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Stardate 2260.44. Captain's log, supplemental. We are currently orbiting Altair IV, where we've stopped for resupply. I've authorized a brief period of leave for nonessential personnel, and---wait, Chekov, is that a stuffed Klingon? Why are there hearts on its---wait, dammit, what's the stardate again?

Kirk jabbed at the off button of his recorder with a groan, shoving it deep into a back pocket. He sighed, and leaned heavily against the wall of the shuttle bay. He flipped to the calendar on his PADD. Ugh, it figured. February 13, on the old calendar. Not old enough, clearly, since we still celebrate this farce of a holiday, he thought.

"No wonder everyone was so excited about shore leave," he muttered to himself.

"Pardon?" said a crisp voice at his elbow. Jim started.

"Dammit, you have to stop doing that."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Captain?"

"Don't 'captain' me. And you know. You're like a damn cat; you just appear out of nowhere sometimes and it's creepy."

"I have been subject to all manner of colorful metaphors at the hands of Dr. McCoy, not to mention yourself, but I believe this is the first incidence of comparison to a feline. I find myself…surprisingly flattered."

Jim snorted. "Any time. And I'll have you know that was a simile."

"I shall ignore your use of the word 'creepy', which I have inferred carries a negative connotation."

Something caught his eye, and Jim made another strangled moan. Lieutenant Clements from Engineering was skulking around a parked shuttlecraft, an oversized box of chocolates under her arm. At least, he was going to assume it was a box of chocolates, because it was red and glittery and had little hologram cherubs divebombing the airspace in its immediate vicinity. Clements looked furtively to her left and right, then crossed the bay to Jim and Spock, shifting nervously from foot to foot.

Jim stifled a sigh. He suddenly felt a headache coming on. "Can I help you, Lieutenant?"

"You haven't seen Lieutenant Reilly around, have you, Captain?"

"Um, no, can’t say I have." He eyed the box. "Looks like the coast is clear."

Clements grinned. "Cool. It's just, it's our first Valentine's Day, and I kinda wanted to make it a big deal for her. Oh, hey, there's a pretty…extensive boutique down on-planet. You should check it out." Her eyes darted from him to Spock and back. "You know, if you're into that."

So maybe not chocolates, then.

Spock made a noise that might have been an irritated sigh, coming from anyone else.
"Inappropriate, Lieutenant."

Clements squeaked. "Um. Yes, sir. Sorry, Commander." She looked back at Jim. "Sorry, Captain." Then she turned and dashed off down the corridor, clutching her prize.

"Poor Clements," Jim says. "She's a good kid, but damn does she stick her foot in it."

"Indeed," Spock said archly. "However, in this case, I cannot imagine what she was referring to."

"I bet you can't." Jim sneaked his own shifty glance around the shuttle bay. Satisfied that everyone was sufficiently preoccupied, he surreptitiously reached down to brush his fingertips against Spock's.

Spock did not return the gesture, but he did shift minutely closer to Jim. Anyone watching them probably thought they were discussing crew manifests or dilithium allotment or something else captainly and way more boring than public Vulcan semi-groping.

"I assume you wish to beam down to the planet tomorrow evening, if opportunity allows?" Spock asked quietly.

"Tomorrow? Why?" If you couldn't play dumb about illogical human sentimentality with Spock, then who could you do it with?

Spock hesitated for a beat. "I was under the impression that tomorrow's date bears some significance for humans in intimate relationships. As our own relationship has not yet reached one Terran year in duration, tomorrow is technically--"

"Our first Valentine's Day."

"Affirmative." Spock's eyes were trained on a group of off-duty security staff coming through the airlock, as if he wanted any onlookers to think that was what they were talking about. It made Jim feel a little like a spy on some kind of secret rendezvous.

"There are a number of possible dining establishments that--"

Jim laughed. "No worries, Spock. You're off the hook for this one."

Spock looked askance, giving him the rare look he seemed to reserve for those precious few moments when Jim caught him off guard.

"Captain?"

"I don't really do Valentine's Day."

