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There is a scar in Jim’s back, close to the dip of his spine, faint and faded with the wear of the years but still visible for Spock’s sharp eyes.

In the silver moonlight that spills through their bedroom window, Spock traces his fingertips delicately over it, feeling the slight indentation in the otherwise smooth golden-tanned skin. If he leans down and presses his nose to his mate’s back, he’ll catch the scent of grass and sunlight that still lingers on him.

But Jim sleeps, with a depth that he rarely indulges in, and Spock is determined not to disturb him. Instead he shifts slightly away, removing himself from the bed in careful, gentle bouts of movement that ensure his lover will not wake.

Sometimes, Jim had nightmares.

Spock was unfamiliar with such displays of subconscious distress until he met him, until Nyota pointed it out, until Sulu said, one afternoon on a hilltop in a planet: You need to find the triggers; he doesn’t know what they are and panicking out of his mind isn’t the best way to discover them.

Spock’s learned never to touch Jim’s back without announcing himself. He’s learned Jim can’t handle power plays even if he’s curious and stubborn enough to attempt them. In the beginning of their relationship, everything went smoothly so long as Jim avoided concentrating on how much stronger Spock was, and how easily it would be for the Vulcan to force him. Spock became adept at knowing exactly at what point the rapid heartbeat of Jim’s arousal turned into fear, and how to sooth the rising panic.

I hate that he ruined this for me, Jim said once. That he took even this from me.

I was taught to reject and dislike touch, Spock had answered, smoothing Jim’s hair back off his forehead. Yet I have come to realize I in fact relish it. All it took for me to change was patience, and time, and someone that would see what I needed instead of what I wanted.

Jim had nodded without a word, turned on his side and curled in a ball as he usually did, his back against the wall. Spock had turned on his own side, facing him, his hands heavy on his hip. Jim slept best when he was between the wall and Spock; he knew there he was safe and no one could reach him without alerting them.

Spock had taken to locking all accesses to their quarters with his own override code, and felt a stab of consuming fury when he noticed that Jim slept much easier that way. Even in his sleep, Jim had sensed his wrath and inched away, curling more tightly like he was trying to be as small and inconspicuous as possible.

Even on the good days, Spock never left the bed until Jim was deeply asleep, indulging in a light meditation cycle timed by his lover’s even breaths.

Spock’s attempts to find Jim’s triggers are often a hit-and-miss. Things that make him recoil in some situations other times make him laugh. It is a matter of the correct action, at the correct timing, with the correct reasons.

It started out alarming and upsetting, because an otherwise innocent action could sometimes make Jim retreat so far into himself he was nearly a different person. Spock hadn’t known what to do to help him, reach him.

It helps if you’re not threatening in any way, Sulu had answered one morning when Spock had shared his concern. Sit on the floor, or kneel down so he doesn’t think you’re about to attack him. Make sure to leave some space between the two of you. And just… keep talking, calmly, soothingly. Sometimes you’re going to have to restrain him, and sometimes you’re going to have to give him space. You’ll know when.

In their room in the new house in Iowa Spock stands by the bed and looks down at his mate. Jim sleeps on his stomach, sprawled out and relaxed in a way Spock has never seen him. Some parts of the house are still in construction, especially the stargazing laboratory in the third floor where Pasha has insisted star navigation tables are necessary. They are delicate equipment, and installing them is time-consuming, but no-one complains.

Spock wraps himself up in a midnight-blue Vulcan robe and leaves the room, still carefully attuned to the contented hum of Jim’s sleeping mind. He will know if his lover wakes. He buttons up the robe and, barefooted, pads down the stairs to the living room where Hikaru is sprawled inelegantly on the couch, watching an old and rather awful Chinese vid.

Sulu gives him a quick once-over, managing to contain his smile. Jim always refers to Spock’s dark home robes as cassocks, and while Spock refuses to admit it, internally he has to agree. The similarities are amusing, even when he doesn’t use the sash. Jim derives some kind of pleasure in joking about sleeping with priests.

“Jet lag sucks,” Hikaru says lightly when Spock continues to stare at him.

“Perhaps you might consider asking Leonard for a asleep aid.”

“What for? This movie’s doing the trick pretty well.”

“You do not look sleepy to me.”

“It’s ‘cause my eyes are pretty small to begin with, but I’m sleepy, really,” Hikaru replies, sounding as alert as though at any time he might rise and pull out his sword.

Hikaru hates drugs with a passion Spock fails to understand.

“Your eyes are remarkably wide considering your genetic heritage,” Spock says blandly.

Sulu grins, “Thanks. But I’m not exactly doe-eyed. What are you doing up at this hour, anyway? Don’t Vulcans need their beauty sleep?”

“I am told I am sufficiently aesthetically pleasing through simple meditation.”

Sulu laughs, “Jim tells you you’re hot all the time, doesn’t he? That brat.”

