The Mistletoe Challenge
Disclaimer: Paramount owns the characters, I’ve just borrowed them to play with for a while.
“Excuse me, would you mind helping me here?” a young man asked me, his face peering out from under the cloth of one of the banqueting tables. He looked three or four years younger than me – perhaps nineteen and more than likely a freshman, with short blond hair and light-brown eyes set in a handsome face.
My curiosity aroused, I squatted down to see what aid he required.
“I dropped one of my cufflinks,” he explained with a smile. “I was wondering if you can see it – I’ve heard Vulcans have pretty good night-vision.”
With the table covered in an array of food, it was not possible simply to lift the cloth out of the way for a clear view, so in order to assist, I had no choice but to crawl under the table beside him. In the cramped confines, I caught the scent of his cologne – a pleasant combination of citrus, spice and musk. “I am uncertain what specifically you are seeking.”
“Another like this one,” he said, holding up his arm and pointing at his wrist to where his shirt cuff was held together with a small gold fastener. “I was fiddling with it and it fell off and skittered under here someplace.”
I picked up a metallic object that lay close to a table leg. “Is this what you are looking for?” I asked holding it close to his face in the semi-darkness. He smiled brightly at the sight of it, the action softening his features.
As we stood up and dusted ourselves off, I noticed he was four or five centimeters shorter than me and wore a traditional tuxedo which showed off his compact body – he clearly kept himself fit.
“Thanks for your help – I’m Cadet James T. Kirk.”
“Mr. Spock,” he said with a warm smile, holding his hand in a Vulcan salute to which I responded.
“My brother would have killed me if I’d lost one of them – I owe you one!” he said and with another smile, he turned and walked towards a noisy group of people who were gathered nearby. I was gratified that he had left me alone, since I find engaging in frivolous conversation with strangers of little interest and curiously draining, yet there was something about him I was unable to identify, that had held my attention for the duration of the brief encounter.
I turned my attention to the room at large. The Starfleet Academy Winter Ball was the largest party in the social calendar. Finding little to commend such gatherings, I had been successful in avoiding it until this, my fourth and final year here.
I would not have attended this evening, had I not been pressed by Professor Nattal, my astrophysics tutor, in a manner I was unable to refuse. I suspected his wife, who ran the social integration program for the Academy, was likely behind the invitation, since she had attempted – and failed – to persuade me to attend previous such gatherings. The lure had been the promise of an introduction to his guest, Professor Dimbleby of Oxford University, who was the leading expert in the emerging field of quantum-biomechanics.
So it was, as I waited for the professor and his guest to arrive, I specifically chose to stand in a corner of the room at the very far end of a long line of buffet tables, since the location came with two distinct advantages: the first being that it was out of the way of the casual talker and the second, that it was a vantage point that allowed me to survey the entire assembly.
The grand ballroom was almost square, with large clear crystal chandeliers which gave off a soft, refracted light, suspended from a high ceiling that was almost completely obscured by festive garlands of holly, ivy and mistletoe. At the far end of the hall a group of musicians played from a stage, in front of which was a large dance-floor filled with people moving and gyrating to the sounds and rhythms of the players.
I estimated over two thousand people were present, with all major Federation species represented, wearing every manner of costume. Many of the women wore elaborate garments of a formal style, while approximately a third of the males favored the outfit worn by James Kirk and the remainder, the traditional costume of their nations or home planets. I myself had chosen clothing with practical considerations uppermost, to keep me warm in the damp cold of the San Francisco winter and to avoid drawing attention to myself. Both the simple black tunic that reached halfway down my thighs and the loose pants that easily accommodated an additional layer of thermal underwear, were made of Andoran wool – known for its highly insulative properties.
As I glanced around at the clusters of people, it was a simple matter to identify those who, like me, preferred more meaningful verbal interactions than such events ordinarily encouraged. They were to be found on the edge of groups listening more than contributing, or remained on the perimeter of the room, observing. It has been my experience that those familiar with Vulcan culture frequently see a kindred spirit in me and often gravitate towards me at formal functions – one of the benefits of my visually obvious heritage.
Indeed, within minutes I had been approached by two cadets, both of whom specialized in computer sciences. We were in the midst of a debate about how the latest developments in isolinear optical chips might be incorporated into the new constitution class starships when I found myself distracted from the debate by the aroma of a familiar cologne, and knew James Kirk was nearby.
“Mr. Spock, sorry to disturb you...”
I politely excused myself from the conversation with my two companions and turned to find him at the table, an empty plate in his hand. “Mr. Kirk.”
“Jim, Mr. Spock – my friends call me Jim,” he smiled. “Can you recommend anything here – it all looks good.”
“I have yet to consume any food.”
“Hmm, well in that case I’ll give the dolmades a go – would you care...?” he asked, holding a large plate towards me. “They’re vegetarian – stuffed vine leaves.”
I tried one and found it had both a pleasing texture and taste. As I finished it, he appeared to be waiting for a response. “Most palatable, Jim,” I said, using the diminutive as requested, although I hardly categorized myself as an acquaintance. I took another.
“Have you ever had falafel? They’re delicious,” Jim said, proffering me another dish. They were. As he ate one himself, he watched my face carefully and seeing my favorable expression, smiled broadly.
“Hmm, what next,” he said scanning the table.
I found myself doing likewise, not having noticed, until now, that I was hungry. “What are those?” I asked.
Jim picked up one of the small brown objects and tried it. “Ah...stuffed Rigellian dates, very nice – here, try it, Spock.” On this occasion, rather than pick up the entire dish, he simply handed one to me. Our fingers brushed as I took it from him and I found the brief touch created a sensation that suggested my telepathic shield required strengthening. I chose to ignore the thought, however.
We had tried several other dishes, including vegetarian sushi and vegetable tempura when I recognized a delicacy I thought Jim might appreciate. “Have you ever tried the ki’ifti root? It is a dish native to Vulcan.” He shook his head and smiled as I reached over to a plate behind me and handed him the small delicacy. “It should be eaten whole,” I advised him and found myself studying his face closely to monitor his reaction.
I was not disappointed as he registered both surprise and delight. “That is delicious, can you pass another?” he requested. “Are they a desert plant?”
“Indeed. The roots of the ki’ifti are buried deep in the sand. Along their length are these pebble-shaped protrusions,” I explained, “the fleshy skin of which contains the plant seeds and the innard, the syrupy sap.”
He listened with such concentration and intensity, it was as though I were the only person in the room. I held another out to him which he turned over in his hand and studied for a moment, before slowly putting it into his mouth. His warm and expressive eyes held mine as he slowly bit down; he was clearly savoring the taste. I found myself curiously drawn by this young man.
“Ah, there you are, Mr. Spock.” The moment broken, I turned to find Professor Nattal walking towards me with the man I recognized from a holovid as Professor Frederick Dimbleby.
I greeted them and turned back to Jim, with a sense of regret. “Please excuse me.”
He held up his hand and smiled, his expression one of understanding. “Go ahead, Spock.”
“Jimmy!” From the group he had been standing with earlier a petite, blonde-haired woman had emerged in an orange and purple gown which floated about her as she approached. “I’ve been waiting ages for you to finish eating. Come and dance!” Taking his hand, she led him towards the dance floor. Looking back over his shoulder, he gave me a resigned smile and followed. I turned back to the professors.
We spoke for 47 minutes and although the discussion had been stimulating, I realized Dimbleby’s presence was no longer my main draw at the ball. I had originally intended to leave following the meeting, but as Nattal led the professor away to introduce him to others, I found myself looking around to see what had become of Jim. Despite the numbers, I easily picked him out in a group standing halfway down the hall. He was talking animatedly and laughing, and I watched how he influenced the others around him, as they listened intently to him and responded to his cues. He clearly had what Humans refer to as ‘charisma’ – a combination of both charm and magnetism.
Although he had appeared deeply engaged with the group, he glanced unexpectedly in my direction and our eyes met. I was gratified that there were a number of people about me, as his companions turned to see what Jim was looking at. By then, I had left my spot and was walking towards a nearby bar.
It was a traditional one, with real servers – instead of replicators – who made up complex cocktails to order for the guests. I had been waiting in line for several minutes and was the next to be served when the smell of his cologne alerted me that Jim was close.
“Mind if I cut in, Spock? A guy could die of thirst waiting in this long line!” He smiled and winked at me and finding myself unable to respond, I ushered him ahead of me.
“What would you like?” he turned around to ask. “I’d recommend the pineapple passion – it’s non-alcoholic.”
I agreed and after obtaining our drinks, he walked towards an empty space near the wall a short distance away. I found myself automatically following.
When he stopped, he turned to look at me expectantly and realizing what he was waiting for, took a sip of the drink and nodded. “A most pleasant flavor.”
