He has next to no memories of the first time they met, and the few he manages to scrape together are drenched in alcohol and jumbled by a probable undiagnosed concussion.
Every once in while, when he's feeling the perfect combination of nostalgic and impish, he asks Spock about that night. Most times Spock just smiles that non-smile of his into the curve of Jim's neck, and says nothing.
It's some kind of brawl he got himself into because—because.
Because it used to be his favorite pastime and then Pike came, talked him into becoming a productive member of society, and suddenly Jim doesn't have time for his beloved old hobbies anymore. Because lately it's been all about shit like survival training and flight simulations and, for fuck's sake, homework, since as it turns out at the Academy they're all secretly twelve, and Jim needs to blow off some steam more than anything but there are midterms, and mandatory attendance, and pop quizzes, and a sea of people all wearing the same red uniforms, and the Starfleet cross-country team practice because extracurricular activities are "technically not required, but," and, yeah. In hindsight that's probably how he found himself in that bar.
In that brawl.
What's slightly less clear is what Spock was doing in a dive like that, and Spock certainly doesn't say—Spock never says shit—except that Jim would bet his left nut that he was trying to get laid. And about to succeed, too, since one of Jim's sparse, hazy memories is of red-painted nails curving over Spock's shoulder from behind, and an equally red mouth saying near the arch of Spock's ear, "Let's just put him in a cab and go back to my place."
He doesn't remember exactly how regretful Spock sounded when he replied that no, the logical thing to do is to see the man safely home. If he had to take a wild guess, Jim would say quite a bit.
Then there's a hand—large, supporting, warm—on his lower back. Around his waist.
And then—Jim's not exactly sober, but at a certain point, in the passenger seat of Spock's car, Jim's pretty sure that some kind of self-preservation instinct he never knew he had kicks in and prompts him to ask, "Hey, dude. Don't you—I mean, don't you maybe wanna know, like, who I am? Where to drive me?"
His left eye aches like a son of a bitch, and he might have sprained a wrist, but the buzz from the brandy is still there. The car is just this side of too hot, and it's not—it's not unpleasant.
That low, calm, "I know who you are," is the last thing he remembers.
There are four-hundred and seventy three Vulcans currently residing in San Francisco.
Nope, it's not publicly available information.
He doesn't know that Spock is Spock for a long time.
In his head, Jim thinks of him as Hot Dude for while—and Jim thinks of him; a lot—but Bones, who comes home in the the morning to find Jim fully clothed and asleep on his bed, bloody tissues shoved up his nostrils that he is highly unlikely to have placed himself, starts referring to him as Napkin Guy.
In the end, he becomes The Vulcan in Jim's head.
Which is kind of ironic, because after some piece-of-cake hacking Jim goes through all the highly classified Federation records for those four-hundred and seventy three Vulcans living in San Francisco, and then for the seven-hundred and four residing in California—why is there one single Vulcan living in Tarzana, and why does a place called Tarzana fucking exist, anyway?—and yet he's still not able to find the one.
Maybe he was in the state just for the night, for a random recreational hookup as far away as possible from his beautiful wife and adorable children.
Maybe it's a matter of Saurian brandy goggles, and Hot Dude wasn't that hot, and Jim's been looking for all the wrong things in those ID holos.
Maybe he hallucinated the ears and the eyebrows and The Vulcan wasn't even Vulcan, more like a human with serious liver problems.
Hell, maybe the guy didn't exist at all and Jim managed to get a cab and stop his nose from bleeding out all by himself. Talk about personal growth.
Jim's a little obsessed on the whole thing for two, three, four weeks, and then—then the tactical drills, the flight trainings, and the fucking homework are back at it, and he doesn't think much about him anymore.
Maybe once in a while.
He finds him when he stops looking, and in the worst possible situation.
When he hacks his second attempt at the Kobayashi Maru and Pike gets all upset and starts blathering about cheating, and academic misconduct, and breach of ethics—as if he hadn't recruited Jim so that he could pull stunts precisely like this one, and that proud pat he gives on Jim's back right after that stern talking-to is over kind of underscores it.
When he's summoned to a conference room in HQ for a private hearing with Pike and this other guy who apparently programmed the simulation, which Jim hates to admit was the most elegantly formatted code he's ever laid eyes—before Jim got his one-letter variables and lack of line breaks in it, that is.
When Jim enters the conference room and—
The Vulcan exists, all right, and he's a Hot Vulcan Dude, all right, exactly—no, better—than Jim remembered, and Jim stops in his tracks and stares at him from the doorway, combing his memories for the convocation message he received, the one with the info about this stupid hearing, trying to remember the name of—
Commander Spock, Jim's pretty sure.
Spock, naturally, is not in the least surprised to see Jim.
So they just stare at each other for what feels like longer than appropriate, and it's not that Jim doesn't know that technically his career is on the line, it's just that…
"What's the shit-eating grin, son?" Pike asks him. He is, apparently, in the room, too.
"Nothing." There are maybe twelve free seats at the conference table. Jim steps into the room and sits down in the one right in front of Spock.
"You do realize that this is a serious matter."
"Of course, Captain."
"Then turn the smile off."
Jim tries to force his cheek muscles to stop contracting.
"Alright. This is Commander—"
"Spock. Commander Spock." Jim wets his lips. "We've met, sir."
Pike frowns and looks between them. "Have you, now?"
Apparently Pike doesn't believe Jim, because he turns to Spock, who nods once, expression perfectly blank.
"Briefly." He has a very nice voice.
Jim tells himself to focus. There is this hearing, which is about to start, which is kind of focused on him, and just for that he should pay attention to it, try to decide exactly what he's going to say to defend himself, or at the very least attempt to keep the staring to a minimum, but the fact of the matter is that Spock—Spock—, he is just…just…
"You installed a subroutine to change the condition of the test."
Spock's voice is actually phenomenal. Deep and calm and modulated and Jim feels something coil at the base of his spine. It makes it a little hard to concentrate of the meaning of his words.
