Things aren’t exactly going Jim’s way.
No matter what Bones might say, it really isn’t Jim’s fault that shit hit the fan the moment they beamed down to the planet. Spock had tried to warn him that something was bound to go wrong when considering how fucked up all of Jim's previous missions had been, and he'd even given him some ridiculous statistic to the third decimal place to prove his point too.
But even Spock couldn’t have predicted just how awful this mission would turn out.
Jim’s pulled away from his sullen thoughts by the sound of someone approaching to his right. He tenses instinctively.
“Captain,” says Spock from somewhere close by. Jim can’t be certain without reaching a hand out to feel him.
The worst part of this mission? Being fucking blinded within the first two minutes.
“Lieutenant Chan and I have been able to identify the gaseous substance that interacted harmfully with your ocular physiology,” Spock continues.
Jim glares in his general direction. “Can you not just say you found the shit that blinded me?”
“I believe I just have, sir,” Spock replies without missing a beat.
Jim thinks he rolls his eyes; he’s not even sure that his eye muscles are still working.
“So, what’s the prognosis, Commander?”
Spock’s report is matter-of-fact and to the point: “Without access to the laboratories aboard the Enterprise or the expertise of Doctor McCoy, I am afraid we have no way of preparing any sort of antidote or treatment for your condition at this time.”
Jim sighs. “So, until we get communications back online I’m literally sitting blind.”
“Remind me later to tell Bones you called him an expert,” Jim adds.
“I shall do no such thing,” Spock replies shortly. Jim can pretty well imagine the look of mock-offense on Spock’s face, but he wishes he could see it for himself.
Spock’s still and silent beside him, and Jim worries for a moment that he’s about to abandon him in the cave where they’ve been making camp for the last few hours.
It all started three days ago when Starfleet received a distress signal from an officer they’d declared a deserter a week earlier. Lieutenant Commander Jalloh was the helmsman on board the Defiant, and had never reported back to duty after the ship’s shore leave on Risa. The Defiant remained in orbit for three days while conducting standard search and rescue operations, but had to leave after that to report for their next mission. By the time Jalloh’s distress signal was picked up on one of Risa’s moons, the Enterprise was the closest federation ship and thus inherited the mission. The moon, named Risa Gamma, was colonized by an exiled sect of Risians who practiced celibacy and self-denial—something that was anathema to the sexually-open natives of the planet. Starfleet Command suspected that Jalloh might have been captured by the Risian exiles as a sort of protest of the Federation’s use of their homeworld as a pleasure planet.
It should have been straightforward: triangulate the location of Jalloh’s signal, beam to the surface, locate and extract Jalloh, return him to the nearby Starbase 12. Simple.
Of course that all went to hell the moment the away team—consisting of Jim, Spock, and three security officers—beamed down. They were immediately greeted with a dense, fog-like substance that knocked Jim out at once and left the others nauseous and weak. According to Ensign Mendez, who stayed with Jim while the others scouted the vicinity, Spock managed to lead the officers away from the area and into a nearby forest where they’d happened upon a large cave. Jim woke up blind a couple of hours later, trying not to panic and listening with acute embarrassment as Mendez explained how Spock had carried him away from the ambush.
“What I do not understand,” Spock continues, still next to Jim, “is why this substance blinded you and no one else.”
Jim just shrugs; he hadn’t really thought about it past feeling sorry for himself. “Bones always loves to tell me how ‘special’ my physiology is. I guess I could be allergic to the gas?”
“Perhaps,” Spock says, his voice not giving anything away.
Jim wishes, again, that he could see the expression on Spock’s face. He’s spent the better part of the first year of their mission trying to work out the subtle nuances of Spock’s limited range of expressions and has gotten pretty good at gauging Spock’s moods based on them.
Jim can feel Spock shifting slightly beside him, and he reaches out with his hand automatically. He’s not sure if it’s to keep Spock in place or orient himself to his location, but he finds Spock’s arm anyways and grips the lean muscles tightly.
“Got any recommendations as to how we get out of this mess?” he asks quickly, trying to use the question to distract Spock from noticing that Jim’s clutching his arm like an anchor. He knows Spock doesn’t like how casual he is with physical contact, but Jim just really needs something to hold on to right now.
Spock stiffens under Jim’s hand, but he doesn’t comment on it, nor does he make Jim let go.
“I—” Spock hesitates, and Jim can’t be sure, but he thinks Spock might move a little closer. “I am uncertain, Captain. While the Enterprise will have noticed by now that communications are down, they have no reason to suspect that the parameters of our mission have been altered. Furthermore, we still have yet to find evidence of Lieutenant Commander Jollah’s distress signal, and we cannot know for certain who is responsible for the trap that awaited us when we beamed to the surface.”
With his free hand, Jim taps his lips thoughtfully. “Which do you think more likely, Mr. Spock: being set up by a decorated Starfleet officer or by the celibate locals who find our promiscuity disgusting?”
“Due to the suspect nature surrounding Jollah’s original disappearance and the advanced, chemically-engineered properties of the gas meant to subdue us, I believe the former option to be the more probable.”
“What, I don’t get a statistic this time?”
Jim can feel Spock’s shoulder shift under his hand as he exhales slowly, but audibly. Jim grins when he realizes it’s probably a vulcan facsimile of a frustrated sigh.
“The former is six point seven four times more likely than the latter, sir,” Spock reports, voice devoid of the annoyance Jim knows is there.
Jim squeezes his arm to let him know he’s being teased and then nods. “That’s what I was thinking as well. Besides, if someone were to kidnap any member of the Defiant’s crew, why the helmsman instead of the captain?”
“It would be most illogical.”
Jim finally lets go of Spock’s arm, pulling his knees up at the same time. He lets his head fall back and hit the rough wall of the cave behind him. “Spock, I don’t think we should wait here.”
“What do you suggest instead, Captain?”
“I think it might be better to stake out our beam down site. See if anyone shows up.”
“Captain… there is a problem with this plan that I fear you are not considering.”
Jim sighs, picking his head up and dropping it back against the wall with an audible thump. “Is it that I’m blind and useless? I’m quite aware, Spock.”
“You were not, then, including yourself in this so-called ‘stake out?’”
“Of course not. I’m self-aware enough to know I’d just get in the way.” Jim might have a reputation for cockiness and bravado, but he’s more cognizant of his limitations—of which there are many—than most might think.
“Then what, exactly, will you do instead?” Spock’s got that tone of voice now, the one he uses when they’re on the bridge and he’s trying really hard not to call Jim an idiot in front of the rest of the crew.
“Stay here, I guess. Keep trying to comm the Enterprise.”
“It would not be wise to remain here alone when you do not possess sight,” Spock says, just as Jim knew he would.
“I’m not going to let one of you babysit me,” he says firmly, voice low and final. He doesn’t like to use his Captain voice with Spock, but he will to avoid an argument when he doesn’t have the time to properly enjoy it.
“I must protest, Captain—”
“Noted, Commander,” Jim cuts him off. “I want you and the security team out of here in ten minutes. That’s an order,” he adds when Spock makes no move to leave.
He can feel Spock straighten at his tone.
“Of course, Captain,” Spock says stiffly. He stands at once, and Jim listens to his footsteps echo away.
Jim pulls out his communicator and opens it like he’s done every five minutes since he woke up in this cave.
“Kirk to Enterprise.”
There’s only silence in reply.
Resisting the urge to throw the thing in frustration, Jim settles for tearing it open with his fingernails to inspect its internal wiring. Jim might not be able to see it, but he knows enough about the mechanics involved that he can feel if a wire’s out of place.
He’s just gotten started when he hears someone—Spock—approach him again.
“We are ready to depart, Captain,” Spock says when his footsteps stop in front of Jim.
Jim pushes up off the floor, steadying himself with a hand on the wall at the sudden vertigo and shoving the dissected communicator into his pocket with the other. Jim swallows, fights down a blush, and holds out his arm. “Mr. Spock, would you mind leading me to the mouth of the cave?”
Warm, long fingers circle around his forearm at once. “Not at all, Captain.”
Spock’s a good guide, pulling him the short distance carefully, pointing out precisely how far in front of him is a rock to be avoided. It feels like one of those team-building exercises Starfleet Command is always pushing the senior officers to do.
Before long, and with minimal stumbling, Spock stops, taking Jim’s arm and extending it until his hand comes in contact with the wall of the cave.
“Thanks, Spock,” Jim says, taking another step toward the wall. “Is the security team here?”
“Aye, Captain. All are present.”
Jim hates that they have to see him like this—dependent and unsure—but he hopes he’s earned their respect enough that they won’t look down on him for it. “I assume Spock has explained what you’re to do?” At the chorus of ayes, Jim continues, “We all viewed Lieutenant Commander Jollah’s file prior to this mission, you know what he looks like. If you see him, even if it appears that he’s not a threat, I want you to stun first and ask questions later. Am I clear?”
“Yes, sir,” is the consensus.
“Good,” Jim nods, thankful for his efficient, capable crew. “Mr. Spock, you may continue when ready.”
“Begin fanning out around the cave,” Spock orders the security team. “I will accompany you presently.”
Jim can hear their footsteps moving off of the solid rock and into the softer floor of the forest ahead. Spock remains at his side.
“I shall send Ensign Mendez back in approximately two hours if we have yet to obtain any new information at that time,” Spock says. Jim can hear the challenge in his words, asking for Jim to order them all to stay away until the job’s done. But Jim’s good at recognizing when compromise might be necessary, and this is one of those times.
When Jim makes no protest, Spock continues, “Please do not attempt to leave the cave on your own. I fear Doctor McCoy will be even more disagreeable than normal if you manage to injure yourself further.”
Jim snorts at that, “Disagreeable is putting it pretty lightly, Spock.” He extends his hand and reaches until he makes contact with Spock’s chest. He moves his fingers lightly along the muscles there until he can grip Spock’s shoulder. He squeezes once, twice, and then lets his arm fall back to his side. “Be careful out there, Spock.”
“I shall endeavor to do so,” Spock says quietly. Just when he thinks Spock's about to leave, warm fingers brush against the skin of Jim’s wrist, just under his sleeve. The touch is so light and fleeting, Jim’s not completely sure it really happens.
Before he can make a fool of himself and ask, or worse, Spock moves away, and, with his increasingly more distant footsteps, he leaves Jim alone once more.
Bored already, Jim leans back again the wall of the cave and lets himself slide back down to the ground. He pulls out his communicator again, and feels his way around its components slowly. Once he’s certain that all the wires are connected tightly and the transmitter is still running, Jim puts the case back together and opens it.
“Kirk to Enterprise, can you read me?”
Mood brightened considerably, Jim rises to his feet with a grin on his face and a hand raised in greeting.
“Spock, how did it go?”
When there’s no immediate response, Jim realizes something’s not quite right. Somewhere in front of him, there’s a high-pitched whine, like a phaser being charged.
Jim dives to the side by instinct, rolling into a crouch and listening for more movement. Another whine and Jim moves again, but he’s too late this time and a burst of energy knocks into his shoulder.
Jim barely has time to feel a sharp burn spreading into his chest before darkness drags him under.
When Jim comes to again, it’s cold and dark, and he can’t make out any of his surroundings.
Adrenaline floods his limbs and he sits up at once, ignoring the phantom ache in shoulder and panicking at the fact that he can’t see anything. Then it comes back to him—his blindness, waiting in the cave, being hit by that phaser.
“You are awake,” says an even-toned voice from beside him.
It makes Jim flinch, and he grimaces when the motion sends pain flooding through his shoulder. “Who are you?” he asks the voice, scurrying backwards until he knows if his companion is friend or foe.
“I am Sorek,” says the voice, and Jim can hear it much more clearly this time. It’s high-pitched and male—a child’s voice. Jim relaxes at once.
“I’m Jim,” he says. “Do you know where we are?”
“I am uncertain as to our current location, although I have surmised that we are being held underground.”
Jim shifts, moving closer to the child. “How did you get here?”
“I was kidnapped from a transport vessel approximately twelve point seven days ago,” Sorek says matter-of-factly. “My captors administered a drug upon subduing me and I have been unconscious until I woke in your presence thirty-five point two minutes previously.”
Jim grins at Sorek’s explanation, which probably appears highly illogical to the child, and reaches his hands out to feel his surroundings. The ground consists of cool tile, not ideal for comfort or prolonged stay. His hand hits a smooth wall behind him, and he moves back until he can rest against it.
“Am I correct in assuming that you currently lack the sense of sight?” asks Sorek, his voice sounding slightly closer.
Jim throws a smile in his general direction, “Yep. Afraid I’m blind as a bad.”
“That simile is illogical,” Sorek says, and Jim can practically feel his frown. It only makes his grin larger. “While the mammals from the order Chiroptera have poor visual acuity, they are not completely without eyesight. Am I to understand that this is an example of Terran humor?”
“You’re a vulcan,” Jim says cheerfully, ignoring Sorek’s question. He feels lighter knowing his companion is a tiny vulcan, even if they’re currently being held in an unknown location by unknown captors.
“Indeed,” Sorek replies. “May I inquire as to how you came to this conclusion so rapidly?”
“That’s easy,” Jim says, “Illogical is my first officer’s favorite word too.” He holds out his hand in a ta’al. “I’m Captain Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise.”
“You speak, then, of S’chn T’gai Spock, son of Sarek,” is Sorek’s quick response. Jim would bet his captaincy that he can detect admiration in his voice.
“Do you know Spock?”
“No,” Sorek admits, “But Commander Spock has a reputation among my peers on New Vulcan. Ever since the destruction of our planet, interest in enrolling in Starfleet has increased significantly.”
“You’d do well to follow Spock’s example,” Jim says. “He’s the best first officer a captain could ask for. How old are you anyway? No offense, but you sound a little young to be thinking so far ahead into your future.”
“No offense is taken. I am eight point seven two six Terran years of age. How old are you, Captain Kirk?”
Jim laughs. “I’m 27.”
“Is it true, then, that you are the youngest captain in the history of the Federation? I have heard rumors to this extent, but I have not searched for the relevant data myself to confirm this statement.”
“Yep, I’m the youngest ever.”
“And how old is Commander Spock?”
“He just turned 30.” They’d thrown him a party—against his wishes—and Jim doesn't remember anything about it except betting Chekov he could out-drink him and then waking up on Spock's couch the next morning. Jim grins.
“Fascinating,” Sorek says.
“And what’s so fascinating about that?” Jim asks, amused.
“For two as young as you and Commander Spock, you have both managed to achieve many impressive feats in your respective and joint careers.”
“That’s because we're geniuses,” Jim says, “But I’m sure you’re pretty smart too.”
“I am consistently within the ninety-ninth percentile among my peers.”
Jim snorts, “You’ve got that vulcan modesty too, I see.”
“I’m just teasing you, Sorek.”
“Teasing…I see,” he says, although it’s quite clear that he does not.
Rather than call him out on it or, god forbid, try to explain humor to a vulcan, Jim decides to change the subject. “Hey, would you mind describing the room to me? Is there a forcefield, bars? That sort of thing.”
“Of course,” Sorek says quickly, sounding kind of flustered. “I apologize for not thinking of this earlier.”
“Apologies are unnecessary,” Jim says, quoting one of Spock’s favorite phrases.
“All the same,” Sorek returns. “We are not contained by a forcefield nor any sort of bars; instead, we are currently in a square room with a single, locked door. The walls and ceiling are made from a metalloid material I cannot identify by sight, while the floor is made from stone tiles. With the exception of a single mattress approximately 1.45 meters to your left, there is nothing else inside the room. Was that description sufficient, Captain Kirk?”
“Very detailed and helpful, thank you, Sorek. And you should really call me Jim. I have a feeling we’re going to be stuck here for awhile.”
“Very well…Jim.” Sorek pauses for a beat. “Do you have a plan as to how we might escape?”
“A plan?” Jim taps his chin thoughtfully. “Nah.”
“No?” Sorek asks, sounding scandalized. Or, as scandalized as a vulcan can get.
“Well, are the walls paneled?”
“No they are not.”
Jim can practically hear the gears turning in Sorek’s brain, trying to work out how such an illogical human could have ever been made the captain of the Federation’s flagship.
“I am afraid I do not understand,” Sorek says eventually.
Jim takes pity on him. “Well, it sounds to me like there’s no way to get out of this room, which leaves us with two options: wait until our captors visit and neutralize them or wait for a rescue. Since we’ve both been awake for awhile and no one has checked in on us, it’s looking like the latter.”
“This option of waiting for rescue does not seem like the type of plan a Starfleet captain such as yourself would employ.”
“There’s more to command than coming up with brilliant escape plans, Sorek. Sometimes being a captain means trusting your crew to come up with a brilliant escape plan instead.”
Sorek is quiet for a moment. “I had not considered this notion,” he says eventually. “I shall have to meditate more on this.”
Jim leans forward and stretches his arms out, wincing at the soreness in his shoulder. “If you wanna mediate now, I could probably use some sleep anyways.”
“I believe I shall do so. If you move to your left, you will find the mattress on which you can lie down.”
Jim reaches out in that direction and grabs ahold when he makes contact with the mattress. He moves to kneel in front of it and runs his hands over its surface—it’s covered in plastic and doesn’t feel as comfortable as the bed in his quarters back on the Enterprise, but it will do. He crawls on top of it and stretches out on his back.
“Wake me up if anything happens, okay?”
“I shall do so,” Sorek replies.
When he hears it again, he sits up, reaching towards the sound until he makes contact with Sorek’s thin frame—his elbow, to be more specific, which is curled into his body. Jim suspects he might have fallen asleep as well.
“Sorek,” he whispers, shaking the boy gently. “It’s alright.”
Sorek doesn’t move, but the sounds stop and he stiffens a bit under Jim’s hand.
“Do you want to talk about it?” Jim asks eventually. He’s not really sure what the protocol here is. How do you comfort someone who will most likely claim that comfort is unnecessary?
“I apologize for allowing my lack of emotional control to disturb your rest,” Sorek says, the rough tone of his voice belying the calm words. “You may return to sleep now if you wish.”
“I don’t think so,” Jim says, reaching out with his other arm and tugging Sorek onto the mattress with him. He keeps a hand on his arm. “It’s okay to grieve, you know. You don’t need to be ashamed of it.”
“Vulcan was destroyed approximately two point three two years ago. To dwell on past events that cannot be altered is illogical,” Sorek says. It sounds like something he’s repeated to himself more than once.
“What’s necessary is never illogical,” Jim argues, once again stealing Spock’s words. He gives Sorek’s arm a squeeze. “There isn’t a timeframe on grief. And your entire planet was destroyed; I think that merits a pretty long grieving period.”
Sorek doesn’t reply for a moment, still stiff under Jim’s hand. But then his muscles relax, just in the slightest. “Do you still grieve over the death of your father?” he asks. It confirms to Jim that every damn person in the universe knows the story of George Kirk.
“Well, that’s complicated, Sorek. I never met my father, never knew him enough to grieve him, but I do think about him sometimes. I wonder if he’d be proud of me, of what I’m doing.”
“Idle imaginings are illogical,” Sorek says promptly, and Jim’s pretty sure he’s had to repeat this mantra to himself as well. “However,” he continues, his voice a whisper now, “I, too, occasionally wonder what my life would be were my parents still alive.”
Jim’s never been great at tact, but he figures a vulcan might appreciate the direct approach anyways. “Were they on Vulcan?”
“Yes,” Sorek says quietly. “I was transported off the planet along with many of my peers. Very few were as fortunate.”
“I grieve with thee,” Jim whispers back in passable Vulcan. If Spock or Uhura were here, they’d probably nitpick his horrible accent, but Sorek doesn’t seem to mind. He relaxes under Jim’s hand at the words instead.
“Okay,” Jim starts, a little hesitant. “I’m going to do something now that’s completely illogical, and it might offend you actually. But, I’m a human, and we require physical affection to survive. Also, I’m still blind and I hate that I can’t see you.”
Without waiting for Sorek’s permission, Jim reaches forward and tugs the small vulcan into his arms. Sorek’s thin—making Jim wonder just how long it’s been since he last ate—and his skin is warm against Jim’s. He holds Sorek close against his chest, laying his cheek against smooth hair that’s probably lying perfectly straight.
“This whole imprisonment thing is kind of shitty,” Jim says into Sorek’s hair, “But I’m glad I met you.”
Sorek doesn’t reply, but he does reach up with his small, warm hands and bunch his fingers into the back of Jim’s shirt. “I believe this is the proper method of reciprocating the Terran action referred to as a hug. I apologize if my performance is substandard; I have only observed a limited number of live models.”
Jim just laughs and squeezes Sorek tighter for a moment before pulling away. “Your performance was just fine.”
The rest of the day drags on in companionable silence, occasionally broken by Sorek asking Jim about humanity or Earth or Starfleet. While Jim’s eyesight has been steadily improving with time (he’s gone from blindness to being able to see a fuzzy field in shades of grey), hunger and thirst are starting to make their presence known. Jim still doesn’t understand why they haven’t seen their captors or why they haven’t been fed. It’s almost like they’ve just been abandoned to starve—but if their captors wanted them dead, why go to the trouble of kidnapping them instead of just killing them outright?”
“What is the Enterprise like?” asks Sorek, interrupting Jim’s ruminations.
Jim grins at the question. “Well, she’s the best ship in the ‘fleet, of course.”
“Is it common on Earth to assign a gender to inanimate objects?”
“Very common and very illogical,” Jim confirms. They’re both seated on the mattress now, and Jim moves a little closer to Sorek. In their short time together, he’s already gotten pretty fond of the kid. Vulcans seem to have that effect on him.
“You’d love the science labs, Sorek,” Jim continues. “Spock sometimes spends entire shifts in there, monitoring all the different experiments going on and breathing down officers’ necks. You’d find the engineering department pretty fascinating too. And Scotty especially, our chief engineer. He makes all these potentially illegal modifications that I probably shouldn’t tell you about. I’m constantly worried that one day the ship'll just explode. But Scotty loves the Enterprise so much I know he’d never put her in danger.” Jim can’t help but smile thinking about it. “I can’t wait for you to see it, Sorek.”
“I would like to see it very much,” Sorek says quietly.
“You will,” Jim promises. “You know, I don’t think you ever said where you were going. You know, when your ship was attacked. Why were you by yourself?”
“I was traveling to Regulus III.”
“Do you have family there?”
Sorek would probably hate that it’s noticeable, but he stiffens next to him, and Jim knows he’s touched on a sensitive subject.
“Yes,” is Sorek’s short response.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Sorek hesitates for a long time before answering. “I was sent to live with my mother’s brother and his family.”
“There are, for obvious reasons, a large amount of orphans on New Vulcan. Any of us with living relatives are to be assimilated into their families. My uncle was stationed off-planet and thus survived our planet’s destruction.”
“Were you close with his family?”
“I have never met them,” Sorek says. “My uncle was estranged from our family for quite some time prior to Vulcan’s destruction. I am unaware of the reasons for this.”
Jim can feel anger bubbling up inside him now. “So they were just going to ship you out to live with complete strangers?”
Jim doesn’t really expect Sorek to be outwardly upset about it, but he doesn’t expect his voice to be perfectly even either. “It is logical to consolidate family bonds at such a time as this.”
Jim shakes his head. “I know what’s it’s like to be dumped on an uncle who doesn’t give a damn. My mother sent my brother, Sam, and I to live with our uncle when I was five, and he was awful.” The years Jim spent living with Frank feel like a lifetime ago now, but the passage of time doesn’t stop Jim’s jaw from clenching at the memories. “Sam ran away when I was eleven, it got to be so bad. I guess what I’m trying to say is that family sometimes doesn’t mean much.”
A small hand brushes against Jim’s arm. “I grieve with thee,” Sorek says in standard.
Jim covers Sorek’s hand with his, and ignores when the vulcan flinches and stills.
After a moment, Sorek pulls away. “I am afraid that I have little other choice.”
“I guess I know how that is.” Jim sighs. “I’m sorry, Sorek.”
“Apologies are unnecessary, Captain. You are not the cause for my troubles.”
“I know that.” Jim waves a hand, “It’s just another human failing—we have this compulsive need to apologize for things we can’t change.” Jim turns and tries to shoot a glare in Sorek’s general direction. “And what did I say about calling me Captain?”
Jim thinks he can hear a smile in Sorek’s voice, so he smiles back, just in case.
There’s not much he can do now, except lie prostrate on the ground and continue his descriptions of the Enterprise and her crew for Sorek. But, eventually, conversation starts to get difficult. Jim’s thoughts are slow and muddled, and he has a hard time focusing on anything other than how heavy his tongue feels in his mouth.
With his spare cognitive functions, Jim thanks some higher power that Sorek’s vulcan physiology means he can last much longer than Jim without food and water. If Jim doesn’t make it out of this, hopefully the Enterprise will be able to save one life.
Sorek doesn’t see their situation in quite the same way.
“Jim, you must stay conscious,” he says, small hands grabbing onto Jim’s shirt. Sorek’s said the same thing every few minutes for the past hour or so. Jim has a hard time responding.
“M’sorry, Sorek,” he says, his eyes drooping—eyelids far beyond his control at this point. “M’sleepy.”
“Please, Jim,” Sorek says, and even with his brain not working, Jim can tell that he’s panicked. “Tell me about your first contact with the Perbolians again.”
“Alrigh’,” Jim slurs, only talking to mollify Sorek. He tries to gather his memories from the mission again. “So we beamed t’the place, and then…”
“Wha’? Oh, righ’. And they said—Spock!”
“They said Commander Spock’s name?”
Jim shakes his heavy head, ignoring the throbbing in his skull. He summons enough energy to lift his arm and point his finger to the open door where a tall figure stands in science blues. “Spock,” Jim repeats, a dumb grin on his face. His vulcan is here and now he can finally go to sleep.
Sorek stands quickly as the blurry figure enters the room, but Spock ignores the younger vulcan entirely and leans over Jim instead.
Jim’s arm is still in the air, so he reaches for Spock with it, grasping that familiar shirt when he makes contact. “Spock,” he sighs, his eyes drifting closed completely.
The last thing he hears, as he drifts unconscious, is a quiet murmur: “Yes, Captain.”
When Jim comes to, the first thing he notices is the sound of quiet, level-toned voices. The second is the feeling of a small hand gripping his knee tightly.
His eyes feel too heavy to open, so instead he just lies there and listens to the conversation going on beside him. The voices are easy enough to make out.
“You and Jim never encountered your captors?” asks Spock.
“No, Commander,” replies Sorek. His tone is very formal. “While I did encounter an Orion man on my transport vessel, I was quickly administered a sedative. When I awoke, I found myself in the cell with Captain Kirk. We were never visited.”
“You were not brought food or water for the duration of your captivity?”
A pause. “It is as if you were abandoned,” Spock says eventually. Jim can tell these words aren’t for Sorek. He’s using the same tone he uses when trying to work out a complex mission plan with Jim or when they’re playing chess and he can’t reason through one of Jim’s illogical moves.
As the silence continues, Jim wiggles a bit on the biobed he’s sure he’s inhabiting and opens his eyes slowly. He blinks in surprise for a moment, but his surprise quickly turns into glee—he can actually see his surroundings.
Jim has never been so happy to see Sickbay.
He turns his head to the side and drinks in the view beside him. Spock is seated in a chair, fingertips steepled together and head down. But the standing, smaller vulcan beside him is staring right at Jim with wide eyes.
“Captain,” he exclaims with as much enthusiasm as a vulcan’s able to muster. His fingers tighten around Jim’s knee.
Jim smiles tiredly at him. “It’s good to finally see you, Sorek.”
In his mind, Jim had pictured Sorek as a miniature version of Spock, but there’s not a very strong resemblance between the two. They might have the same haircut and upward sweep of their eyebrows, but Sorek’s nose is thinner, his mouth wider, and his eyes aren’t quite so warm and human.
And Spock’s never been as skinny as the younger vulcan is. Seeing the bones poking out from Sorek’s plain, Sickbay gown makes Jim want to search out their captors immediately and wring their necks. Shaking away these useless, frustrating thoughts, Jim turns his attention to his first officer. Spock’s noticed him now and is staring at him with dark eyes.
Jim grins at him too. “Of course it’s always good to see you, Spock.” Jim throws in a wink for good measure.
Spock just raises an eyebrow in what Jim likes to think of as fond exasperation. He’s frequently on the other end of that particular expression.
“Will you be making puns based on your temporary loss of sight ad nauseam?” he asks with what Jim swears is a sigh.
“You bet,” Jim says cheerfully.
“Fascinating,” Sorek says, looking between Jim and Spock with curiosity. He lets go of Jim’s knee and takes a step back, as if to observe the two from a greater distance.
“I take it you and Spock have met?”
“Yes, Captain,” Sorek says. His eyes dart over to Spock and then drop to the floor immediately. It makes Jim smile.
“Sorek here is quite an admirer of yours, Mr. Spock,” Jim says teasingly. He knows he’s being an ass, but it’s worth it to see the green color flood Sorek’s cheeks and Spock’s eyebrows rise up on his forehead.
“Indeed?” Spock turns to gaze speculatively at Sorek.
Sorek gets even more flustered, and it’s quite possibly the most adorable thing Jim’s ever seen.
Sorek finally conquers his blush and manages to don a blank face, even if he still can’t make eye contact with Spock. “I am interested in joining Starfleet once I come of age,” he explains to his feet.
Before Jim can embarrass him any more, they’re interrupted by a fourth person—arms crossed and a scowl on his face. Jim had been wondering how long it would take him to realize Jim was conscious.
Bones glares at Spock. “Didn’t I tell you to come get me the second this idiot woke up?” he demands, hooking a thumb at Jim. He turns his glare to Sorek. “And you are supposed to still be in bed yourself.”
Both vulcans open their mouths to reply, but Bones waves them off. “I am not in the mood to listen to your logical excuses right now.” He turns to Jim who can’t help but smile back cheekily. “You are a moron,” Bones says, rolling his eyes. He leans over to check Jim’s vital signs, then crosses his arms back over his chest. “Only you could have an allergic reaction to a toxic gas and be blinded by it.”
“You always did tell me I was special.” Bones ignores him and continues looking over Jim’s chart. “So when am I getting out of here?”
“Considering you almost died from dehydration, I’d say you’ve got another few days,” Bones says firmly.
“And by that you mean I’ll be out of here by the evening?”
Bones sighs. “Tomorrow morning. Don’t push it.”
Jim laughs and claps him on the shoulder. “You’re the best, Bones.”
“Shut up, Jim,” he scowls, turning to Sorek and running a tricorder up and down his thin torso.
“How’s our guest doing?” Jim asks, far more worried about Sorek’s health than his own.
Bones straightens and checks the readings. “The miniature hobgoblin will be just fine. We just need to up his food intake for a few weeks.”
“We can do that,” Jim nods, looking back at Sorek. He’s watching Bones with a confused frown.
“You could use more meat on your bones as well, Jim.”
“I will ensure he consumes the proper nutrients,” interjects Spock before Jim can argue.
“Thanks, Mom,” Jim mutters.
Bones rolls his eyes at Jim’s dramatics. “I’ll bring you lunch in an hour, Jim. And you’re gonna eat all of it,” he says, gathering back up his tricorder and Jim and Sorek’s charts.
“Thank you, Doctor,” says Spock again.
Bones lets out a sound of disgust and walks back to his office, muttering about “green-blooded saps” all the way.
Sorek turns to Jim once he’s out of sight. “Does Doctor McCoy suffer from a mental deficiency?”
Jim lets out a choked laugh and even Spock looks amused by Sorek’s innocent question.
When Jim can breathe normally again, he replies: “No, Sorek. As much as it pains Spock here, Bones is mentally sound. If he’s grumpy around you or mutter insults about you under his breath, that means he likes you.”
Sorek thinks about this for a moment. “Does he, then, like Commander Spock a great deal?”
Jim grins at Spock smugly. His first officer looks mildly offended by the question.
“Here’s a little secret, Sorek.” Jim throws a smirk in Spock's direction. “Spock and Bones respect each other, and occasionally they might even enjoy the company of the other. But we never, ever talk about it.”
Sorek frowns outright at this. “That is most illogical.” He turns to Spock, and Jim’s glad he’s finally looking him in the eye. “Do you truly insist on such behavior?”
Jim can tell the question catches Spock off guard—he has to take a moment to think through some kind of logical answer. “I think you will find, Sorek, that living on a starship with illogical humans such as Doctor McCoy and the Captain often forces one to cornform to their behavioral mores. I have found this to be of utmost necessity in order to assimilate comfortably into this alien environment.”
Sorek bows his head slightly at Spock’s answer, and Jim snorts at the fact that he actually has taken Spock’s bullshit seriously. “Thank you for that perspective,” he says. “I shall have to meditate on this topic to more fully understand it.”
Spock inclines his head likewise. “If you have success, please enlighten me as to your conclusions. I have yet to fully understand this precept myself.” He turns his attention back to Jim and stands up from his chair, straightening his uniform as he does. “I must report back to the bridge, Captain,” he says. “I am glad you are well.”
Jim smiles. “Thanks, Mr. Spock. You should stop back by after Alpha,” he adds, “You still haven’t told me about that rescue mission of yours.”
Spock hesitates, “Doctor McCoy will not be pleased if we discuss ship business while you are still under his care.”
“Damn right,” yells Bones from inside his office.
Spock raises a smug eyebrow at him.
Jim sighs, wondering, not for the first time, how he managed to surround himself with so many stubborn people. “Then at least drop in for dinner. You can make sure Sorek and I eat enough.”
“I believe I will do so,” Spock agrees. He nods to Jim and then Sorek before taking his leave.
“Keep my chair warm for me,” Jim yells at his retreating back.
Jim grins at Sorek who’s standing somewhat awkwardly beside Jim’s bed. Jim moves over to one side of the biobed and pats the open space next to him. “Hop on up, Sorek.” He hesitates, but at Jim’s look climbs up beside him. His posture’s rigid, stiff against Jim’s side, but Jim just chuckles and pats his knee.
“Now that we’re finally alone we can talk like grownups,” Jim says.
“Shut your mouth, Jim,” yells Bones again.
“Go away, Bones,” Jim yells back. “Don't you have a job to do? Do I need to make Christine my new CMO?”
His office door slides shut in lieu of a reply.
“Is this another example of your human propensity to employ arguments to denote affection?” Sorek asks.
“Right you are,” Jim agrees, squeezing Sorek’s knee. “You’re catching on quickly.”
“It remains quite illogical.”
“I think you’re gonna find there’s little about me that’s logical, Sorek.”
“Mr. Spock seems to hold you in high regard despite your nonsensical behavior,” Sorek says quietly. “I, too, find your nature inoffensive.”
Jim knows how hard a thing that must be for a vulcan to admit, and it makes warmth flood into Jim’s chest. “Sorek, would you mind too much if I hugged you again?”
“No, Jim. I do not believe I will mind.”
And that’s all Jim needs. He reaches an arm around Sorek’s shoulders and pulls him to his chest. Sorek’s stiff and awkward at first, but Jim can feel the moment he relaxes into the embrace.
“Jim,” Sorek says, leaning into the hug. “What is going to happen to me now?”
Jim inhales sharply. “I guess we’ll take you back to New Vulcan,” he says slowly. “Or maybe directly to your uncle. It’s up to the Admiralty and the Vulcan High Council.”
Sorek turns his face into Jim’s chest. “I know it is illogical to dread that which is necessary, but I cannot help but feel reluctance at the future.”
“I know,” is all Jim can think to say. He brings a hand up to press Sorek closer to him.
Jim’s never been very good at offering emotional support. He’s never really had anyone to offer emotional support to in the first place. With Bones, they normally just get drunk and then never talk about it again.
Feeling helpless, Jim just tightens his hold on Sorek and starts to think of a solution.
Bones releases Jim and Sorek the next morning as promised, but not without three hypos to the necks of both and a threat for more if they don’t double their caloric intake for the next two weeks.
By now Alpha shift’s already started, and since Bones hasn’t technically cleared him for duty, Jim decides there’s no time like the present to give Sorek that tour of the ship he promised. Jim takes him to the bridge first. Partially because he hates missing all the action when he’s off duty, but mostly because he loves annoying Spock when he’s acting captain.
As they wind their way through the Enterprise, the curious eyes of the crew watch their progress. Spock had briefed the ship about their additional passenger the day before, so they know better than to bother him. But that doesn’t stop them from grinning widely at the sight of the small vulcan in Terran clothing.
Sorek, thankfully, seems completely oblivious to the attention. Actually, Jim’s pretty sure he’s far too nervous to notice much of anything. As they ride the turbolift to the bridge, Sorek clenches his hands so tightly behind his back, they turn white. Jim chuckles a bit and gives his shoulder a squeeze.
“Keptin on ze bridge!” rings out Chekov’s voice as Jim steps onto the bridge with Sorek in tow.
Every crewman immediately turns around to face them—Spock included. It’s hard for Sorek to miss this blatant of attention, and Jim can feel him shift slightly to hide behind him.
Jim rolls his eyes at all the grinning saps. “At ease,” he says, waving his hand at them. They all return to their duties, but not without a bit of reluctance.
Jim puts an arm around Sorek and pushes him first towards the Communications console where Uhura is sitting with a wide grin.
“Captain,” she nods, and then quickly turns her attention to Sorek.
“Uhura, this is Sorek. Sorek, this is Lieutenant Uhura, my Chief Communications Officer and the best linguist in the ‘fleet,” Jim says, gesturing between the two.
“T’nar pak sorat y’rani,” Uhura says in her flawless Vulcan. Jim’s pretty sure it’s a greeting of some sort.
Sorek seems pleased by her use of his native tongue. “T’nar jaral,” he replies, bowing his head.
“Qual Jim palutunaur du?” Uhura asks. Jim looks at her sharply upon hearing his name.
“Ish-veh whio’naks bolaya-tor,” Sorek replies.
Not understanding much of it, Jim just crosses his arms. “Well aren’t you two adorable,” he says, raising his eyebrows.
Uhura glares at him for interrupting, and Jim can’t help but smirk at her.
“Uhura uses loathing to show affection for me, Sorek,” Jim stage whispers behind a hand.
“Like Doctor McCoy?” Sorek asks, cocking his head curiously.
“Yes, exactly,” Jim confirms, grinning at Uhura.
She just rolls her eyes. “Are you already trying to corrupt him, Captain?”
“It’s never too early, Lieutenant.”
Uhura turns back to her station at that. She can only handle Jim’s obnoxiousness in small doses. “You and vulcans,” she mutters.
“Me and vulcans, indeed,” Jim smiles, his eyes seeking out his other vulcan. Spock’s sitting in Jim’s chair, long fingers typing on his padd.
“Let’s go bother Spock, Sorek,” Jim says, pushing him towards the center of the bridge.
Spock looks over his shoulder at them and then stands at their approach. “Captain,” he says and then nods at Sorek. “Greetings.”
“Hello, Commander,” Sorek replies, his tone as formal as ever.
Jim beams as the two vulcans stand next to each other with identical, blank expressions and rigid posture. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees that Sulu and Chekov have both turned fully around in their chairs. He glances around and notices that basically the entire crew is wearing expressions to mirror Jim’s own.
Jim makes eye contact with every one of them until they return to their duties.
“Wanna sit in the chair?” he asks Sorek who’s been staring at him this whole time.
“Is that wise?” he asks, looking to Spock.
Jim snorts, lifting Sorek up under the arms and sitting him in the chair without further ado. “Just don’t touch any of the buttons,” Jim says, taking a step back.
Sorek sits stiffly in the chair, tangling his hands together like he’s trying to prevent himself from reaching for the controls. Eyebrows furrowed a bit in concentration, Sorek examines the different functions on both arms of the chair and then turns his gaze to the view port.
They’re at warp—heading back towards New Vulcan—so there’s not much to see, but it’s a view Jim will never tire of.
“The view is rather superlative,” Sorek says, as if he’s reading Jim’s thoughts.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” Jim teases, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Indeed, Sorek,” Spock chimes in. “The Captain is rather irrationally possessive of this particular seat.”
“Irrational,” Sorek agrees. “But understandable.”
“An accurate summation of many of the Captain’s views,” Spock nods.
“Alright, enough of that,” Jim says. He steps back up to the chair and lifts Sorek out of it again. “Let’s go meet the men at the helm.”
