The reception was crowded by the time Commander James T Kirk entered the hall, and many different people of different species sat around tables or stood in huddles on what would later be the dancefloor.
Tomorrow, Kirk would be promoted to Captain, along with many other promotions and reassignments, and he would be given Command of the USS Enterprise. It was where he had always aimed to be. He was very excited but simultaneously very nervous.
The purpose of this event was to allow officers and officials to get to know each other before the ceremony and their new missions, so tables had been organised accordingly, and he would be sitting with Lieutenant Sulu, the new helmsman, Lieutenant Uhura, the new chief communications officer, Lieutenant Commander Scott, the new chief engineer, Lieutenant Commander McCoy, the new chief medical officer, Nurse Chapel, also from the medical department, Lieutenant Commander Mitchell, the new navigator, and Commander Spock, the Vulcan, the long-standing chief science officer and, as of tomorrow, his First Officer.
Of those, he had met two: Leonard McCoy, who had been working in this Starbase's medical facility, and to whom he had been introduced by a mutual old friend: Gary Mitchell. Who, Jim remembered fondly, had once been more than a friend as well. He smiled to himself. It would be nice to see Gary again after their three-year separation while serving on different ships.
He very much looked forward to meeting Sulu, Uhura, Scott and Chapel but, he was ashamed to admit to himself, he had qualms about Spock. He was a very emotional, open person, and he was concerned he and his first officer would clash, that it wouldn't work.
He had received a communique earlier from Admiral Paterson, who was conducting the evening, with his table number, so he navigated his way in that direction.
Spock was already seated, and when he set eyes on the Vulcan, any fears he had melted away, and he felt his breath constricted in his chest.
He's beautiful, Jim thought, then reprimanded himself. That won't help the situation, if anything it will only make it worse.
But his mind argued with him: he's half Human, there may be a chance, however small...
He realised he was staring and blinked twice and straightened up, composing his thoughts. He was not going to ruin tonight.
Taking a deep breath, he closed the distance between himself and the table. When he reached it, Spock looked up to greet him and something unusual flashed through deep brown eyes, that Kirk couldn't name, and then it was gone. But not without sending a small shiver down the Human's spine.
"You must be Commander Spock," Kirk grinned bouyantly, his usual strategy for covering awkward moments, and before sitting down, held his hand up in a perfect formation of the Vulcan ta'al; something he had practised when he learned one of his officers would be a Vulcan, out of respect.
"And you, Commander James Kirk?" Spock glanced at his hand then reciprocated the gesture.
"I am, but call me Jim, please." Of course, he just wanted Spock to call him Jim because it was important for a command team to be friendly and comfortable with each other. Of course that was the reason. But a voice in the back of his head nagged at him. Watch yourself, it said.
"Very well, Jim. As you wish."
At the sound of Spock's low voice saying his name, his whole body tingled and he knew there was no longer any way to deny it to himself: he was immensely attracted to his new subordinate.
He looked across the table and saw Gary watching him, shaking his head almost imperceptibly, and Jim wondered if he had been that obvious.
Next to his friend was another man who Gary quickly introduced as Sulu, and bit by bit the rest of their table filled up, as did the other tables. Within about five minutes, everyone in the room was seated and Admiral Paterson stood up to say a few words.
Kirk tried to listen, honestly he did, and he caught bits and bobs, but he found himself distracted by Spock's leg, which had unwittingly fallen against his own. He just hoped he wasn't blushing as much as he felt like he must be, based on the temperature of his face.
After the short speech, the buffet was served and everyone went up table by table to get dinner.
Over the course of the meal they discussed their new assignments a little, but they deliberately avoided allowing it to take over, since that night it was more important to get to know each other better.
The evening wore on in friendly discussion and banter, and Jim was satisfied that everyone at the table liked each other well, and they would make a great team. He had noticed Chapel staring at Spock once or twice -- or maybe a few times more -- and taken a tiny, instinctive dislike towards her, but he forced himself to get over it. After all he, too, had likely been doing the same thing. There was no doubt she was a remarkable, intelligent, fierce woman who was committed to her job and those around her, and he was ashamed at the primal feelings of competitiveness buried deep within his nature. He certainly would not let this get the better of him.
