Spock wasn't in the transporter room when Kirk arrived. Not that he'd expected him to be when he had command, but it didn't stop Kirk from looking.
But when Kirk reached the bridge it was Lieutenant Hansen that was in the captain's chair. Spock was standing beside Uhura's station, deep in conversation.
Kirk stopped walking. He forced air into his lungs around the sudden tightness in his chest. He reminded himself that he wanted Spock to be on good terms with his ex.
And even though Kirk wasn't having the kindest of thoughts toward his communications officer, it was not the time to confront her. He would be having a conversation with her—a long one—but not now.
He'd nearly bolstered his resolve to the point where he could maintain his composure, when Spock saved him the trouble, and approached first.
"Captain," Spock greeted him with a polite nod. "I took the liberty of transferring command to Lieutenant Hansen in anticipation of your arrival, if that is acceptable?"
Uhura was watching them, her features rigid as if she was suppressing some emotion. Kirk hoped—sincerely for her sake—that it wasn't amusement. He sent one hard look in her direction before he switched his attention to Spock.
"That's acceptable," Kirk said. He entered the lift, and Spock followed him.
Spock's demeanor was controlled, but with none of the exaggerated blankness Kirk had witnessed on the planet. Nor did his voice contain any undercurrents of distress or rage when he instructed the turbolift to take them to deck five.
Kirk glanced at him, his own voice command dying on his lips.
Spock seemed to notice his look. "Either of our quarters would make a suitably private location, where we would be unlikely to be disturbed." Spock focused his eyes on the lift doors, but his tone remained indifferent. "Unless you have a different preference, Captain?"
"No, that will be fine." Kirk shifted his attention to the doors, outwardly mimicking Spock's composure. His thoughts, however, were anything but ordered.
Were they romantically involved? All of his information had come from a replicated Spock generated from his own brain—something he was having progressively more doubts about with each hour. If he was wrong and they weren't involved, this conversation was going to be awkward. Or more awkward. Well, at least Spock wouldn't laugh at him if it all turned out to be a misunderstanding. Not out loud anyway.
It was then that Kirk realized Spock was speaking to him.
"—ended prematurely, were you able to find your rest enjoyable, Captain?"
Kirk almost laughed, but he caught himself. "'Enjoyable' isn't the right term." Mindboggling maybe. Embarrassing-as-hell definitely. "I guess, like you, I found it educational." He congratulated himself on his diplomacy.
Until he saw the faint signs of worry etched into Spock's brow and mouth.
Kirk frowned. There was no reason for Spock to be upset about his captain learning something. Hell, as soon as Spock realized just how many problems Kirk's ignorance had possibly caused them, he would find it downright agreeable.
Unless Spock was concerned that he was still overworked, and that not 'enjoying' his leave would have a direct impact on his job. It fit with the theory that Spock had never had any non-platonic feelings for him whatsoever, and that the casting's theory was something from Kirk's imagination.
He felt an irrational pang of disappointment. They would be back to being friends. There was a part of him that felt that, without some kind of cosmic intervention, Spock would never find him appealing enough to ever be anything more.
They arrived at deck five, and Kirk exited into the hall. It took him a second to notice Spock wasn't following. He looked back to see his first officer standing frozen, like some wind-up toy soldier that had lost its key.
It wasn't until the doors began to close that Spock's returned to life, thrusting his hands out to stop the motion, and stepping through to join Kirk in the hallway. His face was slightly flushed.
"Are you alright?" Kirk resisted the urge to put his wrist on Spock's forehead. Not only would Spock likely protest, but Kirk wouldn't know how to make a comparison when their body temperatures were so different. He wondered if for all Spock's assurances that he didn't need a break, he'd managed to wear himself down like the rest of them.
"I am—quite well," Spock said, avoiding his eyes, "however, since the hallways are monitored, Captain, may we refrain from further conversation until we are in one of our quarters?"
"Yes, of course."
"Mine are closer."
Kirk's nerves weren't so sure that was a selling point, but if Spock was feeling ill it would be better if they went to where the climate controls were already set to his ideal conditions. It would also be easier for Spock to lie down if he needed to once Kirk left.
He gestured for Spock to lead the way, and followed him into his quarters.
Inside Spock's room, Kirk looked over the limited selection of furniture. Sitting across from each other at the desk seemed too formal. He wasn't even going to consider the bed. Spock did have his meditation mats, maybe—
"Jim," Spock said. His voice was deep and slightly rough.
Kirk turned to find that Spock was standing so close that Kirk could have put his arms around him—if that kind of thing was allowed. But despite his proximity, Spock's posture was rigid with his legs apart and hands behind his back. Only Spock was capable of looking so unyielding, almost militant, while standing at ease.
