Admiral Christopher Pike gets free lunches from the Science Department at Starfleet Academy when seminar season comes around. Undergraduate, graduate, and post-doctoral researchers come from all over to a renowned symposium held in San Francisco, open to all researchers looking for funding and flaunting their projects. Not to mention, it's a good time to recruit the many budding scientists eager to join the ranks of S'chn T'gai Spock, Science Officer on the U.S.S. Enterprise. Most would be content with a minor credit on one of Spock's many publications, or the barest promise of a character reference, without daring to hope for the chance to serve with him on the flagship of the fleet. Though he is a Vulcan, and much is expected of him, he still devotes considerable time to original research.
Besides his acquaintance with Commander Spock, there's also the open secret that Pike knows the elusive Dr. Jonathan Thorpe Kirkpatrick. Try as they might to pry it out of him with free meals, cash bribes, and the occasional indecent proposal, Pike swears this is one secret he'll take to his grave. Though he would never betray Kirkpatrick's confidence, he is the ferry between the secretive man and the journals that publish his work. All results are verified, and there's a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo that the good doctor can't possibly deal with when he's in space.
Pike is endlessly amused by the fact that Spock, of all people, has approached him about knowing Dr. Kirkpatrick, wishing to know if he could possibly obtain an address to which he might send the man correspondence debating his findings. So far, Dr. Kirkpatrick has published works in astrophysics and comparative xenobiology with rumors that there are more in the works. The man's ideas were outside the fields' regimented areas of study, but they are innovative, and cause an uproar in the scientific community, changing what they know as the basis of the evolution of the humanoid races in the Alpha Quadrant.
So he's unsurprised to see Captain James Kirk, who is back at Starfleet Headquarters on shore leave, walk into his office with a large sheaf of papers: more research submitted.
"What is it this time, Kirk?" Pike asks, not unkindly.
"Temporal physics," Jim responds with a grin. "Some light reading for you, Admiral."
Pike looks at the near-tome that Jim slams down on his desk, causing papers to flutter to the ground in its wake." Looks like a good read."
"It'll put you right to sleep," Jim says, and there's the Jim Kirk Pike knows, self-deprecating to a fault. Jim grins sardonically. "After what happened with Nero, I'm sure plenty of people are curious to know how everything went down. Especially since black holes… spaghetti-fy things with gravity until…you know…poof, no more. They're not time portals. I think we have a different situation with red matter. There, we're dealing with displacement of gravity and the creation of wormholes between two different parallel universes."
"Like I said, a good read. You realize most of this is going to be classified, right?" Pike asks.
"Yeah, I know. But at least they'll have the answers for something. They might be able to prevent this from happening in the future. If the star near Romulus is really going to go supernova, like Nero said, there should be a way to combat it. Red matter is totally not the way to go."
"It comes back to the wormhole. Romulus is left in the dark, they lose their atmosphere, and they all die anyway. Kinda pointless, huh?"
"True," Pike nods. The situation on Romulus is escalating. It's raised plenty of inquiries by the Romulans as to what exactly was going on with that star. There is only one person who can really analyze that, and that man is standing before him now. Captain James Tiberius Kirk, alias Dr. Jonathan Thorpe Kirkpatrick.
"Y'know," Pike continues conversationally, "You might want to rethink your plan. You've got at least one fan on the Enterprise. Spock's caught wind of my connection. In fact, he left you some…ah… fanmail."
"Fanmail?" Jim blinks before a smile widens on his face. He rubs his hands together in anticipation. "Let's have a look."
The following week, Jim is eating lunch in the officer's mess (grilled cheese and tomato soup; he's found the replicator is at its best with comfort food) when Spock fairly bounces in. Well, as much as a Vulcan can bounce, anyway. Jim thinks fondly that it takes a trained eye to see the spring in his First Officer's step, but it's definitely there. He's clutching a sheaf of papers and a journal in one hand; Jim has a sneaking suspicion that it's the current issue of the Journal of the Intergalactic Institute of Nuclear Astrophysics. It has a pink cover. Spock takes a bowl of soup from the replicator and sits opposite Kirk, placing his armful of papers neatly beside him and curling a hand over it almost protectively. "Hey, Spock," Jim says. Spock nods absently, taking a neat spoonful of soup.
"How's it going?" Jim asks. "Seems like you're in a good mood. Lab treating you well?"
There is no answer. Spock is staring into space, and Jim thinks he can make out a barely perceptible smile on the Vulcan's face. Belatedly, he seems to realize Jim's asked him a question. "Hmm? Oh…yes, the science department continues to perform quite adequately. We are currently analyzing the samples collected on Omnicron Ceti V. I expect to complete my report in the next 36.7 hours, pending successful completion of several experiments."
"Well," Jim says, "we don't have another staff meeting until Thursday, and that's in, what, 72-point-something hours? So, you know, whenever."
"Ah, yes. Thursday." Spock looks off across the mess again, the vague look of contentment still on his face.
They continue the meal in silence, Spock staring off into the distance and Jim watching him in a state of great amusement at this atypical behavior. Finally, though, he can't take it anymore.
"Are you daydreaming?"
Spock looks up with a start; Jim can see the beginning of a faint pistachio-colored blush creep into his face. "Captain?"
"You heard me. Out with it. There's obviously something going on, and it's obviously not bad, because you look like you're a sixteen-year-old with a crush." At this, the blush deepens. Spock suddenly looks very interested in his soup, stirring it idly with his spoon.
"Aw, c'mon, Spock, we're friends, right? Tell me. I don't care which cute ensign you've got talking nerdy to you down there," he laughs at his own joke. He's aware that it's a completely obnoxious habit, but he does it anyway.
Spock comes back to himself enough to look characteristically affronted at this last statement. He raises an eyebrow, and Kirk can practically hear him "not dignifying that remark with a response, Captain." Jim grins. "Come on, Spock! You're killing me here."
Spock appears to weigh his options. "Though I fail to see how my refusal to share my thoughts has any bearing on your mortality, I suppose it could not hurt to speak of them with you," he says carefully. "The cause for my…distraction is indeed positive. Are you familiar with the work of Dr. Jonathan Kirkpatrick?"
Jim suddenly becomes aware of a dry lump in his throat. He coughs, taking a sip of his water. He hopes he can keep his cool. "Uh…no, can't say I am."
Spock continues, doubtless unsurprised at Jim's ignorance. "I am aware that you may find the subject matter…dry. Indeed, it is somewhat difficult to comprehend, so you must take me at my word when I say that the theory I have been reading of late is of great importance."
Now it's Jim's turn for the eyebrow trick, and he takes full advantage. This is going to be good. "Really? How important would you say it is?"
Spock places his hands palm-down on the table and leans forward. His lips are slightly parted, and Jim can see the pulse racing at his throat. "I believe the appropriate Standard phrase is 'mind-blowing'".
