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Title: Closer
Author: Rynne
Fandom: Star Trek XI
Pairing: Kirk/Spock
Rating: R
Length: 11,700
Summary: Written for [livejournal.com profile] ksadvent. Prompt: Academy AU. Kirk has a massive crush on Spock and convinces the professor to go on dates with him, although nothing happens (Jim can delay gratification, really he can!). Finally Spock caves in over the holidays.
Notes: Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] novembery for the super-fast beta!


1


Jim did not actually join the Xenolinguistics Club just to annoy Uhura. Like every other Terran, he started learning a language in primary school -- he picked Tellarite, just because they looked like pigs and that seemed hilarious to him as a kid. By the time he finished secondary school, he could speak, passably if not fluently, in another four. He learned a few more even after finishing secondary school. He actually likes learning languages. Not enough to make it his life's work, but they're puzzles, and he's always liked unraveling puzzles.

So he's actually in the Xenolinguistics Club on his own merits. Annoying Uhura is just a bonus.

But oh, what a glorious bonus it is.

In fact, it's shaping up to be the only thing making this meeting worth it. Registration for next term is coming up, and the Xenolinguistics Club had several upperclassmen come and talk about the available xenolinguistics courses.

Jim likes languages, but he has no intention of taking more courses on them. He's tested out of the Academy's language requirements anyway, and if he wants to finish in three years, the last thing he should do is take courses he doesn't need. Like with the languages, he's tested out of enough classes that his schedule almost resembles a normal cadet's, but he still doesn't have much wiggle room.

Or at least, that's what he's thinking until the end of the meeting, when, determined to salvage something out of the hour, he heads straight for Uhura before she can leave with her friends.

"Cadet Uhura!" he exclaims, intercepting her and grinning at her undisguised annoyance. "You're looking lovely, as always. How about that drink?"

"Save it for the farm animals, Kirk," she retorts. "I'm sure they're missing you."

He pulls an exaggeratedly mournful face. "And I'm sure they've forgotten all about me. Want to console me?"

"Oh, I really don't think I'll be an adequate substitute."

"Why don't you let me be the judge of that...Gloria?"

Uhura rolls her eyes. "No."

"Is that for the invitation or the name?"

"Guess."

"I think it's for the name. Penda?"

"Is this really what you want to spend your time on? Really?"

He nods. "Oh, it definitely is. Rumplestiltzkin?"

She hides her face with one hand and turns away, but not before he can see the twitching of her lips. He can't stop the grin from spreading across his face, and he doesn't even want to.

"You do not actually get anything if you get my name right," she says, her face once again still.

"Except the satisfaction being able to put a gorgeous name to a just as gorgeous face."

She sighs. "Please tell me you've decided you're taking that routine on the road. It's okay, Kirk, there are plenty of people not suited to such a regimented life. A lot of people drop out after the first term."

"True, I do feel awfully restricted here." He nods seriously. "I think it's good for me, though. My mother always told me I needed to learn some discipline, and better late than never, right?"

"I'll believe you have discipline when I see it."

"That's what the learning process is for! And you never stop learning, isn't that right?"

She widens her eyes in mock incredulity. "You can learn? I never would have guessed."

He thumps a fist against his chest. "That gets me, Uhura. What do I have to do to prove it to you?" He waggles his eyebrows. "I promise, I'm a very quick learner, given...proper incentives."

She looks unimpressed. "Have you decided on your language?"

Okay, that was unexpected. He crosses his arms. "I wasn't going to take one." He flashes a smile. "Tested out."

"I'm taking Vulcan next term," she informs him. "It's not the hardest language the Academy offers, but it's one of the hardest. And it's not one you speak, is it?"

Slowly, he shakes his head. He can see where this is going. "Uhura, I don't have time to take another language class."

She raises an elegant eyebrow at him. "I thought you were a quick learner. You can't manage one extra class?"