Spock's brows furrowed. "Jim, if I might--"

"No, seriously, Spock. You know what I want to do tomorrow? Dinner in the mess, I own you at chess, again, then possibly some vanilla married-person sex with lots of cuddling after. You'll make me the happiest guy in the quadrant."

Spock briefly looked like he wanted to argue the point, but then appeared to think better of it. He straightened. "Very well. I will likely be engaged in the microbiology lab for the better part of the day. But I have no prior commitments tomorrow evening."

"Sounds like a plan, then. 1900?"

"It is, as you might say, a date." Spock turned back toward the airlock, where a small group clad in science blues was struggling with an oversize container. "If you will excuse me, Jim, I must oversee delivery of the new nanoscope. Ensign Varr is regrettably clumsy, and this purchase accounts for a significant portion of our departmental budget for the quarter."

Jim grinned. "By all means," he said. "See you later." Warmth blossomed in his chest as he watched Spock walk away. It had been three months, and half the time his relationship with Spock still felt like some kind of insane dream. Nope, Jim reminded himself. Spock was the real deal, and tomorrow he and the real deal had a very un-Valentines-y date.

***

"So," McCoy drawled as Jim walked into his office in sickbay. He leaned back in his chair, stretching until his arms over his head. "February 13, Jim. You got a present for Spock yet? Or are you still a conscientious objector when it comes to Valentine's Day?"

Jim walked over to the desk and helped himself to a tumbler of McCoy's latest acquisition. He nodded at Uhura, who was clearly already a drink or so in. She had commandeered McCoy's desk chair, the one with the massage settings, and was fiddling with the controls. "Oh yeah, that's it," she sighed, slumping bonelessly into the soft leather. "God, I love shore leave."

Jim laughed at her, shaking his head. He turned back to McCoy, who was unfortunately still looking at him expectantly. "I'm not sure what your fascination is with my relationship, Bones---"

"Unlimited source of amusement, clearly," McCoy said, clinking glasses with Uhura.

"---but if you must know, Valentine's Day is a non-issue. Spock and I have a perfectly normal night planned, doing perfectly normal things."

"Really," Uhura said. "Are you sure about that, Jim? Sure you're not, oh, I don't know, prevaricating just a bit?"

"Um, no. Why would I do that? And frankly, I’m not sure why it should be at all surprising that a Vulcan wouldn't celebrate the most illogical of all 'holidays'," he said, punctuating the last word with air quotes. "Spock had barely even heard of Valentine's Day."

"Wait, what exactly did he say?" Uhura asked, suddenly looking a lot more interested.

"That he'd heard some humans were into it," Jim said, suddenly uncertain. Uhura meant well, he knew that, but she sometimes had an irksome tendency to pull rank on him when it came to Spock.

"He told you what?" Uhura's hand shot up to cover the fountain of booze threatening to shoot out her nose.

Jim rolled his eyes, taking a sip of his own drink. He was pretty sure these happy hour "staff meetings" were a thinly veiled vehicle for Bones and Uhura to develop some kind of buddy comedy routine at his expense. Right now, though, he was definitely not getting the joke.

"He said he was, quote, under the impression that tomorrow's date bore some significance for humans in intimate relationships."

Uhura snorted. "Under the impression my ass," she said. "Jim, I'm just going to level with you. Weird as it sounds, Spock is really into Valentine's Day."

Now it was his turn to choke on his drink. "What are you talking about? No, he's not."

"Yeah, he is." She grinned. "Hang on a second, I'll prove it to you." She clambered out of McCoy's desk chair. "Be right back."

Uhura returned triumphantly clutching an armful of…pink and red crap. When she dropped the pile onto McCoy's desk, little candy hearts went everywhere. One bounced onto Jim's lap, and he plucked it off between thumb and forefinger.

"'ONLY LOGICAL'?" He read. "You've got to be kidding me."

McCoy eyed the stack, which was threatening to topple off the desk completely. "How long were you two together?"

"Two years. One year he got really into origami," Uhura said by way of explanation, holding up an intricately folded paper flower.

