me
thus...* Abruptly, like a stone tossed into a still
pool, rippling it, he remembered the slaughtered
unicorn and the tyrannosaurus feasting on it.
*Associations! Beyond what you said -- you saw that and
thought of me--*
*I did? ...Yes. Yes, I did!* Kirk hadn't realized it
until now, but the connection was there. Recognition of
it opened a door, revealing a dark closet stuffed
bursting-full of hideous, one-theme horrors: ugly
dinosaur jaws spilling grass-green blood, cliffs
collapsing in heavy thunder, nameless monsters
grabbing, Spock dead a thousand different ways.
Impulsively, Kirk reached out and wrapped his arms
around Spock, as if to shield him or pull him away from
danger. Up from the depths his protectiveness welled,
fountained, flooded, sweeping through Spock's
carefully-stationed barriers, rolling him under.
*Jim--* Spock leaned dizzily against those supporting
arms. *I am safe. I am ... with you...*
The surrounding flood of feeling did not diminish, but
it calmed. The frantic tide eased to a gentle rocking
of waves, filling and holding him, protecting,
sustaining, soft as easy sunlight. *Safe... yes...*
Despite the utter loss of control, he felt no fear. He
floated, helpless and astonished in the bright depths.
*'Love', Jim? Is this love? Is this how it feels? I did
not realize... all I know or suspected, and more...*
* -- love you -- * The enfolding brightness pulsed,
familiar as his own hand, warmer than tears, flickering
with undertones of yearning, tenderness, pain --
intimations of grief. *Do you know how I would suffer
if I lost you?*
*... Don't. Please don't...* Spock reached out to
soothe that pain away. *You don't have to do that.
(Reverse flow. Change. Change...) Not grief, not
pain... Jim, there are other measures of love. I am
certain. I have seen, though not understood, but they
exist... we can have them... oh, love...*
*True. That's why we're here.* The flood-waters
changed, lifted him to their surface, held him lightly
on a quiet ocean of light. Spock drifted on it,
entranced. * ... Beautiful... So beautiful...* It was
awesome to realize that one mind could create such vast
reaches of brightness, tenderness, beauty and power. *A
new dimension... the positive dimension I sought... I
had not guessed...*
In himself, he began to feel an answering tide, a
desire to respond, reciprocate, reply to the source.
*Yes. It is possible for me. I must not lose the
chance. I need to... something... oh, do something!*
Vaguely he felt Kirk's arms around him. *Yes! Like
that.* His hands moved, stroking downward, silently
speaking with an instinctive code of touch. As he
pulled away from Kirk's head, the inner vision faded
though the feeling of vast bright and peace remained.
*Contact ending...* But this wasn't the usual pulling
away, an abrupt clean severance; this was slower,
easier, one level thinning out into another. *Easy...
so gentle...* Normal vision returned, and he saw Kirk's
eyes smiling into his own.
"F-fascinating..." he murmured still shaken.
"I knew you'd say that," Kirk laughed softly as his
hands moved in slow circles on Spock's back. "It
was..." *like afterglow, but without the...* "Very good."
"Fatiguing..." Spock yawned enormously.
"Worth it, though."
Kirk unfastened Spock's shirt and lowered him to the
rug. Spock obligingly undressed and stretched out on
his stomach. Kirk's hands moved over him, gentle and
slow, and Spock let himself drift. The darkness crept
softly down from the deepening sky, wrapping the world
in tranquil silence. He pulled back to consciousness
only briefly when Kirk picked him up and carried him to
the bed. He stayed half awake while Kirk undressed and
slipped in beside him, then sank back to sleep through
a warm network of interlaced ankles, knees, elbows and
chins. The night was quiet and nobody dreamed.
Spock wakened to a well-risen sun, the sound of tea
brewing, and Kirk -- already dressed in flannel shirt
and bluejeans -- pulling the covers off him. He smiled,
stretched, and held out his arms to be lifted. Kirk
carried him to the hearthrug and dutifully massaged his
back and legs. The motions were relaxing and pleasant
as always, but Spock had the faint impression that
there was something hesitant, shy, withheld about them.
Kirk seemed faintly distant, preoccupied. *Or perhaps
this is lack of perspective, after the intense contact
of last night,* Spock considered. *I surely cannot
expect such levels of communication at all times.* He
shrugged mentally and forgot about it.
The teakettle whistled for attention. Kirk got up to
deal with and Spock, mildly sorry that the massage was
finished, levered himself upright and went to dress.
