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THE MARRIAGE OF TRUE MINDS

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FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: General Greetings; Acknowledgments on the Subject of Your Day of Birth; Other Matters of Note
STARDATE: 2250.04

Though there is no precedent set for the commencement of a written correspondence begun due to these specific parameters, I will strive to maintain, to the best of my abilities and with ample preparatory research previously conducted, the appropriate level of formality between us, based on a number of factors, primarily examples of a similar nature.

This correspondence has been initiated with considerable forethought.

I have learned that it is a common practice among humans to acknowledge the date of an individual’s birth with celebratory actions as well as gifts. My mother, as you know, is a human female and is aware of many of your traditions. With her providing advice and personal insight, I trust that you will not find my attention to detail lacking in this matter. As today is your seventeenth birthday and humans find it compulsory to congratulate one another on this occasion every year, whether or not their actions have merited special, complimentary mention: Happy Birthday. May this day and subsequent days until your approaching visit to Vulcan find you in good health. The gift was chosen after similar consultation. I also trust that you will find it satisfactory in some way.

As you must certainly be aware, I am Spock—information I did not provide sooner within the body of this message as it was already indicated in the outgoing address—son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth. As per the arrangements of our parents prior to our conception, in order to encourage diplomacy between our planets and following in the footsteps of the tradition set forth by the match made between my father and mother, it has been decided that we are to be one another’s intended. This tradition of arranged sexual and nuptial partnership is not uncommon on Vulcan, though understandably its strictures as applied to us cannot and will not provide a comprehensive parallel.

It has been suggested that I convey that the divergences in tradition will place us both on equal ground as far as familiarity—or lack thereof—is concerned.

I shall conclude with a general sentiment expressed often by my people. As Vulcans cannot lie, it is offered with honest intent.

Live long and prosper—as written in Standard, rather than in Vulcan, since it is regularly too difficult for humans to read or pronounce.

Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek


 

FROM: jim t. kirk
TO: spock
SUBJECT: oh my god
STARDATE: 2250.04

it took me longer to read that letter than it would've taken to come all the way to vulcan and pick it up myself, probably. tell your mom thanks for me. mine said i'd better write back or risk putting off the whole thing, but i'm bad enough at letters that i told her it might ruin everything anyway.

she never listens to me, so here we are. damned if i do, damned if i don't.

so, thanks. i wasn't expecting a present or anything, but it was cool seeing a vulcan ship model. you guys have different schematics than what we use on earth so the blueprints were a little tricky to figure out. fortunately i'm pretty great with my hands. 

seventeen's not really that big a deal on earth. sixteen is a HUGE deal for girls, they have big parties and whatever, but not so much for guys. i don't know if they have distinctions like that on vulcan or not. am i supposed to know when your birthday is? do they celebrate them over there?

you could try me on the vulcan you know, i figure i'm gonna have to learn it eventually if i'm your intended. speaking of which, you don't think it's a LITTLE weird to agree to marry someone before you've ever seen them? i mean, it's definitely not earth tradition. there's dating, and more dating, and other fun stuff and finding out if you can live with someone without wanting to pop their head off... seems pretty illogical to go rushing to the finish line if you ask me. you don't even know what i look like what if i'm physically repulsive.

anyway, call me jim i'm not gonna address you by four names all the time.

jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: In Direct Response to “oh my god”
STARDATE: 2250.05

Hello again, Jim T. Kirk.

I have been informed that the technological state on your home planet of Earth is not in such comparative disrepair to that enjoyed on Vulcan that the personal communication devices belonging to someone of your diplomatic and social status should regularly malfunction. With that in mind, I must therefore ask: Is there some reason your response lacked any signs of proper capitalization as it was sent?

If you are in need of a replacement device, though it is no longer technically your day of birth, I would not be averse—in order to ease our only means of communication prior to physical introductions—to gifting you with a non-malfunctioning device that will afford you less difficulty.

Live long and prosper.

Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek


 

FROM: JIM
TO: SPOCK
SUBJECT: Are you doing this on purpose?
STARDATE: 2250.05

Hi, Spock.

No, it's not broken. That's just how I type. It goes faster. And I don't think we should be heading into this marriage with you doing me favors all the time, you know? I might get the wrong idea. You might spoil me before we ever meet and then I'll be all smitten and I have it on good authority there's nothing worse than a smitten, sweaty human on Vulcan.

I read that Vulcans don't have sweat glands, but... You know about that, right? From your mom. Humans, sweating. It's a thing. The staff's trying to put together a summer wardrobe for me but I doubt it's gonna be enough from what I'd seen of your guys' climate. What's the policy on public nudity over there?

J


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: I Do Many Things “On Purpose”; To Which Action Are You Referring?
STARDATE: 2250.05

Once more, I set forward the customary greetings appropriate to both our cultures, Jim T. Kirk. May this message find you in continued good health.

It is a relief to note that your technical malfunctions have been adequately repaired either by you or at your behest; despite your insistence that the errors were made purposefully, for the sake of personal ease and comfort, I understand that it is a particularly human endeavor to excuse minor accidents in order to assuage feelings of embarrassment.

Vulcans, however, do not lie; though I am only half Vulcan on my father’s side, I have been raised on the principles of Surak, as befits the location of my upbringing. Embarrassment is not a matter with which Vulcans waste resources—both time and energy—concerning themselves.

I do not—rather, I cannot—blame you for behaving as is familiar to you, as a human. As you introduced the topic of my mother in your previous communication—in order to satisfy your peculiar curiosity, know that she is not prone to idle perspiration—I will add that she is an exemplary individual for her race, though she has done her best to prepare me for the inconsistencies of human nature.

I have likewise attached, for your edification, information relating to matters of public decency on Vulcan. It is a point of some concern that you have not already researched and studied these areas in preparation for your arrival. Perhaps you were unable to gather ample resources. I, however, had many at my disposal. I included the most relevant.

Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek


 

FROM: Jim
TO: Spock
SUBJECT: Thanks for the pamphlets
STARDATE: 2250.05

Seriously, just call me Jim. I think it'll save both of us a lot of time and effort. Doesn't it tire you out writing all that? Jim's just three letters. Nobody calls me James. I mean, I guess you could, but I'd feel weird having a ton of names if you've only got the one. Jim and Spock. See? Nice ring to it. Or we could do Spock and Jim. You are cordially invited to the nuptials of Spock and Jim, Providing Jim Hasn't Done Anything Knuckleheaded and Messed It Up.

To be honest, there's not a lot of information on Vulcan culture out there. I mean, there's the basics, but you guys are crazy private about a lot of stuff. The info you sent was all right, although I'm warning you right now I'm gonna faint in one of those get-ups.

As long as we're exchanging particulars, I'm supposed to forward you a list of known allergens and my CMO's contact info. It's nothing to worry about, just standard Federation procedure for sending me offworld. You don't even need to check it out, if you just give it to whoever's in charge of that stuff.

I promise not to get naked on Vulcan, but it seems like a waste for people who don't get embarrassed not to take advantage of that hot climate.

Do you swim?

J


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: There is no need to express gratitude over a purely logical action
STARDATE: 2250.05

Jim T. Kirk, your request that I refer to you henceforth as simply ‘Jim’ has been noted; however, as of yet, I am unable to comply. Do not assume that my lack of conformity is a failure to acknowledge and respond to your expressed preference. It is, rather, an adherence to that which is proper on Vulcan, given our current lack of familiarity.

In the interest of ‘evening the playing ground’—a colloquialism my mother has assured me is appropriate, despite the lack of ground upon which we are ‘playing’—I shall enlighten you as to my full name, though you will likely have some difficulty in pronouncing it. It is S’chn T’gai Spock. I have once again accompanied this communication with an attachment, this one with a recording of the appropriate pronunciation so you do not embarrass yourself.

My studies leave me with no excess time for indulging in unnecessary exploits such as swimming. Likewise, it is clear that the particulars of your decidedly under-performing immune system should cause your CMO to proscribe any recreational activity that brings you in contact with water-born parasites.

Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek


 

FROM: Jim Kirk
TO: S'chn T'gai Spock
SUBJECT: You weren't supposed to read those files.
STARDATE: 2250.05

Spock, I said you didn't have to read that stuff.

J


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: That was not implied.
STARDATE: 2250.06

Jim T. Kirk, salutations. I must debate the veracity of the accusation leveled in my direction within your previous subject line.

I will now quote the exact particulars included in the communication that contained the files in question.

>> As long as we're exchanging particulars, I'm supposed to forward you a list of known allergens and my CMO's contact info. It's nothing to worry about, just standard Federation procedure for sending me offworld. You don't even need to check it out, if you just give it to whoever's in charge of that stuff.

Your statement (as bolded) ‘You’ (in this, referring to me) ‘don’t even need to check it out, if you just give it to whoever’s in charge of that stuff’ implied that my own familiarity with the information within was not strictly mandatory—neither did it imply that it was specifically unwanted. As I forwarded the not insubstantial list of potential threats to your good health to those ‘in charge of that stuff’ I also had every reason to familiarize myself with those threats so as to avoid a future in which one might take any of us by surprise. In other words, the human memory can be faulty even when regarding the well-being of the individual who possesses it. Vulcan memory, however, is not faulty under any circumstances.

Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek


 

FROM: Jim
TO: S'chn T'gai Spock
SUBJECT: It was totally implied.
STARDATE: 2250.06

All right, my bad. I guess I should've assumed that you'd actually WANT to read all that boring stuff. I was giving you an out. Which you didn't take, but you were totally supposed to.

I think it's sweet that you wanna look after me though. Kinda romantic. That's what we're supposed to be doing, I guess.

You're not gonna call me Jim T. Kirk when we're alone together, are you? I don't think I could handle it.

I'm practicing your name.

J


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: Your implications must, therefore, be lacking the universal specificity required of them.
STARDATE: 2250.07

Jim T. Kirk, greetings. Though needless and functionless repetition is not within my nature, my mother frequently assures me that compulsory attention paid—however minimal—to the subject of health is always appreciated by human beings. As a human nicety and social gesture, to illustrate my intellectual curiosity after your Earth habits, if nothing else, I inquire after your health. Also, given what I now know of your constitution and the regular threats made to your immune system, it is apparent to me now that this inquiry is more than superficial and may in fact be more likely relevant than not.

That being said, though I am passably familiar in all manners of medical care for the physiology of every race in the Federation and many that have not yet joined, it would be unwise to eschew the services of a CMO as per regulation standard.

Nevertheless, I shall refocus certain studies so as to be prepared for all eventualities.

What else would I call you, if not by your name? I fail to see how privacy will impact or somehow alter the facts.

Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek


 

FROM: jim
TO: spock
SUBJECT: sorry i guess i'lll, work ofn tha.
STARDATE: 2250.07

ok so goodn news hbad news this is gonna ofend your vulcan eyes whcjh i get are way better than human eyes so im sorry for thei IS IN ADVANCE but had a little hovebrike accidnet supposed to keep limbs staitionary forawhile BUT i knew youd worry if i didnt write u and here you are prving me right asking about my healthS O.

goodnews is i have PLENTY of time to practiec vulcan now

i;;l be able to say your name too

schn tgai spock

you guys must have taeltented tongues to get aroundd that language

j


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: There is a voice-to-text option on all standard communication devices. Perhaps you should employ yours.
STARDATE: 2250.07

Jim T. Kirk, once again, hello. As my customary inquiry after your health has no purpose, given the subject matter of your recent communication, I will instead advise you to locate the voice-to-text option on your communication device and speak into its receiver loudly and clearly in order to dictate your responses rather than type them. Otherwise, you will be working against the efficacy of the casts I have reason to believe are currently restricting the mobility of your hands and fingers, as they are meant to limit your movements so as to promote swift bone healing.

If your medical consult has not already made you aware of this then please see attached information on the human skeletal system in order to educate yourself. Also it is a distinct possibility that a new medical official should be assigned to you, as the one currently treating you is committing egregious errors in your primary care.

Vulcans do not ‘worry,’ as you suggest I might have if you were to forego our correspondence for any short amount of time. Therefore I can assure you—as worry is a human emotional weakness—that no worry on behalf of an imagined, unbalanced emotional state on my part is necessary. You are the one who should not worry.

Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: An addendum
STARDATE: 2250.07

Jim T. Kirk, as an addition to the communication I dispatched earlier today, I have attached a Vulcan pronunciation guide. Your tongue may not be as inherently talented as a Vulcan’s—there is some question as to whether or not scales of merit can be applied in this physiological comparison—yet if your jaw was unharmed by the hoverbike accident of which you spoke, then this may serve as an appropriate recreational pastime.

Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek


 

FROM: Jim
TO: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek AND AMANDA GRAYSON
SUBJECT: Thanks.
STARDATE: 2250.08

OK, voice to text... I guess you can't hear what I'm saying, so I don't have to worry about that thing where your voice sounds weird over a recording. Uh. Thanks for the pronunciation guide, I'm gonna do all my practicing where it won't short out this thing, since it's programmed for Standard, and even if it could understand Vulcan, I doubt my accent could carry it off yet. Yet's the key word there, um...

Glad to hear you wouldn't worry if I disappeared. Not that it's likely to happen, I don't slip away all that easily these days. Kind of... Kind of notorious being the human face of our marriage and all. Impending nuptials. You'd think a human and a Vulcan never got married before, but you're living proof that someone else beat us to it. Well, two someones. You probably don't wanna think about that though, right? Gross.

...

Did you really think I needed educating on the human skeletal system, Spock? I mean, it's inside me. I know how it works. I wasn't moving that much, I was just kinda moving my hands around and banging them down onto the right keys. Totally within my rights. 

My jaw is totally fine and it's a good thing too because my whole face would look messed up without it and it's a good face. Even if it houses a subpar tongue. I'm starting to think maybe you're gonna have to teach it to be more Vulcan. Maybe in person?

Ugh, this is weird I don't know know how to...

See you around, I guess. Thanks for the letter.

Kirk out.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: Requesting and offering clarification.
STARDATE: 2250.08

Jim T. Kirk, as per your suggestion, I have included my mother’s full name and shall continue to do so in all future communications between us.

Lest you remain under what appears to be a misimpression—that is, my omission of her name in my official title was due in any part to unfavorable judgment of her person or character—let it be known that she cannot be found lacking on any account. It is true that she is human and therefore susceptible to human whims and flights of marked emotionalism, which are not appreciated in Vulcan culture, yet as a representative of her race, she is in all facets commendable.

What she cannot help or manage due to her nature is minimal and it does not overly impede her ability to adhere to the standards of Vulcan and its native inhabitants. She has performed her duties as a wife and a mother most adequately. Vulcan’s climate is without mercy—nor should it be expected to offer mercy to those from other planets—yet despite the difficulties presented on Vulcan for a human female, my mother has maintained this household efficiently and to standard. Though a Vulcan would admittedly consider her company mildly abrasive, due primarily to the expressiveness presented by all humans, she is far less bothersome than any other individual.

It is true that my father, Sarek, chose to marry her for logical reasons, diplomacy being chief among them. However, it is my impression that he chose most logically a woman who would not embarrass herself given what was expected of her.

I trust that I have clarified sufficiently as to this topic.

As for my own requested clarification, you suggested that you were ‘out’. What, exactly, are you out of?

Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson

Chapter Text

FROM: Jim
TO: Spock
SUBJECT: I'll give it my best shot.
STARDATE: 2250.09

Spock,

Listen, I wasn't trying to imply anything, I'm sure your mom's great. I figured it was just Vulcan tradition, and on top of that I was teasing you a little about how you start and end your letters. It doesn't have to be so formal. I mean, considering the nature of our impending relationship I don't see why you need to be so formal with me at all.

Human marriages aren't formal. Well, the weddings are, but the stuff that comes after it isn't. I'll try and live up to your mom's example but I gotta warn you, most humans find me more than mildly abrasive.

As far as I know, and so long as we're swapping stories, my parents got married because they were in love. Either that or my mom was already pregnant with Sam and they had to rush things, I can never get the details right.

Anyway, the point is, Spock: you don't have to include our parents' names. You're just writing to me. I hope. I mean, there are some things you say to your betrothed that you wouldn't repeat to a member of the family, if you catch my drift.

I'm not out of anything. That's an old habit, from when I thought I was going to be a starship captain instead of somebody's treaty husband. My arms are better now so I can write without having to talk at the same time. Except that apparently my lips move when I read.

Actually, I'm told that's an annoying habit. I'm gonna attach a list of my annoying habits, just so you know what you're dealing with when I get to Vulcan.

You never answered me about my proposal for tongue lessons. Does that mean no?

J


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: Merely offering clarification at this time.
STARDATE: 2250.09

Jim T. Kirk, peace and long life.

If you believe that these communications are at any point truly private—that they are not monitored by those invested in our union—then you have failed to consider the importance of our alliance and those other parties involved in the match that was made, fifteen years ago, between us. It is a unification that affects more than simply two individuals. While marriage, as a concept in both Vulcan and human cultures, does itself exist within the greater context of family and society, a marriage of diplomatic convenience such as ours is one which exists within the greater context of both cultures entirely. As such, I cannot assume that our interaction is in some way monitored. This is merely logical—a logic that is as natural to humans as it is to Vulcans. A point of commonality, if you will, few though there may be.

Therefore, formality is not a choice undertaken lightly. We are to meet in Vulcan’s winter, which will prove milder than its summer and will therefore present fewer difficulties to your constitution. This meeting is one which will have a lasting impact upon two planets and the Federation as a whole. Our common goal is to ensure that this effect is positive and beneficial, after all. On the anniversary of your birth, now five days ago, I began this open line of communication in an effort to set this precedent. An undertaking such as ours is not a private one. It is by its very parameters most public and shall always be so.

For this reason it is of paramount importance that all protocol is followed to the letter. This shall allow us to avoid miscommunication as well as any unintended offense. Our cultures are most different, as no doubt you are by now cursorily aware. (I presume, not without reason, that your ministers of state and other instructors have prepared you, based on the knowledge provided of Vulcan and its customs.) It has been implied in the past that no one is more aware of these differences than I, already a son of two worlds; as I am not wholly Vulcan and the son of a Vulcan ambassador, I am the most logical candidate.

I shall inquire after lessons of the tongue. Those to whom I have spoken on the subject lack the frame of reference to prepare me for the activity you anticipate.

Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson


 

FROM: James Tiberius Kirk, Son of George and Winona Kirk, Brother of Sam Kirk, Resident of Earth.
TO: Spock
SUBJECT: Are people really reading these?
STARDATE: 2250.09

Spock,

You don't have to tell me what I'm getting into. I've had staff poking and prodding me into a state of Vulcan readiness for as long as I can remember. Some kids get hoverbikes for their birthday, I got books on the modern history of Vulcan culture. Which I'm told was twice as expensive and way harder to come by. Not that I'm complaining, but trust me, I'm practically the local expert.

Not that I expect that to mean something to you, considering the standards for knowledge on Earth are probably way lower than anything you guys have over there.

I'm not gonna embarrass you, is what I'm saying. I just thought that maybe our correspondence was gonna be a lot more low key than all that. I know how to behave in front of other people. I didn't know I was writing to other people, that's all. You say stuff to your fiancé that you wouldn't necessarily to another person. At least, that's what I always figured.

I know we didn't choose each other, so there's no real reason for you to feel comfortable with me, but I thought maybe that was why you were writing. So we could get to know each other before we get to know each other on Vulcan.

The tongue thing was a joke, it's OK. Never mind. Don't ask anyone about it.

If you're still interested I can show you when I get to Vulcan.

J


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: On the subject of jokes.
STARDATE: 2250.10

Jim T. Kirk, peace and long life.

The subtleties of humor as expressed by humans yet elude me. Since our last communication I have researched the subject thoroughly on my computers and have come to understand there are multiple categories of ‘joke’ popular among your race, including the pun (also referred to as a play on words), sarcasm (indicated tonally, therefore unlikely to be successful in text format), and practical jokes (whether they are delivered maliciously or ‘all in good fun’ appears to be a matter best interpreted textually).

For my edification, I have also consulted with my mother, as her experiences with this human form of expression are primary rather than research-based. This provided more difficulty, as it confirmed my understanding that humor, even when it is most obvious, is simultaneously a matter of individuality and subtlety. She has suggested—and I concur with her good judgment—that I must apply myself to the study of your humor, after having familiarized myself with these concepts more generally.

Having applied myself thoroughly to the study—so as to avoid future misunderstandings, such as the ‘tongue joke’ in particular—I am compelled to inquire whether or not your statement about the birthday hoverbike was another instance of irony deployed in the joke context. As has already been established, you are in possession—by your own admission—of a hoverbike, though whether or not it survived the accident that left you with physical injuries, I cannot surmise given my lack of evidence. Therefore it seems probable that this reference was intended to be humorous.

Are your preferred forms of humor pun-based, sarcasm-based, or rooted in jokes of a practical nature? The more specific you are in response to my query, the better prepared I shall be to express acknowledgment of your humor in the future.

Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson


 

FROM: J
TO: S
SUBJECT: :O
STARDATE: 2250.10

Spock, dif-tor heh smusma,

You didn't tell your mom I was making jokes about your tongue, did you? Because you probably shouldn't do that.

Not sure how I feel about you adding me to the list of things you're already studying. That doesn't seem very romantic. I get that a certain amount of research is mandated and blah blah blah, but if you learn too much it'll take all the spontaneity out of it, you know? All the discovery and mystery.

I don't know whether Vulcans enjoy that or not. But it'll be a pretty boring marriage if we know everything about each other beforehand. Unless that's the kind of thing that revs your engine. I know how Vulcans feel about knowledge.

Along those lines, I'd say all three categories of humor suit me just fine. I've been known to pull a few pranks in my day, though I'm told that kind of "behavior" gets "less charming" with age.

You know you're older than me, right? Makes sense you'd be more mature. 

Anyway, I'll try not to be too sarcastic in our communications, because you're right -- that kind of thing doesn't carry well through the written word.

I was serious about the hoverbike. I finally just bought my own two years later, but it's not the same as getting one for your birthday. 

Say hi to your mom for me.

J


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: What is the precise meaning of “:O”
STARDATE: 2250.11

Jim T. Kirk, good time of day. I am certain this is the appropriate human greeting; however, as I cannot be certain when you will receive this message and the greeting preceding it, I will not presume to fill in that time of day for myself. You may do so at your leisure.

Now, I shall address your topics of conversation with as much chronological sensibility as possible. They were, however, varied and without sequitur.

1. I had expressed to my mother the possibility that you were predisposed to ‘crack jokes’ as it pertained to my motives for broaching the subject of humor with her. When she requested further clarification, I did so without violating the semblance of privacy you have been determined to preserve. I did not at this juncture mention either of our tongues, though it may relieve you to learn that I have since discovered no significant variance between Vulcans and humans where glottal musculature is concerned.

2. I have no engine to “rev”. However, if you are in need of another hoverbike and its presentation as a gift is as important as you suggest, then I shall acquire both engine and hoverbike bequest for a future celebratory acknowledgment.

3. I am aware of our relative ages.

4. I am not, as you suspect, inclined to spontaneity.

5. I am, however, certain that to study a matter fully is to grant it the respect of study it deserves. In preparation of our union, I have undertaken many thorough studies on a variety of topics.

6. I am charged to convey a “Hello, Prince Kirk” from my mother, as well as a mention of her gratitude that you should have thought of her at all. If you and she find one another’s companionship agreeable, then I am certain you will “enjoy” her company just as she will be relieved to know someone of similar predisposition and conduct.

7. Though we have not discussed her, it would seem only politic that I request you extend the same greeting to your mother the queen on my behalf.

8. Do not neglect proper formality in the extension of my greeting to your queen mother.

Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson


 

FROM: Jim
TO: Spock
SUBJECT: It's a face. The face I was making at you.
STARDATE: 2250.12

1. Are we writing in list format now?

2. You researched our tongues.

3. I'm attaching a picture of me and my tongue for your research.

4. Do they have paparazzi on Vulcan?

5. Paparazzi /pɑːpəˈrɑːtsi/, /pæpəˈrætsi/ (singular: (m) paparazzo Italian: [papaˈrattso] or (f) paparazza) are photographers who take pictures of athletes, entertainers, politicians, and other celebrities, usually while they are going about normal life routines.

6. Because let me tell you, there are TONS more where that came from -- apparently I stick my tongue out a lot. Although if you've been doing a lot of research on me you've probably already seen them. The pictures.

7. I make a better impression in motion than as a still life. Don't judge too harshly.

8. I told my mom you said hey, does that count?

9. That was a joke.

10. She says hey back, though she used more words than that. Called you Prince Spock. Am I supposed to call you Prince Spock, or is that an Earth thing?

11. She also says that if we're writing, I might as well get to know you better instead of dicking around. I don't really write people, so I think she thought I was kidding at first.

12. What do you do when you're not writing long letters, or reading other people's medical histories?

J


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: Vulcans do not say “hey”
STARDATE: 2250.12

1. A list is a convenient way to structure any document in order to address all separate points clearly and succinctly, as well as to guarantee that no point is forgotten.

1a. However, a list is not strictly necessary. Whether or not we continue with this format can be decided upon mutually.

1b. If you have something against lists, it would be prudent to mention this at your soonest convenience, along with any other preferences of which I should be aware before we move forward. Diplomats have been offended by less in the past and shall continue to be offended by less in the future. For example: the Tellarites, whom my father recently entertained, had equally unexpected reactions to the most simple and benign of gestures. Politeness and etiquette offended them in a variety of unanticipated ways.  

Note: Though I cannot say that I have anything against the Tellarites (to do so would be to harbor personal prejudice—and, as a Vulcan, I do not; as an individual of my standing, I cannot) I would not compare any human to a Tellarite.

From the picture you have sent  as well as the dialogue you have provided, I can safely state that you are unalike Vulcan’s nearest neighbors in every way.

Note again: I do not seek to insult either you or the Tellarites by comparing you, though if comparisons are necessary, yours would be the more favorable in this instance. I do not believe this statement can be taken as an insult regarding the Tellarites. You are my fiancé and therefore it is within diplomatic regulations to compliment you without incurring incident.

There has been a great deal of emphasis made on Tellarites lately. I will now cease to discuss the topic as the delegation has departed for the time being, leaving relative peace in their wake.

Though you have doubtless already been given visual evidence—such as a digital photograph or other manner of portrait of me—I know that humans place a significant amount of stock in how an individual, especially a romantic partner, looks. Therefore I have attached pictures of myself; it is suitable that we should see one another in similar capacities. I have no trouble with my tongue, yet the picture here forwarded is in the spirit of the same you offered to me.

As for your final request (number twelve in your list) the numerous pastimes with which I engage on a daily basis are focused as appropriate on knowledge—social, historical, mathematical, linguistic, astronomical, theoretical, physical, literary, to name a few.

Will you explain the colloquial meaning of “dicking around”?

Spock, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson


 

FROM: J
TO: S
SUBJECT: JESUS CHRIST THAT PICTURE
STARDATE: 2250.13

Oh my god, Spock. Spock, oh my god.

You sent me a picture of your tongue. Did you take that of yourself? It's great. I'm keeping it. I'll make it my PADD screensaver or something.

I've SEEN official portraits and stuff, but nothing like that, oh my god.

You look cute.

I'm obviously really thrilled to hear I look better than a Tellarite. Really. You guys sure know how to give a compliment over there. If I didn't know better, I'd ask if you were talking about the Tellarites so much because I got you a little flustered with all this talk of tongues and pictures. Do you get flustered?

If you never have before, it's all right. I have that effect on a lot of people.

To answer your question: I get carried away with the colloquialisms sometimes. That's another thing you should know about me. Dicking around is like when you're wasting time doing nothing. It doesn't have anything to do with... What it sounds like. Something I'd bring up if there weren't people READING our MAIL.

Hello, other people reading our mail. Pleasant weather we're having here. I should probably steer this around before it turns into a diplomatic incident, huh?

That's a hell of a lot to be focusing on, Spock. What do you do when you aren't studying?

J


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: Jesus Christ as an expostulation can carry both positive and negative connotations. In which way did you intend it?
STARDATE: 2250.13

Jim T. Kirk,

I utilized the timer option on my PADD in order to capture the image. Having run a simple algorithm to calculate the exact amount of time it would take to set up the frame and relocate myself within it, it required only a single attempt, with practice beforehand in a mirror, in order to make a similar “expression”. It was not a “candid shot” as many of your Earth paparazzi are so fond of procuring of you, among other persons of interest as their primary subjects.  

That being said, I do not believe it an image entirely worthy or appropriate of the status of screensaver.

Vulcans do not get flustered.

The business with the Tellarites is merely one that you shall also be implicated in after your arrival and our marriage ceremony; therefore, it is relevant information to be presented to you so that you may possess full awareness of its delicacy. As the Tellarites and the Andorians are both in close proximity to Vulcan, delegations from both races are regularly stationed on Vulcan and entertained by my father’s house. (Entertainment, in this context, does not mean something affording pleasure, amusement, or diversion, as in a performance, but rather hospitable provisions for the needs and wants of guests.)

My studies are my chief concern, as they will prepare me for my future duties to both our planets and their roles within the Federation. These studies are my focus; I believe that the proper human analogy cannot be found. Vulcans do not have hobbies in the human interpretation of the word.

I have been advised to share other personal information, for example, that I have a pet and companion, the sehlat I-Chaya. He is a bear and has been in my family since my father’s youth. At times he has joined me while I am studying or meditating.

Spock, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Positive, definitely positive.
STARDATE: 2250.14

Spock,

All right, that makes sense. Figures you wouldn't have gotten anyone else to take it for you. You can send me more pictures if you want to replace my screensaver, but I'm pretty fond of the one I've got right now. :P

I know Vulcans don't get flustered, but you're half human, right? You said in one of your first letters that you'd decided to do things the Vulcan way, but I assume you still feel things. I read about this kolinahr thing during one of my union prep courses (I guess that's what's taking the place of dating in our little arrangement here), but not all Vulcans do that, right? That's not what you meant by adhering to Vulcan precepts. I mean, it'd make sense if that was since it doesn't seem like you could get any more Vulcan than that, but I thought I'd ask. Since we're learning more about each other and all.

It'd be hard to love a sehlat if you didn't have any feelings, though. Animals can sense these things. I looked them up on my terminal -- do you have to brush those teeth? Yowza. Give him a pat on the head for me, will you? Can I bring him treats when I come to visit?

Don't worry, Andorians love me.

Does this mean we're sharing hobbies now? I used to have a bunch more before it got to be crunch time, but now I spend all my time studying how to be a proper Vulcan husband. Which is so -- I mean, don't you think it's weird our parents never asked us about any of this? It's banking a lot on two people who weren't even born yet, let alone haven't even met. What if we hate each other? What if there's no sexual chemistry? Don't answer that, it's a rhetorical question.

Anyway, I like tinkering with the bike, running flight simulations, setting the grade curve for Starfleet entry exams. I don't have any pets.

J

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Pets, addendum.
STARDATE: 2250.14

Unless you count Bones.


 

Chapter Text

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: Vulcan histories and other miscellaneous discussion items, including the pet named Bones.
STARDATE: 2250.14

Jim T. Kirk, peace and long life.

The Rite of Kolinahr is a topic of profound delicacy as one of Vulcan’s many private rituals, shrouded in necessary mystery. Given time, there is little doubt in my mind that you will come to have more understanding of it than you possess now, just as my mother, Amanda Grayson, has done over the course of many patient years. Kolinahr is undertaken by those of strictest emotional discipline. To succeed is no small undertaking and is worthy of utmost respect.

For some time, the possibility of my participation in this rite was under consideration. However it was decided ultimately that to embark on this path when mine is to remain between two worlds as a bridge between cultures would be unwise. This was the logical choice. And, as it was a choice informed by faultless logic, there is little more on the subject that requires discussion.

To assume that Vulcans naturally have no emotions is a misconception long propagated, a misapprehension that the union of our two races by means of our union as a symbolic or microcosmic representation of the aforementioned shall, ideally, work to undo. It is true that Vulcans regulate and control their emotions; this requires diligence that is as constant as it is unflinching.

The history of Vulcan is not without its share of illogic and illogical actions. Vulcan emotions run most deep. But these emotions do not rule us. They do not and cannot for our own well-being as well as our usefulness in contribution to the Federation.

Attached is a historical overview of Surak and his precepts. You may already have passing familiarity with the same. However I have included notes of my own within the documents for clarification, should certain concepts prove challenging. The translation is mine.

Having consulted on the topic of Earth pets with my mother, I must now explain that I-Chaya is not a pet in the strictest sense. He is a companion and a bodyguard. He provides company that does not interrupt and is therefore ideal for a young Vulcan unable to socialize generally with other young Vulcans of his own age. Also, one of his incisors was broken before my birth. This does not minimize the effect he has, nor does it negate his natural strength. He prefers a scratch under the chin to a pat on the head. It is in this spot he is most sensitive, though to offer it more than due attention would be to spoil him, which is inadvisable.

What species of pet is Bones? I am unprepared to address him as you have been prepared to address I-Chaya. Please send all information on the species and sub-species, along with individual information. I am told that popular human animals kept as pets are felines, canines, and, less commonly, large varieties of rodent. It would be preferable not to leave this up to conjecture.

By preparing ourselves in this fashion, I believe that the matter of personal preference shall not have significant influence. The arrangement was, after all, intended to be made between myself and your older brother. However, as you shall arrive in his place due to unforeseen events, a measure of adaptability in order to serve the greater good—the needs of the many, rather than the needs of the few—appears within both our natures, despite the distinctions of upbringing and race.

In what way do you maintain feelings of positivity with the Andorians? I would logically seek to cultivate a similar effect.

Spock, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: We both have T middle names. 
STARDATE: 2250.14

Sam had a dog, but he took her with him when he bailed.

Never really bothered with getting another one after that. I'll keep that in mind about I-Chaya.

Bones is my CMO, so I'm attaching all the relevant details there. Pictures included, though it's impossible to get one of the guy where he looks halfway decent instead of like he's coming at you with a hypo in each hand. He's a big pussycat really. HATES it when you scratch him under the chin though. 

I'm glad you're not doing the kolinahr thing. I don't know enough to comment on it one way or another, probably, but it sounds like a big deal. That, and a lot of my charm hinges around being funny and handsome and so if none of those things affected you anymore it'd probably be a really dry marriage.

That's how I get around the Andorians, mostly. Flirting. They don't know to respond at first, but everyone likes it when you pay attention to them. Got my crash course in diplomacy a little late but I'd say I'm a natural.

Your translation's better than the one they gave me here.

I don't know, Spock. It doesn't seem healthy to bottle everything up like that. I know you're not human, but it still doesn't seem right. Bones would say that's the kind of thing that gives you cancer, but he's kind of a worrywart.

Did you write letters to Sam too?

J


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: That is indeed an accurate statement. However to introduce topics of conversation within the subject header seems rather unconventional.
STARDATE: 2250.15

Jim T. Kirk, peace and long life.

As Vulcans do not flirt—the practice, I am told, often involves falsehoods presented by means of over-emphasized praise, which may or (more likely) may not have its basis in the strictest of truths—I regret that I will be unable to court the favor of the Andorians as you have done.

This is another example of the wisdom of our union, as there are talents and skills you possess that I do not. Of course, the same is true in reverse as well.

In response to your query, I had once written a similar communication to your older brother Sam four years ago on the seventeenth anniversary of his birth. I received no response but did not take offense. Vulcans do not rely on pride and therefore have little ego to be bruised.

Indeed, there is much that Vulcans do not do, as no doubt my communications have conveyed.

Is there a method of transferring my dissatisfaction with your CMO’s preventative care? The reasons for referring to him as your “pet” have eluded me. Is this a distinctly human expression of some kind, adhering to the principles of ironic or sarcastic humor? I could not find a direct corollary in any colloquial dictionaries, and I cross referenced no fewer than seven.

I have been informed that a Klingon delegation is soon to attend a meeting on Earth and that the situation is considered a volatile one. I trust you will be safe during this time.

Spock, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: OK duly noted. 
STARDATE: 2250.16

I might not be able to write back right away, for the reasons you said. Gotta take some time off from my Vulcan prep to learn some things about Klingons. I figured I'd let you know, since I didn't wanna pull a Sam. I know you said you don't care one way or the other, but I read somewhere that missed communications have been the foundation for a ton of diplomatic incidents, so I figured I'd get started on practicing that. Not starting diplomatic incidents.

Do you think flirting with the Klingons will work?

Bones is all right. It was both sarcastic and ironic, I guess. He's not a pet in the literal sense, but he spends a lot of time running around after me and getting underfoot. He's got those hangdog eyes too. Search for Earth hound dogs, you'll see the resemblance.

Anyway, my Klingon lessons call. Do you speak Klingon? Maybe I could teach you a little sometime.

That's another reference to our tongues, just so you know.

J

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Listen,
STARDATE: 2250.17

Don't send me anything for awhile I think they're monitoring my ingoing and outgoing activity I'll get back to you soon.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: With careful hands.
STARDATE: 2250.17

Jim T. Kirk, peace and long life. What is, is. I have understood the meaning of your communication and intend to meditate on future diplomatic successes. It would be illogical to interrupt proceedings further. When you have time and inclination, message me again.

Spock, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of George and Winona Kirk
SUBJECT: I have encrypted this communication. It is doubtful that any Klingon will manage to intercept it.
STARDATE: 2250.17
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, what has happened?


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: ok good
STARDATE: 2250.19
SECURE CHANNEL

i can't talk right now i'm 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: ok good
STARDATE: 2250.20
SECURE CHANNEL

sorry about that last one, the power shorted out before i could keep going i figured at least you knew i was alive though 

can't believe you beat me to encrypting a secure line i was gonna do that to impress you

im fine don't know what theyre showing on the news there in vulcan or anything

im fine

mom's fine too

dad

well youre good at procession of elimination im sure you can infer

we don't know if it was the klingons or someone real pissed that the klingons were visiting at all


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: In response to “ok good”
STARDATE: 2250.20
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

There has indeed been news, from many sources, though as with all such news, some of the finer details are without verification; others fall prey to typical sensationalism. However, all accounts as they have been presented are certain that the actions of George Kirk were noble, selfless, and brave. Many speak of him as a hero. Surak once said, “Nobility lies in action, not in name.” In understanding this, I understand that nobility lies in the actions and the name of your father, George Kirk.

Vulcans consider and respond to death in ways most different from human grief. I have seen my mother shed tears over the smallest of losses—over a baby bird that did not last the night. I could not pretend to understand how or why these emotions of hers were and are expressed so freely. I only know that they have been.

Therefore, I offer my condolences in the spirit with which they may be received. As a human would receive them, if not as a Vulcan would offer them. To you, and to your mother, Winona Kirk. Though we both know I have no culpability in what has transpired, I believe the appropriate statement is to say I am sorry, Jim.

You have assured me that you are safe. This detail was less than apparent in the bulletins and transmissions from Earth. Surak also said, “The calm mind is the one that truly knows.” If your mind remains calm, fear will not follow in the footsteps of chaos.

What you may not yet know is that the act was a hostile overture extended by a rebel Klingon faction protesting the peace talks made without their support. As such, given the nature of the alliance between your people and mine, Vulcan shall do what it must to fulfill and honor its obligations to Earth.

Do not endanger yourself to assure me of your well-being, as such behavior is inherently a conflict of interests. It will compromise that which I would prefer to ascertain. When you are able to communicate, communicate. I would have more information, but not at an expense too great to pay.

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: thanks
STARDATE: 2250.21
SECURE CHANNEL

thanks for hailing back. i wasn't gonna reply, but it's nice to have something to focus on that's just mine, you know? i look forward to it at the end of the day. or sometimes in the morning, before the servants start preparing us for the day. that's pretty much the only time i have to myself now.

we're still sorting stuff out, you know, funeral arrangements. whatever. my mom's doing as well as can be expected. sam might come back to help her out with stuff but i doubt it. wrote to him and i haven't heard anything.

guess you know what that's like.

i'll probably go crazy if i don't have anything to distract me so i'll probably keep sending communications over whether i'm supposed to or not. sorry if that goes against your logical sensibilities. don't stop writing.

maybe we should just stick to this channel for awhile. all right by you?

j


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: There is no need to express gratitude for a task performed when it was required. Nevertheless, you are “welcome”.
STARDATE: 2250.21
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Your stated desire to maintain a private channel for our communications indefinitely is as understandable as it is logical. I have made the necessary corrections to the security protocols. If you have reason to believe at any point that the channel has been compromised, then perhaps we may consider a rotating security system made of multiple encryption programs. You had mentioned interest in the task, though I would have little difficulty establishing the encryptions myself, if you do not find yourself at liberty to contribute.

Perhaps you are already aware of the skirmishes now taking place in the Neutral Zone. Two Klingon factions are pitted against one another. To the victor, it would seem, go the spoils—the spoils being either war with the Federation or peace with the Federation, depending on said victor.

When space travel is less hazardous—a small Vulcan vessel was lost early this morning in that sector—a Vulcan delegation will be arriving on Earth for the planned summit, and to pay our respects at the public funeral of George Kirk.

If you are not careful, then your good health is now in the hands of this medical officer “Bones”. It does not seem a prudent gamble.

Live long and prosper.

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: jtk 
TO: sts 
SUBJECT: still, thanks
STARDATE: 2250.21
SECURE CHANNEL

spock,

thanks for reminding me of what i have to look forward to if i get sick on top of everything else. if that was your roundabout way of asking me whether i'm all right after the attack, i'm fine. nothing major, just the usual. it's not the first time i've gotten the crap beaten out of me and it definitely won't be the last.

though i'm not exactly looking forward to a repeat performance by the klingons anytime soon. they hit hard.

guess i did all that language practice for nothing. i could still show you a thing or two, if you wanted. might as well not go to waste.

listen, spock, i think everyone should stay on vulcan until things are less hot. just lay low. you said yourself there are firefights all over the place right now, and vulcan's in a more volatile spot than earth. i know you said you were gonna wait for the optimal moment anyway, but maybe you should just hold off until i was supposed to visit. then you don't have to go out of your way.

it's not that i don't want to see you. we have delegations in and out of here all the time. right now we're still cleaning up from the last one, but i know we're prepared for vulcans. your parents stayed here before i was born, probably meeting sam. sorry that didn't work out.

still haven't heard from him, so it looks like we're gonna be flying solo for awhile.

but you should think about what i said. unless you weren't planning on coming with that delegation and i'm totally misreading the situation. sometimes your letters kinda blur together and i read them a bunch of times but it's late and as i'm sure you're aware i only have a human brain to work with here.

the whole delegation should just steer clear for awhile if you ask me, but that's not an official request or anything like that. just my opinion.

j


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Still welcome.
STARDATE: 2250.22
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Your original gratitude as offered in the subject line appears to have a meaning separate from the repetition of “thanks” within the body of your following communication. If this is another instance of sarcasm, I will make note of it in order to maintain a constant awareness of that which does not come naturally to me. I would not, through lack of attention, mistake your intent. Though the focus of our duties now lies with issues of diplomacy and political relations, I would not eschew the duties I also bear toward you in the process.

As far as intentions are concerned, despite the plans already set in motion for a delegation of medium size to depart Vulcan and arrive on Earth, further hostilities in the neutral zone have caused Federation lockdowns of all transport ships for the present time. Of this you are doubtless already aware; an official briefing communication from Federation headquarters in Earth’s San Francisco was broadcasted earlier this morning to all allied planets and governments, and Vulcan will comply in order to maintain our unified front.

There was also a matter of terrorist activity near a space station close to Vulcan this afternoon. The explosion could be seen from the window of my private chambers and we wait now for reports of the casualties. I have been informed that there will be little chance I shall be cleared for travel until it is deemed safe for someone of my status to do so.

My mother suggests that it is at times such as these that distractions are of paramount importance, though I do not agree with her assertion. It is at times such as these when the full focus of a calm and analytical mind, unencumbered and unhindered by emotionalism, is vital to the survival of an ideal peace. The Vulcan High Council has been in conference session for four days. As my admission to the college was denied, I make conference alone.

How is your health?

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Starting to think you might have a sense of humor after all. 
STARDATE: 2250.22
SECURE CHANNEL

i'm doing all right, spock. like i said, i was black and blue for awhile, but it's starting to fade. a few cracked ribs, one hell of a shiner and what bones insists is a mild concussion but that's just part of my charming personality.

i took a picture for you. the bruise on my stomach looks a little like part of the delta quadrant.

anyway, my head's fine now and i've got nothing in a cast. i was on bed rest for a couple days but i'm all right now. your letters saved me from going nuts, which you probably guessed from the way i was begging for them.

sorry about that. not exactly a great side of me. maybe bones was right about my head after all.

to be perfectly honest, i'm glad you're on lockdown. i wasn't sure you'd listen to all my perfectly logical reasons why you should stay at home, so it helps to have a law backing me up. at least, that's how i feel about it. 

you said that we still have duties to each other, beyond what we have to do for other people, right? so i'm gonna keep telling you how i feel, even if it's inconvenient. writing isn't always the best indicator of emotional stuff, so i figure that's part of my duty as the human in the relationship. i can call it a relationship, right?

feels weird when we've never met. but i guess that's what letters are for.

how exactly do you go about making conference alone? i'm not sure i read that last part right, but what kind of idiot denies YOU from a college? any college. isn't that against the law or something? you should be allowed to do whatever you want. more than that, what in the hell kind of standards does this place have that someone like you gets shot down? are they out of their minds? can that even happen to vulcans? i mean, from what you've told me all you do is study. you sound like the perfect candidate to me.

hope you're not going too crazy on lockdown.

stay safe, okay?

j

Chapter Text

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: I have a sense of what humor is, but I do not believe you were referring to that definition of sense.
STARDATE: 2250.23
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

It would be unwise to assume that I would not have listened to your logic were it, as you claim, perfect. The truth is, however, that perfect logic is a rare achievement, even on Vulcan. Were it that simple to attain then so many would not have devoted their lives and their great intellect to its pursuit. Even the wisest elders of the Vulcan Council must apply rigorous dedication in adhering to Surak’s precepts.

My mother suggests it would also be unwise to assume that you would wish to be lectured on these topics. “Lecture” as it stands offers a variety of possible interpretations depending on contextual evidence; one would simply be a lecture as offered in a lesson, toward the enlightenment of a subject, which is how it was intended, rather than an unwanted recitation of facts meant to shame or admonish.

To say that I have kept a conference of one is, upon reflection, not a strictly accurate statement. Rather, I have ascertained the most likely subjects of discussion amongst the elders of the High Council and have meditated on them, given their importance, while confined to safe quarters.

Though I applied to the Vulcan Science Academy and studied with my peers, as was logical of an individual in my position, a child of Vulcan—my birthright meant from the start that I would not be brought among the fold of those scholars. Not only am I half human, which no member of the academy before me has ever been, but I am also charged with matters of state rather than the freedom of intellectual pursuits, and could not have been committed to the Academy fully.  

This has not prevented me from contemplating these sensitive diplomatic issues—potential solutions along with historical implications. I have attempted to consider multiple viewpoints. Anything that will lessen hostilities and prevent future loss of life is logically worthy of thorough investigation. It is simply that I conduct my research alone and separate, and submit my findings to the proper channels when they are complete.

It does not appear that your CMO is attending the bruises as thoroughly as they demand. I would not have thought on my own to compare the shape of the bruising patterns to any system or constellation, but I should add that the coloration more closely resembles the Horse Head Nebula than the Delta Quadrant. If this is your CMO’s method of diagnosis, it is clear to see why you are not receiving proper care.

I confess I do not understand the concept of “going too crazy” in this context. In your grief, is your mental condition compromised?

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: In addition
STARDATE: 2250.23
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life. I noted you mentioned reading single communications multiple times. As that implies I may not have sent enough to occupy you adequately, I may offer additional communications in the future.

Good night.

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Back at you.
STARDATE: 2250.23
SECURE CHANNEL

if you want me to dream about you, all you have to do is say so.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Morning, sunshine.
STARDATE: 2250.24
SECURE CHANNEL

hey,

you can tell your mom it's okay, i know you were just trying to enlighten my human mind and all that. for someone who's remarkably condescending, you actually manage not to be too terribly offensive most of the time. 

i'm trying to say i get it. i usually reply to your letters at night but i thought i'd take a swing at one in the morning and see how that went. obviously not very well. i like the extra letters thing though. are you gonna start doing that more often? does this mean you were thinking about me before you went to bed? 

these are all things i couldn't ask with the chaperones up my ass so i figure i might as well take advantage of a secure channel while i can. they're probably gonna start asking why we don't talk anymore, but i figure i have at least a few weeks before i'm supposed to get back to business as usual. we should probably enjoy our privacy until then, though i guess it's never bothered YOU that we're being monitored.

you don't have anything to say to me that could only be said in private? how do vulcans cultivate intimacy anyway?

feel free to be as detailed as you'd like.

going crazy is another colloquialism. i wanted to know whether it was agitating you to have your freedom of movement taken away, essentially. i don't do well with being told where i can't go or what i can't do -- wanted to know whether you felt the same. it's a human thing to try and find points of similarity between themselves and other people, especially people they want to relate to.

i'll pass along your diagnosis to bones. :) i'm touched you care enough to dig up a comparison of your own. what do you think it looks like now?

xo

j


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: I am not inclined toward the distribution of the particularly human occurrence known as the “nickname”.
STARDATE: 2250.24
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Now, it would seem that the discolored area of the hematoma on your abdomen is at least fading, perhaps not as quickly as it would have if tended to by Vulcan’s doctors, but not so slowly that it is of additional concern. Human tolerance for pain is not as high as a Vulcan’s. (Note: this is not a judgmental comparison, merely a factual statement.) Perhaps the distraction of your physical ailments have contributed to the mental and emotional stress you are currently enduring. “Going crazy” may be a colloquialism. I believe it is also a relative state.

Meditation is a means to a calm mind and clear thoughts. It is an invaluable practice. I recommend it to you as it allows for accelerated physical healing, though of course you will not be able to achieve the same rate as a Vulcan in an equal time-frame. That is purely biological, not something over which you have any control. Meditation has proven unerringly useful in the past week, for example. I offer this suggestion to you with that in the forefront of my mind. When there is nothing one is able to specifically do—if one is to feel frustrated, or prone to such feelings—then certainly there are steps that may be taken to ameliorate that failure of self-management.

As for the question of Vulcan intimacy, that is—in essence—an intimate subject. Our rituals are shrouded in secrecy for many reasons, but as you will be a part of them, in your own way, in time, there is no reason that I should not be detailed.

Have you any specific request for clarification in mind, or should I begin with a more general overview? It is a broad topic. Do you require answers that range toward the anatomical or the spiritual? Definitions? Instructions? Diagrams?

Perhaps diagrams are the most logical place to begin.

As for matters of intimacy, I shall tell you now that though I am aware of how it is achieved, I have not—as in other areas of focus—yet practiced.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Peace and good night.
STARDATE: 2250.24
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

Hands. Our hands are the locus of great sensitivity.

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: OK, fair enough.
STARDATE: 2250.25
SECURE CHANNEL

Jesus, well if you were hoping to shoot me a distraction from my physical ailments by suggesting diagrams of Vulcan intimacy then mission accomplished, Spock. That's – unexpectedly kinky of you. I approve. Way better than meditation. I gotta warn you, I'm no good at quieting my mind. Every time I try to shut things out it only gets worse, and I come out way more agitated than I when I started. Whenever I need to calm down I do a few combat circuits in the holodeck, or go for a long ride on my hoverbike. Since we moved to San Fran, there are all these coastal roads by the ocean. It's a nice view, pretty soothing. I haven't been out on my own in awhile, though. Security detail's pretty heavy since the Klingon attack.

I tried to shake them once, but it made my mom cry. 

Don't worry, I'll do my best to stay sane. You already had to put up with one Kirk replacement and my parents obviously aren't gonna have any more kids, so I'm kinda our last hope there. Gotta protect the dynasty and all.

I've had some practice in human intimacy, from before we were supposed to get hitched. I was pretty young when Sam bailed, but it took awhile for my parents to sort out a new deal, I guess. Either way, it was from before I was spoken for. It's not a big deal. I just figured since you were honest I should do that back. I've never done anything Vulcan style before, so that should –

We'll be on even footing there, anyway.

I'm not gonna send you a diagram, I'm sure there's plenty out there on human sexual practices. Considering how often we think about it and all. Kinda looking forward to practicing with you.

XO

J

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: dfgffffffffffffhfgj
STARDATE: 2250.25
SECURE CHANNEL

oh my god, spock.

i can think of some things we could do with your hands. and my mouth, maybe. mouth's a comparable erogenous zone, right?

hard to spell erogenous this late

e r o g e n o u s

you have sensitive fingers huh

gonna think about that before i go to sleep tonight

xoj


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Is “dfgffffffffffffhfgj” a human acronym?
STARDATE: 2250.25
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I am compelled to suggest that what you mistake for amplified agitation is merely your half-calmed mind reacting more immediately to the thoughts and emotions you are constantly experiencing. When you have managed to achieve a near-tranquil state, that near-tranquility allows for a clarity of cognizance that places all significant thought in sharp relief—having swept away the distractions that once stood between your acknowledgement of these thoughts and the thoughts themselves. It allows you to recognize the fullness of your agitation. Therefore, the sense that you have become more agitated is merely an illusion. If you are able to push past your instinct to withdraw from the not insignificant weight of all you are thinking and feeling, then you will at last achieve true tranquility of mind.

This did not come as instinctively to me as it did to my peers, as, due to my human mother, that element of humanity stood in my way for some time. However, I trust that the frustrations at the time gave me practice with the concept that not everything will or should come easily. There is merit to be found in those engagements that prove more difficult.

What I mean to say is that I am familiar with frustration. I do not speak as someone who has never experienced it for himself. I am in control of my emotions; that does not mean they do not exist. Rather, it is clear that such a state of control implies they do exist, for it would not be necessary to exert control over something nonexistent.

It is unusual behavior for a Vulcan to depart from the main topic of conversation and pursue one that is merely tangential. I have—to become relevant to our dialogue once more—included diagrams that will provide specific information rather than the general. Though I am half human, I more closely resemble my father than I do my mother. However, the points of anatomical and biological similarity between Vulcans and Humans is no doubt in part a deciding factor behind our union.

You reference your brother often despite his notable absence. It appears to me to be without logical purpose to refer to him at all. He is not there with you or your mother, Winona Kirk of Earth. He was once my intended, but he is no longer. I never had ample opportunity or indeed opportunity at all to “get to know” Prince George “Sam” Kirk beyond our introduction when the two of us were young—both of us not yet five years of age—whereas we have communicated now for twenty days without a break in those communications, save for those beyond our control. The conversation, though it has been conducted within a specific, textual format, has not been unpleasant—although admittedly that is only my position on it, and does not take into account your personal opinion of its merits, or lack thereof.

With whom did you practice human intimacy? In what rituals of intimacy did you engage?

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: A minor query.
STARDATE: 2250.25
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

Why is it that you would behave in a fashion that would elicit a negative reaction from your mother?

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: A more immediate response to “dfgffffffffffffhfgj” despite not knowing its precise meaning.
STARDATE: 2250.25
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

Clarify “some things” if time permits it.

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: No it's a keysmash.
STARDATE: 2250.25
SECURE CHANNEL

So you know me better than you knew Sam and you like me better.

Good, I'm glad we got that out of the way.

It's kinda cute thinking about you getting all frustrated with meditation too, though. I know you said Vulcans don't get flustered, but that sounds pretty flustered to me. It's a human thing, which I guess you get half of. Although sometimes the way you talk about it, it's like you feel it way more than half. Maybe it's like a canker sore, where it feels huge in your mouth but it's not actually that big when you look at it in the mirror. You guys get canker sores? I think they're a vitamin deficiency thing, so probably not. Don't worry, I'm on a big old health regime now to prepare me for visiting Vulcan -- whenever that happens now. Bones wants to build me up before I escape his clutches so I won't drop dead off his watch.

That's another joke. I'm not that bad. Then again, you read my files, so I guess you already know that.

Not sure what kind of information you're looking for when it comes to my past conquests. I didn't exactly keep records. I've messed around with girls, mostly.  Kissing and stuff. We do that with our mouths, not our hands. Nothing serious. I didn't really think of it as practice at the time, and then after our situation changed I was too busy with research and getting a crash course in how to be a diplomatic envoy. Didn't leave much time for fooling around.

I like your tangents, Spock. You can keep it up if you feel like it.

XO

J

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Clearing up some things.
STARDATE: 2250.25
SECURE CHANNEL

It's a human thing.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Clearing up redux.
STARDATE: 2250.25
SECURE CHANNEL

It's not rational, or logical. Sometimes after people go through a serious emotional change it makes them act out.

I'm not proud of it.

J

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: oh my god spock.
STARDATE: 2250.26
SECURE CHANNEL

things we could do with my mouth and your hands; a brief overview

1. i could suck on your fingers
1a. i have what is known in human colloquial terms as an excellent mouth for sucking.
1b. before you ask, it's related to the lips.
1c. i have good lips.

2. biting.
2a. not hard.
2b. it's a foreplay thing not an attack.

3. i should not send this.

4. i could kiss you for encrypting a secure channel.

5. you ever resent that we never got to ask each other out or anything i feel like that's a vital process we're not even gonna have a good proposal story spock.

6. i am a little drunk.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Elucidation required regarding human nature.
STARDATE: 2250.26
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

If you are not proud of it—if it is not rational, logical, or in any way agreeable to you or other involved parties—why do you not cease the behavior you have already recognized as unpleasant?

I cannot answer this question for myself. I suspect it has something to do with a facet of human nature that, as it is not logical, has heretofore eluded potential study.

However, if at all possible, I believe it of utmost importance to pursue an understanding of the rationality—or irrationality—behind this particular riddle.

“It’s a human thing” implies that it cannot be a half-human thing.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Addendum to communication titled “Elucidation required regarding human nature.”
STARDATE: 2250.26
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I have been informed by an interested and tangentially involved party who also has passing familiarity with my personal communications that to discuss philosophy and philosophical theory is not necessarily “romantic”, and that topics more traditionally considered “romantic” would be preferable, at least as far as this stage of our acquaintance is concerned. I have been advised to “take things slowly” so as not to overwhelm or over-complicate. However I believe your mind capable of deeper intellectual pursuits. I do not see myself why this topic would bother you where others of equal weight have not.

What is your preference?

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Assurances
STARDATE: 2250.26
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I assure you I am no longer “flustered” or “frustrated”, nor would my experience with those states be recognizable as entirely human for I am not, as you must recall, entirely human. I cannot fathom why this state would be considered “cute” or anything other than unsightly and ultimately reprehensible.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Request
STARDATE: 2250.26
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

An accurate, up-to-date, numbered list with names, if you are capable of providing it, would not go unappreciated. Descriptions of the individuals as well as your appraisal of their capabilities is not required but would not be refused.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: In direct response to “oh my god spock”
STARDATE: 2250.27
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Am I to understand that, due to your inebriation, it was not your intention to send that particular message and therefore, in the interest of diplomacy, I should not reference its contents again?

Spock of Vulcan


 

Chapter Text

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Ditching my security detail.
STARDATE: 2250.27
SECURE CHANNEL

Look, I said I'd cut it out. It's not like I go around trying to upset my mom or anything. Things have just been -- different, since my dad. You know. And I don't exactly do well with people following me around at the best of times, but at least the old security kept a reasonable distance. Now it's like I can't even take a nap without five people standing around me. Makes it tough to get a second to myself. You know how I like my privacy.

Anyway, I didn't adapt great at first, as you can guess. I'm sure you never acted out at seventeen and now that you're past that it seems even more distant but there's no way I'm as well behaved as you. Just another head's up. Mom would say I should follow your good example, since you're gonna be my better half and all. That's the point of our union anyway, to fill in each other's shortcomings. You've said as much before. It seems to me like you're getting the short end of the stick. Sucks for you. Sorry about that.

I only meant that it probably wasn't a half-human thing because you seem pretty logical even by our standards. I doubt you'd lash out like that.

Anyway, I'm not doing it anymore. Consider me sufficiently smothered by the best team our family can buy until further notice.

Dad's funeral's tomorrow. There'll probably be a broadcast or something, if you wanted to watch.

I'll be there.

J

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Cuteness; romanticism. 
STARDATE: 2250.27
SECURE CHANNEL

You should talk about whatever you want in your letters. Especially now that we don't have to worry about other people reading them. I wouldn't mind if you got a little more romantic now and then, but if you'd rather talk sociological differences and meditation techniques then that's cool too. I'm smarter than I look. Dunno if I can keep up with your Vulcan mind, but I'll sure as hell try.

I'm gonna be doing that for the rest of my life anyway. Might as well get a little practice in.

XO

J

P.S. Maybe humans and Vulcans have a different idea of what's cute because I'm picturing it again and no, it's still cute. Could have something to do with your face.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: I don't believe this. 
STARDATE: 2250.27
SECURE CHANNEL

Are you serious? You're serious. If I've learned anything about you, Spock, it's that you're always serious.

All right, here goes.

1. Marlena Moreau; cute little brunette, smart as hell, total social climber but she turned out all right; i think she wanted to be a princess more than she liked me. good kisser though.

2. Helen Noel; met her on a balcony at a family christmas party. think she's a psych student with starfleet? eloquent; good with her tongue.

3. Janice Rand; worked for my family, got bumped up to security.

4. Gary Mitchell; we grew up together, used to fool around before he left to study at starfleet, he's the one who introduced me to carol after i gave him his first handjob.

5. Carol Marcus; too smart for me.

6. Starfleet Candidate; can't remember this guy's name but we enjoyed some mutual friction in a bar bathroom by the shipyard.

That's all I have, hardly complete enough by your Vulcan standards, but in my defense I didn't know I'd have to be keeping records. 

J

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: That thing we're not talking about. 
STARDATE: 2250.28
SECURE CHANNEL

we could talk about it if you want.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: On the topic of security
STARDATE: 2250.28
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I will not be troubled if you are unable to find time to reply to me today, as it is after all the day of the service for your father’s funeral. Though I have only familiarized myself through research as to the duties required of you and have never had cause to undergo them myself, I know that you will no doubt be otherwise engaged.

The topic is, I will admit, a sensitive one, a sensitivity compounded by the differences in outlook possessed by humans and Vulcans when regarding life and the cessation thereof. There is the possibility that I would commit to words a response interpreted as inappropriate or in some manner callous, due to cultural inconsistencies rather than offensive intent, and it would be illogical to court a misunderstanding while knowing full well the effect such a misunderstanding would have.

However, it would also be illogical to say nothing of it.

We on Vulcan do intend to observe the proceedings as they are broadcast with all due respect for your father and your family—and Earth’s government, and our alliance therewith—though Vulcans do not mourn in the same sense as the human funeral demands. But it will not go unmarked or unacknowledged. We will stand with you, though such metaphor has never been a particularly Vulcan proclivity.

In moments like these, perhaps it may provide comfort to know that matter and energy are neither created nor destroyed.

Then again, perhaps it may not provide comfort at all.

I will see you today, though it will not be a mutual experience. If you wish for me to make it mutual in some small way I would oblige.

Our communications to this point suggest that you are without question an individual possessed of the fortitude necessary for the task that awaits you, as you have already yielded to logic on a variety of occasions—including that of your security detail. It is important for one in your position to attend thoroughly and rigorously to maintaining your protection.

Live long and prosper.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: On the subject of romance (you are not compelled to read or reply to this swiftly)
STARDATE: 2250.28
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Again, there is no need to respond before you are able and before your duties have been concluded.

On the subject of romance, I will confess in the interest of honesty—Vulcans cannot lie—that I have such minimal experience as to pass without mention. As you have enjoyed experiences with no fewer than six romantic and/or sexual partners, it would stand to reason that I will have to rely on you and your experience to instruct me as to how these matters are addressed to mutual satisfaction. I have not shirked my own responsibilities in this area, however, as I have begun to study human male anatomy based on anatomical models and other instructional manuals.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: A communication before rest
STARDATE: 2250.28
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, whether or not I “want” to discuss that which we have not yet discussed is irrelevant. I believe that the matter of whether or not you want to discuss it is the question that must be addressed. 

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Additionally
STARDATE: 2250.28
SECURE CHANNEL

Good night, Jim. My mother has long since abandoned expression of the concept that my dreams should be sweet. Yet if sugared or candied unconsciousness is desired by humans then it would be beneficial for you to achieve that ideal tonight.

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: 
STARDATE: 2250.28
SECURE CHANNEL

sure. we'll talk soon

i appreciate it, spock.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: re: On the topic of security.
STARDATE: 2250.30
SECURE CHANNEL

Hey, Spock,

Funeral's over. Which I guess you know, since you were watching and it's been a couple days now. I mean to get back to you sooner, I just lost track of time. Like you said, I have way more responsibilities than I used to. Bones says we're in dire straits if it's my judgment we're suddenly all depending on, but he's a notorious pessimist and he knows how much I love to prove him wrong.

Don't know if I thanked you before, but your letters were great. It was good to have something to read on the day of. I had a hard time not just whipping my PADD out in the middle of the ceremony, but I figured you'd see me do it and then you'd see all the faces I make reading what you write me and that's no good. It's up to someone to preserve the mystery in this relationship, Spock, and I can already tell that someone's gonna be me.

Here's hoping I don't let you down. I know it wasn't in my medical file, but you could consider that a chronic condition I have too. Ditching security's only a part of it. Not that I'm gonna keep doing that, but it's been a habit of mine for awhile. I'm used to taking care of myself. Between Mom and Dad and Sam I never thought I'd have to amount to anything. I figured I'd do the palace life for awhile until that got old then maybe join up with Starfleet, take off and do my own thing.

I never expected to wind up in this position, but it sounds to me like it's something you're used to. Hopefully you won't mind me leaning on you for advice too much.

Guess that's what fiancés are for. Right?

XO

J

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: How anatomically correct are these anatomical models exactly?
STARDATE: 2250.30
SECURE CHANNEL

You don't have to study anything, it's not a big deal. It's not like I know what I'm doing with Vulcans anyway, and if that's the parent your anatomy more closely follows we'll probably be on even ground in terms of experience.

Anyway. Anyway, Spock, that's the kind of thing that's a lot more rewarding to learn in person.

You're cool with the whole male anatomy thing though right? I mean we never talked about it but. You know.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: you keep sending me messages right before bed I'm gonna start thinking you're flirting with me.
STARDATE: 2250.30
SECURE CHANNEL

forget it.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: 
STARDATE: 2250.31
SECURE CHANNEL

Sweet dreams is just one of those things you say. It's not a literal meaning so much as it's understood that you hope someone has good dreams instead of bad ones.

It's more like telling someone you care about them. But I guess Vulcans don't dream so I don't know how that crosses over.

Have a good night, Spock.

xo

j


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Clarification requested
STARDATE: 2250.30
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

What, exactly, should I commit myself to forgetting? If I am unable to “forget it” as such—Vulcan memory is without fault—and I am unable to lie about having forgotten “it”—though I am half-human, I do not lie as my father would not, and his father before him; I believe I have made myself clear on this issue already—then it would appear we have encountered an unforeseen difficulty that requires immediate strategies and action taken. We must act swiftly in order to ameliorate any damage prior to compounding it further.

Does the “forget it” refer to the subject line involving flirtatious intent or that which we have, it would seem, committed ourselves to avoid mentioning, despite the fact that our avoidance serves only to highlight its impact and presence by means of granting it excess power by devoting ourselves so rigorously to the task of ignoring it?

In other words, and in the interest of full and honest disclosure, I have not forgotten either “it” and doubt I shall “forget” anything in regards to our correspondence at any point.

I consider all our discussions frequently.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Vulcan temperature
STARDATE: 2250.30
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Regardless of anatomies, Vulcans are naturally “cool” in temperature, as compared to the average bodily temperature of a human being. Does this satisfy your curiosity?

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Amounting to anything
STARDATE: 2250.30
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Why is it that you have compared yourself on multiple occasions unfavorably to an individual who abdicated his responsibilities, while you alone remained to shoulder them in his stead?

This is the height of illogical comparison.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Vulcan memory
STARDATE: 2250.31
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

I have not and cannot “forget it”.

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: your vulcan memory
STARDATE: 2250.31
SECURE CHANNEL

good.

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: temperature
STARDATE: 2250.31
SECURE CHANNEL

i wasn't asking you about your body temperature i was asking what kind of bodies you'd rather be touching. not that there's anything i can do about my body but we could probably work something out if you... preferred other things.

that's all

j

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Sam
STARDATE: 2250.31
SECURE CHANNEL

You might've guessed but I'm not good at talking about this stuff. Good at bringing it up but I don't have any follow-through. It might be kinda tough to follow -- doubly so for someone who likes logic as much as you do. I'm not very logical. Even by human standards.

That's probably why I get so caught up in the comparison. Sam always knew what he was doing, even if it was the wrong thing.

You liking me better is kinda new. I'm not used to it. I know you're an only child, so it might not be easy to understand, but being born second gave me a lot to live up to. And at the same time a lot of freedom to goof around. Stepping into his shoes, I felt like I'd have to be him, and I'm really not.

I never thought it might be a good thing that I'm not, but you sure have a way of turning my head around on a few things. Must be the Vulcan side of you. Either way, I like it. Maybe our marriage won't be a total bust.

XO

J

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: good, a follow-up
STARDATE: 2250.32
SECURE CHANNEL

I mean do you know how tough it was to find information about Vulcan finger sensitivity in the first place? I might have first-hand experience with other humans but at least you can research stuff, Spock. I'm mostly on my own here.

But I take it you'd like that.

The things I said.

j


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Regarding Sam
STARDATE: 2250.32
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

“Follow-through”, or more directly the ability to continue what one has begun, will be a talent you must cultivate for your future for a variety of reasons, all of them valid. As a representative of Earth; as a delegate for our Federation; as a human living on Vulcan; as an ambassador, a diplomat, a prince, and an individual. Do you not also accept this to be factually accurate?

Therefore it would be wise to begin working on that which you know to be lacking in order to improve over time. You are able to recognize the flaws in your illogical behavior, which is admittedly more than can be said of most humans I have known—though I have not known many. I have known many other races and from your self-reflection can safely say that you are at least more logical than the Tellarites.

I am able to say this because the channel is secure.

Granted, it is not difficult to be more logical than the Tellarites; therefore, it would appear that the praise I have offered is relatively faint, either implying that you are lacking by comparison, or sharing a moment of mutual understanding regarding Tellarite behavioral patterns.

I will clarify. The above was intended both as a compliment to your self-reflection as well as a preliminary attempt at your human sarcasm. There is, I have learned, always room for improvement in all of us, though in some more than others.

Humor appears to still elude me. More study is required. That these studies of foreign cultural instincts take time is in ways proof of their merit.

Naturally, you are not your brother. Nor am I my brother. I did not know your brother; therefore I cannot like you better. Also, a system of hierarchical appraisal is most undiplomatic. However I cannot say that I find your conversation lacking. Vulcans do not imagine where inference and data can supply a more accurate evaluation. With the data available to me I can infer that I am not displeased to have these communications with you.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Liking that
STARDATE: 2250.32
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

As I wrote earlier this day, Vulcans do not imagine where inference and data can supply a more accurate evaluation. (An exact quote.)

With the data available to me, there are far too many variables yet unknown. Without a frame of reference I cannot say that it is possible for me to imagine what these acts would “feel like” or if I would “like that”—and, furthermore, there are no avenues of research open to me that will allow me to simulate the experience in order to confirm or deny your assumption.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Liking that, again
STARDATE: 2250.33
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, I find that I am unsure.


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Elaborating.
STARDATE: 2250.33
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

Don't you know what you like? Even before I ever did anything, it was all I could think about. Especially after I hit puberty. You're older than me, so I assume even given differences in Vulcan biology you might have been through something similar by now. I guess you don't have much imagination, but (not an insult, I just think you might've mentioned it before) but usually I can imagine what I'm gonna like and what I'm not based on what kind of a thing it is.

I mean, you know you wouldn't like getting punched in the face, right? So there are other kinds of physical contact you can assume you WOULD like.

Barring that, you could always try touching yourself. That's usually how human kids figure it out.

XO

J

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: You'd like it. I'd make sure of it.
STARDATE: 2250.33
SECURE CHANNEL

I mean, I'm more than willing to help you run experiments when I'm there, Spock.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Follow-up.
STARDATE: 2250.33
SECURE CHANNEL

what's the policy on fooling around before marriage on vulcan?

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Sam and other stuff.
STARDATE: 2250.34
SECURE CHANNEL

I didn't know you had a brother.

It's actually weird the stuff you can learn from a file and the stuff you can't. When they slapped me with all the info on 'Prince Spock' I figured I was gonna know you inside and out by the time we got married, no surprises and nothing to look forward to. Then you wrote to me. I kinda stopped doing my research after that, because I like this better.

I've always preferred unorthodox research methods anyway. I'm not very good at just sitting and reading page after page of a personnel file. Spending too long on the terminals hurts my eyes and I'm allergic to Retinax. Too young and handsome for glasses, you know how it goes. I bet you'd look good in glasses. You've got a whole dark, intelligent charm going for you. Do Vulcans have to worry about presbyopia? 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: suggestion.
STARDATE: 2250.34
SECURE CHANNEL

you should definitely try touching yourself though.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Not merely suggestions
STARDATE: 2250.34
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, I find your propensity for rappelling between topics of conversation from the mundane to the inappropriate nothing less than fascinating.

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Continued communications after adequate time to formulate response
STARDATE: 2250.34
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Do not misunderstand the nature of my previous communication. It was the truth, though I recognize now that I should not have replied so late in the evening. Vulcan judgment is rarely impaired due to exhaustion as human judgment has proven susceptible to such in the past, nor would I rely on such an excuse as anything other than a crutch. It was an observation as well as an accurate response to your facility with shifting between conversational topics that would not be out of place elsewhere than a secure channel and those that rely on channel security in the extreme.

My eyes are fine; my sight is in prime condition. There is no need to concern yourself with these matters. Even if there should be difficulty in the future, advances made with Retinax continue to allow those of us without allergies to eschew eyewear.

I already knew from reading your files, however, that you are allergic to Retinax. (It was not necessary to remind me. Perhaps it would not be unnecessary to remind your CMO.) In time, it is likely that your eyesight will only worsen—deterioration due to the natural aging process of the human body—and you will be the one to require glasses, not me. If you believe yourself “too young” to wear glasses—a peculiar statement indeed, and one which suggests a certain amount of vanity over your obvious good looks—then it would be prudent to avoid excess strain on your eyes even now, or at least to adjust the brightness setting on your private terminals and other devices, as well as to avoid writing late into the night as so many of your communications suggest you habitually do.

My brother’s name is Sybok. He is the son of Sarek, but not the son of Amanda Grayson. This was a time before my father’s diplomatic inclinations and status as ambassador to Earth compelled him to marry my mother; as Sybok is fully Vulcan, as well as the child of Vulcan royalty, we do not see much of one another.

Comparisons drawn between us are without purpose.

We are not alike.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Experimentation
STARDATE: 2250.34
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, as a Vulcan, committed first and foremost to the pursuit of knowledge and the exploration of sciences, experimentation is as welcome as it is logical. Therefore it is safe to say I would experiment with you on any subject. The one in question is, in particular, an experiment that I would conduct with you as my partner in study and no other. Logically.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Regarding “suggestion”
STARDATE: 2250.35
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

In what way, manner, and location do you “suggest” I touch myself?


 

Chapter Text

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: fascinating
STARDATE: 2250.35
SECURE CHANNEL

adjective 
of great interest or attraction; enchanting; charming; captivating.

well back at you, your majesty. that's something neither of us has any trouble agreeing on.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: You think I'm good-looking, and other less important topics of discussion.
STARDATE: 2250.35
SECURE CHANNEL

Obvious good looks. I won't get into a habit of replying to your letters by quoting your own words back and you, but that was just too good to pass up. I'm sure on Vulcan obvious isn't an admirable quality. But subtle good looks aren't exactly something a person aspires to. Not that looks have anything to do with aspirations, but you know what I mean. At least, I'm hoping you do, because otherwise I'm talking myself around in circles for no good reason.

I guess that's always a distinct possibility. I'd like to say I'm better in person, but there's a reason I don't handle the family speeches. I'm supposed to get lessons for that too, but I can't really see the point in being taught something we should all know how to do already. I mean -- talking classes? Please. I think I've got it under control. I impressed YOU didn't I? As long as I can average being more impressive than I am confusing, I figure I'm doing all right. You'll probably tell me I should just shut up and take the lessons, so let me get ahead of you and tell you I'm not gonna ditch them or anything. 

I just feel like I should be able to figure it out on my own.

None of the files I had on you ever mentioned a brother, so I thought maybe you were kidding. Doesn't really seem like your style though, even taking your sense of humor into account. Which I do, obviously. You definitely have one and I like it.

While we're on the topic of things I like: you pinning all your experimenting interest on me is pretty daunting. Which isn't a complaint, I'm just letting you know I recognize the challenge and I'm more than up to it.

Now you know why we have to stick to a secure channel all the time, because there's no telling when I'm gonna up and switch the conversation to something a little more salacious. With everything that's been going on here, I doubt anyone's even noticed that I don't write to you as much. Either that or they've resigned themselves to the fact that I cut them out of our communications. No one needs to know it was really you.

Except me, of course.

And I'm still impressed.

XO

J

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: suggestive suggestions
STARDATE: 2250.35
SECURE CHANNEL

well if it were me, spock, i'd start between my legs.

then again if it were me touching you i'd start with the hands.

your fingers, probably.

some intense nerve clusters in there, you know. on humans anyway. it's the focus of a lot of tactile sensation.

figure it's gotta be the same for vulcans.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: On obviousness
STARDATE: 2250.36
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

The word “obvious” in that context was meant to imply that it is hardly a matter of personal taste. I am aware that attraction is subjective—and that what is subjective tends to defy logic or rationality because it is without general definition or distinction.

Vulcans often “choose” their mates in advance of such a time when union is expected, with matches arranged by parents or other members of their family unit, in order to avoid situations that would encourage illogical emotionalism.

That is not to say Vulcans are not, on occasion, overcome by biological impulses they are unable to control. As I am only half Vulcan and subject to the limitations—as they have been referred to in the past—of my human half, it is unclear whether or not I will be affected in the same way as another of full Vulcan heritage would be.

But this is a digression, one that was pursued in order to bolster a distinct point: that your physical good looks are not in question. They are objective rather than subjective, for they clearly adhere to multiple classical classifications of the term “handsome” as far as humans have interpreted physical appeal throughout their history. Your blond hair and blue eyes, the shape of your jaw and your cheekbones, the form and figure of your body as I have seen it—broad-shouldered, with a strength of arm and power denoting your prime musculature—are all “obvious” in that they are not up for debate.

What is likewise not up for debate is my recognition of my duties and my commitment to our union as it is and has been logically made. It will be a beneficial alliance for both our planets and for the Federation as a whole; in light of recent events with the Klingon empire, that alliance is more important than ever before. I know that I need not remind you of these facts, yet they remain as unshakeable as the day I first opened this line of communication.

This, by my understanding, is not “romantic” in the slightest.

However, your definition of fascinating was not inaccurate.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Suggestions of a suggestive nature
STARDATE: 2250.36
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

I have followed your advice, to the best of my abilities, to the letter, though a portion of said advice involved sentence fragments, which erred more on the side of the suggestive than they were complete suggestions.

Is this the point where I am to describe my findings?

Spock


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: oh my god
STARDATE: 2250.37
SECURE CHANNEL

yes describe your findings tell me everything 

be thorough 

spare no details 

if you want to you should record the experiment you could send it to me i could appraise the information

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: oh my god pt 2
STARDATE: 2250.37
SECURE CHANNEL

don't listen to me im being facetious

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: oh my god pt 3
STARDATE: 2250.37
SECURE CHANNEL

you say i shouldnt answer things late at night but see i think that's the perfect time for addressing these things theres no way i could deal with this in the middle of the day

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: My handsome body.
STARDATE: 2250.38
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I think you're more romantic than you give yourself credit for.

XO

J

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Our alliance.
STARDATE: 2250.38
SECURE CHANNEL

All right, so you're marrying me because we have to and you're in love with your duty, but you said I was obviously good-looking, so at least you're going into this with a reasonable consideration of how much worse this could be. You're resigning yourself to a lifetime of sitting across from someone who's aesthetically appealing.

And fascinating.

This is flirting, just so you know. 

XO

J


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: On findings, part one
STARDATE: 2250.38
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I was relieved to learn that your initial suggestion of a video/audio recording of my research process and subsequent findings was not made in earnest, as I do not believe I need to inform you of the difficulties that might arise from such a recording being discovered and made public. Of course, this channel is secure, and I have implemented since its inception numerous additional failsafes in order to reinforce and protect our privacy. I am not implying that there would ever be a breach of security, not with an encryption program of my engineering. Nevertheless, such a recording cannot exist for reasons of which you are no doubt already aware.

Despite the illogical nature of that insincere suggestion—and despite its approximation of sincerity at the time, prior to your clarification—I find that the thought of such an endeavor is not unwelcome.

Vulcans and romanticism should not coexist. The contradictions are perhaps too extraordinary.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: On findings, part two
STARDATE: 2250.38
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I must assure you once again that I am not romantic in any way. My insistence is merely to prevent any anticipation or expectations that will not, upon the time of our meeting in person, be unfulfilled, to your disappointment.

That is no way to begin any union—with expectations that are not met, rather than expectations that are formed, logically and with full disclosure, together.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: On findings, part three
STARDATE: 2250.39
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim.

You must understand that Vulcans have segregated their passions so completely from their intellectual pursuits that adult Vulcans, both male and female, are subject to an experience known as pon farr once every seven years—it is that which is shrouded in secrecy, not being shared with any outside of our race. It strips us of what we strive to be and reduces us to what we once were, our basest selves. It is not logical. It is the antithesis of logic. It is this I strive to avoid, and perhaps this which shall be avoidable—an unexpected boon from the peculiar circumstances of my birthright.

I warn you of this, for it may be your burden to bear as well as it is mine.

In the interest of full disclosure—for expectations formed logically and together.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: On findings, part four
STARDATE: 2250.39
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

I find myself uncertain once more. Yet what was sent has been sent and cannot be unsent.

Spock

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: On findings, part five
STARDATE: 2250.39
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim.

Here is the list of my research findings, as requested.

1. My hands shook.
1a. They have not shaken in this manner before.

2. When exploring, with my fingers, the areas of my anatomy you outlined as optimal choices with which to begin, that trembling did not render, as I had suspected, the exploration impossible.
2a. Rather, it enhanced the experience.
2b. No further research into Vulcan anatomy could explain this result.
2c. Could this, perhaps, be due to my human, rather than my Vulcan, side?

3. There are some details I do not strictly remember.

4. Therefore, I shall have to conduct the experiment again in order to gather more complete results.


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: You and your findings.
STARDATE: 2250.39
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I didn't even think of a leak, which is why you're the brains of this little operation of ours and I'm the good looks. In fact, if our positions had been reversed, I definitely would've recorded something. Wouldn't have even thought twice. So as you can see, it's a good thing I'm the one doing the stupid questions thing. Obviously I don't have the judgment to discern between what's a great idea and what's a PR disaster in the making.

I've never sent dirty stuff via PADD before, not so much for security concerns on my end but there's always someone else on the other line and what am I gonna do -- personally verify the specs of everyone I fool around with? No. And now that we're betrothed and all (officially) that's not something I have to worry about. Lucky for me I'm hooked up with someone way smarter than me. Good taste, too.

So no salacious recordings in our near future. I got it. Tempting, but I gotta be responsible for more than just my own dignity these days.

Still, it's a shame, though. It'd be a great vid.

XO

J

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Query.
STARDATE: 2250.39
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

Does this mean I can't send you naked pictures anymore?

XO

J

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: FYI.
STARDATE: 2250.38
SECURE CHANNEL

The vital parts weren't visible, but I was naked in some of those pictures.

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Pon farr.
STARDATE: 2250.39
SECURE CHANNEL

There was nothing about pon farr in any of my pamphlets. I think I'm gonna have to complain to whoever my Vulcan research team is -- they're clearly missing some of the greater details. I did some digging on my own now that I had a real term to search, and I have to say, once every seven years seems a little extreme. Are you saying that's the only time you ever feel like... Or is there some wiggle room since you're half human?

Because so long as we're being completely honest with each other, human sexual cycles are a little more frequent than that.

Like.

A lot.

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Findings, further.
STARDATE: 2250.39
SECURE CHANNEL

yeah i retract my pon farr question there i think we should explore your human side more

god i would do so much to your shaking hands spock


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Pon farr, classified
STARDATE: 2250.40
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

It is possible that I did not elucidate in full on the matter when I first broached the subject; its intentional secrecy is such that it maintains its own shroud even on Vulcan and among Vulcans. We do not often speak of it. The rituals are known to all of us, but they are kept private amidst a more general privacy. It is an unsavory topic and therefore one with little precedent for simple discussion, much less with an outworlder.

That is the general term—its meaning is not individually meant.

Pon farr is that which occurs on a biological level beyond even a Vulcan’s ability to control. However, even amongst full Vulcans, it is not the only time at which intimacy of a physical nature can be achieved. It is merely the most obvious—and the most unavoidable.

To my understanding.

As I am not a full Vulcan, I must reiterate, its effects on me will be singular; a variety of predictions as to the effect of my human blood on my reaction to this purely Vulcan experience may be made, yet there is no certainty until I do or do not experience the first flush of plak tow, the blood fever.

I am not proud of the necessity for this unpleasant and indelicate topic of conversation. It was a brief detour. I trust it was as illuminating as it was able to assuage your concerns.

You would not be expected to abstain from that which would give you peace and long life—from that which would satisfy your requirements as a human—from anything that would place you in a state of displeasure or dissatisfaction in our union.

Should I prove unsatisfactory or unable to provide what you want or require, arrangements can undoubtedly be made.

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Our future sex life.
STARDATE: 2250.40
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I don't know why you thought you had to put classified on there, buddy, I'm not showing these letters to anyone. I mean even if I was in the beginning, they've long since gone past that point, and you were the one who pointed out how much I'd prefer to keep these communications between us anyway. We spend so much time with other people up in our business that I really don't feel the need to make it worse. I don't get a lot to myself these days so I'll take anything. Even highly secretive, closely guarded mating rituals.

Which is all just a long-winded way of saying that ALL the stuff you send me might as well be classified. I'm not sharing it.

Does that soothe your sense of privacy? Anyway, who's gonna believe me if I tell them any of this stuff? 

Kidding, kidding. That was a joke.

You might've noticed that my sense of comedic timing is a little off. Inappropriate, we call it here. But I'm not gonna go revealing planetary secrets so don't worry.

I kinda like being one of the few humans who knows about this stuff anyway. Makes me feel important.

But hey if we're gonna go planning for our futures right now I should say the offer extends in both directions -- if I'm not master of Vulcan hands or something by the time we're supposed to settle down then I guess you should feel free to go looking in other places for that kinda thing too.

Don't get the wrong idea, though. I might not be a diplomatic savant or anything and I might not know as much about the Tellarites as you do but I definitely take pride in my OTHER areas of skill, and I plan on being a fully-functioning husband if you know what I mean, so don't go making auxiliary arrangements just yet. I can handle it. I can think of a lot of things I'm gonna handle where you're concerned.

So don't worry so much. I know, I know, Vulcans don't anyway, but I have a pretty healthy teenage libido so I can see where you might get the impression I was a sex-crazed maniac. 

XO

J


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Points of worry (or, more accurately, concern)
STARDATE: 2250.41
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

If you were indeed a “sex-crazed maniac” I can only assume that the arrangement of our union would be called into question and, more likely than not, dissolved in order to preserve our planets’ alliance, rather than allow an unfortunate match to potentially destroy it.

Therefore I shall advise you not to worry, as humans often do, for according to all the research I have conducted—it has been extensive, I should not have to remind you—there is a significant distance between “healthy teenage libido” and one who is interested in these activities beyond the sensible, allowable, or sane.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: In the future, please signify humorous intentions
STARDATE: 2250.41
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

It occurs to me after a brief period of prolonged study—I could not in good conscience employ another human’s consultation, and therefore had to depend on comparison with prior communications to establish pattern and precedent—that it was likely much if not all of the tone in your latest communication was intended as humorous, in the sarcastic or facetious interpretation of the word.

If I have not “gotten” the joke, then it was because the parameters thereof were not made explicit.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: On the duties of a “fully-functioning husband”
STARDATE: 2250.42
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

I too intend to provide the services and actions of a “fully-functioning husband” though it would be wise in this instance to enumerate the duties, as there may be points of cultural departure.

Neither would I mind the enumeration, based on previous examples thereof.

They have been illuminating.

Spock


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Jokes.
STARDATE: 2250.42
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

Bones always called this my worst quality, but I tend to joke around most when I'm serious about something. I know, I know, it's the antithesis of logic. That's why I'm telling you outright instead of being coy and letting you figure it out. Communication's supposed to be good for relationships AND long distance is the kiss of death so I figure we need all the help we can get beating the odds.

I'm not usually this forthcoming, is what I'm trying to say. I like to make people work for it a little more.

Then again, considering the way you work for things I bet you'd have me pegged in less than a week. Can't have that. It'd suck all the fun out of our relationship.

I want you to keep on thinking I'm fascinating, after all.

XO

Jim

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: On the nature of husbands.
STARDATE: 2250.43
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I can't believe you made me look this stuff up. I can't believe I looked this stuff up for you of my own free will.

Look, there are no universally-agreed-upon ideals for what makes someone a good husband. I can tell you that the foundation of every solid relationship is trust, which is how you know I'm not gonna ask anyone about pon farr and how I know YOU'RE not gonna go around telling everyone Prince James Kirk likes to write dirty letters in bed.

Personally, I was talking about sex but I don't tend to get too in-depth about serious topics I don't know if you've noticed.

Trust, no cheating, plenty of physical intimacy. Don't hog the blankets. I know you don't eat meat but I don't think that should be a problem. You already have a pet so I know you're an animal lover. 

Anything I should know about or your end?

XO

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: I will secure extra blankets
STARDATE: 2250.43
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

As it is information easily acquired—not, as other details on Vulcan have a tendency to be, kept hidden from outworlders—that the average temperature on Vulcan is significantly higher than the temperature of your San Francisco on Earth, it may be that you will not require as many covers when you are sleeping here as in your current home.

However, Vulcans do require a higher level of heat for optimal comfort than humans. I would not allow potential “hogging” of the blankets in our shared bed to come between us, or to hinder my ability to fulfill my role as husband. This is a simple enough matter to prepare for. I will have extra blankets at the ready in advance of your arrival later this stardate year.

You are correct in your assertion that Vulcans—and I by association—do not eat meat, but there are a variety of synthetic replacements available on this planet, which my mother herself would assure you provide an ideal substitute.

I shall be certain to cross-check their ingredients with the list of your allergens so that there will be no incident there.

Trust is a matter that, as you have already indicated, is not in question. This was in part the inspiration for commencing this line of communication nearly 40 days ago.

Physical intimacy is far more important to humans than it is to Vulcans. This does not mean that we are incapable of joining with one another or with a human in intimately physical acts. It is possible. The marriage between Sarek and my mother has proven satisfactory to them both. Therefore, under the right circumstances, and making appropriate compromises, we may arrive at a point that is not unpleasant or unwanted.