Sooner or later, many of the guests had moved to the large dance floor with partners or groups and an assortment of traditional or modern dances sent them gracefully across the floor in sync, and Jim found himself really wanting to join in.
He danced with Gary for a few numbers and had tried to persuade Leonard, but the man had refused; he'd danced with Uhura, and even offered his hand to Chapel, who had accepted graciously.
But none of these people were who he really wanted to dance with... but he knew Spock would never agree so he spared himself the humiliation and did not ask.
By midnight, many people had cleared off, heading to their quarters for the night, but Jim had wanted to stay until the very end, along with Gary, and Leonard, the latter of whom he had taken to calling Bones, because he was a Doctor, and, well... it was a self-explanatory nickname. At one point the two men started talking in hushed tones about Nancy, whoever that was, Nancy Crater the now-married one, and Jim didn't want to intrude so he turned his attention to the dance floor.
There were only three couples left now, and they were dancing a slow waltz to a song which had been played on repeat for about fifteen minutes now, the last dance, romantic, and despite the futility of the thought, he wished Spock would come back and they'd dance, holding each other close, until they ended up in a tight embrace, they would kiss, gently and passionately, and then Spock would sweep him up in strong arms and carry him back to his quarters where they would make love, and in the morning he would wake up, and Spock would still be there...
He was lost in his own imaginings of how that would go, when he felt a hand shake his shoulder and he realised with a start that a number of minutes had passed. The floor had emptied, the music and lights had been turned off, and he was alone in the room with Gary, who now stood staring at him, arms folded across his chest.
"Tell me the truth," his friend began. "That Vulcan, Spock."
"What about him?" Jim demanded, perhaps too defensively.
"You need to pace yourself, mate, it was so obvious to me tonight how infatuated you are with him. He's your First Officer, and he's a Vulcan. Don't fuck this up by scaring him off."
"Who the fuck says I'll scare him off?" Jim retorted, as though Gary's words were a challenge.
"I'm saying, Jim, just be careful, okay?"
Well, challenge accepted. Begrudgingly, he nodded, and left the room, heading for his quarters.
"Captain Kirk!" And already too-familiar voice called from behind him, and he swung around to see Spock approach. "I believe your custom dictates that I say 'congratulations'."
"Indeed. Thanks, Mr. Spock."
"Where are you heading now?"
The promotion ceremony had just finished, and as the new Captain of the Enterprise he had planned to visit the ship and begin moving things into his quarters, but he knew if Spock suggested otherwise he would change his mind in a heartbeat.
"Eh, I was thinking maybe... up to the ship." he tried to chose his words with care, but it didn't really work out that way.
"Convenient, well in that case, I could accompany you? I must move my possessions from the Second Officer's quarters to the First."
"That would be a splendid idea, Spock. Let my stop by my quarters on the Starbase and pick up bags."
"Of course, Captain."
He pivoted on his heel and walked in the direction of his room, with Spock close behind. He felt a warm tingling throughout his body and desperately willed away any thoughts which were not appropriate at this time... or, perhaps, ever, but Jim had a gut feeling, and he knew that was ironic where a Vulcan was concerned but nevertheless, that's what it was, that something was definitely going to happen between them sooner or later.
If he truly had been obvious yesterday, and Spock still wished for his company, then that was a good sign, right? It had to be.
Spock waited outside while he gathered everything he wouldn't need for that night, for the final night he and his crew would remain here before departing for their first mission, their first run around the block as it were, before embarking on a mission which would last five years.
And in all that time, at his side would be a man whom he was sure was the most perfect being he had ever encountered.
They walked to the transporter room in silence, Jim didn't know what to say, and he wondered what the other was thinking. He had looked forward to a chance to be alone with Spock, but now that the opportunity had arisen, he found himself speechless.
