They were getting a rare bit of shore leave. And on Risa, of all places. But Jim didn’t feel at all happy about it. Partying hard was the last thing he wanted to do. More like drowning in his own sorrow.
But Jim took his rotation and made his way down to the planet surface. He spotted his favorite Risian bar right away. It was ridiculously crowded and not at all what he wanted. So Jim turned away to seek another establishment.
While he tried to figure out where to go, Jim was surprised to see Spock beaming down as he’d always told Jim he didn’t need shore leave. So being surprised, Jim invited him on instinct.
“Mister Spock. Surprised to see you here.”
“I’m about to go sit and have a drink. Want to join me?”
He hesitated for the barest of maybe ten seconds, but his gaze moved beyond Jim to where Jim noticed, for the first time, Uhura stood waiting. She had changed into a blue dress with a deep vee, exposing an ample amount of her breasts. The dress had a handkerchief hem and reached down to about the middle of her calves. She had little matching blue slippers on her feet. She wore her long hair loose. She looked pretty. Ready to take on the pleasures of Risa.
Spock glanced back at Jim. “Nyota and I have plans to attend the concert in the garden courtyard. Would you care to accompany us? You are welcome.”
Jim would rather eat boiled slugs. But he made myself smile and shook his head. “Nah, that’s okay. You go ahead. Enjoy the concert.”
Spock inclined his head but then said nothing further as he quickened his pace to join her. They spoke briefly about something before she linked her arm with his and they continued walking in the direction of the garden center.
For a brief time Jim had thought…but no. Bones had said there had been trouble between them during the Krall incident. But whatever it had been had obviously been resolved.
And really, it was not Jim’s business. It never would be.
He turned away from the sight of them and kept walking until he found a fairly quiet bar. Jim sat at the far end of the bar counter and ordered two whiskey sours.
“Two drinks when you’re drinking alone is not good.”
He glanced at his best friend and smiled. “How’d you find me?”
Bones took the seat next to him. “Followed the smell.”
He gestured to the drinks the bartender had set before Jim. “What’s up?”
“It’s his birthday, you know.”
Bones frowned. “Who’s?”
Jim stared at the drinks, left them untouched for now. “Sam.” He picked one up and swirled it in the glass. “Or was.”
Bones was quiet for a while. Then he said, “I’m real sorry about your brother and his wife.”
“I hadn’t seen him in years.” And yet his loss still hurt.
“Have you heard from your nephew?”
And that was weird, wasn’t it? Having a nephew but no brother.
“This was his favorite drink.”Jim took a sip.
“You’re ignoring the question.”
“I haven’t. It’s difficult with him being on Earth. And Aurelan’s parents are raising him now.”
Jim heard the low whine of the tricorder Bones held in his hand as it scanned him.
“Damn fool thing. According to this, you’re dead.”
Jim smiled slightly. “I guess you need a new one. Unless I am.”
“You aren’t. And I’m going to see it stays that way.”
He pushed the other whiskey sour toward Bones. “Have a drink with me for Sam.”
He picked it up and they clinked glasses, both taking a sip.
“I resented him, you know. For leaving.”
“I can imagine.”
“Mostly because he got away.” Jim swallowed heavily. “He never had to go to Tarsus either.”
“No,” Bones agreed.
“But he went to Deneva.”He sighed. “Birthdays suck.”
Jim finished the drink, letting it burn down his throat and then pinched the bridge of his nose. “God, this is a shitty day.”
“Want me to get Spock?”
Jim laughed. “For what? So he can parade his girlfriend in front of me? No thanks. I think I’m just going back to the ship and sleep for twelve or fourteen hours.”
As Jim rose, Bones put his hand on Jim’s upper arm. “You’re depressed.”
Jim snorted. “You think?”
“I’m concerned, goddamn it.”
“I’ll be fine, Bones.”
Jim hugged him then, because at the moment it really felt as though he was the only one who cared. Stupid and wrong, Jim knew. But even still.
“Why can’t I love you instead?” Jim whispered.
He shook his head. “I wish I knew. Life doesn’t work that way.”
Jim nodded and pulled away. “Not for me. I do love you.”
Bones paused, his eyes becoming very sad. He nodded, then looked away. “I love you, too, kid.”
Jim looked at the now empty glasses on the bar. “Happy Birthday, Sam.”
A few days later, Jim found himself on the Observation Deck
He’d come up here to get away from everything. The celebrations. It was Valentine’s Day and the rec room was decorated with glitzy red hearts and cherubs holding arrows. Pink frosted cakes. Bad candies with sayings written on them. It was too much to take. Especially when as he was preparing to leave anyway, he saw Uhura come in wearing dangly red heart earrings. He heard her asking people if Spock had arrived yet. That was definitely Jim’s cue to leave.
So here he stood on the Observation Deck looking out at the stars. And speaking of stars, Jim still had to file his report on that star that turned out to be an undiscovered planet. He added it to his mental to do list. Sounded like a great way to spend a night about love, when he had nothing else to do.
He sighed and crossed his arms, leaning slightly forward so his forehead touched the glass. What the hell was wrong with him? He didn’t waste time feeling sorry for himself. It never got him anywhere but more depressed. And if he didn’t knock that off, Bones was going to insist he talk or some shit.
And as if on cue the door to the room he was in slid open. He knew he should have locked it.
“What’s up, Bones?” Jim asked.
“I am not the doctor.”
That had him turning sharply to face Spock. His first officer was dressed casually in black slacks and a maroon sweater. Very Valentiney looking.
“Uhura’s not here, Spock.”
