This picture, sold on art.com, always looked weddingy to me.

Summary: In the early days of their marriage, Kirk and Spock find their lives
once again complicated by Vulcan biology. Set during the second five-year mission, directly after TMP.

Note: Three years ago, Kira suggested that I write a story with this title. The thought must have lurked in my subconscious for all that time, because I'd completely forgotten about the conversation when I titled this.

Bonding for Dummies

Kirk/Spock by Farfalla; rated PG-13
Fb to blueberrysnail (at) yahoo dot com
Beta-read by Hypatia Kosh.

It was dusk, and the sky above San Francisco Bay was rose-petal-pink in the hazy sunset. This was the final night of leave, and Kirk was spending it in familiar company. He and Spock were making the hour-long walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Once a busy automotive passage, it was now in the age of flying vehicles a historical pedestrian walkway and tourist attraction.

Five days ago, Admiral Kirk and the crew of the newly refit Enterprise had saved the Earth from the entity called V'ger, and command of the ship had been returned to him in gratitude. The ship was being inspected after its unexpected exertions, and the crew had been on shore leave all week. Kirk and Spock had not left each other's side for longer than a few hours.

"V'ger wanted what we have, you and I," Kirk observed into the sunset. "What we've shared, and what we have yet to share in the future."

"Agreed," Spock replied. "V'ger rifled through my memories, and in doing so, discovered moments we had shared. It found itself lacking in any experience as satisfying."

Kirk grinned warmly. "Which moments?"

"Anything causing me to feel warmth for you and for our relationship," Spock answered, "such as the time we were forced to stay up all night entertaining the Andorian ambassador so that she would not discover that a Starfleet oversight had left her without an assigned cabin. Or the adventure on Sigma Iotia, where you taught me to speak like a Chicago gangster. Or the incident in the Enterprise swimming pool, where we tried to invent a new stroke and Mr. Scott called for security."

Kirk chuckled. "He thought you were drowning!"

"I am not the most graceful of swimmers," Spock stated.

"All very human moments," Kirk pointed out. "I treasure them, too. I remember some Vulcan ones as well," he added.

"Such as?"

"The time we'd... just finished making love, and you spent an hour running your fingernails across my back and explaining alternation of generation to me. Not the usual human pillowtalk. But you finally made me understand the concept, which two Academy professors had never been able to accomplish."

"Vulcans believe that a day in which something new has been learned or understood is a day unwasted."

"I think that's the way many humans feel about loving, or being loved," Kirk countered. "Good thing we're so good at doing both." He stopped walking and looked out across the bay at the twinkling lights of San Francisco. Spock came to a stop beside him, and he turned to face the Vulcan. "Marry me. Let's keep learning--and loving--together as long as we can."

Spock paused before responding, letting the sounds of the bay crashing against the base of the bridge decorate the silence. "Nothing would please me more."

Kirk glowed and drew closer. "I've always wanted to kiss you on the 'bridge'," he murmured.

Spock raised his eyebrow. He knew only one way to stifle Jim's penchant for wordplay--but luckily, it was something they both enjoyed.

They leaned up against the railing and sealed their promise.

Hours later, in a penthouse restaurant in Chinatown, they sat discussing the more practical particulars of the arrangement over a plate of midnight dim sum. "I like the idea of having a service on the ship, except for the fact that I'm the captain, and I can't marry myself." Kirk dipped a dumpling into a saucer of soy sauce.

"Another captain or admiral could be brought on board to perform the ceremony," Spock suggested.

"I don't want to have to interfere with official Starfleet business," Kirk replied. "And I certainly don't want to offend your parents, either. They might appreciate having something to do with this--your mother, anyway. She's a human and I think she'd want to be a part of this."

"You are suggesting we wed on Vulcan?"

"It makes sense to me. Of course, we could always just have a justice of the peace perform it quietly here in San Francisco before we ship out again."

"I find that is the most logical solution. Vulcan is not a world on which I have found much welcome."

"Do you mind if I eat this? It's the last vegetarian one."

