Notes: Fifth in the Keeping Love series, after 'The Split.' Some brief ghost moments, and then, well. You'll see what I mean. Feel free to hate me.
Disclaimer: I do not own Star Trek 2009, and I make no profit from this work.
The Hellenica boasted impressive science laboratories and facilities, and a well-trained, highly professional staff who largely ignored their Captain's tendency to be lax. The sciences were open to no such sloppiness, and operating as efficiently as those on the Enterprise, and didn't turn a hair at suddenly being presided over by a Vulcan from another ship.
Indeed, their professionalism was almost a relief from the Enterprise. Spock's staff there had gotten used to him: they were easy-going and familiar, and used to his ways and demands. Oh, they worked hard, but they treated him like a friend, and it was something he had never entirely gotten used to, nor found himself comfortable with.
The staff of the Hellenica did no such thing - if anything, they were estranged from each other as well as him. They received their orders, and disappeared to do them, not to be found again, and leaving Spock in peace to his own research. It was what he would have considered a 'dream job' when he had graduated from the Academy. In all truth, it still was a 'dream job', if not for the lack of Kirk.
Two weeks into his new posting, Spock found himself rising early and skipping meals, burying himself in research and experiments, as if trying to block out Kirk's absence from his daily life. He often did not even realise that lunch had come and gone, without Kirk to come and drag him from the labs. And while the work was undoubtedly fascinating, and the opportunity to undertake such complex research without interruption was indeed welcome, to not have Kirk to interrupt him...
It made Spock wonder exactly how he had been so content with his affairs before Kirk had walked into his life.
Still, Kirk was still in his - albeit at a distance - and Spock soon found himself dragged into the man's routine without compromise. For all his bravado and bluster, Kirk carried a lot of anxiety, and nothing triggered a nervous fit faster than Spock failing to answer Kirk's evening call.
And he called every other night, without fail.
Spock's routine, then, was set to the evenings. He would sometimes return to work earlier than his shifts demanded, and would sometimes skip meals (because, let's face it, McCoy was the scariest medic that Starfleet had to offer, and he wasn't on the Hellenica) but would come off-shift at the end of Alpha to return to his quarters without fail.
Jim would always call twenty minutes later.
All 'Fleet ships operated on the same standardised military time, so that they could communicate without having to allow for time difference. Since Kirk knew that Spock worked Alpha shift in the labs, and Kirk being First Officer obviously worked Alpha shift on the Enterprise, the call would come in only twenty minutes after Kirk knew he should be off-duty.
If he wasn't there to receive it, then, to quote Kirk one evening some seven months ago when rather drunk, 'shit hits the motherfucking fan.' (Spock had no idea what that meant.)
This evening was no different. Spock walked out of the bathroom just in time for his console to chime at him, and for Kirk's voice to speak over the recorded message. Ignoring his own state of moderate undress - naked from the waist up was naked for Vulcans, but not, as he understood, for Humans - he sat down and accepted the call, and felt something loosen in his side when he was greeted with Kirk's smile.
"Hey," Kirk said, and grinned. "Wow, a wet, naked Vulcan. Is it my birthday?"
"Not for six point two months."
"Really? Sure feels like my birthday," Kirk said, leaning back in his chair. "How are you doing, anyway?"
"I am well."
"Yeah? Yeah, you look it," Kirk grinned, then sobered up slightly. "Really starting to miss you now. I think it's sunk in."
"I am sure you will survive."
"Mm. I've been speaking to Choi," Kirk continued. "I don't like what I'm hearing about your new colleagues."
Spock could take a fairly good guess as to whom Kirk was referring.
"You met a Lieutenant Alice Harper yet?"
"I have," Spock returned evenly. "She is an astrophysicist with the rank of junior-grade lieutenant, and in possession of a particularly able mind."
"And from what Choi says, a particularly able body."
Spock almost - almost - allowed himself to smirk. "I have noticed absolutely no untoward or unprofessional behaviour from Lieutenant Harper." He very carefully did not mention Lieutenant Weir and her indecently short uniforms.
Kirk made a sceptical noise. "You'll let me know if you do."
"I fail to see the point in doing so," Spock replied. "You are in no position to act upon the knowledge."
