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In Another World

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Jim’s comm beeped, and he yanked it out of his pocket, seeing the annoyed message from Komack which he promptly ignored. He knew he couldn’t be the first person to turn down a command promotion, and he wouldn’t be the last, and he was fairly sure it was just the whole Son of George Kirk thing that had the Admiral up his ass. But Jim loved what he did—he didn’t exactly expect to fall in love with xeno-botany but here he was, and he had no intention of taking over the Enterprise, no matter what his previous Academy scores and records on the Farragut said. And really, the entire reason they wanted him was the fact that he’d been a science consult for the ship for the past four years now. Pike and Kirk had gotten to know each other through comms and crises, and Jim wasn’t entirely sure what had caused Pike to accept the promotion and leave the ship, but he wasn’t exactly in a hurry to take his place.

No, he was going to dedicate his time—at least for now—to cultivating the ability to grow sustainable flora from one world on another without massive assistive technology. And on top of that he’d been approved to work on Vulcan with Dr. Amanda Grayson. The botanist whose books Jim kept like they were the damn bible, who he might have had a mini-poster of that he talked to in the lab whenever he was stressed. He was a fan-boy. Sue him.

All he needed to do was a few tutoring sessions with one of the xeno-linguistics professors to ensure his Vulcan didn’t leave him insulting the scientists he’d be working with, and he would be on a ship heading off for the desert planet. And he was excited about this one. Dr. Grayson had actually set this up for him when he’d been bemoaning his lack of access to proper Golic. She informed him she was acquainted with a Vulcan professor at the Academy, and would set up a few sessions with him if Jim was willing.

Which, hell yes he was willing.

He’d accepted the message from Professor S’chn T’gai Spock asking Jim to meet him in the Academy records hall which would be the most secluded place the campus offered, and was there now, just outside the doors, trying to shake off his nerves. The guy had to be cool—Jim hadn’t really asked around much out of fear mostly that he’d hear the guy was a giant asshole. A common theme amongst human opinion of Vulcans—one Jim found xenophobic and racist to be honest. People didn’t bother to try and understand Vulcans as Vulcans, and instead tried to understand Vulcans as humans which never worked out.

But all the same, he wanted to like this guy because this guy knew Dr. Grayson and he wanted to make a good impression. He quelled the shaking in his hands, then pushed the doors open and strode in.

The place was set up like an ancient library, shelves of old books—though Jim knew most of them were only for show, and the rest contained PADDs with the Academy records accessible to professors only. But he liked the old-world feel of it, the long, mahogany tables stretched with faux-leather chairs. The only other person in the room besides himself was the Vulcan he was meeting—tall as they always were, thin and broad shouldered. He was sitting at the end of the furthest table and hadn’t looked up from the PADD which was in front of him. But he was impossible to miss with his pale, slightly green-tinged skin, his deep blue eyelids, and the pointed ears just below the perfectly trimmed bowl cut.

Jim cleared his throat as he walked over, and Professor Spock lifted his head, though his eyes didn’t quite meet Jim’s. “Sorry I’m late.”

“Thirty two point six seconds is hardly late by human standards, Mr. Kirk. Please sit.”

Jim did so, to Spock’s right, and when he slid his feet under the table, he gave a slight yelp when they came into contact with something furry and large. Jim peered under to assess an attack but instead found a rather large, brown dog with lazy eyes and a strange harness. “Uh...”

“That is Ee-Chiya,” Spock said in his deadpan tone. “He is trained to sit and will not disturb the lesson.”

Jim didn’t know what to make of that, so he merely sat up straight, cleared his throat and said, “Alright, then. So I was wondering if you…”

“I have a lesson plan laid out,” Spock interrupted, his face pointed down toward the PADD again as his fingers deftly scrolled over the flat screen. “I have sent a copy of it to your account which you should be able to access now. It contains a timeline which we will follow and any questions can be saved for breaks. As it is now, I would prefer to switch to Golic so I may assess your abilities to hold both professional and casual conversation, as Dr. Grayson has reported that is your main concern.”

Jim flinched a little at the almost sharp, unfriendly words. “Look man, if this is an imposition…”

“It is, in fact, an imposition, Mr. Kirk, but as I am using this moment to repay a debt, I am here. I understand the human need to connect and make acquaintance with those they are working closely with, but I do not feel it is necessary to indulge you as we will only be working together for fourteen Terran days.”

Jim swallowed thickly. “Right. You know, I actually can find someone else who…”

“The only person I am aware of with a passing fluency in Golic besides myself is now off-world, and her mission is a five-year one.”

Jim sighed internally. The Enterprise. The mission he had turned down and was now being harassed about. “Right. Fair enough.” Jim switched to Golic then. ‘I guess we can begin?’

Spock’s eyebrow rise, and he still didn’t look up, but he nodded all the same. ‘We may begin.’

~*~

Three hours, and Jim was both exhausted and dealing with warring, complex feelings because on one hand, Spock made it very clear he did not like Jim. But on the other hand he was gorgeous and he was smart and clever, and he was funny in that subtle Vulcan way Jim had started to learn when he was working with a few of the VSA botanists. So a little crush was forming which was the worst because Spock clearly disliked him a lot.

But Jim had dealt with unrequited want before and it wasn’t a big deal. Soon enough he’d be off-planet and Spock would go back to his teaching job and Jim would cultivate sustainable botany for new colonies, and eventually the Vulcan would become a distant memory. No harm, no foul in having a little crush.

When Spock cleared his throat, Jim realized he’d gone quiet. ‘Apologies,’ Jim said in Golic. ‘How am I doing?’

“Your progress is sufficient for a student at your level,” Spock said in Standard. “We will resume the lesson tomorrow at this same time.”

Jim scrubbed a hand down his face. “Is there any chance we can meet at my place? I have a couple of timed experiments tomorrow, and it won’t take my attention away from the lessons, but I do need to be there for the duration.”

Spock hesitated, then nodded. “You may send me the address.”

Jim eased his chair back and stood, grabbing his own bag and taking a step away from the table. He watched Spock do the same, then Spock moved around the table and before Jim could say anything, Spock crashed right into Jim’s chair which was still sitting in the middle of the pathway.

It hit Jim all at once—how Spock never looked at him, how he didn’t seem to look at anything really, and it was obvious he hadn’t seen the chair. Because he was blind.

And then…and then he realized something even more important, and the words blurted out of his mouth as Spock used the edge of the table to orient himself. “Deneva.”

Spock’s shoulders stiffened, and he didn’t turn toward Jim, but after a long moment he did nod.

“I…” Jim’s stomach felt like it contained a burning hot ball of seething guilt because…because… “That was me,” he said, his voice soft and devastated. “That was…your CMO commed me about the creatures and I…” Jim groped for a chair and sat as Spock walked back to his previous seat and bent down to pick up the dog’s harness.

“You were consulted as your team on the Farragut had encountered something similar on another colony, only without the level of devastation on Deneva,” Spock said, his voice low and a little rough.

Four years ago. It was four years ago when Jim got that call. He’d been in the middle of a really nice REM cycle when his comm beeped, and it had taken him exactly one minute to recall what they’d done and to tell the CMO on the Enterprise, “Throw light at it. That’s what worked for us.”

The CMO had done it, and then commed back not long after sounding a little disoriented as he talked about the risk of blindness as a side effect which had been Jim’s concern too so he had said simply, “We isolated the creatures and experimented with the light waves until we found the one that was fatal. It shouldn’t take long if you have any living specimens onboard. I’ll forward you my research.” Then he’d done so and had received a quick message of thanks.

He hadn’t talked to that CMO again.

He’d heard a few people had died—it was by sheer luck Sam had only just left Deneva before the outbreak. He heard the ship requested a new Science Officer, but Jim hadn’t really considered what that meant.

Until now.

“Did you know it was me? That I was the one who…”

“I was aware,” Spock said shortly. He urged his dog—his guide dog—forward with a short command in Golic.

It was no wonder the Vulcan hated him. Jim was responsible for his blindness.

He said nothing as he watched Spock take his things, and leave the archives.

~*~

In truth, Jim didn’t expect Spock to show up the following evening. In all honesty, he’d spent most of his day between research and experiments hoping that Spock would send a comm message letting Jim know that he’d decided that whatever debt he owed to Dr. Grayson was paid, and that it was over. Jim’s guilt was a palpable thing, and every time he blinked he could see himself and the flippant way he’d just said, “Throw light at it,” without considering what the CMO might have been throwing light at.

Jim hadn’t even asked if they were using a person, or a trapped specimen in the lab. The thought hadn’t crossed his mind. No, just… “Throw light at it,” and only after the word blindness did Jim amend his suggestion.

He had destroyed Spock’s entire Starfleet career simply because he’d been tired.

Jim wasn’t sure he could handle the guilt when Spock arrived.

He was uncharacteristically quiet as he let the Vulcan into his space, and he was startled to find Spock holding a long, thin cane instead of a dog’s harness. Spock seemed just as hesitant as Jim when he was let in, and stood carefully a few feet away from his host without saying a word.

“What do I need to…uh. I mean, how can I make you comfortable?” Jim asked, rubbing the back of his neck.

“A simple description of where we will be working will suffice,” Spock said, and though he was Vulcan, Jim could hear the tension in his voice.

Jim still did his best to give a verbal layout of the place, and he was grateful for maybe the first time ever that he was kind of a neat-freak. “Can I get you some tea or…anything? I don’t think I have anything Vulcan programmed into my replicator, but I’ve heard that chamomile is a pretty good substitute?”

Spock nodded once. “That will be sufficient, thank you.” Then he put his cane out in front of him and Jim did his best not to stare as Spock made his way—flawlessly though not effortlessly—from the center of the room to the couch.

Jim hurried into the kitchen to grab himself coffee, and the tea for Spock, and he hesitated at the idea of food but his stomach was in knots and he was fairly sure Spock would refuse anything he offered. He carried both mugs to the living room, and set Spock’s down in front of him on the low table. “It’s uh…right in front of you?”

“Thank you, Mr. Kirk.” Spock’s hand carefully reached out, found the handle, and lifted the mug though he didn’t drink from it. “I confess I can feel your tension and I have come to the conclusion that until we deal with your emotions regarding the origins of my blindness, we will not make any progress in your lesson.”

Jim flushed. “Sorry. I…I just…when you find out that your thoughtlessness led someone to…you know…lose their career…”

“My career was not lost, Mr. Kirk,” Spock said evenly. He took a sip of his tea, then carefully eased it back onto the table. “It was a choice, as was the treatment on Deneva.”

Jim blinked. “But I was the one who told your CMO to throw light at it. I was the one who said…”

“I am aware the initial suggestion was yours,” Spock interrupted. “But it was Dr. McCoy and myself who weighed the options presented to us—wait longer which could have ended my life, or allow me to participate as a test-subject. It was unfortunate that your second suggestion would have provided the solution to my blindness, but it did save the sight of all the remaining colonists on Deneva, and although I lost my sight, I was relieved of a pain so great, I would have sacrificed much more if given the choice.” Spock hesitated and then said, “You are also harboring a delusion that my blindness cost me my career. I willingly left the ship on a permanent basis after returning to earth for rehabilitation.”

Jim reached for his tea and took a sip, just to give himself something to do as he processed. “So they didn’t kick you off?”

“Quite the contrary, my captain was most displeased with my choice. He had spent the six months I remained in occupational therapy upgrading the ship to accommodate my needs. However, I found the offer of teaching at the academy a reprieve from the mission, and when given the choice to resign, I took it.”

Jim clutched his mug so tight his knuckles hurt. From everything he knew about Vulcans, he knew they didn’t lie—they could, but there was no logic behind it and it was against the nature of any Vulcan to act against logic. However, he couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that he was to blame, yet Spock seemed unwilling to allow Jim to assume the blame.

If it was true, though, and if Spock’s disdain for Jim wasn’t because of his part in the Deneva incident, then what was it about? If he’d been braver, he would have asked, but he wasn’t. Not with Spock sitting next to him on the couch, close enough to strangle him if he chose to do so. If Jim pissed him off enough.

“Okay well…thank you for telling me all of that,” Jim said from behind a sigh.

