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

Chapter Three

Jim had been a mysterious presence in Spock's life since they first met, Jim claiming a sealskin on a lonely beach in the middle of the night. He had refused to give his surname. His apartment seemed barely lived-in, for a human. His brother chided him about something Spock did not know, and Jim did not feel he needed to know.

Spock had kept these mysteries in the back of his mind, aware of them and attempting to solve them, but not at the expense of invading Jim's privacy. There were, after all, many things that Spock himself had not shared with Jim.

But he still had not been able to entirely suppress his curiosity, which had led to listening to Jim's conversation with Admiral Archer. Now he knew the word selkie, and that it had some relation to Jim, and seemed to be another race. Spock did not profess to know all the species of the Federation, but he believed he knew all the humanoid, and he had never heard of selkies.

So Spock opened his computer and began searching.

He quickly ran into an obstacle, which was that all his results professed selkies to be entirely mythological creatures. Admiral Archer had spoken of them as if they were real, so there must be data missing somewhere. Spock clicked through result after result, but even the most professional sources proclaimed the selkie to be a creature of Terran myth.

Determined to reconcile the disparate data, Spock returned to the most reputable sources and began reading more in depth. Soon he had more questions than answers.

All the sources seemed to agree that a selkie was a being that could change between human shape and seal, usually by putting on or taking off a seal's skin. Some sources claimed that a human who took a selkie's sealskin bound the selkie to him for as long as he maintained possession of the skin, though Spock could not determine if the binding was some sort of magic or simply because the selkie could not turn back into a seal without the skin. Some sources claimed that selkies lived entirely in the sea, and would only take human shape to walk along the beach at night, for what purpose Spock could not determine. Some sources claimed that selkies who mated with humans bore human children, while others said that they bore selkies.

The data was contradictory, and pointed to only one true conclusion: if selkies truly existed, humans did not know enough about them to make definitive, trustworthy statements. Furthermore, humans were prone to making up wild stories about what they did not know.

But Spock was still aware that he had found only one source -- Admiral Archer -- that stated selkies to be real creatures, while every other source denied it. Perhaps there was a difference between what humans would reveal in person on this topic, and what they would speculate about in recorded stories? As long as Spock considered Admiral Archer to be an authoritative source, which he would until proven otherwise, there had to be some way to reconcile the discrepancy in the data.

There was another human he could ask, someone he could trust to tell him the truth.

His mother looked delighted when the call connected, her eyes sparkling and her smile wide. "Spock!" she exclaimed. "Oh, it's so good to see you. You don't call often enough."

His mother excelled at evoking guilt. He would have called more often, but he did not wish to incur even more of his father's disapproval.

"Oh, don't mind me," Amanda went on, sharp eyes catching his smallest expressions, as always. "A son can never really call his mother often enough, and I'm sure you're busy. Tell me about Earth, and Starfleet. Do you like it there?"

He spoke, and his mother listened eagerly. "I never liked the cold myself," she commented when he mentioned the change of seasons. "Toronto is further north, but San Francisco has those cold ocean breezes, so I can imagine how you feel. I was very glad to settle someplace warm."

And when he talked about his swimming lessons, she said, "I'm so glad you have a friend, Spock. Tell me more about this Jim."

"That is actually related to the reason for this communication, Mother," Spock replied slowly. "I have a question regarding Jim, and I thought your knowledge would be beneficial."

"Oh?" She rested crossed arms on the desk in front of her and leaned forward, smiling. "What can I help you with?"

Spock paused for a moment to consider his words, then asked, "To the best of your knowledge, are selkies mythological, or a real species?"

Amanda coughed slightly, then raised both eyebrows. "Spock, those are old stories. What do they have to do with your friend?"

Old stories. If even his mother was dismissive... "Admiral Archer...implied that Jim is a selkie. I would think him to be an authoritative source as to the existence of selkies, but all of my research indicates they do not exist," Spock explained.

Amanda's brows drew downward in worry. "Spock, you better tell me the whole story."

So Spock did, looking away slightly when he mentioned his eavesdropping. At the end of it, Amanda sat back in her seat, her lips pursed in thought. "Spock..." She sighed, then shook her head slightly with a smile. "You never could resist getting into things. This is classified, and I only know because your father is the Ambassador to Earth, which means he sometimes needs to deal with all Terran races, and not just humans."

Spock refused to exhibit eagerness by breaking posture and leaning forward in his seat. "Mother?"

