The passage of time isn’t as agonizing as Jim imagined it might be at first. Spock meditates—he meditates a lot—and Jim quits waiting up for him. He sleeps in fitful, sweaty bursts, tossing in his sheets and waking alone every time; he visits Bones when his insides start acting up, and he takes more solitary meals with Lady Amanda than he probably should.
Jim can’t feel that useless when he’s being somebody’s company. At first, he assumed she was taking pity on him, but apparently Sarek is exactly as busy as he seems. Jim doesn’t know how she stands it, but every time he starts to bring it up it, he can’t help wondering whether it’s his own future he’s staring into.
Then he chickens out of asking, because if this is what it’s gonna be like for him as prince consort of Vulcan, he’d rather not go into it with the advance knowledge.
At least the surprise is something to look forward to.
He knew what he was getting into. At least, he thought he did. Spock was as thick-headed as a Klingon when it came to Jim’s flirtations, but after a while he caught on. He seemed determined to learn, at least. That ferocious curiosity of his kept Jim’s hair standing on end, not to mention a few other parts of him standing at attention.
It wasn’t just his imagination.
There are only a few possibilities as to where things veered off course and Jim doesn’t like any of them.
The one that comes up most often is that Spock isn’t attracted to him after all. Things that work long distance don’t always have the same impact face-to-face. A guy can be into an idea or a concept or a sexy voice but not want that same someone’s slobbery mouth all over his dick.
But that can’t be true, because Jim was pretty careful to give Spock access to more than a few unflattering paparazzi shots just to give him a generous estimate of what he’d be getting himself into. There was never a point where he seemed turned off.
Except that there’s still a difference between pictures and the live, in-person experience. Jim should’ve been sending videos the whole time. Maybe his face does a weird, twitchy thing when he talks.
He keeps those thoughts to himself through the metallic tang of the energy drinks, through the meals with Lady Amanda, and through the confidences not shared with Bones. Jim can’t do anything about the way his chest seizes up when Spock steps into a room, not anymore than he can stop Spock’s eyes from sliding off him once they’ve found him, like he’s realized Jim’s not what he was looking for after all.
After two days, just when Jim’s starting to feel like things can’t get worse, he finds Sarek sharing breakfast with Lady Amanda in the dining hall.
‘Oh, Prince James,’ Lady Amanda says. ‘We were just talking about you.’
Never good, Jim thinks. He doesn't have to be telepathic to know that.
He doesn’t have to be telepathic to remember how to bow, either, and it’s a small, personal triumph when he isn’t hit with a wave of dizziness at the shift in his position. It’s progress, the kind he can measure. ‘Your highness.’
When he returns to an upright position, he does his best not to search for the similarities to Spock hidden in his father’s face. It’s not like he’d be able to find the key to unlocking Spock’s distance in Sarek’s features; a similar rise of a Vulcan eyebrow won’t explain the complications of disappointment and desire Jim’s been living with.
‘No need for such formality.’ Sarek’s voice is exactly the kind that all dignitaries and leaders of state should possess. The ones that aren’t second sons and supposed to be relatable, that is. It’s strong, powerful, and barren as the desert.
‘That’s...kind of you, your highness.’ Jim suddenly understands why everyone on Vulcan goes around with their hands clasped behind their backs or hidden in the fall of their sleeves—it’s to hide them when they tremble under Sarek’s unflinching gaze. ‘I’ll leave the two of you to your breakfast together.’
‘You are in the habit of taking your meals with my wife,’ Sarek says.
It’s not a question.
‘I explained that on Earth, it isn’t always the case that one has the pleasure of getting along so well with their in-laws, royalty or otherwise,’ Lady Amanda adds. ‘We happen to be lucky in that regard.’
‘And I have explained that what appears to be luck, in this instance, is merely a matter of probability. Given the variables, that probability is not particularly difficult to calculate.’
Okay, Jim thinks. As difficult as it was to communicate with Spock, this is definitely worse.
‘No matter the reason,’ Lady Amanda continues, ‘I remain grateful.’
‘And I wouldn’t want to do anything to compromise that gratitude,’ Jim replies. ‘Which is exactly why I’ll take my leave now, before I wear out my welcome.’