Spock looked slightly puzzled but then tilted his head. “I am not at present seeking to locate Nyota. I am aware of her location in the rec room.”
Jim nodded. “What are you doing here then? Orders from the ‘Fleet?”
“None that I am aware of, at present. My purpose is of a personal nature.”
Jim gave what he hoped was an encouraging smile but he feared it was not. It was Valentine’s Day. And his mind conjured up Spock asking Jim for permission to go to New Vulcan to bond with Uhura or something. And Jim would die.
Spock approached him and stood next to him, gazing out at the stars. “I trust you enjoyed your shore leave on Risa?”
So, small talk was it? Great.
“No. Not particularly.”
“You did not?”
“I only spent a very short time there with Bones before I went back to the ship and spent the remainder of the time catching up on sleep. How about you? Did you and Uhura enjoy the outdoor concert?”
“Yes. It was stimulating.”
“Stimulating,” Jim repeated. He did not want to think of what they did after they were stimulated by the concert. “So what is it? Uhura was looking for you, so you probably want to go.”
“You are troubled.”
That surprised Jim so much that he glanced at Spock in surprise. “Excuse me?”
“If there is anything I can help you with—”
“Did Bones put you up to this?” Jim saw from the quick flash of guilt that was barely there in Spock’s expression that he had got it exactly right. “Well, I’m fine. And you can tell him that too. I don’t need you running interference for him or whatever it is you are doing.”
“I just don’t wish for you to be overwhelmed.”
“Overwhelmed?” Jim repeated incredulously. “I’m not overwhelmed, Mister. And I’d thank you to mind your own business.”
Spock straightened at that and maybe Jim ought to take it back. He didn’t know.
“I have reports. Enjoy your evening.”
Jim left the observation room with Spock’s mouth hanging open.
He almost stopped to give Bones a piece of his mind but decided he was just better off letting himself cool down and he went to his quarters instead.
Lying in the middle of the bed was a single long stemmed red rose.
A single red rose shows love.
Jim had read that somewhere.
He went to the bed and picked it up but there was absolutely no indication where it came from.
If there was one thing Jim didn’t care for it was games. He wanted people to be straight with him and not hide behind anonymity. He’d never had a secret admirer and he wasn’t about to start. He tossed the rose in the trash.
Valentine’s Day was for fools and suckers. And Jim wasn’t about to be either one.
Okay, maybe his mood wasn’t the best. Jim could admit that.
His door chimed and he turned with a sigh.
Ship’s business would surely distract him from this ailment.
When Spock stepped inside he quarters, Jim nearly ordered him out. But then caught himself. Spock was not responsible for Jim’s bad mood. Maybe indirectly, sure, but not really Spock’s fault.
And after that brilliant opening, Spock remained silent, his gaze going past Jim to the little trash bin next to Jim’s desk.
“You did not appreciate the rose?” Spock asked.
“That?” Jim snorted. “Someone’s idea of a joke, I guess.”
Jim crossed his arms in front of his chest. “What can I help you with?”
“I confess I am at a loss at present.”
He frowned. “A loss? About what?”
“Romantic gestures. The advice I have been given is apparently wrong.”
“Advice? You mean Uhura?”
Spock nodded. “Indeed.”
He tapped his fingers on his sleeve. “You got bad advice on romance for Uhura?”
Jim blinked. “But you said—”
“From Uhura not for her.”
Spock sighed. There was no other word for the sound his first officer made. “Everything I have tried has been unsuccessful. I can only come to the conclusion that my interest is not reciprocated after all.”
“Everything you’ve tried? For who?”
“You cannot be this obtuse.”
The sigh again. “The rose, a declaration of affection, was left in your quarters by me. Since only a very few senior officers and your yeoman have access to your quarters at all, I would have thought it was fairly obvious.”
Jim stared at him.
“I attempted to ask you to a concert on Risa which you refused.”
“Wait, what? You were with Uhura.”
“Nyota and I were attending the concert as friends. It was her suggestion that I ask you, as it would be a casual, relaxing atmosphere in which to learn your interest.”
“My-my interest?” Jim felt a little faint.
“I also invited you to play chess last night, you refused the invitation. There were other attempts if you would like me to mention them.”
“Spock, I had no idea you wanted me to go the concert with you. I thought you were being polite.”
“I am not known to care for such social graces.”
Jim licked his lips. His heart was hammering. “That-that day was not good for me. It was Sam’s birthday and—”
“Yes.” Spock took a step closer. “I thought perhaps you would like to be distracted from your melancholia. But you did not appear to wish for a distraction.”
Jim bent down and retrieved the rose. “This is from you?”
“Yes. I was told it was an appropriate gesture for Valentine’s Day. I confess I have no notion how to be romantic in any way.”
Jim smiled and stepped up to Spock, holding the rose. “I don’t know, Mister Spock. I think maybe you’re doing okay.”
Spock stared at him, dark eyes unreadable yet intense. “Then may I presume my interest is reciprocated after all?”
“Are you kidding?”
“Vulcans do not—”
Jim laughed. “Yeah, I know.” He kissed Spock, right on the lips, the lips he’d wanted to taste, well since, forever, really. In all his forevers.
Spock’s hand curled around the nape of Jim’s neck, drawing him in closer.
“It is time to be quiet now,” Spock murmured against Jim’s lips.
He tried to be affronted, but damn Spock could kiss. “Okay, I get it. Live in the moment. Because—”
He smiled against Spock’s mouth. “Shutting up.”
Another Spock sigh. This one sounding warmer and softer somehow. “At last.”