"Captain? Do you have a moment?"
Jim had many moments, but most of them were filled to overflowing with the minutiae of being a captain. Whether or not he had a moment for Spock depended very much on what Spock wanted a moment for. Unfortunately, he couldn't ascertain that without revealing the possibility of having a moment, and if he had a moment for one thing, why not for whatever?
"Sure," Jim said. "Have a seat."
Spock sat, not exactly looking at him, and then continued not looking at him for long enough that Jim could have realistically accomplished many of the tasks that filled his overflowing moments.
"What can I do for you?" Jim asked.
"I…" Spock got only one word out before he trailed off and resumed his silence.
After letting another moment pass, Jim prodded again. "Is there a verb in that sentence?"
"I am seeking… advice."
Jim waited for elaboration that didn't come, so he offered the first advice that came into his head. "Never eat yellow snow."
Spock blinked at him. "Pardon?"
"Never mind. A particular kind of advice?"
"Yes," Spock looked away again. "You… during our last shore leave, it was implied that you… that you were…"
"Spit it out, Spock."
"Females find you very attractive."
Jim cleared his throat. "Um…"
"I wish… that is, I desire… Well…"
Jim held up a hand. "I think I understand what you're saying, and I appreciate it. I really do. But it will pass. You just got an idea in your head and you're having a hard time dislodging it. But seriously, Spock, it will go away. In the mean time, just try to avoid doing anything you'll regret, or anything that will change things. We have to strike a delicate balance up here, you know?"
Spock finally looked squarely at him. "You believe I ought not discuss my desires? I was under the impression that humans spoke openly of their desires."
"Sometimes," Jim said. "Not always. Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor, you know?"
"How does one advance a relationship if one does not reveal…?"
"Well, first you have to evaluate whether or not the relationship needs to be advanced, and if it needs to be advanced so quickly. Sometimes the risk is greater than the potential for reward. Some relationships simply aren't practical. You and I—"
"I am speaking of Nyota."
"—would be an example of a relationship that would not be practical," Jim compensated. "By contrast, you and Nyota share a certain—I believe I understand what you see in her," he finished lamely. Nyota? Either Spock was extremely discreet or Jim was extremely distracted. He'd thought that whatever Nyota and Spock had was over.
"I do not believe she sees anything comparable in me."
"I'm sure she does," Jim said. "She's not an idiot. The advice you were asking for… What is it?"
"I would like to indicate my interest to Nyota, but I am not sure what to do."
"Oh." Jim thought for a second, then said, more or less off-handedly, "Give her flowers or chocolates or something. Chicks dig that shit."
The following morning, Spock arrived in the mess hall with a potted plant and a brick of chocolate. He presented both of these to a baffled Uhura, and Jim had to leave before he started laughing. At noon, Spock joined him for lunch.
"I am not sure that my gifts were appropriate."
"That was my fault ," Jim told him. "I wasn't very specific. It's okay, though. It's the thought that counts, and I think we can still recover."
"Let's try dinner. You eat dinner together, right?"
"Many evenings, yes."
"But you usually eat in the mess hall, and there's nothing special about that. You want to show her that you want to spend time with her alone. Just the two of you. Where might you do that?"
Spock thought for a moment, but didn't offer any suggestions.
"Something quiet, where you could maybe sit and talk someplace private."
"We could sit and talk nearly anywhere on the ship."
Jim sighed. "I was thinking along the lines of your quarters."
"You believe I should invite her to dine in my quarters?"
"That's a splendid idea!" Jim said. "So, what are you going to serve her?"
"There is typically a wide variety of selections available from the food synthesizers—"
"Pick something she'll like and have it there already. And while you're eating, pay attention to what she is saying and respond in a way that will indicate that you're interested in her, and that you notice the things she does. After dinner, test the waters a little. See if she's up for a little intimacy, but don't push her. Take it slow—hold her, maybe a little kissing, hold her hand. Compliment her—pick a feature somewhere from the shoulders up. Then, at the end of the evening, escort her back to her quarters."
Spock nodded slowly. "Thank you, Captain. You have given me much to consider."
The following evening, Jim did not see Spock in the mess hall. He grinned like a fool as he joined Bones at a table.
"You sure look proud of yourself," Bones said.
"Spock's got a date with Uhura."
"And you're preening over that?"
"Well, I gave him a little advice."
"You're helping him get the girl you've been drooling over for three years and you're proud of yourself for it?"
Jim chewed thoughtfully on a bite of meatloaf. "Yeah," he said. "I actually am."
