Length: 18,555 (... the scary thing is, I actually do have a real life.)
Warnings: First-time, angst, romance, Christmas clichés.
Summary: Three years into their mission, shore leave happens to coincide with Christmas. The entire bridge crew is spending time with their families, so Jim decides to rent himself a cabin in northern Ontario, resigned to spending the three weeks alone.
Fortunately for Jim, a certain pointy-eared officer is also lacking in Christmas plans.
- - -
Note: Now with absolutely gorgeous accompanying artwork by davincis_girl. I cannot even articulate my glee. <3 :D
- - -
There were white specks clinging to Spock’s long eyelashes, along with a dusting of snow across the top of his head, colouring his hair with endearing splotches of white. His ears seemed oddly vulnerable in the freezing air, their tips painted white as snowflakes brushed against them, and the end of his nose was flushed green with cold.
- - -
“You’re actually abandoning me for Christmas?”
Although Jim was doing his best to stop a grin, he managed to inject some real hurt into his voice, and his best friend’s face scrunched up endearingly.
“Damnit, Jim.” Bones sounded unusually tired, and Jim almost felt bad for teasing. “Jocelyn’s letting me have Joanna for Christmas. What do you expect me to do?”
“You could always invite me along.”
“And throw some random guy into the first Christmas Joanna’s had with her father for seven years? Jim, I can’t –”
“Bones, relax.” Jim smiled as sweetly as he could and patted Bones on the arm, going for some mixture of condescending and affectionate. “I don’t mind spending Christmas alone. It’s always been a dream of mine.”
Bones’ scowl deepened at the flippant tone, and the grinding of his teeth was almost audible. “Look, if you really wanna come –”
“Well, you obviously don’t want me.”
Bones closed his eyes in exasperation, and Jim fought back another grin, wondering how long he could keep this up. He was about to make another joke when Bones opened his eyes again, and Jim was surprised to see a hint of true apology there.
“Look, I don’t know what made Jocelyn change her mind, but she did, and Jim, I can’t just –”
Something warm spread through Jim’s stomach at the tirade, and he cut Bones off by pulling him into a hug, pressing his face against the warmth of Bones’ neck. “Go spend Christmas with your little girl. After three years up here, it’s the least you both deserve.”
He smiled as Bones grumbled something into his hair, probably cursing Jim’s incessant need for physical contact. When Jim finally pulled back, Bones was trying to stop an embarrassed flush, but there was a look of gratitude in his eyes.
“Jim, look, I –”
“Just be sure to teach her how to make anatomically correct snow people, ka?”
The moment of tension broke as Jim dodged an irritated swat and danced out of sickbay, grinning at the curses that followed him. The idea of spending Christmas alone was already tearing a nasty hole in his heart, but Bones’ happiness was much more important than Jim’s need for companionship – and Jocelyn’s receptivity to bribery would be useful knowledge for the next time Jim landed himself in sickbay.
- - -
The ship was empty only four hours after they docked, and Jim would have been insulted had he not understood his crew’s haste. Three weeks wasn’t nearly enough time to visit loved ones, and just because he didn’t have particularly epic plans, that didn’t mean that everyone else had to be miserable.
After three years, Jim really should have been over the whole yelping and spinning thing. Although he managed to not trip over his own feet, Spock’s eyebrow was climbing into his hairline, somehow conveying that his assessment of Jim’s sanity had just been drastically decreased.
“Goddamnit, Spock. What have I told you about sneaking up on me?”
“Vulcans do not sneak, Captain.”
Jim couldn’t stop a grin as the silly word came from Spock’s mouth, his heart beating way too fast for such a simple conversation. “I think you do. You’re gonna have to walk louder, or get yourself a bell –“
“I see no logic in deliberately increasing the press of my feet against the floor. Furthermore, as wearing a device designed solely for the purpose of creating noise could prove hazardous to our away missions –”
“Spock, you’re wounding the very spirit of Christmas!”
When that eyebrow inched a little higher, Jim’s fingers twitched against his palms, desperate to press themselves against Spock’s pale skin. With heroic effort, he restrained his need to touch, reminding himself that he’d spent three years dealing with this, and that now was not the time to crack.
“I fail to see how my assessment of the impracticality of bells can in any way contradict the ‘spirit’ of a holiday constructed around blatant human consumerism –”
“Silver bells, Spock!” Jim stopped the depressing description with a wave of his arms, trying to convey the extent of what Christmas could really be. “You know, as in the song? Or how about sleigh bells? And bells on the Christmas tree? Is any of this –”
“Captain, please do not employ the human expression of –”
“— ringing a bell?”
Without the slightest change of expression, Spock somehow managed to look like he wanted to smash Jim over the head. It really shouldn’t have been endearing, but normal rules had never applied where Jim’s first officer was concerned, and Jim just beamed at him, pleased with his own cleverness.
Over their three years together, between their botched away missions and the nights spent watching over each other in sickbay, Spock had become a crucial part of Jim, and he could no longer imagine living without the Vulcan. It was rather pathetic how much Jim had grown to need him, but he’d long lost the ability to pull away.
Although Jim understood that this kind of love was only supposed to happen in fairy tales, he hadn’t been able stop himself. On the extensive list of Things that Captains Were Not Supposed to Do, falling for his first officer was pretty close to the top, and he knew that this could never end well – but there were too many things that kept drawing Jim back.
It was the subtle magic of their late night chess games, and their moments of perfectly synchronized thinking. The way Spock’s far-too-human eyes lost their frigidity around Jim, and the quiet respect that underlined their every interaction. It was the times that Spock permitted Jim to rest his hand on Spock’s shoulder, and the way Spock tore Jim’s plans apart before building them back up, combining their talents to create something workable.
All of this came together into a power that Jim was helpless to fight. Spock completed him in ways that Jim hadn’t even realized needed completing, and trying to fall out of love would have been like trying to stop his own heart through sheer will power.
