Title: Young Wine, Old Feeling
Beta: secret_chord25 (LJ)
Warnings: extreme fluff alert!
Summary: Shooting Romulans is easier than confessing your feelings. That's about it. Written for ksadvent2009.


Young Wine, Old Feeling

Jim opens his eyes slowly, struggling through the pleasantly warm cocoon of contentedness. He knows that feeling. It means that he had fallen asleep not of his own will last night, but with the help of one of Bones' 'mild sedatives.' Probably the only reason why he's feeling so well rested now; he never sleeps through the night of his own volition.

Jim sits up in the biobed, looking around warily. He thinks he can hear his CMO's voice streaming down from somewhere in the vicinity, but not in his immediate sight. On the chair near the bed sits a neatly folded sweat suit, and Jim gets the message instantly: He's free to leave, but not cleared for duty. Oh, well. He's not that picky today anyway.

He tugs the clothes on slowly and sloppily, still groggy from sleep, but smiling softly to himself all the same. It's the morning after Christmas, which means they are still orbiting Denobula. Most of the crew are enjoying themselves planetside, and the Christmas party is behind them. Jim doesn't have to perform for another year now.

He has always been wary of Christmas parties back on Earth, but after becoming captain, he realizes that from now on they're going to be even less fun for him than usual. The captain is a central figure in the social lives of the crew, just as he is in everything else. He's a host or a guest of honor at every party, and his primary concern is to make everyone else happy, even if he's in no mood to celebrate anything.

Jim sighs and shakes his head at himself a little. It's really not that daunting a task, but it was taxing at first. He remembers the first Christmas party on board the Enterprise only too well.


The first year of their five-year mission was eventful, and not always in a good way. They lost a lot of people and they failed several missions. They succeeded more times than not, but that only made the defeats more bitter. Add to that the loss of Vulcan, which was still hanging over them like a gloomy shadow, and all in all… well, it was a difficult time to be merry. Nonetheless, Jim had to be.

He remembers setting himself the task of cheering everyone up. He swallowed his own pain and pulled on a happy face. He gave a short speech about believing in his crew and assuring them that they would do better. He drank with them and joked with them. He flirted with women and men, and he was the one who got them all dancing. He drank more than was healthy just to keep the happy booze-bubbles inside himself. To keep going.

Bones wasn't there, but Spock was. Jim remembers feeling his presence throughout the whole event, spinning like a carousel in front of his admittedly very drunk and slightly crazed eyes. Spock couldn't help him there, because while he was a man of many talents, being a party clown wasn't one of them. But Spock stayed there the whole time, and it was Spock who dragged him away, without a single word of reproach, when Jim became so inebriated that he could no longer stand on his feet.

'Have you seen how Mellory danced?' Jim mumbled, leaning against Spock so hard the Vulcan was all but carrying him. 'And... and Chovsky... And that nurse that drives Bones nuts – Waters? She was... she was so funny...'

Spock's arm tightened around Jim's waist as he readjusted his hold on the captain. Spock was a trooper. He listened and nodded, not saying a word. He didn't remind Jim that all the people he kept seeing dancing and laughing had been dead for months, had fallen during one or another disastrous away mission. Because Jim had the names right when he was with the crew, only calling out the living. It was only when he was out of their sight that he couldn't help falling to pieces a little bit. He should have been scared, but he wasn't. Perhaps because Spock was the one with him, and Spock was good at collecting pieces.

Jim can't remember the rest of the way, which leads him to believe that Spock did carry him when he had passed out. He does remember waking up the following morning. He was in his bed, and someone obviously had gone to a lot of trouble to make him comfortable; there was a glass of water and a couple of pills on the nightstand. Jim swallowed them trustingly, mentally praising Vulcan efficiency and asking himself what he'd have to go through for it now.

But Spock surprised him again. For when Jim finally emerged into the officers' mess, Spock, who normally enjoyed pressing humans' noses into their own lack of logic, said nothing regarding Jim's actions of the night before. Instead, he chose Jim's meal for him and immediately engaged him in the discussion of the upcoming mission. He pointedly took no notice when the captain's attention slipped, returning him on track with truly endless patience. Jim thought that he had never felt more grateful to anyone in his entire life.


Having finished dressing, Jim creeps warily toward the exit, listening intently to the sounds coming out of Bones' office - he really doesn't want to start his year with another lecture from his friend. But the muffled conversation he overhears reassures him that McCoy's attention is fully engaged elsewhere.

"Dammit, Jocelyn, just let me talk to her already!" Bones is saying irritably to someone on his vidscreen. "God knows when we'll be in range the next time. She's my daughter too, dammit; I'm not asking for anything extraordinary!"

Jim doesn't quite catch the woman's response, but he gets the general idea. Something along the lines that no calls are better than rare calls for the unstable psyche of a child and some other crap like that. He doesn't linger on to listen to Bones' angry reply. Sighing quietly, he slides into the corridor and out of Med Bay.

The concept of parenthood is still foreign to Jim, and mildly alarming. He's well aware that his best friend has a daughter, but somehow it never fails to catch him by surprise how Bones' voice changes the moment he hears the exuberant 'Hi, Daddy!' over subspace, how his expression loses its grumpiness, how he smiles – smiles – at the kid, making even Jim's cynical self melt like a candle. He tries to give Bones a chance to talk to her as often as he can.

"Morning, Captain." Lieutenant Baldwin, an astrophysics specialist, smiles at him brightly. "Good party last night; we had a blast."

"Morning," Jim grins back at her. "Thanks, Lieutenant."

"No problem, sir."

Jim walks on, grinning still. It's nice to feel appreciated.


The second year was easier than the first. The promise of shore leave starting immediately after the party was having an almost magical effect on people, who felt closer to each other as a team and as a crew than they previously had. Jim himself had become more comfortable in his skin, drawing confidence from things that used to throw him. It was good being him, he decided. Difficult at times. But good.

He didn't put up much of a show that second year, preferring to leave the field to more skilled and sophisticated entertainment as weaved by the never idle hands and minds of Chekov, Uhura, and Scotty. Jim mingled in the crowd, stopping every now and then to trade jokes and thank his people for their good work. He drank very little, but he did invite some people to dance, most notably one Lieutenant Chang.

She was a talented computer technician, but so shy it was almost painful. Jim stopped to talk to the group she was orbiting, too timid to really join the fun. He complimented the way she looked, making her blush all over, and then pulled her to the dance floor. Admittedly, it was an effort to get her to utter so much as a couple of words, but the openly searing and grateful look Spock sent him across the room was worth any trouble.

