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more than one way (to say i love you)

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i.

 

Of all the things Jim had in this world, luck didn't seem to be one of them. He sat at the mouth of the cave - his communicator, useless in the face of the untamed storm surrounding them, lay abandoned on the ground several feet behind him - and watched the rain fall from the heavens, lukewarm droplets occasionally splashing onto his face and hair. The air was humid and the neverending sound of falling rain only disturbed by the periodic clap of thunder in the sky followed by a bright crack of lightning through the clouds.

 

"We're gonna be okay, Spock." Jim said quietly for the umpteenth time, perhaps to reassure himself more than the Vulcan in question. 

 

Spock sat beside him, leaning heavily on the wall, eyes closed as he breathed in and out, shallow but controlled. Jim tried to ignore the uncommon rasp that accompanied his breathing. His already too pale skin had taken on a rather unhealthy-looking olive tint and his leg, that had been violently slashed hours and hours ago, was still bleeding profusely. His blue shirt, now stained with bottle-green blood, was wrapped tightly around his thigh as a makeshift bandage.

 

"We're gonna be okay." Jim repeated just as Spock let out a sharp gasp, hands clutching his leg. Startled, Jim jumped into action, scrambling over to the Vulcan, hands fluttering uselessly above him. There was nothing he could do to ease the pain or stop the bleeding - nothing he could do to help Spock. "You need to lie down." Jim ordered and Spock, for once, didn't argue. He allowed Jim to carefully manoeuvre him into a lying position. Spock inhaled sharply again, dropping his head back against the hard ground.

 

"C'mon, it's okay. It's not even that bad. I promise." Jim lied, eyes falling back the wound. When wrapping it with the shirt, Jim thought he had seen bone. It was hard to be certain with green blood spilling everywhere. Jim felt a sense of hopeless panic rising within him, heart pounding uncomfortably in his chest. Spock was going to either die of infection or bleed out by morning. He exhaled shakily, "what are we gonna do, Spock? What can I do?"

 

"Captain," Spock murmured, his voice a quiet rasp, his breathing laboured. Jim didn't look at him. His eyes were focused to the blood-stained shirt wrapped around his leg, feeling the burning sting of unshed tears in his eyes and guilt clawing at his heart. This was all his fault. Ramirez was dead. Carter was dead. Spock was dying. There was nothing he could do. He shut his eyes, swallowed the lump in his throat, and let his head fall in defeat.

 

"I'm sorry, Spock." Jim whispered, refusing to look at him. He couldn't lie to him, couldn't pretend everything was going to be okay - now now, not like this. He was a coward, unable to even look at him.

 

Until he heard a soft whisper of "Jim", and he felt the gentle brush of fingers on his face, a hand resting on his jaw and a thumb softly stroke his cheek. "Jim." Spock said quietly, and Jim managed a weak smile, hand reaching up cover Spock's own as he finally looked at the Vulcan.

 

Spock watched him with softened feautures before he nodded for Jim to come closer, mouth parted as if to speak. Jim complied, moving nearer, hoping (however selfishly) to hear words of comfort from the man. Spock nodded for him to come closer again and Jim did, leaning over him, close enough to feel his breath ghost over his cheeks. There was a split-second where they stared at each other and then suddenly Spock pulled him closer, brushing their lips together in a soft kiss. Jim felt his heart stutter in his chest before Spock broke apart, still stroking his thumb over the blonde's cheek. 

 

"We are going to be okay." Spock said quietly, reassuringly, as if his life wasn't the one at stake here.

 

Jim couldn't speak, his mouth parted but no words came out. He barely registered the nod he gave before he swiftly surged forward again, pressing their lips together firmly, the hand not currently clasped with Spock's fisting the Vulcan's black undershirt tightly and refusing to let go. 

 

"We're gonna be okay." Jim murmured against his lips, and Spock gave a single nod beneath him. 

 

And so Jim lay beside him, holding onto him and refusing to let go. Not when Spock closed his eyes and lost consciousness, not when the rain and thunder began to fade, and the rising sun slowly illuminated the dark cave, not even when he heard the static emitting from the long abandoned communicator or the familiar sensation of the transporter beaming them up. It was only when he felt McCoy's steady hands pry him away, yelling to nearby nurses gear up the emergency medical procedures, that Jim finally let go. 

