AN: Before you start, a few words of warning:
Unfortunately, I'm not a native speaker, I'm pretty new into the fandom and I don't really have a Beta reader. But I do have my very best friend Tschu who's doing all she can to find my more obvious blunders and plotholes. Biiig thanks to her for that! But she's not a native speaker either and she isn't even into the Fandom (yet ). So sorry for any remaining mistakes, they are entirely mine and you're welcome to point them out!
And… it's pretty fluffy I think.
Oh, and before I forget: I took a few liberties with Jim's childhood. If you only saw the movie you'll probably never know. And, really, what's the book but a piece of fanfiction that got published?
This is my first story on the net… hope you enjoy!
It happened so fast, Jim didn't even realize anything had happened at all until he was lying flat on his stomach, pinned down by his First Officer.
They were currently on official visit to a small mining planet which was preparing its admission into the Federation. Pure routine. A few meetings, dinner with some representatives, a bit of sightseeing… until, out of the blue, they were attacked by a group of renegade guerillas with ancient, but effective, automatic firearms.
Now, bullets where hitting the rock face mere inches over his and (hopefully!) Spock's head. Jim tried to press into the ground, knowing the bullets were probably meant mainly for him as leader of the shore party and prime representative of Starfleet and the Federation. He trusted his men to quickly and professionally overwhelm the guerillas.
After all, there was no way he could stand up and fight, he was the Captain now, he had responsibilities!
Well, he probably would have tried anyway, if Spock weren't lying over him, pressing him down with all his three-times-human strength…
Jim shifted under the weight, trying to get loose. Or at least to get his first officer's elbow out of his neck. His uniform shirt hiked up with his efforts, exposing his bare back, and Spock had to readjust his hold.
Suddenly, Jim stilled. There was something… some strange feeling…
Gradually, he became aware of strong emotions running through him… his own, yet not his own… They'd been there before, but he hadn't acknowledged them. What the fuck was happening? He deliberately calmed himself until he was able to distinguish some of them… Fear, fear for a life but not the own, someone else's…worry, anger, affection… and a deep, all underlying sensation of… loneliness?
He only had a moment to wonder before it felt as if a fist clenched around all these sensations, first shielding, then wrenching them away and completely blocking them from him until he couldn't be sure if he had ever really felt them.
And only when they were gone did it hit him: Vulcans were touch telepaths. Those had been Spock's emotions. Spock's emotions! Good Lord, Spock had emotions! However much he denied it, he had them and Jim had just very clearly felt them! How impossibly… incredible!
Of course, everyone on the Enterprise knew since Nero that Spock was able to feel… anger, at the very least. But that had been at a time when all Vulcans had been very vulnerable, just after the destruction of their planet. And let's be honest, except from choking Jim half to death, Spock had been very composed and controlled even then, quietly removing himself from command because he was 'emotionally compromised'. And Jim had really pushed it. It had been a logical reaction to attack him. No one really considered Spock an emotional being, able to feel things like… loneliness.
Jim was still somewhat stunned by his discovery when Spock finally released him. His team had successfully disarmed the guerillas and was assisting the local security dispatch in taking them away.
He got up and brushed himself off, Spock already standing dispassionately beside him, observing the rest of the team dealing professionally with the situation. He wasn't needed there. "Uhmm… thanks…" he said, carefully looking for any sign of change in his First Officer's face. But Spock looked as composed and blank as ever.
"As First Officer it is my duty to ensure the Captain of the ship goes unharmed", he said evenly, "it is therefore illogical to express gratitude."
"Not if you're endangering your own life in the process, it's not!" Jim argued hotly.
Spock raised an eyebrow. "The First Officer is easier to replace than the Captain", he said, turning and walking away without a look back.
Jim sighed heavily, looking after him. Although they'd had a rocky start, he liked Spock. A lot.
He liked him, because he was the only one who, after he'd finally decided to trust Jim, had actually acted on it. He'd since accepted every decision Jim had made, quietly offering his opinion but letting Jim have the last word. He always backed him up in front of the crew even if he would have decided differently. Jim knew Starfleet was keeping an eye on him (they didn't really trust him with the ship, they'd just been out of options) and he knew he'd drown in forms and reports if Spock wouldn't tell them to back off and give him some space (if much more formally, of course) over and over again.
He liked him, because Spock had put their personal differences aside (even though Jim had embarrassed the hell out of him when he'd forced him to admit to being emotionally compromised), understood Jim's reasons and had moved on. Jim wasn't sure there was a single human who would have been able to do that.
And he also liked him, because he was Jim's pure opposite. Calm, composed, loyal. Logical. Where Jim was driven by emotions, Spock actually thought. And he was a genius. Talking to him was intellectually stimulating like hell. Of course those were all qualities found in any Vulcan, but still. Any Vulcan, Jim found nothing but intimidating. Spock was fascinating.
He liked the way Spock stood just behind and slightly to one side of his Captain's chair whenever things got tough. Always supporting, never backing down, easing Jim's nervousness by his pure presence.
Yes he liked Spock. But then again, he was so difficult to understand sometimes. Most of the time, actually. While Jim had to admit he didn't really know him, he wondered who did.
Not that he wouldn't have liked to get to know him. Especially after Elder Spock had predicted them some kind of epic friendship or something. But Spock always had this distant air about him which sometimes seemed daunting, even to Jim. It seemed like so much effort to get through to Spock and Jim always had been one for the straight and easy way. So he'd just never really bothered.
He'd been regretting it for a while now. But he'd decided it was probably too late. It just seemed silly to try and start a friendship after months of exclusively work-related relationship. Plus he still shied the effort, which seemed to get bigger with every passing day.
But then he remembered the loneliness. And he felt like a superficial asshole.