Jim nearly stumbled, holding Spock's gaze for as long as he could and feeling suddenly like he was ten feet tall. He instantly regretted that Spock didn't have anyone else in his department who could be cheered up by the captain's attention. If that meant Spock looking at him like that, Jim would have talked to as many people as he could.

The party was a success their third year as well, but Jim's heart wasn't in it. He did his usual rounds, but then slipped out quietly and snuck into Med Bay. Spock was sleeping – or, more accurately, submerged in one of his healing trances, recovering after receiving a poisonous dart in the chest that was, unsurprisingly, meant for Jim.

It wasn't the first time, and Jim knew it wouldn't be the last, but watching Spock's peaceful face, he thought that it was getting more difficult. It wasn't like he never risked his life for, Spock; he did that, in fact, quite regularly. The thought didn't help one bit.

Spock always made it through so far, but Jim hated this, hated the wait, hated those vigils – secret in the shelter of his quarters or open like right now, he hated them all the same. And when did Jim become that person who prefers sitting at his friend's bedside to drinking and dancing anyway? That was as weird as it got, but the thought didn't make him leave. Somehow, it wasn't fun anymore if Spock wasn't there. It just wasn't the same.

This year, Spock wasn't there either, but this time he wasn't injured. Denobula was close enough to the new Vulcan colony, and Spock went off to see his father and his new wife, who was also a human. Spock was dubious about the trip, but Jim had insisted. 'Family is family,' he told Spock. 'At least one of us still has some to visit.'

"Nice party, Captain," someone calls after him.

Jim nods, rounds the corner, and all but smashes into Spock, who is coming from the opposite direction and carrying a travel bag.

"Whoa!" Jim grabs Spock's arms automatically not to topple over, only then looking up. "Spock!" He grins in surprise. "What are you doing back so early? I wasn't expecting you till the day after tomorrow."

"Captain." Spock inclines his head politely as if Jim hasn't just tried to knock him off his feet, however accidentally. "I have, indeed, only just arrived."

"How'd it go?" Jim asks, immediately turning to join Spock on the walk to his quarters.

Spock's expression clouds slightly. "It was an interesting visit."

Jim has long memorized the whole phrasebook of Spock's euphemisms. He winces in sympathy. "That bad?"

Spock purses his lips. "Perrin Brooks is a competent aide to an ambassador and, from my observations, respects my father greatly. She was not, however" – his jaw tightens – "overly enthusiastic about my visit."

"I see," Jim says quietly, shooting him troubled glances. "And your father?"

Spock tilts his head slightly in his customary way. "Vulcans do not celebrate Christmas. He saw no logic to my visit. He was, however, pleased that I am in good health."

Jim puts his hand on Spock's arm and squeezes lightly. "That's why you left early?"

"Indeed." Spock inclines his head. "I do not enjoy imposing on those who have no desire for my company."

"Well, it's good you're back then." Jim gives him a smile, trying to lift his spirits. "We missed you."

Spock looks at him head-on, eyebrow raised. "Flattery, Captain? So early in the day? I admit to experiencing trepidation at the amount of paperwork that must be waiting for me on my desk."

"Hey." Jim punches his arm in mock indignation. "You always assume I have an ulterior motive, don't you?"

"You generally do."

"You wound me, Spock. I was being sincere!"

"I was gone for two weeks, Captain. I do not believe it is enough time for you to start feeling nostalgic regarding my absence."

They enter Spock's quarters, and Jim leaves the comment without a reply. The one he wants to shove at Spock is, in any case, unacceptable.

Spock sets his bag on the deck carefully and walks over to his computer terminal. Pauses. Jim watches him from just inside the door, reveling simply in the sight of Spock: tall, slender, and fluid, and just so him. It's a sight he had missed dearly.

Spock hesitates instead of activating his computer at once, glancing at Jim uncertainly.

"There's nothing urgent in there, Spock," Jim tells him. "You might find it difficult to believe, but I can actually manage without you when needed."

Spock nods, somewhat gloomily. "Of that, Captain, I have no doubt."

In all honesty, Jim can't withstand that particular expression on Spock's face.

"Hey." He's walking over before he knows it. Spock looks at him; Jim grins. "I didn't say I like it that way. Come on." He shoves Spock's shoulder gently with his own. "Aren't you proud of me – that I didn't break the ship without you? Just a little?"

Spock turns toward him slightly, all but eliminating the remains of whoever's personal space they're in. He gives a show of considering it.

"If I were to admit to experiencing any emotion, Captain, it would most likely be... relief." He pauses before adding deliberately, "And astonishment."

Jim laughs, clapping Spock on the shoulder. "You smug pointy-eared bastard, you."

Spock's eyes are smiling. Jim is a little bit in love with this expression, particularly when it's up close. He steps back, a little clumsy in his haste, before he says something incredibly stupid like, 'I love the way your eyes catch the light.' Spock isn't McCoy, but he can tease with the best of them. Besides, that formidable Vulcan memory of his... Jim shudders. He wouldn't be able to live that down for years.

Spock's face closes, just a little, as Jim retreats. He looks at his computer again, his hands hovering tentatively over the controls.

Watching him, Jim has a sudden epiphany. Whatever nonchalant brave façade Spock puts on, he's still haunted by his visit to New Vulcan. Spock is not a child anymore, but it can't be pleasant for anybody to feel that the closest member of your family – and the only remaining one, at that – isn't thrilled to see you. Jim would know.

That's because we are his family, Jim thinks fiercely, feeling something hot and fervent struggling to find its way out of him. Not Sarek, not that stupid Perrin, not T'Pau. We are. And New Vulcan isn't home, either. The Enterprise is. Judging by the way Spock is looking around his cabin, fighting to reconnect with this reality, he knows it, too. He knows it, but needs to feel it. Physically as well as intellectually.

Jim thinks of what usually helps him feel that he's home and safe, and just right where he belongs, and the answer is standing right in front of him. Whenever Jim's world starts to crumble, whenever he feels lost, he needs to feel Spock's presence, to wrap it around himself like a thick, warm blanket. He knows of only one way to get an excuse to touch Spock for as much as he wants – well, for nearly as much as he wants. Perhaps it'll work both ways?

Jim grins, pretending to be unaware of Spock's uncharacteristic fit of pensiveness. "Anyway, I was about to hit the gym," he says lightly. "If you're not too tired, wanna join me?"

