Captain’s personal log, stardate 2260.122. The mission to map the dilithium deposits on two planets in the Epsilon Cygnii system is the third one that’s not gone according to plan since the start of this year – thankfully with no casualties this time – and is another reminder of how much I’ve still got to learn as a commander. I guess long range scans are not to be trusted, especially when non-corporeal species are involved. If Uhura hadn’t figured out that what sounded like the white noise she was receiving was actually a form of communication, and figured out a way to respond to it, they would have killed the personnel who were on Epsilon Cygnii V at the time, and had the power to destroyed the Enterprise too. I’m glad Admiral Pike’s upheld my request to award her a special citation for her exemplary work.
But is it wrong that my overriding feeling coming out of that clusterfuck was gratitude that we didn’t lose anyone, rather than disappointment that we failed to achieve our objectives? I know the Federation needs more dilithium, but at what price?
Treading the line between what StarFleet expect each time they give me a new order, and what I’m willing to expose my crew to, has been tough – a burden made bearable by Spock’s support. It’s taken us eighteen months, but we’ve reached a point where the synergy between us makes us a kick-ass command team that my crew has grown to trust. The Valentine’s Day party this evening is going to be a welcome distraction from the rigors of our jobs and will hopefully be a boost to flagging morale. Computer, end log entry.
Jim sits back in his chair and smiles, thinking about Spock, wondering what his personal logs are like. His own tend to be filled with his thoughts, feelings and opinions about the missions they’re given; it’s hard to imagine that Spock’s personal logs would be anything other than as orderly and precise as his official logs.
Despite them being his private thoughts, Jim’s all too aware that StarFleet own the contents of his personal logs, so despite them being more candid than the factual reports of his main log, there’s still a lot that’s unsaid.
Like my infatuation with Spock. Jim has known for a while that his feelings run deeper than mere infatuation, but he shies away from actually considering it. If he doesn’t think it, it isn’t true, right? His refusal to believe in no-win situations means he isn’t going to play the unrequited lover. So he simply doesn’t let his head go there, to the deeper, thinky thoughts.
Jim was drawn to Spock right from the beginning. Even when his first officer was at his most obnoxious in the early days of the mission, being officious and overly critical, Jim thought he was hot. It took him months – actually the best part of a year – to carve out the beginnings of a friendship that, ironically, he finds so emotionally satisfying.
It began, tentatively, early on in the mission when they started to work on reports together after shift. That then extended to other paperwork – Jim finding the task less onerous if Spock came to his cabin to work on his own at the same time. It was a chance conversation that they discovered a mutual enjoyment of chess which they played twice weekly as their jobs allowed. Over tense matches that Jim found challenging and stimulating, they learned more about each other, including an interest in literature, Jim proudly showing Spock his collection of antique books. It is rare, now, that they don’t spend at least part of an evening together either for work or leisure.
Jim realizes he is smiling. Indulging thoughts of Spock is dangerous – not something to be done around any of his crew since he’s pretty certain whenever he thinks about his favorite person, he has a dopey look on his face that anyone with half a brain cell would be able to interpret. The fact that his three senior bridge crew, as well as his Chief Engineer and CMO all rate at genius level on the Terran IQ scale means little gets past them.
Bones knows, of course. Nothing gets past him. It’s like he has his own connection to Jim’s private thoughts – something Jim found really disconcerting in the early days, though he’s grown used to it now. The doctor’s reaction to the discovery that his friend and commanding officer has the hots for his first officer – his Vulcan first officer, no less – was to laugh. Not just laugh, but to weep with laughter, clutching his sides as though he might explode from the hilarity of it. Schadenfreude, he called it: Jim who seems to be able to bed pretty much anyone he wants, going for the most unobtainable person on the ship – if not in the entire fleet (Deltans serving who had taken an oath of celibacy, notwithstanding) – and getting his balls tied in knots in the process. Yeah, Bones finds it highly amusing and doesn’t hold back from telling him so, every opportunity he can.
Jim glances at his desk chrono. Time to shower and change – the Valentine’s party begins in less than twenty minutes. Beside the antique clock – a family heirloom from the early twenty-first century – stands a real paper card. He’s occasionally been given them in the past and he’s always thrown them out, but a lot of care went into this one and even though he’s mentally given his heart to someone else, he’s loathe to discard it. The paper, he can tell, is hand-made, not at all like the refined paper available in some specialist stores on Terra. But that’s not what stays his hand; it’s the beautiful hand-drawn illustration of two sleek, but different, cat-like animals – neither species are familiar to him, though the green and yellow coloring of one and the almost purple coloring of the other tell him they aren’t Terran. They both look like predators, one hiding behind a large shrub, lying in wait, its eyes fixed upon the other beast who is sitting on a dune, which has its head turned up towards the sky. The detail of the drawings is exquisite – whoever drew it must have spent a lot of time on it.
Jim is in and out of the shower in three minutes and naked, rummages in his wardrobe for his dress uniform. It isn’t his first choice – the committee putting the party together requested that it be a formal affair. Chekov was the unfortunate person on the committee who got to inform the senior crew of their decision, thereby incurring the wrath of one Leonard McCoy whose aversion to the dress uniform must surely by now be legendary. The messenger would have been well and truly shot if not for Sulu jumping to Chekov’s defense, Bones quickly backing down with a gruff apology.