“I am over ten degrees hotter than human temperature,” Spock says, because it’s expected of him and because it makes Hikaru grin. “Furthermore, Jim is two years you senior.”

“So? He’s still a brat.”

Spock arches a brow, but comments no further. Instead he moves to the window, looking out to the wide backyard and the half-finished pool. He stays there for a moment, and finally turns, pinning Sulu with a stern look.

“You may not be our pilot forever, Hikaru.”

The Japanese winces, “Not this again. We’ve had this argument what, ten times already?”

“And we will have it as much times as it takes for you to understand my point of view, and to listen to me.”

“I am listening,” Hikaru snaps, sitting up straight, eyes like thunder. “I told you, I don’t want to First Officer aboard the Belerofonte. I’m not interested in serving a Captain like Suarez. He’s an incompetent asshole and I know his First Officers have always ran his ships.”

“Then perhaps you should consider the possibility of obtaining experience similar to being a Captain yourself.”

“I can get that same training by staying with you. Shit, I’ve learned a hundred times more looking at Jim and you than in four years of Starfleet education!”

“You may not put your career in hold for the sake of friendship for the rest of your life, Hikaru. Even if you leave the Enterprise, that would not amount to losing us.”

“You think we can spend five years apart without talking and then come back here and everything will be the same?”

“I do indeed. That is after all the point of this house; a place where we can all return when we so desire, a safe haven for us all. And even if you go into a DS5 mission, there are ways for us to remain in contact, messages and vids and live communication. The technology in that respect has been greatly improved. Surely you do not believe your affection for us is a suitable excuse to stagnate your professional career.”

“Who’s stagnating anything? I still need at least two more years of experience to become a Captain. And besides—you think Jim and you are the only ones on this house that can hack into Starfleet files? When were you planning on telling us you got to Captain and Jim’s a Commodore now?”

Spock doesn’t flinch.

“I did not want this knowledge to influence your own decisions, which I see it very clearly has.”

“You’re going to need an XO, Spock. I’m the next in line, and I’m staying on the Enterprise, so get used to the idea.”

“It is not advisable for you to remain,” Spock insists. “You must learn that not all ships are run like the Enterprise, that leadership takes on many forms. Jim has a peculiar way or commanding a vessel, a very distinctive one. Not all ships are this way.”

“You’re gonna be Captain. You think you’re gonna run the Enterprise just like Jim did?”

Spock pauses, “No. Jim is much more intuitive, impulsive. While I have learned much from him, I would still have acted differently in many occasions.”

“Well, there you go. I’ll be seeing a different way to handle a ship already. Is your heart at peace?”

Spock allows his shoulders to slump an inch and moves to sit in a comfortable chair by the couch, crossing his legs and lacing his fingers.

“I simply want what is best for you, Hikaru.”

“Then let me make my own choices, ok? I know what I need, and I know what I want, and I know the difference between the two.”

Spock thinks about that for a moment, and finally nods.

“Thanks,” Sulu breathes, and slumps back down on the couch, closing his eyes.

“Would you like some tea?” Spock asks into the following silence.

Just as he is rising to his feet to go into the kitchen, he feels a slight hitch in the soft hum of Jim’s mind, and becomes aware that Jim is awaking, gently and slowly.

I am downstairs, he sends through the bond, brushing a tender mental kiss over his love’s sleepy mind. Join us for tea?

‘n m’ way, Jim slurs, turning in the bed to sit up, blinking blearily.

When Jim joins them, he is wearing old sleeping shorts and running a hand through his disheveled golden hair.

“Still thinking on Japan time, Karu?” he asks with a smile, sitting at the table as Spock sets a cup down in front of him.

“Yeah. It’s a pain. I think we should all just move to Kyoto. Since you already speak the language.”

“Japanese? God, have you heard me speak Japanese? I butcher Japanese. Japanese hates me.”

“Nah. I mean, alright, you’re better at Vulcan, but then I guess you have more time to practice.”

Jim gives Sulu a grin, “Are you suggesting Spock dirty talks to me in Vulcan?”

“Uh, no. I wasn’t. Not at all.”

“Yeah, you were.”

“I’m pretty sure I really, really wasn’t.”

“Vulcan is hardly an appropriate language for such situations,” Spock comments, watching the water heat in the stove. He likes making tea the old-fashioned way. “Futhermore, as Jim often complains, I am silent in bed.”

“And here I thought Vulcans were creatures of great passion, so on and so forth.”

Jim smiles his shit-eating grin and opens his mouth. Sulu’s got a knife aimed at him in less than a fraction of a second.

“You think I won’t stab you,” he warns. “But you’re wrong.”

Spock, still turned away from them, reaches back and plucks the knife from his hand neatly, replacing it with a small spoon.

“Get the honey, if you please,” he says flatly.