“Your unique sense of humour seems to have further deteriorated.”
“I’m just compensating for being miserable at Christmas.”
Although Jim said it with a grin, seeking a way to clear away his love-sick thoughts, he recognized his mistake as soon as the words were out. Few people were able to see through his bullshit, but between Bones and Spock, Jim wondered how he still had any secrets at all.
“Why are you distressed?”
The well-masked concern in that cool voice was more than enough to get his palms sweating, and Jim cursed himself for being ridiculous, even as he fought the urge to run – something he did much too often, whenever Spock managed to inch a little further into Jim’s heart.
“I was joking.”
“You were not.”
“You can’t read my mind if you’re not touching me.”
“I can sense your emotions.”
“Are you kidding? You cling to those mental shields like a lifeline.”
“Much like your employment of humour?”
Although Jim found himself glaring at Spock, his brief moment of anger simply twisted itself into a tangle of lust, and he wondered just how far gone he really was.
“You need not tell me anything, if you do not wish to.”
There was no trace of expression in Spock’s voice, but Jim knew better than to believe that apparent calm, and he took a moment to breathe through the pleasure that twisted through his body at Spock’s concern. After three years of pathetic pining, Jim had long come to terms with his besotted idiocy, but he often wondered when exactly he’d lost his tomcat status, and been transformed into a love struck sixteen-year-old.
“Spock, I’d tell you just about anything – you know that.” As something brief flickered across Spock’s eyes, Jim marvelled at the intoxicating feeling of being in the sphere of people that Spock cared about. “There’s really nothing to tell. I’m heading North for Christmas – got myself a little cabin. Just taking a break from everything.”
“You are going alone?”
The question was said without inflection, and Jim wondered if Spock understood the concept of twisting the knife deeper. He fought the urge to snap something sarcastic, suddenly realising how much he really didn’t want to spend Christmas alone, in some frozen forest away from the people he loved, who all had plans of their own, plans with family, that didn’t involve him –
“Well, it’s not exactly like I have anyone to take with me – unless you’re volunteering, of course, but I doubt that the prospect of seven foot snowdrifts is all that appealing, let alone the minus forty degree weather –”
He nearly bit off his tongue when something flashed across Spock’s expression, the slightest hint of a frown trying to make itself known, as though something wasn’t computing for Spock’s perfect brain. Jim’s heart was suddenly trying to escape his chest, and he wondered how he could lose his breath over something as pathetic as his first officer’s pity.
“Captain, is that –” When Spock actually hesitated, Jim had to concentrate on locking his wobbly legs into place, his body not knowing how to process that uncharacteristic uncertainty. “Jim, I – as I have yet to formulate any plans for the duration of shore leave – I do not wish to overstep my boundaries, and you may of course decline, but if that is an invitation –”
As the surreal words settled around him, Jim’s body slammed into warp drive with shocking speed, sending heat across every inch of him. Spock was still watching him with those dark eyes, but Jim somehow managed to suck in enough oxygen to speak, his traitorous heart starting up its choking dance again, as though realising exactly how much it would have hurt to have his half-serious invitation rejected.
“No, Spock, of course – I mean – yes, of course you can come, I wasn’t joking. If you actually want to –”
“I see no logical reason to decline.” The less than enthusiastic response would have stung, had Jim not seen the tiniest hint of something in Spock’s eyes – something far from the impassivity he was still striving for, that made Jim’s shaking fingers curl into loose fists. “Is there anything – I have never been to Canada. What must I bring?”
Although his body still seemed to be trying to asphyxiate itself, Jim felt a massive grin spread across his face, and he didn’t even care that his thought patterns suddenly resembled those of a thirteen-year-old girl. They were actually going to Canada together, and that knowledge superseded Jim’s need for self-respect.
“Pack your warmest clothes, Mr. Spock.” He couldn’t keep the excitement from his voice, and his grin widened further when a quick moment of humour flashed across Spock’s eyes. “Where we’re going, you’re gonna need them.”
“Your affection for this particular holiday seems to have increased significantly, Captain.”
“Spock, please – we’re on vacation together. I think you can drop the title.”
“As you wish.”
There was still a trace of humour in those dark eyes, and Jim took a moment to remind himself that this wasn’t just a loneliness-induced dream. His smile softened slightly, and the butterflies in his stomach began beating their wings together, as though they approved of how things were progressing.
“Of course I’m happier. Christmas isn’t meant to be spent alone.”
Although Spock said nothing, his understanding nod was answer enough, and ten minutes later found them sorting through Spock’s wardrobe, searching for anything that could keep a Vulcan warm in Canada.
- - -
By the time they finally reached their cottage, Jim had almost forgotten how to breathe.
Although Iowa had always experienced its share of nasty winters, those snowfalls had absolute nothing on Canada’s winter wonderland, and when Jim tumbled out of their hovercar, he couldn’t stop himself from blinking in amazement.
When he had rented this cabin, Jim hadn’t expected to be staying anywhere particularly spectacular. He’d anticipated some of the standard Northern beauty, with countless trees and snow, and perhaps the occasional wild animal, with the cabin tucked away in some nice little forest somewhere – but what he had gotten was something completely different, and Jim half-wondered if he had stumbled into a dream, the sight before him unlike anything he had ever seen.
They were standing beside a valley that seemed to stretch on forever.
Waves of snow crept towards the horizon, where they connected to an endless sky that somehow made gray look beautiful, as though someone had chosen the most gorgeous colours imaginable, and then seamlessly sewn earth and sky together. Thousands of trees were scattered across the landscape, staining the snow with a shocking trail of green, and the entire effect made Jim feel like he was staring at a painting.
Although he had seen a lot of beauty during the last three years, Jim had never truly realized what Earth had to offer.