Sulu and Chekhov have been watching the entire encounter anyways—might as well give them some attention. They both grin at Jim’s words.
“Sorek, meet Lieutenant Sulu,” Jim says, gesturing to the man on his left. “He’s our helmsmen and the best man to have at your side if you ever feel like going cliff-diving.” Jim laughs at Sorek’s panicked look and claps Sulu on the back. “And this is Ensign Chekov, our navigator and resident prodigy. He’s almost as young as you, Sorek,” Jim adds.
“Keptin, you know I am nineteen now, yes?” Chekhov protests, his cheeks turning red.
Jim doesn’t pinch them, but it’s a close thing. “I’m only joking, Sorek. Chehov might be our youngest crewman, but he’s able to give Spock a run for his money when it comes to physics.”
Chekov flushes darker. “I am not nearly as smart as Mr. Spock.”
“Commander Spock is a vulcan and thus possesses an eidetic memory and larger brain capacity,” Sorek says in an almost consolatory manner, as if to make Chekov feel better.
“Yes, this is true, Sorek,” Chekov agrees.
“Well,” Jim says, wrapping an arm around Sorek’s shoulders, “We better let everyone get back to work before Mr. Spock has to forcibly remove us.”
Spock walks with them back to the turbolift. “You are quite right, Captain. I was afraid I was going to have to intervene soon.”
Jim laughs in delight. “Spock, that was a legitimate joke! Don’t let anyone tell you different, Sorek: vulcans are hilarious.”
“There is no need to be insulting, Captain,” Spock says, and Jim just laughs more.
“Take care of my ship, Commander,” he says as he and Sorek step onto the turbolift.
“Of course, sir,” Spock replies, returning to his seat.
They spend the rest of that morning down in Engineering where Sorek meets Scotty (“I am not certain this Lieutenant Commander Scott possesses a sound mind. Is it wise for him to be ranked third in command of the Enterprise?”), and in the Science labs where he gets as excited as a vulcan can be (“Spock’ll have to bring you back down here sometime and explain all their current projects.” “That is not an unpleasant notion.”).
They finally end back up in Sickbay to steal Bones away for lunch, and they chat with Doctor Chapel while he finishes up with another patient. By the time they leave Sickbay in Christine’s capable hands, Jim’s convinced that Sorek has the vulcan equivalent of a crush on her.
“Doctor McCoy,” Sorek begins as they walk to the mess. “Are you aware that you lack the necessary trait of a Terran doctor known as ‘bedside manner?’ Doctor Chapel, however, seems to excel in this area. Would it not be logical, then, for her to be the ship's Chief Medical Officer instead of you?”
While Bones sputters to reply, Jim just laughs and laughs. Lucky for Bones, and Sorek, they arrive in the busy mess hall before he can come up with a response. They get in line, instead, and Jim helps Sorek pick out one of the Vulcan dishes that Spock must have programmed into the replicator. Bones watches Jim order with narrowed eyes, so he skips the hamburger he’d been craving and gets two turkey sandwiches instead.
Once they have their food, they find Uhura sitting alone at a table and join her there. She greets Jim with an eye roll, Bones with a nod, and Sorek with a gentle smile.
“How are you planning on spending the rest of the afternoon?” she asks after Jim and Sorek have finished recounting their morning.
“We still haven’t checked out any of the observation decks or rec rooms. And then after that, I guess we’ll just play it by ear,” Jim replies, biting into his second sandwich.
“That phrase is unintelligible,” Sorek says with a deep frown. “Are we to play a game while making use of our ears? Or was your use of the word a synecdoche for our hearing in general?”
Uhura, never one to pass up a vocabulary lesson, explains: “It’s a Terran expression, Sorek. To play by ear means to improvise, to not make concrete plans and act on instinct.”
“I see,” he replies, still frowning.
“Well, I hope you enjoy your leisurely afternoon,” says Bones. “Some of us actually have work to do.”
“You’re the one who won’t clear me for duty,” Jim points out.
“If you would rather return to the bridge than escort me around the ship, I am sure I will be able to productively occupy myself,” Sorek says, looking at his empty bowl. “Vulcans do not suffer from boredom as humans do, and I am quite capable of independence.”
“No, no, Sorek, that’s not what I meant,” Jim says quickly. “Bones and I just love to bicker over the fact that he always keeps me off-duty for as long as possible.”
“And Jimmy hates that I have more power than him on this ship,” Bones adds.
“That’s true,” Uhura agrees.
“You would not rather be working right now?” Sorek asks, finally looking back at Jim.
“Nope.” Jim bumps his shoulder against Sorek’s. “I’m pretty glad to be stuck with you.”
By the end of a day spent entirely in Sorek’s company, Jim knows he’s in trouble.
This has happened to him once before. When he was still living in Riverside, an old stray cat had followed him home from the local bar after a night of heavy drinking. When he woke up the next morning, the cat had somehow found its way into the house and onto Jim’s bed. He fed the cat once, but before he knew it, he’d named her Astoria and she’d become a permanent fixture in his life.
He cried for a week after she died a few years later.
Here’s the deal: Jim gets Sorek. He understands what it’s like to feel abandoned, to feel like you don’t belong anywhere, not wanted anywhere. Jim felt the same way until he set foot on a Starfleet shuttle to grab a front row seat for the stars. But all that mess got him where he is now—Captain of a starship, in a position of influence and power. And if Jim can’t use that to help someone whose need he sees clearly, then what was the point?
Jim’s always had a hard time accepting losses, letting things go, and he’s not about to start now.
And there’s something that feels right about this. It’s that same old feeling, the one he always gets whenever he’s standing on the edge of a metaphorical precipice. It’s the feeling that told him to jump out of his dad’s ‘vette before it went off that cliff with him in it. The feeling that made him decide to leave Iowa behind for good and take the dare he ached to accept. The feeling that told him another lightning storm in space couldn’t be a coincidence. That he should listen to the crazy, old vulcan he’d only just met. That he should do everything in his power to make sure Spock would step on board the Enterprise as his First Officer. The best decisions of Jim’s life have been made with nothing to go on but that feeling deep in his gut. And he’s learned to trust it.
So, once he’s made sure Sorek’s actually asleep in the spare bed set up in Jim’s quarters, he grabs his padd and types out a quick message:
|| You still up? ||
Jim barely has time to run a nervous hand through his hair before Spock replies.
|| If by ‘up’ you mean awake, then yes. I am up, Captain. ||
|| I’m coming over. ||
Jim takes the time to throw on a shirt over his sleeping pants, then enters Spock’s unlocked quarters through their adjoining bathroom.
Spock is sitting cross-legged on his bed—a meditative position—still in uniform and engrossed in a myriad of padds spread over the covers.
As soon as he notices Jim in the doorway, he stands and tugs his shirt down. “Is everything alright, Jim?”
Jim steps fully into the room and sits down on the edge of the bed. Once he’s settled, he looks up to where Spock’s still standing and watching Jim with concern.
“I need your help,” Jim begins, rubbing his sweaty palms over his pants.
“You have it,” is Spock’s immediate reply.
The confident words make Jim’s chest feel tight, and they give him the courage to go on.
“I want to adopt Sorek.”
Translations of the brief interaction between Uhura and Sorek. (I am not a student of Vulcan or languages, so this is all incredibly bastardized and without proper tenses or grammar. My apologies to those more knowledgable than I!)
T’nar pak sorat y’rani.--A formal greeting.
T’nar jaral.--The formal reply to said greeting.
Qual Jim palutunaur du?--Is Jim taking care of you?
Ish-veh whio’naks bolaya-tor.--He is attentive to my needs.
“I want to adopt Sorek.”
In the ringing silence that follows his words, Jim can’t make himself tear his eyes away from Spock’s face. Spock’s reactions are subtle, but Jim considers himself a connoisseur in picking them apart—it comes in handy during situations like this.
So Jim watches, and he waits.
And he waits.
Spock hasn’t stiffened. His eyebrow hasn’t lifted. His eyes haven’t wavered from their contemplation of Jim’s own.
Jim’s almost scared that he sent the poor vulcan into shock what with his utter lack of a reaction. But then Jim glances at Spock’s mouth, and the corner twitches.
Spock is amused.
“You knew?” Jim sputters. That corner of Spock’s mouth lifts just the tiniest bit in response, and it’s all the confirmation Jim needs. “I only just realized this myself a half hour ago, and you fucking knew?”
“Given what I know of your behavioral patterns concerning those you deem in need of your compassion, in addition to your easily observable fondness for Sorek, I estimated a ninety-three point five six percent likelihood that you would choose to pursue this course of action,” Spock says, as cool as that. Jim’s still gaping at him. “When I came to this conclusion four point seven hours ago, I also hypothesized that you would seek my assistance in this matter, both because of my Vulcan citizenship and because I am your first officer.” He takes a step closer to his bed and gestures to the various padds strewn across its surface, “I have been preparing accordingly.”
Jim somehow gains enough control of his gross motor functions to pick up the padd nearest him and look at its contents more closely—it’s a dossier of Federation laws concerning cross-species adoptions. He looks at the rest of the padds; there’s Vulcan citizenship laws, Starfleet protocol for having minors aboard active duty ships, Vulcan adoption procedures, a transcript of the benchmark case Ja’ri vs. Starfleet.
"Spock,” Jim breathes out, completely overwhelmed by the gesture—not quite believing that Spock knows him so well, that's he's already started researching, that he trusts Jim with a member of his own endangered species.
He feels gutted, feels undeserving of that kind of loyalty, and for a while he has no idea what to say.
“I don’t—” he tries. “I just—thank you.”
“Your gratitude is unnecessary,” Spock replies. But Jim can read the amusement still playing around his mouth, and he knows that this is Spock’s way of saying you’re welcome without actually having to utter the nonsensical words.
Jim just smiles at him before turning his attention back to the fruits of Spock’s research laid out in front of him. “What’s your report on all this, Mr. Spock?” he asks, waving his hands at the padds. “How am I going to do this?”
Spock enters report mode easily, his posturing stiffening, his arms moving behind his back. “There is precedent for active duty officer to bring their offspring on long, exploratory missions when there are no options for replacement guardianship; therefore, I do not think there will be an issue keeping Sorek on board the Enterprise. While there has never been a captain placed in such a situation, I believe Admiral Pike would give us his support in this manner.”
“Alright, so Starfleet will be easy to handle?”
“I believe so,” Spock replies. Jim can see it the moment Spock tenses, and he knows he’s not going to like what comes next. “There is, however, a significant impediment in the form of the Vulcan High Council. Our species has never been open-minded where cross-species adoption is concerned.”
Jim’s heart sinks a little bit. Vulcans are fiercely protective of their children—especially with there being so few of them left. “Is there a way to get around their protest?”
“Yes. There are two circumstances in which they would be forced to allow you to adopt Sorek, regardless of their personal opinions. If you were granted Vulcan citizenship, or if you were able to provide evidence of a mental link with Sorek, then they would have no choice but to accept your petition.”
Jim scratches along his jaw as he takes in Spock’s words. “What would this mental link with Sorek mean?” he asks. "I thought that was something you only did with your bondmate?”
“Not exclusively,” Spock explains. “When we are young, we typically form bonds with our immediate family members that are not as strong nor as intimate as the link we share with our bondmates. I have such a bond with my father still, and my mother and I possessed a similar link, though it was not as strong due to her negligent psi rating.”
Jim thinks it over. Form a mental link with Sorek? It sounds simple enough. “So, would I just need to meld with Sorek or something? I can give it a try.”
“It is not quite so easy as that, Jim,” Spock says apologetically. “The older a vulcan grows, the more difficult it becomes to form such a link. In addition, these bonds are formed spontaneously upon physical contact. The child’s mind recognizes that of their father or mother and calls out to them. It is not a bond that can be forced.”
Jim deflates, sinking deeper into Spock’s bed. He resists the urge to lie back and burrow himself in the sheets. “So, there’s no solution?”
“You have forgotten the alternative option.” Spock says, his voice even and careful. He’s not looking at Jim anymore; his gaze is stuck somewhere over Jim’s head.
“Right, Vulcan citizenship. How do I apply?” Jim’s pretty sure the process must be a lengthy one—vulcans seem like the type of species to have a tedious application procedure.
“I do not believe application is a viable option,” Spock says, confirming Jim’s thoughts. He pauses then, and it’s a long enough pause that Jim starts to get jittery. His anticipation is only heightened by the nervous look in Spock’s eyes.
Spock inhales, then:
“However, you would be granted Vulcan citizenship immediately if you were to enter into matrimony with one who already possesses citizenship.” The words come out of his mouth quickly, and it takes a moment for Jim’s brain to slow down them down and understand them.
When he finally gets it, Jim’s pretty sure his mouth falls open. It takes him a minute to remember how to work the muscles in his jaw. “Spock…” he says slowly, his lips forming the name again after he’s said it. “Are you proposing?”
Spock still isn’t looking Jim in the eye, so he can’t be certain he heard correctly.
“I am well aware that the concept of a serious, monogamous relationship is quite disturbing to you, but what I am suggesting need not be so binding,” Spock says carefully. “We need only demonstrate the appearance of marriage to an extent that the High Council will not suspect duplicitous intentions. But, as I am a vulcan and we are not capable of lying, I do not believe they will have any suspicions.
“I would not suggest this course of action if there were any alternatives,” Spock adds, finally looking at Jim. He appears apologetic.
That’s what convinces Jim. “Spock, I can’t ask you to do this. It’s too much.”
“It is fortunate, then, that you are not asking me for anything. I am offering, Jim.”
“Spock, this isn’t like when you do all my boring paperwork, or when you lie to Bones to help me avoid my immunizations. You’ll have to marry me. Marry me, the most illogical human you’ve ever met.”
“I am not suggesting this out of duty, Jim. I am suggesting this as a vulcan who would not see one of my own forced to live with those who would not care for him. Also, you are my friend, and it is my wish to help you whenever I am able.”
Warmth floods Jim’s gut, sending tendrils of feeling all the way to his fingertips, to his toes. “Are we really doing this?” he asks.
“Yes, Jim. We are ‘really doing this.’”
Jim can’t help but laugh.
“Is there something humorous in this?”
Jim shakes his head, “I was just thinking—I’m not sure this is what your older self had in mind exactly when he told us we’d be friends.” Jim sobers quickly after that, thinking about what Spock’ll be to him now. “We’re going to get married, Spock. We’re gonna adopt a kid together.”
“Yes, Jim,” Spock says, his voice deep with some emotion that’s managed to escape from his control. Jim reaches out to grab Spock’s forearm, dragging him closer until he can pull him down onto the bed next to him.
“Well, then, Mr. Spock. Where do we start?”
The most obvious start is, of course, talking to Sorek about all this.
Jim takes the lead on this, since he’s pretty sure Sorek’s still slightly scared of Spock, and abandons Spock to begin all the necessary paperwork. And damn is there a lot of paperwork—marriage licenses, requests for family placement, Vulcan citizenship petitions, not to mention all the applications involved in adoption. Jim’s pretty sure he’s getting the better end of this deal. Of this marriage, too—Spock is far too good for him.
Jim waits until after lunch the next day to talk to Sorek. They return to Jim’s quarters after eating at the mess, and Jim waves him over to take a seat on his sofa. Jim sits next to him, taking a deep breath before facing him.
“Is something wrong, Jim?” Sorek asks, his eyebrows furrowed in concern.
“Not exactly,” Jim says. He reaches out to smooth that wrinkle between Sorek’s eyes—it only makes him frown more.
Jim chuckles a bit and pulls back. “Do you think you’d like to stay here?”
“Stay? As in remain aboard the Enterprise?”
“Yeah. Would you like that? I mean, I know you vulcan’s don’t actually ‘like’ things, but would you prefer that? Over having to live with your uncle?” Jim’s rambling, but he’s nervous as hell.
“I would not be adverse to this idea,” Sorek says slowly, obviously still confused by Jim’s random questioning. “But, I cannot comprehend how this would be possible.”
“It’s definitely possible,” Jim says. “I’ll just have to adopt you.”
“Adopt me?” Sorek repeats, his eyebrows flying to the top of his forehead. “Jim, this is quite a drastic measure. I would not ask you to do this.”
Jim reaches forward until he can grab onto Sorek’s shoulders, looking him in the eye to show him how serious he is. “I know this sounds crazy, Sorek, but I want to do this for you. I don’t want you to have to live with a Frank, not if I can do something about it. And I can do something about this. If you'll let me.”
Jim’s hardly finished speaking before Sorek buries himself in his chest and wraps his strong, skinny arms around Jim’s middle. The embrace is warm, and Jim laughs as he wraps his arms around the vulcan.
“I’m guessing this means you’re okay with it?”
Sorek nods against Jim’s shirt.
Feeling lightened, Jim tightens his hold around him and presses his lips to Sorek’s smooth hair.
After a long moment, in which Sorek nearly squeezes the breath out of Jim’s chest, he pulls back, blushing furiously.
“I apologize for my emotional outburst,” he says, straightening his shirt and looking away. “It will not happen again.”
Jim reaches up and pulls Sorek’s face back towards him, “Hey, listen to me, Sorek; if we do this, we need to get one thing straight first—you never have to apologize to me for your emotions. I get that you guys control your feelings, and I'd never try to change that. But you don’t need to explain yourself to me, okay?”
Sorek’s still blushing, but he nods. “Very well, Jim.”
“Good,” Jim says, dropping his hand back in his lap. “So, there’s something else you should know.”
Sorek’s gaze turns expectant again, and nervous.
“In order for this to work, I have to be a Vulcan citizen, and in order for that to happen I have to marry someone who’s already a Vulcan citizen. Do you see where I’m going with this?”
Sorek’s eyes open wide. “You are going to marry Commander Spock in order to attain Vulcan citizenship.”
“Got it in one.”
“Do you desire to marry Commander Spock? I observed a degree of amiability and respect between you during your interactions, but I was unaware that your relationship was romantic in nature.”
“That’s because it’s not,” Jim says. “Look, we’re only technically getting married, just enough to convince the Vulcan High Council and Starfleet. We’re not really getting married.”
Sorek’s confusion is tangible. “I do not understand this distinction between technical and real marriage.”
Jim can’t really explain the difference to an eight year old—Sorry, Sorek, it just means that Spock and I won’t be fucking even though we’ll be sharing a bed.
“Basically, the relationship between Spock and me is gonna stay platonic, we’re just going to occasionally pretend like we’re husbands.”
“Why would Mr. Spock agree to such an arrangement if he does not intend to take you as a bondmate?”
“Spock did a lot of research, and this is literally the only way we’ll get to keep you. But he’s willing to do it, even if it means he’ll be stuck playing house with me.”
“Commander Spock is quite loyal.”
“Yes he is,” Jim smiles. Then he gives a stern look to Sorek, “If Spock and I are gonna be your legal guardians, then you’ve got to drop all this formal crap, alright? No more commanders or misters or captains. We’re just Jim and Spock now.”
“If you wish, Jim.”
“I do.” Jim grins then and runs his fingers through Sorek’s hair, messing it up. “I think this whole parenting this is going to be awesome.”
Sorek pulls back, straightening his hair and glaring at Jim. “I find myself suddenly unsure.”
Jim just laughs, “Good. Uncertainty just makes it all the more exciting.”
After Spock gets off Alpha, Jim leave Sorek in his care with the pretext of making them have some vulcan bonding time, but, in reality, he just wants to go find Bones and talk about all of this. Shit’s bound to hit the ceiling anytime now—Jim’s been jumping out of his skin at every sound that comes out of his console, terrified it’s Starfleet Command or the Vulcan High Council.
As Jim leaves Spock and Sorek alone, they give him two distinct looks: Spock’s is knowing, which means he’s already realized exactly where Jim is going, and Sorek’s is panicked, no doubt nervous at the prospect of having to talk to Spock without Jim there as a buffer. But both looks give Jim the courage to initiate the potentially horrifying discussion he’s been psyching himself up for.
Jim can see this conversation going one of two ways—either Bones is going to yell at him for being an irresponsible idiot, or he’s going to get drunk enough that he can pretend not to hear a word Jim’s saying. Jim’s not certain which would be easier to deal with.
So, like Jim always does when faced with impossible odds, he decides to get it over with quickly.
“I’m going to adopt Sorek.”
Bones has barely shut the door to his office when he blurts it out, and he freezes with his back still to Jim. After a long moment, he moves again, approaching the cabinet behind his desk and pulling out a bottle of Andorian ale and a shot glass.
He sits down at his desk, still pretending like Jim’s not there, and pours himself a finger. After he’s downed two shots, he finally looks at Jim.
“So let me get this straight,” he says, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. He’s looking at Jim like he’s a patient whose symptoms he’s trying to work out. “You want to adopt Sorek. You want to adopt an eight-year-old kid. You want to adopt a vulcan?”
“I know, Bones, it’s insane.” When Bones pours himself another shot, Jim takes it from him and downs it himself. He hasn’t had Andorian ale in a long time, and it burns the entire way down. “But, Bones, I can’t send Sorek back to New Vulcan. They think the best plan for his well-being is sending him to live with an uncle who already has a family of his own and doesn't give a damn about him.”
Bones raises an eyebrow. “So that’s what this is about. You can’t let the kid be raised by another Frank.”
“That’s obviously a part of it, but it’s more than that, Bones. I care about this kid. He kept me sane while we were locked up on Risa Gamma—I’m not sure I would’ve made it out of there without him.”
“And you think those pointy-eared bastards on New Vulcan are just gonna let you keep this kid because you care about him? Jim, you’re the captain of a starship, not to mention the fact that you’re barely twenty seven.”
“Well, you’re right. That’s definitely an issue.” Jim nods, and then prepares himself. “Unless I happened to be a legal Vulcan citizen…”
“Unless you were…” Bones repeats, his face blank. Jim can see the moment when Bones realizes where this is going. “No. There is no—” he sputters, his face almost comical in its disbelief and horror. “You’re gonna?”
“You’re marrying the hobgoblin?” he finally manages to spit out.
Jim has a hard time containing his laughter. All of this is worth it just for the look on Bones’ face. “Think of it as less of a marriage and more of a domestic partnership.”
“And he knows about this? He agreed to this?”
“It was his idea,” Jim smiles. Bones gags.
“I don’t know who I should feel more sorry for—him for having to deal with your nonsense, or you for having to live with a computer.” Bones shakes his head.
But then he sighs heavily, and that’s when Jim knows he’s got his support. How many times has he heard that exasperated sigh before Bones went along with whatever reckless idea Jim had come up with?
“So you’re really gonna do this, huh?”
“It’s already done,” Jim smiles. “Spock sent in the paperwork this morning.”
“And you’re sure this is what you want?”
“Absolutely,” Jim says, making his voice firm.
Bones relaxes a bit in his chair at Jim’s confirmation. “Well, I haven’t seen you so fanatical about something since that damned Kobayashi Maru, I’ll give you that.” He runs a hand through his hair and sighs again. “So, what, are you and Spock gonna play Mommy and Daddy whenever we’re on Earth or New Vulcan and then go back to Captain and First Officer when we’re out in the black?”
“Not quite,” Jim winces, thinking about all the people they’re going to have to lie to. “We have to sell this to the crew, our families. At least until I gain my permanent citizenship status.”
“Have you told Sorek about this?”
“Yeah, there’s no use trying to lie to him.” Jim smiles, thinking about how Sorek had thrown himself into Jim’s arms earlier. “Get this, Bones: the kid is actually excited. Have you ever seen a tiny vulcan look excited? Because, let me tell you, it’s fucking adorable.”
Bones whistles. “Well, I’ll be, Jim. I reckon you’ve found yourself a nice, emotionally-repressed family. I just have one last question. With you living together, how long is it gonna take Spock to figure out how you feel about him?”
Jim stiffens instinctively.
He’s never talked to Bones about this before. He’s never talked to anyone about this before. It took him a good six months to even admit it to himself.
It’s just something that’s always been there—this attraction to his first officer. It’s easy to pinpoint where that part of it started: the moment Spock stood up in a crowded auditorium and adjusted his uniform. But the other part—the feelings—he’s not sure when those started.
Staring at Spock’s long, pale fingers during chess, imagining all the different ways they could touch him, those thoughts became commonplace. But one day Jim caught himself zoning out in the middle of a conversation, just grinning stupidly at Spock and not really listening to a word he’d been saying. And Jim wasn’t thinking about sex—no, he was thinking to himself about how much he likes hearing Spock’s voice.
He thought he’d been good at hiding it.
“Am I that obvious?”
“Generally? Nah. I only notice because I know you, Jim," Bones says, looking amused. “Uhura probably knows, but that’s only because she’s scary smart. Don’t worry, everyone else is as oblivious as that soon-to-be husband of yours.”
“What am I gonna do, Bones? You’re right, we’re going to be living together, he’ll figure it out.”
“You could always tell him before it gets to that,” Bones says. He’s grimacing, as if it pains him to give Jim advice about it at all.
Jim just shakes his head. “Hell no. You know how Spock is with this emotional shit. I mean, Uhura left him because he couldn’t handle her emotions, how do you think he’s going to handle mine?”
“I suppose you’ve got a point there.” Bones sighs, “Well, Jim, I guess there’s not much you can do ‘cept try and get over it.”
“Get over it?” Jim scoffs. “While pretending I’m married to him?”
Bones has the audacity to laugh.
Jim drops his face into his hands and groans. “I am so screwed.”
The comms don’t start coming in until the next day.
Jim, finally cleared for regular duty, leaves Sorek in the care of his yeoman, Janice Rand—who seems quite pleased at the prospect of watching a cute vulcan all day and earning an extra day of leave for it—and reports to Alpha shift on the bridge. He’s barely been in the seat for a minute before it begins.
“Captain, there’s an incoming priority two message for you,” Uhura reports, turning around and shooting Jim a curious look. “It’s from Admiral Pike.”
“I’ll take it in my ready room, Lieutenant,” Jim says, standing and making eye contact with Spock. Spock stands as well. “Sulu, you have the conn.”
Once the door shuts behind them, Jim turns to Spock. “Don’t worry about talking; I know how much you hate lying, and, lucky for you, I’m quite good at it.” He tries to give Spock a cocky grin, but he’s pretty sure it comes out more like a grimace.
He’s good at lying, but he hates that he’s going to have to do it to someone he respects and admires.
Jim takes a seat at his desk, and Spock comes to stand at his shoulder, his arm brushing up against him. He’s not sure if the contact is for moral support or for the appearance of their marriage, but Jim’s not going to complain either way.
Taking a deep breath, Jim taps a few keys on his console until Pike’s familiar face appears on the screen.
“Well, if it isn’t the men of the hour.” Pike’s expression is stern, but Jim can tell there’s amusement there too—a good sign. “You’ve got Command in quite a fuss, boys.”
“You know me, Admiral—always looking to ruffle a few feathers,” Jim grins, leaning back in his chair. It presses his shoulder a little more obviously against Spock’s arm, and Pike’s quick eyes don’t miss the movement.
“You know,” he says, looking between the two pointedly, “When I made you Commander Spock’s first officer, this isn’t exactly what I had in mind.”
“Didn’t you always say Starfleet needed more officers like me, sir? Officers who leap without looking?
Pike rolls his eyes. “I’m not sure marrying your first officer qualifies for that, Jim.” Pike relaxes in his chair and crosses his arms—it’s not an official call, then. Pike’s eyes look up to where Spock’s still standing. “How did he convince you to do something this impulsive, Spock?”
“I am sure you are familiar with how persuasive Jim can be,” Spock answers, pressing closer to Jim.
Pike laughs. “You’ve got a point there, Spock. Well, I guess if there’s anyone I’d trust not to let Jim push them around, it’s you.”
“I don’t push people around,” Jim protests.
A warm hand falls on his shoulder. The gesture surprises Jim, but it’s nice. He doesn’t have to fake the fond look he shoots at Spock over his shoulder.
"I guess I can see how your particular brands of madness might suit each other,” Pike says, running a thumb along his jaw in speculation. “And anything that pisses Komack off is enough to make my day.”
Jim beams. “So you’ll help us with all this legal shit?”
Pike sighs and shakes his head—it’s a familiar motion to Jim. “Yes, Jim, you’ve got my support. Now, tell me about this vulcan who has the two of you all ready to commit?”
Jim smiles. “His name is Sorek. He’s eight and already smarter than me.”
“I would not say Sorek is more intelligent than you, Jim,” says Spock. “It will take him a few more years in order to surpass you.”
“Oh, just a few more years?”
“I have just said this, Jim. Is your hearing functioning adequately?”
“And how are you going to organize this Sorek’s care?” interrupts Pike. “We don’t pay your officers to babysit your kid.”
“We have drafted an alternative shift schedule so that the Captain and I will not share on-duty hours, thus ensuring that one of us will be available to supervise Sorek at all times.”
“And Spock’s coming up with a curriculum for him,” Jim adds. “Can't let that little vulcan brain of his go to waste.”
Pike nods and looks impressed. “It sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into this, Jim.”
“Well, that’s what the old ball and chain here is for, right?” Jim grins at Spock over his shoulder.
Pike shoots Spock a pitying look. “Good luck with this one, Mister Spock. And good luck to you too, Jim. I don’t think you’ll have trouble with Starfleet, but you’ve still got the Vulcan High Council to convince.”
Jim shivers just thinking about having to stare down so many expressionless vulcans. “Thanks for that.”
“Well, I’ll let the two of you get back to work,” Pike says. Then he grins, “Be sure and send me pictures from the wedding!”
Before either can protest this last request, Pike ends the communication. Spock removes his hand from Jim’s shoulder and takes a step back.
Jim turns in his chair to look at him, chuckling weakly. “Well, that went better than I expected.”
“Admiral Pike thinks highly of you,” Spock says, lifting a shoulder slightly. “I am unsurprised that he offered us his assistance.”
Jim snorts and shakes his head. “You know, Spock, I used to think you were cynical.”
“Thank you, Jim.”
“Don’t thank me yet. I know better now, Spock—you’re just as sappy and sanguine as the rest of us.”
Spock glares at him, “Insults are hardly appropriate when about to initiate marriage, Captain.”
A few hours later they talk with the Vulcan High Council, and it’s every bit as excruciating as Jim expects it to be. Luckily Spock takes the lead on this one, and he somehow manages to out-logic the most logical beings in the known universe.
And the parting ‘live long and prosper’ with the contained ‘fuck you’ he shoots them is probably the most badass thing Jim’s ever witnessed.
“So that’s it?” Jim asks, cocking a hip against his desk.
Spock, still seated in Jim’s chair, turns to face him. “There are still several more forms to be processed before the adoption becomes official, and we must identify a crew member who will be able to finalize our marriage.”
Jim groans at the thought of someone witnessing their unholy union. “We don’t have to have a ceremony or anything, right?”
“No,” Spock says very quickly. Jim exhales in relief. “We only require the presence of one individual to witness our union and one to legalize it.”
“So we just sign the form and that’s it? We’re married?”
“Indeed. It is quite simple.”
“Huh,” Jim nods, glad he won’t have to get dressed up or anything.
“There is one matter we still need to discuss, Jim,” Spock says, “It concerns our altered living arrangements.”
Jim’s already put far too much thought into this aspect of their marriage. “Well, I think our yeomen will notice if we don’t share a room.”
“I have come to this conclusion as well, and have found a solution. We are due for a semi-annual refit soon, and I believe we can use this opportunity to remodel our current quarters into one better suited for cohabitation.”
“Sounds logical,” Jim nods, pursing his lips. “And until then?”
“I shall give Sorek my room while you and I share your quarters.”
“How do you feel about sharing a bed?” Jim asks before he can stop himself. This is the part of their living arrangements that Jim’s brain has refused to let go of.
“That will not be necessary,” Spock says promptly. “Your sofa will suffice.”
“No way, Spock,” Jim protests. In this, at least, his motives are partially pure. “I’m not gonna let you sleep on the couch.”
“Need I remind you that vulcans only require, on average—”
Jim shakes his head quickly, “I don't want to hear it. We’re sharing Spock, no arguments. I promise to keep all my limbs to my side of the bed, and I'll try not to steal all the blankets.”
“Very well,” Spock says eventually, reluctantly.
Jim smiles at Spock smugly, then claps him on the shoulder, “Well, Spock, let’s go get ourselves hitched."
It takes them awhile to prepare (they have to alter the shifts of a large portion of the command crew, come up with a curriculum for tutoring Sorek, work on moving Spock’s possession’s into Jim’s room), but the day finally comes about a week later.
Still dressed in uniform, Jim arrives at a little-used conference room with Sorek in tow. Bones, their witness, and Scotty—who, it turns out, is licensed to marry any two Federation members—are already there, but Spock is still absent. Jim’s about to greet them, when the door opens again. Jim turns, expecting to see Spock, but instead is graced with the wide grin on Uhura’s face.
Jim and Spock had decided to keep the proceedings relatively private and to invite only Bones and Scotty, but, apparently, Spock had chosen to include Uhura as well. Not that Jim minds her presence; actually, it’s rather fitting that she be here. Even though she and Spock ended their physical relationship at the start of the mission, Jim knows they’re still close.
“Kirk, Sorek,” Uhura greets, sliding past Jim and greeting Bones and Scotty as well. It’s only then that Jim notices she’s carrying a bottle of champagne. He starts to feel uneasy.
When Sulu, Chekov, and Chapel all three show up soon after, Jim knows something’s up.
“Bones,” Jim starts warningly, crossing his arms and glaring at the doctor.
They’re standing close to the door, and Jim looks pointedly towards the corner where Scotty, Uhura, Chekov, and Sulu are all chatting and laughing at something. Sorek’s standing along the wall next to Christine and looking pleased with himself. Spock still has yet to show up.
Bones just grins that evil smile of his. “You can’t get married without a reception, Jim.”
“Bones…” Jim groans.
“Oh, relax, Jimmy,” Bones clasps him on the shoulder. “Think of this as emotional support. Lord knows you’re gonna need it, having to live with two vulcans. Not to mention the fact that both of them are gonna have to put up with your nonsense.”
Jim sighs, but concedes the points. He supposes it’s kind of nice to have his senior staff there. They’ve become less like coworkers and more like family in their time together on the Enterprise.
Just as Jim resigns himself to this quasi-reception, the other guest-of-honor finally arrives.
Spock makes a beeline for Jim as soon as he walks in the door.
“My apologies, Captain,” he says, looking more flustered than Jim’s ever seen him. “I was in the midst of a time-sensitive experiment and could not abandon it until it was completed.”
“It’s alright, Spock,” Jim smiles, “It’s not like we can do this without you.”
Spock nods to concede the point and glances around the room at the unexpected spectators to their forthcoming nuptials. He raises an eyebrow at Jim, “I thought we have agreed to forgo a ceremony.”
Jim can only shrug and point to Bones. “Blame this meddler. Bones thought we needed ‘emotional support.’”
Spock finally acknowledges Bones, who’s just been standing by and nursing his drink. “Doctor, as a vulcan, I have no need of any such assistance. Especially if it is being offered by you.”
Jim laughs, and before Bones can take the bait, raises his voice to the room at large. “Alright, people. Since you all just had to be here, let’s get this show on the road.”
“I’m still disappointed we didn’t get to throw you a bachelor party,” says Sulu as Jim and Spock meet Scotty in the center of the room. He shoots Jim a teasing smirk.
“I’m still disappointed you didn’t wear white,” Uhura adds. Jim glares at her.
Spock gives disapproving looks to all those snickering around them. “If you are all finished.” It’s a testament to how much closer they’ve all grown, because no one so much as flinches at Spock’s severe expression. Jim knows firsthand how terrifying that look can be.
“Alright, lads,” Scotty says, stepping up beside them pulling out a padd. “Would ye like to say anything?”
Jim snatches the padd out of his hands and pulls the stylus out of the top. He signs his name at the bottom of the marriage license. “I do,” he says, looking up and grinning at Spock. He’s watching him with an intensity Jim can’t make sense of.
But Spock takes the padd and stylus from Jim’s hands without a word. He adds his signature as well, not once breaking eye contact with Jim.
Jim doesn't let himself think about too much about what that look might mean, so he jerks the padd out of Spock’s hands quickly and shoves it back at Scotty.
“Someone’s eager for the honeymoon,” Sulu murmurs audibly, and Chekov starts to actually giggle.
“What is this ‘honeymoon?’” asks Sorek, still standing beside Chapel. “I have heard seven different references to it tonight.”
Jim cringes. Bones snorts. Christine covers her mouth with both hands. Everyone else laughs, apparently lacking any self-control.
It’s Spock who finally explains, ignoring the mirth of everyone around him. “When Terrans marry, they generally take a short leave as an adjustment period. The name and the practice itself are both quite illogical.” At Sorek’s contemplative nod, Spock turns back to Scotty. “Mr. Scott, if you would please continue.”
“Well alrigh’ then,” he huffs, but he adds his signature to the bottom without further ado. And it’s done. “I now pronounce you husband an’ wife. Spock, ya may kiss the bride,” he grins.
Jim can feel his face start to redden, and he fights the urge not to slap a hand to his forehead in frustration. He glances at Spock and sees that he’s watching him closely. When their eyes meet, he hold out his right hand, index and middle fingers extended.
“On Vulcan, bondmates would often kiss in this manner,” he explains after seeing Jim’s confusion at the gesture. “It is a more dignified manner of kissing when compared to the Terran equivalent.”
Before Jim can over-think Spock’s motivations in offering this, he steps closer to him and mirrors his gesture. Holding his breath, he brushes his fingers against Spock’s lightly and watches in wonder as color tinges his cheekbones. Jim obviously isn’t experiencing the same sensations as Spock, but his fingertips definitely tingle with the contact.
With the sense that he’s been staring at Spock much too obviously, he takes a step back and clears his throat. He looks around at the others, wondering if he’s been found out, but most are talking amongst themselves now, sipping their glasses of champagne. Only Bones and Uhura seemed to have noticed the intimate moment, the former scowling into his drink and the latter full on grinning at them.
Jim seeks out Sorek and finds that the boy is still staring at him and Spock with what can only be labelled as acute embarrassment. Jim’s pretty pleased that he’s already managed to embarrass his kid—he’s certain that’s somewhere in the parenting guidebook Spock’s been trying to get him to read.
Jim waves him over.
“Well, Sorek,” Jim says, reaching out when he’s close enough and tugging him the rest of the way. “Just one more padd to sign and we’ll be set. Are you sure you’re okay to move into Spock’s room tonight?”
“As I have assured you previously, I have no qualms sleeping alone,” Sorek explains with that tenuous patience of a vulcan. “Vulcan children do not fear the dark as your Terran children do.”
Jim holds up both hands in amusement. “Alright, I just wanted to make sure.”
Spock moves closer to him and touches Jim’s wrist with two fingers. “Perhaps now we should retire to our quarters and finish our paperwork,” he says quietly.
“Good thinking,” Jim says, smiling at his husband.
Jim hopes they can sneak out without anyone noticing, but their so-called friends all applaud obnoxiously as they leave the room.
Jim threatens to fire them all.
Despite his threats, Jim’s okay with the crew having their fun with his joke of a marriage to Spock, but he wants adopting Sorek to be different. He wants it to be private, first of all, and real—a commitment between the three of them to be a family. He wants Sorek to know stability, the kind Jim never had growing up, being passed among family members. The kind he might finally have with Sorek.
In Jim’s quarters, Spock and Sorek both sit on the small sofa, on opposite ends with their backs identically straight. Jim grabs the chair from his desk and swings it around so he’s straddling it in front of them. He leans back and grabs a padd too, pulling up the paperwork Spock had already filled out.
“Well, Sorek, this is it,” he says, grinning at the vulcan.
Sorek looks nervous. “If you are unsure about this,” he starts, sounding slightly panicked, “I will not cast any blame upon you if—”
“Nope,” Jim cuts him off, signing his name before Sorek can finish the thought. He raises both eyebrows at him as he hands the padd to Spock.
Sorek closes his mouth, a feeling he hasn’t been able to bury creeping into his eyes and filling them with emotion. Spock adds his signature and then sends in the application at once.
Sorek’s eyes dart between Jim and Spock, as if he’s not quite convinced that all of this is real. Jim feels much the same way, so he abandons his chair and squeezes between the two vulcans on the sofa. He slings his arms around both their shoulders and pulls them in close. Sorek leans into the touch, used to Jim’s affection by now. Spock stiffens a little, hands tightening around his thighs. But he doesn’t move away. It’s telling.