"Why should I?" he replies. "I mean, I understand completely if you want to see more of me than just one hour a week, but what's in it for me?"

"A chance to impress me," she says sweetly, giving him an insincere smile. "And Kirk, I am very hard to impress." She blinks at him innocently. "Unless, of course, you don't think you can handle it."

She finally pushes past him after that, and Jim lets her go.

Should he? He really doesn't need another class added to his schedule. He can handle it, sure, but is he really going to let Uhura goad him into it just for the chance to impress her?

But she practically dared him, and Jim is very, very bad at turning down dares.

A smile tugs at his lips, even though Uhura's no longer there to see it.

Looks like he'll be taking Vulcan next term.

--

As it turns out, he likes Vulcan. It really is a challenge, and he just loves the narrow-eyed look Uhura never fails to give him when he answers a question correctly before she does.

"So what's you being impressed worth to me?" he asks her after the first two weeks.

"Your self-respect?" she suggests.

He laughs. "Sorry to inform you, but my self-respect doesn't hinge on your opinion," he tells her with amusement. "Nice try, though. How about a date?"

"I should have known."

He holds out his hands in an exaggerated shrug. "Yeah, you probably should have." He smirks. "But I promise, I'm not a bad date. I can provide references, if you like."

"That's not a plus. Promiscuity is not a positive trait, Kirk."

"Hey, I don't have to be promiscuous to have had a few old lovers enjoy spending time with me. Come on, Uhura. One date."

She considers him levelly, and he contrives to look earnest and eager. It's a look he's perfected, and it seems not even Uhura is immune. She closes her eyes briefly and shakes her head, but she says, "If, at the end of the term, I think you have learned some degree of discipline and maturity, I will go on one date with you -- without an expectation of sex. And afterwards, you leave me alone."

Jim's not worried about the 'discipline and maturity' thing. He does actually have some self-control; he just likes pulling Uhura's pigtails. "I won't pester you to go out with me anymore," he finally offers, then smirks. "Unless, of course, you want me to. But you can't ask me to never interact with you again."

She eyes him, but when he doesn't put any further conditions on it, she nods sharply and holds out her hand. "Agreed."

He can't resist -- he grabs her hand and pulls it up to kiss the back, and laughs when she pulls it away immediately. "Start thinking about what you're going to wear on our date!" he calls, walking backward and grinning when she glares.

He turns around just in time to avoid colliding with someone, but sticks a hand up to wave a final goodbye without looking. For the rest of the day, he can't get the smile off his face.

--

But by the end of the term, he's forgotten about Uhura's challenge completely.

Their instructor, Commander Ahmed, informed them at the beginning of the term that while she was pregnant, she wasn't supposed to be due until after classes were over.

It turns out that's not the case, because apparently she's having twins and the babies are impatient or something, Jim doesn't know. He doesn't really care, either.

Because when she realized that she wouldn't finish the term, Commander Ahmed arranged for a substitute. When he gets the message that he still has to go to class, he makes a face -- he was looking forward to having that time slot free, and he's perfectly capable of studying two weeks of material on his own until the exam.

Still, he dutifully trudges to class. If the substitute is useless, he can just skip the rest and study on his own.

Then the Vulcan walks in.

Jim finds him immediately attractive, but that's not so unusual as to be notable. And when he says, "I am Lieutenant Commander Spock, and I will be your instructor for the remaining two weeks of your term," Jim lets himself smile as the sound of that smooth, cool voice washes over him. That is one elegant voice, Jim decides, and wonders what it would sound like raspy and rough and desperate.

But it's only an idle interest. Jim's had plenty of those. He's happy to look at the Vulcan while he's there, but the class is only another two...

His brain stutters to a stop as Spock meets his eyes.

For one long, clock-stopping moment, the world fades away. The chatting of students, the clatter of personal PADDs and computers, even the whisper-soft sound of his own breathing -- all gone. The only thing he can hear is his heart, beating out of control.