"What kind of advice are you giving him? The kind that will send her running to a man who knows what he's doing?"
Jim considered that. It wasn't such a bad idea.
Nyota couldn't keep the smile off her face as she rang Spock's door. After four years of flirting with him in the Academy, and another six months of being supportive after his unimaginable loss, and another three months of serving with him on the Enterprise, she finally had something that could reasonably be termed a date with him.
He had asked her to join him for a private dinner in his quarters. She could have giggled out of sheer joy, but she doubted he would appreciate that so she did her best to remain as dignified as she could while she waited for him to answer the door.
She had already told herself that she was not expecting candlelight and wine and romantic music. She was going to be excited that things were progressing at all.
He answered the door with a cordial, if unemotional greeting and ushered her in.
"I am honored that you elected to join me," he told her as she sat at the desk, which he had cleared off to make a small table.
"I am honored that you invited me," she replied. She sniffed discreetly at the air, trying to guess what was under the dome-covered trays. She couldn't smell anything. "May I?" she asked, indicating the platter.
"Please," he said.
She lifted the dome and peered under it…
At a salad.
Mostly greens, a few shreds of other vegetables, and a little drizzle of vinaigrette. "It looks delicious," she said. There wasn't much point in hoping it was an appetizer.
"I hoped it would be appropriate."
Appropriate? She hoped she wasn't staring at him the way she'd stared when he handed her a brick of baker's chocolate and a potted pepper plant. It was shameful that as a xenolinguist she hadn't realized that he was giving her flowers and chocolates. She tried to imagine what he was telling her now.
The only thing she could think was that she was gaining weight. Which she knew she was. Earlier that week she had noticed that her dress was a little tighter than it was supposed to be, especially across the hips. She'd been eating salads since then.
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"No," she assured him. "Not at all. Thank you." She took a bite of her salad. It was very bland.
They ate their greens in awkward silence. She wondered what he was thinking. She was thinking about her hips and trying to convince herself that he wasn't. She was also trying to convince herself that she wasn't a coward for not asking outright.
Except she was, or she would ask. Given the two choices, she decided she was not a coward and she asked, even though she was afraid he would answer.
"Do you think I've gained weight?"
He finished chewing a mouthful of leaves, put down his fork and tilted his head to the side, considering her.
Of course he would ask her to clarify the question.
"Since whenever," she said.
He thought for a moment. "Since we first met, I estimate that you have gained seventeen pounds."
"Seventeen?" she repeated.
"I cannot say precisely. Your cadet uniform did not reveal gradual changes while you were in the Academy. You may have gained as much as 25 pounds."
Her mouth dropped open.
"I believe you have gained approximately seven pounds since our tour began."
She couldn't even find words.
He finally seemed to realize how horrified she was. "Your weight is healthy," he told her.
She put her fork down. "I don't think I'm hungry anymore," she said, standing.
Spock stood as well. "Are you leaving?"
"Do you want me to stay?" Why should he want her to stay? Twenty-five pounds? At that rate, she wouldn't even qualify for the service in another five years.
"It is your choice, of course. I simply had not expected you to leave so quickly."
"No?" she asked. "What did you have in mind?"
He looked charmingly doubtful. She always thought he looked charming when he was out of his element, which he often was when they were together. He surprised her to no end when he leaned forward and kissed her cheek.
"You have lovely teeth," he informed her, quite earnestly.
For a moment, she stared at him, too stunned to say or do or think anything. It suddenly hit her what he was doing, and she didn't know whether to laugh or cry. It was almost charming, except that it reminded her of every other guy who had ever been more successful and she experienced a sickening jolt of realization that if his aim had been just a little better, she would have fallen for it, lock, stock and barrel.
She almost left.
But the realization that a few empty words and gestures were all she needed to be lulled into 'believing' that there was anything between them was a double-edged blade. She also found herself accepting the reality of the situation—that she was attracted to him, and under other circumstances she would have done anything he suggested.
Her eyes strayed to his bed.
He had never suggested anything like that before, but that was the assumed target of his fumbling attempts at… A linguist should not have struggled to find a word for what Spock was attempting to do. Nyota didn't really struggle, she just didn't like the word that kept presenting itself.
He was courting her. Romantic notions of medieval chivalry aside, courting was a precursor to mating, in any culture and any species.
She was suddenly very aware that she hadn't had sex in seven months.
"You don't have to try to impress me," she told him, reaching for him. She slid her hands up over his chest and clasped her fingers behind his neck. "You could have had me any time you wanted over the last three years." She stood on her toes so she could reach his lips with hers.
