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Not Exactly Will and Kate, But Baby We've Got Stars

Chapter Text

Jim grew up knowing, in a vague sense, that earth was ruled by alien overlords. They covered it in school about six thousand times, how an emissary from Vulcan had shown up 100 years ago, informed the rulers of the earth that they belonged to the Vulcan Empire now, and went on their merry way. And aside from the odd alien visitor, or the routine check in from the Vulcan Imperial Fleet, life continued on as if they hadn't been conquered at all.

 

Taurus IV changed all that. Jim had been one of the first found by the 'Fleet shaking and hungry enough he passed out pretty much immediately after. But he saw the look on their faces; while as a child they had looked blank, now he recognized the horror in their expressions; what happened on Taurus IV was unthinkable to them.

 

So things changed. Within a couple years, both united earths ruling council and military had been disbanded, replaced by Vulcan representatives. There were riots in the streets, but they were quickly crushed by non-violent, methodical suppression techniques; Jim missed the whole thing, him being in a truly impressive amount of Vulcan-led therapy.

 

While in therapy, one of his therapists gave him tests with results that had made the Vulcan raise her eyebrow; practically a shout of surprise from a Vulcan. She had explained with numbers like these, Jim could get in the Vulcan military, even career track. So Jim did what Jim always did; he set his eye on the prize and fucking went for it.

 

By 16 he was in military training, unheard of for even a Vulcan (he may have fudged his age a little bit; whatever, it got him out in the black faster). By 23, he was first ever human commander, first officer for the V.I.E.S. Kaiidth.

 

And then his life got complicated.

 

------

 

The cloaked Klingon Warbirds take them by surprise, hitting them with their shield down and taking out a huge portion of the aft compartments, as well as sending debris through the captain and science officer. As the two were hustled off the bridge, some civilians came on, making Jim grimace. He really didn't need civilians right now, except...

 

"Who's qualified to take the science console?" he asked, looking at the people on the bridge. As first officer, he knew it was his job to take over; even if it was unheard of for a human to captain a Vulcan vessel, desperate times called for desperate measures, and the Vulcan's could just logic that out for themselves after this was all over.

 

"I am... Captain Kirk." said one of the civilians, stepping forward. Others looked at him, murmuring. Jim took a quick inventory of the Vulcan; standard bowl cut and blank face of a follower of Surak, diplomats' clothes; not what he'd choose for a science officer, but as the only one with guts enough to do it he'd have to do; Jim could always replace him if he proved to be lacking. Then their eyes met. Jim's breath caught; the man was surely something special. Jim, uncomfortable, looked away.

 

"Alright, you're up then. What's your name?" Jim asked, and everyone except the science officer stared at him for a moment like he'd lost his mind, which only made him scowl. So he was too busy riding starships to keep up with the current celebrities and minor royalty. Big deal.

 

"We do have an emergency on our hands, so the faster the better here." he prompted, agitated.

 

"Spock. My name is Spock." the Vulcan, Spock, said, and Jim nodded. The name sounded familiar, but Jim didn't have time to play who's who with himself.

 

"Alright Mr. Spock. To your station." Once Spock had taken his place, Jim surveyed the rest. "The same for the rest of you, to your stations. All non essential personnel clear the bridge."

 

Jim walks around, hesitates, and then sits firmly in the captains' chair, gripping the arms of the chair. Fuck. This was not supposed to be how this mission was going to go. It was a milk run, transporting civilians from one planet to another. Just goes to show you that anywhere in the universe you have to stay on your toes. "Alright. S'tvan, Spock, you work on beating out their jammers to send a distress signal; we know from recent communications that the T'Lara is only a few hours from here and the T'Kehr isn't much further out than that."

 

"Captain, the odds of us being able to remotely deactivate a device of alien origin is-" S'tvan began but Jim held up a hand to silence him.

 

"Make it happen, Mr. S'tvan, or find me someone who can."

 

"But-"

 

"I gave you an order Mr. S'tvan. Maybe you can try piggybacking the jamming signal-" Jim began, and was surprised when Spock finished "-and use it to boost the transmission. Intriguing solution, captain."  Jim nodded.

 

"Exactly Mr. Spock. Can you do it?"

 

"You will know within the hour." Spock said calmly, and the two Vulcans went to it, S'tvan clearly deferring to Spock even though he was younger, and a civilian. Weird, but not Jim's problem right now.

 

Jim turned back to the rest of the crew. "Sasak, Varen, we're going to need some fancy footwork on your part; we're going to focus on evasion to keep stress off shields. Sreil, stand by with phasers and torpedoes, on my command; we'll have to conserve our supply and energy to make it last but we can't give the impression that we need to."

 

His mind was whirring, running through ideas faster than he could focus on them; but one latched on in his mind. He hit the button for the comm.

 

"Engineering. I need some of you to figure out if you can rig up a makeshift bomb or two, others working on maintaining shields, even if you have to reroute auxiliary engines. Finally, I want a group of you working on either transporting things within an enemy shield or taking down that shield. We're going to try to take these guys down from the inside out. Kirk out."

 

-----

 

Eight hours into the firefight, they're halfway though their torpedoes and Jim is being yelled at by his science officer.

 

"Captain, this is highly illogical. The odds of success are-"

 

"Mr. Spock." Jim cut him off exasperatedly, hitting buttons on the transport console around the technician who was moving too damn slowly, "Adjust your definition of success. I can get into at least one of those Warbirds and detonate a bomb, almost guaranteed, which will give the escape pods a fighting chance if all else fails; yes the odds of me finding the terminal to drop the shield so I can be picked up is a little less likely-"

 

"We will not have an exact lock, and the safety protocols have been disabled to allow the trip. You could be transported inside a wall or a floor within the ship; we do not have any idea how it is laid out, nor will we be able to tell until it is far too late for you. The ship could shift a fraction of a mile and you could be beamed into the void of space. then you must find engineering, which we have no idea where it would be, plant the device, then if by some cosmic interference of a religious figure you manage all that, then you may begin to worry about the shielding and getting out alive." said Spock, tugging down on the edge of the science uniform he had switched his diplomats robe out for, looking pissy.

 

"It'll work, Spock. Trust me." Jim said, flippantly, moving to get on the transporter pad, but was stopped when Spock grabbed his arm; his expression was somehow at once reserved and intense, but stubborn all over.

 

"I'm going with you." the Vulcan said bluntly, and Jim snorted, even as the transporter technician made a strangled sound behind them.

 

"Not a chance. I'm not letting anyone take that risk-" Jim began, but Spock cut him off.

 

"Besides yourself, acting captain of this vessel." Spock snipped. Jim tugged at his arm in an attempt to get out of Spock's grip; no luck, he had the typical Vulcan superman strength. Part of him felt a thrill at that, mind going to other places it could be used, before he dragged it back to the present. Jim barred his teeth in a vicious smile.

 

"Exactly. What is that saying that Vulcans are so fond of? The needs of the many-"

 

"Do not require your sacrifice. Having me as a member of your tactical strike team significantly increases your odds of success, so that no sacrifice need be made on your part."

 

"I'm not missing the part where you are excluding yourself from the not sacrificing bit Spock. I can do this, its okay."

 

"You will not." Spock ground out with such ferocity it made Jim blink, the hand holding onto Jims arm squeezing down almost painfully. He had sounded almost desperate, though at Jim's look Spock took a shaky breath, regaining some composure. "You will not, because you need not. I will accompany you on this mission, and together we will return to this ship. If you transport without me, I will simply order the technician to teleport me after you have gone."

 

Jim stared at this strange, intense Vulcan. "That's mutiny."

 

"The legality is immaterial." Spock said coolly. "I will do it regardless."

 

They stared at each other for a long moment; finally, knowing that they didn't have time to waste, Jim nodded. "You better not make me regret this."

 

"I will endeavor to perform admirably." said Spock primly, finally letting go of Jim's arm and moving to stand on a transporter pad. Jim followed him. Jim had to fight back a poorly timed smile. He liked that this guy fought with him, liked him in general from the time they had spent on the bridge; maybe when this was all over, Jim could call him up and see about getting a (non-alcoholic, in Spock's case) drink, and maybe something more could come of that. But first things first.

