1. The Wh’eliansian Ambassador
Really, the Enterprise shouldn’t be treated as Starfleet’s VIP intergalactic taxi just so they can improve relationships with one planet or another. And yet Jim finds that it’s quite common for him to receive assignments where he’s essentially supposed to drive some important guest from point A to point B while acting as both host and entertainer for them. He much prefers the exploring space part of his job over being a pretty face with an impressive ride, but when Starfleet Command orders him to jump, Jim jumps, or he’ll be swiftly replaced by someone who is more inclined to do as they’re told.
So now Spock, Bones, Scotty and Jim stand in the transporter room, waiting for the Wh’eliansian ambassador and her companion to arrive because they're the day's mission. And this time, it’s not Jim, but Spock, who is responsible for entertaining their guests. Jim and the other humans are in fact told to steer clear of the Wh’eliansians and to overlook any rudeness their esteemed guests might show them, because Starfleet and the Wh’eliansians are negotiating about an advantageous trade and the Wh’eliansians have a deep-running antipathy for humans.
About a hundred years ago, Starfleet sent a colony of humans to live on planet Wh’eliansia. As an insider, Jim knows that the reason James Carlos Johnson got the job as chief boiled down to it being his dream and his wealthy and powerful father pulling a few strings for his son’s benefit. Unfortunately for everyone, James Carlos should not have been put in charge of any colony on a strange planet. Or of anything, really. The whole ordeal ended in three months with about fifty people with lifelong trauma and Wh’eliansians as whole despising humanity because of the almost-civil-war that they had started.
Knowing this, it isn’t a surprise that when Ambassador Wh’il and her companion beam onboard their long faces twist in grimaces upon seeing the welcoming committee.
“Welcome to the Enterprise,” Jim says and smiles, his hands behind his back.
“You must be the Captain,” Wh’il says and strides up to Jim.
“That I am, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Wh’il doesn’t smile, her disgust barely hidden. She turns to Spock, whose expression remains neutral.
“This is Mister Spock, our First and Science Officer. He’ll show you your rooms and around the ship. And this Chief Medical Officer McCoy and Chief Engineer Scott.”
Wh’il waves the introductions away, not sparing a glance at the other humans, her eyes trained on Spock. “You’re Vulcan.”
“Technically, I’m only half-Vulcan, Ambassador,” Spock says in an even tone. “My mother was human.”
“Human,” she repeats and frowns. After a heartbeat she shrugs. “You don’t seem human. It’s acceptable, isn’t it, Wh’ui?”
The Ambassador’s companion agrees, but with a disturbed shudder. They turn to each other to speak quietly in their tongue and Jim seizes the moment to lean into Spock, though not before giving Bones and Scotty a meaningful nod, letting them know they’re free to slip away if they choose to. Both immediately make themselves scarce.
“A friendly bunch, huh?”
“They are as expected. Johnson’s colony caused extreme damage in their short time on Wh’heliansia.”
“No doubt.” Jim grimaces and inches even closer to Spock, his hand landing on Spock’s elbow. He squeezes gently and peers into his trusted man’s eyes, searching for any hesitation. “Are you sure you’ll be fine with them on your own?”
“I have no reason to believe I would not be fine, Captain,” Spock says and raises one eyebrow. “I sense no hostility toward me despite my mother’s humanness.”
Jim nods, but doesn’t let go of Spock, a small part of him unwilling to break contact. Spock’s shirt is soft and warm beneath his fingers, his look piercing where he watches Jim. He can feel it despite having averted his own eyes.
“Let me know if there’s any trouble, okay?” He locks gazes to convey his seriousness. “They might not like it, but I’m the Captain of this ship. I don’t want them harassing my First Officer – if they have a problem with you or the rest of the crew, they can take it up with me.”
“That’ll be unnecessary-” Jim opens his mouth to argue, but Spock plows on, as if he didn’t notice, which he undoubtedly did, “-but I will keep it in mind, if any problems arise.”
Jim squeezes Spock’s arm one more time before letting go and turning to face their guests. “Good.”
