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Rings This True

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It’s a record: after only twenty-five minutes of intense and single-minded staring, he has managed to get a reaction out of Spock. Sure, that reaction is no more than a thin arching up of his eyebrow as he spears a tomato onto the end of his fork, but it’s something. Yet if Jim’s being honest with himself, he’ll admit that he’s not been ignoring his own lunch—not to mention all of the extensive chatter and movement of a high school cafeteria that surrounds them—for almost a full half hour, just to get a rise out of the strange Vulcan boy. He also just really loves watching Spock. He loves the way his jaw moves when he chews; the way his eyes are always flicking around the room in curiosity; the way he takes small bites yet still eats so quickly, so efficiently. Upon reflection, Jim realizes that he’s never felt for anyone what he feels right now for Spock. The feeling practically bubbles in him, makes him want to giggle just like that pack of girls in his Terran Literature class who sit painting their nails in the back of the room all through the lecture. (He’d offered to do their homework once, in exchange for a kiss, and a second time for the more carefully defined “kiss with tongue.” They’d laughed but agreed. It hadn’t been terribly satisfying.)

“You are not hungry?” Spock asks him, eyebrow still raised.

Jim shrugs. “Not very. Got better things to do.”

“You are aware that one can stare and eat at the same time.”

Jim laughs a little, shortly, in answer, his usual acknowledgement of Spock’s flashes of humor. Then, into the almost-too-long pause that follows, he pushes his plate away, leans in across the table, and asks, “Are we ever going to talk about it?”

Spock stares back with his completely calm, completely unreadable face. Then he picks up his fork deliberately and returns his attention to his salad. “I do not know to which ‘it’ you are referring,” he says. “You should be careful to use proper antecedents.”

Jim smirks, and slips back onto his own side of the table. Spock is more easily rattled than he seems, and Jim knows it, but he’s too polite to call him on it. He plays along instead. He pokes around at his own food and pretends to let the subject drop, and that silence that often falls over him and Spock, a comfortable and easy silence that asks nothing of either of them, settles over them again.

“I was just talking,” Jim says later, just before the bell rings and all of their classmates stand up in a great rush of noise and hurry around them, “about that time we kissed.”

Spock doesn’t have time to answer, but for six awesome seconds Jim has the distinct pleasure of watching Spock stare a dull, surprised, open mouth stare, unable to speak. Then Jim snaps him out of it with a sharp slap to his shoulder. “Come on, Spock,” he says, over the last half-second of echo as the school bell fades out. “Time for class.”

*

Spock is waiting for him at his locker when he gets out of Algebra ten minutes late, as always. “I am going to be a math genius by the time I graduate,” he says, with a long sigh, as he keys in the code for his locker. Spock doesn’t say anything in response. He just stands there, leaning against the next locker over, his gaze focused straight ahead at the overly bright, overly excited poster celebrating Species Diversity. Jim’s used to this silence. Spock’s in his own head a lot, and he gets that. Jim gets lost in his thoughts sometimes, too. It was one of those things that got him strange looks even before he befriended Spock their freshman year.

“You wished to have a discussion?” Spock asks finally, after Jim has gathered all of his things and they are walking down the now-deserted hallway to the exit. He is holding himself with even more stiffness and formality than usual. Jim shrugs and tries to make it seem like nothing.

“Well I don’t know if ‘discussion’ is really the right word,” he answers lightly. “I just wanted to ask…”

Jim Kirk isn’t usually this nervous. They turn the corner into the main hallway, also empty, and when they get to the front door Spock holds it open and lets Jim walk out in front of him. He doesn’t press or ask Jim to continue his thought, nor does he provide his own ending to the sentence, as Jim had half-hoped he would. With girls, it’s easy. He just walks up to them and turns on his charm. Half the time they reject him. More than half the time. But the thing about girls is that there’s always another one, but there’s only one Spock, and only one chance to screw everything up.

