“I presume Dr. McCoy gave you a full report, Captain?” Spock looked up and over his tented fingers as the Captain entered his quarters.
“Yes, Spock,” Kirk took a step forward, his voice flooded with concern, “but I haven’t received your report.”
“It is here, Captain,” Spock gestured to a little red data chip. He pushed it across his desk, lowering his eyes to stare steadily at it.
Kirk didn’t even glance at it. Without invitation or hesitation he slid into the chair directly across from his First Officer. His voice was soft, “What happened down there?”
Spock did not raise his eyes. “Captain, you will find your answer in my report.”
“Spock,” Kirk murmured. “Spock! Look at me.”
Ever so slowly, Spock lifted his gaze. If he hadn’t used every ounce of his control to keep his face expressionless, his countenance would have burned in shame. As it was, he couldn’t be sure of what his dark eyes revealed. As for his voice—well, that he could not control. When he said, “Captain,” he knew how destitute the word sounded.
“Spock, please,” Kirk realized he was begging. It wasn’t something he did often, but he had never seen Spock like this—so visibly unflappable and yet so obviously falling apart. “Please just tell me what happened down there. Please tell me what could have happened to upset you so.”
“Nothing happened to upset me, Captain. What happened, happened, and I am not upset.”
“You’re a terrible liar, Spock.” Kirk knew that was something of a lie. The Vulcan did not lie often, but when he did, everyone in the room was fooled—everyone but him. So for his purposes, it was true enough. He was rationalizing, and he knew it.
“’Upset’ is not an accurate description of my mental state, Captain. I believe ‘unsettled’ is a more appropriate adjective.” Spock said it all with a straight face.
Kirk wanted to laugh. He suppressed the urge. His subconscious appreciated the irony. He kept his tone perfectly serious, “Then what happened to unsettle you, Spock?”
“Nothing happened to unsettle me, Captain.”
“But nonetheless you are unsettled, Spock.”
He shook his head at the silence. “You have to throw me a bone here, Spock.”
Spock didn’t even question the idiom. He just kept staring, with heavy eyes, at his Captain.
“Did you love her, Spock?” Kirk asked suddenly, his breath coming out a little too fast. He wasn’t sure he wanted an answer.
Spock’s lips parted involuntarily. He promptly clamped them shut. He took a moment to check his composure, “No, Captain.”
“I don’t get it, Spock. If it wasn’t Zarabeth, then who has unsettled you?”
“Myself,” he answered. You, he thought.
“What do you mean, Spock?” He leaned forward in the slightest.
“Captain,” he had a strong desire to bite his lip, but he did not. Desperately, “Jim.”
“Spock, let me help you. Please—“
Darkly, “You cannot help me.”
“Damn it, Spock!” he slammed his closed fist on the desk. “Why won’t you talk to me?”
It was a quick motion—a mere flutter of the outer eyelids—but Jim didn’t miss it. “You can talk to me about anything, Spock. You know that.”
Spock blinked again. His defenses were slowly crumbling.
“I’m here for you, Spock. Whatever happens, I’ll always be here for you.”
“I know, Jim.”
“Then what’s the problem, Spock?”
“That is the problem.”
Spock shut his eyes. He gave up. He surrendered to his emotions. “I have been unsettled by my own behavior. I accepted Zarabeth’s statements as fact without evidence. I accepted that which she offered. I accepted that I would never see you again. I did not question her. I did not doubt her. I trusted her implicitly.” He opened his eyes. “It was illogical.”
“Spock, you were a victim of your biology. It was five thousand years ago, before Surak introduced logic to your people.”
“Jim, you do not understand.” He shook his head. “I should not have been affected so. Logic is independent from time.”
“Then maybe you did love her, Spock. Maybe you believed her because you wanted to believe her.”
“No,” he shook his head more vehemently. “No.”
Verging on exasperation, Jim gasped, “Spock, I don’t understand!”
“Jim,” Spock’s eyes glistened with a mixture of pain, shame, and tears, “I cannot comprehend how I could have done such things. My body betrayed me. When I went to kiss her, my mind screamed that it was betrayal, but I did it anyway. Betrayal, Captain. I did not understand in the midst of my lust; however, upon emerging from the portal, my thoughts fell into a coherent pattern. I knew whom I had betrayed. I believed her. I stayed with her. I kissed her. I told her she was beautiful. If Dr. McCoy had not intervened, I would have told her that I loved her. But it was all a lie; it was not meant for her. It was meant for the one whom I have betrayed.” Spock bowed his head.