"Please. I am not accustomed to eating this late at night and have already consumed more than what is prudent."

Kirk dipped the dumpling and stuffed it into his mouth.

"When will you bond with me?" Spock inquired.

"When am I supposed to?" Kirk asked when he had finished chewing.

"Customarily, the bonding ceremony for adults is part of the formal wedding," Spock explained. "However, such a service is unlikely to be available at the San Francisco justice of the peace."

"So will we have to wait until we can get to Vulcan for that?"

"No," said Spock. "I will bond us." He caressed Kirk with his eyes. "I would prefer to be the only one inside your mind."

"You're sexy when you're possessive."

"I suggest we depart for your living quarters," said Spock. "If we are to find a justice of the peace tomorrow before beaming back to the Enterprise, we will need to get an early start."

"And the bonding?"

Spock graced Jim with the rare treat of a tiny smile. "I will bond us on the ship."

Kirk's heart soared.

Kirk and Spock arose early and the first thing Kirk did upon getting out of bed was to call McCoy on his communicator. "Bones? You there?"

"Sure am, Jim. What's going on? I'm not due back up on the Enterprise for another six hours."

"How soon can you be in San Francisco? We only need you for an hour or so. Maybe even less than that."

A ribald chuckle was his answer. "Jim, that thing tell you where I am?"

Kirk looked down at the communicator. "It's giving me latitude and longitude, but I can't place it off the top of my head." Spock was in the bathroom, or he'd have dashed over to read it and rattle off the location.

"I'm in Vermont--with Tonia Barrows!"

Kirk's jaw dropped into an open-mouthed smile. "Well, looks like you certainly aren't wasting your shore leave."

"Damned best shore leave I've ever had," said McCoy. There was a splashing of water. "Hey! Except for the last one. Watch it!" he added away from the communicator. "I don't wanna get this thing wet."

"Did she just splash you?"

"Sorry about that, Jim. We're, uh, we're in a hot tub."

"Any chance I could get you out of that hot tub?"

"Not really."

"What if I told you I proposed last night and Spock and I decided to elope this morning?"

Kirk heard Tonia's girlish squeal on the other end of the communicator. "Give me an hour," said Dr. McCoy.

"Thanks, Bones. This really means a lot to us."

"I wouldn't miss this. There's enough time for me to come back here to have lunch with Tonia before 1400 hours Starfleet-Pacific time. How come you're not getting married on the ship?"

"We decided to avoid the circus and get the legal stuff done with quickly," Kirk said cheerily, and then sobered. "Though you might call that a cop-out."

"Good thing I have a clean good shirt with me." There was a long pause. "You really did it."

"Yes." Kirk smiled, elation rising within his chest.

He gave McCoy the address of the justice of the peace and signed off. It was time for a shower, and then he and Spock were off to go get married.

"Welcome aboard, Admiral!" Scotty greeted them in the transporter room with a big grin under his mustache. "And Mr. Spock," he added. "Well, Jim? Ye ready to do it all again?"

"I'm ready. But... you can't go where you've never gone before again," Jim pointed out, grinning. "And there are... already some differences, before we're even out of Spacedock." He glanced at Spock, then back to Mr. Scott. "We've just been married."

"Are you! Why, then, congratulations to the both of ye! Come to my quarters for a toast after we leave the Solar system. I've got a fine new bottle of Glenlivet and this is a great reason to have 'er open."

"We'd be glad to. Thank you, Scotty!" said Jim. "We're heading to the command cabin to make sure all our things have been beamed aboard and everything's in order, and then I'll be on the bridge. Spock, of course, will conduct a final inspection of the science labs before we leave Spacedock."

"I have studied the specifications of the refit," Spock piped up. "The research capabilities of the labs have been tripled."

"Aye, that they have," Scott agreed. "See you on the bridge!"

Kirk and Spock quickly headed for the command cabin, which since the refit coincidentally had plenty of room for two adults. Kirk had slept there alone during the V'ger incident and he knew it would greatly improve the room to have Spock there, too.

