Jim was a man of many peculiar habits. Spock had grown accustomed to a number of such habits over the months, such as Jim’s nighttime wanderings, or how he’d spend a week programming the replicators to produce unusual cultural dishes from far off-planets – but no matter how many quirks he learned to accept as part of life on the Enterprise, he found that Jim never ceased to surprise him. One particular idiosyncrasy that Spock had been remarkably unprepared for had emerged approximately eight months into their five-year mission, two weeks after Jim had cornered Spock in a turbolift and stammeringly proposed a courtship in broken Vulcan.
This idiosyncrasy was: Jim loved terms of endearment.
The first time Jim used one of his beloved “pet names”, as he called them, it had not been in a moment of gentle intimacy or burning passion. They had not even been in private.
They’d been sharing dinner in the mess hall together, accompanied by Doctor McCoy. Doctor McCoy was grumbling passionately about the Starfleet bureaucracy, a matter which apparently Jim found highly amusing – he was roaring with laughter, head thrown back as he clutched at his sides. Spock was watching the exchange with mild fascination, but after several moments, he picked up his empty mug and turned to the replicator in the interests of procuring a second cup of tea.
As Spock straightened from the table, Jim turned slightly, panting somewhat for breath. “Hey, sweetheart,” he called after Spock. “While you’re up, could you get me some coffee?”
Spock had blinked and raised one eyebrow at the term, but then he inclined his head almost imperceptibly. “Affirmative.”
When Spock returned, a mug of tea in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other, Jim had accepted the coffee with a vague: “Thanks, love,” and from then on, terms of endearment slipped from his lips almost as easily as breathing.
Jim did not limit his affectionate names only to when they were off-duty, either. Of course, whenever he addressed Spock as his First Officer, it was always “Mr. Spock” or “Commander”, but whenever Spock was just Spock, Jim did not hesitate to call him “darling”, whether they were on the bridge or not. They would be in the middle of a brief, Jim outlining the details of an upcoming mission, and he’d offhandedly ask: “Pass me that PADD, sweetie? Thanks.”
The rest of the Enterprise crew found Jim’s terms of endearment remarkably entertaining. At first, they’d blinked or gaped every time Jim dropped another “honey”, but as word spread about their newfound relationship, the crew began shooting him furtive winks and grins. It took almost two months for Mr. Sulu and Ensign Chekov to stop exchanging knowing glances with one another, and Spock thought he could still sometimes see Nyota’s eyes grow gentle.
It should have made Spock uncomfortable, to have Jim’s affection for him displayed so casually And yet, he found it was strangely relaxing – welcome, even. Once, Spock had remarked that it was illogical to refer to him as a sweet, edible confectionary, and Jim had cheerfully replied: “Isn’t it?” Neither of them had said anything further.
When Jim was feeling particularly affectionate, Spock was “ashayam” or “ashal-veh”, and sometimes Spock would correct his pronunciation – but most of the time, he would simply raise one eyebrow and touch their fingers together.
Jim swore that once Spock had started smiling when he murmured: “Good morning, gorgeous,” against Spock’s lips to wake him. Spock denied any such occurrence.
The third planet in the Anrochian solar system was well known for its relaxing tourist resorts and comfortable outdoor attractions. The saltwater oceans were warm and clear, and the air was a comfortable dry heat, conducive to enjoyable forest excursions. It was consistently rated one of the top ten vacation planets in Federation Space, but it was enough out of the way from general civilian traffic that it was very rarely very crowded. It was here that the Enterprise after a particularly nasty run-in with a Klingon ship.
Jim, who was recuperating from a nasty laceration in his upper thigh, had been prescribed shore leave by Doctor McCoy, which was to be filled with long hours of physical therapy in the planet’s clear waters. Jim had suggested that Spock join him on the planet’s surface, but Spock had regretfully informed him that there were a number of experiments on board that required his close presence, and that Jim probably should focus on healing anyhow. The later sentiment had been echoed by Doctor McCoy.
So, Jim beamed down to the planet, accompanied by Doctor McCoy and a few other crewmembers, most of whom had also been recently injured and would be recuperating under McCoy’s watchful eye. Jim spent his days doing mild exercise to strengthen the muscles in his legs, and Spock analyzed the growth rate of strange, exotic plants. In the evenings, they would set up private communications and discuss how their work was progressing, or sometimes they would play chess over the computer. And every night, Jim bid him farewell with a: “Good night, hon’. I’ll comm you tomorrow – if Bones doesn’t kill me, that is.”
On the fifth day, Jim rose early in the morning, as the white-blue sun was just barely peaking over the horizon, and set out for his morning hike. He hummed absently to himself as he strode between the trees, enjoying the cool morning nip on his skin. Beautiful weather, he thought idly. He would have loved to bring Spock down and enjoy a picnic with him in the depths of the forest, where Spock could examine the plethora of flourishing alien life. Perhaps next shore leave – they might even find a planet with a high incidence of rain forests; Spock would certainly enjoy examining the biodiversity of such an ecosystem.
A bird whistled above his head, and he glanced up, trying to spot it –
--Just in time to watch something dark and heavy slam against his forehead and send everything spiraling into blackness.