Spock's eyebrow climbs up his forehead. "You cheated."
"Ah, that. Right. Well, it was that or failing again."
"You also left a message for me in the code, under the guise of a comment."
"You invited me to 'eat shit and die.'"
Fuck. He'd forgotten about that. And Pike never even knew, judging by how he's pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Oh. It wasn't directed at you." Jim tries hard not to look like he's about to burst out laughing. And fails, if the way Pike is glaring at him is any indication. "More like to… you know. At the test. Which is a cheat in itself. Since it cannot be beaten."
Spock cocks his head. "The test is not designed to be beaten. It is designed to examine your reaction to a no-win scenario."
"Okay." Jim leans forward, eyes staring into Spock's, and for a moment, a fraction of a second, images about that night hit him like a blow in the stomach—Spock's forearm wrapped around his waist and holding him upright, tight shoulders shifting under Jim's palms, long fingers running through his scalp and warming it, untangling his hair. But it's less than a second, and Jim's always been quick at catching up, anyway. "You have seen my reaction to a no-win scenario. What do you think about it?"
Either that, or it's classified information, because Spock doesn't answer and just keeps looking at Jim, as if trying to see through him, to read him and memorize him and solve him, and Jim, for the very first time in his years, finds himself wanting to let him. He wants to make himself transparent and show Spock whatever it is that he's trying to see and then maybe a little bit more and if later he were interested in returning the favor, maybe Jim could—
Pike clicks is tongue, and shifts in his chair, and clears his throat, and only then Jim remembers that he and Spock are not exactly alone. There's this other man in the room with them, this guy who outranks them both, who's watching them in obvious fascination a maybe a little bit of worry.
"Jim, that's not the way we do things in Starfleet," he says.
Which must be Spock's cue, because he seems to shake himself a little and opens his mouth to say something ridiculous, and boring, and a little condescending, some disquisition of the principal lesson embodied in the testor the importance of experiencing fear, and Jim fires back with something ridiculous, and outrageous, and equally condescending, and Spock is so thorough, so dedicated in the way in unpacks and disposes every single word that comes out of Jim's mouth that Jim decides that academic hearings might be his new favorite thing.
It feels, weirdly, like the most intimate experience he's ever had, and Jim's not even sure if Spock is this dude's first or last name. Is this falling in love? he wonders, and then laughs at his own idiocy, feeling breathless and turned on and beaten black and blue all at the same time.
Then, Pike gets called away.
There's another pat on Jim's back, and the customary "No more stuff like this, okay," and then—
Jim's alone with Spock.
In retrospect, Jim thinks, it might have been wise to pretend that he has no memories of Spock raking him up from the floor after he took—and hopefully dished, too, though that might be wishful thinking—an epic beating. That ship having sailed, at the very least not admitting to violating some thirty different Federation guidelines to track Spock down might have been a good idea.
Of course, Jim's not known for his good ideas.
"You're not listed in the Federation's Vulcan immigration records," Jim tells Spock in the loud quiet of the room, and as soon as the words are fully out of his mouth Jim's brain remembers that it's supposed to have a genius IQ, and he rolls his eyes at his own stupidity. "Right. You're part something else, aren't you?"
Terrible wording. Jim almost winces, but Spock appears unfazed.
"What is it? Betazoid? Deltan?" Though he doesn't look it. But interspecies kids are kind of rare, and usually it's always the same mixes, telepaths with the telepaths and—here it is, his brain doing his one fucking job again, and no less than twice in a day, will you look at that. "You're half human, aren't you? The one in all the genetics papers. The ambassador's son."
Spock just looks at him, his expression as placid as for the past one hundred and twenty minutes, while he was busy tearing several new holes into Jim's academic career.
"Have you recovered from the… accident?"
For a second, Jim has no idea what Spock's referring to. "Ah. That. Yes. My roommate is a doctor, he found a dermal for me." He smiles. "And it wasn't exactly an accident."
Spock tilts his head. "True. You seemed very… purposeful."
Spock is enchanting, there are no other words to describe him.
"Let me buy you dinner. To thank you for getting me home that night."
And, Jim could probably add, for not insisting on having me put on academic probation for fucking up your test.
Jim's pretty sure the two things are related, anyway.
"No thanks are necessary."
"Then just let me just buy you dinner."
"I am not hungry."
Then let me suck your cock.
"What about tomorrow night? Do you think you might be hungry, if you starve yourself for twenty-fours hours?" For the first time since entering the room, Jim recalls that Spock's outranks the shit out of him, and adds an apologetic smile and a "Sir." It's clearly an afterthought.
Spock just stares at him for several more seconds than it is polite, and then he stands and heads for the door.
"Have a good evening, Cadet."
It doesn't escape Jim that it's not technically a no.
It's so much easier once he has a name.
Twenty minutes of quality time with an encrypted computer and Spock's file and—Jim is impressed.
And Jim is never impressed about stuff like career accomplishments, or CVs, or master's degrees, since he usually reserves all his admiration for other things, like his friend who magically homebrews her own beer from hops and water and yeast, and owners of dogs who can play cool tricks, and people with outstanding control over their gag reflex.
So what. Maybe it's time for new role models.
It takes him a while to figure out why Starfleet has someone of Spock's caliber grounded—no one goes through four years at the Academy because they want to stay at the Academy— and then he finds out about the Enterprise mission schedule and it hits him, that the way Spock and Pike double teamed him so seamlessly during the hearing is probably the result of some long standing professional relationship.
Jim starts imagining having Spock as his first officer, and he gets hard in his desk chair.
Spock's everywhere. On top of XO duties he teaches three classes, oversees two labs in computer science and specialized trainings in several divisions—none of the mandatory ones for command track cadets, to Jim's instant despair—and also does a bunch of overly secret shit that is so well hidden in the databases that Jim's actually a bit concerned to trip over a couple of silent alarms, so in an uncharacteristic display of wisdom and maturity he just logs out and goes back to staring at Spock's ID picture.
