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[personal profile] laylafic
Title: Riverside, Part 3 of 4
Author: ayesakara aka [livejournal.com profile] laylafic
Series: Star Trek Reboot
Rating: NC-17
Word Count: ~39,400 (total), 7,582 (this part)
Warnings: Some possibly triggery references to child physical abuse in the past
Genre: Pre-slash, Friendship, First Time, Angst, Fluff
Summary: The Enterprise is docked at Earth Station McKinley for repairs and upgrades over the holiday season. Jim invites his friend Spock to join him at his family home in Iowa, where he presumes the house to be empty, but his mother unexpectedly shows up. Things have never been easy between Jim and his mother, and now Spock is caught in the middle of a family rift. How will he ease the tension between his friend, for whom his feelings run deeper than he has let on, and Winona Kirk?
Summary 2: Written for [livejournal.com profile] ksadvent.
Beta: The absolutely wonderful [livejournal.com profile] secret_chord25 who did a fabulously detailed job on such short notice, and the lovely [livejournal.com profile] kyn_moonlight who came at the last moment to give me such helpful suggestions.





Continued from Riverside, Part 2 of 4

Riverside, Part 3 of 4


The next morning, with the power down, they all had to get up early and get busy with finding conventional ways of heating the house.

There was an emergency backup that took care of the lights and other amenities, though the temperature controls were not operable on that. So their option was either conventional heating or freezing to death, and Spock did not think anyone in this household was particularly suicidal. The storm had abated an hour before dawn, but the flurries were still flying, and the driveway was covered in snow several feet high. Jim said that was a task they would have to tackle later, when it finally stopped snowing entirely.

Heating the house did not turn out to be as difficult a chore as Spock had suspected. Walter had left an ample supply of wood logs for the fireplaces in the storeroom, so Spock assisted the captain in getting the logs out, chopping them into smaller pieces and distributing them across the main fireplaces that needed to be lit constantly, in the three occupied bedrooms upstairs, the main living room downstairs, and the smaller fireplace in the kitchen.

It was after the whole house was comfortably warm and they’d had breakfast, and Spock had returned to his room to check the viability of rechargeable power supply attached to his portable device, that the knock came on his door. He got up to open the door and saw that his visitor was Jim.

"I’m sorry, Spock," he started, his face contrite. "For getting you stuck here in this house. In this weather."

Spock looked at his friend. "I do not mind, Jim. It has been an... interesting vacation."

"Seriously?" Jim looked surprised. "With this weather? And the way... things have been here?"

Spock knew what Jim was talking about. But the truth was, Spock would rather be here, in the midst of Jim’s problems, even if he could do nothing to mediate, to sort out the issues, than anywhere else. "I assure you," he told him. "I am most comfortable."

"Yeah?" Jim looked at him dubiously, and then smiled. "I always did like this room. The fireplace has the room nice and toasty, right?"

"Indeed."

Jim took the seat next to him, and looked at where he was tinkering with the portable device. "What are you doing?"

Spock looked down at the screen. His attempt to bypass the defective wiring in the comm. system had worked last night, but with the power down now, his efforts were moot. "Some... reading." He realized he had the history page open, of the data he had downloaded earlier. "I downloaded some data I was intrigued by in the second night we were here." He looked at the screen, then back up at his captain. "I hope you do not mind."

Jim frowned as he leaned in to look at the open page. "Why would I mind-" He noticed the content and stopped. "Oh."

The saved page showed the files he had downloaded from the Federation Diplomatic Corps. War Crimes Aftermath Program.

Spock looked at the open page for a long moment. Then he looked at his friend and began: "When I was 5.2 standard years old, my mother joined this program as part of the Federation’s efforts to counter the difficulties experienced after the Kelvin incident."

Jim had his eyes on the screen. "I’ve heard about the program. What was her focus group?"

"Xenophobia," Spock replied. "After the destruction of the Kelvin at the hands of a Romulan vessel, there was an increase in incidents that could directly be linked to rising xenophobia against all Vulcanoid races. As my mother was human but married to a Vulcan, it was a cause close to her heart. She felt great satisfaction is taking whatever steps she could to help restore the understanding between not only Vulcans and other races, but also to counter the insurgencies occurring between many other races due to the increased paranoia."

Jim looked at him. "So was it difficult for you growing up there, as a half-Vulcan?"

Spock stayed silent for a moment, processing the question, before he looked at the captain. "I faced some incidents of prejudice from my peers growing up. Racism has the unfortunate propensity to go both ways, and in my case, it did." Strangely, thinking about these things no longer held the same sting they had when they were happening to him years ago. Too much had changed for the universe in the last two years. "While Vulcanoids were facing misunderstanding in other parts of the Federation, non-Vulcans went through a phase where they faced various hurdles in breaking through some of the individual resistance that went as high as the Vulcan high council."

The look on Jim’s face was solemn. "Was it hard on your mom?"