Breakfast was brief and quiet; Kirk said little, but
Chores went quickly, too, Spock noticed. Despite his
preoccupation, Kirk seemed charged with nervous energy.
He made his way through the dishes and firewood-
gathering in record time, then took the food basket and
picked through the garden like a well-oiled harvesting
machine. *Odd,* thought Spock. *We have sufficient food
for the day... Draining excess nervous energy? A
possible side-effect of the prolonged meld... How
strange. Usually, melds have an enervating effect...*
After that, Kirk fetched more tanning berries and
worked on the pseudo-snit hide for another two hours.
Then he filled all the water buckets. Then he did the
laundry. Spock began to wonder if Kirk weren't looking
for tasks to keep himself busy.
*But why?* he wondered. *Not just excess energy; he has
stopped several times to regain wind. Why is he
indulging in make-work? (...To avoid me?) Why? We have
made such excellent progress... (Perhaps too quickly.
He may be frightened.) If so, the relapse is temporary.
Kirk checked the tanning hide once again and looked
around him, his expression saying clearly as words,
"You appear troubled," Spock offered, coming up to him.
Kirk actually flinched in surprise, looked around and
flashed a nervous smile. "No, not troubled," he said,
"just restless. Maybe I'm not getting enough exercise."
"I regret that my physical condition may have
constrained you to--"
"Naw, it's not your fault. I just haven't been watching
myself. Maybe a swim... Yes, that nice cool lake looks
very good." He moved down the path, slipping out of his
shirt. "Care to join me?" he called back, radiating
some of his usual mischievousness.
Spock favored him with a loftily raised eyebrow. "I
assure you, I have no intention of approaching cold
water any closer than necessary."
"Fine. You feed the brontos and I'll go swim. Just
don't teach them anything new."
Spock actually blushed.
Kirk laughed, strolled down to the beach and undressed
at the edge of the waves. Spock shrugged, stopped to
pick some berries, then went to the edge of the bronto-
Kirk stayed in the water for nearly an hour, paddling
back and forth across the lake so energetically that
the little purple whale chose not to bother him again.
At last, comfortably tired, he floated on his back and
looked up in the sky. *Cool blue... like deep water...
cold water.* He grinned wryly. *Cool down, James T. ...
chill that Tomcat itch... cheap price for success...
and we're succeeding. Everything will be fine now...*
He glanced toward the shore and saw that Spock was
waiting for him. A pulse twitched. He turned over and
started swimming energetically again.
Spock leaned back on the short grass and admired the
scenery, the lake, Kirk disporting himself in the water
like a frisky dolphin. *Born sea-mammal,* he thought
fondly. *I must see Earth again soon, spend more time
studying aquatic life...*
Kirk came out puffing, looking quite relaxed. He shook
himself dry, toweled off with his shirt, pulled on his
clothes and came plodding up the shore. The brontos
paddled forward, whistling. He practically ran up the
slope to get away from them.
"Come on, Spock," he said, helping the Vulcan to his
feet with unseemly haste. "Let's go have lunch."
Surprised, Spock assented. They climbed the slope as
rapidly as Spock's unsteady legs would permit. Behind
them, the disappointed brontos trumpeted obscene
Kirk blushed furiously.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lunch was unusually light -- the last of the bread,
with honey, and some assorted fruit. Kirk toyed with
his food and appeared grateful when Spock was finished.
He did the dishes quickly and paced once around the
cabin, looking preoccupied. Spock was at the point of
asking what was troubling him when Kirk came up with
another occupational idea.
"Hey, let's go see how the unicorns are doing. Maybe
they've come out of hiding."
*Checking his livestock?* Spock wondered, getting to
his feet with Kirk's help. "They may still be unwilling
to show themselves," he cautioned. "It is unlikely that
the tyrannosaurus has moved to other hunting grounds."
"Then let's go see what the lizard's up to."
*Perhaps he hopes to drive it away,* Spock considered
as they walked the slope to the woods. *That might be
the best compromise...*
They were only a few moments into the light forest when
they heard the sounds: hissing, screeching, thudding of
"That sounds like a fight!" Kirk jumped forward,
remembered Spock, turned and picked him up, and ran
toward the battle-racket as fast as he could. They
broke through a neo-dogwood hedge into a clearing and
stopped short. Kirk almost dropped Spock, who managed
to land neatly on his feet. They both stared at the
raging battle, uncertain what to do.