If she had expected him to be more responsive than he had been in the past when she tried that, she was fooling herself. Kissing him was, as always, like kissing a brick wall.
Except this time he reached behind his neck for her hand, which he brought back around in front of him. He patted it twice, then let go.
"Shall I walk you back to your quarters?" he asked.
Jim was on overnight shift the next day, and the following day, Spock was. Their schedules did not coincide until the day after that.
During Spock's absence from the bridge, Jim had the opportunity to observe Uhura, and from her visibly sour mood, he suspected that Spock had not succeeded in wooing her.
He felt a little guilty about that, even though he had nothing to feel guilty over. He had given Spock the best tried-and-true advice he had. Bones hadn't even planted the idea in his head about trying to sabotage their relationship until after Jim had sent Spock on his way. He could honestly say that he had nothing to do with Spock's failure to this point.
So maybe his guilt was preemptive. Because he knew he was about to…
Uhura looked miserable.
He really didn't care much for the idea of hurting her, even indirectly, just so he could swoop in and rescue her
She seemed to sense his gaze, and when she looked up, their eyes met for a moment. He mustered a cheeky grin, and her mood seemed to lift for a moment as she returned his smile before going back to her panel.
When Jim did finally catch up to Spock again, it was because Spock sought him out in his quarters.
"I believe I have damaged the friendship I share with Uhura," Spock informed him without preamble.
That just twisted the blade of guilt and shame in Jim's gut. He gestured to a chair, where Spock sat. "Why do you think that?"
"She speaks civilly to me when our positions require exchange, but that is all."
"Have you tried speaking to her?"
"Yes. She answered as was required."
"Have you tried speaking to her outside of the job?" Jim amended.
"She has always spoken to me—"
"Grow a pair and talk to her!" Jim snapped. "You're a grown man. You don't need me to tell you to talk to her if you want to talk to her!"
Spock grew very quiet and Jim sighed.
"I'm sorry, Spock. I shouldn't have snapped at you—"
"It is quite all right. You are correct, of course. It was foolish of me to seek your advice on this matter."
"No," Jim said. "You can ask my advice about anything you want. I forget that you have all the same feelings I do. We've all felt a little insecure around a woman we liked."
Spock considered that. "You are right, of course. This is not logical. I am succumbing to my emotions—"
"Don't go all Vulcan on her," Jim interrupted. "This doesn't have much to do with logic."
If Spock were entirely human, he would have deflated. Since he was half Vulcan, his shoulders slumped almost imperceptibly.
"Just talk to her."
"What do I say?"
Jim's pang of guilt returned, which was his clue that he was considering advising Spock to do something that he knew wouldn't work. He had to live with himself though. Even though the thought of Spock and Uhura together irritated him a little more every day.
"Just be honest and tell her how you feel and what you want," Jim said finally.
Spock nodded, and Jim could almost imagine how that conversation was going to go. He should have done something about it right then. Spock might be about to hang himself, but Jim was certainly handing him the rope.
Much later that evening, after dinner and after almost everyone had cleared out of the officers' lounge, Jim lingered. Spock and Uhura had spent the entire evening tête-à-tête in the corner. Jim couldn't hear them, but watching them was a little like watching a train wreck.
Jim was brooding over this when Uhura suddenly stood and smoothed her dress.
"Nyota?" Spock asked, standing as well.
She drew back and slapped him, the smack ringing clearly through the room, echoing off the bulkheads. If Jim had been watching surreptitiously before, he was staring openly now.
"There is nothing between us, Spock, and there never will be!" she informed him. She whipped around, her hair swinging in a broad arc that smacked Spock in the face again, and she marched toward the door.
Jim cleared his throat. "Did you just strike a superior officer, Lieutenant?" he asked.
"No," she informed him coldly. "I struck an ill-mannered asshole who will be lucky if I don't charge sexual harassment, Captain."
Jim blinked. "Oh. In that case, carry on, and let me know if you decide to—"
"I'm not going to." She stalked out of the lounge. Jim wasn't even tempted to follow her.
Jim waited nearly fifteen seconds before joining a bemused-looking Spock in the corner. He was rubbing his cheek absently and staring at the chair where Uhura had been sitting. Jim couldn't have felt any worse if he had purposely given Spock bad advice instead of just giving him vague advice and letting him come to bad conclusions.
"Hey," he said gently as he sat down.
Spock looked at him. "That did not go well."
"Yeah, I—uh—I saw." Jim bit his lip for a minute, but he couldn't help it. He had to ask. "What did you say?"
