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The hollow, mechanical squawk of the digital alarm alerted Jim Kirk to one dreadful, discouraging realisation. It was Valentine’s Day.

While the young cadet spent much of his day-to-day life basking in the attention of both the male and female population of Starfleet Academy, it was this particular day that he loathed the idea of being suffocated with cards and chocolates and teddy bears expressing undying love with blank, beady eyes.

To put it straight, everything about the holiday was bullshit.

With a bleary-eyed groan, Jim rolled out of bed. The thin mattress creaked with the released weight and caused his roommate to stir beneath his blanket. Jim was up early - far earlier than usual. What Jim really wanted to do was bury his head under the pillow, skip classes and sleep the day away.

But even behind the selfish desire lurked a singular sense of duty; the knowledge that he was being given a special opportunity with his life by coming to Starfleet. Jim could menially goof around all he wanted as long as at the end of the day, at the end of all of this, he bested his father.

That’s what he’d told Captain Pike and that was how it was going to play out.

Jim may have been blind to the facts three years ago, but he now understood how carelessly he’d been wasting his life back in Iowa - and how much it meant to him to become something of worth, some day.

But this wasn't to prove anything to anyone. Jim would ace classes for himself. He liked to think he’d never done a selfless thing in his life. He didn’t need another person’s love, acceptance, praise. Jim had himself. That was all he needed – right?

Jim didn’t bother to shower. He tugged on a pair of basketball shorts and a shirt, and zipped up a hoodie to battle the damp morning air. He slung the prepared gym bag over his shoulder before slipping quietly out of the room.

Jim understood himself well enough to be cognisant of the fact that he needed to stay busy for the rest of the day. He would not let himself fall into an unwelcome state of self-pity over the unwelcome emotions that bled through his defences on Valentine’s Day. That was a weakness he simply couldn’t afford, especially with all the eyes on him day in and out.

When he arrived at the gym, Kirk realised with dismay he’d forgotten the key to his locker. It was no matter, though. The gym was practically empty at this time of morning. Jim tossed his bag on one of the benches in the locker room and was about to head out, when he heard a vibration murmur from his duffel.

With an uncharacteristic scowl, Jim ripped open the zipper and pulled out his sleek, petite phone.

It was a single text message from his mother.

“Okay...” Jim murmured to himself with distinct unease. He and his mother rarely spoke. There was too much to say and never the right words; so they simply didn’t bother.

Check your messages when you have a moment. Love you.

Blinking owlishly at the screen for a brief moment, Jim sharply slid the phone in place within his fist. What the hell was a cryptic text like that supposed to mean? What was so important? Jim forcefully banked the sense of anxiety clenching at his throat as he carelessly tossed his phone upon the surface of the bag. As Jim turned to stride blindly out of the locker room, he did not hear the device clatter to the floor.

Jim found a treadmill and started off on low, rhythmic jog. He forced his fists to unclench and took deep soothing breaths as the pounding of his feet upon machinery shook him straight to the core. Jim set an easy pace that lulled him into his head, the distant sounds of the surrounding gym fading away.

Hidden high in the attic of his consciousness sat a large crate, dusty, long forgotten. A single streak of light from a smudged porthole window highlighted the motes that spun in and out like grey, lifeless confetti.

Jim had been ten years old when he’d come across that crate in the hidden heights of their quaint farmhouse. Over ten years had passed since he’d discovered the life his mother had locked away; forsaken for a life of endless boyfriends, an abusive second husband and hollow relationships with every man in her life, including her sons.

Dad.

Jim sped up on the treadmill, his breath coming in short heaves, bright eyes glassy and blank as he stared into nothing and remembered. Recalled the stacks of hand-written love letters, the errant faded photograph, old holo discs, Christmas cards, birthday cards - Valentine’s Day cards.

So much love.

There had been so much love in that discarded box in the attic. Young Jimmy hadn’t known how to accept it all. His mother had always spoken fondly of her husband, but in a detached manner. In a way that a historian might reverently speak of a lost hero, or an important figure in time that now had no correlation with life in the present.

But it was as if the moment George Kirk had died, Winona Kirk had simply locked her heart away and refused to open it to anyone for the rest of her days. Maybe she’d passed it on, Kirk mused. Maybe he’d been born with his heart shut – maybe that was what was wrong with him all along.

How could Jim ever show love and trust to another? The only example he’d ever experienced was buried under a lifetime’s worth of dust. The faded words on a card, the handwriting of a dead man - the listless faraway expression in a distant mother’s eyes.

Jim was wholly unsure of how long he’d been running, but when he slammed back into reality he found himself racing at full speed. His sneakers slapped in quick succession upon the spinning belt, chest lurching with each breath, sweat pooling at the small of his back.

You can’t run from memories, Jim reminded himself with chagrin. He finally slowed himself to a halt.

Enough of this bull.

Jim shrugged off the mood. He wandered back to the locker room to shower and change into his academy uniform. Even with the expected weight of Valentine’s Day resting upon his shoulders, Jim could not remain in a slump for long. He simply wouldn’t allow it of himself. His intellect pointedly reminded him it was a day like any other and held no particular significance to the grand scheme of things.

So, basically - deal with it Jim.

Snapping the final clasp of his uniform at this neck, Jim pursed his lips, brows raised as he noted his phone sitting atop a neatly folded pile of clothing.

“What the...” He grabbed the phone and shoved it into his pocket before heading out.

Apparently he’d run far longer than he’d imagined, because he barely had time to throw his gym bag into his dorm-room and grab a quick breakfast in the mess before rushing in last-minute to his morning class.

Jim’s impervious grin was met with the professor’s sour look as Jim swept through the door. He took the stairs of the small auditorium classroom two by two, flopping into a seat near the back. The back was always safe, just in case you happened to fall asleep or needed to wait out a hangover in relative peace.

As if the professor had been waiting specifically upon Jim’s arrival to begin the class, the droning commenced. Jim paid attention for a good twenty minutes of class before his mind began to wander, as it always eventually did. He could ace this tactics class with his eyes closed. It was all merely an application of common sense to the crafty James Kirk. He tactically avoided people – or ran into them if he so chose - on a daily basis. In Jim's opinion, t certainly didn’t require a class.

Then again, not everyone was as awesome as he was. That’s what he enjoyed telling himself.

Jim slipped his own communicator from his pocket and slid open the screen. He had high hopes of harassing Bones while he was in the middle of something important like delivering a baby – though Lord knows why he would have his phone with him at the time.

“Wha-” he intoned under his breath, cutting himself off quickly. He didn’t want to get an earful from his instructor for speaking aloud.

His phone wallpaper had somehow been changed. Gone was the sexy Orion girl pinup in a tiny excuse for a Supergirl outfit. In exchange was an explosive nebula, all midnight blue and shards of gold reaching towards the very limits of the small square screen.

With his lips weighted in a frown, Jim thumbed agilely through the menus and into the inbox without a second thought.

If the first thing that alerted him to the fact that this was not his phone was the wallpaper, then the second was the fact that the inbox was not clogged with two-hundred and something messages. Third, who the hell was Nyota?!

All right, so clearly Jim had been an idiot and just stolen someone’s phone. He’d stolen worse, and on purpose - but in this case he felt like a dick for simply taking someone’s communicator that happened to be so innocently sitting on their clothes. And if Jim didn’t have his cell, who did? Well, now was as good a time as any to delve into the mystery.

Chewing idly upon his lower lip, Jim entered his phone number into the address book and quickly typed out a message to himself, who also happened to not be himself.

Um, hi there. You have my phone. Or, hopefully someone does. And I just might have yours. Yes? No? Maybe?

Jim slumped back in his seat, hooded eyes inspecting the back of some chick’s extreme beehive hairdo. He toggled the phone from one palm to the other, impatiently waiting on a reply as he calculated how many cans of hairspray that girl must waste in a week.

Jim’s thoughts wandered towards the fun things he might be able to do with his hair had it been longer –fauxhawk, anyone? Oh hell, he’d try anything once. Thankfully that dangerous path of thought was interrupted by the low buzzing in his palm. Jim quickly twisted the phone open, pleased to note there was a reply from his phone, and an established channel of live text communication had been opened.

It seems you are correct. When would you prefer I return this to you?

Whenever. I’m not picky.

Although sooner was probably better than later, Jim mused. Especially around Valentine’s - or any big holiday - he was swamped with texts inviting him to parties and whatnot. But he was the one who’d been stupid enough to accidentally steal another person’s phone, so he wasn’t going to be making any demands.

Tonight?

Jim squinted at the screen incredulously, but his reply was quick and sure in his usual manner.

Tonight? It’s Valentine’s Day. Don’t you have a hot date or something?

The reply came immediately.

No. I do not.

Mirth pulled at the corners of Jim’s mouth as his fingertips sped lightly across the tiny keys.

I hear ya. Valentine’s isn’t my thing either.

Your thing?

Jim stared quizzically at the screen. Maybe he was speaking to someone whose first language was not English.

You know, I’m not into it.

You cannot be ‘in’ a holiday.

Time skipped a beat, and Jim found himself snorting a laugh through his nose. He jerked his gaze forward quickly; no one had noticed the small utterance. His inherent spark of playfulness threaded through his words as he took the reply as dry wit, rather than blatant rudeness.

Oh, you’re sassy! I like it. Anyway, I’m just saying I don’t like Valentine’s either.

I do not like or dislike the day. It is highly illogical to relent to an emotional preference for a contrived festivity. So we are in agreement to meet tonight?

Jim made a childish face at the text popping up before his eyes. Someone was a bit grumpy today! Oh, maybe it was because they had their phone stolen. Oops.

Yeah, why the hell not? Where do you want to meet?

You reside at the Academy, correct? I deduce our phones were switched at the gym.

Yes... switched. Jim certainly wasn’t going to correct that.

Yep. You wanna meet on campus or something?

That is sufficient.

How about the fountain near the West Entrance? 18:30?

Affirmative.