Jim pauses for an inspection in the mirror, looking over his shoulder at how his ass looks in his dress trousers – thankfully not too baggy. He winces at the ostentatious style of pale green silk jacket with its glittery gold braiding which he thinks makes him look like a full-size Christmas tree decoration. Missing from his left breast are the medals he would ordinarily wear if it were a formal diplomatic function.
It takes him only three minutes to get to rec room four which, following some artistic decorating, is a study in pink and red with heart garlands hanging from the ceiling. Only a handful of crew have so far arrived. A glance around and Jim notices that along one wall is a series of tables filled with bounteous food. Against the opposite wall are a number of couches in the shape of luscious, red lips, their whimsical nature causing him to grin, and he finds himself admiring the resourcefulness of his crew since they are definitely not standard furniture on starships. At the bar chatting to DeSilivio – who has volunteered to man it for the evening – stands Bones, scowling as he tugs at his collar.
“What kind of bar is this,” the doctor says to Jim as he approaches, “if it doesn’t even serve Cardassian sunrises.”
“It’s a legal one, Bones.”
“Can’t you bend the rules? I need something strong to help me forget I’m surrounded by pink and red hearts...” he pauses to throw a disgusted look at the couches, “…and erotic furniture.”
Jim claps his friend’s upper arm. “Why yes, Doctor, of course, and risk court-martial.” He tilts his head and taps a finger to his mouth. “Or, maybe not.” Leaning on the bar, he smiles at DeSilvio. “Got a beer? Preferably a European one – unless you’ve got something from a north-American micro-brewery.”
“Sorry sir. No specialist beers. How about an Amstel?”
“Gut rot,” McCoy mutters.
Jim ignores him. “Cheers, Amstel it is.” The glass is already sweating by the time DeSilvio puts it down on the counter, the cold, amber liquid topped by a small, frothy head. Jim’s thirsty and knocks back several mouthfuls.
“Very fetching,” Bones grins and points to Jim’s upper lip. A touch of his fingers and Jim realizes some of the froth has transferred to his face. Just in time, he stops himself from wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his silk dress uniform jacket. That would have pissed off the quartermaster.
In the few minutes he’s been there, the room has started to fill up, and with a crowd gathering at the bar, Jim and Bones move away to make room for others. The doctor glances at the couches, grimaces, and heads in the opposite direction towards the food, Jim trailing him with a grin.
“Keptin,” Chekov greets him cheerfully and picks up a bowl of pretzels. “Would you like a salty sneck?”
“Thanks. The committees done a good job – I’m not going to ask where you got the couches from.”
Chekov grins. “Thank you, sair. And not asking vould be vise.” His eyes suddenly seem to light up as he glances over Jim’s shoulder. “Excuse me,” he says, handing the bowl to Jim.
The captain turns to see what got his navigator so excited, and spots Sulu just inside the door.
“Give it a few months when the hormones have worn off,” Bones says with an eyeroll, “and you’ll have a bridge full of awkward silences.”
“What those two?” Jim smiles. “They’ve been dancing round each other since Nero. If it was just a crush, it would have blown over by now. You’re just jaded, Bones. Which reminds me,” he adds with a grin, “did anyone risk sending you a Valentine’s card or gift?”
Jim will never forget Bones reaction to getting a few in their first year at the Academy. The doctor had made it abundantly clear that he did not approve, complaining to anyone who stood still long enough that if he found out who any were from, they would not be safe around his hypos. He got none in his second and third years which he counted as a win.
The question is an off-hand one as Jim sets down the pretzels and grabs a handful of peanuts. But when the doctor’s only answer is to mutter about being ‘strangled by this fancy outfit’ as he adjusts the collar for the umpteenth time, Jim glances up at his friend to find him wearing a distinctly pained expression that he’s pretty sure is nothing to do with how uncomfortable he’s finding his uniform.
Jim smirks. “Bones? Seriously? Who from?”
The doctor rolls his eyes. “It’s a Valentine’s – it’s anonymous.”
Jim’s grin broadens, recognizing the evasive answer for what it was. “Yeah, but you know don’t you?” And, he realizes, if his friend’s not complaining, then he approves.
“Why do you think that? There are six hundred and eighty four people on this ship; it could be from any of them—”
“Because I know you Bones,” Jim cuts in, eyeing his friend shrewdly. “Not only do you know who it’s from…” he sees the doctor flinch slightly, “…but I think you’re quite pleased about it. So the million credit question is, did you reciprocate?” Jim watches in interest as Bones face heats up, and grins broadly at him. “Dude, you totally did, didn’t you? You sly old dog. Who is it?”
Bones gives Jim his combined scowl and glare which might frighten the junior crew, but not him. Not even close. “Shut up!” With that, he turns his back on Jim and picking up a plate, helps himself to some barbecued chicken wings.
Jim knows not to push; all he needs to do is wait and watch – he’s pretty certain he’ll have an answer by the end of the evening. “Please yourself,” he says and throwing a peanut in the air, catches it in his mouth, before sauntering towards the bar.
