Before Spock, Jim had thought he'd understood love.
Not that he'd had some vast knowledge of being in love in which to draw such a conclusion, but at least some comprehension, especially in this particular subject, he kind of assumed everyone was born possessing or, in the very least, carried some type of an instinctual road map for it.
After Spock, he came to understand that he hadn't known anything at all. Nothing in his life had ever been so powerful, or so wonderful, nor so dire all at once.
The dichotomy and constant conflict sometimes makes his head hurt.
He didn't know what to do with this kind of… intense need and want of another person.
Was that even healthy? Perhaps a little too co-dependent? Maybe a little too intense? How the hell was he going to cope with never being satisfied and always wanting more?
He didn't often admit to fear, but this thing with Spock scared the shit out of him.
What if he screwed this up?
Worse, it was making him do absolutely insane things. Career risking things. If he pissed off the wrong person…
Case in point, they had visited the Vulcan colony a month back, and Jim couldn't help but notice that Spock's reception, apart from his father and non-paradox inducing alternate self, had been rather cold. The general sense of disapproval was never voiced but certainly implied through the use of stares, eyebrow lifts, and a ton of customary Vulcan not-frowns (this thing they all seemed to do where they would fashion their lips into a straight line, making them as thin as possible, but it wasn't a frown, oh no, frowning was precariously too close to exhibiting an emotion). So Jim had taken it upon himself to mention, as often as possible, and as loudly as he could manage without appearing rude, what an asset Spock was to have on the Enterprise. How many lives he had single-handedly saved. And that surely a more intelligent First Officer had never existed anywhere, and what were his scores on his VSA application again?
He would also throw in, to anyone who would listen, how he had been reading up on IDIC and thought it was wonderful that the Vulcans had adopted a philosophy of tolerance and he'd like to know more about how they went about practicing it.
Yeah, perhaps it had been a tactical error on Spock's part to tell Jim about his less-than-stellar childhood the week prior.
And if that sort of protective display wasn't bad enough, there was that woman, a scientist they had been transporting who took a completely obvious, and immensely annoying interest in Spock. The cow. To someone who could open a school on the fine art of seduction, the woman's attempts had been as pathetic as they were transparent. Jim, in a fit of pique and because he felt the need to defend the standards of master seducers for avoidant rationalization purposes, had assigned her to the smallest guest quarters possible, nudged his way into their conversations whenever she tried to corner Spock in the mess, and kept Spock inordinately busy with a sudden slew of reports that he needed proof read. Never mind that he had never asked Spock to perform such a task before. There was a first time for everything.
That Spock had lifted his eyebrow at him, and looked at him with blatant amusement (the sonofabitch was actually enjoying it!) forced him to face a rather frightening reality. He had been jealous. Jealous! He'd never been jealous before of anything in his life. It was embarrassing. Absolutely humiliating to be reduced to territorial pissings like some kind of over possessive alpha male, which Jim had never been in his entire life until Spock, thank you very much, yet here he was acting positively...territorial. God!
His past lovers, if they ever found out about this, would mock him mercilessly. The fact that he was displaying the same level of vapid insecurity that had prompted some of his more spectacular breakups wasn't lost on him.
There were times he wanted to hate Spock for inducing all of these new and ever-so-joyfully intolerable experiences. And there were others when he wondered if the universe was trying to prank him into learning a Major Life Lesson.
People thought that Spock was the repressed bastard? Ha! If they only knew! Spock liked to hide behind logic, Jim, well, Jim hid behind the façade that he could handle anything life threw at him. Prided himself on being nonchalant. 'Can't catch me I'm the gingerbread man'.
This thing with Spock, the intensity of it? Sometimes it made him feel debilitated.
These thoughts a starship captain had no business contemplating when there was a ship to run and a galaxy waiting to be explored. The anti-fraternization rules existed for a reason after all, and there were hundreds of case studies to back them up. Moreover anything that made him question his sanity should probably not play such a prevalent part of his life.
But he wouldn't trade it for anything. Couldn't let it go. Wouldn't.
Spock's eyes shone in the dim ships lights. His face was relaxed, serene. He had just won their chess match and though Spock would deny it, he took pleasure in it. Smug pleasure.
Jim felt like hitting him over the head with a pillow.
"Jim," he breathed, the name barely a whisper over thin, hard lips, "shall we take my victory elsewhere?"