Jim swallows again, and tries his best to keep his expression neutral, because Spock just described him (OK, his work, but still) as "mind-blowing", and damn if that's not the hottest thing Jim's heard in a long time.
He clears his throat. "Uh, wow, mind-blowing. Really. What makes this Kirkpatrick character so special?"
Spock is clearly thrilled to be talking to someone about this, although Jim probably isn't his first pick. Nonetheless, he continues, punctuating his explanation with sporadic hand gestures Jim has never seen him make before. Then again, he's never really seen Spock in his element before. The effect is disarming. He can't help but sit back and watch in awe.
"Dr. Kirkpatrick has formulated a theory of nuclear astrophysics with extremely far-reaching implications for the Federation. His research puts us as close as we have yet come to understanding the situation on Romulus. Additionally, if Kirkpatrick is correct, there are similarities between Alpha Quadrant humanoids dating back to the Big Bang. Such kinship would likely be of great benefit to ongoing diplomatic efforts."
"Huh." He tries to stifle the huge smile that's threatening to take over his face. It's tough, but he manages it.
"That does sound pretty awesome. So if this guy's so great, why isn't he giving lectures left, right, and center? You'd think Starfleet would've hit him pretty hard with the recruiting by now."
Spock leans forward again, looking around before continuing almost conspiratorially.
"Dr. Kirkpatrick is very reclusive. Outside of his published research, almost nothing is known of him personally. What is widely known is his refusal to accept speaking invitations, or to make public appearances at conferences or at any other scientific forum. He has doctoral degrees from UCLA and UC-Berkeley, respectively, but his current whereabouts are unknown." Spock lowers his voice even further, almost whispering now, and his brown eyes are dark and intense. There's a warm coil of feeling that stirs in Jim's belly when the Vulcan turns that dark gaze on him.
Jim's palms are sweating, and he wipes them on his pants under the table, leaving warm trails along his legs. "However," -and Jim could swear Spock pauses dramatically here on purpose- "I believe that he has remained on Earth, in California."
"What makes you think he's still on Earth?"
"Because," Spock says in a triumphant whisper, "he has written me a letter."
Jim stares down at the chessboard pensively, chin propped on a hand. He idly taps a finger over his lips in contemplation, deciding his next move. He reaches forward and moves his knight laterally, seeing a threat coming from Spock's bishop. Having secured the knight for the time being, he asks conversationally, "So, I hear you're getting another paper published on…what was it again?"
Spock quirks an eyebrow in slight amusement, as if Jim's inability to keep track of his First Officer's diverse collection of research specialties comes as no surprise.
"An Analysis of the Composition of Ion Storm IOC-2803 and Its Impact on the Surrounding Systems."
"Right. That," Jim gestures, encouraging him to elaborate. "How's that going for you?"
"All is well. My paper has been revised and is currently undergoing peer evaluation by a panel of fellow researchers."
"Cool. I'm sure it won't take long for them to see its brilliance," Jim says, then winces. He's laying it on a bit thick. "So, is it something that Dr. Patrick can look over? Maybe give you some feedback?"
"Dr. Kirkpatrick," Spock corrects. "And yes, its subject matter is indeed in his field of expertise."
"Cool." Jim nods, looking down at his hands.
They sit in silence before Jim speaks again. "So...the letter. I did some asking around, and apparently receiving correspondence from this guy is a pretty big deal. What did he write to you?"
Spock leans forward, over the chessboard, his voice dropping an octave as if he's afraid Jonathan Kirkpatrick is somehow omniscient and will revoke Spock's membership in his secret fan club if he overhears their conversation. "Captain, with whom have you spoken regarding my correspondence with Dr. Kirkpatrick?"
"Oh, no one- don't worry, your secret's safe with me. I just asked a couple people from the lab what they knew about him. He's a pretty intriguing guy."
Spock gives Jim a long, measured look, as if subjecting him to some sort of intense internal scrutiny. Seemingly reassured, his lips twitch upward ever so slightly.
"Would you… like to see?"
Spock bends down from his chair to the floor where he has left his PADD and a small pile of paperwork. He pulls out an envelope, clasping it reverently for a moment before wordlessly hands it over. Jim opens it carefully. It's written on real paper with old-fashioned ink.
Dear Commander Spock, I believe we have a mutual acquaintance in Admiral Christopher Pike. He alerted me to your letters. I admit, I was most intrigued at his insistence that I read and eventually reply to you. I can see now why he was so adamant. Your questions and observations were acute and addressed several interesting issues. Your responses are unusually analytical and insightful; simply reading through the volume of mail I receive weekly would significantly encroach on my research. For this reason, Admiral Pike has generously volunteered to screen my mail, and I am most grateful that he saved your letter for my perusal. He typically sends them straight to the recycler. For my part, I have read a number of your many published articles in various fields. I must say, Spock, mastery of such diverse material is quite an accomplishment. I admit, I was curious as to why you chose to build on my research, particularly the piece I most recently submitted. However, your follow up with the Ion Storm IOC-2803 in the same system was quite thoughtful. I must say, it is an honor and privilege to receive your regards and observations. I know you must be quite busy, not only as an officer on active duty onboard a flagship of the 'Fleet, but also as an emerging power in the scientific community. I hope that your time on the U.S.S. Enterprise is fruitful and productive. I look forward to seeing and hearing more from you. Best of luck for the future, Jonathan Kirkpatrick
I believe we have a mutual acquaintance in Admiral Christopher Pike. He alerted me to your letters. I admit, I was most intrigued at his insistence that I read and eventually reply to you. I can see now why he was so adamant. Your questions and observations were acute and addressed several interesting issues. Your responses are unusually analytical and insightful; simply reading through the volume of mail I receive weekly would significantly encroach on my research. For this reason, Admiral Pike has generously volunteered to screen my mail, and I am most grateful that he saved your letter for my perusal. He typically sends them straight to the recycler.
For my part, I have read a number of your many published articles in various fields. I must say, Spock, mastery of such diverse material is quite an accomplishment. I admit, I was curious as to why you chose to build on my research, particularly the piece I most recently submitted. However, your follow up with the Ion Storm IOC-2803 in the same system was quite thoughtful.
I must say, it is an honor and privilege to receive your regards and observations. I know you must be quite busy, not only as an officer on active duty onboard a flagship of the 'Fleet, but also as an emerging power in the scientific community. I hope that your time on the U.S.S. Enterprise is fruitful and productive.
I look forward to seeing and hearing more from you.
Best of luck for the future,
"Are you going to write back?"
"I do not yet know." Spock looks genuinely uncertain, even troubled, and Jim can't help but think back to his earlier comparison to a crushed-out teenager.
"C'mon, Spock. The man left you his address. He wouldn't have done that if he didn't expect a reply. From what Ensign Jeffries told me, people would kill for this."