Sulu stands but protests, “You’re no fun, Spock. I’m sure I can intimidate this asshole out of his assholish ways if you’re not around being all protective and loving.”

“Dude, bigger dicks than you have not scared off my inner jackass.”

“Language, Jim.”

Hikaru plunks the jar of honey on the table and gives Jim a look, “You have no idea what size my dick is.”

“What, you wanna show me? I know I’m irresistibly pretty, Karu, but the kitchen is no place for sex.”

“Yeah, you’re pretty. Pretty like a little blond, blue eyed girl.”

Jim makes an indignant sound, “Spock, can you vouch for my virility here?”

 

Spock sighs in that unique way that Jim insists is a Vulcan eye-roll, and pours water on all their cups.

“I believe I now understand Leonard’s complaint of being surrounded by children.”

“Speaking of which,” Karu says, sitting down in front of Jim again. “Pasha would like to bring some of his siblings over next week, if the pool’s finished. The twins don’t know how to swim yet. I know there’s going to be a lot of eyes paying attention, but I’d feel better if we taught them, Jim.”

“Sure thing,” Jim nods. “You know I like kids, and I love water, so it’s a win-win for me.”

Hikaru and Jim share a long look.

“Spock…” Jim starts, taking a deep breath.

The Vulcan stiffens, knowing the argument that it’s about to take place.

“Jim. No.”

“Spock, come on. You can’t live in a place with a pool this size and not know how to swim. It’s dangerous,” Sulu leans his elbows on the table, crossing his arms. “Besides, it’s not going to be like that time when you were a kid.”

“We’re both going to be there in the pool with you, Spock, Karu and me. And Bones is Georgia swimming champion and he’ll be there too, watching, along with Scotty who used to swim in the shore in Scotland.”

“I am heavier than a human, and stronger. Should I become lost in panic, you will not be able to subdue me. I could severely harm you. I could drag you under with me. I could knock you out and you would drown. I could—“

“Lose your mind in the middle of the bridge and try to choke me,” Jim interrupts firmly. “And you didn’t kill me, did you?”

“Only because my father stopped me,” Spock hisses.

“Spock, Jim and I might not be as strong as you on our own but we’re combat specialists. We can take you together. And if we can’t the both of us and Bones sure can and as a last resort Pasha can nerve-pinch you like you taught him. It’ll be fine.”

There is a long moment of silence, and Jim reaches for the Vulcan’s hand and squeezes it gently.

Ashayam,” he says softly. “I’m right here. I’m not going to let you go. We’ll start off really slow, we’ll take all the time in the world. Whatever you need, alright? But I can’t stand the idea of you falling in that pool and drowning. Please, Spock.”

“Have we ever let you down, Spock?” Karu says, patiently. “Have we ever given you a reason not to trust us, or to be afraid of us? Spock, I was with you in that cell in Artarax when you became a berserker, and I didn’t leave you, did I?”

“At a heavy cost,” Spock says with difficulty. “I nearly killed you.”

“But you didn’t,” Hikaru remarks. “And I didn’t leave.”

Spock shakes his head slowly, closing his eyes. Hikaru’s memories of Artarax are understandably hazy. He’d been locked in a cell with a crazed Vulcan for nearly twenty hours; for most of the time, he had managed to be unobtrusive and inconspicuous, but eventually Spock had turned on him.

The aftermath had been horrifying, and Sulu had been in an induced coma for the better part of two weeks, recovering from five broken ribs, a broken ankle, one shattered elbow and two fractured wrists along with internal injuries and bleeding and a cranial fracture.

Leonard had saved him by sheer force of will and dogged refusal to give up.

“Spock,” Jim leans in, eyes soft and tender. “The first time we got in a bed together, I almost dislocated your jaw. That was a fun way to figure out I don’t like to be pinned to the bed.”

“I didn’t know that,” Hikaru blinks, startled.

“Oh yeah,” Jim smiles crookedly. “That was a fun talk with Bones.”

Hikaru chuckles.

“That was not your fault,” Spock protests.

“And it’s not gonna be your fault if one of us collects some bruises along the way teaching you to swim. I’ve been pretty awful about intimacy, but you’re survived, haven’t you?”

Spock gives his hand a squeeze and releases it, bringing his palms together and up to his lips as he considers.

Hikaru feels the need to continue to reassure his friend, but he also feels that Jim’s words have been enough, so he politely looks out the window and sips his tea, giving Spock all the time he needs.

“Very well,” Spock says after a long stretch of time. “We will attempt it once the pool is finished.”

Spock’s made a compromise despite his fears, so Hikaru and Jim back off and switch into a subject that makes everyone comfortable. In this case, it’s the fact that Sulu has been approved for another five-year tour aboard the Enterprise, and will most likely be taking over the position of First Officer.

“It’ll be mostly diplomatic missions,” Jim shrugs. “As a Commodore, I’ll be making a lot of First Contacts and negotiating entry into the Federation with as many civilizations as possible and viable.”

