Spock attempted to broach the subject of moving their relationship into something less platonic, but whenever he found the captain, there was always someone else present. He was growing concerned; why did the captain not wish to be alone with him?
"He's just being an idiot," McCoy rolled his eyes when Spock went to him after a week of this treatment. "I think he might be worried about delivering the supplies to New Vulcan. I think he's afraid you'll want to stay with your dad and help with all the Vulcan stuff."
"Why would that be cause for avoidance?" Spock asked, confused.
"I think he just doesn't want to give you enough time to file a leave request or a resignation form," McCoy chuckled. "Don't worry; he'll be normal again after all this Vulcan stuff is over."
Spock hoped the doctor was right.
After a week and a half of unsuccessful and highly stressful deliberation, Jim finally decided that he needed some help with his dilemma.
The only person on the ship Jim trusted to keep this to himself was Bones, so Jim went down to his office on the afternoon they fell into orbit around New Vulcan. Spock was planet-side, visiting his father, so Jim was confident that he would not overhear the conversation he was about to have.
"Jim, what brings you to my sickbay this time?" McCoy asked irritably. "And by the way, your hobgoblin thinks you're mad at him."
"He's not mine," Jim huffed. Unfortunately. "And why does he think I'm mad at him?"
"He could be yours if you got your head outta your ass," Bones rolled his eyes. "And he thinks you're mad at him because you've been avoiding him. And don't you dare deny it; I've seen you doing it."
"I wasn't going to deny it," Jim sighed. "I don't trust my mouth to not run away with me if I catch him alone. I... kind of have a dilemma."
"Oh Jesus," Bones sat down at his desk. "Something tells me this is going to give me a headache. Okay, let's hear it."
"Well, at the party... I walked in on Uhura and Scotty..." Jim said uncomfortably. "She's cheating on Spock, and I don't know if I should tell him or not."
McCoy blinked before bursting into laughter. "Oh my god you're an idiot."
"I don't see how this is funny," Jim bristled. "I don't know what to do."
"What you need to do is wake the hell up," Bones rolled his eye. "She's not cheating on Spock. She and Spock aren't together; I don't think they ever really were. How did you think they were together?"
"Wait, they're not together?" Jim asked, completely thrown for a loop. "But they eat lunch together all the time and... and... the transporter pad."
Bones sighed. "You have got a shitload of issues, kiddo. Both of you do, it's like you're determined to not get together." He paused for a minute. "He and Uhura eat lunch together a lot because they're friends, you know, like you and I eat lunch together. He's the one who encouraged her to date Scotty. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't do that if they were together. And the transporter pad well... everyone's entitled to a lapse in judgement every now and again, right?"
Jim was reeling. Spock wasn't with Uhura. Uhura hadn't been cheating on him. He had no idea what to do now. "I don't... know what to do now."
"What you need to do now is stop pinin' for him and just go get him already," McCoy grumbled. "As soon as he beams back up to the ship, you and him need to have a serious heart to heart."
Jim's eyes widened. "What do you mean?"
"Oh stop being an idiot," Bones said, frustrated. "It's obvious you're completely in love with him. And he's definitely smitten with you. So both of you need to stop playing stupid and just go for it already."
Jim sighed. "Is it that obvious?"
"That you're in love with him?" McCoy glared. "Yes. And if you don't do something about it, I'm locking you both in a storage closet until you do."
Jim smiled. "You really think he loves me?"
"I know he does," Bones rolled his eyes again. "He pretty much admitted it at the party."
Jim's eyes got wider. "He did?"
"Yes he did," Bones stood up to slap his friend on the back. "And take it from me; you've got one lovesick hobgoblin on your hands. Now go do something about it."
Jim beamed. "You bet I will."
Spock sat, staring at himself, more correctly, an older version of himself. A version of himself that was smiling at him.
"May I ask what you are smiling about?" Spock asked uncomfortably.
"Your obvious frustrations concerning James," his older self replied serenely. "It is endearing to see that Nero was not able to completely ruin this timeline."
"Jim and I have not entered a romantic relationship yet," Spock felt the need to point out.
"The key word in your statement is ‘yet', young one," his older self smiled again. "It will happen in due time."
"He has been avoiding me," Spock tried very hard to not sound like he was whining.
His counterpart looked amused. "If there is one thing I know about James Kirk, it is that when he avoids something, it is because he is absolutely terrified."
"You are saying he is frightened of me?" Spock asked, hurt.
"I am saying no such thing," his counterpart corrected. "But I do know that this James has an intense fear of rejection. Perhaps he fears that you would not accept him."
Spock was taken aback by this answer. "He fears rejection?"
"Indeed," the older Vulcan replied. "I have seen his mind," he reminded his younger self, who scowled at the idea that someone else had been given access to Jim's mind. "He fears rejection from those he loves the most."
Spock was lost for words.
"Spock," his counterpart said seriously, feeling it was time for a little more encouragement. "You recall the message a gave you? I never saw my T'hy'la again after receiving that."