He murmured the word to himself, grateful that random chance had thrown them both here, and that he wasn’t experiencing this alone. Jim tore his eyes from the valley, curious to know how a desert-oriented Vulcan would process the view, and suddenly realised an important flaw in his shore leave plans – for when Jim had invited Spock along with him for Christmas, he hadn’t considered the danger of how good Spock would look against the stunning landscape that was snowy northern Ontario.
Standing beside a towering evergreen, its endless branches streaked with white, Spock’s dark eyes had slipped shut, as though taking a moment to simply appreciate the snow falling around him. The trust he showed by allowing that careful display stole the breath from Jim’s lungs, and he knew that he was staring, but he couldn’t have looked away for anything in the universe.
There were white specks clinging to Spock’s long eyelashes, along with a dusting of snow across the top of his head, colouring his hair with endearing splotches of white. His ears seemed oddly vulnerable in the freezing air, their tips painted white as snowflakes brushed against them, and the end of his nose was flushed green with cold.
He looked like an ancient marble statue, or a sculpture carved from ice – pristine, untouchable, and almost too beautiful to be real.
It took him a moment to even realise that Spock was speaking, and the single word twisted through his heart, curling into that place that lit on fire whenever Spock said his name. Although the dangers of this particular vacation were suddenly crystal clear, the pleasure that came from Spock’s presence seemed to overshadow everything else.
“It’s nothing, Spock. Just –” Jim paused, trying to gather his thoughts over the sound of his thumping heart. “Just thinking about how beautiful everything is.”
He hadn’t meant to use such blatant innuendo, but Spock’s expression never changed. “This country is rather fascinating, and I now understand the aesthetic appeal of winter. I never before appreciated it while studying at the Academy.”
“You’re not too cold?”
“This temperature is not yet intolerable.” Spock graced him with the slightest twitch of his lips. “Although I seem to have lost sensation in my hands, feet, nose and ears, I find that I do not particularly care.”
As Jim’s heart tried to wrap itself around that little half-smile, he found himself turning away, suddenly wondering what the hell he was doing. What with him sending Bones to spend shore leave with Joanna, and there being no chance of Jim wanting to go back to Iowa – for some reason, this cabin had been the first idea that’d popped into his head, and he’d gone with it.
What he still couldn’t figure out was why Spock had agreed to come with him. Even after three years together, trying to guess Spock’s thoughts was often like fighting a Klingon warship without the use of warp drive.
“You seem troubled. Is the cabin’s appearance not to your liking?”
Hearing the not-quite-concern there, Jim managed a smile and turned back to Spock, who was studying the beautiful building behind them. “No, god no – our cabin’s perfect. It looks like a gingerbread house. Or something from a Christmas card.”
There was no hint of hesitance there, but the eyebrow had crept up slightly, and Jim knew exactly what Spock was thinking. They’d discussed it during the trip from San Francisco, and Jim’s inner child was leaping at the prospect of explaining Christmas to Spock, as though Jim himself was getting the chance to experience Christmas for the first time.
“I told you I’d introduce you to Christmas, remember? Trust me. This is one particular Earth concept you don’t want to miss out on.”
“You have pleasant recollections of this holiday?”
Spock’s eyes had shifted back to him, and the question was asked from innocent curiosity, but Jim found his throat tightening slightly. Christmas memories suddenly slipped across his mind – Jim and Sam curled up beside a decorated evergreen tree, while their mother and Frank slowly swayed together to Oh Holy Night, the house silent save for the ringing notes.
The one time of the year they had all seemed to call an uneasy truce.
Although animosity had still snapped beneath his every interaction with Frank, and although Winona had still gotten that lost look whenever she looked at Jim for too long – despite these tensions, the four of them had always managed to establish some kind of delicate balance, silently agreeing on a few days of relative peace.
It was the only pleasant aspect of his childhood that Jim could remember.
Spock was watching him again, an open question in his eyes, and Jim found himself blushing slightly, embarrassed by how transparent he was being. “As nice enough memories as they could have been, Mr. Spock.” Spock raised an eyebrow, but he was too polite to push it, and Jim was grateful. “Shall we get our stuff inside? Wouldn’t want your ears to freeze off.”
“The statistical chance of my ears disconnecting from my body –”
“This is Canada, Spock. The cold here doesn’t play by your rules.”
“The substantial lack of logic in that assessment –”
“Logic doesn’t apply here, either. Things go a little crazy when you get this far north.”
Spock’s eyebrow was now making its exasperation known, and Jim couldn’t stop a sudden grin.
“Race you to the house!”
He was off running before Spock could even answer, and he wasn’t surprised when Spock didn’t join him, what with the inherent lack of dignity in tearing across the snow like a six-year-old. It was enough that Spock’s eyes were shining slightly when he got to the cabin, where Jim was leaning against the door, his arms crossed and a cocky grin on his face.
“I beat you.”
“Indeed. Your display of speed over this challenging terrain was quite impressive.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve had lots of practice running over ice and snow, often with nasty monsters breathing down my neck.”
Jim realised his mistake the second the words were out, and he silently cursed as Spock seemed to freeze in front of him, the sparkle in his eyes morphing into a solid mask, his hands unconsciously shifting to their formal position behind his back. Even after three years together, it was still frightening how quickly Spock could turn himself off – and Spock had never been able to deal with Jim’s flippant attitude towards Delta Vega. Jim had found this out the hard way during month six, when he’d made a joke about human-eating, slimy-tongued monsters, and Spock had barely talked to him for a week.
“Shit, Spock, sorry –”
“Captain, there is no need to apologise –”
“Don’t you dare ‘captain’ me!”
He’d raised his voice slightly in disbelief, and when Spock seemed to withdraw further into himself, Jim only noticed the minute movement because he’d become sickeningly good at reading every twitch of this Vulcan’s body. He took a calming breath and stepped forward, regret skipping along his skin as he rested his hands against Spock’s arms.