Spock raises a dubious eyebrow and Jim hands back the folded letter, taking care not to crease the delicate paper any further. "This may seem…childish to you, Jim, but I do not wish to appear…overly eager. I respect Dr. Kirkpatrick…his work, that is, very much, and…"
Oh yeah, Jim thinks. Spock definitely has a crush on the good doctor. He tries to ignore the odd flutter in his chest at this realization. After all, from Spock's perspective, this really has nothing at all to do with him.
"Well, I don't know much about scientific protocol or institutional politics or whatever you're worried about," Jim says, and Spock opens his mouth as if to object, but Jim holds up one hand to still him. "But…I think you should write back, Spock."
Jim sent the first letter on paper, wrote it painstakingly in ink, because he thought it seemed like something an eccentric genius would do. He keeps doing it because he likes it. There's something almost artistic in sitting down to compose a letter with pen and paper, a craftsmanship that isn't there with a PADD. Maybe there are benefits to a largely paperless society- certainly, the number of records the Enterprise generates in a single 24-hour period would be overwhelming if they weren't digital- but Jim finds that there's a certain romance in writing out his thoughts this way. Although, why romance is important in his correspondence with his First Officer, who doesn't even realize who he's corresponding with- well, Jim tries not to think too hard about that.
But it's the way Spock reads the letters, furtively; pouring over them, gripping one corner of the page delicately, and sliding them in and out of their envelopes with thin, nimble fingers. Such reverence, thinks Jim, deserves more than a sterile digital file.
So he special-orders a box of thick cream notepaper from a Terran stationer. It's pricey, and it drives him nuts when he smudges the ink or has to cross something out and start over on a new sheet. But his letters to Spock are becoming more like compositions, every word drafted and carefully chosen. Shit, he's starting to feel like he needs a proofreader for these things, or maybe a copy editor. Sometimes he worries about staying in character. It feels good, talking to Spock like this, in a way he's never been able to as Jim Kirk.
He's something of an unlikely scientist, after all- it started out as a passing interest, back in Iowa, sophomore year. Ms. Cooper saw his grades, and his permanent record, and decided that the incongruities there could be chalked up to one thing: boredom. He could still remember how he felt in the empty classroom the day she gave him the literature on accelerated science courses at Riverside Community College. For the first time, he felt noticed for something other than his father's eyes, his mean right hook, or his dubious skill at hotwiring vehicles of all kinds.
And then the Academy-there was a great university consortium in California, and Starfleet was just starting up a few joint doctoral programs with Berkeley, and so he just kept going. Jim's research was a thing unto itself- not his father's, not Starfleet's, and as Jonathan Kirkpatrick gathered more and more accolades, not really Kirk's anymore, either. And he's fine with that. As he tells Pike, he's not sure the galaxy is ready for Jim Kirk, Youngest Captain in Starfleet History and Supergenius. He prefers exceeding expectations. It's more fun that way.
There's considerable lag time between letters, as both sets have to go through the post office box in San Francisco that Pike has the key to. But Jim finds himself looking forward to Spock's letters to Kirkpatrick as much as he does their own chess games or quiet meals in the mess. He's also begun to take perverse pleasure in the fact that he's the only person who knows about Spock's epistolary relationship with the scientist.
It is, after all, illogical for Spock to confide in someone he believes to have the barest understanding of- and even less personal interest in- Kirkpatrick and his research.
But the letters keep coming, and Spock keeps bringing them along when he and Jim meet in their free time. Spock slides the envelopes across the table shyly, and seems slightly ill at ease while Jim reads. He alternately fidgets, looks at his hands, and taps his fingers in a staccato on the edge of the chessboard.
"You're really lucky, you know that?" Jim asks after rereading his latest missive. He affords it the same care Spock does as he slides it back in its envelope.
Spock looks up. "Captain?"
"I was just thinking…it must be really nice to have a colleague to talk to, bounce ideas off of. I mean, you have a whole department on board, but let's face it, there's only so much insight you can get from a bunch of techs and ensigns."
"I find working alongside those just beginning their scientific careers to be eminently rewarding," Spock says, a hint of reproach in his tone. "However, I will accede to your point; my correspondence with Dr. Kirkpatrick has been extremely refreshing. It has been quite some time since I have had the opportunity to share my work with a fellow scientist of his caliber." He pauses, appearing to choose his words carefully before continuing.
"Jim, you know the great value I place on my position as your…as First Officer of the Enterprise. I would ask that you not take offense to what I am about to say. I rarely have occasion to question my decision to enlist in Starfleet and decline the Vulcan Science Academy's offer of admission. When I correspond with Dr. Kirkpatrick, I succumb to a most distressing and illogical feeling of nostalgia for my course of study on Vulcan."
Spock regards Jim cautiously, apparently searching his face for signs of anger.
Jim stares back at Sock for a long moment, and when he speaks he finds his voice is hoarse. "You mean he makes you wonder what might have been. If you'd stayed."
Spock bites his lower lip. "As I said, it is most illogical, given that in all likelihood I would not currently be alive had I remained on Vulcan."
"It's human, Spock. Uh, no offense. I just mean…it's reasonable to… wondering 'what if', when you've made a huge, life-altering choice? It's natural to wonder what might have happened if you'd taken the other path. Even before we found out there was an alternate reality out there." Jim shoots Spock what's hopefully a reassuring smile. It's about a light year from the clenching sensation in his gut. He's not sure what shocks him more- the depth of emotion their correspondence has clearly provoked in Spock, or the fact that he's actually telling Jim about it.
Luckily, Jim is the first person to admit that he's in way over his head. For all his accomplishments as a researcher of galactic renown, his genius isn't enough for this particular predicament. So, tail between his legs, he goes to the one person he knows will tell it like it is, now with extra reprimanding. He makes his way down to Deck 5 and walks into Sickbay. The familiar brassy voice, currently engaged in lecturing a patient on the finer points of wound care, reassures him. Content to wait until the good doctor is finished, Jim settles onto a biobed.
"Jim?" Bones asks in his direction, finally noticing him in the doorway. He takes in his captain's demeanor and the frown deepens on his face between his brows. He walks over to Jim. "What's going on? If this is about that allergic reaction you had to that Andorian bodywash, I told you it can take up to six weeks for the blue tinge to fade, and..."
"Yeah, thanks, Bones, great doctoring. Anyway. I have a hypothetical situation for you," Jim begins.
"No," Bones answers immediately. "I'm not giving you sex advice."
"Dr. McCoy, I am deeply offended. That is definitely not what I'm here for!"
Bones rolls his eyes. "'Course not. But if you should happen to stray onto the topic, just be advised: I ain't answering."
"Hey, not my fault you're a hopeless prude. Ain't nothing wrong with sex, Bones. But can we talk in your office?" Jim looks around. "This conversation isn't exactly for, uh idle ears."
Bones lets out a put-upon sigh. "C'mon then."
They settle in, Jim engaging the privacy lock and settling into McCoy's chair. "Man, this thing is hard as a rock."