His stomach was so tangled before the kiss that he honestly thought he might be sick, but then when he leaned in just that extra tiny bit and pressed his lips against Spock’s, everything was all right. They’d been outside. They’d stayed late after school to work on a project for chemistry, and afterwards they’d sat outside on the lawn by the field and Spock had told him about Vulcan and how he’d never felt rain before he came to Earth. Jim’s not sure anymore exactly how it happened, how they came to be sitting as close as they were. Spock doesn’t usually like people in his personal space. Jim had been staring at his profile, those sharp alien ears he’d been fantasizing about since they met, that slight green tint to his clear pale skin, and then Spock had turned to look back at him, and it had occurred to him that if he only leaned in—

Afterwards, Spock had made some sort of excuse about having to go home before his mother started to wonder where he was, which wasn’t a very Spock-like thing to say, and which Jim had taken to mean that he felt uncomfortable and nervous, so he hadn’t argued. He’d felt rather dazed himself.

It’s been a week now, and he thinks about it all the time. But Spock hasn’t said a word on the subject.

“I believe that, in your culture, there is a high importance placed on the ‘first kiss,’” Spock says finally, now, as they walk down the slope of the campus toward the gate.

“There isn’t on Vulcan?”

Spock shakes his head. “We do not talk of such things.”

“Oh.” Jim lets a slight pause grow into the conversation, then asks, sounding a bit more unsure than he’d intended, “By such things you mean, like, sex things, right?”

Spock’s gaze snaps to him sharply, and Jim picks up a slight hesitation in his step, before he recovers himself. “Yes,” he says, and turns his attention away from Jim to look in front of him again. “That is what I mean.”

The conversation is going nowhere and Jim begins to feel desperate, his palms itching with sweat and his stomach doing that bizarre twisting thing again. They stop at the corner. Jim turns right, here, and Spock turns left. If he doesn’t say it now, he never will.

“So are you interested in me or what?” he asks. He’s sure to hold Spock’s gaze on this one, and to his surprise Spock looks straight back at him. When he does let his gaze drop, and he does, before Jim breaks, Jim’s sure what he’ll say. He pre-empts him. “Don’t tell me you don’t understand the question or that I’m being vague. You know what I’m asking you.”

Spock still doesn’t answer so Jim touches his arm carefully, right below the shoulder. Spock still doesn’t look up. But he does say, quietly, so Jim’s almost not sure he heard right at all, “I do know what you are asking. And I am, Jim.”

What Jim really wants to do is hug him, just wrap his arms right around that thin, gangly frame, there on the street corner for all Riverside to see, but he doubts Spock would appreciate a gesture like that very much. So instead he just invites him over to his house for the afternoon.

*

Jim got his license almost six months ago but he still doesn’t have a car, or even a motorcycle, which is what he really wants anyway, so he and Spock take public transportation out to the old farmhouse where the Kirk family lives. There isn’t anyone home. Frank works late and his mother doesn’t get back from the starbase for another week. Sam got his own apartment three months ago. Jim lets himself and Spock in and then invites Spock up to his room, and even though they’ve only spent like a million hours or so up there together since they started hanging out, today Spock seems hesitant.

“Come on,” Jim insists, smiling, grabbing hold of one of Spock’s wrists and pulling him toward the stairs. “Or do you think I’m going to start molesting you as soon as we’re behind closed doors?”

Spock doesn’t answer right away and Jim finds this worrying, because that look he’s getting is first-class Infuriating Vulcan Blank, and he doesn’t know how to read it or if he’s said the wrong thing of if Spock’s going to leave right now or what. He drops Spock’s wrist.

“Perhaps we should stay downstairs,” Spock suggests.

So they end up in the living room. Spock drinks vegetable juice and Jim drinks soda and they talk about their classmates and where they’ll be in ten years when Jim and Spock are flying through space on their own ship. At some point, Jim realizes they’re sitting close against each other. He can feel Spock’s leg against his leg. But he doesn’t say anything just in case Spock doesn’t notice and pointing it out will make him freak him out and want to move. But he does take one chance, stealthily stretching out one arm and letting it fall back around Spock’s shoulders.

Spock stops what he’s saying and turns to Jim. His face has that unreadable expression plastered on it again, and it makes Jim uneasy. He’s just about to move away when Spock tilts his head, first to one side and then straight again, and leans in to touch his forehead against Jim’s. The gesture is the last one Jim was expecting, and so wordlessly, bizarrely, sweet, that he does not notice, at first, Spock’s fingers reaching up to stroke down the fingers of his hand where it is resting against Spock’s arm. The movements are slow. Jim would almost call them scientific, a minute exploration of every joint and every millimeter of skin. Spock isn’t looking Jim in the eye. His eyes aren’t even open, Jim realizes, and the rest of his body is stiff and awkward, but the touch of his fingers is confident. Something about that touch sends a thrill right up his spine.

