This story was written for the Fandom Gives Back – Eclipse auction, as a result of the generous donations of BeCullen and Melooza. Since they're both amazing people, they have graciously agreed to share it.
With a few exceptions, everyone in the auditorium that day assumed the animosity between the two men arose solely from the situation at hand. They were only half correct.
Cadet James Tiberius Kirk had no malice for Spock prior to the day of the academic hearing. In fact, he was only vaguely familiar with the instructor, and that was because he'd heard Chris mention him. Well, and Spock was one of the only Vulcans seen around the campus of Starfleet Academy. It made him difficult to miss.
Spock, on the other hand, had secrets of his own where James Kirk was involved. Of course everyone knew the name Kirk as it related to Starfleet. Even young school children knew of the sacrifice the young lieutenant George Kirk had made for his ship, his wife and newborn son. Three years ago when Spock's mentor, Captain Christopher Pike, had returned from Iowa where he'd taken some of the more promising new cadets on a field trip to the Riverside shipyard, he'd immediately told Spock of finding George Kirk's son and convincing him to enlist in Starfleet. "This kid has got it, Spock. He's a genius – and you know I don't toss that word around – but it's more than that. He has..." Chris stared past Spock, his eyes becoming unfixed as he searched for the right word. "He has fire. Spirit like I've never seen. He simply refuses to concede. Just like his old man."
Spock had read Chris' dissertation on the destruction of the USS Kelvin and knew the intricacies of the events that transpired on that day twenty-five years earlier. Knowing of the dynamic officer who was George Kirk, Spock looked forward with interest to meeting the son in his father's image who now had an opportunity to make his own name.
However, the name this Kirk made for himself at Starfleet was of rather a different connotation, and Spock found himself privately wondering whether Captain Pike had sustained a head injury during that bar brawl in Iowa. James Kirk was highly intelligent, yes. His classmates told tales of epic debates over warp theory and historical battles. He took the chess club by storm, reducing more than one fourth-year cadet to tears after destroying their 'no-fail' strategies. Professors either loved him or hated him – it was readily apparent who had suffered the humiliation of having to concede a point to him during one of those debates. He aced every class, every test, every exam.
He also had scores of admirers, those who loved him from afar (and spoke adoringly of him when he wasn't around) and those who were bold enough to approach him. The ones who did approach were usually rewarded with, at the very least, a wink and some seamless flirtation. It seemed Cadet Kirk believed in equal opportunity when it came to sex - boys, girls, anyone could be the recipient of his flattering attention. There was even a rumor that circulated the campus for several weeks, involving Kirk and a Caitian professor who was visiting the Academy for a conference. The rumor said the two had been seen disappearing into her hotel together, her long tail feline tail caressing his backside through the tight pants of his red uniform.
Even those who had no apparent interest in what was inside Jim Kirk's trousers were drawn to him. He was a friend to all and the life of every party...and if the talk on campus was any indication, there was seldom a party he didn't attend. Without ever having laid eyes on the man, Spock found himself affronted on an almost-daily basis by Kirk, solely because he heard the name constantly. Kirk was brash, egotistical, promiscuous, reckless. He chafed at Spock's sensibilities.
Yes, Spock was appalled at Captain Pike's judgment in encouraging this particular individual to join Starfleet. Worse, Pike seemed to take Kirk under his wing as the weeks and months went by. Spock didn't understand how his respected friend could choose to invest time in someone like James Kirk. In particular, he could not reconcile Pike's current choice of protégé with his previous one - Spock himself. They were polar opposites in every way but intelligence. Even in that, Spock's approach was methodical and scientific. Kirk, on the other hand, seemed to simply barrel into at full-speed, solve a problem, then backtrack to explain how he got there. Chris had told Spock he admired this about Kirk: he looked without leaping. He said it was something Starfleet had lost. More than once the question arose in Spock's mind: during the time Pike had been mentoring him, had he wished for a different sort of cadet to whom he could impart his knowledge and experience? Had he wished for someone like James Kirk?
For the first time since he'd chosen Starfleet over the Vulcan Science Academy, Spock felt the old familiar sting of self-doubt, the sinking sensation of something heavy in his stomach. The next time he meditated, he examined these feelings, and was appalled with himself when he realized they were prompted by jealousy. Jealousy of the cadet's apparent ease in a society in which Spock would always be an outsider; jealousy that Kirk seemed to dissent with instructors openly and cheerfully when he disagreed with what they were teaching - and was often correct; jealousy that he seemed to be Pike's "shiny new toy" - an analogy Spock's mother had once used. At the time had hadn't understood the analogy. Vulcan children did not play, after all. Now, however, he understood its meaning with perfect clarity.
The day Spock reviewed the Kobayashi Maru test schedule and saw that Cadet Kirk had applied to attempt the test for a third time, he allowed himself the indulgence of a private smile. Twice he had watched the tall blond fail his test, Kirk's first attempt being the first time Spock had ever laid eyes upon him. The failure was not a surprise – no one had ever passed, after all – but it was satisfying to watch this particular cadet hit a wall where it involved Spock's own work. The opportunity to watch the same thing happen again was becoming almost passé. As Spock watched Kirk in the simulation, the cadet seemed to feel the same way - he was nonchalant, offhanded in a way that seemed purposely exaggerated to impress upon observers just how very unconcerned he was. The cadets with him didn't seem to understand his attitude either, not even the man whom Spock knew to be Kirk's closest friend, Leonard McCoy.
Kirk sat in the command chair, taking loud bites an exceedingly crisp apple and casually stepping through the test as with a level of confidence that baffled the examiners. They, too, received a dose of Kirk's smugness. He smirked up at them as they observed. When the screen of every computer in the simulation and observation gallery flickered, died, then came back to life, the cause was a mystery to all...except Kirk, who confidently instructed one of his classmates to fire one photon torpedo at each of the Klingon ships.
It was later - much later - that night, when Spock finally isolated the sub-routine that had been inserted into the test's programming. The means by which it had been made possible were still unclear to him, but this much was obvious: Kirk had cheated on his test.
Spock was at once vindicated and pleased to know that, not only was his test still unbeaten - dishonest means obviously didn't count - but that James Kirk had proven himself a fraud. Perhaps, he reflected, an investigation should be launched into Kirk's prior academic results. That would not be for Spock to decide, but at the very least he would file charges of academic dishonesty against Kirk with regard to the Kobayashi Maru. His only regret was that his mentor Chris Pike might suffer some vicarious embarrassment as a result of his relationship with Kirk. Perhaps Pike would choose his favorites more carefully in future, Spock reflected rather self-righteously.
The academic discipline board wasted no time in holding the hearing once Spock filed charges against Kirk. It was two days after the test that the cadets gathered in the auditorium, everyone murmuring their own opinions on why the student body had been called here so suddenly, with only a few weeks left before finals.
Spock observed Kirk carefully from the moment the cadet passed where he sat beside the aisle. When Kirk asked to face his accuser directly, he stood confidently, descending the stairs as Admiral Barnett identified him. This was his moment. It was his opportunity to defend his test, illustrate in front of everyone at the Academy - Pike included - that Kirk was a cheat, and to hand down a much-needed adjustment to the cadet's massive ego.
Spock took the podium opposite Kirk, finally getting his first good look at the tall blond with the striking eyes - eyes that, in spite of the seriousness of their situation, swept him over appraisingly. Eyes that were the color of the San Francisco Bay on a rare sunny day. He found the thought unsettling. "Cadet Kirk, you somehow managed to install and activate a sub-routine in the programming code, thereby changing the conditions of the test." He looked away from those eyes, speaking as though addressing his comments to the academic council members.
"Your point being...?"
"In academic vernacular, you cheated," Admiral Barnett said bluntly, prompting murmurs from the assembled cadets.
"Respectfully," Kirk replied, "the test is rigged. I figured that out after I failed it the second time. I did some research on my own time, into four years' worth of failed attempts and it confirmed what I already suspected. You programmed it to be unwinnable. Given the available parameters, there's no way of saving the Kobayashi Maru and those onboard."
Kirk's assessment was accurate. Rather than acknowledge that, however, Spock replied, "I fail to see how that is relevant to these proceedings."
"I'm saying the test itself is a cheat. The logical conclusion is that the only way to win is to alter the parameters."
Spock could find no way to draw a connection. Being unwinnable did not make the test a cheat. "Your argument precludes the possibility of a no-win scenario."
"I don't believe in no-win scenarios." Kirk's voice was confident and unequivocal.
"Then not only did you violate the rules, you also failed to understand the principal lesson." Spock found himself stretching into the sensation of publicly castigating the cadet for his ignorance. It was far preferable to allowing himself to linger on the sight of the cadet's tall form. He would not be ensnared by the undeniable charisma that had captivated so many.
"Please. Enlighten me."
Condescendingly, Spock said, "You of all people should know, Cadet Kirk – a captain cannot cheat death." There were more murmurs from the assembled cadets.
Kirk looked down, his confident demeanor slipping. "I of all people..." he repeated quietly.
It was clear the cadet caught his full meaning. Spock felt a twinge of conscience, yet continued his line of reasoning. "Your father, Lieutenant George Kirk, assumed command of his vessel before being killed in action, did he not?" As the question hung in the air, Spock caught the eye of Chris Pike, sitting beyond Kirk beside the dais that held the panel members. His mouth was open, his expression shocked. Spock barely had time to register Pike's expression before Kirk, his demeanor changing from confident to cold, went on the offensive.
"I don't think you like the fact that I beat your test."
Spock's sense of justice further piqued, he continued to verbally castigate the cadet. "Furthermore, you have failed to divine the purpose of the test."
Kirk's voice was flat. "Enlighten me again."
"The purpose is to experience fear - fear in the face of certain death. To accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one's crew. This is a quality expected in every Starfleet captain." Spock felt he had delivered the final blow to Kirk's ego. His point made, he now fell silent, as did the rest of the assembly, waiting to hear how Kirk would rebut his argument. He allowed his eyes to stray once more to Pike. Pike's expression had gone from shock to grim disappointment, his mouth pressed tightly into a straight line. As he caught Spock's eye, he shook his head slightly. Spock could not shake the uncomfortable feeling that Pike's displeasure was with himself.
Though all assembled waited in silence, no reply came from Kirk. Instead, their attention was drawn to a page who crossed the floor in front of the dais and handed a PADD to Admiral Barnett. The admiral read the message on the PADD, his face becoming concerned. The instant he spoke, Spock forgot the Kobayashi Maru, the cadet's dishonesty and Pike's displeasure.
"We've received a distress call from Vulcan. With our primary fleet engaged in the Laurentian system, I hereby order all cadets to report to Hangar 1 immediately. Dismissed."
From that moment Spock's entire focus was on preparing the Enterprise and her crew for departure. Aside from the few seconds he spent changing Nyota's assignment, he could not be distracted from his task, until, sliding into his seat at the science station several hours later, he told Captain Pike, "Captain, engineering reports ready for launch."
"Thank you," Pike replied tersely. Once the new helmsman had succeeded in getting them to warp and most crew members were engrossed in the details of Ensign Chekov's ship-wide alert, Pike arose from his command chair and circled back to the science station.
"Commander," he said quietly, leaning over Spock's shoulder, "when this is done, you and I are going to have a conversation about the inappropriateness of going on the offensive against Cadet Kirk by means of flippant reference to the death of his father, a respected Starfleet officer...and my best friend."
Chastened, Spock barely had time to murmur, "Yes, sir," before Pike straightened and returned to the command chair. The doubt that had whispered to him during the hearing now bloomed and sank long, sharp tendrils into him. He should have meditated before the hearing took place; should have taken time to make sure his emotions were fully under control before allowing himself to come face-to-face with Kirk. Now he had offended his friend and mentor, Captain Pike. He allowed himself a moment to isolate the doubt, sealing it away until after the crisis was past, when he could meditate, examine his feelings and integrate it into his psyche.
They were only ninety seconds from Vulcan when, to the surprise of everyone present, Kirk burst onto the bridge, followed closely by Doctor McCoy and Nyota. "Captain, we have to stop the ship!"
Spock held back, observing until it was obvious that Pike was as irritated by Kirk's presence onboard the ship as he was surprised by it. Spock then spoke up, Kirk shouting over him as he did. "Mr. Kirk is not cleared to be aboard this vessel, Captain. By Starfleet regulations, that makes him a stowaway. I can remove the cadet from the bridge."
"Try it! This cadet is trying to save the bridge!" Kirk retorted.
"By recommending a full-stop mid-warp during a rescue mission?"
Kirk shot him a withering look before directing his words to Pike once again. "It's not a rescue mission. Listen to me, it's an attack."
"Based on what facts?" Spock interrupted.
"That same anomaly – a lightning storm in space – that we saw today, also occurred on the day of my birth-" here Kirk directed a glare at Spock "-before a Romulan ship attacked the USS Kelvin. You know that, sir, I read your dissertation. That ship, that had formidable and advanced weaponry, was never seen or heard from again. The Kelvin attack took place on the edge of Klingon space, and at 2300 hours last night, there was an attack. 47 Klingon ships destroyed by Romulans, sir. It was reported that the Romulans were in one ship – one massive ship."
Spock was as close to being floored by a human as he'd ever been in his life. He could not help but admit to himself that it took an individual with an innate tactical and analytical sense, to recognize a pattern from among seemingly-anomalous events, especially when they took place twenty-five years apart. He stared at Kirk, considering for the first time that there could be more to him than an aesthetically pleasing appearance and a charismatic personality. He had refused to believe it before, but it would no longer be logical to deny that Kirk was anything but a brilliant tactician.
"And you know of this Klingon attack how?" Pike demanded, considering the possibility that Kirk was correct. Kirk looked at Nyota, who hesitated only a moment before addressing Captain Pike.
"Sir, I intercepted and translated the message myself. Kirk's report is accurate."
"We're warping into a trap, sir. There are Romulans waiting for us – I promise you that."
Finally, Pike looked to Spock for his assessment. Spock did not hesitate - there was no time. "The cadet's logic is sound," he said, though with enough control that he did not allow his surprise to color his tone. More confidently, he added, "And Lieutenant Uhura is unmatched in xenolinguistics. We would be wise to accept her conclusion."
They could not reach the other ships – could not locate transmissions of any kind near Vulcan. Pike called a red alert and Sulu counted down the seconds until they dropped out of warp...and into hell.
Jim would always look back on the events of the next ninety minutes as though he had watched them through a thick pane of ancient glass. They happened in seeming slow motion - hazy and surreal. Hearing Nero's voice for the first time...the panic he felt as both he and Spock pleaded with Pike not to board the Narada...Pike making him first officer, and that pointy-eared bastard assuming Pike was joking...space-jumping with Sulu and Olsen to the drill, watching Olsen bounce across the platform one second and incinerate into oblivion the next...the struggle with the huge, ugly Romulans and the terrifying plummet toward the planet's surface...passing Spock in the transporter room when he beamed to the planet's surface...and Spock's return to the transporter pad, only moments later – his hair disturbed, his face grimy, and that arm – that outstretched arm, reaching, desperately grasping at the empty air beside him.
Jim didn't know what to say, what to do. He had always believed that Vulcans had no emotions. Wasn't it one of those things everyone just knew about them? Like how an Orion female's pheromones were impossible to resist. Or how an Andorian's skin turned distinctly periwinkle when they were ill. It was Xenobiology 101...
...and yet Jim saw Spock's face when he rematerialized on the transporter pad. He knew that face, the one of raw anguish, the one that said a vital part of this person had been violently and permanently torn from them. Hadn't he seen it on his mother's face enough times in his childhood? Yes, Jim Kirk knew the face of grief, and Spock wore it. He wore it on the transporter pad, and later on in Sickbay as he wandered - wandered, aimless, stunned - among the Vulcan elders who had been safely beamed aboard. Jim had always been an empathetic person, and he particularly understood what it was to grieve for a parent. It no longer mattered what had happened at the Academy. It was petty and irrelevant in the face of the day's tragic circumstances. He was aggrieved to see Spock vulnerable and fragile. Though he knew enough about Vulcans to know you weren't supposed to touch them, just then he wished he could offer a hug to Spock, the way he would have to any of his other friends.
He understood the phrase he heard the surviving Vulcans on the ship repeat to each other: Tushah nash-veh k'odu – "I grieve with thee". After he'd been looked after by Nurse Chapel in Sickbay, he went to Bones' quarters to shower and change, choosing the comfort of hot water over the sonic shower. As he rinsed off, he decided that the next time he saw Spock, he would offer him the Vulcan phrase by way of condolence. Surely, knowing of George Kirk, Spock would understand the truth in it. Maybe it could even serve as an olive branch, an opportunity to start fresh with Spock.