 

"Energize." Jim ordered, and after what seemed like an undo amount of time of hesitation, the technician did as ordered.

 

-----

 

When the T'Lara arrives 15 hours after they were first set on, it's to the Kaiidth shooting down the last of the Klingon Warbirds. Jim, who is back on the bridge with his arm in a sling, is equal parts pissed and relieved to see them; pissed over their timing, and glad that they might have someone to take nonessential personnel. They'd be lucky if they could manage more than .8 warp, and it will take almost literally forever to get back at that speed.

 

The T'Lara hails them, and Jim answers.

 

"Howdy T'Lara. Sad you missed all the fun?" he asked, putting on his best shit eating grin. The Vulcans around him pointedly did not groan at his terrible manners and blatant human emotionalism, but Jim knew it was a severe test of their Vulcan discipline.

 

"Kaiidth. I wish to speak to your captain." the person across the transmission stated, skipping the standard greeting as well. Jim straightened his back, putting on his 'boss ass bitch' face.

 

"Acting Captain James T. Kirk, sir. How can I help you?"

 

The Vulcan on the other end of the transmission stared at him, expression typically Vulcan-blank, but Jim had learned to read between the lines enough to recognized pissed when he saw it.

 

"That is unimportant. What is the status of the prince?"

 

That made Jim blink. "The prince? I-"

 

"I am here." Jim turned, and there was... Spock. Spock, getting up from his station and walking over to stand just in front and to the side of the captains chair, hands clasped behind his back. Jim struggled not to gape at him. He schooled his expression, turning back to the screen as Spock continued, holding up the Ta'al. "Dif-tor heh smusma."

 

"Sochya eh dif, your highness. Are you well?" the Vulcan captain asked, and Jim couldn't help but take a mental inventory of Spock. Ruffled hair, soot high on one cheek, bloodied lip, ripped science officer uniform. He certainly didn't look well.

 

"I am more than adequate considering the circumstances." Spock replied. "The crew have not all faired the same. Captain Kirk is capable of informing you of the details."

 

The two Vulcans looked at Jim, who coughed, composing himself. It was times like this he wished he had the Vulcan poker face mastered. "We had nine casualties, primarily from initial contact and the destabilization of sections K2-12 and S3-8. We also have 23 injuries, not counting my own, none currently life threatening. Our systems are compromised enough that I would like to request all non-essential personnel be moved to your ship or the T'Kehr, which I know is nearby. If you could go ahead of us, drop off our passengers and get supplies to repair our warp core and then come back, that would help us a lot. Our transporters are currently damaged after an... Incident with an explosion on the other end of a teleport, but between your shuttles and ours we should be able to get everyone over in less than a day."

 

"That is indeed logical." the Vulcan captain said; Jim didn't miss the unspoken surprising for a human. "The prince will, of course, be on the first shuttle over."

 

From where Spock was standing, Jim could see his hands tighten in the hold they had on each other. Jim's gut screamed not to let Spock off the ship, not yet. Jim always listened to his gut.

 

"Actually, I need him a little longer. He's currently acting science officer, and I'll need to find a replacement before I can give him up."

 

"This is most irregular." the Vulcan captain said, lips twitching downward for a second. Vulcan for 'about to rip Jim's head off' levels of mad. Jim shrugged.

 

"And yet, that is how it's got to be. I'll be sure he's on the shuttles, but it might be one of the last. Our comm. personnel can discuss coordinating the shuttles. Kirk out." he said, and signaled for the connection to be cut; he's pretty sure S'Tvan obeys mostly out of pure shock.

 

Jim clapped his hands, standing up, stretching. he's not suffering any delusions of grandeur here; he knows that between withholding Spock, allowing Spock to go on a suicide run and, frankly, being an upstart human, his odds of making it out of here with anything less than a demotion to ensign was off the table; if he was really unlucky, which he generally was, he'd be dishonorably discharged for the various policies he'd ignored while in charge. Still, he wasn't going to let anyone see him sweat.

 

 "Well, that was fun." he said, cheerfully, patting Spock on the back just because at this point, there was no stopping him. "I'm going to go check on sickbay, then engineering. Varen, make an announcement about the shuttles, focusing first on evacuating sickbay, then civilian quarters, then non-essential military. Spock- your highness - you have the Conn."

 

And with that, he leaves the bridge, possibly for the last time in his life. His last look at it was Spock staring at him, something unreadable on his face.

 

-----

 

It takes a little under a month to get the repairs done and the ship back to Vulcan, and Jim tries to keep busy. He volunteers in engineering, does runs when the intercom is taken down by accident, and generally does his best not to think about the imminent doom of seven years of work. Ever since getting out of therapy, 16 and lying blatantly on his enlistment form, the Vulcan Imperial Fleet had been Jim's life. It had been worth the racism he was met with, it was worth the hard jobs and long hours; he had finally made his way up to first officer, and life had been good.

 

But all good things must come to an end, he guesses.

 

Needless to say, he's pretty glum when he gets planetside, too down to go get drunk with Gary or go looking for a quick lay. There was a big meeting set the week after Jim got there; there was no doubt in Jim's mind what was going to happen there.

 

"Quit your bitching, Jim. Even if they do kick you out, which they're not going to, you're their token human for their diversity quotas-"

 

"Gee thanks Bones, I feel so loved-"

 

"-it's not like you don't have other prospects. You've been approached by a small army of civilians trying to recruit you for after your term is up, looking for some legitimacy to their human ships."

 

"It's not the same, Bones. I love my job. Yeah I catch shit over it all the time, but I love it. Civilians don't get the permits the empire gets to go out in space, and I've been on so many landing parties where we get to learn about new people, new cultures. I love making a difference, protecting people."

 

"You ask me space is just a big void filled with everything that has ever existed that can kill you, usually in slower and more painful ways than we were aware of yet."

 

"Your positivity Bones, it's what makes us friends."

 

"Damnit Jim I'm a doctor not a motivational speaker. Now leave me alone, I have 4 more hours in the ER today and 12 more tomorrow, and if I feel like killing someone on account of you it's gonna affect my ability to keep my oaths."

 

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Bye Bones." Jim said cheerfully, and Bones practically snarls.

 

"Stop calling me bo-" Jim hung up, sighing heavily as he flopped back on the bed in his tiny hotel room. He stared at the ceiling; it was the same reddish brownish tanish color of everything else on Vulcan, built to look like, or actually built from, a rock face jutting out of the side of a mountain near ShiKahr. he considered taking a shower, but he'd had enough of sonic showers from two years on the Kaiidth, wanted to take a break from them for a little while, even if that meant he sat in his own filth for a couple of days.

 

He closed his eyes and lay there, breathing for a moment, just letting his thoughts, his feelings wash over him. He let them slide by; it was his version of meditation, a habit picked up from years around Vulcans as a sort of stop gap from going crazy from all that repression.

 

His mind went to one Vulcan in particular, long fingers, dark eyes, silky dark hair, face that was expressive as hell for a Vulcan (which kind of made sense now; he knew that the prince was half human, which made Spock half human too).

 

Jim groaned, rubbing a hand over his face. He didn't need this. He was on the edge of oblivion regarding his career, and here he was obsessing over some totally out of reach prince. Never mind that when Jim yelled he yelled right back, if in a Vulcan way. Never mind that he refused to let Jim go on those Warbirds alone. Never mind that he was smart, and hot, and-

 

Maybe it was time to call Gary up after all.

 

-----

 

The meeting does not go like Jim thought it was going to go.

 

Starting with the fact that instead of being a tribunal, it's the queen.

 

Jim bows as deeply as he dares to without tipping over. "Your majesty." only, is that the right title for the queen empress of a third of the galaxy? He didn't want to fuck that sort of thing up.

 

"Please, no need for formality. I understand you did us a great service, young man."

 

"Ma'am?" Jim asked hesitantly, and the queen smiled; it was a serene, content smile, and Jim felt relaxation fall over him as surely as if an empath had pushed calm into his very bones. He could understand now why a Vulcan king could fall in love with such a woman. Jim looked away, taking in the rest of the room; large, vaulted ceilings, windows angled to avoid letting in the sand, large meeting table with stiff backed chairs in the center of the room, not much else. Two exits. As he catalogued that, he listened to the queen speak.