He smiled, appearing genuinely pleased at my pronouncement. “I guess with nearly 10,000 cadets, you an upperclassman in sciences and me a plebe majoring in helm and navigations, it’s not surprising we’ve not met before.”
“Indeed,” I agreed. “And as I do not generally attend such social functions, the probability of an earlier encounter was also greatly diminished.”
“I recently read your paper on transwarp drive theory Spock, ” Jim said unexpectedly. “Awesome! If we could get a breakthrough in energy-field stability, it’d be the greatest leap in interstellar propulsion since Cochrane.”
I held in check my surprise that Jim would have read a paper I had written as a treatise intended for scientists who were experts in the field. “We are currently a long way from the technology required that would allow us to create a temporary conduit between two specific, distant points in space,” I pointed out.
“I know, but if we could find a way to bypass quantum slipstream technology, can you imagine the distances we could cover, and what that would mean for space exploration?” Jim’s face clearly showed his wonder.
We spoke at length on the subject and I found myself impressed by the degree of Jim’s intellect and his original thinking. For someone who did not specialize in sciences, his technical knowledge of the subject far exceeded what would be required merely to pass Starfleet exams. I was also taken with Jim’s passion and absolute belief in Starfleet’s mission and found myself even more captivated by him.
The young woman who had approached Jim earlier made her way towards us, clearly inebriated. “Jimmy, I’ve been looking for you forever.”
“Yeah hi,” she interrupted with a cursory glance at me before turning back to Jim. “You keep running off!” Grabbing his hand she began to pull. “Come on, you’re wanted to settle a bet!”
Jim did his best to gently extricate himself from the young woman’s grasp, but she remained quite insistent that he accompany her. Realizing she was not going to leave without him, Jim capitulated and apologized as he allowed himself to be pulled him away. They were halfway across the dance floor when he glanced over his shoulder and our eyes met; his face held an odd expression I was unable to read.
Within minutes several of my classmen had approached. While the topic we discussed concerning the current advances in holoprogram technology was interesting, I found myself not nearly as engaged by it as I had by my earlier discussion with Jim.
After half an hour and with the ball all but over, I decided to depart. Although I was close to an exit, I chose to walk to it the long way around, finding myself searching for Jim as I made my way through the throng. It was an illogical action since I knew he was, in all likelihood, with his friends and I would not approach him while he was with them to say goodbye. The action proved futile since I was unable to locate him and left the ballroom. I was walking down a long hall towards the exit when passing the door to the men’s facilities, I heard Jim’s voice raised in anger.
For privacy, the door area was designed in such a way that the main facility inside was hidden from the view of anyone passing who might happen to glance in while the door was open. This fortuitously resulted in my being initially hidden from the view of the occupants. From where I was, I could see a mirror with the reflection of the backs of two men confronting Jim, who was standing outside a number of apparently unoccupied stalls. I paused and listened – they were apparently offering to dunk Jim’s head in a toilet and flush it, and naturally he was refusing.
“Fuck off, Finnegan,” said Jim loudly.
“Ah, listen to him, Tommy, he’s all afire, to be sure. C’mon Jimmy, don’t make this harder on yerself. Yer man Tommy and me can easily overpower a little runt like you and you know it!”
As I stepped from my hiding place, neither of Jim’s assailants was aware of my presence, and Jim gave no sign away of my appearance by any facial reaction. I silently praised his training. Reaching out to them simultaneously, I applied perhaps a little more pressure than I needed to, and they dropped to the floor like stones. I estimated they would be unconscious for a duration of 1.2 hours.
“I wish I could do that!” Jim said with a grin as he led the way back to the ballroom.
Although I had been leaving, I followed Jim back inside. “I am unaware of any non-Vulcans who have been capable of perfecting the nerve pinch.”
“Pity, it could come in quite handy,” he said, genuinely regretfully.
It was not my business, however curiosity got the better of me. “Why did those cadets confront you in such a manner?”
“Oh, it’s just upperclassmen hazing a plebe.” He smiled and added, “I’ll bet no-one’s ever tried it on you!”
“Indeed not.” I had heard of the illogical practice. “Have you reported it?” I asked, concerned for Jim’s well-being.
“No, that isn’t usually a good idea. It drives me nuts, but I won’t give Finnegan the satisfaction of knowing he’s got to me, because then he’ll have won.” He grinned and added, “When he comes to in a while, he’ll be wondering what the hell happened.”
“Finnegan is a cadet midshipman,” I pointed out. “His behavior is unbecoming of an officer.”
“I agree, but unfortunately that sort of thing goes on all the time,” said Jim. He stopped walking for a moment and looked at me earnestly. “One day, Spock, I’m going to command a starship and when I do, I won’t tolerate any form of bullying or bigotry. If I ever caught any of my crew showing signs of either of those behaviors, they’d be off my ship so fast, their feet wouldn’t touch the ground.”
I stood before this youth not yet out of his teenage years, and I could clearly see the wise and mature man in him, and who he had the potential to be. In that moment, there was no doubt in my mind that he would achieve all he set out to do. “I would wish to serve under such a Captain, Jim.”
“And I’d be honored to have you on my crew Spock,” he said with a sincere look. Then he smiled and we resumed our walk towards the ballroom entrance.
I felt gratified that I had been able to assist and prevent Jim from suffering the indignity of what Finnegan and his friend had intended for him. I resolved to alert Academy security of the two unconscious cadets in the men's room and ensure they knew it was I who had reported them for drunk and disorderly behavior.
As we once again entered the large room, Jim looked up at a big clock hanging on a wall near the stage. “Party’s almost over, Spock. Would you like another drink for the road?”
I frequently found the idiomatic aspect of Standard at best, illogical and at times, obscure. For amusement, I pretended at first not to understand what he had meant. “Why would I wish to acquire a beverage for a thoroughfare?”
“No, no, it’s just a saying – it means...” Jim trailed off from his explanation as he looked at me suspiciously – he had caught my delight in the small quirk of the corners of my lips. “You’re putting me on,” he said. “Oh god, a Vulcan with a sense of humor!” and he began to laugh.
To have been the source of Jim’s evident mirth filled me with a warm and positive sensation I was unable to identify.
When he had stopped laughing, Jim glanced at the clock again and said, “If you wait here Spock, I’ll go to the bar and see if I can surprise you with something nice.”
Just as he left, the music stopped and a woman I recognized as Mrs. Nattal stood at the center of the stage. “Gentlebeings,” she began, her voice amplified throughout the hall, “sadly the Winter Ball is almost at an end. But not before we celebrate the famous – some would say infamous – Starfleet Academy tradition of the ‘Mistletoe Challenge’.”
Mrs. Nattal described the process. When instructed, people were to stand in front of their chosen partner and if both parties agree, to remain there. Once all those who wished to participate had identified a partner, the lights would be extinguished for a period of one hundred seconds to allow kissing to take place in relative privacy under the copious bundles of mistletoe that hung from the ceiling. The final ten seconds of darkness were counted down aloud so that participants would know when to end the kiss. She then gave the order to find partners.
Mayhem ensued as hundreds of people moved around the room searching, or carefully stood out of the way against the walls, as I did. I ensured I looked suitably stern, should anyone take it upon themselves to approach me. I was unable to prevent myself glancing towards the bar to see who Jim had chosen. Liz and a young man both stood in front of him, arguing over who was going to be his kissing partner, while Jim watched, laughing. The fact that he appeared unconcerned that one of the prospective partners was male, intrigued me. In the event, the young man apparently won the argument and Liz walked away looking for someone else.
“Gentlebeings, are you ready?” Mrs. Nattal called from the stage. A cheer went up in the hall in response. “Our lovely band will play that old John Denver classic, ‘Annie’s Song’ – so...enjoy!”
With that, the room was plunged into darkness as the musicians began to play. It took a moment for my eyes to adjust, but I smelled his cologne before I saw Jim come to stand before me, our bodies almost, but not quite, touching. Given to him it was almost pitch black, he had located me with a stunning degree of accuracy.
Jim was aware I could see enough to know he was there and he left it up to me to make the first move. There was no time to consider and following an impulse to experience something entirely new and exciting, I bent my head and pressed my lips to his. Although I was aware of the mechanics, I had never kissed before, so I was obliged to take Jim’s lead.
At the first gentle touch, I experienced a jolt run through me and had to suppress a gasp. His pliant lips moved softly against mine and then he parted them, his tongue creating a moist trail from one corner of my mouth to the other. This was accompanied by a tingling sensation that began at my lips and radiated downward. Our mouths were thus far our only point of contact, and although a supremely simple gesture, the kiss acted as does a tsunami – a small input at its epicenter creating a wave of sensation that increased in intensity as it travelled outward, towards my groin. I felt my penis begin to fill and experienced uncharacteristic instability in my lower limbs.
When Jim pushed my lips apart seeking my tongue with his and they circled together, another shockwave reverberated throughout my body and my arousal was complete. As though he knew, I felt Jim’s hands move around my waist, pulling us together and I felt his answering hardness against mine.