He thought that only happened in books.

“I didn’t know Vulcan kissing could be so hot,” Jim whispers, and laughs once. He doesn’t laugh because it’s funny. Only because he’s nervous.

“And human kissing?” Spock asks, tilting his head so that their mouths just barely brush against each other.

There really isn’t any answer to this but to move just the tiniest bit forward and press his lips against Spock’s.

Except for their first kiss, that so-quick-and-then-gone press of lips against lips, Jim’s never had any experience kissing an alien before. He’s also never kissed anyone he, like, actually cared about. He’s not sure if it’s the alien thing or the liking thing that makes this so different, but it is. He takes his arm from around Spock’s shoulders and wraps it around his waist instead, to bring their bodies closer together, and Spock wastes no time in grabbing Jim’s other hand, more forcefully now, and running his fingers down Jim’s fingers. Spock’s mouth is open and Jim can feel the furnace heat of him, even before he lets his own tongue slip forward. Spock’s tongue is so hot. It’s insane. It’s actually, honestly, insane how hot he is. Jim feels a little giddy with it.

He pulls back and for a moment they separate, and he’s sure, or he thinks at least, that he hears Spock make some sort of low, quiet, wordless noise. Like he thinks this is pretty hot too. Jim doesn’t give him enough time to say anything, or even to open his eyes. He just catches his breath and goes back to this kissing thing, Spock’s mouth opening right away this time and his tongue in Jim’s mouth this time and his spare hand in Jim’s hair. He’s not sure if Spock is dragging him or if he’s pushing Spock but they’re lying down on the couch now, Jim on top and Spock’s hand on the back of his neck, now, and now moving to grip at his shoulder.

They struggle for a comfortable position, and sometimes it feels almost like wrestling except Jim’s never wrestled with anyone while simultaneously trying to find their tonsils with his tongue. He’s not even sure if Vulcans have tonsils. But that’s not important.

Spock’s as desperate and uncoordinated as he is, which will surprise him later when he replays the whole afternoon over and over and over in his head. He tries to hold Jim as close to him as possible, even wraps his legs around Jim’s and wriggles beneath him so that they touch in the most satisfactory way. But he’s not graceful. Jim kind of thought Spock would be graceful, but he likes this better. He’s actually losing control a little, loosening up like Jim’s always telling him to, making little whimpering noises when Jim draws back for air.

They’re both frantic but not daring, neither attempting to touch the other’s skin where it’s still covered by clothes, neither letting his hands stray below the waist. Though once, Spock does let his fingers slide down to Jim’s wrist, right at his pulse point, and flutter there almost nervously. Jim’s not sure what that means though.

He doesn’t get much of an opportunity to figure it out. He loses track of time with Spock beneath him, but really it’s only a handful of minutes that they’re rutting against each other on the couch. Not enough time to decide what they’re doing but just enough time to get irredeemably caught up in each other. Not even Spock’s Vulcan ears pick up on the sound of the front door as it opens.

It’s hard not to notice, though, the sound of a loud, exaggerated cough from the living room doorway. Jim jumps up before he quite knows what’s going on, his thoughts running so fast even he can’t keep up with them, but all he does is land on Spock’s knees and trap him, awkwardly sprawled on the Kirk family couch with his cheeks flushed green and his hair all mussed. Jim’s pretty sure he looks just as bad. But he tries to keep his voice nonchalant anyway.

“Hi Sam,” he says cheerily. “What are you doing here?”

His brother is standing in the doorway with his arms crossed against his chest, and a great big grin on his face, which totally messes up the stern look of disapproval Jim’s pretty sure he was going for. He looks practically tickled.

“The laundry chute in my apartment’s acting up again, so I came over here to use mom’s,” Sam answers with a shrug. Jim wants to call him on this bullshit except that he knows Sam’s always having trouble with the technology in that apartment, and anyway he can see, now, that Sam has a giant laundry bag sitting at his feet. So he’s probably telling the truth.

“What about you, little brother?” He wiggles his eyebrows. “What are you doing?”

Jim tries to look as cool as he can, but it’s pretty hard, because he’s still sitting on Spock’s legs. “Nothing,” he answers innocently.

