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Spock chose to sit in a quiet corner of the Academy refectory, eating a light lunch. The food was freshly prepared – for which he was grateful after nine months of eating synthesized meals on board the USS Reliant – and he took a moment to savor each mouthful, enjoying every crisp and flavorful morsel.

Beside him on the table lay his PADD which held one of two new sub-routines for the Kobayashi Maru – a project he has been responsible for improving and enhancing over the past three years – which he worked on in his spare time on this last tour. The current upgrade was almost complete – there were a number of inelegant lines of code he wished to clean up before inserting it into the main body of the program. While he was perfectly capable of working on the data while eating – as he regularly saw students do, generally as a last minute rush to complete an assignment before class – that was not the Vulcan way. Meals were traditionally a social event, a time when Vulcans gathered to partake of a proportion of their daily nutritional needs and to discuss topics of interest. The fact that more often than not Spock dined alone did not deter him from practicing this custom.

Instead he reflected on the morning’s meeting between himself, Captain Pike and Admiral Barnett, acknowledging a degree of satisfaction at the outcome. It was agreed that having completed this recent tour – his third since graduating – where he served as the ship’s Science Officer under Pike’s command, he was to be promoted to full commander with immediate effect. In addition, Pike made a pitch for Spock to be listed as First Officer for the Enterprise when she launches in eleven months, a petition Barnett had agreed to support when Pike submitted it to the admiralty.

The flagship was to be the first to break the mold of short-tours by embarking on a five year mission focusing on science and exploration. It would give a great deal of autonomy to the command team and Spock relished the thought of all the discoveries to be made as they pushed beyond the boundaries of known space.

Spock turned his attention to the increasingly busy hall to observe the puzzling social behaviors of cadets – something he did with frequent occurrence. He had learned shortly after his enrolment at the Academy that he was particularly woefully unprepared for human social interactions, realizing for the first time how much his mother had altered and repressed her own behaviors to conform to Vulcan standards.

With the time just after noon, the refectory was beginning to fill with cadets coming to get lunch before their afternoon courses and lectures. Suddenly his corner was not so quiet when a group of seven cadets sat at the long table adjacent to his.

“Are you seriously going to take the Maru again, Jim?” Spock surreptitiously glanced in their direction to see a dark-haired, earnest-looking cadet addressing a young blond man who was standing with his back to him. He checked a frown before it had formed. Cadets were forbidden to discuss the test, or to tell others how they win, if they win. “Wasn’t it torturous enough the first time?” the young man continued.

“Yeah, Gary, it was,” the cadet identified as Jim said, shaking his head. Spock was about to intervene and point out they were breaking regulation by discussing it when Jim said, “You’ve all done the Maru, right?”

Everyone around the table nodded or verbalized their assent. While Spock knew it was his duty to interrupt and stop the discussion, his curiosity got the better of him, wishing to know what Jim had to say about his test, and since all the cadets had taken it, none of them would be compromised by his sharing.

“Okay, so I can talk about it. I self-destructed the ship, thinking I’d be taking the Klingons with her while the crew escaped in pods, but the instructor pointed out that none of the crew would survive the explosions of the four warp-drive vessels and attending radiation. I just…can’t leave it there – I have to try approaching it differently.”

Two others at the table responded they had done similarly when taking the test, but this didn’t appear to mollify the cadet. His actions – opting to self destruct – was the scenario chosen by twenty three point seven percent of cadets who took the test. There was nothing noteworthy in that; however it was almost unheard of for a cadet to request a re-sit. Spock found himself curious as to Jim’s motives and made a mental note to look up this cadet and his academic record.

Having paused to answer the question, the young man walked around the table and putting down his tray, sat down next to a raven-haired female. “I think you’re insane,” she said as he lowered himself onto the bench. “Why put yourself through it all again?”

As Jim turned to answer her, Spock was able to get a look at him and was immediately taken by his aesthetically pleasing countenance, the easy smile he bestowed on the young woman.

Jim picked up a large hamburger from his plate. “I don’t believe in no-win scenarios,” he said and took a large bite.

For some reason, the cadet took that moment to look up and across his table, meeting Spock’s gaze. He became aware of how vividly blue the cadet’s eyes were – all the more striking to someone coming from a planet where brown eyes were the norm. It was Spock who looked away first, not wishing the others at the table to notice Jim was staring and have their attention turn to him. Directing his attention back to his meal, he lifted a forkful of steamed vegetables and ate.

“Whatever devious bastard programmed it would disagree with you,” a sandy-haired man at the other end of the table said.

The comment reminded Spock of something his mother had once said, that eavesdroppers never heard good of themselves.

“Yeah well, whoever it is, obviously hasn’t met me,” Jim grinned and took another bite.

Spock was unsure what to make of the cadet’s apparent tenacity: the scenario was unwinnable, he’d made certain of that when he’d designed it, and all cadets on the command track who took the test were aware of that fact after they had taken it. So on the face of it, attempting it a second time was illogical. Yet despite that, the scientist in Spock could see there was something admirable in his refusing to give up, even though it was an exercise in futility. How many scientific breakthroughs had been made where someone had refused to accept defeat in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary? The cadet would no doubt learn, once out in the black, when it was appropriate to doggedly pursue something and when to let it go – it was a useful trait to have given all the unknowns that starships on exploration routinely faced.

A giggle made Spock glance across to the other table, where the cadet – Jim – had draped himself around the woman beside him and was whispering to her. Judging by the heightened color in her face, he surmised it was likely something inappropriate.

“Sure, catch you later, Jim,” she said as the cadet stood and picked up the messenger that had been at his feet.

“Adios amigos!” he said with a wave of his hand, garnering a response from the others he had been seated with, and headed towards the exit.

Spock could not help but notice that his uniform pants fitted very snugly around his narrow hips. Before he could ponder on the strange direction his thoughts were going, his attention was drawn back to the table.

“Hey, Salara, you got a date with Jim?” the sandy-haired young man asked the woman the cadet had whispered to.

“Maybe, I have Kyle, maybe I haven’t,” she grinned.

“You mean you haven’t slept with him yet?” one of the other cadets said. “I thought he’d worked his way through pretty much everyone by now.”

“I heard he was dating that doctor, what’s his name? McCoy?” Kyle said.

“No, they’re just friends,” Salara said adamantly. “And you’re a one to talk, Gary,” she added, turning to the cadet seated on the other side of her, “you’ve not exactly been celibate yourself.”

“Yeah well, who can resist a dick like mine when it’s so—”

The cadet, Spock noticed with satisfaction, broke off whatever he was about to say when he chose that moment to stand up, his chair loudly scraping along the floor as he did so, thereby bringing his presence to the attention of all the occupants of the table.

“What’s wrong, Gary,” Salara whispered with a smirk, still loud enough for Vulcan ears, “don’t want the professor to be jealous of the size of your cock?”

Spock picked up his tray and padd and began to make his way towards the exit.

“Way to go, Salara,” Gary hissed. “You do know about sensitive Vulcan hearing, right?”

“Of course I do,” she laughed. “That’s why I said it!”

Whatever his answer was, was drowned out by the general hubbub of several hundred cadets dining and talking, as he increased the distance between them.

Depositing his tray on his way out, Spock walked down to the sunny quad and paused to check his personal messages, and there it was: a request from one Cadet James T. Kirk to make a second attempt at the Kobayashi Maru. As head programmer for the exam, the faculty had automatically forwarded the request to him. The entire Kobayashi Maru program was supposed to be unknown to those who have never taken it, so they couldn’t pre-plan tactics, which meant Cadet Kirk would have an unfair advantage over those taking it for the first time. Nevertheless, Spock thought with a curl of satisfaction, it would make no difference having prior knowledge of the scenario. Kirk would still fail and perhaps, after the second attempt, would actually learn the lesson the test was meant to teach.

He pressed ‘Accept’ and turning, strode towards the computer sciences block for his first lecture since his return.

+

Even though he’d only been back on Earth for two weeks, as his return coincided with the beginning of the new semester, he had been given a full load of classes in both his specialties: science and computer sciences as well as one advanced xenolinguistics class. Between those and time spent on lesson plans and marking coursework, he noted he had less free time than during his tour on the Reliant. Nevertheless he still chose to participate in a number of extra-curricular activities since he had no plans for further research for the time-being, having just been awarded his fourth doctorate for his pioneering work in the new field of biomolecular physiology.

As a Vulcan, Spock would never admit to having a partiality towards something – his interest in xenolinguistics was purely from an academic standpoint, having mastered all the official languages of the founding Federation members, together with a further nineteen languages – three of them Terran and the remainder from other Federation and non-Federation planets (the latter including two dialects of Romulan and Klingon).

Walking into the Gagarin Building, he made his way to the lecture theater where the Xenolinguistics Club was holding its first meeting of the new academic year. Eschewing the tiered seating to the right, everyone was gathered on the large expanse of floorspace, gathered standing and sitting in groups of between two and six people.

Spock was momentarily taken aback by the volume of noise produced by the – his glance took in – forty one occupants. He was here purely as a participant, not as a professor; nevertheless, his entrance had a dampening effect with many of the cadets falling silent. A notable exception were two individuals seated at the other end of the room – one he recognized as James Kirk, the other an attractive young woman whose skin coloration suggested an ancestral origin close to Earth’s equatorial region – who were in the midst of a heated discussion.