It makes him that much harder.
He weighs his options for a few days, and then he decides to show up for Spock's office hours, which are set for Monday morning at six AM in what Jim has to assume is a giant Fuck You to the entirety of the Academy student body. The quad is deserted and surprising cold, mist sticking to Jim's uniform as he makes his way to the Computer Science building.
"Cadet," Spock tells him as he lifts his eyes from the monitor, and he looks half resigned, half amused, and eighty percent something else that Jim can't quite name.
He plops in the chair in front of Spock's desk. It's up there among the most uncomfortable chairs Jim's ever sat in.
Spock, apparently, doesn't much like visitors.
Jim grins crookedly. "Will you help me with homework?"
"I feel obliged to point out that your course instructor might be better suited," Spock says drily, that ghost of a smile barely on his lips.
"C'mon, Spock. I'm sure you had to take Principles of Warp Core Physics to graduate."
Spock looks at him for moment, sitting back in his chair, hands steepled in front of his chest. "You should address me by my rank, Cadet." It's obvious that he couldn't care less how Jim addresses him. At least, it's obvious to Jim. He wonders how many people fall for the stick-up-the-ass, expressionless, logical act.
"And you can call me Jim."
Spock looks away and breaks the steeple. Moves the stylus in the middle of his desk exactly one inch to the right.
"So, what about that dinner?"
"Which dinner are you referring to?"
He low-key loves it, that Spock's a bit of a jerk. Mainly because Jim's way worse.
"How did you know who I was, that night?" he asks, and to his credit Spock doesn't bother pretending not to understand what Jim's referring to.
"You must be aware that your enlistment and admission to Starfleet was… a matter that received extensive attention."
"Still. My picture's not public domain, and I wasn't wearing my uniform, didn't have any form of ID on me, and there was blood smeared all over my face. Plus, there's thousands of people on this campus on any given day." It seems to Jim that Spock goes still, but he was unmoving before, so it might just be an impression. "Did I tell you my name, that night?"
There's several beats before Spock's answer comes.
"You did not."
Well, well, well.
"You know." Jim leans forward. "You should really let me take you out dinner. And after that, I could thank you properly, and you could…." The rest of that sentence is as tangible between them as if he had spelled the words letter by letter, palpable in the way Spock's pupils widen, and his right hand tightens on the edge of the desk, and his lips part slightly and—
"Good morning, Commander." A young, female voice. "I'm here for—Am I disturbing you?"
Spock's breathing is a little shallower and quicker than before.
Or maybe it's just Jim's impression.
"Negative. Cadet Kirk was about to leave."
Spock works out early in the morning—like, early.
Jim doesn't wake up before ten—if he can avoid it. Thing is, after sunrise Spock disappears, swallowed by one of the seven buildings in which he has an office—which is why this time Jim really can't.
If Spock is surprised to see him on the treadmill next to his, he doesn't show it. He doesn't show any awareness of Jim's presence, actually, so Jim decides to play this game the obnoxious way, and lets himself stare at the sweat running down Spock's temples and throat until it darkens the collar of his t-shirt, at the way the muscles in his lower back shift with each stride, and the the hair sticking up on the sides, looking so much better than that horrible haircut he usually walks around—which, honestly, is kinda growing on Jim.
It's half an hour before Spock stops and acknowledges Jim's existence, with a nod that's so short it's gotta be rude on Vulcan, too.
"Would you like to spar?"Jim asks slowing down his treadmill, as if he didn't hold the deep belief that sparring is like playing hologames with the cheat codes. If you want to learn how to fight, go get yourself pummeled after ten shots of Aldebaran whiskey.
Spock looks unconvinced.
"I have seen you fight," he says, clearly less than impressed.
What an asshole. Jim's in love.
He smiles. "Don't worry. I'll go easy on you."
He doesn't, and that, combined with the fact that Spock is obviously underestimating him, is why he manages to take him down the first time.
Spock looks a little bemused, and then intrigued in a way Jim's starting to wonder if others can even recognize, and then he takes Jim down ten times in a row in maybe thirty seconds, and Jim would mind having his dignity ripped into small pieces if that didn't mean having Spock's body pressed against his, inhumanly hard muscle under inhumanly hot skin, and he's not sure what turns him on the most, the smell of Spock, or that there is no yield in the way he holds Jim down, or how the time Jim's spending wedged between the mat and Spock's body seems to increase a little with every take-down. Every time Spock offers him a hand up Jim takes it, perhaps a little too eagerly, and every time he thinks he sees Spock's lips press against each other for just a fraction of a second.
Afterwards, he'd be happy to let Spock do him in the shower, or in the locker room, or who's he kidding, even in the middle of the gym, but Spock says something about showering at his apartment and then he's out of there, obviously trying to look at Jim as little as possible.
The following morning Jim wakes up again at ass o'clock and goes back to the gym. Spock isn't there. Nor the next day, nor—
He hacks the gym logs and finds out that Spock has taken to working out late at night.
Jim counts it as a victory.
He is not a bad instructor, per se.
Jim realizes it within ten minutes of the beginning of class, that Spock knows the material like he's the foremost scholar in the field (he's not; Jim checked), is an articulate public speaker, and has a nice way of breaking down the topic into chunks of information that are manageable for puny, non-Vulcan minds. So yeah, he's not bad, it's just that he'd clearly rather be elsewhere—in some kind of lab with a pipette or two, or maybe on board of the Enterprise, doing his actual job, would be Jim's guess—and while he's far too professional to let his lesson become sloppy because of it, the distance doesn't exactly make him seem approachable.
Poor Spock, Jim muses. He's bored.
His time to shine, then.
"That doesn't make sense," he says without first raising his hand, and without first swallowing the mouthful of apple he's been taking bites off. "Why would the predicted accelerations deviate twenty astronomical units just out of the Solar System?"