When they reached the cabin, a surprise was waiting for them. Colored streamers were festively arranged around the door. The ribbon-tail of a balloon was taped to the wall and there were flowers scattered across the floor--white roses and wild irises. There was also a glass bottle full of clear liquid.

"The crew knows," Spock observed.

Kirk picked up the bottle. "Vodka."

"From Mr. Chekov, no doubt."

Kirk opened the door and led Spock inside. "I think Uhura had something to do with this."

Spock nodded. "I had surmised the same thing."

The door swished shut, and Kirk advanced. "I've finally got you alone," he murmured. "And we have a five-year Starfleet mission for a honeymoon. No better way to have adventures together."

Spock kissed him for a long time. Then he told him, "Tonight, I will bond us. I will meld us and link our minds together so that we will be 'never parted'."

Kirk's lips curled into a smirk. "I await you."

Spock lifted his eyebrow. "You remember those words."

"I remember everything. I remember how badly I wanted to be in T'Pring's place."

"T'Pring's forced place in my consciousness will become yours," Spock promised. He took Kirk's hands into his own. "Just as I am yours--legally, emotionally, physically. As you are mine."

When Kirk entered the bridge a short while later, he could still feel Spock's lips upon his.

With the Enterprise back in his command--and back out on a real mission--and Spock by his side for as long as he had a side, Kirk felt like a million credits. Spock had joined him on the bridge during the early evening, and they'd eaten with Dr. McCoy and their other friends in the mess hall after the shift was over. Everyone was eager to congratulate the newlyweds, and someone even managed to produce a couple of slices of white cake.

"We have great friends," Kirk commented as they entered their cabin for the night. "And a great crew."

"They have an excellent captain," Spock countered.

"Is that so?" Kirk flirted.

"It is," Spock verified. "In fact, he is my favorite."

"What a coincidence," said Kirk. "I happen to know you're his favorite as well." He came closer and ran his fingers over the blue fabric on Spock's upper chest. "Make love to me, Spock."

Spock replied by placing his fingers on Kirk's meld-points. He entered Kirk's mind without permission, partially because their bonding would soon make it no longer necessary to ask, and partially because he knew Jim would be warmed by the gesture of familiarity.

He saw their love from all sides--Jim's, his, and theirs. "It's beautiful," said Jim, but Spock's lips moved as well.

They traveled to the bed.

Later, in the embrace of each other's nude bodies and sticky from each other's sweat, they lay contentedly. Jim stroked Spock's hair, enjoying the almost unbelievable softness. He sighed happily. "I want to crawl up inside of you and never leave."

"There is a place in my mind that has been yours for years," Spock answered, taking Jim's other hand in his and holding it close to his heart. "Please--enter it now, and stay as long as you have conscious will."

Jim snuggled closer and let Spock meld them again. He immediately felt that this meld was unlike any other--it was deeper, more profound, and even more inwardly-focused than usual. For a moment, he couldn't breathe, and then Spock breathed for him. Then he breathed for Spock. It was very confusing for a moment as he forgot which hands were attached to which arms belonging to which man. Then he thought he could actually hear someone physically moving around inside of his skull. There was another confusing moment in which Jim felt pain on his ring finger because Spock's hand thought it was wearing Jim's ring, which would have been too tight on him.

It was all very exciting.

They emerged a little breathless and very full of wonder. "We're together," Jim blurted out.

"We are bonded," Spock replied.

"Your parents are like this?"

"All committed couples on Vulcan bond. It is our way."

"But it's usually part of a ceremony."

"Correct."

Jim ran a hand over his sweaty hair. "I feel a little bit like I've just been reborn."

"You are dressed for it," Spock said.

"That's partially what I mean," Jim agreed.

The new husbands--and new bondmates--fell asleep, after turning down the temperature slightly and procuring a sleeping robe for Spock.

It was a month into the mission, and Kirk rushed down the ship's hallway to Sickbay. "What happened?" he gasped as he plunged through the doorway.