Jim can see unmasked surprise in Spock's eyes -- surprise, and more. There's something vulnerable in the depths of those eyes, vulnerable and wanting. They're dark, and deep, and drawing him in. He could drown in those eyes, and he'd let it happen.

Spock blinks and looks away, and the world rushes in again. Jim comes back to himself to find he's leaning forward, his mouth is dry, and his face feels hot. As casually as he can, he hides one burning cheek in his palm and quickly glances around to see if anyone noticed his reaction, but everyone else is paying attention to their instructor.

Jim pays attention to him as well, fierce, undivided attention. He listens to Spock's voice, but can barely understand what it's saying. He watches every movement Spock makes, fluid, with a graceful economy.

At the end of the class, he's not sure he can recall what the lecture was about, but he doesn't give a damn. He heads straight for Spock, standing by the teacher's desk and answering questions.

He hitches his bookbag over his shoulder when it's his turn. "Commander Spock, hi, my name is Jim Kirk," he says, smoothly and firmly. He meets brown eyes once again, and doesn't let them throw him as he picks a topic to discuss and continues, "I have a few questions about the subjunctive. Vulcan seems to treat it differently than any other language I've studied, and I was wondering if that was due to some of your beliefs about logic and reality."

He doesn't even mean to hold his breath as Spock considers him, but he feels frozen beneath that steady gaze, his skin alive and tingling almost paradoxically. Then Spock frees him by saying, "The development of the subjunctive mood in modern Vulcan has a complex history. If you are truly interested, we may go to my office and discuss it further."

Jim beams at him, and Spock pauses for a moment in packing up his materials, so briefly that if Jim hadn't been watching him closely he wouldn't have caught it. Spock focuses on him once again when he's finished and inclines his head.

"The subjunctive mood," he begins to explain as they walk, "evolved into its more simplified form from the more chaotic pre-Reformation Vulcan language..."

Jim listens intently as they walk, and asks questions when he can think of them. Over an hour later, he's arguing with Spock in Spock's office about the path pre-warp English took evolving into Standard.

He's completely forgotten about Uhura.

--

Jim hadn't planned on continuing to study Vulcan after this term, but when he looks up Spock's profile, it lists him as being one of the few teachers the Academy has for the upper-level Vulcan classes.

Registration for the summer term is pretty much over, but open registration will start once the term does. Jim doesn't even care that it will be an extra class he doesn't need -- he's taking more Vulcan. Spock doesn't teach the second level, but he does teach the third, so by fall term, Jim will be able to have Spock for his teacher the entire term.

In the meantime, he occupies himself playing chess against the computer. He noticed a Tri-D chessboard in Spock's office, and Spock doesn't seem like the type to have meaningless knickknacks around. If he has a chessboard, he most likely enjoys playing chess.

Jim used to be pretty good at the game himself, but it's been years since he played. He spent a lot of time playing as a teenager, trying to distract himself from Frank and the aftermath of Tarsus. He pretty much stopped once he discovered alcohol and bar fights, but he's a good, law-abiding citizen now. He should cultivate some wholesome hobbies.

And Spock plays chess. Most likely.

God, he's going insane. He's completely obsessed with a Vulcan he's spent no more than a few hours with, and one who's an instructor to boot. What the hell is he thinking? What does he even want out of this?

But whenever he tries to tell himself that he's in too deep and he needs to get out, he remembers the grace of Spock's movements, the smooth, silky voice, and those eyes, vulnerable and wanting.

Jim saw something in Spock he doesn't think the Vulcan often shows. Vulcans purport to have no emotions, to live their lives entirely by logic, but Jim saw something more.

He doesn't know why he saw it. He doesn't even know if Spock meant to show it, if he had his guard down and Jim caught him at a good time...or if Jim just saw something in Spock that no one else would.

He wants to find out. He wants to know.

Maybe once he does, he'll be able to let this go.