Spock let out a slow breath. "My mother was a... very strong individual. She believed in leading by example and spent a better part of her married life after the Kelvin incident taking assignments on various Federation worlds to pursue mentoring duties and educational workshops to counter xenophobia." Talking about his mother also no longer felt like an exercise in heartbreak. Time was, it would seem, a great healer. "She took great joy in her volunteer work with the Diplomatic Corps." He looked at his friend. "She had been a teacher before her marriage, so such work came naturally to her."

Jim smiled. "You get that from her. You made one hell of a professor at the academy."

Spock inclined his head. "I am fortunate to have had her as an example to follow. "

"Absolutely," Jim agreed softly.

Spock paused for a moment, looking at Jim, and turned to the screen. "The Federation Diplomatic Corps did, and still does, a large amount of positive work for such causes. Another focus group that often worked in conjunction with the xenophobic branch is the Treatment and Rehabilitation of War Orphans. Interracial conflicts even between Federation worlds cause many lost lives, and the children are often the worst affected." He looked at Jim. "People who work with those orphaned children, sometimes even during wartime, have some of the most difficult tasks to accomplish."

Jim’s eyes were on the screen as well. "That is what you’ve been reading up on. My mom’s work with the Diplomatic Corps."

Spock watched his friend scroll through the data on the screen. "When I met her at her arrival, I realized I knew very little about her. Lt. George Kirk’s accomplishments have been well-documented and the Kelvin incident’s case study is part of the curriculum taught to students on the command track. However, I knew nothing of how her life commenced after your father’s death."

He looked at Jim. "She is a most formidable individual. She is someone who has undoubtedly faced many hardships in her life and her career as a Starfleet officer. I wished to know more about her. I hope you do not mind that I endeavored to look up her public record."

Jim undoubtedly already knew of his mother’s involvement with the Diplomatic Corps. Perhaps, however, he was now looking at her extrafleet causes with a new perspective.

"No, I don’t mind, Spock." There was a slight smile on Jim’s face. Spock realized his eyes looked a most beguiling shade of blue in this light. "Thank you," Jim said quietly. "She is... formidable." He looked into Spock’s eyes. "I wonder if she ever met your mom."

Spock tilted his head. "I do not know. She joined the Diplomatic Corps several years after my mother. The activities of their focus groups took them to many places, but I do not know if their paths ever crossed."

Jim turned to the screen. "If she hasn’t mentioned anything to you, then she probably didn’t get to meet her."

"Perhaps."

**

He knew the answer to the question his mother had asked him. Had his life really been that horrible after she’d sent him to boarding and then left?

The answer was: no. His life hadn’t always sucked. Sure, his mom had sent him off to boarding school, but his grandparents had been there. The Petersons had their home in Wyoming and even though he was living in the hostel, Jim had a home base with them.

If he tried a little harder, he could remember his Nana making hot chocolate for him when he came to visit them on the weekends, his nose red and freezing with the cold, and his teeth chattering, or his grandfather reading with him from The Merchant of Venice or discussing whichever work of Ralph Waldo Emerson they were in the mood for. These were good memories.

But they were buried under a maelstrom of childish resentment and indignant anger. Some of it was applicable, but some was just that: childish indignation. That indignation had lived with him throughout his teenage years, and even through his early twenties.

He was twenty-seven years old. He was too old for childish indignation now.

**

That evening, when his mother was in the den by herself, Jim came to her and pulled her into a hug, murmuring that yes, he wanted to give this a fresh start.

If she may have shed a tear or two, he didn’t let on - just continued holding her as she felt a sense of relief she didn’t believe she truly deserved.

But it was a start.

**

The change in their moods was apparent in the air at dinner that night.

Christmas was just one day away now, and his mom suddenly seemed to have delved into full planning mode. They were going to have a tree, of course, though Winona was absolutely against the needless cutting of trees. So they were going to go with the second option; their artificial tree, which was stored in the utility shed next to the stables. Spock agreed to assist Jim in digging their way to it tomorrow, for which Jim was thankful. That famous Vulcan strength ought to be used for something non-‘fleet-related for a change.

Winona also had to plan the Christmas meals accordingly, with a vegetarian on board—even though Spock insisted he did not have any specific requests, and that she did not have to worry about his meals. Jim knew she was on a roll, though. Nothing could stop her now.

After dinner, Spock excused himself to go and spend some time in the study as he was most fascinated by the volumes available there. This left mother and son by themselves.

It was with mugs of hot coffee in their hands that she started talking. "I’ve requested for transfer from the St. Laurence."

Jim looked at her in surprise. "What?"

She looked at him. "I can’t work with Watson anymore. I’m just about through with that crazy old man."

"Mom, you work best as a foil to him," Jim interjected. "That’s why they keep you two together. He won’t be able to survive without you."

"Well, then, they can find someone else to babysit him," she sniffed. "I’m through."

He rolled his eyes. "Mom."

