It took until nightfall for Jim to salvage the situation somewhat. He'd apologized to Spock for telling him to get rid of Hector, but… that was as far as they'd gotten.
"Spock, I love you and I want to be with you. You can't ask me to live with that dog though!"
"Then there is nothing else to discuss. Hector stays."
Jim crossed his arms and clenched his jaw. This could not be happening. Of all the difficulties he thought he was going to encounter, a pet monster had not been one of them.
"It is getting late," Spock announced.
Time and a plan, huh? Jim locked his eyes on Hector. This was not over. Well, it was if he left now. He didn't actually have to sleep tonight, then it would be okay, having Hector in the house.
"I hope that offer to put me up for the night still stands? It has been a long day and I don't particularly fancy travelling back to San Francisco tired."
Spock nodded and led Jim upstairs. "I would offer you one of the beds in the house," he said, "but in truth I feel even my own bed is not fit for guests. The best I can offer is the use of a Starfleet issue sleeping mat on the living room floor."
They were now standing in Spock's room. Large chunks of his mattress littered the floor and a thick layer of dog hair covered the hole-y remains.
"You really sleep in that… on that… um, bed?" he asked in disbelief. In all the years they had spent together, Spock had been nothing but meticulously tidy and clean. That he would live in such squalor now appalled Jim. He tried to see past the locked doors that were his former lover's eyes. What was he hiding there?
"It is merely somewhat hairy." They both stared at the mess in front of them. "I will not suffer any medical problems from these sleeping arrangements." Spock continued slowly. "Here is your mat, Jim."
Hector bounded into the room and curled up on the bed, eyes fixed on Jim, the intruder.
"Um, could I sleep here? I mean,… I'll be honest. Sleeping alone in a room in a house in which Hector—"
"Yes," Spock said shortly.
They both settled down for the night in silence. There wasn't much time left to sort this mess out, Jim thought. Right, plan: he would keep Spock talking during the night to find out what it was the Hector apparently gave him that Jim couldn't. Apart from loyalty, obviously. He simply had to make sure he could offer Spock the better package. And maybe explain a bit more tactfully this time that his refusal to put up with Hector wasn't because he was unwilling to make compromises, but because he didn't much fancy being eaten alive. That wasn't too much to ask for, surely?
"Hey, Spock, you're not asleep yet are you? I mean, I know I can't talk about the last year, but you can tell me more about what you've been up to."
Jim was lying on the floor next to Spock's bed and they'd lit a small fire in the old fireplace to keep them warm, so there was a soft, flickering glow lighting up the room, while the crackling of the burning wood and Hector's panting provided the background noise as Spock started to talk about the training he was putting the cadets through.
All the time though Hector was cuddling with Spock. There was no other way to describe it.
I'm jealous of a dog, Jim thought. I really need help.
And then Spock started talking about his life. His private life. It involved a lot of dog walking. And a lot of brushing of fur. Also, occasionally cleaning Hector's teeth with the sonic toothbrush.
Jim's eyelids felt as heavy as tritanium, but when he caught sight of Hector's wide-open, vigilant eyes, he shook himself and sat upright.
"So, Hector's well trained? He listens to every word you say?"
"He listens closely, and then does as he pleases."
Jim pulled the cover up over his neck. This information did not help him feel any safer. "It's almost one in the morning, doesn't Hector ever sleep?"
"He will eventually, but his sleep is always very light. He's very protective of me and wakes at the slightest disturbance."
"And… is that important to you? That he protects you?" Jim asked.
"Spock?" His friend had been silent for longer than usual.
"Hector reminds me a lot of Ee-chiya, an old, domesticated sehlat my family kept."
"What are sehlat's like?"
"My mother always used to describe them as 'huge teddy bears'. That was not completely correct though, as teddy bears do not normally have nine inch long fangs."
Despite all the years they'd spent together, Jim could count the number of times Spock had brought up his mother or his life on Vulcan using only the fingers on his left hand. He didn't reply, hoping Spock would go on and reveal more about his childhood pet.
"On the harsh desert world that was Vulcan strength of both the mind and the body were culturally of utmost importance. I had a lot to prove to… myself."
Jim caught the slight pause, but didn't comment, intrigued where this tale was going.
"After yet another 'disagreement' with my classmates I let my emotions overcome me and recklessly embarked on a Vulcan test of stamina a month early. I was ill prepared to face the desert on my own and Ee-chiya sensed that and tried to followed. I told him to stay back, but in a similar fashion to Hector, he had his own mind.
"It was good that he didn't listen to me, because I was attacked by a wild animal and only saved from an early death by Ee-chiya… who was badly wounded. When we were able to take him to a healer I was given the choice to keep him alive a little longer, so I would have more time with him, but he would be in agony, or to have him put down, as there was no way he could survive the wounds inflicted. That time I did not let my emotions rule me, they had already done enough damage."
Jim was silent has he stared into the shadows. Although the fire had almost completely died down now he could still easily observe Spock, who was stroking his fingers reverently through Hector's hair.
"Now I feel like a right heel for telling you to get rid of a pet for me," Jim mumbled.
"So you would live with me and Hector?"
Jim chewed on his lip. "What if he, I dunno, mistakenly somehow thinks I'm a threat to you and decides to attack me though? Or if he gets hungry and thinks I'll make a nice after-dinner snack?" Because that was the only thing left to say here really. For Spock's sake he would put up with Hector, but not if it would cost him his own life.
"This dog would never harm you."
"Why not? He has a mind of his own, you said that."
The corners of Spock's lips quirked up. "Well, I have at least been able to train him not to eat anyone I love, Jim."