With that last issue, I shall ask only that you be patient with me. Physical intimacy does not come naturally to me as it must to you and indeed I have eschewed it whenever possible for some time. When I, as per your suggestion, touched myself, I was alone, and the privacy was ideal.

Nevertheless, it was not uncomplicated or even straightforward.

Perhaps additional guidance will be required.

I have been told I am an apt pupil.

Spock of Vulcan


 

Chapter Text

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: You could keep me warm with your body.
STARDATE: 2250.43
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

It's an old Earth convention that when your partner gets cold, you roll over and hold them in your arms. You can search the human colloquial term spooning if you want to know more. I feel like you now, spouting off research subjects, practically giving you homework. Something tells me you wouldn't care even if I did give you homework. Call it a hunch.

I gotta assume this is what you were talking about when you said you wanted us to get to know each other better. Makes it easier to talk to someone when you can anticipate how they'll react, even if it's only thirty percent of the time. (And now since I know you better, I can assume that you're gonna tell me thirty percent is way too high an estimate for my rate of accuracy. But I'm getting there!)

Personally, I can't even begin to wrap my head around why anyone would wanna eschew touching themselves but I guess that's one of those big Vulcan-human divides. Or maybe it's just me. I'm not always what you could call open-minded, but I figure now's as good a time as any to start. With the guy I'm gonna marry.

Man, that still sounds weird. 

Don't you feel too young to get married? I know you're older than me but it's not by MUCH.

Are you saying you want more detailed instructions because I gotta have a few drinks in me before I go there. Be easier with a vid demonstration but we've already talked about why that's a no go. I don't know enough about Vulcan anatomy to understand whether we're totally identical down there, but I might be able to make an educated guess or two.

Don't get me wrong, I'm totally willing.

And I don't care how these letters make me sound, I am totally capable of being patient.

XO

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Spoons versus spooning
STARDATE: 2250.44
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Having familiarized myself with the meaning of the colloquialism “spooning” while also being aware of the shape and purpose of the utensil known as the spoon, I will express my concerns and uncertainty regarding the etymological origins the former, as it appears to possess little to no relation to the latter. If there is something about human anatomy when one body is placed in close physical proximity to another body that resembles the shape and/or purpose of the spoon, then this factoid has not been made readily apparent in any of the biology texts I have read in preparation of our union. Neither have any of the visuals with which you have provided me once indicated you are spoon-like in any fashion.

The aphorism is disturbingly illogical and will require deeper research to determine its reasoning, if any.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: “XO”
STARDATE: 2250.44
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Another point of inquiry I have harbored for some time is the matter of the “XO” at the end of your communications, which appears now to be a regular occurrence, as you have offered it no fewer and no greater than exactly twenty times. As this has now presented itself as a consistent choice and is clearly not a typological error, nor can it logically refer to “commanding officer” as the letters “XO” in that order often signify, I will ask you to clarify its meaning as you have intended it.

I would have asked my mother; however, as I determined it may be something private and therefore of a delicate, sensitive nature, I did not believe it wise to breach the trust we have established between one another in order to arrive at a swifter conclusion.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Age as a subject
STARDATE: 2250.44
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

My father was my age when he married for the first time.

My mother was a few years my senior when she married Sarek.

Your parents were a year older (your father) and two years older (your mother) than I am when they were joined in a human marriage ceremony.

If you do not believe you are prepared to commit to the rigors of a Vulcan ceremony or even our second, human ceremony, then it would be vital to inform officials as soon as possible, so that new arrangements can be made.

If I have given you reason to doubt my own readiness, then it would appear I owe you a grave apology. That was never my intention.

Spock


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: You and your research.
STARDATE: 2250.44
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

No, it's called spooning because...

Well, I don't actually know why it's called spooning, but my guess would be that it has something to do with how spoons fit together when you stack them in a drawer. Don't ask me why it's spoons of all things when it could just as easily be a fork. Maybe someone thought forking had a different connotation. ;)

Anyway, I'm including a diagram that I made of two people spooning. The little frowny one is you and the blonde one is me. Obviously. It's a sleep position, and not always a comfortable one because you can never figure out what to do with your other arm, but in general it's not so bad.

XO

Jim

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: XO.
STARDATE: 2250.44
SECURE CHANNEL

Look, you have your ways of signing on and off and I have mine, all right?

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: XO 2.
STARDATE: 2250.44
SECURE CHANNEL

It's an Earth way of signing a communication, kind of like shorthand. The o's are hugs and the x's are kisses. So if you put them together like that: xoxoxoxo it's hugs and kisses.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Marriage.
STARDATE: 2250.44
SECURE CHANNEL

Never mind, Spock. It's fine.

Anyway I don't have any more brothers, so I'm not sure what kind of other arrangements you could make this late in the game.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: XO 1 and XO 2.
STARDATE: 2250.45
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

The iconography of the Xs and Os are most curious. Most icons in Earth’s cultural history, at least to my knowledge, begin as visual symbols representing the information they have been utilized to convey. As far as I can see, the X bears no resemblance to any visual symbol of kissing; neither does the O appear to express the act of hugging.

Are these acts so common on Earth among its human residents that the X and O are regularly deployed among acquaintances, or does this sign-off denote a higher level of intimacy?

That is, I inquire after whether or not the X and the O are reserved for me alone, or if you offer them to all your communication partners.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Spooning and artistic representation
STARDATE: 2250.45
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

It took me forty five minutes of uninterrupted study, but, based on the written description you provided regarding the artwork attached, I was at last able to determine which element of the artistic rendering was the head and which appeared to be an exaggerated posterior.

Are your feet that large?

Did that gluteus maximus belong to you or to me?

I believe those were arms and not snakes. Yet I do require clarification in order to be completely certain.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: XO 3.
STARDATE: 2250.45
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

You have ceased to sign off in the customary way. Is there a meaning behind this, other than casual neglect?

“XO”

Spock


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Exes and ohs.
STARDATE: 2250.45
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I was hoping you wouldn't ask me to explain the etymology on that one, because I've got no clue. It's just a convenient way to say the thing without being downright explicit. Though you know I don't have much trouble being explicit when the situation calls for it.

Then again, I guess it's not your preferred kind of explicit, so maybe that doesn't count as much.

Like I've been saying, I don't send out written messages much. So no, I haven't been sending out X's and O's to the greater San Fran area.

Just you.

XO,

Jim

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Two years of liberal art study, Spock.
STARDATE: 2250.45
SECURE CHANNEL

Jesus I didn't realize I was submitting my work to an art history professor. That's the last time I make you any diagrams.

XO

Jim

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Liberal arts.
STARDATE: 2250.45
SECURE CHANNEL

Anyway, it's called ARTISTIC INTERPRETATION it wasn't a life study.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: re: Liberal arts.
STARDATE: 2250.45
SECURE CHANNEL

That is obviously my butt unless you have some kind of secret Vulcan junk in that trunk you've been hiding from me.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: re: Liberal arts.
STARDATE: 2250.45
SECURE CHANNEL

Why would our arms be SNAKES???

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: re: Liberal arts. THIS IS A JOKE.
STARDATE: 2250.45
SECURE CHANNEL

The wedding's off.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: This is not a joke.
STARDATE: 2250.46
SECURE CHANNEL

I don't want the wedding to be off.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: 
STARDATE: 2250.46
SECURE CHANNEL

xoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxooxoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxooxoxoxoxoxoxo

j


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Junk in trunks
STARDATE: 2250.46
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

To my knowledge, my trunk has no junk inside of it. I do however have a trunk that contains multiple artifacts from my father Sarek’s diplomatic travels—which, upon my mother’s suggestion, were gathered as “mementos”, a singularly human concept.

If this is considered junk—and it may well be—it falls within the jurisdiction of that which has sentimental meaning to my mother, and therefore I intend to keep it.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Junk in trunks, part the second
STARDATE: 2250.46
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

To your inquiry as to why our arms would be snakes, I submit an inquiry of my own.

Why would there be junk in either of our trunks?

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: “Liberal” arts
STARDATE: 2250.46
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

It is possible that I viewed the piece you sent literally, rather than liberally. As a work of abstract art—I have compared it to many of Earth’s movements—it is not lacking, though I would not say it is exceptional. The fact remains that I could not have done much better. My ability to copy what I see is limited by a lack of imagination inherent in the Vulcan half of me, limiting my artistic expression.

Spock

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: XO ad nauseum
STARDATE: 2250.47
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

There is no need to be facetious with the Xs and Os, unless you are intending to express a certain zealousness of what they represent.

Flirtation is a language of subtlety, is it not?

Spock


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Your trunk full of junk.
STARDATE: 2250.47
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I'm not gonna ask you to get rid of a bunch of your dad's stuff, what do you think I am, a monster? A lot of objects of sentimental value are considered junk to other people. It's like that saying, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Only instead of beauty it's an estimation of value. I'm sure you have a bunch of great stuff in that trunk, Spock.

Oh my god, I can't even say that with a straight face.

OK, look, it's an Earth expression, another colloquialism, used to refer to someone's backside. Trunk like the trunk of a car? Well it's at the back of a car, where the ass is on a human. I gotta say, I've never given a lot of thought to how dumb our language is until you made me explain all these things to you.

You guys have cars there? I've been told the setting on Vulcan's more rustic than what I'm used to, but I'm more concerned about that heat. Not that it matters now, we're locked in either way, til sweat do us part.

XOXO

Jim

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Art and asses.
STARDATE: 2250.47
SECURE CHANNEL

Lucky I'm not marrying you for your art criticism.

It's a euphemism Spock, for a juicy behind. I have one, you don't, it's fine. Both are acceptable.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: 
STARDATE: 2250.47
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I wasn't going to say this but you make subtlety a hard thing to achieve. In case you haven't noticed, if I have to tell you half the time I'm doing it, I think that takes some of the snap out of the effect. I haven't worked out how to properly balance it yet, but you can't give me heck for being so obvious in the meantime.

XOXO

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Perspiration (or the lack thereof)
STARDATE: 2250.48
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Another point of Vulcan biology is that Vulcans do not sweat. This is another area in which I more closely resemble my father than my mother. This is not to say that my mother, Lady Amanda, sweats a great deal or even a little. So perhaps I resemble both my parents—from whom I take after on this point, we may not ever know. In either case, it is unlikely that sweat, or at least my sweat, will part us.

While the terms of our union stipulate that we will spend the first two years on Vulcan—and, from the news I have followed, Queen Winona Kirk has proven herself more than capable in maintaining the diplomatic standards of your late father the king—it is not unlikely that, in the interest of fair compromise, our entire lives will be spent on my planet alone without an even distribution of relocation.

I have been to San Francisco, but only once. I remember it to the best of my abilities.

However, I was three years of age at the time. The trip paid was, among other things, to celebrate the birth of a second son and prince born to the king and queen. It would certainly behoove me to return when I am better able to absorb the cultural and historical elements of a planet so far from the one I have known as my home.

Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Behinds that are “juicy”
STARDATE: 2250.48
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

Euphemistically, I am still unable to understand how one’s posterior can be, as you say, “juicy”.

Is the intended association that one would be able to bite it in order to ascribe this description in particular to the part of anatomy in question?

Spock

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Behinds that are “juicy” 2
STARDATE: 2250.48
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim.

After thorough inspection I can confirm that your assertion that my behind is not juicy is correct.

Does this present disappointment?

Spock


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Your juicy badonk
STARDATE: 2250.48
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I can't say I've ever seen it for myself -- your official portraits all seem to hide that particular asset of yours, and I know I won't be able to tempt you into sending me a pic of your own -- but trust me when I say that I'm sure your behind is beyond satisfactory.

I'm saying this because I have general idea of your somatype now and it's not at all right for a juicy butt. It'd be all wrong. You look great the way you are.

Since you asked, I wouldn't mind if you took a bite to test me out. I'm into that. figuratively speaking.

Literally speaking.

You should give it a shot once we're together.

XO

Jim

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Our intergalactic marriage.
STARDATE: 2250.48
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

OK, first of all, I demand baby pictures of you immediately. You might not remember, but you got to SEE me as a baby, so I think it's only fair to even up the odds. My mom showed me pictures of our first official meeting, we look like a mini-Vulcan standing next to an apple dumpling wrapped up in blankets, respectively. Not exactly my best look. You, however, are adorable.

I think that should be on our wedding invites. That sounds like a joke, but I might actually be serious this time.

If you're visiting San Fran, you should come for the summer. I know that isn't a very long visit -- barely makes the space travel worth it -- but from what I've been reading you're gonna find it cold and damp here. I'll have to keep you warm. That's where spooning comes in. You see, it seems like I come up with all these inappropriate non sequiturs but a lot of it actually turns out to be relevant. Anyway, that'll be more fun than me getting up to run cold showers in the middle of the night. You never did tell me about swimming. Are there really parasites?

Baby pictures, though. Send them to me. I'm attaching that one I told you about, Fatface and Baby Spock. You look like you're not all that sure about my status as a sentient lifeform. You're probably right.

XO

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Attached items of interest
STARDATE: 2250.49
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Though it is not a traditionally Vulcan custom to preserve photographic evidence of infancy as it is a human one, my mother was able to preserve a few less for posterity than for the sake of her very human nostalgia. I had not known of her collection, but apparently there was an album she kept that allowed her to express her affection for me when I was younger and smaller in a private fashion, as well as to enjoy her talents as an amateur photographer. I have learned more about my mother than I had known I had left to learn before this inquest.

I found it an illuminating insight into human behavior.

I have attached the pictures my mother determined were the best representatives of my early childhood—her “favorites”, as she called them, though she hastened to add that favoritism was not a matter of hierarchical determination but had more to do with specific and fond memories associated with the images. They are labeled appropriately and as you will see they are representative of my appearance aged six months, one year, and two year. Though my mother is prone to sentimentality—I cannot fault her for something that her very nature dictates—she has managed to cultivate an order of mind to better acclimatize herself to her surroundings. Therefore each image was clearly dated and kept chronologically.

Most babies at the age you were when we were first introduced do not appear to be sentient life-forms. Nevertheless, that is what they are. My uncertainty, as I recall, involved the degree to which you were wriggling and my recognition that a diplomatic incident would surely be incurred if I were to drop you.

Also attached is a complete list—compiled by me, so that I could be certain not a single organism would be omitted—of aquatic bacteria and parasites native to Vulcan. They are classified from uncommon to highly common, with a brief overview of their various effects on Vulcan and human immune systems.

If I am to visit for a as-yet undisclosed summer in our shared future, would it not also be wise to obtain “extra blankets” for this potential eventuality? However, the desired effect would not be to make your temperature uncomfortably high.

Your dictionaries contain no instances of the word “badonk”. Are you a poet as well as an artist?

My mother enjoys poetry. The picture in which I am two years of age will in fact show you that she read Vulcan poetry to me at that time. The piece in question in Shadows in the Garden.

“XO”

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Family photos.
STARDATE: 2250.49
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

First off, tell your mom thanks for me. The more I learn about Amanda Grayson the more I like her, but it's even more pronounced now that I know she saved a whole book's worth of baby pics for me to look at. Not that she saved them for me, but I'm the one who gets to take advantage of them. I'm glad the two of you got to bond over it too. It'd be a crying shame if some of these images never saw the light of day again.

I'm particularly enjoying Spock at one year old, because that's when you really start to see that haircut taking shape.

But I have to say, Spock, you look way too tidy for a baby. Those big dark eyes, serious baby mouth, tiny little baby fists. I can't handle it. Didn't anyone tell you babies are supposed to look like reconstituted bags of protein, all glop and no substance? You even have a gleam of intelligence pre-birthday. That doesn't seem fair. We look like a totally different species.

You might say that's because we are, but I'd tell you you're ruining the moment. 

I'm glad you already saw me once as a baby, because I'm not sure I'd have the balls to send my own pictures after seeing these. 

You don't look very happy as a Vulcan kid. Cute as hell, but not exactly carefree. Does that have something to do with you trying to stick to the Vulcan way of life? That can't have been easy. Maybe I was wriggling because you looked so cranky to be holding me. You ever consider that? Anyway, I can promise that the next time you've got me in your arms, I'll wiggle up against you for all the right reasons.

Sorry to disappoint, but I'm not a poet. I am attaching a reference file of colloquial expressions I put together, from the database on Earth, but cultivated by me to give you a better idea of what the hell I'm talking about. It's not stuff you'd find in a research terminal and it'd take too long to explain the proper parameters to search some of this stuff out yourself.

Standard is pretty ridiculous that way. It has its roots in probably some of the most illogical languages around though, so that might have something to do with it.

This is all to say that your mom might be a poetry aficionado but I wouldn't go telling her I said you had a great badonk anytime soon. The full term as you'll find it in my Jim-to-Standard dictionary is badonkadonk. Sounds good in the mouth, loses a little on the page.

I'll check out that book.

Do you like poetry?

XO

Jim


 

Chapter Text

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Regarding family photos
STARDATE: 2250.50
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I have passed along your gratitude for my mother’s foresight—though I am not certain it can be strictly classified as such since, as you yourself have expressed, she did not create her collection of potentially incriminating evidence regarding my previous appearances throughout my childhood and adolescence with this purpose in mind—and she has requested that I, in turn, express to you her acknowledgment of your gratitude.

The exact phrase she employed was, “I am glad to hear it. Please tell Prince Jim that I am very glad.”

She was also pleased to discover that our communications have continued now with little interruption, save for those that were unavoidable, for forty-five days. This was noted with somedisbelief, though she managed to keep it well hidden; my mother is exceptionally reserved for a human, though far too emotionally obvious for a Vulcan.

I was at first uncertain of her reasons for this particular reaction, though upon further investigation she offered minimal illumination. Her positive response to my simple statement of fact had, it appears, stemmed from a private worry she has harbored for many years that we would not “get along”.

When I expressed to her that—being fully aware of our duties as well as more than amply equipped to fulfill them as we must—the two of us would manage to commit ourselves to our roles regardless of our personal preferences, she maintained that it was of utmost importance that we should be capable of conversing with one another and even that we should enjoy that conversation, though our means of enjoyment and our expressions thereof would in all likelihood prove dissimilar.

My mother’s perspective and her specific advice in this instance intimated that being able to talk freely on any number of topics would serve us well in our marriage. She also suggested that friendship would be the foundation upon which great meaning and even a sort of poetic beauty could be built.

I have considered her words in full since she expressed this viewpoint earlier today. Here, it would seem, is another unknown—space being full of them infinitely, cosmic and microcosmic.

I cannot say that, until the present, I have known anyone I would categorize as a “friend” in the sense of the word as my mother spoke it in that precise moment. I have had peers, schoolmates, and other Vulcans in my specific age group with whom I have socialized for one reason or another. But we have never spoken—conversed—at such great length, so personally, on such a variety of topics, to form the foundation of which my mother spoke.

In closing, I will add an anecdotal reference my mother imparted, one that I was too young at the time to recall. It is her assertion that I assumed “the baby prince”—who regularly reached with questing hands after any and all objects that caught your interest—was attempting a manner of mind-meld while touching the side of my face with great frequency and insistence.

A most illogical assumption. Had my mother dispelled this foolish notion sooner, the image in the picture would likely be a different one.

“XO”

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Baby princes.
STARDATE: 2250.50
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

That's the cutest damn thing I've ever heard. You thought I was trying to baby mind-meld? Can babies even do that? Humans can't. Oh my god, three year old you must've been the sweetest little thing. I'm keeping copies of these. Whenever anyone asks how we met, we're gonna have a great story. Only you gotta let me tell it because you'll just blow it by saying we were arranged or betrothed right from the beginning. That'll ruin the whole lead-up to me whipping out this picture. Love at first sight. 

I can't say I remember my motivations for grabbing your face, since as you say babies are barely sentient, but I was always precocious. I claim prescient good taste. Or maybe I just wanted to squeeze those chubby cheeks of yours. 

I'm sure it's not a compliment to a Vulcan to be called cute so often and with such enthusiastic frequency, but I can't help myself, Spock. I like to think I have a pretty good vocabulary, but I keep coming back to cute where you're concerned. Just thought you should know I'm aware of it, and while I'm trying to fix it right now I don't see how there's much I can do. Even my mom agrees that as a baby you'd beat me on aesthetics hands down. I'm not taking that as an insult, since she's the one who made me I'd say it's more a slight on her design skills than anything else.

You can tell your mom I think you're great. I've never had much reason to write anyone before this, and so long as you're able to put up with my epistolary shortcomings I don't see any reason to stop. I'm told I'm an acquired taste and I do way better in person than through any other form of communication, so ideally if you're even a little fond of me now, we'll only improve when I arrive on Vulcan.

Of course, everyone who's ever told me that has met me on Earth when I'm not sweating out my water weight and trying to memorize a hundred little etiquette rituals for another notoriously fussy race, so maybe I'm overselling myself here. 

Sure, I grew on YOU. But I might not be so lucky with other people. 

You can say we're friends, though. I have a bunch, or I did before they all signed up with Starfleet. Don't get to see much of them now that I'm the first in line and all. Diplomacy doesn't leave much room for socializing, which is something I'm sure you're aware of. 

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that I get what it's like to be lonely. You didn't come right out and allude to it in your letter, but I got a certain sense. I'm sensitive. Sensible. I sense things.

That's a stupid thing to say to a telepathic race probably, but there you go. I say stupid things sometimes. I feel like I should warn you, if we're gonna be friends on top of being betrothed. You should know what you're getting into.

Right now I'm sure you're saying to yourself that I've said many stupid things before now, and it hasn't put you off any. It's sort of weird being able to imagine the expression you're making, or the things you'd say. If I had to define friendship as anything, I'd say it has something to do with that. Knowing each other. Being able to anticipate responses and reactions.

I'm sending your mom some pictures of you and your family on your last outing to San Fran. There are a couple nice ones of her and your dad. She might like that. You can tell her I'm sucking up shamelessly, if you need an explanation. I figure I'm gonna need all the allies I can get on Vulcan.

XO

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Your continued usage of the word “cute”
STARDATE: 2250.51
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

My mother expresses her gratitude not merely for the pictures you provided for her album—she has included them in the appropriate section of her digital collection, the sub-section dedicated to that trip to San Francisco—but also for your continued efforts made toward maintaining our correspondence. She is apparently disposed toward supporting your choices as you have made them thus far. She believes you have proved yourself to be judicious, or at the very least in agreement with her on most important matters.

Though I informed her the similarities likely end at the level of human individuals in contact with me, she has continued to impress upon me the need to reiterate to you that she anticipates meeting you again now that you are a more sentient conversational partner than the last time she saw you.

There will not, however, be cause or reason for you to make alliances within the Vulcan government, beyond the main alliance that has already been made for us—between us. You will find that everyone around you will act logically. Certainly, if they do not approve of your behavior, your methods, your appearance, your actions, and so on, they will not speak of it outright for the simple reason that you are a prince of Earth and therefore above them in rank. To speak out against the husband of one of their princes is as illogical as speaking out against that prince himself.

Yet perhaps, however illogically, it may assuage your concern that my brother Sybok—as he is a true prince of Vulcan, the child of Sarek and a noble princess from a revered Vulcan family—is the one upon whose shoulders fall many of the same duties practiced and attentions experienced by our father.

My position is of a different nature. I believe it likely that we will travel; that we will be envoys for the Federation; that we will together represent the best of their intentions, embodying the acceptance of diversity and differences that has motivated galactic exploration and peace.

If certain members of the Vulcan High Council do not acknowledge the logic or appreciate the commendable nature of this singular goal then it appears to me to be a flaw in their reasoning.

However, this may in fact be due to a flaw in my reasoning, after all. I have little doubt that they would come to this conclusion, and they are, after all, the Vulcan High Council. I am not one of their numbers and would not claim to be.

I shall meditate on the matter.

No further meditation is required on the question that I have contemplated recently. I have come to the conclusion that your usage of the word “cute” to describe me is as irregular as it is inaccurate. My comprehension of the word as given to me by my mother is that it is reserved for the description of small animals, usually fluffy—not, for example, a horned toad or a poisonous lizard—and therefore is not relevant to me.

Neither is the word “lonely”. Not strictly. Though I have often been alone, this is due to my singular position. I would not equate the position of being alone with the position of lonely. The former is a constant. The latter is inconsistent as best.

Yet it is possible I have some familiarity with the state, inasmuch as it is one, rather than a feeling.

Do you not remain in contact with your friends? Starfleet is in San Francisco, which is also where you are located. Can you not spend recreational time when your schedule permits it at mutually agreeable places?

“XO”

Spock


 

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Sorry, you're still cute.
STARDATE: 2250.51
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

OK, I'll give you that cute is usually used for girls or tribbles, but I'll have you know that it can also mean having a pleasing appearance or attractive in a sexual way. That's more the definition I was going for. But not for you as a kid, because that'd be weird. 

This wasn't a great way to open a letter I'm gonna try again.

Dear Spock,

It's been raining all week. Not all that notable for San Francisco, but still a little drearier than I'd like. They closed the rooftop pool to do maintenance, which isn't normally something I'd complain about except it's putting a serious cramp in my morning calisthenics. Does it rain on Vulcan? From what I've read it doesn't seem like there's enough moisture in the atmosphere to even generate clouds for you guys, let alone anything wetter than that.

That much sounds like something to look forward to. Do they do a lot of sunbathing on Vulcan? Seems like perfect conditions for it.

I might be delirious because of all the rain. Or I might just be angling for a way to see you in a bathing suit. You can never tell with me. I'm very crafty.

I showed Bones your list of aquatic parasites. He had a FIT. Throwing things, howling. He turned red as a tomato. It was the best thing I've ever seen. I thought that big vein in his forehead was finally gonna pop once and for all. You haven't seen a man truly on the brink of sanity until you've seen a doctor shouting about systemic infections and the quality of human immunotherapy on a foreign planet. Even a Federation planet. I think he's starting to have separation anxiety. The old guy can't manage without me.

He doesn't have anyone else to yell at.

No one who takes it as well as I do, anyway.

I'm good with traveling. Never liked staying in one place too much anyway. That was part of the reason I wanted to join up with Starfleet in the first place -- being the first person to chart new worlds, make contact with alien species. Always thought that sounded kind of cool. Plus, it doesn't hurt that I have natural charm. I'd be a great ambassador to the people. I guess in some ways that's what I'm gonna be doing anyway.

I'm not planning on making you do all the heavy lifting, is what I'm trying to say here, Spock. I give off a certain impression as a second son. It's probably not the same position you got to enjoy with having an older brother. It seems to me like Vulcans don't really get to be irresponsible no matter what order they're born in. But humans -- well, there's a certain hierarchy to these things. Sam had all the responsibilities for awhile, but that doesn't mean I don't understand them.

I guess that's a roundabout way of answering your other question. I can still keep in touch with my friends, but we live pretty different lives these days, and they're all busy. Doesn't leave much time for hanging out.

Speaking of which, I'm supposed to go on some Sol system tour to boost morale on some of the nearby colony worlds. Can you believe morale would be down after a little thing like the Klingon attack?

I'm glad you're not lonely, Spock. Gonna work on that other thing, too. You won't always be alone either.

XO

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: A request of “Bones” – a public/open communication
STARDATE: 2250.52

Jim, peace and long life, despite the apparent incompetence of your CMO.

It is in this transmission that I must express my conclusion, based on the facts as they have been presented to me, that your “Doctor Bones” is hardly qualified to be in charge of anyone’s health, much less in charge of yours. If the information you shared with him regarding the aquatic parasites and other dangers to the human immune system found on Vulcan distressed him as completely as you have indicated—and if you are not exaggerating his overwhelmingly unprofessional response—then I can only determine that he is in need of a doctor himself, and that you are in need of a new one to better secure your continued good health.

What are his credentials? Do you employ him because you feel affection, guilt, or does he have some other hold over you perhaps due to a matter of blackmail or bribery? Is your family in his debt in some way? Or is this a “quirk” of your personality that causes you to place yourself in the very pathway of obvious danger?

Attached is another list—one of qualified and highly recommended physicians in the San Francisco area.

If “Doctor Bones” has any argument to make in his defense then he may contact me at the address and I will speak to him directly on the matter of your well-being. You are royalty; you are also a living, breathing, multi-celled organism. There are many who would prefer to see that you remain alive, in one piece, and unmolested by the very individual charged with protecting your person  from illness and injury.

Spock of Vulcan.

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Human females and tribbles
STARDATE: 2250.52
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Females such as the ones I have known and tribbles do not have any qualities in common whatsoever.

I am concerned about your health.

“XO”

Spock


 

FROM: Leonard H. McCoy, MD 
TO: Spock of Vulcan 
SUBJECT: My patient.
STARDATE: 2250.52

Listen here you green-skinned, pointy-earted basard, i have about as much time to send ROYAL COMMUNICATIONS as i do to sit down for a massage and drink at the end of a long day.

i've got patients to attend to and the last thing i nee'd sto be DEFnDiNG MY PRACTICE to a vlcan who's go t no business prying into my personal or professional medical history.

jim's a pain in the ass and a frequent pain in MY ass, but he;s fine and that's the last i'll hear of the kid changing physicians. not on my watch.

i'm no one of consequence, so i hope it's not gonna start a diplomatic incident when i tell you to kindly keep your nose outta my business.

yours VERY SINCERELY

leonard mccoy


 

FROM: The Office of Leonard McCoy, MD 
TO: Prince Spock of Vulcan
SUBJECT: An official apology.
STARDATE: 2250.52

Your Royal Highness,

Please accept the sincerest apologies of the Kirk medical staff. We were unaware that communication had been extended in our direction, otherwise a prompt and proper reply would have been extended, as is only courteous.

It seems likely that Prince James must have shown your message to Dr. McCoy directly instead of forwarding it through the proper channels. He took it upon himself to formulate a reply, and -- well, you've seen the results for yourself.

I must inform you that he is a brilliant man. Gifted in the medical arts. Nonetheless, I can see where his manner might be offensive to those not acquainted with his peculiarities.

I hope that your image of our staff has not been irreparably tarnished.

Christine Chapel


 

FROM: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth 
TO: Spock of Vulcan
SUBJECT: Everything's fine.
STARDATE: 2250.53
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I'm healthy as a horse, although I might not be after Bones is through with me.

I'm not gonna replace him, he's the best CMO we've ever had. A little prickly, but way sweeter than he lets on. Trust me when I say his bark's way worse than his bite. And he's not gonna come with me to Vulcan, so it's unlikely the two of you will have to spend much time together. 

You didn't have to write to him. 

XO

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: Leonard H. McCoy, MD
SUBJECT: Your patient.
STARDATE: 2250.53

Leonard H. McCoy, MD.

Your practice and your credentials are being investigated. Rest assured that this is being done lawfully and properly and shall not infringe upon any of your rights. However, know that I am thorough, and I intend to familiarize myself with your cases, your past employment, your performance, and any pending warrants there may be on your person for your arrest.

Are you currently inebriated? Your typing patterns suggest either inebriation or compromised motor skills, hardly a desirable trait in an individual of whom surgery may at any time be required.

Prince Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan, and Amanda Grayson of Earth

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: Christine Chapel, The Office of Leonard McCoy, MD 
SUBJECT: Regarding Leonard H. McCoy
STARDATE: 2250.53

Christine Chapel of the Office of Leonard (H.) McCoy, MD.

I do not intend to press charges as to do so would be an act lacking in delicacy and diplomacy. I do not intend to incite intergalactic incident. However I must inform you that the behavior of your employer and superior is erratic and unpredictable. He cannot spell and appears to have difficulty with typing as a general rule. If he is as careless with his practice and his patients as he is with his communications, then it is clear that another doctor should replace him in the care of Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, son of the late King George Kirk, and the Acting Queen Winona Kirk.

I am not without appreciation for the swift and tactful reply you have delivered. I must question the choice of a nurse with your qualifications to work for and with someone of Leonard H. McCoy, MD’s proclivities.

Someone of your skills and aptitude would serve a Starfleet vessel’s medical requirements.

Be wary of Leonard H. McCoy.

Sincerely,

Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Your health
STARDATE: 2250.53
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

“As healthy as a horse” is neither specific nor obvious enough to explain what your current status may truly be. A horse may be healthy or unhealthy depending on its breeding, its living conditions, its age, its diet, and so on. That you are healthy as a mammal whose health is a variable does not reassure me of anything—if this statement was meant as reassurance, rather than a coded communiqué.

Your personal preferences regarding Leonard H. McCoy, MD’s disposition aside, your health should be entrusted to individuals who are trustworthy.

Anything else would be illogical.

“XO”

Spock


 

FROM: Leodard H. CMCONY MCD
TO: prince smug 
SUBJECT: A fwew choice words.
STARDATE: 2250.53

All right, your amjesty I think I made my self prety clear in the last communciation that i don't have TIME to be writing lesetters back and forth like two schoolgirls on a cultural exchange. good god, man, you'd think with that enhanced vulcan sight you woudnt miss a cue like that but i guess it was TOO MUCH TO ASk that you might have better things to do than harass an old country doctor.

listen, no disresctpt meatn and i'm sure youre a lovely person but frankly if anyone has the right to be concerned it's me who knows how jim's gonna handle VULCNA of all places with your VULCAN DOCTORS

i'm not inebriated in the slighetst and i hope this is the last time we have to have one of these charming little communiques. 

yours sincenerely,

l mccoy


 

FROM: The Office of Leonard McCoy, MD
TO: Prince Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson 
SUBJECT: Further apologies.
STARDATE: 2250.53

Your Royal Highness,

It is the sincere hope of this office as well as the staff employed by the Kirk family that you have taken no offense during your communication with Doctor McCoy. Given that our medical facility is currently under investigation by your royal self, I feel it might be prudent to suggest cessation of communications between all parties, until tempers are a little less hot.

Christine


 

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Stop instigating. 
STARDATE: 2250.53
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

Remember that time I said I do better in person than through still images? Well, the same could be said of Bones. He's what we call an acquired taste here on Earth. You could also cross-reference the term all bark and no bite. He talks a big, big (and frequently, frankly disturbing) game, but he'd never harm a fly. And before you chime in, that's an expression that's meant to take into account all life. He's the gentlest person I know, even with the hypos.

It's like your sehlat. I told you Bones was my pet at first because the truth was they remind me a little of each other. I-Chayalooks like he'd chomp your arm off as soon as say hello, but he's really a big sweetheart who likes getting scratched under the chin, right?

Not that I'd scratch Bones under the chin. It's a flawed analogy. I don't expect you guys to get along, but trust me, he's not all bad.

I'm touched that you care this much about my health, though. Worried I'm not gonna make it to eighteen? If I didn't know better, I'd say you were getting attached to me, Spock.

XO

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: At no point in time was I instigating; therefore, I cannot cease any activity I have not already begun.
STARDATE: 2250.54
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

The difference between I-Chaya the pet sehlat and Leonard H. McCoy, MD, the “country doctor” also referred to as “Bones”, is that one is a large breed of Vulcan ursidae whose only required duties are to guard small Vulcan children, whereas the other—the latter—is a medical professional whose duties are varied and unpredictable, requiring a steadiness of hand and a calmness of mind in order to effectively apply himself to his daily tasks.

At no point has your health been anything but my concern, if only tangentially. We are not attached—not as of yet—but that does not imply your well-being is not related to my future, as is mine to yours.

If I was being cared for medically by a sehlat, I would trust that your response would be of equal severity.

Nevertheless, having concluded my thorough investigation into Leonard H. McCoy, MD’s past, his training, his satisfied previous patients, his practice, his associates, his family history, and other points of relative interest, I have concluded that there is no evidence of anyone under his care perishing due to carelessness or neglect. Neither is there an instance of a patient suffering unnecessary and crippling injury because of a mistake on the doctor’s part.

In fact, his record is in a word exemplary.

Perhaps you should bring him with you to Vulcan after all.

We have now been in communication for fifty days

“XO”

Spock


 

Chapter Text

FROM: Lady Amanda Grayson
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Please convey my sincere apologies to Leonard H. McCoy, MD
STARDATE: 2250.54

Prince Kirk—though, from all I have heard about you lately, I feel as if I really should be less formal, perhaps by calling you Jim; but of course, I don’t wish to cause any intergalactic incidents—it is a pleasure to speak to you, however briefly, and however limited our communications will surely be until we have met again. I remember you, of course, from so many years ago. If you’ve changed, and surely you must have done, then I trust you’re still as charming now as you were then. I look forward to our chance to speak and truly come to know one another. Your effect on my son has already been remarkable. I count him lucky; I count myself lucky by association.

The purpose for this missive, Prince Kirk, is a simple one. I wish, on behalf of myself and the house of Sarek, to extend our apologies to the practice of Leonard H. McCoy, MD—to the man himself, as well as to his employees. (I believe one Christine Chapel, in particular, was so good as to make amends between the involved parties?) It’s but a minor hiccup—but of course, I wouldn’t allow anything, anything at all, to endanger the good relations between our houses... Or the union that shall come of those good relations.

Until we meet again, Prince Kirk.

Lady Amanda Grayson


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: You've got me there.
STARDATE: 2250.54
SECURE CHANNEL

Happy anniversary.

I know, I know. Anniversary implies a yearly cycle and we're only fifty days in. But it felt like I should say something to commemorate the occasion. It's been awhile since I went to bed without one of your letters. I'm starting to get used to it. Kind of like a routine. Not in a bad way, it's just -- I'd miss 'em if they stopped, you know?

Not that they're gonna. The only problem with answering these letters so late at night is that I sometimes lose my train of thought. No doubt it's something you've already noticed, being as you're so observant when it comes to these things. Me. I like that you notice things about me.

See, in traditional flirting I'd never admit that, but I get the sense that I need to give you a bit of an advantage to even the playing field every now and then. Subtlety isn't something that comes naturally to Vulcans, I take it. Given your recent inquest into my CMO and all associated staff, I think I can safely assume you prefer the direct approach.

I'm not falling for your suggestion that I bring Bones to Vulcan though. He'd be miserable and he'd get in the way, like a chaperone only about a thousand times worse. He'd probably wanna do scans on you too. He is the very opposite of romantic and having him around wouldn't set the mood at all.

I'll ask him if he wants to come, though.

XO

Jim


 

FROM: James Tiberius Kirk
TO: Lady Amanda Grayson
SUBJECT: Apologies conveyed, but not necessary.
STARDATE: 2250.55

Lady Amanda,

Funny, I was wondering if I should call you Mom.

Didn't want to come off as irreverent, though. I told Spock I don't tend to make the best first impression (or second, for that matter, or third) but that doesn't mean I don't put any effort into it. That almost makes it worse, probably.

Don't worry about Bones, he has a lot going on. I'm sure the investigation barely scratched his surface. He doesn't tend to pay attention to anything unless it's a screaming patient in front of him. Spock said I should invite him to Vulcan, but I'm not sure that's a good idea. 

You raised a pretty great kid, if you don't mind my saying so. Weird as hell, but then he grows on you to the point where you're arguing on his behalf to allow all kinds of medical files to be released.

I look forward to meeting you again. I can assure you I don't drool half as much as I used to.

James Tiberius Kirk


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Where have I “got” you?
STARDATE: 2250.55
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life. And good evening, if I understand the nature of your designated communication time correctly, which I believe from all indicators that I have not misjudged. I would suggest that reading while in bed is counterproductive as it creates expectations of that space that do not involve proper rest cycles, but I am not your primary physician. Has Leonard H. McCoy, MD, already informed you of this fact, and have you neglected to act on it?

There is much, it would appear, that I do not yet know—that which you have not seen reason to share; that which you have no reason to; minor details that only a life shared in close proximity rather than one described in available moments as part of a familiar routine cannot possibly hope to illuminate. Despite the trust we have managed to foster in fifty-one days there is no need to question whether or not some mysterious element still remain between us. I would posit that many mysterious elements are yet a part of the very fabric of our relations.

This is the essence of diplomatic outreach. Yet based upon similar definitions of mystery, it may have something to do with the romantic as well, as far as the human desire for such reaches. On this matter I would not even speculate.

Your instincts for it are keener than are mine.

I shall from now on endeavor—in an act of solidarity—to read your communications at the same late hour. My ability to follow a thought from start to finish will not be impaired in a similar fashion, yet there will be a definite parallel that cannot be denied.

It is now seven past twenty-three hundred, local standard time. (The time stamp on this message will corroborate.) I-Chaya is outside the door. There are nights when he snores, though this is not one of them. There is a sand storm approaching and the air is dry. I am alone but I am not, as the state would suggest, lonely in any way whatsoever.

I realize now that I did not ask you for your thoughts on poetry—Vulcan; human; otherwise.

I am told the Orions are experts in free verse. But their sensuality does not generally appeal to a Vulcan audience.

“XO” – and “V” which to me approximates the salute of my Vulcan ancestry; that is, to live long and prosper.

Spock


 

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Lots of places.
STARDATE: 2250.56
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

Did you just compare our letters to diplomatic outreach? Because I think I'm offended.

I mean, diplomacy is one thing, but outreach is so... Makes me feel like a charity project, you know? That's not how you meant it, though. I get you. And before you ask, that's an expression that means I understand. I don't actually, physically have you. Not yet, anyway. I'm looking forward to that part of our acquaintanceship. Is that even a word?

God, I'm tired.

Let me tell you, Spock, nothing takes it out of you like a Venusian colony tour. I knew when I signed up for it that there weren't any Class M planets on the agenda, but there's knowing and then there's knowing. If I have to listen to one more lecture on terraforming, I'm probably gonna lose it. Did you know Earth agriculture is probably the most boring topic in the universe? It's true, I did a study.

That's a joke, but if I had done a study? It would be more interesting than listening to foreign dignitaries talk about the strain on their resources oh my god, Spock.

Oh my god.

All right, that's my daily allotted amount of complaining. If you're gonna start reading my letters in bed then I'm gonna have to talk to you about better stuff. More soothing, bedtime-y topics. I tried to practice that Vulcan salute, but it's not going so well. Is that the kind of thing you have to start on early, because I might've missed the boat there. Still, I'm working on it. Gives me something to do under the table while various representatives go on and on about the cost of dilithium mining and whether or not there might be a more profitable resource on one of the gas giants.

See, there I go again. Let's try another tactic.

I don't snore. So if I was there with you right now, you wouldn't have to worry about me keeping you awake in bed.

Although in all fairness, I might be keeping you up with other stuff.

I'll check out some of that Orion poetry. You never know -- you might surprise yourself with how sensual you can be. You might just need to hear it in the right context.

XO

V

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Outreach.
STARDATE: 2250.56
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I am relieved to note that you “get” me in terms of the suggested analogy between acts of diplomacy and acts of a more personal unification. Though ours is a union that found its inception in diplomacy, the ways in which it mirrors the galactic scale of these diplomatic envoys is not, as you suggest, lacking in romance or romantic interpretations.

On a base level it is indeed logical—for only together can we achieve our goals to the best of our combined abilities. The logic, therefore, cannot be denied. There are those who would seek to undermine or even fracture these alliances toward their own brief profit or short-term gain but as a long-term endeavor, it is simply not viable. Their way will only bring harm to themselves and to the galaxy as a whole.

Yet as precise and obvious as this logic may appear to us, and while our enemies are in violation of that same logic, I believe there is a poetry in the common sense shared by one of your background and one of mine. There is little else that we share, save for anatomical points of reference. The very make-up of our blood is quite dissimilar. Were it not for diplomatic envoys and the concept of diplomacy as a whole, we would not be in communication. We might never have come to the point of knowing one another at all—much less of “getting” them.

You will inform me if I do not use that word correctly, when your travels and duties in the Venusian colonies are not limiting your time.

I shall also inform you—after I have recorded a wide enough sampling of instances—as to whether or not I snore, so that you will be prepared well in advance that such knowledge will prove relevant.

As for I-Chaya, as I have already noted, it will be possible to move him to another room or area where the sounds he makes in his sleep do not disturb your rest. For a creature as large as he, it is remarkable how easily he makes himself comfortable in the most unlikely of places.

I went on a similar tour when I was a year younger than you are, studying dilithium mining facilities owned by Tellarite interests. As much as we rely on the crystals in order to power the Federation’s galactic exploration missions, I will submit that once you have spent an hour considering their properties as they are currently employed, you have spent all the time necessary on those considerations.

The Tellarites, however, are able to argue about them for days, at times weeks, on end.

I know that Klingon interest in dilithium mines is high, for the same mechanisms that power travel also power photon-based weapons, torpedoes, cannons, phasers, and so on. Naturally you are traveling with an adequate security detail and are not, as the tabloids suggest, “recklessly endangering” yourself during “flagrant stunts” in order to impress an Orion girl of your acquaintance?

XOV.

Spock


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Orion poetry.
STARDATE: 2250.56
SECURE CHANNEL

Why Spock, that was downright romantic.

At least, I think it was. I've never heard anyone talk about diplomacy and partnership with quite the same fervor as you managed to muster. It was really moving.

None of that's sarcasm either, I'm just too tired to dance around it the way I normally would. You're pretty great, Spock. I never noticed up until now how passionate you could be on certain topics and I think that's been to your disservice. Anyway, I'm only telling you this now so that you'll believe me when I tell you you're capable of making one hell of a speech. You're gonna make a great diplomatic representative for Vulcan. And I'm looking forward to standing by your side while you do it.

Now that that's out of the way, I have three things to say in my defense.

1. Someone had to pilot that mining shuttle out of the crater before it collapsed. Valuable resources, Spock. I can't listen to anymore whining about Federation attention to Class M colonies taking priority over those in our own backyard.

2. Gaila's my instructor in Orion poetry and she is NOTORIOUSLY difficult to impress.

3. It can't have been that dangerous if there were photographers there. I'm just saying.

Anyway, I don't care so much if you snore. I'll just roll you over. I-Chaya can sleep wherever he wants. I doubt he'd like me very much if I just showed up one day and started dictating the terms when he's way older than me AND he's been there longer. It's not up to me to go setting down rules in his house, you know?

I'm still working on that finger thing.

Live long and prosper, Spock.

XOV,

Jim 

P.S. I'd say you've got getting down to a fine art.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Diplomacy and partnership.
STARDATE: 2250.57
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

In correction of a finer detail, I must clarify that I wrote of diplomacy and partnership not with fervor, but in a way that seems to me little more than purely logical.

The attempts on a major scale of Federation unification as exhibited on the minor scale with the unification of two disparate individuals from equally disparate backgrounds (ourselves) is a parallel that should be obvious to anyone who seeks to overcome the prejudices that made our initial period of contact fraught and uncertain. In those days, certainly, no one could say whether or not alliance or even unsteady peace of any kind would be possible—yet now, with the perspective of time and experience, these possibilities have unfolded in near unlimited fashion.

As I said: this should be obvious.

According to Sarek, my father, who has a wealth of knowledge of diplomacy from his years of service as an ambassador of Vulcan, one is best served—if one intends to be thoroughly diplomatic—to speak less than one listens. This is the Vulcan intellect at work, the Vulcan understanding. I have good reason to infer that I have been chosen for my particular duties because of a perceived lack of qualities essentially Vulcan in origin, in other words the human influence that has separated me from my family on my father’s side, and my peers.

Whether or not I agree with your complimentary assessment in those exact terms—nor am I ultimately clear on what those terms, exactly, are—I understand that gratitude should be expressed at this time.

I am expressing gratitude.

You are many things—I would suggest in need of caution and care, as the impulse that drove you to drive that mining shuttle out of danger yourself indicate you are “pretty” reckless as well as “pretty” impulsive. (Pretty is not specific and I would not employ it, yet it appears appropriate, since I have not yet calculated just how reckless and impulsive you are.) There were many photographs of the incident. After familiarizing myself with the evidence briefly, I was able to determined that all images were gathered via long-range photographic equipment. The photographers were not in the center of danger as you placed yourself. Nonetheless, I understand that the locals were grateful and impressed; this positive outcome, however, should not encourage you toward making the same choices again.

Of course, some would call your actions brave. But brave has a multitude of interpretations. It has a time and a place. It ends when the individual who possesses it is compromised, injured, or lost. It is merely a concept; it is not a living organism.

Gaila the poetic instructor does not appear to favor poetry lessons given in anything other than the nude. Is this an Orion custom with which I am not familiar?

XOV.

Spock


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Naked Orion girls.
STARDATE: 2250.57
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I hope this topic doesn't trigger your spam filter. A lesser man would change it so that doesn't happen, but I'm too far gone now. Gotta stick it out. I don't even know why I bother making jokes where you're concerned, but I figure one of these days I'm gonna break through and you'll realize how charming you find me. Either that or you'll get sick of them and tell me to stop. Either way, I'm doing all right so far.

OK, so she's not my poetry instructor so much as she is my friend. She's one of the Starfleet cadets assigned to shadow the big dogs while we make our rounds, but I figured she might help me get a literal interpretation of some of these verses. The cadet who introduced us, Uhura, is a linguist, but she won't use her talented tongue to help me out, so I've had to go looking elsewhere.

Anyway, the naked thing. 

Thanks for the heads up. Didn't realize there were guys camped outside the windows, but it's not so surprising. When you lead the kind of hell for leather daring nonstop adventure kind of life I do, you run into constant interest. I'm just lucky there aren't any naked pictures of me floating around yet. Mom'd have my head. And before you ask, there definitely could've been, because Gaila's a big fan of feeling the poetry with every part of your body. According to her, clothes get in the way of the experience, and I'm sure not gonna tell my Orion grandmother how to suck eggs. 

Anyway it makes for a nice view, which I'm sure you've discovered.

I'll have security make a sweep, maybe keep the blinds down next time.

I'm sorry to inform you that your logic was incredibly passionate and not something I'm liable to forget anytime soon either. As soon as I've mastered some of the intonation on these Orion verses I'm gonna record you a little something, maybe brighten up your night. You're still reading these at night, right? It's a nice image, that's all. You all cozy in bed, me...all cozy in another bed. 

Night, Spock.

XOV,

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Orions do not suck eggs.
STARDATE: 2250.58
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

“Hell for leather”—meaning unclear. You are not wearing any of that fabric in the pictures taken by the interested and dedicated paparazzi. Explain.

“Nonstop adventure kind of life”—I have responded to this already. It is unwise to behave so recklessly when there are many who depend upon you and look to you. Needless to say you are meant to set an example for those who look up to you. The constant presence of the paparazzi should be a prime indicator of this truth. At the very least you will instill in a younger and impressionable human generation an affection for Orions that may fall, broadly, under the heading of good diplomacy, but we both know that is a generous interpretation at best. As your brother Sam’s whereabouts are currently unknown, it is your face associated with the representation of your planet and its government.

I cannot imagine the peculiar freedoms allowed on Earth, among humans. Were you truly raised beyond the confines of strict formality, or is it that your personality stretched beyond the rules and regulations inherent in your upbringing? Again, there are few words as apt to describe the phenomenon of your behavioral patterns as fascinating.

A security sweep would not be amiss. Some of those visuals were not acquired by means of a long-range apparatus.

If I understand correctly, the Orion named Gaila who prefers to eschew clothing while experiencing poetry socially is your grandmother—perhaps a step-grandmother, as there are no Orions in your bloodline, Jim—which explains the familiarity expressed between you. For a grandmother, she appears quite young. I understand females of certain races enjoy being told this fact.

Your foray into Orion poetry is noted as what may be considered a romantic gesture. If it was not, I would know the truth of your sudden interest, so that your motives—your intentions—are not misunderstood. I have made a foray of my own into poetry as well, though I began on Earth rather than on another planet between ours, with a scribe of great historical distinction. The name Shakespeare is ubiquitous among your people, is it not? There is a structural logic in much of his verse that gives his passion structure. It, too, is fascinating.

Good night, Jim.

XOV.

Spock


 

Chapter Text

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Are you even USING that dictionary I made you?
STARDATE: 2250.59
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

Okay, give me a minute.

Hell for leather: an expression stemming from the 19th century, it means with great speed. I lead a fast life. It seemed like an appropriate allusion at the time.

Nonstop kind of whatever I said: I'm just being facetious. That being said, surely you can't expect me to just sit back and keep out of danger because it's the diplomatic thing to do? I saw an opening and so I took it. I'm a good pilot, I knew how to operate the shuttle. If I hadn't moved when I did then a lot of people could've been hurt and the headline would've been MINING TRAGEDY instead of that dumb picture of me and Gaila.

Speaking of the pictures of me and Gaila, security plugged up a few holes in the setting. We had someone on the staff keeping the paps informed of my movements, letting them know what room I was staying in, that kind of thing. Bones practically popped his cork when he found out, but that's only because he's convinced I'm gonna get assassinated every other minute. That's what happens to him when we leave Earth -- he loses his mind completely. Anyway, we're picking up and leaving for the back-end leg of this little morale tour soon, so I wouldn't worry too much about my compromised position. Lucky it wasn't compromised assets. Gaila got an official royal apology, and she's been signing pictures for the colonists ever since, so I'm guessing she's not too broken up about it.

She's not my grandmother either. Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs is another expression. It's like teaching someone who already knows more about the subject than you do. I don't know where the eggs come in. The point is, she's Orion so if she says something about Orion territory, I'm gonna take her word for it.

I like Shakespeare.

He was a man, take him for all in all, 
I shall not look upon his like again.

I'm not crazy about the sonnets, but the plays aren't bad.

XOV,

Jim

P.S. Don't worry, I'm doing an overhaul on my staff as we speak.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Your dictionary is not complete.
STARDATE: 2250.59
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Popped his cork was, surprisingly, included in the dictionary you once sent me. Hell for leather was not. Neither was the adage about the metaphorical grandmother who is skilled at sucking eggs. I have, I need not remind you, endeavored to do my research without disturbing you for clarification; I have checked and cross-checked the information with which you yourself chose to supply me. It has made itself useful to me in the past—just as our communications have their uses as well, regarding the finer points of colloquialism among humans.

I consider this practice, among other things, for my future inclusion in delegations to starbases, as well as to Federation outposts within your solar system, and indeed to Earth itself.

Leonard H. McCoy, MD, was correct to react in such a fashion to the clear breach of security and protocol in your staff during your tour of the Venusian colonies. When anticipating danger from those who sought to gain access to dilithium mines for their own benefit, I did not foresee there would be danger from those who sought to gain profit—also for their own benefit—from their access to you.

This is not a mistake I will make again and, if you are as wise as you have proven yourself clever, it is not one you will make either.

There is another Tellarite convoy on Vulcan; the delegates from the Tellarite system arrived this morning. As they stand between Vulcan and the Neutral Zone, many of their own dilithium mining colonies have come under regular attack by rogue Klingon ships, warbirds grouped three to five in number, firing upon photon cannons in order to weaken the mining colonies’ defenses. There have been casualties. The Tellarites are most displeased and these actions have made them uncertain about where they have placed their allegiances. Pending my father Sarek’s arrangements and the conclusion of the talks with the Tellarite convoy, we will send our support to the front in order to protect their outposts, fortifying their faith in the Federation along with their defenses.

I write you from the balcony of my private chambers. From this vantage point I am able to view that which passes beneath the window without myself being observed, should I wish to avoid observation. There are no paparazzi here. Vulcans do not pry, nor do they waste their time with idle gossip or with the circulation of digital magazines regarding the “celebrities” of the planet, as there are none who fall under that status, likely because there are none who would elevate them to that status. I am able to see the members of the Tellarite envoy depart the council chambers, followed by members of the High Council and my father as well.

I-Chaya has come to join me. Uninterrupted, I write to you as the sun sets. Vulcan has no moon; I know that Earth has only one, and that it is the subject of much human poetry, despite its relative simplicity as a celestial object. There appears to be a correlation between moonlight—a misnomer; that light is merely a reflection of the sun—and poetry.

Remain safe, Jim.

XOV.

Spock


 

FROM: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth 
TO: Spock of Vulcan 
SUBJECT: Sorry your royalness I'll get right on that.
STARDATE: 2250.60
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I'm en route right now, taking the long way around some solar radiation so we don't fry ourselves or something with the warp drive. I'm not too clear on what the problem is and everyone talks to me like I'm either an idiot or I'm about to fire them for getting the details wrong. Neither of which is true OR fair, but it makes it tough to get information out of anyone. Anyway, I'm better at piloting shuttles than I am understanding the engineering bay of a starship. Suffice it to say, I'm delayed and I'm bored and I thought colony tours were bad but I'm gonna make a radical statement now and suggest there's nothing worse than interstellar travel when you don't even care about where you're going.

Maybe it wouldn't seem so bad if they'd let me out of the Sol system, but everyone's on edge from what happened with the Klingons. Something you'd say is probably understandable.

Don't let the Tellarites get you down. Seems like you've had to spend a lot of time with them, and given your description of how sweet and even-tempered they are, I can't imagine it's been pleasant. Your dad's all right, isn't he? It sounds like you guys are out of harm's way, but I just wanted to make sure. I like to know how worried I need to be ahead of time.

Hopefully the answer is not that worried.

Moonlight's romantic, though I doubt you'd have an intrinsic understanding of that, having grown up without it and without an appreciation for romance in the first place. Because it's a reflection it doesn't illuminate the way sunlight does. The silver and the shadowy quality put people in a romantic state of mind because it's all private and secluded. You can still see, but you have to be close to someone to really get there. Proximity is also a big part of romanticism, though that can also be classified as basic sexual tension.

God, you've got me talking like you now.

I promise I'll show you what's so romantic about moonlight when you visit Earth next.

It must get dark on Vulcan at night. That sounds pretty peaceful. The lights on the starship never go out all at the same time, though I've got a blackout setup in my quarters which is pretty adequate. The hum of the engines sometimes puts me to sleep, although I don't want you thinking I'm so undisciplined that I could drop off without warning. I'm TRYING to sleep now. Which I will do as soon as I've finished writing you.

I'll be OK.

Maybe I'll work on that dictionary while I'm stuck here.

XOV,

Jim

P.S. You take care of yourself too, all right?


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: There is no need to be facetious in the subject area as well as in the body of your communication.
STARDATE: 2250.60
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life. Though there is currently no reason for worry there is always a place for well-measured caution. The distinction may be subtle but it is also a subtlety with which I am familiar, unlike the subtleties of romance, with which I am less so. This is likely due to the logical application of the distinction in my daily life, whereas there has been no logical need for romantic subtleties thus far.

It is a curious realization to discover that this is the topic to which I return more readily than any other during our communications. Of course, it was the initial subject of our dialogue, given the nature of our connection. Logically, we should return to it more often than any other singular topic—situational, chronological, personal, historical, pedagogical, economical... However it is also undeniably true that there are matters concerning us that are of far greater import and will have more lasting impact. Surely we should be more inclined to maintain conversation that pertains to the livelihoods of our people and to the very real threats that now face them.

I once asked my mother what the use of poetry was. It serves no logical purpose in anyone’s life. Moonlight may be, as you have described it, an experience of light and shadow to the point of great physical beauty, but the most impact a moon has upon a planet is its effect on the tides, a minor shift in gravitation and orbit.

The Tellarites do not trouble me as I am not their attaché; they have no reason to broach contact with me, though if they did, I would manage as befits a son of my father. Even should they prove most illogical and irrational, as they have in past talks, I would maintain my composure as though I were a full Vulcan, rather than only half of one. However, that is merely conjecture, though it is based upon precedent and prior performance under similar, if not equal, circumstances. I have no reason to meet with the Tellarites and therefore it is not the Tellarites which trouble me.

Is a boring trip not preferable to one that is assaulted by unwanted excitement?

Another conjecture, this one with only slightly less evidence, is that you would not agree with this assessment of mine. That you would, in fact, insist the opposite is true. That “adventure” despite its risks and even its costs should regularly outweigh the steadfast course that adheres to protocol and maintains proper procedures.

It is a distinct possibility, Jim, that due to our differences in perspective, there will not be friction of the sort that seems to bring you your most desirable form of pleasure. I will not be—according to your dictionary—akin to the sensations brought about with a “wild ride”. If the tedium of an uneventful space trip causes you to experience boredom, when it is the tedium of a course that is predictable because it is logical, then I must posit that the same may be said of the “ride” you will take with me.

Does this trouble you?

If you are unable to answer directly before bed, place your rest above the agitation of contemplating this matter. I know that humans require ample time for “R and R” and that without it they become “pissed off” and “grumpy”.

XOV.

Spock


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: You're right.
STARDATE: 2250.60
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

You ARE using the dictionary. I'm thrilled. No, really, it warms the cockles of my heart, and that's not just because we're finally reaching the home stretch of this little tour of ours. The Venusian Scandal (as we're now calling it) ate up some of my free time, so mom's wanting me back sooner than we thought. Thank god, because I'm not entirely convinced this wasn't some latent punishment to try and bore me to death. Before you ask, I haven't done anything worthy of punishment that I'm aware of. I wouldn't put it past her to try and get in a preemptive one either, though. Just to give me an idea of what's gonna happen if I mess around during another diplomatic dinner rehearsal.

As far as I'm concerned, so long as it's the rehearsal and not the main event who cares? The answer is a lot of people care, Spock. I'm sure Vulcans don't even have rehearsals -- you guys probably just know what you're doing from the get-go and everyone follows suit. I'm looking forward to a change of scenery, even though I've been complaining about starship travel lately. It'll be nice to actually get somewhere I'm excited about.

Plus, I've seen the preliminary designs for my Vulcan wardrobe and none of them includes a cape, so I'm all for that. Down with unnecessary layers.fdkfjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Sorry.
STARDATE: 2250.61
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

Sorry about that. Fell asleep with my face on the PADD.

If you think you're boring, Spock, you're way off. I wouldn't be writing if I couldn't be bothered. It's not like I have anyone breathing down my neck to reply these days, what with all the other stuff going on. So the only thing keeping me going is because I want to hear from you. I don't know if you've noticed, but you're easily just as capable of surprising me as I am of doing the reverse. And if you were all wild and spontaneous than what would I even bring to the relationship? My good looks?

We balance each other out pretty well as far as I'm concerned. If we were too alike we'd probably hate each other. There's all kinds of human literature on the idea that opposites attract. Not that I'm saying you should be attracted of me because of how illogical I am but, well, you find me fascinating, right? That's probably something that wouldn't kick in if I didn't catch you off guard every now and then.

Anyway, maybe I like how protective you get when I do stupid stuff. You ever think of that?

XOV,

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Naturally.
STARDATE: 2250.61
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Though it would appear that ‘peace and long sleep’ would be a more apropos greeting at this particular time.

Are you not resting adequately? Or is it that other business concerns you and consumes so much of your time that you are responding to private messages at a later hour than usual? If you believe correspondence takes precedence over your health then the spirit in which my customary greeting is intended has eluded you. Humans require a longer period of rest, as well as those which are taken more frequently, than Vulcans; there should be no shame to your ego in acknowledging that simple fact as the truth.

Though I appreciate the regularity of your replies and the routine established by their expected arrival and would not encourage you to write less often for my own sake, I would also not have your strict attendance to this self-appointed duty outweigh your physical needs.

At such a time as you have rested and relaxed—enjoying the aforementioned and much-praised “R and R”—I would also appreciate the opportunity to speak with you again in the efforts of continuing a previous thread regarding your physical needs, those unrelated to either rest or relaxation.

Have you considered that your mother the queen’s desire to be reunited with you may have something to do with the rising Klingon tensions coupled with your astounding capacity for finding trouble no matter where it is that you are sent? Are you equally pleased by her protective responses surrounding your reckless behavior as mine?

It seems to me the only logical response to have when considering an individual whose immune system is as immediately compromised as his ability for rational thinking in the face of self-appointed adventure. I do not disagree with the queen’s decision to recall you from your brief sojourn among the Venusian colonies, since the mining shuttles were not the only source of danger to your person, but also the numerous—seven, by my count—potentially fatal allergens in the atmosphere alone, not to mention the assault the plant life, if unchecked, would make upon your respiratory system.

Perhaps that qualifies as “protective”. Yet, as you remain my husband-to-be, I believe it is only logical. If you will not acknowledge these dangers for yourself then I shall have to continue to acknowledge them for you.

XOV.

Spock

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: Leonard H. McCoy, MD
SUBJECT: Your patient.
STARDATE: 2250.61

Leonard H. McCoy, MD.

I am aware that our previous communications were made under your duress and your ability to communicate was thereby hindered. However our mutual interest in your patient, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth, should allow us to place the past behind us in order to safeguard his future.

Is he well? He appears to be suffering from a yet-unknown measure of exhaustion.

I would appreciate a swift and thorough response befitting a medical professional of your credentials.

Prince Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan, and Amanda Grayson of Earth


 

FROM: Leonard H. McCoy, MD
TO: His Royal Vulcanness
SUBJECT: My patient.
STARDATE: 2250.61

Prince Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan, and Amanda Grayson of Earth,

Jim's fine, unless you've got a disease on Vulcan called TOOO STUDPID AND STUBBORN TO OBEY mEDICAL ORDERS. Kid runs himself ragged doing goodwill missions shaking hands and letting babies sneeze on him and god-only-knows what else, he comes back and tackles a mountain of boring paperwork, he's got those damned CAMERAMEN on his ass twentyfourseven like he doesn't have ENOUGH To DEAL WITH not even COUNTING THE HAREBRAINED TURNCOATS ON HIS OWN STAFF who'd sell him out to the highest bidder just to get a little extra salary 

it's

DISGUSTING

But he's not sick, if that's what you're asking. Not on my watch.

sincERLY,

LH McCoy, MD


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: NATURALLY
STARDATE: 2250.62
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

It's sweet when you worry about me. When my mom does the same thing, it's called meddling.

I never had to deal with that much before. People mostly paid attention to Sam, until they had to hire on Bones to deal with my allergy attacks. So maybe I'm enjoying the attention a little bit. From you, anyway.

Don't think I missed that subtle little cue to my physical needs you slipped in there, that was downright flirtatious. Spock, I don't care what you say about your romantic proclivities, you might be something of a natural. Well, OK, not a natural, but you're better at it than you think. A quick study. Or maybe I'm just easy to get to. Never really given it that much thought, since like I said before I've never got too involved in the talking part of a relationship. Guess you've been a good influence on me. Not that I'm any better about answering my correspondence these days, but to be fair I don't get a ton of personal stuff anyway.

I should be home tomorrow, if it's all smooth sailing. Not literal sailing. Flying. The Klingons would have to be idiots to try anything again so soon after their first hit. Tensions haven't exactly died down, and neither has security. So I doubt you need to concern yourself, but if you're thinking about me, I'll take it.

I'm not trying to be reckless, I'm just taking care of my subjects. You'd -- well, you probably wouldn't do the same thing. I'm sure you'd have found a very logical way to keep from piloting a mining shuttle out of the cave-in's range. We can swap strategies some other time maybe, when I'm visiting.

Why don't we talk more about your physical needs anyway? You spend so much time worrying about me, Spock, it's almost like you're cooking up reasons to keep the topic off yourself. Wonder why that could be...

Well, I'm thinking about you anyway. You can't stop me.

XOV,

Jim


 

Chapter Text

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: Leonard H. McCoy, MD
SUBJECT: Your patient, a follow-up.
STARDATE: 2250.62

Leonard H. McCoy, MD, salutations.

If your reasons behind the erratic spelling choices and grammatical liberties you took in your response was for the purpose of encrypting our communications, I regret to inform you that, one, though it was difficult to parse, the code was easily cracked despite its lack of cohesion, and, two, I am quite capable of establishing a secure channel through which privacy can be maintained. This is not a topic that requires privacy whatsoever as it regards the continued good health of Prince James Tiberius Kirk.

Venusian allergens aside, I do not believe that the prince is experiencing the requisite amount of sleep for a human male of his age, height, weight, and disposition. Without the requisite amount of sleep, his immune system—which already does not operate at optimal efficiency—may become further compromised.

It would also be prudent to keep him away from babies.

I would not imply that your job is anything but difficult, doctor, yet it is because of its importance that its difficulty is multiplied. From the information I have gathered you appear to be a dedicated and well-considered practitioner in your field and I do not intend to teach you how to “suck eggs”. I am merely expressing a shared interest in your patient as well as expressing that which I have come to understand from my communications with the prince.

Sincerely,

Prince Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan, and Amanda Grayson of Earth

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Naturally?
STARDATE: 2250.62
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I would not once suggest that the Klingons are “idiots”. Rather, I would say that they—like you—have a tendency to act in a fashion that might, by some, be regarded as reckless. Their actions cannot be understood by us without further study, even dialogue with those who have dedicated their livelihoods and indeed their very lives to serve that foreign ideology.

For now, they are still a relative unknown, and for this reason they have presented clear danger to us. We have been shown that if they believe they have an opportunity then they will take it; if they see a weakness, past experience suggests that they will take it without thought to personal or individual safety. Rather, they will act for the glory and the victory of the whole of their empire. It is an ideology that is not shared by humans or by Vulcans or indeed by any other willing member of the Federation. I would not call this idiocy. I would simply call it formidable. If their greatest act can be to die in service of battle, then they fight without thought to loss of life, including their own. We cannot meet them on that same level of self-sacrifice. Nor should we. It will prove a most sensitive battlefield to negotiate.

But I take it this divergence of topics to focus on the Klingons is not a part of my natural aptitude for learning, in this case, the language of flirtation.

With knowledge of this, I shall now attempt to correct my course before it veers beyond the point of correction.

I have always applied myself to new and unfamiliar topics with the intent to master them. Swiftness and efficiency. That is the Vulcan way. Yet the malleable nature of “flirtation” as it varies from individual case to individual case has shown itself to be a unique study. There is no single equation to act as the framework for anticipating reactions based on actions; there are more variables than there are constants.

I neglect self-reference because I have less experience in the subject than you have enjoyed. In point of fact, I have only variables, and no constants.

There is also the fact that, for Vulcans—among whom I have been raised, and to whose standards I expect to cleave—these topics are distasteful. They are reminiscent of a carnality in our pasts to which we will never return. Therefore, these subjects are not addressed. They are cloaked in ritual, hidden in our histories. We acknowledge them in ceremony, but not in conversation.

XOV.

Spock


 

FROM: Leonard H. McCoy, MD.
TO: His Royal Prince Spock
SUBJECT: My patient, a follow-up.
STARDATE: 2250.63
SECURE CHANNEL

Listen, your worship,

In the interests of being diplomantic, I'm gonna ASSUME you've never been in the unfortunate position of ever trying to jget James Tiberius Kirk to do ANYTHING he's not interested in doing. If not, I have a grave knowledge to pass on: there's no telling jim ANYTHING. I do my best - and you acklnowledge i AM the best, but damned if that kid doesn't have the stubborn will of a tenfold of oxes at harvest time. 

Believe me, I'm keeping an eye out for the kid. And i"m not about to let anything happen to him. But if you think I can avert tragedy by simply sitteing him down and explaining things in a very logical fashion then boy are you in for teh shock of a lifetime. 

Candidly, I don't mind saying he'll be your problem soon enough. You;ll see for yourself soon enough. Until then, he's my problem and I;m gonna keep him as strong and prepared as I can. no thanks to that goddamn klingon envoy.

If I have to, I'll find a way to cut out power to his PADD after a certain hour. Somethin'g s gotta get him to sleep.

Sincerely,

LH McCoy, MD.


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Sorry I'm being facetious again.
STARDATE: 2250.64
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

Hey. Bones says I should apologize for the quality of my correspondence, whatever in the hell that means. Apparently I wasn't supposed to be writing letters at all because he had me on mandatory rest cycles. I keep telling him it isn't a big deal, that it doesn't take a lot of brain power to write you anyway because I pretty much go on autopilot these days, but he says if I was talking to anyone in that state of mind -- anyone I care about -- then I owe them a big old apology.

So here I am. Apologizing? You guys haven't been talking behind my back, have you? Because I think that's sweet, but also I don't like my odds if the two of you team up against me. I'm taking good care of myself. There's more work these days now that it's just the two of us, that's all. I'm doing more than I used to, but that's part of getting older.

You like that? It sounds mature, doesn't it? That's your influence. At least, that's what I'm gonna assume. It's sure as hell not mine.

I don't have much time for Orion poetry since landing back on Earth, but Gaila said to say hello next time I wrote you. She thought you might be jealous after the whole naked thing at the Venusian colony, but I told her Vulcans don't go in for that. Anyway, she's back at Starfleet now, so my studies would be on hold whether I had time or not. Mom and I are meeting with some of HQ's admirals to talk about Federation defenses in Klingon space, so I'll have a lot of mental fuel if I need a nap later.

After that, I'm supposed to double down on my Vulcan language lessons. I've tried telling them that even you said it was a lost cause, but everyone here seems to think much more highly of my intellect than you do. Maybe that's one of the reasons I like you so much.

I get it, you know. You were raised a certain way, I was raised a certain way. There's bound to be discrepancies between the two. I don't mean to make you uncomfortable when I talk about flirting all the time and stuff. I'm willing to dial it back, but I'm not gonna stop entirely because I think some amount of friction's healthy. And if we back off entirely, then our letters are gonna be dry, diplomatic treatises and I've had about all of those I can take.

Give I-Chaya a scratch under the chin from me and say hi to your mom. I'm thinking about you. Even if you said the Klingons were formidable.

XOV,

Jim

P.S. Sixty days.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: Leonard H. McCoy, MD
SUBJECT: Your patient, another follow-up.
STARDATE: 2250.64

Leonard H. McCoy, MD, salutations.

Have you at any point attempted to explain, in a calm and reasonable fashion, without outbursts of any kind—if your vocal communications in any way resemble your written ones, then it is clear this is not a natural instinct for you—what it is you ask of the prince and why it is that you are asking it of him?

He may be stubborn as any form of Earth-based live-stock; I cannot qualify which animal is more so than others. That is not presently in question. His personality has little to do with the matter of his health, except as it exists to exacerbate pre-existing conditions or establish new ones. He is, however, intelligent enough and mindful enough of his duties that a concise statement of purpose would likely assist you in moving him to understand and perhaps even comply with your directives.

Have you considered employing lists with sections and subsections in order to clarify your motives?

The prince in my experience reacts well to lists.

Sincerely,

Prince Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: “Again” implies a cessation at some point.
STARDATE: 2250.64
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life, as well as good sleep, which it seems from the increased time lapse between communications is now closer to your grasp than it was previously.

Though I would not say that I was worried about your sleeping patterns or the disruption in them or even your obvious lack of sleep in general, it is nonetheless preferable that matters appear to have improved, rather than worsening or simply reaching an uncomfortable plateau. I once again recommend a period of meditation prior to the hour of retirement, as it structures thoughts, relaxes the muscles, soothes the mind, and settles breathing patterns, all excellent preparatory action for achieving optimal REM sleep in human beings. As there are many topics up for debate during your waking hours, duties you must attend, defenses to consider, meetings over which to preside, it is of no real surprise to me that you may need to meditate in order to calm any understandable over-activity of the brain.

I have spent time meditating on similar matters, as defenses from Vulcan have `been sent to safeguard the Tellarite dilithium mining colonies bordering the Neutral Zone. There were similar hearings held and they will continue to be a topic of discussion while the High Council and my father determine what most logical steps must next be taken in order to prevent further incursion on Federation space.

Do not concern yourself with apologies made to those who do not require them. I am not in need of that attention. You have not harmed me by denying yourself the rest you so clearly need during these trying times. In point of fact, you have harmed only yourself; therefore, if you find it within yourself to turn that apology inward and, rather than wasting your energies on words issued to those not directly affected, instead spend it on proper treatment of yourself, I will of course be satisfied. Thus no apologies will be necessary from or for anyone at all.

What gave you the impression that I do not think highly of your intellect?

I will send another communication in an hour, when I am alone and in bed, after I have meditated.

XOV.

Spock

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Clarification.
STARDATE: 2250.64
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

There is no need to “dial” anything “back”. But if you are able to find reserves of patience within yourself for me, and those reserves do not deplete any other patience required for your many other duties, then that is all I require.

That you are able to speak candidly on these matters is unexpected, but not unwanted.

XOV.

Spock


 

FROM: Leonard H. McCoy, MD
TO: Prince Spock 
SUBJECT: Our mutual pain in the ass.
STARDATE: 2250.65

Your Royal Highness,

Shouldn't be a problem. I've taken car eof it. You have any more concerns, you bring them to me.

Sincerely,

LH McCoy, MD.


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Very funny.
STARDATE: 2250.65
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

Yeah, I slept. Not sure how long. Bones must've hit me with a hypo when I wasn't looking. He's a real crafty son of a bitch. That's a colloquial you probably shouldn't repeat in decent company. Then again it's tough to picture you outside of decent company. Do they even have Vulcans who aren't decent? What do you guys do with the bad seeds on your planet anyway, shoot them off to some distant moon? I've never found any records of troublemaking Vulcans in our archives. Maybe they're just kept secret, alongside your personal reproductive cycles.

I'm glad it doesn't make you uncomfortable that I talk about these things. That's definitely not what I'm shooting for -- although an argument could be made for a certain kind of enjoyable discomfort. I think you'll know what I'm talking about from those experiments. Before. You touching yourself. That kind of uncomfortable. I wouldn't mind being a source of that and other similar stimuli for you, but I'm not looking to mow down your cultural preferences in favor of my own or anything.

When I say that if it weren't for me we'd talk about nothing but diplomacy and the Tellarites, I'm not saying that like it's a bad thing. Some of the contextual facts might get dry, but contrary to how I might act I like knowing what's going on with you. Even if it's boring. You'll keep me appraised on what's happening in the Neutral Zone, right? The last thing we need to worry about is the Romulans on top of everything else.

I don't see why everyone can't just join the Federation and call it a day. Don't worry, that's not a plan I'm trying out on you to express later in full diplomatic company. In case you haven't worked it out by now, I say a lot of things to you that I wouldn't to anyone else.

Maybe that's not so bright for a guy looking to make a good first impression, but I like to think I've hooked you a little by now. You like me. Not to say I'm gonna just let it all hang out and stop trying, but I think we've attained a certain understanding with each other, no?

We write each other at night now. We never had a rhythm before.

I don't get back to you quite as late as I used to, but I'm in bed now anyway. It's dark, warm. I sleep with the window open, but the covers on. I like a cold room but not being cold. How's that for illogical?

XOV,

Jim

P.S. You're worth being patient for.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan, Son of Sarek and Amanda Grayson
TO: Leonard H. McCoy, MD
SUBJECT: Indeed.
STARDATE: 2250.65

Leonard H. McCoy, MD, salutations.

It is in thanks to our mutual “pain in the ass” that I understand your colorful human metaphor. It is not strictly correct. Neither is it strictly incorrect.

It would also appear that I “owe you one” to coin a parlance likely familiar to you, though I shall not be able to form my repayment with any of the barn animals of which you are so fond.

For future reference: what is contained within your hypos? I will await the response at your leisure.

Sincerely,

Prince Spock of Vulcan

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: We are past the point of first impressions, Jim.
STARDATE: 2250.65
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

The establishment of routine followed by a “rhythm” is the natural conclusion of a successful venture, especially as far as contact and diplomacy are concerned. Not, I will hasten to add, that I am comparing our communications to diplomacy in the “dry” sense that you have frequently referenced. I believe that I have divined its specific parameters to include that which fits the textual definition, such as treatises; historical anecdotal reference; points of chronological interest. What is happening in the Neutral Zone—though that does seem to hold your interest more than the rest, likely because it is an immediate and current event.

The Romulans are always in our thoughts. They always factor into our choices, our actions, and our plans. You are correct to assume that it would be unwise to pursue an action that would incur their unfavorable interest along with the present Klingon threat.

This phrase is “biting off more than one can chew”.

(A product of my continued interest in the James T. Kirk Colloquial Human-To-Vulcan Helpful Dictionary. I consult it regularly and have utilized my findings with my mother, who has exhibited pleasure at my progress. The dictionary, despite its shortcomings, has managed to prove its usefulness all the same, at least in some regard. My gratitude, once again, for the time and the effort you devoted to compiling it. However, I will be certain not to invoke the “crafty son of a bitch” within earshot of my mother, as you have cautioned it would be improper.)

There is much that you will learn in the natural course of time, and with the facilities that will be available to you when you are here and living on Vulcan. Its databanks and libraries, to an extent, will be at your disposal. The answers to a portion of the questions that you have may be found within the archives of Vulcan’s many esteemed library facilities. Though you will be considered an outworlder, you will also be my companion—he who is my husband—and you will be witness to many secrets of the Vulcan people that no other outworlder would be permitted access to.

You will, therefore, come to understand that which is most private to us. The depths of our passions. The deserts here are dry but also burning hot. There are some historians who would suggest that in the darkest days of our history as a people we were nothing but makers of trouble, as we ourselves were troubled by the weight of our own, unchecked passions.

But then, it is most difficult to imagine any of the Vulcan High Council, any of my father Sarek’s retinue, or my father himself, as mindful of this struggle as I have been.

I add, before a post-script, acknowledgement of the “anniversary”. Sixty-one days.

XOV.

Spock


 

FROM: Leonard H. McCoy, MD
TO: Blah blah blah 
SUBJECT: You're welcome.
STARDATE: 2250.65

Typical benzodiazepine compound. I don't like to rely on it, but it'll do in case of emergency. 

Youd on't owe me anything for doing my job, your majesty. I'd say he'll b e your headache soon enough but a doctor's work is neve r done.

Sincerely,

LH McCoy


FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: So it's too late, is what you're saying.
STARDATE: 2250.65
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I'm glad your mom likes the dictionary. I never claimed to be an experienced dictionary-maker or anything like that. God, there's probably a word for that but I'm not looking it up. I bet you know what it is though. You can tell me if you want, but I'm guessing that since it's a word that doesn't apply to me, I'm probably not ever going to need to use it.

Watch that come back to bite me in the ass now that I've said it.

You could say I'm more interested in the Neutral zone because it's addressing a current concern, but more than that Spock it's got something to do with your immediate safety. This might be my human prejudice talking (go easy on me, I don't know any better) but it seems to me like you're in a bad region of space these days. Vulcan is a little further out than I'd strictly like, speaking in terms of comfort. That's right, I'm saying your place in the galaxy isn't where I can keep an eye on you and that's why I don't like it. Illogical it might be, but I can't do much about how I feel.

I've always wondered if that sounds like an excuse to Vulcans, since they up and did something about their own feelings. There's definitely an enviable quality about the kind of control you guys have. I'm not sure I'd want it myself, but I can see where it'd be useful in the right situation. Usually diplomatic ones. 

What should we do to celebrate our sixty-one day anniversary, Spock?

XOV,

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: That is not at all my implication.
STARDATE: 2250.66
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I have come to the conclusion that expending worry for that which you cannot effect or even see is a waste of time and mental faculties better served as expended toward other, more logical pursuits. That is not to say that ample preparation for prospective unfavorable potentialities is not advisable; quite to the contrary. Yet as you are on Earth and I am on Vulcan and plans for your location to change have been made for the future—a future much later in this stardate year—for the present there are a number of immediate matters you may set your mind to with the intention of having a real effect on them, ideally one for the better.

There is little you can do about the Neutral Zone or what lies beyond it, or Vulcan’s nearness to the Romulans. Therefore do not concern yourself with thoughts regarding either topic, beyond the preparatory studies for your arrival.

Have you considered my suggestion of meditation, rather than the solution of—as your physician Leonard H. McCoy is so fond—medication? I believe, given your intellect, which I must reiterate is not lacking by human standards, that through meditating on the subject you would have come to this same conclusion on your own, and perhaps would have saved yourself a day of unnecessarily disturbed thoughts in the process. 

Yet it is a matter of interest—even if it is not a matter I may directly effect by contemplating it in this fashion—that Vulcans and Romulans should share such common ancestry, yet maintain such radically different ideologies and positions. We may have history and biology in common, but there is no ground we have yet found it within ourselves to meet upon.

It is in moments when I consider the complexities of our similarities and our differences that I do not question logic, but am forced to consider that it may be a matter of perspective after all. However it appears that no member of the Vulcan High Council is plagued by this notion. I must therefore conclude that this avenue of thought is a flaw within my own logic. Does that not seem an accurate conclusion?

Nevertheless, if your inability to “keep an eye” on me is worthy of such note, I will attach a current visual reference.

I have now attached a current visual reference.

As far as an appropriate celebration of a sixty-two day acknowledgment of communications, I am unable to extemporize an adequate commemorative action. Vulcans do not “celebrate” in the same sense as humans over minor chronological demarcations.

I am therefore open to suggestions.

XOV,

Spock


 

Chapter Text

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: I was joking.
STARDATE: 2250.68
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

Sadly, all my suggestions run along the lines of things we've already decided are forbidden due to the potential for them leaking and getting plastered everywhere. Not that I don't trust the integrity of your secure channel, but after that mess with Gaila I'm feeling a little more circumspect regarding when and where I get naked. It's totally weird. But probably for the best. Anyway, since I won't be sending you a spicy little anniversary recording I've decided to do the next best thing and get you a book.

Hopefully it's there by now -- I wanted to wait until I got it to write back so it wouldn't spoil the surprise.

Uh. I don't know what Vulcan gift culture is like or anything, I haven't been able to read about it, among other things, but if you don't want it that's fine, I won't be offended.

Don't tell anybody this, but I prefer the hardcopy stuff to reading off a display. It's got nothing to do with my eyes or what Bones says or the kinds of programs I prefer to keep loaded on the PADD. I'll be honest, it's damn inconvenient too, because you gotta keep a light on just to see the pages, but -- there's something about reading a story in a real book, Spock.

I can't explain what it is, there's no formula, no factoring that'll explain why one yields more enjoyment than the other, but this is the conclusion I've come to. My own personal experience.

By now you've probably made it through the complete works of Shakespeare anyway, but just in case you hadn't, well. Like I said, you don't have to keep it if you don't want it. Anyway, it should have all the plays and sonnets and everything. That's what complete means. You got it. You'll figure it out.

Thanks to the paparazzi you probably have pictures of me floating around all the time, but I slipped one into the cover of the book anyway. Just in case you wanted a hard copy of that too.

I'll give meditation a shot. I hate to disappoint you, but I think I might not be any good at it.

XOV,

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: There is no dictionary of sarcasm.
STARDATE: 2250.68
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I received the “anniversary present” if it can be termed as such, given that no parameters of anniversary have technically been fulfilled, before I received your communication. You will be pleased to learn that your timing was not incorrect. And the arrival of that present was unexpected—I believe the proper phrase is that it was a “good surprise”—for you gave me no indication that a present was to arrive. I had not prepared myself for it, nor was I able to prepare a similar, tangible commemoration in return.

To do so now is necessary; it is only polite, correct procedure. Yet it will seem an action done in haste to match your actions. There is much I do in reaction to your action, for instinct is not a Vulcan’s first choice as catalyst.  

You are impulsive and your imagination is most inventive, Jim. There was also logic behind your choice, as you inferred my preferences for human verse from mentions I have made of Shakespeare in the past, and you offered a gift that was perceptive and is appreciated.

Once again I find myself expressing gratitude for that which I know to be illogically offered—that which is truly superfluous—yet my mother has assured me the gesture is romantic, that romance may present itself as illogical at the best of times, and that rules of diplomacy should not apply even to a diplomatic union such as ours.

I acknowledge this along with acknowledgement of the contradiction inherent in that which I must accept as the truth.

You are a romantic, Jim. This may come as no surprise to you; I am not a romantic, by my nature, nor have I been able to chart the precise balance of manufacturing surprise. Therefore I shall say thank you, as is proper, when one is presented with a gift that is well-considered and honestly given.

I will continue as I must to maintain my end of this—for lack of a more complete word—equation. As I must, but it is not undesirable to approach the challenge, either.

In the interim and while you are awaiting the response to the gesture you have given I will offer that which is regularly considered romantic in nature. Though I do not write to you by moonlight, for again, Vulcan has no moon, I have determined from my research that the terms of romance may be met with poetry alone and that moonlight is agreeable but not demanded. I have used the collection gifted to me by you in order to transcribe the following, written by Shakespeare. Note also that I am employing your gift, which is not merely romantic, but also serves a distinct purpose.

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

That is Shakespeare’s 116th sonnet, for your reference.

XOV,

Spock.


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: It's all in the tone. 
STARDATE: 2250.68
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

Am I the star, or the wandering bark in that poem?

I'm glad you liked the book. The whole point of a surprise is that you aren't supposed to know what's coming; not being able to reciprocate comes with the deal. It's unfortunate, but part of the process. So I'd apologize, but I'm not truly sorry. I'm one of those people who actually gets off on giving presents. It's a corny old saying that the best part of gifts is picking them out and handing them over. Not many people believe it, but I'm definitely one of them. So don't feel like you have to get me anything in return. I had fun getting you something.

That, and it's fun to surprise you.

Of course, if you hadn't liked the book I'd be feeling like a real jackass right now, so it's all in how the gift's received. I usually go for the plays over the sonnets, but I like histories. Of course, not all of them are accurate to the time period, but they're fun to read if you have a spare moment.

The cool thing about Shakespeare is that there's never been anyone else like him. Most of Earth's famous writers have contemporaries, but he was kind of one of a kind. I mean, there were other guys LIKE him but not on the same level. I think it's neat, anyway. You must've too, if you were sending me poetry by moonlight. Or lack thereof.

How do you guys find your way around at night if there's no moon? Artificial light? I'm not planning on doing a lot of running around after hours, but I'm curious about your way of life, I guess.

That makes it sound like an anthropological interest, but the truth is I like to be able to picture what you're doing. Sometimes at night, I lie back and try to picture what you're doing. I know we aren't on the same cycles, can't possibly be sleeping at the same time, but the nice thing about human hubris that the knowledge doesn't get in the way of my imagination one bit. 

Guess that's part of what makes me a romantic.

XOV,

Jim

P.S. I could start making voice recordings if that'd help your study of sarcasm.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Tone lessons would be appreciated.
STARDATE: 2250.69
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

More information that likely will not surprise you: as I cannot forget what I know of the differences in time between our two planets, I cannot allow myself to lie back and imagine that we are both in similar positions at similar times.

When I begin my period of rest, by my calculations, you are either having lunch or just finishing your afternoon meal, unless you take it at a particularly irregular time. From eleven hundred to thirteen hundred, with twelve hundred as the median standard, is the average time chosen on Earth to conduct lunch and lunch related activities such as the “break”, according to my findings. If you adhere to the standard in this—though past experience suggests you do not adhere to the standard whenever possible—then as I am preparing myself for bed, making any additional preparations before I begin to write to you in private, you are most likely eating your noontime meal, such as a salad, a sandwich, a “wrap”, or a “hamburger”, among other options. I am not certain of your “favorite food” which I have understood perhaps too late is a point of special inquiry amongst humans.

Jim, what is your favorite food?

Vulcans do not have favorite foods. However, my mother makes a tea with sash-savas, a Vulcan fruit, that I associate with childhood memories that I suppose are pleasant enough to recall. She would make me this tea when I returned from school and we would share a cup together while I regarded her with anecdotes of that which I had learned during my lessons before I retired to self-monitored study. It was important to her to be kept informed of my proceedings, and during those times when there were difficulties with my peers, the tea itself had a calming property enhanced by the individual with whom I was sharing it.

Vulcan eyes are distinctly sensitive to the light. The brightness of the artificial lighting on Earth, as I recall from my time there, require some concentrated adjustment. My father does not complain of the need to adjust or at least accept the conditions of foreign ships and environments but he has remarked upon the difference, as it is something of note, a simple truth that there are those who favor brightly lit environments. We are accustomed to the darkness and, of course, there are many stars, visible when there are no sandstorms, which provide light as well. On nights of certain rituals, torches are light. You may see the fires in their sconces from house to house and set into the stone walls, or in their stone braziers. They burn until morning, at which time they are no longer needed.

