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we have not touched the stars

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1.

Forget all the shooting stars

 

 

Everybody knows about Jim Kirk, of course.

*

When he was in elementary school, Jim Kirk was often followed by a gaggle of kids, all asking him to tell them where their bonds pointed.

The teachers had to put a stop to that – it was a bit of a headache. Children had absolutely no qualms about asking such things, and they were just about the age where your soulbond was all anybody talked about.

Miss Diaz blamed Mrs Walter for bringing it up. She did that every year, in the teacher’s lounge, over bitter watered-down coffee.

Every year, Sarah.”

“It’s on the syllabus, Ana.”

The year Jim Kirk turned eight was worse, in particular, because Jim Kirk could see soulbonds.

It wasn’t totally unusual, but there were only five seers in Riverside at the time. And none of them went to Riverside Primary. None of them were within reach of a gaggle of very eager children aged six to ten.

When Jim Kirk started charging a quarter per bond seen, Mrs Walter finally decided to put a stop to it.

Jim Kirk, of course, simply started collecting quarters in secret.

*

Jim Kirk is one of eight seers in Riverside, these days. Not everybody knows about all of them, but everybody knows about Jim.

There is a steady if not intense trickle of travelers that come through Riverside every year, on their quest to find their soulmate. They’re usually pointed towards Jim, who still charges to tell them where they should be headed.

People are reluctant. There are many, many fakers out there. When he was eleven, Jim was tested, and he still maintains that the test was fucking ridiculous.

He was put in a room with twenty strangers, some of whom were bonded. He had to correctly identify them.

Fucking ridiculous.

He has a license and everything. It works like magic on soulbond travelers.

Joke’s on them though, because soulbond seer licenses are easily faked with a hundred bucks.

What can’t be faked is reputation – Jim Kirk correctly identified about a third of current soulbonds in Riverside. Well, more than that, but those are the ones that he officially helped find.

Everybody knows Jim is the real deal.

They can usually find Jim propping the bar at the Shipyard, no big deal, and he’ll usually point them on the spot if they’ve got cash. If he’s not there, then Lew, at the bar, can usually be trusted to know when or where to find him, though he obviously doesn’t give directions to the old Kirk farm to just anybody.

Sometimes they ask Jim why he hasn’t gone and found his soulmate. There’s a weird myth that soulbond seers can’t see their own bond, but that’s pretty much bullshit.

When they ask, Jim points up. Some of them are confused, so he waggles his eyebrows.

“It’s aliens, man,” he says.

Most of them laugh, though some of them do so uneasily.

*

“I’m going to fuck the moon, dude.”

*

“Maybe it’s a bird. Maybe it’s a plane.”

*

“It’s Orion. Can’t wait to unbuckle that belt, y’know?”

*

“No, it’s definitely Superman.”

*

Most people think soulbonds are only about sex, or marriage, or romance. Jim knows this isn’t true, though it’s more about having seen enough soulbonds get made than any weird seer intuition.

Some of them call him years after, which is neat. This one couple, for example – Jake and Karen – tried to make it work for a long time, calling Jim like he was their goddamn therapist – which he wasn’t, he kept telling them – until Karen figured out she was a lesbian. They’re much happier now that they’re not trying to sleep with each other.

Then there’s a couple of little girls Jim knows, though they’re not so little anymore. Aisha turned eighteen last spring, and Kadie will be fourteen soon. They’re sisters, and Jim spotted their bond when they were nine and five. Their Mom wanted to pay him, but he’d just pointed it out to see Aisha smile really big. She’d been missing two front teeth, and it was damn adorable.

The point is, it’s not all rushing across meadows to meet the romantic love of your life. Sometimes it’s ever better than that.

*

When Jim was seventeen, his Mom kicked Frank out. Which, good riddance. Jim knew he wasn’t her soulmate, anyway. He knew her soulmate had died, because she had no bond.

Everybody has one bond, at least, though a lot more people have platonic ones than you’d know. A lot more people have more than one bond than you’d know.

A lot more people think soulbonds are nothing but a large government conspiracy than you’d know, too. Jim has had more than one pissed off dude come at him about it. Like it’s his fault that the woman who won’t give him the time of day is not his soulbond.

Whatever.

People with no soulbond – that usually means that whoever it was died. Jim thinks it probably doesn’t mean that they won’t ever have a soulmate again, but he doesn’t know enough people like that to really know.

When Frank got kicked out – his bond pulled him somewhere South and Jim pointedly avoided telling him this when he moved up towards Seattle – Mom didn’t stay around for very long.

She shipped out again, like, a year after. Jim was eighteen, and Sam was in college. They really had enough money that Jim could work on the farm without finding another job, if you considered Mom’s salary, and Dad’s pension, and the seer money.

