The adrenal compound he'd been given was--perhaps stronger than he had bargained for, when he had formulated it with the aid of Dr. Wallace. This prolonged reaction was unanticipated. It was a fortuitous circumstance that Sickbay had been cleared of breakable objects. Gradually the return of his thought processes became perceptible--only gradually, that was, very slowly, while he exerted the same patient, unavailing effort.
He was so dizzy--his head hurt--he had been here for fifteen point four seven minutes. And Jim would be impatient. Dr. Wallace had expressed concern that he wouldn't be able to control his body's revolt at this level of dosage. He'd been intellectually, but not actually, prepared for this assault. A muscle spasmed in Spock's leg. His cogitations were disconnected, bits of paper tossed in a storm.
Through the delirious haze he was aware of the nylon webbing of one of the restraints giving way, but Dr. McCoy seemed unconcerned. He knew his facilities to be less than fully adequate to care for Vulcans.
Sixteen minutes. If he concentrated, he could process the images he saw, for his eyes were still open. All he saw was the Sickbay ceiling, for the moment. His back was arched like a bow, a primitive weapon, drawn back for use. Spock's eyes closed. His hand made a claw, but he could gain no purchase. Most fascinating. At another muscle spasm the examining table and the shelves on the walls rattled and thrashed.
And then it was fading-- "Do you need something?" Dr. McCoy said, concerned. Spock could barely breathe evenly; he could not even collect himself to reply, only shook his head weakly. This wasn't like the humans' side-effects; there was no telling what the proposed other drug might do.
He had not noticed the doors opening to admit the captain. "I take it he's reacting strongly to it?"
"About what I expected. It doesn't seem to be acting as quickly," said the doctor. Spock still couldn't breathe evenly, still couldn't produce speech if his life had depended on it in that moment--though if Jim had asked he might have managed. It was a great accomplishment to turn his head and focus his gaze on his captain's face.
The captain smiled at him when their eyes met. Seventeen point six two minutes. Jim had left the bridge before the end of the shift. Spock was unable to alter his own facial expression in response. "All right, Spock?"
Spock's lips parted, but McCoy pushed Jim aside, frowning. "Jim, the man can barely see and hear and you want to make him speak? He probably doesn't even know it's you!"
He hadn't looked away from Jim. Jim raised his eyebrows. He would see the recognition in Spock's eyes, as clear as part of a conversation--a lifted eyebrow or a patient "Jim."
The doctor spoke loudly, "I'm not going to give you another injection yet because I don't want to take any chance on the interactions. When your vocal cords are fully functioning, you can come argue with me about that as well as everything else. Jim--" he paused, "He needs to rest."
Jim's eyes widened, his palms up in a gesture which, most oddly, suggested submission. "I know, Bones, I know!" Spock could see he was nearly trembling with some peculiar combination of human emotions--tension, amusement, guilt.
Muttering, McCoy left them alone, and Jim paced to the side of the bio-bed and dropped his hands on the edge of it. "I'm sorry for all the things I said to you when I wasn't myself," he said, briskly, while his hands occupied themselves with the edge of the blanket.
Spock let his eyes drift shut for a moment. "You traitorous--disloyal--! You stab me in the back the first chance you get?" He forced his closed eyes open at once to block the unpleasant memory with reality.
"I wasn't myself," Jim repeated, frowning a little. "I'd like to be able to say more than that, but the truth is that I can't."
Spock looked back at him silently and calmly, not evaluating but only watching the play of thoughts across Jim's unusually unguarded face. The expression was focused: slightly frowning, slightly thoughtful. Spock allowed himself the luxury of studying it. There was a small crease between his eyebrows, his eyes narrowed just slightly. The line of his mouth was firm but not tightly compressed. He appeared to study Spock's face--his eyes flickered with movement as his gaze moved intently, but it returned again and again to Spock's eyes. There was a hint of flush high on his cheeks. If Spock had asked a puzzling question, Jim's face would have looked exactly like this: probing and calculating, nervous and energetic.
Jim startlingly put his hand on Spock's arm, as though testing the temperature of his skin through his tunic, or the texture of his sleeve. Spock didn't have the alertness to tense perceptibly, nor the control to have prevented it if he had. Jim said softly, "How are you?"
The firm (and unexpected) touch trailed down past elbow, over forearm, testing. Spock thought he was near the ability to get up. He turned his head sideways. His lips parted on the word "better," but he had no voice to speak it. He was still ill, or he was frozen by the determined look on Jim's face or the touch of his hand.
Jim saw the movement, though, and smiled. His hand had reached Spock's wrist and continued; their fingers were intertwined, Jim's firm and Spock's still and unresisting. Jim's human skin was, as always, cool and a little damp to the touch.
