Spock could not have predicted just how large a void Jim’s absence left in his life. He couldn’t explain, or even try to justify to himself why he felt this way. He could count on two hands the number of times they’d actually seen each other. It was not logical that he found himself feeling so bereft with the knowledge that Jim would not be present for however long. He tried to do what he’d done before he met Jim, throwing himself into his work to try to avoid focusing on the things missing from his life. Before, it had been his mother’s supportive and loving presence. Now it was Jim’s easy companionship.
He continued to do the same things he always did. He went to class, studied in the library, ate in the mess, and spent any remaining time in his quarters, asleep or in meditation. But as he went about his routine in the manner which he had for the first six months of his attendance, he realized that just knowing that he wouldn’t have their weekly visits for an undetermined amount of time had caused this change. In under two months, Jim had caused him to ‘come out of his shell’, as the saying went. Just knowing that he wouldn’t see Jim over the weekend had caused him to go back to his earlier cold and shut off demeanor.
If Pike noticed it, he didn’t say anything, but Spock could feel his concern so it was likely he did. Spock ignored it and the feelings he noticed from his classmates. He threw himself back into his work. But even that couldn’t stop him from thinking about Jim. In the Ethics class he was taking, he received an assignment in which he would have to find an example from a culture not his own of an unethical act from a leader. He was immediately and painfully reminded of the first time he and Jim went to the library together, and he had somewhat jokingly suggested that Spock look up Henry the Eighth for an example of historical marital problems.
Spock found himself using his meditation time to focus on the fact that Jim was in fact returning, and that he would not be staying in Iowa. However, that thought also gave him pause. He had yet to secure any kind of commitment from Jim. He had come to San Francisco with the plan of returning when he was recovered from being pregnant. Being back there, for whatever amount of time, might make him want to return even more. He’d shown some dismay at leaving some of the things that San Francisco had to offer, like the Academy library or Golden Gate Park. And, he’d expressed some discontent in his upbringing. Perhaps the negative aspects of his life there, along with the positive aspects that a life here had to offer would persuade him to permanently relocate.
He knew some of his fears stemmed from the fact that Jim was unattached. Pregnant or not, there were probably still some people who would find him compelling enough to try to charm him while still willing to wait for the baby to be born. Just because Jim wasn’t willing to date or engage in sexual relations with anyone while he was pregnant didn’t mean that he couldn’t consider a potential partner to take up with when it was over. For all Spock knew, there was someone back in Riverside who might be interested in pursuing a serious relationship with him.
Trying to meditate these worries away almost left him more tired than before. Meditation was supposed to rejuvenate, it was one of the reasons Vulcans were able to operate under less sleep than many other species. Eventually, Spock would just give up and go to sleep. And as he waited for sleep to come, he would begin to worry about his own mental health, if what he was feeling was obsession. He’d heard of Vulcans having their mental faculties dissolved by issues pertaining to a mate, or even a potential one. He recalled the pre-reform story of the warrior who’d unintentionally killed his beloved because he could not stand the thought of allowing her to be with another and bearing his child, and how he’d gone to his death knowing that she’d hated him for it as she died.
His only comfort, as he slowly sank into sleep was that even if he could never give Jim a reason to love him romantically or any way at all, he would never ever give him a reason to hate him like that.
Three days after Jim had left, Spock was in the library, trying to think of what he would write about for his ethics assignment. He had four weeks to complete the assignment; his class was mostly lectures and discussions with a few assignments scattered over the course of the class. Since the assignment was to involve the history and politics of a culture not native to the student, they were being given plenty of time to do their research.
As he sat a computer terminal scrolling down a list of some of Earth’s most significant ethical problems (mostly about wars) he failed to notice a presence drawing nearer until…
“It’s Cadet Spock, right?” He turned around to find Cadet Nyota Uhura standing beside him, a small, rather neutral smile on her face. “We met at the De Young Museum a couple of weeks ago?”
“Indeed.” He replied. “You were in a section displaying African art.”
