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The Glade

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The sun gently warmed his back as he strolled through the glade. It was so peaceful, the only sound the birds singing in the trees. His heart felt as light as a butterfly floating through the air. He couldn’t imagine being anything other than relaxed and contented.

His bare toes curled pleasingly into the lush, green grass as he walked. He was in no hurry. There was nowhere he needed to be, nowhere he was going. He was walking simply for the pleasure of walking and of being in this glorious, carefree place. He could look up and see a blue/gold flutter of a bird whenever he wanted. He could stop to appreciate anything he saw without feeling he should be somewhere else. It was simple and it was a pleasure he’d almost forgotten was out there for the taking.

He paused and tipped his head back, better to feel the sunlight bathing his face. It felt as though it caressed his soul and held him buoyant in its soothing embrace. Every nerve in his body felt alive and yet at an unaccustomed ease.

When he opened his eyes and looked ahead again, he was surprised at how unsurprised he was to see someone else in his own personal paradise. He walked on until he drew up next to the other and his smile widened as he took in the flowing white shirt and loose fitting pants, the hair slightly longer than was usual.

“Hello,” he said.

“Greetings,” the other nodded, soft eyes full of a boundless warmth. “It is gratifying to see you.”

He gazed back for a few wordless moments then gestured to the grass. The other sat gracefully, crossing his legs and resting his forearms loosely on his thighs.

He followed suit and turned to face his companion. “You’re here,” he said, the simple words hardly able to contain the joy they meant to him.

“Did you doubt I would be?” said the other, a faint frown altering the cant of his eyebrows.

He shook his head and reached out to hold the other’s hands.

The other gave a slight, knowing smile. “I am always here, waiting for you.”

The feeling that bubbled up inside him was almost too much and he looked away for a moment, the excuse forcing another, not unwelcome, look at their surroundings. It was so goddamn beautiful. It really was.

A dart of urgent fear shot through him, coming from nowhere other than an instinct he knew better than to ignore.

“Where are we?” he demanded, the urgency of the question forcing the last lingering remains of contentment from his mind.

The other frowned, looked down at their joined hands as if he’d only that moment seen them and let go before standing abruptly and starting to walk away.

“Don’t go!” he said, panic enveloping him as he realised he shouldn’t be here. “I need to know where to find you.” He drew all his authority around him. “Answer me.”

For a moment the other paused and turned to face him again. The anguish all the more heartbreaking for it being on his face. “But Jim,” he said, his voice breaking. “You’re the only one who does know.”

 

****

Kirk sat bolt upright in bed, breathing heavily. He was bathed in sweat, the scent of panic hanging in the air around him. “Lights,” he barked out, then squeezed his eyes shut against the result of the command. “Shit,” he muttered as he tried to force himself to calm down, the final image of the dream - Spock fading away before his eyes as he reached helplessly towards him - making his heart pound against his ribcage.

“What the hell is that?” he demanded of the room around him.

He hauled himself out of his bunk and padded, naked and still bleary-eyed, towards the bathroom. As he stepped into the shower cubicle and ordered up real water rather than sonic, his mind went over the nightmarish dream. It was always the same; the initial feeling of contented ease, the warmth and happiness, then the heart wrenching jolt of helpless fear that woke him.

He ducked his head under the hot spray of water as he picked up the soap. It was getting ridiculous. At first the dream had been maybe a couple of times a month, starting right after their disastrous trip to Vulcan. But it hadn’t been long before he was waking up in a terrified twist of soaking sheets several times a week, and now it was virtually every night.

And each time he woke up it was with this cold icicle of dread piercing his heart and shaking him to the core. It made it hard for him to think or breathe and the effects were starting to encroach into his waking hours, tiredness seeping through his bones and whispering in his mind.

He finished washing himself in a fug of exhaustion before shaking his head violently under the water in a last attempt to clear it.

There was no other option, he decided as he towelled himself dry and shrugged into his uniform. He was going to have to get himself checked out. He was loath to admit it but this was getting beyond something he could just shrug off. He was getting more and more irritable, his reaction times had to be off, and he couldn’t let something as silly as a dream affect how he did his job. There was no place on a Starship bridge for someone who wasn’t, as his first officer might put it, operating at peak efficiency.

****

“A dream?” Doctor Leonard McCoy said questioningly, leaning back in his chair. “What kind of a dream?”

“Just a dream,” Kirk said, spreading his hands out, palms upwards in a gesture of frustrated annoyance as he turned to retrace the path he’d already trod across the doctor’s office. “I don’t know what else to say, Bones. It’s only a dream.”

The doctor frowned up at him. “Chrissakes, Jim,” he said. “Will you please siddown? You’re making me dizzy pacing up and down like that, not to mention that I’m rather fond of that rug you’re wearing tracks in.”

The captain frowned in confusion at the frankly quite hideous floor covering, which the doctor must have picked up last shore leave, before belatedly realising that his easy distraction plus the agitated pacing were not likely to add anything to his attempts to play down the impact the dreams were having on him. He wanted help getting rid of them, sure, but he was also less than eager to have his chief medical officer worried enough to start probing too deeply into his psyche.

He looked up and inwardly groaned. McCoy was staring silently at him, his bright blue eyes narrowed. It was obviously already too late to avoid rousing the diagnostic beast that made his friend far more than the simple country doctor he often professed to be. He must be more tired than he thought to have slipped up so easily and so quickly with his oldest friend. There was no way now that McCoy was going to be cajoled into just giving him some sleeping pills.

Sure enough, the doctor folded his arms across his chest and arranged his features into his favourite ‘doctor knows best so don’t argue’ expression.

“I guess you’d better tell me exactly what it is you’re dreaming, then,” he said, the tone brooking no argument.

Kirk sighed and sat down as ordered by the only person on the ship who could order him to do something. He began to speak, carefully describing the dream itself without delving too deeply into the emotional reaction he had to it. As he finished he forced a chuckle that he hoped would go some way towards counterbalancing the tension he was sure he was radiating to the doctor.

