"There is something oddly disquieting about the choreography of this ritual, Captain," Spock observed, analytical brown eyes traversing their surroundings. They were on Clausilia Emeritis, or CE II, on a historical first contact mission, performing a native ritual that was supposed to communicate peace, loyalty and goodwill.
"What are you saying, Mr. Spock?" Jim teased, his hands gesturing at the eccentric garb they were wearing for the proceedings. "You don't like the dress?"
Spock arched an indignant brow, "It is merely clothing, Captain. I was referring to the design of these particular artifacts and the arrangement of witnesses."
Kirk joined his First Officer in his observations, taking in the vast arch of stone they stood before, the two thick, ornately designed totems (or at least, that is what they reminded him of) standing on either side of a decorative pewter-looking podium, behind which the planet's chosen diplomatic chairman would be standing shortly. He tilted his head in as he studied the design; carved on each totem were intricately entwined bodies—legs, arms, genitals; you name it. "They do seem a bit…intimate, don't they?"
"Indeed," Spock replied dryly. "It is somewhat beyond what one would deem appropriate for this particular type of proceeding." His First Officer wasn't referring solely to the totems. Lining the stone path to the arch, there were two perfectly straight rows of ornately crafted wax candles, all burning and sitting on identical golden-colored holders which were inscribed with the calligraphy of the planet's primary tongue.
There were flower petals from several varieties of local plants strewn about the path, something for which Bones had been prepared to combat with a well-aimed hypo to Jim's neck just prior to beaming down. Finally, as much as Spock insisted that they were 'just clothes,' Jim felt the ceremonial robes tied in with the sense of 'off' his First Officer had just brought to his attention. The material was incredibly soft, inlaid with fine stands of actual gold and platinum. The colors were vivid, his deep teal and Spock's a soft Silver color, both long and incredibly light. Clearly, the best in tailoring the planet had to offer.
"There wasn't anything in the report to suggest any other purpose to the ritual that you remember, is there?" Jim asked.
"No, sir," the Vulcan admitted.
"Then I suppose there's no harm in exercising a little IDIC, is there?" Jim smiled teasingly as he took in the sight of Spock's right eyebrow rising up to meet his left.
Just as the Vulcan made to retort, the planet's presiding official approached the arch and podium. "Welcome guests honored," he announced, standing before them, the universal translators still not fully attuned to the newly programmed language. Uhura's team was still trying to perfect the language's adaptation to standard, with mixed results.
"Kirk Captain unt Spock Partner, join in trust-bond celebration with Federation," he smiled at them with such genuine joy, and their Emeritian audience cheered so gaily at his proclamation, that Jim started to get 'that feeling' all over again. The diplomat, whose name was still not programmed for their translators and impossible for any other species present to pronounce, turned to address them. "Great appreciate goal to join in both you."
Jim looked warily to his First Officer and back, "Thank you," he replied awkwardly, covering with as genuine a smile he could offer. Spock stiffly nodded his thanks as well, sharing with Jim a silent, dubious glance of his own.
The official stepped around the podium, coming to stand just before them both and just outside the center. He grasped Jim by his left wrist and Spock by his right. He then pulled their opposite hands together, positioning them so that they were fully clasped. Jim, having recently discovered what this action symbolized in Vulcan culture, coughed awkwardly and fought the heat rising to his cheeks. Spock's features, on the other hand, remained placid, but his eyes were definitely laughing at his Captain.
The show of unspoken amusement abated Kirk's instinctive embarrassment, and he allowed himself a small inward chuckle, meeting Spock's eyes headon once again as the Emeritian leader proceeded with the ceremony. "Two entities merge, collaborate into one."
The witnesses cheered again, and Kirk noticed the bemused expressions on the faces of his officers as they awkwardly joined the applause, nodding and smiling. The leader then spoke a solitary word that the translators weren't programmed yet to interpret, and he noticed his Communications Officer frantically consult her PADD, finding the panicky motions of her hands very unsettling.
As the leader stepped back, and the crowd began to cheer, her eyes snapped up to meet his own, and suddenly Jim was aware that there was something very, very wrong.
"Oh—only—!" Leonard McCoy, Jim's CMO and supposed friend was doubled over in the middle of a rather colorful display of hysterics, "Only you two! I'll be goddamned!"
"Doctor, I find your display of illogical human emotionalism quite intriguing. Would you care to explain just what it is you find so amusing?" Spock intoned as he entered the briefing room.
