The light from Spock’s terminal slowly faded as it shut down. He stood from his desk and stretched, the muscles in his back somewhat stiff from his extended time sitting. There had been a number of reports he had needed to review before his shore leave officially began. Most had been simple—the scientists in his department were more than competent, and he had needed to correct only a few trivial errors—although the report for the last away mission had taken him longer than he had first anticipated.
A shiver ran through him, and he did nothing to suppress it, alone in his quarters as he was. The mission had been a success and had gone relatively smoothly in comparison to past incidents, but for fifteen minutes and thirty-seven seconds, Spock had believed that Jim had been taken prisoner by the government on Hastis and was facing execution. In reality, there had been a series of mistranslations and miscommunications between the away team, the Hastis representatives, and the Enterprise . The negotiations for Federation travel rights through Hastian space had proceeded quickly, and Jim had been back aboard the Enterprise halfway through Gamma shift.
As if Jim knew where his thoughts had drifted, Spock felt a weak wave of comfort wash over the fledgling bond in his mind, and he smiled, pushing his own affection and reassurance back. Jim was surprisingly adept at utilizing their bond to communicate his emotions despite his lack of telepathic abilities. Coupled with the fact that their bond was only three months old and not yet fully established, even his weak communication was astounding.
Spock was drawn from his musings by the beeping of his communicator. He answered it, and Jim’s voice came through, sounding bright and excited. “All right, Spock. If you’re done with all of those reports that you really could have saved for later, I’m all set up down here.”
“May I remind you, it was at your request that I remained aboard the ship while you prepared your ‘surprise’,” Spock said dryly, although he was already moving across the room to retrieve the robe he intended to wear on the planet’s surface.
Jim’s laughter filled his quarters, and Spock quickened his pace.
“Fair enough, but it’s all ready now. I’ll meet you at the beam down point in fifteen minutes?”
“I will be there. Do you require anything from the ship?” Spock asked as he pulled his arm through the sleeve of his dark blue robe.
“Nope! Just you!” Jim’s affection lit brightly in Spock’s mind, and he could not help the way his lips turned up in a smile. It was a particular ability of Jim’s to draw such expressions from him so easily.
“Very well. I will see you shortly, Jim.” Spock closed his communicator and crossed to their shared ‘fresher. He had ample time to touch up his appearance for their ‘date’.
. . .
Jim bounced back and forth on his heels as he waited for Spock to beam down. The Hastian air was a little warm for him, but that meant that it would be better for Spock, and tonight was all about Spock. When he had first arrived on the planet and seen all of the greenery and exotic flowers, he had known it would be the perfect place for the date he had been planning. Then, Representative Illi had shown him a secluded garden located not far from the embassy where they had been discussing the details of the travel agreement, and Jim had begged her to allow him to use it tonight. When he had explained why the motherly woman had smiled and agreed.
Hopefully Spock would like it as much as Jim thought he would. Even with their partial bond, Spock could be hard to read sometimes, but Jim had worked to translate those micro-expressions and phrases and gestures since he had first stepped aboard the Enterprise , and he tended to do a pretty good job of it.
Before Jim had the chance to second-guess himself again, the air above the ground in front of him shimmered gold and then solidified into the shape of Spock. A smile split Jim’s face. “That color suits you,” he said as Spock stepped off the pad. “Is that one of the ones you picked up at the last station?”
“It is. Nyota suggested it.”
Jim’s smile widened. “She has impeccable taste.” He knew that Spock likely saw his words as flattery, so he did his best to push his sincerity across the bond. Spock was beautiful and it would be a crime if Jim didn’t remind him of it. Not enough people had.
“Would I be incorrect in assuming that Mr. Sulu assisted you with your own outfit?” Spock asked, his eyes seeming to twinkle in the bright moonlight.
Jim looked down at himself. He was dressed in his favorite pair of black pants and a white shirt with gold trimming, the top two buttons undone in the heat. He and Sulu had debated via communicator—Sulu was visiting an arboretum in the capital city—about the buttons. Sulu had won. “Did he do a good job?” he asked, looking back up to shoot Spock a teasing smile as he began to lead them down the well-lit path that would take them around the back of the embassy.
He didn’t truly expect a response. Jim knew things like this weren’t exactly in Spock’s realm of comfort or experience, which he didn’t mind. He knew without Spock ever having said it that Spock would choose him no matter his appearance. So, when his deep voice rumbled, “You are radiant, Jim, as always,” it stopped Jim in his tracks.
He was grinning like a fool and he knew it, but he couldn’t help himself. Spock stopped too, turning to him with one eyebrow raised in question. Jim just shook his head and started down the path again, feeling Spock’s amusement trickle into his mind over the bond.