Spock met his eyes, fearless as always, but their casual companionship had been replaced by tangible tension.
“I open my mouth and stick my foot in all the time. You know that. I don’t blame you for what happened. We’ve been over this.” Spock continued to simply look at him, and Jim dug his fingers a little deeper, not wanting the beginning of their trip to be spoiled by his careless sense of humour. “You were hurting, and you reacted to a threat. Everything worked out in the end.”
“You choose to forget that I could have killed you.”
The words were spoken as softly as the snow falling around them, and Spock’s eyes had slid away, focusing on somewhere above Jim’s shoulder. With something in his chest tightening uncomfortably, Jim threw caution to the wind and slipped his arms around Spock, resting his face against the warmth of Spock’s neck, and hoping that Spock would miss Jim’s thundering heartbeat.
“Let it go, Spock. This isn’t the time or place to worry about it.”
In the three years they had known each other, Jim could count the times he’d hugged Spock on four fingers, and if he’d thought that Spock was tense before, it was nothing compared to the utter immobility of his body now. Jim concentrated on simply breathing, his stupid heart breaking a little bit more at being this close to Spock, but really gaining nothing.
“I know, I know – Vulcans don’t do touching. Just humour me for a minute.”
His breath brushing gently across the top of Jim’s hair, Spock remained ominously silent, and the tension in his body ramped up another notch. Even three years after their encounter with Nero, Spock was still hurting over this, and Jim tightened his grip slightly, surprised by how much he needed Spock to stop blaming himself.
“You’ve saved my life more times than I care to admit, and I forgave you for Delta Vega a long time ago. How can I get that through to you?”
“Would you forgive yourself if our situation had been reversed?”
The soft words brought Jim up short, and he let out an exasperated breath, wondering how Spock always managed to turn the tables on him. They both knew the answer to that particular question, and the futility of asking Spock to forgive himself was suddenly crystal clear.
With a disgruntled noise, Jim made to pull back, ready to give Spock some space –
– when a hesitant hand pressed against his side, and Jim stopped breathing so fast he almost hurt himself. It wasn’t even anything close to a returned hug – more just a press of Spock’s hand, resting there with impossible gentleness, as though Jim was made of glass – but it was more contact than Jim had ever gotten before, and every nerve in his body was screaming to life.
“I regret if I upset you. That was not my intent.”
Jim couldn’t process the words, his entire being focused on the gentle hand that rested against his side, the touch both comforting and terrifying. Steady breaths were brushing across the top of his head, and he felt almost light-headed from his sudden and desperate need to be closer.
Spock suddenly sounded uncertain, and something in Jim’s brain seemed to click into gear. If he ever again wanted Spock to humour Jim’s human need for affection, he had to do something to salvage this situation, and fast.
Barely daring to breathe, his heart still twisting circles inside his chest, Jim tightened his grip a little more, exhaling softly in relief as Spock didn’t try to move away. They stood like that for several surreal seconds, the snow settling around them with impossible gentleness, before Spock attempted to pull back, and Jim immediately let him go, hoping that Spock hadn’t felt how hard he was shaking.
For a solid few moments, they couldn’t quite seem to look at each other, both of them studying the snow as if it held the answers to life’s great mysteries, their eyes firmly fixed on the crunchy whiteness beneath their feet.
“As you have the cabin key, I shall begin unloading our vehicle.”
Spock was gone before Jim could formulate a response, and Jim blinked at his retreating back, his heart skipping wildly when he realised the extent of what had just happened.
For the first time in three years, Spock had touched Jim under circumstances that didn’t involve Jim bleeding out all over Spock’s tunic. He had allowed Jim to hug him, had touched him back with something dangerously close to affection –
And they were trapped together in this tiny cabin, just the two of them, for three weeks.
His unease replaced by the kind of nervous anticipation he hadn’t felt since he was sixteen, Jim took a deep breath and watched as Spock pulled a suitcase from their hovercar, his ears poking up endearingly into the snow falling around them. When ridiculous warmth spread through Jim’s chest, he muttered a curse and turned to stare into the valley, his mind trying to deal with the last two minutes.
If Spock had finally decided to humour some of Jim’s more human affections – and if this new decision involved something other than outright disdain for physical contact –
With a low groan, his face heating slightly despite the cool air, Jim realised that this was going to be a long three weeks.
- - -
Despite the uneasy confusion that kept dancing across his body, Jim was absolutely thrilled by the utter gorgeousness of their cottage, and he found himself practically vibrating with pleased excitement. The building was assembled from sleek wooden logs, and it somehow seemed much larger than its one story height, with a beautiful roof that pointed skywards in true gingerbread house fashion - truly, Jim wouldn't have been surprised to see gummy bears around the window ledges.
The beautiful brown wood was a welcome stain against the white snow, somehow managing to simultaneously blend in and stick out, as though the cottage had eventually just become part of the gorgeous scenery. The tiny brick chimney looked like something from a twentieth century photograph, and the porch was large enough for several people, with two snow covered chairs pressed against the wall.
Jim couldn't have asked for a better place to spend Christmas, and by the time they'd gotten a curl of smoke drifting from the chimney, he had decided that their cottage was one of the most beautiful things in the entire universe.
After everything was unpacked, Jim found himself standing outside, hands jammed into his pockets, the snow settling gently against his nose and ears. He’d already been standing there for a good five minutes, trying to figure out when he’d been transformed from a reckless daredevil into a domestic sap, but he was pretty sure it had something to do with his first officer, who had finally touched him back and left Jim feeling like his entire world had been turned upside down and inside out.
Jim made a ridiculous noise as he spun around, unable to believe that this had happened again, and frantically hoping that Spock was clinging to his mental shields with his normal stoic desperation. “God, even a chipmunk should make noise on this stuff!”