“Thanks are illogical and therefore unnecessary,” Spock said shortly. “I merely wish to move past a fixation—a disturbing habit of many humans which I find to be unproductive and pointless. You wish to ensure your Vulcan is passable, and so I am here providing that service. Might we begin?”

Jim winced, but nodded—remembered Spock couldn’t see him, and cleared his throat. “Yeah. Yes.” Then he switched to Golic and tried to keep his mind focused on the lesson at hand. ‘Let’s begin.’

~*~

Jim should have let it go. Only he was a master of never letting anything go until the dead horse he was beating was nothing more than dust. When he got the following day’s comm message from Spock postponing their daily tutoring session owing to cadet exams, Jim took the opportunity to hole himself up in his office and go over the Enterprise’s report from Deneva.

He immediately recognized the entry from Dr. Leonard McCoy, and found himself standing in a Federation designated Transporter Office filling out paperwork to be allowed a cross-continental beam to Covington, Georgia where the doctor had set up a general practice—at least according to the last records Starfleet had on him.

Jim knew he was probably committing at least a dozen privacy violations, but as much as Spock had assured him he didn’t blame Jim for his blindness, Jim couldn’t wrap his head around how the Vulcan didn’t hate him beyond all reason. Though then again, assuming a Vulcan could hate seemed to be stretching his understanding of them.

All the same, Jim had made up his mind, and grabbed an aircar to the little office McCoy had set up just after resigning his post. The clinic’s parking lot looked empty, and when Jim stepped into the lobby, it was occupied by a lone man who looked just shy of his hundreds, hunched over an old-school paper magazine. Jim quirked an eyebrow at him, then approached the little patient window and gave his most winning smile to the receptionist.

“Hi there, I was wondering if Dr. McCoy might spare a moment to meet with me? My name is Jim Kirk, I’m…”

“Do you have an appointment,” she said, sounding vaguely bored and only giving Jim’s grin a passing glance.

Jim rubbed the back of his neck and offered a sheepish grin. “Uh. Well you see, I’m a friend visiting from San Francisco, so I didn’t think to…”

“If you don’t have an appointment, then I’m afraid you’ll have to come back another time,” she said.

Jim groaned, but his eyes snapped over to a man who looked to be mid-forties walking through and laying down a PADD. Jim hadn’t ever met McCoy—had only spoken to him those two times during the Incident—but he had a gut feeling, and those were usually right.

“Dr. McCoy?” Jim asked.

The man’s arched brows lifted. “Do I know you?”

“Jim Kirk. We spoke twice uh…during Deneva?”

McCoy’s face went pale and his eyes widened. “You’re the science officer who…”

“Yeah,” Jim said, a little breathy. “Look, we probably shouldn’t talk about this here, but I’m working with Professor Spock and uh…”

McCoy’s sharp head nod toward the side door cut Jim off, and he quickly walked over, listening for the little click to indicate the door was unlocked. McCoy was on the other side waiting, and quickly led Jim around the corner to a small office. The place looked absolutely archaic—nothing like the stark white of Starfleet Medical. The walls were painted in earth tones, and there were physical books and paper certificates hanging in frames.

The chairs looked leather, though Jim hoped they were faux as he sat down, easing back and hooking his ankle up on his knee. McCoy took his own seat behind the desk and gave Jim a careful look. “I take it Spock doesn’t know you’re here.”

Jim couldn’t help his laugh. “Uh, no. And I don’t really plan on telling him either. I do value my life.”

“Not enough, apparently. If he catches wind of this…”

“I know,” Jim said, then huffed out a breath. “I know I just…I didn’t expect…” Jim swallowed thickly as he gathered his thoughts. “I’m a botanist and I’m heading to Vulcan to work with Dr. Grayson for a few months. She put me in touch with the Professor to work on my Golic before I head over and I didn’t know…I wasn’t aware of what happened. After Deneva. I just found out the details a few days ago.”

McCoy’s cheeks were mottled pink, and instead of answering, he rose and went to his bookshelf, coming away with a crystal decanter and two matching whiskey tumblers. He filled them both, two fingers each, and passed one over to Jim. “I haven’t spoken to Mr. Spock since my resignation. I put in my notice when the Captain received word he wasn’t coming back to the ship.”

Jim licked his lips, then took a sip of the liquor which burned fiercely as it went down. “He said he found a better opportunity on earth. Said his blindness didn’t influence his decision not to return.”

“I…” McCoy hesitated, then shook his head. “To be honest, Mr. Kirk…”

“Jim, please,” he begged. “After all this, I think Jim will do.”

McCoy nodded. “Alright, Jim. I can’t say Mr. Spock and I were ever close, but he was the best damn science officer Starfleet had. I told him that before he walked into that chamber and ordered me to throw everything I had at that thing in his body.” McCoy’s eyes dropped to his whiskey, but he didn’t drink it. “I can’t tell you what happened after that. Spock and the Captain spent some time on leave after we left Deneva’s Orbit. I saw him a few times for examinations. The first few days, Spock’s Vulcan healing did what it could on his ocular nerves. He regained some light perception and visual field—just motion, and blurry shapes. But it became clear after some time that his body would only regenerate so much. I consulted with a Vulcan physician who confirmed that Spock’s healing had plateaued and he must begin adjusting to his current level of sight. Next thing I knew we were being rerouted to Earth so Spock could catch a shuttle and we were informed he would be back within six standard months. Pike ordered an upgrade of all decks to accommodate an officer with a visual impairment. Before the upgrades were completed, Pike received the termination request for Spock’s command, and…that was that.”

Jim bit his lower lip in thought. “It doesn’t seem like blindness didn’t play a part.”

“Spock’s not the kind of guy who would beat around the bush, Jim. Doesn’t have it in him. That green blood of his sees to that. If he says the opportunities were better on earth, I have to believe him.” Now McCoy did take a sip. “Between you and me, I believe it had something to do with Pike. Whatever transpired between the two of them was likely the influencing decision.”

“So he doesn’t hate me?” Jim asked.

McCoy laughed quietly. “He probably does. The only fondness toward any human he’s ever shown was toward Captain Pike, and even that had a limit. But if you mean because of the information you provided…”

“It was my fault,” Jim blurted.

McCoy shook his head. “It wasn’t your fault, Jim. You gave me the information based on the circumstances I provided. I would have done the same thing. Spock was dying, willingly so by that point because even his Vulcan physiology couldn’t control the pain any longer. Neither one of us felt like we really had the time to test it before he put himself in the chamber. He knew what he was risking.”

Jim dragged a hand down his face, then set the cup on the edge of the desk. “So I should just trust him when he says it doesn’t matter.”

“Kaiidith,” McCoy said, and shrugged. “One of the few useful phrases I picked up from the point-eared bastard. What is, is, and there’s nothing you can do to change it. You saved his life, even if he lost his sight, and whatever way he’s capable of it, he’s probably grateful.”

Jim shook his head, unable to suspend belief enough to accept that Spock was grateful for what Jim had done. Saving his life or no. “Well, thanks for seeing me. It was kind of eating me up, and I know Spock doesn’t lie, but I guess I just had to hear it from someone else that I didn’t totally ruin his life.”

McCoy didn’t have an answer to that, merely raised his glass in a quiet salute, and Jim returned it.

~*~

‘I feel comfortable in determining this to be our last tutoring session, Mr. Kirk,’ Spock said as he packed away his PADD. ‘I do not believe I have anything left to offer.’

It was two days short of the proposed sessions, and Jim felt a sudden, almost desperate need to beg for more, to stay in Spock’s orbit just a little longer. When it was over, when Spock walked out the door, Jim would have no reason to contact him again. They weren’t friends, but Jim felt something there, between them in a way he wasn’t used to.

Almost two weeks of working together, of having something almost amicable between them. Spock had gotten to know Jim’s place well enough that he could navigate from the living room to the kitchen for his own tea without asking. And they’d even indulged in chess together as a way of practicing polite, casual conversation—Spock winning all but three games, which made Jim’s three triumphs feel even more victorious.

He was just starting to think the Vulcan didn’t hate him.

“Hey, I was wondering,” Jim began, and when Spock raised a brow in his direction, Jim quickly amended and switched to Golic. ‘Would you uh…you know, before I leave, would you be interested in having dinner with me?’ It was a stretch, and he knew it, but he would regret it forever if he didn’t ask.

At the question, Spock’s shoulders went tight and stiff, and his jaw clenched for a long moment. “I do not believe,” he said in Standard, “that is a wise idea, Mr. Kirk.”

Jim felt his heart sink, but he tried for a smile even if Spock couldn’t see it. “Yeah. Yeah I figured you’d…but you know. Couldn’t hurt to ask.”

There was a tension between them now that hadn’t been there since their first days working together, and Jim hated himself a little for creating it.

‘You will be leaving for Vulcan in six standard days, yes?’ Spock asked, once again in Golic.

‘Yes,’ JIm replied. ‘My shuttle leaves, and I’m taking a supply ship over with most of the contents of my lab. Actually,’ Jim said and stood up, “I wanted to show you something before you go. I’ve been working on this hybrid plant—a masu’kastik cross-bred with an earth aloe. It’s my first experiment—seeing if I can get it to grow both here and on Vulcan. I’m attempting to breed several different new species that can be cultivated in multiple environments, hardy enough that it won’t require much interference to get it to reproduce.”

Spock seemed hesitant, but then rose from the couch. “You have this plant here?”

“Yeah,” Jim said, and shifted closer to Spock. “You uh…you’d better take my arm though, okay? My lab is a hot mess and I don’t think I could warn you sufficiently without spending at least a few days letting you get to know the place. Is that…okay?”

Spock merely stepped closer to Jim, his fingers out and careful as they grabbed the back of his arm, just above the elbow. Jim had been several places with Spock over the course of the two weeks they’d worked together, but Spock always either relied on his cane or Ee-Chiya, so this was a first. Jim said a silent prayer that he wasn’t fucking anything up as he led Spock down the hall, and into his little make-shift lab.

The first thing that hit them was the heat, and at the sharp intake of Spock’s breath, Jim laughed. “Sorry. Sorry, I usually warn people about the heat. Right now I’m trying to acclimate the specimens I plan to transport to Vulcan.”

Spock’s hand, which had tightened on Jim’s arm, loosened just a little. “I am not unfamiliar with the conditions.”

Jim closed the door, then walked up to the table where the hybrid plants sat. They were similar to both native species he had been cross-breeding—thick and triangular like the aloe, but larger and covered in a faint, orange-red fuzz like the masu’kastik. The insides were also more like the Vulcan plant, with small villi just under the skin which produced an abundance of water-like liquid which was digestible by both human and Vulcan alike.

“It’s here,” Jim said, and curled his hand around the small pot. “You can follow my arm and then touch it.”

Spock did so, carefully trailing the tips of his fingers from Jim’s arms, down to the pot. Jim stepped aside, and with both hands, Spock began a careful inspection of the pot, the small rocks it was planted in, then the leaves.

“See, most succulent and cactus plants on earth produce liquid, but it’s toxic to humans more often than not. I discovered the masu’kastik was similar to aloe, only more hydrating, which I thought would be a necessity when terraforming new worlds. One of our biggest issues tends to be water-sources. In places like Vulcan where water isn’t as necessary for the plant-life, it’s more difficult to find. This would ensure a higher rate of survival should someone get lost.”

Spock’s fingers brushed gently over the edges, and through the thick fuzz. “It feels…unfamiliar, and yet familiar at the same time.”

“It has the shape of aloe, but more characteristics of masu’kastik,” Jim said. “Go head, break one of the leaves open. I’m not sure if you’ve ever had juice from the masu’kastik but…”

“My mother preferred it during summers,” Spock said softly, then carefully broke one of the leaves in half. The villi immediately reacted, and a rush of liquid poured over the Vulcan’s hand. Jim realized his faux-pas there—he knew Vulcans never ate with their hands, but instead of recoiling, Spock brought the edge of the broken leaf to his mouth and tasted it. “It is…familiar.”

Jim grinned, unable to help himself. “That’s just the start. Dr. Grayson has some ideas, too, that will help me. I’m…sorry god, she’s just so brilliant and I can’t wait to work with her. I’m glad she knew you.”

Spock’s jaw tensed again as he reached to feel for an empty space on the table before placing the leaf down. When his face tilted back up toward Jim the tension was gone. “I am pleased to note that your work with me was beneficial.”

