It starts out innocently enough.
It’s one of Jim’s daily tasks to clean the library, sweep the floors and dust the stacks and put all the books back in their rightful places. He finds a centuries-old book on flower language sitting on a window sill, an iris laid on top of it.
Curious, he picks up the iris and thumbs through the book to find the i’s, running his finger down the page until he found its meaning.
A message for you.
Well then. That was an open invitation if he ever heard one. He starts reading through the book, looking for something that would be an appropriate response.
He settles on asperula and chick-weed.
Let us meet again.
The palace greenhouse has every plant and flower known to the Federation within it. Surely a couple buds won’t be missed.
Spock comes back the next day to see that his message has been answered, already. Two small white flowers lay on top of the book, the iris taken. A gleam of interest wells up inside him. He sits down on a nearby cushioned chair and pulls the book into his lap.
He has to get another botanical reference book off the shelves to identify the asperula. It doesn’t take him long to determine the message after that.
He responds with abelia, gratitude, and scarlet lychnis, wit.
It becomes something of a tradition.
Every night, Spock goes to the palace library to study and every morning, Jim comes back to clean it. They exchange flowers. They talk without ever saying a word.
Spock keeps the flowers Jim gives him pressed in a dictionary in his room, preserved. Jim weaves flower crowns and daisy chain necklaces and decorates his section of the servants’ quarters with the bigger ones. Some of the other men take to teasing him mercilessly. He doesn’t care.
Spock had only started doing this out of loneliness and boredom. He wanted someone to talk to about anything other than politics and duty. He wanted to test the bounds of his creative intellect. Communicating in flower language had seemed to, as it were, kill two birds with one stone.
He had never expected to get so attached.
Eventually Jim asks who Spock is.
They’d been communicating for months by that point. Jim considers them friends, and yet he knows almost nothing about him, really. A name is just a name, but he would like to know who it was he was talking to.
Spock replies with a queen plant and a maidenhair fern.
Supremacy, born to rule . Discretion, secrecy.
Jim thought about that one for a long time.
Whoever this person was, they were a noble, possibly royal. Jim worked in the palace. That narrowed it down to a family of five, and two of them were married to each other, so he really hoped it wasn’t the king or queen.
Not that he was dating this person or anything—they had never even met. But somehow this just felt… intimate. Like it would be wrong, somehow, to communicate in this way with a married person, a married person old enough to be his parent.
He knew that flower language had historically been used between lovers and courtiers, fancy, rich, elegant people hoping to woo another.
But this wasn’t like that.
And that last part, discretion. They didn’t even know who Jim was and they already wanted to keep their correspondence a secret. They were already ashamed of him and they didn’t even know he was a servant.
Maybe it was just a necessary precaution. It wouldn’t do for word to get out that a royal was secretly liaising with someone else in the palace every day. If rumors started to spread that a royal was sleeping with a servant, that could be disastrous politically.
Rumors didn’t need to be true to do their damage. They just needed to exist.
He decided to be upfront about exactly who he was. Quid pro quo. They had trusted him, it was time for him to trust them.
He just hoped this didn’t send them running.
Blades of spring grass and franciscea.
Poor but happy . B eware of false friends .
Spock’s reply was vehement.
Bouvardia. Arbor vitae. Pineapple.
I am no summer friend. Thy friend ‘til death. You are perfect.
Jim grinned and sent back a yellow lily.
False and gay.
A piece of southernwood.
Red carnation. Yes.
Gourse. Endearing affection.
Browallia. Could you bear poverty?
Bartonia aurea. Catchfly.
All that glitters is not gold. I am a willing prisoner.
Arethusa. I could weep for thee.
Spock went to the library early in the morning one day. He was going to be in meetings until late at night; this would be his only free time all day.
He saw a servant reach for the book and take the flower off and he nearly yelled for him to stop, that’s not for him, but then the man smiled and started leafing through the book and Spock realized oh. Maybe it was.
He had said he was poor. Poor and in the castle regularly meant a servant. Spock should have deduced that on his own. He could have asked which servants were frequently in the library and even gotten the man’s name.
