Even as he sat at his computer in his quarters to request the connection, he felt sure that there was something innately wrong with what he was about to do. But he had to know, had to seek this confirmation. Even denial would be reassuring in its own way. He couldn't go on any longer without knowing. Not when the answer already existed - providing he didn't lose his nerve before he could ask the question.
"Captain James T. Kirk requesting Ambassador Spock," he said in order to establish communication.
"Please hold for the Ambassador," a placid young Vulcan woman responded. Jim thought he detected a slight smile, maybe around her eyes, but then she faded to be replaced by the Ambassador. His was the face of his first officer, older, wiser, sadder.
"Captain," Ambassador Spock responded with a nod.
"I hope I'm not disturbing you, sir."
"Not at all. Your communication is always welcome, Captain. I trust you know that," the Ambassador said. Jim knew he meant it but he vowed silently to himself that he would never abuse this precious gift being bestowed upon him.
"Thank you. And won't you still call me Jim, please, Ambassador?" Kirk requested.
"Of course. You have been well?"
"Yes I have. Busy. Busier than I guess I expected," Jim admitted with an amused shrug.
"There is always much to be done," Spock agreed. "And I am delighted that Starfleet chose to allow you to remain Captain of Enterprise."
"I… uhm… I'm also very glad, sir," Jim agreed. "But I do feel bad that I took it from you… or my Spock… or… uhm…."
"I was never Captain, Jim. Your Spock was not supposed to be Captain. You were," the Ambassador assured him.
"Yes, sir," Jim said. He took a deep breath, wondering if he should terminate this conversation now, before it was too late, before he could no longer turn back. But had he ever done the sensible thing, taken the easy road? When he could instead follow his impulse, lasso the wild stallion, and hold on for dear life? His fearlessness had served him well up to this point. There seemed no reason not to see this through as he had always done. It got him the Captaincy way sooner than any sensible person would have achieved it.
"You seem… troubled," the Ambassador observed. In his voice was a tone Jim recognized from his Spock. It meant the Vulcan was worried about him, wanting to assist his Captain, to protect him in whatever way he could. "Has the relationship between you and your Spock not improved?"
"No, no. Our friendship is the finest, most important I've ever had, Ambassador. In fact… uhm… I probably shouldn't ask you this, but I just can't risk what we already have. It's far too… precious to me."
"What is it that you wish to know, Jim?" the elder Spock asked kindly.
"When we were on Delta Vega, what happened between you and the Romulans wasn't the only thing I saw. I felt your… attachment to your Jim. To me, I guess."
"Yes," Spock responded, waiting, patient, his face open.
"Were you and I… or you and him… were you lovers, Spock?" Jim asked, his face growing hot as he finally gave voice to the question. He was pretty sure he knew the answer from the mind meld but he did not want to be wrong about something so terribly important.
"Yes, Jim," Spock said. "You did not imagine the closeness between me and my Jim."
"So the feelings I have for my Spock… are feelings I've already had for you. Or he had for you."
"Precisely," Spock agreed.
"What happened to me, Spock? Or him? Can you tell me?"
"I cannot. I am sorry. Know that ours was a long and happy life together. Have you spoken to your Spock about how you feel?" Spock asked.
"No, sir. I guess I was afraid he might try to kill me again," Jim laughed, his mood lighter. Spock's words had lifted the weight that had been pressing down on him over the past three weeks, ever since he had come to the startling and pleasing realization that the admiration he felt for his first officer was no longer solely professional in nature.
"He won't attempt to kill you, Jim," Spock told him, almost smiling with the words. "I can assure you with some degree of certainty that he feels the same as you do. He is reluctant to admit it for fear of rejection. And being Vulcan makes it difficult for him to articulate those feelings. He will follow your lead and will be pleased that you are courageous enough to admit it for you both."
"We've served together for six months, more or less. I'm sure he could tell me to the hour how long exactly," Jim chuckled fondly. "Is that when you and your Jim realized it?"
"It was in the same general timeframe. Our timelines are not identical. Like you, it took us some time to admit to ourselves that what we felt was deeper, truer than friendship alone. And my Jim very much liked the ladies too," Spock confided with that almost smile that was so familiar and comforting to Jim. "He had some reservations about committing to just me."
"Oh… I'm sorry," Jim said.
Spock shook his head at that, his eyes bright. "As was he. But he knew he was my T'hy'la and that it was meant to be."
"My Spock called me T'hy'la last week," Jim said in surprise. "He claimed I imagined it. We were working to repair one of the transporter circuits and he needed a plasma drill. When I handed it to him, he said…."
"'Thank you, T'hy'la. Your assistance is making it easier and more difficult'," Spock finished for him.
"Yes," Jim breathed. "Did you deny calling your Jim that?"
"At first. It made no difference. Like you, my Jim knew what he wanted and was not going to be denied. He knew it was what we both wanted even though I was reluctant to admit it," Spock assured him.