Unfortunately, he did not get the chance to offer that particular sentiment.
When the senior staff regrouped on the bridge an hour later, Spock had already schooled his features back into a carefully neutral look. Jim was ready to persist in his attempt to offer his condolences, but whenever he tried to quietly approach Spock, he was somehow thwarted. Whether it was a crew member or an incoming message from another part of the ship, or Spock moving away just as Jim was about to speak, Jim was having no luck.
There had been no word of Captain Pike. Though Jim lobbied strongly in favor of a rescue, Spock coolly rebutted his every argument. It was Jim's voice that escalated as they volleyed points back and forth, arguing about technological outmatches, timelines and alternate realities. When finally Spock ordered Sulu to plot a course for the Laurentian system, Jim lost his temper.
"Spock, don't do that. Running back to the rest of the fleet for a – a – confab is a massive waste of time!"
"We have orders issued by Captain Pike when he left the ship-"
"He also ordered us to go back and get him. Spock, you are Captain now! You have to be—"
"I am aware of my responsibilities, Mr. Kirk."
"Every second we waste, Nero's getting closer to his next target!"
"That is correct, and why I am instructing you to accept the fact that I alone am in command-"
"I will not allow us to go backwards!" Jim insisted stridently. "You are compounding the problem instead of hunting Nero down."
Spock stood. "Security, escort him out."
Jim thought about accepting defeat gracefully – for about half a second. The remembrance of his father's life, anger at the loss of billions of peaceful Vulcans, and the possibility of another exemplary Starfleet officer falling to Nero...they were all impossible to ignore, and he didn't understand how Spock could ignore them either. He could not reconcile the calm indifference he heard in Spock's voice with the look of grief he'd seen only an hour earlier. It angered him. He took a swing at the security officer nearest him. He heard Bones shouting at him to stop, and then, suddenly, all he knew was blackness.
The moment Kirk's body fell from beneath his fingertips, Spock gave the order to get him off the ship. Never in his adult life had he found himself as close to emotional compromise as he did in the presence of James Kirk. Was it not enough that he had failed his mother, watched her fall into oblivion from where she had stood directly before him? Was it not enough to witness his entire planet, with its six billion inhabitants, destroyed? Must the assault on his control be continued by members of his own crew? Spock believed that his decision to proceed to the Laurentian System was the logical one, the one that Captain Pike would want him to carry out. Yet when Kirk stood before him, his blue eyes snapping, passionately insisting that they go after Nero whose trajectory clearly placed him on a path to Earth...Spock warred with himself not to give in. Of course he did not want to go to the Laurentian system. Of course he wanted to hunt Nero down and make him pay for what he had taken from Spock, from countless Vulcans.
That was what made Kirk more dangerous to Spock than anyone else on the ship. Logic dictated that a Vulcan refuse to give way to vengeance, yet every moment Kirk remained on the bridge, Spock risked conceding to Kirk's strenuous arguments. It was not just that Kirk was a masterful debater. After the academic hearing, Spock already knew Kirk could carry his point. No, it was also the flash of passion in the brilliant blue eyes. It was the confident, solid placement of Kirk's stance on the bridge. It was the strong set of his shoulders as he squared off against his commanding officer, and the intensity with which he argued his case. Spock was appalled at himself for even noticing these things, and still more horrified that his notice of them went beyond a simple acknowledgement. They were provoking an emotional response.
So tenuous was his control that it wasn't enough simply to have Kirk confined to the brig. No, this was James Kirk, and it should be assumed that, as long he was anywhere on the ship, he would find a way to get to the bridge. Until Spock had time to meditate, he refused to trust himself to resist the passionate insistence of the very compelling man.
Delta Vega was the planet nearest where Vulcan had been, though, being an ice planet, it was Vulcan's polar opposite. It also contained a small Federation outpost which functioned as a communications relay point. He ordered Kirk placed in an escape pod and ejected to the planet, despite the shocked looks of the bridge crew and the brutal scowl of Dr. McCoy. Not until he received confirmation that the pod had been launched did he finally allow himself to relax. After giving the command to proceed to the Laurentian system – a command that was not, this time, debated – he sat in the command chair and slowly worked to undo the unpleasant tightness in his muscles. They were constricted, taut, as though his physical body had clamped down in an attempt to contain his emotions.
Jim's awakening on Delta Vega was decidedly unpleasant. His ears rang, his head felt hazy and he found himself in a claustrophobia-inducing escape pod. Unfortunately he had no idea where this escape pod had landed. The onboard computer told him he'd been sent to Delta Vega, instructing him to stay in the pod and await rescue.
Right. Jim had never sat around and waited to be rescued by anyone. He had always taken matters into his own hands, and he wasn't about to change that now.
It was for this reason that, shortly after he scaled the walls of the crater left by the escape pod, he found himself sprinting for dear life, hauling ass across an ice field to escape the most terrifying creature he'd ever seen close up – and having lived with his step-father Frank, that was saying something. Jim sought shelter in a deep icy cave, but the beast followed him in, grabbing him around the ankle and starting to pull him towards its gaping jaws. It seemed he was done for, until a flash of fire waved over his head, swinging at the creature. It scared the thing away, and when he was sure it was gone, he looked up to see who had rescued him.
The torch was wielded by a very old Vulcan, who, after staring him for a moment, said plainly, "James T. Kirk."
Jim gaped. "Excuse me?"
"How did you find me?" the Vulcan added, sounding almost irritable.
"How do you know my name?" Jim scrambled to his feet.
The elderly Vulcan paused and then said, with something equating warmth, "I have been and always shall be your friend."
Jim wondered if the cold and the adrenaline were causing him to hallucinate. Nevertheless, he found himself replying to what may have been an apparition. "Look, sir, I don't know you."
"I am Spock," the man replied simply.
Jim stared at him for a moment before replying. "Bullshit."
"Eloquent as always, Jim," Spock added drily.
Jim tried to explain to the old man that his relationship with Spock was turbulent and antagonistic, that the Spock he knew couldn't stand him, had marooned him on Delta Vega. Though the old man seemed surprised by the news that Jim was not the captain of the Enterprise, he soon understood that the circumstances that brought he and Jim both to the ice planet were precipitated by the same individual: Nero.
It took only hearing Nero's name for Jim to start believing that the old man may not be as delusional as he'd thought. The mind meld Spock initiated with Jim left no doubt that the senior Vulcan was who he claimed to be, showing him a great deal in only seconds. The destruction of Romulus. A distraught, vengeful Romulan husband. Spock travelling through the temporal anomaly and finding he'd emerged 129 years in the past. Jim now understood that what young Spock had spoken of, time travel and alternate realities, was accurate.
But within the meld, he also felt a stunningly strong undercurrent of emotion from the old Vulcan who insisted he was Kirk's friend. There was deep friendship, familiarity, delight at seeing Jim. It was offset, however, by crushing grief for the loss of his home world. When Spock pulled out of the meld, Jim was left gasping and overwrought. Even amid his flooded emotions, it occurred to him that he'd been correct about young Spock - the look of grief he thought he'd seen on his face was real.
Though he should perhaps be utterly furious at having been marooned here, his own tendency toward empathy caused new compassion to well up in him. "So you do feel," he sputtered, tears filling his eyes.
"Yes," Spock admitted before brusquely adding, "Come. There is a Starfleet outpost not far from here. We must return you to your ship."
It was a long, cold trek to the outpost. As they walked Jim had time to wonder about the relationship this Spock might have had with the James Kirk from his own time. The thoughts he was shown in the meld were focused on the events that had transpired to bring Spock to this timeline. He'd felt strong affection from Spock, but that was natural if they were friends as Spock said they were. If Jim Kirk was the captain there, was Spock his first officer?
At the tiny communications base, Jim and the elder Spock met the perpetually ravenous Montgomery Scott. It was immediately apparent that Spock knew this man too. Jim thought Spock looked particularly amused by the outspoken Scotsman. As the elderly Vulcan provided Mr. Scott with the equation for trans-warp beaming – something Mr. Scott would apparently discover, to his great surprise – Jim found himself wondering if anyone else he knew had been a contemporary of this Spock in his own timeline.
While Mr. Scott pored over the equation, muttering to the diminutive green being who was his companion here, Jim turned to Spock. "You're coming with us, right?"
"No, Jim," Spock replied. "That is not my destiny."
"Your des-? The other Spock is not going to believe me. Only you can explain what hap—"
"Under no circumstances can he be made aware of my existence. You must promise me this."
"You're telling me I can't tell you I'm following your own orders? Why not? What happens?"
"Jim, for his protection, this is one rule you cannot break. To stop Nero, you alone must take command of your ship."
"How? Over your dead body?"
"Preferably not. However, there is Starfleet Regulation 619. It states that any command officer who is emotionally compromised by the mission at hand, must resign said command."
"So I have to emotionally compromise you...guys."
"Jim, I just lost my planet. I assure you, I am emotionally compromised. What you must do is force me to acknowledge it."
As Spock and Scotty made the final preparations for beaming, Jim stood quietly, considering how to go about carrying out Spock's orders. He had so little time to prepare. He didn't know the young Vulcan well and their interactions had been loaded with tension. Going the route of sympathy would be utterly useless. He could antagonize Spock again, but he had to make sure he went about it in a way that didn't see him nerve-pinched or sent off in an escape pod yet again.
He could think of only one approach, one point on which he could verbally attack the younger Vulcan. An acrid taste crept into the back of his throat as he thought of what he would have to say. He had never, not once in his life, kicked someone who was down. If only the elder Spock would explain it himself, or even tell him why it was so important that Jim take command of the Enterprise...but Jim knew enough about the theory of temporal paradox to know that no one should know too much about their own future. He sighed bitterly as he acknowledged that what he was about to do would very likely cost him any chance of redeeming himself in Spock's eyes, would ruin any opportunity to one day serve alongside him. He felt sick to his stomach.
Side by side, he and Mr. Scott stepped onto the transporter pads, and Spock initiated transport. The last thing Jim saw before his atoms broke apart was Spock offering him the ta'al, and his parting words. "Live long and prosper."
Spock could not, would not believe his eyes when he saw the figure on the security vid. Though the person moved quickly out of the frame, it looked like James Kirk...but that was simply impossible. Concluding that he must be allowing the events of the day to color his perceptions, Spock felt a rush of impatience with himself. Was he to start seeing the specter of James Kirk throughout the ship now?
Therefore, it was something of a shock when that same James Kirk stood before him only a moment later, resentful and defiant. Amid his surprise – and his curiosity as to how Kirk had beamed aboard Enterprise while they were travelling at warp – he found it both satisfying and unnerving to be in Kirk's presence once again. He was illogically pleased to see him, and relieved that Kirk's short sojourn on Delta Vega had seen him come to no harm. The relief was closely followed by a wash of guilt reminding him that if Kirk had sustained injury on the planet's surface, Spock would have been to blame for it. His decision to have Kirk removed from the ship had not only been completely self-serving – since Kirk had never presented any threat to the ship – but a violation of Security Protocol 49.09, governing the treatment of prisoners aboard a starship.
All these things flashed through Spock's mind before he spoke. Though he was wary – hell, terrified – of the effect that Kirk's presence had on him, he had little warning and no time to strengthen his shields before confronting his acting first officer and the shorter, dripping-wet stranger with him.
Everyone on the bridge watched as the argument escalated between them. Spock demanded to know how they had beamed aboard Enterprise. Kirk, bluntly insubordinate, refused to tell him. Spock might have found himself beginning to get angry, had it not been for the turn their conversation took next.
"What is with you, Spock?" Kirk wondered aloud. "Your planet was just destroyed, your mother murdered, and you're not even upset."
Internally Spock winced at the word murdered but maintained his expression, conscious that his father was on the bridge, witnessing this exchange. "If you are presuming that these experiences in any way impede my ability to command this ship, you are mistaken," he answered impassively.
"And yet you were the one who said fear was necessary for command. I mean, did you see his ship? Did you see what he did?"
"Yes, of course I did." Spock's voice faltered marginally.
"So are you afraid or aren't you?" By comparison, Kirk's voice grew as he drove home his point.
"I will not allow you to lecture me about the merits of emotion." It was an ineffectual attempt at misdirection.
Kirk's voice took on a taunting tone. "Then why don't you stop me?"
"Step away from me, Mr. Kirk."
"What's it like not to feel anger...or heartbreak...or the need to stop at nothing to avenge the death of the woman who gave birth to you?" Kirk asked, a sneer of contempt on his face.
"Back away from me." It was a whisper, a plea.
Kirk did not oblige. Rather, he moved closer still, only millimeters from Spock's face. "You feel nothing. It must not even compute for you. You never loved her!"
Spock had reached the limit of what he could bear in one day. Seeing his mother vanish before his eyes and watching Vulcan implode were the two worst things that had ever happened to him. Hearing himself equated to a heartless, soulless being, no better than a machine...ordinarily he would not allow himself to be affected by the opinions of others...but today was not an ordinary day.
Spock's bruised heart finally bled.
It no longer mattered that his father watched. However he still had enough pride that he would not state his emotional compromise in front of the crew. He turned slowly to Leonard McCoy, who stood behind the command chair. "Doctor, I am unwell. I feel I am no longer fit for duty. I hereby relinquish my command. Please note the time and date in the ship's log." The room swam around him as he made his way to the turbolift. He did not look back until, mercifully, the lift door slid closed.
He stumbled along the halls of the ship, several decks away, intent only on seeing as few people as possible on his way to his quarters. He barely listened as Kirk's voice sounded a ship-wide alert, notifying the crew of the change of command and course.
In his quarters Spock turned up the environmental controls even warmer than usual, ordered the lights to fifteen percent and lit his firepot. Sitting before it, he began to relax his muscles before slipping into a deep meditation. He could not remember his thoughts having been so disordered since he was a child. What he found as he worked through the turmoil that had colored the last twenty-four hours, were strata of shock, subverted at the moment they occurred but still corporeal among the layers of his other emotions: raw bleeding grief for his mother; aching regret that he would never again walk the sands of his home planet and feel the intense dry heat that had warmed him so thoroughly as a child; gratitude for the kind and competent care provided to the elders by Dr. McCoy and his staff; and blazing, consuming anger for Nero, an eclipsing desire to seek revenge.
In his meditation, Spock took each emotion, acknowledged and named it, and integrated it into his rational self before approaching the pocket of feelings involving James Kirk. Though he was tentative about examining it, he could not be certain when he would have another opportunity for deep meditation. It needed to be dealt with now.
Opening it, he found guilt for bringing up Kirk's father at the hearing – if Spock had ever been so illogical as to believe in karma, he would have said that he was being visited by it in spades now – and for marooning Kirk on Delta Vega. Irritation at Kirk for hacking the Kobayashi Maru. The acknowledgement of being intrigued by Kirk's intelligence. The jealousy he had felt long ago about Kirk's close relationship with Captain Pike...and, squirming beneath it all, as though struggling for air and light, was a very small, very persistent seed of something desperate to be recognized. He examined it, turning it over in his mind as if he were holding it in his hands. It was something entirely new, and though he believed he knew what it was, he wanted to be certain before he positively identified it. After long moments, he named it: it was desire.
He felt an unmistakable pull to James Kirk. Not just on a physical level, though it was undeniable that he was highly aesthetically pleasing. It was more than that. Spock wanted to know more about Kirk's life. He wished for more opportunities to witness his tactical brilliance at work. He wanted to have real conversations – not just debates and power struggles. He wished to work alongside James as a colleague and fellow officer. And, completely new – and terrifying – he felt lust. Spock had never experienced physical desire in his life, had never done more than briefly acknowledge an individual's outward attractiveness. He had never experienced a kiss, Vulcan or human. Spock was a virgin, and until now, sexual desire had not been a factor in his life.
He hadn't even had the intimacy of a bondmate, his mother having refused to have him "betrothed" at a young age. It was true that Vulcan males had need of a bondmate to survive the fires of pon farr. However, Spock was a hybrid and as such there was no way to know whether he would experience pon farr at all. He trusted his father to arrange for a suitable bondmate for him, if and when it became necessary.
Therefore, to suddenly find himself in the position of longing for intimacy...with a human...a human who was James Kirk!...Spock was utterly bewildered.