Jim's blood rushed immediately south. Spock was sexy without even trying, but when he did it intentionally? There was no aphrodisiac more powerful, and he should know. He'd been sex pollened. Twice..
Heat pooled in Jim's groin and his body tightened in anticipation. His desire was potent. Powerful. He begun to shake a little with that need.
The memory of Pavlov's dogs danced across his mind and he felt his stomach curl, a little. Love made him a mass of impulses out of his immediate control.
It was the 'out of control' part that bothered him.
"Not tonight, Spock. I'm tired."
"Of course, Jim. You need your rest."
Spock's face, though stoic, as he was want to be, exhibited his disappointment to anyone who looked hard enough.
Jim always looked when Spock was involved. Did it without conscience effort. Sometimes the looking-thing kind of sucked.
"You know, on second thought, I think I need to celebrate your victory more than I need sleep. In fact, I need it a lot. You know me, I'm always up for any 'celebrating' you want to dish out."
Spock didn't smile with his lips, but his eyes glowed with his amusement, obviously willing to pretend Jim's lapse was some sort of baffling display of humanity.
This healed Jim, and also made him burn.
He was at a loss to explain any of it.
Jim was extremely grateful that he had Nyota Uhura as a communications officer, don't get him wrong. She was brilliant, the best linguist he'd ever known. She was also beautiful, charming, savvy and brave. She stands her own amongst a male dominated bridge crew and carries her responsibilities aboard the Enterprise with the finesse of a much more seasoned officer.
There were times though when Jim resented her an awful lot. Which he also kind of hated himself for.
Because it was silly, absolutely ridiculous to get caught up in resenting his boyfriend's ex just for the sheer reason that she had got to Spock first. Had tasted him, touched him, fondled him and played with him, undoubtedly using that talented tongue of hers, the way Jim had, does, continues to do, all of it.
These thoughts weren't pretty. They were petty. He only wished he could eradicate them entirely.
Sometimes, when he's feeling particularly masochistic, he pictures what they were like in bed together. It makes him want to transfer her. And that makes him an idiot because not only is it completely unprofessional, but she's the best damned communications officer in the entire fleet.
Also, he's pretty sure he'd be facing a very painful (and humiliating) mutiny if he ever signed a transfer order. Chekov, Sulu, Scotty and Bones all adore her. Plus, she's a good friend to Spock. And to Jim. She didn't shove Jim out the nearest airlock for taking up with her ex. Hell, she didn't even give him the 'you hurt him, you die' speech, which, if Jim were honest with himself, and considering his lack of experience in serious, committed relationships, would have been merited. Instead she congratulates Spock on being the one to tame the 'Tomcat' in James Tomcat Kirk, and teases Jim that him being housebroken looks good on him.
Jim's pretty sure she doesn't mean it to be insulting. And it's not her fault that he takes it that way, bristles whenever he contemplates what a cruel thing that is to say to somebody.
Housebroken? What is that? So he'd messed around a lot before… that was only because, until he met Spock, he didn't know what he wanted. And the easiest way to find out seemed to be trying everything once. Sometimes even two or three times, just to be sure.
He was young, it is what the young do. They flitter from person, place and thing, from noun to noun, figuring out what they want. He refuses to be ashamed of that.
His experimentation led him to Spock, and even he couldn't argue with the results. Evidently, he had found what he wanted. Absolutely. Conclusively. Even if he secretly believes he doesn't actually deserve Spock and someone as well-rounded and together as Uhura does.
He kind of hates her a little for that, too.
The thing is, he can't stop wanting Spock. The having hasn't lessened the wanting one iota. In fact, the having actually intensifies the wanting.
Which is also as scary as hell.
It's easier to resent Uhura for her time spent with Spock than it is to address his own rampart insecurities.
The two of them are alone together. Captain Kirk and his communications officer waiting for their appointment with the local chancellor of the dilithium-rich Coridan.
Silence, waiting and having to feign patience are the ingredients for disaster, J.T-style.
"Why did you and Spock break-up?" he blurts out, unable to stop himself.
Surprisingly, Uhura smiles softly, knowingly, as if she expected this from him, instead of indulging in the justifiable chewing out Jim would have gladly excused her considering that he was being brazenly nosy. He knew it. That knowledge didn't stop him, though. It couldn't.