"Unknown," Spock groaned. He was lying on a biobed, Dr. Chapel hovering over him with a piece of equipment. "I was overcome with intestinal cramps shortly after beaming down with the landing party."

"How shortly?"

"One point two minutes," Spock responded, wincing in pain. Chapel shot a hypospray into his arm and he relaxed slightly.

Kirk looked at Chapel. "The transporter beam?"

"I've never heard of anyone getting stomach cramps from beaming," she replied quickly. "It's probably something he ate, and the fact that it showed up just after beaming is a coincidence. You didn't eat anything down there during those seventy-two seconds, did you?"

"Negative," said Spock.

"What about the air down there?" Kirk asked.

"Oxygen-nitrogen, similar to Earth," said Spock. "Nothing on the planet should have caused this reaction."

"It looks like it's stopping as quickly as it started," Chapel observed. "Are you feeling better, Mr. Spock? You look better."

"The cramping has nearly disappeared."

"Good." Kirk let out a sigh of relief. "It probably... was... just something you ate."

"I have eaten nothing unusual in the past three days," said Spock. "The food synthesizers have provided all my meals, and none of my requests were new to my diet."

"Maybe one of the synthesizer's got a bug," Chapel suggested.

"In that case," said Spock, swinging his legs off the bed, "I shall investigate the food synthesizers. I must discover the source of the malfunction before I can eat safely again, without fear of further discomfort. That is, Admiral, assuming I am not needed on the planet's surface."

"No, you're excused. You may think it was food-related, but I don't want to take any chances. The unknown is always out there. You may have been attacked by one of the microscopic natives," Kirk suggested.

"Admiral, I didn't find--" Chapel began, but Kirk cut her off.

"The instruments only find what we know how to look for," he reminded her.

"Yes, Admiral."

Kirk and Spock left Sickbay together. "You're going to check all the food synthesizers you've eaten from in the past three days?"

"I do not wish to experience a repeat of my experience," Spock declared vehemently.

"Give me a report if you find out anything."

"Affirmative." Then, after a pause, he added, "Interesting."

"What?"

"The pain is completely gone. It is as if it never occurred."

"Food poisoning can be like that sometimes. After you throw up, there's nothing left to irritate. You didn't throw up, did you?"

"No."

"Well, that's a relief, if anything."

Kirk returned to the bridge and left Spock to his task.

But Spock never found a malfunction in any of the food synthesizers, to the great satisfaction of Mr. Scott, and the incident was written off as one of space's unsolved mysteries.

The next time it happened, Dr. McCoy was on duty and he wasted no time telling everyone within earshot that he thought the transporter beam was to blame.

"That can't be it. He's beamed down several times during this mission with no problems at all," Kirk argued. "I remember--I was there! Besides, Bones, the entire mechanism was replaced in Spacedock."

"I would like the opportunity to study samples from my blood," said Spock, resting uncomfortably on a biobed, "to compare with the samples from my similar ailment last month."

"I've already taken some samples," said McCoy. "You're welcome to take a crack at 'em."

"If it is some kind of microorganism," Kirk postulated, "that is, if you find the same bug in both samples--that would imply we are not the first space vessels to have visited those two planets."

"Precisely," Spock agreed, "since neither world has sentient life, let alone life capable of space flight."

"Maybe it's a Klingon bug," McCoy suggested.

"They could have checked out both planets," said Kirk, "found them insufficiently interesting to warrant exploiting their resources... or maybe not. Gentlemen, let me know what you find. I'll be on the bridge. I want the landing party to keep an eye out, in case there are any secret outposts underground our sensors didn't detect."

He left the room. Spock sat up and began to leave the biobed. "Where do you think you're going?" McCoy demanded.

"I am well again, Doctor. I wish to pursue this mystery as soon as possible."

McCoy frowned at him suspiciously. Spock was notorious for hightailing it out of Sickbay before any of the doctors thought it wise. But the computer attached to the bed affirmed that Spock's cramps had ceased. He was once again operating at peak efficiency. "Well, all right," said McCoy reluctantly. "Here. Run this for a Lyons-Miyamoto test." He handed Spock one of the samples of his own blood.