“Yes, your friend was there and started talking to me. I must say, I’m surprised he was with you. He certainly didn’t seem like the type of person a Vulcan would want to associate with.” Spock almost frowned. The way she’d said that made it sound like she couldn’t believe that Jim was Spock’s friend, like she thought he was beneath him and his name wasn’t even worth remembering or mentioning, almost like a gentle reprimand for associating with him.
“You mean Jim.” He stated neutrally, not wanting his irritation to show. He didn’t like that she was speaking of his friendship with Jim in much the same way his father had acted with his childhood emotional outbursts- like it was some kind of unfortunate temporary phase.
“Yes, him.” She said, somewhat dismissively, oblivious to his negative thoughts. “She glanced at his computer screen curiously. “You’re looking up moments in Earth history?” The questioning inflection of her tone as she spoke indicated that she wanted to know why.
“I have and Ethics assignment that requires me to research the laws, social mores, and such of a culture that is not my native one. As the only other two non-human cadets in the class have chosen other Federation worlds, I have decided to use this time to my advantage to learn more about Earth culture and history.”
“A logical idea.” Complimented Uhura. It was the kind of compliment most Vulcans would be glad to accept, and he was a little surprised that she knew to give it. Of course, she’d said her focus of study was xenolinguistics, which meant not just knowing the words of a language, but proper phrasing and cultural slang or niceties. Of course she would know what to say. He decided to try a polite response.
“What has brought you here today?” He asked. Her small smile widened. I’m working on report involving the various dialects of the Andorian language.” She seemed happy that he’d expressed some interest in why she was there. “I want to include the dialects of the Aenar language, since a lot of people tend to focus on the more dominant culture’s language. But the two races have been interacting more and more since the Aenar’s First Contact with humans, with some members even intermarrying, so the languages may start to blend in some ways as time goes on and their interactions increase further.” Spock found her reasoning to be sound.
“That is indeed likely.” He remarked. “I am sure your instructor will be impressed with your work.”
“Thank you.” She said, nodding her head. She seemed to hesitate. “I realize we’re both busy with projects at the moment, but I was wondering if maybe, when we both have more time, if you’d be willing to help me get a head start on learning Vulcan. I won’t be studying it until much later, due to the fact that it’s reserved for the more advanced courses. I’m just a first year cadet but I want to try to get ahead on some of the tougher languages, and the best way to learn would probably be from a native speaker.” Spock nodded slowly.
“I am busy for the time being, and spend most of my free time working, but perhaps once finals are past I will be able to offer you some assistance in studying the Vulcan language.” She nodded.
“I know what you mean, I’m working on extra stuff too, but if you can find time over break, I’d be really grateful for your help.” Spock found himself nodding.
“If we both have sufficient time at a later date, I will gladly tutor you in what I know.” Uhura smiled at him again.
“Thank you. I really appreciate it.” She seemed about to say something else, her eyes lingering on him with an unreadable look, but then she just smiled in a slightly different way. “Why don’t you do your project on human experimentation? It led to the Eugenics Wars, after all. Anything that leads to a war that size has plenty of room for moral debate. Well, I guess I’ll see you around.” With that, she nodded in farewell and moved off in search of research material. He watched her go for a moment before turning back to his computer screen, feeling a little confused.
For a few moments, he simply went back to reading, trying to put the strange assessing look Uhura had aimed at him out of his mind. Then, he abruptly remembered what Jim had said to him after they had first met her at the museum. He’d said she was ‘into’ him. Was it possible that she had asked him for his assistance in order to try to facilitate a romantic relationship between them? He frowned. If that was the case, he might have a problem on his hands.
For all he knew, Uhura was only interested in what she’d mentioned…getting a head start on learning Vulcan. On the other hand, she’d briefly demonstrated some understanding of basic Vulcan customs, and using a productive activity to get to know him was something an unattached adult Vulcan would do. Were she not human, he might have suspected that immediately and allowed his answer to be affected by it. Though, that would be unfair of him, considering he was doing something similar with Jim, spending time with him and gaining his friendship in the hopes of forming something else later on. He could hardly fault her for using similar methods to his own.
His best option at this point would be to observe her behavior during future meetings and try to gently discourage any amorous advances on her part so as not to hurt her. Hopefully if they did start any kind of tutoring sessions, he would be able to do so right away, before she became too serious about any romantic feelings she might have for him. One thing was for certain, he thought as he continued reading about various conflicts on Earth.