Spock was somewhat surprised to see a command major in the Xenolinguistics Club since it was typically attended by those on the Communications and StarFleet Intelligence tracks, or by non-Terrans, such as him – those who were willing to coach others in their club on their native languages.

“Professor Spock will know,” the young woman said to Kirk, folding her arms across her chest, though she wasn’t looking at the cadet but rather at him.

Spock raised an eyebrow, somewhat surprised at her assertion and the fact she knew of him when he was certain he had not met her before.

“Professor, I'm Cadet Uhura - I'm on the Communications track and am going to be in your advanced xenolinguistics class."

"Indeed?" he nodded in acknowledgement.

"I was wondering if you could you help us settle an argument,” she said, directly addressing him. “I have a question.”

Spock made his way over to where they were seated. “If I am able to do so. What is your query?”

Kirk, who had been leaning forward towards her, sat back, sprawling in his chair with a smirk on his face as he, too, looked at Spock.

“Sir, we’re arguing—”

“Debating,” Kirk cut in.

The young woman glared at him. “—debating which came first in Vulcan written language: the more modern version of the logographic calligraphy – vanu-tanaf-kitaun or was it gotavlu-zukitan, what we call Vulcan standard script? I say vanu-tanaf-kitaun came first; Kirk says it was the standard script.”

“Upon what basis did you arrive at such a conclusion, Cadet Uhura?”

“We know from the Kir'Shara that at the time of Surak, the ancient version of the script was used. It’s a logical progression to simplify the script and then to progress to a phoneme-based glyph system.”

“Cadet Kirk.” Spock was inwardly amused to see the cadet startle at the use of his name. The cadet was unlikely to be aware of his connection to the Kobayashi Maru as his involvement in it was not widely-known, and so wouldn’t be aware how he came to know of him. “I ask you the same question.”

“An excavation on Trienta Verconis seven years ago uncovered the remains of a colony, believed to have been settled by Vulcans who had left their homeworld following the Surakian wars. Among the artifacts found were a set of dice covered in symbols that form the syllabic nucleus of the Vulcan language. So the script system was apparently in use as long ago as that.”

“How the hell do you know something as obscure as that?” Uhura said, glaring at Kirk.

A smirk formed on the young man’s face. “I dated someone on the science track, specializing in archeology and paleontology. You’d be amazed at her pillow talk!”

“I do not need to know about one of your many conquests and I’m quite sure Professor Spock isn’t interested either.”

Kirk grinned at her and it was clear it was meant to antagonize. Spock would never admit it, but he found himself intrigued that Kirk would not only be interested but have the ability to retain such information in the aftermath of sex.

“Cadet Kirk is indeed correct. As technology began to flourish, the logographic form became too cumbersome for everyday use and so glyphs were introduced that formed the foundation of the script used today. This preceded a simplifying of the logographics which continued to be used in certain specific arenas, while the old form remains in use for a number of ceremonial and other traditional events.”

The look on Kirk’s face could only be described as smug. “I can’t believe you doubted me, Uhura,” he said with a distinct lack of sincerity.

“TaHqeq,” she muttered under her breath though it was clearly audible to both he and Kirk.

“‘One who has no honor’ – and in Klingon, no less. I’m torn between feeling flattered and cut to the quick,” he declared, the last comment said with his hand held dramatically over his heart.

Spock had to control an amused twitch of his lips at Kirk’s antics and Uhura’s shocked expression, presumably at the fact the young cadet clearly had some knowledge of alien languages.

“Can I have your attention please.” Spock turned to find another Academy instructor at the front of the room. “First order of the day is to elect a chair and treasurer of the club who will remain in those positions until the end of this coming academic year. Do I have any volunteers for chair, first?”

Uhura stood up. “Hi, I’m cadet Uhura and I’d like to put myself forward.”

“Anyone else?” the instructor asked. When no-one opposed her, she was declared the new chair.

“And treasurer?”

Kirk stood. “Cadet Jim Kirk – I’d like to do it.”

A young woman on the other side of the room stood. “Cadet Falayi. I’d also like to put myself forward.”

“Right, we’ll need to vote. All those in favor of Cadet Kirk.”

Three quarters of the room put their hands up – Uhura being one of the notable exceptions. “Carried. Sorry, Cadet Falyi.”

Uhura glared at Kirk. “What, did you bring all the people with you who you’ve slept with?” she hissed. “You only came here to annoy me. You’ve got zero interest in xenolinguistics.”

“You know, it’s not always about you,” Kirk said.

“Oh yeah? So tell me, Kirk, how many languages do you speak?”

Kirk smiled. “Well let’s see. Um…eight Terran languages, and the official languages of Andoria, Centauri, Tellar, Vulcan, Rigel,” he recited, counting each one off on his fingers, “then there’s Romulan, Klingon, Phlaxan…” how many’s that so far? Sixteen? Hmm…I’ve missed a couple…”

Uhura’s mouth was a thin line. “Okay, Kirk, you’ve made your point.”

“So, will the new Chair and Treasurer come to the front? You’ll be working closely together over this coming year…”

Uhura, who had just stood up, stiffened, clearly not relishing the prospect. Kirk, on the other hand, was grinning and winked at her.

“It’ll be fun, you’ll see,” Kirk said quietly to her. “We’ll have a chance to get to each other better. Maybe you’ll even get to be another notch on my bedpost.”

Uhura, who had taken two steps forward, froze, her head whisking around so fast, her long pony-tail caught Kirk’s face. “I hope your dick rots and falls off,” she quietly hissed.

Kirk laughed as he continued to make his way to the front and Spock found himself watching the easy way he walked, the confidence in his step and the manner in which his uniform was form-fitting, emphasizing his lean but muscular body. The last thought brought him up short and he swiftly averted his gaze to input a query into his padd in order to discover the meaning of Kirk’s curious comment about bedposts. On finding it, he began to understand Uhura’s negative reaction.

Kirk, Spock decided, was an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, as he'd discovered when he’d delved into the cadet’s records following his request to take the Kobayashi Maru for a second time, Kirk was one of the Academy’s high-flyers: top of his class in both Survival Strategies and Tactical Analysis, with a grade point average of four across all his coursework, and the fact he was able to achieve this while condensing his course from four to three years was both surprising and admirable. On the other hand, from various comments overheard, Kirk appeared to have a reputation as being something of a Lothario, his behavior towards Cadet Uhura reinforcing the point.

Those with such a reputation were all too common at the Academy – an inevitability, Spock supposed, when you put several thousand young humans together, many of whom were living away from home for the first time in their lives. Generally, those who had garnered such a status seemed to see him, as the only Vulcan on campus, as a challenge. All propositions of a sexual nature were entirely unwanted and were always spurned. So far, Kirk had not appeared to show any such interest in him; nevertheless, Spock was ready to coldly rebuff him, should he suddenly choose to do so.

As the first Xenolinguistics Club meeting got underway, chaired by Uhura with support from Kirk, Spock took a seat, and from the back found himself watching them both.

+

Uhura was indeed in his advanced xenolinguistics class and within weeks had become his top student. Her aural sensitivity was unusual for a human, demonstrating an unparalleled ability to identify sonic anomalies in subspace transmission tests. He was considering providing her with extra work to stretch her, as the regular course work didn't appear to challenge her unduly.

Meanwhile, for the first six weeks of the semester, Spock ran a beginners astronomy class on Wednesday evenings for non-science students. In the main lecture theater in the Einstein block, the screen was hooked up to various telescopes orbiting first Earth and then later, other Federation planets, where he took them through basic star-mapping.

It was only when that module of the course was over and he handed over to a professor specializing in astrophysics, on the seventh week, that Spock was free to attend StarFleet’s chess club. It was a game he had learned when he himself was a first year student, and had quickly mastered it to such a degree, that he spent most of his time having to play against the computer. Each year, he hoped to find a cadet or two who had the required level of skill to challenge him.

When he walked into the hall, it was filled with – he glanced around and took in the numbers instantaneously – forty three cadets and four instructors. Because he had his back to Spock, he didn’t notice Kirk’s presence until he heard his laugh, surprising himself that he recognized it, though having seen Kirk at the Xenolinguistics club over the past several weeks, he believed the familiarity was understandable. They’d conversed little in that time, since Kirk tended to spend much of the meetings flirting with other cadets while demonstrating his extensive knowledge of languages. Apparently, he used the chess club for a similar purpose, since he was standing closer to a red-headed male cadet than was the social norm, touching him frequently as he spoke.

Other than Kirk, he was acquainted with twenty one other cadets – the club always seemed to be favored by those on a science track and five of his students approached him within a minute of his entering. It was clear to him that three of the cadets were more interested in attempting to learn more about him, displaying typical courtship behavior which he pointedly ignored, instead engaging the other two who were interested in his thoughts on the discovery of a singularity in the Milky Way’s beta quadrant. He had, of course, read every report he could find about it, and was more than willing to share his knowledge with those who shared his interest.

By the time the class was ready to begin, a further seventeen people had arrived and one of the instructors asked everyone to form into one of four groups according to ability. It was at this point that Kirk turned around and catching his eye, smiled and sauntered over.

Spock was somewhat alarmed when he didn’t stop, moving in close and whispering in his ear, “Are you stalking me?”