Jim grins lazily. “Looks like I’ve managed to acquire a husband and a son all within the course of an hour. Aren’t I lucky?”
“Luck is a myth invented to—”
“If I believed in such a concept—”
Sorek and Spock begin, then both stop when they realize they’re talking over the other. And Jim just laughs. And laughs. Laughs until Sorek starts to look concerned for Jim’s sanity and Spock lets out a real, honest-to-god sigh of frustration. Eventually, when he still has yet to control his laughter, Sorek leans across Jim’s chest to address Spock.
“Should we consult Doctor McCoy about Jim’s unstable mental condition?”
“I do not think it worth the effort,” Spock says, after thinking the question over for a moment. “I believe the doctor is quite aware that Jim is prone to psychotic episodes such as this.”
They're making fun of him. Two overly-formal, overly-intelligent vulcans are actually making fun of him.
Jim’s had his doubts about all of this, but right now, as he’s laughing his guts out and his husband and kid are watching him with thinly veiled amusment, Jim’s overwhelmed with contentment. And he’s pretty sure that everything’s going to work out just fine.
Later that night, after he’s tucked Sorek into Spock’s old bed (“I am quite capable of pulling the sheet up myself, Jim.”), Jim’s confronted with the reality of what living with Spock is going to be like.
They take turns in the bathroom, being overly polite and generally careful around each other. While Spock’s brushing his teeth, Jim changes into his sleepwear. He quickly decides that a shirt will be necessary, despite having turned up the temperature in the room to be more comfortable for Spock. He’s just pulled it over his head when Spock walks back into the room. He’s wearing much the same attire—a thin, black t-shirt and cotton pants slung low on his narrow hips.
Jim’s mouth runs dry.
Spock isn’t looking at him, luckily, too busy putting his dirty uniform in their laundry chute, and Jim takes the opportunity to sit on the edge of the bed and cross his legs.
"So." He swallows thickly. “Do you have a side of the bed you’d rather sleep on?” He cringes at how awkward his voice sounds.
“I have no preference,” Spock replies, standing next to Jim. Standing close enough that Jim can smell him.
He jumps up, tearing his eyes away from Spock, and tries to walk slowly to the other side of the bed. “I’ll take this side, then,” he says, pulling back the sheets and sliding in between them.
“Very well.” Spock settles beside him, his body heat tangible almost immediately. It gets Jim hot in more than one way.
They both end up lying on their backs, about a foot between them; the lights are still on, and the air is heavy with silence.
Eventually, it gets to be too much for Jim. “This is weird,” he says, frowning at the ceiling he’s never really observed before.
“It is not entirely comfortable,” Spock agrees.
“Have you ever slept with someone like this?”
“When I have shared a bed with another, sleep was never the main purpose in doing so.”
Jim lets out a small huff of laughter, hoping to cover up the effect of Spock’s words. Because imagining Spock sharing a bed with someone else, imagining the main purpose of him doing so? That’s something Jim doesn’t ever want to think about in too much detail.
“Me too,” Jim says finally. He shifts a bit. “I guess—this might be weird, but it’s not bad.”
He turns his head a bit, so he can observe Spock’s face. Spock turns to look at him as well. “No Jim,” he says, his face open. “It is not ‘bad.’”
When Jim blinks awake to the sound of his alarm in the morning, Spock’s already dressed and working quietly at Jim’s desk.
Jim sits up and stretches his stiff muscles, smirking at Spock as he watches him. “Morning, honey.”
Spock narrows his gaze. “I am aware that Terrans often call their partners by nonsensical names such as ‘honey,’ but I must inform you that I will never appreciate nor reciprocate this compulsion.”
“I’m just teasing, Spock,” Jim shakes his head. Apparently Spock’s extra sassy in the morning. “Terms of endearment aren’t my thing either.”
He throws the sheets off of himself and stands, leaning down to stretch out his back. When he stands again, Spock is still watching him.
“I’m gonna go see if Sorek’s up,” Jim tells him.
“That will not be necessary,” Spock says, “Sorek has been awake for approximately three hours.”
Jim frowns at him, “How do you know?”
“We mediated together earlier this morning, as we have done every morning for the last five days.”
“Huh.” That explains why Sorek was always awake and collected when Jim would wake up. It’s kind of nice that Spock and Sorek have been sharing their mornings together. It’s a sign of good things to come.
Jim walks onto the bridge an hour later with a bright smile on his face.
“Captain, you’re glowing,” Uhura teases as Jim settles into his chair. “Must have been some wedding night.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” he says sharply. He glances around and notices that he’s caught the attention of the entire bridge crew. He sighs. “Mr. Spock and I spent a magical night together,” he says flatly. “Happy, you nosey gossips?”
A few people chuckle, but most just grin. When he waves a hand at them, they all return to their stations.
The morning goes slowly—they’re currently en route to a planet thirteen days away, so there’s not much for Jim to do except review status reports—but just before lunch, Uhura informs him that he has an incoming message from Starfleet Command.
When he’s situated in his ready room, he accepts the communication, wondering if this has anything to do with his now official marriage. But it’s not Admiral Pike on the screen of his console, nor is it, thankfully, Komack; instead, it’s Admiral Banka. She’s one of the most senior admirals in the ‘fleet, and Jim’s almost as nervous as he is surprised to see her.
“Admiral Banka,” he greets, inclining his head carefully.
“Captain Kirk,” she replies, her face blank. But then it clears into subtle amusement. “I understand congratulations are in order.”
Jim’s thankful for the amusement—it’s a relief not to be confronted with the disapproval he’d received from others in Starfleet Command.
“Thank you," he says sincerely. "As of last night, I’m both a husband and a father.”
“It’s strange, isn’t it?” she asks with a smile.
“The strangest,” Jim agrees.
“Well, Kirk, I didn’t comm you just for small talk,” she says, folding her arms across her chest. “I wanted to ask you a few follow-up questions about Risa Gamma.”
Jim hadn’t been expecting more questions about their botched mission. “I believe Commander Spock turned in a very detailed report, ma’am,” he says slowly.
“I reviewed it personally, and it is, indeed, quite thorough. However, I want your perspective on the events of those four days.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I’m not sure I can give it; I was blind and imprisoned for the majority of the mission.”
“Nevertheless, I want your opinion,” she says, starting to sound frustrated. Her grey eyebrows are pressed together in the center of her forehead, but, with a sigh, she relaxes them again. “Let me square with you, Captain. I mentored Lieutenant Commander Jalloh while he was at the Academy, and I’m concerned about what he might have been dragged into while on Risa.” Jim understands, now, that this call isn’t an official one. “Do you believe he was involved in the trap that greeted you on Risa Gamma? Or your capture?”
“There’s no way to be certain,” Jim says honestly and apologetically. “But that trap was meant to subdue, not to harm us. And, as I’m sure you read in Spock’s report, my rescue was way too easy. I think there was something bigger going on there,” Jim concludes. “Something more than just an officer gone A.W.O.L.”
Banka looks thoughtful, nodding to herself. “Thank you for your help, Kirk,” she says finally, her eyes finding Jim’s once more. “And do me a favor? Keep your eyes and ears open.”
“Of course, Admiral.”
“Give my best to your husband,” she smirks, just before ending the connection.
Once the screen goes blank, Jim leans back in his chair and dissects the seemingly random call from Banka. In all the drama with Sorek and Spock, Jim had almost forgotten about the suspicious events of their mission on Risa Gamma, but now the problem has burrowed its way under his skin.
Jim’s always been good at strategy, at tactics—getting inside the enemy’s head, anticipating their next moves, discovering their weak points. But he can’t make any sense of what went down on Risa Gamma. Illogical, Spock would say. And it’s true—there’s no logic in kidnapping someone if you don’t plan to gain something from it. So why did his captives let him and Sorek go without any sort of a fight?
Jim just doesn’t understand, and there’s not much he hates more than the inability to understand.
With a frustrated sigh, Jim glances at the chronometer on the wall and notices that it’s time for his lunch break. A grin manages to squeeze past his frustration when he thinks about who's waiting for him in the mess hall.
When he gets to the mess, his grins grows to painful proportions—Spock and Sorek are seated side by side, each with the exact same orange soup on their respective trays.
“Hi, guys,” he says, setting his own tray across from them.
Sorek looks up from his meal with obvious pleasure. “Hello, Jim.”
Spock merely nods at him, but Jim can tell he’s pleased by his presence too.
“How goes the studying?” Jim asks the two.
“Satisfactory,” Sorek says. “I have worked through several texts in calculus, physics, and chemistry.”
Jim raises his eyebrows at Spock. “Isn’t that pretty heavy material for an eight-year-old?”
Spock raises an eyebrow right back. “Vulcans, as you know, Captain, develop more rapidly than humans in cognitive functioning. I acquired the equivalent of a complete, Terran high school education when I was only two years older than Sorek is now.”
Jim snorts, “Alright, I see how it is, Mr. Spock. Someone is in a bragging mood.”
Jim can almost feel Spock’s frustration from across the table, and it only makes him grin back cheekily. He turns to Sorek.
“So, what kind of super-smart things are you learning after lunch?” he asks.
“Xenobiology,” Sorek says, his left eye twitching. Jim interprets this as excitement.
“Well, I’m glad you’ll be having so much fun this afternoon, since I have to slave away on the bridge,” Jim sighs dramatically.
“Do you not enjoy working on the bridge, Jim?” Sorek asks.
“I love it.”
Sorek frowns. “I do not understand, then, why you have equated the remainder of your shift with slavery.”
“No reason,” Jim shrugs.
Sorek looks as though he’d like to slam a tiny fist into Jim’s jaw.
And Jim’s delighted—he’s managed to frustrate both Spock and Sorek into an emotional response in less than ten minutes. It’s practically a record.
“Well, now that I’ve managed to make you both regret attaching yourselves to me so officially and bindingly, I’m gonna go back to the bridge.” He gets up, grinning at them both with satisfaction.
When he reaches the door, he turns around to see that they’re both still watching him—identical, bewildered looks on their faces. Jim laughs and waves at them, walking all the way back to the bridge with giddiness in every step.
A couple days later, Jim’s sitting at the desk in his quarters when his padd beeps with a new message.
He’d put Sorek to bed a few hours ago, and he’s been getting caught up on paperwork while waiting for Spock to get off Beta shift. It’s starting to become his new routine—wait for Spock, so they can go to sleep at the same time. It feels like those few moments they spend together before getting in bed are the only moments they’re ever alone nowadays. It’s counterintuitive, but now that they’re married, they hardly see each other.
Pushing those pointless complaints to the back of his mind, Jim grabs his padd and turns the screen on. He frowns when he realizes that his new message is from an unknown sender and is heavily encrypted.
Jim pops his fingers and then gets to work—using all his skill in computer science to break through the advanced security and decrypt the message. When it’s finally done, Jim’s disappointed to see how short the message is; it hardly seems worth all the trouble it took just to open the damn thing.
|| CAPTAIN, || it reads, || I SAW ON THE FNN THIS MORNING THAT YOU’VE RECEIVED MY MESSAGE. GOOD. MORE TO COME, F. ||
Jim has no idea who this ‘F’ is supposed to be, nor what the message could possibly be, but the reference to the Federation News Network gives him a place to start. Why was he on the FNN this morning?
“Computer,” he says out loud, straightening in his chair a bit. “Search for news reports from today that mention James T. Kirk.”
“Searching…” the female voice of the computer replies in monotone. “Fourteen results found.”
“Send them to my terminal.”
“Download complete,” the computer says after a moment.
Jim scrolls though all the results with a frown—every single mention of him on the news is related to his recent nuptials and subsequent adoption. How did this show ‘F’ that Jim received a message?
The familiar hiss of a pneumatic door jolts Jim out of thoughts.
“Hi, Spock,” he greets with a grin, leaning back in his chair to look at him.
“Jim,” Spock replies, stepping into their quarters and approaching him. He's wearing an even expression, but it turns to a frown when he sees Jim’s console.
“An unfortunate casualty of being a public figure,” he comments, sending a dark look at Jim’s screen. It’s an article about their recent marriage, and in the center is a large picture of Jim and Spock that had been taken on the morning of the Enterprise’s launch. It seems like so long ago now.
Jim pulls up the message on his padd again and hands it over to Spock. “I got this about twenty minutes ago.”
Spock scans it quickly, then looks back to Jim. “Do you know what message it is that you are supposed to have received?”
“Not a clue,” Jim says, and then waves a hand at his console. “That’s why I’ve been checking out the news.”
He stands, stretching out the muscles in his back, then turns to Spock with a playful look. “Unless the message was that I’d managed to find myself a catch of a husband…”
Spock, understandably, ignores this. “Have you attempted to triangulate the point of origin?”
“I tried,” Jim says, walking to their dresser and pulling out his sleepwear, “but it was beyond me. I was hoping you might take a look at it.”
Spock nods and places the padd back on Jim’s desk. “I shall do so first thing in the morning.”
Jim enters the refresher to change and take a quick piss.
Spock enters the bathroom while Jim’s brushing his teeth, already changed into his pajamas himself, and mirrors Jim’s actions at the sink.
Jim’s struck with the domesticity of it, and how nice it is—and it almost makes him spit his toothpaste into the sink. What happened to the thrill-seeking man he used to be? The one who wasn’t having a good time unless he was drunk or riding his motorbike at dangerous speeds or fucking around with some alien he’d picked up at the bar.
It’s like he just woke up suddenly, and now he’s perfectly content brushing his teeth alongside his fake-husband.
Jim meets Spock’s eyes in the mirror and shakes his head sadly. Spock quirks his head to the side in a question, but Jim just shrugs.
After they’ve both gotten into bed—an action that’s steadily becoming more normal—and turned the lights down, Jim finds he doesn’t feel tired at all. He tosses and turns for a bit, but he finally gives up and rolls to one side. Propping his head up on an elbow, he sees that Spock’s still awake as well, dark eyes wide and staring at the ceiling. When he notices Jim watching, he rolls over too until they’re facing each other.
“Is everything alright?” Spock asks.
“I miss having you on Alpha with me,” Jim blurts out before he can stop himself. He smiles at Spock sheepishly, trying to cover up how needy that statement surely sounded. “It’s just not the same without someone criticizing my command decisions every five minutes.”
“I hardly express my concern every five minutes,” Spock protests. “Perhaps ten minutes would be a more accurate increment of time.”
Jim grins at Spock’s attempt at humor. Spock dons his not-quite-smile in response, but then he sobers. “I, too, find myself noting your absence during Beta shift, Jim.”
Jim has to turn onto his back to hide the way his face softens at Spock’s words.
“Thank you, Spock,” he whispers after a while, after he’s made sure he can speak without his voice shaking. He’s not quite sure what he’s thanking Spock for, but some deep part of him compels him to utter the words anyway.
Spock, on some level, seems to understand. Spock always seems to understand.
“You are welcome, Jim.”
As Sulu smoothly pulls the Enterprise out of warp, Jim straightens in his chair and watches Starbase 17 come into view.
“Uhura, contact Starbase and give them our clearance code. Sulu, after she gives you the go ahead, initiate the standard docking procedure.”
“Aye sir,” they echo back.
Satisfied, Jim pulls out his padd and reviews the transfer orders he’d approved a few weeks previously. Jim always feels a bit smug at how few people request transfers off the Enterprise and how many people apply to fill their vacancies. Today, there are only two transfers: Lieutenant Demos, one of Spock’s science officers, and Ensign Barrera from engineering.
The Enterprise is due to pick up their replacement officers this afternoon, as well as undergo some standard maintenance—including bigger quarters for Jim, Spock, and Sorek. Jim’s been looking forward to this trip, and he’s glad he can give the crew a couple days of leave while they’re there. Even Spock agreed to take leave for once—he and Jim are beaming over to the Starbase with Sorek as soon as they’ve greeted their new crewmembers.
“Captain, the docking procedure is complete,” says Sulu from the helm.
“Great,” Jim says, putting his padd away again. “You can begin the power down sequence for all systems except life-support.”
“Uhura, if you’ll hail Commodore J’h’wadan.”
“Yes, sir.” After a few moments, she turns back, “He’s ready, Captain.”
“Put him on screen.”
Commodore J’h’wadan, an Andorian, appears on the view screen, his light blue skin wrinkled with age.
“Greetings, Commodore,” Jim says with his usual smile.
“Captain Kirk,” J’h’wadan replies with a nod, his antennae bobbing with the motion. “The equipment you’ve requested is ready to be beamed aboard.”
“Thank you, sir. And the personnel to be transferred?”
“They will be standing by in our transporter room.”
“Excellent. I plan on greeting them directly before our meeting, Commodore. 1400 hours, as discussed?”
“That will be fine, Captain. I will see you in an hour.”
J’h’wadan cuts the connection, the screen returning to it’s view of Starbase 17.
Jim stands, stretching his stiff limbs a little before turning to Sulu. “You’ve the conn, Lieutenant.”
He stops by the communications station on his way off the bridge. “Comm Scotty and let him know he can get started. And, while you’re at it, would you mind letting Spock know that I’m headed to the transporter room?”
“Will do, Captain,” Uhura says. Then she smirks at him. “Enjoy your leave.”
“Oh, I intend to,” he grins back.
“Are Lieutenant Marcus and Ensign McKenna ready to beam aboard?” Jim asks.
“Yes, sir. They’re awaiting your order.”
“Thank you, Mahler. You may beam them aboard when ready.”
Jim joins Spock and Sorek while they wait for the new crewmembers to arrive.
“Is it safe to assume that you approve of our new officers?” he asks Spock.
While Jim has the final say on transfers, Spock’s usually the one to review their applications and give Jim his recommendations. A captain more apt to micromanage might second-guess their first officer’s decision, but Jim trusts Spock’s opinion enough to let him handle this sort of thing.
“Indeed, Captain. Lieutenant Marcus has a doctorate in molecular biology, which I believe will complement the biology department well. And Ensign McKenna comes highly recommended by Captain Neilson.”
“Glad to hear it,” Jim says.
Before he can say anything more, two figures materialize on the transporter pad, drawing Jim’s attention away.
Jim takes a step forward to greet the newcomers, but then his heart stutters hard in his chest, freezing him mid-step.
Ensign McKenna is tall and skinny, and not all that remarkable in his red shirt. But Lieutenant Marcus is a different story.
Because he knows her.
“Carol?” he blurts out, his professionalism disappearing in the tide of his utter surprise.
“Hello, James,” she replies, her smile lacking any surprise of her own. Jim might not have paid any attention to the transfer, but Carol obviously knew whose crew she was joining. Her smile turns a little sheepish. “It’s been a long time.”
Jim hasn’t seen Carol Marcus since he was seventeen and desperately in love in the way only teenagers getting regular sex can be. Jim recovers his senses enough to look away from Carol’s smiling face—she’s even more stunning than she was at seventeen—and turn to Ensign McKenna, who’s looking thoroughly confused at his welcome to the Enterprise.
Jim steps forward to take his hand. “Sorry, McKenna,” he says, “I’m Jim Kirk.”
Jim glances over at Spock as he shakes McKenna’s hand—he’d almost forgotten about him in his shock over seeing Carol. Spock looks tense, and his eyes are following Jim closely. Jim shoots him a bewildered smile and motions him over.
“And this is Commander Spock, my first officer.” Jim nods at Carol, “He’s also our chief science officer.”
Spock holds up a ta’al in greeting. “Welcome aboard,” he says, face blank and voice even.
Jim looks around until his gaze lands on Sorek, standing along the wall and unashamedly staring at them. Jim waves him over as well.
When Sorek stops between him and Spock, Jim settles a hand on his shoulder.
“This is Sorek,” he says. Then grins at Carol, “My son.”
Carol’s eyes widen as she takes in Jim’s words, first staring at Sorek and then turning her gaze to Spock on his other side. Almost in response to her staring, Spock places a hand on Sorek’s other shoulder, causing him to glance at Spock in alarm. It might have been the first time Spock’s ever voluntarily touched Sorek.
Ensign McKenna, meanwhile, looks just as confused and uncomfortable as ever, so Jim decides to take pity on him.
“Mahler,” he says, beckoning to the transporter technician. “Take Ensign McKenna here down to engineering and introduce him to Lieutenant DeSalle—he should be expecting you.”
“Aye, sir,” Mahler salutes.
“McKenna, glad to have you aboard,” Jim says, clapping him on the shoulder.
“Thank you, sir,” he says, and then follows Mahler out of the transporter room.
Once they’re gone, Jim crosses his arms at Carol.
“It’s been ten years,” he says, smiling. “I had no idea you were even in Starfleet.”
“It’s really good to see you, James,” she laughs.
Damn. Being around Carol Marcus makes Jim feel like a boy again, seventeen and in a relationship for the first time. When Carol’s parents decided they were getting too serious and moved back to England, Jim had been heartbroken. He hasn’t been in a serious relationship since, his quasi-relationship with Spock, notwithstanding.
He turns to Spock now to find him frowning at Carol, that brain of his trying to figure out how she and Jim are connected, no doubt.
“Spock, Sorek,” he says, “this is Carol Marcus. We dated as teenagers—it was my first serious relationship.”
“The way I hear, it was your only serious relationship,” she teases. But then she turns to Spock curiously, her eyes looking him up and down. “But, I suppose my news could be old…”
Jim laughs. “You must get rotten gossip out here, because I’m pretty sure the entire federation knows about this now. Spock here is my husband, actually. And we just recently adopted Sorek.” Jim squeezes Sorek’s shoulder.
“It looks like you’ve done some growing up, James,” Carol says, her blonde eyebrows high on her forehead.
“I like to think that’s the case.” Jim shoots a wry grin at Spock, who’s called him child-like on more than one occasion. “Although, I’m not grown up enough that I’d rather be called James than Jim,” he says pointedly. “You sound like my mother.”
Carol just grins at him. “It didn’t work when we were seventeen, and it won’t work now, James.” It was a thing they used to do when they were kids—Carol calling him James just to annoy him and Jim pretending like he minded.
Jim laughs at all the fond memories. “God, it’s good to see you.”
“Captain,” Spock interjects abruptly. “You have a meeting with Commodore J’h’wadan in approximately thirteen point four six minutes.”
Jim cocks an eyebrow at him, then nods. “Right. Thanks, Spock. I guess we’ll have to catch up later, Carol. We have to report for our leave,” he adds, grinning down at Sorek—who, Jim’s noticed, hasn’t said a word this entire time.
Jim pulls out his communicator. “Kirk to Sickbay.”
“Bones!” Jim grins. “Get your ass to the transporter room.”
It doesn’t take too long for Bones to get there, and he’s swearing as he enters the room.
“What is it now, Jim, I swear to God—” he cuts himself off when he sees Carol, standing by somewhat uncomfortably as Spock and Sorek stare at her.
“Bones, this is Carol Marcus,” Jim says, meeting his inquisitive gaze. Bones’ eyes widen at the name—he’s heard plenty of stories about Jim’s only ex-girlfriend. “Carol, this is Doctor Leonard McCoy, our CMO and, though he tries to deny it, my best friend.”
Bones outright grins at Carol as they shake hands, and Jim starts to regret this introduction.
“So you’re Carol Marcus,” Bones drawls, his eyes lit with amusement. “I have a feeling we’re going to find a lot to talk about.”
“Nice to meet you, Doctor,” Carol smiles back, shooting a knowing look at Jim. “I’ll look forward to it.”
Jim groans. “Bones, will you show Carol around? I’ve got to meet with J’h’wadan.”
“I’d love to,” Bones says, winking at Carol. That damn southern charm. Then he nods to Spock, “Make sure Jim doesn’t do anything stupid, alright? I’d rather not spend my leave stitching this moron back together again.”
“I will endeavor to do so,” is Spock’s solemn reply.
“I’ll see you later, kid,” Bones adds to Sorek.
“Goodbye, Doctor,” Sorek says, finally speaking. Jim tries, but he can’t read the emotions in his tone.
“It was lovely meeting you both,” Carol smiles at the two vulcans and doesn’t even flinch when they only stare back at her severely. “We’ll catch up soon, James,” she adds, touching Jim lightly on the arm.
As she exits the transporter room, Bones has the audacity to laugh before he follows behind her.
Sorek turns to Spock the moment they’re alone. “Were you not aware when you approved Lieutenant Marcus’ transfer application that she and Jim had been previously engaged in a romantic relationship?” he asks, his voice accusing.
“I was not,” Spock replies tersely, eyes narrowing at Jim. “I have never been informed of any of Jim’s previous relationships.”
“A grievous oversight,” Sorek says, glaring at Jim as well.
Being glared at by two vulcans at once is enough to scare any man, and Jim immediately raises both hands in surrender.
“Why are you guys freaking out about this?”
“Vulcans do not ‘freak out,’” Spock says shortly, picking up the overnight bags of all three and moving behind the empty transporter station. He starts inputting their beam down coordinates and does not look back.
So Jim turns his attention to Sorek. He dons his best innocent, apologetic look, knowing Sorek will be far easier to crack. Jim can see the exact moment he relents, his shoulders relaxing infinitesimally.
“I do not wish to share you,” he says quietly.
Jim sighs with a fond smile, tugging Sorek closer and planting a kiss on his head behind Spock’s back. Sorek tends to get weird about Jim’s demonstrative affection when Spock’s around.
“You don’t have to,” Jim says. “Well, I guess you kind of have to share me with Spock.”
Sorek seems to think about this for a moment, then he nods. “That is acceptable.”
“Good.” Jim jumps onto the transporter pad and pulls Sorek up after him. “Come on, Spock. Let’s go.”
Spock initiates the beam down sequence before moving to Jim’s side. He raises an eyebrow in Jim’s direction, “Always impatient.”
They’re hardly three hours into their leave, and Jim’s already bored.
After meeting with Commodore J’h’wadan and ensuring all the proper supplies were beamed onto the Enterprise, Jim returns to the suite Spock had reserved for the night to find Spock and Sorek both absorbed in their padds—no doubt reading something dry and scientific. Jim greets them both, and then slouches down in an armchair and pulls out his own padd, figuring he might as well catch up on his personal correspondence.
He winces at the message at the top of his inbox.
|| JIMMY, I WILL NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT THAT VULCAN HUSBAND OF YOURS DIRECTLY IF YOU KEEP IGNORING ME. Love you, Mom. ||
He’d written both her and Sam back when he and Spock had first tied the knot, and to say she’d been surprised would be an understatement. Luckily, she’d been too excited about the prospect of another grandchild to complain much about missing the wedding. Jim had forgotten to reply to her initial message, and she had sent three more in protest.
|| Sorry, Mom. I’ve been a little busy, you know, BEING A CAPTAIN and FATHERING MY NEW CHILD. We probably won’t be able to make it back to earth until next year. Love you too, Jim. ||
After sending the message and catching up with Sam, Pike, and Ambassador Spock as well, Jim sets the padd on his lap and looks over at Spock and Sorek. Neither pay him any attention—they’re both too engrossed in their own studies—so Jim just sighs and picks up his padd once more.
After a few minutes scrolling pointlessly through his inbox, he has to put it down again. He sighs loudly and dramatically enough to finally drag Spock and Sorek away from their reading.
Spock raises an eyebrow at him. “Are you experiencing difficulty in taking in a sufficient amount of oxygen, Jim?”
“Nope,” Jim says. “Just bored. How much longer is this shore leave?”
“Twelve point five six hours,” reply Spock and Sorek in stereo.
Jim rolls his eyes at them both. “That was a rhetorical question.”
“What is it you normally occupy yourself with during leave, Jim?” asks Sorek.
“Well, drinking mostly,” Jim replies honestly.
“I am sure the replicator will be able to provide you with a beverage should you wish to consume one.”
Jim laughs loudly, “No, Sorek. Drinking. As in consuming alcohol. Typically at a bar.”
“Ah,” Sorek says, understanding at last. “Is this a conventional human pastime during shore leave?” he asks Spock.
“It is quite common,” Spock says. “And quite illogical.”
“I have read that ethanol does not affect our physiology in the same way it does a human’s. Is this accurate?”
“Indeed,” Spock agrees, donning his lecture-voice; it always has a calming effect on Jim. “Our metabolism is more efficient and is thus able to break down ethanol into energy more quickly. However, there is a Terran seed called cacao that has an analogous effect on vulcan physiology. I have never experienced this phenomenon myself, but I have read several studies that demonstrate its effects.”
“Wait,” Jim interjects, a smile playing at the edges of his mouth. “You’re telling me vulcans can get drunk on chocolate?”
“I believe I have just said this, Jim.”
“Oh my god. I can’t wait to tell Bones about this—he’ll laugh for days!”
“Is such sustained laughter possible?” Sorek asks.
“I wish you would not,” Spock says at the same time.
Jim just grins smugly at the both of them. “Thanks for curing me of my boredom.”
Sorek and Spock look back with thinly veiled frustration.
“So,” Jim says, “Sorek, have you ever played chess?”
“Spock taught me the game, and we have played together thirteen times,” Sorek says, eyebrows furrowed at Jim’s random change of subject. “I have yet to win a match.”
“That’s because Spock’s ridiculously good,” Jim says, smiling at Spock. “But you know who’s even better? Me.”
“That is hardly accurate, Jim,” says Spock.
“Admit it, Spock. I beat you all the time.”
“It is true that you have won forty-two point nine percent of our games, but I believe this number signifies that I am the more proficient player.” Spock raises an eyebrow in self-satisfaction.
Jim waves a hand, “Semantics, Spock. Just admit that you hate losing to me.”
“I do not ‘hate’ it, Jim,” Spock says, crossing his arms over his chest. “It hardly occurs often enough for me to experience any emotion other than indifference.”
Jim can’t help but laugh at Spock’s condescending tone. “Did you hear that, Sorek? Spock’s getting catty—that means he really doesn’t like it when I beat him.”
Spock looks as though he’d like to throw Jim out the nearest airlock. “You play nonsensically.”
“No, Spock, I play strategically. Which means, when I’m playing you, I have to be nonsensical. It screws with that rational brain of yours.”
Spock releases a breath in that not-sigh of his. “I will concede your point.”
Jim smirks at him before turning back to Sorek.
“So, feel like losing to an illogical human at a game of logic?”
Sorek nods, almost eagerly. “I am sure it will be a fascinating experience.”
Jim pulls out his padd again and joins Sorek and Spock on the long sofa, sitting in the middle and putting his back to Spock. He hadn’t packed his chessboard, so he pulls up a chess application on his padd and places it between them on the couch. Jim can feel Spock moving behind him to look over his shoulder.
They’re only four moves into the game when Jim sees the frustration set into Sorek’s shoulders.
“Is Jim’s strategy to move pieces at random until he discovers an opening?” he asks Spock, completely ignoring the cocky smile on Jim’s face.
“That is a fair assessment of his tactics,” Spock agrees, and Jim can feel his hot breath on the side of his neck. Jim had no idea that he had moved so close.
“There’s more to my strategy than that,” Jim protests. “I mean, not that much more, but still.”
“Fourty-two point nine percent,” says Spock, his mouth right by Jim's ear.
Jim turns around with wide eyes, but stops at the sheer amount of emotion on Spock’s face. He’s practically smiling, and Jim swallows thickly.
When he turns back around, he knows he’s grinning way too obviously, but Sorek just looks amused as well.
“Spock’s been around humans way too long,” Jim tells him.
“On the contrary, Jim,” Sorek says. “I find that, despite Spock’s inoculation into human society, he remains a paradigm of Vulcan principles.”
Jim doesn’t need to turn around to figure out how much this statement will please Spock, so he just reaches behind him to pat his knee.
“Has anyone ever told you how much of a sweetheart you are, Sorek?” Jim teases, taking his hand away from Spock’s leg. “Because, you are—who would have guessed vulcans could be so sweet?”
Sorek flushes dark green. “There is no need for insults,” he frowns.
Jim just grins and leans over the padd to move his next piece.
“Oh, and Sorek?”
Sorek’s eyebrows shoot up, and he leans over the padd to study the chessboard, trying to discover how Jim could have bested him so quickly.
Jim stretches his arms over his head, leaning back a little as he does. And when his back presses against a warm chest behind him, he doesn’t move away immediately. Spock doesn’t move away either.
All in all, it’s one of the best leaves Jim’s ever had. Even without the booze.
When they finally return to the Enterprise, it’s to their newly remodeled quarters. The bedroom Jim and Spock share is now connected to Sorek’s room by a common area, and the three no longer have to share one tiny bathroom. If he and Spock were actually married, Jim would be ecstatic about their new spacious shower and all the activities they could enjoy in it.
But instead, Jim has to enjoy it with only his fist and imagination for company. The more time Jim spends in Spock’s presence, the more Jim finds the need for release necessary—he’d long ago ceased feeling guilty for jacking off to thoughts of Spock. Spock’s long fingers, the tight muscles in his chest, those curved lips of his: they’re the only things Jim’s capable of picturing anymore as he slides a wet hand along his hard cock.
One night, after he’s just finished one of these particular showers, Jim throws on some casual clothes and checks on Sorek. He’d put him into bed before hopping in the shower, and, when he peeks through Sorek’s cracked door, he can see the boy’s chest moving steadily, sound asleep.
Feeling loose and warm from his shower, Jim decides he could use something to eat before he crawls into bed to wait for Spock. After engaging the lock on the door to their quarters, Jim heads to the mess.
It’s not completely empty at this time of night—those on Gamma shift are milling about, their work day starting in a couple hours, and some, like him, are sipping drinks before they head to sleep.
When Jim spots a blonde sitting alone at a small table and reading a padd with a tea in hand, he grins. Grabbing a sandwich from the replicator on the way, he heads to her table.
Carol smiles in pleasant surprise as he sits down in front of her. “James.”
“Hi, Carol,” Jim grins right back. He hasn’t had a chance to catch up with her since Starbase 17, Carol being busy settling in and Jim being busy commanding the ship.
“Did you enjoy your leave?” she asks.
“It was very relaxing,” he says. “How’re the science labs? Everyone treating you alright?”
“Everyone’s been great,” she says. “You’ve a lot of wonderful people on this ship.”
“I really do,” Jim agrees readily. He lets out a short breath, “I’m still not sure how I got so lucky.”
“The way I hear, luck had nothing to do with it,” Carol says, pinning a strand of hair behind her ear. “You’ve earned this, James, and I’m very proud of you.”
Jim’s never been good at accepting compliments, and, coming from Carol, this one brings heat to his cheeks. “The last time you saw me, I was still getting suspended on a regular basis. God, Carol, it feels like a lifetime ago.”
“Ten years is a long time,” she agrees.
“Isn’t it crazy that we both ended up here?” he asks, laughing a bit. Sometimes it seems like the universe just enjoys screwing with him—meeting Spock from the future, seeing Carol again after all these years. “When did you join Starfleet anyway?”
“Not too long after we moved back to London, actually,” she says. “I did it mostly to get away from my mum and dad. I’m sure you remember how strict they were.”
“How could I forget?” he snorts. “It made sleeping with you practically impossible. Had to get creative,” he adds teasingly.
Carol blushes a bit—no doubt remembering some of their more creative methods. “That’s one way of putting it,” she grimaces. Jim’s pretty sure they’re thinking about the same night—he’d snuck out of Frank’s house and they’d met in Carol’s backyard. They’d fucked in a tool shed, and all was well until Jim got bit by a spider and had an allergic reaction to its venom.
“Are you happy, James?” Carol asks, pulling Jim out of the memory. It takes him a minute to process her question.
“I am,” he says, without hesitation. “This life—it’s good for me. Could you ever have imagined me like this ten years ago?”
Carol laughs, “Not at all. You’re so responsible now—a Captain, a husband, a father…” she trails off at the end, a somber note entering her voice. She looks away, staring at the table between them.
“What is it, Carol?” Jim frowns in worry.
She doesn’t look up. “James, there’s something you should know,” she says quietly, her hands twisting nervously on the table. “When we were together—I…” She meets Jim’s eyes, “I got pregnant.”
“You—” Jim stops as his brain catches up with his ears. He has a kid? One made out of half his DNA—he might have his eyes, she might have his laugh. “Carol—wow—is… is the kid with your parents in London? I don’t—”
“No, James, I—I didn’t keep it,” she says quickly. Something freezes in Jim’s chest—is it relief or disappointment? “I had an abortion about a month after I figured it out.”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me?” Jim asks quietly. “I mean, it was your choice, and I know we were just kids, but I would have been there. Fuck, Carol, I would have married you in a heartbeat; we could have figured it out.”
“Could we have?” she raises her eyebrows. “I don’t know, James, we were so young. My parents caught on when I started getting sick, and they talked me out of keeping it.”
“And that’s why they made you leave,” Jim finishes for her. It all makes so much more sense now—how much her parents had hated him, how Carol hadn’t let him touch her for the last few days before she left.
“They kind of blamed you for all of it,” she says sheepishly.
“I’m sure I deserved it.” Jim shakes his head, “I went crazy went you left—it messed me up.”
“I know,” Carol says, looking apologetic. “Mallory Lee and I kept in touch for a while—she filled me in when you did something especially degenerate.”
“I didn’t get my act together until I joined Starfleet, you know. And I’ve never even considered getting serious with someone.”
“Yeah, until now.” Jim can’t help but smile.
Carol doesn’t miss the expression on his face. “Tell me about Spock. You’re obviously crazy about him.”
Jim feels incredibly maudlin in doing so, but he’s actually glad to have someone to talk to about this. Bones is a great friend, but he’d never be able to make it through a conversation like this without making noises of disgust every other word.
“Spock is just—he keeps me grounded,” Jim begins, and, no matter how hard he tries, he can’t keep the fond smile off his face. “He’s not afraid to call me out on my bullshit, and it might not be obvious, but he’s got this amazing dry wit. He—yeah. He’s the best first officer I could have asked for.”
Carol frowns at his word choice. “First officer?”
“Oh, I guess you don’t know. You’re right about me being crazy over Spock, but it's not a mutual thing,” Jim explains. When Carol just looks even more confused, he goes on, “We only got married so I could be a Vulcan citizen and adopt Sorek. It’s kind of complicated.”
“So you’re not…?”
“Sleeping with each other? No. I wish, but no.”
Carol’s still frowning. “I’m sorry, you introduced him as your husband, and I saw the way you looked at each other. I just assumed…”
“That means we’re doing it right. Most of the crew doesn’t know that our marriage is fake—just the senior staff, and you now, I guess.”
“Does your son know?”
“Yeah, Sorek knows. It’d be hard to hide something that big from him.”
“I wasn’t sure; he didn’t exactly seem happy about my being here,” she adds.
Jim laughs. “That’s because vulcans are ridiculously possessive. Sorek’s life’s been pretty unstable, and he’s finally getting used to this thing we’ve got going with Spock. I think he’s just worried you’ll disrupt that.”
“Then you should let him know I have no intentions to steal you away.”
“He’ll be relieved to hear it.”
“Besides,” Carol says, her smile turning wicked, “I’m much more interested in that doctor friend of yours.”
“So, tell me: is Leonard seeing anyone?”
Jim crosses his arms on the table and buries his face in them.
Carol pats his arm as she laughs at him.
“Captain,” interrupts a sharp voice from beside them.
“Spock?” Jim looks up from his arms in surprise. “Why aren’t you on the bridge?”
“Beta shift is over, Captain,” Spock says stiffly. “I was curious as to why you were not in our quarters. I have, obviously, discovered the reason.”
Spock turns his severe gaze on Carol, and she slowly removes her hand from Jim’s arm.
“Damn,” Jim sits up and stretches. “No wonder I’m so exhausted.” He looks up at Spock nonchalantly, “Wanna carry me back to our quarters?”
Spock ignores him, but he does place a hand under Jim’s elbow to help him stand.
“Lieutenant Marcus,” he says, nodding at Carol and pulling Jim away with a firm grip.
Carol is grinning knowingly at Jim, “Enjoy your evening, boys.”
“See you Carol,” Jim waves as Spock all but drags him from the mess.
“Geez, Spock, where’s the fire?”
Spock, for once, does not pretend not to understand the Terran idiom. “There is a topic I believe we need to discuss in the privacy of our shared quarters.”