‘That is not a Vulcan concept.’ It’s just Jim’s luck that Sarek isn’t paying attention to his breakfast any longer, the full brunt of his focus resting squarely on Jim. And Sarek thinks luck doesn’t exist. Jim’s living proof that it does. ‘Although my wife has expressed its meaning to me in the past. However, as you were the topic of our discussion before your arrival, that arrival is...fortuitous.’
Fortuitous is a synonym for lucky.
Jim doesn’t push his by bringing that up.
‘The main topic of discussion during the High Council’s meeting yesterday was, apparently, a matter of a potential delegation to be sent on a good-will mission to tour the Romulan System.’ Lady Amanda pats the chair beside her; with no way left to excuse himself, Jim has to step forward and take the offered seat.
‘My son Spock put forward his eligibility for such a delegation,’ Sarek says. ‘Upon consideration and careful review, it became obvious the most logical conclusion would be to acknowledge that eligibility and accept his proposal.’
‘It wouldn’t be a honeymoon—not technically.’ Lady Amanda doesn’t take Jim’s hand—obviously not in front of her husband—but she does lean just a fraction of an inch closer. ‘But it would be just the sign of a unified front that the Federation would like best to put forward, if the two of you were to embark upon such a mission.’
Jim gets what she’s doing for him.
At least, the implication’s there.
A change might do them both some good: shake up their routines; give Spock a chance to open up. Given how the last two days have gone, Jim’s not holding his breath, but the prospect of visiting their Romulan neighbors is still somehow more daunting than spending time with Spock.
It’s the little things that keep Jim going.
And he can’t deny that the chance to escape Vulcan’s atmosphere is pretty tempting. Being back in the controlled environment of a starship, having breathable air and a temperature that doesn’t make him sweat through every last layer after walking from one end of a hallway to the other—it almost sounds like a dream. Jim knows he should tough it out on Vulcan, but the truth is, if he can cut a chunk out of his year-long sentence on the planet, he can’t see a reason why he shouldn’t leap at the chance.
It’s Spock he was getting himself ready for all this time, not an unwelcoming, unforgiving desert planet. It’s not the oppressive atmosphere he came here to impress.
‘Oh,’ Jim says.
There’s a tickle in his throat, but he can’t clear it with Sarek looking straight at him.
‘Does your lack of immediate declination or acceptance indicate that you require more time to process the terms of the provisional mission?’ Sarek asks.
‘No,’ Jim says. ‘I mean—yeah. I want to do it. I’ll do it. That sounds great.’
So much for showing off his speechifying skills in front of his in-laws and making a case for how great he’ll be with the Romulans. They’re definitely gonna want to ship him off on a goodwill assignment after that little display. Maybe he can uh and um his way through talks on Romulus and beyond while he’s at it.
The saving grace is, Spock isn’t around to see in advance how much Jim’s gonna let him down. That can be a surprise, along with the apparent Vulcan distaste for blowjobs.
Don’t think about blowjobs in front of Spock’s parents.
Lady Amanda smiles. She doesn’t take Sarek’s hand either, but she looks in his direction, leaning sideways as if she might touch their shoulders together, but veering off at the last minute.
‘You see? I told you—their thoughts are of a similar bent even when they are not together. A suitable match.’
Jim wonders whether Lady Amanda’s ever messed up as bad as he has or if she’s ever wished for a less complicated husband. Probably not. He might be projecting, but he’s spent enough time with his mother-in-law that it’s safe to assume he knows her, if not his husband.
Probably because he’s spent more time with her than he has with his husband.
That thought alone is enough to make him want to drown himself in the porridge-looking stuff in Sarek’s bowl. He refrains. As always, his proudest moments are the ones only he gets to know about.
‘A suitable match,’ Jim agrees, remembering too late the Vulcan disapproval of unnecessary repetition. ‘I’ll go talk things over with my suitable match right now, then, and leave the two of you to your breakfast.’
‘Of course, Prince James.’ Lady Amanda nods with more warmth than Sarek. Jim stands, doesn’t trip over his own feet, and successfully pulls off a second bow, all without passing out.
He’s getting acclimatized to Vulcan. Spending time off-planet is going to jack that up, undo all the progress he’s made. That makes another challenge he’s courting. Maybe if he’s fainting and Spock has to catch him all the time, he might squeeze some pity out of him at last.