“Kirk to Enterprise.”
Spock glanced down at the arm of the command chair, one eyebrow arched slightly. Until now, Jim had restricted his communications with the Enterprise to the evening, when he and Spock were both relaxing in their respective rooms. It was quite unusual for him to attempt to communicate at midday, when they both should have been quite busy.
“Spock here. What is it, Captain?”
“Hey, Spock!” came the cheery response. “You won’t believe what I found – why don’t you come join me down here? You need to see this!”
Spock frowned slightly. “Captain, as I told you before you beamed down to the planet --,”
“No, really, I think it’s a new species! Come on, it won’t take a minute, and you’ll love it!”
There was something uneasy twisting in Spock’s gut. His eyebrows furrowed. “…Indeed?”
“Yeah! Will you come down, then, Spock?”
“…Affirmative,” Spock said after a slight pause. “Send the coordinates, and I shall beam down to meet you.”
“Awesome. Kirk out.”
With the communication closed, Spock turned to the science station. “Lieutenant,” he said, addressing the current occupant. “Scan the immediate area around the planet. Is the Captain alone?”
“Er… stand by, Commander.” He leaned over the station and peered at a screen, fingers running down the edge. “Negative, sir. He is accompanied by six other humanoid individuals.”
“Acknowledged. Ensign Chekov, have a security team meet me in the transporter room. Mr. Sulu, you have the conn.”
And with that, Spock turned and strode into the turbolift.
Jim’s head was pounding, and he tasted the sharp tang of iron as he ran his tongue along his lower lip. His thoughts were fuzzy – no doubt he was somewhat concussed – but he struggled to focus.
“Okay, I get it, you don’t like me because I’m the one who sent Starfleet the report banning you from colonizing Upsilon Rho, but why go to the trouble of impersonating me to lure Commander Spock down here as well? You already have me.”
One of his captors, a man with long, black hair, sneered. “You may have sent the report, Kirk, but it was your First Officer who discovered that the rocks were sentient creatures.”
“And you would have hurt them with your mining,” Jim pointed out.
The man snorted. “They could hardly put two words together.”
“Still sentient,” Jim insisted, but he broke off as he felt the cool bite of a phaser against his neck.
“Be silent,” said the captor behind him in a gruff bark.
Jim only considered disobeying for about two seconds. Bones would probably kill him if he encouraged a direct shot from a phaser to his head.
“Once we have your First Officer here, we will contact Starfleet and insist that they return use of the planet to us in exchange for their star command team’s safe return,” the black-haired captor continued.
Starfleet wouldn’t bargain with them, Jim thought. He opened his mouth to say so, but felt the phaser press into his neck meaningfully.
“Of course, we’ll have to give them a little something to prove we have you… what about the tips of your Vulcan’s pointy ears?”
Jim clenched his teeth, biting back a furious retort. He scowled mutinously.
“Hit a nerve, have I?” the man drawled. “Hmm… well, I wonder how your Vulcan will react to find you beaten bloody, with both your arms broken… we need you alive for the ransom, but we don’t need you whole.”
Clearly, Jim reflected, they had never met an angry Vulcan. Or, they had a death wish.
The man pulled back a fist, and Jim steeled himself, readying himself for the explosion of pain.
But before the captor could let loose the blow, there was a high pitched whine. Jim heard a soft gasp behind him, and the cold bite of the phaser vanished as the man holding it pitched forward with a loud grunt.
“Release the Captain,” said a cold, familiar voice.
Spock stepped out from behind a tree, a phaser held out high before him. The long haired captor turned to face him, snarling. Spock met his eyes with an even, frosty glare. Behind him stood three red-clad security personnel, each holding their phaser ready.
“Commander Spock,” the man growled. “Lower your weapons. I’ll have you know that I have several snipers trained on you this very instant-,”
“If you are referring to the four lookouts you had stationed in nearby trees, we have already dealt with them,” Spock said coolly. “Now release the Captain.”
The man’s jaw tightened, and although he still scowled, it was with the air of someone who knew they were defeated and were just barely holding off a wave of panic. His eyes darted around anxiously, and his fists clenched at his sides. “How did you-?” he began.
“When attempting to impersonate an individual,” Spock answered calmly. “It is necessary to first study the nuances of that individual’s behavior. In this situation, you failed to recognize that Jim always calls me ‘sweetheart’.”
If the man was surprised, he did not have time to show it. Spock’s finger tightened on the trigger of his phaser, and the would-be captor crumpled to the ground, unconscious.
Spock was by Jim’s side in an instant. “Jim. Are you hurt?”
“Hey, babe,” Jim replied, blinking up at him dazedly. “Uh, yeah, I think I’m a bit concussed. Nothing Bones won’t be able to patch up, though.”
Spock nodded stiffly, and tugged out his communicator to request a beam up. Jim grasped his shoulder tightly and began to heave himself upwards, painstakingly slowly.
“Hey, Spock…” Jim said, as one of the security men helped him to his feet. “Do I really call you ‘sweetheart’ that much?”
Spock turned to meet his gaze. One eyebrow flickered upwards. “Affirmative, Captain.”
And this time, Jim had three other eye-witnesses who could testify that Spock had, indeed, smiled.