Spock's shoulders stiffen imperceptibly before he turns to looks at Jim.
"Cadet Kirk. I do not recall seeing your name on the class roll," he says, with that long-suffering look Jim is rapidly becoming acquainted with.
The students sitting around him start murmuring, looking a little agitated. It's like they're intimidated by Spock or something. Like they can't tell that the eyebrow, that thing he does with the corner of his mouth, they're his version of a smile. How are people so bad are reading this guy, anyway?
"Classes are open for attendance to all cadets. I'm pretty sure." Jim remembers reading it somewhere in the handbook they shoved down their throats during orientation week. He also remembers finding the idea of attending non mandatory classes preposterous and wildly hilarious.
And yet. Here he is.
"Do you find yourself attending classes in which you are not enrolled very often?"
"If I say no, will you feel special?" Jim asks, batting his eyelashes.
The murmuring intensifies.
"The acceleration is caused by an anisotropic radiation pressure," Spock says in his driest tone.
Jim thinks about it, stroking his chin. "Because of the spacecraft's heat loss?"
"Correct. We refer to the phenomenon as thermal recoil force."
Jim grins. "Cool name." He takes another bite off his apple.
"You should desist," Spock tells Jim later, when Jim is passing by the lectern on his way to the exit. They are the last two people in the classroom.
Jim halts and cocks his head. "Do youwantme to desist?"
Spock just stares at Jim for a little longer than is polite and then lowers his gaze.
His lips are pursed.
Vulcans, turns out, really cannot lie.
He annoys Uhura until he knows all he needs to become the best candidate for a TAship in one of Spock's computer science classes, which is pretty much the opposite of what his already overflowing schedule needs. So what, if he has to study the history of Java and learn four new—useless, god, so useless—programming languages in two and half days? It's worth it, when he sees it plain in Spock's expression, that he tried his very best to find a reason not to accept his application—and still failed.
Pretty miserably, too.
"This is not a paid position."
"I'm offended. I'm doing for the invaluable experience and the privilege of working for you. Obviously."
Is that an eye roll?
"You are a command track cadet. You would receive no benefits from holding this teaching assistantship."
"What about the broadening of my cultural horizons, and stuff like that?"
Spock just looks at him in that way he has, resigned and amused and suspicious and… what is that other thing in his eyes? It's starting to bug Jim, that he has no clue.
"So, we gotta discuss stuff, right? The syllabus. The homework. The textbooks. How about we meet for dinner and—"
Spock takes what has to be thirty PADDs and deposits it in Jim's hands. They're fucking heavy.
"Please, create grading rubrics for these."
Jim can't see that well from behind the stack of PADDs, but he's pretty sure that's a smirk.
He notices one morning while Spock is pointing at a section of code on the holo display because every single student in the class got it wrong on the test, which really, Jim's befuddled, why is the intuitive knowledge of how to apply parallel processing to loop optimization not simply inborn in people—
"You have goose bumps."
Spock cocks his head, arching an eyebrow in that politely confused expression of his.
"It's when your skin gets all those little protrusions because you're scared or… "
He notices Spock's cool amusement and realizes he's fallen for it.
What a dick. Really, Jim never stood a chance.
"Today is considerably colder than usual," Spock explains, somewhat apologetically.
Jim grins and steps a little closer, and then closer still, and then his side is pressing against Spock's.
"I can help keep you warm."
Spock's Adam's apple bobs a little, and however long it takes for Spock to move away, it's definitely too long.
"So. Dinner, tonight?" He gives Spock a wide smile.
"I do not require nourishment at this time, Cadet."
"What about tomorrow?"
"I have a previous engagement."
"No problem. Day after tomorrow?"
Spock drops his PADD to his desk and lifts his eyes to Jim's.
"It would not be appropriate."
"You go out for dinner with Uhura. All the time." They talk about generative grammar and the Hungarian dative case and also parrises squares. They text thirty times a day and go the movies together and Jim's almost positive that Spock has met her parents, not to mention that the other day he caught her describing to Spock in great details the date she went on with this guy from Engineering and asking whether she should invite him over to her place next time and Spock was giving her advice and—
At this point, Jim can the almost hear the sigh Spock doesn't allow himself. "It is different."
"Because you trust yourself. With Uhura. Right?"
Spock says nothing and just sits there, staring at his PADD and looking conflicted and a little frustrated.
"Maybe you should just leave him alone, Kirk. I feel like you might be skirting the line of sexual harassment, here," Uhura tells him sometime halfway through the semester.
Jim just looks at her. "Whatever makes you think that if Spock wanted me out of his life I wouldn't be halfway across the galaxy, already?"
It's apparently a fair point, and Uhura either likes Jim a little more than the she lets on, or she's a really fucking good friend to Spock, because next thing he knows there's material on Vulcans' erogenous zones on his PADD and whenever it's just the three of them Uhura suddenly has something else to do, somewhere else.
Spock is perfectly aware of what's going on and watches them with a mix of understanding and mistrust and that thing that Jim just doesn't seem to be able to—
"Relax," Jim tells him, patting him on the arm, and his nostrils flare a bit before he shifts away.
"You should consider applying for the Red Squad."
Spock hands him a PADD and Jim reaches over his desk to take it, making sure the tips their fingers brush for a fraction of a second. Spock's getting quite good at avoiding these little touches. Jim's getting even better at coming up with new, unavoidable ones.
"Mmm." He takes a look at the screen and sure enough, the special trainings all seem like useful skills to have. "Yeah, I should. Looks badass, thanks."
"I will be happy to write you a letter of recommendation."
"You are welcome."
"Hold on a sec. Nope. What are you, my mentor, now?" He says it with suddenly narrow eyes.
"Not formally, no. But as a higher ranking officer, it is my duty to offer mentorship whenever—"
"There are pretty strict frat regs for mentor-mentee relationships, right?"
Spock just stares at him for a moment. "There are."