Jim allowed himself a good humored smile, watching as Bones' eyes widened with delight. "Oh, nothing at all, Spock," the doctor teased, "just wondering when it is I got beamed aboard the love boat is all…"
Uhura, Sulu and Scotty stifled their own laughter as Spock regarded the doctor with a stern incline of his slanted brow, an expression that usually resulted in fleeing Science ensigns. Chekov, for instance, was studiously silent. "Alright, everyone," Jim straightened in his chair, calling the room to attention. "It looks like our first contact with the inhabitants of CE II went very well despite a few unforeseen glitches with the universal translators," his eyes swept over to Uhura, who was pursing her lips to keep them from smiling. "Admiral Komack will be joining us now to complete our debriefing."
Jim toggled the switch for the main viewer at the center of the table and the Admiral's face appeared on the screen. "Captain Kirk, Commander Spock," he greeted, then, "I hear congratulations are in order for a successful first contact."
"That's right," Jim smiled politely, "we've—"
"And also on you and Mr. Spock's recent nuptials," Komack interrupted with a wheezing chuckle, an unholy gleam in his eyes.
Jim sighed, biting his tongue. He should have seen that one coming. "Indeed, Admiral, the Captain and I are in fact married in accordance with the rituals of Emeritian's native people, the newest members of the Federation," Spock deadpanned, causing the Admiral to immediately sober, filling Jim with an odd sense of pride.
Komack coughed uncomfortably, "Which means you are also officially wed by the laws of the Federation, yes I understand the implications, Commander. That's something fixed easily enough, however, as I no doubt suspect both of you are aware. I'll have the official forms for annulment transmitted within the hour." He then turned to address the other officers in the room, "Now, let's get on with it. Lieutenant Uhura, we'll start with you. Were you able to successfully decipher and encode the language of CE II's inhabitants successfully?"
Uhura nodded dutifully, "Yes, sir, after the ceremony…" her voice began to drone out as Jim turned the word 'annulment' over in his mind.
My God, he thought astounded, I'm a married man… That notion alone was surreal enough, but the fact that his partner—husband—was Spock, of all people, that was the real clincher. It wasn't odd, of course, for two men to marry and certainly Jim wasn't a stranger to male companionship on the seldom occasions that his sexual needs had led him in that direction, but this was…this was Spock.
Spock who was so unlearned in the language of love that he had not only left a fiancé behind over a decade ago in favor of joining Starfleet, likely without so much as backward glance, but also failed to so much as mention her name until he was dying of fever. Pon Farr, Jim mused. That was another angle to consider altogether. Were Vulcans even capable of real intimacy or even desire outside of their deadly mating drive? Was Spock?
Jim mentally jolted. What the hell was he thinking? What did any of it matter? He and Spock had never been…he'd never even considered the Vulcan in such a way. They were friends, the closest of friends, and while Jim admitted to being curious about Spock's sexual habits, it was merely the result of having almost lost him to Vulcan culture just under a year ago. Being forced to battle with his closest ally in all things, his First Officer, his friend, his brother by choice, over something as seemingly common as sex…well, it had blindsided him. His mind had been opened to a previously unrecognized side of the precious being he knew as Spock.
Jim had spent a vast amount of his private time; sometimes well into the hours of Gamma shift, researching everything he could about Vulcan culture, looking for clues and finding very little. His mind reeled with questions: What would become of Spock if his cycle continued to be irregular? Would he fall prey to the fever again in seven years or seven months? If he did, who would he seek, whom could he look to for a mate? Jim had agonized over the questions for months, until slowly security had returned to him as time passed and Spock continued to be fine.
Still, it niggled him from time to time, just at the edges of his thoughts. He'd been so close to losing him that time…could easily lose him still…it was only a matter of time, really, and yet Spock made no attempts, at least not to Jim's knowledge to secure a fiancé. Did that mean he'd resigned himself to the fate of his biology? Was Spock more ready to die than he was to take a life partner, to experience desire and see it fulfilled? More disturbing still, did he think he was inadequate in some way—that no one who wasn't forced to his side by Vulcan custom would have him?
Jim shook himself from his musings, forcing his attention to focus on the debrief. It wasn't logical, to quote a friend, for him contemplate things he himself had no control over. Despite their current married status, Jim had no established role in that aspect of Spock's life…
So then why, later that evening, as he stared at the signature sheet of the annulment documents on his PADD, did he feel so damned conflicted?
Air…odorless…tasteless; a gas—twenty-one point one percent oxygen, seventy-eight point six percent nitrogen, approximately. Sky. Atmosphere. Nothingness. Spock inhaled, his focus beginning to center on an inward sense of calm. Calm…calm…air…calm…nothingness…calm…air…wind. Wind that moves…shapes…scatters—A rough exhalation. Change of focus.
