Several days later, Spock had yet to try to contact Jim. He’d attended his classes and tried desperately to meditate on the situation. He continued to wonder just how he should apologize to Jim for upsetting him. He was beginning to wonder if sending a message was too impersonal and if he should wait and try to see Jim again. Even though he still had over a week to do it, he was more nervous about what to say than when he was awaiting the decision for the VSA council.
He was currently on his way to Starfleet Medical to see Doctor M’Benga about getting a vaccination that he was due for. He was going in early in the hopes of getting it done ahead of schedule. As he was about to go in, he was startled to see a familiar green face. The cadet who he only knew as Gaila was exiting the building. She looked surprised to see him.
“Oh, Spock!” She smiled, though it didn’t seem quite as bright as it had when they’d met before. “What are you doing back here?”
“I am here to receive a vaccination.” He replied neutrally.
“Ah.” She said. “I just got another one. Apparently there are a lot of minor illnesses here on Earth that I need to protect myself against.” She hesitated briefly. “Have you talked to Jim lately?”
“I have not spoken to Jim since our meeting on Saturday.” Replied Spock. “Have you spoken to him?”
“Yeah.” She said slowly. “He seemed pretty upset about the fact that you thought I was willing to sleep with anyone who asks.” Spock felt his face beginning to heat up.
“He told you that?” She shook her head.
“No, Nyota did, actually. Jim wouldn’t say why he was upset, but after I talked to Ny, I figured it out. I think she feels a little bad that she judged him without actually getting to know him at all.” She must have seen his blush, because she smiled with a little more warmth. “She also told me you were sorry for what you thought, and for making an assumption based on some fairly one-sided facts. And trust me, that’s something I’m very used to.” Spock nodded.'
“I still regret that I spoke so erroneously. I should have known better than to make an assumption about a culture that is not my own, especially one that is not even part of the Federation.” Gaila shrugged.
“It’s not so bad, really. Like I said, it’s nothing I haven’t heard before. You’ll even find that there are a lot of Orions that think like you did, because it’s what we’re used to. It’s only when someone tries to do something different, something unusual by the other’s standards, that we get a reminder of how it really is.” Spock nodded again, his shoulders slumping a bit.
“I still do not completely understand Jim’s anger. I wish to understand before I apologize, so he has no reason to doubt my sincerity. I do not want him to think I am making an empty apology simply to placate him.” He said, hating how helpless he felt. Gaila studied him.
“You really want to know what his problem was?” He nodded, hoping she really knew.
“Yes, most definitely.” She looked at him seriously.
“I don’t know if you know it, but Jim likes to flirt. He doesn’t always mean anything by it, but people sometimes take it the wrong way. They assume he’s interested in sex and act like he’s a great big tease or something when he tells them otherwise. It’s something that we have in common.” She shrugged. “I mean, I probably follow through a lot more often than he does, but our situations are kind of similar. People think I enjoy sex more than most humans because I’m an Orion, and that’s true, but it doesn’t mean I’ll have sex with anyone. Jim seems like a guy who likes sex too, but from what he’s told me, he’s actually pretty selective of his partners. You know, about illnesses, their temperaments, whether or not they’re okay with just having a fling, that sort of thing.” Spock nodded.
“I was given to believe that as well.” He said quietly. He hesitated. “Jim has mentioned that he is in the habit of flirting with many people. Had he mentioned it to you as well?” Gaila smiled again.
“I know it because whenever we see each other, we flirt a lot. Just in a casual way. After all, everyone likes to feel like they’re desirable. But I know he’s not interested in sleeping with anyone, or even dating while he’s pregnant, and I admire him for it. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with some harmless flirting.” Spock had to resist the urge to stiffen up again. Now he really wanted to reassure himself that there was nothing between Jim and Gaila.
“You are not interested in engaging in sexual intercourse with him?” He asked. Gaila smirked.
“Oh, don’t get me wrong. If he was available, I’d be all over him. You have no idea how rare it is for someone like me to find a guy who’s gorgeous, brilliant, sweet, and not only honestly respects me before sex, but still would after. But he’s not an option for me.” Spock nodded, really needing reassurance now that he knew Gaila considered Jim very attractive.
“Because of his pregnancy, you mean.”
“There’s that.” She agreed. “There’s also the matter of a certain jealous Vulcan he really likes to spend time with.” Spock was startled.
“What do you mean?” She shook her head almost mockingly.