Already standing there is his chief engineer – resplendent in a kilt, waiting patiently to be served. Now he’s got a glass, there’s no need for DeSilvio’s service, so instead he heads towards the other end of the bar to join the line for the self-service beer taps, acknowledging various crew and wishing them a happy Valentine’s Day as he goes.
As he waits his turn, his eye automatically roves around the room looking for one person – but when he doesn’t see Spock, who’s always so punctual, he’s reminded his first officer volunteered to be senior officer of beta watch for half a shift, to allow Lieutenant Kelso to attend. It’ll be at least another couple of hours before he puts in an appearance.
Not one to mope, he gets his beer and starts to work his way round the room, chatting with as many of his crew as he can get to, all the while keeping an eye on Bones to see if he can figure out who his mystery Valentine is. But frustratingly, the doctor spends most of the time chatting to Chapel. Jim long ago acknowledged that while she might work in the care industry, Chapel is one fierce woman, which means if any of the crew have the hots for his friend, she’ll probably scare them away with just her presence. Maybe that’s Bones’ plan, he belatedly realizes with a fond shake of his head.
Some time later, Jim spots Uhura at one of the food tables and crosses over to her. The formal uniform for females is a long shift dress, which modestly covers her legs and not for the first time, he acknowledges how good she looks in it. There’s something about the color which makes her seem radiant.
“I have to say, Uhura,” Jim says as he reaches her, “you’re one of the few people who can carry off red well. The dress looks good on you.”
She smiles. “Thank you. It’s not the most comfortable garment I’ve ever worn but…” she turns to where Bones is leaning against a wall talking to Chapel, scowling as he tugs yet again at his collar, “…at least I don’t have as much trouble with it as some people.”
Jim follows her gaze and grins. “Bones thinks the quartermaster is trying to kill him through slow asphyxiation.” She chuckles and he realizes he rarely hears her laugh.
“You know,” he continues, “I never got a chance to thank you for the work you did figuring out what was going on at Epsilon Cygnii and then finding a way to communicate to the indigenous Waradesi. You saved our butts.”
Uhura smiles and lifts her glass as if to toast him. “All in a day’s work, Captain.”
Jim is used to her brushing off her work as unexceptional when he’s pretty certain no other comms officer would have figured it out in time. He isn’t going to let her get away with the modesty this time. “No, it wasn’t. That was above and beyond. You worked twenty five hours straight to come up with a lingua franca so we could communicate with them.”
Uhura grins. “Well, I couldn’t leave my BFF in jeopardy, could I?”
BFF Jim thinks, recognizing she’s referring to Spock who was leading the landing party of scientists. “Not BF?” he says aloud.
She gapes at him. “You’re not serious…” When Jim’s expression doesn’t change, except perhaps to register confusion, she adds, “…oh my god, you are! Jim, we called off our relationship before this mission even got started. How could you not know that?”
How could he not know that? Except he didn’t. It isn’t something he’s ever discussed with Spock, because they’re both guys and anyway, Vulcans are known to be almost obsessive about their privacy. He considers if Bones has known all this time and guesses he probably has, leading him to wonder why his friend never mentioned it given he knew how Jim feels about Spock. Doctor/patient confidentiality, maybe? He still could have said something, even just hinted at it.
“Why would I know that? No-one told me any different.” Okay, that sounded a bit petulant but he’s spent all this time thinking Spock’s totally unobtainable, when actually, he’s only…well, probably still totally unobtainable, but still…
Uhura’s looking openly incredulous. “When do you think we’d have time to date when he spends most of his off-duty time with you?”
“I…uh…” he doesn’t have an answer to that. “I’m a guy – we don’t think about stuff like that.”
Uhura laughs. “Clearly. For a genius, Jim, you can be incredibly oblivious.”
Jim grins back, a bubble of happiness welling up inside him. “Hey, you’re not allowed to speak to your commanding officer like that!”
“Just saying it like it is.”
“Yeah, well, keep it up and I might not give you the special citation you’ve been awarded.”
Uhura’s eyes go wide in surprise. “You’re not serious.”
“I am. Pike approved it a couple of hours ago. We’ll do a formal—”
“Look I really appreciate it,” she cuts in. “But can we not do anything formal? You’ve never been a by-the-book captain.”
Jim remembers how uncomfortable Uhura was with all the publicity after Nero – her work on intercepting the Klingon transmissions being a key factor in Pike’s decision to raise the shields, so saving the Enterprise.
But this isn’t just about her. Any reason his crew have to celebrate is good in his book. “Okay, I’ll meet you half way. We’ll do a presentation on the bridge at the start of shift tomorrow and I’ll send out a memo informing the crew of your award. Deal?”
Uhura’s mouth is a thin line as she nods reluctantly. “Okay, deal.” A small smile creeps across her face. “And thank you. I do appreciate it.
“Cap’n, are ye enjoying the festivities?”
Jim turns to find Scotty has walked to stand by Uhura, the Scotsman positively beaming.
“Hey, Scotty. Enjoying the party?”
“Aye sir, tis a fine affair, especially when in the company of such a bonnie lass.”
When it comes to fierceness, Uhura makes Chapel look tame, so he expects his comms officer to make some acerbic comment, but instead she smiles benignly at the engineer, and then takes his hand in hers.