--

There's only a month in between terms, so while plenty of people leave during that time, plenty of people don't. Academy dorms stay open, as do many Academy organizations. Including both the Xenolinguistics Club and the Chess Club.

Jim goes to the Chess Club first. Spock isn't there -- not that Jim really expected he would be, no matter what the disappointed twinge in his stomach thinks -- but Jim is glad for the opportunity to play against real people. The computer's good, but it's too predictable.

When he gets to the Xenolinguistics Club, though, he finally remembers his deal with Uhura. She approaches him after the meeting with the air of someone determined to get a distasteful task over with.

"All right, Kirk," she announces as she draws near. "Never let it be said that I don't keep my promises."

He blinks at her, and only then remembers that they're supposed to go on a date. He just...can't seem to summon the same enthusiasm for the idea.

"It's okay," he says, deciding to let her off easy. "You don't have to."

She eyes him warily. "I made a deal--"

He waves it off. "I don't actually want to go on a date with someone who doesn't really want to be there. I'm not that hard up."

"Then why ask me out?"

"To see if you'd go," he answers simply, and grins when she huffs. Finally she sighs and tilts her head at him.

"I don't understand you," she says. "Are you still going to leave me alone?"

"You're not the only one who keeps promises," he replies. "Don't worry, Uhura. I'm not going to keep asking you out."

She seems satisfied with that, and turns to leave. Just as she reaches the door, though, he calls out, "Of course, I said nothing about general flirting!"

She stiffens, and her glare meets his wide grin. She really has the best reactions.

--

Spock continues not showing up at Chess Club, and Jim doesn't know anything else about him, apart from what's in his public profile. So after a couple weeks of arguing with himself about how pathetic he's being and how he doesn't even want a serious relationship, he sends Spock a message, and, at his invitation, shows up at his office.

"Cadet Kirk." Spock looks up as the door slides open, the impact of his eyes once again hitting like a punch to the gut. They aren't as open as they were the first time Jim saw them, but they're...calm. Steady. Beautiful.

Did he really just think that?

He clears his throat. "Thanks for meeting with me."

"Thanks are unnecessary. You are a student." He turns to face Jim more directly as Jim sits down in front of his desk. "What do you require?"

Jim leans forward, propping his elbows up on Spock's clean desk. "I'm continuing with Vulcan next term," he says, "and I wanted a leg up, I suppose. I'd ask Commander Ahmed, since she's teaching next term as well, but I don't want to interrupt her time with her kids."

"Indeed." Spock surveys him. "For what purpose do you request this...leg up? I am not privy to your grades for the previous term, but our previous discussion indicated you are quite intelligent, with a commendable grasp of the material."

Do not blush, Kirk. Don't do it.

He controls himself with effort, and replies, "That may be, but I'm Command track, and I'm trying to finish the Academy in three years instead of four. I've tested out of a lot of classes, but I still probably don't have the room to study Vulcan much farther. I'd still like to learn as much as I can."

Spock's eyes warm, and a tiny thrill runs up Jim's spine as he sees it happen. "Quite logical," Spock praises. "I am agreeable to helping you. When would you like to begin?"

"No time like the present," Jim suggests, and can't help beaming again when Spock agrees.

Particularly when Spock's eyes linger for a long moment on his smile.

--

So Spock starts informally teaching him Vulcan. When the summer term begins, Spock asks if Jim would like to continue, given he now has his class. Of course Jim immediately says he wants to keep going, and Spock doesn't seem to mind.

Then at the end of one tutoring session, Jim finally brings up the chess set still on one of Spock's shelves. Spock's eyes lighten a shade as he draws it down and faces it so Jim takes white.

He's obviously secure in his abilities, and Jim knows he himself isn't horrible, not when he can beat most of the Chess Club -- but he didn't really expect the carnage that is his first match with Spock. At the end of it, neither has more than a few pieces left on the board and Jim manages to corner Spock with no more than two pawns and a rook. His triumphant, "Checkmate," is loud in a room gone still and silent with their concentration.