But had he really just understood those emotions correctly? After all, he was as psi null as any human, wasn't he? Was Spock really lonely? Or was it just his mind playing tricks on him?
Observing his team's actions, Jim mulled it over some more. Of course he'd touched Spock before. The Enterprise was a big ship, but not big enough so you wouldn't bump into each other occasionally. And sometimes he just forgot how much Spock hated to be touched. Hell, he was an expressive talker. Clasping a shoulder here, grabbing an arm there… and never ever had he felt anything out of the ordinary. And then, of course there was the 'bridge incident' (as everybody who couldn't avoid mentioning it seemed to call it). A whole lot of touching there! Hmmmm… maybe there even had been something there, but of course he'd been too busy trying to survive to care about any weird sensations he might have had at the moment Spock was choking him! Although… actually, when Spock had been choking him, he had briefly felt anger, rage, even. He'd chalked it up to his own conflicting feelings at that time, but that didn't make sense, as he'd consciously provoked the attack… maybe those had been Spock's emotions, too, and he'd just never realized it?
He shook his head. Whatever might or might not have been: this time, the sensation couldn't be denied and he was pretty certain he knew what he'd felt.
And now that he thought about it, it seemed to him Spock didn't have any friends at all. Neither Vulcan nor human. He'd never seen him at any party (of course, Jim himself had never thought of inviting him to any of his), he couldn't remember if he'd ever participated in any ship-activities or competitions like soccer games or wrestling, and he spent almost every shore leave on the ship, always needing to complete some incredibly important science project which just couldn't wait another day or two…
There was Uhura, of course. But she was his girlfriend and that was different. You needed others around you, friends, not just your girlfriend. You needed to socialize.
Back on the ship, Jim found Uhura in the mess hall and asked her out into a quiet corridor. Though they still weren't on the best of terms, she still being a bit snappy around him and he still hurt in his pride that he had never been able to score with her, they worked well together. Jim reluctantly started to actually like her, just as reluctantly as she started to actually respect him. They both knew the other was good at what they did.
Without many preliminaries Jim came right to the point: did Spock have any friends aside from her? Uhura looked uneasy. "Don't think so, no. Not that I know or ever met any." It sounded a bit bitter.
"Does he socialize?" Jim inquired, "I mean do you sometimes spend your evenings with other couples? Go somewhere? Anything that doesn't include just the two of you?" Uhura shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "We didn't use to, no. I wouldn't know about now, though, Captain, we broke up a few weeks ago."
"What?" Jim was dumbfounded. He hadn't realized that at all! Of course, Uhura and Spock had never been affectionate in public, except for that one moment in the transporter room. He hadn't known the difference before, of course he wouldn't know the difference after. Not with Spock being so bloody impassionate about everything! Still, he felt anger bubbling up. Mostly at himself. As Captain he felt he should have noticed, after all, they usually worked the same shift! He felt as if somehow he'd let Spock down. How stupid was that? And then there was also an unreasonable anger at Uhura. Unconsciously, he directed it all at her.
"Who broke up?" he blurted.
Uhura stiffened. "Not that it's any of your business Captain, but I did", she said, defensively. She thought she knew what was coming. Jim was an able Captain, but a very impulsive man.
And sure enough: "How could you do that? How could you break up with him when you knew you were his only link to… to… to the real world? To the human world? To the team, to… to us? When you were his only real friend?"
"Don't you judge me when you don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about", Uhura snapped frustratedly, "How would you like to be in a relationship with someone who never says he loves you? Or even only that he likes you? Or just that he enjoys your company? Who never asks anything about you, never tells anything about himself, someone who's just there? Who never laughs about your jokes, never cracks one himself. Someone who always, always, always, even in bed, keeps himself completely under control?
Oh, I know he cares about me, alright. Maybe he even cares about me more than about anyone else, but I am only human. I need to hear it from time to time. I really thought I could break through that shell of his, make him say it, show me, but I was wrong. I am a woman. I need to feel wanted, needed. Someone like him…"
"Someone like him?" Jim interrupted, furious. "All you accuse him of is being Vulcan! That's how Vulcans are! If you're in love with a Vulcan, then take him as a Vulcan; don't try to make him human! And if you can't do that, think about it before using him and then throwing him away!" and with that, Jim turned and stomped off towards his quarters.
She shouted "You have no idea!" after him, sounding close to tears, but he didn't care. At least not at the moment. Somewhere deep within he knew he was being unfair and way out of line and he would have to apologize later. It wasn't her fault. People broke up if a relationship didn't work for both of them. C'est la vie. But right now, he didn't care. Spock had lost her. Spock didn't have anyone anymore. No wonder he felt lonely.
Jim tried to eat lunch or dinner with part of his crew at least once or twice a week. He tried very hard to be an accessible Captain, one his crew turned to not only for professional but also for personal advice (well, maybe one day). He didn't want them to get the impression that he thought he was something bigger than they were. After all, just about a year ago, he'd sat in the same classroom with some of them.
So even though he had his own food replicator in his quarters, was tired and desperately needed to get some more paperwork done, he was sharing a table in the mess hall with Bones, Nurse Chapel, Chekov, Sulu and Uhura (to whom he had apologized, thoroughly and at length, feeling closer to her now than he'd ever thought possible), all chatting happily away about the day's events.
He was just finishing his dinner when he saw Spock entering with a tray and sitting down at a table in the corner. Alone. Jim observed him for a moment. Impeccably dressed, graceful movements, neatly trimmed hair, distant, expressionless face. Nothing out of the usual. Then Chekov said something silly and a burst of laughter erupted from his fellow crewmembers. Jim grinned, too, even though, contemplating Spock, he hadn't caught the joke.