Firelight is often connected with the romantic, though I am not certain of the reasons why. Fire burns without care or caution and is capable of great destruction, of causing great pain. Nonetheless, having corroborated this fact with my mother, I am forced to accept that it is another illogical choice, of which romanticism is so fond.

Jim, when you are lying back for your rest it is likely that I have already risen from bed and have begun to dress for the day. There are few natural water resources on Vulcan so we do not shower with water; rather, we maintain our cleanliness through dry-shower methods primarily, though the royalty of Vulcan do enjoy, on occasion, a long, heated bath. I rise early. Therefore it is best to assume that our periods of rest have no overlap.

XOV.

Spock


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: OK I'm on it. 
STARDATE: 2250.69
SECURE CHANNEL

"Testing, testing. This is, uh, James Tiberius Kirk the first, recording a message for his betrothed, Prince S'chn T'gai Spock of Vulcan. 

...Jesus, I should erase that. Try again. But part of the fun of recording is you can't take anything back, I guess. It's not like a letter. It's full of mistakes. I think it's more honest, though. In a way. And you're gonna have to hear me talk eventually, right, Spock? It'd be a shame to get all the way to Vulcan and then have you realize I'm boring or I drone on and on about nothing because I get nervous when I don't know what to say, and you'd think that would stop me from talking but in fact it makes it worse.

You wouldn't know it, but I've actually been working on my Vulcan pronunciation. The real problem is: I don't have a Vulcan to teach me, so I'm getting everything second-hand at best. Well, that's not fair either. Maybe I'm just making excuses for my own shortcomings.

...This isn't helping you with sarcasm at all, is it? That was the original idea. But at least this way you have a baseline for what I sound like when I'm blathering on about nothing.

I liked your last letterIt made me think of sitting with you on some dark Vulcan night, in the light of a fiery brazier. I don't know whether I'd be able to explain it any better than your mom, but that's -- that's the very height of romance, Spock.

And so was your last letter.

I'm not sure if I can get into the habit of thinking about you at noon, but I'll give it a shot. My favorite food is hamburgers. I'd eat 'em every day for every meal if I could, but Bones gets on me for the cholesterol. I've tried telling him I'll eat a salad on top of a burger, but so far it's no dice.

I looked up sash-savas tea. I'm gonna see if I can have some of those suckers imported to practice a couple recipes. Not that I'm looking to outdo Amanda Grayson at her own game, but I'd like to master anything that reminds you of home. Since we're gonna be a big part of each other's homes someday. 

But you already know that, don't you, Spock? You're pretty smart.

Tonight when I drift off I'll picture you already up, getting into that nice, hot bath. 

I gotta admit, it's not a very restful image.

Talk to you soon, Spock.

Kirk out."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Tone lessons have been appreciated.
STARDATE: 2250.70
SECURE CHANNEL

“This is S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.70, recording a response for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.

Jim, peace and long life.

You have expressed that the purpose of the voice recorded message is to impart a sense of spontaneity, of extemporaneous communication, which is valued by humans, who treasure the worth of imaginative swift-thinking and experimentation without specific intention. The experimentation, lacking in guidelines, is therefore not the sort of experiment as they are favored by Vulcans, on Vulcan.

Understand that despite having written my recording with forethought, my lack of spontaneity does not equate dishonesty. Rather, an attempt at spontaneity would itself prove the dishonest course, for it would be an attempt to act as does not befit a Vulcan, of my standing or otherwise. You have offered your tonal examples in the spirit of human honesty and I reply now that you may hear my voice in the spirit of Vulcan reciprocity.

That was not sarcasm.

The “dry wit” associated with sarcastic humor is not the same as a clinical—or “dry”—tone employed by Vulcans while speaking of facts and truths. I say truths because I have been nothing but truthful with you, Jim. It is true again that Vulcans cannot and do not lie but that does not proscribe the act of remaining silent on matters that are too private to divulge.

Yet I have divulged many such private matters to you.

I have found during this process that they are easier to write of than they are to speak.

I shall now continue to address the significant matter of your favorite food. Having researched the hamburger, I have come to the following conclusions. One: I am uncertain as to why an object that is not expressly made of the Earth-based meat product known as ham would be described as a “burger” of said meat. Two: as the hamburger is traditionally served with a potential choice for a variety of “toppings” including vegetables, cheeses, and other crispy Earth meats, I must request further clarification as to the specifics of your favorite food.

As for the sash-savas, I shall send you the items in question. Consider it a gift. Likewise, if there are any phrases or pronunciations with which you are experiencing difficulty, you may request a “tonal” lesson of your own. That too will be a gift. Both are offered with practical applications in mind.

Dif-tor heh smusma.

And... X O V.

Here ends the recording made by S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.70, for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.”


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Good. 
STARDATE: 2250.71
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock. 

I got the sash-savas. You could've warned me before I popped a whole one in my mouth that the things are full of citric acid. I practically burned my tongue off. Bones was real pissed. Said only a cornfed cowbrained moron would ever put a whole alien fruit in his mouth without trying a piece of it first. But I've never had a food taster and I live life to the fullest. Anyway, I knew you wouldn't send me anything poisonous.

Tastes better in tea but I'm still getting the hang of that recipe. I got Bones and Chapel to try some in the med bay, and I'm having some people over for a party later so I'll use them as my guinea pigsYou must have a tougher mouth than I thought. Guess that's good to know, considering how much of a factor our mouths are gonna play into our relationships.

Although... I dunno about that, actually. You said Vulcan hands and fingers are your guys' big erogenous zones, but you've never said anything about lips and mouths. On humans there are some serious nerve endings clustered there -- that might have something to do with why the sash-savas almost killed me. Uh. You should know that when I say almost killed, I'm totally exaggerating. It was a minor discomfort at most.

And maybe I burned my tongue.

I should warn you that I might be a little better at talking private matters than you are, but that doesn't mean I share your discerning opinion of when might be an appropriate time to share them. Between the two of us, we should come to a pretty good balance.

As far as I can tell this whole arrangement of our parents' might've easily been a crapshoot, but it's worked in our favor. I'd even go so far as to say we might be a good match, Spock. I know you're not into expressing personal preference that way, but I'd wager even you can see we're more compatible than we aren't. Even though we'd be stuck together no matter what, I'm starting to think...

Well, I don't know. It's too late to go getting philosophical.

Anyone ever tell you the sound of your voice is incredibly soothing? I've been listening to your letter all night, not the words so much as the cadence. I guess this is the closest I've ever got to meditating. You ever have sound files on in the background when you're going into that Vulcan trance state? It makes a difference.

Although I guess the sound of your own voice probably wouldn't work on you. I like it, though. 'S deep. Never thought I'd be the kind of guy who... Ah, sorry. I was just -- yawning. But...

Anyway, you sound good. I'm into it, Spock.

I don't care if you write scripts for all your letters either, you should do what makes you comfortable.

...

Uhh.

I – 

Shit.

Dif-tor heh smusma, Spock.

Hugs and kisses.

I'll talk to you soon.

Kirk out."


 

Chapter Text

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Tonal instruction.
STARDATE: 2250.71
SECURE CHANNEL

“This is S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.70, recording a second response for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.

Jim, peace and long life.

The word “crapshoot” as defined by your dictionary of colloquialisms is not one I would have had the opportunity—or indeed the motivation—to learn without our exchanges. While I am nearly certain it will not be vital to diplomatic proceedings in the future, it does appear that these unusual turns of phrase are vital to our proceedings in the present. Though I would not have employed the same vocabulary, I believe I am in agreement with the sentiment. The union indeed could have been a “crapshoot” in the sense that there was no way for our parents to predict that anything other than a mutual adherence to duty would bring us together and maintain the peace between us.

If the sash-savas does not undo what peace we have established—your attending physician Leonard H. McCoy is entirely correct, and you should have familiarized yourself with all its properties prior to allowing the foreign comestible to assault the inside of your mouth and your tongue—then it seems likely that the union will not approach “crapshoot” status at all.

Though the sash-savas is highly acidic, I will note that it is mellowed by the brewing process. Attached is my mother’s recipe for the tea in order to contribute to the efforts of your tea party.

Who, exactly, do you plan on inviting? I make this inquiry for two specific reasons beyond idle curiosity. Idle curiosity is never an indulgence.

The first specific reason is that it is important to be aware at all times of those you have granted access to your person, given your predilection for placing trust in those who are not strictly worthy of that trust. The second is that I would suggest, if one of the attendees is to be the Orion poetry teacher Gaila, that she wear clothes on this occasion, as tea is hot and sash-savas is, as your mouth has already established, highly acidic. The combination is far from ideal. It would present a danger to her person and excess fodder for your overly interested paparazzi, outcomes also less than pleasant.

My mother said that the Orion poetry teacher Gaila was “an attractive young woman”, which objectively speaking is a true statement, given her long hair and her well-proportioned figure.

I have not known any Orions personally and cannot vouch for their tastes, whether they are susceptible to acidic content, as you are, or if it is something they enjoy.

If my voice is soothing then perhaps you should use this evolved form of our communications to encourage your pursuit of optimal sleeping patterns. I would prefer not to contact Leonard H. McCoy, MD, regarding your rest—or lack thereof—again, as his correspondence is erratic and unprincipled, grammatically unsound and often unsettling. However, that you yawned four times in your previous recording suggests that you have reverted to your old habits and if necessary I will send you recorded phrases in Vulcan with their standard translations without further commentary until such a time as I am assured of your intentions regarding ample periods of rest.

Despite your altered cognition due to lack of sleep, your pronunciation was nearly adequate.

Dif-tor heh smusma.

Dif-tor heh smusma.

Dif-tor heh—

Ah. That whine was I-Chaya. I shall do as you instructed and scratch him under the chin “for you” though, as he is only a sehlat, he will not understand what I am about to tell him.

I-Chaya, this is from Jim.

...He appears pleased, though do not allow yourself to believe he has any idea who you are. In time, perhaps, you will be able to do the same for him yourself. Be warned that, due to his advance age, he produces excess saliva when happy.

Good night, Jim.

Here ends the second recording made by S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.71, for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.”


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Good. 
STARDATE: 2250.72
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock.

And I-Chaya. Don't worry, I'm not forgetting about you, boy!

I told Gaila you were looking out for her, she said to blow you a kiss. Which you can't see, but that's what I'm doing. That's what that sound was. I'm not passing along her kisses, mind. I told her you were my fiancé which means lips off, but she thought it was sweet that you cared so much in the first place.

Do you really want a list of everyone I'm inviting to what you're calling a tea party? Everyone thinks it's pretty hilarious that I've finally decided to man up and learn Vulcan culture, so naturally they all want to be around for when I screw up. Not that I'm planning on screwing up. I've made a couple more trial runs and like I said, some of the natural acidity in the fruit's way toned down after it's brewed. Mom can drink it without her eyes watering, and Bones stopped accusing me of trying to poison him, so I guess that's progress.

All right, people coming over, people coming over...

I was thinking Gaila, obviously. Bones, 'cause she likes him and I promised, Uhura -- she's the linguist -- Gary Mitchell, Hikaru Sulu, this wonder kid from the Academy Chekov... I think you'd like him, Spock, he's probably almost as smart as you. 

Sorry, that was a yawn.

Uhura's bringing her latest pet project Scotty, to cheer him up from the fact that he's on academic probation for killing some admiral's dog or something, I don't know, I couldn't really get the details out of her.

Anyway, I'm thinking it'll be a big bore anyway. They'll drink the tea and then they'll probably swap stories about Starfleet while Bones has an infarction over the idea of being in space and I get to remember that the closest I've gotten to Starfleet flight simulation was piloting the mining shuttle on the Venusian colony job. 

I don't know, Spock. I know what I'm supposed to do with my life, but sometimes I worry I'm not all that well-suited to it. It's not my thing. I'd do better at...

Ahh, I don't know. Sometimes it just seems like I'm doing a lot of work to get halfway decent at anything. I'm not saying it shouldn't take work, mind you, but the proportions are all off. It's a ton of effort for limited success. 

...

Do you ever feel like you're having a tough time with something that should come easily? Like maybe you would've been better at anything else?

Whatever.

Boy, is it existential crisis o'clock already? I better take a cue from your pointed hints and turn in early.

I wouldn't say no to more of those recordings, though. Your voice is like velvet. Better than Bones' hypos by a mile –

Don't you dare tell him that. I know you guys talk. Not the biggest fan of that, by the way.

Dif-tor heh smusma.

Am I getting any better?

Exes and ohs.

Kirk out.”


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Existential crisis o’clock does not exist in your colloquial dictionary.
STARDATE: 2250.72
SECURE CHANNEL

“This is S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.72, recording a third response for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.

Jim, peace and long life.

Though I-Chaya is a male sehlat and not a female, he is currently far too old to be considered youthful, and has never been considered a “boy”. Nonetheless, he was not so hard of hearing that he did not recognize the sound of his own name being spoken through the speakers of my PADD and his more active ear perked forward in recognition. He is unable to differentiate the proper term of reference from an improper one. The next time he has reason to hear his name in your voice I will be certain to record his response, though it will not be illuminating. It will sound similar, save for a few tonal shifts, to the sound you have already heard him make unprompted.

It was thoughtful of you to include him in your greetings but unnecessary. I-Chaya is particularly intelligent for a sehlat but he understands names and simple commands alone. Nevertheless, it is not unwise to accustom him to the sound of your voice. With your permission, I shall allow him into my private quarters when I am listening to your messages, though I will share the headpiece with him, as Vulcan hearing is keen, and I would not incur the possibility of someone in my household overhearing communications that are intended for my ears alone.

I-Chaya, as he can neither comprehend complex sentences nor form the vocal utterances required to pass them along, will be as capable of preserving your secrets as he has always been of preserving mine.

Fortunately, he will not be able to share those confidences I imparted to him when I was a child and he was a younger creature. No Vulcan is born with an instinct for logic, and Vulcan children, myself included, are capable of behaving illogically until such a time as logic is quickly and thoroughly integrated into their considerations as a superior instinct.

It is a relief that you have already informed Gaila the Orion poetry teacher that I cannot receive her kisses however they are delivered. A blown kiss would of course not reach me at all, and to accept even the gesture would be highly inappropriate, given the fact that I am already involved with the individual she has charged with delivering the intimate gesture. Orion social behavior is curious indeed, even more unexpected at times than human social inconsistencies.

I trust that the party for the tea will have a security detail present, as there are multiple unknowns attending, individuals you have not already met and personally vetted. I have researched the individuals in question and have not discovered any criminal histories; however, I did discover that Gary Mitchell, whose name I naturally recall from your list of previous romantic experiences, has a few notes on his personal file at Starfleet that suggest potential psychological uncertainties. If Leonard H. McCoy, MD, is indeed attending, perhaps it would be prudent of him to bring a sedative hypodermic in the case that it becomes necessary. Precautions in these cases are highly advisable.

...

A shift in topics to one that is more personal. There is no “existential o’clock” on Vulcan and I have not yet gathered enough evidence to determine whether your tone of voice when uttering that phrase presented trace elements of sarcasm. However it would appear to me from other evidence I have been given that you are of above-average intelligence and well-suited to the position you have inherited, despite the unusual circumstances surrounding that evidence.

It is becoming clear that you would prefer to join Starfleet with your peers, those you consider your friends and companions, and the friends and companions they have found the freedom to make as they pursued a path that appeals to your nature—that is, your tendency for adventure, as the life of a Starfleet cadet and officer seems to encapsulate, however broadly, the adventure you seek.

If you have reason to believe that this life is your true calling, and that you would not be suited to any other path, then there are examples in your Earth history of royalty serving in Federation capacity. Even your own father, when he was not yet king but the heir apparent, served as a Starfleet captain aboard a Federation vessel. Despite the position your brother, Sam, has placed you in by abandoning his duties, your duty, Jim, is to serve Earth as you are best qualified to serve it. If you intend to alter the means by which you serve Earth, then I do not doubt your commitment and passion will work to the achievement of all that you desire.

You have asked me if I have ever experienced difficulty with that which should be simple. I have. There have been times when I have seen those who are my peers arrive at logical conclusions regarding my mother—logical to them, and with a clear mind I was at last able to understand the course of their logic—yet when they voiced these logical conclusions, it took me years when it should not even have taken me hours to quell the illogical, passionate, and obviously human response that was felt within me. Felt, too deeply. Not even my father Sarek, by his own council, would have responded to such accusations the way that I did, more than once, despite my logic telling me otherwise.

It was not simple. I believe I have asked myself the same question you posed to me. But just as the matter is not simple...

There is no simple answer.

Good night, Jim. Dif-tor heh smusma—you are approaching a more accurate pronunciation—whatever choices for the future you come to make.

End recording.”


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: I'm gonna have to make some adjustments to that thing. 
STARDATE: 2250.73
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock,

In the interests of helping along your experiment, I'm gonna say hi to I-Chaya first, all right?

Heeeey, buddy. I-Chaya! Who's a good boy? Spock tells me you're reacting to the sound of my voice, I think that's preeeetty adorable, mister. Are you gonna be a good sehlat when I come out and visit? Do you think Spock'll tell me what kinds of treats I can give you? Or does he not give you treats because he thinks you're a sensible Vulcan pet? I am gonna spoil you rotten, buddy, all right? Get ready. Ahh, you're totally ready.

OK, Spock, I'm back on you. Although I gotta say, it's tough talking dirty when I know your faithful companion's gonna be listening in. You probably wouldn't have a problem with that, since a pet's not gonna understand what I'm saying anyway, but it's the idea of having an audience that's... Just. I don't know, it feels wrong somehow. I-Chaya might be a distinguished old gentleman, but there are some things that even he's not prepared to hear.

Probably, I mean. I'm just assuming.

...Kinda like that tone you get when you say we're involved, Spock. Invoooolved. Involved. You and me. Involved.

See, there I go again, upping the rating. Sorry, I-Chaya. Lemme see if I can pretend to be a responsible sehlat co-owner for a hot minute.

Why does it not surprise me that you managed to dig into the Starfleet personal records, Spock? If you're trying to show up my security team, you're doing a great job. I think they have better things to do than look into the files of a handful of teenagers, but if you listen to Bones, teenagers are the true menace of our society, so I guess I should be thanking you. Party's tomorrow, anyway. I'm still not sure party's the right word, but I'll take your observations into account.

Turns out Scotty didn't kill a dog, he just beamed it somewhere and it hasn't shown up yet. So there's still a chance, right? I gotta admit, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the basic principles of molecular dispersion, but Scotty makes me feel like I've got no clue what I've been talking about all these years. Should make for good conversation, anyway. And Mitchell's not so bad, he just gets stressed easy, always has. We used to joke about how I could handle his life, but there was no way he could handle mine. He didn't seem to think it was so funny, but it makes me laugh, anyway.

I'm gonna be a sash-savas tea brewing champion by the time we meet, Spock. I've started drinking it in the afternoon, right around when you go to bed. I like it way better than the fresh fruit. Uh, no offense.

...

I'm sorry I laid all that stuff on you, last night. I get chatty when I'm tired, which seems counter-intuitive when you think about from an evolutionary standpoint. You'd think my parents would've discouraged it or something. I dunno. 

Anyway, I'm not planning to run off and join Starfleet anytime soon. Does it suck sometimes? Yeah. But I don't know that I could dedicate myself full-time to being a captain and deal with all the political ramifications at the same time. I can't be Federation-impartial if I've got obvious ties to Earth and humanity. And to tell you the truth, I'm not so sure it'd be right for someone in my position to join Starfleet anyway. I couldn't separate myself from being an advocate for our people, and that doesn't tie in too well with exploring the galaxy. 

Jesus, I'm doing it again. What I wanna say, Spock, is that you don't have to worry about me having second thoughts or shirking responsibility. Or, more accurately, I don't want you to think me having second thoughts will lead to me shirking responsibility. I know what kind of a life I'm in for and I'm ready to commit to it.

Doesn't hurt that my pronunciation's getting better.

Have a good day, all right? Dif... Dif-tor heh smusma. Dif-tor heh smusma. Maybe I'd see what I was doing wrong if I could follow along with your mouth.

We'll talk soon.

Kirk out.

Wait. ...Hugs and kisses.

Kirk out.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Indeed, that would be appreciated. 
STARDATE: 2250.73
SECURE CHANNEL

“This is S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.73, recording a third response for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.

Jim, peace and long life.

The resulting information culled from “our experiment” regarding I-Chaya was as follows. He reacted to the sound of his name, sniffed the PADD in an attempt to locate the source of the voice directed at him, and, having uncovered no distinct scent unfamiliar to him that may belong to the owner of the unfamiliar voice, with no further avenues of search available to him, he proceeded to excrete saliva on the screen and chew the upper right-hand corner of the PADD. Fortunately, one of his front canines is chipped, and he did not do any significant damage beyond a slight dent as he was chewing with aforementioned tooth. Though I cannot be certain beyond the shadow of a possibility, I would say that he is both confused but interested.

The excitement in general appears to have been enough to tax him, as he has now retired to the balcony to sleep where the wind is cool in the desert at night. As such, if you will indicate the point at which your I-Chaya experiments begin followed by a clear point of cessation, I will escort him to the balcony after the experiment is over, so that you may speak freely to me as you so desire. If the dialogue turns “dirty” as you have described it, I-Chaya will not have to bear witness—though he would not make an adequate witness in any court—to anything unclean.

As in all things, Jim, I will maintain privacy, both yours and mine.

I-Chaya and I no longer sleep in the same room together as we did when I-Chaya was younger and I was not yet an adolescent. He was less a pet then and more of a guard—one that cannot be bought or bribed, whose loyalty lay first with my father during his childhood, and then with me during mine. He was ferocious, and once protected me from a Le-Matya in the desert. We were not instructed to play with him as human children play with their pets, according to all sources on the common treatment of typical Earth domesticated animals.

I do not know if this is attention or distraction that I-Chaya has missed. How can one miss what one has never known? And yet, if you wish to attempt to “spoil” him, as you say, he is advanced enough now in years that I do not think this will have any unduly adverse effect. Obviously he will be too old to act as sentry to any other children of my family line. Therefore, to “spoil” him would not be equivocal to ruining him.

You may do as you wish. But be forewarned of the salivation. It can be excessive during periods of heightened stimulus.

I have already devoted more time to the subject of I-Chaya than is wise, much less due. I must acknowledge that the reason for this is to gather my thoughts in order to address fully the deeper, more private matters of future and personal desire you have raised.

I am accustomed to the sort of critical thinking required for delicate and multifaceted subjects. Yet when one factors in the added element of more personal emotion...my experience is limited.

Jim, it would appear to me that you have made your decisions. Is there some reason why you would repeat your intentions when you are already certain not only of what is right, but of what course you intend to follow? Naturally I must concur with the conclusion at which you have arrived for yourself. It is most logical. Though I will acknowledge that you would be an asset to Starfleet, given the records of yours which I also uncovered during my research; your aptitude was the highest in your level and likely you are aware of all that you would be able to bring to the Federation by serving it in this other capacity.

Yet if you are certain—and it would appear that you are certain—then there are many ways your skills and aptitude can find meaning and expression through the service you have accepted as yours, and yours alone. As you suggested to Gary Mitchell at a point in the past, before I knew you, you would be well suited to act in his stead and fulfill his role, but I do not believe there is anyone of whom the same could be said in regards to you.

If this message reaches you after you have served your guests your tea, I trust that they have enjoyed the gathering and nothing untoward has occurred regarding Gary Mitchell or this “Scotty”, the latter of whom has caused domesticated animals to disappear in a past that is as concerning as it is shrouded with convoluted details of his, to use the polite term, exploits.

...Was the party...fun?

Know that you have now adequately mastered that one phrase. Dif-tor heh smusma, Jim.

And...

Good night. Jim.”


 

Chapter Text

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: OK, look forward to a part 2. 
STARDATE: 2250.74
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock, 

I'm a little tired, so I might not record a message for I-Chaya tonight. Although... Jesus, now that I've said his name I've probably ruined it. He's already paying attention. All right, all right, I'll do something anyway. Here goes. Ahem.

Hey, boy. You being a good boy for Spock? Yeah, I'll bet you are. Ease up on the PADD, will you? Electronics and drool don't mix, and it can't taste very good. I looked up a le-matya and those things are scary as hell -- you really fought off one of those all by yourself? What a brave boy. Thanks for taking care of my fiance, buddy. If things had worked out differently, I might've ended up engaged to Sybok.

Brr. Not so sure I like that. I'm kinda attached to the brother I've got.

...

All right, I'm -- I'm gonna move onto you now, Spock. Is that OK? That's the pause. Consider this the pause. Bye-bye, boy. I'll talk to you again real soon.

...

...

That long enough?

The party went pretty well, no notable psychotic breaks. Scotty offered to beam me from one end of the castle to the other, but you'll be very pleased to hear I told him no. Guess I'm growing up after all. That, and I don't like to think what'd happen to him if he lost an admiral's dog and the second prince of Earth in the same month. Doesn't exactly make for a good resume. And he seems like a good guy. I wouldn't want to get him in trouble.

Also I'd rather not disappear into nothingness, but you know. It's the little things in life.

I'm glad you're in agreement with my assessment of my personal skills and future. I think it's a good thing if couples are in alignment about that kinda thing.

Dif-tor heh smusma, Spock.

It doesn't sound any different to me, but I'm glad you like it.

We'll talk soon, OK?

Have a good day, Spock.

Kirk out."

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: On second thought. 
STARDATE: 2250.74
SECURE CHANNEL

"I lied.

The party didn't go all that well. Mitchell called me a Vulcan princess halfway through, wanted to know if I was gonna do your laundry and have your Vulcan babies too. Anyway he got personal after that and I decked him. I'm guessing sash-savas tea and fistfights don't go together on your planet, so I'm not sure I can count that as practice for my eventual cultural assimilation.

Anyway, I'm only telling you because Bones said he'd write you if I didn't, and I'm not risking you and him getting into cahoots with each other. Too dangerous. Too scary.

Probably not gonna have another tea party for awhile.

But yeah, Spock. It was fun.

Hugs and kisses.

Jim."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Your unfathomable definition of fun.
STARDATE: 2250.74
SECURE CHANNEL

“This is S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.74, recording a fourth response for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.

Jim, peace and long life.

It is possible that your definitions are personal—individual—by which I mean fundamentally skewed, and not generally accepted as I had once thought. For you to describe an experience such as the one you endured as “fun” suggests that when committing myself to devoted study of your colloquial dictionary I was in fact studying you, and not broad human interpretation or commonly accepted colorful metaphors as I had initially thought.

I do not suggest that this is without its uses, for it is of great importance that I come to understand—or at least approximate an overarching understanding of—you, as I simultaneously approach the matter of learning human morality, subtlety, humor, and impulse as a whole. That is to say that I am not displeased, Jim, merely making note that a shift of comprehension is required, else I continue to operate on an incorrect assumption.

I am relieved to hear that you did not allow “Scotty” to practice his yet unfinished projects of science on your person, especially as he has already endangered the life of another. Whether or not that life belonged to a canine is irrelevant. It expresses a distinct lack of practicality that should not be applied to your well-being. I am less relieved to hear of the incident with Gary Mitchell, though I cannot say I am surprised, given the notes in his file, that he would behave in a manner such as he did.

While it would have been more far-sighted to inform him that you would not be a princess on Earth and that custom is clearly to be preserved on Vulcan, and that ours is a diplomatic union of incredible importance, and that it is an honor to be given this chance to improved, immeasurably, the relations between our two planets... I also know that it is not always possible to remain calm when being “teased” or goaded or even spoken to of topics that resonate in some way.

On this matter I do not require a dictionary for the definitions of an experience I have myself undergone.

Beginning with my introduction to school, my classmates were conscious of bringing to my attention my mother’s human emotionalism and linking it, however incorrectly, to what they perceived as a defect in me. At the time I did not behave admirably or wisely. Of course, I knew as I did it that rising to their bait and engaging in physical altercations was not the proper answer to their accusations or suggestions of my deficiency and as a matter of fact merely proved them correct, at least in their perspective. I responded to their charges of emotionalism and sadness with emotionalism and anger—anger, which is a cousin to sadness.

My father was not impressed with my behavior and I believe it caused my mother her own measure of distress. Their attempts to speak to me on the matter were logical on Sarek’s part and equally logical, in a human fashion, on my mother’s. Yet knowing all I knew and being certain my peers were incorrect in their charges against me—a certainty which should have stood for itself, rather than relying on violence to assert its veracity—I will admit to you now that I fought them still, on more than one occasion after the first, when once should have been one time too many.

A tangent. Perhaps it is not one appreciated. The situations are, obviously, dissimilar enough that no clear parallel may be drawn between them. But perhaps I recognize my responsibility, as it was I who supplied the sash-savas and suggested the practice of brewing its tea.

No; it is not that. Not entirely.

I have not even spoken of those times as candidly with my mother and my father as I have spoken of it just now. Even recognizing that I am speaking to you, the medium allows for a certain circumvention of logic. It allows for illusion.

It would appear that even now, analyzing and acknowledging my motives, I have not learned enough to avoid these brief lapses in logical judgment.

And even now, after all this time, I cannot completely accept that it is a flaw of my parentage. I do not disagree with your choice to approach Gary Mitchell as you chose to approach him, even though I know that another choice would have been far more prudent.

Jim.

...Good night.”


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: I guess that was sarcasm. 
STARDATE: 2250.75
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock.

Yeah, I guess the dictionary's always had a personal slant to it. I don't see where that's a problem though. It's not like I speak a totally different language from everyone else here on Earth. Sure, I play a little fast and loose with the definition of fun, but Bones says that's because I had one too many screws knocked loose when I was a kid.

Guess that's not something you share, even though it sounds to me like you got into your fair share of personal battles.

That's kinda hot, Spock.

I mean -- shit, that's probably not the kind of response you were looking for. You make a heartfelt confession and I tell you how attractive it is. Well, that's something you should probably get used to. I'm not very good at emotional stuff. Which should make us pretty compatible now that I think about it. Anyway, I appreciate it, you telling me that. We have more in common than I thought. Not that having stuff in common is a non-negotiable part of a relationship, but it's weird and ...I dunno, kinda neat to find out that you were just as scrappy as me.

Never would've expected it. Anyone ever tell you you're full of surprises, Spock?

No, probably not.

I'm sorry those kids were such shits to you. I hope you kicked their butts. By comparison my own problem seems relatively minor. Just Mitchell pulling his jealousy act. Guess I didn't think of what it looked like on the surface, me fussing around and making tea and learning your language and -- whatever. Some people aren't very secure in their masculinity, I guess. Which, let me tell you, is understandable considering the size of what some people are packing down there.

Anyway, whatever. It's not important. The party was fine. There was an incident, I dealt with it. You know I'm not gonna be a Vulcan princess.

And even if I was, hey. I can get kinky like that if that's what you want. If other people don't understand it then they're the ones missing out. That's what I'd tell you, if you were still having those problems. I'd like to say I promise not to beat on any of your Vulcan peers if they're still making snide little remarks but the truth is I've never walked away from a good fight. I make that sound like a good quality but it's not. I'm sure you know that.

Bones hates it, but I've given him plenty of experience in healing lumpy human heads, so really who's doing who the favor here?

Don't you dare hold yourself responsible for what happened. The blame lies in my shitty taste in friends and my enthusiasm for sash-savas tea. I'm starting to really get a taste for it, Spock.

Maybe it's just because I can't taste anything else after drinking the stuff.

Have a good day, Spock.

I'd say hugs and kisses, but I'm thinking about something a little more intimate tonight.

Talk soon.

Kirk out."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: I believe mine was as well.
STARDATE: 2250.75
SECURE CHANNEL

“This is S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.75, recording a fifth response for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.

Jim, peace and long life.

...Should your own actions and enjoyment of physical confrontation not prevent it, that is.

In the absence of any guarantees to that effect I shall simply have to trust that you will avoid serious personal injury—and, as trust appears to be our currency, I do not believe I am “going out on a limb” to place my certainty in that which is decidedly uncertain.

Be careful, Jim.

The events of my own, past indiscretions did indeed involve an elevated internal temperature, not to mention the metaphorical “hot-headed” state of being described in your dictionary. However, I did not kick, nor did my physical blows land on their posteriors. In truth I do not recall the precise style of fighting I employed. Neither do I have a clarity of memory regarding those incidents. I acted upon a sudden and uncontrolled anger of which I am not proud, nor do I intend to be overwhelmed by my passions in such an unsightly manner again. I am too old now for that behavior to be excused by the folly of youth and inexperience.

At the time, my mother wished for me to know that such lapses in judgment appeared to her as natural, even though they were not laudable. Natural for a human child, I explained to her, but not for a child of Vulcan, and certainly not for a Vulcan prince. Needless to say it is also unnatural for a human prince whose standing is such that others look to him for guidance and exemplary behavior. But I have reason to think that you already know this, Jim, as indicated by your commentary. You are aware of the reasons why you behaved as you did—and aware of ways to better yourself by bettering your response in the future.

Though perhaps you have also resolved not to involve yourself with Gary Mitchell further. That would certainly prevent a similar circumstance from ever coming to pass.

If there is any dish in particular—like, for example, a recipe for your favored hamburger—that requires a specific preparation with which I can familiarize myself, I request that you inform me. I do not spend time socializing with my peers beyond lectures and other educational gatherings and therefore I will devote my extra-curricular time to allaying any potential accuracy of Gary Mitchell’s claims that, because you have learned to prepare a Vulcan specialty, you have been placed in any position other than that of a culturally sensitive ambassador. On this matter as on any other, we would be best served acting as equals.

You have practiced the art of brewing sash-savas tea. I, in turn, with practice the art of making a hamburger.

Also, do not do your head a disservice. It has not appeared lumpy to me in any of the visual evidence I have been given.

If you have the opportunity and the inclination, you may clarify what, exactly, you are thinking of that is more intimate than hugs and kisses.

Goodnight, Jim.”


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: REALLY? I love it. 
STARDATE: 2250.76
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock.

Are you really gonna learn how to make hamburgers for me? You don't have to do that, Spock. I know you guys aren't all that into meat. I don't want you to have to touch it and stuff if it's gonna make you feel uncomfortable. That being said, I don't think you'd offer if you thought it'd make you sick. You're smarter than that.

Still, it's the polite thing to offer. So I'm telling you up front, you're gonna have to get your hands all up in the meat and it might be gross, and I'll totally understand if it's a failed experiment. All right? No hard feelings, no losses. I don't want you to turn this into some kind of Vulcan pride thing either. I'll eat whatever you have there and I'll be fine. You've got a lot there to keep me interested beyond hamburgers.

All that being said, I'm attaching some of my favorite recipes. You can analyze whichever one seems like it might have optimal flavor or whatever. Final disclaimer that you really don't need to do this, but if you want to I'm into it.

...Don't worry, I didn't hurt myself. You're giving Mitchell waaaaay too much credit in that area. So I guess what I'm saying is your trust isn't misplaced. 

I kinda like that you trust me. I trust you too, Spock.

I do have a bruise on one cheek, but that's only because I slammed into the couch when we went over the table. And I got a burn on my arm from when the boiling water went everywhere, but as far as injuries sustained by Mitchell, the guy can't touch me. So no, that's not something you gotta worry about. I think we'll take some time apart, let him stew around in Starfleet for awhile. 

I never said anything before, but I'm glad you checked out my records. Might as well mean something that I took those tests three years running. Those scores aren't gonna impress anyone when I can't apply them to the Academy training program. But I don't mind you knowing about them. You're kind of the person I'm looking to impress these days.

...

Ahh. That was a little -- right. Anyway.

Alongside the hamburger recipes I'm gonna attach a recent picture I took myself, rather than the paparazzi stuff. You can see for yourself how you feel about my head.

And -- Spock? You remember awhile back when we talked about spooning, right? One person lies on their side and the other person curls up around them, putting an arm around their waist, tucking their knees up against the backs of the other person's legs. You get in close, touching everywhere... You'd be able to feel my breath on the back of your neck. Yeah, uh, in this scenario I'm the one holding onto you. That's -- what I was picturing. You in bed with me, under my arm, tucked up against my chest. I don't know if Vulcans cuddle, but it seems to me like something's gonna need to keep you warm out here on these cold San Francisco nights.

I'd be willing to keep you warm, is all I'm saying.

This would -- sound like an insult to anyone else, but I like falling asleep to the sound of your voice, Spock.

Thanks for doing this with me. The recordings.

Have a good day.

Kirk out."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Really. I do not and would not lie to you.
STARDATE: 2250.76
SECURE CHANNEL

“This is S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.76, recording a sixth response for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.

Jim, peace and long life.                    

I have procured the materials required for the preparation of the recipes you attached for me. I cannot however acquire real meat on Vulcan and will therefore be required to conduct my experiments with synthetic meat substitutes. Though I have never eaten anything other than these synthetic substitutes, my mother informs me that they are “close to the real thing” as far as consistency, texture, and flavor are concerned.

She has not found reason to complain of the substitutes and she has lived on Vulcan eating the products Vulcan has to offer for longer than I have been alive, since she married Sarek, before I was conceived.

I have begun with the hamburger, as you have already stated it is your favorite. This will require additional practice. I have requested my mother’s assistance, as she is the only individual of my acquaintance who has had a true hamburger, and therefore she is the only individual of my acquaintance who can corroborate whether or not I have achieved an approximate facsimile of the hamburger experience. Though I will add the caveat that it has been many years—my mother was not specific—since the last time she had a true hamburger, and therefore the frame of reference in which I am operating is not without a margin for error.

Most unusual for the experiments I am accustomed to preparing. They are generally without margin for error, planned for completely to the twelfth decimal.

I-Chaya, unlike my mother, was more than happy to finish the hamburger without comment or complaint. Then again, I-Chaya’s palate is not discerning. He once ate a shoe. As his appraisal cannot be trusted, I include it only for the sake of thoroughness.

I believe tomorrow I will procure a different kind of cheese.

As you can readily see, there is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to attempting to understand points of culture that have no parallel on another, distant planet. Is this not Starfleet’s first, best purpose, and the goal of the Federation: to acknowledge differences, to embrace them, to learn from them? I find that humans often react with unexpectedly wounded egos or injured pride to the most fascinating of minuscule slights—Gary Mitchell fell prey to one which was wholly imagined in his own mind, and that is a fault in the breadth of his intelligence, or lack thereof, not in the actions we have undertaken in order to better understand one another and each other’s ways of life.

I will express my gratitude regarding the visual with which you provided me. I can see that despite the injuries you suffered—due to your own zealousness or Gary Mitchell’s capabilities or a combination of both factors—your head does not appear overly harmed. There are no obvious lumps or bruises. Having seen it for myself I will acknowledge once again the facts as I have already stated them. Your features are aesthetically agreeable. I find no fault in them. Your hair is an unusually vibrant color, similar to certain stretches of the Vulcan desert where the sand appears golden in hue under the sunlight. Your features and your face are...as my experience with other Vulcans, at least, quite...expressive. Even in a single, still image, you are...mobile.

Jim, I cannot...

Though I do not make excuses for that which I should know or be capable of learning, my skills as far as imaginative speculation are... They are lacking. You have laid out the parameters of holding—embracing me, the two of us, together in bed—that it would be best implemented on a planet with a cold climate, so as to logically share the heat of your body with mine—and I am able to draw a mental diagram of the position as you described it, transposing your verbal explanation to a visual image—but without my own frame of reference I cannot say what I would do.

But I do...think of it.

Goodnight, Jim.” 


 

Chapter Text

FROM: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth 
TO: Spock of Vulcan
SUBJECT: I know, Spock.
STARDATE: 2250.77
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock.

Are you trying to tell me that your hamburger was better or worse than the shoe I-Chaya ate once?

I've never eaten a shoe, so I can't say for myself whether your efforts would be better or worse. I'm guessing better. I have faith in your replicating skills. And your mom's palate.

I forgot about the meat substitutes, so I withdraw my former objection. You go on and get elbow-deep in that stuff, make the perfect burger. You're gonna spoil me.

Just don't tell Bones, all right? He's pretty picky about my diet these days, and even worse whenever I bring up Vulcan. To hear him talk, you'd think I was leaving next week. He keeps all these charts of how much I'm gonna sweat and what my caloric intake will need to be to maintain my usual muscle mass. I swear he's lost it. Gaila was supposed to distract him for me, but so far she hasn't been all that successful. I'm starting to wonder if Bones is really a human male at all, Spock, given his immunity to her charms.

But I guess I'm not writing you to talk about Bones the salad dictator.

Salad's not a food, though.

It goes on top of food. With food. As an accompaniment to food, when you think you're gonna need a palate cleanser after you've eaten a real meal. But no way is it enough to fill a human stomach.

OK, I swear I'm finished with that now. Totally lost my train of thought, though. Do you edit your recordings, or do you just let 'em run? You can probably tell I've been letting mine run, but I like to think I'm pretty good at speaking extemporaneously. Not that I've ever been graded on the subject, but I haven't left you with too many long awkward pauses. ... At least I'm hoping I haven't.

Now I'm starting to get self conscious.

What were we talking about?

Oh yeah. You liked that picture.

Listen, Spock, we don't have to...

Don't feel like we've GOTTA keep doing the voice recordings, if there's stuff you'd rather write than say. I might've expressed a preference for it but I'm human and mercurial and I don't know what I want half the time anyway. My judgment's -- well, let's just say I'd trust yours over mind any day.

But you don't have to say it either, Spock. I kinda like... imagining. 

Are your ears sensitive?

Have a good day, Spock.

Kirk out."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Voice recordings.
STARDATE: 2250.77
SECURE CHANNEL

“This is S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.77, recording a seventh response for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.

Jim, peace and long life.

I do not “feel” as though we “gotta” continue in any fashion. It is true that there are elements of the spoken communication that may be perceived as more difficult, yet I believe that the difficulties presented are worth the effort required to surmount them. In our positions, public speaking will surely be expected of us. In that sense, the voice recordings may be considered practice for our future duties, as well as practice spent in the private task of becoming accustomed to one another.

The fact that a task does not come swiftly is not a sign that it is an undesirable one. That which is unfamiliar is worthy of a more extensive study; the pursuit of its mastery will provide challenge and reward.

But there is more to its value than the logical or practical application of the skills that are being developed by this format.

I believe that the proper phrase to employ here is “I do not mind.”

I do not mind, Jim.

As you have already mentioned, the sound of my voice is pleasant to you. Knowing that, I would not deny you that pleasure. Similarly, it appears to me to be the natural progression of intimacy that we began with the written word and have progressed to that which is spoken, allowing us a better sense of what it will be like to converse when we are face to face. We are to spend a great deal of time with one another in our shared futures and this is a closer approximation of time spent together than text-based communications.

Despite how illogical that may sound, I have come to accept that marriage, of all things, is not always logical, even if it has its roots—like ours—in a logical beginning.

Though I am also unaccustomed to dealing with the whims of an unpredictable human being—in this instance, I refer to you, Jim—that is behavior with which I must also familiarize myself. And though it is not natural to me in any sense of the word, I would not say that it is unpleasant.

When you ask such unexpected questions, I come to ask myself questions of my own, which I would not have considered were it not for your perspective being presented to me. That, too, is not unpleasant.

In regards to my ears, I cannot say that they are more sensitive than other parts of my anatomy I have not found reason to consider until I have considered them in relation to your attentions. They are of similar sensitivity to touch as my lips. My fingers remain more sensitive...than either.

Goodnight, Jim.”


 

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: The sound of your voice.
STARDATE: 2250.78
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock.

I like that you call me Jim, now. Jim without all the precursors and attachments, I mean. I'm not sure when it started, but I'm into it.

Guess admitting that means I'm giving you an inside look into just how slow I can be. But I figure if anyone should get the head's up on that particular character trait it's you. I wouldn't want you to go having crazy high expectations of me, just because you read some things in a file about my test scores. 

I'm just as lunk-headed as the next human.

You're still gonna be the brains in this relationship, Spock. Since, as we've already established, I am clearly the beauty.

...

Ahh, I'm just messing around with you. I mean, not about the part where you're wickedly smart or I'm disarmingly good-looking, but I'm not so vain that I think that's all there is to us. I'm comfortable enough when we talk now that I say things I probably shouldn't. I just assume you'll know when I'm kidding around, but the truth is we don't quite know each other that well yet. I don't mean to put that kind of burden on you, Spock.

Understanding's something that takes two people to achieve, I think. 

Damn, wait, I wanna write that down. That sounds good, doesn't it? That's definitely going into my next speech. 

I guess what I'm trying to say, Spock, is that I'm more than willing to do my part in helping you understand illogical human behavior, because I get that you're doing the same for me in reverse. Logical Vulcan behavior isn't something I even begin to understand, but it seems to go down easier coming from you. Maybe if we spend enough time together -- exchange enough letters, say -- I won't start any intergalactic incidents by getting all emotional in the middle of a negotiation. 

Don't worry, even humans get that that's bad manners. Most of them, anyway. I can't speak for the Mitchells of the world.

Anyway, better not waste our time together talking about other people.

The reason I asked about your ears, Spock, is because I was thinking that if we were gonna lie like that, spooning each other, with me behind you... I was thinking... I might lean forward and just get the lobe between my teeth, bite you a little where it's soft. It looks soft. I know you guys have a whole mess of cartilage stuff going on up top, but down around the bottom they look the same as ours. I'm willing to bet they'd react the same too. Sensitive.

Still can't get over that thing about your fingers though. I'm gonna have to get creative there.

Have a good day, Spock.

We'll talk soon.

...Jim."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Informality of address.
STARDATE: 2250.78
SECURE CHANNEL

“This is S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.78, recording an eighth response for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.

Jim, peace and long life.

I altered my more formal greeting upon your insistence and after a period of time had elapsed to make informality possible. I did not intend to insult you by maintaining adherence to a more formal address when you had specifically requested I do otherwise; by the same token, I would not have insulted you by relinquishing formality before it was acceptable to do so. The period of time was a calculated one on my part. If you wish for the specifics, I would be able to tell you exactly when it began—though perhaps you have found it more obvious because, when speaking, it is not so difficult to repeat the name of the individual to whom the spoken word is addressed.

...Jim.

You have in return spoken my name simply on many more occasions, and even included many shorthand references to it, such as “STS” and so forth. For me to meet your casual tone somewhere other than halfway would be needlessly stubborn and not in the spirit of diplomacy. It also denotes a level of familiarity—to refer to you by something other than your full, given name—that is pleasurable for the two of us to achieve.

Perhaps it should have always seemed...only logical that we should arrive at this point, or at least that we should intend to—should strive to.

Yet, as you say, we do not know all that there is to know about one another. Not yet. There is a great deal left for us to discover. Your humor—your sarcasm—does not present the mystery it once may have been to me, but it is not Vulcan by any interpretation, and there are still many occasions when I am presented with that which I do not fully comprehend. I must assume therefore that it is wholly human—or, at the least, a wholly human aspect of you, not shared with any other.

I will have to assume that the self-referential “lunk-headed” conclusion is an element of this tendency, as it is far from truthful.

Your head is without lunks. To behave as though it is lacking in some way suggests either a false humility, which is without a functional purpose, or a distinct lack of self-awareness, which may be more damaging than even that. Sarcasm would be, in this instance, the preferable explanation.

...

A proper segue at this point is not entirely possibly. Yet I will not ignore or simply fail to address the matter of my ears. I have studied them in response to your suggestion of actions regarding them—regarding us—by touching both the cartilaginous areas and the softer lobe beneath. You are correct in your assumption that the latter is more sensitive than the former, though there are points—particularly at the tip—that do appear receptive to physical stimulus.

What of your ears? If I were to bite them, would that be a pleasant sensation for you?

I will anticipate your reply.

Goodnight, Jim.”


 

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Nicknames.
STARDATE: 2250.79
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock.

I realize now that awhile back when I was giving you a hard time about being all formal with me, I never actually gave you a valid reason. Told you why it bugged me so much. I guess I just expected you to get it, and when you didn't I gave up on trying to change things. I should've noticed sooner than you'd gone and done it yourself. I'm gonna try and explain it now, though. I figure I owe you that much.

...Not that I'm entering into this relationship with a tally of who owes who. I've got a feeling it wouldn't go well for me.

Anyway, humans associate informality with intimacy. You referring to me like a stranger just made me feel like I was gonna marry a stranger, and that seemed -- I dunno... Weird. You'd probably think it was totally logical, since we are strangers, but...

I don't know, I guess I like lying to myself. Or stretching the truth a little. I wanted to feel like we had a shot at getting to know each other, or maybe I wanted to skip ahead past the stilted introductions. And -- I recognize that now I think because where we're at now -- that's where I wanted to be before, Spock. I feel like we do know each other. And that maybe we even... Like each other?

I gotta stop recording these messages late at night. My train of thought's not exactly on track here.

I'm gonna take note of what you said about the relative sensitive spots of those ears of yours. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to track down information on an innocent little thing like Vulcan erogenous zones. I'm gonna have to talk to some people when we're married, Spock. Your records make it really tough for a culturally-sensitive guy to do any kind of research at all on how to be a proper Vulcan husband. 

I'd like it if you bit my ears, though. 

You could bite me anywhere and I'd like it. Just for the record. Humans aren't overly picky about that kind of thing, and some are more into it than others. I'm -- on the "into it" side of things, I guess. Well, I don't guess. I know. Or I think I know. I've never...

Well, let's just say it'd be our little experiment.

Talk soon.

Jim."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Formality.
STARDATE: 2250.79
SECURE CHANNEL

“This is S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.79, recording a ninth response for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.

Jim, peace and long life.

Though you have taken certain detours along the way, I would say that your “train” of thought is not as convoluted as you seem to believe. Though it does suggest illogical choices or impulses, the connections as you have explained them are satisfactorily made. I understand your perspective better now as well as the motivation behind your initial insistence on informality.

Yet I must now remind you that the presence of formality will always remain, for it is my place as the son of a Vulcan royal family to adhere to that formality as my father has done, and his father before him, and his father before him. That is not to suggest I will not do what is within reason to meet you again halfway for the sake of compromise.

I am trying.

Again, do not think that because effort is required that expending the effort is an unfavorable choice. The effort affords its results extra meaning—meaning that is earned because together we have accomplished what would not have been possible to achieve separately, independently of one another.

I acknowledge that my approach must to a human mind effected by human passions appear clinical or even formal. This acknowledgment was not easily earned, either. Quite the opposite. I have considered my mother’s relationship with her husband, my father, and the concessions she has made, the interpretations she has chosen to espouse. Yet she does not to me exhibit the signs of one who is unhappy. As a human, she would not be so advanced in the obfuscation of her true emotions that her own son would not recognize unhappiness, if this were her customary state.

These are not confidences I would share with just anyone—or indeed with anyone else. My formality does not equate a lack of intimacy, Jim. It is not intended to be interpreted as such.

If you are capable of overlooking this inherent difference in our methods of approach, or embracing it as preferable to what would come more easily if we were less dissimilar, then I assure you, I will be devoted to the pursuit of providing intimacy in my own way. It is not the human way, though I cannot say, as I am not fully Vulcan, if it is the Vulcan way either.

I have no points of comparison. No one to speak to on the subject.

Except, it would seem, for you.

The expansion on my perspective is appreciated.

...As is your patience.

For you have been patient. Though I am not inclined to speak speculatively—a talent which to you appears to come quite easily—I will endeavor to at least offer something in return.

Where would you desire that I bite you? And, for the sake of preparation, precisely how hard?

Your reply will be appreciated.

Goodnight, Jim.”


 

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Biting.
STARDATE: 2250.80
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock,

I wish I could quote you on some of this. Patient's not a word most people would associate with me, and I have a feeling your word would go a long way with the more respectable types in my life. I guess that's one of the things my family and by association Earth's interests are hoping to get out of this arrangement of ours. A little respectability. I might have a lot of natural charm, but I don't think it'll come as a shock to hear I'm not exactly thought of as the serious type. At least, it wouldn't surprise you. You're smart. You pay attention to things. You have to know how I'm thought of politically, on a galactic scale. Pretty and well-meaning, but not exactly a wise ruling type.

Wise sounds old, now that I think about it. Wise. Wiiiise.

Yeah, I wouldn't mind if people skipped over that part when they talked about me.

Anyway, I just thought you should be aware that we're kind of using you for your smarts and your credibility. And your dark, handsome good looks -- but that last part's just for me. A personal preference.

Have I told you lately that I find you... How would a Vulcan say this? Incredibly physically appealing. You've got this whole...serious thing happening that's really...

Really...

...

Agh. This is harder than I thought it would be. It's the kind of thing that it feels stupid to say into a PADD instead of face to face, but I'm not gonna have that chance for awhile and the more we talk it feels like the less I've said. I feel like, like I'm playing catch-up with myself, a little. But that's something I got used to talking to you in the first place.

Maybe that has something to do with the formality you were talking about. Or maybe it doesn't and I'm starting to see connections where none exist.

Did I tell you Bones has me on my official bulk-up-for-Vulcan diet starting tomorrow? I'm not looking forward to it. The words skinless chicken breasts were uttered several times, Spock. And spinach. And boiled pasta. My life's about to turn into a wasteland without a hamburger in sight. If his goal's trying to get me to look forward to going to Vulcan even more, then he's definitely on the right path. 

Basically what I'm saying is everyone here's driving me crazy. At least your recordings give me something to look forward to.

I think you should bite me wherever you want, Spock. Chief erogenous zones for Jim Kirk are as follows:

Ears, lips, a spot on my throat, nipples -- wow, that's a hell of a word to say out loud, I'm feeling my way down as I do this, Spock, I want you to know.... Thighs. 

I could get more specific but if this stuff gets out I think it could still pass as an anatomy lesson if I contain myself.

Thinking about you, Spock. I'm still drinking sash-savas tea with lunch.

Talk soon.

Jim."


 

Chapter Text

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: If you wish to quote me, you may do so.
STARDATE: 2250.80
SECURE CHANNEL

“This is S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.80, recording a tenth response for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.

Jim, peace and long life.

While it may appear that your physician, Doctor McCoy, is exhibiting frustratingly strict behavior designed to limit your enjoyment of your favorite Earth delicacies, I must ultimately concur with his choice of dietary proscriptions and prescriptions, at least to a point. It is wise—wiser than his communications would suggest he is capable of being—that you should be as prepared physically as possible for the climate of Vulcan, for you to arrive in the peak of health. Therefore a diet is not without its obvious benefits in fortifying you for the difficulties of Vulcan’s atmosphere, temperatures, and mineral composition. However, to deny you the ability to enjoy, while you are still able, those foods that you will only be able to experience authentically for a limited time longer, is understandably “unfair” from your perspective.

Yet knowing what I do of you, I suspect that you are already aware of this, and will continue as is demanded of you, despite the tribulations these demands have put you through.

Though there is a tendency to exaggerate obvious external details of an individual’s personality or behavioral patterns in the news and media—for example, the many pictures the paparazzi have culled of your tongue not retracting inside your mouth—it is a desire for reductive, understandable simplicity that drives them to paint a picture with the broadest possible strokes. You will disprove these generalized assumptions with your actions—if not solely because you are capable of making well-balanced and intelligent decisions, then with the additional component of your stubbornness with regards to proving people who are wrong to be wrong.

Have I analyzed your tendencies and your personality correctly?

With the chances I have been given to learn about you, both from what you have said as well as what you have not said, what you have neglected to say or clearly chosen not to address, I believe that my calculations are sound. Whether you are not thought of as the “serious type” has less bearing on the truth than whether you are yourself capable of being, or becoming, the “serious type” when occasion calls for it. It would seem to me that, based on your actions in the Venusian colony mine, your... This is a human expression, but from its definition, I have determined I will now employ it correctly: your “heart is in the right place”.

Humans place more stock in the heart’s location and motivations than do Vulcans, but as it is of importance to you, I shall endeavor to respect that importance, even though it is not mine.

The prospect of this shift in valuation is not unpleasant.

I would even say it is fascinating.

As you “look forward to” my recorded messages, I too find myself anticipating the arrival of the same from you. I do not have the number of companions as you; while I am never without the pursuit of knowledge to occupy my time, the conversation which you provide is a pursuit of knowledge in its own right, and...a stimulating one. I also appreciate your discretion. It is most logical of you to avoid language that would prove more incriminating. The choice of caution is intelligent.

Is there nowhere between nipples and thighs that you would appreciate the sensation of my teeth on your skin?

I shall construct a complete diagram, thanks to your efforts.

Until we speak again, good night, Jim.”


 

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Maybe I wanna keep what you say all to myself.
STARDATE: 2250.81
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock,

You're really gonna make me say it, huh? I can't even tell you to use your imagination, since I have it on good authority Vulcans don't exercise that part of the brain too often. I believe that you can do it, just that it probably seems like a waste of time to somebody with your intellect.

All right, Spock. Here goes nothing. There's a particular part of the human male anatomy that happens to exist within range of the area you described, between my nipples and thighs, so to speak -- god, Spock I was just talking off the cuff it wasn't an actual thought-out list or anything -- but it's notorious for its design as a pleasure center, delicate skin and thousands of vulnerable nerve endings just waiting for the right person to touch them. It, uh, springs to life, so to speak. And that is the tidiest most textbook way I can think of going there without getting properly down to the nitty gritty details, Spock.

Don't mistake this for my best effort at dirty talk either, because that's not even close. I'm just not sure I trust the things I could say to the vast recesses of space. I'll make it up to you when we're together, just you and me. If you're into that kind of thing. I've got a feeling you're gonna tell me you don't know, but that's why I'm bringing it up good and early now, so you can think it over. Decide what you're in the mood for.

Of course, my dirty-talking ability might be a distant memory by the time I'm there, since Bones is trying to fatten me up and starve me at the same time. You'd think a protein gain for "all the goddamn pounds I'm gonna sweat out" on Vulcan would be fun, but it's not like he's letting me eat pizza and ice cream sundaes all day every day. And the work-out routine! Spock, I hope you weren't too attached to the way I looked before because I've got a feeling it's about to be all over.

I'm gonna be chunky as hell when we finally meet, no two ways around it. I can already feel it happening. Let's just say it's a good thing we're long past the point where the aristocracy rode horses, because mine would be giving up the ghost. Collapsing out from under me. Death by princely girth.

I guess at least you can rest assured that my heart is HEALTHY and also in the right place. Man.

You probably don't have to worry about this stuff either. Efficient metabolisms, I bet.

...This probably wasn't the scintillating talk you were looking forward to today, but I have visions of skinless chicken breasts dancing in my head, Spock. It's not right. You think it could be treason?

Tell me more about this diagram you're making.

Hugs and kisses.

Jim."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: About the diagram I am making.
STARDATE: 2250.81
SECURE CHANNEL

“This is S’chn T’gai Spock of Vulcan, son of Sarek of Vulcan and Amanda Grayson of Earth, stardate 2250.81, recording an eleventh response for his betrothed, Prince James Tiberius Kirk of Earth.

Jim, peace and long life.

The diagram—as you requested clarification and elaboration on my methodology, I will now provide it—is a generalized anatomical schematic of a human male with the sensitive areas, which I believe are known as “erogenous zones”, labeled specifically based on your personalized suggestions. I do intend to be prepared for your arrival and would not allow myself to use this time in any way other than that which is most wise. When you speak of these matters, if the most that I am able to do is listen, if not respond in kind, take note and commit the data to memory, then that is what I shall do.

I am determined to do my most—my best—in anticipation of your arrival and your needs, so that when you are here you will not be disappointed by the gap in our sexual knowledge.

Experimentation of my own continues with your guidance. Though I would not “imagine” any scenario between us as you have already proven yourself too much of a rogue element—that is, too spontaneous for my algorithms to accurately predict your spur-of-the-moment decisions—I will say this: that I anticipate such a time as you transcribe your words from mere suggestion to true action.

...I do not currently think that I would mind the embrace you described in your recordings on stardate 2250.76 and stardate 2250.78, nor would I decline the opportunity to hold your hand in mine.

It is true, as you expressed in the recording you made on stardate 2250.79, that I have come to “like” you. Your conversation is adequate and your outlooks unanticipated but ultimately valuable to consider. As I have said before, these communications have not been unpleasant. If the same can be expressed in return, then our efforts here may be considered a success.

However, if your dietary restrictions and requirements are presenting insurmountable difficulties—both psychological and physical—then perhaps a modified version of the meal plan should be implemented. Hallucinations are not the ideal outcome. Doctor McCoy should be aware of this.

If your only concern is a matter of physical presentation, then that is easily assuaged. If you wish to attach images so that I am kept regularly updated on your appearance, you may be assured that there are elements of your physiognomy that will not be affected by preparatory weight gain, and which are not likely to lose their aesthetic appeal any time soon. Barring, of course, unfortunate accident.

Good night, Jim.”

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: The news.
STARDATE: 2250.81
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, news travels swiftly. Perhaps not swiftly enough.

I do not trust rumors, nor do I listen to idle gossip. Yet I have heard from sources otherwise reliable that your brother has returned.

Is this true?

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Sam.
STARDATE: 2250.82
SECURE CHANNEL

Yeah, he's back.

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Sam.
STARDATE: 2250.82
SECURE CHANNEL

I don't believe this.

I don't believe this, Spock.

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Sam.
STARDATE: 2250.82
SECURE CHANNEL

I thought he was a spinach-based hallucination.

I was wrong.

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Sam.
STARDATE: 2250.82
SECURE CHANNEL

Jesus christ he says he was in the Delta Quadrant and didn't hear about dad until now spock 'm losing my mind here i'm gonna die.

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Sam.
STARDATE: 2250.83
SECURE CHANNEL

"Ahh.

Hey, Spock.

Sorry I didn't get time to answer your recording until now. It's been a busy day. Busy couple days. I'm obviously not dying. I shouldn't have sent that.

It's been a lot to process. A lot of arrangements. Mom's thrilled, of course. It's all she can talk about and she goes around the house with this glow like... Well, like her number one son's come home. Firstborn, I mean. Or maybe I meant the first thing, I don't know.

I kinda wish you were here, Spock. I know it's inappropriate on Vulcan, but I could use a hand to hold. I have a feeling you'd be good at that. Bones called off my diet after a dedicated application of puppy eyes and begging. So I guess you don't have to worry about me getting fat -- although if I read your letter right, you might be into that?

Anyway, no news on Sam's intentions yet. He acts like he's here to help us out, but we'll see how long he actually sticks around this time. We haven't talked. I stayed up here to write you over dinner.

I should probably go see what I can whip up with the replicator.

I'll tell you if I hear anything, Spock. And you do the same?

Dif-tor heh smusma, Spock.

Jim."  


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Regarding Sam.
STARDATE: 2250.83
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

There is no need for apology.

The complexities of your emotional response to your brother’s return are not immediately understandable for someone of my upbringing and proclivities. Perhaps on the surface this is because your reaction may appear illogical. That he is your family, that he has returned to rejoin your family once more, appears to be a cause for positive feelings. That he is your brother is a fact, one which cannot be denied.

Yet it is also true that he left without warning for reasons that were not immediately obvious—that even now may remain unclear—and in doing so abandoned his responsibilities, as well as his individual ties to the members of your family. On a personal as well as on a public level, he behaved in a way that you did not and do not admire.

On this point I find no fault in your conclusion. It was not admirable behavior.

But he is still your brother. And he is still the first son of your royal parents.

I understand that I may not be the first or best choice of conversational partners where matters of emotional sensitivity or emotions of any sort are the primary concern. I will unsurprisingly lack the sentimentality necessary to provide suitably sympathetic responses or to predict what it is you may need. Though I have grown to know you better than I did seventy-nine days ago, I am still of Vulcan.

We have our limits.

Distance, too, is a limitation.

It is a relief to be informed that you were exaggerating when you described your condition as fatal. Jim, I am relieved to learn that you are not, as you suggested, dying from the shock to your system upon your brother’s unexpected return.

I am not there. The distance between us is considerable. I cannot therefore hold your hand as you have expressed a desire for touch. I am unable to provide that, as well. I do not deal in the speculative. Yet as an exercise in a clause involving “if”...

If I were there, I would be certain to hold your hand.

Dif-tor heh smusma, Jim.

Reply when you are able.”


 

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: I don't wanna talk about it.
STARDATE: 2250.84
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock.

Maybe we could just -- I don't know -- not talk about my brother for awhile? Or maybe that's too much like ignoring the elephant in the room. I dunno. Mom's had Sam in these meetings with the Federation ministers I guess trying to work out what the hell to do with him. I guess he's been spending time on colonies and stuff, helping them deal with outbreaks and terraforming hiccups. He's not a doctor or an engineer, but I guess he's pretty smart on his own terms too. Kind of a jack of all trades.

Sam of all trades. 

I just don't want everyone getting their hopes up. Mom especially. You don't see me leaping to join Starfleet now that he's back, because I know what he's like. He's probably just here sorting things out because he missed the funeral. Or hell, maybe he's just looking to get in on his inheritance.

...

That wasn't nice. I don't know what's wrong with me, Spock, I'm all antsy. You'd think I'm one of those guys who can't handle a tiny change in his life, but I've never been all that attached to routine. 

Maybe I just need a good night's sleep.

You're wrong that you're not my first choice of people to talk to these days. You were the first person I told about Sam, even if -- technically you asked me about him first. I haven't really wanted to bring him up with anyone else.

There's not much point if he's just gonna bail on us all again anyway.

But you're better at this talking stuff than you think. Matters of emotional sensitivity. I don't think you're giving yourself enough credit.

I get what it means when you say you'd hold my hand, you know.

I'm into it.

We'll talk more soon, all right?

Dif-tor heh smusma, Spock.

Jim."

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: 
STARDATE: 2250.84
SECURE CHANNEL

I've got no clue what's going on I got shut out of a meeting with our Vulcan attaches today??? Did I miss a cultural holiday or something again.

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: 
STARDATE: 2250.84
SECURE CHANNEL

this is unbelievable no one's telling me anything

FROM: JTK 
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: 
STARDATE: 2250.84
SECURE CHANNEL

spock


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT:
STARDATE: 2250.85
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, I believe they were discussing the matter of the arrangement of marriage between the royal houses of Earth and of Vulcan.

That is what the ambassadors from Earth have been discussing.

There is a likely connection. Logic dictates that we cannot assume this confluence of events is mere coincidence.

I will communicate with you again when I know more.

Dif-tor heh smusma.

Spock

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Further communications.
STARDATE: 2250.86
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I was correct in my deduction. The present topic is that of the union between your planet and mine. Now that your brother, Prince Sam, has returned, the matter of the marriage that will foster this union is under reconsideration.

I will communicate with you again when I know more.

Dif-tor heh smusma.

Spock 


 

FROM: jtk 
TO: sts 
SUBJECT: no
STARDATE: 2250.86
SECURE CHANNEL

yeah i got the memo

FROM: jtk 
TO: sts 
SUBJECT: no
STARDATE: 2250.86
SECURE CHANNEL

what the hell spock they can't do that

FROM: jtk 
TO: sts 
SUBJECT: no
STARDATE: 2250.86
SECURE CHANNEL

you could sound a little more upset about it

FROM: jtk 
TO: sts 
SUBJECT: more info
STARDATE: 2250.86
SECURE CHANNEL

all right i bugged the assembly hall when they were out to lunch

topics of discussion include what a loose cannon i am and that my boisterous lifestyle could conflict with vulcan precepts. they think i'm gonna start more problems than i solve not like a guy who just up and practically abdicates no he's way more reliable.

this is unbelievable they can't REALLY do this.

spock i learned VULCAn.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: “Upset about it.”
STARDATE: 2250.87
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, I cannot “sound” like anything in a text-based communication as it does not include “sound” of any kind.

Would an agitated writing style better serve a situation that is disagreeable? I hold that it will not. It will not serve any purpose at all.

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Ill-advised behavior.
STARDATE: 2250.87
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, I need not advise you that it is highly unwise to plant a recording device in a private council chamber, especially if the members of said council already believe you to be an unpredictable element, someone who disregards the rules as he sees fit.

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: How to proceed.
STARDATE: 2250.87
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim,

Have you informed them that you have learned Vulcan? Is your Vulcan superior to Sam’s facility with the language?

Your pronunciation is decidedly acceptable. Without Vulcan instruction it is highly unlikely that Sam would be able to approximate your diction and inflection.

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Jim.
STARDATE: 2250.88
SECURE CHANNEL

Spunau bolayalar t'Wehku bolayalar t'Zamu il t'Veh.

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” These are the principles of Surak.

I have repeated it to myself many times, and never more so than these past few days.

Spock of Vulcan


 

Chapter Text

FROM: jtk 
TO: sts 
SUBJECT: i can't with this
STARDATE: 2250.88
SECURE CHANNEL

no, that's bullshit, spock i can't 

this is bullshit they can't just change the rules halfway in sam's vulcan SUCKS i worked so hard on that

this is

no, this is dumb

i get a FEW stupid shots of me pulling wild stunts splashed all over the news media and all of a sudden i'm not a safe bet, like i haven't been here the whole time. 

it's not like gaila even cared about those naked pictures

jesus i can't believe this is happening

FROM: jtk 
TO: sts 
SUBJECT: don't worry
STARDATE: 2250.88
SECURE CHANNEL

they aren't gonna find the bug spock i'm better than that have some faith

i told them about the vulcan i'll speak vulcan all day if i have to i'll undergo the oral examination right now if i have to

FROM: jtk 
TO: sts 
SUBJECT: spock
STARDATE: 2250.89
SECURE CHANNEL

i guess i just didn't realize how much they were settling for me until they jumped at the chance to make arrangements with someone else


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: I am not worried.
STARDATE: 2250.89
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, the word “settle” implies a judgment of merit, a valuation of worth, which were mostly likely not inherent in the initial decision, as it was made solely to avoid incident between our people when Sam absconded his responsibilities. You were a substitute, that is true, but to ascribe hierarchical implications to that substitution is not logical.

At this time it is necessary to present a united front and maintain propriety in our actions, to behave as is required of us for the sake of the many. There are more futures involved in these arrangements than our own. That those futures rely upon our futures does not alter the fact of that reliance.

Despite your emotional distress at this unanticipated turn of events I am certain from my knowledge of your character that you will behave as is right.

Bugged council room notwithstanding.

Another meeting has been called. I will attend this one and listen to what is presented. I will learn for myself what the logic is behind the proposal and I shall respond to the proposal accordingly. These are my intentions. That it is not mutually desirable is not enough. 

Dif-tor heh smusma.

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Bugged council room.
STARDATE: 2250.89
SECURE CHANNEL

If I didn't bug the council room then we might not've found out what was going on. This way we -- you -- can get ahead of the action and form some kind of plan because like hell did I spend the last month of my life brewing sash-savas tea for nothing I will challenge that asshole to a Vulcan-off if I have to.

I mean. It just doesn't make sense I've been putting in all this practice.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Oh my god.
STARDATE: 2250.90
SECURE CHANNEL

Mom says I could join Starfleet now. 

I'm starting to understand why Bones wants to punch everyone in the face all the time.

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Mutually undesirable.
STARDATE: 2250.89
SECURE CHANNEL

Does that mean what I think it means Spock?

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Mutually undesirable.
STARDATE: 2250.90
SECURE CHANNEL

because you're damned right it is

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Mutually undesirable.
STARDATE: 2250.90
SECURE CHANNEL

I guess I just thought you might want to upgrade too while you had the chance

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Mutually undesirable.
STARDATE: 2250.90
SECURE CHANNEL

Let me know how it goes. You said you would. Right. OK.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Mutually undesirable.
STARDATE: 2250.90
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, as you must already know, I will not put to words anything which might challenge the peace between our planets and the alliance I have always intended to uphold. Yet, as we have always been honest with one another, itself a chosen course to uphold that same peace and alliance, I would not disclose anything other than the truth in our communications. Nor, in the absence of a pleasant truth to tell, would I remain silent in order to maintain the Vulcan way—that we do not lie.

If I wrote that this alteration in the course of events was not ideal then I certainly meant it.

Dif-tor heh smusma.

Spock

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Request for clarification.
STARDATE: 2250.90
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, by concurring that the alteration in the course of events was “mutually undesirable” this implies that you do not wish to join Starfleet, having been offered the opportunity to do so vis-a-vis a potential release from your obligations to me?

I request clarification.

Spock of Vulcan


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Obligations.
STARDATE: 2250.90
SECURE CHANNEL

When did I ever say I wanted to be released from anything?

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Clarification.
STARDATE: 2250.91
SECURE CHANNEL

"It wasn't an obligation, Spock.

I mean, maybe it was at first, but  --

I don't know. I thought it might not be so bad, us getting hitched. We were learning about each other, making progress. I'd say these letters have been an accurate depiction about what we're supposed to be doing for our people, forming a bond, overcoming cultural differences, presenting a united diplomatic front.

I'm gonna talk to our Vulcan representation here, and ... Mom, I guess. Sam too if I have to. Anyway, don't worry. You're not the only one working on this.

...Call me crazy, I thought you might miss the sound of my voice."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Regarding obligations.
STARDATE: 2250.91
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, you had not said outright that you wished to be released from your obligations regarding the union of our royal families. Yet you had expressed on more than one occasion your desire to join Starfleet with your peers and all your mentions of said peers was presented with a distinct wistfulness that suggested disappointment you could not join them. Those instances, coupled with your aptitude and how well you scored on your admittance tests, allowed me to infer that it would have been your choice to enlist, were you not bound to duties elsewhere.

If my inference was incorrect, then it was my error.

I will not allow myself to make the same mistake again.

You, however, were correct, Jim. There is a definite pleasurable experience connected with the hearing of your voice.

Dif-tor heh smusma.

Spock

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Regarding clarifications.
STARDATE: 2250.92
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

If you believed that I might have “missed” the sound of your voice then it is my understanding this is likely due to projection of the same sentiment in reverse. It has been some time since we last communicated with recordings and it is true that its continuation as a part of our routine was familiar; however, as our relation to one another is yet uncertain, a measure of informality must be employed in my customary greetings where otherwise there would be proper, personalized address.

...Hello, Jim. Before I continue, I must be completely assured that you would not be disappointed—that you would not be displeased—if you were to remain bound to me as has been our understanding prior to the return of your brother, Prince Sam. Since one of my inferences has proven to be incorrect, I do not intend to continue operating upon a false assumption.

I would not have you remain in a situation that is not your preference.

If it is your preference, then I will proceed with the assurance that our preferences are aligned.

A swift response would be appreciated.

...

Goodnight, Jim.”


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Not obligations.
STARDATE: 2250.92
SECURE CHANNEL

"Spock, it's not your fault. If you've misunderstood anything, it's because I haven't exactly been clear.

The truth is, I never expected I'd have to be clear, since we were gonna get married either way. But now that all that's up in the air I don't think there should be any confusion.

There was a time when all I could think about was joining Starfleet, making captain in four years -- or three -- charting new worlds with my very own crew. Maybe some of my friends. And when I got slapped with Sam's responsibilities I resented them. It wasn't my life, it wasn't the future I'd planned out for myself.

But I never expected to...

Damn it.

I don't consider you a responsibility, Spock.

Dif-tor heh smusma."

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Clearing things up.
STARDATE: 2250.92
SECURE CHANNEL

We're aligned, Spock, we're aligned, we're aligned.


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Alignment.
STARDATE: 2250.94
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

I have not been paying attention to the rumors that have made their way to Vulcan from Earth or any of the gossip. Similarly, I have ignored the visuals of your person obtained by the paparazzi and will consider only what I have heard from you to be accurate. I will trust in what you have written to me. Likewise, I will trust in you.

You may also trust in me. As I cannot lie—as I will not lie to you—you may be assured already that in this, as in all things, I am telling you the truth.

With regards to the current position of certain members of the Vulcan High Council and certain members of your royal cabinet who believe your older brother to be the better choice for the union of our two houses, I have consulted with both of your records and presented the evidence to my advisors. I have done so as diplomatically as possible when I suggest to them—with nothing more than logic based upon the facts—that you are a superior and indeed more dependable choice, given Prince Sam’s earlier, unannounced, unanticipated disappearance.

They have drawn their own conference without calling for my presence. In attendance are representatives from the Earth delegation on Vulcan and, as I have not “bugged” the conference hall, I will simply wait to be informed of what their conclusions will be.

During this time when patience is mandatory, I have conferred with my mother, as she approached me in private to ask me how I am “holding up”.

I recalled this turn of phrase from your dictionary and was able to divulge that the match between us would be preferable due to the elapsed period of our communications and our ability to enjoy one another’s conversation—which, as I understand it, is vital to the achievement of a “solid” marriage. Having understood my position, she has offered to assist, though I informed her that it is unlikely her assistance will hold much sway with the council.

What has your mother the Queen spoken of to you on this matter?

Dif-tor heh smusma.

...XOV.

Spock


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Assistance.
STARDATE: 2250.95
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

I talked to my mom, I don't know. She doesn't understand what the big deal is, since I wanted to join Starfleet in the first place. She has that mom thing where she remembers you at a certain age and refuses to see you as you are now, with all the personal growth and everything. I think I've gone through some personal growth. You probably wouldn't be that interested in me if I hadn't. And I know you're not gonna come right out and say it, but I'm a way better option than Sam.

I mean, maybe not from a totally objective perspective. He is the heir and I guess that comes with a certain amount of sway. And people like him, he's easy to get along with. I bet he hasn't put an entire sash-savas into his mouth.

But there's a lot of other stuff he hasn't done either. Like writing back.

As far as I'm concerned, he missed his shot.

Anyway, I don't really have the same kind of relationship as you do with your mom. She wrote me, once, you know. I liked her. I do like her. I think I asked if I could call her Mom, which seems a little premature now given the circumstances.

I hate these circumstances, Spock. I really do.

There's been a lot of crazy thoughts swirling around my head, lately. I thought about hopping the next starship heading to Vulcan, asking you to abdicate and join Starfleet with me... All kinds of things. But I figured I knew what you'd say to all that. And I guess I'm trying to set a good example. Bugged conference halls notwithstanding.

I guess if we're gonna do this, we should do it right.

XOV,

Jim


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Doing it right.
STARDATE: 2250.96
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

I have initiated the audio recording function for this message with the recollection of your suggestion that my preference would be to hear your voice, operating upon the conclusion that you based that decision upon a projection of your own preferences. Therefore, the sound of my voice may provide something my written words would not, despite my lack of spontaneity. I have written the following communication in full before recording it now, but it is with that forethought that I apply myself to any task, regardless of its intimacy.

I have encouraged diplomatic contact between Vulcan and Earth in an attempt to establish an open dialogue regarding the arrangements as they were initially conducted, and then rearranged when the constants became variables.

Prince Sam is, as you have said, the first son and rightful heir to your father’s throne; his return has faced him once again with the numerous duties of his unique position. They are the same duties to which you would have devoted yourself had he not made his return, yet the truth remains that the political climate of the present is not the same as that which faced the Federation prior to Prince Sam’s departure. There are the multiple Klingon factions to consider; there is the distinct possibility that the Romulans will exploit the tensions inherent in the fractured Klingon Empire to their own profit; there are simultaneously myriad incursions along the edges of the neutral zone, which cannot be ignored.

And these are but the most obvious of the very real threats the Federation now faces.

It is not illogical that Earth would seek to maintain a centralized figure of leadership in San Francisco—nor is it illogical to assume that Prince Sam, who was trained specifically since birth to succeed your father, would be the one to remain upon the throne there.

The terms of my arranged marriage for Vulcan’s complete alliance with Earth were always that a member of Earth’s royal family would spend the first year in this union on Vulcan as an ambassador primarily—and it appears less and less likely that Prince Sam will be in a position to leave Earth in the near future. Therefore, it is only logical that Earth’s second son of George and Winona Kirk would be the ideal member of the royal family to enter into the pre-determined union. Your relative freedom would allow you to be an ambassador first and foremost. Any other choice would simply not be logical.

Likewise, Jim, I am also the second son. It would not be a suitable match for a first son and a second son to be joined and as Sybok is devoted to the Vulcan way and currently committed to the Vulcan Rite of Kolinahr, the only reasonable union is that which was determined subsequent to Prince Sam’s disappearance.

Now, all that is left to us is to wait for the mutual conclusion of our councils. Should it be mutually agreeable or mutually disagreeable cannot be predicted.

I will adhere to their decision. But I have also done all that is within my ability to offer legitimate evidence as to why this is the more logical decision.

It is the superior decision.

...Goodnight, Jim.”


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Oh.
STARDATE: 2250.96
SECURE CHANNEL

"You liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiike me."

FROM: JTK
TO: STS
SUBJECT: Substantive follow-up.
STARDATE: 2250.97
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock.

Sorry, I just needed to get that out of my system. Apparently.  

But if you aren't rethinking your statement after hearing that then I guess I'm in good hands. Your hands. Specifically. Not that I'd put myself in your hands. I mean, I would, but I know that'd start an incident with your people and all so I'd have to wait until we did it in private.  

Sometimes I wish I had gone to Vulcan. Just taken off as soon as Sam arrived. I could've seen you, we could've figured something out. At least then we would've been together. I felt like I was going crazy for days after he showed up, like I couldn't sit still and all I could think about was -- well. You. I just wanted to get at you somehow, and you seemed so calm...

I didn't mean to make you say anything you were uncomfortable with before. I know it's not your style to outright state a preference for one perfectly serviceable situation over the next. I just had to know you wanted me over Sam.  

...

I'm not exactly used to being first choice.  

I don't know. I didn't think I'd be able to change anyone's mind at first. Debating's more your strength than mine, but I've been trying to handle things properly. No yelling or turning over tables or taking long ocean-side motorcycle trips. It feels wrong to be doing this without you, but I guess it's not like we're alone. We're doing the diplomatic thing, working from opposite sides of a problem to solve it.

There, see? I sound like a diplomat already.

At least, that's what diplomats always sound like to me.

I never thought of our marriage -- Jesus -- as something I'd be freed up to do, rather than something I had to do. Now that you've put it like that, it does seem pretty logical.

So you wanna marry me, huh.

Dif-tor heh smusma, Spock.

And.

Hugs and kisses, all right? I don't care if it's inappropriate anymore.

Jim."


 

Chapter Text

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: I trust you wear a helmet when riding your motorcycle.
STARDATE: 2250.98
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

It would appear that we are to be joined in marriage. As such, should you continue to ride your motorcycle, be it sea-side or elsewhere, it is highly advisable that you wear appropriate protective gear for the entire period of this chosen recreation, as I have consulted with statistics only to discover the high rate of injury incurred during motorcycle rides.

All other counsel I might offer at this time is irrelevant as it is no longer information that will allow you to alter your decisions. For us, the decisions have already been made. It would be illogical to attempt to argue against that for which I already gave my support.

There are not many places to ride a motorcycle on Vulcan, Jim. It is not a common form of recreation employed by the natives of this planet. If this revelation should prove disappointing, then perhaps a substitute in the form of a hoverbike or other desert-terrain-ready vehicle may provide the recreation you have come to expect.

It is obvious that your companionship has not been unpleasant. You were the first to suggest that we “get along” in that we have communicated regularly and appreciate each other’s conversation. According to my father, some conflict is inevitable in any union. In that way it is not dissimilar to diplomacy, though it has different applications and functions, and is not a public but a private matter. There are, however, distinct parallels.

To state the obvious is unnecessary.

You may already know that this course will be difficult and I already know that your interests appear to lie with, or be enticed by, that which is obviously difficult. Regardless of how illogical it may seem to me, and regardless of how frustrating my relative calm has seemed to you, there is the possibility of maintaining common ground, honesty, and understanding.

I know that I maintained control of my emotions, Jim, but do not interpret this control as a lack of feeling. The control is necessary because the very opposite is true. During the time in which I was forced to consider the possibility that it would be most logical—yet not desirable—to leave that which we have established together behind and commit myself to a lifetime with another, I was calm because to be otherwise would have been detrimental to that which was of greater importance.

You behaved with admirable restraint. I, too, knew that this would be required of me.

Dif-tor heh smusma, Jim. I trust that you will not consider this expressed sentiment as self-serving.

And good night.”


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: My head's naturally dense.
STARDATE: 2250.98
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey there, Spock.

Hey...

...

God, sorry, that was. That was a long pause there. All right, uh. I sort of lost my train of thought. Do you know who I have to thank for this sudden matrimonial security? Because I have this suspicion that it's you and I should be kissing you right on the mouth right about now. Or holding your hand like you offered to do for me once. I still remember that. Couldn't exactly appreciate it at the time since I was frothing at the mouth practically but -- I'm good now. Things are good. We're good, I think, Spock.

Things are gonna be all right.

I'm still not sure how you pulled it off. Quite frankly I wouldn't believe you if you said you didn't have at least something to do with it. I'm sure I didn't. Even if I did barge my way into more than one meeting to advocate for Vulcan-Earth relations. I even threw in a few choice catchphrases. I'm sure my pronunciation was effortless. Just because I needed to practice the same proverb for weeks on end doesn't mean the same would be true of every proverb, right, Spock? It's like riding a bike. Once you know it, you know it.

Sam can't even get his tongue around the words.

Speaking of bikes, I'm kidding about not wearing a helmet, of course I wear a helmet. I've got this jacket too, all shielded leather, you'll love it. I'd bring it to Vulcan but I'm pretty sure I'd die of heatstroke the minute I put it on there.

Speaking of which, the only downside of this whole arrangement is me having to go back on the diet. Turns out Bones caught wind early that things were looking to shift, and he took me off it so I at least wouldn't be going out of my mind with hunger on top of everything else.

He's pretty smart, for a doctor.

Spock, everyone's gonna start thinking I like you after our display of unity over this marriage. What will the Vulcans say?

I'm pretty sure I heard that you desire me somewhere in there. Well I desire you right back, Spock.

We passed three months in there somewhere. Ninety days. You think we'll talk this much when we're together?

Hey, Spock...

Congratulations.

...

Now that was self-serving.

Jim."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Its natural density merely places it, gravitationally, in greater danger.
STARDATE: 2250.99
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

I did not “pull” anything “off” as you suggest I might have. I merely utilized what was logical in order to express what was desirable.

I also did not act alone and would not have you believe, entirely erroneously, that I am the only individual to whom you must express gratitude—or even that gratitude is necessary in the first place. In matters that are, as aforementioned, self-serving, it seems unsuitable to be grateful to someone who was acting in his own interests.

But also logically, for the sake of the greater good.

It is rare, I have discovered, that these two motivations are so completely aligned. I have told you before that I do not believe in luck; that which appears to be “lucky” is generally the product of manifold, unseen efforts, which are anything but spontaneous or naturally occurring. Yet there is some rogue element at work in my dealings with you that only further studies will be able to elucidate and I await such a time as I may conduct them in person rather than from a distance, in order to clarify my findings and formulate my theories more soundly.

Yet, as stated, I did not work alone. My mother, having determined that this was a matter of personal importance—and ignoring my caution that to behave as was personally beneficial was not strictly the logical choice; that, despite our preferences, the needs of the many still outweighed the needs of the few, and if the two proved to be in conflict, the only proper decision was therefore obvious—took it upon herself to speak with Sarek. Fortunately, she made no impassioned speeches to my knowledge, and must have outlined the simple, unemotional facts as you and I had come to appreciate them, for my father would not have been swayed by a sentimental argument and must have therefore been impressed instead by the force of our logic alone.

Having understood that placing the weight of Vulcan’s future relations with Earth on the shoulders of a prince for whom Earth would always be the greatest priority—and who had already once behaved in a fashion that suggested not simply Earth but his own interests were of even greater priority than that—it was Sarek who spoke to the Council and to the ambassadors, whereupon the conclusion was drawn that to once again restructure the terms of union between our houses would be overly complicated and ultimately unnecessary.

When these findings were presented to me as a matter of course, that I might be fully aware of my duties, I found them as logical as ever, but perhaps more agreeable than I had considered them in years past.

Though the logic itself did not change, I must therefore conclude that I am the one who has been in some way altered. Perhaps it is through our companionship that this transformation occurred.

I intend to meditate on it further. Meditation may also aid you in the difficulties of adjusting your diet based on Leonard H. McCoy’s restrictions.

Jim, why should we cease to communicate or lessen our communications when the means of communicating is greatly facilitated by our immediate proximity? I have no plans to behave in such an illogical fashion.

I anticipate your reply.

Good night, Jim.”


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Oh my god, Spock not literally.
STARDATE: 2250.99
SECURE CHANNEL

"Jesus, Spock, it's not like I thought you marched in there and made an impassioned argument that turned the heads of Vulcans everywhere, but maybe that's what I wanted to picture. You were kind of my hero. You're still kind of my hero, I'm not gonna lie, I still think you did more than you're admitting, but that's OK. You're the modest type. I can accept that.

Congratulations on our engagement, Spock. I don't know if Vulcans do that kind of thing -- I'm guessing no -- but humans are pretty big on congratulating themselves for relatively minor milestones. I'm gonna throw myself a big old gala and we'll serve sash-savas tea and listen to -- I dunno, what do you listen to on Vulcan? Chanting? Rhythmic drums?

You'd think if you were ever in the mood to take a compliment, now would be the time. I was perfectly willing to heap all that credit on your handsome shoulders, but noo, you had to go and be all modest about it.

I don't get you.

I would've taken credit.

But then again, that's what makes us different. And that's probably part of what makes you so great. That you're  not like me. Yeah. That's definitely one of the things I like about you.

We get to talk about that thing now. I wasn't sure we would, considering.

God, can you imagine? I mean, not that there's any point in talking about it now, since it's obviously not happening. But that would've been a pretty awkward wedding considering half the things we've talked about. I said an awful lot of things you don't say to a brother-in-law. Can you imagine being married to Sam and thinking about my mouth all over your fingers? No way. Doesn't work. Well, it does work but it's an invitation for another intergalactic incident if you ask me.

This is the first time I've ever been on the logical side of things. It feels... Itchy. I'm not sure I like it. But I'll say this for you, Spock, you're always getting me to try new things.

Don't bring up the diet, I'm celebrating! That means I don't have to work out OR exercise unless I feel like it. That's what that means, you can look it up. 

...OK, don't look it up.

I'm no good at meditating. I'm only letting you know because now that we're getting married I'm not going to be able to hide much from you.

Hope this was worth the wait.

I'm thinking about you, Spock.

Jim."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: A caveat was not included.
STARDATE: 2250.100
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

It is far better to have reasonable expectations and thereby avoid disappointment than to allow your imagination to run wild only to discover Vulcan—and I, by extension—are not as you had hoped. If I were to knowingly allow a misimpression to continue, your arrival here would be coupled with unpleasant surprises based on improper conclusions, the most damaging of which would have been drawn during a time of particular emotionalism.

Regardless of what you were “picturing”—and I have in the past been made all too aware of the pictures you are capable of drawing—I must be honest, thereby eliminating any participation in the formation of a harmful illusion.

That is to say, Jim, that I am aware of what an asset you would have been to Starfleet. No one would take the entrance examination three times in three years if they did not have a decided interest in the program. Your scores were exceptionally high and your thirst for adventure is obvious to those who do not know you—but I believe it is even more starkly apparent to those who do.