It’s a long shot, but if Spock’s back in his chambers and isn’t expecting Jim to turn up, he might be able to catch him off-guard, or at least on whatever kind of guard he keeps when he thinks he’s alone. If Jim had his PADD, he’d send Spock a message, like old times. Hey, Spock. What are you wearing?
As frustrating as the long-distance stuff was, at least it was understandably frustrating.
Jim tugs at the hem of his shirt, letting air pass between the cotton and his skin. It’s not the coolest of breezes, but it’s enough to tickle the sweat on his belly. Then, he enters the security clearance code and his fingerprints at the door and steps inside.
At first glance, it looks like the room’s empty, but that’s only because Jim’s looking in the wrong places. It’s not empty at all; Spock’s not by the desk or the bed or heading in to meditate but standing by the window, changing out of his council robes and into the sweater Jim remembers running his fingers against—and under.
Jim watches, throat tight, chest tighter, as Spock’s head disappears into the fabric, his bare back and the furrow of his spine facing the door, muscles tightening under the fall of graceful shadows. His fingertips appear past the hems of his sleeves and Jim manages to swallow, a noise loud enough that Spock turns to look straight at him once the sweater’s on.
‘Hey,’ Jim says.
‘I was just...’ Jim reminds himself this is where he lives—for the time being—and he has as much right to be here staring at Spock while he’s half naked as Spock has a right to be half naked and ignoring Jim at the same time. ‘Wanted to talk to you, actually. About this Romulan good-will mission we’re going on.’
There are a few traces of Sarek in Spock when his eyebrow raises and not enough of Lady Amanda for Jim to feel remotely comfortable. ‘We?’ he asks.
It occurs to Jim that this might’ve been Spock’s play at putting distance between them, his chance to get away. That lump in his throat is only getting bigger. There’s no way that’s happening. ‘A united front,’ Jim says. ‘We’re married now. Husband and husband. And I don’t know the specifics of the ceremony we went through in the desert, but if you go off without me, it’s gonna look pretty bad to anyone following along back home.’
‘I had not volunteered you to accompany me as I would not presume to know what your choice in the matter would be.’ Spock makes it all sound so reasonable. ‘I take it my mother must have informed you, after Sarek informed her of my departure.’
‘Our departure,’ Jim says.
‘Neither of us has departed yet,’ Spock says. His version of a concession, no doubt.
Jim can acknowledge that. Working in the name of peace is what he needs to set his mind toward. He read somewhere that it’s impossible to go into negotiations with an ego. Jim always figured it’d be impossible to strip him of his, but if he wants to make this work with Spock, then he’s willing to strip himself of a whole lot more than that.
He only wishes that was a solution to this particular problem.
‘…But when there is a departure, we’re gonna be going together. You and me, winning over the Romulans. Shaking hands and kissing babies. Well, I guess you wouldn’t want to do either of those things. That’s human politics. I don’t know much about how you do things in the Alpha Quadrant, but I think I can handle a goodwill mission.’
Spock’s shoulders hitch upward, a minute gesture that Jim only spots because he’s watched him so closely. They lower in the same breath.
‘I have observed that you are given to speaking in more decisive terms when you are convinced of your suitability for certain positions.’
‘Yeah,’ Jim says. ‘But I’ve been given reason to believe my confidence in certain positions might’ve been a little misplaced.’
There’s no immediate reply. Spock doesn’t leap to defend himself or to correct Jim’s assumptions. Instead, he blinks like he can’t understand the source of the outburst—or worse, like he doesn’t recognize it as an outburst at all.
Jim’s starting to rethink some of the enthusiasm he poured into chasing after the most difficult thing he could set his sights on. He wrestled this life away from Sam, but at what cost?
Now’s probably not the time to start feeling sorry for himself. Romulans can smell self-pity a mile away—and it still has to be better than constantly sweating through his clothes.
‘You are agitated.’
A normal person would sit on the bed or at least offer Jim a seat. But Spock’s more comfortable standing; it probably doesn’t even occur to him that Jim might not feel the same way.
Apparently there are a few things that haven’t occurred to Spock. Like how Jim might be feeling on edge after their fooling around got cut voluntarily short. If he was thinking about it, he would’ve followed up on Jim’s lead. Instead, he’s just ignoring it.
Not ignoring Jim—which would’ve made it easier to get angry—but the situation altogether.
It’s enough to make a guy feel like he’s losing his mind.
Desert hallucinations. Are those a thing?