Jim shifted from one foot to the other. “I know I’m leaving soon, but if that’s the only reason you don’t want to grab dinner…”

“It is not, and I will thank you to accept my answer without further explanation. I am not interested in partaking in a social meal with you. I understand the implications—and understand a more friendship modification you would make to the meal should I find discomfort in romance, and I will still decline.”

“Yeah,” Jim said, his throat tight and rejection stinging like a physical blow. “I get it. I didn’t mean to be an asshole. Come on, you can take my arm again and we can get out of here.”

Spock said nothing, showed no emotion on his face as he took Jim’s arm and let the botanist lead him out. They went back to the living room where Spock gathered his cane and his bag, and then paused at the door before taking his leave. “Live long and prosper, Mr. Kirk.” He offered the ta’al, and though he couldn’t see it, Jim offered one back. Spock gave a nod, and then he was gone, leaving Jim’s apartment feeling strangely more empty than it had ever felt before.

Chapter Text

Jim had been on many worlds, and had experienced many things, but nothing had prepared him for the sheer heat and dryness of Vulcan. Stepping off the transporter pad, he found it a damn-near miracle he didn’t collapse before he reached the Vulcan who was waiting to take him to Dr. Grayson’s home.

“T'nar pak sorat y'rani,” Jim said, holding up his Ta’al.

The Vulcan gave him a nod of greeting before returning the gesture. “T'nar jaral, James Kirk. I have been asked to provide your transportation to the House of Sarek.”

Jim nodded, grateful to get out of the heat. “My stuff…” he said, glancing back at the transporter pad which was now full of luggage from the handful of Vulcans who had been on the ship with him.

“Your things will be delivered promptly as ordered by Dr. Grayson and the VSA,” the Vulcan said. He turned on his heel and led the way to the car. “I am Fer’at, and I will be assisting you at both the VSA and at the private lab set up by Dr. Grayson. If you have no further questions, I believe it is prudent to remove you from the heat until your garments as well as your human body can adjust.”

Jim nodded, feeling a sweep of dizziness take over him. But the aircar was close enough, and Fer’at adjusted the climate controls to Jim’s liking. He was grateful Vulcans could adjust their own internal temperatures enough that they could accommodate him instead of the other way around.

As the car moved, Jim sat back against the plush seat and glanced out the window to take in the sights. He’d done as much studying, watching as many holos as he could get his hands on, but none of them could compare to seeing Shi’kar itself in person. It was starkly red, both the sand and bleeding into the sky. The mountains jutted out from the landscape ahead, a stark contrast to the pale whites of the city, and Jim could see plumes of smoke coming from just beyond the Forge where the volcanos were most active.

He appreciated that Vulcans were not conversationalists for the most part, because the silence helped him settle as Fer’at navigated the streets which was more crowded than Jim expected. Soon enough, they were out of the main city, approaching the base of Mt. Seleya, where Dr. Grayson’s home was. It was tucked, carved into the stone like most of the Vulcan aristocratic families, and as they pulled up the winding road, he could see the homes there with wide, expansive glass walls which no-doubt blocked out most of the harmful rays of the Vulcan suns.

The car came to a slow halt, and Jim reached for his bag containing his clothes before stepping out. Fer’at was ahead of him, just a few paces as they approached the front doors, and Jim was almost startled to be met with Dr. Grayson herself instead of serving staff. Fer’at offered the ta’al, but then stepped aside as Amanda approached.

It was just as startling to see her in person as it was the city. She wore her age well with an elegance Jim had suspected she would from her communications with him. She wore traditional Vulcan garb—the robes which were manufactured to keep the body cool in the hot climate. Her hair was half-veiled as was the custom, but it was tucked back and he could see the round humanness of her ears, and the gentle smile which left creases at her eyes.

She offered Jim a ta’al of her own instead of a handshake which he assumed was to observe custom rather than for her own preference, so he returned it himself. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you,” he said, speaking Golic easily as he’d been doing so for the weeks on the ship.

Her eyes sparkled with mirth. “I see those weeks with Spock did you well, Dr. Kirk.”

Jim flushed a little, having spent the last few weeks doing everything in his power to forget the Vulcan who had captured then crushed his heart. “He was a formidable teacher. I don’t really know how to thank you.”

Amanda laughed and gestured for Jim to follow her inside. “As my husband is so fond of saying, thanks for such a thing is illogical. It was an owed debt.”

Jim was burning to ask what a Vulcan like Spock could possibly owe this woman, but his manners were better than that. Instead, he dragged his suit case behind him into the foyer of a home cooler than he predicted it would be. “It’s actually nice in here,” he blurted, then blushed again. “Sorry, I just mean…I expected the homes to be hotter.”

“Vulcans do prefer it hotter than us humans, but their living conditions are generally tolerable. And I have adjusted the controls so you can adapt easier. My husband is away on Federation business and suggested for the period of time he is not at home, you can take the time to acclimate.”

Jim nodded. “Thank you. Honestly, you don’t know what this means to me. I’ve been a huge fan of your work for basically the whole of my career and I just…” He trailed off, realizing he sounded a little like a child, but it was hard to help it when you met one of your career heroes. “Thanks.”

Amanda’s smile only sweetened. “I’m glad to have the company, especially the company of one who enjoys my work. Sarek has always supported me, but botany never interested him. And my son…” She trailed off, looking momentarily upset.

“Is he…” Jim hesitated, not wanting to ask if he was dead, but honestly in everything he’d read about her, he didn’t realize she had a son.

“He chose Starfleet over the Vulcan Science Academy,” Amanda said with a tiny shrug. She glanced around, and when she saw no sign of Fer’at, she lowered her voice and continued in Standard. “It caused a great deal of strain between my son and Sarek. Enough that we did not see him for many, many years. And even now there are extenuating circumstances that prevents him from visiting often.” She sighed. “As you well know.”

Jim couldn’t deny there had been many extenuating circumstances that prevented him from many holidays, birthdays, and celebrations with his own parents. Starfleet did that to a man. As did a love of space and other worlds. “Yeah. Yeah, I get it.”

“He’s not much older than you, so it’s nice to have some fresh, young blood around here. Now, let’s get you settled in, and then we can talk business.” She clapped her hands together and gave him a conspiratorial look which told Jim that maybe clapping was also a little taboo, and that maybe she was going to enjoy breaking that taboo from time to time, with another human around.

He wanted to be cautious, but he found her excitement contagious, even as he followed her to his rooms to do something as mundane as unpacking.

~*~

Jim napped for a short while as he adjusted to the time difference, and then joined Amanda for dinner. She prepared a vegetarian lasagna—the cheese clearly out of the replicator, but the vegetables from her own garden. “Most of them are hybrid, between Vulcan and Terran seeds,” she explained as she poured Jim a second glass of wine. “I don’t know how much luck you’ll have with them, but I’ve been reading over the research you sent and I have to admit, having a fresh, young mind on this is going to do me some good. I cannot wait to get my hands on what you’ve grown so far.”

Jim couldn’t help his pleased blush, or from ducking his head a little under all the praise. His parents had always supported him, but they’d never been excited. Not like this. “Well, I’m hoping the adjustment period will go as planned and I won’t lose much progress. Transporting the plants aren’t easy, but the succulents tend to do well no matter what I do with them. I had a few growing in anti-grav this year, just free-floating and they lived until I pulled them out of the chamber. Something to think about later,” he said with a shrug.

Her eyes lit up. “I believe we’re going to have some fun with this, James. For now though, tell me about yourself. I want to know absolutely everything.”

He found talking to Amanda easy and free—he’d gotten over being star-struck before he put his things away, and though he worried he’d be self-conscious, her generous smile and eagerness to pick his brain put him at ease. He could blabber on for hours about his work, and she didn’t seem to lose interest no matter how long he talked.

“Is it hard here?” he eventually asked.

She blinked at him in surprise. “On Vulcan?”

“Well…not just living somewhere so intense with the heat and sun and all that,” Jim replied, grabbing for his wine. “I also mean being human here. I can’t imagine it was easy to learn you know…everything necessary so you don’t offend the hell out of everyone you meet.”

She laughed softly. “My husband indulged me for a long time. He still does, to be honest, at least when we’re in the privacy of our home. It helped that he made me want to learn to adjust, to live here with him.”

Jim grinned at her, spearing what looked like something crossed between squash and carrot, and he swallowed it down. “How did that even happen with you and the Ambassador? I mean, I spent two week with Spock and he made his dislike of me pretty damn obvious—which honestly I was expecting.”

Amanda frowned. “Was he rude?”

Jim flushed, shaking his head. “No, no. I mean, he was blunt, but that wasn’t exactly a surprise. And he was even kind of funny in that really subtle, Vulcan way. We played chess a few times, and he got to check out my plants.”

Amanda looked surprised at that. “Did he?”

“Well, I mean, you know he’s blind, right?”

“I do,” she said slowly.

“I took him into the lab which was kind of terrifying because the last thing I wanted was to be responsible for injuring the head of the Xeno-linguistics department, right?” He laughed a little. “But no, I wanted to show him the succulent I’d been working on. I think he liked it. He tried it.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “He did?”

Jim shrugged. “Is that weird? Is that like…anti-Vulcan?”

“Spock’s past relationship with humans has been…complicated,” she said cryptically. “And after his injury he was less inclined to involve himself in matters not directly related to work. So hearing he played chess and explored your lab is…promising.”

Jim huffed a laugh. “Well the chess thing was to see if I could master polite but casual conversation. I think I did okay at that. I failed terribly at chess. Either way, it was nice. But meeting him, I do have to wonder how the hell you and Sarek actually, you know, got married?”

Amanda shook her head with a grin. “His family has a long history with humans. His grandfather was Solkar.”

Jim’s eyes went wide. “Seriously? The First Contact guy?”

Amanda laughed. “The First Contact guy, yes. Due to that relationship we found our bond…easier than it might have been for another Vulcan. I was teaching Botany and Biology at the Academy and he was there on his first assignment as Ambassador to earth. The poor thing, he looked so lost that first day—he’d been given incorrect directions to the conference he was due at, and you know Vulcans and their punctuality.” She sighed, shaking her head with a fond smile. “I was able to get him to where he needed to be just before he was expected. I didn’t think I’d see him again, but he found me a few days later and offered to take me for a coffee—something he’d been told was a good, Terran way of saying thank you. Then it just…went from there. He sat in on a few of my lectures, and took me to dinner a few times. I didn’t realize he was courting me at first.”

Jim grinned at her. “In Vulcan culture he was probably ridiculously obvious.”

“Something like that,” she said. “Through Sarek I was able to learn that Vulcans—even ones who complete Kohlinar—still feel. That they are kind, and they are funny, and they are loyal. I was uncertain about leaving behind everything I knew, but being with him felt right. I don’t really know how to explain it.”

Jim understood. He wished desperately that he didn’t understand, but he’d felt the same way when he was with Spock. Only instead of being courted the way Sarek had done with Amanda, he’d been abruptly rejected.

Jim sighed, pushing his food around before setting his fork to the side. “I’m sorry, I think I’m a little space-lagged. Do you mind if I turn in early?”

Amanda rose with him, shaking her head. “Of course not. Tomorrow we can arrange to have you properly fitted in Vulcan robes—trust me, I know they might look and feel strange, but you’ll thank me when you’re not collapsed from heat stroke. And we have six long months to get working, so we don’t have to dive right in, Dr. Kirk.”

“Jim, please,” he said, and held out his hand.

She clasped it sweetly, like his mother would do sometimes when he was feeling a little lost. Her fingers were dry and thin, but comforting. “And you must call me Amanda. While you’re here, Jim, you’re family. So don’t hesitate if you need anything, alright?”

Jim nodded, then carefully drew his hand away. “Thank you. I’ll see you in the morning.” Then he turned and tried to leave his feelings behind at the table along with the half-finished food, and his new mentor.

~*~

Three days passed before Jim had clearance with the VSA to enter the labs. He spent most of those days working in Amanda’s greenhouse, pouring over her years of research, and documenting everything he found useful to his own. Her husband, Sarek, who Jim knew was Ambassador to earth, arrived in that time, but their first meeting was brief.