One that caught his eye after a while was the tragedy of Tarsus IV. That would certainly be an obvious choice; Federation people had been debating the choices made by Governor Kodos since the massacre had first been discovered. The whole event was often tied into the debates surrounding the Eugenics Wars because of the selection process Kodos had used to determine who would live, and who would die for the sake of the ‘superior’ half of the colony. While there were some people who believed that the actions Kodos had taken were the best possible given the situation, most people had only to see pictures of ruin and starved survivors to say that he was a horrible person for thinking that he could just choose who lived and died.
Spock quickly decided to not even consider that one. Vulcans typically avoided getting involved with moral debates, and this one was too big to avoid being sucked into some kind of classroom disagreement with students who wanted to know his personal opinion on the matter. He had no desire to spark a conflict between classmates.
Perhaps the Eugenics Wars then. He could certainly be more impartial about it. To his knowledge, his people had never tried to enhance themselves in any way, at least not with chemicals and machines. While he could see some logic in such experimentation after humans had made first contact with other life forms, ones that were physically or mentally superior to them, but to do so in order to fight each other almost seemed like overkill. Humans fought their wars more with weapons than manpower at that point in history, so they might have been better served by focusing all their efforts on that.
The experiments that led to the war had also continued to affect future generations. The Augments, as they were called, held one serious flaw, and that was the aggression they possessed that apparently could not be curbed. As a result, the normal humans had been forced to defend themselves against their own creations. The ones who did not die in the war were forced to flee into space in stasis. The embryos of Augments not yet born were also placed in stasis secretly, something that came to light in the early years of human space exploration, after a group of secretly created young Augments who’d been hiding on another planet emerged to try and rebuild an army with the embryos and their illegal creator. The results had been bloody and disastrous. Even more conflict came when the surviving embryos were used by Klingons, who ultimately risked their own ruin by experimenting with their DNA.
Spock was beginning to realize that he might end up getting drawn into a classroom conflict anyway if he used this as his example. Even though genetic enhancement had been banned after the war, there were known supporters of the act. Some claimed that it would ‘even the field’ with the other Federation members, like Vulcans, who were both stronger and smarter than humans. There were others who believed that such enhancement could (and should) be used to ‘assist’ the developmentally disabled. One thing that had not changed throughout Earth’s history was the fact that many parents of children who could not advance far still wanted to try to ‘fix’ them. Spock had heard cases where people who’d tried to illegally enhance their children were forced to confess what they’d done in order to seek help for terrible side effects of the procedures they’d had used.
As Spock considered his options, he couldn’t help but wonder which one Jim would choose, and what he would think of all of them. And just like that, his mind was back on Jim. He almost sighed in frustration. How was he going to function if all the while his mind was consumed with thoughts of Jim, worries for Jim, daydreams of Jim? He took a moment to try to clear his mind. Was this what juvenile humans went through when they first felt romantic interest in someone? Were they unable to think of anything but the object of their affections while the rest of the world went on around them?
And what was it about Jim’s presence that caused him to feel so at ease? He’d noticed in the past that his mother’s presence seemed to soothe his father if he ever came anywhere close to being agitated. Perhaps that was another sign that they were a good match. Perhaps it even meant…
Spock shook his head ever so slightly. It was both illogical and highly improbable that he was in love with Jim. They’d barely known each other for two months. He knew that with his own people couples often bonded and then got to know each other, but humans were mostly psi-null and assessed compatibility though verbal communication and social recreational activities. It was true that he’d observed some very important qualities in Jim, such as his kindness and acceptance, two things he would gladly take in a mate, but plenty of humans had those traits, and he wouldn’t love just any of them. Many humans also had many people who they loved platonically, but what made the difference? How was one to know if what they felt was romantic love instead of friendly or familial love?
The only person he could think to ask about such a thing was his mother, and apart from the fact that it would likely be a premature action to ask, he didn’t want to let her get her hopes up and start planning his wedding, as human mothers seemed prone to do. And again, it was probably too soon to be thinking like that. He didn’t want to go looking for specific signs an read too much into every little thing this early in their association. But he couldn’t help but wonder all the same. He also couldn't help but wonder if he would even recognize romantic love if he felt it for Jim. He'd never felt it before, so how would he even be able to tell?