And Spock is...Spock is pouting at the board. His full lower lip juts out just the tiniest bit, and Jim has to close his eyes and clamp down on the urge to take it in his mouth. When he opens his eyes again, Spock's face is once again blank and controlled.

"Your tactics are most...innovative," Spock says. His tone is almost grudging.

Jim is utterly charmed.

"I only picked the game up again recently," he says. "I started off just playing the computer, but the computer was too predictable. I like the challenge of a real opponent. Real people come up with things that would never occur to a computer."

Spock inclines his head, looking at Jim briefly before turning his attention to the chess pieces. His long fingers almost seem to caress them as he sets them in their proper places.

"Best two out of three?" Jim suggests, tearing his attention away from Spock's hands.

Spock agrees, and they play.

--

Jim doesn't see Spock for the next two weeks.

Part of it is that he's trying to spend time with his other friends; Bones has been making neglected noises, and teasing him about his newest lover. Jim doesn't correct him.

He can't deny it -- he finds Spock attractive, almost overpoweringly so. Common gossip holds that non-Vulcans would get better results slamming their heads against a wall than trying to sleep with a Vulcan, but Jim doesn't think that's quite true. Maybe Vulcans are incredibly selective, but -- he thinks Spock might be attracted to him too. He certainly likes Jim, or he wouldn't be so willing to spend time with him.

The question Jim finds himself pacing over is, does he actually want to sleep with Spock?

The easy answer to that is yes, of course he does. What lurks behind the easy answer, though, is the question of what happens after.

Most of Jim's relationships have been barely worthy of the name. He's had a few one-night stands, but usually his attraction and attention last beyond that. His partners have still never really been more than bedmates, with the occasional meal, drink, or dance thrown in. It lasts a few weeks and everybody has fun, and then they split off with no hard feelings on either side. No deep feelings on either side.

It's been a couple months since he last had a date. While he's had longer dry spells, it's pretty unusual for him to go this long with only his good right hand for company. Even when he was haphazardly pursuing Uhura, he didn't let her denials stop him from having fun with someone else.

He knows he wants Spock. The problem is that he doesn't want anyone else.

And he can't really imagine Spock being fine with having sex for three weeks and then barely seeing each other after that.

--

"Hello, Jim," Spock says, when Jim finally accepts his call.

"Spock." He shifts guiltily in his chair. "Sorry I haven't been around. I've been...really busy."

"Indeed," Spock agrees. His deep eyes lighten a shade, which Jim has come to learn mean his mood has improved. Jim's heart thumps loudly in his chest at the evidence that Spock enjoys his company. "Your midterms are progressing well?"

Jim grasps gratefully after the excuse. "They'd better be, after all the work I've been doing," he says. "Of course, I feel incredibly prepared for Vulcan."

"As is only proper," Spock agrees.

Jim stretches. "Still, I'd be up for getting out of my room for a bit. Have you had lunch yet? There's a vegetarian place a few blocks away that one of my friends has been pestering me to try."

"I am amenable to that suggestion."

So they go out, and the food's not bad, though Jim wouldn't want to eat it all the time. Jim just...lets himself enjoy Spock's company.

He doesn't think about how quickly he's fallen, or how deep he already is. He doesn't think about where this is inevitably going to lead if he lets himself get any deeper.

He listens to Spock's smooth, melodious voice, and laughs at the sometimes wry and sometimes sarcastic statements that are his versions of jokes, and tells him stories about some of the things he got up to in Iowa just to see his eyebrow shoot up.

They don't talk about the language of Vulcan except in how it relates to some of Spock's experiences on the planet, when he's willing to talk about it. Spock doesn't seem to mind that he seems to have been promoted from tutor to friend.

"You are completely illogical," he concludes with small but noticeable incredulity at the end of one of Jim's stories about jumping off the roof in a Superman cape and breaking his leg.

"Maybe, but aren't I interesting, at least?" Jim teases.