One of the warriors was the tyrannosaurus, jaws wide
open and all fifty fangs bared. The other was the young
bull minimoth, curly head tossing, white tusks stained
with reptilian blood. They grappled, pulled apart,
circled and charged to grapple again. Both were cut and
bleeding. The tyrannosaurus had the heavier weaponry,
but the minimoth was quicker and more precise. Their
strength and weight seemed equal.
"Goddam," said Kirk in the awed voice of seeing an idle
curse come true. "He *did* pick on someone his own
"We should not interfere," Spock warned. "Aiding either
side would be unwarranted interference in the
"All right, all right!" Kirk sat down, digging his
fingers into the moss. "But you know which one my
"Fascinating," said Spock, sitting beside him. *Is this
the origin of human 'spectator sports'? Intriguing
exercise in observation and self-control...*
The tyrannosaurus charged, jaws gaping. The minimoth
trumpeted, stamped, lowered its head and, at the last
minute, ducked aside. The tyrannosaurus stumbled past,
braking awkwardly. The minimoth whirled and slammed
into the reptile from the side, bowed head raking
upward. The tyrannosaurus tottered, flailed, and went
"He's down!" Kirk cheered. "It's all over but the
"Jim, do not get up to congratulate the victor," Spock
nagged. "He may misunderstand your intentions. Allow
nature to take its course."
"Okay, I'll wait," Kirk grumbled.
The tyrannosaurus, helpless off its feet, rolled and
kicked and gnashed its glittering teeth. The minimoth
backed off, panting, then lowered its head and charged
again. The impact was heavy and the tusks slammed deep.
The tyrannosaurus screeched.
Spock went pale; he hadn't expected that.
"He's going to finish him off," Kirk said. "Don't
"It was I who insisted on non-interference..." Spock
folded his hands together and watched, sickened, but
The minimoth stabbed a few times more, raking up gouts
of dark blood and unidentifiable chunks of flesh, then
plodded around to the lizard's feebly-thrashing head
and methodically stamped on it. It took half a dozen
stomps to break the skull. The minimoth kept tramping,
puffing like a bellows, motions slowing noticeably,
crushing brains and skin and plates of wet bone. The
worst of it was that the tyrannosaurus' feet still
*Reptiles expire slowly,* Spock thought, growing dizzy.
*The minimoth is intelligent enough to be thorough...*
Kirk quietly slipped one arm around his shoulders.
Infinitely grateful, Spock leaned against him.
Satisfied, or exhausted, the minimoth pulled away from
the gory reptilian corpse and staggered off toward the
bushes. The rest of the herd, Spock noticed, was hidden
there, watching with wide eyes. Halfway to safety, the
little animal fell to its knees. Some of the other
minimoths started forward, possibly intending to help,
but stopped in consternation as they saw the two
"That's enough," said Kirk, getting to his feet. "They
won't dare come help while we're here. I think that
gives us the responsibility."
This time, Spock didn't argue.
Kirk walked slowly to the injured animal, murmuring
repetitive promises of safety. The minimoth rolled an
exhausted eye at him and didn't even try to move. Kirk
knelt beside it, patting gently. The minimoth only
snorted. Watching, Spock wondered if the beast was
sufficiently intelligent to comprehend Kirk's
intentions. The minimoth complained weakly as Kirk
gathered it in his arms and picked it up, but then in
lay still, only its ears flapping, as if resigned to
its strange fate.
"I have to get him water fast," said Kirk. "Will you be
all right if I run off to the lake?"
"*I* am in no danger." Spock climbed to his feet with
the aid of the crutch. "Proceed. I will follow as
quickly as possible."
Kirk nodded acknowledgement, cradled the minimoth in
his arms and strode off to the lake. Spock limped
slowly after him, wondering if he was witnessing a
reenactment of the first human domestication of
animals. Dozens of animals peered at him, stepping
unhurriedly out of the way as he walked, their earlier
shyness gone. Apparently, the news of the tyrannosaur's
death spread quickly. Spock came down to the lake to
find Kirk kneeling in the shadows, ignoring his soaked
pants, carefully washing the minimoth's wounds. The
water was pink with spreading blood. The animal was
sucking up the water with its trunk, too thirsty to
care about the taste.
"He's going to need bandaging," Kirk commented as Spock
tottered down beside him. "There are some bad gouges on
his neck and shoulders."
"There has also been considerable blood loss," Spock
added. "Note the unusual thirst and shivering."
"Let him drink as much as he can. We'll set him by the
fire to keep warm. Can you pick some of that grass for
Spock went into the tall weeds and pulled up an armload
of grass, intrigued by his own growing enthusiasm. *...