 

"Under your command, three Klingon Warbirds were destroyed; a new method of circumventing their shields was discovered; an understanding of their cloaking technology was achieved. And," she added, "You saved my son."

 

"That wasn't all me ma'am, or even mostly me. I had a pretty great team, and without everyone performing their best we would have been doomed. I was mostly in charge of the running around and getting shot at bit." which I allowed your son to join in, and who saved my ass during, he added silently.

 

"That's a very humble, diplomatic answer. I can appreciate that. Now," she continued before Jim could correct her that it wasn't humility at all, "do you know why you are here?"

 

"No, ma'am. I had thought it was to be punished."

 

"Punished? No, quite the contrary. You're being promoted. Are you ready for your mission, Captain Kirk?"

 

Jim stared at her for a lot longer than was polite, before he managed to shut his mouth. He latched onto the important part. "A mission?"

 

The queen smiled again, gesturing for Jim to take a seat; Jim, not sure of what to do, obeyed. He wished he'd had some sort of primer in fleet academy for dealing with royalty; he learned plenty of stuff he didn't use, why couldn't they teach him something that he could?

 

The queen gently pushed a file towards him across the table, which Jim flipped open. And then stared at it.

 

"We have recently finished a civilian starship called the Enterprise, named for our collaboration with earth to make it." the queen said. "It is about to embark on a yearlong mission across the Vulcan territory to visit a number of planets for diplomatic liaisons. We would like you to captain this ship."

 

Jim flipped through the file, not believing his eyes, or his ears. A ship. His very own ship. yes it was only for a year, but no human had ever captained a Vulcan space vessel before for a non-emergency; and this was to be a mixed crew, humans and Vulcans taking about 40% each and then 20% of various other races. It wouldn't be military, so they'd have had to get permission to grab Jim, and the job was just ferrying the diplomats from one planet to another on their goodwill tour, watching their backs and keeping the peace in the meantime. Quiet, but it was a dream come true.

 

Jim closed the folder.

 

"May I ask something you majesty?" he asked. At her nod, he continued, looking down at the folder. "Why me?"

 

"I suppose that is the only question that matters, isn't it? Well, commander Kirk, you were chosen for a variety of very good reasons. You are well respected in the military; you come highly decorated-" both surprisingly so considering you are a human went unsaid "-and have shown tremendous grace under pressure. You are a bridge between humans and Vulcans, as my son is. But that also brings me to the most important part; my son insisted on it."

 

That made Jim's head shoot up, looking at the queen. Her eyes danced with laughter. "You're surprised. That isn't entirely unexpected, my son doesn't show his hand lightly; but he felt, after your time together, you were ideal for the job. No other captain would do; he spoke quite strongly on the subject. I confess, I was curious to see who had made my son act so uncharacteristically. I understand a little better now."

 

Jim wished he understood. Spock had bitched at and fought with and contradicted him every step of the way, even if he was more polite about it than Jim would have been. If Spock had been the captain, Jim's pretty sure Jim would've been marooned on some floating space rock with no chance of survival.

 

He looked down at the folder; the Enterprise. Was he really stupid enough to look this gift horse in the mouth? Or would it be like a Trojan horse where he'd regret not checking later? And what was Spock's place in all of this?

 

He took a deep breath. God, but he wanted this. So he pushed his doubts aside, and gave the queen his best charming smile. "So. Where do I sign up?"

Chapter Text

Jim stood in front of the Fleet Admirals office at attention, waiting for her to call him in. he was early; he was always either late or early, never exactly on time. His instructor in boot camp had called it a human failing, but it had never really bothered Jim before the Enterprise assignment.

 

Now, he felt like he was constantly waiting, constantly too early. Better than being too late.

 

This was it. He had filed all the paperwork in triplicate, done the due diligence, set forth the whole plan for review.  it's part of what sent him to the fleet admiral instead of the original plan to get permission from a vice admiral; he had put forward almost the entire upper crew roster, which included more than a few... controversial choices. Add to that his requests for people in forward positions, and it had been bumped right the hell up faster than you could say live long and prosper.

 

"Come in." Fleet Admiral T'Saen said. She didn't raise her voice. No one on Vulcan ever did, really.

 

Jim walked in, offering the Ta'al and greeting her smoothly. "Dif-tor heh smusma, Fleet Admiral T'Saen."

 

"Sochya eh dif, Commander Kirk." she said. "At ease."

 

Jim went into parade rest; he knew better than to actually be at ease around the admiralty.

 

"You propose a fascinating set of crew members, Commander Kirk. I believe the human term would be 'presumptuous.'" she does not look at the file in front of her, just staring calmly at Jim.

 

"It is a logical set of options. They are a diplomatically varied crew, each with a solid service record. And..." Jim hesitated, and then continued "I know I can trust them."

 

"And an entirely military crew would not have been trustworthy?" T'Saen asks.

 

"It would not be diplomatically sound. From my understanding this was to be a primarily civilian venture; I asked for as many military members as I thought would be acceptable." Jim says, face as blank as possible. It wasn't technically a lie, but neither was it the truth.

 

"Montgomery Scott, Chief engineer. Human."

 

"Valued engineer on the Kaiidith, the one who figured out the equation to get past the Klingon shields."

 

"Hikaru Sulu, 1st shift pilot. Human."

 

"Hero of the battle of Aridal, excellent track record."

 

"Gary Mitchell, 2nd shift navigator. Human."

 

"A brilliant navigator and skilled diplomat."

 

"And one of your close friends. As are the civilians Dr. Leonard McCoy, Chief medical officer, Pavel Andriavich Chekov, 1st shift navigator, Nyota Uhura-"

 

"All with incredible list of achievements and qualifications that make them ideal for their positions. It has not escaped my notice that you are only mentioning my human choices, Fleet Admiral." Jim said a bit of ice slipping into his tone, unbidden. "I also have Gaila, Communications, Orion, Varen, pilot, Vulcan, Devak, weapons, Romulan, Thara, navigation, Deltan, 027b, weapons, android, Susak, first officer and pilot, Vulcan again-"

 

"More than half of which you have slept with, Commander." T'Saen says bluntly. Jim stops, takes a breath. He needed to rein in his indignation, or this would never work.

 

"These are the right people for this mission, regardless of their race or other relation to me, Fleet Admiral." Jim says as he meets T'saens eyes, and it's the truth; he wouldn't risk his possibly only chance at command on useless officers.

 

T'Saen was silent for a moment, assessing.

 

"I have no choice but to agree." she says, and Jim can't help a blink of surprise as the fleet admiral continued. "They are unorthodox choices taken individually, but as a whole they are intriguingly complimentary assets. I may not agree with your captaincy, but your crew is sound."

 

Jim nodded; this was not the first time he had been told that he was not the first choice for the Enterprise captain; Jim has to wonder how much Spock had not-yelled at them to get it done anyway.

 

"Your promotion will be the 39th at 13:00 hours. Make sure you prove us all wrong about you, Captain Kirk."

 

-oooooo-

 

In the week before takeoff, Jim was a bundle of nervous energy. Unable to really sleep, he worked instead. he read through the rest of the crew's files, noting possible secondary jobs for them if part of the chain of command broke down.

 

He memorized the specs of the enterprise, along with all her quirks. The enterprise was designed somewhere between Vulcan normal and Earth normal, which left both sides unhappy. Jim, who was used to Vulcan ships with their higher gravity, lower oxygen content, and higher temperature found the in between environment pretty much perfect when he went up to inspect the ship in orbit. The ship really was a thing of beauty, all graceful curves and sleek lines.

 

He looked into all the people who were supposed to be staying aboard the ship as diplomats, memorizing their faces and trying to get familiar with their customs, trying to gage security risks and possible points of friction between passengers. He was pleased to see the Tellerites pretty damn far from everyone else's quarters; he'd never met a Tellerite without a foul temper.