“I am pleased to have you in our home,” Sarek said after the first, more formal greeting. “I regret I will not be as present as my wife.”

Jim nodded. “I appreciate your hospitality all the same, Ambassador. Live long and prosper.”

“Peace and long life, Doctor.” Then he was gone, and Jim was left to his own devices and the casual conversation with Amanda once more.

The day before his clearance was confirmed, Amanda finally dragged him into the city in a tunic and pants borrowed from Sarek—ill-fitting but definitely easier to manage in the hot suns than what Jim had brought.

“I need to restock my tea supply. There are a few shops here that import from earth. A lot of the stuff is a commodity.” She winked at him as they stepped out of the aircar. “For a species who doesn’t believe having favorites is logical, the import shops do surprisingly well.”

Jim laughed softly as they walked down the street. He noticed right away people gave Amanda wide berth, and at first he assumed it was due to Sarek’s status, but soon enough he heard the quiet voices behind them, and the disdain in their voices when she was called Sarek’s human wife.

“Don’t pay attention to them,” Amanda said, noticing Jim’s frown. She held the door for the clothing shop and let him walk in ahead of her. “I’m used to it.”

Jim shook his head as he followed her to a row of tunics in the back—set by style and color—and she began to look through for his size, reminding him a lot of his own mother with her efficiency. “I just don’t understand.”

“They are a proud race, and sometimes pride…gets in the way of other things,” she said and selected a few garments for him to try on. “It’s something I stopped fighting a long time ago. I am content in my marriage, and I have had years to be a proud wife and mother. It’s all I can ask for, really. And in spite of the prejudices, they bring a lot of good to the galaxy.”

Jim couldn’t argue with that, though he wasn’t entirely sure that the good they offered cancelled out the way they made outsiders feel. But it wasn’t for him to judge, and he wasn’t planning on being there for longer than his six month study. So he dropped it as he tried on a few of the outfits, then quickly paid before Amanda could take over the transaction.

They stopped by the import store, and the Vulcan behind the counter was far friendlier than others they’d passed on the street. Jim snatched up a few candy bars and some coffee as Amanda found her tea, and then they headed back to the house where Jim quickly got lost in the greenhouse.

~*~

The following morning, Jim was a slight mess of nerves as he approached the building, Amanda on one side and Fer’at on the other. He’d been through his briefing, and mostly he was just excited to get to his plants again, to ensure they had survived the journey mostly in tact. Fer’at led the way, introducing Jim to a handful of Vulcan scientists whose names he wouldn’t remember, and then he was allowed to push forward into the main greenhouse.

He was bowled over suddenly, by a wave of humidity he hadn’t been expecting. He blinked as the moisture hit him, and turned his head to look at Fer’at.

His Vulcan companion sensed his questions and said, “We experiment with many different climates here, regardless of whether or not our experiments would survive outside of the laboratory. We have placed your specimens in a lab according to your own climate specifications, and they will likely have not been exposed to high humidity such as this room.”

Jim relaxed. “Thanks. I mean, I didn’t think my work was going to be sabotaged but…”

“It is only natural to be concerned when you have not had access for a number of days,” Fer’at said. He led Jim through the rows of tables to a side door which contained an air-pressure chamber. They stepped in, and a sonic was activated to kill any potential, outside bacteria. When the light turned green, Fer’at pushed the door open, and Jim let out a breath of relief when his eyes fell on his work, all meticulously arranged according to the orders he’d sent ahead.

He immediately walked over to the table containing his succulents, and he brushed his fingers over the soft fuzz, ensuring himself that they hadn’t been damaged in transport. A moment later he looked up, blushing as he saw Amanda watching him with a tiny smile.

“Sorry,” he said, ducking his head. “I uh…can get a little passionate. I worked so hard, you know. I mean, I know it’s not like raising children but…”

“I understand, Jim,” she said kindly. She walked up next to him and stroked the leaf with the tip of her finger. “Remarkable. It survived the journey almost completely.”

“I need to run tests, obviously, see if anything’s been compromised, but so far it looks perfect.” Jim looked around, eyes falling on his computer work station, and his PADDs which were all arranged neatly on the table next to it. He turned to Fer’at who was standing with his hands clasped behind his back. “Do you mind getting the cataloguing done?”

Fer’at nodded his head once. “As I am here to assist, do not hesitate to state what you need, Dr. Kirk.” He moved toward the PADDs to begin, and only stopped when the door hissed open and two more Vulcans stepped in.

The one leading was a woman, tall and slender, with her hair tied back in a severe braid. She had the same, almost-blank look of most Vulcans, just like her male companion who was a full head taller, with larger ears and a wider nose. They were dressed in VSA silvers of the botany lab, and the woman had a badge on her front which Jim was sure indicated she was someone of importance.

“T’Pring,” Amanda said from Jim’s side, and the sheer ice in her voice caused Jim to glance over. Amanda was one of the most skilled humans he’d ever met when it came to suppressing emotion, but there was no hiding the distaste in her gaze. “You weren’t assigned to Jim’s lab.”

“As I am the head of the department,” the woman named T’Pring said, clasping her hands behind her back, “it is only logical that I welcome Dr. Kirk and ensure he has my contact information should he need approval for anything.”

Jim had an irrational urge to tell her to fuck off—maybe due to his loyalty to Amanda—but he was also well trained in diplomacy and knew pissing off the head of the botany department wouldn’t do him any favors. He held up his ta’al and spoke his best Golic. “T'nar pak sorat y'rani, T’Pring.”

She inclined her head once, but didn’t return the greeting which made Jim burn with irritation. “Are you in need of assistance at this time. Dr. Kirk?”

Jim shook his head. “I think Dr. Grayson and Fer’at will be just fine, but I will let you know.”

T’Pring gave him a long look, then her eyes flickered over to Amanda, and Jim swore for a second, he saw a flash of emotion in them, though he had no chance of deciphering it. The tension was thick enough to cut with a knife, but it wasn’t long before T’Pring and her companion were gone, and he heard Amanda let out a short breath.

“Fer’at, if you wouldn’t mind, would you bring some tea? Two Vulcan spice teas will do.” Amanda’s voice was as tense as Jim felt, but her smile was small, and soft.

Fer’at nodded, not questioning the order Amanda gave, and he seemed almost in a hurry to leave the room. When the door hissed shut, Amanda reached forward, gripping the edge of the table, head bowed.

“I’m sorry, Jim. That was very unprofessional of me.”

Jim took a step toward her, his head shaking in spite of the fact that she wasn’t looking at him. “Don’t. She seemed like a real bitch.”

Amanda’s laugh was dry and humorless. “You don’t know the half of it. We have…a sort of family history with her—and not a good one.” Jim didn’t ask, but after a moment, Amanda offered as much of the story as she was willing. “She and my son were bonded as children, but she made it very plain she was not happy to be bonded to someone she considered inferior.” When Jim frowned at her, she laughed that pained laugh again. “Half-human. My son has been haunted by his genetics, in spite of his dedication to both the Vulcan race and the teachings of Surak. When he was injured, T’Pring used the incident to request the bond be severed, and the council agreed.”

Jim’s eyes widened. “Seriously?”

Amanda let out a tiny sigh. “Vulcans don’t speak of it to outsiders, but…the bond exists for a reason and now my son has no protection and I cannot…” She trailed off, and Jim reached out, unable to stop himself as he laid a comforting hand on her arm.

“I’m sorry.”

She shook her head, offering him a gentle smile. “We will deal with it when the time comes. It is a problem, and I will solve it.”

“If I have faith in anyone, Dr. Grayson, it’s you,” Jim said with a small wink, and she let out a tiny laugh.

“You’re too sweet, Jim.”

Jim shook his head. “Nah, I’m really not. And on principal, I’m gonna hate that bitch, okay? Because any child raised by you is going to be amazing, so she’s missing out. But her damn loss.”

Amanda laughed again, elbowing him gently. “Come on, enough catty business. Let’s get some work done.”

~*~

Jim had access to the lab whenever he needed it, and he spent most afternoons there with Fer’at, and occasionally with Amanda though she mostly kept to her own work which Jim assumed was to avoid T’Pring and her companion, Stonn. After a few weeks, Jim learned that T’Pring and Stonn were a bonded couple who shared one child and as much as Jim wanted to hate her for both Amanda and her son’s sake, it was hard. T’Pring was incredibly intelligent, no where near the sort of humor he’d found in Spock or even in Fer’at, but she was good at what she did, and was willing to help Jim when he found himself unable to think past his own humanity.

He kept that to himself, though, he owed Amanda and Sarek that much at least.

Jim was late coming back to the house one evening, and stopped in the foyer when he heard quiet voices speaking.

“…ship arrived safely. I was able to reaching Michael through the meld and ensured the crew had survived.”

“Thank god,” came Amanda’s voice, breathy with relief. “Was there any…”

“Michael sustained only minor injuries, a short stay in sickbay and was released for duty. My wife, do not fret. Our children are strong.”

“I know. I just…I hate this. I hate starships and galaxies and space keeping us so far apart.”

“With our bond, ashal-veh, we are never truly apart,” Sarek replied.

Jim’s stomach twisted strangely at the soft, careful, considering way that Sarek spoke to his wife. Something intensely private that, no doubt, Jim would not have been allowed to see had Sarek known he was there. Which then made him feel guilty, and he quickly made noise that he knew Sarek’s Vulcan hearing would pick up.

The conversation went quiet, and Jim entered the room. “Hey, sorry I’m late.”

Amanda’s cheeks were splotchy but dry, and her eyes red-rimmed, but if she’d been crying, she’d long-since stopped. “It’s fine, dear. Do you want me to get you something to eat?”

Jim shook his head. “I need to hop in the sonic, and I can sort the rest out myself. Don’t worry about me.”

Amanda looked like she wanted to protest, but Sarek made a very small noise, then nodded for Jim as permission to take his leave. He did so, hoping he hadn’t ruined anything between the couple, and took his time unwinding from his long day so they wouldn’t be bothered again.

Jim ventured back down an hour later, and found the kitchen empty. He punched in the code for a veggie sandwich from the replicator, wrapping it in a napkin, and started back toward the stairs. He only stopped when he heard soft humming, and couldn’t stop his curiosity as he poked his head through the door and saw Amanda sitting at a writing desk, in front of an antique looking machine.

She glanced up when she heard him, and her face broke into a smile. “Getting enough to eat?”

He grinned at her, waving the sandwich. “More than enough, thanks.” He hesitated, then asked, “Are you okay? I felt like things were uh…you know. Maybe not great earlier?”

Amanda sighed, pushing back from the desk slightly. “Being a parent is often the best thing that ever happened to me, and often the worst. I will never stop worrying.”

“I get that,” Jim said. “My mom had a hard time when I was on the Farragut, and I was actually born in space, you know? She birthed me on a starship, and she still freaks out every time I leave the atmosphere.”

Amanda laughed. “A mother’s job is never done. Why don’t you come in here and sit? No sense in just standing around, and you need to eat. You’re too thin.”

Jim rolled his eyes a little, but complied, hooking his foot around the guest chair and pulling it back so he could sit. Before she could nag him again, he took a big bite of his sandwich for show, and laughed when she huffed at him.

“Honestly, you boys…all the same, no matter what species.”

Jim laughed again and sat forward. It was then he got a good look at what she had on her desk. Beside the machine was a book—an old, paper antique that looked Terran. In a stack beside that was a stack of thick paper which initially looked blank, but upon closer inspection, he saw it was covered in fine bumps. “Can I ask what you’re doing?”

Amanda glanced down at her work, then shrugged. “I’m brailling a copy of Alice in Wonderland for Spock. I used to read it to him and Michael when they were younger, and I thought…with him being so far from home, maybe it would…I don’t know, bring him some comfort.”

Jim was vaguely surprised to learn that Spock had been childhood friends with Amanda’s son, but then it made sense considering she had enough sway with the Vulcan to get the head of xeno-linguistics to do a tutoring job. Clearly the favor was reverse-nepotism, the favor owed to the mother of his childhood friend.

“I think he’ll like that. I mean, he doesn’t seem to like a lot of things, but he seems like the kind of person who would appreciate the work you’re putting into that.”