An expression of my own human instincts?* he wondered.
*Surely I have a few (or more than a few). Yes, I am
somewhat... fond of the engaging little creature.
Affection/protectiveness extended to reserved-prey
(intelligent... and likeable) animal: beginnings of
domestication. Instinct inclined toward technological
advance (not only harmless, but useful). Fascinating!*
He took the grass into the cabin and spread it before
the fire, where Kirk sat rubbing salve into the
minimoth's wounds. The little animal must have felt
some pain at these ministrations, but it grumpily
endured them without trying to escape. *It does appear
to understand that we are trying to help,* Spock
marveled. He went to the kitchen for the drinking-water
bucket and some assorted vegetables.
"Easy now, big boy," Kirk reassured the minimoth as he
wrapped gauze bandaged around its neck. "Pity McCoy
isn't here, but I think you'll heal clean anyway.
There, there..." He set the animal down on the mat of
The minimoth blinked owlishly, glared at the fire with
suspicion, inspected its bed, flapped its ears and
pulled unsteadily to its feet. Spock carefully set the
water and food before it, then backed away. The
minimoth eyed him for a moment, dismissed him with a
snort, and turned its attention to the food. After
sampling a little of everything, it settled down to
serious demolition of the heap of berries.
"He's got a healthy appetite," Kirk laughed. "That's a
good sign. Let's leave him alone to eat while we go
watch the sunset."
"You seem to have a particular fondness for sunsets."
"Sure. I never get to see enough of them when I'm on
They strolled down to the lake, listening to the Wild
Concert as the sun slid toward the horizon. A light
breeze riffled the water, sharpening the wavelets until
their edges gleamed with sunset-fire. They sat by the
shore and waited, watching the sun change colors and
the velvet shadows lengthen. The sky was streaked with
banners of violet clouds and long lines of birds.
Flocks of snits and unicorns trotted down to the water
to drink, their squeaking and nickering adding to the
chorus of evening sounds. There seemed to be more of
them than usual. Spock wondered if they were
celebrating their freedom from the tyrant-lizard. He
turned to look at Kirk and saw the last red-gold light
of the sun glowing on his face. The hazel eyes seemed
to shine with an internal light of their own. *Never
have I seen anything more beautiful...* Spock felt his
breath catch in his throat, and the nameless feeling
flooded him again, filling his mind with wordless
singing, yearning, aching to do something he couldn't
define. He reached out one hand and rested it on Kirk's
shoulder. Kirk glanced at him, his light smile as
dazzling as the sunlight. Spock felt as if he were
"I think we've made it, Spock," Kirk said very quietly.
"I think everything's going to be all right."
Spock only nodded agreement. He didn't trust his voice
The last sliver of molten sun-disk dropped behind the
mountains. The lake darkened to midnight blue, and the
valley filled like a cup with violet shadows. The last
of the animals trotted away from the lake and
disappeared into the netted darkness of the underbrush.
Kirk sighed, stretched, got to his feet, and extended a
hand to help Spock up. Spock followed him silently up
the path, weak legs carrying him slowly but surely,
wondering idly if his undiminished welter of nameless
feelings were literally buoying him up.
The minimoth looked up, burbling cheerfully, as they
came in. It didn't even step aside as they sat down
near it on the hearthrug. The little creature flapped
its ears at Spock and shyly inspected him with its
trunk. Spock sat still, bemused and a little touched.
*Can the creature sense my emotional state?* he
wondered. "It appears to be an affectionate animal."
"True." Kirk smiled. "Or maybe he's frisking you for
*Joke,* Spock recognized, arching an eyebrow at him.
"The animal does seem intelligent enough to be capable
of covert pilferage." He petted the little elephant's
Kirk chuckled and set more wood on the fire. The flames
caught and blazed up merrily. Spock watched him,
feeling the whole incident, setting, scene and feeling
coalesce to a beautiful conclusion. *Yes, Father; it is
possible. The positive dimension -- we can have it, and
be saved thereby. These human techniques for
harnessing, guiding, using our emotions -- we can have
them. I have seen it. In myself. Oh, Jim, yes! Yes,
everything will be well now. Yes. Yes.*
The minimoth rocked from side to side, burbling happily
over the vegetables. Kirk leaned back and watched,
smiling, haloed with firelight.
*How beautiful you are!* Spock felt the nameless
delight rise wild and singing. He hitched over to
Kirk's side, slipped an arm around his waist, rested
his chin on Kirk's shoulder.