I wished to record the myriad inputs in order to commit them to memory, but all rational thought had fled. Yet I continued to struggle to catalog, dimly aware that I was surrounded by the smell of his cologne, by the taste of him, the sound of his heavy breathing and the touch of him from mouth to groin. Finally accepting the futility, I released the need to engage mentally and instead focused on the oneness of our sharing. It was though I had let go a burden and discovered a new dimension of existence. With my timesense gone, I found myself illogically wishing it would never end.
I had been holding him loosely but now I moved my hands upwards to caress the exposed soft skin of his neck, to follow the rounded shape of his ears, to run through the short hair at the back of his head and pull our faces even closer. In so doing, the kiss deepened impossibly, our mouths opening wide, our tongues sensually dancing first in his mouth, then in mine. Jim swayed his hips, causing a blissful friction through our too many layers of clothing and this time, I was unable to hold back a gasp.
“Ten!” Mrs. Nattal called out, her voice jarring as it jerked me brutally back from my experience to a greater consciousness of our surroundings. Jim began to end the kiss, pulling away gently.
He placed another small kiss on my lips and I sensed his reluctance as he pulled out of my embrace. As he had shared a Human intimacy with me, so I wished to share a Vulcan one with him. In the last of a series of impulses that I had unthinkingly followed that evening, I reached out in the dark and unerringly touched the meld points of Jim’s face and silently asked the question. I sensed his immediate agreement as he ceased all movement, but his body held the tension of one ready to move quickly as the countdown continued.
In the space between two single seconds, I shared, with a sense of gratitude, the impressions he had made upon me that night, and then withdrew. I had no idea whether his Human brain would be able to make sense of such an instantaneous download.
Jim’s fingers caressed my face. “Live long and prosper, Spock, I hope to meet again soon.” And then he was gone.
I barely heard the rest of the countdown. When the lights came on, I immediately began a visual search of the room but I already knew I would not find him there and that he would not wish me to pursue him.
To avoid the crowds, I left by a side exit and bracing myself against the cold, headed for a security office to report Finnegan and his friend. For the remainder of the walk back to my dorm room, still with the taste of Jim fresh in my mouth and the lingering smell of his cologne that my own clothes had acquired during our embrace, I replayed those special moments I had spent with Jim, that were to become of such significance to me.
In my room, I began to research Jim to learn more about him. There was very little beyond the publically available basic biographical data and although I could have easily gotten past the Academy computer security system to access his personnel files, my sense of ethics prevented me from doing so.
The following day I was able to discover, from a discreet inquiry, that Jim had departed early that morning for his family home in Iowa for the holidays. When I learnt the date of his return, a sense of profound consternation threatened my Vulcan control, for in that moment I knew that I would not see James Kirk before I graduated from the Academy. I was scheduled in ten days to leave on a scientific field study on Beta Geminorum IV for three months and by the time I returned, all freshmen would have departed for their own end-of-year field projects. As this was my final year, he would not return before I had begun my first assignment as a full Starfleet Officer.
What is, is. It would be illogical to think otherwise, yet I experienced a sense of regret at the misfortune that would prevent me meeting again with this vibrant, charismatic youth who had burst into my life for a brief moment in time. All I had left of Jim was my memory of the previous evening and while we might never meet again, I pledged to follow him and his career carefully.
Sitting in the San Francisco apartment I had rented for the duration of the Enterprise’s refit, I saw the flag on my computer monitor illuminate, indicating I had received a high priority Starfleet Communication.
Over the previous weeks, there had been many rumors circulating over who would replace Captain Pike. I heard through unofficial lines that Jim was being considered among several others. However, the odds were not favorable given his relative youth and his lack of experience in a command position.
Yet, I acknowledged there was the probability – no matter how vanishingly small – that Jim could be my new commander, so it was not with complete detachment that I opened the communication. In an instant I felt a jolt as though I had been travelling at speed and had suddenly been slammed to a full stop by an invisible force. I sat there, momentarily stunned, thankful that no-one had witnessed my temporary loss of control.
I stared at the screen unblinking. My mind filled with a clamor of thoughts that, until now, I had not given rein to because I had not truly believed Starfleet would make such a bold appointment. Beyond the formal message to inform me that James T. Kirk was to be my new commanding officer, there was one other change in the command team – Number One’s position was to be filled by Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell. Although we were the same rank, the First Officer position was technically senior to that of Science Officer.
It would be a falsehood to suggest that when I had first heard speculation of Jim as a possibility, I had not tried to imagine what life would be like under his command. I had no need to read the biographical data Starfleet has sent me on my new Captain as I had done as I had resolved, following every detail of his career with an uncommon interest through the lows and the highs, and he had long ago earnt my respect. I knew unequivocally that I could trust him to do the job well and I believed not only would he make an excellent commander, but that he and I would work well together.
However, there was a complication and it revolved around less than two minutes in our lives at a time when we were barely adults. In an impulsive moment, Jim and I had shared that kiss. While it had been an achingly poignant moment, we had never intended it to be anything other than the brief exchange that it was, borne out by the fact that neither of us had attempted to contact the other in the intervening years. Logically, it was a matter that should remain consigned to the past. Yet there it stood between us, a monument to the audacity of youth.
What took place that night was my most cherished memory. Perhaps because I had still been so young and impressionable; perhaps because Jim and I had been so drawn to each other that night; perhaps because the kiss had been a ‘first’ for me; perhaps because Jim was the first, and one of the few Humans, who accepted me unconditionally for who I am; perhaps all, or some or none of those, but the influence of that event had, in different ways, threaded itself through my life since.
From the discussion I had had with Jim, I came to realize that my logic has, at times, a tendency to stifle creativity, where by contrast, he had demonstrated that his brilliant, intuitive approach had the potential to create fresh, original thinking and ideas that simply would not occur to me. Upon further analysis, I was forced to acknowledge that until that point I had, at some level, erroneously viewed myself as superior to humans because of my adherence to logic as a basis for being. In all likelihood, it would have resulted in my coming across to others as, at best, arrogant and at worst, disdainful. In appreciating what Humans had to offer, by accepting them as full equals and treating them as such, I began to find greater acceptance amongst them.
By contrast, Jim had clearly accepted me for who I am, seeing beyond my heritage to me as a viable entity unto myself. This had been a revelation for I had, until that point, lived a life in which I had been accepted by neither my father’s nor my mother’s people; an outcast who bridged two worlds yet belonged to neither. In addition, he had been clearly sexually attracted to me, a notion I had, at first, found startling most especially given his own degree of attractiveness and the fact that he would surely never be short of sexual partners. Indeed, on that very night he had been fought over by two admirers, while he had freely chosen me upon whom to bestow his kiss. Whereas I had always had confidence in my intellectual capabilities, Jim’s attraction allowed me to gain a new-found inner confidence as a man, that came about as a result of a reassessment of certain beliefs I had held about myself. In addition, my first sexual experience with Jim became, for me, a right of passage to manhood, from which over the years I chose to explore certain facets of my sexuality outside of my childhood bond, although all those explorations had been with female partners.
In short, it could not be denied that although he did not know it Jim, in absentia, had played an important role in my life.
While I had kept my memory of Jim alive, I could not help wondering what he remembered of me. He had been completely sober that night and he had daringly kissed a Vulcan. It was something he was unlikely to forget, yet were one to be brutally honest, perhaps it would be for no other reason than the novelty factor. While he had been attracted to me, I had reason to believe that his motive for acting upon it had been one of curiosity, since in the intervening years his spacefaring exploits were not quite eclipsed by his reputation for attracting women. In all the time since we met, Jim had not once been associated with a male companion, something it is unlikely the Federation news networks would have missed in their clamor to report on the more salacious tidbits in the lives of newsworthy people. So, I had long ago come to the conclusion that at such a young age Jim had, in all likelihood, been experimenting and had found he preferred the company of women. Given this, it was unlikely that what he and I had shared would have held much significance for him, certainly not in the way it had for me.
So it was that Jim, who had been driven by his life-long dream to command a starship, was about to have it come true. That I was to be part of that dream, left me wondering about the hand of Fate. Looking to the future and life under Jim’s command, whatever had existed between us that night had occurred long ago in the past and would not affect our working relationship. In fact, I had no intention of ever referring to it.
Four weeks later, on an unseasonably foggy February morning, I packed my bags for the last time and left the apartment that had been my home for the previous four months. The Enterprise would remain in dry dock for two more solar days and was then due to proceed to standard spacedock for the remaining five days in final preparation for her new mission. I went aboard early to oversee the final testing of newly installed scientific and computer equipment and to calibrate the upgraded scanner system.