"It's ergonomic. That marshmallow you sit in up on the bridge is murder on your back, you know. So, talk," Bones says.
"So, hypothetically. Let's say I know someone who's really famous…someone even you've heard of. And say this… person… wants to go somewhere…oh, I dunno, like the San Francisco Symposium…," Jim rambles on. "And, uh…let's say Spock sort of asked for shore leave to go. And then he invited someone else along. Except this other person doesn't really exist. Except on paper."
McCoy shakes his head as if to clear it, then pinches the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger. Jim knows that look- it's got "Jim Kirk is up to some fucking shenanigans, and I'm going to have to run damage control" written all over it.
"What are you getting at here, Jim? Is this some kind of joke you're playing on Spock?"
"Not exactly," Jim draws out his answer.
"Jim, don't sprinkle sugar on this bull and call it candy," Bones growls at him. "Start from the beginning."
"Aw, Bones, I love it when you get all folksy," Jim says with mock affection. He's stalling, and they both know it. Bones glares daggers.
"Ok, ok," Jim acquiesces. It's a long story, but I can tell you're not in the mood, so I'll just cut to the chase. I can explain the rest to you later if you want, but basically: I'm Jonathan Kirkpatrick," Jim blurts. He closes his eyes, then opens one cautiously. It appears he may have actually stunned Bones into silence.
"Wait. That astrophysicist? All right, I'll bite," Bones leans forward on his arms. "Let's hear it."
So Jim tells Bones everything: about his research; about how it all started; about how Pike knows. And- and this part is the hardest- about how he's been sending letters to Spock because he just couldn't help but respond.
"Dammit, Jim, what the hell were you thinking?"
"I don't know what I was thinking. I didn't mean to let it go this far, Bones, honest. But talking to him like that… and now he's going to this symposium, and I…he…he can't just not show up. I can't do that to him. So I've got to do something."
He shows Bones Spock's last letter, with its characteristically verbose question. Per usual, Spock used a paragraph when a sentence would do.
The Enterprise will be granted shore leave at Starfleet Headquarters in one month's time, for a period corresponding with the annual San Francisco Symposium. Should you be planetside at this time, I propose a meeting at the conference. As you know, this year's Symposium heralds the reinstatement of the Vulcan Science Academy's research labs. As such, it is of great personal importance to me.(this last sentence is slightly smudged.) Please reply at your convenience."
Bones lets out another long sigh, and looks off into the distance for several minutes. Jim waits. "So, pretend you didn't have this little case of mistaken identity to worry about," Bones asks at last. "Do you want to go with Spock? Talk about singularities and the space-time continuum and all that shit?"
Jim's eyes flicker, imagining, and he feels blood rise in his face. "Yeah. Yeah, I would."
Bones shakes his head. "You never do make this easy, do you?"
"Bones…" Jim whines.
"You're in love with that goddamn hobgoblin, aren't you?"
"No, I'm…" defeated, Jim breaks off his denial. He buries his face in his hands. "Goddammit, Bones. How did this happen?"
"Thought so," Bones snorts. He opens a drawer and pulls out a small bound volume: The Galactic Journal of Comparative Xenobiology.
"Here, first things first. Sign this. At least I'll have some good come out of this debacle. Make it out to 'My dearest friend, Dr. Leonard McCoy.' And yes, if you're really that famous, I might pawn it someday. Second: you come clean with Spock. He might be a Vulcan, and damned if I don't find him completely inscrutable half the time, but you can't play around with a man like that."
"Bones, he's really serious about Kirkpatrick. I'm kind of scared he might kill me when he finds out."
"Well, Jim, if it's meant to be…it'll work itself out. But when in doubt, 'I'm sorry' tends to be a good start."
His next letter is brief. Jim is starting to overthink these things, and he's worried about tripping himself up somehow.
Commander Spock, I would appreciate the opportunity to meet you and discuss our work in person. All Best, J. Kirkpatrick.
I would appreciate the opportunity to meet you and discuss our work in person.
He should have known it wouldn't be that easy. He's almost to the transporter room when his comm unit beeps. It's Scotty, and he's yelling something about a fire in one of the Jeffries tubes, and Jim can hear Keenser squalling in the background. He groans, head in hands, and looks at his watch. "Kirkpatrick" is supposed to be meeting Spock for dinner in half an hour down on the surface. "Can you handle it without me? I'm running late for something in the city."
"Sorry, Captain, but it's Ensign Torres. She'd gone up the tube to fix some wiring and the fire broke out below her. We're trying to get it taken are of, but she's panicking. We could really use you. " Jim doesn't know half of what Scotty and his spiny green friend get up to down on the Engineering deck, but he's pretty sure a lot of it isn't kosher, and sometimes it results in fires and mild-to-grievous bodily harm. He really hopes this one is mild. And he really likes Torres. "Shit, Scotty. Keep her calm. I'll be right there."
It's a nasty electrical fire, and it's doesn't go out easily, but they finally get it under control. Jim delivers Torres to sickbay to be treated for smoke inhalation and mild shock, and thanks god it wasn't worse. He supposes it's a testament to his professionalism that it's only when he returns to his quarters, completely drained, that he remembers Spock. That doesn't make him feel any better.
Spock is back on the ship the next morning. He enters the mess and walks stiffly to the replicator, procuring a cup of tea before joining Jim at a table with a terse little nod. "So, how was the symposium?"
Spock swallows. "I was regrettably unable to spend much time there. I found myself otherwise occupied. It was, unfortunately, a most unproductive use of my time."
Jim feels gutted. He wants to apologize, wants to get down on his knees and beg forgiveness for something he theoretically hadn't done. The irony of the situation is that, had Spock been meeting Jim Kirk for dinner in San Francisco, he'd understand in a heartbeat why Jim couldn't make their date. As it is, Spock stares into his tea for a long moment before looking up at Jim. "Ensign Torres is recovering?"
"Yeah, and Scotty got everything under control, figured out what caused the fire in the first place. Fuck, it was scary, Spock. I'm impressed she held it together the way she did. Imagine being stuck in a tube with a fire blocking your way out…" he shudders.
"I would prefer not to, Captain."
"Me too, really. But unfortunately, I was there. So what are you doing today?"
"I thought to return to the symposium, but I have accumulated a considerable backlog of paperwork. It would be prudent to complete it prior to leaving spacedock."
"Spock, you've been looking forward to this for months. And who knows where we'll be this time next year. Light years away, probably. You can't waste this golden opportunity to commune with other super-nerds locked in your quarters filling out forms. You should go."
Spock purses his lips, considering.
"I'll…I'll go with you."
Spock looks surprised. "Jim?"
"Seriously. We'll go down and check out the science fair. It'll be fun. I'll even buy you dinner after. I heard about this vegetarian restaurant, and…" Spock's expression does not change as Jim speaks, but he thinks the Vulcan's eyes soften just a little. And just like that, they have a date. Only one of them actually knows it's a date, but Jim tries not to think about that.