“I’m an Orion. We may have many partners in our lives, but when we find one that we want for more than sex, we’re very territorial about it. I know the signs when I see them. You didn’t like it at all when I touched him.” She smiled wistfully. “I might still be tempted to try if it wasn’t for the fact that I think you have a pretty good shot with him.” Spock looked at her, surprised.
“Why do you believe that?”
“Because of the way he was so upset about what you said. He thought that if you could think about me the way you did, then you might think about him that way too, given the little bit of similarity between our situations. He thought that you might think he was a slut, or manipulative, or both. And he really doesn’t want that. He wants you to have a good opinion of him, just like he does of you. And he already likes you enough to hope that you would think better of him than a lot of people do when they first meet him, people we’ve both dealt with here. I can name one for sure; Gary Mitchell. He’s tried to corner me and tell me off a few times for turning him down, and I know Jim’s had some trouble with him to. Jim’s dealt with plenty of men and women like him, and he hoped that you would be different, that you’d look past stereotypes and just see him for who he really is. He may think of you as just a friend right now, but if you time your moves right, he’ll want more.” Spock nodded slowly.
“Thank you.” He said quietly. “I believe I understand the source of his distress now.” He studied her again, still a little suspicious. “You will not be attempting to engage him in a relationship?”
“No.” She assured him with a smile. “Jim’s great, he’s really fun to spend time with, and I’m sure he’d be fantastic in bed, but I don’t think he’s ‘The One’, as humans like to say. There are plenty of other guys at the academy, there must be a few of them that can see an Orion as a real partner and not just an easy target. And if not, I don’t necessarily need a partner to enjoy myself. One of my favorite things about human beings is the fact that they’re imaginative enough to come up with plenty of perfectly good…substitutes.” She smiled at him brightly, winked, then hurried off. Spock stared after her, ears burning as he realized what she meant when she spoke of having a ‘substitute’. He did his best to shake it off and went inside for his appointment.
Several days more went by before Spock knew what he wanted to say to Jim. He knew there would be plenty of time until he would have a chance to see Jim again, but he didn’t want to give his anger too much time to grow. Even if Jim had already realized that he had spoken based on what he knew, which was not entirely correct, not hearing it directly might cause him to hold on to his anger and let it continue to grow until it couldn’t easily be let go of. After extensive meditation and careful thought, he sat down and composed his message to Jim.
I have given much thought to what you said when we last spoke. I have also been informed that the best course of action I can take at this point is simply to admit that I was wrong, something I definitely believe to be true. I spoke to both Nyota Uhura and Gaila since then, and it has only worked to assure me that what I said was incorrect. I have also realized that it may have been insensitive of me to say what I did.
As a Vulcan, I have been raised to simply state what is, or in this case, what I believed to be what is. I am aware humans often find our blunt and direct way of speaking to be tactless and insensitive. Even if I did not believe that I was wrong in my way of thinking, I should have approached the situation with more consideration.
I would prefer to discuss this more in person. If you are amenable, I would like to meet you after your next visit to Doctor McCoy, and we might resume our trips to the park. I had hoped that we might visit the Conservatory of Flowers. I had intended for us to go there after our visit to the Botanical Gardens, but the opportunity did not arise.
If you are still amenable to meeting with me, then I will meet you outside Doctor McCoy’s office. Please inform me of your wishes.
Spock finally sent the message after deeming that it was the right combination of apologetic and blameless. He had to fight the need to check his padd repeatedly throughout the next couple of days just to see if Jim had sent any kind of reply.
Finally, on Friday morning, Spock heard the sound of his padd ringing just as he emerged from the shower. He pulled on his robe and hurried over to the desk where it sat. There was one message waiting for him, and it was from Jim. He opened it.
I guess I’ll see you there.
Spock could only hope he meant Doctor McCoy’s office.
Spock arrived outside of Doctor McCoy’s office a few minutes early, as always. He spent several minutes sitting somewhat anxiously as he waited for Jim to finish his appointment and come out. As he sat there, it gave him time to wonder about Jim’s reaction to his message. Had he sent his short reply because he had forgiven Spock’s error? Or had he perhaps done it so that he could reject the apology in person? Spock didn’t think that Jim was capable of being that malicious. Then again, if the insult he’d perceived had been very personal, or his hormonal fluctuations continued to magnify his negative responses, that might be the case.
As he was worrying about this, the doors slid open and Jim stepped out. He saw Spock where he was sitting…and smiled slightly. Spock tried to let himself relax. That had to be a good sign, right? Jim walked over, and he stood up.
“Hi.” He said, sounding perfectly calm. “You ready to go?” Spock nodded.
“Yes.” They made their way outside and got on the shuttle, as they always did. While they were riding, Jim turned to Spock.