"You don’t know what a disaster that last mission was, Jim," she stated, her voice high. "He caused a ‘diplomatic incident’ that nearly cost us fifteen lives. I can’t take it anymore." She looked frustrated. "I wanted out after the first five years and they forced me to go back. Well, not anymore."

"That’s because you two work." Jim sighed. "I know he’s nuts, everyone knows that, but he is a great tactician. That’s why they keep him around." He watched her. "And you’re the one who keeps him in order."

She laughed. "Oh, dammit, we’re not talking about Jim Kirk and Spock here – the perfect foils to each other." He blinked at her in surprise. "Matthew and I can’t even stand each other," she said. "You only get a perfect command pair like yours once in a lifetime, kiddo."

He frowned. "We’re not perfect, Mom." Then he paused. "Well, Spock probably is. But I’m not."

He watched her brow rise in her forehead. "You think... Spock is perfect?" She looked amused.

"Pretty much, yeah." Jim shrugged. "I mean, just look at him. He’s amazing."

She watched him closely. "Hmm. I’m pretty sure he thinks you’re amazing too." She still looked amused for some reason.

"What?" He stared at her.

"Oh. Nothing." She shrugged. "So, I’m probably going to retire."

He was taken aback. "I thought you just wanted to transfer."

"Well, in case they don’t listen to me."

"They would listen to you," he said. "They could promote you."

She snorted. "Jim, I’m an Engineer. We don’t get ships."

"You’re also command trained," he stressed. "Of course, you can."

She shook her head. "I’m too old for this. If they don’t transfer me, I’m out."

"And what’re you going to do?" Jim stared at her. "Tend to the farm? Raise cows?"

"Don’t be ridiculous." She scowled at him. "There is a lot I can do. Starfleet isn’t the be all and end all of the universe."

"Yeah?" He grinned. "That’s what I used to think. I spent years living under the shadow of Starfleet. I thought I could run away from it." He shrugged. "Turns out, I really couldn’t."

"Oh well. We’ll see."

**

Half of the day before Christmas was spent in shoveling the snow off the driveway.

Despite his superior Vulcan strength, shoveling snow was still hard work for Spock, especially because of the freezing temperatures and the slick ice hardened by the rain the day before. However, like any other job, their ability to work seamlessly as a team added to his and Jim’s advantage, and, by mid-afternoon, they had cleared not only the driveway and the sidewalk, but had also paved a path all the way from the front step to the old shed next to the stables. They took a break for a late lunch when that part of the task was done, then got the artificial tree out of the shed and into the house.

Commander Kirk had dug three boxes of Christmas decorations out of somewhere, and, after the tree had been situated in a suitable position in front of the large window, she opened the boxes and set about giving directions on where each piece was to go.

Jim was most eager about telling Spock the details concerning each and every item. Each piece had histories and purposes that his friend was keen to share with Spock. He could notice Jim’s mother looking at their interaction, but, at the moment, Spock was most fascinated by Jim’s automatic assumption that Spock needed to be taught about Christmas.

Spock interrupted Jim’s enthusiastic theory about how the crystal star should be affixed on top of the tree with, "Jim, you do realize my mother was human."

Jim stopped talking and stared at him. "Yes."

Spock felt the corners of his lips twitch. "She celebrated Christmas every year, even while living on Vulcan."

Jim seemed to deflate at the words. "...Oh. So - you’ve done the tree thing?"

"Indeed." Spock inclined his head. "I used to help her decorate as a child."

Jim threw his hands up in exasperation. "See?" He looked at his mother, who was laughing quietly. "This is the second time he’d done this to me. I keep thinking I’m showing him something new and here I find out he already knows about this stuff." He turned to Spock with a mischievous glint in his eyes. "Tell me you got a holovid of that, at least."

"I have several holovids," Spock replied primly. "If you wish, I can show them to you when we return to the ship."

"I would love that. I bet you were adorable as a kid." Jim laughed, and the sound sent an involuntary shiver down Spock’s spine. He swallowed hard.

"So, not teaching you anything new, huh?" Jim asked him, his eyes smiling.

Spock felt Winona Kirk’s eyes on his face and kept his expression neutral, as he replied, "I find that every new experience teaches us something new." He looked into his friend’s eyes. "I feel... fortunate to share new experiences with my friends."

Jim clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Me too."

"Here’s to new and happy experiences for all of us," Winona Kirk chimed in.

"Amen."

**

Christmas Day was filled with food. Jim didn’t know how his mom had managed it without the replicator working, but she’d arranged a veritable feast for the three of them from the moment they woke up.

It started with pancakes and French toast with fruit and omelets for breakfast. Eggnog with rum followed an hour later as they sat in front of the fireplace talking about Starfleet traditions, which even Spock took two servings of—although the alcohol didn’t seem to have any effect on him whatsoever. Then came lunch, complete with roasted turkey with stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet corn, cranberry sauce, and a delicious eggplant and spaghetti pie. All this served with chilled apple cider and finished off with fruitcake and plum pudding, which, Winona admitted, came from the frozen supplies. Jim hadn’t had so much food since the Andorian Cultural Festival three months earlier.