He could still do that. It wasn’t terribly suspicious.
He drank in the sight of him from afar, finally putting a face to the individual who had come to mean so much to him. He was beautiful. Exquisite. A being Spock would love to lavish finery on and show the wonders of the world to.
He was betrothed. He could not.
But there was no harm in simply talking, as long as no one found out.
With great effort, he forced himself to turn and walk away.
He left a potted Venus flytrap beside the book.
Have I caught you at last?
Jim blinked in surprise. Had his person seen him? When? How? He would’ve noticed if one of the royals had been lurking around in the library while he was there.
God, who were they?
A white violet. I must be sought to be found.
An ice plant. Your looks freeze me.
Jim’s breath caught in his throat. How was he supposed to respond to that? He couldn’t… flirt with a royal.
He replied back with dipladenia crassinodia—You’re too bold.
But then he felt guilty and a bit like he was lying, so he added jonquil for affection returned.
Was it possible to be in love with someone you had never met? Someone whose name you didn’t even know?’
Well, technically Jim knew all the royals’ names, everybody did. Sybok. Michael. Spock. He just didn’t know which one this was.
Frankly, he wouldn’t be disappointed with any of the potential results.
And then Spock made it so much more agonizing by responding with sweet alyssum. Worth beyond beauty.
Venus’ looking glass. Flattery, Jim accused.
Moral and intellectual worth. Mental beauty.
Tweedia and a small part of a grape vine.
Faithful affection. Intoxication.
Spock couldn’t compute the last one for several minutes.
Intoxication? He felt intoxicated by him?
If there was even the slightest chance his feelings were reciprocated, did that not make them worth pursuing? He had said his affections were returned, hadn’t he?
Spock had the servant reassigned to his chambers, but made sure he retained his library cleaning duty.
Jim stepped into his chambers and waited to be informed of his duties. He had the flower Spock had given him yesterday tucked behind his ear.
He would look excellent sprawled out naked on Spock’s bed, flushed and breathless and panting, he decided.
It suddenly escaped him why he had thought this was a good idea. It was starting to feel a lot more like self-punishment.
“May I inquire as to your name?” he asked.
Jim held back his surprise. “Jim. James Kirk, to be precise.”
“Where did you get that flower, James Kirk?”
He touched it almost subconsciously. “A friend gave it to me.”
“Did this friend happen to get it from the library?”
Jim froze, afraid he had been caught. Then his mind raced and suddenly everything clicked into place. He smiled wide. “Yes, he did.”
It is not so innocent after that.
Spock leaves him the leaf of a spindle-tree. Your image is engraven on my heart.
Jim responds with sumach. Splendid misery.
A black mulberry. I will not survive you.
He throws caution to the wind with the next one and gives him portulacca and kaulfussia. Love in a cottage. Happiness in humble life.
Did he even realize what he was suggesting? Spock could not simply abandon his duties and abdicate the throne. He could never betray his family, his people that way. His marriage to T’Pring would consolidate power and make new peace more possible than ever before. It was vital that he go through with it.
This was precisely why royals were not to fall in love. Jim was suggesting that he wreak political havoc and bring about instability in order to be with him. He responded with a yellow carnation, a firm no.
A small potted cactus and purple columbine and a wallflower. Endurance. Resolved to win. Fidelity in adversity.
Virginia creepers. I cling to you both in sunshine and shade.
Chorozema varium. You have many lovers.
Not recently. But apparently Jim’s reputation had finally caught up with him.
A white rose. A peach blossom.
My heart is free. I am yours.
Resolved to be noticed.
Circea. I shall beware of your enchantments.
Mountain ash. With me you are safe.
A scarlet runner. Winsome ways.
Mourning bride. Unfortunate attachment, I have lost all.
The next day, Jim found a red tulip and a lilac waiting for him, both of which meant the same thing.
Declaration of love.
He didn’t hesitate. He had gone through that book enough times that he knew exactly what plant he wanted to respond with. He bolted out to the greenhouse and started searching for a red rose and a honey flower.
Romantic love, a love sweet and secret.