"Don't speak until you're able." His other hand was beneath the medical blanket, on Spock's uniform tunic at the approximate location of his solar plexus. His palm was flat, his fingers relaxed.
The weakness was ebbing away; but, still slow and disoriented from the pain, Spock felt the emotional and mental equivalent of unequal pressure in the inner ear. The physical contact at these two points, fingers and chest, flooded the surface of his mind with the gray outlines of human thoughts like in another minute if he doesn't say something, I'll have to call Bones and should lock Sickbay to my voice command soon and his hair isn't black, it's brown.
Spock blinked and found he could say hoarsely, "I am able."
Jim flexed his hands, and through the contact, Spock could distantly hear his mind shouting, He's ready. Now. Now! The hands moved, pushing the medical blanket aside entirely. One wrapped around his wrist, a loose bracelet; the other had slipped under his uniform tunic and spread its cool fingers, a pleasurable shock, on the heated skin of Spock's abdomen. What?
"You like it," Jim muttered, and tore apart the tabs holding the uniform pants closed. Likes it, knew it, look at him, said Jim's hands on his skin. Still Spock couldn't be sure that the spoken words were intended for him. Jim's touch had always been warm and pleasant, something Spock had treasured and carefully remembered. It was an evident and logical badge of trust and friendship. But suddenly and illogically he wanted more, more of that touch.
His uniform tunic was crumpled under his arms and his pants unsealed (His face, he can't help it. Hot. He's so hot), and his captain was insinuating his hand into the opening, kneading Spock's sudden and fast-growing erection through the thin fabric of underclothes.
He could still hear Jim thinking, fuzzy bits and shreds of thoughts when he thought them too loudly. Yes. and His skin, everywhere, so smooth, so much, he's-- and His mouth. Jim's red mouth was open and he was gasping. Sweat stood out on his forehead.
Unable to tear his eyes away, and fearing they would drift shut of their own volition, Spock struggled to memorize every detail of the unbelievable encounter. The sensation was piercing his flesh and his consciousness in slow, thin lances. The cool, unhesitating touch of Jim's fingers against the burning blood-heat of his skin; the little gentle movements; the restraints tearing free of the sickbay cot; the fine texture of knit cotton pressing into his sensitive skin--inconceivable! Jim's thumb found its way unerringly under the thin garment to the tip of Spock's member, pressing--it almost hurt, it was so slow and too-careful--he thrust his hips up into the touch and it spread while Jim chuckled and cotton tore and the soft-skinned pale square hand wrapped around him and folded the warm feathery edges of his arousal down into a slender core of painful need.
Spock couldn't remember such a surfeit of physical sensation from his previous sexual encounters. Jim's touch was everywhere, sweet and overwhelming like a deep draught of water, yet he was dying of thirst for it. The illogic stunned him.
Jim's hand was too fragile. He could feel the bones grind together in his grip-- his mouth open, he pressed into the other hand. Jim had drawn him suddenly, startlingly, to such a state of arousal he could hardly remember--what? Why? He could not have imagined this yesterday. Nothing in his experience of sexual encounters, or of Jim, could have led him to--.
But he knew this was not enough. Jim, flushed and short of breath, could only agree. More!
Spock reached out for him, lifted him effortlessly into the air and pulled him onto the narrow bed in an awkward sprawl of limbs.
Jim laughed a little and tugged Spock's shoulders to make him sit up, but Spock was tearing at their uniforms, heedless of the seals, splitting seams. Jim explored the musculature of Spock's torso with his hands (So slender, these muscles, best first officer, a scar). They slid smoothly over Spock's skin, like a cool cloth to relieve a fever, but they drove it higher in their wake. Then Spock moved him again--"I feel like a limp rag," he said out loud, breathless, joyful--and pulled his naked thighs apart, and lowered him back into Spock's lap, his legs folding close and damp on either side of Spock's hips, where they seemed to tighten instinctively. I have never seen his face without his control… . Jim's mind was vibrating with triumph.
There was no more speech. Spock pulled him close by the hips and was shocked by an emotional clench, hot and so tight it was almost painful, in his chest. His throat rumbled in a growl and he pushed his open face into Jim's shoulder, searching for soft flesh to take the imprint of his teeth.
Spock. Jim mouthed his name and threw his head back at the touch, shuddering and moving his hips back and forth. Slowly he rubbed himself along the length of Spock's swollen member, trapped between them. Spock's thighs tensed. They pressed themselves close simultaneously, driven by instinct, adrenaline, emotion--a powerful and heady concoction. This arousal, this encounter, must meet its logical conclusion. Jim's weight pressed them together, Spock's hands gripping the curves of Jim's muscular thighs while Jim braced himself, biceps straining, holding on to Spock's shoulders.
Another movement and another were two agonies of anticipation, pleasure with an unbearable edge, like pain, of knowing it was not enough. The thrusts were uneven, slippery with the sweat of Jim's exertion and awkward.