"We drifted apart," she said with a shrug.
"That's it?" he asked, certain there had to be more to it than that. Come on! It was a cop-out if Jim ever heard one. Practically a text book answer.
"Yes, that's it. When we started this mission, both of us were wrapped up in our new positions, in finding the flow of our place onboard the Enterprise, and in getting to know the members of our respective departments. There wasn't time for each other, and one day we both came to the realization that our being separate was actually okay, that we were fine with how things were," she paused for a moment to shoot him a look that seemed to say 'what more did you expect?'.
"Plus" she continued, " our friendship remained and that was the most important factor of our relationship anyway. It always has been and it always will be."
"There has to be more to it than that," Jim mumbled, more to himself than to her. He sometimes wondered if she remembered that he isn't the dumb hick that she originally thought he was. That he, like her, had been in the top five percent of their graduating class.
Uhura looked him over, assessing him with her ever knowing eyes and her ever sharp mind.
"Maybe you don't need to understand it, Captain," she stated, though her tone wasn't biting, more… thoughtful, than anything.
Jim believed that everything in life should be understood, and completely at that. It was a fundamental truth he based his existence on. Sometimes that caused him more grief than not.
Prior to dating Spock Jim had gone eight years without speaking to his mother.
It was cliché to blame her for his misspent youth. He knew that. And beneath him to blame any of his issues on anyone other than himself, especially when he believed wholeheartedly in self-accountability... but he did.
His mom was his mom. He had loved her, and that had made any slight on her part, even if unintended, that much more deep.
Sometimes he wished the repressing the shit out of everything tack, favoured by Vulcans and genius level repeat offenders the galaxy over, was more effective.
It would hurt less if he didn't care. And save him so much grief.
He knew objectively that his mom wasn't evil incarnate. She hadn't been the tyrant who had turned the Kirk household into a toxic environment where insults were more prevalent than praise, that had been Frank. But she was the one who had deemed Frank a suitable guardian for her young boys and had merrily skipped off into the great beyond while Jim had been left behind to Frank's dubious care.
And Winona Kirk certainly hadn't been there to hold a phaser to Kodos head and forced him to order mass genocide on Tarsus IV. But she had been the one who had approved of her young, rebellious, thirteen-year-old son being sent to Tarsus for 'a change of scenery, it'll be a chance for you to start over, Jim, a chance to maybe create a different mold for yourself, Jim', well, one thing was for sure, Tarsus had certainly reshaped his mold, maybe even broken it.
He hadn't known what evil was until Tarsus IV. Hell, Frank had been a picnic in comparison.
Yes, it was true Winona hadn't, herself, been abusive. She'd never laid an unkind finger on Jim or Sam. And neither of them had wanted for anything, save her affection. Toys, books, school supplies… they had all that without even having to ask for it. She'd worked hard, very hard, to ensure their needs were met, he saw that. Sure.
It was the working hard part, however, that got to him. She was off planet more often than not. She wasn't there enough to feel the repression of their household first hand nor there to explore the necessity of Jim needing to go to Tarsus.
Bottom line, she just hadn't been there.
And then, in the aftermath of all of that, she had had the utter gall to be disappointed when Jim went through his rebellious, self-destructive phase.
Yes, that was a period in his life he was rather embarrassed about now, but he had felt then, as he felt now, that she hadn't earned the right to have a say. To be so flagrantly disapproving.
"Goddamnit Jim, you're a smart boy. You could do so much more, be so much more. Your father sacrificed his life so that you had a fighting chance. How would you feel if he were alive to see you like this? Wasting your talent. Drinking yourself into oblivion. That's not the boy I raised."
"That's just it, mom. You didn't raise me!"
That didn't keep her disapproval from stinging, of course. It hurt. Still hurt. Even though she'd seldom been there for him, he still wanted her approval. Hated himself for craving it.
As time passed and his initial anger and indignance faded, it became weird, awkward even, to seek her out to try and mend fences. He figured she could comm, if she wanted, just as easily as he could, so bridging this gap was equally her responsibility, right? Why must it only fall on him?