As Spock noted in his last letter to "Kirkpatrick', this year's Symposium is dedicated to the newly-reopened Vulcan Science Academy. Accordingly, Starfleet brings out its best and brightest to pay tribute to the efforts of the visiting Vulcan scientists who narrowly escaped Nero's attack. It's a somber day, of course, but also one filled with the exhilaration of new discovery. Spock is much sought after, and Jim is content to trail in the Vulcan's wake. It's fun to watch, anyway: young, budding scientists eager for Spock to see their work, trying to affect nonchalance but preening at a nod or subtle hint of interest. Spock calls one young biologist's work fascinating and the poor girl looks fit to faint.
They happen upon an exhibit of interest to both Jim and Spock, focused on the metallicity of stars. The young post-doctoral researcher conducting the study is human; prior to the destruction of Vulcan, he was one of a handful of Terran scientists collaborating on the Academy's deep space research. His sources include works by both Spock and, incidentally, Jonathan Kirkpatrick. The young man visibly falters when he recognizes the Vulcan approaching. Spock cuts an imposing figure, a column of black amongst Starfleet uniforms and the multi-hued clothing of countless visitors. Jim thinks he does it on purpose.
Spock doesn't say a word at first, but begins to look at the presentation carefully, doubtless making copious mental notes. After a few minutes' perusal, Spock stands up straight and turns his attention to the young man.
"What nucleosynthesis did you determine with the physical composition of Star 283?" Spock asks.
Jim smirks. At least Spock's starting with an easy question.
The man, clearly surprised and pleased at the attention, straightens his uniform. The gesture reminds Jim of Spock, and he can't help but smile. The scientist answers, his voice shaking ever-so-slightly. "With the probes I was using, I was able to determine that the primordial compositions of this star were similar to those Dr. Kirkpatrick studied from the Type II supernova. The forming supernova of the star synthesized carbon through uranium, and gave heavy-element enriched matter to the interstellar gas. "This," he says, opening a diagram on his portable PADD and offering it to Spock, "is one of the stars that formed along a chain."
"I have lately had the privilege of corresponding with Dr. Kirkpatrick," Spock says. "He states that he studies the metallicity of the stars as a function of time. Did you utilize this technique in your own research?"
"I tried to give it my best estimate. The supernova is older than the star, you see. I gave my best guess at around three billion years."
Jim strolls nonchalantly behind the young scientist, turning away from him as if to inspect the display behind him.
"I believe…Dr. Kirkpatrick founded his theory on four billion years. Please explain your theory."
A crowd begins to gather around them, but it's no wonder, Jim thinks, given how familiar everyone seems to be with Spock's research. And his, albeit unknowingly. The debate draws to a close, Spock seemingly satisfied with the quality of the young physicist's answers. Spock inclines his head, indicating the end of the conversation, and moves off to inspect another display. Jim steps forward and shakes the younger man's slightly sweaty hand.
"Good work," Jim says with a smile. "He grills you because he cares, you know. Scares the crap out of me half the time. But he was telling the truth, earlier. He is in contact with Kirkpatrick, and I'm sure he'll let him know all about your project.
The younger man visibly relaxes. "Thanks, sir," he offers. Jim claps him on the arm reassuringly and turns to catch up with Spock, who has moved on to a model detailing the seventeen Vegan ice ages. He nudges Spock gently with his shoulder.
"Look at you! You're all over this science fair." Jim offers a fist-bump.
Spock raises an eyebrow, keeping both fists securely at his sides. "Must remind you again that this is an intergalactic research symposium? It is not a science fair."
"So you had those on Vulcan? I bet you kicked ass. You probably made a mean model volcano. Anyway, you were totally quizzing the poor guy back there."
"Captain, that situation was described in my pedagogy seminars at Starfleet as a 'teachable moment.' It is imperative that one be comfortable defending one's thesis in the face of critique."
"Well, you almost taught that guy into losing his breakfast. You're pretty intimidating, you know."
"I assure you, I have no idea what you are referring to, Captain."
Lunch is a veritable smorgasbord of Vulcan delicacies. Jim gets a kids meal, because it's the only thing with French fries. He has the feeling that actual Vulcan kids would be snickering into their plomeek soup at his order, but whatever.
Spock eats more than Jim has ever seen him put away in one go, and he makes a note to get someone working on the replicators' Vulcan recipes as soon as they get back up to the ship. Spock could stand to gain a few pounds.
Spock is quieter than usual, especially given the massive influx of fascinating research he's most likely assimilating. Jim even catches him gazing off into space a few times before quickly meeting Jim's eyes and then returning to his plate. It reminds Jim of the day in the mess when Spock first told him about the letter, and he can't stand it.
"So, what's the coolest thing you've seen so far?" he asks. Spock looks up at him as if he's surprised to hear Jim making conversation on anything beyond how truly funky Vulcan food smells.
"Jim, while I appreciate your company at today's event, it is not necessary to feign interest in the subject matter for the sake of a perceived emotional need on my part."
Jim places his hands exaggeratedly over his heart. "I'm truly hurt, Mr. Spock. And you should know that I am genuinely interested in the metallicity of stars…or whatever." He adds this last for good measure. Hopefully he's being convincingly clueless enough.
Spock gives him a look reminiscent of a parent indulging a small child.
"Ah, forget it…I know I'm not up to par. You'll have to go find someone in the lab to nerdgasm with. Anyway, why isn't your buddy Kirkpatrick here? I'd think this kind of thing would be right up his alley, and you two could run around flailing over astrophysics all you want." It's low, he thinks, really low. But Spock didn't have to look at him like that, either.
Spock seems to consider his words carefully before he responds. "In fact, I did have plans to meet Dr. Kirkpatrick here," he says. "However, he did not appear at the appointed time. It is logical to assume that he simply had more pressing matters to attend to and was unable to reach me to change our plans. Although…I must admit to a degree of…distress." Spock looks at him a little helplessly, and Jim now feels like a complete ass for bringing this up.
"He stood you up?"
"In a manner of speaking."
"Man, I'm sorry, Spock. But I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose. He's a professional, right? Something must have come up."
"You are most likely correct," Spock says.
"I know I'm correct. I bet he'll get in touch and reschedule soon."
Spock looks reassured for a moment before schooling his features into impassivity. Something in his look makes Jim's stomach turn, not unpleasantly.
He excuses himself, making a dumb joke about plomeek soup going straight through him. As soon as he gets into the bathroom stall, he pulls out his mobile PADD and hits "Compose new message".