Jim made a face. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate Spock's foray into papercraft, but this was pretty much the last thing he'd expected in the way of deep dark secrets from his...boyfriend? Partner? Ugh, whatever. He really, really hated Valentine's Day.

Uhura sat back down, taking a sip of her drink. "Seriously? You're not exactly playing to type, here, Kirk. What do you have against Valentine's Day, anyway?"

"Jim thinks he's enlightened, and that the rest of us poor saps are being suckered into spending billions of credits on candy and flowers by evil interplanetary greeting card conglomerates. Don't see how a little old-fashioned romance ever hurt anyone, but I'm a doctor, not an astute cultural critic like our captain here." He looked pointedly at Jim, who was miming gagging himself on a finger.

"When you put it that way, it sounds pretty stupid, I'll give you that," Jim said. "I don't know, man. I just think people freak out about it way too much, put too much pressure on each other, and it's just predisposed to end badly."

"In other words, he got dumped over Valentine's Day in, like, middle school and is still scarred," Uhura said to McCoy.

"I just don't think one socially constructed day in the course of an entire year is an accurate representation of….oh, fine, it was high school, okay? But it's not just that. I really do think it’s ridiculous." He exhaled, slumping into his chair. "And now I feel like a giant asshole, because Spock is into it, and had dinner reservations and probably some grand plan that I just handwaved into oblivion." He stared down into his drink, feeling dejected.

Uhura made a sympathetic noise. He looked up at her, and she smiled gently at him. "Jim, forgive me if I'm projecting here. It's just…I've been where you are, so. It might seem a little like you're on eggshells all the time, because of the whole Vulcan thing?" Jim hesitated for a second before nodding.

"Thought so. Anyway, Spock's no delicate flower," she said. "He's also stubborn as hell, which I know you know. He might be down, but he's not out. I'd bet my commission he's got something planned, whether or not you 'do' Valentine's Day. So you'll probably want to prepare yourself."

Jim sighed. He supposed romantic gestures from one's Vulcan boyfriend, while bizarre, were not exactly a bad problem to have. "Thanks, Uhura."

She rolled the desk chair in a lazy circle, turning the massage setting up all the way. "Jim, Jim, Jim. You've got a lot to learn."

He rolled his eyes at her, and jabbed a finger at McCoy. "You two have been spending way too much time together." They both flipped him the bird in response.

***

Jim awoke the next morning with a nebulous sense of dread. He half expected his quarters to be filled with heart-shaped balloons or something, but when he opened his eyes and looked around everything appeared mercifully normal. He was alone; it wasn't uncommon for Spock to spend the night in his own quarters. He needed less sleep than the ship's human crewmembers and often used the quieter hours of ship's night to catch up on paperwork or monitor sensitive experiments.

"Computer, terminate alarm," he said as he kicked off the covers and sat up in bed. He was just about to get up and head for the fresher when he noticed something lying on the pillow on what lately been designated Spock's side of the bed.

It was a small bundle of flowers. They were blue and shaped vaguely like chubby stars. They seemed unassuming somehow compared to the fantastical alien flora Jim had seen. They were tied with a little piece of silver thread. He looked around for a note, but there wasn't one.

"They're not even pink," he muttered. Part of him was almost disappointed, given Uhura's improbably zealous description of Spock's thoughts on Valentine's Day. But this was better, wasn't it? It certainly seemed more like the Spock he knew. Understated. He smiled to himself, and got up to face the day. When he left his quarters for breakfast in the mess, he brought the flowers with him, tucking the little bouquet as gently as possible into his pants pocket.

In the mess, he grabbed a tray from the replicator and found a spot at a table opposite Chekov and Sulu. Sitting in the chair next to Sulu was a familiar stuffed Klingon, festooned in hearts. Sulu looked from the Klingon to Jim and turned a matching shade of beet red.

Jim nodded at their fuzzy tablemate, unable to restrain himself. "Looks like you've got yourself a Valentine, Sulu."