Earth…ground, soil…terra. Spock's mind began to settle once more as he attempted now to focus on the concept of earth, an approach often used as a means of achieving the Subtle, or second level, of meditation. There were five. For an advanced practitioner such as himself, and as a Vulcan, an object of focus should not be needed to achieve such a basic level of center. That he could not do so was undeniable proof of his tenuous control. Driving forward, searching for a plane in which separation of individual from circumstance could be found, Spock focused on unmoving ground, on solid, foundational rock, unshakeable mountains…
Earth…it was just within his grasp, just outside of his reach…rock…his focus was impenetrable, solid, hard…soil…is fertile…soft…permeable. "No…" Spock muttered, his brows furrowed, attempting reclamation of the solid focus he'd only just begun to harness. Earth. Terrain…terra...soil. NO. Terra…rock…earthen…Earth. Brown…green…fertile…Terra. The image took form before he could tame it, swirling him from the edges of calm and flinging him into chaos.
Fire…Spock attempted to curl his mind away from the growing flames, but the intensity of the blaze only singed his frayed control further. Flame…crimson heat. His breaths came quickly as he pushed to deny this zone of his consciousness, this area of his mind that he took care to always purposefully avoid. Heat…passion…desire…He willed himself to look away from his inner self, and yet he could not. So long had he done exactly that, and now…now he could not; what he saw was not unexpected, and yet it was more innervating than the fire.
Spock's eyes snapped open as he blinked into full outward awareness. He took several deep, calming breaths as he reflected upon his failure to, once again, achieve so much as even a basic plane of meditation. Two point four-seven weeks, and he and his Captain were still legally married. Spock was certain, that just as he had received his own unsigned petition for annulment, that Komack had transmitted one to Jim as well. It was illogical to delay, even for an hour, an inevitable end to an unforeseen and mutually unplanned predicament. Yet…
Spock had done exactly that. Exactly seventy three minutes of every twenty-four hour day was spent staring at the unsigned line at the bottom of those documents. It was such a simple procedure, one far simpler than the ritual of their unwitting marriage, for it required but a few quick motions of a poised stylus. However, when he sat at the desk in his quarters each evening after his regular shift, utensil in hand…he stilled just above the surface of his PADD. Just above that line.
To delay was illogical, and he repeated it to himself regularly. Still, Jim had not submitted his form either; in fact, his Captain had made no mention of their current married circumstance since the date of its happening. Spock had received no formal, written request for annulment, and he found himself experiencing increased levels of 'apprehension' each time he checked his inbox, wondering if this moment would be the moment when it finally came. The shameful part, however, was the relief that flooded his mind when it did not come, when it continued.
Jim was not his to claim, was not his to posses and for the majority of the years since they'd known one another, those facts had been acceptable. Now, however, as a fully adult Vulcan male…he found them increasingly difficult to accept. Since the end of his first Pon Farr, Spock had begun to understand the human definition of physical need. While the mating cycle was a wholly Vulcan aspect to his biology, the physical desire that was awakened as a result, almost uncontrollable at times, was an entirely human after effect. He could not help but…want Jim, just as he could not help the momentary feeling of profound happiness when Lieutenant Uhura had informed them of their unintentional marriage.
It was not real, yet repeating that truth did nothing to encourage him to sign the necessary form that would take away his one and only claim to the being he would wish to call mate. Even knowing that it was nothing short of a farce, that their marriage was only legitimate in name, it could not stop the illogical hope that Jim would never sign those papers. That perhaps, the human would continue to allow it, for whatever reasons. He thought, that to be tied to Jim, even in name only…maybe it could be enough. Where this emotional conflict served well enough to deny him an easy transition to meditation, it was the unanswered and unthinkable question of why that made it impossible. Why had Jim not signed the form? Why did Jim not speak of it?
So long as these questions remained, so did the illogical hope within his own all too human heart. Resigned to the mental imbalance for the time being, Spock extinguished the fire in the totem, and stood. Perhaps a full six hours of rest would give him the resolve he needed to view the annulment forms from a logical perspective.
"You play a devious game of chess, Mr. Spock," Jim commented from his side of the board, that familiar twinkle in his eye.
"I believe you will find my approach reflects a logical strategy, rather than one riddled with misleading advances, sir," Spock returned, subtly accusatory.
Jim chuckled, "Guilty as charged, I suppose. Check," He ignored his decoy, responsible for the distraction that had led his First Officer's King into danger, and moved his knight, "and mate."
Spock regarded the board with that analytical eyebrow, his mouth drawn into a firm line. He sighed heavily, eyeing his friend and…questioning. Neither of them had filed for an annulment, and as if by mutual unspoken agreement, they'd not talked about it either. They continued to eat breakfast, work and perform their duties together, to share lunch and dinner, to spar on Wednesday evening and play chess on Tuesdays and Fridays, all as if it hadn't happened at all. It couldn't go on. It had already been over three weeks. He could sense the elephant in the room getting larger by the day.
