James T. Kirk is an extremely attractive individual.
Spock has always been cognizant of this fact, just as he is aware of other aspects of the surrounding physical universe. The stars are blazing balls of boiling gas; the sky is blue (green, orange, yellow) due to some particular pattern of the aerial dispersion in the atmosphere; E equals mc2; and a human being called James T. Kirk is in possession of a peculiar set of features that makes him attractive to potential sexual partners.
This fact is stored, along with numerous others, somewhere in the highly ordered labyrinth of Spock’s brain, and, by itself, it has no special significance. It isn’t the first one to come up when Spock has to interact with Kirk on a daily basis. Statistically, this particular component of Kirk being Kirk is a part of the equation so rarely that it could be disregarded as a glitch without making a dent on the final image.
Yet it is this very notion that is unexpectedly brought under the spotlight, and Spock is forced to contemplate it further.
Spock hesitates to characterize his relationship with Kirk outside the professional field. Some people, Kirk included, call them friends, but Spock is not certain. Not because he has something against the idea, but more due to the fact that human language is incredibly imprecise, and the very definition of friendship leaves much to be desired.
For example, humans call someone who merely isn’t their enemy a ‘friend.’ A friend is generally someone they see every day, but, then again, a true friend only comes in at a time of great need. A friend is someone they know their whole life, or a stranger they met yesterday by accident. It could be someone they encounter frequently in the same social circle and don’t even like. A person they have never seen before is called ‘my best friend ever’ for doing something like bringing a cup of coffee. Sometimes sexual relations with friends are forbidden, and sometimes they are expected and labeled ‘natural.’
Spock is helplessly lost.
He has sought clarification on those issues many times in his life, only to come out even more confused in the end. He finally had come to a logical conclusion that the full complexity of the concept of friendship is beyond his ability to comprehend, and he would be best served to leave it be. He and Kirk are certainly not what the dictionary suggests in explaining the colloquial meaning of the term ‘friends.’
They did not meet under ideal circumstances. A ‘rocky start’ is one way of putting it; a ‘complete disaster,’ another. For a moment, it seems that that they are destined to become great enemies, or at least great rivals.
But Nero ruins the game, and they couldn’t hate each other after the destruction of Vulcan.
After Spock joins Kirk’s crew as his first officer, they work well together, but one argument or another always colors their off-duty time. It often seems that they have contradictory points of views on every subject in existence, and their – discussions – are never less than heated.
They argue about politics and art, views on historical events and recent discoveries, literature and food, emotions and logic. Whenever the two of them are in the same room together, a debate is bound to break out sooner rather than later, and if someone aboard the Enterprise drops a phrase like ‘The circus is in town,’ it always means that the captain and the first officer are having yet another round of verbal sparring.
It surprises Spock a little at first, because he isn’t argumentative by nature. His father might have lifted an eyebrow at that, but Spock himself is convinced that he is a most benevolent conversationalist. It is merely that Kirk’s opinions, or the choice of words, or even his tone, are an irritant Spock can’t withstand. It simply – feels – vital to prove Kirk’s views for the misconceptions they truly are. It would be plainly dangerous to leave him in his ignorance. Since the captain’s safety is ranking high on Spock’s list of duties, he considers himself obligated to correct him.
The crew is keeping score on the arguments each of them had won. (Spock heard rumors of a pool being held somewhere.) Nyota teases him for being illogical. Doctor McCoy often calls both Spock and the captain ‘those damn infants,’ accompanying the words with an expressive roll of his eyes.
Spock is not concerned, however, because the arguments have produced a most surprising, but highly valuable, side effect.
Kirk and Spock argue so much and have learned the way the other thinks so well that whenever the ship, the crew, or the mission are in danger, it only takes each of them a split second to predict the other’s actions. It is almost uncanny how well they can read each other when the situation is dire and the stakes are high. Even more astonishing than that is the unimaginable level of unity and agreement between them that could only be witnessed at such a moment. To an outside observer, it could seem as though they are reading each other’s minds, and nobody keeps count of how many times it has served to save the day.
Spock has always been aware that his emotions are involved in his interactions with the captain, even though he never shows it. He is also aware that those emotions have been changing gradually over the first year of their mission. They mutate from remote irritation into surprise and curiosity, then drift toward amusement, later to be generously infused with respect and ever-growing interest, along with a healthy glow of pleasure that Spock could no longer deny he is drawing from their debates.
Yes, the supposition does have merit. He and Kirk are, indeed, friends.
Spock is used to Kirk’s presence and the unmistakable imprint of his personality on every room he walks in. Its virility is no longer disturbing – really, it’s come to be expected – and so when the captain strides over to Spock determinedly across the crowded hall filled with diplomats and officials celebrating the success of trade negotiations, Spock isn’t alarmed, even though Kirk’s pace seems to imply some urgency.
However, when the captain doesn’t stop before entering Spock’s personal space, which he normally respects, and, more than that, grabs Spock’s hand, Spock admits to experiencing acute surprise.
“For the love of God, help me,” Kirk blurts out in a desperate whisper, clasping Spock’s hand in both his own and lifting it up imploringly. “There’s a woman over there – I think she’s with the Novians, an interpreter or something. She won’t stop propositioning me!”
“I—I see,” Spock says, glancing over the captain’s shoulder while trying to keep up with the frantic rush of panicked words falling out of Kirk’s mouth. “And how is this a problem?”
Kirk stares at him. “Are you crazy? Spock, if I tell her no, it’ll be an insult to the whole Novian delegation, and just when we finally made them stop yelling and start talking.” His eyes narrow slightly. “And did you seriously think I would want to sleep with her?”
“Look, the only way out of this is to say I’m with somebody else – exclusivity and all that shit. No insult if I’m already taken, right?”
“I – suppose, but—”
“Please, Spock.” Kirk’s lips are all but touching Spock’s knuckles. “You’ve gotta save me. I told her I’m with you.”
“Me?” Spock feels his eyes widen in surprised alarm. “But Captain... would it not have been more – believable – to ask someone else? I am hardly the right person for this sort of ruse.”
“You are the only person for this sort of ruse,” Kirk whispers urgently. “Uhura’s been dancing with that guy for the better part of the evening, and Bones is surrounded by what looks like a Trill harem. How much credibility do you think I will have with either of them?”
Spock glances across the room at their colleagues. “You do have a point,” he admits, feeling mildly light-headed. “But Captain, I do not—”
“You won’t have to lie, just play along, okay?” Kirk’s eyes are huge and pleading. “Please, Spock.”
Spock’s answer is cut off by the arrival of the woman in question.
“There you are,” she purrs, eyeing Kirk with a mixture of pleasure and reproach. “It’s not polite to keep a lady waiting.”
Kirk drops Spock’s hand as they both turn to face the Novian. Spock can’t help but agree that she is… intimidating. Not that he keeps track of Kirk’s preferences in the sexual field, of course, but generally, Kirk chooses partners that don’t outweigh him by the factor of three.
“Miss Leva.” Kirk smiles blindingly, turning on his charm full force. “My sincere apologies. I was merely detained by my boyfriend.”