Spock glances at him, as if only just remembering his presence. Jim suddenly finds the carpet entirely too fascinating to look up.

"If you don't have other plans, of course," he adds.

There is a beat of silence that does little to appease Jim's nerves.

"As a matter of fact," Spock says slowly, "that is a most agreeable suggestion, Captain."

"Cool." Jim flashes him a grin. "I've picked up some useful stuff while you were gone. I'll have you flat on your back this time, mark my words."

Spock lifts an eyebrow even as they set off. "If that is your single purpose, you need not overexert yourself."

Jim flushes, but grins at him bravely. "Oh?"

"You are my commanding officer. You can always order me to yield."

"And you would obey?"

Spock gives him a glance which Jim can't quite read. "There is only one way to find out, Captain."

Jim laughs. "I missed when you turned into a gambler, Spock."

"I had a good teacher."

"Did you just pay me a compliment?"

Another eyebrow. "If you consider acknowledging your unprecedented mastery of gambling, cheating, and deceit of the innocent a compliment—"

"Yeah, I do. Thanks, Spock."

"My pleasure, Captain."

The gym is empty but for the two of them; obviously the skeleton crew remaining onboard has better things to do than work out. Jim fumbles with his clothes, making sure that Spock would leave the locker room before Jim pulls his shirt off. No need to start that fight yet.

Once they're both out in the open, Jim steps onto the gym mat and faces Spock. "So," he starts gleefully, rubbing his hands together, "what's it gonna be?"

"I was under the impression you wanted to show me the 'stuff' you picked up."

"You realize that when you phrase it like that—"

Spock cuts him off with a smart blow aimed to knock him over. Jim blocks and grins. That's more like it.

They started sparring almost at the very beginning of their mission. After the Narada, Jim became only too aware that his combat style was ineffective, to say the least, against physically superior opponents. He could think of only one way to remedy that, and approached Spock. He still remembers the strange look Spock had given him, but the Vulcan had agreed, offering no comment.

That was how Jim started turning up in Med Bay every several days, groaning and hissing. McCoy was alarmed at first, but it didn't take him long to pick up the pattern of Jim's injuries. That was when he started laughing at Jim's complaints even as he treated him.

'This could be serious, you know,' Jim pouted once. 'Don't know what I was thinking. The guy obviously still wants to kill me.'

McCoy gave him a smug smirk and shook his head. 'Jim, do you really think I'd let him continue if I thought he was dangerous? He'd never hurt you.'

'Are you out of your mind? I'm aching all over!'

'You've been coming here limping and whining for three months now and the worst you suffered from is pulled muscles. Spock has never even left a bruise that would last for longer than a day. If I didn't see you two actually fighting, I'd have thought he was cuddling you.'

Jim stared at him. 'You saw us practice?'

McCoy rolled his eyes. 'Who do you take me for? You think I'd allow that green-blooded hobgoblin anywhere near you without making sure it's safe? Of course I watched you practice. I must say' – he smirked – 'there's something therapeutic in watching him wipe the deck with you.'

Jim glared. 'And you actually call yourself my friend.'

McCoy's smirk widened. 'You betcha.'

And so it went. It was only another month and a half later, as the Enterprise ran into a small 'misunderstanding' with the Klingons, that Jim realized that Spock knew what he was doing all along. Jim's ego might have been bruised regularly, but his body finally learned to be faster and his movements became more precise. It might not have helped him win just yet, but it had saved his life for sure.

"Your mind seems to be wandering, Captain," Spock tells him, pinning him down to the mat for the fourth time with almost casual ease.

"Sorry." Jim grins, pushing him off with a clever twist of his hips. "That better?"

He knows they're just fooling around. When Spock wants to be strict, he's worse than an Andorian infantry sergeant, save for the language. Right now, the Vulcan merely plays with him, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he tells Jim precisely what he thinks of Jim's newly picked up 'stuff,' accentuating his words with combinations Jim can't come close to blocking. An hour flies by really quickly, and Jim knows Spock is about to call it quits when something unexpected happens.

They are locked in a tight hold when Spock's ankle suddenly turns awkwardly and he loses his balance. Jim isn't about to lose the chance he might never get again, and he hurtles into Spock with every ounce of prowess and mass he possesses. They collapse in a heap with Jim landing on top of Spock, pushing him down before the Vulcan can regain his bearings.

His efforts are unnecessary, though, because Spock doesn't resist and doesn't try to get free. He could if he wanted to, and they both know that. But he merely looks up at Jim, one eyebrow raised in silent query: 'Is that what you wanted?'

Jim grins, pressing him harder into the mat. "Yield."

The second eyebrow joins the first. "Is that an order?"

Jim's grin widens. He's half-hard and knows that Spock can feel it, too, but that's old news to both of them. The last time Jim was remotely embarrassed by it was years ago, and Spock probably thought it to be a normal human reaction to physical exertion. Jim never told him otherwise.

"Yes?"

Spock seems to consider this. "We are not currently on duty," he says finally, lifting Jim up just enough to roll away from his hold and onto his feet.

Jim sighs, taking Spock's hand and allowing himself to be pulled up. "You're no fun," he grumbles, turning to go.

"Jim." Spock's arm across his chest stops him. Jim looks at him. "I would have conceded to a request," Spock informs him casually, and leaves Jim gaping after him as he walks into the showers.

"That smug pointy-eared bastard," Jim mutters, a slow smile creeping onto his face. "One of these days..."

The water is already running in one of the stalls when Jim enters, stripping as he goes. Jim gives the cubicle a passing glance, but turns away quickly. Starfleet Academy has a most charming way of curing undue modesty, but even without that, Jim thinks that neither he nor Spock has ever been particularly self-conscious. He's grateful for separate stalls, though, because while Spock likes his water so hot that he's almost invisible in the clouds of steam, Jim usually has to key in a very low temperature after they spar together, and this is one piece of information he'd rather Spock didn't have.

A cold shower usually ensures Jim is the first one to leave for the drying zone, and today is no different. He wraps a towel around his hips and reaches for another one to dry his hair. Bones used to tease him about how he had a different towel for every body part, but Jim didn't see the need to change his ways as long as he was doing his own laundry.

Behind him, the sound of running water stops, and Jim turns away hastily, because there's the lingering effect of a cold shower and there's Spock with his smooth skin glistening wetly, and Jim isn't keen on finding out what would win. He bends lower, rubbing his hair with the towel almost ferociously, and only looks up when he's sure Spock has at least a towel on him. Jim turns to look at him, soft smile playing on his lips, and freezes, the easy comment he was going to make dying in his throat.

