rynne: (nu!k/s love)
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Chapter One

Chapter Two

Spock thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the day spent in the forest, but when Jim proposed starting their swimming lessons the next day, Spock refused. Perhaps one day of his weekend he might spend on his own amusements, but he was on Earth for academic pursuits, and would not neglect them.

They therefore made arrangements to meet the next Saturday at a public indoor pool. Jim said he knew one few people frequented, which was accessible through public transportation. Spock procured swimwear -- disturbingly brief, but he could not find a suit that covered more than the area from his hips to his thighs on such short notice -- and showed up at the pool the next weekend with all the necessary equipment.

Jim met him inside, his own swimsuit shorter than Spock's, and quite...tight. Spock turned his attention to the pool, half of which was bracketed off in lanes through which four people swam. The other half of the pool was empty, and it was to this side that Jim led him.

"Alright," Jim began. "Most people find the water cold when they first get in, so you're probably going to find it colder. You can move in slowly and gradually acclimatize yourself to the temperature, or you can make your body do it more quickly by dunking yourself immediately."

"Which do you suggest?" Spock asked.

Jim smiled. "I usually do it all at once, but I actually would rather you do it gradually. This first lesson is for you to learn how the water feels, how you and the water will interact. Go ahead and use the steps at the shallow end, and go deeper when you feel ready."

Spock found Jim's intended lesson to be a logical first step, and moved to the steps. The first brought him ankle deep, and while the water was cooler than he would prefer, it was well within his ability to handle.

"Do you know your density?" Jim asked as he slipped into the pool. He submerged his body fully, and when his head broke the surface again, he raised dripping hands and pushed wet hair away from his face. He stood only deep enough for the water to reach his chest.

"Approximately point nine eight nine grams per cubic centimeter," Spock replied. "Vulcan bones are denser than human, but our muscles are less so. I should be able to float."

Jim nodded, and watched as Spock moved forward another two steps, so the water reached his lower thighs. The water was not quite numbing, but it did lessen the sensation in his skin so he could more easily tolerate the temperature. Moving in water required more force as he encountered the water's resistance. He walked along the length of the step, determining how much force was needed for maximum efficiency.

Soon he moved deeper, into the pool proper, where the water covered up to his waist. Walking was easier when his entire lower half was covered and he stopped feeling like he was half walking and half wading.

He worked his way deeper until he stood in front of Jim, who had simply been watching him. The water lapped gently against his chest and upper arms, and Spock considered his body's reaction to being thus submerged. He was slightly chilled, but well within his tolerance. He had acclimated to the force required to walk in this environment. The feel of the water itself against his skin...he was less able to quantify. It was not unpleasant. Spock left it at that.

"Okay," Jim said, "now I want you to float on your back. It might take some effort to remain floating, so don't worry about that. I'm going to be right here in case you need me."

In response, Spock tilted his body back and kicked his legs up until he floated on his back. Jim was correct; he did have to maintain concentration to keep himself above the surface. His head sank back, water covering his ears until sound was distorted, but he had to focus on keeping his head up. The rest of his body as well had to exert pressure to keep itself afloat. His body's density compared to the water's was such that he could float, but he would have to be conscious to do so.

He stood up again, shaking his head briefly to get the water out of his ears, then looked at Jim. Jim lay on his back, floating with no visible effort. His eyes were closed, his face relaxed. Then Spock took a step forward, the water splashing around him, and Jim opened his eyes and turned his face just enough to look at Spock.

"You have to trust the water," he said quietly, but Spock could still hear him even over the other swimmers doing laps. "You have to understand it. It's not precisely alive, but it has moods. You have to respect them."

"Trust, understanding, and respect," Spock repeated. "These are the necessary components to being able to swim?"

