Spock startles as the blinds crash against the window. There is a frantic fluttering. Towel wrapped tightly around his waist, Spock moves forward to help the bird. Its foot is caught in the ties of the shutters, but before he can reach the window latch, the bird has freed itself.
The warm bathroom is quiet again but for his breathing.
Spock covers his slim body in his towel, sopping up the water. He rubs his hair and goes into his room, glancing in the mirror, pausing at the sight of his hair being so messy. He brushes it down quickly.
It has been three weeks and he misses Jim.
His apartment in San Francisco is high up, on the fortieth story of a building. It is large and plain, but expensive plain. Everything is white or silver or black or glass. There is no color in any of the pictures on the walls. He sits on his bed for a moment, turning on his PADD to see if there is an email from Jim. There is. He is checking in, just to see how Spock’s doing. He went planetside today to visit a menagerie and is including some pictures of baby elephants. Spock can picture Jim standing there, grinning messily, holding a camera across the railing to snap the photograph.
He turns off the PADD without replying.
He dresses quietly, his mind focusing on the grading he has to do. The Enterprise is in for her second-year maintenance and the warp drive has to be replaced. It will take three and a half months to complete. Starfleet has assigned Commander Spock to the Adacemy for the summer session; he is to teach Tactics 992, the graduate seminar in the subject. But Jim has been assigned to Deep Space Four as a temporary replacement for the deceased commanding officer. Replacement candidates are being interviewed. The crew of Deep Space Four seems to enjoy their current commander, but Jim would never let Starfleet assign him to a vessel other than the Enterprise.
Spock teaches his class. His twenty students are quiet through the whole lecture, rapt with attention. He is covering the most advanced maneuvers now, Delta-five-nine and the like. The questions are few and far-between—his explanations are perfect, and any query the student has is a result of his misunderstanding, not of the deficiencies of the teacher.
At home he grades. This is his cycle. Work, grading, sleep. Sometimes he writes to Jim, but rarely, even though Jim emails him at least five times a day.
Recently he has begun doubting. Why does he feel so normal without Jim? He can survive like this, no, he can do more than survive—he thrives without Jim. He gets things done. His apartment is pristine, his grading is prompt, the surveys he does for Starfleet are thorough and quick. On the Enterprise, everything takes time, time he does not have. He is constantly on duty, and when he is not on duty, he is being harassed by Jim. He barely has time to do the necessary paperwork, much less the extra research being science officer on board the Federation’s flagship requires.
He longs for Jim’s touch, but Jim is something he wants, not needs. However much the memory of Jim’s lips make him feel, he knows that he can feel this again with any number of willing sexual partners who would be less complicated and less demanding.
Spock feels horrible for thinking this. He scribbles off three emails to Jim, keeping the tinge of guilt out as best he can.
Sometimes when Jim signals him on his communicator he does not answer. When he does, he reminds himself that he has work to do, and hopes that Jim will stop talking soon, stop telling him how much he misses him. He admits that he misses Jim too, admits that he loves him. But he does not say the unnecessary. During the last time they were apart, Spock was like a lovesick child, writing Jim constantly, always distracted by his other half’s absence. His emails were florid and descriptive, sensuous and un-Vulcan-like. He hates his previous self for such blind devotion. How useless he must have been for those two months a year ago.
He visits with other crew members of the Enterprise. Uhura is teaching a couple of languages, Sulu is in charge of the flight simulator, Scotty is working on the Enterprise, and McCoy is torturing pre-med students. Chekov is off-planet too, at Deep Space Five, and Sulu tries to talk with him about long-distance relationships, but Uhura puts a hand on his arm and Spock acts like it never happened.
He can tell Jim none of this. Jim is so tender about their relationship, always checking to see if Spock is okay. Spock has said that he is fine too many times to admit that half the time he has not been fine, he has been worried about any number of things, about Jim’s expectation that Spock will stay on the Enterprise with him forever, that Jim wants to retire to San Francisco when Spock wants to live on New Vulcan, that Jim wants children, even though they’re both career men, and how could either of them take time off? Spock has his own goals that he made before he ever met Jim. He can’t just abandon them for something like love.
The weeks pass. His students are incredible. Their papers are articulate and a pleasure to read. He complements them, they smile and look content. He sees two of them elsewhere on campus, at a picnic table with students he does not know. He watches them as he walks by, sees all of them laugh, and blinks as his two students reach out to touch the other’s hand.
He misses Jim, and he misses sex. He masturbated three days after Jim left but hasn’t since, even though Jim keeps telling him that he does it all the time. He does not need pleasure. He does not need anything but his duty to himself and his government. He does not need Jim, he merely wants him.
