“You don’t have to say it, Spock,” was the constant refrain. Less so now, for Spock’s attempts were fewer and further between. Spock had thought it a worthwhile exercise to reciprocate Christopher’s verbal expression of emotional regard, in light of his sister’s advice and in an attempt to accept his human heritage. Spock never quite understood Christopher’s desire not to hear the words, especially when Christopher said them himself with some frequency. There had been occasions on which he had almost asked. He had once contemplated an array of possible explanations. Now, though, he hardly speculated anymore. The wavefunction had not collapsed into a single eigenstate so much as Spock had simply grown content with the uncertainty.
On the first occasion, the Enterprise was in spacedock for repairs. Christopher invited Spock to join him on an empty bridge at 0300 hours for what turned out to be an illicit and thrilling encounter after which neither of them would look at the captain’s chair the same way again. The sexual aspect of their relationship was only weeks old, power dynamics still being explored, and Christopher had yielded beautifully under Spock’s attention and returned the attention in kind. “God, I think I love you,” Christopher murmured into Spock’s neck as they held each other, catching their breath. Spock paused a moment. “I-”
“You don’t have to say it,” Christopher had said, but it sounded more like a plea than a reassurance. Spock had wished to ask whether the captain did not want to hear it, or if it was a misguided attempt to protect Spock’s own feelings, but he had decided it could wait. Perhaps the captain did not know himself.
In the first year, Spock attempted to verbalize his feelings, typically in Vulcan but sometimes in Federation Standard, every other month, on average.
The frequency dwindled to twice in the entirety of the third year.
In approximately half of cases, Spock wished to tell Christopher he loved him (wished to hear Christopher say the same) following sexual congress. Approximately half of those occasions immediately preceded one or the other of them leaving on a dangerous away mission. In another approximate half of cases, he wished to say it while expressing concern when Christopher was ill or injured. These were not mutually exclusive conditions. On two occasions, Spock had attempted to say it when he was ill and Christopher insisted on caring for him.
By the seventh year, Spock did not attempt to tell Christopher at all. He demonstrated his regard every chance he got, with his actions, and when they touched, directing his feelings to Christopher’s mind, especially when Christopher expressed his own feelings verbally. However, Spock’s desire to use words had dwindled to naught.
“God, Spock, I--talk to me.”
Spock heard the captain’s words distantly, but could not make sense of them. He could only focus on the distant hum of the warp engines and the steady chirping sounds from the bridge that could be heard from the ready room.
Spock’s mental discipline was failing him. His inability to make sense of the news and formulate a response indicated to him that he had not meditated adequately in recent days. “I apologize, Captain, but may I be dismissed? I believe I am not equipped to have this conversation at present.”
Christopher let out a breath he’d been holding and looked contrite. “Of course. Take the time you need. We’ll talk later.”
Spock exited the ready room and returned to his quarters some indeterminate time later in a daze. He eyed his meditation mat, but walked right past it to his bed, where he sat and gazed across the room at his chimes and his lute. Christopher's words repeated themselves in his mind, and he began to parse them. The captain, it seemed, was discarding their relationship. The captain who had spent countless nights in this very bed. The captain who never allowed Spock to verbally express how he felt. Spock’s stomach twisted as his thoughts led him to Christopher's knowledge of his eventual future. He rose from the bed and settled down on his meditation mat. He lit his candle, closed his eyes, and began breathing in the way he had learned as a child. Cleared his mind of the knowledge that Christopher was leaving him. But it held only for so long. Every so often, the nagging thought crept back in.
Typically, Spock could perceive how long he had been in a meditative state, but this time, he did not know until he rose and looked at the chronometer. It had been twenty three minutes. Perhaps meditation was not going to help with this matter. He decided that he may be better off attempting sleep.
The following day, Spock reported for duty, only passably functioning. He did not think about the news until the end of alpha shift, when he stopped by the captain’s ready room.
“I took the promotion because I’d rather you not be serving with me when my--when I--Spock, I worry about what would happen after my accident,” Christopher said, eyes downcast.
“You fear I would leave you, so you do not wish to give me the chance. Is that it?” Perhaps Spock had been wrong to trust Christopher to give him more credit than this.