Scotty appears not to notice. “Where’s Cdr. Spock?”
Uhura’s grinning – not much gets past her – as Jim struggles to find an answer. It’s a fair question since at any events like this, they are usually glued to each other’s sides – Spock finding small talk tedious and illogical, and Jim not really needing any other company. It doesn’t stop him from flushing, and taking a swig of his beer to try to cover it. “He’s volunteered to take half of beta but he’ll be here soon.”
As a master of redirection, he adds, “So, how long’s this been going on for?” indicating the two of them with a vague wave of his hand.
Scotty’s eyes twinkle. “Since Nyota caught me under the mistletoe at the New Year’s party.”
“I did not catch you!” Uhura protests. “You danced me under it!”
Jim laughs and holds up his hand with a smile. “Well whatever happened, I missed it! I’m pleased for you both.”
“Ye’ve not lost yer powers of observation, Cap’n, everyone missed it as we’ve kept it private until now.”
Jim casts his mind back to the previous Fall when Scotty was in sickbay for two weeks, following a skirmish with a Klingon ship. The engineer was part of a repair crew shoring up the portside nacelle which took a direct hit after the bird of prey’s sudden de-cloaking. Following a partial failure of one of the shields, he was badly injured when the area his team were trying to repair under battle conditions took another direct hit, as the Klingons sought to take out the Enterprise’s warp capability. At the time, Jim was surprised how during Scotty’s convalescence, his most frequent visitor was Uhura. Looking back, he guesses that was their courtship.
Jim turns to face the doctor who’s looking back at them with a strange expression. “What, not even Bones knew?” he laughs. “He prides himself on knowing all the ship’s gossip – not that he shares it with me,” he quickly adds, not wanting his friend to get a bad rep for being indiscreet.
“Especially not Leonard,” Uhura confirms with a smile. “I could do without his ribbing.”
Jim eyes the doctor purposefully striding towards them, a half-full glass of bourbon in his hand. “I think it’s about to start.”
Uhura follows his gaze. “I think you’re right.”
“Something you haven’t told me, Scotty?” McCoy says as he reaches them, his gaze flicking down to where their hands are still clasped together, their fingers interlinked. “How long’s this been going on?”
“What, this?” Scotty asks, innocently, holding up their hands and smiling. “A wee while.”
McCoy fixes a glare on Scotty. “I hope your intentions are good—”
“Of course they are, man!” the engineer cuts in, puffing out his chest. “What do ye take me for? Nyota is a keeper.”
The look of adoration that passes across his comm. officer’s face tells him the feeling is mutual. Bones scowls and coughs. “Yes well…”
“You decided to come out then I see,” Chapel says as she steps up to the group.
Uhura smiles at her friend. “It was only a matter of time before people figured it out, Chris. There’s only so many visits I could do down to engineering before someone got suspicious!”
“You knew?” Bones says to Chapel, looking taken aback. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Jim isn’t surprised the nurse knows – the two women have remained close since they had to share quarters on the long journey home following the Battle of Vulcan. The Enterprise rescued survivors both from the other fleet ships that had been destroyed as well as several hundred Vulcans who’d escaped in vessels that weren’t designed for interstellar travel, resulting in his crew voluntarily doubling and tripling up to make room; he himself shared a room with Bones, though with the hours they put in, they barely saw each other.
Chapel smiles. “Not my secret to tell, Len. And don’t give me that look!” she adds when his scowl deepens. Bones draws breath, looking like he’s about to say something when Chapel adds, “Look at all the secrets you know and don’t share for confidential reasons.” The comment makes him close his mouth.
Jim grins throughout the exchange. “Face it Bones, you can’t know everything!”
“It’s not for the want of trying,” he mutters and turns to Uhura. “So let us in on a secret. Does he wear anything under that kilt? Enquiring minds and all that…!”
Uhura laughs. “Like I’m going to tell you. If you really want to know, you’ll have to find out for yourself!”
At Bones slightly evil smile, Scotty backs away. “Don’t you dare!”
Everyone laughs, drawing the attention of crew nearby as McCoy knocks back his bourbon in one gulp. “Anyone want a drink?”
Jim glances at his half glass and knowing he needs to take it easy, shakes his head; he’s never been drunk in front of his crew and he’s not about to start now. “I’m good, Bones.”
The doctor heads off to the bar while Scotty and Uhura turn towards the food.
Jim continues his rounds of the room, trying to use people’s names as much as he can remember. He’s got about eighty percent of them memorized but there are a few he seldom sees, who he has more trouble with and there’s always a small turnover of crew – about five percent a year so far. He’s proud it’s one of the lowest churn rates in the fleet.
Some time later, while talking to several of the security team – including Cupcake (though he never says that name to his face) – he’s distracted by cheering and clapping, his attention drawn to the dance floor where Sulu and Chekov seem to have center stage doing…a tango. Jim grins at their antics. He’s seen them dance before at clubs on the occasional shoreleave but nothing this formal. He finds himself fascinated by the dance, how they’re completely synchronized, and the way they switch leads, all looking so effortless. At the end, there’s more cheers and applause and Chekov’s face is completely flushed – Jim’s unsure if it’s from exertion or embarrassment at all the attention.
