The universe is cooking something.
Jim Kirk is certain of it, because it’s never this peaceful and quiet on his ship for any measurable stretch of time. He’s been trying not to breathe too loudly and spook it for two weeks now, but hostile aliens and deadly, unexplained viruses simply refused to pay them a visit. Not even your common spatial anomaly that will screw up the whole realm if you don’t figure it out before the gong.
Nothing. Zip. Nada.
Jim isn’t usually is a peace-and-quiet kind of guy, but it’s been a taxing few years, even for him. It still feels more than a little unnatural to enjoy the respite while it lasts, though he does his best not to freak out. Who knows – maybe that’s what growing up should feel like.
Creepy or not, though, they’re en route for Starbase 11 for some long-awaited shore leave and some much-needed repairs.
Bones had convinced Jim to reduce everybody’s duty hours. Spock predicted that this would lead to a disaster, but Jim did it anyway, because Chekov was making puppy eyes at him and Spock generally looks adorable when he’s pissed off.
After two weeks of being wary of his own shower, though, Jim begins to think that Spock might have had a point. The no-tears baby boys’ favorite shampoo that has replaced his usual Old Spice High Endurance hair and body wash – what? He just likes the smell – is one thing; but rose oil-scented water is a whole other matter (and how do those fuckers keep sneaking into his quarters anyway?).
Jim would suspect Scotty, but no man alone, not even one that devious, could be responsible for the ruthless prank war that has been devastating the ship for days now. No one is safe. Not even Uhura is immune, and that’s, like, big. Jim’s pretty sure it was her bra anyway, because he can personally vouch that she wears sensible underwear, and come on, how many girls nowadays even do that?
Sulu has shown up just this morning with his hair dyed green, and that’s just vile. The ship’s computer doesn’t accept any of Chekov’s voice commands unless he adds some specific Russian swear word at the end of each one, which never fails to make him turn red like a deeply ashamed tomato.
Clearly, it’s a conspiracy.
Not that Jim doesn’t understand the urge. It’s just that, they could have asked him to join in, couldn’t they? Of course, he’s the captain and is supposed to be a responsible adult...
On the other hand, he is the captain and a responsible adult. Which totally sucks, but seems to have grown on him.
Leaving his ready room, Jim walks into the bridge and stops by the turbolift, grinning, because this is totally predictable. The whole universe might be on light duty, but Spock would still be in full alert mode, working his ass off, because that’s just who he is.
Jim strolls toward the science station, trying to remain as stealthy as possible. He places a hand at the back of Spock’s chair and leans over.
Spock has some kind of scary looking structure on his screen that could be anything from a hyperbranched molecule of a mutant space thread to a ‘new’ New Age slinky seen from outer space by an Orion spy satellite. With Spock, one just never knows.
Without looking up, or indeed moving so much as a muscle, Spock speaks.
“If you are about to ask whether or not I was the one who reprogrammed the replicators to supply you with super glue when you ask for coffee, Captain, then the answer is no; it was not me.”
Jim grins, leaning against Spock’s console and facing him. “I would never think that, Mr. Spock. I know you better than that.”
“Indeed.” Spock glances up at him. “The swimming suit competition, on the other hand…”
“Spock!” Jim’s mouth falls open. “You didn’t!”
“I fear I did.”
“Why? What on Earth possessed you? I thought we were in this together!”
Spock leans back in his chair, steepling his fingers. “Lieutenant Uhura convinced me to change my mind.”
“What the hell could she possibly say to you to get you to agree to this? It’s humiliating.”
“Lieutenant Uhura said I looked ‘fantastic’ in a swimming suit.”
Jim will have to kill her. “Of course she did.”
“She also said it would be good for the ship’s morale.” Spock pauses. “Jim. We need a distraction. After Ansom…”
And God no, Jim doesn’t want to think about that mission ever again. No matter how long he has been captain, no matter how good he is at it – every time he loses a crewmember, he can’t help but feel like a complete failure. To lose nine people in one day...
Spock sat with him and tried to exorcise Jim’s guilt with logical incantations till his throat was sore, but Spock was feeling it, too. Blind leading the blind indeed, which, inexplicably, made it better.
“Yeah.” Jim rubs his eyes tiredly. “I know.” He claps Spock on the shoulder and grins, spooking away the ghosts by sheer force of will. It’s the season of celebration, right?
“Okay. If you’re in, I’m in, too. Don’t look too surprised when I beat you.”
“You would also have to ‘beat’ the entire senior staff—”
“I’m fine with it.”
“—and department heads.”
“Shit.” Jim massages his neck awkwardly. “Lindsey Wells is totally hot. Hey!” He brightens up as an idea crosses his mind. “Entire senior staff – that means Uhura, too, right? I can live with a second place if it means I get to see her in a bikini.”
Spock regards him as if Jim is a fascinating new strain of bacteria. “You have seen Lieutenant Uhura naked on more than one occasion. Compared to this, how is seeing her in a bikini exciting?”
“Well, she won’t be covered in blood or dying on my hands, for one,” Jim points out. “Also, there’s just something about that little bit of clothing, Spock, you know? Like, seeing a girl naked is awesome and all, but bikini is just so – tantalizing. Like, she’s almost naked, right, but there’s still some room for imagination.”
“Very little, in my experience,” Spock notes casually, adjusting a few controls on his console.
“Killjoy.” Jim smirks. “You know, if I didn’t know better, I’d say we have you totally humanized.”
“I prefer to think of it as ‘cultural adjustment.’ I exist in a mostly human environment. Certain concessions are logical.”
“Like being ogled by nearly naked women to improve ship morale?”
“Among other things.”
“Someone might want to take you home,” Jim teases, grinning.
“Lieutenant Uhura has promised to protect me from overly enthusiastic females.”
“What about the males?”
“—said that, in such a case, it would be your job.”
“She did, did she?” Jim feels his cheeks flush. “Well, I gotta tell you, Spock, women are really more my specialization, naked or not.”
“I can’t believe you two are discussing naked women on the bridge.” Jim looks up to see Uhura standing beside her station, smirking at them menacingly. “Really, Spock. Kirk has no sense, but I expected better from you. Of all the demeaning, misogynist, idiotic—”
“Hey, there’s no need to go all barracuda on us.” Jim raises his hands defensively. “Can’t we just be two guys talking about guy stuff? We’re allowed, you know. It’s not like he’s still your boyfriend.”
Uhura pins him with a steely look. “He and you should be very grateful about that.”
“Oh really.” Jim sends her a grin that’s as dirty as he can make it. “How are things with Doctor Frankenstein going? Hey!” he yells when she kicks him in the shin.
“Don’t call him that,” Uhura snaps. “Richard’s awesome. He’s ten times the man you are.”
“How’s that even possible?” Jim wonders. “I mean, he looks like an overgrown armadillo.”
“He happens to be very sensitive!”
“I’ll just bet he does.”
“He’s intelligent! Tactful! Oh, and Kirk?” Her smirk turns evil. “The sex is amazing. You’ve got nothing on him in bed.”
“And how would you know?” Spock asks, tilting his head and peering at Uhura curiously. “You were in a relationship with me up until you – what is the expression? – ‘hooked up’ with Doctor Williams. Is there something you neglected to tell me, Nyota?”
Jim bursts out laughing. Uhura shoots him a death glare before snapping at Spock, cheeks flushing, “Don’t be ridiculous! You don’t really think I’d sleep with him, of all people.”
“You appeared to be very confident in your appraisal.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, I just happened to see him on the dance floor, okay? He was horrible.”
“Hey!” Jim protests. “Don’t listen to her, Spock; I’m a great dancer!”
“You hid it really well, too. I had to wash my eyes, Kirk. With soap.”
“It was one time! And I was drunk!”
“Aren’t you always?”
“Excuse me, Captain?” someone asks hesitantly.
