Spock sat in Starfleet Medical, trying to wait for Jim patiently. It was five minutes after he should have been out. He was considering getting up and asking the receptionist if anything was the matter when the door opened and Jim stepped out. He looked rather tired.
“Are you well?” Asked Spock, concerned.
“Yeah, fine.” Replied Jim. “I’ve just been really busy since last week. It’s not the computer stuff; Pike and Archer asked me to talk some more with some of the Axanar. Apparently, I made a good impression. They really seem to like me.”
“Really?” Asked Spock, surprised.
“Yeah, the higher ups want me to keep hanging out with them to help ensure that they have plenty of good reasons to want to join the Federation. Archer actually suggested that they give me one of those palm leaf medals, can you believe that? So, I’ll be talking to them about some of the human fertility treatments or alternatives.” He looked at the door. “Can we just get going? I don’t want to stay sanding still for too long. It almost feels like I could fall asleep on my feet.”
“Of course.” Said Spock quickly. They got on the shuttle as always, but Spock noticed that Jim seemed to take even longer than usual to carefully lower himself into his seat. “Are you experiencing much discomfort?” Jim shrugged.
“Nothing I’m not already used to. Besides,” he added with a little smile, “it’s just another month. I’ll be having my surgery April seventh after all.”
“Are they not concerned that you will be ready before then?” To him, Jim almost looked ready to burst.
“They want to keep him where he is for as close to forty weeks as possible. You know, to make sure he’s done and everything. But not for much longer than that; there is such a thing as a baby being ‘overdone.’ There are drugs that’ll keep me from going into labor if it starts for whatever reason. I may even have to go on bed rest for the last few days.” He snorted. “All our medical accomplishments and we still use things as old fashioned as bed rest.”
When they arrived at the park, Spock realized that he did not yet know where Jim might want to go today. When he asked, Jim just replied,
“Somewhere quiet would be nice.” They took the next shuttle to Rainbow Falls, a lovely and peaceful area. As they stood just out of reach of the spray, Jim closed his eyes with a relaxed look on his face.
“This is nice.” He murmured. He opened his eyes again. “I can’t believe I almost didn’t come here.” Spock looked at him, puzzled.
“You considered skipping this visit?” Jim seemed to hesitate.
“No. I mean that when Sam asked me to come to San Francisco, I almost didn’t, and when they first asked me to be their surrogate, I said no.” Now Spock was definitely surprised.
“Why?” Jim hesitated again, and he tried to retract the question. “You do not have to tell me.”
“No, it’s okay.” Replied Jim. “Our mom was out in space a lot, and left us with her brother, our uncle Frank. The only reason he was willing to do it was because it gave him a free place to stay. He was a drunk, and a mean one too. Not that he needed to be drunk to be mean. He just loved telling us that our mom needed to feel close to Dad so badly that she was willing to dump us to go back into space. He also liked to hit. Sam would usually act out to draw his attention away from me, and he was a lot better at dodging the punishment. I was kind of clumsy back then, and it didn’t take much to set Frank off, especially when he was drunk, which was pretty much most of the time.
One day, Frank wanted us to wash an antique car that had been Dad’s. Sam started yelling at him, calling him names and stuff, and they just had this huge screaming match. Then he left. Right before he did, he told me that the reason Frank wanted us to wash Dad’s car was so that he could sell it. He hadn’t talked to Mom about it or anything. Sam told me he thought I’d be fine, and he was gone. As bad as I was as a teenager and all that, I wasn’t much trouble as a little kid. But that was the last straw for me. I found the keys, started it up, and drove until I reached a quarry. Then I sent it over the edge. I almost didn’t jump out in time.” Spock was unable to completely mask his alarm at the thought.
“You might have been killed.” He admonished. Jim shrugged.
