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The first time he calls him sweetheart is when they are in mortal peril.

Klingons do not particularly care for peaceful negotiations. Which is why, after they refuse to talk, Captain Kirk orders his crew to fire back and destroy the Klingon warship they encountered at the edge of Federation space. It is not an easy decision, for it makes the Captain directly responsible for the death of hundreds of Klingons – who are, despite their aggression, sentient beings like the crew of the Enterprise is. Nevertheless, he is aware of what must be done.

Kill or be killed.

It is the first time the young crew has partaken in a battle with Klingons, which is why they are all very tense and the atmosphere on the bridge is almost uncomfortable, filled with tension and dread and even fear. When the warship is finally destroyed, nobody relaxes.

The Captain turns towards his First Officer and asks him about the state of their ship, receiving a prompt answer. “Shields at 57.592%. Negligible Hull stress. No injuries reported as of yet.”

It makes something inside Kirk loosen, but the bridge crew remains tensed – alert, as if fearing another attack out of nowhere.

This is why Kirk grins, as big and as confident as he can muster, and says to Spock, “Thank you, sweetheart.”

It has the desired effect – the bridge crew cracks grins, their shoulders relax. Sulu grins over at his Captain. “Are we all going to get a nickname now, Captain?”

Chekov chuckles loudly, while Kirk beams back at them. “Ah, I don’t think so. Wouldn’t want my First Officer to get jealous, now, would I?” He asks rhetorically, and winks at Spock for good measure.

The idea of a Vulcan being jealous – of wanting a pet name like that in the first place – is so ridiculous that it startles a laugh out of his crew. The tense atmosphere vanishes.

“I assure you, Captain, I would not feel any emotion, much less jealousy over such a trivial thing. However, I would ask you to refrain nevertheless, considering the fact that I do have a name or a rank by which you are free to address me.”

Kirk chuckles, then adds teasingly. “Got it, sweetheart.”

The crew laughs again.

This time, Spock refrains from saying something, and merely raises his eyebrow at Kirk – which makes the Captain laugh once more, for some reason – and then he turns back to his station. He is aware that his Captain is trying to diffuse a difficult and new situation through humor. Even though the humor of addressing him as “sweetheart“ escapes him, he will not interfere further, seeing as the crew is already busy with their work again. Effectiveness is probably raised by over 5% – he has to study it further to gain exact numbers – because their fear has been replaced by good humor.

***

This is precisely the reason why Spock does not comment on Kirk’s use of the term ‘sweetheart’ the next time they are in a dangerous situation. Neither does he the following three times, one which is during a mission gone awry. It always has the desired effect – it relaxes the crew present, helps them forget about their fear and ultimately helps them focus on their mission. Even though he does not understand it completely, Spock approves of Kirk’s methods.

***

However, the seventh time Kirk refers to Spock as sweetheart, he is simply bored.

They are in the process of star mapping, which is often bemoaned by most of the crew. Kirk is making his round around the bridge, talking softly with his crew, occasionally laughing; always grinning.

When he comes to Spock’s station, he leans over him and whispers. “So, what do we have here, sweetheart?“

The Lieutenant sitting to his left snorts.

Kirk leans slightly back to throw a grin in his direction before he turns his attention back to Spock. The latter is left wondering why Kirk has used that nickname on him. They are not in a situation which acquires Kirk’s humor to loosen tension – nor did he say it loud enough for the whole crew to hear. He feels some confusion rise inside him, and chooses to address it immediately in order to preclude it. “Captain, I do not understand why you would choose to address me as such when there is no need for it. Please explain your reasoning.“

Kirk smiles at him, and it is slightly softer than the usual grin he wears so well. Spock wonders why he even notices it. “It doesn’t really have to serve any purpose, Spock.“

“I must disagree, Captain. If it does not serve any purpose whatsoever, it would be logical to cease calling me by a moniker in order to avoid confusion.“

“Who’s confused?“ Kirk asks, winking, and it is only then that Spock notices that he is still leaning over him, their faces barely a few centimeters apart. He straightens slightly and Kirk seems to notice it, leaning back and glancing over his station once again, before speaking in a louder tone than before. “So, anyway. Status update? Please tell me something interesting happened. Any attacks or something?“

His voice is loud enough to carry across the bridge, causing several crew members to chuckle. Spock is unsure if he should feel exasperated or amused. He decides to be neither and gives his Captain a long lecture about the importance of star mapping.