"Nah, I won't need the letter. Nice try, though."
It's sort of a low move on Jim's part, which is what makes him hesitate initially, which in turn is maybe a sign that Jim is growing as a person or something like that. But then Bones reminds him with a snort that the past few months have been nothing but a string of low to medium moves, at least when it comes to Spock, and Jim finds himself having to agree, and shrugging of the indecision.
He tells Gary to pick him up at six-thirty in the computer science lab, which theoretically is when his TA hours are over on Fridays, on the dot, but practically is about fifteen minutes before he and Spock are anywhere near done wading though the piles of manure that are the first-years' homework, every single Friday, and—
"Hey. You ready for dinner?"
He and Spock look up from their PADDs, and then Spock turns to glance a Jim. Gary's not in uniform, and he's very handsome, and an incredible lay, and they have fun together, and really, it's not his fault if Jim hasn't been able to tear his brain away from Spock since he first saw him.
Distracting, that's what Spock is.
Distracting Jim from his goddamn life.
"Of course," Jim smiles wider than the situation warrants, and turns to Spock, who still staring at him with that stoneless expression he only has when Jim's getting to him. "Unless you still need me here for a bit?" he asks airily.
Spock looks at Jim without saying anything for longer than he should, and then he parts his lips.
Opens his mouth again.
Say it, Jim wills him. Tell Gary you need me to cancel our date. Then we can have one of those bend-me-over-your-desk kind of fucks that I know you've been thinking about and tell you what, I'll actually call you Commander, for once.
"Negative." He lowers his eyes to the PADD in his hands. His remarkably white-knuckled hands. "Enjoy your evening, Cadet."
The worst part of it is that he actually has to go on a fucking date with Gary Mitchell.
Which is when he realizes that drastic measures need to be taken.
He has way more memories of that second night, but they are still mostly drenched in alcohol, and while this time Spock intervenes before Jim gets the concussion—or the nosebleed—one of the guys Jim has chosen to piss off still manages to do something to his ribcage, which makes the whole left side of his body feel achy and bruised and like it's going to fall off.
"Most puzzling," Spock tells him in the toasty warmth of the car, and Jim's relaxed and blissful.
"The fact that you feel compelled to provoke fights when you are outnumbered and physically outmatched." Spock glances at Jim and then back to the road. "Or, at all."
"Well, usually it's just for the fun or throwing punches." Jim gingerly presses his palm into his ribcage. "This time around I just wanted you to come get me. Just write it down as an attention seeking stunt."
Spock is far too smart to ask how Jim knew he'd be there, and says nothing.
They arrive to Jim's dorm way too soon, and Spock walks Jim to his room for reasonsthat Jim's sure are perfectly logical.
And then he notices, when they're about five feet from the door.
"We can't," he tells Spock, who's hovering around him, ready to catch him should Jim collapse or something.
He only gets a confused look.
"Bones is in there with someone."
"How do you—"
"The blinking red light. On the door's control panel."
Spock looks closely at the control panel and if he were anyone else, his eye would probably be twitching with impatience by now.
"It does not matter. You are injured and in need of rest."
"True. But my friend who never gets laid is getting laid. Which trumps my barely there injury. Seriously, you don't know Bones, hell's probably freezing over." He's not even exaggerating. He hasn't even planned this in advance. Life is beautiful. "I'll just hang out here until they're done."
"It could be several hours."
Jim laughs. "Nah, it couldn't. It's been a long time."
He leans back against the wall and then lets himself slide to the floor to sit down, wincing a little as he does.
It's mostly for show.
Spock follows his movements with his gaze, obviously in the midst of some kind of very un-Vulcan self-debate inside his head. It lasts maybe fifteen seconds. In the end he just closes his eyes and does something that is remarkably close to sighing.
"Very well," he says, and Jim knows he's won.
They both know where the night is going, which is why Jim feels no need to jump Spock as soon as they get to his freakishly neat and uncluttered—why is Jim surprised, again?—apartment. So he just stands there, looking around from the middle of Spock's empty living room, wondering if he's the only out-of-place item in Spock's life, constantly refusing to stay quiet and put and out of sight like everything, everyone else.
Jim feels exultant.
Spock, on the other hand, looks quietly resigned, and that other thing, that thing that Jim never quite knows how to—
"This is against all fraternization regulations."
Spock's voice is a level monotone, and Jim tries to imagine how much the words fraternization regulations have flitted around Spock's head in the past few months. How many times he has re-read the Starfleet handbook.
A lot, in all likelihood.
"All of them?" Jim asks, laying back against the breakfast island.
"Next year you will graduate. I could become you commanding officer."
"And I would find myself in the position of deciding of your career advancement." A heartbeat. "Or to send you into harm."
Jim walks up to him, and for the first time in all these months, for a moment, he feels a twinge of guilt, that maybe—maybe he should have left Spock alone, maybe this is a stupid idea, maybe he's playing with too much fire this time, maybe there's heartache for them both in this, maybe, maybe, maybe—
It's only a moment.
This—it's not something either of them has much control over.
He's not surprised—come on, they've all seen what Spock looks like—when Spock knows exactly what to do. How to do it. Jim laughs when Spock arranges him to his perfect liking, and the way he lays his hand on Jim's collarbone to get him to hold still, the way he uses his knee to part his legs—all that strength, only half restrained, and Jim wonders if he's just going to come, like this, after barely a touch and lingering look.
He could. For sure, though some—any—friction would be nice and—he's not prepared for how deftly Spock can—it must be this touch telepathy thing which is totally fucking cheating and—yes, yes, that's exactly how he likes his balls to be—
He makes a mess of himself, and of Spock, and probably even of Spock's freaking ceiling, and he thinks he might have blacked out a bit there, but yeah. It was worth it.
"It's been—a while," he tells Spock apologetically, while still trying to regain his breath.
It's not a real question. They both know how long it's been.