Spock tried for rigid control, holding to Jim's thigh, his other hand moving to the hip to hold him forcibly motionless. He lifted himself, his leg muscles straining, and felt his member sliding in the sticky sweaty crease where Jim's leg met his torso, a damp, close-fitting path. Oh. His hands tightened enough to make bruises and he jerked Jim closer. Jim only made a little sigh, half a growl, his chin lifted and his neck, his back, his shoulders, every line in his beautiful golden body short and taut.
Closer still. He made a convulsive movement in a wave of possessiveness that plastered them chest-to-chest and stomach-to-stomach, but Jim hardly seemed aware of it. His thoughts were as swift and trembling, heated and disjointed as his movements. So hot, Spock--he smells like--Spock! His member was trapped between them and every little twitch--a muscle in Jim's stomach, then a slow sliding undulation--was terrible near-perfection. His mind blanked of even the thought want. He couldn't think it--only feel it. He hardly remembered his own hands. Jim's hips jerked against him once, twice, in a frenzy, again, and he clenched as tight as his fist in the bedclothes and relaxed at the same instant, in a sweet release of tension, all that energy draining out of him in a long, luxurious flood. He closed his eyes.
Spock's eyes were still closed when he felt Jim slip from his grasp.
When he opened them, Jim was standing, looking at him mysteriously, unreadably, wearing his torn uniform pants with no apparent concern. "I was going to voice-lock the door," he said reflectively. "I didn't do that. I'm sorry."
Spock found his voice. "It's quite all right, Captain." He had just said captain to a silver Sickbay cleared of all its breakables, but not of its intercom or its recording devices. He had, he noted, complete control of his voice. It was professional and calm.
The captain smiled wryly at him, holding his gold uniform tunic carelessly in one hand like the limp rag he had mentioned and not part of a uniform, something of no importance. "I suppose I'd better let you get some rest. I'll see you when Bones thinks you've recovered." And he left without another word, leaving Spock still, he thought, experiencing the side-effects of the injection.
His thoughts were only gradually becoming clear, but he knew that something not only improbable but nearly inexplicable had just occurred. Nothing had indicated this occurrence or anything of its kind to him. Nothing Jim had said or done had given the least indication. He had been taken completely by surprise, having failed to even compute the probability, and Jim, most uncharacteristically, had said nothing of his motivations.
For Spock, this last question was the greatest worry of all. Why?
He entered his quarters calmly at the end of a duty-shift, carrying a full load of reports for review. He'd been breathing evenly, slipping into and out of a shallow first-stage meditative state all day to help control his unruly speculation. Without more data, such speculation was useless. For that data he was dependent upon the captain. The captain had not spoken a word to him all day.
"How about this." The captain's voice came unexpectedly out of the dark, pitched low and intense. "I tell you that you must tell me your deepest secret. Whatever is most important, whatever is closest to your Vulcan heart, whatever you would rather die than reveal--I tell you to tell me that, right now." The door had not even finished closing. "Computer, lock doors to my command, voice authorization Captain James T. Kirk." He stepped forward a bit into the light and fixed Spock with a steady stare. "What do you say?"
Spock deposited the stack of padds he was carrying on the nearest table and carefully neatened the corners of the stack. "Am I correct that this is a hypothetical exercise?"
Jim only lifted an eyebrow, not the reassuring affirmative response Spock had hoped for.
"May I inquire why you are asking this question?"
"Certainly you may." Jim took a sip of wine from a glass dangling from his hand--not one of Spock's--and licked his lips with an amiable smile and an audible sigh of satisfaction.
"Then what is the purpose of this exercise?"
"An interesting question, Spock, and one I hope you'll be able to give me the answer to in time. For now, however--" He paused, apparently choosing his words. "I'd prefer the answer to the other."
It was really most extraordinary; Spock could hardly believe what he was hearing. This awaiting him unexpected in his quarters, behind a locked door--after yesterday? After today? Jim's old lover had not yet left the ship; the adrenal injection had barely had time to work itself out of their systems. The day before Jim had opened his pants in Sickbay, and Spock had lifted Jim into his lap and torn Jim's clothes away and pressed himself to shuddering release against Jim's strong, compact, tawny body. Today had been as routine as imaginable. They had not spoken a word.
Just the day before that face had been gray and seamed and Jim had turned his head away to mutter "I never want to have to look at you again." Spock had not even been able to look at him in the grip of his artificially-accelerated senility.
"Your deepest secret, Spock. What's your deepest, most shameful secret? What do you do if I ask for it? I'm not actually asking, you know. Come on."
"Jim-are you completely recovered?" Spock said warily instead of the more obvious Why do you ask?.