“Do you know where you want to go today?” He asked. Spock realized he hadn’t given any thought to what they would do, other than his apology, of course.
“I have given thought to the Bison Paddock. I have not seen many animals on Earth yet, and I am interested in seeing what kinds of animals live in this planet’s various climates. Jim nodded.
“Okay, we’ll go there.”
The rest of the ride was in silence. Spock really wasn’t sure what to make of it. Jim seemed happy enough to see him, but he still hadn’t said if he accepted the apology or not. Then again, he’d also asked in his message to discuss it more in person. Perhaps Jim was waiting for them to arrive somewhere more private before they began speaking of it. They switched transports at the park and got off at the stop closest to the paddock. Spock was momentarily distracted from his worried thoughts by the sight of the massive beasts. He had just a little concern for the fact that they could probably kill a human (or Vulcan) easily, but they were well fenced in and he was too fascinated by them to linger on any troubling thoughts.
It was once they reached an area where no one would be able to hear them speaking normally that Jim turned to him to begin speaking.
“You said you wanted to talk about what happened the last time we were here.” Right to the point then.
“Yes. I stated my wish to apologize to you in my message, and that I wished to do it properly, face to face.” Jim nodded.
“Okay, and I guess I’ll take the opportunity to apologize to you.” That surprised Spock.
“Why would you need to apologize? I unknowingly stated incorrect facts and insulted you and Cadet Gaila as a result. What have you done to warrant making an apology?” Jim shrugged.
“I blew up and yelled stuff at you instead of just calmly explaining it. Then I went home and sulked until you sent that message. I didn’t even reply until the last minute.” He shook his head. “I acted like a stubborn kid, unwilling to let go of a stupid little mistake.” Spock felt a surge of relief as Jim spoke. It sounded like Jim had forgiven him, and was embarrassed by his own behavior.
“I do not see any consequence; you were likely reacting to your hormones once more.” In a way, he was offering Jim a way out by saying that. But Jim was already shaking his head.
“It wasn’t just that, though it was part of it. I got upset because some of what you said reminded me of what some people think of me back home. I thought that you might start to think about me like that too. I’ve told you before; you didn’t know me back in Iowa. I never manipulated anyone with sex, but I did sometimes flirt with people to get them to pay attention to me long enough for me to persuade them to my way of thinking, or to keep myself from getting into as much trouble as I probably should have, and that kind of helped fuel the rumors that I’d trade sex for favors.” He sighed. “I got so used to people thinking of me that way that I just stopped trying to change people’s minds and learned to ignore it, but after I came here and started meeting new people, I really tried to make the most of the opportunity and avoid acting like I did back home. I haven’t really flirted with anyone but Gaila, and she knows I’m just fooling around.” Spock nodded.
“Yes, she clarified that for me. She also explained that you were upset by the thought that I might share the opinion of other people you know.” Jim nodded.
“That’s pretty much it. I guess I turned a mountain into a molehill there.” Spock decided not to comment on the expression. He also decided to confess something to Jim.
“After we first met, I did consider the possibility that you were promiscuous. You said that you were pregnant, and I left before you could give any explanation, I thought of many possible reasons that you might be in that condition. I considered several, one of which was promiscuity, and none of which were the actual reason.” He shifted uncomfortably, hoping that Jim was not too upset by what he was hearing. “I was determined to avoid you in the future because most Vulcans would have found our association distasteful. But, as I mentioned once before, you were friendly to me, and I could not resist experiencing more of your attitude. I began to understand during our second meeting that even if you were promiscuous, you are still a good person, and that is what truly matters.” Jim listened to his speech silently.
“I guess that’s good. Even when you thought I was no good to be around, that didn’t stop you.”
“I did not say I thought you were no good.” Spock replied hastily. “I simply meant that I was reacting as my Vulcan upbringing allowed. By continuing to speak with you, I was breaking many unspoken rules. I had already begun to decide they did not matter. You are a kind, intelligent man, and as far as I am concerned, your sexual habits have no reflection on your character.” Jim just looked at him for a long moment before he spoke again.
“Thanks.” The single word was uttered quietly, and Jim looked far more at ease than he had before. He turned his attention back to the bison. “So, what do think of the bison?” Spock looked at them as well.
“They are intriguing creatures.” He replied. “Though, their smell leaves something to be desired.” Jim grinned.
“The smell of sweaty hides and sun-baked crap. Reminds me of home.” And just like that, everything was fine again.