“Hold on a second.” Jim glares at Uhura, raising a finger at her in a dignified manner. “I would love to continue our discussion about your perverted view of my drinking habits and how you don’t like me ogling naked women on the bridge, but I have important ship’s business to attend to, so please excuse me.
“Yes?” He turns around and blinks. “Oh my God, what are you, fourteen? I thought we didn’t approve of child labor.”
“I – I’m nineteen, sir,” a very young-looking girl stammers, handing him a PADD. “Yeoman Stacy Grey. I was told to give you this.” She swallows around what looks like a huge lump in her throat and confesses miserably, “This is my first shift on the bridge.”
Behind Jim, Uhura starts to giggle, not exactly succeeding in muffling the sound with her hand. Spock straightens in his chair and stares determinedly at his screen, his shoulders quivering once slightly.
Jim grits his teeth, signing a report and handing it back to the girl, who seems scared out of her wits.
Jim flashes a grin at her. “Welcome aboard. We’re happy to have you.”
If anything, she looks even more terrified, taking the PADD from him quickly and retreating toward the turbolift at an alarming speed.
“Well done, Captain,” Uhura says sweetly.
“Indeed – a very inspirational welcome for a newly transferred crewmember,” Spock agrees with an undercurrent of driest sarcasm. “It truly is a travesty to have it restricted to this vessel only.”
“I’m thinking of returning you both to the shop, you know,” Jim informs them glumly. “I’m thinking really hard about that.”
“Don’t overstrain yourself.” Uhura pats his back delicately. “You never know when you might need those two remaining brain cells of yours.”
“You suck.” Jim pouts at her. “I want a refund.”
“That’s what I said when they gave you the ship, so get in line, Kirk,” Uhura tells him pleasantly before dancing toward the turbolift, picking up her PADD on the way.
Jim stares at Spock accusingly. “Why the hell did the two of you break up? When you guys were dating, she behaved!”
Spock looks at him, eyebrow raised.
“Okay,” Jim concedes, “she never behaved. But at least you did.”
Spock is looking at him still, his expression unchanged. Jim sighs. “Fine. You know what? I’m out of here.”
“A wise decision, Captain. I believe we have had quite enough revelations for one day.”
Jim grins at him. “The day is still young, Spock.”
Spock blinks and seems mildly alarmed. “Unfortunately.”
Snorting, Jim pats him on the back, and grins wider when Spock doesn’t look particularly comforted.
It has become something of a tradition for the Alpha bridge crew to have breakfast together, even though they didn’t consciously aim for it.
In fact, if Jim remembers correctly, it all started with him sitting next to Spock just to annoy Uhura in the early days of their mission, using the fact that they chose a big table as an excuse.
Bones usually tagged along – if he was conscious for at least thirty minutes before the shift started, and if only to snipe at Jim’s food choices. As perfect an image of a not-morning person and a hypocrite that he really was, Bones rarely could force any breakfast down, which made him extra grumpy (not that there was much room left to expand in that direction).
There was also that morning when Scotty was nursing a hangover and made a suicidal attempt to find sympathy in Uhura, of all people, and Chekov used the distraction to try and impress Spock with some newly disproved mathematical theory. Spock was, apparently, more willing to allow someone to try and impress him if that someone wasn’t Jim, and Chekov was too much of a fanboy to catch up on being let down gently, so, several days later, Jim practically dragged Sulu over to join them so that he’d have someone halfway sane to talk about normal stuff like cars and women. (It took him a while to realize that Sulu wasn’t really much on the whole women thing, but it hardly even mattered by that point.)
This morning starts much as usual, with Jim waltzing into the officers’ mess and flashing a smile at everyone, greeting them cheerily and getting annoyed grunts in return. Jim knows he’s extra annoying in the mornings because he, as it turns out, happens to actually be a morning person, and he uses this advantage shamelessly.
He’s surveying the table, trying to select the victim of the day, and he’s almost settled on Uhura’s boyfriend – who really is a brilliant physician, according to McCoy, and generally seems like a nice guy, but – Uhura’s boyfriend. That’s pretty much asking for it, in Jim’s book.
Jim sucks in enough air to launch an attack when the doors open behind him and Spock comes in.
“Ah. Captain.” Spock slides into a seat next to Jim, looking crisp and pristine as first snow. Spock isn’t a morning person, either, but he deals with it by not going to bed at all every other night. “We need to discuss supply requisitions before we reach the Starbase.”
Jim grins brightly at him. “Hey, sunshine. Good morning to you, too. Sleep well?”
Spock actually looks up from his PADD and stares at him. “Define ‘well.’”
“Oh, you know.” Jim lets his eyes droop dreamily. “Like you’ve just had sex with two Deltan strippers who sucked your brains out through your dick and maybe other body parts and then called in their big Klingon brother to have his way with you.”
Bones groans and makes a valiant attempt to drown in his coffee; Doctor Williams chokes on a piece of toast while Uhura pats his hand consolingly, shooting Jim a nasty look.
Spock stares at Jim blankly, and yeah, dirty talk stopped making Spock blush a long time ago, but it’s still fun to watch him take it. Spock seems to be becoming more unflappable with every new step up the endless stairs of obnoxious that Jim takes. (Entirely on purpose.)
“Captain,” Spock starts carefully, “please reassure me that you do not speak from personal experience.”
“Well, Spock, I didn’t mean to brag, but—”
“Yes, he did,” Uhura says flatly, and Jim really doesn’t like the glint in her eyes. “He’s trying to impress you with his sexual prowess and turning our stomachs in the process. Maybe he’d shut up if you told him about that one time when you, me, and Gaila—”
“Finish that sentence at your own peril,” Spock interrupts quickly, as all heads snap up in his direction. “My apologies, Doctor Williams.”
“Not to worry, Commander,” Williams replies calmly, even though his face looks like one could fry eggs on it. “She’s quite a handful.”
“That,” Spock says, “is an understatement.”
Uhura smiles sweetly at him. “Love you, too, honey.”
“I’m going to be sick,” Bones announces, looking at no one in particular. “So, so sick.”
Chekov’s eyes go huge and round at that, and he tentatively pushes a piece of lime toward McCoy. Sulu drops his face to his palms with a heavy thud, not that Jim can blame him.
“Captain.” Spock’s voice sounds strained and he’s still glaring at Uhura. “Requisitions. Supplies. Before we reach the Starbase. If you please.”
“Sure,” Jim says, because he’s feeling magnanimous and because he’ll be torturing one of them for details later. Not that he has much faith in either of the ‘power couple’ spilling, but it still sounds like fun. How Spock and Uhura manage to remain the ‘power couple’ in the eyes of the crew despite not being an actual couple for over a year eludes Jim completely, so maybe he can torture Spock about that, too.
Smirking, Jim springs up to his feet and drops a hand on Spock’s shoulder. “Walk with me.”
Spock’s frame loses some of its rigidity the moment they step out into the corridor – not that there’s any reason for Jim to be watching Spock’s body language. It’s not a hostage situation, after all.
Spock immediately proceeds to tell him about their shortage of supplies. Apparently, they have overspent their quota in ammunition, power cells, and a whole list of other things, and Jim feels slightly guilty because it’s mostly his fault. No other starship manages to get stuck in so many tight spots as the Enterprise, and the captain is responsible for everything, right?
Spock’s tone is quiet and precise, and he somehow creates drama in something as trivial as overspending, practically making it a thriller. Jim wonders vaguely and fondly how Spock does that and if any of Spock’s former students succeeded in learning something from him rather than simply melting in the low cadences and smooth, husky rhythm of Spock’s voice.
Jim realizes he must have spaced out, because they are no longer walking, and Spock is looking at him with that sad non-expression that seems to be saying, ‘I’m running your starship for you instead of doing a million fascinating things I could be doing, like maybe exploring quasars or disproving Einstein. Could you not at least pretend to give a fuck?’