“See,” he said. “Just a dream, and not even one that makes a lot of sense.”

“So why’s it got you so riled up?” McCoy asked, the mild tone one that had tripped many into spilling the beans on what had really got to them enough to prompt a trip to their kindly, friendly doctor’s office.

Kirk met his gaze and for one of the few times in his life found himself lost for words. He had no idea why he found himself so discomfited by a dream in which, after all, nothing really happened. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t had some rip roaring nightmares in his time. Given the traumatic situations he’d found himself in - from being tortured to having his body commandeered by aliens - it would be decidedly odd if he hadn’t had a few bad dreams, but this was different somehow.

McCoy carried on regarding him. “Don’t think I don’t know you left out the most important aspects of the dream,” he said, raising both his expressive eyebrows.

The captain opened his mouth to protest, then closed it again as McCoy held up a warning hand.

“Jim,” he said sternly, “dreams are a way of your subconscious processing and coping with your emotional reaction to situations and events in your life. There’s no damn point asking me for help if you leave out how you actually feel about the thing.”

He rolled his eyes dramatically and Kirk laughed, feeling some of the tension drain away.

“You’re right, Bones. Sorry.”

McCoy kept silent and waited for him to continue.

“Ok,” Kirk sighed. “I guess at the start of the dream I feel relaxed, at ease.”

“Why?” interjected McCoy.

Kirk shrugged. “It’s a nice place; warm, sunny, nothing to do, no one to be responsible for.”

McCoy nodded in understanding. This was familiar ground for both of them. Kirk, even more than most Starship captains, had a tendency to take the weight of the world on his shoulders. He had a broad sense of responsibility and an inclination towards self-blame that McCoy had often stepped in to temper with a good dose of common sense, letting him know in no uncertain terms that ‘wallowing’ was not only inadvisable but - and here McCoy would sometimes draft in some reinforcements - illogical. As the medic had said on several occasions, “some greenhorn ensign stubs his toe in engineering, doesn’t make it your fault just because you’re the captain… Captain”.

“No surprises there,” he shrugged. “You’re a starship captain with a God Complex, you’ve gotta wind down somehow.”

Kirk glared at him, which the doctor completely ignored as he continued pressing for details.

“So, when you see Spock, you feel what? A sense of responsibility coming back?”

“No,” Kirk answered, frowning slightly. “Spock is more than capable of looking after himself.” He thought for a moment. “I’m pleased to see him.”

McCoy rolled his eyes. “Well, of course you are,” he murmured knowingly, then stopped talking.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kirk questioned, trying - and failing - to keep a note of defensiveness from sneaking into his voice.

“Why nothing, Jim,” McCoy answered, innocently. “He’s your best friend. Why wouldn’t you be pleased to see him?”

Kirk’s frown deepened, sure the doctor was trying to get at something but not certain what. “Exactly,” he agreed.

“But you see him every day, so why is the pointy-eared elf hogging your dreams?”

The captain threw him an exasperated glare. “Bones,” he began warningly at the doctor’s turn of phrase, then leant forward over the desk. “Isn’t that up to you to tell me?” he turned the tables.

McCoy waggled an admonishing finger at him. “Oh no you don’t. It’s your subconscious, why don’t you tell me what you think?”

Kirk deliberately adopted a more relaxed position, leaning back in his chair and shrugging. “Like you said, he’s my friend. There’s no reason I wouldn’t be pleased to see him.”

“Aha!” McCoy jabbed a finger in the air and Kirk’s eyes widened in surprised confusion. He might be weary and not exactly operating on full thrusters but he’d no idea what the doctor thought he’d suddenly deduced.

McCoy shook his head at the startled look. “What I can’t figure out, Jim,” he said. “Is whether you truly have no idea, whether you’re just having me on or whether I’m busy shimmying up the wrong banana tree in the totally wrong rainforest.”

Kirk stared at him with increasing bewilderment and the doctor gave a deep sigh. “Ok,” he finally let out. “Here goes.”

He leant forward on the table. “Jim,” he said seriously. “Do you or do you not have the hots for your first officer?”

Kirk stared at him, aware of the red hot flush that had instantly enveloped his face at the words and watching as a matching blush crept over the craggy but kindly features of the man sitting across from him. He swallowed hard and forced himself not to drop his friend’s gaze. He searched the familiar face for any hint the doctor was having him on, but could see only a questioning concern. Finally the tense silence became too much and he leaped to his feet, turning away and forcing himself into composure before he turned back again.

“Is this some sort of joke?” he finally choked out.

McCoy looked up at him and gave a sort of half laugh. “Ok, so I guess that’s a no then,” he said almost to himself. “Shit,” he added as he met the captain’s eyes.

Kirk felt an almost hysterical need to laugh his way out of the tension he could feel rising through his body. It must be the tiredness. He swallowed it down as he waited for the doctor to continue. “Bones?” he questioned when his friend remained silent. “What in god’s name are you on about?”

“Jesus, Jim,” McCoy said. “Do you really want me to spell out what I think?”

Kirk wasn’t entirely sure of his ability to withstand a great deal more of this conversation without his dignity being shot to pieces for ever more but he couldn’t back out now without finding out what the hell McCoy was talking about. He pasted on his one of his best commanding expressions - the one with just a hint of a threat about it - and sat back down, folding his arms across his gold-clad chest.

“Oh, I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” he said with as much sardonic confidence as he could muster given the circumstances and the mind-numbing exhaustion.

McCoy hesitated briefly then decided in for a penny in for a pound was the way to go. He leant back in his chair, stretched out his booted feet and folded his arms across his chest in a mirror image of the posture struck by his commanding officer.

“You asked for it,” he said quietly then took a deep breath before continuing.

“The thing is,” he said. “I’ve been noticing a certain preoccupation you seem to have with our esteemed science officer for a while now.”