Seer money isn’t big money, unless you’re a celebrity seer. Small-town seers really aren’t shit, in comparison. But it’s something to buy his evening drinks with, back at the Shipyard.

Though sometimes he finds someone to buy the drinks for him, which is also cool.

There’s lots of people who don’t care about soulbonds, or people whose soulbonds don’t mean they’d turn down a one night stand.

Sometimes they’ll also ask him why he hasn’t gone out and chased his soulbond yet.

Jim will point to the sky, and say, “The moon’s always there, babe. Don’t need to go chasin’ after her.”

*

The thing is, they all think he’s kidding, but he’s really, definitely not fucking around.

He wishes he were.

But mostly he’s just made peace with being shit out of luck. Mom left, Sam left. Frank left – thank God. People leave, and that’s alright, and maybe it’s alright that this soulmate won’t ever, ever be coming to him.

It’s better, because he can’t think of anybody wanting to stick around for this kind of mess, honestly. He doesn’t really want to be inflicting it on anybody else, either. Bad enough he unloads his shit on Bones as much as he does.

Some nights he lies down out in the field and looks up at the stars. There are a lot of stars to see, out in the field.

Sometimes he looks from his window – he stole Sam’s room, which is bigger – and sometimes he climbs out onto the roof and watches from there.

He looks at the long line of his bond stretching up into the stars. It does funny things with the rotation of the Earth – he thinks if bonds could really be felt past the tugging that draws you to your soulmate, people would probably be jerked about all the time, and he more than most.

He once mapped exactly how his bond moved, and what that said about the movements of the planet.

But mostly he just lies down in the fields, and looks up at the moon, and pretends that she’s his soulmate. That she’s always been here, and that he has nobody to look for at all.

Being grounded with a soulbond reaching up into the stars is just as well as not having one – Jim’s not about to be an astronaut, and something tells him that even if he did get up there past the atmosphere, he’d just find out that his bond stretches out even further.

And he can’t deal with that, thank you very much.

He’ll just keep looking up, feeling this weird sort of heartbreak for something he has no name for, nostalgia for a place he has never been to, something he has never seen.

*

Jim Kirk talks about aliens a lot. And it’s not like he’s always joking, either. He’s had more serious conversations about it over bourbon, late into the evening, after Joanna’s gone to bed.

You see, not everything about Jim’s life is fucking pathetic, because while he has a bond stretching out into the stars, he also has one tying his wrist to Bones McCoy’s, just across the couch.

It was super awkward, when they met. Jim was probably eighteen, and Bones definitely wasn’t, and he had a toddler on his arm and a divorce under his belt. And anyway, Jim knew right away it wasn’t like that, but there aren’t very many ways to tell a guy you’re soulbonded that don’t sound like a come on.

Matters are made worse if you’re on a crowded bus, and the guy’s daughter just threw up all over you.

“Fucking figures,” Bones had said.

So anyway, Bones is the best, and also kind of the worst, and he lets Jim lay his head in his lap, which is really all he could ever ask for.

Bones also has another bond stretching out to somewhere far, and Jim pointed it out to him once, but Bones has never really wanted to go out and chase it. Which suits Jim just fine.

“No, but listen,” Jim says. “It’s totally aliens.”

“You’re not getting your ass kidnapped by aliens.”

“I could! It always happens to lone farmers out in the fields, don’t it?”

Bones pulls his hair, and slaps his forehead when Jim comments, “Kinky.”

You’re not getting your ass kidnapped by aliens.”

Bones is like, half right. Which is pretty much the regular state of things.

*

The thing is, Jim Kirk talks about aliens a lot, and sometimes he even believes it.

But he’s not really expecting the starship that lands in his field.

What the fuck, honestly.

 

 

 

2.

The opposite of nostalgia

 

 

Jim isn’t even in the field when it happens.

He’s sleeping, which is reason number one why he’s fucking pissed. In fact, that’s the first thought in his mind when the room starts shaking, the roar deafening in his ears and the world moving, moving.

For real, though?, is what he thinks. He doesn’t even pick up his head. He’s not really at his best when just woken up.

Of course he realizes that something terrible is probably happening, but there’s a long time-stopping moment when he thinks, Maybe if I don’t get up it’ll go away.

Then light – illuminating the room bright as day. The crash is so powerful that Jim feels the entire bed shake. A few books fall off the shelf, along with his chess club trophies and a framed picture of Sam at fifteen.

Shit, is thought number two. Much more appropriate.

That’s when Jim shoots out of bed and goes for the gun on the mantle in the living room. His heart is pounding in his chest, and he runs into the backyard without even thinking about calling the police.