‘You know how it is.’ Jim shrugs, one shoulder coming up slower than the other. ‘Everyone gets nervous when they travel.’
‘Your use of the word ‘everyone’ is a generalization that requires narrower specifications. Perhaps you refer to all humans—yet that, too, cannot be unequivocally true.’
Something pinches Jim’s temple. It could be a Spock-related twitch or tic. At the same time, the frustrating conversation he’s been starved for all this time—the conversation only Spock can provide—is finally his again. This is what he was missing. ‘Okay, Spock. Okay. It was a generalization.’ Jim sits on the edge of the bed without being invited, shoving back and kicking up his feet. Spock watches him with that cool outsider’s gaze. ‘It’s our first mission together. Maybe I’m just looking forward to it. It’s not like I think it’s going to be easy.’
‘You have already expressed in previous communications your preference for a presented challenge,’ Spock says.
Jim has to look away. He chooses the ceiling, then the view out the window, the same desert mountains he’s stared at for sleepless hours and seen again, a distorted reflection of the truth, in troubled sleep. ‘Don’t worry, Spock. It’s not like I think you chose to put your name into the mix for my sake or anything.’
‘I submitted my candidacy because it was logical.’
‘Sure. Logical. Well, it’s only logical for me to come along for the ride.’
Spock nods at that.
‘Not to mention,’ Jim continues, ‘it’d be pretty inappropriate for newlyweds to have to split up so soon after they get married.’
‘Should our duties require our physical separation, I had assumed we would continue our communications as we operated prior to our meeting.’
Of course. Spock wants to put a screen between them again.
Jim can give him that.
He rolls over, reaching for the PADD he left on the bedside table, listening to Vulcan pronunciation before finally passing out in a dif-tor heh smusma daze last night. The last message from Spock is still there, staring up at him like an accusation. Remember when things were still the promise of touching each other and not the truth of blowing your shot?
Jim flops back against the pillows while Spock observes him with a clinical curiosity.
Hey, Jim writes.
On Spock’s desk, his PADD flashes.
‘Jim,’ Spock says, ‘as we are more than capable of conversing traditionally—’
‘I don’t know—it seemed to me like you were missing the old days.’ Jim wiggles the PADD, letting some of his restless energy out however he can. ‘Figured I’d indulge you. Since we are husbands.’
‘It was not my intent to exhibit typical human signs of nostalgia.’
Pick up your PADD, Jim types.
Spock’s PADD flashes again.
‘Meanwhile, you can indulge me,’ Jim says, and nods toward Spock’s desk.
Jim can practically hear the rusty hinges grinding, like clenched molars in the night, as Spock accepts the necessity of playing along despite what logic dictates. He lifts his PADD in both hands, the light from the screen playing across his face.
Jim always wanted to know what he looked like in these moments. Turns out it’s the same as he always looks, even though there were things Spock wrote, things he recorded, that used to make Jim melt.
Jim, I need not inform you that this is highly unusual.
Sure. You need not. How are you, Spock?
Spock looks up from his screen. ‘Jim, you are capable of seeing for yourself—’
You’re being stubborn, Spock. Stubborn’s a human trait.
Spock’s jaw locks up in the reflected glow of the PADD. The sight shouldn’t give Jim as much satisfaction as it does, but this is what he’s been reduced to: scrabbling for any kind of sign that he’s able to reach his own husband, even if it is through a screen.
Because he sure as hell hasn’t done a good job of reaching him man to man.
Jim’s PADD flashes. I cannot participate in this.
Jim scoffs, letting Spock hear it. They’ve already gotten intimate, so now they’re about to get real intimate. Let Spock see what it was like for Jim on the other side of the screen all those months.
You’re already participating, Spock.
Spock lifts his head to look at Jim. This time, Jim keeps his face down, concentrating on the screen in front of him. He said it himself: stubbornness is a human trait. Who better to demonstrate that than the human-est of all the humanoids currently on Vulcan?
Very well, Jim. I am well. Today, the Vulcan High Council suggested that, as prince of the first family of Vulcan, it would be seen as a great gesture if I were to accompany the goodwill tour of the Alpha Quadrant. I could find no fault with their assessment and thus I agreed to their terms.
Uh huh, Jim types. Romulans are crazy.
Spock makes a noise in the back of his throat, small and potentially exasperated. He doesn’t look up at Jim this time, but rather sits back against the desk, stretching his long legs out ahead of him.