"I believe honesty may not have been the best approach."
Slightly alarmed, Jim asked again, "What did you say?"
"I told her that I have experienced a persistent sexual desire in recent days and that while I question whether what we share is sufficient to sustain a long-term relationship, I would—"
"Okay, okay, okay, stop!" Jim said, holding his hand up. He scratched his head. "You seriously told her that? God, Spock, I didn't think even you were that clueless."
"What did you expect me to tell her when you suggested I be honest?"
Jim fought back a moment of panic and told himself that Spock couldn't possibly know. It just wasn't possible. "Not that," Jim replied, quite honestly. "I thought you had feelings for her. Seriously, Spock, if I had thought you would… All right, here's what I don't get. You have watched the same damn videos as the rest of us. How did you not realize that was… She could actually charge you with sexual harassment, you know."
"I did consider that. However, I am aware that sexual relations are not uncommon among the crew. I reasoned that for such a condition to exist that overtures must be made."
"Shit," Jim muttered, more or less forgetting his ulterior motives except where they continued to feed his guilt. "You'd have done better without me. All right, we're gonna fix this. What do you want to happen here? I'm not going to help you get in her pants just so you can walk away, but just about anything else is fair game, okay?"
Spock looked doubtful. "I am not sure that this is a good idea."
"I do not wish to further jeopardize our friendship."
Jim almost asked how it was going to jeopardize their friendship, then he realized that once again, Spock was not talking about him. "You won't," Jim assured him.
"I believe I may have already done so."
"I doubt it. She's just got her panties in a wad—do not repeat that."
Spock raised an eyebrow at him.
"Seriously, this is just a rough spot. She's kind of pissed off at you right now and she has good reason to be, and you're… not the most sensitive guy on the ship. So, we just need to figure out how to tell her what's going on, and how you really feel without pissing her off again. I bet she'll forgive a lot if she knows what you've been up to."
"I am not sure."
"Sure you are, or you wouldn't have asked my advice to begin with. So, just think about it for a second. Think about a time when you enjoyed being with her."
"I frequently enjoy her company."
"When? What are you doing when you enjoy her company?"
"Talking with her. She is very intelligent. Much more so than I initially gave her credit for."
"All right. Good. So, just imagine that you're talking to her now. I'm not here. She is. So we're talking, and you're comfortable. Now, think about something you might do or say that would make her uncomfortable--because we want to avoid that."
"You are asking me to list things that I should not say?"
Spock blinked a few times. "I should not tell her that she has gained twenty-five pounds since I met her."
Jim blinked back at him. "No, you definitely shouldn't tell her that. You didn't, did you?"
Spock developed a sudden interest in his tea.
"We'll just pretend that didn't happen. What else?"
"I believe the list would be extensive."
Jim exhaled. "All right, let's change tactics. I'll suggest things and you decide if you should or shouldn't say them. Should you tell her she has breasts like melons?"
"Good. Why not?"
"Because it is not true."
"Aside from that."
"It is inappropriate to compare her breasts to a fruit."
"Because it implies that I would eat them?"
Jim sighed. "You're taking this way too literally. All right, how about telling her that she has very beautiful breasts?"
Spock hesitated slightly. "It is a compliment…"
"So... yes? No?"
"No, I do not believe I should tell her that."
"Because it is not appropriate."
Spock didn't have a ready answer. He was worse off than Jim had thought.
"All right, here's the thing—she likes to hear that she's beautiful, but talking about a part of her body that you're not allowed to touch is a little creepy, okay?"
"Which is why you suggested I compliment 'something above her shoulders.'"
"I do not believe I should have complimented her teeth."
Jim deflated a bit. "Her teeth?"
"She has very straight teeth."
"It may have been better if you had complimented her smile."
"The thing is, you have to be careful not to objectify her. She's not just some pretty figurine that you're going to put on a shelf, you know? It's one thing to admire her beauty, but… it's probably not a good idea to linger on it. Especially since you don't fully grasp the subtleties of complimenting her yet. And besides, you said that what drew you to her was talking with her, right? That's got nothing to do with her beauty."
"I should compliment her voice, then?"
"Is it her voice that you enjoy?"
"No. It is her intelligence—"
"Then compliment her intelligence."
"Come on. Practice on me." When Spock didn't say anything right away, Jim gestured impatiently. "Yeah, I know it's a stretch, but just pretend I'm her. What would you say?"
"I quite enjoy our conversations."
"Good," Jim said. "Very honest, very direct. Nothing offensive about it. Of course, it's also just a statement. If all you wanted was to keep talking to her, we wouldn't be having this conversation."