 

They were going to be okay.

 

-

 

It was never brought up again. The kiss. No, not really, never discussed or even acknowledged that it happened. But he did think about it every once in a while - standing alone on the observation deck watching the stars whisk by or sitting on the bridge surrounded by his crew, and yet his eyes somehow always finding their way back to Spock - and Jim would remember it as the first time he ever fell in love.

 

 

ii.

 

Jim narrowly dodged the falling debris around him as he ran through the corridors of the recently abandoned Orion vessel. A loud explosion behind made him briefly snap his head back, and he barely caught a glimpse of a burst pipe, before he stumbled into something very solid.

 

He felt strong hands steady him and he looked up to see Spock, the gash on his forehead making Jim suddenly aware of the stinging on his own cheek, where there was no doubt a laceration spilling blood onto his yellow shirt. 

 

"Captain!" Spock called out over the blaring alarm at the same time Jim shouted "Spock!"

 

The ship gave another worrying tremor and more debris continued to fall from the ceiling, falling to the ground around them and breaking to pieces.

 

"We need to get off this ship, Spock! The crew have abandoned ship and the captain has launched the self-destruct sequence! We have less than ten minutes before this thing blows!" Jim explained loudly, hands gripping onto Spock to hold them steady.

 

"I can delay the timer, sir." Spock yelled, pulling them both out of the way as a piece of the wreckage blew from the wall and shot across the room.

 

"There's no point, this thing is gonna explode. We need to get off now!" Jim shook his head, sweat beading on his brow at the intense heat of the flames around them.

 

"Captain, the scanners just detected life signs in the brig. I believe they are kidnapped prisoners the Orion traders left to die when they abandoned ship." Spock explained. Jim didn't even have time to process his disgust as Spock continued, "I can postpone the self-destruct sequence in engineering and it will give one of us time to rescue them and beam back to the Enterprise."

 

One of us. One. Jim found himself shaking his head without even realising it. "Both of us, Spock. Both of us will be going back to the ship after we rescue them. How long can you delay the destruction of the ship?"

 

"Captain, we cannot-" Spock began but Jim interrupted him harshly.

 

"How long, Spock?" Jim demanded as the ship gave another tremendous shudder, knocking them both to the side.

 

"Five minutes, maybe six." Spock replied, steadying them. It was imprecise for the Vulcan.

 

"So we have fifteen minutes. I'll get the prisoners from the brig, you delay that sequence. We'll rendezvous on the bridge in twelve minutes, Spock. You better be there. That's an order." Jim yelled as yet another loud bang echoed from somewhere in the ship.

 

There was a brief second where Spock seemed to be calculating the odds in his head before he finally nodded his assent. Jim let out a breath he wasn't aware he had been holding at the agreement.

 

This might be the last time we'll see each other, the fleeting thought crossed Jim's mind as they made to separate and, Jim, without thinking, grabbed Spock by the collar of his shirt and yanked him forward into a brief kiss.

 

"Good luck." Jim breathed against his lips and let him go. Spock gave him one of those rare, not-there smiles and a nod before he took off in the opposite direction. Jim watched him go. The resounding siren and periodic explosion seemed like a faded white noise as he watched Spock disappear around the corner, out of sight. 

 

Shaking himself, Jim took off in the direction of the brig. He had a rescue mission on his hands.

 

-

 

Jim was never really sure how they had managed to rescue the prisoners and escape. Looking back, it did seem quite impossible. But they did it - however impossibly. 

 

As for the kiss, it was never mentioned between them, even as they sat together that fateful day in the medbay and marvelled at their luck.

 

 

iii.

 

Starfleet held a commemoration every year to honour the victims of the Narada Incident and to remember the lost souls of Vulcan. Every year it was the same - all prominent figures in both Starfleet and the Federation were to attend, any Starship within range was to attend, and Vulcans would come from miles around to mourn their loss. 