Kirk leaned against him and hugged back. "Penny for
your thoughts," he murmured.
"I believe they are of more value than that." Spock
rubbed his cheek against Kirk's neck. "I am happy. I
can recognize it now. And my philosophical problem is
solved." He felt his words floating on the surface of
his bright haze of happiness, the joy in him singing,
singing. He wanted Kirk to share it. He slipped one
hand gently up to Kirk's face and let his telepathic
barriers drop. *What is this I feel, Jim? Give it a
"Love," Kirk whispered, basking in that bright outflow.
*Deep and strong as a great river... ah, heavy current.
Can you hear me? It doesn't matter* "We've won. We're
going to be all right, both of us. Safe! Safe at last!
Oh, I love you..."
"Love..." Spock nuzzled his ear, voice thick and fuzzy.
"Yes, I understand it now. This is... what I felt in
your mind yesterday. Ah, beautiful beyond telling! No,
I could never be ashamed of this... sweet, bright
feeling... I love you, Jim. Friend. Dearest friend..."
*Such happiness... I could burst...* The brightness
climbed, soared, singing, purring deep in his throat,
rippling with his pulse, promising further heights, the
yearning growing clear and defined. *Touch...* He
leaned his whole body against Kirk, reveling in the
contact, pressing tight. *Yes! Yes!* His free hand
reached blindly, bumped against a smooth knee, petted
gently, sliding into longer and longer strokes.
Half-drowned in the surging brightness, Kirk realized
too late what was happening. He managed to clench his
mental shields tight, letting no thought escape,
without Spock noticing -- but he couldn't stop the
other reaction. He squeezed his eyes shut, horrified at
himself, feeling the pulsing hot pressure swell and
rise. *Don't let Spock know!* was all he could think.
*Don't let him-- Stop it-- Can't--*
Spock noticed idly that Kirk was beginning to squirm in
his arms. Perhaps this presaged another playful
wrestling match. *Not now,* he decided, tightening his
grip. His other hand slid further, enjoying the
marvelous sculpturing of the long thigh muscles. The
sensation was utterly delightful.
Kirk writhed frantically, helpless against his
strength. Spock found that intensely pleasurable. *I
have you...* The warm/bright/singing joy sharpened and
grew, rising to a fierce peak. *Yes, I could control
you if I wished...* Purring, he nipped softly at Kirk's
neck and ears. *I could...* His hand slid higher--
--and brushed against something completely unexpected.
Surprised, Spock stopped where he was. His fingers
probed, tested, explored.
Kirk groaned, turning his face away.
It took several seconds for Spock to realize what he
was holding, and what it meant. He stared at Kirk,
amazed, studying the tightly struggling body, the
averted, tensed, ecstatic/agonized face. Realization
slowly trickled through his astonishment. *That is...
desire. He is suffering... an agony of desire. And I
have put him there. I can do that to him.*
With that understanding, the bright/hot/sharp/singing
feeling crested, too fierce to ignore, finally
revealing itself. He remembered where and when he'd
felt it before. *With Leila. With Zarabeth. With them,
impossible. But with him...*
In that instant, Kirk's taut face and helplessly
writhing body was the most beautiful, enthralling,
desirable sight he'd ever known.
Right there, up rose all the old terrors of emotion in
a single dark wave, uncontrollable and vast, over his
head. *Too much! Too close! Escape--* Panicked, Spock
jumped back. He rolled away from Kirk, frantic to put
safe distance between them, scrambled clumsily to his
feet and stumbled out of the cabin.
Behind him, abandoned, Kirk slumped forward until his
bowed head almost touched his knees. His hands shook,
clutched at the floorboards, tightened into fists. He
sobbed once, then stopped.
The minimoth glanced toward him, ears flapping in
Halfway to the lake, Spock's overworked legs gave out
and dropped him to the grass. The impact jarred loose
the grip of fright, giving him a moment to think.
*Fool!!* he railed himself. *Where would I go? There is
no shelter here. Think.*
Panting, he sat up and glanced at the sky. No light was
there except the cool tapestry of the stars.
*...Alone,* he understood. *Alone, save for him... and
nowhere to run, or hide. I must deal with it. (Oh, I'm
afraid!) Afraid... Yes, I have learned that, too.* He
shivered in the night breeze.
