“Do you want to explain that again?” Jim leaned back and looked at his First Officer, who was seated on the other side of Jim’s desk in his quarters, trying to look calm and failing utterly (at least to Jim’s eyes, but then, Jim had spent a lot of time observing Spock over the last 14 months).
“I must request leave on Vafer-Tor to deal with a…personal matter,” Spock repeated.
“Is Sarek ill?” Jim was immediately concerned. Spock’s father, now living in the new Vulcan Colony, was almost the only family he had left, thanks to that fucking psycho Nero, who had managed to practically wipe Vulcans out of this universe all together.
Spock shook his head. “My father’s health is optimum,” he replied.
“Okay, then what personal matter?” Jim persisted. “Come on, Spock,” he said as his First Officer hesitated. “We’re friends, or at least I’d like to think so. What’s going on?”
In all honesty, Jim dearly, deeply wanted to be far more than friends. He’d wanted that ever since he’d met this Spock’s older incarnation, a really ancient, really wonderful version from a parallel universe. They’d encountered each other on an ice rock called Delta Vega where that Spock, who was now calling himself Selik, had saved Jim from becoming a human-sicle for a member of the indigenous life. Old Spock/Selik had saved Jim’s admittedly fine ass, hauled him off to a cave to warm up, and instigated some kind of brain-melting information swap (he called it a mind-meld), which had not only brought them both up to speed on what was happening but had inadvertently downloaded an entire lifetime of memories, cherished memories of a life shared between Selik and another James Kirk, mental glimpses of love and loyalty (and let’s be honest, sex hot enough to melt deck plates) into Jim’s brain. Ever since that incandescent moment, Jim had wanted what his counterpart once had; he wanted Spock, his Spock, not just for a roll in the hay (or in those Starfleet-issue blankets) but for life.
Considering that Spock had already tried to have him thrown out of the Academy and later tried to kill him, one might think that Jim had bitten off more than he could chew. But in any universe, James T. Kirk didn’t believe in no-win scenarios. He was also a master strategist, and he laid out his campaign for Spock with a care and precision that was almost Vulcan in its intensity.
And it seemed to be working. The two of them had gradually progressed from enemies to allies to friends. They now worked together as smoothly as two hands on the same being, and they spent a good deal of their free time together, playing chess, talking, walking the corridors of the Enterprise, even watching movies in Jim’s quarters. And the more Jim got to know Spock, the real Spock, the one hidden behind the mask of Vulcan perfection, the less it mattered that once another Spock and Jim had loved. Jim was now certain he would have fallen in love with this Spock no matter what the rest of the universes did. Now his Spock was troubled, and Jim was determined to understand.
Spock sighed. “It is…a very private matter,” he said in a low voice, not meeting Jim’s eyes.
Jim decided to go for broke, so he reached across the desk and laid one hand very lightly over Spock’s clenched fists. “I can’t order you to tell me,” he said quietly, “and I wouldn’t presume to do so. But I can tell this is bothering you, and if I can help, I’d like to.”
“There is nothing you can do,” Spock replied, but he didn’t move his hand, which Jim took as a very good sign. Spock sat silently for a few moments, and then he sighed again, raising his eyes to Jim’s.
“It is a matter of…biology,” he said at last, the low voice sounding almost shamed.
Jim stared at him blankly. “Biology.”
The tips of Spock’s ears turned a wonderful shade of pine green. “Vulcan biology,” he mumbled. Spock never mumbled.
Jim felt as if he’d just stepped through the looking glass. “The biology of Vulcans? Biology as in…reproduction?” Spock nodded, plainly miserable, his whole face slowly turning green.
Jim found himself patting Spock’s hand while still fumbling for words, his mind trying to wrap itself around the fact that he and Spock were apparently about to discuss The Facts of Life. “Spock, that’s…that’s nothing to be ashamed of. I mean, it happens to the birds and the bees.”
The look Spock gave him could have melted the paint right off the walls. “The birds and the bees are not Vulcan.”
Jim couldn’t help but grin slightly. “Point taken,” he said. He reluctantly removed his hand and sat back. “So, you have to go home and…pollinate?”
Once again, Spock gave him that look, but Jim could also catch the faintest glint of humor in his eyes, and the rigid Vulcan spine relaxed ever so slightly.