He spends less and less time with Uhura, Sulu, Scotty, and Bones. He ducks out of get-togethers at the last minute. He avoids conversation with them, afraid of their camaraderie. He is reverting. He is convincing himself that he does not need friends, he merely wants them. Friendship is unnecessary, just like love.
But while he can abandon his friends, he can never abandon Jim. He returns the occasional email. Jim seems to notice nothing. Occasionally, after a long conversation, he mentions that Spock seems off, but Spock disregards him, attributes his offness to work or headache. He cannot break up with Jim long-distance, and he has not yet totally convinced himself that he wants to.
Jim counts the days until he returns, but Spock always looses track. He never knows how long it’s been, how long it will be. He is normal. He is fine. He is a Vulcan, he wants nothing. He wants nothing.
Jim is coming back soon. Spock has made sure to show up at more of the get-togethers with his friends, who he is now so detached from. They have had fun this summer. They include Spock quickly, but do not notice when Spock retreats for a while, feeling strange around all of the people. So much lively social interaction scares him. His class has been quiet and studious all semester. Most of them will pass satisfactorily.
He grades the final exams. He goes out with Uhura to celebrate the end of school. Scotty calls him to come see the Enterprise’s new engines. He admires them. He watches as Sulu and Chekov joyfully reunite, his stomach twisted into a cold knot.
He is afraid to see Jim.
The day Jim’s shuttle leaves Deep Space Four, Spock hides in his apartment, avoiding calls. He has submitted his final grades and cleaned out his temporary living space. He does not have much to move out. He lays across the sheetless bed, watching the sky through the blinds. A bird lands on the window sill and stares at him, its beady orange eye fixing him with what seems to be a pointed glare. Spock stares straight back at it. After a while, the bird flies away.
He meets Jim at the spaceport.
He has dressed himself carefully in black slacks and a white collared shirt. His dark jacket billows around him. He looks so professional to all of these people. What will they think when they see his scruffy boyfriend run up to him and kiss him violently?
He waits, feeling sick. He does not know what he is going to do.
The shuttle lands. The relatives and lovers surge forward, surrounding the arrival gate. Spock lingers at the back, hands deep in his pockets. He remembers how hard he cried when Jim left. Jim had been crying all week, but Spock hadn’t cried till afterwards, till he was back in his car in the airport parking lot, sobbing as the transport took off, watching it for as long as he could through clouded eyes.
He sees Jim come through the gate. The cadets in the crowd stand to attention automatically as the commander sweeps by them. There are whispers amongst the people about the man who saved Earth. Spock wants to hide, wants to run. He does not want to face this legend. He makes no attempt to move forward.
Jim sees him.
Jim’s whole body lights up. His drooped shoulders heighten. The spring returns to his flat step. His face breaks out in a grin. Spock knows his own reaction must be disappointing—his face does not change. But nothing can stop Jim. He throws his arms around Spock and kisses his neck as the crowd around them coos. Spock pushes Jim gently away, expecting anger, expecting confusion. Nothing, just that huge smile, the crinkle of those bright blue eyes.
Jim gets his suitcase and they go to Spock’s car, talking, hands touching lightly as they walk beside each other. At the car, Jim plants a huge kiss on Spock’s unyielding lips. He pauses, finally noting Spock’s lack of reaction.
“You’re just as bad at hellos as you are at goodbyes,” says Jim. “Come on, let’s go see my ship. She’s done, isn’t she?”
He talks the whole ride back, Spock inserting a comment here and there. Spock has not noticed that his stomach feels much better, that he is warmer, now. He only knows that his head hurts.
On the Enterprise Jim is like a little boy. He bounds around, inspecting the repairs and laughing at Scotty’s engineering parlance. He hugs Uhura and Chekov and Sulu and McCoy, McCoy the tightest of all.
They will depart the next day. He is Captain Kirk again, and Spock addresses him as such, eliciting glances from the crew members he was with over the summer. He ignores them.
All crew are onboard. They will spend their final night on Earth in their ship, in their true home. It is late and everybody has gone to bed. There is no need to man the controls, but Jim and Spock head to the bridge anyway.
Jim settles down in the captain’s chair, Spock sits in the science officer’s seat. He reads out the ship’s condition. He glances over at Jim, who is staring out the main window of the Enterprise, into the night sky.
“Sometimes,” he says to Spock, eyes still locked on the faraway stars, “there are things that are meant to be.”
And Spock knows what he means.
When Jim turns to him, Spock smiles.