The Ambassador and her companion prepare to follow Spock, who leads them out of the transporter room. Jim says his goodbyes with a smile on his lips, the Wh'ui more or less sneering at him as he passes. Jim shrugs it off – as Captain, he is used to not everyone loving him, even though he in his personal life prefers to be on good terms with everyone. As an explorer and Starfleet Officer, Jim has found that positivity, optimism and an open attitude toward the people around him is the most helpful, despite that he doesn't always receive the same courtesy in return.
Two days later, Jim once again meets the Ambassador and her companion in the transporter room, this time to see them off. Spock has been preoccupied with their guests for the stay and little has been seen of them or their host. Wh’il and Wh’ui seem to have warmed up to Spock though, both smiling widely and patting him on his forearms, which is a common gesture of affection among their kind.
It’s only the four of them this time, Bones and Scotty relieved to have gotten out of “dress shirt duty”, where they’re expected to do nothing except looking handsome in their finer clothes. It’s more Jim’s thing, Bones insists. No one wants to look at old men like him and Scotty, but Jim on the other hand . . . a man in his prime and all that.
“I don’t understand your choice, but I’m not as narrow-minded as most of my peers,” Wh’il says and pats Spock’s arm, her eyes lingering on how close Spock and Jim stand. Their knuckles are almost brushing together. Jim clears his throat and places his hands on his hips a tad self-consciously.
“I’m not sure what you refer to, Ambassador.”
“You two.” The Ambassador gestures from Spock to Jim, who look at each other and back to her. Her companion is nodding, with a slight grimace on his face. “At first, I might have thought you stupid, but as we got to know each other I had to admit you are one of the most extraordinary, intelligent men I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, Mister Spock. If you say that he is good enough for you, I can’t doubt you. You’ve impressed both me and Wh’ui during our time together.”
“Who is good enough for Spock?” Jim asks, because he can’t help himself.
“You, of course,” Wh’il says, her lips curling downwards in disapproval. “A human.”
“Are you hard of hearing, Captain? Mister Spock speaks so highly of you and your abilities and I’ve heard stories of you, elsewhere . . . You’re supposed to be one of the most charming humans around, I’ve heard. And handsome too.” Wh’il looks Jim up and down appraisingly. Wh’ui is shaking his head in the background, distaste apparent on his face. “Can’t say that I see it, but that is the word. And if Spock agrees, this estimation must be correct. Humans are a category of their own.”
Wh’il sighs and smooths down her tunic, a thoughtful look on her face. “Wh’ui and I have talked . . . We boarded this ship with low expectations. As the most human positive representative I got this assignment, to meet with Starfleet, but even I was reluctant to enter a deal with an organization based on Earth. To think! But after hearing Mister Spock, my mind has changed and so has Wh’ui’s. We will consider this deal, give it a fair chance, despite humanity’s involvement.”
The Ambassador clasps Spock’s arm. “Thank you, Mister Spock, for showing us the good side of these humans. We wish you and your partner-” at this she glances at Jim “-all the luck and love the universe has to offer. Even though he's human.”
Wh’il and Wh’ui both touch both Spock and Jim’s forearms in turn, before stepping up to the transporter pad and beaming down to Starbase 7.
Once they're gone, Jim turns to Spock with some bewilderment.
“Did they assume we’re married?”
Spock raises one of his eyebrows and looks back at Jim, his brown eyes honest.
2. The Qire people
In the thrilling continuation of Jim acting as the pretty face for Starfleet to use as their façade, the Enterprise is ordered to orbit planet Qire, where they’re to attend an anniversary party that celebrates the ten year long friendship between the Qire people and Starfleet.
The Qire people differ from the majority of Starfleet’s allies in many ways. For one, they’re generally about two heads shorter than the average human and for another, they’re all blind. Instead, they use their three eyes to distinguish other things, like bonds between people, for instance. The Qire people can sense some sort of energy that connects individual souls to each other, forming a giant social network, and based on these ties they can estimate the strength of each separate relation. As far as Jim knows, they view the world by mapping out these energies, most of which are beyond human comprehension.
As a consequence of their blindness, they don’t understand colors. The Qire people have no concept of what they are and visiting their planet is considered an assault on the eyes, for everything there glows in headache inducing neon. The Enterprise crew is strictly ordered to wear shaded glasses to the anniversary party.