Amanda looked relieved, which Jim thought was a little strange, but who was he to judge. “I hope so. Vulcans aren’t always so easy to please. At least I could always understand Michael, but Spock…” She trailed off with a shrug.

Jim could understand that, too. If Michael was half-Vulcan and half-human, well it made sense that Amanda was able to cultivate his human side. And maybe Michael would have been a decent influence on a Vulcan like Spock—prevent the sort of prejudices Jim had seen in Vulcans like T’Pring and Stonn.

“Do they still get to see each other?” Jim asked.

Amanda sighed. “Both joined Starfleet—Michael was older, got a starship first, went off to see new galaxies. And then…and then things didn’t go well after that.”

Jim assumed she was talking about the accident she’d mentioned after seeing T’Pring, and Jim felt a rush of protectiveness for Amanda’s child. “I’m sorry.”

Amanda waved him off. “It’s fine. They might have run into each other more, but Spock chose to stay on Earth after the Deneva incident, and Michael lives for the stars. But I’m hoping they’ll come home at the same time—one of these days at least. Make a mother happy, even if happiness is illogical.” She winked and Jim chuckled.

“I have no doubt, Vulcan or not, the both of them strive to see you smile.” Jim felt a rush of satisfaction and pride at the way he could make Amanda’s smile brighten. He still had no idea how she lived like this all the time—quietly to herself, without the basic human comforts that his species craved. He knew first hand now that she was not deprived of a husband’s love, and that was some measure of relief, but all the same, it had to be lonely. If he could alleviate that, for the short while he was on Vulcan, well…it was the very least he could do.

~*~

As the months went by, and as Jim’s experiments waffled between success and failure, he was very aware of the ticking clock counting down to when he was to leave Vulcan. He had already received his orders regarding the next planet—a Class M with a high concentration of oxygen and H2o which would make for an additional challenge to his current species. So far he had three that managed to survive in both the Terran and Vulcan atmosphere without modification, so the next test would be Delta X, which was six lightyears from Vulcan.

He tried not to feel the keen loss he’d experience when he was away from Amanda. He’d started to feel at home here, like she was family. Jim loved his parents, but there was a nurturing side to Amanda he hadn’t grown up with having two highly decorated Starfleet officers raising him.

Since the night in Amanda’s office, the subject of her son and even Spock seemed to be off limits. When she tensed the next night after Jim brought them up, he resolved to just let her be about her kids. It was only natural she’d feel hesitant with Michael off in space, and his best friend who she’d clearly spent a lot of time with, now blinded and living on Earth.

Jim didn’t really give it much thought at all, actually, until he came home a month before he was due to leave, and found Amanda in the sitting room with her face in her hands, sobbing. Jim immediately dropped his bag and rushed to her side, kneeling in front of her to take her by the shoulders.

“Amanda? What’s wrong? What happened? Is it Sarek…is…”

“My son,” Amanda said, breathy and her eyes wide with terror. “There was a treaty signing in Babel, and my son agreed to accompany Sarek. Normally I would have gone, but Sarek found it more prudent that I stay behind in case you needed assistance. On the ship, Sarek had two cardiac events, and the stress caused my son to…” Amanda swallowed thickly, then lowered her voice to a near-whisper. “His time. Mating time. It’s what the bond is for, and the stress of it caused it’s early arrival. I’ve been scrambling to find someone to assist him through it, but the counsel is refusing to help. If I can’t…he’ll die.”

Jim’s heart sped up in his chest, and he ducked his head so he could capture her gaze. “What does he need? Amanda, how would another Vulcan help him?”

“They need to…” She flushed and looked away.

Jim understood. “Got it. And they need to bond? It needs to be a Vulcan or…?”

“No,” Amanda said quietly.

“Then I’ll do it.”

Her eyes went instantly wide and she pulled back slightly. “Jim, you don’t understand what you’re agreeing to.”

Jim shrugged. “I get the gist of it.”

“It’s not…always so kind, especially if you aren’t bonded. He could injure you if he’s gone too far into his blood fever.”

“And so I’ll heal,” Jim said. When Amanda opened her mouth to protest, Jim held up his hand. “If I don’t do this, he’ll die, right? Is he coming here with Sarek right now?”

Amanda nodded, swiping at her eyes. “They’ll be here by evening.”

“So comm that husband of yours and tell him you have it worked out. This isn’t a marriage proposal, right? Just some uh…you know. Mating time?”

Amanda flushed, but she nodded, reaching for Jim’s hands to squeeze them. “If I could find anyone else…”

“You’ve been so good to me. I’ve idolized your work for most of my adult life,” Jim said seriously, “and you took me in and made me feel like family on a totally foreign planet. If I can help save your son’s life until one of these damn Vulcans gets over their xenophobia, then I’m happy to do it.”

There was a long, long pause, and then with a breath, she nodded. “Okay. I…okay.”

Jim knew she was agreeing only because there were no other options. And he couldn’t ignore the slight fear that came with the decision, but he had no desire to take back his offer. Michael, son of Sarek and Amanda, needed him. And Jim would be damned if just because of prejudice, Amanda and Sarek lost their child.

~*~

Jim was pacing the room Amanda had put him in. She’d given him instructions—prepare yourself because there won’t be much time for foreplay, don’t try to run because Vulcans in pon farr take that as a challenge, and use as much archaic language as he could since that was a sign of loyalty to the Vulcan people.

“It will last up to three days, but after the first initial coupling, he should ease off and allow you rest and food,” Amanda said.

Jim nodded, feeling his heart beating so hard it was near to breaking his ribs, but he knew that Amanda had lived through Sarek’s, and whatever had happened wasn’t enough to send her running for the hills. Of course she was in love with her husband and Jim had never met Michael before, but there was affection and purpose behind his actions and he was determined to see it through.

Amanda had informed him that Sarek’s shuttle had arrived, so Jim locked himself in the small bathroom and worked himself slick and open with the bottle of oil she’d left for him. It felt weird, perfunctory. Jim was no virgin, but he’d never had arranged sex like this before, and certainly never to save anyone’s life. He wasn’t sure that he could live up to that kind of pressure—but three days, and then it would be done.

His stomach twisted as he heard voices, and he knew it was almost time.

Jim wrapped the loose robe around himself and went to stand in the middle of the room. It was hot, and there was incense burning which was making him a little dizzy. He closed his eyes to breathe, then squared his shoulders and set his jaw. He was ready.

There was a soft knock on the door, and then Amanda’s face peered through the crack. “Okay Jim. If you’re ready. He’s not…fully into the plak tow yet, but it won’t be long.”

“It’s fine,” Jim said, surprised his internal tremor couldn’t be heard in his voice. “I’m good. Promise.”

She nodded, and then the door swung open fully.

If ever there was a moment that felt like a punch to the face, it was this one. Jim wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when he set eyes on Amanda and Sarek’s child—no idea how Vulcan the child would look, or how human. How much he would resemble Sarek, or his mother.

But Jim had seen their son before—because it wasn’t Michael. It was Spock.

Jim took an involuntary step backward as Spock walked into the room, nostrils flaring. Then, after what felt like an eternity, Spock stalked forward and the door behind him slid shut. Jim felt panic for a second, trying to process what was happening, and it was only after he’d taken a few steps back away from Spock that he remembered what Amanda had told him. Running away would seem like a challenge.

“Spock,” Jim said.

Spock’s steps hesitated, though he held one hand out as though to feel for Jim.

Jim hadn’t known. He hadn’t known it was Spock. It didn’t change anything for him, of course, but he knew it changed everything for Spock. Because he had tried, he had tried back on Earth and Spock had rejected him, and now Spock was left without a choice. Take Jim to get through his mating time, or die. It wasn’t much of a choice at all, and his throat burned with the unfairness of it. He wouldn’t have wished this on Spock for anything.

He struggled for more words, for another solution, but his brain was drawing a blank. Much like Amanda’s must have done when she was considering every single option at her disposal.

“Spock,” Jim said again, “do you know…who I am?”

“Yes,” Spock said, his voice gruff and hoarse, like he’d spent hours screaming. “I was informed.”

“Right,” Jim said, flushing. “Right. Then you’re…”

“Jim,” Spock said, and Jim realized it was the first time the Vulcan had ever said his first name. It sent a hot flush through his body and he found himself taking steps toward Spock’s outstretched hand as though drawn to it by magnetic force. When he was within reach, Spock’s fingers scrabbled for him, twisting in the collar of the robe, drawing him flush with Spock’s body.

“Are you okay with this? If you’re not we can…we can figure something out. We can…”

“Jim,” Spock said, silencing him. “I burn. I burn, please…let me…”

Jim closed his eyes against the words, knowing that in reality, there was no other way to save Spock except through this, and he could only hope Spock’s distaste for him wouldn’t transcend his relief when it was all over. The most he could do, he knew, was to make it good—to give Spock everything he required to ease his suffering.

Very carefully, and with deliberate motions, he grabbed Spock’s hand and brought it behind him where he was stretched and wet. “I’m all yours, Spock. I’m ready for you. Take me.”

Chapter Text

The first real touch of Spock was a whirlwind. His hands were out, seeking, ripping the thin fabric of Jim’s robe to get to bare skin. He wasn’t quite brutal, but far from kind as Jim was turned in his arms, then shoved up against the nearest surface which happened to be the door, and then Spock was inside him. He hadn’t disrobed, so Jim felt heavy Vulcan robes against his bare back, and only a sparse strip of skin on Spock’s thighs where the robe parted. Jim was grateful that Amanda had suffered through whatever parental embarrassment she had to suffer through when she instructed him to prepare himself, because there was no preamble between Spock pushing up against Jim, and breeching Jim’s hole.

Jim’s eyes all but rolled up in the back of his head as he felt a gush of fluid, and he thought that Vulcans must have natural lubricant of some kind. It was a quick, passing thought though, because Spock’s penis inside of him was thrusting and pulsing like an almost-vibration which made it so much better than anything Jim has ever experienced sexually. He expected it to be terrifying, and there was the fact that this is Spock and not the person Jim assumed it would be, but that was all in the back of his head, but none of that mattered.

Jim felt himself approaching orgasm without real warning, without even needing to touch himself. Spock had him, one hand on his waist in a bruising grip, the other wrapped around his front and laid flat in the center of his sternum, and his face was pushed against the back of Jim’s neck where he was making soft, grunting noises against the hot skin there.

“Spock,” Jim gasped. “Spock, I need to…I’m going to…” He had no idea if Spock needed or wanted a warning, or of the mating time meant he didn’t care for anything but his own release.

Jim’s words seemed to cause some effect in the Vulcan though, because Spock’s grip got tighter and his penis began to thrust harder, and pulse more, and get wetter. And all of those things combined brought Jim up and over the edge of orgasm harder and more intense than he’d ever experienced. He pushed against he wall with both hands, pushing back into Spock as his own release dribbled out in thick drops. He would have collapsed had it not been for the strength of Vulcan hands holding him, and Spock continued to fuck him roughly and without mercy until he let out a fierce growl, stuttered, and spilled something hot and sticky.

Jim felt Spock’s strength give for a moment, and he locked his knees to avoid falling. Spock didn’t soften, but his penis retracted without letting go. Jim filed that away for later as he carefully turned his head and saw Spock lying with his cheek on Jim’s shoulder. “Is it over?”

“It…is not,” Spock murmured as though speaking took the greatest effort. “I…burn.”

“Okay,” Jim said, trying to sound soothing, forgetting every bit of archaic Vulcan he knew, but Spock didn’t seem to mind. Jim carefully wrapped his fingers around Spock’s wrist that was pressed against his chest, and he took a tentative step away from the wall. “There’s a bed. Come on, it’ll be easier on both of us.”

Spock made a noise of assent, and followed Jim without detaching himself from the contact, and soon enough they slipped onto cool sheets, which was a brief moment of relief from the sweltering air. Jim was grateful he wasn’t expected to wear clothes, but he realized Spock still had his robes on and he carefully peeled himself away to help.

When Spock growled, clawing hands at the motion, Jim caught his wrists and squeezed. “You’ll feel better without clothes. Let me help you.”