 

But perhaps what he did most, and most foolishly, was find out more about Spock. Or should he say, Prince S'Chn T'Gai Spock of the house of Surak, duke of ShiKahr, duke of Earth, heir to the Vulcan Galactic Empire. The Vulcan Empire which apparently takes up even more of space than Jim thought it did; while officially they were at a third, they were de facto rulers of most of the Romulan territories, making them in charge of over half the known galaxy. add to that the not quite completed triple PhD from the Vulcan science academy, the extensive public service record, and the 6 years in a row people's choice for most eligible bachelor in the universe all added up to a figure that was larger than life, that somehow did and didn't equate to Jim's memory of the Vulcan with soot on his cheek and a pissy look on his face. God he had looked good.

 

But between all that and Spock being engaged, to a duchess no less, Spock might as well be the moon and Jim trying to get there with only a pogo stick.

 

And Jim had thought for even a second he had a chance.

 

He was a professional, though. He could shove down his attraction and play nice with the diplomats. He'd been a military man for 7 years; before that he had survived Taurus IV. Before that, he managed not to have his mother kill him in his sleep from being hell on wheels. He could do this.

 

This is what he repeated to himself as he made the final checks on the enterprise, helping out in engineering, not at all avoiding being in the transporter room until the very last second, nope, that would be childish. He would have to greet the prince and other diplomats when they came on, but that wasn't for another hour, enough time for him to change and compose himself.

 

He was humming, just about to close the panel on the underside of the console when he heard "What are you doing under there, captain?"

 

Jim whacked his head on the console, wincing. That voice sounded way too familiar after hours of watching videos of royal speeches. He quickly shut the panel, and scooted out from under the console. Sure enough there was the prince, looking down at him curiously.

 

Jim felt his face heat up. Shit. This was not how it was supposed to go, them seeing each other again. they were supposed to meet on equal footing, Jim looking his best, Spock looking his best, both adults in an adult situation; now he was left with the prince looking like something out of a Vulcan illustration of old kings, Jim stripped down to his undershirt, grease all over his hands, hair sticking up in all directions, his comfier black pants on that were just a little too loose.

 

Basically, Jim was pretty sure he looked like shit. Trying to cover up his embarrassment, Jim leaned back on one elbow, putting on his most charming smile.

 

"Your highness. What brings you on board so soon?"

 

"I had hoped-" the prince began, but was cut off by a loud clanging and some swearing.

 

"I better go check that out." Jim said reluctantly. Knowing it was a bad idea, he added, "Walk with me?"

 

"As you wish, Captain." said the prince with an incline of his head, and Jim laughed as he started walking.

 

"I'm pretty sure that's my line, your highness."

 

The walk was brisk, Jim mentally choosing to go with professional rather than deferential as he silently multitasked freaking out over Spock and figuring out who the hell was messing with the ship, and when they reached the source of the noise it was unsurprisingly Scotty.

 

"Scotty, why are you always the center of my problems down here?"

 

"Ach, you know you love me sir." Scotty said flippantly, and Jim rolled his eyes.

 

"Of course Scotty." he could feel Spock stiffening next to him; oops, he had almost forgotten to tone down his emotional human-ness for the Vulcan. Ah, well, not much he could do about it now. "Now, what exactly were you doing? You better not have been tinkering with the warp core again, we're half a day out from launch, we don't have time for you to take the ship apart and put it back together."

 

"Aye, I know that, but the lady's dilithium power couplings were looking a tad sad, I had to take 'em out and buff 'em up... and I perhaps dropped one, on my foot, sir."

 

"Right." Jim huffed out exasperatedly, running a hand through his hair. And shit, now he'll have to take a shower to get the grease out. "Carry on then. We better be flying out on time, Scotty, or I'll-"

 

"Throw me out of the airlock, of course sir." Scotty offered cheerfully.

 

"I was going to say confine you to your rooms for a day so you can't cause any more trouble, but yes, that works too." Jim replied, dryly. Scotty was unrepentant.

 

"Very good sir. Did you get that console back on line?" Scotty asked, and Jim snorted, folding his arms over his chest.

 

"If by that you mean I reversed the circuitry between the SATA and the display console, which a monkey with a wrench could do, then yes, I did."

 

"Thank you Jim boy." Scotty said, a bit condescendingly, but Jim let it slide; if he was any other human, he'd probably get pissed at the insubordination, but Scotty never did it on purpose; if it wasn't a machine, Scotty simply just did not know how to talk nicely to it.

 

"No problem Scotty. Now put my ship back together." Jim felt a little thrill at that. His ship. His very own. He can't believe this is real.

 

"I'd ask you to pinch me, but I suspect I'd end up drooling on the floor." Jim said cheerfully to Spock as they walked away from Scotty, and the prince gave him a look that strongly implied Humans were much closer to Neanderthals in intelligence than he had previously thought.

 

"Indeed." Spock said.

 

And somehow after that Spock kept following Jim, silently and steadfastly, like an incredibly attractive shadow. through his travels, Jim was tackled by Gaila (who he had 'met' before on Rigel V; Uhura gave them both a withering look), told by Gary to go fuck himself or let him do it, got smiled at by the Deltan woman for a remarkably long time, and touched on the shoulder by no less than five Vulcans, most of which Jim knew were Kaiidith survivors, probably showing solidarity in human form. Jim wouldn't have even thought anything of it any of it, if Spock hadn't made a pissy face every single time any of those things happened. One of the Vulcans actually squeaked at the dark look the prince shot her, all but running away down the hall.

 

When all was said and done, Jim was only able to get 15 minutes to get ready, and his hair was damp when he went to greet the diplomats coming aboard, again joined by Spock.

 

As the first group was being beamed up, Jim thought he felt a hand brush his own, but when he looked over, no one was there but Spock. He shook it off as an impossibility; why would the prince of the universe touch him? Vulcan kiss him?

 

Still, his hand tingled all the way through the proceedings.

 

-oooooo-

 

Despite the queens' explanation, Jim hadn't been 100% sure why he was chosen for to captain this ship. After all, there were plenty of civilians who could have done it, and he's positive the Vulcans would have preferred a Vulcan captain.

 

Now, after three ship to ship firefights, six assassination attempts, seven attempted kidnappings both on and off planet, and the incident with a tribble and the replicator, he understood. He wasn't flying a ship, he was running a madhouse.

 

This was his musing as he ducked another phaser blast, rolling from one side of the hallway to the other.

 

"Drop the weapon, Gravinar. You've already proved your point." Jim called from behind his shelter, gesturing to the security personnel that had come up on the other side of the hallway to say what he wanted them to do.

 

The Guard looked at him blankly. Shit. Civilian contractor, no idea of military signs. Perfect.

 

"Death to the empire!" Gravinar yelled, Kis tentacles' suction cups popping furiously as he fired again.

 

How they ever let the prince out of the palace with this much animosity towards him, how the court ever continued without killing each other, how they expected Jim to keep a lid on this crazy, all were a mystery to Jim. A mystery that would have to wait, because the Minav diplomat was getting closer to Spocks Quarters, where the prince was theoretically sleeping, but probably in reality very aware of the firefight going on three doors down.

 

Jim, without a phaser himself, gestured for the guard to toss Jim his. Seeming to get it this time, the guard did as instructed. Jim flipped the thing to heavy stun, stepped slightly out of hiding, and shot; Gravinar dropped.

 

The guard, and the diplomats coming out of their rooms, gave a cheer; Jim ignored them, going to Gravinar and cuffing him. By the time he was done, a few more guards had shown up. He gestured to the Minav.

 

"Take kim to the brig, tell Susak what happened; I'll be up to give a report and contact the Minav embassy." Jim ordered, and the guards nodded, huffing as they took the heavy diplomat away.

 

Jim hesitated, considering going to spock to check on him, but shook his head.

 

He had other things to do.

 

He missed the prince coming to stand in the doorframe, watching him go.

 

-oooooo-

 

it's just about a day later, and he's just finished gently extracting a Tellerite from a Gorn after one implied the others reproductive organs were both small and ill placed, and was surveying the meeting room that was being used as diplomatic ground zero, keeping an eye out for more incidents, when he feels a solid presence to his right.