Jim, Spock, Bones, Scotty, Uhura and Sulu stand on the transporter pad with Chekov in charge of beaming them down. Bones grumbles about his dress shirt, fixing his collar and pulling at his cuffs. Spock, on the other hand, stands in parade rest, a serene expression on his face.
“You enjoy talking with the Qire people, don’t you, Mister Spock?” Jim asks with a slight smile on his lips.
“Yes, they have a fascinating culture. I look forward to tonight’s conversations.”
“I heard they had some big ceremony last month,” Sulu says from the back of the platform.
“Yes, their ceremonial mating celebrations, the equal of a communal marriage for all newly formed pairs. The biggest festival of their people.”
Anticipation shines in Spock’s eyes; at least someone will enjoy the formal celebration. Jim casts a glance back at Bones, who scowls at him, still fiddling with the sleeves of his dress shirt. At this rate, he'll wear through the fabric months before they're to be fitted for a new set of dress shirts.
"Ready to beam you down, Captain." Chekov grins.
“Energize, Ensign Chekov.”
“Aye, aye, Sir.”
And the familiar tingling sensation of his body breaking down into infinitely small pieces, only to be beamed down and reassembled in the blink of an eye overtakes Jim. One moment he sees Chekov’s cheeky expression from behind the console, the next he’s blinking against the stark colors around him. Everything glows bright despite his shaded glasses.
A few of the Qire people’s appointed leaders approach, their neon-green robes adorned with large golden stars on the sleeves to mark their importance for outsiders. The Qire people’s political system is like no other – there are no elections, because everyone in the community can see the bonds between people and who is the most trusted. For everyone in the community to be represented, each member of the people has to have at least one strong tie to a leader who is looking out for their wellbeing. The network between the Qire is too large and complex for an outsider to comprehend, but it works well for them, even though in Starfleet’s eyes their politics is an incredibly slow affair. Which might as well be, for the Qire people have little interest for profit, wealth or power, only to cultivate good relationships and create bonds between individuals.
“Welcome, friends, welcome,” one of the older Qire leaders says and raises their hands. Their genders are indescribable and to Jim they all look the same: bald and with three large, white eyes dominating their facial features. “Friend Kirk and friend Spock.”
“Thank you,” Jim says and looks around at the long tables overflowing with food, wild plants that have been moved into large pots to decorate the area and the excessively many little hanging lights that make the whole area look like a disco, not that the Qire would know it. “You’ve chosen a beautiful spot for these celebrations.”
The Qire leader bows in thanks. Their peers flock closer, all with eager expressions on their alien faces, their eyes flickering from Jim to Spock and back. A few inch closer to the rest of Jim’s party, who are already introducing themselves. By the sound of it, Bones has found some colleagues because he is asking about the harsh flu that raged on Qire a year back. Spock is engaged in a polite discussion of Qire’s climate with one of the other leaders, his expression one of genuine scientific fascination.
“Mister Spock told me about your mating celebrations earlier,” Jim says and tears his gaze away from the sight. “He said they were communal?”
“Oh, yes,” the Qire leader says and leads Jim toward the table with the food. “We celebrate every mated pair with a feast. I’ve heard you have these smaller parties for your own mating celebrations. It’s baffling. How do you choose who to invite? You might never know which relationships will strengthen with time. Every friend deserves to attend such a happy occasion.”
“Sometimes friendships end because someone didn’t get an invitation to a wedding. It happens.”
The Qire leader grimaces. “Disastrous.”
They gather food on their plates and Jim compliments each bite. His host seems happy to watch the others mingle, so Jim does as well. Chekov (who beamed down in group two), Sulu and Uhura are engaged in a conversation with two of the Qire people, Scotty has found the food and Bones looks like he’s on the verge of a scientific discovery, considering the intensity in his eyes. Spock on the other hand is making conversation with a whole swarm of Qire people who seem to gravitate toward him.
Jim lifts his glass to his lips and takes a gulp of the green glowing, sweet drink the Qire leader had poured for him, his eyes lingering on Spock’s peaceful expression.
“Your mate has a natural magnetism about him, his temper is unique. Many Vulcans possess this peace that appeals to us. That, and the bond between you two, makes many of us wish to bond with him.”
Upon hearing the Qire leader’s words, Jim chokes on his drink.