In the event, my first day was spent working with engineering, ground-based personnel and an increasingly frustrated quartermaster, attempting to repair a ‘bug’ with the uniform replicators. The new central computer systems appeared unable to decode the updated uniform programs and at this stage, it was entirely possible we would begin our new mission having to wear the old-style uniform. Unable to rectify the problem and with much else to accomplish, I handed it back to the fleet staff to resolve.
I received a communication stating that Captain Pike had chosen to hand the ship over to Jim privately at a meeting with Admiral Nogura, and would therefore not be present at the formal ceremony I had been orchestrating, and so adjusted the plans accordingly.
Three days ahead of Jim’s arrival, Lt. Cdr. Mitchell beamed up and I ensured I was there to greet him in the transporter room and welcome him aboard. He had barely stepped from the transporter pad when he requested a briefing later that day to discuss Jim’s welcome ceremony. However, when the meeting took place, it was less of a discussion and more an opportunity for him to present me with the plans he had drawn up. Evidently, it had not occurred to him that I would have already taken care of the details. My correction of this erroneous assumption led to his becoming irritated and ordering me to follow his plans without argument.
The one fundamental change Mitchell had made was that he had placed himself in the role of ‘Officer of the Deck’ – to whom the Captain would request permission to come aboard. Since the ceremony was a formal hand over, tradition placed the most senior crewman under the previous command (often the former Captain themselves) as the person to carry out this duty. Therefore, logically, the duty should have fallen to me.
This incident, it soon became apparent, was indicative of Mitchell’s leadership style and was one of several in which he either overruled me or simply ordered something to be done without discussion. A number of his changes were neither logical nor efficient, yet he continued to demonstrate an apparent disregard to the fact that certain processes and procedures had worked well on the Enterprise long before he had joined the ship.
I began to experience a sense of disquiet whenever around Mitchell which led me to checking his ESPer readings on his personnel file. My suspicion had been correct – it appeared I would have to tighten my telepathic shield whenever near him.
The new Captain of the Enterprise and Starfleet’s launching of its new five-year missions was receiving a great deal of reportage on the news channels. The bulletins frequently included interviews with Jim, who seemed to bare them all with magnanimity.
As the day Jim was to join the ship drew near, the issues with Mitchell caused me to become increasingly detached, withdrawing behind my Vulcan mask. I did not sleep the night before he arrived, choosing to spend the time in meditation.
Jim came aboard the Enterprise on the Galileo. On the hangar deck stood a line of yeomen and opposite, his command team in full dress uniform. Beyond that, the hangar was filled with a selection of officers and enlisted personnel, numbering 124. When Jim emerged, smiling, and stopped at the top of the ramp to survey the gathering, I found myself unable to look directly at him, focusing on a point to his left. Yet, when Mitchell stepped forward to welcome him aboard, I saw in my peripheral vision a moment of surprise on his face and knew in that instant that he had been expecting me to perform that honor.
“Request permission to come aboard, Sir,” Jim said, repeating the ritual words in the centuries old Earth tradition.
“Permission granted, Captain. Welcome aboard the Enterprise.”
As the Captain descended the ramp to take his first steps onto his ship, the yeomen piped him aboard. The next stage of the ceremony involved Jim meeting his senior officers, although Mitchell did not require introduction. In my research of the First Officer, I had learnt that he had been a student in one of Jim’s classes when he had served as an instructor at the Academy and they had remained close friends.
Therefore without preamble, Mitchell walked Jim over to his line of officers, of which I was first. Before he had a chance to introduce me, Jim said, “Lieutenant Commander Spock,” and smiled warmly as he gave me a Vulcan salute.
The gesture echoed perfectly our first meeting and when I looked briefly into his eyes, I saw clear recognition there and a welcoming warmth. He had not forgotten, but gave away no indication that would alert others to the fact that we had already met. He had changed, yet he had not. Physically he had filled out and his face showed the passing of years, however his eyes carried the same intensity and he still had his magnetism. I relaxed my face infinitesimally and returned the salute. “Captain, welcome aboard. I look forward to serving with you.”
Jim held my eyes for perhaps a moment longer than would be normal. Mitchell clearly wanted to move him along. “I should have guessed you’d learn everyone’s name, Captain,” he said.
“Some I already know,” he replied, smiling at Mitchell and to prove the point turned to the Chief Engineer standing beside me. “Scotty, how are you? It’s been a long time!”
“Aye, it has. I’m verra well Cap’n, and pleased to have you aboard. You know how I love ma wee bairns and I know you’ll look after the Enterprise.”
Mitchell and Jim continued down the line as I stood rigidly, my mind empty. I heard the Captain call my name and turned. “Mr. Spock, would you mind taking me on a tour of my ship? I’d like to get acquainted with her.”
That duty was normally carried out by the Officer of the Deck, so Jim was already breaking from protocol, or rather reinstating it, and in his own way recognizing my position on his ship.
“I would be honored, Captain.” In truth, I would have preferred Mitchell to carry out this task as I was finding my control more difficult than I had expected.
“I’d like to have a briefing with all Department Heads at 14:00 – perhaps we can do the tour after that?”
Alone in my cabin I sat at my desk and wondered how I was going to manage the next five years. Jim had reappeared in my life every bit as attractive as I had remembered him. Although I had watched all the recent newscasts and, over the years, had seen many holopictures of Jim – indeed I had a number of carefully encrypted favorites on my personal database – I had still been taken by surprise. What the 3D images and holovids could not replicate was Jim’s vibrant life energy and the force and strength of his presence, against which apparently I had precious little control.
I could not look at his mouth and not remember the feel of his lips on mine, nor see him standing before me and not recall how he had felt pressed against me, his arousal burning against my own. No longer a naive youth, I had many more years wisdom, knowledge and experience, yet it all counted for nothing. Although I had successfully buried the desire, it was as if those years had never been, and I was faced with the unalterable fact that I longed to repeat that experience. Had I become obsessed with him, I wondered.
An hour later, having reinforced my Vulcan control, I changed into standard uniform – the old style as the replicators were still failing to function correctly – and left the sanctuary of my cabin to attend Jim’s briefing. When I arrived, Jim and Mitchell were evidently sharing a private joke, laughing loudly as the door opened. After the quiet and reflective style of Captain Pike, it would take time to grow accustomed to the new command team.
Jim introduced himself to his new team and spoke of his honor of gaining command of ‘the best ship in the fleet made so by her crew’ and of being proud to be the first starship to be assigned a five year mission, one of many ‘firsts’ he believed we would achieve together. To attain success, he detailed what his expectations were of his crew, talking of respect and integrity, teamwork and trust; he spoke too of what was unacceptable, and I noticed that he looked at me as he spoke of his zero tolerance of any form of bullying or bigotry. I experienced a measure of surprise – surely Jim would not have remembered that conversation they had had all those years ago.
As Jim spoke, I was able to study him and the effect he had on those around him and found he had lost none of the energy and ability to influence that I had observed when we had first met, his words clearly affecting those gathered in a positive way. I was reminded of a French saying, ‘Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose’ – the more things change, the more they stay the same.
He ended the briefing by telling us to prepare to leave spacedock the following morning at 08:00 and that our first mission was to be the first Federation ship to probe the edge of the galaxy.
When he finished, I waited by the door for him.
“Sit down, Spock.”
I took the nearest seat, several feet away from him.
“How are you?” he asked.
I was uncertain if the question was an attempt to bring some normality to our working relationship, or to probe to see if, in private to him at least, I would acknowledge that we had met before. It would be a lie to pretend that we had not, yet I believed it was inappropriate, given our new working relationship, to refer to what had taken place.
I forced myself to look into his eyes. “I am functional, Sir. And you?”
He smiled, but I believe he was feeling the strain between us. “I’m happy I got my first command. Even happier that I got the Enterprise. That you’re my Science Officer is an enormous asset.” He paused and then added quietly, “Spock, I can’t pretend that the responsibility doesn’t scare me a bit, but knowing you’re there to back me up makes all the difference to me.”
It was a genuine and personal statement and in that moment I knew, unequivocally, that it was not an admission he would trust with another. Yet Jim needed to know that my job to support him was being hampered. All the changes Mitchell had been making increased his power and influence as FO, while removing some of mine in my role.
“I believe Mr. Mitchell, as your First Officer, would prefer to think of himself as your back-up.”
“Gary...can sometimes be impetuous and sometimes his ego gets in the way. He’s a great guy and a good officer, but if you have any...difficulties with him, I want you to tell me.”
Jim was a perceptive man. It was gratifying to know that he was already picking up on issues and was not intending to allow Mitchell a free hand. “Yes Sir.”
“Spock, you can call me Jim when we’re alone,” he smiled.
“You are my commanding officer – I would prefer to call you Captain or Sir.” My words had been more blunt than I had intended, and something subtly changed in Jim’s eyes. Was it sadness or withdrawal? After all these years among them, I was still not adept at reading Humans.
