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An Unusual Connection.

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Even as he opened his lips to put forward the suggestion, a part of him protested against it—the logical, rational part of him. Unfortunately, the rest of his mind was exhausted, sleep deprived and more than a little desperate.

“There may be another option.”

John’s head snapped up so quickly that Harold worried he might have given himself a whiplash. His eyes were anxious, lips thinned in the way they were when he was at the edge of his restraint.

“Well,” he said, voice vibrating with impatience but coming out calm nonetheless. There was a reason Harold preferred John’s company to others. His control on emotions—at least in displaying them—would make even a Vulcan jealous. “The stage is all yours, Finch.”

“It is… a suggestion of highly unorthodox, and somewhat intimate nature.”

John’s eyes widened at that. Harold wasn’t one for suggesting the unorthodox, after all. John rubbed his hand across his jaw, looking around and contemplating.  “We have been stuck on this rock for two days, Finch. We have no food, no weapons, and our communicators don’t work. Our security complement is dead, and as it is, we barely managed to escape from the natives of this planet, and not without a cost.” He glanced significantly at the bandage on Harold’s shoulder, still stained green from fresh blood. “I need to go figure out a way to change this situation, because I don’t know about you, but I don’t want us to die on this rock.”

“Even if you manage to infiltrate their power grid Mr. Reese, there’s no guarantee you will be able to rewrite their programming. I should be the one there.”

“And you will? They don’t exactly use Standard.”

“Language of mathematics is universal, Mr. Reese.” Harold tried to sound matter of fact, but knew there was a hint of smugness in his voice.

John’s lips twitched, in a way they did when he was reluctantly amused. He shook his head. “No offense, Finch, but this is no easy terrain, even without your injury, your—“ John stopped speaking, looking uncomfortable.

“My disability would make it impossible for me to traverse, I agree Mr. Reese.” Harold winced as he got up from his makeshift bed of local flora. “But even you have to realize the necessity of being able to communicate.”

“I know that.” Frustration bled into John’s voice. “But the ionic dispersion in the atmosphere makes it impossible—“

“That is why I suggested there might be another way.”

“I’m listening.” John folded his arms and looked at him, picture of attention.

“As you already know, Vulcans are a telepathic species.” John opened his mouth to interrupt, but Harold raised a hand to stop him. “What I am trying to say is, I can establish a temporary mental link that would let us communicate with each other over extended distances… telepathically.”

“I am not a telepath.”

“It bears no significance. There have been instances of links with psi null individuals.”

“Do it.” John nodded and stepped closer.

Harold, who was prepared to explain the point further and was actually hoping to be talked out of his plan, gaped at his first officer.

“Mr. Reese. You have to understand that this isn’t an entirely risk free option. There can be chances of nerve damage, memory impairment, and ___”

John barely considered it and then shrugged. “Worth it. It’s either that, or getting killed trying to get off this planet blind.”

“There is also the matter of… privacy. We will be able to read each other’s surface thoughts. I can teach you to block them, but there isn’t time. I promise to not pry—“

“Finch,” John placed a hand on Harold’s shoulder. “I trust you.” From the emotions Harold could sense through John’s touch, he meant it. “You wouldn’t suggest it if there was another choice, and as you already mentioned… there isn’t enough time.”

With that, he smirked, and took a few steps back. “So, where do you want me?”

The tone was deliberately flirtatious, intended to make Harold blush. Embarrassment wasn’t logical, but the sympathetic response to it, causing a green flush to bloom on his cheeks, very much was.


The moment Harold placed his fingers on John’s psi points and cautiously waded into his consciousness, he realized that logic had not been the driving force behind his decision.

No.

It had been something exactly the opposite.

He would meditate on it later. For now, he established the link and ruthlessly crushed his urge to dive deeper into John’s mind—still so calm despite their situation, so organized, and yet having a very human disarray about it.

It saved their lives.

