"Captain, you wished to speak with me?"

"Ah, yes, Spock. Come in. I had a...question."

The Science Officer obligingly took the three steps forward that brought him completely into his captain's quarters. The door slid shut behind him. "Yes, Captain?"

"Jim."

He tilted his head, letting the corners of his mouth relax just slightly. "Jim," he conceded.

"Good. 'Cause this conversation will be weird enough, I don't need you to be reminding me of rank, and really, this is all Bones' fault, I wouldn't have noticed otherwise, but now that he pointed it out I can't help but notice it as well and it shouldn't affect anything, but -"

"Jim. You are babbling."

The human laughed nervously. "I guess I am. What I wanted to ask, Spock, was... have you been staring at me?"

It rather annoyed Spock that the doctor had been the one to notice this. Still, he saw no sense in hiding the truth from Jim, his friend - he deserved it, seeing as he had been careless in his...observations, shall we say.

"Yes, Jim."

His blue eyes were wide, and he licked his lips. "Um...why?"

"Would you like the truth?"

Jim looked annoyed, though he knew better than anyone else that while Vulcans were generally believed to 'never lie', part Vulcans had a little more leeway. "I'd appreciate it, yeah."

Well, it was as good a time as any to let Jim know the extent of his feelings. "Jim, I find that...I practice apodyopsis whenever I look at you."

Spock took a deep breath. That admission was a big one, and totally against his character to make. But Jim...anything was worth doing for Jim. His t'hy'la.

"...what?" came the rather disappointing reply.

Feeling a slanted eyebrow rise, Spock repeated himself, putting extra emphasis on apodyopsis. To his growing horror, Jim shook his head, confused.

"I don't know what that means, Spock. In plain English, please?"

Another deep breath. This was a prolongation of an uncomfortable conversation that he had not anticipated.

"Are you blushing?"

"Inconsequential."

Make that highly uncomfortable. Even so, perhaps there would be a 'happy ending' to it.

Except the red alert chose just then to sound.

Although it was illogical to place blame on something inanimate, Spock did so. His thoughts were...well, let's just say: uncomplimentary and unprintable.

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The Enterprise had come under attack by traders-turned-pirates. While they had subdued the nimble ship quickly enough, and transported their crew aboard to be placed in the brig, one of them managed to break free of the grasp of one of the security crew, and made straight for Jim, a curved knife suddenly in his upraised hand.

The enemy clearly hadn't expected Spock to quickly step forward and nerve pinch him into unconsciousness. Honestly, Jim hadn't expected it either, but it was a welcome surprise. At least, until Spock staggered to the ground, green blood spurting from between his fingers.

Jim, usually unflappable in the most dire of situations, panicked.

"Bones! Get Bones!" he yelled at no one in particular, only dimly aware of the ensign manning the transporter room speaking into the nearest communications panel. His attention was focused on the too-pale face, on the worryingly blank brown eyes. Without thinking he ripped off his command shirt, pressing it to the wound.

Spock's hands were covered in green.

Jim cast his eyes about helplessly, and caught sight of the cause of all this. "Get that fucker out of here," he snarled, and two security personnel snapped to it.

Where the Hell was Bones?

"Spock, don't you fucking die. Who else is going to explain what that apody-blahblah word means?"

Weakly, "…apodyopsis, Captain…"

Jim managed a laugh. "At least you've still got enough strength to correct me. Idiot."

"You…insult me…"

"Yes, I insult you. I'll keep on doing it as long as you continue this self-sacrificing shit. That's my job."

A strange sound emanated from Spock. Jim suddenly realised that it was laughter, albeit extremely weak, and definitely unfamiliar to his ears. It put into perspective how bad the injury was, how much blood his First Officer had lost, how much of the Vulcan control he was so famous for was in tatters.

Desperate, Jim took one of the Vulcan's hands in his own, while his right hand continued pressing his shirt against the stab wound. "Spock, Spock, Spock, stay with me. Don't you dare close your eyes, don't you fucking dare."