Then came the time to exchange gifts, which, for Jim and Winona were quite literally non-existent at the moment. They’d sent their intended gifts to the headquarters for later delivery, as neither of them had expected the other to be in Riverside. But Jim knew the fact that they were sitting here, able to spend time like a family for the first time in years, was a gift in itself.

Jim had brought something for Spock, but he was surprised to see a wrapped box in Spock’s hand, that was apparently intended for him as well. They’d never really exchanged gifts before. The previous year, Spock had utilized his time off to go and visit the Vulcan colony during holidays, and the year before, everything had been too new for the Enterprise crew; Jim and Spock hadn’t yet become close enough to consider each other friends.

Apparently, this Christmas was going to be the time for new beginnings.

Jim thanked the half-Vulcan and eagerly took the box from his hands. He carefully unwrapped the paper and removed the lid. A smile spread on his face when his eyes fell on the item inside: A thickly woven scarf knitted in green, made of what appeared to be the silkiest strands of wool he had ever seen. He picked it up and grinned even harder as the soft texture of the wool rubbed against his skin.

He looked up at Spock and caught an almost anxious expression on his face. "As you have shown a fondness for snow and have a tendency to take long, unplanned walks in the middle of freezing weather," Spock began as Jim chuckled. "I thought you could use a woolen Antoren scarf for your future endeavors. It is made from the fur of an Antoren mountain sheep, which are known for producing high-quality fibers of a thicker density and a diameter less than 16 microns, which is both elastic and quite durable. It will keep you well-insulated against the elements anytime you decide to take a walk."

Jim laughed out loud as he took the scarf out and wrapped it around his neck, sighing at the soft texture of it. "Thank you, Spock, I love it."

Spock tilted his head, looking relieved. "I am gratified to hear that."

Jim turned and picked up the package he had with him and handed it to his friend. "Merry Christmas, Spock."

Spock looked startled for a second, before gracefully accepting the gift. "Thank you," he said, his eyes looking at Jim questioningly.

"Open it." Jim grinned.

He watched Spock unwrap the box, which was slightly heavier than the one Spock had given him – and for good reasons. He removed the cover and Jim watched one slanted brow rise in his forehead as he took out the object.

"A PADD." Spock looked at the device in confusion.

"Not just a regular PADD, Spock," Jim explained. "It’s an ergonomically-friendly one, designed specifically with your Vulcan bone structure in mind." He watched Spock blink at him in question. "I’ve seen you work long and hard on those PADDs, Spock. They’re designed for humans. Those keypad placements can’t be very comfortable for you, but I know you never complain."

He smiled. "Now this baby is not only designed with your comfort in mind. It can be linked with any computer, and has a mini-transceiver installed which can detect subspace radio waves up to a distance of at least 100 kilometers, as well as a language conversion database for 150 dialects spoken across the Federation. It can also store up to fifteen trillion exabytes of data." Jim grinned. "Now you can hook up this thing to any system on the Enterprise or anywhere else you go. You don’t need to carry multiple PADDs anymore - this one will carry all your data."

Jim knew Spock was attempting to go for the nonchalant look, but he just basically looked stunned. "I... thank you, Jim," he repeated after a moment, his eyes wide and his face turning a very pleasant shade of sage. "This is a most thoughtful gift. I am sure I will find it most useful."

"Hey, you’re welcome," Jim said, loving this look on his friend’s face. It wasn’t often he was able to surprise Spock like this - and in a good way too. He looked at his mother and found her smiling as well. Which was no shock in itself. She seemed to have become quite fond of the half-Vulcan.

They were all still sitting around, soaking in the warmth of the fireplace, when they heard the blinking of the power relay system begin. They looked around, and Jim whooped in enthusiasm. The power had finally been restored. They heard the sound of an engine outside, and Winona jumped up from her perch and opened the curtains.

"Look, the snow blower’s here!" she exclaimed.

Spock and Jim joined her at the window. Indeed, a large snow blower was outside, slowly moving along the street. Finally, they weren’t stranded. Help had arrived.

At some point in the early evening, Winona decided they had to have holographic evidence of this vacation and took out a holocamera. Spock was content to take holopics of Jim and his mother, but when he was dragged in a few pictures himself, he seemed reluctant. These were private family holographs, he insisted - to which Jim and Winona retorted that after spending five days with the Kirks while stranded in a snowstorm, Spock ought to consider himself as good as family. Winona had the camera in her hand, and she was directing Jim and Spock to stand here, and there, and yes, right there, so that she could get a clear shot.

They were standing under the doorway to the den when Jim’s mom suddenly froze, lowered the camera, and grinned at them impishly. She cleared her throat. "Oh, boys."