Jim smiled, facing the ceiling once again. "Not for the basic act of swimming, no," he replied. "Plenty of people never do more than push themselves through the water, trying to shove it out of their way. If you want to be comfortable in the water, Spock, you have to be comfortable with the water. Every good relationship needs respect, trust, and understanding." He took a breath and dove beneath the surface from his reclining position, flipping over his head and moving up until he stood, water dripping trails down his skin. "Starfleet requires you to learn to swim in the event that you need it. If you end up needing it, you want the best method."

Spock understood. The Vulcan desert was the same way -- temperamental, but navigable if understood.

Jim looked at him, eyes bluer than the water. He tilted his head slightly, watching. "Come on," he said finally. "I'll show you about treading water."


Lessons progressed as the weather got colder. Spock quickly became a competent swimmer in the pool, but was aware that, should he need to apply his lessons, the water in which he found himself would not likely be so calm.

"Not during winter," Jim said firmly, when Spock brought up swimming in the ocean. "The Pacific gets pretty damn cold this far north. We can get you a wetsuit, and that'll help, but we either wait until it gets warmer or we go south."

Spock did not feel it appropriate to leave the city for long periods of time during the term, so he resigned himself to waiting. In all honesty, he was also relieved. The ocean had been cold enough in the autumn, but now the wind seemed to press cold into his bones. The pool, at least, could be heated.

Unfortunately, with the advent of colder weather, more people began to seek out the heated pool. Some of these were children, who, in appalling displays of carelessness, often engaged in behavior such as running around the pool area, heedless of the puddles of water they could slip on. Spock, who did not feel it was his place to chastise them, nevertheless kept one eye on them, but they never fell.

Or perhaps they were simply saving their falls so as to do the greatest amount of damage. Spock, at the termination of one lesson, had returned to the locker room to change into his clothes, then entered the pool area once again to wait for Jim. Jim enjoyed lingering in the pool, and sometimes stayed upwards of several minutes before he could bring himself to leave. The first time Spock had noticed his reluctance, he had volunteered to make his own way back to the Academy, as he had not done since their first lesson -- Jim preferred to transport Spock himself. Spock found it unnecessary, but it seemed important to Jim, so he acquiesced. But Jim had said that he only needed a few more minutes, and Spock did not mind waiting.

This time as Spock waited by the side of the pool, however, he felt something barrel into his legs, knocking his feet out from under him. He tossed his bag of belongings to the side as he fell, but was unable to twist in time to avoid the water. He hit the pool fully dressed, unprepared, the impact knocking breath from his lungs as the water closed over his head.

He was unprepared, but not stunned. It took him a mere moment to orient himself and move upward until he broke the surface, taking in a breath of air. He raised a hand to remove wet hair from his face and saw Jim close by, his hand stretched out as if to reach for Spock. Spock shook his head slightly, indicating he had no need for help, and Jim nodded and hung back as Spock swam to the closest ladder, drenched clothes weighing him down more than the sleek swimsuit.

He pulled himself from the water, his clothes dripping unpleasantly, and looked to where he had been standing before his fall. A young boy sat there, his eyes wide and lower lip trembling.

"I'm sorry!" the boy howled as soon as Spock looked at him. "I didn't mean to knock you over!"

"But you did," Spock replied evenly. He did not wish to scare the child, but there would be no harm in impressing upon him the seriousness of his actions.

"That's why I've told you to stop running around the pool," an exasperated voice said from behind Spock. He turned to see a frowning woman, likely the boy's mother. She reached out a hand, and the boy scrambled up and took it. Then she looked at Spock. "I'm sorry for Charlie, sir. I don't know how many times I've told him, and he never listens." She glared at the boy, Charlie. "Perhaps we're done coming to the pool until he learns how to be here safely."

"Mommy!" the boy protested, but he felt quiet as he looked at Spock again, then away.

"Sounds appropriate to me," Jim said, coming up to stand at Spock's side. He passed him a towel, and Spock gratefully wrapped it around himself. Jim crouched down to look at the boy. "You're pretty lucky that my friend fell into the water. He could have hit his head if he fell on the tile. Or you could have."