Jim’s heart was already beating too fast, and when Spock raised a snow-covered eyebrow, the endearing sight almost derailed what was left of Jim’s ability to think. “As I have not yet acquired the ability to move silently across snow, perhaps your thoughts – to use a human expression – were simply miles away?”
Cursing Spock’s perceptiveness and his own pathetic emotional state, Jim struggled to find a response, but Spock had already moved to stand beside him, and was gazing at the building in front of them. With the gentle snow falling around them, settling against his dark hair and pale skin, Spock once again resembled an ice sculpture, and Jim felt his heart skip a few too many beats.
The silence between them was just shy of awkward, as though Spock didn’t know how to address his earlier moment of affection, but Jim couldn’t think of anything to say, and he fought the urge to squirm with discomfort. He hadn’t been this lost for words since the first time Spock had taken phaser fire meant for his captain, and Jim had been left gaping in horror as two unseeing eyes stared blankly up at him from the ground.
Finding it suddenly hard to look at Spock, Jim clamped down on the memory and turned back to the cabin, trying to focus on the beautiful building. With the sun beginning to set, light was spilling from the windows, staining the snow gold – and that gorgeous stream of smoke was continuing to twist into the darkening sky, filling the air with an intoxicating scent, and making everything around them seem like magic.
“I appreciate the invitation to accompany you here.” Spock’s gaze was still focused on the house, and Jim tried to not be distracted by the snow clinging to Spock’s eyelashes, his mind struggling to deal with the conversation they were about to have. “You have chosen a magnificent location.”
Jim’s stomach clenched slightly, and the question was out before he could stop himself. “Why did you come with me?” When Spock didn’t immediately respond, Jim pushed a little harder, still feeling the weight of Spock’s hand against his side. “You could have stayed at the Academy with Pike, instead of trudging all the way up here with me – and I know that your father’s on Earth right now. You two have patched things up over the last few years –”
“I did not wish to spend these weeks with my father.” There was not a trace of emotion in Spock’s voice, and with his expression obscured by the fading light, Jim couldn’t even guess at what he might be thinking. “I prefer to be here.”
The simple statement left Jim’s heart beating a little faster than normal, but he was saved the trouble of finding words when Spock turned to him.
“And you? Earth is your home, and you have acquaintances here. Surely you had places –”
“Earth isn’t my home, Spock.” Jim was somewhat surprised to hear the resignation in his own voice, but he didn’t try to temper it, knowing that Spock would simply see right through him. He’d long ago given up on trying to lie to someone who could read his thoughts even without a telepathic link. “It’s just somewhere I lived.”
As the soft word settled around them, Jim could have kicked himself, suddenly reminded that Spock didn’t even have a planet to go home to.
“Look, I know that I sound like an ungrateful bastard, but my childhood wasn’t exactly sunshine and roses, alright?” When Spock remained disconcertingly silent, Jim fought down a twinge of nervousness, suddenly realizing exactly what he was saying, and who he was saying it to. “It’s just that – I’ve always thought that your home is made up of memories and people, not geography. That home is with the people you love, wherever they may be.”
“And your home is on the Enterprise.”
As that impassive voice curled across his skin with disconcerting accuracy, Jim wondered whether Spock could read everyone this effortlessly, or if Jim was just a special case. Either way, the notion of standing in the snow and discussing love with this particular Vulcan was way too much for Jim to handle, and the blush on his cheeks made him grateful for the darkness.
“Don’t tell Bones. This kind of sappy stuff kills him.”
“I shall endeavour to keep this secret from the Doctor.”
Grateful that Spock was humouring the less-than-subtle subject change, Jim couldn’t stop a smile, even if it was tentative. “Shall we head inside? Don’t want your nose to –”
“If my extremities begin to detach themselves, I shall be sure to inform you.”
Glad that their moment at the door hadn’t completely frightened away Spock’s sense of humour, Jim stifled a sigh and followed Spock into the cabin, pulling the door tight behind them to keep out the cold.
- - -
Sometime around the end of year two, Jim had realised that loving Spock was like having a constant ache in his stomach – a knot that kept twisting tighter whenever Spock looked at him. He found himself imprisoned by an unrequited longing that hurt in the best possible way – pain that burned just enough to feel pleasant, so that while Jim hated himself for falling in the first place, he never wanted to relinquish this feeling.
Jim wasn’t sure if that made him a masochist or just a romantic fool, but he knew that he was too far gone to care. After three years of this nonsense, he had stopped questioning how he’d managed to fall in love with someone unattainable, and had just accepted that it had happened – but, unfortunately, that acceptance hadn’t made things any easier to deal with, and unrequited love was still the most heart-wrenching situation Jim had ever experienced.
That particular thought was twisting through Jim’s head about ten minutes after entering the house. If he’d thought that things had been awkward outside, it was nothing compared to the tension now, and Jim was almost ready to tear his hair out.
Spock was standing by a window with his hands clutched serenely behind his back, and Jim would have killed to know what he was thinking. His mind still replaying their scene at the door, he stopped a groan and began puttering around the inside of the cottage, pretending to inspect things, and wondering what had ever made him think this trip was a good idea.
The vacation itself? Definitely a good idea. The decision to sequester himself away with the unrequited love of his life, and then force him into a human hug, which had somehow resulted in a very un-Vulcan display of affection, followed by a decidedly un-Vulcan silent freak out?
Maybe not the smartest plan.
Until this very moment, Jim hadn’t realized how tricky it was to be around Spock without the constraints of professionalism and regulations. Even his customary humour defence seemed to have been snatched away, getting lost somewhere between Spock’s moment of affection, and Jim’s realization of how tiny their shared cabin really was.
He forced the thought from his mind as he studied the room, trying to use the building’s quaintness to clear his mind. There were two bedrooms, a bathroom, and some kind of kitchen-living room hybrid, which featured a sitting area and food replicator – and they even had the old-fashioned fireplace and rug combination. Shoving down his unease with heroic effort, Jim managed smile, silently congratulating himself on a job well done.