She smiled again. "Yes, Spock. Selkies actually exist, and there's a good chance your friend is one. They don't want to be actively involved in the Federation as a species, and they prefer that people don't know about them, so only the higher levels of Starfleet officers and Federation officials do."

"Why do they not want others to know about them?"

"You'll have to ask your friend that," Amanda replied. "My guess is that they simply don't trust humans enough. You said you've been doing research, so I'm sure you came across stories about humans taking a selkie's skin and trapping them in human form, and that kind of thing. How many stories did you come across with good relations between the two races?"

"Very few," Spock answered. One story had claimed that selkies deliberately mated with humans every seven years to keep the human shape in their blood, and existed in partnership with their chosen mates. In most stories, however, encounters with humans seemed to lead to grief for the selkie.

A memory prodded Spock, of Jim explaining that his mother's heart had broken when his father died, and she had retired from Starfleet and returned home to San Francisco. To the Pacific Ocean.

"Spock," Amanda said, catching his attention again. "If your friend really is a selkie, be careful. I don't think they mean any harm, but we just don't know very much about them. I don't want you to get hurt."

"You said you do not believe them to intend harm," Spock pointed out.

Amanda's eyes were serious as they held his. "There is more than one kind of harm. Everything I've heard says that their deepest love is for the sea, and nothing can interfere with that."

"I do not understand the relevance. Where is the harm in that?" Spock replied, tilting his head.

Inexplicably, his mother smiled, but there was sadness in it. "You don't understand?" she repeated softly. "I think you will."

Spock ended the conversation soon after. As deeply as he cared for his mother, he found it hard to continue conversing with her when she grew cryptic.


The swimming lessons were no longer necessary, but Spock and Jim still met socially. Spock, upon one walk earlier in the year through a local park, had seen chess sets set up on tables where it seemed anyone could come and play. Remembering that, and thinking it unlikely there would be many people there in the winter, Spock thought it a good opportunity to speak to Jim in relative privacy. Jim smirked when Spock mentioned chess, but he agreed.

Spock, bundled up in layers of gloves, sweater, coat, scarf, and hat, met Jim at the chess tables and noted with satisfaction that they were empty. He let Jim take white, and they started playing.

Spock spared only part of his attention for the game. The rest was on watching Jim's intent focus, and deciding how to introduce his question.

Finally, he decided to simply ask. "Jim," he said, and Jim looked up. "I have a question for you, but first I must apologize. I overheard some of your conversation with Admiral Archer last week."

Jim, his hand raised to move a knight, jerked, knocking the knight off the table. He bent over and picked it up, placing it carefully in the square he wanted, before looking at Spock again. "Which part of the conversation?" he asked, his voice strange, slightly too high.

"The part where he referenced selkies," Spock replied, and watched as Jim closed his eyes and crossed his arms against his chest before opening his eyes again and grinning. There was something off in his grin, like he was forcing it.

"Did you look them up?" Jim asked. "Humans invent some pretty interesting creatures, huh?"

"While that is true," Spock said slowly, catching and holding Jim's brilliant blue gaze, "the context of your conversation intrigued me. What I could find in Earth's archives corroborated the mythological aspect, but then I asked my mother, and she told me the truth."

"It's your move," Jim reminded him, looking down at the chessboard. He did not say anything else.

"My mother told me," Spock went on after moving a bishop, taking one of Jim's pawns, "that selkies are not mere mythological creatures, though few people know they actually exist."

Jim raised an eyebrow. "My mother stopped telling me fairy tales when I was about eight. I stopped believing in them even before then."

"If I believed my mother to be telling me a fictional story, certainly I would not take it for truth," Spock replied, watching as Jim now avoided his eyes. "However, my mother told me specifically that selkies were not a mere story."

Jim leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table. "Spock. Selkies are a pretty interesting story and I get why you like them, but they're just a story." Even then, he still could not meet Spock's eyes.

Spock tilted his head, considering. He had not expected Jim to be so resistant to explaining. Perhaps if Spock offered of himself, Jim would be willing to reciprocate. "My mother is human," he said, and this time Jim blinked and met his eyes.

"Uh, okay," Jim said. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"All Vulcans consider my human blood a disadvantage," Spock said, almost forcing the words out. "They see my choice of Starfleet as confirmation that I am not a true Vulcan."

"Spock," Jim said, reaching out for him before pulling back. "You're not--"

But Spock shook his head, cutting off Jim's words. "I do not believe my mother is a disadvantage. She has never failed to express her love and support for me. And Jim, she has never lied to me. When she told me that selkies truly exist, I believed her."