“Easy.” The shorter Qire leader frowns and reaches up to thump Jim’s back with a surprisingly strong arm. “Are you, all right, friend?”
“My mate?” Jim rasps once his breaths are more even again. Spock is looking at him, but Jim waves his concern away in favor of turning to his host. “You think Spock and I are together?”
“Yes, your partnership is quite beautiful.” The Qire leader’s unblinking eyes follow something invisible hanging between Jim and his First Officer. “A strong, healthy bond. Thick, many ties woven into each other. It’s rare to see outside our kind. You have worked hard and decisively toward your common goal to be in sync with each other, but never on your other relations’ expense. Your network is strong enough to bear your weight should you ever fall.”
“We’re only good friends and partners in running the Enterprise,” Jim says, but he can hear the stiffness in his own words.
“Your bond is overflowing with love, this is no mere working relationship.” The Qire leader chuckles and raises a hand to silence Jim’s protests. “I have seen many bonds in my time, friend Kirk. The one between you and friend Spock is extraordinary. Treasure it, because these kinds of ties do not grow on trees.”
Jim turns back to watch Spock, who has once again fallen deep into his conversation with the Qire people surrounding him. When their eyes meet, he smiles and Spock nods back at him.
The Qire leader next to him follows their exchange with a self-satisfied, knowing gleam in their eyes.
3. The Eyhre tribe leaders
The good news is: for once, Jim isn’t just representing Starfleet and looking pretty. The bad news is: while exploring planet Eyhre, he and Spock are kidnapped by one of the humanoid tribes dwelling on it and taken into an underground cave, from which they’re unable to signal the Enterprise or warn the rest of the landing party of the surprisingly aggressive locals. But at least there’s action and not a dress shirt in sight, right? It could be worse.
Based on the cave they're kept in, it’s common practice for the tribes to kidnap each other. Sturdy bars and an, in other circumstances, comically big lock hold Jim and Spock inside the cave and two gruff and heavy-built men clad in animal skins stand guard outside.
Jim demands to know why they’ve been taken, but the guards don’t answer him, only glare from under their heavy, hairy eyebrows. In a fistfight Jim would come out as number two despite all the hours learning different combat styles. It’s disheartening to accept. The guards didn’t let them keep their phaser either, because he and Spock had pulled them out and brandished them like weapons when they were first ambushed. During the initial struggle, Jim had gone down almost immediately, having managed to knock himself out by attempting to head-butt one of the ruffians now standing outside their cell, and while Spock could do quite well against one of these bigfoot-like men, he couldn’t overpower several of them simultaneously.
“At least we're together,” Jim says and sinks onto the ground furthest away from the cell door. His head aches still and he suspects Bones would diagnose him with a mild concussion after his, frankly embarrassing, fight from before.
Spock agrees. He’s creeping around the cell, looking for weaknesses in the structure. The guards outside look at him wearily, but with obvious respect. His strength must’ve been noted during the struggle.
“Find anything?” Jim whispers when Spock sits down next to him.
“Nothing we can use to escape, I’m afraid.” He nods toward where the cave walls meet the bars. “There are signs of previous weaknesses in the corners, but they have been remedied. Someone has escaped before us.”
Jim purses his lips. “Any ideas of why we were taken?”
“It could be a number of things. None seem more likely than the other at this time.”
“Well, at least they want us alive.”
Sighing, Jim leans his head back and closes his eyes in a weak attempt to ease his growing headache. He massages his forehead and temples, but to no avail. If only Bones was there with one of his hypos.
“Are you hurting?” Spock asks when Jim sighs again, his hand falling from his head.
“Not much.” Jim blinks his eyes open. Spock is frowning at him, his gaze intent. “I took a bit of a hit back there.”
“You lost consciousness for six point six minutes.”
“It’s not bad, no need to look so worried,” Jim says and shifts, but Spock doesn’t let his attention be diverted. He reaches out, as if to touch Jim.
Jim nods and Spock’s cool fingers brush across his temples. His eyes fall shut on their own accord again – he’s sleepy. Spock’s fingertips journey across his forehead, along the bridge of his nose and follow his cheekbones, before gently going to feel around his head.
“You will develop a bump here-” Spock ghosts over the sore spot on Jim’s forehead, high up and close to his hairline, “-unless we get you to doctor McCoy first.”
