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“I wish you hadn’t followed me out here,” Jim said, his words betrayed by an apologetic smile as the heavy barrage of snow continued to transform the world around them into an opaque haze.

The weather report from that morning had indicated the silver clouds looming above were intent on staying for the entire duration of their trip; at the time, Jim hadn’t paid too much mind to that information, but that was when he was indoors and lying in bed under a bulky feather blanket.

Now, he was beginning to have a little change of heart. Being directly confronted with the bitter chill in the air that nipped and bit through the multiple layers he had donned before opening the front door was convincing enough on its own. However, the turning point was when, before Jim had even ventured beyond the cover of the small porch roof, the wind had caught him and a shiver wracked his frame.

That was when he began regretting his decision to collect wood for lighting the fireplace during a blizzard… but it was having Spock on his heels that made him wish he’d just entirely discarded the whole idea.

After all, Jim realized that if he, himself, felt cold, it was unimaginable how discomforted Spock was with his sensitive Vulcan skin and lack of heavy winter outdoor attire—which was exactly why Jim had wanted him to remain inside. However, his request apparently fell upon deaf pointed ears that were already beginning to show a faint dusting of green blush.

“I will follow where you go,” Spock replied matter-of-factly, his breath visible before his thin lips. Asserting his decision, he stood tall and unwavering before breaking eye contact with Jim and craning his neck to the side. Peering up beyond the roof, he observed the onslaught of large snowflakes falling and adding to the heavy blanket of pristine white already covering the ground.

It was only yesterday when Jim and Spock had arrived in Iowa, traveling by super express train from San Francisco, and coincidentally just in time to experience the harshest winter weather that would batter the region—Finagle’s Law, as George Kirk had put it.

The fields and trees surrounding the farm that were once a deep, lush green had been claimed by winter’s throes, and renewed by a masking of white for as far as the eye could see. Despite the frigid conditions that would surely have both of their teeth chattering in no time, the storm brought with it a unique silence and tranquility that could be observed at no other time of the year.

“It’s beautiful, right?” Jim asked suddenly, shaking Spock from several moments of quiet contemplation. By the time Spock turned his attention back to him, Jim had removed the gloves he slipped on just a minute ago and tucked them beneath his arm. He quickly reached out for Spock’s wrists, his digits slipping over the icy skin before clutching both Vulcan hands gingerly in his own.

Gently drawing them up to his face, Jim pursed his lips to kiss the back of each carefully, as if that action could measure how Spock was reacting to the temperature. Lifting his gaze before his mouth slowly broke away from the boney knuckles it had just revered, he gave a soft tug on the hands he held when their eyes met.

“…And also too cold out here for you,” Jim continued, his voice tender, even as another gust of icy wind swept by them. Stepping up to close the small space between them for warmth, he lowered his face once more and blew a hot breath over Spock’s hands. Rubbing them lovingly between his own, Jim attempted again, “You’ll be more comfortable inside where it’s warm. I can handle this.”

Reveling in the feeling of Jim’s touch that transmitted waves of affection into his palms and fingertips, Spock remained carefully stoic, unwilling to fall for the intentional charming of his senses. “If my comfort is your concern, Jim, then you should be pleased to know that your presence provides it to me in significant quantities.”

A laugh huffed its way out of Jim’s lips then and he tightened his grasp on Spock’s hands, the inner ends of his eyebrows raising just slightly as he lifted his chin. “You’re very stubborn, you know that?”

“I was not aware,” Spock replied, with the lifting of one brow and slowly shaking his head, which indicated he most certainly was.

“All right, all right. If you insist, Mister Spock. However…” Jim released his hands, slipping his digits over the cold olive skin until they broke contact at Spock’s fingertips. He then pulled one of the gloves that was held securely between his arm and chest, and began wrestling it over Spock’s right hand. “You need to wear these. Deal?”

“It appears I have no choice but to concede to this agreement,” Spock responded, as Jim began putting the second one on him.

“And this,” Jim continued, unraveling the bulky scarf from around his own neck. Holding both ends, he tossed it up into the air and over Spock’s head, letting it settle over the back of his neck. He made quick work of deftly tying the ends that hung over his shoulders, and made the necessary adjustments to ensure no chill would get in from the top of Spock’s long overcoat. “And of course…”

“Jim, it is—” Spock began to protest, but he was too late. Jim was already pulling off the dark knitted hat that covered his gray hair. “—unnecessary. We will not be—” The hat was lifted and pulled over his head. “—outside for long.”