“That’s not vague or intimidating,” Jim mutters as Spock pulls him into the turbolift and inputs Deck 5 with unneeded force.
Once they reach their quarters, Spock finally releases Jim but doesn’t say anything.
Jim rubs his sore arm, sitting down on the edge of their bed. “What’s going on, Spock?” he asks as Spock continues to stand stiffly, pointedly not looking in Jim’s direction.
“An issue has recently come to my attention,” Spock says, his voice more clinical than usual. “I wished to clarify the nature of our relationship so as to avoid any animosity between us.”
Jim’s heart starts to race, and he sits up straighter by instinct.
“Romantic relationships,” Spock begins, his back still to Jim, “are often complemented by frequent and mutual sexual acts.”
Jim almost chokes, and Spock turns to look at him.
“Because our relationship is neither romantic nor sexual in nature, I understand that you might require release of some sort outside of our union. While a relationship with another individual would be both impractical and a danger to our perceived marriage, I would not mind if you were to form brief, casual sexual unions in order to fulfill the needs that I cannot meet.”
“Spock…” Jim says slowly, running Spock’s words over and over in his mind. “Are you giving me permission to have one night stands…?”
“As I said, it is only logical. However, I feel compelled by my position as your first officer to remind you that such an encounter with a crewmember would be considered ethically suspect.”
“Don’t worry, Spock, I’m not planning on sleeping with anyone on the Enterprise.” There’s an inherent power imbalance in sex when there such a large difference in rank, and, while Jim might have some questionable ethics, he would never coerce anyone into sleeping with him.
Spock looks somewhat relieved at Jim’s ready acceptance of this stipulation. He sits down next to Jim on the bed.
“During our next shore leave,” Spock continues, his shoulders relaxing a bit, “I would be willing to take care of Sorek for an evening while you pursue an avenue for sexual release.”
Jim laughs a little—his relief that Spock isn’t planning on leaving him making him slightly breathless. “Fuck, Spock. I can’t believe you’re telling me to have casual sex. I’d pretty much resigned myself to nothing but getting close with my right hand while we’re married.”
Spock furrows his eyebrows. “’Getting close with your right hand?’” he echoes back.
“Oh, you know, Spock. Beating the bishop, cleaning your rifle, greasing the pipe, polishing the sword.” Jim grins as Spock’s frown becomes increasingly more pronounced. “Masturbating, Spock.”
“Ah,” Spock says, the tips of his ears barely turning green. “The act of pleasuring oneself manually.”
“You’ve never jacked off, Spock?” Jim teases.
“I have never felt the urge to do so,” Spock says stiffly. “While I find pleasure in sexual gratification, I do not need to seek it out as I understand humans do.”
“Wait, you’ve never just got hard at a really inopportune time? And there’s nothing you can do but just take care of it yourself?” Jim should know; he experiences this sequence of events at least once a day when he sees Spock.
“I did not say that,” Spock qualifies. “I am merely explaining that, as a vulcan, I can control such urges as these without resorting to physical release.”
“So you just think away the problem instead of sneaking off to the ‘fresher.” Jim concludes. He wishes it were that easy for him.
“Indeed,” Spock says, and he almost looks smug about it.
“That could come in handy. Did I ever tell you about the time I got a hard-on during a meeting with my thesis advisor back at the Academy?”
Spock’s eyebrows fly to the top of his forehead. “Negative, Jim. Were you sexually attracted to your advisor?” he asks curiously.
“Not at all—it was inexplicable, and that meeting was the most awkward ten minutes I’ve ever spent talking about tactical analysis.”
Jim spends the next half-hour relating embarrassing stories of being turned on at inopportune times, delighting in Spock’s shock at the more ridiculous tales. While Spock is somewhat surprised at some of Jim’s antics from his youth, he never once gives off the impression that he’s disturbed by or disgusted with Jim.
Later, when they’re finally in bed and both staring at the ceiling, Spock turns his head slightly to look at Jim.
“I have inferred from the sheer number of these anecdotes, that you must experience arousal for approximately seventy-four point two percent of the day.”
Jim laughs at Spock’s made up statistic, and is reminded just how lucky he is to have Spock as his friend.
Jim had pretty well forgotten about the first infuriatingly vague message he’d received until he got a second.
After the first, he’d had both Spock and Chekov decipher the encryption on the message, but neither one had been able to triangulate its origin. He’d even had Uhura take a look at it to see if she could uncover any hidden code, but she’d been unsuccessful as well. Without any leads, there really wasn’t anything else Jim could do except let it slip from his mind.
He receives the second message just after the Enterprise is ordered to investigate a Federation distress signal sent out from coordinates near Orion space.
Jim’s in his ready room, discussing the new orders with Spock, when his padd dings.
“Sorry,” he murmurs, reaching over to click off the screen. His eyes flit over the alert, and he pauses when he recognizes the sequence of the encryption. He opens the message and decrypts it with quick fingers.
|| CAPTAIN, YOU’RE GETTING WARMER. BE READY. F ||
Jim groans in frustration, thrusting the padd into Spock’s hands before he can even ask what’s wrong.
Spock frowns. “Is this the only other message you have received in addition to the first?” he asks, once he’s handed the padd back to Jim.
“Yep.” Jim throws it on the desk in front of him before running a hand through his hair.
“Do you believe the timing of this message has any significance?”
Jim sees where’s Spock’s headed. “Right after we’ve received new orders; you’re right—no way this is a coincidence. So what? Someone in Starfleet is sending me cryptic messages?”
It sounds ridiculous even as he says it. If someone in Starfleet was trying to warn him about some coming danger, why all the secrecy? But, it does remind Jim of something.
Jim picks up his padd again and searches for Spock’s old report from Risa Gamma. His fingers tingle with the buzz of intuition as he scrolls through Spock’s dry report of the events.
“Faraji Jalloh,” Jim reads, looking up at Spock with eagerness. “Do you think—?”
“F,” Spock’s eyes widen, catching onto Jim’s conclusion. “The first message was sent directly following the announcement that we had adopted Sorek.”
“And these new orders—Command thinks that slavers are involved somehow. It has to be related.”
“The chance of these factors being independent of one another is negligible,” Spock agrees.
“It’s has to be the same slavers. The ones who boarded Sorek’s transport.” Jim’s breathless with excitement—there’s nothing he’d like more than to find those bastards and make sure they pay.
“I believe we are likeminded in this,” Spock meets Jim’s eyes, and he can see his anticipation echoed there.
“But then, what does Jalloh have to do with all this?” Jim’s excitement dies down a little as he thinks about all the other missing variables.
Jim knows Spock doesn’t like to speculate, but he indulges Jim. “Perhaps he was kidnapped by the same slavers and has managed to find the means to communicate.”
“Then why wouldn’t he warn Starfleet directly?” If he were the one to send the distress signal, why would he take the time to send Jim an encrypted, unhelpful message?
“I do not know,” Spock frowns. Jim knows he must hate all the uncertainty just as much as he does.
“Me either,” Jim huffs. “But, I think we’re about to find out.”
After debriefing the senior staff on what their mission might entail, Bones lingers behind in the conference room. Spock hesitates at the doorway as well, but, after a nod from Jim, he leaves the two alone.
“Why am I so scared about this, Bones?” he asks when they’re alone, tangling his hands in his hair.
Bones, cruel bastard that he is, just chuckles and slaps Jim on the shoulder.
“It’s simple, Jim. You’re a father now. Knowing your kid might be in danger? That’s the damn scariest thing a parent’ll ever face.”
Jim thinks Bones might be right, and it explains why he’d snuck into Sorek’s room last night and watched him sleep.
“I never would’ve guessed I could be so crazy about a kid, Bones.” Jim shakes his head. “I know he’s only been here a few months, but if I lost him…”
“Relax, Jim. You’re not gonna lose him.” Bones grabs his shoulder again, but this time it’s to squeeze it. “Anyway, can you imagine what Spock would do if those slavers were to do anything to Sorek?”
That elicits a grin out of Jim. “He’d probably rip their arms off.”
“That’s right. Honestly, between you and that hobgoblin, Sorek’s probably the safest kid in the Federation.”
“But he’s still on a starship, Bones,” Jim argues. “Was it selfish to keep him here with me?”
Bones rolls his eyes. “No, Jim, it wasn’t selfish of you to adopt a kid you barely knew.”
Jim shakes his head at Bones’ sarcasm, but it has the desired effect: Jim feels better.
“Thanks, Bones,” he says.
“Yeah, whatever,” Bones says, pulling his hand away. “I gotta get back to Sickbay and fix people who aren’t paranoid idiots.”
Jim just smiles and waves him out of the room.
He sits there for a while longer, thinking about Bones’ words. Maybe there isn't anything more he can do to keep Sorek safe, maybe he is being paranoid. But he knows one thing for sure: he will blast those slavers out of the sky before he lets them lay another finger on Sorek.
They spend four hours there, Uhura listening intently to every single frequency, even some no longer in use, Chekov searching for any hint of a warp trail, and Jim trying his hardest not to punch something. But, whoever had been there before left no trace behind.
By the time he’s updated Starfleet and received their new orders, Alpha shift is long over. Rather than going to pick up Sorek from Sickbay, the safest place on the Enterprise during a firefight, Jim hands the conn off to Spock and hides in his ready room.
He’s just sat down at his desk when he gets another message.
|| SORRY, CAPTAIN, LOOKS LIKE YOU WERE TOO LATE. WE’LL TRY AGAIN IN A FEW MORE MONTHS. F. ||
Jim stands and kicks his chair over noisily, trying not to scream. Jim throws himself face down on the small sofa in the corner of the room, and isn’t surprised at all when the door opens behind him.
He turns his head enough to watch Spock enter. He raises an eyebrow at the upturned chair but makes no comment. The silence stretches on as Spock comes to stand beside Jim, waiting until he calms down.
Eventually Jim sits up, slouching down into the cushions, and glaring at the padd still sitting on his desk.
“I can’t see the forest for all the trees,” he mutters under his breath.
Spock hears him anyways. “A curious metaphor,” he says. It’s Spock for ‘What the hell are you talking about, ridiculous human?’
“It’s an old Terran saying,” Jim explains. “It means I’m too close to the problem to see the bigger picture and I need to take a step back to view it from a better perspective. But, I can’t step back from this when the whole problem is Sorek. It’s a little too late to get out of that now.”
Jim sighs and sinks farther into the sofa. “Not that I’d want to, of course.”
Spock rests a hand on his shoulder, and Jim finally looks up at him. “I know you are frustrated, Jim, but the answer will come in time.”
“How are you so calm about this? I feel ready to hijack the Enterprise and start a search for those slavers myself.”
“I am not as calm as I look.” Spock’s hand tightens on his shoulder. “But, it is useless to worry so needlessly. Kaiidth.”
“What is, is,” Jim echoes, his knowledge of Vulcan extending far enough to know this simple phrase. He looks down at his lap. “I just don’t want him to get hurt.”
Spock squeezes his shoulder on the edge of too hard. “He will not,” he says, voice as firm as his grip. “I will not allow it, and neither will you.”
Jim knows he means it—Spock would never give Jim false encouragement. It’s one of the things he likes best about him: he doesn’t let Jim lie to himself.
Jim touches Spock’s wrist lightly,” Thank you.”
“You are welcome,” Spock says, removing his hand and taking a step back.
Jim stands, “I guess I’ll go get Sorek. Bones is probably cursing me for being late.”
“It does not take much of an incentive for Doctor McCoy to employ vulgar language,” Spock says, walking with Jim back onto the bridge. At Jim’s grin, he nods. “I will see you and Sorek at dinner.”
“Sounds good, Spock,” Jim says, heading to the turbolift as Spock sits in his chair.
When he reaches Sickbay, Bones has just left, scowling at Jim’s approach.
“Hey, Bones,” he greets. “Where’s Sorek?”
“I sent him to the bridge ten minutes ago while you were lolly gagging behind,” Bones glares, walking past him in the corridor. “I’m a doctor not a babysitter, Jim.”
“I just came from the bridge,” Jim frowns; it’s not like Sorek to wander off. Jim trusts him enough to let him move about the ship by himself, but he still likes to know where he is.
After thanking Bones, Jim makes for their quarters, figuring that’s where Sorek would go first if he and Jim had missed each other. He relaxes when he finds Sorek in his room, mediating on a mat Spock had given him.
Jim knocks lightly on the doorframe, and Sorek opens his eyes slightly. He doesn’t look at Jim.
“Hey, sorry to interrupt,” Jim says, walking into the room. “I wanted to make sure you were okay. Bones said he sent you to the bridge, but you never showed up.”
“I apologize,” Sorek says. His voice is stiff and overly formal, and worry weasels its way into Jim’s gut. “I was tired and wished to mediate immediately.”
“I see that. I just like to know where you are, okay?”
“I shall endeavor not to disobey you again,” Sorek says.
“It’s alright,” Jim says slowly. He’s reluctant to end the conversation there, but Sorek’s already closed his eyes again. “Come get me when you’re done, and we’ll go to dinner.”
Sorek doesn’t reply, and Jim doesn’t push him.
At dinner that night, Sorek is silent and cold, and it gets to be so bad that even Spock notices something’s wrong.
“Sorek, have you finished reading the article I recommended yesterday?” he asks after Jim has tried and failed to engage Sorek on his own.
“I have read fifty-two point five percent of it,” Sorek replies, staring at his soup.
“Are there any topics within that you require explanation of?”
“Not at this time.”
When Sorek once again returns to silence, Spock raises an eyebrow at Jim, his confusion tangible. Jim wishes he could offer more assurance than a shrug and grimace.
They finish the painful meal in silence, and then Jim takes Sorek back to their quarters while Spock returns to the bridge to finish out his shift. As soon as they enter, Sorek heads to his room.
“I wish to retire early,” he says, his back to Jim.
Jim aches with concern, but he can’t force Sorek to talk to him. “Would you like me to read to you?” he asks, walking Sorek to his door. Sorek’s let Jim read him silly, old Terran stories a few times—he normally loves pointing out all the physical impossibilities and narrative impracticalities in them.
“I have no desire to partake in such an illogical pastime,” Sorek says without even glancing in Jim’s direction.
The cool words take Jim aback, but he just sighs, not wanting to push it.
“Okay,” Jim says quietly, defeated.
Sorek enters his room and shuts the door before Jim can even tell him goodnight. When he hears the lock click, Jim winces—Sorek’s never locked his door before—and his heart breaks a little.
Jim turns around and slides to the floor, leaning back against the door, wishing he knew what was going on, how to breach the wall between them. It’s both the best and worst part of being close to a vulcan: their walls are so gratifying once you’ve learned to maneuver past them, but they’re also painfully, impossibly unbreachable when erected to keep you out.
Jim doesn’t know how long he sits against that door, but, as he does, a headache creeps up on him slowly, throbbing with the exertion of his thoughts. By the time he falls asleep without having moved at all, his head pounds with a migraine.
He rolls onto his back to see Spock sitting beside him, consulting a padd with a deep frown.
“What time’s it?” Jim mumbles, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
“0200, Jim,” Spock says, turning to look at him.
Jim sits up and joins Spock against the headboard. “Why’re you still up?” he asks.
“I found myself unable to sleep.”
Jim shifts close and presses against Spock’s shoulder to see what he’s working on; it takes his sleep-addled brain a moment to make out the title at the top of the screen
The Surakian Standard: A Logical Approach to Parenting.
“Oh, Spock.” Jim buries his face in Spock’s shoulder and grips his forearm tightly—he’d never touch Spock like this if he weren’t still half-asleep.
“I was bothered by Sorek’s behavior this evening, and I wished to ascertain what it is I might have done to elicit it,” Spock explains.
“Wasn’t your fault,” Jim says into Spock’s shirt. He rubs his nose against the soft fabric and then turns his head to rest it on Spock’s shoulder. “I think he’s mad at me.”
“I am quite certain that is not the true.”
“He hasn’t looked at me all day.”
“There was nothing untoward about his behavior this morning,” Spock argues. “Perhaps something occurred while he was in Sickbay.”
Jim hums and leans over to grab the communicator off his bedside table. He smirks a little at Spock, “Do you think Bones will be pissed if I wake him up right now?”
Spock raises an eyebrow, which Jim easily translates as ‘Absolutely.’
He comms him anyway; Spock enjoys baiting Bones as much as Jim does.
“Kirk to McCoy. Report,” he says into the communicator, donning his Captain voice.
Swearing is the first thing Jim hears across the line before it settles into Bones’ hoarse voice. “McCoy here. This better be good, Captain.”
“Ah, Bones,” Jim says, dropping his professionalism. “I’m glad I caught you while you’re still up.”
“Dammit, Jim. It’s two in the morning!”
“We merely need to ask you a question, Doctor,” Spock interjects, leaning into Jim to speak into the communicator.
“Fuck. It’s way too early to hear that voice. I do not want to know why you morons aren’t asleep right now.”
“We’re just lying here, Bones,” Jim says innocently, but he throws a wink in Spock’s direction. He sobers quickly, though, when he remembers why he made this call. “Did anything weird happen in Sickbay today?” he asks. “Sorek’s been acting off all night.”
Bones sighs, the frustration leaving alongside his breath. “It was a pretty dull day, Jim. Sorry.”
“That’s okay. I just thought I'd check.”
“Thank you for your assistance, Doctor,” Spock adds.
Bones sputters. “It’s freakish enough knowing the two of you are in bed right now. I’m not gonna be able to sleep tonight.”
“Perhaps you should administer one of your sleep-aid hyposprays in order to alleviate this unfortunate problem.”
Bones hangs up halfway through Spock’s response. Jim wishes he could laugh, but he’s too worried now that there’s not a clear explanation for Sorek’s behavior. Jim bites his lip, because there is one explanation that he hasn’t let himself consider yet.
“Do you think Sorek’s unhappy?” Jim finally asks. “Do you think all the humanity here is just too overwhelming? Is my humanity too overwhelming?”
“No,” is Spock’s ready and firm response. “Sorek is attached to you, Jim, and it is easily observable.”
Jim exhales a little; he hadn’t even realized he’d been holding his breath.
“However,” Spock continues, “I wonder if perhaps he fears becoming too human himself.”
“Why do you think that?”
“Because I have feared the same,” Spock admits. “It was not until—”
When he cuts himself off, Jim knows he was about to mention his mother; it’s the only time Spock stumbles over his words.
“It was not until my planet was destroyed that I learned there is a certain logic in accepting human traits,” Spock finishes.
“Yeah, but you’re half human, Spock,” Jim points out. He shakes his head, “It’s different for Sorek. You’re allowed to be human sometimes.”
“My vulcan peers did not think so,” Spock whispers. His gaze is firmly planted in his own lap. “I was…taunted, as a youth, for my human mother, for my inability to control my emotions properly.”
“That’s shit, Spock,” Jim says, feeling anger for the younger Spock. “Differences should be celebrated, not ridiculed—what happened to Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations?”
“Though we try our best to hide it, vulcans, too, can be illogical.”
“And you think Sorek’s internalized those prejudices?”
“It is possible. And now that he has been shown a different reality, one in which humanity is celebrated—”
“He’s experiencing cognitive dissonance,” Jim finishes for him. “It makes sense, and it explains why he got all cold when I offered to read him a Terran story earlier.”
Exhausted, Jim moves down in the bed until he can lie on his back and stare at the ceiling. “I really, really hate this.”
Spock places his padd and Jim’s communicator on the bedside table and then lies beside him. “I am finding it hard to control a similar emotion,” he admits.
They’re both still and quiet for a while, long enough that Jim thinks Spock might have fallen asleep. But before he can turn his head to check, Spock shifts beside him.
“There are times when I wonder if we might have deserved the destruction that was wrought upon us,” Spock says. “We preach a path of enlightenment, of progress, and yet we look down on the universe with a false notion of superiority.”
Jim’s not sure what to say to this—he knows Spock doesn’t believe that Vulcan deserved its destruction. He shifts closer until their arms are pressed together under the sheets, from the backs of their hands all the way to their shoulders. Spock’s skin is hot against Jim’s, but it’s the kind of heat that soothes and comforts, not the kind that stifles.
“If that is what it means to be vulcan, then I think I would rather embrace my humanity.”
“I think you’re too caught up in the dichotomy of it,” Jim says eventually. He barely moves his hand, barely allows his pinky and ring fingers to overlap Spock’s. “I don’t like Spock the Human any more than Spock the Vulcan. I like Spock the First Officer, Spock the Scientist, Spock the Father.”
Jim presses his hand against Spock’s with the full knowledge that he’ll be able to read Jim’s emotions. Spock stills beside him.
“You do not think I should strive to create a balance between my two halves?” Spock asks, his voice tight and slightly breathless.
Jim laughs a little, and his finger clench around Spock’s by reflex.
“You insinuate that I’m imbalanced at least once a day,” he teases. “Do you really think you should be asking me that question?”
“Perhaps not,” Spock concedes, sounding amused.
That tinge of amusement makes Jim reckless.
He nudges Spock’s hand with his own obviously. Spock had been still beneath him, as if tensed in anticipation for Jim’s next movement, so Jim relieves him of that tension, turning Spock’s hand over and lacing their fingers together in a single motion. The feel of Spock’s hot fingers slipping into his with ease sends a tremor up Jim’s back. Spock inhales sharply.
“I hope Sorek will be okay,” Jim whispers once his heart rate has gone down a bit.
Spock’s fingers tighten in Jim’s.
“As do I.”
When four more days pass of Sorek being reclusive and unresponsive, Jim decides that giving him solitude and time is not going to work anymore.
Jim corners Sorek one night after he’s locked himself in his room again, claiming tiredness. He knows the whole routine is bullshit now, so he doesn’t feel any guilt in hotwiring the control to Sorek’s door and breaking into his room.
Sorek’s not sleeping when he enters—he’s sitting cross-legged on his bed, staring at a chess piece that he’s gripping with his right hand. His knuckles are white, and the expression on is face is defeated. That is, until he notices Jim and schools his expression into a neutral one.
“Shit,” Jim says, entering the room and sitting close beside Sorek on his bed. “I knew I should have done this sooner.”
Sorek stands and moves towards his bathroom. “I was just about to retire, so if you would not mind—”
“Nope,” Jim says, grabbing Sorek’s wrist before he can run away again and hide. He pulls him back to the bed. “You and I are going to talk. So, tell me: what did I do to upset you?”
Sorek wrenches his arm out of Jim’s grip, but he doesn't move away. “Vulcans do not get upset,” he says, his voice flat and hard.
“Yeah, and you don’t lie either,” Jim rolls his eyes. “So, let’s be honest with each another, okay? Do you want to go back to New Vulcan?”
Sorek had been looking over Jim’s shoulder, but now his gaze drops to his own lap. “If you would like to send me to New Vulcan, I will respect your decision,” he says quietly, and it’s the first time Jim’s heard emotion in his voice in five days. But Jim doesn’t like what he hears now, Sorek’s resignation and dejection.
“I don’t want to send you anywhere. But I can’t force you to stay here if you’d be better off elsewhere.”
“You stated that we should be honest with one another, and yet you have just lied,” Sorek says, finally looking at Jim, his eyes burning with accusation. “Four point two one days ago, you called me a ‘problem’ and stated that it was ‘too late’ to get out of adopting me.”
“That’s what this is about?” Jim asks, holding his breath—could this really just be a misunderstanding, a miscommunication? “You aren’t freaking out because you realized how ridiculous and illogical I am?”
Sorek frowns. “I was made aware of this fact the day we were introduced, Captain.”
Jim laughs, relief flooding his limbs. The past few days, it’s been like sprinting on a planet with twice of earth’s gravity, feet dragging and lungs burning; but now, he feels like he’s floating in zero-grav, weightless, light.
“Sorek,” he says, grabbing him by his upper arms firmly, “You only heard part of that conversation. If you’d stuck around, you would have heard me tell Spock that I’d never want to actually get rid of you.”
Sorek’s cheek turn green in a blush. “Oh.”
“Oh, indeed,” Jim teases, pulling Sorek to his chest and holding him there tightly. “Don’t you get it by now, Sorek? I’m in this for good.”
“You do not long for the freedom you possessed before you were responsible for a minor?” Sorek asks into Jim’s shirt.
“Nope.” Jim doesn’t hesitate.
“And you do not resent me for a marriage that you were forced into?”
Jim’s glad Sorek’s still tucked under his chin and unable to see his face. “Oh, it’s not so bad, being married to Spock.”
Vulcans are pretty awful when it comes to emotional intelligence, but something in Jim’s tone must catch Sorek’s attention, because he pulls back at Jim’s statement and stares him down with suspicion.
“You are romantically interested in Spock,” he says, and it’s not a question. His eyes widen. “Is he aware that your intentions have undergone this alteration? Are you now married in reality rather than in technicality?”
“Whoa, Sorek.” Jim’s panicking a little. “I—yes—I have… feelings for Spock. Romantic feelings. But he doesn’t know and you can’t tell him, okay?”
“Why do you prefer Spock to remain ignorant?” Sorek cocks his head to the side—Jim’s not sure if he’s trying to defend Spock’s right to knowledge or if he’s just curious about Jim’s confusing, human request.
“Because, Sorek, he doesn’t need to know.” Jim tries to be stern: crossing his arms over his chest and retaining eye contact. He’s developed this method of parenting from all his training in dealing with hostage negotiations—do not let the enemy see your desperation.
“You are asking me to lie to Spock?” Sorek looks put out. “I am not certain I can accomplish this.”
“Sure you can. Just never mention this conversation. It’s easy.”
“It is then a lie of omission you are requesting?”
Jim sighs. “Look, Sorek, I really care about Spock, alright, and right now we’re just good friends—good friends who happen to be married and are raising a child together. But if Spock were to know that I’d like us to be more than good friends, it’ll mess up this awesome, happy family thing the three of us have got going.”
He pleads with Sorek silently, brushing a finger along his wrist so he can read his emotions.
Sorek stares down at the point of contact, then back up at Jim. “You do not think that Spock returns your regard.”
“I know he doesn’t,” Jim says firmly, even though he’s really not sure about anything now. Luckily, Jim’s a much better liar than any vulcan, and Sorek doesn’t see through him. “Can we please stop talking about this?”
Sorek nods, bringing his arm away from Jim’s hand, but only to pat him lightly on the knee. Jim recognizes the gesture as one he’s given to Sorek many times before in comfort.
“Before we abandon this topic, I feel I must inform you that I would be pleased if you and Spock were to engage in a romantic relationship. It would be most logical.”
Jim groans. “Thanks a lot, Sorek,” he says drily.
That’s why Jim is currently lying prostrate on the ground: about three minutes ago, he fell to the floor as his legs gave out.
“Have you both been inhaling hallucinogenic substances?” Spock asks in alarm as the door closes behind him. Both of his eyebrows are high enough on his forehead that his dark fringe covers them, and the sight only makes Jim laugh harder.
“Am I to assume that you have discovered and corrected the cause of Sorek’s anomalous behavior?” Spock asks, crossing his arms over his chest and still standing at the entry to their quarters.
Jim motions for him to come closer. When Spock is standing over him, Jim stage whispers: “He was being stupid, Spock.” He extends his arm to the side until he hits the couch where Sorek’s sitting. He pokes his foot. “Sorek, you’re smart, but you were being really stupid.”
Sorek lets out a snort that might be a laugh, and it’s the most ridiculous sound he's ever heard. Jim beams at Spock.
Spock, however, is not so amused. He glares down at Jim. “Are you inebriated?”
“Nah.” Jim waves a hand through the air lazily. “Just high on life, Spock.”
“That statement is nonsensical.”
Jim just giggles and reaches up to grab ahold of Spock’s wrist. He tugs hard. Jim doesn’t actually have the strength to move him if he doesn’t want to move, but Spock must be more affected by the giddiness in the room than he lets on, because he allows himself to be pulled down to the floor.
“What is the source of your incessant laughter, Jim?” he asks as he settles himself with his back against the sofa. He stretches his legs out in front of him, his thigh brushing against Jim’s hand that's stretched above his head. Jim doesn’t move it.
“Not sure,” he says. He lifts his head up to see Sorek better. “What started it, Sorek?”
“I believe your laughter began when I asked you to explain the mechanisms involved in coitus.”
Hearing the nine-year-old vulcan say the word coitus starts up his laughter again. “Right,” he says breathlessly. “Spock. He asked me about the birds and the bees.”
“I never mentioned any form of avian or anthophilan animals, I asked you about sexual congress,” Sorek corrects. “And you have yet to answer my query.”
Spock looks vaguely horrified, so Jim moves the hand brushing his leg and brings it up to pat Spock’s thigh instead. “Don’t worry, I was gonna tell him to look it up on the ‘net. The diagrams there are much better than any I’d draw.”
“I—Jim,” Spock glares down at him. “Need I remind you that Sorek is only nine Terran years old?”
“I am nine point two three years old,” Sorek says, and he sounds smug. Jim looks up at him to be sure, and, yep, he’s definitely pleased that he managed to correct Spock.
Jim smirks at Spock. “I knew about sex when I was nine,” he says, mostly teasing him at this point.
Spock ignores Jim and looks over him to Sorek. “What has caused this recent interest in coitus?”
It’s a fair question. Jim had heard enough references to sex by the time he was Sorek’s age that he’d just looked it up himself one night. But there can’t have been many references to sexual activities on Vulcan. Sometimes Jim forgets that, as intelligent and mature as Sorek is, he’s still just a naïve kid.
“I was researching a few specific areas of human behavior this evening,” Sorek tells Spock. “I came across several references to sexual intercourse, and I wished to ascertain its significance in courtship rituals.”
It’s the last part that catches Jim’s attention, and he sits up so fast, black dots cloud his vision momentarily. Jim can only think of one reason why Sorek would be researching courtship rituals.
Jim’s back is to Spock now, so he can’t see what expression he must have made at Jim’s sudden movement, but he can see the seemingly innocent look on Sorek’s face. Jim narrows his eyes.
Spock, luckily, chooses to ignore Jim. “If you have any similar inquires during the course of your research, I am willing to provide further insight,” Spock says to Sorek. “I assure you, I will react quite logically to your queries.”
Sorek’s ignoring Jim too; he’s too busy nodding his head readily at Spock’s offer.
Jim’s standing before Sorek can ask any of his questions—all related, he’s sure, to romantic relationships. He leans down and grabs Sorek by the waist, tossing his torso over Jim’s shoulder.
“Bedtime,” he says before Sorek can complain at being manhandled. “Tell Spock goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Spock,” Sorek says obediently over Jim’s shoulder. “I shall join you for mediation in approximately four point three nine hours.”
“Goodnight, Sorek,” Spock replies, and Jim can hear a blend of amusement and confusion in his tone.
Carrying Sorek into his room, Jim makes sure the door shuts firmly behind them before he sets Sorek back on his feet. He pushes him towards the bathroom and then takes a seat on Sorek’s bed. While he waits for Sorek to finish his bedtime routine, Jim crosses his legs and arms, foot swinging impatiently.
Jim shoots Sorek a stern look once he steps back into the room, dressed in his pajamas. Sorek doesn’t look at Jim, just walks to his bed and slips between the sheets.
“I know what you’re doing,” Jim tells him, pulling a blanket up over Sorek and tucking it around his shoulders like he prefers.
“I am currently doing several things at once,” Sorek says. “To which are you referring, Jim?”
Jim groans, “You learned that from Spock.”
Sorek looks pleased.
“I’m referring to your not-so-subtle attempts to meddle with my love life.”
“I have done no meddling,” Sorek says, and Jim can practically hear the silent yet there.
“Just leave it alone, okay?” Jim’s trying really hard to be stern and not start begging.
“I am afraid I cannot promise you that.” Sorek is wearing that smug, not-smile that’s become a frequent expression for him.
“Will you at least try to be more subtle?” Jim might actually be begging now, digging his fingers into Sorek’s shoulders over the blanket.
Sorek finally takes pity on him. “I shall endeavor to do so.”
Jim sighs, but he leans forward to press a kiss to Sorek’s forehead anyway. “See you in the morning. I’m glad you’re alright.”
“As am I.”
Jim leaves Sorek to sleep and heads back to his own bedroom. When he walks in, Spock’s already in the bathroom brushing his teeth, so Jim joins him at the counter. Spock rinses his mouth and then spits in the sink, looking at Jim in the mirror after he straightens again.
“Might I enquire as to the source of Sorek’s earlier behavior?” he asks as he wipes his mouth dry with a hand towel.
Jim laughs around his toothbrush, but he waits until he’s spit the toothpaste out before speaking.
“He eavesdropped on us the other day,” he says, pausing to rinse his mouth with a cup full of water. “He heard me talking about the whole thing with Jalloh, but didn’t stick around for the whole conversation.”
“He heard you call him a problem,” Spock surmises, memory as flawless as ever.
“Yep.” Jim steps back from the sink and Spock follows him back into the bedroom. “He thought we wanted to ship him back to New Vulcan,” he says, approaching the drawers and pulling out his sleepwear. He tosses Spock his own.
“And I assume you were successful in correcting this misapprehension?” Spock asks, catching the clothes easily in one hand.
“I think so.” Jim fingers the hem of his gold shirt before pulling it up. He and Spock got over any weirdness about changing in front of each other a long time ago. “You saw him earlier, he was pretty normal.”
When Jim’s tugs the shirt over his head, Spock’s looking away, chest bare as well. Jim stomach drops the way it always does when Spock’s pale skin is revealed.
“He was certainly rather… jocund,” Spock says, slipping his pants over his hips. Jim swallows and quickly yanks off his own.
“Only you would use a word like jocund,” Jim says, slipping into his thin cotton pants and then shrugging on a t-shirt.
Spock’s already in bed by the time he’s done, watching Jim with a not-smile.
Jim joins him between the sheets and can’t help the smile that splits his face.
“Sorek’s actually happy here.”
“He does appear to be content here,” Spock agrees. “With you, Jim.”
Jim flushes, turning his head towards Spock. “With you too. Sorek’s crazy about you—he wants to be just like you.”
“Sorek perhaps views me as a sort of standard, a prototype, if you will, of appropriate vulcan behavior in a human environment, but it is your company he craves and enjoys, Jim.”
“Parenting isn’t a contest,” Jim frowns. He doesn’t want Spock to feel like he’s not important to Sorek too—Jim has no idea what he’d do without him.
“Nevertheless,” Spock says, “preferences are inevitable.” He doesn’t sound or look upset, just thoughtful. “Sorek is like me in this: I, too, sought the affection and attention of my human mother over that of my father. Even when I was older and strived to avoid it, I always craved it.”
“I wish I could have met your mom,” Jim says after a quiet moment, turning his head back to the ceiling.
“I am certain she would have liked you,” Spock says. “She would have been delighted to learn that we adopted a child; she spent several years during my youth lamenting that I would never be able to beget children due to my genetically-engineered hybrid status.”
This is news to Jim. “Sorek’s the only chance you have to be a father?” he asks. “Damn, Spock. I had no idea.”
“That is because I never told you,” Spock says simply.
Jim exhales. “Spock, I want you to know that if—when we quietly divorce, I still want us to raise Sorek together. This, the three of us, is maybe the best thing that I’ve ever done.”
Spock reaches into the small space between them and laces his fingers with Jim’s. Jim has done this every night since Sorek started shutting them out, holding Spock’s hand until he falls asleep, and it's starting to feel natural. But this is the first time Spock’s initiated the gesture, and it sends tingles down from his spine to his fingertips.
“I believe we are of one mind in this, Jim,” Spock says, his voice steadier than Jim’s would be if he tried to talk at this moment. “I have derived great meaning and personal contentment in raising Sorek alongside you.”
Jim can’t help but squeeze Spock’s hand—too filled with emotion for words. Jim’s been trying not to read too much into the cultural implications of holding Spock’s hand so intimately. He knows that it’s some kind of vulcan kiss, that Spock’s telepathy is channeled through his hands, but he has no idea as to Spock’s intention behind the gesture. Jim’s kissed plenty of people without being interested in them, and he learned a long time ago never to expect too much of people.
“I can’t believe it’s already been six months,” Jim says eventually, concentrating on the imperfections in the ceiling until his heart rate decreases.
“In my youth, my mother often commented on the swift passage of time as it related to my maturation,” Spock says, his thumb brushing along Jim’s. “For many years, I could find no logic in these ruminations. It was not until I joined Starfleet and found myself alone for the first time in my life that I began to accept the relativity of time. I have related this story to say this: time has, indeed, ‘flown,’ Jim.”
Jim laughs at Spock’s use of the idiom, and it brushes away the tendrils of Jim’s anxiety and uncertainty. He’s still feeling too light from his earlier conversation with Sorek to let himself get caught up in worrying about something he can't change.
Maybe it’s that levity which causes Jim’s next actions too.
After only a moment’s hesitation, Jim rolls to his side and into Spock, bringing their entwined hands up to rest on his chest and pressing his smiling face into the crook of his neck. Spock’s skin is warm under his lips, and Jim can feel his steady, too fast to be human, pulse jumping just under the surface there. Every time Jim breathes in, he’s assaulted with that unique scent of his—it’s spicy and dry, and Jim likes to imagine it’s how Vulcan's air might have smelled once.
“Is this okay?” Jim whispers into Spock’s skin, lips brushing against hot flesh.
Spock untangles their hands, and Jim’s certain he’s about to push him away. Jim tenses, but Spock just moves his arm behind Jim until it wraps around him, pulling him further into Spock’s personal space.
“Go to sleep, Jim,” he says, hand brushing along Jim’s shoulder blades.
And Jim, surrounded by the warmth of Spock’s body and his own contentment, does.
And this is why you can never cuddle with someone you’d like to fuck.
Jim’s about to take himself in hand when the door to their bedroom opens with a whoosh. Jim barely manages to pull a pillow onto his lap before Spock steps in.
“Ah,” Spock says, meeting Jim’s eyes. He’s already dressed in his uniform, but his hair is still slightly wet from his shower. Jim feels like weeping he’s so attractive. “Sorek believed you might be awake. He acquired breakfast for us and thought we might like to enjoy the privacy of our quarters rather than the mess.”
Jim tries to smile, but it probably comes off more as a grimace. “Sure, Spock. I’ll just hop in the shower real quick.”
“We shall wait for you.”
After Spock has left again, Jim falls back onto the bed and covers his face with his pillow. He lets out a groan into the fabric. Looks like his shower is going to be cold this morning.
These events serve as a prophetic vision of how the rest of his day goes: perpetual sexual frustration as Spock somehow manages to make mundane actions seem inexplicably arousing.
Spock offers Jim a bowl of oatmeal, and Jim has to adjust himself under the table.
He comms Jim during Alpha to let him know that Sorek’s visiting Doctor Chapel, and Jim breaks out into a cold sweat just at the sound of his voice.
And when Spock walks onto the bridge at shift change with his ass in those tight, regulation pants, Jim’s mouth waters like a damn Pavlovian reflex.
Jim’s panicked and awkward as he hands the conn over to Spock, and he can practically feel the heat of Spock’s stare as he rushes into the turbolift. He never does manage to look Spock in the eyes.
He hurries to Sickbay to pick up Sorek and maybe calm his nerves with Bones. Sorek’s standing beside Christine when he walks in, closely observing as she patches up a few electrical burns on the arm of one of Scotty’s engineers. Jim waves at them then hooks his thumb towards Bones’ closed office door.
Sorek nods at him, so Jim ducks into the office.
Bones is reading something on the console at his desk, and he scowls at Jim when he enters. “What do you want, Jim? These reports aren’t going to read themselves.”
Jim starts pacing around the small office. “I think I might be going insane, Bones,” he explains. “I cannot stop thinking about sleeping with Spock. I’ve had a hard on all fucking day! Do you have any idea how awful it is to sit in the Captain’s chair with your dick trying to burst out of your pants?”
Bones looks as if he’s going to be sick, and his frown somehow manages to get more pronounced. “Fuck, Jim, I do not want to hear about this shit.”
“I don’t know who else to tell!” Jim walks around the desk until he can grab Bones by his arms. “Fix me.”
“I can’t fix that messed up brain of yours,” he says, pulling out of Jim’s grip. “But it sounds like you just need to knock some boots.”
“Right, sex." Jim starts pacing again. "Yeah, that’s easy.”