And because Spock didn't move, he almost missed something else, too. Spock's glance darting over, eyes mostly hidden by dark lashes, lingering on Sulu who was holding on to Chekov, shaking with laughter. Was it disapproval? Or regret at being excluded? A wish to belong?
Before he even knew what he was doing, he was standing in front of Spock's table.
Spock looked up at him inquiringly, and suddenly Jim felt very awkward. "Aahm… I just wanted to ask, do you… do you play chess?"
Spock's right eyebrow hiked up a little. "Indeed I do, sir."
"I… I was just feeling bored and thought maybe we could…" he stopped and slapped himself mentally. Spock as a boredom-cure! You're doing great, Jimmy! But how do you invite your First Officer to your quarters if you haven't done so in all the months you've already worked together? He gave a nervous laugh. God, he acted like a teenager asking a girl out on a first date.
"That came out all wrong", he tried again, a sheepish smile on his face before plunging right in. "I would like to play a game of chess with you." Now that sounded strange, too. "Only if you want, too, of course!" he hastily added.
Spock's eyebrow hiked up even further. "I was not aware you played chess", he said.
"Yeah, well, we often did at the Academy. It's kind of …like tactical training."
"If you want to train, Captain, I am of course at your disposal."
Jim sighed, growing irritated with himself. It seemed he had a lot to learn about conversations with Vulcans!
"I don't want to play for training. I want to play just for fun. I'm quite good, actually. I might even be a challenge for you!" He smiled again. "I might even beat you! But only if you've got nothing better to do. And if you feel like it. I mean if you like to. I would enjoy it." He stopped himself babbling. Vulcans didn't do 'enjoy' or 'like'. He wasn't getting anywhere…
But Spock looked up at him with an unreadable expression; eyebrow disappearing into his neatly cut hairline and said: "I do not have anything better to do."
"Yeah? Wow, cool! Great! Half an hour, my quarters?" When Spock inclined his head in assent, Jim almost bounced out of the door, pending paperwork forgotten. He'd go where no man hat ever gone before. He'd socialize with his enigmatic Vulcan First Officer! He wondered why he hadn't done so earlier. It hadn't been all that difficult now, had it?
Half an hour later Jim had found his chessboard in the depths of his wardrobe where he'd put it at the start of the mission, had set it up and changed into civilian clothes. Now he was eagerly waiting for Spock. He'd made several mental notes: 'Don't ask closed questions', 'give him time' 'let him be himself' 'no like's, love's, enjoy's or any of these emotional words' and, most importantly 'nothing too personal'… he just hoped he'd remember everything…
The chime sounded sharply on time. Naturally. Jim opened the door, feeling strangely nervous. It actually was something like a first date. If Elder Spock was right, this could be the beginning of a new, lifelong friendship. Or he might screw up and it could be the end of them as a brilliant command team.
"Captain", Spock inclined his head.
"Jim", Jim corrected immediately. "We're not on duty. Come on in."
Spock stopped just inside the door, taking in the sparsely decorated rom. Jim felt pretty self-conscious about it. He didn't care too much about decoration and he didn't have many things to use for it. Probably a result of his younger years spent in boarding schools or visiting ever-changing relatives. What he did have (a few vases, a brightly colored afghan, some cushions) would rather suit an elderly lady than a young starship captain, owing to the fact that they were all Christmas and birthday presents from his Auntie Maude.
"Sit down", he gestured to the chessboard sitting on a table between two chairs. "What would you like to drink?" He gestured proudly to his well-stocked bar.
"Altarian Water, please", Spock said politely, taking a seat.
Jim's face fell. He recovered quickly though, mentally sorting through the almost non-existing non-alcoholic part of his bar. Shit, first mistake, how could he forget he'd never seen Spock touch a drop of alcohol!
"But I do not need sustenance right now", Spock said evenly, just as Jim, with a surge of relief, remembered the bottle of water that Altarian girl had brought with her when he'd invited her to his quarters. She'd been in such a hurry to leave he was quite sure she hadn't taken it with her. He dived into the cooled section of the bar, shoving several bottles of questionable content (for lack of an own bar, Bones kept some of his drinks in Jim's) out of the way and sure enough, there it was! "No prob!" he called triumphantly, holding it up. Another mental note: 'stock up on non-alcoholic beverages'!
Spock inclined his head and gracefully accepted his glass. Jim poured himself a beer and sat down himself.
Spock contemplated the board. "It is very well crafted." Jim flushed a little. It had been his father's and it was very beautiful. He was very proud of it. "Do you like it?" he asked, earning a blank look from Spock. Oh, yeah, right. For Vulcans it was either functional or non-functional. Well crafted or not well crafted. This evening he was going to need a lot of concentration, and not just for the game.
Another one of those awkward moments followed, then they had decided who would make the first move, swiveled the board accordingly and started to play.
Several minutes ticked by in silence. Then Jim couldn't take it anymore. To hell with mental notes! "Where'd you learn to play?" he blurted out. "I mean, it's a Terran game, not Vulcan, isn't it?"
Spock looked down at the board. "My mother…" he started, but stopped. Jim wanted to slap himself. So much for the most important mental note. Ten minutes into the game and he'd already blown it. Damn!
He just wanted to apologize when Spock started again: "My mother, she brought it with her to Vulcan. She used to play with me, when I was very young. Soon, she ceased to be a challenge to me, but I found the concept of the game enthralling. It is mainly about logic and as such very unusual for a Terran game. I did not want to stop playing it, so I showed Sarek. He too was quite fascinated by it and showed it to some of the elders. Soon there were many other players for me to challenge. I still played with my mother from time to time, as it seemed to give her pleasure."
Jim sat very still. This was probably the longest speech which didn't revolve around science that he'd ever heard from his First Officer. He was amazed. The very beginning of their first evening spent together and Spock had already volunteered something about himself. Wow.