This could have implied Jim believed it would be a quieter stretch of time in space, but Hikaru and Spock know Jim is a lot of things, and realistic is one of them. Jim knows the Universe works in funny ways around him, so he knows better than to expect a boring DS5 mission this time around.

The next day Spock accompanies Scotty into the Riverside Dockyards to oversee some new modifications into the engines, all of which he has of course already revised thoroughly. What would probably have been a one-hour long visit turns into a five-hour argument when Scotty discovers certain so-called ‘improvements’ have been made to the refrigeration system without his notice or consent.

Spock is forced to prevent him from murdering anyone, and then is forced to note down every single change so that Scotty can complain to Command and then reverse what he considers ‘damage’. The Vulcan is somewhat gratified that most of the time, it’s Jim that deals with Scotty’s all-over-the-place genius.

“Don’t you worry, lad,” Scotty says firmly as they leave the ship behind. “I’ll no let our lady fall out o’ the sky.”

“It would not,” Spock replies. “As there is no gravity to pull it down in space.”

“I’ll keep your ship whole, is what ‘m saying.”

“My ship,” Spock repeats, bewildered. “I was under the impression the Enterprise was Jim’s ship.”

“Aye, well, ye’re Captain now. You have sort of shared custody, d’ye see?”

Spock does see, and he wonders if the talent to understand Scotty’s normally incomprehensible ramblings and rants comes with the position of Captain of the Enterprise.

“We’re like yer children, all of us.”

Spock doesn’t reply, and Scotty comes to a sudden stop, grabbing the Vulcan’s elbow tightly.

“I’m sorry,” the Scotsman says quietly.

Spock tilts his head, “It is alright, Scotty. I have known I am unable to father children ever since I reached Vulcan puberty. This is a condition often found in hybrids.”

Scotty shook his head slowly, eyes soft.

“I’m still sorry, Spock.”

Spock allowed his shoulders to relax fractionally as he urged Scotty to continue moving towards their hovercar, briefly touching his arm.

“Despite the fact that I was aware, I will admit… Leonard’s conclusion was—painful. However, though regrettable, my condition is not critical, as my bondmate is male as well, and I am therefore not failing in my duties.”

Scotty rounds on him with a fierceness he rarely displays. Spock comes to a sudden halt, neatly suppressing the urge to take a step back and away from the man. This is Scotty—Scotty will never hurt him. He knows this. Remembering to trust people demands constant effort.

“What duties, man? I’m not talking about you being inadequate. You know, lad, I love ye well, but sometimes you are the dumbest genius I ever did meet.”

Spock opens his mouth to protest, but Scotty punches his arm in that strange way only Scotty indulges in, which Spock has come to understand is apparently a physical demonstration of the man’s frustration regarding Spock’s incomprehension.

“Fathering children, aye, that’s a beautiful thing—that’s why I’m sorry for ye, that ye won’t get to feel that beauty, that ye won’t get to hold your child in yer arms. But to think someone might be disappointed in you for now being able to is telling me we think you’re inadequate ‘cause you’ve got pointy ears. It’s another facet of what makes you Spock.”

Scotty slaps him in the arm, smiling affectionately.

“You’re an emotional retard,” he says fondly. “But I still like ye fine.”

Spock doesn’t know how to answer to that, even if he could through the constriction in his throat, so he doesn’t even try.

The house was quiet and dark when they returned, but Spock found Pasha and Hikaru in the backyard, working a thick canvas cover over the newly-finished pool. Stretched on the grass like a lazy, elegant cat, Nyota sleeps under the Iowan sun. Twelve-year-old Joanna lays on her stomach, reading from a book.

“Stays covered until you can swim,” Pasha explained, getting to his feet and dusting his hands. “Unless there’s an adult around to supervise you.”

“I am beginning to doubt there are adult in this house at all.”

Pasha gives him one of the side looks that warn that one must brace for what is about to be said. Pasha is often like a scalpel, cutting into flesh with fine precision when it is necessary.

“People that refuse to learn to swim in a controlled environment with several safeguards and in the company of strong, experienced, grown men don’t count either.”

Spock exhales and allows his eyebrows to drop minutely in irritation. Unfortunately, Pasha knows no matter how angry Spock might occasionally be at his insensitive way of speaking the truth, the fact that the truth is spoken is invariably appreciated.

“You really would do terribly in another ship, Pavel.”

“You say it like it’s not your fault,” Pasha teases, and arches a brow very pointedly.

“I see no reason to continue to stand here and be insulted,” Spock says firmly, turning around.

“I on the other hand see plenty,” Pasha mutters quietly, yanking on one of the hooks that anchor the canvas with something akin to brutality.

Hikaru shakes his head, silent.

Jim has just gotten out of the shower when Spock enters their bedroom, clad in only a towel and rubbing his hair dry.