The word falls smoothly from his lips, which Spock finds mildly impressive. He bows slightly feeling the woman’s eyes drilling into him.
“Your boyfriend?” she squeaks incredulously. “Him?” She blinks, then turns her gaze to Kirk once more and gives a silvery laugh that sounds at terrible odds with her complexion. “Oh, you’re so funny, darling!” She waves her finger in front of Kirk’s face. “You almost had me going for a moment.”
Kirk shoots a wary glance at Spock. “But – I’m serious. Commander Spock and I are in a relationship, and—”
“Why is this so unbelievable?” Spock interjects, suddenly curious.
The Novian laughs harder. “Oh dear, you’re both hysterical!” she exclaims, her multicolored fan flying rapidly between her hands in a clear demonstration of her excitement. “That one so fair, so beautiful as you, my dear Captain, would be bound to one like him?” Her eyes slide over Spock with ill-conceived disdain. “Not a chance!” She scoffs. “Beauty will always choose beauty, my sweet,” she drawls, beaming at Kirk.
It’s not the first time Spock has heard a similar assessment of himself, so the Novian’s words don’t come as any kind of surprise. Glancing at Kirk, though, Spock notes with something akin to alarm that the captain is frowning, and his lips are stretched in a stubborn line he normally reserves for Klingon raiders.
Spock would never admit it, but he has developed some kind of intuitive reasoning where Kirk is concerned. At the moment, that reasoning is telling him that they are two seconds away from a diplomatic disaster.
Making a split second decision, Spock reaches and takes Kirk’s hand in his, entwining their fingers.
Kirk looks at him, startled, but Spock’s attention is on the Novian, who is staring at their joined hands with astonishment.
“I believe you are aware of the sensitivity of my hands?” Spock says calmly, rubbing small circles with his thumb.
The action seems to have shocked the Novian out of her seduction attempts. “You – you are a Vulcan,” she stammers, blushing. “This is – this is – how dare you – in public!”
Spock lifts an eyebrow, squeezing Kirk’s hand to prevent him from voicing his confusion. “Would I be doing this if Captain Kirk had lied to you about us?” he asks quietly. “I am, as you say, Vulcan. Propriety is everything to me.”
The Novian glares at him, her eyes flickering between their hands and Spock’s face. Her emotions are easy enough to read even for someone whose psi rating is measured in the negative figures.
“He won’t stay with you!” the woman finally hisses in anger. “He’s bright and beautiful like the sun, and you are – you are – a travesty! Oh, Captain,” she sighs as her eyes slid to Kirk. “What a sad fate for one so glorious...” She trails off, shaking her head in unspeakable desolation, as she walks away.
“Whew,” Kirk breathes out in relief, watching her go. “Talk about crazy.”
Spock carefully extricates his hand from Kirk’s. “Her views are merely different from ours.”
Kirk looks at him. “Still. Sorry you had to listen to that.”
Spock lifts an eyebrow. “It is of no consequence, I assure you. I was glad to be of help.”
Kirk grins at him ruefully. “I owe you one, a big one.” He rests a hand on Spock’s shoulder, peering at him curiously. “You took my hand – did we, I dunno, make out?”
“No,” Spock says, feeling his lips twitch in amusement.
“But – your hands are sensitive.”
“Indeed, and so are yours. Vulcans do have more nerve endings in the palms of their hands than humans, and, under certain circumstances, they might provide additional stimulation—”
“Wow,” Kirk interjects, glancing down minutely before meeting Spock’s eyes again, grinning. “Are you sure I’m old enough for this conversation?”
“—however,” Spock continues, “the Vulcan in question would have to allow that to happen.” He peers at Kirk’s enthralled expression and suppresses another bolt of mirth. “Forgive me, Captain, but did you truly believe that I am unable to perform mundane tasks, such as working my console, without placing myself in a rather – delicate condition, ill-suited for public venues?”
“Dammit, Spock,” Kirk mutters, blushing a deep hue of red, and staring in the general direction of Spock’s shoulder. “There’s no need to get graphic, okay? I got you. Humans are oversexed idiots.”
“Not at all,” Spock says graciously. “In the interests of full disclosure, Captain, it might be prudent of me to mention that Vulcans themselves are mostly responsible for making the misconception persist. As well as several other myths, I might add.”
Kirk looks up at him curiously. “Why?”
Spock frowns slightly. “I am uncertain, but I believe that it stems from the ancient warrior mentality of my race. Deception was a highly regarded means of attaining an upper hand over enemies. It is probable that upon reaching warp era, those attitudes still domineered in Vulcan politics. It was considered wise not to correct false assumptions, including those regarding our physiology, when it could provide a tactical advantage.”
“Hm.” Kirk rubs the back of his neck, looking thoughtful. “That makes sense, I guess.”
Spock nods. “And, as you can see, it is still useful upon occasion.”
Kirk chuckles. “You bet; I’m so not complaining. But I wonder” – his eyes sweep over Spock speculatively – “what else about you guys is a myth?”
Spock fights back a smile. “To borrow a human expression, Captain – that is for me to know and for you to find out.” He bows slightly. “Good evening.”
He can hear Kirk’s surprised laughter as he makes his way out of the reception hall.
The second time Spock is confronted with the fact that Kirk is inordinately attractive happens in a few short weeks after the first.
Spock is using one of the science deck conference rooms to make an assessment of the newly transferred science officers. He is frustrated enough to admit that he has not been impressed so far. There are days when Spock can truly sympathize with Sisyphus and his struggle to get anything done instead of perpetually repeating the action. Spock spends the lion’s share of his time coaching his staff, schooling and mentoring them until they start resembling confident specialists instead of a herd of ill-educated children. The moment that happens, Starfleet sweeps them away to other assignments, and Spock is again stuck with a fresh load of recent graduates who stare at him blankly when he asks for the simplest things, like performing the Paltuga test correctly or being able to recall the Fibonacci sequence past the twentieth digit without having to calculate it from zero.
He’s not the only one in this position, Spock knows. Hardly a week goes by without Mr. Scott coming to the bridge to inform the captain, using many colorful expressions (some of which Spock doesn’t quite understand) that not even Starfleet Command could order him to let ‘these wee imbeciles’ into his Engine Room. Spock disapproves of the blatant displays, but privately empathizes with the Chief Engineer’s rightful indignation.
“The priority of the chemophysics department is to find new ways of revitalizing turandium,” Spock says, without much hope whatsoever. “Can anyone tell me why?”
His inquiry is met, predictably, with vacant stares and a lot of blinking as the stubborn silence of ignorance stretches.
“It’s, um – it’s used in the warp coil?” someone says uncertainly, in the end.
“Correct,” Spock responds, fighting to master his irritation. “But why? Why turandium, Mr. Izin? Why not corputsium, which has a much higher energy output potential?”
More blinks and stares. Spock concentrates on suppressing a sigh, and doesn’t notice the figure hovering in the doorway until it announces its presence through speech.
