Jim decides not to tell Bones about last night. Mainly because he thinks if he mentions Spock one more time, Bones is going to strangle him, but also because Jim's still somewhat shaken up. He had made it through the day well enough because Spock was busy in the Science lab and Jim was occupied with getting their ship docked back on Earth, but his stomach still hurt from all the knots it was tying itself up in.

He twists his finger in the hem of his shirt and chews on his tongue as he follows Bones back to Bones's quarters. Bones doesn't ask, but from the exasperated expression on his face, he knows something's up with Jim. Jim sits on the edge of Bones's bed as Bones opens his closet, and Bones turns around say, "Jim, you want to tell me why you've been following me around like a kicked puppy?"

"It's nothing." says Jim, waving his friend off. Bones rolls his eyes and continues to dig around in his closet. When he pulls out a nice looking suit, Jim frowns and asks, "Bones, why are you taking a tux out of your closet?"

"For the dinner." Bones says slowly, and then snorts at Jim's blank expression. "Honestly, you're amazing. You forgot?"

"Forgot what?"

Bones laughs. "The dinner at the Academy tonight, that everyone on the Enterprise has to attend. It's supposed to be 'in honor of our impressive achievements as a crew' or something. You really forgot?"

Jim flops back on the bed, covering his face with his hands and groaning. He had forgotten about the party tonight, it had just escaped his memory because in light of recent events, Jim's mind had honestly been full of other things. Bones is still laughing at him as he lays out his tux next to Jim on the bed, and Jim mumbles through his hands, "I suppose that means I actually have to be there."

"With being a captain comes great responsibility." Bones says solemnly, but as Jim peeks through the cracks in his fingers, he can see Bones smirking at him. He shoots out his leg to try and kick Bones, but the man jumps away, laughing again.

About half an hour later, Bones kicks Jim out of his room because "you're damn depressing to look at so would you please stop wallowing on my bed and go do something else". "Don't forget I'm picking you up." Bones adds as Jim leaves, and Jim leans back through the doorway to quip, "So you're my date then?"

"More like your chaperone." Bones says dryly, shutting the door in Jim's face.

Once Jim reaches his room, he throws himself on his bed for a little more then ten minutes, then takes Bones's advice and showers. Never mind that he drifts off as the water pours over his back and he accidentally drops the soap, then steps on it and slips, knocking his forehead into the wall. He finishes quickly after that and examines the small bruise beginning to form on the temple, sighing.

I just can't get a break lately, Jim thinks, and he opens the door to his closet.

His suit hangs in the very back, squished by the rest of his clothes. He pulls it out and notices that the shoulders are still stiff, a testament to how much he actually hates wearing suits.

He slips it on though, pulling on the pants and the shirt, but his door buzzes before he can finishing buttoning up his shirt.

Jim opens his door, saying, "Jesus, Bones, can you let me get dressed firs-"

The words trail off as he sees it's Spock standing in his doorway, not Bones. Spock. In a suit. Spock in a suit.

Jim realises he's gaping and quickly closes his mouth. Spock's eyes flicker to the bruise on Jim's forehead, and Jim flushes, leaning against the doorway and explaining, "I slipped in the shower." Spock's expression is about as close to amused as Jim's ever seen it, which just means the corners of Spock's mouth twitch minimally.

Jim clears his throat and that seems to snap Spock back to order, and he says stiffly, "Captain...I came to...apologise."

Jim's eyes widen and he blinks rapidly to cover his shock. Then he frowns. "What for?"

"For last night...during our chess game. I overstepped my boundaries. I should not have asked you if you have ever loved anyone, it was out of place." Spock explains quietly, eyes watching Jim for his reaction.

Jim inhales slowly, softly, then replies, "Don't worry about it, Spock." Spock's eyes flicker with some kind of emotion that Jim can't place, and he continues, "It was also wrong of me to further ask who it was you were in love with."

Jim forces a smile, even though he feels immensely uncomfortable right now, because Spock is too close, in a suit, and Jim really can't tear his eyes off of him. Jim's also aware of how his shirt hangs open on his collarbone, of how his hair is still wet from the shower, of how he probably smells like shampoo, and he wonders if Spock is aware of all these things too, as he stares solidly down at Jim.

Jim wonders if Spock heard him almost say "it's you" the night before.

He steps backward, away from Spock, and says simply, "Really, forget about it. The question fell within the rules, and now you just know I'm in love with someone, it's not that big of a deal."

Spock stiffens in the doorway and Jim freezes, realising what just came out of his mouth.

"You are...in love with someone?" Spock asks, incredulity in his voice, and Jim instantly mentally chastises himself.