***

Kirk refers to him in the 3 weeks they spend star mapping four more times as sweetheart. Despite Spock’s insistence to desist, he persists in doing so. Spock is unsure if he seeks to elicit an emotional response out of him – most likely annoyance – or if he merely does it for his own amusement. Either way, he does not particularly care for it.

***

However, the Captain of the Starship Enterprise is nothing if not persistent, which is why he calls Spock seventeen further times sweetheart. Sometimes jokingly, sometimes when he is obviously bored, sometimes to diffuse tension, sometimes to see how Spock will react this time around – and once to purposefully annoy Dr. McCoy.

The doctor is not amused by it, either. A small comfort for Spock.

It happens while they are sitting together in the mess and the Captain is somewhat reluctant to eat what the Doctor has prescribed for him.

“Ugh, what is this?“

“It’s a salad, Jim. It won’t bite you. Actually, you’re supposed to bite IT.“ McCoy grumbles, as always disgruntled for some reason or another.

“I’m not so sure about that, Bones,“ Jim replies, grimacing.

“For god’s sake,“ McCoy exclaims, raising his voice to unnecessary decibels. “You’re not a baby, I shouldn’t have to look after you and make you eat healthily!“

“So don’t,“ is Jim’s curt answer, still eyeing the salad in front of him as if it would eat him at any moment.

“You’re impossible,“ McCoy utters, throwing his arms in the air in an unnecessarily dramatic show of exasperation.

Suddenly, Kirk starts grinning, pierces several pieces of lettuce with his fork and lifts his hand up to Spock’s mouth. “Here you go, sweetheart,“ he murmurs, while trying to stifle his laughter.

Spock is somewhat amazed at how an individual can be so amused by his own antics.

McCoy, on the other side, seems rather disgusted. “Good god, man, if you want me to throw up all over you just say the damn word,“ he explodes, his face transforming into an unsightly grimace.

Spock tilts his head slightly but makes no further move away. “Lower your hand, Captain,“ he says politely.

“C’mon sweetheart,“ Kirk whines, then can’t help but chuckle, still holding the fork suspended in the air. Spock looks up to the ceiling for a second, taking a deeper breath than usual, then glances down again.

“Did you just roll your eyes at me, Spock?“ Kirk exclaims, delighted; finally lowering his hand.

“No, Captain,“ comes his curt answer.

“Figures you’d even succeed in annoying the emotionless hobgoblin,” McCoy chimes in, shaking his head.

Kirk grins proudly. He appears to be either smiling or laughing in over 83% of the time he spends around Spock.

***

The 31st time he says sweetheart when addressing Spock is incidentally the first time he doesn’t do it consciously.

They are on an uninhabited planet, discovering and cataloguing new flora and fauna they find. After several hours of hard work, they are ready to leave just as the sun is setting. They beam their teams up in two stages, until Kirk and Spock are the only ones left. Kirk, because he insists to be the last one beamed up in order to ensure that nobody is left behind and Spock, because he cannot convince his Captain otherwise and chooses to stay with him in order to protect him.

In the end, it is Spock who needs protection, seeing as he is the one that gets speared through his back by long, thin claws of some being that looks like a cross between a dragon and dinosaur, in Kirk's opinion.

Reacting quickly, as he has learned during his time in Starfleet Academy but also through sheer instinct, Kirk has his phaser in his hand and stuns the creature within the blink of an eye. He looks wildly around, unsure if there are more of them waiting. Keeping his guard up, he promptly kneels beside Spock’s unmoving form, phaser free hand hovering over his chest while he feels panic rising within him.