They played a few more moves in complete silence. Then, out of the blue, Spock asked him: "What about you, Captain? Where did you learn to play?" Jim looked up, taken aback. It was the first ever personal question Spock had asked him. And, according to Uhura, personal questions didn't happen all that often with Spock.
"We have something in common there", he answered after a moment, "Sad memories."
He contemplated his next move and, playing, started to talk: "It was my father's. I didn't even know it existed, until my mother asked me if I wanted it, or else she'd throw it out. I didn't have anything from my father that was truly mine. Sam… he's my older brother by three years… he has some stuff. Toys, a stuffed elephant my father gave him for his second birthday. Me, I had nothing really, because my father died the day I was born. So of course I wanted it and and from then on I took it with me wherever I went... I was eight.
My stepfather kept making fun of me because my most treasured possession was a chessboard I couldn't even play with. So I started to learn. I played on the computer. But soon", he mimicked Spock, but very carefully so as not to endanger their fragile closeness, "it ceased to be a challenge to me. It's mainly based on logic, you see? And logic is so easy to predict." He grinned, as he took Spock's knight.
Spock gave him a look of barely suppressed surprise before making his own move. "The first real-life person I played against was Bones. At the Academy. We were a match. Almost." Another sly grin as he took Spock's queen.
Spock bent down deeper over the board, contemplating it. Yet Jim knew he had his full attention. "Soon some of the other cadets found out about our games and wanted in on them, so we formed kind of a club and used it for some sort of tactical training."
"I see", was all Spock said before playing his next move, but Jim felt as if they'd both bared their soul to each other.
Only minutes later Spock set Jim checkmate, not without an evenly stated : "And so logic conquers again."
Jim looked up at him, astonished. 'He just made fun at me', he thought, 'I don't believe it, he really did!' He was so surprised, he couldn't even begin to think of an answer.
"I have never been challenged by any human but my mother before", Spock continued after a moment. "And, surprisingly enough, you actually did present a challenge."
He started to get up, but Jim held him back by blurting out: "Say, Spock, what are you doing in your free time? I mean, when we're off work?"
Spock gave him one of his blank looks but sat back down. "I often go to the science station to look after the experiments."
"Yeah, but that's actually work! What else? What do you do to take your thoughts off work?"
Still the same blank look. "I meditate."
Jim grew impatient but checked it. He wanted Spock to say it because he still couldn't quite believe it. He could never ever imagine his own life only working and meditating! "Ok, yeah, but don't you socialize? Like, doing stuff with other people?"
Spock looked him up and down levelly. "I was certain that what we did engage in tonight would fall into the human concept of socializing", he said.
"Sure, sure, of course", Jim spluttered", but… but… we've been only doing this for the first time!"
"Indeed", Spock agreed, getting up for real, now. "And I certainly hope it was not for the last time."
Jim stared at him, open-mouthed. He couldn't believe it. Spock had just told him right out that he'd had a good time and that he'd enjoyed his company. Despite him forgetting about Vulcans not drinking alcohol and all his personal questions…
"Captain, your mouth is hanging open." Jim swiftly closed it. That pointy-eared bastard was making fun of him. Again!
"We will", he said when he'd finally gotten his voice back, grinning madly. "We will and then I'm so gonna beat you!"
After Spock had left, Jim got himself another bottle of beer and leaned back in his chair. It had been completely different from everything he'd expected. He did have a sense of humor, Spock, if you cared to look for it. And he'd freely revealed an episode of his childhood, which had been completely unexpected. After the first awkwardness of the situation had passed, they had been perfectly at ease in each other's company. The silences between moves never tense. Jim had enjoyed the evening greatly. What a difference to an evening spent with Bones, which almost always involved a lot of loud music and goofing around, girls, or sports events of all kinds and planets flickering over the transmitter. He enjoyed those careless evenings with Bones. Tonight had just been very different, he'd never spent an evening like this before and he found he liked it. He wanted more of it. Definitely.
It was only two days later when he rounded up Spock in the mess hall. "Hey, what about a rematch tonight?" he asked, when Spock looked up at him from his Vulcan fare.
"Most certainly", Spock answered, face and eyes betraying nothing. Still, Jim thought he could detect joy at being asked. But maybe he was imagining it.
Unfortunately, this was exactly the moment Bones and Scotty chose to enter the hall and make their way over to Jim.
"There you are!" Bones called exuberantly, slapping Jim's shoulder so hard he almost fell into Spock's dinner. "We've been looking all over for you! I don't know how he did it, but Scotty's managed to find us a bottle of the best Single Malt Scotch you could dream of! Out here, about as far away from Earth as you can get!" He changed his tone to mock-solemn. "We are opening it tonight. You are officially invited."
"Uhmm…"Jim loved Scotch. Scotty knew a lot about it, so if he said it was good, it must be awesome. But still. He'd just fixed another game with Spock and he wasn't one to go back on an arrangement. Besides, he'd already been looking forward to it. But how to tell your best friend you already had other plans? Like playing chess with your Vulcan First whom most of the crew still thought of as kind of a freak? Plus there was the Scotch, which really was hard to find out here… He glanced down at his First Officer and made a decision.
"Actually, I just…"
Spock took his tray and stood, cutting him off. "It does not matter, Captain. We will reschedule." With a courteous nod to Scotty and Bones he turned and walked towards the cleaning station. Jim felt his heart clench. How horrible it must feel to always be only second or third choice! If people only spent time with you if they didn't have anything better to do!
"Sorry, I can't, anytime but not tonight", Jim said, leaving his friends gaping after him as he hurried to intercept Spock at the cleaning station.
"Maybe it doesn't matter to you", he told Spock, standing in his way. "But you never asked if it matters to me. I'll tell you anyway. It does. I don't want to 'reschedule'."