“Pasha appears to be angry at me,” Spock says, taking the towel from Jim’s hands and continuing the soothing movement of drying his hair for him.

“Yeah?” Jim shrugs. “You know Pasha. He’ll get over it.”

“He appears to take personal insult in my reluctance to learn to swim.”

“He thinks you’re wasting time you could use to learn,” Jim deducted. “He told you you should be getting into the pool instead of explaining why you’re so scared of water?”

“Not in those words, no. Has he spoken to you?”

“Pasha’s pretty transparent when he’s annoyed,” he grins, “He got that from me.”

“He got that from Leonard,” Spock corrected mildly. “You are not at all transparent.”

Spock sighs, and rests his forehead on the curve of Jim’s shoulder, allowing his frame to sag in the privacy of his company.

Hey, Jim murmurs through his skin, it’s alright. You know Pasha; his moods run deep, but they don’t last long. He’ll be hovering all over you tomorrow, just like always.

He does not hover, Spock protests, and sinks gracefully to the bed, lying prone on his back with his feet planted firmly on the floor.

Oh, Jim says, his thoughts taking a very distinct turn. Stay like that, he adds as he drops his towel and places a knee on the bed by Spock’s thigh, his hand brushing teasingly up the Vulcan’s flank.

Spock raises his head, “No. Get your trunks and teach me to swim. I can see I will not have a moment of peace until this house is satisfied that I will not drown in a puddle of water. Besides, the door is open, Jim. Think of Joanna. More importantly think of what Leonard will do to you, and how that will adversely affect me.”

“You’re kind of a selfish little thing sometimes,” Jim says, hastily retrieving his towel from the floor and smartly wrapping it around his waist. “I like it.”

If Hikaru is surprised by the haste with which Spock wants to get into the pool, he doesn’t show it. He runs upstairs, shouting a race to Pasha who, naturally, shoots after him like a dog after a kitten. The sounds drifting down suggest the race turns into a wrestling match, and when they return, both men are sporting freshly forming bruises.

“I’m not healing either of you idiots,” Leonard says calmly, sipping his coffee.

Hikaru shrugs, and just because he can, he reaches forth and snags Leonard’s last toast, biting into it.

It is Jim’s opinion that under the full weight of a ferocious Georgian glare, it’s only Hikaru’s samurai training that keeps him from squirming.

Spock is calm and confident until the canvas is withdrawn from the pool, at which point his breathing quickens along with his heartbeat. Hikaru gets into the pool swimming around idly for a moment as Jim and Leonard explain what is about to happen.

“We’ll start in at the shallow end,” Jim says. “The water’s up to your waist there, no threat. I’ll be holding your arm, and Bones is gonna be following along from the edge. Karu’s going to be deeper in, just in case, so you can see where the pool begins to dip towards the deeper end.”

“You’re gonna stay real close to the edge,” Leonard explains. “Close enough that you can reach it with your arm and hold onto it if you need to. And I’m gonna be right there if you want me to help you out. The point right now is just getting you in the water, make you comfortable there.”

Spock nods. Still, moments after he has agreed, it takes a singular amount of effort to allow Jim to tug him into the water. He doesn’t bother attempting to hide his flinch, but is distracted from his anxiety when Pasha jumps into the water at the deep end, swimming the length of the pool beneath the water, looping around their legs and coming back out at Hikaru’s side, shaking his head ruefully.

“Show off,” Karu sniffs, flipping water in his face.

But Spock is reassured. In his mind, despite his age and his now lean, strong built, Pasha will always be a vulnerable, fragile creature. That he goes into the water with the ease with which he submerges himself in complex physics calculations is somewhat soothing.

He allows Jim to guide him deeper in, until the water is at the height of his navel. Jim then veers, walking him slowly to the other end of the pool where Pasha hoists himself up to sit on the edge, kicking his legs like a child. He even waves when Spock is close enough to feel the ripples his feet provoke in the water.

They do nothing more that day. Once Spock is safely seated on the edge at the shallow end, he watches quietly as Jim, Pasha and Hikaru run races and try to drag each other under the water in an improptu fight that, against all odds, Joanna puts an end to.

“It’s getting cold,” she says, crossing her arms and giving all three grown men a full-blooded McCoy glare. “And we have dinner reservations in an hour. I want you all showered and dressed in half an hour, gentlemen. You too, Uncle Jim!”

 

“Hey! I’m a gentleman!”

Five minutes later in the shower, Spock thinks Jim acts in a way not at all becoming a gentleman, but despite his teasing he does indeed bring him to climax, so perhaps in the end Jim is rather a decent human being, after all.

Joanna McCoy is turning thirteen. Before they have an all-out birthday party for her in the house, the girl insists they have a formal dinner in a restaurant where Spock suspects she has every intention of making everyone aware of just how bright her father is, and what a privilege it is to be his daughter.