It seemed impossible that the warm, alluring, indisputably emotional Kirk would find anything appealing in him. Kirk's own words to him plainly illustrated that he believed Spock incapable of emotion. He was clearly filled with contempt for Spock's reaction after the destruction of Vulcan. Surely if Kirk someday wished for long-term companionship, he would seek out someone as bright, as desirable, as emotionally expressive as himself. Spock calculated his odds of being Kirk's choice for an emotional and intimate partner at less than 2.79%. And so Spock ended his meditation with one more entry to the list of emotions James Kirk aroused in him: despair.
When he had surfaced from meditation, he found he no longer wished to remain in his quarters. He went for a walk on the ship, eventually ending at the observation deck. It was deserted, as all crew were currently engaged in carrying out their orders from their new acting captain. It was here that Sarek found him some time later, staring out the thick, cold Plexiglas.
"Speak your mind, Spock."
"That would be unwise," Spock replied slowly, absently.
Sarek persisted gently. "What is necessary is never unwise."
Spock turned and faced his father. "I have tried, Father. I have tried to honor the Vulcan way, and yet I find that I am unable to suppress the emotions within. I feel grief for Mother and anger for the one who took her life. Perhaps these are understandable, but I have also been forced to admit to myself that I have developed an illogical attraction to...an individual. I do not wish it. I have attempted to extinguish it, and yet it grows. It has caused me to act in a manner unbecoming of a Starfleet officer and a Vulcan. Nevertheless I find I cannot control it."
Sarek's face remained as impassive as ever, but Spock could see the softness and affection that crept into his eyes. "I believe your mother would say, do not try to."
"A Vulcan does not allow romantic attachment to guide their actions," Spock said despairingly.
"That is not entirely accurate," Sarek replied, and Spock was shocked to witness his father's face relax slightly into one of...amusement? "Spock, you asked me once why I married your mother. I married her because I loved her. I, too, attempted to conquer my attraction to her, fearing it would cause me to act illogically. It was most disconcerting." He looked away from Spock for a moment, quietly remembering. Spock did not dare speak or move, for fear that his father would discontinue this line of conversation. "Fortunately, she was a patient woman. Moreover, she had an understanding of our race, having taught the Vulcan children at the embassy. She was persistent. I soon came to realize that I had no wish to live without her. She brought peace to my life, and she brought me you. Now, though she is gone, I still have you, Spock. I am grateful for this."
It was the first time in Spock's life that his father had spoken to him in terms such as these. He stepped off the platform and closed the distance to his father, who raised his arms to embrace him. Spock had not been hugged by anyone but his mother since he was a tiny child, though recently Nyota had taken to slipping her arm through his in a friendly gesture as they walked together. This was entirely different. It was the first time Spock could remember being held by his father. Through their touch Spock could feel the warmth of his father's approval and – yes, he could admit it – love.
Spock allowed the affection he had for his father to flow through their familial bond. He hesitated only a moment before replying with words he had never before said to a Vulcan. "Thank you."
Sarek looked as though he was about to reply, out of habit, that thanks were illogical. Instead, after a pause, he inclined his head. "You are welcome. And Spock, despite what you may have heard, Vulcans do experience happiness when we allow ourselves to enjoy it. Do not sacrifice your chance for happiness and love simply because some narrow-minded individuals have told you these things are not of the Vulcan way."
Spock did not reply. He simply gave his father a parting nod before turning in the direction of the bridge. He knew his chance at love and happiness was far too slim to be fulfilled. Nevertheless, if there was one thing in which he was confident, it was his ability to contribute to solving the current crisis. If his relationship with James Kirk could someday progress even as far as to become compatible colleagues...well, he would take whatever he could get.
"I sure hope you know what you're doing. Captain."
Uhura's words rang in Jim's ears long after she spoke them, her contemptuous tone amplifying his guilt. After the course had been laid in and they were on their way back to Earth, he sat in the command chair, watching space hurtle by on the viewscreen. As he sat he wished he could go back to five days ago, before he installed the sub-routine into the programming code for the test. If he hadn't done it, he'd have been brought aboard the Enterprise with everyone else, by legitimate means. He'd have been able to come to Captain Pike with his concerns about Nero and the Narada as an actual crewmember, not as a disgraced cadet and a stowaway.
Maybe he'd have had an opportunity to get acquainted with Spock, to get to know him after the crisis was past. Perhaps they could have become friends. Maybe he wouldn't now find himself sick with remorse and guilt, hating himself for taking control of Enterprise by stepping on the fingers of someone who was just barely hanging onto his life. Maybe he wouldn't be faced with the contempt of everyone who had any sense of decency.
But it was done. There was no way to go back in time and change what had happened – well, no reliable way, Nero and elder Spock's presence in this timeline notwithstanding. All he could do now was focus on what he and the rest of the crew must do to defend Earth from Nero.
The bridge staff gathered around the tactical station to begin floating ideas as to how they could get close to earth without alerting Nero to their presence. Chekov had just proposed dropping out of warp behind Titan, when, to their surprise, Spock appeared on the bridge, looking more calm and in control than he had since the destruction of Vulcan. He had arrived in time to hear Scotty endorse Ensign Chekov's proposal, and he added his support to the plan.
"If Mr. Sulu is able to maneuver us into position, I can beam aboard Nero's ship, steal back the black hole device and, if possible, bring back Captain Pike."
"I won't allow you to do that, Mr. Spock."
His eyebrow lifting slightly, Spock replied, "Vulcans and Romulans share a common ancestry. Our similarities will make it easier for me to access the ship's computer to locate the device." He looked down briefly before adding, "Also, my mother was human which makes Earth the only home I have left."
Jim's heart pounded in his chest. Spock had lost so much. His courage was inspiring. Jim knew he would be grateful to serve alongside him in any capacity he could. That began now, when his fellow officer needed backup. "Then I'm coming with you."
Spock gave him a long look. "I would cite regulation, but I know you will simply ignore it."
"See? We are getting to know each other." Forcing a nonchalant attitude, he clapped his hand on Spock's shoulder and strode off. He found himself unable to hold Spock's gaze. How could he look Spock in the eye, having said such terrible things to him? He wanted nothing more than to apologize, beg Spock's forgiveness – did Vulcans believe in forgiveness? – but how would he explain? Without revealing the existence of the elder Spock and the strict instructions he had provided, what justification could Kirk ever give for having been so appallingly cruel?
Spock knew, once the pair had returned to Enterprise from the Narada with the gravely injured Captain Pike in tow, that the mission would not have been successful had he gone alone. Even collaboration with a different crewmember would have had significantly lower odds of success. Once he and Jim – for in Spock's mind, he was now Jim, rather than Kirk or the cadet – began to work in concert, rather than opposing each other at every turn, they had found a unique synergy. Spock had never before experienced this with another comrade, or even suspected the existence of such a thing. They found the black hole device – which turned out to be a uniquely-designed ship, of a type Spock had never before seen but had no trouble operating – and Captain Pike. With the assistance of the Enterprise they destroyed first the drill, then the Narada and her crew.
The first thing he did when the crew returned to Starfleet – amid a media frenzy that he would gladly have allowed anyone else to withstand in his place – was to visit Admiral Barnett and immediately withdraw the charges of academic misconduct. They no longer served any purpose, and he wanted nothing to stand as a blemish on Jim's record. The Admiral was grateful and relieved at Spock's gesture, and that it had come from him unprompted. He shared with Spock that, with Pike unable to continue in active duty, Starfleet brass wished to capitalize on the current tide of public interest and goodwill by making James Kirk the new captain of the Enterprise. The charges would have been the only thing standing in their way. Spock was remarkably pleased to know that Jim would return to command the Enterprise.
The mood at Starfleet Academy was balanced on a knife's edge. Cadets and instructors alike teetered between grief for the loss of so many cadets, and nearly-euphoric relief that Earth had been spared the same fate as Vulcan. The highly-charged atmosphere was difficult for Spock. He spent much time hiding away in his quarters, though Nyota visited him several times. He engaged in a great deal of meditation and study, and of course visited Captain – soon to be Admiral – Pike as he recovered from his injuries at Starfleet Medical. Though Christopher had extensive neurological damage, the lasting trauma was limited to the portions of his brain affecting motor skills. Cognitively he was as sharp as he had ever been. So relieved was Spock by this, that when he and Spock had the "conversation" that Christopher had mentioned, he was simply grateful that his friend and mentor was there and fit to deliver his rebuke. Admittedly, in the wake of Spock's own losses, Christopher's criticism was delivered much more gently than it would otherwise have been. It was also buffered by Chris's sincere recommendation that Spock consider applying to be Jim's first officer on the Enterprise.
Spock embarked upon a new project, to learn more about James Kirk. He was interested in learning more about Starfleet's newest captain: not the persona seen by those who knew his reputation from the Academy, but the real person he had glimpsed. He searched Jim's name in Starfleet's general information database. Though he had to wade through many entries that referred to the events of the last several weeks, he found some older entries that interested him greatly. One second-year cadet, a Cadet Gary Mitchell, had posted on his academic page a year earlier that he was most grateful to Jim for the tutoring he had given him in advanced calculus. He had been struggling until Jim, hearing of his trouble, approached him and offered to provide assistance on an informal and entirely voluntary basis. Cadet Mitchell insisted he would not have passed calculus without Jim's help. Numerous other cadets had responded to Mitchell's story with similar situations of their own: tutoring, peer counseling, even help with chess strategies. James Kirk was generous with his time and considerable talents.
Another entry, from a source outside the Academy database, listed Jim Kirk as a regular volunteer for a program that provided companionship to elderly men and women in San Francisco. Yet another thanked a number of individuals, Jim included, who had spearheaded organizing an event to benefit a group of children who had been rescued a year earlier from a captured Orion trader ship. He was listed as a mentor in a diversion program for at-risk youth. Knowing Jim's own youth record as Spock did – he'd uncovered it when preparing for the academic dishonesty hearing – he knew he'd literally turned his life around, going from repeat offender to role model, thanks to focus, proper guidance and encouragement. He could think of no one better suited to serve as an example.
Therefore, three weeks later, Spock was present in the auditorium when James Kirk relieved Captain Pike and took command of the Enterprise. The thunderous applause hurt his ears, and he did not join in, Vulcan hands being as sensitive as they were. He simply watched the young man at the front of the auditorium turn his brilliant smile to the crowd, without a hint of arrogance or conceit. He felt certain that Jim's crew would be respected and treated well by their captain, and that serving aboard the new Federation flagship under him would be a privilege, an experience unlike any other. He also knew he wanted to be part of it.
Spock understood that many surviving Vulcans would expect him to join them on their new planet as they rebuilt their lives and their race. There was only one Vulcan apart from himself whose opinion would have any bearing – his father's. Had not his father told him not to sacrifice his chance for love and happiness? It did not matter that Jim believed Vulcans to be incapable of love. To be where Jim Kirk was, would be his greatest opportunity for happiness. He decided he would apply to be First Officer, though he was in no way certain that their success in the Narada engagement was sufficient to convince Jim to accept him for this role. After all, it would have them working closely together for the five-year mission to which the Enterprise was assigned. Spock felt it wise to cultivate multiple options. He determined that, if Jim rejected his application for First Officer, he would request to remain at his previous post as Science Officer. He would gladly accept the simple permission to be present on the ship, to be near the young, untested captain, who was still too impulsive and headstrong. He would keep an eye on Jim, protect him when he was able, and watch him come into his own as captain of the Enterprise.
Spock need not have worried that his application would be rejected. Since hearing from Pike that Spock had decided to remain in Starfleet, Jim had hoped to have Spock as his first officer. He had, in fact, assumed he would find himself attempting to convince the commander to serve with him. He'd been spending much time working out all the logical reasons why Spock should. When it happened that the application crossed his desk before he had an opportunity to approach Spock, he was surprised but grateful, seeking out the commander to accept his application in person. He knew it must have been a difficult decision for Spock, weighing his logical desire to serve aboard the Federation flagship – which had, after all, the best science labs of any other ship in the fleet – against what must be the unpleasant prospect of being in close proximity to Jim every day.
He, too, was subjected to a stern talking-to by Chris about his insubordination and the way he'd treated Spock upon his return to the Enterprise. Chris had become the closest thing to a father Jim had ever known, and he listened contritely to everything he said about honor and conduct becoming an officer. The way Chris held command was not an act of power, but of guidance. Jim reasoned that, if Chris was truly disappointed with him, it was because he was frustrated by Jim's failure to live up to the potential Chris saw in him. Jim could only be grateful that he could call Christopher Pike his friend. Of course, he felt like shit about the whole thing, so nothing Chris said could make him regret it any more than he already did. Nevertheless, he knew Chris was one of the few people in his life who had ever cared enough about him that he'd bother to counsel and admonish when Jim was getting off course.
He swallowed back the bitterness of his guilt, silently hoping that somehow, over the course of the five years of their mission, he could begin to illustrate to Spock that he really did wish to be his friend. He knew it was a long shot. It would be perfectly logical for Spock to deal with him only as much as was necessary to fully discharge his duty as first officer. They could certainly go five years and never have anything resembling an actual friendship. They weren't obliged to be friends, of course; they had to be able to work together, but it was conceivable that they could simply be colleagues and nothing more. Certainly there were first officers in the fleet who did not have more than a passing social relationship with their captains.
Still...Jim hoped. Hope, after all, was the only thing that had gotten him through the blackest times of his entire life – his mother's prolonged absences, Frank's abuse, Sam leaving home, Tarsus IV, the times he spent in juvenile detention. Hope was the greatest motivator he had found. It served better than anger, better than revenge – those things burned hot at first, but were ultimately unsustainable. Hope was the currency in which Jim Kirk traded.
In space, Jim reflected, it seemed that time either passed as slowly as a star aged; or faster than maximum warp.
It was understandable that Starfleet would assign the Enterprise and her new captain to the milk runs, at least for her first few assignments. Where several months ago Jim would have been indignant that they hadn't given him something meatier, the enormous weight of his responsibility had settled upon him and he was glad, for himself and his crew, that their first several times out were reasonably straightforward. It was good for everyone – they could learn their roles, get settled in their quarters, learn their way around the ship and get used to three rotating shifts a day, and become intimately familiar with their workstations. They also had the opportunity to learn a bit about their fellow crewmembers and do some informal team-building. It was good that they had the time to do it gradually.
Nevertheless, there were times when the Enterprise was travelling from one star system to another, simply flying along at Warp 3 or 4, for weeks at a time. Those were the times Jim ached for something – anything – to happen. There were always memos coming from Starfleet – hell, no shortage of them – but Uhura, his very-adept communications officer, was a pro at separating information-only items from action items, and then passing them along to the appropriate department heads and to Spock if necessary, and copying Jim on only the relevant, important or urgent matters. The result was that he had perhaps three truly crucial memos to deal with each day. He would wander the ship, becoming intimately familiar with every access tube, every matter-anti-matter injector, every hatch door, for crying out loud, just to have something new to learn.
By the time their orders came down for their fourth assignment, they'd been in space for seven weeks, and Jim could sense among his senior staff an itching for something that would challenge them a bit, let them flex the muscles they were developing in their new roles. The assignment delivered. It wasn't anything as weighty as a first contact; but they were transporting an ambassador to Psi Upsilon III, where the ambassador would negotiate a trade agreement with the Napean on behalf of the Federation. Jim and Spock would attend the negotiations, to observe for their professional development and to witness the agreement.
There were moments during the negotiations when an item proved enough of a sticking point that the talks became mildly heated. At one point the Napean high commander turned to Jim and asked if he believed a certain provision was fair. It was an item on which the ambassador was insisting; but Jim could see that there was significant bias in favor of the Federation. The Napean high commander obviously believed so as well.
Jim knew from the briefing materials Spock had prepared that the Napean were an empathic species. He knew it would do him no good to lie, despite the glare the ambassador was giving him. He had to speak honestly; and as it turned out, the high commander was only looking for an acknowledgement of the Federation's bias on this point. Jim admitting as much so impressed the high commander that he agreed to the condition with only slight modifications. The ambassador was mildly irritated, but in the end, when negotiations were completed and the agreement signed, everyone was happy.
Jim's staff had worked hard before the negotiations to research the Napean and prepare the briefings that had proven so valuable to the success of the mission. He was utterly proud of them, and he told them so. When he and Spock were invited to a banquet with the ambassador at the conclusion of negotiations, Jim gave high praise to the contributions made by both the Napean staff and his own. The high commander generously included them in the invitation. They all enjoyed meeting the Napean, who were, after all, a rather civilized species. When the banquet was over and the crew beamed back aboard the Enterprise, Jim invited Bones, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, Uhura and Spock to his quarters for a celebratory drink.