Jim hums, eyes still closed.
Until an unfamiliar voice breaks the moment of reverie between them and Spock’s hands withdraw.
“I was right, they belong together,” the voice says. A large woman with thick locks of hair hanging down her back, reaching as far as to her knees, stands behind the bars with a satisfied grin on her face. Next to her stands another woman, her hair twisted into an enormous knot upon her head. It looks heavy, but her back is straight.
“You were right, sister,” the woman with the knot says, her face impassive. She turns to address Jim and Spock, who scramble to their legs, ready for whatever is thrown at them next. Or well – Jim scrambles, Spock raises gracefully. Vulcans aren’t clumsy.
“According to our laws, no couple is to be separated from their other half.”
Spock and Jim share a tense glance, but neither speaks up.
“Why are we here?” Jim demands again, now that someone proves willing to speak to him.
“You trespassed on our grounds. The laws state that anything that is on our land, is ours to take.”
“We didn’t know of your laws,” Jim says. “We aren’t from around here.”
“That doesn’t matter,” the woman with the long hair counters, her hands opening in a wide gesture. “The laws are the same for all and that you must’ve known!”
“Sister, calm yourself,” the woman with the knot says, the other huffing at her words, but falling silent. The women study them, one with annoyance and the other with curiosity. Until she speaks again.
“You look different. We’ve never seen clothes like that. You are small and weak, like starved children. Were you mistreated by your people?”
“No,” Jim starts. Obviously, the Eyhre are smarter than he had expected. The prime directive keeps him from telling the truth to his captors, but a simple lie of coming from another tribe would not work in this situation. Jim has to take a gamble. “We come from an island, from the open sea. The laws are different there.”
“Different?” The women exchange a look. “You are strangers to our ways?”
The woman with the long hair puts her hands on her hips and leans forward, staring at Spock. “Do you speak?”
“I do,” Spock says, his tone serene.
“Do you vouch that what your partner says is true, that you're unfamiliar with our laws?”
His expression remains unchanged. “Yes, it is true.”
The women fall in a whispered conversation, which ends with them both nodding. The guards step aside when the woman with the knot pulls out a key to their prison from under her fur clothes.
“You must be taught our ways, now that you’re on our lands,” the woman says. “We will help you. Our tribe is strong and we can protect you, weak islanders. We welcome new blood in our ranks as long as you follow our ways.”
Spock and Jim step out. All they need is their phasers and a way to the surface, and they’ll be able to get back onto the Enterprise. But first . . . maybe they should take note of the laws of the Eyhre tribes, in case any Starfleeters were one day to return to the planet.
“My partner is hurt,” Spock says and indicates Jim’s head. The woman with the knot glances at the forming bump on his forehead.
“We have treatments for that, I will help you. Follow me,” she says and they do, Spock clasping Jim’s hand in his own cool one to tug him along when he doesn’t react fast enough on his own.
The bad news is: Jim got knocked around and mildly hurt during an embarrassing fight he'd rather not talk about. The good news is: he is exploring new planets and making contact with new people and cultures with his best friend at his side, and that alone makes the bruises and soreness worth it.
“I heard a most odd discussion during lunch three days ago,” Spock says from across the chessboard. They’re in Jim’s quarters for their weekly chess game, which Spock is winning.
Jim considers his queen and Spock’s queen, mournful of how Spock has trapped them in a standoff. He hums in acknowledgement.
“Lieutenant Uhura, Lieutenant Sulu and Ensign Chekov were discussing their shore leave on Starbase 3. They had made friends with the other officers at the bar.”
“Nothing unusual,” Jim says and rubs his chin. If he moves his horse, he might have a decent chance of turning the unfortunate queen showdown into a win for himself and so hopefully, turn the game’s odds against Spock. If he loses this one, it’ll break his win streak of five.
“These officers began talking about us when Lieutenant Uhura mentioned they served on the Enterprise.”
Jim’s hand hangs in the air above the chessboard, next move momentarily forgotten, his full attention on Spock. “What did they say?”
“They conversed in low voices and I didn’t intend to eavesdrop.” Spock folds his hands in his lap and leans back in his chair. “But they mentioned our names and I cannot pretend not to have heard.”