Without breaking his stance, Spock then did the decidedly unmilitary act of pressing his lips to Kirk's.
They were romantically involved.
Spock made no further moment once contact was made. As if by providing his lips he had done his share of creating the kiss, and whatever else happened was up to Kirk. And if Kirk's shock had been less he would have, but before he could recover Spock was already pulling away.
But hell, even if it hadn't been the most interactive of kisses, it had definitely done its job, if Kirk's body was in charge of handing out evaluations anyway.
Spock's eyes scanned Kirk as if he were the results of some laboratory experiment, his forehead ever so slightly wrinkled below his bangs. Kirk had the brief thought that scrutiny had no right to be so sexy, before he dragged his mind back to what he was supposed to be doing.
"Spo—" was all he managed before he was cut off by another kiss.
Spock's eyes were closed, but Kirk's were not, and he watched as Spock raised his arms as if he meant to embrace him, only to falter. It was an odd thing to be indecisive over since they were already kissing—although, maybe Vulcans judged such things by the percentage of contact, and so pressing whole bodies together was a bigger deal than the comparatively smaller area of two mouths. Whatever the cause, Spock's arms were still suspended out from his sides, wavering slightly, as if he didn't quite have the aptitude or the courage for what came next.
Or like he was a bird about to take flight.
The image threatened to erupt into a bout of nervous laughter. But before Kirk could commit such an unforgivable act, Spock's hands moved to his shoulders, fingers digging in with determination. As if he'd sensed Kirk's thoughts, Spock's lips parted, and his tongue drove the beginnings of laughter from his mouth.
Awkwardness was replaced by arousal, and Kirk wrapped his arms around Spock's lean body, deepening the kiss. He could feel the strength in Spock's movements, but there was a gentleness beneath even his more aggressive touches. As if Kirk were somehow precious, something he had to be careful with or he would be lost.
Kirk didn't notice they'd moved until the back of his knees hit Spock's mattress.
They needed to talk before this went further. Kirk put his hands up in front of him in what he'd assumed was the universal sign to slow down, only to have Spock twine his fingers through his as if he'd made some kind of invitation.
They landed on the bed, and Kirk's focus shifted as their hips slid together. Spock tilted his face to kiss lightly along the side of Kirk's jaw. His hands moved over Kirk's body with an intensity, almost a reverence. No one had ever touched him like this before.
It would be easy to say nothing. To pretend he'd always known.
But something felt off. And as much as he liked how things were progressing, it was odd that they'd gone from interactions so subtle he'd missed them—to writhing together on Spock's bed.
Kirk looked at Spock, trying to see past the filter of his own desire. Spock's eyes were tightly shut as if in concentration, as if he were attempting to force some positive outcome through the sheer application of will.
If Kirk's actions had been affected by their miscommunications, then likely so were Spock's. Spock deserved better than that.
"Listen," Kirk said, "about Ruth—"
Spock cut him off again, but the kiss was too hard, his teeth scraping Kirk's lip. Kirk made a small sound, and Spock eased off, giving a softer, almost apologetic, one in its place. Spock didn't open his eyes, but he seemed to know that Kirk wasn't willing to let the subject drop anyway.
"The engineered multicellular casting," Spock said, "merely resembled the woman from your youth."
"But—" Another brief kiss.
"And doubtless possessed many subtle inaccuracies due to the limitations of human memory."
"That's not the point—"
"It had no bearing on our relationship." Spock fastened his mouth over Kirk's, evidently deciding the conversation was done.
Kirk tried not to let his mind reel at the word relationship. Not when he needed to figure out whySpock was so determined to shut him up.
Kirk rolled them so Spock was on his back, and pressed his knees between his first officer's thighs. Spock's eyes finally opened, and for a moment a mixture of relief and fear flashed through them. It told Kirk exactly what he needed to know.
Kirk kissed him softly before he leaned his forehead against Spock's, giving himself enough room to speak without interruption.
"I didn't sleep with Ruth—" at Spock's look he amended to, "—the engineered multicellular casting."
"It would be of no consequence—"
"Nothing happened," Kirk said carefully, "I wished her away almost as soon as I was out of sight."
"I have no need of such reassurances," Spock said, and Kirk was certain he was lying because while there was no outward reaction, there was a kind of aura of relief around him. "But I thank you for your consideration."
Kirk kissed him softly, uncertain of how much longer he'd be allowed to.
"But there is something I have to tell you," Kirk said finally, "and you're probably going to get mad about it."
Spock tensed. "You forget that I am disinclined to have an emotional response to your words," Spock said. His expression was unexpectedly resigned.