A small crowd gathers round them, which he joins and the crew respectfully part so that he can speak to them. “Hey good job dudes!” he says, high-fiving them both. “When did you find the time to learn that?”
Sulu smiles. “We worked on it instead of in the gym – it might look easy but it’s a good cardiovascular work-out.”
“Ees true, Keptin. I vas losing veight vhen ve started. The doctor gave me a new diet plan.”
Jim was taken aback. “Bones knew about this?”
“Yes sair. He vas wery encouraging. He said if ve dance together vell, ve fight together vell and then he has less work to do.”
Jim put his issue with Bones not telling him about this to the back of his mind. “Yeah well, he’s got a point. And for the record, it doesn’t look all that easy. Are you going to do any more dancing?”
Sulu smiles. “We’ve had a lot of people interested while we’ve been practicing. So we’re going to start a ballroom dancing club. You’re welcome to join, sir.”
Jim smiles back. “Maybe. Good job, both of you.”
As Chekov and Sulu thank Jim, he steps back and the group around them closes rank.
With his empty glass, he heads back towards the bar and spotting Bones nearby, chatting to Chapel, veers towards them.
Jim’s always appreciated how open he and Bones are with one another, so the fact that Bones has withheld information from him – twice at least – feels like it’s going against the grain. A paranoid part of him is starting to wonder what other things Bones hasn’t told him, and maybe more to the point, why he hasn’t told him. The question he really wants to ask will have to wait until later, since it’s not a subject he wants to bring up in front of the nurse. Instead, he asks, “Why didn’t you tell me about Chekov and Sulu dancing?” It comes out more accusatory than he means it to.
“Uh, with your schedule – when did I have the time?”
Chapel glances at Bones and then at Jim. “Can I get you a drink?” she asks, nodding to Jim’s empty glass.
Realizing she’s giving them space, he gives her the glass. “Thanks – Amstel. No, make that a Long Island Iced Tea.”
She looks as though she’s going to say something, then seems to think better of it. “Okay. Back in a few.”
“You can make time any time,” Jim says, answering the doctor’s earlier question. “I don’t know, over lunch, after shift, whenever.” As he says it, he realizes it’s been quite some time since they last spent an evening together – something they did almost religiously at least once a week in the first months of the mission. Before I got all caught up with Spock.
“Whenever? You’re not around whenever, Jim. You’re always busy.”
Jim swallows, feeling guilty. “Yeah well, it’s a big ship and there’s a lot to do. You have no idea how much paperwork I have to process every day.”
“And you think I don’t?”
Jim opens his mouth to counter the comment and then reminds himself he is actually older than five. Instead, he takes a deep breath. “You’re right. I’m sorry. So why didn’t you tell me about Spock and Uhura? That they’re not together, knowing how I feel…” he doesn’t say any more, since he’s never expressed to himself, let alone anyone else, how he really feels about Spock.
“Their relationship was never open knowledge, so their break-up wasn’t, either. It wasn’t for me to tell you – I thought Spock might say something or you’d figure it out on your own.”
Bones has a point – really it should have come from either Spock or Uhura. Jim glances down, unable to meet his friend’s eyes and the hurt he realizes is there from his neglect of their close friendship. “Look, what are you doing on Saturday.”
Jim frowns, anger welling up inside him at the apparent rejection of his olive branch . “Okay Bones, you’ve made your point. When are you free?”
Before the doctor answers, Jim realizes Spock is nearby. He’s just walked into the room and Jim knows it. It’s as though he has a sixth sense that’s tuned to the Vulcan, and needing visual confirmation, he turns to look towards the door, his eyes alighting on the tall, commanding figure who’s just entered. Much as Jim dislikes the dress uniform, Spock carries it well, the pale blue silk complimenting his dark coloring, especially the blue-black shade of his hair.
Spock looks gorgeous, Jim thinks as his heart kicks into a higher gear, his mouth going dry, causing him to reflexively lick his lips. He watches as Spock glances around the room, and when his eyes alight on Uhura standing with Scotty near the food, he heads towards her. Jim swallows; he’s got it bad.
“Are you even listening to me?” McCoy asks, a scowl on his face as he waves a hand in front of Jim’s eyes. Getting no answer, the doctor turns to follow Jim’s gaze, and rolling his eyes turns back to his friend. “Why aren’t I surprised?”
Jim pulls his focus back to the doctor, looking contrite. “Sorry Bones. What were you saying?”
McCoy shakes his head. “Never mind.” He glances down at his empty glass. “I need another drink.”
Jim realizes what he’s just done, totally zoning out from an important discussion.
“Wait Bones, I’m sorry. Tell me – when are you free? I’ll come over to your quarters.”
Bones sighs and looks at Jim consideringly for several seconds. “Tuesday,” he finally says, “if you’re not down on some planet trying to get yourself killed.”
The words are said gruffly, but Jim knows the sentiment behind them. The doctor hides it well from most people, but Jim has seen him at his lowest and knows just how much his friend really feels underneath his prickly exterior.
Spock and he play chess on Tuesdays, but without a moment’s hesitation – because Bones is important to him too – he responds, “Okay Tuesday. Your quarters. I’ll bring the booze.” He has a bottle of Romulan ale he’s been keeping for a rainy day. It would be a good time to break it open.
