As Terry glanced at the bedside clock, he absently said, "We need to get back to the academy."
"I know." Valentine said as he drifted on a peaceful cloud of tranquility.
"I feel you in me." Terry said distantly.
"Was I too aggressive in my love making?" Valentine asked with concern.
"No... I mean, you were an animal. But I liked it." Terry grinned, then continued, "But what I was saying is that I feel you, like you're in my heart, like you're a part of me."
Valentine turned to look at Terry curiously and seemed to be searching for something in his eyes.
"Is something wrong?" Terry asked with concern.
"I didn't think this was possible." Valentine gasped.
"What? What's wrong?" Terry asked as he reached up to soothe the worried look from Valentine's face.
"As I've told you before, I have very little telepathic ability." Valentine said cautiously.
"Yeah. Oh, you mean that what I'm feeling really is you inside of me?" Terry asked with a smile.
"Yes." Valentine whispered, then continued, "But it's something more than that."
"Oh? What is it? It's not a problem, is it?" Terry asked curiously.
"I'm not sure. I didn't think this could happen, so I didn't prepare you for this eventuality." Valentine said nervously.
"Just tell me what it is." Terry said gently.
"We've become bonded." Valentine said hesitantly.
Terry smiled, then said, "I don't know exactly what that is, but it sounds nice."
"It can be." Valentine said slowly, then added, "But, from what I've heard, dissolving the bond can be painful. I'm sorry, Terry. I never wanted to cause you pain."
"Why do you want to dissolve it?" Terry asked quietly.
"I don't really. But... we should. Otherwise, it becomes permanent and we will be bonded for life." Valentine said frankly.
"What's wrong with that?" Terry asked cautiously.
"I couldn't do that to you." Valentine said as tears welled in his eyes, then whispered, "Terry, you're such a beautiful person. You should be free to find someone worthy of your love. You shouldn't be bound to a genetically inferior throwback like me."
"You really mean that." Terry said with surprise.
"I love you, and I want what's best for you." Valentine said honestly.
Terry thought for a moment, then quietly responded, "What's best for me is to be with the person who loves me enough to let me go."
Valentine looked at Terry with confusion.
"I can feel, deep inside me, just how much you really do love me. I know how bad you want for the bond to become permanent. But you're still trying to convince me to let you go because you think it's for my own good." Terry said warmly, then added, "It just makes me love you that much more."
"So, does that mean that you want for us to maintain our bond?" Valentine asked cautiously.
"Yes, Val. I want you. Forever."
"There is one other thing you should know before you commit to this." Valentine said quietly. "Near the time of my twenty-first birthday, we will be instinctively drawn through our bond to be together. The blood fire, the Plak Tow, will compel us to come together to mate. And if we do not... we will die."
"Um, considering what we did last night, I don't think you'll have to threaten to kill me. An invitation is all it will take." Terry said with a grin.
"I"m serious, Terry. You need to understand the gravity of the situation before you commit to this." Valentine said imploringly.
"Okay. I've got it, Big Guy." Terry said quietly. "And I'm not worried about it at all. I love you and I will always love you. We'll just be sure to be together before your twenty-first birthday... when is that, anyway?"
"Nearly two years away." Valentine said quietly.
"Well, then we'll just make sure to both be posted to the same ship or starbase before it happens." Terry said frankly.
"Thank you, Terry." Valentine said as he pulled Terry into a firm hug.
"I love you, Val. So it's no problem." Terry said affectionately.
"You seem to have a way of making my most impossible dreams come true." Valentine whispered.
"I'm glad." Terry said gently, then added, "Because having you is better than anything I ever dreamed of."
Valentine and Terry's bond seemed to pour strength and serenity into both of them. For the first time, neither of them felt alone.
* * * * *
After what seemed like a month of relentless, solid worry, work and study, the final exam day finally came.
The test was every bit as challenging as any of the others had been, and the group of friends waited just outside the classroom as each finished, as had become their habit.
"How do you think you did?" Melanie asked cautiously.
"I had three on-the-spot oral essays and five practical demonstrations." Valentine said in a daze.
"And?" Melanie prompted.
"And." Valentine said as he broke into a smile, "I think I did well on all of them."
"As did I." Sharan announced as he approached from the opposite direction.
"Did any of you have anyone special on your panel of judges?" Melanie asked curiously.