"So what did you find?" Kirk placed his food tray on the table next to Spock and across from Dr. McCoy.

"Not a damn thing," growled the doctor.

Spock, who was eating a simple dinner of broth and toast in the interests of caution, added, "We were unable to detect a difference in all of the factors examined. No alien microflora could be cultured, and in a blind study no chemical differences were detected between the sample from today, the sample from last month, and samples from days when I displayed no symptoms."

"Hm." Kirk looked at Spock with concern. "And you've... never felt any symptoms like this at any other time?"

"Negative. Only upon beaming down with two of my last six landing parties."

"Just after beaming down," Kirk repeated.

"I told you, it's the damn transporter," said McCoy, shoveling country ham into his mouth.

"Illogical, Doctor. A faulty transporter would affect a larger portion of the crew."

"You're still the only Vulcan. Maybe it's scrambling you as if you were human and it's making you sick," McCoy hazarded.

"You reveal your lack of knowledge about transporter beams," Spock countered. "Besides, its effect on me is inconsistent."

"He's right, Bones, I saw him beam down in perfect health just last week," said Kirk. "And you've checked for every medical possibility?"

"Yes, I have, Jim," said McCoy, starting to get testy. "I found nothing medically wrong with him." He eyed Spock warily from across the table. "Could this be some kinda... Vulcan thing?"

Kirk cast Spock a sideways glance.

"No, Doctor. I assure you if it were, it would not be your concern. I am completely capable of recognizing the symptoms."

"Last time you hid your condition from us and didn't tell anyone until it was almost too late to do anything," McCoy growled.

"Bones--" Kirk reached out and put a hand on McCoy's arm. "That's not it. I promise. If it were, I'd be able to feel it through the bond."

"Well, maybe it's just psychological, then," McCoy suggested. "Stress can be responsible for a number of ailments with real, physical symptoms. At any rate, it doesn't seem to be life-threatening so let's just hope it doesn't come back a third time."

But that was not to be.

It was approximately one week later and the Enterprise was investigating a Class M planet for suitability as a colony world. The climate was extremely hot and humid, reminiscent of the tropical region of Earth. Kirk was beaming down with the landing party, leaving Spock on the ship--just in case.

Spock went to the transporter room with him to see him off. "It's hotter down there than any of the other planets we've visited so far this mission," Kirk reminded the landing party. "You've all got drinking water in your packs and I want you to take a sip every two minutes, whether you feel you need it or not. I don't want any of you passing out from heat exhaustion. Spock, I'll let you know if we need another supply of water beamed down."

"Affirmative, Captain."

"Energize."

Rand, at the controls, operated the transporter and sent the landing party down to the planet's surface.

Spock turned to exit the room, but suddenly collapsed on the floor. His knees were drawn to his chest and his face was distorted in pain.

Rand, wide-eyed, signaled medical for assistance, then rushed to his side. "Mr. Spock?"

Spock's breathing was ragged. "Jim..."

Rand signaled the landing party. "Enterprise to Admiral Kirk."

"Kirk here. What's going on?"

"Admiral, Mr. Spock's doubled over on the floor."

Spock moved his head closer to the pickup and gasped into it, "Admiral, you must return to the ship immediately."

"Understood," said Kirk. "Rand, beam me up."

Rand dashed back to the controls and within seconds, Jim was back on the pad. He dashed over to Spock as soon as he was corporeal.

"It's the same thing again, isn't it?" Kirk cradled Spock in his arms and helped him to his feet.

Spock's breathing was quickly returning to normal. He nodded. "Admiral, I believe I have discovered the cause of my ailment."

"Oh?"

"If you will excuse us, Lieutenant," Spock said to Rand. She nodded and left the room. "Jim," Spock began. "I was remiss in bonding us without the aid of a Vulcan healer."

"The bond is causing this?" Jim exclaimed, puzzled. "But how?"