“I wouldn’t want you to feel trapped, I--”
“This is why you have never let me tell you--”
Spock watched his captain’s face go from pleading to defensive. Christopher raised his voice to Spock for the first time in Spock’s memory. “You’ve seen what the time crystal showed me! Do you really think you could love that? What could you possibly want with me after I’ve lost my body, my agency, my looks--everything you like about me? That’s not love, Spock, that’s obligation.”
“Christopher, listen to your own words. You would never devalue someone else’s life in this way--why would you do it to yourself?”
Christopher sat, eyes wide, taken aback, as Spock continued.
“I do not appreciate you making decisions for me about what I should and should not desire simply because you are insecure about retaining my affection. Take the promotion because you are a capable commander, or because you are a coward, but do not pretend you are doing it for my sake. I understand now why you never allowed me to verbalize my feelings for you. I see now that such an expression would have made it more difficult to convince yourself that I would want to lose all of you rather than endure a change I have known is coming for nearly as long as you have.” Spock turned to the side and began pacing.
“We’ll be at Starbase 25 in a week, you’ll be leaving me there and picking up your new captain. You’ll like him, I think,” Christopher said. “He might be your type.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” It was as if Christopher meant to redirect Spock’s affections.
“It means--forget me, Spock. Please.”
“I will not.”
The day of Christopher's departure, the crew of the Enterprise was having a party in the observation lounge of Starbase 25 to see Pike off and welcome their new captain, a charming blond man around Spock’s age named James T. Kirk.
Both captains gave speeches, and Kirk seemed competent and charismatic. Spock could not bring himself to care. He did not want this new captain, with his dashing good looks and rakish smile and easy charm. He did his best not to let the emotions affect him, prepared himself not to allow his job performance to be inhibited by his distaste, but at the same time he almost wished for his performance to suffer and to be transferred off the Enterprise. Perhaps if he were demoted, and assigned an earthside posting, he could forget what he had lost. Or perhaps his proximity to Christopher would be detrimental to forgetting.
As the party died down, groups of younger personnel forming to head off to after-parties and the more senior and more sensible crew members turning in, Spock lingered, watching. He wished to see Christopher off, despite himself. If what Christopher desired was for Spock to forget him, to turn into himself and make himself scarce as Christopher took the coward’s departure, then Spock’s desire was to ensure Christopher had to confront his choice. Perhaps it was not logical, when he no longer wished to change Christopher's mind, but some part of him believed he would be holding Christopher accountable.
Christopher was lingering in the observation lounge, charming the remaining crew members to the very last with sincerity and paternal good feeling. Spock waited for him to depart, and then followed.
“Captain, may I speak with you?”
“I’m not your captain anymore, Spock; Kirk is,” was the curt reply.
“Nevertheless. I wished to see you off.”
Christopher's eyes betrayed the feelings of fondness and devotion that he still held for Spock. “Yes, of course.”
They walked in silence for a few moments toward Christopher's point of departure. As they approached the shuttle bay, Christopher spoke.
“I see how much I’ve hurt you and I’m sorry.”
Spock glanced sidelong to meet Christopher's gaze. “I commend your powers of observation.”
“I wish I’d trusted you.”
Spock did not know what to make of this information, as he did not see what difference it could make now. “I do not know what I wish anymore, but wishing will not change what is past.”
Christopher paused in the empty corridor and turned to Spock, reached out as if to move in for a kiss. “Can I--?”
“It seems appropriate.”
Spock was pushed up against the bulkhead and kissed with bitter resignation. “I’ll miss you,” Christopher panted, drawing back for breath but now stroking Spock’s first two fingers with his own, broadcasting feelings of devotion and sorrow and regret through the touch.
“I would have remained yours, if you had desired to keep me.”
“I never stopped wanting you, Spock. And I don’t expect to.” His eyes pleaded. “I lo--”
“You do not need to tell me that, Christopher. Goodbye.”
Spock was certain that he no longer desired to continue a romantic relationship. So he could not understand or explain the feeling in his chest that accompanied the pull at his mind as his former captain entered the shuttle bay, shoulders squared, not looking back.