Jim was about to end the communication, because he was getting the impression this person might be aggravated with him or simply busy, until he realised he didn’t know who he was meeting. The west side of the school would be bustling with students rushing out into the city for their nightly fun, and many people met up at the large ornate fountain.

Who do I look for? I mean, what do you look like?

There was a beat of a pause before a reply came.

I am Vulcan.

Jim’s face lit up like Christmas, eyes sparking with genuine curiosity as he hurriedly replied.

Seriously? Awesome!

He’d never met a Vulcan before. This explained the formal speech patterns and dry undercurrent of humour. Well, it didn’t explain the sarcasm, exactly, as Jim had heard that Vulcan’s couldn’t even crack a joke; but in the past moments he’d been chatting away Jim had been positive he’d detected a flash of wit.

I am always serious.

The reply had Jim stifling a laugh. Oh yes, he did enjoy the serious type. It was those people who tended to have the most forceful and entertaining wild side.

I can see that! I like it. So, do you have the ears and everything?

I have ears. Do you?

This time around Jim slapped his free hand over his lips, just as a chuckle rumbled in his chest. Oh yes, he was absolutely enjoying his new Vulcan friend. A sharp look from his professor had Jim making a failing attempt to sober up; the laugh lines around his eyes clearly indicated his irrepressible cheer. The moment the teacher’s hawk-like gaze shifted from him, Jim was glued to the screen once more.

You’re a funny guy. Or, girl?

I am male.

Jim had gotten that impression. He could usually tell when he was speaking with a woman; just one of those things. At this point he was getting rather excited to meet a Vulcan for the first time –or, to be exact, this Vulcan in particular.

I can’t remember ever seeing a Vulcan around campus before. I think I’d notice.

The reply was snap-quick, coaxing a slow smile from the cadet.

It appears you have deduced your powers of observation incorrectly.

Jim replied good-naturedly.

You got me there!

Where?

Jim blinked slowly, refraining from shaking his head with muted laughter. Were Vulcans always this endlessly entertaining? He’d have to find out.

Don’t worry about it.

Vulcans do not worry.

He didn’t believe that for a second, but who was he to argue? Jim could practice tact... sometimes.

Learn something new every day!

“James Kirk!” The instructor’s voice boomed from the front of the class.

Jim snapped to attention, eyes a bit wide, but an infuriatingly stubborn curve remained at his lips. His professor barrelled on before the cadet could speak. “I suggest you either pay attention in my class or leave. I’ve had enough for your insufferable snickering for one day.”

Jim ran a hand over the back of his neck, offering a sheepish expression as he mumbled his half-hearted apologies, slipping the phone away into his pocket. He found himself staring listlessly at the back of that beehive hair-do for the rest of the class.

***

“There you are!” Strong, insistent fingers wrapped around Jim’s forearm and jerked him into the open doors of the infirmary. Jim yelped his surprise in a rather feminine octave, hopping sideways unsteadily on one foot as he was yanked unceremoniously around like a ragdoll. Sometimes he forgot Bones was bigger than him.

“Goddammit, lemme go!” Jim batted Bones’ hand away and made a show of straightening out his uniform, despite his obvious lack of annoyance. “I’ve got a class to go to, you know. Unlike some people who lounge around with sexy nurses all day. Lucky bastard.”

“Yeah, because all the cysts I drain just ooze glitter and life threatening diseases are cured with chocolate! My job is easy.” Bones growled sourly, earning a smirk from Jim.

Jim clapped his best friend on the shoulder with unrestrained glee. “Now that’s just ridiculous. We both know your cure for fatal diseases is a finger or two of bourbon.”

“Or a mint julep.” Doctor McCoy added pointedly. There was an exchanged warmth of camaraderie in their look, but the moment was quickly dispelled by the sudden sheen of panic glazing Bones’ eyes. “Shit, you pulled me off track. What I meant to –“

“Technically you pulled me off-track.”

“Just zip it and listen up, all right?” the doctor snapped, looking rather unwell for his usual robust self. Jim’s eyes softened with concern, though his even tone betrayed none of the compassion that the doctor would most certainly bristle at.

“Okay, hit me.”

“I need ya to be my wingman.” The words stumbled uncharacteristically from Bones’ lips as if it were a relief to release them in one breath.

Jim waited a beat, “You need...” he remarked incredulously. “Why?” Not that Jim wasn’t wholly dedicated to helping out his one best friend with whatever he needed, but first his unquenchable curiosity had to be satisfied.

Bones’ hand was on Jim’s shoulder once more, pulling him conspiratorially close. “Ya know Nurse Chapel, don’t ya?”

Scrolling through his endless mental rolodex of Academy women, Kirk pulled up the image of a tall, pretty blonde with kind hands and patient, but no-nonsense demeanour.

“Blonde with the voice?” Hers was incredibly sexy. If Jim recalled correctly –and he most often did - Christine Chapel had graduated just last year and had chosen to remain at the Academy infirmary until she was assigned to a starship. She’d even patched up Jim a time or two. But then again, what medical team member hadn’t had their hands on Jim Kirk at least once?

That could probably be taken in more than one way.

“You’ve got a classy way of stripping people down to their best attributes,” Bones noted pointedly, though it was clear by his tone that he didn’t actually find this to be a good thing. Jim had a habit of depersonalising acquaintances so they meant less to him when they walked away. It was his simply his innate defence. “But yeah, that’s the one.”

Jim nodded dutifully. “She’s a smart lady.” He waited a beat, cracked an inevitable smile. “You sure she’s even gonna be interested in you?”

The comment gleaned him a whack upside the head. “Ow!” Kirk complained with little heat. “Keep your hands to yourself.”

“Then keep yer thoughts to yourself!” Bones ordered, before folding his arms stubbornly across his chest. “All you need to do is show up at Neon Club at seven sharp and give me the edge to go up and talk to her.”

Jim didn’t need to think twice about it. Not when it came to his best friend. He shrugged. “Yeah, of course. No problem.”

Despite all of Leonard McCoy’s tough cowboy talk, he was still raw from his divorce a few years ago. He liked the ladies well enough, and had always been more than happy to share a wild story or two in exchange for some Jim’s own. When push came to shove, Bones tended to shy away from relationships just as much as Jim did. So if there was any way Kirk could encourage his friend to get out there and be happy, he would.

***

Jim’s pleasure at seeing Bones excited about something – anything - overrode any lingering disappointment he might have felt for having to go out for Valentine’s Day. Anyway, he was confident his friend would get the girl in the end, and it was more than likely Bones would forget about Jim at his side the moment his eyes locked with Nurse Chapel’s.

Like he’d told Bones, it was the least he could do after all the shit the good doctor had pulled him out of.

His Social Psychology class brought on a pop quiz on cabin fever to start things off; a surprise to which most of the class groaned aloud over. Jim had little need to commiserate with the class. He’d read the assigned chapters for the week, and rather enjoyed sociology and psychology.

Getting into peoples’ heads could be rather fascinating and it was a skill he employed on a day-to-day basis.

That aside, hadn’t anyone noticed the blatant fact that Professor G’Rong tended to give a pop quiz every third Tuesday of every other month? Maybe it was just him who recognised the pattern.

Finishing the quiz well before most of the students, Jim pulled out that familiar phone and lounged back in his seat. He didn’t question the impulse to text his new Vulcan friend. Why would he?

I just got talked into going to a Valentine’s party.

A reply popped up from the bottom of the screen within the minute. Jim wondered what classes this guy was taking so that he managed to reply so quickly, but the thought fluttered away easily as the conversation ensued.

I see. Will you not be able to meet at the allotted time?

No no, I’m still going to meet you.

That is fortunate. You have been receiving a multitude of texts.

Jim inwardly winced.

Oh... did you read any?

The reply was slow to arrive.

One, unfortunately.

Graphic?

This time the reply was quick.

Rather.

Sorry about that.

It was not beyond Jim to deduce how easy it would have been for the Vulcan to simply say nothing at all. The fact that he’d mentioned it in the first place was of interest to Jim. It suggested to him that the Vulcan had his own brand of humour and spunk hidden somewhere.

I can find no reason to apologise. I had initially assumed the text was from you and opened it.

Sorry about it, anyway. The girls get kind of... frisky around Valentine’s.

His fingertips hovered in a moment of uncertainty over the smooth keys; gaze flickering back and forth over the already-typed message. Worrying his bottom lip with his teeth, Jim briefly considered scrapping the urge to ask the next utterly out-of-line question.

It didn’t make any sense, this disconcerting pull in his gut. But when had Jim Kirk ever gone against his gut? Shoving uncertainties aside with shaky enthusiasm, Jim finished his reply.

Anyway, do you want to come to this party with me?

Jim almost immediately regretted asking. He didn’t even know what this person looked like. Not that appearances were everything, of course. Despite oft-made claims, even Jim was not that narcissistic. In fact, it would come as a shock to most everyone but for Bones, that Jim Kirk’s self-esteem hovered at the same level as an average person. He had doubts and fears as much as anyone else.

Jim’s bravado and stubbornness, however, remained unrivalled at Starfleet Academy. That made a world of difference.

Why would you want me to come?

Releasing the breath he’d been unaware he’d been holding, Jim squirmed in his chair, displeased with the line of conversation he’d opened. Why on earth would he have asked this person to come to a Valentine’s party with him when he didn’t like Valentine’s, nor did he want to go to a party?

There was only one true answer. In the short time Jim had ‘spoken’ to the part-time possessor of his phone, he’d smiled more than he had on any other Valentine’s Day since he was ten years old. Ridiculous, but true. And absolutely not what Jim was going to say right now. Or ever.

You don’t have a date, I don’t have a date.

It is my prerogative not to have a date for a meaningless Terran festivity.

Jim merely smiled, ignoring the twin pricks of relief and disappointment in his breast.

Is that a no, then?

There was no reply. Not for some several minutes. Jim fiddled with the phone and spun it idly upon his desktop as he sent sidelong glances about the room. He hoped that the remaining students would finish up so they could continue with class.