Kirk raised an eyebrow as if daring him to continue then immediately regretted it. He was perfectly well aware that whatever his praiseworthy physical traits might be, his eyebrows were nowhere near a match for either McCoy’s or Spock’s in the expressiveness department. The doctor pointedly raised his own brows back, far more impressively, before carrying on.

“You spend virtually all your free time with him,” McCoy elucidated. “He’s the first person you look for when the ship’s attacked, the first one you call when a landing party returns, the one whose advice you most rely on,” he counted off the points on the finger of one hand.

Kirk held up his hands in exasperated capitulation. “All of which are signs of a good command team relationship.”

“I’m not finished yet,” countered the doctor.

“Why does that not surprise me?” Kirk muttered under his breath.

McCoy ignored him. “You’ve risked your career, your friendships, even your life for him on more than one occasion,” he added, warming to his subject.

The captain remained silent. Those three accusations weren’t as easy to shake off as the others. Then he shook his head vigorously. “I still don’t see what you’re getting at McCoy,” he said. “I’d do the same for you.”

“Yes, but I don’t see you staring at my butt.

The words hung in the silence that fell the moment they were uttered.

McCoy reddened. The words had come out as if of their own volition and he had no idea what the hell to say next.

The man across the desk stared at him, mouth open. “What?!” he finally managed to splutter.

The red tinge to McCoy’s skin got a little deeper but he held the captain’s gaze. “On the bridge,” he elaborated. “When he has his face continually glued to that damnable viewer of his.”

The captain continued to stare at him, at a loss for words.

“If it were anyone else I’d think he had a secret stash of porn on there,” the doctor continued, now he’d started talking finding a need to carry on regardless of the rubbish that seemed to be coming out. “Although doubtless even the best stuff would be wasted on him,” he pressed on desperately.

“Bones,” Kirk interrupted as it seemed the doctor might continue ad nauseam. “Have you been breaking into Scotty’s hooch? I do not have the hots for Spock and I sure as hell do not stare at his butt on the bridge of all places.”

McCoy took a deep breath. No point in stopping now. “You sure about that?”

It was Kirk’s turn to blush as he cast his mind back, trying to pin down any times he may have rested his gaze inappropriately on the rear view of his first officer.

“How about when you’ve not been on the bridge?” McCoy chipped in helpfully, recovering his equilibrium somewhat.

“That’s not the point! I don’t stare at him at all, wherever we are.” Kirk jumped up out of his seat. “You’ve really got hold of the wrong end of the stick this time, McCoy.”

He strode over to the door and paused to look back just as it slid open to let him through, shaking his head in the doctor’s direction. “Me and Spock!” he said disbelievingly. “Maybe you should stick to surgery and leave the psychiatry alone.”

McCoy shrugged as the door closed behind the captain. “What can I say,” he said to himself, reaching up a hand to rub at an ache beginning to pulse at his temple. “I’m a doctor, not an intergalactic advice columnist.

****

Captain Kirk marched up the corridor towards the turbolift, muttering under his breath, oblivious to the startled looks he drew from several crewmembers. He got to the lift just as it opened to reveal Helmsman Sulu and Ensign Crozier from astrophysics, deep in conversation.

The pair stepped out and Kirk managed a curt nod that was far enough from his normal friendly greeting to prompt another couple of puzzled looks. He barely noticed as he moved into the ‘lift.

“Bridge,” he barked as he leaned against the wall and grumpily folded his arms across his chest. Damn McCoy anyway. He’d gone to sickbay hoping for, if not an immediate solution to the dreams, then at least some reassurance. Instead, he’d ended up feeling even more disgruntled, confused and tired out than he had done in the first place.

He was still frowning and muttering under his breath about physicians who didn’t know a crush from a horse’s ass when the lift doors opened onto the bridge. He forced his face into some semblance of geniality and stepped out.

The first sight to meet him was that of his first officer’s shapely backside as he bent over his seemingly always fascinating viewer. Kirk felt his eyes drawn inexorably towards the small but perfectly formed buttocks and suddenly he knew - knew with a complete and inarguable certainty - that it was a sight with which his eyes had the deep familiarity that comes only with a longstanding acquaintance.

His mouth fell open as he clenched his fists by his side and forced himself to squeeze his eyes shut and cut off the view his subconscious had obviously been enjoying for god knows how long.

“Oh shit,” he said loudly into the quiet efficiency of the bridge, garnering a wide-eyed look from Lieutenant Uhura at the communications station.

Spock straightened up and looked over at the unusual profanity. Kirk could certainly let rip with colourful language if he so desired, but he rarely did so on the bridge, certainly not without more provocation than there appeared to be at present.

“Captain?” he questioned.

Interesting, he thought to himself, the variations in colouration that could be apparent in Human skin tones.

“Is there something wrong?” he added.

Kirk swallowed as he moved towards the centre seat. “Uh no, no. Everything’s fine, Mr Spock,” he managed to reply as his mind whirled with the implications of what he’d just caught himself doing.

He sat in the captain’s chair, which was still warm from where Spock had obviously vacated it to go check something at the science station. He squirmed at the thought of their shared heat then immediately stilled himself. Squirming was not a very captainly occupation. His science officer’s eyes were still on him, so he nodded towards the viewer that seemed to be looming large in the trouble he found himself in.

“Anything?” he changed the subject.

Spock paused for a moment as he regarded the captain. Kirk seemed unusually tense. ‘Jittery,’ he thought McCoy would call it. Nevertheless, there was a time and a place to ponder more deeply the complexities of his friend’s emotional state and in the here and now his captain was requesting a status update. He folded his arms neatly behind his back.

“Nothing of consequence to report, Captain,” he began. He filled Kirk in on the results of the initial tests they’d been running on a nearby planet that appeared to be a suitable choice for colonisation. They had found nothing out of the ordinary, although more research would, of course, be carried out prior to the initial report being sent back to StarFleet at which point the task of painstakingly investigating the planet even further would be handed over to a specialist colonisation survey team.