You claim you wish to join me and yet you employ dialogue which I know to be offensive. This is a contradiction in terms.
Jim kicks back on Spock’s bed, wiggling his shoulders against all those soft pillows he can’t possibly use or enjoy. He wouldn’t be so stiff all the time if he did.
I’m a contradictory person.
That much is evident.
Jim grins, a flash of a smile he can’t quite hide under the edge of his PADD. He’s not sure what he thinks he’s got to smile about. By all means this should feel like a setback, the final phaser-shot on a lost cause: they’re officially going backwards in their relationship, devolving instead of evolving.
But Jim can’t be anything but tickled that Spock’s playing along with him. That has to mean something.
He hasn’t felt this close to him since blowjobus interruptus. And if that’s not something that leaves him feeling messed up, then he’s officially a lost cause.
Sure. I’m the contradictory one. You ever hear of the popular human phrase ‘takes one to know one’?
You had not included it in your dictionary of colloquialisms.
It would seem your implications are that I am equally contradictory.
Maybe. Just not about the Romulans. Jim lifts his eyes over the edge of his PADD, staring at Spock from across the room. It’s only a single chamber; the distance is negligible, barely more than a fraction of a hiccup compared to the lightyears Jim traveled from Earth to Vulcan. But it’s all relative—and it seems as insurmountable as if they were in separate bedrooms on separate worlds at separate hours.
Jim bites his bottom lip. Some people find that move attractive but Spock can’t even see it from this angle.
About what have I proven contradictory, Jim?
Come on, Spock. Use that huge, amazing, superior brain of yours. I bet you can figure it out.
For the first time—a blink and you’ll miss it moment—Jim sees Spock hesitate, a pause just obvious enough that the triumph should be less bitter than it is. Congratulations, James Tiberius Kirk. Managing to make your own husband stop to think about you for more than a cursory acknowledgement of your presence—what a grand achievement.
You yourself have given voice to matters of perspective. What may appear self-evident to you is not necessarily the same to me.
Sure. That makes sense. Jim bites down harder on his bottom lip, a long pause that’d torture anybody else. Spock simply waits, as patient as a Vulcan. Also as hot as Vulcan. Jim would be able to formulate his argument better on any other planet but this one. So let’s put it into diplomatic terms. You like those, right? You ever feel like you’re getting somewhere with, I don’t know, the Tellarites, and then suddenly, in the middle of talks, all that progress you made, they just shut down and walk out and don’t tell you why?
Tellarites are notoriously capricious.
Spock blinks. Jim stares at him. Spock stares back.
You’re the Tellarites, Spock. In this metaphor.
The analogy is hardly an accurate one.
You’re. The. Tellarites. Spock.
Spock’s pause is torture for Jim. He doesn’t have that Vulcan stoicism to weather it the same way.
If this is a parallel with which you have been experiencing frustration, Jim, you had only to broach the matter with me.
You didn’t exactly make it easy for me, Spock. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve had a chance to see you alone the past two days, much less speak to you. Jim waits for Spock to read that one, then raises one hand. Three fingers. Spock won’t be able to take issue with his calculations because Jim was being overly generous. Rounding up.
There were matters of state; it was my duty to attend them.
I waited up for you, Spock.
I had not requested that you make that sacrifice.
It’s not a sacrifice. It’s not supposed to be a sacrifice. Jim rakes his fingers through his hair. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that he’s getting nowhere.
‘Jim,’ Spock says.
Uh-uh. We’re doing this.
‘Jim, you claim a desire for closer communication, and yet you persist in pursuing a method that places considerable distance between us.’
Sucks when you don’t understand where someone’s coming from and it’s impossible to get them to explain themselves, right?
Jim’s pushing it now, but he’s never been satisfied with stopping at just enough. He always has to cross the line, go one step further than strictly necessary. He thought it was a trait that’d help him overcome Spock’s reticence. He’s still not entirely convinced he was wrong, although Spock seems bent on persuading him.
He can’t be doing it on purpose, but knowing that doesn’t make it better.
Spock shifts his index finger along the edge of his PADD. It’s the Vulcan version of a fidget. Jim should feel all warm and tingly knowing he’s gotten under Spock’s skin like that, but between Spock running away with Jim’s head between his legs and his lukewarm reception to the announcement of the little trip they’ll be taking together, Jim’s not in a position to be proud of much.