John was able to reach the power grid of the natives, and Harold was able to help him rewrite the programming of their primitive satellites to hail their ship, USS Thornhill.

Back in his quarters, after Dr. Tillman had patched him up with a kind smile and sure hands, he sat down cross-legged on the floor and felt the link with John throbbing with warmth, beckoning him. It already felt familiar to him, like a part of him that had been missing, and he had finally managed to discover it.

He caressed the link with his consciousness and tried to convince himself that saving their lives was worth the pain that would follow after severing it.

He didn’t quite succeed in doing so.


“You know you are projecting, right?” Harold looked up from the 3D chess at John’s face, which was completely expressionless as he watched Harold pick up his knight. When John met his gaze, Harold gestured towards his temple. “You triumphant anticipation. You’re projecting.”

A look of understanding dawned on John’s face, followed by their connection suddenly slamming shut. John looked at him mock accusingly. “Hey! That’s cheating,” he complained. “You said you won’t peek.”

“I wasn’t peeking,” Harold countered, putting back his knight. He didn’t need the link to understand the look of disappointment on John’s face. “As I said, you were projecting. And very loudly at that.”

“I didn’t know.” John didn’t meet his eyes. “It’s still quite new to me. Having someone in my head. And you hardly ever project emotions.”

“I do have a few decades more experience of being, you know, Vulcan.” Harold teased light heartedly, even though he had his heart beating loudly in his chest. John smiled at that, shrugging his shoulders.

Harold didn’t want to do this. He didn’t. But it had already been more than a week since he formed the link with John, and he feared another opportunity such as this one might not arise. And even if it did, he wouldn’t find courage to follow through.

It was excruciating enough as it was.

He absently moved his rook to second level, knowing it was a lazy move. He didn’t care. He watched John pick the white bishop, his elegant fingers wrapped around them, and ruthlessly crushed the thought of what those fingers would feel like wrapped around his own. He couldn’t afford to think like this. Not when they were sitting so close. Not when he could feel the link with John pulsating in his mind.

He cleared his throat, waiting until John looked up at him. While Harold prided himself for his ability to control his emotions, he knew he was doing a poor job at the moment. And John read him better than most people on a good day.

“What is it?” John put back his piece and said.

“About the link, Mr. Reese.” Harold started. John tensed, sitting straighter.

“What about it, Captain?” It told of John’s discomfort that he had reverted to using his title in private.

“While unorthodox, I think it is fair to say it served its purpose quite efficiently. I mean, it did save our lives.” Harold stopped to take a deep breath. “The point is, it has served its purpose. It may be prudent to dissolve it.”

John sat absolutely still for a few moments. Harold had to suppress the urge to hold his breath while he waited. Without breaking eye contact, John spoke.

“Why?”

Whatever Harold was expecting—relief, he was expecting John to be relieved—it wasn’t this question.

“Why?”

“Yeah.” With obvious deliberation, John relaxed in his chair. The lines around his eyes stayed tense still. “Why do you want to dissolve it?”

“Mr. Reese, as I have said before—I mean, this is a link of a very personal nature and you know that I am a—“

“You’re a private person. We all know that, Captain. But I am psi null. Even if I wanted to, I can hardly steal your thoughts or something.”

Harold felt that like a slap to his face. “Mr. Reese, if you’re implying that I am distrustful of your intentions—“

“I am not implying that, Harold.” John leaned forward, reaching with his hand. He realized what he was doing a few centimeters short of touching Harold’s skin. Harold wished he hadn’t. A physical connection, while John had put such a tight lid of their mental one, would’ve helped a lot.

“Mr. Reese,” Harold spoke around the roughness in his throat. “John. It is not only my privacy I am concerned about.”

“I trust you.” John said, without hesitation. There was an entreaty in his eyes that Harold could read, much better than the ones in his words. “And I promise I’ll try to make less noise in my head.”