It is also my belief that there are many kinds of adventures to be found, given the universe’s infinite unknowns. Some are dry like the desert and may not be immediately apparent; they will prove adventurous in retrospect alone. Others involve Venusian colonies, naked Orions, and malfunctioning mining vessels. Those do not require the advantage of distance to apply the label as they are more obvious.  

I would not have you come here anticipating the latter when the former is that with which you will be greeted. I would not have you “paint” a “picture” of someone—in this instance, I speak of myself—who will not be what you desire.

I would prefer that you were to desire me.

...Logically, it is preferable.

I have attached a selection of recorded musical arrangements—you will recognize the bells and gongs primarily—that is native to Vulcan and its ceremonies. I will also suggest that if you are to celebrate that you do not invite Gary Mitchell to join you. It does not appear to me that he is capable of experiencing positive emotions to support an acquaintance who is celebrating his own positive news.

Had I been fore-armed with the perspective you have intelligently expressed—that it would not be suitable for me to be joined in marriage with your brother after we had exchanged communications of a highly personal nature—I would have included that in my informational presentation to Sarek. Though I would have been more than capable of redirecting my thoughts in order to focus on that which was immediate and necessary, it is also true that there is much you have promised in the way of instruction that I can only conclude will be edifying.

Now that the matter is settled, I will continue my studies.

I have also kept the diagrams specific to your person.

Good night, Jim.”


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: I have a normal head.
STARDATE: 2250.100
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock.

I think you should keep all your diagrams specific to my person. Since you don't have to worry about paparazzi, you can probably get away with keeping stuff like that around. I got people going through my garbage looking for a story they can hock on a slow news day. So don't worry, I'm not gonna be making anything like that of you. I think I'm gonna enjoy the privacy on Vulcan, if nothing else. 

Although a lot of the things I wanna get away with are probably things that are frowned on over there. Public displays of affection. Bedroom eyes. Getting undressed without having to close the shades on the windows. It's gonna be great. I'll be the heartthrob of Vulcan.

Though I guess you guys aren't into heartthrobs either.

You don't have to tell me it's not gonna be all wild shuttle chases and naked girls, Spock. I have an idea of what to expect, and it's not that. I don't even think Starfleet would be that. I might say that was why I was joining up: the chance to do great things for good-looking people, maybe earn a few intergalactic favors while I'm at it, but nothing's like that all the time.

It's just -- I really flourish in those moments. I do well with danger. I'd even go so far as to say it's what I'm best at. It's all the day-to-day where I can't quite measure up. I don't exactly have a head for routine.

But that's got nothing to do with you Spock so I don't want you to think for a second that I'm...

Whatever you said.

Gonna find you undesirable. 

Believe me, Spock, there's no chance of that happening. When I thought about Sam being the one to go to Vulcan, meeting you, having those moments on the balcony and -- and learning about your hands, Spock...

...

It made me crazy. I couldn't handle it. I'm glad we don't have to learn what I would've done if they'd decided to go through with it, because I guarantee you it would've been something stupid. And then you wouldn't have gone along with it because you're so Vulcan and logical and it would've been for nothing.

So yeah, I think things worked out for the best.

If you want me to give you some visual references for that chart of yours I might just be willing to throw caution to the wind.

Hugs and kisses,

Jim."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Primarily it appears above average.
STARDATE: 2250.101
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

While I may believe you—or believe that you are at least certain of your own certainty—you have not yet been to Vulcan or experienced its privacy, its rules, its structure, and its heat for yourself. You cannot be certain of that which you have not yet experienced.

The best of intentions aside, Vulcan is not like earth, and that which you may now crave may not be delivered in a manner you will find yourself able to appreciate.

Yet travel is not outside our purview. We will spend a year on Vulcan, but after that, our location will not be static. As ambassadors, we will be expected to attend multiple destinations; we will shuttle between your home planet of Earth and mine of Vulcan as well as to any other where our Federation duties lead us. While it will not be the same as rising through the ranks of Starfleet, working toward captaincy, it will at least afford a change of scenery and a broad array of experiences that will provide entertainment for an individual with your exploratory inclinations. Granted, you will not be afforded the freedoms of an officer—but you will be afforded freedoms an officer would not have, and access to sights an officer would not be given.

I believe the term on Earth is the concept of “quid pro quo”.

Given the current political climate, there may even be danger in these travels—though I would prepare myself for it so as to avoid being caught unawares, I would not say that I am “looking forward” to it in the same sense as you have employed the phrase: imbuing it with eagerness and hopeful expectations. It would be preferable that all our future envoys be undergone without trouble, but what is preferable is not always what comes to pass.

Do not throw caution anywhere—to the wind or otherwise—for my sake, Jim. As you have yourself said, there are many on your planet eager to catch you in a private moment in order to exploit your status for their own profit and gain. There are no paparazzi on Vulcan and while I would not encourage you to “throw” your modesty to the desert wind, you will no longer have to concern yourself with that worry.

There will be others to take its place, but on that matter, the Vulcan attaches at Earth’s galactic embassy will spend much of the next few months informing you of every point of etiquette that life on Vulcan will require of you.

When we are alone, I will continue my studies. If you are willing, as these will be experimental, at least until I have familiarized myself with the physical form, rather than having to work from a diagram.

I will be thinking of you, Jim.

Good night.”


 

Chapter Text

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: You flatterer.
STARDATE: 2250.101
SECURE CHANNEL

"God, don't remind me I have etiquette to learn. My instructors keep badgering me about that only they always seem to want to do it when Bones has me eating, and let me tell you, Spock, nobody frowns like a Vulcan attaché when you're accidentally slopping half a chicken parm onto the control console for a basic Vulcan study terminal. I told Bones it was a bad idea to combine the two things, but he seems to think that when I'm not unconscious I should be shoving food into my face because, and I quote:

'We lost enough goddamn time in that snarl-up with your brother and you'll be thanking me after you've sweat out the equivalent weight of a prize dairy cow on that shade-forsaken rock of a planet that pointy-eared silver-tongued bastard calls home.'

...What do you think of my accent, Spock? I realize you've never actually heard Bones talk before, but you gotta trust me when I say it's dead on. Anyway, I'm gonna do my best with this etiquette stuff but I gotta warn you in advance that it's nothing like passing a Starfleet exam. What in the hell do you need three screens to study off of simultaneously? I went cross-eyed trying to do that thing.

...I'll get better, it's just. Yikes. I have a feeling you're gonna adapt way better to life on Earth than I am to life on Vulcan. But then maybe I just have a better impression of your all-around ability to adapt. You're way better at pushing down your personal feelings in service to the greater good.

I can always get there, but it doesn't come naturally. Usually it's only after I've made a big scene. Lately, when I listen to your messages sometimes they steer me around.

If my parents -- my mom -- knew you'd have this effect on me, they probably would've arranged this marriage a lot sooner so they could use you to make me eat my veggies and stop racing hoverbikes and stealing Dad's vintage classic cars and... Well, a whole mess of stuff.  

That's my way of saying you're a good influence on me, Spock.

I can't promise the reverse will be true, but I'll try to be useful in other ways. Like as a sounding board for your experiments. Consider me all yours when we're alone together. That's not always a stipulation for the more benign stuff when it comes to human intimacy but I kinda want you all to myself, Spock. It's weird. Almost spilled my hot chocolate thinking about all the stuff you wanna do to me.

Not that you got into detail, but there's something about a good implication.

You keep me up at night sometimes.

Talk soon.

Jim."

FROM: James Tiberius Kirk I
TO: Lady Amanda Grayson of Vulcan 
SUBJECT: Thank you.
STARDATE: 2250.101

Lady Amanda,

I hope this message finds you well. Spock recently sent me a selection of popular musical recordings on Vulcan, which I'm glad to have some extra time to get used to, otherwise I might've assumed there was a shuttle crash somewhere in the vicinity and everyone was howling over the injuries.

He also told me I have you to thank for making the Vulcans on your end see straight when the subject of our arranged marriage was being tossed around.

I just wanted to say -- I really appreciate you going to bat for us like that. I'll make sure you don't regret it.

All best,

James Tiberius Kirk


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: It was not flattery.
STARDATE: 2250.102
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

Having analyzed your adopted accent with samplings from the American South, I can now safely say that your attempt was closer to a Tennessee drawl than a Georgian drawl—and, as Leonard H. McCoy’s records state he is from Georgia, I am uncertain if it is his accent that is incorrect, or your approximation thereof which has veered from accurate to exaggerated caricature. I cannot simply assume the latter is true, as Leonard H. McCoy has behaved erratically in the past, enough so that it is possible his accent may behave in a similar fashion.

What is his opinion of your imitation of his voice?

According to Earth records, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.

As you have been studying Vulcan etiquette and phrases, I have been doing the same, so that we are both equally prepared to adapt to our surroundings. The Vulcan mind is from an early age trained to focus on multiple problems simultaneously so as to maximize mental acuity. Therefore, during this preparatory period, I have been learning from multiple encyclopedias at once—one of the sources I have consulted has been your dictionary of slang. Yet I also believe that personal lessons will still be required on a variety of subjects.

If you have begun your remedial instruction in Vulcan etiquette then despite your complaints I must assume, given your mental acuity, you are progressing at a rate that is, at the very least, slightly above average. There are still one hundred and fifty six days before you are to arrive and during that lengthy expanse of time there will be ample opportunity for you to continue to practice that which is not presently familiar to you.

Jim, what is “chicken parm?” I have found references to “chicken parmesan” in Earth recipe books, but did not think it wise to assume that this is the full name of the “chicken parm” with which you have decorated your abdomen. Needless to say, this behavior is not included in any lessons on Vulcan etiquette.

In the evening, before my meditation and optimal resting time, when I am still cogitating multiple problems simultaneously, I acknowledge that more than one subject primarily involving you come to mind. For example, your tendency to steal that which you do not need to steal—but also your “hot chocolate” and your contemplation of my words, which are not, I fully recognize, strictly flirtatious, despite my allusions to intimate subjects.

I do think about those as well.

Goodnight, Jim.” 


 

FROM: Lady Amanda Grayson of Vulcan
TO: Prince James Tiberius Kirk I 
SUBJECT: You are most welcome.
STARDATE: 2250.102

Prince James,

What a pleasure it is to hear from you. I certainly hadn’t expected a communication, but the surprise was a delightful one. I find I am yet more grateful that you have chosen to write to me even after hearing the selection of Vulcan music, which is, among other things, an acquired taste. But if your fortitude is such that your intentions have not been swayed, then it is clear the conclusion of this matter will prove satisfactory to all involved.

No—satisfactory is a Vulcan word, neither encouraging or discouraging. It is the logical choice, but it lacks the emphasis I would prefer to convey.

Though the catalyst for the arrangements was Spock’s intervention, it is true that I assisted in whatever, small ways I was able, such as offering to lend my voice to my husband’s ear, and listening to my son’s points as he began to structure his presented argument. I was most gratified to realize, during the proceedings of the latter experience, that it was perhaps—if I may be so bold as to express this private opinion—more than pure logic which compelled my son Spock to speak.

My son’s position has never been an easy one, though I do not suggest he has not weathered the difficulties without complaint. Perhaps it is the strength of his character; perhaps it is that he simply knows no other way. His place on Vulcan has always been that of an outsider, yet when we traveled to Earth in his youth, the same proved true there, in his other home. The other Vulcan children who studied with him were not like him and though they would not dare to harm him—the commonplace schoolyard tussles which are a constant, it seems, no matter what planet you find yourself on—due to his status, their silence was in some ways more cruel than a bloody nose or a split lip. For a time he had one companion of his own age, with whom he engaged in theoretical conversations and studies, but when she was engaged to be married to a young Vulcan by the name of Stonn and Spock’s duties demanded more of his time, they naturally, logically, went their separate ways.

As such, it has been a concern of mine that the human half of my son, which does not often see the light, has gone unacknowledged for too long. If he was lonely, I could not know; if he yearned for companionship, he would not say it. And I, as his mother—you must excuse me—likely worried for him, maybe even too much.

Yet in the past few months, as gradual as it has been, I have noticed a change in the young man I watch so closely. I may not have a keen Vulcan mind for facts and data, but I am no less capable of marking when this change began and tracing its origins back to his correspondence with you, Prince James. It is my belief—though it would be best if we kept this theory strictly between us—that in you, Spock has found his first, true friend.

I could not have hoped for a better outcome. It seems to me that it must take a special sort of stranger to speak to a part of a person that is so important, but has passed its years in silence for so very long. With that in mind, how could I have sat idly by while an extraordinary person who has already done so much quiet good never came to my house, so that I could offer my personal thanks?

Indeed, Prince James, I also believe that it is I who should be thanking you. But all that will have to wait for such a time as those thanks may be given.

I look forward to seeing you at the end of this year—and, though I am certain he will not say it, my son is eager for it, too.

My warm regards to your mother, Queen Winona, and to your brother, Prince Sam. Live long and prosper.

Lady Amanda Grayson


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Oh.
STARDATE: 2250.102
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock.

You were right, it's chicken parm. See, it's a dish that incorporates lean proteins and carbs as well as a crapload of calories with the cheese and the other stuff. I don't actually know everything that goes into it but Bones approved it on my intake list so I'm taking advantage while I can. Messy as all hell though. Don't try to eat it and listen to lectures on etiquette at the same time. I definitely wouldn't recommend that.

Of course, you wouldn't eat it at all since it's chicken. Do you guys have cheese there? Pasta? Pasta sauce? Probably not. I haven't been getting many lessons on Vulcan anatomy, but it's my understanding you process stuff differently than a human body would anyway. So it makes sense you wouldn't have the same food.

Jesus, I sound about five years old.  

Sometimes you make me feel that way, though. Like I'm in first grade giving a report on the principle crops of Vulcan and their important cultural landmarks. I guess you probably don't have grades over there, but trust me when I say I feel like my level of education currently matches what you guys learn at around age six. Then again, it's not like you're marrying me because I'm some kind of Vulcan scholar.

Technically, you're marrying me because you have to. But... I don't know. It's not gonna be the worst thing in the world, is it, Spock?

That was a rhetorical question. You can feel free not to answer it. I already know it's not the worst thing in the world.

...

To answer your question, yeah I've done my Bones impression for Bones. He wasn't too impressed. I'll tell him your thoughts on my regional accent, I'm sure he'll be downright tickled that you took his side instead of mine. I've never been to Tennessee or Geor-gi-a so I couldn't say for myself. I just parrot back what I hear and boy do I hear a lot of it. The guy weighs me every day, SpockThat kind of thing takes a toll on your vanity. It takes a toll on my vanity, anyway.

My vanity hurts.

As always, I'm open to clearing up any of your confusion about my life of crime. I wasn't actually stealing them in the sense that I was taking proprietary ownership over the things. I just wanted to drive 'em, and I wasn't allowed so... I took them. In my defense, joyriding in a car is way safer than doing it on a bike.

That's some more Bones wisdom for you, but I'm not gonna try the accent again.

Alluding to intimate subjects is the definition of flirtatious, Spock, you sly minx. Don't pretend like you don't know. Or, alternatively, if Vulcans don't know about flirting, does that mean that I can do it with you right out in public and no one will know what's going on?

I kinda like that.

We'll talk soon, all right?  

Tell your mom I hope she's doing well, and thanks for her letter.

...

...Hugs and kisses...

Jim."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: I merely stated a fact. If it was flattering, then you have yourself to thank.
STARDATE: 2250.103
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

My mother had alluded yesterday to your communication with her and her intention to reply to you, though she would not divulge the specifics. That is understandable and I will not pry into the matter of your privacy or into hers. I trust that you will understand that, as you are both human, it may be appealing for you simply to accept sentimental interpretations as the truth when they are merely one facet or analysis thereof. My mother is an intelligent woman and her efforts as an ambassador in their own right are not to be discounted, but she is also a product of her race and tends toward emotionalism when it is hardly required.

According to my mother and other popular references in historical literature and accounts, it is commonly expected that a human married couple will have difficulties regarding mothers-in-law. Both our mothers are human, but it would appear from this development that you will not have any difficulty regarding mine, since she anticipates that the two of you will “get along well” according to the precedent you have established.

As I said before, my mother is on the whole exemplary of her race.

Yet before there is the chance for this general conception about mothers-in-law to be proven accurate once again, I will no longer speak of yours to be, save to inform you that she was “happy” to hear from you and equally “happy” to respond. She “cannot wait” until you are here on Vulcan and will likely benefit from your presence as another human within the household. When this comes to pass I will likewise refrain from questioning either of you as to your conversational topics. You have already stated that privacy is an element of life you do not currently enjoy and are also “looking forward” to enjoying it when you are here. Knowing this, I cannot consciously compromise that for you by my behavior.

There is, after all, a difference between scientific inquiry and idle curiosity. I engage in the former.

I must also suggest that vanity, not being a physical part of your person, cannot hurt. Perhaps it may be injured or wounded, but as far as actual pain is concerned, I trust you will not offer these descriptions of your well-being to any doctors on Vulcan. Leonard H. McCoy may be accustomed to your colorful turns of phrase but he is as far from a Vulcan personality as any human I have encountered or even read about. As such, I certainly would not engage in the act of tickling him. I do not believe, given my knowledge of the man in question, that he would appreciate the assault on his person, and as his behavior cannot be predicted at the best of times, the result would be not dissimilar to attempting the same with a le-matya.

Neither act would be advisable.

...It is also likely that you are once again utilizing sarcasm as a means to foster good humor between us. Know that it is not necessary. I already find your companionship satisfactory without any additional efforts on your part.

It is precisely your natural ability to color your conversation that suggests my inability to do the same will not provide the entertainment or innuendo as you feel you have offered. You make simple mention of considering that which we will do to one another—or with one another—when we are together, but for me any mention of the same would be far from simple.

That does not—or should not—imply that I am not also considering it.

Goodnight, Jim.”


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: Well, thanks me.
STARDATE: 2250.103
SECURE CHANNEL

"Oh my god, please never talk to me about your tickling Bones again. I don't think I'll ever get that picture out of my head.  

I don't even think he is ticklish. No one I know is. It's like a curse or something. just so happen to be ticklish, but I'm not gonna tell you where. Gotta leave a few things for you to discover on our wedding night.

Speaking of which, did we ever talk about that? Like, the actual wedding. We've spent so much time talking about it like it's a foregone conclusion that I never got around to asking about the particulars. I'm sure there's someone here I could ask, but it's late now... Most of the staff's asleep. So -- I figure I'll do what I always do when I have questions no one can answer and fire them your way, Spock.

Do you know anything about the ceremony? If we're doing it on Vulcan or Earth, whether it's supposed to be Vulcan or human-style. And are we having it before I visit you or after... Because at first I was thinking this visit'd be a getting-to-know-you type thing, but the more we talk the more I feel like I know you already. And then I start to seriously doubt my self control when we're finally alone together. I mean, I don't want to violate any treaties or Vulcan traditions but I'm gonna tell you frankly, I don't know how I'm gonna keep my hands off you once I'm on Vulcan.

...

I've never really given it much thought until now. Don't get me wrong -- I've given a LOT of thought to getting my hands on you, but the official order of things, the way this whole arrangement's supposed to shake down... A year on Vulcan, a year on Earth, then the rest of our lives to do whatever. I've never considered the details. It always just seemed like a done deal, so I never had to plan what went into it.

Do you have any preferences? I'm sure we won't actually get to contribute anything -- the ceremony itself seems like something the bureaucratic types will wanna swarm all over, and I'd rather sacrifice that than any other part of our lives together. Get it over with. But I figured I'd ask all the same. I'm willing to give negotiations a shot if there's anything specific you're looking for.

Besides me, of course.

I liked your joke about the le-matya. Look at you, learning humor. I better step it up or you're gonna outstrip me. Vulcan etiquette's still going at a snail's pace. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's probably not my strength. Which is ironic considering how much I've been chowing down to keep my strength up.

If I get fat I'm gonna grow a beard, OK. How do you feel about that?

Hugs and kisses.

Jim."


 

Chapter Text

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Fascinating.
STARDATE: 2250.104
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

As yet, the details are not complete and the plans are still, to my understanding, in the development stage. When they have been completed we will both be informed and fully briefed on the roles we will be expected to fill and the ceremonies we will be expected to attend. The time that remains will be devoted to committing to memory every step and practicing our rituals until we can perform them without error. All I can say now with any certainty is that it will not be private and will likely honor the traditions of both our worlds and cultures as a prime example of true compromise. Since we will be examples, there will be many eyes—Vulcan, human, Federation and non-Federation races—upon us.

It is my supposition that we will follow Vulcan ritual on Vulcan, then travel to Earth, where we will be joined in a human matrimonial ceremony for your people to witness. At this time, from what I have learned of the paparazzi, many photographic images will be taken and will appear on live news networks and online news bulletins for many days. Therefore it is in our best interest to maintain an exterior worthy of two planets that will not reflect poorly on either of our persons, abilities, or associations.

This is only a supposition. However, I have based it upon extensive general knowledge that suggests my supposition will prove accurate in time.

You are also likely correct in your supposition that we will have little input in the course of these proceedings. The marriage ceremonies will be traditional; this is, obviously, not in question. It is therefore not unwise of Doctor McCoy to prepare you physically for the trials you will undergo on Vulcan, beginning with the marriage ceremony, as it will undoubtedly last for the better part of a day and night, and will demand physical fortitude from you that will only be amplified by the temperature of the planet and the composition of its atmosphere, to which you are unaccustomed.

Of course, there will be rigorous training exercises for you prior in atmospheric simulation pods; if there are not, then it is the negligence of the Vulcan attaches currently in attendance on Earth. Vulcans are not negligent. I suspect the training will begin shortly. And, due to your Starfleet entrance examination results, you should prove adequately suited to the challenge.

My preferences are irrelevant. To allow myself to indulge in the act of imagining what I would prefer would be a waste of energies. But I would not mind listening to you indulge in that act. You are equally suited to indulgences as to physical aptitude tests.

After the ceremonies, our preferences will become...less irrelevant. Though after the Vulcan ceremony, it is improbable that you will be eager for demanding physical activities. Perhaps at this point, spooning would prove the wisest course of action, so as not to place overwhelming strain on your person.

You will not get fat, Jim. There is no need to contemplate the growth of facial hair that will prove uncomfortable on Vulcan.

...Ex. Oh. Vee.

Good night, Jim.”


 

FROM: JTK
TO: STS 
SUBJECT: You're not so bad yourself.
STARDATE: 2250.104
SECURE CHANNEL

"Your confidence in my physical appearance is both noted and appreciated, Spock. I always figured Vulcans didn't care about that kind of thing but you've brought it up enough that I have to assume you not only care what I look like but you're downright attracted to me. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting much ego-stroking when I heard I was going to marry a Vulcan, but I think that half human part of you is more prominent than you thought. At least when it comes to certain things. You should trust your instincts, Spock. I can only speak to what I've seen, but what I've seen is pretty great.

I'm attaching a pic Chapel snapped of me making my way through lunch on Bones' program. Now you've seen chicken parm, if not live and in the flesh then a reasonable approximation. Also I seem to remember saying I'd send you more pictures before I got put on this stupid diet so here. This counts, even though she didn't warn me she was taking it and the flash makes it look like I'm undergoing demonic possession.  

I'm only commenting because I know how you feel about my eyes, and they're not their usual shade of blue here. I'll work on fixing that in the next shot.  

...That's me being a little facetious, in case you hadn't already figured it out.

Our wedding sounds like it's gonna be boring as hell on the Earth side of things. Strenuous will be a change from that, at least. Although jesus, Spock, you made it sound like I'd be wrestling le-matya or something, not standing around for eleven hours or however long it lasts. I think as long as I'm not moving I should be OK.

I'm supposed to start atmospheric pressure chamber training tomorrow, now that Bones has had a couple weeks to get some food into me. He says he doesn't want me sweating it all out prematurely, but I'm more concerned with the thin air than the heat, if I'm being honest. It was better when I thought I was just gonna be sweating, but sweating and gasping and heaving for breath aren't gonna do much for my image on Vulcan. I still don't know how you guys wear so many clothes. If ever a culture was gonna adapt to wearing loincloths and togas, you'd think it'd be you guys.

You'd look good in either of those, Spock. You've got good shoulders. And good other stuff, I'm sure. Just haven't seen it yet.

Anyway, it might be a good idea to get some advance training on managing my breath capacity and stuff. I can think of a few strenuous activities I'd like to take part in on Vulcan, and it's gonna kill the mood if I can't even breathe.

...

You really wanna spoon me on our honeymoon, Spock?

All right, just for that, I'll tell you what I'd like. We jet off to some distant planetoid, neutral ground, just you and me, not one of those prepackaged, over-sanitized resort planets, but something warm and sandy, maybe with the ocean. A good binary sunset. Then we exchange rings, or whatever you guys do -- I know Vulcan fingers are sensitive so I can't imagine you wanting to wear something like that all the time -- and just... Look up at the sky. Until it gets dark and all the stars come out. Then -- you pick one. Whichever one you want, and that's where we'll go next.

That's what I'd do, if it was up to me.  

Oh, and you gotta hold hands when you stargaze. Earth rules.

Duly noted that you wouldn't like me with a beard.

Have a good day, Spock.

Hugs and kisses.

Jim."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: I do not endeavor to be bad.
STARDATE: 2250.105
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

Earth rules on stargazing vary from the “rules” of stargazing on Vulcan. No hand-holding is required and I have engaged in what may be deemed as the act on numerous occasions in the past without company with whom to commit to hand-holding, much less the act of hand-holding itself. As compromise is our prime objective, should we be called upon to stargaze together in the future, I will allow Earth rules to take precedent over the lack of rules set down on Vulcan. Hand-holding will be a mandatory element of the experience from hereon out. I will also refrain from the act until such a time as you have arrived in order to adhere to the new rules as they have been agreed upon.

The act of imagining, without intention to act upon what has been imagined, or with full disclosure that action will not be possible—as in following the elements of a definitive plan—remains, in my mind, extraneous. You have created, from your imagination, a not unappealing scenario of what we “would” do if we “could” do it, while being fully aware—as are we both—that we cannot and will not. While it creates a distinct picture it is little more than a shared fiction. With this practice, rather than the acceptance of and adherence to new and previously foreign rules, I am less familiar. The very ideology behind such forays into the obviously fictional is alien to me.

And yet it, too, is not unpleasant. Were it to be possible—but of course, it is not.

It is sensible and judicious to begin atmospheric training as early as possible in order to allow your body the requisite period of time to begin its adaptations to a planet that will, to your physicality, be largely inhospitable. Given enough time to adapt, you will not perceive the heat to be as unforgiving as it is likely to seem at first. My mother is capable of wearing the appropriate attire—heavy robes and scarves—for the wife of Sarek and does so without complaint or perspiration. It is with this demand in mind that meditation may once again prove constructive, even valuable, to you. To regulate your breathing and maintain a general state of calm will assist you in preventing inner, emotional turmoil from exacerbating your perception of the heat and your inability to breathe in the relatively thin air.

Yet these are topics upon which the instructors from Vulcan are equally capable of informing you.

I recognize that it would be equally in the spirit of compromise for me to speak with the obvious romanticism with which you are so comfortable. Yet it is true that Vulcans do not wear rings due to the sensitivity of our fingers and the importance of our hands in touch telepathy. Also I cannot help but recognize, though I will not frustrate you with an extensive list of my findings as you have no doubt already come to the same conclusions yourself, that a remote and untamed planet such as the one you have described would provide a multitude of dangers that will not be “romantic” in the slightest should we be faced with even one of them.

Therefore as a proposed offer I will wear the provided ring on a chain around my neck so as to avoid the complications wearing it in its designated place, on my finger, would present. I do intend to “spoon” on the night after our Vulcan ceremony as I find it prudent to have a definitive plan in place for that which has not yet been personally practiced. If you have any additions to this proposal that are viable, then I would hear them and include them in the outline for this event.

You should not allow Nurse Chapel to take any visual references of you via photograph again. You are far more aesthetically appealing than her ability to capture your appearance suggests.

Good night, Jim. Ex, oh, vee.”


 

FROM: Jim 
TO: Spock
SUBJECT: You could be a bad little Vulcan if you tried, I bet.
STARDATE: 2250.105
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey... Spock...

Whoa.

Jesus, that sounds -- awful. Gimme a sec."

FROM: Jim 
TO: Spock
SUBJECT: Let's try that again.
STARDATE: 2250.105
SECURE CHANNEL

Spock,

Sorry about the earlier recording. I didn't mean to send it but my fingers are basically running on autopilot at the moment and I hit confirm without thinking.

Anyway, I'm not recording anything tonight because I'm trying to practice my breathing. That, and I'm wheezing like a sick sehlat right now, so I probably wouldn't sound all that great anyway. Part of which you probably heard for yourself.

The Vulcan attaches let slip that I should've gotten started on this stuff way back, when Sam's arrival knocked me off the radar, so I've been trying to catch up. Spending extra hours in the pressure chambers, that sort of thing. I figure the sooner I get used to it the better I'll do, but I wasn't expecting the difference to be so -- intense. Thin air alone does a number on the human brain and lungs, but the heat is a real burn on top of it. I don't think I'm prone to altitude sickness or anything like that, but I've had some near-misses when it comes to fainting spells.

I'm glad I'm getting this out of the way before I get there. I can't imagine what kind of impression I'd be giving about human constitutions if I got to Vulcan and collapsed dead on the runway.

Dead there is a descriptor attached to the act of falling, not a condition I plan to take on anytime soon.

I've never really given though to a wedding ceremony, considering I wasn't planning on getting hitched at all until ours was decided and after that I figured there'd be ministers of flowers and whatnot to make all the choices for us, so that was just... A touch of inspiration, I guess. I'm glad you liked it. As much as anyone can appreciate total sentimental overload.

Your mom's my hero, you should tell her that. Since she's setting such a good example for me and all, I don't have any option but to try and make her happy by following in her lead. No headscarves, though. Obviously, because you think I have such a nice head and all.

I had a whole bunch of suggestions before I started to get an idea of what standing around in the Vulcan climate is gonna do to my stamina. Three hours was about all I could take and I know that's only a fraction of the traditional ceremony. But there's a lot to be said for the power of positive thinking, and even more to be said for the power of positively wanting to get into your pants on our wedding night, so we'll see how it goes. I can be very stubborn when I want. Just ask Bones. Don't actually ask Bones though because I don't want him involved. He's already cursed me out plenty for overstaying my welcome in the atmospheric chambr, but like i said iive got  catching uplp'loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooookkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkl

FROM: j
TO: s
SUBJECT: oops.
STARDATE: 2250.106
SECURE CHANNEL

fell asleep i think. or possibly passed out. sorry. hit some stuff with my face on the way down.

i'll pass on your comments to chapel re: her photography skills.

have a good day, spock.

i'm all right.

xov,

j


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Do not over-exert yourself.
STARDATE: 2250.106
SECURE CHANNEL

Jim, peace and long life.

Once again I find that my customary greeting is challenged by your very behavior, which has proven contrary to the sentiment of peace as well as long life. If Doctor McCoy has not yet informed you that spending extra hours in the simulation chamber over a shorter period of time is not comparable to spending fewer hours over a longer period—which I suspect he may have, given that he is forthright with his opinions and undaunted when it comes to sharing them—then allow me to be the first to inform you of this fact.

You cannot hope to achieve a similar effect by concentrating your efforts in such a fashion, at least as far as this pursuit is concerned. You may do permanent damage to your system and if that alone does not perturb you, consider Doctor McCoy’s reaction, and you will be better chastised for your misplaced enthusiasm.

If I must contact him again regarding your health, then I will not hesitate to do so.

The Council is well aware that you may have physical limitations and would not require of you more than you are able to give. Stubbornness best serves the stubborn when it is spent less liberally than you seem content to call upon it at the slightest provocation. There will be nothing to prove, nor will any in my service or on the planning committee demand that which would bring you harm or make you ill. All that will be required is you, in a single piece, without permanent damage done to your brain, your lungs, and your heart; the rest will be amended as those around us see fit.

The truth, Jim, is that your efforts will not garner praise or flattery—not on Vulcan. You could commit yourself with your customary zeal and determination to the task until your lungs ache and your vision blurs, until you are able to stand beside any Vulcan and endure without flinching even once, but you will always be human to them. A Vulcan does not approve of a job well done or a role well played because that it should be well done or well played is only logical. That is the purpose of committing oneself to any task and achieving one’s intention is not worthy of remark; it is simply expected.

Yet they will watch. They will observe. They will see and they will evaluate. That is the way.

It is in some ways admirable that you exhibit such determination but I believe it preferable that you should not suffer outright. Obstacles are one thing, but those that are self-erected and if compounded become self-inflicted wounds are quite another.

Also, as the ceremony will involve traditional garb, I will not be wearing “pants” for you to “get into” on the night of our Vulcan wedding. I will be wearing robes. Perhaps that will prove less difficult for “getting into” by which I assume you mean “taking off”.  Should it still prove too difficult I would be able to assist you in that task, at the very least.

I write to you rather than record as, given what I know of your personality, I do not believe you would be content to type to me, nor do you wish for me to hear you “wheezing”, and therefore this shift in medium will allow you to maintain a sense of pride that I assure you, by this point, is wholly unnecessary.

Good night, Jim.

XOV,

Spock.


 

FROM: Jim
TO: Spock 
SUBJECT: You love it.
STARDATE: 2250.106
SECURE CHANNEL

"All right, you asked for it by bringing my pride into this thing. You think it's unnecessary? Fine. Recordings away, here we go. Right now I can type about as good as I talk -- and at least if I fall asleep, it'll shut down after awhile.  

Jesus, Spock, you paint a bleak picture of the Vulcan lifestyle there. You fight and fight to live up to their expectations and then they don't even tell you when you've done a good job? That's harsh. Thanks for giving me the heads up but oh my god, Spock.

I'm so tired. You gotta... You gotta be nice to humans every once in awhile, you know. We're like dogs, we like getting pats on the head, treats, that kinda thing. Don't quote me on that. I'm just tired. Did I say that already? 

...

Something tells me I'm gonna regret sending this thing.

But we're kind of in a routine now, you and me. I'm not saying you'd miss it if I skipped a day, but I think you'd miss it, Spock.

Guess I did say it.

I'm not fainting all over the place anymore. I quit toughing it out past the preset times, since Bones threatened to bust in and carry me out himself. I told him that there was no way I was letting anyone carry me around in their arms without the express approval of my fiance, and I didn't think you were gonna approve it.

Vulcan still feels like the bowels of hell but I guess the idea is that so long as I don't feel like that once I'm actually there I'll be all right.

Stresses me out a little that you think I'm not even going to be able to get you out of those robes. I think you're vastly underestimating my dexterity here. Either that or there's something you're not telling me about this ceremony. Mud wrestling. Poison drinking. Did you say you're not going to be wearing pants?

Am not going to be wearing pants?

I'm getting excited about this wedding, Spock. Of course, that could have something to do with the heatstroke.  

...I'm kidding, of course.

You can hear me so I'm not wheezing. In fact I just blew you a kiss. I know you said you didn't care for that expression once, but I'm doing it anyway. I'm real stubborn that way.

Hugs and kisses, Spock. Have a good day.

Jim."


 

Chapter Text

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: Define “it”
STARDATE: 2250.107
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

I warn you of the Vulcan lifestyle because there is more to its landscape than simply its deserts, its heat, its lack of moons, its atmospheric composition, and its dangerous fauna. What may appear logical to its natives may appear equally illogical to you if you are not prepared to face it.

There were times during my childhood when it appeared illogical even to me. However, I was young and lacked the context necessary to understand the wisdom behind a silence.

Is it true that we should strive to our highest potential in order to gain the accolades of others, or should we apply ourselves fully to every task because it is the logical thing to do? To rely on the promise of praise as incentive to succeed would be to equate the results of that success with the attention it would garner.

That is the Vulcan perspective.

The human perspective is different. Your words alone about treats make that abundantly clear.

But then, by your own admission, you are tired.

...Very well. Your efforts are admirable, Jim, if on occasion misguided in their application. There are not many who would be able to do all that you have done, nor would they have given themselves over to the tasks so completely. That being said, there are times when that sense of completion may do more harm than good. I would advise reconsidering your strategies and tactical applications in order to better achieve your goals in the future.

That was complimentary while maintaining its honesty. Have I been sufficiently “nice” for your needs, given the extent to which you are pushing yourself? I cannot pat you on the head, considering the distance between us, nor can I send you treats without risk of violating Doctor McCoy’s dietary constraints. I would not cross the doctor. ...Again.

He may also rest assured that there will be no poison, nor will there be mud-wrestling. I need not remind you that, as Vulcan is a desert planet, mud would not be in abundance, nor would it be included in any of our rituals. If I have implied that you would not be prepared to undress me yourself, that was not my intent. I suggested merely that it might be a task we could do...together.

Goodnight, Jim.

Ex. Oh. Vee.”


 

FROM: Jim
TO: Spock 
SUBJECT: My behavior.
STARDATE: 2250.107
SECURE CHANNEL

"Oh yeah, that's the stuff right there. That felt good, didn't it, Spock? You wanted to get all that out of your system, I can tell. And I liked hearing it. I think that'll last me a long while. I'm gonna save this recording for a rainy day.

Not a literal rainy day. That's an expression. Means I'm gonna hold onto it for when I need to hear something good again.

Don't get me wrong, I save all your recordings. But I don't replay them all the time. I might if I had the time, but I'm so busy sweating out my brains in atmospheric training chambers these days that I don't actually get around to listening to hours of taped content. We're up to hours now, did you know that? Probably. You're someone who knows things. The facts, the details. It's intimidating as hell, but attractive. Think that might have something to do with how you said I was drawn to things that present a challenge.  

I get this feeling like you're going to be a big challenge, Spock. I look forward to seeing whether I'm up to it.

I think we would've gotten along as kids. You sound like a real firecracker. Something tells me that's part of why we connect so well now. You're a little bit of a rebel. Even if you don't know it, I can tell. I like that about you.

Anyway, it's probably a good thing we didn't know each other as kids because I would've beat the snot out of those Vulcan punks who were giving you a hard time. Not that you need me to, since it sounds like you did all right on your own. Still, it would've lengthened my odds on being a suitable match for a Vulcan prince by a long shot. Throwing punches isn't very regal.  

So I've heard, anyway.

I'll tell Bones you're on his side, AGAIN. I think it'll make him feel better about this whole thing. To tell you the truth, Spock, I think he's been way more nervous about my acclimation to Vulcan and its culture than I ever get.

Then again, I have a secret weapon up my sleeve. Hard to get uptight when I know I've got an expert Vulcan tutor on call.

Not that I think of you as a tutor, but it sure doesn't hurt.

Probably for the best you're not here in person, though. I think I might get distracted if I had to look at you and listen to all those boring etiquette tips at the same time. I'd listen, but my mind would definitely start to... Wander.  

So you're gonna help me undress you, huh, Spock? Sounds like the beginning of a good wedding night to me.

Have a good day.

I find it hard to believe you accepting hugs and kisses as often as I say it, but just in case -- hugs and kisses.

Jim."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: That would be a curious choice of locations in which to place my affections.
STARDATE: 2250.108
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

I would not anticipate or expect that you would listen multiple times to any of these recordings, as you are likely busy with your duties and to waste time on repetition would be to their detriment. I have attempted to make all my communications clear and concise so that repeat listening would not prove mandatory in order for thorough comprehension. If I have failed in these attempts I will endeavor to edit myself better in the future so that I do not waste your attention when it is being called elsewhere.

You are correct that I know how many hours, minutes, and seconds we have devoted to our recordings over the past one-hundred and four days. If you seek to know the exact duration I can inform you of the statistics I have gathered so far.

Know also that I am not on Doctor McCoy’s “side” and that interpretation of my show of solidarity is a misinterpretation of my position. The “side” I am on, Jim, is wholly yours, and if that includes aligning myself with your physician then it speaks well of said physician, as well as suggesting that his position is on your side as well. His duties are to remain vigilant in matters of your health and if I support him it is in support of you, rather than an act made against you.

Given your frustration at my perceived betrayal of the solidarity and trust we have built during our communications, I will allow that to inform my reaction to your suggestion that I am a “firecracker” and will not take offense to what would otherwise be an insult. As for being a rebel, I will assure you, I am not. Now that you are aware I was not insulting you by “siding” with Doctor McCoy, perhaps you will be inclined to rescind that insult.

If my presence would provide such an overt distraction then it is for the best that I did not attend Earth with the latest Vulcan delegation. Distractions at this time could prove disastrous. It was a fundamental element of my training to focus on various external stimuli simultaneously but as you have not received this training, our distance at this time remains ideal. 

When we meet, we will not be allowed privacy—not initially—either.

When we have achieved that privacy you hold in such high esteem, your anticipation—if unchecked—may prove equally disastrous. Maintain realistic expectations in order to avoid disappointment.

The act of undressing is merely the act of undressing. If you require assistance I will provide it.

Though perhaps your presence and participation in that which would otherwise be routine will have an unpredictable effect so that it becomes more than it once was.

Good night, Jim. I will not deny what you have offered via your now-familiar farewell.

And ex, oh, vee.”  


 

FROM: Jim 
TO: Spock
SUBJECT: Are you worried these are gonna go to a different James Tiberius Kirk not of Earth?
STARDATE: 2250.108
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock.

I never meant to insult you. If I did, I take it back. Obviously. I wouldn't say anything that you'd take offense to on purpose. I thought it was kind of a compliment, but if it's not then forget I ever said anything. Or do the Vulcan version of that, which is understanding I didn't mean it, I guess.

I did mean it, just not how it sounded.

I meant it in the way where you're flattered and not insulted, but then I guess Vulcans don't get flattered either.

There's gotta be a part of all this that appeals to the human side of you though, Spock. I tend to forget about it myself since it comes up so rarely. But you shouldn't act like it doesn't exist. You're gonna give yourself a complex that way. Which is different from being a complex person, don't get me wrong. I like that you're complicated. I don't think you should try and synthesize yourself down to your most basic self just because it's -- I don't know. Not easier. You don't go for easy. More palatable maybe.

I'm interested in getting to know both sides of you, that's all I mean. And I hope you don't think that's an insult.

You're the one who noticed, but I'm still trying to get on your good side. It would go against my prime directive to start offending you all over the place now. 

...

Usually I get that kind of thing out of the way right up front.

Anyway, it's fine. I get that you were only trying to look out for me. I don't do so well with other people doing that, but then I'm not so good at it myself either. So I guess I'm not gonna hold it against you. I could hold other stuff against you, but I wouldn't want to go getting my hopes up. Again.

I don't think I'm being particularly hopeful when I say that we'll have a lot more fun undressing than you're anticipating.

Trust me.

...And maybe I'll find a way to get us some of that privacy you seem to think will be in such short supply.

All I'm saying is that if there had been physical hugs and kisses for the number of times I've said it then we'd already be more than a little familiar with each other. If you know what I'm saying.

Hugs and kisses anyway though.

Jim."


 

FROM: Spock of Vulcan
TO: James Tiberius Kirk of Earth
SUBJECT: I do not understand.
STARDATE: 2250.109
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

Anticipation and imagination appear to—for lack of a better phrase—go hand in hand. Perhaps that explains the difficulty I tend to have with both. A similar difficulty for a similar indulgence.

You must understand that it was not merely a preference during my childhood that I silenced any potential of human instinct within me, should it have threatened to surface. It was human instinct which caused me to respond to the obvious taunts of my peers—which were logical, and would have been more easily disproven by a calm, dispassionate silence than an ultimately Pyrrhic assault. I gained nothing when I succumbed to those passions. Neither did they gain anything. 

A human weakness.

...So I thought.

But you are not incorrect when you suggest that the matter is more complex than a simple, hierarchical valuation, which would place one heritage above the other, lines starkly drawn between the two halves.

The choice as it was made—the choice as I made it—to adhere to the Vulcan side of myself was done for many reasons, and they were, I assure you, only logical. As I was living on Vulcan, being raised among Vulcans, and given the irrefutable truth of my father’s position, my duties were obvious to me. That “human nature” would have provided an obstacle was also obvious.

Though I have not known many humans and all my observations are based upon what I have learned through my studies, know that I have studied humanity extensively and my findings are not, as a whole, negative. My mother has given me cause to regard her actions, choices, composure and intellect in high esteem. The abilities of any individual, based upon their qualities, are all that is necessary to surpass general descriptors of race or standing. Every individual must be appraised on their own merits, rather than upon prejudices.

What I know...is not in question, though knowledge itself is in constant question. Even now it is peculiarly difficult to speak of myself and I am also ninety-eight-point-zero-five-seven-three percent certain that I would have better served us both with a topic that more closely resembles those we have already addressed. For example, our robes. And undressing, divesting ourselves of them. And other intimate physical actions best experienced in the company of another living and consensual adult organism with a tangible body.

I would not have spoken in this fashion at all if you were on any other side of mine than one which can generally be interpreted as positive—or, in plainer terms, “good.”

Goodnight, Jim.

Ex, oh, vee.”


 

FROM: Jim 
TO: Spock
SUBJECT: You can just address these to Jim. 
STARDATE: 2250.109
SECURE CHANNEL

"Hey, Spock,

You don't have to feel like I'm only entertained by the dirty stuff, Spock. You know. The naughty parts of our letters. I know that I come across as single-minded, probably because it's easy for me to get caught up in the things that immediately attract my interest. I've got a short attention span and I have to admit the long distance has made me antsy when it comes to matters of -- let's call it romantic intimacy. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the other stuff.

I like hearing about your childhood, even if it makes me crazy. I wish I could go back in time and just smack every one of those kids in the head for you. Not that you'd like it. But it pisses me off thinking about you as a kid there all by yourself without a buddy or anything. Mitchell might be a shit now but he was a good friend growing up. And Sam before he left. Hell, even Bones calms down about my allergies long enough to have a good time with me sometimes. I can't imagine going through everything alone.

I admire that about you.

So I guess I wouldn't change it.

No, I still might. I don't like the idea of you being in pain, Spock, even if it made you into someone great. It's not something I'm good at, sacrificing one for the other. Doesn't seem like a fair compromise.

...

I guess what I'm saying is that I want you to be happy. Not all the time, I'm not looking to hold you emotionally hostage or anything like that. Even humans with all their emotional baggage aren't in a good mood all the time. But I'd like it if I could make you happy.

Sometimes I think I do.

I wish I could blame the contents of this letter on a brain-scrambling session in the atmospheric chamber, but I've started writing you before I head in, so that I can go right to sleep and pass out without embarrassing myself too much beforehand. It's not getting any easier, but I've stopped passing out and getting woken up by Bones jabbing oxygen compounds into my leg, so I guess I'm making progress. I was kidding myself if I thought I was gonna get to escape to Vulcan without bringing him along though.

I think he should meet I-Chaya. That'll be a fun introduction.

... Follow-up, I think we should practice undressing each other as many times as possible before the actual ceremony. Maybe if I drill the routine enough times I can log it away in muscle memory and I won't have to worry about fatigue impairing my performance, if you know what I mean.

Hugs and kisses, Spock.

I'm not particular as to where those kisses land.

Jim.”


 

FROM: Spock
TO: Jim
SUBJECT: I have complied with your request.
STARDATE: 2250.110
SECURE CHANNEL

“Jim, peace and long life.

Your commitment has been noted. It will provide its own rewards when you have a higher statistical likelihood of not collapsing even once during the marriage ceremony.

However, as your Doctor McCoy has provided his own method of assistance in the form of oxygen compound hypodermic injections, I do not believe it would be untoward or overly generous to offer my additional assistance when I am able.

Should you, at the time of our Vulcan marriage ceremony, anticipate that you are on the verge of collapse—and your honesty will be essential, matters of pride and stubbornness set aside for the greater good—we may establish a private means of communicating that fact beforehand, so that I will be able to lend my support. If Doctor McCoy accompanies you to Vulcan as your medical assistant, a potentiality that is not unwise given your multitude of physical ailments and propensity for behavior that incurs physical danger, then he may also supply me with oxygen compound hypodermics, a number of which to be determined at his discretion, along with a lesson on how to administer them most effectively based on my preparatory studies of the task and his firsthand experience.

Or I may offer my own physical support. Should you find it necessary to lean on me, as we will be standing in close proximity for the majority of the ritual, you have my express permission to do so.

I understand that support is one of the many important points of agreement in any marriage, whether the individuals are Vulcan, human, half of each, or otherwise. Even at such a time before we are joined in marriage, it is my intention to provide that support. As such, I will encourage practice of any sort. Your dedication to a state of full preparation is, as already mentioned, noted and supported.

You have already provided support in return. There is no need to question yourself as to whether or not you have performed these duties sufficiently. It would seem that these provisions are instinctive—natural—to your person. Perhaps it is that definition of “human” which is most complimentary.

Jim.

...I have thought, due to the nature of our recent conversation, about the task of undressing you. In order to ready myself to the best of my abilities I have studied the garments we will be wearing and have determined the most efficient means of their removal. Will efficiency be appreciated, or will postponement of the desired state in order to heighten the promise of its achievement be preferred?

When I have set my mind to the pursuit of purposeful knowledge in the past, that “lonely” state—which may have once been painful—has proved less so over time. The same has proven true when I have set my mind to thoughts of you.

I trust this is all too human. Sarek would not approve. My mother, however, might not disapprove.

Good night, Jim. Ex, oh, vee.”


 

Chapter Text

*

Twelve hours in, and Jim still remembers Spock’s last message.

Which is good. It’s a good thing. If he didn’t remember the letter, he’d think the person he thought he knew isn’t also the person standing next to him. That the person he thought he knew could’ve been the product of wishful thinking.

Spock’s last message. They’re actually lighting torches. Because it’s already hot, and they’re Vulcans, and they’re logically making it even hotter. Jim’s fingers twitch, the air drying his sweat as soon as it beads on his temple and on the back of his neck, especially in the hollow at the base of his spine.

Spock’s last message. He signed off the same as always.

I will see you—literally—tomorrow. Good night, Jim. Ex, oh, vee.

Like the letters had nothing to do with each other. Jim could hear the commas in his pauses. These little gaps he thought about bridging practically every hour on the hour—more generally, all the time.

There are none of those pauses in the desert, on the sand, bare feet on each burning grain until Jim imagines he can count them. One, two, skip to a hundred, skip to three hundred, can’t feel my big toe, or my heel, seven hundred, stop lighting torches.

Twelve hours in. Less than an hour of standing in place after too many hours of walking an old path between sandy red mountains and shimmering orange sunlight, the air undulating, water and cold San Francisco bay breezes and sheeting rain and motorcycles a distant memory. And Spock’s last message, Spock’s voice betraying no nervousness, replaced by the ascetic silhouette at Jim’s side, the dignified hand gesture forming the V with long, pale fingers.

Jim thought, at the time, getting red-hot under the collar for more reasons than just the heat, I’ve talked dirty about those fingers, and realized too late he’d stuck his tongue out to the corner of his mouth. Like a dog trying to breathe by panting.

Twelve hours in and Jim’s the only one who knows about dirty talking and Spock’s fingers—Spock’s hands currently tucked into the sleeves of his robes—because Spock’s profile belongs to a stranger, even if Spock’s voice belongs to Jim.

And Spock’s hands.

Hand.

Technically.

In marriage.

But that’s an Earth thing.

He’s trying not to think about that. Earth things. It seems selfish, even self-serving, to travel back there in the middle of a Vulcan ceremony. Like he’s asserting his own traditions over the new ones he’s supposed to be embracing.

He remembers his directive. He’s the bridge between two worlds. A diplomatic envoy. He’s probably dying of dehydration and acute heat prostration. Pretty soon he’s not gonna be able to assert control over his body against Vulcan gravity, let alone against remembering, fondly, the simplicity and relatively forgiving elemental compositions of Earth traditions.

Vulcans can say whatever they want about humans but they know how to throw a party. And their torches are mostly electric instead of giant bonfires, flames radiating orange heat that seeps into Jim’s skin. They slick his body with sweat under his heavy robes and it stiffens as it dries, leaving him itchy all over.

Salty too, probably.

Vulcans don’t like too much seasoning on their food.

Jim’s not thinking about Spock tasting him. Definitely not. Probably. He’s too lightheaded for thinking, but not too lightheaded for sneaking looks at the dappled shadows cast over Spock’s profile in the torchlight.

The first gong reverberates through his body, from the soles of his feet, pulsing through his knees, his gut, his lungs. It’s followed by a series of chimes, sounding like the firelight looks.

Spock doesn’t react, doesn’t even twitch. He holds his ground, still and unflinching as stone, like every other Vulcan standing witness.

Maybe Jim’s hearing things. Auditory hallucinations.

Well, it wouldn’t be the first time. He’s starting to wonder whether he imagined that fondness in Spock’s voice, dozens of recordings he saved over the course of months and listened to in the early mornings, hiding his PADD and his head under a pillow to block out the sunlight.

If they could just talk to each other, then he’d know for sure.

But in twelve hours, they’ve barely spoken two words.

Jim’s spent longer than twelve hours dreaming of the secrets they could share under a moonless sky. None of them involved a desert lit up with fire, countless Vulcans in a lot less clothing than Jim had to put on, banging ceremonial gongs and shaking what looks like a set of cymbals strung together on an abacus.

He thinks he should write to Spock and ask him what that’s called. Except that he doesn’t need to sit down at a PADD and fire off a message to Spock because Spock’s right next to him. Closer than ever. Except for the parade of Vulcans and their tiny cymbals, it’s downright cozy.

Honestly, Jim misses the letters.

At least when they couldn’t see each other he never had to worry about making eye contact.

When he writes home, he’ll say it was fine. Nothing to worry about. No fainting, none that he can remember, and Bones would know if he had. Did the family, all of Earth proud. Without the training, Sam would never be able to say that. Firelight on the cymbals; the rumbling of the gongs pulsing through the sand, since after all there’s no deep, buried veins of water to claim that right. The stars he studied on his PADD are right there overhead, but the black sky muddies with curls of rising smoke from the bonfires and the incense.

The noise stops, but it’s like watching a distant star explode. It takes time for the truth to travel, and by the point it finally reaches Jim’s ears, they’re still ringing on their own. He squints but he stops himself from swaying.

It’s then—as brief as the whisper of a cool night wind—that Jim feels the side of Spock’s hand brushing against his.

An ancient Vulcan with the craziest hair mounts a pedestal of rough-hewn sandrock and holds up both hands.

Twelve hours in, and just like that, they’re actually done.

*

In the silence, Jim’s private quarters, overlooking the desert with the bonfires dying one by one, Bones hands him an electrolyte stabilizing drink in a wrinkly pack and it tastes like blueberry pie but also like gasoline. Jim chokes it back greedily despite its shortcomings, wheezing when it’s nothing but an empty curl of silver packaging, liquids squeezed dry.

The familiar pinch of a hypo stuck in his lower leg barely brings a flinch, probably because his limbs are way too tired for basic reflexes.

‘Congratulations,’ Bones says. ‘Although I still don’t know if this looks like a wedding, or like a damn funeral.’

Jim manages a grin for Bones’ sake and executes a soggy thumbs up so he won’t worry. Not any more than he usually does, anyway. The oxygen goes straight to his brain without passing go. His fingertips are tingling. Jim stretches the muscles in his face, testing his limits, but everything seems to be working. The stuff he can’t test yet—the stuff he can’t test with Bones—is just gonna have to wait until the last second. He’ll save it for when it counts. For when Spock shows up.

When Spock shows up.

‘As your primary health care physician, your stubbornness,’ Bones adds, like he’s the touch telepath finally coming home to a planet of his peers, ‘I’ve gotta advise you against any strenuous activities tonight.’

‘And as my friend?’ Jim slurs.

‘Who says we’re friends?’ Bones gives him a look that doubles as warning. It’s his seriously, kid, don’t try anything stupid look.

Jim doesn’t need to touch to be a telepath. He can tell what Bones is thinking loud and clear from across the room—maybe even across the galaxy.

‘Come on, Bones.’ Jim’s whole body’s one big ache, which is an improvement from the permeating numbness he started suffering around hour thirteen—provisional time not factored into the ceremony; the thirteenth hour was what it took for the procession to get Jim back to the safety of his quarters, where he could collapse onto the edge of a hard bed without making a political statement about weak human stock not being up for the challenges of the landscape. ‘It’s my wedding night.’

‘You can say it with whatever inflection you like,’ Bones says, ‘but it still doesn’t pull more oxygen into the goddamn atmosphere, and last I checked that’s what your muscles need to function, Jim. Same as everybody else.’

‘Well, now you’re just being mean.’

Jim’s on his back. He doesn’t remember lying down but it’s a position he can handle. His arms protest the strain it takes to get up on his elbows and his head feels about as dense as he told Spock it was once, too heavy to keep up.

So long as that’s the only thing he has trouble keeping up tonight, Jim won’t complain. He grins, knowing it’ll drive Bones crazy. And the crazier he gets, the sooner Bones’ll leave.

Jim’s gonna miss the oxygen hypos, but he’s not looking to enact some kind of voyeuristic threesome just so he can breathe properly through his wedding night.

Wedding night.

‘I’ll be horizontal for most of it,’ he adds.

Bones pulls a face like Jim told him they’ll be eating gagh the whole trip instead of typical Vulcan fare. At least he’s packing up, rolling his medical kit away.

‘At least I can trust that mean-eyed fiancé—no, husband of yours—not to get swept up in the moment.’

‘He’s gonna get lost in my eyes,’ Jim says.

‘I got gongs ringing in my ears, kid.’ Bones shudders. ‘I don’t need your nonsense on top of it.’

‘Maybe you should leave me one of those supplements before you go.’ Jim wiggles his eyebrows, making them dance like sluggish caterpillars, one after the other.

‘Maybe you should follow medical advice.’

The door chimes, just once. It’s electronic, not an echo of the cymbals in the desert, but Jim feels a trace of that fiery heat over his skin all the same.

‘Guess that’s my cue to get lost,’ Bones says. ‘If you pull something, don’t call. If you’re suffocating, don’t not call. Enough oxygen in your gray matter to handle that?’

‘You’re really confusing,’ Jim tells him.

He sits up just as he realizes what Bones leaving actually means. Bones going. Bones already gone. Bones out of the picture—only Jim remaining. Bones was the last stanchion of human illogical sentimentality between Jim and the main doors, the metaphorical PADD screen that could’ve stood guard—but that’s a little too much navel-gazing when Jim is half-horizontal.

He turns the lurch into a last-ditch lounge, resting his full weight on a numb elbow. The main doors to his royal chambers slide open and Spock’s nothing but a shadow waiting in the doorframe, tall and lean, hard shoulders uninviting, face hidden by the dim backlighting.

Because of Vulcan eyesight. Their eyes are sensitive to bright lights and Jim spent a week—maybe more, but he had to stop counting after day seven—picturing Spock doing the Earth-tour with him wearing a pair of designer black sunglasses.

Jim swallows and wonders if Spock can see that: the flush on his throat, every blink and swipe of his lips with his tongue in the dark, the way his chest rises and falls too noticeably, but it’s overriding his vanity. No place for pride in the desert.

‘I wasn’t talking to myself,’ Jim says. With a thousand different ways to say hello in every language he knows, even Vulcan, that’s what he chooses. He doesn’t even let the silence linger, heavy with promise and maybe a sliver, a streak, of repressed Vulcan desire. ‘Bones was here. Now he’s not. I was talking to him. Mostly telling him I’m all right and he needed to accept that on my wedding night.’

Spock doesn’t move but his robes do, the slightest shift, the bottom hem trailing over the floor. Jim’s throat tightens into a dry knot and the last thing he needs is to discover he’s allergic to his fiancé.

His husband.

It’s not a when anymore; it’s a now situation and Spock isn’t saying anything to bring the present forward into their shared future. The brush of Spock’s fingers could’ve been an accident.

But Vulcan’s don’t do accidents.

Jim clears his throat, vision blurring for a flicker before everything evens out. Spock: still shadowy. Door: still open. Brain: still working. Vulcan: still too damn hot. ‘Not even a Dif-tor heh smusma, Spock?’

‘That,’ Spock replies, so Jim finally knows it’s him, ‘would be an unusual greeting to offer in this particular set of circumstances.’

‘Oh?’ Even Jim’s eyebrows feel heavy; he shouldn’t have wasted what was left of his expressive wiggling on Bones. ‘Then what is a customary greeting?’

It takes concentration and effort—neither of them traits Jim likes to show on a good day—to lift his hand, spreading shaky fingers down the center to form the v he’s typed countless times before.

All that practice means he doesn’t screw up, but he can’t hold it for long, either.

Spock raises one eyebrow like it’s as simple for him as breathing. Maybe it is. Breathing’s not so simple for Jim right now, so he can’t compare. Spock’s Vulcan half must’ve given him lungs of steel.

His human half has yet to reveal itself. And Jim’s looking, studying the symmetry of Spock’s features for some glimmer of recognition in his dark eyes, shrouded under heavy brows.

He can afford to catch his breath. But he might as well be surrounded by the torches again, greedy fires sucking all the scant oxygen out of the thin air.

‘As I have never been in this situation before, I can offer only speculative counsel,’ Spock replies.

Because of course he does. Even in speech, Jim can hear him crossing his t’s, dotting his i’s, always speaking in complete sentences.

‘Yeah.’ Jim leans back. He’s not lying down. He should be getting up, but the sudden rush of blood to his extremities is definitely gonna make him pass out if he tries.

If Spock would only come over.

If Jim could only breathe, he’d make him.

But he was in the middle saying something. The oxygen’s not getting to his brain the way it used to and Jim’s starting to remember why Bones liked jabbing the hypo closer to the cranium, even if Jim’s neck was starting to get sore and bruise-y.

‘You guys are big on the ceremonial prep but not so much with the morning after. The night after. Our night.’

Their wedding night.

Eventually, thinking that phrase enough, writing it, living it, Jim’ll start believing it the way the hazy smoke and deep-throated Vulcan chanting was too—for lack of a better word—alien to convince him of.

When Spock doesn’t say anything, Jim knows he’s gonna have to take charge of the situation, but that means taking charge of himself on a molecular level.

His muscles will have to deal.

‘Get in here.’ Jim sits up, just not all at once. ‘Or don’t—but you’re making me nervous standing there with the door open like we’re expecting guests. I’m not up for company right now, Spock, I don’t know if you’ve noticed.’

‘Your condition is apparent,’ Spock says.

But he steps inside. The door hisses shut behind him. Jim’s lungs might as well be caught in the grooves, the particulars of the sensation something he can’t explain. Not to Spock.

Sure, it feels like my vital organs were just trapped in a dilithium mining accident. Lungs punctured. Heart squished. No chance of survival. Seconds left to live. And the thing is, Spock, I seriously like it.

Except like’s not the right word.

Jim pats the bed next to him, and if it’s awkward, it’s awkward.

It’s gonna be awkward.

At least Spock doesn’t hesitate. He does something else instead, something Jim doesn’t have a name for yet, including a barely-noticeable nod of the head, long legs folding under heavy robes. Jim starts to sweat just looking at all that thick fabric and also just thinking about the cool skin hidden underneath it.

The gravitational center of the bed shifts with Spock’s weight. That’s physics, Jim’s favorite kind. The physical. He steals a sideways glance Gaila taught him the exact triangulation of; he’s positive it’d work on any other green-blooded organism with a pulse, a heartbeat. Spock accepts it, acknowledges it, observes it with the clinical impassivity of a scientist enlarging an atypical sample and Jim doesn’t want to think about what kind of sample he most closely resembles.

‘Your temperature appears to be elevated,’ Spock says.

Jim doesn’t think about the lack of communication, the silence, the stupid buds of hope that kept blooming and dying and blooming on the long trip from San Francisco to Vulcan, the same growth that refused to die under Vulcan’s scathing sun and Spock’s equally scorching formality. Impersonal. Implacable. Sometimes when Jim’s thinking about Spock he’s reminded of a nightmare he had as a kid: that he was trapped inside a dictionary, running from definition to definition, being sucked into and trapped under the weight of all the meanings of all the words.

‘So you’re saying I’m hot?’ Jim asks.

Spock pauses. ‘Did Doctor McCoy administer the requisite treatment for the demands of the ceremony you have just endured?’

‘Yeah—yeah, Spock. Never met a hypo he didn’t like. I can show you the injection site. Did you just call me hot or not?’

‘You already know that I do not find it productive to repeat myself.’

If Jim closes his eyes, two things are gonna happen. One: he won’t be able to open them again. Two: it’ll be like being at home, fresh out of the atmospheric training chamber, listening to one of Spock’s recorded messages almost, almost giving in to emotion, almost saying something nice, all the almosts building inside Jim’s gut, only to be silenced with the same old goodnight.

Jim doesn’t close his eyes. He groans.

‘Do you require further medical attention?’ It could be a trick of the light—or lack thereof—but Jim chooses to interpret Spock’s response as a hair too quick.

Jim shifts his hand and just like that they touch, his smallest knuckle brushing Spock’s pinky finger. He’s no Vulcan, but he feels the answering tension in Spock’s frame when he stiffens, posture hard under the soft folds of his robes.

They can’t be as soft as they look.

Jim’s touching Spock before he can help himself, reaching out to gather results for his hypothesis. Spock’s gotta like it; he’s all about research. The fabric buckles easily under Jim’s fingers, a dense, deft weave that’s lighter than Jim expected. It’s voluminous enough to hide the shape of Spock’s body, but Jim knows it’s under there somewhere. Somewhere close.

‘Jim,’ Spock says.

‘That’s more like it.’ Jim’s fingers push their way under an artful drape, brushing a clasp and a leather tie.

‘You have not yet answered my question.’

‘I’m ship-shape,’ Jim says. The words slur together, too many s’s held in place by sharp p’s. He hasn’t eaten anything that’d make his tongue swell, but his fine motor skills were the first thing to go when it came to retaining vital functions. ‘Fit for duty. Ready and willing.’

‘You are delirious,’ Spock observes.

‘We’re married,’ Jim replies.

If there was a PADD between them, he could imagine Spock looking fond and indulgent instead of impassive and still. But there’s no technology, no careful distance to provide a buffer between Jim and his hurt pride. He tugs at the leather cord instead, pulling the knot loose and slipping it free of the clasp.

‘Jim.’ Spock’s hand closes over his wrist, against his sleeve. There’s no skin on skin contact; Jim can feel the throb of his pulse under Spock’s fingers, his tendons twitching when he flexes the joint.

Yeah, it’s awkward. By Earth standards, this would barely qualify as a bad date, let alone a honeymoon. But there’s no human alive who’d choose Vulcan as a newlywed destination. A lot of sand doesn’t make the desert any more of a beach.

‘Spock,’ Jim says, ‘I’m not dying.’

Not exactly poetry, even to pointed Vulcan ears. And not his best seduction tactic by a long shot. Spock’s eyebrow quirks into a sharp arch. He hasn’t pulled his hand away and he hasn’t let go of Jim’s wrist.

‘I am relieved to hear it,’ Spock says, ‘as that condition would cause a considerable amount of potential tension between our worlds.’

Jim cocks his head to one side. It’s more of a loll than a come-on, but it has the intended effect. ‘Seriously?

‘It would be a loss of significant, general concern.’

Spock.’

Spock’s pauses—Jim can’t measure them. There’s bound to be something special about each one but there’s no translation; Spock never gave Jim a dictionary of Vulcan-to-human subtleties to help him acclimatize, the Vulcan substitute for slang. Just a handful of milliseconds to work with.

Jim tells himself he likes his odds.

‘Spock,’ he repeats.

Even though he already knows Spock doesn’t find it productive to repeat himself.

He already knows plenty, in fact: how Spock says goodnight; when and where Spock chooses to give a personal topic a wide berth; that Spock needs to script his less-formal correspondence like it’s a state address. It’s the scripting part Jim’s oxygen-deprived brain hangs on. You can script a speech, but you can’t plan every contingency for even a simple dialogue. And when you throw action into the mix, well, no wonder Spock’s shoulders are stiff, his posture like brittle sandstone.

‘...Jim,’ Spock replies.

It’s a start. Jim thumbs the leather cord, rolling it against a lighter, thinner layer of whatever it is Spock is wearing underneath his robes. The weave is soft and Jim’s fingers are close enough to the skin that the inclination of Spock’s chin tilting toward him is equal parts question and encouragement.

Or Jim could just be reading too much into too little—reading, as always, between Spock’s lines.

‘I’m pretty sure you said I was hot. Let’s, let’s go back to that.’ He can’t find any wrinkles. Somehow, he’s not surprised. He creates a few, rolling the shirt between his thumb and forefinger, then pretends like he’s helping out by smoothing it down again. He waits for Spock to shiver; Spock tenses without the release that makes the tension worth it, that makes it feel good.

‘If your temperature remains elevated in the morning, it will be necessary to contact Doctor McCoy,’ Spock says.

Jim focuses on the stuff that is sexy. Spock’s deep voice. Spock’s cool body. Spock still gripping Jim’s wrist, not pulling him closer, not pushing him off. Spock’s knees under the folds of his robes bumping Jim’s knees in his lighter robes. Not to mention all the promises they made each other and the relative stillness they’ve encountered now.

It’s supposed to be easy, just breathing, learning to breathe together; for the anticipation, the possibilities, the chances they’re gonna have, it should be easy.

Jim’d make a joke about it being hard, about being hard, but then he’d spend more breath than he has left explaining why it’s a joke in the first place, and by then, there’s no recapturing the moment.

‘Jim,’ Spock says, almost without warning, ‘if your intentions are to initiate coitus on this night, I cannot condone it. The physical stress would be too great and the risk to your health equally so. Fornication shall have to be postponed until such a time as you are physically able.’

‘Oh my god.’ Jim breathes. It doesn’t do anything for his lungs. ‘Say coitus again, Spock.’

‘I believe I have already expressed my thoughts on the value of repetition,’ Spock says.

It’s a mouthful of words, none of them even close to what Jim’s looking for. Which makes sense, since this scenario is miles away from what he envisioned—the wedding night that started to come together in his mind after he and Spock really started getting to know each other. It’s different, too, from what he first pictured, years back, when he was too tired to keep his mind from wandering to a distant future in which he might, possibly, settle down with the right Orion.

The stiff, self-conscious details ground him in reality. Normally, ‘reality’ isn’t necessarily a good thing, but since Jim’s head feels like it’s about to balloon up and drift off into the thin atmosphere without him, he figures he’ll take all the grounding he can get.

Spock’s holding him, but he’s not holding him down.

Jim reaches up this time, touching his first three fingers to the side of Spock’s throat. Spock’s pulse jumps but he doesn’t swallow. His Adam’s apple holds steady, still as a ship with no forward momentum. The external inertia dampeners are still in effect.

Jim just has to figure out the right combination of touches that’ll disengage the failsafes.

‘Look,’ he says. Spock widens his eyes a hair’s breadth, like he thought that was a literal command. Jim’s lips twitch, but he manages to keep from laughing. ‘All I’m saying is, there’s no reason to set down ground rules for something that hasn’t even happened yet.’

‘It is not going to happen,’ Spock clarifies.

‘I’ve heard that before,’ Jim says. It’s not worth it to make the joke, but his brain to mouth filter’s on the fritz. ‘…Just, uh, never from my husband.’

Spock’s skin twitches under his fingers, muscles and tendons responding where he won’t—or can’t. Jim likes to imagine it’s Spock’s human half taking over, the half that remembers all the things Jim wrote about Spock’s hands and his mouth. Getting his tongue around those fingers, tip slicking the delicate spaces between.

Jim’s sweating again.

He didn’t think he had the water to lose.

Spock’s nostrils flare and Jim tries to remember whether Vulcans have heightened sense of smell on top of everything else. If it’s really going to be that unfair for the rest of their lives together.

‘There are—ways to achieve the intimacy you are seeking without exerting your system past the point of reasonable recovery,’ Spock says.

‘Is that— is that your version of talking dirty, Spock?’

Jim watches Spock process the question before answering. ‘It is not. ...Not by your definition.’

Dirty talk. (n.) Something I’ll be doing plenty of in the future, this doesn’t actually have anything to do with cleanliness or the literal definition of dirty. It’s innuendo—you know what innuendo is, right, Spock? It’s saying one thing but meaning another. Sometimes it’s in the way you say it; sometimes it has to do with wordplay, puns, whatever. Ask me for more examples. Seriously. Ask me for them.

Even though Jim wrote all that down, Spock never asked.

Maybe Jim should’ve added a please at the end, but even here, even now, he doesn’t think he has to beg.

‘That’s the thing about dirty talk, though,’ Jim says. ‘It doesn’t have any strict parameters. If you wanted to read a definition to me out loud and you were thinking about me at the same time, that’d fall under the general umbrella of talking dirty. Technically. It’s more about the intent, the meaning. And participation.’ Jim takes a deep breath. ‘I’d give a lesson right now, but I’m pretty sure your planet’s atmosphere is trying to crush my lungs.’

Anybody else’d give a sentimental response, something like concern—or worse, like worry. Jim tilts his focus and lifts his eyes and sees Spock monitoring, clinical as ever, before he raises his hand to Jim’s chest, waiting in the thin air between them.

Jim’s breath catches.

And he thought he was having trouble breathing before.

‘S’okay, Spock.’ Jim inclines his chin toward the general chest area—Bones would be proud of him, passing the tried and true touch your chin to your chest test with flying colors. Spock remains where he is and as far as foreplay goes, Jim’s crazy for it. Crazy about it. Also being driven crazy by it, but that’s the best kind of crazy there is. He might pass out before he feels Spock’s fingers on him—which is the thrill of the challenge right there. ‘I mean, I’m practically throwing myself at you and you’re just gonna... You gonna leave me hanging?’

‘Leave you hanging.’ Spock’s eyes deepen with recognition. ‘I do not intend to leave you hanging, Jim. But I cannot encourage you to incur activities that will harm your person.’

‘I’m gonna lie down now,’ Jim says, seconds before it happens mostly of its own accord, ‘so what you do next—make me wonder if you really want this or show me we’re on the same page here—I guess that’s up to you.’

The bed’s hard but Jim doesn’t mind. He’ll take anything, so long as he’s horizontal. The ceiling above is simple, uncomplicated, nothing like his life, which is the opposite. Time passes, agonizingly slowly, Jim’s heartbeat erratic when it quickens with hopeful anticipation, then slows from lack of oxygen, then quickens again. Can’t teach that particular organ anything.

‘Jim,’ Spock says.

‘Yeah?’

‘I was uncertain whether or not you were still conscious.’

‘Still conscious, Spock.’

‘If you intend to remain horizontal and should you have no objections, I will join you.’

‘Join me horizontally?’

‘Indeed.’

‘Join me in our wedding bed?’

‘I have already confirmed—’

‘I’m savoring the moment,’ Jim says. ‘It’s a... It’s a... Nngh.’

‘I did not catch that last remark,’ Spock says, with just a whisper of human colloquial flair. Jim might be delirious, half-conscious and oxygen-deprived, but he knows what he heard.

Nothing wrong with his ears, although they don’t look like anyone else’s on Vulcan and Bones hasn’t checked them in a while.

Nngh,’ Jim repeats. He draws out the consonants, pushing his face into the pillow.

What passes for a pillow on Vulcan, anyway. He’s pretty sure Earth representatives had to pull some strings to get him anything soft and comfortable. Judging from what he’s seen so far, he’s half-expecting Spock to tell them this is a one-time deal for their wedding and the rest of the time it’s traditional to sleep on hot rocks in the middle of the mountains.

The bed doesn’t creak, but Jim feels the mattress dip behind his knees where they’re bent, Spock’s weight settling behind him, Spock’s chest at his back. It’s not too much exertion for Jim to wiggle back against him, closing the narrow gap Spock’s discretion chose to leave. 

He can already tell he’s going to have to be the one to make the leap. He knew that much from their communications.

But Spock wrote first.

It’s those details Jim keeps hanging on, the inconsistencies in Spock’s Vulcan logic. Jim’s chest swells under another breath and he feels something heavy slide around his ribs. Spock’s arm nudges under Jim’s at the crook of his elbow, hand curling against his side. 

Jim watches them in the dim light: short nails and long, elegant fingers tucked against his clothes. There’s nothing about Spock that’s delicate, but somehow, in comparison, Jim feels supersized and clumsy, like he’s got oven mitts for hands, a motorcycle helmet for a head.

It’s heavy enough.

‘Jim.’ Spock’s breath against the nape of his neck is warmer than his skin.

Even put in the position of little spoon, Jim’s aware of his bulk, the extra mass Bones said he’d sweat off within two weeks.

It’s been twelve hours and he doesn’t feel any lighter. Just damp.

‘Yeah, Spock. That’s...not how I expected to make you say my name, but, it’ll do. For now.’

‘You find this reiteration to be pleasing?’ Spock asks. The question stirs all the tiny, golden hairs at the back of Jim's neck, making them stand on end.

‘Repetition.’ Jim’s not at dictionary definition levels but despite the heaviness of his limbs, the dull, dead weight of his body, his brain is still going, his heart still pumping. ‘It’s not so bad, when you do it right. For the right reasons. To establish, uh, rhythm.’

The tingling at the back of Jim’s neck is the good kind, not the call-Bones kind. Jim closes his eyes—or lets them close, not fighting the impulses, the instincts.

‘In this instance, ‘routine’ may be considered a synonym,’ Spock says.

‘Uh-huh.’ Memory sparks and flares, then quiets with the bonfires outside the window in the dark distance, guttering when they burn down to the sand. It doesn’t offer anything; it doesn’t keep the fires burning. Jim’s brain can’t keep the internal fires burning because there’s not enough fuel. ‘You like routine—right, Spock?’

‘To establish a routine that maximizes individual efficiency is logical.’

‘But it’s not logical to spoon on a planet as hot as Vulcan.’

‘The essence of compromise,’ Spock begins.

He stops when Jim lifts his fingers to his bottom lip, kissing the top knuckles. Spock shifts. Jim grins into a yawn, hot breath slurring, sleepily, against Spock’s fingertips. ‘More where that came from,’ Jim promises.

When he tells this story later—if he ever finds someone to tell it to—it won’t involve losing consciousness between lazy kisses on the back of Spock’s hand, one with the sand and the night, a married man.

*

Chapter Text

When Jim opens his eyes, he’s alone in the bed. It’s him, a pillow that’s only rumpled on the part he’s been lying on, and the crushing weight on his chest keeping him company.

He takes a few, steadying breaths and the sensation eases, lifting as he reorients himself.

Window. Curtains fluttering in the hot breeze. Austere walls; tapestries; a table with a platter of his old friend the sash-savas and a pot of tea. The familiar smell of the brew is cut by the less-familiar backdrop: sunlight scouring sand and Jim’s own, extremely abundant sweat, legs tangled in the blankets where he must’ve half-kicked them off in the night, due to a latent instinct for self-preservation he never knew he had.

He can’t wait to tell Bones. Leaving out the part where he passed out in Spock’s arms and probably drooled on his hands.

Actually, scratch that. Better not talk to Bones for a while.

After a few false starts, Jim manages to gain enough momentum to roll onto his stomach from his back. Hot air hits the nape of his neck, but at least it’s fresh; it doesn’t cool Jim’s skin but it dries the sweat. He wraps his arms around the pillow and squashes his face into it until he can see white starbursts on the backs of his eyelids, stretching until he can wiggle all of his toes.

‘Ah.’ The voice behind him is the same voice as the one Spock shared in the night, but the Vulcan sunlight makes it a little more real, and Jim’s position makes him a little more embarrassed. ‘Are these mandatory calisthenics of...some kind?’

Jim’s lips purse of their own volition. He contemplates his options. Smothering himself on his pillow wouldn’t take much effort. He’s halfway there already.

Suffocated his first night on Vulcan is embarrassing as far as royal obituaries go, but Jim can’t decide if it’s worse than turning over and facing Spock the night after their wedding.

Turning over and facing Spock after waking up fully clothed the night after their wedding.

...While engaged in his own version of a morning workout that’s really nothing more than a last-ditch effort at tricking his limbs into thinking they’re getting enough oxygen to move.

No paparazzi, Jim reminds himself. The only people who are gonna have an exclusive pass to this moment are him and his husband. Not that it matters, since Spock’s the one he’s looking to impress in the first place, but the relative privacy is supposed to be a relief.

‘Jim,’ Spock says.

There’s at least one good thing that came out of last night. Jim breathes in and out, dragging his head off the pillow. He thought he was gonna have to answer to James Tiberius Kirk of Earth for another year or so until he could convince Spock to unclench—and despite the reputation he has on Earth, his head isn’t so big that he needs formality in the bedroom.

There’s bright sunlight streaming in through the open window. Jim flinches away from it on instinct before he remembers he doesn’t have to look out for photographers.

‘Yeah, Spock?’

‘I thought perhaps you had been rendered unconscious a second time,’ Spock admits.

‘If I was, it wouldn’t be a very good calisthenics program,’ Jim says.

It’s not pillow talk, but Jim’s head isn’t on his pillow anymore. They’ve moved on, transcended to something different altogether. Spock said something about taking a long bath. Jim can’t conceive of a temperature warmer than this one, but he could stand to flake off the salt-sweats that’ve dried to his skin over the course of the night.

‘…As the purpose of a calisthenics program is to promote good health, I must concede to your point.’

‘Was that a joke?’ Jim finally, finally manages to reorient himself enough that he can find Spock in the room.

Yeah. There he is.

He’s silhouetted by the early dawn light, standing as stiff as one of the torches planted in the midnight sand. His hands are folded behind his back, hair straight and impossibly neat, not to mention impossibly soft-looking even to Jim’s bleary eyes.

If he’s gotten up and bathed already, that’s it as far as Jim’s concerned. The wedding’s off.

But it’s too late for that. The wrinkled ceremonial robes he’s slept in are proof enough of that. No returns. No turning back now. After the fit he threw when it looked like he wasn’t going to be heading to Vulcan after all—a reaction that was part stubbornness, part something else nobler and less predictable—he wouldn’t be able to sell the idea to himself, much less to anyone else.

And there’s Spock’s queen mother to consider, not to mention his royal father, with eyes that, as far as Jim’s concerned, might be turned up to the setting one higher than stun.

Not enough to kill; just enough to incapacitate. And terrify. Can’t forget terrify.

Jim attempts a grin with half of his face half-numb from a pinched nerve somewhere in his neck. ‘You took a bath without me, huh?’

Without the numbness, it still wouldn’t work to get Spock flustered. But at least Jim has the excuse, if not a soft bed, to fall back on when Spock remains, inevitably, unmoved.

‘I could not be certain of when you would naturally awaken. Without knowing how your schedule would be affected by the stresses of a new environment and the difficulties of Vulcan’s atmosphere, there was no way to determine how long a period of rest you would require.’

‘You could’ve stuck around—you could’ve even woke me up,’ Jim says.

‘It was apparent rest was required to facilitate the natural functions of your body.’

Jim licks the corner of his mouth. ‘The natural functions of my body.’

Spock pauses. ‘Another example of your utilization of tonally altered repetition to invoke a romantic response?’

‘Yeah, but you’re not supposed to point it out every time, Spock, or it’ll ruin the effect,’ Jim says, raking his fingers through his hair. He can feel it pointing in multiple directions, messy and sweat-stiff, while Spock’s standing in front of him, picture perfect, a little too cool—while at the same time pulling off a little too hot. Jim knows only what he doesn’t know, that he isn’t sure if messy, flirty blondes are even Spock’s type. If Spock even has a type. If Spock would be happier typing. The light of day sneaking in past the drawn curtains make some things too obvious while obscuring the rest and Jim needs to brush his teeth before he thinks about kissing Spock at all. ‘Not to mention how you’re supposed to tell your husband when you’re getting undressed.’

‘I was not aware that was a requirement. It was in none of the informational briefings.’

‘I’m pretty sure it’s in there, Spock.’

‘It was not.’

‘You sure you didn’t miss it in the fine print?’

‘I am certain.’

‘Maybe,’ Jim says, heaving himself forward to lie on his stomach, weight braced on his elbows, chin braced on his palms, ‘you weren’t reading between the lines. You took your first bath of our marriage without me and now I’m sweaty and you’re not and that’s just— I mean, Spock, it’s unfair.’

Spock opens his mouth halfway. Jim catches a pink sliver of that tongue he saw once before in Spock’s lone, completely unexpected selfie. It’s still the background image on Jim’s personal PADD, the one he keeps locked with three separate encryption keys he drummed up himself. Only that little genius kid Chekov’s been able to get around them and Jim changed his wallpaper to a picture of Gaila for the purposes of that test, just so no one’s privacy would be invaded.

He believes in a system of rewards for above-standard efforts, or even basic effort.

Now that’s a belief that’s not shared by Vulcans as a race.

‘If you judge that I have treated you unjustly, I must assure you that it was not my intent.’

Jim tugs open a potentially dehydration-incurred split in his lip when he grins. Not top kissing form, not by a long shot, but it’s still his breath he’s worried about. Judging by the raspy, dry quality of his tongue, his mouth could qualify as a Federation-class weapon right about now.

He’s not proud of it.

Spock hasn’t caught onto his tactical distraction yet, so maybe he can be proud of that instead.

‘Well... Maybe you should make it up to me.’

It’s a reasonable suggestion as far as Jim’s concerned. Checks and balances. Weight and counterweight. Spock went off and did something on his own that they should’ve done together and the only decent thing to do is rectify it as a couple.

Spock cocks his head to one side, shadows traveling over the angles of his face. Either he’s stepped closer or Jim’s center of gravity is shifting again, orbit decaying, pulled them together. It’s impossible to tell from the bed. He's got Spock’s attention, though, and getting a Vulcan's attention before getting out of bed in the morning feels like an accomplishment. Something Jim can strike off his to-do list.

Don’t faint in public: Check.

Don’t bore your new husband right away: Check.

‘If you have a suggestion,’ Spock says, ‘I am willing to hear it.’

‘That’s not what you said last night,’ Jim replies.

He's good at thinking on his feet. Or not thinking on his feet. Thinking not on his feet. A line appears between Spock's perfectly-manicured eyebrows, drawing them together with a furrow directly in-between.

‘If you are harboring resentment over our mutual handling of last night's intimacy, then I would have you express it outright rather than refer to it obliquely without clarification,’ he says. 

‘Believe me, if there’s resentment, then it’s only toward myself, Spock.’ Jim tests out sitting and sways sideways onto one elbow. ‘Tell you what: you carry me to the bathroom, and we'll call it even.’

‘Are you being facetious?’ Spock asks.

Jim stretches his legs, affecting the lounging position he couldn't manage the night before. He smiles more slowly, casting a long, blue look in Spock's direction. There's nothing in the literature about Vulcan flirting, but Jim knows he's got a heart in there. He should be able to make it beat faster, given enough practice, even if it’s beating where Jim’s liver would be. 'Why don't you pick me up and see?’

‘Though I am half-Vulcan, my strength is comparable to that of my fully Vulcan peers.’ Spock doesn’t back that statement with a flexing of his muscles—not that Jim’d be able to see them under his robes, but it’s something he would have done. The differences stretch like the long shadows in the space between them. Jim wills his eyes to be bluer, his look to reach farther. He focuses on the wrinkle between Spock’s eyebrows and hangs his hopes on that hint of an expression. ‘If it was your intention to confirm this fact for yourself—’

‘Huh? No. No, Spock, it was my intention to get physical,’ Jim says. If Bones was here, he’d be outright smiling for the first time in months. In fact, Jim can’t remember the last time he’s seen the worry lines under Bones’ eyes rearrange themselves into an old-fashioned grin at Jim’s expense. ‘It was my intention to get you over here. Have your arms around me. Make it to the bath without keeling over halfway there and being even more embarrassed about my performance so far. Not that I get embarrassed,’ Jim adds. ‘But despite what some people may think, I do have standards. Just not where everybody looks, so that’s why they get confused.’

It’s a lot to put out there; Gaila would say there’s no poetry in it at all, no suggestion. Jim’s still wearing his sweaty under-robes, lighter than the ceremonial outfit that tried, almost successfully, to kill him, but he might as well be naked when he puts his cards on the table.

Even worse is the part where Spock doesn’t move.

At all.

Or respond.

It lasts for what feels like a lifetime, although that might be the oxygen deprivation stretching and swelling Jim’s perception of time itself. He tries not to blink until his vision blurs and he has to, and it’s that exact moment that the change occurs, the shift in Spock’s impetus he’s been waiting for.

Spock steps forward. He crosses that distance simply, formally, with crisp steps and no fanfare, none of the busy, ancient ceremonial overdrive of the night before. But Jim knows the fire is there.

Spock leans closer. ‘What position would provide the most comfort?’

‘Huh,’ Jim says again. ‘I didn’t think about that. Why don’t we just try ‘em all?’

‘That would prove far too time-consuming to be a viable means of decision by elimination.’

Spock’s close enough that Jim can touch him—the side of his cheek, the sharp angle of his jaw, the tiny slip of bare skin at his throat that isn’t covered by a high collar, or even the fabric of the collar itself, which would offer another textural sensation entirely, the promise of skin hidden beneath, the frustration of not being able to feel it. But Jim remembers what he read about Vulcans and touching. He might not be Spock, but when he reads something, he doesn’t tend to forget it.

Instead, Jim looks at the parts of Spock he’d touch if touching was more simple. He follows the side of Spock’s cheek to the sharp angle of his jaw and into the shadows below, circling the slip of bare skin at his throat that isn’t covered by a high collar.

‘Jim,’ Spock reminds him.

‘Shh,’ Jim says. ‘I’m looking at you.’

Spock waits an appropriate amount of time. ‘For what purpose?’ he asks.

‘No purpose,’ Jim replies. ‘Just looking.’

Spock hesitates. Jim’s starting to wonder if that’s the Vulcan way of being polite, taking a moment before blurting out the next blunt truth.

‘…Have you found what you are looking for?’

‘I don’t know yet,’ Jim admits.

But he likes what he sees.

Anyone else would’ve laughed at him by now, with an impression of his wobbling limbs and his watery muscles, slurring their words through fake swollen lips. Gaila would’ve come up with a poetic description of his condition on the spot; Uhura would’ve known seventeen different ways in seventeen different dialects to call him limp noodle. Mitchell would’ve—well, that doesn’t matter now.

Maybe none of it does.

Jim slings his arm across Spock’s shoulders, fitting the curved muscle under his palm before digging his fingers in. Spock’s shirt’s softer than last night’s robes: a thick, textured knit that’s gray with threads of black and silver. Like Spock, the details are only visible when you get close enough.

‘Are you prepared to relocate?’ Spock asks.

He doesn’t point out that Jim’s outright staring, just he takes the attention at face value. He's nothing like anyone Jim's ever met before. In some ways, he's nothing like the guy Jim imagined writing letters to, either.

It's exciting. Unexplored terrain. New ground to conquer. Jim's next frontier.

‘Yeah, Spock,’ Jim says. ‘I’m ready.’

There’s only one way to find out if that’s actually true. Jim feels the surface of the planet tilt underneath him as Spock pulls him off the bed, one strong arm under his back and the other braced under his knees. Jim’s head lolls against his chest; it’s a safe place to land, more reliable than a pillow and softer than anything else Vulcan has to offer.

This hold’s enough to make Jim feel like the bride he never was—the bride he never wanted to be. If he didn’t know any better, he’d assume Spock’s been doing some reading on traditional Earth nuptial practices. But there’s nothing in the archives about carrying your husband over the threshold from the bedroom to the bathroom.