"Even so," Kirk said, deciding to let the inaccuracies in that one pass as he moved to sit on the edge of the bed, "you might want to sit up for this."
After a brief hesitation Spock joined him.
"Someone told me that when Vulcans press their fingers together," Kirk held up his first two fingers, and Spock's eyes lingered on them for a moment before they returned to his face. "That it's part of the Vulcan Oath of Friendship, and that it's a gesture—a platonic gesture—used between friends."
Spock slowly blinked several times, as if he were attempting to reset the words to make them logical.
"But it's more than that, isn't it? More intimate like a—" Kirk gathered his courage, "—human kiss?"
Spock's expression settled into a vague frown. "You must have known. If not at first, then during the next twenty-nine point seven days, you must have realized…?"
"I should have, but," Kirk forced himself to meet Spock's eyes, "you would do it whenever I got, well, flirty with you. I thought you were telling me you didn't like me like that, and that we should just be friends, since you were, you know, giving me the friendship handshake and all whenever we got too close."
Spock's stare became so intense that Kirk caved and averted his eyes.
"You initiated a series of traditional, human courtship rituals with me," Spock said in a voice that was every bit as intense as his stare.
"But see, without any signs of affection, at least not any I was aware of, stuff like eating together, playing games, and so on are all the kinds of things friends do." Kirk took a quick breath. "I'm really sorry about this. It was completely my fault for not double checking the information."
Spock was silent.
Kirk still wasn't brave enough to look at him. "But there are worse things that could have happened, right? We're lucky things didn't get out of hand." Like if he'd actually slept with someone.
He felt Spock's demeanor harden, as if his form was transmuted from Vulcan to marble right there on the bed. "I apologize for assuming you were capable of understanding the standard behavior typical of Vulcan and human courtships."
Kirk chose not to respond to that non-apology, since he wasn't certain if he was more annoyed by the insult, or at himself for finding the roundabout way that Spock made it endearing.
"I did have a trusted source," Kirk said.
Kirk shrugged in a way that more helpless than nonchalant. "She'd dated a Vulcan, so I had no reason—"
"Who was—" Spock stopped himself. "May I ask, Captain, what was your source's name?"
Kirk had no idea if revealing this would make things any better, but not answering him would most certainly make them worse.
"Uhura," Kirk said.
Spock closed his eyes. "I see." He let out a small breath that wasn't a sigh, but was close. "I forgive you."
"She volunteered the information, I promise I wasn't trying to pry—wait, you do?"
"Her council is, in theory, sound." Spock opened his eyes, but they had gone far away. "Although of late, the result of following her advice seems to be, at best, counterproductive."
Kirk had the distinct feeling that Spock was retreating from him. The casting had encouraged him to trust his instincts regarding Spock, no matter how unfounded they seemed. But while he could tell something was wrong, he didn't know what to say to bring him back.
"This isn't the first time she's given—counterproductive—advice?" Kirk asked.
"You would have had no reason to doubt her sincerity." Spock stood, and moved a few steps from the bed. Kirk was reminded of a challenger slinking away after defeat. "I apologize for assuming we were in a relationship without a verbal declaration."
"That's not something to apologize for." Kirk got to his feet, prepared to follow Spock if he tried to leave. It occurred to him that Spock's forgiveness had been given before he knew Kirk's motivations. "It might help if I explain—"
"There is no need. I understand." Spock had moved to stand beside his desk with his back to Kirk.
"Understand what?" Kirk hesitated. "I haven't gotten to that part yet."
"There is no need for elaboration. Lieutenant Uhura also wished to give similar explanations when she ended her relationship with me. However, I am able to accept the outcome more readily than a human would, and thus I do not require a lengthy dissertation as to our incompatibility."
Kirk responded with an eloquent, "What?"
"Further, I will not allow my lapse in judgment to impact our professional relationship or our friendship."
"Spock, I—I don't want to end—" He took a step towards him, his hand out, but stopped short of contact. "I mean, if anyone should be ending things it should be you, because basically everything has been my fault, well, mine and Uhura's. But I really hope you don't because I've wanted to be with you for months, I just thought you were unattainable."
Spock turned around, his face carefully blank. His gaze dropped to Kirk's half-extended hand.
"Just because I didn't know we were kissing," Kirk continued, "didn't mean that I didn't want to. Hell, I've wanted to kiss you in every way possible for a long time."
"I had the impression," Spock said, "that I was able to sense your—interest through your touch."
"You did." Not sure if he would be rejected, but figuring he ought to give Spock the opportunity to choose either way, Kirk offered him his index and middle fingers.
For a moment Spock didn't move. Then there was a sudden exhalation, and Kirk didn't know if it was his or Spock's or both, but their finger met, and the familiar sensation sparked between their hands. But more than that, he could feel Spock's relief through the contact. It mirrored his own.