He swiftly moves his hand to his communicator, trying and failing to hail the Enterprise. It doesn’t particularly surprise him – when an ion storm passes by they lose contact with the Enterprise for a couple of seconds. It has happened several times during their mission to explore the world, but the storms are not too worrisome, seeing as they are very weak. The longest time they were unable to communicate with the Enterprise during one was fifty-three seconds, which is why they ultimately decided to take the risk and stay on the planet. Figures the worst case scenario would come true and they’d be stranded on the planet while Spock was slowly bleeding out.

The Captain curses slightly, in Standard as well as in Klingon for good measure, when Spock’s voice interrupts him all of a sudden. He speaks slowly, quietly, as if it takes immense concentration to form the words. “Captain, do not mind me. You have to keep a careful eye on your surroundings.”

While Kirk tells him to keep quiet, he simultaneously surveys his surroundings quickly. Satisfied that no Dino-dragon is near, at least he hopes it’s true, he quickly puts his phaser down in order to pull his Command shirt off. Glancing around once more and taking the particle weapon in his hand again, he presses his shirt with his other hand to Spock’s openly bleeding wound – right where the human heart would be. It fills Kirk with dread, knowing that if Spock were human he would be dead already.

Spock winces ever so slightly when Kirk presses down on his wound and it’s enough movement for Kirk to know just how much he must be hurting.

He can’t help but apologize. “I’m sorry, Spock, I’m sorry. I need to stop the blood flow. Sorry-“

“Captain, please cease apologizing. I am aware-“ he cuts himself off when he starts coughing violently, his whole body shaking.

When he coughs up green blood, Kirk has a very hard time keeping the rising panic inside him at bay. But he knows he needs to calm down, so he forces himself to stay calm. He can’t help it if his hands are shaking. “Shh. Don’t talk,” he hushes his First Officer, “I know. It’s fine, you’re fine, you’re gonna be fine,” he soothes, unsure if he is trying to soothe Spock or rather himself in that moment.

The communicator chirps.

“Fucking finally,” Kirk exclaims. “Kirk to the Enterprise. Do you copy?”

“Enterprise here. Whata goin’ on down there, Capt’n?” Scotty’s voice fills their ears.

“Scotty! Two to beam up, stat. And call a med team, Spock has suffered life threatening injuries.” As he speaks he is once more surveying his surroundings, yet not finding any new creature charging towards them – the only one in view is still lying on the ground, stunned.

“Aye, sir. Locking on your position as we speak.”

Kirk wants to sigh in relief, but it gets stuck in his throat when his eyes fall on Spock’s prone form again. He somehow looks even worse than just a mere five seconds ago.

His eyes are closed.

“Spock!” Kirk yells, and when he sees the Vulcan’s eyelids flutter open again, he speaks more calmly, albeit still louder and more frantic than usual. “Spock, don’t lose consciousness. C’mon, stay with me, sweetheart, it’s going to be fine. Just hold on a little bit longer.”

Spock opens his eyes more fully. Even though he stares through bleary eyes and everything is spinning, he can still make out the worry etched into Jim's face. And he can’t help but wonder – even as his atoms disintegrate and rearrange themselves anew – if his Captain even noticed that he just called him sweetheart. Pondering on it lets him cling to consciousness long enough for Dr. McCoy and his team to start working on him.

***

The smell alerts Spock to the fact that he is lying in Sickbay even before he opens his eyes. When he finally blinks them open, the first image that is presented to him is McCoy’s face hovering above his. It is not exactly a view he particularly cares for, which is why he can’t help the small frown before he forces his face to become impassive. The doctor is already telling him that he will make a full recovery.

“The Captain?” He queries, and allows himself to feel relief for a second when McCoy tells him that he returned uninjured.

“It’s like you two have this game going on, who can get hurt more often during away missions,” he grumbles, clearly not happy. Spock chooses to ignore his statement.

“What attacked me?” He asks instead, for he has not had the chance to see his attacker before his Captain had stunned or killed it. Knowing his Captain, there is a 97.994% possibility that he had set his setting to stun.

“Well, Jim insists on calling it The Dino-Dragon, which is why I hope he never has kids.” McCoy shakes his head, while looking over Spock’s vitals on his PADD.