Spock doesn't deny it, and Jim laughs, and doesn't think about what it means.

--

Jim's not satisfied with trying not to think about it, though. If there's one thing he's learned in his life, it's that you have to go after what you want, because no one's just going to give it to you.

But he can't seduce a Vulcan like he has his previous lovers. Spock doesn't care for alcohol, and Jim can't imagine him being flattered into doing anything.

So he thinks about it logically, as Spock will almost definitely do himself, and he comes up with a plan.

He asks Spock to meet him in his room while his roommate's gone, and spends the time waiting for Spock to get there pacing and rehearsing what he's going to say. Finally the door buzzes, and when Jim lets Spock in, he's struck anew by the Vulcan's simple, elegant beauty. His hands twitch, wanting to reach out and touch, but Jim clenches them in fists.

Hopefully soon.

"Jim," Spock says, sitting down in Jim's desk chair as Jim sits on the bed. "You requested to see me?"

He nods, and replies, "I'm not going to be taking your class next term."

Spock tilts his head. "And this required a meeting to convey? Jim, I understand the requirements of your schedule. I will not be offended by your inability to take a class not required for the completion of your course of study."

"I didn't think you would be offended, but while it's true I don't think I'll have time to take Vulcan, that's not exactly why I don't want to take your class." Moment of truth, Jim, he coaches himself. Say it straight. A Vulcan won't appreciate hedging. "I don't want to take your class because I'm very attracted to you, and I'd rather be your lover than your student."

Spock's eyes widen, the motion tiny enough that Jim doesn't think he'd see it if he weren't watching Spock carefully.

Finally, after a long, nail-bitingly nervous moment, Spock replies, "Whether or not you are my student, you are still a cadet, and I am still an instructor. A sexual relationship between us would be inappropriate."

Well, that at least answers the question of whether Spock is attracted to men. 'Inappropriate' doesn't mean 'not interested.' And while Jim would have liked for Spock to agree immediately, he did anticipate that Spock would have some concerns.

"It's not against regulations," Jim points out. "At most it's unofficially frowned-on. The biggest concerns are about coercion and favoritism, and it's sort of ridiculous for anyone to accuse a Vulcan of either. They're pretty much a non-issue if I'm not in your class, because otherwise you don't have any control over my career, other than recommendations. And I can't imagine you giving a recommendation based on favoritism rather than merit."

"...You have thought about this," Spock murmurs, his eyes dark and contemplative. "Have you prepared arguments for all my possible concerns?"

"The ones I could think of," Jim agrees, but then admits, "But there's a lot about you I don't know. I want to fix that, but I understand there might be more you want to discuss. I thought you'd probably be logical about this."

"And you would be satisfied with a relationship based upon logic?"

Jim draws a leg up and rests his arm on his knee, smirking and trying to hide the excitement building in his stomach. Spock has to be interested. There's no way he'd let the discussion get this far if he weren't. If he doesn't want Jim at all, he'd just say that. "Well, I was mostly thinking I'd use logic to persuade you to give me a chance. The rest of it...logic will probably play some sort of role, but there are more important things in a relationship."

"I presume you mean emotions." Spock looks puzzled. "I am still a Vulcan, Jim. Would you be satisfied with a partner who is unable to return your feelings?"

"Are you really?" Jim asks quietly. Putting his leg down again, he scoots to the edge of the bed and leans forward to touch Spock's arm. It's the first time he's touched Spock, who goes still beneath him, but doesn't move away. Spock looks down at Jim's hand, then meets Jim's eyes again -- and what Jim sees is the first thing he saw in Spock's eyes, reflected now directly at him: vulnerability and want.

"I want you to be yourself," Jim continues softly. He rubs his thumb against Spock's arm, that one small movement making Spock tremble. "From what I've seen so far, I don't think that means an inability to return my...feelings. I don't mind if you're not demonstrative, Spock, but I think you're capable of more than you typically show."