"Why?" Jim asked, voice softer. "How can she know?"

"My father is Vulcan's Ambassador to Earth," Spock replied. "He knows, and therefore she does."

Jim closed his eyes, his head dropping until Spock could no longer see his face. Spock waited a moment, then said, gently, "Jim? Will you tell me?"

"It sounds like you already know," Jim replied, voice muffled slightly. But then he raised his head, and gave Spock a small but genuine smile. "What do you want to know?"

"Are you a selkie?" Spock asked outright.

"Yes," Jim answered in the same vein. "My father was human, but my mother is a selkie. So is my brother. I was pretty surprised to see him a few weeks ago, because he doesn't spend much time in human form." Jim finally moved a rook, and Spock returned part of his attention to the game.

"Is that common?"

Jim nodded. "We're pretty vulnerable, as humans -- if we lose our skins, we'll be stuck this way. I like walking around on land just fine, but I wouldn't want to be cut off from half of me."

Spock nodded thoughtfully. "Then why become human at all, if you are vulnerable?"

"Because it's part of who we are," Jim said softly. "Why did you come to Earth? You're certainly not always comfortable here, and I don't just mean physically." He nodded at Spock's many layers, protecting him from the day's cold. "You're not just Vulcan, you said. There's another part of your heritage. It's the same for us."

Spock looked at the board and made a move, not entirely comfortable with the comparison. "Will you tell me about your parents?" he asked. "You said your mother was also in Starfleet?"

"Yeah." Jim sighed. "She had some difficulty, being on a starship away from the sea, but she loved exploring and she loved my dad. Starships have pools, so she still got to swim, and her captain knew about her, so he made sure she had some time and privacy to swim in seal shape. She had a good life, she said. But then Dad died. The sea was the only comfort to her then, I think."

"Not you and your brother?"

Jim looked at him sharply, then turned away. "She loves us," he muttered. "It's just hard for her sometimes. We remind her a lot of him. Especially me, because I was born just before he died."

Spock wanted to reach out, wanted to touch Jim and lend him comfort -- and almost, almost stopped himself. But he did reach out, and he took Jim's hand, clasping it with his. Jim looked at their hands, and did not pull away.

They finished their game in silence, hands still clasped. There was much Spock still wished to know, but he did not want to press Jim if the telling would hurt him, as the story of his parents clearly had. Jim won the game, to Spock's surprise, but Jim could only bring up a bare smile when Spock tipped his king.

The world was quiet around them, the breeze soft enough to be almost soundless. Jim finally pulled his hand away to stand, and though Spock still wore gloves, he felt the loss of Jim's warm skin. Jim started packing away the chess pieces, and Spock helped, slowly, not wanting their afternoon together to end.

Jim looked up, licked his lips, opened his mouth as if to say something, but before he could, Spock said, almost blurted, "May I see you? In your...other shape?"

Jim's eyes widened, and he closed his mouth. Silence stood between them for a moment, but then Jim shrugged, and said, "Why not? You'll have to come with me to the apartment, though. That's where my family usually leaves our skins when we're not wearing them."

Ah. That was likely why the apartment had not seemed lived in. It would make sense if it were primarily used as a safe storage space. But, "When we first met," Spock asked, wondering, "you left your skin on a rock."

Jim grimaced, his cheeks flushing lightly. "Yeah, and I know better, too. We're not supposed to leave them lying around; it's too dangerous. Too many selkies have been caught that way -- not even found out, but someone took their skin and then they were trapped. I just figured it was midnight, the beach was deserted, going for a brief run wouldn't do any harm. It nearly gave me a heart attack to come back and find you bending over it."

Spock nodded, then offered, "I would not have taken it. I was simply curious about what it was."

Jim glanced at him, smiling. "Good to hear," he said. He glanced at him again, and then reached out and took Spock's hand. Spock shivered abruptly, but not with cold.

He looked down at their hands. He had been the first to reach out, and he had...liked it. He had wanted it. He wanted it still, he realized. Even with the intimacy much diminished due to the gloves, he enjoyed holding Jim's hand in his. So as they walked to Jim's car, he did not pull away.

They separated when they reached the car, and Spock kept his hands to himself as they drove to Jim's apartment, as Jim ran up and retrieved a bag, as Jim started them off somewhere else.

"Where are we going?" Spock asked.

"The beach," Jim replied, and of course. Spock understood how Jim would want to be at the beach for this. Seals were not well suited to crowded human cities.