Reopening the chat box with a few expert clicks, Jim stare weighed heavily upon his last inquiry. The lack of reply could mean one of several things. He was busy and couldn’t reply. He was insulted or put-out and wouldn’t reply. Or he wanted to say yes and wouldn’t admit to it. The first two options were far more plausible, Jim decided. And yet, he felt somehow spurned on.

So, what are you wearing?

The reply was almost immediate, which led Jim to believe his earlier question had been pointedly ignored. Which was likely for the best, he reasoned. Despite his new fixation with getting a rise out of the Vulcan, they would probably have little to talk about in real life. Probably.

Is this a human euphemism? I do not understand.

I’m bored. So we’re playing.

You play by inquiring into my attire?

Uh huh, now you tell me. Make it sexy.

I will not make it sexy. I am wearing my black regulation uniform.

Jim froze, eyes anchored to the words imprinted there like a death sentence. Black regulation uniform. That could only mean one thing. Panic bubbled.

Okay, wait. You’re a teacher?

Indeed.

Shit.

Shit. You’re not going to report me or anything, are you?

Sexually harassing a professor had to be a criminal offence of some sort, surely.

The Jim Kirk of three years ago might not have given a flying fuck about the consequences of his actions – in fact, he would have welcomed the attention it would have gotten him.

The Jim Kirk of now - wild and irresponsible as he still was - did not want to be kicked out of the Academy for some unintentional offence.

This place was all he had. All that ever mattered.

I am afraid I do not understand the logic behind your inquiry.

Relief flooded through Jim in waves and tensed muscles loosened. Obviously this professor guy was easy-going by both Vulcan and Academy standards. Either that or Jim had encountered a stroke of luck, and the Vulcan had had no idea he was being playfully hit on.

Either way, Jim was thankful he’d come out of that awkwardness unscathed and was happy to move on. Unfortunately, his curiosity did always get the best of him.

Oh. Okay. That’s good. So, um, how old are you?

I am 27. Not that it is your business.

Jim baulked at the text. The guy was barely older than him, for Christ’s sake! And he taught at the Academy? From the little Jim knew of Vulcans, he was aware that they were extraordinarily intelligent - which he supposed would account for this strange turn of events.

Still... twenty-seven? Even Jim, who was blatantly aware – and more than pleased - that he was a genius, knew he couldn’t teach in a couple year’s time. Not that he would ever want to pursue teaching, but the point was his respect for this Vulcan had just swelled tenfold... as well as Jim’s interest in him.

Very true. But you told me anyway. Want to know what I’m wearing?

Not particularly.

Playing hard to get, I see! I love a challenge.

No.

Jim repressed a chuckle and was about to reply, when the last student handed in their quiz and class officially began. The conversation would have to continue at another time.

***

When Jim’s lunch hour rolled around, he bypassed the sea of massed maroon uniforms flooding the mess hall and made a beeline for his quarters.

Jim disliked skipping meals because he was an extremely active, jittery guy much of the time - but right now a kernel of worry had buried itself deeply beneath Jim’s skin. He’d spent the good half of a day distracting himself from thoughts of his mother’s awaiting communication, but now it could not be denied that it had been shadowing him since this morning.

Jim needed to get this done. Food could wait.

Jim allowed himself no mental preparation as he hunkered down before the monitor and scrolled right to the message from his mother.

Winona Kirk’s face flickered onto the screen, her gently ageing appearance clenching at Jim’s heart for an alarming moment. Jim had not seen his mother’s face in some six years or so. Now her quiet eyes reached out to him, uncovering places Jim vehemently wished would remain hidden.

“Hello, James.”

His mother’s voice reverberated straight through him. Jim stared despondently at the screen, as if Winona herself would know if Jim visibly reacted to seeing his mother.

His mother continued on, voice a bit tight with some mixture of anxiety and excitement.

“How are you? I haven’t heard from you in so long, but I guess that’s a good thing in your case.”

Jim shifted uncomfortably in his seat at her nervous chirp of laughter.

“It means you’re staying out of trouble - at least, big trouble. I’m so proud of you.”

Kirk sucked in a shallow breath as her hushed swallow sounded like a gong.

“Um, anyway, I have some news!”

Jim sent the monitor a narrow look at the attemptedcheer in her voice.

“I’m – I’m getting married! Richard proposed to me today on Valentine’s Day, of all days. It was so romantic...”

Winona Kirk’s voice faded out, garbled and muffled as if Kirk had been hurled into the ocean and water clogged his ears. His lungs felt full, swelling heavily as Jim simply drowned in his own panic, horror. Anger.

His mother’s mute face chattered on before his eyes, which had suddenly become frustratingly wet. Jim didn’t bother to swipe away the moisture pooling at his thick lower lashes; he hardly comprehended their existence.

Married. The word sank into him like a dull-edged knife; slow and painful realisation.

Jim hated that he cared.

Hated that this bothered him at all. He didn’t want to give a fuck about a woman who’d left him to the dogs so long ago, however unintentional the abandonment may have been.

Jim didn’t want to feel that deep pang of sorrow for the life he could have led had his father lived, had they been a happy family.

Hell, he hadn’t even needed a happy family. A mediocre one would have suited him well enough.

Instead he’d gotten the back of his first step-father’s hard-knuckled hand and harsh, crass reprimands. The abuse had only worsened when Jim had found his silver-tongue and learned to fight back with both words and fists.

Jim Kirk had learned how to fight back early. Problem was, fists couldn’t fight back the sorrow of life without his dad.

The communication had long since terminated.

Jim felt stiff, his pulse heavy and thick throughout his addled muscles. He stood without turning off the screen. With great force of will he moved to the bed, flopped back onto the mattress with a quiet thud and stared at the ceiling.

Why couldn’t he simply be happy for her?

Jim practically demanded the emotion of himself, but failed to unearth a scrap of pleasure for her sake. She deserved to be happy. Enough had happened to his mother in her life that he knew this. Jim loved his mother. He had no ability to carry a grudge so deep.

But the fact of the matter was that Jim simply couldn’t comprehend how seemingly easy it had been for his mother to move on from Captain George Kirk. Hell, he hadn’t even gotten over it yet.

Jim didn’t think he ever would.

Still riding high on waves of unreasonable emotion, Jim rummaged with clumsy fingers through his pocket and pulled out the phone. The text scrolled out of him without conscious thought.

Ever wish your life had turned out differently?

The pause was long; excruciatingly so.

Once again, Jim found himself regretting his actions with this person he’d never even met.

Jim was not the sharing type of guy – ever. He hadn’t met a person yet who had been able to get near his heart with a ten-foot pole. And yet, here he was, blathering complete shit to a stranger.

Maybe that was the charm of it. Jim didn’t know this person and at the end of the day they would exchange phones and likely never encounter each other again. There was a freedom to that.

Rarely.

The soft snort from Jim’s nose was a weak laugh. Rarely. He could read around that. If the answer had been ‘never’ the Vulcan would have said so. His reply clearly insinuated to Jim that even Vulcans had doubts. It was an oddly comforting fact for him.

I wish I wasn’t bothered by the shit other people do. That there was just some switch inside me that I could just flick off and I could go on living exactly as I wanted.

I believe that is termed ‘wishful thinking’ on your planet.

Jim’s lips tentatively as his warming gaze enveloped the Vulcan’s words.

Yeah. It is. I hate feeling guilty, though. I don’t know if I hate anything more. Is it too much to ask that I just not give a fuck about anyone?

Guilt is a fruitless and utterly illogical human emotion. What is done is done. What is felt is felt.

A Vulcan talking about feelings, Jim mused, his thoughts idly wandering away from the dark place he’d fallen into as it wrapped around the puzzling mind of his texting buddy.

Very logical, Professor. Not that I’m not happy with where I am. I am. I’m awesome. But sometimes I wish life came with an instruction manual. Or, you know, free booze to get you through.

Fascinating. You do not seem like the type to read instructions.

It took a moment for the joke to sink in - if it even was a joke. Maybe it was simply a wonderfully truthful observation. Nevertheless, Jim was taken aback when he heard his own airy laugh break the stiff silence of the room.

Who said Vulcans aren’t funny?

I could not tell you.

Despite everything, Jim found himself weakly smiling. Though the coarse ache remained atop Jim’s chest, the feeling had dulled considerably with each passing sentence exchanged between them. How could he ever have imagined that a Vulcan, of all people, could invigorate him so effortlessly?

How did you manage to cheer me up so quickly?

Your query is certainly a conundrum.

Soothing warmth bloomed within Jim’s chest and thawed the icy chill of sorrow that clung to his ribcage. He felt... not healed, but bandaged. Most definitely bandaged.

Well, thanks all the same.

***

The first half of astrophysics was a bit of a blur, and not simply because a single algorithm was beginning to take up an entire PADD screen.

As much as Jim was struggling to put this entire marriage business out of his mind, it was proving rather difficult when flashes and memories of his first step-father wormed their way into his consciousness.

Of course, Jim knew this would be nothing like the first time around – he was a grown man now and would likely never even meet the guy. Yet the knowledge that his mother was moving on once more, and leaving her son behind, plagued him.

What nagged at him all the more was Jim’s inability to let go of things long past. Where was his carefree attitude when he really needed it?

The sudden buzz from the Vulcan’s phone in Jim’s pocket had him physically jerking out of his reverie. The student a couple seats away noted the twitch and goggled at him as if he were a mental patient. Jim aimed a sheepish smile at him and sent a sidelong glance towards the instructor, grateful to find his intent was on teaching and not Kirk.

Jim realised, with peaking interest, that this was the first time his Vulcan friend had texted him first. To be honest, the guy really didn’t seem like the type to start a conversation at all. It occurred to Jim while he was artfully sneaking the phone from his pocket, that maybe he was being contacted to be cancelled on.

Disappointment lurched in his stomach and Jim frowned. With a single shallow breath he opened the text.

What is the implication of being called ‘impossible’?