“Oh hush,” Jim retorted, fussing to make sure the tips of both pointed ears were tucked into the protection of the soft, stretchy material. “You’re already not dressed warm enough as it is. In case you haven’t noticed…” His eyes shifted to the side to indicate the heavy snowfall before returning to Spock’s gaze. “…that’s some deep snow there and with no waterproof clothes on, you’re going to be pretty damn cold by the time we come back, even if we’re quick.”

After a brief pause, Jim tried one final time. “Sure you’re not interested in waiting inside for me?”

Completely ignoring that last suggestion, Spock cocked his head to the side and both brows elevated. “It would be prudent to begin our task, Jim, considering that it will only grow colder the longer that we remain out here.”

With his lips upturned into a soft smile as he regarded Spock dressed in his hat and scarf, Jim briefly took his arm and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Let’s make this fast then.”

After pulling the zipper of his own coat all the way up to his chin, Jim turned toward the solar panel walkway—a lightly colored path that had been conveniently cleared of snow automatically by heat generated from energy that was stored from earlier months. Just as he was about to leave the cover of the small roof, he was stopped short by Spock’s voice.

“Will you be warm enough?” The inquiry was presented in a typical Spock-like manner, with a tone lacking emotion; however, the question in itself spoke volumes about his concern, even if the sound of his voice didn’t. “Your coat is the only attire you have not added to my person.”

Looking at Spock over his shoulder, Jim offered a wink and simply replied, “I think I can manage,” before he pulled his hood over his gray locks and began the trek out into the storm before them.

As they began moving down the cleared path, Jim took in a quick view of his parents’ home. The walkway they were traversing spanned a short distance, leading from the guesthouse out back that they were staying in, right up to the patio and closed-in porch of the main residence.

It had been the first time in too many years since Jim had experienced the luxury of spending the holidays in the place which held all of his childhood memories. And as he indulged in the sight of the house before him with all of its surroundings covered in white, he could just see his five year old self chasing after Sam with a crudely shaped snowball packed into each of his mitten-covered palms.

A smile pulled at the corners of Jim’s lips before he turned and lifted one foot to leave the walkway and begin the expedition across the yard through knee-deep snow.

Turning back, Jim extended his hand and took one of Spock’s to keep him balanced as he stepped off the cleared path. With his fingers tightening in a squeeze, he asked, “You’re all right?”

When Jim received a single nod in response, he began to trudge as quickly as possible in the direction of the wood pile resting in the far corner, fully aware that Spock’s legs were going to be ice cold in no time at all.

Jim never let go of his hand on the way.

~

“I don’t really want to tell you I told you so,” Jim said jovially over the background sound of water gushing from a faucet as he began untying the scarf around Spock’s neck.

With a slightly quivering jaw that was numb from nearly freezing, Spock began, “Jim, do not—”

Jim’s eyebrows raised and he cocked his head to side, keeping his attention affixed to the matter at hand. “But I told you so!” he interjected lightly, pulling the scarf free and letting it drop to the tiled bathroom floor upon which they stood.

They hadn’t been outside for too long—by human standards, at least; Jim had made quick work of chopping wood that would light the antique fireplaces in both their place and his parents’. It hadn’t taken more than twenty minutes to complete the task and transport the spoils of his efforts to both houses.

However, as Jim had predicted from the very beginning, the combination of fighting their way back and forth through deep snow, lack of waterproof clothing, and absence of heavy boots had only worsened Spock’s natural intolerance to the frigid conditions.

Seeing his ever-logical Vulcan husband standing as straight and motionless as possible had been the first indication that confirmed Jim’s foresight: Spock was feeling cold—and doing everything to conceal it. Jim was well aware that Spock would never have admitted to that fact, and was putting forth every effort to not give the truth away; it clearly had required a great deal of concentration to stop himself from visibly shivering, because their bond was as eerily silent as the white landscape surrounding them.

With that in mind, Jim had worked as fast as he could while the snow continued to heavily fall around them, promising himself that—even though he was against Spock needlessly accompanying him in the first place—he would make it up to him. After all, there was no denying that they both knew it was entirely unnecessary for Spock to be out there, but he had chosen to brave the cold in the event that Jim “needed his assistance.”

That was the excuse, at least. Jim recognized immediately that the reality of the situation was that Spock simply desired to stay within close proximity to him. They’d both been working too much and too late into the evenings during the last few weeks. And despite that they’d never fallen asleep without being comfortably entwined in their bed together, other instances for alone time had been scarce.

This vacation had finally presented them with the opportunity to enjoy a constant supply of the company each desired from the other. And now, as they stood together in the large first floor bathroom with Jim undressing Spock’s slightly shivering body, he was going to ensure they got what they came for.