Yet, it wasn't an awkward silence like one might expect, there was something distinctly companionable and comfortable about it, as though they had been friends for years. Jim had never been a believer in either concepts of 'soulmates' or 'love at first sight', but he was thinking he might have to re-evaluate that belief: he would see how things panned out before he got his hopes up, though.
The Enterprise was deserted when they arrived (a possibility while in space dock) and it felt like his guts were being twisted, knowing they were completely alone now. It was only a minute's journey at the most to return to Starbase, Jim reminded himself, but it didn't feel like it.
Then Spock spoke, both suddenly and finally at the same time.
"Did you enjoy the reception last night, then?" The Vulcan asked.
"Yes I did, I think it's a good idea to allow crewmates to get to know each other before a mission. Did you enjoy it?"
"I neither enjoyed it nor didn't enjoy it, though I concur with the logic of such an event," Spock's words were ambiguous, but there was a glint in his eye which made Jim think this may be deliberate.
"Well, that's one way of putting it"
Spock raised an eyebrow. "What are the other ways?"
"I'm just surprised you have no opinion on whether it was enjoyable, is all."
"Captain, I am a Vulcan, what else did you expect?"
There was something intriguing about Spock, something mysterious and enigmatic that Jim was strangely drawn to. Spock was so like other Vulcans he'd met, but at the same time so completely dissimilar. Again that thing that Jim had witnessed when they first met flashed through deep brown eyes and was gone in an instant again.
What the hell was it?
Absently, he wondered if he was still en-route to Starbase, in his previous quarters, asleep, and this was all a dream, wondered if Spock was even real. If that were the case there would be no harm in pursuing a physical intimacy with this man, with taking him to his quarters and to his bed.
Of course, Jim wasn't stupid enough to risk relying on this being a dream, because it would only cause endless trouble and hurt Spock if it wasn't, but the thought was enough to keep him going for only a moment or two.
They talked aimlessly for the few minutes left to their journey between the transporter room and their quarters, which were around the corner from each other and connected by a shared en-suite bathroom. A stray thought which whispered very intimate escaped past his sub consciousness' guard and he felt a small smile tug at the corners of his mouth.
"Something amuses you, Captain," Spock asked, evidently noticing the movement despite its minuteness. Was Spock watching his lips? That could only mean one thing, couldn't it?
"Nothing really, Spock, I just remembered something Bones said earlier," he lied.
"Bones?" Spock asked, a hint of confusion slipping into his voice.
"Yeah, that's my nickname for Doctor McCoy."
"One other thing," Jim said as they approached their doors.
"Please, please try and remember to call me Jim."
The look on Spock's face seemed neutral and expressionless enough, but something about it tugged on Jim's heart. Smiling and nodding at his new friend, he turned wordlessly and went into his new quarters.
The room was bare, having just been vacated, and Jim felt an emptiness crawling on his skin. Nevertheless, his unpacking could wait. He flopped down on the bare mattress and stretched, sighed and loosened the top of his dress uniform trousers, which had suddenly become too tight.
His vision came to and his saw the faces of Gary and Bones leaning over him, and Gary was slapping his face.
"Jim, wake the fuck up!" Gary shouted, slapping him again.
"What? What's wrong?" Jim asked drowsily.
"Do you have any idea what fucking time it is?" Gary demanded, and he was visibly angry.
"No," Jim admitted. Wrong move. He was hauled off the bed and fell to the floor.
"It's quarter to fucking seven o'clock, and you have a date with Ruth in fifteen minutes, what the hell were you thinking?"
"I, I wasn't planning to fall asleep," Jim complained, feeling disorientated. Fuck. He had completely forgotten about Ruth, who was passing through the Starbase for a day while the passenger vessel she was travelling back to Earth on stopped for a pilot change, and he had arranged to see her for dinner before he left on his new assignment and didn't know when they would next get a chance to meet up. He'd been so damn preoccupied with Spock since he arrived that it had completely slipped his mind.
"Thanks for waking me, Gary."
"You arsehole," Gary told him, and Jim knew there was mild affection in the insult now his friend had calmed down a little. That was his way of saying you're welcome. "Hurry up and get dressed, pal, you don't want to be late."
