Jim has always been this way, at least as far as he knows. He’s never felt the need for those moments of passion - those hidden encounters in beds and dark rooms, on the dirt in the rows and rows of waving corn. He’s never burned for sex like the people around him seem to.
That’s not to say that he’s never had it. As a young boy, living in the looming shadow of his brave, heroic, oh so very dead father, the last thing Jim wants is to give everyone around him another reason to stare. More motive to whisper well-intentioned nothings behind raised hands and pitying, curious eyes.
So he flirts. He flirts and he dates and when the girl or boy of the moment leads him into a dark room or into the corn fields, he lets them. He always goes with them and then goes down on them, using his hands and his mouth to get his partners off. He never lets them touch him back.
This is a pattern that continues beyond his high school years and follows him from that tiny, haunted town in Iowa, to every place he runs to, until eventually he winds up right back where he started. He’s back in Riverside, in the bar where he spent his adolescence bribing the bar tender into serving him cheap beer and learning how to shoot pool like the best of them, wondering how on earth he ended up like this. (It’s a rhetorical question - he knows damn well how.)
When he sees the dark skinned beauty in the Starfleet uniform ordering drinks, he acts almost completely by habit alone. He might be asexual (a quick ‘net search and he had had the answers to the question that permeated his entire childhood), but by now the ‘flirt and pick up’ act is so natural to him that he barely has to think about it.
She insults him. She calls him a stupid hick who literally has sex with barn animals. He fucking loves it. This is so much better than solicitous smirks and sultry eyes and the inevitable hook up in a hotel that will leave his partner purring (he might not like it, but he’s damn good at it by now) and himself wondering how the empty hole in his chest could possibly get any bigger. He’s having a good time, shooting comebacks to her barbs. This is the first time he’s smiled genuinely in weeks.
Of course it goes wrong.
The guy is tall, beefy, and backed by friends. His breath, when he spits words into Jim’s face, suggest that he’s already past ‘looking to unwind’ and is dangerously close to reaching ‘more alcohol than blood in his veins.’ That doesn’t seem to affect his swinging arm however, and Jim finds himself sprawled over a table getting the shit beaten out of him. Somehow, it’s still better than winding up in that hotel room.
Three beers, two aspirin, and a dare later Jim finds himself boarding a Starfleet shuttlecraft bound for a future that’s got to be better than his current one.
Despite his inauspicious start (being vomited on by a guy ranting about their imminent deaths doesn’t inspire the most confidence, who knew?), Jim finds himself enjoying Starfleet. The classes are interesting and challenging, he’s away from the ghosts of his past, and he’s actually making friends. (While being vomited on might not inspire the most confidence, it is apparently an extremely efficient bonding method.)
He still has sex - old habits die hard - but the hole in his chest doesn’t feel quite so deep anymore.
Gaila is a fucking blessing. The first time he tries to go down on her she just laughs, takes hold of his chin and raises his eyes to her amused ones. They spend that night and every free evening after stripped down to their underwear and cuddling.
(He regrets never telling her that he loved her back, because he had, she had been the first to understand, the first to know, how could he not love her, and now she’s gone - on board the Farragut during Nero - blown to nothing more than floating space debris and he grieves and regrets…)
Nero is dead and Jim is a hero. He has the Enterprise, as well as the resentment of his First Officer, and a heart that’s haunted by even more ghosts. His mouth tastes like ash the whole way through the commendation ceremony-slash-memorial service.
Fast forward and Jim is running. Everything had been good. Great, even. He had a great ship, a great crew, and a First Officer who he trusts, plays chess with, and may be just the tiniest bit smitten with. Then Khan happens.
Khan happens, and now Pike is dead, Marcus is a traitor, and the Enterprise is falling…
Jim is running, sealing radiation-proof doors behind him, climbing, sweating, praying…
Jim is dying.
He looks up at his First Officer through blurred eyes, raises his hand to the glass, and says, “I’m scared.” He says, “Help me not be.”
He does not say, “I love you.”
Jim wakes up and Spock is there.
He says, “Thank you.”
He means, “I love you.”
Fast forward again and Jim is Captain of the Enterprise on her five year journey into deep space. Jim and Spock are even closer than they were before Khan. They take every opportunity to be near each other; Jim leaning behind Spock at his science station, when he would have no problem asking the question of the hour from the center chair, and Spock standing straight and tall behind that same chair to answer that same question. Beyond that, they are an exemplary team, working around and with each other, nearly reading each other’s mind with no need to vocalize.
The electric charge between them on the bridge is bound to result in something. It’s only a matter of when and what.
It is, surprisingly enough for everyone but Jim and maybe Uhura, Spock who makes the first advance. They are alone in the Captain’s quarters, having their bi-weekly chess match.
And oh, Jim wants but he knows he can’t pretend anymore, can't fake the attraction that doesn't exist, has never existed. He readily agrees to a meld because is the easiest way to show Spock what he needs, what he refuses to hide anymore.
Spock sifts gently through his surface thoughts and quickly comes upon Jim’s secret. Not hard when it is all Jim can think of, slowly killing himself with nerves.
Jim can feel when Spock’s presence in his mind uncovers the truth completely. Jim is prepared for confusion. He is prepared for disgust, for disappointment, for a gentle retreat and polite reasoning for why they just won’t work.
What he is not prepared for is the burst of reliefunderstandingsame that washes over his mind. The only confusion he feels is his own. Slowly, Spock tugs at Jim’s mind, draws it into his own and shows Jim what can only be a mirror of what Spock has just seen in Jim’s own mind. And Jim understands. He understands and he can barely believe it. He doesn’t have to lie or pretend because they’re the same. Jim couldn’t be happier.
The waves of love that he radiates are reflected and added to by Spock, bouncing back and forth between their minds, growing, echoing, until they are alight with the pure ecstasy of raw, unburdened adoration.
They lie in bed, close, skin touching, reveling in the presence of the other, completely and utterly content. Jim wonders how on earth he got so lucky.
After they fall in with each other they are even closer, both on and off duty. They find excuses for little touches and flirt outrageously in their own special language. Their crew is not stupid. They suspect and gossip like any other respectable star ship crew.
The common consensus seems to be that the Captain and his First Officer are fucking. There seems to be no other explanation for how incredibly relaxed and sentimental they have become.
When Jim hears these rumors he simply rolls his eyes and moves on with his life. His crew can believe what they want as long as it’s not interfering with their jobs, and Jim knows that he and Spock don’t need sex to love one another.
(When, years later, Spock looks at him, fever and pain burning in his eyes, Jim holds him close. Holds his bondmate and remembers how he refused to hide any longer, and he knows that this, this is not hiding. This is something that he is going to do because his bondmate needs him and because his bondmate wants this even less than Jim does. But he needs it. Spock will die if Jim can’t do this and Jim has never believed in no-win scenarios.
The four days it takes for Spock’s Pon Farr to ease are intense and had, at some point, begun to blur together in Jim’s mind. Spock holds him in his arms, his usually logical head clear for the first time in a week or more, and whispers broken apologies and pleas for forgiveness. Jim tells him to shut up, it’s nothing he hasn’t done before when he was hiding, and he had a damn good reason for it this time didn’t he?
They hold each other close for hours, limbs and minds intertwined, awash in their devotion and nearly luminescent with their love, and Jim thanks every god he can think of (and one man he remembers so fondly) for that dare in that run down bar, so very long ago, that set him on this course and led him to his first, best destiny.)