A troop of unicorns approached, going to the lake in
the safety of darkness. Pitifully grateful for the
distraction, Spock held out his hand to them. They
shied, snorted, tossed their horned heads and scampered
away. With a pang, he remembered the other part of the
legend of the unicorn.
"But I didn't do it!" he cried to the uncaring night
sky. "I have never -- never completed..." *Virgin!
(Technically.) 'Technical virgin...'*
He pulled his knees and rested his forehead on them,
bitterly remembering the Vulcan -- and more accurate --
synonym. *'Tease'. Yes... yes, I am. I did that. To
Jim. I made him suffer... what no Vulcan could have
endured! And I enjoyed doing it!* It had been a long
time since he'd wanted, so badly, to cry. *No, no, I
didn't know what I was doing... (Didn't I?! After all
these years of studying humans? After what he told me
about his own desires? -- Oh, fool! Fool ten times
over!) No! I am a Vulcan! There was no precedent for
my-- (Liar! Remember Zarabeth!) ...Oh, yes, Zarabeth.
I was too much Vulcan then, and what good did it to me?
Oh, Father, how we have lied to ourselves...*
The night wind ruffled his hair, gently as a friend's
hand. Out of his misery, Spock remembered the
gentleness of an earlier touch. There was something he
had learned, something valuable, and it connected --
now that he thought of it -- with an old anomaly he had
never questioned before. *'Friend',* he thought, *as in
'the male is accompanied by his closest friends...' Why
do we have such a word, such a concept, if it is not
meant to be used?*
Puzzled, he pulled his face up from his knees.
*'Friend', from the ancient word: 'shieldmate' ... also
translated as 'deflector'. (Deflector? Of what?)
Implies... (look at it) ... the ancient custom of
deflecting aggression to fellow males by... (Yes! Look
at it!) ... encouraging affection toward them by...
(Say it!) ...out of season mating. (Yes.) Affection
deflecting aggression. (The same as humans.) Yes.*
Spock sat up on the chilling grass, the last vestiges
of terror and shame trickling out of him, transfixed by
this hard-gained knowledge. *The same as humans. It is
possible for us, and always was. Yes, we knew of it. I
knew of it. In some corner of my mind, I knew what I
was doing, all the time. (Love.) Yes, I love him, and
have for a long time... loved to the point of unreason,
self-destruction... (And here?) ... I have been
courting him, in the fashion of my ancestors. (Which
ones? Human? Vulcan?) It doesn't matter. (No, it
doesn't matter! The effect is the same! 'A difference
which makes no difference'...) '...is no difference.'
Yes, I wanted him. I courted him. I have won him.
(Success!) Yes, that is what I felt. Victory. That
sense of joy and power when I saw what I had done...
Yes, that is what I feared. And fled. (Coward and fool!
To run from such a prize!) Indeed! How dare I throw
away something so infinitely precious? How dare I turn
away?! (Go back to him.) Indeed.*
Spock maneuvered his feet under him and shakily pulled
himself upright. He turned back toward the cabin. His
knees threatened to drop him again. *No matter,* he
decided. *I will go back to him if I have to crawl
every inch of the way.*
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The minimoth rocked from foot to foot, harrumphing
anxiously. There seemed to be something wrong with the
rescuer-giant. Perhaps it was ill. The minimoth hoped
Kirk stayed where he was, not wanting to move. If he
took his hands off the floor, there was a good chance
he'd beat his face in with them. *Careless, horny
idiot!* he screamed at himself silently. *Couldn't keep
my own goddam crotch under control, and now I've lost
everything. Oh, Spock... Oh, that look on his face.
Terrified! He ran... How long can he run on those legs?
Until he breaks them!?*
A horrifying vision swept up before his tight-shut
eyes: Spock, lying crippled in some valley a dozen
miles away, unable to reach food or water, chilling
slowly in the night wind -- and the ugly tyrannosaurus,
a whole pack of them, stalking patiently after him,
like vulture... waiting.
"No!" Kirk whispered. "Please, no!" *McCoy's worst
warning: 'raid the game for good' -- and I did it! I
did! Go back and tell Bones I lost my best friend
because I didn't think to go off and beat that thing
into submission before I got near him again! Too much
trust in cold water, and it wasn't enough. Oh,
The minimoth's trunk brushed against his hand. He
"Go 'way," he muttered. "Don't you know I'm no good to
my friends?" *No damn good. Damn near got him killed so
many times, and now... Stupid horny bastard... How in
hell did I let it get that far anyway?* He stared into
the sinking fire, trying to understand. *...Just old,
dirty habits? So used to saying 'love' when my britches
itch that I can't keep it from working the other way
around? ... No, that doesn't make sense.*
He rubbed his eyes with his sleeve, realizing that the
truth wasn't that simple. *No,* he remembered, *I don't
recall that I ever felt that for him before we got
here, before I knew I had to get through to him about
love... 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...'