"I had Admiral Hanson again." Valentine said with a chuckle.
"Don't tell me..." Melanie snickered.
"What?" Juan asked in confusion.
"When Valentine has to speak in front of people, he imagines them naked." Melanie said with a wide grin.
"I no longer do that." Valentine quickly assured. "However, the mental image of Admiral Hanson seems to be indelibly etched into my mind. I may need a trained Vulcan telepath to rid me of it."
"How did everyone else do?" Sharan asked curiously.
"So far, we're all good." Terry said frankly.
"We're just waiting on Mike and Troy." Phillipa said as she hugged close to Juan's side.
"Cadet Crewman Valaan, Cadet Crewman Sharan, please report to room 112." a female voice said over the public address system.
Sharan and Valentine looked at each other with question, both thinking the same thing, but neither wanting to voice it.
"Room 112 is Commander De Gama's office." Phillipa said in a whisper.
"Let's go, Valentine. It's either very good news, or very bad." Sharan said reasonably.
"Considering that there are two of us, it could be both." Valentine said quietly.
"Good luck." Melanie said as she pulled Sharan into a tight hug.
"I love you, big guy." Terry whispered as he hugged Valentine with something beyond average Human strength.
"It will be fine." Valentine said as he returned the hug, then whispered in Terry's ear, "I love you, too... Forever."
"We don't want to keep the Commander waiting." Sharan said as he reluctantly released Melanie.
Valentine nodded as he let go of Terry and stepped to Sharan's side.
They walked down the hallway, side by side, both apprehensive and wondering what it could possibly mean.
* * * * *
Sharan and Valentine walked into room 112 and were immediately ushered into Commander De Gama's office by his secretary.
"Would you like to do this separately?" Commander De Gama asked as the two cadets stood at attention before him.
"No sir. I don't mind if Sharan is here." Valentine said quietly.
Commander De Gama looked at Sharan with question.
"I would prefer if Val stayed, he is my friend." Sharan said frankly.
"As you like." Commander De Gama said simply, then directed his full attention to Sharan and said, "From the choices of course studies you've made, it seems that you're doing an 'all or nothing' gamble."
"Yes sir." Sharan said as he kept his head held high, trying to hide his anxiety.
"I would never advise a cadet to make that choice, but in your case it seems to have paid off. The captain of the Potemkin happens to have need of a communications technician with your unique skills. He reviewed your transcript and requested that you be assigned to him as soon as you're eligible." Commander De Gama said as a smile broke through his professional expression. "I assume that you would be interested in that assignment."
"Yes sir. Thank you sir." Sharan said, fighting to contain his excitement.
Commander De Gama's smile seemed to change as he looked at Valentine. The smile spoke of uncertainty.
"Cadet Valaan, I'm sure that you are aware that although you are technically eligible for Starfleet service, you don't qualify for any specific posting in Engineering." Commander De Gama said seriously.
"Yes sir." Valentine said bravely, not able to guess what point Commander De Gama was working toward.
"Fortunately, test scores aren't the only criteria that you are judged on." Commander De Gama said carefully and seemed to be trying to phrase his statement very precisely.
"This request did not come to me through the normal channels." Commander De Gama said slowly, as if he were reluctant to continue. "My daughter was on shore leave during the holidays, and she mentioned that her department is under-staffed."
"She wasn't actually asking for me to send a cadet as much as she was expressing her concern that a new addition to their department might cause problems. Apparently they've developed an exceptional team, but they're short a few key people. She was saying that she's worried that the new people might come in and disrupt the dynamic that they've established. " Commander De Gama said slowly.
"I've had exit interviews with each of the cadets who went through training with you. They have told me, without exception, what a good, decent, conscientious, hard working person you are. Their admiration for you was a factor in my recommending your placement."
"Cadet Crewman Valaan, you technically meet the absolute minimum requirements for the job. And from the way my daughter speaks of her commanding officer and co-workers, they will be happy to go out of their way to help you learn anything that you failed to pick up during your time at the academy." Commander De Gama said carefully.
Valentine looked at Commander De Gama with disbelief and fought to hear the Commander's words over the pounding of his own pulse.
"Congratulations Cadet Crewman Valaan. You have been assigned to Deflector Control on the USS Yorktown."
I have tears in my eyes.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
Proof Reader's Notes:
I agree with Darryl, This is wonderful