“If you will excuse me, sir,” he added as he got to the end of his report - and his shift - “I have an experiment running in science laboratory four that requires my attention.”

Kirk nodded his assent, for one of the few times he could remember glad that Spock was leaving his presence. He briefly closed his eyes as he leaned back in his chair. How the hell had this happened? And more to the point, what was he supposed to do about it?

****

The captain of the Enterprise barrelled through the door into McCoy’s office for the second time that day.

“All right,” Kirk snapped. “I admit it. You were right, I was wrong. Now what the hell am I supposed to do about it?”

“Pardon me?” came McCoy’s distracted reply as he looked up from the results of the latest round of medicals he’d carried out in the time since their last conversation.

“Don’t give me that,” Kirk continued. “You’re the one who put the idea in my head, so you can help me get the hell rid of it.”

The doctor frowned in confusion, his head full of blood pressure readings and tissue regeneration stats. “You what now, Jim?”

“Spock!” Kirk almost shouted in frustration at the doctor’s sudden uncharacteristic obtuseness.

McCoy’s eyes widened. “Oh.”

“Yes, oh,” Kirk repeated, glaring at the medic and flopping down in the same chair he’d sat in earlier that day, before he’d found himself eyeing up his best friend; his Vulcan best friend; his first officer, for god’s sake.

A slow grin spread across McCoy’s face. “So, I was right?” he said gleefully. “You do have the hots for Spock!”

Kirk leaned wearily forward over the desk and let out a huff of air. “It’s not funny. Jesus, Bones, what am I going to do? I could hardly look at him on the bridge earlier. What the hell is he going to think if he ever finds out? He’s Vulcan. He’s my goddamn first officer!”

McCoy’s smile faded as he took in his friend’s genuine distress. He reached out and took hold of his friend’s arm. “Hey, this has really got you worried, hasn’t it?”

The captain stared at his chief medical officer for a moment, then jumped to his feet, too restless to remain sitting for long. “Of course it does,” he said. “Can you imagine how someone as private as Spock is going to feel if he finds out his commanding officer has been leering at him on the bridge?”

McCoy straightened up behind his desk and frowned. “Jim, you haven’t been leering at him,” he said firmly. “You’re not the leering type. Besides,” he added, “you’re taking this far too seriously.”

Kirk frowned. “Explain,” he said, shortly.

McCoy leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk, steepling his fingers in front of him in an unconscious imitation of the subject of their discussion. “So, your subconscious is wondering what it would be like if you and Spock took your already close relationship to a physical level.”

He looked as thoughtful as the man whose posture he echoed. “It’s not unusual for friends to consider the ‘what if’ in that way, and it’s certainly not unusual for a Human to consider what it would be like to obtain the ‘unobtainable’. Hell, half the crew has probably wondered at some time or another what it would be like to ruffle up a little bit of that Vulcan composure.”

Kirk relaxed a tiny bit as a thought occurred to him. “So you think it’s just temporary?” he asked hopefully.

The doctor frowned as he considered the question and the worry running through the words. “Only you can answer that, Jim,” he said slowly, “what concerns me more is that these dreams you’re having are interfering with your sleep, and that is something we need to sort out.” His mouth quirked slightly, “if nothing else so you stop stamping in here with a face like thunder.”

Kirk glared at him. “And now you’ve made this great leap into my subconscious,” he said, the words edged with a sarcastic tinge, “how do you suggest I fix it?”

McCoy’s lips quirked. “That’s easy,” he shrugged. “Talk to Spock.”

Kirk started slightly and his hazel eyes widened in horrified disbelief. “What?” he spluttered. “Just tell him?”

McCoy’s mouth twitched into a slightly wider smile as he took in the look on his friend’s face. “Yeah, sure, why not,” he drawled conversationally, trying hard not to laugh at the stricken dismay being directed his way. “If you have a crush on someone, nine times out of ten, telling them and having them inform you you’re being illogical and they don’t even feel, let alone feel the same way you do, will pretty much kill it stone dead.”

The captain stared at him, snapping his jaw suddenly shut when he realised he was gaping. “You’re crazy!” he finally managed.

McCoy couldn’t hold back the laughter at the look of outrage being directed at him. “The look on his face would be a sight I’d give up a year’s supply of Saurian brandy for,” he guffawed, a faraway look in his eyes. He gave himself a slight shake and schooled his features into a more professional expression.

“For heaven’s sake, Jim, you really do need to get some sleep if you fell for that one! I don’t mean buy him a bunch of flowers, get down on one knee and go skipping off into the sunshine hand in hand.”

“Well, what do you mean?” snapped Kirk, his overtired irritation not allowing any hint of amusement through. McCoy was as close to him as anyone, but sometimes he could be utterly infuriating.

The doctor met his gaze and the teasing friend was replaced by the professional medical man. “Jim, we’ve talked plenty of times about the way you tend to take on too much, right?”

Kirk nodded curtly. The subject, which the doctor did indeed return to with an all too annoying frequency, was not one of his favourites.

McCoy fixed him with an admonishing look that let him know he could read him like a book when it came to his discomfort with the topic. “Right,” he continued. “But you and Spock have been getting closer and closer in the time you’ve been on the Enterprise. You trust him more than anyone. He’s the one you can always rely on to share the burden of command with you.”

Kirk nodded again, more warily, wondering where the doctor was going with this.

“In the dream you feel light, as though the burden has been lifted from you, only remembering that you have responsibilities when you see Spock. Yes?”

“So?” the captain questioned.

McCoy gave a self-satisfied sigh. “It’s not a difficult one, Jim,” he said. “Spock takes some of the weight from you, but you, being the borderline control freak and self-flagellating masochist that you are,” he grinned in response to his friend’s glare, “feel guilty that you’ve put that on him, and suddenly panicked that in doing so you’ve lost control, even lost a part of yourself. You feel anxious because you need him and you’ve never really needed anyone or relied on anyone in that way before.”