“Its fluid non-zero entropy phase can’t coexist with its superfluid zero entropy phase, so, placed into the warp field, it enables the exchange of energy without a transfer of mass.” Kirk drawls, almost lazily, treating them all to a winning grin. “Which is, incidentally, what makes this ship move without consuming tons of fuel. Isn’t that right, Commander?”
Spock has never been so attracted to anyone in his entire life.
“Indeed,” he replies, somewhat surprised at how cool and even he sounds. “How may we be of service, Captain?”
Kirk waves dismissively at the junior officers, who are all watching him with various degrees of fascination. “Not to worry, ladies and gentlemen – I just need to borrow your professor for a moment. You can use the time to brush up on your Latin and Hebrew; he’ll be after those next.” He winks at them, then glances up front. “Spock?”
Spock walks toward him, noting with growing displeasure mixed with amusement that a couple of his new wards have indeed reached for their PADDs. Kirk rolls his eyes conspiratorially as Spock reaches him, takes him by the elbow, and pulls him outside, allowing the doors to close.
“Tough crowd, huh?”
Spock gives in to the urge to press his fingers to the bridge of his nose. “That, I believe, would constitute an understatement.” He straightens up, pulling himself out of the moment. “You wished to discuss something with me?”
“Actually, no,” Kirk says, smiling somewhat apologetically. “I came to tell you that they rescheduled the conference call. I can’t have lunch with you like we planned.”
“Oh,” Spock says. “That is of no consequence, sir.” He studies Kirk’s face for a moment. “You could have commed me. There was no need to trouble yourself with delivering the news in person.”
“Well, yeah,” Kirk admits, grinning. “But I sort of wanted to reschedule, too. Join me for dinner tonight if you’re free?”
“Dinner?” Spock pauses, mentally juggling his appointments.
“I’m entertaining company,” Kirk says. “We can discuss the cases when Planck’s constant doesn’t apply and—”
“There are no cases in which Planck’s constant does not apply. Not within this physical universe.”
“Ah, but what about Mallett’s pockets?”
“The existence of the so-called ‘pockets’ in the fabric of space-time in which the laws of general relativity do not apply has never been successfully proved—”
Kirk clasps Spock’s arms, halting him. “I really gotta go, Spock, sorry. Dinner tonight. Rec room two, nineteen-hundred.” His grip tightens momentarily to match his widening grin. “I’ll convince you.”
He retreats faster than Spock can come up with a reply, and Spock finds himself standing idly in the corridor, on the verge of smiling. The prospect of going back to the room full of people who are intimidated by him is suddenly so much more daunting.
By the time they meet for dinner in the admittedly crowded rec room, the encounter is far from Spock’s mind. Kirk seems concerned with the details of his conference call with the admiralty, and they discuss the upcoming changes in several key areas of fleet regulation and what those changes will entail, should the new resolution come to pass. Kirk has adopted a decidedly pessimistic view of things, and Spock finds himself playing the devil’s advocate as he searches for pluses, if only to make the captain snap out of his grave mood. Spock is so engrossed in the conversation that he doesn’t even notice that someone is singing until Kirk nudges him.
It’s not an uncommon occurrence for some of the crew to try their talents in the rec room after hours. During quiet missions, when they aren’t deflecting Klingon attacks or crawling through a war zone on impulse, the extracurricular activities are not only allowed, but encouraged, serving to unite the crew and allow them a chance to express themselves.
Spock is surprised, however, to notice that the impromptu performer tonight is Telma Cooper, one of the newly transferred science technicians. It usually takes crewmembers at least a couple of months to start feeling at home enough to claim the spotlight. What is even more surprising, though, is that the ensign in question is singing a Vulcan song. Spock catches Nyota’s gaze, and she winks at him, wearing a very peculiar expression; Spock prefers not to speculate on its meaning.
He turns back toward his dining companion and finds Kirk looking at him with a teasing glint in his eyes that promises nothing good. Spock mentally sighs, preparing to endure whatever’s coming.
“Beautiful voice, don’t you think?” Kirk intones would-be casually. “A little sharp, but I’m sure it’s just the nerves.”
“I would not know,” Spock responds dryly. “I am not an expert.”
“Aw, Spock, that’s just cold. Don’t you approve of the song choice?”
Spock peers over at Kirk and narrows his eyes. “You are laughing at me.”
Kirk does indeed chuckle, looking unrepentant. “I’m not the one who can’t go a week without leaving some poor little ensign starstruck.”
“Is that so?” Spock crosses his arms over his chest. “Janice Rand,” he says vindictively. “Tonya Barrows. Sha Tor. Andrew Ponds. Daniel Cameron. Lisa Lee. Need I go on?”
Kirk seems amused rather than humbled. “I wasn’t aware you kept such accurate score, Spock. Any personal interest in the matter?” he teases. “Did my charm get in your way perhaps?”
Spock lifts an eyebrow. “What you are implying is highly unethical and unprofessional. I would never—”
“Spock.” Kirk raises a hand. “Keep your shirt on, I was just joking.” He glances over Spock’s shoulder and lowers his voice. “Here comes your lady now. Be nice.”
Ensign Cooper has, indeed, concluded her performance, and is slowly nearing their table. Spock stiffens, despite himself. He never feels comfortable in this kind of situations, mostly because he cannot come close to understanding the apparent appeal.
“G-good evening, Captain. Commander,” the young woman says with a nervous smile as she stops beside them.
“Ensign Cooper,” Kirk greets her amicably, demonstrating perfect recall, which, with four hundred eighty-seven crewmembers aboard, is nothing short of impressive. “That was quite a performance you gave us.”
“Thank you, sir.” She blushes, smiling at him, before her eyes drift over to Spock. “And what about you, Commander? Did you like the song?”
Spock opens his mouth, intending to explain that the categories of ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ are alien to him, but before he can say anything, Kirk rushes forward. “He found it most agreeable, Ensign,” Kirk assures the girl, pinning Spock down with a gaze that has a clear order in it. “Didn’t you, Commander?”
Spock stares at Kirk for a moment in defiance, but eventually relents. “Indeed, Ensign,” he replies looking up at Cooper. Searching for anything he could compliment her on without resorting to lying, he adds, “Your choice of lyrics was very – courageous.”
“Oh,” she breathes out, and her blush deepens. “I... thank you, sir. I’m – I’m so happy you think so.”
Spock nods solemnly, not knowing what else to say. Kirk must have sensed that and takes pity on him or most likely, the ensign.
“That was a stunning feat of singing technique, Ensign,” he tells her kindly. “But if you really want to impress Commander Spock here, quantum physics is your best bet.” His eyes land on Spock, gleaming with humor. “Try finding another use for the axiom of choice, maybe? He gets all hot and bothered over it, I promise you.”
The ensign coughs awkwardly in embarrassment, but Spock is too busy fighting down his own blush to pay attention. So Kirk has noticed. Noticed – and called him on it.
“I, um…” Cooper stammers over them. “Well, have a – have a nice evening. Sirs.”
She hurries away, but Spock barely notices. Kirk’s eyes haven’t moved from his face, either, and it’s blatantly clear from his expression that the captain is enjoying himself immensely.