Spock didn't approve of it, despite his own estrangement from his father prior to their shared loss of Amanda. And he made that known in the way he frowned at Jim whenever Jim dodged the subject of family. His mother had been awesome and she had been tragically taken from him, a loss his Vulcan still felt keenly. Spock was a believer in maternal bonds springing eternal. To Spock's way of thinking everyone who had a mother alive, and assuming that mother wasn't sociopath, should be thankful for it. Moreover, Spock was as equally protective of Jim as Jim was of him, and Spock didn't like the presence of outstanding issues in Jim's life. Wanted to, as one of Spock's more endearing qualities, take all of Jim's pain away so Jim wouldn't have a care in the world.
It was sweet, very sweet, in fact, Jim would never say it out-loud, but it made him feel, well, loved, but it was also immensely impractical. Jim existed, therefore there was pain. Pain didn't scare him, it made him stronger.
He may be oft times love sick, and uncomfortable in his own skin and feeling in over his head, but he had no delusions about how life worked.
The day Spock set up a lunch date with Jim's mother, behind Jim's back, was the first time Jim briefly considered transferring Spock the hell off of his ship.
"How could you do that behind my back, Spock, what gave you the right?"
"Winona wants to see you, Jim. She misses you and she regrets that she has lost all of this time. You are understandably angry at me now, but I felt, in this, your anger at me was a necessary price to pay. I will be with you the entire time, you will not confront this alone."
At this moment, he didn't want Spock with him. He didn't want Spock anywhere near him. He felt his hands clench tightly at his side, fingernails digging into the flesh of his palms, suddenly fighting the desperate urge to hit Spock. To keep hitting and hitting and hitting until his anger, white hot and boiling, cooled to a simmer.
But then he caught the gleam of light on Spock shiny black hair. Saw the earnestness of Spock's expression, the quiet acceptance readily apparent in those dark eyes, and managed, through difficulty, to rein in his more violent impulses.
Though it didn't assuage his over-all anger. That still coursed through his blood like an infectious disease.
In that moment he couldn't deal with Spock, wondered if he ever really could.
"You can't fix everything, Spock. It's not your responsibility to try. You shouldn't have meddled in this. It's not your place."
And then he left his own quarters because he had to and anything with walls as close together as the ones in his room were too confining. In fact, the entire ship seemed too confining.
He resented Spock and his mother all the more for the sudden ill will he felt towards his precious ship.
Jim's brain never slowed down, never shut up. Couldn't. Sometimes the rapid succession of thoughts made it impossible to fall asleep, and other times he would wake in the middle of the night with an idea that wouldn't let go until his alarm signaled that it was time to be captain again.
During the lulling moments of a quiet shift on the bridge he allowed his mind to wander, mentally tallying the reports he had yet to read and sign off on, the crew manifest he had to go over with Spock, the budget report he was scheduled to review with Pike. He also thought of Spock, a lot. More than was probably healthy. Tried to invent new ways to make Spock's eyes light up, or remember the feel of Spock's flesh pressed tightly against his own.
For Jim silence wasn't golden, it was impossible. He accepted this about himself. Had a long time ago.
But the first night he and Spock had spent together in bed, they had spooned, Spock's arm curling around his chest, one muscled leg thrown casually over his thigh, the steady rhythm of Spock's breathing pushing the Vulcan's chest against his back in measured intervals, and in that moment Jim had known peace.
Everything had been quiet, tranquil, and his only prevalent thought had been how wonderful love could feel. He marveled that something so tumultuous, could bring such beautiful serenity.
And when it was just Spock and him, he could find that tranquility again and again in their shared space, the natural curves of their bodies entwined, and the soft chorus of their beating hearts.
Spock had a way of amplifying everything about Jim. He could take his passions, his doubts, his confusions and his ecstasies and double them just by being.
He also, strangely, because it contradicted so readily with everything else Spock elicited within him, had a way of amplifying Jim's calm.
Jim didn't know how he had ever stayed sane without moments like this in the past, didn't want to find out what life would be like to live without them now if he ever had to go back.
Spock had told him once that Vulcans feel deeply, more deeply than even a human could understand, which is what had necessitated their use of logic. It was a coping mechanism. And a survival one.
If that was the case, and Vulcans did feel that deeply, then Jim loved Spock like a Vulcan: the good, the bad, and the whole crazy-making mess of it all.
Spock's fingertips reached for Jim's face, settling lightly at his temple, his eyes beseeching.
"Jim, may I?"
"Yes, Spock, please."