Jim drove, and Spock looked at him. He could see the humanity, but could he see anything else? Jim was nothing like the other humans he knew, but he had always attributed that to being Jim. He had a strange, wild energy -- a magnetism. Spock had felt it the moment of their first meeting, and felt it still, after months of acquaintance.

But Spock looked at him, and did not think the essential Jim came solely from being a selkie. Spock had met Jim's brother, even if only briefly, and had not felt the same energy, the same magnetism. In all of Spock's acquaintance, that belonged only to Jim.

They reached the beach, one Spock recognized with a spark around his heart as the one where they had first met. It was sparsely populated even now, cold saltwater breeze blowing across the ocean. Jim strode confidently across the sand, and Spock followed him almost as nimbly. When they reached the grouping of rocks Spock remembered from that night months ago, Jim ordered him to remain in place, then disappeared to the other side. While Spock would have been intrigued to see the transformation in action, he stayed where he was.

Two minutes later, a bark broke the rhythmic crashing of the waves. Spock took that to be a signal, and rounded the edge of the rocks to see the human Jim gone, and in his place, propped up on top of a smaller rock, was a large seal.

The seal was almost two meters long. He watched calmly out of large, dark eyes as Spock approached, stopping a mere foot away. His fur was light, almost as blond as Jim's hair on top, shading to gray along his sides and what Spock could see of his belly, spotted with patches of both darker and lighter fur. Spock reached out, wanting to feel, before he started to draw his hand back. But Jim raised his head, tilting it out as if in offering, and Spock let his hand come to rest on top of Jim's head.

It was warm, smooth -- but not enough. He tugged off his glove, ignoring the smack of cold air on his newly bared skin, and lowered his hand once more to Jim's head. He kept his telepathic receptors closed, not willing to reach out with that sense when Jim had not given him permission, but even without sensing Jim's thoughts and emotions, he could still feel a sense of Jim.

He removed his hand and replaced his glove, finding it more difficult than anticipated to reconcile Jim with the seal in front of him, even knowing the seal was truly Jim. He knew no other species that could change its shape like this. It was disconcerting, but also...extraordinary.

"Thank you," Spock said as Jim watched him, dark eyes almost understanding. "Will you change back now?"

Jim's seal shape was beautiful, but Spock suddenly yearned for the familiarity of Jim's human form.

Jim tilted his head, then gave a short bark and rolled off the rock. He waddled awkwardly around the other side, this form far less graceful on land. Spock turned his back so Jim would not have to go far, and another two minutes later, Jim's voice said, "It's all right, you can turn around now."

Spock turned around to see Jim, his face open, his posture watchful, waiting. His eyes were different, but still somehow the same, though instead of black, they were the color of the thin line Spock could see on the ocean horizon past Jim, the color where the sea met the sky and the two shades blended. His eyes still held an inexplicable understanding, though Spock did not know what he understood.

Then Jim moved until he stood in front of Spock, closer than he had ever stood before. Spock did not know what he was doing, but then Jim reached out and placed a hand on the back of Spock's neck, above the scarf, and pulled Spock's head down. Spock went, and Jim was tilting his face up, and then their lips met.

Oh. His lips tingled where they touched Jim's, where Jim's moved against his.


Was this what Jim understood and Spock had not, not yet?

He thought he was beginning to understand now. He wanted to.


Spock had known that humans expressed romantic and sexual affection by bringing their lips together. He had not understood why. It seemed like it would be...wet.

Now -- now Spock could confirm that it was wet, but he did not find it as off-putting in reality as in the abstract. Because it was Jim. Jim, pulling him close, wanting him there, wanting to share this with Spock. And Spock realized that he wanted to share this with Jim as well.

What he did not know was if he should. Becoming romantically involved with Jim was not logical. Spock could see no future for them, not as long as Jim continued to shy away from almost every mention of Starfleet. There was no purpose to a relationship that had no realistic possibility of becoming permanent.

But somehow, every time this occurred to him, Jim persuaded him otherwise without even realizing it. Jim beat him at chess by being unpredictable. Jim tugged him away from the Academy and showed him more of Earth. Jim kissed him until he could think of nothing but holding Jim close and more, more.

Perhaps the relationship was illogical. For the first time in his life, Spock did not even care. He was already a failure as a Vulcan. He could try the human way.

The Terran year turned, and Jim's eighteenth birthday approached. Spock knew that eighteen was a significant year for humans, though he did not know about selkies. He further knew that birthdays were significant dates. Spock wished to commemorate the occasion, but did not know how.