He wonders why having sex didn’t occur to him in his panic. Sleeping with Spock was out of the question for obvious reasons, but hadn’t he given Jim permission to have casual sex a few months ago? A few months ago…
How long has it been since Jim’s had sex? He counts back in his head silently, then falls into the chair in front of Bones’ desk. He feels vaguely horrified.
“Bones,” he says slowly, looking up at him with wide eyes. “I haven’t had sex in a year…”
“A year?” Bones’ raises an eyebrow. “Jesus, Jim, I didn’t know you had it in you.”
“I haven’t gone this long without sex since I was fifteen,” Jim’s pretty sure he’s having an actual panic attack now. “Fuck. When did I turn into someone that can go a year without sex? I love sex. I’m good at sex.”
Bones snorts, the sound he typically makes when he thinks Jim’s being an idiot. “I dunno kid, maybe around the time you started mooning over that green-blooded husband of yours?”
Jim thinks back to a year ago, and finds that Bones is right. It was about the same time Spock and Jim started spending time together off-duty—playing chess, sharing meals, sparring together. It hadn’t seemed like a big deal at the beginning of the mission; he knew he wasn’t going to be able to sleep around as much as when he was at the Academy, but he was okay with waiting until shore leaves. But then he started spending his leaves with Spock, and then they’d adopted Sorek. Things have been going pretty much non-stop since.
“Fuck,” Jim says again, because he’s not sure what else there is.
It’s always been easy—well, not really easy, but doable—to brush aside those inconvenient feelings he has for Spock, but now, knowing that he’s voluntarily gone without sex for a year and not even noticed, Jim has to acknowledge that those feelings might reach deeper than he thought.
“You know,” he says eventually, staring down at Bones’ cluttered desk, “I honestly never believed I’d be capable of that kind of relationship—being with just one person, committing for life. I’ve always loved the possibility of space, the thrill of running, and those dreams never once included marriage or fatherhood.”
“And now you’re not only living in space, you’ve also got yourself a husband and a kid,” Bones sums up. “You’re damn lucky, Jim—not all of us get the full package.”
Jim knows he’s thinking about his little girl, Joanna, on earth with a mother that doesn’t let him see her but once a year.
“I think you’re forgetting that Spock and I aren’t really married.”
“Are you sure about that, Jim? I mean, as much as it pains me to admit, I’ve seen the way Spock looks at you sometimes, looks at that kid of yours. Seems to me he’s pretty damn fond of you both.”
“Yeah, Spock’s fond of me. We’re a family now, he can’t help that.” Jim shakes his head, knocking all those stupid hopes right out. “But that’s all there is.”
“You heard me,” Bones glares at him. “I reckon you’re scared Spock does care about you. Let’s face it, Jim, you’re childhood was rotten. You weren’t loved enough, and now you can’t accept that someone might actually want to stick around and put up with your nonsense. Rather than let that happen, you’re just gonna cut and run early. I know you, Jim.”
“I—” Jim can’t deny it. Bones is not only well versed in the field of psychology, he’s also intimately acquainted with Jim’s particular psyche. “Okay, you might be right. But you don’t get it Bones; this isn’t just about me. If this were to blow up in my face, I don’t think I could work with Spock anymore, let alone raise Sorek with him. So, I’m not gonna do that—not to either one of them.”
“So, what, Jim, you’re just gonna keep ignoring this?”
“Next shore leave, I’m going to have fun, meaningless sex, and then I’m going to suck it up and stop obsessing over my own bleeding heart.”
“Alright, Jim,” Bones says, sarcasm coating his words. “Good luck with that.”
“Thanks for this,” Jim says sincerely, despite Bones’ sarcasm.
When Bones just waves him off—like he always does when accepting thanks—Jim lets him get back to work and goes to find Sorek.
He and Christine are sitting next to each other on a biobed, looking at a padd on Sorek’s lap. It’s apparently been a quiet day in Sickbay, with the previous engineer treated and released, it’s almost empty.
“What are you guys looking at?” Jim asks as he gets closer.
Sorek looks startled at Jim’s sudden appearance, sitting up straight and shutting the padd off immediately. Jim narrows his eyes.
Christine, apparently, doesn’t notice the exchange. “Sorek was just asking me about the ‘necessary parameters of the human social occasion known as a date.’” She winks down at Sorek.
Jim turns back to Sorek sharply—he’s determinately not making eye contact, but the tips of his ears turn green.
“Oh, was he…”
Christine just laughs at the both of them and hops off the bed. After she’s smoothed down her blue dress, she pats Jim’s shoulder in pity. Maybe she’s more aware of Sorek’s intentions than he’d thought.
“You two enjoy your evening,” she throws over her shoulder as she walks back to her office.
When she’s gone, Jim crosses his arms and stares at the top of Sorek’s head until he looks up.
“Is there anything I can assist you with?” he asks.
Cheeky little bugger.
“Hmm,” Jim runs a hand along his jaw, “let me think.” He taps his lips. “Yes, that’s it. You can tell me why you want to know what makes up a date.”
“I was merely curious,” Sorek says. “I’ve encountered the term several times and wanted to learn about its particulars.”
“Uh huh, I’m sure that’s the only reason why.”
Jim sighs and lifts Sorek off the biobed and to the floor. Jim wraps an arm around his shoulders.
“Kid, you are going to kill me with all this matchmaking business.”
Sorek frowns in alarm. “I am certain I shall do no such thing.”
“You don’t know it,” Jim says, thinking back on his day spent in acute longing, “But you will.”
It’s not until three weeks later that Jim gets an opportunity for shore leave. They spend far too long fostering peace talks between two warring planets only to have them both attack the Enterprise for her perceived interference in the end. Command sends them to the nearby Starbase 33 for the minor repairs after that, and Jim decides to give the crew leave during their two-day stay at the space station.
When Jim tells Spock that he’s going to spend an evening on the starbase, he seems to understand immediately what Jim really means—he stiffens and straightens, and his voice is terse when he tells Jim he’ll remain on the Enterprise with Sorek for the night.
Sorek thinks Jim’s meeting Bones to go drinking, but Bones, for once, has other plans. Though he vehemently denies it to Jim when he teases him about it, he’s actually going on a date with Carol.
Jim smiles to himself as he nurses his second glass of Aldebaran whiskey, imagining all the ridiculous ways Bones is currently lying to himself about his dinner with Carol. Tipping back the rest of his drink and nodding to the bartender, Jim lets his gaze scan along the bar.
When he’d left their quarters earlier, Spock had given Jim an unfathomable look when he saw his attire—a tight, black t-shirt and jeans that he’s been told make his ass look edible. Jim couldn’t resist winking at him as he walked through the door with a wave. And he winks now at an attractive Orion sitting in the corner.
Jim gets the impression that she’s been watching him for a while now, her eyelids lowered and her bottom lip between her teeth, and he can practically smell her pheromones from across the room. But then she smiles at him, wide and white-toothed, and Jim feels as if he’s been hit in the sternum. Jim hasn’t seen an Orion smile at him like that in a long time, not since the last time he saw Gaila alive. Jim quickly averts his gaze away from that corner of the bar; he’s determined not to let this night be clouded by guilt or grief.
He catches the eye of a man next. His gaze shamelessly flickers down to Jim’s ass then back up in appreciation. Jim’s tempted to take him up on his clear invitation—his hair is dark and short, his skin pale, and Jim is definitely attracted to him—but when he meets his dark eyes again, Jim realizes that letting this man fuck him might remind him a bit too keenly of what he’d like to let Spock do to him.
As he looks away quickly, his eyes fall on a gorgeous dark-skinned woman who’s smirking at the incredibly drunk Enolian next to her. But all Jim can see is Uhura in her red cadet uniform the night they first met in Iowa.
Jim has to drain the rest of his drink, practically shaking with frustration. When did casual sex become so difficult?
It takes another half hour of downing enough alcohol to lower his inhibitions and soothe his worries, but eventually a Serosian approaches, leaning on the bar next to him. Her skin is a metallic pale grey, her eyes are so dark they’re almost black, and she doesn’t remind Jim of anyone. Jim can feel his dick become interested as she leans in close to him, her chest level with his eyes.
“Do you realize how many beings in this establishment currently desire you?” she asks with lowered lids and a velvety voice.
Jim smirks, casting a careless gaze around them before winking at the Serosian. “That was my entire purpose in coming here tonight.”
“Then I would say you have succeeded, human.” She smirks right back at him, stepping closer, between his thighs.
“Has it worked on you?” Jim stretches an arm along the counter beside her, brushing his forearm along her waist.
She drops her eyes to Jim’s lap where he’s almost half-hard. She smiles and places a hand in the middle of his thigh, scratching her fingernails up and down his jeans.
“Perhaps,” she says, looking back up at Jim coyly. “What is your name?”
“I’m Jim,” he says. Her curls his arm around her waist and tugs her closer. Her hand clenches around Jim’s upper thigh. “And you?”
“I am Ne’Mira.” She squeezes his leg again, purposefully this time. “Shall we have sex now?”
Jim’s dick twitches. “Hell yes.” He loves anyone that can get straight to the point.
He stands, pressing his body against Ne’Mira’s as he does, hand skating along her back.
“I know a place we can go,” he says, stepping back and nodding towards the door.
As soon as they’ve stepped into Jim’s hotel room, Ne’Mira pushes Jim back against the wall and fixes her mouth to his. She swipes her long tongue into his mouth, and Jim moans around the feeling of it. It’s rougher than a human’s, and more nimble, and Jim’s well on the way to being completely hard.
Jim wraps his arms around her, one hand grabbing her ass, the other tangling in her long, black hair, but he has to pull back again when Ne'Mira fists her hands in his shirt and tugs it up. He pulls it all the way off, throwing it somewhere to the side, before pulling her flush against him again, his hard cock now pressing against her navel. She laughs into his mouth as she feels it, and she runs a hand down his bare chest until she’s palming him through his jeans. No one’s touched him there in over a year and fuck if it doesn’t feel amazing.
Jim reaches down with both his hands now until he can grab ahold of the hem of Ne’Mira’s short dress; he pulls it up and off in one swift motion, then walks her backward until her knees hit the edge of the bed. She sits and crawls back a bit, extending a silvery hand out to Jim. He takes it, kneeling on the bed over her. But then she laces their fingers together.
Jim freezes. A sense of wrongness comes over him all at once, and he can’t figure out why until his brain supplies him with impressions of a different hand in his, a larger, hotter hand with dark hair along the back of it.
Ne’Mira notices when Jim hesitates and sits up on an elbow with a concerned frown. “You have done this before, have you not?” she asks hesitantly. Poor thing, she’s probably worried that she’s about to take some random human’s virginity.
Jim laughs nervously, tugging his hand out of hers and rubbing it over his eyes. He feels completely sober now. “Yeah, I have. Sorry, I’m not sure what just happened.”
She sits up completely, tucking her legs up under her. “Are you currently involved with someone else? Because I do not wish to assist you in any infidelity.”
“No, don’t worry, it’s not like that.” Jim winces, “Although, I guess maybe it’s a little like that.”
Ne’Mira’s quick and makes the connection easily. “You are interested in someone, but you are not yet mated,” she sums up.
“Got it in one.” Jim looks at her and cringes in embarrassment, “Sorry about this. This is the first time I haven’t been able to perform since I was a teenager.”
His cock’s almost completely soft now, and he doubts he’d be able to get it up again without thoughts of Spock ruining it all.
Ne’Mira just shrugs, picking herself up off the bed and grabbing her dress from the floor. “There are many others who would still copulate with me.” She pulls the dress over her head and smoothes it down. Jim lets his eyes linger over her gentle curves, and he’s sure she’s right.
She’s looking at him likewise, staring at his bare chest with regret. “Although, you were the most sexually appealing male in that bar.”
Jim smiles, feeling thankful for her nonchalance—he could’ve tried to hook-up with someone much less understanding than Ne’Mira.
“Hey,” he says, reaching into the pocket of his jeans and pulling out his hotel key, “If you want to pick up someone else, you can bring him back here. The room’s already paid for.”
“You are not going to remain here?”
“I think there’s somewhere else I need to be.”
She smiles in amusement at that, grabbing the card from Jim’s fingers. “Then I will take you up on your offer.”
Jim heads to the door, picking his t-shirt back up on the way and pulling it on. “Enjoy,” he says over his shoulder.
Ne’Mira smirks, “I believe I will.”
Once in the hallway, the door shut behind him, Jim pulls out his communicator.
“Kirk to Enterprise,” Jim says, trying to remember who's holding the conn for the first shift.
“This is Sulu.”
“Sulu,” Jim grins, “Awesome. Wanna beam me back up?”
“Cutting the fun short, Captain?” Sulu asks with amusement.
“Yeah, I miss my girl too much.”
“Understood. I’ll contact the transporter room, sir.”
It doesn’t take long for that familiar feeling of his particles dispersing to fall over him, and soon he’s back in the transporter room. Clapping the transporter technician on the shoulder in thanks, Jim heads to his quarters.
When the door slides open, Jim just stands there for a moment, hip cocked against the doorframe, and looks. Spock and Sorek are sitting beside each other on the sofa, legs crossed under them in identical poses, and both reading something on their respective padds, eyebrows pulled together in concentration.
It doesn’t take long for them to notice Jim, and they both look surprised and pleased at Jim’s sudden appearance.
And this right here, this feeling that floods Jim’s limbs, this deep affection and sense of belonging, is so much better than casual sex.
“You do not require shore leave, Jim?” Spock asks as Jim enters the living room, the door hissing shut behind him. Jim can hear the unspoken question underlying Spock’s words. There’s a tenuous quality to Spock’s voice. It’s hesitant, almost nervous.
“Nope,” Jim says, forcing himself between Spock and Sorek on the sofa. He stretches his arms along the back of the couch, fingers brushing against both their shoulders. “I have all I require right here.”
He reaches down and pulls Sorek against his side. “Tell me what you’re reading about.”
As Sorek launches into a description of the article he’s currently reading on Terran marine life, Jim meets Spock’s eyes. They’re dark with some hidden emotion, and Jim thinks he might want to spend the rest of his life trying to figure out what it might be.
“So, I’m screwed,” is the first thing Jim says upon throwing himself into a chair in Bones’ office the next morning.
Bones grimaces, “Wasn’t that the whole point of shore leave last night?”
Jim laughs mirthlessly. “Yeah, it never happened.”
“So you didn’t get screwed?”
“Nope, just couldn’t do it. Apparently I’m no longer the kind of guy that can get off on casual sex. I don’t know who I am anymore, Bones,” Jim adds pathetically.
“Well, Jim, even though you’re still a pain in my ass, you’ve done a lot of maturing recently.” Bones leans back and crosses his arms over his chest. “Even before you adopted the kid. I reckon you’ve just grown out of it.”
“Really? Then this isn’t just about Spock?”
“I’d say it’s probably a little of both. You’re not the same Jim Kirk who could sleep with a friend regularly and it be fine and dandy.”
Jim thinks back on his friendship with Gary Mitchell when they were both at the Academy. They’d messed around for most of Jim’s second year, and feelings had never become an issue. It was probably the healthiest relationship Jim had while at the Academy. But remembering their random, casual encounters, Jim realizes that Bones is right. He can’t imagine doing something like that now that he’s responsible for so much. And that doesn’t have anything to do with his feelings for Spock.
“I think that’s probably true,” Jim finally concedes.
“Well, now that we got that settled,” Bones rolls his eyes, “Can we please talk about something other than your sex life for once?”
“Sure, Bones.” Jim grins evilly, remembering what else was supposed to happen last night. “How about we talk about your sex life?”
Bones drops his head in his hands and groans.
“How was your date last night, Leonard?”
“It wasn’t a date, dammit, Jim. How many times do I have to tell you?”
Jim raises his eyebrows, not fooled in the slightest. “So what would you call it when two people, who are clearly interested in one another, have a quiet dinner together?”
“I’d call it none of your damn business,” Bones glares.
Jim places a hand over his chest in mock affront. “Bones, I’m your best friend, of course it’s my business. And need I remind you that Carol was my first love?”
“I should’ve known you’d bring that up,” Bones mutters.
“Carol was the only woman who liked me for more than my penis.” Bones lets out a sound of disgust. “She’s also the one that taught me all about the wonders of the clitoris.”
“Shut up,” Bones finally cries out, throwing the first thing within arm’s reach at Jim’s head.
Jim catches it easily, laughing now. It turns out to be a stress ball—that’s all kinds of ironic, and Jim just laughs more.
“Something wrong, Bones?”
“I never want to hear anything related to your damn penis again. Especially when it concerns—”
Bones cuts himself off abruptly, and Jim grins in triumph.
“When it concerns Carol?”
“It’s okay, Bones,” Jim leans across the desk to pat the back of Bones’ hand, but he jerks it back with a glare. “I'm in far too deep with Spock to care a lick about you dating Carol. I just want you to be happy,” he says, seriously now.
Bones is uncharacteristically quiet for a moment, staring down at his desk with a frown that’s more unsure than upset.
“I just…” he starts with a quiet voice. “I don’t want this to be another Jocelyn.”
Jim finally gets it. He remembers all too well those days after Bones’ divorce. They barely knew each other, but they drank a lot of alcohol together, and they shared a lot of things that they make a point never to mention.
“It won’t be,” Jim insists, putting a hand on Bones’ shoulder. He doesn’t pull away this time.
“How would you know?”
“Because you’re not the same Leonard McCoy that married Jocelyn,” Jim says, echoing back Bones’ earlier words. “You’re not in the middle of med-school, buried in debt, and you’re not mourning the recent death of your father either.”
Bones doesn’t say anything, but the sincerity in his eyes is all Jim needs to know that Bones is grateful.
Bones grabs Jim’s wrist on his shoulder, squeezes it once, and then promptly removes it.
“Can we please stop with all this emotional shit?” he asks.
Jim laughs, “Yeah, Bones, whatever you want.”
“Listen, I probably better go find Sorek anyways; I think Spock is taking the morning shift on the bridge.” Jim stands, dropping Bones’ stress ball back onto his desk.
“Tell the kid I said hi, alright? He spends all his time with Christine nowadays, god knows why.”
Jim smiles at him, “Will do. And you can tell Carol I said hi.”
Their nice moment is immediately gone, Bones’ eyes narrowing at Jim.
“Get the hell out of my Sickbay.”
Jim leaves Bones’ office with a smile. He knew they were best friends for a reason.
I just wanted to leave a note here to clarify that this chapter wasn't meant to be any sort of commentary on casual sex. We have enough people in our society making sex a shameful thing, and I would never want to add to that by making people feel guilty for having safe, consensual sex. Growing out of casual sex was personal to Jim in this story, in my interpretation of his personality, and it's not my intention at all to correlate maturity and monogamy. Some people love having multiple sexual partners, and some people don't. And that's all okay :)
The newest orders from Starfleet Command mystify Jim, mostly because they don’t seem to deserve the priority level they’re given. The Enterprise is to pick up some supplies from a starbase in the beta quadrant and then transport them to New Vulcan. Jim had Chekov check and there are plenty of cargo transports to spare in the beta quadrant, which pretty much confirms that there’s more to this random trip than they’re being let in on.
Soon after Jim’s relayed the orders and made a ship-wide announcement, Spock and Sorek show up on the bridge. Jim’s not too surprised, considering the nature of their orders, and he ushers them into his ready room after handing the conn off to Sulu.
“These orders seem rather… trivial, Captain,” Spock says quietly after they’ve shut the door behind them and preoccupied Sorek with an old Terran Rubik’s cube Jim had lying around.
“I thought the same thing,” Jim says. “Have you spoken to your dad lately? Is there anything weird going on at the colony?”
“We spoke fifteen days ago, and he made no mention of anything untoward.”
“Do you think this has to do with…” Jim trails off, jerking his head meaningfully to the corner where Sorek’s sitting, not paying any attention to them for once.
Spock’s voice lowers, “No, Jim. There is nothing they could do now to take him away from us. Nor would we allow it.”
Jim squeezes Spock’s forearm, crossed over his chest, in thanks for the reassurance.
“So, I guess it looks like we’re flying blind,” he says, feeling Spock’s muscles flex under his hand.
“Indeed,” Spock says after Jim’s taken a step back. “However, I must inform you that, although I do not believe the High Council would contrive a reason for the Enterprise to visit New Vulcan in order to ascertain the validity of our marriage, I hypothesize that they will take advantage of our presence to do so regardless.”
“You’re saying we need to act extra married?” Spock nods. “How do we do that? I’m assuming vulcans aren’t big on PDA.”
“That assumption is correct. However, bondmates will frequently join hands in the Ozh’esta.” Spock extends his index and middle fingers, just like he did on their wedding day. Jim mimics the gesture, pressing his fingers to Spock’s.
Spock runs his fingers down Jim’s slowly, and Jim can’t help the goosebumps that pop up along his arms.
Spock nods as he pulls his hand back. “This will suffice.”
“What about handholding?” Jim asks. They hold hands frequently nowadays, and Spock initiates the contact as often as Jim does.
Jim is surprised, then, when color floods Spock’s face and he looks away.
“To vulcans such a gesture would seem quite… obscene,” he says to the wall.
Jim’s eyes widen as embarrassment sets in. He obviously knows that handholding is some variant of kissing to vulcans, but he never imagined that it’s also so overtly sexual.
“Shit, Spock, have I been, like, fondling you?”
“Negative, Jim,” Spock replies at once. “I am well aware that such a gesture carries an alternate connotation in human interactions and am able to moderate the sensations to a degree. I do not mind touching you this way.”
Jim’s been so careful not to read into Spock’s actions too much, to just take Spock as he is and stop obsessing over how much he wishes they were more than just partners. But this admission is telling, and it’s hard to ignore.
Especially when Spock meets his gaze head on, his eyes dark and human.
If not for Sorek’s presence in the back of the room or the fact that he’s still technically on duty, Jim thinks he might have said fuck it and kissed Spock the human way just then.
After holding eye contact for a beat longer, Spock clears his throat and looks away again, effectively ending the moment. A moment Jim’s certain Spock felt too.
“Also,” Spock says, his voice low as he looks toward Sorek “I recommend that you do not be quite as physically demonstrative with Sorek as you normally are while on board the Enterprise. The Council will neither understand nor approve of your motivation, and I fear that Sorek will bear the brunt of their censure for allowing you to continue in such illogical actions.”
“I think I can do that. I’m not so illogical that I can’t keep my hands to myself for a day.”
Jim hopes he’s right.
“You can assume standard orbit, Sulu.”
“Captain,” says Uhura from her station. “We’re being hailed from the surface.”
Jim looks to Spock, beside Uhura at the science station. Jim misses seeing him there on a daily basis—he’s only on the bridge today because of their present location
Spock meets his gaze and inclines his head slowly.
“Patch it through, Lieutenant,” Jim says to Uhura. “On screen.”
He swivels his chair as Spock comes to stand behind him. They're to do this as one.
“On screen, Captain,” Uhura says just as a blank-faced vulcan flickers into view. Jim can practically hear Spock’s spine straighten beside him.
Jim holds up his hand in a passable ta’al. “James T. Kirk of the Enterprise,” he says.
The vulcan returns the gesture easily, her dark eyes meeting Jim’s critically. “I am aware of your name, Captain Kirk. I am T’Pau.” Jim can sense the collective intake of breath from the rest of the bridge—everyone recognizes the name of the Vulcan elder who once famously turned down a seat on the Federation council.
T’Pau’s eyes flicker over to Spock. “Dif-tor heh smusma, Commander Spock.”
“Sochya eh dif, T’Pau,” he says, stepping forward so that he’s standing beside Jim rather than behind him.
T’Pau nods, then looks back at Jim. If she hadn’t been the scariest, most intimidating vulcan he’s ever met, Jim might think he’s detecting the slightest hint of amusement in her gaze.
“I understand that I should welcome you to our clan, Captain Kirk.”
Jim jerks his head to Spock, dropping his professionalism for a moment. “Clan?”
“T’Pau is the matriarch of the S’chn T’gai clan to which I belong,” Spock says with a nod to T’Pau.
“Indeed,” T’Pau says. “Now that we have completed our formalities, perhaps we shall now discuss more professional matters?”
“Of course.” Jim sits up straighter in the chair. “The supplies are ready to be beamed down to the surface on your mark, Ma’am.”
“You may commence immediately,” she says.
“It’ll be done,” Jim says, knowing that Uhura is already relaying the orders; she’s good like that.
T’Pau nods. “Now, I shall admit that the High Council was forced to employ circuitous reasons in order to ensure the Enterprise was the Federation ship to come to our assistance.” Her eyes get that twinkle again. “As a people, vulcans endeavor to be direct and truthful in all of our actions, but the matters we wish to discuss are of a sensitive nature. Therefore, we request that that you and Commander Spock beam down to meet with the High Council. And perhaps it would be prudent to also bring Sorek, your new son.”
A shot of fear surges through Jim’s gut, but he schools his expression into neutrality.
“We’ll be there in ten minutes,” Jim says.
“I will have my assistant transmit the coordinates to your ship,” she says, and then the screen turns blank.
Jim turns to look at Spock, seeing his own unease echoed in Spock’s eyes. Jim stands and turns to the Communications station. “Comm Bones and have him bring Sorek to the transporter room. Sulu,” he adds, turning back to the helm, “You have the conn while Spock and I are on the surface.”
“Aye, sir,” he says.
Jim and Spock step into the turbolift together, and, once the door shuts behind them, Jim leans heavily against the wall. “So, Spock, do you think T’Pau asking for us is a good thing or a bad thing?”
“I am uncertain, Jim.” Spock presses his shoulder to Jim’s and trails two fingers along his wrist. “But we shall soon discover the answer for ourselves.”
Jim feels warmer where Spock’s fingers linger, so he grabs his hand and squeezes it momentarily. “I guess we will.” He, reluctantly, drops Spock’s hand as the doors to the turbolift slide open.
Bones is scowling, as usual, when they enter the transporter room, and Sorek looks a mix of confusion and apprehension. Jim figures part of him is probably still worried that Spock and Jim are going to abandon him on New Vulcan, so he moves to him and wraps an arm around his shoulders. They’re not down on the surface yet.
“T’Pau wants to see us,” Jim explains, squeezing Sorek against him and looking to Bones.
“And why is that?” Bones asks, crossing his arms.
“We are uncertain, Doctor,” Spock says before moving to the transporter console and speaking to the technician on duty.
Spock nods to Jim and then meets him and Sorek on the transporter pad.
“Try not to let those bastards turn you logical, Jim,” Bones says, grinning from the back of the room.
Jim grins back. “Not a chance of that,” he winks at Sorek. “Energize.”
The first sight to grace Jim’s vision once his particles have reintegrated is his severe, very vulcan father-in-law.
“Father,” Spock says. Jim can tell he’s just as surprised to see Sarek as Jim; the two keep in touch, but they’re still not exactly the closest father-son pair.
“Spock,” Sarek nods, “It is pleasing to see you.”
“And you, Father.”
Sarek, from Jim’s limited perspective, actually looks pleased too. Jim’s about to smile, but then Sarek turns his gaze to Jim and Sorek, both standing behind Spock.
Jim breaks out in a cold sweat. He’s pretty sure the last time he saw the Ambassador he was disrespecting his recently deceased wife and trying to emotionally manipulate his son. And, in the time since, they've gotten married and adopted a kid together.
“Ambassador,” he says, lifting his hand in a ta’al and hoping Sarek can’t actually see how sweaty his palms are.
“Captain Kirk,” he replies, returning the gesture. “Although, now that we are of the same family, perhaps we may address each other less formally. You may call me Sarek.”
“And you can call me Jim, Sir.” He tries to hold back a sigh of relief that Sarek doesn’t seem like he’s going to hit Jim with a Vulcan nerve pinch anytime soon.
Sarek turns to Sorek, who’s basically hiding behind Jim’s legs at this point, even though he would never actually admit it.
“And you are Sorek,” he says. “One who has facilitated much discussion among our people.” He raises an eyebrow at Spock, “It is most unusual for a human to adopt a vulcan.”
“It was logical,” Spock says, but Sarek turns away from him, still focused on Sorek. Jim can tell the young vulcan is trying his very hardest to remain straight faced and backed. Jim can't help but find it adorable, and a smile creeps onto his face.
“This makes you and I family, Sorek. I would not be adverse to you calling me Sarek as well.”
“You are well met, Sarek,” Sorek says, bowing his head slightly in respect.
Sarek looks pleased. “Now that introductions have been made, I am to escort you to the chamber of the High Council. And I also offer you my home as a place where you may eat and rest once the meeting had concluded.”
“We would be honored, Father,” Spock says after Jim gives him a nod of acquiescence. Jim can comm Sulu sometime later and let the crew have leave for the night if they want it.
“If you would then follow me,” Sarek says.
He leads them through the newly built central government building, the antechamber of which they had beamed into, and into a chamber with a high, gothic ceiling and walls the same color as the desert outside. In the middle of the room sits a raised dais, with six, ancient-looking vulcans seated there. In front are three chairs, obviously meant for Jim, Spock, and Sorek.
Sarek bows to the Vulcan elders on the dais before turning back to the other three.
“I shall meet you here at the conclusion of your discussion,” he says before leaving them alone with the Vulcan High Council.
“Greetings again, Captain Kirk,” T’Pau says from the middle of the dais. “And greetings to you, as well, Commander Spock and Sorek. If you will sit, we may begin.”
Jim takes the seat to the far right, and Spock the left, leaving Sorek to sit in the middle. It makes Jim feel better, having Sorek between them, even though what he’d really like to do is place a comforting hand on his knee, or at least put his arm around the back of his chair. But Jim remembers Spock’s advice and does nothing.
He stares up at the other vulcans, and feels a jolt of pleasure when he notices the elder seated on the end to his right. Jim can’t halt the smile that tugs at his mouth when he meets Ambassador Spock’s gaze, and he’s rewarded with a tight-lipped, but obvious smile in return. Jim’s kind of got a thing for vulcans named Spock.
Once they’re settled, T’Pau speaks up again. “We are aware of the unusual nature of these proceedings,” she says, “and apologize for our deceitful behavior, but what we are here to discuss is an issue of planetary security.”
“We’ll make sure any classified information remains so,” Jim says.
T’Pau nods to Jim, and then motions to the side of the room where an aide stands. The aide approaches at T’Pau’s signal and hands padds to both Jim and Spock.
“Please read the contents,” T’Pau says.
It’s a profile of an Orion named Naavan Fel’Ra, wanted in five star systems for crimes including kidnapping, murder, sex and human trafficking, theft. Jim puts the pieces together at once, and can’t help but shift closer to Sorek.
“You think this is who attacked Sorek’s transport.”
“We can only speculate,” says another vulcan on the dais, “but all evidence supports this hypothesis.”
“Sorek,” says T’Pau, turning her stern gaze on him. Sorek stiffens beside Jim. “Have you ever encountered this man?”
Jim’s read the research on how subjective and easily falsified eyewitness testimonies can be on Earth, but it’s probably a non-issue here since vulcans all have eidetic memories. Jim hands Sorek the padd. His eyes flicker over it quickly and then widen.
“Yes,” he says without hesitation. “This is the man who administered the hypo that rendered me unconscious.”
T’Pau and the other elders look unsurprised.
“How did you identify this Orion?” asks Spock.
“Approximately eleven point five three months ago, a transport vessel similar to that of Sorek’s was reported missing,” another elder explains. “The Colony had only just been founded, and we lacked the resources to conduct any investigation. All the passengers were assumed dead until approximately three point four six weeks ago when a young vulcan named T’Lan requested an audience with this council and was discovered to be one we thought lost. She appeared young to the eyes of her captors, only fifteen point two three at that time, but her intelligence surpassed their assumptions. She was able to escape from her prison and hack the main computer on their ship, obtaining information about their crew as well as sabotaging their flight plan. After discovering that she was the only captive on board the ship, she commandeered a small shuttle and piloted it to a nearby starbase.”
“No wonder they knocked Sorek out,” Jim interjects. “They must’ve learned not to underestimate vulcans.”
“Indeed, we concluded similarly,” says T’Pau. “In addition to the transports bearing Sorek and T’Lan, four other transport vessels have been reported missing, all carrying young orphans. There are twenty-eight children unaccounted for in total.
Jim kind of feels like punching something; he has to dig his nails into his palms and take five deep breaths before he’s able to speak again.
“What is the motive here?” he asks the room at large. “What does this guy gain from enslaving a bunch of kids?”
“Exotic commodities.” It’s Spock who answers. Jim can only look at him in profile, but he doesn’t miss the tense set of his jaw. “We are an endangered species, and the laws of supply and demand dictate that our worth must increase as our numbers decline.”
Jim can’t help the disgusted noise that escapes from his mouth, but none of the vulcans seem too bothered by his display of human emotions—he’s, apparently, not alone in his disgust. Jim’s pretty skilled at reading vulcans’ not-expressions, and he can see the distaste written on each of their faces.
“What do you want us to do about it?” Jim asks.
“In your two years of command, you have proven to be both highly competent and indiscriminately compassionate, Captain Kirk,” says T’Pau. “In addition, we were gratified by the tenacity you employed to adopt a child who was not your relative nor your responsibility. We trust that you will find a way.”
“I am honored,” Jim says. He’s not sure he’s ever received anything like the hell of a compliment T’Pau—the scariest vulcan in the universe—just gave him. “However, there isn’t much I can do about the situation without orders from Starfleet.”
“We are aware of this. All that we ask is that you—how do you humans say?—'keep an eye on' the situation.”
Jim exchanges a quick look with Spock. “We’ll definitely do that. And we’ll let you know if we find anything out.”
“And we will do the same to you,” T’Pau says. She stands, and the other elders follow her lead. “Live long and prosper, Captain.”
Jim stands as well, holding up a ta’al as Spock and Sorek follow suit. “Peace and long life,” he rejoins.
As the elders file out of the room, Jim waves Spock and Sorek ahead.
“I’ll be out in a second,” he says, looking meaningfully to the dais where one elder is lingering.
Spock examines Jim’s face for a moment, then his eyes flicker to his older counterpart. Spock doesn’t look happy about it, but he nods anyway and leads Sorek out of the room, leaving Jim and Ambassador Spock alone.
“Hi,” Jim says, full-on grinning now. He moves to Spock quickly, gripping his upper arms. “It’s good to finally see you face-to-face again.”
“Indeed it is,” Spock says, smiling back. “And I believe congratulations are in order, Jim.”
Jim laughs, wondering if he should let him in on the secret.
“I was quite pleased when I learned that you and my counterpart were to be married, especially so early in both your lives. It took my Jim and me many years to reach that place of understanding. Too many years.”
Spock’s words stop Jim’s breath for a moment, as they sink in.
Jim’d gotten impressions, of course, during his meld with Spock on Delta Vega—an acute sense of lingering grief and fondness for another captain named Jim Kirk—but it was hard to dissect any of those feelings when Vulcan’s destruction weighed so heavily on Spock’s thoughts and emotions.
But he hadn't expected this.
“You and the other me were married too?”
“We never got around to marrying in the Terran manner as you and my counterpart have, but we were bonded in the traditional Vulcan way for many years.”
“I—wow… I had no idea.”
“I did not wish you to know,” Spock says. “I was uncertain how my presence in your universe would alter the future, and I thought it important for you and my counterpart to discover this place on your own.”
“So this is what you really meant. When you told me about the epic friendship we were meant to have.”
Spock’s eyes twinkle. “Perhaps. But, I was truthful in my words. Jim Kirk and I were good friends for many years before we became lovers.”
This moment is so surreal, Jim’s still not quite sure that he just heard the word ‘lovers’ come out of Spock’s mouth. When he continues to gape, Spock smiles again and pats Jim on the shoulder.
“You should return to your own Spock,” he says. “And to your son as well.”
“You’re probably right,” Jim says, pulling himself back to the present. “Sorek’s a little nervous about being here.”
“Oh?” Spock asks as they walk to the door.
“He’s worried we’re going to leave him here.”
Jim grins. “Vulcans can be funny that way.”
When they return to the main lobby of the council building, Spock is talking with Sarek while Sorek stands close behind him, his eyes wandering as if he’s searching for something. His eyes land on Jim almost immediately, and relief is clear in his expression. Jim smiles at him fondly.
“Goodbye, old friend,” Ambassador Spock says, patting Jim on the shoulder once more and then taking his leave.
“Is your business concluded, Jim?” Spock asks as Jim reaches the other three. He hold up two fingers, and Jim doesn’t hesitate in brushing his own against them.
When Jim realizes that Sarek’s watching their interaction, he flushes and pulls his hand away.
Looking anywhere but at Spock, “Yeah, let’s go,” he says.
“If you’ll follow me,” Sarek says.
Dinner at Sarek’s house—a house that’s much too large for only one person—is a quiet affair. Vulcan’s aren’t exactly known for their small talk, so Jim ends up carrying the majority of the conversation. Sarek asks about Sorek’s education, Spock summarizes a few of his experiments aboard the Enterprise, and Jim regales Sarek and Sorek with stories of their more exciting missions.
Jim’s hyperaware throughout the evening of just how stiffly his two vulcans are carrying themselves. Jim knows that Spock’s always been insecure when it comes to his vulcan father, and it shows in his immaculate posture and cool, blank tone of voice. It’s rubbed off on Sorek too, seated beside Jim at the dinner table, but mirroring Spock’s demeanor.
Jim doesn’t want Spock and Sorek to have the same kind of relationship that Spock had with Sarek—stiff and formal, full of misunderstanding until the death of the human whom they both loved. He knows the situations are different; Sorek’s not half-human, for one, and it’s clear how much Spock cares about Sorek, even if he’s not as outwardly affectionate as Jim. But all the same, it makes Jim wonder if maybe he should explain the whole thing with Sarek to Sorek. Or, better yet, have Spock do it himself.
Later, when Sarek shows them to their rooms, Jim goes to tuck Sorek in while Spock comms the Enterprise to check on things.
Jim watches Sorek as he brushes his teeth—his movements are probably way more efficient than Jim’s—and he takes the time to fold his pants and sweater for him as Sorek crawls into bed.
Jim sits beside him, on the edge of the bed, but he doesn’t kiss his forehead the way he normally would when tucking him in. After watching Sorek’s stiffness all night, he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t appreciate something as illogical as a goodnight kiss.
“Jim,” Sorek says as he gets settled. “What are you going to do about the man that kidnapped us?”
Jim frowns. “I don’t know, Sorek—there’s not much to do right now."
Jim sighs, running a hand through his hair, wishing he had a better answer. Sorek's eyebrows are scrunched together in concern, and Jim wants nothing more than to wipe that worry away.
"I promise you this, though," Jim says firmly, "I’m gonna find him eventually, and I’m gonna make sure he can't hurt anyone ever again. Especially you.”
“I believe you Jim,” Sorek says earnestly, trusting Jim in a way that makes his heart ache.
Jim nods with a soft smile. “Well, I better get to bed myself. See you in the morning, kiddo.”
When Jim gets back to his own room, Spock’s already in bed, reading on his padd. Jim’s pretty sure he's been waiting for Jim to get back. It’s a good feeling, having someone to wait up for him.
“I think your dad’s lonely,” he says as he enters their connecting bathroom to get ready for bed.
“How have you come to this conclusion?” Spock asks from the bedroom.
“Him inviting us to dinner, offering to let us stay the night—it just seems like it.”
“I suppose that is not illogical.”
Jim grins around his toothbrush at the double negative. He peaks his head out the door so he can see Spock properly.
“Do you think he’s sad he wasn’t at our wedding?” Jim asks, voice muffled by toothpaste.
“I am quite certain he’s able to control such emotions.”
“That doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel them,” Jim points out. He holds up a finger, slipping back into the bathroom to spit and rinse. When he returns to the bedroom, teeth clean, he continues, “This just has to be hard on him.”
Jim can feel Spock’s eyes on him like physical touch as he strips off his shirts and pants, deciding that it’s too hot on this planet to sleep in anything but his underwear.
“What do you believe is ‘hard’ on my father?” Spock asks eventually.
“I don’t know,” Jim says, slipping under the sheets beside Spock. “Seeing the three of us together as a family. Seeing you with a very human spouse…”
“I see. You believe your presence to be a tangible reminder of my mother’s absence.”
“Well, yeah, I guesss.”
“You are in error, Jim. I believe my father feels my mother’s absence under every circumstance; therefore, your presence cannot incite that which is already here.”