"Now, now," said Jim, now lounging propped on the wall with one shoulder, apparently inspecting the play of light in his wine. "You can't just say 'who are you and what have you done with Jim' and win the argument, Spock! I've asked you a question that you've got to answer, whether it's rational or not."
"Jim," Spock begged. The exasperating human had abandoned his indolent posture and stripped off his uniform shirt, which now lay like a shed skin diagonally on Spock's desk. "If you suffer from some illness-"
"I'm not ill, Spock," he said sharply, and leveled a direct stare which bordered on a glare. "Not anymore, at least." The undershirt stuck to the skin of his chest, damp with sweat.
A reaction, but the situation seemed no less surreal. Spock knew himself to be fully conscious, and calculated the odds that he might still be influenced by the adrenal injection at less than 30 percent. He did not have the data to make the same calculation for the captain, but it seemed unlikely that such a side-effect would escape Dr. McCoy's notice. They had taken approximately the same adrenal injection the day before. Was it possible this was an adverse effect he'd failed to anticipate when he created the serum? What if he, too, experienced this irrationality? Could it be some kind of allergic reaction?
"The concern is logical, Captain," he ventured desperately.
"Jim, Spock. I'm perfectly fine." Indeed, his composure seemed unimpaired.
"In that case, Captain," said Spock, who was beginning to suspect him of telling the truth, "Please reassure me by explaining your illogical behavior." His trademark unpredictability often resulted in outcomes which were the result not so much of "fortune" as of Jim's shrewd manipulations. This could all have been engineered to prove some elaborate point (Though still the question remained, why now? What sparked this need for confrontation?).
This response appeared to perturb Jim more than any other perceived slight. He tore the shirt off in one impatient jerk and let it fall to the floor of Spock's quarters, a small black puddle next to the toe of his boot. "Explain my irrational behavior? That's a tall order for a human, isn't it, Spock? Shall I start at birth and work forwards, or at death and work back?"
He had successfully diverted Spock's attention. "You are not dead," said Spock uneasily.
He himself had estimated early the day before that they each had less than a week to live--and the mental deterioration, the aging of Jim's mind, had already taken hold to such a degree that he'd thought the brilliant, irresistible being he knew lost forever. Jim had looked out of his own eyes like a caged animal, pleading and lost. "Taking away a man's command… well, that's… Spock. I wouldn't have believed it of you."
Now Jim seated himself deliberately and leaned over his knees with a predatory glint in his eye, as if to demonstrate how completely the effects of the radiation were reversed. He said with every appearance of rationality, "Not yet."
Spock tried to hide his discomfort and evidently failed. His attachment to the captain made it impossible to engage in such an emotionally weighted and confusing conversation as this with his accustomed confidence. Indeed, the attachment in question made Jim's original question problematic, if he chose to answer it. He was not sure which of many secrets was the most closely guarded, but whichever it was, it would be a revelation of the emotional kind. The very thought made him shudder.
How, then, might he answer the demand? He could not lie to Jim. Looking at Jim now, stripped to the waist in Spock's own quarters in a blatant demonstration of his ease, Spock's resolve wavered perceptibly. In fact, Jim demonstrated more ease than Spock felt, and seemed to be deliberately treating Spock's quarters as his own. Another improbable and highly effective tactic, no doubt. Spock sat in the chair behind his desk deliberately. He thought he could not deny Jim, any more than he could lie to him--at least, not for long. He felt his vulnerability with the same certainty he identified hunger, thirst, lust. Jim could easily draw him into confusion this way.
"Come, now, Spock," said Jim gently, when he had been sitting silently for five point five seconds.
If he returned an answer to the question, how could Jim react? Any method of evading the question would provide Jim with the same information, and all were equally unlikely to result in explanation of the cause of Jim's behavior. If he said he must eventually respond? A deeply meaningful declaration, with ramifications he did not have time to explore, but which the captain could no doubt grasp at once. If he replied (defensibly) that he could not predict his future response to a situation he had not experienced--which was probably the answer Jim expected--did that not as much as declare how uneasy the question made him? Unless he was acting under the influence of a drug or a human "whim," Jim must have taken this into account.
Logically, it must be this answer that he was seeking.
"You want me to ask you what I want to know directly," Jim said thoughtfully, rolling his empty wine goblet between his palms. The overhead light cast a white reflection in it, that slipped and slid across its swell as it moved. His hands and shoulders relaxed, his movements controlled with perfect compact efficiency in the arms. "Spock, you admire my powers of intuition," he said, pausing his movement. The goblet stilled; the reflection fell flat. Spock was forced to lift his eyes to Jim's face. He seemed amused and skeptical.
Spock said carefully, "Captain, your abilities are very extraordinary." They were exquisitely balanced and thoroughly underpinned with logic, shrewd calculation and incisive intelligence. How much of this gift was genetic, and how much due to the peculiar (and often mysterious) circumstances of Kirk's upbringing, was something Spock would very much like to know.