He doesn’t really make the best choices on a good day, and this is definitely not a good day.

He sees the plume of smoke first, then the circular scorch mark– a distant thought hits him: that’s gonna be a bitch to deal with – surrounding the starship in his field.

The starship in his goddamn field.

The night is silent again, like all the animals and crickets have hidden away, like they know that something big is happening, something unreal. The stars wink like they’re laughing at him.

The starship has a triangular head and two curved tails, and it reminds Jim of a futuristic sea creature. The lights on its hull glow faintly blue, and Jim can hear a faint chirping sound, like the ship is cooing at him.

A hatch opens on the underside of the head, releasing with a hiss and a shower of blue light. Jim wouldn’t believe this shit if he weren’t seeing it.

The alien looks very small at first – long and lanky and human-shaped. If this is a fever dream, it’s not very creative.

When the alien comes closer, Jim realizes it’s not small at all, just made to seem so by the size of the ship. In fact, the alien looks kind of like a man – a man taller than him. A man who’s –

Well, alright. He sees where this fever dream is going.

His skin is washed blue-white-green by the lights of the ship, and his features are remarkably human. Sharp except for his eyes, which are long-lashed and dark. He has pointed ears and a frankly regrettable bowl cut, but his hair is dark and glossy.

The alien is, in fact, a really cute guy.

Jim’s gun is still raised, on the off-chance that this isn’t a wet dream.

The alien raises a hand in what Jim thinks is a ‘don’t shoot’ gesture. Except then his fingers part in the middle in a weird sort of salute.

Sochya eh dif,” the alien says. His voice is deeper than Jim expected.

That’s when Jim realizes that his bond doesn’t stretch out of the corner of his eye and up into the sky. Instead, it reaches out from the center of his chest, the shortest he’s ever seen it, and wraps gently around the alien’s fingers, parted in greeting.

And then he feels the tugging by his heart, the constant longing and nostalgia pulling at him. The longing gives a sharp tug, and grows so warm in his chest that he shivers.

He recognizes it from the time he met Bones, and yet, of course, it’s nothing like when he met Bones. That had felt warm like the moment you step foot inside after you’ve been out in a rainstorm.

This feels warm like a small star kindling in the center of his chest.

“Holy cow,” Jim says.

The alien frowns, a very minute shift in expression. His face is otherwise completely blank. When he speaks, it’s in a polite, mild tone.

“There are no cows in the vicinity,” he says.

Jim lowers the gun. This is definitely the trippiest dream he’s ever had.

*

He makes the alien tea.

The alien, apparently, speaks English. This obviously makes perfect sense.

Jim makes coffee for himself, and offers some, and gets a polite request for tea instead. Luckily enough, there’s still some of the ginger and lemon tea his Mom likes when she’s sick. It seems to suit the alien just fine.

“What’s your name?” is the first of many questions.

“S’chn T’gai Spock,” the alien responds. Then, to Jim’s wide-eyed look, he repeats, “Spock.”

“James Kirk,” Jim replies.

“Pleased to meet you, James Kirk.”

“Jim,” Jim says. “If I’m going to shorten your name, you might as well shorten mine.”

“Jim,” Spock agrees, and takes a sip of his tea. He looks up at Jim over the rim of his mug.

“Are you going to abduct me?” Jim asks

Spock raises one perfect dark eyebrow. They’re strangely shaped, upturned. They give excellent gravitas to his unimpressed looks, of which there are many.

“No,” Spock says. “Unless you wish to leave the planet.”

It’s a curious question, and for a moment Jim is tempted to call his bluff.

“Nah,” he says. “Can’t leave my soulmate.”

Spock frowns. It’s actually the first fully perceptible emotion to cross his face.

“You have a soulmate,” Spock says. His voice is very deep, and always even, and so it’s quite startling to hear the surprise. Disappointment?

“I do,” Jim says, blinking owlishly. He wonders, do aliens have soulbonds too?

Do I tell this alien that I’m pretty sure he’s my soulmate?

Before he can voice either thought, Spock stands abruptly, leaving his tea on the table. His face is carefully blank again.

“I have clearly made a mistake,” he says, and then turns around.

Jim abruptly realizes he means to leave.

Hell no.

“Woah, woah,” he says, and hops off the kitchen island, where he’d been perched. He puts himself between Spock and the door.

Spock stops an inch from him, too close for comfort. He’s very warm, made warmer by the pull of the bond in Jim’s chest.

He knows it’ll keep pulling until they touch.

“What mistake? You can’t just leave! You –”

He stops himself before he can say something foolish like, You’re the moon, or, You can’t leave me when you’ve only just come to me.