The room was open and serene—decorated in old Terran style with lightly-colored textured tiles lining the floor and a soft, creamy gold paint coating the walls. Long-outdated features like a stand-alone bathtub with curved feet and glossy sink had been included when Winona and George had the guesthouse built nearly a decade ago; though such functional adornments were rare to find in the modern age of the sonic shower, they both felt the importance of paying homage to the kind of home that had been in the family for centuries.

And though the main house had been rebuilt and modernized many times over as the years passed and technology changed, the Kirk family was nothing but incredibly nostalgic when it came to retaining the design that told the story of their ancestors: Hard-working. Dedicated. Passionate. Romantic.

There was one other unique attribute of the bathroom: the large bay window by the bathtub that offered a beautiful panoramic view of the enormous back yard. The glass was divided by thin white panes and allowed natural light to stream through, but the tinted treatment on the outside offered the necessary privacy which prevented anyone from seeing in.

Jim had made quick work of helping Spock out of his coat and shirt, ignoring his protests of being able to do it himself. But when Jim kneeled before him and began prying off the trousers from Spock’s long legs, he felt just how wet they were from the knee down—and not to mention how cold the skin beneath was.

After pulling off Spock’s damp socks and discarding them on the pile of clothing in the corner, Jim carefully rose to his feet, making sure to go easy on his back while standing, and then pulled his husband’s cold body against his own.

Wrapping him up in his warm arms, Jim’s lips fell on his shoulder and he planted a soft kiss there, gently rocking Spock’s frame in very slight back and forth motions.

“You’re so cold,” he whispered into a pointed ear that was stained a deep green to match the rest of Spock’s icy skin. Jim tightened his hold around him. “This is exactly what I wanted to avoid happening.”

“It is of little consequence,” Spock replied, but Jim felt him practically melt into the heat his human body provided.

“Sure, sure. Whatever you say, Mister Spock.”

“I assure you that I will recover my natural temperature without the assistance of…” Spock trailed off, casting his gaze to the side.

“Speaking of that,” Jim interrupted, pulling back to catch a glimpse of Spock’s face and then turning his head in the direction of the bathtub being filled with hot water. “It’s almost ready.”

“It is quite wasteful,” Spock insisted as Jim disentangled himself from their embrace and took his wrist for a brief moment to get him to follow.

“Lucky for you it’s not something we have back at home then,” Jim casually replied, leaning over and turning off the faucet. He submerged his hand up to the knuckles in the steamy water and swished it back and forth before pulling it out. “Shit! That’s hot!”

Looking over his shoulder at Spock standing close by in nothing other than his briefs, Jim’s lips twitched into a mischievous grin. “You’ll be thanking me for sure. It’ll warm that Vulcan self of yours right up.”

Righting himself as he heard an unamused hum in response, Jim held his hand out through the short distance separating them. “Here. Get yourself in.”

Spock took the waiting hand and stepped up beside Jim. With his own that was free, he pulled the elastic band of his briefs away from his hip and shrugged them down and off. Lifting a leg, he effortlessly put one cold foot in the water and then the next.

Jim followed from outside the bathtub as Spock slowly sank down, and couldn’t hold back a small laugh when he saw a tiny sigh escape his lips.

“Good, right?” Jim asked, putting a hand into the water and giving a tiny splash with his fingers.

Spock already appeared more comfortable, immersed in the balmy heat radiating up into the air. Now that the chill which assaulted every inch of his flesh had been chased away in mere seconds, he admitted, “It is pleasurable.” Looking around him, he then moved his bent knees oppositely from side to side before adding, “Although, still wasteful.”

“Then allow me to help you get as much out of it as possible,” Jim declared, taking hold of the curved edge and pulling himself to stand up. He began stripping off his clothes and within seconds, he was naked.

“Slide down a little,” he instructed and Spock immediately obliged, making room for him to slip in behind him.

Jim’s foot only touched the water when his face contorted and brow furrowed. “Just… as hot as I wanted it,” he sarcastically said through gritted teeth as the sole of his foot touched the bottom of the bathtub. He carefully pulled his other leg over the side and slowly lowered himself, until he was well submerged in the heat.

With a groan, Jim finally leaned back into the curved ceramic end of the tub and reached forward to Spock, pulling him right against his chest. He wrapped one arm over Spock’s midsection and the other across his shoulders in a tight embrace. After running his lips along the edge of one ear, he pressed his cheek into it and quietly asked, “Better?”