"No, hear me out!" Jim insisted, setting the goblet aside. His hands rested on his black-clad knees. "You say you admire my intuition. Perhaps my intuition tells me asking what I want to know would be ineffective. Should I ask you a question directly, knowing the question is unlikely to help me and may be counter-productive? And it's Jim."
Spock struggled silently with the question for a moment, sitting stiffly in the chair at his little table. He became aware, studying Jim's alert yet easy posture, that his position gave him a feeling of some disadvantage. "You suggest deception as a valid method of obtaining the information?"
Jim smiled at him dazzlingly. "Well, when you put it like that, Mr. Spock, I'm almost ashamed. I can assure you I didn't intend to deceive you--and I don't seem to have succeeded, do I?" It sounded as though the conversation were going exactly as he had planned, which Spock knew logically could not be the case; it was part of Jim's particular creative brand of intellectual warfare. The ploy had no doubt been effective with humans for all of Jim's life, serving to put them on their guards and force them into defensive positions in the face of his apparent confidence.
Spock acknowledged and understood the strategy, but though it was indeed a nearly flawless performance, he knew Jim to be far more uncertain than he appeared: his passion and emphasis, his careful handling of the strange conversation, and the mere fact that he had begun it at all spoke to Spock.
After three years he could read the captain just well enough to recognize, warily, the threats he could present. Spock was vulnerable, not to Jim's warfare of the subconscious, but merely to the inextinguishable flame of his personality. Jim glowed, he burned bright and hot and terrifying, as though he might somehow, at any moment, burn himself out. Jim was strong, intelligent, perceptive, empathic--and extraordinarily lucky, addicted to risks and as a result, more spectacularly successful than Spock could have hoped or foreseen, in crisis after crisis.
Jim took risks the way Spock assessed chances, only faster, and he made Spock faintly ashamed. Next to Jim, Spock felt an intellectual coward, a slave to logic and not a master of it.
Now, here he sat in Spock's quarters, leaning forward with his eyes locked on Spock's face, gambling again, taking a risk and daring Spock to take it too. "Are you going to answer me?" Jim quietly urged.
Spock considered. "You seek information whose nature you will not disclose and request I assist you by answering a question about a hypothetical situation. You presume that I have a secret I would rather 'die than reveal,' and ask how I would respond to being asked to reveal it. If one accepts your presumption, then logically I must refuse. Therefore, your question is illogical, and I cannot imagine what information you desire. I have asked you directly to state your logic. Doing so would undoubtedly assist me in giving you that information. If you refuse, you will just as surely not obtain it. Are you prepared to answer me?"
"No," the captain said calmly, "I am not. It may be reasonable for you to request an exchange of information, but you can't honestly expect me to give you the one answer which would make it impossible for you to answer my question naturally. The request is disingenuous. I'm disappointed in you, Spock."
Affronted, Spock raised his eyebrow and said coolly, "Captain, you confuse the issue. In a trade I may request any information I wish. Since only I hold the answers you require, you are forced, as humans say, to 'do business' with me."
Jim was on his feet before Spock finished, his pupils dilated with anger. He spoke in a low, intense voice. "My business stays in this room, Spock. That was never in question. I'm not going anywhere." As he spoke he advanced toward the table where Spock still sat; Spock's nostrils flared involuntarily, catching the musky scent of sweat. "But I maintain that your proposal of a trade which you fully know I cannot accept is deceitful, since your actual purpose and your stated purpose, namely, to be able to give me a truthful answer, cannot be one and the same!"
By the time this sentence was out, they were standing almost nose-to-throat, Spock on his feet due to no conscious act. Proximity revealed Jim's flesh to be cool, firm, flushed, and slightly damp--a deeper red color than the day before in Sickbay, when he'd been pale and, Spock could see in retrospect, deeply disturbed. At this distance the fine grain of the captain's rosy skin was visible, moving like silk over the liquid flex of muscles.
The sensory bombardment made it impossible for Spock to process data at his usual efficiency, although he could not put this down to a conscious decision on Jim's part; Jim, he believed, was unaware of the effect his presence, his--body--could produce.
On the surface, they were at deadlock. Spock could not risk the captain's discovery of the powerful illogical attraction, the equally powerful and equally senseless weakness (even though the risk was beginning to appear more attractive). Jim could not reveal what he wanted to know. It seemed impossible for both of them--but neither could Jim be placed in an impossible situation. For him, they did not exist.
"Spock," he said contemplatively, "your stubbornness does Vulcan proud."