Sulu looked like he wanted to sink into the floor. He also looked like he wanted to say something withering, but then he glanced over at Chekov and seemed to think better of it. "Looks that way, Captain," he said. Chekov beamed.

Halfway through breakfast, Sulu paused in the middle of a diatribe about external inertia dampeners to gesture behind Jim. He turned to see the hapless Ensign Varr, he of the hopeless butterfingers. The ensign gulped almost audibly as he approached the table, clearly daunted by the presence of not only the captain but two other members of the senior bridge crew. "Um. Good morning, uh, sir. Lieutenant Sulu, Ensign Chekov."

Jim smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring manner. It wouldn't do to laugh, he thought; Varr might never recover. "Morning, Ensign Varr--Mike, right?" Varr nodded, eyes wide. "What can I do for you?"

Varr placed a large white envelope on the table. "Commander Spock asked me to deliver this, sir. It's those specimens you wanted? He told me you'd know what I was talking about."

"Specimens? Of what? I don't know--"

"Please, sir. If you don't mind…it's just that…I might have tripped yesterday installing the nanoscope, and--"

Jim held up a hand. "Don't worry about it, Varr. I'm sure I can figure out what I'm supposed to do with these. So, mission accomplished, okay?"

Varr looked like he'd just received a stay of execution. "Aye, sir." He turned to leave.

"Hey Varr?" Jim called after him.

The ensign turned to look back at him. "Captain?"

"Don't let Commander Spock get to you."

Varr's eyes widened. He glanced nervously around the room, as if expecting Spock to materialize at any moment. "Aye, sir." He hurried away.

"Ah, the time," Chekov said abruptly, looking at his chrono. "Speaking of Commander Spock, he is expecting me on the bridge to review some updates to the long-range sensors." He stood up, grabbing his tray. He nodded at Jim. "Captain." And then, "I will be seeing you later, Hikaru, yes?"

"Sure, uh, Pavel. See you later."

Making a mental note to quiz McCoy on what exactly he knew about that situation, Jim turned the envelope over in his hands. He wondered what specimens Spock could possibly have wanted him to see. Jim was a smart guy, but microbiology didn't rank especially highly on his list of most captivating scientific disciplines. He opened the envelope carefully and peered in. Tucked inside the envelope was another bouquet.

Jim smiled, and was suddenly aware of Sulu watching him from across the table, a querulous look on his face. Jim looked up at him. "Well, you showed me yours," he said, gesturing at the Klingon. "I'll show you mine, I guess."

Sulu grimaced, but then his face relaxed into warmth. "Pavel's…enthusiastic. So, what's in the envelope?"

Jim slid the flowers out carefully. These where purple, long stems of small, palm-shaped green leaves capped with a spray of many-petaled blossoms.

"Looks like I might not be the only one with a Valentine, Captain," said Sulu wryly. "And, hey, good taste. I haven't seen delphinium since the last time I was home."

"Delphinium? You know what these are?"

Sulu straightened. "Sure. Botany's kind of a hobby of mine. Has been since I was a kid."

Jim suddenly thought of the first bouquet, and extracted it gently from his pocket. He slid the flowers across the table to Sulu. "Think you could tell me what these are?"

Sulu smirked. "Oh yeah, you definitely have a Valentine." He picked up the bouquet and turned it over in his hand, raising the flowers to his nose to smell. "Borage," he said.

"Borage?"

"It's not the prettiest name, but I kinda like these guys," Sulu said. "These are Earth flowers, too. It's cool to see them way out here. Reminds me of my aunt's garden. I think that might be where I got the green thumb," Sulu said, holding out his hands as if there might actually be green there. "Some people call them starflowers."

Jim liked that better.