As if Harold found John’s projections anything but calming. Harold considered the development over the last few minutes, and then looked at John. Really looked.

“Is there any specific reason you don’t want to dissolve the link, Mr. Reese?”

“Is there any specific reason you do?” John matched him.

They stared at each other a few minutes, the chess board lying forgotten between them. Then John sighed, his shoulders dropping. There was nothing deliberate about his body language at that moment.

“It helps. That’s all. Knowing where you are. That if you’re in danger you can call me for help, and the other way around. We are already a good team, and it makes us better.” He twisted his mouth in a rueful smile. “But you’re probably right. I can’t even hope to understand the repercussions of something like this. Vulcan telepathy,” he chuckled self-deprecatingly. “They really should update the course in xenobiology basics.”

Once again, Harold’s autonomic nervous system made his heart kick stronger in his side. He swallowed around the dryness in his throat, and spoke. “No, Mr. Reese. In this instance, I think maybe you are the one in the right. Communication between command team is essential during the missions. Sometimes, it’s what lies between success and dying on a hostile planet.”

Even if John was a Vulcan, he couldn’t have hoped to hide the tentative hope in his eyes at Harold’s words. A treacherous part of Harold’s heart—the part that had been aching since the moment they left planet’s surface and Harold knew he would have to break the link—rejoiced along with John.

“I just need to restate, for the record, that it is quite a reckless move, and more than a little dangerous.”

“Harold,” John spoke, with relief and a hint of teasing in his voice. “We fly through stars, bending the space time fabric, in a shell of metal. Danger is where we thrive.”

Harold let out a little laugh, shaking his head. “Fair enough.”

“Now, where were we?” John reached back down towards the chess board to pick up his bishop again. “Oh yeah. I was about to decimate you.” He moved the piece to the first level. “Check.”


It scared Harold how easy it was to get used to the link he shared with John. To get comfortable with it. To even get reliant on it.

He and John always had a harmony on the bridge, ever since they flew their first mission together more than two years ago. But now, he didn’t even have to turn his head and meet John’s eyes after a call with Admiral Greer to know John felt as uncomfortable about the mission as he did.

It didn’t mean he denied himself the pleasure of actually turning and meeting John’s eyes anyway.

He heavily relied on John’s intuition on away missions, the link throbbing with caution the moment John sensed danger. It saved his life more than once. Sometimes, the only thing taking the mission from a catastrophic failure to a successful treaty negotiation was the link between them.

Harold expected the crew to notice. They didn’t.

Once, Miss Shaw entered the bridge during beta shift, looked around, and then asked out loud. “Where’s Reese?”

“In the gym.” Harold answered without thinking. He berated himself for the slip a moment later. Just because John had opened the link and complained about the fact that some crewmen didn’t bother sorting out their gym gear after their workout, didn’t mean that he was supposed to know it.

To his surprise, Shaw simply nodded. “Thanks,” she said, and left through the sliding doors.

The only difference in his life the link caused was how much smoother it had become. And quite a bit less lonely.

If he sometimes sat on his meditation mat and instead of centering his core, found himself hopelessly drawn to the warmth of the bond—because in the privacy of his mind he could admit to himself that it had become more than a surface link— aching to reach into it, to delve deeper and claim what was being dangled teasingly in front him, that was only for him to know.


As much as not letting his emotions control him was a part of his culture—his nature—it didn’t make it easy. Quite the opposite in fact. He couldn’t just push the fact that he had just lost four members of his crew to the back of his mind. He couldn’t choose ignore the pain of their loss, and repress it. No. His Vulcan upbringing demanded him to acknowledge all of it, including acknowledgement of the part he had played in the events leading to their deaths.

“Stop that,” John chastised, giving him a sharp look, as they made their way to their quarters.

Inside his mind, he could feel John’s concern. And his absolution. Harold shut the link harshly. Beside him, John flinched.