"While joining our minds I inadvertently created connections that shouldn't exist," Spock explained. "I believed I knew enough about psycho-anatomy to discern where the proper connections were, but this was apparently not the case. The result is that whenever we are physically separated for a great distance, my body experiences severe pain--pain that originates, as all pain does, in the mind."

"Why didn't the pain affect me as well?"

"I do not know. If anything has been discovered from this, it is that I do not know the mind as I thought I did." Spock looked glum, in a Vulcan way.

"What are we going to do about this? I want options."

"We will be passing close to Vulcan in seventeen Earth days. A professional healer would be able to correct the errors in our bond."

"I'll notify Starfleet. Getting a day or two for leave there shouldn't be a problem."

No problem for Starfleet, thought Spock. The problems would lie elsewhere.

"It was unwise of you to presume that your abilities matched those of a trained healer." Sarek's eyes were piercing as ever.

"Just think--you could have hurt Jim! You're far too smart to be so irresponsible." Amanda excelled at fretting.

Kirk and Spock had barely been down on Vulcan for twenty minutes before the tag-team nagging began. Sarek's arguments were proud and pompous, Amanda's concerned and protective. Since the family had retired to Sarek and Amanda's porch, a relatively private location, Spock's parents felt no qualms about letting him know how they felt about the amateur bonding attempt.

"You are a Vulcan," said Sarek. "Why do you perpetually separate yourself from all that generations before you have deemed logical?"

"I see no logic in believing truths without my own proof," said Spock.

"When has an amateur bonding ever been--"

Kirk held up a hand, daring to interrupt the paterfamilias. "Ambassador. Lady Amanda. I think we all agree it was an unwise decision to attempt the bonding ourselves, without the aid of a trained professional. Our time here is limited, and I would rather spend it getting to know my new family than being reminded of our mistake." He made a point of including himself as a culprit, even though it had been Spock's decision. They were a couple now and stood together.

The healer was an older Vulcan woman, but much to Kirk's relief, she was nothing like T'Pau. She reminded him of Earth depictions of a Mother Goddess, with her calm, welcoming demeanor and diaphanous robes. Her black hair was tied behind her head in two braided knots, and she wore an IDIC pendant around her neck.

"Welcome, Spock. Welcome, James Kirk." She held up her hand in greeting. "I am T'Phynn."

Kirk and Spock followed suit. "We're very glad you could see us on such short notice," said Kirk.

"My latest afternoon appointment time is kept free for non-emergency urgent care," T'Phynn told them. "Please, sit. You must relax before I begin." She gestured to a large sofa, where both men took their seats. Then she sat down directly opposite them on a wooden chair. "I am not accustomed to treating individuals of your age for such a problem," she noted.

Somehow, Kirk could tell from her tone that her irony was intended to be affectionate. "Oh?" he asked.

"Most couples who seek my aid after an amateur bonding experiment has tangled their psyches are of adolescent years," said T'Phynn.

Kirk smiled. "I never thought of Vulcan as having... teenagers."

"I have said too much," T'Phynn said pleasantly.

"Young people in every sentient race believe they are capable of more than the adult world permits them," Spock offered. "Here, they believe they are more 'logical'. It is no different."

"And you, Spock? Did you believe you were a more logical choice than a licensed healer for such a task?" T'Phynn lifted her eyebrow at him.

Kirk wanted to chuckle, if he hadn't thought it imprudent, at the thought of Spock being on the receiving end of The Eyebrow.

Spock hedged. "I.... It was illogical and foolish. I wished to preserve Jim's mind for myself."

"A concern unique to a Vulcan and alien couple," T'Phynn observed. "I assure you both that I will leave no residue of myself within either of your minds. Your human will be just as pristinely yours when you leave here as he is now."

She poured them each tiny cups of hot tea. "My work is best conducted on relaxed minds. Please drink."

The tea had a very strong 'green' vegetable taste. Kirk was reminded of asparagus.

T'Phynn closed her eyes and took a long, slow breath. "With your permission, I will now enter your minds."

The men consented, and tried to relax.