“Substantially,” Spock replied, latching a hand onto the wrist of Jim’s arm about his shoulders.

A contented sigh pushed its way out of Jim’s lungs and he laid a soft kiss into the wiry hair of Spock’s sideburn. “Finally… An entire week to do nothing but this.”

Spock deeply hummed once in reply, shifting to rest his head back on the comfort of Jim’s shoulder and then turned his face inward so that his forehead touched the strong human jaw.

Jim’s lashes fell, his eyes closing to revel in the moment—the steaming heat rising into the air, the spicy scent of Spock filling his senses, the fact that Spock was actually taking a bath with him for the first time ever… He had imagined this situation so many times throughout the decades they spent together, and now that it had become a reality, it was as perfect as Jim always thought it would be.

“I can’t tell you how glad I am,” he spoke suddenly, his arms unraveling and taking hold of Spock’s biceps beneath the water. Jim massaged the muscles with gentle squeezes as his eyes opened and mouth curved into a soft smile. “It’s great that we can spend the holidays with my parents and all. It’s been too long.” His hands squeezed one final time before remaining still. “…But it’s not really the primary reason why I wanted to come here.”

“Jim?” Spock raised his chin slightly.

Jim looked down, seeing the confusion written on his husband’s features and then his smile warmed even further. “No…” he said quietly with a soft shake of his head. “I just wanted to spend a lot of one-on-one time with you—no interruptions. And what better place to do that than in the middle of nowhere in Iowa?”

“If that was indeed what you wished, we could have done the same in San Francisco.”

One of Jim’s eyebrows lifted and his mouth pulled to the side in a slant. “Really? Since when? If we stayed home, it would’ve been like every other year. You’d work, I’d work—despite the vacation time, might I add. And, we’d have to go to all of the damn holiday parties out of obligation that everyone invited us to. I don’t see much alone time in that, Mister Spock.”

“You should have informed me that was what you desired,” Spock softly replied. Though his tone was as flat as it always was, Jim could feel the deeper meaning of his words radiating through their bond. “I would have satisfied your request most willingly.”

“Is that right?”

“Quite.”

Jim’s shoulder slid backwards enough so that Spock’s head was supported by the top of his arm instead, granting him better ability to move. His other hand lifted through the water and cupped the narrow Vulcan chin, gently coaxing it upwards. Leaning in slowly, Jim pressed his lips on Spock’s in a kiss that could be rivaled by no other in tenderness.

When their lips parted, he smiled and softly said, “Well, we can’t take a bath at home, and that more than justifies the trip, if you ask me.”

“I did not ask you,” Spock replied, with one eyebrow creeping up.

A breath pushed its way out of Jim’s nose in amusement before he shifted so that Spock’s head was back against his shoulder and his arms were tightly around his torso. “Now listen here, you sassy Vulcan… Here’s what I want you to do.” Jim lifted his head and turned it to the large window next to them. “I want you to look out there, take in that beautiful view, and just relax with me. Think you can do that?”

Spock turned his face towards the glass. “I shall endeavor to comply.”

Jim’s lips fell into Spock’s black hair and he pursed them in another kiss before he leaned back again. Together, they watched the snow continue to fall outside until the water went from comfortably balmy to barely lukewarm.

~

The new backless slippers Jim had recently acquired felt utterly exquisite—enough to make ambling across polished hardwood floors like walking on clouds. Lined with the softest sheep wool he’d ever felt, the slippers were also extremely warm, and though Jim loved them, he believed they would serve a pair of Vulcan feet much better than his own. He made a mental note to slip them on Spock later.

A hot cup was in each of his hands as he arrived in the large living room that had been brought to life by the crackling of burning wood in the fireplace; the real thing was much more different and exciting than the synthetic one they had at home. A soft smile pulled at Jim’s lips when he found Spock staring into it with interest from his place on the plush sectional couch.

Spock always appeared so welcomingly unusual when Jim convinced him into Terran clothing. Outside of Starfleet uniforms and Vulcan tunics and robes, he rarely donned any other type of attire. However, when he did, it was always striking and incredibly appealing—even if it was one of Jim’s own plaid flannel shirts as he was wearing now.

The shirt itself was too large on his skinny frame, and yet Spock looked perfect in it. Jim had slipped it over his skintight undershirt when they were redressing earlier, and much to his delight, received no protest.

“I take it you think our little escapade outside was worth the trouble?” Jim asked, effectively pulling Spock’s attention to him, as he approached. “Here. Tea,” he added, handing over one cup.

Spock’s eyebrows raised in reply before he reached up and received it. “I did not say anything of that nature.”