"Um." He curses at himself in his head, but manages, "Er, yeah." He shrugs a little, hoping Spock will just brush the comment off, but Spock's eyes are wide and it's like he's frozen in Jim's doorway.

"So uh," Jim continues, face steadily growing hotter. "I'm just going to finish getting ready now..."

Spock immediately snaps out of it, and quickly states, "Of course." He briskly steps out of Jim's doorway and back into the hallway, and the door to Jim's room swishes shut.

Jim collapses on his bed, stuffing his face into his pillow.

Jim is silent the whole way to the party, and he hopes Bones is just writing it off that he hates parties like these, because he really does. They're full of people who only talk to him because he's the "captain" and they don't actually give two shits about him. Jim hates that, he hates how fake everything is.

As they walk into the giant ballroom, Bones lightly pats Jim on the shoulder and gives him a sympathetic look, then quickly ducks out of the way as Jim is accosted by a group of official looking people.

Twenty minutes later, Jim has said exactly the same thing a total of six times ("Oh, thank you, really I'm just doing what's expected of me. You're too kind. Of course I know who you are. It's a pleasure to meet you.") before he finally ducks behind a pillar to catch his breath. He spots Bones across the room, pouring himself something to drink and sends "I hate you, you're an awful friend, go die" vibes.

The ballroom is large enough that Jim can't completely see the ends over everyone's heads, but he still feels trapped in the swarm of people he doesn't know at all. Every now and then he'll spot someone from his crew, and he envies that most of them seem at ease, with the exception of Chekov, who nervously knocks over a punch bowl at one point.

It's dim enough that Jim has to squint to make everyone out, but he can, and tons of candles hang from a giant chandelier overhead, lighting the room. He spots people standing up on the balcony, their glasses clinking together as they laugh, and Jim can only smell a mixture of drinks and bad perfume. Flowers decorate the tables that are sparsely placed around the room and Jim is glad there are pillars lining the edges of the room, because he plans on standing behind his for the rest of the night.

With the glass of champagne he snatched up as soon as the people bombarding him with questions and expressions of "how we have such high expectations for your future" left. Jesus. Jim quickly finishes off his glass and grabs another one from the table off to his side, downing it and welcoming the edge of fuzziness it brings.

Throughout all this, Jim hasn't seen Spock at all. Obviously he's there, if he was wearing a suit earlier, and it bugs Jim that he hasn't seen Spock. He's probably avoiding you, says a small voice in Jim's head. Or more like you're avoiding him. Jim grits his teeth and thinks, More like I'm avoiding everyone. And then he rolls his eyes and looks back out at the mass of people.

It's hard to believe that this is all for his crew, and Jim actually doesn't believe it. He can pick out the people in the crowd that probably have fancy titles, they're older and hold themselves with an air of "distinction". Jim glares at them.

"Dodging your captainly duties, eh?" says a soft voice in his ear, and Jim jumps, whirling around.

A short woman is standing behind him, a hand daintily covering her mouth as she grins at him. Jim frowns at her, taking in her soft eyes and long, curly brown hair. And then it hits him.

"Oh, hey...Amelia." he stutters out, instantly trying to creep away from her and around the pillar. She follows him, a wicked expression crossing over her face.

Jim hadn't seen Amelia (he never actually bothered to figure out her last name) for about two years now, not since she tossed him out of her room at three in the morning with only his underwear, proclaiming loudly he had ruined her life forever. Jim actually hadn't done anything except frown at her when she professed her love for him while they were in the middle of having sex, but Jim realised two days later that she actually was completely insane and it wasn't just an act.

"Hey Jim." Amelia says back, still grinning at him as he backs away from her. "Been a while."

He tries to shrug casually, aware that he probably looks like a cornered animal about. "Yeah, well, you know. Been busy and all that."

"Oh, I know." she replies and Jim squints at her. So that's what this is about, he thinks, and sighs mentally.

I hope the rest of my exes aren't going to come crawling out of the woodwork now. Maybe I need to find someone.

Spock's image jumps into his mind and Jim hates himself at that moment for the twist in his stomach the image brings.

Amelia's still staring at him, and Jim doesn't know what to do. Normally his exes just stayed away from him.

"Jim," she starts, drawing his name out and he flinches. "I feel like we left off on the wrong foot."

"You tossed me out of your room." Jim states bluntly.

"I wasn't in my right mind." Amelia continues. You're never in your right mind, Jim thinks.

She brings her hand up to his shoulder and runs it down his arm, saying, "I think we should try again. I miss you."

Jim backs away, backing into the crowd. He's about to tell Amelia there's no way in hell he's going to start up a relationship with her, when an older woman next to him lets out a noise of pleasant surprise and exclaims, "Captain Kirk!"