Spock is staring at him.

Staring.

Spock never stares. Except he kind of really is now, and Jim feels cold shivers run down his spine in the overheated bathroom. Spock stares at his exposed body, covered only in the ridiculously small towel. Spock stares and then he moves toward him as if hypnotized, the burning intensity of his gaze making Jim tremble – a reaction that he does his level best to suppress.

Spock stops just short of him, eyes glued to Jim's chest, and that's when Jim finally realizes. It's not him Spock is staring at.

"It's nothing," Jim mumbles automatically, looking away, embarrassed by his own reaction. "Just a couple of bruises. It wasn't you, it's..." He trails off awkwardly, cursing himself mutely. Spock controls his body to the level which is unimaginable for the most disciplined humans. Of course he knows it wasn't him. Spock's never been anything but extra careful during his sparring sessions with Jim.

Spock lifts his hand and traces the contours of the larger, mostly discolored bruise stretching from Jim's left shoulder to his solar plexus lightly, his fingertips barely touching the skin. Jim's heart jumps into his throat, effectively preventing him from breathing.

"What happened?" Spock asks quietly, his eyes following the movements of his fingers. Both his hands come into play now, as he turns Jim around to inspect his back.

Knowing Spock can't see him, Jim bites his lip hard as gentle fingers slide between his shoulder blades, pausing here and there, where he knows the damage is more evident. Spock seems to have bent lower, because Jim can now feel his breath worrying the tiny hairs at the back of his neck. He grits his teeth, fighting to stay calm.

"Just a minor difference of opinion between me and the Kunan chief of security. The guy does mean things with a pain stick. It's no big deal."

A hand grips his shoulder tightly as Spock turns him around again, obviously having no qualms about leaving bruises of his own making. He's looking into Jim's eyes now, and Jim wants to groan at the unmistakable emotion there. One that usually makes him want to crawl up somewhere and stay out of sight for a while until the storm is over. But he's being held, tight, and doesn't even try to weasel out of it. For one, there would be no use. For another...

"I left you for two weeks," Spock half-whispers, half-hisses. "For two weeks, Jim."

Jim looks away. "Spock—"

"I did not wish to go. Do you recall what you said to me as I was leaving?"

The grip on his arm tightens almost painfully, and Jim hastens to answer. "I said we were on a milk run and that you had nothing to worry about."

"And?"

"And that I'd be on my best behavior," Jim admits reluctantly before glaring up at Spock with a sudden flare of irritation. "And I was! Nothing happened! Honestly, Spock, you're making a fuss about nothing! It's just a couple of bruises. Who died and made you my mother anyway?"

Spock glares back at him for a couple of moments longer, then something in his face closes with an almost audible snap. He lets go of Jim abruptly and leaves the bathroom without another word. Jim sags against the wet wall helplessly, fighting the urge to smack his head against it.

When he finally emerges into the locker room, Spock is fully dressed save for his shirt. He pointedly avoids looking at Jim, and the coldness emanating from him is freezing up the air. Jim suppresses a sigh and walks straight for him. Spock turns his back, ostensibly to unfold his shirt. He has 'DO NOT TOUCH ME' spelled loudly across the stubborn line of his shoulders, clear enough for a blind man to understand.

Jim bites his lip and lays a hand on the taut shoulder intrepidly, knowing that Spock would never read his thoughts without permission but hoping he would sense Jim's emotions.

Spock remains stiff and unyielding under his touch. He doesn't give any acknowledgment of Jim's presence, and doesn't even halt his movements. But Jim notices that he's taking extra time for a task as simple as finding the right side of his shirt before putting it on, and it gives Jim hope.

"I'm sorry," Jim says softly.

Spock doesn't react.

"Spock, please."

Spock stills, lifts his head up; doesn't turn.

Daring, Jim rubs a soothing, cautious circle on the warm skin; then another one.

"I'm sorry. Please, Spock; I hate it when you're mad at me. I'm sorry."

He wants nothing better than to press his lips to the spot his hand is caressing, but doesn't want to end up flying across the room. He's taking a big enough risk as it is.

Spock takes a deeper breath and relents – Jim feels it under his palm rather than sees it. Spock turns to face him, and Jim's hand slides away.

"I am not mad," he says, and Jim can see he's being truthful, if only just. Spock's eyes are warm as he looks at Jim, but also troubled and... wistful? "I am concerned, Jim. Your disregard for your own safety is appalling."

Jim snorts quietly. "Pot, kettle. Nice to meet you."

"Jim."

This kind reproach isn't something Jim knows how to handle. He drops his head, his hair grazing Spock's shoulder.

"Your shoe is untied."

Spock sighs quietly, stepping back. "If there were any kind of award given anywhere in the galaxy for the most uncreative – not to mention unsuccessful – attempt at misdirection, you would have been declared a winner without trying."

"I know," Jim says, looking up and grinning sheepishly. "I really am something."

He's treated to an ironically raised eyebrow before Spock finishes dressing.

"It's really good to have you back, Spock," Jim says sincerely, walking over across the room to pick up his own clothes. "Listen, it's probably a secret, but I can't help having ears, so I know that a few people are gonna gang up on me later. There's some kind of after-Christmas-before-New-Year thing going on later."

"Is that so?"

"Yeah. Or maybe it's Jim-is-a-moron-but-it's-Christmas-so-what-the-hell thing." Jim shrugs, pulling his pants on, trying to kick the towel toward the laundry chute at the same time.

"A few people?"

"The usual suspects."

"I see. Is this an invitation?"

Jim looks at him over the hem of his t-shirt that he's in the process of tugging on. "Do you need one?"

Spock holds his eyes for a moment, then smiles his non-smile. "If my schedule allows, I shall... drop by."

"Bastard," Jim tosses at him fondly.


Having skipped lunch, Jim decides to ignore the mess all together. There'll be some food later at his place, he knows, so he might as well go straight to the bridge. Spock has most certainly gone to terrorize his own staff at the labs, though, after four years with him as their commanding officer, the Enterprise science division seems to be ready for inspection 24/7. Jim actually envies this ability of Spock's a little. It's not like Spock yells at people or disciplines them, either. His eyebrows do all the motivational magic all on their own.

The bridge greets him with the sounds of lazy conversation, and Jim waves at his people pleasantly, telling them with a simple gesture that he doesn't actually need anything and hasn't come to disturb the loose mood of the shift. He checks out several 'urgent' memos that the Denobulan government deemed necessary for him to see, then downloads the latest issue of Tactical Review and dives into his ready room for some quiet reading.

