Age 22:

"If I hadn't tried, the cost would have been my soul." Jim Kirk, "The Search for Spock"

The end of term party always sucked – seriously, it was like a rule. So Jim felt pretty damn pleased that he had managed to find two things that made the party more bearable.

The first was that he was so fucking drunk he could barely move. In fact, becoming wasted via alcohol had pretty much been the order of the night. He had worked his butt off with his impacted curriculum the past semester, and then in acing said classes, and all work and no play had made Jim a very dull boy. It was long past time to play hard. Long past. In fact, Bones would be proud of the amount of alcohol he'd managed thus far - well, Bones would be proud if he wasn't so busy hitting on the pretty blonde nurse from his class. But Jim would let that go – the things he did for friends.

The second? He had found something nice to stare at. In fact, he was currently eyeing up a particularly fine piece of ass from across the room. A tall, dark, and… the head of his prey turned and Jim spotted the tell-tale sign of a pointed ear. Disappointment sank in through his drunken haze.

A Vulcan.

How fucking ironic. It figured. Just figured. The end of term party always sucked. All-fucking-ways. It was only up to par that the most promising prospect in the room was unattainable. Really, Jim didn't even know why he was so surprised.

Vulcans didn't do sex. He knew that better than anybody. They also made a habit of getting disowned by their parents and losing all touch with their bondmates. Not that he was bitter, or anything.

Too bad to, because this guy tonight really had a fine ass. The Vulcan was gorgeous. Not just regular strength gorgeous, the serious kind, industrial strength. The kind that would have made it worthwhile getting out of his chair for.

But hey, he was an open-minded guy, and hated stereotyping as much as the next guy. Maybe not all Vulcans were as repressed as… the one he'd known.

Slowly, he managed to pick himself up out of his chair - a difficult feat if there ever was one considering that his coordination, while inebriated, was always the first to go - and slowly sauntered over to the Vulcan. When he reached the guy, whose back was turned to him, he opened his mouth to say… something. Something he hoped would pass for smooth. He'd even settle for coherent, though the actual words were lost on him, sounding rather mumbly to his own ears.

Such undoubtedly awesome charm was met by a blink from his Vulcan companion. And then he heard a set of words in a voice that sounded heart-stoppingly familiar.

"Good evening to you as well, bondmate."


He gave himself a second for that to sink in. The shock of it was enough to sober him up a bit.

Spock was here - and if the crisp instructor's uniform was anything to go by, which, Kirk concedes, Spock looks nice in - he was also in Starfleet and had been for quite awhile.

Spock was here… in Starfleet… and fucking hot.

What the hell did Jim do to deserve this? He must have been such an asshole in a past life. The bondmate who didn't want him, who had never wanted him, who had allowed himself to disappear into obscurity, was here.

Fuck his life.

And since when had Spock been hot? More to the point, since when had Spock been in Starfleet? There was no way he could have missed this but, well, it seemed to have happened.

His life was so surreal there weren't words.

But it did answer one question: turned out Spock didn't need to practice at being the most annoying soulmate in existence, it obviously came naturally, as there was no way Spock could have orchestrated their meeting again, like this.

Good to know it wasn't personal.

He wanted to say something clear and insightful, wanted Spock to get a glimpse of what he threw away, but his words were slurred and the room was spinning.

Great. Just great. Murphy and his laws at it again.

Distantly, while pondering over just how much fate was a bitch, he heard Spock start to speak…

"I think it would be wise if I returned you to your room," Spock told him, his voice measured and low. He was watching Kirk carefully, assessing, dark eyes examining Jim as if they could see inside him.

For once, and for probably the first time ever, they were agreed. There was nothing Jim would like more than to escape to his apartment and get the fuck out of dodge. He tilted his head, eyeing Spock tentatively, not quite sure what to do or what to say. He knew he should say something but he didn't think he could make words right now. At least not the right ones.

How do you say, 'where the fuck have you been, asshole? What happened after you and Sarek came to blows? Why didn't you ever write me? I mean, I know we were never close, but yeah, I did kind of worry, you know?'

"I have no ulterior motives," Spock added, as if that was Jim's concern.