 

For the first time since the actual disaster, the Enterprise were in a close enough orbit to attend the ceremony. It was held on New Vulcan, at the heart of New Shi'khar city, and the Enterprise crew were given front row seats - being the crew that had defeated Nero and halted the incident. 

 

Shi' La'tusa, the large building where they sat was called. The Place of Mourning, Spock had told him as they took their seats at the very front, surrounded by Ambassadors, admirals and Vulcan Elders. A uniformed man began his speech on the stage and all Jim could think about was how impersonal it seemed. To every Vulcan there who lost someone and everyone, to the officers who lost friends and family, and to Spock, who had tried to save as many as possible at a great cost to himself. Of course they couldn't cover everyone. That would be impossible to even comprehend. Even so, however, Jim didn't like it.

 

The thing, see, was that the Enterprise held their own commemoration every year and the crew would each acknowledge every individual they lost personally. It took a long, long time to go through every crew member but they did. They always did. It felt like a personal loss they all grieved together and it made it that little bit easier to get through the day. This? This didn't feel like that to Jim. Jim supposed this made the burden they felt even heavier, with every eye on them as the Enterprise was thanked for its actions on the horrible day. For Jim's quick thinking and bravery in the face of disaster, for McCoy's medical skills that saved countless lives, for Chekov's sheer intellect, for Uhura's exceptional ability to intercept and decode transmissions...

 

"And to Commander Spock," the uniformed man on stage said, and despite his blank face, Jim could see Spock's hands trembling in his lap, "whose valiant efforts to rescue the Vulcan Council meant the priceless preservation of Vulcan culture and..."

 

Subtly, Jim reached over and took Spock's hand in his own, bringing their entwined fingers to lie between them at their sides. He could still feel the tremor in the Vulcan's hand but he didn't let go. They both stared straight ahead at the uniformed man - never looking at each other - but Spock never made to remove his hand, and instead stroked Jim's finger slowly. Jim knew what this was. A Vulcan kiss. 

 

Jim continued to hold the Vulcan's hand, ignoring when Spock accidentally gripped it a little too tight at the mention of Amanda, and they stayed clasped together even when Spock's hands no longer trembled.

 

-

 

Just like the rest, the kiss was never talked about. Not when McCoy nudged his side with a questioning glance or when he saw Sarek's curious gaze watching them from afar. But years later, at one particular admiral's funeral, Spock would return the kind gesture.

 

 

iv.

 

Jim flinched when he poked the purple bruise just beneath his eye. After McCoy had healed all the serious wounds he had endured, Jim had escaped the doctor's clutches to allow him to attend to other injured crew members.

 

Now, standing in front of the mirror in the shared bathroom, he assessed the smaller cuts and bruises he had recieved on the planet's surface. For possibly the millionth time, he swore to himself that that would be the last mission he would act as a neutral representative in a civil conflict. Kidnapped and being tortured by an unknown third party, however, had not even been considered when he beamed down and was also not, in retrospect, his idea of good diplomacy. The death threats didn't help either.

 

The situation had been dire and Jim had honestly thought that he was going to die. Hard not to think such a thing when it was being threatened as leverage over the state broadcast. But his crew, his brillant crew, had rescued him after Uhura decoded and located the origins of the broadcast and had beamed him out of there.

 

Just as he was contemplating his narrow escape, the bathroom door opened and Spock entered the tiny room. He stopped dead at the sight of Jim, eyes sweeping across the bruise on his cheek and slit over his eyebrow. There was a tense second where they simply stared at each other before Spock suddenly crossed the room in three short strides and was kissing him. Jim automatically wrapped his arms around Spock's neck as he was backed into the counter. The kiss was hard and demanding and it made Jim feel -

 

"Alive," Spock breathed, their foreheads pressed together as he held Jim safely in his arms as if he never wanted to let go again, "you are alive."

 

-

 

And just like every other time, the kiss was never mentioned. But for the first time Jim had the feeling that maybe, just maybe, Spock loved him too.

 

 

+1.

 

"May I join you?"

 

Jim looked up from the bench to see Spock standing over him, arms behind his back and dark eyes imploring. Jim smiled at him.