He laid them down on top of the book with a kiss.
Spock used to excuse himself and leave the servants to their business when they came to clean his chambers. Now he does the opposite. He absolutely ensures that he is in there at the same time Jim is.
He rearranged the schedule slightly so that cleaning his chambers was the last duty of Jim’s day, so that he would be wanted nowhere else after that and could spend as long as he liked there.
They talked. For hours and hours about anything, as long as it didn’t matter. They did not discuss Spock’s upcoming marriage. They did not discuss their disparities in class. They did not discuss what could have been. They did not say ‘I love you.’
The flowers made that easier. It was so much easier to say ‘I love you’ without falling apart when they didn’t have to look each other in the eye while doing so, when they didn’t have to physically speak the words and hear them said aloud.
After all, they were just flowers. Just simple, meaningless plants. Something pretty to look at, that’s all.
Jim kept the lilac and the tulip. He pressed them flat underneath his mattress, bemoaning the lack of a thick book to use. He was too poor for such things. Paper was extravagantly expensive, and taxed to hell and back.
Spock caught him staring at his bookshelf one day and asked if he would like to borrow something.
He was surprised when Jim had finished the entire 400-page tome by the next day. Servants had little free time, but Jim had stayed up all night, enthralled.
Spock plied him with book after book after that. He read voraciously, and Spock was glad to have this one, small thing he could do for him.
Sometimes they played chess while they talked. Jim frequently won. He made himself very… distracting. In addition, he was a master strategist. He should be a general running the military, not a servant mopping halls.
When Spock told him this, he shrugged and said, “Well, that’s life for you.”
One day he came into Spock’s chambers and he didn’t say a word and began slowly undressing himself. Spock had half a mind to say something, to form some sort of protest, to at least ask what he thought he was doing. His mouth went dry before he could.
Then they were on the bed together in a tangle of limbs and they were panting, breathless, moaning, Jim whispering into his ear and Spock gasping out his name.
Jim found two peas waiting for him, one perennial and one garden, which took absolutely forever to specifically identify.
An appointed meeting. W ilt thou go with me?
What the hell.
Was Spock asking him out on a date? He knew they couldn’t do that, right?
An appointed meeting. He wouldn’t have sent that unless he thought Jim would know what it meant. What big events were coming up?
Spock’s engagement gala, for one. Not exactly the type of thing he could bring a plus-one to.
Not that anybody would even know who he was there, the whole thing was a masquerade.
Viscaria. Will you dance with me?
Red carnation. Yes.
Jim wore his father’s wedding suit and a mask he made himself. Sam kept pestering him with questions and soon deduced that he was going to the masquerade ball but then wanted to know why. His mother just shook her head and gave him a knowing, pitying look while he stitched together his mask at the kitchen table.
Spock showed up in elaborate Vulcan robes made of the finest blue and green silks and embroidered with genuine gold thread. His family’s jaws dropped. A royal had just shown up at their cottage in full regal attire.
Suddenly Jim’s homemade mask seemed horribly inadequate.
Spock extended a black-gloved hand. “Jim. If you will accompany me?”
He grinned slyly. “I’d be honored, Prince Spock.”
They danced like it meant everything. They danced like it meant nothing and they had all the time in the world. Most importantly of all, they pretended this wasn’t the only date they would ever have and that it wasn’t at Spock’s engagement gala.
“Won’t T’Pring wonder where you are?” Jim murmured.
“If what I know of her behavior holds true, she will be dancing with Sir Stonn and then spend the night in his chambers. I will not be missed.”
So that was the situation. They may be betrothed, but they each had their consorts. Could Jim be happy like that? As just a consort? Knowing the entire time that Spock’s mind was linked to another’s, that they could never be together in public the way he and T’Pring could?
He pushed those thoughts outside of his head and focused on the dance, on the feel of Spock’s hands in his, on the swish of his lover’s robes against the marble floor.
Hours passed and hours passed and they danced every single dance, from Terran to Andorian to the touchless traditional mirroring of Vulcan dance. They moved as one, breathed as one. They were as synchronized as any pair of bondmates should be.