You are being deliberately obtuse.
Who says it’s deliberate?
I have inferred as much based on past observation of your demonstrable intuition and forethought.
Only Spock would think to drop a compliment like that smack in the middle of an argument. Maybe he’s so Vulcan he doesn’t realize that they’re arguing. Or maybe that has something to do with the fact that Jim hasn’t made up his mind whether they’re reconciling or not.
Trying to make it up to me by engaging in a little sweet-talking, huh?
My speech cannot be characterized as saccharine or possessed of any other taste. In addition, it cannot be said that we are talking, as you have insisted we abide by the parameters of text-based communications.
It’s an expression, Spock.
That is an explanation you present with increasing frequency.
I can’t help it if it’s true.
It is a wonder humans learn to communicate with one another at all, if so many of their phrasings have no explanation other than simple tradition.
Jim shifts, covering a yawn with the PADD in his hand.
Well, we’re pretty wonderful as a race.
You are speaking facetiously.
Careful, Spock—you’re on your way to a diplomatic incident yourself there.
Spock crosses his legs at the ankle, then straightens himself out again, like he didn’t mean to get so relaxed. Jim has to wonder if it’s his presence that has him on edge or if this is what Spock’s always like when he’s alone.
It was not my intent to insult.
It sure came across as one.
It was never my intent to insult.
I know Surak’s big on intent, Spock, but intent’s not all that matters. Not all the time.
Even when it is clearly stated and uncompromisingly expressed, providing the necessary clarification to elucidate matters and eliminate confusion?
Even then. Jim steals another glance. He shouldn’t have to do that with his own husband, but here he is. Spock’s profile is handsome, obscure; his fingers are slim on the frame of his PADD. Jim was sitting in his lap three days ago. Jim turned him on that night—there were certain, inarguable indicators that it really happened. He swallows, his throat like a desert. That must make his ribcage the mountains, and his heart a mutinous le-matya lurking in the valleys below.
Though it was never my intent to insult, I have insulted you. You have taken personal offense not only at my suggestion that humanity as a race is ‘pretty wonderful’ but also at my actions when you were in my bed.
Jim’s glad for the PADD between them for once. This way, Spock won’t see his cheeks flushing with a combination of frustration, misery, and embarrassment. No kidding. See? I told you that you’d figure it out if you thought it through.
I had attempted to give you your ‘space’ as suggested in the various human relationship guides I consulted, having consulted them to determine what the best course of action would be when one has been unable to achieve sexual release with a spouse.
Jim almost drops the PADD. His mouth’s definitely hanging open. What the paps wouldn’t give to have a picture of him like this. That’s one small point in Vulcan’s favor: Jim can be baffled by his husband without seeing it in the next hour’s headlines. Seriously, Spock?
I am not joking. I have not yet grasped the subtleties involved in the application of human humor.
You didn’t exactly look like somebody unable to achieve sexual release back then. Just saying. I had firsthand evidence.
You have misunderstood the situation.
Care to enlighten me, or should we spend the entire Romulan trip not talking to each other?
That would not be preferable.
Jim waits for more to come. It doesn’t. ‘Spock. Come on.’
Spock lifts his head. ‘Are we speaking at last, Jim?’
‘Shit.’ No. We’re not. Something tells me you’re not gonna put this into words anyway. Are you telling me I didn’t do anything wrong back then?
You were not the one whose actions that night could be considered erroneous.
Well up until you practically left burn marks in the floor getting the hell away from me I didn’t think the word ‘erroneous’ even once!!!
It was my understanding that I should not force my presence or conversation upon you while you were yet disappointed by my inability to participate.
Jim chokes back a groan. SPOCK. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED
I could not, Jim. There is no need to over-use capitalization for the sake of emphasis. However, if it is representing anger, I cannot instruct you how to feel.
Not anger. F R U S T R A T I O N ! ! ! !
As your typing has now become erratic, would it not be prudent to shift the means of our communication to speech?
you’re avoiding the question.
Jim doesn’t have to write in caps. He can change the whole thing around if he has to, get small instead. He’s not about to do it for Spock’s satisfaction but he’s not above messing around with him either. It’s not a very charitable way to go about things.
Fortunately, he never listed that among any of his other prominent assets.