"Jim?" Spock's quiet tone immediately set the hairs on the back of his neck on end, the coil in his stomach tightening. Jim supposed the time had finally come.
He regarded his friend warily, "Yes?"
"I," Spock hesitated, an act so uncharacteristic of his friend that he felt the immediate onset of guilt. When the Vulcan stood, Jim found himself following suit, neither of them meeting the other's gaze.
"You…" he prodded, watching as Spock solidified his resolve, and braced himself for the questions he knew were about to come.
"I have not yet received your request for an annulment," he finally said, his words slightly rushed but even.
What Jim said in response was not what he'd planned. It slipped past his lips before he could think better of it, "Oh…" he swallowed thickly, "I had forgotten."
Spock's gaze snapped to his face, those warm brown eyes first filled with hurt and then immediately blanketed by coldness. He'd said the wrong thing, made the wrong assumptions—that Spock wouldn't have understood his hesitation, wouldn't understand his selfish hope that they could somehow go on pretending…pretending until they weren't pretending anymore and Jim could become the one his friend looked to in times of need, any need.
"An understandable oversight," the Vulcan intoned, his voice as rigid as his posture. It was like watching the reversal of all they'd become unravel before his eyes, in seconds. "I had assumed, as Captain, you would initiate the necessary action. If you would prefer, sir, I will handle it."
He'd been wrong. All this time, and he'd been so wrong. Spock made to leave, stepping around Jim and padding purposefully toward the door. "Wait!" Jim turned, mouth finally catching up with his mind. For the first time since he'd known him, Spock ignored him. Jim didn't want to, but it was all he had, "Commander Spock, I order you to turn around and get your ass back here."
Spock halted, silently, but rather than return, in an atypical show of insubordination, his Vulcan remained exactly where he'd stopped. Jim approached him quickly as Spock began to lecture, "You overstep your author—"
A gentle hand to Spock's jaw, warm fingers sliding uncertainly over smooth skin silenced him, "I'm sorry, Spock."
He turned his face away from the touch, "I see no reason for human apologi—"
"I didn't forget," Jim's voice was thick with regret. When Spock's bewildered eyes finally looked back at him, Jim quietly confessed, "I had hoped…that you'd never ask."
"Jim…?" Spock's seeking eyes compelled Jim to explain.
He turned and paced, not sure he could word it appropriately, as looked for the right words, "I've…for some time I've been worried that I might lose you, like I almost lost you. If you ever…if Pon Farr—"
Spock sternly interrupted, "My next Pon Farr is none of your concern. You needn't pity me my biology—"
"Pity you, Spock?!" Jim rounded on the Vulcan, stalking back across the room until they were but inches away. He wanted to thrash him, yell at him until he was sore in the throat, until he could make him see, but he didn't do either of those things. Jim knew Spock too well, well enough to know that his words came from that constant feeling of inadequacy that was so carefully masked, but so easily seen in so many of his actions. To think Jim would offer himself up like some sacrificial lamb out of a misplaced sense of pity…it said a lot about what Spock thought of himself.
Even now, the Vulcan was staring at him stoically, quietly waiting for Jim to say the words he was so certain were the truth. Repeating his action from earlier, but this time with the confidence he had in his own feelings, he pressed his open hand against the angle of Spock's cheek, firmly forcing the Vulcan to meet his eyes.
"Pity you?" he repeated, his earlier anger at the accusation completely discarded. "Spock, I love you."
Spock's eyes slid closed and he inhaled deeply, straightening his posture as he took Jim's wrist as if to remove the hand on his face, "Jim, do not—"
Words had not been working, and so Jim silenced him with a kiss, gentle and brief, but he did not pull completely away. "I'm not signing those damned forms, Spock. Neither are you."
Spock opened his eyes and Jim could see in them the same longing he felt in his own soul. He kissed him again, this time with just a bit more intent, his hand sliding into soft black hair, his body pressing in closer. Slowly, Spock's body relaxed, and two unsure hands settled on his waist. Those unmoving lips began to shyly caress his in return and, emboldened, Jim moved his free hand up the back of Spock's shirt.
He felt the Vulcan inhale sharply at the contact and smiled against Spock's lips. "Is this okay?"
"It is…more than that," the reply was panted through parted lips.
"I know I just told you that neither of us are signing those papers, but…is this something you really want?" Jim asked sincerely. "If it isn't, then—"
Spock silenced him with a kiss of his own, "As you said, neither of us will be signing any 'damned forms,' Jim."