 

"Of course," Jim replied, scooting over and patting the space beside him. It was a tight fit for them both to sit on the bench. This one in particular was small, designed for either two very small crewmembers or one large one. Many of the crew, just like Jim, usually came to the observation deck for solitude and to watch the stars fly by.

 

Spock sat down beside him, their sides pressed against each other. Jim supposed avoiding skin-to-skin contact between them was a bit futile at this point in their friendship, relationship - whatever it was they had. Still, he found it comforting that Spock was willing to expose that much of himself to him.

 

"I thought you would be attending the celebration in rec room ten." Spock spoke up after a short but comfortable silence.

 

"Right, the 'ten consecutive successful missions' party." Jim laughed, and Spock turned his head to look at him, mouth quirked up at the corner. "Yeah, I called in for a little while earlier. It was in full swing."

 

"The name is a mouthful but accurate." Spock said.

 

"It does feel like it's been a pretty difficult few months, doesn't it?" Jim asked, more rhetorically than anything. 

 

"I suppose." Spock replied anyway, "but it has brought the crew closer together."

 

"Yeah," Jim said, eyes downcast, "the crew." He let out a frustrated sigh and asked, "are we ever gonna talk about... them?"

 

"Captain, I..." Spock trailed off with an almost imperceptible sigh of his own, obviously aware of what 'them' meant, "we will have to discuss them eventually, yes."

 

"Then that's good enough for me. Doesn't have to be right now. Or tomorrow. Just that we don't ignore it." Jim said with a feeble smile, "I guess you wanna head back to the labs now, huh?"

 

"I would not be adverse to spending time in your company - if I am not intruding, that is." Spock replied and Jim felt his heart leap in his chest.

 

"Yeah?" 

 

"I," Spock contemplated his next words, "enjoy spending time with you."

 

"And why's that?" Jim asked softly, a teasing lilt to his voice as he inched closer towards the Vulcan. 

 

"You are clever and thus provide intellectually stimulating company," Spock answered honestly.

 

"Is that all you like about me?" Jim pressed, eyes flickering to Spock's lips briefly before meeting his eyes again. "Do you like anything else?" 

 

"Yes. I also think you are very..." Spock paused, then admitted, "pretty."

 

Jim felt his cheeks turn pink. Never in his life would he have imagined Spock describe something as 'pretty', especially when said something was him.

 

"You think I'm pretty, Mr. Spock?" Jim asked, biting his lip to hide his smile.

 

For the first time ever in his life, Spock seemed to be at a loss for words. His lips parted but no sound came out, his eyes flickering back and forth to Jim. "I..." he paused and heaved that almost silent sigh once more, lips tugging at the corners ever so slightly, "you know that you are very aesthetically pleasing."

 

"I am?" Jim couldn't help the smile that was plastered onto his face as he shuffled closer into the already confined space, so that their faces were just centimetres apart.

 

"Your feeble attempt at modesty is admirable," Spock said flatly. Jim could feel the steady pattern of his breathing. Once again his eyes fell to Spock's mouth for a fleeting second.

 

"Feeble att-" Before Jim could respond to the comment, Spock closed the gap between them, bringing their lips together in a gentle kiss. Jim melted into it, his response dying on his lips as he threaded his fingers through the Vulcan's hair.

 

"For the record or in case you wanted to know," Jim rambled when they broke apart, practically sitting in Spock's lap, "I think you're smart as well and I like spending time with you too. Not to mention the fact that you're also really handsome, especially when -"

 

"Jim." Spock interrupted him, and Jim paused, blue eyes questioning, but Spock merely said "please be quiet."

 

"Sure thing, Mr. Spock," Jim laughed before he was pulled back into another kiss.

 

-

 

Some things, Jim supposed, were too personal to share with others and best kept only in memory. When people would pester them about their relationship and ask questions about their first kiss, they would always tell them that it happened one ordinary evening on the observation deck. 

 

But he would always remember the others, the actual firsts - never discussed them, no, and even years later he never fully understood why not - but he would remember fondly how he fell in love four different times with the same man, a man who he would continue to love for the rest of his life, and he concluded that perhaps things like love didn't always have to be words and phrases in order to be said.