The bed felt stifling. Jim’s leg was thrown over Spock’s lower back, a line of heat and unconscious thought-transference. Spock rolled. He freed himself from Jim’s nonsensical dream about late grades and a cow in the classroom. The other side of the bed was blissfully cool. Spock buried his face into the familiar smell of Leonard’s aftershave. An emergency must have called him to the medical bay early.
It was supposed to be their off-day.
He dozed again until he heard birds chirping and the slam of a screen door. Spock’s eyes snapped open.
The bed was completely empty now.
“Mornin’, darling. Surprised to see you up first on your day off.”
Spock extracted himself from the bed. Leonard’s voice at least was familiar and he knew with certainty that he had felt Jim in bed with him perhaps only an hour ago. He ran a hand over his torso, over the still-lingering scar from their crash onto Altamid.
The pajama pants he wore, however, were not his own. They were plaid, unfamiliar, but soft to the touch. Well-worn, faded as if often washed.
As an afterthought, he touched his own ears.
Jim’s voice answered. “Had weird dreams about my grades not getting in on time so decided to start work early. The sooner I finish, sooner I can enjoy the holiday.”
“You’re going to ruin someone’s Christmas if you post them too soon, Jim. Lord, is that coffee? Whoever made the coffee for the graveyard shift at the hospital might have used actual dirt.” There was a beat of silence and then an appreciative groan.
Their chatter resumed. Leonard sharing his trials and tribulations: broken bones, burns, babies. Jim lamenting his student’s terrible essay structures.
The room was dark but Spock could just make out the bedside table. Jim’s reading glasses were folded on top of his copy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It was not the copy of Wuthering Heights that had been there last night. There was a Terran lamp Spock did not recall and that he could not turn on.
“Computer, lights at fifty percent,” Spock tried.
A soft beep and the room complied to his request. For a moment, he wondered if he was only hallucinating but the light revealed no sleek surfaces, no wall-integrated dresser drawers, and no regulation Starfleet items. Instead, there was a modest automatic closet door and a hamper in the corner of the mostly clean room. Both were filled with civilian clothing. Only the medical scrubs seemed familiar. Everything in this room was wrong.
Spock paced the room. “Computer, present location and time.”
Another soft beep. Instead of the female Standard voice he had become accustomed to, a male voice in crisp Terran informed him: Riverside, Iowa. 23 December 2264. 6:34 AM. Sunrise at 7:23 AM.
There were stairs in the main hallway that led to the kitchen where Jim and Leonard were talking. They looked unchanged. Leonard in scrubs. Jim in his black boxers. The kitchen was low-tech, unlike anything Spock had seen in his lifetime. If there was a replicator, Spock did not immediately see it. If there was an automatic dish disposal for cleaning, that too was missing. The sink was filled with dirty dishes. There was a basket of real, bright fruits on the kitchen island. Jim had a plate of runny eggs and greasy sausage links. Spock tried to recall the last time he had ever seen Jim indulge.
Leonard saw him first, rooted in place at the threshold of the kitchen. He had a modest beard with stray grays. Spock had never known Leonard to grow out his facial hair. “Morning, darling, did we wake you? Rare for you to sleep past Jim.”
Jim turned his head. Spock felt dread settle at the bottom of his stomach. Hazel eyes instead of piercing blue. Jim’s smile came as quick as ever, unchanged. “Morning, my little cabbage.”
“Never.” Leonard set his coffee down to look meaningfully at Jim. “And I mean never say that around me again. Honestly, Jim.”
“To be fair, it probably sounds better in French.”
“Sweetheart, just don’t.”
Jim huffed and stood. He moved toward Spock, arms outstretched for a hug. “I got cold when you stopped letting me cuddle you this morning. Are you feeling sick? You’re usually all for getting as much body heat as I can make.”
Spock stumbled a step back. He felt hot, his chest like a dull fire, and his heart beat fast against his side. These were not his captain and doctor. It was not his home. Breathing felt difficult.
Jim paused, brow furrowing.
“This is why I insist you two take more vitamins. You’re bringing your students’ germs into this house, Jim. If Spock is sick, it’s likely your fault. Jo takes all her vitamins and actually finishes her orange juice. Unlike some people in this house.”
“Quit it. He seriously looks green around the gills, Bones. Spock, baby, tell us what’s wrong.” Jim reached out but Spock cringed from his hands again.