"It is highly illogical to prefer my company to that of your friends", Spock countered. "Especially as we can play chess at any day we chose, but the Whisky will certainly be gone by tomorrow."
"Then you should have expected it. I remember several times when you told me I was the most illogical person you know!" Jim couldn't help but grin, but then he grew serious. "So, illogical, you say? Let me tell you about illogical. I've been looking forward to our next game ever since the last one ended. That's because I really enjoyed the other night. And just a few minutes ago, when you said you had time for another game, my day was about made. Bones and Scotty are my friends, but so are you. If I wanna spend time with you, then something better than a mere bottle of Scotch has to come along to change that. Sounds illogical to you?" he shrugged. "Makes a lot of sense to me."
Spock looked at him intensely with his usual unreadable expression, but Jim felt extremely good. It probably wasn't too often someone put Spock first. And the best thing about it was: he'd meant it. Even though the Scotch held a certain appeal, he wouldn't put it over a game of chess with Spock. He was a bit surprised about himself. Just a week or two ago he'd have put the Scotch and a merry evening with his senior crew members first of about anything.
"Eight o'clock, my quarters." he stated and left, Spock still staring (yes, staring!) after him.
When Spock arrived, Jim had already set up the game and put a bottle of Altarian water on Spock's side of the table. On his own side he placed a glass filled with amber liquid.
"Bones snuck me a glass anyway", Jim announced. "Ain't he the best friend ever?"
"If the ability of producing a glass of Whisky for you automatically qualifies someone to being your best friend, it seems no challenge to gain that title."
'Damn, I really got to watch what I'm saying', Jim thought. He wasn't quite sure how to take this comment. Had Spock been reprehending him? His face betrayed nothing, but it had somehow sounded like it. What for? Had he tried to tell him he didn't want to be his friend? Or he picked the wrong friends? No, Spock knew Bones was a good guy. Maybe he'd just tried to tell him he'd have to set his standards higher? Or maybe he shouldn't weigh every word Spock said…
"Captain, sit down or we will be unable to start", Spock stated finally.
"Jim", Jim automatically corrected, snapping out of his ruminations. The awkward moment passed as fast as it had come.
They spent most of the game talking about Spock's newest science project. Jim was attentive, followed Spock's explanations as best as he could and posed all the right questions. It was obvious Spock enjoyed the conversation immensely, even though he'd never admit to such a feeling. Jim also couldn't help but notice that Spock was somewhat surprised about his general technical knowledge and understanding of the ship's inner workings. He was proud to prove he wasn't just the cadet-promoted-captain-by-sheer-luck-and-lack-of-candidates many still considered him to be. It wasn't really necessary, Spock knew, he'd been there, but it still felt good.
Spock beat him again, but he'd put up a hell of a fight. Spock acknowledged it and again they agreed on a rematch.
But Jim wasn't ready to let him leave just yet. There was something else he'd been trying to figure out how to say all night. Now Spock was about to get up and he still hadn't addressed it. So he went by his usual strategy: The best way around is straight through.
"I did some research, too", he said, referring to Spock's scientific experiments. Spock cocked an eyebrow. "About Vulcans", Jim continued. Up went the other eyebrow. "I…it's just that I don't know much about Vulcans, but then I know they're easily offended, even if they don't show it, I took classes about Cultural Differences in the Academy and so…" he checked himself before he could seriously start babbling again. What was it about Spock that made him talk like some love-struck teenager sometimes? 'Gee, get a grip!'
"I just wanted to say there's never any offence intended. I just make mistakes because I don't know better. Like last time, when I asked you about your mother. I know now it's a big fat no-go. Sorry, I probably shouldn't have mentioned that again. Anyway, I want you to know I'm a fast learner. It won't take me too long. In the meantime, you just tell me to shut up if I'm out of line and I will, ok?"
Spock looked at him intently and Jim could have sworn his eyes softened. "Please do not", he said.
"Do not stop being yourself. Curiosity is a trait of your personality, as is your impulsiveness. If you pose me a question I do not wish to answer I will not do so."
With that, he politely bid Jim good night and left, his Captain staring after him with a stunned expression.
He'd done it again. Spock had, in his very own, unemotional way, told him he liked him! Or how else could he understand that he'd just been given permission to ask any question he wanted and even act on his feelings, things which would disgrace him with probably every other Vulcan in the universe? He exhaled sharply, only now realizing he'd held his breath.
Days turned to weeks and Jim and Spock made sure to meet at least twice a week for a game of chess. Their conversations mostly revolved about work, science or culture. Jim enjoyed them immensely. He'd always been interested in a wide range of subjects, physics, mechanics, geography, different cultures, even botany. He'd just never acted on it. The one time he'd showed enthusiasm at a field trip to a historical museum, his classmates had first called him a geek and had beaten him up later. He'd been seven. He'd learned to keep it a secret afterwards. He'd never quite been able to shake it, though, acting instead as if he didn't care at all. Even at the academy.
What a difference those evenings were to those he usually spent with Bones and Scotty! Which he enjoyed equally by the way, but he only now realized how much he also liked to spend his evenings making highly intelligent small talk while simultaneously occupying his mind with the tactical and logical demands of a game of chess. Except for the two or three times he managed a draw Jim always lost. But he didn't loose his self-assurance. It was always a close thing. He knew he challenged Spock more than his first officer would ever have thought possible. And he was learning. Logic was predictable. Even though Spock was more difficult to figure out than the computer, he was sure he would. Eventually.
Out of the blue, a few weeks into their regular chess-nights, Spock folded his hands on the table in front of himself, contemplated the figures and asked: "Tell me about Terran childhood."
Jim looked at him, wide-eyed. Ever since their first two meetings, they'd avoided personal topics. There was more than enough other interesting stuff to talk about and Jim had been certain he would be the one to break the silent agreement eventually, not Spock.
