Jim Kirk felt more than a little awkward.
Not that he would ever admit it out loud, to anybody. He rather have every molecule of his body spontaneously combust in a transporter accident than admit that flaw to any sentient being.
But it was there. Despite what his newly appointed first officer probably thought, Jim wasn't an idiot. He knew he was fully cognizant that being the youngest captain in Starfleet history came with more hindrances than glory. Most of his crew had been his peers not months before, and most of them hadn't even liked him then. He realized that the bulk of them thought him rash, and bold, and cocky, and an undoubtedly odd choice for captain on Starfleet's part, Nero getting his ass handed to him on a platter and Earth being saved or no.
He suspected that his attitude was ultimately why he had been promoted. Pike had told him upon recruiting him that Starfleet was too bureaucratic, too regulated, and they needed someone to come in and shake things up. To thrive on instinct, not ingrained automaton behavior. But suspecting that motivation on Starfleet's part did not help him know how to relate to his first officer or, to an even a smaller degree, his crew.
He was in charge now. The head honcho - the big cheese. His crew needed to respect him, damnit. They needed to look at him and not see the slightly unbalanced fuck-up from Iowa, but the captain of the most awesome ship in the galaxy.
It also didn't help matters that despite all they had been through recently, Spock acted as if he had a large stick planted so firmly up his butt that not even Bones and the entire medical staff of the Enterprise could remove it without surgical intervention.
Christ but the Vulcan needed to relax. It would also be nice if he stopped looking at Jim as if he were a puzzle needing to be solved. Jim felt he was pretty transparent: do what I want, when I want it, make it fast and daring, feed me ideas that are unorthodox (because orthodox is boring) and exist outside the box and we'll all get along just fine. Unfortunately, without just bluntly coming out and saying that, everything else he said to his first officer felt like it was lost in translation, as if not only were they speaking different languages, but their entire beings were incomprehensible in each other's eyes.
This was supposed to be his soulmate? His one true love? His tra-la-la, or whatever that word was that the other Spock and the other him had called each other in the various images and feelings he had glimpsed in the other Spock's mind? It was incomprehensible.
Not that he wouldn't mind that kind of bond and not that he didn't secretly wish for that kind of connection with another being. Especially since he'd never really felt connected to anything. And most particularly because he'd never really been loved like that, or in any way, really, his whole life. He'd love to connect to somebody so thoroughly that they shared each other's minds, would love to belong, but he'd rather it be with somebody capable of loving him back. Somebody who actually saw his worth as a person and said, 'you know what Jim, the universe is a better place because you're in it' in a way that no one ever had.
His first officer was in love with another person, and tolerated Jim at best, and hated him at worst, the chances of him being Jim's were impossible. And it was one no win situation that Jim wasn't going to try and weasel around.
The other Jim Kirk may have found that kind of love, but the other Jim Kirk had had a father alive to love him and a mother who didn't see ghosts every time she looked at him. This Jim Kirk wouldn't know what to do with that kind of bond if he had it.
While it was great and all that the other Jim Kirk had had a nice life, this Jim Kirk's universe was out to get him. The best he could do was to do his job and do it well…. show his crew that he was good for something.
And he'd settle for his first officer at least understanding each other and becoming an efficient team when it came to running the ship. He didn't expect more than that.
He had thought it a good plan. Invite Spock to dinner for off duty conversing, thus allowing them to get to know each other better, and bring Bones as a buffer, after all, Leonard had taken a Hippocratic oath which disallowed him from killing anyone, or letting any killing go on around him, thus he would be a good choice in preventing Spock from strangling Jim again should he accidentally (or purposely) say anything to piss the Vulcan off… theoretically.
What he didn't consider was Bones being even more unsuited for Spock's personality than Jim was himself, and the two of them taking verbal swipes at each other's intelligence, though coolly and without emotional infliction on Spock's part, like school children fighting over the last bowl of pudding in the lunch line.
"Elevated emotional response can increase pulse and blood pressure, which often leads to chronic illness and stress on the human body. Therefore it would only be logical to prevent some of the stronger reactions from occurring," Spock informed Bones, arms carefully folded over his chest, and one eyebrow stoically raised, and somehow, without emotion, conveying the clear message that he thought his captain and chief medical officer imbeciles for giving into their baser emotions more often than not.
A challenge Bones McCoy picked up on, and Jim knew his longtime friend well enough to know that he would rather be castrated than pass up the opportunity to refute everything the Vulcan had said, and anything he would ever say in the future.
"The human body would have to be under constant stress, over prolonged periods of time, for high emotional responses to have any effect on our health," Bones announced as if speaking to a rather reticent child. "And you're forgetting what feeling freely and deeply can accomplish. It inspires us, warms us, love and attraction are both highly emotional responses, it elevates our heart rate, and increases our pulse, but without either of them the quality of our lives would be pretty shitty."