Leonard was quicker than Jim. Before Spock could turn to flee, Leonard had a tight hold of his wrist and a small tricorder out. He ran it over Spock’s torso before scanning over his face. Spock felt it before he saw it. Surprise, confusion, shock, fear. Leonard pulled his hand away as if it burned and dropped the tricorder. “Who are you?”
“Bones?” Jim whispered. “What are you talking about? That’s Spock.”
“Ain’t our Spock,” Leonard shot back. His eyes were firmly fixed on Spock’s ears. “Look at him. Ears are wrong. His eyebrows too. Hell, Spock’s hair is perfect but not that perfect. Tricorder readings are all wrong. It’s not picking up a human physiology.”
Spock bent to pick up the tricorder, forcing himself to take deep and even breaths. “I can assure you I am Spock but I must agree. I am not your Spock. This is most definitely not my universe.”
“Your universe?” Jim asked, hovering behind Leonard. “Wow, Bones’ right. You are definitely different. You might even be taller. I should have kept my glasses on.” Jim had none of Leonard’s reservations. He drifted to Spock’s side, reaching up to touch one of his ears. Jim felt as calm as he sounded, barely perturbed. His touch was gentle, still loving, and infinitely curious.
Spock could nearly taste his unshakable faith and trust. It helped mitigate the heat. “Do you have Starfleet here? The Federation? Do you know of the planets beyond your own?”
Leonard frowned. He shoved himself between them, holding Jim back with his arm. “A better question is where the hell is our Spock! What have you done with him?”
Spock reeled back. “I have done nothing. I awoke to find myself here. In theory, your Spock has woken in my place aboard the Enterprise.”
“The hell is an Enterprise?”
“Bones, I don’t think he means any harm. You’re tired and this is insane. It’s a lot to process. Maybe you ought to lie down a bit? You were on a long night shift.”
“Maybe you oughta lie down!”
Jim spared a glance at Spock before touching Leonard’s cheek. He coaxed the doctor, leaning in to whisper reassuringly and kiss the corner of his mouth. “Bones, imagine. A parallel universe somewhere out there with aliens. I gotta hear about it. If he’s here, our Spock is probably safe with his Kirk and Bones. If not, well, Spock’s a big boy. He can handle himself. Remember that time he got Jo kicked out of karate when he cracked two of her teacher’s ribs cause the guy said Jo wasn’t good enough?” He swept the pad of his thumb over the peak of Leonard’s cheek and kissed him again. “Take a nap for me, Peaches.”
Leonard’s shoulders dropped and he heaved a heavy sigh.
“Yeah.” Leonard let Jim hug him tightly. He whispered, “but if he tries anything, scream and I’ll come with the baseball bat.”
Leonard grumbled and shuffled upstairs when Jim let him finally go.
Spock understood what he was feeling. It wasn’t the first time one of them had been pulled into another universe. Although one of the last times had been a mirror universe with evil counterparts. It was by far luckier to be here. Though, it didn’t make the worrying easier. Spock could hardly sleep when either his Jim and Leonard went missing or were swapped with others.
“Come on. Breakfast is getting cold. Saved a few pancakes for you.” Jim ushered Spock into the kitchen island, pushing him into the seat that Leonard had vacated. Jim placed a covered plate on the flat ring on the counter and waited ten seconds. He unveiled the pancakes. At least they had an advanced reheater. He slid the plate and a fork toward Spock. “Here eat this. I’ll tell you about us before I bombard you with questions, I think.”
Despite postulating a thousand theories of how and why he had been transported to this universe, Spock could not quell his natural curiosity. He nodded at Jim, wanting to hear about this place. There was always a part of him that felt a desperate need to understand whatever worlds their travels took them too. This was no exception. It helped, he supposed, that he also always found Jim and Leonard endlessly fascinating. They commanded his attention in every iteration he had found them. Their evil counterparts had been ruthless but seductive in their cruel confidence and power. There had also been a universe with female variations. It had been a singular experience to see his lovers as women.
He ate while Jim sipped his coffee.
“I guess I should start by telling you that I don’t know a Starfleet or Federation. We have NASA which has explored the outer rim and we have some colonies on the planets in our system. Mostly you have to be rich for that. My Spock works for NASA,” Jim said, sitting up straighter. The jut of his chin told Spock that he was incredibly proud of that fact. “He’s a consultant. Retired from field work to be a stay at home dad for Joanna, Bones’ daughter. I’m a high school science teacher. Pretty boring, huh?”