Spock seemed mollified by this, letting Jim ease the heavy fabric away, dropping it off the edge of the bed before letting Spock gather him close, yank him forward to bury his face in Jim’s neck. A dry, rough tongue licked up the side of Jim’s neck, and Jim tilted sideways to let the Vulcan have better access. With the motion, his eyes opened and he took in Spock’s form. Pale but flushed green, blemish free, a smattering of thick, strangely soft hair from his pecs, trailing down to a thatch of pubic hair.

There was no penis visible, but Jim could see two swollen mounds of a genital sheath—not the only species in the known Universe to possess such anatomy which Jim had discovered early on in his mission with the Farragut. He could feel Spock’s skin heating again, feel a sort of desperation pulsing into him in all the places their bare skin touched. Jim didn’t know what he wanted, but he let his hand brush along Spock’s body, through the soft hair, down to where he was now pulsing and wet.

Jim’s fingers brushed in the slit of the sheath, and he could feel Spock’s penis—hard as it was when it was inside Jim, and tacky with fluid. It pushed out against Jim’s fingers, and Spock gave a heavy, deep-chested groan as Jim took him in hand and began to stroke him.

That lasted only moments before Spock’s fever ratcheted up, and suddenly Jim was on his back, and Spock’s teeth were pressed against his neck—not breaking the skin, but dangerous all the same. One of Spock’s hands reached down, pulling Jim’s leg up by the knee to hook over his shoulder, and the other braced him against the bed. “Want you,” Spock managed.

“I’m here, I’m yours,” Jim assured him.

Spock’s hand lifted, hovering over Jim’s face. For a moment Jim was uncertain what the Vulcan wanted, and then his fingers settled over the psi-points. “Jim,” he whispered.

Jim’s eyes closed and he nodded against the hand. As Spock leaned in to murmur words in his ear, his penis breeched his hole once more. “My mind to your mind,” was the last thing Jim registered before it all went dark, and he knew nothing more than pleasure, than gold threads twisting together between them to create something new, and beautiful. He surrendered himself to it, feeling whole, and complete, and truly wanted for the first time in his life.

~*~

Jim had no idea the time, but his body was aching, covered in a thin sheen of sweat, desperately dehydrated and hungry. There were no windows, but his internal clock told him they’d been at it for hours, and Spock’s fever had finally abated enough that he was resting. Jim had spotted nutrition cubes on the nightstand, as well as water, and he carefully extracted himself in an attempt to reach them.

The motion woke the Vulcan, however, who snarled and tried to drag Jim back.

“I just need water. I’m not leaving, but I have to drink, Spock. Please.”

After a moment, the hands loosened their grip, but didn’t let Jim get far enough to lose contact. Jim briefly wondered if it was the blindness that forced him to touch Jim all the time, or if it was all part of the pon farr. All the same, Jim indulged him, kneeling to reach what he needed, but not letting himself out of the covers. His body begged for reprieve, for a dermal regenerator to ease the pain of his bruising, for a hot, salted bath to ease the soreness of his hole. But they had a ways to go, and when Spock started to fall toward the fever, toward the want and need to claim, Jim could feel it now, too.

He wasn’t sure if it was part of the mind-meld, or if this was normal, but he knew it unwise to ask Spock anything until it had passed. He was allowed a moment to drink, to chew up some of the nutrition cubes before pulled back, and it refreshed him enough to sink back into the Vulcan’s arms and allow himself to be claimed again.

He felt like he was part of another world, separate from reality, existing outside of time, and space, and anything that wasn’t the warm circle of this Vulcan’s arms. And somewhere in the back of his mind, there was a warning—this was not forever, this was for a moment only. This was Spock, who had made his dislike of Jim very plain on earth, and this was simply because Spock was dying, and Jim had volunteered. There was no real safety, no security, no bond. Whatever between them was merely an illusion.

Jim pushed those thoughts aside, because if he was only to have these precious few days, then he would do everything in his power to savor them.

~*~

Jim woke the morning on the third day in a slight haze, with the realization that it had been hours since Spock had claimed him. Between them, there was a buzz still, but without the desperation of the fever. His eyes were still closed, but he could feel the tips of Spock’s long, gentle fingers tracing his chest, and he couldn’t help but turn his head and look over.

Spock was awake, his eyes open, his mouth in a thin line but his face more relaxed than Jim had seen it during their tutoring sessions. With the haze of pon farr gone, everything Jim had been holding back came crashing to the forefront of his mind. Spock seemed to sense it, and stiffened, and for just a moment Jim swore he felt Spock in his mind still before it went blank. Spock’s hand retracted slowly, and Jim felt the loss keenly, like removing a limb.

“Are you okay?” Jim asked, his voice raspy from lack of proper care over the three, long days.

Spock nodded once. “I am well. And you? I trust you were not…unduly injured.”

“Just a few bruises, and I’m a little sore uh…you know. There. But nothing that can’t be fixed.” Jim flushed and dragged a hand down his face. He was torn between wanting to get up and stand in the sonic for as long as it took to erase the evidence of the past three days, and linger in the soft afterglow of what would likely be the last time Spock would allow Jim anywhere near him.

His throat burned with repressed emotion, and he scrubbed at his eyes with the heels of his palms. “Can I uh…can I ask you something?”

“You may,” Spock said, his voice evenly measured and sounding far too composed for a man who was lying next to Jim, completely naked, covered in layers of Jim’s spunk.

“Did you know it was me? You know, when you got here?”

“I believe I confirmed that when I first entered this room, Dr. Kirk,” Spock said.

Jim felt an irrational wave of anger, and pushed up on his elbow. “You just spent three days with your dick in my ass, Spock. I think we can move past the formality of job title for a little bit.”

“Very well…Jim,” Spock conceded. Jim thought perhaps hearing his name on Spock’s lips outside of his mating fever would be better, but he was wrong.

He breathed through it. “I was asking a second time because you weren’t exactly in your right mind when you got here. I know you don’t like me.”

Spock was very quiet, his brows dipped down just slightly as he considered his words. “In your assessment that I would be unsatisfied with you as a potential mate, why did you suggest yourself to my mother?”

Jim’s cheeks flushed hot and bright red. “Yeah uh…so I didn’t know it was you, actually. I thought you were Michael.”

“My sister is human, and thus would not enter into Pon Farr,” Spock said, his frown deepening.

Jim felt that like a blow to the chest. “Hang on. Michael is your sister?”

Spock pushed himself up on his elbows, then all the way up to sitting, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. “You were unaware of this?”

“I thought…” Jim almost laughed at the absurdity of it all. “Damn Vulcans.”

Spock’s head turned toward Jim slightly. “Clarify.”

“You never told me Amanda was your mother,” Jim said. “She told me she had a son, and later I heard her and your dad talking about Michael. I assumed…”

“Michael is a traditionally masculine-given name on Earth,” Spock said unnecessarily.

Jim shrugged. “Yeah, I guess it is.”

“It is not a Vulcan name, so why would you assume she was the son my mother spoke of?”

“Because your mom’s human,” Jim said. “I don’t…I guess I just thought it might make sense that her kid might have something human about him. She only talked about you a few times. I just sort of…assumed you and Michael had been childhood friends.” Jim tried to process the new information without his head spinning, but that was almost impossible.

A silence settled between them, Jim still lying back against the pillows, Spock still sitting at the edge of the bed. Both of them still naked and covered in the evidence of Pon Farr. “Had you been made aware of the situation, would you have made the offer?”

Jim startled at the question, and he pushed himself to sit. “I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “You made it pretty fucking clear on earth you didn’t want anything to do with me. I’m an enthusiastic consent kind of guy, and I highly doubt I would have been your preferred choice.”

“I see,” Spock said, neither confirming nor denying anything Jim was saying, which made the situation even more frustrating. After a long moment, Spock pushed to stand. “I must meditate and order my mind after such an ordeal.” When Jim felt a surge of guilt, Spock seemed to sense it, because he turned toward the bed with his hand partway out like he was reaching for Jim. “Do not mistake my need for one of regret, Jim. You have saved my life twice over, and for that I will remain forever in your debt. Meditation is simply a necessity after Pon Farr, and every Vulcan—bonded or no—would require it.”

Jim nodded, then remembered Spock couldn’t see him. “Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. I should probably uh…shower and get dressed. Maybe see a healer and actually eat something. Can I…would you like me to have something sent?”

“I will attend to my own needs,” Spock said.

Jim cleared his throat, then moved off the bed, careful not to touch Spock again. “Will uh…will I see you again, or are you heading back for Earth right away?”

“I have been given extended leave,” Spock said. “I will reside here for the time being.”

It wasn’t exactly an answer, but it was enough of one to satisfy. Jim quickly rummaged through the supplies left, and found a suitable robe to leave the room and head to his quarters. Spock said nothing as Jim palmed the door panel and it slid open, and it was with the echoing silence that he made his way back to his rooms, and tried to adjust back to his normal life.

~*~

Jim took his meal in his room after the Vulcan healer saw to his wounds. It was probably the first time Jim appreciated the emotional detachment of the species, the clinical way the healer ran the regenerator over his body without outward signs of judgment kept him from falling apart.

He was sent up a meal, and then left to his own thoughts which was both a blessing and a curse. The sonic worked wonders at cleaning him up after the mess, but Jim desperately missed a hot water shower and the ability to curl up under a rain-like stream and let his emotions loose. He felt more alien than ever, and he had a sudden, irrational desire to seek out Amanda and find comfort, but he couldn’t. Spock was her son, and the last thing he wanted to do was see her face after she heard from Spock himself that he wanted nothing else to do with Jim.

Sleep was the next best thing, and the healer had left him with a hypo which would aid him in rest. He took it gratefully, and with the aches gone and his stomach full, sleep found him quickly.

~*~

“Where am I?” Jim realized he wasn’t awake, but this didn’t feel like a dream, either. Everywhere around him was oppressively dark, apart from pinpricks of light like far-off stars in deep space. But he wasn’t alone. There was a calm, comforting presence beside him, though it was formless. But there was something connecting himself to it, a series of gold threads which seemed fragile, but as he tugged on them, they remained stronger than any matter he’d ever come into contact with.

“We are in the place where your consciousness meets mine.” The voice was too familiar.

“You’re with me?”

“You are t’hy’la,” Spock said. “I would be nowhere else.”

Jim felt the word wash over him, enfold him in a meaning he didn’t understand with words, and yet was the only thing in that place which made any sense. “Am I dreaming?”

There was a pulse of amusement over the bond, and then Spock again. “You are at rest, ashayam. It is much needed. Do not concern yourself with the outside world just now. I am here.”

~*~

Jim woke early, just as the first sun was peeking over the horizon, and though his body felt better, the ache of being alone was almost enough to overwhelm him. The dream wasn’t needed, and he felt anger and bitterness toward his subconscious for continuing to torture him with something he could never have.

He had one month left on Vulcan, and then he would be gone. There was no telling when he’d return to earth again—and never for an extended period of time. At least, not until retirement, and Jim briefly wondered with his luck, if he’d live that long. But chances were, this would be his last few, precious moments with Spock, and they were now weighted down with pon farr, and unrequited feelings that Spock would never return.

Jim scrubbed a hand down his face, then rose to dress. He could at least lose himself at the lab for most of the day, and he figured Amanda would be busy catching up with her son so he could have the afternoon to himself. There was no one in the dining room when he went down, and he felt a strange mixture of relief and disappointment as he helped himself to the coffee he’d purchased at the import shop. He sent a comm message for an aircar to the VSA, and after putting his mug in the sonic, he stepped outside to wait.

The morning was the only real cool time on Vulcan when there was light, and he stood in the shadows of the house, watching tufts of red dust blow in the distance, and the soft plumes of the volcanic fires just beyond. Jim took a breath, closing his eyes, and he tried to relax until he felt a pulse of… something. He wasn’t sure what, a presence in the back of his mind. His eyes flew open, and his gaze immediately landed on the walking path near Amanda’s garden off to the side of the house.

She was there, and by her side was Spock dressed in light-weight, black robes. His hand was on his mother’s elbow, and they were strolling at a leisurely pace. From where Jim was standing, he could make out Spock’s still face, and Amanda’s mouth as she chattered away, and he felt the strangest buzz of both contentment and restlessness. He was unsure where it came from, but as he tried to push against it, to figure it out, Amanda and Spock stopped walking. He saw Spock’s head tip forward, his mouth move, and then Amanda turned and saw him.