***

He would always be happiest out of spacedock, thought Jim, but that didn't mean he didn't appreciate the opportunity to take a bit of a breather. The resupply proceeded apace, and Jim found himself busily signing off on departmental supply lists, supervising comings and goings from the planet's surface, and the like. The time planetside also allowed him to visit parts of the ship he didn't usually get to spend much time in. He spent plenty of time on the comm to Engineering, for instance, but that was nothing compared to letting Scotty and Keenser take him on a tour of the beating heart of his ship, pointing out the condition of various systems and commenting on what might need attention when Enterprise eventually underwent a refit. Jim saved himself from being overwhelmed by excessively granular jargon by stopping to chat up the rest of the engineering staff. He did the same in security and sickbay, though he didn't last long in the latter before Bones chased him out, brandishing a hypo. Left at loose ends, Jim figured he'd swing by the science labs. He was not entirely unmotivated by the desire to see Spock.

Spock, however, was nowhere to be found, and he appeared to have given the rest of his staff the day off. Which was weird, considering he'd told Jim he was supposed to be sequestered with his experiments all day. But the labs were definitely empty, with the exception of poor Ensign Varr, who was slumped at a bench staring glumly at a rack of test tubes. Jim was tempted to make a comment about Spock giving out detention, but he thought it might break Varr entirely. He backed out of the room before being noticed, and headed up to the bridge.

Waiting for him on the center chair, orange and fragrant and acting like it owned the place, was another bouquet of flowers. Jim ignored the sidelong glances directed his way and sat the flowers gently on the floor next to him. "Anyone see when these got here?" he asked, keeping his eyes on his PADD. He was met with silence, punctuated by a giggle from somewhere in the vicinity of the Communications station. Jim shook his head and got to work on his backlog of reports.

"Gladiolus," said Sulu, some time later.

"Excuse me?" Jim looked up from the screen, stretching his legs.

"Native to Mediterranean Europe, Asia, tropical and southern Africa." Sulu paused the flight sim he'd been running and got up from the helm, pulling something out of his pocket as he did so. He tossed the object to Jim, who caught it handily.

He turned the datachip over in his hand. "What's on this?"

Sulu grinned at him. "I had a thought," he said. "So I did a little research. About what all these, uh, specimens might be for."

Jim wasn't quite sure if he should be embarrassed, but he figured that if Spock was behind the flowers, the explanation couldn't be too terribly mortifying. He pocketed the chip, feeling himself flush a little at Sulu's conspiratorial wink. He muttered something about working from home for the rest of the day, and fled for the safety of his ready room, only to be greeted by a large arrangement of…

"Cilantro?" Sure enough, there was a massive vase of greenery sitting on the desk, waving gently in the recirculating air.

Jim sat down, pulling the datachip out of his pocket. He could tell that completion of the reports was not forthcoming. "Okay, Sulu," he said to the empty room. "Let's see if you've got an explanation for why it smells like an herb garden in here." He slid the datachip into the drive on his PADD.

Sulu had compiled a series of screenshots of data entries, from what looked like some kind of dedicated botanical wiki. He thumbed through pictures of the various flowers he'd received, from the unassuming blue borage to the flamboyant gladioli. Next, he opened up a page of text and began to read:

The language of flowers was a means of communication common to 19th century Earth, in which various flowers and floral arrangements were used to send coded messages, allowing individuals to express feelings which otherwise could not be spoken.

Jim's mouth went dry.

He scrolled through the rest of the entry, skimming over mentions of Ophelia's speech in Hamlet and the 17th century court at Constantinople, until he got to what he was looking for: a long list of flowers and their meanings.

He kept scrolling, past acacia (secret love) and almond (promise), past words that made his heart leap when he thought of Spock reading them. Then he came to borage, squat and blue, and next to it he read courage.

Next, delphinium, which was toxic to people and animals, apparently, but also stood for levity, big-heartedness, joy. Then he found gladiolus (strength of character, honor, conviction). Jim's vision was suddenly a little blurry. He was probably allergic to flowers.

He laughed out loud when he got to cilantro, which inexplicably stood for lust. He thought about his conversation with Uhura in sickbay. One year he got really into origami. Well, if Spock was nothing else, he was thorough. He scanned a few more of the entries, nodding to himself. An idea sprung fully formed into his brain, and he consulted his chrono frantically. He had just under two hours to get down to the planet and back. It'd be tight, but he'd make it happen.