“What classes do you teach?” Spock interrupted.
“Physics and chemistry. We actually met at a physics conference. I went to the conference to listen to a lecture on teaching science in secondary education. Anyway, lecture got canceled and replaced by this NASA head-researcher named Spock Grayson. It was way over my head but I had a sudden, burning desire to learn more.” Jim winked at him. Spock knew from his own experience that the interest had not been purely academic. “I asked him to join me for coffee. We argued the detrimental effects of terraforming planets to suit human colonization. I fell in love immediately.”
A surge of jealousy burned through Spock. On his ship, in his timeline, their journey had been less heartfelt and pure. They had suffered tragedies together. Hurt one another. Died to reach their beginning point.
Their coming together had been like galaxies colliding, violent and inevitable.
Jim finished his breakfast before continuing, licking his fingers clean of sausage grease. “We met Bones later. Well, technically, I knew him already. We both grew up here. I met him when I was still a farmhand on my mom’s property. Cut myself on barbed wire. I had to go in for a tetanus booster shot and stitches. Spock and I were dating the next time I saw him. It was the day after Christmas. We found out I was allergic to something in the flavored lube I used.” Jim’s threw his head back to laugh and Spock was enraptured by the long line of his throat, the swell of his adam’s apple, and the hollows in his collarbone. “It happened like that a lot. Us ending up in the hospital cause I was allergic to something you’d never imagine. I mean, in this day and age—” Jim waved a hand absently, drawing Spock’s thoughts back.
“How long have you been together?”
“Five years this Christmas, for the three of us. It took about a year to get Bones to agree to see us outside the hospital. Six months of which was just convincing him that we were both interested and not just me. Bones had never done this sort of thing before us. It was new and scary.”
“You made it work.”
Jim’s smile melted to something soft and distant. “We have, yeah. Really have.”
Spock placed his fork carefully on his empty plate and pushed it away. It had only been five years that he had known his own Jim and Leonard. It had been far less time since they had become tangled in each other’s feelings, just a few months. New and difficult. Often, Spock said something that hurt Leonard’s feelings or offended his sensibilities. Leonard could just as easily cut Jim to the bone with a comment. Jim was less likely to cause a fight but his risky planetside behavior set Spock and Leonard on edge more than enough to compensate.
“So what is it like?” Jim tapped the table near Spock’s hand. He shrugged when Spock looked up. “My turn to ask questions.”
“NASA gave way to Starfleet and the Federation. Starfleet is primarily an exploratory organization that can also contribute to defense or war needs as necessary. The Federation came as a result of other sentient beings finding one another. To avoid conflict, they band together. These unions have allowed all associated worlds to prosper. We have incredible technological advances as a result. I am from a planet in that Federation. It is called Vulcan. Starfleet allows all,” Spock paused, unsure what this world would call non-Terrans, “aliens associated with Federation planets to join. There is an academy to learn how to perform all manner of necessary activities and research in space. That is how I met Leonard and Jim. Jim cheated on a test I made as a professor. Leonard was his fellow student and accompanied him to his hearing. We ended up on a starship together due to a threat to my planet.”
Jim leaned forward, hands clasped and pressed to his mouth. No doubt holding back a slew of questions. He settled on, “Are you all together like us?”
“Recently. It has been complicated. Difficult, as you mentioned.”
He thought of the bed upstairs, the hot press of Jim against his side and Leonard’s lingering scent. Their nights together were still tense and awkward, still too new. Sometimes Spock could not get to sleep at all, trapped between them. Other nights were plagued by Jim’s nightmares.
But there were mornings were Jim would drag the chessboard into bed, letting the pieces clack until Spock finally rolled over and indulged him. And evenings when Leonard would force them together for dinner by making their favorite meals. Sharing time together in Jim’s quarters had been a development of the last month. Jim would often fall asleep with a book in hand while Spock meditated or they would find classic holovids to watch together and Leonard would end up drooling on Spock’s shoulder.
He remembered Jim shuddering beneath him, heels digging into Spock’s back and Leonard’s softly whispered instructions. Leonard sucking Spock’s fingers clean and kissing Jim until they were both breathless and hard again.
Spock nodded. “Yes.”
Jim gave him a thumbs up. “You had me worried with that pause there, buddy.”
“This is not the first time I have seen an alternate universe nor the first time we have all been together. There has yet to be a universe where I do not love you both,” Spock answered, plucking at the table cover.