Jim wonders if Spock’s talking about himself too—if he still notices his mother’s absence in every circumstance.
“I wish we could do something,” Jim says, meaning it.
“Do not worry about this, Jim. I think our presence here, no matter how short in duration, will remind my father that he is not alone. He still has a family, even if we are not always with him.”
Jim takes Spock’s hand in his. “That was kind of nice, Spock.”
“I am explaining the truth of the situation,” Spock says, trying to justify his sentimentality. Jim sees right past it.
“Of course, Spock.”
They settle into bed and turn down the lights, but, just as Jim’s closing his eyes, an idea hits him. Jim drops Spock’s hand and throws off the covers, leaning over Spock to grab his padd. He opens his inbox, selects the most recent message from Faraji Jalloh, and opens the source code.
“What is it?” Spock asks, sitting up beside him and reading over Jim’s shoulder. He can feel his hot breath on the back of his neck.
“I’m trying to see if there’s a way to send Jalloh a message without actually knowing his IPIN.”
“Perhaps if you could isolate the coding which signifies the pathway the message was sent through and then reverse the sequence?”
Jim frowns, considering. “It’s not a bad idea. Could you do it?”
“I believe so,” Spock says. He brushes Jim’s knuckles before taking the padd from his hands.
He works for a while, eyebrows tensed in concentration, and Jim stares at his long fingers. Finally, he hands the padd back to Jim.
“It is done. I also programmed the message to bear an identical encryption to Jalloh’s. He will be able to recognize it.”
“Spock, you are seriously the best.” Jim squeezes Spock’s thigh.
|| What do you know about Naavan Fel’Ra? ||
After letting Spock read the message and nod his approval, Jim sends it off then shuts the padd down. There’s no way of knowing when Jalloh will read it, so Jim relaxes back down into the bed.
“Is it anything like Vulcan here?” he asks Spock after a moment. In all the rush of the day, Jim hadn’t thought about what being here must be like for Spock.
“There are similarities,” Spock says. “The biome and climate are comparable, as are the aesthetics of this city. But, when I look to the sky, it shatters the illusion. The stars are not where they once were. The moon that is there now illuminates in a way I am not accustomed to. When I look to the stars, I feel… lost.”
“Spock.” Jim rolls over on his side to properly see Spock’s face. “That was downright poetic.”
“Contrary to what humans typically believe, there have been many vulcan poets in the past.”
“What is your poetry even like? I can't imagine it at all.”
“It is… logical.” Spock’s lips quirk, so Jim smiles for him. “Although, I must confess that, as an adolescent, I would frequently enjoy poetry from a Vulcan past, before we devoted ourselves to the path of logic. There were tangible emotions in the words, and the passions expressed made me believe myself to be less of an anomaly, that perhaps it was not solely my human heritage that caused me to behave so irrationally.”
Jim places a hand on Spock’s side, and just lets it rest there, over his heart.
“Have I ever told you that you’re too hard on yourself?”
“On eight different occasions. And each time I have informed you that you, too, are predisposed towards unmerited self-deprecation. Perhaps the both of us still have much to learn about ourselves.”
“Good thing we have each other,” Jim says, his voice light, but serious.
Spock turns his head to look him in the eye, and it’s only then that Jim realizes how close they are. Jim’s curled into Spock’s side, their faces only centimeters away, and it would hardly take any moving to press his lips to Spock’s.
“Indeed, Jim,” Spock says. His voice is pitched low, and Jim reflexively swipes his lips with his tongue. Spock’s eyes follow every movement.
Jim inhales, rubs his thumb against Spock’s side, and leans in.
And then Spock jerks back suddenly. It takes Jim a moment to realize that his padd has just chirped loudly.
Holding back a groan, Jim flips back over so he can reach his bedside table, grabbing the padd to see a familiar signature.
“Having to decrypt these every single time is really annoying,” Jim mutters, as his fingers move quickly over the familiar sequence on his screen. It takes a few minutes, but he finally gets the message open.
|| YOU’RE FINALLY ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. SOON, F. ||
“Well that was decidedly unhelpful.”
“It does answer one question, however.”
“We can now be certain that Jalloh and Fel’Ra are connected.”
“I guess that’s something.” Jim sighs, and then tries and fails to fight back a yawn. Spock notices.
“We should retire, Jim.”
“Looks like being surrounded by vulcans all day has exhausted me.”
“And now you are finally able to ascertain just how trying it is to live amongst humans on a daily basis.”
Jim laughs. “Oh, please. You love it, Spock.”
“You are not incorrect,” Spock says warmly, and an answering heat crawls up Jim’s throat.
He closes his eyes with a smile.
“Sorek?” he whispers, trying not to wake up Spock beside him, but it’s no use. Spock’s a light sleeper, and he sits up as well, looking far more alert than Jim feels.
“Is something amiss, Sorek?” Spock asks the small figure who had taken a step back once he sat up. Sorek’s head is down, eyes staring at the floor, and the tips of his ears are green.
“I apologize for waking you,” he says. “I was experiencing a nightmare, and, when I woke up, I found that I craved physical comfort. It was most illogical.”
Jim can feel the waves of shame from Sorek, and he wonders if he would have been as embarrassed if Spock had remained asleep.
“Come here,” Jim says, reaching to grab Sorek by the wrist and pull him onto the bed. Jim shifts to the edge and tugs Sorek between him and Spock, wrapping an arm around his back and tucking his face into Jim’s neck.
Spock lies back down beside them as Jim rubs along Sorek’s back. It’s silent for a long moment, but eventually Spock speaks, his voice quiet and gentle—more gentle than Jim’s ever heard it.
“You are aware, of course, Sorek, that my mother was human,” he says, staring up at the ceiling. Jim watches him steadily over the top of Sorek’s head.
“Yes,” Sorek says, voice muffled into Jim’s neck.
“When I was young, I would often desire the touch of my mother as a method of emotional comfort, and my childhood was not touched by the trauma that has touched yours. There is no shame in this, Sorek.”
Spock rolls onto his side and touches the back of Sorek’s bare neck with his fingertips. Jim thinks he must be using his touch telepathy to show the words he can’t say. Sorek shifts in Jim’s arms and turns so that he can see Spock.
“Thank you,” he whispers. And when he curls back into Jim’s side, his eyes are shining.
Jim expects Spock to turn onto his back then, the position he typically sleeps in, but, instead, he does something Jim would never have expected. He leans forward and presses a very human kiss to the top of Sorek’s head. He pulls back, but he doesn’t move away, meeting Jim’s eyes as he rests his head close to his. Jim feels like there’s something growing inside of him at the look in Spock’s eyes, they’re warm and full, and Jim can feel himself sinking deeper into the mattress.
Spock doesn’t break eye contact as he wraps his arm around Sorek and Jim both, his forearm resting along Sorek’s side and his palm pressing into Jim’s ribs—where his heart would be if he were vulcan, where Jim’s hand had been on Spock only a few hours ago.
Spock is stroking his fingers along Jim’s bare skin, Sorek is curled warm between them, and Jim thinks that he could do this—raise Sorek, share a bed, share a life—with Spock and never once tire of it.
When Scotty comms him toward the end of Alpha, Jim almost weeps he’s so relieved. The Enterprise is currently in orbit around a newly discovered planet, which means a lot of new data for the science department, and a lot of boring bridge shifts for Jim.
“Cap’n, would’ya mind poppin’ down to Engineering for a wee chat sometime today?”
“Yes, absolutely,” Jim says hurriedly. He probably sounds a little crazy, but he’s so desperate for any kind of mental stimulation, he doesn’t care. “I’ll be down as soon as Alpha’s done.”
He’ll have to bring Sorek along, but Jim doubts Sorek will mind. He's been extra sensitive—if not a little clingy—to abandonment since they left New Vulcan two weeks ago, so Jim’s been trying not to leave him alone unless absolutely necessary.
When Spock relieves him from duty a mere twenty minutes later, Jim doesn’t miss the way Spock’s hand brushes against his as he takes Jim’s seat—just one more of many touches that Jim’s been noticing with increasing frequency lately. With a smile, Jim leaves him to the bridge and swings by their quarters to pick up Sorek.
“Hey, kiddo. Wanna come with me to Engineering?”
Sorek loves exploring and observing the Engineering Department, so Jim’s not surprised when he immediately stands.
“I am ready to do so at once,” he says, and Jim can easily interpret this statement as an eager one.
He laughs as Sorek leads the way out of their quarters, and he can’t help but run a hand through his hair affectionately as they walk to the turbolift. Sorek stiffens and moves out of range of Jim’s grabby, human hands—he hates having his hair mussed. Jim wonders if that’s a universal vulcan thing or if it’s something he’s picked up from Spock. Sorek and Spock share so many similar quirks, Jim’s never quite sure anymore.
When they finally make it down to Engineering, Jim sees at once that his work is going to consist mostly of keeping Scotty from murdering someone. Apparently, there’s a small—infinitesimal, according to Lieutenant DeSalle—scratch on one of the warp coils, and Scotty’s apoplectic that he’s only just been informed about it.
As Jim attempts to calm Scotty down and get out of him just how much time they’re going to need for maintenance, Sorek wanders off, probably to interrogate some poor Ensign about the function of a very particular structure.
Jim doesn’t think anything of letting Sorek explore on his own—he trusts the nine-year-old around dangerous machinery more than he does Scotty—until a painful lurch in the base of his skull almost pulls him unconscious.
Jim’s legs give out first, and he collapses to the ground, wrapping his arms around his head, trying to squeeze out the pain and emptiness. It’s as if a white-hot shock has gone through all his neurons, leaving him powerless to do anything but writhe on the ground and sob out Sorek’s name.
The pain flows from his head to his limbs, and it blocks out all his other senses until all he sees is darkness.
When Jim comes to, his head is killing him. It feels like it’s being crushed from the outside and spilt apart from the inside at the same time. He blinks his eyes open slowly; luckily the light is dimmed and not another stimuli to overload his brain. When he manages to keep his eyelids open, the first thing he sees is the grey ceiling he easily recognizes as Sickbay.
It all starts to come back to him slowly: going down to Engineering, feeling like someone had been holding an electrode to his grey matter, Sorek’s name filling his mouth. Sorek.
Jim jerks in his biobed, ignoring the sharp, answering throb in his skull at the motion. His eyes dart around the room frantically until they land on the bed next to him and the small, still body on it.
Jim’s pulled off his thin sheet and is sitting on the edge of Sorek’s bed in no time. He realizes that he could easily check the monitors above the biobed, but instead he places his hand on Sorek’s side. A steady heartbeat pulses against his palm, and Jim’s eyes water in relief. Jim can tell the rhythm is slower than normal, but Sorek’s alive—the last thing he remembers before blacking out, even with his brain shorting out on him, is a certainty that something had died. That Sorek was gone.
But he’s here, under Jim’s hand. He’s breathing and living and real.
When Jim finally pulls his hand back, he realizes that it’s shaking. And his legs too, apparently, as he’s barely able to pull a chair up beside Sorek’s biobed before he collapses into it.
Jim can’t remember the last time he’d been so scared. He’s no stranger to life-threatening situations—it’s a given, being a Starfleet Captain—but never has he experienced such raw, consuming fear as the moment when he thought Sorek might be dead. Sorek’s come to mean more to Jim in the eight months they’ve known each other than Jim could have ever thought possible. And the idea of losing that, knowing that he’s responsible for Sorek’s life, fucking terrifies him.
Jim fucked up today—he knows that. He let Sorek out of his sight; he took him to Engineering, the most dangerous place on the entire ship.
Jim has to bury his face in his hands, trying to hide his shame and self-loathing. He wonders why he ever thought he’d actually be a good father.
It’s not too much later that he hears footsteps approach, and Jim doesn’t need telepathy to know who it is. He lifts his head out of his hands, but he doesn’t lift his eyes.
“Who was I kidding, Spock? I’m such a fucking mess, I can’t even take care of myself, let alone another person.”
“The events of today were not your fault, Jim,” Spock says. Jim looks up at him, to argue because how could this not be his fault, but the intensity he sees when he meets Spock’s gaze stops him short. “Furthermore,” Spock continues, as if he hadn’t noticed the defiance in Jim’s eyes, “You take care of every single person who lives aboard the Enterprise. There is no other Captain in Starfleet that I would rather serve under than you, and there is no one I would trust more to raise my child.”
Jim can feel heat flood his cheeks and tears burn his eyes, and he has to look away again. He drops his eyes to Sorek’s pale, calm face.
“Were we wrong to bring him on the Enterprise?” he asks. “I know we’re supposed to be an exploratory vessel, but we have weapons for a reason.”
“There are too many variables involved to fully answer your question. Perhaps Sorek had gone to live with his Uncle and died from exposure to a disease he had never acquired an immunity for. Or he might never have met you and been sold into slavery instead. But despite all these pointless speculations of what might have been, I know something for certain: the Enterprise is Sorek’s home now, and here he shall stay.”
As Spock’s words sink in, Jim lets a tear fall and drop into his lap. Spock’s right. Of course he’s right, and Jim freaking out is irrational and over-emotional, all those things Spock’s not. Jim’s still learning how to be a father, and he’s gonna screw up sometimes, but he knows that Sorek’s happy here—with Jim and Spock.
Jim turns to look at Spock and finds him about a half-meter away, with perfect posture and furrowed eyebrows as he watches Sorek sleep. Jim wants to reach out to him, to bridge that empty space and ask Spock to just hold him. But Jim doesn’t have the right to ask that of Spock, no matter what their marital status might say.
Spock meets Jim’s eyes. He looks worried and hesitant, but right when he’s about to say something, Jim’s attention is drawn back to the biobed where Sorek’s eyes are fluttering open.
Jim’s beside him immediately, grabbing Sorek’s hand and cupping it between both of his.
“Jim?” he asks, his voice cracking with disuse. Jim can’t help but smile at the sound of it anyway.
“I’m here, Sorek,” he says, letting go with one hand to smooth the mussed hairs on Sorek’s forehead, then letting his fingers run down his temple and cheek.
“What happened?” he asks, attempting to sit up. Jim moves his hand to push his shoulders back down. “I cannot recall how I came to be here.”
“I don’t exactly remember myself…” Jim says, looking at Spock over his shoulder.
Spock steps closer to the bed and places a hand on Sorek’s knee. “While you and the Captain were in the Engineering department today, a console experienced an electrical malfunction, and you were close enough to experience the effects of electrocution. It temporarily halted the impulses of your nervous system, but an experienced ensign on duty was able to quickly restart your heart.”
Jim nearly crushes Sorek’s hand at that last part.
“Which ensign?” he asks.
“Remind me to give her a commendation the next time we do personnel reviews.”
Jim’s frowning at Spock’s use of his title when he feels the sharp bite in the back of his neck that can only be a hypo.
“Dammit, Bones,” he says, hands leaving Sorek to rub his tender neck.
“That’s for your headache. And for not letting me know when you woke up,” Bones says with a pointed scowl.
“I’m fine, Bones,” Jim whines. “Jesus Christ, that hurt.”
“You’re an awful patient. Especially when compared to Sorek here,” Bones says, stepping closer to the biobed and patting Sorek’s shoulder. He pulls out a padd, looking up at the sensors above and making notes. “How are your motor neurons functioning?” he asks Sorek.
Sorek loves it when Bones and Christine use biology jargon around him.
“They are adequate,” he says, and he moves each of his joints one by one as if to prove it.
“It looks likes conduction through your AV node has returned to a normal velocity,” Bones murmurs as he glances through Sorek’s chart, “The single cardioversion was the only treatment needed. Looks like you’re good to go.” Bones finally looks back up, smiling at Sorek.
“That’s it?” Jim asks. He hates being in Sickbay, but he doesn’t want Sorek to leave if he’s not one-hundred percent ready. “He doesn’t need to stay the night for observation or anything?”
Bones snorts. “Who’d have thought I’d see the day when Jim wants to stay in Sickbay longer than medically necessary.”
“I had believed it to be a statistical impossibility, Doctor,” Spock says. Jim glares at him—Spock knows that he hates it when the two of them gang up on him.
“I just want to make sure Sorek’s okay,” he mutters, grabbing Sorek’s hand again.
“Sorek’s fine, Jim,” Bones says, and Jim can practically hear his eyes rolling.
“I feel quite satisfactory, Jim,” Sorek adds, patting Jim’s arm with his free hand.
“See, Jim? Vulcans don’t lie.”
Jim glares at Bones, “These vulcans do.”
Bones sighs, “You’re a paranoid bastard. What’s it gonna take to convince you Sorek’s right as rain?”
Sorek frowns at Bones’ nonsensical Terran expression, and it makes Jim smile a bit—his first smile all night.
“Using illogical Terran idioms to frustrate Sorek is helping…” Jim suggests.
Spock raises an eyebrow.
Bones grins and pulls up his sleeves dramatically.
“Well, Jim,” he says, “Considering you have a worm’s eye view of medicine, maybe you should just keep your pants on and accept that I’ve examined Sorek from stem to stern. The writing’s on the wall, is that clear as a bell?”
The identical appalled and completely confused expressions on the vulcans' faces are enough to make Jim laugh. It’s a slightly hysterical laugh, considering how unstable Jim’s emotional state has been the last few hours, but it feels good.
Bones looks downright smug, and Spock and Sorek are now both frowning at Jim with desperation.
“I think you broke them, Bones,” Jim says, wiping moisture from his eyes. “That was amazing.”
“Will you get your asses out of my sickbay, then?” Bones says. “I’ve much more important things I could be doing instead of coddling you idiots.”
“Yeah, sure, Bones,” Jim says, waving a hand. “We’ll get out of your hair.”
Satisfied at last, Bones pats Sorek’s shoulder again. “I’m gonna give you something to make sure you rest more than your usual five hours,” he says, throwing a look at Spock as if he’s the one responsible for vulcans not having to sleep as much as humans.
Sorek accepts the hypo to his neck without remark or flinch, and Bones raises his eyebrows at Jim pointedly.
“See, no whining.” Bones turns to Spock. “Comm me if you need me,” he says seriously, and then he’s slapping Jim on the shoulder and walking back to his office.
Spock pulls the thin sheet back from Sorek’s bed and Jim picks him up to set him on the floor. The moment Sorek’s feet are planted, Jim can’t help but grab his hand again.
Once they get back to their quarters, Spock gestures Jim ahead of him, so Jim takes a seat on the sofa and drags Sorek onto his lap. When he tucks Sorek’s face into his chest and presses his lips to his hair, Jim can faintly smell smoke, and it makes him clutch Sorek tighter to him.
“I was so scared,” he murmurs into Sorek’s hair.
“I am alright, Jim,” Sorek whispers back, curling into Jim’s embrace and not complaining about his clinginess.
Jim meets Spock’s eyes over Sorek’s head, and there’s a sadness in his expression, a sadness that seems out of place to Jim. Jim still feels guilt and fear—and he’s starting to suspect that fear is going to be a permanent thing when it comes to Sorek—but those negative feelings are being masked and alleviated by the feel of Sorek in his arms.
It doesn’t take long for Sorek’s breathing to even out, that hypo Bones gave him finally kicking in. He looks at Spock again and smiles.
“Someone’s sleepy,” he says quietly, standing up and cradling Sorek to his chest.
He takes him to his room, tucks him in with a kiss, and then joins Spock again in the living room. Spock’s still standing when he gets back, his hands wound tightly behind his back.
“There is something I feel we must discuss,” Spock says, his back to Jim.
“Right now?” Jim yawns, feeling ready for sleep himself.
“I believe it is most urgent.”
“Alright,” Jim says, sitting back down onto the couch. He stretches his limbs out and gets comfortable. “Hit me.”
Spock turns to him then, and sits stiffly on the other end of the couch, as far from Jim as possible.
“How did you know that Sorek had been injured?”
Jim frowns, “What do you mean?”
“Mr. Scott informed me that, simultaneously to Sorek’s injury, you collapsed abruptly to the ground in what appeared to be considerate pain.”
Jim remembers that part perfectly well. “I have no idea what that was. It was like I just knew. Gave me a hell of a headache too.”
“I believe I know what occurred,” Spock says, his voice tight and reluctant somehow.
“After hearing Mr. Scott’s account of the events today and having observed similar occurrences on several previous occasions, I have concluded that at some point in your acquaintance, Sorek has spontaneously formed a parental bond with you.”
“You think we’re… bonded?” Jim asks, still not completely sure what exactly that even means. Spock still isn’t looking at him. “I thought you said those were super rare with older children?”
“They are unlikely,” Spock says, “But I believe the emotional connection between you and Sorek was strong enough to form a mental link despite his age. And the link seems to be a rather deep one based on your response to Sorek’s injury today.”
Jim has a hard time grasping the entire concept of having a mental link with Sorek, of someone other than him occupying his headspace. He directs his thoughts inward and tries to see if he can sense anything strange in the back of his head.
“How do we know for sure?” he asks, rubbing his temples to soothe the pain of mental exertion.
“There is one method we may use to know for certain, but it is not something I do lightly.”
“What is it?”
“If I were to meld with you, I would be able to search your mind and find evidence of a bond.”
“You’ll see my thoughts?” Jim asks with a hint of panic. He’d rather not have Spock figure out the depth of Jim’s feelings for him in such an intimate way.
Spock must hear the worry in Jim’s voice, because he finally turns to look at him. “I will not dig into your thoughts, Jim,” he says quietly. “I will only view that which you allow me.”
“This won’t be like my meld with the older you?”
“No, Captain.” Spock looks away again. “That was a mere exchange of information. In this meld I will attempt to explore the landscape of your subconscious.”
Jim snorts, “I doubt it’ll be pretty.” He sits up straighter and waves Spock closer. “Let’s do it.”
Spock shifts towards Jim on the sofa, right hand reaching towards Jim’s face.
“My mind to your mind,” he says, placing his fingers on Jim’s meld points, a sharp heat radiating from his fingertips.
My thoughts to your thoughts, Spock’s voice echoes deep inside him.
As Spock’s mind slips into his, it feels familiar almost, despite feeling nothing like the meld he’d had with the other Spock. He feels warm inside, like that feeling you get when you’ve had just enough alcohol that you can start to feel it. It’s like he could just curl up and sleep, safe and comfortable.
Jim, Spock’s voice comes from nowhere and everywhere, and it feels warm too. But it also makes Jim aware of his surroundings for the first time. It’s like he’s just opened his eyes or fallen asleep, because he’s suddenly standing on solid, earthy ground, surrounded on all sides by tall, leafy stalks.
Where are we? He asks. He spins around—the surroundings look familiar, even though he can’t quite recognize their location.
We are deep in your subconscious, Jim, comes Spock’s voice again. But this time, Jim can tell where the sound is coming from. He turns around to find Spock standing right behind him, arms held behind his back and still wearing his science blues.
Spock steps beside him, and Jim turns back to their surroundings. He's finally able to identify their location.
We’re in fucking Iowa. I can’t believe my mindscape is a cornfield. Please don’t tell Bones about this.
I have no plans to ever mention this meld to anyone—what we are doing is quite intimate by the standards of my people.
And it does feel intimate. The more Jim looks around, the more the environment reminds him of his messed-up head—the harsh brightness of the sun, the organized chaos of the crops, the wind that’s blowing a bit too hard to be pleasant. And Spock’s experiencing it all too. He basks in the closeness for a moment, admiring the way the green stalks of corn complement the green blush dusting Spock’s cheeks.
It takes a while for Jim to come back to why they’re melded in the first place.
So, how do we tell if there’s a bond? Do we look for a piece of Sorek in here or something?
That is not inaccurate. Can you sense the presence of another here? Besides that of my mind.
Jim hadn’t noticed before, but now that Spock’s drawn his attention to it, he does think he can feel someone else. It’s like a slight murmur—someone whispering his name across a crowded room, but, with his ears attuned to it, he can easily pinpoint the origin.
Over there, I think. He says, pointing into the stalks of corn. Spock gestures for him to lead the way, so Jim starts walking, pushing the plants out of his way and being careful not to let them swing back and hit Spock.
As they walk, the gentle roar in his ears grows steadily louder and clearer, and their environment changes as well. The stalks grow shorter and browner until, finally, the ground is nothing more than red dust. Jim stops and frowns when he notices, turning back towards the direction they came, but it’s like the Iowan fields have completely disappeared, leaving them in the middle of the desert.
Is this… Vulcan? Jim asks, looking around at the dry, rocky terrain.
Yes, is all Spock says, barely a whisper in the back of Jim’s mind.
He’s staring at the ground somewhat reverently, and, after a moment, he kneels and runs his fingers through the hot, red dirt.
It makes Jim think of when Spock beamed back from Vulcan, his hand still outstretched towards a mother that wasn’t there, dirt lightly freckling his smooth, pale skin. Jim remembers thinking how innocent he looked then, how human, and he looks this way to Jim now, kneeling in his mind and running his fingers though his sand.
Jim takes a step closer—to say something or to drop a hand to his shoulder—but Spock stands before he can do anything, avoiding Jim’s eyes.
I apologize. I was… surprised that your mind would recreate this place. I never thought to see my planet again. Spock straightens, and any vulnerability that might’ve been on his face is wiped clean. Let us continue.
Jim wants to press, the way he always does when Spock’s close to revealing something about himself, but the blank mask Spock’s donned now is unapproachable. It’s been a long time since Jim’s seen him so closed off.
So Jim focuses on that voice in his ears and continues towards it.
The source is easy to spot in this rocky landscape: there, in the middle of a Vulcan desert, is the old tree that Jim used to climb as a kid. Not too distant from their old farmhouse in Riverside, Jim used to run to this very tree and hide up in its branches when Frank was being a jerk or Sam was ignoring him or his mom decided to stay off-planet again.
It was Jim’s only safe space for many years, so its location in the middle of a desert makes perfect sense to him. He wonders if Spock thinks it illogical.
As they get closer, Jim can hear whispers emanating from the tree, swirling though its verdant leaves. It reminds Jim of an ancient Terran myth about a prophetic tree. Pilgrims would travel to a mystical island and listen to the wind moving through the branches, interpreting the words as prophecies from the gods themselves.
Jim can’t translate the words spinning around him now, but he can interpret how they make him feel—safe, content, loved.
Jim steps closer, extending a hand slowly until his fingertips just barely brush against the rough bark of the old tree.
Images flood into his mind: there’s his mother, looking down on him with sharp corners and severe lines as he falls asleep; an animal, some cross of feline and bear, is curled by his feet in wait; he’s on a shuttle now that takes him away from the only home he’s ever known, and he’s watching as oranges and reds are slowly devoured into black.
Jim jerks back, gasping for breath—those memories were not his own.
Sorek, he says looking at the tree with wide eyes.
Spock is next to him, his hand in the air indicating that he, too, has just touched the tree's trunk.
Indeed. He is here.
Before Jim can ask any of the millions of questions running through his head, before he can touch the tree again and soak up more of Sorek, he’s back in his own body and blinking back tears.
He wants to run to Sorek’s room and curl around him again, already missing the intimacy he felt between them in his mind.
“Why do mind melds away make me cry?” Jim asks as he wipes the tears from his cheeks. He’s still in too much awe to be embarrassed about shedding tears in front of Spock for the second time that day.
“Emotional transference is inevitable. I—” Spock stops. Jim can see something in his face, like he’s fighting something, an emotion, perhaps. “I am not unaffected,” he finishes.
Jim waits until the tightness in his throat eases before speaking again. “So, Sorek bonded with me. What exactly does this mean?”
“It means many things,” Spock says, looking at Jim steadily. “But, perhaps most relevantly, it means that there is no logical reason for us to remain married.”
There is no logical reason for us to remain married.
Jim feels as though he’s just been phasered—his body tensing up, all his muscles contracting at once. He tries to breathe in through his nose, but it’s like his lungs are already filled, like he can’t take in any more air.
“What?” he breathes, the only word he can think of slipping past his lips.
Spock is watching him closely, as if he’s searching for something in the planes of Jim’s face.
“If you recall,” he says, “There were only two ways in which you would have been able to successfully adopt Sorek: either become a Vulcan citizen—which we accomplished through our marriage—or form a parental bond with Sorek. Now that you have the latter, there is no reason that we be forced to carry on with the former.”
Jim recognizes Spock’s words, but only one really resonates: forced. It rings in Jim’s ears. It's deafening.
“I believe it will be quite easy to annul our marriage, especially since it was never consummated,” Spock continues, seemingly unaware of Jim’s inner turmoil next to him. “That is, unless you have any objections to doing so.”
Jim has the mad urge to laugh hysterically. He has plenty of objections. For instance: Marrying you was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Or: I’m so in love with you that I hate the idea of falling asleep without you beside me. Or: I was just beginning to think that maybe I wasn’t alone in all this.
As much as Jim aches with these objections, he knows he can’t ever voice them. Because, if he begged Spock to stay with him like some darker, desperate part of his mind is yelling at him to do, he knows Spock would obey. He knows Spock, out of some ridiculous notion of duty and loyalty, would submit himself to Jim’s selfish desires and forsake his own wishes to make Jim happy.
But, Jim would never be able to forgive himself. Spock should have a life without being tied down, he should have a fulfilling relationship with someone he actually chooses to be with. Spock only gave himself to Jim all those months ago because he thought it was the right thing to do, the only thing to do. And it’s easy, now, for Jim to see that the right thing for him to do is let Spock go.
“Okay,” he finally whispers. He derives little satisfaction from the word, but he’s glad his mouth didn’t shout out never like he wants to.
Something falls over Spock’s eyes at the word, some hardness, and Jim can see all those moments they shared, those intimate conversations as they fell asleep beside each other, are slipping away.
“Very well, Captain,” Spock says. He doesn’t sound like the Spock Jim’s gotten to know so well these past eight months. He sounds like the Spock who’s lecturing students at Starfleet Academy, or giving orders to the ensigns working in the Science Labs. “I will remove my belongings from your room immediately, and, tomorrow morning, I will begin the paperwork necessary to dissolve our union.”
Spock stands and walks to their bedroom, without ever looking at Jim. And all Jim can do is sit there, staring at the grey walls around him and imagining that they look even duller than usual.
Eventually, Spock returns, a bag slung over his shoulder and a padd tucked under his arm. He nods at Jim formally.
“I will return in the morning to care for Sorek, and I will have our paperwork completed for you to sign.” Spock pauses, hesitant. “I assume,” he continues, voice careful, “that, despite the alteration in our personal relationship, you will still accept me as Sorek’s caretaker?”
“Fuck, Spock, of course,” Jim says, and he means it. He can’t imagine trying to raise Sorek completely by himself. “You signed the same form I did; he’s as much your kid as he is mine.”
“No,” Spock says, so quietly that Jim almost doesn’t hear it. “No, he is not.”
And then he is gone.
Jim’s not quite sure how long he sits on that sofa, staring at the dull, grey walls, but eventually Sorek walks out of his room, looking bleary-eyed and confused. It must be some side effect of their link, because he seems to intuit what’s happened almost immediately.
“Where is Spock?” he asks, rubbing his green-tinged eyes and, for once, looking almost human.
When Jim stares at him for too long without saying anything, Sorek frowns.
“What has happened?” he demands, stepping further into the room.
“Did you know we’re bonded?” Jim asks, patting the space next to him on the couch.
Sorek’s eyes widen. “You and Spock?” he asks, sitting down close to Jim almost eagerly.
“No.” Jim barely manages to stop the bitter laugh from escaping his mouth. “You and me.”
Sorek looks away, shifting uncomfortably. “I—I…,” he stutters. “Yes.”
“Why didn’t you tell me? When did it happen?”
“When we were imprisoned together, we spent much of the time in close physical contact. I was quite… unaccustomed to such intimacy, and the soothing, calm nature of your thoughts drew my mind to yours.” Sorek’s still not looking at him, so Jim curls an arm around his back and pulls him into his side. “Once I realized that my mind was attempting to bond with yours, I tried to stop, but it was too late.” Sorek leans in a bit. “I felt guilty for what I had done without your consent, and so I thought to conceal it from you. I apologize, especially now that I can see how upset this has made you.”
“That’s not why I’m upset.” Jim gives his side a squeeze for emphasis. “I mean, I really wish you would have told me sooner, but I’m not mad at you. Actually, it’s pretty cool, you being in my head. Makes this whole parenting thing seem more real.”
Maybe it’s only his imagination, or maybe he’s just aware of it now, but Jim swears he can feel Sorek’s contentment at his words.
“How did you discover the link?” Sorek asks eventually.
“When you got shocked today, I guess I collapsed at the exact same time. Scotty told Spock what happened, and he put it all together. Then we… he melded with me and confirmed it.”
Sorek leans back in Jim’s arms to look him in the eye. “You and Spock have melded? Was I right, then, in my assumption that Spock returns your romantic intentions?”
Jim winces, looking away. “Listen, Sorek, I know you really want Spock and I to be together like that, but it’s not going to happen. Especially now.”
“But he melded with you. A vulcan only melds with someone they intend to claim as a bondmate—to do so under any other circumstance is considered indecent.”
“Spock didn’t—the meld didn’t have anything to do with him and me, okay?” Jim can feel himself getting more frustrated. He pulls his arm away. “It was the only way to confirm that you’d bonded with me, and that’s it.”
“I remain unconvinced that he—”
“Sorek,” Jim interrupts, voice hard. “We’re annulling our marriage.”
“Yes. Now that you’ve bonded with me, there’s really no reason for us to stay married.”
Sorek moves himself closer, invading the space Jim had just created between them. “But you do not wish to separate from Spock. And I do not believe that Spock desires to separate from you either.”
“Really?” Jim lets out the bitter laugh this time. “That’s interesting considering the whole annulment was his idea.”
Sorek’s face drops. “He suggested it?”
“Yes,” Jim says firmly. “Look, you’re right—I’d rather stay married, I’d rather get married for real. But Spock doesn’t, and that’s all that matters.”
“I am sure if you were to discuss—”
“No.” Jim hates using his captain voice on Sorek, but it’s the only way to get him to listen. “There’s nothing left to discuss. As of tomorrow morning, Spock and I are going to be divorced, and that's it. Now, you need to go back to bed.”
Chastised by the hardness in Jim’s voice, Sorek just nods and allows Jim to walk him back to his room. After tucking him in and bidding him goodnight, Jim returns to his own bedroom, empty now for the first time in eight months.
Spock didn’t have very many possessions, but his absence still creates a kind a vacuum in the room, pulling at Jim’s insides and forcing him to curl into a tight ball once he’s lying on the bed.
It’s strange, in that Jim’s never been one to stay the night after sex. He always used to think of some excuse to leave as soon as the fun was over, but with Spock, he’d learned to love sharing a bed with someone else—waking up in the middle of the night and listening to his even breathing, rolling over and not having to move away when their arms brushed against each other. He especially loved those rare mornings when his alarm would go off and Spock would still be sleeping; he’d sit up in bed abruptly, his hair mused and his eyes squinting in the sudden light, and Jim would want nothing more than to kiss him wide awake.
It takes a long time for Jim to fall asleep that night.
“Sorek’s getting dressed,” is all Jim can think to say.
Spock merely nods and holds out the padd. “Your signature is all I require,” he says.
Jim can’t look him in the eye, so he grabs the padd and stares down at the screen. Some stupid part of him had been wondering if maybe Spock would have changed his mind between leaving Jim last night and this morning, but he holds proof to the contrary in his hands now. There’s Spock’s signature at the bottom of the page—neat, thin letters that Jim can feel digging into his chest.
Jim’s never believed in no-win scenarios, but this one’s pretty hard to dispute.
Never once looking at Spock, Jim adds his own signature quickly, before he can think about it too long and throw the damned thing out an airlock, and hands the padd back to Spock.
“Thank you, Captain,” Spock says, and Jim doesn't miss the use of his title. Jim loves being a captain, and he’s never disliked being called one until this moment.
“I shall submit the paperwork once Sorek begins his studies,” Spock continues. “Has he been informed as to the alteration in our relationship status?”
“Yeah,” Jim says quietly, “I told him last night.”
“And how do you propose we inform the remainder of the crew?”
“Can we just leave it for now? I should get to the bridge,” Jim says quickly, trying not to run out the door.
The even tone to Spock’s voice, the way he can so easily dismiss the eight months of marriage they’ve shared—Jim can’t deal with it. He’s only human, he can’t just sit here and logically discuss how they’re going to tell the crew their marriage was a bust when Jim’s still mourning its loss.
“Of course, Captain,” is all Spock says. “Shall Sorek and I meet you in the mess for lunch as is our normal routine?”
Jim doesn’t run from the room, but it’s a near thing. Never has he been so eager and glad to get out of Spock’s presence. Normally he has a calming, comforting effect on Jim, but now his company feels stifling. It’s like he’s sucked all the oxygen out of the air and Jim is left gasping for breath.
Jim’s shift on the bridge is pretty boring—they’re still surveying the same planet, much to his displeasure. Being miserable always makes Jim want to be active, to do something exciting and maybe a little bit reckless, but instead he has to sit in his chair and dwell.
So dwell he does. He wonders if Spock’s filed the paperwork yet and made it official. He cringes when he realizes that Pike’s going to be comming him soon to yell at him for causing such an upset at Starfleet Command just to get divorced eight months later.
Jim’s sure his mood must come through to the rest of the crew—Uhura shoots him a concerned look when she patches through a comm from the surface of the planet, and Sulu doesn’t clap Jim on the shoulder like he normally does when his relief shows up—but no one comments on it. They probably just assume it’s leftover angst from Sorek’s accident the day before.
And that’s the first comforting thought Jim’s had all morning: he can frown and mope as much as he wants today without anyone jumping to the right conclusions.
Lunch that afternoon is every bit as awkward as Jim expects it to be. No one else joins Jim, Spock, and Sorek, and all three are in quiet moods. Jim’s pretty sure there’s only a total of six sentences spoken the entire meal, but when he returns to the bridge, he still runs over every one of Spock’s words, every facial expression or lack there of. The words and images drift around his head until he starts to feel a little crazy.
What he’d really love to do right now is get stupidly, dangerously drunk—a level of intoxication he hasn’t reached since he joined Starfleet—and, at least for a little while, drown out all these fucking feelings.
But Jim’s a captain now. And a father. And Starfleet captains and fathers aren’t allowed to drink themselves into oblivion.
So, Jim does the next best thing, instead, the moment Alpha’s over. First, he deposits Sorek in the care of Christine, something that’s become a sort of ritual recently (Jim really needs to give her some kind of commendation or, at the very least, a few extra days of leave).
When Jim opens the door to Bones’ office, he’s, for once, not alone and sulking over all his paperwork. Carol’s there, sitting in the chair that Jim usually occupies and looking as beautiful as ever. Bones is smiling wider at her than Jim’s seen him smile in a long time. Maybe ever.
Not wanting to interrupt that, Jim starts to slouch back out the door, but it’s too late, Bones has already seen him. He opens his mouth, probably to complain about how Jim never knocks (it’s absolutely true), but some of Jim’s emotions must leak into his face because Bones just sighs and motions Jim to come inside.
Carol stands up as soon as she notices him. “I should probably get back to the labs,” she says, touching Jim’s forearm lightly as she moves aside. “What time for dinner, Leonard?”
“Seventeen hundred,” Bones says, his face softening. Jim’s loneliness strikes him hard at the quiet, affectionate exchange.
Bones doesn’t look at Jim until Carol’s gone and the door is shut behind her.
“What’s wrong kid?” he asks, his brow furrowed in worry, not its usual annoyance.
“Spock and I split up,” he says all at once.
Bones' eyebrows shoot up on his forehead, but they quickly descend again into a frown. He crosses his arms over his chest. “Do I need to pay that cold-hearted bastard a visit?”
“No, Bones, come on. It’s not like that.”
“Well, it looks to me like that bastard broke your heart.”
Jim winces. “That’s not his fault, Bones.”
“Does this have to do with Sorek getting hurt yesterday?” Bones continues, ignoring Jim’s protests. “I know you’ve probably been all sorts of idiotic and taking the blame for the whole mess, but I’ve seen you with that kid, and you’re a damn good father to him.”
“Bones, stop,” Jim finally snaps. He sits back in the chair and sighs wearily. “Look, it started with Sorek’s accident, but it’s not what you think. Didn’t you wonder why I happened to collapse at the exact same time as Sorek yesterday?”