They stopped outside Harold’s quarters. A part of Harold wanted to invite John inside. To delay meditating on the events of today and sort through the mess of the emotions wreaking his cluttered mind.

More than anything else, he wanted to drown in the unjustified absolution he could still see in John’s eyes even when he had closed the link.

But he was Vulcan. He didn’t. He couldn’t.

“Thank you, Mr. Reese. I will see you during alpha shift.”

John opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. It was only when he stepped back that Harold realized how close they had been standing.

Harold scanned his hand and the door opened a moment later. Before he could enter his chambers, John’s spoke.

“It wasn’t your fault, Harold.”

Harold looked up sharply at that, words of contrary on the tip of his tongue. It was his fault. They were under his command and his orders. The fact that Starfleet Headquarters gave incomplete and downright misleading information did not decrease the burden of responsibility he owed to his crew.

But he couldn’t say any of those things. Speechless, in face of the expressions John was wearing. These weren’t just words said to assuage Harold’s guilt. True or not, John believed them with absolute certainty.

Swallowing around the lump in his throat, Harold nodded. “Good night, Mr. Reese.”

John reached out, as if to pat his shoulder, but stopped halfway. Harold was annoyed by bereft he felt because of that.

“Goodnight, Captain.”


If Harold thought he was drawn to John before, he could not have been prepared for what it was like now. How he felt now.

He had never realized how much John didn’t touch him until he had starting craving the touch. John was very culturally sensitive, always aware of the fact that Vulcans didn’t like to be touched. Yet, Harold watched as John shook hands with Lieutenant Tao on the navigation console when he went over to corroborate findings from their last mission. His eyes lingered on their joined hands, wondering what it would feel like to have John’s fingers pressed like that against his own.

The sensation of a flush rising on his neck reminded him that he was on the bridge, and not a pre-bonded young Vulcan of ShiKahr. It would be prudent if he stopped acting like one.

John’s low voice, even speaking across the hall, would put all his senses on alert. He found himself cursing his Vulcan hearing sometimes, when his heart raced in his side for no other cause then John’s low laughter as he spoke with Miss Shaw.

Seeing John spar was worse than that. He only managed to survive that once, barely. He entered the gym to see John pinning a young man from security on the floor. He looked up when Harold entered, the smug smile evident in his eyes. The view, combined with the gentle ‘hello, Harold,’ inside his mind was enough to make him leave the room as soon as he could.

He was behaving in a manner unbecoming of Vulcans.

He couldn’t help it.

He meditated, for hours and hours, trying to understand and sort his emotions. But he had never felt like this before. He had no baseline to compare this with. He had been betrothed, once, before he decided to pursue Starfleet as a career. They had both decided that they lacked the mental compatibility to go through with the maturation of the bond, and their paths lay separate ways. But even Grace had not scrambled his mind like John did. He had half a mind to comm her and seek council.

Because the physical attraction, the longing for John’s touch and voice and company, he could still handle. What was much, much, worse was the lure of his mind. It called to him. The link becoming stronger, growing mature with time, deeper. It felt like a part of his own mind now, not separate from him, so much so that Harold wondered who he was—who he would be– without it.

And the most wretched thing of it all: he didn’t want to lose it. Not one part of it.


For all the potential for breaching privacy, Harold was very aware of how important it was to maintain it. He was Vulcan and had learned shielding from a very young age. John, he found, was very adept at picking it once Harold had taught him how to.

“It’s like shutting a door,” Harold explained, teaching him how to close the link.

“And getting your attention, that’s like, what? Knocking?”

Harold considered that. “That’s not inaccurate.”

Sure enough, a moment later, he heard knocking inside his head. He looked at John to reprimand him, but found him grinning. “Knock, knock.”

At the time, Harold had just rolled his eyes, not acknowledging the smile they both knew was on his own lips. But since then, they had both made sure their, doors, so to say, remained closed unless otherwise knocked on.

So it didn’t explain why John’s door was wide open when Harold went looking.