Aware he was under complete scrutiny, Jim dropped his posterior right next to Spock’s. His legs kicked up in reflex as a contented groan was elicited from falling into the comfort of the voluptuous cushions. Once settled, Jim’s hands lowered to rest his own cup against his thigh, and turned his face to his husband’s.

“You didn’t complain because you never do. But trouble is certainly what was caused. Your ears were so cold that I thought they’d break off.” Spock’s lips parted but Jim beat him to it. “—I know, I know. Illogical, right?”

“That is true,” Spock replied and then gave a little shake of his head. “But it was not what I intended to say.”

The smile Jim had worn vanished for a split second as he studied his husband’s face, and then it instantly returned. He huffed a small laugh. “Well?”

“I was quite gratified to experience such wintry conditions.” As Jim’s expression distorted into a look of perplexed disbelief, Spock looked off slightly to the side past Jim as both arched brows lifted. “It was no more uncomfortable than I had predicted, and the benefit was certainly worth the cost.”

“The benefit—” Jim began to question, before his eyes widened in realization. His mouth opened just slightly before the corners of his lips barely pulled upward. “You sneaky thing!”

Spock’s attention snapped back to him, and looking insufferably pleased with himself, he lifted his chin.

“Did you actually go outside to freeze so I could warm you up?!”

“That was not my original intention,” Spock replied with a glint in his eye. “However, it was the result that occurred and I was rather satisfied with it.”

“Well!” Jim heaved, leaning forward to place his cup on the glass coffee table before them, and then got to his feet. “If you wanted to cuddle, you could’ve just said so from the beginning!”

“Jim,” Spock began seriously, his stare following him taking off across the floor at a brisk pace. “As I just informed you, that was not my…” He trailed off, watching Jim silently exiting the living room. “…intention.”

Spock stared at the open archway his bondmate had just disappeared through for several moments of contemplation, and then looked down into his cup; the scent of his favorite blend of Vulcan tea called to his senses, but he was too befuddled to drink. Reaching to the coffee table, he set it down and was just about to get to his feet when Jim returned with something bundled in his arms.

“As you wished!” he announced, dropping the large comforter he was carrying on the couch. Grabbing one edge, Jim shook it out—unravelling it from the neat rectangle it had been folded into—and then draped an end over Spock’s shoulders. He sat back down, put the other over his own, and then slid in closer.

Jim gathered both sides and pulled them together, perfectly enveloping the two of them within the protection of the blanket and then smiled at Spock. “Something wrong?”

Spock merely shook his head. “You have been my bondmate for twenty-two years, seven months, and three days. And yet, there are times when I am still unable to accurately predict what you will do next.”

A laugh fell from Jim. “I’m glad to hear that. Keeps me…” His gaze drifted off and he cocked his head to the side. “Fascinating. An enigma.” Their eyes met again. “Never boring for an inquisitive Vulcan husband.”

Never boring, Jim,” Spock stressed.

A satisfied grin graced Jim’s features and he took Spock’s hand between his own beneath the recesses of the cover. Stroking it gently, his attention wandered off to the pieces of wood crackling and burning across the room. After a short pause, he began speaking distantly as he continued to watch the flames undulate.

“So. Tomorrow, as you know, my parents are making a huge dinner for the holiday. But other than that, we’ll be able to spend lots of time alone... just like this.” He looked at Spock again, entwining their fingers together. “How does that sound?”

“Most amenable,” Spock immediately replied. “And, I shall endeavor to feel cold many times over the course of this week.”

Jim softly laughed, immediately pulling his hand free. Instead, he snaked it around the thin Vulcan waist and quickly pulled Spock down and across his lap so that he was half-cradled in his arms with his head supported by the crook of Jim’s elbow.

“Mister Spock,” Jim quietly declared, his tone airy and light as he peered down at his husband still comfortably wrapped up in the blanket. “I have a better idea. I’ll just keep my arms around you from now on so you’ll never feel cold again.”

Spock looked up from where Jim held him, studying his bondmate for several moments before the corners of his mouth twitched faintly.

Jim returned the sentiment, and slowly leaned down until his lips softly touched Spock’s. And though the kiss was gentle, it brought with it an overwhelming tidal wave of affection that crashed into Spock’s side of the bond, flooding him with feelings of adoration and desire—of being treasured and accepted and loved beyond his ability to describe.

The snow that continued to fall and deepen its blanket over the world outside went absolutely unnoticed by them both—and unfelt by Spock, because Jim did just as he said he would: kept him warm.

And Spock had never felt more loved.