Spock thought it wiser not to respond. He was not, in fact, certain that he could respond any longer, because Jim had placed one of his cool hands on his chest. His eyes downcast, he seemed to be studying it. The lights spilled down over his head; his eyes lurked in dusky hollows, and his upper lip cast a deep shadow over the lower, black in the center of that sculpted shape. The lips were damp. Jim licked them, and Spock could almost taste the moisture. His arousal was becoming almost painful as he held himself motionless.
He could see, watching carefully, a flicker of annoyance on Jim's face; then his jaw clenched and he murmured out loud, though apparently to himself, "Nothing--anything. Whatever I do. It's impossible to shake you." If the remark had been addressed to Spock, he would have had a ready answer. He believed he was now what Jim would have called "shaken." He contemplated saying so, but Jim lifted his chin determinedly almost at once. (Was Jim's sole purpose here to "shake" him? Improbable.) Their eyes met for an instant; Jim was grim and unflinching, the muscles in his jaw and neck rigid, as he rose on his toes and lifted his chin and pushed his cool, wet mouth aggressively against Spock's dry lips.
"Surprise" was a grossly inadequate descriptor for the emotion Spock experienced then. His lips, eager but hampered by shock and relative inexperience, seemed large and clumsy, but he stood still and let Jim kiss him and tried to kiss Jim back. He could taste a little wine, but mostly it was just cool and wet, flavored like a kiss--rigid and punishing--Jim was using his lips like subtly and perfectly constructed logical assertions, crushing Spock's mouth, parting his lips, slipping slickly against his tongue and scraping the inside of Spock's lip with his teeth.
He supposed the argument was over for the time being--it would have been highly inappropriate now next to the odd compulsion of this kiss. They were becoming a little breathless and Spock's fingers, for lack of anything better to do, wrapped around the black fabric covering Jim's narrow hips, and Jim's compact body was straining against his.
Without realizing how distracted he was, Spock had become very distracted. A kiss was an inherently urgent thing, so that he thought all the way through it that at any moment they were about to stop, but he never did, because every moment carried a reminder, another hint of something--a texture, a flavor--something compelling and intriguing, something he needed desperately to know, and more desperately the more he thought about it, and all the answers were somewhere in Jim's mouth.
In fact, they kissed for three point four minutes, at the end of which time Spock was no more satisfied to pull back and taste air empty of Jim than he had been at the beginning.
"Well?" said Jim, as though he had just posed a second question, and twisted his gleaming torso casually to retrieve his wineglass from the desk behind him.
Spock blinked. The captain was clearly operating on his customary rush of adrenaline, thinking in improbable leaps no Vulcan could match. The focus generally bent on saving ships and planets full of lives from impossible situations was distilled to this look on Jim's face and the firm grip of his hands--all concentrated on Spock.
He was experiencing none of the benefits (dubious, in his case) that allowed Jim to think so quickly. He was perhaps more confused than he had been before. He wanted to give in, and he did not even know what Jim wanted. His mouth felt damp and swollen.
Jim had drained the goblet. There were a few glistening drops of white wine clinging to the glass; it hung in the loose clasp of Jim's hand. The knuckles were roughened, the fingers blunt but small, the nails short and even and clean.
They had been curled like cramped claws plagued with acute arthritis just twenty-two point one seven hours before.
Spock could not find it within himself to tell Jim to leave. He acknowledged the need for time by himself to think. He knew that if he refused definitively to answer, Jim would probably go--eventually. But he could not take that path, illogically delaying his answer and Jim's.
When the Commodore and the board had voted at the competency hearing to take command of the Enterprise from Jim, hadn't Spock refused to take it himself? He'd come to Jim's quarters so quickly he couldn't remember how long he'd taken and had arrived without having planned what to say. He had stood face to face with Jim, his back against the wall. Whatever always lit the air between them had still been there but Jim's eyes had been full of anger and confusion. When Jim had told him to go he had gone, because Jim asked it, and it had been the only one of Jim's requests he could fulfill --and then Jim had turned at once to watch him leave! Illogical as the behavior seemed, unpredictable as it was, Spock had gathered from this and from Jim's apology an astounding conclusion:
He should not have left. He should have stayed against Jim's expressed desire, against his command, should have stayed and defended his logic. He should have defended Jim.
Jim himself had said that there was "a lot more to running a starship than answering a lot of fool questions." He should have challenged Jim with that assertion and stayed with Jim as he wished to do. Spock could have answered those "fool questions," and Jim could have provided the mysterious spark of improbable brilliance which had always been his. Together they always had been, would always continue to be, stronger--Jim as well as he.
It was likely that brilliance which prompted Jim to say with improbable shrewdness, "Spock, I thought it was… very illogical of you to refuse to take command of the Enterprise when I was incapacitated by the radiation poisoning." He hesitated minutely before continuing, "Logic should have told you you would make a far better captain than Commodore Stocker."