"Aye, sir," Jim nodded solemnly, getting up and changing his dress uniform for the suit he had brought for this very occasion, still folded at the bottom of his case, brushed his teeth and his hair, and was out of the door within ten minutes.
When he stepped across the threshold, he was greeted with Spock, who opened his mouth, apparently about to say something, then closed it again.
Not now, he thought desperately. Please not now.
"Hello, Spock, did you want something?" he asked. The Vulcan had changed back into his regular uniform.
"It had been my intention to invite you to join me for dinner, but it appears you already have plans." Spock admitted it, and Jim had to fight not to let his eyes close in exasperation. He briefly considered cancelling on Ruth, but that wouldn't be fair, and for what? An infatuation which may or may not lead to anything? Ruth loved him, and he loved her, too. He had known Spock for twenty-four hours.
"Sorry, Spock," he said, "I have..." he didn't want to say it. "I have a date. Another time, though." He gave Spock a weak smile, which was responded to with a courteous nod.
"Enjoy your date, Jim," Spock said as Jim turned away, and he resisted the urge to turned back sharply, Spock's remembering to use his name cut right through him.
"Thanks," he said earnestly, walking away before he could change his mind.
Ruth was waiting for him outside the restaurant when he got there, and she looked beautiful in an ankle-length light blue dress with little white clouds on it. Her hair was done up in several braids and laced with large pink flowers.
She walked over to him when she saw him, slinging her arms over his shoulders and kissing his lips softly; he kissed her back, putting his hands on her waist to steady himself.
"You look so handsome, Jim Kirk," she whispered in his ear and he felt a tingly feeling.
"And you, Ruth Jordyns, so beautiful," he smiled at her, a warm smile, and a seductive one too he hoped.
"I take it you have a table booked."
"Indeed I do, let's go," he proffered his arm and she linked her own through it.
As they walked in through the doors he unintentionally thought how the light blue of her silky dress precisely matched the shade of Spock's uniform, and realised that for one short moment he had managed it; managed not to think of him.
Only too briefly.
The waiter directed them to their table and they sat down across from each other, holding each other's gaze. The food was delicious, their conversation light and laughter easy. This was comfortable, but all the time Jim was consciously aware of other thoughts creeping into his mind: what would Spock be doing now? Would Spock have cared? Should he have avoided mentioning he had a date? Had he pushed Spock away before they even got close?
He kept these musings at bay, ignored them, but if he was sure of anything it was that things would not work with Ruth any more, not now he was about to spend five years barely without Spock and he would see her once, maybe twice in that time.
He loved her, but perhaps it just wasn't meant to be.
Towards the end of the meal Ruth broached the dreaded subject.
"Jim, what will happen to us?" She asked. "When you're meandering through deep space?"
"I don't know, Ruth," he tried not to gulp visibly. "I'd like to say we'll still see each other, but there's no guarantee of that, none whatsoever."
She nodded. "I had a feeling that would be the case. I'll miss you."
He didn't know what to say to that. He wouldn't miss her, would he? He wanted to say he would, but he didn't honestly believe it; he'd only been with her a few minutes tonight before his thoughts returned to the person from whom he'd be a bathroom away. She would be light years away.
He didn't know if he would ever meet anyone like the Vulcan again.
"I'll miss you too," he said after a pause, and slid his hand across the table to cover hers. "But will you miss me enough to wait for me?"
That silenced her, and she stared at him, chewing on her food.
"I..." her voice was cracking. "I don't know, that never occurred to me. Why, will you?"
"Ruth, I love you. You know that, and I know you love me too. But is our love strong enough to transcend the distance between us? I'm not so sure."
She looked close to tears and he immediately regretted his words, but he knew they needed to be spoken. "You're right, of course," she whispered hoarsely. "Sooner or later we will both need someone in our lives to satisfy our cravings for physical intimacy, and we cannot provide that for each other now."
She held her composure well. He, too, felt close to tears and closed his eyes to hold them back."
"Goodbye, Jim Kirk, my darling. It was a beautiful dream."
Pulling her hand across the table to his side, he kissed her knuckles gently.