If there’s any tradition here, it’s one they’re making up all on their own.

Jim can get behind that.

When his vision clears, he can appreciate the transition from one room to the next. The bathroom’s almost bigger than Jim’s sleeping quarters, done up in tasteful desert neutrals. There’s a wide, low tub set into a dais near an open window, and a separate stall for showering without water. Apparently Vulcans have a thing for the color of sand—tans and beiges, with coppery accents marking the faucets and other hardware.

‘Are you conscious, Jim?’ Spock asks.

‘Define conscious,’ Jim replies.

He can feel Spock’s chest swell as he takes the breath he needs to do exactly that.

‘I’m conscious,’ Jim says quickly.

‘Indeed. That much is apparent from your swift response.’

‘You were right,’ Jim adds. ‘You’re strong.’

‘I would not lie. Especially not to exaggerate my capabilities.’

‘Seriously?’ Jim tips his head back. From this angle, he can see the underside of Spock’s chin, the shape of his jaw, and the bottom half of his pointed ear. He can’t see that point, just the dark line of his hair above it. ‘’Cause on Earth, humans...invented lying for that purpose. Probably. It’s not documented or anything, but it’s the primary use.’

‘Indeed,’ Spock repeats. ‘Yet it is not a human trait my mother saw the need to impart. In fact, whenever possible, her teachings also advised against it.’

Jim clears his throat, hoping the gust of his warm breath against Spock’s earlobe might be distraction enough from the topic of his mom while he’s holding Jim in his arms, against his chest. ‘Well, maybe she just doesn’t have anything to lie about.’ Still talking about Spock’s mom. Jim shifts and Spock compensates for the redistribution of his weight. It’s hot. Literally; metaphorically. Literally because daylight’s already upon them and the bathroom’s full of steam, the cool tub Jim was looking forward to a basin of heated stones instead. And metaphorically because it’s Spock; his posture’s perfect even with Jim’s weight pulling him down.

Jim’s grinning by the time Spock sets him down on a stone seat by the wall. He has to kneel to do it and, even if it’s only for a half-second, it reminds Jim of being home. Of Earth-traditions; of the idea of romance he used to think was universal, only to learn it’s not shared past his home planet.

He tries to arch a brow meaningfully. He settles for cocking his whole head to the side while Spock continues to observe him.

‘Now you’re looking,’ Jim says.

‘I had inferred it was an action that required reciprocation.’

‘You didn’t want me to feel lonely, huh?’

‘That,’ Spock informs him, ‘is not what I said.’

It’s torture, and not the good kind. Jim enjoys a little adversity now and then but he’s starting to think that he’d have more luck flirting with one of the stones in the tub. He turns to check it out—not as attractive as Spock, but it won’t be as obvious when he strikes out, and who’s the rock going to tell? Heat creeps over Jim’s throat, around to the back of his neck, sweat beading on his skin. He swipes at it tiredly.

Vulcans don’t sweat.

He’s three steps behind at the outset and that’s just genetics.

The race is on—once he can stand on his legs.

‘I will leave you to it,’ Spock says.

‘Hey—wait,’ Jim says. ‘What if I’m on my own and I slip? Lose consciousness? Drown in the bathtub? It could happen. Listening to Bones, you get surprised it doesn’t happen all the time.’

‘Are you suggesting I consult your physician in this matter?’ Spock asks.

There’s no tone, no hint of humor in his voice. It’s the same bland, deep, expressionless tenor Jim used to fall asleep listening to. Weird, he thought—but soothing. With anyone else, the description would be an insult, but Jim has plenty of excitement in his life already. There’s no shortage of things that shoot a pulse of adrenaline through his system.

If his brief bout with meditation is anything to go by, there’s not much out there that can settle Jim Kirk down.

Here he is, though. Settled. And it’s got nothing to do with the hot rocks. Mildly attractive rocks.

He’s pretty sure Spock just cracked a joke.

‘I’m saying Bones talks too much.’ Jim tests his abdominal muscles, sitting up in a slow stretch that makes him feel like he’s about eighty instead of eighteen. ‘But sometimes he knows what he’s talking about.

Spock gives him that look that makes Jim feel like he might’ve got confused on who’s the brains of the operation. Either that, or Spock’s so smart that he’s vibrating on an entirely different frequency. He wouldn’t mind getting in on that. The vibrating.

He starts to undress instead. It doesn’t take him long to find the catches in his robes. Of all the details that stick in his head from the night before, Jim remembers undoing Spock’s ceremonial garb, the same way to peel off his own. Jim tries not to think about where the fabric sticks to his skin, pulling away with a rasp where sweat’s dried it stiff to his shoulders and back. The cloth falls free after a few ungraceful tugs, leaving him naked from the waist up.

Spock hasn’t budged, but the quality of his expression’s changed. Now he’s watching Jim like an anomaly on a terminal screen, a light that shouldn’t be blinking, a ship’s siren triggered by nothing.

It’s not positive feedback, but it’s not indifference.

Jim can work with that. Being noticed. Being seen. He shrugs his shoulders in the dry air. They’re bigger than they used to be. He has Bones to thank for that, if nothing else.

‘I hit my head a lot, Spock. I think it’s your responsibility as my husband to stick around and help me avoid cranial trauma.’

‘You continue to describe the duties of a chief medical officer,’ Spock says. ‘It is possible the disorientation you seek to avoid has already occurred.’

Joke number two. Jim’s keeping count.

‘Caring about each other. Looking after each other. I couldn’t translate all the Vulcan, but the human version of our vows say love, honor, protect, sickness, health...’ Jim ticks them off on his fingers. ‘...head trauma...’

‘Head trauma is not referenced specifically,’ Spock replies, ‘but it is not an undue assumption to suggest it falls under the category of sickness.’

Jim thinks about Spock going over human wedding ceremony rituals in his chambers at night, alone, while listening to one of Jim’s messages at the same time. He can picture it more clearly now that he’s got an idea of Spock in motion—or lack of motion, as the case may be. Mostly it’s the latter. He’s got the posture down, the bearing of a prince. He’s even better at it than Sam is on public outings, waving to the crowd instead of making faces or slouching or pulling at his collar so it stops throttling him.

‘Do you intend to bathe?’ Spock asks.

Jim’s working on it. ‘Just waiting.’

‘The opportunity has already presented itself.’

‘Waiting,’ Jim explains, ‘for my husband to say something about my physique.’ He gestures loosely to his shoulders, his chest, his abdominals. ‘I single-handedly—single stomachly?—destroyed the chicken population of Earth to get this body. It wasn’t easy. I’ve still got nightmares.’

‘The chicken parm,’ Spock says.

Jim really wants to kiss him.

It comes out of nowhere—practically nowhere—hitting him like dizziness, like the Vulcan noonday sun. Chicken parm in that serious voice, on that serious mouth. Parm. It’s a funny word.

‘My pronunciation was correct,’ Spock adds.

‘Yeah, yeah. I know. It’s just—cultural exchange can be pretty sexy.’

‘...An unusual descriptor.’

‘What can I say? I’m an unusual guy.’

‘Given the specificity of your personal colloquial dictionary, that much was already obvious.’

Jim chuckles. It echoes through the steam, against the stone walls. He curls his knuckles against the muscle groups below his navel and hooks his thumb under the fabric of his robes, giving Spock a second before he tugs them apart.

Spock doesn’t look away.

He doesn’t look down, specifically, either; he’s not curious because curiosity must’ve killed the Vulcan at some point in their passionate past. Jim can’t will him to want to steal a peek. He takes it personally, but only a little.

It’s not the sexy strip game Jim pictured. Taking off his clothes in front of Spock, undressing with Spock, being naked for Spock but also with Spock—the lazy fantasies he harbored between waking and sleeping, in the moments before he drifted off, still listening to Spock’s recorded voice. If Spock spoke now, maybe that’d help set him at ease.

‘Yeah,’ he says instead, croaking on the word. ‘Keep watching. Don’t wanna take your eyes off—take ‘em off me for a second. I might slip and fall in that second; you never know. Unusual, unpredictable...’

Jim stands with a slight wobble. The robes pool at his ankles. The steam rises, clouding around his flushed cheeks. He’s got underwear on but that’s the easy part; he turns and braces one palm on the wall and inches the elastic down off his ass.

Vulcan or not, if Spock’s watching, he has to be feeling something.

Jim’s sure feeling something. An assortment of things. The slight tug of elastic over his skin; the mark where it pressed in too tight over his hips all through the night; the steam hitting the sensitive skin between his thighs and higher.

It’s an accomplishment beyond balancing on his own two feet that he manages not to check over his shoulder to see if Spock’s paying attention, but also the right kind of attention. Jim steps out of his clothes and steps into the bath, biting down on the inside of his cheek to keep from letting out a yelp when the hot water closes over his calves. Going from hot to hotter shouldn’t be that notable a transition, but Jim’s perceptive in all the ways that do him no favors.

He can’t tell whether it’s him or Spock who relinquishes a breath, but the uncertainty lets him know his husband’s still in the room. Jim swirls his hand through the clear water, curls of steam lapping up around his hips and chest as he sinks in. He closes his eyes before the temptation to turn around and check out whether Spock’s checking him out becomes too much to resist.

Jim’s got no clue where all this iron willpower’s come from all of a sudden but as far as he’s concerned, it can stick around. Maybe eating every chicken on the West Coast while simultaneously decimating the spinach farms in the surrounding area has something to do with it.

There’s iron in spinach, right?

Sure. That’s how that works.

‘You could always join me.’ Jim blinks, his eyelashes clinging together with the damp in the air, beaded with perspiration.

Spock shifts; Jim can hear it now that he’s listening with both ears, a rasp of fabric on fabric, too soft and subtle to be a fidget.

‘You have not forgotten your observation that I have already partaken in the act of cleansing myself,’ Spock says, ‘as it was this realization which prompted your desire to be brought here yourself.’

‘Well, you don’t have to make it sound like you carried me in like a sack of potatoes.’ Jim stretches his arms over the edge of the tub, pulling them out of the water. He knows from experience and gathered intelligence that it makes for a good view. He’s got good shoulders. A handsome trapezius.

‘I do not understand the reference,’ Spock admits.

‘I’d tell you to look it up, but I know you’d go and do it,’ Jim says.

It’s easier to talk to the wall than Spock, which should say something about the state of his marriage.

He stares down at his body under the water instead of making faces he’d rather show Spock but hasn’t figured out how. His arms and legs are hazy and unexpectedly pale, rippling with every movement, no matter how slight. It’s all or nothing, same as it’s always been. His hair’s sticky, his neck stiff, and he knows what happens next.

He takes the plunge.

He always takes the plunge.

It’s burningly hot and he’s not exactly prepared for it, temperature probably high enough to scald not just the sweat but also the top layer of skin off his body, but there’s something soothing about the comforting sear. Once he gets accustomed to it, once his internal temperature catches up to regulate what’s happening to him externally, Jim’s nowhere unfamiliar, just holding his breath under the surface of the water, all the discomfort stripped off with last night’s sweat.

His hair floats around his ears. The hiss and muted sizzle of the hot stones below are distant but very real. He holds his breath for as long as he can and then longer before he bursts up again, gasping for air, hair sheeting water down his face and into his eyes.

Another test for his lungs. They haven’t collapsed yet.

He scrubs the water off his face with his bare hands, then leans back against the edge of the tub. He’s resisted long enough, but this time, he can’t help himself, chin pressed to his shoulder as he blinks droplets of water off his lashes to look at Spock. To get a good look at him.

He’s unruffled. His hair isn’t anything other than glossy and neat, even with the steam. He’s got incredible eyes and the flush on his skin might be a trick of Jim’s brain, the result of nothing more real than wishful thinking. It takes Jim a moment to realize he might be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t take him any time at all to know that Spock would never bring it up, would never acknowledge it. That he’ll weather any discomfort for the sake of—what’s he always on about?—diplomatic integrity.

Jim wants him to be comfortable, but that might take a while.

‘Hey,’ he says.

‘Is a greeting customary at this time?’ Spock replies.

‘You think I bathe with people enough to know the protocol?’

‘The Orion, Gaila,’ Spock reminds him, ‘who did not prefer to be confined by clothing...’

‘We talked poetry, Spock; we didn’t take baths together.’

‘Understood.’ Spock pauses. ‘Hello, Jim.’

Jim tips his cheek to the side. ‘You sure you don’t wanna join me in here?’ he asks. ‘I know, I know, you already bathed and you hate repetition but I’m thinking it wouldn’t be the same. ‘Cause I’d be there. It’d be more...recreational.’

‘We will bathe together tomorrow,’ Spock offers. It makes a little thrill of torchlight shudder down Jim’s spine. And he thought it couldn’t get any hotter. ‘In order to observe the proper ritual, I will wait for you.’

‘So this time you’re just gonna stare at me while I’m naked and you’re not?’ Again, Jim can’t help himself. ‘Pretty kinky, Spock.’

‘I do not understand the reference,’ Spock says.

Jim doesn’t sigh, but he breathes out in a rush of air that disturbs the steam.

‘I really should’ve updated that dictionary.’

Spock’s gaze turns distant, like he’s consulting that big computer brain of his.

‘A kink is a twist or curl in a material such as rope,’ he says. ‘Or a muscular stiffness. Are your muscles stiff, Jim?’

Jim drops one shoulder, turning in the water to give his neck a break from looking at Spock.

It’s the question of a lifetime, more life-affirming than even do you take this man.

Are his muscles stiff?

Humans don’t have to adhere to the strict Vulcan traditions of honesty. And it wouldn’t be so out of line to stretch the truth just this once. After all, he’s suffered. He lived through the ceremony and didn’t fall down. He didn’t offend any of the Vulcan dignitaries sent to greet him or any of the helpful servants sent to move him into his quarters. He deserves this.

He needs it.

‘Yeah.’ The word doesn’t even stick in Jim’s throat. ‘You wanna— Maybe you could come here and give them a rub, Spock.’

He wiggles his shoulders in what he hopes is inviting behavior and not some kind of obscure Vulcan insult. He’s just starting to turn back when Spock’s shadow falls over him, stiff outline distorted and rippling across the water’s clouded surface. Strong hands grip the nape of Jim’s neck at the junction intersecting his shoulder. He went straight for the trapezius, just like Jim thought. His best feature. Pure Vulcan catnip.

He’s less proud of the groan that slips out of his mouth at the sudden attention. His head falls forward, posture made limp and pliant by Spock’s strong fingers and the hot water cradling him from the chest down. Jim sucks in a breath, letting his eyes slip shut.

They flick open with his next breath.

‘You’re not gonna do that Vulcan nerve pinch thing, are you?’

Spock’s fingers pause, stopping in the middle of digging into a knot of stiff tension. Those knots are what kept Jim standing during the ceremony, but there’s no harm in undoing them now, one by one. He won’t be standing that long again for a long time. Forever, if he can help it.

‘Rendering you unconscious in the water would be highly counterproductive,’ Spock says. ‘Have I given you any reason for you to anticipate such an attack?’

‘You’re a mysterious guy, Spock. I, uh, I was just wondering.’

‘A peculiar fantasy to experience.’

Jim almost snorts, managing to save it at the last second so it comes out as a rasping chuckle instead. It almost works; it almost sounds like Jim’s heart isn’t hammering a way out of his chest past his ribs. ‘Believe me, my fantasies are not...’ He trails off, seeing his face rippling in the water, and the dark spot behind and to the left that has to be Spock. Spock, giving him a backrub. Jim, ruining it by bringing up Vulcan nerve pinches. Considering his poor performance the night before, this kind of scenario is sexier than he deserves. ‘My fantasies don’t have much to do with Vulcan nerve pinches.’ He licks his damp lips, face hidden from Spock, but it doesn’t matter. There’s a new heat traveling over his skin. Spock’s fingers are sensitive enough that they’ll pick up on the fever and all Jim can hope for is that it has an effect on Spock, too. That he does more than pick up on it. That he gets a little warmer, if only for a little while. ‘...I could tell you about ‘em, though.’

‘About your fantasies,’ Spock confirms.

Jim nods. Spock finds a knot and presses against it with ruthless efficiency. It hurts like hell—but the pain only lasts a mind-splitting second before it fades, a dull ache around the site of the relaxed muscle.

Damn,’ Jim says. ‘That—that was a good thing, Spock. A good damn. Don’t stop.’

Spock doesn’t stop. Jim’s skin itches, tingles to feel his breath, but the distance Spock keeps is just enough that it doesn’t ghost against the nape of Jim’s neck.

‘You wanna hear about my fantasies?’ Jim adds.

‘I do not yet know what the purpose of your vocalizing what may prove to be nothing but imaginative diversions without basis in reality,’ Spock replies. ‘Yet, in the interest of bettering our understanding of one another, neither would I discourage you from speaking on any subject.’

‘You wanna hear about my fantasies,’ Jim says.

Another white-hot burst of pain and the following throb of relief leaves Jim’s head spinning. If he didn’t know better, he’d think Spock did that on purpose.

‘No shame in that. I wouldn’t mind hearing about your fantasies sometime, too.’ Jim wiggles deeper, enough that Spock’s hands have to dip into the water to keep rubbing his shoulders. It’s hot in there and Spock likes the heat—as much as a Vulcan likes anything. Spock stops touching him long enough to roll up his sleeves; then, Spock’s hands are on him again, working down Jim’s spine. ‘Actually, come to think of it, I’ve got a fantasy that’s pretty much exactly like what’s happening right now.’

‘It is not a fantastical scenario,’ Spock points out.

Jim’s waiting for his snort this time, diverting it into warm chuckle territory. He pushes back against Spock’s hands, which are pushing into his back. ‘You sure about that, Spock? ‘Cause I’m in a hot tub with my husband who’s giving me the best backrub of my entire life.’

‘There are several apocrypha in that statement,’ Spock observes. ‘I am not with you in the tub. In addition, I would classify my actions as applying localized pressured to key points along your back and spinal column. While there is rubbing involved in the act, to dilute it to a single element of the procedure would not be strictly accurate.’

‘Hmm,’ Jim says. Non-verbal agreement.

His eyes fall shut of their own volition, a Pavlovian response to the sound of Spock going off on one of his long-winded tangents.

His hands are as smooth as his voice; his touch goes just as deep. They don’t slip in the water, though the heat slicks his touch over Jim’s muscles, skin against skin, rough points of contact where Spock finds a sore spot and digs his knuckles in to loosen it. Jim bites his lip to keep from groaning out loud. Privacy’s a big thing on Vulcan, but he’s got a feeling that has something to do with the aural sensitivity of its people.

Being able to hear when your neighbor coughs from the next room over makes everyone more conscious of their noise output.

Jim’s already a noticeable human presence in a Vulcan palace. He doesn’t need anyone hearing him yelling in pleasure over Spock’s talented hands in the bathroom the morning after.

Now that’s something to take into consideration for when they finally manage to do more than fall asleep together in bed. Jim might have to smother himself with his pillow after all.

Jim shifts his hips at the thought, wriggling from side to side. Spock’s hands travel downward as a result, running low against the bunching muscles at the small of Jim’s back. The unexpected touch makes Jim’s skin pulse hot below the water level. When he first got in, the heat numbed him from the waist down, but that’s starting to wear off. His body has yet to adapt to the oxygen levels, but that hasn’t done anything to inhibit the bloodflow to his extremities.

‘In my fantasies,’ Jim says, stirring the air with the suddenness of his voice. It echoes sharply off the stone walls. Spock’s hands don’t falter. ‘Are you listening, Spock? In my fantasies, since you asked, your hands go a lot lower.’

‘I did not ask,’ Spock says. ‘…The muscle groupings in the area you reference are not a typical source of tension for most humans.’

‘That’s what you think.’

‘That is not the tension with which you currently require assistance.’

‘And that’s not exactly true, either.’ It’s tension; Jim doesn’t necessarily require assistance, but he wouldn’t kick it out of the tub, either. ‘I mean, I could assist myself—I assisted myself plenty before I got here—but now that I am here, it doesn’t make sense to ignore the facts.’

‘The facts,’ Spock repeats.

‘That two pairs of hands are better than one.’ Jim’s heartrate spikes again, sudden and incredible. He’s lucky Bones is somewhere else, that he doesn’t have the heightened Vulcan sense of hearing, because even a basic scan would give him ideas about hypos and sedatives for the greater good of Jim’s brain not exploding from oxygen deprivation. ‘That I’ve been thinking about your hands ever since you told me how sensitive they are.’ Like the hands in question, Spock elbow-deep in the private bathwater, Jim can only go lower. ‘That I asked myself, is it just fingertips they can read emotions out of, sense what’s going on under the surface of the skin, or can they do that anywhere on the body? And what does that feel like? It’s gotta feel incredible. It’s gotta...’

The surface of the water splashes against Jim’s armpits, up over his shoulders, as he searches for Spock’s fingers. He finds them, elbow bumping the tub behind him, guiding them around from the back of his body to the front. Over the bone of his hip. Along the tightened muscles of his stomach. And lower, below the navel.

Spock has to lean forward to reach. His lips skim the back of Jim’s neck; his breath skims the hair there, the echo of a shiver Jim didn’t get to feel, not completely, the night before.

In some ways, he almost likes that feeling more than the long, slim fingers on his body.

But only almost.

Because they feel pretty great.

‘The thing...’ Jim’s voice hitches on a snare in his throat. ‘The thing about imagining something is—it’s not about getting it right. It’s about wanting something, or thinking you want it, and trying to figure out how it’s gonna be, so that when you do get to experience it and it’s nothing like you planned, you know...how much better it really is.’

‘That,’ Spock says simply, ‘is illogical.’

‘Yeah. Completely.’ Jim guides Spock’s fingers into the crook between his hip and his thigh, feeling every second, every centimeter. He wonders if Spock feels it that way too; if the water dilutes the transference, or if it amplifies it; if he ever, even in those late-night fantasies, managed to picture something this good. He had some good scenarios, definitely, but he wasn’t lying when he put it into words, another definition for Spock to learn.

The side of Spock’s forefinger brushes the side of Jim’s dick and he hisses with the stones and the steam. He wouldn’t mind turning into steam. He’s already rock hard. It’s such a bad pun that he does snort, without being able to save it in time, the most embarrassing laugh in the history of laughs.

Spock doesn’t say anything, although Jim gets the impression of feeling him thinking.

‘Your reactions,’ Spock says at last, ‘are incongruous.’

God, Spock.’ Jim’s proud of his voice for not shaking. He’s found a lot of things to be proud of in the hours since he opened his eyes on Vulcan, but that’s what happens when expectations start out at rock bottom. On the ground floor, there’s nowhere to go but up. ‘You think you could stop treating me like you’re a documentarian and just live in the moment?’

Spock’s fingers hesitate, something that doesn’t give Jim pause because his hips are already hitching in crooked desperation after them, after more contact. The momentum hasn’t stopped as far as he’s concerned, even if he has to chase down Spock’s hands himself.

‘Your suggestion that I am existing in a moment beyond this one implies a temporal complication where none exists.’

Jim lets his head tip back, feeling Spock’s mouth slide from the nape of his neck to the slope of his shoulder in surprise. Maybe he’s just trying to get out of the way.

‘All I’m saying…’ Jim arches his back, nudging his cock against Spock’s fingers with an insistence he’d be ashamed of if he hadn’t spontaneously evolved past that sensation a long while back. Jim’s heard every slight in the books when it comes to human evolution, but they’re adaptable if nothing else. ‘All I’m saying, Spock, is that you’re talking like I’m a test subject.’

‘Your penis is engorged and yet you are laughing,’ Spock says. ‘There is nothing in my research to suggest this is a typical reaction.’

‘Oh my god.’ Jim’s precious oxygen leaves his lungs in a helpless wheeze, muscles tensing as Spock’s fingers trail curiously over the head of his cock under the hot water. ‘Don’t say engorged.’

‘It is the correct terminology,’ Spock says.

‘Right, but—again—’ Jim’s voice fails him as he feels the telltale drag of blunt nails over delicate skin. ‘—you’re assuming precision’s the way to go here. And I’m not saying it’s not, precision’s really, really good in some areas, but you’re making it tough—no, actually, make that impossible to get in the mood.’

Spock’s nostrils flare against the side of Jim’s ear. There’s a tickle on his skin when he sucks in a breath.

‘That particular claim is unsubstantiated by your physical condition,’ Spock says. ‘Jim, you are clearly aroused.’

The statement makes Jim’s cock throb with its own heartbeat, twitching to match the rush of blood through his chest. It was true before, but hearing Spock’s confirmation spoken aloud rips away any chance Jim had of building up a real pretense. Nothing to do now but to throw himself into the act.

Now we’re talking,’ Jim says.

‘We have been talking for several minutes,’ Spock replies.

‘You weren’t precise there.’ Jim rests his wet head on Spock’s shoulders—proof that for next time, intangible as next time currently is, they’ll have to both be naked if Spock wants to avoid getting his robes all wet. The rest of Jim is limp and hard by random turns, the full illogic of the human body laid bare—literally—for Spock’s hands to explore. If he wants to. If he feels the need. If it’s logical for him to do so. Even if Jim is a test subject in theory, that’s fine. Tests can be sexy. ‘Just, just something I noticed. Several. Imprecise.’

‘You advised against precision,’ Spock reminds him. It’s a fortunate accident that Spock’s mouth is pressed behind the shell of Jim’s ear. ‘However, for the sake of specificity, I have been keeping track of the exact amount of time that has transpired during which we have been engaged in dialogue.’

Jim groans—frustration, partly; amusement, a little but definite bit; arousal, engorgement, whatever it is Spock wants to call it, a hundred percent. He bucks his hips and Spock’s fingers don’t miss a beat, attuned to the throbbing of blood along the shaft, the little shivers of the thin, sensitive skin around the slit at the head. When Spock’s thumb rests there, probably—probably measuring the exact length, committing durability and sensitivity calculations to memory, dividing the sum of Jim’s reproductive parts to solve for X marks the g-spot, Jim whimpers, legs spreading.

‘Can you feel that?’ he asks.

‘I am currently feeling that,’ Spock replies. ‘Have you lost sensation—’

‘I meant, can you feel it, Spock.’

Spock’s lips brush over Jim’s skin; the pause is what Jim needs to hear, just like Spock’s fingers are what he needs to feel. It just wouldn’t feel right if there wasn’t some kind of reciprocity.

‘’Cause you have permission,’ Jim adds, rambling through the curl of non-Vulcan heat pulsing through his gut, ‘to feel it, Spock. To feel it. What’s mine is yours—that’s, that’s gonna be in the vows, our ceremony on Earth. Definitely a part of the marriage deal. I could tell you how good it feels, but it just, it wouldn’t be the same.’

Spock’s silence is terrifying. Jim searches for his fingers in the water but shies away at the knuckles, not wanting to interrupt, or get in the way, or share too much all at once with an inadvertent, unexpected offering of all that turmoil, the questions he has alongside the sheer, mindless pleasure. He knows his dick’s not thinking. It never does, contrary to the claims that sometimes, it does all the thinking for him. Spock can read that if he wants to, every last shudder and throb, every last twitch and pulse, that particular way of relinquishing control.

Jim curls his fingers over the back of Spock’s hand instead, keeping the pads pressed against his own palm.

‘Feel that?’ he repeats.

He’s gonna need a bath after his bath, a bath because of his bath. It’s a little disorder on the most orderly planet in the world, but who’s keeping track?

Spock, probably.

Definitely. For the sake of specificity.

‘I do,’ Spock replies.

‘Yeah.’ Jim groans. ‘Shit. Yeah, ‘course you do. That,’ he adds, Spock retracing an earlier path with the side of his thumb. He doesn’t seem like the teasing type, but it teases the slit all the same, and the idea of sharing that sensation is terrifying, too.

That.’ The same word vibrates deeper on Spock’s tongue. He has that kind of voice: low and deliberate, like Bones’ baritone but with none of his rough, frenetic edges. Don’t think about Bones. Jim bites his tongue, fighting to keep his hands still. ‘Is this another example of your favored form of repetition?’

‘Yeah.’ Jim breathes the word out like an affirmation of more than just Spock’s question. ‘That’s it, Spock.’

He’s trying not to interfere, but the weight of his hands and the subtle roll of his hips keep Spock’s touch from drifting too far away. It’s not being held down the way Jim likes best, but there’s less open, floating space in the water between his cock and Spock’s hands, and that’s as much as he can ask for.

Right now, anyway. He’s working on it. Working on Spock. He’d like to be on Spock. Jim knows touch telepathy isn’t like reading minds, but he can’t help but wonder how much of what he’s feeling gets transferred through the thin skin of his erection, the sensitive pads of Spock’s fingers shivering a trace along a vein.

‘On the subject of repetition, I have found that you favor my name above all other choices.’

Spock’s still talking like a textbook, but the subject is Jim, and Jim can ignore a little stilted dialogue for the greater good. More than that, he’s never been immune to focused attention. Even Gaila and her poetry lessons held a certain allure: the way she’d look at him over that book like Jim was a tricky metaphor in a sonnet, not a clever rhyme but a deeper, resonant allusion.

Spock’s fingers curl around Jim’s cock, offering a preliminary squeeze. Jim’s throat closes over, making him groan. His heel slips on the slick surface of the tub below him, making him slam back against the wall. The stone edge catches him across his shoulders; it’s too soon to tell whether that’s gonna bruise. He wouldn’t care even if it did, because the sudden snap and furl of heat between his thighs when Spock finally wraps a hand around him and strokes pushes all his pain receptors straight to the back of his mind. They might as well not even be there.

‘I like saying your name,’ Jim groans.

‘That much is evident,’ Spock replies. When his mouth moves, it’s against Jim’s ear. He didn’t realize he’s come that close again, that he’s found a way to make it sustainable. ‘I would suggest that within the current frame of reference, there are other things you...like.’

‘Uh huh.’ Jim forgets about catching his breath. If he passes out, then he passes out. Spock’s there, he’s smart, and he’ll pull Jim above water before he has a chance to drown. In a way, that’s romance, but it’s the explanation that all the dictionaries in the galaxy can’t define. It’s trust—a physical form, but no less real than the documents they signed, the wax seals they stamped, the vows they exchanged on the sand. They don’t need words; Jim’s got more than Spock’s words. He’s got his hands. Spock’s hands have him, for the sake of specificity, and they’re getting the hang of repetition pretty fast, rolling through tight, thoughtful squeezes that Jim can thrust into. ‘You— You keeping track?’

‘I am able,’ Spock says, ‘to maintain focus on multiple subjects simultaneously.’

Jim’s laugh never makes it past his lips. He’s not sure if he should be thrilled or, honestly, a little offended. He settles for turned on, still, completely, surrounded by the hot water and Spock’s hot grip. When he thinks about Spock’s fingers, that’s almost enough to make him smash his shoulder again—either that or come, which’d mean making the kind of mess Vulcan isn’t used to. Not even the half-human part.

He bangs his shoulder.

Definitely gonna bruise.

Jim laughs.

‘I was not joking,’ Spock says.

‘I know.’ Jim drags it out. Ohhh. Like a malfunctioning transport shuttle, he reins it back in. All he’s gotta do is land. ‘—oh. Laughter’s good, though—’ Oh. ‘—for intimacy.’

‘I will keep that in mind,’ Spock tells him.

Jim knows he will. I know. His mouth frames the repetition while his hips repeat, repeat, repeat—and if Spock can read his skin then every inch is more, not enough, too much. Direct insight. Jim’s not a handful of communications; he’s every frequency on full, broadcasting the heat and the final, irrational seconds before he finally gets his wedding night.

Their wedding night.

Technically, he’s getting it the morning after, but Jim doesn’t care. He’s almost positive he loses consciousness for a moment there—thanks to general oxygen deprivation, which actually isn’t too bad; in fact, some people actually try to simulate it for the reasons Jim’s experiencing. Jelly legs, flushed skin, water beading his eyelashes once more, and his neck sweaty again, Spock’s lips pressed to that sweat.

‘Yeah,’ Jim says, to prove he’s conscious. Also technically. The barest minimum of cognitive processes.

‘Jim.’ Spock adjusts the angle of his grip. Jim would tell him not to let go, not yet, but that’s a little too vulnerable, enough to make his cheeks flush hotter, as hot as his chest.

‘M’alive.’ Jim takes stock, slower than usual, fingers ticking a random rhythm against Spock’s wrist. ‘...Might need you to sponge me down, though. Pretty illogical, huh?’ It’s all coming back to him now. He’s got this. He’s in control. ‘Getting a guy dirty while he’s trying to get clean. You know, you’re a little illogical yourself, Spock.’

Jim nearly misses the tickle of Spock’s lips. His mouth must be doing something—but from this angle, Jim can’t tell what.

‘There is no need to be insulting,’ Spock says at last.

‘You think that’s an insult?’ Jim’s fingers trace over the lumpy bones in Spock’s wrist. Ulna and radial. There’s probably Vulcan words for both of them, things he didn’t memorize because he never thought he’d need them. He’s not training to be an expert in Vulcan anatomy; he only needs to know enough to be a diplomat in the streets and a memorable husband between the sheets. As far as he’s concerned—as far as he’s inferred, from Spock’s cryptic and infuriatingly basic statements about Vulcan erogenous zones—that doesn’t have anything to do with the bones in his wrist. ‘Then how come you say it to me so often?’

Spock breathes out, the closest Jim’s heard him come to clearing his throat like he’s got something uncomfortable caught in it.

‘To term a human’s actions as illogical is merely a factual observation. You are not logical beings.’

‘Starting to see where the insulting part comes in.’ Jim’s too relaxed to let it burrow beneath his skin. Agitation sloughs off him like drops of water hitting the hot stones, evaporating into steam in the humid air.

Spock’s fingers shift along Jim’s cock where it’s softening under the water, oversensitive tissue and nerve endings tingling with the last, lingering effects of one hell of an oxygen-deprived orgasm. Jim gets why that’s a thing. He doesn’t hold Spock in place, but he feels the tug of longing when he loses their connection. He’s gonna have to live with it.

They can’t be touching all the time.

Can they?

It seems like something Jim should be able to work on, though—as an ambassador to the people. Sam never would’ve had the information to go for it, but Sam’s single on Earth while Jim gets felt up by a Vulcan prince in his morning bath.

There’s no question as to who got the better deal. For once it’s not even a contest.

‘I would not seek to cause you intentional offense,’ Spock says.

As if that was ever in question.

Jim tips his head back. It’s not quite far enough that he can get a proper look at Spock, but it’s not a bad angle either. In his field of vision there’s about a quarter of Spock’s chin and a long stretch of neck, green-tinged throat bobbing when he swallows. For the first time, Jim allows for the possibility that Spock’s just as nervous as he is. Either way, he likes the view.

‘It’s the unintentional offense I gotta watch for, huh?’

‘A Vulcan does not act unintentionally.’

‘Uh-huh.’ Jim sinks lower, Spock’s grip loosening. He’s letting go. Jim doesn’t want him to, but, logically, he’s gonna have to get out of the bath sometime, and if Spock doesn’t make the first move, Jim’ll be content to sit there and prune for eternity. ‘A Vulcan gives a pretty spectacular hand-job, though.’

‘I have done my research,’ Spock replies.

He stands, giving Jim just enough time to crane his neck and see him smooth out a rumple in the front of his formalwear. There are a few damp speckles where Jim splashed him, the only remaining signs that they’ve done anything out of the ordinary, anything to precipitate a new, shared routine. Other than that, there’s nothing, not even a wrinkle or a flyaway hair. Jim wonders what it’ll take to get him messy. He’s lucky he’s still working on remembering how to breathe, otherwise Spock’d be taking a second bath, clothes still on, when Jim dragged him down with a splash.

‘You’re gonna have to tell me about that sometime—show me the sites, the databanks you consulted, let me give you some hands on pointers with a live model,’ Jim begins, trying to locate his spine where it might’ve melted in order to straighten. Just so he can see if Spock’s face betrays anything that the rest of him doesn’t.

But Spock’s not looking at him anymore.

‘I will leave you to the conclusion of your business here,’ he says. ‘I have matters of my own to attend to. As we are now unified by marriage, it falls to us to take our meals together. I will rejoin you at an appropriate hour for our shared lunch.’

Jim’s equilibrium is worse off than it was after thirteen hours of standing on the hot sands. ‘Uh, sure. Sure, Spock; it’s a date.’

Most people do things the other way around. Date first. Touch after. Get married if the other two things work out. It’s probably the illogical order they’re going in that colors the back of Spock’s neck, between his hairline and his high collar, flushing the faintest, shadowy green on his way out.

*

Chapter Text

‘Spare me the details,’ Bones says, the moment he sees Jim’s face.

‘Come on,’ Jim replies. ‘What details?’

Bones checks on his vitals and doesn’t spit or snarl or spontaneously burst into flames, so Jim has to assume that what happened in the bath was actually good for his health. If Spock was anybody else, Jim could tell him it’s doctor’s orders to exercise regularly in the naked sense, and they’d have a laugh about it. A laugh that’d end in kissing.

Which they still haven’t done. Not fingers to fingers; not mouth to mouth.

Backwards and upside-down. If Spock wanted the standard human experience, he’s not getting it from Jim. And he doesn’t know enough about it to know what he’s missing out on, where Jim’s plans went out the window to shrivel up under the Vulcan sun.

‘You know what details. Gimme your symptoms, tell me if you’ve had trouble breathing lately, have any blank spots in your memory that last longer than usual and aren’t a botched excuse for sneaking out, fine—but what happens between two consenting, wedded adults when one of those wedded adults is you, Jim? There’s no damn cure for that.’

‘Hey,’ Jim says. ‘Aren’t you even a little bit happy for me?’

He doesn’t lean away when Bones brings one of his instruments close, doesn’t even protest when Bones gets that instrument on his face. It’s a round circle of cold steel breaking through his haze of warm, post-coital bliss, which he chose not to wash off in the bath.

Except, as Spock would be quick to point out, no actual coitus took place. Almost coitus. Coitus approachus. Jim snorts and Bones lurches away like he thinks he’s about to cough something up.

Not this time. The air’s too dry for anything to get backed up in Jim;s system.

He raises his eyebrows, giving Bones the old puppy eyes. They don’t work as well as they used to, back in the day when Jim was too little and adorable to refuse. But they’re still big and blue and Bones is an old sap even on his worst days. It’s a terminal condition.

Jim abuses it recklessly, but it’s not personal. After spending all night and a good part of the morning with someone who’s looked at him with all the warmth humans reserve for a paramecium on a science slide, Jim’s relishing the chance to get an expression out of someone. Anyone.

Only one person who can give him what he’s looking for.

Bones doesn’t disappoint. He tsks his tongue against the roof of his mouth, letting it fall open. Then he crosses his arms, like he’s trying to put some distance between himself and Jim’s pointed silence.

‘Am I supposed to be happy for a blessed event that’s brought you to a planet that, by all calculations and medical evidence, is trying to kill you on a regular basis?’

‘Yeah, Bones.’ Jim leans forward, bracing his elbow on his knee. He rubs a hand through his hair, massaging his scalp down to the back of his neck. It doesn’t match up to Spock’s touch. ‘You’re supposed to say congratulations.’

‘And you were supposed to answer my questions,’ Bones says. ‘Don’t think I’m gonna let those hangdog eyes distract me from my professional duty.’

‘I think professional duty is a redundancy,’ Jim replies.

Side effect of hanging out on Vulcan with Vulcans.

The truth is: he can’t remember a time since stepping off the shuttle when he hasn’t had trouble breathing. The hypos are helpful, but what he’d prefer is not having to rely on them forever. But Bones doesn’t believe in toughing it out. It’s not a medical term—not one in his book, anyway.

‘No memory lapses.’ Jim takes in a deep breath, just to prove he’s all right. ‘Believe me—I remember everything perfectly. I can recite it if you wanna test me. Get some of those details you were talking about.’

‘You so much as try, and I’ll have you out cold quicker’n you can say Moon Over Rigel Seven.’

‘Pretty sure that’s treason, Bones.’ Jim rolls out his shoulder and he flinches before he can catch himself. Bones’ eyebrow suggests he’d better take off his shirt and Jim sighs. ‘Okay, you’ve got it, Doctor Professional Duty. But you’re not gonna thank yourself for insisting when I tell you how I got this particular injury.’

Jim tugs his Vulcan sweater off over his head before Bones can reply. The bright side is, it’s not as itchy as it looks, but it’s still a sweater, and Jim’s wondering if it’s logical to torture yourself this much in the name of self-control. His shoulder twinges, a bruise he wishes he could be the first to see—and, if not him, then Spock.

Although the sight might discourage him from getting hands-on in the future. He’s weird like that. Unpredictable, for somebody who really, really likes the predictability of definitions and facts.

Those don’t change. Skin does. Jim turns around to show Bones the damage and he feels the cooling agent a second later, Bones working as fast as he mutters.

The bruise is collateral, not exactly unpleasant. Jim got it because he was careless and he was careless because he was feeling really, really good. When you look at a thing that way, you can be grateful for the sore reminder of moaning your brains out.

‘You get more bruises like that, Jim,’ Bones says finally, giving him a clap on the shoulder as an okay, ‘and it’s only gonna confirm my suspicions.’

‘That I’m royalty on the streets, a Klingon in the sheets?’ Jim disappears into the stranglehold of his sweater, feeling his hair do something static-crazy when his head makes it all the way through the tight collar.

‘That you don’t have a damn clue what you’re doing, and you sure as hell aren’t doing it right.’ Bones’ eyebrow is up and something in the corner of his mouth is twitching. Jim hasn’t seen one in a while, except for in the mirror, but it might be the creaky remains of a long-buried grin. ‘You write your experiences down in a diary if you need to, Jim, but I’m a doctor, Prince Jim, not a marriage counselor or, God help me, a relationship consultant.’

‘Yeah,’ Jim agrees, ‘but you are a friend. Even if you do like stabbing me more than most of my other friends.’

‘I wouldn’t say more than. That’s a generous estimate about those other friends of yours.’ Bones returns to his kit, packing up the samples he took. ‘And here’s an idea, your royal pain-in-the-ass-ness: try engaging in the act on a bed sometime.’

‘Doctor’s orders?’ Jim asks.

‘Friendly advice,’ Bones replies. ‘Not a wall, not a floor, not a—whatever those ceremonial stone chairs are supposed to be, murder on the sciatic nerve included—and you’d think a logical people would be able to invent something soft to put your ass on when you sit—but something with pillows.’

‘Vulcan beds don’t have pillows.’ Jim gives in to gravity and flops where he sits, leaning his weight on his elbow.

‘And Vulcan air doesn’t have enough oxygen for your lungs,’ Bones retorts. ‘You start pointing out everything that’s messed-up on this backwards planet and I’ll be here all day. Not that I’m implying anything treasonous about your royal company, but a married man like you—well, I’d think you have better things to do with your time than harass an old country doctor.’

‘When I quote that back to Spock,’ Jim says, ‘and I will, Bones, do you want me to tell him you’re an old country doctor, or an old country doctor?’

‘Is there a difference?’ Bones asks. Jim can see it the minute he realizes his mistake, the horror sweeping over his darkened features like shadows stretching over the craggy desert cliffs outside Jim’s windows. ‘Never mind. Don’t tell me. I never asked. Think I’ll avoid the surround-sound Vulcan experience for as long as I can.’

‘Good luck with that, Bones,’ Jim says. ‘Because you’re kinda surrounded on all sides.’

‘Don’t remind me.’ Bones shivers theatrically, sticking the final hypo into his kit. ‘I tell you one thing: that Lady Amanda Grayson’s a goddamn saint.’

This time, Jim doesn’t bother pointing out the inherent contradiction in goddamn saint. If Bones is right about anything—and he is, more often than Jim’s willing to admit—it’s that they could get stuck doing this all day. And Jim has a lunch date. A date to eat lunch.

With his husband.

Jim shrugs with one shoulder, shaking off the tingling excitement that’s set into his skin. It’s easier to feel these things when he’s not being numbed by boiling water—and that just figures, since the one person he’d wanna feel them with has currently vanished.

If he told Jim the details of what he had to get done today, Jim’s already forgotten them.

Knowing him—and Jim doesn't yet, not as well as he wants—he’s probably drafted three treaties and settled a land dispute between the Tellarites and the Andorians, even after he got a late start due to Jim’s distractions.

Jim turns his attention to the problem at hand, cupping the side of his head to keep it from lolling to one side.

‘You crushing on my mother-in-law, Bones? Do I have to worry about you causing intergalactic incident?’

‘Watch it,’ Bones says. ‘You’re talking to the man who controls your medication.’

‘What happened to professional duty?’ Jim asks.

He knows he’s won when Bones growls like the recording of I-Chaya Spock sent him—while being careful to note of course that I-Chaya is of a gentle temperament, only growling when his primal instincts are awakened and he imagines himself, erroneously, to be on the hunt.

Primal instincts.

Jim’s on the hunt for some of those, himself. Bones rolls his eyes and rolls out the stiff muscle in his clenched jaw at the same time. Vulcans aren’t the only ones with simultaneous capabilities.

‘Try not to kill yourself before dinner, would you?’ Bones adds. ‘You know, you’re not the only one this atmosphere’s trying to assassinate. You’re just the only casualty they’ll report back home.’

If Bones is moved by the prospect of young love, he doesn’t show it. He’s off to study Jim’s platelets on slides in private while Jim gets studied like a platelet on a slide in semi-private. Not the romance he ever pictured for himself when he was riding free along the coast, cold San Francisco air whipping wet around his face—but then again, it’s hard to picture cold and wet on Vulcan anyway.

Alone—for the time being, in a rare moment of directionless peace—Jim reaches for his PADD before he remembers there isn’t going to be a message from Spock waiting for him on it.

He should probably send something back to his mom. And Sam, although Sam’s busy with his own stuff. Planning his next great escape. Or who he can get married to that’ll be even more outrageous than a half-Vulcan.

Dear Mom, Jim pictures himself writing. Guess what? I didn’t embarrass all of Earth on my first day and night in Vulcan so you can tell everyone to unclench. Bones thinks the weather’s trying to kill me but Bones thinks everything’s trying to kill me. What’s it like where there’s oxygen? I already forget. Also, in case you were wondering, which you probably weren’t, this crazy deal you made without even consulting me actually worked out, sort of. My husband’s pretty weird. He blushes green. Tell Sam I said thanks for screwing up worse than I did for once.

Yeah; it’d never fly. He’s got Dear Mom Highness but the rest is either too formal or too informal. Hard to write to family and treat them like family when they’re also royalty—even harder with the empty space between them. Mourning a lost father while respecting a king and his kingdom.

Jim wishes he could still feel the pinch of the bruise on his shoulder, something to ground him. When he rolls over onto his stomach for a better official communication home writing angle, hanging off the edge of the bed with his PADD on the floor, he’s lost the thread of what he wanted to say.

Maybe he doesn’t want to say anything.

But there’s not much else to do. The usual Vulcan lessons won’t stick in the heat; Bones isn’t there to pass the time. There’s a loneliness in the room that’s heavier, more stifling than the atmosphere. And there’s no shot of oxygen that’ll chase that feeling out.

The itchiness at Jim’s fingertips isn’t an unfamiliar sensation. It’s the same itch that drove him to head out for nowhere in particular, riding too fast the whole way. The tabloids ate it up. Restless Royal Joy-Rides Again.

It’s not bad, as far as press nicknames go. Catchy; alliterative.

He should’ve had it put on a t-shirt or started a band: Jim Kirk and the Restless Royals. Maybe he could’ve gotten Mitchell to play drums before they went their separate ways. But from what Jim’s heard of Vulcan music, he wouldn’t be much of a hit, not here. They aren’t big on melody—just rhythm. Bone-shattering, skull-pounding rhythm that goes on and on in the same monotone until Jim’s sure he’s being shaken apart on a molecular level.

Only that didn’t happen. Molecules intact, Jim’s officially married and he survived the official ceremony. It should feel like a rite of passage, but instead it sits restless under his skin like one of the fevers Bones is always watching out for.

He’s sure sweating it out.

Jim hoists himself to his feet in a slow, calculated movement that he’d never make with an audience. On Earth there’s always a camera, always a servant or an interested party waiting around to get a quote for a fluff piece. Of all the differences and difficulties Vulcan’s brought him, he’s most grateful for that one. It’s lonely, but no one’s watching over his shoulder as he shuffles forward like a wheezing ninety year old, making his way to the outer balcony.

The sun hits him full force the second he passes through the curtains, sending Jim right back into his room for his royal shades. They’re specially-made, tinted glass engineered to block out UVA and UVB and all the other stuff that’s making Jim’s eyes sting and tear up. The last thing he needs is to meet Spock with salt-tracks streaming down his cheeks.

Not exactly a romantic look post-honeymoon.

He can just hear Spock now, telling him: Your eyes are secreting a saline fluid.

He laughs it off, all of him secreting saline fluids lately, then stops in his tracks to keep from toppling forward over a giant mound of fur.

‘Whoa,’ Jim says.

There’s an unexpected visitor sleeping slumped across his deck. His big, furry body’s stretched out to block the stairway cut into the rock, which makes a narrow path from the higher elevation of Jim’s quarters to the desert below.

What was it Spock said about waking the primal instincts in sehlats again?

‘Hey, boy.’ Jim crouches, moving slow, and stretches one hand toward the animal’s massive, bearlike head.

Reckless Royal Eaten By Grizzly. The headline flashes in front of his face clear as an emergency bulletin on a PADD.

But the sehlat’s head snaps up in recognition, eyes warm, broken canine friendly. He knows the sound of Jim’s voice from dozens of recordings, some of them made expressly for him, and instead of baring his teeth, he watches Jim lazily, paws folded under his chin like an old dog.

An old, big dog.

‘You wanna come to lunch?’ It shouldn’t be easier to talk to I-Chaya than his own husband, but here he is. Chatting with a sehlat. ‘Get some nice meat substitutes?’

I-Chaya blinks at him and Jim settles against a stone stanchion at the balcony’s edge, one knee up, making use of the shade. He lets I-Chaya sniff him, get used to the scents that he couldn’t exactly send along with his voice, before he tests the top of his nose for particular sensitivity.

Spock was right about the drool. I-Chaya’s eyes are fond but squinty.

‘Yeah,’ Jim says. ‘I feel you, buddy. Out here in that fur coat. You’re a trooper. Bones says Lady Amanda’s the saint, but you’re right up there. Bet you look at all these Vulcans and wonder why they put layers on at all, huh?’

I-Chaya doesn’t have an answer. Obviously. But he does butt his wet nose against the flat of Jim’s palm, pushing his face in an obvious plea for more pets.

Jim obliges. It’s simple. I-Chaya asks and Jim delivers, physically, ruffling the bristly whiskers over the flat of I-Chaya’s nose and a sweet spot on the crest of his brow, wrinkling the skin beneath the fur and smoothing it out in a steady rhythm. I-Chaya rests his chin on Jim’s bent knee and before he knows it, there’s a spot of drool on the fabric, drying almost as quickly as it appears.

Kinda poetic.

Jim tips his head back. ‘Guess we oughta wait for Spock for lunch, anyway. Think he’ll be happy we’re getting along?’

I-Chaya drools.

‘Yeah,’ Jim says again. ‘I know. He’ll notice but it’s not like it’ll make a difference either way. It’s probably...whatever. Irrelevant.’

I-Chaya doesn’t get on him for a lack of specificity and that’s okay, too. Jim tests his ears; I-Chaya doesn’t complain or bristle. There’s a thick line of muscle and fat around I-Chaya’s neck and broad shoulders and Jim wiggles his knuckles against it.

‘Thanks for listening,’ he adds.

A slight breeze stirs the curtains. When the shadow behind them remains to clear its throat lightly, Jim wonders how long Spock’s been standing there listening to him talk to the family pet and if that’s grounds for a Vulcan divorce.

Eavesdropping should definitely be considered illogical—even if it’s been the logical solution to Jim’s problems on numerous occasions in the past.

‘Conversing with I-Chaya serves no purpose,’ Spock says.

‘The same could be said of a lot of people I’ve had to talk to.’ At least with the sunglasses on Jim doesn’t have to squint up at Spock to see him, hands folded out of sight behind his back. ‘But I still talk to them, and they’re not even half as good company.’

‘The point remains that I-Chaya cannot understand your words, nor can he offer any addition to the conversation you have initiated with him. He is not an ideal partner for dialogue.’

‘Worried we’re talking about you, huh?’

‘That was at no point of any concern.’ Spock’s stiff shoulders probably have nothing to do with the implication that Jim’d gang up on him with a sehlat. ‘Naturally that conversation, too, would be one-sided, and likely far from illuminating.’

‘’Cause we were,’ Jim says. ‘Talking about you.’

‘You were talking about me to I-Chaya.’

Now Spock’s getting the hang of repetition.

Jim likes it. At least, he can’t do anything about the big, dopey grin that spreads across his face at the idea of Spock being the one at a loss for once. Maybe he needs to give Bones a little more credit for whatever’s in those hypos—or maybe Jim’s just finally talked Spock down to his level. Either way, for the moment, they’re both in the weeds.

Figuratively speaking, of course. There’s no such things as weeds on Vulcan. Jim’s barely glimpsed so much as a cactus, let alone things that aren’t supposed to grow in the ground.

‘It was a very illuminating conversation,’ Jim adds.

Spock looks up toward the arch of the window above him, drawing in a breath. On anyone else that expression would look like rolling his eyes, but Jim has yet to see a sassy Vulcan. Maybe he’s catching a glimpse of his first. Maybe he’s inspired the first.

‘You are of course, speaking facetiously.’

‘Not in front of I-Chaya,’ Jim says. He straightens, getting on one knee before slowly standing. I-Chaya stays as still as a rock beneath his hand, earning himself a scratch behind the ears for his trouble. Smart. ‘Good dog.’

‘I-Chaya is not a dog,’ Spock says.

His eyes are back on Jim, watching closely, as if he’s trying to memorize the situation so he can dissect and present the facts. They aren’t on a starship. There’s no admiral to make recommendations to, no official analysis to present. Jim can’t imagine the ways in which he’s being broken down and put back together, the things Spock’s deciding about him every time Jim moves like a senior citizen instead of a young man.

‘Good boy, then.’ Jim shifts his hand to rub under I-Chaya’s furry chin where his whiskers are gray on brown. ‘Good senior citizen. Good sehlat. You wanna get some lunch with me and my hubby?’

Jim shifts his balance quickly—an ungraceful slope that makes it look like he’s toppling over—and catches himself on the curtain. Spock doesn’t move to brace him, but his brows draw sharply down, shifting his expression from distant to watchful.

It’s attentive. Jim’ll take it.

‘Animals—even those under domesticated care—are not permitted within the dining hall,’ he says. ‘I-Chaya is already aware of these parameters.’

‘Uh huh.’ Jim waits, watching the tension in Spock’s mouth. There’s more coming. He’s still trying to spit it out.

‘…I do not believe there was any mention of hubby in your colloquial dictionary.’

‘Huh. Must’ve been an oversight.’ Jim smoothes out the curtains, rich, thick fabric over the softer, gauzier material that flutters in the barest of breezes. He’d rather be touching Spock, but this way, at least, his hands don’t feel so empty. ‘Husband’s what it stands for. Sort of what it sounds like. Easy.’

‘It merely ‘sort of’ sounds like husband, that is true.’ Spock sniffs. ‘I will not forget it as you did while compiling the dictionary.’

‘Maybe I figured working on some of this stuff together might be more fun than having it all out there before we even got a chance to meet,’ Jim says. Something’s nagging at the back of his mind, something he needs to sift through gritty heat like sand to pull to the surface. ‘Are we having lunch in a dining hall?’

‘A brief public appearance would not be unwise,’ Spock replies.

‘Huh.’ Jim tugs at a slip of light fabric. It slips like liquid silver past his fingers, soft as a shiver. ‘Here I thought maybe we could eat alone. Just the two of us. I-Chaya, too, since you already made the point that he can’t gossip or understand what people are talking about.’

‘Your expressed interest in privacy has already been noted.’ Spock watches Jim’s hands—but it’s little more than a glance. Still, it makes Jim shiver under the heat. Illogical, but completely accurate. With sensitive fingertips like a Vulcan’s, Jim can’t imagine that Spock wouldn’t just touch things: soft things, rough things, leather and bark and pitted stone and sand. But this is Spock. Spock doesn’t just touch things. He needs a little encouragement, someone to suggest it would not be unwise. ‘If you would prefer to eat alone together, that is easily arranged.’

Easily arranged, Jim’s brain repeats. Like their deal, only there’s been nothing easy about that.

Jim wipes the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand. ‘Something cold to drink might not be unwise, either,’ he adds, twisting another slim, soft twirl of fabric around his knuckles.

Spock looks at that, too. It could be part of his research—or it could be personal. Jim lets the fabric slip free between his fore and index-finger.

I-Chaya yawns.

Spock swallows.

‘Hey,’ Jim begins, his voice gritty for reasons other than the desert, the atmosphere, the sunlight, the countless grains of sand he had to’ve swallowed in open-mouthed sleep.

‘You are hungry,’ Spock says.

That’s true, but there’s more than one kind of hunger. And that’s not something you can put down in a dictionary.

‘You wanna go out, we can go out.’ Jim lets it go—the curtain, but also something else. For now. ‘Anywhere in mind? You looking to show me off?’

‘That is not a Vulcan indulgence.’

‘Indulgence isn’t a Vulcan indulgence, Spock.’

‘A tautology, and therefore true.’ Spock waits for Jim to walk inside and follows; I-Chaya trots behind, lumbering steps punctuated by a snuffle that Jim couldn’t agree with more. ‘Perhaps it would be less taxing to remain here for the time being.’

Jim isn’t sure which option is more daunting: face all of Vulcan on his second day there, or face Spock alone after his first morning. Either way, facing both eventually is his only option. When he puts it that way, he prefers facing this Vulcan.

He’s not sure whether he’ll regret that decision but it feels right for now. Spock’s scrutiny over that of the masses. And Jim’s not sure he can manage conscious upright posture at the same time as table manners. It might be one or the other—and there’s a chance Spock might find it charming if Jim ends up facedown in his synthesized protein substitute.

He’s not willing to take the gamble that a roomful of Vulcan servants and dignitaries might feel the same way.

‘I have researched the appropriate recipes and programmed the replicator for the Earth delicacies for which you expressed preference in your letters.’ Spock crosses to the wall beside Jim’s desk—what could double as a dining table, a flat slab of polished obsidian. ‘It is my understanding that there is little tradition applied to lunch on Earth, but as you failed to attend breakfast, perhaps you would prefer lighter fare.’

He presses his fingers against a smooth patch above a decorative stone molding; it retracts into the wall and reveals a silver control panel with an open space for replicated meals.

‘That your way of telling me I can’t have a hamburger for my first meal on Vulcan, Spock?’

Jim watches, marveling at the secrets his own room’s been hiding from him. It’s humbling to think about how little he’s paid attention to his surroundings. Last night, his quarters could’ve been a bed in the middle of the desert cliffs for all he cared what was in them. Even now he’s looking at the furniture and classifying it by what he can lean on and what he can’t.

Any Vulcan aesthetic appreciation is lost on him. But that might’ve been true even if he was operating at full capacity.

‘You should see my room back home,’ he adds, before Spock can answer his first question. ‘Bones put the replicator on lockdown for my diet. I could’ve used one of those hidden bad boys.’

Spock’s brow wrinkles. His fingers are on the buttons but his eyes are still on Jim. It’s not entirely fair for him to act this way—he knows that. He gets that. Jim could stand to be plenty more direct. But standing’s not his strong suit right now, and he’d rather not be direct when he can coax Spock into playing along with him.

‘The replicator functions adequately,’ Spock says. ‘There is no reason to refer to it as bad.’

‘In that case: yeah, Spock.’ Jim never thought he’d sit down to his first meal on Vulcan with the help of a support-sehlat, but it’s the kind of surprise he can live with. ‘I think I want a hamburger.’

‘As it is your first meal, and as you did not eat breakfast, a concession for a heavier nutritional offering is not out of the question.’ Spock’s fingers move quickly over the buttons, giving Jim another thrill—although it’s brief, swiftly replaced by anticipation for the hamburger.

That’s no offense to Spock and Spock’s fingers. It’s only that it’s been forever; it feels like forever, anyway. And that’s the kind of forever that usually counts.

Jim leans forward, elbows on the table. Spock brings him the hamburger on a tray and sets it down, neatly, with a salad for himself across the way.

‘Bones tell you to make a good impression on me about the merits of a salad?’ Jim asks, still savoring the last few moments before he digs in. Those are the best ones—that, and immediately after everything’s gone and he’s licking the last bit of sauce off his fingertips, when it’s too soon to miss what he’s already consumed. ‘Eat all the salad you can in front of your new husband, see if you can rub some of your good habits off on him, that kind of thing? I know how the two of you love talking about me.’

‘This is my preferred afternoon meal.’ Spock sits crisply, stiffly; Jim can tell he’s never leaned on anything a day in his life. Lounging is out of the question.

Jim nods at one familiar piece of the equation. The sash-savas is in there, cut into quarters, and Jim’s mouth puckers with half-fond remembrance. ‘I’d know those little acid bombs anywhere. You can really eat those without burning the inside of your mouth off?’

‘As that has not yet come to pass,’ Spock replies, ‘it is safe to assume that it is not a concern.’

There’s so much to work on, so much to finesse. Jim settles for eating his hamburger two-handed—because there’s no way he’s going to give Spock the wrong idea about how hamburgers should be eaten. Being proper with a hamburger, using utensils, is a crime against nature. It’s illogical, that’s what it is, and Jim knows how Spock feels about logic.

Now if he could be as certain about how Spock feels about him.

The good news is, Jim knows how he feels about the hamburger. It’s got that faint replicator tang—he knows it isn’t the real deal, but it’s close enough for the time being that he’ll take it. Replicators never get the succulence, the juiciness of a meal quite right; in this case, it’s probably for the best that Jim isn’t dripping all over the table while Spock eats in silence.

He does that efficiently, too. Without savoring a single bite. Not surprising. Maybe he doesn’t like the sash-savas after all. Maybe he rationally eats it because it provides the required nutrients.

Jim licks his thumb, his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth and the edge of his finger pressed against his bottom lip when he happens to catch Spock’s eye.

‘Does it meet with your expectations?’ Spock asks.

‘You gotta make it sound so foreboding?’ Jim remembers he should swallow before speaking just a beat too late.

Not to mention that he’s doing that thing Bones hates—answering a question with a question—but there’s no getting around the way Spock asked to begin with. Most people would’ve sounded hopeful, a little unsure of themselves. Spock practically made his lunch here, with the replicator’s help, and they are newlyweds. This is the stage where they’re supposed to try and lavishly please one another before the magic dies.

Though when Jim reviews the things he’s done so far to please Spock—not passed out in the desert at midnight; haltingly undressed him in the dark before falling asleep after—he’s coming up with red on his side of the column.

Spock’s done way more. Maybe he’s aware of it; maybe he’s not looking to impress Jim right now because he thinks he’s been impressive enough with that stunt in the bath. From what Jim’s learned, Vulcans don’t exploit the odds in their favor. There’s not much logic in capitalizing on a trend of victory.

Jim sure as hell would’ve been using it to his advantage.

And now he’s sitting here at the lunch table in his quarters thinking about getting his fingers on Spock’s Vulcan dick.

That’s probably why it was the best idea to stay in.

‘I was inquiring after your enjoyment of the meal,’ Spock says. ‘In my research of common topics with regard to human small dialogue, the discussion of activities as well as current events is always relevant. As the most recent current event in Vulcan bulletins has been our nuptials and you attended the ceremony, I presumed a different area of discussion might be more appropriate.’

Jim’s head throbs, just once, a warning of many headaches to come in his oxygen-starved brain. Eventually his body’s gonna adjust to the atmosphere. He keeps telling himself that, but it doesn’t mean the transition’s not a bitch.

He finds a stray piece of ground meat with his tongue and nudges it loose from between a gap in his upper back molars.

‘It’s great, Spock.’ Jim stretches his legs out under the table. The tension in Spock’s shoulders relaxes for a split-second, then jerk straight across, back tight as a bowstring as Jim’s boot taps his own. ‘I love your cooking.’

‘There was no cooking involved,’ Spock reminds him.

‘Huh.’ Jim lifts a cloth napkin to his mouth, wiping the grease from his lips. ‘We could get something cooking, if you wanted. Since we’re staying in and all.’

Spock glances to I-Chaya, but I-Chaya’s on Jim’s side for the moment. Or on his own side. The point is, I-Chaya’s sleeping, and Jim’s testing the waters by touching Spock’s calf with the side of his boot. I-Chaya doesn’t notice; I-Chaya’s snoring.

Jim waits for something else to flare to life—heat in Spock’s cheeks; a flush on his neck; anything. But Spock’s got himself under control. Whatever effect Jim has on him, it’s not something Jim can see.

‘The suggested amount of physical exertion would not be advisable.’ Spock sounds more like a doctor than Jim’s actual doctor. ‘It would place a strain upon your system, and the likelihood of that strain causing future, avoidable difficulties is eighty-six point three percent.’

‘Only eighty-six point three?’ Jim shrugs. ‘That’s better odds than I usually get. And a little less specific than you usually get, Spock. Something distracting you?’

‘Your foot,’ Spock replies simply, ‘is on my leg.’

‘Yeah. It’s a human thing. You ever heard of footsie, Spock?’

‘It would seem there are many eventualities for which I am unprepared.’ It’s then that Spock’s focus shifts, lingering over Jim’s shoulder, in a neutral space that gives as much as it takes—that is to say, nothing at all.

‘That such a bad thing?’ Jim wants to lean forward, but he doesn’t want to move his foot. It’s a point of proof or pride or—most likely—passion. He wants to show he can commit himself to something, that he can follow through. That there’s more to him than teasing and writhing in a hot tub while Spock does all the hard work. ‘We can figure it out together.’

‘That would require your lack of prior information—a lack of information which you do not have.’

‘Okay,’ Jim says. ‘Okay, that’s fair. Except I don’t have any Vulcan information. Just the stuff I studied. And even that, like you said... Shrouded in secrecy.’

‘As private matters should remain.’

‘You made me lunch,’ Jim tries to explain. ‘Got me lunch. Brought me lunch. And then there’s this morning. Which was...’ Jim can’t find the right word; knowing how important the right word is for Spock makes everything feel like it falls short. ‘I mean, it was really...’

‘Many skills require example and practice.’ Jim really wishes he was that spot on the wall Spock’s staring at. ‘Though the Vulcan intellect is capable of absorbing information at an accelerated rate, that is an intellectual, not a physical, pursuit.’

‘So you’re good at everything,’ Jim says. ‘I’m totally not surprised, by the way. I was expecting it.’

Spock swallows. Jim watches his throat bob just under the collar and it makes him swallow, too.

‘I do not understand,’ Spock says. ‘I had inferred from your inability to choose a suitable descriptor that the experience was not one that approached your expectations. Anticipation is illogical; it is a factor in breeding disappointment.’

Jim blinks. ‘Spock—’

‘The circumstances, too, were not ideal. However, I will not act without proper forethought again.’

Spock,’ Jim says.

‘In the future,’ Spock continues.

Jim reaches across the table. It’s rash; it’s bold; it’s stupid, probably. It might not be good, but it’s the right thing to do.

He grabs Spock’s hand.

Spock,’ Jim says again.

If Spock had fur, it’d be easier to see where he bristles like a cat. As it stands, Jim has to infer from the atmosphere and his posture, the way Spock’s arm tightens from shoulder to wrist, carrying that fine strain through his back and down his spine. Jim almost regrets it, but Spock’s not tugging his hand away just yet. His fingers are still under Jim’s, not limp but cool and still in some feign at passive resistance.

That’s all right. It’s not great, but Jim’s past dealing in ideals for the moment. His reality’s far from the best thing it could be right now but it’s still his to manage.

He can make it work.

If they can’t communicate the old fashioned way then they’ll have to try something new. Jim’s not thinking anything particular in Spock’s direction, but the emotional transference should be enough to go by.

It’s something, anyway.

And, knowing Spock, he’ll be able to make better sense of it than Jim.

Then again, given the evidence of what he’s seen today alone, there might be nobody at the helm of this relationship.

Spock curls his fingers in toward his own palm, pushing his knuckles against the underside of Jim’s hand. He’s defensive. Jim tries to understand.

‘Were you not there?’ he asks. He can back up his feelings with words—the least he can do to make up for barreling into Spock with his emotions. ‘I mean, I know you were there, Spock, believe me. I’m still reeling from how there you were. But I mean—mentally, did you check out or something? Because it was… Really good, Spock. Really good.’

Spock’s fingers twitch; Jim feels the tug of a thumbnail against the soft web of skin between his thumb and forefinger. Not pushing him off, but not pulling him closer either.

‘Your inability to apply a suitable adjective suggests otherwise.’ Spock’s voice is distant but calm, like he’s working on centering himself far away from the tumult of Jim’s honeymoon feelings.

It was kind of a low blow to corner him like that, but Jim’s not exactly at his best. Any bad decisions he makes in the first seventy-two hours or so he’s chalking up to poor adjustment to his new environment.

‘Pretty sure I used multiple adjectives there, actually.’ Jim fits his fingers in between the bumps of Spock’s knuckles. ‘Really good. Spock. The meaning can’t be that different between Earth and Vulcan.’

‘Really is an adverb,’ Spock replies.

Jim groans.

‘You also expelled sounds similar to that which you have just now expressed,’ Spock adds. ‘In my understanding, it is a noise which connotes frustration.’

‘I was groaning, you mean.’

‘Considerably.’

‘Well—yeah, Spock, I was. You had your hands on me and the—are you not hearing me when I say it was really good? I don’t fake that stuff, anyway. Flirting, maybe. But here’s the thing, Spock: human males can’t actually fake an orgasm.’ Jim gives Spock’s knuckles a tentative rub. One of Spock’s eyebrows lifts. He’s not staring at the wall or the window anymore; he’s looking down at their hands instead. That’s progress. Slow and steady, which isn’t the way Jim’s used to winning the race. ‘First of all, that happened. Second of all, if anyone should be worried about how things went down, it should be me.’

‘I fail to see how—’

‘Because,’ Jim continues, ‘of the two of us, I was the one who got off; you were the one who got me off. And then you left before I could return the favor. Not that you did it because you were looking for payback; I get that. That’s not— I wouldn’t imply that. But that’s kinda how it works. A little quid pro quo. Or a lot quid pro quo, if you’re good at it. Which I think we could be.’ Jim takes a deep breath. ‘Really good.’

‘Further repetition is no longer necessary,’ Spock says. ‘I will not mistrust the statement or require emphasis on its veracity any further.’

‘Good, ‘cause it’s stopped sounding like words. Really good.’ Jim chances a grin; it doesn’t get a response in the form of a smile but there’s no way Spock missed it. ‘Your hands, Spock. They got me. They totally got me.’

‘The intention was not to ‘get you’,’ Spock replies. ‘...But I will take the compliment under advisement.’

‘Well, I’d like to get you sometime.’ Jim still has Spock’s hand in his. He rubs that spot between his knuckles again and sees Spock’s posture shift, still stiff, but it’s a different kind of defensive. Jim recognizes that, and he has good reason to.

It’s human.

‘I made a lot of promises, too,’ he adds. ‘About the things I wanted to do with you. To you. And the things we could do together. And then you go ahead and you bust out your moves in the middle of my bath and I swear, Spock, I’m not gonna lie back and let you do all the work in this relationship.’

‘You were not lying at that point.’ Spock watches, very closely, as Jim traces every hill and valley of his knuckles. ‘Yet as the expression is colloquial I will not correct that point.’

‘Thanks,’ Jim says.

He means it.

Spock inclines his head to the side—a private battle, Jim decides, between his knowledge of the proper response and his calculated conclusion that gratitude isn’t relevant or necessary.

‘But,’ Jim continues, ‘I’m not a touch telepath or anything, and it’s not like you make it easy to guess what’s going on inside your head. I was just thinking maybe—I mean, on Earth, it’s kind of a tradition to kiss each other after you’re married. And we haven’t done that yet. And, I get it, mouth to mouth’s gonna challenge my already compromised respiratory system, but that’s not the only way Vulcans can kiss, right?’ 

Spock’s teeth click when they come together. Jim hears it, a clean connection that means he hasn’t pinched a piece of his lip or the corner of his tongue like anyone else. Jim wonders if it feels the same on Vulcan as it does on Earth, or whether Vulcans evolved to have those heightened nerve endings in their fingers because they don’t exist in their mouths.

It’s a depressing thought. Jim doesn’t want to go there. Not that he's so set on the idea of a traditional make-out session, but he'd hate to think Spock might not be getting the full experience if they went a little more human sometimes in their explorations.

For now, it couldn't hurt to learn the Vulcan basics.

Jim pulls his hand back instead, giving himself the necessary distance to draw the pads of his fingers between Spock’s where they separate.

Spock’s mouth opens again, just slightly. It’s not gaping like the paparazzi shot of Jim at one of Sam’s homecoming speeches—Younger Kirk Catches Flies At Prince Sam’s Reception Gala—but there’s a definite slackness of musculature there that Jim hasn’t seen yet.

It occurs to him in a flash of inspiration that he might’ve missed it earlier—because there were things he sacrificed for the privacy of their romp in the bathtub, and one of those was getting to see Spock’s face while he was getting Jim off. He’s had had to chalk a lot up to imagination; while they were writing letters it didn’t seem to matter so much, but now that they’re together—married together—it seems like a waste not to eat up every second of Spock that he can before the honeymoon’s over.

The honey-no-moon on Vulcan.

‘C’mere,’ Jim says. ‘Not literally, because if you get any closer I’m not sure I’m gonna be able to keep it strictly to hands touching hands here, but just…’

He presses his thumb to Spock’s palm for leverage and turns his hand over, tracing pale skin along the roots of his fingers, stopping to circle over the raised section that marks his index finger. There’s no telltale flush of green in Spock’s cheeks and he’s nowhere near as warm as Jim, but he’s watching Jim with the same lidded appreciation I-Chaya gave him while he was scratching a good spot under his chin.

Jim probably shouldn’t compare his husband to his favorite old pet out loud. He’ll keep that one to himself, alongside the satisfaction that comes with it.  

‘We were right to requisition privacy for this luncheon,’ Spock says, and Jim’s not sure by now whether it would actually kill him to drop a compliment, but he’s starting to wonder whether this isn’t all some elaborate scheme set up to assassinate the second prince of Earth.

Because he’s pretty sure he’s gonna die if Spock starts talking about the weather next instead of Jim’s dexterous aptitude.

‘Because you’re gonna need privacy?’

‘We are both in need of it.’ Spock swallows again. Jim measures every movement he makes, no matter how small. ‘To touch each other in this fashion in public would not be appropriate.’

‘So I’m being inappropriate,’ Jim says. He knew that. His thumb follows the mound at the heel of Spock’s palm, tracing it around to the base where it connects with his wrist, then comes full circle back to the center. ‘Even...naughty.’

‘I would not suggest punishment for this behavior,’ Spock replies. ‘The term naughty—’

‘Spock.’ Jim rubs the bottom of Spock’s index finger, from the inside ridge of one knuckle to the next, up and down, pushing his fingers apart a little wider each time. ‘Remember the colloquial dictionary?’

‘Naughty,’ Spock repeats. There it is. A brief, gone-to-soon crack in the wall, a glimpse of firelight in the desert sands. Because that’s exactly what Spock’s like; Jim’s not gonna miss out on the perfect comparison, not after so many poetry lessons with Gaila. ‘You utilized that particular word in order to imply sexual innuendo and denote flirtatious intentions.’

‘Uh-huh.’

‘It has been noted.’ Spock regards the spread of his fingers, coaxed by Jim’s fingers, along the warm, flat tabletop with eyes so dark Jim can’t picture any kind of light inside of them. The fire is that deep. Jim moves up a knuckle, the skin thin and sensitive, little veins even greener than they ever appear on human hands. ‘I will not commit the same mistake of connotation in the future.’

‘Uh-huh,’ Jim says again. His thumbnail’s short and blunt, the perfect shift in textures as he drags it along the side of Spock’s ring-finger, rounding over the domed tip on his way back down the other side. He doesn’t feel it—not to the same extent that Spock has to be feeling it—but that doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate the moment for what it is: total exploration; giving ten, maybe a hundred times more than he’s taking; the same illicit thrill of waiting for somebody to unwrap the perfect gift coupled with the physical knot of hard heat that comes with being turned on.

The best of both worlds, you might say.

Like so many times in the past, Jim thinks: Don’t forget to tell Spock about that comparison.

‘The point remains,’ Spock says quietly, ‘that you cannot be appreciating the same stimuli as you are affording me with this choice of actions.’

‘Yeah, maybe. Not the same. It doesn’t have to be the same. Besides,’ Jim adds, ‘the reverse was true this morning. Turnabout’s fair play.’

‘You believe that I was unable to share the sensations as you experienced them in the bath when my hands were at the site of your physical arousal?’ Spock asks.

It’s Jim’s turn to swallow. He nearly chokes. ‘Uh,’ he says. ‘Oh. Huh. Yeah. Hrm.’ He clears his throat. The choking could still happen. The choking is always on the verge of happening. ‘I was actually, yeah. Wondering about that. Huh.

‘Vulcan telepathy is based around transference through touch.’ It’s familiar, but the words sound better coming out of Spock’s mouth than the hushed recitation mode from Jim’s terminal. ‘The sensations you experienced during this morning’s activities were quite...obvious.’

‘Well,’ Jim says, ‘I guess I’d rather be obvious than inscrutable.’

Like he’s ever had a choice. Jim wasn’t exactly born with the discerning gene. He stands out in a crowd. It was either embrace that or learn to live with it, and he’s always been better at the proactive than the reactive.

His fingers light on either side of Spock’s ring finger, moving over the band of bare skin that’d have a ring if they wore them. Those’ll come with the human ceremony too—and even then Spock’s won’t be on his hand.

In a weird way, that’s kinda hot.

The only thing that’s gonna touch that part of Spock is Jim. He can live with that.

‘I was starting to worry for a while there, Spock.’ Jim has to keep talking, mostly so he won’t have to think about Spock saying site of your physical arousal, stirring an appropriate response from the site in question. ‘Thought we might have to file for irreconcilable differences.’

Spock blinks, slow and imprecise. It’s the first time Jim’s seen him do anything without his usual, razor-sharp exactitude. If not the first, then definitely the most noticeable. It settles between Jim’s legs with a wisp of unnatural heat—this morning’s bath was proof that he can get warmer than the atmosphere should allow for.

‘You imagined there would be conflict between us?’ Spock asks once he’s found his voice.

‘What? No.’ Spock’s not the only one getting distracted, so Jim figures he’s gotta be doing something right. ‘I was just joking around… You know, because I’m so obvious; you’re so mysterious… Get it?’

Put like that, it doesn’t sound like there’s much to get, but Jim’s not gonna be the guy who admits it. Stick by your jokes. Especially the bad ones.

‘You are distracting us both from the purpose of my question,’ Spock says.

‘Okay, fine. I’m getting something out of this, Spock.’ Jim threads their fingers together, lacing his—shorter and thicker—through Spock’s, which are longer and more delicate. Jim’s never given much thought to the different parts of his hands before now, every bone and joint, but this action has him noticing all kinds of things: his second knuckle that’s thicker than the others on his index fingers and the fine golden hair that stands out against his skin even more when he’s rocking his very first, very faint Vulcan sunburn. ‘Trust me.’

‘Trust is an innate part of a flourishing relationship,’ Spock replies.

‘So do you trust me?’

‘We had already established trust as one of the primary foundations of our communications.’

Jim pauses. There’s something else, another important thread to follow up on. ‘You think this is a flourishing relationship?’

Yeah, that’s it. Flourishing. Jim mouths around the words after he’s said them, heavier than the air, round and important and, frankly, uncharacteristic. Granted, it still sounds like diplomatic double-speak, which is Spock’s specialty, but it’s also a key to unlocking their mutual success.

Some of Spock’s internal ambassador is rubbing off on Jim—part of the connection that Jim can’t quantify, the pathways it chooses ones he can’t trace. Who knows what’s passing between them even now.

Jim rests his palm over Spock’s palm, his forefinger against the pulse at Spock’s wrist. Spock’s fingertips, in turn, brush that same spot, a half-inch lower, on the underside of Jim’s arm.

‘The intended, mutual success of our union,’ Spock begins, and Jim laughs, sudden enough to startle even himself. ‘That was not humor in any variety of which I have been made aware.’

‘No, it’s—look, Spock, there’s all kinds of laughter, too, just like there’s all kinds of humor.’ Jim realizes after he’s started that he’s begun to caress Spock’s wrist: curling his knuckles against it, following parallel lines over Spock’s palm and down, down along his fingers to the tips, then back, holding his hand, giving it a thoughtful, experimental squeeze. ‘Like the kind that happens when you just—when you don’t know how to react, so it comes out of nowhere. And you can definitely laugh when you’re pissed off, too—though it’s probably not a good idea to laugh in any of your aide’s faces when they tell you something that you don’t wanna hear about all the reasons why everybody agrees you might not be the best candidate for Vulcan marriage arrangements.’ Jim’s mouth twists and Spock’s mirrors the expression in the faintest twitch of shadows on his jaw—some lingering remnant of that old bitterness spoiling the good mood. Jim shoves it down, aside, wherever it can go so it doesn’t get in the way. He won’t let it in. Not today. ‘And there’s laughing because you’re surprised. Not to mention how there’s all kinds of laughing ‘cause you’re happy. All kinds of happiness. ...Jeez, Spock, you can stop me any time. Never made out with somebody while talking this much before.’

Jim can tell Spock remembers the definition of ‘made out’ without needing a refresher. ‘Myriad sources of positive emotions,’ he says instead. ‘I see.’

‘Are you—’ Jim licks his lips, which are dry. This is why humans kiss with their mouths—so they don’t ever feel the need to keep the conversation afloat at the same time. But, by Spock’s own insistence, he can focus on multiple input simultaneously. It’s Jim who’s having a problem with that. ‘—happy, Spock?’

The length of the pause lets Jim know that the question has a time and a place and neither are in the here and now. It’s too soon, or too early in the day, or whatever—he’s not gonna get the answer he’s looking for.

He rarely does.

‘Never mind,’ Jim says. ‘It was a stupid question.’

Spock brings his attention to their hands, thumb curving against Jim’s. It’s a light touch, but it’s more than enough to inspire a private little shiver.

‘Is that a yes?’ Jim can’t keep from digging himself deeper. If he could just shut his mouth, maybe that’d help matters, but he can’t deal with the potential silence now that he’s thinking about what Spock’s not saying.

‘Vulcans do not categorize their emotions in such obvious terms.’ Spock’s thumb is cool against Jim;s, thumbnail dragging lightly over Jim’s knuckle where the skin’s thinnest.

‘Of course they don’t,’ Jim says.

It’s the logical reply.

Happy and sad have nothing to do with the status quo, the natural order of things. You don’t have to think about whether you’re happy or sad to accomplish great diplomatic feats or write treaties or make shows of support to other struggling Federation planets. But it’s kind of an important part of basic human relationships. Jim doesn’t want Spock to think of their marriage as a political pursuit.

For someone as direct as he’s always liked to think he is, Jim’s having a tough time spitting that one out.

‘What is the purpose of your question?’

Jim’s eyebrows are the ones that hike up this time, creasing his forehead in a way that he’s seen mirrored back in a hundred unflattering photos, both static and short-frame looping video. It’s not his best look. If Spock read the newsreels even recreationally, he might not’ve worked with Jim to get out of marrying Sam.

He did, though.

That’s a thing that happened.

‘Huh?’ Jim traces over the big tendon in Spock’s wrist. Spock’s pulse doesn’t even have the decency to leap under his touch. Mostly he just looks stiff, though the way his fingers twitch inward toward his palm is the kind of involuntary response Jim can get behind.

He hasn’t pulled his legs out of range from under the table either.

‘Is it customary among humans to discuss one’s emotions while engaged in romantic pursuits?’ Spock tries again.

‘No.’ Jim’s reply is a little too quick, kicking his boot against the side of Spock’s. ‘No, no— Definitely not. Our mouths are usually a little too busy.’

‘So this aberration in method can be attributed to your adapting to Vulcan standards,’ Spock says.

‘Well…yeah, I guess,’ Jim says. Aberration is not a sexy word. ‘But—let’s look at it logically, Spock. If you weren’t happy, I could change things up. If you were—well, I’d know I was doing something right.’

‘Then your inquiry is based around your performance rather than my emotional response to our actions,’ Spock says.

Jim thinks about crawling under the table, whether that would start an interplanetary incident and how that’s just plain depressing, considering the kinds of things he could get up to with the lower half of Spock’s body.

‘Even I know better than to ask how I’m doing,’ Jim says, instead. ‘I’m not that obvious.’

‘You are not that obvious,’ Spock agrees.

‘Compared to some people? You’ve gotta be—’ Not kidding; Vulcan’s don’t kid. ‘Compared to some people, I’m an open book.’

‘If you would prefer to engage your mouth in other pursuits, I would not refuse you my compliance.’

Jim’s fingers are the ones to twitch. It’s a logical offering, sure, but the way it comes out and the moment Spock chooses still manage to be a surprise. Maybe that’s because logic is illogical when you’re dealing with the physical. Confusion isn’t supposed to be this exciting but here they are; here Jim is.

‘You asking me to kiss you like a human, Spock?’ Jim asks.

‘I was not asking,’ Spock replies. ‘I was stating that if it were your preference, as you have already been called upon to adapt, that I would offer to do the same for the sake of compromise.’

Jim tells himself Spock might feel differently after he’s been kissed like a human. Not likely, but possible. Always possible. You never know until you’ve tried. It’s when you stop trying that you stop hoping and it’s way too early for that.  

‘That was not the reply you had desired.’ Spock’s parted lips; Spock’s smooth, unmussed hair; Spock’s bare throat under his high collar—Jim focuses on the elements of their equation that don’t have to do with compromise. ‘Yet as it was the truth, I could not—’

‘You couldn’t lie to me; I know. I wouldn’t want that, anyway. Some people,’ Jim adds, ‘humans, I guess, in my experience—sometimes they only want to hear what they want to hear, instead of what they should hear. You’re saying you’re fine with kissing me ‘cause it’s the diplomatic thing to do. That’s—hey, Spock, that’s a start.’

Gaila would have a few choice words to share about the lack of romance, but not everything can be naked poetry romps while staring at the sun from Venus. Humans are from Earth, Vulcans are from Vulcan.

Jim stands; he doesn’t let go of Spock’s hand. The table’s small enough that Jim can walk around it to stand at Spock’s side while keeping their fingers looped together, a more intimate touch than their conversation suggests. Jim’s knee bumps Spock’s side and he chuckles as he apologizes.

‘Kinda being an ambassador right now, when you think about it,’ he says. ‘Ambassador of Human Kissing Practices from Earth to Vulcan.’

‘Such a position does not currently exist.’

Jim rests his free hand on the woven fabric at Spock’s shoulder, feeling his way along the fibers, up Spock’s throat. ‘Sounds like an oversight to me.’

Kissing Ambassador. Jim’s gotta make this one good, gotta make it count. No pressure or anything; no big deal. It’s just the double weight of representing his entire planet and making a good first impression on his husband so it won’t be a compromise for them to kiss in the future.

‘I’ll be honest with you,’ Jim adds, shuffling between Spock and the table, leaning back against the edge with his thighs before sliding his weight onto Spock’s lap. Jim’s heart isn’t thanking him for the excess strain, but he improvises the best when he’s light-headed anyway. ‘If it’s a bad one, I mean. Not that I won’t do my best, but if it’s not my best—I’ll tell you.’

‘In order to maintain the established trust between us, an honest assessment would be appreciated,’ Spock confirms.

‘Yeah, yeah,’ Jim says. ‘I’ll give you something to appreciate, Spock.’

It’s not the first or even the last thing anyone dreams of hearing before a kiss, but Jim’s more interested in the reality of his situation than any fantasy he could come up with.

Jim runs his tongue over his teeth, catching the tip on one sharp incisor. Then he leans in, touching the fingers of his free hand to Spock’s throat to tilt his head up. The angle’s still not quite right when they come together, Spock’s lower lip hitting Jim’s chin, and Jim’s upper lip landing against the hollow between Spock’s nose and mouth. There’s a rasp when Jim’s stubble catches against Spock’s skin; things got busy in the bath, and he didn’t get a chance to shave this morning.

Jim grabs the back of Spock’s chair to keep from spilling over backward, kneeling on either side of his thighs. He realigns their mouths, settling his hand on the nape of Spock’s neck to hold him steady.

His hair’s soft where it’s longer, but prickly underneath where it’s shaved short close to his skin. Jim coaxes his lips to part with a suggestive pressure from his tongue.

He’ll say this about Spock—he’s open to ideas.

It’s thrilling in the same way too much responsibility always is. Spock’s letting him do what he wants because he trusts Jim to give him an honest cross-section of what a human-style kiss looks like. He’s given Jim full control—free reign of the situation and free reign of himself.

It’s way too much, but Spock doesn’t need to know that if Jim plays catch-up quickly enough.

He squeezes Spock’s hips with his legs for balance, giving his fingers an equal, echoing squeeze where their hands are still entwined. It’s weird to have his focus split between two points of concentration; Jim’s kissed while doing things with his hands before, but never while teaching one form of kissing and learning another one.

Spock’s not the type to make sounds, encouraging or otherwise. He commits himself to the kiss with the same quiet observation Jim imagined he’d have while reading the colloquial dictionary or studying common human mating rituals.

But that was something he had to do before they were together. Jim nips the corner of his mouth and pulls back, just enough to get a look at him.

He’s breathing hard; Spock looks nonplussed.

‘This is a joint activity, you know. Team participation. You can try something—anything. Whatever you want.’

‘You suggest improvisation.’ Spock’s forehead furrows right above the nose and between his sharply angled brows. Not exactly the face Jim was going for, but he’s not out of tricks yet.

‘Yeah—sure. I mean, unless whatever you want involves leaving the room and not coming back for a few days.’

‘I do not see why you would expect such an irrational reaction.’

‘You don’t, huh?’ Jim wishes he could show Spock his face right now—or that showing it to him would mean the same thing to a Vulcan as it would to a human. He sure looks like somebody who’s ready for exactly that kind of irrational reaction by human standards. ‘That’s good to know. Kissing doesn’t chase you out. But it was touch and go for a second there.’

‘At no point were matters so uncertain.’

Jim grins crookedly, taking in the faint green flush around Spock’s lips where Jim’s stubble’s irritated the skin. Green razor burn. That’s different. Jim expected him to be smooth from the pictures but there’s texture to him, too; it’s just that unlike Jim, he didn’t lose track of his regular morning routine and actually remembered shaving.

‘You wanna try that again?’ Jim asks.

‘Extemporaneous acts of imaginative experimentation are not a Vulcan trait,’ Spock replies.

Jim resettles, his hips skirting the danger-zone but not landing on Spock’s, not yet. He has to keep it above the waist to keep it about the kissing. Maybe Spock can focus on multiple stimuli at once; Jim can, too, with some stimuli. Just not this particular kind. ‘But research—you like research, right?’

‘Research is a logical pursuit,’ Spock says.