The boy's lip's trembling increased, and he buried his face in his mother's legs.

When Charlie and his mother left, Jim sighed. "I don't suppose you have any other clothes?" he asked, looking unsurprised when Spock answered in the negative. "Okay. I don't think we're the same shoe size, but you can have my shirt and socks for now. The car's heated, and my apartment is close by. We can get something dry for you there."

"That would be acceptable," Spock replied, thinking of the long walk from the Academy gates to his dormitory. "It is appreciated, Jim."

Jim waved off his thanks. "Not a problem. Come on, let's get going before you freeze."

Jim's shirt was slightly too big on Spock, from Jim's stockier frame. His socks remained only marginally dryer, once Spock put them inside wet shoes. Jim wore one towel draped across his shoulders and gave the other to Spock to wear around his waist, and Spock squished his way to the car, suppressing a grimace with more effort than he customarily used. Damp footwear was highly unpleasant.

He felt better once in the heated car, and took care not to drip all over the seats. As much as he did not appreciate the circumstances, he anticipated seeing Jim's apartment. After sixteen point seven minutes of driving, they arrived. The cold air that hit Spock as he got out of the car felt worse than usual, the wet clothes providing inferior insulation.

Jim hurried Spock up the outdoor stairs to an apartment on the third floor, putting a palm on the reader and ushering Spock forward again as the door slid open. The room was chill, but Jim called out, "Computer, raise temperature five degrees," and almost immediately, Spock could feel the increasing warmth.

Spock barely had time to take in the spare, clean living room when Jim motioned him to follow down a hallway with three doors, two of them closed. Jim led him into a bedroom, probably Jim's, then started rummaging around in a dresser. He pulled out a pair of black slacks and plain black t-shirt, tossing them to Spock. "Get changed, and we can put your clothes in the dryer," he said, and then was gone, pulling the door closed behind him.

Spock quickly stripped and pulled on the new clothes, gratified at the lack of clinging dampness. He gathered the wet clothes, then paused to look at the room.

Like the living room, Jim's bedroom was both clean and spare. The bedcovers and pillows were a simple blue. The side table had a picture of Jim with an older woman with his smile and a man perhaps a few years older who looked very similar to Jim. His family.

Apart from that, the room had very little proclaiming an occupant lived there. A pair of shoes by the closet, a partly opened drawer revealing clothes. The walls were bare, and other flat surfaces lacked the keepsakes and mementoes that Spock had discovered humans liked to keep.

This room was not what Spock would have imagined, had he considered Jim's living space.

Spock returned to the living room to find Jim sprawled on the sofa, poking at a padd. He looked up at Spock's entrance and smiled, then bounded up. "Here, let me just take those to the laundry for you," he announced, grabbing the wet clothes and striding down the hallway again. He returned in short order, offered Spock his hospitality as they waited for the clothes to dry, showed him to the computer when he accepted, and settled down on the sofa again.

Half an hour later, Spock was surprised at the sound of a door opening and the creak of footsteps down the hall. He turned around to see another man emerge from the hallway, and was easily able to place him from both the picture on Jim's bedside table and his resemblance to Jim. This would be Jim's brother.

"Sam!" Jim leaped up again, tossing his padd onto a cushion. "I didn't know you were here!"

"I was taking a nap," Sam replied, looking past Jim to Spock. "So this is--"

"Spock," Jim interrupted, motioning Spock forward. "I can't pronounce his full name, and you won't be able to either, so just call him Spock. Spock, this is my brother Sam."

Sam rolled his eyes. "It's George," he said, keeping his arms crossed over his chest. "You're the only one who calls me Sam, Jim."

Jim shrugged. "Whatever. George, then. Spock, George. George, Spock."

Spock inclined his head and raised his hand in the ta'al. "It is nice to meet you, George."