As he had done several times before, Spock politely declined in favor of retiring to his own quarters. Jim found himself trying to persuade Spock.
"Come on, Spock – we've worked hard. We all deserve this," he said, trying not to allow a pleading tone to enter his voice. "You should stay."
"Vulcans do not require the incentive of a reward to perform admirably, Captain," Spock replied coolly. "Moreover, alcohol does not affect me as it does you, and therefore a night-cap, as you call it, serves no purpose for me. I will retire to my quarters now to complete my report and meditate before I rest. Good night."
It was typical of Spock's response to any type of social invitation involving his captain. Jim didn't know why, when he should anticipate it by now, it still disappointed him every time. Perhaps it was because he knew Spock had developed a friendship with Lieutenant Uhura; or because he spent time with Scotty in engineering when both were off duty, discussing warp theory – for fun, not that Spock would ever admit to having fun. Jim saw Spock and Bones settling into a relationship that could only be described as comfortably combative, and it seemed to work well for both of them. Spock and Sulu had a weekly appointment for hand-to-hand combat practice. He almost always ate his meals with one or another of the senior staff. It certainly seemed that he was starting to create real relationships with his colleagues...except Jim.
Of course they had a perfectly professional relationship, working together as smoothly as could any command team that included Jim. Over their first nine months, the only times they disagreed on a course of action was when Jim wanted to accompany the away team to the surface of a new planet, or take a shuttlecraft ride that Spock deemed dangerous, or do a spacewalk with only an EVA suit and a thin tether between him and the vast emptiness of open space. Jim always protested that Spock was being too protective; Spock unfailingly reminded him that he was more valuable than any other crewmember, and usually Spock won. Otherwise they worked seamlessly together, their minds seeming to be so in sync when they were on the bridge that they sometimes finished each other's thoughts.
But outside their shift or discussion of ship's business, Jim may as well have not existed. If Spock was with a group of their colleagues and Jim joined the group, Spock would, within a few moments, find somewhere else to be. He did it politely and unobtrusively, but it was unfailingly consistent. Jim never pointed it out to anyone. It was pointless to broach it with Spock, because he knew damn well Spock had no interest in being near him socially. He didn't mention it to any of their mutual friends either; not even Bones, to whom he told pretty much everything else. He didn't want anyone to make allusion to it in front of Spock and make him uncomfortable; nor did he want his crew to guess what he was just figuring out himself: he was nursing a pretty damn serious crush on his First Officer.
Naturally he'd always known Spock was gorgeous – hell, if they'd met in a bar somewhere, he'd have been angling for his name even more intently than when he tried to get Uhura's. Unfortunately, from their first contentious encounter, their interactions had disintegrated into downright hostile. Even after Jim took control of the Enterprise his feelings toward Spock consisted largely of guilt. It wasn't until they had embarked upon their mission that Jim had the opportunity to really see Spock. Not just his physical attractiveness, which was considerable; not even just his intelligence, though Jim was surprised more than once by just how brilliant Spock actually was. He got to see Spock interact with the bridge crew and the staff who served under him in the science department. He realized Spock actually had a sense of humor, albeit an extremely dry one that went over most people's heads. More than once Jim found he had to stifle a chuckle under a cough, not wishing to embarrass Spock or make him think he was laughing at him. He saw Spock teach his staff, and not just instructing them, but explaining why a procedure should be carried out in one way instead of another. He voiced differing opinions on the bridge, disagreeing with the solutions offered by one person or another; but never in that crushing manner in which he'd handed Jim's ass to him at the Kobayashi Maru hearing. He taught in a way that made people respect him and want to learn more.
By the time they were three months into their mission, Jim could admit to himself that not only Spock was attractive but together they made an exceptional command team. At six months, he knew it was a crush. By the time nine months had passed, Spock was all he thought about when he wasn't working. Despite all the hope he'd begun with, as his feelings deepened the hope was siphoned from him. Nothing was changing. Spock was as cool and detached as he had always been. They interacted in a professional capacity, and that was it. Jim loved his job and enjoyed downtime with his friends, but the more time went by, the less his chances seemed of having even a friendship with Spock, let alone something more intimate.
Bones had figured out something was up with his best friend, but he never would have dreamed what it was.
"Jim, I'm your doctor, not to mention your best friend," Bones cajoled as they sat in his office after Alpha shift one day. "I know you, damn it! I know when something's bothering you. You have to tell me what's wrong. Are you having trouble sleeping again?"
"No, no, Bones," Jim soothed. "It's nothing like it used to be. I've been sleeping pretty well. Sleeping hard, feeling rested."
"Well, that's good. I guess there's something to be said for having an occupation you actually find challenging," Bones mused. In all the time they'd known each other, Jim had barely had to work hard at anything until taking command of the Enterprise. At Starfleet Academy, he was like a duck in water, when so many others struggled just to keep their heads above the surface. "So what is it then? You can't hide this from me. I know you too well, kid."
Jim only smiled. "Bones," he said, crossing the doctor's personal office to give him a big hug, "you're such a mother hen. Truly, you're the mother I never had."
Bones scowled, but Jim knew he wasn't far from the mark. "Enough with that", he grumbled, "I'm giving you two weeks. Two weeks, Jim. If I don't see some change for the better – better appetite, a little more weight gained back...don't think I didn't notice the four pounds you've lost. Yeah, that's right, roll your eyes. We'll see how you feel when your pants fall off that scrawny little lump you call an ass."
"Aww, Bonesy," Jim smirked. "Look at you, checking out my ass. You are so in love with me."
"Excuse me, Doctor," a coolly calm voice came from behind Jim, who dropped his hold on Bones like a hot potato before spinning around.
"Hello, Spock," Jim said pleasantly.
"Captain," Spock replied coolly. "Doctor, I wish to discuss our respective findings on the recent ship outbreak of varicella, before I send the final reports to Starfleet."
"Well, actually," Bones began, but Jim cut him off. This was his chance to escape.
"Actually, Bones and I just finished," Jim lied. "He's all yours, Mr. Spock." Jim almost clapped Shock's shoulder, but drew his hand back quickly. Spock noticed, however, and turned to meet Jim's eyes as he passed. Jim looked away quickly, never able to meet Spock's gaze for long when they weren't on shift together. He worried constantly that he would give himself away, that someone would figure out how he felt about Spock and it would all come out. If it resulted in Spock leaving the Enterprise because he felt uncomfortable with his captain...well, it couldn't happen, and that was that. If first officer was all Spock ever wished to be, Jim was not about to lose that.
It was often the case, Spock reflected, that in space, those things that seemed to present the greatest threat were seldom as dangerous as initially thought. On the other hand, the missions that the crew assumed would be somewhat routine usually weren't. Their mission to Samarus II was one such occurrence, and in the end, it altered the course of Spock's life.
He had lost the customary pre-mission debate with Jim over who would go on the mission, meaning Jim accompanied the away team to the surface. Scans had shown the planet to be inhabited only by wildlife and flora, with no civilizations on any of the three continents. Though Spock continually found it illogical that Jim insisted on going on missions that could endanger his life, he calculated an 87.23% chance that the captain would return to Enterprise conscious and requiring no medical attention.
When the five of them – Jim, Spock, Nyota, Sulu and Dr. McCoy – beamed to the surface along with Lieutenant Commander Giotto and the security team, it seemed everything was fine. The planet was unique, to be sure, like nothing they had encountered before. The sky was a pale lavender color. The plant life was varied – unusual but beautiful in its own way. The team spent several hours examining plant life and taking soil and air samples, spreading out from where they had beamed down.
Spock scanned an indigenous rock while he covertly monitored his captain's actions, which he found most peculiar. The captain had unlaced his boots and removed his socks, and was standing barefoot in the short, dense grass. He appeared to be clenching and releasing his toes. Spock did not realize he was staring until the captain caught him watching.
Jim's face flushed and he gave a short laugh, seeming embarrassed. "Grass," he mumbled in explanation.
"Yes, Captain," Spock replied. "It is grass."
"It's been months since I walked barefoot in the grass," Jim added, as though that would help explain his actions.
Spock did not know what to say in reply. Vulcans did not walk barefoot and he did not see the appeal of doing so. He refrained from saying this, however. At times, his habit of pointing out Vulcan differences seemed to amuse his colleagues, and at other times they were offended by it. He found it difficult to predict which reaction he would garner. As he had no wish to offend Jim, he said nothing.
Jim sighed as he sat down on the grass. "I guess it probably seems illogical to you. It's just...it's soft and velvety, almost like moss. It feels nice against my feet. It reminds me of earth."
Spock was silent for a moment. He thought of what he would give for the chance to once again feel the hot sun on Vulcan, warming him through. Quietly, he replied, "Yes, I believe I understand, Captain."
Jim looked up at Spock. Spock was standing about ten feet away. His tricorder was still raised, but he wasn't looking at the readout. He was watching Jim. They held each other's gaze for a moment, neither able to look away...
...until Dr. McCoy emerged from the trees into the clearing. "Jim," he said, apparently unaware of the moment he had interrupted, "I think we've got what we need here. Sulu's anxious to get back to the ship with his new plants, and Uhura's feeling sort of useless since there's no one to talk to."
"Sure," Jim replied quietly before glancing back at Spock. Spock had never been adept at reading human emotions, but he had become familiar enough with Jim that he could tell he was not yet ready to leave.
"Captain," he interjected. "I wish to take a few more readings before we depart. Perhaps the rest of the away team could return to the ship and I will follow when I have completed my task."
Jim considered it before replying, "In that case, Bones, I'm going to stay here with Spock. We'll beam back together."
"Fine. I want both of you to stop by Sickbay, though, after you're back onboard. Wouldn't hurt to take some scans and see what effect this atmosphere has on humans. And Vulcans," he added.
Jim grinned. "Yes, Mother."
Doctor McCoy scowled before heading back into the trees. Jim exhaled and got to his feet, wandering slowly around the clearing. Spock returned to his tricorder, keeping the captain in his peripheral vision. Quiet minutes passed and he allowed his attention to be absorbed by the tricorder, until he heard a sound like a tree branch snapping. He whirled to see Jim slowly backing away from the edge of the clearing where a large creature stood eyeing them. Maroon in color, its shaggy fur nearly obscured its eyes, but Spock could see them glittering black as it watched them intently.
"Mr. Spock," Jim said quietly, never taking his eyes off the beast, "please call for a beam-out."
"Yes, Captain," murmured Spock, keeping his voice as low as the captain's was. He slowly reached for his communicator, the creature watching his every move. He pulled it out of its holster. As it opened, it made its usual distinctive chirping sound. The beast startled at the sound, then snarled and charged Spock before he was able to hail the transporter room.
"Spock!" Jim shouted. He threw himself into the creature's path. Upon reaching him, it threw him easily to the side. Spock heard a crunch as Jim's body slammed into a thick tree trunk, his lower back taking the brunt of the impact before he fell to the ground.
Spock could not safely get to Jim. His communicator was still open – a beam-out was their best chance to get back to Enterprise quickly. "Spock to Enterprise," he said, unable to keep the urgency from his voice. "Emergency transport – two to beam up."
"This is Enterprise," he heard the transporter technician reply. "We can't get a lock on your signal, Commander. There's interference coming from the rocks nearby. Can you return to where you originally beamed down?"
Spock barely heard the last words. Could they return? Not if this creature could help it. He would have to neutralize the animal, kill it if necessary, because there was very little chance it would let him simply pick up Jim and walk away. At the sound of Spock's voice it had turned from Jim's limp body and was circling him, preparing to attack. Spock quickly took stock of the tools at his disposal. He had a tricorder and a communicator, but no phaser. The security crew had carried them, but they'd already returned to Enterprise with the others. He had his own strength and his training in Suus Mahna, one of the Vulcan martial arts. He hoped it was enough.
He dropped into a crouch and observed the creature's movements. It had considerable size, with Spock just able to look over its back when it stood on all fours. It also appeared to have brute strength, but did not seem particularly agile. If its physiology was similar to that of a sehlat, to which it bore a passing resemblance, perhaps he could get on its back and disable it by snapping its neck.
Once his course of action was decided, he acted immediately. Jim didn't have time for him to delay. He charged the creature, rolling on the ground as it swiped at him with an enormous paw, then leaping to his feet on the other side of it. Before the beast was able to turn to face him, Spock was on its back. He was unable to reach around the full circumference of its head, but it didn't matter – the strength in his hands and arms was sufficient to the task. He twisted the creature's head sharply and after a groan, it fell heavily to the ground.
Spock leapt clear of the beast, landing on his feet and already running to Jim. Reaching him, he threw himself on his knees beside Jim's prone form. "Captain!" he said, his heart pounding in his side. Jim was facing away from him, his body twisted at an unnatural angle. Spock could see his ribs expanding. At least he was breathing, but he did not move otherwise. "Jim!" Spock pleaded, and Jim still did not move.
Spock would have to pick him up and carry him. It was the only way they were going to get back to the beam-out point. He slid his hands carefully under Jim...
Oh fuck he's going to have to touch me
Spock pulled back immediately as though burned by the touch. He had assumed Jim was unconscious, so he was unprepared for the thoughts that barraged him as soon as they made contact. It seemed the captain was conscious but paralyzed. It took Spock only a few seconds to recover, but it was considerably more difficult to reach out to Jim again after hearing the captain mentally recoil, knowing he didn't want Spock to touch him. Nevertheless, it was the only way. He reached out again, clenching his jaw to brace himself...
...all because I had to wiggle my toes in the grass...hates to touch anyone but now he has to pick me up and carry me, of all people...it must be making him sick...
And then Jim did lose consciousness, his fevered, guilty thoughts fading into silence as Spock made his way quickly through the dense growth of the forest. He would not think about Jim's thoughts, refused to consider what they meant or even take them seriously. Jim was most likely delirious during those brief moments. The sooner Spock got him back to the ship, the better it would be for Jim.
Jim had awoken in Sickbay before, having had his fair share of allergic reactions, planetary excursions ending in injury, and weird space viruses. However, this was the first time he could remember waking up strapped to the bed. He couldn't move his arms or legs; couldn't lift his head or even move it from side to side. He could see that he was in a private room in Sickbay. He could hear Bones outside the door, speaking in a hushed, urgent tone. He wanted to call out, but nothing happened when he tried to speak. Just what the hell had Bones given him, anyway?
After a moment Bones came in, Spock trailing behind him. "Jim! You're awake! Jesus, kid, you're going to be the death of me yet." He immediately called for Nurse Chapel and then started running his medical tricorder over Jim, clucking his tongue as he watched the readings it produced. Spock stood near the door, his hands clasped behind his back. No one was telling him why he was strapped down, why he was unable to move. Jim was as close to panicking as he'd ever been, and he had no way to tell anyone how he felt.
Finally, when Bones had fussed over him enough, he dismissed Nurse Chapel. After waiting until the door softly swished closed behind her, he turned to Jim with a concerned look in his eyes. "I know you're scared, Jimmy." He reached out and smoothed Jim's hair away from his face. "Your spine was broken when that thing threw you against the tree, and the result is total paralysis. But as far as I can tell, it's temporary. It'll take some time for the nerves to regenerate, but you'll be okay, kid. Now, I know you have questions. I have an idea for how you can ask them, since you can't speak just yet, but the hobgoblin—" here Bones threw a disgusted glance in Spock's direction – "says it's not ethical. So I'm going to ask you, Jim, and you're going to tell me yourself. I want you to blink once for me, now." Jim did as he was asked. "And now blink twice, quickly as you can." Again Jim complied. "Good. Now I'm going to tell you what my idea is, Jim. If you don't want to do it, you blink once. If you do, blink twice."
"Doctor." Jim thought Spock sounded strangely nervous, and he could not understand why.
"No, you green-blooded bastard, you're going to listen to me now. I'm the doctor and this is what my patient needs. I am leaving it up to him, and that should take care of your conscience where ethics are concerned. I'm sure, for the sake of your commanding officer, you can put aside your distaste for us humans for a few moments." Jim could hear the contempt in Bones' voice. He thought to himself, Not us humans, Bones. Just this human. "Now, Jimmy," Bones continued, "you know the Commander is a touch-telepath. He can read your...what did you call them, Spock?"
"Right, surface thoughts. So he'll touch your skin, and all you have to do is think your questions and he can repeat them to me, like a translator."