Not that Spock would phrase it like that or anything, but – details.
Jim sighs because Spock really is and totally could, and Jim is stupidly grateful, even though he’s selfish, too. He focuses on the problem and nods. He knows that if Spock has approached him, it means that he has already tried everything within his pay grade to come up with a reason why the Starbase supplies officer must grant their request for extra everything for the third time this year. It’s not like they’ve started a war, after all, close calls aside.
“Spock. Spock.” Jim lays a hand on Spock’s arm, squeezing it to get his attention. “Slow down; I got this. You’ve prepared, like, a dissertation about why we need that much all over again, right? All logical and shit?”
Spock nods cautiously.
“Right.” Jim bites his lip, thinking. “Tell him that, but ask for twice the amount of stuff we need.”
Spock blinks. “Why?”
“Look.” Jim pulls him a little closer, and Spock actually leans in, intrigued. “Imagine you’re the supply officer. Imagine someone like you storming in and demanding an impossible amount of everything – and backing everything up with logical arguments that can’t be rebuffed. Imagine getting all worked up about proving you can actually do your job to a guy who won’t listen and who’s intimidating as hell and who can probably pull God-knows-what strings.”
Spock seems to absorb his words with rapt attention, and Jim feels slightly giddy at that.
“And then imagine this guy grudgingly agreeing to take half as much – which happens to be exactly the amount you can actually provide. Spock.” Jim leans in closer. “He’d be so happy to prove he’s not totally incompetent – he’ll jump at the chance.”
Several long seconds pass as Spock seems to be digesting this. Jim watches him, trying not to fidget. Spock’s expression changes to something that almost resembles respect, and Jim can’t help but grin at him.
“You are suggesting we apply negotiations tactics we normally reserve for hostile aliens to our own colleagues,” Spock says, his voice slightly lower than before.
Jim shrugs. “Just thinking out of the box, Spock. You’ll never win over bureaucracy playing by the book.”
“Indeed.” Spock pauses, considering. “Despite being designed to cover up our own shortcomings—”
“—that is a… brilliant scheme.”
Jim shifts uncomfortably, thinking that either his yeoman managed to shrink his pants in the laundry on purpose, or his dick is way more susceptible to the soft gleam of admiration in Spock’s eyes than could possibly be healthy.
“Once again, you have taken cheating to an art form, Captain,” Spock remarks, straightening up. “Thank you for providing this highly unorthodox idea.”
Jim grins wryly. “Anytime.”
Spock nods at him, looking impressed, and walks around Jim toward his office; probably to rewrite his requisition forms or something.
Jim sighs, rubbing his neck in frustration. Spock seems to be the only person who can make Jim think less of himself by praising him.
He shakes his head and grins helplessly. Talk about an art form.
They reach the Starbase around fourteen-hundred, and Jim tells Uhura to give the go to the shore leave parties. There’ll be only skeleton crew left onboard for the week – mostly newcomers who will use the time to get acquainted with the ship without a panicked rush of Red Alerts and enemy fire. Jim would be worried about the ship, except anyone has yet to succeed in dragging Scotty out of the Engine Room for any extensive period of time, so that’s covered.
“Commodore Wesley for you, sir,” Uhura calls from behind, and Jim nods, grinning.
He remembers Bob Wesley from the time when he used to drop by Winona’s house back in Iowa, stopping by in between his deep space assignments to see how the Kirks were doing. He was reassigned when Jim was seven, and that was the last Jim had seen of him until his own widely-broadcasted graduation ceremony three years ago, but Jim still fondly remembers the day when Bob showed him how to shoot a phaser. Jim stunned a barn cat on his first try, and Winona yelled quite a bit after seeing her child with a gun in his hands, and then laughed till her eyes watered because seriously, a barn cat.
“Commodore Wesley,” Jim greets cheerily. “Permission to initiate docking procedures.”
Wesley grins at him in response. “Permission granted, Captain Kirk. Welcome aboard.”
“Thank you, sir; we’re looking forward to some down time.”
“I bet.” Wesley nods. “I need to see you in my office at your earliest convenience, though.” Jim frowns slightly, and the commodore laughs. “Don’t sweat it, Jim – all good news, I promise.”
His gaze flickers to Jim’s right for a moment. “Do me a favor and bring Commander Spock with you, would you?”
Jim glances at Spock, who seems politely puzzled, but generally unconcerned. Jim bites back a sigh of relief, because if Spock doesn’t expect them to be in trouble with their superiors, they probably aren’t.
Spock would know, because it’s his virtual door in front of which the admirals usually line up when they need someone to complain to about Jim having yet again done something so ‘unconventional’ that they don’t even. Spock is patient like that, all sympathetic listening and commiserating – unlike Pike, who either shrugs or laughs rudely when approached regarding some new stunt Jim has pulled.
Jim mentally rolls his eyes. Personally, he thinks he’s a treat to work with.
“Sure thing,” Jim says out loud. “We’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
“Looking forward to it.” Wesley nods. “Starbase out.”
Jim pulls himself out of the chair, all but whistling happily, and nods at Sulu. “Wrap it up, Lieutenant.”
“Aye, sir.” Sulu’s grinning, too.
Jim chuckles. “Mr. Spock, meet me at the airlock in fifteen?”
Jim leaves the bridge to take a quick tour about his ship, though he’s not really worried that anything is out of order. It’s not healthy to be so attached to an inanimate object, Jim suspects, but it’s the Enterprise – the only thing in existence (except for his mother) that he treats like a lady.
Spock is already waiting for him when Jim shows up, and they join the chattering line of their crewmates disembarking from the ship with far more excitement than Jim would have anticipated. It’s as though they like having a break or something.
Spock clears his throat beside him, a subtle way to hint that Jim should probably stop glaring at his subordinates as if they’re deserting the ship for good. Jim grins sheepishly, but, if he’s honest with himself, he’s much more embarrassed about Spock being able to read him so well rather than about his own behavior.
Sometimes – not always, thank the Almighty – Spock is scarily good at reading Jim’s mind.
The moment he sets foot onto the station, though, Jim is instantly distracted. Everywhere he looks, he sees a kaleidoscope of bright colors and shapes, floating in the non-existent wind of the Starbase’s perfectly functioning ventilation system.
“What in the hell—” Jim starts, staring at the vividly red banner with golden hieroglyphs that seems to be covering half the hangar deck.
There are paper lanterns everywhere; silk garlands of every shade of purple, carmine, and indigo are hanging from the ceiling and railings; every bulkhead seems to wear some kind of complicated symbol painted in gold and silver; and the air is filled with tender whispers of what looks like hundreds of wind chimes hung out everywhere. Some of those are actually made of bamboo, and, for some reason, that’s the notion that makes Jim really freak out.
“Um,” he says, feeling mildly dizzy, “is this a parallel universe or something?”
A cute blond girl wearing the Starbase insignia on her uniform giggles next to him. “That’s one word for it,” she tells Jim. “But really, no – it’s just it’s the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.”
Jim stares at her blankly. “Huh?”
The girl sighs. “Chinese New Year? Rings a bell?”
That’s rich, considering they’re surrounded by about a thousand bells of every kind, but Spock beats Jim to the punch.
“That symbol is Japanese,” he points out, nodding at one of the columns.
Before Jim can even appreciate that Spock can apparently tell one from the other, the girl shrugs.
“Yeah, and we’re not supposed to wear masks, either, but Commander Zhang says it’s more of a combined celebration of Eastern traditions.” She pulls out a stack of brightly colored papers that vaguely resemble some kind of currency. “You need some Hell Money to pay off your demons?”
Jim blinks. “What—”
“No, thank you,” Spock says firmly, and there’s a hand on Jim’s elbow urging him on. “We prefer not to personify our internal struggles.”