"So," Kirk said, "does this mean you'll give me another chance?" He tried to repress his grin, to at least let Spock make a proper answer, but he could feel it forcing its way to the corners of his mouth.
Spock stepped closer to him. His lips were set in a serious line, but his eyes revealed everything.
"Has it occurred to you, that there is a certain inefficiency in asking questions you already know the answers to?" Spock was almost radiating contentment, and Kirk gave up trying to stop himself from beaming.
"Yeah, but I think we've established that if you don't spell it out for me I'm prone to make some really stupid mistakes." Kirk leaned forward to gently kiss the side of Spock's face. He didn't reciprocate, but Kirk got the impression he approved anyway. "Although, only a Vulcan could be so subtle that someone could date one for an entire month without even knowing it."
Spock's lips twitched. "Only a human could be so oblivious."
Kirk chuckled at that. "Maybe. Although for future reference, shore leave would have been a lot less stressful if you'd spent it with me." Kirk gave an exaggerated sigh. "But you had to go and ruin everything with a selfless concern for my health."
"Not always selfless." Spock ran his fingers down the side of Kirk's face. "I did ask you to return to the ship."
"When?" Kirk moved back so he could see all of Spock's face. "The way I remember it I asked you to stay, and you turned me down."
"I asked you if you would return to file your report."
Kirk looked at him with a slight frown while he tried to figure out how that was relevant. Then when he understood his shoulders began to shake as laughter rolled out of him in undignified peels and snorts.
Spock raised an eyebrow, but his expression was patient.
"You attempted to lure me back with paperwork?"
"Seeing as how this request was a complete reversal of my previous suggestions that you cease work, my meaning should have been clear."
"Yeah, we're going to have to work on your seduction techniques."
"That seems to be a popular belief."
"Oh, you weren't so bad a few minutes ago, with the direct approach."
Spock wasn't looking at him.
Kirk reined in his amusement. "I was joking. Humans are tricky. I fail most of the time." He always had done better with aliens.
"I was not offended by your statement. I merely observed that another shared your opinion."
"Who?" Kirk put his hands on Spock's shoulders. "I need a name so I know who to beat up."
Spock's eyes widened marginally, before relaxing into tolerant exasperation when he saw that Kirk was joking.
"It is of no consequence. It was merely the result of my inquiry as to what in my behavior creates incompatibility in human relationships."
"Your inquiry?" Kirk thought for a moment, and previous statements clicked into place. "Does this have to do with—what kind of advice did you say Uhura gave lately?"
"Uh-huh." Kirk tried not to seem too curious. "So what did she tell you?"
"I had become concerned that I was failing to take your human needs into account in our relationship." Spock made a motion to silence him, as if sensing Kirk's intent to deny this. "I took steps to obtain more knowledge on the subject through analysis of my mistakes in my prior relationship. Lieutenant Uhura suggested, among other things, that I failed to provide adequate amounts of physical affection. Her reasoning in this respect appeared sound, and so I sought to rectify this."
"So that's why—" Kirk made a vague gesture that was supposed to take in both of them, the room, and the bed, but was more of an undirected flail.
Spock seemed to understand what he meant anyway. "It was logical to demonstrate my ability to provide you with gratification."
Kirk swallowed. "On second thought, Uhura gives excellent advice."
"Except that the concerns I had no longer apply." Spock tilted his head. "You do not require outside sources for satisfaction."
"No, of course not, I'm happy with you." Kirk hesitated. "But you can still gratify—I mean, we can still gratify each other."
"You have only been aware of our relationship for a period of a few hours. It may prove detrimental to your system to advance the level of intimacy so quickly."
"I promise I can handle it."
"The safe rate of increase in intimacy will, of course, depend on a number of factors." Spock initiated a human kiss, and Kirk suspected it was, yet again, a diversion tactic, only this time to conceal his amusement. "The necessary interim could be quite variable."
"Which is your science-y way of telling me, 'not now' but 'maybe soon?'" Kirk did his best to look put out, but he wasn't really bothered by the idea. Dedicating his free time and energy to seducing Spock was far from unappealing.
Spock nodded. "Dependent on a number of factors."
Kirk slipped his arms around Spock. "I would consider those factors worthy of research, wouldn't you, Mr. Spock?"
"That would be—" Spock's eyes were dark as their bodies fitted together. He allowed Kirk to softly mouth one of his ears for several moments before he seemed to remember he hadn't finished his answer. "Indeed."
Kirk kissed him then, to muffle the sounds of his own amusement—which at this point was little more than a euphemism for unrepentant joy—as he resolved to find out just how nonsensical his first officer could become.