He leaned back in his chair. “How’d I do?” he said smugly.

Kirk looked thoughtful. “That does actually make some sense,” he admitted.

McCoy reached over to punch his arm in mock affront. “I am a professional, you know,” he said tartly.

Kirk rolled his eyes. “I never doubted it for a moment,” he said dryly, then frowned. “But what about the end of the dream?” he questioned his friend. “The part when Spock says only I know where to find him?”

“Well,” McCoy responded, glad of the time he’d spent pondering that very question since the captain’s last visit to his office. “I think you know how unusual your relationship is for Spock, more so than it is for you. You know he relies on you as much as you do on him and deep down you worry that you may let him down.”

Kirk looked up sharply at that. “In what way, Doctor?”

McCoy held up his hands placatingly. “Now don’t get all riled up. I don’t mean that you will. I mean that your subconscious is questioning your emotional relationship as much as your physical.”

He sighed at Kirk’s confused expression. “Look Jim,” he started again. “Best as I can explain it, you and Spock are both highly independent. Neither of you is used to relying on someone else for your wellbeing, either emotionally or professionally, but your relationship is moving into territory where that is no longer the case.

“For you this manifests itself as your poor, confused subconscious thinking you want to have sex with Spock - because after all that’s how you generally get your emotional needs at least temporarily looked after,” Kirk threw him another glare which the doctor studiously ignored as he continued, “and then assuming you’ll hightail it off to the other end of the galaxy, because - again, let’s face it - that’s exactly what you usually do after sex.”

Kirk rolled his eyes. “So what do you propose I say to him?” he snorted. “If I tell him my subconscious thinks I want to jump his bones then abandon him like some defiled heroine of an ancient melodrama, he’ll think I’ve been possessed by some crazy alien parasite.”

“Hmm,” agreed McCoy. Given the way their missions tended to go, this was a more reasonable conclusion to come to than it might seem. “He might blow a circuit or two. Literally,” he added, smirking to himself at the sudden vision of plumes of green-tinged smoke coming from a pair of elegantly pointed ears that drifted across his mind.

“Bones…” Kirk easily followed the direction of his friend’s thoughts.

“Sorry. Right, well, I’d just cosy on up after one of those mammoth games of chess you’re so fond of, tell him you love him, aren’t planning on leaving him any time soon and is it all right with him if you carry on being a burden.”

“Oh, for…” Kirk jumped to his feet and headed to the door. “If you’re just going to make a joke of it!”

“Jim, wait,” McCoy shouted after him as the door slid open and Kirk stopped in his tracks, turning just enough to look suspiciously over his shoulder only to find the doctor looking at him with open fondness and only the slightest hint of a smirk.

“I mean it,” McCoy said. “Maybe not in those exact words, but just tell him about the dream, what I think it means and get it out in the open. Let him have a go at working out the logic of it.”

He shrugged and smiled. “He’ll like that bit at least. Anyway, the worst thing you could do is let it fester and come between you.”

Kirk frowned slightly but nodded in acknowledgement as he carried on through the door.

“Why don’t I have friends who can just come out and say how they feel?” McCoy muttered into the silence, shaking his head to himself as the doors shut with a soft whooshing sound. He bent over his desk again and reached for his stylus. He hoped he’d pushed Kirk in the right direction.

****

Kirk stood outside science lab four, trying not to look like he was loitering while he gathered his thoughts, a process that seemed more time-consuming than it usually did. He shook his head in disgust at himself.

“Just go in and talk to him,” he muttered under his breath, then jumped slightly as the door slid open.

“Captain,” Spock acknowledged. “Did you wish to speak with me?”

Kirk could feel himself redden for what felt like the gazillionth time that day and suppressed a wince. It was ridiculous. He was a grown man, and a Starship captain to boot, yet here he was behaving like some lovelorn teenager. He gulped.

“I uh, um,” Christ, better add tongue-tied to the list of awkward teenage attributes he seemed to have suddenly acquired. He’d be breaking out in acne any second now.

Spock tilted his head to one side and frowned slightly as he regarded his captain. “Jim,” he said. “Are you quite all right?”

Kirk laughed, the concern written all over the supposedly emotionless countenance suddenly bringing home to him how he must look right at this moment. He sighed and wiped the back of one hand over his eyes. “Yeah, Spock, I’m fine,” he reassured his friend. “But I did want to have a word with you. If now’s a good time?”

Spock nodded his agreement and stepped back and to the side to allow Kirk through the doorway. The captain took a quick look around. The lab, which was the smallest on the ship, was otherwise unoccupied. Although the room was not intended as such and Spock would never have intentionally monopolised the space, Kirk was aware that the Vulcan’s loyal science staff tended to view it as his own personal laboratory and tended not to enter unless invited by their boss. He smiled at his first officer.

“How’s the experiment going?” he asked, putting off getting to the point.

Spock raised an eyebrow at the question. Although the two of them had many interests in common and Kirk was extremely intelligent and a fine sounding board when it came to the wider application of science, the minutiae of chemistry and physics that often occupied Spock during his free time on the Enterprise tended to induce a rather glazed expression on the captain’s face, so it was not usually something they discussed in any detail. Nevertheless, he had been asked a question, which he opened his mouth to answer with his usual thoroughness.

“Wait!” Kirk said, putting up a hand to cut off the literal answer to his query that he could see was coming. He smiled sheepishly at Spock’s inquiring look. “I didn’t really come here to discuss equations.”

Spock raised his eyebrows. “I had deemed that unlikely,” he intoned solemnly. “Would you care to take a seat?”

Kirk moved over to sit in one of the two chairs next to the console at which Spock had been working and Spock settled himself in the other. “You seem ill at ease,” the Vulcan observed.