Relief and humour irked a small curve of lips from the cadet, even as he cocked his head at the curious words. Unless Jim was totally insane – and he’d been told he was a time or two - he would swear that the Vulcan was coming to him for advice, after Jim had done so of him only a couple hours ago. No one ever came to Jim Kirk for advice.

It felt – well - kind of nice. Not that he wanted to make a habit of it for the world or anything.

Hey, you stealing my nickname? It means that, as a person, you’re incredibly difficult to deal with. And probably exasperating on top of that.

I see.

You don’t seem very impossible to me.

Jim paused. In fact, he found he took pleasure every time the Vulcan indicated he was being purposely difficult. It was a challenge. It was fun.

Who said that to you?

A friend.

So Vulcans could have friends. Jim sensed it was uncommon for them, though. Things were starting to come together now.

Ah. A GIRL friend?

Indeed. How did you come to that conclusion?

I have some experience with this sort of thing. She ask you out?

No. She inquired as to my plans for the evening. I told I was retrieving my phone and returning to my quarters. She stared at me for an inordinate length of time, I inquired into her well-being, at which point she stated I was ‘impossible’ and walked away.

Kirk was beginning to glean the sneaking suspicion that there was a lot more to this Vulcan than one would think. He was a genius, he was rather amusing in a quiet, understated way, and he had girls chasing after him despite, or because, of his alien demeanour. Jim found himself positively gravitating towards this faceless person.

...Yeah, that was her wanting you to ask her on a date.

Why did she not speak her mind in a straight-forward manner?

That’s an easy answer, Jim thought with an ironic grin.

Because she’s a woman.

Human females are most perplexing.

Damn straight.

Vulcan or not, all men appeared to agree on a similar base of rules. No exceptions. Jim wondered just how challenging it was to get this particular man to go on a date. He scowled, promptly tucking the phone away as he wondered why he would even care.

***

“Dammit, Jim, are you gonna spill the beans, or what?” The familiar southern twang yanked Jim from his morose reverie as he looked up from his scant-touched dinner.

“’Or what’?” Jim offered with a toothy, artificial grin.

“What good are you to anyone when you’re like this, huh?” Bone’s waved a fork at Jim’s face from across the table. Jim didn’t flinch at the meaningless threat of flying cutlery. He was used to McCoy assailing him with hypos – Jim far preferred the element of danger that a fork carried.

“I’m good no matter what. Seriously, have you learned nothing in the span of our friendship?” Jim pointedly took a bite of his food to prove to Bones he was in perfect working order. His dinner stuck in his throat like glue.

“You’re the biggest bull-shitter in Starfleet, that’s what I’ve learned.” Bones had one crazy-eye scanning him, a feral look that only the good doctor seemed to be able to pull off. “And that you don’t give two shits about yourself where it really counts.”

Jim quirked a brow and coughed a laugh. “Yeah, because you’re not the hypocrite here.”

“I’m older than you. I’m allowed to be a hypocrite.”

“Likely story.” Jim sighed dramatically into his food and moved his potatoes around on his plate so it appeared as if he were eating. When Kirk looked up he realised Bones had yet to halt his impromptu diagnostic exam. Jim’s sigh was genuine this time.

“I lost my phone. Or, er, accidentally got mine switched with someone else’s identical one. I’m gonna switch them back before I come up to Neon.”

“Dumb as a bag a’dirt about some things.” The doctor grumbled under his breath, taking a hefty bite of his food and chewing in amiable silence for some time.

When Jim’s mood continued to remain low, Bones jabbed at the cadet once more. “And that’s all that’s wrong, huh? Fuckin’ liar.” Count on Bones to state his opinions right out.

Jim already knew he wouldn’t be telling Bones of his mother’s remarriage. Ever, if he had anything to say about it. He didn’t need the pitying looks he knew he’d receive behind his back. He already got enough of those from the Academy students and faculty who simply viewed him as ‘poor Captain Kirk’s unfortunate offspring’.

It made Kirk sick.

“I just hate Valentine’s Day, okay? You know I’m lactose intolerant. Fuckin’ chocolates being practically shoved down my throat left and right.” Jim grumbled, and it was the truth - even if it wasn’t the entire truth. “And every girl n’ guy wants a piece of you like you were on the butcher’s block for sale to the world or something.”

Truth by omission – Jim Kirk’s favourite brand.

“I hear you, buddy, I hear you.” Bones seemed appeased with this explanation for the time being. “So who’s got your phone?”

“Some Vulcan professor.”

If Bone’s had been drinking he would have spat everywhere. Instead, his eyes simply widened to that impossibly manic appearance that no doctor with a proper bedside manner should really have. “You pullin’ my fuckin’ leg? You’ve got Professor Spock’s phone? I didn’t think computers needed their own separate communicators.”

“Wait wait wait!” Jim flung his hands up and waved them before Bones’ face. “Spock? Professor Spock? You sure it’s this guy?”

The doctor nodded in affirmation. “Only Vulcan professor I’ve had the misfortune of meetin’ in this damn place.”

Jim frowned. “So he’s not... a nice guy or whatever?”

“He’s not anything!” Bones rolled his eyes. “He’s just there, bein’ all emotionless and mightier-than-thou. He thinks he’d head honcho, kid. Trust me on this one.”

“Sorry Bones,” Jim leaned across the table and clapped a hand upon his best friend’s shoulder. “I think I’ll make my own opinions from here on out. You tend to be scarily biased.”

“Fuck if I do!” Bones retorted, but Jim was already sliding out of his seat and ambling out of the mess hall.

***

Jim dragged his feet as he returned to his quarters. The weight of the day was like a leaden cloak upon his shoulders, heavy and unrelenting. Every moment Kirk stood tall was a moment he felt weaker than before.

Tossing his uniform to the floor piece by piece, Jim padded quietly up to his top drawer and yanked it open. He found a simple white v-neck t-shirt and slipped it over his head. But when he made to shut the drawer, the corner of a shoebox caught his eye from the back of the compartment.

Of course Jim had known it was there. Of course he knew he was going to take the box out and sit on the bed like he was robotically doing at that very moment. It seemed like no matter how hard Kirk attempted to incinerate his need for acceptance and comfort, the emotions remained steadfast. He knew why, too.

Jim simply could not forget what lay inside the box.

Tentatively opening the shoebox, Jim placed the fragile cardboard lid upon the rumpled bedspread and began to shift through the items within. An old baseball card, a picture of his father, a shark’s tooth necklace, a tattered copy of Tennyson poems, a pocketknife, his brother’s lucky shoelace and a small toy Starship.

But fingertips recognised the feeling of the smooth, paper card immediately. Unearthing it from the bottom of the box, Jim pushed everything else aside but for the item delicately laying in his hands.

A Valentine’s Day card.

A simple red heart decorated the cover; Jim already knew what the jotted scrawl would look like inside the card. Jim had even practised the handwriting so his scrawl would look identical to it. He did not have to read the words his father had written to his mother a lifetime ago. They were simple and ingrained into his mind since he was ten years old.

Winnie,
This is forever.
-George

Forever. What did that even mean? What did forever consist of? Jim's mother certainly didn’t believe in forever. If she had, would she have pawned herself off time and again to a veritable fleet of men? Had George Kirk understood that forever was simply a pipe dream; something silly to imagine was even possible?

Forever was a fairy tale. Happily ever after was a sham. Love was a whim caused by the insistent breath of lust.

Jim would liked to have seen proof that this was not the truth; but he’d yet to encounter any definite evidence to the contrary.

Life was simply one punch after another. Roll with the punches, get a little bruised and continue on.

With his face awash and haggard, Jim read the card one time over before shoving it back in its box and quickly tucking it away amongst his personal belongings. He needed to meet this Spock now.

***

The western grounds of the Academy were humming quietly with the buzz of couples and groups heading into town. Jim lifted a hand a time or two to acknowledge a greeting, but didn’t stop to chat like he normally would. He had a date –so to speak- to keep. The fountain was a popular spot to meet up, particularly after the sun had set. The ground basin of the structure was lit with underwater spotlights, making for an effectively stunning beacon amidst the endlessly uniform clipped grass and square hedges.

A single heartbeat stuttered in Jim’s chest.

Kirk’s gaze locked directly on the man he knew without a doubt would be Spock. His back was to Jim, leaving the cadet to appraise the seemingly endless length of leg, the cap of hair that shimmered a raven’s blue-black, and the distinctly alien peak of his ears. Jim jammed his hands into pockets, noting with a flood of good humour that Spock remained in his black uniform. Christ, if he’d known how the outfit had been cut specifically for this guy, Jim would have taken Spock’s earlier reply to what he was wearing in all seriousness.

“Spock.” Not a question, but a statement, as Jim enclosed the remaining feet between them. Spock turned, and their eyes locked.

Jim froze. Even in the pale reflecting light of the water, Spock’s angular features were distinct; set off and at odds with the lush, cupids-bow mouth and dark, eloquent eyes. The stately Vulcan was, much to Jim’s surprise, undeniably sexy.

A sharp slash of brow quirked once, followed by low, enunciated tones that betrayed nothing. “I do not believe we know each other. Do you require something of me?”

The polite, but rather haughty candour of Spock’s speech essentially told Jim ‘why are you bothering me?’ Jim’s stiff shoulders relaxed, an automatic smile tugging insistently at his lips.

“I do, actually,” he drawled, enjoying the arch look he gained in reply. “I’m Jim. Jim Kirk. And unless you’re seriously enjoying my textually harassing you all day, we should probably trade phones.”

Jim’s smile widened at the immediate light of realisation in those aloof eyes.

“If your intention was to perturb me in any way today, you were not successful.”

“Seriously? And I’m usually so good at it. You’ll have to give me a second chance to redeem myself sometime.”

“You enjoy being... impossible?” Spock’s inquired in a monotone; although the use of the word ‘impossible’ was a rather playful allusion to their previous discussion. “Illogical.” Even as Jim began to feign innocence, Spock added, “Though I regret to say I am not surprised by this.”