“No one told me it was simultaneous,” Bones frowns, looking like he wants to yell at whomever was responsible for that oversight. “I’d assumed it was just an anxiety attack, looking at your levels of norepinephrine and cortisol.”
“I wasn’t panicking, I felt when Sorek got shocked.”
“You mean…” Bones trails off as he puts it together. Then he scowls. “That Vulcan voodoo shit.”
“Yeah,” Jim nods. “Apparently Sorek accidentally formed a mental link between us when we were imprisoned—I guess it’s a normal thing for a vulcan to do with their parents. And Vulcan law is really protective of these bonds, especially after Nero, so now there’s absolutely no way they’d ever take Sorek away from me.”
“So now there’s no logical reason for you and Spock to be married,” Bones concludes.
“Right,” Jim says, glad he doesn't have to spell it all out.
“Jim,” Bones says, staring him down. “I think this is literally the stupidest bullshit you’ve ever fed me. Marriage has nothing to do with damn Vulcan logic. I don’t care what those hobgoblins think about it: people get married when they care about each other and are committed to that. And, as much as it makes me sick to think about it, there ain’t anyone on this ship as committed to each other as you and Spock. And anyone with damn eyes can see you care about each other. So. Tell me. Why in hell are you getting a divorce?”
“Bones, I know you think Spock and I are being purposely obtuse and stubborn about this, but you didn’t hear him okay? He said we didn’t have to be forced into marriage anymore. He only did this whole thing out of some ridiculous, skewed sense of loyalty to me and his dying race, and I took advantage of that. So now that there’s an out for him, I’m not gonna take advantage any more.”
Jim feels like crying at the end of that, and he’s pretty sure Bones doesn’t miss it.
“Well, shit, Jim,” Bones sighs, rubbing his temple.
Bones sighs again and stands up, motioning Jim closer. “Get over here.”
Jim lets himself be pulled into a hug. He buries his face in Bones’ neck and takes in the smell of bourbon and saline solution. It’s an interesting combination, but it’s a familiar one. Bones would rather cut off his own hand than admit it, but he’s an excellent cuddler; Jim has many memories from their days living together at the Academy to prove it.
Eventually Bones pulls back, patting Jim on the back a few times. “What are you gonna do kid?”
Jim pulls himself together, straightening his shirt and his spine. “Nothing,” he says. “Pine from afar. Hope to wake up one day and just not care.”
Bones snorts, and it’s enough to make Jim smile too. Like anything of the sort is gonna happen when Jim has to be around Spock every day.
“What about Sorek?” Bones asks.
“What about him?”
“Are you gonna be a single father now?”
“No,” Jim says immediately. “Definitely not. I wouldn’t do that to either of them. Besides, Sorek needs some kind of connection to his culture. I love teasing him with my humanity, but I’d never want him to lose his identity. So that part’s not gonna change; Spock and I’ll just be co-parents or something.”
“Does Sorek know about all this?”
“Yeah, I told him last night.”
“And how did he take it?”
Guilt seeps in. “Not good,” Jim says. “He’s been trying to push Spock and I together the last couple of months, and now…”
Bones nods knowingly. “Kids always want their parents to stay together.”
“Apparently that applies to vulcans too.”
“And the rest of the crew?”
Jim shakes his head. “I don’t know. I’d like to keep it quiet for as long as possible. This is fucked up enough without people shooting me pitying looks in the halls.”
“That’s a good plan in theory, Jim, but you know how it is on this ship. Everyone will know by the end of the week.”
Jim groans because Bones is probably right. It’s just another hazard of living on a space ship with the same people for years at a time. When Uhura broke up with Spock towards the beginning of their five year mission, a random yeoman told Jim the news only a few hours after it had happened. And this news—especially with their marriage having been so sudden—is sure to travel even faster.
Bones was absolutely right.
It’s barely been a week, and people have already approached Jim with well-meaning advice, condolences, and assurances that they’re on his side. Whatever that means. Apparently the entire crew feel like the children of divorce and think that Jim and Spock are fighting for custody over them all. After Jim’s told the ninth—the ninth—person that there’s no need to pick sides, Jim has half a mind to make a shipwide announcement about the whole ordeal and inform the crew that he and Spock are perfectly capable of being mature and professional adults.
And they really are.
Jim’s proud of how maturely he’s been handling this whole thing—their working relationship, at least, hasn’t changed at all. That might have something to do with the fact that they don’t share shifts anymore, but when Jim hands the bridge off to Spock at the end of Alpha, they’re always very civil. Maybe more formal than they used to, but the interactions are normally brief anyway.
In truth, Jim doesn’t really know how their relationship is, because they hardly see each other anymore. The only time they interact for an extended period of time is during their shared meals with Sorek when Jim can feel half the crew watching them and waiting for some kind of blowup. But, Spock and Jim are always calm and collected, their conversations either focusing on Sorek or ship business. They’re friendly, if a little awkward with each other, and Jim’s trying his best to just stay out of Spock’s way.
And it’s completely killing him.
The façade he puts on for the crew, for Sorek, for Spock is slowly chipping away at Jim’s sanity. He pretends like being married to Spock for eight months and then divorcing him isn’t affecting him, but it’s affecting him pretty awfully.
He spends his nights lying alone in a bed that’s much too big for one person, wishing he had someone—no, not someone, just Spock—to fill the empty space beside him. He watches Sorek when he’s trying not to smile at Jim’s ridiculousness, and all he can think about is where he learned that particular facial expression. He sits across a table from Spock for weeks and weeks, trying not to stare at Spock’s mouth too long, trying not to accidentally brush arms, trying not to just reach across the table and drag Spock into a bruising kiss.
There’s this growing seed of discontent deep in Jim’s chest, and it’s starting to fester, starting to tear him up from the inside with want and need and perpetual frustration. And there's nothing he can do about it. Kaiidth, as Spock would say.
Jim murmurs the word under his breath a few times, but it doesn’t do him any good.
He’s sitting on the observation deck, sometime after zero-hundred hours comes and goes without him being able to fall asleep once again. He comes here a lot when he can’t get out of his own headspace. He stares out at the stars, and it’s a reminder that this—the cool metal beneath him as his ship flies through the black, the stars and planets he used to watch as a kid when Frank was being an ass or Sam wasn’t there or his mom had forgotten to comm again—this was his first love. And, maybe, that’s all he really needs.
"Of course," Jim mutters under his breath.
Spock, still in uniform, is lingering in the doorway, looking as handsome and out of reach as ever.
Jim smiles at him tightly. “Hi, Spock.”
“Might I ask what you are doing here?” he asks, stepping onto the deck and letting the door slide shut behind him.
Jim shrugs. “Just couldn’t sleep.”
“Is this a recurring problem?” Spock asks, coming to stand beside Jim at the window. “I have observed several indicators recently that suggest you are not getting the hours of sleep recommended for a human male of your age.”
“I’m fine,” Jim says, frowning at Spock’s words. Of course he’s noticed.
“Fine has variable definitions,” Spock returns. “Have you consulted Dr. McCoy about this issue?”
“He knows,” Jim says firmly, wishing they could just stop this. “It’s not exactly a problem that can be solved medicinally.”
“Despite your many allergies, I am certain that Dr. McCoy would be able to—“
“No, it’s not like that,” Jim interrupts. He sighs and looks away, back into the black. “I’ve been having trouble sleeping because—well, I guess I got used to sleeping with someone next to me.”
“Jim,” Spock says quietly, and something in his tone makes Jim still. He doesn’t think Spock’s used his name since they separated.
“It’s stupid, I know,” Jim says quickly, shoving his hands in his pockets. “I’ll get over it eventually.”
“Jim,” Spock says, more firmly now. And Jim’s finally able to pick out what's in his tone—sympathy. Pity.
If there’s anything Jim doesn’t want in all this, it’s Spock’s pity.
“Just—please, just don’t,” Jim says, shifting away from Spock and not returning the gaze he can feel on the side of his face. “I really can’t do this, okay?”
Spock stiffens at Jim's words, and he turns away. Jim sneaks a look at him, and Spock’s cool indifference is the only thing on his face now, all the concern gone.
It’s much better this way, Jim tries to tell himself.
“As you wish, Captain,” he says, inclining his head slightly. “I shall leave you to your thoughts.”
Spock leaves without looking back once.
Jim doesn’t linger much longer himself—Spock’s invaded this space, and it’s hard to get his thoughts to focus on much else. On the walk back to his quarters, he pretty well resigns himself to either getting no sleep at all or having a sleep cycle filled with dreams of Spock running his long, graceful fingers all along Jim’s bare skin.
Jim starts to type in the code to his quarters, but, before he can finish, the door slides open in front of him.
Sorek’s standing there, still dressed in his pajamas and frowning up at Jim.
“What’s wrong?” Jim asks, wrapping an arm around Sorek’s shoulders and tugging him back into their quarters.
“I woke up and could tell from the bond that you were not near,” Sorek explains, letting himself be led into their living room.
Jim frowns down at him. “So where were you going?”
“I wondered if perhaps Spock was aware of your location,” Sorek says, not meeting Jim’s eyes. “I thought… I thought perhaps you had changed your mind about your marriage.”
Jim lets out a frustrated sigh, pulling away from Sorek and dropping down onto the couch. He rubs his eyes wearily. “I am really not in the mood for this right now, Sorek.”
Sorek apparently doesn’t catch on to how fragile Jim’s mental state is, because he sits down next to him and doesn’t drop the subject.
“I know that I should be in control of my emotions and that it is illogical to want to change that which I cannot, but I am worried about you nonetheless,” he says, setting a small hand on Jim’s knee.
“You don’t need to worry about me, okay?”
Sorek’s hand tightens its grip, his small stature belying his vulcan strength.
“You are not sleeping the minimum amount of hours that humans require.” Jim winces at this parroting of Spock’s earlier statement. “In addition, I have observed a marked forty-three point two percent decrease in the frequency of your laughter. I have easily deduced that the reduction of these emotional outbursts cannot be due to anything other than the annulment of your marriage to Spock. Thus, the only logical way to ensure your continuing happiness is to catalyze a reunion between you.”
“Sorek,” Jim starts, setting his jaw.
Sorek ignores the pointed warning there and continues, “Furthermore, in my time spent with Spock, I have noticed that he has been unable to mediate for longer than thirty-four point seven minutes at a time. And his overall efficiency in overseeing the Science department has decreased by six point four percent—”
“How do you even know that?”
“—Therefore, I have concluded that he must be suffering, as you are, from the unfilled potential for a satisfying, romantic relationship.”
“So, it is quite illogical for you to continue to insist that you are ‘okay’ and that Spock does not return your sentiments when the evidence is quite clear that you are incorrect on both accounts.”
“Enough,” Jim says, loudly this time. He standing over Sorek before he knows it, breathing heavily out his nose. “This isn’t some experiment you can manipulate to get the results you want. You vulcans always think you know everything, but you know nothing about relationships. So leave it alone.”
Sorek stiffens at Jim’s outburst, his spine straightening. When he dons his vulcan pokerface, Jim realizes what it is he’s just done.
“No, Sorek, wait. I didn’t mean that,” Jim says immediately, sitting back down next to him and grabbing his hand so he can’t leave. “This whole thing is just so frustrating and I took it out on you. That was wrong, and I’m so sorry.”
“It is alright,” Sorek says quietly. He doesn’t look Jim in the eye, but he does allow him to pull him closer.
“It’s not alright,” Jim insists, hugging Sorek against him. “I should never take my frustrations out on you.”
“I should not be so intrusive,” Sorek says into Jim’s t-shirt.
“I like when you’re intrusive normally,” Jim says. “I’m just a mess right now. You were definitely right about that. I’m not okay,” he admits.
Sorek wraps his arms around Jim’s neck, patting him lightly on the back. “I do not like it when you are unhappy.”
“I know,” Jim says, hugging him tighter. “Have I told you I love you yet? Because I do. So much.”
Sorek’s quiet for a moment, but he doesn’t tense up like Jim thought he might.
“You have never told me,” he says eventually, his voice careful. He removes his arms from around Jim’s neck, but only to place a hand on his face, on his meld points. Jim can feel the bond flare up between them, can feel all those emotions that Sorek tries to control simmering under the surface. He’s surprised and worried and confused and grateful and scared to death that Jim’s going to leave him.
Jim reaches up to cover Sorek’s hand with his own, squeezing around his fingers and sending thoughts of love and assurance to that part in the back of his head where he found a tree in the middle of a Vulcan desert.
Tears are stinging both their eyes, Jim can feel it in himself, see it echoed in the brown eyes in front of him, and sense the pressure in the back of his mind. Jim reaches out to wipe the tears from Sorek’s cheeks, smiling at him in wonder and relief.
Sorek almost smiles back, but then he buries his face in the crook of Jim’s neck again.
“I have discovered that I love you as well.”
Jim and Sorek tiptoe around each other for the next week—Jim’s careful to never raise his voice again and Sorek doesn’t bring up Spock once—but as time goes on, Jim starts to worry that his unhappiness is rubbing off on Sorek too much. He’s been distracted lately, always working on something on his padd, and it seems like he’s been avoiding Jim’s eyes whenever they're in the same room.
Even now, when Jim’s getting caught up on paperwork and Sorek’s reading across the table from him, it’s obvious that something's bothering him. He keeps looking up periodically, eyes darting from Jim to the door and back to his padd, as if he’s expecting someone to burst into their quarters and hold them at phaser-point. Jim crosses his arms, just about to question Sorek’s behavior, when the door opens with a hiss behind him and Sorek jumps to his feet.
Jim startles and swings around in his chair at the abrupt noise.
It's Spock, standing in the open doorway.
Jim frowns in suspicion and looks back at Sorek, who doesn’t seem surprised in the least to see Spock in their quarters when he should be on the bridge. And that’s when Jim realizes that he’s been had.
Sorek meets his glare unabashedly. “Doctor Chapel has acquired a new medical journal for me, and I must report to her at once,” he says, every word dripping with falseness. But before Jim can call him out on it, he flees the room, Spock stepping inside to let him exit through the door.
“Why aren’t you on the bridge?” Jim asks, his pulse picking up speed as Spock walks towards him with a determined look in his eyes. Spock’s movements are careful, but sure; it reminds him of a predator stalking its prey just before jumping at its jugular. The thought is enough to make the tiny hairs on the back of Jim’s neck stick up.
“Sulu is quite capable of holding the conn while you and I discuss ship business,” Spock replies, only a meter away now.
“Is that what this is about?” Jim swallows and wishes he could look away from Spock’s face, the intensity there.
“Negative,” Spock answers, voice dismissive.
When he closes the distance between them, Jim takes a step back instinctively, not used to Spock entering Jim’s personal space without encouragement. And there’s something about the heat in Spock’s eyes, the heat radiating off his skin, that triggers some primal flight response, makes him want to run and hide. But there’s nowhere to go, Jim realizes as the back of his legs hit the table, nowhere to escape from the body that’s almost flush with his now.
“I wish to know why you did not tell me,” Spock says. His voice is low and intense, and just the sound of it sends the blood rushing in Jim’s ears to an entirely different part of his body.
“Tell you what?” Jim’s not sure how he even gets the words out, he feels so breathless.
Spock leans his head down, only centimeters from Jim’s now, and his hands grip the table on either side of Jim’s thighs, effectively trapping him there.
“That you wanted me,” is all Spock says before he pushes forward the rest of the way and covers Jim’s mouth with his own.
Spock’s lips are firm and demanding, not at all the way Jim’s imagined them to be, as they press hot against his mouth. Jim’s mouth opens in a moan as Spock nips at his bottom lip, and Spock takes advantage and licks his alien tongue past Jim’s lips.
Feeling a shot of arousal deep in his belly, Jim’s flooded with relief, not quite comprehending that Spock is here and kissing him and it’s hotter than Jim’s ever imagined, so much better in reality than fantasy.
As Spock’s tongue continues its exploration of his mouth, Jim threads his hands in Spock’s hair, pulling his lips closer and harder against his. Spock responds immediately, slipping his hot hands up the sides of Jim’s hips and under his shirt; one settles in the small of his back, the other in the middle of his shoulder blades, and Spock pulls their chests flush.
Jim pushes up on his tiptoes until he can move back onto the table, pulling Spock between his legs, and he moans when he feels Spock’s hardness press right against Jim’s own hard cock.
Spock pulls his mouth away from Jim’s, but only to pull Jim’s shirt off and throw it to the side. He starts to lean in again, but Jim stops him with a hand on his chest, looking him up and down. Spock’s uniform is wrinkled from pressing against Jim, his hair is mussed from Jim’s fingers, and his lips are tinged green and swollen.
Jim rubs a thumb against those lips, watching as they part beneath it. He can’t stop the grin that spreads over his face. When he meets Spock’s eyes again, Jim can see the affection there, and he wonders how he ever lived without seeing that naked expression on his face.
“Spock,” Jim breathes, voice heavy with emotion.
And that’s, of course, the exact moment that the sirens start blaring, and Chekov’s voice rings throughout the ship.
“Keptin Kirk and Commander Spock, please report to the bridge.”
Spock steps away immediately, reaching down to pick Jim’s shirt off the floor. Jim groans at the timing, but he tugs the shirt back on when Spock hands it to him.
As they walk to the turbolift side by side, Jim pulls out his communicator.
“Kirk to Sickbay.”
“Chapel here,” is Christine’s quick response.
“Hey, Chris, is Sorek with you?”
“Yes, sir, he’s in my office.”
“Will you make sure he stays there?”
“Of course, Captain.”
“Thanks, Christine. Kirk out.”
As they ride the turbolift up to the bridge, Spock raises an eyebrow at Jim. It’s the expression he wears when he’s about to use his dry humor.
“It is fortunate that Sorek decided to venture to Sickbay,” he says.
Jim can read the double meaning in the statement, and it makes him smile. He’d like to push Spock against the wall of the turbolift and kiss him breathless, but the middle of a red alert is really not the time for fucking your first officer.
So, instead, Jim settles for brushing the back of his hand against Spock’s. “The outcome was pleasant, if not exactly satisfying.”
Spock returns the warm pressure on his hand, but before it can go any further, the doors to the turbolift open to the chaos on the bridge. As Spock relieves the science officer on duty, Jim hurries to the helm.
“What’s the situation, Lieutenant?” Jim asks Sulu who’s conferring with Chekov.
“We dropped out of warp, Captain, around Arieope as per our orders from Admiral Banka, and we were ambushed. A ship decloaked right in front of us and started firing. We initiated evasive maneuvers, but the ship just jumped into warp.”
“We are in pursuit, Keptin,” adds Chekov.
Jim frowns; a ship shot at them and then ran away?
“Engineering reports no damage, Captain,” says Spock from his station.
“Have you ID’ed the ship?” Jim asks Chekov.
“Aye sir,” he nods. “It is an Orion SV-class transport wessel; an SV-572, to be specific, Keptin.”
“Put it on screen.”
When the blueprint of the ship appears on the viewscreen, Jim knows what it is at once: a slaver. Jim’s mind whirls, drawing connections and leaping with intuition.
“Take us up to Warp 7, Sulu,” Jim says. He heads to his seat and meets Spock’s eyes. He nods, his mind having come to the same conclusions as Jim’s.
“We’re gaining on them, Captain,” Sulu says only moments later.
“Excellent, Lieutenant. Chekov, when we’re in range, I want you to target the ship’s weapons and engines, and stay well away from their life support systems.”
“We’ll be in range in 10, sir,” Sulu begins. Jim can see the Orion slaver at the stop of their view screen now, growing larger.
“9, 8, 7—”
“Captain, we’re being hailed,” Uhura says from the communications station. She’s only just gotten to the bridge, her hair is uncharacteristically mussed, and it reminds Jim that she was supposed to take the conn for Gamma shift tonight.
“Chekov, let’s hold off on firing and see what our attackers have to say. Put it on screen, Uhura.”
When the face of Faraji Jalloh, the missing Starfleet pilot from Risa, appears on the view screen, Jim isn’t really surprised at all.
“F,” he says, plastering on a tight smile. He feels Spock step behind him.
“Captain Kirk,” Jalloh says, his smile more genuine. “It’s hard to get your attention.”
“You have it now,” Jim says. He narrows his eyes. “You know, it’s funny, but I’m pretty sure your file never said anything about you being a slave trader.”
Jalloh’s still smiling, but Jim can see a sort of hardness in his eyes now, his jaw clenching at Jim’s accusation. “A grievous oversight on Starfleet’s part,” he says, “But a rather purposeful one on my part. I’m sure you, of all people can understand that.”
You of all people.
Jalloh’s right, of course. Jim gets it. He thinks about the way Starfleet’s always watching Jim, just waiting for him to screw up bad enough that they can get rid of him without a public fuss. If it hadn’t been for his fame after the whole Nero thing, Jim never would’ve been given the Enterprise. And he wouldn’t have got into the Academy at all if he hadn't had Pike’s support.
And Jim just had a few petty crimes on his record. He’d never been involved in human trafficking.
“That’s why you’ve been trying to contact me,” Jim says, all the pieces falling neatly into place. All those messages from ‘F.’ “You knew I’d be more likely to listen to what you have to say before taking you into custody.”
“I knew you were smart,” Jalloh smiles. “So, Captain, are you going to listen to what I have to say?”
Jim can feel the confused eyes of the bridge crew on him, none of them privy to the messages Jim’s received over the past nine months. None but Spock, a steady and solid presence behind his right shoulder. As Jim turns his chin just slightly in his direction, Spock takes a step closer, bringing a hand up to grip the back of the chair and letting the backs of his fingers brush against Jim’s shoulder—a gesture of support.
Jim turns back to the viewscreen, clearing his throat.
“What do you know about Naavan Fel’Ra?” Jim asks, repeating the communication he’d sent months ago that had gone unanswered.
Jalloh looks pleased at the question, and relieved too, his posture relaxing a little.
He nods, as if preparing himself. “About fifteen years ago, Naavan and I were partners, working freelance for the Syndicate. We weren’t slavers then, but we were good at transporting slaves right under the nose of the Federation all the same. I’d never really liked what we were doing, but it was easy to forget what our cargo actually was once we'd gotten our pay. We worked together for three years, until I—I met someone, and that’s when I decided to get out.”
Jim crosses his arms, thinking of Gaila and how hard it had been for her to find a way to Earth as a teenager. “How did you manage that?” he asks.
“I changed my identity—got plastic surgery, a new past, completely erased the man I used to be. It wasn’t easy, but I eventually made it to Earth. I decided it was time to do something good for myself.” Jalloh shoots Jim a knowing look, and it makes him wonder if Jalloh had read Jim’s file as thoroughly as Jim had read his.
“I’d always been a good pilot,” Jalloh continues, “So I thought I’d join up with Starfleet, pilot some fancy starships for a change. I made it through the Academy, was made the helmsmen of the Defiant, and I’d been there ever since. I’d forgotten all about my old life. Until Risa, that is.
Jim can’t help but stiffen a little at the mention of the pleasure planet—remembering the trap that’d left him blind, how skinny Sorek had been when they’d met.
“Naavan was there, and somehow, I still don’t know how, he’d found me all these years later. He wasn’t happy about how I’d stolen his cargo and left him to deal with the Syndicate alone, and he threatened to expose me to Starfleet unless I helped him with his current run.”
“Let me guess,” Jim says, “His current run had something to do with an eight-year-old vulcan.”
Jalloh nods solemnly. “He had the kid on his ship, knocked unconscious. Naavan bragged about how he’d been making a fortune by snatching up vulcans like him—they were easy targets, he said, so weak after their planet’s destruction, and they’d quickly become the most valuable species on the market.”
Disgust drips from Jalloh’s voice, and Jim feels it too. He pushes his shoulders back, pressing hard against Spock’s fingers as he breathes in slowly.
“I figured he’d kill the kid on the spot if I tried anything, so I went along with him. But, the moment he turned his back, I sent a distress signal and contacted the only person in Starfleet who knew about my past.”
“Admiral Banka,” Jim guesses, thinking about all the seemingly random orders they’d received from the Admiralty over the past few months.
“You’re a smart man, Captain,” Jalloh says. “I didn’t have time to give Banka any details, but I implied that lives were on the line, including my own, and she agreed to follow my suggestion.”
“Which was sending the Enterprise.”
“Right again. I figured the best ship to rescue a vulcan child was one with a vulcan first officer.” Jalloh looks to Spock for the first time. “Commander,” he says, inclining his head.
Spock steps beside Jim, but he doesn’t move his hand. “Mr. Jalloh. If you desired our assistance, I must admit to some confusion as to why you then ambushed our landing party.”
“I had to earn Naavan’s trust back, make it look like I’d do anything to stop Starfleet from finding out about my past. He had no idea that I’d signaled you to Risa Gamma, he just assumed your coming was standard operation when an officer deserted. Fortunately, his ship was in need of some repairs, and he couldn’t just warp us out of there. So, he cloaked in orbit and left me on the surface to subdue you as a test of sorts.”
That explains why the gas that greeted them on Risa Gamma had been so relatively mild. No one but Jim had been harmed by it, after all, and Jalloh had no way of knowing how Jim’s immune system would react to it.
“I had to find a way to communicate with you without Navaan’s crew knowing, and it was like kismet when your crew left you by yourself in that cave, Captain. I threw you in a cell with the vulcan—Sorek, I think is his name?—and waited for your crew to stage a rescue. Naavan, meanwhile, was scrambling communications from orbit, and, unfortunately for him, that meant he couldn’t communicate with us either. It was quite easy to knock out his crew and make it look like it was Mr. Spock’s doing.”
And that explains why it hadn’t been hard for Spock and the rest of the away team to rescue Jim and Sorek.
“When the Enterprise broke orbit and warped away, Naavan beamed to the surface to find us all stunned. He was furious that you’d gotten away with his cargo, but he had no choice but to trust me then. At that point, I’d realized that the only way to save the other vulcans was to accompany him on his next pickup.”
“That distress signal from just outside Orion space?” Jim asks.
“That was me,” Jalloh nods. “We were intercepting another transport vessel, but Banka got my message too late.”
“Why have you decided to contact us directly now?” Spock asks.
“This is the first time Naavan’s let me out of his sight,” Jalloh says. “He’s currently holed up in his base, preparing for an auction, and sent me to make another pickup. The minute we warped away, I contacted Banka again and had her send you my way. I’ve got a plan to stop Naavan, but I need your help, Captain.”
Jim doesn’t even have to think about it. “We’ll do it,” he says. “Just tell me how.”
“I thought you might say that,” Jalloh smiles. It’s a knowing smile, and it almost makes Jim wonder if he’d thrown him and Sorek together those nine months ago on purpose, knowing that he’d come to care about him as much as he does.
“First,” Jalloh continues, “I’ve some cargo I think you might like.”
Spock’s hand flinches behind Jim’s shoulder.
“I’d be glad to beam it aboard,” Jim says.
“I was hoping you’d say that,” Jalloh smiles. “Additionally, I am requesting that you join me on my ship, along with a small crew, if you wish. I'll explain my plan in more detail once you're here. We can continue on to Naavan’s base, and let your ship rendezvous with us at a later time.”
“Sounds reasonable,” Jim says, already feeling the adrenaline pump into his bloodstream. “I’ll put a team together right away.”
“I’ll send the coordinates over to your communications officer. See you soon, Captain.”
The screen blinks black, and Jim turns to look at Spock. He’s already staring back with a hard expression. Apparently Spock staying on the ship is not an option.
“Mr. Sulu,” he says as he stands. “Spock and I are going to lead the away team, and I’m leaving you to get the Enterprise to the rendezvous point. I trust you can handle her till then?”
Jim moves over to stand beside Uhura’s stations.
“Uhura, I’m promoting you to first officer while we’re gone. We'll be in touch.”
“Go get him, sir,” she says with that wicked grin of hers.
Spock walks with Jim to the turbolift, their steps in sync. It makes Jim smile.
“The minute we get back on this ship, you and I are going to finish our discussion, Commander,” he says, keeping his eyes straight ahead.
“Certainly,” Spock agrees, his voice as even as Jim’s. “I am sure we will come to a satisfying completion.”
Jim has to look at Spock at that, mouth gaping in pleasant surprise.
“Jesus, Spock,” he grins, “When did you master innuendo?”
Spock just raises an eyebrow smoothly in reply, and Jim would swear it’s some kind of vulcan wink.
But, then that eyebrows descends again as Spock pulls his communicator out of his pocket, effectively stopping Jim from jumping Spock right then.
“Spock to Lieutenant Giotto.”
Spock’s monotone as he assembles a security complement pulls Jim back to reality, and he fishes out his own communicator. “Kirk to Sickbay.”
“Bones, excellent. We’ve got a situation, and I don’t have enough time to fill you in, but I need you to prepare Sickbay for several young vulcans who are probably suffering from some combination of malnutrition and psychological trauma.”
Bones curses over the line, “Fuck, Jim, what's going on?”
“There’s no time, Bones, just take care of it. And make sure Sorek stays safe. Tell him I’ll see him soon.”
“You take care of yourself too, alright? If there’s gonna be a bunch of mini-hobgoblins cluttering my Sickbay, the last thing I need is you around to annoy me.”
Jim opens his mouth to reply, but Spock grabs the communicator out of his hand before he can say anything.
“I will personally ensure it, Doctor,” Spock says, giving Jim a look that he feels down to his toes.
“Well, well,” Bones says, voice dripping with amusement, “Does this mean the two of you have kissed and made up?”
“That is precisely what occurred,” Spock replies promptly, and then shuts the communicator to Bones’ subsequent noises of disgust.
He hands it back to Jim. “Giotto and Chan are to meet us in the transporter room.”
Jim nods in approval just as the doors to the turbolift open again.
Giotto and Chan are stationed outside the door, and follow Jim and Spock into the transporter room. Jim goes over to the console where the technician, Ensign Mahler, is working quietly.
“Did you receive our coordinates from Lieutenant Uhura?”
“Aye, Captain,” Mahler says. “She told me you’re free to beam over to the Mtumwa at once.”
“And you’ve got a lock on the additional cargo we’re picking up?”
“Yes, sir. Lieutenant Commander Scott is in Sickbay and will beam them aboard after you've rematerialized.”
“Excellent, Ensign. Let Mr. Scott know we’re ready.”
As Ensign Mahler comms Sickbay, Jim moves to stand on the transporter padd, the rest of the team already in position.
Mahler looks up after a moment. “Mr. Scott is standing by, sir.”
“Energize,” Jim says at once, that familiar sensation of beaming crawling over his skin.
And then it’s over, and he’s standing in a warm, dim room. It looks like some kind of barracks, bunk beds lining the walls, but the room is clean and neat, almost unused. Jim turns to take in the rest of the room, fingers lightly touching the phaser at his belt.
“Captain,” Giotto says to his right, his own phaser held at the ready. “How do you know that Jalloh’s plan wasn’t just to capture you all along?”
“I don’t know,” Jim says with a grimace. The thought’s crossed his mind a few times. “But, it’s a chance I’m willing to take if it means freeing those children.”
“It would be highly illogical for Jalloh to attempt to capture the Captain when he has already released him once before,” Spock replies calmly from Jim’s other side.
“That’s a good point,” Jim nods. He feels certain that Jalloh meant everything he’d said back on the bridge. To think otherwise won’t do them any good at this point.
Before they can talk about it any more, the man in question steps into the room, alone and unarmed.
“It is good to see you, Captain,” Jalloh says.
“Nice to finally meet you,” Jim says with a pointed look. He pulls out his communicator. “Kirk to Enterprise.”
“Sulu here, Captain.”
“Was the cargo delivered safely?”
“Aye, sir. Sickbay reports that all four of their new patients are stable.”
Relief sets into Jim’s shoulders, and he wonders, briefly, what Sorek must be thinking of all this. He hopes he’s not worried.
“That’s great, Sulu,” he says after a moment. “We’ll see you at the rendezvous point.”
“Copy that, Captain. Sulu out.”
Jim grins at Jalloh, “Like clockwork.”
Jalloh smiles back, but shakes his head. “I’m afraid this is the easy part, Captain.”
“What are we to expect when we arrive at Fel’Ra’s base?” Spock asks, stepping up beside Jim.
Jalloh grimaces. “Unfortunately for us, Naavan’s amassed a lot of wealth over the years, which means a very good security system. It’s what made me reluctant to infiltrate the compound without using subterfuge.”
“A logical conclusion,” Spock says, inclining his head in agreement.
Jim grins. “That’s a pretty heavy compliment coming from Mr. Spock,” he tells Jalloh. “You should feel honored.”
But Jalloh doesn’t grin back, looking at Spock soberly, instead. “I wish that I deserved it. I have caused your people much pain, Mr. Spock. I can only hope that helping you will pay back some of that debt I owe them.”
“Kaiidth,” Spock replies. “It is irrational to regret that which cannot be undone. Your assistance in ensuring the safety of Sorek, along with all the other vulcan children, demonstrates that your future will not be defined by your past actions.”
Jalloh looks away at Spock’s words, moisture filling his eyes. “Kaiidth,” he repeats to himself, his accent flawless. “I’ve heard this word before. It’s good advice.”
“It’s the best,” Jim agrees.
When Jalloh looks up again, his eyes are clear and his jaw is set.
“So,” Jim says, recognizing that look in Jalloh’s eyes. Any thoughts of Jalloh betraying them are gone. “What’s our plan?”
Fel’Ra’s base is thirteen hours away at their current warp, so, after they’ve fine-tuned their plan, Jalloh leaves them to get some rest.
Jim looks to Spock as the security officers move to bunks at the back of the room and wishes he and Spock could curl up together on one of the remaining beds. Jim dismisses the thought quickly, knowing Spock would never go for it with Giotto and Chan so close. It’s somehow harder now, knowing that Spock wants him, that he might welcome Jim’s touch, but having to keep his distance anyway. Besides, Jim’s still unclear on Spock’s feelings on the whole matter. It’s obvious that he wants Jim, but does that go any deeper than lust? Jim knows they need to have that particular conversation soon, because, as much as he wants Spock, he doesn’t want him without the rest, all those relationship bits—sharing a bed every night, spending their evenings together, perhaps letting Spock see into his mind again.
Jim must spend too long in thought, because Spock is suddenly in front of him, a fingertip lightly brushing Jim’s arm, his eyebrows furrowed in concern.
Jim shoots him a smile and tries to make it reach his eyes. “I’m fine,” he says, looking away. He moves over to the closest bunk, kneeling beside it to unlace his boots. “I’ll climb up top if you wanna mediate on the bottom.”
Spock waits until Jim’s removed both his boots to reply. “Thank you, Jim, but I prefer to be on top.”
Jim stares at him with wide eyes, Spock looking back with what Jim swears is seduction.
“Dammit, Spock, are you trying to kill me?”
“That is not exactly what I am trying to accomplish,” Spock says, voice pitched low. He steps closer, bringing his hands up to grip Jim’s biceps.
“You do realize Giotto and Chan are right there, yeah?” Jim asks desperately as Spock pulls their bodies flush.
“I am quite aware of their proximity,” Spock says, hands drifting down Jim’s arms to slip his fingers into Jim’s, fitting seamlessly into the spaces there. He leans down to press their foreheads together. “However, I find I do not care.”
That’s good enough for Jim, bridging the gap between their mouths and fitting their lips together. This kiss is more tender than their first, slow and gentle, not quite as desperate. But it’s just as intoxicating.
Jim pulls back eventually, knowing that if they keep going, he probably won’t ever be able to stop. Spock’s lips are swollen and tinged green, and Jim wants to tug them between his teeth. He settles for one more quick kiss instead, taking a step back when he pulls away this time.
He tries to drop Spock’s hands as well, but Spock grip his fingers with his superior strength, not allowing him to move out of arm’s reach. He pulls Jim over to the closest bunk and sits on the edge, forcing Jim to sit beside him.
“You told me approximately eight nights ago that you have had difficulty sleeping alone since our separation.”
Spock’s pulled their hands apart, but only so that he can run his fingers across Jim’s palms in slow, teasing motions, sending sparks up Jim’s arms.
Jim swallows, “Yeah, I did.”
Spock nods at this, then lies back onto the bed, tugging Jim with him. Jim just goes limp, letting Spock arrange them to his satisfaction—Jim’s head tucked into Spock’s shoulder, clasped hands lying on his chest. Jim relaxes into Spock’s arms like he never left them, sinking into Spock’s warm flesh, that scent of his that took Jim weeks to get out of his sheets.
Jim’s nodding off when Spock speaks again, his voice so quiet, Jim isn’t sure he’s even supposed to hear it.
“I missed this as well.”
Trigger warning for vague references to underage sexual abuse and rape.
As Jim runs through darkened, grey halls, he’s somehow comforted by the sound of Giotto and Chan’s footfalls behind him and, of course, the sight of Spock running in front—it’s an excellent view.
“You sure you know where we’re going?” Jim asks Spock who’s led them through this maze of a complex without any hesitation. Unless hesitation was needed to knock out one of Fel’Ra’s men, that is.
“Captain, do you really require an additional reminder that vulcans possess eidetic memories? I have already done so eighteen times in the past twenty-three months.”
Jim grins and rolls his eyes, about to retort when Spock stops abruptly. Jim runs face-first into his solid, warm shoulder.
Jim rubs his sore nose as he takes a step back. “You so did that on purpose,” he mutters.
As Giotto and Chan come to a stop beside them, Spock inputs a code into a panel next to a heavy door. He finishes the sequence and the door slides open at once. Pulling out his phaser, Spock waves Jim and the others through the doorway before entering last and shutting the door behind him.
They’re in another corridor now, but this one is lined with windowed doors, and Jim has a feeling he might know what these rooms contain. Jim peers through the glass panel closest to him, and his chest starts aching, right beneath his sternum.
“Spock,” he says without looking away, “Can you open this door?”
Spock places a warm hand on Jim’s back as he looks over his shoulder into the room.
“Certainly, Captain,” he says gently, returning to the mouth of the corridor and fiddling with a control console there. The door in front of Jim slides open silently.
“Go on to the next one, Spock,” he says quietly as he steps into the threadbare cell.
Jim moves further into the room and holds up his hand in a ta’al to the small figure huddled in a dark corner of the room.
It’s a young vulcan, a girl probably no older than twelve. She’s wearing nothing but a flimsy white gown with a black collar around her slim neck, and when Jim looks at her she shrinks back into the corner of the cell. Jim stills, watching her struggle to reassert some kind of emotional control over her obvious terror.
“I’m Jim,” he says gently, not moving any further into the room and slowly squatting to the ground. “I know you probably don’t trust me, but I’m here to help you.”
Cold, suspicious eyes meet his, and Jim tries to resist the urge to flinch. He gestures towards the Starfleet insignia on his gold chest.
“My name’s Jim Kirk, and I’m Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise,” he explains. “We’re here to take you home.”
“I have no home,” the girl whispers, looking away from Jim again and back to the cold, barren ground.
Jim risks moving closer in cautious increments and, very lightly, brushes his fingers across her bare shoulder, projecting calmness and safety as best he can.
She initially stiffens at Jim’s touch, but once his thoughts begin to bleed through the contact, she looks up at him again with wide eyes.
“Will you come with me?” he asks, brushing his thumb across her shoulder.
She nods minutely, so Jim drops his hand to her elbow and helps her stand slowly.
“I am T’Reila,” she says once standing. She peeks up at Jim beneath thick eyelashes, her sharp cheekbones flushed green.
“It’s very nice to meet you, T’Reila.”
Jim smiles down at her before heading back out into the corridor. Giotto and Chan are standing by the entrance, phasers held tightly in their hands, and Spock has just emerged from the adjacent room, a very young vulcan in his arms. Her face is buried in his neck.
“T’Reila, this is Spock. He’s my first officer.”
T’Reila, who’d hid behind Jim’s legs at the sight of the others, slowly pokes her head around to look at Spock.
“Tonk’peh,” Spock says, his voice as gentle as Jim’s ever heard it.
T’Reila moves out from behind Jim. “Na’shaya,” she says.
It’s slow going, but eventually Jim and Spock manage to coax the rest of the children out of their cells. Despite the need to rendezvous with the Enterprise as soon as possible, there’s just no way to move quickly when all of the children are distrustful and terrified. Some of them know each other, which helps, and T’Reila abandons her place by Jim’s side when she’s reunited with a friend. The two girls immediately grasp hands and don’t let go. The girl wrapped in Spock’s arms, who’s by far the youngest, refuses to release her tight grip on Spock’s neck.