“You statement is a non sequitur. I surmise that your intention was for me to make a mental leap, as humans are prone to call it,” Spock states.

McCoy explodes, figuratively speaking, for some reason. “Dammit, man, talking with you is like talking with a robot.”

“I do not see the purpose of complimenting me now, Doctor,” Spock answers, voice flat and emotionless.

“Oh, just shut it,” McCoy snorts, rolls his eyes and moves over to a wall communicator.

“What shall I shut in your opinion?” Spock queries, watching McCoy clench his jaw in annoyance. It makes satisfaction rise inside him, which he allows for 1.3 seconds.

“Jim, your patient is awake. Take him and leave,” McCoy grumbles into the communication unit and does not even await the Captain’s answer before he cuts the connection.

“I do not see the purpose of your actions,” Spock remarks. “If I am free to leave, there is no reason for the Captain to come.”

McCoy waves his hands as if to diffuse his statement in a physical way. “Captain’s orders, he wanted to be contacted when you wake up. Kid’s worrying himself stupid over you, god knows why.”

“The Captain’s intelligence-“

“Oh by golly, what did I do to deserve this?” McCoy interrupts him, looking up to the ceiling as if it would give him an answer. Before Spock can comment, the doctor continues speaking. “Ugh. Just tell me the last thing you remember and then I can finally leave,” he grumbles.

Spock raises an eyebrow. “Why?” He asks, deciding to keep his answers short so that the doctor may not interrupt him once more. McCoy rolls his eyes again, as if the answer is obvious. Spock can’t help but feel a twinge of annoyance.

“You hit your head when you fell down. Just making sure everything’s in working order.”

Spock knows that the medical equipment is sufficient to detect if his brain waves are in any way changed. Nevertheless, he decides to comply in order to leave Sickbay without further delay. He answers truthfully, not thinking about concealing the truth. “The last thing I remember is the Captain,” he starts, and watches McCoy nod along, “referring to me as ‘sweetheart’ for the thirty-first time”.

McCoy chokes on seemingly nothing. After staring at Spock incredulously for several seconds, he starts laughing. Once more Spock is confused by his emotional outbursts, but he does not show it.

When the Captain enters Sickbay, McCoy is still laughing. “You alright, Bones?” Kirk asks, glancing between his two friends and smiling slightly. “Welcome back, Commander,” he adds, smile widening at seeing Spock awake. Spock inclines his head, but before he can speak, McCoy addresses his Captain.

“What’s with the Commander, it’s sweetheart,” he sounds gleeful as he speaks, then bursts out laughing again.

“Uhh, what?” Kirk states, somewhat dumbly.

“I have just informed the doctor of my last memory before losing consciousness, which is when you referred to me as sweetheart for the thirty-first time on the planet. I am unsure why he finds it so amusing, especially considering that he was previously apparently disgusted by the term,” Spock explains, watching his Captain’s eyebrows raise and his eyes widen.

“When did I call you sweetheart down there? And wait, what, you’ve been keeping count?”

His emotions are hard to read. Spock feels unsure, but answers truthfully nevertheless. “Your last words before we were beamed up were, and I quote ‘Stay with me, sweetheart, it’s going to be fine.’ Furthermore, I keep count of several things happening around me, unlike humans who show a tendency for ignorance and thus-“ He breakes off, noticing that neither man is listening to him anymore.

McCoy is laughing even harder, saying things like “Yes, don’t leave your sweetheart, Jimmy, darlin’” while the Captain’s face has coloured slightly. “Shut up, Bones.”

Spock does not understand their reaction and it does not seem likely that they will explain anything soon. He refrains from sighing.

***

Afterwards Kirk does not refer to Spock as sweetheart anymore. When he is bored or trying to diffuse a difficult situation, he is still his usual self – but he does not employ the nickname any longer. The crew has by that point learned to adapt Kirk’s way of dealing with dangerous situations – instead of seizing up with fear, they jest and stay calm. Spock would put a stop to it if it were distracting them from their duties; however, instead of their performance suffering it has improved in the last seven weeks by 13.57%. It only underlines what a good Captain Kirk is.