“Yeah, but I wasn’t. A cop had followed me there, and after he arrested me for speeding, theft, and destroying someone’s stolen property, I managed to tell him about Sam running away. The cop dropped me off at home before going to find Sam. He hadn’t gotten very far; he was still going down the highway when the cops caught up with him. By the time they got back, not only was Frank totally drunk, but I had a broken arm that wasn’t caused by anything involving the car. It was decided that Sam and I would go to foster homes for a while so they could investigate Frank. They told him that we were going to a juvenile corrections facility so he wouldn’t be suspicious and threaten us to keep it quiet or anything. Mom came home when she finally found out what was going on.”
“So she was unaware that your uncle was abusive to you?” Asked Spock for clarity. Jim shrugged.
“I really don’t know. All I know is, she had to come back once the police and social workers asked for her. Sam refused to come home though, and I didn’t see him much again for years. I think part of me still believes that he resented me for having to make himself a target to protect me, and resented Mom for letting it happen. Mom stayed home for the most part until I was fourteen, but we were never very close. I thought that by acting out some again, I’d get her to focus on the fact that things weren’t right between us. She ended up sending me to stay with some relatives on my dad’s side, and that worked out for a while. It didn’t last though.” He stopped here. He seemed to realize that Spock was waiting for him to continue and shrugged apologetically. “I’d rather not talk about that.”
“Of course.” Said Spock. Jim was already opening up quite a bit, so he wasn’t going to press matters. Jim continued after a moment.
“Anyway, one day, out of the blue, Sam calls me and asks if I’d be willing to come to San Francisco to meet him, and his wife. Imagine my shock at finding out that my brother, who I hadn’t seen more than a few times in over thirteen years, was married. I told him I had to think about it. I ended up deciding to go. I wanted to know just what he had to say to me after all those years. He seemed really happy to see me. We talked for hours about everything we’d been up to since he’d left home, and I was happy to just be there with my brother again.
Then, out of nowhere, he tells me that he and his wife can’t get pregnant, and the only way they can have a kid of their own is if they get a surrogate to carry it for them. I knew then that he was going to ask me. I always knew I carried that gene, and I as soon as he said that word, I knew he was going to ask me to do it for them. I called him an asshole and left. I’d rented a hotel room for a few days, and I figured I’d just hide out there if I had to. Sam tracked me down though, and Aurelan came with him. He apologized, and told me that he still wanted us to be brothers again, but begged me to reconsider.
Aurelan did too, and when she talked to me, I realized something. I used to watch this old TV show about a group of friends and their lives together. Two of those friends got married to each other and started trying to have a baby, but couldn’t. They decided to adopt instead, and when the husband was trying to convince this pregnant woman who was considering them, he referred to his wife as ‘a mother without a baby.’ I thought of that when I met Aurelan because I could see that’s what she was. She had a whole lot of love to give and no child to give it to. I think seeing how much she wanted to be a mother helped me see how much Sam wanted to be a father. I didn’t tell them yes right away, but I think that’s when I changed my mind. I went through all kinds of tests and treatments to make sure I’d be able to safely carry the baby, and then had the procedure done.” He shrugged. “You know the rest; we met like two weeks afterward.”
“Indeed.” Replied Spock quietly. It was quite a story. Jim’s entire family had been through a lot over the years. His own family history was complicated in some ways, but at least he had both of his parents, and neither one of them had simply left him to pursue things elsewhere. His father may have been somewhat harsh with him at times, but it was nothing like being beaten and demeaned by someone who was simply using a family member’s grief to their own advantage.
“When I was a child,” he said slowly, almost having to drag the words out, “I was often the target of ridicule from most of the people around me. My classmates in particular constantly attempted to provoke an emotional reaction from me, and on occasion, they succeeded. My father’s response this was to seek disciplinary action…for me. As far as he was concerned, the key to my having a better life was to be more Vulcan. However, I realized eventually that I could not be force myself to pretend that I was wholly Vulcan for the rest of my life. I chose to come here, to attend the Academy, and I have no regrets for my choice.” Jim looked at him thoughtfully.
“Thanks.” He said quietly. Spock knew Jim was thanking him for opening up in return, for exposing himself to the same vulnerability. Anything else that either of them might have said was interrupted by voices from behind.