Joanna McCoy is cunning in a way no human child of her age should be. This is possibly the consequences of prolonged exposure to both Jim Kirk and Pasha Chekov, both possessing minds as sharp as Hikaru’s blade.

And so half an hour after the order was given, the stroke of the grandfather clock does indeed find them all washed and dressed in the living room. The restaurant is formal and so they are all dressed in formal clothes. Spock has seen both Leonard and Jim in suits and Nyota in evening wear, and is aware that they ‘clean up nice’, as Jim is prone to say.

He is however not prepared for how well Pasha and Hikaru present themselves when employing some effort. Hikaru has combed his hair back and is wearing a smart dark suit and a stark white shirt that make him look like a businessman, owner of entire planets.

“Wow,” Jim whistles. “That kitchen thing I vetoed this morning, Karu? Totally take it back.”

“You watch your goddamn mouth, Jim Kirk,” Leonard growls, steering his daughter towards the door. “Or I’ll hypo it numb!”

“Uncle Jim, you better not be cheating on Uncle Spock! Because I’ll totally take his side.”

“I am gratified of this, Joanna. It is a pleasure to find your mind is so much more logical and prone to make good choices than your father’s.”

“You’re not out of the dog-house, either, Uncle Spock.”

“Remind me never to set a foot on Georgia,” Pasha says quietly as they move to the hovercars.

“Before long,” Nyota is saying with a rather satisfied smile. “I’ll have her scaring Klingons out of their facial ridges.”

Three months later, Scotty’s mother finally breaks under the weight of a long-carried disease. She dies in the morning of a sunny spring day, a smile on her lips, while Scotty falls to pieces in Jim’s and Nyota’s arms. Spock quietly takes over the responsibility of arranging the funeral, accompanying Scotty’s father William to the funerary house and contacting the necessary relatives and friends as Hikaru, Leonard and Pasha work on cleaning the house and preparing it for the service.

In the evening once the body has been interred, William Scott turns to Spock, hazel eyes wide and vulnerable.

“My son’s all I got now,” he says. “You have to keep him safe out there.”

Spock wraps a hand around the man’s wrist, above the suit, and squeezes gently.

“I will lay down my life before permitting any harm come to Montgomery when I can avoid it. You have my word of honor in this.”

William nods, seeming somewhat reassured, and allows Spock to guide him back inside where Scotty helps him to bed, even though William is a strong healthy man taller even than Spock.

They stand vigil in the house, an old typically Scottish construction that sits alone in the top of a hill overlooking the small town. Above the doorway a number is carved into the wood: 1782.

“Isn’t it mind-blowing that something can last 481 years?” Jim asks, awed, the following week as they are leaving for the shuttleport.

Spock thinks to point out that planets have lasted longer, the Universe even more so. Instead of saying it he nods, giving his bondmate a small smile, before he glances one last time at the quiet house.

Though the slow progress occasionally irritates Spock, the swimming lessons proceed successfully. By the time the new assignments for the Enterprise are approved, Spock is able to go to the deep end, submerge and go to the bottom in Jim’s company. He has the basics, Hikaru says; now all that’s rest is practice.

Joanna accompanies Pasha to the shuttle port to pick up his many siblings, and along the way seemingly catches the eye of a couple Iowan teenage boys. No-one in the house except for Nyota is amused by this. It’s actually Hikaru, however, that smilingly threatens to slice them with his katana if the sneak their hands in an inappropriate place.

“I did that with my sister,” he shrugs when Spock arches a brow at him. “Worked out pretty well.”

“I am certain your sisters were most appreciative.”

Joanna herself takes it in stride, as though having an entire house of overprotective grown men glaring at potential suitors is not only understandable but rather to be expected. Spock thinks the girl needs no one to watch over her, but when a boy approaches them in the grocery store one evening he still arches a cold brow and looks distinctly unimpressed, because he feels he ought to.

Two months later, Hikaru’s sister Umi announces her wedding, a small traditional affair in the ancient city of Kyoto. The ceremony is lovely, but perhaps the most amusing part was Jim’s attempts to convince Leonard that he should wear a kimono. In the end, because Leonard has met Jim, everyone settles for suits.

Sitting on a bench beneath the falling sun, Pasha grins at Spock, “Karu’s breaking hearts all over the place.”

Spock pays a little more attention and realizes that, indeed, Hikaru is getting a lot of feminine appreciation. Spock spots one of the girls, a shy but lovely girl beautiful like a Japanese doll, wrapped in a gorgeous kimono, skirting the edges of the conversation and attempting to get Hikaru’s attention without interrupting him.

Spock catches Hikaru looking her way more than once.

“Perhaps some assistance would not be uncalled for,” the Vulcan says mildly, at the same time he tugs on his bond with Jim to make the same observation.