“Cat got your tongue, Spock?” Kirk presses benevolently, grinning in a most infuriating manner. He reaches to pat Spock’s hand, lying motionless on the table. “Don’t worry, we all have our little kinks. Though I gotta admit, yours is very” – Kirk chuckles – “special.”
Spock pulls his hand away and leans back in his chair, contemplating the option of simply standing, collecting his tray, and walking out. He feels betrayed in more ways than one, and, to make things worse, he realizes that it’s stupid. This is such a small thing, and Kirk really is just joking; there’s no malicious intent behind it. So why can’t Spock muster a witty repartee when he needs one? Why is he suddenly speechless?
Something must show on his face, because Kirk’s expression grows suddenly serious. “Spock,” he starts cautiously. “Are you okay? Did I say something—”
And finally, Spock manages to snap out of his stupor. “I beg forgiveness, Captain – I became momentarily distracted. Ensign Cooper’s diligence is admirable; however, her pronunciation leaves much to be desired, and my hearing is somewhat sensitive. I – deemed it prudent to reconstruct the lyrics in my mind with proper inflections.”
“Oh.” Kirk looks taken aback. His eyes search Spock’s features intently, as if testing his sincerity. The results must be favorable, because the captain’s grin returns. “You’re such a nerd,” he says fondly, shaking his head.
Spock chooses to disregard the illogical accusation, and instead reaches to steal a chocolate-covered meringue cookie off of Kirk’s dessert plate. He ignores Kirk’s indignant protest.
Too many complex carbohydrates aren’t healthy for humans, anyway.
“This is insane,” McCoy complains. “You can’t tell me that this shit is logical.”
Spock stares down at the brightly lit ring where the last match of the night – the competition finals – is taking place. “It may be – from the Starbase commander’s point of view,” he replies, stifling a wince as Kirk’s opponent lands a blow squarely on Kirk’s jaw. “He probably believes that there will be less fighting among different crews if an organized form of it was offered.”
“Then he should have offered a chess tournament,” McCoy snaps impatiently. “Not this barbarism. What are we, ancient Rome?”
Spock lifts an eyebrow. “Boxing is a ‘noble’ sport—”
“Look at them!” McCoy grabs Spock’s arm in agitation. “No boxing gloves, no helmets, no protection of any kind! I like boxing, goddammit! I can appreciate a good fight when it’s safe, but this? Did they have to do it this way?” He inhales sharply. “Jesus fuck, did you see that? That was brutal!”
Spock is inclined to agree. It didn’t come as a surprise that Kirk insisted on personally representing the Enterprise in this competition, nor was it unexpected that he has a good chance to become the last man standing. And, if Spock is honest with himself, he hasn’t spent the last five hours with his eyes glued to the ring because of his concern for the captain’s safety.
Kirk’s naked torso glistens with sweat, his finely-toned muscles shifting fluidly under his skin with every motion, and the way he moves is uncanny – swift, precise, insolent, and victorious at almost every turn. Kirk smiles when he misses a blow to the kidneys; he laughs when his opponent all but knocks out his eye; and he sneers when the next one splits his lips with his fist, blood dribbling down his chin, obscene red against smooth tan.
Spock can’t tear his eyes away. He is torn. Part of him wishes Kirk had never stepped into the ring – it’s the part that insists on Kirk staying out of harm’s way at all times. Spock doesn’t enjoy seeing him hurt, and he is well aware, by this point, that it’s not exclusively duty that feeds his protective streak.
But there is another part of him, a part that is buried deeper in some strange, dark place, and this part whispers treacherously that Kirk looks beautiful like that. A perfidious thought crawls up through the layers and layers of cultural conditioning and moral reprehensions that there is art in the deliberate (to Spock’s eye only) ill-coordination of Kirk’s movements, his would-be drunken, seemingly sloppy lashes, which land with impeccable timing and precision, catching his opponent by surprise when he has already dismissed Kirk as an amateur.
Kirk isn’t just a well-trained fighter – he’s a smart fighter. He stays in control at all times, despite giving the impression to the opposite. Something dark and churning in Spock’s blood responds to this with frightening intensity, and he grips the railing tighter with his hands, leaving dents on the metal, and not knowing which he’d preferred best – to fight alongside Kirk, or against him. He is appalled at his own thoughts, but he can’t help them. Both alternatives promise viscous, immoral pleasure.
McCoy curses beside him again, and Spock pulls himself together forcibly. If the good doctor knew what he was thinking, Spock wouldn’t live long enough to see the dawn. He fully shares the sentiment, and yet – and yet...
When Kirk finally sends his opponent into a knockout, the overcrowded Starbase gymnasium explodes with cheers. It doesn’t only come from the Enterprise crewmembers, Spock notices, but that is in no way surprising. Seeing Kirk standing in the middle of the ring, arms raised triumphantly in declaration of his victory, a smile full of teeth and blood shining on his face, it’s incredibly difficult indeed to remain unaffected.
Spock should leave. The excuse of staying to make certain that the captain is not beaten to death is no longer valid, and Spock really should return to the ship.
But he doesn’t. Instead, he drifts along with everyone into the bar on the upper deck, roaming the overcrowded room somewhat aimlessly before settling at a table.
Kirk walks in approximately twenty-three minutes later. He’s wearing his black undershirt, and his wet hair broadcasts that he has just taken a shower, just as his face relates that McCoy must have tracked him down and treated his most immediate injuries. He is greeted with an uproar of a standing ovation and escorted to the bar with loud, cheering fanfares.
Spock remains at his table, watching and still having no idea what he’s doing here. There is a cello concert on the reception deck starting in several minutes; an antique bookstore on the promenade is holding an auction of collectibles. Yet Spock remains where he is, inexplicably, watching the never-ending line of people wishing to buy the captain a congratulatory drink.
“Well, this can’t be good,” McCoy mutters, appearing at Spock’s table out of nowhere and sitting down without waiting for an invitation. His eyes are trained on Kirk as well.
Spock frowns. Agreeing with McCoy is never a pleasant experience, but the doctor is correct. Kirk keeps accepting drinks because a refusal would likely cause offense, and his tolerance for alcohol is much lower than he normally admits. Spock found that out the hard way, and it was a safe assumption that McCoy’s experience in this field far superseded his.
They watch for some time in silence, McCoy scowling, and Spock maintaining his ‘cool.’
“Are you going to—?” Spock asks at last.
“Hell no,” McCoy grumbles. “Tried to talk to him before and he nearly bit my head off. A ‘captain-crew bonding moment’ and all that.”
“Of course,” Spock acknowledges dryly. “What else would it be?”
McCoy sighs. “He’s in a strange mood.”
Spock glances at him briefly, and doesn’t reply. However, when thirty minutes later, Kirk pours himself onto his feet and heads toward the bathrooms, Spock stands up and follows.
Kirk is washing his hands when Spock walks in. He’s resting most of his weight against the sink and is splashing water everywhere. Hearing the doors open, he lifts up his head and catches Spock’s gaze in the mirror.