Just as that soft voice broke their silence, Jim was suddenly slammed with an image of Spock's lean body stretched out across that gorgeous fur, golden firelight dancing across every pale inch of him, his long fingers curling into the rug beneath them, as Jim slowly licked lower, worshipping every bit of skin he could reach -
"Jim, are you – alright?"
Jim yanked himself back into reality with jarring speed, his clothes suddenly much too sensitive for his body, still imagining those long fingers curling into the rug. He managed to nod slightly, trying to concentrate on the real Spock in front of him, and failing to fight down a blush.
"Your skin is flushed. Are you –"
"I'm fine, Spock.” If Spock noticed that Jim had responded a little too quickly, he had the grace to not show it, but Jim still couldn’t quite manage a smile. “Just tired.”
Spock nodded slowly, as though he actually believed Jim’s answer, and silence settled around them again, leaving them staring at anything but each other. It was painfully awkward, as though they’d somehow managed to just forget three years of friendship, but Jim’s brain still wasn’t providing him with the words he needed. What was he supposed to say? If he flat out asked Spock what was wrong, an aldeberan shellmouth would seem talkative in comparison.
And the part that was killing Jim was the uncertainty of the whole situation. If this was anybody but Spock, Jim would have translated this tension as poorly repressed sexual need, and tried to get things going from there – but this was Spock. And while he knew that Spock could be a sensual being – his relationship with Uhura had demonstrated that, and Jim would never forget that kiss on the transporter pad – he couldn’t remember any time Spock had ever expressed anything that could be construed as interest in him, and the idea of Spock carrying a torch for Jim for three years was downright laughable.
So was Spock just embarrassed about earlier, and unsure of how to deal with it? Or was he upset about something else, and furious with himself for even being upset?
“Jim, I owe you an explanation.”
As though he'd actually been reading Jim’s mind, Spock had finally broken their silence, but there was hesitation in his voice, and he was somehow managing to look lost by only using his eyebrows.
“I do not know the protocol for a situation such as this.”
Trying desperately to figure out what the hell Spock was talking about, Jim settled for blinking stupidly, wondering if he was hearing wrong. “Protocol? Spock, there’s no protocol for a Christmas vacation.”
Jim was about to say something more, when he noticed the tiniest hint of green on Spock’s cheeks, and stopped talking so quickly it was a miracle he didn’t swallow his own tongue.
“As humans would say, I seem to be rather out of my element, and I wish to explain my hesitance.” He paused for a second longer, and Jim didn’t even try to keep the bewilderment from his face. “I have never experienced such… domestic circumstances with anyone but my mother. I do not know how to act.”
Needing to get Spock away from that particular thought as quickly as possible, Jim found himself taking a step closer before pausing, unsure whether another touch would be welcome so soon after their stilted hug. Spock simply looked at him, his unease indicated only by the slight flush to his skin, and Jim cursed that Vulcan mask. How was he supposed to figure out what was going on if Spock gave him absolutely nothing to work with?
“Spock, this cabin is yours for the next few weeks, as much as it’s mine. The whole place is at your disposal.”
When Spock simply nodded again, as though hearing the words but not quite believing them, Jim placed a hand against Spock’s elbow, hoping that he wasn’t going to make the situation worse. He managed a small smile, and then fought the urge to squirm when Spock’s eyes never left his face.
“I need you to do something for me.”
Spock raised an eyebrow, as if reminding Jim that Spock already did a slew of crazy things for him.
“I need you to remember that it’s only me here. That, regardless of where we are – on our ship, on earth, in this cabin, or stranded on some distant planet – it’s still me.” Jim bit down his nervousness and tightened his grip a bit more, wondering how far Spock would let him push. “I didn’t invite you here for you to freak out over which chair to sit on, or where to hang your jacket.”
“That is not my dilemma.”
“Then what is?”
Try as he might, Jim couldn’t quite keep the exasperation from his voice, and Spock’s lips thinned just slightly, as his eyes flicked away. He seemed to be lost for words again, and Jim could count on one hand the number of times he’d seen Spock speechless.
“Spock, I’m your best friend. Talk to me.”
Whatever uncertainty Jim had about their current situation, he didn’t try to hide his inarguable statement under a mountain of other words, knowing that he was closer to Spock than anyone else in the universe. Spock trusted Jim in a way he trust few others, and Jim would cut off his own hand before he ever abused that trust.
“That is part of the problem. And – I cannot speak as freely as you can.”
“I’m not asking you to.” Jim tightened his grip a little more, finally feeling like they were getting somewhere, even if that first sentence made little sense. “Just give me something to work with, alright?”
Spock’s eyes finally came back to his, and there was a well-veiled emotion there that Jim had no hope of reading. He smiled as encouragingly as he could, but Spock seemed to tense up minutely, as though finally coming to a decision, and not liking it at all.
“I apologise for my earlier actions. I seem to have been – affected by the beauty of this location, and by the novelty of not being constrained by our customary duties. It made me – careless.”
Jim blinked at him, then finally dropped his hand, deciding to give Spock a little space, and pretending that the flash of gratitude in those dark eyes didn’t hurt. “You – god, Spock, you don’t need to apologize. I’m the one who always pushes –”
“Jim, please attempt to understand.” Spock was still looking lost, but doing his best to not show it, and Jim wanted to hug him so badly it hurt. “I have never ‘taken a vacation’, or spent shore leave doing something unproductive. You are my friend, and I wish to enjoy these three weeks, but I do not know if –”
Spock bit off his words and glanced away again, as though truly unable to keep talking, and something suddenly seemed to click in Jim’s mind.
“Are you telling me you don't know how to just kick back and relax?”
When Spock’s dark eyes snapped back to his, the shock there was well concealed, but Jim could suddenly read Spock with surprising ease, and he didn’t know how he hadn’t figured this out earlier. It was glaringly obvious, and it made Jim want to smack himself over the head for being obtuse.