The very thought had Spock reeling – he was all too familiar with the occasional harassment claims made by cadets against the teaching staff and he stepped back, away from Kirk. “I can assure you—” He broke off when he saw the cadet’s face break into an open smile and he realized it was his attempt at humor. “I have been unable to attend previous club meetings due to teaching commitments.” He had no idea why he was explaining himself to this cadet.

“So, you’re in the advanced group too, huh?” Kirk said. “Cool.”

Before Spock could respond, everyone was told to choose a partner. Spock deliberately did not choose Kirk to make a point, and for some reason this seemed to amuse the cadet.

His opponent was an upperclassmen he’d played before in previous years and it quickly became clear that his ability had not improved significantly since their previous match over a year earlier.

“So, I’ve played you four times and I still hardly know you,” Spock heard Kirk say from a table behind him.

“What do you want to know?” a quiet male voice responded.

“Well, what year are you in, what track are you on…do you have a girlfriend…or boyfriend…”

Spock could hear the smile in Kirk’s voice as he said the last few words. He turned his mind back to the game in front of him, but really, the standard of the player was such, he barely needed twenty five percent of his attention. He tried to tune Kirk’s conversation out, finding the questioning to be overly personal.

Unfortunately, after less than fifteen minutes, he had roundly beaten his opponent, and with the rules of the club stating one game per round, he decided to go sit on the other side of the hall and do some class-prep on his PADD.

When it came to the next round, Spock found himself with Kirk’s partner. The young man – Timothy McLeod – was a freshman from one of his computer science classes. A new player to Spock, he was hesitant with every move, which meant that Spock was obliged to listen to Kirk talking to a young woman.

“So, tell me again, what’s a beautiful girl like you doing in a place like this?”

Spock heard her laugh. “You’ve asked me variations on that question every week since we started, Jim! Don’t you know any lines that aren’t so cheesy?”

“Hey, it made you smile and that’s what counts!” Kirk answered. “And you’ve got such a pretty smile, Jeannie.”

Spock repressed the urge to shake his head, glad for the distraction when his opponent finally made a move. Given Timothy’s game with Kirk had ended only minutes after his own game, he wasn’t surprised that they’d finished in thirteen point four minutes. Once again, he chose to move away and continue working on his lesson plan.

Round three, the final one of the evening, Spock found himself confronted by Kirk.

“So, I figure we’re about even, standard-wise, so let’s play together this round.”

“Upon what basis did you make that evaluation?” Spock asked, curious. He was fairly certain Kirk was not watching him play.

“We both finished our last two games within minutes of each other. I’d say that was pretty convincing evidence right there!” he grinned.

As it turned out, Spock somewhat grudgingly admitted, Kirk’s assessment was accurate. They were indeed evenly matched, though their playing styles were radically different, keeping Spock on his toes throughout.

They played their first moves in silence, before Kirk opened up the conversation. “I hear you were First Officer on the Reliant. Is Pike going to give you that position on the Enterprise?

“If Captain Pike wishes it,” Spock responded, “then he will make the proper request to the admiralty.” He had no intention of revealing the truth of the matter.

“I hear he already has,” Kirk said with a sly smile.

Such requests were not made publicly in case they were rejected, so Kirk’s knowledge of it represented a breach in security. He rose his eyebrow. “Indeed? And you would know…how?”

Kirk tapped his nose twice. “I couldn’t tell you that, Professor – it would be a breach of security.” His smile widened.

The next few moves were played in silence, though there wasn’t any awkwardness between them. Kirk seemed focused on the game, his tongue caught between his teeth as he studied the positions of all the pieces.

“Check. I gather StarFleet have installed the Enterprise with computers that use the new Optical Data Network Relays,” Kirk said after moving his rook into a defensive position, obliging Spock to move his queen. “That’s pretty cutting edge stuff.”

Spock looked up at Kirk, surprised. The cadet was on the command track and was not obliged, therefore, to have such detailed knowledge of computer systems. “Indeed. It is estimated they will decrease the time taken for an input on the bridge console to reach engineering by four point three nanoseconds.”

“Isn’t there a concern that the ODN relays can be accessed remotely from both numbers four and seven Jeffries tubes, making the ship vulnerable to sabotage?”

Clearly the cadet had been studying the schematics, which Spock wasn’t aware was available to non-essential personnel and made a mental note to check if Kirk was hacking the Academy’s computer system.

“There is a remote possibility, though any attempt to access the system can be traced back to the source and the authorization code used.”

“Bit late then, wouldn’t you say?” he asked, smiling and then moved his bishop into check. Again.

Spock focused his attention on the board with a frown. He hadn’t been so thoroughly routed for three point seven years. He was unexpectedly finding both the match and the conversation stimulating.

As Kirk chased his queen around the board and Spock’s game became entirely defensive, the cadet began a discussion on the pros and cons of the mnemonic memory circuits that the ODN relays were replacing. Spock was intrigued at the profound understanding of computers that Kirk was demonstrating and found himself both impressed with the cadet’s degree of knowledge and baffled why he was on the command and not the science track. His innate sense of privacy preventing him from asking the question aloud.

And not once, during the entire match, which lasted over an hour – and which he finally lost – did Kirk make any attempt to elicit personal information from him.

As Kirk left, his arm slung around the shoulders of a petite cadet from another group, he found himself grudgingly fascinated by the young man.

+

“Come in,” Pike called and Spock stepped over the threshold. “Take a seat,” he adding, indicating one of several positioned on the other side of his large desk.

“Good morning, sir,” he said, folding himself neatly into it and waited to hear why he had been summoned.

Pike smiled at him. “Congratulations, Commander. You’re now officially the First Officer of the Enterprise when she launches. They're planning on setting a tentative date somewhere early in the fall of '58 - so pretty much a year from now.”

Spock suppressed his emotional reaction to it: it would not be Vulcan to appear excited by the news. “I am gratified, Captain. When do test flights begin?”

“They'll start in late Spring or early Summer - you'll have to be involved in some of those.”

“I understand.” He would be required to run a thorough assessment of the computer systems since StarFleet were using new and untried technology - at least as far as Starships went.

Pike grinned. “If you were human I’d take you out for a drink to celebrate. Instead, I’ll ask you to join me for lunch.”

Spock inclined his head. “That would be acceptable.”

“Good! Right, before then, I need to go over some things with you.”

The meeting was concluded forty five minutes later and Spock then accompanied Pike to the main refectory.

Lunch was in full swing when they got there, but after getting their food, they were able to find a small table. Spock calculated the probability of any cadets joining them at four point two percent.

They had been seated for two minutes when a familiar figure walked up to them, tray in one hand, and clapped Pike on his shoulder.

“Hey Chris!” Kirk smiled. “Spock,” he added with a more sober nod.

“That’s Captain Pike to you while we’re both in uniform, cadet,” Pike responded, his easy smile demonstrating it wasn’t a real reprimand.

Kirk grinned. “I’d join you, Captain, but I’ve got a lunch date with six people. You know how it is,” he added with a wink.

As Pike chuckled at his comment, Kirk made his way to what was already a crowded table nearby, where he was greeted with smiles and waves. Perhaps it was his easy gait that caused Spock to notice his slightly swaying hips, leading him to idly wonder whether the cadet had deliberately ordered a uniform that was slightly too small for him, given how tightly the material was pulled across his...

Spock arrested that train of thought, his eyes instead drawn to an adjacent table where cadet Uhura was sitting alone with another female. For some reason she was glaring at Kirk, which intrigued him because in Spock’s experience, Kirk seemed to be on very friendly terms with everyone else he interacted with.

“He’s quite the handful,” Pike said as he cut into a lamb chop.

Spock raised an eyebrow, but didn’t feel it was appropriate to probe the comment.

“Have you set a date for his second Maru test?” Pike asked.

“Indeed. It has been set for November 18th.”

Pike nodded. “I want a full report on how he does, plus all the logs from the sim. I’m interested to see what he does this time.” He took a mouthful of food, his face becoming thoughtful. “You know, I recruited him, but left him alone the first year to give him time to settle in, then we were on tour. He’s on an accelerated course that he’s set himself, due to finish at the end of this academic year. So since we’ve been back, I’ve begun to mentor him. I guess he’s becoming my latest protégé, a bit like you when you first got here.”

Spock took in all the information, his eyes drawn involuntarily back to Kirk whose distinctive laughter suddenly rang out. “Indeed?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty proud of him – he wasn’t in a great place when I found him – he’s got quite a police record for computer hacking.”

That would explain the cadet’s in depth knowledge of computers, Spock realized.

“But he’s knocked everyone out in the command faculty with his scores, acing all his classes.” Pike shook his head. “I honestly don’t know how he does it and keeps up the kind of social life he must have, to have gotten his reputation.”

Spock’s head tilted to one side in unconscious interest, though he consciously bit down on his desire to request more information about the exact nature of the cadet’s ‘reputation’.

Pike had worked with Spock for a number of years and was clearly adept at reading certain of his signals, as he answered the unspoken question. “I’d say he’s quite the ladies’ man, except he’s apparently the men’s man too – he doesn’t seem to have a preference – gender, color, species.” Pike looked rueful. “He even tried it on with me not long after he started here.”

Spock’s eyebrows flew up at the thought of the cadet propositioning his commanding officer. “By what means did you discourage such inappropriate behavior?”

Pike laughed. “I told him he’d have to look somewhere else for a daddy figure. That sent him off with his tail between his legs.”