Spock is still wearing pants, and—well, at least he's not in his uniform.
"You know, you can fuck me. Or put your cock in my mouth. Or your whole hand in my ass. Or come hang out inside my head. I don't know what you Vulcans like, but whatever it is, you can do it to me. You have full blanket authorization to—"
Spock leans forward and kisses him for the first time, licking into Jim's mouth, and then, only then, Jim realizes how deep into this they both are.
As Jim finds out in the following weeks, Vulcans—Spock?—like most of the things Jim likes, and few things Jim had maybe thought about once or twice at three AM but then never really—like pinning both of Jim's wrists behind his back and then eating his ass for hours, or sliding his fingers inside, deep, deeper, and then just thrum on that spot, without allowing Jim any friction, and he—shit, he—really—he wants, needs to—yeah.
But there's more, in a weird way.
There's the spooning and the really good, restoring sleep that turns seamlessly into drowsy, delicious sex the following morning, when Jim can only lay there and arch his back and welcome it, and a lot of eye contact all the time, and nights spent completely clothed just kissing, and kissing, and kissing, all lips and tongues and nibbles from the neck up until out of the blue Spock's hand inches down and all it takes is a finger running up Jim's cock, through two layers of Starfleet-issue clothes, and Jim—Jim loses it, like a dam breaking.
Jim finds it slightly disorienting, that for once he's not the most outrageous person in bed.
He loves it, too.
The first time they fuck is not that first night, because—
"Your ribs could be cracked."
"They're not." Probably, anyway.
"You do not know for sure, as you are not a doctor."
"Neither are you."
"Not that kind of doct—C'mon, Spock. Take off your pants."
Any other day he'd insist a lot more, but Spock just called him Jim for the first time, and yeah, Jim thinks his brain comes a little bit as soon as he's processed it.
So he goes back to his dorm in the morning and then he waits, first a day, then two, and on the third he shows up to Spock's apartment when he knows he's home (it's not stalking if it's for a good cause).
"Are you trying to avoid me?"
Spock just sighs and moves to the side, letting Jim in.
"I thought that making a half-hearted attempt would be the logical thing to do."
"Well, good effort. It's over now."
They somehow make it to the couch and Jim lives in a perennial state of want, his mind is always spinning, always, always craving something, but the intensity of this thing he feels for Spock, this need to take his clothes off and grab him and lick him and have him at his disposal, this is new even for him.
"Shit. I knew you had to have the biggest cock I've ever—"
And then there's a warm hand in his hair and his mouth is full and Spock is too large, too heavy, and it's too good, and Spock looks so closeand about two seconds away from being done and it's all Jim can do to let him go when he decides—after three goddamn days—that apparently fucking Jim is not something that he can put off for even three more seconds.
Spock is a bit of an animal, but still a highly evolved one, whispering in Jim's ear that it will be good, and just breathe, and try to relax, and Jim is desperate and shaking and a little too helpless considering that it's not as if this is his first time, not by a long shot. And then Spock's biting his neck and pressing in further, further, until he's bottomed out, slick and hard, pushing his come deeper inside, and this is so fucking stupid and risky and irresponsible, it's the sweetest, sharpest thing Jim's ever felt in his entire life and he can only—he just takes it, and takes it, and lets himself be filled.
He ends up half laughing and half begging, making a mess of Spock's couch, choking for breath as Spock presses chaste kisses into his nape.
He kinda moves in, after that, and if Spock minds he neither says not shows it.
They're not—They don't go out on dates, or hold hands on the quad, or have each other's holos as their comm background. But Spock adds coffee to his replicator, even though Jim knows that he considers it a step below plasma coolant when it comes to beverages, and texts Jim the new apartment entrance code when it gets updated automatically, and leaves the kitchen light on whenever Jim comes home late because he went out for beers with his buddies or studied at the library until three AM or stuff like that.
Spock molds his life—just a little, just enough—and Jim knows to feel wanted.
"A new simulation."
"For senior command track cadets."
"Awww. For me? Will I like it?"
Spock doesn't lift his eyes from the display on his desk. His face doesn't move one millimeter. He's clearly loving being annoyed. "Unlikely."
"Are there Klingons?"
"Really? You have to put Klingons in all of your simulations? Is it, like, a contractual obligation?"
"It is not."
"Okay, so you do it because you like the Klingons."
"I—No, I do not."
"What happens in it?"
"Or really? Stuff, too?"
"Is there anything I can help you with, Jim?"
Spock's quick, but not that quick. Not enough to see it coming, or stop it, when Jim swings his leg across Spock's thighs, straddling him.
"You could, for example, fuck me. Or watch with me that documentary on the Egyptian beetle I've been meaning to check out. Both sound equally enjoyable." He leans forward to whisper conspiratorially in Spock's ears. "Psst, here's a secret. There is no documentary on the Egyptian beetle."
"Why are you only wearing your underwear?"
"Because it's—" he turns to look at the digital clock on Spock's display, and then quickly saves his work and turns the computer off for good measure "—eleven fifty-three on a Saturday night and I'm home and this guy hasn't paid any attention to me in a million hours. Also, it's seven thousand degrees celsius in here, and we haven't fooled around in like three weeks."
Jim loves it, that pained expression Spock has when he launches a full assault. "These statements are not correct."
"It is now eleven fifty-four. I last approached you forty-nine minutes ago while you were playing a hologame and you told me, and I quote, 'get out of way, baby, I am slaying ogres'. It is twenty-three degrees celsius in the room, and we engaged in sexual congress only this morning."
"Mmm." Jim smiles. "I like it when you correct me."
"You do not. You find not being right an unpleasant experience and—"
Jim kisses him, still smiling, and then smiling harder as his hand slides down Spock's body, diving inside the uniform he shouldn't be wearing at home anyway, and it doesn't take long for Spock's breath to be hot and erratic against Jim's cheek.
It's no bar fight, but all in all it's still a pretty awesome Saturday night.