Of course Spock didn't have ulterior motives. That pretty much went without saying. If Spock had wanted anything to do with him he would have made that clear before now. So no, if there was one person in existence without ulterior motives, it was Spock.

Jim nodded his consent, feeling more than a little sick. His night was pretty much ruined and he sure as hell wasn't going to stick around like a masochist. Best not leave himself open for any more jarring events to come a-callin', especially since his luck wasn't currently at its best.

The only thing was that he wasn't quite sure he could make it back himself without falling flat on his face and spending the night wherever he fell.

Never again. He wouldn't allow himself to get this wasted ever again. It always boded ill. The last time he had been this wasted he'd started a fight with four cadets and ended up recruited into Starfleet.

Alcohol was an evil, evil substance.

Suddenly Spock placed a firm hand on his shoulder and led him from the hall, the Vulcan's grip burning hotly through his clothes, branding him.

Spock didn't often touch him as a child, and to feel that touch now, even through the haze of alcohol, was a shock to his system.

"Where is your room?" Spock asked, and Jim waved his arm vaguely in one direction, still a tad dazed.

He didn't know why Spock was suddenly being so helpful, so concerned for Jim's welfare, and goddamn it, why did Spock have to be so damn confusing? Jim swore he'd never met anyone he understood less in his life. Which was pretty funny considering they're supposed to be hardwired into each other's brains.

Eventually, between Jim's vague gestures and sheer luck, they somehow managed to find the right room. (Well, Jim figured was the right room since the keycodes worked which, hey, seems good enough to him) and Spock paused for a moment, looking him over, quietly assessing, before turning to leave.

It was then Jim found his voice.

"It was good to see you tonight, Spock. Might have been a little less of a surprise if I had forewarning you were in Starfleet, but hey, we never really were the keep in touch sort, were we? Not without Amanda there to force you."

Spock looked back at him, all big eyes and still posture, and Jim felt his heart was being squeezed. He doesn't know why.

"I had always meant to find you, yet you so cleverly, I believe the phrase is 'beat me to it'," came the response, and then Spock was gone and Jim was wondering… 'the fuck?'

He somehow managed to make it to his bed without falling flat on his face, small mercies. And woke up the next morning with his head splitting. Alcohol was evil. E-v-i-l.

It was then he remembered the fact he had met and spoken to Spock at the party and it
hadn't exactly gone as he imagined it would if he ever saw Spock again. There hadn't been nearly enough yelling, for one thing.

Nicely done, Jim, stellar work there. Way to assert yourself, way to state your piece.

But it did raise the rather interesting question of what Spock was doing at the Academy, and why.

In a fit of inspiration, Jim snatched his PADD from the stand beside his bed. It took him all of ten seconds to hack into the Starfleet mainframe – seriously, these guys were meant to be good? If he could do this hungover before he'd even had his coffee, then he had serious concern over the organization he'd pledged his future to.

He found Spock easily. Just across campus. And, as luck would have it, Jim knew the very building.

He cleaned himself up and headed for the door.

Finding Spock's room was easy and tricking the entry protocols even easier. Sometimes he wondered if people even tried. He saw now, quite easily, why Pike had stated that Starfleet needed new blood. And maybe the mind of a genius level repeat offender on their side.

Spock's room was pretty empty and clean, like he wasn't planning on staying here long-term, as if he was living in a hotel room. He wondered if Spock even owned anything personal. It was kind of sad. Jim didn't have much, but at least his room reflected his personality.

Jim couldn't help but pull a face as he considered that owning stuff was probably illogical.

A picture on an end table, however, caught his eye. To Jim's surprise, it was him, well a teenage him, the last time he saw Spock before the shit hit the fan in Sarek's household.

Then someone cleared his throat and Jim whirled around, putting on his best grin, one that screams 'I'm so innocent, yes, yes I am'. There was only one person it could be.

"You did not wish to wait on me returning to find you?" Spock asked, voice and expression impassive as always, but Jim could detect a hint of amusement.

Jim shrugged - "I got bored. It's what you deserve, anyway."

Spock quirked an eyebrow at him and Jim threw him a smirk.

"If you don't want people letting themselves in then you should have better security protocols. And you're meant to be the genius."