Jim twists his neck to look back at the girl even as he’s being towed toward the hangar doors. “He handles my demon bargains anyway,” Jim tells her, raising his voice to be heard. “He’s my personal account manager from hell.”
Spock drags him out before Jim can see the girl’s reaction – which is probably for the best.
They step into the similarly decorated promenade – only everything is ten times brighter here, and numerous vendors are selling all kinds of crazy stuff like swallow’s nests and Buddha’s delights, which are all, apparently, food. It looks like an insane cross between a carnival and hell’s cloakroom.
Spock’s hold on Jim’s arm becomes more insistent by the second, and Jim might be slowing down on purpose a little, staring at bronze fortune frogs and reveling in the fact that Spock does not let go.
Doesn’t mean Jim wouldn’t protest on principle, though. “Hey, Spock, hold up. Seriously, I don’t think I’ll get lost if you let go of me for a second. I just wanted—”
“We are ten minutes late for the commodore already.” Spock doesn’t even turn to look back. “I do not have the time to indulge your self-destructive obsession with burnt crystalline carbohydrates—”
“Caramel, Spock, and that’s hardly fair when you were the one who bought me those damned apples, remember? Can we please drop it already?”
“I am not responsible for your poor dietary choices.”
“No, you just encourage them, knowing that I’m weak.”
“Since—” I met you. “Whatever. I’ve always been a sucker for sweet, juicy things.”
Spock huffs the smallest of sighs. “If I buy you something non-life threatening later, will you promise to behave?”
Jim snorts. “You don’t seriously expect for that to work twice, do you? I mean, it’s me we’re talking about. You’ll have to do better than that.”
“This is blackmail.”
“Whatever. I’m not the one who’s going to die of embarrassment if I don’t play nice with the commodore, so. Your funeral.”
Jim plants his feet solidly on the deck, pretending to be examining a mound of fortune cookies. Spock takes a step back to him and sighs again. Jim suppresses a smirk.
“What are your terms?”
Jim turns a full-blown grin on him. “Have dinner with me tonight at the station and take tomorrow off.”
Spock blinks. “Captain, I was planning on—”
“Yeah, I don’t care. You’ve worked through Christmas parties, you won’t let us celebrate your birthday, and I can’t remember the last time you took any shore leave at all.” Jim steps into Spock’s space, pulling on his best homeless puppy expression. “Look, there’s obviously going to be some kind of huge celebration thing here tonight. Take a day off. I promise it won’t kill you.”
“There might even be fireworks,” Jim continues, picking up a stray crimson ribbon that has stuck to Spock’s shoulder. “Come on, please? I bet the whole crew’s going to be there.”
Spock looks like he’s sincerely regretting getting out of bed this morning.
“We are very late,” he half-exhales, half-sighs, and turns to go.
“Is that a ‘yes’?” Jim perks up happily, because Spock’s tone totally sounds like a concession.
Spock doesn’t deign to answer, which means Jim has won, because Spock didn’t say ‘no.’ Spock usually doesn’t have a problem saying ‘no’ when he means it; it’s saying ‘yes’ that he struggles with.
Spock is so like a girl sometimes, Jim thinks fondly, and grins at the nearest money frog.
Wesley cuts off Spock’s apologies with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“I should have warned you not to take the guest entrance,” he says, grinning. “Enjoyed the view?”
“It’s sort of completely crazy out there.” Jim shudders, dropping into a chair opposite the commodore. “They do it every year?”
The commodore nods. “From what I understand. Commander Zhang is a man of tradition, and he has this thing about ancient cultures of the Far East.”
“Cool.” Jim grins. “I like his style.”
“He also says he’s a descendant of some kind of emperor, so if you want to pay your respects—”
“We’re fine.” Jim raises a hand, exchanging a disbelieving glance with Spock.
“Anyway,” Wesley says, smiling broadly at Jim. “I’ve been hearing good things about you, Captain. I know Ansom was a perfect mess, but you did what you had to do, Jim.”
Jim swallows, looking down.
“Captain Kirk has taken a tremendous personal risk to allow the mission to succeed,” Spock interjects. “If it was not for his actions, the ship would have been destroyed, and the Federation would have been at war right now.”
Jim glances at Spock gratefully, his mouth going suddenly dry.
“Yes.” Wesley clears his throat. “Well. Starfleet Command recognizes your efforts, Jim. It’s going to be a Silver Palm with Cluster or even a Legion of Honor – I’m not sure which, but it’s for certain. Congratulations.”
“Thank you.” Jim forces out a smile. “Commodore, much as I appreciate you blowing my horn in front of my first officer, I don’t think you’ve invited us here to sing my praises.”
“Well.” Wesley chuckles. “It’s a yes and no thing, Jim. I’ve been appointed a messenger by the admiralty when they learned I was headed this way. And I have some great news for you both – but firstly for you, Commander.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Jim notices Spock stiffen imperceptibly. Vaguely, he wonders what kind of screwed up world they live in if ‘great news’ from Starfleet Command sounds like Red Alert to both of them.
“Commander Spock, the admiralty recognizes your exemplary service,” Wesley says, donning a precise, official tone. “You have gone above and beyond the call of duty on numerous occasions, regardless of personal repercussions.”
Jim’s heart swells with pride, because it’s so rare that someone acknowledges Spock’s brilliance to his face, and Spock might not treasure those moments, but Jim does. His inner thirteen-year-old fangirl makes a mental note to update her diary.
Happy as the moment is, Jim can’t shake off the feeling that another shoe is about to drop. He holds his breath without knowing it.
“I am therefore happy to inform you that the works on USS Kepler have been completed,” Wesley says, looking at Spock with a smile. “And you, Commander, have been selected to take over as her commanding officer. Congratulations.”
The silence that falls over the small office is deafening. For a moment, Jim can’t quite assimilate the words, even though they couldn’t have been any clearer.
“You mean—” Jim sucks in a breath almost desperately. “You mean, Spock is captain now?”
Wesley nods, grinning at him. “The promotion is effective immediately.”
And okay, this is big. Not completely unexpected, if Jim is honest with himself. He’d always known Spock was too good to be stuck with Jim forever. It has always been a matter of time, but Jim has been – foolishly, perhaps – hoping that the moment will come later rather than sooner.
“Commodore, I have never expressed any wish for a command of my own,” Spock says, his brows knitted together tightly.
“Commander, officers like you don’t have to specifically express anything to be noted,” Wesley informs him pleasantly. “We are asking you.”
Jim shifts in his seat restlessly.
This isn’t happening, he wants to scream, but that would be such a horribly asshole-ish thing to say, even for him, that he bites his tongue, drawing blood, and keeps his mouth shut.
He should be happy for Spock. He should be proud. He should be—
“Kepler is Amelia-class, right?” Jim blurts out. “Has its weapons array been upgraded? Because science vessel or no, you know, it’s dangerous out there, and those brainy types aren’t usually great at defending themselves – Spock here excluded.”
Wesley smiles at him indulgently. “Your concern is frankly adorable, Jim, but you don’t have to worry. The Kepler has eighty-five percent of the Enterprise’s firepower, so, for a vessel its size, you could say it’s armed to the teeth.”
“Oh.” Jim blinks. “Okay then.”
“It’s more than ‘okay,’ actually.” Wesley taps his PADD to bring forth a projection of the ship’s blueprints. “The science equipment is all cutting-edge, state-of-the-art. The crew complement is one hundred forty-eight, with sixty percent being science personnel. There’s a holographic chamber – the first successfully functioning model – and we’re looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it, Commander. The food replicators have been upgraded, and, if the rumors don’t lie, they’re downright impressive.” The commodore purses his lips in a satisfied manner. “It’s a damn good ship, gentlemen.”