They walked in comfortable silence for a few minutes, winding their way around the back of the embassy until they were walking along the edge of the carefully-tended forest that surrounded much of this district of the city. Jim could feel Spock’s curiosity growing, although he stayed silent even as Jim led them both into the forest for a few dozen meters. Then, they turned down the dirt path and were met with a stone wall about two meters high, crumbling and overgrown with vines in a way that had made Jim feel like he was in a fairytale the first time he had seen it.
The entrance to the garden was newer—a metal door that was locked with an electronic passcode which Illi had been kind enough to give him. Before stepping up to type the code in, though, he turned to Spock, who was watching him with muted curiosity and content in his eyes.
“I hope you like this. If not, we can do something else on the planet or go back to the ship, of course, but one of the Representatives showed this to me and it looked so perfect, and you—”
Calm settled over Jim. It was amazing that all it took from Spock was his name in that voice , the one that told him he was enough and had done enough and everything would be okay. How could anyone tell him that Spock didn’t care for him when he could say so much with a single syllable?
“Right. Close your eyes then.”
Spock raised an eyebrow again but obeyed the order, eyes closing as Jim quickly turned and keyed in the code. The door swung open, and Jim grabbed the edge of Spock’s sleeve, tugging him gently into the garden.
. . .
Spock allowed himself to be led through the door. The first thing he noticed about their new surroundings was the scent. The region of Hastis where they had beamed down was incredibly fertile, and the air had carried scents of various flora as they had made their way here, but the air here was different. There was an abundance of smells, all soft and floral in nature, along with the sound of various birds and insects who were active during the night. They had stepped into a garden.
The air here was slightly warmer as well, which Spock was grateful for. Although cold temperatures would not deter him from spending an evening with Jim outdoors, he would be far more comfortable here than he had been on the majority of the planets they traveled to.
Eventually, his sleeve went slack once more as Jim released his hold. He could hear Jim turn to him and could easily imagine the nervous, excited smile on his face. After everything, Jim still worried that he would do something wrong and damage the bond they shared, something that Spock would never stop trying to reassure him was impossible. He could not imagine a universe where he was not bound to James Kirk, whether by fate or choice or both.
“You can open your eyes now.”
Spock did so, and although he was surrounded by fascinating and exotic planets on all sides, he found he could not take his eyes off of Jim. The man was standing in a beam of moonlight that made it through the leafy canopy that covered a large portion of the garden, his white shirt glowing in the moonlight, giving him an ethereal aura almost. His face was soft and open, full of pride and love and nervousness and a hundred other emotions because James Kirk could not be confined to a single definition. He was perfect, and the bond sang with Spock’s awe.
“I thought you’d like it. The plants are amazing, aren’t they?” Jim asked, clearly mistaking the source of Spock’s feelings.
Spock turned his gaze from Jim with difficulty and took in the garden around them. It truly was beautiful, and he was honored that Jim had seen such a place and decided to share it with him. The flowers that were blooming around them were mostly dark purples and blues, and the moonlight on the petals had an aesthetically pleasing effect.
“The garden is indeed beautiful, Jim, but it is not the source of my wonder.”
Jim’s brow furrowed in confusion, then his eyes widened, and a blush began to creep its way up his neck. Eventually, Jim chuckled to himself and shook his head. “You know, the point of these dates is that I was supposed to be wooing you , not the other way around,” he said, smiling softly.
Spock raised an eyebrow. “As my first attempts to do so resulted in considerable miscommunication, I believe it is only fair that I continue my efforts.” For three months prior to their accidental bonding, he had arranged several dates and other romantic endeavors with Jim, only to realize that the man had missed the intention. Doctor McCoy had found the entire situation highly amusing, a sentiment neither Spock nor Jim had shared.
“Take a seat, Spock,” Jim said, gesturing to the table at their side. It was small and intimate, laden with a variety of fruits and baked goods native to Hastis. Spock did so, Jim taking the chair across the table. “I know we talked about it already, but it’s not your fault I was too obtuse to realize you were courting me,” Jim declared as he took Spock’s plate and began to fill it with several different fruits as well as a small pastry that looked similar to a strudel. “Turns out I’m pretty oblivious to flirting when I’m on the receiving end.”
“I believe that cultural differences played a greater role than your perceptiveness or lack thereof,” Spock replied as he took the plate back. Jim only grinned in response and began loading his own plate. When he had finished, Spock leaned forward in his seat, causing Jim to look up and meet his eyes.
“Thank you for this, Jim. I greatly appreciate the time and effort you have spent researching my culture and attempting to navigate our fledgling bond on top of your duties to the Enterprise, ” he said, pushing sincerity into his words and across the bond. He paused. “Although I will admit this is not what I anticipated when you stated you wished for our date to occur so late in the evening.”