“Hey, Spock.” Kirk’s face splits into a grin. “Where’ve you been all night? I won us a tournament. Shoulda seen it – it – it was awesome.”
Ignoring him, Spock quickly scans for other occupants. Realizing they are alone, he quickly moves toward Kirk, grabs his elbow, and pulls him away from the sink.
“Hey,” Kirk breathes, still smiling dopily. “Spock, what are you...”
Spock pushes him against the wall, one hand resting on Kirk’s shoulder, keeping him in place. The expression on Kirk’s face becomes caught between awed and wary, and he doesn’t actively resist – not that he’s in any condition to. Spock’s free hand slides under Kirk’s shirt, skimming over his belly to find two very specific points in close vicinity of his solar plexus. Spock’s fingers press, swift and hard, with a bit of a twist at the end. Kirk blinks, and Spock steps aside, watching him.
It takes a moment, perhaps two, and then Kirk’s face turns an unhealthy shade of green. His eyes snap wide open, and he manages to throw one dark, accusing glare at Spock before making a mad dash for one of the stalls. The sounds of violent retching follow suit. Spock nods to himself and prepares to wait.
When Kirk finally emerges, he’s a sight to behold. His hair is all over the place, sweat-soaked and tousled. His cheeks are pale, his mouth glistens blood red as he pants, and his eyes are dark and murderous. He looks ferociously sober.
“You bastard,” Kirk spits, glowering at Spock. “What’d you do that for?”
Spock lifts an eyebrow. “I saved you from third degree alcoholic poisoning.” He crosses his arms over his chest. “You are welcome.”
“Really,” Kirk bites out scornfully. “Who asked you to?”
“I took initiative.”
Kirk rolls his eyes and stalks back toward the sink. “Awesome.”
Spock watches silently.
“For your information,” Kirk tells him in-between rinsing and spitting, “I was having a great night. I did my job, I was buzzed, and I was happy.” He glares at Spock’s reflection. “So what, do I need to say, ‘Mother, may I?’ now? Who died and made you my keeper?”
“I was only trying to help.”
“Oh yeah? Well, next time, Spock, ask me first if I need it. Bones can meddle all he wants, because – well, because he’s Bones. He’s earned it. You don’t get to take liberties without asking me first, you got that?”
Spock purses his lips and inclines his head. It’s not like he expected gratitude, exactly, but being so bluntly put in his place is quite an… experience. He wouldn’t care to name the emotion now. “Very well, Captain. I will not interfere without your expressed permission.”
Kirk stares at him for a long moment in a highly unnerving, calculating manner. Finally, he shrugs and rolls his shoulders tiredly. “Well, you can come over here and interfere some with my headache,” he says. “Only fair, considering it’s all your doing. I assume your magic fingers are good for something other than making me puke my guts out?”
Silently, Spock steps closer, and Kirk turns to him, leaning against the sink. The contradiction stumps Spock somewhat, even as he searches for the pain source through the touch. Kirk is extremely irritated with him, perhaps even angry. Yet here he is, willingly submitting himself to Spock’s care just moments after protesting against it.
Kirk’s eyes are closed, and he moans softly as Spock locates the eye of the pain and starts to lessen it, easing the unpleasant sensations. Kirk is completely relaxed and a perfect impersonation of trust right now, and Spock is helpless, hopeless to understand.
The door slides open suddenly, and an officer bursts in. He is approximately Spock’s height but is built much more sturdily, with sandy-brown hair and hazel eyes that give away his intoxicated state. He’s wearing command gold with lieutenant commander’s stripes. Spock doesn’t realize that he has turned around to stand in front of Kirk before he has already done it.
“Well, well, well, what have we here?” the man drawls, lips stretched in a wry smirk. “Tell me it’s a free-for-all loo fuck fest, lads. It’s been a while since I’ve been to one of those, and no one quite stands up to yer standards, Jimmy.”
Spock tenses even more. “Do you know this man, Captain?”
The stranger barks out a laugh. “Captain? Does he call ye captain while ye blow him, too?”
Spock’s reflexive motion is checked with a hand on his elbow. Kirk’s other hand is pressed to the bridge of his nose, his headache having obviously returned.
“Spock,” he says dully, “meet Seamus Finnegan, whose dearest ambition was to make my days at Starfleet Academy a living hell. Finnegan” – Kirk stares at him blankly – “what the fuck are you doing here?”
“Having fun, same as everyone else.” Finnegan sneers. “So what d’ye say, Jimmy? Wanna have a little get-together? I don’t mind if I’m not the first one tonight; in fact, I’d be surprised if I was. Sharing’s good for the soul—”
Spock’s fist connects with his face with an obscenely loud slam, and this time, Kirk is too slow to stop him. Finnegan drops to the floor, and even as Spock steps toward him with the intention of finishing the job, he can see that it’s unnecessary – the man is unconscious.
“I think you broke his nose,” Kirk comments conversationally from behind.
Spock glances at the blood trickling down Finnegan’s face and thinks that the captain is probably right.
“So what’s your deal, Spock?” Kirk asks calmly, hands resting on his hips as he watches Spock critically. “First, you kill my buzz for the sake of my supposedly fragile health, then you feel compelled to defend my honor, like I haven’t just won a freaking tournament by beating a dozen people up. And what happened to the good old nerve pinch, while we’re at it?” He looks at Spock speculatively. “Care to explain yourself? Do you – I don’t know – like me, or something?”
Spock straightens up, his face burning, as he stares stubbornly at the man wheezing at his feet. “Not everything is about you, Captain,” he says coolly, and it is true. Technically. “I do not approve of bullies.”
He doesn’t wait for a response and walks out of the bathroom, leaving Kirk free to return to the ship or resume his quest for the ‘buzz’ Spock has stolen. For one night, Spock really thinks he has done enough.
The official name of the day is the anniversary of the ‘Battle of Vulcan.’ In his mind, Spock never refers to it as such, and, as far as he knows, no other surviving Vulcans do, either.
Humans believe in names. They are convinced that ‘what you call it’ matters almost as much as what it is. Vulcans cannot support this kind of self-deluding mind trick, even if it works for the rest of the universe.
There was no battle. There was a massacre. There were seven ships – for all that Starfleet claims to be a peacekeeping armada, they could only spare seven ships manned by cadets – seven ships that flew into a trap and were destroyed before they could take a single shot. The Enterprise was spared. There was no battle.
But this is what the day is called. In every governmental facility and on every Starfleet vessel, black banners hanging in the corridors and common rooms mark it. Voices are hushed and rare smiles are guilty. It’s an enforced reminder.
Spock does not begrudge his shipmates their right to grieve. Starfleet lost over four thousand people on Vulcan, including personnel stationed on the planet. Spock has nothing against the day being used to honor their memory. Unfortunately, for him, it doesn’t end quite there.
Everywhere he goes today, people keep sending him pitying looks, sometimes coming over to tell him how sorry they are for his loss. They stare at him for minutes at a time, as if it’s suddenly not rude somehow, because they wish to express their sympathy. They expect a reaction, and Spock has lived among humans long enough to know that not providing any, not acknowledging their efforts, would mean grave offense.