There's a response article to the one he had submitted two issues ago, and Jim attacks it almost gleefully, taking notes of every weak spot his opponent shows. Honestly, some people just can't accept that he knows his shit. Well, then, Lieutenant Commander Nigel Forest, we'll see about using the Kumar maneuver against three cruiser-class vessels.

Jim becomes so engrossed in writing down his counterarguments and then even running small simulations on the computer that the whistle from the intercom makes him jump. He hasn't noticed that he's been here for three hours straight.

"Jim, so help me if you're on the bridge—" Bones starts menacingly.

"I'm coming," Jim cuts him off hastily. "No need to yell, Bones."

"You better be," McCoy states firmly, then closes the line.

For a moment, Jim looks at his PADD longingly, but then sets it aside with a sigh. If he manages to lose his vastly inspired train of thought before he gets back to it, he'll reread Forest's article again, and the condescending tone of it will undoubtedly put him back on his high horse. He taps the PADD off and walks out.

Private parties at his quarters are a tradition of sorts, too. The Christmas parties for the crew are work more than fun not only for Jim, but for his senior staff as well. The after-party gathering was initially an impromptu occasion, and that first year it was just him, Bones, Scotty and a bottle of a really old Saurian brandy. The next year, the whole bridge crew slipped into his quarters one by one, interrupting his quiet conversation with Spock. From then on, the 'surprise party' became an expected occurrence.

To say that Jim doesn't mind would be an understatement. He loves watching his closest friends unwind. He loves unwinding with them. It's such a rare occasion that they can all get together without the necessity to keep an eye for a red alert or some kind of disaster that Jim cherishes these moments. Bones once said that during those times they imitated normal human beings for a change, and Jim thinks that there's too much truth in that to be dismissed as a mere joke. The lives they live leave little room for normalcy.

He enters his quarters, a wide grin plastered on his lips, and stops just inside the doorway, taking in the picture.

Scotty and Sulu are crouched over a makeshift stove, no doubt of Scotty's creation. Jim is mildly apprehensive of the contents of the big pan, which emits slim streaks of steam like an Indian peace pipe, but he has to admit that it smells good. Sulu, from the looks of it, is making his trademark spiced-rice-with-wouldn't-you-want-to-know-what, and the air of total concentration on his face makes Jim suspect he's adding some incantations to the recipe as well. Jim watches Scotty add a generous amount of whiskey into his – chili? goulash? Jim exhales in relief. Nothing containing that much alcohol can be deadly anymore.

Uhura's melodic laughter draws Jim's attention to his bed where his communication's officer and – screw that – sister-in-arms is trying to coax Chekov into giving her the music console. She's laughing so hard that it's hindering her coordination, while Chekov, grinning from ear to ear, threatens her with badly performed lines from Klingon operas. It's like watching a panther playing with a cub, the comparison complete with Nyota's skin-tight black jumpsuit. They're all out of uniform tonight, but her outfit is, as always, the most stunning.

Grinning, Jim walks over toward the office area, finding an ostensibly unlikely pair of companions there. He heads for the small bar, which he had always found a wonderfully thoughtful addition to the captain's quarters, and starts making cocktails – his usual self-imposed task during such gatherings – as he listens to his two friends banter.

"I will hazard a guess," Spock is saying, staring at the drawing in his hand pensively, "that this is some kind of humanoid. The body is blue, which suggests an Andorian. However, the face is rather red and there is no sign of antennae. The ears do look like old earth radio locators, though. I do not believe I have met a representative of such aesthetically disagreeable species before." Spock looks up at McCoy curiously. "Who is it?"

"Me," McCoy snaps icily, almost as red faced as his pencil-colored counterpart.

"Indeed?" Spock asks, while Jim bursts out laughing. "I rescind my answer, Doctor; I must compliment your daughter's acute observation skills. There is a truly striking resemblance, which I should have noticed earlier. This narrow forehead, for one—"

"Narrow forehead?" McCoy yelps indignantly. "Why, you pointy-eared—"

"Indeed, Doctor, I have always wondered what makes you cling to your beads and rattles as opposed to advances of modern medicine. The necessity to economize the – limited brain resources would certainly explain that."

"I swear to God, Spock, next time you have your guts sprawled all over my Med Bay, I'll show you beads and rattles—"

"Bones." Jim winces, the pestle slipping from his grip momentarily. "Could you please not go there? I have a vivid imagination."

"Don't worry, Jim – Spock's resilient like a stock of Andorian shingles," McCoy says, glaring at the Vulcan. "And about as pleasant."

"The virus does indeed possess an advantage over homo sapiens," Spock notes casually, but there's a dangerous glint in his eye.

"Really? What's that?"

"It does not hide behind a medical license when attacking people."

"Bones, Spock," Jim intervenes before they can start in earnest. "There must be a piece of mistletoe left somewhere on this ship. You want me to go find it so that you could literally kiss and make up or will the two of you shut up already?"

"I'd pay real money to see that," Sulu pipes in from across the room.

"How much?" Jim asks immediately, because the expression on Spock's face is priceless.

"I'll add some," Scotty promises.

"See? I'll be rich before you know it," Jim tells Bones and Spock pointedly, handing McCoy a glass with something bright green and leafy.

"What's that?" McCoy asks, distracted.

"Mojito."

"Really?" The doctor looks immediately suspicious. "Where'd you get the mint?"

Jim bats his lashes at him innocently. "The greenhouse?"

"That better not be what I grow for medical purposes," Bones warns.

"Of course not, Doctor," Spock cuts in, taking the glass from his hand. "The captain would never intrude into your plantation. The crew has been known to develop hallucinations after walking through there. Excuse me."

"Hey!" McCoy protests as Spock wanders off to give his cocktail to Uhura.

"Here." Jim gives Bones another mojito, sipping his own. "Not too sweet?"

"Nah, it's fine," McCoy says, shaking his head and looking pensive. "So" – he fixes Jim with a pointed stare – "what'd you do this time?"

"Who, me?" Jim looks away, swallowing a larger portion of his cocktail. "Whatever gave you that idea?"

McCoy tilts his head in Spock's direction subtly. "He doesn't usually get this vicious, unless he's really pissed at you."

"It's nothing," Jim mutters, watching Uhura plant a soft kiss on Spock's cheek, probably for rescuing the music console from Chekov's mischievous hands. The young navigator has wandered off to Sulu and Scotty, leaving Spock and Uhura alone on the bed and talking quietly.