“While I have studied the practice of human soulbonding as deeply as I was able, I am not – ” Spock stops here, and it already strikes Jim as unusual that he might not have the words for something.

He only just met the guy, and already he can tell he’s not someone who likes being out of his depth.

“I am not practiced,” Spock concludes. “I mistook you for my soulmate.”

Jim can’t help it. He laughs.

He knows it’s a mistake almost right away, and it’s not very nice. Spock’s face is a stony mask. Jim’s Mom would have his hide for being so impolite.

“Spock,” he says. “You can’t mistake a soulbond. If you felt it, you were right.”

Spock raises his eyebrow.

Jim means to deliver the rest just as lightly, but it comes out strangely quiet.

“I felt it too,” he says.

He hadn’t realised that there was tension in Spock’s shoulder, around his mouth. He notices only when it is released. Then Spock frowns again, a smaller frown than before.

“However, you said you couldn’t leave the planet because of your soulmate,” he says. “That would be a nonsensical statement if you were referring to me, as I had just offered – ”

“You can have more than one soulmate,” Jim interrupts.

Spock’s eyes widen a fraction. He’s silent for a long moment.

“Fascinating,” he says.

*

His alien soulmate is full of questions.

They end up in the living room, Jim sprawled on the floor with his empty coffee mug propped on his chest. Spock is on the couch, legs neatly folded beneath himself, nursing his tea slowly.

“And how is it possible to find each other, if the bond is invisible?”

Jim shrugs. “It’s mostly up to chance. You have to trust that if you’re destined, you’ll run into each other eventually.”

Spock does not ask how one knows when one has found it. Jim wants to ask what it felt like to him, if he also felt it like the birth of a small star.

“Some people ask seers, though,” Jim continues. “There’s not a lot of us, but you can always find someone. A seer can only see the bond stretch so far, so you’re going to have to keep asking, to make sure you’re going in the right direction.”

“That sounds remarkably inefficient,” Spock says.

Jim shrugs. “Humans will do a lot to stop feeling lonely.”

Spock’s fingers, around his mug, tighten and release briefly. His face is not very expressive, but Jim can already see the small tell-tale twitches of it. He can’t read him very well, yet, but he’s hoping he will learn to.

“Hey,” Jim says. “You’re questioning humans a lot, but how did you know to find me?”

Spock is silent, his long fingers still tightening, releasing.

“I did not know that I would,” Spock says. “But it was only logical that you would be on Terra.”

“Why? Your soulbond could have come from anywhere on – Vulcan, is it?”

“Vulcan,” Spock confirms.

He pauses for a long moment. Jim keeps looking up at him, like he used to with the moon.

“There are no soulbonds, as such, on Vulcan,” Spock says.

A beat.

“Holy shit,” Jim says.

Another beat.

“Then how…?” Jim asks, at length. He doesn’t even qualify the rest of it, but Spock seems to understand.

How did you find me?

“It is a very long story,” Spock says.

“Well, damn,” Jim replies. “We have all night.”

*

Jim makes them breakfast.

It’s nearing 4 AM, so it counts, in his opinion. He starts making eggs and bacon, when Spock interrupts him to inform him that he’s a vegetarian.

Jim puts away half of the bacon, and hesitates.

“Vegan?” he asks.

He doesn’t know why he expects Spock to know what a vegan is, but Spock doesn’t miss a beat.

“No, I do consume animal products.”

“Alright then,” Jim says, and takes out flour, milk, and butter.

He makes his alien soulmate blueberry pancakes at 4 AM.

“Are you sure you can, like, eat this?”

“Terran food is suitable for me, yes.”

Spock is perched on a stool and he’s gotten rid of that truly awful grey-beige sweater-thing he’d been wearing. The black tunic and pants underneath are much more flattering.

Vulcans suffer the cold much more than humans, apparently, so Jim turned the heating up, and they’re toasty warm. It’s January, and the night outside is pretty cruel. Jim is still in his pajama bottoms and faded Beastie Boys tee, and he’s doing alright.

“Terra?”

Spock nods. “That is what we have been calling it.”

“Neat.”

Jim flips a pancake, trying to sort through the million questions in his mind. The only real question is which to ask first.

“We call it Earth.”

“I know.”

Jim lands another pancake, and says, “You sure know a lot about us, huh?”

He places a perfect stack in front of Spock, dripping butter and syrup.

“How long have you been watching us, then?”

Spock raises one of his upturned eyebrows.

“The first unofficial Human-Vulcan contact on record occurred in 1957.”

Jim whistles, low. “Quite a while. Are we that interesting? You been watching us like a telenovela?”

Spock’s other eyebrow rises to meet its twin, which Jim is slowly coming to realize means curiosity. Something he doesn’t know.