Jim continued to regard me for a moment and then nodded. “Very well, Mr. Spock. Let’s get that tour started.”
I was not surprised to discover that Jim had clearly been studying schematics of the Enterprise in some detail and rarely needed reminding what area we were heading towards. As we moved from department to department, he spoke to the crew he encountered and demonstrated a genuine interest in them and their work. I found myself admiring his ability to build rapport with each person he spoke to, and was reminded of how quickly and easily he had engaged me all those years ago.
We covered the entire ship in 4.7 hours – it would have been 4.4 hours had Mr. Scott not pressed the Captain into sharing a glass of scotch with him in his office. At the end of the tour, I declined Jim’s invitation to join him and Mitchell for dinner with the justification that I had work to carry out prior to the start of our voyage. I also required a period alone to repair my control.
The reason for declining had been true and fortuitous. The computer feed to the uniform replicators was still offline and at this stage, the probability of finding a solution prior to departure was approaching zero. Jim had received a message towards the end of the tour that rather than allow the glitch to delay the Enterprise’s departure, we had been given permission to continue with the old uniforms until further notice. I would now be required to oversee a full reboot of the system so that at least we had some functionality, even if the output was not what Starfleet would have wished, given all the publicity surrounding our send-off.
Over the weeks of our journey towards the outer edge of our galaxy, I continued to maintain my distance although Jim made it exceptionally difficult for me. He seemed to be aware of my interest in chess and within the first week of the mission, pressed me into playing with him regularly, rapidly demonstrating he was more than a match for me. I was reminded again of his keen intellect and his ability to ‘think outside the box’, but now I was also faced with his tactical prowess. Jim’s constant warmth towards me during the matches caused my control to lapse on several occasions when I found myself almost returning his smiles, although as time progressed, I was able to hold them in better check. He also appeared to derive amusement out of using his not inconsiderable charm and occasional gentle teasing to attempt to break through my Vulcan control when on the bridge. I could have found it tiresome, but in truth at a fundamental level, I could deny this man nothing.
I continued to find Mitchell difficult to work with as he changed established working practices and routines for no other reason than, as he explained to me on more than one occasion, because he could. He frequently attempted to goad me, although I was, at first, unaware of any behavior that may have prompted it. However, it occurred enough times for me to recognize a pattern – it was not my behavior, but rather Jim’s towards me, that appeared to rile him.
Mitchell’s friendship with the Captain was clearly important to him and he often reminded Jim of experiences they had shared together, as if to emphasize their closeness and camaraderie to others. Jim was loyal to their friendship and seemed genuinely to hold Mitchell in some affection. It became difficult for him therefore when, on more than one occasion, he had had to step in when Mitchell was being particularly unreasonable.
Perhaps because I was so attuned to it myself, but I began to sense a subtext from Mitchell in the form of increased touching and almost flirtatious behavior, leading me to believe he wished to share more than just friendship with Jim, but was clearly held at arms length on that count. While the admission is most un-Vulcan, I found a small degree of satisfaction that I had, at least, shared something more intimate with the Captain and that it was not a matter Jim had ever chosen to share with his friend.
As a shakedown cruise to test new systems and for the crew to settle into their routines, our long journey had been perfect, but at its end in our bid to probe beyond our galaxy, it came close to disaster. All starship Captains face difficult challenges throughout their career. Jim’s first was to be forced to kill his friend, with all the subsequent remorse and guilt that would be associated with such an action. Gone was the warmth and teasing as he withdrew behind a mask of professionalism. We limped back to Earth and on the journey, unable to watch Jim suffer alone, I had him agree to move the chess games to his cabin and in that shared privacy, I unbent and found him greatly relieved by this. Over the matches we talked on many topics, but much to my relief, Jim never referred to our first encounter.
Our visit to Earth lasted 8 solar days while repairs were carried out to the ship. In our absence, Starfleet had threatened the companies that had provided the new replicators and the computer systems with a lawsuit for breach of contract. As a result, they had thrown in all their resources and successfully isolated the issue so that we were finally able to wear the new style uniform.
Jim had spoken to me of it on the journey back, but I now received formal notification that I would act as First Officer in addition to Science Officer and once formally approved, my rank would be increased to full commander. In addition Dr. Piper, who decided to request a transfer to a ground position, was to be replaced by another of Jim’s old friends, Dr. McCoy.
There is an old Earth saying, ‘out of the frying pan and into the fire’. Dr. McCoy also appeared to enjoy attempting to provoke a reaction from me, although it was his emotionalism in contrast to my Vulcan logic and control, rather than insecurity, that prompted him. As the months passed, despite a sometimes challenging professional relationship, we both came to respect each others talents and expertise and to work seamlessly as a team.
The Earth solar year ended ten months into our five year mission. In that time, the Enterprise and her crew experienced many perils and challenges that Jim’s extraordinary command capabilities overcame. Others joined Mitchell, Kelso and Dr. Dehner in the list of personnel who died in action. Jim felt personally responsible for each death and his inability to save each of them was painful to him. He turned to both McCoy and me in troubled times and I was gratified by the trust he showed in me.
That trust, however, was greatly strained for a time by the events surrounding Pike and Talos IV and was the cause of the greatest schism between us. Yet it was also a turning point in our ever deepening friendship, as it provided Jim with his first opportunity to demonstrate the depth of his loyalty to me and to show me that it was as great as mine is to him. He came to understand my reasons and my need to protect him and his career and he forgave me. In private he asked me to promise never to protect him in such a way again and I gave him my word.
Jim and I also both experienced personal times of anguish, most notably for Jim, his loss of Edith Keeler, who I believe he genuinely loved. He was deeply affected by those tragic circumstances and perhaps felt the loneliness of command, and the responsibilities that go with it, more keenly than ever before. It was one of the few times that he did not turn to me for support.
In that year, I also had to contend with my own aborted marriage. No doubt T’Pring’s challenge brought further shame to my family and, in the eyes of my father, would have likely validated his prior decision to disown me. Her release of me effectively broke my final tie to my homeworld, yet I had found a new home, a new anchor, at Jim’s side.
When Jim had first come aboard, I identified a continued connection to him from that night long ago. In the following ten months, it had deepened and broadened into more than a special friendship – more a shared kinship, a concept that has its roots in Ancient Vulcan. In identifying and recognizing this, I came to accept that the emotion he had engendered in me was love. Yet although, in keeping with the old tradition, a part of me yearned to share more than friendship, my love for Jim was without conditions, enabling me to set him free to love whomever he chose.
So it was that as the Solar year drew to a close, Jim announced his intention to reinstate the Academy tradition of the Winter Ball. The announcement caught me unawares as Jim had not consulted me on it. However, a greater surprise was the fact that neither at the time, nor on any occasion in the lead up to the event, did Jim broach the subject with me. Taking his cue I, likewise, remained silent on the matter.
The notion of the party brought to the surface many memories which I had spent the best part of our mission to this point attempting to suppress. Perhaps it was no great revelation, given the circumstances, that the very thought of the party brought about a disquiet in me that would require a period of meditation to quell.
By contrast, the crew appeared greatly excited by the up-coming event and it became the topic of the moment. However, there will always be those who do not wish to participate in such festivities, and when Lt. Uhura set up a list for crew to volunteer to cover the shift on the night, she was confident it would be adequately filled. I added my name to the roster since a duty senior officer would be required. The fact that it also provided me with a valid reason not to have to attend, was also a major motivation.
I had anticipated the possibility of an attempt by Jim to persuade me to go, but I was taken by surprise when, within an hour of my appending my name to the duty roster, Uhura entered the mess appearing somewhat agitated. Sitting down opposite me with a tray of food she told me, “Mr. Spock, you have to go!”
“‘Have to’, Lieutenant?” I asked, my eyebrow raised. Uhura had known me long enough to recognize that I was teasing her, rather than admonishing her for insubordination.
She looked at me defiantly. “Yes, have to, Spock!” The removal of my rank in her response altered the conversation into a personal one – a clever tactic. “I’ve volunteered to coordinate the activities,” she explained, “and I’ve been thinking about this. We’re going to need music and there are some talented musicians among the crew – and might I remind you that you’re one of them! I thought it’d be nice to intersperse pre-recorded songs with live performances and I figured you and I could maybe do a few pieces together.” She smiled and added the comment her instinct told her would make it difficult for me to refuse, “I think the Captain would appreciate it.”
With the event only two weeks away, there was no time to defer a decision, so I capitulated gracefully, with a proviso. “Please schedule our performance at the end of the evening and I will cover the shift up until that time.”
Uhura smiled widely. “Willdo, Spock. How about we surprise the Captain with our performance – I’ll tell him I was able to persuade you to attend the last hour.”
The idea appealed. “Very well, Penda. When can we commence rehearsals?”
“Tomorrow after shift end?”
“Agreed, 19:00, my quarters,” I suggested.