It was two Axanar, along with a Starfleet appointed guide. They apparently recognized Jim and come over to chat. They mostly seemed interested in talking about his pregnancy, and Jim answered their questions and thanked them for their well-wishes. Eventually, then bade him farewell and went on their way.
“You seem to have become quite the celebrity in their eyes.” Remarked Spock. Jim shrugged.
“I guess so.” He seemed to look around at the view without actually seeing it. “I know I said I’d never want to join Starfleet, but I wonder if I was wrong to just say no. Helping convince these Axanar to join the Federation and help improve their lives has made me wonder if I should have at least considered it.” Spock felt a sliver of hope.
“It is not too late to begin considering it.” He said, trying his best to sound neutral. Jim shrugged again.
“Maybe.” He looked like he might say something else, then checked his watch abruptly. “Oh man, I can’t stay much longer. I have to get back and start packing.” Spock felt oddly like his stomach had somehow dropped to a lower point in his body.
“Why do you need to pack?” He asked, a little too hastily. “You still have one month left; why would you leave before then?”
“I’m not going back to Iowa yet,” explained Jim, “but Sam and Aury put off one really important thing since I was staying with them. They’re going to convert the guest room into a nursery, and I can’t be in there for that. Paint fumes and stuff, you know? Anyway, I need to get packed up in the next week and get a hotel room somewhere until it’s all done and aired out. First, they’ll need to get rid of all the furniture, then they’ll have to paint the room, and then they’ll have to get all the stuff for the baby moved in.” Spock found the idea of Jim being forced to relocate to some random hotel to be rather upsetting.
“Are there no other options?” He asked.
“Not really.” Replied Jim. “The only other thing I could think of is staying at Starfleet Medical, and unless I need to be under constant supervision, I don’t want to take up space that someone might need for an emergency.” Spock thought frantically. Then, he spoke without really thinking.
“You could make use of my room.” He blurted out. Jim looked startled.
“Are you serious?” Spock nodded. “Where would you sleep then? I guess if I slept during the day and you at night…” he trailed off. “I don’t know.”
“As you know, as a Vulcan, I require considerably less sleep than a human. You’re schedule would work, or I could request a cot brought to my room. It would be quiet, private, and you would be closer to Starfleet Medical in case there is an emergency with yours or the baby’s health.” Jim hesitated, but it was clear he was considering it.
“I…guess that sounds like a pretty good deal.” He finally said. “Let me at least call them first to see how they feel about it.” He pulled out his comm and then stepped several feet away to make the call. Spock almost felt as if the ground was spinning under his feet. He’d just offered to house Jim for an undetermined amount of time. Jim, who had never seen his quarters, was going to be bathing in his shower, sleeping in his bed. Suddenly, Spock felt a little lightheaded. He glanced over to where Jim stood, already ending his call. A woman suddenly stopped by him and gestured at his stomach, speaking softly with a smile on her face. Jim looked surprised, and then shook his head, replying something to her. She also looked surprised, then apologetic. She continued on her way, and Jim walked back over to him.
“Is something the matter?” Asked Spock.
“No, she was just congratulating me and my partner on our baby.” Spock must have looked confused, because he added. “She thought we were a couple and having a baby together. I told her I’m a surrogate. Sam and Aury are cool with me staying at your place, especially because of the whole ‘being closer to Starfleet Medical’ part. Are you sure it’s no inconvenience?”
“I am quite certain.” Replied Spock firmly. He couldn’t help but notice Jim hadn’t said anything about correcting the woman’s second erroneous assumption.
They stayed and admired the waterfall for a bit longer. Spock was impressed by how real it looked, considering it was manmade. Finally, the made to leave. Jim was no longer in the same hurry because he had no need to find a hotel for himself. Before they went their separate ways, Spock gave Jim his dorm building and room number, and Jim said,
“I’ll get my stuff there after my next appointment. Do you maybe want to wait there instead of coming to Bone’s office?”
“That is acceptable.” Spock replied.