George did not reciprocate the gesture, but he did incline his head as well. "Yeah, you too. Jim, can I talk to you?"

Jim sighed, but he followed George down the hallway. Spock returned to the computer, but he could hear voices. Not entirely clearly, but he thought it likely that Jim's brother did not realize how acute Vulcan hearing was.

"--you thinking, Jim?" George was saying, his voice intense. "Does he even know?"

"--oesn't have to know," Jim replied defensively. "He's my friend, it's not like it--"

Spock turned his attention away. If there was something Jim did not want him to know, he preferred not to find out against Jim's will.


The swimming lessons were not the only activity Jim and Spock engaged in together. Jim began issuing Spock invitations to go see the science museum, or the art museum, or explore Chinatown. Unlike Fleming, Jim's proposed activities had educational or cultural merit, and Spock saw no reason to refuse them.

And if, in his mind, he began to call Jim his friend, and anticipate and enjoy his presence...he was not on Vulcan. His clan's disapproval could not reach him here.

One of Spock's favorites, however, became the time Jim took him to the Monterey Aquarium.

"San Francisco has aquariums, of course," Jim said, waving a hand dismissively. "And they're not necessarily bad. Sausalito has an okay one for cetaceans. Monterey just has the best aquarium on the west coast."

So Jim took Spock to Monterey, further even than the redwood forest. He parked in front of large buildings labeled CANNERY ROW, and pointed to them, saying, "Those have been around for centuries. There's a novel called Cannery Row from the early twentieth century by a guy from this area. You should read it. I think you'd enjoy Steinbeck."

The aquarium in front of them was a very large building, and one of the first things Spock saw upon walking in was a tank three times his height full of water and small swimming furred animals. "Otters," Jim said, as Spock watched them glide gracefully through the water.

The two of them watched as the otters were fed, which the crowd around them seemed to enjoy heartily, if the children laughing and banging on the glass were any indication. The aquarium staff had the otters perform tricks in many cases to earn their fish, so Spock could understand the humans' enthusiasm, though he did not share it.

There were several other large tanks of multiple stories through which many different varieties of fish swam. Spock's favorite had a tunnel through the middle so that when one passed through, it seemed as if one walked along the ocean floor. Schools of silvered fish passed above them in billowing clouds, and to the side, more colorful fish darted in and out of holes in porous rock and weaved among swaying green plants.

Another series of rooms contained multitudes of jellyfish, a creature of fascinating shape and mobility. Some were as small as his thumbnail, tiny moving spots of glowing white amid dark water. Others drifted in ribboning schools, some at the tail falling behind until their expand-and-contract movement brought them closer to their fellows again.

The humans, too, were interesting to watch. They "ooohed" and "ahhhed" at regular intervals, and verbally followed the progress of particular specimens as if others around them were unable to see for themselves. In front of the larger tanks with many species, children would bang on the glass when a shark passed by, as if to catch its attention. They groaned if it ignored them and laughed if it came near, though Spock thought in all likelihood the children's actions had no effect on the shark's chosen route.

One of the last exhibits Spock and Jim visited was entitled Life in the Bay, which was a wide two-story exhibit that included both a deep pool and an outcropping of rocks and sandy beach. Spock and Jim watched from the second, outdoor story as fish of various sizes and colors swam through the pool and sandpipers sped across the sand around the gentle lapping of the pool's generated waves.

Dark furry heads bobbed across the surface of the water, and Jim pointed across to the rocks, where large, sleek bodies of mixed colors of yellow, brown, and gray lay sprawled. "Harbor seals," Jim said, as Spock soon recognized for himself. "They used to be really common in the area and around the world, but the wars of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century decimated the population. They just lived too close to shore -- they're not really deep sea animals. Weapons hitting coastal cities often hit them too. The population is coming back, but it's still not quite what it was."