Spock had expected Pike to say he’d given Kirk a verbal reprimand. His answer seemed nonsensical, though while the idiom was obscure, Spock at least understood the meaning of it.

His curiosity won out. “I beg your pardon, sir?”

Pike laughed again. “Jim Kirk’s father was Lieutenant George Kirk.”

That information surprised him as Kirk wasn’t an unusual name, so he’d not connected them.

“The boy was brought up by a step-father who largely neglected him,” Pike continued, “so he’s ended up with one or two…uh…issues.”

Spock was certain he didn’t want to know what they were, given what Pike had hinted at before. “Your comment had no lasting effect on your relationship with the cadet?” Spock asked.

“Hell no! He bounced straight back, but he’s not tried it since. The biggest issue he has with me is to do with authority. He can be pretty wayward at times and has been disciplined more than once for insubordination.” Pike smiled. “I’ll have to try and beat it out of him once he’s a junior lieutenant out there in the black – though I don’t know what I’ll do to punish him because I’ve yet to see a brig that he can’t hack his way out of – maybe chuck him out an airlock!” he laughed.

“It is your intention to recruit cadet Kirk for the Enterprise.” The statement was a question.

“Already have. I wasn’t going to let anyone else get their hands on him. The flagship deserves the best and that’s what I’m going for.”

Spock understood that Pike was including him in that statement and nodded his head once in acknowledgement. A thought occurred to him. “Sir, have you shared details of the ship’s schematics with him?”

Pike grinned. “Sure have! I needed an expert to find all the weakest spots in the new computer system they’ve installed. And don’t look at me like that!” Spock’s eyebrows flew up in surprise, unaware his expression had changed. “I know you’re a computer expert, Spock – hell you’re the youngest person ever to get an A7 rating, but he’s an expert hacker. There’s a particular mentality to people with that background that you just don’t have.”

Given he was unaware of the difference in mentality, he didn’t question Pike on it. A thought occurred to him. “Is the cadet aware that you were successful in my new appointment?”

Pike looked appalled. “Of course not – I wouldn’t tell anyone before I informed you.” A thoughtful look crossed his face. “Though I wouldn’t put it past Jim to have hacked the system. Why do you ask – did he say something to you?”

“I attended the chess club two days ago and during a match with him, he demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of the new computer systems that was far in advance of his security clearance. I wrote a report which I forwarded to you yesterday.”

Pike looked rueful. “Sorry Spock – it’s been a busy week and I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. But yes, he’s got the clearance. And if he was discussing it with you, I think you’re right, he must have known about your new appointment. I’ll discuss it with him at our next meeting.”

Spock was taken aback at Pike’s lenient attitude. “Do you intend to reprimand him?”

“Yeah, I’ll think of something.”

+

Three days later, Spock entered the men’s bathroom closest to his office to find Kirk on his knees, cleaning the floor with what looked suspiciously like a tooth-brush. The sight brought him up short.

“Hey Professor,” Kirk said cheerfully, mock saluting him with the small brush.

Pike, it would appear, could be creative in his punishments. “Cadet,” Spock nodded and watching Kirk return to his task, found himself in a quandary. He needed to urinate, but since his very first weeks at the Academy, always eschewed the urinals in favor of the stalls to avoid the curious eyes of others. Kirk was cleaning the only stall and to turn around and leave would have appeared…odd.

Coming to a decision, he locked the outer door and stood with his back to the cadet to attend to his need. Behind him he could hear the sound of the brush on the tiled floor.

“You told Pike about our computer discussion over chess,” Kirk said. Spock could detect no note of anger there.

Though reluctant to hold a conversation while relieving himself, it would have appeared rude to ignore him. “Your knowledge of the new computer systems was clearly beyond that which a cadet would ordinarily have access to. It is my duty to report any apparent breach in security.”

“But it wasn’t a breach in security – I was given access to the data.”

“Indeed. However you should not have shared it with me.”

“I knew…” Kirk broke off.

Having finished and refastened his trousers, Spock turned to regard the cadet who was still on his knees. “You knew what, cadet?” he asked him coolly, as he walked to the sonics unit and thrust his hands in.

“Pike told you.”

Spock turned to face Kirk again, hands behind his back. “You are most fortunate that Captain Pike is lenient with you. Hacking the Academy computer system is a disciplinary offense which could result in dismissal.”

“I’ve been telling them since I got here they need to improve computer security,” Kirk smiled. “It’s not my fault no-one listens.”

Spock found himself questioning Pike’s wisdom about recruiting Kirk to the Enterprise. He predicted a ninety seven point six percent probability that the cadet’s behavior and attitude would provide the captain with disciplinary challenges within a month of departing Earth.

“And there aren’t many people on campus,” Kirk continued, “who have your level of knowledge of computers. I enjoyed the discussion and my brain got a good workout from it. You seemed interested enough at the time.”

Spock had been interested – he’d found the discussion to be both fascinating and thought-provoking. In response, he voiced the one thought he’d been unable to dismiss since his lunch with Pike. “You were aware of my appointment as First Officer to the Enterprise, yet you refrained from telling me. Why?”

Spock watched Kirk’s eyebrows furrow, a puzzled expression forming on his face. “It wasn’t my place to tell you. That was Pike’s privilege.”

Spock stared at him, finding Kirk an enigma. His boundaries of what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior were markedly different from his own, yet it was clear the cadet had some form of honor code. Pike appeared to trust him; perhaps after all, he had good reason to.

As he was about to respond, there was a knock at the door and Spock was reminded he’d locked it. Releasing it, the door burst open and a cadet rushed in, halting when he saw the occupants. Spock recognized him as being one of the occupants at the table the day he had first seen Kirk.

“You taken to cottaging now, Jim?” the cadet asked with a grin.

“Fuck off, Gary,” Kirk said, pointing the toothbrush at him. “You say a word and I’ll have this brushing your teeth in thirty seconds and you don’t want to know where it’s been.” To emphasize the point, he dipped the brush in the water at the bottom of the toilet bowl he was kneeling next to.

The cadet’s face scrunched up. “Yeah well you shouldn’t go around locking bathroom doors,” he said, hands on his hips in what Spock interpreted as a challenging manner.

“That was my decision, Cadet Mitchell, and not for the purposes your prurient mind is conjuring,” Spock said, his voice icy.

Jim grinned at him as Mitchell hastily turned to one of the urinals.

“Cadet Kirk,” Spock said with a nod, and left.

+

 

Given a choice, Spock preferred not to participate in any social events at the Academy. Despite eight years on Earth, his understanding of many of the nuances of human social interactions was lacking, resulting in his missing or misinterpreting non-verbal cues more frequently than he was comfortable with. Unlike humans, he was unable to ‘relax’ in social situations, having to be on his guard at all times, carefully taking in and analyzing the data in the context of any given situation. In addition, he believed his presence caused others to behave differently, which Pike had once told him was because his Vulcan facial attributes and stoic appearance were intimidating to some.

Unfortunately, it was this same man who insisted Spock attend social events on a more frequent basis in order to gain ‘practice’ and comfort in such situations. As First Officer, his role was going to be overseeing the ship’s human resources and he would also be expected to deputize for his captain in some situations. Both of these duties required that he improve his social skills. Which is why he agreed to attend a Halloween party at cadet Uhura’s invitation when she had asked him two weeks earlier at the Xenolinguistics Club meeting. The process of ‘dressing up’ was illogical, but in the spirit of the holiday, he went with it.

Dressed as a Gol Master, his grey robe and patterned over-tunic kept him adequately warm in the cool late-October air as he crossed campus to meet Uhura at their agreed assignation point. Approaching her, he saw her wave and smile. It would not be seemly to wave back so he merely nodded as he walked towards her, curious what she wore beneath her coat. The only thing visible were her red boots.

“Hey, you look great,” Uhura said with a smile.

“I am gratified,” he responded, unable to reciprocate the compliment as he had been taught as being polite, since she had pointedly kept the fastenings to her coat closed.

They walked side by side in silence along the pathway towards the Doppler Hall where the festivities were taking place, passing groups of revelers in costumes clearly in an advanced state of inebriation. They were over halfway there before Uhura spoke again. “Are you familiar with the history of Halloween?” she asked.

“I have conducted some research on it and its evolution. Of all the holidays celebrated by Terrans, this is one of the more curious.”

Uhura smiled. “Curious is one way to put it! So, I see your costume is Vulcan, judging by the symbols on the tunic. Does it have any particular significance?”

It the ceremonial robes traditionally worn by Kolinahr masters. While I have not undergone the discipline, I sought and was given permission to wear the garb.”

“Kolinahr?” Uhura said with perfect diction.

“It is a process that Vulcans may undergo, by which all remaining vestigial emotion is purged until only pure logic remains.”

Spock noticed Uhura visibly shiver, and was unsure if it was due to the cool weather or his words. “Not all Vulcans go through it, through, from what you implied.”

“That is correct. I myself considered it as an option upon completion of my schooling. However, I chose, instead, to join StarFleet. The option to undergo the ritual is available to me at any time during my life.”

Since leaving Vulcan, he had sometimes wondered what his life would be like now, had he taken that step, instead of coming to Earth to the Academy: whether he would have been as fulfilled as he was at this time. Such musings were always swiftly ended as being illogical and an unproductive use of thought.

“Seems kind of extreme,” Uhura said. “And I don’t mean that in a judgmental way,” she hastened to add.