"Don't get me wrong though," he said quietly. "I am glad we had this opportunity to say a proper farewell to one another."
Smiling at that, she nodded. "Me too."
They resumed their idle chat for the remainder of the meal before going their separate way for the final time. When he got to his quarters on the station, he undressed and got into bed, and finally let the tears take control of him, flooding down his face and onto the pillow.
"Goodbye, my love," he whispered to the wind. Tomorrow would herald a new beginning in more ways than one.
Upon boarding the Enterprise, there was much work to be done. He had an hour and a half to unpack and organise his cabin to his taste, then there were status reports to be read and signed from teams all over the ship, mission specifications to read up on and introductions that had not been made at the reception two nights before to be made.
It was hectic, and nobody had much chance for rest, but that was okay.
A thrilled air of anticipation buzzed throughout the corridors and rooms, and excited chatter filled his ears, although Jim could barely distinguish many of the things that were being said if they weren't addressed to him directly.
Then when all this was completed, there was the test run, and following that, there were reports to be written and debriefings to attend.
It wasn't until they were finally underway to their first destination of the five-year mission that any of them could take a break. And, on the off-chance Spock liked the game, Jim invited his First Officer to his quarters for a chess match.
And Spock agreed.
They sat now, across from each other at Jim's desk, the board set up in front of them, and Jim's heart and chest were full of butterflies.
"Did you enjoy your date last night?" Spock asked out of the blue.
"I... suppose I did, yes." Jim told him, slightly taken by surprise at the abruptness of the question, though he figured he probably ought not to be.
"Good. And, I have surmised in this context the word 'date' implies a romantic attachment?" Spock asked innocently.
"Yes, well that was the case. But we sort of broke up."
"Oh," Spock looked unsure how to respond. "Are you... okay?"
"Yeah," Jim smiled. "Yeah, we both agreed it was for the best."
"Why?" then his face contorted. "I apologise, that was intrusive and premature."
"It's fine. It would never have worked. We didn't love each other enough." That wasn't the whole truth, but it wasn't untrue in any element.
"As long as you are happy, Jim."
The Human's head whipped up at that, but the Vulcan had averted his gaze, focussing on the board.
"I'm sorry I didn't join you, if I hadn't already planned to meet her I would have gladly accepted your invitation, but it was my last chance to see her and you and I have a long time ahead of us."
"You do not need to justify yourself."
"I know, I'm just..."
Spock raised an eyebrow in a question, but Jim was worried he was going to start babbling, so he didn't say any more. Spock didn't pursue it.
Their chess game was wonderful; Spock was the best, most worthy opponent Jim had had in years and it ended up lasting for several hours. They didn't revisit the topic of relationships, though Jim really wanted to.
He wanted to dramatically confess his feelings to Spock. He wanted to be swept off his feet in those strong arms and be carried to his bed, be laid down, he wanted to fuck and be fucked by this perfect specimen of a person, he wanted them to share everything, he wanted them to know every inch of each other's body, he wanted Spock to be the only person to know about the tattoos on his thighs and on his arse, he wanted go metaphorically to heaven with him, he wanted them to go crazy with lust for each other, be redeemed by love for each other, he wanted them to become inseparable forever, he wanted Spock to return to his bed over and over.
He wanted to fuck in bed, fuck on a grassy mountains under the stars; he wanted to lie in each others arms and sing lullabies, he wanted passionate kisses, both fiery and careful, he wanted little stolen kisses and no secrets between them.
In other words, he wanted far more than he may ever get.
Pace yourself, he reminded himself of Gary's words.
"I don't regret breaking up with her," he confessed instead, and Spock looked up, apparently not expecting Jim still to be on that subject, and he felt his heart sink a little.
"I can only surmise your mind is not on the game," Spock responded. "Check."
No, it certainly isn't.
Wishing the game to be over now, Jim deliberately moved his King into direct jeopardy.
"That was illogical," Spock noted obviously. "Check again."
Jim moved his queen away from the King's protection, and Spock promptly took it with a declaration of "Checkmate!" which Jim could have sworn had a badly concealed hint of glee to it.