“Um, you could say that,” his Human friend acknowledged with a wry smile. He took a deep breath as he met the brown eyes fixed on his own, their expression a mix of curiosity and concern. “The thing is,” he continued, then paused again.

Spock waited, unsure why Kirk suddenly seemed to be uncomfortable in his presence and aware of a rising anxiety, which he moved to control. He searched his mind for the ways in which he had learned how to put Humans at ease during his time on the Enterprise. “Can I offer you a beverage?”

Kirk looked a little startled at the sudden change of subject and at Spock considering serving drinks in the science lab. “Thanks,” he said, “but I’m fine.”

The pause stretched out while the captain stared at his knees.

“A problem shared is a problem halved,” Spock offered.

“What?” Kirk looked up and laughed despite himself.

“A saying I have heard employed by both my mother and Dr McCoy,” Spock explained. “I believe it might apply in this situation?”

Kirk relaxed a little bit but he needed to be able to move around if he was going to say any of this. “Spock,” he began as he got up and took a couple of paces across the room. “You do know how much I appreciate you, right?”

Spock frowned, unsure what direction the enigmatic Human’s mind was taking. “I believe so,” he said slowly, his eyes fixed on the gold-clad back. “Why do you ask?”

Kirk gave him a look over his shoulder then took a few more steps before stopping again. “And you know I’ll always be here for you and I’ll never let you down?”

The words came out in a rush. He was used to speaking words of seduction but words of real feeling came less easily. He’d never liked to leave himself vulnerable, had always kept something back. But McCoy was right, Spock was closer than that and he deserved better.

Spock’s frown deepened. “Have I done something to make you think I do not trust you?” he questioned, a hint of hurt confusion creeping into his tone. An image he had been trying to block out - James Kirk lying lifeless on the red sands of his home world - sparked a hot pain in his mind. Kirk had barely left his side during their off duty hours since that day, quick to reassure him at every turn that he held no rancour in relation to what had occurred. But Spock could not forgive himself for killing his captain and his friend; whether the death had been faked or not, the intent had been there and that was enough.

Kirk stopped and whirled round to face him, immediately stricken by the look of vulnerability he could read in every line of lean face and body. “No, of course not!” he said quickly, guilt and dismay tightening his chest.

“No,” he repeated firmly. “Spock, that’s not what I meant at all.”

He moved in two quick paces to stand in front of the Vulcan and pulled up his own seat. He reached as if to take his friend’s hands, which were folded neatly in his lap, then thought better of it as he remembered the Vulcan aversion to touch and folded his own in the same position.

He watched as Spock’s deep brown eyes followed his hands through their aborted gesture then looked up to meet his own. His friend’s uncertainty was clear and Kirk knew he had to find the right words to say what he needed to say. He wiped his palms nervously on his uniform pants.

“Ok,” he began again, screwing up more courage than he’d ever needed to face down a Bird of Prey stuffed to the bulkheads with Klingons. “The thing is, I’ve been having this recurring dream…”

****

Spock stared at Kirk’s back as his captain got to the end of what he was saying. The two had returned to his quarters to continue the conversation started in the lab, and Kirk had proceeded to pace up and down while Spock sat, quietly listening until the captain reached the end of what he needed to say.

He listened to Kirk recounting the substance of his dream and his conversation with McCoy and he felt hope begin to replace fear inside his soul.

Since they had returned from Vulcan his emotions had been more difficult to master than ever. It was troublesome, but an expected part of reaching maturity for his species. He had made considerable progress in bringing them under control but there was one that lingered, a longing that was becoming harder to ignore rather than easier, only eclipsed by the terrible dread that Kirk might not fully have forgiven the way Spock had betrayed him, might never completely trust him again.

The Human turned around to face him and spread his arms out in front of him, the posture only serving to emphasise the way in which he had laid bare his innermost thoughts and fears.

Spock felt yet another of the unfamiliar sensations wont to accost him in recent times. This one he believed would be termed a lump in his throat. It rose as he regarded the first being he had ever been able to truly call ‘friend’ and considered the gift of confidence given to him.

Kirk lifted his eyes to meet his Spock’s and gave a wistful half smile. “So,” he finished the words tumbling out quickly before he had a chance to rethink them. “McCoy suggested I tell you I love you, and ask you if you mind me relying on you as much as I do.” He let out a rather strangled laugh. “So here I am,” he added.

Spock’s quick mind sorted through his eidetic memories of their interaction since Vulcan, a time during which he’d been undoubtedly preoccupied with the aftermath of that visit. By ‘love’ his captain meant what? Standard was such an imprecise language. Surely it could not mean what Spock might have dreamed of only deep in his subconscious? A memory danced behind his eyes. A look that tangled with the memories of all their days together, a look that hadn’t been there before. Was it possible after all?

Kirk swallowed hard, forcing himself not to drop his eyes as he felt the colour rise in his face again as Spock remained silent. “So do you?” he finally asked.

Spock rose to his feet and walked over to the Human. “Mind?” he said, shaking his head slightly, the deliberate movement serving to distract his mind from the uncontrolled tremors that threatened to assail the rest of his body. “No, I do not mind.”

Kirk let out a relieved puff of air. He’d left out the bit about staring at Spock’s butt and McCoy’s theories on who might have the hots for whom but he’d still been really worried how Spock would react to being told his captain relied on him so much that he was having what amounted to nightmares about losing him. The doctor had been right, though - he felt as if a huge burden had been lifted simply by speaking of his worries. He ran his hand through his sandy hair and smiled warmly at his friend.

And that was when Spock leaned forward and kissed him.

Kirk felt his mind reeling in shock as his first officer’s soft lips pressed against his own. The pressure was brief but firm, a question as well as a statement. No part of them was touching except their lips and even that contact was gone before his brain had a chance to process what was happening.

Spock pulled back and regarded his captain.