It’s more than that, Jim thinks dejectedly. The ship seems tailor-made for Spock, and how does anyone say no to something like that?
Jim hates it.
“Commodore,” Spock starts hesitantly. “Much as I appreciate the admiralty’s confidence—”
Wesley lifts up a hand. “Please, Commander – let’s not do the whole ‘I don’t deserve the honor’ thing. In addition to your glowing record, you’ve been highly recommended by your superiors, Captain Kirk here included.”
Jim mentally groans, while trying to maintain the idiotically happy grin on his face. It hurts so much he thinks he’s pulled a muscle, or twenty.
“You recommended me?” Spock asks, voice quiet.
Jim can’t make himself look at him, because there’s a note of betrayal in Spock’s even tone, which Jim is certain he’s imagined, but still...
“Of course I recommended you,” Jim replies with insane exuberance, which he hopes will pass for healthy enthusiasm. “You’re the best we have, Spock. You’ll make an awesome captain, and you deserve a great ship. I’d give you the Enterprise – only, you know, I can’t.”
He remembers the night they asked him if Spock had it in him to be in command. What was Jim supposed to say? He’d gone on a tangent about Spock’s mind-blowing talents for tactics and strategy and about how everyone on the Enterprise has a crush on him, so commanding loyalty would never be a problem. Jim didn’t know why they were asking.
Not that his reply would have changed much if he did. Spock deserves all the best things the universe has to offer. Jim can’t give him much, but Starfleet can. They’re giving him a ship.
His own ship.
Jim can’t compete with that. He has the Enterprise; he would know. Nothing beats that.
“What about the Enterprise?” Spock asks, echoing Jim’s thoughts, and damn him, does he have to be so cruel?
Jim turns to finally meet Spock’s eyes and smiles blazingly at him.
“I’m touched that you care, Spock, but we’ll be fine.” Unbelievably, he sounds convincing. “Shelby can take over Sciences. Sure, it’s one hell of a leap, but everybody’s got to learn sometime, right? And as for the first, I’ll figure something out. Though a catfight between Sulu and Uhura will sure be entertaining.” He sighs.
“I see,” Spock says after a long pause.
“Well,” Wesley drawls cheerfully, looking from one to the other. “That’s settled; I won’t keep you two any longer. Since you’ve been lucky enough to get here in time for the festivities, all I can say is – enjoy.” He stands up, waiting for them to follow his example. “Mr. Spock, I’m pretty sure you’ll be receiving your orders within the next twenty-four hours. Congratulations again.”
Spock salutes mutely and moves swiftly from the room.
Jim shakes Wesley’s hand, winking as if they’re co-conspirators in making everybody’s lives a cotton candy. Too bad it’s all come out sour on Jim’s end.
Spock is standing by the viewport just outside Wesley’s office when Jim exits. Stifling a sigh, Jim walks toward him.
“Congratulations,” he says quietly, reaching to touch Spock’s shoulder. “That’s one hell of a ship you’ve landed.”
Spock looks at him with a strange expression, his gaze shifting from Jim’s hand to his eyes.
“You wish for me to accept.”
“What kind of question is that?” Jim asks indignantly. He acts mildly offended, because he can’t very well say, ‘No, I want to handcuff you to my wrist and throw away the key.’ Spock already thinks Jim is an infantile selfish bastard ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time. He doesn’t need to see Jim sulking instead of being happy for him right now. For once in his life, Jim is going to do the right thing.
“It’s perfect for you, Spock,” Jim says with miserable honesty. “I’m just glad they realized that I no longer need a babysitter in time to offer it to you.”
“You seem… relieved.” Spock pauses. “Was my presence so heavy a burden?”
Jim pffts. “Spock, come on – where does this even come from? I’ll miss you; you know I will. Who’s going to be raining on my parade once you’re gone, huh?” Jim grins. “Don’t know how I’m going to survive without a constant stream of critique coming from over my shoulder. But it’s life, you know. I’ll suffer, but I’ll move on.”
Okay. So it might have come out slightly more sarcastic than he’d intended, but who can blame him? He’s keeping it together as best he can, and Spock, with his intense stares and stupid questions, isn’t helping.
“Tell you what,” Jim says hastily, because another moment and he might burst into tears, and wouldn’t that be embarrassing. “Let me handle those requisitions. You go pack and celebrate; it’s only fair. I’ll see you later tonight. Save me a dance or something for old times’ sake, okay?”
Jim whirls on his heel and all but jumps into the nearest turbolift. If he feels like hitting his head repeatedly against the closed doors, he doesn’t give in to the impulse.
The ultra-smart tactics of fooling one of their own that Jim has suggested to Spock just this morning turns out to be completely superfluous.
The supplies officer takes one look at Jim’s face, sighs, and starts working his terminal without a word. He takes a second look after a while, a better one, and offers Jim coffee and some hangover pills. Jim blinks at him, but it gives him an idea.
The station is as crowded and flamboyant as ever, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Rabbit, or the Dragon, or something. (Jim’s never been a fan of the Lunar Calendar, so how would he know?)
Jim stumbles through the exuberant crowd, half-expecting it to go all slow-motion-with-dramatic-music on him, but it doesn’t happen. There are just a lot of really loud people, and his eyes begin to hurt from all the rampant colors gone wild.
The top deck is somewhat quieter, though no less busy, and when Jim slides through the doors of what looks like the station’s biggest restaurant, he’s suddenly submerged in a pool of soothing silence. Well, almost. There are people hanging up decorations in the hall, but Jim can live with that.
“I’m sorry, we’re closed. There’s a grand reception this evening, and—”
Jim looks at the middle-aged woman who’s polishing the glasses at the bar. Before he can say anything, her eyes scan him over from head to toe before seizing his face like a particularly grabby tractor beam.
“On the other hand,” the woman says slowly, motioning for him to come closer, “you might as well stay. I’ve never seen a man who needed a drink more in my entire life, and I’ve been a bartender for the better part of it. Come here.”
Jim doesn’t tempt his luck and slides into a barstool quickly, trying to appear as grateful as his mind, currently divorced from his emotions, will allow.
The woman stares at him quizzically. Jim forces a grin. “I have this friend named Jack?”
“That one’s friends with everybody.” She reaches for the bottle. “You guys close?”
Jim eyes her pouring the rich amber liquid into a short, tubby glass appreciatively. She doesn’t ask him about the ice – must have been telling the truth about those years of experience.
“Nah.” He shakes his head. “Used to be years ago. Haven’t seen him in a while, though.”
He takes the glass and swallows a large sip, and yes, Jack still likes to bite his tongue as much as Jim remembers. Dirty bastard.
“Yeah, I missed that,” Jim breathes, signaling for a refill. “Thanks –?”
“Taynam,” she says, watching him whirl the whiskey in his glass.
“Nice to meet you.” She studies him carefully. “So… no offense, Jim, but it’s pretty early in the day for this kind of – friendly reunion.”
Jim shrugs. “Always five o’clock somewhere.”
“Mind if I ask what brought this up?”
He peers at her curiously. “Mind if I tell you to mind your own business?”
She smiles. “Not at all. At the moment, though, my business will be to tell you to clear off the property, so—”
“Can’t blame a guy for trying.” Jim grins halfheartedly. He looks at her closer, and his eyes narrow. “Hang on… You’re an El-Aurian! Shit.” He laughs. “So when you said ‘in my entire life,’ you probably meant, like, four hundred years or something?”
Taynam chuckles. “It’s not polite to ask a lady her age, Jim.”
“Would you mind?”
“Yes, I would. No talk, no drink.”
“Fine.” Jim sighs. “It’s no big deal, really. Just, a friend of mine, he’s – leaving. And I feel like shit because I should be happy for him, and I’m not.”