“Extreme, perhaps, for a species where emotions are so lauded.”

“True,” she agreed and turned down the final pathway towards the hall. They came across more and more cadets, all of whom were in costume, until they found themselves at the back of a line at the entrance.

“Looks like we hit the busy period,” Uhura said.

Once inside, Spock glanced around at the elaborate decorations, most of which followed the traditional Halloween theme of ‘horror’. 'Cobwebs' and fake spiders were draped around the wall and hung from the ceiling, several coffins were pushed against one wall, serving as seating, though one was open and contained an effigy of what Spock believed to be Dracula, if he had gotten his references correct. Several long tables against the far wall were decorated with pumpkins from which macabre faces had been carved, while the food appeared to have an orange and black theme to it.

Uhura took off coat, revealing a garishly-colored costume she explained was Superwoman. Spock had never heard of her, though he was aware of the concept of comic-book heroes and heroines. Complimenting Uhura on the look she had achieved appeared to please her.

As she stood in line at a makeshift cloakroom, Spock's eye was drawn to a robotic severed hand that sat on a side table amidst a pool of fake blood. As he glanced around the hall, within seconds his attention was drawn to a familiar laugh emanating from a group not far from the door. Kirk stood in the middle of it dressed as a pleasure slave. The sight caused a visceral reaction in Spock that he attributed to surprise at the cadet's apparent lack of clothing.

He could only see Kirk's upper body which was pale, bare and gleaming from oil, his musculature well-defined, demonstrating a high degree of fitness. At his neck was a small collar made of silver metal with a large link chain hanging down from his throat. One female in the group stretched out her hand, her nails long and red, and skimmed her fingertips down the length of the chain while Kirk watched her intently. Spock was unable to discern how far down her hand had gone, due to others standing in the way, but he considered touching in such an intimate manner in a public setting to be inappropriate, and the thought made him frown.

“You okay?” Uhura said, appearing at his side.

Spock schooled his face to impassivity. “Indeed. Would you care for a drink?” He knew enough about human social settings to be aware that alcohol was the primary beverage that fuelled such gatherings.

“Now you’re talking!” she said with a bright smile.

As they made their way to the busy bar, they received a number of compliments and he could see that Uhura looked pleased with the attention. Once they had obtained their drinks, they stood to one side of the bar and looked out over the sea of heads.

“So, what do you think of the party? she asked.

“Many of the costumes are more elaborate than I expected. It is clear some have gone to great lengths in order to obtain a degree of authenticity.”

“Yeah, there are more than a few here who like cosplay – you know, dressing up like this.”

“Indeed. The wearing of a costume appears to be of primary importance in the celebration of this day - clearly the holiday has evolved considerably from its roots.”

“Well, it’s become secularized for a start, and—” Uhura broke off when Kirk placed a well-oiled arm about her shoulder.

“Hey superwoman,” he said in a low voice in her ear, “can I be your sex slave tonight?”

In one move she twisted around and away, glaring at Kirk. Spock saw her eyes drop down and then back up as her mouth thinned into a contemptuous line.

Kirk cocked his head to one side, coquettishly and pouted. “So, I’ll take that as a ‘no’, then?”

“Not in million years. Your costume’s perfect, Kirk. Maybe you should consider giving up StarFleet and selling your body – you’d probably make more money.”

Kirk smirked at her. “I’ll take that as a compliment, Uhura.”

Spock was unable to prevent his own eyes from taking in Kirk’s costume – or lack of it. It was clear he’d depilated his whole body and covered it in an oil that contained some type of slightly reflective substance, creating a gleam that seemed to make his whole body glow. Aside from his collar and the chain which hung down to his knees, he wore nothing but a very short wine-red skirt in the manner of the ancient Greeks, which was held up with a broad leather belt, and sandals that were tied with two thongs that criss-crossed up his calves. The overall effect was not displeasing, Spock acknowledged, particularly as Kirk had the physiological attributes, such as well-defined musculature and attractive facial features, to carry it off.

Having apparently ended his attempt to provoke Uhura, Kirk turned to him. “Let me guess,” he said, eyeing up the costume. His head tilted to one side as he considered, his gleaming blue eyes holding Spock’s. “It looks like the ceremonial robes worn by the Masters at Gol. Am I right or am I right?” he grinned.

“You are correct,” Spock affirmed, certain it wasn't a guess at all. He wondered how Kirk would know about the Vulcan sect and was about to ask when Uhura moved so that she was standing beside Kirk, as though attempting to bring Spock's attention back to her. Judging by the look on her face, she wanted the conversation with Kirk to end, so he decided not to probe further on the subject; it could wait for another time.

“If you’ve quite finished prancing around half-naked, Professor Spock and I were in the middle of a discussion.”

“Oh yeah, what about?” Kirk smiled.

“Nothing that concerns you.”

“I can take a hint,” he said and turned to smile at Spock. “Catch you later, Spock. Uhura,” he added turning to her, then left, quickly disappearing into the crowd.

“You do not like him,” Spock observed, mildly.

Uhura turned from where she’d watch him go, back to Spock. “You can say that again. He’s one of the most irritating, idiotic, smug ass—“ she caught herself and took a breath before finishing, “—people I’ve met.”

Spock was surprised both at the tone of her voice and her description and wondered how they could have each arrived at such differing opinions of the same man. In his experience, such opinions were often formed after one specific incident. “May I ask what brought about such a view point?”

Uhura looked up at him, her lips pursed, as if considering whether to tell him. After some seconds, she nodded. “The very first time we met was back in Iowa, near the shipyards, and he didn’t even know me when he tried to hit on me.”

“You did not appreciate it.”

“No, I didn’t! Can’t a woman enjoy herself in a bar without getting harassed by drunk guys on the prowl?”

It was a valid point and he wondered to what extent Kirk had harassed her. In his experience of watching the cadet interact with others, he had never seen anyone become annoyed by his attentions. He appeared, in his experience, to be able to read people well. “When you made your feelings clear, did he leave you alone?”

“He did once some of the other cadets stepped in,” she smiled. “And it was totally his own fault.”

“In what manner?”

“He threw the first punch and that was it – all the others plowed in.”

Spock was not surprised that Kirk had become aggressive – he could see that propensity in him. “How many others?”

“Four of them. Kinda. I…” she bit her lip, as if realizing her story wasn’t shining a favorable light on her. “I did try to stop them, but they wouldn’t let up, until Pike arrived.”

So that was how Pike had found him, thought Spock. “It is perhaps surprising that Kirk does not hold any enmity towards you, under the circumstances.”

“He’s tenacious, I’ll give him that. Look, Professor…Spock…I don’t want to spend this date talking about Kirk. Can we change the subject?”

“Date?” Spock said, surprised.

“Well, that’s what it is, isn’t it? I mean, I asked you to a party and you came.”

Yet another of those social nuances that had escaped Spock. “In that case, I believe it is,” Spock conceded. He would need to be more careful in the future, he realized as he sipped on his tropical fruit cocktail. Uhura was in his advanced xenolinguistics class, and the Academy had rules regarding teacher/student fraternization.

Spock judged that a further hour would be required at the party before he could tactfully withdraw in the knowledge he had fulfilled his duties as Uhura’s date. When he announced his departure, she didn’t try to persuade him to stay, though she chose to remain on.

Once outside, he welcomed the cool air and the absence of people. While Pike was encouraging him to attend more social events, there was little he had learned from his experience that he believed he could usefully use on a starship. Though it had been an interesting evening, nevertheless.

+

The structure of the sessions at the Xenolinguistics club were such that people were generally free to sit with whomever they wish, or whomever could speak the language they were practicing. As a result, it was Uhura who was generally his companion for the evening, though he did sit with Kirk when they practiced Vulcan and the cadet accused Uhura, good-naturedly, of ‘hogging’ Spock. But for the most part, he and Kirk didn’t interact much. Instead, he got to see Kirk interacting with others and his behavior could only be described as flirtatious. He was highly tactile with both men and women, touching them on their arms as he spoke, slapping them on their shoulder or patting their back. The one notable exception was with him – Kirk never treated him with anything less than complete respect, maintaining a set distance and never touching.

In chess club, they had fallen into the habit of playing two games against others, and the final one against each other. Yet again, Spock observed as Kirk stood closer to people than was socially acceptable, bestowed frequent smiles upon them, hugged them and whispered in their ears as though sharing a secret he wanted no-one else to know. And he did this with everyone, but him. He found himself wondering what percentage of success Kirk had in securing sexual favors from the various individuals. Did he work on the basis that the further he slung his net, the greater the probability of a catch?

Spock observed Kirk when they played together, compared to when Kirk played others. The first difference he noticed was posture. The cadet tended to slouch in his seat with others – this had the effect with such small tables, of having his legs tangle with his opponent’s. When Kirk played him, however, he always sat upright, with no possibility that even their feet would touch. On one occasion, Kirk had moved and knocked the table. When a piece near the edge threatened to fall, they had both made to catch it and when Kirk realized Spock was going for it too, he pulled his hand back quickly so that there was no danger of their touching.

The formality aside, Spock found himself looking forward to their weekly matches, as not only were they challenging, but the conversation was intellectually stimulating. He was continually surprised at the extent of the cadet’s knowledge on a wealth of subjects from advanced starship engineering to the politics of the Federation Council. He showed a particularly keen interest in Vulcan - his knowledge of Kolinahr masters demonstrating that this pre-dated their discussions together.