Once they’ve released all the children from their cells and gathered them together, Jim counts them—there’s 24 in total—and opens his communicator.
“Kirk to Enterprise,” he says into the device.
There’s only silence in return.
He meets Spock’s eyes as his adrenaline starts pumping. Does the lack of response mean the Enterprise got delayed? Were they ambushed when they entered Orion space? Or did Jalloh fail to deactivate the communications jammer?
“We must locate Lieutenant Commander Jalloh,” Spock says, echoing Jim’s thoughts.
Jim nods back tersely, turning to Giotto and Chan.
“Mr. Spock and I are going after Jalloh, and I need you two to stay with the children. Keep comming the Enterprise,” Jim says. He lowers his voice, “And keep them safe.”
“Aye, Captain,” Giotto says with a salute and a knowing look.
Jim turns back to the children, all watching him with wide, intelligent eyes. Spock is trying to extract T’Maia, the young girl, from his grasp, but she just buries her face deeper into his neck.
Eventually a tall, thin vulcan—who Jim assumes must be the oldest—places his long fingers to T’Maia’s meld points. He murmurs in Vulcan under his breath, and eventually T’Maia pulls her face away from Spock’s neck, eyebrows furrowed at Spock. He whispers to her as well, and it’s only with his words that T’Maia allows herself to be transferred into the boy’s arms.
With nods to Giotto and Chan, Jim and Spock return to the empty corridor. Once the door has shut behind them, Jim rips the panel away from the door controls, and attempts to program it so that no one else will be able to enter.
“Do you know where the communications jammer is supposed to be?” he asks Spock as he works.
“Affirmative. Jalloh showed me the blueprints of the entire compound. He was thorough in his instructions.”
“Great,” Jim says, putting the finishing touches on his hotwiring. He places the panel back onto the wall, smoothing it back down so that its torn edges aren’t easily visible.
“Spock, I have a bad feeling about this,” Jim says, wiping his hands on his thighs and taking a step back. “Getting here was too easy.”
“While I’ll never understand your human emphasis on intuition,” Spock raises a pointed eyebrow, “it does seem as though we are missing a complete view of this metaphorical chessboard.”
“A metaphor, Mr. Spock?” Jim teases, slapping a hand to Spock’s shoulder as they begin to make their way back through Fel’Ra’s base.
“I deemed it appropriate in these circumstances. You are aware of how little I enjoy losing a game of chess.”
Jim laughs quietly, “I wish I had recorded you saying that. Sorek’ll never believe me.”
“On the contrary, I believe Sorek believes most of what you say. A fact that you have exploited numerous times.” Spock looks at Jim pointedly, but he just grins.
“You vulcans are just so easy to tease,” Jim shrugs unabashedly. He sobers, then. “Do you think he’s worried about us?”
“Undoubtedly,” Spock says. He brushes a hand against Jim’s back as they walk. “We will return to him soon.”
Jim presses back against Spock’s fingers in gratitude. “I used to love away missions, you know. That rush of endorphins, the thrill of doing something useful for once. But now I just spend the entire time wanting to go back home.”
Spock’s fingers leave Jim’s back, but only to reach down and take ahold of Jim’s hand. “And that is why I have never doubted you as a father.”
Jim squeezes his hand, feeling warm.
When Spock stops walking abruptly, Jim wildly thinks that Spock is about to take him right there in the hallway, but soon Jim realizes that they’ve just reached their destination.
Spock frowns at the panel beside the door. “I, unfortunately, do not know the passcode to this room.”
Jim grins and drops Spock’s hand to crack his knuckles. “Don’t worry, baby,” Jim says, ignoring Spock’s glare at the endearment. “I’ll take care of it for you.”
Jim opens up the panel, and it only takes him a minute to hack into the system and open the door.
“As easy as stealing a car.”
Jim knows that something must be wrong the moment they step into the room and the door shuts again behind them, encasing them in darkness.
“Why aren’t the motion sensor lights working?” Jim asks.
Almost as if they heard him, the lights flicker on all at once, temporarily blinding Jim. He’s still blinking when he feels Spock stiffen beside him.
“I’ve been wondering when you’d get here,” says a cold, deep voice from in front of them.
When Jim finally regains his vision, he recognizes the man standing in front of them—an Orion, his green skin and cruel smile easily recognizable.
Jim recognizes the dark skinned man lying in a pool of red at his feet as well.
Fel’Ra must notice him staring because he pushes Jalloh’s body over with a black boot until Jim can see his cold, lifeless eyes and the dark blood still bubbling from a deep cut on his neck. Jim flinches at the sharp bite of pain in his chest. For all the bad he might have done once, Jalloh didn’t deserve this fate.
“I waited a long time to find Furaha,” Fel’Ra says, running his boot along Jalloh’s cheek. “Or, what is it he likes to be called now? Faraji, I think. Oh how much I longed to end him on Risa, but I saw a better future that day. One that required patience and more time.”
There’s a sensual quality to Fel’Ra’s voice; it’s velvety and slimy, and it brings a white rage to Jim’s mind as he imagines all the vile things he’s done to those vulcan children.
“Your words imply forethought,” Spock says, his voice hard. He has his hand on his phaser, just as Jim does. “Why allow Lieutenant Jalloh to lead us here?”
“Because it was so much more fun this way,” Fel’Ra smiles; it’s a wide, almost demented smile. “Jalloh thought he might actually be able to save his precious vulcans,” he laughs and it sends cold tendrils of unease down Jim’s spine. “Did he ever tell you that he loved one once? He was always so jealous of the time I spent with our goods while he never even managed to get between his vulcan’s legs.”
Fel’Ra smirks, “That’s because he never learned that you must take what you want, even if you must take it kicking and screaming.”
Spock takes a step forward, raising his phaser to point at Fel’Ra’s heart.
“Naavan Fel’Ra, in the name of the United Federation of Planets, we are placing you under arrest for crimes of kidnapping, murder, sex and human trafficking, and the threatening of an endangered species.” Spock’s voice is cold and full of contained fury. Jim would be terrified to be on the receiving end of that voice, but Fel’Ra just laughs.
“Vulcans can be so charming,” he says, not even flinching at the phaser pointed at his chest. “I’m sure you agree, Captain Kirk,” Fel’Ra smirks suggestively. “You’ve got a matched set.”
At the allusion to Sorek, Jim raises his own phaser, finger itching to pull the trigger.
Fel’Ra just keeps talking, oblivious or uncaring to the waves of anger coming off the two Starfleet officers. “It was such a shame that I had to let you have that boy. Sorek, I believe was his name? I remember he had such a sweet, innocent face. I would have loved destroying that.”
Jim’s not thinking as he drops his phaser to the ground and lunges forward to wrap his hands around Fel’Ra’s throat, and he’s confused for a moment when he’s pushed to the side instead at the sound of phaser fire. He picks himself off the ground, and realizes that it was Spock who shoved him sideways. Spock, who is much paler than normal, and is pressing his hand to a wet, green hole in his side.
Fel’Ra’s standing over two bodies now, gripping an Orion rifle that’s pointed loosely at Jim. He frowns down at him.
“Now look what you made me do,” he sighs. “I hate resorting to such senseless violence when vulcans are good for so much more.”
Jim makes to lunge again at Fel’Ra, but Spock makes a rough, choking sound. His lips have lost their color, and his eyes are locked on Jim. He shakes his head slightly. Jim crawls over to him instead, pressing his hands to Spock’s wound and knowing it won’t do any good.
Spock’s still looking at him intently, and he slowly raises a bloodstained hand to Jim’s face. His fingers brush along his cheek, but with a dim pressure in the back of his mind, Jim realizes he’s pressing Jim’s meld points.
Jim has a faint impression of Spock in his head, reminiscent of the last time the two shared minds, and then the impression coalesces into a voice.
Jim. Spock’s voice sounds weak, even in Jim’s mind. The communications jammer is five meters to your left. His voice fades in and out, and Jim can feel his struggle to maintain the connection and control his pain at the same time. Use my phaser.
Jim lets his eyes flicker to where Spock’s phaser is lying on the ground within arms reach, and nods slightly. He lets his gaze flicker back up to where Fel’Ra is standing. He’s back to smiling.
“I can’t deny you one last lover’s caress,” he says, feigning concern.
Jim turns back to Spock and presses his fingers back into his cheek.
Activate my comm, he projects as hard as he can.
Jim pulls back abruptly, leaning over to grab Spock’s phaser as Spock grabs the communicator from Jim’s hip. In one fluid motion, Jim turns the setting to kill, aims at the jammer, and fires. Rising on one knee, he turns to Fel’Ra and shoots at the hand bearing the rifle before he can even react.
He doesn’t look happy anymore. His grey eyes are burning with anger, and Jim’s satisfied that it’s the last thing he sees as white light overtakes his vision.
“What the hell happened down there, Jim?”
Bones’ voice is the first thing Jim hears as they reappear on the Enterprise, and in other circumstances it would have brought a smile to his face. But, as it is, the moment Jim’s particles rematerialize he kneels beside Spock and presses his hands to his wound again.
“Jesus, Spock,” Bones mutters, pulling out his medical kit and comm. “Get me a stretcher down here!”
“Jim,” coughs out Spock.
“It’s okay, Spock,” Jim says, moving towards his head as Bones swats his hands out of the way. He presses down on Spock’s shoulder when he tries to sit up.
“You must return,” Spock manages to rasp out. “You cannot allow Fel’Ra to escape.”
Jim doesn’t want to leave him—not when he’s so close to bleeding out—but he knows Spock’s right. They can’t just let Fel’Ra get away.
He glances around the transporter room, thinking, and notices that there are already four security officers in the room. He turns back to Spock. Two orderlies have just arrived with a stretcher and are lifting him onto it while Bones and M’Benga work to stopper his bleeding. Spock lifts a weak arm out towards him, and Jim takes his hand easily.
“I will see you soon, Captain,” Spock murmurs.
Jim squeezes his hand tighter than would be comfortable for any human. But Spock’s not just a human, and Jim is so grateful because that might be the very thing that lets him live today.
Not caring about any of the other eyes or ears in the transporter room, Jim brings Spock’s hand to his lips. “I love you, you know,” he says quietly before he forces himself to stand and gather his team.
With a full complement of security officers at his back, capturing Fel’Ra as he attempts to reach his ship is almost too easy. Jim takes the responsibility to stun him, and he doesn’t think he’s ever heard a sound as satisfying as the thud of Fel’Ra’s heavy body as it falls to the ground.
It’s not even an hour later that he enters Sickbay. It’s busier than he’s ever seen it in the past few years, filled with vulcan children while doctors, nurses, and psychologists run around and make sure everyone is comfortable and well.
Jim meets Christine’s eyes as he weaves through the hustle. She nods at him with a soft, understanding smile, and hooks her thumb towards one of the private rooms in the back. Jim gives her a two-finger salute and changes directions.
He’s barely opened the door to the room before a familiar vulcan buries his face in Jim’s torso.
Jim laughs lightly, wrapping Sorek in his arms. “Hey, kiddo.”
Sorek tightens his arms around his middle, almost painfully, and then he pulls back enough to look Jim in the face.
“I am gratified that you have returned,” he says, his neutral face belying the relief Jim can feel through their bond.
“I’m glad to be back,” Jim says, smoothing down Sorek’s bangs out of habit. “How’s Spock?”
Sorek pulls back all the way and takes Jim’s hand, pulling him further into the room. Spock’s lying in a biobed in the middle of the room, unconscious and pale. Bones is standing over him, entering data into his padd with furrowed eyebrows.
Bones looks up and notices the expression on Jim’s face.
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” he rolls his eyes. “He’s gonna be fine.”
Jim moves closer to the biobed anyway, laying a hand on Spock’s side until he can feel his heartbeat with his own fingers. It’s beating slower than normal, but it’s steady.
“He’s meditating?” he asks Bones.
He nods, pursing his lips. “That goddamn healing trance of his.”
Relieved, Jim practically collapses in the chair next to Spock’s bed, pulling Sorek down into his lap.
Bones raises an eyebrow. “Aren’t you too old to let him baby you?”
“I am precisely the correct age to satisfy Jim’s need for physical affection in times of duress,” Sorek replies promptly and superiorly.
Jim grins at Bones over Sorek’s shoulder.
“Better you than me, kid,” Bones mutters. He adjusts a few settings by the biobed, and then gathers his things. “I’ll be back to check on things in an hour,” he says. “Let me know when your vulcan wakes up.”
Once the door slides shut, Jim tightens his arms around Sorek, breathing in the clean scent of his hair.
“Missed you,” he murmurs into the back of Sorek’s neck.
“I was uncomfortable with your absence, as well,” Sorek says, shifting so that he can lean back and press his face into the crook of Jim’s neck. “When they first carried Spock into Sickbay, I was afraid.”
“I was afraid too,” Jim says. “But you heard Bones, he’s gonna be okay.”
“Indeed.” Jim can feel Sorek shift in his arms. “Will you be okay, Jim?”
Jim exhales on a laugh. “Yeah, Sorek. I’m going to be okay.”
“I did not mean physically.”
“I know what you meant. And don’t think I haven’t forgotten that stunt you pulled yesterday…”
Sorek pulls back to look Jim in the eye, and there isn’t a trace of shame or guilt in his expression.
“I did what I deemed necessary.”
Jim raises an eyebrow. “Is that right?”
“I have learned enough of your personality over the past year to know that you would not yield and approach Spock yourself, so I corrected the situation.”
“And just how did you go about that?” Now that there are no crises to deal with, Jim’s been wondering how Sorek managed to convince Spock of Jim’s feelings.
“I asked Spock for assistance with a mental discipline, which required him to meld with me,” Sorek says, his tone revealing his smugness at the clever scheme. “I simply had to focus on the memory of you disclosing your romantic interest in him. Every vulcan knows that one cannot lie in a meld.”
Jim laughs despite himself, impressed at Sorek’s deviousness.
“You’re a piece of work,” he says, leaning his forehead against Sorek’s. “But I kinda like it.”
“Was my scheme successful?” Sorek presses. “I wish for Spock to come and live with us again.”
“So do I,” Jim says. He allows himself to smile widely. “I think we might be able to make that happen.”
Sorek pulls back, eyes wide and hopeful. “Have you and Spock decided to enter into an exclusive, romantic relationship?”
“Well, we haven’t exactly talked—”
It’s Spock who’s interrupted Jim, eyes open and staring right at him as he pushes himself up on his elbows.
Sorek leaps off Jim’s lap. He pauses next to the biobed for a moment, but then he moves the rest of the way, burying his head in Spock’s chest. Jim can see the softness in Spock’s eyes as he runs a hand through Sorek’s hair—it’s the first time Sorek’s ever initiated contact with him. Something seizes in Jim’s chest as he watches them, and then Spock’s declaration sinks in.
Sorek pulls back to look at Spock, the word perhaps only just registering with him too. “To what did your ‘yes’ refer?” he asks.
Spock meets Jim’s gaze, his eyes still soft and warm. “Jim and I are, indeed, about to begin an exclusive, romantic relationship.”
A smile crawls across Jim’s face as he and Spock look at each other.
“Aw, hell,” curses Bones, who’s apparently just returned.
Jim can’t be bothered to look away from Spock.
“Come on, kid,” Bones mutters to Sorek, “Let’s leave these idiots alone for a minute.”
As the door shuts behind them, Spock shifts in his bed, leaving enough space beside him for Jim to sit. So he does, lowering himself gently so as not to exacerbate Spock’s wounds. Spock grabs Jim’s hand and holds it between both of his.
“I regret that we have wasted so much time misunderstanding one another,” he says, watching their fingers entwine.
Jim looks to their hands as well, admiring the contrast of their skin, the way their fingers fit together.
“Yeah, well, according to the older you, it took him and his Jim much longer to get it right.” Jim smiles, “I’d say we’re ahead of schedule.”
“All the same,” Spock says, his expression still sober. “I fear that my hesitancy to express my emotions has caused you needless pain.”
“Spock, don’t say that.” Jim squeezes his hand. “I’m just as emotionally stunted as you are, if not more.”
Spock shakes his head. “Please, Jim, allow me to explain myself.”
Jim relents, watching Spock’s face. His expression is thoughtful as he continues to stare down at their hands.
“When I was young, I fought my emotions daily. I believed myself to be inadequate, as a son, as both a human and a vulcan. When I left Vulcan to join Starfleet, I sought to escape my own failures. Perhaps it was cowardly of me to run, but I was successful for a time in my evasion. That is, until I met you.”
Spock looks at Jim, the corners of his mouth tipping up. “When I first saw you, arrogantly mocking the test I had spent sixth months programming, you evoked those hated emotions in me. Twenty-eight years of repression and control became meaningless when confronted with the anger you induced.
“I feared you; I feared how easy it was for you to bring my emotions to the surface. Part of me fears you still. Vulcan emotions run deep, but they cannot compare to how deeply I have come to cherish you.”
Sharp warmth floods Jim’s stomach, his fingertips, and he can’t help the smile that lights up his face. He tries to hide his expression, but Spock reaches up to hold his face still. His thumb brushes across Jim’s smiling lips.
“Jim,” he says, and Jim’s never heard him sound so vulnerable. “You make me want to feel.”
Jim grabs Spock’s hand and moves his fingers into position on his meld points. “Meld with me,” he says, desperately. He wants Spock to see all of him, to feel just how much his confession means to him, even if he doesn’t have the words to say it.
Jim presses Spock’s fingers to his face harder at his hesitation.
Spock nods, eyes still on him, and then his mind slides against Jim’s with an intimacy that causes Jim’s breath to catch in his chest.
It’s nothing like their previous meld. There’s no shared landscape, no sense of a physical being at all. It’s just Spock and Jim, their very essences entwined and swirling around one another. A warmth encompasses Jim’s soul, and he knows instinctively that it’s Spock.
Jim wraps that heat further around himself, burying his mind deeper and deeper into Spock’s until he can feel everything that he does. His love for Jim. His satisfaction at their mental intimacy. Jim digs into that warmth until he’s seeing Spock’s memories as though they’re his own.
Spock’s mother, her eyes shining with sadness and pride. The taunts of his peers and Spock’s overwhelming fury at their hateful words. Standing in front of the Vulcan high council and telling them to fuck off with nothing but the tone of his voice. Stepping in front of a classroom of terrified humans and meeting the amused gaze of a dark-skinned girl with shiny hair and a neat uniform. Eyes locking with an angry blond across a crowded room of cadets. Watching his mother slip away right in front of him, arm outstretched uselessly. Finding Jim, alive, and relief sweeping through him with such potency that he can no longer deny the strength of his regard.
Jim pulls back a little, so he can find Spock’s eyes again. They’re wide, awed, and Jim knows that Spock’s been seeing his memories as he’s just seen Spock’s.
Spock’s fingers on Jim’s face soften, stroking lightly down his temple and to his chin. There’s a gravity in Spock’s eyes, and Jim feels seen.
Jim moves forward slowly, savoring the last vestiges of their mental intimacy, and, just as their minds separate again, Jim presses his lips to Spock’s, gently.
Spock’s hand moves to the back of Jim’s neck, pulling their mouths together closer, harder. When Spock bites down on Jim’s bottom lip, he can’t help the moan that escapes his mouth, nor the desire for closeness that makes him swing his leg over Spock and plant himself firmly on his lap.
It’s like he can’t get close enough to Spock. He just wants to sink into him, meld their bodies together until neither can tell where one starts and the other ends.
Jim hips press down against Spock’s of their own accord, and a thrill runs down his spine at the feel of Spock’s hardness against his own.
“Fuck. Yes,” Jim moans, grinding harder against Spock.
Spock’s hands snake around the small of Jim’s back, pulling him more insistently onto his lap. They slip lower, grabbing Jim’s ass and rocking their hips together.
Jim groans, rubbing himself against Spock faster now, overwhelmed with pleasure at the increased friction on his cock.
He breaks their kiss, sitting up to get a better angle. Jim drops a hand on Spock’s chest to steady himself, and that’s when Spock hisses between his teeth.
Jim stops his movements at once, eyes darting to Spock’s face as he removes his hands.
“I am fine,” Spock says, trying to pull Jim closer to him once more.
Jim stays put, frowning down at him. “’Fine’ has variable definitions,” he points out, using Spock’s words against him
Spock narrows his eyes, but Jim settles back on Spock’s thighs, catching his breath and relieving some of the pressure on his dick.
“This probably isn’t the best place to do this anyways,” he says, nodding the stark white, clinical surroundings of sickbay. “And who knows when Sorek and Bones’ll be back.”
Spock raises both eyebrows, “That is almost logical of you.”
Jim snorts and removes himself from Spock’s lap completely, settling back next to him on the biobed instead. “Hey, I can be logical when the circumstances ask for it.”
Spock almost-smiles at him. “This is I know,” he says, eyes soft. A beat. “Jim, I—”
“Spock—” Jim says at the same time.
They both stop. When Spock opens his mouth to continue, Jim cuts him off.
“Nope, it’s my turn.”
Spock raises an eyebrow, but lets Jim continue.
“Listen,” he begins, picking up Spock’s hand again. “I know this is going to sound crazy and illogical, and I realize those are the two aspects of my personality that are probably going to stop you from going along with me, but I just don’t care anymore.” Jim presses his lips to Spock’s knuckles, an echo of hours earlier. “The thing is, I’ve spent my whole life alone, and I’m kind of tired of it. I’m sick of every moment I’ve spent without you. I want to wake up next to you every morning, I want to make love to you, and I want to brush my teeth beside you, even if that means you criticizing my technique.”
“Your method is quite inefficient,” Spock points out.
Jim laughs, pressing Spock’s hand to his cheek and leaning into it.
“Do you know where I’m going with this?” he asks.
Spock’s eyes are knowing and warm as he strokes a thumb along Jim’s cheekbone.
“You wish to marry me,” he says simply.
“Yes,” Jim smiles. “I want to marry you and raise Sorek with you and explore the universe with you by my side. Do you think that’s too much to ask for?”
“No, Jim,” Spock says softly. He cups Jim’s cheek, and Jim can read every emotion that plays across his face. “I think your request sounds rather…logical.”
This whole wedding thing might be one of worst ideas Jim’s ever had. And Jim’s had some pretty poor ideas over the course of his life.
It’s not the marriage part—knowing that he’ll soon be bonded with Spock is the only thing preventing Jim from calling this clusterfuck off—it’s just all the goddamn planning that’s steadily draining Jim of his remaining sanity. To cope, he’s taken to complaining obnoxiously and loudly to any who will listen for longer than ten seconds.
When Spock steps into their bedroom one night after Beta shift, Jim jumps on the opportunity to whine more.
“If one more person asks me about my preferred color of table linens, I’m going to shove them out the closest airlock,” Jim informs him, pinching the bridge of his nose and tossing his padd onto the bed.
Spock stops just inside the doorway and raises his eyebrows. “That seems rather extreme,” he says mildly.
“They’re asking for it,” Jim whines, throwing himself down onto the sheets. “Remind me why we decided to have an actual ceremony again?”
Spock lets out a long-suffering sigh as he steps further into the room—this is probably the thirtieth time he’s answered this question in the last week alone—but he leans down to kiss Jim anyway.
“You wanted my father and your mother to witness our union,” he says before moving into the bathroom.
“Well that was stupid of me,” Jim tells his back.
When Spock emerges again a few minutes later, he’s wearing nothing but tight, black regulation briefs that leave little to the imagination. Jim grins and lets his eyes drift over Spock’s lithe muscles.
Spock sits down beside him, and Jim crowds his personal space at once, pressing his lips to Spock’s bare shoulder.
Spock jerks back a little in surprise.
“You are quite anxious about this,” he says, reading Jim’s emotions through the contact.
Jim pulls himself off Spock, sighing, and leans back against the headboard. “I hate that it’s turned into this public spectacle,” he admits. “I wish we could’ve done it months ago.”
“We have been quite busy,” Spock reminds him. “We arranged the ceremony as early as our schedules would allow.”
Spock’s right, of course. In the six months since they infiltrated Fel’Ra’s base, Jim and Spock have barely had any time together, much less time enough to bond and consummate the union without interruption. First there was transporting their vulcan guests back to New Vulcan, and then they had to take Fel’Ra to Earth for his trial. They’d been in San Francisco for months, but while the rest of the crew enjoyed shore leave at home, Jim, Spock, and Sorek had to act as witnesses during the trial. Then there was the other unexpected change to their little family.
“But, Spock, table linens.”
Spock’s lips twitch in amusement. “I have not seen you this agitated since Mr. Scott inadvertently turned off the axiliary power for every ship function except life support systems.”
Jim laughs as he remembers. The ship had been lit by nothing but flashlights for three days.
“Yeah, that was a disaster,” Jim agrees. “Although…” he smirks, placing his hand on Spock’s bare thigh.
“Remember when you fucked me in that storage closet?”
Jim beams. Spock looks up at the ceiling in exasperation.
“Speaking of which,” Jim grins wickedly and runs his fingers through the dark hair coating Spock’s pale thigh.
Before Jim realizes what’s happening, he’s on his back and Spock’s leaning over him to claim his mouth in a hard kiss.
Jim laughs delightedly against Spock’s lips. His cock is starting to get interested in the proceedings; Jim’s always been easy for Spock’s manhandling.
Spock moves his mouth to tease the tense muscles in Jim’s neck. “Do you make irritating comments so that I must force you to cease talking?” Spock asks, the vibration from his words buzzing pleasantly against Jim’s skin.
Jim runs his fingers through Spock’s soft hair, gently tugging him closer. “Not telling.”
Spock sinks his teeth into Jim’s neck, as if in punishment, but he licks away the sting quickly. He sucks shallowly at the spot, and Jim moans, back arching off the bed. He’s pretty sure Spock’s ministrations are going to leave an obvious mark, but he can’t muster enough professionalism to care at this point.
Jim’s just started grinding up against Spock’s stomach when the door to their bedroom slides open with deafening hiss.
Spock jumps to his feet before Jim can even fully comprehend what’s happening.
“T’Maia,” Spock says, standing to meet their daughter by the door. “What is the matter?”
Jim, silently cursing Spock’s ability to simply will away unwanted erections, places a pillow over his own lap and sits up.
Luckily, the five-year-old doesn’t seem to understand what she walked in on. She looks up at Spock with a teary expression.
“Sa’mekh,” she says, reaching her short arms out toward Spock.
He picks her up with practiced ease, and she buries her face into his neck, small body shaking slightly. Spock looks over her shoulder at Jim with an apologetic expression. They’ve been working on T’Maia’s clinginess, but it’s not easy for a five-year-old who doesn’t remember a life other than one of captivity.
Jim and Spock certainly hadn’t planned on adopting any more children, especially with their own relationship so new and uncertain, but when Spock realized that T’Maia had bonded with him, it was an easy decision to make. He’d visited her in Sickbay no more than three times before she started calling him sa’mekh, and they’d gone from there.
Sorek accepted the news of their adopting T’Maia with relative grace, although Jim has definitely noticed him acting to gain Spock’s attention much more than he used to. Jim would be jealous, but watching Sorek’s very unsubtle attempts to please Spock make it hard for Jim to feel anything but fondness.
“I will return shortly, Ahsayam,” Spock says to Jim, still holding T’Maia in his arms.
Jim smiles at the term of endearment and nods knowingly as Spock leaves the room.
He settles back down into his pillows, waiting for Spock to whisper T’Maia back to sleep with gentle vulcan verses.
Jim’s on the verge of sleep when Spock returns, carefully sliding in beside him. Jim rolls over sleepily onto Spock’s chest, reaching an arm out to sling around his body. He burrows in closer to his warmth.
“I swear that child is cockblocking me on purpose,” he murmurs into Spock’s shoulder.
In reality, it’s probably only been a few times that T’Maia’s interrupted them mid-foreplay, but it seems like every time Jim and Spock get a chance to be alone there’s some kind of crisis either on the ship or with one of their children. Thus the need for the occasional, desperate storage closet fuck.
“It is not her fault that you are insatiable,” Spock says, moving his arm around Jim’s back, letting his fingers trace around the bare skin of Jim’s shoulder. Jim still gets goosebumps.
“It’s your fault for being so damn irresistible,” Jim counters, pressing a wet kiss to Spock’s hair-covered chest, right above an olive-tinged nipple.
Spock sighs, but his hands don’t cease their gentle exploration of Jim’s skin.
“I have been thinking on what you said,” Spock says eventually.
Jim lifts himself with an elbow on Spock’s chest.
“Yes.” Spock looks up at him intently. “And I have decided that I am not averse to eloping with you. “
Jim holds his breath. “You’re not?”
“I am not,” Spock confirms, eyes warm on Jim’s. “I, too, am anxious to bond with you, Jim. And I cannot perceive of any reason that might prevent us from doing so at once. The Enterprise will be docked at Starbase 22 for the next 3.4 days, and I am quite sure that Dr.’s McCoy and Marcus would be willing to assume care of Sorek and T’Maia in our absence. Our planned wedding can still occur, but we will go through the ceremony as bondmates.”
Spock has barely stopped talking before Jim’s smothering him with a hard kiss.
“Yes,” he says, pulling away quickly. He dips down for another kiss. “Yes,” he laughs.
Spock reaches a hand up to Jim’s face, sweeping a thumb along Jim’s lips.
“I shall arrange it in the morning,” he says. He claims Jim’s mouth for a kiss of his own, and Jim melts into it.
Jim only pulls back when it’s necessary to breathe, pressing his forehead to Spock’s. “I love you,” he says. “So damn much.”
“As I love you, Ashayam.”
While Spock finishes out Beta shift on the bridge the next day, Jim packs their few necessities.
They’d gotten Bones and Carol on board with the idea—Bones with a long-suffering sigh and Carol with an eager grin—and they’ll be here soon to take over parental responsibility. Spock had explained the whole ordeal to T’Maia as best he could, but he’d left Jim to explain it to Sorek.
Sorek ends up beating him to it.
Jim’s just thrown two weeks worth of lube in a duffle bag when the door hisses open. Jim moves in front of the bag to hide it out of instinct. Sorek’s standing in the doorway looking at him with a sense of triumph.
“You and Spock are eloping,” he informs Jim.
“How the hell do you know that?” Jim demands, more impressed than anything. Sorek’s too clever for his own good.
“You forget that I have been forced to endure your complaints about the wedding for the past six months ad nauseam. In actuality, I am surprised that Spock did not cave to your whims sooner.”
“I was simply making use of your human vernacular to convey an idea. As a vulcan, I am not surprised, of course.”
Jim laughs, “Of course.”
“What time is your departure?”
“As soon as Spock gets back from Beta. Bones and Carol are going to stay with you and T’Maia for a few days. I’m leaving you in charge.”
“I shall do my best to subdue Dr. McCoy. Are you sure Dr. Chapel is not better equipped to stay with me—us, that is.”
Jim laughs. Sorek’s crush on Christine has yet to lessen in its intensity or sweetness.
“Don’t let Bones hear you say that. Besides, you know how T’Maia’s going to be without Spock here. She’ll need her Toz’ot.”
Sorek sighs. “Your logic is sound.”
Jim smiles and pulls Sorek into a hug. “You’re gonna be fine. We’ll be back before you know it.”
“On the contrary, your returning to my presence and my perception of it will be simultaneous.”
“God, you are so much like your father.”
Sorek looks up at Jim smugly, and Jim can’t do anything except press a kiss to his forehead.
“Jim?” asks a hesitant voice from the doorway. T’Maia is there, clutching the stuffed sehlat that Uhura had picked up for her a couple months ago in one hand.
“Are you alright, sweetie?” He asks, sweeping her up into his arms. When he throws her up in the air, she can’t resist giggling at the swopping sensation.
Jim clutches her to his chest with one arm and wraps the other around Sorek’s shoulders.
“I wish we could bring you kids with us,” he says as he holds them close.
“Why can you not, Jim?” T’Maia asks, her head lying on Jim’s shoulder.
Jim hesitates, wishing Spock was here to explain it all logically.
“Because, T’Maia, they cannot engage in sexual congress to consummate their bond with us there,” Sorek explains, with the exasperation of an older sibling.
“What is sexual congress?” T’Maia asks earnestly.
“What have you done to these children?” asks Carol from the doorway. Bones is pinching the bridge of his nose, a vein throbbing on his temple.
What is it with people just letting themselves into his bedroom?
“Toz’ot!” T’Maia cries upon seeing Bones, reaching her hands out towards him.
Bones’ face softens as he takes her into his arms. “Hi, pumpkin. Aren’t you supposed to be in bed right now?”
She nods solemnly. “I wanted Jim to read me another story.”
“I think we can manage that,” Carol says, wrapping an arm around Bones’ back. “Is that alright?”
T’Maia frowns in concentration, and then she nods earnestly.
Jim leans in to drop a kiss on her forehead. “Goodnight, sweetie. Be good for Uncle Bones and Aunt Carol. I love you.”
“Love you too, Jim.”
Bones slaps Jim on the shoulder. “Good luck, kid.”
“Thanks, Bones,” Jim says. “For everything.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Bones says, exasperated, but he’s smiling as he takes T’Maia back to her room.
Carol presses a kiss to his cheek. “He is lucky to have you,” see says before following.
Jim looks down at Sorek. “It’s about time for you to go to bed as well.”
Sorek looks put out, but he follows Jim to his room, dutifully brushing his teeth and putting his pajamas on. Once he’s done and in bed, Jim sits down beside him.
“Have I ever told you how glad I am that we met?” Jim asks.
“Fourteen times,” Sorek confirms.
“Well, let me make it fifteen,” Jim says squeezing Sorek’s leg through the sheets. “My life hasn’t been the same since we woke up together in that cell, and I have never been so thankful for imprisonment in my entire life.”
“Do you think—” Sorek begins. His voice is choked up, and he’s staring down at Jim’s hand on his leg. “That is—would you mind if I were to call you father?”
Jim can feel tears of his own forming now, and he has to clear his throat.
“No I wouldn’t mind,” he says, voice rough. “I wouldn’t mind at all.”
He reaches for Sorek and pulls him tight to his chest. Jim’s only known him for fifteen months, but he’s already grown so much. He’s no longer that underweight, fearful vulcan that Jim met on Risa Gamma.
“I love you, Sorek,” he says into his hair.
“I love you too, Father.”
Jim’s waiting by the turbolift when Spock leaves the bridge, his packed bag slung over his shoulder and ready to leave at once. He grabs Spock by the wrist when he makes to join him in the corridor and pulls him right back into lift.
“I have yet to—” he begins.
“Took care of it.”
Spock lets out a breath. “You are infuriating.”
“You love it,” Jim's unable to control a wide grin.
“Indeed,” Spock says, eyes warm.
The minute they’ve beamed down to Starbase 22 and checked into a spartan hotel room meant more for officers on leave than newlyweds, Jim’s pressing Spock against the door and stripping his shirt off.
“Want you,” he says, mouthing his way down Spock’s chest. His fingers reach for the buttons on Spock’s pants, but Spock grabs his hands before they can make any progress. Jim looks up at him in confusion.
Spock doesn’t say anything, just laces their fingers together and leads Jim over towards the bed in the middle of the room.
He presses a quick, but firm kiss against Jim’s mouth before pulling away, Jim still tilting his head up for more. Spock unlaces their fingers and slowly pulls up the hem of Jim’s shirt, letting his hands trace along Jim’s abdomen as he pulls it up and over Jim’s head. Jim gets with it and quickly moves to remove his pants, but Spock stops him again.
“We have time, Ashayam,” he says, bringing own hands to Jim’s pants, and taking his time to carefully undo the buttons and zipper.
Jim’s on edge by now, frustrated, but so turned on by Spock’s deliberate tease as he tugs Jim’s pants down his legs. He removes Jim’s briefs with the same patience, and Jim’s cock is red and leaking by the time he’s done.
Spock’s eyes travel up Jim’s body slowly, his warm fingers following the path and leaving bursts of electricity in their wake. When Spock’s eyes meet Jim’s, they’re dark, pupils dilated. “You are beautiful,” he says, simply, and Jim’s breath catches in his chest.
Spock places both palms on Jim’s chest and carefully pushes him backwards onto the bed, but he doesn’t follow him down onto the sheets.
“Come on, babe,” Jim says, reaching for Spock’s hips to drag him forward, but Spock takes a step back.
“Patience,” he says, removing his own pants and underwear at the same slow pace. Jim’s mouth waters when Spock’s hard, green-tinged cock bobs out of his briefs. He wants to get his mouth on it.
But Spock seems determined to have his own way tonight. Kneeling on the bed beside Jim, he grabs Jim’s wrists and traps them above his head, not allowing Jim to touch him like he’s aching to do.
“What are you doing?” Jim asks, wriggling in Spock’s firm hold, desperate to press against his hard, warm body.
Spock presses his lips to Jim’s forehead.
“Tonight we have no one to interrupt us,” he says, looking down at Jim firmly. “And I intend to explore every inch of you.”
Jim can’t help but moan at that, hands flexing in Spock’s hold.
And that is precisely what Spock does.
He takes Jim apart, inch by inch, with his long, nimble fingers and hot, gentle mouth, until Jim is shaking with it, his eyelashes wet with unshed tears. Spock let go of Jim’s wrists what feels like hours ago, but he hasn’t moved them from above his head, hasn’t moved at all, except to arch up into Spock’s touch.
When Spock finally takes Jim into his mouth, Jim can’t help when his hips jerk upwards, pushing his cock into the back of Spock’s throat. But Spock doesn’t push him away, just presses his mouth down until his lips meet the base Jim’s cock. Jim moans at the wet heat, the blood in his cock pulsing at the pressure after having been neglected for so long. Spock pulls off for a moment before pushing back down and swallowing around the head.
“Please,” Jim begs, feeling close already. “Spock—I need—”
Spock pulls off completely at Jim’s words, and Jim whimpers at the loss. But, then Spock’s sitting up and crawling his way up Jim’s body. Jim’s distracted by the sight of him, flushed green all over, so he’s surprised when Spock wraps a hand around Jim’s cock, slick with lube. Spock swallows Jim’s responding moans with his mouth. Jim surges up into the kiss, eager to fuse their lips together, desperate to touch Spock in whatever way he can.
Spock stops stroking his hand around Jim’s cock, but before Jim can fully miss the lack of friction, Spock’s pressing the head against his hole.
“Fuck,” Jim says against Spock’s lips as he slowly enters that tight heat. Jim doesn’t fuck Spock very often, mostly because Jim is always gagging to get fucked himself, but every time he does, he thinks he might faint at the tight pressure of Spock around his cock.
Spock presses back into him, and Jim inhales sharply once his cock is fully inside him.
“Jim,” Spock says, almost reverent, as he moves himself back and forth on Jim’s cock.
“Spock,” Jim says in reply, and he feels as if he’s about to come apart. So he finally moves his hands from above his head and grabs one of Spock’s, pressing his fingers to his face. “Do it. Spock, please. Wanna come with you inside me.”
Spock’s fingers find Jim’s meld points with ease, but his movements on Jim’s cock have gotten more erratic, and Jim can tell he’s about to come too.
“My mind to your mind,” he says, voice low and rough. Jim’s brain starts to white out at the same moment he can feel the pressure building in his cock.
My thoughts to your thoughts. And they tip over that edge together.
So it's been a over a year since I almost finished this fic. I felt good about the place where I left it, but I always wanted to add on this epilogue. I'm still not sure I'm completely satisfied with it, but I just couldn't withhold it from ya'll any longer. I may come back and edit it more sometime in the coming weeks, but I just really needed to add some closure to this story!
Readers, you have made this entire experience so magical. I remember when I wrote my first fanfic at the age of 12 (which was so, so horrible), and I'd see some of the most popular fics at that time with 2000+ comments. I always wondered how it might feel to have such a following. Well, now I sit here with 2000+ kudos (what), and I honestly feel nothing but gratitude. I've had some shitty experiences recently in another fandom (seriously, guys, RPF can be fucking awful sometimes), but I have never received anything other than kindness and support from all of you. So, THANK YOU. So, so, so much. I have read every single one of your comments over the past year, and they served as a constant motivation to one day finish this story.