"No," Kirk agreed, his voice dropping until it was a low growl. "But I'd like to know. I like to know about the competition."
"There is no competition."
"I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Spock: you have no idea just how damn..."
"Competition implies some contest to be won. And any contest, if it ever existed, has already been won. Any romantic or sexual overtures made by anyone here will be soundly rejected and rendered irrelevent. Therefore, there is no competition."
Kirk's smile was soft and tinged with something that Spock could not identify. "God, I love you," he said.
"...And I you."
"And I'm really fuckin' tired but I don't want to go to sleep. You know something? I've gotten so used to sleeping with you, I've had to change the thermostat in my rooms. And I end up curled around my pillow like a kid. It's been squashed to death."
"You will adjust, Jim."
"I don't want to adjust," Kirk grumbled, and squinted at Spock. "You sleeping okay?"
"Adequately," Spock hedged.
"...Why do I feel wary about that?"
Spock chose not to answer him, and diverted the topic. "Has your workload eased at all since our last conversation?"
"Like hell it has," Kirk groaned, and rolled his eyes. Spock had absolutely no doubt that he'd noticed the dodge, but for once, Kirk apparently opted to let it slide. "Remind me why I want to become a captain again?"
"Because it is your destiny," Spock said softly. "Your first, best destiny."
Kirk chuckled softly. "For being all logical and crap, you Vulcans sure like to trot out destiny when it suits you."
"There is no logic in denying the truth."
"Touché," Kirk said, and yawned widely. "Still, if that's my destiny, what's yours?"
"To be with you."
Kirk frowned. "Destiny's not working so great right now, huh?"
"All will be well," Spock returned calmly. "It is only for a year, Jim, and we are both due shore leave in eight months. I am sure that we could find some time to meet then."
"If we don't, I'm gonna go stir-crazy," Kirk agreed with a soft laugh before sobering again. "You're not getting any of those headaches, are you?"
"No." The vague throbbing at his temples was too slight to be termed a headache.
Kirk narrowed his eyes. "Uh-huh...just 'no'?"
Spock stared back at him.
"Spock, don't dick me around. You have, haven't you?"
"It is too mild to be considered..."
Kirk swore. "I don't give a shit how mild it is! Look, just...promise me you'll get something for it? Painkillers or something? I don't want you in pain!"
"I am not in pain, and I will adjust. It is not severe, Jim."
"What part of 'I don't give a shit' did you miss?" Jim grumbled. "I just..."
"Jim. I am quite well. I promise you that."
Kirk subsided, an unhappy expression on his face. "I want to hug you."
"In eight months, you may. In a year, you will."
"Yay for me," Kirk muttered, and yawned again. "Shit. I'm sorry. I seriously gotta go, or I'm just gonna sleep right here. I'll call you again in a couple of days, 'kay?"
"I look forward to it. Sleep well, Jim."
"And you. Love you. Night."
Spock sat for a further two point three minutes, staring at the darkened viewscreen, before locating a clean uniform shirt and heading back out to the labs. No sense in wasting time when he wasn't going to sleep, after all.
"How you doing?" Pike asked when Kirk sat down opposite him in the mess.
"Urgh," Kirk grimaced. "Grateful the evaluations are done with. If I have to listen to one more rant from one more yeoman about why Lieutenant Guthfrithsson is a chauvinist pig, I'm going to get a phaser and shoot the whole maintenance team."
Pike smirked. "He reminds me of you."
"I honestly never thought anyone would make you settle down, Kirk. I was all set for complete mayhem to break out among the women when you showed up, but you promptly vanished after the Commander and I was left two hundred credits down on the betting pool."
"Well hey, don't trample over the regulations on my account."
"So how are you really doing?"
Kirk shrugged. "I'm okay. I miss him, but...I'm okay. Three months down, nine to go."
"And then you'll both have another two years on your service contracts - what will you do after that?"
Kirk shrugged. "I dunno. Hopefully stay here, but...no offence, sir, but if Captain Johnson retires, I'm going to shoot for the Sophia Ana post."
"And Spock would go with you?"
"I hope so. If not...I'd stay. I...I gotta be honest, sir. This year is going to be tough enough. I'm not going to be taking any post which separates us for any length of time. I couldn't do it. I wouldn't be at my best."