Jim thought they both had a point. But as much as he loved Bones, and he did - the doctor was his first, and only, friend - they were also both annoying him to no end. And they were also - the worse of their crimes by far - giving him a fucking migraine. Operation 'get to know first officer better so he no longer sees me as an incompetent captain, stage one' was a dismal failure. He accepted this defeat. But the hell if he was going to this make things worse for any of them.
"Will both of you stop already?" Jim exclaimed, rubbing his temples to stave off the throbbing. "Christ, what's with the pissing contest? Isn't the whole point of the Federation, tolerance? We seek out new worlds. We gain new knowledge and understanding and for what? So the two of you can bicker like little old ladies over what culture is healthiest because of their handling of emotional responses? That's bullshit! Respect each other and like it! I vaguely remember reading that somewhere in the rules, regulation number whatever."
To their credit, both of his officers became instantly quiet at his outburst. Bones looking at him as if his friend had grown a second (and third) head, and Spock looking at him with something else entirely: something assessing, something contemplative, something… almost approving.
Jim was sure he was imagining it.
Not even a full year ago Jim had never felt responsible for anything in his life. In fact, prior to joining Starfleet, he actively rejected any kind of responsibility. It made life easier. No responsibility, no expectations.
So it was a weird feeling that he felt responsible towards his crew with the sheer and unhampered intensity that he did.
They had wormed their way into his heart.
Bones was his cherished friend, the first person to look beyond his defense of outward swagger and see the soul he tried to hide. Scotty was equal parts brilliant and crazy, a spirit after Jim's own heart - they shared a love of engineering and a deep love of the Enterprise. Sulu had saved his life, and Jim had tried to save his, and somehow, even though their personalities were almost as opposite as he and Spock's, they had bonded in that. Sulu had honor. Uhura was the strongest lady he had ever encountered, and even though he often wanted to shoot her out of an airlock for being so fucking condescending, he admired her. Plus it didn't hurt that she was hella easy on the eyes. Chekov, Jim felt almost paternal towards, and he figured that the young ensign was about as close as Jim was capable of getting to having a son … He just wasn't the domestic type otherwise.
And then there was Spock.
For some inexplicable reason, Spock's attention and opinion was the one he sought the most. It didn't make sense to him why that would be, or how the Vulcan had achieved that type of influence on him, but he did and he had. For reasons unbeknownst to him, Jim really wanted Spock's approval. He wondered if this had something to do with Spock hating him so much at first, or with Spock being the most intelligent and challenging person that Jim had ever encountered, or possibly if it had anything to do with the faint imprints left in his mind of another life that Jim was tirelessly trying to repress, but whatever the reasons, it was what it was.
He loved his crew.
They were his, plain and simple, each brilliant in their own way, and he'd die before he'd willingly let any one of them come to harm.
Which is why he offered to do just that. The captain for the safe return of the away team, those were the terms this new and strange alien community set, because if they were going to have to deal with the mighty Federation, they wanted the king and not the pawns, and Jim was more than willing to accommodate.
His clever crew had brilliant careers ahead of them, and family at home who loved them, and Jim had them. It was the least he could do.
And later, when he was rescued, and the Prime Directive thoroughly bended, manipulated and logiced by Spock so that his brazen rescue of his captain would look kosher to Starfleet, Jim sat on a medical bed, Bones on one side, Spock on the other, and he had a brief flash of utter contentment. He was home, and his men were by his side.
And through it all Spock was staring at him, riveted, as if he couldn't look away.
Apparently Spock and Uhura had broken up. Which actually kind of excited Jim for some weird reason. As a friend he knew it was rather crass of him to get excited by his subordinates failed liaison, but then Jim Kirk was crass, he embraced it.
He wondered if it had anything to do with the fact that Spock and Uhura had been getting some while he had not… for months, which had to be a record for him since reaching puberty and discovering what sex was.
If he had another reason for being excited by his first officer becoming a free man, Jim didn't want to think about it. Because he was repressing, damnit, re-press-ing. Some rocks just shouldn't be overturned. Tra-la-la was not meant to be his.
It was wrong to want Spock, because Spock didn't want him. And that was that.
But even denials couldn't squelch the particularly keen protectiveness he felts towards his first officer.
"Wait," he announced to the chattering group of gossip hounds in the mess hall, "didn't we all graduate from the academy? Why are we all standing around talking like a bunch of mouthy adolescent cadets who have nothing better to do with their time than gossip about who screwing which professor behind who's back? The first officer and communications officer's romantic entanglements are no one's business. Grow up. Uh, no offense with the adolescent remark there, Chekov."