Jim peered at Spock. He was pressed against the back wall, as far from Jim as he could possibly be while remaining in the room. Jim wasn't sure what to do. He hated the thought of Spock forcing himself to touch him again. Down on the planet it had taken him two tries to make himself do it, and that was in spite of his Vulcan control. Nevertheless, Jim had questions he needed to ask Bones. He was going to have to ask. He closed his eyes, steeling himself for a moment before he asked his first officer for this favor; then, when he opened them, he sought Bones' eyes and looking directly at him, he blinked twice.
"Jimmy? Was that a yes? You want Spock to read your surface thoughts?" Jim blinked twice again. Bones turned to Spock. "That seems like a pretty clear yes to me."
Spock stepped to the other side of Jim's bed and peered at Jim before speaking. "Indeed. In that case, Captain, when you are ready, I will proceed." He seemed to be waiting for some signal from Jim. Jim closed his eyes for another moment, trying to clear his mind of anything that would be distasteful to Spock and focus only on his questions. Finally he opened his eyes and looked into Spock's.
Spock nodded briefly and tentatively reached his hand out, allowing it to rest gently on Jim's. Jim didn't know what to expect, whether he would experience Spock's thoughts too, but he felt nothing from Spock. Spock spoke, answering his unspoken question. "I have shielded, Captain, to facilitate a one-way transfer. You will not be subjected to my thoughts."
I'm sorry you have to do this, Spock. I'll keep it brief. How long have I been out?
"We beamed back to Enterprise thirteen point two minutes after I disabled the creature. That was one point seven-five days ago."
I can't speak but I can breathe?
"You require partial assistance to breath, Captain, which the bio-bed is providing. You are unaware of this due to the paralysis."
I assume I had surgery?
"Doctor McCoy was in surgery with you for seven point three hours yesterday."
Bones spoke up, seeming impatient to be left out of the conversation. "I had to repair the vertebrae and begin regeneration work on the spine. There's a lot of swelling, of course, and the paralysis will stick around until the pressure on your spine eases."
Will I be back to one hundred percent at some point?
Spock repeated the question to Bones. "I'm convinced you will, Jim. You're young and healthy, and the regeneration is progressing, slow but steady. We won't know for sure till it's all said and done, and I wish I could say when that would be. At this point, though, I can't see anything standing in the way of a full recovery." He smiled at Jim, no trace of his usual grumpiness. "You'll be back to your usual pain-in-the-ass self in no time, kid," he added, relief and genuine affection in his voice.
Please tell the doctor I said thanks, Spock. And then, could you ask him to excuse us for a few moments? I promise I won't keep you much longer. I just...there's something I have to say to you.
Spock's eyebrow lifted for a moment before he complied. Bones nodded good-naturedly when Spock conveyed Jim's thanks, but he looked dubious when Spock told him of the second part of Jim's request. "You're sure, kid?" he said to Jim. Jim blinked twice, and Bones hesitated a moment before nodding. "Okay. I'll be right outside." He said it pointedly, as much a warning to Spock as a reassurance to Jim. Jim almost rolled his eyes.
When the door had slid shut behind Bones, Spock turned back to Jim and awaited what he had to say.
You saved my life, Spock. I know how difficult it must been, the sacrifice you had to make to do it.
Spock's eyebrow climbed higher. "Captain?"
You're going to make me say it. Fine. I'm sorry you had to touch me, Spock. I'm sorry I put you in the position of having to pick me up. I know you stayed on the planet just to humor me and it was my fault we got attacked by that thing, and then you had to make yourself touch me. I was awake, you know. I know how damn difficult it was for you to force yourself to do it. I understand why. I'm just trying to say I'm sorry. Damn it...
Jim closed his eyes, cursing the moisture that leaked from the corners of them and trickled down his temples. Despite the hum of the bio-bed and the ambient noise of the ship's engines, the room was quiet for long moments. Jim tried not to think about all the reasons Spock hated him – didn't want to remind him of the horrible things he'd done in the first days they'd known each other – but now, when he was weakened and tired, he couldn't help it. The Kobayashi Maru, his insubordination, and the horrible things he'd said about Spock's relationship with his mother all played out behind his eyes, shame and regret coloring the memories. They were followed by thoughts of how Spock had consistently snubbed him socially since the beginning of their mission, and that he knew he deserved the censure, understood why Spock had no desire to spend his free time in Jim's company. He knew he had ruined any chance of friendship with Spock, let alone anything more.
"Captain..." Spock finally broke the silence, before amending, "Jim." Jim could swear his voice had softened. "It appears we have much to discuss at a later date. Your health is of primary importance now and I wish for you to focus your attention on the recovery process. However, I request that you pay close attention to what I am about to tell you." Jim opened his eyes to find Spock leaning over him, looking intently at him. "No action on your part could make me hate you. There is no sacrifice required of me where your safety is concerned. Protecting you was not an act of selflessness. On the contrary, I will always protect that which I do not wish to live without."
Jim would have gasped if he could. He attempted to sort his thoughts enough to ask a coherent question, but Spock shook his head.
Spock, wait! You can't drop a bomb like that and then refuse to talk about it...
"I fully intend to talk about it. Not now. You must rest and allow your body to recover. When you are, as the doctor would say, 'yourself again,' we will talk." With that, Spock carefully withdrew his hand from Jim's. Jim was powerless to do anything to stop him, though he had a thousand questions. Spock looked at him a moment longer before turning to the door. When it slid open, Bones was standing just outside. Though he huffed indignantly, he said nothing to Spock who slid gracefully past him.
Over the following days, Spock's duties as First Officer kept him busier than they had before Jim's accident. He was doing the work of the captain, first officer and science officer. The night after their conversation in Sickbay, Spock spent in his quarters meditating. He had not been prepared for the revelation of Jim's feelings for him. It would be logical for Jim to simply be grateful to be alive and that his gratitude extended to Spock, but what he had sensed from Jim went far deeper. He had little experience with human emotion aside from his mother and Nyota, but it made sense that feelings as deep as what Jim showed him were not simply the result of this one incident. Jim's memories were tinged with guilt, but the overwhelming feeling was sad resignation. It was as if Jim had accepted that he was getting exactly what he deserved.
Spock experienced his own regret at the misunderstanding his actions had created between them. He'd thought he was sparing Jim the displeasure of his own company – company Spock believed Jim would wish to avoid. He presumed he was doing the group a favor by removing himself. Quite the opposite, his actions led Jim to believe that Spock wished for nothing from him beyond a professional relationship. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Most surprising of all was realizing that Jim did not believe him incapable of emotion, though initially he had. During the Kobayashi Maru hearing when Spock had brought up George Kirk, Jim had thought of Spock as utterly heartless. Several things had changed Jim's perceptions – one was the loss of Spock's mother, and the other...the other was one memory Jim had managed to keep private while Spock was reading his thoughts. But no matter. The point was that Jim knew he had feelings, knew they were deep and powerful, and believed himself contemptible for manipulating Spock when he was already suffering the loss of his mother.
And there was something else. Of everything Spock had felt from Jim in those few minutes, amid all the maelstrom of guilt and regret, the strongest sense was one of longing. Jim wanted him. He wanted them to be friends, not just colleagues. He wanted Spock to stay when their friends got together. He wanted...he wanted Spock to return the affection and love Jim felt for him.
Spock could do that. Yes, he could.
One week after the incident, Spock was contacted by his father. As his shift was over and he had already visited Jim – something he did after his shift every day – he was in his quarters at the time completing paperwork. He was pleased, as always, to hear from Sarek. Their relationship had improved as they continued to bond over their shared loss of Amanda. He activated his view screen.
"Father," Spock greeted him, offering him the ta'al.
"Spock." Sarek returned the ta'al before adding, "I trust you are well."
"I am adequate, Father. It is pleasing to see you."
As was his custom, Sarek got directly to the point. "I have heard of the injuries Captain Kirk suffered on Samarus II and that you stopped the attack by the creature on the planet."
"That is correct. The captain suffered nearly total paralysis. However, he is recovering steadily and Dr. McCoy expects he will have no permanent effects from the injury."
Sarek did not reply. Instead he turned to look at someone outside the view screen's visual range. A moment later he turned back to Spock. "Spock, I have recently met a Vulcan elder of whose existence I was previously unaware. He joined the contingent of those who moved to New Vulcan to begin colonization. He goes by the name of Selek."
Spock thought his father's choice of words was unusual. "Indeed?"
Elder Selek stepped then into the visual range of the view screen. Spock stared at the very familiar, very old features that looked back at him.
"Spock," Selek said.
"You are..." But Spock did not know how to say what he was thinking. It was possible, of course, but the statistical likelihood was so low...
Fortunately Selek finished the thought for him. "I am Spock," he said. "I entered this timeline on Stardate 2258.40 through a singularity created 129 years in the future."
"A singularity created by Nero," Spock deduced.
"No, Spock. A singularity created by me."
Spock listened as the elder version of himself told him about the red matter – his own creation – and how he had made a failed attempt to save Romulus when its star was about to go supernova. Both his ship and the Narada had been drawn through the singularity, beginning the alteration to the timeline that was Spock's reality. Spock looked at his father repeatedly as the story was told. He knew his father would have melded with the older Vulcan to confirm that he was who he claimed to be; therefore Spock believed him as well. When it came to the point, however, when the elder Spock disclosed that he had both known James Kirk in his own reality and met this timeline's Jim Kirk on the surface of Delta Vega, Spock found himself becoming illogically anxious.
Sarek recognized his son's growing distress. "Spock, this is a great deal of information for you to integrate."
"Captain Kirk has not mentioned this," he said to Selek. "It seems he has been keeping important information from me."
"He did so at my insistence. I told him it was for your protection, that you must never know of my existence."
"Why did you send him aboard when you alone could have explained the truth?"
"Because you needed each other. I could not deprive you of the revelation of all that you could accomplish together, of a relationship that will define you both, in ways you may now be starting to realize."
"You manipulated Captain Kirk, who then employed the same tactics upon me because he believed there to be no other way," Spock replied with disapproval.
"Your assessment is accurate," Selek conceded.
"I am grateful to have received this information, Elder." He could not yet refer to the older him as Spock. "I wish to speak privately with my...our father now."
"Of course." The elder offered him the ta'al. Spock returned it and waited as the old Vulcan left the room. When the door had closed behind him, Sarek spoke.
"You have questions, Spock."
"Father, surely you agree that his methods were duplicitous."
"In the strictest sense, you are correct. Yet upon sharing a meld with him, I came to understand his reasons." Sarek paused for a moment before adding wryly, "It seems being in love with a human has a profound effect upon the men of our family."
"In love?" Spock repeated.
"Elder Selek and his Captain Kirk were bonded in their timeline. His grief at the loss of his mate is no less profound for the fifty years that have passed since his death. Seeing young James Kirk again was unexpected and overwhelming for him. Moreover, it came only hours after the destruction of Vulcan, for which he blames himself. Perhaps it would be wise to take into consideration his emotional compromise at that time before judging him too harshly."
"I have often wondered about alternate timelines and their effect on bondmates, especially for those of us who have chosen a bondmate rather than remain with the one to whom we were bonded as a child. Though I have no evidence, I have considered that a chosen bond may be stronger than one that has been arranged, partly because the katra of each is well-matched for the other. Were these two katras to find each other in an alternate timeline, would they recognize each other? Would they sense what could be?" He paused thoughtfully, then added, "Do you have any light to shed?"
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Not at this time. However, I will endeavor to undertake research into the matter and will keep you abreast of my findings."
"I look forward to it. And now I bid you farewell, son." Sarek raised the ta'al. "Live long and prosper."
Spock returned the salutation before the screen went blank. As his mother might have said, What a day. He had much to consider – not the least of which was how he'd never known his father was such a romantic. Fascinating.
Jim's powers of speech returned the day after he awoke. His progress consisted of small victories – a twitch of a finger, the ability to move his head slightly. Each was a sign of his continual recovery. The question most asked by every crew member on the ship was, "Have you heard what the Captain did today?" As the swelling subsided and Bones had more room to work with the spinal regeneration unit, his progress was accelerated. Nevertheless, it was still a long process.
The ship's senior staff – his friends – came to visit him regularly. It was the only way he could handle his recuperation; or, as he referred to it, his incarceration. And Spock...well, Spock was there every single day. And it wasn't to discuss ship's business, either. If there was something related to the ship on which Spock wished Jim's opinion, he came down to Sickbay during his shift to discuss it. Then he would return after the shift for a purely social visit. They hadn't touched again, as much as Jim wanted to. He had asked Spock about the things Spock had said they needed to discuss. Spock agreed but deferred the conversation to when Jim was recovered. Jim wasn't great at being patient, but this was important. He would wait.
Jim wasn't the only one to notice Spock's visits. Two others were witness to those daily sojourns to Jim's bedside – Christine Chapel and Bones. Christine was completely professional, and as such it didn't matter what she was thinking – she wasn't saying it.
Bones, on the other hand, mentioned it to Jim as soon as Spock had left on the day of the fourth visit.
"That's the fourth time the hobgoblin's been here in as many days. Can't he run the ship on his own?" he grumbled.
"I'm sure he can," Jim replied, his blue eyes sparkling. "I really don't know. He hasn't mentioned it."
"You mean he's not down here discussing ship's business with you?"
"Not so far."
Bones was perplexed. "Then what..." He trailed off and fell silent. He thought of Spock arguing strenuously with Jim those times when Jim wanted to go on an away mission that Spock deemed too dangerous for him. 'You are not a simple crew member, Captain. You must accept that you are more important to our five-year mission than anyone else on this ship.' He recalled the day two ensigns had made the unfortunate mistake of commenting on Jim's shapely ass, just as Spock passed them in the corridor. Spock had stopped short, turned to them and given them an absolutely crushing lecture on respect for superior officers. Bones had been the only one to witness it, but he wished everyone on the ship could have seen just how badass the Vulcan could be. He thought back to several days ago when they'd received the request for emergency beam-out. Spock and Jim had arrived half an hour later, but that was far too long. Spock ran through the halls of the Enterprise, clutching Captain Kirk in his arms, shouting at crew members to get out of the way. They could have beamed Jim from the transporter pad directly to Sickbay but Spock was off the pad and down the hall before the transporter tech could even suggest it.
Finally McCoy thought about Spock standing in Sickbay while the bio-bed spat out readings on Jim's injuries. He had watched Jim so intently, his voice cracking when he said, "Doctor, he's not breathing!" McCoy had seen that look on Spock's face before. He was on the bridge when Chekov announced that Nero had created a singularity that would consume Spock's home planet. "They are creating a black hole at the center of Vulcan? How long does the planet have?" It was panic.
"Hello?" Jim was saying. "Bonesy, you there?"
"Jim," Bones said calmly, "what's happening here?"
Jim raised his eyebrows – his most recently reacquired ability – and let his eyes dart around the room. "In Sickbay?"
"Between you and Spock. Since when do you two chat? Hell – since when does Spock chat, period? But here he is, every day, sitting at your bedside like he's got nowhere else to be. And if he's not talking about the business of running the Enterprise..."
Jim's cheeks colored slightly. "Ah, right. That. Honestly, I really don't know what's happening, Bones."
"Have you been seeing him outside work?"
"No. Before this thing attacked us, we'd barely had a conversation that wasn't related to an assignment or the ship...not since the beginning of the mission. I figured he hated me."
"I thought you hated him," Bones pointed out gruffly. "After what he said about your father during the hearing..."
"At the time it was happening, yeah, it sure felt like I did. But Bones, you know what happened on Delta Vega. You know why I had to say those things to him. It wasn't because I hated him. I don't – I don't hate him at all. In fact..."
"What, Jim?" Bones was looking at him incredulously, as though he already knew what Jim was about to say and couldn't believe it.
"I..." Jim wavered before deciding he would not tell Bones how he felt about Spock, before he'd even told Spock himself. "I don't hate him," he finished lamely. "And that's all I can say about it for now."
Bones looked dubious, but after a moment's reflection, he shrugged. "Okay. Then I won't push. But if you need to talk..."
"I know." Jim smiled – or rather, his eyes did. "Thanks, Bonesy."
Bones turned to move on to his next patient and Jim sighed. He was grateful that Bones, rather uncharacteristically, let it go as easily as he did. Upon reflection he realized that it was likely due to his current fragile state of health. Bones wasn't pushing now, but once Jim was fully recovered, he would want to know.
Jim truly hoped he would have something to tell.
He didn't know exactly where Spock's head was at. Those few sentences Spock had murmured, though brief, had given him much to hope for. Since then his manner had been so different from the cool detachment he'd maintained for the first nine months of their mission. He was warm – a casual observer might not have been able to see this, but Jim did – and he was kind. He was interested in Jim. He asked questions about Jim's childhood and youth, and not simply because he was making conversation – because, as Bones had said, when did Spock ever simply make conversation? – but because he truly wanted to know.