“I don’t think I’m familiar with telenovelas.

“Ooh, boy,” Jim says. “You’re in luck, el Presidente is on tomorrow night. We can give it a go.”

He doesn’t miss the slight widening of Spock’s eyes when he finally takes a bite of the pancakes. It does wonders for his ego.

“So, how come you speak English, then? Or is it one of those things where I think you’re speaking English, but really, you’re speaking your own language and you’ve got, like, a device that – ”

“I do speak English,” Spock says. “Though universal translators do exist, they are not always completely accurate due to idiomatic expressions and cultural inference.”

“Why English?” is Jim’s next question.

Spock still hasn’t told him his very long story, and Jim can tell he is hesitant, somehow. He followed Jim into the kitchen silently, and only spoke when prompted.

Spock eats. Then eats some more.

Finally, he replies, “My mother taught me, when I was young.”

Jim, who has started assembling his own breakfast, finally comes to sit in front of Spock. Their knees knock together. Spock is very warm.

“Why?” Jim asks, and starts spearing eggs.

Spock is silent for a long moment, face blank. Then he takes a breath, barely perceptible.

“English is my mother’s native language, though she is also fluent in French. She was born in Toronto, in the year 2008. When she was in her late twenties, she found a Vulcan starship, which had crash landed near her holiday residence. That is how she met my father.”

Jim’s eggs lie forgotten, though he doesn’t particularly care. He tries to imagine Spock’s mother, happening upon a starship much like his own. He imagines she’d lived all her life looking up at the moon, too.

“Was he her soulmate?” he asks. It’s probably not the most important question to ask, and yet it is.

Spock tilts his head, and purses his lips.

“She would not tell me,” Spock says. “Vulcans do not have soulbonds in the way humans do. We are touch telepaths, and thus can form telepathic bonds. But while certain minds are more compatible than others it is not – that is, a Vulcan bond is an action. It is undertaken.”

“There is no bond before the bond is made.”

“Precisely,” Spock says. “Human soulbonds are about potential. They are not undertaken, they simply are.”

“I understand,” Jim says. “We find the bond, you make it.”

Spock nods, and ducks his head back towards his pancakes.

The logical follow-up, of course, is, “But your mother is human.”

Jim doesn’t think he imagines the way Spock curls into himself a bit. He looks up, though, with large brown eyes, long dark lashes.

“Yes,” he says.

“And you’re not adopted, or anything, like – she’s your birth mother.”

“Yes.”

Jim looks at him for a long moment – his alien ears, and features, and the green tinge to his cheeks. That one’s trippy. Jim can’t help but think it makes him look a little ill.

“That’s why you have a human soulbond.”

Spock ducks his head again.

“Yes.”

His alien soulmate is, in fact, half human. A lot of things make sense – the way Spock seems to know him, the way Jim keeps tripping on the alienness of him, while he takes Jim’s loud humanity in stride.

Jim thought he sounded like he had a Canadian accent, damn it.

He leans closer, propping his elbows on the kitchen island. Spock looks up, catching his movement.

Jim holds Spock’s brown eyes for a long moment, thinks maybe he sees beyond the overwhelming blankness of the rest of his features. His eyes are the most honest part of him.

“That’s quite fascinating, Mr Spock,” Jim says.

He doesn’t think he imagines the twitch at the corner of Spock’s mouth.

*

Spock cloaks the spaceship with the click of a button. It shimmers out of existence and is replaced with nothing but the hazy darkness that precedes dawn. Jim suspects that if he were to extend a hand, he would meet the warm side of the ship. Still there, invisible.

He draws the curtains in the bedroom, and lends Spock a set of pajamas, though they hang a little loose on his narrower hips and shoulders.

They don’t really talk about sharing a bed, but they do. They lie in the semi-darkness, facing each other, wanting to sleep. Jim finds himself unable to.

He has been keeping a lot quiet. Soppy, cheesy things he keeps thinking and swallowing back. He’s been very good so far.

He’s not really used to being good.

“You came to find me,” he says, his control failing.

Spock’s looking at him in the half-light and his eyes seem even darker than usual. Careful blankness, and yet for once it doesn’t seem quite so strained. He’s almost relaxed.

“Yes,” Spock says.

“How did you know?”

Spock’s fingers twitch on the mattress, in the inch of space between them.

“Through a mind meld,” Spock says. “A Human soulbond is visible telepathically. Melds can only be initiated through touch, but it is quite an intimate thing. They are not undertaken lightly. But my mother suspected I might have a bond, when I was born, and so my father performed a meld to verify this. Her suspicion proved to be correct. I have known since I was very young.”

“Why now, then?” Jim asks. Each question brings another. His eyes keep wanting to slide shut, but the questions keep wanting to come.