“It’s not your fault.” Privacy is important to Spock, but the humans around him often forget that Spock is half-Vulcan, to them he is just another member of the crew, and so they aren’t discreet enough while gossiping or sharing secrets in his presence. It’s a source of guilt for Spock that he shouldn’t have to carry.
“These officers claimed that there are rumors of us and wanted the Lieutenants and Ensign Chekov to confirm them. I engaged in some covert information gathering to verify that these rumors are, indeed, as widespread as they said.”
Spock looks apologetic. “They are.“
“What rumors?” Jim asks and slumps in his chair, already knowing what to expect.
“That we have secretly married, but not made it public since it could compromise our status as the most effective command team in Starfleet history and force Command to separate us. The officers called it ‘the galaxy’s worst kept secret’.”
“And what did our crew say to that?”
“They denied it, but it seems to have been an ongoing debate since then. Lieutenant Sulu thinks a relationship makes sense. Apparently the way you act around me reminds him of his husband.”
“Of course.” Jim swallows and makes eye-contact with Spock, who gazes steadily back. “Well, sneaking around wouldn’t work forever. We knew that. Besides, Bones has been bugging me about all the secrecy. He keeps talking about a reveal party with a free bar, as a compensation for all the booze he’s had to drink because of us. Yesterday he was on the verge of exploding from holding back some dig he wanted to make when I visited sickbay.”
“During my physical examination he told me he was relieved he hasn’t had to put on the dress uniform for my sake.”
“He doesn’t mean that. It bothers him that he can’t openly mock my taste in men.”
Spock raises an eyebrow at him. “What do you propose we do then?”
“We come forward about us, tell the crew outright that we’re about to get married.” Jim chuckles. “And then we do it. I’m sure your parents would be happy to have the wedding on Vulan. I’ll deal with Starfleet. There’s no point in dragging this out, if everyone already knows or at least suspects, we might as well get it over with a bang. Once it’s out in the open, no one will care anymore. And maybe we’ll finally get some actual exploring done on this ship, instead of attending all those wretched events. A married Captain is much less interesting than a single one.”
Spock doesn’t so much as twitch. “Respectfully, I disagree.”
A wry smile crosses Jim’s face. “Noted.”
“Jim.” Spock’s tone is serious when he searches Jim’s face with his eyes. “We do not have to go through with this right now. We could still wait, if you want to.”
“I know.” Smoothing down his pants down his thighs, Jim feels secure. All his life he’s been considered the kid, the guy, the man who gets around with everyone and can’t commit to anyone. He’s fun, he has fun, he moves on. His public image will change and both him and Spock will probably have to deal with a whole new dimension of hurt and ill-will, but it’ll be fine. Together, they will be fine. “If you’re ready then I’m ready too.”
Spock nods in easy acceptance. He’s been ready far longer than Jim, but never been in a rush to make their relationship public and Jim couldn’t be more grateful. He clears his throat and leans forward, frowning at the chessboard. “Maybe we should put this aside and plan the wedding?”
“I have been informed it is custom to formally propose first.” Which is code for I have planned to experience this human thing with you . Appraising eyes sweeping over the board, he tilts his head slightly, teasingly. “And it looks like you’re losing this round. I would like to add it to our current score.”
Jim huffs, but settles in his seat anyway. He can’t help the smile crossing his lips even when he moves his horse in the wrong direction and accidentally leaves his tower open. Spock takes it out with his bishop.
“You timed the news to distract me so you can win the game, didn’t you?”
“You would recognize your own trick played against yourself.” Spock breathes deeply and lets his heavy gaze sink into Jim, full of promises. “I will do my best to make this slight up to you.”
Warmth settles into Jim’s chest. He’s ready to admit himself defeated this round, if only to speed up the night’s programme, but knows that Spock wouldn’t allow it, rather dragging it out to enjoy the wait. Indulgently, Jim will play along.
“You better,” he says.
Jim can’t wait to be able to openly call Spock his and be considered Spock’s, and not have to dodge every perceptive alien who figures out the true nature of their so far secret relationship. Not to mention the nice bonus of getting cuffed; pretty face or not, a married man is a boring man, and being boring means less representing and more exploring.
Yes, Jim can hardly wait to share his happiness with everyone.