They took to having lunch together twice a week, and if the days and times they chose happened to be when Uhura was in class, that was not entirely coincidental. Her animosity when with Kirk had not lessened, nor had he ceased his provocative comments, and Spock wished to extend his and Kirk's fascinating discussions without danger of her joining them and Kirk aggravating her into sniping. Even though their discussions were rarely on personal topics, he believed he was getting to know and understand Kirk better, which he found gratifying.

In late Fall, Spock stood in the observation area of the sim section of the Aldrin building and watched Kirk fail the test for a second time. He appeared to have a friend with him, who went to him after it was over, and squeezed his shoulder.

“I fucked up, Bones,” Spock heard him say quietly after everyone else had left the simulator. The occupants were unaware of his presence behind the one-way wall. He glanced down at his manifest to see no-one listed with the name ‘Bones’. Another look at the list and a quick cross-reference on his padd revealed he was Dr. Leonard McCoy – Kirk’s room mate. His eidetic memory supplied him with the fact that day in the refectory when he first saw Kirk, someone had suggested McCoy was Kirk’s lover. He found himself unconsciously leaning forward.

“Everyone fucks up, Jim. That’s the point.”

Kirk stared at the floor despondently, and McCoy dropped down on his haunches so they were face to face. “But this was worse than the last time. I didn’t even cross the neutral zone to help them. I took the coward’s way out, out of self-preservation.”

“You knew, going in, the Klingons would overwhelm your ship. Not going in saved the lives of hundreds of your crew.”

“And what about the Maru’s crew, Bones? Are they expendable?”

McCoy sighed and put his hands out to grip Kirk’s arms. “Look at me, Jim.”

Kirk reluctantly lifted his head. “What?”

“Jim, this is a simulator. No-one lost their lives.”

“Tell me that the day I’m captain and I have to make a similar command decision.”

“Like your dad?” McCoy asked quietly. “Is that what this is about?”

Spock stared at Kirk’s agonized face. He had only ever see him looking cheerful, never openly distressed.

Kirk shook his head. “No, this isn’t about my father. There’s a part of me can’t wait to get command, and another part that’s scared shitless of it; of the decisions I’ll have to take, the lives I'll have to forfeit.”

“Kid, if you weren’t scared shitless, I’d be worried. You don’t think I get scared when I go into an operating theater knowing one tiny mistake could cost someone’s life? And remember I told you about the shuttle-crash on the I-95 outside Savannah. I was on my way back from visiting my parents, with nothing but a small first aid kit in the trunk of my car and the next thing I know, I'm organising triage on the median, and god help me, I ignored the people who were alive but injured beyond what I could do for them, and focused on the ones who had a better chance of surviving with my help."

Spock watched Kirk as he listened intently to McCoy's story.

"I understand, Jim, because I have to make life or death decisions every day. It goes with the territory.”

“God Bones, when you put it like that…”

He leaned forward until his forehead was touching McCoy’s and Spock thought they were about to kiss. He knew he should turn away from the potentially intimate moment, that he could be accused of a violation of their privacy, yet he stood rooted to the spot, mesmerized by the scene unfolding before him.

“You okay?” McCoy asked quietly.

“Yeah.” Kirk took a long, shuddering breath and then pulled away, standing up and hauling McCoy up in the process.

The doctor clapped him hard on the back, the intimacy broken. “That’s my boy.”

Spock concluded that whatever their relationship, they were not lovers.

A day later, Spock received a request forwarded from the faculty from Cadet James T. Kirk to take the Kobayashi Maru test for an unprecedented third time. Baffled by the cadet’s decision, he agreed to it, though he sent the agreement from the department, not from himself.

+

When it came to the Winter Ball, despite having been at the academy for seven years as a student and then as a teacher – two short tours of duty notwithstanding – Spock found himself attending the ball for the first time, at the insistence of Captain Pike. He elected to wear a maroon jacket and pants edged in gold trim with Vulcan symbols down the left-hand collar. From the front, the jacket looked like a standard one, dropping to the hips, but at the back, it hung down to his knees like a cloak, the material similar to heavy matt silk.

He elected to attend alone, despite an invitation from Uhura, and although she covered it well, he could see she was disappointed. In addition to spending the majority of her time at the club with him, she had taken to dropping into his office from time to time, always with a good pretext usually to do with the class of hers he took, and she smiled more often at him. He had recently began to conduct some research into human courtship behavior patterns and recognized she was using a number of them on him.

Even though they didn’t attend the party together, Uhura remained steadfastly at his side for most of the duration he was there. She was wearing a dark blue, figure-hugging backless dress that reached her feet and drew many admiring looks from both men and women.

Her tenacity to remain with him was something he could do little about without appearing rude. It was not that he found her company disagreeable - quite the contrary, but he wished to discourage her from any romantic notions she might hold of him. “Do you not wish to spend time with your friends?” Spock asked as they waited in line for a second round of drinks.

The question appeared to take her by surprise. “I get to see them all the time, so it’s no biggie.”

“One could argue you see me all the time,” he pointed out logically. “I fail to see the distinction.”

“It’s different. You’re a different kind of friend.”

“How so?”

“Because she thinks you’re her boyfriend,” came Kirk’s voice from behind them.

Uhura whirled around, her eyes flashing. “I do not! That’s ridiculous.”

Kirk smiled at her, apparently unfazed by her obvious anger. “Protesting too much, really?” He turned to Spock. “Having a good time, Spock?” he asked as Uhura made a further denial.

“That’s Professor Spock to you!” she said through clenched teeth.

Kirk looked at Spock. “So, what does the professor think is appropriate?”

He didn’t want to be a pawn in their battleground, but he had no option but to answer the question, very aware the answer each of them wanted him to give. He went for the most logical. “We are in an informal setting, therefore ‘Spock’ is sufficient.”

“Yeah, and it would be a bit weird calling you ‘Professor’ after I’ve been calling you by your name for the last few months.”

“Indeed,” Spock agreed.

Uhura looked at Kirk, puzzled. “When have you had the opportunity to call him anything? You’re not in any of his classes.”

“Well for starters, every week at chess club—”

“Chess?” She turned to Spock. “You never mentioned you belong to the chess club. Uh…” she paused, frowning, “I thought they split people up according to ability.” She turned back to Kirk. “You can’t tell me you’re good enough to play someone as skillful as Spock.”

Kirk grinned at Spock, then winked in such a way, Spock knew Uhura had missed it. “How do you know Spock is skillful at chess?”

“Well…uh…he’s Vulcan. It’s a cerebral game – he’s bound to be good at it.”

“You have great faith in me,” Spock responded, amused, though careful not to show it. “Perhaps you should have more faith in Jim.”

She widened her eyes in surprise at the use of Kirk’s first name. “Why?”

“Because he is the equivalent level of a chess grand master, though I understand he’s never been formally tested.”

“Don’t see the point,” Kirk said, looking at Uhura with a bright smile. “It’s not like I’m going to enter any competitions – I just do it for fun!”

Uhura ran her finger over her lower lip in contemplation. “So the rumors I’ve heard about you acing all your classes are true?” she asked, her voice quieter than it had been.

“What does it matter?” Kirk asked, and for the first time, Spock noticed his usual smile was absent. “Will you think better of me if I said ‘yes’?”

Spock could see however Uhura answered the question, it would reflect badly on her.

“It doesn’t matter how brainy you are, Kirk. It doesn’t make you any less of a jerk.”

“Wow Uhura,” the cadet replied, his smile back in place. “That was almost poetic!”

Uhura laughed and shook her head.

“Happy holidays!” Kirk said and turning, disappeared back into the crowd.

“I’m sorry Spock,” she said after they’d gotten their drinks.

“For what reason are you apologizing?”

She shook her head but didn’t answer. “Never mind,” she said eventually.

A short while later, they were standing with their back to a wall when Spock saw Jim being pulled along by a young female cadet, both of them laughing. The woman looked up and then suddenly threw her arms around Kirk, drawing him into a kiss, which from where Spock was standing, Kirk appeared to reciprocate with enthusiasm.

Kirk had elected to wear a traditional tuxedo - though in navy-blue rather than the traditional black - complete with bow-tie, and Spock had to admit he wore it well, cutting a dashing figure that at least one cadet was unable to resist.

Spock turned to Uhura, expecting her to make some remark about Kirk's behavior, but she appeared to be engrossed in her comm. device and missed it.

When, less than twenty minutes later, Kirk returned to the same spot with a different cadet and kissed her, Spock found himself puzzled, especially as in the interim, eighteen other couples had done the same thing.

This time Uhura did see Kirk, though uncharacteristically, she said nothing. A part of Spock was fascinated at the sight of Kirk as he occupied himself with the oral exploration of the other cadet’s mouth, while another part viewed it as an invasion of privacy. Following his witnessing of Kirk's interaction with McCoy on the sim, he had castigated himself for his un-Vulcan behavior, and not willing to repeat the offence, turned away from the spectacle.

It was a seventeen minutes later, while Uhura had left his side temporarily, that Kirk returned yet again, this time with the male cadet – Mitchell – whom Kirk had spoken with while cleaning the bathroom. Despite his cultural training, Spock could not pull his eyes away from the sight of Kirk kissing another male.