Jim stared at her. "What?"

She smiled widely, her eyes dancing, but said nothing.

"What?" Jim repeated.

She raised her eyebrows and pointed to a point above them. Jim and Spock both looked up at top of the doorframe and Jim quietly swore as he felt Spock freeze next to him.

Mistletoe.

He looked at his mom, rolling his eyes. "Oh, come on."

"It’s tradition, honey," she stated, straight-faced. "You’re going to flout tradition in your own home?"

"Mom, please." Jim felt an embarrassing blush start on his face. He stole a look at Spock’s face and found him standing absolutely still, his face utterly impassive. He looked at his mother. "Stop it."

"What?" She looked unrepentant, her eyes glinting mischievously. "It’s just a kiss."

He felt scandalized. "For God’s sake - It’s Spock," he lowered his voice, even though his friend was standing right next to him. He couldn’t believe his mom would act like this in front of his First Officer. Mistletoe? "Spock, don’t pay any attention to her. She’s crazy."

"Jim," Spock started, but was cut off by Winona.

"I’m not crazy." Winona looked at them imperiously, an evil grin on her face. "I just like things a certain way. It’s just mistletoe." She looked from him to Spock, then back to him. "What are you afraid of? He’s not gonna bite your head off, trust me."

Jim felt his teeth gritting. "Christ. I’m sorry, Spock..." And just when he thought she was actually going to act like a responsible, mature, human being. He glared at her, feeling his blush getting darker as her grin literally widened with every passing second. She thought this was funny. Funny.

"Jim." Spock started again.

But Jim was feeling too embarrassed to let his friend tell him otherwise. "Seriously, she’s absolutely nuts. I don’t have a clue what’s gotten into her." He huffed, wanting to literally stomp his feet and walk away when he felt Spock’s hand on his elbow.

"Jim."

"What?" He turned to his friend. "What?" Jim repeated, and then blinked when he realized what he was seeing. Spock had his face schooled into a careful non-expression, but he held his right hand up. Jim blinked again. His right hand up, with his index and middle fingers joined and raised in a... decidedly Vulcan gesture.

"Oh," Jim said dumbly.

"Oh, for crying out loud," Winona groaned.

Spock looked at her, looking absolutely composed. "You said it is ‘just a kiss.’" He gave her a long look, then turned to Jim. "This is the Vulcan way."

"It doesn’t count," Winona insisted.

"It totally does," Jim said, then laughed shakily, his voice sounding loud to his own years. He looked at his friend and raised his own hand, attempting to mimic the gesture. "Here - like this?"

Spock’s gaze fell on his raised hand and Jim watched him bring his fingers closer to Jim’s. "Indeed."

Their fingers touched, and Jim felt an odd little spark between them at the point of contact. He watched Spock’s fingers gently touch the tips of his fingers, then rub up and down the length in an oddly intimate gesture. Jim had a sudden urge to hum in appreciation, which he immediately squashed, when he felt a tingle in his skin as the action was repeated a second time.

He looked at Spock’s face. The half-Vulcan was looking at their joined fingers, his eyes slightly glazed, as the same sage tint covered his cheeks. Odd, how he’d never noticed these things about Spock before.

"Coward," his mother’s admonition took him out of his near-trance, as Spock lowered his hand and looked at him once before turning away.

He watched Spock for a second, then looked at his mother, scowling. "I’m not a coward."

"No," she admitted ruefully. "You’re just..... a Kirk."

Whatever that meant?

**

Dinner, although short, was an awkward affair, with Winona Kirk in an overly cheerful mood and Jim acting strangely grumpy. It fell on Spock to keep the conversation going, making an attempt to keep Jim engaged and subtly letting him know that he had no reason to feel unsettled. He knew Jim was embarrassed at the mistletoe incident—although, Spock was not sure whom he was more embarrassed for, himself or Spock. If it was the latter, then it was needless as Spock did not embarrass easily, and if it was the former, then it was most unfortunate.

Winona Kirk’s open smiles, however, seemed to indicate everything was under control. Spock could not understand how she appeared so sure of the outcome when Jim had never expressed an interest in Spock as anything more than a friend. Human females could be most confusing.

After the dinner, he excused himself and went out the back door. The night was chilly, but the clouds had parted somewhat during the evening and he could make out some constellations from his position. He was only outside for a few minutes when the door opened and Jim came out with two steaming mugs.

"Here." He offered one to Spock, a hesitant smile on his face. "Tea for you."

Spock inclined his head. "Thank you, Jim."

"No problem."

They stood in companionable silence for a few moments, sipping tea, and watching the sky. Then Jim cleared his throat.

"Spock," he began, "I’m so sorry for my mom’s.... obnoxious behavior." He sounded exasperated. "I mean, I can see that she likes you. I don’t know why she’d try to embarrass you."

Spock looked at him. "I am not... embarrassed, Jim."