"'Nothing' doesn't turn him into a viper," McCoy remarks. "Not usually, that is." His eyes follow the captain's knowingly. "Jim. When are you gonna tell him?"

"Tell him what?"

"Don't play dumb with me, kid; you know perfectly well what. You think he'll wait for you forever?"

Jim presses his lips together stubbornly. "Bones, Spock and Uhura broke up four years ago or something. They're best friends. I'm not awfully concerned with a little PDA on their part, to tell you the truth."

"I'm not worried about Uhura," McCoy says calmly. "Unlike you, she knows when to quit."

Jim exhales wearily, his resolve weakening. "Look, what if... What if he doesn't—"

McCoy clasps Jim's shoulder firmly. "Then he doesn't. But at least you'll know, Jim. It's not healthy to bottle up your emotions inside for so long."

Jim grins at him in a fit of gallows humor. "Ever the doctor, Bones?"

Bones smiles back. "With you, what else could a guy be?"

He ruffles Jim's hair affectionately, and Jim allows it for once without protest. Having him for a friend does put a man through a lot, he knows that much. And Bones had never wavered, never backed off, and never let him down.

"Food's ready!" Scotty calls. "Grab your plates!"

"Grab your glasses first!" Jim laughs. "I have a toast."

They all gather round him, elbowing each other to get the drinks he's made for them. Jim passes Spock his favorite Altair water over Chekov's head and earns himself an appreciative glance in return.

"To Enterprise," Jim announces, beaming at them all. "And her crew."

"Not good enough," Uhura says, eyeing him with a peculiar expression Jim can't read. "We drank to that last night."

"Well..." Jim halts, thinking.

Surprisingly, it's Spock who breaks the pause, speaking quietly and very distinctly.

"To family."

And it's blatantly clear from the way he makes eye contact with everyone just who he means. It's a little eerie, this epiphany that catches Jim off guard all of a sudden, but they really are a family – all of them, even Spock, who is so profoundly different from them, and yet so undeniably one of them.

"To family," Jim repeats, swinging an arm around Bones' neck.

"God help me, having you lot for relatives," McCoy grumbles. Everyone but Spock laughs, but there's a telling twinkle in his eye revealing that the mirth is mutual.

Jim feels a warm, suspiciously fuzzy something curling up in his stomach, and he has to dig his heels in the carpet in order not to jump Spock right there and then, in front of everyone, and with decidedly less than innocent intentions.

They eat, and talk, and laugh a lot, and Jim doesn't believe in any kind of Christmas spirit or the magic of the season, but he can't help stealing a glance at Spock every now and then and can't shoo away a wave of treacherously sweet dizziness that ambushes him every time their eyes meet. Which has been happening kind of a lot lately, and how come he hasn't noticed?

It's something of a mystery from where Chekov manages to produce a Twister set, but they all go at it gleefully like little children. It's all conventional fun, until some truly misguided soul allows Spock to spin, and Jim, Bones, Chekov, and Uhura quickly find themselves tied in knots that should not be possible for human bodies to achieve. Vulcan precision with anything is not to be underestimated.

"Nyota," Spock says with infuriating calm. "Left foot, yellow."

She grunts with effort, but manages to reach it.

"Jim – right hand, blue."

Scotty falls down from his chair, laughing, as Jim complies with Spock's command, swearing and stretching.

"Doctor" – Spock pauses, and nobody likes that pause very much – "Right foot, green."

"Spock!" all four of them shout at once.

"I swear to God, he does that on purpose," McCoy mutters, red-faced and panting. "Spock, you evil, evil son of a gun, you wait till it's your turn, I'll – Jim, stop laughing, for fuck's sake, I can hardly stand without you shaking—"

But Jim can't stop laughing at this moment to save his life, and the more he fights it, the harder it becomes, until finally he loses it completely, along with his balance; and as his co-players are all pretty much wrapped up around him by that point, they all collapse with a lot of yelps, shouts, and giggles. They all hit or kick him as they disentangle themselves from him and each other.

"Ow!" Jim protests after Bones shoves him in the ribs. "That wasn't my fault, you guys!"

"Was, too." Uhura sticks her tongue out at him. "You're clumsy like a bear."

He glares at her. Then Spock is there to lift him up, and Jim doesn't release his clasp on Spock's arm even when he's already standing again.

"You totally did that on purpose," Jim breathes out, grinning.

Spock reaches to brush something off of Jim's shoulder. He meets Jim's eyes, unrepentant.

"As a matter of fact, Jim... Yes, I did."

Jim throws his head back and laughs at this fit of deviousness, and Spock's grip tightens momentarily before releasing Jim.

Two hours later, his guests bid goodnight to him one by one, tired and happy instead of tired and grim for once. Uhura kisses Jim gently, the same way she usually kisses Spock, and this unexpected gift makes him start and blink. She smirks at him, waves at Spock, and leaves, leaning on McCoy's arm and listening to Scotty's babble.

The door closes and it's just him and Spock left now. Jim smiles at his friend fondly.

"Give me a hand?"

"Certainly."

They start cleaning up the mess left after the party in perfect synch, as they have done many times before. Somehow, Jim has never noticed that it was always Spock who stayed behind to help him – not Bones or Uhura or anyone else. Spock stayed without being asked, and it became one of the natural things around Jim – one he takes for granted.

They don't talk as they work, but it's a pleasant kind of silence. Jim's humming with content and warmth, and just a tiny note of anticipation. From time to time one of them would catch the other watching him. Jim would smile. Spock would act as if nothing has happened.

"I think we're done," Jim announces half an hour later, looking around with satisfaction. "Wasn't as wild as it was the last time."

"Indeed."

Suddenly, without anything else to do, Jim feels extremely nervous. "Well," he starts, shifting his weight from foot to foot. "I guess this is it then."

"It would seem so," Spock says, looking strangely hesitant. "I—"

"Did you have a good time?" Jim blurts out, strangely desperate to cut off whatever it is Spock was about to say. "I had a blast."

Spock closes his mouth, looks at Jim thoughtfully and nods, as if answering his own question.

"Indeed, it was most agreeable," he says evenly. "Goodnight, Jim."

"Goodnight," Jim calls after him, but Spock's already out the door.

Jim groans. What is wrong with him? They were about to have a moment, for fuck's sake, one of those few he would treasure in years to come, guarding them fervently like a dragon guards his gold. Instead he all but told Spock to leave, and now he'll never know what it was Spock was about to tell him. It might have been nothing. Then again...