“Not exactly,” he replied. He was silent again, and Jim waited patiently. Finally, Spock said, “Like most Vulcans, I was betrothed at a very young age. My intended, T’Pring, was studying on Earth when…when…that day occurred.”
“I see,” Jim said softly. He knew what ‘that day’ was. For every Vulcan, probably until the end of time, ‘that day’ would only have one meaning.
“She is now on Vafer-Tor,” Spock continued quietly. “She…The High Council has sent word that the time for us to bond is fast approaching and that she demands I do my duty by her and our families. Therefore, I must go.”
‘But…wait a minute.” Jim was bewildered and worse, his gut ached at the thought of Spock marrying some chick he’d obviously had very little contact with, just because the High and Mighty Pointy-Ears said he had to. “Spock, do you want to marry her?”
Spock shook his head, that subtle look of misery even more obvious. “I have no desire to be bonded to her. However, it is not about my wants,” he said carefully. “We do not want each other; T’Pring has always resented being matched with an ‘experimental freak,’ I believe she called me. However, there is a…biological imperative. It is called…pon farr, the time of mating. I have not yet experienced this, perhaps because of my hybrid physiology. However, T.Pring’s Time approaches, and she must mate. She could die if the need is not met. Therefore, I must return and we must bond in order to…relieve her.”
“But Spock…Jesus Christ, that’s practically prostitution!” Jim exploded. “You can’t possibly want to go to Vafer-Tor and…service this chick who doesn’t even like you!” He drew a deep breath, trying to calm down, trying to find a cogent argument.
“Spock,” he said quietly, “you can’t do this. You…you deserve far more from a partner than just being used as a biological convenience. You deserve someone who cares for you, someone who wants you to be happy.” (Like me for instance). “Please, please don’t throw yourself away just because your culture says you should. There must be another way.”
Spock shook his head. “Jim, I appreciate your concern,” he said softly. Jim was briefly startled; Spock almost never called him by name.
“However,” Spock continued, “I cannot shame my family by abandoning T’Pring in her time of need. I must go and do what is necessary.”
Jim sighed and nodded. “I know how much your family’s honor means to you,” he replied quietly. “I’ll contact Chris Pike and get us diverted to Vafer-Tor.”
“Thank you.” Spock rose and started towards the door. He turned back to look at Jim.
“I…thank you for caring,” he said quietly. “Thank you for wishing my happiness. However, I am afraid that is not a factor here.” The door opened and shut; Spock was gone. Jim sat frowning down at his desktop, thinking furiously. This whole biological cluster-fuck was a no-win scenario, and James T. Kirk didn’t believe in no-win scenarios. He hit his comm. button and contacted Uhura on the Bridge.
“I need you to put in a call to Vafer-Tor, Lieutenant,” he said. I need to consult my resident expert on all things Spock.
The Enterprise was in orbit around Vafer-Tor, the new colony world that had been scouted and settled by the remnant of the Vulcan people, including one cold-hearted bitch named T’Pring.
Jim and Leonard McCoy, dressed in their Starfleet formal uniforms, were waiting in the Transporter Room when Spock arrived, also dressed in his best. The Vulcan was plainly startled to see Jim there.
“Captain, I…” Jim cut him off gently but firmly.
“I checked.” He didn’t mention who he checked with, but Spock could probably guess. “By tradition, the male is accompanied by his closest friends. Sort of like a best man/groomsman thing on Earth. Well, as far as I know, Bones and I are your best friends.”
“And what a sad commentary that is,” Bones chimed in with a grin.
“So we’re coming along,” Jim continued. “You need somebody in your corner.” More than you know.
Spock regarded them thoughtfully and then, much to Jim’s relief, he nodded. “Thank you,” he said simply. “I am honored that you would stand by me during this time.”
“Don’t mention it,” Bones said as they mounted the transporter platform. “And I mean that. Don’t ever mention it. If it gets out that I was wingman to a hobgoblin, my reputation is ruined.”
“Your reputation was ruined the day you barfed on me in a shuttlecraft,” Jim snickered. He nodded to the Transporter tech. “Energize.”