 

"You are surprisingly adept at navigating political climates, captain." the voice from beside him says, and Jim looks over to find Spock- the prince, damnit, not Spock - standing beside him, eyes sweeping the room like, well, a king surveying his court. "And military ones, if yesterday was any indication."

 

"And you are surprisingly quiet on your feet, your highness." Jim managed, trying to sound casual. just yesterday'? What about the dozen other times he'd saved Spock's ass? The Vulcan inclines his head.

 

"Thank you. It is a trait of my Vulcan heritage. While I know where you aquired your combat skills, I'm afraid I do not know where you learned your diplomatic abilities." the prince says questioningly, turning to look at Jim, look somehow intense yet reserved, a look only the prince seemed to have. It was weird seeing that look on this polite prince rather than the slightly bitchy science officer that he had first met, and that difference put Jim on edge, which in turn made Jim want to babble, and so he found himself doing just that.

 

"I was kind of a nerd, growing up, when I wasn't busy being Satan's spawn; er, causing trouble. Both traits taught me to talk fast to get out of a beating. And after, when I joined The Fleet, it got me on more away teams, let me see more worlds." Jim took a drink to stop himself from talking; why would he share that with the prince?

 

"And has it proved useful between then and now, captaining of the Enterprise?" Spock asked. A flicked look at the prince revealed nothing, but at least he didn't seem judgmental. Still, 'helping me get laid' was probably to wrong thing to say considering Spocks general reaction to such things.

 

"It helped me not get shot so far, and while we were on Vulcan helped me actually get decent deals out of the Ferengi for some supplies Scotty wanted." he decided upon, giving his best winning smile.

 

The prince raised an eyebrow. "Not an easy feat, I am told."

 

"Aw, they're not so bad. Less temperamental than tellerites, and once you accept that they're lying, unrepentantly, all the time, they're actually almost pleasant." Spock released a huff of air in what might be considered a laugh, and one corner of his mouth twitched upward for a millisecond, and combined that was practically rolling on the ground laughing for a Vulcan.

 

"Fascinating. Perhaps you would like to discuss this further? I have heard you are an acceptably able chess player, and I happen to have a 3d chess set that we might use in my quarters." And that, well. If Jim had said it, it would have been a come on. But the Prince's face was blank as ever, not even a hint given as to his true intentions. Before Jim could decide what to do, he noticed someone heading towards them. He spoke quickly, lowly.

 

"That sounds great, your highness, but judging from the look of that Andorian coming towards us I think we'll have to take a rain check; maybe tomorrow, in my quarters?"

 

Prince Spock sighed, barely there, but whether it was because of the Andorian or the delay or Jim's suggestion, Jim wasn't sure.

 

"Very well. Until a later time, captain." Prince Spock nodded at him, and Jim bowed, walking away.  Before he left the room he glanced back at prince Spock, telling himself it was just for a moment, only to make sure the Andorian hadn't wanted a fight. And he'd have to be blind, deaf, and dumb, standing there probably looking like a lovesick idiot, not to think Spock really was a handsome Vulcan, even if he was the very definition of out of Jim's league.

 

Suddenly the prince looked up, his eyes scanning the room as he spoke words Jim couldn't hear, before his eyes rested on Jim. Their eyes held for a long moment, and a hum of something ran through Jim's body. Jim fought to keep his face neutral. On the list of things that would suck, having the crown prince of half the galaxy know about you totally unprofessional crush on him was pretty up there.

 

The prince looked away, and Jim let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. He left the room shakily, unsure of himself. What was all that?

 

He needed Bones. And a drink. And probably to get laid, if possible.

 

-oooooo-

 

Bones mostly laughs at him. Luckily, Bones had a crush of his own, so Jim made fun of him right back.

 

And the Andorian ambassadors assistant smiles at Jim, batting xer eyelashes at him, and Jim isn't fool enough to turn that down, even if he thinks of green tinted skin as he kisses over blue.

 

-oooooo-

 

The next day, after Jim has served his shift on the bridge and had dinner, he hears a knock at the door to his quarters.

 

"Who is it?" he calls, trying to hide his nervousness. His yeoman had already nearly made him jump out of his skin when she had knocked, and she had managed to convey utter contempt at his human emotionalism while not uttering a word.

 

"It is Spock. May I enter?" came the reply.

 

Jim's heart leapt into his throat. He quickly looked around, panicking a little as he did inventory - bed made, clothes in the hamper, desk (mostly) uncluttered by paperwork and PADDs, second chair stolen from the officers lounge - it was as good as it was going to get, really.

 

"Come on in, your highness." he replied.

 

The door slips open, and in came Spock. Jim swallowed. He was dressed more casually than Jim had ever seen him, a gray tunic over a black turtleneck with black pants, box that probably held the chess set under one arm, face impassive.

 

Spock looked around, face showing the Vulcan equivalent of curiosity. He took a breath through his nose as if preparing to say something, but stopped, his whole body shifting to show tension.

 

"Is there something wrong, your highness?" Jim asked.

 

"It is nothing." the prince replied, even though there was clearly something bothering him. "Am I to set the game up on the desk?"

 

"Yeah. Or we can play on the floor, your call." Jim offered.

 

"I think I would prefer the floor." prince Spock said, eying the plastic and honestly uncomfortable looking chair from the lounge like it might bite him.

 

"Alright. Need any help?"

 

"No." prince Spock said flatly, gracefully lowering himself to the floor and opening the box. Jim cautiously slid from his seat to the floor on the other side of the board Spock was currently unfolding the levels of, looking at the prince, reading him.

 

Tightness in his jaw, refusal to look at Jim; anger, and anger directed at Jim. They hadn't even started; how had Jim pissed Spock off already?

 

"Black or white?" the prince said curtly, and Jim shrugged.

 

"Doesn't matter to me." he replied honestly; he remained largely undefeated, and had something like a strategy for both sides. he knew from his 'research' that Spock was good, placing in worldwide Vulcan chess tournaments when he was younger, so he was kind of looking forward to not having to pull his punches.

 

The prince said nothing, setting up white in front of Jim.

 

They made their first handful of moves in oppressive silence, Jim recognizing the pattern of Spock's moves immediately. Rather than go for the expected response, he moved in a different pattern, testing; Spock frowned, but shifted his strategy accordingly, but to another specific, pre-chosen set of moves. Jim hid a smile.

 

They looked neck and neck until the end, the prince starting to look almost proud as he moved his queen and said "check."

 

Jim nodded, this time allowing a smile to peak through as he moved his rook up a level. "Checkmate."

 

The princes eyes widened a fraction, staring, taking a moment to run through the series of moves, and Jim saw the moment he knew he was truly defeated.

 

"I have not lost a game of chess to anyone but myself since I was 6." Spock admitted, turning his gaze on Jim, assessing.

 

Jim did not say, you've never gone against me. It was a close call though. Instead he says, "Again?"

 

Spock nods, his mood seeming to have cleared up after being defeated, now switching to one of quiet determination.

 

They are silent for a while, before the prince broke the quiet.

 

"Do you often have guests over at your quarters?" the prince said, studiously disinterested, suspiciously so, and it was at that moment that Jim put two and two together; Vulcan senses. Last nights 'visitor.' Spock's standoffishness.

 

"Ah." Jim said, trying to keep his expression blank. This wasn't the first time someone had disapproved of his recreational activities. he always got looks coming back from shore leave, not just because as a human he needed things like shore leave, but because he often came back smelling like sex. And why shouldn't he? He needed an outlet, some fun, and he certainly wasn't going to get it with all the animosity he got on board a Vulcan vessel. For reasons he can't even begin to fathom, he had hoped Spock would be different.

 

"Next time we can play in your room, if it bothers you your highness." Jim offers coolly, moving his queen to capture a rook; a little unwise, but if he could use it to bait the prince... regardless, he hoped his words conveyed the message loud and clear. I am human. I like sex. You can accept that, or get lost.

 

"Whichever is most convenient for both parties in the future." says Prince Spock, before adding, "and you... may call me Spock."

 

Jim looked at the prince in surprise for moment, trying to read him; his expression was blank, but his eyes were expressive, if only Jim could figure out what they were expressing. Contriteness? Shyness? None of the above? It would help if Spock would look at him.