"I believe you may be disappointed." He closes his eyes and moves his arm away.

"I don't." He doesn't touch Spock again, though he practically vibrates with the need to. "Just give me a chance, Spock. Give us a chance."

"Why is this necessary?" Spock asks abruptly, his eyes flying open to meet Jim's. "Why can we not remain as we have been?"

Spock's voice is strong, but his eyes still betray him. Jim is shocked to see fear, there and gone so quickly he wonders if he imagined it.

"I still want to be your friend," Jim replies, puzzling over the fear. "And I would still want to be your friend even if we don't take the next step. But I can't help wanting you, Spock." And now, for the first time in this conversation, he asks, "Are you at all interested in me as more than a friend?"

"That is irrelevant," Spock says, which Jim notes is not a denial. "I simply do not understand why the companionship we have shared thus far is insufficient. Why is sexual intercourse required?"

Okay, this is definitely a concern he didn't prepare for. "It's just...a different kind of relationship, Spock," Jim tries to explain. But then he stops, not sure what to say.

How can he describe the kind of relationship he wants with Spock when he's never had it before? His lovers have never been his friends. Surely a romantic relationship is more than just friends who also have sex?

Spock watches his struggle for a moment, then says simply, "I would prefer not to alter our interactions at this time. If you still desire to be my...friend...even without taking 'the next step,' that is what I wish."

Spock stands, and Jim looks up at him and swallows. "I still want to be your friend," he confirms, but his brain feels numb and he barely knows what he's saying.

Spock nods once, sharply, and leaves. The door hisses shut behind him, final as the shutting of a tomb.

--

Jim's first instinct is to pretend he's not that cut up about it. He'd like to say that it's the truth, not a pretense, but...it is.

He feels fucking hollow. Like Spock's rejection cut him open and scooped something out of him and his body's just going to cave in on the emptiness if Jim is ever so stupid as to let himself really feel it.

He acts normal. Bones can tell there's something wrong, but he lets Jim alone about it, beyond offering him a drink whenever he thinks Jim looks too mopey.

But Jim goes to class, and registers for next term -- not taking Vulcan -- and the next time he goes to the Xenolinguistics Club, he flirts with Uhura so heavily he thinks she's going to slap him halfway through. She controls herself, but her rage doesn't even amuse him.

He doesn't avoid Spock. He thinks about it, not sure he'll be able to see him without wanting him, but...he does still want to be Spock's friend. So he stops by Spock's office during office hours and launches into a question about Vulcan before Spock can say more than a single word of greeting.

It's awkward, but the awkwardness eases. When Jim can finally bring himself to look into Spock's eyes again, he still sees hints of vulnerability, want, and fear, but most of what he sees is gratitude. And that's enough to see him through the discussion.

But when he gets back to his room, he thinks about Spock's sure, slender fingers, the graceful points of his ears, his full lips, his high cheekbones. He thinks about Spock's voice, the smooth tones wrapping around him until he shivers. He thinks about Spock's eyes.

Then he moves to his computer and pulls up Starfleet's public information about Vulcans.

--

Jim doesn't know where exactly he went wrong with Spock. The easy answer is that it was when he didn't know how to explain why he wanted Spock as more than a friend, but that doesn't feel right. That might be half the equation, but the other half, Jim decides, is that Spock didn't understand in the first place.

So Jim looks over the notes on Vulcan culture he took in his language classes, and researches more when he has an idea. But Vulcans are a very private species, and they don't share much about themselves. The more he researches, the more Jim gets the feeling that if he wants to know the real answer to why Spock didn't want to have sex with him, he's going to have to ask Spock himself.

Before he can call up Spock and ask for another meeting, though, he stops himself. Should he keep pursuing this? Spock rejected him, and even if Jim thinks Spock does actually want him, that doesn't matter if Spock decides against it.

And he still doesn't have an answer for Spock's question. Why can't Spock be just a friend? Why can't he just be satisfied with what he has?