‘All I’m saying is—this counts as research.’ Sexy research, but Jim holds off on the many definitions of sexy for the time being. ‘Research my mouth. Research your own mouth, while you’re at it. Research long and hard and deep.’

‘You are stretching the appropriate application of that word rather liberally, Jim.’

Jim shuts his eyes and takes a deep enough breath to fill his lungs completely. His cheeks are hot; so are the insides of his thighs. Spock’s frustrating, most of it the good kind, some of it the literal kind. He likes it. He thinks. Mostly. He’d like it more if he could make some progress, if the question of this being something Spock doesn’t want or Jim being someone he doesn’t what it with wasn’t so heavy on his mind.

Something touches the side of Jim’s face, cool as a night breeze and just as brief. Jim opens one eye to see Spock pulling his fingers back from Jim’s jaw.

‘That was good,’ Jim says, probably too quickly. ‘Improvisation. I didn’t know you could— But you can.’

‘My resources suggest innumerable erogenous sites on the human body,’ Spock replies. ‘They are also indistinct variables, dependent on the individual. A general guide to the most common is not...specific.’

‘O...kay.’ Jim blinks. He wants that touch again—instinct despite the odds, even inspired, over so soon Jim could barely appreciate it. ‘I’m pretty sensitive all over, Spock. You could touch me anywhere and I’d like it.’ Jim swallows. ‘A lot.’

‘You are exaggerating,’ Spock says, like it’s an obvious joke that Jim hasn’t let him in on.

‘Why don’t you try me out and see?’ Jim leans closer—easy to pass it off for an attempt at alluring when it’s more of a woozy sway brought on by lightheadedness. His heart’s starting to feel the strain of all this extracurricular action, but it’s not like Jim needs to be standing.

He’d sacrifice basic motor function to keep on with his kissing lessons. No contest.

Even if right now it feels more like a phaser showdown at high noon, Spock’s eyes locked with Jim’s.

It’s not a surprise when Jim blinks first. It is a surprise when Spock takes the shot, touching his ring and middle fingers to Jim’s jaw, a cool caress almost like a kiss on its own terms. Jim’s eyes flutter shut and Spock’s touch shifts along Jim’s carotid, thumb tracing the thick square of his jaw.

‘Spock…’ Jim’s movement coaxes Spock’s hand closer to his mouth. The pad of his thumb rests against the corner, right where Jim’s lips come together.

‘I am doing as you suggested,’ Spock says. ‘Is the effect what you had desired?’

A wisp of vertigo pulses in Jim’s gut, pulling his center of gravity low and making him dizzy. This time, he’s sure it’s Spock’s fault.

‘Are you asking if I’m happy?’ Jim leans in to tip their foreheads together. It’s bracing, and it feels good. ‘Because—and I say this as someone whose lungs are being squeezed by an invisible atmospheric hand right now—yeah, Spock. I’m happy. You’re doing good.’

His thighs are trembling from the effort of keeping himself out of Spock’s lap. If Jim’s told Bones once, he’s told Bones a dozen times—he’s heavy. All that added bulk and muscle isn’t easy to keep upright under the added stress of unexpected exertion. And, Jim figures, since they didn’t get going on their wedding night he can factor in some extra fooling around the next day.

No one’s gonna know. Even I-Chaya’s trundled out—thankfully, since Jim doesn’t want to traumatize his new step-sehlat by climbing all over his master first thing. His breathing stutters when Spock’s hand moves lower, fingers plucking at the loose weave of his cowl-necked sweater.

‘Perhaps this experiment would be better-served if there were a larger surface area for me to conduct testing,’ he says.

God, Jim’s gonna pass out, but for the right reasons this time.

‘Are you asking me to take my shirt off?’ he asks.

He just wants to be clear.

‘I was suggesting for your shirt to be removed,’ Spock replies. He makes it sound—not clinical, but straightforward. Not easy, but obvious. It’s hot, literally and metaphorically. Jim’s starting to wonder if that combination is pure Spock. ‘The method or means by which it would be removed was not stated and therefore remained unclear.’

God,’ Jim says. Spock’s brow raises, felt where their foreheads rest together. ‘You wanna take my shirt off?’

‘As I did not specify, I believe it is only...logical that you should decide that method of removal for yourself.’

Jim lifts his arms, fingers tingling. He has to pull away for Spock to pull his sweater off and once it’s gone, it’s a naked relief, Jim in his loose cotton undershirt dappled with sweat. It sticks to the center of his spine, the dip of his chest, the air-filled swell of his belly.

‘Vulcans don’t sweat,’ Jim says hoarsely.

Spock takes the time to fold Jim’s sweater. Jim takes the time to remember when to breathe out after breathing in. Then, Spock touches the fabric, pinching it between thumb and forefinger, drawing it away from Jim’s skin, knuckles curled against the damp cotton.

‘Humans sweat, though,’ Jim adds. His voice sounds like sand-scoured stone. His legs feel about that cumbersome. ‘Sweat a lot on hot planets. Gonna be a lot of sweating. I don’t know if I should apologize or if that’s, uh—not...’

Spock returns to Jim’s throat, cool fingers spanning Jim’s pulse. Jim leans his jaw against the touch and slowly, blessedly, the dizziness of the heat ebbs.

It’s gotta be something to do with Spock’s magic fingers, but Jim’s not complaining. There’s not much inside his brain for Spock to read in the thought department, anyway. Jim’s thinking somewhere other than with his gray matter, and Spock’s already touched that part of his anatomy, too. No need to be self-conscious. He’s not even naked.

He was naked before.

‘I’m gonna sit in your lap,’ Jim says. Warning Spock’s only fair before he drops, hips to hips, hard as hell against Spock’s belly.

The best kind of gravity—only he manages not to say that the moment it comes to mind.

Spock steadies him with a hand at the small of Jim’s back. ‘’M good,’ Jim says, searching for Spock’s fingers, holding his hand again. He remembers to rub the web between Spock’s thumb and his palm, a spot Spock liked before, and Spock answers by realigning their forefingers, tip to tip. ‘Is that—’ Jim gulps too loudly. ‘Are we—’

‘A sign of intimacy,’ Spock replies. He can sound clinical all he wants; there’s a depth to his voice that wasn’t there before and Jim knows what it means. Spock adds his index-finger and Jim straightens his own against it. They hold it there. It’s weird. Not bad, just different. Spock blinks and it lasts more than a second and Jim fires his own shot this time, kissing Spock full on the mouth, tongue against his teeth.

This time, Spock’s tongue meets Jim’s. Finger to finger; lips to lips. Jim’s dick twitches. He moans into Spock’s mouth.  

Spock pulls away like he thinks Jim’s in pain and Jim pushes him back into the chair, following him with a hunger the replicated hamburger didn’t exactly manage to stir. There’s nothing mannerly about it, no etiquette or diplomacy in the kiss. Jim’s had it with trying to pussyfoot around a perfectly good husband. Yeah, being polite’s gotten him this far, but they aren’t writing messages back and forth anymore. Someone has to take charge of the situation.

Spock’s trusting Jim to teach him a thing or two. He’s not going to get anywhere—or learn anything—by politely feeling his way around the act.

Jim’s not sure why he ever thought he could approach things from that angle anyway. It’s not his style. He’s always had to burn out before he could learn how to lean into a turn. The same principles should probably also apply to kissing his husband.

He won’t wind up with the same injuries from a mishap here the way he might from a hoverbike crash, but it’s not so different.

Success is stimulated by equal parts self confidence and the thrill of belief. If Spock’s not going to provide them with that, then it’s Jim’s turn to step up to the plate.

The fingers of his free hand skirt Spock’s hair, threading through the silky threads before twisting his grip and giving a short, sharp tug to tilt his head up. It’s a rougher mirror of what he did before, but the repetition should give Spock a context clue as to what he’s after. The fingers against Jim’s slip to one side, sliding between them to squeeze his hand tight, pressing it to his. Together, palm to palm.

‘That’s it,’ Jim murmurs. The words come out slurred where his lips drag against Spock’s mouth. He thinks about stubble burn on Vulcan skin again, feels an answering throb between his legs where his dick’s pinned up against Spock’s abdomen. ‘Don’t think about it so much. S’the improvisational part of the lesson.’

‘That much,’ Spock stops for a breath and to make room for Jim’s mouth over his own, ‘is evident.’

There’s nothing at all in the archives about Vulcans being sassy as hell, so Jim has to wonder whether that’s a species-wide secret or if he just landed a gem in the form of his husband. He swipes his tongue over Spock’s again just to let him know how much he’s into it. Making out. Hamburgers for lunch. Kissing Spock in his lap while the wilted remains of his salad go by the wayside.

Jim’s not sure, but he might’ve just started a new afternoon tradition.

*

Chapter Text

They make it to the bed at some point. At least, Jim thinks they do. Because that’s where he rolls over and opens his eyes to the realization that, one, he might’ve passed out during the proceedings, ruining diplomatic relations between Vulcan and Earth forever—and, two, a wedding night can happen during the day if you try hard enough and believe in yourself.

Jim grins and rolls over, reaching after every empty space with full recognition of the potential that one of those spaces might not be empty at all.

One of those empty spaces might be Spock.

All he finds are a pillow, a fistful of bed linens, and plenty of mutinous Vulcan air. When he gropes along the edge of the bed, warm breath skirts over the back of his hand, and before he can panic—are there monsters under Vulcan beds, or is that too illogical for them?—a big, wet tongue starts licking his fingers.

Not Spock’s big, wet tongue, unfortunately.

Though it does give Jim a couple of ideas for next time.

‘I-Chaya—’ Jim clears his throat and manages to scratch I-Chaya’s nose while he finds his voice. ‘Hey there, boy. You wanna tell me where Spock is? Don’t tell me things got so crazy I was kissing you, too.’

I-Chaya pants. I-Chaya cannot answer you, Spock’d say.

Jim presses his lips together. They’re chapped, but there’s a bottle of an electrolyte boosting soft drink on the bedside table. Jim fumbles for it; the cap’s already been unscrewed so he won’t have to struggle getting it off. He drinks, deeply and greedily, until his throat doesn’t feel like there’s half a sehlat’s worth of fur stuck in there.

It’s one of the brands they have back on earth. Jim never expressed a preference, but whoever got it for him off the replicator was thoughtful enough to choose something he had a shot at being familiar with. When Jim checks the label on the back, it says it’s made in San Francisco.

And there’s more to that kind of choice than logic.

There has to be.

Rejuvenated—just like the label on the bottle promises—Jim stands and attempts some of the respiratory strengthening exercises Bones taught him a few months ago that still look too stupid to do ‘em in front of anybody else. I-Chaya watches—‘Yeah, buddy,’ Jim says, ‘I know, I look like an idiot, but that’s human beings for you, right?’—and doesn’t comment, which is as much a relief as Spock’s absence is a disappointment.

Jim’s polishing off the last few gulps of his sports drink when his PADD—thoughtfully moved to the bedside table and propped up against lamp—flashes.

It’s an old routine, but still one that makes Jim grin. He grabs it and settles onto his back to read Spock’s latest, but it’s not a message from Spock.

It’s from Lady Amanda Grayson.

She wants to know how Jim’s doing.

Holed up in my private quarters all day. Didn’t have the energy for anything last night, but this morning your only son got me off in the bathtub and this afternoon I kissed him so many times I finally lost count, and I’m really sorry. I am so, so sorry.

The honest response, in this case, isn’t the way to go. Jim settles for something neutral: Alive, Lady Amanda, but am I supposed to feel like I’m carrying I-Chaya around on my back?

Jim puts down the PADD, letting it knock against the plastic of his empty sports drink bottle. He’s in the midst of wondering whether it’s too soon for another bath—or if they have showers here, the kind that don’t waste water on a desert planet, and in the event that they do, whether he can program it to run cold—when the screen flashes again.

If you’re only suffering under the weight of one old sehlat, I’d say you’re managing marvelously, James.

Jim wrinkles his nose at the moniker, privately calculating how long it’s appropriate to wait before he can ask his mother-in-law to call him Jim.

I thought you might care to join me for an early supper. Spock and his father are in deliberations with the Vulcan High Council, and in my experience such meetings last hours past the time you think they should.

Jim blinks. The electrolyte drink in his stomach settles and makes him burp at the same time.

Great. Yeah. This’ll work out just fine. His mother-in-law—human queen consort of the Vulcans—wants to have dinner alone with Prince James Kirk, currently lying in bed after his afternoon nap, burping and getting his fingers licked.

That’s not a great headline. Even if Jim’s the only one reading the newsreel about himself these days.

Vulcan’s lack of media frenzy is something he could get used to. Maybe he’ll retire here when he’s no longer young and spry enough to evade the paparazzi.

The idea of being old on Vulcan when he hasn’t even hit his twenties is jarring. If he’s got a sehlat on his back now, he can’t imagine what it’ll feel like in thirty years or so.

Also, thirty years is about how long it’s taken him to craft a response to Lady Amanda. Jim’s hand hovers over the screen, mind working to come up with a polite way to say he’s in no way prepared for that kind of commitment.

Sounds great, his fingers land clumsily on the keys, picking out all the wrong ones. See you in twenty minutes.

It’s not enough time for a shower, but it’s just enough to shave and wash his face, in that order. Jim spares a moment to wonder whether he shouldn’t call in Bones to make sure he doesn’t slit his throat by accident while trying to do away with a little stubble—but if he lets Bones in he’s gonna have to tell him about his family date, and Jim’s only prepared to go in there with a clear mind, no gosh-darneds or cornfeds gumming up the works.

His PADD’s flashing again when he makes it back to the bedroom, making it all the way across the room without having to stop to lean on anything.

That sounds lovely, dear.

He has about seven minutes to get there.

One thing Jim learned when he was young—younger, anyway; he’s not old yet, no matter how slowly he’s moving—is that not all palaces look the same. They generally look as different as possible; royal aesthetics are as varied as the races that built them. But all palaces do happen to feel the same. Tall ceilings, long hallways, large doors that could lead anywhere, echoing footsteps—they follow a formula, and the royal compound on Vulcan is no different.

It’s Jim’s first real chance to explore, but seven minutes means it’s not a real chance after all. This is one meeting he doesn’t want to be fashionably late for; Lady Amanda’s the only other human in the place aside from Jim’s retinue and Bones, and the latter doesn’t count because he’s too honest, while the former doesn’t count because it’s never honest enough.

Besides, once you’ve seen one palace room, you’ve basically seen them all. Jim can picture the tall windows, the sandy stone hallways, the fluttering curtains, the solemn statues and the bleakly beautiful furniture in varying shades of rusted red and obsidian—logical in terms of functionality, but with an extra, austere something that suggests Vulcans aren’t necessarily always as logical as they’d like to believe. If they were all logic all the time then why would they bother with rich textiles and velvety throws or the flash of brocade?

Jim gets lost somewhere around a right turn that should’ve been a left and doubles back at double speed, taking the corners fast. He doesn’t crash into anyone. Most of the residents must be at the meeting; Jim’s retinue is being kept out of sight and out of mind; and that leaves him, a functionless house husband. Or something like that.

Diplomacy’s weird. Possibly even crazy.

Jim pauses in front of the door his PADD’s telling him opens into Lady Amanda’s chambers to catch his breath. He’s still wheezing when the door opens silently, and Jim manages a surprised squeak.

‘Lady Amanda.’ Nice save. Jim straightens, then executes a hasty bow. ‘It’s an honor to meet you.’

‘I didn’t mean to startle you—I only thought you might like something cool to drink first thing,’ she replies. ‘Prince James Tiberius, it’s such a pleasure to have you. Come now; there’s no need for bowing, at least not when no one’s looking, is there?’

Jim straightens gratefully, the pinching pain in his side already fading. It’s a better angle for taking Lady Amanda in—he saw her during the ceremony, standing beside Sarek, holding a candle between her hands, but the ceremony itself is blurry now, the queen consort a shadowy mystery in Jim’s swimming vision. Here, she’s shorter than Jim thought she’d be, with scarves wrapped neatly around her head, and Jim’s heart sinks.

He thought she’d be on his side about the weather—and about the clothes.

Obviously she’s had more time to adapt. Jim’s sweating at the idea of a scarf, much less wearing more than one.

Her hands are gloved; she’s holding a glass of clear water.

‘Thank you, Lady Amanda,’ Jim says quickly. He isn’t sure how long he’s been standing there in silence staring at her. ‘That’s really—yum.’

Another fantastic first impression.

Lady Amanda watches him just a beat too long, a glimmer of Spock in her gaze. Jim has to wonder whether that’s an inherited trait or if it’s something she picked up from Vulcans during her long years on Vulcan. Try as he might, Jim can’t see himself learning the Vulcan scrutinizer through pure osmosis. It’s even less likely than him adopting all the scarves.

She holds the water up toward him, so that it’d be rude and now also stupid if he didn’t take it.

‘Admittedly it was a long time ago, but I still remember craving nothing so much as cold water during my first few weeks on Vulcan. Those electrolyte drinks replenish you in all sorts of necessary ways, I’ve no doubt—but, well, I’ve found they leave a certain taste behind.’

‘Right at the back of your tongue, right?’ Jim takes the glass in both hands and takes a sip, reminding himself not to guzzle and spill all down the front of his shirt in front of his mother in law. It’s too late to remember not to bring up his tongue. That ship’s already sailed.

‘A little salty but a little sharp, too,’ Lady Amanda agrees. She folds her hands in front of her in the absence of the glass to hold, watching Jim drink. ‘It was always ever-so-faintly metallic.’

Jim rubs the tongue in question against the roof of his mouth, enjoying the clean, fresh taste of nothing in his mouth for once.

‘It’s not great,’ he says, before realizing it might sound like he’s talking about the water. ‘That taste, I mean. This is great.’

Great—a word that can’t be applied to his socializing skills on Vulcan.

‘You’re doing well for yourself,’ Lady Amanda adds. ‘I remember during my bonding ceremony with Sarek—and this is a well-kept secret, but—I must’ve blacked out at least three separate times.’

She says it like it’s nothing, like it wasn’t the shame of Earth and all its people. Jim takes another gulp of water, watching her for any sign that she’s messing with him. Spock would never give himself away, but Lady Amanda’s human. Jim likes to think he was good at reading his own species, once upon a time.

‘Oh! But you must be tired of standing.’ Lady Amanda gestures him to one end of a long rectangular table, not built for two, but not so stretched out that it makes them look pathetic for eating alone.

The family palace in San Francisco had a place like that. Jim started taking all his meals in his room as a form of non-violent protest.

Most of the time, he ate there alone. Mom joined him once in a while, but somehow the rarity of that special occasion made the moments when she was there about as bitter as sash-savas.

This is different. Obviously. Lady Amanda’s got tall windows and fluttering curtains but she also has dried flowers in simple vases, brittle branches arranged artfully in bowls. There’s even a shelving system on one wall with books and small figures, carvings, a flute, a teacup and saucer, and a snow globe.

‘I got that in San Francisco, in fact.’ Lady Amanda lifts the globe and gives it a gentle shake. The idea of snow is so foreign on Vulcan that Jim has to down some water to keep from snorting. ‘When I was studying foreign policy at Starfleet. Shall we?’

Lady Amanda guides Jim to a seat—the same hard-backed fare as the rest of Vulcan’s offered so far, but this one has a cushion, a throw blanket draped over the top. Jim sets his water down and settles in, trying not to wiggle happily, but if it happens, it happens.

‘Just a few illogical touches here and there,’ Lady Amanda leans close to say, her smile as brief as one of the shadows from the curtains flickering over the balcony floor. ‘I’m sure my husband doesn’t appreciate them, but it would also be illogical to question a human’s sense of nostalgia when Vulcans are so certain they have no frame of reference with which to address the point.’

Wow, Jim thinks.

And also: Awesome.

And also, will he ever learn to be that smooth with a Vulcan husband?

He clears his throat instead of vocalizing any of the inside stuff—a lifetime of etiquette lessons and, despite popular opinion, some of them managed to stick—and Lady Amanda leans back, uncovering a tray of familiar foods, no sash-savas in sight.

‘Oh my God,’ Jim says, before he can stop himself. ‘You made sandwiches.’

‘In my opinion, a more logical food than Vulcans give them credit for. I hope you don’t mind that I made them myself—an old human weakness of mine, I’m afraid, but I thought lighter fare is preferable for the first few weeks on Vulcan. Anything to make you feel less heavy than a sehlat on your back, don’t you think?’

Jim remembers to swallow and tuck his napkin into his collar before he answers with sticky fingers and a full mouth. ‘The food you get from a replicator—it’s not the same.’

‘There’s no functional difference to it, of course. But you’re right. There’s always something about it.’

‘Made in a computer. You can always tell. Particles taste like a program.’ Jim blinks and realizes he’s polished off the first sandwich without noticing, while Lady Amanda is still pouring herself a cup of tea. Jim wipes his fingers off on his napkin and gulps.

‘Please,’ Lady Amanda says, ‘no formality here. The breath of fresh air is as refreshing as the first glass of cold water I had after I was married.’

‘Might teach me to rely on some dangerously bad habits that way. So I’m told.’

Lady Amanda smiles. It’s a private expression, touched with long-suffering in the wrinkles around her dark eyes.

‘That sounds very much like my son.’ Lady Amanda picks up her first sandwich, taking a bite from the corner.

‘Does it?’ Jim holds off on reaching for a second, hydrating himself carefully in slow, even swallows of water. ‘Funny—I can’t seem to manage that while he’s around.’

Lady Amanda chews, swallows, and wipes her mouth with an embroidered cloth napkin. It’s embroidered in simple colors, an earthy green on white, but it’s more detailed than anything Jim’s seen on Vulcan to date. There are more quiet touches of home in this room than in Jim’s own quarters.

Maybe he should’ve brought more things to decorate with, but one year didn’t sound like so long when he was back on Earth and aching to be with the Spock he’d come to know through their written and spoken communications.

He definitely didn’t pack enough.

‘My son can be rather hard on himself,’ Lady Amanda says. ‘I’m afraid those exacting standards often extend to those around him.’

‘Yeah, no kidding,’ Jim says, before he can stop himself.

Maybe he should’ve been quicker on the jump with that second sandwich. There are worse things than having his mouth occupied.

But now’s definitely not the time to go thinking about the last meal he had on Vulcan, at a much smaller table than this, going so far as to sit two to one seat.

‘What I mean is...uh, he’s difficult,’ Jim clarifies. Helpfully. Lady Amanda Grayson invited him to dinner and he’s repaying her by calling her son a pain in the ass. Classic Earth manners. He’s a true ambassador for his people. ‘But I’m— I’m good with difficult, you know? Makes it all the more rewarding when you finally break through.’

‘I believe I do know,’ Lady Amanda says, calmly beaming Jim out of his sinking ship. ‘Spock, like Vulcan, can on occasion demand the cultivation of a second wind.’

‘You’re telling me,’ Jim replies.

You have no idea, is what he thinks, but he keeps it to himself because the details of his second wind with Spock wouldn’t be polite dinner conversation with anyone, let alone the woman who gave birth to him.

‘You’re looking a little red, dear,’ Lady Amanda adds, while Jim tries to figure out when he reached for and ate another sandwich. He’s got the crumbs on his plate to prove it. Thankfully they aren’t on his shirt. ‘Perhaps you’d better have some more water.’

Jim obliges—admitting, privately, that Bones is right, and he does need someone around to remind him of the basics, like to drink when he’s thirsty and breathe when he’s breathless. The water brings him back to himself, enough to use the napkin and clear his throat and attempt to provide the one thing he knows Lady Amanda can’t possibly have enough of.

Honest, human conversation.

‘You said you were at Starfleet,’ Jim begins, in between evenly-paced sips of water. ‘I didn’t know that. Always wanted to attend, myself, but... Plans changed, I guess. Or... It was never really a possibility.’

‘I was a diplomat’s daughter.’ Lady Amanda stirs her tea with a tiny wooden spoon Jim can’t take seriously. ‘I’d intended to follow in my mother’s footsteps—and in a way, I suppose I did. Sarek was visiting on a mission of good-will, and I had top marks in all my courses—which meant I was one of the graduate students assigned to the Vulcan delegation.’

Jim’s mouth is open; it has been for a while. He shuts it with a click . ‘I didn’t know it’d happened like that, either,’ he admits.

Lady Amanda smiles over the rim of her teacup. ‘Did you imagine it would be somewhat more logical?’

Jim laughs, an honest, bright bark that doesn’t even make him wince. ‘You’d think it would be, that’s all.’

‘Well, in a way, I’m sure it was,’ Lady Amanda says. ‘Our personalities were mutually agreeable; we were of similar minds about many foreign policies; our conversation was... ‘Not unpleasant.’ In human terms, I’d say we got along, but I’m almost entirely sure now that expression means very little on Vulcan. We were well-suited to one another. And it certainly improved Vulcan and Earth relations. I can’t say I regret any of it.’

‘Even though it’s...’ Jim should’ve prepared himself better for the question he wants to ask, or come up with a way to ask it that isn’t insulting. He doesn’t mean it as a bad thing. Vulcan’s just so Vulcan. Jim’s there for a year; Lady Amanda’s there for life, barring the occasional envoy attendance or good-will mission. Jim glances around the room, from tall window to low couch to the shelves and the snow globe, fake snow long since settled. ‘Hot,’ he settles on finally.

‘I thought I’d go out of my mind while I was pregnant,’ Lady Amanda admits. ‘After that ordeal, everything seemed quite comfortable by comparison.’

‘Huh.’

‘Hm?’

‘Nothing. It’s just not exactly a strategy I can work with.’

‘Well...’ Lady Amanda pauses. ‘You could always spend a day actually carrying a sehlat around with you. I’m sure the experience would be almost comparable.’

‘I’d do it,’ Jim says. ‘I-Chaya’s looking pretty long in the tooth; maybe he wouldn’t mind getting the royal treatment for a while. You know, if I wanted to cause an intergalactic incident. Vulcans Shocked By Human Prince’s Illogical Sehlat Obsession; Prince James Tiberius Kirk Sent Home In Disgrace; Lonely Sehlat Left Wondering Where It All Went Wrong.

‘That was quite imaginative, James.’

‘I’ve been in a lot of tabloids,’ Jim replies.

‘Oh, I can imagine,’ Lady Amanda says. ‘I was in a few myself—years and years ago, of course, but I had a friend on Earth who used to send me the juiciest ones. There are a few things that are less...heavy here. Perhaps the scrutiny is as severe, but there are different ways of showing it. And none of them involve a camera.’

‘I’ll drink to that,’ Jim says, and lifts his glass of water.

Jim’s proud of himself when he’s able to clink their glasses together without his hand shaking. He’s not sure how long he can go on enjoying these little physical victories before they stop meaning anything, but for now they’re enough of a novelty that he can appreciate them.

‘I believe your royal physician would be relieved if you did,’ Lady Amanda says, while Jim takes another swallow of water. He doesn’t spit it out—he can’t waste the precious hydration—but he feels like doing a double-take anyway.

‘You didn’t— You talked to Bones?’ Jim’s not exactly proud when his voice comes out a whole octave higher than it’s supposed to, but that’s another thing he can blame on the atmosphere. Pressure changes. Dry air. It constricts the vocal cords. It’s when he remembers a few of the other things Bones told him that he finds it easier to breathe again. ‘He says you’re a saint, you know.’

‘Does he?’ Lady Amanda’s face has taken on a distinctly familiar expression, like butter wouldn’t melt—though it’s tough to imagine anything that doesn’t melt on Vulcan. And Jim hasn’t glimpsed real butter since he touched down. ‘My, that’s a high compliment coming from such an excitable gentleman.’

‘Oh, excitable’s not the word I’d use,’ Jim says.

Lady Amanda’s eyes sparkle, ruining her expressionless mask. ‘I’ve had a few more years than you to practice my diplomatic remarks.’

‘Now, see, I don’t think that’s fair.’ Jim contemplates a third sandwich, weighing it against the unsettled feeling in his gut. ‘I bring along someone who can spill all my deepest, darkest secrets—both medical and personal, mind—and here I am married to king of the blank slates. Sorry—the prince of the blank slates.’

One good, old-fashioned meal from Earth later and he’s already spilling his guts to the first person who’ll listen. Jim never would’ve guessed his loyalty could be bought for the price of a couple sandwiches and a few glasses of cold water, but he’s never been in such dire straits. Vulcan’s made him into a new man. A married man. A thirsty man.

‘Well, if you’ve finished your dinner, let’s see if there’s something we can do about that.’ She pushes her chair back from the table, gesturing for Jim to do the same. ‘Since Spock is only a prince yet.’

Jim should probably offer to clear the table, do something useful. But his vision blurs when he stands—and that’s how he finds himself sitting on one of the low couches near the window next to Lady Amanda Grayson, who’s clutching a tablet of stored photographs while she directs servants to pack up the leftover sandwiches and store them in Jim’s temporary quarters.

‘We haven’t worked out the permanent arrangements yet.’ Lady Amanda leans close, as if betraying a confession. ‘We weren’t sure whether you’d prefer having your own space for a while yet, but we all wanted to make sure that you felt comfortable.’

‘It’s fine,’ Jim replies. It’s not perfect, but it’s a balance of not-too-eager and not-too-disinterested. ‘If you wanted to make the arrangements for us to stay together, or... Whatever that might be. It’d be fine. We get along pretty well. That idea you had about writing each other—it was a good one. It worked out pretty well. I know I’ve thanked you before, but... Thank you, Lady Amanda. Again.’

‘No need. Gratitude in the face of the logical is, of course, one of the first things you should unburden yourself from laboring under while on Vulcan.’ Lady Amanda’s eyes are sparkling again; they might’ve been sparkling all along. It’s like how the stars are always there—you only see them when you aren’t distracted by other brightness, when they aren’t hidden by a closer sun. Lady Amanda touches the back of Jim’s forearm, giving it a gentle squeeze, before she settles the tablet between them. ‘I had thought it might help. Then again, James, you’re the one who made it such a good idea.’

‘So we work well together.’ Jim’s cheeks heat up; that’s one plus to the elevated temperatures. Blame all flushing and blushing on the weather. ‘Is what you’re saying.’

‘How diplomatic of you,’ Lady Amanda replies. ‘Now, let’s see... I’ve always wanted to have someone I could share these memories with.’

‘Baby photos aren’t popular on Vulcan?’ Jim has to chew that one over. All he can picture is Spock’s adult head on a baby’s body and that’s not right. ‘...What are baby Vulcans even like, anyway?’

‘They’re very much like human babies—I hope that doesn’t disappoint you.’ Lady Amanda brings up the first image: Spock, impossibly round-cheeked but with the same serious eyes, green around the nose and ears and especially the cheeks, as though he might’ve been caught in the middle of a cry. ‘They get hurt; they get hungry; they get happy and scared... In fact, they have so very much emotion, and although they learn from a very early age to control that emotion, there is a short period of time when they are, wholly and completely, themselves.’

‘So...’ Jim has to hope this isn’t a diplomatic faux-pas. ‘He kept you up all night, is what you’re saying?’

‘As though he doesn’t now?’ Lady Amanda’s face softens. ‘But I didn’t mind it. It was, after all, something I could do for him, at least for a time. And in a way, it was easier. If I held him, I believe he could feel just how much I loved him.’

Jim shivers, despite the heat. The sun’s on the verge of setting, it’s true, but that and the night’s oncoming breeze isn’t the source of the little thrill that bolts through him. He can’t even imagine what that’s like—what it was like, for the woman sitting next to him and for the man he married.

‘I guess I figured they were all born...the way they are now,’ Jim says, then clears his throat. ‘Not an insult. Just stating the facts.’

‘No one here would fault you for doing that, James.’

‘Good to know.’ Jim chances a grin, one that doesn’t disappear into the darkness of remote, observant, endless Vulcan eyes. ‘Maybe I won’t get into as much trouble here as I used to. ...Not that I got into trouble all the time. Just...some of the time. And some of that wasn’t even all my fault. ...Some of it was, though.’

‘I would expect nothing less from a bored young man in your position,’ Lady Amanda says. ‘All that freedom—and a certain lack of freedom at the same time, I’d imagine. Always in the public eye…’

‘Recipe for disaster, huh?’ Jim says.

‘Don’t forget, I spent some time at Starfleet,’ Lady Amanda replies. ‘I know the sort of personalities it attracts.’

‘Spock told you I was interested in Starfleet?’ Jim asks.

‘It might have come up once or twice in passing.’ The picture on Lady Amanda’s screen flashes to something else: Spock sleeping with a corner of a lumpy blue blanket in his mouth. His tiny hands are fisted up near his face, each fat finger rooted in a pale-green knuckle. ‘During that business with Prince George Samuel, we discussed many possible futures for the pair of you.’

Jim still gets knots in his stomach from the memory. So that answers that question—whether he’s over it or not. The answer’s decidedly not. Hot, prickling helplessness spreads over his skin like goosebumps.

They got through it, he reminds himself. There’s no need to go back. Sam’s at home doing whatever it is firstborn sons do when they have to adjust to their actual duties instead of roaming the galaxy with years of choices and free will to their name.

Jim always thought he was jealous of Sam’s autonomy, but in the end, he’s the one who won out.

‘Here he is teething.’ Lady Amanda taps the screen with one of her gloved nails. Jim’s relieved not to be the one carrying the whole conversation, a novelty he should probably appreciate while he can. ‘He didn’t fuss—not so much as you’d think—but he chewed on everything he could get into his mouth.’

No,’ Jim says. ‘Like a puppy?’

Or like a sehlat,’ Lady Amanda agrees. ‘Though I would never compare my son to a household pet—not even one as venerable and intelligent as ours.’ She shoots Jim a sidelong glance, smiling crookedly. ‘I-Chaya’s never been much for gnawing on his surroundings.’

‘So how did he break that front tooth?’

‘An interesting story, if you’d like to hear—’

The door to the dining room hisses open, and Jim glances up on reflex—but it’s nothing more than a couple of servants sent in to clean up now that dinner’s been cleared away. It’s rude to feel disappointed. It’s not like Lady Amanda didn’t warn him about those Vulcan High Council meetings running late—and it’s not like he shouldn’t get used to the lifestyle now while he’s still got plenty of distractions to blow through.

‘He was defending Spock, you know,’ Lady Amanda continues. ‘That’s how he chipped that front tooth of his. Of course, it wouldn’t be kind to him to spoil him, but I do give him a pet now and then to let him know I’m still grateful.’

Jim settles in, one picture passing into the next in front of him—with Spock growing older before his eyes, the softness of a baby’s open face and unguarded eyes hardening into something more guarded, the most serious toddler Jim’s ever seen. Of course, there’s no illogical awkward period like Jim remembers suffering through, and the pictures begin to capture moments fewer and farther between, the differences in a boy more and more marked as the time lapses lengthen. Jim can only imagine that’s because of Lady Amanda respecting her son’s customs, only insisting on following hers on special occasions.

First days of school; the observation of birthdays; a graduation; a few unfamiliar ceremonies.

The best part of it, Jim decides, is Spock’s school uniform—high-collared, long and black—and the stiff way he stands in it, something that doesn’t fade or even change over the years. The robes get longer, as does Spock’s face, but Spock himself stands in exactly the same way in each of the pictures.

Jim isn’t sure how long he’s been taking up Lady Amanda’s time or listening to her stories—tame anecdotes about Spock’s aptitude for learning, brief mentions of the trouble he seemed to have with other Vulcans his own age—when he realizes he’s yawning, stifling the sound against the back of his hand in a hot puff of breath.

‘Oh, dear.’ Lady Amanda yawns a second later. ‘It’s catching, isn’t it? And here I am, talking your ears off, not taking into consideration everything you’ve been through.’

Jim grins at the expression. Lady Amanda’s been on Vulcan for years, longer than Jim’s been alive, but she’s still as human as anyone. ‘What? No, Lady Amanda, not at all. Seriously. This is the kind of thing Spock wouldn’t exactly talk to me about, but it’s important to know it about somebody you’re married to, right?’

‘I’m sure all that will come with time,’ Lady Amanda replies. ‘Most of the best things do.’

‘He was pretty cute,’ Jim adds. ‘You wouldn’t think a baby chewing on a blanket would grow up to be—’

The door hisses open again. Jim’s mid-stretch of a sore shoulder muscle when he glances up, expecting a servant and finding Spock instead.

‘Sarek will arrive shortly,’ Spock says simply. ‘All infants, no matter their race, behave in a fashion that is not necessarily recognizable as that of their adult counterparts.’

Jim’s throat is tight; he lurches to his feet, rubbing the back of his neck. ‘Hey, Spock. Yeah. I remember you had some choice words for how I looked when I was a baby, too.’

‘Oh, yes—your first meeting.’ Lady Amanda rises with enough grace to make Jim want to die by sash-savas overload. ‘Spock, I’m not sure if you remember it entirely... You were so perplexed. I’d never seen you so uncertain of a thing before.’

‘I drooled. So people tell me,’ Jim adds, not meeting Spock’s eyes.

‘Your ability to converse companionably with one another upon first introduction is worthy of positive mention,’ Spock says. There it is; the headache’s on its way back. ‘I trust you found multiple topics to discuss other than my previous appearances.’

‘Oh, we struggled along,’ Lady Amanda says.

‘Wasn’t as hard as you’d think,’ Jim adds, backing her up.

Now that they’ve established their cover story—that Jim wasn’t here just to get details on Spock’s early life and the things he wasn’t around for, all the things he missed without knowing he was missing them—they can present a united front. It’s basic strategy one-oh-one.

Jim would know a Starfleet graduate any day.

He forgot to ask whether she dropped out to marry Sarek. It doesn’t seem very logical, but then, neither did their courtship. He’s got some follow-up questions when it comes to that history. For another time—when the product of their union isn’t standing in the room looking like treason’s being committed right under his prominent nose.

Or maybe that’s just Jim’s overactive imagination. It’s the only part of him that hasn’t been hampered or slowed down by Vulcan’s arid climate and it’s the thing he needs least when confronted by Spock’s stoic refusal to join a conversation like a human being.

Maybe that has something to with how he’s only half one, Jim thinks, but files the idea away as uncharitable. Definitely a little too pro-Earth and it’s not the truth of how Jim feels. How he feels when he isn’t sweaty and uncertain as a baseline.

‘I did not suggest that it would be difficult,’ Spock says, ‘only that it is admirable that the two of you have established communication so quickly.’

‘Well, we do have a lot of common ground.’ Jim digs his fingers into the sore muscle of his shoulder. He can feel Spock watching him, weighing his curiosity against the value of keeping his words to himself. ‘It’s not just you.’

‘Are you hungry, dear?’ Lady Amanda’s wiped the screen of the tablet blank, setting it away on a nearby side table. ‘I know it’s late…’

‘Indeed, Mother, that is a factually correct statement.’ Spock affects half a bow, giving Jim a whole new level of stiff body language to appreciate. Next they’ll be shaking hands. Or not, given the Vulcan finger situation. ‘When I recognized that Jim had not retired to his quarters as would be prudent for a human of his size and stamina, I sought his presence elsewhere. I am gratified to see that you were able to make your own arrangements.’

‘Hey now.’ Jim has to remember he’s got his mother-in-law in the room. ‘My size and stamina are just fine.’

‘I believe it was the human element he was referring to, dear,’ Lady Amanda says.

Jim can’t do anything about the grin that spreads over his features when she drops the dear.

Yeah. That’ll make Spock wonder just how close they’ve gotten tonight and what kinds of stories she might’ve spilled.

‘We had fun,’ Jim adds, bolstered by the show of solidarity.

‘Fun,’ Spock repeats.

‘It really was a pleasant change.’ Lady Amanda’s smile reminds Jim of the scarves she’s wearing. He can’t say why, exactly, just that it does. It’s the way it drapes, the way she wears it rather than letting it wear her. And it makes him sad, itchy under the skin, when he realizes she’s smiling differently with Spock than she did when it was just the two of them.

Then again, all noble families hold something back with each other. Jim remembers watching vids of normal brothers playing and wondering if that could’ve been him and Sam if things were different.

A lot of things could’ve been. Dad, even, might still be alive.

Jim digs his fingers into a sore spot to ground him. ‘But I’ve probably overstayed my welcome by now,’ he says. ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Thank you for your hospitality, Lady Amanda.’ Jim bows too, less stiffly than Spock. At least he can pull that off better than a local. ‘If the two of you want to catch up, I can always see myself out.’

‘I’m sure that won’t be necessary.’ Lady Amanda glances to Spock, her hands folded neatly in front of her. If she wants to give Spock a hug, a kiss on the cheek, some small, reassuring touch from mother to son, she doesn’t show it. That’s a brave thing, a Starfleet thing, in its own way. ‘As you said, your father will be here soon enough—and the two of you are on your honeymoon. I couldn’t interrupt that. Not in all good conscience.’

‘Once again, the etymology of that phrase has no application here, on a planet with neither honey nor a moon to speak of,’ Spock says.

Lady Amanda meets Jim’s eyes. Jim smiles for both of them.

‘Perhaps,’ Lady Amanda adds, ‘Prince James Tiberius might wish to see your quarters, Spock. I know that he hasn’t been settled anywhere more permanent—and that can have a certain toll on a traveler, knowing they’re in a stop-over, not really getting the chance to unpack and settle in.’

When Spock meets Jim’s eyes, it has a different effect. Jim’s smile hardens into a grin, so out of place in the serene dining room that he drops it altogether so it won’t shrivel and die.

‘Might be nice,’ Jim agrees. ‘It’s a human thing, actually. Seeing a friend’s room when you’re spending time together—it happens all the time.’

‘In the interest of exploring human practices,’ Spock says, ‘I would be amenable to this plan, if Jim has not been strained by the events of the day, or advised to follow another course of action by his consulting medical officer.’

‘Negative on both counts. Give me some credit.’ Jim bows again, briefer, less formal, but still paying attention to the rules. He’s a prince consort; Lady Amanda’s a queen. Not to mention she deserves respect for reasons that have nothing to do with titles and position. ‘If you’ll have me, Lady Amanda... I’d be honored to do this again sometime.’

‘But of course,’ Lady Amanda replies. ‘We shall have to do this quite regularly.’

‘Mother.’ Spock nods, then draws away.

Jim’s at the door when he realizes Spock didn’t meet his eyes in there, either.

*

Chapter Text

They’re silent all the way to Spock’s room, down a stone hallway that lacks the tall, arched windows Jim’s grown used to—because Vulcan architecture’s built around function as opposed to form. Big windows near the royal quarters would be a major security risk, Jim has to assume. Jim’s own rooms were pretty open by comparison, but then, he’s never heard of Vulcan assassination for succession or Vulcan coups in general. Wanting power that isn’t yours must not be very logical.

Apparently, neither is making small talk with your husband when you’re taking him back to your room.

‘So, teething, huh,’ Jim says. ‘That’s a nightmare.’

Spock spares him a look when they round a corner, using the shift in their alignment to his advantage. It gives Jim something to watch other than the tense lines of Spock’s back where he’s holding his shoulders rigidly. Jim’s got to wonder whether that’s genetic or if it’s a learned trait. It has to make him uncomfortable, if it doesn’t come naturally.

Jim bares his teeth at Spock, demonstrating what he’s talking about.

‘Hell of a design, right? We need ’em—don’t get any say in that—but they have to grow right up through your gums. It’s ridiculous. Didn’t realize it happened to Vulcans too.’

‘I was not yet at an age where I understood the need to mitigate my emotions,’ Spock replies.

‘I don’t know if you can call them emotions at that age, Spock.’ Jim hurries to draw even with him, encouraged by the reply.

Apparently it doesn’t matter what kind of terrible line Jim tosses out as an opener. As long as it starts a discussion, he’s grateful for it.

‘Infants are nothing but emotion,’ Spock contradicts. ‘They are strong, decisive feelings with no higher thoughts to guide them. This was a lesson I learned firsthand upon our first meeting, when—as you witnessed in the recorded image—you were placed in my arms against my wishes.’

‘Jesus, tell me how you really feel, Spock.’ Jim wishes he had pockets. That’s what Vulcan fashion needs: some good, honest pockets amidst all the folds and scarves and ponchos and robes. For such a logical race, they don’t have a handle on how to dress for maximum comfort.

Spock pauses in front of a set of double doors, black with simple carvings around the lintel. He inputs a sequence of numbers on another hidden panel, unlocking a dark room.

‘That is precisely what I am doing, Jim.’

‘Sure, I believe you,’ Jim says.

That’s part of the problem.

Vulcan honesty spares no feelings, but it never quite expressing the feelings behind the honesty. It’s a double-edged blade, like one of the ceremonial Vulcan staff-axes. The Lirpa. Jim did his reading. Plenty of it.

On the nights he didn’t fall asleep touching himself to Spock’s voice, he fell asleep with foreign Vulcan syllables swirling in his head and dreamed of being on those hot Vulcan sands, holding the lirpa in his shaking hands, while Vulcan shadows surrounded him to the shivering of bells and the bellowing of gongs.

‘There is no reason to doubt me,’ Spock replies.

He steps aside and gestures for Jim to enter first. Jim accepts, passing close enough that their sleeves almost brush. The potentiality is more tangible than the actuality, another Vulcan contradiction that makes Jim’s tongue feel too big in his mouth, his throat too tight for the air he needs to keep breathing.

For a brief moment, he’s in the dark confines of a room scented with foreign incense, warm and unknown. Then, Spock activates the pale, dim lighting system and shuts the door, and the mystery isn’t banished—it’s exchanged for something new.

Spock’s room.

It’s exciting.

Jim loves Lady Amanda, for one thing. He’s her biggest fan, even bigger than Bones, maybe as big as Spock.

But, like most things on Vulcan have turned out, it’s not what Jim was expecting. It’s the same basic architecture, the same principles, the same general pieces. Hard chairs; low tables; flat bed; curtains.

There’s also a shelving system like the one Lady Amanda has, and carvings, sculptures, geodes, a collection of what can only be called trinkets, along with books and tech models, scientific advancements Spock probably made when he was five years old, when Jim was still drooling and cooing and learning how to use a toilet.

And there’s a tall stone statue in one corner; there’s what looks like a harp by the bed; there’s a small blanket at the foot of the bed made of a dark, velvety fabric, brocaded with gold thread.

There’s a snowglobe, the same kind as Lady Amanda’s. There are little glimpses, glints and glimmers, of something that isn’t strictly Vulcan—all neatly arranged, no mess and no clothes on the floor, not a single thing out of place—but might even be thought of as distinctly human.

‘Nice room,’ Jim says.

It’s so much more than that. It’s Spock’s room, and the answers to some of Jim’s biggest questions are hidden in the tiniest of details. It’ll take time and some exploring, but Jim has something to work with here.

‘The snowglobe’s pretty cool,’ Jim adds. ‘You like that stuff? If I’d known, I would’ve brought one for you from home.’

‘It was a gift from my mother.’ Spock sounds noncommittal; Jim knows better than to assume the logical explanation is the only factor at work. ‘A curiosity. It is a simple thing to keep it displayed in order to avoid the disruption of her emotions.’

‘That’s thoughtful of you.’

‘...Thoughtful is what I endeavor to be.’ Spock pauses. ‘Was your commentary on the snowglobe an attempt at humor in comparing snow, which is always cold, to that which is ‘cool’ as a form of wordplay?’

Jim almost wishes he would’ve kept it to himself. He can’t be sure, but he feels like it was better before Spock caught onto things so easily and just ignored his weirdness outright.

All of this having to explain himself stuff is getting uncomfortable. Though it’s still not as uncomfortable as explaining he’s not that clever.

‘Actually...that was just a lucky accident.’ Jim rubs his neck at the sore junction where it meets his shoulder. He can’t work out what’s getting to him: whether it’s the hard beds or the lack of oxygen not just to his lungs but his muscles, but something’s got him bent out of sorts. Nothing serious, though; nothing a little recreational activity couldn’t straighten out. ‘I’m not exactly thinking in terms of witty snowglobe banter.’

‘A fortuitous coincidence, then.’ Spock folds his hands in the small of his back. He’s watching Jim examine his room, taking in the surroundings built up over the years he’s spent living there. ‘Your honesty is uncharacteristic of your species.’

Jim blinks, distracted from wondering how soft that blanket at the end of Spock’s bed is and whether he’d be remiss to head on over there and curl up on it like a shaved sehlat.

‘Huh?’ he asks. ‘Is this another one of those things where you insult me but I’m not supposed to take it seriously?’

Spock raises an eyebrow. Just one. Jim’s been practicing that look ever since he caught a rare media snapshot of Spock on a visit to another Federation planet making the exact same face. So far he hasn’t managed to duplicate it, just created a few deeper wrinkles on his forehead, and at one point made Bones think he was suffering a stroke.

‘Cleverness is a trait prized by many species,’ Spock says. ‘It would have been very simple to allow me to believe your remark had been intentional.’

Oh, Jim thinks.

‘Oh.’ He shrugs, making the knotted joints in his shoulders twinge. Whatever’s going on there, he’s hoping it isn’t permanent. Maybe he passed out, fell out of Spock’s lap and hit the table. But no—if that’d happened he would’ve woken up in Bones’ hands and not alone. ‘Well, I guess I’m thinking I just might have enough natural charm that I won’t be stuck relying on accidental puns to win you over.’

Spock’s brow creases, his mouth slack with brief uncertainty. ‘Your back is troubling you.’

It’s not exactly the reassurance Jim was angling for. He should’ve added something about fishing for compliments in that dictionary he made. Then again, maybe he should’ve drummed together a behavioral manual—about the needs and desires certain humans want met every now and then, instead of the words they use.

‘It’s nothing,’ Jim says, officially ruining his honest streak.

‘You would not lie about the accidental wordplay in order to appear more clever than you had intended,’ Spock replies, ‘yet you would lie about the pain you are experiencing in order to appear more stoic? A curious distinction.’

‘You know, before we got married, you used to say I was fascinating.’ Jim angles for the bed, bumping his shin against the blanket. The fabric, as far as he can tell, is soft as butter. ‘Did we really run out of romance that fast?’

Spock’s expression, a quizzical almost-tilt of his chin, no actual confusion present but the suggestion that Jim himself is a confusing individual, says it all. Jim’s pushing it. Not just himself, but Spock, them, this—everything.

‘Considering how strong Vulcans are, is it such a surprise a comparatively weak, puny human would wanna seem stronger?’ Jim manages to pull of the eyebrow lift by moving his entire head along with the muscle in his brow, but that only makes the pain in his shoulder worse.

‘The choice is unexpected,’ Spock says. ‘That is all.’

‘I think I’m allergic to the beds you guys have here,’ Jim continues. ‘Back on earth, beds are usual soft. When you lie on them, they’re comfortable. And there are plenty of pillows to put your head on, too—those are also soft. Weird, right? But it’s what I’m used to. Being comfy when I’m sleeping.’

‘The accommodations have not been acceptable?’

‘Not officially. Officially? They’re great. I’m great. And my back’s great, too.’

‘Then this conversation...’ Spock’s pauses have weight to them. Jim’s chest tightens to know their measurements, their meanings, to have a dictionary of his own, with definitions that span the course of mere milliseconds. ‘It is unofficial.’

Jim glances around in a wide circle, hiding a wince. ‘We’re alone together, Spock. We’re newlyweds. We’re in your room. This where you grew up?’ Spock nods. ‘That’s what I thought. It’s personal, then. Even if it is...functional. It can be both. I’d say it’s about as unofficial as you can get.’

‘Perhaps not,’ Spock replies.

It takes Jim a moment—man, he’s off his game—to realize Spock is talking about the other stuff they’ve done. Unofficially. Jim’s grin comes out of nowhere and he doesn’t try to stop it, because they’re both on the same page as far as privacy’s concerned. It’s not a smile Jim has to worry about Vulcan big-wigs seeing and judging. It’s a smile for Spock alone.

‘That was innuendo, Spock,’ Jim says. ‘That was really good innuendo.’

‘I cannot falsify the facts and suggest that the innuendo was not intentional.’ Spock stiffens, despite what Jim can only call a moment of triumph.

‘OK, OK,’ Jim says. ‘Pretend I didn’t bring it up and make it awkward.’

‘Pretense—’ Spock begins.

‘Can I sit on your bed, Spock?’ Jim asks.

The unexpectedness of the question takes Spock by surprise, enough that he shifts course with Jim and leaves the unfinished topic behind. ‘If you wish to do so, I would not have reason to stop you.’

‘Yes’d do, you know.’ Jim lowers himself to the mattress, destroying his hope that it might be a little softer, based on the half-human part of Spock wanting a half-comfortable bed. He doesn’t make concessions; Jim shouldn’t have to remind himself of that. In a way, it’s admirable. And at least the blanket’s soft under Jim’s palm as he runs his thumb along the gold threads. ‘Vulcan script?’

‘Indeed.’

‘Not that I can read it, but... It sure looks nice.’

‘My mother, the Lady Amanda, made it for me when I was younger.’

‘After you drooled all over your blue blanket, huh?’ Jim grins again. ‘That was a joke, Spock.’

‘It did not fit the parameters of humor as I understand them,’ Spock says.

Jim pokes his tongue between his teeth, thinking about how all there is waiting for him in his room is a tray full of sandwiches in cold storage and, maybe, if he’s lucky, a friendly old sehlat. He should probably start being more careful with his words, unless he wants to spend the night alone with cold-cut substitute and fresh white bread.

Then again, he has yet to cross the line with Spock. They almost seem to thrive on offending each other more than dancing around with careful, polite statements. That’s their version of honesty—the Vulcan version, blunt enough to bruise but not so sharp that it breaks skin.

There’s a crazy part of Jim that wants to pick up the corner of Spock’s bedspread and stick it in his mouth just to see if he can make him laugh. But he’s pretty sure he’d have to explain why it’s funny again and that’d be impossible with a mouth full of blanket.

Not to mention he’d ruin the velvet.

Half of diplomatic relations comes in knowing how to communicate in the first place. It’s the little things. Jim’s paid attention.

‘My sense of humor’s hit and miss,’ Jim says. It’s a small sacrifice to make, given the circumstances. It’s easier for him to take the blame than for Spock to think there’s something wrong with his understanding of human habits. It’s not his fault he married one with occasionally defective programming or one too many knocks to the head. ‘I’m not the best representative to learn from.’

‘I have noted a certain eccentricity present in your retinue,’ Spock admits. ‘However, those two statements are incongruous. While the first one may hold merit, the second is demonstrably untrue.’

There it is again: a shiver of restless heat that crawls up Jim’s spine like le-matya poison. What he’s imagined it’s like, anyway. Jim can’t think of anything Spock could be talking about other than their two encounters, in Jim’s bath and again at his dining room table.

Two encounters and two seemingly innocuous comments laced with innuendo. Jim likes those odds. He must be doing something right.

He is sitting on Spock’s bed, after all. He’s finally here, in the place where Spock read his messages or listened to the sound of his voice recorded from hundreds of light years away. It’s an intimacy Jim hadn’t considered before, not with Spock’s fingers wrapped around his dick or his own thighs wrapped around Spock’s hips.

‘Well…’ Jim leans back, bracing his weight on both hands. The tension makes his back ache. He’s never thought about how much work it takes to look casual. ‘I wouldn’t give me all the credit. You’re a very apt pupil.’

‘Then I did not lead you astray with my prior suggestion that I would prove to be one.’

‘No, Spock. You didn’t lead me astray.’ Finally, Jim meets Spock’s eyes, dark and deep and thoughtful—thinking about Jim, he hopes, because the way they look right now is something Jim could get used to. Especially if it’s something he’s inspiring. ‘If anything, I’m the one leading you astray.’

‘You have, to this point, been the one who is leading,’ Spock concedes. ‘However, given a brief period of familiarizing myself with the necessary framework for applied study and my preparatory familiarization with human anatomy, that need not be the case in perpetuity.’

Jim’s never been this turned on by the word perpetuity before.

‘Spock,’ he begins.

‘Yet it is also clear that further activities which will place a strain on parts of your anatomy that are already exhibiting signs of the same is something I cannot condone, much less encourage or take part in.’ There goes that perpetuity boner. ‘Turn around, Jim.’

Gone, but not forgotten. ‘Huh?’ Jim asks.

‘I believe that the best possible angle for administering a proper back massage to your person would be the following: you upon your stomach, while I am free to work upon your back.’

Jim’s throat is way too tight. ‘Uh,’ he says. ‘Oh. Yeah. That’s a good one.’ Spock’s going to climb on him. ‘I’ll just, uh— Good thinking, Spock. Not calling Bones. That’s—good. Really—yeah.’

‘The doctor should be reserved for those threats to your health with which I cannot assist you. Otherwise, I believe it is uncustomary to add a third individual to the regular honeymoon pursuits.’

Jim turns, read to bury his burning face against a pillow and give himself over to Spock’s hands. ‘I thought this wasn’t a honeymoon, Spock.’

‘In name, it is not,’ Spock replies. ‘However, on a technicality—that is, we have been married, and you have certainly traveled a great distance—I believe that some of that tradition may yet apply.’

Spock’s brain is sexy, too. Not a surprise, but still nice to be reminded. Jim drops to the hard bed—suddenly not such a pain, either, given the support it provides, and the friction it could provide—pulling up a pillow for his chin.

Not being able to see Spock behind him or hear him moving is one of those pleasant uncertainties that occupy the same space as a freefall or a too-tight turn or a wild gamble. When the odds are against you, the payoff’s always better. Not that the game Jim’s best at was ever poker. Despite himself, it was chess all the way. Poker was Sam’s deal.

The bed shifts. Jim hears the slide of Spock’s robes against the velvet throw. Gravity changes, rearranges, the pit of Jim’s stomach tightening. When Spock settles, kneeling to the right side of Jim’s hips, his knee rests against Jim’s upper thigh.

‘Spock,’ Jim says again, voice muffled against the pillow.

‘...Jim.’

‘This is really hot,’ Jim says.

‘If you wish to shed a layer in order to be more comfortable—’

‘Come on, Spock, you have to know what I mean. It was like, the second thing in that dictionary I gave you.’

‘It was the third,’ Spock replies. ‘I did not wish to assume that was your meaning. I required confirmation. ...This view of your physicality is not unpleasant, though I would not suggest my temperature is significantly elevated at present.’

‘Ouch,’ Jim says.

There’s a quiet sound of fabric on skin as Spock pulls his hands back. They weren’t even touching and Jim’s already messed up.

‘I have not yet begun to apply pressure,’ Spock says.

Great. Because the last thing Jim needs on top of everything is for Spock to think he’s sensitive in all the ways that don’t have to do with below-the-waist action.

‘No, I mean my feelings.’ Jim turns his head to one side so he isn’t slurring all his words into his pillow. ‘You could at least pretend like I make you hot. Some of the time.’

Spock exhales. He sounds frustrated, but his hands are on Jim before Jim can sit up to verify the details for himself.

‘You are conflating two separate meanings—meanings that you yourself have only just pointed out.’ Spock’s palms settle over Jim’s shoulder-blades, fingers digging into the meatier muscle groups just above them. ‘Therefore your misunderstanding must be deliberate.’

‘Oh, must it?’ Jim asks.

Spock pushes him into the bed with the force of his hands alone. Jim doubts it’s intentional, but the timing’s suspicious.

‘You would be better served keeping your head aligned so as not to create new points of tension.’

‘That your way of telling me to shut up, Spock?’

‘Your voice does not easily escape attention,’ Spock replies. ‘A pillow covering your mouth will make little difference.’

Well, that’s one way of talking nasty to a guy once you’ve got him face-down in bed, Jim thinks. But he follows orders anyway, turning his face back into Spock’s pillow after a few seconds of stubborn resistance. He’s got nothing to gain by being deliberately ornery, and he’s pretty sure he needs a moment alone with his thoughts here.

Chiefly, that Spock thinks he’s hot. That he gets Spock hot.

That is what he said, buried in amidst the crack about Jim’s neck and the part where he said Jim was being deliberately obtuse. With Vulcans you have to really dig for the compliments, then brush the sand off them so they sparkle.

Spock’s hands travel from Jim’s shoulders to his back proper, knuckles digging into a sore spot next to Jim’s spine, slowly working out the hard shape of his muscle into something more pliant and warm.

‘It would not be logical for you to impede your own comfort by making my task any more difficult than it needs to be.’

Jim groans, the sound muffled in the pillow.

There’s no way of knowing, of course, if that gets to Spock the way it’d get to Jim if their positions were reversed. The idea of making Spock groan is enough to get Jim wiggly—which in turn makes Spock steady him, a hand at Jim’s side, between his ribs and his hip.

As far as correction’s go, it feels nice enough that Jim might have to act out—illogically impeding his own comfort by making Spock’s task more difficult—again. And again.

It could be more complicated than a physical touch and a physical reaction. Spock’s fingers are sensitive, after all, and Jim’s back is carrying the stress of travel, the tension of unfamiliar furniture, the anxieties of his duties, the pressure on him to perform more than just adequately. To prove he really is the better choice; to give those tabloids something decent to talk about for a change. Or at least something positive.

It’s not enough just to get by, is the thing. He’s going to be the best possible representative and the best possible husband.

Once he stops moaning into a pillow while Spock kneads the knots from the center of his spine out along the ribs. It’s methodical, precise, and strong. It might be an ancient Vulcan massage technique; Jim really hopes that’s what it is. It’s not rough, not exactly, but there’s the promise of roughness in there somewhere, well-hidden but not totally absent, and Jim doesn’t miss it. When he closes his eyes, it’s enough to trick him into thinking that his other senses are heightened, that he can feel more—even if it’s only because he’s focusing more fully on the pulses of heat caused by Spock’s fingertips.

No distractions. Nothing but the heat of his own breath trapped against his face.

But it’s possible that Spock’s not enjoying it, and that he’s not enjoying it because of the clenched muscles he’s working with directly, whatever worries they’re carrying. If he can feel all that.

Jim’s still not sure how that works.

And Spock’s still not the most forthcoming about his secret Vulcan things.

And that’s definitely the kind of thinking that makes Jim less, not more, relaxed.

‘You are quiet,’ Spock says.

Jim tenses, then relaxes. Spock’s knuckles are in the small of his back between his hips, rolling directly against his spine, and Jim’s pressing into the bed while arching into Spock’s hands. Anyone else would talk about anything else, but Spock’s...too Spock for that.

‘Thought you didn’t...want me to talk...Spock.’

‘I had not implied I disliked your conversation.’

Jim chuckles weakly, breathlessly. ‘Don’t wanna get distracted, I guess. Not that I can’t...focus on multiple things at once, myself,’ he adds. ‘Just, sometimes...’s’nice to focus on only one.’

Spock’s silence is less illuminating than ever, but his hands are incredible. It’s a shot in the dark, but Jim lets the pleasure swell and settle, floating free-form through his muscles. If Spock can feel even a quarter of that, lazy and spoiled and satisfied and still seeking more, then he can’t be having a bad time, anyway.

It’s a new experience for Jim: trying to be on his best behavior in someone else’s bedroom. It’s not that he minds Spock knowing he’s got less-than-pure thoughts about him, but the subconscious is a tricky place. There’s no telling what’s gonna float to the surface once he lets his guard down. Jim doesn’t have any control over that, just like Spock doesn’t have much control over what filters in through their shared connection.

It doesn’t help that Jim keeps noticing his surroundings for the first time. He’s got his face buried in Spock’s pillow—maybe the same pillow he sleeps on every night, the same pillow he bunched up under his straight back to read his PADD night after night. Jim breathes in, but there’s not much of a distinctive smell. In the absence of sweat glands, there’s no strong identifier that recalls Spock immediately to Jim’s mind. Just simple stuff: the light tang of soap and shampoo; the same dry, sun-baked scent that seeps into Jim’s clothes here, wind sweeping it in off the desert.

It’s not familiar and it’s not quite Spock, but it’s part of Jim’s life on Vulcan.

At least, for the next year it is.

Jim pushes the pillow down toward his chest, wriggling up in the same breath to give himself something to brace against. His thigh bumps the blunt shape of Spock’s knee bone, reminding him of how close they are. He didn’t need much of a hint with the way Spock’s hands frame the small of his back.

On Jim, it’s not exactly small. But Spock’s got big hands for a Vulcan.

Jim’s trip into his lap that afternoon didn’t resolve the question of whether he’s got anything else big for a Vulcan. Now that seems like an oversight—but it’s always easier to note these things once they’ve already happened, and also when he’s lying horizontally, without having to split his focus between his performance and the effort it takes to keep his body upright.

‘You’re good at this.’ Jim tucks the pillow under his chin. The ballast makes his voice vibrate strangely in his throat. ‘Backrubs. Did you study those too?’

‘There are many interconnected fields of applied study when it comes to the physical contact shared by humans in their intimate moments,’ Spock says. The swiftness of his response suggests he’s enjoying the prospect of a good conversation, even if he doesn’t know that’s what he wanted. Maybe Jim’s back isn’t the distraction he always dreamt it would be after Bones put him on that special diet.

Maybe slightly chunky blonds aren’t Spock’s type. But that’s proven untrue on at least a couple occasions now.

‘You make learning pretty sexy,’ Jim says. ‘Anyone ever tell you that before?’

‘No. They have not.’

‘Well, good. That just means I’m the first.’

‘That is not the only category in which you may claim that distinction.’

It takes Jim longer to piece that together than he’s proud of, but when it hits him, he can feel his gut warming, a flush spreading from his chest to his belly to his thighs. It’s for the best he didn’t undress; that leaves the smallest hint of a mystery, enough to give Spock the sense that he’s warm underneath his clothes like a present to unwrap.

‘First husband,’ Jim suggests.

Spock sweeps the heel of his palm up the length of Jim’s spine, resting it on the nape of his neck. The other remains at his hips; Jim realizes he’s gauging the angle of the vertebrae, whether or not they’re straight, before he continues. ‘That is both factually correct and obvious.’

‘First...human you’ve given a backrub to,’ Jim adds, with a shift of his hips for emphasis.

‘Therefore, I am unable to determine whether or not you are uncharacteristically unstill for a human in your position, or if you are all plagued with the reflex.’

‘First blonde,’ Jim says. God, what he wouldn’t give to see Spock’s face now—although it might be blank as ever, with only a faint spot of green high on each cheek, and sometimes knowing is worse than agonizing, endless guessing after all. ‘First human prince. First lapdance. ...Kinda.’

‘When you were in my lap,’ Spock reminds him, ‘you did not dance.’

‘No. Well— Geez, Spock, it was the spirit of the thing. I was in your lap and there was... A metaphorical dance happened. It takes two to tango.’

‘I am aware of the tango,’ Spock says. ‘At no point did we engage in any of the steps required.’

Another thing Jim didn’t put in the dictionary. He lets his breath out and with it, Spock finds a pressure point and releases that pressure without warning. Jim stiffens, groans, and ends up whimpering. He hopes it’s sexier than it sounds in his head, ears ringing, body limp—save for his hands fisted in the sheets, the huffs of breath making his chest tremble and his throat hum.

‘You sure I’m the first human you’ve given a backrub to?’ Jim asks, when his voice isn’t threatening to rasp or crack or worse, shake.

‘Though I had not directly confirmed this assumption to be true, I will do so now.’

‘You’re gonna have to teach me how to study sometime, Spock. I just realized I must’ve been doing it wrong all these because it never got me this good at anything.’ Not a strict truth, but it’s close enough that Jim doesn’t feel like he’s lying. Just lying down. After a first, botched attempt, he manages to gain enough momentum to roll over onto his back, Spock lifting his hands out of the way. They’re still in the air over Jim’s body—over his abdomen, to be precise; he knows how much Spock likes that—but with the shift in position, he’s not eager to make fresh, spontaneous contact.

‘The rate of relaxation in your muscles cannot have been affected so quickly,’ Spock says. ‘Is there some vital part of the proceedings that I have failed to address?’

There’s a distinct, dry absence of sarcasm in his tone, which can only mean he’s being the Vulcan version of sarcastic: so subtle that it stands out all the more as soon as you know what to look for.

Jim might not be a scholar on Spock’s level, but he knows what to look for. When it comes to learning about the Vulcan side of things, he figures that’s worth at least some extra credit.

‘Yeah, well, I’m feeling a lot better already,’ Jim says. ‘You know how these things are. One second you’re ready to keel over, but a little attention on the right joints and you’re fighting fit again.’

He gives a horizontal shimmy that’s meant to draw Spock’s eye. They’re already looking at each other, so he can’t be sure if it has the intended effect.

Spock’s mouth twitches to one side, though it’s impossible to tell whether he’s averting a smile or a frown. That’s something Jim hasn’t had enough practice observing yet. It’s more of a live and in person detail, not the sort of thing it’s possible to learn in advance.

‘You persist in honesty where none is conventionally necessary, and yet you persist in maintaining a level of deception about your physical condition when honesty is to your benefit.’

That’s not a question, so Jim doesn’t have to answer it.  Instead, he tugs up the hem of his shirt, baring his stomach inch by hot inch. There’s no welcoming kiss of cold air to help tamp down the fire building under his skin, but that doesn’t mean there’s no relief to be found in peeling out of his heavy clothes. And as long as Spock’s looking, he might as well put on a show.

‘I was just thinking you might want to touch me somewhere else for a change of pace, Spock.’

It sounds reasonable when he says it, wide blue eyes fixed on Spock’s face. He can’t imagine that look will work on his husband the way it works on Bones—even that depends on the weather—but it’s still worth a shot. He lets his gaze slip from Spock’s face to his hands, still hovering in the space between them.

It’s not like Spock to be indecisive. He wants to touch Jim. He just hasn’t worked his way up to it yet.

That’s where having a mouthy human as a partner comes in handy.

‘I could be more specific,’ Jim adds. ‘I know you’re into specifics, Spock.’

‘As I prefer clarity in all forms of communication, I likewise prefer specificity in all reference.’ It’s impressive how Spock keeps his cool, especially with that high collar buttoned to the top.

‘Okay,’ Jim says. He points—not necessarily specific, but it zones in on a narrower area just below the navel, before the trail of hair darkens and widens. ‘Unless you want me to lie here wallowing in uncertainty.’

Spock’s eyebrow does the thing. Jim likes it as much as he wants to make the muscle memory forget itself somehow, someday. He’s still working on a way. ‘On what topic are you experiencing this uncertainty?’

‘Whether or not you want to touch me.’ Jim inches the hem of his shirt higher, hips lifting, resting his thigh against Spock’s side.

Spock remains where he kneels, pristine and proper, but Jim thinks he can see Spock’s hands betray the finest of tremors.

‘Ah,’ Spock says. ‘The desire is not in question.’

He’s got good timing. It could be beginner’s luck; it could be he’s secretly a natural. Either way, the seconds pass until Jim’s brain threatens to over-think everything, until his body’s on the verge of acting out, when Spock’s fingertips alight on Jim’s skin.

‘This was the area, as per your suggestion,’ Spock says.

Jim’s eyelids flutter. The depth of his voice has that hint of intimacy, of promise, that Jim used to replay sections of his recordings just to hear. And he touched himself then, thinking about Spock touching him now. Time accordions around on itself; Jim shivers and sighs. Spock’s touch is feather light, a curious companion to the deep, muscle-probing strokes he offered on Jim’s other side. They’ve turned a corner; it just doesn’t have a name. Jim can’t move the way he wants to after Spock’s forefinger, just the tip exploring the planes of muscle section by section.

Another anatomy lesson. This one’s personalized.

‘You’re thinking about the muscle groups, aren’t you?’ Jim asks.

‘I need not remind you, Jim,’ Spock replies, ‘that I am capable of entertaining multiple topics simultaneously.’

‘So I’m right. That’s what you’re—ah—saying.’

Spock’s moving so slowly that it’s gotta be some form of Vulcan sexual torture. His blunt nail segments Jim in halves, then quarters, a collection of aching parts that shouldn’t be so sexy because they’re also addressed so clinically. But Spock’s a contradiction. Jim shouldn’t be as surprised as he is by the discovery.

Spock shouldn’t be as fascinated as he is by a selection of muscle groups he already knows by heart, either. Or by the dusting of hair trailing low under Jim’s navel.

‘You do not require confirmation of a correct assessment when the truth is clear,’ Spock says.

‘That’s—’ Jim swallows, back arching off the bed. ‘—a generous estimation of my good nature, Spock. If I didn’t know better, I’d call it sweet.’

‘My estimations are not commonly considered to be generous, Jim.’

‘Brutal honesty, huh? No wonder you’re so good at this.’ Eventually, if Jim keeps delivering compliments without fanfare, Spock might pick up on the skill and work it into his repertoire.

‘I was not aware that we were engaging in a topic which could be classified as praiseworthy.’

‘Well, I like what you’re doing,’ Jim says. He digs in his heels, lifting his hips to get his abdomen against Spock’s hand, shifting his touch from left to right. ‘Does that fit your needs better?’

‘My needs were not in question,’ Spock points out. ‘Merely the accuracy of the situation.’

‘Maybe you should be thinking a little more about your needs and a little less about the situational accuracy.’ Jim slides up onto his elbows, the better to watch Spock’s progress. ‘Or a lot less about how specific I’m being with my words.’

‘It was my impression that your needs were the ones currently being addressed.’ There’s no glimmer of humor in Spock’s eyes but something about the way they tighten at the corners reminds Jim of Lady Amanda when she smiled without moving her mouth, winking at him without batting her lashes.

The added context is useful. Jim doesn’t like to think that he’d use Lady Amanda as a key to decoding her son, but Jim’s got such limited advantages on Vulcan that he’s willing to take any leg up he can get.

Which is why he’s shamelessly angling for more contact when they started the day on a similar note. There’s no light outside save for what’s cast by the stars and the planet itself is dry as a bone, but if this is Jim’s honeymoon, then he’s planning on taking advantage of it.

Somebody has to.

And if Spock’s teasing him, he’s about to learn that Jim’s more than up to the challenge.

Case in point: Jim shifts his balance to one elbow, reaching out with his free hand to palm Spock’s knee. Spock’s leggings are lighter than the tunic he wears over them, a fine, delicate weave that feels like it’s snagging on the calluses of Jim’s fingers. Jim shouldn’t even have those, but he came by them honestly, earned the old-fashioned way by tinkering his hoverbike to perfection in his spare moments between lessons and supplemental etiquette and near-obsessive Vulcan research.

Spock’s leg tenses. Jim doesn’t bother trying to think of the name for the big muscle that tightens up under his touch. It’s not exactly encouraging to feel like he’s being tolerated reluctantly at every turn, but again: Jim and his challenges.

The easy path’s always left him cold. He can’t say for certain Spock would’ve caught his attention as quickly as he did if he hadn’t made Jim want to bang his head into a wall until it stopped hurting altogether.

‘Hey.’ Jim stills, fingers hovering. ‘Am I pushing my luck here?’ No; that’s not what he meant. Not exactly. Specificity’s hard as hell when you’re hard as hell, but Jim buckles down. He’s trying so hard his brain’s gonna pop eventually. ‘That’s not— I don’t wanna do things, keep doing things, if I’m going against your code. Your personal code. About what you’re comfortable with. Also what you enjoy.’

Establishing the parameters. That sounds like a mature, responsible, adult thing to do, not to mention entirely diplomatic. Jim hates it for that reason, but it’s with grudging acceptance that he respects the necessity.

Vulcans. Once every seven years. Mating cycle. Pon farr. Jim might not know the details; he might have Spock’s assurance that the event isn’t the only time Vulcans get biblical—or precepts of Surak funky—with each other; he might want to see Spock with his tunic off more than he wants Spock to touch his dick again. But what he doesn’t know is all the complicated stuff in-between. What he doesn’t want is for Spock to feel like he has to do something. What he has is this fussy little need to make sure Spock wants it. This. Him.

In more than a logical way.

‘I had informed you already, to the best of my abilities, that a Vulcan does not indulge in emotionalism with the same freedom to which humans are accustomed. It is not natural.’ Emotionalism, Jim thinks. Like that has anything to do with the way Spock’s hands on his bare stomach made Jim feel a hell of a lot like spiraling out of control on a two-wheeler. ‘I do not find this experimentation unpleasant.’

‘When I touched you—’

‘I braced myself.’ Spock pauses, visibly, possibly to consider the implications of a rational, benign physical reaction on an emotional, human husband. ‘You inferred that this suggested I did not appreciate the sensation of your touch.’

There it is—Jim wanting to bang his head into a wall. Again. Still. Always.

‘It’s kind of a physical cue, Spock.’

‘That was not my intent. I am simply...unaccustomed to such a consistently elevated level of physical contact.’ Spock pauses again. Jim’s starting to lose feeling in his hovering hand. The wait’s worth it. It comes to him in the moment and doesn’t leave, a revelation that punches him hard in the chest, something he’s suspected all along but couldn’t confirm until he could look Spock in the eye and think yeah, I’ll wait for that. Jim tries to swallow. He can’t. ‘It is unfamiliar. I had not been given reason to conclude that I would be as receptive as I am.’

This is Spock being receptive. This.

Jim bites down on a laugh of surprise, of disbelief, of affection. It’s true, obviously. Jim can work with the truth.

Jim can work with receptive.

‘I’m gonna touch you again, Spock,’ he says.

Spock nods faintly. ‘I shall anticipate it.’

Jim lets him anticipate it. He doesn’t wait too long; he doesn’t move too fast. When he rests his palm on Spock’s knee, his fingers on Spock’s thigh, the muscle twitches again and Jim recognizes it as a response, a reply, to an unvocalized question. Another kind of conversation they’re having.

God, it’s hot. Jim’s heart is pounding double-time and he’s just touching Spock’s upper thigh, not even bare skin to bare skin.

‘You know, bracing yourself is usually what you do before something bad happens,’ Jim says, just as a point of interest—something for Spock to test his mind against so he’s not focused solely on what Jim’s doing with his hands.

With anyone else, that’s exactly what Jim would want. Complete and total focus. But Spock takes a certain careful subtlety. It’s better to give him a few different directions to regard at once, which should distract him from honing in too much on any one thing.

Jim probably shouldn’t be thinking about his husband in the same terms as a Starfleet training program but he’s used to throwing himself against the toughest ones, where a little creative thinking goes a long way.

If he can reassure himself that the hours he spent on those simulations didn’t go to waste, that there’s somewhere else he can apply them, then maybe it’s like he got what he needed out of Starfleet anyway.

‘It is an act of preparation with no hidden connotations of judgment as you seem to believe.’ Despite the odds, Spock’s hand might actually be distracted by Jim’s sudden attention. His fingers stroke, back and forth, across the taut skin below Jim’s hipbone with no discernible purpose.

But Jim’s not complaining. The true kind of anticipation, the kind he’s most into, is when he’s got no clue what’s coming. He makes quick connections, so it’s tough to surprise him outright, but Spock’s never once been predictable when it comes to their sex life. Or any other aspect they’ve come to share, for that matter.

‘You’re making a face, though,’ Jim says.

‘A face,’ Spock repeats.

‘Yeah, a face.’

Jim runs his hand further up Spock’s clothed thigh, digging his nail in along the fine seam and tracing its shape all the way up Spock’s leg. The shirts Vulcans wear are thicker, tougher to work with, but the leggings are thin enough that Jim would be able to feel body heady coming off of Spock if he were a hot kinda guy.

Temperature-wise.

He imitates the face for Spock’s edification: wrinkling his nose theatrically, pulling his lip up over his teeth in a curl of disgust, squinting his eyes in Spock’s direction as he wiggles his head back and forth.

Spock’s hand ceases its restless motion just above the waist of Jim’s pants. It’s maddening, but Jim probably deserves it. He curves his fingers against Spock’s inseam, neither pulling back nor pushing ahead.

‘That is not an expression I have ever seen on my face,’ Spock says. ‘Nor on the face of any Vulcan, for that matter.’

His tone implies that’s not one he’s ever seen on a human either, but Jim doesn’t mind. He likes being the first.

‘Maybe I took a few artistic liberties.’

‘Ah. Yes. I recall the artistic liberties you have taken before. This tendency is not restricted to your digital artwork.’

‘What I was trying to do,’ Jim says, so close to huffy that he’s almost laughing, ‘is express how it comes across when you’re trying to get a rise out of somebody and they don’t react at all.’

‘So the recreation was not intended to be literally accurate.’

‘Just trying to express myself.’

Spock’s thumb curves along Jim’s hip; his fingers splay outward from the palm, five points of contact, two of them on Jim’s bare skin. ‘Jim,’ he says. ‘I am capable of sensing not just physical warmth but what can only be termed a cacophony of emotional heat through your skin alone. If I show no outward signs of the effect this has on me, that is because I have never before been called upon to experience this effect. I would prefer to experience it completely.’

If Spock was getting emotional heat before, the one-two punch of that admission—not subtle, not coy, intimately honest—is bound to give him twice as much. Jim squirms at the thought.

‘You’re not meditating or anything like that, are you?’ It’s deflection. Spock’s gonna have to learn about that human trait sooner or later: how often it works against an individual’s desires, despite their better judgment, beyond their control. Especially when most of their blood flow has been diverted from the brain to somewhere below the belt.

‘If this is what you believe meditation to resemble,’ Spock replies, ‘then it is little wonder you did not have much success with the practice while approaching it on your own.’

‘Spock.’

Spock’s eyes answer for him. Jim.

The shiver at the base of Jim’s spine grounds him, breathless without being winded.

‘You gonna be too cold if I take off your shirt?’ Jim asks. ‘If the answer’s yes, I’m gonna promise to keep you warm anyway.’

‘I had wondered when—or if—we would engage in more common sexual practices involving the nudity of both parties instead of neither, or simply one,’ Spock admits.

Like Jim’s cheek and stomach weren’t flushed pink enough before. ‘Guess I’m not giving you the best common examples, huh?’

‘It is possible you have taken certain pedagogical liberties.’

Pedagogical. Spock’s the only individual in any galaxy, Jim is positive, who could take that word and make it sexy. ‘Yeah. I totally have. And now I’m gonna take your shirt.’

‘It would be more efficient if I were to undress myself,’ Spock says, then displays a moment of uncharacteristic hesitation. ‘Perhaps the objective of the exercise is to attune ourselves to one another’s movements by engaging in the act of undressing one another.’

‘That works,’ Jim replies. ‘Or watching you get undressed in front of me right now after that backrub you just gave me and I’ll probably come before you’re back in the bed.’ Honesty is the Vulcan way. And the way Spock’s eyes widen marginally when Jim says come makes the choice of honesty more than worth it.

‘Honestly, Spock,’ Jim continues, picking up more conversational slack, ‘I need the practice on Vulcan clothes anyway. Getting out of them, getting into them. Seems like the kind of thing the prince consort of Vulcan should know.’

‘You are fabricating reasons for something to which I have already agreed,’ Spock points out.

‘Yeah, that’s me all over.’ Jim sits up slowly, trying to keep the blood from rushing too quickly out of his brain. ‘I like to make things difficult.’

When he reaches for Spock, it’s as much to keep himself from slumping over as it is to go for his shirt. There aren’t any stiff clasps or hidden buttons, little snaps that make hidden seams down the back of his sweater or tight laces to make Jim’s fingers feel clumsy as Petrokian blood sausage. It’s just a pullover, which makes Jim’s whole speech about learning how to get into his clothes seem superfluous at best.

Trust Spock to show him up even when he isn’t trying. Jim’s into it, but still.

‘That much has been made self-evident,’ Spock says.

Even face-to-face, Jim gripping soft handfuls of his shirt, Spock doesn’t quite seem fazed. It’s not the first time Jim’s wondered how far he’ll have to go to get a decent reaction out of him. For now, he’s happy enough to exist in the experimentation phase, pulling Spock’s tunic up to get his hands under it, warm skin against cool. Cool, but never clammy. It’s an important distinction to make.

‘You know, dogs don’t sweat,’ Jim says, while his fingers trace the shape of Spock’s ribs. There’s no taking the words back now that they’re out there. Spock’s eyelids lower, then lift all at once, trying to parse the comparison.

‘Dogs,’ Spock repeats.

Jim wonders if that’s for his benefit or if he just does it without thinking now—if that’s an imprint he left without meaning to.

Now that he’s committed to the topic—now that Spock’s responded instead of leaving it up to chance if he’s even listening—Jim can’t act like he didn’t say anything to begin with. That’s the problem when it comes to Vulcans. Their hearing’s so good it’s impossible to play the you heard me wrong game.

‘Yep.’ Jim spreads his fingers in the hollows between Spock’s ribs, tugging his shirt up to free his chest, lifting his hands to rub light, exploratory circles over his nipples. ‘That’s why they pant, you know.’

He demonstrates for all of three seconds before thinking better of it.

‘Vulcans do not pant, Jim.’

‘No kidding.’ No kidding ever. Jim regroups, refocuses. Spock’s a lot hairier than he expected, for one, dark and thick on his chest and—yeah, below the navel. Jim lets that sink in, sitting up at Spock’s kneeling side, tracing the outline of the unfamiliar patterns.

They won’t be unfamiliar for long.

Jim commits them to memory. His forefinger follows one wing nearly to the collarbone before it curves inward, a narrowing triangle down the lean center of Spock’s abdomen. The muscles beneath it are slim and hard and flat, shadows flushed a faint, pale green, and he couldn’t be more different from Jim physically if he wasn’t even a fraction human.

It’s crazy, considering all the differences among humans alone, that they ever managed to see past their own stuff to get close to aliens. But Spock’s proof of that; they’re proof of it together.

Now that’s poetry.

Spock clears his throat.

Jim lifts his gaze from Spock’s chest to his face. ‘You’re not gonna tell me your eyes are up here, are you?’

‘I would not point out so obvious a fact of physiology.’ Spock pauses. ‘You had stopped speaking. That is not usual. The likelihood of the catalyst for this uncharacteristic silence involving some manner of displeasure or disappointment was statistically high.’

‘You’re hairy,’ Jim explains. ‘And it was a surprise, I guess, and I like surprises. And I like this surprise in particular. And when I talk I say stuff about dogs and panting Vulcans so the likelihood of sounding crazy is statistically higher.’

‘Ah.’ Spock’s hand waits in the space between their chests, Jim’s rising and falling with the hurry of eager anticipation, before he touches the smooth groove beneath Jim’s throat. ‘Then it is in keeping with ‘your type’?’

‘One of. Yeah.’ Jim scoots closer. ‘I’m not complaining.’

‘I had not engaged in a similar activity.’

‘So I’m your type too, huh, Spock?’

Spock touches Jim’s nipple and Jim thinks about dying, about building a time machine to go back in time and make sure he drowned in that morning’s hot bath. He grins at the same time. If all the illogical impulses coursing through his body haven’t caused Spock’s brain to short-circuit yet then they really have a chance of making this work.

‘I am not complaining,’ Spock repeats.

‘Cool.’ Hot. Jim’s grin only gets bigger. ‘But I’m gonna start complaining if you don’t lie down so I can take off your pants.’

He tips forward to lean Spock back, the heels of his palms braced against the mattress. He feels like kissing Spock’s chest so he does, hair tickling his lips and chin. Spock can think he’s illogical all he wants—basically everything the body ever wants is a combination of the illogical with the downright insane—as long as he likes it deep down. Even if he never admits it. Jim rests his cheek there over Spock’s chest and has a moment of panic before he remembers that’s not where the heart beats.

It’s lower.

So Jim slides lower.

He’s at Spock’s side when he hears it, an unexpected rhythm that tightens Jim’s gut.

He recognizes the sound, even if it takes him a second to place it. The position’s all wrong, but the heavy rhythm is so familiar that he’d know it in his sleep. An even, slow beat thumps with the flow of green blood through Spock’s body.

It could be going a little more quickly for Jim’s taste, but he’s not about to complain right away.

‘Hey, Spock.’ Jim settles his hands on Spock’s hips, drumming his fingers in a light imitation, until he has to stop so he can listen again.

‘Jim,’ Spock acknowledges.

When he speaks, Jim feels his muscles tense, voice reverberating against blood and bone. It’s different from hearing it in the air, more intimate somehow. Jim’s mouth drags against Spock’s side, lips working to form words. He’s not quite there yet.

‘…I can hear your heartbeat.’

It sounds anticlimactic—or worse, obvious. Any second now Spock’s gonna say something about how demonstrable that is, how Jim’s insistence on narrating what he’s doing is unfathomable, especially considering how the only person who can hear him is also present to observe the same phenomena. But it’s not as if they don’t need help in the communication department. The way Jim sees it, it’s his dignity or their clarity.

Spock’s breathing swells beneath him. Jim can’t feel it when Spock swallows, but it’s a soft, wet sound somewhere above Jim’s head.

‘In your studies on Vulcan anatomy, you must surely have encountered our cardiac placement.’

‘Yeah, I did.’ Jim turns his mouth against Spock’s side, kissing the curve of the spot where his kidney would be if he was just a little more human. ‘But reading about something and hearing it out loud are two different things, Spock.’

‘That much is obvious,’ Spock agrees.

Jim gives him an experimental push with both hands and Spock looks down like he’s a sehlat who just jumped up on the table. From what he’s heard of I-Chaya’s behavior, he’s way too well-trained for that kind of stunt. That leaves Jim on his own, making reckless plays for attention because he never learned any better.

‘Lie down,’ he says, translating his movements.

Spock surveys Jim, then the bed at his side, measuring both Jim’s words and the space he has to stretch out in. It looks to Jim like he’s actually thinking about following orders and that’s pretty hot.

But not as hot as Spock shifting to spread himself backward on the bed, getting around Jim to make room for himself. It’s more than worth the brief break in contact between them to see Spock on his back, somehow still braced stiffly on his elbows.

Jim has to wonder whether looks that uncomfortable when he sleeps or if it’s just a look that manifests when Jim’s around.

Jim grins again—although grins as a currency of reassurance might not be instinctive for Spock. They’ll work that out. They’ll work it all out. Right now, all Jim has to concentrate working on is getting Spock out of his leggings or whatever they are; there’s bound to be a word for it but the only word Jim cares about is off. He hooks his fingers in the waistband and lowers it.

True to form, Spock picks up on the action and responds the way any good student should. He lifts his hips and Jim gets the leggings to his knees before he can kneel between Spock’s legs, rolling the fabric back until it’s pulled tight around Spock’s ankles.

‘I am not fully undressed,’ Spock informs him.

‘I’m not fully patient,’ Jim replies.

Spock’s thighs are bare, his stomach, his chest, his arms. He’s long and lithe and Jim doesn’t have the adjectives for it. He’s not Jim’s, that’s for sure, but he’s with Jim. Also, he’s hard, the fabric of his underwear tented around an obvious erection, with even a faint spot of dampness that Jim recognizes. He recognizes the shape itself, too, with a brief sigh that combines relief and excitement and something that bubbles like a laugh in his chest but doesn’t escape from his throat.

Jim could take it off with the same amount of pleasant struggle as the leggings gave him, but he doesn’t. He braces his hands on Spock’s shoulders and bows to kiss his belly instead, a scant inch below the navel, hot breath shivering the thick clutch of rough hair. Spock’s muscles respond; Spock himself doesn’t. Jim mouths from bare skin to a simple cotton blend, shaping Spock’s dick with his tongue through his underwear.

‘Jim,’ Spock says.

Because it’s illogical, Jim figures. Because it’s a random assortment of actions that should be awkward and uncomfortable instead of hot and thrilling. But here they are, Jim’s palms on Spock’s hips, Jim’s mouth on Spock’s dick, with damp cotton in between them, and if it is awkward, it’s the kind that doesn’t matter. No bumping, no thumping.