 

"Then I guess you should call me Jim." Replied Jim, putting on one of his best grins. Spock nodded, meeting Jim's eyes finally. Jim felt the warmth in his gut he always seemed to get when Spock looked at him.

 

"Very well... Jim."

 

-oooooo-

 

Chess becomes a regular thing, between them, switching between their quarters at random times in between running of the ship. But they find times for other things; a meal together, a walk on the observation deck, a heated debate that leaves Jim grinning like an idiot. People talk, which is a little weird; Vulcan's as a general rule don't gossip, but having a mixed crew must make the whole lot more relaxed.

 

All things considered, things are going pretty well for Jim. There hasn't even been an attempted kidnapping in a month, a new record.

 

Which is probably why the universe throws Brakir II at him. There's an S.O.S. from the planet; apparently there was a massive earthquake at the biggest city on the planet, with terrifying results. They simply didn't have the tech to put their lives together with any speed, and people were dying, and-

 

It took about two seconds for Jim to decide to change course. He knows it will throw off the royal schedule of appearances, will put them back who knows how long. There are probably other ships in the area. But he remembered the Vulcan fleet on Taurus IV, bright like avenging angels in his then addled brain. He couldn't turn away.

 

At top speed, it's about half an hour until they get to Brakir II. Predictably, he gets called to a meeting room by Spock's coordinator, a stiff-even-by-Vulcan-standards woman named Alieth. He calmly leaves Susak with the Conn., and goes down to get read the riot act.

 

He's barely in the door when Alieth greets him with the Ta'al and the words "you must turn us around."

 

Jim sighs.

 

"Listen. This is only logical. Really. If we don't answer when people need help, then we fall into anarchy-" he begins, walking around the conference table as he speaks, but Aileth interrupts him.

 

"There are other ships, I am sure. And even if they are not, there are hundreds of worlds waiting for his highness-" Alieth says, and this time Jim interrupts.

 

"-and what makes them more important than the people who are currently dying?" Jim asked quietly, dangerously. Leaning forward with his hands on the table, staring Alieth down. "Triage is more valuable at this point for sheer number of lives. I would think a follower of Surak-"

 

"Do not speak of Surak's wishes to me, human." Alieth said, eyes flashing. Jim smiled in a way that was 90% baring his teeth.

 

"I will speak of what I wish. I have that right, as a citizen of the empire." Jim said, and Ailith breathed out; a scoff.

 

"Humans can barely be called citizens; recently acquired, illogical, violent; you would never have been made captain had it not been for-"

 

"That is enough, Alieth." Jim jumped; Alieth did the Vulcan equivalent, eyebrow twitching. They both looked over; Jim hadn't heard the door open.

 

"Your highness." Alieth said, holding up the Ta'al. Spock did not.

 

"You will not speak that way to the captain of this ship. You will not talk that way to any member of this ship. Is that clear, Alieth." Spock said, and Jim felt the chill coming from him, voice leaving no room for interpretation.

 

Ailieth broke his gaze. "Yes, sire."

 

"Further, I fully approve of the captains decision to detour to the colony. We must protect all our citizens."

 

"Yes, sire." Ailieth repeated.

 

"You may leave now." Spock said; the Vulcan woman walked briskly out, shoulders set in anger. When she left, the tension seemed to leave Spock; he looked at Jim.

 

"I apologize for what she said." Spock said.

 

"I've heard worse. Kaiidth." Jim shrugged, straightening up from where he was leaning on the table.

 

"People have spoken to my mother in such a fashion, as well. I confess, it has in the past made me act in an... Unvulcan manner." Spock said, looking away from Jim. His ears were blushing green. It was kind of adorable.

 

"You defended your mom.'loyalty to your family unit is logical for the survival of the whole.'" Jim said, imitating a Vulcan's speech pattern. Spock raised an eyebrow at him in retort. Jim laughed.

 

"You always make me feel better." Jim admitted, though he kind of wanted to take it back once he said it; it was a little too familiar, a little too emotional.

 

"You provide the same for me." Spock said, when Jim looked in his eyes, there was... something.

 

"Paging Captain Kirk, paging Captain Kirk." Jim startles at the interruption, turns away from Spock with a bit of hesitation to answer.

 

"Kirk here." he said. Focusing a little more studiously than necessary on the conn. His traitor stomach still doing back flips at Spocks words, Spocks eyes.

 

"We're in orbit around Brakir II." Uhura said.

 

"Thank you. I'll be up to the bridge in a moment. Kirk out." Jim answered. The conn cut out, and Jim looked at Spock.

 

"Seems like we never finish a conversation, doesn't it?" Jim asks, smiling. Spocks eyes are dark, but soft.

 

"We will one day. There is much to say." Spock said, and Jim's mouth goes dry. That sounded an awful lot like flirting. Jim was good at flirting, so of course what comes out isn't something properly diplomatic, but-

 

"I look forward to that... talk." he's kicking himself for saying it almost as soon as it's out of his mouth, doesn't let Spock reply with something scathing to shut him down; he doesn't think he could handle it right now. "Well. I've got to go. I'll see you around Spock."

 

And he practically runs away, before he can even hear Spock's reply.

Chapter Text

Brakir II is awful. They arrive within the first 48 hours, and after a quick assessment of the situation (clusterfuck), Jim decided it was best to send a couple teams down, with focus on minor medical training, while the doctors and nurses stayed on board the ship; the Enterprise would scan for life signs and teleport them out, and then the medical team would triage them before sending them back down to one of the makeshift hospital tents that the Brakirans had set up.

 

As someone who had trained himself (with help from Bones) to do the basics of an EMT, Jim is one of the first to go down to the planet; he is surprised to see Spock there, too.

 

"I thought you were mostly science?" Jim asked. He'd mostly recovered from their conversation by this point, and felt relaxed around the prince again.

 

"I believe in a multi-disciplinary approach, captain." Spock answered primly, and Jim couldn't help but smile.

 

"Of course Mr. Spock." That made Spock's lip twitch upward, which Jim counted as a victory. He would have said more, but the rest of the first landing group had assembled; time for business. Once some supplies went down and a call down to the surface confirmed them received, they gathered on the transporter pads. Jim looked at the technician and nodded. "Energize."

 

It's like stepping back into Taurus IV after the riots; in some ways it's worse. Buildings fallen and shattered, fires still burning, screams coming from the large tents all around the beam down site, people rushing around with blood on their hands, kids crying out in a language Jim couldn't understand, probably looking for their parents.

 

Jim didn't have the luxury of taking a deep breath to calm himself, didn't have the luxury of showing any emotion at this tragedy at all.

 

"Time to get to work."

 

-oooooo-

 

36 hours in, Bones personally comes down and hypos Jim into sleep. 36 hours after Jim wakes up, Bones does it again. The third day (5th day? 6th day? Jim had no idea at this point), Jim is aware enough to duck for cover when he sees Bones coming, ducking into a nearby tent and weaving through to avoid his friend seeing him. He ends up in one of the tents meant for people that have non life threatening injuries, things that need to be gotten to with some of the tech on the ship but that's slow going, only two or three people able to get into the machines at a time; some of them, Jim knew, were just going to have to heal with time.

 

Jim is checking out a chart next to a sleeping man with scarring from burns over half his body (fixed up enough so he wouldn't die of shock then moved aside for the next patient), when he recognizes a voice. Looking around, he sees Spock.

 

The prince is talking softly to an old lady while wrapping her leg in a fresh bandage, methodical and clinical instead of particularly empathetic, but the old woman doesn't seem to mind. Jim is only a little surprised that Spock knows the aliens language outside of the universal translator, knowing full well that Spock's list of languages known is practically a mile long. Just another one of the things that makes Spock born to be a prince.

 

Spock finishes up the bandage, and sees Jim. He says something to the woman, who smiles and nods. Spock moves to where Jim is, standing close and speaking quietly.

 

"Avoiding Dr. McCoy?" Spock asks.

 

"How did you know that?"

 

"It is common knowledge that he has been routinely removing you from service for enforced periods of rest. You would be actively doing something if you were not hiding from him."