“Oh my god.” Jim shot up from his seat. “It’s the first time you’ve said the L word, isn’t it? I cannot believe I am seeing you do this with my own two eyes. Okay so you have pointed ears and this may be a grading-fever dream, but this is the bee’s knees!”
Jim put his entire hand on Spock’s face, pressing gently. “No, stop. I already love my Spock too much. You can’t sway me with your quirky alien inability to understand weird metaphors. That’s a dumb scifi trope and I refuse to be pulled in.” He lifted his hand and gave Spock a peck on the cheek. “Your first use of the L word, wow. This is an honor.”
A surge of hot want tore through Spock’s core. He wanted, desperately, his own Jim. His own Leonard who no longer looked at him with that undisguised distrust and fear that this Leonard had. “Jim,” Spock forced out, groaning through a sudden tight cramp in his lower belly.
“Feeling sick again? God I hope it wasn’t the pancakes. I used cashew milk.” He used his free hand to touch Spock’s forehead. “Huh, well... I have no idea what this sensory information is telling me. How about you walk me through it?”
Spock shook his head. The touch at his forehead barely soothed him. It made him ache for more. He had the mad thought to press this Jim to the counter and take him apart as he had learned to do with his captain in the early hours before alpha shift. Another cramp clutched him and refused to loosen. “I am fairly certain it is merely biology and an unfortunate sense of timing.”
“What kind of biology?”
Jim rolled his eyes and extracted both of his hands, swatting at Spock. “No shit, smartass. Biology as in?”
Spock grimaced. “It will pass. This is only the beginning, to warn me that my time has come. It is called Pon Farr, our time of mating. It comes for Vulcans once every seven years, a biological imperative to reproduce.”
“Oh boy, so are you guys like pointy eared salmon or something?”
“The mating drives are not dissimilar. I will succumb to a madness and die if I do not mate.”
Jim frowned. “I was joking about the fish but that’s pretty intense. Would your Jim and Leonard be able to help you?”
Spock did not know that they would want to so soon. He had not told them about Pon Farr. He had not told them many things. Like the way he felt the ache to touch their minds like an empty pit in his, yearning. Or how he felt most at ease touching them both and thought they must be his t’hy’la. It was too much, too soon, for Terrans. “I do not know.”
“Man, Bones is gonna be an ass about this. I can already feel a disturbance in the force.”
“In the what?”
“Eh, that’s a reference to a classical film.”
The day passed in relative silence. Spock spent the entire day wandering every inch of the house while Leonard slept and Jim graded.
Jo’s room was on the first floor next to the home office Jim was sequestered in. Her room was covered in NASA posters and hand drawn family photos. Stuffed animals were piled on the bed. Spock ran his hand over the hand stitched quilted comforter and a narwhal with a haphazardly reattached horn. There was a picture of Jo on the bedside table, grinning and holding tight to a man. She was clearly Leonard’s daughter. Though Leonard was slow to smile, those apple-cheeks were perfectly reflected in his daughters who seemed happy and carefree. She has his complexion, his dark hair, and his eyebrows. There was a small gap between her front teeth and a dusting of freckles over her nose. Spock wondered if those were from her mother.
The man in the photo he hardly recognized but for the eyes. Human eyes. Sad. The Spock of this world wore a soft, unabashed smile as he looked down where Jo held onto him. His one exposed ear was rounded and pink.
“You know, she adores him. He gets to be with her more often than me usually.”
Spock replaced the photo on the bedside table and glanced back at Leonard. “You look well-rested.”
“Yeah, just woke up,” Leonard grunted, voice still gravely. “How are you feeling?”
This at least was the same. No matter how Leonard felt about him, it was impossible for him to ignore someone who was unwell. It made a line of tension in Spock unravel. “It will come in waves. It is an alien biological imperative to mate or die.”
Leonard blinked slowly. “Pardon?”
“My apologies. That is not yet necessary information, I suppose. Currently I am well and will likely remain well for another day or so. In which time, I would hope that whatever has brought me here has sent me back to my ship.”
“You’re right. Too damn soon for me to deal with this voodoo mumbo jumbo.” Leonard cleared his throat, taking a tentative step into the room. “I just came to say sorry is all. Ain’t your fault you’re here instead of him. Probably just as uneasy with all this.”
“This is not the worst timeline to have come to nor the most jarring.” Spock looked back down at the picture of Jo. “How old is she? This is the first time I have had the privilege of seeing Joanna.”