They materialized at the coordinates Spock had given the Transporter Room, right outside something that looked a bit like a cross between a YMCA and a Greek temple. They were standing in some kind of courtyard, with an entrance at the north and another at the south. The space was largely bare, except for some kind of platform at the far end, where a large gong hung. There was a small group of Vulcans waiting for them, including Sarek, Selik (who was officially a member of Spock’s Clan, despite the whole temporal displacement thing), a half-dozen Vulcans, four males and two females, who looked to be approximately Spock’s age, T’Pau, the Clan Matriarch, who was seated on some kind of throne near the gong platform with an attendant on either side, and an exquisitely beautiful young woman wearing a formal-looking silver gown and a huge scowl. Jim assumed that this was T’Pring. In another moment, he was certain of it. Jesus, imagine trying to work up the wood to hit that. I don’t think I could do it.
“You are late.” She stood in front of Spock, snapping off her words and looking like she’d like to snap off his head as well. He inclined his head in a formal gesture.
“I am here as I promised,” he replied calmly. She only sniffed, turned on her heel, and stalked over to T’Pau.
“Let us begin.” Jim, watching carefully, saw T’Pau’s eyebrow almost crawl off her forehead at the note in T’Pring’s voice.
“Child,” the elder said gently, “thy Time may have arrived, but thy manners have fled. Find them, I ask of thee.”
Even from a distance of twenty feet, Jim could see the dull green blush wash over T’Pring’s face. “I ask forgiveness.” She didn’t sound like she meant it.
T’Pau looked towards Spock, Jim, and Bones. “Spock? Thee brings outworlders to our place of Marriage and Challenge?”
“They are not outworlders, Elder.” Spock’s voice was respectful but firm. “They are my friends. I am permitted this.”
“And how does thee answer for their behavior?”
“With my life,” Spock replied, still firm. T’Pau nodded, just as T’Pring once again stepped forward.
“May we please proceed?” At least to Jim’s ears, she sounded less horny than simply exasperated. However, T’Pau nodded.
“It is time.” Jim, watching Spock closely, saw the faint but definite droop in his shoulders as he strode forward, facing T’Pring. She reached out and picked up a mallet, striking the gong.
“Kal-i-fee,” she proclaimed. Jim exchanged a quick glance with Selik, who stood nearby, dressed in a formal robe, hands clasped. The slight nod of the old Vulcan’s head might have been put down to age, if anyone had been paying attention. Jim nodded back, just as faintly, as Spock picked up the mallet and prepared to bang the gong as well.
In an instant, Jim had sprinted forward, flinging out a hand between the mallet and the gong. “Kal-i-far!” he called clearly.
In a blink of an eye, all Hell broke loose—at least by Vulcan standards. T’Pring whirled on T’Pau. “No!” she cried, literally stamping her foot. “The man is mine! It was agreed!”
“I challenge,” Jim said calmly. “I challenge for possession of the man Spock.”
“Thee cannot challenge,” T’Pau told him, shock evident in her voice (and how long has it been since anybody shocked this old broad? Jim thought with an inner grin). “Thee are not of our people.”
“There is nothing in your laws to prevent the challenge,” Jim replied, silently blessing Selik for drilling him. “Spock does not wish this bond. He has the right to a champion. I proclaim myself as such, and I will fight for him.” Jim saw T’Pring glaring at him, and he matched her glare for glare. Screw you, you little bitch-princess. You can have him over my cold, dead body. Jim sincerely hoped it wouldn’t come to that, but he wasn’t going to deliver Spock to this man eater without a fight.
“Spock,” T’Pau turned to him. “Does thee accept this human as thy champion?” Jim held his breath, silently pleading as his eyes met Spock’s. Please, take what I’m offering, he thought. Remember what I told you. You deserve so much more than you’re getting. Please, Spock, let me.
After an endless moment, Spock nodded. “I accept, as is my right, the champion who has offered for me,” he said solemnly.
“Are thee are prepared to be the property of the victor, as our laws and customs dictate?” T’Pau persisted. Property? Jim’s ears perked up. Now that sounds damned appealing. For just a moment, visions of Spock handcuffed to his bunk danced before Jim’s eyes.
Spock nodded again. “I am prepared.”
“No!” T’Pring shouted. “I will not fight him! This is a degradation! I will not soil my hands on a human!”
“If you want Spock, you damned well will!” Jim had frankly had enough of her.
“So you would strike a defenseless female?” she sneered.
“No, but I’d knock you on your ass with a smile on my face,” Jim retorted. He turned to T’Pau.