Jim nudges the head of Spock’s dick with his nose, encouraging Spock to move if he wants. Spock doesn’t. Jim moves for him, an up and down and up again. ‘Spock,’ he replies, muffled, but hopefully Spock will pick up on the intent.

Nothing—but Spock’s muscles tell a different story. Jim can feel them twitch and jump and shudder. When he draws his teeth along the cotton weave to cause a little friction Spock grips the back of Jim’s head, sudden and unwarned. Jim shuts his eyes, breathing it in, until Spock’s tight fingers ease and release. Like there’s no in between to work with. Like it’s everything or nothing.

Jim’s scalp tingles.

‘Spock,’ Jim tries again, letting the name hum within the hollow of his open mouth. A little vibration couldn’t hurt. Spock tenses again and Jim knows it has to feel good—maybe better than Spock’s ever felt before. That idea’s terrifying. Amazing. He chuckles and gasps at the same time, his own dick pretty damn hard, bottom lip pushing lower down, searching for other points of familiarity. Of contrast. But mostly of sensitivity.

‘I’m gonna just…’

Jim doesn’t gesture, but he nods at Spock’s erection, bumping the bridge of his nose against the damp head of his cock. This’d be better without the barrier surrounding them, with nothing to separate Jim’s tongue from Spock’s skin.

He wants to know what Spock tastes like—not the clean cotton of his shorts but what’s just beneath them. He doesn’t sweat, but there are other notable secretions, things Jim’s keen on making himself familiar with. He’s learning a lot more about Vulcan anatomy than ever existed in the archives, for one thing. No doubt all this stuff falls under the heavily encrypted and extremely private section, if anyone ever bothered to write them down in the first place.

Jim’s not sure whether he’s jealous of all the information Spock’s had at his disposal or if he’s grateful for the unlimited surprises that wait in store.

Spock doesn’t agree, not exactly—at least, he doesn’t acknowledge Jim in words—but he inclines his head like a nod, which is confirmation enough for Jim. There’s a chance it could’ve been a muscular twitch, but Jim’ll take that too. All’s fair in love and war, even if the lines between the two get blurred sometimes with how hard Jim has to work in order to get any results out of Spock.

It’s worth it. Something about the effort-to-reward ratio always seems to balance out in Jim’s favor.

Spock rolls his hips, digging his heels in and nearly brushing Jim’s face before Jim pulls away for long enough to tug his shorts down. He gets as far as Spock’s knees before he’s stopped by simple physics—and not being able to move any further away without taking his eyes off Spock’s dick, flushed dark green at the tip and shadowed by that same color all the way down, heat pooling like a blush between his thighs.

Jim doesn’t know he’s holding his breath until he gasps, the sound stuck in the back of his throat.

Spock’s knees start to turn in toward each other. Jim has to move quick to combat that impulse, to keep him from shying away like he’s only just figured out he’s on display and doesn’t want to be. It’d be easy for Jim to screw up, let the moment stagnate. Instead, he leans in to press a kiss to the head of Spock’s cock, swiping his tongue against the slit at the top, relieved there’re some things they have in common below the belt after all.

He takes his hands from Spock’s shorts, lets them run up the insides of his thighs. Spock’s hairy everywhere, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, but it’s an illicit reminder that keeps thrilling Jim from his head to his toes.

‘Jim,’ Spock says.

‘Kinda busy,’ Jim murmurs, drawing his tongue in a long, messy swipe up the shaft of Spock’s dick.

From this angle, Spock can’t see his face—which is a relief, to be honest, with Jim’s eyes half-open and his forehead furrowed, wearing a look of concentration he doesn’t want to see reflected by Spock’s curious expression. He’s studying. He knows what he gets like when he’s studying something. Spock’s not the only one who can apply himself like a grade A nerd, and Jim’s had more than enough experience with the same. Sometimes—not all the time, but on certain subjects—he’s been known to geek out.

This doesn’t, technically, qualify as ‘geeking out’. It’s his husband; it’s his husband’s body. Somebody somewhere must’ve figured Jim was ready for a commitment like this one and Spock’s lean thighs, the dark hair between them, the long shaft of his dick and the familiar, rounded head are a welcome sight, Jim huffing warm air against the thin skin just to watch it flush really green.

God, it gets really, really green.

Jim’s eyes widen, mouth crooked, lips parted. He swipes his tongue over the bottom lip.

‘Jim,’ Spock repeats.

There’s something about the sound of his voice—something that’s strong enough to pull Jim’s focus away from his dick, from all the things he wants to do to it and maybe, yeah, with it. Jim looks up, squinting, hair tousled in front, hoping it’s the sexy kind of disheveled and not any of the other kinds. This time, the odds are against him. ‘Huh?’ he asks, because at least that’s communicating.

Spock’s lucky Jim was able to form that much in the way of verbal acknowledgment.

Spock’s face is tight, closed-off, distant. It’s the Spock Jim would think Spock was all the time if the only Spock he ever got the chance to know was the guy standing next to him in the desert, fire hidden within cold, dark stone. He isn’t looking at Jim—it’s more that he’s looking through Jim, past him, not only to a place where Jim isn’t but a time without him, too.

The heat goes out of Jim’s chest. It drains from his belly. The tightness in his lungs reminds him it’s always been there and he scrambles to sit up.

‘Something wrong?’

Something’s wrong. Or Jim’s done something wrong. Wrong is the right word to use. Jim pushes his sweaty hair off his forehead, wanting to lean closer, knowing he should pull back.

Spock doesn’t answer—because Vulcans don’t lie. Something’s wrong; Spock’s not talking, not saying what it is; and Jim’s face is hot for reasons that don’t have to do with what he’s looking at, what he can do, burning up because of something he already did.

‘Hey,’ Jim begins. Spock’s still quiet and somebody’s gotta bust them out of their frozen silence. ‘Just tell me—’

‘I intend to meditate,’ Spock replies. Jim drops back onto his heels like the sound of somebody’s emotionless voice can have the same, physical effect as a door slamming in your face. It sure as hell feels like it does.

To seal the deal, Spock dresses in swift, nearly mechanical motions, without once meeting Jim’s eyes or even looking in the same galaxy as Jim’s face. Jim could help him. He reaches out to try and Spock catches him at the wrist, holding him back, no words exchanged. No words necessary.

‘Hey—’ Jim tries again, because he can’t stop trying, because that’d mean admitting he’s screwed up and doesn’t know how to fix it. There’s no way he’s there yet.

Soon, maybe. But not now.

Spock’s fingers tighten around his wrist. It’s not an affectionate squeeze. He’s not the type. But Jim scoots forward on the bed anyway, like he’s being beckoned.

Just goes to show him his instincts are all off. Spock lets go like Jim’s a ceremonial iron left too long in the fire. His eyes find Jim’s face, but there’s no hint in there of what he’s feeling. They’re dark and deep, but almost deliberately emotionless.

Jim would make a crack about inviting a mask of Surak into the bedroom but the words stick in his throat. The dry air’s getting to him again; all of Vulcan’s conspiring to make Jim feel like a foreign body about to be expelled by a hostile environment.

The environment that just turned unexpectedly hostile.

It’d be one thing if he knew what he’d done.

‘My meditation chamber is adjacent to this room,’ Spock says, already on his way out the door. ‘You need not leave if you are suitably comfortable.’

Comfortable. Jim’s mouth is open, not on a snappy retort but because he can’t remember how to close the damn thing.

Sure.

He’s hard in Spock’s bed, half-naked, all-thwarted. There was a Vulcan cock in his mouth and now the Vulcan it belonged to is bolting. He thought they were getting somewhere.

Obviously, he thought wrong.

He lies down on his back as the door hisses shut, breathing hard. The weight of the atmosphere settles in like a heavy sehlat on his chest. For a while there he forgot about it entirely. But now that he’s alone, without Spock’s sensitive skin under his mouth and hands, burning green where Jim’s doing the right thing, there’s not much else to focus on.

Maybe he just tricked himself into thinking he was getting better the same way he tricked himself into believing he could be some kind of Vulcan sex expert.

It’s not like he can look things up to discover his mistakes, considering the dearth of information on Vulcan sexual preferences in the first place. And if he leaves now, he’s gonna have to go through the whole song and dance of pulling on his shirt, stumbling out of Spock’s room and through the halls until he finds his own, impermanent quarters again.

The idea of being alone there comes up just slightly worse than the idea of being alone in Spock’s bedroom, blankets rumpled under his body with the promise of things they never got around to doing.

Jim should really brush his teeth, wash his face. Get up and take a long, cold sonic shower to do something about the throbbing between his legs. Instead, he rolls over onto his side and curls his knees up toward his chest.

Sleeping right in the middle of someone else’s bed isn’t the best revenge, but it’s exactly as juvenile as Jim currently feels.

*

Chapter Text

Never go to sleep angry—advice Jim’s given to himself and ignored countless times.

When you go to sleep angry, you dream angry. A tangle of sweat and a frustrated grunt are the remnants of those angry dreams, which chased Jim through long, hot stretches of desert and forced him into taking sharp corners. Hoverbike spinning out of control beneath him; a crash in a sand-dune leaving him disoriented and immobilized; a le-matya looming overhead, not accurate or to scale, but the perfect size for an out-of-control nightmare.

There’s no Spock in the morning, either. Jim thinks about hacking a PADD or a console to send him a message but when he settles in at Spock’s desk he realizes he doesn’t know what he’d say.

An apology for something he doesn’t understand? A request to know what the hell happened? A reminder that they’re married now and marriage involves not just the kind of honesty that keeps you from lying outright, but has you say all the things you’re not saying, while you’re at it?

Jim’s no authority on the matter. After all, he’s been married as long as Spock has. And he still feels sick after a glass of water, a few round-trip paces in front of the door to Spock’s meditation chamber or whatever it is.

Eventually, the events of last night get caught up in the eddies of Jim’s bad dreams. It’d be great if he could lie to himself and say the stuff that actually happened is a part of the stuff that didn’t, but he’s as bad at lying to himself as he’s good at lying to everyone else.

He leaves Spock’s private quarters and he doesn’t leave a note.

He knows it’s petty, immature, not very nice—and he knows that fighting miscommunication with more miscommunication, or a complete lack of communication, won’t solve a damn thing. But he’s picked up on all the slack so far and that’s not fair, either.

‘Well, well,’ Bones says, waiting for him inside his temporary quarters. ‘I was all ready to think married life might actually suit you—not to mention take you off my hands for a while—but that just goes to show you: never diagnose a man when he’s not around.’

‘Save it,’ Jim says, and heads into the sonic.

The cold blast does nothing for his mood. Neither do the tests Bones subjects him to when he comes out again, the beeping of one obnoxious scanner making his headache worse exponentially. And, checking the updates to his schedule, the promise of a tour of the grounds with Lady Amanda is a gift and a curse. Hours of walking with the nicest person around, making small talk, looking her in the eye and not letting on to the fact that Jim somehow ruined things with her infuriatingly private son—if Jim can make it through that then they should send him to negotiate with the Tellarites next.

‘You wanna talk about it before you cause an incident making that face at a Vulcan?’ Bones asks while Jim dresses, already sweating into his fresh clothes.

‘Thought you didn’t want the down and dirty details, Bones.’ Jim struggles with a sweater and then decides to screw that. A light cotton undershirt is more than enough for him.

It’s not like he’s actively committed to trying to impress anyone. Lady Amanda’s bound to understand, and being on his best behavior got Jim left alone in his husband’s room on what was officially one of their honeymoon nights. So the hell with the sweater, and the hell with Bones looking at him like he’s been learning a trick or two from the Vulcans about x-ray vision.

Jim’s shoulders slump under the weight of nothing more substantial than his own knotted-up insides.

‘I’m not looking to get the marital exclusive, mind you.’ Bones makes a face like he’s swallowed raw sash-savas the wrong way, hitting his taste buds with a mouthful of sour citric acid. ‘Unlike the damned media sponsors contacting me every damn hour of the day, asking if I’d like to comment on Prince James Tiberius’ recent union and if we’re comfortable calling you the Vixen of Vulcan. How’d they even get this contact, that’s what I’d like to know. Wasting valuable time and resources...’

Jim groans, but it’s for show. Right now, even the idea of being a headline’s more appealing than being prince consort of Vulcan. At least he understands the ins and outs of what a reporter wants from him, the image they’re trying to cultivate from Earth’s second son. Reckless Royal Jim Kirk.

Here, he’s functionally clueless.

‘Sorry to break it to you, Bones, but the entire problem’s a marital exclusive.’

It sucks to admit. Part of Jim wishes he’d put on the sweater, if only to have a cowl neck to hide his face in.

He actually thought he was adapting. Apparently one dinner with Lady Amanda wasn’t enough to pick up her talent for blending in. And it’s not exactly the kind of thing he can bring up with her to get her insight and advice—considering the intimate nature of the circumstances.

Bones is all he has if he wants to open up about this. Jim can pretend like he’s not interested all he wants, but the truth is, he’s better off getting it out than letting it stew. Otherwise it might explode at a less-opportune moment, with a less-willing sounding board.

It’s hard to look like a crazed, ranting loon in front of Bones of all people.

‘Great,’ Bones said. ‘I had a feeling you were gonna make me regret al that emotional generosity.’

Jim smiles wide, not showing his teeth. ‘I tried to warn you.’

‘What’d you do?’ Bones asks. He gets a distant look in his eyes, then shakes it off. ‘Never mind. I don’t think I wanna know.’

‘You assume it’s me,’ Jim says.

‘No,’ Bones says. ‘But if I blame him you’ll bite my head off.’

‘I wouldn’t—’ Okay, Bones has a point. ‘—bite your head off, anyway.’

‘Nearly had my head over the damn diet, and that was for your own good, too, might I point out.’

‘I was having chicken related nightmares, Bones. I dreamed I showed up on Vulcan and my husband-to-be was a chicken breast.’ Which might’ve been better than the alternative, now that Jim’s seen the alternative.

Some of that must show on his face, because Bones settles in for the long haul, one arm on his knee, as sensitive as Bones ever gets. ‘And I take it you wish he was that uncomplicated now you’re actually here, is that it?’

‘I like him, all right?’ Jim sighs, but it feels better once it’s out there. It’s not as though he can tell the guy in question; telling someone else is all he’s got. ‘I like him.’

‘And considering you also like highjacking hoverbikes and giving your CMO an ulcer the size of a Venusian colony, I’m supposed to infer from that statement it’s bad for you like every other thing you take a liking to?’

‘That’s why I like you, Bones.’ Jim claps him on the shoulder, not hard enough to give him a jolt. ‘You don’t pull your punches.’

‘And the thanks I get is playing marriage counselor to a prince.’ Bones’ eyebrows pinch together, a familiar wrinkle in the middle that’s all Jim’s ever known of home. It’s deep and cranky and a sight for sore eyes, enough that Jim’s smiling when he sinks down on the ottoman in front of Bones’ chair. ‘And that’s if I get any thanks at all. So you like him. Is that so bad?’

‘You haven’t met him, Bones,’ Jim says.

‘But I have emailed the green-blooded—’ Bones stops himself before things get too treasonous. ‘You know the rest.’

‘Green-blooded cold-hearted pointy-eared hobgoblin, right?’ Jim ticks each one off on his fingers, only to realize he’s missing one. ‘Devil-looking. Damn it, I always forget that one.’

‘Just picture him in red instead of green and it’ll come to you,’ Bones replies.

Jim rubs his face with his palms, wiping the sweat off his forehead and pushing his hair out of his eyes at the same time. ‘I knew he was gonna be different,’ Jim says, without looking up. ‘I knew that. Believe me, I had all the warning in the world and I chose this. I wanted... It wasn’t just to be stubborn.’

‘Sure,’ Bones says. ‘Not just.’

‘C’mon, Bones.’

‘Not just,’ Bones repeats, but it has a different meaning the second time around.

‘Yeah.’ Jim shakes his head. ‘Well, that’s a part of it, maybe. But it’s—I can do some good here, and I thought... He’s not all cold-blooded, Bones.’

‘He’s an alien, Jim. Or did you forget that?’

‘Sure—but he’s half-human, too. It’s just that the alien bits win out more often than not and I thought we were getting somewhere, but—’ The timer goes off on Jim’s PADD, a warning that if he doesn’t hightail it out of his own pity party now, he’s going to be late for a tour of the Vulcan royal grounds.

‘Saved by the bell,’ Bones says. ‘Try not to dehydrate in record time, will you?’

‘Catch you when I get back,’ Jim replies. ‘That’s...a promise, not a threat. Mostly.’

Bones salutes with one finger, face companionably irritable.

‘You’re my best Bones,’ Jim says, because it’s the truth, but also because he’s feeling jumpy now that he started spilling only to be interrupted preemptively.

He’s red in the cheeks by the time he makes it to the courtyard, breathing hard and shielding his eyes from the sun. It’s enough added visual information that it should distract from any kind of face he might’ve been making—like the one that tipped Bones off, for example. Trouble in Vulcan paradise.

Lady Amanda’s not Jim’s own queen mother, but she’s got instincts as shrewd as a Vulcan’s where it counts. Jim’s not looking to get scrutinized when he’s all too conscious of the problem.

It turns out I’m terrible at Vulcan blowjobs and I think your son’s too polite to tell me.

It turns out I’m terrible and I think your son’s too polite to tell me.

It turns out everything’s terrible.

‘Prince James.’ Lady Amanda’s standing in the shade of a great red rock, the desert breezes stirring the scarves around her head. She’s holding a parasol to shield her from the sun and she hands it to Jim when he gets close enough, so he can hold it over both their heads. One of the long, unending files that blur together under the heading Social Etiquette in Jim’s required reading said something about the taller of two people taking the umbrella. He’s guessing that’s a document Lady Amanda was briefed on too. ‘You’re very punctual.’

‘One of my better qualities,’ Jim says.

It sits under his skin—any mention of his good qualities—since that comes with the implication of there being bad qualities too. And it’s driving him crazy not knowing which one of them drove Spock out of the room.

Not talking to Lady Amanda about it just makes him all the more aware of the problem.

She puts her hand on his arm where it’s crooked.

‘I find it hard to believe anyone would put punctuality high on a list of your traits,’ she says. ‘Of course, I don’t mean that as an insult. It’s only that you’ve displayed so many other commendable qualities—patience chief among them.’

Jim manages, finally, to raise an eyebrow, shooting her a glance without turning his head. There’s no telling from her expression what she could be thinking, whether she’s talked to Spock since the incident or—worse, somehow—if Spock spoke to her.

She’s had too much practice in dealing with Vulcans her whole adult life. As a lowly human, Jim’s got no shot at reading her face.

‘I thought we’d start with the cultivated rock gardens,’ Lady Amanda continues, like she didn’t just drop a sly bomb into their conversation.

Maybe she doesn’t know she did it.

But again—practice in Vulcan subtleties. Lady Amanda’s had years of it. Spock’s lifetime. More. The chances of her missing something Jim’s picked up on are lower than low. Jim can’t calculate the odds to the hundredth of a decimal point, but he knows enough to know how unlikely it is.

He covers her hand with his. At least, with another human, he doesn’t have to worry about overstepping his bounds—or the dangers inherent in touch telepathy.

‘Rock garden,’ he says. ‘That sounds...lovely, Lady Amanda.’

‘It can be,’ Lady Amanda replies. ‘If you’re in the right mood for it, that is.’

‘The right mood?’ Jim follows where she leads, grateful for the relative cool of the parasol’s shade coupled with the gentleness of her voice. In the absence of a cool breeze, it’s all he has. He’ll take it, since it’s better than nothing.

‘They can be...severe, I suppose. When one is expecting an Earth garden—something lush, alive, thriving. Something that needs to be tended, where removing the weeds are a certain part of the joy.’ Lady Amanda guides Jim around the corner of that tall, striated rock; it’s only then that he realizes it’s part of a garden wall. On the other side, the garden itself is far from simple: neat and self-contained, breathtaking in its own, quiet way. Raked sand; abstract stone carvings dotting the landscape; dry, twisted, leafless trees, only one of them bearing stubborn fruit. Jim recognizes the sash-savas and his lips pucker preemptively. ‘It takes some getting used to,’ Lady Amanda adds softly. ‘But it has its own beauty, too. It is harsh, perhaps, and there’s no shade to sit in under the sun, but at night, when the lanterns are lit... There’s no finer place from which you can watch the stars.’

‘I’ll have to see for myself sometime,’ Jim replies.

‘Careful, Prince James.’

Jim skids to a halt before tripping over a low, flat stone, a hollow carved into the center to form an empty basin. The parasol wobbles. Lady Amanda holds her ground, keeping Jim on his feet with only one hand in the crook of his elbow.

‘Once,’ she says, while Jim tugs at his collar to regain equilibrium, ‘I bit into a sash-savas fruit at dinner and managed to squirt its juice directly into Sarek’s eye.’

‘Oh my God.’ Jim’s response is out before he can think about etiquette. ‘Seriously? Not that I’d accuse you of lying, Lady Amanda, it’s just... What was that even like?’

‘He was very stoic, as I’m sure you can imagine.’ The shadowy hints of a smile tease the corners of Lady Amanda’s mouth. ‘I was certain he’d have to react, and as you can imagine, I kept apologizing, while he insisted no apologies were necessary—that my intent was not to blind him, and it was my intent that mattered—but of course, it wasn’t my intent that had his eye watering.’

‘Oh my God,’ Jim says again.

‘In any case, it wasn’t the end of everything, as I suspected for some time it might be.’ Lady Amanda draws away to kneel beside one of the brittle trees, drawing her fingers through the sand at its roots. ‘I came out here, night after night, thinking about that mistake, and my own embarrassment, and how many stars there were above me, and how little it mattered.’

Jim swallows. ‘I guess it was only...logical to forgive you.’

‘Or,’ Lady Amanda replies, ‘it was only logical that there was nothing to forgive.’

She straightens and takes Jim’s arm again, gloved fingers smelling of sun-baked sand. ‘Shall we tour the royal buildings next, Prince James?’

‘I’m yours to lead, Lady Amanda,’ Jim says.

He prides himself on being an agreeable guest, even if he can’t call himself a capable Vulcan lover. He didn’t do anything as bad as squirting citric acid into Spock’s eye, but the way Spock reacted, he might as well have. Jim forgot to ask whether Sarek got up and left the table after Lady Amanda made her little faux-pas, and he doesn’t want to let on by asking too many questions at once.

If she already knows, then that’s one thing—but Jim’s not going to be the one to bring it to her attention.

He wouldn’t even talk about his husband troubles with his own mother, let alone somebody else’s. Lady Amanda just has a way of making him forget how little they really know each other. There’s probably a name for that, something to do with her being the only human on a planet full of emotionally-constipated aliens. Jim’s starved for attention. It’s Stockholm Mother Syndrome.

‘Now, I’m no expert on Vulcan architecture.’ Lady Amanda squeezes Jim’s arm, the same kind of careless, human tactile attention he’s been desperate to avoid exhibiting—or exhibiting the need for—around Spock. Maybe she’s been missing out too. He can’t guess and he doesn’t know her well enough yet to assume. ‘I don’t want you to go quoting me on these things. But this is my home. I like to think I’ve picked up a few things.’

‘When you aren’t working out subtle ways of blinding your husband, of course,’ Jim says.

Lady Amanda’s eyes crinkle at the corners. ‘Oh, of course. I’m indebted to Sarek’s discretion in the matter. I’m sure that if word had gotten out about my little assault, there would have been questions about my intentions toward the Vulcan people.’

‘Must’ve been fun, trying to navigate a tricky political situation and your marriage,’ Jim says.

That one might cut too close to the truth. 

He catches Lady Amanda looking at him sidelong, while they step under a tall archway that separates the outer gardens from the inner. Here, there’s a doorway leading them into a narrow corridor: open walls on one side, lined with small, stone benches for viewing the smooth carvings that sit within the four walls.

‘As you can see, these are the sheltered gardens, for viewing when sandstorms blow in off the desert.’ Whether Lady Amanda has a question about Jim’s statement or not, she’s hiding it in the remainder of their tour. ‘The covered hall leads to a sunroom, which I’m told is ideal for embroidery. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the fingers for all that detail work.’

‘What does a Vulcan do if they prick their finger on a needle, anyway?’ Jim’s gotta hope their privacy is trustworthy and that Vulcan walls don’t have Vulcan ears. ‘I tried a search to answer the question on my own, but apparently none of the databanks has that information open for public access. Or princely access, apparently.’

‘I suppose they endure it the way most Vulcans endure that which must be weathered,’ Lady Amanda replies. ‘If my husband was capable of maintaining his composure despite an eyeful of blinding sash-savas—if any Vulcan is capable of finding logic in the violence of a nearly endless desert—then I can’t imagine the pain would be anything other than bearable.’

‘So it’s only the telepathic stuff that gets to them—that’s what you’re saying.’

‘When it does, I am told it can be severe. I’ve never seen the effects for myself. Of course, I hope I never will.’

Jim whistles, a dry sound with a rasp to let him know he’ll be needing rehydration eventually. Lady Amanda doesn’t comment on it, but she does take him out of the gardens, informing Jim on points of architectural interest or views of particularly stunning scope along their way.

Their brief sojourn in the area adjacent to the central buildings housing the infamous Vulcan Science Academy involves sash-savas tea, too hot at first to make any sense, but when Jim’s finished with his cup, he does feel cooler—if only by comparison.

‘Spock was accepted there, you know,’ Lady Amanda murmurs, leaving the stony complex behind, the sun lower in the sky, enough to force Jim to adjust his parasol grip. ‘Just like his half-brother, Sybok. He studied so much harder than I always thought was necessary—though I doubt he would have listened to my counsel in the matter.’

‘Yeah,’ Jim agrees. ‘He’s a genius.’

It doesn’t come out sounding bitter or resentful. That has to mean something, tickling the back of Jim’s throat like the dusty sand caught on his tongue.

‘So he is.’ Lady Amanda’s expression doesn’t falter or even flicker. That has to mean something, too. Jim wants to ask her if she ever gets a Spock-related tickle in her throat—one that threatens sometimes to full-on choke her—but there’s no diplomatic way of doing that. There’s no human way of doing that, either, not without plenty of embarrassment. Jim needs to ration that carefully for future, inevitable diplomatic incidents. ‘Ah—do you recall the layout of the royal compound we sent you to familiarize yourself with your surroundings?’

‘Might’ve taken me longer than a Vulcan,’ Jim says, ‘but I got it memorized. Public separated from private. Some things are the same no matter what planet you’re on.’

‘A wise assessment,’ Lady Amanda replies, ‘and one to remind yourself of as often as possible.’

It’s sundown by the time Jim’s been given the tour of the royal library and the public infobanks, the debate hall and the reception hall and other austere rooms that blend together in sandy tones with the occasional, unexpected pop of ceremonial pomp, some obsidian statue or burnished curtain standing out as unexpectedly illogical, all things considered.

He still hasn’t worked out a peaceful, diplomatic way of asking Lady Amanda if there’s a primer for her son, some kind of universal translator they’ve neglected to provide him on landing. It’s not good manners on either planet to imply somebody’s impossible to figure out. Sure, another Vulcan might take it as a compliment, but Lady Amanda and Jim are on the same page. He doesn’t want to offend maybe his last friend in the first family of Vulcan.

His hopes darken as the skies do. The idea of another night with Spock like the one he just had is enough to fill him with dread. He’d rather be committed to Bones’ tender mercies, sucking down nutrition packs and listening to them crinkle under his fingers while Bones rants about the dry air and the dry people, making himself blue in the face.

‘My,’ Lady Amanda says. They’ve lowered the parasol along with the setting of the two suns. The sky’s stained with warm pinks and oranges, stained purple at the edges like fingers touched with hypothermia. ‘It’s later than I thought. You’ve soldiered on very well, Prince James. Patient, as I thought.’

‘Maybe I’m just looking for a distraction,’ Jim says. ‘Avoiding my responsibilities before I’ve got any real ones to settle down with, you know. Human stuff.’

It’s a miscalculation, one he realizes only after he’s said it. That’s usually how these things work. Jim never spots the flaw until it’s in his rearview. His reflexes are off on Vulcan, but he can’t act like sticking his foot in his mouth is an ability he spontaneously generated after leaving Earth.

Apparently it’s not something he could leave behind there, either.

‘You must be in dire need if you’re turning to me for company,’ Lady Amanda says, but her eyes are doing that thing again, tightening at the corners like she’s trying not to smile. ‘But then, I found it highly suspect that my son should want to cloister himself within the High Council again today when he might be spending time with his new husband.’

All of a sudden, Jim feels like maybe he was trying too hard to keep a secret that was already obvious to both of them.

He clears his throat, then swallows. As much as he’s not looking forward to stopping in to see Bones, he’s gonna have to swing by before the evening’s passed. He’s done more walking today than he thought he’d ever be capable of on Vulcan after that hell of a marriage ceremony.

‘Maybe he was trying to get away from all the sweating,’ Jim says.

‘If that is his intention, I’ll have to speak with him about it,’ Lady Amanda replies. ‘That’s hardly very conjugally minded, now is it? No; I can’t imagine he’d be quite so illogical.’

‘Let’s, uh... Maybe head back to the gardens,’ Jim suggests.

Airing out personal matters under the open sky is a better option than doing the same somewhere an aide or a servant might be just around an unexplored corner. Besides, Lady Amanda mentioned the view of the stars at night—and, as Jim settles at last on one of the low stone benches, tilting his chin up to stare at the sky, he can see she was right. There’s nothing in the way, no pollution in the atmosphere, and not a cloud in sight to obscure the unfamiliar constellations.

Well, maybe not totally unfamiliar. Jim broadcast them holographically on his ceiling at night after coming up with the program himself, just to get used to the stars he’d be seeing from Vulcan.

But a program’s a program, obvious in its replication. The real thing is always better. And more complicated. And better because it’s more complicated.

Jim sighs, waiting for one of the shivery evening breezes to remind his skin what comfort almost, sort of, nearly feels like. The sweat’s beginning to evaporate from the back of his neck, at least, as the torches are lit in the outdoor sconces, distant, flickering biers lighting pathways between fine Vulcan houses.

It’s incredible. It’s as far away from Earth as Jim can imagine. There’s nobody lurking behind the nearest statue with a digital camera and a PADD for instant upload. He shouldn’t feel like his collar is choking him—and he definitely shouldn’t mention that symptom to Bones later.

‘I’d talk about it,’ Jim says, only opening one eye, ‘but you’re his mother.’

‘That is true.’

‘And I’m his husband.’ The possibility of turning Lady Amanda against him—of giving her reason to believe that Jim’s against her son—is nearer than ever. ‘Which—I’m not complaining about that. I like him. I really like him.’

‘I can’t tell you it gets any easier,’ Lady Amanda murmurs. ‘And I appreciate your discretion, Prince James. Not to mention your sense of the appropriate.’

‘Now that’s a compliment I’ve never been given before.’

‘Vulcan doesn’t necessarily change people. Sometimes, it brings out hidden qualities.’

‘Like how much a human can sweat before he’s found in the morning pruned up like a raisin? Because the media back home’d have a field day with that one.’

‘We’ll have to make sure you stay properly hydrated, then.’ Lady Amanda rearranges her scarves. ‘I would tell you he likes you, too, Prince James, but that would seem a little too close to cheating. Besides, I’m not the person you need to hear that from, now am I?’

‘That’s not—’

Lady Amanda inclines her head just enough to remind Jim of the Vulcan eyebrow thing.

‘—it’s not that I wouldn’t believe you, anyway,’ Jim corrects himself. ‘I’ll figure something out.’

‘I have no doubt you will,’ Lady Amanda replies. When she stands, she offers Jim her hand. ‘Shall we have something to eat together again, Prince James?’

‘We’d better,’ Jim says. ‘Or my CMO will be arrested for treason after he skins me alive.’

*

Chapter Text

The passage of time isn’t as agonizing as Jim imagined it might be at first. Spock meditates—he meditates a lot—and Jim quits waiting up for him. He sleeps in fitful, sweaty bursts, tossing in his sheets and waking alone every time; he visits Bones when his insides start acting up, and he takes more solitary meals with Lady Amanda than he probably should.

Jim can’t feel that useless when he’s being somebody’s company. At first, he assumed she was taking pity on him, but apparently Sarek is exactly as busy as he seems. Jim doesn’t know how she stands it, but every time he starts to bring it up it, he can’t help wondering whether it’s his own future he’s staring into.

Then he chickens out of asking, because if this is what it’s gonna be like for him as prince consort of Vulcan, he’d rather not go into it with the advance knowledge.

At least the surprise is something to look forward to.

He knew what he was getting into. At least, he thought he did. Spock was as thick-headed as a Klingon when it came to Jim’s flirtations, but after a while he caught on. He seemed determined to learn, at least. That ferocious curiosity of his kept Jim’s hair standing on end, not to mention a few other parts of him standing at attention.

It wasn’t just his imagination.

There are only a few possibilities as to where things veered off course and Jim doesn’t like any of them.

The one that comes up most often is that Spock isn’t attracted to him after all. Things that work long distance don’t always have the same impact face-to-face. A guy can be into an idea or a concept or a sexy voice but not want that same someone’s slobbery mouth all over his dick.

But that can’t be true, because Jim was pretty careful to give Spock access to more than a few unflattering paparazzi shots just to give him a generous estimate of what he’d be getting himself into. There was never a point where he seemed turned off.

Except that there’s still a difference between pictures and the live, in-person experience. Jim should’ve been sending videos the whole time. Maybe his face does a weird, twitchy thing when he talks.

He keeps those thoughts to himself through the metallic tang of the energy drinks, through the meals with Lady Amanda, and through the confidences not shared with Bones. Jim can’t do anything about the way his chest seizes up when Spock steps into a room, not anymore than he can stop Spock’s eyes from sliding off him once they’ve found him, like he’s realized Jim’s not what he was looking for after all.

After two days, just when Jim’s starting to feel like things can’t get worse, he finds Sarek sharing breakfast with Lady Amanda in the dining hall.

‘Oh, Prince James,’ Lady Amanda says. ‘We were just talking about you.’

Never good, Jim thinks. He doesn't have to be telepathic to know that.

He doesn’t have to be telepathic to remember how to bow, either, and it’s a small, personal triumph when he isn’t hit with a wave of dizziness at the shift in his position. It’s progress, the kind he can measure. ‘Your highness.’

When he returns to an upright position, he does his best not to search for the similarities to Spock hidden in his father’s face. It’s not like he’d be able to find the key to unlocking Spock’s distance in Sarek’s features; a similar rise of a Vulcan eyebrow won’t explain the complications of disappointment and desire Jim’s been living with.

‘No need for such formality.’ Sarek’s voice is exactly the kind that all dignitaries and leaders of state should possess. The ones that aren’t second sons and supposed to be relatable, that is. It’s strong, powerful, and barren as the desert.

‘That’s...kind of you, your highness.’ Jim suddenly understands why everyone on Vulcan goes around with their hands clasped behind their backs or hidden in the fall of their sleeves—it’s to hide them when they tremble under Sarek’s unflinching gaze. ‘I’ll leave the two of you to your breakfast together.’

‘You are in the habit of taking your meals with my wife,’ Sarek says.

It’s not a question.

‘I explained that on Earth, it isn’t always the case that one has the pleasure of getting along so well with their in-laws, royalty or otherwise,’ Lady Amanda adds. ‘We happen to be lucky in that regard.’

‘And I have explained that what appears to be luck, in this instance, is merely a matter of probability. Given the variables, that probability is not particularly difficult to calculate.’

Okay, Jim thinks. As difficult as it was to communicate with Spock, this is definitely worse.

‘No matter the reason,’ Lady Amanda continues, ‘I remain grateful.’

‘And I wouldn’t want to do anything to compromise that gratitude,’ Jim replies. ‘Which is exactly why I’ll take my leave now, before I wear out my welcome.’

‘That is not a Vulcan concept.’ It’s just Jim’s luck that Sarek isn’t paying attention to his breakfast any longer, the full brunt of his focus resting squarely on Jim. And Sarek thinks luck doesn’t exist. Jim’s living proof that it does. ‘Although my wife has expressed its meaning to me in the past. However, as you were the topic of our discussion before your arrival, that arrival is...fortuitous.’

Fortuitous is a synonym for lucky.

Jim doesn’t push his by bringing that up.

‘The main topic of discussion during the High Council’s meeting yesterday was, apparently, a matter of a potential delegation to be sent on a good-will mission to tour the Romulan System.’ Lady Amanda pats the chair beside her; with no way left to excuse himself, Jim has to step forward and take the offered seat.

‘My son Spock put forward his eligibility for such a delegation,’ Sarek says. ‘Upon consideration and careful review, it became obvious the most logical conclusion would be to acknowledge that eligibility and accept his proposal.’

‘It wouldn’t be a honeymoon—not technically.’ Lady Amanda doesn’t take Jim’s hand—obviously not in front of her husband—but she does lean just a fraction of an inch closer. ‘But it would be just the sign of a unified front that the Federation would like best to put forward, if the two of you were to embark upon such a mission.’

Jim gets what she’s doing for him.

At least, the implication’s there.

A change might do them both some good: shake up their routines; give Spock a chance to open up. Given how the last two days have gone, Jim’s not holding his breath, but the prospect of visiting their Romulan neighbors is still somehow more daunting than spending time with Spock.

It’s the little things that keep Jim going.

And he can’t deny that the chance to escape Vulcan’s atmosphere is pretty tempting. Being back in the controlled environment of a starship, having breathable air and a temperature that doesn’t make him sweat through every last layer after walking from one end of a hallway to the other—it almost sounds like a dream. Jim knows he should tough it out on Vulcan, but the truth is, if he can cut a chunk out of his year-long sentence on the planet, he can’t see a reason why he shouldn’t leap at the chance.

It’s Spock he was getting himself ready for all this time, not an unwelcoming, unforgiving desert planet. It’s not the oppressive atmosphere he came here to impress.

‘Oh,’ Jim says.

There’s a tickle in his throat, but he can’t clear it with Sarek looking straight at him.

‘Does your lack of immediate declination or acceptance indicate that you require more time to process the terms of the provisional mission?’ Sarek asks.

‘No,’ Jim says. ‘I mean—yeah. I want to do it. I’ll do it. That sounds great.’

Very eloquent.

So much for showing off his speechifying skills in front of his in-laws and making a case for how great he’ll be with the Romulans. They’re definitely gonna want to ship him off on a goodwill assignment after that little display. Maybe he can uh and um his way through talks on Romulus and beyond while he’s at it.

The saving grace is, Spock isn’t around to see in advance how much Jim’s gonna let him down. That can be a surprise, along with the apparent Vulcan distaste for blowjobs.

Don’t think about blowjobs in front of Spock’s parents.

Lady Amanda smiles. She doesn’t take Sarek’s hand either, but she looks in his direction, leaning sideways as if she might touch their shoulders together, but veering off at the last minute.

‘You see? I told you—their thoughts are of a similar bent even when they are not together. A suitable match.’

Jim wonders whether Lady Amanda’s ever messed up as bad as he has or if she’s ever wished for a less complicated husband. Probably not. He might be projecting, but he’s spent enough time with his mother-in-law that it’s safe to assume he knows her, if not his husband.

Probably because he’s spent more time with her than he has with his husband.

That thought alone is enough to make him want to drown himself in the porridge-looking stuff in Sarek’s bowl. He refrains. As always, his proudest moments are the ones only he gets to know about.

‘A suitable match,’ Jim agrees, remembering too late the Vulcan disapproval of unnecessary repetition. ‘I’ll go talk things over with my suitable match right now, then, and leave the two of you to your breakfast.’

‘Of course, Prince James.’ Lady Amanda nods with more warmth than Sarek. Jim stands, doesn’t trip over his own feet, and successfully pulls off a second bow, all without passing out.

He’s getting acclimatized to Vulcan. Spending time off-planet is going to jack that up, undo all the progress he’s made. That makes another challenge he’s courting. Maybe if he’s fainting and Spock has to catch him all the time, he might squeeze some pity out of him at last.

It’s a long shot, but if Spock’s back in his chambers and isn’t expecting Jim to turn up, he might be able to catch him off-guard, or at least on whatever kind of guard he keeps when he thinks he’s alone. If Jim had his PADD, he’d send Spock a message, like old times. Hey, Spock. What are you wearing?

As frustrating as the long-distance stuff was, at least it was understandably frustrating.

Jim tugs at the hem of his shirt, letting air pass between the cotton and his skin. It’s not the coolest of breezes, but it’s enough to tickle the sweat on his belly. Then, he enters the security clearance code and his fingerprints at the door and steps inside.

At first glance, it looks like the room’s empty, but that’s only because Jim’s looking in the wrong places. It’s not empty at all; Spock’s not by the desk or the bed or heading in to meditate but standing by the window, changing out of his council robes and into the sweater Jim remembers running his fingers against—and under.

Jim watches, throat tight, chest tighter, as Spock’s head disappears into the fabric, his bare back and the furrow of his spine facing the door, muscles tightening under the fall of graceful shadows. His fingertips appear past the hems of his sleeves and Jim manages to swallow, a noise loud enough that Spock turns to look straight at him once the sweater’s on.

‘Hey,’ Jim says.

Spock nods.

‘I was just...’ Jim reminds himself this is where he lives—for the time being—and he has as much right to be here staring at Spock while he’s half naked as Spock has a right to be half naked and ignoring Jim at the same time. ‘Wanted to talk to you, actually. About this Romulan good-will mission we’re going on.’

There are a few traces of Sarek in Spock when his eyebrow raises and not enough of Lady Amanda for Jim to feel remotely comfortable. ‘We?’ he asks.

It occurs to Jim that this might’ve been Spock’s play at putting distance between them, his chance to get away. That lump in his throat is only getting bigger. There’s no way that’s happening. ‘A united front,’ Jim says. ‘We’re married now. Husband and husband. And I don’t know the specifics of the ceremony we went through in the desert, but if you go off without me, it’s gonna look pretty bad to anyone following along back home.’

‘I had not volunteered you to accompany me as I would not presume to know what your choice in the matter would be.’ Spock makes it all sound so reasonable. ‘I take it my mother must have informed you, after Sarek informed her of my departure.’

Our departure,’ Jim says.

‘Neither of us has departed yet,’ Spock says. His version of a concession, no doubt.

‘Right.’

Jim can acknowledge that. Working in the name of peace is what he needs to set his mind toward. He read somewhere that it’s impossible to go into negotiations with an ego. Jim always figured it’d be impossible to strip him of his, but if he wants to make this work with Spock, then he’s willing to strip himself of a whole lot more than that.

He only wishes that was a solution to this particular problem.

‘…But when there is a departure, we’re gonna be going together. You and me, winning over the Romulans. Shaking hands and kissing babies. Well, I guess you wouldn’t want to do either of those things. That’s human politics. I don’t know much about how you do things in the Alpha Quadrant, but I think I can handle a goodwill mission.’

Spock’s shoulders hitch upward, a minute gesture that Jim only spots because he’s watched him so closely. They lower in the same breath.

‘I have observed that you are given to speaking in more decisive terms when you are convinced of your suitability for certain positions.’

‘Yeah,’ Jim says. ‘But I’ve been given reason to believe my confidence in certain positions might’ve been a little misplaced.’

There’s no immediate reply. Spock doesn’t leap to defend himself or to correct Jim’s assumptions. Instead, he blinks like he can’t understand the source of the outburst—or worse, like he doesn’t recognize it as an outburst at all.

Jim’s starting to rethink some of the enthusiasm he poured into chasing after the most difficult thing he could set his sights on. He wrestled this life away from Sam, but at what cost?

Now’s probably not the time to start feeling sorry for himself.  Romulans can smell self-pity a mile away—and it still has to be better than constantly sweating through his clothes.

‘You are agitated.’

A normal person would sit on the bed or at least offer Jim a seat. But Spock’s more comfortable standing; it probably doesn’t even occur to him that Jim might not feel the same way.

Apparently there are a few things that haven’t occurred to Spock. Like how Jim might be feeling on edge after their fooling around got cut voluntarily short. If he was thinking about it, he would’ve followed up on Jim’s lead. Instead, he’s just ignoring it.

Not ignoring Jim—which would’ve made it easier to get angry—but the situation altogether.

It’s enough to make a guy feel like he’s losing his mind.

Desert hallucinations. Are those a thing?

‘You know how it is.’ Jim shrugs, one shoulder coming up slower than the other. ‘Everyone gets nervous when they travel.’

‘Your use of the word ‘everyone’ is a generalization that requires narrower specifications. Perhaps you refer to all humans—yet that, too, cannot be unequivocally true.’

Something pinches Jim’s temple. It could be a Spock-related twitch or tic. At the same time, the frustrating conversation he’s been starved for all this time—the conversation only Spock can provide—is finally his again. This is what he was missing. ‘Okay, Spock. Okay. It was a generalization.’ Jim sits on the edge of the bed without being invited, shoving back and kicking up his feet. Spock watches him with that cool outsider’s gaze. ‘It’s our first mission together. Maybe I’m just looking forward to it. It’s not like I think it’s going to be easy.’

‘You have already expressed in previous communications your preference for a presented challenge,’ Spock says.

Jim has to look away. He chooses the ceiling, then the view out the window, the same desert mountains he’s stared at for sleepless hours and seen again, a distorted reflection of the truth, in troubled sleep. ‘Don’t worry, Spock. It’s not like I think you chose to put your name into the mix for my sake or anything.’

‘I submitted my candidacy because it was logical.’

‘Sure. Logical. Well, it’s only logical for me to come along for the ride.’

Spock nods at that.

‘Not to mention,’ Jim continues, ‘it’d be pretty inappropriate for newlyweds to have to split up so soon after they get married.’

‘Should our duties require our physical separation, I had assumed we would continue our communications as we operated prior to our meeting.’

Of course. Spock wants to put a screen between them again.

Jim can give him that.

He rolls over, reaching for the PADD he left on the bedside table, listening to Vulcan pronunciation before finally passing out in a dif-tor heh smusma daze last night. The last message from Spock is still there, staring up at him like an accusation. Remember when things were still the promise of touching each other and not the truth of blowing your shot?

Jim flops back against the pillows while Spock observes him with a clinical curiosity.

Hey, Jim writes.

On Spock’s desk, his PADD flashes.

‘Jim,’ Spock says, ‘as we are more than capable of conversing traditionally—’

‘I don’t know—it seemed to me like you were missing the old days.’ Jim wiggles the PADD, letting some of his restless energy out however he can. ‘Figured I’d indulge you. Since we are husbands.’

‘It was not my intent to exhibit typical human signs of nostalgia.’

Pick up your PADD, Jim types.

Spock’s PADD flashes again.

‘Meanwhile, you can indulge me,’ Jim says, and nods toward Spock’s desk.

Jim can practically hear the rusty hinges grinding, like clenched molars in the night, as Spock accepts the necessity of playing along despite what logic dictates. He lifts his PADD in both hands, the light from the screen playing across his face.

Jim always wanted to know what he looked like in these moments. Turns out it’s the same as he always looks, even though there were things Spock wrote, things he recorded, that used to make Jim melt.

Jim, I need not inform you that this is highly unusual.

Sure. You need not. How are you, Spock?

Spock looks up from his screen. ‘Jim, you are capable of seeing for yourself—’

You’re being stubborn, Spock. Stubborn’s a human trait.

Spock’s jaw locks up in the reflected glow of the PADD. The sight shouldn’t give Jim as much satisfaction as it does, but this is what he’s been reduced to: scrabbling for any kind of sign that he’s able to reach his own husband, even if it is through a screen.

Because he sure as hell hasn’t done a good job of reaching him man to man.

Jim’s PADD flashes. I cannot participate in this.

Jim scoffs, letting Spock hear it. They’ve already gotten intimate, so now they’re about to get real intimate. Let Spock see what it was like for Jim on the other side of the screen all those months.

You’re already participating, Spock.

Spock lifts his head to look at Jim. This time, Jim keeps his face down, concentrating on the screen in front of him. He said it himself: stubbornness is a human trait. Who better to demonstrate that than the human-est of all the humanoids currently on Vulcan?

Very well, Jim. I am well. Today, the Vulcan High Council suggested that, as prince of the first family of Vulcan, it would be seen as a great gesture if I were to accompany the goodwill tour of the Alpha Quadrant. I could find no fault with their assessment and thus I agreed to their terms.

Uh huh, Jim types. Romulans are crazy.

Spock makes a noise in the back of his throat, small and potentially exasperated. He doesn’t look up at Jim this time, but rather sits back against the desk, stretching his long legs out ahead of him.

You claim you wish to join me and yet you employ dialogue which I know to be offensive. This is a contradiction in terms.

Jim kicks back on Spock’s bed, wiggling his shoulders against all those soft pillows he can’t possibly use or enjoy. He wouldn’t be so stiff all the time if he did.

I’m a contradictory person.

That much is evident.

Jim grins, a flash of a smile he can’t quite hide under the edge of his PADD. He’s not sure what he thinks he’s got to smile about. By all means this should feel like a setback, the final phaser-shot on a lost cause: they’re officially going backwards in their relationship, devolving instead of evolving.

But Jim can’t be anything but tickled that Spock’s playing along with him. That has to mean something.

He hasn’t felt this close to him since blowjobus interruptus. And if that’s not something that leaves him feeling messed up, then he’s officially a lost cause.

Sure. I’m the contradictory one. You ever hear of the popular human phrase ‘takes one to know one’?

You had not included it in your dictionary of colloquialisms.

I should’ve.

It would seem your implications are that I am equally contradictory.

Maybe. Just not about the Romulans. Jim lifts his eyes over the edge of his PADD, staring at Spock from across the room. It’s only a single chamber; the distance is negligible, barely more than a fraction of a hiccup compared to the lightyears Jim traveled from Earth to Vulcan. But it’s all relative—and it seems as insurmountable as if they were in separate bedrooms on separate worlds at separate hours.

Jim bites his bottom lip. Some people find that move attractive but Spock can’t even see it from this angle.

About what have I proven contradictory, Jim?

Come on, Spock. Use that huge, amazing, superior brain of yours. I bet you can figure it out.

For the first time—a blink and you’ll miss it moment—Jim sees Spock hesitate, a pause just obvious enough that the triumph should be less bitter than it is. Congratulations, James Tiberius Kirk. Managing to make your own husband stop to think about you for more than a cursory acknowledgement of your presence—what a grand achievement.

You yourself have given voice to matters of perspective. What may appear self-evident to you is not necessarily the same to me.

Sure. That makes sense. Jim bites down harder on his bottom lip, a long pause that’d torture anybody else. Spock simply waits, as patient as a Vulcan. Also as hot as Vulcan. Jim would be able to formulate his argument better on any other planet but this one. So let’s put it into diplomatic terms. You like those, right? You ever feel like you’re getting somewhere with, I don’t know, the Tellarites, and then suddenly, in the middle of talks, all that progress you made, they just shut down and walk out and don’t tell you why?

Tellarites are notoriously capricious.

SPOCK.

Spock blinks. Jim stares at him. Spock stares back.

You’re the Tellarites, Spock. In this metaphor.

The analogy is hardly an accurate one.

You’re. The. Tellarites. Spock.

Spock’s pause is torture for Jim. He doesn’t have that Vulcan stoicism to weather it the same way.

If this is a parallel with which you have been experiencing frustration, Jim, you had only to broach the matter with me.

You didn’t exactly make it easy for me, Spock. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve had a chance to see you alone the past two days, much less speak to you. Jim waits for Spock to read that one, then raises one hand. Three fingers. Spock won’t be able to take issue with his calculations because Jim was being overly generous. Rounding up.

There were matters of state; it was my duty to attend them.

I waited up for you, Spock.

I had not requested that you make that sacrifice.

It’s not a sacrifice. It’s not supposed to be a sacrifice. Jim rakes his fingers through his hair. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that he’s getting nowhere.

‘Jim,’ Spock says.

Uh-uh. We’re doing this.

‘Jim, you claim a desire for closer communication, and yet you persist in pursuing a method that places considerable distance between us.’

Sucks when you don’t understand where someone’s coming from and it’s impossible to get them to explain themselves, right?

Jim’s pushing it now, but he’s never been satisfied with stopping at just enough. He always has to cross the line, go one step further than strictly necessary. He thought it was a trait that’d help him overcome Spock’s reticence. He’s still not entirely convinced he was wrong, although Spock seems bent on persuading him.

He can’t be doing it on purpose, but knowing that doesn’t make it better.

Spock shifts his index finger along the edge of his PADD. It’s the Vulcan version of a fidget. Jim should feel all warm and tingly knowing he’s gotten under Spock’s skin like that, but between Spock running away with Jim’s head between his legs and his lukewarm reception to the announcement of the little trip they’ll be taking together, Jim’s not in a position to be proud of much.

You are being deliberately obtuse.

Who says it’s deliberate?

I have inferred as much based on past observation of your demonstrable intuition and forethought.

Only Spock would think to drop a compliment like that smack in the middle of an argument. Maybe he’s so Vulcan he doesn’t realize that they’re arguing. Or maybe that has something to do with the fact that Jim hasn’t made up his mind whether they’re reconciling or not.

Trying to make it up to me by engaging in a little sweet-talking, huh?

My speech cannot be characterized as saccharine or possessed of any other taste. In addition, it cannot be said that we are talking, as you have insisted we abide by the parameters of text-based communications.

It’s an expression, Spock.

That is an explanation you present with increasing frequency.

I can’t help it if it’s true.

It is a wonder humans learn to communicate with one another at all, if so many of their phrasings have no explanation other than simple tradition.

Jim shifts, covering a yawn with the PADD in his hand.

Well, we’re pretty wonderful as a race.

You are speaking facetiously.

Careful, Spock—you’re on your way to a diplomatic incident yourself there.

Spock crosses his legs at the ankle, then straightens himself out again, like he didn’t mean to get so relaxed. Jim has to wonder if it’s his presence that has him on edge or if this is what Spock’s always like when he’s alone.

It was not my intent to insult.

It sure came across as one.

It was never my intent to insult.

I know Surak’s big on intent, Spock, but intent’s not all that matters. Not all the time.

Even when it is clearly stated and uncompromisingly expressed, providing the necessary clarification to elucidate matters and eliminate confusion?

Even then. Jim steals another glance. He shouldn’t have to do that with his own husband, but here he is. Spock’s profile is handsome, obscure; his fingers are slim on the frame of his PADD. Jim was sitting in his lap three days ago. Jim turned him on that night—there were certain, inarguable indicators that it really happened. He swallows, his throat like a desert. That must make his ribcage the mountains, and his heart a mutinous le-matya lurking in the valleys below.

Though it was never my intent to insult, I have insulted you. You have taken personal offense not only at my suggestion that humanity as a race is ‘pretty wonderful’ but also at my actions when you were in my bed.

Jim’s glad for the PADD between them for once. This way, Spock won’t see his cheeks flushing with a combination of frustration, misery, and embarrassment. No kidding. See? I told you that you’d figure it out if you thought it through.

I had attempted to give you your ‘space’ as suggested in the various human relationship guides I consulted, having consulted them to determine what the best course of action would be when one has been unable to achieve sexual release with a spouse.

Jim almost drops the PADD. His mouth’s definitely hanging open. What the paps wouldn’t give to have a picture of him like this. That’s one small point in Vulcan’s favor: Jim can be baffled by his husband without seeing it in the next hour’s headlines. Seriously, Spock?

I am not joking. I have not yet grasped the subtleties involved in the application of human humor.

You didn’t exactly look like somebody unable to achieve sexual release back then. Just saying. I had firsthand evidence.

You have misunderstood the situation.

Care to enlighten me, or should we spend the entire Romulan trip not talking to each other?

That would not be preferable.

Jim waits for more to come. It doesn’t. ‘Spock. Come on.’

Spock lifts his head. ‘Are we speaking at last, Jim?’

‘Shit.’ No. We’re not. Something tells me you’re not gonna put this into words anyway. Are you telling me I didn’t do anything wrong back then?

You were not the one whose actions that night could be considered erroneous.

Well up until you practically left burn marks in the floor getting the hell away from me I didn’t think the word ‘erroneous’ even once!!!

It was my understanding that I should not force my presence or conversation upon you while you were yet disappointed by my inability to participate.

Jim chokes back a groan. SPOCK. WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED

I could not, Jim. There is no need to over-use capitalization for the sake of emphasis. However, if it is representing anger, I cannot instruct you how to feel.

Not anger. F R U S T R A T I O N ! ! ! !

As your typing has now become erratic, would it not be prudent to shift the means of our communication to speech?

you’re avoiding the question.

Jim doesn’t have to write in caps. He can change the whole thing around if he has to, get small instead. He’s not about to do it for Spock’s satisfaction but he’s not above messing around with him either. It’s not a very charitable way to go about things.

Fortunately, he never listed that among any of his other prominent assets.

Spock doesn’t move. The simple act of doing nothing has never been quite so infuriating on its own.

Jim promised himself he wouldn’t hold his breath over anything Spock-related since their last encounter, and here he is breaking his own word. At least he’s not looking at him.

Nothing happened.

are you for real spock

Is your lack of proper capitalization an overreaction to my earlier comment on your erratic typing?

you think i’m that petty wait no don’t answer that answer my first question if you’re actually gonna answer any of my questions at any point

Jim’s all too aware that he’s treading on thin ice. He’s in no position to make demands, that’s for sure. It’s not like he can threaten to throw Spock out of his own room if he fails to comply. And if he leaves, then he’s going to be shooting all his hard work in the foot—the foot he finally got in the door.

Jim might not be discerning about his phaser fire but he likes to pretend he’s grown out of self-sabotage.

‘Jim,’ Spock says.

Jim taps the PADD screen, though this time it’s a near thing that keeps him from glancing up—responding to Spock’s question. Spock returns to his typing after the briefest hint of a reaction; with anyone else, they’d be asking Jim to stop being a pain in the ass.

Nothing happened, Jim, because I could not allow anything to happen.

That’s more like it, although Jim can’t say it’s the answer he was looking for.

You’re gonna have to elaborate on that one for me, Spock.

In the beginning of our correspondence, you inquired after my intentions toward the Vulcan lifestyle. While I informed you that I did not intend to undergo the Rite of Kolinahr, I have nonetheless committed myself to embracing the ideals which any Vulcan would hold in high regard. Therefore, I could not allow such a release of emotions as the one which you sought to provoke in me.

‘Jesus, Spock.’

Jim bites his lip, but he can’t pull the words out of the dry air and swallow them back into his mouth.

‘I had already made those intentions of mine clear to you. I did not realize I would need to refer you to our correspondence once again.’

‘Yeah, well, unlike some people, I don’t have everything memorized.’ Jim sucks in a breath, heart hammering. ‘We talked about the— I mean, you never said you weren’t gonna—’

‘I could not postulate. I had no examples to consult. I had intended to wait until such a time as evidence was provided. I found that it proved, in the moment, impracticable,’ Spock says. He stares out the window instead of looking at Jim; it wouldn’t be so bad if Jim could wager a guess at what, exactly, Spock sees out there. It’s bound to be something different from what Jim sees when he stares at the desert in the morning, getting his eyes used to all that sunlight all over again. If he could just figure it out—if Spock could just show him a damn hint, take his hand, give him a break—but it’s not gonna happen. Even if it did, it wouldn’t be the same as Jim understanding on his own. ‘I could not. If you find the arrangements as they are untenable—’

‘I didn’t say that.’

‘—I do not intend to have you go without that which is natural to you.’ Spock pauses; the next word doesn’t come easily, not that Jim enjoys seeing him struggle. Not like this. ‘Pleasurable to you, even. I would not deny you that. The time that we spent together when you were in the bath was not unpleasant for me. Likewise, you made your position on that experience obvious.’

‘That’s not how it’s supposed to work, Spock,’ Jim says. ‘Not that I’ve been married before or anything, but you can’t just have a thing be one-sided like that.’ Can they? Jim’s not as sure as he should be, definitely not sure enough to make the case to Spock and have him buy it.

‘As I have already said, if you find the arrangements—’

‘What’ll happen then, Spock? We get a Vulcan divorce? That’s what’s untenable.’

‘Then we must endeavor to reconcile our differences,’ Spock replies.

Jim snorts. ‘Diplomatically, right? Like real diplomats.’

‘I am sorry, Jim.’ Spock’s still staring at a distant, dusty outcropping of rocks. ‘Do not scoff at diplomacy as a whole in response to a failure of mine.’

‘I didn’t say you’d failed, either,’ Jim mutters. Suddenly he’s arguing for Spock instead of with him—or arguing with Spock on behalf of the Spock that doesn’t seem to get a voice in any argument Spock’s ever had before. ‘You weren’t comfortable. That’s what you’re saying. You couldn’t— It wasn’t what you felt comfortable with.’

‘In a manner of speaking.’

‘In my manner of speaking?’ Spock nods stiffly. ‘Okay. Okay, that’s...something. I can— We can work with that.’

Spock turns at last, meeting Jim’s eyes. There’s something sad about them—not that Spock would appreciate the description—and just like that, Jim’s anger twists in his gut to something else. Something sadder, winded, even a little lost, but extra determined for it. If that’s a Vulcan debate trick, then Jim has to give up on any chance of coming out on top in the future. ‘Are you certain of that, Jim?’

‘No.’ Stupid Vulcan honesty. ‘I’m not. But it’s not like we— Hey, Spock, nothing’s certain.’

Spock bristles. ‘There are scientific theorems—’

‘Screw ‘em,’ Jim says.

‘One does not simply dismiss the collected works of prominent—’

Screw science,’ Jim says. He draws out the syllables, mouthing the words big enough that Spock can see them while leaning toward him on the bed, letting the PADD slide between his stomach and his knees.

Spock’s eyebrow goes up. It’s familiar, as friendly as a wave from someone with his strict Vulcan principles.

‘Are you being deliberately provocative in an attempt to stimulate further dialogue?’

Jim wiggles his own eyebrows, buoyed by a levity he doesn’t actually feel. He’s not sure what he just agreed to. It wasn’t a sexless marriage—if it was just that, then they’d have a lot more to discuss, but at least Jim would understand it better.

Spock’s unexpected insistence that they should have some kind of weird, one-sided relationship is way more offensive than not having one at all. Jim doesn’t want to be accommodated.

He doesn’t want to be the kind of exception someone makes because they have to.

‘I don’t know, Spock,’ Jim says. ‘At least I’d be stimulating something.’

Spock sets his PADD on the desk behind him. He doesn’t cross his arms; instead, he rests his hand on either side of his hips where he’s braced against the desk.

‘You are displeased.’

‘I’m not thrilled,’ Jim admits. ‘But I’m not bailing out, either.’

He’s still here. He doesn’t know whether that’s something Spock noticed for himself or if it’s something that needed pointing out, but either way it’s a statement in its own right. Jim comes from a long line of people who storm out when they feel like they aren’t getting their due.

That and people like Sam, who cut and ran at the first sight of responsibility.

Jim’s his own man. And, like Bones keeps reminding him, he asked for this.

He made his bed and now he has to lie in it.

Right now he’s lying in Spock’s bed.

It’s a very confusing metaphor.

‘I have a suggestion,’ Spock says. Then he waits, like he’s holding out for Jim to give him permission to continue.

‘Shoot, Spock.’

‘I propose that we continue to share one another’s company during this period of uncertainty.’

‘Is that your way of asking me to stay the night with you? ’Cause it could use some work.’

Jim takes his boots off the bed, brushing the stray grains of sand off Spock’s woven blankets. Now that there’s room for more in his head than his own anger, he’s thinking he might’ve done some disagreeable things himself.

It’s more confusing than he thought it could be—and he prepared himself for the worst. At least, he thought he did. None of those worst-case scenarios ever saw him butting heads with this particular problem, with a husband who didn’t want to feel anything.

They shared plenty. They should be able to share everything. Jim’s head hurts; his back hurts more. His heart doesn’t, but only because he doesn’t have the resources to spare. And it’s not like he can accept a backrub when there’s nothing he can give in return, when the scales are unbalanced, when he feels like he has to be keeping track.

Equality. Understanding. Spock wants him around—but Spock doesn’t want him too close. Jim can’t live at arm’s length and he can’t live with the idea of taking without giving. Sooner or later—and most likely sooner—it’ll come to a boiling point.

‘A united front,’ Jim says finally, after the silence has gone on for too long. ‘That’s what you’re asking for, huh? Because anything else would look bad in front of the Romulans. Or because you miss sleeping in your own bed after I...took over it without even asking.’

‘Jim,’ Spock replies.

Jim huffs, wishing the sound it made wasn’t so close to one of Bones’ grunts. ‘Yeah?’

‘You did not have to ask.’

There it is. Something inexplicably, unequivocally romantic, a kind of tenderness that Jim would pull close against his chest and hold all night if he could. ‘Apparently I did,’ Jim says. ‘Just...not about the bed thing.’

He puts his socked feet up on the mattress, an arm behind his head. Spock’s there across the room, stiff in all the wrong ways. It’s too early in the day to feel this tired.

‘Fine, Spock. We’ll work on it. When we’re not working on the Romulans.’ He throws one leg over the other. ‘So what’ve we got on our schedules for this goodwill mission to the Alpha Quadrant, anyway?’

*

Chapter Text

As it turns out—not as much of a surprise for Spock as it is a point of interest for Jim—personal problems don’t seem nearly as important in the face of potentially offending an important Romulan. For the next forty-eight hours, Jim’s too busy for self-pity or self-reflection, suffering through the worst of Bones’ pre-trip inoculations and their side effects while brushing up on Romulan politics, history, and social practices. By the time his fingertips stop tingling and his fever’s down and he stops blacking out, he’s got the politics and history down.

The social practices may take a little extra time.

He gets one more meal with Lady Amanda, now that he doesn’t look like a walking specimen, a case file of dangerous medical reactions trotted out to a new round of cadets in Starfleet Academy. ‘I would’ve come sooner, but I’m pretty sure you would’ve lost your appetite after one look at me,’ Jim tells her, settling down to one of her home-made sandwiches.

‘Was it really that bad?’ Lady Amanda asks, the familiar sparkle in her eye reminding Jim how much he missed it. An oasis in the desert.

Jim bites hungrily into his sandwich, remembering to chew and swallow before he replies. ‘Uh-uh. It was definitely worse. Just ask Bones. I’m sure he’d love to tell you all about it. ...On second thought, don’t ask Bones.’

‘Your Doctor McCoy is to be commended,’ Lady Amanda says.

‘Don’t let him hear you say that,’ Jim replies. ‘It’ll go to his head. Very dangerous.’

‘Well, we wouldn’t want to alter the shape of such a fine head.’

Lady Amanda smiles with her mouth this time, letting Jim see it. He can’t tell if that’s for his benefit or if it’s something he’s brought out in her, something that’ll earn her a few impassive looks of Vulcan disapproval. He shouldn’t cherish the idea of being a bad influence on Spock’s mother, but from what he’s seen, there’s no one on Vulcan who couldn’t use an injection of emotional release.

That’s a touchy subject with him these days. It’s almost lucky that Jim’s been out of his head with vaccine after-effects; it’s given him less of a chance to brood on the topic he and Spock are both avoiding.

‘Uh oh,’ Jim says. ‘Don’t tell me you’re a fan.’

‘He does lend a certain color to the daily proceedings around here,’ Lady Amanda says.  ‘I imagine he’ll be part of the retinue you plan to take on your way to Romulus?’

‘If it were up to me, there wouldn’t be any retinue,’ Jim replies.

That’s closer to a real honeymoon: just him and Spock and lightyears of space all around them. But there’s the crew to fly the ship, and delegates to continue drilling them on their diplomatic training on-board, handlers to whisk Spock and Jim from one engagement to the next, a personal chef to program specialized royal favorites into the replicator. By the time he’s taken all the necessities into account, what’s one ornery doctor?

Besides, it’d hurt Bones’ feelings if Jim relied on some other doctor to keep him fighting fit out in the recesses of space.

‘I do hope this was a...timely suggestion.’ Lady Amanda takes a sip of her sash-savas tea, the cup held small, delicate, in the palm of her hand. ‘I wouldn’t want to disturb you as you’re only just settling into the routine of things here on Vulcan. And I know how a young relationship requires a certain amount of attention to flourish...’

‘Hey, no.’ Jim waves a hand. He’s enjoying full use of his motor control, the ability to make aimless gestures without being brought up short by the failings of his own body under a too-thin atmosphere and fever in his blood. ‘Don’t worry about it. I’m ready to get out there, fight the good fight. Or I guess talk the good talk. I think it might do Spock some good to have something to besides hide at the High Council all day.’

‘You know, Prince James,’ Lady Amanda replies, ‘that’s almost exactly what I said when I heard about it all.’

‘Let’s hope we’re both right, then.’

‘Human minds think alike,’ Lady Amanda agrees.

Jim leaves her not so much in high spirits as in jangling ones; there’s a spring in his step, except it’s the kind of directionless energy that isn’t looking forward to any one thing in particular but rather a more general, overwhelming abundance of things.

‘Can’t believe this is the kind of deep space madness I signed myself up for,’ Bones says, starting in on Jim the second he walks through the door. Jim notes a small, personal bag on the floor—the side of Bones that travels light—and a massive medical kit on the table beside it, practically overflowing with supplies that make Jim’s tongue swell just by looking at them. He swipes the backs of his teeth and swallows, without swollen tonsils to obstruct the process, while he still can.

‘Come on, Bones.’ Jim claps him on the shoulder, almost surprised when there’s no static shock from his anxious touch alone. ‘You know if it wasn’t this, you’d be a doctor-without-borders somewhere, only Chapel between you and the rioting locals.’

‘Who says they’d be rioting? They’d be thanking their local deities that someone with my expertise was sent to save them all.’ Bones guides Jim over to help him with the fastenings on the kit; when Jim moves to sit on the top to get the damn thing shut it’s worth it for the near-explosion on Bones’ face. ‘Are you out of your royal mind? There’s delicate equipment in there that won’t be too concerned about whether or not it’s a princely ass that’s crushing them to smithereens!’

It’s the little things that remind Jim he actually enjoys space travel.

It’s the big things that no amount of space travel can keep him away from.

Spock’s waiting at the transport shuttle—manned by Vulcans, staffed by Vulcans, surrounded by Vulcans. Jim’s got a sweater with a hooded cowl to cover his round ears and his blonde hair but there’s not much that can be done about the color of his eyes, or the way his fingers fumble on the salute.

The ta’al.

Dif-tor heh smusma, and all that.

Jim keeps to himself, every inch the consort somebody—cough, Gary Mitchell, cough—said he was gonna be. Like another over-stuffed suitcase, mumbling his way through farewells, taking comfort in the knowledge that Bones is sweating it out with him. Better to sweat together than to sweat alone.

There’s plenty different between an Earth envoy departing and a Vulcan one. Jim thinks he catches Lady Amanda by Sarek’s side lifting a gloved hand in an old-fashioned, human wave, but other than that, they actually leave on time, right as dusk begins to overtake the desert. The shuttle docks in the hangar; Jim watches from the observation deck as Vulcan becomes nothing but an angry red spot in the distance. The air on the ship is filtered, cool, better suited to Vulcan needs than human, but still better for human needs than Vulcan.

Jim breathes easy for the first time since leaving Vulcan. It’s such a relief he refuses to tell himself he’s undoing months of hard work.

All that time in the pressurization chambers doesn’t count unless he can hold his marriage together, anyway. Spock’s what matters, not Jim’s ability to breathe his impossible atmosphere.

He takes himself on a tour of the habitat level of the ship, giving his provisional escort the slip and taking a turn onto the nearest turbolift the first chance he gets. He doesn’t dare hit up the bridge, but he explores the cargo bay and engineering, skulking through the busy guts of the ship while the Vulcan workers give him the stinkeye.

They’re all too Vulcan to say anything, which is the first time Jim’s been able to appreciate that particular trait. He keeps his hood up, his chin down. Even if he doesn’t have to worry about the media reporting on more Reckless Royal behavior out here in the Alpha Quadrant, Jim can’t be sure of what’ll be waiting for them on their stops around the galaxy.

It’s entirely possible that not all planets will embrace the Vulcan moratorium on celebrity news media.

Their situation’s still chiefly a political one. The Federation might have reason to keep everyone informed of their progress, so Jim had better get used to watching himself again.

That shouldn’t be a problem. All he has to do is pretend Spock’s over his shoulder, watching with that disapproving air of his.

Despite all the time Jim spends with his mind on his elusive husband, thinking about him doesn’t conjure him out of the depths. By the time he reaches the medical bay—ripe with the sounds of Bones complaining about the sparseness of the accommodations, the Vulcan language labels on everything, and anything else that’s unlucky enough to be seen by him—Jim’s starting to wonder whether he’s going to have to hack the security lock on Spock’s door just to catch a glimpse of him once during the voyage.

So Jim’s thinking about Spock, Spock’s probably not thinking about Jim—but that doesn’t mean nobody’s thinking about him.

His security team’s a mix of sour-faced Vulcans and harried-looking humans; Jim meets them all in a rush when he gets off the turbolift to head for his quarters. There they are: descending on him at once like they’ve decided the best thing for Jim’s safety is to bundle him up and stuff him in an airlock

‘Hi there’ Jim says. ‘Warm welcome, guys. Uh, at ease.’

‘You were not within your quarters.’ A Vulcan woman with Spock’s exact haircut makes her way to the forefront. ‘It is unwise to evade our surveillance.’

‘I wasn’t evading,’ Jim replies. You can always catch a Vulcan on a technicality, and it’s not evasion that was on Jim’s mind. ‘I was exploring. Is that, uh, not in the Vulcan marriage contract? No exploring for human husbands?’

The Vulcan blinks. She doesn’t have Spock’s sense of humor—something Jim didn’t even think existed until he realized what the alternative was. ‘There is no contract of the sort to which you have alluded—a fact of which you should already be aware.’

‘Yeah, that was a...’ Jim waves his hand before he remembers all the tricky Vulcan hand stuff that might mean bringing attention to his fingers is rude, lewd, or at least easily misconstrued. The good news is, he’s primed and ready to be the picture of good Romulan behavior. ‘Never mind. I’m here now. You’ve got me. And for the record, if I did want to evade your surveillance, you wouldn’t. Have me, I mean.’ He stuffs his hands into the pockets on his sweater. ‘So, now that you do, what can I do for you?’

If Jim knows his Vulcans, then this one’s about to tell him it’s not what he can do for them but what they’re supposed to do for him that’s in question.

Only she doesn’t get the chance. The general alarm sounds an instant before she opens her mouth to continue wearing Jim down to the bone with logic.

‘I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that’s not supposed to be happening,’ Jim says, glancing up toward the nearest flashing light. He studied this protocol back when Gary was doing a course in general security and Jim didn’t have much to do but educate himself—one of the few things he’s done with practical foresight.

Whatever he knows, his aides know it better. They surround him like a single unit, forming a living shield Jim can’t stop them from settling into, immediately moving him toward an unknown, presumably safer, destination. According to Jim’s self-conducted studies, that destination is likely a safety zone or an emergency evacuation pod, depending on what trouble the bridge is seeing.

‘This way, Prince James Tiberius Kirk,’ the Vulcan woman tells him, hurrying him back onto the turbolift. The door in front of them slides shut and they ascend.

Three seconds in and the entire thing rocks, lights flickering off, then on, then off for longer—then back on, to a dimmer setting this time. The blaring of the alarm intensifies, none of it feeling real. Jim wonders who Bones is grabbing by the front of their uniform and cursing at. He wonders when the fight-or-flight instinct is going to kick in. And, above all that, a part of all that, he wonders about Spock, and where he is, and if it’d seem more normal if Jim was looking at him. Unruffled; undisturbed; unaffected.

The turbolift doors shudder open; that answers Jim’s last question. Spock is on the other side with his own efficient retinue of guards, which open their numbers to let Jim in, to stand by Spock’s side.

Jim thinks about saying hey, but it’s not the time for that. He thinks about taking Spock’s hand, but there are too many Vulcans around. Besides, they’re already moving, heading toward—yeah, those’d be the evac pods.

Could be this alert is more serious than Jim thought.

‘Don’t suppose there’s a chance we’re all overreacting to, I don’t know, a simple warp core malfunction?’

Spock’s eyes find Jim’s in the chaos. They’re standing close enough to touch, although Spock’s got plenty of self-control to keep something like that from happening.

‘A warp core malfunction would merit considerable reaction,’ he says.

At this range, the difference between Spock and the Vulcans on their security team is almost palpable. Jim’s not so far gone as to imagine he was lucky to land the only guy in all of Vulcan who’s willing to humor him, but it casts Spock’s particular brand of reticence in a new light. He’s too surprised by the reply to think up a snappy retort—and he doesn’t want to risk not being heard over the blare of the alarm sirens, the march of Vulcan boots surrounding Spock and Jim on all sides.

‘We’re heading toward the evac pods.’ Jim lowers his voice, leaning closer.

The woman who confronted him in the hall breaks ahead of the rest, punching a code into the security console to open the hatch door.

The interior of the evac ship’s small, like a closet built for two. Instead of clothes, it’s equipped with seating and survival supplies, and a miniature viewing screen set in front of the strangest set of bridge controls Jim’s ever seen.

‘Wait a second.’ He turns back as Vulcan security shoves him in—logically, though, making sure Jim ducks so he doesn’t slam his head into the cross-beam. ‘Who’s flying this thing?’

‘The ship’s autopilot is programmed to take the most efficient route to a secured location,’ the security officer replies.

Autopilot.’ Jim stumbles as Spock’s pushed in behind him, creating a moment of unintended physical contact between them.

It’s the most inelegant thing Jim’s seen Spock do, so it makes sense it’s his fault.

‘In the event of an unplanned departure in an area of space neither of us is familiar with, autopilot is the most logical choice,’ Spock says.

In the distance, Jim can still hear warnings going off, clipped, cool announcements about yellow alert and all senior officers to the bridge.

It’s like every simulation Jim’s ever been a part of for Starfleet, except that he’s never simulated his way onto an escape pod in the middle of an emergency. Abandoning ship goes against every instinct he has in a holodeck, to say nothing of the real world.

‘What about the rest of you?’ Jim asks.

It’s not hard to miss that this is a ship built for two.

‘Their orders are to keep us safe,’ Spock replies, as the security officer in front of them programs the vessel door shut from outside. ‘No matter the cost, our safety is their priority.’

‘Hey, no, that’s not—’ Jim throws himself at the door, searching the inner control panel for anything that he can use to override the auto-eject countdown. There’s nothing. He doesn’t have the authority, none of the override codes, not to mention the experience with the specifics of a Vulcan ship. ‘Bones is still on there! Hey—hey! Let me outta here!’

Slamming his fist on the porthole window and pounding until his hand goes numb isn’t the most logical choice of action, although it might be the most humiliating. None of that matters, not with Bones in danger and Jim already in an evac shuttle.

Sure, he gets it. He’s the prince. Everyone’s supposed to protect him. But Bones is Bones, and the only reason he’s here in the first place is because of Jim. His allergies. His medical emergencies. The desperate look in his eyes when he told Bones he was shipping out to visit the Romulans and not to worry about him out there in the Alpha Quadrant, touching flowers without thinking about foreign pollen, eating the local food without asking for an ingredient list first.

‘Jim,’ Spock says behind him, calm as ever. Too damn calm, as far as Jim’s concerned.

‘I can’t leave him behind,’ Jim snaps back, still pounding. Seven. Six. Five. ‘Not him—not everybody else—! Maybe it’s easy for you because it seems logical, but Bones is my friend, Spock, and I can’t—’

Spock’s hand closes onto Jim’s shoulder, the first real physical contact Spock’s initiated since the day after their wedding. Jim knows the strength in that hand. He knows what Spock’s capable of. Spock could easily do the nerve-pinch thing Jim’s been so curious about for years and deal with Jim later, but instead he simply exerts his superior strength, pulling Jim away from the door as the evac pod breaks free from the main ship.

‘Brace yourself,’ Spock says.

Jim doesn’t. It’s part stubbornness, part anger, part fear. When the vessel jolts with sudden acceleration, Jim flies forward against the bridge controls, bracing himself with one hand—still tingling from his assault on the door.

Spock doesn’t stumble or lose his footing, not this time. The viewing screen sparks to light, the computer’s voice calmly informing them: ‘Time to safe destination—three hours and fifty two minutes.

Jim takes a moment to breathe; once he’s breathing, he can familiarize himself with the bridge controls. The layout’s backwards, but Jim thinks he recognizes the viewfinder commands at least, plugging in the coordinates to focus on the ship they’ve just abandoned.

Jim’s stomach tightens, his blood cold for the first time since he set foot on Vulcan.

In a matter of seconds, it’s surrounded by Klingon Warbirds coming out of cloak one by one. Jim counts four before the first one fires on them and the escape pod rocks to the side, flinging Jim back against Spock’s chest. Jim shouts. The sky is bright with silent fire.

Emergency Evacuation Protocol initiated,’ the computer informs them.

Spock tightens his hold on Jim’s waist.

They hit warp hard.

*

Jim finds the bathroom first, in a show of cold sweat and nausea that’d make Bones proud. If Bones was around. If Bones is even still alive.

It’s about the size of a public stall on the Starfleet campus: small and cramped; sealed in on all sides without even enough room for Jim to fall to his knees and curl up around the toilet bowl like a pro. He doesn’t remember fighting free of Spock’s hold, stumbling away to get some much-needed privacy.

The air temperature’s tightly controlled but Jim’s sweating through his clothes anyway. He’s giving new meaning to the name sweater for that particular garment.

He doesn’t leave after the wave of nausea passes. He’s not hiding from Spock, not technically; he just can’t seem to stop shaking. He’d prefer to be on his own until it dies down, pressing his hands to the cool metal surrounding the rudimentary sink and gripping tight to hold himself up.

He doesn’t think about the odds of one Federation-grade starship against four Klingon Warbirds. He doesn’t think about the faces of his security team or the number of people it takes to run a ship like that. There’s no telling now whether the Romulan invitation for negotiation was just the bait dangling off the end of a hook, presented to lure them out, or if the Klingons saw a chance and took it. If there’s a security leak somewhere. If any of that even matters now.

Jim’s sure the Romulans wouldn’t ally themselves with the Klingons, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t above taking advantage of one another’s movements, using what they learn from monitored communications for personal gain.

He doesn’t know how long it’s been when he hears a knock at the door. Somewhere under three hours and fifty-two minutes, he figures.

‘What is it, Spock?’

‘I am curious to understand whether you are experiencing a psychosomatic reaction to the absence of your doctor.’

Naturally. For one, crazy second there Jim allowed himself to imagine Spock was coming to say something comforting.

He hauls himself off the sink, punching the controls with the side of his fist to get the door open. It hisses to one side and Spock’s standing right there, face to Jim’s face. For someone so private, he’s disregarded his usual attention to personal space.

Things must be worse than Jim thought.

‘Klingons don’t take hostages, you know.’ Those are the first words out of Jim’s mouth, the concern that’s been crawling around his belly like gagh resurfacing. ‘It’s not their style. Not honorable. They fight to the death. Preferably not theirs.’

‘There is no sense in concerning yourself with potential outcomes.’ Spock steps to one side when Jim gets closer, allowing him to pass rather than letting their bodies come together. ‘We will ascertain what facts we can once we have landed.’

Suddenly, all the imaginary headlines Jim’s been cooking up seem pretty tame compared to the latest news.

‘Four against one, though.’ Spock’s right, of course: there’s no point in repeating the facts when they’re so far away from them. But from what Jim’s seen of humanity, eighteen whole years of living and breathing the worst and best of it, pointlessness is what they do best. ‘I mean, you’re the one who loves calculating odds, right? Jesus.’ Jim pushes himself clear, holding himself upright, despite wanting to sag against a wall, let his knees buckle. It happened when his dad died, but he stayed upright then, too. To this day, he can’t explain to himself where that strength came from or why. He doesn’t know if it’s commendable or just plain desperate—the idea that while everything crumbles around him, he’s only got himself to blame if he falls too.

Maybe it isn’t an honorable quality. Maybe it’s more stubbornness. Bitter human pride.

‘I would recite the odds,’ Spock says, ‘but based on past experience, the odds of that being appreciated in this moment are even lower.’

Jim snorts, a dry chuckle. ‘Jesus. You’re right.’

‘If you are experiencing physical ailments that require further medical attention—’

‘Don’t,’ Jim says. ‘Don’t bring that up right now, all right?’

‘Your Doctor McCoy accompanied you on this mission in order to serve Earth’s royal family and fulfill his obligations to you. You can no more fault yourself for this fact than you can fault Vulcan for lacking a moon, or a hungry le-matya for killing a weaker animal.’

‘I thought I said not to bring it up.’

‘My counsel,’ Spock explains, ‘is simply that.’

‘I already know all of that, anyway.’ Jim doesn’t trust himself to turn around, which is why he forces himself to do it anyway. If they’re gonna be married—and they are married—then Spock has to see the uglier moments, too, especially the ruder ones. The truth is more than just being honest with somebody. It’s being naked in so many ways, foregoing the pretense. It’s a leap of faith without an evac shuttle on hand to bail out of a compromised ship. At least, that’s what Jim thinks it is. It’s not like he’s an expert. He doesn’t know what his own face looks like right now. ‘I know that, Spock. But Bones hates space, for one thing. And for another, right now, it’s my friend I’m worried about. Not my doctor.’

‘Then what you know and what you are feeling are not in concordance with one another.’

When Spock puts it like that, it sounds like a dictionary definition, not like a feeling. Jim shrugs. ‘Yeah. Something like that.’

‘That is a state of internal conflict with which I am not unfamiliar,’ Spock replies.

‘Oh,’ Jim says, momentarily winded.

Time to destination: one hour and forty-five minutes.

The difference between Spock’s intonation and the computer’s isn’t negligible. It’s real. Every uncharitable thought Jim’s had is thrown into sharp relief at the moment and what Jim wants, what he really wants, is a husband he can hold close in a moment like this one. It’s not about solidarity. It’s about togetherness.

But that’s not the husband he has. Not the clinical voice of an emotionless program; not a hand-holder, either.

‘Never been a fan of autopilot,’ Jim says, looking away.

‘Given what I know of your personality, this information does not surprise me.’

Spock knows that much about him, then. It should be a comfort.

It is, but not enough of one.

‘I guess your people probably thought if I was at the helm, I’d’ve turned the ship back around.’ The way Jim says it, it’s not a question.

Spock watches him, close and careful. No one could ever accuse Jim’s husband of being lax in concentration. His focus is never up for consideration—it’s just knowing what to pay attention to that’s his problem.

‘The implementation of an autopilot program is standard procedure on all royal Vulcan vessels,’ Spock says. ‘Given the potential variables necessary to factor in for any one starship evacuation, it is only logical to utilize certain assets.’

‘You saying even Vulcans don’t think clearly when your ships get attacked?’

‘What I am saying is what I have said,’ Spock clarifies. ‘Standard protocol does not exist as a personal slight against your character.’

It’s much better. Everything’s completely obvious.

Jim sits in one of the nearby shuttle seats. It’s either that or fall on his ass, and he’s not looking to be that honest in front of Spock. It’s too much too soon. One of them’s gotta fight to keep the mystery alive.

There was a time when he would’ve dreamt of just this scenario: a ship big enough for Jim and Spock, just the two of them alone in space, barreling toward an unknown, remote location.

Maybe somewhere like Risa, with tropical beaches and rainforest backdrops. Mosquitoes the size of hoverbikes.

Bones’d hate it.

Spock’s right; Jim needs to stop thinking. That’s a task that should come easily to him, being human and all, but he’s got a talent for dwelling.

‘If you are experiencing dizziness, it would be best to remain stationary to ward off any accompanying syncope,’ Spock says.

‘Do me a favor and don’t doctor me, Spock,’ Jim replies. ‘I know how to take care of myself.’

‘That was not the topic under discussion,’ Spock says.

It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but Jim’s long past the point where he can keep looking to Spock for reassuring words.

At least if he were flying this thing, he could feel marginally in control of his life. But they’re at the mercy of a pre-ordained, computerized flight path, with nothing to do but think the whole way there about what they’re flying from and, when they’re sick of that, what they might be flying toward.

‘…Can we send transmissions with this thing?’ Jim messes with the control panels, leaning under the main desk, getting a better lay of the land before he pops up again. ‘Looks like a transmission went through when we were jettisoned. Must’ve been standard protocol, right? Let home base know we made it out, at least. The question is whether or not it’ll draw the wrong attention if we send one of our own next.’

Spock steps closer, standing by the viewfinder. ‘Though I have never before been in this particular situation, I know from simulation drills that once the evacuation shuttle lands in the nearest Federation-allied or neutral territory, we will be able, through provided means, to establish a line of communication with the Vulcan High Council, as well as with the Federation, should the equipment on the shuttle not be damaged during the events of the escape process.’

Jim steadies himself against the straightforward description. Sometimes, that talent of Spock’s for reciting details without a hint of sentiment comes in handy. Jim’s not flying the ship but he’s not completely anchorless.

In fact, his behavior so far hasn’t been Starfleet worthy. Not by a long shot. If Admiral Pike were grading him on this performance, he’d fail the practical.

‘OK. Well, that’s...something. Once we establish communications, we can find out what happened to the main ship, too.’

‘Until that point, all conjecture will be without purpose or merit,’ Spock agrees.

‘I’m gonna check on our equipment, take inventory.’ Jim stands, new strength in his legs. ‘You feel like memorizing all of our assets while I take stock, Spock?’

‘It is not a matter what I feel like doing, but what must be done,’ Spock replies.

He comes with Jim, anyway, so Jim knows he’s made the right choice.

A careful assessment of their rations, supplies—phasers, medical kits, communicators, one of those old-school tricorders Jim used to play with as a kid—as well as all their makeshift habitat kits later, and Jim almost misses the computer countdown saying they’ve got forty-five minutes to their destination, his sweater sleeves rolled up to the elbow, having managed a little memorization of his own. He knows where everything is, and he nabs himself a phaser while he’s at it. It fits into his palm, the heat of his hand warming the cool metal against his skin.

‘Computer,’ Spock says, drawing away without warning, ‘what is our present location and the location of our destination?’

Alpha Quadrant, currently in the Argolis Cluster. Destination: unnamed M-class planet, the site of potential colonization efforts by the Federation.

‘Inhabitants?’

Minimal or unknown.

‘It’s almost like an old-fashioned human honeymoon,’ Jim says, forcing a grin. Once it settles on his face, it doesn’t threaten to slip. ‘Except for the part with the Klingons.’

Spock turns to Jim, momentarily at a loss for words. If he doesn’t know about human coping mechanisms, using inappropriate humor in messed up situations, then he will soon. He’s a quick study, after all, and in this, Jim’s an excellent teacher. No chance of him sparking any pesky, unwanted desires in Spock with bad jokes.

‘…You are referring to a vacation taken with the purpose of cultivating romantic interest,’ Spock says.

‘Actually, I think you’re supposed to celebrate the romantic interest that’s already there,’ Jim replies. ‘Traditionally speaking, anyway. Lucky neither of us is all that traditional.’

Spock raises an eyebrow, arms folded behind his back.

Jim waits for that to feel like a lie, but it never comes. Spock might be buttoned-down, strict to the point of infuriating and as dry as the desert sometimes, but he’s not exactly by-the-book. At least, not by Vulcan standards. It’s important to be grateful for the little things, especially while aboard a ship rocketing toward unnamed M-class planet, population minimal or unknown.