Jim laughed, the clear sound filling the garden. “I’m told moonlight is very romantic. Although I suppose if I was doing it right we’d be taking a stroll along a beach with some gently lapping waves.” His face turned more serious, although the laughter in his eyes remained. “Maybe we can do that next time.”
“As Vulcan has no moon, I do not have an entirely accurate frame of reference for what you propose,” Spock admitted. “However, I trust your appraisal.”
The bond hummed happily with their shared contentment, and they both turned their attention to the food in front of them, a comfortable silence falling between them as they sat and ate, enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of their surroundings. Spock still couldn’t bring himself to look away from Jim for long.
Eventually, they finished the food on their plates, and Jim stood. “There’s something else I’m told is very romantic,” he said, offering a hand to Spock. He took it and stood.
“Indeed?” Jim had truly spent a remarkable amount of time and effort preparing this evening, and that knowledge caused the admiration and affection in Spock’s mind to grow impossibly deeper.
Jim grinned and pulled out his communicator, flipping it open. “Captain Kirk to Captain’s Quarters,” he said into the device, and a beep sounded, indicating the connection had been established. “Computer, play from the playlist titled ‘Moonlight Dances’. Three-fourths volume.” Another beep, and then music began to drift from Jim’s quarters through the communicator he held. Spock raised an eyebrow. He had never seen the handheld communicators used in such a fashion.
The twinkle in Jim’s eyes told Spock the man was proud of his solution as he carefully sat the communicator on the edge of the table where they had been eating, turned to face them. Then, Jim grabbed his hand once more and pulled him a few meters away, into a large, open area of the garden.
“Will you share a few dances with me, Mr. Spock?” Jim asked, the smile on his face far outshining the moonlight that fell around him.
“Of course, Jim, although I cannot promise any skill.”
Jim laughed. “Come on, Spock, I know better than that,” he declared, poking Spock lightly in the chest with one finger. “You’re the child of a Federation Ambassador, and I know for a fact that Amanda is a fabulous dancer. Between those two things and your own curiosity, you can’t tell me you never learned to dance.”
Spock conceded the point with a slight nod. “You are correct. However, I have not danced since my time at the Academy.”
A light came to Jim’s eyes. “Oh, you are going to have to tell me about that some time, mister. I know there’s a story there.” Spock opened his mouth to contradict him, but Jim pressed on. “For now though, I’ll lead. These are all slow dances anyway.”
Spock allowed Jim to arrange their hands, Jim’s warmth flowing into him even through the fabric he wore. He had thought, at first, that the significant difference in their body temperatures would be unnerving for him, but the opposite was true. Jim was a source of constant warmth, which he often sought out when the human-standard Enterprise became too cold. And even now when the planet they stood on was far closer to his preferred temperature, Spock reveled in the feeling of warmth under his hands.
Jim led them through the first few steps of the dance in time with the music that played through the communicator, and Spock’s muscles soon remembered the movements. As they danced to the slow music, Jim’s side of the bond pulsed with a weak but steady flow of love and gratitude, one that Spock ensured was returned.
“One day, I would like to return to Vulcan with you,” Spock said some time into their second song. “There are places you would find interesting, and I wish to show you the world of my childhood.”
A smile split Jim’s face. “I’d love that. Maybe when we go to get the bond formalized?”
Spock nearly faltered on the next step, Jim’s words came as such a surprise. He blinked at Jim, who looked very nearly dreamlike in the moonlight. “You wish to formalize the bond? Vulcan bonds are—”
“For life. Yeah, I know,” Jim said, stopping their dance and shifting his grip so that he held Spock by both hands. His eyes held no trace of fear or uncertainty. “I want to be by your side forever, Spock. I know it’s only been three months since we accidentally started forming this bond, but I can’t imagine my life without it, without you—I don’t want to.”
A flood of emotions threatened to drown out Spock’s ability to form a coherent thought. Instead, he moved his hands so that they both formed his half of an ozh’esta, Jim immediately moving to copy him. Love flowed through their touch, and Spock leaned forward until his forehead rested against Jim’s.
“A universe without you is not one in which I wish to exist,” he managed, voice thick with emotion. “Taluhk nash-veh k'dular, t’hy’la.”
Instead of responding, Jim tilted his head and captured Spock’s lips in a gentle kiss. Spock’s eyes slid closed, and he wondered if this phenomenon of the universe narrowing to simply the two of them and this garden could be measured. He doubted it. Jim had always defied such attempts. It was simply a fact of the universe, just as they were.