A small smile breaks out on Bones’ face. “Okay,” he agrees and seeing Spock heading towards them, adds, “I still need another drink.” With that, he walks towards the bar to join Chapel in the line.
“How did the shift go?” Jim asks as Spock comes to a halt beside him. He’s sure it’s just his imagination, but the air feels warmer when Spock’s around. As he processes what he’s just thought, he amends his earlier diagnosis. Yeah, he’s got it really bad.
“While we’re in this sector of space, we have been taking scans of the neutron star PSR B0633+17 since we are only forty two point two parsecs from its location.”
“That’s the pulsar, right? Gem…uh…”
“Right. Anything interesting?”
A ghost of a smile appears turning up the corners of his mouth and Jim melts inside. “It is all interesting, Captain.”
Jim grins. “Not fascinating?”
Spock cocks his head to one side – Jim is sure his first officer has no idea how endearing that movement is. “That, too. The star went supernova approximately three hundred thousand of your Earth years ago, resulting in the remarkably low density of interstellar medium in the vicinity of your Sol system.”
“Yeah, I remember studying it in astrophysics in my second year at the academy. Anything else to report?”
“Negative. Lt. Fergh intercepted a request for assistance from a Borian trading vessel also picked up by the Potempkin. Since they are considerably closer to the source, they have gone to investigate.
Spock nodded. “It is a possibility. There have been a number of attacks in that sector during the past year. Captain Bura’adin will proceed with caution.”
“Yeah, she’s been round the block a few times with them before. While you were having exciting times on the bridge, you missed Chekov and Sulu dancing the tango.”
Spock raises his eyebrow. “Indeed?”
Jim grins. “They were very good.”
“Do you enjoy dancing?”
The question surprises him. “I’ve not done much of the kind of dancing they did – I think I’ve got two left feet—”
“A physical impossibility…”
Jim grins again. “I know you understand way more idioms than you let on, so I’m not going to dignify your comment with an explanation. And yes, I do enjoy dancing though I don’t get much chance these days.”
Spock nods. “Your non-fraternization policy.”
“If I danced with one person, I’d have to dance with everyone or it wouldn’t be fair.”
“Illogical, since not everyone will wish to dance with you. However, I understand your sentiment. Does this rule apply to officers of near rank?”
The question takes him aback – there aren’t many who fall into that category and Jim begins to wonder if Spock has perhaps been taken in by the rumor that he and Bones are involved in an open relationship. Before he can answer, Chapel returns with his drink in a tall glass with a wedge of lemon pushed down onto the rim, handing a separate glass to Spock.
“It’s Altairan water,” she says with a shy smile.
Spock nods his head in acknowledgement. “Thank you, nurse Chapel.”
Her job done, she heads back into crowd.
“Bones wants to start training Chapel towards a medical degree. He thinks she’s got the aptitude for it and she’s certainly got the brains.”
“I concur. Ms. Chapel is already highly qualified in her own field and has written a number of seminal research papers for respected medical journals.”
Jim feels a stab of jealousy that Spock knows so much about the nurse, knowing Chapel holds a candle for the Vulcan and knowing he’s single and available. Taking a sip of his drink, he feels the fiery alcohol burn the back of his throat. “You seem to know a lot about her,” he says casually.
“As your first officer it is my responsibility to know the strengths and limitations of all serving crew. To that end, I have studied each of their files—”
“And with your eidetic memory, you’ve memorized it all.” Jim feels a sense of relief.
Taking another sip, he gazes at the dance floor where a large number of people are dancing singly, in pairs and groups, everyone smiling and looking like they’re having fun. It’s not so long ago that he’d be in the thick of it, his feet dancing in time to the music, arms flailing – he never knows what to do with them – surrounded by his pick of beautiful people. He doesn’t miss it, really. Given a choice of being there, or having the sole attention of Spock, there isn’t really any contest.
As so often when they spend time together, their discussion drifts from dancing to other topics, and as usual, they are in frequent agreement. While he enjoys how much in tune with Spock he seems to be, he also enjoys their debates where they take different stances – those were the most intellectually challenging and satisfying to him and from what he can tell, Spock appears to enjoy those too (as much as a Vulcan could enjoy anything – it’s hard to tell for sure).
They seem to be an island, the crew rarely approaching them. Jim is glad, now that he spent a good two hours talking to everyone before Spock arrived so that he doesn’t feel guilty that he’s giving all his attention to one person.
Every now and again, he searches out Bones in the room – because he’s still trying to figure out who his friend’s mystery woman is (Bones is straight, so it’s definitely a woman) – but Chapel seems to be glued to his side, probably scaring off whoever it is.
“What do you record in your personal logs?” Jim asks during a lull in the conversation.
“Would you be more specific.”
“Well, I include my thoughts, feelings and insights about missions we’ve done, and maybe the things I’ve learned from them. I was wondering what kind of things you talk about.”
“I record my personal impressions, my opinions on situations and outcomes, what lessons, if any, are to be learned.”
Jim nods. “So very similar – just without the ‘feelings’.”
“So it would seem. I am not averse to you listening to my personal logs if you wish it.”