To assign one day a year for grieving or showing sympathy is illogical. The pain was no stronger yesterday; it will be no less tomorrow. Yet, for one day a year, Spock becomes the loss of Vulcan personified, and he doesn’t want to appear ungrateful, but he truly wishes they didn’t. It’s taxing beyond the actual agony of loss, somehow. Perhaps Spock is a bad person, but, on this day, it is his dearest wish to be left alone.
Spock buzzes and is instantly admitted into the captain’s quarters, interrupted in the middle of his shift by a summons from Kirk.
“You wished to see me, Captain?”
“Ah, Spock.” Kirk emerges from the bedroom alcove, wearing his thermal sweat suit. “Go change, we’re going out.”
“Out.” Kirk points up. “Remember that hull damage we got from that little run-in with the Nausicans? We’re going to repair it.”
“Sir, I believe a maintenance crew is scheduled to effect those repairs tomorrow. Team beta, if I am not mistaken.”
“They can take a break.” Kirk shrugs, pulling on his boots. “You and I can stand to get our hands a little dirty every once in a while, don’t you think?”
Spock opens his mouth, then closes it. “Yes, sir.”
“Great. Get someone to cover for you on the bridge and meet me at airlock fifteen in ten minutes.”
When Spock does come to the airlock, Kirk is already there, clasping the clamps on the EV suit. The silver fabric reflects the light unpleasantly, and Spock cringes internally while reaching for his own. He keeps expecting (dreading) Kirk to acknowledge the date somehow – everyone he met today so far has – but Kirk merely waits till Spock finishes fastening his gear and starts the decompression sequence.
It’s stunningly quiet outside. Their progress toward the damaged square of the hull is painfully slow, what with magnetic seals in their boots and the trunk with tools they are carrying between them, but Spock doesn’t mind. They don’t talk. Once there, they set to work in silence, disturbed only by an occasional request for an instrument or during the times when a team effort is required to straighten the plates.
There’s nothing out here but work, the familiar vibration of the ship, stars blinking softly all around them, and the amazing, most wonderful silence. For the first time today, Spock feels the tension abate.
Neither of them is very adept at this kind of work. Spock is out of practice, as he hasn’t done anything of the sort since his first tour of duty with Pike, and Kirk’s knowledge is more theoretical, the computer simulations at the Academy being the limit of his experience in these matters. As a result, their progress is slow, but, somehow, it doesn’t seem important. Spock has forgotten the last time he had to concentrate on every single action so hard, and it feels unexpectedly good to have all of his attention wound up and focused on a single, manual task.
At some point, Kirk asks Spock if he would like to take a break, since it’s well past the end of Alpha shift, but Spock declines. He volunteers to finish the job if Kirk requires rest and nourishment, but the captain declines as well, and Spock feels disinclined to protest.
For the first time in a long time, Spock loses track of time. His body begins to ache with fatigue – working in zero-G could be deceptive when applied to normal nerve-endings-to-brain signals – and that’s the only indication he has of the time elapsed. They are finally done and ready – perhaps more than ready – to get back inside, but Kirk halts Spock with a clumsy gesture of a suit-protected arm.
They stand for a while in silence, simply watching the spin of the universe passing by. Spock thinks of nothing and that – that is precious.
Their motions are painfully slow when they change, gravity telling them in no uncertain terms that eighteen hours of external work without a break was perhaps a bit extreme. Spock finds that he doesn’t care. There are no black banners and no pitying stares as they make their way to the officers’ deck, and he realizes, with a mild start, that the day has passed.
“I’ll see you in a few hours,” Kirk mumbles tiredly, when they reach his quarters.
“Captain,” Spock calls, then stops suddenly. He isn’t sure what to say, because if he thanks Kirk they will both have to acknowledge it, to acknowledge something, and Spock doesn’t think that is what Kirk wants.
But it seems his dilemma is superfluous. Kirk looks back at him, smiles a tired, barely-there smile, and nods. “Get some rest, Spock,” he says, patting Spock’s shoulder.
Sometimes, Spock thinks, words are drastically overrated.
“Jesus Christ, does it have to be so cold?” McCoy grumbles, stretching his hands over the fire, while Kirk and Spock are wrestling with the tent. “I mean, I knew that getting on the same shuttle with you two was a bad idea, but couldn’t we have crashed on some nice homey planet?”
“We didn’t exactly have a choice, Bones,” Kirk replies through gritted teeth as he and Spock push the last anchor into place. The tent’s heat generator has been damaged beyond repair, but at least it will protect them from the wind. “Whew. Well, I guess that’s something.” The captain eyes the result of their work critically, then sighs. “I’ll get us some water.”
“Water,” McCoy mutters. “Fat lot of good that’ll do. We’re stuck on this frozen rock, nobody knows where we are, and we can’t call them because – why can’t we call them, again?”
Spock comes to kneel beside the fire, trying to suppress his shivers. “Something is interfering with the emergency beacon, Doctor,” he explains patiently for the fourth time. “Perhaps when we ascend further up this mountain, the interference will decrease—”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll freeze to death first.”
“Well, think of it this way, Bones,” Kirk yells from where he’s gathering water from a virulent mountain stream. “At least this place is beautiful.”
It is beautiful, Spock thinks, glancing around. For an L-class world, this planet is truly spectacular. Tall trees, somewhat reminiscent of Earth pines; grey rocks covered in moss some of which was in bloom; mountains and rivers… If it wasn’t for the sub-zero temperatures, this world would have been a tourist attraction.
“Some consolation,” McCoy snorts.
“What do you want? I’m an optimist,” Kirk sends back with a laugh.
Spock, who happens to look at him at that moment, is momentarily frozen. Sitting on one knee beside a stream, his face glowing from the cold, hair catching the last rays of sunlight, Kirk looks almost unnaturally in tune with the fiercely beautiful landscape around him. Sunset makes his eyes seem translucent like the stream running at his feet, and Spock feels his breath catch at the sight of Kirk’s smile.
The illusion of campfire lasts for a few more minutes, but the moment the sun disappears behind the mountain top, the cold intensifies tenfold, and they are left with no choice but to retreat into the tent immediately. It’s a tight fit, considering it’s designed for two people, and they only have one blanket between the three of them.
“Right,” Kirk says with forced cheerfulness. “Everyone’s dream scenario – we’re sleeping together to share body heat.”
McCoy curses under his breath, yet again complaining about Kirk’s piloting skills. Spock doesn’t say anything, because McCoy is disconcerted enough as it is, but privately he disagrees. Yes, they have lost most of the equipment; they don’t even have a single working tricorder left. But at least the three of them are alive and unharmed, and that is truly saying something.
McCoy settles in the middle without any fuss, and they spread the blanket over the three of them, huddling close. Spock is certain that there is no way he could possibly fall asleep in this kind of temperature and this close to a very ‘loud’ human, but the accumulated stress and the desperate march up the mountain must have taken their toll. He falls asleep before McCoy stops whining.