“Vulcans are awful quick –or maybe it’s just you. Guess that means you might be able to keep up with me, huh?” Jim teased, relenting to a smile once more. The flash of genuine amusement was brief as Jim reminded himself of the reason he was here. They’d likely not run into each other again after this –he and Spock had managed to remain out of each other’s orbit this long; what was a few years?

“As Vulcans are physiologically and mentally superior to humans, I predict no foreseeable difficulties in, as you say, keeping up.”

With a smile dutifully in place, Jim veered his sobering eyes from Spock’s face as he dug through his jacket pocket and produced the compact phone. “Yeah, well I’m a faster texter than you, so.” As if he’d won the argument from that alone, Jim held out the phone like the final punctuation of his sentence.

A single brow rose carefully, as Spock reached for the phone without qualm – apparently he knew when to pick his battles. That, or he hardly knew how to debate such a ludicrous topic.

As Spock’s fingertips brushed Jim’s, there was a single burning moment of contact. A sharp spark sizzled and snapped between the Vulcan’s molten skin and Jim’s cool hand, causing Spock to stiffen immediately; his hand now clenched fiercely around his phone.

Jim was oblivious to the reaction as he snapped his hand back and laughed easily, shaking his fingers loosely. “Damn, that was some shock! You been rolling on carpeting or something?”

“I do not...” Spock stared down at his clenched fist with an iota of wonder widening his eyes.

Jim rubbed the back of his stiff neck absently, and paused as still as Spock when the realisation slammed into him.

The spark.

The crackle he’d heard; the brief flare of electricity that had sent currents along his arm.

A low thrum of a headache coiled at his temples. It hadn’t been there moments ago. The base of his spine tingled unmistakably.

“Wow, okay, I’m just gonna come right out and say this.” Jim skipped a beat, then decided to throw all diplomacy out the window. He’d always had difficulties in that class. “That felt... weird.” He eyed the Vulcan cautiously, taking stock of Spock’s now nonplussed expression. “Did you do something to me?”

No.” The Vulcan replied with a fragment of vehemence; his lips tightening firmly. He shook his head, taking a moment to slip his phone into his pocket and, Jim assumed, to collect his thoughts.

“No, I did not. The mutual reaction we experienced appeared to be caused by our... suited psyches.”

Jim’s stare was vacant and Spock elaborated efficiently.

“Vulcans are touch telepaths. We make a conscious effort to shield ourselves from the thoughts and emotions of others.” Spock seemed a bit exasperated. With himself, or with Jim, was unclear.

“Moments ago I was not as diligent with my mental barriers as per usual -coupled with the fact that our minds are of a similar wavelength.” There was an equivalent of a Vulcan shrug as Spock flicked a brow. “It was logical that these factors would equate to the psychic shock you experienced.”

Jim looked on at Spock with mute wonder. So the Vulcan did speak more than a sentence at a time. When he was... flustered? If he had been flustered, he certainly didn’t seem so now. Jim nodded carefully. It was intriguing to learn his mind was in any way similar to that of a Vulcan’s. Jim wasn’t sure if he should be flattered or vaguely insulted.

“Right. Got it, I guess.” Jim wasn’t particularly familiar with alien telepathy, but he’d heard his fair share of gossip to have a clue. Wishing to lighten the mood, he aimed what he hoped was a winning smile Spock’s way. “So, did you get anything cool off of me?”

Spock’s reply was to raise his brows, and pull out Jim’s phone and drop it carefully into his hand; this time no contact was made. “Indeed, the temperature of the human epidermis is lower than that of a Vulcan’s.”

“Smart-ass,” Jim muttered in good nature; tucking away his phone. For one awkward moment –at least, on his part- the young cadet looked to the ground, and kicked an errant stone. This was the fork in the road. Which would he choose?

Why, the most exciting path, of course. “So you’re coming with me to that party, right?” Jim was already spinning on his heel and heading off; looking over his shoulder to indicate with a wave of his hand that Spock should follow. For a moment, the Vulcan looked as if he would high-tail it in the opposite direction; but much to Jim’s surprise, Spock fell silently into step with him.

Jim had no inclination towards analysing the lilt of anticipation that fluttered in his stomach, nor did he question why he was essentially asking a stranger on a date for a holiday he particularly detested. This relationship hadn’t gotten off on the most normal foot, after all. Why change that?

“We won’t be long, I think. I’ve just got to take care of something and then we can sneak off.” Jim rambled comfortably, pleased to note how easily their steps coincided. Curiosity was a desperate itch beneath his skin, as he wondered with more than a bit of mischief how the stoic Professor Spock would react if their hands brushed once more. He’d refrain from play for now, though. “I’m hungry. Are you hungry? We should get something to eat after this.”

“I am not adverse to the suggestion.”

“Sounds like a yes to me!”

“Do you perhaps have some undiagnosed hearing impairment?” Spock remarked in a tone so polite, it had to be ironic.

“Oh, aren’t we fuckin’ hysterical.” Jim quipped dryly, but he couldn’t wipe that grin off his face.

***

It was a good twenty-minute walk to Neon; made longer by the slow pace Jim had set as he ambled on, chatting aimlessly to Spock. The Vulcan seemed generally content –or at the very least indifferent- to speak with Jim concerning most subjects of school and general interests. Neither of them touched on the subjects arisen via texts, but the undercurrent of knowledge remained in the infrequent glances they spared each other when their guards dropped. On one or two occasions, Jim checked his phone just to make sure they were on time –which they weren’t.

Fifteen minutes late, and Jim ushered Spock into the club. The establishment certainly lived up to its name. The pair were immediately harassed by a lightshow of festive pink and red lasers, most of which thankfully centred above the dance floor.

Kirk motioned for Spock to follow his lead, which seemed to suit the Vulcan just fine. Spock appeared rather uncomfortable and stiff with his near-futile attempts to refrain from touching anyone. As they weaved through the jubilant crowd of lovers, Jim found himself innately wedging his body between the customers and Spock, in hopes to keep his friend less than overwhelmed.

It did not occur to Jim that pressing his back against Spock’s chest a time or two would be just as uncomfortable for Spock as a stranger’s touch. Yet Jim was a physical person by nature and he expressed his happiness, anger, amusement, and attraction all through touch. He would be mindful around Spock, but he certainly wasn’t going to alter himself for anyone.

Jim found Bones at the end corner of the lengthy bar. Jim considered feigning surprise, but couldn’t be bothered to go through the motions, as he felt a sense of pleasure and accomplishment swell within him at the sight of the doctor animatedly chatting away to none other than Christine Chapel.

With an impenetrable grin gracing his features, Jim clamped his fingers lightly around Spock’s lean forearm, and navigated him towards the couple. It occurred to him only briefly how searing the Vulcan’s skin was even though his uniform. That was kind of... well, hot, for lack of better word. It was Jim’s libido talking, after all.

“Sorry I’m late, doc!” Jim chimed in cheerfully, pitching his voice above the din of thumping music. “I don’t think you’ll be after my company tonight, anyway.”

McCoy shot a look of distaste toward his best friend; he was clearly not pleased with the cadet for being late when he’d counted on him. “Guess not.” He remarked shortly. Bones eyed the Vulcan standing behind Kirk, but did not acknowledge him verbally.

“Christine, this is Jim Kirk. You know him as the pain in my ass, thorn in my side, and grey in my hair.”

Nurse Chapel’s laugh was husky and appealing as ever. Jim took her hand, and made a silly show of placing a kiss upon her knuckles.

“We’ve met, doctor. What was it Jim –severe allergic reaction to Andorian lubrication?”

“Uh, yeah. That’s me.” Jim winkled his nose and dropped Christine’s hand. That was the problem with having medical officers for friends –they knew all the business you wish they didn’t. “Hell, can’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it, right?

“Oh!” Jim stepped aside lightly, giving room for Spock to squeeze in beside him. The press of Spock’s upper arm upon his own reminded Jim once more of the veritable furnace the Vulcan was masking beneath that clinging unif – and Jim stopped the thought, before he descended into the gutter. “And this is Spock. My date.”

The twin looks of horror on both Bones’ and Spock’s face had so been worth the wind-up. Spock’s expression was severely subdued in comparison with Bones, but the flicker of panic in his eye did not go unnoticed by Jim, who’d been specifically searching it out with deviant glee.

“What in blue-blazes are you talking about, Jim?” Bones snapped; grabbing for his drink and downing half a glass right there.

Spock was already neatly interjecting. “I am not his romantic companion.”

Jim marvelled at the mossy flush clouding Spock’s ivory, sculpted cheekbones with unadulterated fascination. He shook his head, breathing a soft laugh. “He’s just shy,” Jim assured them with a conspiratorially dramatic whisper.

“Vulcans are not shy,” Spock retorted stiffly; his hands reaching to the small of his back to clasp firmly in place.

“Vulcans ain’t anything,” Bones muttered into his glass; angling in his seat towards Chapel once more.

Jim rolled his eyes at Bones’ manners, which had always left something to be desired. Then again, he and McCoy seemed to have that in common on several occasions. Normally Kirk took the grumbling nonsense in good humour, but on this occasion he didn’t want Spock to feel any more alienated than he already might be feeling.

Taking Bone’s actions as a dismissal, Kirk made his goodbyes and led the silent Spock out of the club.

“Well, that was easy.” Jim exclaimed jovially as he raised his face to the night sky. For once he was not intent on the stars. Rather, his eyes itched to further study his curious new Vulcan.

“Jim,” Spock suddenly murmured, easily grabbing Jim’s undivided attention. “May I make a personal inquiry?”

“Hit me.”

“My intention is certainly not to strike you,” Spock remarked, brows rocketing towards his hairline.

Jim laughed, and waved away Spock’s concern with a loose wrist. “It just means go ahead, inquire to your heart’s content.”

Spock was pensive for a moment longer as they strolled down the deserted sidewalk. “What was the purpose of your actions tonight?”