This earned him a blink from Spock, who was clearly trying to catalog the many ways his statement was illogical. Just like old times, which made Jim want to laugh, just a little.

He might have a buttload of issues with what did or didn't go down between him and Spock, but, in retrospect, there were aspects of their history he couldn't help but view with fondness.

"I am assuming that you wish to talk to me?" Spock inquired, eyebrow still raised.

This earned Spock another grin. "I was getting worried you were just a pretty face these days. Yeah, I figured what with you being here, and me being here, that we should probably, you know, talk. Could get awkward otherwise."

Awkward was one word for it anyway.

Spock nodded. "I believe further communication would be appropriate."

There was a moment of silence which left Jim time to marvel over the weird turns in his life. For one, they had just agreed with each other. He was half convinced that the entire universe was about to freaking implode from the shock of that, alone. For another, fucking Spock was standing right in front of him after so many years.

Spock tugged at the edges of his uniform top and Jim couldn't help but wonder if the other man was nervous. Nervous? Spock? It didn't compute.

"I elected to join Starfleet once it became clear that the Vulcan Science Academy was not the path I desired for myself after all," the Vulcan finally announced. "I note that some change in plans has brought you, also, unexpectedly to Starfleet."

Jim nodded, having no desire to go into the conversation with Pike and the whole, 'I dare you to do better' thing. He didn't really want to admit to Spock the mess he had been, at the time.

"It seemed like it might not be a total waste of time. I'm not doing too badly so far," was what came out instead.

Spock quirked an eyebrow, "Indeed."

There was another moment of silence and Jim began to feel repressed by it. Why was it so difficult to express himself to Spock? He'd never been one to be nonverbal before, in fact there wasn't anyone alive who would accuse him of such. Jim sighed.

He had nothing to lose. Not really. It wasn't as if he ever had Spock's attention to begin with.

"You must have been so disappointed to see me at that party last night, and to find out that I'm enrolled here," he said, and if he sounded bitter, well, he stood by that particular feeling.

"Not disappointed. Delighted," Spock's cheeks blushed green at the admission, and Jim thought the look on Spock endearing despite himself. "Jim, there have been so many times these past few years when I have wished to contact you. I called Winona once. She explained that she hadn't heard from you in some months, that you were going through a difficult time. It has always been my intention to find you."

"Why? Do you even like me? Did you ever?"

Spock blinked at that, as if taken by surprise.

"Of course I did," he answered succinctly. And the answer was so immediate it took Jim off guard.

"Really?" he asked, before he could sensor himself.

"Jim," Spock sighed, "I thought I had explained this to you on previous occasions. You are essential to me."

"As your bondmate," Jim clarified, determined to make sense of this. Wouldn't want to start to get delusions that Spock might be professing any sort of romantic attachment. Spock was Vulcan and Vulcans needed their bondmates, were the bondmates James T. Kirk or Bubba the Andorian.

Spock blinked again, and Jim would admit that it was nice to see Spock so disquieted. Well, disquieted for Spock, which, by human standards, wasn't much.

"Of course," he stated, as if it were the most obvious answer in the world, and Jim had to fight to squelch his disappointment. He shouldn't feel disappointed, he had expected no less. This was how things were, how they had always been.

He took another moment, then grinned again, thinking of a way to put them on friendly terms, if nothing else. "Look, why don't you let me show you how I broke into your security protocols."

If Jim didn't know better – and thankfully he did – he'd swear there was a slight smile around the side of Spock's mouth. But only for a second. "That would be acceptable."

A few days later Spock got the idea in his head that it would be a good idea to help Jim with his upcoming linguistics exam. Just as a way to return the favor.

Jim let him. Because he had never given up on anything before and he wasn't going to now, childhood jadedness aside.

So he allowed Spock to drag him to the library, and he let Spock talk ad nauseam about how to conjugate weird and obscure Vulcan verbs because of the slight possibility that they might show up on the test. Which would all be very educational and stuff if Jim didn't already know how to do it.

He half considered trying to interrupt Spock again but didn't know how well that would go over. Hell, he'd stopped listening about an hour ago anyway and Spock seemed to be enjoying himself so he figured they were both winning, here.