***

Still, Spock does not understand why Kirk stopped referring to him as ‘sweetheart’ all of a sudden. It is not as though he misses it, but he wants to know his reasoning behind it. There is a possibility that he has angered or upset his Captain unknowingly, which is why he tries to broach the subject once.

“Captain, if I may make a query."

"Go on, Mr. Spock," Jim says, smiling slightly.

"As you have made a habit of calling me "sweetheart" in various situations, I must admit to feeling curious as to the reason for your abrupt ceasing of your newly acquired avocation?"

Kirk's eyes widen slightly, showing his surprise. "It's just-" he starts, breaks off, then starts again. "You've gotten used to it. It's not funny anymore." He says, shrugging, seeming nonchalant.

Yet, Spock thinks the Captain is hiding some of his emotions, because he knows Kirk well enough by then to notice the slight tightening around his eyes and minimal clenching of his jaw.

Most peculiar.

"Is that the only reason?" Spock queries, only to have Kirk draw a deep breath.

"Yes. No. Just- It's not important, Spock. I'm not doing it anymore, no need to talk about it, right? Right. So, if you'll excuse me, I've stuff to do, places to be, all that jazz." He says, grinning and clapping his shoulder.

Spock notices he appears to be, as humans tend to say, slightly flustered. It intrigues him even more.

"Very well, Captain." He inclines his head and decides to let the matter rest for the time being.

***

It is precisely 83 days after the last time Kirk referred to Spock as sweetheart that he hears him use the moniker again.

This time, however, is it not directed at Spock.

“You’re the very best doctor there is, sweetheart,” Kirk says, for some reason blinking more rapidly than usual.

Spock feels his hands clench into fists below the table, his whole body going stiff. McCoy’s answer – he snickers and replies “Aw, flattery will get you nowhere, darlin’. Eat up.” – makes Spock’s anger surge. Disturbed by his own illogical reactions, he decides to go meditate immediately.

"If you would excuse me," he says, quickly standing. They both look up at him, surprised.

"Huh? Spock, you didn't even finish your meal," Kirk exclaims, frowning up at him. "Is something wrong?"

"No, Captain," Spock replies.

He hesitates, unsure if he should broach the subject. As humans, they are more prone to understand his sudden emotions. But he does not want to tell them about his lack of control, and meditating will likely bring the desired result.

Spock notices how Kirk’s look of surprise slowly transforms into a contemplative look. Is it possible that he is aware of what Spock is thinking? His "gut feeling", as he calls it, has surprised the half Vulcan several times in the past. Spock quickly turns around and leaves, before he does something illogical like talk about his emotions with those two humans.

***

The next morning during breakfast, he is sitting beside his Captain in the mess again.

Doctor McCoy, Lieutenant Sulu, Ensign Chekov, Lt. Commander Scott and Lieutenant Uhura have joined them. They are discussing their last shore leave, and Nyota is reminiscing about a museum under water she visited.

“Weren’t you scared of sharks or whatever attacking you, sweetheart?” Kirk chimes in teasingly.

Uhura rolls her eyes and tells him off in a fond sort of exasperation she seems to have perfected around her Captain, but Kirk isn’t even looking at her when he’s saying it. He is looking straight at Spock, who freezes again, tensing slightly. He knows Jim notices, and berates himself for it.

He meditated for hours over the matter and came to the conclusion that he does not like Kirk calling anybody else ‘sweetheart’ because it was the moniker which he reserved for Spock, and now he is no longer referring to him by the term. Spock felt, under very close inspection of his emotions, that it had hurt him, made him angry and even made feelings of possessiveness rise – as if he had a special right to the word. He had made sure to calm his mind, logically accept that he had no entitlement to any term, much less this one, and that it was of no consequence how Kirk referred to which member of his crew, as long as it did not interfere with his duties. He had successfully finished his meditation – only to have it shatter the moment Kirk referred to Nyota as sweetheart.

Kirk is still watching him, and after seeing his reaction he starts grinning almost madly. It makes Spock uncomfortable.

***

Later that day he meditates about it again.