Leonard came closer, sitting on the edge of Jo’s bed. Spock felt as if he was testing the waters, still unsure and fearful despite his apology. “Twelve. Funny hearing that. Y’all are damn near inseparable. You just missed her actually. She stayed until the last day of Hanukkah to celebrate with you and Jim. Jocelyn gets her for Christmas. It’s been that way since we all moved in together.”
“I know of Hanukkah. My mother celebrated it when she was still living.” Spock sat next to him. There was a small, respectable gap between them. He would not push Leonard. He knew it would only accomplish the opposite effect. It was enough that Leonard had come to him at all.
“Aliens have Hanukkah?”
“If there are any who do, I do not know them. My mother was human. My father is alien.”
“Hybrid, huh? That must have been a fascinating birth.”
“Fascinating indeed, doctor. My species and humans share enough genetic similarities to make viable offspring. A team was necessary to provide genetic assistance. The process of carrying me to term was complex but it was a successful venture. My mother survived the experience. The first human woman to carry a Vulcan child to term.”
“Vulcan. You already gave Jim a whole run down didn’t you?”
They sat in a companionable silence and Spock resumed his visual exploration of the room. The closet had been transformed into a padded reading nook, books piled by the opening. Only a few shelves took up any space, stacked with folded clothing. Strings of unlit lights were artfully hung within. Jim had said that this Spock stayed home to raise Jo. Her room helped him infer much about her, as did his understanding of Leonard, but he could not help but wonder how she would interact with him. Or how deeply loved she must be that Spock would offer to raise the child, to give up the tangible touch of space or advanced technologies to sit in a house with paper and ink books, a kitchen with no replicator, and no contact with others like himself.
“What are you thinking about? Your facial expression is so blank but there’s just this small tick. Right eyebrow. Can tell you’re thinking hard about something.” Leonard leaned closer, breaching the gap between them. He smelled divine, better than the stale smell on the sheets this morning. Muskier from a long work shift and sleep.
Spock, unable to help himself, moved as well. Drawn in. He took a long and slow breath in, dragging Leonard’s scent into his lungs with a satisfied sigh. “Now? That you are intoxicating.”
Leonard flushed, blush crawling up his throat, but he did not flee. “Before now. No funny business, mister.”
“I wondered if I could give up everything as he did. If I could leave space and the promise of new worlds, for this.”
“It seems so much to give when I think of my responsibilities and the rewards of my post. Space exploration was always my dream. Without it, I would have never met Jim and Leonard. Our ship has been my first true home, my first functional and loving family.” Spock pressed closer, dragging his nose along the line to Leonard’s throat. He felt his heat peaking, another wave threatening to overtake him. Leonard’s bubbling arousal and confusion, his hesitancy, pulsed with his carotid artery. “Yes,” he whispered. “I could give it all up for them if they asked. I am made for them, destined for them.”
Leonard shivered. “You, uh, you’re more poetic than him. More romantic.”
It wasn’t worth explaining the irony of Leonard saying that Vulcan was more romantic than a Terran so Spock did not bother. He kissed the line of Leonard’s jaw, resisting the urge to bite and claim. It would pass. The heat did not consume him yet. Spock forced himself away and up. “Forgive me. It grows harder to ignore.”
“Sure, get a man wound all up and then decide to be a gentlemen.” Leonard looked unraveled, flushed and breathing hard. He swallowed audibly, standing and leaving the room. “I’ll be fine I guess. Feels a little like cheating.”
“We are the same person.”
Leonard snorted and shook his head. He paused at the door to the office. “Gonna make dinner, Jimmy.”
“What are you making?” Jim glanced up from the maelstrom of papers before him. His glasses were slightly askew. “Oh, did you two talk?” He smiled, pleased by whatever he saw on their faces.
As if he couldn’t help himself, Leonard blurted out, “Yeah and he got handsy!”
Jim laughed so suddenly that he nearly knocked his glasses off and shoved a pen in his face as he went to cover his mouth. “I’m sure our Spock will understand, Bones. Don’t stress yourself out. This Spock is pretty seductive. I think it’s the ears.”
“This is not about the ears. You’re a terrible influence. Why do I let you around Jo?”
Jim straightened his glasses. “Cause I’ve still got a good back and can chase her all around outside, old man.” He winked at Spock.
Leonard spluttered and made an obscene hand gesture at Jim before stomping to the kitchen.
“Make sure he makes some mac and cheese. I have a hankering for mac and cheese.”