Jim closed the door of his quarters and rested his forehead against the wall, exhaling deeply. Turning around, he was unsurprised to see Spock sitting stiffly on his bed, already changed out of his formal clothes and into a casual Vulcan robe that looked incredibly attractive on him. Jim stripped off the outermost layer of his dress uniform, threw it forcefully into a corner, then dove onto the bed, tackling Spock into a hug and pushing him into a lying position.
"I thought that meeting would never end," he sighed, cuddling into Spock's neck.
"My people can be difficult to deal with," Spock agreed, wrapping one arm around Jim.
"Diplomacy, sitting still for hours, those damn uniforms, being separated from you all day." Jim recognised the slight movement of Spock's eyebrows as indicating affectionate amusement, and stopped to plant a quick kiss on his cheek. "I'm convinced that whole event was designed specifically to torture me."
"That seems unlikely, Jim."
Jim smiled. "It was a joke, Spock."
"Of course. Then, would you update me on the events of the evening?" Spock asked, reaching his hand towards Jim's face.
It had become common for them to share their days with each other through a mind meld. Jim enjoyed the privilege of being connected with his boyfriend's thoughts, with his very being, and the comfort it provided. Spock insisted that it was simply the most efficient, and therefore logical, way to update each other on what had happened while they were apart, but Jim knew he found pleasure in connecting in such an intimate way too. But this time, Jim pulled away before Spock's mind could make contact with his.
"Talking of mind melds, Mr Spock," he said in a mock-stern voice.
"Captain?" Spock asked, confused.
"Would you care to explain to me why the waiter I made small talk with seemed so shocked when I mentioned our melds? She almost dropped the tray she was carrying."
Spock's eyebrows raised so high that Jim was almost surprised they stayed attached to his forehead.
"Jim," Spock said carefully, "what did you tell her?"
"I just mentioned how we use them to recap our days. It's not a big deal, right? I've been careful not to mention our relationship, but we started doing that before we ever got together. At least, I didn't think it was a big deal."
Spock gently extracted himself from underneath Jim, then sat up and turned to face him. He breathed, slowly, once in and once out, steadying his emotions.
"Jim," he said in a serious tone.
"Spock?" Jim said, sitting up too. "Did I do something wrong?"
"No, the error was my own. I… I have failed to explain the culture around mind melds. In particular, how intimately my species view them."
"How so?" Jim asked, worried. He reached out and squeezed Spock's hand. "Ashayam, what's wrong? If I've made you uncomfortable, you can tell me."
Spock shook his head, a precise movement that was so cute Jim was momentarily distracted. "That was not my meaning. I allowed the situation to continue because I found it desirable. I let my emotions get the better of me, and of what is proper for my culture." He paused. "Casual mind melds of the type that has become customary for us are almost unheard of outside of marriage bonds. It is considered improper to bare one's soul so casually to someone to whom you are not bonded. I apologise for not informing you of this fact."
"Ah. That would explain why the waiter tried to convince me to take a free drink as a congratulations on our bonding. She looked scandalized when I told her we weren't married. What should I have done? She avoided me for the rest of the evening."
"I do not know what response would have been acceptable. My parents were not in attendance, were they?"
Jim laughed. "No. Your secret's safe."
There was an uncomfortable silence.
"Jim, if you would prefer our -" Spock paused, uncomfortable. "Our liaisons to stop, I understand."
"Is that what you want, Spock?" Jim asked softly.
Spock paused. "I would not be averse to them continuing," he answered carefully.
Jim reached out to Spock's hand, lifted it to his mouth, and gently kissed Spock's index and middle fingers.
"You wanted so badly to be close to me that you disobeyed the rules of your culture?"
Spock tilted his head slightly. "That is not how I would have phrased it."
"I'll take that as a yes. Mr Spock, you're a hopeless romantic. While I'd have preferred it if you told me, I'm not Vulcan. I respect your culture because it's important to you, but I don't live by its boundaries. I would be honored for our liaisons, as you put it, to continue."
Spock inclined his head, his face changing minutely into an expression Jim had learned to recognize as relief.
They sat there quietly for a while, content to be in each other's presence. Jim was the one who broke the silence.
"Spock, have you ever thought about it, when this is over? Marriage, I mean."
Spock didn't answer immediately. He seemed flustered, and Jim thought he saw a flicker of a blush across Spock's cheeks that quickly vanished as Spock worked to control his emotional response.
"I have. The possibility would be... desirable to me."
"Then, if mind melds are something married couples do," Jim said, grinning teasingly, "it seems only logical that we should practice now."
"Indeed it does, t'hy'la."
Spock reached out and placed his hand in the familiar points on Jim's face, and then he was there, in Jim's mind, their thoughts and their love merging together. The word Spock had used - t'hy'la - sat near the surface of his mind, and as they grew more deeply entwined Jim grasped the true meaning. This joining, for the rest of their lives. Exactly as they both wanted.