“Spock,” Jim’s voice was a shadow of a whisper, “who do you think you’ve betrayed?”
Spock looked away. He could not bear to look into those hazel eyes when he said it—could not bear to see what was sure to be rejection, disgust, hatred. The stars sparkled dully through the porthole. He saw no way out of this conversation. There was nothing he could do but admit the truth. “You, Jim.”
As Jim’s lips parted and eyes widened, neither rejection, disgust, nor hatred filled his face. He looked nothing but surprised. “Me?” His heart rate was up again, but he didn’t notice. He tried to digest what Spock had just said.
Spock slowly turned his head to meet Jim’s gaze. His eyes glistened with unshed tears. “Affirmative.”
“Spock…” Jim reached out to place his hand on top of Spock’s.
Spock pulled his hand away. He did not deserve that touch. “I gave to her that which did not belong to her—that which rightfully belongs to you.”
Jim couldn’t believe what he was hearing. His heart pounded against his chest. He waited for Spock to continue.
“I gave her my heart. I did not think, prior to that experience, that I had a heart to give. However, that prick of the conscious—that revelation of my betrayal—made me realize that betrayal is more than a noun. It is an emotion—an emotion intrinsically attached to another emotion of equal strength.”
Jim waited, nearly breathless. “What emotion, Spock?” He didn’t need to ask. He knew the answer. But he wanted to hear Spock say it; he needed to hear Spock say it.
“Love, Jim,” Spock said it simply, his eyes rich and warm, like chocolate.
Jim waiting again, but Spock wasn’t saying anything. So he asked. “Spock, are you saying you love me?” He held his breath.
“Affirmative.” Spock inclined his head slightly. He paused for a moment, his mouth hanging open in what Jim considered a most attractive manner. “However, I do not expect—“
Finally, Jim laughed. He laughed his wild, colorful, uncontrollable, fascinating, and unbelievably wonderful laugh. “You don’t expect what, Spock? You don’t expect anything to change between us? You don’t expect me to return the sentiment?”
A faint green tinge swept the Vulcan’s cheeks and ears.
“Spock,” Jim beamed, smiled, and radiated a warmth that most Vulcans, despite their feverish body temperatures, could never emit, “I would have told you that I loved you months ago—years ago—if I’d thought you would understand.”
Spock stared at him, seemingly blankly. His Vulcan brain whirred, processing this new information a thousand bits a second. He tried to remember if their had been signs, these past three years, that he had missed. There had. There had been plenty of signs that he, despite his superb observational skills, had missed. He had been blind—blinder than he’d ever felt during the Deneva fiasco. This revelation of his love for Jim and Jim’s love for him was like the opening of another inner eyelid he didn’t know he had. It had protected him from violent emotions for the past three and a half decades, yes, but it had also shielded him from this fascinating four-letter word, love.
“So you see, Spock, I do return the sentiment.” Jim stood up. “And I hope you don’t think our relationship isn’t going to change after this conversation.” He walked around the desk until he stood right beside Spock. “Because it is.”
Spock stood up, too. He faced Jim, looking into his clear and smiling eyes. “I am glad of it.” He found himself wanting to smile—and to do a good deal of other things—but there was one more thing he had to say. “But Jim, I still wish to apologize.”
At times like these, Jim wished he knew how to raise just one eyebrow. “Spock, there’s nothing to apologize for. In fact, I should be thanking Zarabeth. If it hadn’t been for her,” he reached for Spock’s limp hand, “we wouldn’t be here now.” He squeezed it gently. “And I thought Vulcans didn’t believe in apologies.”
“Indeed they do not,” Spock murmured as he looked at their clasped hands, fingers tangled. He could feel the cool warmth of Jim’s thoughts brushing his. He was sure traditional Vulcans would not approve of his relationship with his Captain, either. “Vulcans believe that what is, is: kaiidith.” No, Spock thought, they would not approve, but he could not deny his emotions now that he recognized them. They were what they were. Kaiidith.
“I love you, Spock,” sighed as he leaned forward to close the space between them.
“And I you, T’hy’la.”