Spock doesn’t move. The simple act of doing nothing has never been quite so infuriating on its own.
Jim promised himself he wouldn’t hold his breath over anything Spock-related since their last encounter, and here he is breaking his own word. At least he’s not looking at him.
are you for real spock
Is your lack of proper capitalization an overreaction to my earlier comment on your erratic typing?
you think i’m that petty wait no don’t answer that answer my first question if you’re actually gonna answer any of my questions at any point
Jim’s all too aware that he’s treading on thin ice. He’s in no position to make demands, that’s for sure. It’s not like he can threaten to throw Spock out of his own room if he fails to comply. And if he leaves, then he’s going to be shooting all his hard work in the foot—the foot he finally got in the door.
Jim might not be discerning about his phaser fire but he likes to pretend he’s grown out of self-sabotage.
‘Jim,’ Spock says.
Jim taps the PADD screen, though this time it’s a near thing that keeps him from glancing up—responding to Spock’s question. Spock returns to his typing after the briefest hint of a reaction; with anyone else, they’d be asking Jim to stop being a pain in the ass.
Nothing happened, Jim, because I could not allow anything to happen.
That’s more like it, although Jim can’t say it’s the answer he was looking for.
You’re gonna have to elaborate on that one for me, Spock.
In the beginning of our correspondence, you inquired after my intentions toward the Vulcan lifestyle. While I informed you that I did not intend to undergo the Rite of Kolinahr, I have nonetheless committed myself to embracing the ideals which any Vulcan would hold in high regard. Therefore, I could not allow such a release of emotions as the one which you sought to provoke in me.
Jim bites his lip, but he can’t pull the words out of the dry air and swallow them back into his mouth.
‘I had already made those intentions of mine clear to you. I did not realize I would need to refer you to our correspondence once again.’
‘Yeah, well, unlike some people, I don’t have everything memorized.’ Jim sucks in a breath, heart hammering. ‘We talked about the— I mean, you never said you weren’t gonna—’
‘I could not postulate. I had no examples to consult. I had intended to wait until such a time as evidence was provided. I found that it proved, in the moment, impracticable,’ Spock says. He stares out the window instead of looking at Jim; it wouldn’t be so bad if Jim could wager a guess at what, exactly, Spock sees out there. It’s bound to be something different from what Jim sees when he stares at the desert in the morning, getting his eyes used to all that sunlight all over again. If he could just figure it out—if Spock could just show him a damn hint, take his hand, give him a break—but it’s not gonna happen. Even if it did, it wouldn’t be the same as Jim understanding on his own. ‘I could not. If you find the arrangements as they are untenable—’
‘I didn’t say that.’
‘—I do not intend to have you go without that which is natural to you.’ Spock pauses; the next word doesn’t come easily, not that Jim enjoys seeing him struggle. Not like this. ‘Pleasurable to you, even. I would not deny you that. The time that we spent together when you were in the bath was not unpleasant for me. Likewise, you made your position on that experience obvious.’
‘That’s not how it’s supposed to work, Spock,’ Jim says. ‘Not that I’ve been married before or anything, but you can’t just have a thing be one-sided like that.’ Can they? Jim’s not as sure as he should be, definitely not sure enough to make the case to Spock and have him buy it.
‘As I have already said, if you find the arrangements—’
‘What’ll happen then, Spock? We get a Vulcan divorce? That’s what’s untenable.’
‘Then we must endeavor to reconcile our differences,’ Spock replies.
Jim snorts. ‘Diplomatically, right? Like real diplomats.’
‘I am sorry, Jim.’ Spock’s still staring at a distant, dusty outcropping of rocks. ‘Do not scoff at diplomacy as a whole in response to a failure of mine.’
‘I didn’t say you’d failed, either,’ Jim mutters. Suddenly he’s arguing for Spock instead of with him—or arguing with Spock on behalf of the Spock that doesn’t seem to get a voice in any argument Spock’s ever had before. ‘You weren’t comfortable. That’s what you’re saying. You couldn’t— It wasn’t what you felt comfortable with.’
‘In a manner of speaking.’
‘In my manner of speaking?’ Spock nods stiffly. ‘Okay. Okay, that’s...something. I can— We can work with that.’