Sitting in the restaurant, Jim concludes that this was actually a completely terrible idea. He continues to ruminate, gazing around the small, high-end Noe Valley café. It's simple and elegant: blond wood, white tablecloths, twee mismatched vases filled with wildflowers. He wonders if it's the kind of restaurant a renowned astrophysicist takes a date. Do renowned astrophysicists go on dates? He doesn't know. Great, thinks Jim, I probably gave myself away the second I suggested meeting outside the barren confines of the Starfleet labs. He fingers the manuscript next to his bread plate. He hopes Spock will like it. If anything, it will be a decent peace offering if things go south.
Jim loosens his tie for the fifth time; it's not getting any looser unless he takes it off, and that's not going to fly in this place. He's not sure why he wore a suit tonight. It seemed appropriate somehow. There's still time to leave, he thinks blindly. And then, suddenly, there's not. The maitre d' walks up to the table, cutting a path through the room with Spock in tow. Jim gulps-the Vulcan looks incredible, clad in an actual suit. Per usual, there's not a hair out of place. Jim supposes Spock took extra care dressing tonight, though Jim's pretty sure it's illogical to be overly concerned with such superficialities.
Obviously distracted, Spock scans the restaurant. Jim wonders what exactly he's looking for, what Jonathan Kirkpatrick looks like in his mind's eye. When he sees Jim, he gives a little start. He looks both curious and slightly uncomfortable. It's not quite the combination Jim was looking for, but he'll take it.
"Hey, Spock," Jim says with an awkward little wave. "How's it going? You look good tonight."
Spock favors him with a raised eyebrow. Jim feels very warm.
"Thank you, Captain. It is quite coincidental that we should find ourselves dining at the same establishment. I have been told it is quite obscure." Spock glances at the floor, and Jim thinks he looks flushed, too. Spock looks around again. "You will excuse me. I am…meeting someone."
Shit, here goes nothing. "Dr. Jonathan Kirkpatrick. He rescheduled. Is that right?"
Spock blinks. To his credit, he doesn't miss a beat. "That is correct. Who informed you of this? I did not receive his communication until you and I had parted ways," he asks crisply.
Jim schools his features into nonchalance. Trying to ignore the pounding of his heart, he leans back in his chair, stretching his legs out under the table. "No one."
Spock regards him with a dark, impenetrable gaze. Jim can practically see the wheels turning. Spock's an actual rocket scientist, and Jim knows it won't be long til he puts all the pieces together. He's got maybe seconds. Spock grips the opposite chair, hands clenching white, and his jaw twitches minutely. So he's got it, then.
Jim sees two possible things happening now, and both end with Spock never speaking to him again. There's also the distinct possibility of a first-class ticket on the Nerve Pinch Express.
Spock just stands there, and Jim thinks that if a Vulcan could gape, that's what he'd be doing. As it is, his grip on the back of the chair tightens almost imperceptibly. Any tighter, and his superior strength will crack the wood.
"Spock. Sit. You're making me nervous."
Spock sits. He is pale, his lips pressed together bloodlessly. Jim fancies himself a pretty dab hand at reading his friend, but he realizes with abject terror that he has no idea where this is going.
"So. I can explain."
"Captain, what precisely are your motives in waylaying Dr. Kirkpatrick this evening? If you have taken issue with my plans to attend the Symposium while docked in San Francisco, you need only have said as much. Indeed, as you encouraged me to attend today…"
"Taken issue with- no, no way, Spock, it's nothing like that. And you've been looking forward to this for months, there's no way I…you'd have stayed on the ship?"
Spock straightens. "Though I admit I have difficulty imagining a scenario in which my presence on the Enterprise would be required while in spacedock, my duty is first and foremost that of her First Officer."
Jim is struck with a sudden, fierce burst of affection for his friend. He smiles in spite of himself.
"Spock, it's not what you think. I haven't waylaid anyone."
"Then I admit to finding myself…I believe the phrase is, 'in the dark'?" Spock says carefully.
Jim clears his throat. "OK. Here goes. Although, before I start, I'd like to place a moratorium on killing me. At least, not tonight. If you can wait til we get back to the ship and on some mission so you can make it look like I went down fighting, I'd really appreciate it."
"Jim. You are babbling."
"Right." Jim's mouth is suddenly dry. "Yeah. I do that when I get nervous as fuck, OK, Spock?"
"I fail to see a parallel between anxiety and sexual activity in this context, Captain."
Jim thinks Spock might get literal when he's nervous.
"Spock…Shit, there's no other way to say this except to just say it. I…I am Jonathan Kirkpatrick." And that's that. Jim sits back and waits for the fallout. It's not a completely unfamiliar situation, although he has to say he never fathomed he'd ever be in it with Spock.
The fallout doesn't come. Instead, Spock stares very hard at his water glass. Presently, he looks up at Jim. His expression is completely unreadable, and Jim thinks that's probably deliberate. "Explain." It's not a request.
"It's a long story."
"It would appear, Captain, that I have all night."
Jim sighs. Suddenly everything is wrong; he didn't know what he was thinking, doing this, meeting Spock here. The fine china, the soft lighting- it all seems faintly obscene, and the intimate room is claustrophobic, its walls pressing in on him. "Look, are you hungry? I'm not hungry."
"I find my appetite has diminished considerably in the past several minutes."
"Do you want to get out of here?"
"I would not be averse to a change of locale."
"OK, great. I…I booked a room at a hotel. It's not far. Look, just walk with me there, and I'll explain everything. I can't tell you all this here, with all these people." Spock nods cautiously, and Jim's glad he didn't have the glass (bottle) of wine he considered, because it means they can just walk out with a mumbled apology to their server as he arrives to take their drink orders.
Jim gestures wildly at Spock's retreating back, making what probably looks like a pained grimace as he follows his First Officer out of the dining room. Out on the street, it's chilly; a fog is rolling in. The streetlights turn the moisture in the air into little glowing clouds at intervals along the sidewalk. The scene feels like something out of a 19th century novel. Jim thinks he makes a pretty poor excuse for a gothic hero, although Spock might not be so bad.
They walk in silence; Jim can feel Spock's eyes on him as he matches him stride for stride. Spock does not say a word, although Jim can almost hear the questions filling the space between them. The hotel is less than a mile away, but it feels like ten. Finally, they get there- it's a small boutique operation in a preserved Victorian; the gingerbread woodwork on the balconies and windowsills is lavender and so sweet it makes Jim's teeth hurt, but it's small, and it's private. He keys into the lobby and nods at the girl behind the desk before ushering Spock up the stairs. "Second door on the left, yeah, that's the one."
Spock sits gingerly on the corner of the bed. Jim paces. Now that they're here, he finds he has no idea how to explain. It was easy with Bones. But it didn't matter with Bones, thinks Jim. "So. Yeah. I'm Kirkpatrick. I didn't mean to let it get this far without telling you, but I didn't know how to tell you."