Jim feels himself flush with pleasure at the offer, knowing how much Spock guards his privacy.
Jim glances at the dance floor and realizes the number of people has thinned out a bit – some having drifted back to their quarters, singly and in pairs – though the majority are still partying hard. He glances at the chrono and it’s with some surprise that he realizes there’s only about forty minutes to go – the party finishing at midnight. Time seems to fly by when he’s with Spock.
There’s a subject he wants to talk to Spock about, and he’s been on the verge of broaching it several times that evening. Taking a deep breath, he goes for it. “I found something out this evening that I didn’t previously know about. All this time, since the start of the mission, I thought you and Uhura were an item.”
Spock turns his attention from the dance floor to gaze at Jim. “An item?
“You know,” Jim waves his hand towards a nearby couple who are leaning against a bulkhead, necking, “together. A couple.”
“We have not been ‘an item’ since prior to the commencement of this mission.”
“I know that now. How come I didn’t know it before?”
Spock glances down at where his hands are clasped in front of him. “I was not deliberately misleading you – the subject has not arisen.”
“I just assumed…”
Jim feels himself flush as he contemplates the next question. “So, are you…on the look-out for another partner?” That wasn’t phrased very well, he knows it. “I mean—”
Spock looks up. “I understand the question. Perhaps.” He pauses then adds, “Vulcans are not as promiscuous as Humans. When a Vulcan considers a relationship it is with the intention of finding a mate.”
Jim gets the message. Spock doesn’t play around. If the Vulcan is going to be with someone, it’s to settle down. He has one – intrusive – question he wants to ask, having no idea about Vulcan mores.
“Where do Vulcans stand on same-sex relationships. Illogical?”
“Since Vulcans form a telepathic bond with their spouse, it is the compatibility of minds which is of utmost importance. In ninety three point seven percent of cases, the most compatible mind – one that complements – is that of someone of the opposite sex, but such is not always the case.”
Jim feels his stomach drop. He’s always been confident about his physical attractiveness, but he has no idea if Spock might consider him mentally compatible.
“So physical appearance is irrelevant to you, then?”
Spock frowns. “I did not say that. For the union to be successful, there must be an attraction. For some that attraction may be purely of the mind, but for many it would also be of the body.”
Jim swallows. “What about you? Mind, physical appearance, or both?”
Spock regards him, one eyebrow raised in what Jim has come to recognize as his expression of surprise. This definitely rates as the most personal conversation they’ve ever shared. When no answer comes, he wonders if his friend considers it too personal, whether he’s crossed some line.
“I would say both,” Spock says eventually. A look of wry amusement crosses his face as he adds, “And since I believe I can predict what your next question is, my answer would be that the sex of the person is irrelevant to me.”
Jim lets out the breath he hadn’t realized he’s been holding and tries his best not to grin. While the confession is promising, it doesn’t mean Spock finds him attractive, mentally or physically. Thankful for the information, he steers the conversation away from personal revelations to something more general. “I imagine you must find all this romantic behavior puzzling, don’t you?” he indicates the garlands of hearts hanging from the ceiling.
“I understand the place ritualized courtship plays in most Terran societies. It is the designation of one day above all others for outward shows of romance – in the form of flowers, chocolates and trysts – that I find illogical.”
“The idea, I think, is to use it as a good reason to make a move on someone you’re attracted to, or reaffirm the love you have if you’re already in a relationship.”
“I understand that. However, why not do so on any other day? I fail to see what is special about this one.”
Jim scratches his head in contemplation. Having grown up with Valentine’s Day, he’s never given it much thought. “More romantic on that day, I guess.” He grins. “I take it Vulcan doesn’t have anything like that.”
Spock’s eyebrow wings up towards his bangs. “I believe you already know the answer. Do you personally subscribe to this day?”
Jim shrugs. “I’ve had my fair share of Valentine’s Day dates.”
“Did you enjoy them more because of the day?”
Jim thinks about the question – a surprisingly personal one, coming from Spock. “Yes, I think I did. There was something special about the day – everyone’s in good spirits. And it’s a kind of public declaration.”
“Ah?” Jim asks.
“I understand. Uhura has told me that women take Valentine’s Day more seriously than men. You are bisexual, I believe.” Jim nods, wondering where this is going. They’ve never talked about it, but he had quite a reputation at the academy which no doubt Spock’s heard about, more than likely from Uhura. “Was that your experience given you have dated both males and females?”
Jim realizes his heart is pounding and it takes a lot of effort to hold Spock’s gaze. “Uhura’s right. Most of my girlfriends were into it, but among the guys I dated, I’d say it was about fifty-fifty. Some could care less – saw it as something commercialized that they refused to buy into, while others enjoyed having an excuse to get romantic.”
Spock blinks slowly. “Where, might I ask, would you place yourself on that scale?”
Jim smiles. “I have to admit, I like the romance and the grand gestures.”
Spock nods. “Do you miss the opportunity to join in these festivities due to your rank?”
Jim’s mouth goes dry. This is the moment he can make his own declaration and see if Spock goes for it or ignores it. “There’s only one person who I’d be interested in entering a romantic relationship with, and in that particular case, rank isn’t an issue.” And just so Spock doesn’t think Jim’s talking about Bones, he adds, “Just, apparently…” he swallows, “mental compatibility.”