“You’re on, Mr. Spock!” with a small note of triumph in her voice.
On the day of the party, I checked through my wardrobe for suitable attire before commencing my shift. It became apparent that I would have to wear something very similar to the clothes of the night of the Winter Ball. I had not considered it before now, but given the selection I was faced with, apparently black is my color of choice in informal wear.
We were en route to Starbase 7, scheduled to arrive in three days for maintenance and R&R. There was little to do on the bridge, but monitor. With 1.5 hours to go before the party was due to end, I handed over the conn and made my way to my quarters to shower and change, and then on to the mess. I was surprised to see how well it had been transformed with a strong festive theme.
I paused near the door to scan the room for Jim but was unable to locate him. Uhura greeted me with a broad smile, wearing a long wrap-around gown in gold and red. “Well hello, Mr. Spock. You look good enough to...uh...very nice,” she teased with a slight note of innuendo in her tone. When I calmly looked at her with an eyebrow raised, she chuckled and then asked, “Can I interest you in some food?”
A large buffet had been laid out on several tables along one wall, although much of the food at this point had been eaten. “The Captain made sure you’d be well catered for,” she said with a smile. “He asked me to put some things out just before you arrived so you’d have something to eat.”
I walked up and as I looked at the array, I felt my stomach tighten. Dolmades, vegetable tempura, falafel, vegetarian sushi and stuffed Rigellian dates were among the offerings. The only item missing that we had shared at the Academy Ball were ki’ifti roots, but since they were a rare delicacy, I was not surprised Jim had been unable to locate some. While I was greatly touched by the lengths he must have gone to in order to provide me with this selection, I found myself mystified as to how Jim could have possibly remembered such detail since he did not possess an eidetic memory.
As I pondered this puzzle, I became aware of a long-forgotten but at once familiar scent. It was the cologne Jim had worn that night, and my nostrils flared as I inhaled deeply. Research has shown that due to the close proximity of the olfaction sensory modality to the limbic system, aromas have the ability to evoke memories and their associated emotions in a way no other sense can, and in this, Vulcans and Humans are alike. I can personally attest to its potency as all the memories and emotions from that time came crashing back into my conscious. I was gratified to have been standing with my back to the room as no-one, most especially Jim, bore witness to the reaction I was unable to control.
“Care for some food, Spock,” he said from behind me. As the puzzle was forming a picture, I speculated that Jim would be wearing a tuxedo.
“Thank you Captain,” I said turning to him, my equilibrium once more restored. “I believe I will. I am pleased that some of my favorite dishes have been included.” His attire was as I had deduced.
As I helped myself to a number of items and placed them on a plate, Jim was smiling. “Uhura’s done a fantastic job, hasn’t she?”
“Indeed, with help from others, I believe,” I said, one eyebrow raised. That was as close as I was prepared to go in acknowledging my recognition of Jim’s references.
Jim let it go and instead, changed the subject. He spoke as I ate, describing some of the games they had played at the party earlier. Just as he had that night at the ball, Jim watched me closely as I partook of each of the dishes he had thoughtfully provided. It is in my nature to control the display of my inner reactions and experiences to the outer world. However, I was aware Jim was taking vicarious pleasure in my own enjoyment of the food, so with my back carefully turned to all but him, I allowed an outward manifestation of my enjoyment to show, and found myself unexpectedly gaining gratification from his reaction to mine.
Jim described some of the music recitals I had missed and then added, “You’re in time to catch Uhura’s performance. She’s being very tightlipped about it – you’ve known her a long time, do you have any idea what she’s going to do?”
“I believe she wanted to keep it a surprise, Sir.”
Jim snorted. “Well at least I know who I can trust with my secrets!”
“Jim, have you got a minute?” McCoy said and taking him by the arm, steered him away.
Uhura came up to me. “Ready Mr. Spock?” Evidently the doctor was a decoy.
My lyre had been hidden behind some decor and was passed to me as we went up onto the raised dais. The doctor ensured Jim would have his back to us as we prepared ourselves. I began to play the introduction to a song, plucking the strings gently, and could not help but look at Jim as he turned around to see who was performing. Uhura’s voice sounded strong and soulful – in my cabin, we had been obliged to keep quiet but now she was able to fill the mess with the beautiful melody.
It was clear that Jim was enchanted and he seemed unable to take his eyes from me. I could not hold his gaze and looked down to the strings I plucked, watching them vibrate with sound. When the first song finished, there was a resounding applause. We had rehearsed three songs and when it came to the final one – Annie’s Song – I began the introduction, gratified that the transposition of the backing from the original guitar to lyre had worked well. It had been the tune that had played as Jim and I had shared that kiss, and because of the beautiful lyrics and their meaning to me, it had become a personal favorite. I now realized, given Jim’s own homage to that night and his attention to every detail, that he would be certain to recognize the song. As Uhura began to sing the opening line, I was unable to look at Jim, although I could feel his eyes intently on me.
I was certain Jim would approach me afterwards, but I had no idea what he would say. I am aware that public speaking and performances cause nervousness in many Humans and indeed, my own desire to play without error had brought a certain focus of concentration. However playing before 200 of my fellow crewmates was as nothing in comparison to the sensation I had as Jim approached me with a broad smile.
He spoke quietly, the conversation a private one. “Spock, that was...beautiful.” His voice broke on the last word and I could see from his bright eyes that he was feeling emotional. I waited as he took several breaths to regain his composure, before he added, “You’re full of surprises.”
Before I could respond, Uhura took to the stage again and the piped music went quiet. “Well ladies and gentlemen, we have come to the end of this wonderful night of celebration. And in the great tradition of the Academy, we will end on the ‘Mistletoe Challenge’.”
If it is possible for a Vulcan to feel panic, then that is what I experienced in that moment. I had seen the planned agenda for the evening but this had not been included – clearly Uhura meant it a surprise. I glanced up at the ceiling having failed to notice, until now, the bunches of mistletoe that hung around the room.
Uhura reminded everyone of the rules and then allowed time for people to pair up. I stood resolutely next to the wall and so did Jim.
With a short warning, the lights were switched off. As if in a dream, I saw the outline of Jim move to stand before me in a mirror of that night so many years ago. I should not have been surprised, given all of Jim’s unspoken cues since I had entered the party, but now his message was absolutely clear to me. In the darkness, I sidestepped him and grabbing something on my way, quickly exited the room.
I sat in my cabin bringing calm to my body and order to my thoughts. Was Jim’s silent declaration something new, I wondered. Since the day he had assumed command, Jim had been sensitive to me and my needs and had always given me space. Yet, he had also spent these months gradually whittling away at my self-imposed distance, to create a warm and trusting friendship. Now I considered if all that had been a precursor to something more. This evening had given me cause to suspect that the reason Jim remembered that night in such significant detail, was that it had been important for him too and apparently, at the very least, he wished a repeat of it. What I could not be certain of was if a kiss was all he wanted, or if he wished to take it further.
It was not that I had not desired to kiss him – quite the contrary, it had been something I had privately dreamed about for many years. The issue for me was that a repeat of the moment, which was not just the sharing of a kiss, but all that it symbolized, was too important and too precious to have take place in so public an arena. The reason I had left was because after the lights had returned, I had not wished to be witness to Jim’s disappointment at my lack of response.
Yet, I recognized it had required great courage for him to take the step and I had answered it by leaving him standing there without explanation, in all likelihood feeling hurt by my action. Now it was my turn to show courage.
After a few minutes preparation, I stood outside Jim’s door for several seconds before I buzzed.
As entered, I was once again surrounded by the scent of his cologne. Jim sat up on his bed, still in his tuxedo and looked at me warily. “Spock?”
“Jim, I wish to apologize for...”
“No, there’s no need. It was a stupid thing to do.”
I felt a knot in my stomach. “Stupid?”
“Oh god, no, I mean...” He paused and stood up to pace to one side of his cabin, putting greater distance between us. He remained facing away from me, his head bent as he spoke. “It was stupid to hope you would kiss me; and worse, to hope you would kiss me with all the crew around us. I didn’t know Uhura had planned the mistletoe challenge, so I acted completely spontaneously. But what was most stupid of all...” his voice faltered for a moment, before continuing quietly, “...was for me to try to recreate what happened all those years ago, hoping it was an event that means as much to you as it does to me. I’m not surprised you bolted.”
I looked at him, his back to me as his hands played with a statuette on the shelf before him, perhaps collecting his thoughts or possibly embarrassed. I was about to speak, to disabuse him of his erroneous assumption when he finally turned to me. “Spock, I promised myself that I would wait to see if you would willingly come to me, and I screwed up. I’m so sorry for dumping my baggage on you.”
With a rising sense of joy, I considered my options. I have heard it said that ‘actions speak louder than words’. Rather than explain, I would show, and revealed the two small boxes I had kept hidden behind my back. “I have brought you festive gifts, Jim.”