Spock also answered Jim's reciprocal inquiries. He told Jim about his mother – his human mother, the woman whom the Vulcan Science Academy had viewed as a disadvantage – and the bullies who had denigrated her. Jim had difficulty speaking about his own upbringing. In a few colorful sentences he outlined his life before joining Starfleet Academy. For only the second time, Jim found his hand enclosed in Spock's. This time, though, Spock allowed his own thoughts to come through. I'm sorry, ashayam, I'm sorry for what they did to you, he thought, his head bowed.
Jim didn't know what ashayam meant, but as long as Spock's hand was on his, nothing else really mattered just then. Can you hear me this way? he asked.
Yes, Spock replied.
Good. This is nice. Although, since no one else knows we're talking like this, I suppose it's a little rude.
Spock looked up then, catching Jim's gaze. They cannot be offended by that of which they are unaware. Jim laughed out loud at Spock's version of 'what they don't know won't hurt them', prompting Spock to add, However, if you continue to burst into what they would view as random fits of laughter, they may begin to question your mental stability. That only made Jim laugh harder. How could anyone ever say Vulcans had no sense of humor?
Twenty-six days after the attack, Jim sat up in the bio-bed for the first time. That was a day for celebration, and Bones allowed the senior staff to invade Sickbay all at once, for an hour. They sat around the bed – Jim had long ago insisted that he be moved out of the private room, to where he could actually see people – and drank to Jim's health with some of Scotty's contraband hooch. It was the first time the whole group was together again; or more accurately, the first time the whole group was together at all, because Spock was finally with them. He sat closest to Jim, speaking occasionally but mostly just being there. Jim saw Bones watching them, observing carefully though he feigned a casual attitude. Jim simply shrugged at him and grinned. Bones' reaction was to roll his eyes, but Jim knew it to be that particular expression which Bones had developed just for him, the one Bones thought hid how much he cared for his friend.
Spock's visits had not subsided. Rather, they had increased in the length of time he spent at Jim's bedside. It wasn't only because they had more to talk about. Sometimes they talked more, sometimes less; but Spock seemed more and more reluctant to leave. Two weeks later when Jim had his first therapy session to begin learning to walk again, Spock was with him. Bones had suggested Jim might want Spock to leave, that he may not want him to see his first awkward steps. Spock turned to Jim, the question in his eyes, and Jim settled it. Spock stayed.
It was hard work, no question, and Jim sweated and swore and his knees buckled more than once. Bones stood behind Jim and Spock stood in front of him, backing up an inch or two at a time, their progress so slow but so exhausting. When Jim collapsed into the hover chair waiting for him at the end of the session, he burst into tears out of sheer frustration. Bones knelt before him, taking both of Jim's hands into his. "Jimmy, you did a great job. Six weeks ago you couldn't move your mouth – couldn't even breathe on your own. Today you pushed yourself across the room through sheer force of will. Your brain has to learn again how to talk to your muscles. It's going to get a little easier every day, kid."
Jim nodded miserably. He knew Bones wasn't just humoring him, as Bones never saw the merit in sugar-coating things like that. Still, it seemed he had such an impossibly long road ahead of him. Bones held his hands a moment longer then excused himself to get Jim a wet facecloth he could clean up with. As Bones vacated the space before him, Spock glided silently into it. He held Jim's hands as Bones had done, with two differences: Spock's were warmer by at least five degrees Celsius, and his fingertips continually traced light patterns over the backs of Jim's hands. Jim looked into Spock's deep brown eyes, so empathetic and kind. Look - he has human eyes. They look sad, those boys had taunted him. Jim didn't think they looked sad. Jim thought they were the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.
Less than a week later, through a combination of the neural regeneration and Jim's refusal to give up, he had regained enough mobility that Bones allowed him to leave Sickbay and return to his own quarters. He was able to make his way around in the small space and use the bathroom on his own. Bones' only stipulation about activity in his own quarters was that he stick to sonic showers only, unless someone was there to hear if he slipped on a wet shower floor. As much as he would have loved a real shower with hot water, Jim agreed to Bones' conditions. One thing he absolutely refused to do was use the cane Bones insisted he take, to help steady him if he was feeling off-balance. He wasn't allowed to leave Sickbay without taking it, but once it was in his room it was tossed into a corner and never used once.
That day when he was on his way back to his room – too glad to be getting out of sickbay to truly care that Bones was making him use a hoverchair, and graciously greeting all the crew members who stopped to tell him how glad they were for his recovery – he assumed it would be exactly as he'd left it. He would enter to find a still-unmade bed, clothes on the floor, PADDs stacked on his desk and a book open on his night table, face down to keep his place.
What he did not expect was for it to be full of the people he'd come to think of not just as friends, but family: Scotty, Sulu, Chekov and Uhura, plus Spock and Bones who were accompanying from Sickbay back to his room. Uhura popped a bottle of champagne - real stuff, too, not that Synthehol shit Starfleet supplied for special occasions. Everyone took turns toasting him in their own way: a Russian toast that Chekov told Jim was a wish for his good health. A Swahili blessing from Uhura for a good life. A Japanese toast from Sulu; a toast from Scotty that made him sound something like a cat with a hairball. Bones offered, "Here's mud in your eye," and Jim thought his sides would split at seeing Spock's reaction to that one.
When it was Spock's turn, everyone looked expectantly at him, Jim included. Would he join in the spirit of the offerings, or would he list the reasons why it was illogical to drink a toast? The first would have meant he was truly making an effort, but the second would have been so quintessentially Spock. Jim honestly couldn't decide which would make him happier, and he knew their friends were in such a celebratory mood that even if Spock did play it true to Vulcan, they would only be amused.
Spock did not keep him waiting long. Setting his champagne glass on the desk – just as full now as when it was handed to him – he raised his hand to Jim. "Live long and prosper," he said simply, his voice warm and sincere. Everyone in the room joined him. Jim struggled to return the salute, using his opposite hand to arrange his fingers correctly, but when he managed, he was greeted with spontaneous applause from everyone in the room.
Eventually, the group of friends began to excuse themselves, leaving one by one after hugs and words of encouragement for Jim. Finally only Jim, Spock and Bones were left. When Bones was satisfied that his patient was taken care of, he gave Jim and Spock a final look, and then he too took his leave.
As thrilled as he was to finally be alone with Spock, Jim was completely exhausted by the little party. It was the most excitement he'd had in weeks. After visiting the bathroom and changing into a loose pair of fleece shorts and a sleeveless undershirt, he slowly made his way back out into the room. Spock stood ready and watching, in case he needed help, but allowed Jim to do what he needed to, unassisted. Jim reclined on the bed, stretching out his muscles and groaning deeply. "Damn, it feels good to be in my own bed. If I never have to sleep in a bio-bed again, it'll be too soon."
"I share your feelings in this regard," Spock said, his voice quiet but full of meaning.
Jim relaxed out of his stretch and smiled at Spock standing there watching him. "I'm glad you're here," he said softly. "Will you...?" He gently patted the bed beside him, at which Spock raised an eyebrow. Jim chuckled and shook his head. "I don't mean that. I just...I'd love to just lie here and talk. You told me weeks ago that we have important things to discuss when I'm better. Well, I'm out of Sickbay now. I'm walking, mostly unassisted. I have full cognitive function. I'm ready, Spock. Please talk to me?"
Spock approached the bed, leaning over Jim. "You have had a tiring day," he replied. "While I share your desire for our conversation, I believe at this time you would be best served by a full night's rest. However," he continued, "I have no wish to depart. If you are in agreement, I would be gratified to remain with you tonight. We could talk in the morning."
"You want to sleep with me?" Jim repeated.
Without a second's hesitation, Jim pulled back the covers on the far side of the bed. Spock took a few moments to prepare for bed, borrowing a pair of sweat pants and a long-sleeved undershirt from Jim and changing in the bathroom before rejoining Jim in his room. By then Jim had awkwardly wiggled the covers out from underneath him and pulled them up to his waist. Spock climbed in beside him and covered up as well, and then Jim ordered the lights out. They lay on their backs side by side, looking up at the ceiling, until Jim said, "Do you...would it be okay if we...maybe...cuddled?"
"That would be pleasing," Spock said, awkward but more than willing. Jim tried to push himself over onto his side so he could lie in Spock's arms but was having trouble getting his leg to do what he wanted. It just didn't want to work that way and after a moment of struggling, he flopped onto his back, a bit of frustration flaring.
"Will you allow me to assist you?" Spock asked.
"Yes, please," replied Jim, working to suppress the tremor in his voice that would give away the strong emotions, always so close to the surface these days.
Spock pulled Jim onto his side and drew him into his arms, his gentleness belying the Vulcan strength that allowed him to easily lift Jim even at an odd angle. Jim got himself settled into the nook of Spock's shoulder and released a deep breath, relaxing fully into the very warm body that lay flush with his from head to toe. Though he didn't want to fall asleep – wanted to enjoy this as fully as possible – he truly was exhausted. It was only moments until the warmth of Spock's body, the comfort of his own bed and plain old contentment overwhelmed any other intentions and he was fast asleep.
Spock remained awake for some time. Once he knew Jim was asleep he allowed himself to enter his nightly meditative state. He was pleased to find that having Jim so close did not hinder his meditation. Rather, he reached a deeper state than he had in months. When he emerged ready to sleep he found that Jim had somehow wiggled even closer, burying his face in Spock's neck. Spock's skin was very sensitive and with Jim's lips brushing his neck most pleasantly, he fell asleep, thinking himself as happy as he had ever been.
He awoke before Jim did the next morning. Jim was still close and had managed to turn over. Spock hadn't moved, and was now lying behind Jim, their bodies molded together. Spock was torn. He wished to remain where he was, but he thought Jim might enjoy the human custom of having his morning meal in bed. In the end he decided not to leave Jim, choosing to believe that there would be future dates on which he would wake up with Jim and could prepare his breakfast at that time. He continued to hold Jim, his first two fingers gently stroking Vulcan kisses up and down the back of Jim's hand. He had decided that, assuming Jim felt rested enough to talk, today was the day.
He was ready to be honest about the full extent of his feelings for Jim. He wanted to tell him that he knew about Spock Prime, to alleviate the guilt Jim had been carrying for so many months after the things he'd said about Spock's mother. He had to explain to Jim why, all those months, he had insisted on leaving a group if Jim came in. He needed to apologize for the way he'd used George Kirk's death in the Kobayashi Maru hearing, and be honest about the irrational resentment he had carried against him before Jim even took the test the first time.
Finally, if Jim accepted his apology and returned his feelings, Spock was going to tell Jim he loved him. He was going to call him every Vulcan endearment he could think of and perhaps learn a couple of human ones as well. He wanted to press his fingertips to Jim's while their mouths met. And then, after they'd courted for a sufficient period of time, Spock, to use a human term, wanted to make love to Jim. He wanted Jim to spend the rest of his life with him.
And he wanted the rest of Jim's life to start today.
He took advantage of having Jim's throat so near his lips, to press a soft kiss to it. Jim stirred and stretched in his arms, angling his body so he was on his back. A moment later he opened his eyes. Giving Spock a sleepy smile, he quietly greeted, "Hey."
"Good morning," Spock returned. "Did you rest well?"
"That was the best night's sleep I've had since we left earth nearly a year ago," Jim replied, rubbing at his bleary eyes. "Did you sleep okay? I didn't keep you awake, did I?"
"After you fell asleep I engaged in my nightly meditation ritual, and then I slept for 4.2 hours."
"Only four hours?"
"That is a full night's sleep for a Vulcan, Jim," Spock explained. Jim looked impressed and muttered that it must be nice to have that much extra time in a day.
They reluctantly separated then, Spock helping Jim to a standing position before allowing him to visit the bathroom on his own. Spock ordered them both breakfast from the room's replicator, rather than inviting speculation from the crew by going to retrieve their breakfast from the mess. When Jim returned Spock was just setting a mug of hot coffee down beside a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon and wheat toast. Across the table from Jim's breakfast was Spock's – fresh fruit, quinoa cereal and a teapot in which Vulcan tea was steeping. Jim's eyes were vivid blue as he smiled broadly at Spock, an expression that remained on his face in some form throughout the meal they took together.
After breakfast they returned to Jim's bed, Spock sitting cross-legged with his back against the wall and Jim lying on one side, propped up on his elbow. They sat in awkward silence for a few moments before Jim cleared his throat. "I have so much to say, Spock – so much to apologize for, and I don't even know how to begin."
"There is much I wish to say as well. I have a suggestion to help facilitate our conversation. Are you familiar with the procedure called a mind-meld?"
Jim's eyes, which had been fixed on the bedspread, now flew to Spock's, a fear in them that gave Spock a sinking feeling in his stomach. "I'm familiar, y-yes," Jim stammered, "but I – I don't know, Spock..."
"Do you have questions? Perhaps I can alleviate your concern."
"It's just...there are things that are private, and—"
"I understand," Spock said, the sinking feeling becoming something akin to the bottom of his stomach falling away. "It is not my wish to violate your privacy, Jim. We will communicate through more established means."
"Wait," Jim interjected. "It's not my own privacy I'm worried about. There's a secret I'm keeping at someone else's request, and I've been assured that it would be dangerous if the secret were to be known by someone else. If not for that, I would gladly..."
Spock felt relief as Jim spoke, as he believed he knew what Jim referred to. If he was correct, it was something that could be dealt with easily. "Are you referring to your encounter with my older counterpart from an alternate reality?"
Jim's jaw dropped open. "What?" he asked incredulously. "How the hell did you know that?"
Spock had trouble containing his amusement at Jim's shocked reaction, his mouth twitching slightly before he controlled it. "The elder you met, who now goes by the name Ambassador Selek, contacted me through our father seven days after your injuries on the planet. They became aware of the animal attack and my involvement in it, and Elder Selek was anxious for an update on your condition. As you were by that time awake and speaking, I assured them of your health and that Dr. McCoy anticipated a full recovery. I have spoken to my father several times since then, and he has passed updates on to Elder Selek."
Jim was beginning to look angry. "That bastard! He told me I had to keep it a secret, for your protection! I thought Vulcans didn't fucking lie!"
"Initially, I too felt anger for the means by which you were manipulated by my counterpart," Spock admitted. "Discussion with my father and further reflection of my own has changed my view on this."
"Mind explaining how?" Jim demanded.
Spock moved so that he was lying parallel to Jim, encouraging to him relax again after he'd struggled to a seated position. "I will gladly explain it. However, the means by which I do so is up to you. May I ask, now that you are no longer charged with protecting Selek's secret, are you still opposed to the idea of a meld?"
Jim's eyes softened. "Spock, I told you. Where it concerns my own thoughts and memories, I'm not worried about melding with you. You are welcome inside my mind." He reached out hesitantly and with the softest brush of his fingertips, he caressed Spock's cheek.
Spock thought he had never heard more pleasing words. "Relax, then, ashayam," he murmured, and Jim lay his head down on the pillow. They were on their sides, facing each other, and Spock reached out with his hand to find the psi points on Jim's face. "My mind to your mind..."
...my thoughts to your thoughts.
The time they spent in the meld was the most beautiful and sacred thing Spock had ever experienced. There was so much they needed to tell each other, and they accomplished this mostly by reliving their memories what had transpired, with the thoughts and feelings of each during those moments. Beneath everything there was an underlying current of love, as they viewed those memories, some of them difficult, together.
Spock showed Jim how intriguing he'd found him from the moment he became aware of his existence, in spite of the denial and jealousy that kept him from understanding his feelings at first...he thought of the Kobayashi Maru hearing and how much he regretted using George Kirk's legacy to hurt Jim.
The thought of his father made Jim remember Spock's face when he beamed back from Vulcan, that arm outstretched for his mother who never rematerialized. From that moment Jim had suspected Spock was harboring deep grief for his mother and his planet...Spock saw Jim's memories of trying to offer him the Vulcan words of consolation and the meld with Spock Prime that confirmed what Jim suspected, that Vulcans did indeed feel – deeply.
It made sense to Spock, knowing how compassionate Jim was, that he'd been so distressed at having to emotionally compromise Spock at a time when he was already suffering. He could have explained, Spock knew; could have told Spock Prime's secret to exonerate himself, but he believed Spock's life was at stake. As such he would have gone to his grave with that secret, even later when the crisis was past, and even though it meant sacrificing his own chance for happiness.