Jim blanches and holds out his hand, more to ward the woman off, but she takes it as a welcoming gesture and shakes his hand. "How wonderful it is to finally meet you! I was so impressed with what you did last month with those Romulans..."

Jim resists the urge to snort. It's like the rest of his crew doesn't exist.

Amelia's right there at his side, and she grips his arm tightly once the woman pulls away, and Jim stiffens.

"Oh?" says the woman, a smile blossoming across her face and Jim realises with panic that she's getting the wrong idea. "Who's this lovely young lady?"

Amelia is grinning again and she opens her mouth, but Jim quickly cuts her off with, "She's a friend. Actually, I'm helping her find someone, so if you don't mind-?"

"Oh! Not at all. I hope you find who you're looking for." the woman replies and as she walks past, Jim gets a whiff of her horrible smelling perfume. He wrinkles his nose and pulls his arm out of Amelia's grip.

"Why did you say that?" she asks him sharply, her eyes shooting daggers at him and Jim lets out a frustrated sigh.

"I'm not getting back together with you." he says pointedly, backing away from her and walks quickly through the crowd. Maybe he can find Bones and get the hell out of here.

Unfortunately, Amelia's following him, and the faster he walks, the faster she does too. He even tries to backtrack around and man holding a tray of food, but she pushes her way around him and chases after Jim.

"This isn't happening." Jim mutters to himself, ducking around a group of people. He looks behind him to see that Amelia's not far behind, but when he looks back up, he's suddenly filled with a rush of relief, because there's Spock.

Oh thank God, Jim thinks, and he practically runs over to Spock. Spock is hanging awkwardly off to the side of the room, looking even more awkward then Jim felt, and Jim feels a small twinge of guilt, because if these things are difficult for Jim, they're probably even harder for Spock.

Spock stares Jim as he ducks behind him, and then when Amelia bursts through the group of people, he looks at her with curiosity.

Jim breathes heavily from behind Spock and the first thing he can think of comes out of his mouth. "Spock, help me, she's crazy!"

He can't see Spock's expression but he sees Amelia's face turn an ugly shade of red. He wants to say, "Hey, your face matches your dress.", but he chooses not too and instead watches as she splutters, "Ok, he's just being childish. We were just talking, weren't we Jim?"

Jim shakes his head, aware he's acting like a child as he hides behind Spock, but he says, "Lady, there's no way we're getting back together."

Amelia lets out a furious noise and makes towards Jim, but something in Spock's face halts her. "Please leave, the Captain doesn't desire your company at this moment. Or, as I take it, ever." He says lowly but strongly, and her face falls. Jim notices that a few people are watching the three of them, but as Amelia huffs and flicks her hair, turning on her heel and storming back into the crowd, they turn away and resume talking amongst each other.

Jim lets out a huge sigh and steps out from behind Spock. "Thank you so much." he says, running a hand through his hair and looking up at Spock. Spock's eyes are dark but he runs his eyes over Jim's face then says thickly, "It is no problem. I am sure the one you love would be grateful."

It's so odd for that to be the first thing out of Spock's mouth, like it's all he's been thinking about since he was standing in Jim's doorway. Jim wonders if between then and now he had thought about that moment as much as Jim had, in the last two hours. Jim wonders if Spock spends as much time running their conversations and interactions in his mind as much as Jim does, because Jim does all the time.

Something hits Jim and he's momentarily winded, and when he catches his breath, Spock's looking back out at the crowd and away from him. They stand next to each other, and Jim blinks rapidly before looking up at Spock with an incredulous expression on his face.

"So you're grateful, then?" Jim says without any thought, and the words honestly just pour from his brain and straight out his mouth. He doesn't even realise he said them until Spock turns to stare at him, and his eyes are so wide that Jim can see himself reflected in them.

They stare at each other for a few moments and Jim's heart very much stops beating. He knows that it's the alcohol that made him say that and it's probably the alcohol that makes his hand reach up to touch Spock's cheek, because it's something Jim's always wanted to do. Jim wants to know if Spock's skin is as smooth in real life as it is in his dreams. Jim's finger brushes over Spock's cheekbone and Spock's skin is amazing to touch, and Jim feels himself instinctively leaning forward. Spock's eyelids flutter, and Jim pulls away and runs out of the ballroom.

He runs through the hallways, running past the people leaving the party who stare at him and he blazes past. He's shoes clap across the stone floor until he makes it outside and out into one of the parks that make up the edges of the Academy campus.

The night air fills his lungs as he gasps for breath, and he collapses on the ground, falling over into the grass. He knows the grass is going to leave stains on his shirt but he doesn't care, and he rips off his jacket and kicks off his shoes. He lies in the grass and closes his eyes, and when he opens them, all he can see are the stars.