He can admit to himself that he has come to view Kirk in a light that is different from how he views others, even Nyota. He comes to the conclusion that his feelings are romantic in nature. It explains why he does not want Jim to refer to anybody else as ‘sweetheart’ – for it is originally a name reserved for romantic partners and Spock must have started regarding Kirk as such subconsciously.

It does not matter.

Spock knows that Jim has used it in jest only – even though the incident where he was injured indicates otherwise – which is why he must not allow himself to react so violently, for a Vulcan, again. His feelings are not the ruler of him. He is able to suppress them and continue working at the Captain’s side as efficiently as ever.

His feelings are of no consequence.

***

Even though he is aware of this, he still has trouble communicating with his Captain the following days. It does not interfere with his work, and he doubts that Kirk notices, but it still bothers him. He is suddenly hyper aware of his Captain. He does not wish to act differently around Kirk, so he suppresses his feelings ruthlessly.

***

A week later, the Enterprise is en route to pick up a few delegates and “play taxi” as Lieutenant Sulu has “dubbed” it, according to the Captain. There is no work which needs his immediate attention, which is why he accepts his Captain’s invitation to dinner and a game of chess in his quarters after their Alpha shift.

Dinner with the Captain is pleasant.

They are each eating their meal while discussing ship’s business at first. The discussion later strays to different matters; from new theories that are raised by various astrophysicists, over various crew members (“I swear Bones is trying to kill me with his hypos! I swear it, Spock.”), to Jim relating several childhood stories and Spock offering a few in return.

Afterwards they play chess in companionable silence. Kirk has not mentioned anything romantic in nature, as far as Spock notices. 

However, Spock perceives that he is acting slightly different than usual. He taps with his fingers on the desk for a few minutes, moves his leg up and down for a while and keeps biting his bottom lip – which is highly distracting. It is, Spock believes, called fidgeting. Does that mean that Jim is nervous?

Spock does not know what the reason for it could be, so he decides to stay quiet for the time being and continue playing chess while observing his Captain.

“Checkmate,” Spock murmurs after moving his Queen to an upper level, for Jim’s King will fall in three moves. Jim squints at the board, thinking the next few moves through before coming to the same conclusion. He throws his hands in the air, mock exasperated.

“Ah, you’re right. Damn!” He exclaims, then starts grinning. “That was a nice move at the end there, Spock."

"Indeed, it gave me the upper hand, which resulted in my victory."

Kirk laughs, some tension bleeding out of him. Curious. "Good to know that it doesn't get to your head."

"What should be ‘getting to my head’, in your opinion, Captain?" He asks, dryly.

"Human idiom, Spock. It just means that you get overly confident in your abilities." He grins at him, seeming quite content.

"I am aware of my abilities and see no reason to minimize them in order to spare your feelings or those of others."

"Of course, I wouldn’t dream of you doing that," he replies, laughing.

His laugh is very pleasing. Spock appreciates it. When Jim quiets down again, he takes a deep breath, seemingly bracing himself for something.

"So, you up for another game, sweetheart?" Kirk asks, and it comes out of nowhere – Spock can't help the slight widening of his eyes and the rise of his eyebrows when he hears the term of endearment.

Jim is grinning at him, though not his usual confident grin – it is softer; almost appears to be shy. It makes Spock's heart beat faster, and if he were not aware that endorphins were streaming through his bloodstream at that moment, he would have worried. As it is, he takes a second to gather himself, feeling the significance of the moment.

Jim is not just asking him for a rematch, there is more to it. He has consciously chosen to refer to him as sweetheart, and it is not in jest. Spock knows of the initially romantic meaning behind the word – so he is 97% sure that his Captain is propositioning him. It would explain the nervousness he has been exhibiting the whole evening.

It is only then that his actions a few days prior finally make sense. When he called McCoy sweetheart he realized that it bothered Spock, and when he referred to Nyota as sweetheart the next morning is was a test. He had wanted to see how Spock would react, and it must have been telling enough for him to take action. The logical conclusion then would be that he had stopped calling Spock sweetheart because he did not want him to know about his feelings at first. Spock feels his lips twitch upwards slightly. Kirk is many things, but he would never be predictable for Spock.