It was killing them both.
And then it was 0200 hours and the gala was ending and Spock took Jim back to his chambers and made love to him like the world was ending, because to them it was.
A yellow tulip. There’s sunshine in your smile.
A lavender rose. Enchantment.
Petunia. Your presence soothes me.
Mistletoe. Kiss me.
Narcissus. Stay as sweet as you are.
A white violet and a spiderflower. Let’s take a chance on happiness. Elope with me.
A yellow carnation and a single rose in full bloom. No. I love you, I still love you.
Jim clenched the rose until the thorns dug into his hand and he ripped the petals out one by one. He stormed into Spock’s rooms and kissed him roughly with all he had. He would be happy if he never saw another yellow carnation again. He made him come and erased the burning slap of the no by making him say yes a thousand times.
A rock pings against Spock’s window. He blinks awake.
Another rock hits the window. He climbs out of bed and throws it open.
Jim is there, on the ground, looking up at him with the widest grin on his face. “Oh Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”
Spock’s breath caught in his throat. “I believe it was Juliet who was the upon a balcony,” he managed.
Jim snorted. “You’re supposed to respond with the next line.”
Jim just shook his head, smiling, and quoted Juliet’s next soliloquy. “’Tis but thy name that is my enemy; thou art thyself, though not a prince. What’s princeship? It is nor hand, nor foot, nor arm, nor face, nor any other part belonging to a man. Oh, be some other name! What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; so Spock would, were he not Prince call’d, retain that dear perfection which he owes without that title. Spock, doff thy name, and for that name which is no part of thee take all myself.”
“I take thee at thy word: call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized; henceforth I never will be Prince,” Spock said.
“So will you do it?”
“I cannot, Jim, I have a duty. I am betrothed to T’Pring.”
“And I’m sure she’d be just devastated if you broke it off. She’s as unwilling as you are!”
“It is not that simple. This arrangement is tradition that goes back centuries. It will bring strength to our peoples that they would not have otherwise. With the Klingons being so aggressive lately, it is hopeful that the marriage will act as a deterrent.”
“The marriage. Your marriage, Spock, this is your life we’re talking about!” Jim carded fingers through his hair, knocking a stray flower loose. He glared at it on the ground. “What if I enlisted? What if I became a general, like you said? What if I was somebody important? Would you marry me then?”
“Jim, if there were any situation in which it would be possible for us to wed, I would have already arranged for it.”
“God. Spock, this is insane! I love you! Run away with me!”
“I’m sorry, Jim.” He stepped back and closed the window.
They had never even seen the paparazzo. The video was viral across the Federation within eight hours. It had made all the major news networks within ten.
It showed their entire conversation, from beginning to end.
The people were in uproar. The news that both royals were being forced into a marriage they did not desire was not received well, especially in context of one of them being in love with someone else.
They were calling for the wedding to be cancelled.
“You must understand that most beings in the Federation are guided by their emotions rather than logic. Pay them no heed,” Sarek said.
“Yes, Father,” Spock replied.
The reporters couldn’t get on the palace grounds, and no matter how good their tech was, it didn’t enable them to see and hear through walls.
It took all of forty-five minutes for someone to make the connection between the Jim in the video and James Kirk, palace servant. They fell on the Kirk residence like a pack of wild dogs.
“George! Do you have any comments on your brother’s alleged—“
“How long have you and the prince—“
“Could you make a statement about Prince Spock’s sexuality—“
Sam slammed the door shut and the voices became slightly muffled, at least. He collapsed down on the couch beside Jim.
“Do you wanna talk about it?”
The reaction Spock expected least came from T’Pring herself.
“I wish to break off our betrothal.”
“May I ask why?”
“My people are dissatisfied with the state of it following your lover’s very indiscreet video confession,” she said bluntly.
“Will stand,” she said. “T’Pau says the high elders are willing to make a break from tradition just this once in order to appease the people. We will form a merger without the need for a marriage.”
Spock decides the best way to do it is with a flower.
Fuchsia. Proposal of marriage.
Red carnation. Yes.