Hell, it didn’t explain why Harold went looking in the first place.

But the fact was, he was here, and there were alarms blaring in some corner of his mind— the corner that wasn’t mesmerized by the image of John’s hand moving on his erect penis—begging him to retreat before it was too late. Before he had irrevocably damaged their companionship.

It was shock that kept him there. Shock, and the swirling mess of emotions in John’s mind. That, and the sensations; sensations so exquisite, so novel and yet so very familiar. It was only moments, but something built inside John, inside himself, and Harold was helplessly rooted where he was.

And then John spoke, low, in a voice that Harold had never heard before. It was a half sigh, half moan, of a word that snapped Harold out of his funk and pulled him back in his head, slamming the door of the link shut in the process. He sat up straight in his bed, his heart hammering in his side and his breath coming out like he had run a marathon.

He stared at the wall in front of him, anchoring himself in the now, in his reality. Yet, try as he might, he couldn’t stop the echo of John’s voice in his head.

Harold!”


He walked onto the bridge at the beginning of next alpha shift and knew things had changed, irrevocably.

John knew.

He already expected it, from the way the link had been tightly shut since the… incident. But seeing Lt Fusco in place of John on the bridge confirmed it.

“Wonderboy said he needed some time off; exchanged his shift with mine. Said he cleared it with you?” Fusco answered his unasked question when their gaze met. He seemed confused. If Harold didn’t know better, he would even say worried.

Harold nodded. “That’s alright, Mr. Fusco.” He went to the captain’s chair and sat down. Again, his eyes scanned the room for his first officer, feeling a little untethered without meeting those intelligent, teasing eyes.

Shaking his head and sitting up straighter, he said, to no one in particular. “Updates, please.”


 

He sat through his shift while sparing barely enough cognitive functions to perform his duty as a Captain during the uneventful travel through empty space. The rest of his mind was occupied with how to fix what should never have been broken in the first place.

He had gotten greedy and selfish. He should’ve known the link was a mistake, before he had even formed it. He should’ve known because of how much he had wanted it. He had let emotion overrule his logic, and look where it got him.

He dared not prod the closed link in his mind, but much of his attention still was focused on it; focused on savoring it.

He knew what needed to be done.

So when his shift ended, he decided to forgo any sustenance and made his way towards his quarters. Mr. Reese’s quarters, more accurately. There was no point making it worse by waiting. He must, rip it like a band aid, to borrow human colloquialism.

He stood in front of Mr. Reese’s doors and took a deep breath. He had neither the time nor the inclination to process his emotions, so instead, he folded them into a ball and tried to shove it as far back as possible. His emotions did not control him. His logic did. And this was the most logical choice.

He raised his hand to knock, but before he could, the door swished open.

He saw John sitting at the table, his weapons laid out in front of him, holding a phaser in his hand. For a moment, Harold expected him to point it towards him. In the next moment he realized all the weapons were dismantled. John had probably been cleaning them.

“Sorry.” John noticed Harold’s gaze on what was half the armory inside John’s quarters. “I find it soothing.”

He sounded sheepish as he put his phaser down. Harold stepped inside the room and the door closed behind him.

When John stood up and finally met his gaze, all the emotions that Harold had spent last ten hours bottling up, come crashing back into him.

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry.”

They both spoke at the same time, and then stopped. John licked his lip and let out a chuckle. It was anything but a happy sound.

“Usually, I would ask you to go first, you being my Captain and all that, but this time I think I’ll take the lead.” He waited for Harold to interject, before continuing. “I’m sorry. For a being a coward and hiding here. I am glad you came to find me.”

“No, Mr. Reese. I am the one who is sorry. I understand your actions completely. What happened, it was... it was completely inappropriate.” Harold looked away, swallowing.

He heard John let out a shaky breath. “Yeah.”