He would swear that he felt Spock squeeze back before his fingers went limp and his eyelids fluttered shut. He could remember it as clearly as he could their first meeting – but if anyone questioned him on the way he repeated Spock's name urgently or how he'd held Spock's and his hand, intertwined, to his chest, or how he dazedly sat on the floor of the transporter room after Spock had finally been taken to Sickbay for a full minute before someone summoned enough courage to snap him out of it –

Then Jim would draw a complete blank.

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As much as he wanted to, Jim didn't hover in the Sickbay. He had to interrogate their prisoners, order Sulu to plot a new course, inform Starfleet of the deviation, and write up his report. While these were usually things he left to Spock, but with him undergoing surgery (apparently the idiotic pirate had managed to get him right between his ribs and pelvis – where his heart was), and being perfectly stubborn enough to be willing to do it while recovering – well, needless to say, Jim could suffer a few hours of tedium to prevent that.

This attraction to Spock…wasn't exactly new. Looking back on it, he'd found the Vulcan striking even during the academic hearing, even when he'd been choking him on the bridge, even every time he felt like strangling the Science Officer.

So, yes, he'd had an agenda when he'd called Spock to his quarters several hours ago. He wanted to know if his faint hope was justified, or whether he should kill it before it got too big to contain. However, instead of clarification, all Spock had done was make him more confused. He was good at that.

Speaking of which…

"Hey, Uhura, you busy?"

"No, sir."

"Good!" He walked up to her station and leaned his hip on the console, ignoring her (fondly) annoyed look. "I wanted to ask you something. Since you know big words and all that."

She snorted. "How many syllables does it have? Two?"

"Ouch, Uhura, you wound me. Right there." He tapped the left side of his chest with his finger. "It has like, five. Apodyopsis. Know it?"

This time his Communications Officer looked like she was about to slap him; an expression he knew well, considering how often she'd worn it when they'd been in San Francisco. "If this is your idea of a joke, sir," she started dangerously.

Jim hurriedly held up his hands in surrender. "Hey, hey, Spock said it! I just wanted to know what he meant."

Abruptly the look on her face changed, like someone had flicked a switch. "Spock said it?"

"Yeah." He frowned. How come everyone but him knew what that word meant anyway? (Let's ignore the fact that 'everyone' so far meant 'Spock and Uhura'.)

Uhura bit her lip, and he thought she suppressed a snort. Was she laughing at him? "Um…no offense Kirk, but I'd rather not explain this one to you."

Jim didn't have much luck with anyone else. He didn't even bother with Chekov – the kid might have been a whiz at astrophysics and a genius, but that didn't mean his command of the English language was in any way stellar. Sulu winked at him and asked if he was trying for a bibliophile. Jim didn't even know what a bibliophile was! Something to do with books, he thought.

Scotty was deep in the bowels of the engines, and when Keenser offered to carry the message (since the Chief Engineer had forgotten his communicator), the little green alien came back with "Monty don't think is suitable for my ears."

So he tried Bones. Without success.

"He's not awake yet, Jim! I told you I don't need you mooning around my Sickbay like a puppy. Get out!"

"Wait, wait! I'm not here about Spock!" Not entirely.

Bones was inclined to look suspicious. Jim took a step back; usually that look was followed by whipping out a hidden hypo and threatening him with it.

"Really, now?" he drawled.

"Yeah. I wanted to know, because no one will explain to me; do you know what apodyopsis is?"

"Jim, I'm a doctor, not a dictionary! Now, stop wasting my time and go change your damn clothes. I know you haven't. Go on, get!"

Sighing, Jim admitted failure and trudged to the turbolift. He'd wanted to surprise Spock by telling him the definition when he woke up. And he knew it'd be 'when' and not 'if' because if McCoy was threatening him, then Spock was stable.

His best friend's words caught up with him. Of course! The ship's computer! God, he was an idiot! With renewed energy, Jim practically bounced out of the turbolift (several ensigns, two lieutenants and a yeoman watched worriedly) and to his quarters.

"Computer! Enquiry. Define: apodyopsis."