Jim chuckled. "Of course not. The ‘Vulcan calm’ and all that. You’re never fazed." He made a face. "But still..."

Spock stared at his friend. The last few days had been some of the most enlightening of Spock’s life. He had always considered Jim a close friend, but he had never felt so close to him as he’d felt these last five days. And Winona Kirk was a fascinating human. She seemed to have a certain intuition about not only her son but Spock as well - about which Spock was not entirely sure, but perhaps it would be worthwhile to pay heed to what she had been saying to him. He knew his regard for Jim had only grown in the last five days, and he knew he was not going to stop feeling the way he did when he went back to the Enterprise.

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to take a chance.

He took a deep breath and looked at Jim. "That is not what I meant."

"What?" Jim looked at him. "About what?"

"About why I am not embarrassed."

Jim’s eyebrows came together in puzzlement. "What are you saying?"

Spock opened his mouth to speak, and paused, not having a good idea how to express his feelings. "Perhaps I am a little... fazed." He looked at Jim, who was looking more and more confused. "But... not truly embarrassed."

"Spock."

"Yes, Jim."

Jim looked at him closely. "What are we talking about?"

Spock willed his heart to stop beating so loudly in his side. He was sure Jim could hear his heartbeat. "We are talking about... our kiss under the mistletoe."

Jim bit his lower lip. "The... finger thing?"

Spock could not help but raise a brow at that. "You do realize... that is a very intimate gesture for a Vulcan to make."

"Um. Kinda." Jim looked anxious for some reason. "Spock?"

"Yes, Jim."

"What are you saying?"

Spock looked at him in the eyes. "I have not actually said anything as yet."

Jim watched his face. "Maybe you should, because I’m totally confused now."

Spock inclined his head. "Perhaps."

Jim watched him for a moment, then prompted, "So?"

Spock cleared his throat. "Jim."

"Yes?" Jim looked at him keenly.

Spock took a deep breath and then blurted out, "Jim, I...would not be opposed to a more... intimate relationship with you."

Jim’s eyes widened. "You... you..." he stuttered, "are you... Spock..."

Spock felt a quiver at his side. "Yes, Jim." He hoped his voice did not shake.

Jim stared at him in what appeared to be... shock? "You... like me?"

"Indeed."

"But you’re..." Jim looked baffled. "Spock... you’re..."

That quiver became a sudden pounding. Spock suddenly realized he had made a miscalculation. "Jim."

"I can’t believe this is happening." Jim looked at him in shock. "You’re.... Spock, you’re..."

Spock hurried to assure him, to attempt to correct his gross oversight, "There is no compulsion to reciprocate these feelings, Jim." He did not know how he had allowed this to happen.

"Captain," Spock said, looking seriously at him. "I am content in simply being your friend. I did not mean to put you in an awkward position. I apologize if I appear to be presumptuous, as that was not my..."

"No!" Jim suddenly gripped his arm, his eyes widening as he shook his head vehemently. "No, no, no, no, no! No, Spock." He stared into Spock’s eyes and it seemed there was something in their blue depths that Spock had never seen before. "No, no. That’s not what I’m saying. You didn’t offend me. You couldn’t ever offend me. That wasn’t what I meant."

Spock watched him closely, his heart beating loudly in his ears. "Then, what did you mean, Jim?"

"You," Jim stated, his eyes still wide with incredulity, as Spock felt his forearm squeezed in Jim’s grip. "I can’t believe it’s you. You are... Spock, you’re perfect."

Spock felt his brows furrow as he stared at his friend, the words incomprehensible to him. "What are you..."

"You, Spock." A smile spread on Jim’s face. "You are absolutely, unfathomably perfect."

Spock felt as if the earth had suddenly tilted in its axis. He looked at the smile on Jim’s face with something akin to amazement. "No being in this universe is absolutely perfect," he said slowly. "Even the hydrogen atom with its single electron moving in a synchronous orbit around the nucleus has a variation of 0.0035 to the millionth factor, and thus is not perfect."

Jim suddenly laughed. "Spock, you’re.... unbelievable. But perfect. Definitely." He again squeezed Spock’s arm, his hands warm even through the sleeve. "The hydrogen molecule has nothing on you."

Spock lifted a brow. "You are making fun of me."

"No, I’m not." Jim smiled. "I swear to God, I’m not. I just... can’t get over this." That unfathomable look in the blue eyes was segueing into a familiar gentleness that Spock had seen many times in Jim’s eyes before. But it was accompanied by wonder, the likes of which he had never seen before. "That you feel for me this way. And no, it has nothing to do with me feeling uncomfortable." Jim looked at Spock firmly, his voice soft. "Because that’s not what this is. I’m feeling more like... gobsmacked."

Spock felt a smile threaten to break at the corners of his lips. "That is an... interesting word."