Spock raised his eyes to Jim's face, startled, and found Jim studying him intently. "Captain," he said slowly, "I do not believe that I acted illogically. It is illogical to summarize a man's competence in terms of his incapacities without also considering his capacities."
The logical course would, of course, have been to facilitate Jim's command of the situation--that would always be the logical course. No flawless memory and no speed of calculating probabilities could replace Jim's powerful, indefatigable personality. Logic and probability seemed to bend around him. Aging as rapidly as Jim, Spock had been exactly as capable and incapable in comparison to Jim as he was now. He would never be an acceptable substitute. He should have made Jim understand this. He should have made the logical counter-offer--that both of them take command, or neither.
Instead of speaking, Spock cautiously closed some of the distance between them. Walking towards Jim, he felt like a supplicant, or an asteroid moving dangerously close to the gravity well of a planet. "You have consumed all your wine. Allow me to refill the glass." He took it from Jim's hand.
Jim didn't resist, but he leaned against the desk and crossed his arms over his gleaming chest. "Thank you."
One glass of wine was nowhere near enough to intoxicate Spock. When he returned with two goblets, his first glance surprised him by showing him Jim a little flushed all over, faintly pink, glowing with a sheen of sweat.
Their fingers brushed as the goblet changed hands; Spock could smell him and just taste the tone of his thoughts, nervous, aroused. "Jim, does this--conversation--have some relation to our recent battle with radiation poisoning?"
Jim had the glass at his lips. He swallowed and lowered it. His expression was unreadable. He muttered under his breath, "Dammit," a remark that was no doubt intended to remain private. He took a deep breath and appeared to make a decision. A gesture indicated that Spock should sit at his side; Spock ignored the direction of the wave, retreating instead to his desk chair. "You look like a man who's got a theory, Mr. Spock. You tell me. Does it? What is the connection between my sudden, irrational, possibly even unfulfillable demands," he said emphatically, "and your own inexplicable judgment that Stocker was more fit to command my ship than you were?"
Spock frowned. "Captain, I must protest. My behavior was not inexplicable. My judgment, had I remained in command, would have dictated I return command of the Enterprise to you. The Commodore would then have been within his rights to proceed against me as he had against you."
"I was incapacitated, Spock."
"You were--" he had to force the words out. "--impaired, Jim. You were not, however, incapable of performing your duties, with my help."
Jim stared helplessly for a moment; then he turned to a different issue. "Dammit, Spock, you can mislead in the line of duty. Placing the ship in Stocker's hands placed all our lives in danger."
He spoke emotionally, his heart rate elevated, his movements agitated with the same tension which tugged at Spock. He felt Jim's emotions pulling at him. "That was an unforeseen occurrence and one which I regret," he said. "However, I judged that if my refusal to comply provoked Commodore Stocker, he might remove me from duty on grounds of incompetence. My usefulness would be greatly reduced in that event. If Stocker retained me as executive officer, I would be in place to prevent any… errors I could correct."
The captain was left speechless momentarily again. "Logical," he murmured faintly. "I apologize, Spock." Finely clenched muscles in his face and neck relaxed suddenly, making him appear oddly vulnerable. He sought Spock's eyes determinedly. "It seems I should have given command to you to avoid the declaration of incompetency myself." Spock allowed their eyes to meet; it took some effort, however, to hold Jim's gaze steadily.
"No apology is needed, Jim. However, although a connection between yesterday's events and your question is indicated, the exact nature of that question remains… elusive."
Jim gave that private little smile, sharing with himself an internal joke, and dropped his eyes to the floor. "But given the circumstances some connection, no matter how small, is almost inevitable. Quite right, Mr. Spock. There's no need to quote the odds."
Spock looked at him thoughtfully. Earlier he had seen Jim shake with frustration; now for the first time Jim looked somewhat--uncertain, even. "There is a great deal of information present."
This time he was rewarded, mysteriously, with Jim's real smile, the glowing flashing smile he reserved for Spock. "I see. You haven't had time, to, ah, …"
"To process it all," Spock supplied gravely.
"Right, right," said Jim. "I've gotten in the way of that, a bit." He gestured to himself--his frankly provocative pose, his existence, his state of undress? The gesture was as vague as the conversation.
"Indeed," said Spock. One of his eyebrows twitched upwards.
Jim seemed content to sip his wine in silence for a moment. With his thighs resting apart, his shoulders relaxed, that concentrating frown on his face, he became the center of the room, the axis around which everything revolved.
Any calculation had to take into account the fact that Jim had kissed him--Jim had kissed him. What did that say? What did it mean? And what course was likely to lead to a repeat of the incident?
"What do you think of Dr. Wallace?" said Jim. He was frowning, tensed expectantly, and he had spoken sharply. Spock had a flash of intuition that here they had finally approached a cause of Jim's strange behavior.