Spock glanced back up at him and immediately receded. "I am sorry, I should not have asked."
"You can ask anything you want, you know that", Jim said, still somewhat dumbfounded. After all, he'd been granted the same privilege and that from a Vulcan! "It's just that… I can't tell you about normal Terran childhood, 'cause mine's been anything but…"
"Tell me about your childhood, then", Spock asked carefully, "If you do not mind, of course."
And Jim told him. About his mother who couldn't deal with her husband's death. Who could hardly even look at her sons because they reminded her of him and who kept working as a science assistant on various ships even after his birth ("That's how I know a few things about science, see? I always tried to impress her."). How she hardly ever was home on earth with her sons. And when she was, how they both fought for her attention but never quite got it. How she always seemed distant as if being too close to them would hurt her. How she'd remarried on her first mission after George Kirk's death because she just couldn't stand being alone. Some bloke neither he nor Sam got along with.
Then about himself. His various homes from home. Boarding schools, Uncle Eddie, Auntie Maude, Grandpa Kirk. How nowhere was really home but home wasn't either, as his stepfather was there and they were constantly arguing. How the only place he was really happy was Grandpa Kirk's farm, but he died when he was only nine. How Sam ran away aged fourteen and how he was alone after that.
How he didn't have any friends at school because schools changed so rapidly ("Ok, so maybe I was kind of a troublemaker…") and half his classmates used to hate him while the other half was scared shitless of him.
He talked about getting into the Academy and meeting Bones, his first real friend.
Spock listened, face devoid of emotion, but eyes alive with interest and sympathy. When Jim finished, he felt stripped, but also as if a huge weight had been lifted off him. He'd never talked to anybody about his childhood and how difficult it had been. Now, as an adult, he somehow understood his mother. He knew her behavior just proved how much she'd loved his father, but as a child, it had been hell.
Spock was silent for a long time. At long last, after contemplating and then making another move he said quietly: "What a pity we did not know each other, then."
Jim looked up, surprised.
"We could have supported each other", Spock clarified, voice even as usual. "My childhood was also somewhat… complicated."
Jim waited for more to come, but Spock didn't go on. Jim also didn't feel like he was invited to ask and after a few moments, Spock gave him kind of a shrewd look: "Check!"
Jim suppressed a grin. He'd been trying this for days but he'd always made a mistake somewhere along the way. He acted as if he had to think hard for a solution, then moved his king out of the way. Spock closed in again.
Now Jim let his grin show. "Check and mate, my friend!" he declared, taking Spock's king out of nowhere. "It isn't always logic, sometimes pure recklessness is the key!"
Oh, how long he'd waited to be able to say that! He couldn't keep his face serious for more than a few seconds, though, so he stopped trying altogether.
"Wooohooooo!" He jumped onto his chair in victory pose. Spock still stared at the board, trying to figure out what had hit him. Jim jumped off the chair again and started a dance around the table, all the while singing "Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha" and showing off his very own variation of a highland fling. Finally he danced back to Spock who was still staring incredulously at the board… oooh, this was so beautiful! He grabbed Spock's shoulders with both hands, bending down and grinning "Gotcha" into his ear.
Immediately he felt unfamiliar emotions coursing through his body. 'Oh shit, here we go again!' utter bewilderment, affectionate amusement, amused affection…
He let go of Spock's shoulders as if they were searing hot. Fuck, why now? Why not any of the other times he'd touched Spock? This was just too fucking creepy!
Spock seemed oblivious. "Where did that come from?" he mumbled, still contemplating the board.
Jim couldn't help but laugh out loud. "Oooh, Gosh, if I've ever seen a stunned Vulcan!" He pointed delightedly at Spock who looked up at him, holding his gaze and…hell, he was smiling!
Well, not exactly smiling, but Jim would have sworn the corners of his mouth had lifted marginally and his jaw muscle twitched… and his eyes, his eyes were definitely smiling!
Jim wanted to hug him.
Instead, he jumped up and down some more until Spock very composedly asked him to quit with his illogical antics and allow him a rematch. Which Spock, of course, won.
But that didn't matter. It had been the first evening they'd played two games. And it had been the first time Spock had smiled at him.
More chess games followed, Jim winning some, losing most. He was dismayed he didn't win more often. Spock was surprised he lost any at all. And Jim grew convinced Vulcans did show emotions. At least his (sorry, this) Vulcan did. You just had to know where to look!
They talked about personal matters more often now. Jim knew about Spock's family, how his father had opposed to him joining Starfleet. He knew a lot about Spock's mother and about his early days in Starfleet. Spock still refused to talk about his childhood, though and Jim wouldn't push him.
By now they shared several private jokes which puzzled the hell out of Bones or his senior staff members on the bridge. Jim was also quite capable of judging his First Officers mood, even though said First Officer insisted that Vulcans didn't do "moods".
Occasionally he found himself on the receiving end of a significantly raised eyebrow, even a twitching lip he was by now able to recognize as a smile, or by the telltale softening of eyes if Jim revealed a particularly difficult episode of his past.
In short, they had become very close friends in a relatively brief period of time and Jim realized Spock was very expressive in his own way. For a Vulcan, at least.
He couldn't believe Uhura hadn't noticed it. She and Spock had been together for what… more than a year? He had only started to spend time with Spock a couple of months ago. And he could already read him… well, not like an open book, no, but still quite well.
They didn't just play chess now. Sometimes they worked out in the gym together, shared a meal or Spock even joined some of Bones' after-work-parties, even though he carefully stayed in the background and didn't drink any alcohol.
Bones had been shocked at first. "Spock? What do you want with that stone slab of a hobgoblin? He's no fun at all! He might even report us to Starfleet for breaking regulations we haven't even heard of!" But he got used to Jim taking Spock along sometimes and Jim was sure by now he was even quite fond of the Vulcan, never missing an opportunity for a verbal trial of strength.