He found himself physiologically affected by the sight – not aroused, but rather a primal reaction he was unable to identify. It was this, and not his sensibilities which caused him to look away, at which point he noticed Uhura making her way towards him.

By the time she reached him, Kirk and Mitchell had vanished into the crowd.

“I am curious, Nyota, why cadets are engaging in an intimate embrace in our vicinity.”

Uhura laughed and pointed up to the ceiling where a number of sprigs from an earth plant were hanging. He looked blankly at her.

“Mistletoe. You must have heard of it.”

“Only in a botanical context. I do not believe that the plant is hanging there for mere decoration, however.”

“You’re right. It’s an old fertility symbol – the history of which has mostly gotten lost. But it’s tradition at this time of year to go stand under it and kiss. It’s supposed to bring you good luck, or something.”

There was a pause and the ease they normally shared vanished into a tense moment that Spock broke. “Such a tradition is illogical and has no basis in fact. I also believe the ready intimacy the participants share is inappropriate to display in public.”

“If I had to sum up humanity to an alien race, one of the words I would use would definitely be ‘inappropriate’,” she smiled. She turned back to the crowd and frowned, causing Spock to follow her line of sight. Kirk was returning, yet again, with another female cadet. He definitely did not want that physical reaction again and turned to face Uhura.

“Okay, he may be more brainy than I realized, but that doesn’t make him any less of a man-whore.”

“I am unfamiliar with the term.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “He sleeps with pretty much anything with a pulse. The concept of a relationship isn’t in his vocabulary.”

“You believe he is promiscuous,” Spock clarified.

“It’s not what I believe – everyone knows it. I mean, look at him.”

Spock did not wish to and so refrained. While he was aware that rumors were frequently exaggerated, it appeared as if Kirk considered everyone eligible for his attention, except himself. And despite it being entirely illogical, he didn’t know quite what to make of that.

+

With the new year and a new semester came a new timetable and Spock found he had a late class that clashed with the Xenolinguistics club. However, his chess evenings were free and if he had to choose between them, he found he gained greater stimulation from chess now that he had an opponent who truly challenged him.

He forced complete honesty on himself: he also enjoyed Jim’s company and found him to be a fascinating and compelling individual. As a telepath he found himself instinctively drawn to the young man, though Kirk's careful 'hands-off' policy that he extended to him alone, meant that had never even shared so much as a surface thought that might be brought about by casual skin-to-skin contact. Perhaps because of it, he had allowed himself, on a number of occasions, to imagine what a meld with Jim would be like.

Though they continued having their lunches together twice a week, Spock marked the first six weeks of the new semester in terms of the chess matches he had with Jim – and they had each won three. The next would be taking place the day after another of Earth’s illogical holidays: St. Valentine’s Day. If he was given the choice, he would remain in his quarters for the day. Unfortunately, he had classes to run and knew, from previous experience, he would find a number of anonymous cards on his desk at the beginning of each class.

He had researched the day and found while it had originally been intended as a day for lovers, it had become something more general that encompassed friendships and any other important relationship in a person’s life.

By the end of his final class, he had collected seventeen cards all of which contained anonymous messages. The entire process was illogical and a waste of perfectly good and extremely expensive paper. In addition, he had received a further thirty three e-cards and messages.

He got to his office to find another card sitting on his desk. This one puzzled Spock more than any other, as his door had been locked. “Computer, who has had access to my office today while I have not been occupying it?”

“Commander Spock.”

The answer was nonsensical since he could not be both occupying and not occupying the room. He decided to try a different tack. “There is a card on my desk, who left it and at what time?”

“The card was left by Commander Spock at fifteen seventeen.”

“Computer where was my location in fifteen seventeen?”

“You were located in the Doppler Building.”

“Computer, how can I have been in two places at once.”

“Does not compute.”

Spock repressed a sigh and picked up the card. It was a picture of a pair of le-matyas – two males, from the markings – lying curled together sleeping in the tall grasses that edge The Forge. Le-matyas mate for life – so as Valentine's cards went, the picture was entirely appropriate. Opening it he read the hand-written inscription in a clear copper-plate script:

When a le-matya chooses a mate for life,
They stay together through toil and strife.
When I fell in love it was you who I chose
And even though I stand right under your nose
You have no idea how my heart is aflame
Although for months it’s been yours to claim
For we are t’hy’la, now isn’t that neat?
Destined together, we make each other complete.

It wasn’t Byron or Wordsworth, yet Spock found himself reading and re-reading the compelling words. Whoever sent it was someone he must know, and the only person he could think of was Uhura. If it was her, then she had misunderstood the concept of t’hy’la – known to few outworlders – as it was a destined love between male warriors.

He placed the card on top of the pile and left them on his desk to be dealt with the following day. Later that week, he had been asked to give a special lecture on the history of Vulcan’s spacefaring and he needed to undertake some research in order to ensure he had all his facts right. First he would return to his quarters to eat, and then he would go to the library which, judging by the number of Valentine’s parties he had been invited to, would likely be empty.

An hour and a half later, Spock walked into the central library, to find the lights of the main hall dimmed, which meant no-one had been through it in over fifteen minutes: a good sign that he would likely remain undisturbed. As he walked through, they brightened up on his approach, one by one, illuminating his path.

He climbed the stairs to the first floor and into one of a number of specialist rooms - this one containing books and microfilms from his homeworld, and a computer terminal – the only one on campus – that had an authorized direct link to the Vulcan Science Academy. He walked down an aisle lined either side with books that smelled old and musty, reminding him of the library in his home, which contained both Vulcan and Terran tomes. At the end, it opened out into a reading area where the terminal was located, but as he approached, he realized with some consternation, that it was occupied by a cadet.

The sound of his footfall caused the young man to turn around and he was met by the blue gaze of cadet Kirk, who broke into a brilliant smile on seeing him.

“I confess I am surprised to see you here Jim, tonight of all nights,” Spock said, vocalizing his thoughts.

Kirk’s smile seemed to dim. “Oh, you weren’t looking for me, then?”

Spock was somewhat taken aback by the question since they had made no plans to meet. “Why would I? Since it is Valentine’s, I would have expected you to be at one of the many parties taking place this evening.”

Kirk closed his eyes momentarily. “Please tell me you don't believe the rumors that I’ve slept with half the cadets on campus.”

Spock felt a stab of guilt at the question. He had no choice but to be honest. “I do not listen to rumors. However, your behavior would suggest that you regularly enjoy the intimate company of others.”

“You mean because I flirt a lot.”

“Affirmative, if I have been interpreting your behavior correctly,” Spock said, now unsure whether he had.

“I flirt, but that’s mostly it. You know I’ve condensed my course – you did the same, right?”

The non-sequitur puzzled Spock. Pike must have told Kirk that he, too, had truncated his program. “Indeed.”

“So you know my coursework is so intense, I don’t have much time to go out with people, or to parties, because I’m working all the goddamn time.”

Spock could sense Jim was angry, but didn’t know why. Perhaps he resented that he was unable to socialize with other cadets, but that was the path he had chosen for himself and becoming angered by it was illogical. He knew enough of human temperaments not to voice his thoughts, however.

“Since you are linked into the VSA, perhaps I could help you with your research. What is the topic you are studying?”

Jim sighed and seeming to shake off his annoyance, smiled. “I’m writing a paper on Vulcan’s first contact with Earth: specifically, whether it was ethical of them to hold back until we reached warp capability. There was a pandemic ten years earlier of avian flu in which thirty million people died. They must have known it was happening – they could have helped us, saved those lives.”

“The Prime Directive forbids—”

“Yeah I know, but it sucks sometimes, you know?”

He had no idea how long Jim had been here researching, going through the relevant papers and reading details about those millions of deaths. His grief, now that he was aware of it, was palpable.

Spock remembered how McCoy had offered his friend comfort after failing the Kobayashi Maru test for the second time. Giving in to his own impulse, he walked over and hunkered down beside the cadet, placing his hand over Jim’s.

In the moment before Kirk snatched it away, he discovered who that last card was from, because the contact had been electric, as though completing a circuit, Jim's love as clear to him as sunshine on a cloudless day.

“T’hy’la,” Spock murmured, taking in Kirk’s shocked features, the brilliant blue eyes wide and worried.

“I’m sorry,” Jim said. “I can’t help it, Spock. Please don’t hate me for it.”

It took a moment for the meaning of the words to sink in. “Why would I hate you?”

“I’ve seen how you are with Uhura, keeping her at arm’s length. I though if you knew how I was feeling, you'd be like that with me - maybe worse, no more lunches, no more chess games.”

“Since I have known you, you have flirted with everyone but me,” Spock countered. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he realized how petulant he sounded.

“I didn’t want you to know – you’re a fucking touch telepath, Spock. Like just now – I knew the moment you touched me, you’d know how I felt. I was...I am, happy to stay your friend. I promise you I'll never act on my feelings.”

“Yet you left me a card, so perhaps that is not entirely true.”

Kirk looked down as a blush swept over his pale features. “I knew you’d get a ton of cards from admirers. I wanted you to have one from someone who really means it. When I saw you, I thought you’d figured it out and you were coming to tell me it was okay. Because if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t have come. But that’s not why you’re here, is it?”

Spock had never seen Kirk so nervous - the cadet always projected an air of confidence and self-assurance and, like many others, he had been taken in by it. The vulnerability beneath that fascade was familiar to him, not unlike his own, buried deep enough where no-one would detect it. “I did not know who the sender of the card was. Would it help you to know that if I had, I would have sought you out?”