"Congratulations, Spock," he grinned, knocking over the King in surrender. "You won your first against me."
"You hardly made it difficult for me, although I would have beaten you anyway."
Jim attempted to raise an eyebrow in mimicry of Spock. "Is that so?"
So outright pride isn't illogical then? he chuckled internally.
"You will not want a rematch to prove yourself?" Spock half asked, half stated.
"No, thanks, but good game."
"There is something else you want."
Jim gulped. How much did Spock know? He couldn't possibly know anything, could he?
"What do you mean?" The Human asked, trying to conceal his nerves.
"You are aware Vulcans are touch-telepaths," Spock stated. "Two nights ago at the reception when we were in close proximity, and today again as we played chess, I was vaguely aware of your... desires."
That wasn't fair, Spock had an advantage, and now Jim was screwed. But if Spock knew and was repulsed by it, why was he here? Jim said nothing.
Instead of pressing him for a response, Spock activated the computer terminal.
"Additionally, I spoke briefly with your friend, Lieutenant Commander Mitchell."
The Vulcan stood and moved into the furniture-free part of the cabin as slow music began to play, and Jim recognised it as the song which had been used for the final dance on the night of the reception: the one he'd wished Spock would come back and do with him.
Was he dreaming?
One arm moved towards Jim, and slender, lovely fingers stretched out to him.
"Dance with me?" Spock requested.
Was this real?
Well, real or not, Jim wasn't about to pass up on the opportunity. Slowly he stood and joined Spock on the tiny makeshift dance floor, not missing the small gasp that escaped the other when their fingers made contact.
They settled naturally into the rhythm as though they had done this a thousand times before, swaying together and moving their feet gracefully in a waltz pattern.
If Jim was honest with himself, he was surprised Spock knew how to do this, but he wasn't complaining.
"Is this an illusion?" Jim wondered aloud as they gradually drew closer.
"No," Spock told him with conviction. "This is quite real."
There was no verbal response to that, but there was no need for one. Their bodies did all the communicating for them.
Knowing Spock could read his desires from the close contact, Jim let one more to the forefront of his mind.
They slid their arms around each other, and their lips met, as their feet slowed, and they clicked, and as their minds melded automatically they both knew it was okay. It was good.
Vulcans do believe in soulmates, although that is not the term we use.
Spock? Are we speaking telepathically?
I don't understand this.
You'll come to be used to it. You were planning to re-evaluate your belief that 'soulmates' and 'love at first sight' do not exist.
Yes, when I saw you two days ago...
I too, felt an instant connection between us, and I suspected you to be my t'hy'la.
A Vulcan all-encompassing term to describe the one closest to you. The best English approximation would be friend. sibling, lover. We believe we will recognise our t'hy'la immediately when we see them..
That is so romantic.
It is one of the few beliefs we have held onto since before Surak's reform.
And you believe me to be your t'hy'la?
I can't argue with that.
They broke the kiss but remained in the embrace and remained gazing fondly at each other.
"Then, in that case," Jim said slowly, lifting one hand to cup Spock's cheek, "I'll tell you that I think I love you."
"I know," that thing flashed through deep brown eyes again and suddenly it felt familiar to Jim, almost tangible but not quite. "I love you too."
Jim sighed happily and leaned forward, pressing his forehead against Spock's.
"This is all very sudden, I feel rather disorientated," he admitted and his t'hy'la recoiled slightly.
"Perhaps you should lie down?" Spock suggested.
"Maybe." Only if you lie with me, Jim thought, forgetting that they were still touching and Spock could still gather the gist of whatever passed through his mind.
"I will," Spock responded aloud, startling Jim.
"This is really happening."
"It is... but I do not wish to do more than lie, not yet." Spock said cautiously.
"No, of course not," Jim realised then that when it came to actuality that he wasn't ready for that either.
Without further ado they went to the sleeping area, removed their boots and lay down, having to pull each other close in order to not fall off the thin single mattress.
Not that they minded in the least.
This was where they belonged.