Spock wanted to enjoy these weeks. He wanted to let himself go a bit. He didn’t know how to do it alone, and he was practically asking for permission to have fun.
It would have been funny if it wasn’t so sad.
As it was, Jim found himself fighting back a stupid prickling behind his eyes, knowing how much it took for Spock to make himself vulnerable like this. That he had just admitted to wanting something illogical spoke volumes about his trust in Jim, and Jim found himself falling in love all over again, his heart beating almost hard enough to hurt.
“Goddamn,” he muttered softly, and when Spock seemed to close himself off a bit tighter, obviously realising just how much he was letting on, Jim found himself shaking his head, and grabbing Spock’s arm again, ignoring the tension beneath his hand. “No, don’t freak out. Just – come sit down with me for a second.”
Jim tugged softly, and Spock followed without a word. After a brief glance around the room, Jim decided to go with the most comfortable location available, and sat himself cross-legged on the rug, hoping that the warmth from the fire would put Spock at ease. Looking even more hesitant, Spock slowly followed suit, his long legs folded elegantly, and his back ruler straight.
Spock just looked at him, and Jim found his lips curling into a true smile, even if it was hesitant. Their legs were only inches apart, and the firelight against Spock’s face was just as beautiful as Jim had imagined, sending his stomach into a painful flurry of butterfly wings.
“I want you to do something for me. Something you don’t let yourself do too often.”
Spock seemed to tense up even tighter, which was not the reaction Jim was going for, so he shook his head, still wanting to reach out and take Spock’s hands.
“Look, there’s nobody here but me, and I want you to remember that. Only me. I’ve seen you at your best, and your worst, and if you can let yourself relax around anyone in this entire universe, it’s me. The goal of taking a vacation is to have fun, and while you shouldn’t feel that you need permission for that, if you think that it will help, well – here it is.”
Jim shrugged as casually as he could, pretending that the situation wasn’t carving little gouges into his heart, and then held his breath as Spock stared into the fireplace, the material of his pants soft against Jim’s tingling fingers. The golden hue on Spock’s face made him look like some kind of ancient painting, and Jim suddenly wondered if anyone had ever told Spock that he was beautiful.
He almost bit his lip bloody trying to keep the thought inside.
“Jim, you are one of the most intuitive humans I have ever met.”
Spock was still studying the fire, but he seemed to have relaxed slightly, and Jim tried to make himself remove his hand away from Spock’s leg. When that didn’t quite seem to work, he simply shrugged again, trying to pretend that the compliment hadn’t done ridiculous things to his pulse.
“I think you’ve got me beat on that one, Spock. I’m pretty sure you can read my mind without even dropping your shields.”
And there it was, what Jim had been aiming for – that tiny half-twitch of Spock’s lips, which would have been a relieved grin on anybody else. Jim finally managed to pull his hand away, which was a good thing, because when Spock finally met his eyes, there was some not-quite-muted affection there, and it only made Spock even more beautiful –
At this rate, Jim was going to have to buy a little pink diary, and start drawing pointy-eared hearts on every page.
“So we’re okay then? We can dispense with this horrible awkwardness, and just have some fun?” Jim found himself grinning suddenly, the situation much easier to deal with now that he understood what was going on, and Spock’s sardonic eyebrow raise only amused him further. “Why don’t you get your stuff unpacked and take advantage of that gorgeous bathtub I saw earlier? I’ll get some dinner going.”
“I do not wish for you to assemble the meal alone –”
“Did you really just say ‘assemble the meal’?”
Wondering how Spock’s speech patterns could still surprise him, Jim found himself biting back laughter, and Spock looked at him in a way that silently questioned Jim’s intelligence.
“I fail to understand your amusement. As for the formation of our supper –”
“The formation of our supper? Oh my god. Spock. I think I can manage a replicator.”
“You have already done enough –”
“Come on, please.” Jim aimed for the easiest grin he had, wanting Spock to clear out for awhile so Jim could make the kitchen look like Christmas. “You just agreed to three weeks of unbroken fun. The least I can do is to make you some food in return.”
When Spock managed to look unimpressed without moving his face, it made Jim want to press his fingers against Spock’s lips, knowing there was a smile hidden there. Before Spock could say anything, Jim had climbed to his feet and was scampering over to the replicator, knowing that if he didn’t move he was going to offer to help Spock to his feet, which would have just made things awkward again.
“Come on, go get settled in. You can cook tomorrow night.”
For a moment longer, Spock looked like he wanted to argue, before he nodded and rose to his feet, moving with much more grace than Jim had. He paused for a second, and then headed towards his bedroom, but Jim couldn't resist a finally comment.
“Oh, and Spock? Close your eyes the next time you come into the kitchen, okay?”
Spock’s eyebrow was going to get tired at this rate, and the thought just made Jim grin even more.
“I fail to see –”
“Just trust me. I’ll help you get wherever you’re aiming for.”
When Spock made a sound that wasn’t quite a sigh, barely even attempting to hide his exasperation, Jim suddenly marveled at how far they’d come since the beginning of their mission. He could still remember the first day they had met, when Spock had seemed to be carved from ice, save for the well-masked hatred that kept flashing behind his eyes.
“Although I fail to understand the purpose in closing my eyes, I shall nevertheless humour you. You seem to be the only person for whom I indulge such foolish whimsicalness.”
And with that earth-shattering statement, Spock turned and left the room, leaving Jim to stare at the closed door, his chest suddenly much too tight, and his heart doing its damndest to crawl up into his throat.
- - -
Within fifteen minutes of being left alone, Jim had managed to get some tinsel hung from the ceiling, a string of white lights scattered along the walls, and figures of Santa Claus and his reindeer scattered across any flat surface he could find.