Spock is quiet for a long time. Jim almost drifts off, and busies himself by moving his fingers closer to Spock’s, on the mattress, until their pinkies are touching.

“Vulcan children are bonded young,” Spock says, finally. “I never was, because of the potential of my soulbond. It was thought that a Vulcan spouse would not find this agreeable, and my mother was quite determined that I should have a chance to find my soulmate eventually.”

To Jim’s surprise, Spock’s hand moves closer. Their fingers overlap.

“I waited a long time,” Spock continues. “There was much I wanted to do, and for a long time it did not seem – logical. But Humans have achieved interstellar travel, and so – ”

“Wait, we have?” Jim exclaims. He is almost distracted from the warmth of Spock’s fingers.

Spock’s mouth twitches.

“You do not know this?”

“No! What the hell, they didn’t say so on the news, or anything!”

“It is possible that the discovery is not public knowledge yet. The Vulcan High Council is planning First Contact as we speak.”

“Holy shit,” Jim says. “That’s fucking wild.”

One of Spock’s neat eyebrows shoots up. Jim is enjoying how often he can elicit that reaction.

“It seemed only logical to embark on my own search, now that our races will be formally acquainted.”

Jim smiles. He takes a deep breath and moves his fingers more decidedly underneath Spock’s, threading them together.

“Is that all?”

Spock doesn’t say anything, again. He moves his hand, untangles their fingers, and Jim is disappointed, briefly. Then Spock’s hand comes back, lifts Jim’s until they are palm to palm.

“This,” Spock says. “Means something different to Vulcans than it does to Humans.”

There’s no mistaking the shudder of his voice, and it makes Jim’s smile go sharp.

“Does it?”

Spock nods. He runs his fingers very lightly along Jim’s, their hands suspended between them. Jim doesn’t know what Spock is feeling, but on his part it feels very nice.

Spock guides their fingers to part, between the middle and ring fingers, the same gestures he had made at the very start.

“What does that mean?” Jim says. “What you said, earlier?”

Sochya eh dif,” Spock replies. “Peace and long life. It is a greeting. This – ” he applies pressure to his hand, against Jim’s, “is the ta’al. It is often accompanied by greetings such as the one I used, or more commonly by dif-tor eh smusma. Live long and prosper.”

“Live long and prosper,” Jim repeats, and presses back against Spock’s hand.

Their fingers tangle. Spock didn’t say what hand-holding means to Vulcans, but Jim can infer. He’s had sex that felt less intimate than this.

“I suppose you are right in implying that the convenient political shifts in our cultures are not the only reason for this,” Spock says. There is no logical reason for him to be whispering, and yet. “I do not think I would have needed my father to tell me I had a soulbond. I always felt it as – as an absence, perhaps.”

Jim is a seer, and knows more about soulbonds than anybody. He thinks, why does anybody go looking for their soulmate?

“You were lonely,” he says, and watches the minute movements of Spock’s eyebrows.

“Vulcans do not feel loneliness.”

Jim grins, and leans so close they might about to kiss like humans, too.

“Don’t worry,” Jim whispers. “I won’t tell.”

 

 

 

3.

Light brought in in buckets

 

 

The bell rings at 2 PM.

Jim wakes up and knows that it wasn’t a dream. The light is streaming through the curtain, that kind of glaring, milky light that promises sleet gray January skies.

Jim is shirtless and overheating with the alien body next to his. Spock’s unfortunate bowl cut seems unable to get mussed past a certain point, but it’s making a valuable effort.

His hair is thick, and slips through Jim’s fingers. The pounding on the door continues. Spock opens his eyes.

In the day light, Jim can finally see the lighter shades of brown in his eyes, warm like coffee grounds.

“You may want to go answer the door,” Spock says. His voice is slightly deeper with sleep, but he sounds remarkably awake. “And you may want to dress.”

“Nah,” Jim says. He feels like his face is splitting with his grin. “It’s probably just Bones.”

When he opens the door, the first thing he sees is a very small black girl, looking up at him with bright dark eyes, her hair pulled up in an afro puff.

She’s smiling up at him, in glaring contrast with her father, behind her. His pale cheeks have gone splotchy red, and his blue eyes are sharp like glass.

“You’re in big trouble, Uncle Jim,” Joanna says.

She giggles when Jim makes a mournful sound and bends down to pick her up. He fakes a groan of effort, and pretends to almost drop her.

“My, Jo, you’re getting bigger all the time. How old are you, twenty five?”

“Seven!”

“Already?”

Bones hasn’t said a word, but he slams the door behind himself, as the three of them make their way inside.