Jim doesn’t really know what makes him talk. He’s not the sharing-caring kind of guy; he’s never been one. Maybe it’s because she’s a Listener, and they’re said to possess some kind of charm over people. Or maybe it’s more prosaic than that, and it’s just the veil of practical anonymity that two absolute strangers can share over a glass of some really good whiskey, knowing they’d never see each other again.
And anyway, even if Jim wanted to spill his guts – which he doesn’t – to someone, who could he turn to? Bones would tease him to death. Pike’s too far away and not really cut out to be a couples therapist anyway. Sam left when Jim was eight years old, and birthday cards that catch him three years, two months too late don’t really count as a steady family relation.
The closest Jim has ever come to speaking of anything so personal with was Spock, and he is so not the person Jim wants to talk to right now. He doesn’t trust himself enough to do that.
Besides, Listener or no, Taynam is a damn good listener.
He tells her random things. He tells her how Spock used to shadow him for the first three or so months of their mission, making sure Jim learned the ropes without killing anyone or embarrassing himself too much. Jim didn’t understand his intentions at the time, and was mostly pissed as hell, but they worked it out eventually. (A Jiu-Jitsu match might have been involved.)
He tells her how Spock mistranslated a ceremonial phrase during a first contact mission and had inadvertently agreed to marry the chieftain’s daughter. The ‘clarification’ of the misunderstanding had earned him a spear in the chest. Uhura had yelled at him in the transporter room, and McCoy hadn’t let him live it down for about a year.
He tells her about the Enterprise’s first chess tournament, and how Spock had won every game except the one against Jim, and how shocked he’d looked when Jim beat him. They played a lot, just the two of them, ever since. Spock only lost one in four games or so, but every time he would look at Jim with something like endless wonder. Once, after Jim had defeated him yet again, Spock looked at him with his almost-smile and told him that Jim was his best remedy against over-confidence.
He tells her how Vulcans aren’t really affected by alcohol, and how they used this when they needed to gain an upper hand during negotiations. Spock was a goldmine like this – except when they had to deal with Cardassians. After two glasses of kanar, Spock had literally lost it, and, for a horrifying moment, Jim thought he’d have to fight their way out of there. But the Cardassians were more amused than angry, and even offered to take care of Spock – who, to Jim’s utter annoyance, didn’t protest too much. Which was absolutely not the way Jim would have preferred to be clued in on Spock having the same basic desires as everybody else.
Jim ended up being the one explaining to the Cardassians that Spock was in a goddamned committed relationship and then hauled his ass back to the ship. Spock turned out to be an affectionate and funny drunk, and Jim had never laughed so much in his entire life (literally in stitches), but Uhura was not impressed. The next morning, they found out that Spock didn’t remember much of the night before and he was so honestly and completely freaked about it that even Bones didn’t have the heart to laugh at him. Which, Jim explains to Taynam, is a really big deal.
Jim tells her how Spock had yelled in his cold, Vulcan manner at the admiral who gave Jim an order that landed him on a Tholian prison ship, and then – after Spock led a successful rescue – he had yelled at Jim for following that order. It was pretty unique, for Spock, and even Pike was impressed that Jim had managed to corrupt him so completely.
Jim tells her a dozen other things. How Spock likes blueberry muffins and quotes fucking Dante; how Spock knows all the words to Eleanor Rigby, but has no idea what a Harley-Davidson is; how Spock was the one who killed the plant that Sulu gave Jim for his birthday; how Spock acts like nothing can affect him, but Jim knows – just knows – how everything does.
Jim’s talking and Taynam is smiling, until suddenly he stops midword and stares at her in horror.
She chuckles. “You were bound to figure it out eventually.”
“Oh my God, no.” Jim clutches his glass, panicking. “Please no. This can’t be happening.”
“Darling, it’s already happened.” She pats his cheek sympathetically. “I know it’s hard to be so slow, but at least you have your looks.”
“No,” Jim groans. “I’m not. I can’t be.” He stares at her. “Am I?”
She grins and recaps the bottle. “You don’t really need me to answer that.”
Jim groans louder. “I’m so screwed.”
“Yes.” Taynam studies him pensively. “One thing, though. You know what they say about setting them free?”
Why does he even know what she’s talking about? It’s a curse, really.
“It’s not the same as kicking them out.”
It’s a mystery, Jim thinks, that there are still some Klingons and Romulans intimidated by Captain Kirk and his mighty starship. Apparently, the worst kept secret in the universe is that his life is officially a number twelve on the top-five list of the corniest chick flicks.
The Enterprise is dark and silent, which isn’t a surprise – though it is a relief. Jim jogs along the empty corridors, happy that there are no more newly transferred ensigns to spook. He spots a white paper lantern hanging above the entrance to a Jeffries tube and curses under his breath.
Not bothering with a chime, he rushes into Spock’s quarters, a half-formed explanation on the tip of his tongue.
Spock’s quarters are empty.
They aren’t just devoid of Spock himself – all of his possessions, too. There’s no shovel-shaped thing that Spock insists is a dangerous weapon hanging on the wall. There is no hand lotion that Spock keeps on his desk for Nyota. There are no clothes in the wardrobe, and nope – Jim checks – no toiletries in the bathroom.
The room is pristine, clean, and silent.
“Fuck,” Jim curses. “Oh fuck, no you don’t.”
He walks out, the pounding of his heart on par with the sledgehammer having a party in his head. He hasn’t eaten anything since breakfast, and how dumb can anyone be to drink whiskey on an empty stomach? He really is losing it.
Med Bay, of course, is fully powered, because McCoy is paranoid and thinks that Jim can come down with excessive heart failure during a children’s matinee – “It’s not paranoia if it’s true, Jim!” – which is sort of fair, but not the point.
Jim is surprised, though, to see that Bones himself is there, rummaging through his cabinets, like a bear coming out of hibernation. The grumpiness sure fits.
“Hey, Bones,” Jim calls, trying to grin and wincing instead.
Bones stares at him for five seconds before reaching for a hypospray, which is just eerie. Either he’s psychic or he has had surgery to switch his eyes for medical scanners; Jim has no other explanation. Simply knowing him for six years wouldn’t do that to a person, would it?
“Be gentle, I’m a virgin,” Jim says, eyeing the nearing hypo warily.
“Just for that,” McCoy snaps, and jams the hypo into Jim’s neck with no tenderness whatsoever.
“Ow!” Jim yelps. “You’re a menace!”
“And you’re starting early. What the hell, Jim?”
“You know, I’d love to stay and chat, your company being charming and all, but I need to find Spock, stat. Have you seen him?”
McCoy stares at him, and Jim curses the medicine for choosing that particular moment to kick in. He wouldn’t mind a bit of a buzz while dealing with this.
“Have I seen him?” McCoy drawls menacingly. “Have I seen him?”
“Is there an echo here or what?”
“Yes, I have seen him. He was here two hours ago asking for his medical records to be sealed and ready for a goddamn transfer. What the hell, Jim?”
“Look, I know, it doesn’t look good, but there’s been a bit of a misunderstanding—”
“I’ll say. He told me that ‘despite harboring certain misconceptions,’ I’m a ‘gifted physician,’ and then he shook my hand, Jim!”
Jim winces harder. “Fuck.”
“My sentiments exactly.”
“Look, it’s bad, I know. I’ll find him and fix this, promise.”
“You’d better. He’s freaking me out.”
“Yeah, okay.” Jim turns to go, but pauses. “Hey Bones, did you – um, did you know I had a – a thing? For Spock?”
Bones glares at him, his lips curling into a sneer that spells the mother of sarcasm, bitchy edition.
“Did I know you had a thing? Did I know you had a ‘thing,’ Jim?”
“Well, did you?”