"Yes." Jim looked deep into his eyes. "Gobsmacked. Shaken to my core. Yeah." He smiled again. "That’s what happens when I have the most perfect man tell me that he likes me." The smile got wider.

Spock looked at him questioningly. "You are not-"

He froze when he felt Jim’s hands slide from his sleeve to the bare patch of skin above Spock’s gloves, and he felt the hum of his emotions at that touch. Unlike the touch under the mistletoe, which was full of anxious, wary apprehension, this one thrummed with wonder and anticipation. Eager anticipation.

Spock looked at Jim closely and felt his whole being fill with the same wonder. He had taken a chance, not knowing what he would get in return. But never in a thousand years could he have expected this. He knew whatever Jim was feeling, it was not negative.

Inexplicably, Jim seemed to sense what he was thinking, as he asked, "What? Disturbed? Put off?" It was as if he could read the question in Spock’s eyes. Such level of communication was rare in the absence of a telepathic link. "Not at all." Jim shrugged. "I’m just... amazed that you..." A smile twisted his lips "...that you think I’m hot?"

Spock raised his brow as the smile on Jim’s face widened. "Hey Spock, you think I’m hot?"

Spock looked at him solemnly. "Your ambient temperature is, in fact, lower than mine," he stated calmly. "If we are to talk in these terms, then I would say that I find you... quite cool."

Jim laughed out at that. "So I’m not hot. I’m cool."

Spock felt his lips twitch, as he otherwise tried to keep his face impassive. "You have many admirable qualities."

"Wow." Jim grinned. "Mr. Perfect thinks... I’m admirable."

"As I have stated already, I am not ‘perfect.’"

"Well, tough luck," Jim said determinedly. "I think you are."

Spock sighed imperceptibly. "Jim."

Jim sobered for a second. "Sorry, I’m not trying to make fun of you, promise." He smiled again.

"I believe you." Spock inclined his head. "And I have a request to make."

"Go ahead."

He looked at him closely. "Jim," he began, "perhaps, you should allow yourself to think over what I have proposed. It would not be prudent to rush through a decision of this nature, however, it turns out to be. And let me assure you that whatever you decide will be acceptable to me."

He paused for a moment, watching Jim’s eyes looking at his face. "However, I would hope that... you will not think any less of myself, as your friendship means a great deal to me. I would never want to lose that for any reason."

Jim’s eyes turned even softer, if that was possible, his smile now a gentle tug at the corners of his mouth. He let go of Spock’s hand and patted his elbow reassuringly. "That is something that will never happen, Spock."

Spock met his eyes. "I hope you are correct in your assumption."

**

That night, as Jim lay down on his bed, his whole body was buzzing with a strange, uncontrollable energy.

Spock liked him. Had feelings for him. The mistletoe thing hadn’t embarrassed him. He actually thought Jim was worth something, was worth pursuing. He’d actually come out and told him that he wanted to pursue a romantic relationship.

Spock. His amazing, wonderful, kickass First Officer thought he was the shit. The guy half the ship’s denizens were hopelessly in lust with thought he, James Tiberius Kirk, was... admirable. Jim grinned. It was no small feat, being liked by a Vulcan - and by no means an ordinary Vulcan, but the hottest Vulcan Jim had ever come across. Jim wasn’t blind - he knew the dude was drop dead gorgeous. True, Jim himself was no chopped liver, either, but man, Spock. He really was something else.

Jim knew what he was feeling was more than just lust here. He was absolutely, unbearably fond of Spock, and had been for a long, long while. Even in the early days, when they were still finding their feet around each other, Spock’s opinion had meant a great deal to Jim. Over the last two years, they’d bonded and become a truly harmonized command team.

He knew he liked Spock very, very much. Maybe he even loved him a little. If he was going to go for this thing, he knew it wouldn’t be like his usual affairs. This had the potential to be big.

Spock. Jim simply couldn’t stop smiling. He couldn’t believe this was really happening. This felt like... the universe had suddenly shifted somehow. The planets had realigned; their orbits had tilted, altered course; chosen a new path.

But somehow, he knew this wasn’t going to be a disaster – how, he wasn’t sure. Except... Spock was always there to watch his back. He trusted Spock. He trusted Spock not to let him fuck this up.

Jim closed his eyes, and willed himself to sleep. But the smile stayed on his face for a long time.

**

The next morning, Spock got up early and went downstairs, only to find Winona Kirk sitting at the breakfast table, drinking coffee.

She looked at him eagerly, so he nodded at her politely and then ignored her, pouring himself tea and grabbing a piece of toast from the plate, feeling in need of a light breakfast this morning.

Winona Kirk, however, wasn’t to be deterred. She looked at him as he seated himself and took a bite of the toast. He chewed slowly, swallowed, then raised the cup of tea to his lips and sipped from it.

"So, did you tell him?"

He sighed, looked up at her. "Mrs. Kirk."

"Winona."

"Mrs. Kirk," he repeated, "you have interfered enough."