“Well, that’s a pretty vague question. Care to be more specific?” Jim idly studied Spock’s profile from the corner of his eye.

“Your rendezvous with Doctor McCoy and Nurse Chapel lasted approximately six-point-two minutes before we once more departed.”

“Oh, only approximately six-point-two?” Kirk quipped; warmth and humour kindling in his gaze.

“I was not keeping exact time. Please, satisfy my curiosity, if you would. I was under the impression human gatherings tended to last longer than the amount of time we presided within the recreational facility.”

Jim shrugged, and stuffed his hands into his jacket pockets. His elbow bumped Spock’s arm, and the Vulcan did not shift away.

Huh.

“Bones wanted me to meet him there, so I could back him up when he went to talk to Chapel.” Kirk’s lips quirked as his eyes fell to the dirty cement they treaded across. “He really does like her, I think. Anyway, I was supposed to meet him at seven. We were late and he ended up getting impatient of waiting on me, and took care of business himself.” He flung his hands up in a comical shrug, “My services are no longer needed.”

Spock nodded once, though the distant glint in his eyes indicated he was deep in thought. Jim was happy with the silence.

“You took note of the time twice before arriving and set a notably slow travel pace. You were not punctual by design,” Spock concluded.

Jim didn’t show his surprise. He merely smiled. “You’ve got no proof.”

“Indeed.”

They continued to walk in tandem, with Jim wondering how Spock had deduced his deliberate negligence to be for the good of his friend, and not simple laziness. The Vulcan saw far more than most people. Kirk wondered if that was an entirely Vulcan characteristic, or something unique to this man.

Regardless of the answer, Jim thought Spock was pretty damn unique on his own.

“Your actions were illogical, yet your desired outcome for Doctor McCoy came to fruition.” Spock still appeared to be puzzling over this matter.

“Does it bother you that I’m not a logical piece of your puzzle, Spock?” Jim teased, nudging Spock playfully with his elbow. The Vulcan merely stood ramrod straight, though yet again he did not sway from Kirk’s side.

“No. I am simply recalculating your flawed, humanistic rationale.”

Jim spoke quietly as if Spock hadn’t said a word. “It’s all right Spock. I don’t fit in anyone’s puzzle.” He smiled, but the light didn’t quite reach his eyes. “That’s what makes me so awesome.”

***

“Spock, you have to try this place. The food is to die for!” Kirk pushed open the door of the Thai restaurant, the merry tinkle of bells utterly at odds with the sour face Spock was aiming his way.

“You would have me ingest lethal sustenance? Is that not the essence of an oxymoron, as well as highly illogical?”

Nonplussed, Jim snorted a laugh and gave the small of Spock’s back a light push, as he cajoled him into the spicy-scented air of the establishment. Once they were seated, Jim promptly tugged the menu from the Vulcan’s hands.

The icy look aimed at him held just enough dismay to leave Kirk feeling utterly unthreatened. “You’re not ordering,” he explained; lips quirking impishly as he peered up at Spock from behind his own menu. “I am. You don’t know what’s good, anyway.”

“I am not concerned with sustenance you deem ‘good’. I am merely concerned with the vegetarian options this establishment has to offer.”

Jim could almost hear the snooty sniff of distaste. Obviously this Vulcan was not an adventurous eater. That could be changed.

“Don’t worry about it, okay? I know this menu like the back of my hand.” Kirk made a show of inspecting the back of his hand, and then frowned. “Was that freckle always there?” He looked up at Spock with a grin, “Kidding, I’m kidding.” Probably.

“Are you considered humorous by human standards?”

Jim laughed, accepting the very Vulcan-style burn. “Absolutely. The funniest guy you’ll ever meet.”

“I confess I find that information rather disturbing.”

“I’m cool with that,” Jim quipped easily; lashes lowering as he scanned through the menu.

He altered his usual choices to suit Spock’s preferences. Despite his undeniable gut attraction to Spock, the thought did not cross Kirk’s mind that this was a dinner date. He was hungry, so they were going to eat. The fact that he was having more fun with another person since... well, Jim really couldn’t think back far enough to find a fair example. That in itself was saying something.

Jim simply wanted to enjoy himself, so he would. Spock made it very easy for him to relax. Despite the weighted comments he dropped time and again, Jim didn’t get the feeling he was being judged or measured up in any way. In fact, he could almost swear that Spock was enjoying himself to some degree, as well. Kirk was aware that he’d pulled the Vulcan out of his comfort zone, but that was the spice of life, wasn’t it?

The tiny waitress came around and took their orders quietly, and within a minute had brought to the table a large pitcher of water and two glasses. Kirk was pouring them both a drink, when Spock came out with a question the cadet found more personal than the Vulcan’s inquiry over his cupid tactics.

“Why do you prefer this establishment to others?”

Jim had to admit the question was almost adorable. He supposed it was through genuine curiosity that he was receiving this question, and not that Spock wanted to get to know him better. But Kirk was happy for the conversation, all the same.

“Well, for one thing, I love spicy food. Thai food, Asian food in general. That aside, this place serves a lot of stuff that I’m not allergic to. It’s good to eat somewhere where I’m fairly certain my throat isn’t going to swell up, and cause me to die an untimely death on the floor.” Jim paused, and considered his answer further, totally unaware of the flicker of horror that crossed Spock’s face. “Well, except for the peanuts. They use a lot of peanuts. I’d probably have a heart attack if I ate one.”

“You continue to find nourishment from sustenance that may literally be ‘to die for’?” Spock inquired incredulously, his back ramrod straight as if he were preparing to stand up, and jerk Jim right out of the restaurant.

Hearing the Vulcan turn an idiom so completely upon its head had a rare belly laugh bursting colourfully from Jim’s lips. The cadet’s shoulders shook with the force of it, tears highlighting the bright, jubilant blue of his eyes. Kirk slouched back in his chair and sighed loudly, a wide, genuine smile gracing his lips.

“Spock. You are wonderful.” Jim found he meant it.

Their food arrived, and Kirk spent much of his time coercing Spock into trying the various spicy dishes he’d chosen. Spock was blatantly dubious to begin with, skittish as a small child who didn’t want to eat his vegetables. Once Jim turned it into a game of dare though, the Vulcan seemed spurned on to meet his challenge, and try anything put in front of him.

The highlight of their dinner had been when Spock had eaten something far too spicy for his liking, and his face had turned Emerald City green. “Now, if you hold your breath, what colour do you turn? I turn purpley-blue.”

“Why would I know the answer to this inane query?”

“What, you mean you haven’t tried to find out how long you could hold your breath for? I can hold mine for almost a whole minute until I start to pass out!"

“As I have stated once before, Vulcans have a superior physiology to humans. I would be able to hold my breath for a considerably longer period of time than you.”

“Fine. Show me.”

“No.”

“Fine then, don’t.”

“I am agreeable to your decision.”

“I see reverse psychology doesn’t work on Vulcans.”

“You have surprised me once more with your accurate deduction.”

The tail end of dinner went smoothly; both men too full to do anything but idly pick at their food, and chat. Much to Kirk’s surprise, the conversation was nearly fifty-fifty in give and take. He asked a couple questions, then Spock would. There was no rhyme or reason to the direction their musings took, and Kirk found himself more relaxed than he’d been in weeks, possibly months.

The soothing candour of Spock’s voice, the amber glint to his eyes when the light refracted through their depths, and the way their knees and ankles bumped companionably beneath the table, all lulled Kirk into an unfamiliar state of trust and serenity.

“Jim, may I make another personal inquiry?”

“I’m pretty sure we’re past the formalities of you having to ask permission,” Jim replied dryly; although a subtle affection caressed his tone.

“Am I correct in deducing you were under duress earlier in the day?”

“You know, for a culture that prides themselves on getting to the heart of a conversation, you sure do beat around the bush a lot.” Jim scratched the side of his head, and canted his chin curiously as he inspected the Vulcan’s blank expression.

“I assure you Vulcans do not lambaste foliage in any way.” Spock’s eyes darkened in a minute frown. “For a man who prides himself on his forthright manner, you are skilled at diverting inquiries.”

Spock had him there. Jim sighed. “Okay. Earlier in the day, like when?”

Jim could swear the Vulcan now regretted his question. He felt Spock’s long leg stretch out, his hot calf pressing against Jim’s. The warmth was comforting despite the unnerving feeling he was getting from Spock’s posture.

“At approximately thirteen hundred hours and forty-seven minutes.”

Confirmation dawned on him. Around lunchtime, Jim realised. Those senseless texts he’d sent Spock, moaning about his life like some pathetic child. “What of it?” Jim grunted caustically, his defences sliding up as easily as breathing-

No, that wasn’t quite true. With Spock it was a hell of a lot more difficult to guard himself. Spock’s eyes burned right through him. It almost felt like there was no point in hiding. Almost.

“I would not be averse to hearing your thoughts on the matter,” Spock intoned quietly. The unexpected undercurrent of tenderness in the Vulcan’s voice shook him. Spock didn’t even know what ‘the matter’ was, but he was offering himself as an ear if Jim wanted it.

And Jim did not want it. So why did he find himself spewing out information he would rather die without mentioning to anyone else?

“I don’t have any thoughts on the matter.” Jim flippantly informed Spock. “My mom is getting married for the third time. I’m sure he’ll be good for her.” Even Jim couldn’t convince himself of this statement.

He slumped forward in his chair, propped an elbow on the table, and rested his chin in his cupped palm. Kirk stared vacantly out the window toward the darkened, empty street.

“Marriage is a fortuitous occasion.”

“Hell yeah,” Jim barked a coarse laugh, couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “Marriage always is, right?”

Spock did not answer for an extended length of time. “This upsets you.” He noted without fanfare.

“Mmmm...” Jim murmured, which was as close to confirmation as he’d gotten in his entire life.

He was so immersed in his own thoughts, and with looking out the window, it took a moment for Kirk to register the soft brush of fingertips against his own free hand; which had been previously clenched in an unyielding fist upon the tabletop.