“Elder, my offer stands,” he said. “I will fight for Spock as is required. However, if the lady does not wish to fight, I understand she can choose a champion from those assembled here.” His eyes went to the group of young Vulcans standing by. “That is, of course, if any of them wish to claim her.” Much to Jim’s inner amusement, the young men present all took a step back, subtly but clearly indicating that they wanted nothing to do with this. Secretly, Jim was relieved. Having fought Spock once, he was pretty sure that any one of these guys could kill him without even breaking a sweat. He might be able to defeat T’Pring—maybe.
Unless Jim was very much mistaken, T’Pau was fighting t hide a smile as she turned back to T’Pring. “Child,” she said solemnly, “there is none here who is willing to champion thee. Does thee propose to fight this human, or will thee relinquish thy claim on Spock?”
T’Pring took a deep, shuddering breath. “I will relinquish,” she whispered, “but…I burn.” She shuddered, plainly holding on to control by her toenails, and for the first time, Jim felt faintly sorry for her.
T’Pau nodded. “There is a remedy,” she said. “One of thy contemporaries, Stonn of the House of Relik, has lately entered into his Time. He seeks a mate. His family is not of thy rank, but such things no longer matter. Will thee accept him, my child, and save both of thee from the flames?”
T’Pring bowed her head. “I will accept,” she said faintly.
“So be it.” T’Pau nodded to one attendant. “Escort the Lady to the House of Healing. Let her and Stonn be joined in the fires.”
T’Pring gave Spock and Jim one more scowl and then she left, accompanied by T’Pau’s flunky. T’Pau turned to Sarek.
“Sarek of the House of Surak,” she said. “James of the House of Kirk has challenged for thy son. They will be bonded, as is our law. Does thee accept the lawful result of this day’s events?”
Sarek looked like someone had run over him with a shuttle, Jim noted, tamping down on hysterical laughter. Of course, Bones looked the same. Only Selik wore that serene look of a Vulcan who is completely at peace with the universe.
“I…” Sarek took a deep breath and visibly pulled himself together. “James has acted honorably and within the bounds of our laws and traditions,” he acknowledged. “The challenge was answered fairly. Spock is his.”
T’Pau nodded and then turned back to Jim and Spock. “Kneel,” she requested. Her voice, while soft, was implacable. They both dropped to their knees before her. She reached out, one parchment-thin hand on each temple.
“Parted,” T’Pau whispered, “and ever parted. Never and always touching and touched…”
They had beamed back on board, after dinner with Sarek and Selik, who was pretty obviously delighted by this turn of events.
“I must congratulate you, my young friend,” he said to Jim. “My Jim nearly died at the Place of Marriage and Challenge.”
“Well, what can I say—I’m a born diplomat.” Jim grinned. He glanced at Spock, who was talking with Sarek across the room. “Thanks for all the cultural information,” he murmured.
“I was happy to help,” Selik said fondly.
Just before they signaled the ship, Jim grabbed Bones and dragged him into a handy corner.
“Not one word about what happened today, or I’ll bust you down to bed pan-washing ensign,” Jim promised. “I need to tell the brass, and Spock needs time to decide how he wants to handle all this.”
Bones held up both hands, palms out. “Not a word,” he promised. “Besides, no one would believe me if I told them that Jim Kirk, chivalrous knight par excellence, offered to kick a Vulcan chick’s ass so he could marry his First Officer. Hell, I was there, and I don’t think I believe it!”
Once on board, Jim went to the Bridge and gave Sulu orders to take them out of Warp and head for Starbase Two, their next stop. Then he went to his cabin. He really wanted to talk with Spock; they hadn’t had a chance to do so on the planet, and anyway, Jim wanted more privacy. He wasn’t sure how Spock was taking all this. Sure, Spock had agreed to let Jim be his champion, but he probably hadn’t expected T’Pau to turn around and bond them on the spot. Frankly, Jim hadn’t expected that either, but he was more than okay with it. His fingers gently brushed the spot that T’Pau had touched, feeling something like an electric current run through him. He was quite satisfied with the day’s events—not perfectly satisfied, because he didn’t know how Spock was going to react. He accepted you as his champion, Jim reminded himself. Yeah, but that may only have been because compared to T’Pring, I looked sane.
Jim sighed and settled down to his paperwork. He wanted nothing more than to go to Spock, but some instinct told him to let Spock come to him.
Just before midnight, his patience paid off.