"I was honored to make the acquaintance of the author of such ground-breaking research," he replied. "Dr. Wallace is a highly skilled researcher."
Some of the captain's earlier restlessness had fallen away from him, as often occurred in the crucial moment. He sat with his hands clasped rather tightly together, and said slowly, "I suspect she doesn't rely on logic as much as you do, Spock. I'm thinking specifically of something she said to me. You're aware that at one time Dr. Wallace and I were--romantically involved?"
Spock was cautiously motionless. "I did perceive a certain..." he discarded the word intimacy. It had given him some little gratification to observe those particular signs only on Dr. Wallace's side and not on the captain's. "...familiarity, Captain."
"Mm," Jim said, gazing intently at the bulkhead through narrowed eyes. "She... remembers our former intimacy--" Spock didn't imagine the emphasis there. "--with... fondness. She's said a number of things to me over the past several days, but do you know what I dwell on the most?"
An expectant silence followed the words. Jim's eyes had moved quickly to Spock's face, and Spock quirked an eyebrow.
"She said--'the heart is not a logical organ.'"
Spock closed his mouth firmly on an undefined response.
Jim, though, unexpectedly burst out laughing. "You know, Spock, I might have said much the same thing to you even--last week, when we were discussing Plutarch? I'm afraid you're far better at controlling your responses to nonsense than I am."
Spock forced himself not to smile. "I am more tolerant of the… 'nonsense' of my superior officers."
Jim laughed out loud. "Or of some of them, at any rate. Of course. Always the exception for me, Spock." Their eyes met and Jim's sudden seriousness sent a little unaccustomed thrill through him. Perhaps it was terror; perhaps exhilaration. "And if it weren't logical," he said softly, "You would hardly do it. Would you? A Vulcan heart that wasn't logical might find itself cut from its chest."
His mouth was very dry. He didn't know what implication of those statements to address.
"I've apologized for some things I said yesterday, Spock," Jim said into the silence, in what appeared to be another change of subject. "Today too. I know that apologies, at least, are illogical. You'll have to forgive your human friends their illogical need for apologies."
"Of course," he said. What did Jim think he would say? He had been trying for almost an hour to think like Jim--to duplicate with ponderous attention to detail the flawlessly logical leaps Jim made in seconds; and he still could not do it, though he was sure he knew Jim almost inside and out… .
Jim was leaning forward over his knees again, gathered in on himself with his hands clasped. "I know you trust me with your life."
"A much simpler equation," Spock muttered.
"Simpler than trusting me with your secrets?" Jim said. "Or simpler than trusting in your…" his mouth twisted wryly, "heart, in its logic?"
He couldn't meet Jim's eyes at the last; and of course either of these representations was a gross over-simplification of a situation that was as complicated as the fine, meticulous mechanisms of Jim's human mind. But he looked into his memory, at Jim's frightened eyes in his wrinkled old man's face, his withered lips and his helpless, lost look.
"I wouldn't've believed it of you." "Captain, I have not assumed command." Jim was not asking "what is your deepest secret?" He was asking, "Will you do this for me?", as he had done the day before.
And at this crucial moment, Spock wanted to say "Yes."
It was not a fully reasoned decision, but he found he wished to take the risk. Perhaps it was the prompting of intuition which made him say, "Captain, as I do not know what my deepest, darkest secret might be, I would be unable to divulge it, should you ask it of me." He'd slowly crossed the distance between them, and now stood so close Jim couldn't stand up without assistance.
Jim smiled up from the level of his waistline. "And that's what you'd tell me, too, isn't it?"
"Logically," Spock said severely, "there would be no alternative." He felt he might be losing his balance--on the verge of falling over to be caught in Jim's cool, firm grip.
Jim continued as though uninterrupted. "Because if lying is illogical then so is misguidance. So is manipulation. Everything I've said and done to you for two days--things you can't bring yourself to do to me if I press a challenge under your nose, things a commander can never allow to happen. Do I mean so much? In spite of it all?" He looked troubled, not angry or pleased. "What I did--I seduced you. I kissed you to make you tell."
"It is true that you did these things in order to change my behavior. But," said Spock carefully, and his hands on Jim's arms were so cautious, the hands used to staying in his lap and on his instruments, to accepting Jim's touch and making no gesture in return. "But there was no subterfuge in the acts." Touches do not lie.
"That kiss," said Jim. "The--" he clearly hadn't intended the pause. The lovemaking, his mind said for him, so loudly it communicated clearly through just his hands. Spock pulled him to his feet with a sure grip on his forearms, where the slow human pulse sang unusually fast under the sweetly cool skin. Jim finally said, "Of course there was no subterfuge."
Spock permitted himself to smile. "And, Jim."
"Have no doubt. You do mean so much."