They spent quite some time simply walking around and observing the Bison Paddock from various angles. Jim brought up the weather, how it was much warmer for October in San Francisco than it was back in Riverside. Spock told him in return that even the warmest days in San Francisco were nothing compared to Vulcan’s cooler season. As they just walked and chatted, Spock remembered something.
“You have been attending parenting classes with your brother and sister-in-law, correct?” Jim nodded.
“Yeah, two classes now. There’s three to go. That’ll be the first half. And then they’re giving out these dolls that simulate what caring for a real baby is like for the half. The parents have to bring it back ‘alive’ in order to graduate the class. It doesn’t really count for much, since they’re all having kids anyway, but it’s good practice. The first class was just an overview of what we’d be learning, and a video about modern families and the possible difficulties, stuff like that. The next class was about medical signs to watch out for, and how to react if there’s some kind of trouble with the baby. There was also some stuff about how much attention the baby needs. It varies though. You pretty much check everything when the baby cries. They’ll be sending some kind of doll home with us for the second half of the class, but that’s not my problem, thank God!” He laughed as he finished.
“What will you be learning in your next class?” Spock asked.
“We’re going to start leaning and practicing feeding, diapering, and cleaning. The classes are all a few hours long since they’re just every other Saturday. Then, like I said, we get the special dolls for a few weeks after.”
“And this doll is programmed to behave like a human child?”
“Sort of. It just cries for various reasons. It also wets itself.”
“What is the purpose of that?” Asked Spock, confused.
“Babies, human ones at least, wake up every few hours or so with some complaint. They might be hungry, or colicky, or need to be changed, but they don’t start to sleep through the night for a couple of years, at least. The doll is supposed to simulate a real baby by crying every few hours and show the parents just how a real baby will act. The dolls get rocked, fed, burped, and changed, and that’s it. With real babies, you need to know how to clean them, and dress them, and how to moisturize their skin. Did you know that a baby’s skin dries out twice as fast as adults?” Spock shook his head, and Jim continued.
“I didn’t know that either, so this class is already teaching me a few things I didn’t expect. I don’t know if I’ll ever have kids, but at least I’ll know how to take care of my nephew if I’m ever in town and they need me to babysit.” Spock had been wondering about that too.
“Do you believe you will never have children of your own?” Jim looked thoughtful.
“I don’t know. I mean, if I ever got married and my wife, or husband, wanted to have kids, I think I’d be open to the idea. I’m not sure if I’d want to do it on my own though. I work pretty much whenever my boss needs me to, and then there’s the work I do at home. I just don’t think I could take care of a kid on my own with the way I’m living now.” Spock nodded.
“It is a sensible concern.” He remarked. They both left it at that. They continued to study the bison for a time, before Spock began to feel more chilled. Jim seemed to take notice of that.
“Maybe we should get going.” Suggested Jim. Spock agreed, and they made their way back to the shuttle station.
They chatted about various different little things about their routines until it was time for them to go their separate ways. Jim left with a wave and a promise to see him again in two weeks.
After Spock returned to his quarters, he thought about some of the things Jim had told him. He was upset whenever people made assumptions about him based on rumors, though he did his best to just ignore them. Still, it didn’t stop Spock from feeling at least a little bad about upsetting him.
What he really wanted to focus on though, was what Jim had said about children. He’d said he wouldn’t likely consider having a child by himself, but if his spouse wanted it, he would at least consider it. That looked promising to Spock. Vulcans were expected to have children at some point, regardless of what their instincts told them. Jim definitely seemed to care about the condition of the child he was carrying. If that was any indication of what kind of parent he might be, the possibility of them becoming bonded and having a family together was looking better and better.
Right now, Spock knew he would rest a little easier knowing that Jim had forgiven him and was feeling better about Spock’s opinion of him. He also knew that the news that Jim would be willing to have children with a partner, a spouse, would help even more.
One thing that he still pondered about was what exactly he felt for Jim. His affection for him grew with every moment they spent together, with every personal fact that about himself that Jim entrusted him with. And he found himself easily giving facts about himself in return. He wasn’t even that open with his mother. Even if it was out of a desire to prevent her from worrying about him, it was still true. But how would he know when friendship and affection turned to love, if it ever did? He knew he loved his mother. He would do anything for her. And, in spite of all the negative moments in the past, he believed he loved his father as well.
Could he say with certainty that he would do anything for Jim? That he would give up everything for him, make any sacrifice? Could he be a perfectly devoted bondmate for Jim, and Jim for him? He didn’t know yet. But he wasn’t going to worry about that yet. He still had plenty of time to figure all that out. Right now, he would just be grateful for the fact that their minor crisis had been averted.