Jim has never really gotten used to the fact that Andorian Ale is blue. It’s not really the color that throws him off – for a period of about two years at the academy his go-to drink when he wanted to get absolutely shitfaced was Midnight Medusa, which happened to be a shot of navy blue Everclear. But while that had been dyed with fake coloring, Andorian Ale is actually, naturally blue.
Jim slowly tips the carafe of ale to pour another glass, oddly fascinated as he watches his drink darken from a diluted topaz to a bright cyan. He takes a sip and savors the tang of what could pass for raspberries before it’s lost to the burn of the alcohol hitting his abused throat, followed by the aftertaste of copper.
That aftertaste is why he ordered the ale in the first place. He’s not sure if this is what Spock’s mouth would taste like, but when he’s feeling maudlin enough to drink, he likes to close his eyes and pretend. He imagines hand-feeding Spock a raspberry tart, then leaning in for a kiss, chasing the bitter-sweet flavor across Spock’s lips and then into his mouth, until just Spock is the only taste the remains.
Jim takes another pull and closes his eyes, allowing the scenario to wash over him, resolutely pushing away the overwhelming hurt that crushes him at the knowledge that it will never happen. Spock and Uhura are on a transport headed to New Vulcan by now, and when they get there it’s only a matter of hours before the bonding ceremony. If he was less of a selfish ass – or more of a masochist – he’d be beside Spock right now, laughing over his clueless expression as he asks what a “ball and chain” is, not sitting in a seedy bar on Starbase 12 drowning his sorrows.
He fists his hand around his glass. Somewhere along the line he’s become a coward. The Jim Kirk of Old would have stopped at nothing to tell Spock exactly how he felt, and then used every trick in the book to coerce him into thinking the same way. But that Jim Kirk had died the day he’d been given a captaincy, and began to give a damn about people other than himself. Hell, if he’s honest, that Jim Kirk died the second he got sucked into a mind-meld on Delta Vega, and had seen just how badly he and Spock were going to fuck each other over if they ever tried at a romantic relationship.
“It’s better this way,” Jim murmurs to himself.
Uhura is so much better for Spock. She doesn’t demand more than Spock is willing to give, and has this strange sort of fundamental understanding of “The Vulcan Way” that Jim can’t even come close to matching. If he and Spock get together, it will just follow the same pattern as the alternate universe, with Spock denying the strength of their connection, and Jim tossing it aside for a captaincy.
It’s too late now, anyway.
Jim barely represses a jump when the table shakes with the sudden impact of a someone sliding into the booth across from him. He’d expected to be found, but nowhere near this soon. He begins to slide his glass from one hand to the other over the smoothly waxed surface of the table, refusing to look at the disapproval he’s sure is blazing in his friend’s eyes.
“Don’t even start, Bones,” Jim pleads dejectedly. “I can’t listen to it right now. I know I –” he cuts off when his throat begins to seize up on him, not even really sure what he wants to say – what he can say.
He shakes his head and gulps down some more ale.
“I have never understood the human propensity to ‘drink away the pain.’”
Jim abruptly chokes on his drink, sputtering as he whips his head to look across the table.
“Spock,” he wheezes, coughing to clear the alcohol from his windpipe.
“It seems to me an illogical and counterproductive practice,” his first officer reaches out to turn the carafe of ale so he can read the label, “seeing that humans experience such unpleasant aftereffects from the consumption of too much alcohol.”
Jim stares. “The, uh, the feeling of euphoria it – it–” he shakes his head before blurting, “Spock, what the hell are you doing here?”
The Vulcan glances at him briefly before returning his gaze to the carafe, where his hand trembles delicately at its neck. Spock quickly fists his hand and pulls it beneath the folds of his robe.
“Before Lt. Uhura and I were to board the transport for New Vulcan, Dr. McCoy took me aside to –,” Spock pauses, his tone acerbic and dry, “I believe the term he used was ‘have it out.’”
Jim’s braces both hands on the edge of the table, eyes wide as he imagines the particulars of that exchange.
“He seemed to think…” Spock hesitates, “He seemed to think you and I needed to have a conversation.”
Jim wets his lips and swallows, his voice firm as he demands, “Is that all he said?”
Spock shakes his head, eyes finally coming to meet Jim’s dead on. “No.”
Jim exhales sharply, and looks away first. He slams back the rest of his drink and braces his forearms against the table, fiddling with the glass anxiously as he nods to himself.
“Ok, so, we do need to have a conversation.”
He shakes his head and runs a furious hand through his hair, laughing without amusement as he tries to think of a place to start.
“Look, I don’t know exactly what he said, or anything, but Bones –”
“Jim, cease your prattling.”
Jim blinks at the sharp, weary edge of Spock’s tone and obeys, closing his mouth with a click of his teeth.
“I did not want to do this here. I did not wish to do this at all. You are human. You–” Spock purses his lips ever so slightly, and actually sighs.
He reaches out across the table and grips Jim’s hand. Jim stiffens in shock at the contact, but the feeling is almost instantly overtaken as he is hit by a debilitating wave of emotion –a swirling mass urgency and want. Jim gasps as the blood in his veins seems to ignite, and before he can spare a thought as to why it’s a bad idea, he leans across the table to grab a fistful of Spock’s robes to smash their lips together, and it’s all tongue and teeth and heat –but it still isn’t enough, doesn’t alleviate the pressure at all. If anything it makes him more desperate- for more contact, for friction, for anything that Spock can give him.
He barely registers that there are fingers at the side of his face, and then the world explodes with darkness, and the burning in Jim’s blood increases a thousand fold. And it is not just skin and lust and sensation anymore –it’s a thousand little looks and lingering touches, it is a challenge and a promise and a set of brilliantly blue eyes. It is delighted frustration over a chess board and uncontrollable anxiety on an away mission. It is intrigue and mystery and fascination during a conversation –hundreds of conversations –and an understanding in silence. It is shared wounds and unquestioning loyalty, possessiveness and joy.
It is everything he has been told he should not want and cannot have, because it is wild and untamed and will override everything that he is or was and will irrevocably change who he will be.
And this is not logic, it is not reason, it is not sane.
Distantly, there is fear.
And there is something else, there is someone else.
There is Uhura.
There is warmth and unconditional love and gentle understanding. There is long hair that reminds him of his mother, and there is affection.
There is desire.
But it does not come within a thousand ve’kel of touching this –of touching what he wants, and needs, and craves. Friend, brother–
What he cannot permit himself to have.
Then the hand is gone and Jim is finally alone and himself again. He rips himself away from Spock and crashes back into his seat, the impact of his head bouncing off the wall a welcome pain because it jolts him back into reality. He pants and stares at Spock in a daze.
Spock’s entire body shakes, and he grips the edge of the table so hard the wood is splintering beneath his hands. Closing his eyes, Spock draws in a seemingly endless breath. As he releases it the tremors slowly dissipate and his grasp on the table loosens. Another breath and he is under control again, features slackening into an impassive mask.
But when he opens his eyes they are blown wide and dark.
“The shuttle for New Vulcan departs in 20 minutes.”
Spock rises evenly from the table, and, with one last piercing glance, sweeps out of the bar.
Jim stares after him long after he is gone, reaching over without looking to straighten the up-ended bottle of Andorian Ale. He brings the carafe to his lips, but pauses before he actually takes a drink.
“Fuck this,” he decides, and slams the bottle back onto the table.
In less than a minute, he has gathered his jacket and run past the bar, tossing a generous credit chip to the bartender.
“Sorry about the mess,” he shouts as he races out the door.
He has to go all-in for something.
Might as well be love.