"James, if you do not listen then how do you expect to pass your test." Spock asks, cutting into his line of thought.

Jim looked up at him – using a disinterested expression that's not all fake.

"I'm not stupid," Kirk told him in Vulcan. Sure, the pronunciation might be a touch off but it works. Then he flicked back to standard, "And don't call me James, you know I hate that."

Spock blinked at him, once more. Jim loved that he was making a habit of getting Spock to do that. "You are fluent in Vulcan."

And yes, Jim thoroughly enjoyed the look of surprise on Spock's face, so sue him. He couldn't help but smile, "Yeah."

No way in hell would he admit that Vulcan was the first language he taught himself because of Spock. He'd gone through a really stupid and delusional phase of thinking that it might help them get on a bit better, when he was younger, but hey, it'd turned out to be really useful at the Academy anyway. It was because of his mastery of Vulcan that he'd figured out that languages were something he wasn't too bad at.

And with the knowledge of Jim's fluency in Vulcan out in the open there was something in Spock's expression that Jim couldn't quite read.

Not that reading Spock was ever easy, by any means.

Jim snorted, which seemed to startle Spock out of whatever he was thinking. "Why don't we go get lunch or something?" he suggested, because conjugating verbs is hunger-inducing, everyone knew that.

Spock didn't seem to disagree.

He was getting hit on in a bar, and for first time in his life, he hesitated. The thing was… he hadn't gotten laid in a while. Actually, he hadn't got laid since Spock walked back into his life. And given the choice, and if there was any laying to be had, he'd much rather be doing it with Spock.

But he still didn't really know what he was to Spock.

Did Spock want him as a friend? As more than a friend? He certainly hadn't made any overtures in a 'lets get up close and personal' type of way. In fact, he and Spock hadn't had a discussion of what, exactly, they were doing beyond the 'essential bondmate' conversation. Though it was on the tip of Jim's tongue with every encounter they had. The crux of the matter was that no matter how hard Jim tried to hold on to righteous anger and resentment towards Spock, he wanted him. Wanted him so badly. He couldn't even explain it. How pathetic was it to want someone who'd never shown an inkling of interest? It fucking sucked.

So his choices were no Spock, thus celibacy, or settling for second best. He was feeling so tightly coiled that getting laid would actually be kind of therapeutic. And he and Spock did have that agreement as teenagers… Perhaps sleeping with someone would serve to put his head back on straight. Help get rid of all this confusion and alleviate some of the angst over his stupid unrequited feelings.

Besides, he had a hard time turning down an offer of sex without sufficient reason.

For a while he was in his grove, chatting her up, reading all of her signals in all the right ways. But then she suddenly stopped paying attention to him and started repeatedly glancing over his shoulder. After the fifth or sixth time she did this he took the hint and turned around.

Spock was sitting at the next table over, making a clear point of not watching Jim. The way Spock's face was turned away was more telling than anything.

The Vulcan was not pleased. But then, neither was Jim. Perhaps they were well suited after all.

He excused himself from his would-be date and went to sit down opposite Spock. Spock glanced up from the juice he was drinking which has suddenly become the most fascinating thing in existence.

"Gonna tell me what brought an upstanding guy like you to this fine establishment?" Jim asked, unable to hide the irritation in his voice. Cock-blocking a man should be a criminal offense.

Spock quirked an eyebrow at him. "I am free to go where I please."

Jim wanted to laugh but it came out more of a snort. "Yeah, sure you are."

He was so sick of this. He'd gone his entire life not knowing where he stood with Spock, and he wasn't about to take this shit anymore. He didn't want mind games, or mysterious appearances just when he was about to get laid. He wanted answers, a lot of answers. And if Spock wanted them to be a them, he'd better damn well tell Jim that, and he better'd damn well show it with his actions. Jim leaned across the table and put on his best smile. It was not a nice smile. "Well, if you're going to keep this up you might as well make it worth my while."

Yeah, it was a dick move, but come on, this whole thing was just getting fucking stupid now.

Spock shifted back. Jim's grin widened.

"I think it would be wise if I left," Spock announced.

Jim nodded. "I was just about to leave myself."