And just as he had turned, intending to make a dramatic exit, because he was the captain after all, and he had just made a chastising speech and these things had to be followed with exits of dramatic flair, he caught the deeply searching gaze of his Spock.
He didn't know when the Vulcan had arrived, and how much he had heard, but when Spock's questioning eyes met his, he didn't care.
The Vulcan's eyes were wholly consuming and Jim was too lost and confused to care why he was being consumed.
Jim did not know how to talk to his mother. It was a constant in his life. She had seldom been there for him while he had been growing up, leaving Jim and his brother to the hands of their asshole stepfather, and the few occasions she was there, she looked at him as if haunted. Frankly, the whole thing gave him the creeps.
It wasn't his fault that he looked like his deceased father. Nor was it his fault he had apparently inherited a bit of his personality as well. If all his mother could do was compare the two of them, well, that was her problem.
He'd stopped needing a mother ages ago.
Which made it odd that his mother sent him a communication onboard the Enterprise, particularly since he hadn't told her until after he'd joined that he was going the Starfleet route, and hadn't told her about his promotion to captain, assuming she'd heard about it through the news like the rest of the earth.
It wasn't that he was trying to shut her out of his life, it was that he had gotten used to not consulting her. He didn't think of her too much, really. It was easier that way.
It was a shame that Spock had to be with him when she did call, the two of them going over crew evaluations, and had to be exposed to probably the most awkward mother/son conversation the Vulcan had ever been privy to hearing.
"How are you, Jim, are you well?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks. You?"
"I'm doing good. Do you know when you might be returning to earth next? I'd like to see you."
"Why now? Why do you want to see me now?"
"Because you're my son and it's high time I got to know you. I've been a bad mother, Jim, I know this. And I wouldn't blame me if you never wanted to see me again. But I'd like to try to get to know you. I want to meet this heroic young man I keep hearing about that I wish I had more of a hand in raising."
"We'll see. I'll let you know."
And that was that.
But afterwards Spock gazed at him in that way that indicated he had figured Jim out, and understood things better than Jim did, himself.
"There is not a day that goes by that I do not wish I could still converse with my mother," Spock announced, still maintaining eye contact with Jim, his eyes conveying neither judgment nor pity; Jim liked that about him.
"Well, it is kind of different. Your mother loved you. My mother didn't like me much," he responded, trying desperately to keep the bitterness out of his voice.
"I find that to be an impossibility," Spock announced, ever staring, ever assessing.
"Why, because all mother's are supposed to love their sons?" Jim asked, most definitely bitter. Just what had happened to his mother's maternal instinct while he had been growing up anyway?
"No, because upon getting to know you, I find that there are few things about you that are unlikable," Spock replied, his tone and posture never wavering.
Jim wondered when the universe around him had decided to go insane, but he welcomed the dizzying warmth that spread up his body at Spock's declaration nonetheless.
Jim had thought that Vulcans didn't like to touch, and he really couldn't blame them for it. If he were a touch telepath, he wouldn't want to touch anyone either, because based on how many times his mind went to gutter, or became confused, there were few people whose thoughts he'd want to know and have to deal with their confusion and gutterness on top of his own.
No matter the entire Vulcan population's feelings on touching as a whole, however, lately his Vulcan had taken touching him quite a lot. A pat on the arm, a rub on the back, and once, even a grasp of the shoulders. And every time Spock did it, the air around them cackled, and Jim felt a buzz in his mind, as if something were knocking on the door trying to get in.
It was driving Jim crazy, but in a good way. When Spock touched him he felt a part of something bigger than he was.
Then, one day, in the privacy of Jim's quarters, after working together on a particularly grueling report, they both stood, and instead of turning to leave Spock grasped and encased Jim's hands into his own, and brought their bodies together, flushed, and pressed his lips to Jim's with such force that Jim thought he might have fallen back if not for his first officer's tight hold.
It was the single most foundation-shattering moment of Jim's life. He felt like he had fallen into an ocean, with water above him, all sound muted, and time and motion stilling to become slow and languid.
There was no buzzing this time, because Spock was all around him. He felt the Vulcan against his body, under his skin, rushing in his blood through his veins and most poignantly, in his head: loving him, adoring him, wanting him. Spock's mind was telling him that he could stop repressing now - that Spock would not allow things such as denial, solitude, and repression to continue. They were meant to be like this, together, and it was only logical that those who are meant to be together become so.
Jim had never realized, until that moment, just how lonely he had been all of his life, until this.
He had also never realized that a person, any person, could be as full as he felt, with Spock inside him, outside him and encasing him.
It was the most awesome thing he'd ever experienced, better even than space and flying through it at warp speed while watching as the stars sped by in bright lines of white.
"T'hy'la," Spock called to him, in his mind and Jim figured that maybe this universe didn't have it in for him after all.