Spock showed Jim the moment he'd realized his true feelings and the conversation with his father that assured him of his father's love and desire for Spock's happiness. He showed him all the factors that went into his decision to apply to serve aboard the Enterprise. He admitted that he'd expected his application to be denied, at least for the position of First Officer; but that he hoped only for the chance to be close enough to Jim that he might protect him when he could.
He shuddered when Jim thought of all those times he'd joined their friends, only to have Spock excuse himself within moments. Jim had decided it was apt punishment for an unforgivable act, and through his memories Spock saw that Jim's hope – one of his most inexhaustible resources – had begun to fade. With bitter regret, he'd started to consider admitting defeat, admitting that a friendship with Spock may be forever beyond his reach. For his part, Spock showed Jim his side of those nights when he had left their group of friends, and his belief that he was doing Jim a favor, sparing him from socializing outside work. It frustrated Jim, the belief that so many misunderstandings and assumptions were a result of his adherence to the elder Spock's orders. 'Months of misery,' he thought, 'and completely needless. What the hell gave him the right?'
Spock explained why his older counterpart had been less than forthright about protecting the secret of his existence. Jim had appeared, quite unexpectedly, to Spock Prime at a time when he had just found himself in an alternate reality and been forced to witness the destruction of his planet. He explained how much the old Vulcan missed the love of his life; how greatly he must have valued a mere couple of hours in the presence of the bondmate who, in his own time, had passed away many years before.
His emotions already high, Jim couldn't contain them as he thought of it from that perspective. The elder Spock had admitted his own emotional compromise to him, and he had barely spared a moment then to consider the depth of the old Vulcan's grief. Now, inside the meld, Jim wept (and when he later emerged from the meld to find a wet pillow, he realized physical tears had mirrored those inside the meld).
Finally, they reached the moment of truth, sharing the feelings that had been with them for so many months, harbored and nurtured even in the face of adversity. The truth was, they loved each other – they were in love with each other. All the regret, all the misjudgments were behind them, for nothing could be hidden now with their minds joined. Ashayam – it meant beloved. The happiness in Jim's mind was like a dawning sunrise, growing brighter and brighter as he allowed himself to believe that what he'd desired for so long was actually within his grasp now. Spock felt the warmth of that glowing bright mind and reveled in it, wishing to remain there as long as Jim would let him.
'Forever,' thought Jim sleepily in response. He was becoming tired, after so much emotion and now possessing the peace and contentment that comes with knowing you are loved. Still, he smiled at the rush of euphoria he felt from Spock at that prospect...forever.
Despite their new understanding, the next few months weren't always idyllic.
Oh, there were moments when one or both of them felt moments of near-perfect happiness. The first time they kissed – the human way, since it turned out those gentle caresses on the hand Spock had been giving Jim were the Vulcan equivalent of kissing – was one of those extraordinary moments. They had been taking a slow walk around the ship, staying on the deck that contained Jim and Spock's quarters, when Jim decided to stop for a rest at one of the observation ports. "Damn," he chided himself as they sat, "I should have brought some water with me. This is hard work."
Immediately Spock was on his feet. "I shall return in approximately 17.3 seconds." Jim barely had time to speak before Spock had disappeared down the corridor. He returned soon after – Jim didn't count the seconds – with a container of cold water.
"Wow," said Jim, thanking Spock after taking a long draw from the water bottle. "That hit the spot." Spock didn't reply. He seemed to be staring at the lower portion of Jim's face. "Spock?"
Spock blinked and his eyes met Jim's once again. "Yes, Captain?"
"Captain?" Jim chuckled at the formality. Spock seldom used his title anymore unless they were on shift. "Did you forget where we are?"
Spock's eyes were once again locked on Jim's mouth, and instead of answering he leaned in slowly, inching closer and closer to Jim's face, until his tongue came out to catch a droplet of water that rested on the peak of Jim's top lip. Jim gasped, barely audible to any but Vulcan ears. Spock took that as an invitation. Leaning in the rest of the way, his mouth finally met Jim's. Jim sighed into the kiss, his lips moving slow and sweet with Spock's. It lasted only a few seconds, but they were the most glorious few seconds of Jim's life so far.
For several weeks after that, a chaste kiss was the most action Jim and Spock got, and that was okay. Eventually the kisses started to last a bit longer, started to involve the use of open mouths and tongues. If Spock was feeling particularly Vulcan, he would lace his fingers through Jim's as they made out. Beyond that, though, it didn't lead to anything more intimate, at least until the day arrived when Jim and Spock decided it was time for them to talk about sex.
While Jim believed Spock when he told Jim he was a virgin, he was less inclined to believe Spock's claims that he had never masturbated, never had an orgasm. "Vulcans do not—" Spock began, but Jim cut him off.
"Oh, don't give me that 'Vulcans do not' crap, Spock," he said with frustration. "Vulcans don't lie, except the one who did a kickass job of manipulating me. Vulcans don't smile, except last week when you totally smiled after Nurse Chapel brought you plomeek soup she made herself. Vulcans don't feel jealousy, except—"
Spock interrupted this time. "You have made your point, Captain," he said stiffly before turning and crossing to the viewport in Jim's quarters.
This use of the formal title brought Jim up short, and he took a deep breath to calm down. "Okay – I'm sorry. I shouldn't use that against you. But Spock, come on. This is me you're talking to. We're supposed to be honest with each other."
His back still to Jim, Spock didn't answer. His ears were flushing a deep green, and Jim waited a moment before closing the distance between them and turning Spock to face him. "Spock...you're serious? You've never touched yourself?"
"Vulcans can, with one notable exception, regulate our endocrine response in the same way we control the respiratory and circulatory systems and other organs. I have always chosen to suppress the hormones that fuel sexual desire, until recently when you and I realized we shared deeper feelings. As such, I have never self-stimulated. Moreover, now that we are in a relationship, my desire is to experience sexual pleasure for the first time with you, when we are ready."
Jim was surprised into silence. Had Spock really just admitted that he was hot for Jim but wasn't jerking off because he wanted Jim to give him his first orgasm? Jim was trying to think of how to reply when Spock turned back to the window and continued, "On the other hand, you have extensive familiarity with many aspects of sexual intimacy. Perhaps you have no desire for a partner with no experience."
Extensive familiarity with many aspects of sexual intimacy? "Uh...is that how Vulcans call someone a slut?" Jim asked quietly.
"Your sexual prowess was legendary at Starfleet Academy," Spock said.
"Was it," Jim replied dully. "What's the root of the word legendary, Spock? It's legend. As in, an unverifiable story. Would you like to know the truth about how many people I slept with when I was at the Academy? Or would you rather believe the 'legend' too, like everyone else always has?"
During this speech Spock had turned back to Jim, stunned at the tone of his voice. He had heard Jim become frustrated before – certainly, being with Jim during his physical therapy sessions exposed him to that. He had heard Jim angry. He had heard him happy and pleading and professional and even sad. But Jim defeated was something wholly new to him.
"The reports were exaggerated?" he asked.
"The number is five. In three years, I was with five people. That's not even two a year." As he spoke Jim sank down onto the bed and began to untie his shoes, seeming suddenly exhausted. "One of those five was Gaila, who was the only one I slept with more than a couple of times. We had a friends-with-benefits thing. The others were all casual. Two men, two women. I know everyone thought all I did was party. I did go to parties, but only on Friday and Saturday nights, and only after I'd studied my ass off all week long. I flirted a lot, I admit it, but it was always just friendly banter. I almost never went home with anyone, but everyone thought I was sleeping with anything on two legs plus a few species who had four." He shrugged listlessly. "Why they lied about things that never happened, and why they had to include me in it? I have no idea."
"The Caitian professor who took you to her room?"
Jim laughed bitterly. "She said she had a vid on her PADD of an ancient documentary about the Challenger space shuttle disaster. I had a space history test the next day, covering the twentieth century. She suggested that watching it might help me explain on the test what went wrong to cause it. Only thing I actually found in her room was a horny felinoid. When I realized that, I left." He let his upper body fall backwards onto the bed. "I sort of thought that after three years that whole thing with her might have died down, or at least be eclipsed by events that, you know, actually happened. It's starting to feel like it's going to follow me around for the rest of my life, no matter what else I do." With that he lay on the bed and rolled to his side facing the wall, his back to Spock.
Spock had never been more disappointed in himself, not even when he used Jim's father's memory during the Kobayashi Maru hearing. He knew much of what was said about Jim during his time at the Academy did not paint an accurate or complete picture of the cadet. He had learned the real circumstances behind many of those stories as he and Jim talked and got to know each other. Why had it not occurred to him that the stories of Jim's alleged promiscuity might also have been fabricated?
At that moment Spock realized a profound truth about the relationship that was developing between them. Never before had anyone had the potential to make him as happy as Jim did, but neither had anyone possessed the potential to hurt him as deeply as Jim could. Spock knew he had the power to affect Jim's life in the same way. It was a weighty responsibility – the most important of his life – and one he was honored to have entrusted to him.
The bed sagged slightly as Spock climbed in beside Jim. "Jim," Spock said softly. There was no reply. "Jim, I am sorry for my unkind words. I too have been victim to unfounded rumors, particularly when I was young. They are harmful both to the subject and to those who listen and repeat them." He placed a hand lightly on Jim's shoulder. "Had I reconsidered the veracity of the reports after getting to know you better, I would have concluded that they too were unreliable, much as the other stories were. Furthermore, it was reprehensible of me to mention your past sexual history in a derogatory way, when we were having a serious discussion that should have served to promote our relationship."
Jim now rolled onto his back. His face flushed and red, he squinted at Spock in the low lighting of his quarters. "You believe me?"
"Indeed." Spock gently took Jim's hand in his. "Ashayam, please forgive me."
Jim looked at him a moment longer before sitting up and throwing his arms around Spock. Spock reciprocated by pulling Jim tight against him. "I never cared what anyone said about me," Jim said, his voice muffled by Spock's neck. "I never set the record straight because I figured anyone who believed it wouldn't matter to me. I didn't count on you. If you doubted me, I don't know what—"
"I shall never doubt you," Spock replied warmly.
"If I'd known you'd be out here waiting for me, Spock...if I'd known someday you'd come along and you'd become my entire world...I'd have waited for you." Spock's reaction was to hold Jim even tighter. "I've never been in love, and I've never made love. When you and I do that, it will be my first time, because I love you."
"Taluhk nash-veh k'dular," Spock murmured in reply.
The subject of their respective sexual histories and their future expectations was the final roadblock, Jim felt, on their way to reaching a deeper level in their relationship. Having had those discussions, a lightness of being came over Jim that he hadn't felt since the day he realized he had a crush on Spock. His old commodity, hope, which had recently been on back order, returned to him with interest. His physical recovery progressed remarkably. Bones was thrilled, and not even just in his own way. For several weeks he met Jim with a broad smile every time he saw him walking in the hall or walk into Sickbay. He was so grateful for the recovery of not just his captain, but his friend. Every crew member onboard felt the same way, even if they didn't feel it quite as deeply as Bones did.
On the day Jim was cleared to return to active duty – the real thing, not just paperwork in his quarters – his return to the bridge was heralded with a standing ovation from his crew. Jim grinned and shook hands and returned hugs, and when he finally sank into the command chair once again, Ensign Chekov made a ship-wide announcement that Captain Kirk had resumed command of the Enterprise at last. Spock and Bones flanked Jim's chair, Bones heading back to Sickbay after a few minutes and Spock remaining for the better part of an hour. Jim didn't feel, as he once would have, that Spock was looming over him or that he doubted Jim's ability. Quite the opposite, he felt supported and comforted by Spock's presence.
At the end of their shift, rather than being tired out by his first real day of work in weeks, Jim felt exhilarated. He was back to doing what he believed he was meant to do. He had intelligent and competent staff who, in his absence, had continued to keep the ship running as well as he would have. Most important, he was in a serious and stable relationship that he treasured more every day.
Jim and Spock had already arranged that they would have dinner together that evening after their shift. It was their chance to privately celebrate Jim's full recovery. Just as the shift ended, however, Jim got a comm from Bones asking him to stop by Sickbay. Spock told him to go ahead and that he would proceed to Jim's quarters to await his return. In Sickbay, Bones opened a bottle of Saurian brandy and Jim couldn't say no to having a drink with him. Bones was, after all, his oldest friend, not to mention that it was his surgical precision and brilliance that had made it possible for Jim to walk again at all. Jim limited it to one drink, however, and stayed no more than an hour. When he did excuse himself, Bones gave him an indulgent smile.
"Thanks, Bonesy," Jim said gratefully. "Thanks for being such a kickass doctor, and thanks for accepting Spock. I know he isn't one of your favorite people, but..."
"Jimmy," Bones replied, "I've had many opportunities to observe Spock since your accident. He has shown such care and patience during your recovery, and it's obvious that your safety and your happiness are the most important things to him. You're happier than I've ever seen you, kid. That's all I really need to know. Now, go on with you. Your boyfriend is ready to have you to himself, I'll wager."
A few moments later, Jim stepped through the door of his quarters to find that Spock had already prepared their dinner and was just setting it on the table. He had also placed a vase of flowers on the table beside two candles that were flickering in the low lighting. Jim stood and observed the beauty that was Spock by candlelight, letting the perfection of the scene wash over him and thinking that he would be glad to come 'home' to a similar scene every night for the rest of his life.
"Your timing is fortuitous," Spock said warmly, and where Spock's formal way of speaking had once seemed pretentious to Jim, he now found it completely adorable.
"Wow, Spock, this is amazing. Flowers and candles?"
"Indeed. Doctor McCoy was most gracious as to keep you occupied for a short period of time to allow me to make these arrangements."
Jim thought his heart would melt. "You had Bones keep me busy for a while so you could set this up?"
"As I said."
"And do I smell lasagna?"
"Indeed," Spock replied. "I have noted that it is one of your preferred choices."
"It's my favorite!"
"I cannot comprehend why you insist on paraphrasing that which I have just stated, Jim."
Jim just grinned. "Well, it smells awesome. I'm absolutely starved. Thank you for doing all this."
"It is my pleasure."
Over dinner they talked about their day, despite that they had spent eight hours of it together. Their conversation was light and relaxed. Every few minutes Spock would reach out, almost absently, to caress the back of Jim's fingers with his own, without interrupting the conversation or in any way acknowledging what he was doing. Each time he did, Jim got goosebumps up his arm and a feeling that tingled all the way down into his groin. After five or six Vulcan kisses, he was sporting a hard-on that was damn near painful.
There was no way Spock was unaware of the effect he was having; his telepathy would tell him as soon as they made contact. Jim started to suspect that Spock was doing this on purpose, and wondered if this was his boyfriend's approach to seducing him into bed. A flush on Spock's cheeks that crept all the way up to his ears, betrayed that Jim was pretty damn close.
When dinner was over and the dishes were disposed of in the recycler, Jim took Spock's hand and drew him into the middle of the room. Words now escaped them both, but they weren't necessary. Slowly and reverently Jim removed Spock's command tunic and the black undershirt beneath it, then lifted his arms and allowed Spock to do the same to him. He let his eyes roam over Spock's bare chest, slim but defined with pale skin and a smattering of black hair. His hand reached out of its own volition, pausing midway when he realized what he was doing. His eyes met Spock's, silently asking permission, which Spock granted by way of reaching out with his own hand to Jim's chest. Their fingertips carefully explored the valleys and planes of each other's bare upper bodies.
Gradually their footwear and pants were removed, one piece at a time. When they were down to just their black boxer briefs, Jim met Spock's eyes again. "At the same time?" he asked self-consciously. Spock inclined his head by way of answer, his hands moving to the waistband of his briefs. Jim mirrored his movements and slowly they pushed down the final articles of clothing, finally baring their intimate parts to one another.
Now that they were both naked, Jim decided there was no use in being hesitant or feigning modesty. He looked at Spock's body unabashedly, drinking in the sight of his long, lean legs and narrow hips, his defined stomach and his sheer masculinity. Spock did the same to him for a moment, not touching until he reached out his hand to Jim. Jim gave Spock his hand and allowed himself to be led to the bed, where they lay on their sides facing one another. Jim pulled the bedspread over them, not wanting Spock to be cold since his quarters weren't quite a swarm as the Vulcan norm.
