In hindsight, Spock should and could have calculated the likelihood of ending up in such a compromising position. There were signs, and signs for those signs. It was inexcusable that he should have been discovered this way. If pressed, he would admit to being distracted which was the truth, but not the entire truth.
First, it was the phaser. The issue started well before the phaser, but it was the first physical symptom of the larger issue. Jim had handed him his issued phaser, the one that was constantly attached to the captain’s hip. It was tossed in Spock’s direction with a hurried “would you log that in for me, Commander?” before he ran off with McCoy for his post-away-mission-gone-awry physical. The phaser ended up on Spock’s desk and never made it to the equipment station for recommissioning, a career first.
The second item Jim himself had a hand in. He gifted Spock a three-dimensional chess board. Jim deposited it on his preferred area for dining within his quarters and Spock kept it in its place of honor, except for the spare pieces, which were put in the top drawer of his bureau.
Items three and four were, objectively, trash. A cocktail napkin from a bar on Vega 5 that Jim folded into a crane while waiting for Admiral Song. The spare parts from a model antique car the man was recreating.
Once, Jim invited Spock to his quarters to look over the latest requisition logs. Jim paced around his rooms for 5 minutes, distractedly answering Spock’s questions while moving things along bookshelves and his closet.
“I could have sworn I still had that wrist immobilizer Bones gave me,” he complained. “Bones warned me I’d get carpal tunnel, I’d rather not have to go into for another hypo of anti-inflammatory cocktail if I can help it.”
Spock felt his first pinch of shame but hadn’t placed why until several minutes later.
There was a wrist immobilizer sitting in the top drawer of his bureau, next to a cocktail napkin, spare chess pieces, several other odd bits, and a Starfleet issued phaser. He remembered taking it but struggled to put words to why his compulsion had manifested in such a singular way.
His ultimate downfall, however, was several months later, several exceptionally notable months were gazes became more heated, private words became more meaningful, and the odd brush of Jim’s hands became imbued with intent and promise.
Then one evening Spock allowed Jim to walk him back into his sleeping quarters and deposit him on the bed, both flushed and ready and wanting.
“I want you, however you want,” Jim said, kissing his lips, then neck, pulling his own clothes away gracelessly. “Do you have any… you know.”
Spock certainly did not and said so.
“Lubricant and condoms,” Jim said, too breathless to be entirely clinical. “This won’t go as far as we’d like if you don’t have any handy.”
Spock nodded, about to get up, but Jim pushed him back down with a grin. “Stay there, that’s an order. Which drawer?”
Spock pointed at the bureau and allowed himself a moment to stare at the ceiling, quickly trying to calculate the varied ways the next hour or so could play out and how he could most please Jim in the process.
“Is this my shirt?”
He sat upright, but guilt and fear and shame froze his chest, rendering incapable of answering. Jim opened the drawer fully, revealing all of Spock’s secrets. The green shirt, torn to pieces and ripped off to bandage Spock’s wounds received during an away mission over a year ago.
“What is this?” he asked, voice gentle and not accusing. It was more than Spock felt he deserved.
He opened his mouth but had enough cognitive function to know that no words would both explain what is this and have a desirable outcome. That is: Jim to forget what he saw and to maintain their tenuous status quo.
“It looks like…” Jim ducked his head a bit to meet Spock’s downcast gaze. “... a collection?”
Spock’s mouth snapped shut. He gave a small nod, misery blooming in his chest. Jim examined the items carefully, not touching, except to tuck the ruined green shirt back to where it had been neatly folded, between a symphony program that Jim said he enjoyed and a bit of geode that Jim had picked up to admire from one of the cadet’s field display.
“They are,” Spock started, feeling out of his emotional depth with the effort of putting words to the desire and the pure truth, “items that are connected to you.”
“I am aware it is illogical,” Spock admitted, his voice hollow, eyes cast to the floor. “I do not understand the cause, simply that they are all items I associate with you.”
“Oh,” Jim said, carefully closing the drawer, which made Spock feel simultaneously better and worse to have the object of his attentions abandon the perusal of his private collection. “When did it start?”
“Two years ago.”
“Two…” Jim’s voice trailed away. Jim’s bare feet padded back towards the bed and Jim knelt, face in his vision once more. “I’m sorry if I saw something you weren’t ready to share. So I feel I should confess: I still have your official reinstatement letter.”
Spock’s eyes snapped up to meet brilliant blue, gentle and absent of reproach. “The actual paper ceremonial copy, the one that you signed and I was supposed to sign and give back to you as a Starfleet memento. I kept it as my reminder that despite our rough start and million reasons to serve anywhere else, you chose to be here. I need the reminder when I doubt myself, it’s my physical proof you believe in me.”
Jim reached out to hold Spock’s hand to give a gentle squeeze, the other resting tentatively on his knee.
“My hypothesis, and correct me if I’m wrong, is that this,” Jim cupped Spock’s cheek, “and this,” a gentle kiss to the inside of his wrist, “become memories. Sometimes Humans crave something tangible to keep those memories safe. There’s nothing in that drawer that I would object to,” he reaffirmed. “There’s nothing in you that would disappoint me.”
“You understand me,” Spock agreed, once again surprised by the insight of his captain, of his Jim.
Several hours later Jim had to leave for his quarters to dress properly for his shift. Spock was still in bed, watching the Human stumble around finding and dragging his clothes back on.
“Hey, Spock, have you seen my-” he stopped, looking into Spock’s apparently bland expression and grinned. “You know what, nevermind. Keep it safe for me, would you?”
And he did.