Kirk’s wavering gaze fell to his hand; as he watched in mute bliss as Spock quietly unclenched the fist, and easily interlaced his slender fingers with Jim’s. Warmth radiated pleasantly from their joint touch. A foreign sense of comfort nestled in his chest.

Finally, Jim tore is attention from their hands; wary eyes yielding to Spock’s face. The Vulcan appeared utterly calm and totally complacent. The tiny, charming wrinkles splaying from the corners of those large eyes were the only sign of a smile.

***

The pause before Jim’s door was drawn out unnecessarily. Conversation had faded tensely as they approached, with Kirk’s mind busily concocting his next move. The dilemma he faced now had extended through the day, and it was a conundrum he’d never come across in his entire life.

Did he actually want to take Spock to bed? No, that was the incorrect phrasing. Kirk wanted to pounce Spock with every fibre of his being. No question on that front.

It was his heart and mind that put a stopper on his libido. This was a person Jim already knew he enjoyed spending time with. He wanted to hear Spock’s voice, to hear the quiet inflection rise and fall, as his fortified emotions waxed and waned with conversation. He wanted to know what made Spock happy, how he could trick a smile or even a laugh out of him. A single day in Spock’s presence had shown Kirk a dynamic mind, a guarded heart; a person that Jim wanted to know, not simply fuck.

If Jim put himself in the position to be rejected now, that would be the end of it. There were no doubts he’d scare the skittish Vulcan away. Ironically, Jim did not see himself as the skittish one in this scenario; even when he was so unusually concerned about being tossed away by a person he’d known for less than twenty-four hours.

For fuck’s sake, he’d only known Spock for a day, Jim desperately reasoned with himself. But when had Jim Kirk ever responded properly to reason?

“Well, as far as Valentine’s Days go, this one definitely tops my list,” Jim chirped easily, despite the personal weight of the admittance. They’d both stopped before the door to his quarters; and Jim leaned back against the wall beside the keypad, while Spock faced him with hands clasped dutifully behind his back. “Maybe I should try non-dates more often.”

“Non-dates?” Spock cocked his head to the side.

“Well, this wasn’t really a date.” Jim explained, lashes sweeping low as he looked to his feet for a moment. “It was us meeting to switch phones and me pulling you into my escapades–“ so I wouldn’t have to be alone on Valentine’ Day, even when that’s what I thought I’d wanted. “And you were humouring me by coming along.” Jim finished with an impish smile that didn’t calm the nerves jangling in his eyes.

Obsidian stare flickered, and Spock blinked twice in quick succession. “Vulcan’s do not humour.” Jim opened his mouth to argue but was promptly cut off. “What consists of an average human date, Jim?”

It was Jim’s turn to stare quizzically at the Vulcan. He shrugged, and folded his arms over his chest. “Lots of things. Mostly going out to eat, or drink, or a movie -or something.” Jim offered a graceless grin, “To be honest, I don’t exactly date much, so I’m not an expert.” He was an expert on other aspects of the dating world, but Jim decided under the current circumstances, that wasn’t exactly what he wanted to say outright.

“You have more expertise on the subject than I,” Spock noted with a slight nod. “From your short description of an average human date, I can only extrapolate that we have indeed ‘gone on a date’.”

Jim boggled. Well, that’s pretty final.

He was, of course, extremely pleased with Spock’s frank and logical conclusion. But Jim was still nagged by something else. He was unable to place the reason for Spock’s interest in him.

Jim knew he was attractive, but he also got the impression that wasn’t really a factor in Vulcan matchmaking. He was easy enough to get along with when he wasn’t being purposely difficult, but, then again, Jim’s behaviour appeared to endlessly confuse or irk the Vulcan rather than please him.

Kirk peered up at Spock, who looked utterly serious as always. His words came out a breathlessly as he felt a flush creep along his neck.

“Oh. Right. Okay.”

Jim’s tongue darted out nervously to wet his lips; to his mute amazement he caught the splintering moment that Spock’s gaze flickered to his mouth.

That single fleeting moment went straight to Jim’s simmering blood, and sent a quiet hum of anticipation shimmering across his skin. If he was going to find any signs of encouragement from Spock, that had to be one. Doubts could be put on hold for another time. There was no forever, after all. Only now.

“If this is a real date, then I guess I should thank you for walking me home.” Jim murmured, stepping quickly away from the wall and closing the distance between him and Spock. He had a second to register the flutter of Spock’s inky lashes, the expectant hitch of breath before Kirk cupped a hand around the back of Spock’s warm neck and pulled him close.

It felt like the most natural thing Jim had ever done. The current of magnetism between their bodies and minds made it easier than breathing to simply go to Spock.

Jim startled himself with the uncharacteristically delicate manner in which his lips pressed against Spock’s. The kiss was quiet, and sweet, even as Jim canted his chin to find a new angle to explore those lush lips. Spock’s wide, fevered palms tentatively slid beneath Jim’s shirt at the small of his back, leaving every nerve in their wake ablaze.

The simple touch ripped a guttural groan from Jim’s throat, as he abandoned all remaining conscious thought and encircled his arms around Spock’s neck. Spock stiffened minutely, before he seemed to realise there was no possible way he could detach himself from Jim, and so devoted himself totally to actively warring his tongue with the eager cadet’s.

Spock’s searing mouth avidly accepted the enthusiastic tongue that dove between his lips. Jim’s hand bunched roughly in Spock’s hair, pulled him closer still, as if he could sear their bodies together until both of them simply combusted from the mounting pressure.

Never had Jim’s heart warred so wantonly with his desire. Never had they been so utterly intertwined that Jim could not find the beginning of his enthralment with Spock’s mind, nor the end of his lust for those long, hot fingers and impossibly curvaceous lips.

With a single, ragged gasp from Kirk’s parched throat, he broke away for a second. Jim gulped a breath and looked to the ceiling, as if it would reassure him that this was real.

Spock returned the noise with something akin to a restrained whimper, as he blindly sought out Jim’s lips once more. Apparently, there was no time for breathing. Jim was perfectly fine with that.

How Kirk ended up sandwiched between the wall and a hot, hard Vulcan body escaped him, but it hardly mattered as their lips finally broke apart. Spock speared him with a fathomless, molten gaze.

“This is how all humans express their gratitude?”

Though he did not seem out of breath, his voice was hoarse and drove a lance of heat straight to Kirk’s gut. Jim nearly whimpered from the mere sound of it, wholly unable to stop himself from pressing his already aching hardness against Spock’s thigh like some wanton animal in heat.

“Only me... for you.” Jim explained between soft pants of breath.

“Jim -” Something in Spock seemed to flare open. Jaw set stiffly, he slapped his hands against wall, one on either side of Jim’s head. His pale hands fisted as he loomed over Jim; lean hips unintentionally jerking in response to another one of Jim’s uninhibited undulations. “This...”

“Doesn’t make sense?” Jim croaked; hands finally sliding from Spock’s shoulders, down the hard expanse of his chest.

He paused to rest at the waistband of Spock's pants. “Shouldn’t be happening?”

Some spark of sanity reminded him they were in the darkened corridor outside his room.

“Who the fuck cares?” Jim demanded, as he slapped a hand out; fingers blinding reaching for the keypad beside the door, as he fumbled to press in the correct code.

Without ceremony Jim tugged on the waistband of Spock’s pants, and dragged him through the doors. Spock, still apparently trying to unearth some shaking semblance of control, allowed himself to be pulled along. Jim took Spock’s assent as the deciding factor.

His voice came out just a little desperate as he lowered his gaze, and made his shaking hands busy with the infernally small latches on Spock’s uniform. “We won’t see each other after this, anyway.” It sounded more as if he were speaking to himself than Spock. “This is better. God, this is so much better.”

What had he been thinking in trying to deny himself, Jim thought with a flicker of self-loathing. Protect an imaginary friendship at the cost of celibacy? He could never do that. There was only now.

“There’s only now,” Jim repeated aloud this time; roughly sliding Spock’s shirt off the wide plains of his shoulders.

Jim was about to lunge forward and latch his teeth on the invitingly pale length of neck, before a pair of hot, familiar hands clamped around his forearms and kept Jim at bay.

“Jim, stop.” Spock’s voice was firm. Disoriented blue eyes rocketed up at the sound of his name, and wavered on Spock’s face. Jim could see the barely banked desire, and feel it radiating off the Vulcan in waves. And yet Spock did nothing, simply held him there.

“What?” Jim snapped; attempting to shrug off the hands that had become far more comforting than he would have liked.

Goddammit, what was so wrong with wanting to let go, to forget? To not feel needy or helpless, or wanting?

All of those things left you battered and bruised once you realised no one was there to sooth your fears and insecurities. The only thing Jim Kirk could count on was release, instant gratification, himself.

“Don’t pretend you don’t want me, Spock.” Jim went toe to toe with Spock; to jut his chin out as if asking for a fight. His eyes blazed. “You might be a Vulcan, but I can recognise desire when I see it. So what’s the fuckin’ problem?”

This was the James Kirk that Spock needed to see, Jim decided. The friendly, easy-going, trustworthy Jim that he had been with Spock tonight... he was an erroneous concept. Everyone enjoyed those aspects of Jim and he knew it; that was why he slapped on the brave face and kept at it.

That wasn’t all of James Kirk.

He had yet to grow out of being a fifteen year-old; angry with his step-father. Reckless and selfish, resigned to being alone and beaten down. The world had hated him, so he would hate it back. Jim knew no one wanted to see those ugly aspects of him. They turned away in surprise and disgust, left him with nothing, less than nothing.

And Spock –dutiful, brilliant, persevering, law-abiding, repressed Spock. More than anyone else, he wouldn’t want anything to do with that side of Jim. There was no doubt in his mind of this fact. So what else was there for Jim to give? He could only think of one thing, and Spock was currently standing in the way of that.

Spock ploughed straight through Jim’s aggression and got right to the point.

“What do you mean when you say we will not see each other after tonight? Are you going somewhere?”