“I wanted to show you my new tooth,” Joanna says. She pulls back her lip to show her most recent gap, and the tiny white tooth that has started piercing through the gum.

“That’s so cool, Jo,” Jim says.

“I know! I wanted to show you at lunch, but you didn’t come.”

“Yeah, imagine our surprise,” Bones says, finally. He hangs Joanna’s sparkly pink backpack on the hooks by the door.

Jim cringes, and sets Joanna down. Bones is still glaring, though there is a tinge of concern there that always softens it.

“Where the hell were you, Jim? Did you just wake up?”

“I can explain.”

“Damn it, I hope so – ”

“Daddy, don’t swear.”

“Yeah, hear that, no swearing, Bones.”

“I’m sorry, pumpkin, your Uncle Jim just tears them right out of me – and you shut up and start talking. ”

“Did you know that we’ve achieved interstellar travel?”

It’s really not the best way to start this conversation, but Jim still thinks it ranks above, so I stayed up all night because an attractive alien landed his spaceship in my field.

Bones crosses his arms, like he wants to say, I don’t have time for this bullshit, but can’t. Because swearing.

“I don’t have time for this nonsense, Jim.”

“No, I swear, it’s related – you see, uh – ”

“Uncle Jim!” Joanna gasps. “Uncle Jim, your bond!”

Joanna is staring at Jim’s chest, and at his bond pointing not at the faraway sky, but at the much nearer upstairs bedroom.

Jim kneels by Joanna and boops her nose. “My good little seer, where do you think it points?”

Joanna’s dark eyes are very wide. She whispers, “Uncle Jim, did you find your other soulmate?”

Bones drops his arms, and his face has relaxes, from anger into shock.

“Jim?”

Jim smiles up at him and says, “It just sort of – happened, and we just. We were up late, and so – ”

“Jim!” Bones goes to cover Joanna’s ears.

“We were up talking! I swear, there was just, uh – a lot to talk about, you know?”

And then we held hands and it was the most intense thing I’ve ever done, somehow. Jim bites his tongue.

He turns towards Joanna, who is positively bouncing in her powder blue Mary Janes.

“Wanna go meet him?” Jim says.

Joanna nods, and grabs his hand to start pulling him upstairs. Bones follows, his arms crossed again, a little wary.

“Okay, none of you freak out, okay?”

“That’s not very promising, Jim, are you sure – ”

“As sure as I was about you, Bones.”

That makes Bones – the huge sap – relax a little. There’s almost a smile, before he schools himself into another scowl.

Jim thinks he might have a type.

He knocks on the door of his room, where he left Spock with instructions not to move.

“Hey, Spock, I have a couple of people who want to meet you.”

“Are you sure this is wise, Jim?” Spock replies, through the door.

“It’ll be fine,” he says, to both of his wary soulmates. Joanna seems to have zero qualms, and bursts into through the door as soon as Jim cracks it open.

Spock is sitting on the bed, straight-backed and attentive. That faint green tinge on his cheeks is back, and he looks even more alien in the morning light.

Joanna gasps.

“An elf!”

Spock raises an eyebrow.

“Not exactly, Jo,” Jim says.

Bones, behind him, lets out a sigh. He turns around and heads down the stairs again.

“I’m making coffee,” he says.

*

Bones doesn’t just make coffee: he makes a late lunch. It’s some of his absurdly healthy lean chicken and salad combinations. That’s why he’s the best and the worst.

There’s a bit of hustle and bustle when Bones finds out that Spock is a vegetarian, but overall it’s drowned out by the fact that Spock is an alien.

“And you’re telling me,” Bones says, flipping his lean chicken, while Jim tosses the salad. “That an alien crashed into your field and you just let him in?

“He’s my soulmate!”

“That’s how you die, Jim!”

“I did not crash,” Spock says, perfectly evenly. Only Joanna is paying attention to him, so he turns towards her and adds, “It was a very satisfactory landing.”

Joanna nods seriously. Then, she says, “I like your ears, Mr Spock.”

Spock nods back. He says, “I find your ears pleasing as well, Joanna.”

This earns him a toothy grin. “Are your Vulcan friends also coming?”

“Yes, eventually,” Spock replies. “Though I cannot give you a precise time frame. I apologize.”

“That’s alright,” Joanna says. “Are your parents in space?”

“Yes, they are on Vulcan.”

“Do you miss them?”

Spock paused. “Vulcans do not feel emotion like humans do.”

Joanna frowns. Then she reaches out and pats his arm.

“It’s okay if you do.”

Spock hesitates. Then he nods, and says, “Thank you, Joanna.”

“Jo, if Spock says he has no emotions, then he has no emotions,” Bones says, and shoves a bowl of salad in Spock’s direction.