The wind changed, blowing from behind Spock and Jim and towards the exhibit. A few of the seals lifted their heads, barking, then slid into the water. The ones already in the water swam closer to the crowd at the barrier, moving in sinuous shapes right in front of Spock and Jim. A few children in the crowd exclaimed and laughed, reaching as far as they could across the wide barrier.

Jim simply rested crossed arms on the barrier and smiled down at the group of seals, cavorting together right beneath him. They swam below the surface and bobbed their heads back up at regular intervals, and each time one surfaced, its head turned up to face their section of the crowd. Spock got the strange impression that the seals were inviting the crowd to come play with them.

Jim must have got the same impression, because he smiled, shook his head slightly, and murmured, "Maybe next time." Then he turned to Spock and inclined his head, and they made their way through the press of people watching the playing seals.

They spent the entire day in the aquarium, and had dinner together in the cafe. Jim got fish, but Spock was satisfied with the vegetarian options.

"So how do you like Earth so far?" Jim asked between bites.

"I appreciate the visible diversity," Spock replied. "Vulcan, at first glance, is much more...uniform."

"At first glance?"

"Many desert species live underground," Spock explained. "And some of the greatest biodiversity is in the oases, which are comparatively few. As well, we have fewer aquatic species."

"Makes sense," Jim agreed. "Do you miss Vulcan?"

Spock looked away. He did, and he did not. His feelings were illogically tangled. "I miss the familiarity," he finally said, "but I appreciate the chance for an extended stay on Earth."

"What about your family?"

Spock could not help stiffening slightly before making himself relax. "My father did not approve of my choosing Starfleet over the Vulcan Science Academy. My mother..."

His mother wanted him to be happy. He did not know if he was capable of that. Contentment and satisfaction, perhaps, but he had never experienced what he believed humans would term happiness.

"Your mother?" Jim prompted after a moment.

"My mother wishes me to find a personally fulfilling career," Spock finished.

Jim, perhaps hearing the finality in his tone, did not pursue the topic further. The aquarium closed soon after they finished their meals, and the trip back to San Francisco was quieter than the trip down to Monterey.


Spock agreed to wait until warmer weather to learn to swim in the ocean, but his Starfleet proficiency test would not require that skill. Starfleet only asked its cadets to prove their abilities in the Academy's swimming pool, which Spock knew to be larger -- Olympic sized, he believed was the term -- than the pool to which Jim had been taking him. Spock therefore determined it would be useful to have experience in the pool in which he would take his test.

Jim agreed with his reasoning, but seemed strangely reluctant about it. Spock had noticed that Jim never came further inside the Academy than its gates, despite the invitations Spock had twice given him. "You do not have to come," Spock assured him, feeling a strange pang in his abdomen. "I have grown competent enough that I am unlikely to drown."

Jim laughed. "Unlikely, sure. Nah, I'll come."

But as he walked beside Spock across the grounds to the pool, Jim seemed restless, twitchy. He constantly looked around, but did not seem to be searching for anything in particular. His hands were constantly in motion.

"Jim," Spock finally said, stopping him with a hand on his shoulder. "What is wrong?"

Jim frowned at him. "What do you mean? Nothing's wrong."

Spock shook his head. "I am aware of your discomfort. I will not make you remain if you wish to be elsewhere."

Jim blew out a breath. "It's fine. It's nothing."


Jim turned away, glanced at him out of the corner of his eye with a little smile. "So stubborn, Spock." He wandered to a tree a short distance away, the bark gray and branches bare. He leaned against the trunk, crossing his arms over his chest and looking up at the cloudy sky. "My parents were in Starfleet," he said abruptly. "Did I ever tell you that?"

Spock moved to stand closer to him. He did not reach out and touch Jim, but he hoped to offer support nonetheless. "You did not."

"Yeah, well, they were. Mom joined for Dad -- she met him here, in San Francisco. He was from Iowa, and came out here to be a cadet. They met and they fell in love and she joined Starfleet so she could stay with him."