 

"Hiding is a strong word." Jim hedges, smirking. Spock raises an eyebrow.

 

"And yet, an accurate one." Spock says matter of factly. Jim finds himself chuckling, which takes him by surprise.

 

"I didn't think I could laugh in a place like this." Jim admitted. Looking around.

 

"Is it very similar to Taurus IV?" Spock asks, and Jim's attention is yanked back to the prince.

 

"How the hell do you know about that?" Jim asks, stepping even closer to Spock so they were nose to nose, hissing his sentences quietly. "It's not in my file."

 

Jim knew it wasn't in his file because he had purged it himself, along with any hint of his actual age, except in the really classified papers, which he couldn't get at.

 

Spock didn't even have the decency to look uncomfortable. "The Taurus IV assistance team kept extensive written accounts of their findings. As one of 6 survivors, and one with an active role at that, your name was mentioned often. I read the files a long time ago, when I was researching our different colonies."

 

"And Vulcans have perfect memory." Jim added, sighing.

 

"Do you know that you do that often when you are upset?" Spock said. Jim blinked.

 

"Do what? Sigh?" Jim asked. Spock shook his head minutely.

 

"Rub your hands together." Spock said. He touched Jim's wrist, barely covered with his uniform. Jim's hands froze mid movement, realizing that he had indeed been rubbing his hands together. Spock's skin was warm, so very warm.

 

"No, I didn't even notice." Jim said, swallowing back the lump in his throat from Spock's touch. He glanced up to Spock's eyes, then away again; they were doing their intense thing again.

 

"It is occasionally... distracting." Spock said, voice unreadable. And for a Vulcan, Jim could sort of understand that. It was an awfully suggestive move, from a touch telepath's point of view. Jim refused to blush, absolutely refused. If he blushed now, he was certain he'd give his feelings for Spock away, and then whatever he had managed to build with Spock, this thing very much like friendship, would fall apart.

 

So he steps back from Spock, smiling charmingly. He would have also hid his hands behind his back, but Spock's light touch had turned into a full grip.

 

"I have not had enough sleep." Spock says, unexpectedly. Jim looked at Spock at that, puzzled. Now that Jim is looking for it, Spock looks a little worse for wear; Jim wonders if there has been anyone to stop Spock from working himself to death, if there ever was.

 

"Yeah?" Jim forces himself to say, rather than asking questions he had no business asking. Spock nods.

 

"Indeed. My controls are not at their best." Spock says. Jim is about to question what he means by that, when his answer comes in the form of Spock slowly moving his hand from Jim's wrist to Jim's hand, feather light but never loosing contact.

 

Jim more or less stops breathing. The contact sends tingles through Jim's body, the low hum of the undercurrent of Spock's consciousness touching his own. It felt pretty much amazing.

 

"I would not- I would not force this on you." Spock says, and Jim can feel Spock's eyes on him, boring into him. "But I have- wanted - this for so long, Jim."

 

"Uh." Is what Jim manages. But he's always been more of a doer than a talker, anyway, even if he is a big talker. He slowly, carefully, moves his fingers to touch Spock, too.

 

Spock releases a breath Jim hadn't realized the half Vulcan had been holding. Their hands kept moving together, while Spocks other hand reached out and tipped Jim's face up to meet his eyes.

 

Jim is pretty sure he's had sex less intense than this.

 

Jim is leaning forward, and they are so close, and then they are kissing the human way, too, hard and fast and burning. Spocks hand going from jims chin to rest warm on the back of Jim's head, Jim's spare hand going to Spock's hip for a bit of stability. Jim is in the middle of trying to decide if he's up for grabbing Spock's ass at this point, or stepping forward and seeing if Spock's anatomy is closer to a human or a Vulcan, when -

 

"Jim! I knew I'd- JESUS H CHRIST ON A POGOSTICK!" Bones yelled. Jim groaned loudly enough that he almost missed Spock's low growl, and pulled back, stopping both kisses and looking over at Bones.

 

He puts on his best charming grin, the one he reserved when he was pretty sure he was in big trouble.

 

"Hiya Bones. What's up?"

 

-oooooo-

 

What's up was him and Spock being immediately hustled up to the Enterprise, and gently but firmly encouraged to stay in their respective quarters until further notice. When Jim pointed out his captains duties, Susak dryly pointed out he'd actually be doing more actual captains' work holed up in his room doing paperwork than when he was "stretching the limits of human endurance" working planetside.

 

Spock did not openly protest, but his skin was still flushed a light green, so Jim was privately, childishly, considering it a win.

 

The quarantine lasts about 12 hours, enough time for the rest of the team to finish up on Brakir II and everybody to get ready to go back into the black, Jim sitting in the captains' chair just in time to give the orders to pull out.

 

Jim can't stop grinning.

 

-oooooo-

 

The inability to stop grinning is very soon tested and viciously overcome. Spock isn't talking to him. Sure, they see each other at functions and around, but they don't do more than nod at each other in the hall, and it's slowly driving Jim crazy. He'd think he'd imagined the thing on Brakir II if Bones didn't keep pulling him aside at odd moments to check and see if he has some sort of Vulcan STD or other, or has been brainwashed, or whatever explanation he has come up with to overrule Jim's simple, "I like him, okay Bones?"

 

Each time he says it though, the more he feels like it's one sided; the prince was operating on zero sleep for almost a week, was probably delirious. There's no guarantee that Spock genuinely wants Jim. And why would he? He may be a captain now, but he's still human, still nothing like royalty. And Spock is still engaged.

 

A fact he is forcibly reminded of when Chekov turns to him and says, "Wulcan ship asking permission to board."

 

Jim blinked. "Identification?"

 

"Royal wessel. It seems to be... Duchess T'Pring." Chekov said, and all the non-Vulcans looked at Jim. Jim kind of wanted to curl up and die; from the looks he was receiving, someone had blabbed about The Kiss. Which did in fact deserve capital letters. But they hadn't even spoken in three weeks; surely it would have died down by now.

 

Jim kept his face blank.

 

"Permission granted. Susak you have the Conn.; I better go greet our guest." Jim said, and Susak nodded.

 

"Yes captain." Susak said obediently. His expression twitched for just a second into one of sympathy, and that perhaps made it worse than all the non-Vulcan attention. Susak expression went blank again, and he nodded; Jim nodded back, and then left.

 

he took his sweet time getting down to the docking bay, puttering around checking on things in departments on the way, so by the time he got there the duchess was already there. So was Spock. They were speaking in hushed tones in Vulcan, quiet enough that Jim couldn't hear, intense enough that they didn't hear Jim come in. Jim coughed to get their attention, and they abruptly stopped, looking at Jim.

 

"Welcome, Your Grace, to the enterprise. I must confess, we were not expecting your visit. I hope your journey was acceptable?" Jim offered, intentionally emotionless, only a little intentionally leaving out the standard greeting; he did put up the Ta'al. He could at the very least try make a good impression. It didn't seem to matter though, because T'Pring turned to Spock.

 

"Is this the one?" she asked imperiously, and Spock hesitated for a moment, glancing at Jim, and then nodding.

 

"He is." Spock said quietly. He turned to look back at the duchess, eyes defiant. "Is that going to be a issue?"

 

"I will not be tossed aside for your human whore." the duchess said, calmly as you please.

 

"He is nothing of the sort, and I refuse to let you talk to him that way." Spock said. His fists were clenched, his tone dangerous. The Vulcan standing behind T'pring moved forward to block him from the duchess, but T'pring seemed oblivious to Spocks anger, or she simply didn't care.

 

"No matter his other qualifications, he is human, your lesser, and you cannot be motivated by anything but your half human emotionalism. He will never be anything more than a-"

 

"He is my T'hy'la." Spock said, calmly, looking at T'pring like she was a particularly disgusting bug beneath his shoe. "And by order of your future king, you will not speak of him this way."

 

The Vulcans glared at each other. Whatever T'hy'la was, and Jim was a little surprised he didn't recognize the word, it seemed to stop T'pring's argument in its tracks. That was pretty impressive, and Jim had the feeling this was way, way above his pay grade.