“I put us in this situation Mr. Reese, and I accept the responsibility for it. I was blinded by the emotions, but I am thinking logically now. And as sorry as I am, I did not come here with an empty apology. I propose we dissolve the link in lieu of the fact that we are too close to it and cannot control it.”

He looked back at John, but John wasn’t looking at him. John nodded. “Okay. That’s fair.”

“Okay?”

“Yes.” Now John looked back up at him, and Harold was taken aback by the sheer heartbreak in his eyes. “I messed up. I deserve that.”

“This isn’t… punishment, Mr. Reese.” Harold didn’t know how to, but he felt compelled to reassure him. “At least, not one intended for you. It is I who committed serious breach of your privacy and violated a dozen different regulations concerning rights and ethics of sentient beings. I was the one who, as you said, messed up.”

“I told myself I could handle it.” John was smiling, but Harold hated that smile. It was a smile full of self-loathing. It was a smile he wore when he lost red shirts during a mission. “I think I always knew it was a lost cause. Only a matter of time. You’re right about that thing, I am too close to it.”

“Mr. Reese. You’re not listening. This situation is my mistake.”

“I am not going to let you blame yourself for this, Harold. Yes, it was highly inappropriate and keeping the link was possibly a terrible idea, but that’s all on me.”

“John! I am the one who looked.” Harold snapped, frustrated.

“Because I wanted you to look!” John snapped back.

“You, what?”

John sank into the chair, exhausted. He rubbed his forehead and looked utterly lost. “I wanted you to look. I wanted you to be there, with me. I wanted you to…” he looked back at Harold then, and Harold didn’t need to feel the link to know the next words before they were even out of John’s mouth. “I wanted you.”

“John.” Harold took a step towards him but John raised his hand to stop him. It was shaking.

“I am handling it, okay. Or, I was. Before… before you know. The bond—the link. Whatever. And then I had you in my mind, and you are funnier than you think you are, and warmer, and kinder. I didn’t want to let go, so I made you keep it even when you didn’t want to. I know, silly humans, right? Trying to get what they can’t have.”

Harold would dare even the best of Vulcans to be able to crush their emotions, their hope, at this moment. He didn’t interrupt as John kept speaking.

“I know you think of emotions as like, annoying irrelevant things, and this is all degrees of culturally inappropriate, and probably against regulations as well, and I swear I can handle it. I can. But if you want, I can request for a transfer.”

It looked like it was killing John to suggest that, and Harold found his heart clenching at the suggestion too. Ignoring the half-raised hand, Harold stepped closer. “No, John.”

He looked relieved, but so very apologetic. “I am sorry. I really am. I didn’t mean to lose control like that but I didn’t realize how it would be. How…”

“Intense?” Harold suggested, within arm’s reach of John now.

“Yes.”

Tentatively, Harold reached out and touched two of his fingers to John’s wrist.

“It is not.” Harold said, trying not to gasp at the sensation shooting across his hand.

John looked dazed, like he was as effected by the touch as Harold. With the link they shared, it was possible that he was. “What?”

“Against regulations,” Harold answered. “It’s not.”

“Right.” John scrunched up his face, looking at Harold. Harold moved his fingers to gently coax John to open his palm and then rubbed his index and middle fingers against Johns. He couldn’t suppress his shuddering breath at how it felt. “What are you doing?”

Harold looked up, meeting John’s eyes, their fingers still touching. He swallowed against his dry throat and spoke, his voice trembling. “It’s a Vulcan equivalent of a kiss.”

He saw the way John’s eyes widened, the shock on his face. “Harold?”

“Mr. Reese, I agree that the initial forming of the link was a terrible idea, and the decision to keep it was worse.”

John almost recoiled back at his words. Almost. But Harold soothingly rubbed their fingers together, and kept speaking. “But not because of the reasons you mentioned. It was a terrible idea for how much I wanted it.” Slowly, making sure that there was no mistaking his intent, he reiterated. “How much I wanted you.”