So they had grown pretty close over time but it still took Jim the better part of a year until, over a quite game of chess, he finally dared asking the question that had been in his mind since the very beginning of their socializing. Well, actually he didn't ask. He jumped in headfirst, as was his habit: "How is it, that if Vulcans aren't supposed to have any emotions, that sometimes when I touch you, I can sense them in you?"
He stopped for breath. „And how is it that it's not every time I touch you?"
Spock stiffened visibly and motionlessly stared at the board. Jim thought he even stopped breathing but he couldn't be sure. Whooops, not a good question then. Too early.
Spock was silent for a long time and Jim was sure he wouldn't answer, as was his custom if he overstepped some invisible boundary.
But then, abruptly, Spock stood and stepped over to the porthole, deliberately clasping his hands behind his back and gazing out at the stars zipping by.
Jim felt uneasy. Uh-oh, what now? Maybe now he'd really blown it? Violated some important Vulcan code?
At length, Spock spoke, very composed, very evenly. "It is because I fail at controlling my emotions as a Vulcan should."
Jim sat very still. Truth time. He would nod prod. He would just listen very carefully to everything Spock was ready to offer so he would be able to understand him better.
"You probably know", Spock continued, in the same level tone, "in ancient times, emotions ran deep in Vulcans. Far deeper even than in humans. We were governed by our emotions, many tragedies ensued, many wars were fought. To survive, to not destroy ourselves and everyone around us, we had to learn to control these emotions, build barriers around them, keep them in check. After generations of doing this, they were suppressed more and more, locked away, until they all but ceased to exist unless consciously sought after. What is left can easily be controlled by our subconscious."
One of Spock's hands clenched into a fist, even though his tone of voice didn't change. "But this is not the case for me. I might appear Vulcan, I am mainly Vulcan, but concerning my emotions I am entirely human. They are stronger in me than in any other Vulcan and it requires a constant effort for me to control them. If you catch me off-guard, it so might happen that you sense a trace of them through our touch."
'A trace of them? Hell, I can feel them as if they were my own!' Jim bit his tongue to keep himself from blurting it out. He remained silent while Spock continued; still looking out into space, motionless, but his other hand was now clenched into a fist, too. Jim could see his knuckles go white.
"On Vulcan I was endlessly mocked for this impairment. Many Vulcans are, in a subtle way, opposing everything and everyone different to them. They can be very cruel. I was the first ever known Vulcan/Human hybrid which caused them to constantly linger on my faulty human traits. In addition, they were often disrespectful towards my mother. My peers constantly tried to evoke an emotional reaction of me. Unfortunately they succeeded often enough which of course did not help the matter much."
Jim's heart clenched in sympathy. So much for a 'complicated childhood'. This confession out of a Vulcan meant pure emotional agony. That much Jim had figured out by now.
When Spock was silent for another endless moment, spastically clenching and unclenching his fists, Jim rose and walked over to stand beside him. Together they watched the endless darkness and twinkling stars outside.
"My mother…" Spock suddenly said, voice somewhat strangled, "My mother was the only person in the universe who took me how I was. Even my father wished for me to be different, to be fully Vulcan. And the elders where surprised I had 'excelled' in the entrance exam for the Vulcan Academy Of Science in spite of my 'disability'. Only my mother did not care if I was fully Vulcan or fully human or something in between. With her, it did not matter. And then", his voice actually broke, "she just died because I did not stop Nero, because I did not hold onto her…"
Jim couldn't take it anymore. Without thinking about it, he grabbed Spock's shoulder, turned him around and pulled him into a tight embrace. Spock stiffened and Jim felt emotions coursing through him, barely held back. He tightened his hold even more and Spock's hands came up to clutch tightly at the lapels of his shirt. "It wasn't your fault", Jim whispered, "it's ok to be sad but it wasn't your fault."
Momentarily, Spock stiffened even more, but then, with a small choking sound, he suddenly gave in.
Jim stumbled backwards with the onslaught of Spock's full weight and the mass of his emotions surging through him and exploding in his mind. He brought them both down in a semi-controlled fall, so they ended up half sitting, half kneeling in a heap on the floor. He refused to loosen his grip even though the sentiments he experienced through Spock were so strong they were painful.
Spock's shoulders heaved, then heaved again and he started trembling violently. Vulcans didn't cry of course, but whatever this was, it came pretty damn close. And then, with a sigh that could have been a sob, all remaining barriers around Spock's emotions fell away completely while he all but crawled into Jim.
If Jim had thought the attack on his mind had been fierce before, it was nothing compared to this. His whole brain screamed at him to let go, to stop the overload of emotions violently pounding at him, but he forced himself to hold on and calm down because Spock needed him now and he was damned if he failed him now …
"Please, God, give me strength, give me strength", he muttered, only half coherent, and then, somewhere in the direction of Spock's ear: "It's ok, I've got you…"
His tormented mind latched onto those words like a mantra and he chanted them over and over, "I've gotcha, gotcha, gotcha, gotcha…"
After an eternity (it had probably only been minutes… or maybe hours?) he felt the pressure on his mind ease. Spock's barriers had come back up, if just barely and Jim started to be able to think and feel for himself again. He tried to get his bearings and he more felt than heard Spock's uttered "I am so sorry". "No", Jim panted (when had he gotten out of breath?) "Never-ever-ever say… you're sorry… for needing a friend!" Spock made a small sound Jim couldn't quite place but didn't say anything, nor did he move.
Spock was still trembling slightly, his fingers tangled into the front of Jim's shirt, face pressed into his shoulder but Jim could feel him calm down, radiating relief acceptance trust (trust?) gratefulness affection exhaustion. Bone-deep exhaustion. Jim felt his breathing slow.