Jim looked mortified. “Oh Spock...Vulcans don’t usually exchange gifts, so I don’t have anything for you.”
On the contrary, I thought; he did not yet know it but he was about to give me a gift beyond price. I offered him the first box. He opened the lid and his face transformed. “Ki’ifti roots...where...?”
“When we had a layover at Starbase 3 five weeks ago. They have been in cryogenic storage to keep them fresh.”
Jim took one and put it into his mouth. Now, as all those years ago, I watched his face as he bit into it. His eyes closed for a moment, as he savored the flavor.
After a moment he opened his eyes and held the box out to me. I took one and as I bit through the fleshy part, I felt the sap burst onto my tongue and fill my mouth with its sweetness. “Delicious,” I said, looking at Jim intently, aware of the ambiguity of my pronouncement. I watched with interest as a blush suffused his face. He smiled in response, clearly still unsure what was taking place between us, uncertain of my intent.
The tension in the air between us was nearly tangible, almost crackling like a forcefield does when touched. I held out the other box and felt my heartrate increase – a similar response to the Human fight or flight syndrome. He opened it and studied the contents for a moment before looking up at me, understanding its significance, his eyes bright with an unnamed emotion.
“Oh Spock...” he whispered, but his voice cracked and he appeared unable to speak further. In that moment, he looked so vulnerable and I suddenly understood what this cost him, to let go of his command persona, to place such utter trust in the hands of another.
Taking the sprig of mistletoe carefully out of the box he held it thoughtfully for a moment, and turning to the screen beside his bed, he reached up and wedged the stalk into it and holding my eyes, stood beneath it.
I had no idea what would take place next. Would he hold the kiss for just a minute or, as his declaration had indicated, would there be more? I ordered the lights to 25% and walked over to stand in front of him. As I approached our eyes locked onto each other, the rest of our world seemingly fading to nothingness as if this – he and I – was all that existed. Jim looked striking in the dim light, his face still open and vulnerable, but his eyes dark and powerful. I paused a moment to take in this beautiful sight, to carefully consign every detail to memory, should he end the kiss after a brief interval, as he had the last time.
Finally, I stepped forward to close the gap and he wound his arms about my waist, pulling us more snugly together. Leaning forward I kissed him, the flavor of the ki’ifti still evident as my tongue plundered his mouth. I had intended to take the kiss slowly, to allow it to build up, but when it came to it there were no tentative touches – nor from Jim – but rather an urgency fueled by the long wait and the fervent hope in each of us that this moment might one day return. In the kiss was all the yearning and the lost years, and in moments, we were both achingly hard, half a lifetime’s passion and longing crying for release in the arms of the other.
I knew what I wanted with all my being, but it was for Jim to show me what he desired. We were still kissing beyond a minute, beyond two and I allowed a small hope to glow within me. His hands moved to grip my buttocks, pulling me ever tighter into his embrace, thrusting his hardness against mine.
“Oh god Spock,” he said into my mouth and I released him momentarily from the kiss. “You have no idea how much I want you.”
His declaration turned the glow into a conflagration in me, consuming my mind and turning it to ashes. I could no longer think, nor rationalize, operating purely on impulse and instinct. We were two men, driven by primal forces and our urgency was such that there was no time to strip off our clothes, no time to lie on the bed. We fumbled frantically at the fastenings of each others pants until a moment of sanity intervened and we saw to our own, pushing them just far enough out of the way for each of us to gain access to the other. Suddenly I felt Jim’s hand holding me and from the sensation alone, I was almost undone. I took Jim into my hand and as we kissed hard, we stroked and pulled and rubbed and in moments we were coming together, our lifeforces flowing out and intermingling.
I pulled back to look into Jim’s eyes and realized he looked different and I recognized immediately what it was, for I felt different too. It was if all the tension, all the pent-up feelings of that unfulfilled time – that we had carried around with us for so long that it had become an integral part of who we were – had erupted from us with our orgasms, leaving us with a profound sense of inner peace.
With Jim’s seed on my fingers, I lifted them to my mouth to taste, sucking every last drop.
“My god Spock, do you have any idea how erotic that is?”
I allowed my mouth to quirk into a small smile. “Do you have any idea, Jim, how erotic it was to feel you pulsing this precious gift into my hand?”
Instead of answering, Jim kissed me. This time it was gentler, the need now dissipated. “Spock, come to bed with me?”
“I thought you would never ask.”
Jim laughed at the unexpected answer, at the humor in the comment, yet it was true. I had never expected that I might have this time with Jim, to ever share further intimacy with him.
As we undressed each other, kissing between each item that was removed, I discovered a detail that I had failed to notice earlier – Jim’s cuffs were fastened with the small, gold cufflinks that had first brought us together.
We lay in each others arms and kissed languorously, our earlier urgency at least temporarily assuaged.
Jim pulled back and held my eyes. “I want to ‘fess up to something that happened fourteen years ago.”
He had piqued my curiosity. “Indeed?”
“You remember how I asked you to help me find my cufflink?” At my nod he continued, “I set you up.” I watched as his face turned a little pink and he looked down to where his fingertips were running through the hairs on my chest. “I’d seen you around Campus pretty much from my first day and well...I had the hots for you...”
“The hots?” I suspected what this term meant but wished to be certain.
“I was sexually attracted to you. I thought you were one of the most handsome, elegant beings I’d ever seen.” He looked back up. “Actually, I still do,” he added with a smile. “I wanted to meet you but had no idea how. I’d read up on Vulcan customs and realized you probably weren’t involved in the Academy social scene.”
“You are correct, that was the only party I attended in four years,” I confirmed.
“Right. So I figured maybe if I read some of your papers it’d be a way to start a conversation, but I found the stuff you wrote was brilliant and inspiring and it just made me want to get to know you more.”
My lips quirked into a smile. “So, you became interested in my mind as well as my body?”
“Yeah, something like that,” he said smiling wryly. “You remember the paper you wrote in your freshman year about the Yo’onda trees on Hydra Sigma III?”
I nodded, wondering where Jim was taking this.
“You made a very logical case why they should be reclassified as a sentient species and that Federation-licensed deforestation was basically little short of genocide. By the time I’d read your paper, a sentient rights group had picked it up and were onto it and eventually I heard it got upheld. Spock, your intellect is obvious to everyone, but this showed me what a sensitive and caring man you are in your own logical way, which adds a dimension and a depth to you that I think gets overlooked. At the time, it blew me away and made me want to get to know you even more.”
I understood what Jim was saying. I had long ago accepted the Human propensity for sorting and classifying their world into sometimes highly simplistic categories. As a Vulcan, I am almost universally labeled by those around me as smart, but cold and uncaring. That Jim, even at that age, had been able to see easily beyond that, was further testament to his extraordinary and multifaceted nature.
“At the party,” Jim continued, “I didn’t want to come on too strong. I realized partway through the evening that you liked me, but it was still a huge gamble with the mistletoe thing.” I looked into his eyes and I could see the nineteen year old, who had been so certain in his destiny, yet so uncertain in this.
“Kissing you was one of the most daring and spontaneous actions I have ever done, Jim. And it ended too soon,” I admitted.
Jim leant up on one elbow and kissed me slowly and thoroughly and I reveled in the knowledge that no such time impositions existed now.
He lay back down and continued with his story. “You melded with me right before I went. It took me days to figure out what you’d shared with me and I’m pretty sure I didn’t get it all. It seemed very fragmented, but it included images and impressions of me as I was to you and I got a sense of your appreciation of what we’d shared. I was already falling for you and I spent the holidays at home in Iowa hatching a plan to see you again but...” I saw pain in his eyes. “...by the time I got back, you’d left on some field trip. I checked when you were due to return and realized I’d be off-planet by then. When I got back from the peace mission to Axanar, I knew you’d be gone.”
I ran my fingers over his face, caressing his forehead where a frown had appeared and sighed. I told him how my own investigations the day after the party had caused me to reach the same conclusion. I was finally able to ask Jim something I had always been curious about. “Why did you leave like that after the kiss?”
Jim groaned. “I thought I was being clever leaving you wanting more.”
“Explain,” I said, perplexed.
“I wanted to see you again and left you with a ‘teaser’,” he explained ruefully. “If I’d known that was going to be our only time together, believe me I would have stayed to finish the night off in whatever way you’d let me.”
“I would have invited you back to my dorm room so you could complete my sex education,” I returned with a small smile.
“That was my first kiss,” I explained.
“Oh god, a Vulcan virgin.”
“I still am in some sense, as I have never participated in relations with another male.” It was suddenly important that Jim know that.
“Well, so am I!” he said with a smile. “I never went near another man after you, Spock. I’d played around a bit before we met, but nothing serious. Afterwards, I got plenty of offers, but I...I just couldn’t – I didn’t want to taint the memory of you. I dated one woman after another, looking for one who I felt about the way I did with you.” He laughed, but it was mirthless. “Hell, I came close to marrying a couple of them, but I knew they weren’t right.”