“Come,” Jim called as his door chimed. The door slid open and Spock…stalked, that was the only word for it…into the room. For the second time in just over 24 hours, Jim found himself the recipient of a Vulcan’s scowl.
“Hey,” Jim said, trying to keep from grinning like an idiot. Despite the fact that this was probably going to be ugly, he still couldn’t get over the fact that he and Spock were bond mates.
“Do you have any idea what you did today? Are you completely insane?”
Jim stiffened slightly. Whatever opening line he’d expected, it wasn’t that. “Yeah,” he retorted. “I know what I did. I got hitched to my Vulcan First Officer, thereby saving him a lifetime of misery with that bitch in silver slippers!” He scowled up at Spock and then slowly shook his head.
“Look,” he said more quietly, gesturing to a chair, “would you please sit down? Craning my neck up at you will just give me a headache.”
Spock dropped into the chair and stared at Jim. “You do not seem to grasp the gravity of this situation.”
“In other words, I’m a moron, huh?” Jim looked at Spock, faintly exasperated. “Do you really think I just stumbled onto a solution to your problem? I talked to Selik, right after you were here in my quarters telling me you had to go marry that horny bitch or wreck your family’s reputation. Selik gave me a very thorough tutorial in Vulcan marriage customs, and I acted accordingly. In other words, I knew what the fuck I was doing.”
Spock stared at him, and Jim savored the rare achievement of seeing his Vulcan completely speechless.
“You…knew what you were doing.”
“Of course I did.”
“But…we are bonded. Vulcans bond for life.”
“Yeah, I know that too,” Jim said. “And I’m sorry that I stuck you with me, but I guess I thought if you only had two choices, you’d be happier with a moronic human bond mate than a psycho bitch Vulcan chick who thinks you’re a, what was it, an experimental freak?” Jim smiled gently. “I don’t think you’re a freak,” he said quietly. He sat back and gave Spock a moment.
“But…you cannot marry another,” Spock said. “This is not like a one-year Federation marriage contract. To ask to dissolve the bond after you challenged T’Pring…”
“Spock.” Jim leaned forward, the azure eyes serious. “I don’t want to dissolve the bond,” he continued gently. “I wanted to bond with you.”
“But why?” Spock sounded so lost that Jim’s heart ached to simply get up, walk around his desk, and take Spock into his arms, but he thought that would probably be pushing it. So he settled for the next best thing. He stretched out the first two fingers of his right hand in a gesture that Selik had showed him.
“I know this doesn’t make a damned bit of sense,” Jim continued softly, “but the fact is, I’m…I’m in love with you. I have been for months, but frankly, I wasn’t sure how to show it. You don’t eat chocolate, and you don’t seem like the red roses type. So I…I gave you the only thing I could, myself. If you’re really unhappy about this, we’ll wait until the fuss dies down and we’ll get the bond dissolved. I mean, we’ll probably have to wait 60 or 70 years, because I’m guessing T’Pring will hold a grudge from now until she hits menopause, but…”
“Jim.” Slowly, Spock reached out his own hand and lightly touched Jim’s fingers, Jim feeling that electric current that he’d felt when T’Pau had bonded them. He hoped against hope that Spock felt it as well. Judging from the sudden light in those deep brown eyes, Spock did.
“You are…in love with me.” Spock gently slid his fingers along Jim’s.
Jim nodded. “Yep.”
“You challenged for me because you wanted me to belong to you.”
“Yeah, I did,” Jim admitted softly. “Frankly, Spock, I can’t think of anything I’d like more—unless I could belong to you as well, just like you belong to me.”
Slowly, Spock’s fingers curled around Jim’s. His eyes never leaving Jim’s, Spock rose to his feet, still holding onto Jim’s hand. He pulled gently, and Jim found himself on his feet, moving around his desk until they were face-to-face, still hand-clasped. Spock raised his free hand and gently traced the outlines of Jim’s lips.
“You are correct about one matter,” he whispered.
“Yeah?” Jim was almost breathless as he felt those hot fingers ghost across his lips.
“Yes.” Spock’s eyes smiled. “A moronic human—a moronic, brave, loyal, loving human—is a far better bond mate than a psychotic Vulcan female.”
“I’m glad we agree,” Jim breathed, just before Spock’s mouth found his.
No petition for the dissolution of the bond was ever filed—not then, not in 70 years.