"I regret that.. I do not fully understand your motivation for developing such an elaborate prank. And that Admiral Pike should have become involved…it is difficult for me to comprehend, although I admit to some difficulty parsing the intricacies of human behavior. Who could have consulted you in astrophysics? The concepts you…the concepts discussed were very advanced, and…. " Spock doesn't sound mad exactly, just confused. And hurt; there's definitely more than a trace of hurt in his tone, try as he might to mask it with academic curiosity at how Jim possibly could have managed to pull off such a completely dick move.
Spock trails off, and fuck, Jim feels sick at the thought of him spending their entire walk to the hotel thinking himself the butt of some ridiculous joke.
"Spock, remember when I said you were lucky? I meant it. I didn't consult with anybody on those letters. That's my research. All of it. I didn't tell you because…because I've never told anyone. Pike's the only one who knows, and that's only because he sold me on the dual PhD program at Berkeley when he was trying to get me to join up." He pauses, glancing at Spock, still sitting poker-straight on the edge of the bed. He is worrying a loose thread from the duvet cover between thumb and forefinger.
"Anyway," Jim continues, "I said you were lucky because I've never been able to talk to anyone about my research, really talk to them, you know? You had it on Vulcan, you have it in the lab on the ship. And maybe no one in the science department is really on your level, but at least it's remotely plausible to you that they might understand what you're talking about. It's lonely. So when you wrote me, I couldn't help it. I had to write back."
Spock opens his mouth as if to protest, but Jim keeps talking. He needs to get this out. "No, come off it, Spock, you would never in a million years have guessed that I'd be the least bit interested in astrophysics. I'm Jim Kirk. I shoot first and think later. And yeah, I end up on top most of the time. But it's not exactly rocket science. I can't even fly the damn things, let along tell you how they work. Except, turns out I can." He heaves a sigh, flopping heavily onto the bed next to Spock, leaning back on his hands.
"OK, I'm done now. You may now proceed to verbally eviscerate me."
Spock just stares, as if he's having trouble reconciling his ridiculous captain with the beauty and eloquence in those letters.
"It was you."
"It was me. All of it. It is me."
Spock shifts closer, the mattress sinking under their combined weight and causing them both to pitch forward, toward each other. Their knees are touching. Slowly, deliberately, Spock moves his hand, until his fingertips are barely touching Jim's. It feels cautious, experimental.
Spock draws himself up. "In that case, Jim, I wish to thank you. I have greatly enjoyed our correspondence," he says formally.
Jim laughs. He reaches across and grabs a fistful of Spock's shirt, dragging him forward, and kisses him. It feels like one of the letters- Jim pours everything he is- captain, scientist, misunderstood genius (and, damn, he likes that last one)- into Spock's mouth. He's still for a moment, as if gauging the situation, and then he's kissing Jim back with fervor, hand snaking back to clasp the nape of his neck.
Suddenly, Spock pulls away, pressing his palms flat against Jim's chest as if to steady himself and gasping into Jim's mouth.
"I…I wish to make a request of you. It is…considerable, and I will understand if-"
"Anything," Jim says, and means it. "Ask for the heavens, and I'll bring you down a star," he singsongs.
"I wish to meld with you. It…that is, I have long wondered…what his mind would be like. Jim, please-it is not a request I make lightly, and you are certainly well within your rights to decline."
Jim boggles, because Spock's basically just told him that a) he fantasizes and b) he fantasizes about playing around in Jim's mind. He laughs, gently, so Spock understands he's not laughing at him. "So are you telling me that if Kirkpatrick were real, you'd be asking him to go traipsing around in his brain like an amusement park?"
Spock flushes a delicate shade of olive. "On the contrary. In that case, I believe the matter would never have escaped the realm of speculation. However, with this revelation…I find I am experiencing extreme curiousity regarding the state of your mental landscape."
"You're curious about me, Spock?" Jim says teasingly.
Spock looks him in the eye. Jim feels like he's falling, or swimming. "Irresistibly."
Jim feels a curl of warmth spiral up inside him. He smiles languidly. "Then who am I to deny you?"
Spock closes his eyes and lets out a long, unsteady breath. "Very well. It may be more comfortable if you lie back." Jim complies, scooting back against the headboard.
There's a dreamlike quality to what happens next. Jim is warm, too warm. Spock moves up towards his head, kneeling at his side. He cups Jim's cheek protectively, running his thumb over Jim's lip. Then his hands move to the psi points, Spock whispers his name, and they are gone.
It's different from his meld with Spock's counterpart on Delta Vega- that was an information dump, with Jim's mind a kind of emotional hard drive. It's unlike his other melds with this Spock, too- there's no mission waiting for them, no sense of urgency, and there's nothing in particular Spock is looking for in his mind. It feels almost…playful. For his part, Jim feels as if he's swimming in a warm pool. Spock's mind is like a series of caverns- he can glide through them easily, go where he will, and he gets the impression that Spock can control the degree of accessibility. This is true, Spock thinks, and Jim can see the words hanging in the air before him. You are free to explore my mind. It is a great intimacy you permit me. I would return the favor.
But Jim finds he is content to 's peaceful here in Spock's mind. He's relaxed, basking among the Vulcan's ordered thoughts. He feels Spock browsing gently through his mind, a vague presence broadcasting by turns humor, affection, sympathy, admiration. Time seems to slow down, to stretch like taffy, and presently Jim becomes aware of the faintest tinge of…something else in his mind. Whatever Spock's seeing in Jim's brain, he likes it. A lot. Almost as soon as Jim can name the feeling- desire, he can feel Spock begin to retreat from the meld. Wait, he thinks, and Spock stills. It's…it's ok. Spock lets out a low moan, and Jim can't tell whether it's out loud or in his mind. Using his superior strength, Spock flips them over, pulling Jim beneath him and settling atop him in one smooth motion.
Jim's hands roam Spock's wiry body; through the soft, shiny cap of black hair, over strong back muscles, and then down, down to the curve of Spock's ass. He presses up into Spock, grinding their hips together, unable to stifle a moan of abandon. Spock is gasping now, hot breath at Jim's ear, and he thinks he hears him hiss out something in his native tongue. Show me, thinks Jim. Show me why you wanted him. Jim finds himself at another of Spock's mental caverns. Inside, there are vast swirls of images. Numbers, formulas, fractals, crystalline nebulas, and permeating them all is a vibration, a deep hum of passion and excitement. Science, says Spock. Jim marvels. It's beautiful.
Spock shows him his quarters. He is sitting at his desk, he is reading the first letter. He traces his fingertips over the creamy stock, the cramped handwriting. I wrote in cursive, Jim thinks. I knew you'd know my handwriting if I didn't. Then the next letter, then the next, and oh god, it took Spock days to write them, just like Jim. Spock's voice in his head is small. I wished to present the best possible impression. It is illogical; my work should speak for itself… He pushes a memory to the fore, showing it to Jim. The letters are written on old Earth paper with an old-fashioned ink pen. He has never seen one used, only replicas, old pictures,preserved documents. The writing is in old cursive, flowing from one word to the next with a simple flourish. He does not feel, but if he could, he would feel pride at being one of the few people in contact with the famous doctor. He replies to the letters in kind, though he realizes the next letter may be his last. He treasures each one, keeping them among the small collection of Kirkpatrick's publications and his responses to journals about similar research. Spock's research, particularly.