Pike nodded. "Credit to you, Jim."
"Biggest strength a commanding officer can have - and the one he really needs - is knowing when he can't handle a situation. If you know when you're not up to par, and you can admit to it, then you're going to go a lot further than I think you realise."
Kirk shook his head. "Thanks, sir, but until I get Spock back, that's not really high on my agenda."
"So something is more important to you than a captaincy?"
Kirk chuckled. "Yeah. But if you tell anyone, I'll totally deny..."
The alarms went off, cutting off the rest of his sentence, and Kirk groaned loudly.
"Please," he said, even as they both flew up from the table and headed at a synchronised run for the turbolifts, "tell me that's an engineering fault."
It wasn't - and when he called Spock that evening, he received a raised eyebrow for his black eye, and a not-quite-sigh of admonishment.
"When we go back to the Enterprise," Nyota said as she sat down at the table opposite Spock in the mess, "could you do me a favour?"
Over the six months since they had transferred, the tentative friendship Spock had formed with Nyota had grown until she had noticed his erratic schedule and taken him in hand 'because Kirk'll kick my ass too, you know.' Although they no longer attended any Music Club (the Hellenica's crew were not prone to such flimsy excuses for social gatherings) they had grown closer, and he was used to apparently disconnected topics of conversation cropping up in her presence.
"That depends on the nature of the favour."
"Talk Kirk into giving up his communications role."
Spock stared at her.
"Come on," Uhura begged. "You know as well as I do that he wants the captaincy! And you know as well as I do that he'll get it, too. And he can't be Captain and anything else, and there's loads of First Officers who aren't anything else either..."
"True as that may be, Jim enjoys his role, and..."
"Just...suggest it. I'm not saying push him out or anything but...Spock, I want to have my own shot, you know? I'm tired of being the replacement, or the Beta Shift officer. I want a proper bridge role, and if I wait until Kirk gets the captaincy, then my resume's going to look funny as to why I haven't been promoted. That's why I took this post - so I can prove I do have bridge experience."
Nyota had taken over as Moore's primary communications officer and, if her positive attitude at dinner every evening was anything to go by, was thoroughly enjoying herself. And she was a brilliant officer, easily as good as Kirk. Spock had no doubt that she could go far.
"It would be better if you were to discuss the matter. I do not wish to get involved in Jim's career more than is absolutely necessary."
Nyota shrugged. "Okay. Fair enough. Also: how long do Vulcans, er, court each other?"
Spock suppressed the wave of amusement at her quite apparent discomfort. "That depends entirely on the purpose of the courtship. Vulcan children are...engaged, for lack of a better Standard term, at the age of seven, so an engagement typically lasts many years."
"And if they just...find each other, the way humans do?"
"It can be anything from a matter of days to several years."
"Once mentality compatibility is established, the only reasons to delay bonding would be practical."
"So, careers and all of that?"
"Okay," she nodded, pursing her lips, and said: "So why aren't you and Kirk married yet?"
Spock almost dropped his spoon. "I beg your pardon, Nyota?"
"Why aren't you and Kirk married?" she persisted. "You've been going out long enough to work it out, haven't you?"
"And you're sickeningly crazy about each other - and believe me, I never thought I'd ever say that about Kirk," she added with a little laugh. "Commitment's a good look on him."
"It is," Spock agreed cautiously.
"I guess I'm just curious," Nyota said, shrugging. "It just seems like you have no reason not to - but then, I'm not involved in this, so I wouldn't know. You will tell me to butt out if I get too invasive, won't you?"
"Yes, Nyota, I would."
She laughed at him - she had a very pretty laugh, and Spock was unsurprised when a fair few heads turned briefly in their direction, and mostly male heads at that.
"Okay, okay, I'll drop it. But when he does pop the question, I have to be the first to know!"
Spock had never understood the human significance in being the 'first to know' about anything (and in any case, if Kirk did propose, then surely Spock would be the first to know?) but he was not foolish enough to cross Nyota once she had decided upon something, and simply nodded at her.
In another time and place, she really would have made a most excellent partner.
"Hey baby," Kirk grinned at him, eyes at half-mast and speech somewhat slurred. Clearly he had been indulging. "S'rry - it's late, isn't it?"