 

So he did the only logical thing.

 

"Well, this has been an interesting discussion. I'm going to go back to work now. If anyone needs anything, please discuss it with the head of housing and hospitality. Dif-tor heh smusma and all that."

 

And then he calmly, strategically, ran away. If Spock calls after him, he pretends not to hear it.

 

-oooooo-

 

He's quietly flipping out, but he's trying desperately to keep it under wraps, to keep everything normal. He wasn't going to let emotionalism get in his way of being the best damn captain in the empire.

 

It takes about a day, about halfway into his bridge shift, before Jim's PADD beeps indicating a message.

 

Would you be available for a game of chess this evening in my quarters?

- STS

 

Jim hesitated. 3 weeks of radio silence, and they were going to return to normal just like that? Or was- was Spock making a booty call? Jim doesn't think so, Spock doesn't seem like he's like that, but still. And then there was that conversation yesterday... what reason does Jim even have to answer, after being shunned for 3 weeks?

 

He really wants to see Spock, that's why.

 

Yes. 1900?

- Jim

 

The reply takes a few minutes, and does nothing to calm Jim's nerves.

 

Indeed.

-STS

 

-oooooo-

 

As it turns out, chess was neither the actual game nor a euphemism for sexy fun times. No, it actually meant standing awkwardly together while Spock both tried to and tried not to say whatever it is he wanted to say.

 

Jim lasts about 15 minutes (or several years, as that's what it feels like), before he breaks.

 

"Well, this has been fun, I'm just gonna-" and he turns to leave.

 

Before he can even finish the full turn Spock has him by the arm, crowding into his space.

 

"Do not leave, Jim. Please." Spock says almost panicked, and damn if Jim doesn't love his name in Spock's voice, damn if he could say no to a request like that. Rather than going weak kneed like some romance holo heroine though, he looks defiantly in Spock's eyes.

 

"Why shouldn't I? It's been 3 weeks, Spock. I know we've both been busy, but you could have just said you made a mistake-" Spock cut Jim off with something near a growl.

 

"There was no mistake. This-" and with that, Spock lightly touched their fingertips together; Jim feels a low thrum of pleasure at that, subconsciously relaxing despite the fuzzy electricity running through him. Vulcan kisses really were great. "This is no mistake. I was cowardly for waiting so long, but I couldn't formulate the right words to tell you."

 

"Tell me what? You're not pregnant are you?" Jim joked.

 

"Males of both our species cannot get pregnant without medical intervention Jim." Spock pointed out, clearly confused. It was a new look for Spock, eyebrows furrowed, and is kind of adorable.

 

"It was a joke, Spock. Now, what did you want to tell me?" Jim said, smiling. he curled his two fingers around Spock's two fingers, a more innocent kiss then the full handed one they had had on Brakir II, but deeper than the hesitant kiss Spock had led with.

 

"This is exponentially more difficult than I projected." Spock said, voice a little mystified.

 

"Tell me." Jim says gently, quietly.

 

"You are my Ashayam. My T'hy'la." Spock said.

 

Jim stared at him, incredulously. Ashayam he knew, one of the few Vulcan endearments; my heart. But T'hy'la.

 

"I don't know that word. T'hy'la."

 

Spock hesitated for a moment, but answered. "It is a word primarily from ancient times; brother, friend, lover. It is similar to the idea of soul mates on earth."

 

Spock noted Jim's incredulity but plowing on regardless. "And I... would like to be tied to you, in a formal ceremony of-"

 

"You want to get married." Jim breathed, brain still trying to process T'hy'la, and now marriage? He let go of Spocks hand. Spock looked shaken for a split second, but covered it up quickly.

 

"It is a little more involved than that." Spock points out, stiffly. Jim waived a hand dismissively.

 

"I know that; I've been witness at eight since I was recruited. A binding of two minds and souls, parted but never parted, all that; but those people have known each other for years. And I didn't- wouldn't T'hy'la just be a myth, like soul mates on earth?" Jim asks, a little helplessly. He had been right the other day; this was way, way above his pay grade.

 

"T'hy'la are not myths, they are just rare. Surak himself had one. There from birth, found in battle, strengthened with affection, finding your T'hy'la is a one in a trillion chance, even lower between species."

 

"One in a trillion, huh?" Jim said, quietly.

 

There's silence for a moment, then Jim feels a brush against his hand. He hadn't heard Spock move, the sneaky fucker.

 

"Why will you not look at me?" Spock asks quietly.

 

"Because this is too much, Spo- your highness. I-" Spock shook his head, hard.

 

"Please do not call me that. To you, I am only Spock." Spock said.

 

Jim felt his stomach do a summersault at that, but continued. "Spock. I can't- I can't be a princess."

 

"That is an inexact term. In reality your title would be-" Spock said, but Jim cut him off.

 

"I'm just some human. It doesn't matter how I feel, we can't just-"

 

"So you do have feelings for me." Spock said, and there was something like hope in his voice; Jim couldn't help but look into the other man's eyes, and the fire he saw reflected there.

 

"We're not supposed to talk about feelings in the empire Spock. and my feelings- they really don't matter, here." Jim said, a little weakly even to his own ears. His feelings never mattered. He was a military man in the Vulcan fucking Empire; suppression was the name of the game. Spock moved forward, cupping Jim's face in his hand.

 

"I believe they do, Jim."

 

And, hell, he seemed to mean it.

 

He took a deep breath, and then reached for Spock's hand. Spock seemed to relax greatly, but Jim shook his head. "I don't... I don't know if I can agree to something like that, right now. I need some time. I don't know if I can be a princess, Spock; don't know how to be anything but what I am. And relationships don't usually go from kissing to marriage, not good ones."

 

He admitted, pained like it was being torn from his very depths because it was, "And I'd like us to be a good one."

 

he glanced at Spock's face and looked away again, blushing; damn his expressive eyes. they weren't unreadable now, warm. spock gently squeezed Jim's hand, still in his own.

 

"I can arrange for you to have lessons, if that is what you wish. If you desire my thoughts, I believe that you would make an excellent 'princess,' though again that is an inexact term. As to giving you time... you may have anything you wish, ashayam. We will wait." and then they were kissing the human way, too.

 

 It started out slow, chaste, just lips against lips. At Jim's gasp, Spock slid his tongue in Jim's mouth to caress Jims, moved his body even closer, and even though Spock's movements were methodical, calculated, Jim found it hot, hot, hot. He couldn't seem to make it stop, couldn't seem to want to. It was Spock who pulled away first, and Jim is pretty sure it was entirely to give Jim some air.

 

They leaned their foreheads together. "Jim." Spock said, voice raw, asking.

 

"Yeah, yeah. Yes, Spock." Jim gave, and if he thought the Vulcan was kissing before, he was sorely mistaken. Spock was pulling out all the stops, pulling off tricks that Jim had only read about, which begged the question. Next time they pulled back for air, Jim asked "where did you learn all this?"

 

Jim had had vulcan lovers before, but this was- very, very different. Way better.

 

"I may have procured instructional videos and reading material for such an occasion."

 

"You watched porn." Jim summarized, fighting back a hysterical giggle. He made the crown prince of Vulcan watch porn.

 

"And a series of Orion instruction manuals." Spock said, and this time Jim did laugh.

 

"This is insane." Jim said, head a little foggy, more nervous about sex with Spock, anything with Spock, than he had ever been in his life.

 

"You need not be nervous." Spock said, soothingly, leaning forward to kiss Jim again. But Jim pulled back.

 

"You can read my thoughts?" he knew most Vulcans could read during a meld, but he'd never heard of them being able to make out actual thoughts from touching. But then again, Vulcans were rather tightlipped about...well, everything.

 

"It is only an emotional impression. Usually I have a strong shield up but you... I find it difficult to keep up it around you. I want to see everything. If it disturbs you, I can endeavor to put more energy into it."

 

"It's fine, just; you might not like what you see." Jim warned. His hands went to Spock's hips, holding him in place. He wanted Spock warned, but he didn't want him to go.

 

"I believe that the expression is 'I will cross that bridge when I come to it.'" Spock says, and Jim can't help but kiss him again after that.