I counted all the ways, tried them all, found so many
that worked. Why couldn't I stay content with them?
Unbidden, his memory replayed every incident of Spock's
innocent teasing, all of it relentlessly seductive --
and effective. The memories alone made his hands sweat.
*Oh, sure, blame the victim!* Kirk raged at himself.
*As if he knew what he was doing! Innocent as a child,
no matter how it looked... I knew that. I didn't have
to let those things get to me. Why did I? Why, why, why
couldn't I stop?!!*
Desperate for an answer, he ran through the razor-edged
memories of that last hour before disaster. He
remembered all they'd done and felt, every detail,
every shade of feeling: warmth, closeness, joy,
contentment, peace, something that had looked like
perfect understanding, all rising to that bright peak,
crowned with the embrace that had seemed so utterly
fitting -- until it heeled over into ruin. Try as he
might, Kirk simply could not pick out the instant when
it had changed. *It took me too long even to recognize
it... it had to be present earlier... sneaked up on
me... so much a part of everything else... grew right
along with it, undifferentiated, inseparable part of
all that happiness, so bright, so strong...*
Kirk snapped his head up, eyes wide. *Could that be the
answer?! Any feeling that fierce, that intense -- Bones
was right: can't keep it locked up, it has to take
form, expression, and the strongest expression possible
-- physical expression -- Yes! Enough pain can make
anyone cry. Enough joy can-- Then a touch could do it!
Intense enough feeling, and no touch is innocent -- or
else they all are, and we're damned fools for even
trying to make the distinction! There is no border, no
off-on switch, no black-and-white cutoff point -- it's
all a smooth spectrum, a sliding scale...*
He took a deep breath, sagging with relief. *All right,
now I know. I can explain it. We can understand it,
deal with it. It's not hopeless, just another
problem... a small roadblock... if even that. I have to
tell him, make him understand, make him see that it's
all right and there's no harm done; we can deal with it
together. It's not so terrible, we can work around it
and be happy... Oh, where is he? Where can I find him?
How can I make him understand?*
There was a sound at the door: one dragging footstep,
Kirk froze, not daring to look up, afraid of shattering
his last chance with a single, incautious word.
Spock came over to the hearthrug and sat down clumsily.
He noted that Kirk didn't seem to have moved in all the
time he'd been gone. The thing changed was Kirk's face;
he seemed to have been crying. The knowledge hurt. *I
have caused that. I must end it...* Spock took Kirk by
the shoulders, lifted him, gently turned him so they
could look each other in the eyes.
Kirk said nothing, but he was shaking.
Carefully, somewhat awkwardly, Spock leaned forward and
The relief was so fierce that Kirk thought he might
collapse under it. He wrapped his arms around Spock's
lean body, clinging to him for support as much as for
everything else. He felt like crying or laughing wildly
or babbling romantic nonsense, but all he did was hang
Spock cautiously copied the motions, wishing he had
learned better from the little experience he'd had. He
wished he knew how to do this properly. He wished he
were better prepared to accept such a victory, how best
to treat the prize, even how to explain. "I... I am not
familiar with the procedure," he tried lamely. "You
shall have to instruct me. Please be patient, Jim; I am
very inexperienced with love."
Kirk laughed weakly against his chest. "Experience
didn't help me that much... I'm sorry, Spock. I..."
*Wait a minute... he can't mean...* "Look, it isn't
your fault, but I... I can't seem to help feeling... I
"I understand." *Oh, love, do not blame yourself!* "I
have made you desire me."
"It wasn't your fault! I did it. It was my automatic--"
"No." Spock brushed gentle, quieting fingers across his
lips. "I am not so ignorant as I pretended."
"What?! I can't believe--"
"Jim, I have lied unforgivably -- to you, and to
myself. I have... Although I never completed the
action, I have known the feeling. I simply did not
recognize -- did not want to recognize... what I
wanted..." His arm closed so tight that they squeezed
the breath out of Kirk's lungs. "Humans have no
monopoly on self-deception. It is possible for
Vulcans... very possible."