In the end, Spock’s distracted thoughts prevented him from choosing a subject. He still had plenty of time, far more than any Vulcan required for an assignment, but he still felt disappointed that he was being affected this way. After downloading some information about the various events he’d noticed to his personal padd, he returned to his room. Even though meditation had proved largely ineffective when dealing with thoughts of Jim, he decided to give it another try anyway.
He got undressed, pulled out his mat, and settled into position. Right as he began trying to clear his mind, his padd suddenly let out a tone, indicating that he had a new message. Standing up, he walked over to the desk where he’d set it down. His heart sped up in his side as he read the new addition.
JKirk has sent you a message. There were two files, one attached to another.
He didn’t spare one second in opening the first one. He skimmed over the date and time, something he always did out of habit. Then he settled on the message.
Sam and I went straight to Des Moines after we left. I was right about the whole paperwork situation being a mess. It’s a good thing we packed light because we had to pile it all in the car with us. We’re at the farm now, and I have to admit, I missed it. Everything’s all right; some of the neighbors have been taking care of everything. It’s just a little dusty in the house. I think Sam’s glad to see it again, and that I kept it all in decent shape.
Once everything was cleaned off, I got him set up in the guest bedroom. Our old room still has my bed from elementary school in it. I don’t need it, so Sam’s thinking of taking it back to San Francisco and keeping it in storage until the baby’s big enough for it. I have to say, it felt good to be back in my own bed. There’s nothing wrong with the one at Sam’s place, but sometimes it’s hard to get used to something new.
The next day, we met with a lawyer who started trying to help us sort all the stuff that Jenna and Mike just let pile up around their house. They had some stuff on computer, so we’re starting off just making sure that we have the paper copies of those and sorting everything out. We’re being assured that there’s absolutely no chance of me not getting the farm since no one else will claim it and this lawyer is certain that they specified at one point that it would go to one of us. But, like I said, we need to get it all in order, take care of the funeral, and I need to make sure that I have my own stuff in order before we come back. I really have no idea how long it will take at this point.
On a happier note, Sam and I visited our old swimming spot. We even brought our swim trunks and went for a dip, just like old times. Don’t worry, I didn’t go swinging from any ropes. None of them would be strong enough by this point. Still, it was nice. It’s been a long time since Sam and I did anything like that together, or anything at all. He wants to go around the town and check out all the old hang outs, and see what everyone’s been up to.
What have you been up to? Did you ever talk to that hot girl Uhura again? And what about your classes? I may be bored out of my mind but you must have something interesting going on there. Write back if you have the time. Please, I could use some talk other than funeral details or who’s been getting drunk and starting bar fights in my place.
Spock finished reading the letter with a feeling of warmth. Jim had continued to think about him during his visit home. He’d written to tell him about what he was doing and asked for him to reply. Spock still knew that he hadn’t known Jim long enough to assume too much from this, especially if he was asking if Spock was interested in talking to Uhura. Still, the fact that he wanted to know had to be a good thing, if only for the friendship they were developing.
Spock decided to try meditation again while he still had this feeling of well-being coursing through him. Before he closed the message, he remembered the second file there. He opened it and almost smiled in surprise and delight. It was an image of a small lake surrounded by trees, some of which had old ropes hanging from them. He knew immediately that this was the lake Jim had mentioned when they were at the park. The picture had been taken fairly late in the day, and it everything was awash with a reddish-orange glow. He felt that warmth surge through him anew. Not only was Jim maintaining contact, but he’d chosen to share a piece of his homeland with him.
Once again deciding to meditate, Spock went to close down the files and shut off the padd. Before he did, he had to decide what to do with the files. Having a nearly perfect memory, there was really no need for him to hang on to files unless they might serve a purpose later on, even if they were as sentimentally significant as these. He usually just hit Delete and kept as much padd space available as he could in case he ever needed it.
Spock hit Save. Then, after he finished meditation, he began researching King Henry VIII again. He had a report to work on and a letter to write.