Kirk stared at him, his mouth still tingling from that most unexpected of kisses. He reached up to touch his fingertips to his lower lip.

“Wha?” he said, the shock apparently making away with his ability to form a coherent statement.

He swallowed hard and tried again. “What was that?”

Spock, astoundingly given the circumstances and the increase in his heart rate, summoned up a modicum of his usual composure. “A kiss,” he said dryly. “Obviously.”

Kirk managed an exasperated look at his friend’s literalness, even through his astonishment. “Obviously…” he repeated. “But, I mean, I never thought…” he tailed off, not entirely sure which of the array of questions fighting through the fog of amazement he wanted to ask first.

Spock picked up the thread of conversation when his captain’s difficulties became apparent. “Is it not customary,” he asked, hardly knowing where he found the words, only that he must speak them now, while a chance was presented to him, “to express affection and desire in such a way?”

Kirk gaped. “Desire?” he said. “But I didn’t think, I mean I never thought you…”

Spock raised an admonishing eyebrow. “Did you think I had not noticed?”

If it were possible, Kirk’s eyes widened further. “Noticed what?” he managed in a strangled voice.

Spock looked thoughtful. “I had not considered its import until now but your attention has been drawn by a particular area of my anatomy when my scientific duties required me to examine data being streamed through the science station viewer.”

Kirk felt his face flame further. “You mean I gawp at your butt on the bridge?” he near squeaked.

Spock’s other eyebrow rose, his confidence increasing. Kirk might be floundering a little but at least he was here, and talking. He had not immediately vacated the room on being kissed so precipitously and he had not refuted accusations of desire. This was a good sign, Spock concluded. “If you wish to define it crudely,” he acknowledged.

Kirk stared in shock for a moment longer then doubled over as unstoppable laughter rose up.

“Oh my God,” he finally got out through the near hysteria that had gripped him. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“Although I have long considered you a friend,” Spock said evenly, “it would not only have been inappropriate but impossible for there to be more between us while I was betrothed to another and before I reached maturity.”

He leaned forward and lightly kissed Kirk again, abruptly stilling the other’s laughter. “Now, however, no such barriers exist.” He paused and leant back, folding his arms across his chest as be regarded his captain. “Should you wish it,” he continued. “I would not be averse to our relationship progressing to become one of a sexual nature.”

Kirk’s mind was whirling, and the fact that his staid first officer had just kissed him - twice - was not helping any when it came to getting his thoughts back into some semblance of order. His body’s response was also going unexpectedly into overdrive, the effect of that making his mind whirl even more. He took a deep breath, making a concerted effort to bring his errant responses under control. Then frowned as he remembered the last time they’d had cause to talk about ‘the birds and the bees’.

“I thought Vulcans didn’t talk about this kind of stuff,” he accused.

Spock looked as surprised as he ever did. “Sex?” he questioned.

“Yes. I mean before, when you were in pon farr…” Kirk trailed off delicately.

“Ah,” Spock said in a soft breath of air as he suddenly comprehended Kirk’s bewilderment. “Forgive me, I have not been clear. It is the loss of control that makes our time difficult to speak of, the way in which it strips us of our logic.” He raised a quizzical eyebrow. “It would be most illogical to refuse to speak of an act essential to the continuation of one’s species.”

Kirk glared at him and opened his mouth, then closed it again. There was no point arguing with Spock on questions of Vulcan logic, however selective it seemed to be at times, and he wanted to get back to the subject in hand.

“Right,” he said, commandingly. “Let me get this straight. Before we went to Vulcan you weren’t fully mature and as such not interested in sex?”

Spock nodded.

“You don’t just have sex once every seven years?”

Spock shook his head.

“And you know I’ve been staring at you on the bridge?”

Spock nodded once again and Kirk stared intently at him.

“You don’t mind that I’ve been staring at you on the bridge?” The question was more quiet than its predecessors and infinitely more important.

Spock shook his head for a second time, his heart constricting in a sympathetic echo of the hope in that low voice.

“You don’t mind that McCoy thinks I have the hots for you?” It came out in a rush and Kirk felt suddenly nervous at having laid all his cards on the table at once. He hadn’t ever imagined, hadn’t intended.

Spock reached out to take his hand, completing the move Kirk had aborted earlier. “Jim,” he reassured once again. “I do not mind.”

Kirk felt his heart beat faster and he stared at the hand holding his. He was completely motionless, gripped by something he’d be hard-pressed to name. His senses felt hyper-alert, as if the sound of a pin dropping would be no less noticeable than a thunderbolt. Whether it was due to desire or fear, he couldn’t quite figure out. Desire was certainly not an unknown quality, although the object of it was. A fear that had the power to render him immobile, that was something he’d not felt since childhood and he didn’t know if he could bear to be taken back to that. Another squeeze of his hand forced him to look up.

Spock squeezed the cool Human hand that fitted in his own as if it had always belonged there. “I do not mind,” he repeated. “However, I do love you.”

Kirk’s uncertainty diminished, diluted by a flood of something now immediately recognisable as desire, along with an almost overwhelming joy and fondness for this unique being in front of him. Unfortunately, the last remnants of his energy also seemed to be rapidly vanishing and he felt his eyes fighting to close against his will.

Spock stood and pulled on the hand in his, drawing the speechless Human to him and holding him close. They stood together for several moments before Spock gently steered the shorter man towards his bunk. Kirk turned his head, his eyes asking a question despite being very nearly asleep on his feet.

“Later,” said Spock, allowing his amusement to show in his voice as he pressed the Human down to sit on the bunk. “Now, you need to sleep.”

 

****

 

 

The sun gently warmed his back as he strolled through the glade. It was so peaceful, the only sound the birds singing in the trees. His heart felt as light as a butterfly floating through the air. He couldn’t imagine being anything other than relaxed and contented.