"It is, Jim," Spock returned, fondness colouring his tone. "Can I assume that you have been at the Christmas party?"
"Mhmm," Kirk said. "Punch got spiked - as usual. An' I think Pike did it. Can't press charges against him and steal the chair for that, can I?"
"I think not."
"Shit," Kirk said conversationally and grinned again, fingers coming up to stroke the screen for a moment. "Missed you, though. Wasn't much of a party 'cause I couldn't attack you with mistletoe or eggnog or anything. Or dress you in tinsel. Mm. Red tinsel - you'd've looked awesome."
"I would have looked quite ridiculous, Jim."
"Yeah, maybe. Merry Christmas."
"S'only a month and a half until leave, isn't it?"
"I'm going to kiss you stupid."
Spock allowed himself a small smile, and Kirk made a noise of triumph or delight - or possibly both.
"I miss you," Kirk repeated, sitting up straighter and apparently making the effort to focus. "I really, really miss you. If you were here, I would've skipped the party and shut us in your quarters - or mine, or the lab, or the gardens, or the observation lounge, or the cargo bay, or engineering..."
"And fucked you blind. Screw the party. I just wanted you. Been missing you all day. Love you."
"And I you."
"You know that, right? Even though you're not here. You know I love you?"
He looked somehow lost and lonely, staring at Spock as though he was trying to work out how to transmit his body and not just his image, and how Spock wished that he could have helped that process. He rarely yearned with so much hunger, but Kirk brought that ability home, and the forty-two days until leave suddenly seemed far longer, illogically longer, than all the days that had already passed.
"Yes, Jim. I know."
Of course he knew. How could he not? How could he doubt that love, that skittered along Kirk's touch and into his very bones, sinking into him and reshaping him. Without Kirk, he would be different, and perhaps he was not better or worse for the change, but he had changed - and if it came from love, from Kirk's sheer depth of feeling that Spock had not thought humans capable of maintaining, then he could not fail to know or reciprocate.
"Love you, gorgeous," Kirk said, and smiled, and something swelled in Spock's side, under his heart, wrapping it in non-existent warmth, and he could not stop himself from, however briefly, smiling in return.
"You look abnormally happy," Sulu said as Kirk joined him in the turbolift.
"This is weird. You've been a miserable bastard for, like, eight months now, and suddenly you're smiling? Leave isn't for another week. You can't start smiling early."
"Phone sex. That's all you need to know."
"Spock'll kill you."
"Came pretty close to it last night," Kirk snickered, and Sulu winced.
"Aw, dude, c'mon!"
"Hey, not my fault you can't keep a girl tied down for more than thirty seconds. It's probably the gay thing."
"For the last time, I am not gay!"
He happened to shout it just as the turbolift doors opened and ejected them onto the bridge for the crew changeover, and Kirk came very close to busting something laughing at the look that Pike gave the pair of them.
"Your sexual orientation is presumably nothing to do with this ship, Mr. Sulu, so kindly leave it - and your libido - back in your quarters," he said dryly.
"Yessir," Sulu said, and kicked Kirk's shin as they parted ways.
"Abuse of a senior officer," Kirk mocked, taking his seat and screwing in his earpiece, flicking through the logs expertly. "Nothing to report from here, sir."
"Orbit sustained," Sulu added. "Nothing to report from Beta or Gamma shift."
"And the transporter room is reporting no problems with the shift change planetside," Kirk finished smoothly.
"And your First Officer's a dick," Sulu added.
"Children," Pike admonished idly, wholly used to it by now. That was the problem with younger bridge officers: their maturity was still almost entirely contained in their underwear. "Can I assume then, Kirk, that you were the reason that Dr. McCoy seemed to be traumatised at breakfast this morning?"
"Yessir," Kirk said cheerfully. "In my defence: he asked."
"If you ask me..." Sulu began, but shut up when the communications array burst to life and Kirk swung away from him, professionalism slamming effortlessly into place.
"Message from Starfleet, sir," he said, frowning as the static confused the words. "New orders. All able ships to drop current missions - no exceptions. Emergency response protocol."
Pike turned when Kirk paused, and saw the colour drain out of his First Officer's face.
"We're receiving a distress signal from Vulcan. All ships to respond - immediately."