Spock turns at last, meeting Jim’s eyes. There’s something sad about them—not that Spock would appreciate the description—and just like that, Jim’s anger twists in his gut to something else. Something sadder, winded, even a little lost, but extra determined for it. If that’s a Vulcan debate trick, then Jim has to give up on any chance of coming out on top in the future. ‘Are you certain of that, Jim?’
‘No.’ Stupid Vulcan honesty. ‘I’m not. But it’s not like we— Hey, Spock, nothing’s certain.’
Spock bristles. ‘There are scientific theorems—’
‘Screw ‘em,’ Jim says.
‘One does not simply dismiss the collected works of prominent—’
‘Screw science,’ Jim says. He draws out the syllables, mouthing the words big enough that Spock can see them while leaning toward him on the bed, letting the PADD slide between his stomach and his knees.
Spock’s eyebrow goes up. It’s familiar, as friendly as a wave from someone with his strict Vulcan principles.
‘Are you being deliberately provocative in an attempt to stimulate further dialogue?’
Jim wiggles his own eyebrows, buoyed by a levity he doesn’t actually feel. He’s not sure what he just agreed to. It wasn’t a sexless marriage—if it was just that, then they’d have a lot more to discuss, but at least Jim would understand it better.
Spock’s unexpected insistence that they should have some kind of weird, one-sided relationship is way more offensive than not having one at all. Jim doesn’t want to be accommodated.
He doesn’t want to be the kind of exception someone makes because they have to.
‘I don’t know, Spock,’ Jim says. ‘At least I’d be stimulating something.’
Spock sets his PADD on the desk behind him. He doesn’t cross his arms; instead, he rests his hand on either side of his hips where he’s braced against the desk.
‘You are displeased.’
‘I’m not thrilled,’ Jim admits. ‘But I’m not bailing out, either.’
He’s still here. He doesn’t know whether that’s something Spock noticed for himself or if it’s something that needed pointing out, but either way it’s a statement in its own right. Jim comes from a long line of people who storm out when they feel like they aren’t getting their due.
That and people like Sam, who cut and ran at the first sight of responsibility.
Jim’s his own man. And, like Bones keeps reminding him, he asked for this.
He made his bed and now he has to lie in it.
Right now he’s lying in Spock’s bed.
It’s a very confusing metaphor.
‘I have a suggestion,’ Spock says. Then he waits, like he’s holding out for Jim to give him permission to continue.
‘I propose that we continue to share one another’s company during this period of uncertainty.’
‘Is that your way of asking me to stay the night with you? ’Cause it could use some work.’
Jim takes his boots off the bed, brushing the stray grains of sand off Spock’s woven blankets. Now that there’s room for more in his head than his own anger, he’s thinking he might’ve done some disagreeable things himself.
It’s more confusing than he thought it could be—and he prepared himself for the worst. At least, he thought he did. None of those worst-case scenarios ever saw him butting heads with this particular problem, with a husband who didn’t want to feel anything.
They shared plenty. They should be able to share everything. Jim’s head hurts; his back hurts more. His heart doesn’t, but only because he doesn’t have the resources to spare. And it’s not like he can accept a backrub when there’s nothing he can give in return, when the scales are unbalanced, when he feels like he has to be keeping track.
Equality. Understanding. Spock wants him around—but Spock doesn’t want him too close. Jim can’t live at arm’s length and he can’t live with the idea of taking without giving. Sooner or later—and most likely sooner—it’ll come to a boiling point.
‘A united front,’ Jim says finally, after the silence has gone on for too long. ‘That’s what you’re asking for, huh? Because anything else would look bad in front of the Romulans. Or because you miss sleeping in your own bed after I...took over it without even asking.’
‘Jim,’ Spock replies.
Jim huffs, wishing the sound it made wasn’t so close to one of Bones’ grunts. ‘Yeah?’
‘You did not have to ask.’
There it is. Something inexplicably, unequivocally romantic, a kind of tenderness that Jim would pull close against his chest and hold all night if he could. ‘Apparently I did,’ Jim says. ‘Just...not about the bed thing.’
He puts his socked feet up on the mattress, an arm behind his head. Spock’s there across the room, stiff in all the wrong ways. It’s too early in the day to feel this tired.
‘Fine, Spock. We’ll work on it. When we’re not working on the Romulans.’ He throws one leg over the other. ‘So what’ve we got on our schedules for this goodwill mission to the Alpha Quadrant, anyway?’