Pasha kindly kidnaps Hikaru from the group of women, and Jim politely guides the girl to one of the tables and pours her a drink. When Hikaru makes his way to the table, slightly confused, they both mysteriously disappear.

In the winter four months before the Enterprise’s launch date, Grisha Chekov, ten years old, barges into their bedroom and is seemingly completely unruffled when they scramble to cover themselves with the sheets, Jim’s reflexes still slow with the weight of climax.

“I vant to learn to ride horses,” he says firmly, staring at Jim.

Jim blinks, “You’re looking for Bones, Grisha. Next room to the right.”

The boy leaves without another word.

“Creepy,” Jim remarks for the eleventh time, slumping down across Spock’s lap like a contented cat.

Spock hums and runs his fingers through his lover’s hair, thinking of a ship with a Science Department run by an army of Chekovs and finding the idea not at all off-putting. Jim snorts at the thought, shifting to slither up and breathe against Spock’s lips.

“We’d have to work on new ways to lock doors, since they break through all of my damn encryptions, the little monsters.”

“One way would be to actually close your door,” Joanna comments as she sweeps briskly past their door, dropping her riding gloves into her helmet. A moment later she reappears, long dark braid spilling over a shoulder as she grins evilly.

“Before I tell my papa y’all are guilty of indecent exposure.”

Jim thinks he cannot be blamed if he throws a pillow at her. Spock silently gathers his robe, slips it on and closes the door, locking it.

Jim presses up against his back, hand skimming his throat before dipping down, down his abdominal muscles and down even more, where the mere presence of his bondmate already is having a desired effect on him. Spock arches back, dropping his head on Jim’s shoulder and pressing his hands against the door as Jim parts the fabric of his robe and brings him flush against his front.

“I missed my chance at afterglow,” the human murmurs. “But I’m willing o give it another try.”
A month before the departure of the Enterprise, Spock returns from a late flight to San Francisco to find Hikaru sitting cross-legged on a patch of cleared grass outside, next to a sleeping Pasha, sipping sake.

“Should I carry him upstairs?” he queries, crouching down so the long sleeves of his Vulcan winter coat skim the snow.

“He’s not drunk, just asleep.”

“Is anything the matter, Hikaru?”

“I was thinking about Reiko,” the pilot, now his First Officer, confessed. “Just thinking, you know, it would have worked out. She’s… amazing.”

Spock tightens his robe around himself and lowers down to sit, cross legged, at his friend’s side.

“Are you truly certain?”

Hikaru nods, “I just know. But I really do love space, and the Enterprise, and I’m happy doing what I do. I’m happy where I am. So… I guess Reiko and I weren’t really meant to be.”

“Yet you believe that you love her.”

“I do. But I can’t ask her to marry me and then go off into space for five years.”

“That would not be necessary. There are other options.”

Hikaru shakes his head, “She’s scared of space. I can’t ask her that. Reiko is a traditional Japanese girl; small and delicate and fragile and bound to the soil she grew up in. It would be as unfair as her asking me to give up Starfleet.”

Spock slides his arm briefly around the man’s shoulders and brings him close to his side, sharing his heat and offering comfort in his presence, as he often does with his words fail him. Hikaru allows himself one last shudder of grief, and finally pulls away and drags a hand down his face.

“We better get sleeping beauty upstairs,” he says firmly, rising to his feet.

Spock slides into bed fifteen minutes later and ogresses up against Jim’s back, humming in contentment.

“I will need an alibi,” he says into his mate’s ear.

“How long, when, and for who?” Jim asks gamely, not even questioning Spock’s motivations.

“One week at least, this week, and for me and Leonard.”

“Where’re you taking our CMO?”

“Japan.”

They come up with this: Jocelyn is questioning Leonard’s rights to keep Joanna to himself for as long as he remains in Earth. Spock has decided to join the doctor in the discussions that will inevitably follow.

When summarily informed of this, Jocelyn arches an eyebrow and says, “You know me. Gifted attorney, bitchy ex-wife, beard extraordinaire. Then again, when is Sulu ever going to call me to confirm?”

“Now Joss,” Leonard grins, “You ain’t bitchy no more.”

“Bitchy is my default, Len, sugar. You know that. Now run along and play matchmaker, yeah? Good boys.”

Reiko Zukamori’s family has a great estate in the outskirts of Kyoto. She welcomes them in with flawless Japanese politeness, pouring tea and looking every bit as breathtaking in jeans and a sweater as she did in a traditional kimono.

“He has not asked me,” she said softly when Spock broached the subject. “I do not understand why.”

“Hikaru believes you are scared of space, and he would not dare ask this of you.”

“I am scared of space,” Reiko nodded, dark eyes soft. “I am also scared of rats, but when I must, I kill them.”

“I believe Hikaru does not think it fair to ask you to give up your home, where he would get to continue in space which he feels is his home.”