“Oh, I don’t know, Jim. Between ‘Where’s Spock?’ being your usual hello, and all the freaking eye sex in my Med Bay – which is just gross, by the way – and the goddamn innuendos you’re throwing at him fifty times a day hoping to provoke him – how could I possibly have gotten any idea that you had a ‘thing’ for the damned hobgoblin?”
“Shit.” Jim presses a hand to his forehead. “Look, I know I’m an idiot—”
“Bones – fine, hold your horses! I need to get him to listen to me – how do I do that? If I screw this up, I just – I don’t know how I’m going to – just, everything. You know?”
“Well, first of all, thanks for asking for my advice, because you know how much I love it when you talk to me about your goddamn sex life. Second of all, learn to speak something other than Moron, and maybe you’ll even be comprehensible. And third” – Bones stares at him heavily – “how about YOU DON’T SCREW THIS UP?”
“Sheesh, wow, okay!” Jim steps back so fast he slams into a bulkhead. “Brilliant pep talk, Bones; really, you’re a rockstar.”
“Sure, I’m freakin’ Bob Dylan. Now get the hell out of here and go get your princess. Though, from what I’ve just seen, I’m not sure there’re any balls involved in this relationship at all.”
“We could always come to you if that turns out to be a problem.”
“Do that and die,” Bones tells him kindly. “Now get!”
Jim makes himself scarce with record speed. He’ll never admit it unless physically persuaded, but Bones is the scariest son of a bitch Jim has ever met.
He thinks about Spock’s possible reaction to Jim’s new bunch of revelations and hopes to God that he won’t have to change his mind.
Four hours later, Jim’s grip on himself, tenuous as it has been already, is all but gone.
Spock, damn him and his Vulcan efficiency, is nowhere to be found.
Wesley said that Spock would probably receive his orders within twenty-four hours, so Jim doesn’t start to panic as soon as he discovers that Spock has left the ship. However, after turning the whole station inside out without producing so much as a peek of Spock’s tail, metaphorically speaking, Jim is okay with calling it panic.
He’s harassing Starbase Ops for information on any ship that might have left during the eight life-changing hours that have passed since he has seen Spock last, when Wesley tracks him down.
“Jim, what are you doing here?” The commodore blinks in surprise. “There’s a party upstairs and it’s booming. Even Commander Spock said he was impressed.”
Jim stops short and stares. “Spock is – at the party?”
Wesley looks at him hesitantly. “Yeah. At least, he was there half an hour ago. Is there a problem?”
“Not if I can help it!” Jim shouts over his shoulder, already on the run.
The first thing that greets him as the doors of the restaurant slide open is a huge, life-size monster that has a guy or a dozen inside its glimmering kaleidoscopic skin. Jim freezes for a moment, trying to assimilate the giant chaps with large paper teeth that seem to be mirroring Jim’s every motion as the onlookers laugh their asses off.
“Lion dancers!” somebody shouts.
Jim pushes his way past the purple and blue mess that somehow symbolizes a lion and looks around the huge room. His heart sinks, because it looks like there are at least a thousand people here – eating, drinking, dancing, exchanging red envelopes, and shooting golden strings at each other.
Jim has no idea how he’s supposed to find Spock in this crowd. The deeper he moves into the hall, the more he begins to feel as if the room is swinging around him in a chaotic dance of colors and lights. Jim all but stumbles over a wishing well, where dozens of coins are glistening at the bottom – and where have all those people even gotten those? For an insane moment, Jim is severely tempted to throw in a coin of his own and ask for goddamn directions.
Apparently, though, wishing is enough, because that’s when he finally sees Spock, standing casually by a huge window with a steaming cup in his hand. Somehow, Jim suspects it isn’t tea.
Relief floods over him, and Jim takes a moment to draw in a calming breath, eyes glued to Spock. It occurs to him that, in view of his recent revelations, Spock should seem different to him now. The most beautiful creature in the galaxy or some shit like that.
But the more he looks, the more he sees Spock – just Spock. The same Spock who bitches at him about the delayed paperwork; the same Spock who kicks his ass in the gym and dares to look smug about it; the same Spock who sat with him once through the night when Jim thought he was dying and couldn’t handle it alone and couldn’t ask anybody, and Spock stayed without being asked.
Spock chooses that moment to turn around, and Jim finally realizes that there is something different about him, after all.
Spock isn’t in uniform, which looks a little weird. But, although Jim will admit that the simple grey shirt Spock is wearing with some dark grey slacks suits him immensely, Jim’s breath doesn’t hitch, and he doesn’t suddenly discover that Spock is a sex god.
It’s not really a discovery if you’ve known it all along.
Jim doesn’t exactly do nervous, so he wipes his hands on his pants and walks toward Spock like a man on a mission. Spock looks up in time to see him, and of course it has to be now – this once-in-a-blue-moon time – when Jim can’t read him.
“Spock,” Jim manages, nodding. “I was looking all over for you. I didn’t expect to see you here.”
Spock lifts an unimpressed eyebrow and reaches out casually to steal a piece of chocolate-covered quince off the nearest table.
“I was invited,” Spock says quietly, while Jim is being dumbstruck with the surreal image of Spock touching food with his hands.
Spock looks away. “By a person who has apparently forgotten our appointment.”
Jim shuts his eyes and wants to die here and now.
“I’m sorry,” he groans. “I was just – it’s just – you left the Enterprise.”
“I cannot fathom how this can possibly come as a surprise. You have let me know, clearly, that I have overstayed my welcome.”
“Please.” Jim’s hand wraps around Spock’s arm. Spock flinches and glares at Jim pointedly, but Jim only tightens his grip. “Can we talk? I really need to tell you something.”
Spock stares at him, and Jim really has no idea what he’s seeing. He feels beat, and spent, and on edge, and this still isn’t over, and he feels like he might explode if it doesn’t happen soon.
Behind his back, firecrackers take off and people start screaming their lungs out in delight. Jim wants to shoot them.
Spock twists his arm out of Jim’s grip with offensive ease and drops over his shoulder, “Follow me.”
Which is how Jim finds himself two decks up, in a cramped, barely-lit room filled with weird-looking equipment. It’s the technical ‘roof’ of the station, and most people aren’t supposed to know about it, never mind have access to it – but, of course, Spock isn’t most people.
Spock is looking at him expectantly, and Jim swallows.
“You’re not in uniform,” he says, because it’s such a vital thing to take notice of.
“I am no longer a member of Starfleet.”
Of all the things Jim could have opened with... Wait, what? “What?”
“Or, I will cease to be one, once the office hours start tomorrow and I log in my resignation. I am returning to New Vulcan.”
“My new assignment holds no appeal to me, and I have been asked to step down from my previous position.”
“Spock, about that...” Jim rubs his forehead. This is excruciating. For a moment, he feels incredibly exasperated with Spock, but almost instantly regrets it. Sure, Spock could probably act less like a drama queen, but Jim is the one who sent him there. It’s his mess to clean up.
He takes a deep breath. “I never really wanted to see you go.”
“You gave every indication that you did.”
“Yeah, I know, and it was a dick move. It’s just that – they gave you a ship. Who the hell says no to a ship?” Jim sighs. “Look. I’ve always known you wouldn’t be hanging out with me forever. You were my ticking bomb, okay? I knew you’d leave sooner or later when you found something better.”
Jim runs a hand through his hair roughly in frustration. “When Mom left, when Sam left – I couldn’t do anything about it. I thought – hell, I have no idea what I thought. That I could control it this way, probably.” He looks at Spock glumly. “That it wouldn’t be like you left me if I told you to go first.”
Spock stares at him with a confused expression, obviously waiting for some kind of sensible explanation to arrive. Jim almost feels sorry for him.
“That makes even less sense than your usual brand of what you call ‘reasoning,’” Spock says bluntly.
“Guess you’ve never been dumped on your ass, then,” Jim snaps. “It makes perfect sense.”
“We are discussing our professional relationship. Could you not pretend to be serious for one minute, at the least?”