"You did not? But the message stated..."
"There was an accident and my Jim... never returned. I was informed nearly eighty years later by another captain that he had died."
Spock felt his heart go out to... himself. It was strange for him to feel sympathy for himself, but Spock couldn't help but feel for the Vulcan who had suspiciously moist eyes at that very moment. Spock decided that there was one thing he could do for... himself.
"I find that I wish to return that message to you, your one piece of your T'hy'la," Spock murmured. "It is aboard the Enterprise, if you wish to accompany me..."
His older counterpart smiled. "That is something I wish very much."
Jim had toyed around with various ideas for catching Spock on his way back from the transporter room and had eventually decided to just wait for Spock in his quarters. They had come to an agreement about a month into their friendship that they could enter each other's cabins to wait for another if they had a standing appointment or if they needed to talk without being overheard. Jim was pretty certain this was one of those times.
He did his best to relax and calm his nerves, but it wasn't going well. Jim soon found himself pacing in front of Spock's desk, telling himself to just calm down already.
He reached a pace that could rival jogging a mere ten minutes after he entered. Every few seconds he would look back at the door to see if Spock was back. It was during one of those anxious glances that he tripped over his own feet. He reached out and grabbed the desk to stop himself falling, accidentally knocking a holo-emitter that was lying there.
He was understandably shocked to see himself, well another version of himself, materialize and start speaking to someone who could only be Spock.
"I must admit, it is gratifying to walk these halls once more," old Spock said wistfully. "I envy you the adventures you will have with your James."
Spock smiled to himself. He could hardly wait to go find Jim so they could have a serious discussion. As soon as he returned the holo-emitter, he would bid farewell to... himself, and he would corner Jim. Spock was to the point where he would enlist the help of Doctor McCoy if he had to.
When they reached Spock's cabin, it became apparent that it would not be necessary to enlist the help of the doctor, as Jim was already there, a stunned look on his face and, Spock felt a lump form in his throat, listening to the holo-Kirk's last words to his T'hy'la.
Jim whirled around when he heard them come in.
"Is this why you came back?" he asked quietly. "He," he pointed to the ambassador. "Gave this to you and you came back?"
"Yes," it was the ambassador version of Spock who answered.
Jim stared at them for a moment, nothing but pain visible in his eyes, before turning on his heel and bolting from the room.
Spock stared after him for a moment before rounding on his counterpart. "Why did you ever give me that message? Look at what it's done."
"I gave you the message to convince you to return to the Enterprise, although I am quite certain you would have done so eventually," the ambassador shrugged, a very human gesture, Spock stared. "However, I felt it might be best to ‘give you a little push in the right direction', as Humans say. "And be honest Spock, not only with me, but with yourself as well; would you have made as much effort to get to know your James had you not known?"
Spock froze. He knew he would have eventually reached this point; his katra was so drawn to Jim's, but he was also quite certain that it would not have happened so quickly if he had not known the potential that was there.
"Spock," his counterpart said quietly. "I did not want you to waste any time with your T'hy'la. Do not do as we did; you will regret it for the rest of your life. Go to him. And Spock, never let him go. Regardless of what you think is the right thing to do, if it involves you turning away from your James, do not do it. It will only waste more precious time."
To Spock, it sounded like he was a man speaking from painful experience. He nodded. He would not loose Jim. He believed in learning from his own mistakes, and in a way, he was doing that right now.
Jim sat in his favourite little room on the observation deck, his head spinning. He couldn't quite explain to himself why he had gotten so upset when he'd found the message. He had been so ecstatic when Bones had told him that Spock felt the same way... Now he just felt a cold lump in his stomach; Spock only paid him attention because his older self told him to.
Jim had fallen completely in love with Spock, so completely that he could barely stay angry at the fact that Spock was only around because his counterpart wanted him to be. He sighed; it was time to face facts. He was in love with Spock, irrevocably it seemed. Now all he had to do was wait until Spock actually felt the same.
Spock searched frantically for his captain. He was uncertain why Jim had fled, but that didn't matter to Spock at the moment. All that mattered to him was finding him and fixing whatever mistake he had made.
He eventually found him on the observation deck, sitting quietly and staring out at the stars in the room in the far corner of the deck.
Spock let himself in quietly and sank down on the bench next to Jim.
"Hi Spock," Jim said glumly. "I'm sorry about that... I should have just shut it off after I knocked it and it came on... I guess I wasn't supposed to hear that, huh?" He gave a weak, miserable smile that broke Spock's heart.
"You need not apologize, I should not have left it there," Spock murmured quietly. "However I am admittedly perplexed by your abrupt departure... What has caused you such pain? What can I do to rectify it?"
Jim turned to look at Spock and knew he must imagining the affection and concern in that voice. "You don't need to do anything, Spock; I get it. You came back because and older version of you told you to. You only hung out with me because you felt like you had to just to satisfy some feeling of destiny the other you gave to you. Don't worry, you don't have to do that anymore, I understand."