Exhaustion can only get him so far, though, and Spock wakes up a few short hours later, shivering and reaching instinctively after the source of warmth... only to discover that it’s not there. Awake for real this time, he lifts himself up on his elbows and looks around. The reason for his discomfort becomes instantly obvious. McCoy has turned onto his side in his sleep, pulling away from Spock and slumping against Kirk, draping an arm around him with his head resting in the crook of Kirk’s neck.
Spock stares, suddenly feeling much colder than he did a moment ago. Something is wrong with that image, something so very not right. It is, perhaps, the ease with which two bodies fit together; the effortless fashion that speaks of familiarity and welcome. Or maybe the manifestation of their subconscious wish to exclude him – which, Spock has the grace to realize, is illogical to the highest degree, and yet he can’t help the feeling. The cold must be affecting him quite deeply. It’s like there is a visual reminder in front of him that he can never be as close to Kirk as McCoy is, nor as easily and readily accepted.
It’s at this moment exactly that Spock realizes that Kirk’s eyes are open and trained on him.
The shock almost makes Spock stop shivering. They stare at each other in the darkness for several endless moments, saying nothing. Spock doesn’t know what is happening, doesn’t know what he is seeing. It seems to him, suddenly, that Kirk’s gaze is challenging in the dark, mocking him, daring him to say something. The air is cotton-thick and harsh like sandpaper, and Spock’s throat constricts painfully, leaving him a choice between not breathing and gulping for air like a fish thrown ashore.
Suddenly, Spock wants nothing more than to escape. He tucks the blanket under McCoy and rolls out of the tent before he has to endure another second of that.
The moonlight outside is almost painfully harsh. Spock pulls the parka tighter around himself; if he thought he was cold in the tent, it’s nothing compared to the outside.
A noise startles him, coming from the inside, like a grunt and muffled voices. Spock tenses. He doesn’t want to stay around for this. He doesn’t want pity.
Motion is a key to regaining body heat, Spock reminds himself faintly, and starts walking in no definite direction. All he knows is that he wants to get as far away from the camp as he can, as quickly as possible. His logical reasoning is arrested somewhere on the way to the higher temperatures, and he doesn’t question his actions. He has never felt this cold in his life, but the planet is only partially responsible for it. Spock purses his lips tight and quickens his pace.
He doesn’t know if it’s an hour or two later when he stumbles upon the wreckage of a small craft. At first, he’s startled thinking that he has somehow managed to make a twenty-mile trek toward the remains of their shuttle, but he sees his mistake quickly enough. The vessel – what’s left of it – is of an unfamiliar design, and the way its walls are covered in moss seems to indicate that it has been there for quite some time.
Without hesitating, Spock climbs inside to discover two bodies and a working homing beacon that looks just alien enough to be the reason for the Enterprise’s stranded crew’s communication difficulties. Spock tries to deactivate it, but his freezing hands won’t comply. In the end, he picks up a heavy enough piece of the wreckage and smashes the transmitter to pieces. For a moment, he just stands over it, uncomprehending, and reflecting, inexplicably, about the laws of universal irony.
Spock finds his way back to the camp long after the sun has risen. McCoy is the first to see him and immediately starts yelling.
“Spock, where the hell have you been? We couldn’t exactly organize a search party with just the two of us – what the hell were you thinking? You could have frozen to death out there!”
“Good morning to you, too, Doctor,” Spock says, but his tone is flat rather than sarcastic. He stalks toward a log laid beside the fire and slumps onto in heavily. “Captain, you should try contacting the ship again. I believe this time you might succeed.”
Kirk, who has been silently watching Spock from where he’s leaning against a reclining tree, solemnly responds, “Already have. Caught them just before they were about to leave the star system. They’ll pick us up in an hour.”
Spock musters just enough energy for a nod and stares unseeingly into the fire. Vaguely, he hears McCoy retreating back into the tent, but he doesn’t react to it, nor to the blanket the doctor throws over his shoulders a few moments later before stomping off again. Spock spaces out, warmed up just enough to feel something, and the next thing he knows, Kirk is sitting beside him, pressed against his side. Spock can’t even say how long he’s been there.
“I never knew you could be such an idiot,” Kirk says quietly. “Did you mean to scare me?”
“Because if you did, it worked.”
“No, Captain.” It’s an effort, but Spock manages to move away, sliding to the other end of the log.
Kirk stares at him accusingly, but doesn’t follow. “Then what? What was that little stunt about? Bones and I were worried sick—”
Spock winces, and Kirk shuts up at once. “Oh,” he breathes out. “Oh.”
Spock wishes the ground would swallow him. His eyes are watering after staring for so long into the flames, but he doesn’t look away.
After a while, Kirk speaks again. “You’re an idiot,” he repeats, sounding hollow. “Don’t ever do that again.”
Spock closes his eyes, and doesn’t reply.
Kirk turns up in Spock’s quarters with a box of chocolate in his hands.
“Hey, look what someone left at your door.”
Spock lifts an eyebrow. “That... seems unlikely.”
“Why? Can’t you have a secret admirer? There’s bound to be someone on this ship who likes you better than I do.”
Spock suppresses a sigh. “Jim. How many times do I have to apologize—”
“Yeah, well, you know, obviously some more.” Kirk scowls. “You suck at it, by the way. Apologies, I mean.”
That would probably be because Spock doesn’t truly feel remorse over stepping in front of Kirk and taking a bolt to the chest meant for him. Spock doesn’t think his feelings on the matter will change, so the only option is to wait it out. Kirk – Jim – is a highly emotional individual, but it is perhaps for that very reason that he doesn’t hold on to his offenses for long. Spock has noticed that about him for some time.
As if in answer to Spock’s thoughts, Jim sighs. “I can’t stay mad at you for long. I have no problems staying mad at Bones, but you – there’s just something about you.” He shakes his head with a rueful grin. “You’re my blind spot, Spock. And you’re abusing it.”
“I am not,” Spock objects. “You are merely displeased when someone else employs your own usual modus operandi.”
“No one else ‘employs’ it but you, and you’re not ‘someone else,’” Jim grumbles, then sighs. “Boy, that didn’t exactly sound like haiku, did it?”
“Perhaps you should ‘get points’ for effort.”
“And perhaps you should stop being such a smartass when someone is trying to—”
Spock raises an eyebrow in inquiry, and Jim stares at him for a moment, before shaking his head. “You know what – never mind.” He hauls himself up to his feet. “See you on shift.”
Spock watches him go, then glances briefly at the box sitting on his desk accusingly like a fifth column.
“Jim,” Spock calls softly, halting him at the door. “Thank you for the chocolate.”
Jim doesn’t turn around, but the sudden stiffness in his stance is telltale. “You’re welcome,” he mumbles at last before stepping out.
Spock doesn’t quite smile, but it’s a close thing.
It’s possible that, somewhere along the way, Spock has lost his grip on objectivity.
The Starfleet promotional booklets that he read at sixteen promised him that enlisting would challenge everything he knew of the universe and himself, and perhaps that promise is finally coming through. Or maybe it had something to do with the destruction of his homeplanet, for it is said that, after such a loss, the mind is prone to wander.