Jim's getting soft, or something.
"Your pheromones smell yummy."
"My—Is it bad? Is it cancer?"
Gaila just looks at him fascinated, as if marveling at his slowness. "How did you pass xenobiology, again?"
Jim shrugs. "It was an oral exam. I'm good at leading the conversation away from stuff I don't want to talk about." Like the syllabus.
"Clearly. Anyway, I don't know if you have cancer. The pheromones, they just mean that you've been, you know."
"Yeah. You know."
"I think you do."
"I really don't think I do, sorry."
Gaila leans forward. "You've been… doing it. A lot."
"What? Gaila, since when you have any qualms talking about sex?"
She looks taken aback for a minute. "Right. Oh, god. You've been fucking. You've been getting laid. Banging. Copulating. Shagging—"
"Okay, okay, I get it."
"All these prude humans! It's rubbing off on me, I really need to take a trip home this winter, this is unacceptable—"
"Wait, so all these years you've been to tell whenever I was having sex by the way I smell?"
"Nah. Not really. It's different now." Gaila tilts her head, and twirls a strand of her curls. "This is nicer." She leans closer and sniffs in the general area of Jim's neck, thinks about it some more. "Sweeter."
"I like you so much," Jim tells Spock one morning in response to a hilariously scathing comment about Marcus' promotion to full admiral, between sips of coffee, because—because—because it's true, and Spock loses it completely, pressing Jim into the kitchen island and kissing him until their lips are swollen and they're both coming inside their uniforms and it's glorious.
A complete mess.
"What are you doing for the holidays?"
Spock tucks his head against the pillow as his arm tightens around Jim, pulling him farther into his chest.
"I should probably go get cleaned up," Jim says, but Spock's fingers curl warm into his side, so he just stays and burrows his face into the crook of Spock's neck. "Yeah, it's this thing. Stay calm, no need to panic, but here on Earth there are these days in which work is either suspended or reduced—ouch."
Jim rubs the spot on his left buttock Spock just pinched.
"Like, the human holidays. In the winter. When classes are off."
A pause, in which Jim's pretty sure Spock yawns.
"I have made no plans."
"Not going back to Vulcan?
"Aww. I'm sure your mom would love to see you and your father passively-aggressively ask each other to pass the garlic salt."
He gets another pinch for that, but it's well deserved, so he doesn't complain and just chuckles into Spock's chest.
"We do not celebrate holidays, on Vulcan."
Jim rolls his eyes. "Right. But you do, on Earth." Really. It's ridiculous, how Spock obviously finds Vulcans mostly dumb and unreasonable, and yet he needs to be constantly reminded to embrace his Terran half, too. There's, like, years worth of work for Jim to do, here.
"I usually do not. No."
"Well, where will you be in December?"
"Monitoring field training."
Jim perks up. "Cool! The one in Hawaii?"
"The one in the Southern Europe block?"
Spock squirms a little and Jim looks up to catch his expression.
Oh, for fuck's—
"No." Jim props up on his elbow, angling it so that it's pushing into Spock's sternum, hoping it hurts him as much as possible.
Spock just looks away. "I—"
"Why, why, why would you sign up to monitor field training in fucking Antarctica? You're Vulcan. You start shivering at, like, eighty-five degrees."
"That depends on the wind-chill factor and on the items of clothing I am wearing at the—"
"You basically have organ failure at sixty-five."
"That is highly incorrect—"
"You come from a desert planet, Spock."
"Antarctica is a desert—"
"Oh, spare me the biogeological technicalities. Why?"
"Two volunteer instructors were necessary and only one could be found. So I—"
"Lemme guess. That Andorian dude."
Spock just nods.
And then sighs again.
And then starts laughing, because, what the fuck.
"I hate you so much," he tells Spock climbing on top of him and kissing him before he can answer, sliding his mouth to his ear, and his collarbone, and his left nipple, then reaching back behind himself and Spock is already (still?) hard, looking up at Jim in that way that Jim really, still can't figure out what—and then Jim starts rocking, and maybe it's for the best that he didn't clean himself up because in this position Jim always feels so. full.
So fucking full.
The following day he takes his name off the Hawaii training group and rolls his eyes at least three times before signing up for the Antarctica one.
He's from Iowa. He can probably handle it.
Antarctica is so much colder than Iowa that Jim would laugh, if his whole face weren't frozen into a grimace of horror. He has this thought, while packing, that when the temperature goes lower than a certain threshold it can't really feel colder, just cold, because how much worse than minus twenty can minus thirty-five be, really?
"A lot," Uhura tells him cheerfully, looking annoyingly graceful in her bulky survival gear.
He briefly thinks of smuggling some eggnog, but the image of the bottle busting open in his bag halfway across the Southern Ocean makes him pause, so he resigns himself to hand warmers Bones throws onto his bed after telling Jim that he's "whipped. Seriously, never thought I'd see the day. You're going to Antarctica in December. Let that sink in."
Jim doesn't pay attention, too busy looking for his second pair of thermal socks.
Still, it is mid-December, and even Starfleet's not too evil to forget that the students signed up for this shit while could have been happier doing literally everything else, so for rations they are given something remarkably similar to the worst latkes Jim has ever had, and the Andorian guy actually has reindeer ears that he puts on next to his antennas every day to cheer them up, and they get to see a couple of chinstrap penguins repeatedly evade the attacks of a very fat seal.
It doesn't make it fun, but it's at least bearable.
On the third day Jim is wandering around camp in the hope of maybe avoiding assideration with a nice, leisurely stroll when he runs into Spock, who is wearing the expression of a guy who might not enjoy the extreme temperature, but has decided to bear it as stoically as possible. Which, considering that he's half Vulcan, is pretty stoically. He is waving his tricorder on a block of ice, probably trying to figure out the chemical composition of frozen water or some kind of equally cutting-edge scientific endeavor.
"H2O," Jim tells him through his face mask.