She stared at him. "Are you calling me a meddling old woman?"

He looked at her impassively. "I would never be so insensitive so as to bring undue attention to your advanced years."

She rolled her eyes. "Very funny, Spock."

"I am not trying to be funny."

"No, you’re only trying to be evasive." She sighed impatiently. "Did you tell him?"

He breathed in deeply. "Yes, I did."

"What did he say?"

"He said many things, none of which are any of your business."

A frown formed on her forehead. "He put his foot in his mouth, didn’t he?" The frown deepened. "I knew it."

He stared at her coolly. "At no point during the course of our discussion did he attempt to fit the terminal point of his lower limb into his oral cavity."

"Right." She huffed. "I keep forgetting that Vulcan don’t apparently joke."

He sipped from the tea. "I assure you, we do not."

She watched him eat for a moment, then said, "You both slept in your own rooms; separately."

He felt his brow rise. "Where else did you expect us to sleep?"

"Separately, Spock," she repeated. "After that whole mistletoe thing. And that... hideously adorable display of archaic Vulcan affection." She stared at him. "You slept in separate rooms."

This time both brows rose in his forehead. "I see." He put the cup down and looked at her. "You expected us to indulge in sexual intercourse after sharing one Vulcan kiss."

"Well, yeah." She shrugged. "That... and the discussion."

He picked up a second toast. "It is quite apparent to me that you do not, in fact, know anything about Vulcans."

She grimaced. "So it didn’t go well, huh?"

"It went as well as it could have," he intoned. "I request that you now cease your interference."

"Oh." She didn’t sound too happy with that. "Okay. As you wish."

"I do," he insisted, as he heard the sounds of footsteps descending the stairs. "Please," his voice turned lower.

She had done enough. The rest of it had to evolve in a natural course. Now, he only wished she would comply with his wishes.

**

Jim walked into the living room to find his mother and Spock having breakfast. There was something crackling in the air as he greeted them, and got subdued responses from both.

He frowned, as he stared at them. "What’s going on with you two?"

"Nothing."

"Nothing."

Both of them spoke in tandem. What the hell was going on?

"Sure." He nodded. "Yeah. I totally believe that."

"You want some French toast, honey?" His mother suddenly asked, her voice honey sweet.

He looked at the carefully schooled expression on Spock’s face and scowled at her. "Um... sure."

"I also have fresh guava juice," his mother added, looking up at him. "You should have some. Guavas are said to be rich in all those important B vitamins. They stimulate brain function and promote blood flow." She smiled. "Get all those cognitive functions working at full capacity. You know, helps you make those hard decisions." She raised a brow at him. "What do you say?"

Oh Jesus. Jim sighed. "Mom."

"I believe I will check on the comm system and see if the link has stabilized." Spock pulled back his chair and got up. "I am expecting a message from Mr. Scott."

"Spock?" Jim gripped his wrist, stopping him from moving too quickly.

Spock looked at him, his eyes questioning. "Yes, Jim?"

Jim looked into his eyes. "I will catch up with you in a while, all right?" He smiled.

Spock looked at him a moment, then inclined his head. "Very well. I look forward to it."

"Me too," Jim murmured as he let Spock go.

He watched him go upstairs, and then turned to his mother. She looked up at him, none too innocent.

He glowered at her. "You talked to Spock about me."

"Sure." She shrugged. "He’s your friend, Jim."

"No." He shook his head, suddenly feeling like the pieces were falling into place. Though, what shape they were emerging as, he wasn’t sure of yet. "I mean... you talked to Spock about me. As in... relationship me!"

"Well, he’s a smart guy." His mother shrugged. "It seemed more logical to talk to him."

Jim looked at her disbelievingly. "And what am I? Pork chop? A chunk of wood?"

"No, you’re a Kirk," she replied exasperatedly. "I know your type; I spent two years pursuing one during the academy." She snorted. "You wouldn’t know an obvious thing right under your cute little button nose."

"Mom, I’m your son. Spock is practically a stranger to you."

She looked at him sweetly. "And I can see how absolutely, utterly besotted he is with you."

He rolled his eyes. "Mom."

"Utterly, Jim." She suddenly looked serious, all hint of joking gone from her demeanor. "You should see the way he looks at you," she said softly. "It gives me hope."

He watched her. "For what?"

"That... well, that love like that can still exist. He would do anything for you, Jim."

His chest suddenly felt tight with a feeling he could not yet name. "I know, Mom." He looked at her. "I would do anything for him, too. He’s my... closest friend."

"And he’s loyal." She looked into his eyes, then smiled. "And charismatic. And beautiful. And absolutely, terrifyingly intelligent. Do you know that?"

He sighed. "Yes, of course."

She nodded. "Then I don’t need to say anything else. You’re no chunk of wood. You should be able to figure it out yourself."

"You’re absolutely right," he stated. "And I am."

"Good."

**


Continued in Riverside, Part 4 of 4

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