"So, how do you follow that up?"
Spock looked at him for a minute, then said, "I am not certain."
"Well, what do you want to happen? In a perfect world, three days after you tell her that you enjoy your conversations with her, what will happen?"
"We will continue to engage in enjoyable conversations?"
"If that's all you want, then why are we having this conversation?" Jim asked. "It's okay that you're interested in more. Seriously, though, what are you interested in? If you're just trying to get her to sleep with you, it's really bad form to make her fall in love. How interested are you?"
"I am not certain."
"That's okay too," Jim said. "So… you want to see what happens?"
"So, how do you tell her that? You just said you quite enjoy your conversations… What next? I'm Uhura, remember?"
Spock moistened his lips. "I quite enjoy our conversations. In fact, I enjoy all the time we spend together." He met Jim's eyes. "I believe I should like to explore the possibility of further enjoyable interactions between us."
Jim forced himself to blink and sever the connection of their gazes. "Right. That's… Seriously? That ought to sound really lame, but if you're sincere like that… It might work."
"I am quite sincere."
Jim reminded himself that Spock wasn't talking to or about him. "Right. Another thing… umm…" He cleared his throat. "I'm pretty sure she's interested in you, but she might not come out and say it as directly as you do. So, you want to give her space to think it over, right?"
Spock breathed deeply. "I quite enjoy our conversations. In fact, I enjoy all the time we spend together. I believe I should like to explore the possibility of further enjoyable interactions between us." He hesitated slightly. "I understand if you do not share my attraction, and I am hopeful that my expression will not alter the friendship we already share. It seemed illogical to continue to withhold my interest out of fear of rejection, but if you do not return that interest, I will not bear a grudge."
Jim nodded. "Good." He shook himself. "Very good. That's all very good. Now, you can't just sit down and begin with how much you enjoy her conversation. How are you going to ease into it?"
"I believe I should acknowledge my previous failed attempts."
"That would probably explain some things."
"There is something I have been attempting to tell you," Spock said, his eyes holding Jim's. "I am certain that you have noticed my awkwardness over the past few days. These illogical actions have been my vain attempt to tell you that I quite enjoy our conversations. In fact, I enjoy all the time we spend together. I believe I should like to explore the possibility of further enjoyable interactions between us." He paused a beat. "I understand if you do not share my attraction, and I am hopeful that my expression will not alter the friendship we already share. It seemed illogical to continue to withhold my interest out of fear of rejection, but if you do not return that interest, I will not bear a grudge."
"Perfect," Jim said. "Now, when you do this, you want to pick a place that is quiet, but not threatening. Somewhere you can talk privately, but without making her feel trapped and isolated. She needs to feel like she could walk away if she wanted to. But at the same time, you want to demonstrate that your intentions are sincere."
Spock reached across the table and took Jim's hand between his. "Jim," he emphasized, "there is something I have been attempting to tell you. I am certain that you have noticed my awkwardness over the past few days. These illogical actions have been my vain attempt to tell you that I quite enjoy our conversations. In fact, I enjoy all the time we spend together. I believe I should like to explore the possibility of further enjoyable interactions between us." His eyes did not waver from Jim's face. "I understand if you do not share my attraction, and I am hopeful that my expression will not alter the friendship we already share. It seemed illogical to continue to withhold my interest out of fear of rejection, but if you do not return that interest, I will not bear a grudge."
"You said my name because you are practicing… right?" Jim held his breath.
Spock squeezed his hand. "No."
"Oh." Jim took his hand away from Spock. "That changes everything."
"Yes." Jim felt a little light-headed, a little dizzy as he stood and started for the door. "You should tell Uhura that she has tits like melons and you want to fuck her ass into the floor."
"You think that would be wise?"
"I think if you told her that you'd be single and then I could quit giving you bad advice and get on with more pleasant conversations."
Somehow, without smiling or changing expression in any observable way, Spock looked amused. "I am supposed to give you a message."
"If the advice you have been giving me is representative of what you perceive to be an effective means to advancing a relationship, then you have earned the title of 'idiot boyfriend'. Nyota, however, expressed doubts that you are such an idiot."
Jim let that sink in for a minute. "So the crap you told me you told her—that was a lie? I thought Vulcans didn't lie."
"I did not. I merely withheld a portion of the truth. I do not believe that what Nyota and I have is sufficient to sustain a long-term relationship, and I have experienced a persistent sexual desire."
"But not for her?" Jim asked.
"No," Spock said. "Not for her."
"Oh. That does change everything."