Jim kisses him again, deep and slow. I loved your letters, he says, and how amazing is it that he can talk to Spock and kiss him at the same time?
He's suddenly aware of their bodies again, pressed close, little sparks of pleasure radiating out from his cock, or from Spock's, mirrored back through the meld. "Clothes," he says aloud, and Spock gives a little sob of complaint at the interruption. Jim sits up a slightly, pulling off his shirt and raising his hips off the bed just enough to shimmy out of his pants. Spock follows suit, and then Jim is cupping his ass with both hands, grinding them against each other and moaning into Spock's mouth. Jim scrapes fingernails down Spock's spine and feels the hot sting of pleasure as if it was his own.
Spock is so hot, and Jim is so close already, from the intensity of the meld and the pressure of Spock's body, pressing Jim's cock flush against his stomach. He worms one arm between them and takes them both in hand. Spock moves his free hand over Jim's, and together they stroke in time. "Yes, yes, just like that, that's perfect, you're perfect.." and Jim knows there's no need for commentary, but the words spill forth anyway, and fuck, telepathic hand-jobs are amazing. Jim gets a definite sense of amusement from Spock through the meld, and he's pretty sure that if Vulcans laughed, Spock would be laughing now. Jim wants everything, wants to be in Spock and around him and everywhere, but right now he can't move, can't do anything but thrust helplessly into Spock's hand and bury his face in his neck, worrying the tender flesh there. When Spock comes, he doesn't make a sound. Jim sees a bright flash behind his eyes and then the shockwave hits him too, sweeping him over the edge and he's coming harder than he can remember over their hands in hot pulses and fuck this was just a hand job, what's sex going to be like fuck fuck fuck and somewhere far away Spock might actually be laughing.
Jim comes back to himself, leaning back against the hotel pillows. His heart is racing, and Spock's face is inches from his. Jim remembers what the older Spock told him about emotional transference, but he's sure not all the intensity of feeling coursing through him now can be attributed to the meld.
Jim looks into Spock's eyes; they are warm and soft, and regard him with both curiosity and a touch of…something else. Uncertainty? Spock still has his hand on Jim's face. Jim looks from Spock's eyes to his lips and then back again, licking his own semi-consciously in the process. The lights in the hotel room suddenly feel too bright, so Jim closes his eyes and leans forward to close the distance between them.
He finds himself idly wishing this were his first-ever kiss. It's quiet, and full of promise. They pull away from each other slightly, eyes meeting, and Jim brings up his left hand to gently cup the side of Spock's face. In response Spock covers Jim's free hand with his own, interlacing their fingers. The simple intimacy of the gesture is not lost on Jim, and he smiles into Spock's mouth.
Spock leans down, resting his forehead against Jim's.
"So, Spock," he says in a whisper. "Be my date for the symposium?"
He is met with what might possibly be a low chuckle, but is probably just Spock hiccupping or something. He rolls off of Jim. They will need to talk about this, whatever this is, whatever is between them now. But for the present, Jim's limbs feel heavy, and Spock is a deliciously warm weight behind him.
He wakes slowly, gradually becoming aware of the soft mattress beneath him, different from the too-stiff Starfleet standard, and of the clear, bright light of a real morning. Jim smiles to himself and rises, propping himself up on an elbow. Across the room, Spock sits cross-legged on a thin black mat, features relaxed in meditation. Sunlight filters in, little golden motes ghosting across Spock's face, and Jim finds himself loathe to end the moment with speech. Instead, he settles in, content to watch for awhile.
Presently, Spock opens his eyes, having completed his morning practice. He looks across at Jim and his face softens.
"Hey," says Jim quietly, breaking the silence in the room. " Are you hungry? Want to get some breakfast and go back to the symposium?"
"I would be amenable to that plan."
Jim chuckles and leaps out of bed, whipping off the covers with gusto.
There's a café nearby, less pretentious than the restaurant from last night. French doors open out onto a little veranda overlooking the bay, and miraculously there's no fog obscuring the view. Jim cannot help but find this auspicious, although he doubts his tablemate would put much stock in Jim's emotional investment in meteorology. They sit in companionable silence. Spock picks at a plate of fruit and sips a cup of tea. Jim shoots him a grin. Both everything and nothing is different. For some reason Jim feels a touch of shyness at this, and cautiously moves his hand across the table to rest a few inches from Spock's. The Vulcan bridges the slight distance between their hands, and he tangles their fingers together for a moment before letting go.
Jim walks through the lab door with a bright grin on his face. It's a hive of activity. Some of the scientists are buzzing around, ferrying little vials from one machine to another. Some are taking recordings, fidgeting and talking amongst themselves as they wait at their machines for results. Jim carefully cuts a path through the room, past a partition and into the state-of-the-art astrophysics lab. He finds Spock patiently explaining calibration techniques to a young ensign. "The sensors for the starboard particle scanner are tuned to the nearest star to Epsilon V, the planet we are currently orbiting. These sensors are used to determine the composition of matter using a magnetic beam resonance, activating the spin of electrons from a distance."
Jim listens quietly to Spock's cool, even voice as he leans casually against the doorframe. He loves to watch Spock teaching one-on-one. Jim's never been the best teacher, but he knows Spock loves dissecting the whys and hows in the name of education.
Spock sees the Captain out of the corner of his eye and turns toward him. The ensign looks vaguely grateful for the reprieve. Spock is nothing if not intense, after all.
"Do you require assistance, Captain?"
"No, carry on. I was just listening in, it's quite …fascinating." Jim smiles at the Vulcan. At his Vulcan, he thinks, and the notion sends a current of warmth through him.
Spock raises a brow and Jim thinks he can make out a flicker of amusement in his eyes, but he carries on. Assured by her competency, Spock leaves Ensign M'Rath to the scanner and turns his attention to Jim.
"Now. How may I assist you, Captain?"
"I haven't been here in awhile, Spock. How 'bout the grand tour?"
Spock inclines his head. "As you wish." He walks out into the larger space, gesturing for Jim to follow. "I think you will appreciate the innovations we have implemented in data analysis. Additionally, I believe it may be fruitful to focus on the Beta Quadrant for this next series of experiments. Reading your…er, Dr. Kirkpatrick's last paper, I was struck by the…"
Jim reaches out with his index and forefinger and touches Spock's lightly. The Vulcan looks at him, and just for a moment Jim can feel the swirl of passion he saw in Spock's mind. "By the readings? And the traces of those old supernovas? I know, right? They were off the charts, there's never been anything like it before…"
Fingers entwined, they walk out into the fluorescence of the room. Through the long bay of windows, the stars beckon.