Spock doesn’t know, can’t be certain. He is not even particularly interested, truth be told. Perhaps he has, as his human colleagues would so inelegantly put it, lost it completely.
They beam the captain up when there is little to no hope left, and Spock doesn’t think the transporter room has ever seen so much blood before, which is downright remarkable. The surgery lasts for five hours, and Spock wishes, illogically, that he had some pressing command duties, but he doesn’t. They are at warp, and there’s nothing for him to do but stand motionless before the opaqued window of the operation unit, attempting to pray. He’s awkward at it, not knowing how. He tries anyway.
Later, when Jim is transferred into intensive care and is breathing on his own again, Spock realizes that his priorities will never be with Starfleet or the mission from now on. There are things he cannot allow to happen again and never will.
In the morning, Jim opens his eyes, his face still a swollen, broken mess of features that McCoy will spend weeks to come to restore. He opens his eyes as wide as he can, which isn’t much at all – two slits of bright blue on the dark purple with smidges of yellow that makes up his face. He focuses with difficulty, and when his gaze rests on Spock, his bruised lips twitch, striving to curl into a smile.
Spock stands there, thinking that this is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen.
It’s possible that he has completely lost perspective.
The geological survey is underway. Satisfied with his teams’ deployments, Spock walks toward the hill slope where the captain is sitting, his face lifted toward the tender caresses of the sun and mild breeze.
Spock sits beside him quietly, knowing that Jim is aware of his presence. The planet around them is spectacularly lovely – a good place for a colony, should all tests reveal no hidden danger. Somehow, Spock believes this will be the case. There’s a definite, tangible sensation of tranquility floating in the sweet-smelling air, and this time, he feels, it can be trusted.
Jim easily diverts Spock’s attention away from the picturesque scenery. Jim’s expression is blissful, at peace, and Spock is grateful to whichever gods are watching over them, because it was very much ‘touch and go’ just two months ago. But McCoy is a genius, and Jim is not only back to full health, but carries no trace of his ordeal on the outside. His face is infinitely young and ostensibly innocent, seemingly untarnished by pain and grief.
Spock sees people being fooled by that face every day and that, more than anything, gets to him. He sticks close to Jim’s side, not caring about what people might think. His pride fell casualty to what Jim means to him a long time ago. Spock knows he’s being pathetic, but, strangely, it no longer bothers him as much as it used to.
Jim wrinkles his nose as a playful blow of wind makes a rogue lock of hair fall across his forehead, tickling the skin. Spock can’t help himself – he reaches out and pushes the rebellious strands out of the way. Jim looks at him and smiles, slow and soft. Gentle. Spock looks away.
“You’re in love with me,” Jim states quietly.
Spock winces. Briefly, the possibilities of deflection or a flat-out denial flash across his mind, but he takes a deep breath and chases them away.
It’s not quite a question, but Jim answers anyway. “I do. I’ve known for a while, Spock. Probably knew before you did.” He grins fleetingly. “You’re really terrible at this whole emotions-handling thing.” He nudges Spock lightly with his elbow. “Jealous of Bones? Really?”
Spock doesn’t comment. They sit in silence for a moment.
“If you knew,” Spock starts finally, “why did you never—”
“Confront you? Spock, every time I came even remotely close to mentioning something like that, you snapped closed like an Aldebaran shellmouth. I didn’t want to make you run for the hills.” Jim pauses, picking at a stem of grass absently. “I didn’t know how to let you know that it’s okay.”
Jim peers at him for a while, before shaking his head slightly, staring at the distant horizon. “I should really fire you,” he mutters, “for complete incompetence. For a science officer, you’re incredibly unobservant. And you’re a Vulcan. How tough can it be to make logical connections between someone’s actions and their meanings?”
Spock straightens up defensively. “Humans are a confusing race,” he almost snaps. “And I am not—”
“A mind reader?” Jim supplies with a grin. “No. I never would have thought that.”
“You are always laughing at me.”
Jim chuckles and shrugs. “Well, you’re funny. It’s not my fault I have a sense of humor.”
Spock sits quietly, not knowing where the conversation leaves him. He is relieved that Jim is not angry, but, apart from that, Spock has no idea what Jim is thinking. Some telepath he is, indeed, Spock muses with a bitter tinge of irony. Jim is right about him. Jim is...
...leaning over to Spock and kissing him.
Spock’s lips part in surprise, and Jim smiles briefly against his mouth before giving the kiss his full attention. It’s smooth, warm, and gentle, but with no trace of uncertainty or doubt. One of Jim’s hands slides to the nape of Spock’s neck, while the other braces him against the slope of the hill, fighting off gravity.
Pulling away briefly, Jim breathes, “Is this okay?”
Dazed, Spock nods faintly. “Yes.”
“Then kiss me back, Spock,” Jim asks softly. “Please?”
Their lips meet again, and this time, it’s less tentative, and Spock feels something inside him give, as if the permission to touch has finally sunk in. His hands fly up to hold Jim, pulling him close, and Spock feels dizzy, intoxicated on the feel of him, the smell of him. His every sense is being overloaded by Jim’s impossible proximity, and Spock revels in it, accepting his lack of control over it for the first time.
He succumbs to gravity, pulling Jim down with him and swallowing his surprised grunt. It feels overwhelming and yet not enough, and Spock rolls them over, pinning Jim down to the ground and kissing him within an inch of his life – deep, sharp, unexpectedly possessive. Jim’s hands drift down Spock’s back until they reach his ass and squeeze, and Spock’s teeth sink into Jim’s lower lip in retaliation, just hard enough to make a point.
Jim laughs, breaking the kiss. “Why, Spock, you’ve been holding out on me,” he teases, fingers tracing the shell of Spock’s ear. “If I’d known you’re such a wild cat, I’d have seduced you long ago, objections or no.”
“But you knew,” Spock says, mouthing at his jaw. “You knew.”
Jim sighs happily, tilting his head to give Spock better access. “I did,” he admits. “That’s why I wanted you so badly. God, do that again.”
Spock complies, pausing briefly to ask, “Only because of that?”
Jim smirks, hands cupping Spock’s face to let their eyes meet, and, just for a moment, his expression turns serious through all the mischief. “No, Mr. Spock. Not only.”
Jim pulls him down into another kiss, and Spock loses himself in the whirlpool of sensations completely. He opens his eyes at last with no idea of how much time has passed since he closed them to find himself lying flat on his back, Jim’s face hovering above him and smiling an extremely drunken smile.
“Jim,” Spock murmurs as Jim takes his hand and lifts it to his lips. “What are you—”
Jim kisses his knuckles gently, the touch of his lips a smooth, velvet slide that never ends, and Spock’s world explodes with colors and stray notes of music, as if a powerful drug has been injected into his system.
“I take it – you allowed yourself to feel it?” Jim whispers, watching his face, mesmerized.
His head spinning, barely coming down from the high for a moment, Spock manages to nod feebly.
Jim’s smile turns positively wicked. “Good.”