Propping himself up on one elbow, Jim's other hand slid down Spock's bare arm and wrapped gently around his hand. He kissed Spock on the mouth before lifting Spock's hand to his face. He softly kissed the open palm, allowing his tongue to peek out to lightly graze the sensitive skin. Spock shivered and Jim hummed a tiny sigh of delight. He licked Spock's first two fingers and slid them into his mouth, and Spock nearly arched off the bed, a moan escaping him. Jim smiled around the hot fingers in his mouth as he felt Spock's other hand rest gently on his head and begin to tentatively stroke his hair.
Jim gently laved Spock's fingers a moment longer before leaning down again to kiss him deeply. "Was that okay?" he whispered against Spock's lips.
"It was more than 'okay'," Spock replied. "You would find me most grateful if you would do it again."
Jim beamed at him with indulgent affection. "Anything you want." He went gently over Spock's fingers again, letting his tongue dip into the valleys between each finger, sucking carefully on each knuckle and thinking this was the most attentive blow job he'd ever given.
"Your hair is much softer than I imagined," Spock murmured with wonder in his voice. "It is very pleasant to touch."
Jim paused long enough to offer, "You're welcome to touch it whenever you want."
"You may come to regret that offer," Spock admitted drily, to Jim's delight.
He continued to lavish attention on Spock's hand for a few moments more, before asking, "Are you warm enough?"
"I am quite pleasantly warm," Spock replied, his fingers now buried deep in Jim's hair, stroking his scalp.
"So you won't mind if I pull the blanket down a bit?"
"I will not mind."
Jim tugged on the blanket, pulling it down so the top of it rested at Spock's hips, then buried his face in Spock's chest, inhaling deeply. "You smell so good," he murmured against the fine, black hair that grew in a small patch. His hand recaptured Spock's, their fingers lacing together.
"I admit, I have had the same thought about you." Spock, who had recently started opening his mind and thoughts to Jim, did so now, letting his thoughts and emotions flow into Jim through his touch.
Jim's mouth travelled to one nipple, flushed slightly green and gathered into a hard nub. His tongue came out again, tracing a damp path around the peak before pulling it into his mouth. Spock was unsuccessful in containing another moan, and his fingers tightened in Jim's hair. The hands that were joined flexed and curled, tangling repeatedly together, always caressing, never still. After spending some time on the other nipple, Jim slowly made his way down Spock's abdomen, his lips and tongue adoring the soft, fine hair that dusted a narrow path downward. Though he knew Spock was enjoying it, it seemed that the further down he moved, the more tense he could feel Spock become beneath him.
Jim's mouth on him was warm and wet and very pleasant, and through Jim's touch he could sense a heartfelt desire to bring him pleasure, to make this experience good for him. Nevertheless, Spock found himself overwhelmed with anxiety. He was afraid to allow himself to relax enough to enjoy, to reach climax, to let go and lose control. He was nearly paralyzed with the fear of it.
Feeling his thoughts, Jim lifted his head from Spock's abdomen, murmuring, "Spock, it's okay to let go. Please...trust me. I'm here. Let go..." He kissed Spock's right side, where he knew the Vulcan's heart beat. "It's okay," he repeated. "You're okay...trust me...let me take care of you..."
Spock took a deep breath and exhaled, relaxing his muscles as he did. Jim slid lower still, his head coming to hover above Spock's groin, where his cock lay hard, flushed green and faintly glistening in the low light. Jim's first touch to Spock's hardness was with his soft pink lips, grazing lightly over the head, before they parted to take it into his mouth. His tongue slipped over the double ridge, and he tasted the faintly sweet fluid that seeped through tiny nodes down the length of the engorged cock. When he released Spock from his mouth momentarily, he chose not to comment on the differences between their anatomy, instead whispering reverently, "You're so beautiful." He allowed himself to enjoy the ghost of a smile he saw on Spock's lips before returning to his most pleasant of occupations.
He went down slow and sweet, reminding himself that Spock was entirely inexperienced, that he was about to give him the first orgasm of his life. He wanted more than anything for it to be special. He was inclining his head to lick Spock's scrotum when he heard a quiet murmur. "It is already special, Jim, because it is you." Jim's first thought, after touch telepath, was Oh my god, I love this man. He sucked one testicle – somewhat smaller than a human's, he noted – into his mouth, gently massaging it with his tongue, and reveling in Spock's reactions to the sensations. After spending time on each, he moved back to Spock's cock and took it into his mouth again.
He began to suck in earnest, establishing a steady rhythm, tasting the sweetness of the slick fluid that was now coating Spock's hard length in more abundance. His right hand released Spock's just long enough to gather some of the fluid onto his fingertips, before lacing their fingers together again, easing the slide with Spock's sensitive hands. Spock moaned, his free hand clutching the soft cotton sheet so tight the strength of his fingers tore little holes in the fabric. Jim, knowing Spock would hear his thoughts through their touch, thought, It's okay...trust me and just let go for me. Only a moment or two later, Spock gasped, his hips lifting from the bed; and for the first time in his life, he was completely happy. For those moments, there was no guilt, no regret, no grief; there was only him and the warmth and safety and love of Jim. The physical pleasure was wonderful; but it could not compare with the sense that his emotions had just taken a turn toward brilliant joy.
Jim's mouth stayed with him until Spock's climax had passed. When at last he released him, Jim slid back up beside him. He kissed Spock deeply, the human way, while stretching out his two fingers on his right hand to press them against Spock's. "Thank you, ashayam," Spock eventually whispered. Jim had come to love the beautiful Vulcan word, and hearing it made him cling tight, burying his face in Spock's chest. They lay that way for several moments as Spock caught his breath.
After only a few minutes Spock rolled back onto his side, pulling Jim level with him and kissing him deeply. Their kisses became more fervent, more heated, and Spock's hands began to travel down Jim's back and over his backside, long hot fingers squeezing gently before gliding to the backs of his legs. Jim moaned, his cock throbbing. He couldn't help pressing it against Spock's abdomen, feeling as he did that Spock's cock was just as hard as it had been when Jim first took it into his mouth. No refractory period, though Jim vaguely before his hips pressed harder into Spock's.
Spock pulled away from Jim's mouth enough to gasp, "Jim, I desire you. I do not know how to..." Through their touch Jim saw Spock's uncertainty. Jim returned his own thoughts, showing himself straddling Spock's supine form and easing himself down gently onto that thick cock. A sharp intake of breath and a rush of desire from Spock told Jim that he was in agreement. He then showed Spock how he must be prepared before they could join that way. Spock instantly rolled Jim onto his stomach, spreading his legs so he could kneel between them.
Jim was curious. "The fluid on your cock – it self-lubricates?"
"Yes," answered Spock absently, watching his hands glide over the beautiful full ass before him.
"Is it sufficient for...this? Because if not, I have lube in my drawer..."
"It will not be necessary," Spock answered firmly before gathering some of the same slick fluid seeping from his cock onto his fingers. He spread some in and around Jim's ass, taking care to be gentle with the delicate skin. The first time his fingertip dipped inside the tight opening, he felt a stream of excitement and longing from Jim. Spock pushed experimentally up to his first knuckle, then the second. He was quite unprepared for how this would feel to the hypersensitive skin of his fingers and hands. It was almost as good as when Jim sucked on them. The other surprise – though it wouldn't have been had he ever stopped to consider it in this context – was that Jim's sensations and pleasure were mirrored back to him, almost as though he was feeling it himself. He was mildly concerned about this, but determined not to allow anxiety to get in the way again. He would trust Jim.
"Oh," Jim moaned beneath him, feeling the long, super-hot Vulcan fingers, as first one then two worked their way inside him. Spock had studied human physiology as a matter of course in his xenobiology studies, and so he was aware of the existence of the human prostate that could provide climax when stimulated. He hadn't counted on just how powerful the sensations would be for Jim. When his fingers first brushed it, Jim jumped; the tightening of his muscles around Spock's fingers meant he did too. "Fuck...do that again," Jim gasped. "Please." Spock was happy to oblige.
By the time he had four fingers in Jim, Jim was getting downright impatient. "Fuck, Spock, I need you now."
"Yes," Spock agreed, pulling his fingers carefully out.
Jim pushed up onto his knees and pressed on Spock's shoulder. "Lie down," he urged. Spock complied immediately, and Jim straddled his hips, just as he had shown him in his thoughts. "I've waited so long for this, Spock. Wanted you for so long..." He reached beneath him, drawing his fingers up the length of Spock's hard cock, collecting more of the fluid and spreading it on himself. Finally he grasped the hard length beneath him and slowly, carefully, began to ease down onto it.
Fuck, it was so hot and so hard. The fluid was like liquid silk, making for a perfect lubricant with no tugging on tender skin. Despite the careful preparation, Jim still had a little stretching to do. They both panted as he eased down inch by inch, until it was finally fully inside him. He rested then, placing his weight on Spock's hips, feeling Spock's pleasure as well as his own. He almost wasn't sure he could move. Finally Spock grasped his hips and lifted him slightly, and then...oh my god. Their telepathic connection mirrored their pleasure so each could feel what the other did – as Jim slid up and down that hard cock, it was as though someone was doing the same on his own cock. He knew he could easily come without touching himself.
Jim started to ride Spock harder, feeling like he too was experiencing his first time. Nothing he'd ever done could compare with this. It wasn't just the physical sensations, which were amazing in themselves, but also the way he felt about Spock. They were colleagues, friends, brothers, lovers. It was entirely new, and more beautiful than he could possibly have imagined.
Hot fingers plucked gently at his nipples, and his movements stuttered briefly. Finally those smooth hands moved down to his hips and grabbed hold, tight. Spock had obviously overcome his reticence about not knowing what to do. Jim stilled and Spock started to drive up into him, withdrawing almost the full length of his cock before thrusting deep inside him again. Spock's new forcefulness was so damn sexy to Jim and he was brought quickly to the edge of climax. "Oh my god, Spock...fuck...I'm so...so close...ahh...oh...you're going to make me...oh...yeah...ohhhh..." He was gone.
Flashes exploded before Jim's eyes, lightning bolts singing through his body from his groin to his fingers and toes. Beneath him Spock also came apart, and Jim managed to pry his eyes open long enough to look down. He had to see that face, mouth open in a long moan as Spock came deep inside him; had to commit it to memory. It was so beautiful. Spock was so beautiful. Life was so beautiful.
Jim came and came, for what seemed like forever, shocks of pleasure continuing long after he'd stopped shooting his load across Spock's stomach. He felt Spock everywhere, in him and through him as if they were two souls sharing one body. Even after the waves of physical euphoria had gradually subsided, a vast sense of completeness remained with him. Spock finally pulled out and Jim collapsed beside him, allowing Spock to gather him into his arms and hold him close. Their continued contact made it possible to share their impressions and sentiments without words. Each needed only to think about how remarkable the other was, how beautiful or sexy or intelligent or utterly loved he was, for one to know immediately the content of those thoughts. There were a thousand things Jim could have shown Spock, but all he could see was love – love in the form of a slim Vulcan with the kindest, warmest deep brown eyes he'd ever known. His favorite being in the universe.
After some time Spock shifted, pulling back enough to look into Jim's eyes. "Thank you, ashayam, my beloved. You are worth waiting for. I love you."
Feeling perfectly content, Jim turned in Spock's arms so that Spock was spooning him. For a long time they lay like that. Jim should have been exhausted after the long day, but he couldn't settle. I can help you sleep if you wish, ashayam, Spock thought tenderly.
"No," Jim answered aloud. "It's okay. It's not that I want to sleep – not when I have you here. Just that I think I should sleep because I'm on shift tomorrow."
"Indeed," Spock replied, "that would be wise. Nevertheless, there seems to be something occupying your mind."
"I was wondering about your reaction before. You seemed so anxious."
"I was, briefly."
"What were you afraid of?"
Spock would seldom admit to fear at all, but he knew he must be honest with Jim. "Your intuition at the time was correct. The thought of losing control is anathema to any Vulcan. You eased my fears completely, Jim."
A flood of love and contentment flowed between them, wrapping them in a warm cocoon. It soothed them both into rest, and they fell asleep in complete and utter happiness.
Over the weeks following that night, Spock all but moved into Jim's quarters. Jim loved having him there every night, making love passionately and then falling asleep in his Vulcan's warm embrace. Their crew was aware of the change in the relationship between their captain and first officer, and though it was an initial surprise to most, everyone came to accept and support the relationship when they saw how beneficial it was for both men, as well as for the ship.
It was only two months after Jim and Spock first made love, that Jim returned to his quarters one evening to find a scene similar to that night. Flowers were on the table, candles were lit around the room. There was one rather noticeable difference...Spock was wearing his dress uniform.
Jim's eyebrows climbed his forehead at the sight of his very hot Vulcan boyfriend in the silk uniform that fit him like a glove.
"Welcome home, Jim," Spock greeted softly.
"Welcome home, indeed," Jim smiled. "You look amazing. What's the occasion? Do we have a diplomatic reception I forgot about?"
"No diplomatic reception is scheduled for this evening. I have arranged something of far greater personal importance. Please – sit." Spock gestured at the small couch.
"Ohh-kayyyy," Jim said slowly, crossing the room to sit. Spock knelt in front of him and took both hands in his, looking earnestly into Jim's eyes.
"When we were getting to know each other after we discovered our mutual feelings, I warned you about a recurrent event in the lives of adult male Vulcans."
"Right. That mating cycle – I don't remember what it's called."
"Yeah. But you said it might not happen to you, right? Because you're a hybrid."
"That is correct. As I am the first of my kind to reach maturity, there is no way to know whether I will experience it."
"Is that what this is about, Spock?" Jim's tone changed to one of concern for his partner. "Are you entering it?"
"No," Spock assured him. "However, the recent commencement of the sexual aspect of our relationship has made me give thought to the circumstances surrounding pon farr. The mating drive causes a Vulcan male to become temporarily enslaved to his baser desires. The uncontrollable loss of our senses and logic is something of which we are ashamed and deeply afraid. Prior to our first night together, I feared the loss of control I would experience during intercourse." He pressed a kiss to the back of Jim's hand before adding, "However, your reassurance calmed me; I had no hesitation in placing my trust in you. In fact, I believe I have come to have a new understanding on the subject."
"It is conjecture, but I have come to wonder whether perhaps some of the fear my race feels arises from the way bondmates are typically chosen in Vulcan society. I have told you about the tradition of bonding Vulcan children to each other at the age of seven."
"The early bond is a tenuous one. The elder performing the bonding ensures the compatibility of their minds and then forges a minor bond between them. It is, in essence, a place holder for the stronger bond which will be made at the time of their marriage. Because the compatibility of the two minds, it is logical that familiarity and even a certain degree of affection will develop. However, it does not necessarily follow that the two will ever feel what you and I think of aslove. They will trust each other because they will know. It is impossible to lie within the bond.
"On the other hand, getting to know someone gradually over a period of time results in earned trust. Moreover, if a telepathic bond has not yet been forged, one must act on faith when they choose to love and accept the other person. Though I would never have believed so before meeting you, I have come to wonder if faith is not a stronger thing than knowing."
Jim beamed at Spock. "I agree completely."
"I understand why a Vulcan would feel anxious or ashamed at being forced to lose their control in the presence of one for whom they have anything other than deep, abiding love and faith. So strong is the faith I have developed in you, Jim, that I find myself believing that if I were to undergo the fires of pon farr, I would not be afraid...with you as my bondmate."
"Your...your bondmate?" Jim repeated, scarcely able to believe his ears.
"Since I came to understand my feelings for you, you and your wellbeing have been my primary concern. I have often wished for a bond with you. I did not think it possible until the day we realized each other's true feelings. Since then you have become a refuge for me. In your arms and in your life, I feel nearly complete. And so I ask you, Jim, to bond with me. I love you. Please agree to link our minds and hearts forever, ashayam. Let us complete each other."
As Spock proposed their bonding, Jim's heart beat loud in his chest. He had devoted much thought to Vulcan bonds since the day Spock had explained them to him, giving him an overview of the different types and how they were forged. He too had wished for a marriage bond with this beautiful, loving Vulcan who had captured his heart. With one word he accepted Spock's proposal without a second's hesitation or doubt.
Fevered with joy, Spock seized Jim, drawing him to his feet and kissing him repeatedly. Through their touch they shared their love and exhilaration. It was increased by the knowledge that, once their minds were linked, they would be able to communicate their thoughts, their affection and adoration, without the requirement of contact.
Parted from me and never parted; always and never touching and touched...forever.
This is the most challenging thing I've ever written, and it took me so much longer than I anticipated. I am so grateful to BeCullen and Melooza for their patience and love while I kept tweeting them with word counts, promising them I was working diligently on it! :) Many thanks to Pastiche Pen and Sandyk199 for their input.