She placed one hand on each of their foreheads. "My mind to your mind, Spock. My mind to your mind, James Kirk."

Kirk's essence clung to Spock's within the shared world of the joined mind. T'Phynn's presence entered cautiously, examining what she found and doing her best to stay out of anything not relevant to her task. Kirk tried to help her and did his best not to think of sex.

She found the improper links with the ease of her experience. With a pulse of apology towards them both, she gently severed Spock's handiwork. Kirk felt a black, silent void rush in and, for a moment, had the sensation of drowning. He tried not to panic and reminded himself that he was not alone. T'Phynn sheltered him and guided him back to Spock, calmly and elegantly.

Then she crafted for them a perfect bond.

When she withdrew from their minds, they could immediately feel the difference. "Thank you, T'Phynn. We can't express our gratitude enough," said Kirk, rising from the sofa.

"Yours was a relatively simple case, compared with others in my history. I once had to help a young man who suffered from incontinence every time his wife urinated."

Kirk glanced at Spock. "Thank goodness we never went through that."

Spock, too, seemed relieved.

Kirk and Spock took advantage of their remaining time on Vulcan to take a small hike in the mountains Spock had loved so much as a small boy. "It's very beautiful here," Kirk commented, "beautiful and rugged. Different from where I grew up. Reminds me slightly of Bryce Canyon."

"There is a certain irony in my need to show you these mountains, which were often my refuge from my father, after the events of yesterday."

"Your parents reacted as any parents would," Kirk reminded him. "I'm just glad we were so easy for T'Phynn to untangle."

"I apologize to you for the inconvenience my illogical actions have caused."

"Don't worry about it. It's nice to be on Vulcan under better circumstances than the last time."

"If only I had not feared that contact with another mind would change yours," Spock berated himself. "T'Phynn was correct. She left no residue on your mind."

"It's a common emotion, for humans," said Kirk. "Many people on Earth feel it's very important to them to be somebody's first love, their first lover, their first kiss or sexual experience."

"I would prefer to be the last," Spock said emphatically. "That is more logical."

Kirk chuckled. "'Men always want to be a woman's first love--women like to be a man's last romance.'"

"Oscar Wilde, if I'm not mistaken."

"Mm."

"His ideas of gender--"

"It was the nineteenth century," Kirk reminded him. "Besides, that was probably one of his characters speaking, not his actual feelings on the matter." He linked Spock's fingers in his own. "I don't know that I'll be able to be your last romance, because our lifespans are different, but I want you to be mine. I've had other loves in my life, some who I'll remember fondly forever, but you are the being who is most special to me out of everyone I've ever known. You may not be the only one who's ever been in my mind, my thoughts, or my heart, but you are, and always shall be, the most important."

"You have made these mountains even more special to me, by accompanying me here." Spock leaned back against a boulder, pulling Jim closer.

Jim's lips were soft and warm and ready for his.

A week later, Spock stood on the transporter pad with a landing party complement. His face gave no sign, but Kirk could tell that he was curious to observe the difference in what would happen after he beamed down

Kirk addressed the away team. "Life Sciences says there were a lot of small aerial creatures down there--harmless, but watch your heads. And Spock," he added, under his breath, "let us know if you need to be beamed back up." Kirk gave the Vulcan's arm a squeeze before stepping down to stand next to the technician. "Energize."

Spock materialized on the planet in the middle of a mucky swamp. He looked around the misty trees, using his tricorder to test the atmosphere and take other preliminary readings. Somewhere off in the distance, an animal flew from one treetop to another, honking.

Five minutes later, he lifted his communicator. "Spock to Enterprise."

After a momentary delay, the beloved voice floated over the line. "Spock, this is the captain. How are you doing?"

"I am well."

"Wonderful, Mr. Spock." Kirk's voice was filled with relief.

Spock stomped off through the swamp, leading the landing party with renewed aplomb and his customary zest for scientific exploration. It gave him satisfaction to return to his full professional capacity as a science officer in Starfleet--and leave bonding to the experts.