Raising himself, Jim kissed me again, this time with more urgency. Pulling back, he touched my face, his fingers tracing the upward curve of my eyebrows, playing with my bangs, trailing down my face and neck to my chest, moving down my right side until he had located my heart. He kept his hand splayed there, feeling its rapid thrumming. “Spock, do you believe in love at first sight?”
I looked up at him and raised my hand to caress his face. “Yes Jim, I do.”
“Thank god!” he said, relief clearly in his voice, then bent to kiss me again. He eventually pulled away saying, “I love that I can kiss you after I dreamt about it for so long.” He lay back down to face me. “When I ran out of the hall, I was so turned on I had a bad case of blue-balls. The kiss we shared became my favorite fantasy.”
“And mine,” I admitted which made Jim laugh.
“You know, I practically begged Nogura to give me the Enterprise. Sure I wanted to command a starship,” he added honestly, “but I wanted her more than any of the others because she had you. I had no idea how you’d feel after all this time, but even if we could just be friends, I’d accept that much.” He laughed. “You were really something when I arrived...super-Vulcan and distant and I began to wonder if you’d ever let me in.”
“I apologize Jim, I...”
“You don’t need to apologize. It doesn’t matter any more – we’re here together, now. We’ve had our ups and downs since I took command, but all of that has just deepened the way I already felt about you and made me more sure what it was I wanted.”
I wondered again at the Fates and how they had brought us together. Had circumstances been different and Jim and I had been able to begin a relationship at the Academy, we would have been forced either to abandon it at great pain to ourselves, or we would have had to formally declare our partnership so that we would be posted together, and it is unlikely he would have gotten a command position. I shared this insight with Jim.
“You’re right. It’s cost us fourteen years but we have the rest of our lives together...” He faltered. “If that’s what you want too, Spock,” he added.
“Yes, it is. If you will accept it, I desire a bond with you.”
I have heard the expression that a face may ‘light up’, but as I looked at Jim, it seemed that some inner change took place and along with a broad smile, his eyes appeared to shine. “Is that a marriage proposal, Spock?”
“I believe so,” I said and allowed all that I felt for him to show on my face.
“Then yes, Spock, I accept,” and he laughed happily.
I leant over Jim and kissed him, pouring all the love I felt for him into it and, no longer holding my telepathic shield in place, I felt it return with such intensity, it almost took my breath away.
Our hands, lips and tongues undertook minute and intimate explorations of each other's bodies until each erogenous zone and every area that had elicited a favorable reaction had been carefully mapped out and committed to memory.
Jim lay back and watched as I took his shaft into my mouth, his fingers running through my hair. I noted the differing textures and surfaces and tastes, feeling through his body which actions elicited the strongest responses. I ran my tongue down the length and took a testicle into my mouth, inhaling his strong musk before applying myself to the other. Jim was writhing around on the bed, his legs splayed open. I took the head of his penis back into my mouth and began an exploration with my fingers along his perineum, seeking the entrance I desired to fill. I touched him there and he whimpered, opening his legs wider.
“Make love to me, Spock and bond us,” he whispered. “I want to feel you inside me, in my body and in my mind.”
“Jim, are you certain?” I was all too familiar with his impetuosity on occasion. This was not a step to be taken lightly.
“I’ve never been more certain of anything. Like I said, I’ve waited a long time for this.”
His words echoed precisely my own sentiments. The knowledge that I was to become one with this man filled me with an abiding joy that I could barely contain.
There were certain practicalities. After the intimacies we had shared, I experienced an unaccountable awkwardness asking for some means of lubrication. “We will require...” My voice trailed off.
“One sec...” Jim said and headed for the bathroom, returning a few seconds later holding a tube. I watched as he walked across the room unselfconsciously, his erection bobbing with each step. He handed me the tube and gave me a light kiss. “Right, now where were we?” he asked, assuming his previous position with a smile. “If I were a gentleman, I’d put that stuff on you, but I’m a voyeur and I want to watch you do it to yourself.”
I flicked the lid open and squeezed some gel onto my fingers before dropping the tube onto the bed for a moment. It felt cool to the touch so I rubbed it between my palms to warm it up before applying it to my penis. Aware that Jim wanted a show, I took myself into both hands and moved them up and down the length until it glistened. He stared at my actions, his eyes following the movements of my hands.
“Show me what you do to yourself when you’ve fantasized about our kiss, Spock.” There was a hoarseness to his voice.
As I knelt between Jim’s open legs, I took my penis into one hand, moving my fist from base to tip, occasionally pausing, to rub the moisture seeping from the tip around the head with my thumb. Jim licked his lips and began to fondle himself, his breathing becoming ragged. I moved one hand to cup my testicles, moving them gently within the sac as the other hand continued to pump, sliding easily in the slippery substance and Jim began to mirror my movements, a sight I found most arousing as my eyes flicked from the very familiar face to the unfamiliar view of him caressing himself so intimately. I had no doubt he was experiencing something similar.
Much as I was enjoying giving Jim such a display, I wanted more. “I need...” My voice cracked.
“Go ahead, do whatever you want,” he said with understanding.
I continued the movement with one hand and with the other, began to probe at Jim’s entrance circling my slick fingers around his anus, feeling it pulse to my touch and hearing him gasp. I could wait no longer.
Picking up the tube, I squeezed more gel onto my fingers and began to prepare Jim, conscious from what he had said that he was new to this and I feared injuring him. When I had finished, I sat back and breathed deeply in an attempt to hold back the tide of my passion. “Jim, what position would you prefer?”
“I want to ride you,” he said, sitting up. “I want to watch you when you come.” I lay on the bed and after he straddled me I held my penis upright and watched as he lowered himself down until I was nudging the puckered opening.
I looked up at his face – his eyes were slitted with passion as he gazed back at me. He moved more weight onto me until I felt the entrance start to give and then he stopped, panting hard as he began to sweat. Controlling the impulse to buck upwards, I held myself absolutely still and after a minute, he gradually began to push down again, taking me into him until he was sitting on my lap and I was held in his tight channel.
Jim began to move, slowly at first, sliding up and down my length and as he did so, I stroked him in a matching rhythm. With my senses tuned to every sensation, I felt sharply alive.
“I love you so much, Spock.”
“As I love you, Jim,” I responded and held my right hand towards his face.
“Yes go head Spock, bond us.”
I touched the points and immediately our minds flowed together, as though they had been waiting endlessly for this moment. I experienced the full intensity of Jim’s love and desire and passion, dynamic forces that were a part of the bundle of emotions that drove him to achieve and to be who he was. Together, within the bond, he could be even more – his self, distinct yet blended with mine, like two elements that link together to make a new molecule.
Jim continued to move along the length of me, now in his stride. The friction of the tight channel gripped me, pulling me inexorably towards the maelstrom of orgasm. I felt my testicles begin to tighten, pulling closer to my body. Jim could feel through the meld that I was on the verge and began to speed up, as I could feel his own approaching ejaculation. He tumbled first, the shot of semen spurting out of him like a fountain, spraying my chest with a string of pearl-like droplets and sending me over the edge as I was overcome by the erotic vision and the power of his release.
The psychic energy given off by our simultaneous orgasms fed the meld we shared, increasing its intensity and its depth as it ricocheted back and forth between our minds, building in force until it reached the ultimate fusion and our new bond was created.
Afterwards, we lay together, Jim’s head pillowed on my shoulder.
“Spock, can we make it a tradition every year – you know, kissing under the mistletoe?” As he spoke, his cool breath gusted across my chest and I controlled a shiver.
“That would be a fitting manner in which to celebrate both our meeting and our bonding,” I agreed.
There was silence for a while and then Jim said, “I’m so happy.”
“I know,” I responded, feeling it clearly through our bond.
It would take time for Jim to be able to understand the sensory data the new link would feed him, but he was able to sense my amusement. “Smug Vulcan,” he chided. After a moment, he propped himself up and looked at me with a grin. “You’ve really taken the Starfleet mission seriously, haven’t you?” I knew he was about to tease me, and played along, raising my eyebrow in inquiry. “You know,” he explained, “the bit where it says, ‘to boldly go...’ – you really did!”
“You are incorrigible, Jim.” I felt affection, joy and such love for this unique man.
He lay his head back down, chuckling. “I know. I’m looking forward to boldly going with you, but right now, I can barely lift my head, never mind my cock!”
I projected love to my new bondmate and felt his love return to me. “You said earlier this evening that you had no gift for me,” I reminded him. “I believe you were in error.”
With great effort, Jim pushed himself back up to look into my eyes, and smiled. “Yeah, how about that?” He leant down and kissed me. “Happy Holidays, Spock.”