"Spock..." Kirk wriggled in that iron grip, got a
little more room to breathe. "You don't have to... go
this far. I can control it. You--"
"No." Spock took him by the shoulders and held him at
arm's length, looking him steadily in the eyes. "You
have controlled yourself far better than I have in this
matter, far better than any Vulcan..." He shook his
head in a very human gesture of amazement. "How I have
tormented you! And... enjoyed it."
Kirk could only stare at him, gaping.
"Yes." Spock's eyes were wide, revealed, utterly
honest. "I have indeed loved you for an immeasurable
time." *Strange, how easy it is to say the forbidden
word, now that I know how true it is...* "I do not know
precisely when I began to desire you as well.
Perhaps..." His eyes wandered to star-patterned sky
overhead. "Perhaps when I began to learn what it was,
how it felt..." Idly, his hands circled on Kirk's back,
exploring the shifting muscle and bone beneath the thin
cloth. "But I do know that I feel it now, past any
doubt or denial." *Even at this moment... just the feel
of you under my hands, the sight of that beautiful
face... 'Behold the prize that thou hast won.' ...and
that I do not intend to let go!* "Do not speak to me of
denying myself any further." With that, he pulled Kirk
hard against him and let his hands slide down, nuzzling
shamelessly at his neck, falling willingly into the
bright/sweet drunkenness of senses, of touch.
Kirk leaned against Spock's warm shoulder, panting as
if he'd run five miles. *Can't believe this! Happening
so fast--* The solid flesh surrounding him seemed the
only real thing in the upended, spinning universe. The
hot sliding hands left trails of soft fire under his
skin, igniting him. He knew he couldn't resist it for
very long. *Ask now, while I can...* "But... you're
Vulcan..." he whispered, scrambling for words.
"Yes," Spock breathed through Kirk's tousled hair. "And
Vulcans are dangerously passionate creature. Otherwise,
we would not have needed such ruthless adherence to
logic, to emotional repression... But I think..." He
smiled against Kirk's cheek. "If I may dare to compare
myself to Surak, I think I may have found... something
better." *Indeed better... so good... this shirt is in
"What? ...Found what?" Kirk gasped, holding onto Spock
as if his life depended on it. The growing sweet
tickling warmth was making him dizzy, making it hard to
hold still, swamping his thoughts.
"I have seen," Spock purred, "you have shown me that
emotions can be allowed, used constructively, even
enjoyed." He slipped his hands under Kirk's shirt,
marveling at the concert of textures, delighted to feel
the warm shiver at his touch. *Appreciative...
Beautiful in all things. Oh, how I love you!* "For your
sake, for mine, even perhaps for Vulcan's -- I cannot
turn back now." He could feel the
bright/sweet/fierce/singing feeling rising in him
again, returning in full strength, fast flooding,
filling him in vast and growing waves. This time he
recognized it and was not afraid. He let himself flow
with it. *Into the unknown.. but I have seen reason to
trust. Yes, I accept. (I accept!) Carry me, ancient
tide. My friend/shield-mate/deflector..* "Jim, I love
"Oh, love, yes!" Kirk clutched back, feeling the
floodgates open -- mental, physical, Spock's, his own,
without clear border or difference, all brightness and
sweet burning, lifting him, pulsing. His hands climbed
Spock's shoulders, up to his neck, pulled his face down
and met head-on in a hard, fierce kiss. *Lips so soft,
so warm...* He couldn't believe how good it felt, how
utterly happy he was.
Spock purred thunderously against him, tilted sideways,
rolled down onto the hearthrug, pulling Kirk with him.
He nipped playfully at Kirk's neck, felt for the shirt
buttons, and began unfastening them. His fingers
vibrated with his rising pulse. Kirk wriggled away from
the intoxicating touch and shook his head hard, trying
to clear it. Spock pounced on him like a playful
leopard, pinning him down, and continued to pull the
*Seductive, hell!* Kirk thought dizzily. *Damn good at
it... he's going to try again, all the way to... the
finish? Does he really know where he's going, what he's
doing, what will happen? Be sure. Now, while I can
still think... or stop, or he can. Quick, before the
tides pull us in over our heads!*
"Spock--" He pulled back and raised his head until he
could look Spock in the face. Those dark Vulcan eyes
had never been so bright, so gentle, so unshielded. "Be
sure," he said, choosing his words with as much care as
he could muster. "Are you certain you know where this
is going? Will you... follow all the way to the end?
Spock, do you want to make love?"
The vulnerable eyes never flinched. "Yes," he said.
"Yes, I will. Yes."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
That was exactly what they did... three times that
night and again in the morning.