He groped behind himself with one hand until he got hold of the afghan which was folded over his armchair. Thank God for Auntie Maude and her useless Christmas presents! Thank God he'd brought it with him onto the ship even though he thought it was awful! Thank Got it was within reach.
He wrapped the cover around the shivering Spock and brought them both down until they were lying on the heated floor, facing each other, Spock's head on his arm, face nestled into his shoulder. To his infinite surprise, Spock let him, still not letting go of his shirt but other than that laying limply in his arms. Jim could sense calm contentedness and overwhelming tiredness, now that long bottled-up emotions were finally spent. He stroked soothing circles on Spock's back und felt him drift off.
Suddenly, he'd almost fallen asleep, Spock jerked himself back to awareness. "Don't touch my hands", he muttered urgently into Jim's shoulder. "Don't touch my hands or… or I might hurt you…!"
"Shhhhh…" Jim soothed, "I won't. Don't worry, I've gotcha." He continued rubbing his hands in circles, only briefly wondering at the instruction, making soothing sounds and willing himself to be calm because he knew with his shields as fragile as they were, Spock sensed him very clearly.
Still amazed at what had happened he drifted off to sleep shortly after Spock had.
He woke in his own bed and for a moment he wasn't sure if last night had actually happened or if it had been a weird dream. But no, even his mind couldn't make up something as monumental as a Vulcan breakdown.
He was soon proved right when Spock appeared uninvited in his sleeping alcove (he would have never done that under normal circumstances) presenting his usual controlled self.
"Good morning, Captain. We have exactly forty minutes until our shift starts. I suggest you get dressed. The food processor is programmed to produce coffee in exactly 16.4 minutes."
Jim looked at him, bewildered. He wasn't exactly ready to go back to let's-pretend-it-never-happened and being called Captain by the guy whose emotions hat almost shut down his brain last night.
"Didn't we fall asleep on the floor?" he asked Spock's retreating back. Spock stiffened, stopped, then reluctantly turned. "Indeed we did, Captain. But when I woke I was under the impression that it was uncomfortable for you, so I took the liberty to carry you to your own bed."
Jim groaned, sitting up against his pillow. "Stop captaining me immediately, Spock, will you? I'll never mention last night ever again if that's what you want, but don't go all cold and distant on me now, please? I don't think I could take that…" After a moment he added, hesitantly: "Is it because of me? Did I do something wrong?"
Spock sighed (he actually sighed!) and came back to the bed, sitting on the edge. "No, Jim, you did not. But I did. I should have never let myself lose control like this. I put you at a tremendous risk. A weaker human mind than yours might have broken under the force of my emotions. You have experienced the reason why I need to keep them under control at all times."
"Yeah, but you see, that's how it works with me", Jim tried to make light of the situation. "Strong mind, very stubborn and loving risks. Besides, it wasn't that bad."
Spock looked at him with an incredulous expression before explaining in a very solemn tone of voice: "If you had touched my hands I might have seriously hurt you. If not worse."
"Because the hands are the most sensitive and the most expressive parts of a Vulcan. My emotions would have transferred two or three times as strong as through the rest of my body. You might have lost your mind. Or I might have lost every bit of my remaining control. I might even have physically…" he stopped abruptly but Jim didn't pursue it. There was enough to think about.
"Oh…" he said, considering this for a moment. A mind attack two or three times the one he'd experienced. Yeah, he wasn't sure he would have managed that. "That's why you put your hands on my shirt, right? …. So that means, you still had enough control to keep them out of my reach and making sure I wouldn't get hurt! So everything's ok, right?"
"I am not certain if I would have enough control should there ever occur a next time", Spock said. "Which, of course, will never happen. This obviously being only one of several reasons.
"I'll take the chance!" Jim smiled at him. "I trust you."
Spock all but smiled back. "But I will rather not. I do not trust myself." He briefly touched Jim's upper arm, no emotions transferring. "As it is, I am amazed at your strength of mind. The chaotic disarray of my emotions must have been overwhelming. You are truly remarkable, Jim. To stay calm under those circumstances and close your mind enough to stay sane is remarkable. It requires an extraordinary strength of mind. Most especially for a human."
Jim contemplated Spock's words for a moment, looking for the flaw. Something just didn't sound quite right and he'd heard it before. Then he knew: chaos.
"See, that's where you're wrong", he said gently, not knowing the significance of it. Spock raised an eyebrow. He wasn't used to being told he was wrong.
"You've said that before", Jim explained. "Yesterday. You said I might sense a trace of your emotions. Now you say they're all gibberish to me. But they aren't. They transport very clearly. I can identify every single one of them. Your bewilderment and amusement when I beat you at chess for the first time. Your guilt and grief over your mother's death… and then your acceptance…" he noticed Spock's eyes widening but couldn't be sure if this was a good or a bad thing. "What does it mean?"
Spock just stared at him, unblinking and wide-eyed. "Uuuuuh… I'm sorry?" Jim tried sheepishly, knowing he had been intruding. "…But, you know… it's not as if I could have helped myself… me being psi-null and all that?"
Spock's eyes glazed over. He looked away, swallowed convulsively, looked back at Jim again. "T'hy'la" he whispered hoarsely (or that was what Jim thought he'd said but then he didn't know any Vulcan) reaching out and stroking a thumb lightly over Jim's temple, cheekbone, down his jaw. Pure love and affection washed over Jim, burning on his skin where Spock had touched it, leaving a tingling sensation.
"T'hy'la", Spock whispered again, voice all but breaking, then he bent forward and placed a gentle kiss on Jim's forehead, no more than a brush of cool lips.
When Jim opened his eyes (when had he closed them?) Spock was gone.