Kirk looked up, his blue eyes, glassy, but hope shone in them. “Really?”

Spock leaned forward and brushed his lips over Kirk’s, finding them soft and pliant. “Really,” he whispered in confirmation.

Kirk leaned forward and this time the kiss was ardent, lips smacking, tongues dueling together. A part of Spock’s brain was cataloguing the immediate physiological changes that were happening in his body and the other part was simply enjoying the sensations, feeling exhilarated by the longed-for contact – because only now was he consciously willing to admit that this is what he wanted - had wanted for some time.

The feel of Jim’s tongue sliding against his was intoxicating, better than chocolate (which he occasionally indulged in, in the privacy of his quarters). The kiss was needy and frantic, their faces pressed so firmly together, that Spock could scarcely breath. So after a minute he pulled back for air and standing up, pulled Jim with him.

“God, you’re so beautiful,” Kirk whispered as soon as they were vertical, then they fell together again, but now Spock could feel Jim from the hard planes of his chest to his knees, one leg insinuating itself between his in a bid to close any gaps between them. It allowed their pelvises to be thrust together and Spock could clearly feel the outline of Jim’s erection pressed between them. Another slight shift and Kirk’s hip pressed against his own arousal, the pressure making his blood sing.

As they kissed, he felt Kirk’s hand force itself between them and taking hold of the zipper of his jacket, began to pull it down. Spock did likewise, opening Jim’s jacket, but instead of wearing the standard-issue shirt beneath, Jim had nothing, his chest entirely bare.

Spock reveled in the touch of his fingers to the warm, smooth skin, as the tips skimmed over the surface, the pad of his thumb inadvertently grazing over a nipple and eliciting a shudder and a moan from Jim. The sound went straight to his groin. Spock bent down and swiped his tongue over the small nub and then bit it, making Jim hiss.

“Fuck, Spock! Do that again.”

He obliged, switching to the other nipple first licking, then biting. He felt Jim’s whole body tremble, which turned into a full-blown shudder as he pressed his hand to Jim’s groin, cupping his hard shaft in the palm of his hand.

Standing up, he began to kiss Jim again, unable to get enough of the hot, wet mouth and the silken tongue. He wasn’t used to the angle, so it took longer than it should have to get the zipper on Jim’s trousers down and he felt Jim scrabbling to do the same for him.

Pushing beneath the waistband of his briefs, he wrapped his fingers around the hot, hard flesh they encountered, as though his hand had been made for nothing other than to give Jim this intimate pleasure. The action caused Jim to let out a lush moan into his mouth as he thrust into his fist. A moment later and Jim was holding him so that they were rutting together, trying to find a rhythm.

“I want you,” Spock gasped into Kirk’s open mouth. “I wish to be inside you.”

“God yes!” Kirk gasped, thrusting and then began to laugh when Spock grabbed him by the thighs and lifted him bodily from the floor as though he weighed nothing more than a child, and pushed him up against a shelf of books.

“Computer, lock door, Commander Spock authorization code Sierra Golf Three Four Four.”

“Confirm lock engaged,” the computer responded.

Spock knew Kirk was trying to wrap his legs around his waist but it was difficult with his pants only halfway down his thighs, and it was not desirable, at this point, to halt proceedings while he removed them and his boots. They kissed again, as Kirk took them both in his fist, working them together, so that his whole body was aflame, every sense heightened.

“Wow, we’re not gonna need any lube – your cock’s awesome!” Jim said as his hand slid over the surface made slippery with his body’s natural lubrication. Now was not the time to give Jim a lecture on the logic of the self-lubricating penis of the Vulcan species, since it was self-evident.

Spock pushed a finger into Kirk's mouth and the sudden suction on, as he felt a wet tongue lick around it, nearly made him climax then and there. Before he was pushed beyond his control, he extricated it and easing his hand beneath Jim, pressed the wet digit against the tight knot of his sphincter. “I do not wish to hurt you.”

“You won’t, just go for it, Spock. Please!” He could detect a note of desperation in Kirk's voice.

“You have stated that rumors of your love life have been greatly exaggerated, in which case—”

“Ever hear of dildos, Spock?” Kirk asked with a grin, his bright blue eyes twinkling almost mischievously.

Spock paused in surprise. “You have made use of such devices?”

“Yeah, so hurry up and fuck me.”

Spock tried not to imagine Jim alone in his dorm room, pushing large penis-shaped objects into himself. Though he was fighting a losing a battle with it, as the image was so compelling and the more he tried not to think of it, the more it appeared in the forefront of his mind.

Pulling his focus back to the moment, he hitched Kirk up then slowly lowered him onto his engorged flesh. The moment he breached the beautiful, tight body, Kirk whimpered and hissed, which caused Spock to pause.

“Don’t you dare fucking stop!”

Spock nodded and continued to lower the delectable body onto himself inch by incredible inch, until he was surrounded by tight, warm heat. Jim was too high up to kiss, but Spock did have easy access to his nipples which he readily lavished attention on, alternately tonguing and nibbling them until they were stiff and tender, as he waited for Jim’s body to stop spasming and adjust to him.

Through their body contact, he could sense the strongest of Kirk’s emotions, which at that point was mostly lust. As the constriction eased, he began to move, holding Kirk in place as he rocked his pelvis back and then thrust upward, causing Kirk to gasp. The feel of his penis sliding into and out of the tight sheath was sending him close to the edge before he’d properly begun, and he was obliged to still while he regained some modicum of control.

“Move, damnit!” Kirk demanded.

“I cannot. If I do, I will orgasm.”

“Isn’t that the point of this? Come on, give me all you’ve got. Fuck me senseless, Spock.”

The words inflamed him and he began to thrust in earnest, pushing Jim against the bookshelf, his head pressed against the spines of a row of books of Vulcan poetry. Several fell to the floor, Jim’s flailing hand managing to catch one and holding on to it as Spock moved his body in a frenzy of fervor, rocking against him, as he felt his orgasm building. Jim’s cock was sandwiched between them, pressed against his stomach and Spock regretted not having tasted it before they'd gotten into this position. It would be a treat he would savor later.

He felt his balls tighten and suddenly with a loud gasp, it felt as though his whole body was pulsating as he exploded into Jim, and impossibly the sensations intensified as Jim groaned and his rectal muscles contracted as he, in turn, spurted between them, bathing his chest in white ropes of cum.

For another minute, the only thing that could be heard was their panting breaths.

Entirely enervated, his muscles beginning to protest, Spock pulled his hips back, sliding out of the warm channel, and gently lowered Kirk to the floor. A moment later, he was surrounded by warm arms pulling him in for a long, languorous kiss.

Through their skin to skin contact, the lust had receded to be replaced by a feeling of an entirely different nature. They broke away and Kirk buried his face in Spock’s neck, gently nuzzling. Then he said something, but the sound was muffled.

“I beg your pardon?” Spock said trying to pull away so he could see Kirk’s face. But the cadet clung, limpet like to him and mumbled something again.

“I cannot hear you when your mouth is pressed to my neck.”

Kirk pulled back. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said, looking self-conscious.

Spock shook his head. “That is not what you said, though I appreciate the sentiment.” He had an idea what the words were that had been mumbled, but wished to be furnished with irrefutable proof.

He watched as Kirk flushed and closed his eyes. Then opening them, he was held by a steady, blue gaze. “You’re gonna make me fucking say it, aren’t you?” he smiled ruefully.

Spock allowed a small smile and watched in bemusement as Kirk surged towards him and kissed him hard then pulled away. “I love you, okay? There, I’ve actually said it.”

Spock’s gaze wandered around the angular lines of Jim’s face, realizing he’d done that so many times while they’d played chess, but never allowing himself to analyze what it was he was doing or why. “As I love you, t’hy’la. It is, indeed, a happy Valentine’s Day.”

“Let’s go back to your place,” Jim suggested, pulling his trousers up and then fastening the zipper on his jacket. “I should be ready for round two by the time we get there,” he grinned, waggling his eyebrows.

As they walked across the campus towards the instructor’s quarters, close but not quite touching, Jim said, “You do realize we’re going to have sickly pink anniversaries every year.”

“As long as chocolate is involved, I find I do not care.”

“You like chocolate?”

When Spock explained to a delighted Jim, he was assured of more Valentine's chocolate than he could ever comfortably consume.

~end~

[info]nix_this said in a comment: I'm dying to know how the academic hearing after the third Kobayashi Maru would play out in this universe, I can still see it happening, but OH! To be a fly on the wall for that argument (and possible make-up sex? Yes. Rawr).

I took this musing and the result is...click here >>> Academic Matters

This story was written around the gorgeous artwork by [info]soliandxpyne - story/art collaboration for [info]ksvalentine

Chapter End Notes:

 

Prompt: It’s Valentine’s Day at the Academy, and everyone thinks that Jim has totally wild plans with one or more of his girl-/boy-/alien-friends (maybe Jim encourages the rumors?). So it’s rather unexpected for Professor Spock to find the cadet spending the night studying at the library alone. Spock can’t help but indulge his curiosity by starting up a conversation... and they both end up finding more happiness than they expected from the day :) Bonus points if Spock has long been fascinated by smart!Kirk from afar, and extra super bonus points for library sexytimes. (OP = anon)

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