Jim Kirk didn't do Valentine's Day, but as it turned out, all bets were off when it came to Spock. There was probably a life lesson in there somewhere.

***

He made it back to his quarters with just enough time to set up and jump in the fresher. His door chimed at precisely 17:00:15, and he called over his shoulder for the computer to open it while buttoning his shirt and looking frantically into the mirror one last time. Why this felt like a first date, he had no idea. But there was no mistaking the churning in his stomach; the stakes suddenly felt higher somehow. He took a deep breath as the door slid open. Spock stood in the doorway, clad in black and carrying a small package under one arm. It was mercifully neither pink nor red.

"Good evening," Spock said, stepping inside.

"Hey," Jim said. He ran a hand through his hair reflexively. "You look--you look good."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "Are you well? You appear somewhat ill at ease."

No bullshitting the Vulcan, Jim thought. "No, it's--I'm fine. I just…I was thinking, and it occurred to me…"

"Jim," Spock said. "I believe you would describe this mode of speech as 'rambling'."

"Sorry, sorry. Can we eat here instead to going to the mess? There's a Vulcan joint on planet that did takeout, and I thought it'd be a shame for you to miss that for the replicator." The replicator was notoriously bad at Vulcan food. Spock and M'Benga seemed to take a perverse degree of pleasure in bitching about it whenever they were together.

"I was under the impression that you did not wish to unduly emphasize today's date," Spock said.

Jim sighed. "About that. I…I realized I might have been a little…over the top about the whole Valentine's Day thing. Because it's not like I have some kind of deep-seated trauma about it or anything, and I thought you might have planned---"

"Jim, have you by chance been speaking with Lieutenant Uhura?"

"Maybe."

Spock exhaled. At least, that was what Jim was going to go with, because "exhale" sounded so much better than "irritated sigh."

"You need not trouble yourself," Spock said. "Indeed, you are correct in your assertion that any attachment I--or anyone--might have to this particular date is highly illogical." Spock's ears had taken on a slight green tinge.

"You sent me flowers," Jim said softly.

"Highly illogical," Spock repeated.

"Spock, shut up," Jim said, and kissed him. He was gratified to find that this halted all discussion of illogic, at least for the time being. When they parted, Spock seemed noticeably more relaxed.

"Food's getting cold," Jim said, gesturing at the small, round table they generally used for chess when Jim wasn't treating it as an extension of his desk. He'd cleared it of its usual layer of detritus and set it with an actual tablecloth and silverware. As a finishing touch, there was a verdant group of asparagus spears in an elaborate glass vase at the center of the table. According to Sulu's source, asparagus meant "fascinating" in the language of flowers. Once Jim read that, there was absolutely no way Spock wasn't getting bouquets of asparagus on every remotely relevant occasion until the end of time. Spock sat down without comment, as if it was perfectly normal to decorate one's dining table with arrangements of vegetables.

Jim practically ordered one of everything on the restaurant's menu, which had been exorbitant but worth it for the sight of Spock eating with what Jim supposed was the Vulcan equivalent of gusto. He opened a bottle of wine, also procured on his shopping trip to the planet. He filled his own glass, watching the garnet liquid swirl, then gestured to Spock with the open bottle. To his surprise, Spock nodded. "I believe I will indulge, thank you," he said.

Jim raised his glass. "Happy first Valentine's Day," he said. They toasted. "Likewise," said Spock, taking a neat sip.

"I am gratified that you found my gift pleasing," Spock continued, gesturing with his fork. "However, cultivation of Terran flora proved a somewhat involved project, and creating the necessary microclimates required an egregious misallocation of resources. I will compile an itemized list and have the total deducted from my salary."

"And I'll be happy to collect your receipts, if it makes you feel better," Jim said. "Tomorrow."

"I shall rest easier. Metaphorically speaking, of course." Spock took a bite of his dinner, chewed contemplatively, then swallowed. "The food is excellent," he pronounced, changing the subject. "I have not had properly made balkra in years. It is difficult to obtain the traditional spice mixture, particularly now."