He would have been able to decorate even faster, too – if his head wasn’t still spinning from Spock’s parting comment. He didn’t understand how, after three years serving together, Spock could still come up with a two-liner that somehow stabbed Jim straight through his illogical human heart. Did Spock have any idea what he could do to Jim with just a few words?
Dragging a chair over to the fireplace, Jim climbed up to reach as high as he could, wanting to hang some tinsel from the wooden beams that crossed the ceiling. As he stretched, he tried to clear his mind, reminding himself that Spock had never shown interest in Jim, and that Jim had to stop this right now, before he did something supremely stupid and fucked up the best thing in his life.
For once, Jim managed to not yelp and spin around – his self-preservation instinct had kicked in even before his name was finished leaving Spock’s lips, and he simply wobbled for a second, before turning to climb down.
“Yeah, Spock, I –”
And then Jim froze, still balancing on the chair, all the air squeezed from his lungs.
Spock was standing in the doorway, his hands fluttering a little at his sides, as though needing something to hold on to. He had shed his clothes for a snug black robe, the sides stitched with some kind of gorgeous embroidery, and there was a slight furrow between his eyes, as though he didn’t particular enjoy standing there with his eyes closed.
“Jim, you insisted that I indulge you in this, and if you wish me to arrive at the washroom without harming either myself or the room –”
“Sure, Spock, sorry – I’m coming, one sec.”
Somehow managing to get off the chair without breaking his ankles, Jim crossed the room, grateful beyond belief that Spock’s eyes were still closed. He looked almost vulnerable as he stood there, his eyes closed and his hands hanging loosely beside him, and it made Jim want to hold onto him forever -
Jim knew that, had Spock’s eyes been open, he would have seen way more than Jim could afford to let him see.
Trying desperately to shield his thoughts as he curled his hand around Spock’s arm – and god, that soft material was perfectly exquisite – Jim tugged slightly, moving them towards the bathroom. Spock followed his lead without hesitation, and the thrill that shot through Jim at the simple trust left him struggling to keep his hands steady.
“There’s, uh, towels in there already – we don’t have sonics, sorry, but the water should work perfectly, even though nobody’s been here for awhile – and if you need extra soap, I put some in the drawer under the sink –”
“Jim, you are rambling. I am sure that I shall find anything I need.”
You could need me.
As the aching, ridiculous, involuntary thought was crossing his mind, three things happened in quick succession.
Spock suddenly caught his foot against the leg of the kitchen table, pitching him forward, the tiniest noise of surprise colouring the air around them – Jim’s hand shot forward with lightening speed, tightening around Spock’s wrist, while the other slid around his waist, holding him upright –
And Jim felt his fingers dig into the warm skin of Spock’s palm, even as that damning thought finished circulating through his head, and Spock’s eyes suddenly snapped opened.
Time crashed to a screeching halt as they simply stared at each other, their silence louder than torpedo fire. Even the air around them seemed to have stilled, and when Jim struggled to breathe, his lungs rasped out their scratchy protest, the sudden ache in his chest seeming to tighten further.
“Jim, there has been no harm done. You may release me now.”
Jim struggled to focus, still not inhaling enough air to think. Spock’s eyes were dark, his lips slightly parted, and Jim still had his arm around him, was still holding him much too close.
“I assure you, I am quite capable of walking unassisted.” Without another word, Spock pulled away and stood upright, his eyes sliding around the kitchen as Jim concentrated on not having a panic attack. “You have done remarkably well with these decorations. Once I have completed my shower, would you appreciate assistance with the remaining ornaments?”
Jim could only nod, not yet trusting his tongue. Had Spock’s shock simply been from almost falling on his face? Had he actually missed what Jim was thinking?
“Sorry, I – I almost dropped you.”
“Please do not trouble yourself. I would have sustained no damage.”
His heart beating painfully against his ribs, Jim watched as Spock’s fingers curled around a toy that Jim had placed on the counter-top, holding it with careful gentleness.
“This is Santa?”
He was studying it intently, as though trying to find a scientific explanation for its existence, and the sight did absolutely nothing to calm Jim down. Spock was standing there in a casual robe, holding a toy from Jim’s childhood, and they were so far out of familiar territory it almost hurt – why had Jim ever thought that he would be able to deal with this?
“Yup.” Slamming down on the thought, Jim somehow managed to make his mouth work. “Jolly old fellow who brings presents.”
“He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake?” Spock spoke without a single change of expression, and Jim heard himself make some kind of strangled noise, his brain failing to process the words. “That is the correct song, I believe?”
He was still studying the Santa Claus toy, his face at its most impassive, and the question coupled with his bland expression were suddenly too much – Jim couldn’t have stopped his laughter for anything in the universe, and Spock flushed as he quickly set the toy back on the counter, as though the concept of Santa Clause had suddenly become insulting.
“If my attempts to analyse your human traditions are nothing other than amusing –”
“Spock, wait.” He managed to bite back his mirth at the embarrassment in Spock’s voice, but he couldn’t quite wipe the grin from his face. “I’m sorry, but you have no idea how awesome that was. Can we sing carols later?”
Spock just looked at him, perfectly schooled to impassivity again.
He tried for his customary beaming grin, but it must not have worked, because Spock simply arched an eyebrow.
“You will cease to laugh at –”
Spock looked at him for a moment longer, before he nodded and turned to enter the washroom, and Jim just couldn’t stop himself.
“Unless we sing ‘rocking around the Christmas tree’. Cause, honestly – ‘Later we’ll have some pumpkin pie, and do some carolling’? There’s no chance of me not laughing at you saying that.”
Jim had tried to school his face into something other than a ridiculous grin, but Spock didn’t even bother to turn around. “Jim, the next time you attempt to speak Vulcan, you may rest assured that I shall be judging you most extensively.”
Jim was still laughing long after the bathroom door closed.
- - -
Part Two - http://twisting-vine-x.livejournal.com/157804.html
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