They both headed for the door, neither saying anything as they make their way through the groups of people, the music suddenly seeming blaringly loud.

They made it to the quad outside before it hit Jim just how pissed off he was that Spock thought he could just walk in and do that having shown no interest in Jim, sexually, ever. He took a deep breath as he turned to face him. "You don't give a fuck about me, why do you care what I'm doing?"

It was true and they both knew it, and is just wasn't fair that Spock kept screwing him over like this.

"You analysis is incorrect," Spock told him over the noise of music from inside the club.

Jim laughed because he wasn't quite sure how else to react, and it came out sounding way more bitter than he meant it to. "Oh, and why's that?" he couldn't help but ask, because, apparently, he was a fucking masochist.

"Your assumption is that I have no interest in your welfare. It is unsubstantiated and would be improved with revision."

"Unsubstantiated? Unsubstantiated? You spent our entire childhood telling me that I was illogical, acting like I was the biggest pain in your ass. You've never showed any inclination towards taking our relationship to a romantic level, and you might as well be a eunuch for how much sexual interest you've shown. You tell me, how exactly are my conclusions unsubstantiated?"

Spock's eyes were dark and wide, and Jim saw the dawning of understanding in them. And then he saw… sorrow?

The silence reigned and it was oppressive, and Jim contemplated just turning around and leaving Spock there.

"Jim, I spent the entirety of my childhood trying to adopt the Vulcan way more completely than even my fully Vulcan peers. You saw with your own eyes how I was treated as a child. And my father…"

And yeah, Jim didn't need an explanation there. He'd met Sarek. If one were to look up 'uptight' in a dictionary, Sarek's picture would be there. He'd always wondered how Sarek and Amanda had ever managed to hit it off, let alone raise a child together.

"I could not exhibit anything that even closely resembled an emotional reaction without being tormented for it. And my Vulcan DNA caused my sexual maturity to come at a much later date than your own. I never meant for you to feel… unwanted. I have always wanted you. I have never even considered another. You are a marvel to me, a most precious treasure. I always found a great deal of comfort just in knowing you exist. I, perhaps wrongfully, assumed that you would be aware of your importance to me just by the uniqueness of our connection. To find t'hyl'a is…"

"Rare, yeah, I know." And that much he did know, but he had always wanted… more. Some sort of tactile and verbal recognition, as most humans were accustomed to receiving within their interpersonal relationships. And Spock hadn't known that, because Jim had never vocalized such a request, assuming Spock should just know while forgetting that they came from two entirely different worlds, two entirely different mindsets, and the whole thing was just sad. So sad. All that torment. All those feelings of rejection. All of it a matter of cultural misunderstanding. Years and years of it.

It was at this point that Jim stopped wondering if he was the butt of a cosmic joke and became thoroughly convinced that he was one.

And then Jim was laughing again, even if he wasn't quite sure fucking why. He just knew that the urge was overwhelming. Jim touched Spock lightly on the hand as he laughed, an almost instinctive gesture – he was tactile, always had been, and just then he wanted to touch Spock more than anything – it was only after he'd done it that he thought shit. Touching Spock was like a bolt of electricity that went straight for his core.

Spock didn't move, nor did he object, he just stood there and watched Jim with those big, gorgeous, human eyes. Jim wondered whether Spock felt the electricity sizzling between them, too, or if he'd just finally lost it.

"You confuse the hell out of me," Jim told him. "So what is it, exactly, you want from me? Could you spell it out, because I'm done making presumptions here." He didn't notice that his voice had gotten progressively lower as he spoke because he was too focused on the way Spock was looking at him.

Spock answered quite succinctly by kissing him lightly on the mouth – and fuck if that didn't make his insides hurt – and there was way more affection in that kiss than Jim thought humanly possible.

He supposed, then, that he had his answer.

The next morning Jim woke up with a headache that would not go away. After about five hours he started to get that this wasn't exactly a normal thing. Which explained why he found himself thumping on Spock's door, yelling for Spock to answer.

Spock took one look at him, then stepped aside to let him in.

The pounding in his head was worse now, so loud that he couldn't even hear himself think, and the only conclusion he could come to in this anxious state was that this was related somehow to their bond. Perhaps through the kiss they had shared.