Jim stared at Spock incredulously, “Wait –what? No!” He dragged his hands over his face. “I just meant after we fuck,” Jim refused to be charmed by the emerald flush grazing the tips of Spock’s ears, “you’ll go your way, and I’ll go mine. That’s how it goes.” He shrugged sharply. “I just thought it went without saying.”

“I see.” Spock retreated within himself, eyes dark endless tunnels echoing nothing back. “You are not interested in continuing a relationship.”

Silence stretched thickly before Jim found his voice. It might have been a bit more high-pitched than usual. “You –wait,” he held his hands up as if ordering Spock to stop; even though the Vulcan was merely standing there looking rather dejected, as far as Vulcan expressions went. “Me? Relationship... with me?”

Fuck, where are your words? You know, those things you learned over twenty years ago?

“I find it difficult to discern your sudden erratic speech pattern, but if I am to comprehend your question correctly,” Spock nodded almost imperceptibly, “then my reply is yes. I wish to continue a romantic relationship with you.”

Expressive brows lowered as Spock’s expression suddenly became pensive, poignant. He took a step towards Jim, who had wandered some feet away in his anxiety. “I was led to believe humans were entirely psi-null.”

It was Jim’s turn to marvel at Spock’s erratic, and seemingly disjointed speech pattern. “Oh, great, that’s an interesting fact –thank you!” He replied sharply, staring at Spock as if he’d grown two heads. “Anything else you’d like to share with the class?”

“Are you being petulant?” Spock asked calmly.

“Damn right, I am!” Jim folded his arms across his chest once more, looking like a stubborn child. “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. First you’re all ‘oh, I want a relationship with you so we can be emotionally stunted freaks together’ and now you’re like ‘did you know your mind powers aren’t as awesome as mi -”

“Be silent.” Spock murmured; he quirked a brow as Jim actually followed instruction. The Vulcan continued on, nonplussed, as he closed the distance between them. Jim could feel the heat radiating off Spock’s body, and despite his worked up state of annoyance and confusion, all he wanted to do was pillow his head on Spock’s chest.

“I was led to believe humans were entirely psi-null,” Spock repeated, then added pointedly, “but this is untrue.”

He took Jim’s hand in his own, held it between them; palm up as if he were going to read Jim’s future. The pad of his thumb slid across the pulse that skittered erratically at his wrist; Jim jerked in a shallow breath. He remained silent as he stared down in wonder at the sheer size of Spock’s hands. “When we first made physical contact, my shields had been momentarily lowered by -” the momentary silence was almost embarrassed, “my distraction over you.”

A flush of pleasure bloomed across Jim’s chest at the admittance. Kirk didn’t know where this was going, but by the studious candour of Spock’s voice, it was important.

“Due to our instant compatibility, my mind immediately sought yours out in those three-point-two seconds our hands touched. Your mind, in turn, recognised mine and replied.”

Spock was no longer holding Jim’s hand, but sliding his fingertips along the length of Jim’s own in an action that was simultaneously soothing, and sensual, and entirely distracting. Kirk shook his head as if to clear it.

“Replied? With what?” For once Jim was uncertain he wanted the answer to his own question.

“You.” Spock replied simply, dark eyes cradling Jim with warmth. “All of you.” Spock must have clued in on the fact that Jim had no idea how to respond to that, and continued on. “I received several jumbled emotions and disjointed memories in that short time, Jim. It was not my intention for such a thing to occur; but had you the equal psychic capabilities that I do, then you too would have received many of my memories in the transfer.”

Jim grasped carefully for comprehension. “So you basically downloaded my personal life like some fucking computer?”

“I am sorry for it.” Spock sounded genuine; and if he was hurt by the severity of Jim’s words, he did not show it.

“Me too,” Jim replied bitterly; pulling his hand away from Spock. He couldn’t help but wonder what the Vulcan saw in him. And if he’d seen inside Jim as he so claimed, why was he still here? Why did he not turn away at the fountain hours ago, and save them the pain?

Jim turned away from Spock, and slid off his jacket to toss it haphazardly upon his cluttered desk. Expression sober, he stared at the opposite wall.

Dammit, he had to ask. Questions had always gotten him in trouble, but apparently Jim was a masochist. “So if you saw inside my head and all, why are you still here? You know the kind of person I am.”

“The kind of person you are?” Spock’s voice was suddenly right at Jim’s ear; breath hot and sweet and arid upon his cheek. Jim refused to turn and meet Spock’s eyes, and cursed himself as a coward.

“What –you gonna make me spell it out?” Jim’s voice cracked, much to his disgust. How did it come to this? How had this become so complicated? Then again, when had James Kirk’s life ever been simple? “A guy like me doesn’t work well in relationships. I don’t -”

Jim ground out a noise of frustration, whirled around and found himself wrapped in Spock’s unyielding arms. Jim glared up angrily, though the emotion in his voice bellied any true aggression. “I don’t do commitment well. In fact, I don’t even know if it exists. Never seen it happen, probably never will.”

Spock raised a brow slowly. One hand snuck beneath Jim’s shirt once more, fingertips caressing the length of his spine in long, slow drags. Jim let out a shaky breath as a shiver shimmied down his back.

“I accept this is the way you feel.” Spock replied reasonably. “But I am disinclined to agree with your emotionally corrupted opinion.”

“Gee, that’s surprising.” Jim begrudgingly gave into his needs, and rested his head upon Spock’s shoulder; eyes shut as he revelled in the feel of Spock’s hands igniting his skin inch by inch. Jim’s own hands found themselves idly resting upon Spock’s hips; thumbs stroking the impossibly soft skin of Spock’s torso.

“Not at all,” Spock disagreed; unaware of, or refusing to fall for Jim’s sarcasm. “I have felt nothing as strong as the emotions gleaned from your mind, Jim.” Spock’s voice was like a caress, even and gentle.

He nudged Jim’s chin up with his thumb and forefinger, and placed what should have been a chaste kiss upon Jim’s jaw. Instead it shot fire straight to his centre. “I felt anger.”

The tip of Spock’s impossibly hot tongue traced the shell of Jim’s ear. Jim groaned, and desperately attempted to concentrate on Spock’s words. “I felt sorrow, loss.”

Jim turned his head in an attempt to meet Spock’s lips; his hands now fiercely gripping Spock’s hips. The Vulcan evaded the clumsy move with grace, and leaned forward slightly to graze his teeth along Jim’s neck. Jim’s breath caught in his throat. “And I felt hope.” Spock murmured finally. “I am positive I have never experienced that emotion until I felt it in you, Jim.”

“Spock, I...” What could Jim even say to that? If there was hope within him, he sure didn’t feel it.

“You ask me why I am still here.” Spock gently walked the bewildered Jim backwards, until his calves bumped the edge of his bed. Jim was too enveloped - in Spock’s voice, the fluidity of his movements, the emotion that roiled unheeded in his eyes - to stop himself from being pushed back onto the bed.

“Your mind intrigues me,” Spock murmured; kneeling to pull off Jim’s boots. Jim was positive he’d never had foreplay talk this intense, nor this stimulating.

Well, there was a first time for everything.

Spock had heeled off his shoes, and came to kneel above Jim’s quietly heaving body. Jim stared up, wide-eyed and intent on Spock’s face.

“Your face, your eyes, your body captivates me.”

Jim reared up, his lips parted to meet Spock’s. Spock merely leaned back and took the opportunity to tug Jim’s shirt off; an action Jim was more than willing to oblige. “Spock, for the love of God -”

“And your katra,” The Vulcan word slid from Spock’s lips like honey, heady and intoxicating, “Your heart, your soul...” Spock situated himself atop Kirk, his long thigh wedged between Kirk’s legs. Spock’s eyes held Jim’s without blinking. “Is the most fascinating thing I have ever come across in my lifetime. To ignore the most basic pull your heart and mind have on me would be,” Spock quirked a brow in a shrug, “highly illogical.”

Jim was now certain he’d never been more aroused by a heart-felt conversation in his life. Spock took his breath away. Made him ache in ways Jim hadn’t imagined were possible. And dammit, made him hope just a little.

“Very logical, Professor Spock.” Jim breathed, fingertips trailing down Spock’s abdomen. A coy smile lit his face for the first time as Spock sucked in a breath, his stomach shivering in response. “Now, are you going to kiss me, or what?”

Jim didn’t wait for an answer as he pulled Spock to him in a single searing kiss. The time for conversation was over.

***

Pale sunlight filtered through the venetian blinds covering the small window, and pooled warmly across Jim’s face. He murmured unintelligibly under his breath and rolled onto his stomach.

One hand jutted out from beneath the twisted covers, and slapped down on his bedside table in a blind, groping search. A ripped silver condom wrapper crunched between his fingers, and was discarded to the floor. His fingertips finally felt the smooth, familiar square of his phone.

Jim turned to his to lay his cheek on the mattress. He squinted one eye blearily and held the screen just inches from his face; his sleep-numbed fingers clumsily pressed the tiny buttons.

Jim had known not to expect Spock in his bed this morning, unfortunately. Though it was Saturday, and it would’ve been nice to stay in and snuggle – in a way that Kirk had never considered in his life – Spock was still a teacher at the Academy. That, and Jim still had a roommate who he hadn’t been sure was going to stumble into the room at some god-awful time of early morning.

For now, Jim had no problem keeping what they had quiet. What they had. Him and Spock.

Together. The reality of his situation had hardly sunk in for Jim. He wasn’t sure if it ever would.

There was one text from Spock. Jim propped himself up on his elbows, and opened the message quickly.

What are your thoughts on the subject of forever?

Jim blinked the sleep from his eyes, and his heart lurched in his chest.

Oh God, the card. Spock must have seen in it the accidental transfer. Must have experienced Jim’s emotions surrounding it - disbelief, anger, abandonment, resignation, and admittedly, hope.

Jim swallowed hard, staring at that sentence for what seemed like hours.

Oh, fuck it.

I’m open to suggestions.