With another self-loathing groan, Jim flings himself over onto his bed, burying his face in the pillow and wishing he could smack himself to let go of some of his frustration. James T. Kirk is nobody's paragon, that much is certain – he's made his share of mistakes, but never out of panic. Spock's the only one who gets him all jittery and anxious, and just plain stupid beyond belief.

He opens his eyes, musing on the various ways he should probably kill himself to spare himself the trouble of dealing with it, before a bright package sitting on his nightstand catches his attention. Jim sits up in his bed abruptly, staring at it.

Did someone leave him a present?

There is only one way to find out, and Jim snatches the package, ripping the paper off impatiently. His eyes widen in wonder as a brightly colored bottle slips into his hands.

"No way," Jim breathes out, even as a grin threatens to split his face in two. "No way in hell."

But it's undeniably there, cool and heavy in his hands: the bottle of this year's Beaujolais nouveau, its unmistakable pink-purple color calling to him teasingly from behind the glass.

Immediately Jim's mind springs back to his time at the Academy, him and Bones locating a bottle as it was released every year, traditionally on the last Thursday of November, and saving it till New Year's Eve to celebrate the 'spirit of renewal' or some shit like that. He used to tease Bones about 'all the French crap' he picked up at Sorbonne, but Bones was impervious, and Jim, who normally preferred beer to just about anything, couldn't deny that he liked the taste.

But why didn't Bones say anything? Getting a bottle out here in space was probably nothing short of a miracle. Jim has no idea how his friend could have possibly managed that. He notices a note suddenly, and his heart leaps in a somersault because the precise, elegant writing has nothing at all in common with Bones' professional 'doctor-style' scribbling.

Jim,

It has come to my attention that you might require this for a proper celebration of the New Year. I hope it is to your liking.

Spock

Jim exhales loudly, noticing that his hands are shaking. He steadies them before carefully putting the note away, as if it is made of glass. He takes a couple of deep breaths, letting the surge of vertigo pass, then stands up, picks up the bottle, and walks over to his desk. He fishes a couple of tall glasses from the bar and a bottle opener and leaves his cabin determinedly, because if he needed some kind of sign that would have told him that enough is enough, this definitely qualifies.

His resolve and determination crumbles notably as he enters Spock's cabin to discover that the Vulcan isn't there. But right before his newly found and somewhat vulnerable courage wavers, he hears the sound of water, and realizes with a sweep of relief that Spock's in the shower.

Well.

Jim walks over to Spock's desk, completes his preparations, and waits. In just a few moments, it begins to seem to him that Spock would never come out. He knows that the Vulcan is maybe slightly more than a bit of a closet sensualist, and there is certain logic in someone coming from a desert planet to consider water a luxury, but still, this waiting is—

—entirely too short to prepare him for the moment when Spock actually does come out, clad in black silk of his pajamas, hair still slightly damp and tousled. Black silk, for crying out loud. Jim totally doesn't need that image in front of him when he's about to be at his best behavior, and he stifles his gaping reaction as best he can.

It's almost funny – the way Spock halts in his tracks abruptly at the sight of his captain, leaning against Spock's desk with his legs crossed casually in front of him. Spock definitely wasn't expecting him.

"J-Jim," Spock uncharacteristically stutters. "What are you – Is something wrong?"

Instead of an immediate answer, Jim swallows and smiles slowly as he reaches to take two wine-filled glasses from the desk, handing one to Spock.

"I didn't want to start without you," he says lightly, as if it somehow answers Spock's question.

It's almost sweet, this feeling of revenge that washes over Jim as he watches extreme puzzlement transforming Spock's features. Spock takes the glass automatically, bewildered and alarmed. Jim's blood starts to sing.

"How did you get it?" Jim asks softly, his emotions threatening to blow him up if he doesn't release them soon. "I can't believe you went all the way back to Earth."

"I—" Spock pauses. "I became aware that a small shipment has been delivered to Alpha Centauri."

Jim can't help an upsurge of amazement. "But that's still weeks away from New Vulcan!"

Spock looks away, his cheeks attaining a mild greenish hue all of a sudden. "The transport that I boarded – I offered its captain to modify the engines slightly if he agreed to divert there."

Jim shakes his head. "It's a challenging course at such speed for a civilian pilot."

Spock glances at him, obviously having given up on controlling his blush.

Jim gapes. "You piloted the ship?" There's almost no sense in making it a question.

Spock sighs, almost inaudibly. "I'm a Starfleet officer. He had no reason not to trust me."

A slow smile crawls up on Jim's lips, and he doesn't fight it. "If memory serves," he drawls deliberately, "this kind of 'operation' is illegal."

Spock stares at his feet. "Not… exactly. There is a rarely invoked clause involving requisition of provisions..." He trails off as Jim begins to laugh softly.

"I have a toast," Jim tells him warmly, already drunk of the knowledge that Spock has gone out of his way to get him this present, because he thought it would make Jim happy. Jim waits till Spock looks up at him and says simply, "To you."

Spock watches their glasses meet with a gentle clink; watches Jim taste the wine and smile, feeling the liquid linger on his lips. Spock gazes at him, transfixed, and it's a miracle he doesn't miss when he lifts his own glass to his mouth.

"Why did you come here, Jim?" he asks quietly, setting his barely touched wine on the desk. "Doctor McCoy told me that this" – Spock nods at the bottle – "was something he and you shared at New Year's Eve. I thought you would want to – he said—"

Jim sighs and places his glass on the desk, the reckless, untamed taste of the young wine still tingling pleasantly on his tongue. He looks up at Spock with a slow grin.

"Bones was playing matchmaker."

Spock frowns slightly in confusion. "I do not understand."

"Spock." Jim takes a deep breath and shakes his head suddenly. "Oh, to hell with it. Spock, I don't have a gift for you, so I'm going to tell you something – something about me, now. I'm not sure you'll enjoy knowing this, but I can't in all honesty carry on like this, and Bones is right – it's not healthy, and I'm not thirteen, for fuck's sake."

Spock's frown deepens. "Jim, I do not—"

"Earlier today when I said I missed you?"

"You said: 'We missed you.'"

Jim grins sheepishly. "So I'm a bit of a coward when it comes to you, nothing new there." He sighs and forces himself to hold Spock's gaze. "I missed you. You don't have to be away for two weeks for this to happen, Spock." Jim smiles indulging himself in a touch of self-irony. "I start missing you whenever you walk out the room. You're greedy, Spock, and selfish – you know that?"