Jim had better start working out how to get along with his husband, because it sounds like they’re all the company they’re gonna get for a while.

‘This is fitting, really.’ Jim fidgets with his sleeves where they’re rolled, pushing them down over his elbow and then back up again. ‘Goes with how the rest of our marriage has been shaking down.’

‘Shaking down,’ Spock repeats.

‘It’s an expression.’ The words come out like a reflex. Jim tests himself to see if he can do better than relying on rote phrase. ‘I don’t know exactly where it comes from. There’s no actual shaking involved.’

There was a time when he would’ve offered to do some shaking for Spock, demonstrate the lap-dancing skills he’s built up in his own mind. 

But the mood’s not right. Besides, now that he knows he’d be chasing after something Spock’s not even sure he wants, it’s a moot point anyway.

It’s not the distraction either of them needs right now.

‘It is true that, beyond our bonding ceremony, the circumstances of our marriage have been unusual,’ Spock says. ‘But aside from the precedent set by my mother and father, there have been few examples to follow when it comes to the parameters of our particular relationship.’

‘Believe me, Spock.’ Jim sits down, rubbing his eyes until they creak. ‘Most interspecies marriages don’t work out this way.’

‘We are not most people,’ Spock says. ‘It is our privilege and our responsibility to set an example for both our peoples based on our actions.’

It’s a variation on the same speech Jim’s heard before from his mother and various other well-meaning sources, trying to intervene on Jim’s behalf after the latest hoverbike scandal or public Orion nudity exposé. He can’t expect his life to be like other people’s—he can’t hold himself to the same standards.

All he wanted was a little excitement and now that’s come at him sideways too.

‘That’s your explanation for why things are turning out so weird? We’re not like other people?’

‘You cannot judge our circumstances based on general standards as they do not and will never apply to us,’ Spock replies. ‘To do so would be detrimental to our understanding of what constitutes satisfaction; therefore, such expectations would only lead to disappointment.’

‘I’d rather not set myself up for disappointment, thanks.’ The white starbursts on the backs of Jim’s eyelids fade, leaving him with a cramped escape shuttle and his husband. ‘And I’d rather not assume disappointment is the number one result of all anticipation.’

‘So far, I have not been disappointed,’ Spock says.

Thirty-five minutes until landing,’ the computer adds, cutting off Jim’s chance for a clever reply, or even an honest one.

Thirty-five minutes to mull over Spock’s latest semi-compliment, then. Jim turns back to the main controls and Spock takes position near the viewfinder. When Jim steals a sideways glance, it’s only to see the same Spock as ever: a handsome profile, unflinching posture, and cheekbones that aren’t logical.

It’s gonna be a long half hour.

*

Chapter Text

Brace for impact,’ the computer says, about three seconds too late.

Brace for impact. Jim could’ve told the computer that—and did, in fact, not that it was listening, speaking mostly for Spock’s edification, a whole minute before they broke through the planet’s atmosphere. That was also a minute before their shuttles autopilot guided them into the rockiest landing since Jim was on that Venusian colony engineering an emergency brake system on a malfunctioning mining vessel.

There’s the screech of metal dragged along rock, paneling stripped and torn; Jim doesn’t have to be on the outside to know that the hull’s been shredded. He manages to black out for most of the noise, but when he comes to, he sees from the tension on Spock’s face that Spock wasn’t as lucky.

If you can even call that luck.

Vulcans have sensitive hearing, Jim reminds himself dizzily, while Spock crouches over him and Jim blinks to clear his swimming vision.

‘How long’ve I been out?’ Jim asks, everything still and dark, the computer still warning them to brace for impact that’s already come.

‘Thirteen point seven two seconds,’ Spock replies.

Jim whistles. ‘That was some landing. Another reason why autopilot’s a crapshoot on a good day.’

Spock’s expression settles into a calm veneer once again, save for the eyebrow he raises in question—or in challenge.

‘Look, I could’ve landed this ship ten times better than autopilot did,’ Jim explains. ‘And I wouldn’t be telling you to brace for impact long after impact already found us. Not to mention there wouldn’t be an impact to brace for in the first place—computer, shut up.’

‘—impact,’ the computer concludes. ‘Maximum power conservation is currently in effect.’

There’s a final hiss; the lights dim to darkness, only the faint glow of the control panels illuminating the main pod. Jim struggles into an upright position, rubbing a bruise on the back of his neck and heading toward the exit: the only light currently at full-power.

‘Let’s see what we’re dealing with,’ Jim says, and presses his palm to the exit controls.

The hatch opens. Sunlight floods the darkened shuttle. Jim shields his eyes with one arm while they adjust, a cool breeze rifling through his hair and whispering over his skin.

It’s no Risa.

There are no endless turquoise shoals dotted with private islands, no long white beaches, no promising coconut beverages waiting to be consumed. The surrounding area could be classified most closely as a rainforest: tall trees grow thick and lush, their green leaves glittering with moisture. It’s impossible to see through them, to tell whether they’re landlocked or if the’ve crashed into a peninsula. There are no telltale life-forms around to judge by, either, no birds wheeling overhead or fat jungle bugs buzzing through the air.

It’s no Risa—but it’s also as far from Vulcan as far as atmosphere’s concerned.

It looks like there’s nothing for miles, only Jim’s run enough Starfleet simulations to know that just because he’s not seeing something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. They’ll need to be watchful, doubly-so because of how quiet everything seems.

The air’s humid but not overly warm—the polar opposite of the dry, desert heat Jim’s been acclimatizing himself to.

Spock’s gonna hate that. He’s not gonna say as much, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be true.

Jim’s about as wrapped up in married life as Gary kept saying he would be, considering where his first thoughts always lead him: to Spock’s reaction, how things are bound to affect him first He worries about himself a distant second—if those worries occur to him at all.

It’s not Jim’s fault, though. He’s spent the better part of a year trying to anticipate Spock’s needs and desires. It’s only natural that he’d get into the habit and forget how to get out of it again.

‘Damage to the main power conduit is negligible, but it will require repair before we are able to attempt communications to the High Council and the Federation,’ Spock says.

‘Are you kidding me?’ Jim turns back from the open hatch, finding the husband in question where he’s bent over the main control console. ‘Spock—poke your head out and take a look at this for a second. You’re missing the view.’

‘The view is irrelevant.’ Still, Spock turns to look at him, which is more than Jim can say he hoped for. ‘…Did you hear what I said?’

‘Yeah, I heard it. Another point against autopilot, by the way.’

Jim puts his back to the view, squinting into the darkened interior of their ship. He’s gonna have to go outside to survey the damage a hull breach might’ve done, see if there’s anything he can do out there to reroute what they’ve lost in power. Spock’s not wrong. Getting up communications should be their number one priority. The sooner they have a working comm system, the sooner they can report the whole situation to their higher-ups.

He told himself he wasn’t holding out much hope, but that was before when he had nothing—no visible problems to throw himself against.

This is different. A broken escape vessel is in Jim’s wheelhouse.

Everything he wasn’t supposed to learn in the Starfleet courses he wasn’t technically taking comes flooding back to him. Pike was right when he once told Jim that either you’re the type to remember all the details in the heat of the moment or you’re not—and sometimes those qualities don’t show themselves in a practical. Sometimes the only way to know is to be there and find out and hope you don’t get anyone else killed.

But Jim’s got it, a flood of adrenaline that starts in his heart and jumpstarts his brain. He knows what to do first, how to proceed based on the concept of triage. No matter what, they need a workable shelter for the night; that’s top priority, since there’s no way of knowing how long the comm repairs will take. Jim moves past Spock to the interior of the main pod and hauls the supplies door open, going straight for the weather-ready tarpaulins and shelter kit, standard issue.

It won’t be a Vulcan palace, but it will be big enough for two.

‘Jim,’ Spock says, as Jim steps over the threshold, putting his boot down on solid ground. Mud squelches beneath the sole of his foot but there’s firmer soil just underneath.

‘Gotta find high ground, for one thing,’ Jim replies over his shoulder, ‘and it’s gotta have cover. A good view of the shuttle crash, but far enough away that we don’t have all our eggs in one basket. We’ll work on the comm system during what’s left of daylight, but in case we can’t fix it right away, we’ll need the shelter once its dark.’

Spock nods. ‘Your studies of Starfleet protocol have proven invaluable.’

‘Always knew they would.’ Jim scans the horizon—thick forestation on one side; a river of some kind in the distance, which they’ll test for drinkable water when they can; behind them, a lazy slope turns steeper, hills winding upward into grassy mountains. ‘Not that I had this particular scenario in mind.’ He flashes a grin that’s more raw energy than it is good cheer, determination over pleasure. ‘High ground, right?’

‘That would be wise.’

‘Are we sticking together, or are you gonna work on the comm system?’

Spock considers, briefly, the most logical course of action, computing the odds. ‘Though it would be more efficient to devote ourselves to separate tasks, it would not be wise to remain separate in an unknown locale. Therefore I will survey the surrounding environs with a tricorder while you begin on our temporary shelter.’

‘I’d give you the thumbs up,’ Jim says, ‘but my arms are kinda full.’

He trusts Spock will follow as he breaks away from the shuttle.

Spock does.

By the time they find a likely outcropping, the humidity has Jim panting, another sweater all but ruined. ‘What’s the tricorder say about mosquitoes?’ he asks, dropping the kit to wipe the sweat off his forehead.

Spock consults. ‘None found nearby, Jim.’

‘Good.’ Jim grabs his sweater at the bottom hem and pulls it off, using it to scrub down his throat and the back of his neck while he’s at it.

His undershirt follows fifteen minutes later—Spock’s keeping track, of course—with the basic frame of their tent already secured.

‘Jim,’ Spock says, as Jim’s unfolding the tarp.

‘Yeah, Spock?’

‘I must inform you that, based on my calculations, the current arrangement of the pylons cannot be structurally sound.’

‘Are you kidding me?’

Vulcans and their lack of humor aside, Spock’s kidding. He has to be. There’s no way they’ve been marooned alone on a jungle world and the first thing Spock can think of to do is stand in back critiquing Jim’s shelter-making abilities, of all things.

‘There is no reason for me to be speaking in jest.’ Spock tucks the tricorder away, crossing to duck under the skeleton structure Jim’s set up in order to start rearranging the stakes. ‘With a few adjustments, it should be reliably stable.’

Jim tries rephrasing the question. ‘Are you serious right now?’

‘I believe that we have already addressed my sincerity with regards to the topic at hand.’ Spock doesn’t even look up, too busy consulting and rearranging Jim’s setup, only lifting his head every now and then to measure the layout, not to meet Jim’s eyes.

Jim shifts his tarp to one arm, brushing the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.

‘So I’ll just stand here and wait until you’ve finished course-correcting, then.’

‘That would be advisable,’ Spock agrees.

‘And I suppose I’m supposed to pretend like I’m not offended either,’ Jim adds.

That much gets Spock’s attention. He stops, holding one of the stakes against his palm like a walking stick.

‘Are my actions offensive?’

Jim checks the sun against the horizon, then the position of their crash below. They’re ideally situated and there’s still no signs of other humanoid life. He can’t tell if that’s luck trying to make up for how their voyage started, or if that’s nothing more than wishful thinking.

Besides, any ambient luck in the galaxy should save its help for the people they left behind on that ship. Spock and Jim can take care of themselves. They have stakes and a tarp and everything.

He’ll say this for their landing spot: there’s not a Klingon in sight.

‘You mean, is it offensive to go around fixing everything I’ve been doing for the past twenty minutes?’ Jim asks.

‘Fifteen,’ Spock corrects him. ‘And thirty three—’

‘Fifteen minutes.’ Jim shakes out the tarp, checking its measurements against the new shape Spock’s creating on the ground.

‘I am making necessary adjustments based on our mutual needs,’ Spock says. ‘This is the most basic definition of a partnership, which our marriage is at its foundation.’

Jim blinks.

‘So you’re telling me that right now you’re working on our relationship?’

Spock watches him at last, dark eyes inscrutable under the sharply-drawn lines of his brows. Then he holds out his hands, a gesture that looks positively indecent until Jim realizes he’s reaching for the tarp.

‘The structure will now hold.’

Jim considers, briefly, the possibility of handling the tarp on his own, spiting himself to prove a point to no one, least of all Spock and certainly not himself. But the only way to prove a point now is to give Spock two corners of the tarp and keep two corners for himself, which Jim does—only he’s stubborn enough to make sure their fingertips brush together during the hand-off.

This time, Spock’s the one who blinks.

He doesn’t color. If he did, Jim’d know it was the humidity in the air, not anything to do with him.

‘Thanks,’ Jim says, swallowing down all potential retorts.

Despite the word threatening to stick in his throat, it feels good once it’s out. Jim’s grin is less brittle this time, heading to the other side of the stakes before securing the tarp in place. The structure, as Spock said it would, holds. There isn’t a single wobble. Jim steps back to survey the product of their work and shrugs, nodding, more satisfied than he thought he’d be.

‘Not bad for two princes, right?’

‘Our status in our respective societies should not have a significant impact on our ability to act sensibly and effectively in a moment of shared crisis.’ Spock pauses. ‘However, it is adequate.’

Jim sighs and rolls his eyes, making a grab for his undershirt on his way back to the shuttle.

If he can’t manage to impress Spock with his technical and mechanical know-how, then he’ll have to concede defeat.

‘You check out the comm system, see what’s doing there,’ Jim suggests. ‘I’m gonna see if that autopilot landing we had ruined this baby for flying again.’

Spock tilts his head to one side. ‘Jim, referring to a vessel as an infant—’

‘—is something plenty of mechanics do, and not just human ones,’ Jim says. ‘Get on that comm system, Spock. I’ll race you.’

Jim leaves him with that, circling the vessel to check for surface-level damage first. When he comes back to the hatch, Spock’s already inside, and Jim gets down on his knees, mud squelching around his calves as he settles in to inspect a nasty hull breach where the paneling looks worse than it actually is. The outer layer’s been stripped, but it hasn’t been completely sheared. After some digging, mud under Jim’s nails, he locates the main breach site, which is barely bigger than his thumb.

Jim rises with another squelch, leaning his palm against the top of the hatch to lean inside. ‘Toss me out one of those sealant kits and a phaser, would you?’

‘To throw such equipment carelessly would not be wise.’ A moment later, Spock steps out of the shadows, supplies in hand. ‘Jim, you are covered in mud.’

‘Yeah, well, it’s muddy out there, in case you hadn’t noticed. It’s not like I’m rolling around in it for fun. Humans don’t do that,’ Jim adds. ‘Just for reference.’

‘I am aware that it is not a common practice,’ Spock replies. ‘Here are the phaser and sealant kit you requested.’

Jim doesn’t touch Spock’s hands with his this time. They come away clean, thanks to Jim’s care. ‘Thanks again.’

‘There is no need to mention it.’

In the end it’s the mud, not the damage caused by their landing, that causes the most trouble. Jim can’t get the sealant to cool properly in the damp; he’s pretty sure he’s got mud inside his nose.

Jim contemplates asking whether Spock could pull a Vulcan feat of strength and haul their ship out of the mud, but he doesn’t want to drag him away from the comm repairs. Establishing a link to the galaxy outside trumps having a working vehicle; there’s always the chance the Federation will send a pick-up crew, but they can’t do that if they don’t know the location of the crash site.

Anyway, Jim figures there’s got to be something in marriage etiquette about not treating your husband like a towing craft. They wouldn’t need to pull the whole ship, though. Just roll her a little onto one side, at least, so Jim could dry out the mud in the sun, crack it off the damaged hull, and start on the repairs for real.

‘How’s it going in there?’ Jim wipes his muddy hands on his muddy thighs.

There’s no reply, which gives Jim the reason he’s looking for to drag himself away from his own work and check in on Spock’s. He pokes his head into the open hatch, squinting into the shadowy depths of their escape shuttle.

Spock’s on his back, head and shoulders hidden under the piloting control console. Jim can see his torso framed through his bent legs. He’s not the type to straighten up fast and smack his forehead, but just in case, Jim knocks on the side of the wall like it’s a doorway.

‘Hello? Anybody home?’

Spock digs his boot-heels into the shuttle floor, dragging his way out from the maintenance panel he must’ve pried open with his bare hands. He sits up on one elbow, letting his left leg slide down. There’s a black smudge across the bridge of his nose and his hair’s all mussed—at least, as mussed as Jim’s ever seen it, with a few stray strands out of place over his forehead.

‘Have you been able to locate the damage done to the port nacelle?’ Spock asks. ‘Repairs would be accomplished with a much higher level of success if I had the appropriate power levels to siphon.’

‘I’m sorry, I stop to check in on you, and all you have to say is that I’m impeding your progress?’

‘There is no need to apologize.’

‘No, Spock, that wasn’t—no.’ Jim climbs inside the shuttle, rooting around under one of the seat compartments for the prepackaged emergency rations he took stock of earlier. ‘I wasn’t actually apologizing.’

‘I see.’ Spock says. He’s still watching Jim rip into the rations, though he makes no move to help himself to the same. ‘Human sarcasm.’

Jim gestures with the torn wrapper and what’s left of the protein bar. Not for long it’s not. Nothing like hunger to make a simple protein taste like a five star meal, while most five star meals Jim’s had were so uncomfortable he couldn’t enjoy what he was eating. ‘Now you’re getting the hang of it. Hungry?’

‘I do not require nourishment at this time.’ Spock pauses before elaborating, ‘My repairs do not appear to be as physically demanding as those with which you have concerned yourself.’

It’s a concession, an acknowledgment. Jim manages to finish chewing before he speaks again. ‘No kidding. Anyway, my professional opinion is, there’s too much mud gunking up the hull, messing with the sealant, so it’s either gotta get cold here at night—cold enough to dry that stuff up so I can chip it off—or we’re gonna have to move the shuttle. What do you think, Spock? Can the two of us manage it if we put our backs into it?’

‘As I am uncertain of the specifics of your capabilities in that area, I cannot calculate the likelihood with any accuracy.’

‘So make your best guess. For the sake of crew morale.’ Jim contemplates a second protein bar but practicing restraint is something he didn’t leave behind on Vulcan. It’s still keeping him company, along with Spock’s nearly-quizzical look.

‘We are not a crew, Jim.’

‘Might as well be, though. Morale’s a tricky thing,’ Jim adds, ‘and it’s not easy. So I’ve heard.’

‘At the Starfleet Academy lessons you were instructed on multiple occasions not to attend.’

‘Shows what those instructors knew. S’come in pretty handy so far.’ Jim flexes his fingers, noting a few scrapes on the backs of his knuckles. ‘I’m betting we can pull it off.’

‘It will be necessary to restore power in order to test the comm system,’ Spock replies. ‘Therefore, we will soon be able to test...’ Spock takes a moment. Jim watches him from under lowered eyelids, knowing he can’t hide a damn thing and making the play anyway. There’s something Spock’s searching for; Jim’s not a part of it but he feels it, wanting to be, thinking he could be. He also he thinks he ate that protein too fast, chunks of it lodged in his chest, stuck there and giving him some kind of heartburn. He rubs at his ribs with his knuckles, unable to blink and miss the moment before it passes. ‘...your wager,’ Spock finishes finally.

‘I’ll bet you a protein we can,’ Jim says, already on his feet.

‘I do not bet, Jim.’

‘Think of it like cultural exchange.’ Jim isn’t used to hesitation, so he wipes his palm off on the back of his thigh and holds out his hand to help Spock out.

When Spock takes it, long fingers gripping Jim’s, Jim realizes it’s not heartburn that’s messing with him. It’s something else, a Spock-related symptom.

‘Didn’t know if you’d take it,’ Jim says, effectively ruining the understated pleasure of the experience. Spock releases him and Jim can see the streak of mud he’s left on Spock’s thumb. ‘Sorry ‘bout that. It’s dirty out there. Gonna get down and...dirty in it.’

Wow. He’s managed to make rolling around in the mud sound as weird and gross as it actually is.

Spock raises his eyebrows, like he isn’t familiar with the term but the way Jim puts it, it doesn’t sound particularly appealing. It’s a look Jim got a lot on Vulcan. It’s good to know there’s no shortage of those building up anytime soon.

For the first time since they landed, Jim’s got a feeling like things might actually work out right.

Of all the people to crash land with, he’s lucky he has his husband. Spock knows what he’s doing in areas Jim doesn’t—they can make up for each other’s lacking expertise. It stings to think of Bones alone in space somewhere, but Jim knows if it’d been the two of them, they might not’ve been able to accomplish the same quick work he’s done with Spock here.

Nothing works as a motivator quite like the stupid urge to prove himself and impress his husband.

He’s outside with Spock, the pair of them standing shoulder-to-shoulder to survey the damage, when Jim feels the first drop of moisture on his head.

He scowls, looking up for the offending bird. But there’s still no wildlife overhead, nothing passing through the low, thickening clouds. Spock watches Jim watch the skies, then returns his attention to the shuttle in front of them.

‘Jim, I find it likely that you will incur not insignificant injury should we attempt to move the ship before we have ascertained a proper way of pivoting the bulk of the weight.’

‘That your way of saying you don’t think I can take the heat, Spock?’

‘On the contrary, the weather here has proven notably cool,’ Spock says.

The mud squelches under their boots as they wander—or as Jim wanders and Spock surveys—weighing their options, all while fresh, fat droplets from above fall in quicker succession, pattering Jim on the head and shoulders. They’re raining thick and heavy before he’s had time to pull away from the mud surrounding the shuttle, a rainstorm that cropped up too suddenly for him to realize what was happening.

They're encountering the rain in rainforest.

His instincts are all messed up. After being on Vulcan for so long, Jim might’ve forgotten what real shifts in weather looks like.

‘It is my assessment that the inclement weather will make transportation of the vehicle momentarily impossible,’ Spock says.

Or, if we leave it here, it could sink deeper into the mud and then we'll never get it out,’ Jim counters. He’s soaked through to the bone in a matter of seconds—at least they got that shelter up, and he’s already out of his shirt, the sweater left high and dry back at the shelter site. This is halfway to a shower, which Jim was gonna need after all this rolling around in the dirt anyway. ‘Can we really take that risk?’

‘I had calculated that risk in my initial assessment.’

‘The least you could do is give me the odds, then.’

‘The probability of injury incurred in an attempt to move the vehicle given the current situational factors is sixty three point one five two percent,’ Spock replies. ‘The probability of the vehicle being further immobilized by the current situational factors is forty seven point seven six percent. I rounded up in both instances. Furthermore—’

The crack of thunder stops the impromptu—and hardly romantic—statistics review for which Jim only has himself, and rigorous Vulcan educational training, to blame. The clouds are less gray than black, and the distant strike of wicked, sleek lightning plunges through the forest trees with a muted splitting of bark.

‘Holy shit,’ Jim says, the rain sheeting down on them, turning the mud to watery sludge around their feet, Jim already sinking in to his ankles.

‘The odds are now—’ Spock begins, but Jim’s got the picture.

Even Gary, who kept having points on his personal record docked for stubborn refusal to alter his original plans when he liked them enough, would know that now’s the time to get to high ground and out of the downpour for as long as the storm is this heavy.

Jim grips Spock by the sleeve, already heading back toward the hills. If they’re lucky, the rain will wash most of the mud away and down toward the river, leaving them a window of opportunity just afterward to get at the malfunctioning port nacelle and the hull breach.

But that’s only if they’re lucky.

Slipping and sliding on his way uphill to the shelter, Jim know better than ever that luck is a variable. Luck is like mud—there’s plenty of it, but for some reason it keeps tripping Jim up. Luck is like rain in the rainforest—all over the place, but it’s not as though you can catch it or keep it or use it for anything. It’s a raw, natural phenomenon. It’s a pain in the ass.

Winded but out of the rain at last, Jim pauses to catch his breath with his hands on his knees, hair dripping onto the ground between his feet. The pinch of his formal boots suggest blisters are soon to follow but for a brief, shining moment, it’s all worth it to see Spock wet, lashes beaded with rainwater, dark hair slick on his forehead and parted around his damp ears.

‘C’mon, Spock, you’re soaked.’ Jim straightens and steps toward him, then remembers something. ‘You want a dry sweater? I just so happen to know where I can find one.’

‘If you are referencing the sweater you removed earlier, I cannot accept your offer.’

‘Then I guess nobody’s gonna wear it. Seems like a waste to me.’ Jim wrings out his undershirt, using it to towel down most of the excess moisture from his hair, then works on tugging his boots off, followed by his sopping, dirty socks. The air’s cool but moist enough that—at least until the sun goes down—it’s not unpleasantly cold. If anything, it’s refreshing.

Of course there’s the shuttle and the comm system to worry about; refreshing isn’t high on their list of priorities. Jim grins anyway.

For crew morale. Even if they’re not, as Spock was so kind to point out, actually a crew.

‘You know, some people find the rain romantic,’ Jim says, because he’s nailed the art of thinking up the stupidest thing he can say and then blurting it out. He’s first in his class. Number one in running his mouth. ‘You, me, a torrential downpour…’

Spock’s expression is bleak where he’s standing, still lingering by the entrance to the shelter. It’s cozier inside than Jim pictured when he was hammering stakes into the ground and throwing a tarp over the resulting shape; Spock even secured the edges and brought in those shiny emergency blankets that look about as comfortable and snuggly as a sheet of aluminum foil. It’s hardly a bedroom, but the space is small and the sound of rain outside’s settled into a pleasant rattling overhead, like the muted memory of the Vulcan ceremonial drums.

‘I fail to see how an excess of extra damp added to an atmosphere that is already decidedly unpleasant can be considered conducive to affection.’

‘Uh huh,’ Jim says.

Shot down again.

He can recover, though. He’s resilient. Crash and rebuild. And after all that bragging he did about the landing he could’ve pulled off in place of the autopilot, he figures he’d better put his money where his mouth is.

Spock holds his arms, one hand clasping the other wrist, behind his back as always, but Jim catches a glimpse of tension in his hands, knuckles pulled white like he’s trying to keep himself from shaking.

That’s interesting. Purely from an anthropological standpoint.

It definitely bears investigation.

Jim straightens, rubbing a hand through his wet hair, flicking droplets onto the ground. He abandons his pile of wet clothes, stretching out the muscles in his back made sore from scrabbling around the shuttle all evening. Once that’s done, he moves to stand next to his husband. Spock’s dripping wet, stiff-backed; the only indication he’s even aware of his condition is the water plopping from his bangs into his eyelashes, making him blink in a rapid rhythm.

A sudden thought occurs to Jim.

‘You’re not coldare you, Spock?’

Spock presses his lips together, eyebrows drawn tight enough to form a crease in his forehead, giving Jim one of his looks. The effect’s cut in half by his inability to make eye contact.

‘As I have said, the climate is not optimal.’

‘I don’t know.’ Jim ducks away, finding that sweater he tossed off back when the jungle was still hot enough he didn’t need it. It’s still not particularly cool, at least by human standards. He lifts it over his head like a towel and quickly rubs it through Spock’s hair before Spock’s Vulcan instincts can predict his next move and before Spock can stop him. ‘I think it’s refreshing.’

‘Refreshing.’

‘Getting a hang of my old repetition lesson?’ Jim drapes the sweater over the back of Spock’s neck, still holding on with both hands. ‘Took you long enough.’

‘I merely sought clarification for your definition of that which provides refreshment.’ Spock glances toward the break in the tarp, the sheeting rain forming a near-solid, wet wall just outside. ‘Perhaps you suffered mild cranial trauma during the landing. You were unconscious for a period of time long enough to suggest a concussion is not out of the question.’

‘Look at it this way,’ Jim says, more generous now that they’re close and Spock hasn’t moved to place more distance between them again, ‘we’ve got a shelter from the storm; we’re not alone out here, because we have each other; and we’re alive, which is a lot more than those klingons wanted us to be.’ When Spock offers nothing in reply, Jim sighs on a chuckle. ‘It’s an old human tradition, Spock. It’s called accentuating the positive.’

‘Considering the cynicism espoused in so much of Earth’s history and literature, I find that tradition uncharacteristic.’

‘You don’t think all of humanity’s that bad, do you?’ Jim asks. ‘Because if you do, we might have a problem.’

‘I shall consider this tradition in full when I am able to research it more thoroughly.’ Spock finally allows his gaze to travel to Jim’s hands, fisted in handfuls of fabric, looped around the back of Spock’s neck. They’re so close that maybe Spock can feel the heat of exertion and adrenaline, of being alive despite the odds, of working so damn well together, radiating off Jim’s body. Maybe that’s why Spock hasn’t chosen to keep Jim at the usual arm’s length. Or maybe he’s trying not to piss Jim off again, considering how important it is they keep working well together. ‘You have employed your dry sweater in a way that has rendered it temporarily unwearable.’

‘You looked cold.’

‘My body temperature is not a concern.’

‘Maybe not your concern.’ Jim wouldn’t be able to let go if he wanted to—and he’s not entirely sure he wants to. ‘But it is mine.’

‘Your body temperature remains acceptable,’ Spock says, an observation instead of a question.

‘You noticed, huh?’ Jim offers a grin. ‘You did notice.’

‘I would not allow statistics of our present condition to go unnoticed, Jim.’

‘Except I’m not a statistic, Spock. Or a collection of statistics.’ Jim takes a deep breath. It’s time to take the plunge. ‘Remember that time we talked about cuddling in San Francisco when the nights were cold?’

‘Neither would I allow topics of conversation we have engaged in to slip my mind.’

‘OK.’ Okay. Jim keeps breathing, heavy air rich with oxygen, at least. Delicious, breathable oxygen. ‘That’s—touching. I think. I’m gonna say it is. Anyway, we’re not in San Francisco at the moment, obviously, but it is raining and for all we know, the night might get cold.’

‘You suggest that we should embrace to maintain acceptable body temperatures through shared body heat.’

‘I suggest that we should embrace,’ Jim says. ‘Partly for the body temperature thing. Partly because I’ve been thinking about it for months and we’ve gotta—I mean, we have to figure it all out sometime.’

Spock’s looking at him, damp and inscrutable. He hasn’t moved away; even if Jim’s holding him in place, he’s more than strong enough to put a little distance between them if he wanted to. When he does take his eyes off Jim, it’s to glance around the tent, taking stock of their shared assets. 

It doesn’t amount to much.

‘You spoke of many things that do not currently apply to our situation,’ Spock says. ‘I believe in your messages you detailed a bed, or some other acceptably comfortable piece of furniture upon which we might both lie.’

Jim’s grin widens; he tugs the separate edges of the sweater to pull Spock in close. The difference in height between them is negligible, but Jim rocks up onto the balls of his blistered feet, toes pinched at the ends of his fancy boots. When he leans in to kiss Spock—human style, the better to avoid over-stimulating his Vulcan senses—all he can think is that he didn’t shave this morning and it’s starting to show.

Spock proves his dedication to adversity by not flinching away the second Jim’s stubble rasps against his cheek. Their lips catch, damp and slippery with rain water, and then they’re kissing, Jim’s fingers tightening on the sweater. He’s being such a good Vulcan husband, not even trying to get his hands all over Spock, much less asking for Spock’s hands all over him.

Jim’s not looking to cultivate a repeat performance of what happened when he aborted that blowjob.

‘Jim,’ Spock says, but it’s muffled between their mouths.

His shoulders twitch under Jim’s hands. His own hands are still locked behind his back.

It’s not much, but it’s not unacceptable. Cold water drips from Spock’s bangs into the wells of Jim’s closed eyes, making his face scrunch up like there’s a paparazzi camera somewhere just waiting to go off with a flash. But there’s nothing like that here. They’re surrounded by trees, with only the black clouds overhead and endless gray rain chasing them. They’ve never been this alone, not in their respective palaces and not on Vulcan.

At some point, they’re gonna have to go back outside and check they’re not in danger of eroding straight off the side of the cliff. Right now, Jim’s tongue is warm in Spock’s cool mouth, swiping over the clean line of his teeth. He shifts one of his hands from the end of the sweater to Spock’s shoulder, lightly following the angle of his arm to press his thumb into the crook of his elbow.

Slowly but surely he pulls Spock’s arm forward, tugging at the edge of his wet sleeve to find his cold wrist beneath it, the fleshy heel of his hand.

Finally, Spock shivers.

If there’s a dictionary of shivers out there—currently untranslated, the kind you can only build for yourself—then Jim’s positive this isn’t a bad one.

He’s positive that the things Spock feels aren’t bad things to feel, either. He’s positive more than ever that Spock does feel them. He’s positive that he can’t make that decision for Spock; he’s almost positive that Spock doesn’t know how to make the right decision when it comes to that stuff; he’s definitely positive that it’s still not anyone else’s decision to make.

Marriage is hard.

So is Jim.

He swallows, angling his hips away instead of closer. This time, he isn’t going to demand something that Spock’s not ready to give. Jim wants more than to hold hands but he has to navigate the space between his perspective on hand-holding and Spock’s perspective, something that can’t be done with autopilot on. It’s gonna take some personal attention, some finessing.

Some caressing. Jim rubs the pulse at Spock’s wrist with his thumb before he traces the curve of Spock’s palm toward the center. He shivers too, and Spock expresses a non-verbal noise of concern.

Jim, Jim can practically hear him asking, is your body temperature currently below the optimal range for human comfort?

‘M’warm, Spock,’ Jim tells him, against the corner of his mouth. ‘Sometimes humans shiver when they’re warm. Weird, isn’t it?’

‘I would say that it is, at the least, a misleading choice,’ Spock replies.

Jim chuckles again, slipping his fingers between Spock’s, remembering that Spock enjoys a little rub here: the rough tug of callused skin against smooth; a slow—but increasing—speed when Jim draws his fingers up along the insides of Spock’s, back down again; a little, circling, seemingly idle rub. It’s safe to say he never thought about hands like this; equally safe that the thrill he gets is from imagining the thrill Spock gets, the possibility of a thrill he might be giving. And if that isn’t the generous spirit of diplomatic exchange, Jim doesn’t know what is.

Marriage is wild, too, like the quickening of Jim’s pulse.

‘Perhaps, the blankets,’ Spock begins.

Jim clears his throat and pulls away—without letting go of Spock’s hand. Three steps forward and two steps back, not the other way around.

There’s a corner of their shelter that looks like every other corner of their shelter, but it’s the one with the silver-y blankets stacked next to it, so now it’s their corner. They sort of sit together, a few awkward bumps and tugs and one ungraceful wobble, and when Jim reaches around Spock for the blanket he feels Spock turn his face inward toward Jim’s temple, the intake of breath that suggests Spock’s smelling his hair.

Jim’s chest swells. His heart’s making a racket even his human ears can hear; it has to sound like Vulcan drums to Spock. He surges forward anyway, wrapping the blanket around Spock’s shoulders. His arms follow, his chest to Spock’s chest, his mouth on the bottom curve of Spock’s ear.

Spock allows it. He more than allows it. After a pause that almost causes Jim’s lungs to collapse—metaphorically speaking, but somehow it doesn’t feel any less literally dangerous—his hands come up to the small of Jim’s back. There’s a reason for it: Spock’s tucking the corners of the blanket around them both. He holds them there, the knuckle of one thumb brushing the base of Jim’s spine where—and he’s checked—there’s a definite hip-related dimple.

Jim didn’t realize how much he was craving this. Even when he didn’t have it, the absence pretended it was natural. Now he knows how unnatural it was.

In some ways, this is the honeymoon he always wanted. If he could ignore the details of how they got here, the reality of their situation and how the chances of a rescue shrink the longer the rain keeps up, increasing the risk of a mudslide, then it’s almost like the vacation Jim’s been longing for. The air’s damp and clean-smelling; it fills Jim’s lungs easily, making his chest swell with relief and anticipation both.

His luck’s been coming at him sideways for a long, long time. He gets the things he wants, but only in a backhanded way.

He wanted Spock, but their marriage is nothing like he pictured.

He wanted some alone time—well, now they’ve got it.

Maybe Jim should’ve been a little more specific about the parameters, but there’s no way to go back and change that now.

Having his mouth occupied makes him less likely to say something stupid and ruin the moment. He’s pretty sure he tried to explain that particular phenomenon to Spock once already, but it’s something you can’t understand unless you’ve been predisposed to saying dumb things your whole life.

Spock might look at it like a crutch, but Jim’s just being realistic. Sometimes he needs an extra helping hand.

Right now, that’s Spock’s hand resting on the small of his back.

It’s poetic, in a way. Or it would be if Jim could allow himself to believe it was happening on purpose instead of for perfectly logical reasons: Spock providing warmth where it’s needed because he’s not prey to the same distractions that overcame Jim.

If it were up to Jim, they’d’ve been kissing in the rain next to the shuttlecraft.

There is something to be said for Spock’s focus. It’s just that it’s not one of those qualities Jim’s allowed himself to appreciate in the moment.

The blanket crinkles around them every time Jim moves, shifting around their bodies where Spock’s holding him close. That and the rain outside blend together to make a soothing backdrop of white noise; the external chill in Jim’s skin thaws where Spock’s holding him close, but it’s not enough somehow. He wants to know Spock’s feeling it too, that there’s something he can do to reach him beyond getting under his skin with his words.

When it comes right down to it, he’s envious of Spock and his touch telepathy. It’s a shortcut into a world Jim’s only feeling his way around the edges of, fingers curling against the nape of Spock’s neck to warm him in return, right where a sliver of cool skin’s exposed.

They’ve pretty much mastered verbal sparring but Jim’s still sorting out the physical end of things. It’s not something he ever thought he’d have to work at.

He’s supposed to be a natural.

Hell, he is a natural.

A late bloomer—Sam was teasing him for years while Jim was buried in history books and Sam was flirting with anything that had a pair of legs and humanoid anatomy—but he got there and made up for lost time. With Spock, he has to start from scratch. Back at the beginning, remembering all at once how awkward the beginning was.

Jim chuckles. Spock’s entire body registers the faint tension of hesitation. Jim rubs the side of his throat and Spock tilts away from it but also toward it at the same time, that kind of contradiction Jim doesn’t have to be an expert in Vulcan to read. He knows what it means.

He knows what Spock wants.

It’s just Spock who needs to catch up for a change.

‘S’nothing,’ Jim mumbles, still nipping at Spock’s lips. ‘Just...glad you’re into this. You are into this, right?’

Jim knows he put that phrase in the dictionary, one of the few useful pieces of slang he didn’t forget.

‘Jim,’ Spock replies simply, ‘it is not that I do not find you physically attractive.’

Jim shouldn’t encourage Spock when he offers up a terrible line like that one but he can’t help it—his knees buckle and he manages to pull Spock closer, hips bumping hips, a frozen second in which Jim isn’t sure if that’ll be enough to snap Spock out of it.

It isn’t. Nothing happens. Spock’s grip tightens, if anything, to keep Jim from slipping or toppling over or whatever it is he looks like he’s threatening to do, whatever it is Spock interprets as a bad thing when it’s anything but.

‘Same,’ Jim manages. He doesn’t correct Spock’s game because his game isn’t so hot right now either. ‘I mean— It is not that I do not find you physically attractive, too.’

Spock must be able to sense the humor in there, the teasing, without sensing why it’s chosen that sensible, logical phrase to focus on. Jim kisses him. Spock kisses Jim back. The questions and the answers are in the kiss. Why are you laughing at me and No, Spock, I’m laughing with you, come on. Jim guides Spock’s hand lower until it’s on his ass and guides it into a rub. A squeeze.

Can asses transmit emotions? Jim has no clue. He’ll have to ask Spock sometime. He can’t stop kissing Spock long enough to ask at the moment. He really hopes Spock isn’t reading his ass; if it’s half as stupid as his brain, then Spock’s never gonna respect his keen intellect and thirst for knowledge.

But he’s definitely respecting Jim’s ass.

‘You feel good?’ Jim asks.

He needs to know, and he can’t read it off Spock’s skin. He can’t read it off Spock’s ass, either, returning the exploration, lean muscles clenched beneath his palms.

Spock nods, his nose brushing Jim’s upper lip.

‘Good,’ Jim says hoarsely. ‘That’s good, Spock. That’s good, right?’

Spock’s free hand rises to cup Jim’s face. He holds it, gentle but strong, and the canting roll of Jim’s hips slows to stillness. Something important’s happening, more than the sum of their bodies’ hungry little needs.

‘You would do well to apply some of the confidence I have witnessed you display in the past regarding the minute details of your life in reference to our relationship,’ Spock says.

‘Uh.’ Jim breathes out right into Spock’s face.

Protein breath. Not his best rejoinder, but the bloodflow to his brain’s currently limited.

Maybe that’s why Spock has such a problem with that release of emotions. It clouds his perfectly logical way of thinking.

‘You have demonstrated that you are a man of conviction,’ Spock says. ‘I merely sought to draw attention to the fact that you do not display the same certainty with regards to our courtship.’

‘Our courtship,’ Jim repeats.

Spock’s pinky fingers slip under the line of his jaw, at the very corners where it hinges, fingertips lightly stroking his stubbly throat. He’s never seen Spock do anything by accident, so Jim’s gotta assume that was deliberate.

‘Yes, Jim,’ Spock says. The dazed, clueless look on Jim’s face isn’t just from all the kissing. It takes Spock a second to clue in. ‘I shall rephrase. Your insecurities are unwarranted.’

Jim can’t be sure, but that sounds like an improvised Vulcan way of saying things are gonna be all right. If Jim wanted to go further—and really read too much into it—he could even guess that Spock’s telling him he likes him. That he’s all right with all of this; more than that, he wants Jim about as much as Jim wants him, and the differences that have been tripping them up are more cultural than they are personal.

That Spock’s just as interested in getting past them as Jim wants him to be.

Maybe he should or could be more sensitive to the Vulcan way of things, but Jim’s pretty sure he’s gone above and beyond the call of duty where that’s concerned. He’s been an exemplary husband, which doesn’t mean anybody owes him anything. He could stand to shake up his expectations for himself once in awhile.

He’s doing all right. Probably.

Jim settles his hands on Spock’s chest, palms over the broad, flat shape of his pectorals. He’s not as filled out as Jim coming off of Bones’ special exercise regimen, but the slender shape of him’s somehow more intimidating for how understated it is. He’s not Starfleet buff and he could still lift Jim clean off the ground and throw him if he wanted to.

That’s sexy.

Unfortunately, it’s also the kind of thing that doesn’t translate from human-to-Vulcan when Jim tries to say it out loud.

‘Does your aesthetic appreciation indicate that you are taking my counsel to heart?’ Spock asks.

Jim has to give him credit—he’s doing a great job of holding up his end of the conversation, enough so that he might not see the necessity for kissing mouth to mouth to avoid awkward make-out chats.

Jim swallows and chuckles. ‘Yeah, Spock. I guess it does. And I guess I took some general things personally and made some personal things general, all right? I know that now. But in my defense—not that I’m trying to excuse my bad behavior, just explain it—I think I was suffering from oxygen deprivation to my brain. Which is usually functional. Beyond functional. I believe the phrase a certain instructor once used to describe me was ‘Too smart for his own good’, so make of that what you will.’

‘It does not come as a surprise that this would be someone’s assessment of your intelligence.’

‘That’s something you might have to acknowledge you’re dealing with, too.’ Jim swallows, reaching up with more fumbling clumsiness than he intended to cover Spock’s hand on his face. His fingers are shorter, his palm wider, everything about him less deliberate but not necessarily less certain. At least, Jim has to tell himself that. His hand’s warm. Spock’s hand is pretty warm, too.

Spock’s lips purse with words that aren’t spoken. Jim would kiss them from his mouth if he thought that’d be the same as waiting for them to come on their own terms.

It wouldn’t be.

Jim waits.

‘Though no Vulcan instructor would have reason to describe a student with such a phrase, I trust that you meant the comparison as a compliment?’ Spock asks finally.

‘A point of reference. Of similarity.’ Jim tilts his face against Spock’s palm, where the green blood and the lifelines are pressed to his skin. ‘You trying to read my thoughts, Spock?’

That makes Spock hesitate. ‘In time, and given your full understanding and agreement, I would seek to initiate a full bond between us that would make our thoughts known to each other.’ He pauses again. Jim’s heart is a mudslide. He sucks at poetry. ‘However in this instance I believed that I was fulfilling the brief of a gesture that is employed amongst humans as a romantic overture.’

‘So you’re just...cupping my face.’

‘An act that, to my understanding, often accompanies kissing.’

‘Let me just...’ Jim swipes his bottom lip while he gathers his thoughts. He thinks Spock might actually be watching the path taken by his tongue before it disappears again. ‘You know you don’t have to do any of that stuff if it’s just to make me comfortable or less of a jerk sometimes. You do know that, right?’ Yeah, this is why mouths should stick to kissing when they can. But it’s important and Jim’s determined and Spock’s hand is so damn warm on Jim’s cheek that thinking’s impossible in the face of doing the right thing. ‘Because, I mean, I thought you made it pretty clear that you were gonna be doing the whole...Vulcan abstinence thing.’

Spock clears his throat. Jim can’t tell if he’s blushing or if it’s a trick of the shadows, cast unpredictably by the rainclouds.

‘I will admit that I had difficulty expressing my meaning at that time,’ Spock says. ‘It was not my lack of desire that caused me to end our physical exercise. It was the opposite.’

‘Oh my God,’ Jim replies. ‘I turn you on, Spock.’

Spock’s dark eyes unfocus, briefer than a wink.

‘Sorry,’ Jim continues quickly. “That was—wow, really not romantic. Totally obtuse. Extremely obnoxious.’

He can barely bite down on his next question, which is whether that makes a difference to the rest of Spock’s convictions. He doesn’t want to come across like some kind of sex-crazed maniac, his mind only good for one thing. But it’s hard not to dwell on the topic when Spock’s leaning back to make room for Jim in his lap, like he has half a mind to let Jim use him like a lounge chair.

In the absence of any other real furniture in the place, it’ll do.

‘I did not know that was in question,’ Spock says. ‘I had assumed from our communications, both in person and long distance, that my attraction was evident. If it were not... Assume that I would not have found it so difficult to adhere to the Vulcan principles to which you are now referring. I cannot strictly call it abstinence, as we have already engaged in acts which resulted in your climax.’

Wow,’ Jim repeats. ‘Nothing takes the mystery out of it like hearing that right out loud.’

He cradles the back of Spock’s head to reel him in for a kiss before Spock can take offense to the latest dumb thing to fall out of Jim’s mouth. His pulse is outmatching the drum of the rain outside; he’s not interested in debating the strictures of denial and self-discipline, the exact definition of Vulcan celibacy as it applies to interspecies relationships.

The truth is, he’s not so sure he wants to know the rules. If things are still malleable, then Jim can pretend like he can still work out an exception. Spock might be stubborn but Jim’s reset the parameters of tests before. He thinks maybe—maybe—he can get around his difficult husband.

Especially when Spock’s demonstrated an obvious willingness to work with him.

Enthusiasm’s half the battle. If that’s not a proverb already, then Jim just coined it.

He spreads his thighs, shimmying onto his knees to straddled Spock’s lap proper. When Spock stiffens Jim draws back, holding a finger over his mouth.

It’s more intimate a gesture than Jim intended it to be. He’s getting carried away with himself.

‘Don’t worry—this is purely a body heat scenario. I’ll be sharing mine, trying to keep you comfortable. Like a big, beefy blanket.’ Jim cringes, wrinkling his nose. ‘OK, maybe not that. In fact—forget that. But the point is: I’m not trying to make a move. Despite how much humans might talk and think about it, I don’t really have much control over that part of my anatomy.’

Spock’s silence indicates something like: how functionally inadequate or what an inefficient and untrustworthy design. Well, he has no idea, not having to deal with it himself.

Jim rests his cheek against Spock’s shoulder, face tilted toward his throat. His breath gets trapped against Spock’s skin, warming both of them in brief, rhythmic bursts. ‘Believe me, Spock, I know how much it sucks, and I don’t have a clue why we evolved that way. But at least we don’t have tentacles. Not that I have anything against species with tentacles. I just wouldn’t want ‘em myself.’

‘Jim,’ Spock replies, ‘would you prefer it if I were to kiss you again now?’

‘To stop me from babbling, I mean?’

‘It appeared that you were on the verge of such unpredictable action. Having determined from your past commentary that you are not necessarily proud of or made comfortable by it—’

‘Nah, Spock,’ Jim says. ‘Actually, it’s fine. We’re communicating, right? Like...’ Jim swallows, letting his lips brush the side of Spock’s neck when he speaks, just under the hard line of his jaw. ‘Like old times. Feels good. I like it.’

‘It is not without its benefits.’

Not without its benefits. Jim sighs, but he thinks he gets it. It’s Spock’s way of saying he likes it, too. ‘Uh-huh.’

‘I await your repetition of my statement to so-called humorous effect,’ Spock says.

It is not without its benefits,’ Jim obliges, rubbing the spot where Spock’s jaw meets the lobe of his ear with his nose. ‘It’s OK, Spock. You say things in a complicated way ‘cause you’re a complicated guy.’ Jim tightens his thighs with a pointed squeeze—over as soon as it has a chance to start. ‘I’m not complaining. Just pointing it out.’

‘That, too, is not without its benefits,’ Spock replies.

Jim finds his mouth again, kissing him through a grin. He even feels the hinted tip of Spock’s tongue, barely noticeable unless you’re actively looking for it, testing the distance between their mouths, between their teeth. Spock’s hair is wet under Jim’s fingertips and Jim resists—momentarily—the urge to muss it up once and for all, to get an idea of what it’d look like.

‘You know...’ Jim breaks the kiss in order to talk this time instead of kissing to avoid talking. ‘This whole scenario really is the human definition of romance.’

‘Ah,’ Spock says. ‘Human definitions.’

‘You’re not a fan?’

‘I cannot ignore the extenuating circumstances.’

Jim feels a twist of uncertainty, the same feeling he tried to stake into the ground while setting up their tent. ‘That’s another human thing, then. Doing your damn best to ignore the extenuating circumstances. At least when there’s nothing you can do about ‘em. It’s not just about out of sight, out of mind.’

‘Indeed,’ Spock replies.

The rain falls. Jim talks about nothing at all. And Spock listens, which is just about everything Jim didn’t know to ask for.

*

Chapter Text

Spock judges the period of heavy rainfall to last five hours and twenty seven minutes and fourteen seconds—rounding up, as always—when it finally stops, the last few splutters of weakened thunder long rolled off into the distance, over the treetops.

The shelter creaks around them, stakes settling under the weight of the collected rain overhead. Jim didn’t design the thing with hydrodynamics in mind. He should probably get up to check on things, but he’s dropped into a hazy kind of stupor with his head pillowed against Spock’s chest while Spock might just be meditating on what it means to be a chair, and he’d have to leave all that behind if he got to his feet.

Spock’s breathing is oddly soothing, in and out, deep and even. It’s something Jim can replicate, but he’s never been able to get to the step beyond: the quiet mind that comes with the relaxed body.

He’s a champion at staring into space, but somehow that doesn’t seem like the storied Vulcan self-reflection technique they’ve written into their traditions.

Jim sighs, ready to let his eyes flutter shut. Another few minutes—or fifteen—like this couldn’t hurt. 

There’s a rumbling outside and the shelter shudders again, pale tarp shivering around them like a leaf in a sudden breeze. Jim tries to recall whether there’s anything on this planet about earthquakes, then remembers he didn’t get a full Starfleet mission brief.

This isn’t a Starfleet simulation.

Spock’s eyes snap open. Jim can feel the change in his body language before looking at him. That’s a kind of being in sync, although it’s not what he imagined when he first thought about getting to know his husband.

‘The excess rain has destabilized the landscape.’ Spock’s arms release their hold on Jim and he sits up, the silvery blanket crinkling around them. ‘We will be required to make adjustments to the structural integrity of the shelter.’

‘Guess your design wasn’t so perfect after all.’ Jim straightens, hiding a grin against his knuckles as he pops the vertebrae in his lower back one by one. He ignores the disapproving look on Spock’s face at the sound. There’s something tickling at the back of his head, like a dream he can’t remember or the name of a planet that’s right on the tip of his tongue. ‘The shuttle—’

Jim scrambles to his feet, nearly tripping over the blanket in his rush. It’s right around now that he’s wishing he laid out his wet socks and boots neatly to dry instead of leaving them in a tangled-up pile at the corner furthest from when they made their little make-shift nest. Only there’s no time for anything but regrets.

He runs out in his bare feet, the ground cold and damp, mud squishing between his toes. It’s totally romantic.

Even more romantic is the sight of the shuttle sliding silver along the crumbling ground and disappearing through the tree-line over a ravine.

‘Shit,’ Jim says, breaking a streak of avoiding the word entirely so it doesn’t accidentally slip out in front of his royal in-laws. ‘No, no no no—’

He’s off and running before he can think of the partnership angle, of waiting for Spock and his superior strength for hauling unstable shuttlecrafts out of giant ditches, any of the strategies that a good Starfleet cadet would come up with naturally before they took off running. But Jim’s not a good Starfleet cadet. He’s not a Starfleet cadet at all. He might’ve been a great one; he’ll never know.

He can only do what he’s capable of.

He can run really fast.

And he doesn’t fall flat on his face after slipping down the slope in the dangerous mud-slicks, so that’s something.

If Spock follows, then Spock follows. Jim can hear only his heartbeat between his ears, his own too-loud footsteps. His feet pound the dirt with wet slaps as the terrain beneath shifts and oozes, rolling ever downward; by the time he crests the sudden drop of the ravine, he’s breathless and wheezing and covered in mud, but it could be worse.

He could be belly-side up like their only means of escape, hull facing the dissipating clouds, supplies scattered along the ground with a few silvery glints winking up at Jim under the re-emerging sun.

‘Seriously?’ Jim doesn’t know whether to direct that question to the sky or to the ground. The clouds are already on their way, unmoved by the suffering of an interloper on the planet below them; the mud is sluggish, still shifting and sloshing, but at least there isn’t much farther for the shuttle to fall.

Still, and not to get all Spock on the situation, the probability of the repairs Spock was doing to the comm systems being totally screwed is high enough already without needing to round the number up.

‘Seriously,’ Jim confirms, if only for himself. Saying it makes it real. Then, he takes a deep breath and takes the plunge, lowering himself off the precipice, hand over precarious hand until his feet hit the ground. Calling it solid would be more generous than Jim’s mood allows for, given the circumstances.

He’s up to his knees already and still only halfway to the shuttle’s final resting place—potentially not so final, considering the continued gurgling of the terrain’s uppermost layer. As long as there are no more quick, steep drops, and the river isn’t too close, they won’t have to worry about the shuttle running away from them.

It’s obvious this vessel’s not going anywhere far.

Jim grabs for a medical kit half-buried in the mud beside him, managing to fish out a protein bar and something that looks dangerously like a very important, very broken piece of machinery. He cuts his hand on a strip of stray steel and ignores the stinging until it starts to fade.

His first search and rescue mission. Not a single protein will be lost under his command.

‘Jim.’ Spock’s behind him; Jim can hear the squelching. If he was in any other kind of mood, he’d turn around to see if Spock can navigate the mud with more grace, or if it’s the grand equalizer between them. But he’s busy fishing for another disappearing protein, fighting a losing battle with insensate ooze.

‘Help me fish for supplies,’ Jim says, tossing one of the protein packets over his shoulder. ‘Unless you want to stay there and count our assets.’

‘That would be a very generous overstatement of the task at hand,’ Spock says. ‘I believe I can put my time to better use, but I will have to move quickly.’

He moves past Jim with a decisive ease that proves, no, he doesn’t get bogged down in the mud, stepping around to the far side of the shuttle where the open hatch-door has rolled half onto the ground. It doesn’t bode well for ease of getting back inside, let alone running repairs on the ship’s comms. But Spock bends at the waist and disappears inside the hull of their escape ship like a much smaller man.

Jim watches him go. He almost misses a protein as it oozes past.

‘Spock—’ The ship doesn’t look like it’s in danger of rolling any more, but the ground’s unsteady. Jim knows from his earlier attempts that he couldn’t budge that shuttle if he needed to—not even if his husband got himself sealed inside.

He doesn’t want their last words to each other to be some nonsense about protein packs.

Okay. It’s possible he’s overreacting.

‘Several of the internal processors have been damaged.’ Spock’s voice echoes from within the shuttle. ‘I am going to attempt to extract the necessary equipment so that we can continue making repairs.’ He sounds small and tinny, faraway, like a recording of himself.

It should be familiar. It just makes Jim’s stomach twist.

The distance is far from vast between them; it’s not like Spock is unreachable. But he can’t see what he’s doing and Jim’s never dealt well with uncertainty. He keeps up his work on their supplies, taking a cue from Spock and reaching into a torn hull panel to harvest some of the power cells that haven’t yet been touched by the mud.

If they’re careful and clever, they can manage this. Jim’s never been the former, but the latter comes naturally.

‘You all right in there, Spock?’ he asks, sticking the supplies he can’t carry on a flat strip of metal that makes a decent tray-slash-shelf.

‘I do not suffer from any form of claustrophobia and thus am able to maintain a clear head while prioritizing the retrieval of supplies.’

Jim mouths his own words back at him, skirting the edge of the shuttle after storing his gathered provisions to one side. He’s trying to get a better look at the hatch door, to see whether he can help Spock lever any equipment up and out.

‘Well, good for you,’ Jim says. ‘That’s not what I asked.’

There’s a pause, not too long for Jim to worry, just long enough for him to get curious.

‘I am all right in here, Jim,’ Spock replies at last, in the stilted tone of accurate repetition. Jim’s grin in response is as crooked as their luck, or the balanced angle of the shuttle.

‘Hand me out some stuff,’ Jim adds. ‘We can get something efficient going here, anyway.’

Spock obliges, passing items up through the hatch and out. Jim’s muddy fingers grip Spock’s tight each time to make sure his hold on delicate pieces of equipment is secure and Spock doesn’t mention it—whatever he feels when Jim’s fingertips brush the sides of his hands or streak mud over his knuckles. When Spock’s head finally emerges above the hatch, the stack of salvage is more than enough for both of them to haul back up the slope, not to mention how difficult it’s gonna be transporting it over the ravine.

Jim pauses to wipe the sweat out of his eyes. ‘I’d say I could use another rainstorm to get cleaned off again, but I don’t want this entire planet to revert to a mud state.’

‘That is highly unlikely, considering the multiplicity of a planet’s core composition—’ Spock begins.

‘Spock,’ Jim says, ‘the point is, it’s a lot of mud.’

Spock glances around them, then allows his gaze to return to Jim, sweeping him raw with a single look from head to knee. It’d be head to toe, a complete once-over, if most of Jim’s legs from his calf down are completely submerged. Jim tries to straighten up, to look competent, messily handsome, possibly irresistible, but instead he feels soggy and dirty and smelly, more like a swamp thing than a sexy husband.

‘We have done all we can at the present time,’ Spock informs him. ‘It may be possible to triangulate atmospheric shifts in order to predict future weather patterns. I will attempt this upon our return to shelter.’

‘Easier said than done,’ Jim replies. When he winks, his eyelid gets stuck briefly due to a mud situation in his eye. ‘Fortunately for both of us, that happens to be my specialty.’

Whether or not Spock believes him, Jim is the first to clamber up onto the ravine, Spock once again lifting armfuls of supplies to him while Jim hides his grunts and groans. With their salvage on higher ground, Jim reaches down to take Spock’s hands, and Spock observes him once again, this time with what might be a hint of skepticism.

‘I believe I will be capable of transporting myself above the ravine, Jim.’

‘Probably, yeah.’ Definitely. ‘Humor me anyway.’

Spock lifts one hand. Jim clasps it tight.

It lacks finesse, but when Spock lands partially in Jim’s lap, Jim’s honestly smiling. Muddy, sore, bleeding for reasons he can’t remember, but happy in a reckless way, because Spock hasn’t let go of his hand.

‘You know what I’m thinking, Spock?’ Jim asks, voice hoarse for Spock related reasons rather than from exertion. ‘What I’m feeling?’

‘I would not violate your privacy in such a fashion,’ Spock replies. ‘I am certain to avoid an excess of emotional transference. There is no cause for concern.’

‘I’m not concerned.’ Jim needs to rephrase that. ‘About you reading what I’m putting out right now, anyway. There’s other stuff that concerns me. I hate mud. I never knew that about myself before. This has been an eye-opening experience.’

‘The mud is merely a natural product of the environment,’ Spock says. ‘It does not merit your hatred.’

‘Yeah?’ Jim finds himself longing for some of the distant Vulcan heat to dry the mud on his skin. It’d come off in flakes instead of clinging to him like a wet, filthy second skin. Some people pack the stuff onto their skin as a beauty regimen. Jim’s pretty sure that doesn’t translate into Vulcan ideals and if he told Spock about it, Spock’s eyebrow would rise too high to track. ‘I’m not so sure about that, Spock. Tell me if you’re still feeling the same way after you’ve been finding mud for weeks in places you didn’t know you had. Crevices.’

Spock gives Jim a bemused look. At least, it’s on its way to being bemused. There’s a spark of curiosity in those dark eyes.

Jim’s never given enough thought to all the shades of brown in the world. There’s mud on one end of the spectrum, but there’s Spock’s eyes at another, Amanda’s scarves, the dark rocks set in the decorative Vulcan sand gardens.

That weird feeling in his stomach had better be mudsickness, not homesickness. He doesn’t need more places to miss.

‘I find it unlikely that there are any areas of my body with which I am not familiar,’ Spock says. ‘In addition, it would be simple enough to calculate the odds of where mud is likeliest to collect and thereby avoid missing its presence in the first place.’

‘Maybe I’ll just have to bring you into the sonic shower with me, then,’ Jim says. ‘Since you find it so easy. Once we have a shower, that is. If—when we have a shower again.’

Spock eyes their supplies, talking a mental survey of what they’ve got. There’s mud freckling his pale cheeks, bigger dots like an Alpha Quadrant constellation under his left eye. Jim could reach out and touch it, threaten to wipe it away, if he wouldn’t just leave him dirtier afterward.

They keep ending up in one another’s laps. Life’s funny that way.

‘It would not be a sensible use of resources to construct a cleansing apparatus,’ Spock says finally.

That’s the conclusion he’s come to. Like he thought Jim was asking him to build him his very own jungle shower.

‘So what you’re saying is, we’ve got to stay filthy for a while longer.’ Jim scratches the back of his neck, coming away with mud under his nails. ‘For the good of the mission.’

‘I would not term our current predicament as the result of any mission,’ Spock says. ‘However, if it encourages you to think of this as a Federation exercise, then I cannot see the harm in encouraging such a practice.’

‘You think I’m that delicate?’

‘I was under the impression that it was a condition of your human romantic traditions to attend to the comfort of your partner.’

Jim levers himself onto his elbows with a squelch. ‘You’re a pretty good husband, Spock,’ he says.

That’s another shade of brown to consider: the color that shifts and changes beneath the outermost layer, little flecks of colorless warmth that somehow change the hue of Spock’s eyes entirely. Jim reaches out despite himself, with the least dirty part of his hand—the heel of his palm—and brushes the mud constellation off Spock’s skin in gratitude.

Spock doesn’t even blink.

‘C’mon, that shouldn’t surprise you.’ Jim hates to do it, but he pulls himself free of Spock’s weight, limp arms protesting as he grabs an armful of salvage. It’s now or never, and there’s no way he’s going down this soon. ‘You studied hard enough, right? Don’t try to tell me you were unprepared.’

Spock rises, showing no signs of tiring. It’s infuriating, but it lights a spark under Jim’s ass all the same—giving him a challenge to live up to, an impossible standard to throw himself against. So what if he keeps falling short? He’s used to that, a little piece of home he can take with him until he manages, finally, to prove it wrong. ‘There are numerous methods of study required for a thorough topical mastery. Having prepared myself to the best of my ability, there remained variables even I had to admit would be unpredictable.’

‘Yeah, that’s me. Unpredictable. Although a better way of putting it is spontaneous. On Earth, people tend to like that kind of thing.’ Jim glances over his shoulder to find Spock’s eyes fixed ahead instead of a stolen look. He almost misses a step. ‘They even ask for it in a partner.’

‘Fascinating,’ Spock says.

‘You’re not all about spontaneity, huh, Spock?’

‘If you are attempting to interpret the meaning of my words as insulting to you in some way,’ Spock replies, placing his load of equipment on dry ground beneath the tarp at last, ‘then I will not be able to comply with your wishes and interpret those qualities which are fundamental to your personality as somehow undesirable.’

Jim groans, pretending it’s equal parts frustration and weariness when inside, the weariness might be winning out. He flexes his hands, noticing the scrape on his knuckles all over again, shaking out the sting. ‘You’re a good husband,’ he amends, ‘but you’re not so great when it comes to paying somebody a compliment.’

Spock’s already begun to sort the rescued items into sections by functionality while Jim stands behind him, admiring the way he works about as much as he admires the shape of Spock’s shoulders and the dark fall of his hair over the pale nape of his neck. Jim’s neck is muddy. So is the not-so-dark fall of his hair. And Spock’s got their proteins separate from their weapons separate from communications material and power sources.

Jim has to ask himself if the real shame in this scenario is Spock never making it to Starfleet, not him.

‘Like what you think of my body,’ Jim adds, searching for any physical reaction. ‘Or my eyes. Or my hands or... Well, my spontaneity’s out of the question, but you get the idea.’

‘Shall I speak to the juiciness of your posterior?’ Spock asks.

Jim chokes on nothing. ‘Oh my God. You really don’t forget anything.’

‘The message in question was a particularly memorable one,’ Spock says. ‘I had never been addressed in such a manner previous to our correspondence.’

‘Well, I would hope not,’ Jim says. ‘Otherwise I’d have some Vulcan butt to kick.’

‘You are at least consistent in your fixation on the humanoid posterior,’ Spock replies. ‘Is it necessary for me to inform you that your jealousy, while metaphorical in nature, is nonetheless misplaced?’

‘It never hurts to say it again,’ Jim points out.

‘Of course.’ Spock lifts a phaser to inspect it. There’s mud in the barrel—Jim can see it plugging up all kinds of necessary conduits. ‘Your appreciation for a fact repeated has not gone unnoticed.’

When he lifts his eyes to Jim, his expression contracts sharply, mouth quirking as if taking him into consideration for the first time. He keeps the phaser pointed to the ground, a detail Jim’s immeasurably grateful for. Right now it’s easy to imagine them both as Federation-approved members of Starfleet, Spock in deep blues that wouldn’t bring out his eyes and Jim in that yellow uniform that doesn’t do anyone any favors.

The uniforms don’t leave much to the imagination. It’d make him look chunky. Vulcan clothes, with their soft folds, are a lot more forgiving.

Hell to get mud out of them, though.

‘Perhaps you would benefit from a trip to the river.’

Jim looks down at his chest. He’s still bare from the waist down, coated in brown, wet earth like it’s body paint. ‘I’m more mud than man, huh?’

‘That is not what I said.’ Spock tilts his head, eyes flicking over Jim’s torso in a look that mimics Jim’s earlier examination. It’s kind of hot, even if Spock’s probably just checking Jim out to gauge how much hosing down it’s going to take to get him all sweet-smelling again. ‘We will require fresh water. You may gauge, at the same time as bathing, whether the water from the nearby river is safe to drink, or whether it will require purification.’

He searches in a pile of scientific equipment Jim didn’t bother to classify yet, coming up with an old-fashioned tricorder, along with other Starfleet-issue medical supplies Jim hasn’t seen employed in years. He has a basic understanding of what molecular structures to look for—strains of bacteria that’d flay them from the insides out, for example—studying over Bones’ shoulder when avoiding some duty of state or even basic familial responsibilities. Spock’s right that they’re gonna need water. Man or Vulcan—neither of them can live on field rations alone.

‘You sure you can trust me with such a vital task?’ Jim asks. He slings the tricorder over one shoulder, packing a couple test vials and other materials into a satchel Spock loads him down with. ‘I do have my head up my ass. Practically.’

That’s kind of what Spock said.

‘I will busy myself with the restructuring of our shelter.’ Spock watches Jim for a beat longer than he needs to. ‘I trust in your abilities, Jim.’

‘Goodbye kiss,’ Jim replies. He taps himself one-fingered on his bottom lip, careful not to get any mud on there and ruin his chances. ‘It’s traditional. Yeah, even if the goodbye is only meant to be a brief one. Humans are sentimental—I mean, you know that already, and I’m gonna do my best not to be in front of other Vulcans to keep from embarrassing you, but right now... Seems like a waste of an opportunity if we didn’t.’

Spock straightens, taking a step forward. Jim’s throat tightens up. Maybe it’s really that simple. Maybe all Jim has to do is say what he wants, what he needs, what he’s looking for, and they can start from an honest place. No games. No caution. A little, healthy embarrassment to keep things from getting too easy—but he’s never thought about telling somebody the truth, not in this context. It’s so vulnerable.

But Spock’s kissing him, so the vulnerability turns into something sexy and Jim leans into Spock’s chest before he remembers not to get Spock dirty. There are other ways to instigate intimacy, like Spock’s tongue making the first move this time, the tip on Jim’s bottom lip—exactly where Jim tapped it as a suggestion. So precise. So weird.

So not surprising that Spock’s learning to be a great kisser.

When Spock steps back, Jim takes a moment to catch his breath by tracing his lip with his own tongue, following the same path Spock took. ‘Toss me that phaser, while you’re at it—the one that’s jammed up with all that mud. I’ll see what I can do about fixing it up for use. We might need it to warm some rocks tonight, after all.’

‘I had imagined,’ Spock says simply, ‘that we would keep one another warm in the fashion you had once suggested.’

‘Oh.’ Jim’s throat threatens to close on the word, sending it out like a squeak. He clears what’s lodged in there, taking a step back, flashing Spock a smile. ‘Oh. Yeah. That too. And I probably don’t need the phaser if I run into any native life forms; I’ll just take ‘em out with my bare hands.’ Jim holds them up, wide palms and short fingers, wiggling them and hoping that’s not lewd so much as it is enticing, even promiscuous.

Spock gives him the phaser, anyway.

‘I could do it with my bare hands,’ Jim adds. ‘Whatever, uh, it might turn out to be.’ He backs his way out from under the tarp, turning just in time to slip his way back down the slope.

Leaving Spock behind sucks, but it’s the promise of getting back to him he’s looking forward to. Once nightfall comes and the air cools the mud into hardening, he might even be able to make it back to their shelter looking like he bathed in the first place.

Jim gauges the angle of the sun over the treetops as he walks, figuring he’s got a good half hour before it dips below the horizon line, and pats the hull of the shuttle on his way past it. The tricorder thumps against his hipbone with every other step. It’s eerily quiet, but once the sound of rushing water becomes audible, the place could be Risa.

Or at least Risa’s muddy, uncultured cousin.

There’s still not a beach to be seen. Not a Risan to be seen, either, which is more the pity given how some of them look. Jim’s not exactly lusting after bathing beauties in sarongs these days but that doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate a nice view every now and then. It’s good for the soul, keeps up morale, and god knows they could use a little of that on this planet.

More morale, less mud. It makes for a catchy slogan.

The river, when he comes to it, isn’t what he expected. It’s fat and tinted green from the reflections of the trees along the water’s edge, winding lazily through the forest floor. About a quarter mile from Jim, it’s frothing white around exposed rocks, picking up speed as it drops a level. It’s not enough for a waterfall but it’d be more than enough to batter Jim up real good if he stumbled over it.

He’s gotten the knack of gauging what can injure him and what won’t, based on Bones’ expostulations.

And Bones would really hate this place.

That’s what Jim’s telling himself to keep from thinking about how much more Bones would hate a Klingon prison camp or wherever he is right now. Somewhere without Jim to keep him positive.

He’s not taking water samples on an unnamed Class M planet, that’s for sure. Jim squints, crouching down in the damp grass to fiddle with the tricorder, taking a sampling vial and preparing to run the necessary tests.

The water’s cool, running clear over his hands and into the miniature beaker. That’s doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t try to poison them, but it’s a start. Jim’s not about to stick more than a hand inside before he’s cleared the river for parasites, both visible and microscopic. The last thing he needs is to dive under headfirst to wash off some dirt and come out covered in sucking Aldebaran mud leeches.

Jim closes his eyes, fitting the beaker into the tricorder to let the scan run. He checks to make sure the lights are all flashing in the correct sequence before letting his eyes slip shut, breathing in the scent of cool damp and wet leaves.

In the distant, something rustles.

‘Spock?’

Jim stands, straightening out of his crouch before his legs start to cramp too badly. The tricorder’s still going.

‘You finish early or did you decide I couldn’t be trusted with our water supply after all?’

There’s no answer. There’s another whisper of something solid against the leaves, but this one comes from across the river. Jim puts his hand on his phaser before he remembers he hasn’t cleaned it out yet.

Jim’s hands don’t shake. He doesn’t have enough time to register surprise at that, too much of a fight-or-flight kind of adrenaline to register pleasure, but he takes notice of it. His hands are steady on the phaser, movements slow and deliberate, nothing too quick to draw excess attention. No sudden movements. He just needs to get some of the mud out of the system and he has to do it slowly.

The tricorder scan beeps its conclusions. Jim glances down briefly, while scraping cool, wet mud out of a clogged groove, to note that the water’s not poisonous, and there are no flesh-eating bacteria to be found. He nudges the tricorder farther from the river’s edge, water sparkling beneath the slowly setting sun.

The bushes on the far bank on the river shift and shiver, more centrally located than if they were stirred by a simple, lazy breeze. He thinks he sees a hint of green—or it could be some of the sweat mixed with mud getting in his eyes, a trick of the light playing over the jeweled leaves.

How much mud could there possibly be in one simple phaser? Jim claws gobs of it loose from around the phaser settings, finally managing to pry it toward stun.

For all he knows, there could be a fluffy bunny or a delicious bird or even a simple, non-poisonous, adorable frog hopping from bush-branch to bush-branch over there. It’s not necessary to expect the worst—but it is a part of the Starfleet training he happens to know by heart to anticipate it and be prepared for it.

Jim takes a deep breath.

The phaser’s system is still jammed.

He turns it over against his palm, searching for something he must’ve missed. It could be internal damage—which would require taking the weapon apart completely, and that might not be the wisest move. Still, what other option does he have?

Jim finds the catch, breaking the phaser apart into its main components, glancing up now and then to track the rustling movement on the other side of the river’s bank.

Fluffy bunny. Come on, fluffy bunny.

In his peripheral vision, Jim spots another streak of incongruous green, standing out between the bluer tones of the vegetation, half shadow and half too-quick to focus on. That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the fluffy bunny prayer.

Jim’s still hoping for the fluffy bunny.

Sweat drips down the side of his face, cold and clammy. He feels it trickle along his throat as he finds a muddy plug stuck to the interior of the phaser barrel, breaking it loose in two smaller chunks. A slight breeze does register on his skin, just enough to cool the heat of urgency, as he begins to reassemble the phaser, just like Gary taught him to years ago.

He’s doing this.

He can do this.

The phaser’s in two pieces instead of approximately seventeen when Jim raises his eyes to the far bank, just in time to connect a particular sight to the sound of cracking branches and tearing leaves: a single, reptilian hand slicing through the underbrush, followed by what has to be the galaxy’s largest lizard bursting loose as quickly as a phaser beam.

To his credit, Jim doesn’t drop the two pieces of the phaser. He’s clutching them tight, one in each hand, at the moment of impact, the lizard surging against his chest, water flying everywhere, Jim’s ribs definitely cracking.

Jim tries to remember whether any of the Starfleet simulation modules had a run where you have to put together a phaser while being thrown around by giant, man-eating death lizards. Probably not. The thing’s only in two pieces—he just has to slam tab B into slot A—but Jim can barely suck air into his lungs. He’s half-underwater, struggling to get to his feet when the lizard barrels into him again from the side, knocking Jim onto his back. Pain sparks in his spine and between his ribs, where he lands against the rocks at the bottom of the river. It’s shallower than he thought. Also, not poisonous.

He keeps the phaser above water.

Good, this is—good. He’s surveying the landscape, just like he told Spock he would. He’s learned the depth of the water; the contents are processed somewhere in the tricorder he dropped on the bank. He’s discovered a brand new, aggressive species currently splashing toward him. He’s practically a science officer.

It’s tough struggling to his feet with the separate parts of the phaser still in his hands, but he manages, slamming his elbows to the wet rocks and hauling himself up by his forearms. The lizard’s tail swipes through the surface of the river. Jim can’t gauge it accurately when it’s on all fours, but it looks almost seven feet long—tail not included. Its scales are bright green with a stripe of purple down its back. That’s as much as Jim manages to gather for his own edification before he throws himself to one side, mindful of the drop-off to his back.

The terrain’s too rocky for him to manage a complete roll. The nearest cluster of slick stones catch his shoulder instead, socket jolting. It’s a sprain at worst, not pulled all the way out of place. It doesn’t hang when he stands, which Bones always says is a blessed sign.

The lizard pounces on the spot where Jim was standing bare moments ago.

‘Hey.’ Jim coughs, wiping mud and water from his face. He struggles to put the phaser together, waiting for the telltale click. If the circuitry’s gotten too damp it won’t fire anyway, but there’s only one way to find out. Starfleet officers aren’t supposed to shoot first and ask questions later.

Jim’s no officer, but he doesn’t know what princes do in these situations. Call for a bodyguard, probably.

‘Hey there, boy.’ The lizard lifts its head from the river, water sloughing off its scales. ‘You... I probably smell like food to you, huh? You guys eat mud?’

There’s a rustling in the trees now, through the thick shrubbery that’s growing near the drop-off. 

Jim has two options as to what that noise heralds, both of them equally unpleasant.

One: that the lizard has friends nearby, allies, reinforcements, hungry pals looking for their share mud-flavored meat, converging on his location to outnumber him and tear him to tender, bite-sized pieces. It’ll serve them right when they get an irresistible craving for chicken parm after they suck all that flavor out of his cracked bones.

The second option might be worse: that Spock’s too-keen sense of hearing and his overly-logical devotion to duty mean he’s on his way to Jim’s aid, and this lizard is huge, and Jim has to do something before Spock has a chance of joining him and getting hurt too.

For all he’s tried to explain to Spock that marriage is a partnership, about trusting each other to look after each other, about standing together against whatever comes their way—the idea of letting anyone else, especially Spock, face this animal down is worse than whatever Jim imagines its teeth will feel like on his flesh, how much strength it has to have behind its snarling jaws. There’s not enough time to measure that impulse or explain those instincts, much less determine if their motivation is noble or selfish. It’s self-sacrificing, that’s for sure.

‘Hey! Hey, I’m waiting!’ Jim waves his arms over his head, using the extra motion to draw the lizard’s attention away from the new source of noise and try to piece the phaser together again at the same time. The mechanism refuses to catch; Jim doesn’t think his hands are shaking but they’ve gotta be. He knows he took the phaser apart the right way.

The lizard turns, facing him down from little more than ten feet away. Jim squints, locking eyes with it, drawing himself up to his full height—and refusing to admit phaser defeat. The next time he tries could mean success—or the time after that; the time after that. His fingers are numb; he wishes his back and shoulder were, too.

This is gonna make one hell of a story for later. Jim has to keep telling himself that, anything to steady him where he stands. The lizard’s tail flicks from right to left and a long, black tongue snakes out between its teeth, licking its lizard lips at the promise of its next meal. Jim can see its muscles bunching, tensing, building up for a sudden, swift pounce.

Shows what Gary knew about the adventures Jim had in store for him.

Jim grins recklessly, finding the steadiness he was searching for.

‘Yeah,’ he says, still fumbling with the two halves of the weapon he could really use right about now, ‘that’s right. Look how delicious and meaty I am. I’ve been in training. You’re gonna love it.’

There’s too much mud, too much water. His fingers slip on the metal and he nearly drops both pieces. It’s all the distraction that the lizard needs to take advantage of; Jim sees the shadow rising with barely enough time for his breath to catch before the lizard’s on top of him, claws sinking into his shoulders as it drags him down.

But despite the pain—and the fear; there’s plenty of that, colder and far deeper than the river water runs, almost peacefully blinding—Jim still hears the telltale snap of metal slotting perfectly into metal.

The phaser’s whole again.

Jim fires.

The lizard stiffens, but it’s too big to be fully stunned. It shakes its head like a confused puppy, blinking unfocused eyes. Jim fires again, maybe on purpose, maybe because his finger’s spasming and he’s desperate. He’ll never really know.

The lizard shudders, stumbling over its own numbed front and doing a powerful somersault that sends it crashing straight into Jim again

Yeah. He probably should’ve thought that one through.

Spock would’ve seen it coming. Jim’s physics always suffers when it comes to calculating the exact forward momentum of an opponent.

They both go over the lip of the river; it’s a short drop, like Jim thought, though the impact’s hell with the unconscious body of a giant reptile on top of him. They land with a splash, the water closing over Jim’s head before he can brace himself and gasp for air. The collision sends another shooting pain through his cracked ribs and knocks the remaining air from his lungs; for a second, it’s like Jim’s the one who was on the other end of the phaser, lying on his back and staring up at the dappled forest canopy.

It’s almost peaceful.

Or it would be, without the sleeping lizard grunts and the rush of the river in Jim’s ears, not to mention the big, slick rocks digging into Jim’s back and the blood trickling down his cheek.

He thinks that’s blood. Could be mud. Or hell, more water.

If there’s another lizard out there, he’s gonna die. For all he knows, this is a hunting technique—let the first guy get stunned, then come eat the prey out from under his unconscious body. Jim’s been the victim of a cunning lizard trap.

He might’ve hit his head on the way down. He should probably look into that if he ever manages to get out of his little predicament, which hinges on if he ever manages to get up again.

Maybe he should’ve called for Spock after all.

The phaser’s still in Jim’s hand. If he could wriggle it out from under the lizard, then he could defend himself against anything else that might be out there. He’s amazed that he got it working in the first place.

That’d be something to brag about. He’d put it in his captain’s log—if he had one.

There’s a thump from the high ground, the creak of something pushing through the branches, whispers of a body against leaves.

‘Is that your lizard buddy?’ Jim squints, squirming under the massive, scaly weight pinning him in place to try and work the phaser free. ‘You think he’s coming to find out what happened to you—maybe finish me off? Get revenge? A free meal?’

It’s impossible to hear anything over the river water splashing all around him. The first lizard didn’t make much of a sound before it jumped him, after all.

‘What you guys really need is some sort of hunting call.’ Water sloshes into his open mouth and he chokes on it, getting it out before he swallows it into his lungs. It’s not the smartest move to keep talking, but that’s what’s keeping Jim in the moment. Remembering who you are isn’t easy when you’re half-drowning under a sleeping lizard.

They should put that in the Starfleet training pamphlets.

‘I don’t know what it’d sound like,’ Jim continues, the leafy greenage high overhead swaying either in the wind or due to Jim’s vision swimming while the rest of him can’t, ‘but I mean, you gotta—gotta give other species a fighting chance, at least. You guys are out here in the middle of nowhere, so I guess you don’t know the rules, but that’s fair. You’re bigger, stronger, you’ve got the claws, and I’ve got—’

The lizard moves.

Jim feels the jolt of adrenaline race through a body that’s too tired out to sustain the impulses beyond a helpless twitching. The lizard’s moving, which means it’s regaining consciousness, and even the sunlight is darkening.

Jim doesn’t even have the energy to brace himself for a new round of impact. He doesn’t want to close his eyes.

The shadow above him lifts. The weight off Jim’s chest feels so damn good in comparison to broken and bruised ribs being crushed he could almost cry. He wheezes instead, lungs shouting for more air. And still, the lizard doesn’t attack.

In place of a redoubled effort, there’s a splash downriver; Jim registers it, followed by speckles of river foam on the side of his face, beading on his lashes. He squints. Maybe he stunned the brains out of the lizard or it decided it was beat and ran away, which seems totally implausible, but hope’s a tenacious thing.

Or—and this becomes apparent when a new shadow overhead coheres into a familiar shape—it’s because the lizard never regained consciousness at all and Spock, with his super Vulcan strength, bodily lifted it off Jim and possibly tossed it to the side.

‘Damn,’ Jim says. His voice cracks. He clears his throat. ‘I mean, hey. Tell me you saw at least some of the action. Water’s not poisonous, by the way.’ To prove the point, Jim spits out a mouthful and winces as a split in his lip opens further. ‘Giant lizards. Who knew?’

Spock accepts the barrage of idle chatter without comment—or expression—kneeling at Jim’s side in the water. Jim focuses everything on his face and the color of his eyes, the new shadows buried beneath the familiar ones, Jim squinting up into his face as Spock touches the side of Jim’s jaw.

‘You should see the other guy,’ Jim adds. ‘...the other lizard. I fixed the phaser. What’re you doing, Spock? I feel tingly.’

‘I am attempting to alleviate some of the pain,’ Spock replies simply, ‘so that I may transport you without demanding you endure excess discomfort.’ He pauses, briefly, and Jim has time to locate the source of the tingly feeling. Not a hypo, but Spock’s fingertips. There’s something soothing behind his touch that washes over Jim like the opposite of an icy cold river. ‘Had we initiated our bond earlier, this would not have happened.’

‘Uh-uh. No way. I was protecting the shelter. Defending my husband. This is gonna look so good for Vulcan-Human relations.’

‘You are delirious.’

Spock bends lower, settling his hands on either side of Jim’s chest to lift him from under his arms. He hoists him onto his feet easier than he hoisted the lizard—which wasn’t a le matya, but Spock’s got some experience dealing with venomous reptiles from his home world.

Jim hopes that thing wasn’t poisonous. It didn’t bite him, but you never know. He could’ve gotten scratched under the surface of the water where his skin’s already numb from the cold.

‘Me?’ Jim asks. ‘Why—just because I did something politically sound for once?’

‘Because you believe that your actions have anything to do with the political arena.’

Spock lets Jim lean into him. It’s not a decision so much as a controlled slump that never quite coalesces into a faint. He doesn’t feel faint. It’s just the difference between lying down and standing is a shift in equilibrium he’s not prepared for, blood swooping cross-wise through his body where it started to pool on one side. He still can’t tell where he’s bleeding and what’s rivulets of water running over his face and down his neck.

He’s hoping most of that is from the river. Spock would’ve said something if Jim was hemorrhaging all over the forest floor. He sways and grabs Spock’s shoulder. Meanwhile, his husband’s still got a tight grip on his chest, keeping him steady while Jim does his best impression of a stunned reptile.

‘I’m very ticklish,’ Jim says. ‘Did you know that?’

‘You had not mentioned it in our correspondence.’ Spock shifts his hold on Jim anyway, settling one of Jim’s floppy arms around his steady, stiff shoulders. ‘Nor did it come up as a result of our conversations on Vulcan.’

‘That’s because it’s the kind of thing you’re supposed find out on your own,’ Jim says. ‘Tactile, hands-on observation.’

‘I will take your word for it,’ Spock replies.

Jim’s legs are clumsy underneath him, knees wobbling like a baby sehlat’s. The pain in his ribs comes back when he starts to move, redoubling as he sucks in a broken breath of air. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. If the atmosphere’s finally working in his favor, then the fauna’s actively trying to murder him.

Jim’s entire torso feels like one big bruise, feet slipping and squelching in the mud as Spock guides him out of the river and onto the bank, moving them—painfully slowly and just plain painfully—to higher ground.

‘Wait—’ Jim tugs at Spock’s shirt, hauling him to a sudden stop. ‘The tricorder… I dropped it. We’d better make sure I haven’t contaminated our water supply.’

‘I will retrieve the tricorder.’ Spock braces Jim against a large rock and Jim watches him survey the surrounding area, noting the moment he pinpoints the tricorder’s location. He does as he says, looping its strap over one shoulder so the tricorder itself rests on the opposite hip. After briefly conferring with the information it presents, he returns to Jim’s side.

‘You’re good at this, too,’ Jim tells him. Because apparently despite knowing how unlikely it is he’ll receive reciprocal complimentary offerings, he’s still determined to give Spock all the credit his Vulcan upbringing never did. Eventually it’ll have to wear him down. Nobody dislikes being told they’re great, not even Vulcans. Not when it’s more than impersonal flattery. ‘You could’ve been a science officer in Starfleet, you know. First Vulcan to join up. They don’t know what they’re missing.’

Spock touches Jim’s feverishly warm cheek with his cool fingertips. It’s a relief; Jim leans into it, then into Spock’s chest.

‘If I were to carry you the rest of the way to shelter after a quick scan of our surroundings to ascertain whether or not there are any other reptiles present, would it in some way impact negatively upon your sense of self-pride?’ Spock asks.

Jim’s train of thought struggles to keep up with what Spock’s trying to say. ‘Nah,’ he says finally. ‘My pride’s solid as a rock—and I should know. That lizard thing taught me just how solid some rocks can be. If you wanna carry me over the threshold of our magical jungle tent, go right ahead.’

He tries to grin. Spock’s lack of any reciprocal expression could mean nothing, or it could mean Jim’s abysmal failure.

What was it Bones once told him?

It looks worse when you smile.

Jim misses him, briefly but acutely, before he shoves those unproductive thoughts down and distracts himself with Spock instead: the play of hard and soft in his profile as he scans for other nearby hostiles; the sun finally disappearing overhead; the darkness that turns his face into a canvas of shadows, enough to make Jim’s heart ache more than his fractured bones and countless bruises.

‘Spock,’ Jim says. He doesn’t recognize the sound of voice when he says it, hoarse and deep. It’s enough to make Spock look up, swift, momentarily rife with concern, before the emotion passes like an illusion. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to— I just wanted to say your name. That’s all. I’m fine. I mean, I’m not worse.’ Jim swallows. Vulcans aren’t the only ones who know how to choke down a feeling and repress the hell out of it. ‘Nah, I’m fine.’

‘There are no life form readings within an appropriately safe radius,’ Spock replies. ‘I will now commence your transportation.’

Jim helps in the small, mostly useless ways he can, wrapping his arms around Spock’s shoulders and hiding a wince as Spock jostles him into a lift. He’s strong all right, and there’s something sexy about it—something Jim can appreciate in an out-of-body way, at the very least.

‘If I’m too heavy, you can blame Bones.’ Jim tucks his words and his mouth and his face against Spock’s throat. ‘He’s the one who put me on that diet.’

‘You are clearly no heavier than the hostile reptile, Jim.’

‘Yeah, hey—you picked that thing up too like it didn’t weigh a thing. That’s impressive. That’s hot.’

‘The removal of an unknown and dangerous life form was not an inherently attractive act.’

‘Says who? Logic, right? Pfft.’ Jim hopes that tickles Spock’s skin, just a little.

‘If you are attempting to distract me, may I point out the illogic in attempting to distract me while I am currently bearing the responsibility for your trajectory as well as my own.’

‘Hey, it’s not my fault you’re having trouble focusing,’ Jim says, in spite of the part where that’s exactly what Spock said. ‘I’m just trying to be entertaining.’

‘There is no need to offer diversion.’ Spock readjusts his grip, stepping over the fallen trunk of some long-dead tree. It’s a little embarrassing to feel like a training doll in Spock’s arms, but it’d be even worse to stumble and bring himself down based on nothing but his own stupid pride. ‘I do not require stimulation beyond the task at hand.’

‘Oh yeah?’ Jim wiggles his eyebrows, ign