Her hand lifted in a gentle wave, and Jim couldn’t do anything but return it. He felt blessed by the universe then that the aircar chose that moment to arrive, and he quickly gathered his bag and hurried of. He loved this place, and truly he loved her like a second mother, but with Spock here, he felt like he was drowning.

~*~

Jim was in the main lab doing some humidity testing on one of his specimens when the door hissed open, and he glanced up to see T’Pring walking in, her eyes directed downward at a PADD. Jim had worked with her enough over the last five months that their relationship had become amicable—as any could be with a Vulcan, so the feeling of anger sweeping through him was startling. Everything Amanda had told him about T’Pring—her xenophobia regarding Spock’s heritage, her dissolving of the bond thanks to an accident—the blindness, Jim now knew—hit him. And maybe it was the time he’d spent getting to know the sort of person Spock was, or the recent pon farr, but Jim couldn’t see to control himself.

“How could you do it?”

T’Pring looked up, as startled as a Vulcan could look, one eyebrow raised. “I am uncertain to which action you are referring, Dr. Kirk.”

Jim’s hands closed into tight fists as he tried to control his frustration. “Spock. You…I know what you did Your feelings about him, how you dissolved the bond. You could have killed him!”

“I had assumed you were made aware as you are residing in the House of Sarek,” T’Pring said, unflustered by Jim’s accusation and anger.

He leaned forward, gripping at the table. “Why?”

She placed the PADD down and steepled her fingers in front of her. “It is unconventional to speak about such private business with those not of the families involved, and even more so with one outside of our species. But as it is obvious you are emotionally compromised by this information—and I can only surmise you were witness if not active participant in Spock’s pon farr, it seems only logical that I divulge my reasonings.” She paused a moment, then said, “It was no secret between myself or Spock that I preferred Stonn, however I had no say in the childhood bonding which was arranged by our parents. The House of Sarek is well respected on Vulcan, and I found Spock’s human blood less fascinating than many of our peers did. When he was injured, it was reason enough that the counsel would dissolve the bond without question, and the petition was granted.”

“So he was blinded and you dumped him,” Jim surmised. “And you didn’t give a shit that it could have killed him.”

“I was not emotionally concerned over his wellbeing. And it seems illogical to focus on such a thing as he was able to find a suitable mate and he did not succumb to the plak tow.”

Jim’s throat burned with frustration, and he did everything he could to reign in his emotions. She wasn’t entirely wrong—Spock hadn’t died, and Jim had been there. Willingly, even if the want beyond pon farr was only on Jim’s side. And Jim had been working hard most of his life to consider the nature of other species—not expecting to find humanity in those who were not human. But something in him, fierce and protective, had flared to life like he had never experienced, and the very thought of someone attempting to hurt Spock sent rage through him.

“Considering your experience, it is only logical you feel…over-emotional about him.” She retrieved her PADD. “I will endeavor to ensure our paths do not cross for the remainder of your time on Vulcan.” It was said with a cool evenness, without accusation or judgment over Jim’s human emotions.

He felt a wash of guilt once she was gone, and in an attempt to avoid anything like that again, Jim locked himself away in his private lab, and didn’t leave until most of the other scientists had gone for the day.

~*~

It was well past dinner when Jim arrived back at the house. He could hear voices in the sitting room, so he bypassed them as quick as he could, slipping into the kitchen to grab something from the replicator. He had half a mind to escape to his room, but the night was cool enough that sitting in Amanda’s garden was far more pleasing. He liked the night sky on Vulcan. Without the light of a moon, the stars seemed that much brighter, and he felt that much more connected to space. He loved his work, but he did miss the missions from time to time. The thrill of landing somewhere new, of using equipment to study alien flora, the rush of discovery—even when it threatened his life.

He wouldn’t give up his current research now, not for anything. But he couldn’t deny the small fantasy about boarding a small research vessel. A small team—maybe even a Vulcan scientist with long fingers and deep brown eyes, and a rumbling purr deep in his chest.

Jim shook himself out of the fantasy when he heard the back door sliding open, and he turned to see Amanda standing there with a tiny smile on her face. “Am I interrupting?”

Jim shook his head, waving at the empty space on the bench next to him. “No. I’m just you know…running away from my problems like the mature adult I’ve become.”

She laughed softly as she walked out, easing herself down next to him. With careful fingers, she reached up and pulled her gauzy scarf from her hair, the soft tendrils which had come loose from her braid, gently moving in the quiet breeze. “My first pon farr with Sarek terrified me. He was…nothing like the man I had grown to love—wild and desperate. I had studied pre-reform Vulcan for several years before his time came upon him, but nothing could truly prepare me for it. I don’t think we spoke a proper word to each other for at least a week after.”

Jim swallowed thickly. “I wasn’t scared.” And that was the truth. Spock’s state hadn’t scared him at all. It was everything else that came with it. “I liked him. On Earth, I liked him. I thought maybe he didn’t hate me so much by the end, but he made it pretty clear he wasn’t interested. He wouldn’t have chosen me if he had another option.”

“Jim,” Amanda said softly, then reached over and touched his hand. At the contact, the wall he’d built to try and contain his sorrow crumbled, and he felt pain ripping through him. His head bowed, and as he choked back a sob, the both of them heard a soft cry, and the sound of something shattering.

Momentarily distracted, he and Amanda jumped up, rushing for the door to find Spock in the kitchen standing near a pile of broken ceramic, and a small trickle of green blood coming from his ankle.

“Oh, sa-fu,” Amanda said, and moved forward, stopping only when Spock raised his hand.

“Please do not attempt to clean the mess yourself, mother. I am capable, and your assistance will only serve to distract me and cause further injury.” After a moment he added, “Jim, if you would be willing to speak with me in private once I am finished here?”

Startled by the request, Jim cleared his throat and said, “Yeah sure. Of course. Where…”

“My quarters. Mother, if you would be so kind as to show him, I will be up momentarily.”

“Of course, Spock,” Amanda said. She put her hand on Jim’s arm and carefully eased him away from the kitchen, toward the stairs.

Jim was humming with sudden anxiety about the unknown—what Spock could possibly want, if this was the final rejection, if this was a confession that what had happened to them had truly been against Spock’s wishes. He didn’t think if that were true, Amanda would be so kind to him now, but as Jim had nothing to weigh his experiences against, his mind turned to the worst.

“You can stop looking like you’re about to face a firing squad, dear,” Amanda said, stopping him in front of Spock’s room. “He’s not going to hurt you.”

Jim wanted to tell her that it wasn’t the physical pain he feared. But he didn’t want to involve her in something like this. It wasn’t fair to her to ask that of her. So instead he tried for a smile. “I know. It’s just…been a long day.”

She reached out, touching his cheek gently. “Go inside and wait for him. And you and I can go for a walk in the gardens tomorrow morning and talk.”

Jim nodded, his throat tight as he said, “Alright.” Then he stepped aside as she pressed the wall panel, gaining her access to Spock’s rooms. “Lights at sixty percent,” she said, and the place illuminated, leaving Jim in the soft glow as she took her leave.

The rooms were a lot like his own, only more obviously lived in over the years. Bookshelves contained tomes in old, swirling Vulcan script, and below that, fat binders of braille which he assumed Amanda had updated for him. Jim walked over to an ornate writing desk near the window, then peered through the opening doorway which held Spock’s bedroom. It felt like a breech of privacy to walk in, but Jim’s eyes fell on something laying flat on the bed, and his curiosity took him over. When he was close enough, he was able to see it—the braille copy of Alice in Wonderland Amanda had been working on before Spock’s arrival.

Spock had clearly been reading it again.

Something twisted in his chest, and Jim backed out of the room, taking a seat in the chair near the desk just as the door opened, and Spock walked in. The side of his foot was faintly green, the skin looking new, and his feet were still bare. His hand was out to guide him, free of the usual cane, which Jim then saw hanging from a hook attached to the wall to Spock’s right.

“I’m by the desk,” Jim said.

Spock nodded. “I can see lights are on. Is it enough for you, Jim?”

“It’s fine,” Jim said, trying to maintain his calm.

Spock moved with care, just as he had when he had gotten to know Jim’s home, and took the empty chair not far from where Jim was sitting. He steepled his hands in front of him, touching his fingertips together, and took a slow breath before he spoke again. “I believe it has become necessary to explain my behavior toward you on earth, as you seem to harbor the belief that it was you as a person which caused my rejection of your offer for romance—and even friendship.”

Jim squeezed his eyes shut, but instead of pain, there was a sudden pulse of calm in his chest. “Only if you want,” Jim said.

Spock sat back a little, then his eyes closed. “Following the incident on Deneva, as you have been made aware, my bond with T’Pring was severed. What I have kept private is yet another relationship that was compromised in the process.”

Jim’s gaze snapped to Spock’s face which hadn’t changed in expression. “I didn’t realize.”

“You would not have.” Spock rose from his chair, though unlike most Vulcans who walked with their hands clasped, Spock kept one of his slightly in front of his body to feel for any disturbances or obstacles as he began to pace slightly before coming to an abrupt stop. “I trust that the information I mean to divulge remains private, Jim.”

Jim blinked. “What? Of course, Spock. This isn’t anyone’s business but yours.”

Spock nodded, then resumed pacing. “Nine months, and six standard days after I began my mission with the Enterprise, I entered into a romantic relationship with my captain.”

“Pike?” Jim blurted out of shock.

Spock nodded. “Indeed. Christopher and I evolved from casual friendship when he made known his romantic feelings for me. In spite of regulation issues, I felt some measure of affection for him, and agreed to a monogamous liaison. Upon my injury, Christopher began exhibiting symptoms of guilt which began to negatively affect our relationship. Two days after T’Pring had the bond dissolved, Christopher felt it was most prudent to end our arrangement, and return to our positions as Captain and Science Officer.”

Jim sucked in a breath. “That’s…wow, Spock. That was kind of a dick move.”

Spock raised a brow, and Jim swore the corner of his mouth lifted for a brief second. “It was his choice, and one I did not feel overly inclined to argue against. When I returned to earth, I was provided with a sense of relief being away from his presence, and therefore it seemed only logical to continue my work on planet instead of returning to the ship.”

Jim sighed, sitting back as he rubbed a hand down his face. “So that’s why you weren’t interested in me. Heartbreak.”

Spock paused his pacing and turned to face Jim. “Four years had passed since the incident, Jim. There were no lingering emotions between myself and Captain Pike. However, in an attempt to avoid such an…emotional disturbance in the future, I felt it prudent not to engage with you in such a manner. Our contact was to last only two weeks, and I felt it not only necessary to protect myself from emotional compromise, but you as well.”

Jim couldn’t help a slight swell of affection, and a measure of relief that Spock’s rejection hadn’t been personal. “So if things had been different…”

Spock clasped his hands behind his back as he stood there motionless. “I will confess that entering into a relationship with a human gave me pause. I do not believe I was a suitable mate for Christopher. Our sexual congress left something to be desired for both parties, and I believed it to be due to the fact that I am Vulcan, and he is human.” There was a pause, but before Jim could say anything, Spock went on. “However, I believe that to have been a slight miscalculation after my experience with you.”

“But that was pon farr,” Jim said, leaning forward toward Spock. “I mean, that’s not like…normal hooking up.”

Spock’s mouth did quirk up at the corner this time, and held the expression for a moment before he reached behind him, found the chair again, and sat. “Yes, Jim, it was pon farr and no, it was not, ‘normal hooking up.’”

Jim couldn’t help his slight chuckle at hearing hooking up coming from a Vulcan. “So how was it a miscalculation.”

“Vulcans require mental compatibility as well as physical when it comes to satisfactory intercourse,” Spock said, in a tone like he was giving a class lecture. “The same would hold true whether or not I was in the throes of my mating time. Without the mental compatibility, I would have gone through it safely, but it would not have left me with the level of satisfaction that you did.”

Jim’s entire body flushed. “Oh. Wow okay um…”

“There is one other matter,” Spock said, and then he sounded hesitant. Jim noticed the way his fingers briefly twitched, like he was fidgeting. “During our meld, a bond was formed.”

Jim’s eyebrows flew up. “That…golden thing?”