Jim had never mentioned his father. Other members of his immediate and extended family, yes, but never his father. "I assume your mother is no longer a member of Starfleet?"

Jim rested his head against the bark of the tree, rolling it just slightly until he could look at Spock. "Yeah. My dad...my dad died. In the line of duty. Just as I was being born. It broke my mom's heart, and she retired and came back home."

"I grieve with thee," Spock murmured, leaning in close, unsure if Jim would welcome his touch. His body language remained very defensive.

Jim pushed himself away from the tree, dropping his hands. "It's fine, Spock. I never even knew him. Come on, let's get to the pool."

Strangely, once they arrived at the pool, Jim did not get in himself. He sat on the side and watched as Spock did laps, alternating between strokes. Normally, Jim would be in the water with him. They had raced a few times, Spock's strength surprisingly evenly matched against Jim's skill and comfort in the water.

But this time Jim sat on the side, quiet, watching.

Spock remained in the pool long enough to know that he should not have any difficulty passing his swimming test. Jim looked up when he climbed out, bringing up a small, brief smile. Spock did not like that smile -- it didn't have Jim's eyes behind it. It took effort. It felt fake. "Done already?" Jim asked, standing up and stretching.

Spock nodded. "I am confident I will be able to pass my test. Thank you, Jim, for your tutelage."

Jim's smile turned more genuine. Spock was both fiercely glad, and surprised at the ferocity of his gladness.

"No problem," Jim said easily. "My pleasure. But don't forget, we've still got the ocean swimming to do later. I'm not leaving you alone until you can handle waves and avoiding riptides and everything else the ocean will be happy to throw at you."

Jim frequently spoke of the ocean as if it had consciousness, and Spock had long given up trying to correct him. He understood that Jim did not mean everything he said literally.

Spock showered and changed, then started outside with Jim, who seemed more cheerful now they had finished their business. They were crossing the grounds again when Spock saw Admiral Archer walking one of his dogs, coming towards them. Spock saluted as they drew close, and Archer nodded an acknowledgement to him, but when Archer's eyes moved to Jim, the admiral stopped short.

"My god," he said. "You're a Kirk, aren't you?"

Spock turned to see Jim crossing his arms again. "I'm Jim," he said, voice short.

Archer ignored the tone. "Jim," he repeated. "Would that be James Tiberius, son of George and Winona? You look so much like George at that age."

"Yeah, that's me," Jim said, and it only took Spock a few moments to make the connection. George Kirk of Starfleet, and the son born as George died with the Kelvin.

That was Jim?

Archer's attention returned to Spock. "Why don't you go on ahead, Cadet Spock," Archer said. "I'd like to talk to Jim here for a moment."

"That's not necessary," Jim said quickly, reaching out and grabbing Spock's sleeve. "We were just leaving."

"Cadet," Archer repeated, and Spock had no choice. The order may have been mildly stated, but it was still an order. He gently removed Jim's hand from his arm and stepped back. He could barely look at Jim as he walked away.

"Jim," Archer said, not even waiting for Spock to be out of earshot. "Winona is your mother, right?"

"Yeah," Jim replied, subdued. "You know about her, right? About us?"

"You do take after her, then? I knew your brother did, but I haven't seen you since you were a baby."

"Look, sir, it doesn't matter. It was a mistake for her to leave, and she knew it when Dad died. Whatever you want, you should give it up."

"Your parents -- both of your parents -- were superlative officers, Jim. We need more like them."

"Is this a recruitment speech? Sir, all due respect, that's a bad idea."

"Is it the selkie thing? Jim, Starfleet accepts applicants of all races, and we try our best to accommodate all of them. Your mother loved it until your father's death."


Spock finally walked out of earshot. He knew he should not have listened, but he could not bring himself to regret it. Whatever a selkie was, Spock was sure it was a key piece to the mystery of Jim Kirk.

Chapter Three
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