Then he found out that Jim had never been off Earth.

"I've barely been out of California," Jim told him. "I've been to Iowa a few times, to see my dad's parents and where he grew up and everything, but never managed to make it anywhere else." He shrugged.

"Would you be interested in leaving the planet?" Spock asked.

Jim eyed him sideways, then smiled. "Sure. As long as I don't have to move away. Why not?"

Spock had been a child the first time he had seen Earth from space. He had seen Vulcan from space on the same trip, but his first sight of Earth had made a greater impact. The planet filled with swirls of blue and white had been so alien. It had awoken in Spock a desire for more.

He had always known he wanted to be a scientist, but that first trip to Earth had made clear that he wanted to explore, to make new discoveries. He had tried the Vulcan Science Academy because it was traditional and his father wanted it and he had wanted to be accepted for his intelligence and his skills, if not for his genetic heritage, but he had wanted Starfleet more. He had been...relieved when the VSA had given him an excuse to turn them down and leave Vulcan for somewhere new.

Spock wished to share that experience with Jim. For all the months of their friendship, Jim had been the one giving his planet to Spock. Spock wanted to be able to give back.

"The moon?" Jim repeated, when Spock mentioned his idea. "You want to take me to the moon for my birthday?"

Spock's brow furrowed slightly. "Would you not enjoy that? You said you would be interested in leaving the planet..."

Jim's birthday was not for another week. There was still time to make other plans if Jim did not like this one.

But Jim was laughing and shaking his head. "Best date ever," he assured Spock, and grinned. "Sure, let's go to the moon."

Earth's moon had long since been colonized, but it contained several viewing platforms and historical sites. As their shuttle headed for one of those historical sites, moving smoothly into the dark starry expanse of space, Jim's hand found Spock's and gripped it tightly. Earth was brightly illuminated in the window, a brilliant sphere of whirls of blue and white.

"Look at that," Jim breathed. "I can see the whole Pacific!" He turned to look at Spock, who could see the awe in Jim's eyes. Soon, however, Jim's gaze was once again drawn away to watch his planet. He seemed to have no more words.

He soon regained his voice, however. For the rest of the shuttle ride up, Jim chattered unceasingly about the time humans had first reached the moon, the space race between the old nations of the United States and the Soviet Union, and how humans had nearly abandoned space for almost a century after that, caught up in war after war. Only after First Contact with Vulcan had humans as a species reclaimed their fervor to see the stars first hand.

Jim's face had been practically nestled against the window for the entire trip, and Spock was only able to hear his monologue due to his more advanced hearing.

The first thing Jim wanted to do when they arrived was visit the Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin Historical Preservation Site, where the American astronauts had first planted their flag. Much of the rest of the moon had been landscaped and made livable, the gravity adjusted to suit Earth-normal, green parks shepherded into growing to suit the human need for color. The historical site, however, remained as it had been two hundred and eighty-two years ago, even to the point of requiring specialized suits to survive the lack of atmosphere.

The gravity was as it had been so long ago, this part of the moon outside the dome the rest existed under. Jim pulled on his suit with enthusiasm, bouncing on his heels as he waited for Spock to don his, and once outside, Jim bounded off, laughing across their communications link.

"Best date ever!" Jim yelled, only coming to a stop when he reached the cordoned-off American flag. He looked at it for a moment, then tilted his helmet up towards the rising Earth, glowing blue against a backdrop of stars.

They ended their day having dinner on one of the observation decks. Jim continually attempted to engage in conversation with Spock, but the hanging Earth kept drawing away his attention. Finally, with a little smile, he gave up and just looked out the transparent wall. He watched the Earth, and Spock watched him, and Spock's heart thrummed in his side as he observed the peace on Jim's face.

"Thank you, Spock," Jim murmured, finally returning his attention to Spock. "I never thought I would enjoy this so much."

"I am gratified you did," Spock replied, almost automatically, because an idea had caught him.

He had not let himself truly contemplate the possibility before, having seen how vehement Jim was about avoiding Starfleet. But Spock had never seen him as comfortable on land as he was sitting here now, surrounded by stars, looking out at his planet. Spock had only seen him this comfortable, this peaceful, in the water.

Jim's mother had enjoyed Starfleet, had enjoyed exploring the stars. She had only returned home when Jim's father had died.

Dare Spock hope that Jim would even consider following in his mother's footsteps?

Chapter Four
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