“I was giving you an easy way out, okay?” Jim hisses, voice rising. “They gave you a ship – a fucking ship, Spock! I know you think I’m a dick, but did you really think I would stand between you and something like this? I want you to have anything you want! I want you to be happy!”
Jim wouldn’t have stopped his next words even if he could have. “Because I’m in love with you, you pointy-eared asshole – for a while! That serious enough for you yet?”
Spock is silent long enough for the echo to die out between the bulkheads.
“Forgive me.” Spock purses his lips, tone dry. “Your words have been so – evocative – and considerate – that I believe I am experiencing the sensation of being ‘swept off my feet.’ The power of speech should return to me… momentarily.”
“Asshole,” Jim mutters again with conviction, pressing the backs of his palms against his eyes and rubbing vigorously. “You wanna laugh at me, or say something of value?”
“Indeed, there is a dire need for the latter.” Spock steps closer. “James Kirk, you are, without a doubt, the most self-centered, self-absorbed, short-sighted, arrogant, and conceited individual I have ever met.”
Jim blinks. “Okay. Kind of – not what I was hoping for, but okay.” He frowns. “Hey, half those words mean the same thing. Did you swallow a thesaurus when you were a little kid or something?”
Spock ignores him. “Why do you assume that your dream is everybody else’s dream? I have never desired command, Jim.”
“It’s not just ‘a command,’ it’s a starship. Who wouldn’t want a starship?”
“I would not. I do not know how to convince you of my sincerity.”
“Spock, you fought me for command so hard – you kicked me off the ship.”
“Because I believed that you were a dangerous, mentally unstable individual who would be the death of us all. Because I did not think I had a choice.” Spock frowns. “I can assume command when need be, Jim, but I prefer my position as it is. When I am in command, I can no longer be myself.”
“Why the hell not? First, I’ve seen you in command, and you’re awesome. And second, I’m in command all the time, and I’m still me.”
“Because you are a naturally born leader, Jim,” Spock bites out impatiently. “And I can be one should the need arise. There is a difference.”
Jim stares at Spock, assimilating this, and it’s not a surprise that Spock is right, because suddenly Jim gets it. There really is a difference. He’s never thought about it that way.
“Do you know why I came back to Starfleet after Nero?” Spock asks, quieter.
Jim shakes his head.
“It was because of you.”
That is... “What?”
“You, Jim. You were irritating enough to try even a Vulcan’s patience, and you were intriguing, and when we fought Nero, there were certain moments when you made me more than I was. Than I thought I was, perhaps. I wished to explore that. I wished to explore – us.”
Below them, loud cheers erupt, and Jim takes a guess that the fireworks have probably started.
“Yeah,” he says finally. “Okay. That was definitely mushier than what I said to you before. I feel so much better now.”
Spock looks like he wants to roll his eyes so badly it hurts his face. “You are insufferable.”
“And speaking of what I told you before... You know, when I was yelling?” Jim clears his throat. “Um… any comments?”
Spock glances at him, eyebrow raised. “I am a Vulcan, Jim. We are not in the habit of discussing our emotions.”
Jim scowls. “What, you get a free pass or something? That is so racist I don’t even – wait, did you say emotions? As in you have some for me?”
Spock’s lips curl. “You are always rushing to make a joke, and sometimes it distracts you from noticing—”
“Jim,” Spock parries defiantly, and he has the gall to look smug. “If, by this point, you do not know how I feel about you, then you hardly deserve to be called a genius.”
Jim can feel his face flushing like a stupid, lit-up Christmas tree. “See, this is cheating,” he says petulantly. “Like royal one.”
There goes the damn eyebrow again. “If that is so, you have no one to blame but yourself.”
Jim growls in frustration. “You are the most unbearably superior bastard that I have ever—”
And Spock’s lips are pressed against his own, muffling the rest of the sentence.
“I find ‘name calling’ illogical,” Spock murmurs, and Jim doesn’t have the time to shout ‘Double standards, hello’ because the next thing he knows, he is being thoroughly kissed by someone who means it.
Never let it be said that James T. Kirk goes down without a fight – except, right now he does just that so fast it’s embarrassing. He opens up to Spock, wanting more of the same, wanting everything, here and now, immediately, but Spock – that bastard – keeps it curious more than urgent, all sensual slide of lips and tantalizing sweeps of tongue.
Jim decides to bring it up a notch and drops his hands to Spock’s hips, pulling Spock flush against himself. Spock makes a very interesting noise of approval, and Jim finally gets what he wants, which, really, was inevitable. Spock kisses him deep and almost as hard as Jim wants him to, though not quite there yet – but they can work on that.
Spock is the kind of guy who needs some prime provocation to get in gear, but once he does, he’s ruthless and so fucking thorough, and there’s really no stopping him. It’s just lucky that he has Jim to push him around – never breaking, just shattering a little.
Jim moans, one hair away from making the kiss dirty, as his mind conveniently supplies him with images of Spock being pushed one step too far. Jim is so going to love wrecking him. He can bet serious money that Spock wears ‘fucked out’ really well.
Which, ouch. Yes please.
By the time Spock lets him breathe, Jim is dizzy and disoriented and damn grateful for the warm, solid presence holding him up. He wraps his arms around Spock’s waist and holds him, and it’s so damn nice – nice – and just so. Easy.
“We should have done this ages ago.” Jim sighs, light-headed with relief and possibly hunger.
“We are actually moving ahead of schedule.” Spock nuzzles Jim’s hair. “You still owe me dinner.”
Jim laughs at that, resting his forehead against Spock’s shoulder for a moment. He pulls back to look into Spock’s eyes.
“You’re damn high maintenance, you know that?”
Spock seems to ponder this. “I believe I am worth it.”
Jim laughs again, even as he leans to plant a soft kiss in the corner of Spock’s mouth. “You are,” he says, stepping back, Spock’s hand lying confidently in his.
“Okay then. Let’s steal as much food as we can lay our hands on and beam back to the Enterprise. I don’t feel like sharing tonight with a bunch of ancient civilizations.”
Spock lifts an eyebrow. “Do you ever do anything in a traditional way?”
Jim grins. “Now where’s the fun in that? Seriously, Spock, if you were looking for someone to make an honest man out of you, you picked the wrong guy.”
He turns to go, but Spock uses his hold to stop him.
“No, Jim,” he says, voice soft and way too low. “I didn’t.”
Spock seriously needs to stop saying shit like that – only, Jim knows he won’t. And, thanks to that, this doesn’t feel like a cheesy rom-com anymore, but rather like those multi-volume tomes of classic lit, where everything is so fucking serious and forever, and it scares the hell out of Jim – most of all because he knows it’s too late to care.
Jim smiles as the New Year Dragon explodes just outside the viewport, and decides he might as well keep calm and carry on.
Four hours later, Jim is rapidly drifting toward sleep and Spock is already more than halfway there, stretched on the bed beside him.
Jim thinks they’re disgusting and possibly insane because they didn’t even have sex. Instead, they ate weird Chinese delicacies and talked for hours about everything and nothing, the same way they had a hundred times before. Only this time, there was also kissing, and possibly, at some point, cuddling, and Jim used Spock’s lap as a pillow, and when Jim laughed, Spock laid a hand on his chest to feel it.
It’s all so lame and horribly domestic, and Jim just can’t be bothered.
He snuggles closer to Spock, who’s lying on his side with his back to Jim, and rests his hand on Spock’s arm, grinning and kissing his shoulder. (He likes Spock’s scent. Sue him.)
Spock shifts just enough to take hold of Jim’s arm and wrap it around himself.
Voice rough and slurring, Spock mutters, “Sleep, Jim.”
Jim grins, closing his eyes.
For someone who doesn’t want to be in command, Spock sure as hell loves to give orders.