"I am your Jim, aren't I?" Kirk asked with a smile.
"In many ways you are. In some ways you are not. I find myself feeling envy for your Spock."
"I'm sorry, Ambassador. I shouldn't have said that," Jim said, regretting the pain he saw on the Ambassador's face. And he was pretty sure he could feel that pain as well, somewhere deep inside his brain. Or maybe it was his heart that ached for the Ambassador's loss.
"You needn't apologize, Jim. I had your love. Now it's your Spock's turn."
"It's very complicated, isn't it, Spock?"
"Yes, I'm afraid that it is. I also fear that your Spock will enter Pon Farr within the next three months. You must be prepared for what that means once you bond with him."
"If I don't, he'll die, won't he?"
"If he were to die, which I have no intentions of allowing, what would happen to you?" Jim asked.
"Nothing, I believe. Our timelines are distinct. You must admit your feelings soon. Or he may believe you are only doing so out of obligation, to allow him to survive Pon Farr."
"I want to bond with him because I can't imagine my life without him in it."
"As I felt for my Jim," Spock agreed. "And he for me."
"Did he tell you first, sir? Did he lead the way for you both?" Jim asked, wondering how similar their pasts were. But it was his future they were discussing, one that had already occurred. He really needed to ask someone to explain temporal distortions again. Too bad he had slept through that particular lecture. He wondered if his future self had understood it any better. No, his past self? It made his head hurt to try and figure it out.
"Yes, I willingly followed my Jim's lead. It was what we both desired. As usual, it was he that spoke it. And I was grateful. Just as your Spock will be," the Ambassador said.
"He'll know I contacted you, won't he?"
"Once you bond, he will. I suggest you tell him beforehand."
"Before or after we… you know… for the first time?" Jim asked.
"I leave that to you. I will tell you that he has no experience making love with a man."
"Is he scared of the idea?" Jim asked in concern.
"Not at all. Especially since he desires you in every way. I tell you only so you will be prepared for his inexperience."
"I won't rush him, I promise, sir. Does he know Pon Farr is approaching?" Jim asked. He knew in some ways it was a forbidden subject, but as he was talking to the man with whom he had already had this relationship, surely that meant there were no secrets between them. Even if his version of their love had not yet been realized. Again with the temporal confusion.
"He knows it will be sooner than later. And as we are unable to produce children, he will feel no imperative to help add to the Vulcan population."
"My Bones told me that your mixed heritage renders you… sterile," Jim confirmed. "Did you and your Bones argue all the time?"
"We did," Spock agreed. "Mostly we did it to make our Jim laugh. Does it have the same effect on you?"
"Almost always. You two are quite the pair," Jim laughed.
"Yes, I fear we were," Spock said. "Have you threatened to lock your McCoy and Spock in a room to see who will come out alive?"
"All the time, sir. Does no good of course. I also threaten to bang their heads together. Bones snorts at me and Spock raises that eyebrow. You know the one," Jim said with a smile.
"I do indeed," Spock said, demonstrating that he retained that particular talent.
"Yeah. Like that," Jim laughed. "Once we admit how we feel, will you know when we make love? Will you… sense it?"
"No. You needn't worry that I will eavesdrop on you. Your lives are separate from mine. I will rejoice for you. And I trust you will notify me when you marry."
"Yes. If he'll have me," Jim said with a laugh.
"He wants nothing more than to be certain of you, forever," Spock said.
"Forever. That has a really nice ring to it," Jim said.
"Indeed. For him as well, Jim" Spock said. "What will you do now that I have confirmed what you believed?"
"He's coming to my quarters to play chess. If things go as planned, he'll be spending the night," Jim said.
"An excellent plan."
"Is that how it started with you?" Jim asked.
"Chess played a major role in it. Is tomorrow your day off?" Spock asked, his voice a degree huskier than usual. Jim found he very much liked the sound of it.
"It is. I thought it made sense. I made sure we don't have anything official on our schedules. I think he was a little confused by it but he didn't argue. It is good to be Captain," Jim laughed.
"My Jim always thought so," Spock agreed. "Scotty can put a door in between your quarters. It will help with your privacy."
"Oh good. I was curious if we could connect our quarters. I thought about asking him to take out the bulkhead but I know you like having some privacy."
"And you need it as well, Jim. It's important that you take care of yourself as well as your crew."
"Yes. Bones reminds me. And so does Spock. He's very good to me," Jim said softly.
"Thank you, Jim," Spock responded. "You are very good for him."
"I like to think so. I better sign off, sir. He should be here soon. Thank you so much for trusting me with this information."
"You are most welcome. May you both live long and prosper."
"Live long and prosper, Ambassador," Jim returned, knowing without a doubt that he had in fact made the right decision in contacting him.
"Good night, T'hy'la," Spock said before he disappeared, his warmth and reassurance lingering.