Jim nodded. "I'm glad you like it." They ate in silence for a few minutes. There was never really an appropriate segue from discussion of someone's destroyed homeworld, after all.

"So," said Jim, swallowing his mouthful of wine and balkra, "you have to admit that you and a totally illogical Terran holiday are a pretty unlikely combination."

"Perhaps," Spock said. "As with many of my more problematic concessions to my human heritage, I can ascribe this to my mother."

Jim felt an irrational prickle of irritation, as he sometimes did when Spock referred to his human side pejoratively. As if he could sense Jim's thoughts, Spock raised a hand to forestall him. "Do not misunderstand me," he said. "I mean no offense, to her or… to you by association."

Jim sighed. "I know," he said. And really, it wasn't so long ago that Spock's 'concessions' had involved physical violence (which was pretty bad, and left unfortunate bruises), marooning (which was cold), or most recently, retreat into what Jim privately termed his Supervulcan shell (which was worst of all). So he supposed he could take a few unintentional slights to his species on the chin. He nodded to Spock. "So, your mom?"

"She found the holiday quite amusing, and took great pleasure in attempting to provoke an emotional response in my father." He looked down at his plate, the sides of his mouth quirking ever so slightly upward. "She did not seem to care what type of response she elicited. I was generally not permitted to see the tokens she gave Sarek, but based on his responses I could…draw my own conclusions."

Jim snorted. "That's awkward."

"Indeed, particularly for a Vulcan child for whom the very idea of affection was problematic at best and anathema at worst," Spock said wryly. "Admittedly, I did not give the practice much thought until the loss of Vulcan. In the face of so much destruction, of so much left unsaid...I must admit that I found some comfort in the idea of a physical token of esteem." He shook his head minutely. "With Nyota, I suppose I was rather overzealous in my demonstration. As I said earlier, it was a highly illogical response."

Spock curled a hand around the stem of his wineglass, and Jim reached out to touch his wrist lightly. "I'll never understand why it has to be so black and white for you," Jim said. "Reacting that way seems perfectly logical to me."

"I have endeavored to become better accustomed to dwelling in the grey," Spock said, releasing the wineglass to take Jim's hand. "You provide a particularly strong stimulus for adaptation."

Jim smiled at him. He turned Spock's hand over to trace the lines on his palm. "I try." Spock sucked in his breath sharply, and Jim relished the response. "Thank you," Jim said quietly. "I know it's not the easiest thing."

"It is worth the effort," Spock said. "Now," he said. "If you are finished eating…" he ducked under the table to retrieve the plainly wrapped package he'd brought in with him and placed it carefully on the table. "I took the liberty of visiting a particular establishment on Altair," he said. "I hope I was not remiss in failing to take your request for 'vanilla' sex at face value." He quirked an eyebrow at Jim.

Jim laughed. "You know me better than I know myself."

***

Later, they lay tangled in the sheets in the half-dark, talking about nothing in particular. Jim felt limp. If it wasn't totally inappropriate, he thought, he'd commend Lieutenant Clements on her choice of sex shops.

"Happy Valentine's Day to me," he said.

Spock raised himself up on an elbow. "Have you revised your opinion of the holiday?"

Jim considered. "Possibly. I think we need to experiment for a few more years before I make a final decision. I wonder how much finagling it would take to get us back to Altair on an annual basis." He turned to Spock and tucked an errant lock of hair behind his ear. He thought he'd never get enough of seeing Spock like this: hair mussed, mouth kiss-swollen, a little sleepy. It was a side of him Jim had never dared to imagine he'd see.

"I know about the flowers," he said suddenly. "About what they mean."

"Ah," Spock said quietly, face faintly green. He studied the comforter, worrying a loose thread between his thumb and forefinger. "I suppose, given my somewhat fraught history with emotional expression, it is not difficult to imagine the appeal of shorthand."

Jim smiled against the corner of Spock's mouth. "That's cheating, you know."