Spock blinked and finally understood what was wrong. Jim believed Spock only cared because of a message making him feel like he must. He let out a barely audible sigh.
"Jim," Spock said seriously. "I will admit that my counterpart played a large part in my returning to the Enterprise and I will no deny that the message he showed me is a large part of the reasons I spent so much time to you in the beginning. But only in the beginning."
Jim stared; Spock appeared agitated. That was something he had never seen before.
"I came to know you," Spock continued. "I came to know the real James Kirk, the one hidden under bluster and over-confidence. Jim, I fell in love with that man, not because I felt I needed to, but because you are the one person I could love as I love you." His cheeks had turned an interestingly deep shade of emerald as he spoke of his feelings, feeling uncomfortable but trudging on; it was important that Jim understand.
Jim gaped. Spock was talking about feelings and emotions; Spock didn't do that without a great deal of discomfort on his part. "Spock... I... I don't understand," he admitted finally.
"I had been uncertain when I returned to the Enterprise," Spock explained quietly. "I did not know if a romantic relationship between us could ever have hope of occurring in this timeline, however I was not averse to attempting to cultivate one. I cherish the friendship we have and I cherish you. Jim, I love you. Not because my counterpart told me I do, not because his message made me think I do, but because I know I do. You are a completely unique individual: a selfless man who puts the well-being of his entire crew before his own, a man who would gladly sacrifice himself for the life of another, a man who has captured my heart and from whom I will never get it back."
"Spock... I never knew you could... talk like this," Jim said, eyes watering to an embarrassing degree.
"You have inspired this, Jim," Spock reached out for Jim's hand and took it with both of his own. "I can speak of my emotions with no other. You are the one to bring them out of my ‘Vulcan shell', as you once put it."
Jim looked at his hand, trapped between both of Spock's and smiled. It was a small smile, but it grew when he looked back up to Spock's face. He saw those eyes, those dark chocolate eyes and he could see the love in them. "You really mean what you're saying," he whispered.
"I do," Spock replied quietly.
"Oh Spock," Jim, using the hand that was firmly clasped by Spock's, pulled his closer so he could kiss him. It was a light, teasing brush of the lips. The first kiss of what both hoped would be many, many to come. "I love you, Spock. I didn't think I could love anyone... but I love you."
Spock released Jim's hand to wrap his arms around Jim, the better to pull him closer. "As I love you my Jim, my T'hy'la." He pressed their lips back together, not as lightly as the first time and sighed happily when Jim relaxed in his arms, the Human's arms coming up and around him as well.
Jim felt a set of teeth gently nibbling at his lower lip and he moaned into the kiss, pressing himself closer. All of his previous misery left him, like a waterfall or misunderstandings and hurt out of every pore of his body, to be replaced by a stream of uncensored joy and love. He grinned against Spock's lips and gently coaxed the other into a deeper kiss.
Apparently Spock did not need much coaxing and Jim soon found himself pressed down onto the bench they were sitting on with one very hot and very enthusiastic Vulcan on top of him. He vaguely thought that it might not be the best idea to do this here, a semi-public place, but the much larger part of his brain revelling in the fact that Spock was finally kissing him told those thoughts to shut up.
He was so concentrated on Spock that he didn't even hear the sound of the door opening or the embarrassed chuckled from the doorway. He only noticed something was wrong when Spock pulled away quickly and turned towards the door.
"Oh, don't let us interrupt," Uhura said with a grin. "Looks like we're even, Captain."
"Aye," Scotty agreed sagely. "Maybe Ah should put bettah locks on these doors."
"Ones that remind people to lock them," Jim nodded embarrassedly, sitting up.
"Aye," Scotty chuckled. "Well, we'll leave yeh to it, then." Chuckling, he put his arm around Uhura and led her away, the door closed behind them.
"Damn, why did I forget to lock the damn door?" Jim berated himself.
"Perhaps it would be prudent to move this discussion to another locale more suitable for such... activities," Spock suggested.
Jim grinned and pulled Spock to his quarters at full warp.
"Hey Spock," Jim said lazily, lounging across Spock after hours of ‘activities'.
"Yes Jim?" Spock replied quietly.
"You do realize that everyone is going to know about this, right?" Jim asked gently. "Scotty can't keep his mouth shut."
"Jim," Spock said firmly. "I do not care who knows, in fact, I would rather the whole galaxy know that James Kirk is mine. Perhaps people would cease propositioning my T'hy'la."
Jim grinned and twisted to kiss his new lover. "You're possessive Vulcan, huh? I think I can live with that."
"I am quite certain you will," Spock replied before allowing the kiss to continue.
He now knew for certain that he had made the right decision in returning to the Enterprise instead of moving to the new Vulcan colony with his father. His counterpart had been correct; Jim was far too precious to leave behind and their time together too dear to waste away. Spock was eternally grateful to his counterpart for providing him with the information that led Spock down this path.
It had been like a message from destiny.