All the following week, Spock was almost constantly distracted by thoughts of the fact that he and Jim were going to be cohabitating in his room. He’d already gotten permission from all the right higher ups, who thought it would be fine to help Jim, seeing as he was family to two Starfleet members and what he was doing for them. Perhaps if it went well, this would be an excellent addition to his growing list of reasons why a romantic relationship between them would be emotionally fulfilling.
The only real distraction he had from thinking of Jim living with him was his coursework, one assignment in particular: A research paper on Tarsus IV. Spock had no idea how to approach this. He wanted to do well, and live person interviews were the best way to secure a good grade. However, no one could interview the same person if they chose that route. He’d overheard one of his classmates bragging that he’d secured an interview with Captain Pike, who’d been on one of the relief ships sent to aid the colony. He’d heard another classmate mention that her uncle was a survivor of the famine. Spock didn’t know what he could do to top either one of those.
When the next weekend finally came, Spock stayed in his quarters, waiting for Jim’s arrival. Finally, someone requested entry at the door. Spock opened it quickly to see Jim standing there, smiling, with a few bags piled at his feet.
“Hey, roomie!” He said with a grin. Spock immediately set about helping Jim carry the bags inside. “This’ll just be for a few days, four at the most. Most of the time will be used for letting all the paint fumes out of the apartment.” He looked around. “Huh, it kind of looks like a college dorm. But I guess that’s to be expected, since this is a school.” Spock said nothing; he was too engrossed in the sight of Jim looking around his quarters. He was snapped out of it by Jim’s question. “You’re not used to sharing a room, are you?”
“I had a roommate on the ship, however the room was designed for two people, to allow them both their space.” He replied. Jim just nodded.
“Where should I put my stuff? I just brought some clothes, toiletries, and my baby bag.” He said, looking a little worried. No doubt he was concerned about how much space his things would take.
“You may place your clothing in the closet.” Replied Spock. “Your toiletries may go in the bathroom, and your bag may simply rest somewhere out off to the side. Now, were you wanting to go to the park today?” Jim nodded.
“I wouldn’t mind. Where would you want to go.” Spock thought for a moment.
“I believe we had to cancel plans to visit the Conservatory of Flowers previously. I would not be averse to seeing it today.” Jim grinned.
“Deal, just let me unpack first.” He started unpacking and quickly put his clothes into the closet. Then he took one of the other bags and went into the bathroom. After a moment, the sound of something falling and Jim’s cursing sounded from within.
“Crap, I knocked some stuff over!” Spock hurried in, more concerned that Jim would fall over in the small space if he attempted to pick anything up. It seemed that Jim had stumbled and slipped and partially dropped his bag, as well as tried to grab onto the shelf of the medicine cabinet to hold himself up. He saw that Jim’s bag had fallen open and its contents were all over the floor. He also saw a few of his own things mixed with them. He quickly bent down and began retrieving the objects, putting them back into the bag. Jim looked at something he’d placed in there curiously.
“I don’t think this is one of mine.” He held out a hypospray. Spock nearly froze when he saw it was one of his own.
“It is mine.” He said quietly, taking it from Jim. Jim looked at him with clear concern.
“Are you sick or something?” The worried look on his face made it impossible for Spock to even consider lying.
“I am not ill.” He replied softly. “It is a nasal numbing agent.” Now Jim just looked puzzled.
“Why do you need that?” Spock had to force himself to answer.
“It is a natural response for a Vulcan to be repulsed by someone who is carrying a child that is not their own. I felt this at our first meeting. However, as I have stated before, I wished to get to know you better due to your friendly attitude toward me. Not long after, I went to see my doctor, and he prescribed this for me.”
“Jeez, I had no idea you had any kind of problem with me.” Said Jim, clearly surprised. “I mean, when you told me that whole taboo thing about not staying close to a pregnant person, I figured that was the only reason you were uncomfortable at first, but you were really bothered by it, weren’t you?”
“It was a purely natural reaction; something I had absolutely no control over.” Replied Spock. “As I have said, I have no problem with you as a person. The numbing agent was simply a way of eliminating that natural reaction.”
“Wow.” Said Jim, looking thoughtful now. “You must really like me if you went to all that trouble.” Most Vulcans would have said that they did not ‘like’ anything, that it was simply the logical course of action to take.