They twinkle down at him and Jim stares at them until his heart calms down.

Jim doesn't know how long he lies there, breathing through his nose, his hands shaking as he still tries to regain a bit of his sense, before he hears footsteps crunching closer to him in the grass. He closes his eyes again, and when he opens them this time, Spock's figure is blocking out the stars.

Jim bites at the inside of his cheek and has no idea what to say. His hands are still shaking and Spock is silent, but the Vulcan sits down next to Jim on the grass.

It's like that night in the Observatory. Jim thinks about that night a lot, and when he looks up and over at Spock, he thinks that Spock does too. The slight breeze rustles Spock's hair and he glances down at Jim, his elbow resting right next to Jim's chest. They're so close again, and Jim's skin feels electric. When Spock shifts so he's facing Jim more, their arms brush and Jim bites his lip.

Spock's the first to break the silence. He cocks his head and stares down at Jim, searching for something in Jim's face, and says very softly, "You love me?"

Jim nods several times before saying, "Yes." His voice quavers and he clenches his hands in the grass, trying to shove away the nervousness that threatens to spill out of his body.

Spock breathes deeply and looks up at the stars. Jim wishes he'd look back at him so he could see Spock's eyes again, and he begins to reach out towards Spock again, pulling his hand back at the last second. Spock looks back down at Jim, and his eyes seem brighter. Emotion is all over his face, and his mouth quivers as he says, "I love you, Jim."

All the air in Jim's lungs escapes him and he sits up sharply. His head swims for a moment as he registers what Spock just said, and he gapes at Spock before he blurts out, "You love me?"

Spock looks at him and it makes Jim's heart flutter, the way Spock's eyes look over Jim's face, affectionately. "Yes." Spock says quietly, and Jim remembers that dream. It's exactly like the dream, he realises, and his hands won't stop shaking as he brings them up to his face.

Jim laughs into the palms of his hands and he thinks he's crying because suddenly his cheeks are wet. It's like this giant weight has just been shoved off of his shoulders and breathing is so much easier now, because Spock loves him. Once he stops shaking and laughing, he looks over at Spock who's actually smiling at him now, because that's definitely Spock's version of a smile, the corners of his mouth turned up enough that Jim can see and his eyes dancing.

He reaches out towards Spock and touches his face again. He drags his fingers across Spock's jaw and then falters, asking, "Is this ok? I know you don't like-"

"Don't stop." Spock breathes, and Jim's heart does flip flops in his chest.

They sit like that for a little bit. Jim continues to run his hand over Spock's face, brushing over Spock's forehead and lingering on his mouth, which smiles even more when Jim breaks out into a grin. Spock hesitantly reaches out to grab Jim hand, and he pulls it away from his face. He presses their palms together, touching their fingertips, and Jim knows it means something from the buzz it sends up Jim's spine. Later, he'll ask Spock about it, and he breaks into another grin at the thought.

They lay down next to each other in the grass, turning to look back up at the stars, their fingers still entwined.

"Jim..." Spock begins softly, and it sends a trill of happiness through Jim to hear Spock calling him by his name, and not just Captain. "So I am to take it you meant me, during the chess game...?"

Jim laughs and sits up so that he's looking down at Spock. He brings his face down close to the Vulcan's and whispers, "Yes, I meant you."

Spock's eyes close as Jim presses their lips together, and as Jim breathes in, this is so much better than in his dreams.

Spock tastes like darkness, and beauty, and also something foreign that Jim craves to make known. He tastes like the books that lay across his room or how the chessboard smells when they pull it out in the evening, or even the Science lab and the exotic plants that are sprinkled across the room. As Spock deepens the kiss, curling his hand around the nape of Jim's neck and pulling him down, closer, Jim's filled with such intense bliss that the backs of his eyelids dance with stars.

They part and Jim settles back in next to Spock, touching their legs and shoulders together. He brushes the back of his hand against Spock and Spock's fingers move to rest on his wrist.

Jim's looking forward to kissing Spock for the rest of his life, and probably even more than that too. He closes his eyes and lets the darkness of the night envelop him, but as he lies there next to Spock, underneath the brilliant blanket of the stars, he couldn't be more at peace.

omg it's finished! Thank you guys so much for taking your time to read all this and honestly, I'm so, so thankful for everyone who's reviewed/alerted this because I'd grown so attached to this story over the year that I didn't think anyone else was going to like it. haha Sorry it took as long as it did, but hey! I hope you all had a good time reading it.

I'm going to take a break writing chaptered stuff for a little bit because I've got a handful of oneshot ideas (namely, Supernatural, which I gloriously discovered over break), so be on the lookout for those! I have drabble stuff to update soon as well...

Again, thanks guys! I love you all so much!