There was a whirr as it worked, then half a second later came the vaguely female voice he'd come to associate with the Enterprise.

"Apodyopsis: noun. The act of mentally undressing someone."

Jim sat suddenly.

"Computer…repeat."

"Apodyopsis: noun. The act of mentally undressing someone."

The answer was exactly the same. It was the right word, no doubt about it. But…if Spock had said it…

Jim grinned.

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"Alright, fine you goblin, you're free to go."

"Thank you, Doctor." Spock got off the examination table and reached for his neatly folded Science blues. After he had donned his shirt, he turned to the ship's CMO. "If I may enquire, Leonard, where is Jim?"

He shrugged. "Dunno. I sent him to go change about half an hour ago. Came in here asking about the meaning of something or other. I probably shoulda run a mental check up while he was here."

Spock's left eyebrow twitched, the only sign of his disconcertion. "What word was the subject of his confusion?"

"A…apodyopsis, I think."

"And did you furnish him with the answer?"

"Hell if I know what it means." The human snorted.

"Indeed. I take my leave, Doctor."

"Yeah, yeah."

Spock's thoughts raced as he walked at a sedate pace to his quarters. (Although the damage had not been as severe as Leonard had initially feared, there was no sense in causing discomfort to himself.) If Jim had been down to Sickbay to ask the doctor for the definition, he must have exhausted all other means. Which meant that it was quite likely (83%, in fact) that their usual circle of friends already knew.

Jim would have asked Nyota first. While their relationship was no longer explosive – in fact, only Jim and Nyota would not admit that they were good friends – Nyota would likely misconstrue Jim's reasons for asking. If Jim told her that Spock had said it… Spock tried not to sigh. He would have to endure either her sulking about not telling her sooner, or her teasing. Neither was an attractive prospect.

Asking Chekov would be illogical. Spock doubted that Jim would. No, he would question the helmsman, who'd think Jim was striking up conversation on plans to seduce someone with a large vocabulary. And if Jim had gone to Leonard, then possibly Montgomery did not know or did not tell him the meaning of apodyopsis.

When he entered his quarters (relaxing his shoulders slightly at the raised temperature), he was very aware that he was not alone.

"So," said the Captain. "You're out."

"Yes, Captain." Even after years, he did not understand the human need to state the obvious.

"Jim."

"Jim. Why are you in my quarters?" And sitting on his bed.

The human tilted his head to the side, blue eyes twinkling. "I wanted to know when you got discharged. M'glad you're okay, by the way."

"I am gratified." Not that Spock would admit it, but he had to quell the urge to blush. Or smile in pleasure. He did allow his toes to curl, hidden in his boots.

"You're all fixed right? Tip top condition?"

"Yes."

"Good." Since when were humans able to purr? "I also discovered something…interesting."

Spock raised an eyebrow, silent.

"Apodyopsis. I know what it means now." Jim rose to his feet and stretched. "I must say, Spock, after all that suspense, I'm rather disappointed."

Spock's lips thinned, and he placed his hands behind his back, even as his Captain approached. He felt suddenly cold, despite the heat in his quarters. "Disappointed, sir?"

"Yes." Jim had stopped in front of him, smirking. Spock merely stared back, clenching his fists tightly enough for his fingernails to hurt the soft skin of his palm. He was concentrating so much on this sensation that he was quite unprepared when Jim grabbed him by the back of the neck and brought their lips together.

It took a millisecond for this to compute. Then Spock was kissing back, his eyes closed, his hands at Jim's waist. Jim was slightly shorter than him, so he had to tilt his head down while the human had his chin slanted upwards. Their chests were moulded together, and Jim's hands on his cheek and the back of his neck was enough contact for Spock to feel the affection and teasing and love and wantwantwant.

Jim pulled back first, breathing heavily, smile brilliant as always. Then he tiptoed and whispered into Spock's pointed ear, as if he'd never paused, "'Cause I don't want you to mentally undress me. I want you to undress me. Here. Now."

The corner of Spock's lifted in a smirk, and he watched as his t'hy'la's smile widened into a grin.

"That can be arranged."

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