Something happens to Spock’s face. It softens, his mouth turns up into the nearest thing to a smile Jim has ever seen, and his chocolate-brown eyes seem to glow with warmth. How anyone believes Vulcan’s are emotionless is beyond him.
“You are unaware, Jim, since I have not spoken of it, that from the two mind-melds we have undergone in the course of our duty, I can state unequivocally that you and I are mentally compatible to quite an extraordinary degree.”
Jim grins. “Yeah?” Feeling emboldened he asks, “So, what about physical attraction?”
“I find you most esthetically pleasing,” Spock confirms.
Jim feels himself flush at the declaration and coughs. “I find you…uh…esthetically pleasing too.” His heart is pounding in his chest as he adds, “And in case you need to hear it, I’m done with one-night stands.” Spock frowns minutely, so Jim clarifies, “I’m looking for something long-term.”
The Vulcan’s face clears and Jim swears his eyes twinkle. “In that case, Captain, would you care to dance?”
Having been caught up in this discussion, Jim hasn’t noticed that they’re down to the final twenty minutes of the party and the music has slowed right down. “Yeah, I’d like that.”
As they make their way to the dance floor, Jim spots Scotty and Uhura, Sulu and Chekov, and Bones and…Chapel? Really? It’s been staring at him in the face all night. He rolls his eyes at his own…obliviousness as Uhura put it earlier.
Spock stops and turns and Jim stands facing him, waiting to see how the Vulcan wants to do this. Two hot hands slide onto his waist and pull him in closer, so Jim places his hands on Spock’s shoulders and they begin to turn slowly in time to the music.
He can feel curious eyes on them from all around, like there’s a spotlight on them, and the attention causes him to flush; but he only looks at Spock, gazing into his sultry eyes and getting lost in them – there’s such an intensity to them. They’re so wrapped up in each other it’s as if no-one else is there – it’s just the two of them alone in the room.
The music ends and Jim comes back to himself as cheers and clapping reverberate around the room. A glance up confirms his worst fears as everyone is looking at them. Chekov and Sulu are grinning madly, Uhura’s eyes look suspiciously moist as Scotty pulls her in for a hug, and Bones just rolls his eyes and grabbing Chapel by the hand, quickly exits the room before the hoards.
“Can we get out of here,” Jim whispers, pulling back. “Back to my quarters.”
“An excellent plan.”
It took him three minutes to get to the party, but it seems like forever to get back to his cabin, his heart racing a mile a minute. He’s had countless lovers in his life, but no-one has ever come close to being as important to him as Spock.
Finally, they reach his quarters and palming the lock, the door slides open, Jim standing to one side to allow Spock to enter first.
Spock goes over to his desk and picks up the card, causing Jim to wince – he’s completely forgotten about it. “Were you aware this card was from me?”
Jim feels both relieved and awed at the declaration. “No. To be honest, I kept it because of the beautiful artwork. Did you actually draw it?”
“I did. The animals are Vulcan in origin – the le-matya and a sa-te kru. They should have been natural enemies as they were both predators which searched the desert for their prey. But they had a symbiotic relationship that ensured they both remained alive in the harsh climate of the desert. The le-matya had the speed to chase its prey while the sa-te kru was able to locate bodies of underground water and with its large paws, dig down to it.”
Listening to Spock using the past tense to describe the animals, Jim felt saddened, as he always did, at the reminder that Vulcan was now gone. “So do you see you and me as being like them?”
“In as much as we are both independent and capable, but together we have a synergy in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Jim takes the card from Spock and looks at it again with new eyes and realizes the look on the le-matya’s face is not one of hunger, but one of adoration. The sa-te kru is perfectly aware his companion is hiding in the shrubs as he gazes, unconcerned, at the stars.
“It’s beautiful, thank you.” He carefully places the card down, making a mental note to get it properly framed. “Lights to twenty five percent.” They dim immediately. At Spock’s raised eyebrow he says, “Just to give it a bit of atmosphere.”
He has no idea what Spock’s going to do – maybe he’s being pre-emptive, if Spock wants to take things slowly. But it’s Valentine’s Day, so he’s going to hold out for a kiss at least. It’s something he’s imagined since the day he first saw the Vulcan at his hearing.
“Well,” he says nervously.
Spock approaches him and once again slides his hands around Jim’s waist, but this time pulls him in close until their faces are only a few centimeters apart. The Vulcan’s gaze drops to his lips a moment before he tilts his head and presses forward. Their mouths slide together and part, tongues seeking, questing, conquering – Jim feels giddy and almost overwhelmed at the glory that is Spock’s mouth. The thought of Spock using it to explore his body makes him go weak at the knees.
It’s like coming home after a long journey, the rightness, the perfection and somehow, the familiarity, even though they’ve never been intimate before. It’s impossible for him to imagine being anywhere else, because this is where he belongs, with Spock, in the circle of his arms.
Eventually they part for lack of air though they remain in close contact, as though neither can bear to be further than an arm’s length away.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Jim.” The timbre of Spock’s voice is rougher and deeper than Jim’s ever heard it – so sexy.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, Spock. And to all our future anniversaries.”
And with those words they fall into another kiss.