Spock nodded. “During my meditation following our last coupling, I attempted to dissolve the bond, but was unsuccessful. You are t’hy’la.”

Jim swore he’d heard that before, somewhere…but he couldn’t quite… “Oh my god,” he said. “The dream. That…that wasn’t a dream, was it? Right after?”

Spock shook his head. “It was not. It was our minds seeking one another after separating. I have done my best to shield, but I am finding it more difficult than I anticipated. It is an easy matter to deal with, we simply require a Vulcan healer who can…”

“Wait,” Jim said. “You want to…” He stopped, giving a self-deprecating huff. “Of course you did. You just told me you got fucked over by a human. Sorry. You’re right, we should…”

“It is merely an offer, Jim,” Spock said. He clasped his hands and leaned forward over his knees. “I find myself much satisfied and content being bonded to you.”

Jim let that sink in, the surprise of it, the unexpected nature of how…warm and happy he felt in Spock’s presence. The way he was now profoundly aware he wasn’t alone in his own head, and how it didn’t feel unnatural. “We could keep it, then?”

“If you wish,” Spock said. “I find the idea most pleasing, but you must understand that the longer we keep the bond, the stronger it will become. In the future, should you find another mate and wish to part with me, it may not be possible to dissolve the bond.”

The very idea of finding someone other than Spock sent shivers of revulsion up Jim’s spine. It was ridiculous—he barely knew the Vulcan. Two weeks on earth and three nights in the throes of passion did not a true love make. And yet…and yet. He felt at home here, with Spock, with the gentle caress of his mind against Jim’s.

“It’s not the worst thing,” Jim said eventually, and when Spock raised a brow, Jim laughed and rose from his chair, crossing the distance between them. He knelt between Spock’s parted knees, and using what courage he had, placed his palm against Spock’s cheek. “I’ve had a thing for you since we first met and I thought you hated my guts. And as guilty as I felt when I realized that Amanda’s son was you, there was a part of me that wanted to cherish every second in case I didn’t get to have it again.”

Spock’s eyes fluttered closed, and he nuzzled against Jim’s hand for a moment. “I am yours, ashayam. Whenever you wish it.”

“Always,” Jim said. He rose high up onto his knees and laid his other hand in the crook of Spock’s neck. “Is this okay?”

“You must clarify,” Spock murmured.

Jim smiled softly, and tried to push every bit of affection he was feeling at Spock. “I want to kiss you right now.”

“Then yes, Jim. That is quite alright.” Without waiting for Jim to make the first move, Spock pushed forward, using both hands to orient himself against Jim’s face, and then their lips met. It was startling, warm and sweet, Spock’s tongue as rough as it had been during pon farr, and wildly erotic as it brushed against Jim’s. In that moment, Jim couldn’t remember if they had kissed during pon farr, but he was happy to remember this as their first.

It went on for a slow eternity before Spock pulled back, dropping a series of soft pecks along Jim’s lips. “I do not know if I will make an ideal mate for you. My future is uncertain, and my blindness is permanent.”

Jim stroked Spock’s cheeks with his thumbs. “Everyone’s future is uncertain, Spock, and this is the only way I’ve ever known you. I’ve wanted you from that first night, and nothing is going to change that.” Jim let Spock pull him close, let their bodies curl around each other in a chair that was far too small for two grown men, but they made it work. Jim pushed a soft kiss under Spock’s ear, and spoke against his flush-green warmed skin. “You can come with me, if you like. I know you were a science officer before, and there’s plenty to study where I’m going. Or you can go back to earth, and I can make sure I get shore leave as often as they’ll let me. However it happens, we can make it work. If you want me.”

“There has been little doubt since our minds joined, Jim.” Spock turned his face, using the edge of his thumb to find Jim’s mouth before kissing him again. “As you say, we will discover the certainties of the future as they come, and I am happy to do so with you.”

Jim leaned his head against Spock’s and closed his eyes. Very little in his life had ever felt truly right, but in this moment, nothing had ever felt so close to perfect.

Chapter Text

Jim’s elbows deep in the strangest moss he’s ever seen in his life when he glances up and becomes completely and wholly distracted. That’s new, it’s a thing that never happens—ever, at all, because Jim is dedicated to his work. Then he went and had his entire life rearranged by a Vulcan.

A Vulcan who is standing not three feet away with a leash looped around his wrist, and a tri-corder spinning gently as he waves it around the plant Jim had wanted samples of. Jim watches as he digs further into the moss, his gaze lingering on the way Spock tilts his head toward the plant as though listening to a language no one else can hear. He watches the minute shift in expression when Spock attaches the recorder back to the base and then runs his fingers gently over the braille display to assess the readings.

“Jim?” Spock says, and turns his head to the place where Jim had been a few minutes before.

“I’m to your left now,” Jim says. “Crouched down near some moss.”

Spock adjusts his stance, clipping the tri-corder back onto his belt, and then he reaches down and picks up Ee-Chiya’s harness. “I believe these particular breed of air succulent will provide the information you’re searching for.”

Jim finally releases the moss. It’s cool, but nothing he needs presently. He reaches into his bag for something to clean his hands off with—ensuring he won’t contaminate anything before he walks over. “Great. Let me grab a couple, and then we can head back for lunch. I’m starving. You?”

Spock lifts an eyebrow as Jim comes closer to him. “I do not require sustenance at this time, but I will join you.”

“Sure, babe,” Jim says absently, already returning to work mode. He’s deep in his head as he carefully detaches roots from the moss-like soil, and eases the plant into the glass terrarium. He’s not sure how any of these plants are going to do when taken out of their native soils, but so far the uninhabited planet seems promising for his work.

They could settle there for a long, long time.

It makes him shiver, just thinking about it. This place, far in the deep recesses of Space, a small team of botanists with them. And Spock.

“Alright,” Jim says, when he’s got everything packed away. “Let’s head back.”

Spock doesn’t touch him for a guide when he’s got Ee-Chiya. Getting the dog onto the planet had been tricky, and in fact had been a little touch-and-go for a short while as the pup adjusted to being on an entirely alien world. But the dog had adjusted, and Spock seemed to come alive in a way Jim hadn’t seen before, now that they were together, and at work, and making a difference.

Spock is at his elbow, and Ee-Chiya halts when Jim does. He can’t help it every time they approach the shuttle which is still serving as their temporary housing arrangements. Beyond that is the little cottage that’s slowly going up. They’re building it into the land, using as many natural materials as they can so they don’t disturb any of the life growing there. It’s going to take another year or two, probably, but it’ll be worth it.

Jim huffs a small laugh, and Spock makes an inquiring noise beside him. “There is something amusing?”

Jim hums. “Homesteading,” he says.

“Clarify?” Spock asks.

“It’s a Terran history thing. Making a new life somewhere in the wild, taming a land, building a home. This reminds me of homesteading. Except without the genocide,” he adds as an afterthought.

“Ah,” Spock says. “You reference the Natives of the land that Ancient Europeans conquered.”

Jim sighs. “Yeah. I got really obsessed with ancient US History when I was a kid. I didn’t want to make that mistake here.”

“We did not,” Spock assures him, and Jim knows. They surveyed the planet nearly a dozen times to ensure they weren’t encroaching on a species they were just unaware of. All signs pointed to life existing once, and vanishing. All that remained was the ghost of some unnamed planet’s history, and non-sentient life that continued thriving even after the rest was gone.

Jim reaches out and brushes his fingers along the back of Spock’s hand, enjoying his bondmate’s shiver. “I’m suddenly feeling…a different sort of hunger.”

Spock makes another considering noise, but doesn’t indicate whether or not he’s in the mood. He simply continues forward, directing Ee-Chiya in sharp Golic into the shuttle where he unclips the harness and hangs it as the pup hurries over to the water bowl, and then to the fluffy bed to enjoy a much deserved nap.

Jim takes his plants to the lab in the back, adjusts the climate controls to accommodate the new air succulents he’s adding to the collective. He knows there’s a pile of work to be done, and he knows that he doesn’t have a lot of time, but he also has Spock. And that’s more pressing.

Jim seals the lab and then goes directly to their little cove where the bed is set up. He starts to disrobe, making a noisy production out of it, and out of the corner of his eye, he sees Spock take notice. Sees Spock tilt his head, and sees a light green flush appear on his cheeks.

“I’m going to lie down,” Jim says.

Spock huffs, and makes his way over with a careful hand extended in front of himself. Jim has been careful since living with Spock though, and there is nothing in his path to prevent his safe journey from the kitchen to the bed. Jim stretches out covering most of his space, and a little of Spock’s, and he waits.

His patience is rewarded.

Spock’s very long, very nimble finger reach for the top button of his Vulcan-thick robes. The embroidery along the seams glints in the fading sun of the view screen, and the way it piles on the floor near the bed with a soft noise makes Jim shiver all over. His skin is already heated, and it’s a stark contrast to Spock’s always-cold body as it presses down on top of his.

Spock’s hand reaches for Jim’s face, two fingers carefully tracing his jawline, around his mouth before cupping his cheek to kiss Jim in the very human way. Slowly.

Jim groans and curls one hand around Spock’s hip. “I want you.”

“You have made that very plain, ashal-veh,” Spock murmurs, tipping his mouth toward Jim’s ear and giving the round top a small tug with sharp teeth.

A moan works its way out of Jim’s chest as Spock’s hand comes up to trace Jim’s other ear. Jim has come to learn Spock loves the roundness of it—loves everything about Jim that feels alien. “What do you want?” Jim asks.

“I am amenable to your whims this afternoon, Jim.” Spock reaches for Jim’s chin, tips his head up just so, and kisses him again—this time deep, wet, and slow with pressing tongue.

Jim loses himself to it for a while, his hand scrabbling to find Spock’s to let their fingers trace each other in the Vulcan way, to meld both worlds together as they meld their minds, and their bodies. Their breathing syncs, Jim feels little pulses of Spock’s own pleasure as their skin meets and as Spock’s shields drop.

“I just want to rub off together. Then nap. Then have a nice meal before I have to get back to work,” Jim answers. Even if it’s not necessary to be so honest—Spock can read it from his skin—it’s important to him to voice it.

“Yes,” Spock says simply, then adjusts himself against Jim. He’s turned on—his sheath is swollen and it’s wet between his folds. His lok is pulsing, but it’s not coming out. When they first started this outside of pon farr, Jim worried he wasn’t pleasing enough to his mate, that his humanness made it impossible for Spock to be satisfied. Jim’s still learning that there are so many layers of pleasure and satisfaction, and that he needs to trust Spock when Spock says that Jim is everything he needs.

Jim’s hand snakes between them and he pushes through the folds, lets his fingers curl around Spock’s undescended penis. He feels the villi pulsing against his skin, getting wetter.

“Touch yourself,” Spock orders.

It’s rare when Spock gives orders like this, and Jim feels a white-hot burst of pleasure from it. He scrambles to obey, curling his now-wet fingers around his own penis. Spock’s hand follows his own, hand cupping Jim’s as it strokes up and down.

Jim loses himself to the erratic rhythm, to Spock mouthing at his neck, to the feeling of Spock above him, grinding down and leaking on Jim’s thigh. It’s enough to make him spill in just moments, and Spock brushes his hand away to feel the last vestiges of Jim’s throbbing, of the seed spilling from him.

Spock kisses him again, shuddering through his own pleasure, making the smallest noise of release in the back of his throat. Their lips part in a series of nuzzling pecks, and when Spock is on his side, Jim turns himself into Spock’s chest and curls in to the embrace.

“M’exhausted,” Jim murmurs.

“Sleep, ashaya,” Spock says. He brushes fingers through Jim’s sweaty hair.

“Need’ta clean up,” Jim says, because he knows he’ll regret it in a few hours as they try to peel apart. But it’s getting harder and harder to give a shit with the way Spock is massaging his finger tips into the back of Jim’s neck, and the way his lips rest, soft and warmer than the rest of him, right up against Jim’s forehead.

“We shall, when you are rested.”

Jim sighs. “I’m happy here. With you. Are you happy Spock?”

Jim expects Spock to say something about how happiness is illogical, about how as a Vulcan he does not strive for such things, and asks Jim to be satisfied with his contentment in their lives.

But Spock doesn’t do that. He merely holds Jim a little closer and says, “Yes, ashaya. I am.”