“My home is where I build it,” the girl replies. “No matter in what direction the tree grows, the roots will not move. My roots are here; but I am not done growing. Hikaru-kun should have come to me with this.”

“He didn’t dare,” Leonard says gently. “Any more that you would dare ask him to leave Starfleet.”

“It is not the same,” Reiko politely averts her eyes to contradict the man, but she does not hesitate to speak up. Beneath her pale, fine skin lies a will like finely honed steel. The girl is truly a match for Hikaru. “Hikaru-kun is a man, the man I chose. He may ask of me that which he desires, and I may refuse. I may not refuse if he does not ask me. Hikaru-kun is not a boy. Such shyness is unbecoming.”

“He was trying to be kind,” Leonard says a little gruffly.

“He is kind,” Reiko inclines her head. “And he is good, strong, young, and healthy. He is also intelligent and brave, well-educated, and with a brilliant career. He also loves me, and I love him. There is little more I can ask for in a man. If Hikaru-kun would only ask, I would pack my clothes and board the Enterprise.”

She pauses.

“Yet he has not asked. Why are you here?”

Spock set down his cup and laced his fingers.

“Zukamori-san, you are an exceptionally gifted sociologist, well-versed in many alien cultures and their parallelisms to human civilizations and customs. You also speak, that I am aware, four languages. As Captain of the Enterprise, a previously exploration-oriented starship now turned diplomatic envoy, I would be greatly interested in having you as part of my sociology team. At your request, I may provide references and prepare a formal offer, with specifications as to benefits and what I believe would be in your interest.”

Reiko stares at him for a fraction of a moment, before her eyes turn away to the glass wall that allows view of the vast gardens, a landscape of singular beauty muted in snow.

“No formal offer is necessary,” she says finally, voice soft. “I require only the information of departure and the arrangements for my employment.”

“I shall see to it myself,” Spock picks up his cup again, sipping his tea.

The day of the Enterprise’s departure, as they wait for the arrival of the shuttle that will take them up to the space station, Spock crouches down at Joanna’s urging and draws her in for a tight hug, feeling the vulnerability of her small body against his chest, committing to memory the rhythm of her breaths.

Despite their perfect knowledge of Vulcan touch-telepathy, none of the seven Chekov children withholds an embrace.

Spock realizes that they know he will never have children, and are attempting, in their childish innocent way, to lessen his pain. He smoothes eleven-year old Dima’s curls back away from his face, and presses a gentle kiss to Joanna’s forehead.

“Comm often,” Joanna orders, drawing a sniffing Dima away against her body. “Or I’ll come you, and I won’t be happy.”

“Once a month would be acceptable,” Jocelyn says, pointedly looking at everyone. “You,” she adds, poking Leonard in the chest, “better take it up to once a week, boy.”

It’s not until six hours later, when the Enterprise has gone into warp and they are heading towards the first mission, that Jim can indulge in strolling into the bridge and leaning his arm against Spock’s chair.

“So, anything exciting around here,/i>? Paperwork’s wearing me thin.”

“Everything proceeds without incident,” Spock says, giving his mate a tolerant, patient look.

“You could have just asked through the comm.,” Nyota points out, releasing a long-suffering sigh.

“You could have just asked through the comm…. Commodore,” Jim says cheekily.

Nyota turns back to her console without a word.

Spock glances down to see that Leonard has finished organizing preliminary duty rosters in the Medical Department, and Scotty hasn’t even begun doing the same thing in Engineering.

Commodore, he thinks firmly. Please remove yourself to Engineering and remind Scotty that I need his rosters before the end of the day.

I’m your errand boy now?

Your genius, Spock replies without a hint of remorse. Your responsibility.

Jim laughs, seemingly at nothing, but no one in the bridge thinks twice of it.

Everyone in the bridge and 92.46% of the Enterprise crew know that Spock and Jim are bonded, and crowded into McCoy’s Academy dorms over a year and a half ago to let Command know that they were most decidedly not comfortable with the disciplinary audience passing judgment on their commanding officers. They did this through their signing of a certain document that Starfleet Command is unlikely to ever forget.

The remaining 7.54% is formed by the new acquisitions to the crew, many of which have not yet been exposed to Kirk or Spock and only know them in reputation.

They will know soon, however, and come to accept it.

And if they do not, Spock rests confident in his knowledge that Sulu will not hesitate to replace them.

Soon enough, Hikaru will look at the new assignments to acquaint himself with the new crewmembers on board the ship. Spock has gone to relatively great trouble to ensure no one slips and tells Hikaru that Reiko Zukamori is on board, and is not ashamed to admit he will rather enjoy the man’s surprise when he figures it out.

Spock has five years in front of him, flying through space in a ship that is his home, crewed by his family and an exceptional group of individuals that accept him precisely as he is.

And when the tour is over, he will still have a home in Iowa, a three-story house with six bedrooms and a top-of-the-line security system that only seven people in the whole Universe have access to.