"My head, you screwed up my head," he complained, but there was no bite to it. He just wanted the pain to stop. "It hurts," he finished, undoubtedly looking a little pathetic, but at this point he couldn't give a shit.

Spock gestured for Jim to sit on the side of his bed, and there was a pause while Spock chose his words carefully. "I was...unaware that I had done anything."

Jim nodded absentmindedly – he'd figured as much but it was still a bitch. Somehow the pounding was worse now that he was near Spock physically.

"I wondered if it might be, you know, related to the whole Vulcan thing," he whispered as he gestured at his head.

Spock tilted his head slightly. "It is possible, despite the fact that I am feeling no ill effects."

Jim didn't know how to respond to that, so he didn't bother. He opted instead for closing his eyes and wishing the pain away through sheer strength of will.

It didn't work.

He had a pretty good idea how the whole bond thing worked, but he wasn't a telepath so he couldn't be one hundred percent sure about the tiny little details of the whole thing. He'd always had the impression that few people are.

"Would you be averse to me initiating a mind-meld?" Spock asked, and it was all Jim could do not to flinch away in response.

"What for?"

Spock shifted slightly closer to him, brown eyes concerned. "It would allow me to see what is hurting you. I will not intentionally look through any of your thoughts, if that is your concern."

Jim nodded again, relieved because he wasn't quite ready to let Spock see just how much he was invested in the two of them, like really, really invested, old childhood dreams sprung anew, and then Spock's fingers were resting gently on the side of his head.

Then, well, Jim could only describe it as falling backwards in a blaze of color and light.

There was a presence at the side of his mind – a familiar one, and he realized, an almost a comforting one – and he instantly knew it was Spock. Even though the bond had been mostly blocked he could sometimes still pick up on Spock slightly. There was a voice, in his head, and it's a voice he knows as well as his own.

"I have located the source of the problem. Allow me a moment."

There was a second's delay and the pounding stopped almost instantly and he was back to himself, gasping for air.

"What the hell just happened?" he asked.

Spock gave him a look, another one of those penetrating stares, but Jim couldn't quite figure out what he was meant to take from it. "The block on the bond was starting to disintegrate due to our...recent contact."

He turned his thoughts inward, looking for a sign of a block that had been lifted, and felt a thrum vibrating gently in his head, one filled with affection, love and everything he'd been missing. He gently caressed it, mentally, and heard Spock take a deep breath beside him.

Oh he was going to like this.

He could sense Spock, at the back of his head. And it wasn't an invasive thing because he couldn't sense individual thoughts or ideas, just a general sense of Spock. And it was warmer, and brighter, and more comforting than anyone with only two facial expressions had any right to be.

It felt – well, it felt right. A sharp sense of pure rightness that washed over him.

And he couldn't help it, he had to ask. "And will the bond remain unblocked?"

It was a test and he hated doing it. He would like to think himself above it, but a lifetime of hurt couldn't be erased, even if said hurt had boiled down to a lack of communication.

Get this right, Spock. Please, please get this right.

"Yes," Spock answered, his eyes soft as he looked at Jim, "the bond will remain unblocked."

And that was everything Jim wanted to hear.

There was so damn much that he should say, so damn much that he should have said before now, an entire lifetime of stuff, and trying to verbalize it all just seems unnecessary in the wake of the bond thrumming to life, vibrant and lovely in his head.

Spock drew in a breath. "I apologize for my previous actions in regards to our childhood miscommun-"

Jim cut him off with a gesture. "No, Spock," Jim told him, placing his fingertips over Spock's lips. "We don't have to do that."

This got him an eyebrow quirk from Spock. "I do not understand."

"We're fine now, I'm fine, you're fine, no need to dwell. I get it. I completely get it. Why don't we...go eat or something? Way more useful." Jim gets to his feet, a smile firmly on his face. He felt like he could smile forever and never get tired. "You like Italian?"

"I do not know."

The look on Spock's face was so priceless that he had to stop himself reaching out and touching Spock's hand. So he laughed instead. "Well, give it a shot."

Spock tilted his head and there was a trace of a smile on his face. "As you wish, T'hy'la. As you wish."

The End!