"Selfish?" Spock whispers.

"Very selfish," Jim affirms. "You walk out and take half of everything with you. Half the colors, half the light... half of me, too. And if I sound pathetic to you now – well, that's exactly how I feel whenever you're not around."

Spock's eyes are smoldering black, but he's silent for a small eternity, and Jim can't take it one second longer.

"Please say something," he all but begs. "Or choke me, or—"

Spock kisses him. Light and chaste and all too short – just a brush of his lips against Jim's. Jim stills, too scared to believe this is happening to even breathe. Spock pulls back slightly.

"If I have read you wrong—" He hesitates.

Jim groans and cuts him off the way he's always wanted to.

He wanted to make it gentle, wanted to move steadily, but discovers quickly that this is out of his control. They've been taking too long a time to arrive to this moment, dancing around each other for years, longing and yearning – craving one another, and being scared of taking the final step. It's all pouring into the kiss right now, making their hands clumsy and desperate as they grab each other, making their lips firm and insistent, making them both moan with the unleashed agony of raw need.

It's impossible to separate, to pull away even for a moment. Jim's awareness of his surroundings narrows down to the hot body pressed against him, and he feels like he's floating, groundless, with Spock being the only thing that anchors him, the only gravitational force that still exists. Jim discovers himself trapped between the wall and the desk an indefinite amount of time later. He's lightheaded from oxygen deprivation, but keeps clinging to Spock with bruising force, as if afraid that the moment he lets go the magic would dissipate and the Vulcan would disappear.

"Jim," Spock rasps, holding him tighter. "Jim."

"Let's..." Jim swallows, breathing in Spock's air. "Let's move this... to the bed. I..." Spock catches Jim's lower lip between his teeth, and Jim exhales sharply. "I need you." He kisses Spock again, messily, never minding his lousy aim. "Please, Spock, I—" he gasps "—I want you, so badly."

Spock presses their foreheads together and asks in a husky, low voice, cutting in just the right side of teasing, "Do you yield?"

And it's just that much. Jim laughs out loud – the sound of unrestrained happiness – and throws both his arms around Spock's neck, hugging him with all the impressive force he possesses.

"Yes," he sings into the pointed ear. "God, Spock, of all the things to ask. Yes."

They are a clumsy, feverish ball of awkward movements, elbows and knees hitting all the wrong places, hands and lips desperate and greedy and missing constantly, the urgency building up like a forest fire – and they are fast, but they're not that fast, and it's a moment of sheer insanity, because neither of them remembers what it's like to be sane. Jim is pulled to Spock's body irrevocably like it's a black hole, and it's a sweet pain to try and resist, and he can't, and he's falling – they are falling, and neither can catch the other because there's no firm ground anywhere and they cling desperately to each other, pierced by panic and delight, and slowly breaking down from the suspense that just doesn't end.

Jim wraps his arms and legs around Spock so fiercely – there's no room for anything between them, and he can't let go, ever, it's a physical impossibility, and it's not kissing – that what he's doing, and he can't get enough, can't stop, and Spock is right there with him, all the way, hands twisted in Jim's hair, and he's pressing, pulling, pushing, doing everything at once, as if he can't decide if he seeks resolution or is fleeing from it. Just before the exquisite agony turns into pain from too much suspense, their shared breath catches and they are knocked over and swept away by the same gigantic tsunami wave, crushing living tissue and possibly halting the spin of the universe, shaking the very core of its axis.

When Jim knows anything again, the first thing he hears is the sound of laughter. It takes him a moment to realize he's the one producing it. He laughs again, helplessly, just as sensations begin to seep back into his body. They made it to the bed, he gives them that. But there's little more to be proud of, really.

Spock lifts his head, just barely, watching Jim in amusement. His hair is tousled, his pajama shirt unbuttoned but still there, as are his pants, pushed down to his hips. Jim is mostly naked but for his t-shirt and one boot, and he can't help finding the sight hilarious. He's laughing till there're tears standing in his eyes – it's hysterical. The whole… everything is hysterical.

Spock grabs him (not before Jim notices his lips twitch in a very telling way) and smashes their mouths together, letting Jim's laughter ripple through them both. Jim's grinning like a madman when Spock releases him and sits up to finish undressing. It seems, however, that even half a meter distance is unbearable, and Jim pushes up into a sitting position, too, helping Spock as much as hindering his motions, stealing kisses and being utterly unable to control his hands.

"Beautiful," Jim murmurs, sliding his hands around Spock from behind and trailing soft kisses along the line of his shoulders. "You deserve more finesse than this."

Spock turns within his arms, leaving the clasps on Jim's boot for a moment in favor of kissing Jim. "I don't want finesse," he breathes, his long fingers stroking Jim's cheek. "I only want you."

Jim groans. "When you say things like that..."

Spock bends down to finally get rid of his pants, while Jim yanks his t-shirt off and throws it away carelessly.

"Does that count as foreplay?"

Jim chuckles, lying back down and pulling Spock along with him. "We've had four years of foreplay," he informs Spock, watching with hungry eyes as the Vulcan straddles him. "Way too much, if you ask me."

"I concur," Spock purrs, stretching on top of him carefully, kissing and nibbling his way up Jim's throat. "That does not – seem consistent – with your profile."

Jim moans, arching his neck to give Spock more access, as Spock's hands start their own devious game. "You have no idea – God, Spock – how hard it was – oh, fuck, I – oh – hahh! – not to – not to just – fuck – grab you and – and – Spock—"

Spock pulls away for a moment. "Yes, Jim?"

"Spock, I – I'm –"

Spock presses a quick kiss to his forehead. "You do not have to say it."

Jim shakes his head, defiant as always. "I love you." He reaches to run his fingers through Spock's hair. "I've been in love with you for so long, I – I just need to say it."

There is aching tenderness in the way Spock kisses him now, like Jim is the most precious thing Spock has ever beheld, ever. Jim doesn't know when they have slipped into a meld or even if it's a meld at all, or if Spock's presence has somehow crept inside him so completely that he can hear him within himself without trying.

T'hy'la, you are my all.

Jim nearly gasps because it's dangerously close to the sharp side of too much, and offers his body to the man who already owns the rest of him, from the first coherent thought of every day to the very last beat of his heart.

They don't quite make up for four years of waiting on that first night together. But even considering Spock's ever-present zeal for perfectionism, they make a very decent effort.

~ Fin