For whatever reason, though, he does need more from Spock. Maybe he could be satisfied if he were older and more patient, or if he'd been hugged more as a child. Maybe then he wouldn't be so greedy.

--

Just a few days later he sits in front of Spock's desk, determined to follow the only lead he has.

"I was wondering about Vulcan telepathy," he says casually over a game of chess. "Do you mind me asking questions?"

"Ask, and I will let you know what I am unwilling to answer," is Spock's reply.

Jim pauses, trying to pick the best words, as he moves a knight to take one of Spock's pawns. "I know you're touch telepaths. Does that mean the only time your telepathy works is when you're touching someone?"

"For the most part, yes," Spock replies, with the most adorable wrinkle of concentration as he stares at the board. "However, I am capable of restraining my telepathy even when touching someone."

"But are there times when you don't need to touch someone?"

Spock looks up at him, tilting his head just the slightest degree in confusion as he makes his move. "For an actual exchange of thought, I must have contact with another's skin. More minor feats of mental influence can be done without touch, though. Furthermore, I retain a very low-level awareness of the rest of my people, and a greater connection with my clan and family in the form of mental links. Only the bondmate link, however, is strong enough to convey actual thoughts."

Jim moves a rook forward a few spaces, nodding thoughtfully. "I was doing some reading and saw a few references to that low-level awareness, and I was curious because I thought that you needed to touch someone."

"Again, for the most part, that is true. The awareness is minimal enough that I do not usually think about it."

"But still always there," Jim murmurs. "You're never...completely alone."

Spock looks sharply at him at that. "Only in a superficial sense," he says. "There are other factors that contribute to a sense of..."

"...Loneliness?" Jim finishes for him, and doesn't wait for him to respond. "It's still more than humans have. Apart from the very few people with high esper ratings, every human is alone. From birth to death, the only thing in our minds is us."

"Jim, what is this about?"

Jim picks up one of the pieces he's captured, a knight, turning it over and over in his hand. He's been fine talking about loneliness in theory, but can he bring himself to make it personal?

Nothing risked, nothing gained, he tells himself. He finally joined Starfleet because he refused to let fear keep him in mediocrity. He's not going to let fear stop him now.

"I have my issues," he says softly, meeting and holding Spock's eyes. "One of them means I have a hard time letting myself get close to people. I've slept with a lot of people, but the thing about sex is that it can be intimate without getting too deep. I don't need to be in love with someone to have sex with them. I can feel close without having to actually be close."

"What about your friends?" Spock asks, his voice just as quiet. His eyes are dark, and Jim can't tell what he's thinking.

Jim shrugs. "I don't get too deep with them either," he replies, then amends, thinking of Bones, "Usually. But even then, it's not the same. My friends know me differently than my lovers have."

"Yet you consider me a friend, and you wish to have sex with me."

"Yeah." Jim closes his eyes and takes a deep breath before opening them again. "From the moment I first saw you, I wanted to know you," he confesses. "Wanting to have sex with you came later. Then the more I knew you, the more I wanted to know, and the closer I wanted to be. Whenever I'm with you, I feel less alone, but I still want to be closer."

Jim sits back in his chair, waiting as Spock moves a bishop. The room is still around them, but not tense. They play in silence, but Jim doesn't feel discouraged.

Then Spock murmurs, "I appreciate your honesty, Jim."

Jim nods, then chuckles slightly. "Being honest with myself was probably harder," he replies wryly.

"Indeed." Another few moments pass, then Spock says, "I am not comfortable with an immediate sexual relationship."

Jim sucks in a breath, his skin starting to tingle. "We can wait," he offers immediately. "But you're saying...?"

"I am saying," Spock replies, as he moves his bishop to checkmate Jim's king, "that you are not the only one who has felt...alone. Or the only one who wishes to be closer."

Jim knocks over his king as he reaches out for Spock, and this time Spock meets him halfway.

--

Part Two

August 2013

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