His bare toes curled pleasingly into the lush, green grass as he walked. He was in no hurry. There was nowhere he needed to be, nowhere he was going. He was walking simply for the pleasure of walking and of being in this glorious, carefree place. He could look up and see a blue/gold flutter of a bird whenever he wanted. He could stop to appreciate anything he saw without feeling he should be somewhere else. It was simple and it was a pleasure he’d almost forgotten was out there for the taking.

He paused and tipped his head back, better to feel the sunlight bathing his face. It felt as though it caressed his soul and held him buoyant in its soothing embrace. Every nerve in his body felt alive and yet at an unaccustomed ease.

When he opened his eyes and looked ahead again, he was surprised at how unsurprised he was to see someone else in his own personal paradise. He walked on until he drew up next to the other and his smile widened as he took in the flowing white shirt and loose fitting pants, the hair slightly longer than was usual.

“Hello,” he said.

“Greetings,” the other nodded, soft eyes full of a boundless warmth. “It is gratifying to see you.”

He gazed back for a few wordless moments then gestured to the grass. The other sat gracefully, crossing his legs and resting his forearms loosely on his thighs.

He followed suit and turned to face his companion. “You’re here,” he said, the simple words hardly able to contain the joy they meant to him.

“Did you doubt I would be?” said the other, a faint frown altering the cant of his eyebrows.

He shook his head and reached out to hold the other’s hands.

The other gave a slight, knowing smile. “I am always here, waiting for you.”

The feeling that bubbled up inside him was almost too much and he looked away for a moment, the excuse forcing another, not unwelcome, look at their surroundings. It was so goddamn beautiful. It really was. A dart of urgent fear shot through him, coming from nowhere other than an instinct he knew better than to ignore.

“Where are we?” he demanded, the need for the answer forcing the peace from his mind.

The other frowned, looked down at their joined hands as if he’d only that moment seen them, and let go before standing abruptly and starting to walk away.

“Don’t go!” he said, panic enveloping him as he realised he shouldn’t be here. “I need to know where to find you.” He drew all his authority around him. “Answer me.”

The other paused and turned to face him again.

He smiled, the expression transforming the habitually serious planes of his handsome face, and held out his hand as though the gesture itself were answer enough to the question.

Kirk hesitated for just a moment. He needed to know where they were, why they weren’t on the ship. But this was Spock. He could rely on Spock. He reached out and grabbed for the hand. As soon as he made contact, the glade around them shimmered and blurred as if a piece of translucent material had fallen across his eyes. Then just as suddenly the veil was lifted. They were on the bridge of the Enterprise, and Spock was still holding his hand.

“We are together, Jim,” he said, as if that were the only answer that could be.

****

James Kirk stirred, a sensation of comfort and belonging enveloping him as he hovered in that blissful state between sleep and waking. He snuggled down further under the covers, the peace of the glade still washing soothingly over him.

Spock sensed his beloved awakening and pulled the compact body closer, dropping a kiss on a perfectly smooth, soft piece of skin just behind his right earlobe.

Kirk smiled sleepily and let himself drift back towards oblivion. Yes, he thought as he relaxed into the strong embrace of love and acceptance. This was the answer.

****

McCoy looked towards the door as it slid opened, to see James Kirk framed in the doorway.

“I need to have a word with you,” the captain said, ominously.

McCoy put the PADD he was holding on the desk in front of him and leaned back in his chair, stifling a yawn as he waited expectantly for Kirk to continue, no sign he was in the least bit worried by his commanding officer’s tone.

The captain stepped into the office to allow the door to slide shut and frowned at the desk. “Do you ever tend to any actual patients?” he said as he moved to sit opposite the doctor. “Every time I come by this place lately, you’re behind that desk.”

McCoy glared at him, the long day spent on reports and catching up on the latest journals not one that had put him in the best of moods. “You wanna see just how quick I can tend to you?” he said pointedly to his least co-operative and most reckless patient.

“Is that a threat, doctor?”

McCoy peered at him, not entirely sure whether he was seriously annoyed or not but noting he looked less exhausted than he had the previous day. “Is this about Spock?” he tried.

“It is, as a matter of fact,” Kirk said silkily. “I went to talk to him just like you said. Told him how I feel about him.” He leaned forward over the desk and fixed McCoy with a piercing look. “Turns out,” he continued. “he’s already noticed me staring at his butt on the bridge.”

McCoy’s eyes widened. “Oh,” he managed. He really hadn’t thought Spock, of all people, would notice something like that. The man wasn’t exactly emotionally receptive and someone who felt desire only once every seven years was hardly best placed to spot it in someone else.

When he’d sent Kirk off to talk to his first officer, he’d only hoped to get them to talk about their friendship, to admit they relied on that friendship and it was all right to do so. They needed each other but what had happened on Vulcan had taken its toll on all of them. He had only wanted to give recovery a helping hand.

“Oh god, Jim,” he said finally. “I’m sorry. Is he…? I mean, are you…?”

Kirk’s gaze held steady for a moment, then he took pity as the doctor paled. He leaned back in his seat and offered his most dazzling smile. “Relax Bones,” he said. “You may be an interfering old busy body, but I owe you a ‘thank you’ this time.”

McCoy frowned in puzzlement but Kirk just got up and headed towards the door.

“Hang on just a goddamn minute,” he yelled after the retreating back, the relief making his voice come out louder than he’d aimed for. “Aren’t you gonna tell me what happened?”

Kirk paused, then turned around slowly. “Why, Bones,” he said, his eyes wide and innocent. “I would, but after all, you’re a doctor, not a gay voyeur.”

The door slid shut behind the captain and McCoy stared it in stunned silence as his mind struggled to process that particular piece of information.

A wide grin transformed his craggy features and he shook his head then carried on staring at the door in astonishment for a long while. “Well, I’ll be damned,” he finally said to himself. “Leonard, my boy, it may be time to hang up your shingle for good and take the matchmaking world by storm.”

FIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.