“That’s an oversimplification,” Spock says, with much dignity.

“Eat your salad,” Bones replies.

“Your bedside manner is surprisingly lacking for a medical professional.”

“What would you know about bedside manner?”

Joanna giggles, and Jim tucks into his chicken to hide a smile. He does hope this kind of bickering becomes routine.

*

The sky clears by 5 PM, just in time for the sunset. It lights the sky on fire and makes the last few clouds scatter. It bathes Spock in golden light, by the sink where he’s helping Jim wash the dishes.

Bones has retired to grumbling on the couch, while Joanna watches cartoons. Jim has a vague notion that this is Bones’s rough-edged version of giving them space.

“You stated previously that one may have more than one soulbond,” Spock is saying. “You did not specify what the nature of such soulbonds might be.”

“Your Mama didn’t teach you?”

Spock shakes his head. “Not this particular nuance.”

“Not many people talk about it, to be fair,” Jim says. “Bet they did it even less thirty years ago, huh? Soulbonds can be romantic or platonic, there isn’t really rhyme or reason.”

Spock passes him a plate to dry.

“And your bond to McCoy?”

“Platonic,” Jim says, hiding a smile in his shoulder. For someone who sounds so smart, Spock is rather obvious. “Bones is my best friend.”

“May I surmise then, that you are not raising Joanna together?”

Jim laughs. “No, man. God, I love Jo but I’d be a shitty parent. I’m alright being Uncle Jim, thanks. No, she’s got a Mama. Jocelyn. She and Bones are divorced. She lives in town – they moved out here for her, I think. Bones is from Georgia, technically…”

Spock lets him ramble for a bit longer, about Bones, and Joanna, and how they met, and the barbecues on the farm. Then he talks about his Airforce Mom and his big city scientist brother. About his Dad, who died while out on tour, and how nothing had ever been the same after. Spock listens. He doesn’t even look like he’s humoring Jim. It’s like he actually wants to hear this.

Jim falls quiet, eventually, and the dishes are all done and on the rack. When he turns around, Spock is lit up by the sunset, looking out over the backyard. In the distance, the scorched circle that marks the spot where he landed is almost visible.

Spock says, “And our bond?”

Jim smiles. He’s known, of course, like he told Bones -- with the same certainty as he’d known that their bond hadn’t been like that, he knows that this one is. Could be.

He takes Spock’s hand, and feels the way Spock goes carefully still as their fingers touch, tangle. He raises their joined hands between them.

“You said this means something different to Vulcans,” Jim says. He says it quietly, almost drowned by the TV. “What does it mean?”

Spock doesn’t reply. He looks away, through the window and towards the field. He looks back when Jim squeezes his hand. The dying light makes his eyes go warm brown.

“Because I’m thinking,” Jim says, stepping closer. “That it might mean something like this.”

He has to lean up, a bit, though not by much. He goes slow, closes the distance carefully in case Spock pulls away. He doesn’t.

Jim kisses him. The human way – pressing his lips against Spock’s gently, just once, lingering for a moment. He feels Spock lean in, press back, the flutter of his eyelashes, and he can’t help smiling against the kiss.

They part, and Spock is looking at him again, half-lidded.

He says, “That would be an apt comparison.”

Jim is still smiling, but it doesn’t keep him from reeling Spock back in, kissing him hard. He swallows the small surprised sound Spock makes, and feels where Spock clutches at his waist as he kisses back.

They stay close, after. Spock licks his bottom lip, which is swollen, tinged green. He’s in Jim’s pajamas, his hands still wet and soapy, and he blushes green.

“Fucking wild,” Jim whispers.

Spock lets out a considering hum.

He says, “Indeed.”

*

Four months later, on April 5th, 2063, a Vulcan survey ship lands in Montana, and meets the pilot of the Earth ship Phoenix, Zephram Cochrane.

Jim watches the broadcast on his Mom’s old 2030 TV, Spock on one side and Joanna on the other. She’s bouncing on the cushion. Bones is in the doorway, his arms crossed over his chest.

“Well,” Bones says. “Now we can stop covering Spock’s ears when we go outside. No offense, but that hat does not suit you.”

“For once, I find myself in agreement, doctor,” Spock replies.

Jim laughs. He reaches out to take Spock’s hand, and finds it already outstretched, reaching back.

“I think you look cute in a hat, Spock,” Joanna says.

“Joanna is the only one with taste,” Jim says.

“IT IS THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA OF INTERSTELLAR RELATIONS,” the news anchor says, breathless.

Jim stretches to kiss Spock’s cheek, and the corner of Spock’s mouth twitches up.

The TV carries on.

IN THIS UNIVERSE, WE ARE NOT ALONE.”