When Spock first got to the lounge, he didn’t see him. He stood in the front area, surveying the crowd, and trying to decide if he had the wrong place or if he’d somehow missed him.
He pulled out the handwritten slip of paper and read the words again.
My Valentine. Meet me at Louie’s at midnight. J.
He glanced at the lit up sign behind the bar Louie’s.
Spock turned, about to leave the noisy establishment, when the sound of someone singing a song drifted over the chattering crowd.
“My funny Valentine, Sweet comic Valentine, You make me smile with my heart.”
He frowned. It was badly sung, there was no doubt about that. Sort of off-key and more spoken than sung, if it came to that. But the voice…
Spock moved forward, pushing through the crowd toward the singer of the song.
As he cleared through, he saw him, sitting at the piano, playing it, and singing, or attempting as best he ever could.
Like Spock, Jim had changed out of his Starfleet uniform, and wore jeans, a flannel shirt, and a beat up bomber jacket. Just as Spock reached him, Jim continued with the song.
“Your looks are laughable, unphotographable, Yet you’re my favorite work of art.”
Jim stopped playing and singing, smiling at Spock. “You made it.”
Spock blinked. “Do you…you think my looks are laughable?”
Jim’s eyes widened. “What? No. No.”
“You did call me your Valentine.”
Jim slid out off the piano bench and said something to a nearby man who took his place at the piano. An instant improvement, really.
Spock admired his captain more than anyone, but singing was not his forte, though he clearly enjoyed doing it.
Jim cupped Spock’s elbow and led him away from the piano and further into the establishment. Spock was surprised that he found them an empty, rather private table, but it also appeared to have been reserved for them, and therefore planned by his captain.
“You are my Valentine, Spock,” Jim said after they’d been seated. “Or I hope so. After everything…”
Jim frowned. “The truth is, I’ve never felt about anyone the way I feel about you. But that song? Was just an old Earth song. There’s nothing about you I find laughable.”
He opened a bottle of wine and poured himself some, then held toward the empty glass in front of Spock.
“No, thank you.”
Jim smiled wryly. “Did I ever tell you about Carol?”
Spock took a moment to absorb the seemingly abrupt change in topic. “I do not believe so.”
“We met when I was at the Academy. It was never terribly serious. At least, I think, from her point of view. For a while I imagined myself in love. But it wasn’t. Not really. Anyway, she got pregnant.”
“You have a child?”
The smile turned wistful. “Somewhere. Carol didn’t tell me. Whatever we’d had was over. It was her friend who told me. I’m not sure Carol ever would have. I confronted her about it and she, well, she made it very clear that there was no future with me for her. Or for our child. She knew I was all about Starfleet and that wasn’t the life she wanted. Later I learned from that same friend that she had a son. David. I’ve never met or even seen him.”
“I am sorry,” Spock replied, though he wondered why Jim was sharing this with him.
“And…Ruth. I thought…well, what I thought didn’t turn out to be true. We had a great time, but that was it. There have been times I was certain I was absolutely completely in love, Spock. Edith. I really thought I was.”
Spock gripped the stem of the empty wine glass in front of him. “Were you not?”
Jim shook his head. “Not really. I’ve always fell in love fast. You’ve heard the idea of love at first sight, right?”
“Yes. An illogical notion.”
Jim chuckled and it warmed Spock. “Yeah. I’m the poster boy for that. Edith. Miramanee. Reyna. God, I don’t even know how many.”
Spock did. He knew. But he decided that information was irrelevant to whatever Jim wanted to say.
“In love in a second and gone just like that,” Jim said, musingly. He took a sip of his wine. “But…then there was you.”
“You. I fell in love with you over time, Spock. Long hours of just…admiring your brilliance, your integrity, your wit, your courage, your loyalty. It snuck up on me. You did. For a long time I didn’t even know that’s what it was. I convinced myself you were just the best friend anyone could ever have. Playing chess, having meals. Hell, we were dating, and I never even realized it.”
Spock thought about this. Were they? He shook his head.
“The point of all this rambling, and I swear there is a point, Mr. Spock, is that loving you has made me realize that none of the others were even close to what real love is. You are. I can’t get you out of my heart now even if I wanted to and I sure as hell don’t. The rest of that song says, ‘don’t change a hair for me, not if you care for me’, and there’s not a thing I’d ever want to change about you. You’re magnificent just the way you are.”
Spock opened his mouth to reply, but then Jim’s communicator blinked. He picked it up and grimaced. “So much for shore leave, Mr. Spock. Duty calls.”
Jim began to get up, but Spock stopped him with a hand on Jim’s hand. Jim looked at him quizzically.
“It is the same for me. You are my funny Valentine, too.”
His captain laughed. He touched his fingers to Spock’s. “Let’s go back to the ship.”
Spock nodded, rose, and followed his captain, as always.