Spock looks up, and Jim can only see his eyes, which are dark and amused and soft and what the fuck is it, that way he has of staring at Jim—
"Thank you. I was wondering."
"You know, Spock, I blame you for this."
"For the slant angle at which the poles receive sunlight, which leads to smaller amounts of solar energy and low temperatures in this specific region of Earth?"
"We could be in Hawaii."
Spock stands. "Indeed, you could. I was surprised when you decided to sign up for the Antarctica mission."
"Yeah. No shit. So was I." Jim wipes ice crystals away from his eyelashes. "The things I do for you."
Spock stiffens under the bulky jacket. "I never requested that you change your plans, Cadet."
Jim looks around quickly to make sure no one is in sight and then leans forward. It's the most pitiful kiss in the history of kisses, two sets of pathetically cold-chapped lips and two layers of insulating face mask between them.
"You didn't have to. Commander."
The previous year, on New Year's Eve Jim gathered every single cadet he could find still in the dorms, and a couple of recently graduated instructors he had hung out with in the past, too, and organized an impromptu bar hop in downtown San Francisco—and by 'organized', Jim means that he had lead everyone to the first bar, and from there they all drunkenly stumbled together wherever was warm enough and cheap enough, since, yeah, December and grad salaries.
He has a vague recollection of getting laid with someone who didn't speak very good standard and left a weirdly clover shaped hickey on Jim's shoulder, which he'd tried to explain to Bones first as a mole, then as a bruise, and then, yeah, he had to give up and resign himself to an STI booster in the most tender spot on his neck—Bones has it mapped.
He has all of them mapped.
This year, on the thirtieth of december Gaila comes knocking on his door with a toothy grin and and a flyer pulled up on her PADD. "Look. They have happy hour from like ten AM to eleven PM, here. I checked and it's not a typo! I mean, it kinda makes it more like a happy geological era, but hey, who am I to complain, right?"
Jim eyes the display. "Right."
"So I was thinking that this year we could start out earlier, you know? Get the most out of this really idiotic human holiday, or whatever."
She stares at him for a moment that stretches a little too long.
"I just came back from the shittiest field training ever."
"And I kinda just want to sleep for seventy-two hours."
"Uh-uh." Gaila nods. "You know what, it sounds good. I'm gonna be a good friend and be supportive and come over and bring you rooster soup—"
"Chicken. It's chicken soup."
"—and I'm sure I'm gonna find you in your own room, resting in bed, if I stop by tomorrow night at say, eleven forty-five?"
Jim rubs the back of his neck with his hand and tries not to wince.
"Oh, for fuck's sake. Just admit it."
"That you don't want to hang out with us because you'd rather stay at home and be boring with your boyfriend."
"Maybe, buy I do need to rest—"
"And snuggle under the covers with him, with, like, zero booze."
"Maybe some booze—"
"And that you're disgustingly in love with him."
Wait, he isnot—
Jim just stares at Gaila for a moment, that becomes two, and then three, and then…
"Holy shit." He feels a little dizzy.
"Oh. You mean… you didn't know yet?"
Jim keeps looking at her, eyes wide, and just repeats, "Holy shit."
Gaila shakes her head, exasperated. "It's pathetic, how much you're into this dude. Really, I'm embarrassed for you. Come here, I'll hug you while you process the fact that you're probably the loves of each other's lives."
The hug actually helps.
On the thirty-first, they make dinner—or, well, Spock makes some kind of stew with only veggies that Jim really wants to hate, but it warms him up from the inside, and makes him think that maybe, maybe, if things work out, he could actually move to Vulcan and become a vegetarian, or a vegan, or whatever it is that these dudes are, and not die of insipidness within forty-eight hours.
He already has a sunburn, just from thinking about. But anyway.
Then they play some casual chess—which means that Spock trashes him three times in a row and Jim has to save face somehow, so he pretends to be more drunk than he is and hints that he's not taking the match very seriously and Spock of course knows, but he says nothing, and Jim's not too surprised because lately he's realized that Spock is way less of an asshole than he had given him credit for.
Talk about disappointment.
Then they have sex—actually, Jim lifts himself up and straddles Spock's lap before he can catastrophically lose the fourth match, too, and spends about ten minutes doing that thing with his hands that makes Spock gasp and grunt and let his head fall back and work for it,except that Spock is remarkably impatient for being the type of person who can hold a yoga pose for one hundred years straight, and Jim's not sure why or when or how but he finds himself bent over the back of the couch and seconds away from a magnificent orgasm, Spock's teeth in the fleshy part of his shoulder as Jim murmurs deeper—and then, incongruously, too deep.
They are cuddling under the covers well before midnight, and guess what, it's December, it's been snowing for a few hours, and it's finally chilly enough that Jim is not sweating just by existing in Spock's general proximity.
Spock's eyes are soft and sleepy, and that weird expression that he gets every once in a while, the one Jim still doesn't know how to decipher, that's there too, dialed up to more or less a bajillion, and—
And Jim finally gets it.
"You knew," Jim tells him accusingly.
"Mmm?" Spock rubs his nose behind Jim's ear, inhaling deeply.
"Could you clarify what—"
"That we are disgustingly in love."
Spock pulls back a little and lifts one eyebrow, keeping his arms around Jim.
"I would not have chosen to phrase it as such, but—"
"Grossly, pathetically in love. You knew."
"I take it to mean that you did not know?"
"I had to be told. By someone else."
"Ah. Well, you are a remarkably intelligent individual. I am certain you would have realized it on your own, in due time."
Jim kicks Spock shin, with the sole result of hurting his own big toe.
"What else haven't you told me? Do we have four kids? Did we get a mortgage together? Buy a minivan?"
"We did not, no."
Jim is not disappointed, of course.
"Mmm. No weird Vulcan mind bond, either?"
"Well." Spock amusement pulsates faintly inside Jim's head. "Regarding that…"
When midnight strikes, they are fast asleep.