John gasped. Harold could read the tentative hope in his eyes and through his touch. “Do you know the reason Vulcans insist on controlling their emotions?” John shook his head. “It is because they run deeper and more violent, and may I say more primal, than humans can imagine. If we don’t control them, they will consume us.”

John was the one to rub his fingers against Harold’s stilled ones now, kissing back. Harold felt himself shudder, letting all of his walls fall as he stared into his beloved eyes. “Ashayam. What I feel for you… if only I could tell you.”

“You don’t have to tell me, Harold.” Now John grasped his hand, holding it in both of his own. “But if you want, you can show me.”

Distinctly, he heard the sensation of John knocking against a door in his head, requesting entry. Harold smiled at John, opening the link wide open. “Always, Mr. Reese.”

He felt John in his mind, going through his memories, of his yearning for John’s touch, his company, and his affections. Of the first time John had walked onto the bridge, their first mission together, the first time John had saved Harold’s life. All of that was tinged with affection that Harold had not even been aware of at that time. Harold suppressed his instincts to hide, to shut himself out, and was rewarded by the glittering tears of pure happiness in John’s eyes, reflecting his own.

“Harold,” John moved forward and closed the little distance they had remaining between them. “Can I kiss you?”

Before Harold could point out that he was, in fact, kissing him already, John added. “The human way?”

Harold had never understood the appeal of sharing salivas as an act of intimacy. But then, he had never kissed John before. When John bent down and pressed his lips against Harold, all thoughts about the absurdness of this gesture left his mind, left only by the delightfully novel sensations that had Harold drowning in them.

Then John’s hand moved and he wrapped his index and middle finger around Harold’s, kissing him the Vulcan way too, and Harold stopped thinking all together.


 

A few days later found them playing chess together again. John was holding the rook in his hand, turning it around thoughtfully, his fingers downright caressing the chess piece. Harold’s eyes were glued to the scene—almost obscene by Vulcan standards—mesmerized.

John cleared his throat, making Harold break through his trance. The teasing smile on his face told Harold that this had been deliberate on John’s part. He couldn’t even find it in himself to be annoyed by it.

“So, I was looking up Starfleet regulations, and I know you said it wasn’t against regs, but in fact, it is.”

“What?”

“This.” John gestured at the two of them. “Us.”

“It is not.”

“Fraternization between the command crew is quite clearly discouraged, Harold.” John put the chess piece on the second level. “Check.”

“Not if the said pair is bonded.” Harold was already expecting the move, so he countered it with his queen. Only then did he realize how quiet John was.

When he looked up, John was looking at him, startled. “Bonded?”

“Well…” Harold cursed his slip. “This isn’t how I wanted you to know. And it’s understandable if you’re upset. I want you to know that it is, reversible, even if the process won’t exactly be comfortable.”

“Harold.” John spoke calmly. In his mind, he felt a wave of soothing emotions resonate along with it. “I am not upset. Just curious.”

“Oh.” Harold wet his lips.

“Since when are we bonded?”

Harold wasn’t quite sure when it happened himself. But he had known it for a while now, even if he had been trying to be blind to the obvious.

This time, John didn’t speak aloud. “This isn’t an ordinary link is it?”

“It was. In the beginning. You have to believe that is what I intended it to be. I could not have anticipated how compatible our minds would be.”

“I believe you, Harold.” The complete faith in John’s eyes was also reflected through his emotions through their link. “What is it?”

Harold looked at John, meeting his inquisitive gaze. “A… mating bond.”

John retreated from his mind, but not before Harold felt his exhilaration and delight at the discovery. Despite what he felt, John still managed to put on a poker face, a calm facade the only thing showing on his countenance.

“A mating bond,” he spoke, almost reverently as he picked up a pawn, moving it forward. “I like it. Think I’ll keep it.” Then he looked up at Harold, a smile blossoming on his lips. “Does it mean we can get a dog?”