Instead of answering verbally, Spock resets the board to start a new game – and Jim smiles so brightly that his whole face lights up.

***

The game they play this time around is different from all their previous ones.

Jim extends his leg below the table, bumping it into Spock’s. Despite apologizing for it, he is grinning almost proudly, forcing Spock to conclude that the action was purposeful in nature. This is further confirmed by Kirk leaving his leg leaning against Spock’s for the duration of their game. Spock is hyper aware of it in a way he has never expected to be.

What distracts Spock even more from the game they are playing, however, is the fact that Jim keeps grazing his fingers – accidentally, as he claims, which they both know to be a lie – while they are playing. The first time it happens, Spock is so surprised he drops the pawn he was in the process of moving. Jim is beaming at him. The following seven times he is more prepared.

Feeling embolded by Jim’s obvious attempts to flirt with him, the ninth time their fingers graze it is Spock’s doing. Jim is obviously surprised, yet delighted. Extending two of his fingers, Spock starts stroking softly over two of Jim’s fingers. His mouth opens slightly, unprepared for the feelings he is experiencing.

“A Vulcan kiss,” Jim whispers the first words in 34 minutes, and it seems illogically loud in the quiet room.

“Yes,” Spock answers simply, continuing with his stroking.

Jim tentatively moves his fingers along Spock’s, too, appearing unsure yet willing to learn. His face is completely unguarded, radiating curiosity and joy. Spock feels something inside him loosen.

After 5.3 minutes of sitting in silence – chess game completely forgotten, too busy exploring each other – Jim suddenly stands up. He softly takes Spock’s hand in his and walks around the table, then gently lowers himself into Spock’s lap. A shudder shakes Spock’s body for a moment.

They stare into each other’s eyes for several seconds, neither willing to look away. Slowly, gradually, they move closer to each other, as if they cannot help it, as if gravitation is pulling them.

Their noses bump softly, and Jim lets out a small laugh; the warm air he exhales hitting Spock’s mouth.

Spock is mesmerized by the blue eyes staring back at him, shining with happiness and, dare he think it, obvious affection. They stay like that for several seconds – Spock does not bother to keep track – anticipation making the heat rise in Spock’s body.

It is too much, all those feelings, it is all too much; yet, it is not enough.

Spock doubts it will ever be enough.

He glances down at Jim’s lips, which are curved into a soft, shy smile again. It is a smile he wants to see more often. Glancing back into Jim’s eyes, he sees what is about to happen a second before it occurs; their lips meet, softly, gently, causing a spark to go through Spock’s body, startling him with its intensity. They separate by mere millimetres, then with something akin to hunger meet again; tasting, exploring, giving and taking. When their tongues meet, Spock tightens his hold on Jim’s hand, which he is still holding, while moving the other one to his hip, pressing him closer. They only separate again when the necessity for breath forces them, but they do not go far, breathing in each other’s air.

“Sweetheart,” Jim breaths out, and he seems to immensely enjoy saying it.

Spock spares a moment to think about the term and wonders if they would be here in that moment if it were not for this word, if it were not for Jim using it in jest, if it were not for Spock’s illogical feelings of jealousy over something as absurd as a word – before he leans forward again, claiming Jim’s lips anew, all thoughts forgotten for the time being.

***

The next morning, Spock opens his eyes to find Jim lying beside him, an arm and a leg thrown over Spock. He watches him, seeing no reason to move just yet. His inner clock tells him that they have 73 minutes before their shift begins.

Spock takes in the curve of his lips, the long lashes lying against his skin, the blond hair tousled and the strands standing up in every direction. He is more than just aesthetically pleasing; he is truly breathtaking, in every sense of the word.

When Jim stirs and opens his eyes, Spock is still watching him, seeing no reason to look away. The sleepy smile he receives through barely opened eyes makes his heart skip a beat. Instead of suppressing the emotions he feels, as he had initially intended, he allows himself to enjoy them.

“Hey, sweetheart,” Jim whispers, leaning closer to Spock and giving him a soft kiss. It’s how he continues to greet him many more mornings to come.