Sam just bursts out in laughter at this one, and he laughs so long and so loudly that Jim’s one second away from throwing pillows at him. But that would be immature. He keeps his calm. He wants to glance over at Spock and shoot him an apologetic look but he’s kind of nervous to see what Spock’s face looks like right about now, so he stares at Sam instead. “Are you done?” he asks, when the laughter seems to have burned itself out.

“Ah, ha, ha, ha,” Sam laughs slowly, and then holds his stomach and catches his breath, and he makes a big show out of it too. They used to be friends. Then Sam hit puberty and turned into a jerk. He’s shaking his head now and he still has that big, stupid grin on his face. “‘Nothing,’ sure,” he says. Then he composes himself, somewhat, and forces his face into an expression that’s almost serious. “Don’t let me interrupt anything, Jimmy,” he continues, nodding and biting back his smile. “I don’t want to ruin the mood. I just have two pieces of advice before I leave. First: no sex without safe sex, remember that. And second,” he looks at Jim and then at Spock, then back to Jim once more, “maybe next time you should move the orgy to somewhere more private, okay?”

He doesn’t give Jim much chance to answer, just slings his laundry bag over his shoulder and heads out of the room, the sound of his quiet laughter echoing after him. Really, Jim doesn’t see how it’s that funny. But he doesn’t have much time for anger or even annoyance because he’s too busy being more embarrassed than he’s ever been in his entire life. It doesn’t help that Spock’s legs are still pinned beneath him. It’s hard to forget, with those bony knees digging into him, that he’s not alone. The awkwardness isn’t over yet. In fact, knowing Spock, it might just be about to get a lot worse.

“I’m sure he didn’t see anything,” he says, as lightly as he can, and tries to stand up with a maximum amount of grace, or at least a minimum amount of clumsiness, and free Spock’s legs.

“I am sure that he did,” Spock answers, and rearranges himself into a sitting position. His hand comes up to his hair and starts trying, almost absently, to rearrange it, but without the help of a mirror he only makes it worse. Jim doesn’t say so. He just falls down on the couch next to Spock again and sighs loudly. He should probably be looking at him, but he can’t quite bring himself to. He knows it’s impossible to die of embarrassment, but at moments like these one starts questioning the impossible.

“Perhaps someone should inform your brother of the meaning of the word ‘orgy,’” Spock says, after a long and increasingly uncomfortable pause. “He seems to be confused on this point.”

Jim lets out a forced, dull laugh. “Yeah,” he says. “I’ll get on that.” He still can’t look at Spock and it’s getting a bit ridiculous. But at least the silence is broken and he can pull himself together enough to say, “I’m really sorry about that. I had no idea he was going to come in just then.”

“Of course,” Spock answers. He sounds considerably more calm than Jim expected him to. He peeks over at him and sees that he’s sitting in his usual, straightbacked, eyes forward way. He doesn’t look rattled at all. “You could not have known,” he continues. “I understand. I am not upset.”

Jim lets out a long breath that ends in a laugh. Maybe he won’t die after all. He turns to look at Spock and even allows himself to put a hand on his shoulder. Then he leans in and asks, “Just embarrassed, right?”

Spock rolls back his shoulders and says stiffly, “Vulcans do not get embarrassed.”

“Yeah, right,” Jim grins. He takes his hand from Spock’s shoulder and stands up, and he’s not really sure why he does it except that he thinks he might look cooler, more at ease, if he were leaning against one of the bookcases. He looks down at his feet and says, with forced lightness, “Too bad my brother kind of ruined the mood, there.”

“Yes,” Spock answers. “It is, as you say, ‘too bad.’”

There is another pause, and Jim can feel Spock watching him.

“Perhaps, next time, we should take his advice,” Spock suggests.

Jim can’t answer right away because his mind is racing too quickly from the idea of a next time, as in he hasn’t totally screwed this up yet, to wondering what advice, exactly, Spock is talking about, to what Sam said about sex and the possibility that Spock might want to have sex with him—he’s so absorbed in the thought that he almost misses Spock saying, “I believe he was correct when he said that your room would be a safer and more private venue for such…activities.”

When Jim looks at him again, he sees that Spock is blushing. He grins.

“Yeah,” he says, “we’ll have to keep that in mind.”