“Indeed.” Was Spock’s reply. Jim seemed to snap out of his contemplative daze.
“I can finish this when we get back, I don’t want to stay out too late.” He seemed to freeze in place. “I can’t believe I just said that.” He shook his head with a grin. “It’s official, I’m a new man!”
They took their usual trip to Golden Gate Park and got on a shuttle that took them to the Conservatory of Flowers. The building itself was quite a sight to behold. It was by far the largest greenhouse Spock had ever seen, and Vulcan had quite a few of those. They took their time looking at the various plants, and Spock was struck once more by the variety that Earth had, all the different colors, shapes, and sizes of the various flowers and other plants. Spock was fascinated by all of the different plants and their native locations; desert, tropical, oriental, even some of the average houseplants that were displayed somewhat more casually than the ones considered more exotic in this region.
The only plants he found he did not care for were the carnivorous ones. Jim showed him a Venus flytrap, which was ‘tickled’ with a prod in order to demonstrate its closing reflex. The person tending the plant then went on to describe what would have happened had there been an actual insect inside the closed ‘mouth.’ The mouth became a stomach and digested the insect alive. Spock couldn’t help but feel slightly ill listening to the description. Jim seemed to realize that, because he excused them and they moved on.
“You okay?” He asked as they moved away from the exhibit.
“I am well.” Replied Spock. “I simply found the description of a living creature being digested to be somewhat…unnerving.” Jim nodded sympathetically.
“I think that actually creeps a lot of people out. I guess it’s understandable that you don’t like it, being a vegetarian and all.” Spock just nodded in reply. They spent a few hours going through the place. They might have gone faster, but Jim had to stop a few times to rest. Spock nearly suggested they leave more than once out of concern, but Jim seemed to be doing alright.
They left and headed back to the Academy. It was quite strange for Spock to not part ways with Jim before heading home. Instead, they went there together. Spock allowed Jim first use of the bathroom. Jim emerged in a large t-shirt and stretch pants. Spock immediately gestured to the bed.
“Please make yourself comfortable.” Was all he could think of to say. “If you do not mind, I will meditate for a while.” He pulled his mat down beside the bed.
“Okay, but just so you know, I may have to get up to go to the bathroom a few more times. That might bother you a bit.”
“It will be no trouble.” Assured Spock.
“Okay then.” Said Jim. “Goodnight Spock.”
They settled in for the night.
For the next two days, Spock felt a level of contentment that far surpassed the usual one he felt in Jim’s presence. He and Jim didn’t get to see each other too much; they both slept at night and he had classes during the day. But they took meals together and took any additional time they could to talk about whatever came to mind. They discussed his projects, literature, and anything else they could think of. Jim had been quite pleased to hear that Spock’s Ethics report on King Henry VIII had received the top grade in the class.
“That’s fantastic!” He exclaimed. “I bet your instructor didn’t expect you to pick such an emotional subject.”
“I believe you are correct.” Replied Spock. “I do not think she expected a Vulcan to have much of an opinion on ethical matters. My next project may not do so well.”
“Why not? What’s the subject?” Asked Jim.
“I am doing a research paper on Tarsus IV. While I have more than enough sources, the only way to make my story stand out at all is to find someone with whom to do a live interview. I know of at least two classmates who have already secured such an interview with a rescue worker and a survivor. I do not know what I can do to add any noticeable originality to my own paper.” Jim was looking at him in a way that Spock could only describe as…searching.
“Do you really want to get the best grade in the class? I mean, a lot of people might not be willing to talk about something like that.” Spock almost frowned.
“It is not my easiest subject; humans use a great deal of emotion in deciding ethical rules. I do wish to do well, but I would certainly never force someone to relive an unpleasant experience to achieve my goal. I would rather settle for a lesser grade than do such a thing.” Jim nodded, looking almost deathly serious. Then he spoke.
“I know someone you can interview.” Spock looked at him, startled.
“Me.” Pausing for a moment to let Spock digest that. “I was on Tarsus IV.”